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7 Movies Directed by Alan Smithee


7 Movies Directed by Alan Smithee


Summary

  • Some directors disowned films when studio interference altered their vision, leading to the creation of the Alan Smithee pseudonym.
  • Let’s Get Harry
    ,
    Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home
    , and
    Ghost Fever
    are just a few on the list of films that face this issue.
  • Though they’re flawed, some films disowned by directors still have notable elements worth exploring, like performances by key actors and unique narratives.

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From 1968 to 2000, a cinema novice could be forgiven for thinking there was a director working in Hollywood by the name of Alan Smithee. But, in reality, it was merely the official pseudonym used when a director (and sometimes other film professionals) wanted no relation to the completed product. The reasons for this self-extrication vary, but more often than not it has had to do with the studio coming in to tamper with the auteur’s vision.

The rule was that the director had to appeal to the Directors Guild of America that, in the end, it wasn’t really their film. Or, at least, the one they intended. But, in return for that disassociation, the director was forbidden from publicly discussing the film’s troubles or even acknowledging that they were head of the production. What follows are some films that directors ended up not being so proud of, but that’s not to say there’s nothing of merit within them.

7 Let’s Get Harry (1986)

Most of the films on this list can feel broken at times, as if one scene skips to the next without much coherence or rationality. But Let’s Get Harry isn’t one of those. It’s mostly just average, and with a cast including Gary Busey, Mark Harmon, Robert Duvall, Glenn Frey, Michael Schoeffling, Rick Rossovich, and Back to the Future‘s Thomas F. Wilson, it’s certainly star-studded. The narrative follows a group of pals as they travel to Colombia to save and collect the brother of Schoeffling’s character, Corey Burck, who has been kidnapped alongside an American diplomat.

Its Biggest Crime Is Wasting Robert Duvall

Let’s Get Harry may not be one of Robert Duvall’s best movies, but he has fun in it as long as he’s there. His mysterious mercenary character, Norman Shrike, is the film’s most interesting, but his early demise isn’t why director Stuart Rosenberg requested to have his name removed. It was because of Mark Harmon’s character, who was not supposed to make his first appearance until the third act rescue sequence. But, Harmon had previously become a star thanks to his role on St. Elsewhere, so the released version opens with him, and features numerous directionless scenes with him peppered throughout. So, in short, Let’s Get Harry is not the worst film on this list, but it does have its flaws. Buy or Rent Let’s Get Harry on Prime Video.

6 Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home (1987)

During the ’80s, Jon Cryer became a household name, playing the best friend in romantic comedies: the puppy love-consumed, pompadour-donning dork with a heart of gold. But there was also the occasional star vehicle, though they never quite translated into hits. Like Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home, which features Cryer as a teen who comes home from boarding school less inclined to embrace his family’s extremely conservative views. Cryer co-stars alongside Viveka Davis, Paul Gleason, and Nicholas Pryor.

Not the Worst Thing Cryer’s Ever Been In

When the film initially started production, Terry Winsor was at the helm. But, he was fired and replaced by Paul Aaron, who ended up requesting his name be taken off in favor of the Smithee pseudonym, according to the American Film Institute catalog. Yet, even with all the trouble behind-the-scenes, Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home‘s biggest crime is being dull, and in all fairness to Cryer, he elevates what little material is actually present. Buy or Rent Morgan Stewart’s Coming Home on Prime Video.

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5 Ghost Fever (1987)

All in the Family and The Jeffersons‘ Sherman Hemsley led exactly one film during his career, and it’s easy to see why. Ghost Fever is basically Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein, if Young Frankenstein kept the reverence of Universal horror films and excised all the intelligence. The narrative follows Hemsley as one of two detectives sent to a plantation to serve an eviction notice. Unfortunately, the two ghosts who reside there have no intention of leaving. Luis Ávalos (The Electric Company) co-stars as Hemsley’s partner, with additional performances provided by Jennifer Rhodes, Myron Healey, and boxing legend Joe Frazier.

Less Funny Than Poltergeist

Director Lee Madden never outright stated why he requested the Smithee pseudonym be used, but it’s obvious why pretty much for the first frame. Ghost Fever is a movie that tries entirely too hard to be an uproarious slapstick extravaganza. And, like every other movie that tries too hard, it fails in coming across as a movie with a true goal. Instead, it just makes the viewer scratch their respective heads as to why it exists and for whom it was intended. Ghost Fever is currently not available on streaming.

4 The Shrimp on the Barbie (1990)

From 1984 to 1990, there was an extremely successful line of commercials for the Australian Tourism Commission that featured Crocodile Dundee‘s Paul Hogan stating “I’ll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you.” And, when Crocodile Dundee became an international hit (in the United States, as it was an Australian film) in 1986, the commercials and attached slogan gradually became ingrained in the American pop-cultural lexicon. In other words, ‘shrimp on the barbie’ became a widely-used expression and, also in time, it became what amounted to a national irritant. Specifically, an irritant to Australia, whose residents don’t even call shrimp by that name; they call them prawns. In other words, it was an Americanization of a culture they didn’t really know or understand — hence the existence of something like 1990’s romantic so-called comedy The Shrimp on the Barbie.

Michael Gottlieb’s film stars Cheech Marin as an American who becomes wrapped up in the life of an Australian heiress. The heiress’ father has not approved of any man she’s ever brought home, and her newest one is no exception. So, she decides to show him just how silly a man she can bring home, and Marin’s Carlos Múñoz fits the bill. Emma Samms plays the heiress, Alex, with additional cast members including the likes of Vernon Wells, Bruce Spence, Carole Davis, and Frank Whitten.

No Paul Hogan in Sight

A box office bomb with a lazy script, The Shrimp on the Barbie can’t even make the ever-likable Marin endearing, and it’s no wonder Gottlieb took a few paces back from the finished product. It’s surprising, given Gottlieb’s less-than-stellar filmography overall. Mannequin was released under his direction only three years prior, and the maligned Hulk Hogan vehicleMr. Nanny was released only three years after The Shrimp on the Barbie. Knowing how bad those two films were, something really must’ve gone wrong here. Stream The Shrimp on the Barbie on Freevee.

3 Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence (1992)

Plenty of horror movie villains have fallen in love, and the Maniac Cop trilogy’s titular antagonist is no different. Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence follows the again-resurrected Officer Matt Cordell (Robert Z’Dar) as he goes on another murder spree, with Robert Davi’s Lieutenant Sean McKinney still on his blood-soaked tail. But, this time, Cordell has his eye specifically on the heroic Officer Katie Sullivan (Gretchen Becker), and for once, his attention isn’t related to murder.

A Fine End to a Bizarre Trilogy

While William Lustig directed Badge of Silence just as he directed the first two installments, he had his name removed from the closing chapter. But why? According to an interview with The Flashback Files, the original script (which, like the first two, was written by Larry Cohen) had a character written for a Black lead, but the Japanese distributor behind it didn’t want that to be the case. So, Davi was brought back to reprise his Maniac Cop 2 role. Cohen refused to rewrite the script for free, and Lustig had to cut scenes left and right.

The resulting film was about an hour, and filler scenes were shot. But, Lustig was not the one in charge of shooting that filler. Given everything that happened behind the scenes, it’s surprising that Badge of Silence is as cohesive and entertaining as it is. Stream Maniac Cop III: Badge of Silence on Shudder.

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2 Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)

Like several other films on this list, Hellraiser: Bloodline, the fourth and final theatrical installment of the franchise, isn’t as terrible as its disowning might indicate. But, it’s certainly easy to see why it was disowned, as it truly is a jumbled and almost broken film. The narrative takes place during three separate time periods, but all involve a single bloodline, one that both created the demon-summoning Lament Configuration and destroyed it. Given the moniker of “Hellraiser in space,” the film sees Bruce Ramsay co-starring alongside Valentina Vargas and a returning Doug Bradley in one of the most bizarre Hellraiser films to date.

Nothing If Not Ambitious

Even if the film had hit theaters sans behind-the-scenes issues, it might have proved to be a bit much for the franchise. But, with another terrific performance from Doug Bradley as Pinhead and IP newcomer Valentina Vargas as Angelique, it doesn’t fall short in the villainy department. Director Kevin Yagher left the project when Miramax demanded a set of new scenes, not to mention nearly half an hour of cuts. All that said, it’s worth watching for horror fans, and for those interested in seeing an early performance by Parks and Recreation‘s Adam Scott. It would also be the last of the Hellraiser films to have Clive Barker involved creatively until the 2022 reboot. Buy or Rent Hellraiser: Bloodline on Apple TV.

1 An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997)

Arthur Hiller’s An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn ended up being the very thing it attempted to satirize: a broken film ‘directed’ by Alan Smithee. The story follows Eric Idle as a film director named Alan Smithee who, upon seeing the reaction to his latest movie, runs away with the film’s negatives. Along the way, interviews are staged with individuals such as Jackie Chan, Shane Black, Larry King, Billy Bob Thornton, Sylvester Stallone, and Whoopi Goldberg, all playing quasi-fictional versions of themselves.

Oh, the Irony

Hiller had his name removed when writer/producer Joe Eszterhas recut the finished product. On one hand, it could have been a stunt to attempt to boost publicity (as was speculated by a few film critics). But, on the other hand, it “won” a slew of Golden Raspberry awards (including Worst Picture), so there was certainly a reason for Hiller to distance himself from it. Not to mention, once all was said and done, Burn Hollywood Burn was the beginning of the end for the moniker, which was discontinued in 2000.

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