Monthly Archives: September 2011

The first word in caulking is…

Quebec's RBO comedy team

Bad commercials can be a source of chronic pain.

They might be innocuous at first but their constant repetition can make them akin to a drop of water in a chinese interrogation chamber.

And it seems the worse the campaign is, the longer the ad will run for.

Thankfully, nowadays, any idiot in marketing understands the value of renewing campaigns sparing us from endless, decade-long runs of commercial.

Our first product placement- or letter from their lawyers.

This, at first glance, innocuous offering from Canada popped up on the air in the late 70s. Hawking batchroom caulking, the ad kept springing up incessantly. It featured a nebbish character trying to make up is mind which brand of caulking to choose.

The ad was still running a full decade after it first aired.

The staging, the music…the first few notes on a piano was enough to inspire rage among viewers. Enough was enough! TV writers wrote editorials about it. People wrote letters to the editor about it. Still, the ad played on…

That is until 1988, when a comedy troupe from Quebec called “Rock et Belles Oreilles” (RBO for short) tackled the ad by restaging it beat by beat, with only the tiniest tweak in the script. (Don’t let the fact the ad is in french discourage you- the gag is visual).

The parody aired once, at the tail end of an episode. It never reran.

Needless to say, the real commercial was yanked in the days that followed. People were now referring to the parody at points of sale- not good.

Two weeks later a new ad, featuring a catchy new jingle, began airing -effectively ending that cocking….er, I mean caulking-obsessed nebbish’s reign of terror.

I feel a Village People medley coming on.

How did this mediocrity mashing miracle manage to get on the air?

An inside source told me the term “dildo” was “under the radar” of the network’s legal department.  The proper french word is “godemichet”. “Dildo”, the proper japanese word for it, is considered an “anglicism” in Quebec and , therefore, not in everyone’s vocabulary. The skit was approved, shot, edited and aired. By the time the lawyers had realized their mistake, it was too late. As far as I know, there were no complaints from viewers – just from lawyers from the caulking company.


The day Star Wars started sucking.

It’s Friday November 17, 1978 and this boy is contemplating his upcoming 16th birthday with a lot of enthusiasm. What’s more, there is going to be a Star Wars Holiday Special on TV to kick off the birthday weekend. I’m gonna skip the yada-yada-yada about how much Star Wars meant to me as a young lad of 14 and 15 for two reasons: 1- You all have your stories (and I really don’t want you geeks to start sharing them) and 2- I’m not Harry Knowles and that’s his shtick. Let’s just skip to the part where I say that was the day Star Wars went from being the center of my life to being just another movie – as it should be.

Celebrating Chrismannukwanza or whatever that was…

The two hour telecast about getting Chewbacca home to his family for “Light day” was packed with TV’s most notorious “Anything for a buck” players of their time (Art Carney, Bea Arthur, Harvey Korman), Some of them dressed in drag (in faaaaaabulous outfits by Bob Mackie).

It

It had godawful video effects (I’m guessing you guys couldn’t afford ILM?), It had unconvincing performances by stars who act like they don’t want to be there-

Can I be excused so I can go back to my dressing room until the very end?

especially during the musical numbers.

Now we know what that hairdo was for: protect her ears from her own singing.

It had a dull cartoon to introduce us to the most overhyped character in the history of all fiction: Boba Fett. Produced in Toronto by a budding studio called Nelvana. The swishy style of animation somehow made all the male characters look effeminate and Princess Leah appear feminine. Sure, the following movie The Empire Strikes Back was technically superior in many ways, but it lacked a freaking ending and the much vaunted (and inexplicably popular) Boba Fett did nothing more than load a fridge in his hatchback. And when we got to that highly anticipated ending, entitled Return of the Jedi three years later, they made good on the threat that Yoda’s success would mean more fuzzy-wuzzy stinkin’ Muppets. As for Boba Fett, the three year old expectation that he was gonna be a bad ass vaporized as he fell clumsily into a giant sandy butthole.

Disappearing soon in a giant butt hole near you.

As much of a disappointment The Holiday Special turned out to be, it was as Revenge of the Jedi (as “Return” was called then) was being filmed that, for me, marks the point where the stake went right through the part of my heart reserved for StarWarsian love: Mark Hamill made an appearance on Merv Griffin’s talk-show and declared “I can’t tell you any details, Merv, but George Lucas has come up with a race of people that are going to knock the Smurfs right off of the map.” In retrospect, this proved to be a good thing as it saved me from becoming too involved with a veritable quagmire of overly-praised pulp fiction. Suddenly it was as if I was channeling grumpy old Alec Guiness. I mean, why all the praise? It must be coming from gamers because for moviegoers, George Lucas’ name on credits triggers anxiety attacks: More American Graffiti, Howard The Duck, Willow, Radioland Murders, Indiana Jones and his Snot Faced Bastard Progeny… Now, I see people put down heard-earned money to buy the latest re-release/upgrade/quadruple-dip of this vandalized once-great movie with its two lame sequels and three even-lamer prequels just so they can see for themselves changes they’re only going to bitch about- I can only thank George Lucas for breaking the (literally) card-carrying fanboy spell I was under with this opportunist slice of ephemeral television. Here goes:

See? Told ya it sucked! The ultimate irony here is that this show was meant to introduce the action-figure line and, yet, no toys were derived from this entire show. George is on a mission to erase this from human memory. Don’t be surprised if the links go dead. And for all of those fanboys out there whining about George, I offer this advice.: Stop encouraging him by simply doing what I did: stop buying the “upgrades”. If there’s no money in it, he’ll stop- just like Ted Turner gave up on colorization. Heck, he might even repackage the original Star Wars sans episode number and reignite happy memories in all of us who first made him a godzillionaire.

May the lameness be with you.

Pain Level: 10/10 Quality of Pain: Whatever they said that giant butthole Boba Fett eventually fell in would feel like. Painjoyment™: Non-existent. This just sucks bantha poo-doo. It’s not even bad/fun enough to enjoy as cheese.


Beware La Cacargne!

Poor Jeff Morrow!

The congenial star of such sci-fi greats of the 50s such as This Island Earth and Kronos was just an average guy to his neighbours. His business was acting and he was no different than the local doctor, the mayor or the neighborhood Chevrolet dealer.

He would make a habit of attending the first screening of his latest movie in his small town. This would give his neighbours a sense of glamor. The friday night screenings at the local Bijou would find themselves transformed into a bit of an event- an occasion if you will. Morrow would shake hands with the people going in and hang around after the screening to chat congenially.

One night the film that opened was The Giant Claw, the latest offering from producer Sam Katzman and director Fred F. Sears. It promised to be quite a spectacular film. The same duo had previously offered us Earth vs The Science Saucers , an epic alien invasion film which boasted special effects by none other than Ray Harryhausen.

And so it was that that fateful friday, the good neighbours gathered for their little slice of Tinseltown, excited at the prospect of seeing a prehistoric bird “as big as a battleship” destroy the country’s notable tourist spots.

The publicity artwork for the film did not prepare you for the Claw

As the film unspooled, however, the audience started giggling. Something was amiss. With each appearance, the laughter grew until it reached hysterical peaks.

Morrow leaned over to his wife, whispered “I’ll be waiting in the car” and silently sneaked out, obscuring his face with his hat.

As it turned out, the producer ran out of budget before finishing the film. he could no longer afford the very time-consuming work by Harryhausen. Spinning saucers is one thing but bringing a giant bird to life is a lot more work for the animator. So he was forced to hire a team of puppeteers from Mexico who gave him this :

Dubbed “La Cacargne” by a “superstitious French Canadian” in upper New-York state (who acts like your stereotypical supersticious mexican only sports a terrible “french” accent), this stupid -looking bird ranks right up there with Robot Monster‘s Ro-man and El Santo’s “Dwarves-under-a-blaket blob” for most laughable monster ever. La Cacargne (or la Cacanya as it is pronounced in Hollywood’s version of the Quebec patois) is described by “goner” Pierre (who will die but be replaced by his brother Jacques, played by the same actor) as having the body of woman with a wolf’s head and bat-like black wings. [ Note: The Cinémasochist is very familiar with French-canadian folklore but has no freaking idea what the crap that hysterical fake frog is yammering about.]

The complete epic unspools below. Beware!

Pain Level: 8/10 (9/10 if you are French-Canadian)

Quality of Pain: Laughter will produce enough endorphins to quell the pain. Promise.

Painjoyment™ Index: Maximum!


A Heartfelt Recommendation!

Here’s a change of pace.

Today’s movie involves no pain at all. It’s an absolutely fantastic documentary that’s now on an even more drool-inducing DVD: American Grindhouse

The movie is an absolute must-see for anyone intrigued by the world of independent/exploitation cinema with chapters on early exploitation, nudie-cuties, roughies, gore extravaganzas, blaxploitation, women in prison films and all those wonderful subgenres of “para-cinéma”.

Think of it as a Michelin Guide to the world of celluloid sleaze. The clips and interviews will allow you to find new cinematic dominatrix’ to submit to and which brothel she’s operating in.

I should seriously be having a fit of jealous rage as producer/director Elliah Drenner has basicaly succeeded where I failed a few years back (I was planning a similar project but my overly-greedy producer fucked up the sweet deal I had set to get clips-therefore causing that vault to close up tight).  I think he did a better job that I could have.

Featured in the interviews are such luminaries of exploitation cinema as Roger Corman, Fred Williamson and Larry Cohen (just to name a few) but also film buffs who truly know their shit – like John Landis.

Isn't it refreshing to hear about these films from a guy who enjoys them?

The disc itself is an absolute “must own” for the collector.  The nipple-hardening special features alone are worth the price of the disc. They include amazing interviews rescued from vaults (such as sweet 1987 interview with “The Mighty Monarch of the Eploitation World” David F. Friedman and “The Father of Gore Cinema” Hershell Gordon Lewis), extended versions of the interviews used the film (like the priceless one with Ilsa director Don Edmonds),  archival material and shitload of  trailers that’ll make you flip.

For this obsessive-compulsive consumer of celluloid curiosities, American Grinhouse is akin to a good medley. I can spin this sucker over and over like good ambient music.

It’s also a great film to bring your friends up to speed with your own obsession. I find that appreciation of sleazoid cinema grows with knowledge of the context in which these unholy bits of celluloid spawned. So spin this one at your next movie night and watch your obsession spread like a disease.

Oh, and for a few bucks more, Kino-Lorber tosses an extra documentary, this one about American horror films entitled Nightmares in Red, White and Blue.

It’s a no-brainer really…

 


NOT the worst!

Let me just go one record here to say that, despite its reputation, Plan 9 from Outer Space is NOT – and I repeat NOT – the worst film ever made.

In fact, it’s not even close. Not even by a longshot.

There are far worse movie and definitely more painful ones (although I’ll give it a “9” on te pain meter, just to be cute -the same way Leonard Maltin rates Fellini’s 8 1/2 as 8 1/2/10).  Just look at the previous two postings this week: Robot Monster and Alphaville are much much more painful – especially the latter.

Plan 9 IS quite simply, the most entertaining “bad movie” you are likely to find. It’s just a perfect movie to watch with your friends as you partake in mind-altering weekend experiments or just want to kick back and really cut your brain some slack. It’s badly made but has a genuine feel of earnestness about it which, ultimately, makes it a lot of fun to watch from the moment Criswell begins predicting to when the last flying saucer is done ‘splodin’.

It has been extensively chronicled so Google it up if you need to find out more about it.  frankly, watching the film takes less time than listing all the mistakes, flubs and laughable moments in it. A documentary on its making actually runs longer that the actual film.

Follow the links for all 6 parts.

There’s also a biopic by Tim Burton entitled Ed Wood that is truly worth seeking out. In fact, I think it’s Burton’s best.  A lot has been written about Martin Landau’s scene-stealing Oscar winning turn as Bela Lugosi but Johnny Depp has really captured Ed superbly. It’s a tad apocryphal but it it does such a great job of conveying the legend that we forgive its factual trespasses.

Here is the whole legendary feature for your Painjoyment™

Pain Level: 9/10

Quality of Pain: Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!


Ze pain! Ze pain!

This is the post that’s going to offend quite a few film buffs.

It’s going to get me labelled a rube, a philistine.

And I’ll gladly wear those labels just to finally get this off my chest once and for all. Here goes…

In the annals of cinema, there is probably no greater fraud than the pseudo-intellectual “genius” of Jean-Luc Godard. Having stumbled accidentally onto a more freewheeling form of filmmaking (dubbed “La Nouvelle Vague” or ‘The French New Wave”) with À Bout de Souffle (Breathless) , Jean-Luc Godard made a career out of making half-baked movies people project deep philosophical meaning into.

This is not to say Breathless is a bad film, but I really do believe Pauline Kael said it best when she famously complained that film festivals have been polluted by its imitators ever since.

Which brings us to Godard’s foray into science-fiction, Alphaville.

Godard’s own Cahier du Cinéma playmates evolved into amazing filmmakers: Francois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol for example. But Godard became a one-trick cinematic pony that makes M. Night Shamalayan look humble and profound by comparison.

Not that the films don’t have their merit. But, if truth be told, much of what made french new wave seem so fresh at the time was the use of small Éclair portable cameras which allowed to use real locations instead of being stifled by soundstages. The same cameras were then used by filmmakers who took time to write scripts and actually prepare their movies, leaving Godard to his cultists.

And rabid they are. To speak against God-Art is to insult film itself.

There are completely gratuitous nekkid ladies in Alphaville- so you know it’s art.

One of my favourite praises for God-Art (yeah, I stoop that low) is that he “makes us aware of the filmic process”. Wow! You mean he makes me aware I’m watching a movie? In that case, James “Birdemic” Nguyen is a fucking god!

God-Art, we are often told, strives for “truth”. “Cinéma is truth 24 times a second.” being his most famous strip of fortune-cookie wisdom, a lot is made of the fact Alphaville uses real locations and props to convey the dystopian world of the future: Paris becomes another planet, a Ford galaxy is a spaceship and the highway out of Paris is outer space. Génial!

The film is also very deep and philosophical as characters take the time to sit down and read Nietzsche in our faces. This is not being intellectual, it’s being a fucking parrot.

Alphaville is a “science-fiction” film for people who never watch science-fiction and denigrate the whole genre based on some condescending prejudice towards enjoyment. It is a direct assault on your sense of logic, all done in the name of being intellectually challenging.

Riiiiight…

The most laughable claim is to attribute it with having inspired Blade Runner and even 2001-A Space Odyssey because of its many common themes. This, if anything shows how little reading these “intellectals” actually do since the references in Alphaville are not only trite and “common as dirt” but its tropes are the biggest clichés from comic books and pulp sci-fi novels of the type printed by French publishing house Fleuve Noir in that decade. At one point of the film, Caution refers to his contact as “Guy L’Éclair” (which is just the french name for Flash Gordon) and tosses a “007” for good measure. Any rube who has made the minimal reading effort of taking a morning paper or even Le Journal de Mickey to the can can spot those bits immediately. In fact, the film’s original titles was to be “Tarzan contre IBM” (Tarzan versus IBM). It’s laughable alright but you can just hear some practitioner of intellectual-onanism start yammering about the image of the primitive man pitted against the …aaaaah, shaddap!

If you “get” the references, it all sounds like Godard was visited by Marty McFly in a radiation suit and a hair dryer.

(By the way, did you catch El Santo y Blue Demon contra Los Monstruos? It’s genius!)

Loss of humanity is the central theme of Alphaville (and how captions like that make shit look profound is the theme of this piece)

Alphaville was, quite simply, a cheap-ass monetary fraud perpetrated on the German backers of the film and an intellectual fraud directed at the “eager to be exposed to genius” suckers… I mean audience… it was served to.

American singer Eddie Constantine was a major movie star in Europe, and more specifically Germany, with his portrayal of pulp-fiction detective Lemmy Caution (and you know what? In those movies, he kicked ass!). Godard cast him in the film to satisfy his German backers. When the latter demanded to see a script, Godard asked his screenwriter to pound out one. His writer balked that he had never even read a Lemmy Caution novel so Godard tossed him a copy and told him to get to work. The next day, Godard got a 30 page treatment which he presented to the Germans. Once he got his money, he just went ahead and shot whatever he wanted anyway.

Needless to say the Germans wanted their money back afterwards. And Constantine bitched that he never got to play Caution again.

This form of “switcheroo” is not uncommon of french directors during the jet-set age. Here’s a clip of Roger Vadim on Merv Griffin done a few days before shooting on Barbarella began. If you skip to the 4 minute mark, you will hear Vadim explain this very contemptuous and contemptible practice.

Have you ever seen Being There? In that film, Peter Sellers is a complete and utter moron but snobs and pseudo-intellectuals start projecting depth and meaning to his moronic affirmations to the point where he seems almost messianic in their eyes?

Alphaville is a lot like that. In fact, it IS that.

I won’t be intimidated by film snobs. My dislike of Alphaville isn’t because I don’t get it but rather because I DO!

Here for your most absolute Painjoyment™, is the complete feature so you can see for yourself.

Make sure you’re biting down on something. This one really smarts!

Pain level: 20/10 !!!

Quality of Pain: Non mais il nous prend tous pour des cons, ce mec!


Dissed by Ed Wood !

“What in hell can any director do with a lousy cast and a lousy story? There was a film, in the days of 3-D, which only because it was in 3-D, played the Paramount Theater in Hollywood (one of the major houses). The picture lasted one performance, then was scrapped until television came in. It claimed to be a science-fiction piece. The only science (or fiction) about it was the fact it came into being at all.”

-Ed Wood, Jr. Hollywood Rat Race

Feeling like it was typed out in the corner booth of a sleazy dive in Culver City, Hollywood Rat Race is a wonder to behold. The book is as dissertation of the film industry delivered almost stream-of-consciousness style by no less a personage than Edward D. Wood Jr., Hollywood’s most notorious transvestic-fetishist director.

The book is partly a “how-to” manual but it really rambles more into a “make-sure-you-don’t”  guide as it exposes phony beauty contests, salacious casting agents and unscrupulous producers – all in a barely sober prose that just reeks of Vodka Gimlets.

Ed does pull punches when it comes to naming names. He no-doubt understood the litigious nature of Tinseltown enough to refrain from exposing himself to more ruin than he probably had experienced already.

This habit of telling stories without revealing its players make for a fun game of speculation.

The film that fits the description given in the above excerpt the most is the infamous Robot Monster.

Shot in Bronson Canyon ( a site recognizable from countless B-movies, westerns and TV shows- Kirk fought the Gorn there) over a period of 4 days. Robot Monster was made for only $16,000 by a company called Three-Dimensional Pictures. The director was 26 year-old Phil Tucker.

This no-budget epic ambitiously tells the story of the last handful of survivors on Earth following a devastating (read “no sets left staning”) attack by Ro-man, an emotionless mechanical fiend from another world.

Awright, you two. Either break it up or get a room!

The three-dimensional process pretty much ate up the film’s budget and it shows- most notably in the startling appearance of the titular creature the Robot-Monster Ro-Man: They couldn’t afford building a robot. They couldn’t afford to rent an existing robot. The only thing Tucker could afford was to hire “Gorilla Man” George Barrows- who came with his own costume- and stick a space helmet on his head.

George Barrows. The man behind Ro-man.

Ro-man sets up his base in the mouth of one of the caves at Bronson Canyon and communicates with his boss (played by Barrows again) via surplus equipment which, don’t ask me why (it’ll just give me a headache), generates a lot of bubbles.

Hey! I thought this was No-soap radio.

Despite its cheapness, the movie can boast of at least one big name, Elmer Bernstein. Unfortunately, his half-composed score is repeated continually throughout the movie and is enough to drive anyone up the wall.

There are several non-sensical shots of wrestling alligators (recycled from Hal Roach’s One Million B.C.) and a “space station” being held in orbit by an all too visible gloved hand. (I’ll leave you the fun of spotting it yourself).  Being sober might be a detriment to the full enjoyment of this film. Why Ed didn’t enjoy it is, therefore, a mystery in itself. Was it envy?

The yanking from the 3D theatre might account for the oft-repeated (but most likely bogus)  claim that Robot Monster was such a ripoff that it was released in 2D but printed in 3D to fool theatres into thinking they had a 3D flick. You had to put on glasses to make the double image disappear but it turned out the red and green images were the same and therefore only 2D. Given that red-green single print anaglyphic 3D was NOT a process used at the time kills that (nonetheless amusing) bit of apocryphal trivia.

Love- Ro-man style!

The film is now a cult favorite among cinemasochists and its “star”, one of the most iconic “cheezy” monsters out there. But it’s not the only thing worth laughing in Robot Monster as the movie is an almost oomprehensive guide to how not to direct a film. Just take a look at this magnificent use of “pantomime”. It’s positively “Chaplinesque”.

And like all great film directors, Tucker is not adverse at elevating the scope of his work by adding dime-store philosophy to the mix. In this scene, Ro-man delivers  a soliloquy  over an existential crisis worthy of Bergman:

[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rjn3AzOk0Bo&feature=youtu.be]

If that had subtitles, it would seem very profound.

It has often been reported that the film had such a bad reception that Phil Tucker wrote an apology coupled with a suicide note the editors of a Los Angeles daily. (Police reportedly caught him right in time – which isn’t a mean feat in the days of snail mail and next-day newspapers.)

Writer Bill Warren, who is THE reference of all things 50s sci-fi (Really, if you don’t buy his magnificient tome Keep Watching the Skies! -published by MacFarland, you should never be allowed to speak about 50s sci-fi) specultates that it must’ve been a ploy when Tucker found out he wasnt getting his share.

Ed Wood, it turns out, has a slightly different take on the story. Again, he doesn’t mention names so the connection to Tucker is merely speculative on my part- but it’s kinda juicy.

“Another so-called producer has a unique way of distinguishing himself from his failures. … Whenever he finds out his newest bad picture won’t sell, he comes up with the damnedest strategy: suicide. In one instance, he sat on the roof of a hotel with a cn of his film on his lap and his legs dangling over te street fifteen floors below, and then he gobbled down sleeping pills. Of course, the police had been conveniently notified so they arrived in plenty of time. 

In another try in reaction to the same movie, he stacked all the reels of the picture in the backseat of his car, then curled up with them, and permitted the carbon monoxide gas to enter the car via a hose. However again, the police had been alerted and were on the scene plenty of time for his rescue. All attempts at publicity were for naught. The stories were buried deep in the back pages of the newspapers and to this day the film has never been out of the can (shown on the screen). “

In any case, Tucker survived and apparently distinguished himself as a “really good editor” in the 70s (one of his credits is the godawful Dino DeLaurentiis remake of King Kong- obviously, the man had an affinity for gorilla suits ).

Here is the complete Robot Monster for your Painjoyment™:

Pain Level: 10/10

Quality of Pain: “I must! Yet I cannot…”