Tracking down the Golden Turkey hoax

That post about the possible gay-Jesus-movie hoax last week got me thinking…

I have never really tried to narrow down, in any methodical way, which of the films mentioned in Harry and Michael Medved’s The Golden Turkey Awards might be the “complete hoax” they dare us to find, hidden somewhere in the book’s pages. The book was first published in 1980 (my paperback was published by Berkley in 1981), back in the days before Internet search engines and the like, and of course you had to be a real film geek to know some of the ultra-obscure titles listed in there. But nowadays, all it takes is a computer and a few hours to narrow down the possibilities.

And so, narrow them I have. The very first page of the book says:

A Challenge To The Reader:
Over 425 actual films are described in this book, but one is a complete hoax. Can you find it?

This number seems exaggerated to me. I have just counted every single film nominated for an “award”, as well as all the films that made “The 200 Most Popular Nominees from the Worst Films Poll,” and I found only 281 titles. However, there are also four career-spanning categories for worst director, actor, actress, and child star — so perhaps the larger number includes all the titles mentioned in passing in connection with those nominees.

Corroborating the various films has been a bit tricky, since some were originally foreign titles, plus the Medveds don’t always agree with the IMDB with regard to release dates; so this list is definitely still open for verification. But I believe I have found IMDB pages for all of the Golden Turkey nominees … except these two:

Him (1974; pp. 165,168). This is the gay porn film the alleged existence of which sparked the earlier post. The IMDB has no listing for any film of this title, or for its director Ed D. Louie. However, a website devoted to obscure 1970s films does feature a copy of what seems to be an ad for the film from a New York newspaper.

Dog of Norway (1948; pp. 174-177,325). Nominated for ‘The Worst Performance by an Animal’, this film is described as a Republic Pictures film directed by “Republic in-house hack” Charles Kaufman and featuring Muki the Wonder Hound, whose trainer was Werner Altschuler. The film also allegedly starred Little Hershel Feldstad, Constance Moore, Fortunio Bonanova and George “Gabby” Hayes, and the entry for it features a promotional photo of the dog in question. However, the IMDB has no listing for the film at all, nor for child star Feldstad or supposed “hack” director Kaufman; the IMDB does list a number of Charles Kaufmans, including, in rough chronological order, a silent-era cinematographer, a writer (not to be confused with this one!), an actor, a production assistant, and a writer-director who worked almost entirely in the 1980s — but not for a director in the 1940s. The IMDB also has pages for Moore, Bonanova and Hayes, but their filmographies make no mention of this film.

At the moment, based on the ad for Him at that one website and the fact that at least one online acquaintance of mine has said that he remembers seeing it advertised way back when, and based on the absence of any reference to Dog of Norway or its child star or its supposedly prolific director at the IMDB, I am inclined to say Dog of Norway is probably the bogus film in question. But FWIW, there is a third film that I have some mild doubts about, too:

My Official Wife (1916; pp. 59-61). Nominated for ‘The Worst Performance by a Politician’ because Leon Trotsky supposedly had a cameo, under the pseudonym “Mr. Brown”, in this Vitagraph production directed by Emil Vester. Well, the IMDB does list a 1914 Vitagraph film of this name, but it is credited to director James Young and there is no mention anywhere of either Trotsky or “Mr. Brown” in the cast. But the IMDB is hardly perfectly exhaustive, and films sometimes have multiple directors — especially back then — so I wouldn’t consider this a “complete hoax” at this point anyway.

As for the other films mentioned in the book, I have broken them down into four categories.

First, those I have seen, either in whole or in part:

Barbarella (1967; p. 319)
Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1974; p. 319)
Battlestar Galactica (1979; pp. 143-146)
Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970; p. 319)
Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970; p. 320)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968; p. 323)
Cleopatra (1963; p. 323)
The Cross and the Switchblade (1970; pp. 114-116)
Damien: Omen II (1978; p. 299,324)
Demon Seed (1977; p. 324)
Dr. Dolittle (1967; p. 325)
Earthquake (1974; p. 326)
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977; pp. 159,300-306,326)
Flesh Gordon (1973; p. 326)
The Gospel Road (1973; pp. 126-127)
Grease (1978; p. 299,328)
The House on Haunted Hill (1958; pp. 225-226)
It’s Alive (1974; p. 331)
Jesus Christ Superstar (1973; pp. 129-130,132,332)
King of Kings (1961; pp. 128-129)
Plan Nine from Outer Space (1959; pp. 236-238,307-316,337-338)
Reefer Madness (1938; p. 338)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975; p. 339)
Solomon and Sheba (1959; pp. 160,238)
Soylent Green (1973; pp. 340-341)
Superman (1978; p. 160)
The Towering Inferno (1974; p. 342)

Second, those I have not seen, but for which the book provides pictures — which doesn’t necessarily prove anything, if Dog of Norway turns out to be the hoax after all:

Abby (1974; pp. 133-134)
Airport 1979: The Concorde (1979; pp. 232-233,318)
The Alligator People (1959; p. 7)
The Assassination of Trotsky (1972; p. 232)
At Long Last Love (1975; pp. 101-103,112-113,299,318)
Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman (1958; p. 8,318)
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978; pp. 182-183,319)
Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977; pp. 214-216,222-223)
Blackenstein (1973; p. 135)
Blood Feast (1963; p. 320-321)
The Brain Eaters (1958; pp. 29-30)
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1963; pp. 31-33,321)
The Brute Man (1946; pp. 93-95)
Cat Women of the Moon (1953; pp. 159,191-192,322)
Change of Habit (1969; pp. 118-119,124,322)
Chatterbox (1976; pp. 163-164)
Che! (1969; pp. 48-50)
The Conqueror (1955; pp. 52-54,234-235)
The Creeping Terror (1964; pp. 9-10,323)
The Day the Fish Came Out (1967; p. 324)
The Deadly Bees (1962; pp. 39-40)
The Devil’s Rain (1975; pp. 4-5)
Escape to Athena (1979; pp. 17-18)
Everything’s Ducky (1961; pp. 177-179)
The Food of the Gods (1976; pp. 72-73,82,326)
From Hell It Came (1959; pp. 10-11)
Gamera, the Invincible (1962; pp. 12-13)
Greased Lightning (1977; pp. 55-56)
The Greek Tycoon (1978; pp. 146-148,160,328-329)
Harlem on the Prairie (1937; pp. 136-137)
Hypnotized (1933; pp. 200-201)
If I Ever See You Again (1978; pp. 83-85,330)
The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971; pp. 63-65,331)
Invasion of the Star Creatures (1965; pp. 185-186,331)
Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter (1965; pp. 24-25,332)
The Killer Shrews (1959; pp. 73-75,332)
King Kong (1976; pp. 148-151,156-158,299,332)
Lisztomania (1975; pp. 45-47)
Little Cigars (1973; pp. 96-97)
Lost Horizon (1973; pp. 103-107,235,299,333)
Magnificent Doll (1946; pp. 50-52)
The Manster: Half Man and Half Monster (1962; pp. 65-66)
Matilda (1978; pp. 218-221)
The Miracle of the Bells (1948; pp. 121-123)
The Mole People (1956; pp. 76-77)
Murder by Death (1976; pp. 85-86)
My World Dies Screaming (1960; p. 227)
Myra Breckenridge (1970; pp. 1-2,336)
Night of the Lepus (1972; pp. 78-81)
Northwest Mounted Police (1940; pp. 236,240-241)
Orca (1977; pp. 151-155,299,337)
The Oscar (1966; pp. 15-16,22,236,299,337)
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973; pp. 18-20)
Percy (1971; pp. 165-167)
Polly of the Circus (1932; pp. 116-118)
Reform School Girl (1957; pp. 2-3)
Robot Monster (1953; pp. 13-14,160-161,299,339)
Rosebud (1975; pp. 57-59,62)
Scream, Blacula, Scream (1972; pp. 138-142)
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978; pp. 107-109,299,339)
The Silver Chalice (1955; pp. 3-4,6,339-340)
Song of Norway (1970; pp. 109-111,340)
State Fair (1962; pp. 169-170)
Stay Away, Joe (1968; pp. 200-201)
The Story of Mankind (1957; pp. 47-48,341)
The Swarm (1978; pp. 41-44,161,239,299,341)
The Taming of the Shrew (1929; pp. 161-162)
Tarzan and the Great River (1967; pp. 171-172,180-181)
The Teahouse of the August Moon (1956; pp. 198-199,202)
The Terror of Tiny Town (1938; pp. 98-100)
They Saved Hitler’s Brain (1964; pp. 33-36)
The Thing with Two Heads (1972; pp. 66-70,342)
The Tingler (1959; pp. 227-228,230-231)
The Twinkle in God’s Eye (1955; pp. 119-121)
Walk Proud (1979; pp.197-198)
Wild 90 (1967; pp. 86-89,92)
Without Apparent Motive (1972; pp. 89-91)

Third, those that have no pictures, but are counted among “The 200 Most Popular Nominees from the Worst Films Poll” — basically every film mentioned between pages 298 and 344 — although, again, being in this list does not prove that a film exists and was therefore available for the voting, if Dog of Norway, which is also included in the poll, should turn out to be the hoax:

The Adventurers (1970; p. 317)
Airport 1975 (1974; p. 299,317)
Airport 1977 (1977; p. 299,318)
Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein (1974; p. 318)
The Astro-Zombies (1969; p. 318)
Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957; p. 318)
Attack of the Giant Leeches (1959; pp. 318-319)
Beach Blanket Bingo (1965; p. 319)
Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla (1952; p.319)
The Betsy (1978; pp. 319-320)
Beware! The Blob (1972; p. 320)
Beyond the Door (1974; p. 320)
Beyond the Forest (1949; p. 320)
The Big Noise (1944; p. 320)
Billy Jack (1972; p. 320)
Billy the Kid Versus Dracula (1966; p. 320)
Bloody Mama (1970; p. 321)
Bluebeard (1972; p. 321)
The Blue Bird (1976; p. 321)
Boom! (1968; p. 299,321)
Bride of the Monster (1956; p. 321)
Bug! (1975; pp. 56-57,321)
Burnt Offerings (1976; p. 322)
Camelot (1967; p. 322)
Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Hummpe and Find True Happiness? (1969; p. 322)
The Car (1977; p. 322)
The Carpetbaggers (1964; p. 322)
Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1972; pp. 322-323)
The Choirboys (1978; p. 323)
Cinderfella (1960; p. 323)
A Countess from Hong Kong (1967; p. 323)
Curucu, Beast of the Amazon (1956; pp. 323-324)
Damnation Alley (1978; p. 324)
Dance with Me, Henry (1956; p. 324)
The Day of the Dolphin (1973; p. 324)
Death Race 2000 (1975; p. 324)
Destroy All Monsters (1968; p. 325)
Doctors’ Wives (1971; p. 325)
The Domino Principle (1977; p. 325)
Don’t Look in the Basement (1973; p. 325)
Dracula Versus Frankenstein (1971; p. 325)
Drum (1976; p. 325)
The End (1977; p. 326)
Fire Maidens from Outer Space (1954; p. 326)
For Pete’s Sake (1974; p. 326)
Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror (1971; pp. 326-327)
Frankenstein Conquers the World (1966; p. 327)
Frankenstein’s Daughter (1958; p. 327)
Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965; p. 327)
Frogs (1972; p. 327)
Gable and Lombard (1976; p. 299,327)
The Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (1959; p. 327)
The Giant Claw (1957; pp. 327-328)
The Giant Gila Monster (1959; p. 328)
Godzilla’s Revenge (1969; p. 299,328)
Godzilla Versus the Smog Monster (1972; p. 328)
Goodbye Charlie (1964; p. 328)
The Great Gatsby (1974; p. 328)
The Green Berets (1968; p. 329)
The Green Slime (1969; p. 329)
Grizzly! (1976; p. 329)
Hammersmith Is Out! (1972; p. 329)
Harry and Walter Go to New York (1976; p. 329)
Head (1968; p. 329)
Hello Down There (1969; p. 329)
The Horror of Party Beach (1964; p. 330)
Hot Rods to Hell (1967; p. 330)
How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965; p. 330)
Hurricane (1979; p. 330)
Hurry Sundown (1967; p. 330)
Hustle (1975; p. 330)
The Incredible Melting Man (1977; pp. 330-331)
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964; p. 25,224-225,331)
International Velvet (1978; p. 331)
I Was a Teenage Werewolf (1957; p. 331)
Jaws II (1978; pp. 331-332)
The Kissing Bandit (1948; p. 332)
The Klansman (1974; p. 332)
Lady in a Cage (1964; p. 333)
The Last House on the Left (1972; p. 333)
The Legend of Lylah Clare (1968; p. 333)
Lipstick (1976; p. 333)
The Little Shop of Horrors (1960; p. 333)
Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977; p. 333)
The Lords of Flatbush (1974; p. 333)
The Love Machine (1971; p. 334)
Love Story (1970; p. 334)
Lucky Lady (1975; p. 334)
Madame X (1965; p. 334)
Mahogany (1975; p. 334)
Mame (1974; p. 334)
Mandingo (1975; p. 334)
Man of La Mancha (1972; p. 335)
Mars Needs Women (1966; p. 335)
Matango, the Fungus of Terror (1963; pp. 26,184,188,319)
A Matter of Time (1976; p. 335)
Message from Space (1978; p. 335)
The Missouri Breaks (1976; p. 335)
Moment by Moment (1978; p. 299,335)
Mother, Jugs, and Speed (1976; p. 335)
Mutiny on the Bounty (1962; pp. 335-336)
The Navy Versus the Night Monsters (1966; p. 336)
Nickelodeon (1976; p. 336)
The Night of the Living Dead (1968; p. 336)
The Norseman (1978; p. 336)
Ode to Billy Joe (1976; p. 336)
Once Is Not Enough (1975; pp. 336-337)
One Million Years, B.C. (1966; p. 337)
The Other Side of Midnight (1977; p. 337)
Pink Flamingos (1972; p. 337)
Piranha (1978; p. 337)
The Pride and the Passion (1957; p. 338)
The Private Navy of Sgt. O’Farrell (1968; p. 338)
Queen of Outer Space (1958; p. 338)
Rabbit Test (1978; p. 338)
Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967; p. 338)
Reptilicus (1962; p. 338)
The Return of Doctor X (1939; pp. 338-339)
The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea (1976; p. 339)
The Sandpiper (1965; p. 339)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964; p. 339)
Sincerely Yours (1955; p. 340)
Skidoo (1969; p. 340)
Smokey and the Bandit (1977; p. 340)
Snow White and the Three Stooges (1961; p. 340)
Somebody Killed Her Husband (1977; p. 340)
S*P*Y*S (1973; p. 341)
SSSSSSS (1973; p. 341)
Starship Invasions (1977; p. 341)
Superdad (1974; p. 341)
Swashbuckler (1976; p. 341)
Teenagers from Outer Space (1959; p. 13,341-342)
Teenage Zombies (1960; p. 342)
Tentacles (1977; p. 342)
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974; p. 342)
Tidal Wave (1975; p. 342)
The Trial of Billy Jack (1974; pp. 342-343)
Trog (1971; p. 343)
Two-Minute Warning (1976; p. 343)
Valley of the Dolls (1967; p. 343)
Village of the Giants (1965; p. 343)
Viva Knievel! (1977; p. 343)
Voyage into Space (1969; p. 343)
Way … Way Out (1966; p. 343-344)
Welcome to L.A. (1977; p. 344)
Which Way to the Front? (1971; p. 344)
The White Buffalo (1978; p. 344)
You Light up My Life (1977; p. 344)
Zardoz (1974; p. 344)
Zontar: The Thing from Venus (1964; p. 344)

And finally, those that have no pictures and no claim to be in the “popular poll”, and thus perhaps the weakest claim to actual existence (though I did find IMDB pages for them all!):

The Bear (1961; pp. 172-174)
The Bees (1978; pp. 37-39)
Boss Nigger (1975; p. 136)
The Brain from Planet Arous (1957; pp. 30-31)
Chained for Life (1950; p. 96)
Cottonpickin’ Chickenpickers (1968; pp. 192-193)
Dawn of the Dead (1979; p. 159)
The Day the Clown Cried (1972; pp. 216-217)
The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio (1976; pp. 164-165)
The Extraordinary Seaman (1969; pp. 217-218)
Government Girl (1943; pp. 193-194,196)
I Dismember Mama (1974; p. 23)
Imitation of Life (1959; p. 235)
The Invasion of the Bee Girls (1973; pp. 40-41)
Johnny Got His Gun (1971; pp. 130-131)
The Nasty Rabbit (1965; pp. 77-78)
Playgirl Killer (1969; pp. 20-21)
Please Don’t Eat My Mother (1973; p. 187)
Rat Fink a Boo Boo (1964; pp. 26,28)
Scent of Mystery (1960; pp. 228-229)
The Well-Groomed Bride (1946; pp. 194-195)
What’s Up Front (1965; p. 161)
Wicked, Wicked (1973; p. 225)
Wine, Women and Horses (1937; p. 27)

FWIW, just to be complete, here are the nominees for ‘The Most Obnoxious Child Performer of All Time’:

Sandy Henville (Baby Sandy) (pp. 203-205)
Claude Jarman, Junior (pp. 205-206)
David “Dondi” Kory (pp. 206-209,212-213)
Lee Harcourt Montgomery (pp. 209-211)

And for ‘The Worst Director of All Time’:

William “One Shot” Beaudine (pp. 242-245)
Herschell Gordon Lewis (pp. 245-248)
Phil Tucker (pp. 248-252)
Edward D. Wood, Jr. (pp. 252-261)

And for ‘The Worst Actress of All Time’:

Candice Bergen (pp. 262-265)
Vera Hruba Ralston (pp. 265-268)
Mamie Van Doren (pp. 268-272)
Raquel Welch (pp. 272-277)

And for ‘The Worst Actor of All Time’:

John Agar (pp. 278-281)
Richard Burton (pp. 282-285,296-297)
Tony Curtis (pp. 285-290)
Victor Mature (pp. 290-295)

I know, I know, I need a life!

About Peter T. Chattaway

Peter T. Chattaway was the regular film critic for BC Christian News from 1992 to 2011. In addition to his film column, which won multiple awards from the Evangelical Press Association, the Canadian Church Press and the Fellowship of Christian Newspapers, his news and opinion pieces have appeared in such publications as Books & Culture, Christianity Today, Bible Review and the Vancouver Sun. He also contributed essays to the books Re-Viewing The Passion: Mel Gibson’s Film and Its Critics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) and Scandalizing Jesus?: Kazantzakis’s The Last Temptation of Christ Fifty Years on (Continuum, 2005).

  • Matt Page

    FWIW Peter, I traced Michael R Pitts who co-wrote “The Bible on Film” to ask him if he had actually seen “Him” the other day, so I’ll let you know if I hear from him. I’m surprised that bible films do quite so badly in the poll though. I mean there are plenty that aren’t great, but I don’t think JCSS or King of Kings are really in the running for worst film of all time really are they? Both earned respectable ratings on the IMDB (6.7 & 6.9 resp), and whilst that’s no guarantee of a good film, for something to be on the the worst films of all time, it would have to be universally reviled. Does anyone find any merit at all in Police Academy: Mission to Moscow (1994)?

    Matt

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    I don’t think JCSS or King of Kings are really in the running for worst film of all time really are they?

    I wouldn’t say so. But FWIW, only JCSS was in the all-time readers’ choice for the worst 200 films of all time as of 1980 — King of Kings was simply nominated in the category of ‘The Worst Performance by an Actor as Jesus Christ’ (which JCSS “won”).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05115370166754797529 Mark Goodacre

    I agree that those are pretty striking choices. I’m quite fond of both JCS and King of Kings, in spite of their flaws.

    Cf. some additional
    comments on my blog
    on Dog of Norway — several on the net claim that this is the hoax, and the picture of the dog in question is Medved’s own dog.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07395937367596387523 Peter T Chattaway

    Thanks for the links, Mark — and yes, of course, the dog in the authors’ photo at the back of the book really does look rather like the Wonder Hound! The authors were winking at us from that page all this time!

  • Anonymous

    HIM (1974) was made and exhibited at the 55th St. Playhouse. Here’s a link to a man who saw it.
    http://cinematreasures.org/theater/6376/

  • Anonymous

    I spoke with Michael Medved this evening during a book signing. He acknowledged that the hoax was not so much of a turkey as a dog. Muki is the hoax.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00235882990178920880 The Courthouse Record Store

    One of the films on your list is Johnny Got His Gun.

    For what it's worth, this is a film worth seeing. Starring Timothy Bottoms, Jason Robards and Donald Sutherland, it deals with an American soldier in WWI. His arms, legs, face, hearing and sight are gone. He's a torso with a heartbeat. His brain still works, and the movie consists largely of vivid flashbacks and hallucinations. It was based on a National Book Award winning novel by Dalton Trumbo. I don't know how this film wound up on a "worst" list, but it's one of the best and most memorable films ever.

  • http://www.nachtschimmen.eu Zachàr Laskewicz

    Thanks for your exhaustive work on tracking down the Golden Turkey Award hoax. I always thought that ‘HIM’ was a likely candidate purely because its very existence seemed so unlikely, but because in all references to things both gay and lesbian the Medved brothers are either negative or unfriendly in both the original books and all the follow ups I read, I found it unlikely that they’d choose this film as their hoax. I’m glad to hear that it’s finally been narrowed down to Muki, the Dog of Norway.


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