Harry Medved devoted the last two years to walking out on good and merely half-bad movies while sitting through 2,000 of the worst stinkeroos ever shot. Medved, 17, is not a masochist but an archivist, and has just published the results: The 50 Worst Films of All Time (And How They Got That Way).
The book was actually begun by Harry’s older brother Michael Medved, coauthor of What Really Happened to the Class of ’65? But after screening 200 clunkers, Michael began suffering headaches and nausea, so he turned the job over to his brother. Since Harry was too young to drive at the time, and his parents, a physicist and a chemist, were not enthralled by the project, his cousin Randy Dreyfuss, 19, was enlisted to assist and provide transportation from one turkey to another—and got a co-author credit. (Dreyfuss is a cousin of Richard, none of whose properties made the list.) “When friends on the bus to school asked me if I’d seen The Godfather or Annie Hall,” recalls Harry, “I’d say, ‘No, but let me tell you about Alakazam the Great!’ ”
Medved arbitrarily excluded travelogues, porno flicks, TV movies and armed forces training films. Still, there was no dearth of dreck, and he managed to blot many of the industry’s noblest escutcheons (Gable for Parnell) and to thumb his nose at the cinéaste snobs (Alain Resnais’s Last Year at Marienbad). It was never easy. One prime contender, That Hagen Girl, starring Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple, was taken out of circulation during the 1976 presidential campaign and they tracked down the only available print at the University of Wisconsin. The worst of the worst? Robot Monster, a 1953 sci-fi wonder that took only four days to shoot.
An aspiring director, Medved is currently attending UCLA’s film school while he puts together clips from his chosen 50 for a TV special. There is also a book sequel in the works titled—what else?—Son of the 50 Worst Films.