From the Archive – Burn, Hollywood, Burn (1997)



“The movie Hollywood doesn’t want you to see.”

Directed by Alan Smithee (Arthur Hiller)
Starring Ryan O’Neill and Eric Idle

Eccentric British film editor Alan Smithee (Idle) is brought in to direct a big-budget blockbuster starring Sylvester Stallone, Whoopie Goldberg and Jackie Chan. When the studio edit butchers the movie, he doesn’t want to be associated with it but – and pay attention, because this is the high concept premise here – he can’t, because you can only take your name off a film to replace it with the Director’s Guild pseudonym ‘Alan Smithee’.

The film is an account in roughly documentary form of Smithee’s attempts to regain final cut, and at last to destroy the picture.

Laugh; I almost did.

What’s wrong with it?

The ‘mockumentary’ genre launched largely by This is Spinal Tap has produced some fine works, but this isn’t one of them. It’s very difficult to really say why this doesn’t work but Spinal Tap did, but the fact is that something in this would-be satire falls flat.

What’s right with it?

The film does have a few funny moments, mostly provided by the descriptive captions that come up for each new character.

How bad is it really?

The film is not so much bad as it is sad. It won a Golden Raspberry, and the director ultimately removed his name from the credits, but the former was undeserved, and the latter – given that the director does appear at the end of the film – may well be an attempt at a publicity stunt more than anything else. I mean, I’ve seen other films abandoned for Alan Smithee to take credit for: I’ve seen the extended Dune and I’ve seen Solar Crisis, and this is not bad on that scale.

It’s just a shame that you can see what it’s trying to do, and that somehow it is failing, but you can’t for the most part actually say why. It just doesn’t quite work, and it probably isn’t anyone’s fault.

Best bit?

Good bits in this movie are brief and scattered. The highlights are the captions, and of those the funniest is probably Sylvester Stallone’s: ‘Actor, Rocket Scientist, Brain Surgeon.’

What’s up with…?

  • Well, nothing much…


Production values – Not bad, if entirely undemanding. Points off – or rather on – for simply recycling old footage to make the trailer for the film Trio8

Dialogue and performances – This category is pretty kind to this film. The script was in no parts abjectly horrible, and the performances were of a generally high standard. Unfortunately, this was not enough to ever raise the movie above average. 7

Plot and execution – Well, there isn’t a great deal of plot, and there isn’t meant to be. The pacing is alright, but something about the direction is off, and in retrospect I think it’s the fact that periodically the film shows things which do not appear to be part of the documentary. 8

Randomness – Very low. Almost nothing leaps out as being wildly off-the-wall and irrelevant, although parts of the film are very odd. 2

Waste of potential – Here is Burn, Hollywood Burn’s big stumbling block. The film could almost certainly not only have been funnier, it could have been a lot funnier. 16

Overall 41%


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