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Putting Hollywood’s biggest bombs back together

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Story highlights

Big-budget films can pick up particular scent of failure

Budget, gossip, politics all become fodder for criticism

But movies aren't always as bad as they're portrayed

How did bad movies get such a following, anyway?

Editor’s Note: How did bad films become so beloved? Read this and trace their history.

CNN —  

It was once considered “the worst musical extravaganza in Hollywood history.”

Peter Bogdanovich’s 1975 film “At Long Last Love” was ripped by critics and flopped at the box office. The movie, starring Cybill Shepherd and Burt Reynolds in a throwback to 1930s romantic comedies, was criticized as much for its cost – $6 million, a fortune at the time and reputedly four times its original budget – and the gossip surrounding Bogdanovich and Shepherd as it was for its cinematic drawbacks. (Even Bogdanovich admits that the film needed more fine-tuning, like a Broadway musical undergoing out-of-town previews.)

Bogdanovich on hits, flops and surprises

No matter: The “bomb” label hung over the work like a bad smell.

Over the ensuing decades, it earned a sarcastic write-up in the Medved brothers’ compendium of bad film, “The Golden Turkey Awards,” received a withering 1 1/2-star review in Leonard Maltin’s movie guide and seemed doomed to a life on late-late shows and third-tier cable channels.

But, somewhere along the way, the film was resuscitated – and reconsidered.

The Fox Movie Channel ran it, Netflix streamed it, Bogdanovich hosted a theatrical screening and just last month it came out on Blu-ray. The new release, which benefited from edits at the hands of a studio archivist and Bogdanovich himself, has earned praise from some quarters and grudging recognition from others.

It turns out that “At Long Last Love,” once reviled as “At Long Last Lousy,” is quite charming – no “Singin’ in the Rain,” perhaps, but certainly not “one of those grand catastrophes that make audiences either hoot in derisive surprise or look away in embarrassment,” as Time magazine said in its 1975 review.