Time Out Melbourne

In Part One we're scraping the barrel with Howard the Duck and Judge Dredd, getting frisky with Gwendoline and Josie and the Pussycats and having an identity crisis with James Batman...

50. Howard the Duck (1986)

The original example of ‘No, but the comic book was, like, really good and subversive and clever!', Howard the Duck was the film which, single-handedly and over night, transformed our collective image of George Lucas. But is it really that bad? After 24 years of gags, worst-ever polls and mountainous critical opprobrium, could anything really be that bad? Well, it's about a duck from space who knows Quack-fu and falls in love with a synth-punk rock chick whose band he decides to manage. And it cost $36 million. So yes. TH

49. Largo Winch (2008)

In updating Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme's series of corporate espionage thrillers, director Jérôme Salle seemed to have stumbled upon a natural winner, updating the guns, girls and gadgets glamour of Bond with a more relatable and globally anti-establishment ethos. But the film doesn't really work, in part because we've kind of seen it all before, in part because the action sequences don't have much vim, and in large part because the hero, Largo himself, is just a bit of a prat. TH

48. Judge Dredd (1995)

Taking as its cue Dredd's epic, 15-issue 2000 AD strip The Cursed Earth, the movie cuts out the best characters, including grenade-toting punk Spikes Harvey Rotten, and ditches inspired but actionable storylines like the brutal Burger Wars between Ronald MacDonald's (sic) paramilitaries and the Burger King's death squads. In their place, we get a dull rehash of Stallone's already lumbering Demolition Man from a couple of years earlier, with a polystyrene sound stage standing in for the sprawling Mega City One and a bit of Orange County quad-bike track for the vast, radioactive desert of the Cursed Earth. What should have been an easy translation comes off like a turbocharged episode of Space Precinct minus the narrative peril. PF

47. Supergirl (1984)

Oof! With budgets on the Superman movies getting tighter than the Man of Steel's undercrackers, little was expected from this lightweight spin-off, but nothing could prepare audiences for the barrage of cut-price offal that eventually splattered across the screen. The effects look as if they were salvaged from some experimental late-'60s sci-fi mood-mare, the sets look pillaged, the low-grade film stock makes all the outdoor scenes look like they were shot on Walton Mountain and the cast – especially Peter O'Toole – look utterly befuddled. Helen Slater does a fine job as Ms Supes and Faye Dunaway looks like she's having a ball on baddie duties, but the general level of quality on show is such that the producers had real trouble in even stitching together a two-minute trailer. ALD

46. Dennis the Menace (1993)

The British Dennis the Menace was an amoral, softy-bashing hoodlum who ruled his neighbourhood with an iron fist and a pumped-up attack dog. Had he been given his own big-screen workout, it might have been a cross between Romper Stomper and The Tin Drum. Alas, it was not to be. His identically named though slightly less demented US cousin, however, snagged himself this saccharine John Hughes-produced vehicle that exists as little more than an excuse for Walter Matthau – as his crusty but ultimately benign neighbour, Mr Wilson – to bellow "Why, you little..!!!" about once every three or four minutes while he inches his way towards that inevitable heart attack. Tee-hee, indeed, eh, readers? ALD

45. The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik-Yak (1984)

John Willie's bondage comic strip The Adventures of Sweet Gwendoline graced the pages of his own Bizarre magazine in the days when America's wartime permissiveness was faltering under a new Puritanism and only Bettie Page in a horse's bridle stood between sexual democracy and the zipper police. Where those strips were geared to getting Gwendoline to the point where she could be bound and gagged by the curvaceous agent U-69, Jaeckin's loose adaptation imposed a storyline involving a rare butterfly, paternal loss and a trek to China. The result is a more circuitous route to the same destination; clothes fall off, get wet or are otherwise torn before somebody has to be bound and gagged and, if possible, sexually humiliated in a tasteful manner. It's tame, mainstream stuff compared to Willie's original, especially with spandex rock-chick Tawny Kitaen in the lead, but the film is so incompetently put together it's hard to deny there's a certain clueless '80s charm at work. PF

44. Josie and the Pussycats (2001)

Based on the cutesy, 1960s Archie Comics series about the artistic travails of a three-piece girl band prone to wearing scandalous leopard-print outfits (much to Jughead's sexual annoyance), this snappy, partially-forgotten film version is really not all that bad. Here's where the problems arose: aside from heralding the final A-list role-of-the-fluffy-dice for kooky lead actress Rachel Leigh Cook – who has not really had a mainstream hit since – the key thing the film is remembered for is its have-your-Starbucks-cake-and-eat-it attitude towards product placement. Obviously, with the story centred around the girls trying to resist bloodsucking corporate bastards (cf Alan Cumming dressed like a dimestore Morticia Adams), the many tongue-in-cheek inserts of Quality Branded Items actually made it look like the fat cats may have won this bout. To quote Kim Gordon from her cameo in The Simpsons: "It isn't about freaks; it's about music, and advertisement, and youth-oriented product positioning." Amen to that. DJ

43. Lucky Luke (2009)

Alongside the much-loved likes of Asterix and Tin Tin, Maurice De Bevere's (or ‘Morris', as was his nom de plume) long-running comic strip Lucky Luke stands as one of the most popular in mainland Europe. Not a million miles away from Woody from Toy Story, the character of Luke is a fond parody of Western Man-with-No-Name stereotypes, a wanderin' happy-go-lucky sharp shooter who is more often than not found putting the kibosh on those dastardly Dalton brothers as they attempt to pull off another devious scheme. To date, there have been two film versions culled from the material, a 1991 shelf-filler that saw Italian-born action pin-up Terence Hill jettisoning the help of long-time partner Bud Spencer to make a forgettable, family-friendly action Western, and a far more successful Francophone version from 2009 which had Jean Dujardin (Oscar-winning Best Actor for The Artist) nodding, winking and nudging his way through the title role. It also helped that doe-eyed Euro pin-up Sylvie Testud assumed the role of Luke's beau, Calamity Jane. DJ

42. James Batman (1966)

Okay, so we're slightly pushing the definition of a ‘comic-book movie' with this one, but any excuse to wax lyrical about the great Dolphy, 82-year-old Tagalog king of comedy and all-round laugh-a-minute living legend. Just look at his IMDB page. In this one, the star of Adolphong Hitler and Markova: Comfort Gay plays both James Bond and Batman, who team up to defeat an evil crime syndicate bent on destroying the world! Cue much punching, kicking, driving, shooting, pratfalling, cackling, capturing, escaping, leaping, throttling, ducking, headbutting, more punching, girls in bikinis and general chicanery. Dolphy, even though we've never actually seen one of your films all the way through, we salute you! TH

41. Fantastic Four (2005)

Rushed, plasticky and disposable, what could easily have been a franchise to rival Marvel's own X-Men was immediately undercut by a series of missed opportunities. Perhaps holding out for George Clooney as Reed Richards in a '60s-set Silver Age adaptation of the funnybooks' favourite family was like wishing for the moon on a stick, but Tim Story's brace of FF films (the other being 2007's derisory Rise of the Silver Surfer, which made the first film seem, in comparison, like 24fps of fried gold) were so anonymous that the property was – as early as 2009 – already being prepped for a ground-up reboot. Some nice interplay between the leads and a well-conceived finale can't make up for a palpable lack of ambition or the inescapable feeling that the people behind the cameras had little-to-no feeling for the material. ALD

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