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5 movies adapted from odd sources

By Joshua Nichols, Staff writer
Published On: May 16 2012 02:48:06 PM CDT
Updated On: Jun 26 2014 09:12:23 AM CDT
Movie tickets, popcorn

iStock / YinYang

They say inspiration comes in all forms, and apparently nowhere is that more true than in Hollywood.

After all, when you run out of books, TV shows, cartoons, video games, amusement park rides and toys to turn into movies, where are you going to turn? An original idea? Perish the thought.

So, as you head out to the theaters this weekend, join us for a look at five of the oddest source materials ever tapped for a movie.

Clue 1985 movie image

No. 5: "Clue"

OK, so "Battleship" isn't exactly the first movie to spring from a board game.

But at least 1985's "Clue," based off the popular Parker Brothers murder mystery board game, had some sort of back story.

The movie found the six characters well known to anybody who's played the game -- Mrs. Peacock, Miss Scarlet, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Mrs. White and Colonel Mustard -- invited to a strange house where they must cooperate with the staff to solve a murder mystery.

The cast for this comedic take on the board game included Tim Curry, Martin Mull, Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd and Madeline Kahn, and, in keeping with the game, had three possible endings, with different theaters receiving each ending.

While the film has found a cult following today, its gimmicky endings couldn't save it in 1985 and it languished at the box office, failing to earn back its $15 million price tag.

Super Mario Bros movie poster

No. 4: "Super Mario Bros."

With movies like "Tomb Raider" and the "Resident Evil" franchise having shown life at the box office, movies based on video games may not seem as strange as they once were.

But the very first movie based on a video game, 1993's "Super Mario Bros." is a head-scratcher. Sure, Mario and his brother Luigi were the biggest names in video games, but who thought two plumbers collecting coins while battling turtles and mushroom monsters was ripe for a live-action movie adaptation?

That didn't stop stars like Bob Hoskins, Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo from joining the production, which saw Mario and Luigi discover a portal to a parallel universe under the streets of Brooklyn, New York.

The movie was rightfully trashed by critics (and Hoskins, who called it "the worst thing I ever did") and proved to be a box office bomb, recouping only $21 million of its $48 million budget.

Transformers movie poster image

No. 3: "Transformers"

Some may argue that since Transformers first became a cartoon and a comic book, Michael Bay's 2007 movie adaptation actually sprung from those sources, but we know better.

Whatever the media, the message of Transformers has always been about one thing: selling toys.

And what toys they are. Anybody who grew up in the 1980s likely has fond memories of acting out battles between the Decepticons and Autobots (unless you had well-meaning-but-still-sadly-mistaken parents who instead bought you Gobots).

But is that a good enough reason to invest $150 million in a movie blockbuster?

Pirates of the Caribbean Curse of the Black Pearl

No. 2: "Pirates of the Caribbean"

Back in 2003, Disney was the source of much ridicule for attempting to turn one of its most popular amusement park rides into a blockbuster movie.

Against all odds, "Pirates of the Caribbean" proved to be a swashbuckling success, earning $654 million worldwide and spawning three sequels, thanks mostly to Johnny Depp's cheeky performance as Capt. Jack Sparrow.

Despite the end results, that pre-release ridicule was richly deserved. After all, Disney had tried three previous times to capitalize off its amusement park rides, although you can't be blamed if you missed the resulting movies.

Blazing the trail were the 1997 made-for-TV Steve Guttenberg/Kirsten Dunst "thriller" "Tower of Terror," the 2000 sci-fi movie "Mission to Mars" and the 2002 flop "The Country Bears," all based in one way or another on Disney theme park attractions.

Disney didn't stop with "Pirates," though. It attempted to again catch lightning in a bottle with the 2003 Eddie Murphy vehicle "The Haunted Mansion," which did OK at the box office but was left for dead by the critics.

Mars Attacks movie image

No. 1: "Mars Attacks!"

Even the most ardent Tim Burton fan has to admit that 1996's "Mars Attacks!" suffers from far too many stars and too few laughs.

But few realize the movie, whose ensemble cast includes Jack Nicholson, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker, Glenn Close, Martin Short, Jack Black, Natalie Portman, Danny DeVito, Jim Brown and Tom Jones, was actually based off a 1960s Topps trading card series.

The film runs with the trading cards' depiction of Earth's attack by violence-loving and sex-crazed Martians while giving a spoofy nod to 1950s sci-fi B-movies.

Even after the script's ambitious first draft was scaled down from its 60 leading characters, worldwide destruction and $256 million price tag to a $100 million film, it still just barely broke even worldwide.

Maybe the "half-developed, pedestrian material," as one reviewer described it, was to blame. Given the film's inspiration, that sentiment doesn't seem so alien.