The Golden Turkey Awards (1981) – By Jonathon Pernisek

While you may not find this genre highlighted in your local Borders or Barnes & Noble, the world of books about z-grade cinema can be found with a little hunting and gathering on one’s part. Lucky for me, a friend happened to stumble upon a copy of one of the best, namely Harry and Michael Medved’s The Golden Turkey Awards. A rarer find I cannot imagine, and over the course of the last few weeks I’ve been absorbing its pages with relish. Here are my thoughts on this terrible-minded tome:

Set up to both imitate and lampoon the Oscars, the book is easily understood from the onset, with nominees listed and discussed before eventually moving on to the winner. In total there are thirty-one awards, including a trio of Lifetime Achievement titles (Director, Actress, and Actor) and the mother of them all: The Worst Film of All Time. The latter was decided by voters who filled out over 3,000 ballots, and while I won’t spoil their pick, I’m sure experienced schlockers can make a guess as to their decision (hint: “Inspector Clay’s dead. Murdered. And somebody’s responsible!”)

The Golden Turkey Awards covers a lot of ground, and its dissection of the Hollywood scene ranges from being well-researched and discerning to downright inane and silly. Many of the awards combine both a spirit of comedy and the need to call out some truly awful film, such as The Most Embarrassing Movie Debut of All Time or The Worst Performance by an Actor as Jesus Christ. I enjoyed these the most, as they brought a lot of really interesting trivia to the table via some genuinely great writing. The authors are not hacks, avoiding potshots and lame jokes for vocabulary-laden analogies and other lofty tactics, and I appreciated the wit.

On the other hand, I found myself sighing during some of the outright parodied awards, where the Medved brothers just decided to pad their book with such altogether meaningless titles as The Worst Performance by an Animal. This was the only section of the book I found myself actively skimming through, as it was basically an extended (and horribly unfunny) joke. Yes, I realize talking about a chimpanzee’s performance is meant to be satire, but when the rest of your awards are dedicated to actual film dissection, why bother including such puffy material?

Aside from my granny natterings, however, the book was very informative and entertaining throughout. There’s a section dedicated to atrocious musicals, rarely seen features, putrid romantic dialogue, and much, much more, so there’s sure to be something here for every letch of the cinema. And since I’m not at all experienced in the realm of the classics (i.e. anything considered awful and filmed before 1970), this was a real eye-opener, as I had never heard of most of the listed movies. So if you’re thirsting for a good read and hungry for some film, secure a copy of The Golden Turkey Awards. Your mind, as well as your coffee table, will expand as a result.