Happy Thanksgiving! I’m so thankful for classic film and being able to connect with all of you. Something that has always intrigued me about my favorite stars is their film trajectories especially when it comes to the ever changing technologies and tastes of the movie going public. Not all careers are created equal and even the greatest actors have their fair share of terrible films. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I give you the gift of turkeys that must be seen to believe by some of the greatest talents we ever had onscreen.
Torch Song (1953, Dir. Charles Walters)
Let’s not waste any time with this and come out with the bang that is Joan Crawford in some very creepy blackface. In Torch Song, Crawford plays a tough as nails Broadway diva. Jenny Stewart is the reigning queen of the great white way whose determination won’t let anyone get in her way. But in comes a pianist (played by Michael Wilding) who may show Stewart has a heart after all and because this is a Joan Crawford picture, you need to up the ante on the drama by making that pianist blind. My friend described Torch Song best by calling it Crawford’s version of All About Eve in which she plays all of the characters. This backstage drama is a huge Technicolor mess that does nobody favors. There is little to know chemistry between Crawford and Wilding and the musical numbers are embarrassing including the memorable for all the wrong reasons Two-faced Woman in which Crawford sings in blackface. Torch Song has reached cult status because of the public’s fascination with Crawford but you have to give her credit, she was committed.
Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (1969, Dir. Mario Bava)
The sixties were weird, man! In this Italian spy spoof, Vincent Price plays a scientist who creates female robot bombs in an attempt to blow up high ranking officials of NATO countries. This is a sequel to Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a film that was part 007 spoof, part beach party film with Frankie Avalon. Both films are weird, creepy, and make absolutely no sense but one thing is for sure, Vincent Price was clearly having a fun time. If it wasn’t for this film, Austin Powers probably wouldn’t have had fembots so at least we have that.
Candy (1968, Dir. Christian Marquand)
Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, James Coburn, John Huston, Walter Matthau, Sugar Ray Robinson and Ringo Starr somehow thought this junk satire about sex was actually something to spend some time on. Again, it was the sixties, these are all rich artists, chances are slim to none that any of them were in a sober mindset to know what exactly they were creating when they put together this turkey. The movie follows an innocent young girl who encounters men that basically all try to have sex with her. It’s peak in its exploration of the psychedelic counter culture of the era but there’s absolutely no plot in Candy. I appreciate that Candy was trying to free itself from the shackles of the filmmaking and studios but it just has nothing to say and tries way too hard to push the envelope in its vulgarity. Marlon Brando is a complete mess and this was one of his string of terrible decisions. It must be seen to be believed.
Boom! (1968, Joseph Losey)
Oh Boom!, how I love you so. Boom! has a special place in my “so bad it’s good” canon. In this bonkers British drama, Elizabeth Taylor goes all in as a dying woman who has secluded herself on a private island in the Mediterranean. This over the top adaptation of Tennesse Williams’ 1963 play The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore co-stars her then husband Richard Burton. The film takes place over the last two days of the life of Taylor’s character. As much Taylor and Burton took the material seriously, their hard drinking threatened the material so what you have here is quite the disaster but it’s a marvel. Boom! is legitimately captivating and surprisingly enjoyable in its campiness. While it may not have been what the two giants expected, they left us quite the gem.
Gobble ’em up!