Anti-Baftas: the 22 worst British films of all time
Killer gorillas; Oliver Reed's testicles; All Saints going gangster. As the Baftas prepare to celebrate film at its best, here are the 22 direst British films ever made
1. Konga (aka I Was a Teenage Gorilla) (1961)
“Fantastic!” cries the star of this early Sixties King Kong rip-off. “There’s a huge monster gorilla that's constantly growing to outlandish proportions loose in the streets!” Mad botanist Michael Gough is responsible for the beast’s creation, having conducted some dubious experiments on a chimpanzee; the result is the sight of London – which bears a remarkable resemblance to Croydon High Street – being laid to waste by a stuntman in a second-hand gorilla costume.
2. Danger by My Side (1962)
Here the standard materials for an early 1960s B-film crime drama – village halls doubling as nightclubs, teak-like actors rooted to their chalk marks, inept attempts at mid-Atlantic accents – are blended into a drama of majestic awfulness. Thrill! to a five-mile-an-hour vehicular assassination attempt; gasp! as a villain is incapacitated by a Belisha beacon; and marvel! at how the cast is out-acted by a police Wolseley and some traffic bollards.
3. The Cool Mikado (1962)
What “the kids” really wanted was a question asked by many film producers in the early 1960s, hoping to cash in on the newly lucrative teen market. Surely a happening interpretation of Gilbert and Sullivan would have the youth flocking to their local Odeons, especially if it were helmed by that groovy up-and-comer Michael Winner? The result was one of the great nightmares of British cinema – a twist version of The Mikado that, according to Winner himself, was “absolute nonsense, shot in four weeks on the silent stage in Shepperton”. The stars included Frankie Howerd, who later said he was “positively ashamed” of his work.
4. Gonks Go Beat (1965)
In the mid-1960s, there was a brief fad for “Gonk” puppets, so one logical path for a low-rent producer to take was to turn the short-lived craze into a musical. The plot is an extremely loose re-working of Romeo and Juliet, but it is worth watching for one reason: any music bore prone to rattling on about the “integrity” of Sixties British blues can be stopped in their tracks when they witness Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, future members of Cream, performing a comic harmonica number amid cardboard pine trees.
5. The Cuckoo Patrol (1965)
The only film to bear the credit “based on a story outline by Freddie and the Dreamers” features the group’s members – five fully grown men – as a Boy Scout patrol. By 1967, when the film was finally released, the band’s main chart success was over and the audience for a black-and-white film starring Freddie Garrity clad in short trousers was understandably a limited one. It’s no Hard Day’s Night, that’s for sure.
6. The Terrornauts (1967)
Square-jawed scientist Simon Oates and his loyal team confront a robot built from used colanders and a Halloween skeleton painted green in their quest to discover alien lifeforms. The Terrornauts is particularly worth watching for the moment when the three main cast members try to keep straight faces as they don the latest in communication devices – white bathing caps decorated with wires.
7. Casino Royale (1967)
A “swinging comedy” with 10 times the budget of The Terrornauts and all of the coherence you might expect from a James Bond spoof film that involved the participation of seven directors. There was also the issue of Peter Sellers leaving the film long before it was completed; the producers compensated for the absence of their leading man by hurling guest stars – Peter O’Toole, Jean-Paul Belmondo, George Raft – at the narrative. Herb Alpert’s music is a bonus and the set design is pretty but the entire enterprise is fundamentally an unwatchable vanity project.
8. Crossplot (1969)
After Roger Moore had appeared in the final episode of The Saint he took his first ever starring role in a British film, combing his hair forward and growing hip sideboards in order to convey a new image. Unfortunately the film in question was Crossplot, with Moore’s advertising man Garry Fenn encountering eyebrow-raising amounts of late 1960s cinematic clichés in between bashing down balsa wood doors. The scene involving Moore, an Alfa Romeo Spider and a back-projected milk float deserves some form of award as the most useless motoring sequence in cinematic history.
9. Trog (1970)
Surely there could never really have been a film that starred Joan Crawford as a scientist whose discovers a troglodyte in a Home Counties cave? But this was indeed celluloid reality, guest-starring a handful of plastic dinosaurs, model volcanoes blasting out molten Ribena and any number of Morris Minors. Of particular note is the golden moment when the eponymous monster (constructed of an array of hearth rugs) dances to easy listening music.
10. Crucible of Terror (1971)
The Radio One DJ Mike Raven certainly looked the part of a horror film star, but he was fatally hampered by his inability to act. In Hammer’s Lust for a Vampire he suffered the indignity of having his voice dubbed and his eyeballs in close-ups courtesy of Christopher Lee. Here Mike uses his own voice (and eyes), the better to convey the evil of his unbalanced artist, who lives above an abandoned Cornish tin mine and enjoys making molten bronze sculptures out of the corpses of B-movie maidens. His villain has all of the menace of a cross art teacher.
11. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)
Placing the Count among a gang of 30-year-old Kings Road “teenagers”, all of whom use “hip” language apparently borrowed from a Fifties coffee bar film, brings out a new dimension in Christopher Lee’sacting: never before has Dracula seemed so utterly cheesed off.
12. Tales that Witness Madness (1973)
The portmanteau horror film known to all fans of the genre as “the one with the tree”. In the most infamous of the narrative’s four stories, Joan Collins plays a suburban housewife who is perturbed when her husband (a deadpan Michael Jayston) brings home a tree trunk. “Mel”, as Michael names his new friend, is possessed by an evil which is conveyed by stage hands shaking it in close-up. As for the conclusion, if you imagined it to be any other than Michael carving his new friend into the shape of a woman and taking it to bed with him, you would be exceedingly wrong.
13. I Don’t Want to be Born (1975)
Another bad day for Joan Collins. Here she plays a stripper who has been cursed by an irate dwarf, resulting in her baby son becoming a devil. Doctor Donald Pleasance is understandably perturbed by the ensuing pram-related carnage while his co-star Caroline Munroe falls prey to the ancient curse of bad overdubbing. I Don’t Want to Be Born makes The Stud and The Bitch look like`subtle works of art.
14. Confessions from a Holiday Camp (1977)
In the annals of truly depressing British, few have the power to deaden the spirit as thoroughly as this alleged comedy starring Robin Askwith and, in the grimly "comic" sex scenes, his bottom. The tone is set by the opening shots of a rain-swept Havant railway station, and the main narrative unfolds in a grey Hayling Island’. If you want proof of how unhappy a place the UK was in the late 1970s, Confessions from a Holiday Camp is a hideous reminder.
15. Carry On Emmannuelle (1978)
The hitherto family-friend Carry On series tried for more adult appeal with the adventures of the nymphomaniac wife of Kenneth Williams's French diplomat. It was both cheap in production values – the film stock looked as though it was held together by Sellotape – and in its sheer contempt for its audience. Of the few Carry On regulars who were induced to take part, the despair on the faces of Williams and Joan Sims is palpable.
16. Venom (1981)
By the beginning of the 1980s Oliver Reed had descended from being one of British cinema’s most interesting leading actors to starring in exploitation films and being a chat show performing bear.Venom was the sort of picture destined to gather dust in the Betamax section of provincial video libraries, but it remains notable for the moment when a black mamba bites jolly Olly in the testicles.
17. Bullseye! (1990)
Michael Winner here presided over the career nadirs of both Michael Caine and Roger Moore, who were playing dual roles as a pair of inept con men and a pair of corrupt nuclear physicists.
18. Honest (2000)
Of the plethora of Brit gangster films of this era, Honest was, at least, different on two grounds. The protagonists were a trio of East End ladies unconvincingly disguised as men, and the setting was 1968. Scripted by Eurythmics’ Dave Stewart, it was also the victim of some unfortunate stunt casting: terrorising the West End with their Dick Van Dyke accents were three-quarters of the All Saints (minus Shaznay Lewis).
19. Rancid Aluminum (2000)
It's “hip”. It's “edgy”. And it looks like the net result of giving Nathan Barley a fair-sized budget and a film camera. This awful Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels knock-off had a decent enough cast, including Joseph Fiennes, Tara Fitzgerald, Rhys Ifans and the inevitable Keith Allen; but it's truly saying something that the best performance is given by Dani "The Word'" Behr.
20. Fat Slags (2004)
An adaptation of the Viz comic strip made more than 20 years after Sandra and Tracey first made their unforgettable debut, it was subsequently described by Simon Donald, the characters’ creator, as a “truly irredeemable crock of horses___”. The talents of Fiona Allen and Sophie Thompson were utterly and entirely wasted in the title roles although the picture is worth watching for a cast list that includes Les Dennis, Ralf Little, Naomi Campbell, Punt & Dennis, Anthony Head and Dolph Lundgren. But only the once.
21. Pimp (2010)
Early in his career, Danny Dyer was a protégé of Harold Pinter and one day we might see him as Aston inThe Caretaker or McCann in The Birthday Party. One of seemingly millions of micro-budget movies that Dyer has appeared in over the past decade, Pimp is a mockumentary concerning the life of Woody, the eponymous central character. Dyer himself plays a fearsome Soho pornographer, utilising his best Sid James meets Anthony Newley patois.
22. Run for Your Wife (2012)
A trivia question: what was the British picture with cameos from Dame Judi Dench, Russ Abbott and Bernard Cribbins that took £757 on its opening weekend? The answer is this screen version of the Ray Cooney stage farce concerning a bigamous taxi driver, naturally played by Danny Dyer as cockney-wide boy-geezer, ably supported by Denise van Outen and Sarah Harding, late of Girls Aloud.