Judge Eric Profancik thinks this is the best movie ever written by, conceived by, produced by, directed by, and starring J.A. Steel.
Twenty-five years ago THEY murdered her mother…
The phrase "worst movie ever" gets bandied about far too often. We use it to describe everything from tripe to crap. Some people profess that The Phantom Menace is the worst movie ever, while the IMDb currently lists Los Nuevos Extraterrestres as the worst. I know the former isn't the worst creation on the planet, and I cannot say I've ever had the misfortune of seeing the latter. However, I have seen The Third Society, and I proclaim without any equivocation that this is the worst movie I have ever seen. It is riddled with so many flaws and problems that I will further assert that it is one of the worst movies ever created. It would make a fantastic entry in the Mystery Science Theater 3000 catalog, if only that show still existed.
When I watch DVDs for this site, most times I take notes. For lesser-known titles, sometimes I don't. I hadn't planned on taking any notes for this film, but less than five minutes in, I picked up my notepad and began taking copious notes, a list of problems with the film. By the time it was over, my notes were voluminous, for there was not one scene without a mistake.
The Third Society is the worst film ever, but as with an accident on the side of the road, you can't stop watching it.
Facts of the Case
While living somewhere in Asia, the Reynolds family gets on the wrong side of the mob. "The Dragon" murders Mommy Reynolds in front of her two children, Cassandra and Erica. For some reason, the two girls are then placed in the witness protection program—whether that's in Asia or America, I don't know. Whatever happened to Daddy Reynolds? I don't know.
Fast-forward 25 years, when we learn that Cassandra and Erica have cleverly been renamed Cassandra and Erica Jones. Cassandra, simply called JONES! (as constantly yelled by her clichéd boss), is a cop or secret agent or something. I don't know. The Dragon is involved in some kind of drug sting, and JONES! is called in to help the LAPD. Is she a member of the LAPD? I don't know. Is she even living in America? I don't know. How do they know JONES!? I don't know. Regardless, JONES! is put on the force to hunt down The Dragon.
Conveniently, Erica works for some bank or firm or something that has access to the money or securities that were seized during the drug bust. The son of The Dragon—whom I didn't even realize wasn't The Dragon until the end of the movie—kidnaps Erica to get her to release the billion dollars in money (or securities) seized by the cops. Somehow The Dragon knows JONES! is on the case, and the two begin to hunt each other down, with Erica caught in the middle.
As The Dragon tries to get his money and get out of the country, JONES! tries to save her sister and avenge her parent's (or parents'?) death.
I was not joking or exaggerating when I said that every single scene in this movie has a problem, whether silly cue cards, bad voice-over narration, pathetic dialogue, atrocious acting, or preposterous action. The Third Society is the ultimate expression of someone making a movie who has no talent to make a movie: J.A. Steel, the "star" (Jones), writer, director, producer, yada, yada, yada. She did it all, and she screwed it up royally. Let me note just a very small list of actual problems from this film:
• Cue cards: The back story of your film should not be created via cheap cue cards. It's one thing to be George Lucas and have an opening scroll, but using an obviously fake death certificate just won't cut it.
• Narration: The rest of your story should not be conveyed via a voice-over. You need to tell a story, not have someone recite it for you. And if you insist on going in this direction, don't let your narrator be an over-amped, super-excited black woman.
• Music: Every single second of the film has a soundtrack, and each person has a theme. Further, each person has a "mood theme," and all of it is painful, synthesized, '80s-like pop. It's perfectly awful. Even better, as Jones's mood changes from pensive to pissed, the music immediately changes as well, without a transition. The soundtrack moves from calm elevator music to screechy guitar riffs without missing a beat.
• Bad acting: J.A. Steel cannot act. Let me repeat that: J.A. Steel cannot act—at all. She has all the talent of a high-school freshman understudy. There's not one iota of believability in anything she does. You don't believe she's tough. You don't believe she's mad. You don't believe she's the best "cop" out there. Heck, you don't even believe she's a woman. On the whole, no one can act in this film. That's what happens when you do a casting call at the local flea market.
• Inane dialogue: There is actually very little dialogue in this film, which is lucky for us since no one has the talent to present it. But most of what spews from Jones's mouth is clichéd garbage. It's like the old joke of a foreigner learning English from watching American television. In this case, Jones must have learned to speak after watching gorillas at the zoo. She grunts out dialogue like a wrestler on WWE. Jones's acting and dialogue recitation combine to make her appear like a petulant seven-year-old boy being scolded by his mother. J.A. Steel's voice is also unappealing.
• Lack of story: It's a tale of revenge, but there's no story. For example, the first ten minutes of the movie is more a jumble of scenes than any coherent unfolding of a story. Mom is shot → kids see → Jones is running around the jungle → Jones is on the phone → Jones is chasing someone with a gun → Jones is fighting someone…it's just a big old mess without any flow or logic.
• Action star and action sequences: Jones is supposed to be this ultimate no-nonsense, tough-as-nails, intimidating woman. She's got the skills to go with her personality. No one messes with Jones. Nobody! She'll kick your butt into next week without breaking a sweat. At least that's what the movie wants you to believe. J.A. Steel doesn't naturally exude anything like that, nor does she even physically appear to be ready to rumble. Jones is not a lean, mean fighting machine. We may be forced to watch her run around the jungle and work out, but we also have to watch the rolls of fat jiggle around the spandex. Jones is a husky woman with the grace of a water buffalo. She's clumsy, oafish, obvious, slow, without grace, and without presence. She truly has no martial arts skills, so it's painful to watch her try to throw punches and kick. You can see it's obviously choreographed (poorly), and punches and kicks clearly miss the recipient. When Jones fights, the opponents just stand there and wait for her to supposedly kick their butts. And, on occasion, you can tell they used bloopers during some fights: In one case, she fell over when she lifted her leg to kick someone, but they used it anyway. It's the worst "martial arts" you'll ever see.
Those are the big problems in the film, but I feel I need to share some of the little problems as well:
• During the opening credits, a female—presumably Jones—shoots a gun to move the credits forward: "The Third Society" *bang* "Starring J.A. Steel" *bang* "Directed by J.A. Steel" *bang*. You get the idea. Amusingly, after four or five shots, the female gets tired from holding the gun, and she then uses her other hand to hold up her arm for the rest of the credits.
• In the oft-used flashback scene of Mommy Reynolds getting shot, you'd think there'd be perfect continuity. There isn't. After some time you realize that they used multiple takes of her death. She doesn't get shot and collapse the same way each time.
• Posing: In nine out of ten shots, Jones is either strutting around (as if she has a massive load in her pants) or standing around posing. It's all about her trying to look like the baddest MF around, but it's just ridiculous. On the flipside, when she isn't posing to look bad, they let her pose to look "sexy." For no reason, there are two shower scenes five minutes apart, and in the opening ten minutes, she goes from running around the jungle to just sitting in a pool of water, where she's displayed in a classic porno pose. (It doesn't succeed, and she doesn't look sexy.)
• To save some money, the same shot is used multiple times. Unfortunately, it's obvious every single time, especially when you use the same shot back to back on numerous occasion.
• Continuity: There are multiple instances of bad continuity. The two best ones involve vehicles. First, there's an overhead shot of Jones riding her motorcycle. She's supposed to be alone, but as the camera pans out, a red car appears behind her. (Said red car shows up later for a chase scene.) The second time is at the end of the chase scene. Jones is sitting on her bike being yelled at by her boss and an FBI guy. She drives off on the bike, and then we see the boss and the FBI guy talking in front of the bike Jones just rode away on.
• During the aforementioned chase, which is at an airport, the tower radios a plane not to take off because a motorcycle is on the runway. That makes sense, except when you consider that the tower didn't care about the three sports cars running blockade in front of the plane.
• Framing: In several instances in the film, two characters are having an extended conversation. Unfortunately the director, J.A. Steel again, forgot to get multiple shots of all the actors involved, so we are left with long shots of just one person talking.
• Time filler: The movie clocks in at a lean eighty minutes, but many of those minutes are useless filler. Right before the big climax, there was a pointless ten-minute scene of Jones working out. It doesn't advance anything, but it does pad the running time.
• The Third Society: What the heck is this society? Who are they? What do they do? What do they have to do with this movie? Thanks for explaining that!
That's enough for now, but let me reiterate to you that there is not one scene in the entire movie that escapes some type of problem like those mentioned above. It's really, really bad or just really, really inept.
In all honesty, as I watched the film, I was mesmerized by the sludge unfolding in front of me, so much so that I didn't pay an abundance of attention to the transfers. Nonetheless, I can tell you that this little indie film is presented with a completely average full-frame video transfer. It looks just fine, and there aren't any significant errors to take note of. The audio track is a Dolby Digital 2.0 mix that lets you hear all the grunts and laughable special sound effects without any problems. Sadly, they decided not to include any subtitles.
Even sadder is that this disc is not barebones. There are just a couple of bonus items available for review. The first is a twenty-minute behind-the-scenes featurette. After the first five minutes, I was completely bored and uninterested. There are also two music videos of lousy music and the theatrical trailer to round things out.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I'm supposed to say something nice here. After thinking long and hard, I have found something good to note: Two shots in the film are very nicely styled. The first is a beautiful waterfall shot in the opening minutes. (It's more the location than the shot, actually.) A few minutes after that, there's a cool shot of Son of Dragon standing as a garage door opens. It's nicely composed with the man, the door, and the rain in the background.
Everything else in this movie stinks.
This movie is so completely bad that I wonder if it's a joke. Did they mean to make this horrific mess, or were they trying to make a legitimate piece of cinema? Unfortunately, I think it's the latter; but they only accomplished the former. There is nothing redeemable about The Third Society. It is a total loss. If you are a film student and need to know what not to do, then this is your bible. If you are a comedian wanting to do an MST3K-like show, this is your film. If you hate yourself and want to punish yourself, then this is your film. If you even consider renting or buying this film, you're insane.
The Third Society is found guilty of being a travesty of moviemaking. J.A. Steel is hereby sentenced to a life sentence of not making any films. Any infraction of this sentence will be met with the most severe repercussions.
Court is adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warrior Entertainment
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