TROUBLE CITY

CHUD'S 50 BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENTS, DAY 8

Movie NewsNick NunziataComment


Welcome to the next CHUD List.

We've tackled our essentials list and the continued revelation of our Kills List from 2003, and now that we've begun the beguine, we must continue. Behold:

The CHUD.com Top 50 Disappointments.

A quick word on the criteria. We could very easily have spent this whole article discussing sequels and prequels and adaptations of television shows and called it a day. Instead, we tried to go a different route. Also, from a master list of over 100, the involved parties (Devin, Jeremy, Micah, Russ, and myself) all killed off a choice for each one we claimed. As a result, we'll run a big list at the end of this of the 'ones that got away'. So, here is day one of many where we chronicle the 50 Biggest Disappointments. Two a day, every week day for five weeks. In no particular order:

 #36 - The Black Hole (1979. dir. Gary Nelson)

It was the mid-'70s and Disney's business wasn't what it once was. Walt was still dead. Brother Roy and his successor Donn Tatum seemed to like theme parks more than movies. Animation was more expensive than ever and live-action fare churned out by the studio hardly inspired passion: Herbie Rides Again and Escape To Witch Mountain? Yipe. Even the animation arm produced decidedly second-tier 'classics' like Robin Hood. Then 1977 hit, and what did the company have to combat Star Wars? Pete's Dragon.

The film that eventually became The Black Hole began production during that dismal mid-'70s period, but didn't see the light of day until 1979. It should have been the perfect stopgap film between Lucas efforts, and a family-friendly counterprogram to Alien (albeit a few months late) to boot.

The cast looked good: Perkins. Borgnine. Forster. Maximilian freaking Schell. That B.O.B. looked like a flying R2D2 didn't hurt. And the story teetered on the brink of being an ideal mix of juvenile adventure (laser guns, space ships) and adult metaphysics (humans turned into automatons, the heaven and hell ending).

Here's the crux: from the opening credits until the moment you see Schell's eyes burning through Maximillian's helmet, this movie is fucking boring. It's morphine on celluloid. You'd get more adrenaline by chewing on Errol Flynn's dessicated thigh. Instead of an infectiously hummable theme song, it has an overture! That worked for 2001, but in a post-Star Wars climate slow 'n' stately wasn't going to cut it.

To make the flatlined pulse more frustrating, there's no arguing the film's visual distinction. Maximillian was so badass my large-scale model of him escaped an M-80 fate until there was simply no other cannon fodder. The set design and model construction are often perfectly blurred together, and the rolling fireball that appears towards the film's climax is awe-inspiring, if also a bit ridiculous.

But I challenge anyone to endure the running time - 98 minutes that feels like 189 - without sneaking a snooze or two. When Disney needed a massive, rousing hit, they dropped this over-wrought, underbaked dud instead. It's a wonder there was ever an appetite at the studio to make Tron. - Russ

Travesty Scale (1-10): 5 out of 10

http://chud.com/nextraimages/harlem_nights.jpg#35 - Harlem Nights (1989. dir. Eddie Murphy)

A lazy, and yet oddly appropriate way to address this film would be to tap the ever-ubiquitous screencap of William Hurt toward the end of A History of Violence complete with the “How Do You Fuck That Up?” caption. If your average every day blockbuster with a star-studded cast is supposedly a slam dunk, Harlem Nights was poised to be an NBA Jam-esque monstrosity with Jordan descending 40 feet from a halfcourt leap to deposit a flaming basketball through the rim (…and the floor. And half of the Earth’s crust). That is how frickin’ money Harlem Nights was…

..on paper. Once shooting began, it quickly began falling apart. Eddie Murphy was writing and directing for the first (and last, thank God) time. Richard Pryor was visibly uneasy with playing second fiddle to Murphy, and he somehow managed to invest less here than he did phoned-in, paycheck jobs like The Toy. Redd Foxx just drifted about the margins, his third of the underlying “Three generations of great black comedy!!!” theme having never been taken seriously by Murphy at the script stage. Foxx and the film’s other major representative from that era, Della Reese, were little more than punchlines in this meandering vanity project. One could forgive Murphy if he was genuine about trying to craft an affecting black (as in gravitas, not the race) comedy set in 1920s Harlem. But this film balances comedy and drama about as well as Lindsay Lohan balances working and doing blow. It’s never even remotely close to as funny as you would expect (aside from Murphy’s back alley fight with Reese, a deservedly immortal comic scene), and the story was far too hackneyed to ever be affecting. This film will forever be notorious as one of the biggest wastes of time, talent, and potential to hit the screen, and it makes as a poor last go-round for the likes of Foxx and Pryor. It’s clearly the beginning of Murphy’s creative decline, as he would soon follow this up with Another 48 Hours, Vampire in Brooklyn, and The Distinguished Gentleman before descending fully into latex and kiddie-flick hell. - Micah

Travesty Scale (1-10): 9 out of 10

Previously Disappointing:
The Ladykillers
Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Ultraviolet

New York, New York
Billy Bathgate

Star Trek: The Motion Picture
Willow

Superman Returns
Blade: Trinity
Art School Confidential
Lifeforce

Bonfire of the Vanities
Exorcist: Dominion


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