Kirk Douglas: And Now the Legendary Actor’s Not So Great Films

Kirk Douglas, one of last surviving leading men of Hollywood’s class of big stars who headlined big-screen epics at a time when movies were still great. He died last week, and I paid tribute to him earlier by listing my top 5 films by the leading man, but today I wanted to mention a few of his “not so great” offerings.  The author Martin Amis used his experience as script-writer working on Kirk Douglas’ 1980 sci-fi bomb Saturn 3 as the template for the ageing, vain, body-conscious actor Lorne Guyland in his 1984 novel Money.


According to Amis:


Lorne Guyland was, let us say, inspired by Kirk. He didn’t go nude for me but, on the set, he was always ripping his clothes off.

Movie stars are funny that way, or they used to be. During the same shoot I had dinner with Harvey Keitel in his room at Claridge’s, and he was stripped to the waist throughout.It was a hot night, I admit.

Kirk was very bright, and very sweet in his way. As he said to the director (who was soon to be fired), “The thing is, John, I’m unbelievably insecure.” He was, again, naked at the time.’


So, in acknowledgement that all careers will have lows as well as highs, here’s a selection of some of Kirk’s worst stinkers:



Saturn 3 (1980) – the aforementioned deep-space bumnumber:


Saturn 3 (trailer)


Scalawag (1973) – Kirk directs in his attempt to go ‘full pirate’.


Scalawag (1973) Trailer

Aaaarr, Shiver Me Timbers, Pieces Of Eight, Rum, Bum & The Accordion, Avast Ye!, Keelhaul Him, Yo Ho Ho, Roger The Cabin Boy, Belay That!, Master Bates & Seaman Staines etc


Mind you, Scalawag‘s not as lousy a title as Sinatra’s Dirty Dingus Magee from a 1970…but it was pretty close.



The Villain aka Cactus Jack (1979)


Douglas attempts a live action version of Will E Coyote. Beep Beep!


Holocaust 2000 aka The Chosen (1977) 

The Chosen (1978) - Official Trailer (HD)

the horror…the horror (is that Jude Law as Dom Hemingway in the still btw?):



Once is Not Enough (1975) :

Once Is Not Enough - Trailer

not-so-sexy Hollywood hi-jinks in Jacqueline Susann’s lurid potboiler


And just to show this piece is not totally infra dig, here’s Kirk’s very funny hobo Chester J Lampwick in a Simpsons episode from 1996 – The Day The Violence Died:


The Simpsons: The Day The Violence Died part 8/9

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Stephen Arnell

Culture Comment Content Provider. Portrait courtesy of artist Darren Coffield. 'Non satis me tempo'