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Perfect Holiday Films: Turkeys One and All

November 26, 1998|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

This weekend is not only the time for families to gather for a big, delicious Thanksgiving dinner but also the time to pop a few movie turkeys into the VCR.

Here's a menu of what's best of the bad.

One of this year's Grade A turkeys has just been released: Universal's "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Johnny Depp headlines this jaw-droppingly bad screen adaptation of journalist Hunter S. Thompson's classic 1971 novel. He plays sportswriter Raoul Duke, who, accompanied by his attorney (Benicio Del Toro), takes a hallucinatory road trip--their vehicle's trunk is filled with drugs--to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race for a magazine.

Director Terry Gilliam ("Time Bandits," "Brazil") inherited the project from Alex Cox, but even his surreal touch can't save this incoherent mess, which features massive quantities of vomit. It's probably best to watch "Fear" after a few glasses of spiked eggnog.

Even worse is the direct-to-video thriller "Ice Scream" (Salt City Home Video, $40). Conrad Brooks, who appeared in the Ed Wood cult classics "Glen or Glenda" and "Plan 9 From Outer Space," headlines this unbelievably cheesy thriller about an ice cream store owner who dresses his female staff in revealing uniforms in order to boost business. The shop is making money but losing workers as the girls are viciously murdered one by one. It's a three-scoop cone of atrocious acting, achingly bad direction and threadbare production values.

Speaking of Ed Wood, the 1970 musical "Song of Norway" (Anchor Bay, $20) is so inept it's as if he directed it. This strictly off-key operetta is based on the Broadway hit about the life of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. The movie looks beautiful but it's so saccharine that it makes "The Sound of Music" look like "Saving Private Ryan."

Toralv Maurstad is a complete washout as Greig. Florence Henderson is in fine voice, but she seems lost without the Brady Bunch. Frank Poretta, who also possesses a beautiful voice, also stars.

The laughs come frequently and unintentionally in the blissfully campy sci-fi epic "Queen of Outer Space" (Warner, $15), from 1958. Eric Fleming--Gil Favor of "Rawhide"--is the macho leader of a manned space flight from Earth that is abducted to Venus. When the men crash, they discover that women rule the roost. Zsa Zsa Gabor also stars.

Several of author Edna Ferber's novels have been turned into acclaimed movies, including "Show Boat," "Come and Get It," "Giant" and "So Big." But Ferber's winning streak came to a dead-end with 1960's "Ice Palace" (Warner, $20). This big-budget melodrama pours on massive quantities of hokum. Robert Ryan and Richard Burton try their best to breathe life into this saga of two buddies in the Alaskan fishing industry who become bitter rivals. The ending is a real hoot. Carolyn Jones, Shirley Knight and Diane McBain also star.

Most people remember Errol Flynn from his heroic, swashbuckling roles in "Captain Blood," "The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "The Sea Hawk." But after he spent years drinking and carousing, the quality of his films spiraled downward in the 1950s. One of his most forgettable flicks from this period was 1957's tepid romance "Istanbul" (Universal, $15).

A bloated, haggard Flynn sleepwalks his way through his role as a flier who returns to Istanbul after several years to discover that the love of his life (Cornell Borchers)--whom he thought had died--is alive but suffering from amnesia. The only bright note, so to speak, is co-star Nat "King" Cole singing "When I Fall in Love."

Does anybody remember the roller-disco phenomenon of the late '70s? Does anybody care? If you answered yes to either question, maybe you'll want to check out the 1979 disco dog "Roller Boogie" (MGM, $15). Perhaps the devil forced Linda Blair to make this inane musical in which a gang of kids tries to prevent the evil owner of a rink from closing it down. Beverly Garland and Mark Goddard of "Lost in Space" fame also star.

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