Too Cheesy Even for the Rats

Now Playing: Johnny Cash’s chilling version of If You Could Read My Mind.

A friend has been compiling a tribute to 1970s movies lately on Facebook, and the other day he put up a trailer for “Willard,” the 1971 horror film about rats that starred the always-serviceable Bruce Davison, the great Ernest Borgnine, Elsa Lanchester and a young Sondra Locke.

I think I saw it on television once. It was a completely forgettable, stupid movie. I mentioned on my friend’s post that I had seen the film’s sequel – yes, this stinker had a sequel, “Ben,” starring the (and I swear I’m not making this up) lead rat from the first film – in the theater and that it was the second-worst movie I’d seen in one. I mean, I’m not against people-eating rats or anything, but it had a really terrible Michael Jackson song implausibly sung by the movie’s main human, a stupid looking kid that I kept hoping would get eaten by the rats. Alas, that potentially movie-saving scene never happened.

Which raises the question of the worst movie I even saw in the theater. And it’s not even close.

But first, there’s an honorable mention – the truly detestable “Stealing Home.” Which just proved that a sort-of baseball movie could be bad even when I liked baseball, which I no longer do. This one had Mark Harmon, Jodie Foster and a bunch of other folks but was truly bad. It had to do with a washed-up baseball player called home to dispose of the ashes of a childhood friend/lover who had committed suicide. There wasn’t one scene that rung true. There was some sort of dialogue repeated about touching the drain in a swimming pool that was supposed to be a metaphor about living life. It was so bad it was funny. Which saves it from being higher on the list.

As for the worst movie I ever saw in the theater, it actually starred one of my favorite performers, Jackie Gleason. And some other actors I like as well: Barry Corbin, Eva Marie Saint, Bess Armstrong, Hector Elizondo. But it also has quite possibly my least favorite actor of all time. That would be Tom Hanks.

I know, I know. How can I despise Tom Hanks? Everyone loves him. He’s Everyman. Well, I don’t love him, and he’s certainly not my idea of Everyman (that would be Gary Cooper, by the way). I started disliking him in “Splash,” when Darryl Hannah started snuggling up to him and all he could do was bitch that she was a mermaid. Who cares, dude? It’s Darryl Forgetting Hannah! I’ve never scene “Forest Gump” and don’t want to, found “Castaway” completely unbelievable and while I liked “Philadelphia,” that was mostly because of Denzel. I just don’t find Hanks believable or compelling or funny or even likable in any of his roles.

In “Nothing In Common,” he’s the irritating ad salesman son of an irritating garment salesman (I think). Some toes get cut off. Everyone lives reasonably happily ever after. It was supposed to be a comedy-drama, but I can’t remember laughing once. Even unintentionally. Even with the Great One in the cast.

But you know, upon further reflection, a killer rat or two and it really might not have been so bad after all.


“Violence is one of the most fun things to watch.” _ Quentin Tarantino (now there’s a guy who knows how to make movies)


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