4 Actual Movies That Were Somehow Not Made As Jokes
Most bad movies are bad for simple reasons (the producer needs to launder $2 million in cocaine money and just bumped into Steven Seagal on a Russian mobster's Volga sex barge). But every so often a movie comes along with a backstory so weird you can almost forgive just how terrible the finished product is. Well ... almost.
Saddam Hussein's Propaganda Epic Was Derailed By Oliver Reed's Drinking Problem
Back in the 1980s, Iraq was under the tyrannical leadership of Saddam Hussein, who was having a bit of a PR nightmare. Convinced, for no obvious reason, that he was a military genius, Saddam had started a massive war with Iran, killing thousands of civilians. Fortunately, he knew exactly how to win back international goodwill: put on a big Hollywood-style show, complete with thrilling action scenes and some genuine international superstars. Which is why a number of British actors were suddenly offered up to five times their usual salary to fly to Iraq and appear in Clash Of Loyalties, which featured a Saddam-like figure leading a heroic uprising against foreign colonizers.
"Would you like to fly to an active war zone and star in a propaganda movie for the Butcher of Khuzestan" turned out to be a pretty hard sell. However, they did manage to land legendary British actor Oliver Reed as the main bad guy. Reed, one of the biggest stars of the '70s, was in the middle of a decade-long drinking binge and decided that war-torn Iraq was just the place to get really weird with it. The middle-aged actor arrived in the country with his 17-year-old girlfriend, who he had met in a pub weeks earlier and randomly invited to the desert. The guy started drinking when he woke up and by nightfall would be swigging from an ice bucket full of cognac and champagne, kicking down hotel doors and challenging other guests to fight him. Within days, his own bodyguard was dangling him out the window and threatening to drop him several floors, while Reed laughed hysterically and dared him to go through with it.
The stories are endless. At one point, he was invited to a fancy dinner with Saddam and started loudly insulting him, apparently assuming that the dictator couldn't speak English. Saddam ignored him till the end of the evening, then suddenly wandered over to make polite small talk, which was impressive self-control from a guy who later shot his health minister in the face in the middle of a cabinet meeting. Reed was later almost deported after peeing into an empty champagne bottle and trying to send it to another table at a restaurant "with my compliments." On set, he spent most of his time wandering around with a half-empty whiskey bottle, trying to show people erotic Polaroids of himself. It got to the point that they were filming in the middle of a literal war and the crew was most afraid of Oliver Reed.
The movie ultimately went off the rails even further when another British actor was arrested by the secret police, who correctly suspected he was spying for MI6 in his spare time. The guy narrowly avoided torture, then fled the country so fast that he never even changed out of his costume. This apparently caused some consternation at London Heathrow airport, where a guy in a pith helmet and full World War I uniform stumbled out of the plane and started kissing the ground.
Against all the odds, Clash Of Loyalties was reportedly not terrible, and won a few prizes at film festivals. However, it was never released internationally, and was actually considered lost until the director located a single VHS tape in 2014. Not that Oliver Reed would have been too disappointed, since he could always enjoy Lion of the Desert, the movie he made for Muammar Gaddafi around the same time. Seriously, dude was just bouncing from dictator to dictator until the whiskey ran out and he had to turn to the worst tyrant of them all (Gladiator-era Ridley Scott).
The Criminal Blimp Tycoon Behind The Backstreet Boys Made A Movie Starring Himself As A Detective
Possibly the weirdest guy in the entire history of the music industry, Lou Pearlman made his fortune as an incredibly corrupt blimp tycoon, before suddenly moving into the boy band business, where he made millions as the founder of groups like the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, and O-Town. Basically, if you grew up in the late '90s, Lou Pearlman was directly responsible for some of the worst haircuts of your life.
But nothing good has ever come from the sentence "won't you boys join me aboard my twink zeppelin, I have a plan to make us all rich." Behind the scenes, Lou Pearlman was robbing all his bands blind and ripping off investors to boot. He eventually went to prison for running one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in history. He's also been accused of sex crimes, although not nearly as many as the phrase "blimp-based boy mogul" would lead you to expect. But as the cops closed in, Pearlman apparently snapped completely, since the last thing he did before his arrest was writing and financing Longshot, a truly baffling movie that somehow cost $20 million, looks like it cost $200, and features Pearlman himself as a detective who shuts down a giant financial crime.
Longshot is, by an absolute mile, one of the worst movies ever made. The "action comedy" (it contains neither) follows a gigolo being blackmailed by the mafia into seducing a wealthy widow. Somehow this was shown on the Disney Channel back in the day. The side plot concerns his younger brother, a high-school basketball player with standard teen worries so boring they automatically erase themselves from your brain every time the scene changes. These two plots don't seem like they'd mesh. And that's because they don't. It's like watching two different movies, somehow both worse than the other.
Not that you'd have much time to focus on either story, given that the movie repeatedly grinds to a halt for literally dozens of "comic" celebrity cameos from Pearlman's entire talent roster, like this excruciating scene featuring two members of *NSYNC as pizza guys.
The cameos are so constant they might take up more screen time than the actual plot. A character gets on a plane? Well Britney Spears is the flight attendant. And Kenny Rogers is the pilot. And the guy from KC and the Sunshine Band is co-pilot (everyone recognizes him right?). And here comes Lance Bass as an engineer delivering one of the worst puns in movie history.
The Rock is a mugger, Justin Timberlake is a valet who hates boy bands, Jermaine Jackson in the challenging role of Jermaine Jackson ... the list is endless. There's also an extended plug for Pearlman's real-life restaurant. But the best cameo is saved for Lou Pearlman himself, who appears as Captain Lewis, the heroic police detective who sweeps in at the end and arrests all the bad guys. After saving the day, Captain Lou retires to Florida, where he plans to use his pension to start a new business "in entertainment". Get it? Given that the real Lou Pearlman was himself a massive criminal, the role is either a weird taunt or evidence of some fairly disturbing delusions about his role in life.
The Gandhi Conspiracy Is Somehow In Favor Of Gandhi's Murder
The Gandhi Murder is a political thriller released back in 2019. That's a perfectly normal sentence, and you might want to cling to it, because every other detail about this movie is completely unbelievable. The ultra-serious historical drama is set in the days before the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, with the twist that the filmmakers think that "Gandhi's death was good for the country," since it brought India together, just like Lincoln's death supposedly did for America (Reconstruction being such a wonderfully harmonious time in American history). This is all illustrated in the film via an extensive dream sequence flashback to Lincoln's murder.
Originally known as Solar Eclipse: Depth of Darkness (what?!), the movie claims to be based on a true story, much like your uncle claims his sexy Bigfoot tattoo is based on a real camping trip. The film tells the story of the policemen who heroically failed to prevent Gandhi's murder, which is the equivalent of making a movie about the secret service guy hanging off the back of JFK's convertible. At this point, we should probably mention that almost all the main roles in this movie are played by white people, including Stephen Lang (Colonel Quaritch from Avatar) as the Indian policemen who explains why Gandhi must die. An exception is Gandhi himself, who is for some reason portrayed by a somewhat portly Mexican man.
That's not even the wildest casting choice, since Vinnie Jones also appears in the movie as an aristocratic British diplomat. Yes, Vinnie Jones, the cockney guy who looks like he pops open fire hydrants with his teeth, plays "Sir Norman Smith." He doesn't alter his usual performance one bit either, meaning you spend the whole movie on the edge of your seat, terrified he's about to start slamming Nehru's head in a car door. There's another British diplomat who just flat-out has an American accent, most likely because the actor looked at Jones and realized this wasn't the type of movie where anybody was making an effort.
The Dubai-based production was actually banned in India, although it's hard to tell why they bothered. Reviews in the rest of the world were somewhat unkind, with The Guardian noting that the visual effects seemed to have been "done on the back of a bus en route to the premiere," while the New York Times reviewer was beaten into a sort of sullen submission, barely able to make fun of the "musical numbers and occasional lapses into martial arts." Oh did we not mention the musical numbers? Sorry, it's just hard to tell jokes when the readers have all been moved to tears by beautiful lyrics like "I am not Hindu or Muslim/Just let me live."
William Randolph Hearst And MGM Made A Movie To Convince FDR To Become A Dictator
In 1932, America was in a bit of a rough spot. The Great Depression was so bad that you needed three years experience as a hobo just to get work as a bum, while there was a six-month waiting period for a cardboard box in the average shantytown. Oklahoma was being devoured by dust, and nobody could afford a broom big enough to save it. And crime was so bad that the entire city of New York had technically been in the middle of one giant multi-sided mugging since 1931. Fortunately, America's rich people thought they had the one thing that would prevent America becoming a complete dystopian nightmare: a violent dictatorship.
Dictators were all the rage in Europe, and a surprising number of Americans thought that one of those Mussolini types was just what the country needed. After President Herbert Hoover's "let's pretend we aren't home and hope the depression goes away" strategy failed, major newspapers called for incoming president Franklin Roosevelt to be given dictatorial powers. A key senator even introduced a bill allowing Roosevelt to effectively govern free of congressional oversight. This ultimately went nowhere, since even FDR drew the line at the "Rule Us Like A God" bill, but perhaps he just needed a nudge in the right direction? One huge fan of the idea was deranged millionaire movie tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who raced to produce a film so good it would persuade Roosevelt to become a full-fledged fascist.
The result was Gabriel Over The White House, a bizarre big-budget mess starring Walter Huston as a corrupt president whose body is possessed by the Angel Gabriel following a car crash. The divinely inspired president quickly abolishes Congress to rule by martial law, insisting that "if what I plan to do makes me a dictator, then it is dictatorship based on Jefferson's definition of democracy, for the greatest good for the greatest number." He then uses his new powers to establish a secret police who execute hundreds of "gangsters" in front of the Statue of Liberty. Seriously, guys getting mowed down in front of the symbol of American freedom is in this movie as an inspiring moment. The audience were supposed to cheer. MGM released this movie.
But President Ranklin Foosevelt doesn't stop there. He creates an unstoppable super weapon and uses it to threaten the whole world into ending war forever. After that, he just about has time to give everyone a good job in some unspecified way, then dies acknowledged as the greatest leader in history. Seriously, they spent millions of dollars on a Hollywood blockbuster blatantly designed to turn America into a dictatorship. Fortunately, the movie was terrible and became the biggest box office flop since Mr. Smith Goes To Washington 2: Smith vs Kong. In fact, the only person who reportedly enjoyed the movie was Roosevelt himself, who quite liked it, although not enough to adopt the Statue of Liberty death squads idea.
Top image: Transcontinental Pictures, Nugen Media Productions