Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: The Golden Turkey Awards

The Golden Turkey Awards was one of the first trivia books I ever bought. Even though I didn't know it at the time. I remember seeing it on the spinning rack at Gene's Superette grocery store in Amherst, Wisconsin back in the early eighties, when I was a junior in high school. It looked like it would be a fun read, since I loved old movies. I'd hadn't been aware of the concept of movie "schadenfrude" back then, the bastardized idea of taking enjoyment from something truly bad. But after reading the list of the hundred worst movies people had voted for in the back of the book, I realized I had already seen about three quarters of them. I was then, and forever more, a bad film fanatic! With great cynicism, comes great snark! Huzzah!

Sorry about that. Anyway, This book was written by the Medved Brothers. Harry was a film student and author of The Fifty Worst Films of All Time. Michael was an author and screenwriter, later to gain fame as a movie critic on Sneak Previews. Harry seems to be the film fan of the pair, especially after reading about the egotistical goings-on backstage at Michael's TV show. Michael is also now a conservative talk show host, which somehow isn't surprising.

The Golden Turkey Awards is set up as a series of contrived awards for bad film-making. Categories include "The Most Embarrassing Movie Debut of All Time", "The Most Ridiculous Monster in Screen History" and so forth, all the way up (or down in this case) to "The People's Choice for the Worst Film of All Time". Oddly enough, the winner of the last award, Ed Wood Jr.'s Plan 9 from Outer Space, wasn't even mentioned in Harry Medved's Fifty Worst Films volume. In fact, many of the movies listed in the first book aren't up for any Golden Turkeys.

This book is written in a tongue-in-cheek manner, but unfortunately there is a lot of undeserved vitriol. Yes, these are quite often bad films. But they are films that made it to the big screen nonetheless. I always thought that counted for something, even if the ingenuity involved was just in creative financing to get the thing filmed.

I would rather watch Plan 9 at six times in a row rather than try to sit through one showing of Stephen Spielberg's The War of the Worlds. I've always thought that a bad big-budget flick should be more at fault than a movie made on the cheap. The Medveds do sort of follow that concept as well, but there really wasn't the demarcation line between your average film and the big blockbusters like there is nowadays. The fact that the categories are limited to one certain type of performance or criteria allows them to consider both kinds of movies equally, and oft times the bigger budgeted movie is the "winner".

Aside from that, the book features a lot of still photos and some good background information on a lot of obscure movies and people. Almost any movie fan will find some little gem they remember or always wanted to see. Mind you, the book was published in 1980. I'm still trying to see some of them; Norman Mailer's Wild 90 is my personal "holy grail" of movies. One of these days, I will find it though...

As I said, I consider this to be the first trivia book I ever bought. Most folks who know me know I play in an annual trivia contest (well, quite a few of them now, with the advent of the internet and streaming audio) broadcast over a college radio station in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. This isn't Trivial Pursuit or bar/pub trivia; this is hardcore stuff, about a sign seen in a movie or music playing in the background of a TV episode. Before the days of Google, the only way to get your team up in the rankings was to have a lot of good notes and a good library of reference books. I remember getting two answers from this book each of the first two years I played, so it became a "trivia book". There will be more in the future, since what comes around, goes around. Not everything can be found with Google.

If you like bad movies, The Golden Turkey Awards is definitely worth the investment. I'm certain you can pick it up for a mere pittance now, as I got a replacement copy for my duct-tape-bound copy for less than $5.00 from Amazon Marketplace, and that was including shipping. You should also be able to find The Fifty Worst Films of All Time and this volume's sequel, Son of Golden Turkey Awards similar bargain prices.

Oh, and the book has a challenge to readers in that one of the films profiled in it is fake. And because it took me awhile to find it, I'm not gonna tell you what it is. But you have to look at ALL the photos really carefully...

That's all for now, folks! Tomorrow, another venture into classic TV!

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