‘The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh’ is so bad … it’s good?

PHOTO PROVIDED Mona Mondieu (Stockard Channing) addresses the Pittsburgh Pisces in the locker room prior to a pivotal game in the 1979 basketball film “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.”

Ever watch a movie so bad you cannot stop watching? I have a lot of movies that fall into that category. A lot of sequels are like that — “Major League II,” “Airplane II” and “Caddyshack 2” come to mind.

But my absolute favorite bad movie is the 1979 classic “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.”

Chances are that you’ve never heard of it — and that might be a very good thing, depending on your perspective. The film was shot entirely in Pittsburgh and nearby Moon Township in the late 1970s and is centered around a losing basketball team. When we first meet the team, they are named the Pittsburgh Pythons and losing games in a professional basketball league, though the NBA is never mentioned. The team decides to do a re-boot and hold open tryouts.

A 14-year-old water boy Tyrone Millman (James Bond III) has the solution. Since the superstar is a Pisces, he suggests replacing the rest of the players with local ones who are also born under the astrological sign of Pisces. The tryouts yield a plethora of players from all walks of life. Just about every racial stereotype is represented on the new version of the team. Needless to say, “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” could never be made today, thank goodness.

The team quickly jells — surprise, surprise — and begins to win. And yes, all the players are born under the same zodiac sign — Pisces. Get it? They’re all fish! Team owner H.S. (comedian Jonathan Winters) then decides to change the team name to Pisces.

The plot is so bad that it’s hard to stop watching. You’ll watch and wonder how in the world did “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” get made? Keep in mind that it was filmed in the late 1970s. There were a lot of drugs readily available in Hollywood and that probably factored into the making of “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh.”

Some of the basketball sequences aren’t bad. Somehow, producers landed Hall of Famers Julius (“Dr. J”) Irving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to star in the film. However, even they can’t rescue the ridiculous plot.

The team gets connected with an astrologer/psychic Mona Mondieu (Stockard Channing) who becomes the team’s good luck charm and earns a courtside seat. How crazy is that?

In addition to the ridiculous plot, there’s a disco soundtrack and a lot of stupid sight gags — helium-filled basketballs and a fish-themed basketball court come to mind.

Some other names to note: Meadowlark Lemon plays Rev. Grady Jackson and comedian Flip Wilson plays Coach “Jock” Delaney. Announcer Marv Albert plays himself in the film.

If you know Pittsburgh, you’ll recognize a lot of the city on film. The Civic Arena, which is now a parking lot, is featured in all the basketball scenes. They even opened the retractable roof for filming during the championship game and the team enters in a hot air balloon. Look for a scene outside the Garden Theater on the city’s North Side. Once an adult cinema, the Garden has been rehabilitated and still exists today.

According to imdb.com, Cher was slated to play Mondieu, but she backed out at the last minute. Good call, Cher. Chevy Chase was expected to be connected to the film in some way, but also backed out.

“The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” is not very good, but like any mishap, it’s hard to not slow down and take a look. You probably won’t laugh a lot, but you’ll marvel at the fact that someone thought it was a good idea to make this abomination.

It’s rated PG for adult themes. It’s not available on many platforms, but you can find it on Xfinity OnDemand.


Chris Morelli is a staff reporter for The Express.


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