With Valerie Leon in the lead, they might as well have called Part 4 Cleavage from the Mummy’s Tomb.
If Part Two is a sequel and Part Three a threequel, what term describes a film franchise’s fourth installment? Four-Shit would be a fitting brand, seeing as most of them are, but my editor will not probably not put that as the title.
Quadrilogy sounds too clinical, and Four-Peat has been so long been associated with sports championships that it’s best left to the jocks. Four-Stalled? Four-Warned? Four-Klempt? No matter the number that tails the title, most sequels basically exist to reassemble the flagship.
Four-Age seems a fitting term to describe the burden producers and screenwriters stumble across while wandering aimlessly in search of script Botox to smooth out a few new plot wrinkles.
Audiences are lucky to come across a decent Part Four once every three or so years. 2017 could go down in the history books as a golden period of Four-Ages. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul, the fourth and most satisfying installment of Jeff Kinney’s hilarious series of children’s books, opened on Friday. Coming soon, Annabelle: Creation, the long-awaited sequel to the prequel to The Conjuring.
What follows is a list of ten favorite four-ages presented in alphabetical order. And then five I’d love to forget. All films must have been released in theaters, thus the absence of My Little Pony: The Movie and CKY 4: The Latest and Greatest.
1) Francois Truffaut’s Bed and Board (1970)
The fourth unrolling in the director’s romantically picaresque cycle of films flaunting his alter ego finds Antoine Doinel (Jean-Pierre Léaud) dealing with the dual drawbacks of fatherhood and infidelity.
2) Seth Holt’s Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb (1971)
There’s nothing drearier in the annals of horror than watching a fossilized stiff shamble bandages around for 90 minutes. Forget about doing the Im-Ho-Tep Schlep. Mummy pictures don’t get much better than this. With Valerie Leon in the lead, they might just as well have called Part 4 of Hammer’s Mummy cycle Cleavage from the Mummy’s Tomb. In Blazing Technicolor!
3) Norman Taurog’s Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940)
The last in this series of otherwise discontinuous “Let’s put on a show!” musicals, and the only film on the list to take home a Best Picture Oscar. Even Taurog’s overall clumsiness can’t diminish the effortless charm of Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire. It was the only time the two appeared together. Legend has it Astaire was terrified of working with Ms. Powell because he felt she was one of the few hoofers capable of out-tapping him.
Original trade ad for Four Mothers. Showmen's Trade Review, December 21, 1940.
4) William Keighley’s Four Mothers (1941)
The final and admittedly least significant glimpse into the highly emotional lives of Adam Lemp and his quartet of sassy daughters. Audiences would never buy another miraculous resurrection of John Garfield so instead the filmmakers involve the girls in a Florida real estate deal gone bad.
5) Erle C. Kenton’s House of Dracula (1945)
The Wolf Man, making his fourth appearance under contract with the studio, joins Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mad Doctor, a Hunchback, and no stinking mummys to slow things down. With a cast like this, it can only be described as the That’s Entertainment of Universal horror.
6) Jeff Tremaine’s Jackass 3D (2010)
The daredevil dunces return this time comin’ at ya in 3D! I’m not sure how well this plays as a flattie, but the audience I saw it with was ducking and dodging all sorts of stereoscopic fluids.
Fifteen years after Day of the Dead, zombie architect George Romero returned to the land of the “Living Dead.” Not only was the director still capable of delivering the goods, his zombie allegories were perhaps even more pertinent in Bushland.
Brad Bird’s resolutely buoyant chapter in the life of Ethan Hunt repositioned a series of otherwise contrived money-spinning sequels on top of the summer tent pole.
9) Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo (2008)
Part vanity piece, part struggle to keep a box-office legend (and career) alive, Stallone did well by resurrecting John Rambo. What with all the high-minded, socially aware, quasi-video game war films released in the wake of the Iraq war, it was refreshing to watch a recruitment film without much of a conscience.
10) Robert Siodmak’s Son of Dracula (1943)
If you count George Melford’s Spanish version of Drácula — filmed at night on the same sets that during the day were being used on the creaky Tod Browning/Bela Lugosi version — this marks the fourth and finest chapter in Universal’s chain vampire films. What sets the film apart is the atmospheric presence of film noir master Robert Siodmak on his first assignment for the studio. Easily the most undervalued film in the series, I’d rank a notch below The Bride of Frankenstein as Universal Horror’s Best in Show.
Bottom Five: Lethal Weapon 4, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Billy Jack Goes to Washington, Batman and Robin, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.