Fourth Time's the Charm

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Fourth Time's the Charm

With the impending release of the fourth film in what’s become one of my all-time go-to guilty pleasures, the Final Destination series, I thought it might be fun with this ToM to look at a relatively rare species of film – the quality fourth entry in a franchise. The pickings are slim, but there are some gems out there. I’m sure I’ve missed a few below, or maybe took exception to something you love dearly (there have to be some Witchcraft fans out there – what are they up to, 10, 11 films now?). If so, sound off below.

Land of the Dead - if you consider Dan O’Bannon’s superlative Return to be an official entry, then Day is technically fourth in the Dead series and probably doesn’t make the list. I’m of the opinion that the Return films are their own undead animal and consider Land to be a helluva fourth go-round with Romero’s beloved zoms. Every bit as smart, snarky, and blood-drenched as it predecessors with a great, gonzo cast, Land also signified Romero’s return to form as a filmmaker after several years of middling projects.

Thunderball - again, you could argue that the first screen adaptation of Casino Royale for TV in the ‘50s makes Goldfinger the fourth in the series – a fine film in and of itself, and one of the acknowledged greats in the Bond series. For me though, Thunderball holds a special place in my heart. It was the first Bond pic I saw and at the tender young age of 9, it made quite an impression on both the gadgetry and Bond girl fronts (especially that jetpack and Luciana Paluzzi as nefarious hottie Fiona Volpe). Outstanding underwater photography and a bevy of great action sequences elevate Thunderball above the bulk of its brethren.

Bride of Chucky - outside of the original Child’s Play - a marginally effective horror story buffeted by a strong cast and the great vocal performance of series mainstay Brad Dourif – there’s little love lost between this franchise and yours truly. That said, the inspired choice of then-new-to-Hollywood Ronny Yu as director really pushed Bride to ludicrously entertaining heights not seen in the rest of the series. The pic’s over-the-top tone and presentation can’t help but lend themselves to a good 90 minutes spent and it must be said, I’ve yet to see another film make better use of Jennifer Tilly’s bizarre charms.

Live Free or Die Hard - a collective groan escaped the gullets of action fanboys everywhere when Underworld impresario Len Wiseman was selected to helm the fourth installment in the trails of John McClain, but you know what – Len did right by an action icon whose films have now spanned three decades without any blue filters or black leather. Good on him. Chocked full of great physical stunts and the series’ trademark quick wit, Live Free reps a considerable step up over …with a Vengeance and even managed to touch a nerve or two with its info-terrorism-driven plot.

Rambo - another seminal action franchise that saw a considerable uptick in terms of overall quality with its fourth entry, Stallone really outdid himself on all fronts with this intense, intelligently assembled spectacle. If you remove the two middle films, Rambo coupled with First Blood make for a pretty perfect set of bookends (the same holds true for another Stallone series, Rocky - the first and last entries complement each other so well to the point they threaten to invalidate the films that came between them; no qualms here). Bloody, vicious, and undeniably entertaining.

Honorable mentions go to Rocky IV (I know, I know – I just said you could do without it, and you could but c’mon – Ivan Drago!!!) and Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.

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Sean "The Butcher" SmithsonAugust 26, 2009 5:59 PM

Woah woah woah there. Land Of The Dead. First off, Romero's Dead TRILOGY (that's right, I said it!) is my fabvorite franchise ever. But with Land he fully screwed the pooch.
He contradicted his own mythology, and even the logic of the film itself as an single entity.
Why does Big Daddy have golden eyes and look like a Klingon? Ok, that might be KNB's fault in a way but Romero is the master of the vessel. Then, when Leguizamo's character comes back he is automatically intelligent AND can talk. No "learning curve" with the Lazarus Syndrome here people, just a convenient "aw fuck it" in the script department. And don't even get me on the emotional tenderness of Big Daddy and his mercy killing of a fellow walker in the beginning of the film.

Land Of The Dead was an abortion of the highest order. And it's social subtext was hamfisted as all hell. Even the ill titled Diary Of The Dead (which I disliked at first but have found a fondness for) was better.

And you know what? I have even watched Land probably around a dozen times. I like some of the set pieces in the film, but it sure as heck aint worth holding up as any kind of shining moment in the TRILOGY thank you!


"They're like us...just looking for someplace to go."

*sticks finger down throat and gags*

Rhythm-XAugust 26, 2009 6:32 PM

FRIDAY THE 13th PART IV: THE FINAL CHAPTER certainly has its fans and not a few of them consider it the series's high water mark. STAR TREK IV: THE VOYAGE HOME has its detractors and its fans, but until this year's quasi-reboot it was far and away the most successful film of the franchise.

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD has no place at all on this list, we may as well throw RAPED BY AN ANGEL 4: THE RAPIST'S UNION into the mix if the barrel's that shallow.

Collin ArmstrongAugust 26, 2009 6:35 PM

STAR TREK IV is a good catch. I'm happy / angry with myself that I didn't realize there was a film with the subtitle THE RAPISTS UNION out there.

quartet4August 26, 2009 8:15 PM

This is a nice list given the difficult requirement. I'll try to contribute some. If you count the Dollars trilogy as Leone's first three spaghetti westerns, then you can count "Once Upon a Time in the West" as his fourth. Taken by episode order, Star Wars Episode IV is a great #4. Lethal Weapon 4 is more comedic than the classic first movie, but it's probably better than parts 2 and 3. And the fourth entry in one of my guilty pleasures, the SAW series, had a nifty plot twist that ranks up there with the first movie.

Kurt HalfyardAugust 26, 2009 10:10 PM

Black Adder goes forth. Albeit that is not a movie, the way those shows were structured it was like a 3rd sequel though.

BradAugust 27, 2009 6:16 AM

An awesome list Collin, I totally agree with every flick.

In the "WTF/ Retarded/ Sure to put hair on some body part" column...I think a back to back of Jaws: The Revenge and Indy 4 go down quite well.
Proven to kill cancer and children with orange hair!

DeadpoolAugust 27, 2009 11:44 AM

Tory, Halloween 5 was a loveable mess, but again Danielle Harris is just simply wonderful with even less to work with.

H6... i don't know, silly isn't quite the right word but they just tried way too hard to explain things. The Producer's Cut clears things up a bit, but i was still left underwhelmed. I don't need all this occult and protector of the chosen one nonsense, let's just say the man is a evil autistic killing machine and be done with it! There was some damn great kills though.

Peter K.August 27, 2009 6:19 PM

I have never understood the hate for With A Vengeance. Despite a weak final act, the first two thirds of the film are fantastic entertainment. The fourth film never comes close to doing anything as good in its entire running time, though I'll admit the film is at least consistently mediocre.

Thanks to continuity of the Star Wars films, Episode 4 technically should be lauded as the best "fourth" entry in a series.

Leprechaun 4: In Space is a definitely a favorite of mine. (Its easily one of the most entertaining in the entire series too.)

Oh and In the Line of Duty 4 freaking rocks!

ToryAugust 27, 2009 11:14 PM

I've never understood the beef with With a Vengeance, myself. Leprechaun 4 was cool when I saw it last. But, that was when I was in elementary school. :) And ItLoD4 is one of the best 80's HK movies, period. Really dug that movie.

sarkoffagusAugust 27, 2009 11:18 PM

I love the IN THE LINE OF DUTY films with Cynthia Khan and definitely agree with Peter K. that Part IV is great; it's got Donnie Yen! I also agree that CITIZEN TOXIE and LAND OF THE DEAD are great third sequels.

Great list, Collin! Now you need one with trilogies that may need a fourth film to make up for the third one, like THE GODFATHER. Or maybe just leave 'em alone.