Thursday, March 23, 2006

Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?

This 1969 X-rated bildungsroman starring Playboy's playmate of the year (and featuring Joan Collins, Milton Berle and George Jessel as characters named Polyester Poontang, Goodtime Eddie Filth and The Presence) has the worst movie title ever, according to readers of The Chicago Tribune. I haven't seen Hieronymus Merkin -- it's strangely absent from the Netflix cache -- but it sounds like an apt name for what appears to be a John Waters progenitor. The Tribune's runners-up are equally verbose and esoteric, but no less fitting (like To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar).

For me, bad titling isn't about lengthy weirdness, but gross misrepresentation and a soul-sucking lack of creativity. There are plenty of movie titles worse than Hieronymus Merkin: It Could Happen to You (good movie, disastrous title), Crush (fine, if you mean "soul-crushing"), The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (features Zellweger and McConaughey, but how can a massacre "return"?), Swimfan (what the hell is a swimfan?), Honey, I Blew up the Kid (on second thought, this title is great).

You see what I mean? A title heralds the movie, and must be so judged. Can't Stop the Music might be a relentless crapfest, but the name is utterly perfect. And everyone in the blogosphere agrees about the next candidate for Best Movie Title Ever: Snakes on a Plane, starring Samuel L. Jackson battling...snakes on a plane.

3 comments:

Joyce R. said...

Ha. When I see the word "titling" my mind reads it "tit-ling."

Middento said...

How about Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feeling So Sad? Starring, of all people, Rosalind Russell and featuring two giant venus fly-traps who (at least in the play by Alfred Kopit) have lines. (My class just watched Picnic this week, so I'm on a Russell kick.)

cattleworks said...

Holy cats!
I'm a commenting fool today!
On a ridiculously trivial note:

The first play I had the incredible good fortune to direct was Terrence McNally's FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIRE DE LUNE. A very low-budget production, we had no costumer; really, it didn't really require one. The actors wore their own clothes from home.
But, as a joke, we included a Costumer in the program, named Harold Merkin (Harry Merkin, get it?).
Ha ha, we're incredibly witty.
Although, the review in the local paper was very positive. And Mr. Merkin rated a nice comment as well. D'oh!

Also, memories of DR. STRANGELOVE'S fabulously named U.S. President: Merkin Muffly.

Finally, on a related note, you may want to check out
www.merkinworld.com

PS. I agree with you about what constitutes a crappy title. None come to mind. Some direct to video jobs try very hard to come up with a memorably crappy title, like SORORITY BABES IN THE SLIMEBALL BOWL-A-RAMA, etc. Although, those titles are also the "high concept" worn on its sleeve, so to speak, too.
Unfortunately, no true contenders
come to mind.

Oh, wait, one other thing.
RETURN OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE is a ridiculous title. But I bought that as bargain bin video, surprised that such a film even existed with such a cast and association with one of the original CHAINSAW creators (co-screenwriter Kim Henkel cowrites and directs this sequel). And the title on the video was THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION. Not very original but definitely an improvement over RETURN...
(Actually did some brief research on IMDb and I guess this title is the re-issue title. Still, infinitely better).