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EVERY YEAR IS A BAD MOVIE YEAR

 

For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Oct. 7, 2016

EDITOR’S NOTE: My column in the Deseret News this week bemoans the lousy movies of the summer, but that’s not anything new. Here’s a story I wrote for the Deseret News, under the headline, ‘So far — a good year for bad movies,’ which was published July 29, 1980. Yes, 1980! Some things never change. (And boy was I wrong about raunchy flicks; these days more and more people pay upwards of $10 to spend two hours in a sewer.)

Sorry, Hollywood.

It’s not inflation. It’s not summer doldrums. It’s not high ticket prices. And it’s not a fickle public.

It’s simply bad films.

People aren’t going to movies this summer because the movies are redundant remakes or disgusting displays or silly slapstick or gory garbage.

Summer is traditionally a time of light fare in movie theaters, comedies, musicals – happy flicks. And for the past few years, since “Jaws,” summer has also been a good time for raising the chill factor, through horror movies.

There are always bad movies, of course, but this year has offered an unusually large crop of contenders for any critic’s list of the 10 worst movies of the year — and the year’s only half over.

There are the “Animal House” rip-offs, each more crass and technically inept than the one before; the “Halloween” rip-offs, each less accomplished and more gory; the remakes, some pretty good but still not up to the originals; the reworkings of classics, some good – but none classics. …

And the only big hit of the summer, though an excellent film, is still a sequel – “The Empire Strikes Back.”

So whatever happened to originality?

 

Ever since “Animal House,” which was itself a perversion of “American Graffiti,” opened the floodgates of vulgarity, we’ve essentially had “Animal House” goes to camp (“Gorp”), “Animal House” goes to a military academy (“Up the Academy”), “Animal House” goes to Hollywood Blvd. (“The Hollywood Knights”), and “Animal House” goes golfing (“Caddyshack”). The thesis here is that gross shocks are funny, but they aren’t. They’re just sickening. No one wants to pay $4 to spend two hours in a sewer.

“Halloween” was a mundane storyline about young teens attacked by a psycho killer on the loose, but it was made with class and style by John Carpenter and became the biggest moneymaking independent film ever. Trash like “Friday the 13th” may make big money, but the movie is so bad it only shows how good “Halloween” really was. In addition to “Friday the 13th,” there is so far this year a seven-way tie for worst horror film — “Silent Scream,” “The Island,” “Saturn 3,” “Death Ship,” “The Godsend,” “Windows” and “Humanoids from the Deep.” Each is rated R, with excessive blood and gore replacing the chills offered by “Halloween” — and “Saturn 3” and “Humanoids” both have stolen important ingredients from last year’s fine chiller “Alien.”

The four direct remakes this year retained the titles of the originals, but only one was improved upon. “Little Miss Marker” seemed tailor-made for Walter Matthau and, though it had its faults, was considerably better than earlier versions with Shirley Temple, Bob Hope and Tony Curtis. “The 39 Steps” was good, but Hitchcock’s classic isn’t threatened. “The Blue Lagoon” offers brilliant cinematography, but that doesn’t help the weak script; nor does being more explicit improve upon the tame 1949 original. And “The Lady Vanishes” suffers from trying to be too coy; Hitchcock’s original remains an untarnished classic (besides, too many elements are familiar to the many fans of “Silver Streak”).

 

But consider these as remakes as well (or at the least, reworkings of the original): “Bronco Billy” (Capra’s “It Happened One Night” with a western theme); “Oh Heavenly Dog” (a reversal of “You Never Can Tell,” in which a dog is killed and reincarnated as Dick Powell); “Wholly Moses!” (“Monty Python’s Life of Brian,” Old Testament-style); “How to Beat the High Cost of Living” (“Fun With Dick and Jane,” with a feminist twist); “Dressed to Kill” (“Psycho”); “Rough Cut” (“To Catch a Thief”).

Even TV shows are inspiring movies, though done with more vulgarity than TV allows — “The Gong Show Movie” and “The Nude Bomb,” the latter taken from “Get Smart.”

Charlton Heston’s “The Awakening” is essentially a remake of the 1972 British horror flick “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb;” “Middle Age Crazy” with Bruce Dern and Ann-Margaret is another mid-life crisis comedy (“The Last Married Couple in America”); Paul Mazursky’s “Willie and Phil” is an Americanization of Francois Truffaut’s “Jules and Jim;” “Smokey and the Bandit II” is just another “Smokey and the Bandit,” again with Burt Reynolds and Sally Field; “The Octagon” is just another Chuck Norris kung-fu rehash; and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind – The Special Edition” is the original, with a half-hour of new footage added.

And, of course, between now and October another spate of psycho killers and possessed children will attack local screens — “He Knows You’re Alone,” “Prom Night,” “The Howling,” “Schizoid,” “The Children,” “Motel Hell,” etc. Aren’t those great titles?

Of course there have been some good films this year (“The Empire Strikes Back,” “Brubaker,” “My Brilliant Career,” “Why Shoot the Teacher,” “The Long Riders,” “The Big Red One,” “Harry’s War,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Fame,” “Airplane!” “My Bodyguard” and others), and there will be more good films to come.

Are you listening, Hollywood?