Episode 50: Death Of A Gunfighter (1969, Allen Smithee) & The Birds II: Land’s End (1994, Alan Smithee)

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Why is this Alan Smithee Podcast special different from all other Alan Smithee Podcast specials? Simple! You can only have one 50th episode special, and brother, this is it!

Although the one good movie / one bad movie / one hour format has only been in effect for 37 of our 50 episodes, that’s still 74 good movies and bad ones discussed, minus a few good ones from special episodes like our Robocop or Darkman trilogy retrospectives. To start the festivities we each take a look back at our top 5 favorites and least favorites. As most of our good movies were recommendations from one host to the other, each top 5 list is completely unique from the other. Amongst our bottom 5, there is one film so awful it cracked both lists – so listen to discover what’s agreed upon as the worst movie ever chosen for An Alan Smithee Podcast. (Hint: the director’s name rhymes with “Heaven Myth.”)

The oeuvre of Alan Smithee is a strange one: frequently awful, usually obscure and semi-occasionally brilliant. As a fictional creation himself with many authors standing behind him, this puts him in a category unique to any other amongst the rare pseudonyms in film history. Smithee has lent his name to talent as diverse as Stuart Rosenberg, Kevin Yagher, Sam Raimi and David Lynch, and not once were they proud about forfeiting their own names. Alan Smithee’s career with the DGA ended in 1997 when a man who’d never disown anything, Joe Eszterhas, thought it would be funny to write a comedy about a director named Alan Smithee who goes on a rampage when Hollywood won’t allow him to use his own name.

Alan Smithee’s first credit, the 1969 western Death Of A Gunfighter, is An Alan Smithee Podcast’s first western and probably the best film ever branded with what would later be the infamous moniker. Richard Widmark plays an aging sheriff marked for early retirement by the crooked town council, and by any means necessary. Lena Horne, John Saxon and Carroll O’Connor round out a great supporting cast. Particularly O’Connor, whose character devolves from bemused onlooker to manipulative opportunist to back stabbing murderer by the end of the story. Originally helmed by Robert Totten, a TV western director, the film got reassigned to the great Don Siegel when Totten and Widmark began feuding and delaying production. Siegel refused credit and in compromise, Mr. Alan Smithee was born. Little did anyone know they were creating a monster.

Rick Rosenthal already has a history with An Alan Smithee Podcast, being the director of the first film for which we recorded a commentary track, Halloween II. Not content directing the sequel to one classic horror film, Rosenthal returned to the world of thankless, unnecessary tasks by directing 1994’s The Birds II: Land’s End, which makes Halloween II look like The Birds. His decision to rescind credit is curious: the movie is absolutely awful, but was he planning on ducking responsibility if he took the job just for the work? Did he think it was going to turn out better than it did? Certainly the name Alan Smithee was known amongst genre fans by the time David Lynch wanted his name off the extended TV cut of Dune. In any case, movies like The Birds II are the type of film for which the pseudonym was not made, but destined.

NEXT EPISODE: PIRANHA SPECIAL! PIRANHA (1978, JOE DANTE) & PIRANHA (1995, SCOTT P. LEVY)

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Episode 28: The Stepfather (1987, Joseph Ruben) / Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996, Alan Smithee and Kevin Yagher).

ALL NEW. From the people who brought you “An Alan Smithee Podcast”…More of the night WE came home and watched horror movies for Halloween. This week we observe a couple of strict disciplinarians doing their thing in their own special ways.

the-stepfather

The original The Stepfather has finally come out on special edition DVD and even if titular star Terry O’Quinn would now prefer to be known for Lost, his performance as “Scary Jerry” the bad stepdad will live in infamy. He might’ve had to carry the whole movie on his shoulders (as he had to in Stepfather II: Make Room For Daddy) if not for the stellar direction of Joseph Ruben and subtle clockwork screenwriting of mystery novelist Donald Westlake. The Stepfather constantly skirts the line between trash and class; a gimmicky premise with suspense that builds by inches, a psycho killer movie focused mainly on the killer’s psychology, a “slasher” more by comparison to On Golden Pond than Friday the 13th. This Halloween, Daddy’s home.

Then we go straight to hell, or as close to hell as a diminished sequel budget allows in Hellraiser: Bloodline, the last Hellraiser movie to retain some of the franchise’s original mythology before Dimension began randomly inserting Pinhead and/or Ashley Laurence into whatever psychological thriller scripts were gathering dust around the office.

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This film is not directed by either host of An Alan Smithee Podcast, nor was it directed by Alan Smithee – special effects virtuoso Kevin Yagher took the reigns for his sole directorial effort and, as you might guess, the effects are the only vaguely redeemable factor. Except the puzzle box, which looks shoddier than ever! Unlike the Lament Configuration, Hellraiser: Bloodline is easy to figure out: it sucks. Listen and discover why.

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NEXT WEEK: THE BEACH (2000, DANNY BOYLE) & THE BANK DICK (1940, EDWARD F. CLINE)