Day 598: A Thousand Words, Part DXCVIII

originally published August 20, 2013

The trailer begins: “In a world… that looks strikingly familiar…”

We exist in a vacuum of repetition. No less than 35 sequels are plopping their predictable posteriors into theatres in 2013. This is bankable income for Hollywood studios – they know we’ll drop thirteen bucks on Grown-Ups 2, if only to keep Adam Sandler from making a sequel to Jack & Jill.

At what point does a series become ripe for mockery? When does another entry turn a film series into a flagrant violation of cultural decency, a transparent money-grab that soils the work that came before it? I don’t believe that the lesser entities that have followed The Hangover have demoted it from being one of the funniest films of the past decade, but they haven’t helped. Terminator 2: Judgment Day showed that a sequel could surpass its predecessor, but is anyone really looking forward to the fifth movie?

I’m not here to pick nits over every multi-film series out there. No, I’m just curious about the films with more than ten entries. Is this necessary? Is there such a dearth of original content out there? And most importantly, can we please as a society stop watching those Human Centipede movies before they reach this category?

If we allow TV movies to count, then the 1971 Richard Roundtree film Shaft was the first in a series of eleven films. CBS hoisted a softer, gentler, more police-friendly version of the character on seven Tuesday nights during the 1973-74 season before tossing the concept into the trash heap. Samuel L. Jackson’s 2000 reboot counts as number eleven in this series.

Madame Aema was the first erotic film to be released in South Korea once the government censors loosened up back in 1982. They did have to change the Chinese characters in the film’s title from “Horse-loving lady” to “Hemp-loving lady”, since ‘horse-loving’ in an erotic film title can really send a deceiving message. The eleventh film in the series was released in 1995.

Yes, there are eleven films in the Muppets franchise, counting two TV movies, two Sesame Street movies and the 2011 reboot. This one is on its way to twelve of course, but a successful reboot really means we’re starting over with a new generation. If 1999’s Muppets From Space thrilled no one that didn’t have kids, that’s okay – the slate was wiped clean a couple years ago. We can start mocking this series again once we hit the fourth or fifth in the reboot series. Or sooner if the next one stinks.

Was Bomba, The Jungle Boy just a Tarzan rip-off? Well, maybe. Monogram Pictures took the 20-book franchise and started churning out low-budget films in 1949, using Johnny Sheffield as the star. Sheffield was known for playing the Boy in the old Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan flicks, so yeah, I’m thinking rip-off. Twelve movies-worth.

There have also been twelve entries in the Friday The 13th series. These include Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter (1984), Jason Goes To Hell: The Final Friday (1993) and the 2009 reboot. When I was a kid and this franchise was stretching for its seventh entry, it was already a joke. Who is still watching this crap? And will they call the next one Friday The 13th The 13th?

This one requires no explanation. Of course they’ll keep making Star Trek movies. It was rebooted properly and stands a good chance of stretching for another twelve movies. Especially now that they’ve broken the every-odd-numbered-film-sucks curse.

The first movie series in history followed an easily-repeatable formula. Goofy slapstick comedy was the only kind of movie comedy back in 1912 when Mack Sennett’s film company dropped Hoffmeyer’s Legacy, the first of the Keystone Kops shorts. They escalated to features, but Sennett’s legacy fell apart after his stars left the studio, and apart from an Abbott & Costello encounter in 1955, the Kops’ series wrapped up after thirteen pictures.

In 1939 Basil Rathbone suited up to play Sherlock Holmes in The Hound Of The Baskervilles. Apart from this first effort, the series of films which extended through fourteen features deviated completely from the original books. Fourteen films in seven years – this was the stuff of 1940’s fandom.

Having never seen a Dr. Kildare film, I can’t comment as to their quality. There must have been something to the character though, because he appeared in ten movies between 1937 and 1942. For the eleventh film, the producers booted the character in favor of Dr. Gillespie, who played the doctor’s mentor beginning in film #2. The series lasted five more years for a total of sixteen flicks.

This list indicates that both the Marx Brothers legacy (16 films) and the National Lampoon legacy (18 films) should be considered a series. For whatever reason, neither the Vacation series nor the Van Wilder films are included in this list, which consists of Animal House, followed by seventeen low-quality heaps of steaming, pungent celluloid. Okay, Loaded Weapon 1 had a few moments, but seriously, there is a lot of trash under this banner.

Debbie was a busy girl. She did Dallas five times in a row, moved to Las Vegas, hit Wall Street, New Orleans and even Iowa, but for the most part spread her mirth throughout her favorite city. There are twenty movies in the Debbie Does Dallas series – something to remind that cousin of yours who can’t get his one crappy screenplay about hippie-eating cyber-zombies picked up by the National Film Board.

I already wrote an entire piece on the East Side Kids. No need to run through it all again. Those lovable hooligans rode their wave for 22 movies, all released between 1940 and 1945.

Twenty-three films in the James Bond cannon and I think I’ve seen all of them. Actually no, I never watched the George Lazenby flick, but then I did sit through Casino Royale (the goofy Peter Sellers 1967 farce) twice, and that isn’t on this list. James Bond will likely never die – there’s too much history now, and since continuity is tossed to the wind by generational necessity, I can see this series reinventing itself long past my lifetime.

Before there was Gunsmoke to fill everyone’s cowboy thirst on TV there was the Range Busters film series. Three cowboy heroes saved the day over and over (and over) again throughout 24 feature films. To give you an idea how much meticulous thought and effort went into these movies, all 24 were released between 1940 and 1943.

I had no idea they were still making the Blondie comic strip. I thought Blondie and her hapless, sandwich-loving husband Dagwood had packed it in years ago. Their cinematic alter-egos certainly did, shooting the last of their 28 live-action films way back in 1950.

He has battled Hedorah, Megalon, Mothra, Destoroyah, Megaguirus, and of course Mechagodzilla and Spacegodzilla, his distant and rather ornery cousins. Counting the reboot coming next year (because fuck us, according to Hollywood), there are thirty Godzilla movies in the series. Tarzan also – and I’m only talking about the movies made between the 30’s and 60’s; not the silent features, not that dreary Greystoke movie from the 80’s, not the Disney cartoon, and not the inevitable reboot that is sure to crap all over multiplexes in the next few years. Thirty in that series, 89 Tarzan movies in total on IMDb.

I disagree with this one. Django was a 1966 entry into the spaghetti western genre, and of its 30 sequels, I have only seen the most recent – that little Tarantino film you may remember from last year. But that film wasn’t a sequel, nor was it a reboot. That said, there’s something about a film series that features one entry entitled Down With Your Hands… You Scum!

Now we’re getting into the big numbers. Perry Mason lasted through six films in the 30’s, followed by thirty TV movies in the 80’s. A number of anime series lasted between 30 and 35 entries. Abbott and Costello met all sorts of people and creatures in their 35-film series – though I really want to see Lost In A Harem – the idea of ‘who’s on first’ might take on an entirely new meaning.

The extremely German Peter Lorre played the rather Chinese Charlie Chan in some of the series’ 47 pictures. The only American series that were bigger than this were the Bowery Boys (48 films), the Amigos-inspiring Three Mesquiteers (51 films), the Durango Kid movies (64 films), and Hopalong Cassidy (66 films).

And the grand champion of milking a concept dry goes to Wong Fei Hung, a series of cinematic tales about the Chinese folk hero of the same name, which stretches for 89 movies between 1949 and 1997. I have no idea why they wrapped it up in ’97. Maybe they were finally out of ideas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s