Other Masters of Disasters

We know on any given Sunday, the football will be tossed around on the NFL gridirons across America. But in other pockets of the US, people are passing the pigskin back and forth for an entirely different bloodsport. These hardcore sadomasochists are devotees of so-bad-it’s-good cinema and this weekend, they’re lining up in droves to peak behind the curtain of Tommy Wiseau’s infamously abominable, yet eminently quotable brainchild The Room through the colander of James Franco’s fictionalized making-of The Disaster Artist.

The reason The Room is so renowned is based on the inflated self-aggrandizement and utter ineptitude behind it. Justice League was atrocious but, in a very corporate, conventionally homogenized fashion. The Room is a unicorn of awfulness. It did provoke a thought on what other productions I’d love to see the behind-the-scenes contretemps of. Here are my top 3…

3. Cruising (1980)

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It was picketed and boycotted for being a highly derogatory look at the homosexual subculture in NY. It has an inexplicable scene where a man in a jock strap sauntering into a room and punching Al Pacino for no discernible reason. I’d love to see how William Friedkin supposedly researched the skid-row atmosphere of the film and why he edited in such a way that homosexuals were seen as predatory and murderous. How was the mafia involved in the pre-production? How did someone of Pacino’s stature after Godfather 1 and 2 become intrigued by such a contemptuous project? Also, how could they get any salvageable audio with all the dissenting gay groups harassing them during the shoot? Ironically, James Franco released a 40-minute short called Interior. Leather Bar. which speculates on the errant footage from the movie.

2. Heaven’s Gate (1980)

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How many films can claim that not only did they squandered a record budget of 44 million dollars, bankrupted a company and put a moratorium on the New Hollywood Era of directors as auteurs? Precisely. Only one. And that film is Heaven’s Gate which, depending on which cut you see, is either a mangled, choppy oater on a lavish scale or a prolonged, infrequently brilliant western on an obscene scale. Apparently, not only was Michael Cimino drunk from his breakthrough on The Deer Hunter, but the conditions were dangerous with horses being injured during the set pieces and the production running far afield over budget and schedule. During the downtime, John Hurt went and filmed The Elephant Man. Was there any studio head who didn’t intervene beforehand? I’d love to see the inverse of what we all see now where filmmakers are puppets for the industry instead of the other way around. Imagine a film about a director who is dictating the orders to the studio. Could be an Outer Limits episode.

  1. The Day the Clown Cried (1972)

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Undoubtedly, someone will make a biopic on the recently deceased genius Jerry Lewis but, if they want to eschew the cradle-to-the-grave template of these hatchet jobs, they should focus on the film that’s been hidden in Jerry’s vault for nearly 40 years. A smattering of celebrities have been given the seal of approval to see it but the public has only gotten a sampling of the final product when B-roll footage surfaced last year. From the premise, it was clear that the percodan-hazy mindset of Jerry contributed to his vision of a misguided plot in which he plays a clown that entertains the children before they’re escorted in the gas chambers of World War II. Like many films which go awry due to egotism, Jerry’s name is splattered all over the credits and he was reported to be a megalomaniac tyrant on the set. The best unintentionally risible movies are the most earnest and if it’s true that Jerry thought this would a monument to the holocaust that would receive copious award nominations, his blind passion must be something to gaze upon.

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