Guide to Life and Footnotes: How Not to Make a Movie

I would bet good money that most of my seven readers will never break into moving pictures. But just in case, here’s five tips I’ve picked up from my lifelong interest in terrible, terrible movies (1).


5. Assume Your Audience Comes From This Reality

Notable failures: Hulk (2003), everything Uwe Boll has ever done

One of the odd quirks of audiences is that when watching an adaptation of something they like, they want it to have at least a few traits in common with the thing it is an adaptation of (2). If you went to see Hulk, you probably wanted to see a lot of “HULK SMASH!” and what you got was 20 minutes of HULK SMASH and about three days of talking, angst, poorly thought out scene transitions and plot points that didn’t make sense (3). As for Uwe Boll, making fun of him is so easy I’m not going to bother (4).


4. When Writing A Parody, Make Sure Something In It Is Legitimately Funny

Notable failures: Space Mutiny (1988), Monster A Go-Go (1965), Wild World of Batwoman (1966)

These movies have two things in common. They’re all at least in theory parodies, and they’re terrible. Mutiny contains one legitimately likeable and funny character, and that character is neither the hero nor the villain, both of whom frankly kind of suck (5). Monster contains no likeable characters of all, plus the plot makes no sense, plus it was abandoned by one bad movie director and “finished” by another one who managed to go through the entire filming process without having a good idea (6). And Batwoman started out as a crude attempt to make money off the famous Adam West series, and then consisted of the following breakdown:

20 years: people dancing for no reason

5 years: hideously racist pseudo-Chinese gibberish

20 years: climactic battle that is neither climactic nor battle-like, and which resembles a cross between a square dance and Gonzo’s cannonball catching act from the Muppet Show

30 years: the audience staring in bewilderment at Batwoman’s…erm…“costume”, which was chosen by the actress herself, apparently after being hit on the head (7)

15 years: The annoying comic relief being annoying but neither comic nor relieving

7 years: Stockholm Syndrome

3 years: nuclear explosions that don’t even harm the guy holding the explosive (8)


3. Nothing is Better than a Bad Special Effect, So Use Nothing Instead

Notable failures: Attack of the Eye Creatures (1965), Reptilicus (1961)

Fog. Darkness. Obstructions. A hairy, inhuman hand/claw extending from behind the camera. All of these are good ways of concealing that your monster costume sucks. None of these are things Eye Creatures managed. Instead, what came out were men in rubber suits hanging around in athletic shoes, the zippers on their costumes fully visible (9). As for Reptilicus, well, feast your eyes on this.


2. Write a Tract, or Let Your Star Do the Same

Notable failures: GATTACA (1997), Battlefield Earth (2000)

Assuming your audience needs to have an Important Message slammed onto their heads without anything vaguely resembling subtlety rarely ends well. GATTACA was merely two-dimensional, with its most offensive message being that as long as you’re fulfilling your dreams it’s perfectly all right to put the lives of others at risk (10). Battlefield Earth, on the other hand, is pretty much a straightforward love letter to L. Ron Hubbard, written by John Travolta (11).


1. Don’t Do Anything Hal Warren Did

Notable failures: Manos: the Hands of Fate (1966)

For the uninitiated, Hal Warren was a fertiliser salesman who decided, on a bet, to make a movie. The net result has become legendary among bad movie aficionados, coming second only to Plan 9 from Outer Space in lists of the most famous awful movies in the world. If you go and watch its MST3K episode on Youtube right now, or read its Agony Booth recap, you will probably be enlightened and appalled. Mainly appalled. It takes a special kind of incompetence to take a camera that can’t record sound, get a clapperboard caught in shot anyway, and then botch the dub so badly that one guy is clearly talking to himself without bothering to change his voice at all.

–       OSM out


  1. Don’t be silly, this won’t be a blatant ripoff. Cracked doesn’t do footnotes.
  2. Don’t try this sentence at home.
  3. So why did Bruce’s dad release those monster poodles anyway?
  4. Plus, y’know, he used to be a boxer and could probably kill me with one hand.
  5. The hero tends to let his battle cry stray into the soprano reaches, the love interest looks waaay older than she’s portrayed as being (12), the villain’s evil plot makes no sense, the chase scenes are done on floor waxers, and one character – a named character, even – is killed and then turns up back at her station in the next scene. Also, what the hell? There’s a tag for Space Mutiny but not one for Manos?
  6. At the end, having run out of ideas, the monster suddenly never existed. I don’t get it either.
  7. It somehow manages to resemble neither a bat, nor a woman.
  8. “Hey, let’s just slap some black powder on the actor’s face and call it good.”
  9. Because it’s in my contract, “Folks, they just did not care!”
  10. For those who haven’t seen it, the main character is born with a weak heart and wants to be an astronaut. You will note that NASA isn’t overly keen on training astronauts who are likely to die either on the mission or when they return to Earth, not because they’re eeeeeeevil but because sending people out to die is heinously unethical and endangers the lives of everyone else on the mission.
  11. The author of this post claims no responsibility for anything it contains, and furthermore is not worth the time and effort of suing.
  12. The actress in question, Cisse Cameron, has spent a lot of energy keeping her true age a secret. I’d bet good money that her tombstone will read “Cisse Cameron, Departed This Vale Of Tears on [date]” just to make sure we never learn her date of birth.

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