It was a movie about a famous raid by Samurai on their enemy’s castle, but after a three and a half hour build up the actual raid takes place off screen. It was a monster movie where the Frankenstein monster does not come to life until the final two minutes, and is only on screen long enough to walk from the lab right into quicksand. It was a whodunit mystery where everyone who knew something got killed off, so you never really do find out how Bruce Lee died. There have been plenty of movies where for no apparent reason the screen writer did not deliver on what was promised, and those who invested an hour or more of their lives to see the movie end up feeling cheated. Here are the top five movies that have gotten the most complaints from viewers.
The Thief of Bagdad ( 1924 )
Douglas Fairbank’s silent movie classic The Thief of Bagdad was the first American epic fantasy film, and is still considered among the top 100 greatest fantasy films of all time. A two and a half hour spectacular production with expansive sets, a cast of thousands and top-loaded with special effects, some which today still stand up. Fairbanks plays the title character, a master thief living in ancient Bagdad who schemes to rob the royal palace after he steals a magic rope from a street magician. But once inside the palace he walks in on the princess sleeping in her bed and falls madly in love, and winds up only stealing one of her shoes. It is announced that the Caliph wants the princess married off, and has invited princes from across the world to the palace to vie for her. Disguising himself as a prince the thief sneaks into the palace again. Upon seeing him for the first time the princess falls in love, but the romance is cut short when the thief is exposed and ordered to be whipped and executed. The princess bribes the guards, and the beaten thief is set free on the streets. The Caliph announces that the remaining princes will compete, the one who brings back the rarest treasure will win his daughter’s hand in marriage. The Thief, still determined to wed the princess, joins the competition and goes on his own journey to find a lost treasure chest containing magic dust. The other princes go on their own journeys and bring back a magic flying carpet, a crystal ball, and an apple that cures ailment. Unbeknownst to everyone the evil prince of Mongolia has sneaked his soldiers into the city and palace over the past few days and giving the signal they all attack and capture Bagdad.
The Thief, who’s journey has taken him through the depths of hell, to the bottom of the ocean and the peak of the highest mountain, returns to Bagdad riding on the flying horse Pegasus holding the magic chest. Learning that Bagdad has been captured by the Mongols and the princess is being forced to wed the Mongol prince, the thief uses the magic dust to create a massive army that he commands. For the past two and a half hours the movie has been building up to this confrontation between the thief and the Mongol prince, and you would expect an epic battle to take place. But inexplicably Fairbanks script had the Mongol army fleeing in terror upon witnessing the thief raising the army from thin air. Using a magic invisible cloak the thief sneaks into the palace and rescues the princess, but just as the Mongol prince is about to challenge the thief to a saber fight royal guards show up and arrest him. The Thief of Bagdad is a great movie, but having neither a climatic battle or duel as has happened in countless other sword and sorcery epics the viewer feels cheated, and the film has a feel as if an important scene is missing.
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars ( 1953 )
In 1940 Universal Pictures hired the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello to co-star in the romantic comedy One Night in the Tropics. While they were cast as minor characters in what was otherwise an Allan Jones and Nancy Kelly picture with Robert Cummings and Peggy Moran in the supporting roles, Abbott and Costello were so impressive that they stole the film. Universal signed them for another 28 films, two which were made in 1945 when the team had temporarily split up. (Those films were Little Giant and The Time of Their Lives, both films having Abbott and Costello in the same movie but not working as a team.) In the 15 years the team worked at Universal they joined the Army, Navy, Air Force and French Foreign Legion. Crossed paths with The Frankenstein Monster, Dracula, the Wolfman, The Invisible Man, Captain Kidd, Mr Hyde, The Mummy, a Giant, a Witch, ghosts and Boris Karloff. Traveled the world from the tropics to ski resorts to the Mid East to darkest Africa. Time traveled to the old west, a Southern river boat, the American Revolution and The Alaska Gold Rush. Universal tried every idea, from romantic comedies to crime thrillers. So it is no surprise that when science fiction movies became popular in the early ’50s that Universal would decide to put Abbott and Costello in a science fiction comedy.
Abbott and Costello Go to Mars seemed like a great premise. While loading supplies onto a rocket ship, Costello accidentally presses the launch button and sends himself and Abbott on their way to Mars. One could only imagine the amazing sites to await Bud and Lou once they got to Mars. But,alas, it was not to be. The movie’s producer Howard Christie also came up with the story. His idea, instead of Mars Lou and Bud land in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. Thinking they have landed on Mars Bud and Lou mistake the wild costumes for the Martian population. For the second half of the film Bud and Lou run into two escaped convicts who force them to launch the rocket into space again. So do they finally go to Mars? Nope. Christie’s script has the rocket landing on Venus instead which is populated by women. The Queen falls for Lou, but then asks him and the rest of the men to leave when he can’t keep his roving eyes off the other women. Back in the rocket Lou and Bud return to Earth, never once stepping foot on Mars. Maybe it is nit picking to be disappointed that the duo never go to Mars. After all, Venus is interesting looking enough, and the population have all the retro-advanced technology you would expect in a 1950s sci-fi movie. But dang-it, the title promised that Abbott and Costello would go to Mars.
Monster A Go-Go (1965 )
As if the movie was not bad enough. Monster A Go-Go was an incoherent science fiction film about a space capsule that crash lands on Earth and the astronaut inside has gone missing. Meanwhile an extremely tall radioactive man wearing a tattered spacesuit has shown up and begins mangling people. Assuming that the tall man is the missing astronaut turned into a monster, NASA attempts to capture him. Following the trail of freshly killed bodies NASA scientists track the monster to some underground tunnels. Donning hazmat suits they enter the tunnel with flashlights, Then the narrator announces that there was no monster in the tunnel, and that the NASA scientists just received a telegram that says that the missing scientist was found thousands of miles away in a lifeboat. And there the movie ends. There is a reason why the movie is like this. It originally began as a low budget film called Terror at Halfway. Midway through production director Bill Rebane ran out of money and reluctantly abandoned the film.
A few years later director Herschell Gordon Lewis needed to deliver a completed feature film to his distributor but did not have the time to shoot it. Finding out about Rebane’s incomplete film Lewis bought the incomplete footage and went about shooting enough footage to complete the movie. Lewis used every bit of footage that Rebane shot. Had Rebane completed his version of the film, much of that footage would have been edited. Instead scenes drag out merely to pad the film out to feature length. Unable to recast the actors from the original production he hired an entire new cast to film the final third of the movie. ( This is why characters from the beginning are not in the ending with no explanation. ) And with the tall actor who played the monster no longer available Lewis simply peppered what monster footage existed throughout the film. There was no footage of the monster being captured or killed, so Lewis simply had it disappear, the narrator going further to suggest that the monster never existed with no explanation as to why several characters in the film were killed.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
Ian Flemming made a career of writing James Bond novels, a character he created inspired by his own work as a spy. The only time Flemming would write a novel that did not relate to Bond was his 1964 children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: The Magic Car. Alas, this would be the last time Flemming would write something other than James Bond. Shortly after writing the book he died of a heart attack. Flemming had a deal with producer Harry Saltzman giving him exclusive rights to make film adaptions of all his books. Along with co-producer Albert R Broccoli, Saltzman began producing the James Bond movie series, beginning with 1962’s Dr No. In 1968 Broccoli chose to produce a film adaption of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, hiring Roald Dahl to write the script. The movie tells the story of Caractacus Potts, an inventor who lives with his two children and eccentric father in the early 1900s. Caractacus buys himself the wreck of a race car that crashed during a grand prix, and secluding himself in a barn for several days sets out to fully restore it using odd parts from other machines. Potts does such a great job pimping the car that he later discovers that it not only flies and floats on water, but has a mind of it’s own. For some reason the Baron of a country called Vulgaria figures out that Potts’ car is magic long before Potts does, and sends agents to steal it. Failing to do so they kidnap what they believe is Caractacus himself to build the Barron his own magic car. The problem is they kidnap Caractacus father by mistake, forcing the inventor, his girlfriend and his children to get into Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and fly to Vulgaria for a rescue.
Now with a movie based on an Ian Flemming book made by the same producer of the James Bond movie series, you would expect that they would do a lot with the magic car. After all, nearly every James Bond movie had a full sequence that involved him in his Aston Martin in a car chase where he employed dozens of gadgets, such as smoke screens and mini-missiles. There were even Bond movies where the Aston Martin turned into planes, boats and submarines. So the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang about a magic car should be no stop car action, right? Wrong. The car does fly over to Vulgaria, but shortly after arriving Potts puts the car in a garage, and it is not seen again until the end of the movie. That’s right. After a huge build up of establishing how magical the car is, Potts does not use it during the rescue itself. For the next forty minutes Potts and his family with the aid of a local toymaker and dozens of children locked up in the Barron’s dungeon come up with a plan to overthrow the Barron and his wife. After the coup d’etat is pulled off Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is retrieved and off the family fly. What a rip off. First there was nearly an hour before the movie got around to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang being built, an hour taken up by a dead end subplot where Potts is trying to sell a whistle shaped candy called Toot Sweets to a candy manufacturer, then after only ten minutes of plot where the car does anything interesting it is written out of the film. I am not saying that the rest of the film sucks. Every music number in this movie is memorable, Dick Van Dyke as the inventor Caractacus Potts gave one of the best performances of his career, and Robert Helpmann’s portrayal of The Child Catcher is one of the most memorable villains in motion picture history. But none of this has anything to do with a magic car.
Final Countdown (1980)
It seemed like a great premise for a movie. Kirk Douglas is the commander of the USS Nimitz, the most advanced air craft carrier in the Navy fleet. On a raining mission they get caught in a mysterious strange looking storm cloud and end up going through a vortex. Attempting to contact home base they discover old radio broadcasts and realize they had gone back in time to 1941 on the eve of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese aircraft are no match for the jet fighters on the Nimitz, and the officers on board debate as to if they should engage the Japanese and prevent the attack from happening. Some argue about the possible downside of changing history while others argue that they just cant let hundreds of American servicemen die. The final decision belongs to Kirk, and he ultimately decides that his duty is to defend the United States no matter what the year is. The hour of the attack approaches and Kirk orders the jets into the air. But just as they are about to intercept the approaching Japanese the same strange storm cloud from the beginning of the movie reappears. Kirk orders the jets to return and sends the carrier into the vortex returning it back to 1980. The entire movie had been building up to a battle between a modern aircraft carrier and the Japanese fleet that never happens.