Bad films, worse memories

So my friend and fellow Elk Ed Polish is seeking your input in deciding what is the worst movie of all time.

Ed, of course, is the godfather of Ashland's Bad Film Society. He's taking votes on his website ( for the all-time worst movie and plans to show whatever chunk of celluloid waste you choose on Halloween night at ScienceWorks in Ashland.

Why ScienceWorks is getting involved in this is anyone's guess, but I suppose it makes sense in a way, as our country clearly has thrown in the towel when it comes to competing with developed and developing nations in the hard sciences. Our Chinese masters will be forever grateful.

Ed's narrowed it down to a handful of truly awful films: "Plan 9 From Outer Space," "Robot Monster," "The Queen of Outer Space," "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla" and "The Prince of Tides."

Over the years I've spent hundreds of hours in my room watching awful cinema — alone, always alone — so I'm familiar with most of the films Ed is presenting. I haven't seen "Robot Monster" but I'll take Ed at his word that it is a crime against art.

However, I would challenge anyone to think of a film more vile, more juvenile, more deadening to the viewer's soul than 2000's "Battlefield Earth."

Typing the title fills me with unquenchable rage. I am fighting the urge to drive to Los Angeles right now to track down and beat with a tennis racket the producers who put up the $75 million to finance this atrocity.

Roger Ebert blames his hatred of bad film on how watching such schlock saps his life. He measures his disappointment in hours wasted, precious hours he says he will never get back.

If that's the case, "Battlefield Earth" has to rank among the worst of the soul-stealing bunch. Hence my anger at having watched it 10 years ago.

Some of my brighter memories are of discovering great films, works that nourished my soul and grew my mind in ways that have benefited me my entire life. I can recall in minute detail the afternoon I spent inside my freshman dorm watching "The Seven Samurai" for the first time. It was a rainy Saturday just before the end of spring semester. I had finished my last term paper and had decided to check "Samurai" out of the campus library because my hometown video store didn't carry a copy.

For three hours I sat transfixed on a lumpy twin bed inside that cramped room with only Kurosawa's bone-crushing visual poetry as company. Meanwhile, I could hear my neighbors through the wall roaring with boozy delight as they pre-gamed with a bottle of Jägermeister before adventuring out to house parties later that night.

After the film, I drifted across campus to a buddy's pad, where I enjoyed a few Keystone Lights on his porch. We laughed and listened to The Pixies but my mind kept drifting back to "Samurai" the entire night.

My "Battlefield Earth" experience was the opposite of that.

I had just gotten off a shift at Walmart when I stopped by Blockbuster for something to take my mind off work. Hey, what better than a goofy space opera starring John Travolta?

Three hours and countless screen wipes later I found myself slumped forward on my couch, my mouth agape at the idiocy that unfolded before me. I can't begin to do its utterly contrived and juvenile plot justice, but from what I remember, "Battlefield" had something to do with rasta-looking aliens called the Psychlos descending on Earth to recruit human slaves into working in mines.

The plot was hard to follow because the director saw fit to use the most grating of editing techniques in changing scenes: the screen wipe. The screen wipe involves the screen fading to black gradually from one side of the frame to the other. And yes, I'm aware "Star Wars" did the same thing and I hated it there, too.

In between screen wipes was leaden acting, horrible special effects, first-year-film-student cinematography and a thundering, bombastic score that left me wanting to jam chopsticks into my ears after 30 minutes.

If you haven't seen "Battlefield Earth," then don't. We have so few years to enjoy the beauty of this planet and the art its inhabitants have created over the centuries.

Anyway, Ed has put together a fine list of some wretched films, though I would argue that any list claiming to hold the worst of the worst as far as cinema is concerned is lacking without "Battlefield Earth."

The public is invited to the Bad Film Society showing at ScienceWorks, 1500 E. Main St. in Ashland, on Halloween night. Show up at 6 p.m. and don't forget to wear a costume and bring a $4 donation.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or e-mail

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