Directors' Worst Works — The poor results of making Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Cimino, and other auteurs working for hire

By Peter Gerstenzang
Updated November 22, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

Brian De Palma is an artist, an auteur. So why did he make an escapist entertainment like the video hit Mission: Impossible? For the money? Because he was tired of audiences skipping his personal masterpieces like Blow Out and Casualties of War? Who knows, but here are other directors hired for relative hackwork, along with lines they might have spoken themselves.

Personal best: The Deer Hunter (1978, MCA/Universal).
Just a job: Desperate Hours (1990, MGM/UA), a by-the-numbers thriller remake, in which a trio of killers (led by Mickey Rourke) holds a dysfunctional family (led by Anthony Hopkins) hostage.
Familiar touches: Graphic violence, mountain imagery, tough guys cursing.
Say what? ”You want to point that gun at someone? Point it at me.”

Personal best: The Godfather (1972, Paramount).
Just a job: Peggy Sue Got Married (1986, FoxVideo), the saccharine story of an unhappy wife (Kathleen Turner) who travels back to her teen years and finds she has the power to change everybody’s destiny.
Familiar touches: Strong period detail, sweeping sentimentality.
Say what? ”I’m trying to save you years of frustration, of waiting for that big break. No, that big disappointment, so you can blame me for the rest of your life.”

Personal best: The Maltese Falcon (1941, MGM/UA).
Just a job: Phobia (Paramount, 1980), the tacky tale of a therapist (Paul Michael Glaser) whose patients keep dying mysteriously.
Familiar touches: Dreamy look of his Reflections in a Golden Eye and a crazy shrink reminiscent of his Freud.
Say what? ”Something about this whole thing smells to high heaven.”

Personal best: Raging Bull (1980, MGM/UA).
Just a job: The Color of Money (1986, Touchstone), in which a pool hustler (Paul Newman) teaches an apprentice (Tom Cruise), only to have the kid turn into a greedy monster.
Familiar touches: Whiplash camera movements, cool rock soundtrack, street banter.
Say what? ”You know what this is turning into? A waste of my time … ”