Readers’ Choice: Todd Mason Asks …

OK, what are your worst [film] overall? And do you have an affectionate worst and simply angering worst?

Whoa! This is a thought-provoking question. I guess it would be easy to say I dismiss all the bad, but I don’t. In my lifetime I have seen a whole lotta bad, the term “bad/worst” of course being relative. And even with that I have never thought of categorizing the worst I have seen by those I have great affection to and those that draw my ire. But it makes sense. Many films considered are guilty pleasures while others make you want to throw something or walk out of the theater.

So that is where I will start. Walking out of the movie theater. While I have made myself suffer and endure many a turkey, the only film I have ever wanted to walk out of was the 1998 extravaganza Armageddon. There was just something about that experience that made me slink in my chair and wish it were all over. Perhaps the drifting of the Bruce Willis’ accent or the bombast that is often associated with Bey-ian films is what did me in. Even hearing the Armageddon love song I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing (as sung by Aerosmith), while a lovely ballad, stirs up some rather unpleasant memories for this moviegoer.

Why didn’t I just leave then you may ask? Well, I was a newly-minted college graduate who did my post graduate duty by becoming an RA at a summer camp on campus, I could not leave. I think that made the experience even more agonizing for me. So yeah I will stick with this one.


An honorable mention to Wilson (1944). I just do not understand how this film was a multiple Academy Award nominated film. It was the cinematic equivalent of watching paint dry and I really did not like myself for sitting through it. I must be a glutton for punishment.


As for the worst film I have seen and have the greatest amount of affection for … hmm, I have to think about this one for a minute. My lovely dad had a penchant for presenting my siblings and I with the dross of the cinema world for fun. The law of unintended consequences as they are means that eventually we grew to love these duds, in spite of themselves. So it really is a great honor to be among the tops of this list. But after long and hard consideration I would have to say …


It just is not fair or right that I would have to choose just one film, for there are several that hold a warm place in my heart. So in no particular order, here we go:

They Live (1988): This film is obviously an exploitation film meant to look cheap and schlocky; kind of like in a Plan 9 From Outer Space Away (1959) (another one for the list).

Masters of the Universe (1987): It is a childhood thing, yeah it does not stand the test of time and if I were to see it again after all of these years, I might hurl, but that’s okay.

Reefer Madness (1936): The ‘victims’ descent into madness is a riot to watch.

Mama Mia (2008): I like ABBA; so sue me …

Refer Madness

Reefer Madness

Just one note: In my research (yeah I sometimes do that) I saw the 2000 film Center Stage on someone’s list. Well that is just wrong – that film is brilliant!

So Todd, I basically answered 50% of your question as you so nicely asked it. Hope you enjoyed the rather verbose response.



  1. Hi, Todd:

    Can’t disagree with Reefer Madness . Which if far too silly for its own good.

    Pearl Harbor stank on ice for its own pomposity and playing fast and loose with history.

    Personal “Worst Films” would be a no budget, shot on back lots mess titled Pete, Pearl and the Pole . A badly dubbed Italian mobsters in the Depression film. Also Lepke and The Valachi Papers with Charles Bronson.

    Though, I do hold a warm, Guilty Pleasure spot in my heart for the mildly tame pornographic satire, Flesh Gordon . Which respected the story lines, cheap special effects and props. All modified for 1970s consumption. Also like the 1970s Larry Cohen, Q . Which could easily and honestly be classified as an unintended sequel to the no budget schlock masterpiece, The Giant Claw !

  2. Iba, I never meant to suggest your were restricted to only one film of either sort, so sorry about the vagueness of the wording. I have walked out of three films so far, and have been sorely tempted at least as many times…the films I’ve walked out of have been THE FOOD OF THE GODS (my companions were freaked out by the giant wasp, and I was mildly disgusted as well as annoyed by the lousy special effects and general air of incompetence); NIGHTFALL, the first of two awful film versions of Isaac Asimov’s early-career short story, where the general incompetence and the eye-pecking were enough to sicken my womanfriend (I wasn’t much more enthusiastic…it was perhaps the oiliest film I’ve yet seen); and CHILD’S PLAY, where again my womanfriend was more squicked than she expected to be by the animated doll and and was simply bored and irritated by the general stupidity of everything (though at least this one was mildly competently filmed). One of the other films I would’ve walked out on if my companions hadn’t wanted to stay was the Mira Nair-directed and co-written KAMA SUTRA, starring Sarita Choudhury and Indira Varma; I had loved (loved) MISSISSIPPI MASALA, and enjoyed what I had caught of MONSOON WEDDING on cable once (still need to see the whole film), and enjoyed everything else I’d seen Choudhury in (including the fine series 100 CENTRE STREET)…so was miserably disappointed with the quality of the new film…even with the two (gorgeous) women on copious display and some lovely production design beyond them, the film was nearly unwatchably bad, particularly given my expectations. I think this one, thanks mostly to how gorgeous it is (and they are), has scooted over to the terrible films I have affection for category…while such piles as WANTED and the Oscar-winning CRASH and very nearly all Spielberg films never will, I suspect. My own feelings for THEY LIVE! are also mixed…particularly since it’s based on a fine and not at all campy short story by the brilliant and too-obscure Ray Nelson (who also signs some of his too-infrequent fiction as R. Faraday Nelson–Nelson is not the only writer to have collaborated with Philip K. Dick on a novel, but the only other guy I can think of offhand, Roger Zelazny, did some pretty impressive work as well–even if neither collaborative novel is what you’d want to judge any of the three talents by).

    JackDeth, I think you have mistaken Iba’s choices for mine (there is a genuine if cheap joy in REEFER MADNESS–play it faster!), but I do appreciate your sapient connection of THE GIANT CLAW with Q!

    • No I gotcha. It was just so hard for me to go back and try to remember because as you can see I have not walked out of a film. Although my head has left a couple of times before my body left the seat.

  3. Oh, yes…KAMA SUTRA is the Other oiliest film I’ve ever seen…at least, it and NIGHTFALL have casts doused in enough skin oil for a North Atlantic swim. Unctuousness in a literal sense is hardly more pleasant than the figurative…my favorite incomplete failure of a film recently is the Peter Sellers CASINO ROYALE, which I certainly like better than the recent remake. Sellers is On about half the time he’s onscreen, and there are other random bits and pieces that work well…and the rest really is too thoroughly aped by Austin Powers films (albeit with less excrement humor).
    Todd Mason recently posted..FFB: 100 GREAT FANTASY SHORT SHORT STORIES, edited by Terry Carr, Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg (Doubleday 1984), and its peers in the vignette racketMy Profile

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