Shoulda Been Called “Cut My Throat Island”!

May you find more happiness in death, than you did as a box office bomb.
May you find more happiness in death, than you did as a box office bomb…
Do you love a “good” bad movie? See the other offenders at our new Crimes Against Film feature page!

Man, there were so many ways to start this post that it just wasn’t fair!

I mean, look at this list:

  • I want my two hours back.
  • Ah yes, the movie that sank an entire studio.
  • The movie that turned me off of Geena Davis and into a eunuch.
  • The movie that made me want to walk the plank.
  • I watched this, then wanted to find the film’s director Renny Harlin and beat him senseless, and I STILL WANTED MY TWO HOURS BACK!!!!

Etc. . . . You get the idea.

Anyway, let’s sit down and talk Cutthroat Island! Yes, this really was the movie that sent Carolco (Cutthroat Island’s production company) to the bottom of the ocean, never to surface again. 

I’d only ever heard about Cutthroat Island, back during my screenplay writing days. The movie is legendary in the screenwriting world for its badness and all around turdness. I mean you KNOW you’re in trouble when your opening credits list four guys that worked on the story alone, then TWO MORE guys that wrote the screenplay!

Yeah, the writing is, as they say, on the walls.

Sadly, this pathetically desperate attempt to save the movie’s script not only failed, it ended up making the badness more apparent. I mean, there’s no continuity here, except maybe for the overdone, overblown gags starring the movie’s finest performer: the monkey. Seriously, it’s like Harlin gathered his crew of obvious “yes men” around him and said, “Guys. What monkey gag have we left out? We have the monkey saluting, smiling on cue, smiling at Geena, hiding in a box. What else can we do?”

I’ve NEVER seen a monkey give so much for so many, and so desperately. That little simian is the Gunga Din of his species, man. And he probably never worked in that town again either, as the movie is THAT BAD. One awesome and funny thing I read on “My Year of Flops” was that this movie was SO bad that it hurt the careers of people that weren’t even associated with it!

What’s the movie about? Well, it’s about Morgan, (Geena Davis) whose father was a pirate in the Caribbean during the 1660s or so. His scalp has one third of a treasure map tattooed on it. (Brilliant work there, btw, daddy-O). Anyway, daddy’s killed . . . but not before he’s almost saved by his daughter, Morgan. Well, actually, the way Morgan tries to save him really gets him killed, but we’ll skip that for now. Anyway, she scalps dear ol’ daddy after he’s gone down to Davy Jones’s locker. It’s then that she learns she’s inherited daddy’s ship. Wait . . . that’s not entirely accurate. I must stand corrected. There IS one scene where we’re on the edge of our seat as Morgan is told that she could have her father’s ship IF she can win the crew’s loyalty. OMG! Can she do it? The tension leaves the mind numb! I was breathless!

Uh . . . no.

Please stab us with one of those, Geena, and put us out of our misery!
Please stab us with one of those, Geena, and put us out of our misery!
What really happens is that the crew swears allegiance to her after only like thirty seconds of arguing and what have you.

Right. These pirates, who loved their captain with undying loyalty, accept his daughter as their captain immediately. Oh, wait . . . there’s some scurvy dog who wants the ship and expects to be the captain, but he’s quickly sent packing. I could’ve told you more about that scene, but I blinked. Sorry. He DOES resurface later on, however . . . when the writers were out of ideas for what happens next.

I mean . . . if there was ever a movie that screamed, “We have NO ideas for what happens next! Throw a dart at the idea chart on the far wall!” it was Cutthroat Island.

So, naturally, Morgan needs a male lead to help her through this debacle. And she finds that hunky bit-o’-maleness in Matthew Modine. Wait. Did I just write that!!?! Yup, he’s the male lead. Why and how did he get the part? Well, Michael Douglas was intially offered a ton of dough, but when he saw (or so the story goes) how they’d beefed up Davis’s role (maybe he was thinking it would be like a pirate version of Romancing The Stone?), he bailed. They offered it to a LOT of top actors, offering millions, but no takers. Hence: Matthew Modine. And to be fair, he does have a few moments, but wow . . . it’s too little, too late.

Right, back to the story.

There’s some sort of search for a hidden treasure, where Morgan has to outrun her evil uncle, Dawg, (!!!) who is in possession of the final part of daddy’s map, and who is actually played quite well by the legendary Frank Langella. In fact, if there IS a bright spot in this rancid dog turd, it would be Langella. He acts like he knows he’s in something he would never put on his resume, and thus plays it for all its over-the-top worth.

Oh yeah, there’s the  (SPOILERS, LOL!!!) happy ending. Did I tell you about that already? Do you care? They kiss, naturally, and are now famously wealthy, blah blah f’n blah . . .

Did I mention this one scene? This is at the end, when (MORE SPOILERS OMG!!!!) Morgan finally confronts her evil uncle Dawg during the final, inevitable battle between the hero and villain. THIS exchange best exemplifies how bad this film is. Really drives it home, just like driving the final nails into the lid of your coffin. Morgan is on her last legs, with only a small torch in her hand to fight her merciless, devilish, diabolical, Uncle Dawg:

Dawg: You plannin’ to fight me with that little stick?
Morgan: No, Uncle. With this! [Morgan reveals a loaded cannon and lights it, aiming it at Dawg] Morgan: Bad Dawg!



Robert Lewis grew up under the pier at Venice Beach, California. There, by firelight, he would entertain the stray dogs with weird and wonderful tales. He’s still telling stories, but now he lives in a place with walls, a roof, and cases of red wine. Crime fiction and blues guitar are his things. He blogs over at NeedleCity, and twits sporadically and nonsensically as @robertklewis.

See al posts by Robert Lewis for Criminal Element.


  1. Dr. Cox

    Interesting post! I’m not surprised that “movie by committee” doesn’t work.
    The ’96 Jane Eyre turned me off movies so bad that it was eight years before I went back . . . and saw Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which I am apt to describe as the “drought breaker.” (I’ve seen the other Potter films and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer since then).

  2. Cat Woods


    This review is hilarious, and almost makes me want to watch the movie the next time I have writer’s block. Just so I remember what NOT to do.

    Thanks for your wonderful words of caution.

  3. RKLewis

    Thank you both for stopping by! Lololol… yeah, it’s a really smelly piece of tripe, is that film. (Wow, I did that in my “Yoda” voice!)

    I got a WHOLE long list of films for review, trust me! 🙂

  4. Chuk

    Maybe it’s because I was young and didn’t know any better, but I saw this in the theatre and wasn’t disappointed. I never wanted to watch it again or buy the DVD or anything, but I didn’t think it was horrible. (I do kind of like Geena Davis though.)

  5. RKLewis

    Chuk, I hear ya re: Geena Davis.

    I SO wanted to be her love slave after seeing her in “The Long Kiss Goodnight”!

  6. Laura K. Curtis

    OMG, I had forgotten how bad this movie was…I may need to get drunk and watch it again.

  7. RKLewis

    lolol… um, Laura? That’s how [u][b]I[/b][/u] watched it, and trust me… it did NOT help, at all. 🙂

    But I suggest giving it shot anyway. I’d love to hear what you think. You can make up a drinking game to go with it! Everytime there’s a bad line, poorly delivered, you can take a drink. Oh, um…. well, maybe not. You’d probably die halfway through from alcohol poisioning!

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