Much like the owner of this site, I was never a big guy-in-big-rubber-suit fan. (Although he liked War Of The Gargantuas and I thought it stink, stank, stunk on toast.) But I respect him enough to read his monthly column because A) he seems to know his shit, most of the time and B) the guy signs my paycheck. So, there’s that. When he told me that he really enjoyed Godzilla Minus One, I begrudgingly gave it a look and miracle upon miracles, I ended up thinking it was pretty fucking good.
Some back story: Sure, I liked the old stuff on Thanksgiving when I was a kid. But, in all seriousness, I liked all monster stuff back then because it was programmed for kids to watch and, more often than not, parents freakin’ hated it. As an adult, the only time I’ll put on Kaiju is when Bambi comes over for a little rough and tumble. Bambi loves her Chinese food and her giant monsters. So, just before she shows up, dinner gets ordered from Shen’s Peking and the giant monsters go on the 80” and stay there. Because it’s safe to say that when Bambi gets a happy beginning, I always get a happy ending, if you catch my drift.
Anyway, back to the new and improved Godzilla. Almost immediately after checking out and liking Godzilla Minus One, I began watching Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters, on Apple TV… you know, cause Apple obviously needs more of my fucking money. (God, I miss the days when apple was something you gave the teacher to get you off her Official Shit List and Apple was the label that brought you The Beatles, Doris Troy and Billy Preston.) But Apple TV eyeroll aside; damn that Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters has some giant size balls to it! It’s got ties to both Kong: Skull Island and the 2014 Godzilla flicks along with the story sensibilities of Godzilla Minus One and I have to admit, I like this one a lot. (Color me shocked!)
I think guys who give away spoilers are like prison rats, so I’m not going to be talking too much about the plot, but I’ll say that it the pilot comes at Godzilla from different angles and timelines - and tells human stories - about the way Godzilla (and Kong) affected so many people over the decades. And that makes perfect sense to me. After all, since the early 30s, we’ve pretty much been asked to believe that giant monsters do the Texas 2-Step on New York, Tokyo and the like, to the point that they get automobiles stuck between their toes, yet it only affects one or two people directly. Monarch does its level best to correct that by showing the impact that these monsters have on the collective psyche of multiple generations. I know that sounds highfalutin as all get out. But the show (along with Godzilla Minus One) turned me into a fan of the newest wave of giant monsters, where back in the day I would roll my eyes so often at Kaiju movies, that I was getting to the point where I could see my own cerebral cortex as clearly as I could see Bambi’s physical attributes laid out before me. And believe me, I see her just fine.
I know this goes against the general views of many of the folks who like giant monsters, but it can’t just be about flattening the Seiko House Ginza Clock Tower or scaling famous New York landmarks – especially if you’re going to sit through 47 sequels. There needs to be a true sense of personal human loss for you to really feel something. And the giant monster world is slowly coming around. I’m hoping that America’s 1998 Godzilla crapfest will be the last time we don’t give a rat’s ass about any of Godzilla’s victims. Actually, in that one I was rooting for Godzilla. I wish it had killed all the main characters and then just walked into the sunset with Matthew Broderick trailing behind like a piece of toilet paper, stuck to a businessman’s shoe. (Nothing against Broderick. He’s a talented enough guy. But that movie was a real stinkburger and he should have avoided that celluloid cesspool like the plague.)
The main thing is, with Godzilla Minus One and Monarch: Legacy Of Monsters, we’re on the right track here and the 21st Century Godzilla is finally, pointed in the right direction… at least for this guy. And as long as Bambi is happy, so are my endings.
TWO OF THESE THINGS ARE NOT LIKE THE OTHERS
THE CLOTHES MAKE THE FLICK
Recently, I found myself with some spare time (a week less than expected, for good behavior) to really sit and ponder a whole bunch of things. So, this month’s column goes a tad more into fashion than my usual columns. That said, pay attention. This ain’t no sissy piece.
Nothing in the movie world – especially the horror movie world - is more important than good old non-trendy sensible clothes. No… I’m as serious as a case of the clap. Allow me to explain:
Let’s take two movies that I love more than anyone who’s ever rolled in my sheets; Alan Ormsby’s and Bob Clark’s “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things” and George A. Romero’s breakthrough film, “Night Of The Living Dead” Both are creepy as all fuck. Both have solid acting, mounds of atmosphere, seriously adventurous soundtracks and a shit-ton of really good scares. Why, if one was so bold, one might call them perfect. Of course, one would be as wrong as a peep show booth without a lock. Don’t get me wrong, they are both excellent movies. But the single-most thing that both hurts and dates CSPWDT is the clothing. The most straightforward example of this comes with a side-by-side comparison of the two zombie classics. Even if “CSPWDT” isn’t as groundbreaking as “NOTLD”, I seldom pass up a chance to watch either of them. Night Of The Living Dead, shot in 1967-68 has none of the fashion trappings of the psychedelic era, even though the country was celebrating the releases of psychedelic albums by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane, to name just a few. None of the cast of Night Of The Living Dead – not even the young couple, Tom and Judy, (who were barely in their twenties) wore the hippie clothes that a lot of young people were wearing at the time. Most men in the cast wore button down shirts – the kind of thing I still wear today. And I know you’re not saying that I dress old-fashioned. And there wasn’t a pair of bellbottoms within a mile of Night Of The Living Dead, even in the long shots, with twenty or so “zombies” in attendance. The younger people wore jeans, pretty much the same jeans you can walk into any Walmart and buy for two and a half sawbucks.
Now, give “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things” a spin. Although shot almost half a decade after the epic that influenced it, CSPWDT should look newer. But it doesn’t. It was filmed in the decade that followed the Summer Of Love and Woodstock era and it benefitted from being shot in color. That said, it looks more dated and comical - like the cast was wearing costumes straight out of San Francisco, around the time the Grateful Dead lived on 710 Ashbury Street. It’s as though Ormsby and Clark – two cinematic geniuses - threw common sense out of the window and took their fashion cues from The Monkees, instead of real rock and roll bands. Sure, I love the film but, seriously, you can’t watch it without it screaming “DATED” with each passing frame.
It's a shame, too. Because as campy as CSPWDT gets at times, it has creeped me right the fuck out each and every time I’ve seen it. I can’t claim that about too many films throughout my lifetime. It deserved better from two filmmakers who should have known better. Too often, even the best Writers and Directors want so badly to connect with the kids who are sitting in the theater seats that they make movies that have zero shelf life. Once the fad is over, the movie looks ancient and it becomes a comical snapshot of its time. If CSPWDT had the fashion sense of NOTLD, it would have held up better… and longer.
Unfortunately, the same goes for Tobe Hooper’s “Salem’s Lot”. That movie has more genuine scares in it than pretty much all of the Stephen King movies combined… and there have been some pretty solid King adaptations over the years. And the biggest kicker is, “Salem’s Lot” was a TV Miniseries! They did those scares without any substantial blood or gore. But, (there’s that “but” again) to the detriment of the film, they dressed poor David Soul (May he Rest In Peace) more like Fred Jones, from Scooby-Doo, than anybody I knew in 1978-1979. Even if the telefilm is trying to capture the feel of the novel, It’s still about five years too late for the fashion trends of 1975. Likewise, I don’t know when “dickies” went in and out of fashion. I know my brother wore one in 1968 – even when he realized that it was no more a shirt than a lobster bib is a raincoat. But there are so many dickies in Salem’s Lot, I’m surprised Kurt Barlow isn’t wearing one.
Look, I’m not saying the characters in your movie shouldn’t dress like the times in which they were shot. But, for fuck’s sake, have the huevos to stay away from trends and fads or risk having your film look out of step by the time it hits Tubi.
"On holiday vacation till 1/17/24."
When I sat down for my turkey and stuffing dinner with Tammy Lynne - my go-to Thanksgiving date, three years running now - at Vito’s Italiano Ristorante last Thursday, I was hoping for a nice feast, some good wine, a slice of pumpkin pie with a dollop of real whipped cream and then back to my place so I can give Tammy Lynne a little stuffing of her own… if you catch my drift.
No football? Nope. There are plenty of days for football. But that’s not where my mind is on Thanksgiving.
No movies? Nada. There are only a handful of good Thanksgiving movies and I watch them all year ‘round. Now, back when I was a kid it was a different story altogether. On Thanksgiving Day, WWOR Channel 9 showed Mighty Joe Young, King Kong and Son Of Kong, every year that I can remember.
And the day after Thanksgiving, Channel 9 aired three movies in the afternoon, like King Kong Escapes, King Kong vs Godzilla, Son Of Godzilla, Godzilla vs The Smog Monster, Godzilla vs The Sea Monster, Godzilla vs The Cosmic Monster or Godzilla vs Megalon. And as a child, I figured that was all I ever needed besides, of course, the Thanksgiving feast. Each year Mom and her sister made enough food for an army... and the Beal clan, who always ate like we hadn’t had a good meal in weeks, were just the right army. Of course, I was young then and I didn’t have a rough and tumble partner like Tammy Lynne and her particular set of skills. If I had, I don’t think I would have known, to this day, who Godzilla was or why he was so pissed off all the time.
But I digress.
I will admit to having an extra wine or three this past Thanksgiving evening, So did Tammy Lynne, which I don’t mind one iota because it tends to lubricate her sense of right and wrong, much to my liking. But when we got home, I hit the couch pretty hard. And I don’t mean for the foreplay. I crashed into that sofa like it was the iceberg and I was the Titanic. And when I awoke it was extra startling because it was… light out. I mean like the noon kind of light out. I was so out of it, I couldn’t remember dick… literally. Now I wasn’t so drunk the night before that I passed out. And I have known Tammy Lynne for over three years. So, it’s not like she slipped me something, then snuck off in the middle of the night. (Besides, my wallet was still in my back pocket. Yeah, I checked!) And suddenly it hit me; The reason behind my sleeping, when Tammy Lynne could have been giving my pipes a proper cleaning out, was the dreaded tryptophan. Tryptophan, for those of you who are unaware, is a natural drug found in turkey that puts you to sleep, like you had taken two tranks on an empty stomach. It’s lights out and Flaccid City, in the Meat Department. I always thought that turkey contained tryptophan so you didn’t have to go through the memories of a dress-up dinner with the family and others who you can’t stand. Not the case. Of course, I found that out too freakin’ late.
Lesson learned. From now on it’s a version of a good ol’ fashion Beal Thanksgiving; Mighty Joe Young, King Kong and Son Of Kong on Thanksgiving afternoon. Then, it’s out to a restaurant for any non-turkey option they have on the menu, a nice glass of wine, pumpkin pie, back to my place to give Tammy Lynne something to be thankful for, then Godzilla flicks till I doze off. The next day, on Black Friday, I’ll hit the local deli like it owes me money and have a turkey club with extra mayo. Mission accomplished. I just moved the turkey to a day on which I don’t mind sleeping a bit longer and reduced my intake to just a sandwich with a shit-ton of sides. Bing, bang, boom! I get the American and Japanese monster movies of my childhood, a good meal, a little ride on the Tammy Lynne Express and my turkey the following day.
Now those are truly things to be thankful for.
NOT A FAN OF TRYPTOPHAN
October is my favorite month of the year. Why? Halloween, of course! And if I may be honest with you horror fans who think the same way I do, I’m getting pretty fucking tired of sharing it with, shall we say, outside sources. The kind of outside sources that distract from the reason for the season.
Cases in point;
Breast Cancer: Now don’t twist my words around here. I fucking hate cancer. I had someone in the family suffer from it, and (this really smarted) I lost my first wife, Candy, to an Oncologist, the rat bastard! That said, I am tired as all shit about sharing it with Halloween. Here’s my suggestion. We are still the greatest country on this planet. We can do amazing stuff. Hell, we had the technology to let Stanley Kubrick make it look like we went to the moon! If we throw all of our resources into cancer research, we can beat this fucker in six months! And then, guess what? We don’t have to have Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October anymore because, ZAP! No more breast cancer. That’s it. It goes away like we all wish Ricky Schroder would. Once we eradicate cancer we get happiness, health, lower insurance costs and our beloved Halloween back.
Pumpkin Spice: While I’ll be the first to admit this isn’t as important as breast cancer, all this pumpkin spice bullshit has been getting on my last fucking nerve, since the mid-nineties. Pumpkin spice bagels, pumpkin spice tea, pumpkin spice beer… when does it end? I mean pumpkin spice flavored food is bad enough. Now we have air fresheners, laundry detergent and fabric softener, pumpkin spice colognes... How long before the pumpkin spice disposable douche? I mean if I don’t like eating pumpkin spice donuts, I’m sure as shit not going to enjoy diving headlong into Pumpkin Spice Donna’s pumpkin patch! Plainly and simply, this trend has got to end. Switch to another fruit, why don’t ya!
Candy Bars: While I have your attention, when did candy bars get so small? When I was a young trick-or-treater, we used to get full-sized Snickers, Mounds, 3 Musketeers bars. Now they have Individual Bite-Sized bars and the like. Hell, I used to drop a tab of acid bigger than these things. (Hey, it was all the rage in the sixties. I’m a law-abiding citizen nowadays. Say “No!” to drugs, kids.) My point is these little bite-sized fuckers aren’t worth the paper they’re wrapped in, yet this is the crap we’re giving to kids, on the greatest holiday on God’s green earth. We need to return to the days of great candy bars. And no, I’m not talking about Candy Corn, Circus Peanuts or those Necco Wafers that look and taste like sidewalk chalk. I mean real American chocolate-covered candy bars in your Halloween bags!
Lastly, I’d like to bolster one holiday while appearing to shit on another. (I’m not, by the way. Read on.) Gabriella and I were perusing our local whatever-the-fuck-Mart just last night and I needed something from the garden section. When I went to the area where Lawn And Garden used to be, I found Christmas decorations instead… in the beginning of October!!! A solid twenty-nine days before we celebrate Halloween and seven weeks before Thanksgiving! S-E-V-E-N W-E-E-K-S-! I have a question for even the most Christmassy among you; Do you decorate for a family birthday party twelve weeks before the actual party? I mean, even if Meemaw is turning one hundred and three, chances are if she walked into a room that was decorated for her birthday nearly three full months before the actual date of her birth, that’d be enough to kill the poor gal! Happy now? Gramma’s dead! While I was walking around silver metallic artificial trees, twelve-foot inflatable Santas and tinsel, for fifteen minutes, just to find an associate, I was trying, somewhat successfully, to stifle the technicolor yawn that was making its way from my small intestines to my mouth, instead of the other way around. Once the associate was found – wearing an elf hat and humming what I can only assume was an attempt at “Here We Come A-Wassailing”, I asked where the lime and tarps were. Come to find out they’re in the Hardware section, conveniently right next to the duct tape, till January 2nd. But I digress. Why in the name of all that is holy are the Christmas decorations out in abundance while we still have two holidays to get through first? Doesn’t that hit anyone besides me as just a bit fucked up?
I’ll say it again... Halloween is my favorite holiday. I’m asking that people please stop screwing with it. It’s good clean fun, no one gets hurt and we could all do with a bit more embracing of the darker side of life. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some gardening to do.
Boris Karloff sure made a great bad guy. So did Lugosi, Lon Jr., Vincent Price, Robert Englund… Let’s just say there have been some world class baddies in the past 100 years of scary flicks. Heroes? Yeah, we’ve had those too. When shit is going down, you want to know that Richard Carlson, Rex Reason, Reggie Bannister or Bruce Campbell have your back. Trust me, if I know a bad ass like Tom Atkins is behind me, every step of the way, I’m going to be able to kick some major league caboose! And baby, in genre films, taking names and busting heads is what it’s all about.
This month, I figured I’d school you all about typecasting. It’s a ridiculous practice in the television and movie industries. But I don’t have to like it to understand it. Case in point; Let’s say I’m writing a script about a serial killer. I’m going to have an actor in mind when I put words to paper. It’s good for the writing experience. It doesn’t mean I think he or she is going to get hired to play the part. The writer’s casting bucket list almost never comes into play. But it’s good to have a starting point for the type of character you want to portray. So, if I’m writing this script and I have, in the place of my killer, late actor Jim Varney or non-late actor Paulie Shore, I don’t put much faith in my ability to sell this script when it’s done. Because the type of characters they played were more lightweights than heavyweights. If I was mentoring you and suggested that you model your take-no-prisoners action hero after Ron “Horshack” Palillo, from Welcome Back Kotter, I’d seem almost as stupid as you would be, if you actually took my advice.
For all those reasons, although I hate the practice of typecasting, I completely get it. But – and there’s always a but – there have been, throughout movie and television history, massive exceptions to the rules and those exceptions have paid off in spades for those who had the balls to go against type. The people responsible for the writing of the movies Insomnia, The Night Caller and One-Hour Photo, must initially have thought it was bucknutty to cast comedian Robin Williams in any of those leads. Yet, holy shit, did he deliver the goods and then some. None of those flicks were Robin Williams material… Yet each of them ended up being perfect vehicles for his acting style!
I know it isn’t quite genre (although Dario Argento co-wrote the original story) but the bad guy – the really bad guy – in Once Upon A Time In The West was played by Henry Fonda; the good guy hero in so many movies that they had to do a data storage upgrade to list his “nice guy” roles on the Internet Movie DataBase. Yet in Once Upon A Time In The West, he was a stone-cold asshole. I mean the dick of dicks. And it worked perfectly. Donald Pleasence, an ultimate film heavy, ends up playing Haddonfield’s last great hope. Heroes Tom Atkins and Bruce Campbell have played scumbags in Creepshow and Icebreaker, respectively. (Although, to be perfectly honest, Creepshow is a masterpiece, while Icebreaker is, ummmm, not so much.) And Basil Rathbone - everybody’s favorite Sherlock Holmes - played a bunch of villains a bunch of times. Why could they go against type? Two things, really. Someone wanted to take a shot on something that went against common perceptions... and some damn fine acting was most definitely involved. The truth is, great actors can play anyone. No one thought Michael Keaton, Ben Affleck or Robert Pattinson had the chops to play Batman. It didn’t take long to find out that all of them, in fact, did. They are all different but all three actors definitely did The Dark Knight proud.
I think it’s time to face the fact that we, the movie and TV-watching public may know what we like… but are clueless on what we’re going to like or dislike until we actually see it. It’s a clear case of judging a book by its cover and losing, more often than not. It’s the true definition of prejudice, in that we are pre-judging. Hell, if I had a nickel for every time I heard someone poo-poo the idea of a British guy, known for softer roles playing southern Sheriff Rick Grimes, or one of the world’s quirkiest actors playing Johnny in Cronenberg’s The Dead Zone, I’d have more “fuck you” money than I know what to do with.
In a nutshell, the next time you think a movie made a God-awful casting decision, slow your roll and wait for it to come out. Until that time, keep your opinion to yourself. I need another movie role nay-sayer like I need another wife.
I have no problem admitting that I like a good serial killer flick. They can be the work of fiction, like Hannibal Lecter... or one of those real fuck-nuts, like John Wayne Gacy. It doesn’t matter to me. I try to watch them during the daylight, if Sabrina is staying the night, because she says she has trouble sleeping after watching them. (Even though I keep reminding her that she isn’t technically here to sleep.) It’s the batshit crazy way serial killers justify what they’re doing that attracts me so much. I certainly don’t side with them. In almost every case, I’m hoping they tumble into a giant sausage grinding machine, rather than getting busted by the law. Honestly, where’s the justice in that? But I really do get a kick out of the part in the movie where they explain - whether to the cops or their intended victim - how their dear mother dying, or the satanic barking dog next door, or boffing their second cousin on their father’s side, or listening to the haunting voices in their head, or being spurned by Marylou Phelps, or playing hopscotch as a child... made them screwy enough to start turning multiple neighborhood residents into jigsaw puzzles.
Now, I realize when you’re talking about serial killers, it’s not the way they go about the killings that matter in the end. It’s purely a numbers game. But you also need the clusterfuck methods to make a serial killer worthy of the title… or at least keep the audience awake. I have tried, on numerous occasions, to explain to Sabrina that if I woke up one morning and decided to take an expensive set of wood carving tools, use them to cut her up into bite-size pieces and devour her flambéed nasty bits over the course of a week, I wouldn’t be classified a serial killer if I just stopped with her. Somehow this explanation does absolutely nothing to calm her fears. (Oh, well. I gave it the old college try.) As ugly as it is, to be an honest-to-goodness serial killer, you need to kill… a lot! And I think that takes a fair amount of forethought. All the best serial killers, both cinematic and literary, need to be organized. They need to have a real purpose for their going off the deep end. I mean, it’s 2023, for crying out loud. The ante has been upped. Gone are the days of, “My ferret, Miss Petunia, commands me to kill by the light of the blood moon". Hell, that kind of excuse will get you drummed out of Serial Killers Local 478, which is a bitch to get into, in the first place. These days you need to bring in Pagan rituals, the Devil himself or some sort of High Priestess from a faraway land. We’re talkin’ a bunch of work, here. So, should a person decide to go into the serial killing business, either as a lifestyle or a hobby, they’d better sharpen their organizational and planning skills, along with their attention to detail. If not, they’re sure to get a one way ticket to the boobie trap. And no, I don’t mean the Wesley’s Boobie Trap at 7373 Highway 78 in Dora, Alabama 35062. (Ask about their Dinner Specials and tell ‘em Mr. Nicholas Beal sent you. They’ll know.)
One last thing, I’m all for giving Ed Gein his due, as one wacky fuck. But it’s time to put on our big boy and girl pants and insist he be taken off the Serial Killer Registry – because I’m sure a Serial Killer Registry exists someplace… most likely Wisconsin. Ed Gein admitted to killing TWO people. He was actually found legally responsible for ONE murder. Knowing he would never be a free man again and would die in custody, they never tried him for the second murder. And the various body parts they found in his home were thought at the time to have been stolen from local graveyards. Now, as I’ve already stated, Ed Gein was a world class nutbag. He was a grave robber, a killer and a sadist. But a serial killer? Not in my book. He just doesn’t have those all-important numbers.
So, what have we learned today, guys and gals? That serial killing isn’t as easy as it seems... and that calling Ed Gein a serial killer is roughly akin to saying that a prairie dog is part of the canine family because one of the two words in its name is “dog".
A LITTLE SERIAL IN THE MORNING
I'm going to tell you something that is going to shock the living shit out of you; I don't like mean. And by "mean", I mean "anything mean". One of my main mantras is , "Mean people suck!" and I repeat it like a broken fucking record. Just because I'm street savvy, and tell it like it is, doesn't automatically put me in the mean category. Please understand that, in past columns, I didn't tell you that the Medved brothers wrote books that sucked... to be mean. I did it so you'd understand that, if you were looking for accuracy, you could find more truth in a porn flick than in their "Worst" and "Turkey" books. And, trust me, that ain't saying much, considering, in porn, every guy is packing a bazooka when in reality, the great majority of us are stuck with pistols and women clearly appear to enjoy doing the stuff that, in the real world... ummm... not so much.
And with that, we move on to this month's topic; Mean Movies!
Now, I'm not talking about actual animal cruelty flicks. If you can't grasp the fact that those are wrong, you need to walk away from this column and don't come back. That shit is out of bounds and I won't even discuss why. No, I'm going to sight two mainstream horror flicks from the past - one I liked a shitload and one that I didn't. I have mad respect for the work of both of the directors of these movies. One is Brian DePalma and the other is Chris Walas. Their contributions to my Mean List are "Carrie" and "The Fly II".
"Carrie" is a modern-day classic - at least my modern day. Pretty much every aspect of the film is on point. The casting, from leads to supporting players, is spot on. And so are all of the key department heads and crew members. The source material from the Stephen King novel is fantastic. It's just one of those flicks that comes together, in every way, to produce an unforgettable experience and a genre epic. With all of that said, it is such an incredible downer that there is absolutely nothing to celebrate... anywhere... at any time. I'm talking zilch! Now, I probably saw it three times in the theater upon its initial release and six to eight times at home on a movie channel, VHS, Laserdisc, DVD and streaming service and although I enjoyed the hell out of it each time, the last viewing about 15 years ago left me asking myself one question; This movie bums me out each time I watch it. Why the fuck am I doing this to myself, time in and time out. And that was the very day I decided that I had seen this gem enough and that I wasn't going to do this to myself even one more damned time.
"The Fly II" is as cut and dry... just in a completely different way. But I want to say at the outset that I really like Chris Walas' work. I think the guy is one talented s.o.b. And Mick Garris and Frank Darabont - two of the Writers - are no slouches, either. That said, I hated "The Fly II". It is, in my opinion, a mean film... or at least, there are enough mean-spirited scenes in it to make me feel that it is, a mean-spirited movie; one that I've never subjected myself to a second time, after seeing it the day it was released on home video. The meanness centers around the laboratory dog and the suffering it goes through at the hands of science. The final scene with the son of Brundle and the dog fucked me up. Yeah, I know it was supposed to. But it was a bridge too far for me to ever go over again. Dogs are the most loyal, most trusting souls on the planet. I can tell you from my point of view that a dog has never taken cash from my bedroom dresser, while I was otherwise occupied, and snuck out in the middle of the night. So, pulling that particular heartstring and showing the effects of those scientific experiments was, for me, out of bounds.
As a side note, the Ferry/horse scene in the 2002 American version of The Ring, which shows a horse drowning purely for shock value, gets this month's Dis-Honorable Mention. It had absolutely no script-driven reason to be there. It added nothing beyond shock value to the film and was there only because the Effects team could render a horse getting hit with the propeller of a ship and drowning in deep water. Again, this isn't an example of animal cruelty. The actual horse was never in any danger. It was all a Special Effect. I'm not a fucking stunatu! My problem with it is that I had to sit through something so displeasurable as seeing a noble animal bleeding out and drowning and it wasn't even a necessary plot point. In fact, the reason for the entire owning of stables plot point was probably due to them being able to pull off this effect... not the other way around.
Since deciding to cut these kinds of things out of my life, I have become a happier, more well-adjusted human being. Don't I seem well-adjusted to you? Step lightly when considering your answer.
YOU CAN GO STUFF YOUR TURKEY!
I’m not what you’d call “in touch” with my feelings. As a rule, I have two speeds; pissed off and not quite so pissed off. And nothing gets me there like a so called “expert” telling me that a certain movie is a turkey. It is, in fact, my contention that the legendary Ed Wood Jr. had more passion for his art than a good portion of today’s filmmakers – he just didn’t achieve the lofty goals he set for himself.
Back in the late seventies and early eighties, before home video really hit its stride, Harry Medved and Randy Dreyfuss “authored” a book entitled The 50 Worst Films Of All Time and it sold a shit- ton. It was followed a year later by The Golden Turkey Awards and then The Hollywood Hall Of Shame, in 1984. Lastly, (and thankfully!) Son Of Golden Turkey Awards, debuted two years later; all of the latter, written by Harry and Michael Medved. Proof positive that you don’t have to be accurate in your “non-fiction” books to become a small cottage industry. Now, I’m not saying that these works were total garbage… just that they’re not too far from it.
As I mentioned (if you were paying attention) the first two books came out before even 15% of the country had VCRs and the last two were written when video was king. Needless to say, the last two books were more accurate because the authors didn’t have to do anything but sit in their living rooms, in their boxers, watching the movies over and over again. But with the first two books, the writers had to take copious notes in a movie theater. That said, the inaccuracies in all four books could fill… you guessed it… a book!
As an example, in “The Golden Turkey Awards” the writers report that when Bela Lugosi speaks of his henchman, Lobo (Tor Johnson) he says the line “…He’s harmless as a kitchen.” Obviously poking fun at either Lugosi’s lack of command of the Queen’s English or his drug use (which is an even lower rung to slam him on.) The not-so funny thing is, that, while Lugosi did have an extremely thick accent, the one word you can hear as clear as a proverbial freakin’ bell, is “KITTEN”, not kitchen. Now, only a cad or a bounder would even suggest that these two fine fellows hadn’t misheard the line because they were in a theater that employed less-than-state-of-the-art sound equipment or, even worse, just weren’t paying attention, but, instead, heard it correctly and just thought they’d make fun of a sick, elderly actor for the sake of their little “humor” (and I use the term loosely) book. But, seeing as I’ve been called both a cad AND a bounder on numerous occasions – and this is by women who actually “know” me, albeit in the biblical sense – I’m going to go ahead and suggest that, in fact, that’s probably what the writers did. As I mentioned, this was far from their only mistake and was keeping in line with the shock value they went for once or twice in each volume.
Case in point, in The 50 Worst Films Of All Time” the co-authors picked The Omen as one of the 50 worst! Now, if you ask fans of a certain age where they rank The Omen, I’d venture a guess that it would get pretty high marks. Top notch Actors, great Director, great DP, amazing film score… the list goes on and on. Hell, there are three or four shots that still defy believability, considering they were done before the days of CGI. The crew used practical means and the results are impressive. And if you need more proof that The Omen was picked solely to get people talking, take a gander at the cover. In the cover’s photographic collage, The Omen is dead freakin’ center, so you and I can’t miss it, even if we’re half shitfaced. Back in 1978, after making my way through the book, I wrote the publishing company a letter entitled "50 films worse than The Omen but 0 books worse than this piece of crap”. Not surprisingly, I never got a response. Rude!
Now, I’ll be the first to admit that these time-wasters were probably responsible for the new-found love for Ed Wood and other Directors of lesser quality fare. But if a trend is predicated on a falsehood – and many things today are – are they really a legitimate “thing”? I tend to think not. Ed Wood would have been discovered on videotape either way. He just wouldn’t have gotten the bum deal that he did get.
Question: Which is worse, any Ed Wood movie, Children Of The Corn, (2020) Knights Of The Zodiac (2023) or House Party (2023)?
My Answer: Any Ed Wood movie wouldn’t even crack the top three!
I’m an old-fashioned guy. I enjoy a good drink in a real glass, with an ice cube or two. I crave the sound vinyl records produce; none of this digital crap. I like to dress nice – even to go to the Stop & Shop. Women with curves make me happy and, lastly, although I consider myself to be a movie connoisseur, I prefer black and white – both sound and silent - to the newer stuff. Which brings me to the question that keeps me up at night (and keeps the lovely Tiffany, in constant need of a sling for her “tennis” elbow):
Which one of you assholes has my London After Midnight?
Now, by “assholes”, I of course mean film collectors. Mind you, I’m not talking about guys who collect VHS tapes, DVDs and the like. And I don’t mean friends who keep their movie projectors in a box in the closet and only take it out when other friends are over, so they can show their dupe of a dupe of a dupe of that long Hitchcock promo film for Psycho. No, I’m talking about those Rat-Bastard collectors who have the whole screening room set up in their houses, complete with a projection booth, have a collection of film prints of rare and, in some cases, “lost” films and won’t share them with the world. Because these big shots want to be the only ones who are “allowed” to view them.
For those of you not wise in the ways of these pud-tuggers, they usually have a shit-ton of money (probably left to them by their mommies and daddies) which they spend on near-impossible to find 35 and 16 millimeter films. They tell absolutely no one about the collection and sit, by themselves, and watch these lost gems in the comfort of their own homes. You, on the other hand, if you want to see Hitchcock’s The Mountain Eagle or Browning’s London After Midnight or Murnau’s 4 Devils, you are just shit out of luck. But one thing I can promise you, you can bet your left nut that they’re not “lost”. They’re out there. They, in all probability, survived the ravages of time. The last copy did not perish in the 1924 Universal fire or the 1937 Fox vault fire or even the 1965 MGM vault fire. No, the last “known” copy of these “lost” flicks may have been kindling in ’24, ’37 or ’65, but these asshole film collectors have them as sure as bear shit stinks.
Word on the street is that half of all American films made before 1950, and ninety percent of films made before 1929, are considered lost. And while I’m sure that statistic is true in some cases, collectors have them as readily available as the Dr. Pepper and popcorn they suck down while watching the movies they feel that we don’t have the right to see. You don’t have to take my word for it. But you will, if you know what’s good for you. Does it look to you like I don’t know what in the blue fuck I’m talking about? What am I, a liar?
I didn’t think so!
A few decades back, I was privy to a copy of The Old Dark House. This was back when it wasn’t as readily available as it is today. (I don’t know if it was ever deemed “officially” lost but it certainly was in the ballpark.) I immediately made a copy and brought it to my friend, a fellow collector. He had, just a year before, had to say “No” to my request for a copy of a rare movie that he had in his possession because he had been made to promise that he wouldn’t share it with anyone, by the guy who gave it to him. Now, where I come from, you’re only as good as your word, and liars tend to come up a bit shy in the Blood Department, from time to time. So, I didn’t hassle my friend over his promise. I just deposited it in the old memory bank for a future withdrawal. When I handed him his copy of this rare movie, I told him he could share it like crazy. “Stop people you don’t even know on the street and hand them a videotape of this little baby, for all I care.” But DO NOT, under any circumstances give a copy of this movie I’m handing you to that weaselly douchebag who doesn’t like sharing with others. Capiche? He said he understood and that was that. You see, I’m like an elephant. I never forget.
So, I’m going to be nice about this. I’ll expect my copy of London After Midnight, let’s say in a month’s time, and there will be no questions asked. (By the way, I don’t mean that crappy attempt at reconstructing the movie from stills. It might have been well-meaning, but it was bullshit – especially since the real one is out there.)
To those who say, “London After Midnight is actually not that good of a movie – you won’t be that impressed,” you just let Uncle Nicholas decide for himself. Healthwise, it’s better for you that way.
YAWN OF THE DEAD
When I find myself in times of trouble, like most people, I turn to words of wisdom - Lofty words that could almost come from a higher power. Almost! I, of course, am talking about the words that guide me through my daily trials and tribulations; a/k/a my common freakin' sense. (More people should try this, in these divisive times.)
But first: Where the hell have I been? Well, that's a long story that I am going to shorten to just a few measly words. When you and I last touched base, I was writing for a website that will remain nameless. Let's just say that the website I refer to, went the way of Luca Brasi and now resides in the briny deep, dozing with the dolphins. Some months after said site disappeared, following some form of "official investigation", I had what can best be called, a "disagreement" with the law enforcement officials in a certain area of Brooklyn, NY. Said "disagreement" resulted, through no fault of my own, in getting me an extended stay at an undisclosed facility, not unlike an air b & b run by the gestapo, for a period of time, not to exceed 15 years.
Cut to just last week, I'm back at home, lounging in my favorite chair - a Partagas in one hand and a Herradura in the other. My best girl, Anastasia, is busy doing what Antastasia does best and I decide to peruse the Sci Fi movie listings. Suddenly, up pops "Battlefield Earth". I'm not feeling it but the tequila is evidentially doing the choosing. Against my better judgement, I hit the [RENT] button and Battlefield Earth is off and running. Soon, it's jogging. Then it's walking. Then, limping, shambling and dragging, in that precise order. Then, much like this piece-of-feces flick, I'm figuratively flopping around on the ground like a carp, praying for the quick relief that only death can bring. Man, what a stinkburger!
Now, I don't talk religion with anybody. If my Sainted mother came back and wanted to talk about novenas or Ash Wednesday, I'd tell her she was shit out of luck. (No offense, Mom.) So, I'm sure as hell not going to discuss it with you guys. What I'll say is that whomever chooses to do a project this bad for any reason other than the Benjamins, deserves what the hell they get. Cause there is a special place in Satan's sock drawer for this steaming bucket of haggis.
But, you want to know the funny thing? I don't blame John Travolta or Forest Whitaker one little bit for putting me through something that I haven't experienced since taking showers in Fed... in the air b & b. No, the blame rests solely on yours truly. I knew I had no desire to watch that 117-minute dung heap. I knew it but went against my trusty ace in the hole - my common freakin' sense. It wasn't the tequila, either. It was me not trusting myself. I was so disgusted with my lapse of judgement that I left Anastasia's cash on the guest bathroom vanity and shuffled off to bed.
This wasn't my first offense, mind you. I had watched quite a few so-called "Classics" against my better judgement. The Green Berets", "Gone With The Wind", "The Alamo", "Romeo And Juliet"... the list goes on and on. But at least those were "Classics" and all they really accomplished was boring me to tears and, hopefully, teaching me to trust my common freakin' sense in the future. Yeah, a lotta good that did. But "Battlefield Earth" wasn't a classic movie. Hell, it was barely a movie. And it didn't merely bore me, it made me wish that Walter "Too Tall" Farina's bullet had pierced my left corraded artery, back in '88 and sent me on the porcelain pram to Sewersville. Fortunately, the bullet missed its mark - but not as badly as Battlefield Earth did. My feeling that I won't like a flick or that I'm not interested in the subject matter has never failed me. Yet, I choose to ignore it time after time. Well, not anymore. Not if I can help it.
So, if you're asking me, I say; avoid this celluloid upchuck at all costs. (Unless you're "Too Tall" Farina. Then, you should only choke on it! Twice, you asshole!) But I'd like to say a word to the kids of America; Kids, always trust your common freakin' sense. And if someone tries to bully you into doing something you don't want to do, you tell them if they don't leave you be, your Uncle Nicky will disembowel their skanky asses, while they sleep, then drive their corpses out to the desert and dump them for the buzzards to pick clean.
I've been thinking a lot about remakes lately. This all started a few weeks ago, with a late night viewing of the "Dawn Of The Dead" (2004) remake. It was my second time watching it. The first time didn't go all that well. Sure, the first ten minutes were pretty freakin' good. If you remember, Universal, the studio that made the flick, released the first few minutes on the Internet and I thought what I saw was okay. Okay enough that it got me to see the movie in the theater. So, I threw some clothes on and told Mariska to clean herself up, put on something revealing and wait for me. I'd be back after the movie. Unfortunately, what I ended up seeing in the theater, left me scratching what little hair-worthy scalp I had left. I just saw no point to it. I mean, it doesn't do anything better than the original did and it certainly didn't have any of the solid social commentary that the late, great, George A. Romero's scripts oozed from every page.
Now, if there's anything I hate more than a snitch, it's a liar - which is what some of the Dawn Of The Dead (2004) head honchos did a shit-ton of, before, during and after the remake's release. Not cool! I was told that, unlike the original, this remake didn't spend the entirety of the film at the mall. First off, neither does the original. And, while the remake spends less time in the mall, it's not that freakin' much less. I mean most of both films take place in a mall! Pretty damned simple! The next thing the talking heads wanted me to do was not to compare it to the original. Well, here's a pioneering thought; if you don't want me to compare it to the original, DON'T name the freaking thing Dawn Of The Dead!!! Oh, and DON'T make the plot even close to the same as the original. That would be a good place to start.
Another thing I couldn't stand was the fact that these zombies were the type that could run. There's only one film that gets to do that and it's Return Of The Living Dead. And that's because, in this guy's mind, movie-god, Dan O'Bannon - may he rest in peace - gets to do anything he wants, in the film universe. Other than that, dead folks don't start to rot and then turn into Roger Fucking Bannister! Shit, judging by their appearance, some of them couldn't have run that fast when they were sucking air. And folks sure aren't going to speed up, as they break down. I mean some of those group shots looked like outtakes from the Boston Marathon.
Look, I don't like to nitpick here, so I'll just say that 2004's Dawn Of The Dead didn't have any of the groundbreaking stuff that 1978's Dawn Of The Dead did and leave it at that. But, my question to director Zack Snyder is, if you weren't trying to best the original, why in the blue hell did you remake it? I mean honestly? Were the running zombies the particular "spin" that you brought to the movie that would have catapulted it past the original? Because it didn't. And the depth of character (or lack thereof) didn't accomplish that either. So, unless you were trying to make an inferior remake or you just did it for the Bennies, (something that I respect at least a little bit more than the bullshit "for arts sake" excuse) why did you choose to remake a classic? It hardly ever works and you have to bring the big guns, like Cronenberg or Carpenter or Kaufman or Savini did. You need a great script, great actors and iron gonads to play with the big kids. You had none of them. Not that there was any surprise that the dude who wrote the first two Scooby Doo flicks couldn't handle writing Dawn Of The Dead. Mind you, Gunn and Snyder eventually found their film footing but, in both cases, it wasn't because of Dawn Of The Dead (2004).
I fully realize there isn't an original idea in Hollywood, anymore. But if you're going to do yet another remake of Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Halloween, Child's Play, yada, yada, yada, either bring something fucking great to the party... or better yet, just don't "reimagine" it. Because it'll make you look like a giant douchebag. Right, Zack? James?
OOPS! I DID IT AGAIN.