Book Review: 150 Movies You Should Die Before You See

150 Movies You Should Die Before You See150 Movies You Should Die Before You See
Published by Adams Media, 2010. 290 pages.
By Steve Miller

This one had me really confused, especially the title. I first picked it up because I thought it might give me a few ideas for some future Turkey Day viewing. But as I read through it, I became really confused at just what Miller was trying to do here.

Each film has a very short synopsis along with cast and crew listing. Then a paragraph under the Why It Sucks moniker, a ratings of how many Thumbs Down, then a Crappies Award for whatever he didn’t care for.

In his introduction, Miller writes that there is “something magical about bad movies. Something that makes them worth the sometimes considerable effort to sit through.” Now while I really don’t like the term “bad movies” when you’re talking about a film you enjoy watching (same goes with “guilty pleasure”), I’ll let it slide here because that is an discussion for another time. But if you’re talking about movies that you do enjoy watching, then why are you putting them in a book with the title telling people NOT to watch them?By the time I got to the end of this book, I was pretty irritated. Yes, I know we don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinions. Trust me, I get that, and that’s not where I had the issue. Yes, there are the usual fare of cheesy movies like Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space (1956), Ishtar (1987), and Hudson Hawk (1991), but then some listed here that I consider exceptional titles, some even classics, such as Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) and Deep Red (1975), as well as Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)? But even that is not where I had the issues. It was wondering if he had even watched some of these movies, or at least paid attention to them.

I get that he’s not a fan of European cinema, with the style over substance way of filmmaking. It’s obvious from his criticism of some of those films, for example when he’s talking about Michael Soavi’s Dellamorte Dellamore (calling it by its American title Cemetery Man),  and says “for all the great imagery, gore, violence, nudity, and bizarre sex, the film turns out to be…boring.” He calls Argento’s Deep Red (1975) “sloppily written” with characters “afflicted with unbelievable stupidity”. He also complains about Suspiria and its lack of characters and story. He goes even further when he complains about Lamberto Bava’s Demons (1985) writing this “occasionally scary movie decided that story was an optional extra.” What is even worse, he writes ” And the Worst Director Award goes to…Lamberto Bava for carrying on his father’s tradition to making films that feature some great visual set pieces but that have half-baked, awful scripts.” Really?

All the European stuff aside, for Creature from the Black Lagoon, he writes, ” Sometimes a movie’s so bad you root for the monster. If the so-called scientists in this movie behaved a little more like, oh, I don’t know, scientists instead of 1920s big-game hunters, they might learn the creature’s intelligent.” Did he actually watch the movie? Richard Denning’s character is the only one that is looking to bring back a price, regardless whether it’s dead or alive.” And how could you say this is one of those movies that is “so bad”, one that has probably the best looking monster suit from that classic era.

He also has another Universal classic in here, the 1934 Edgar G. Ulmer film The Black Cat, starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, which he admits is a “stylish and creepy movie from the Golden Age of horror at Universal Pictures.” So right there, why would you put it in a book telling people not to watch it? Oh yeah… because “it has absolutely nothing to do with Edgar Allen Poe’s short story about an insane wife murderer.” And I spelled Poe’s middle name the same way he has it in the book, so yeah, he’s a big fan of the author’s work. But again, just because it’s not faithful to the story, you’re going to recommend people not to see it. I wonder what movie adaptation of Poe’s work he would recommend?

Again, opinions are opinions, and everyone’s got one and entitled to it. But just because you don’t have an understanding of the European style of filmmaking, or throw a fit when a movie isn’t a faithful adaptation of an author’s work, I think you need to tone it back a wee bit. And it’s also confusing when you tell people in the beginning you like “bad” movies but then list 150 movies (some of which you even state are good films) and tell your readers not to see them.

How about I make a list of books not to read. I have my first title for the list.

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