Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween

For today's Halloween clip, I thought long and hard about what to post. But as luck would have it, I just watched "The Giant Claw", a 1957 schlockfest about a giant muppet-esque vulture / condor thing terrorizing the earth. This gem was just released on DVD, and thanks to Netflix, came screeching into my mailbox just in time for Halloween. I watched it last night and it was even worse / better than I remembered. Here's the trailer:

My favorite scene from the film: an army general and some of his staff are listening to the transmission of some air force jets attacking the giant flapping muppet. Naturally, their weapons have no effect on the googly-eyed fiend. The bird begins destroying the aircrafts, and the general disgustedly turns off the radio transmission before it's even over, as if he was too sickened by his favorite football team being blown out to listen any more! It was awesome.

This movie is rightfully famous for having some of the worst special effects ever committed to celluloid. But it much more than just that to offer brave viewers. It also had more stock footage inserted into it than anything this side of an Ed Wood production. Plus, lots of faux-witty / flirty banter between the pilot who plays by his own rules and the beautiful and brave mathematician, and a guy I could swear was Walt Disney playing a researcher specializing in anti-matter. I recommend it without reservation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The best laid plans of mice and men sometimes result in having to watch an orangutan give someone the finger

Back in the very early 1980's, as my movie-loving jones was reaching it's apex, my friends and I used a simple and time-honored method to see R-rated fare like "Dawn the Dead", "The Warriors, "Heavy Metal" and others of that ilk that we were too young to buy tickets for: we bought tickets for PG films, then snuck into the R-rated ones when the ushers weren't around.

It worked very well, and we generally were able to see most of the movies we wanted to, at least ones at certain theaters. Northtown Cinema in Milwaukee was a dream come true..all the theaters were down hallways from the box office, the place was understaffed with lazy ushers, etc. Simple as pie. Mill Road Theaters was tricky...all the theaters entrances were right in the lobby, and the ushers were vengeful nerds who obviously were the outcasts of their high school and thus used this job as a chance to return the persecution favor (even stooping so low as to confiscate a can of soda I had in my back pocket once). And the great Oriental Theater in Milwaukee, back when they were a double-bill rep house, didn't care who they let in. For some reason, they were fine with two 14 year-old kids walking up to the box office and buying tickets for a John Waters festival or a double-feature of "Mad Max" and "A Clockwork Orange.". Good times.

So like I said, this system worked pretty well. We were movie fiends, and generally tried to see 4/5 films a month. I should also note that we weren't just trying to see R-rated films for the sake of seeing nudity or whatever (although nudity was not frowned upon). We wanted to see genre films...sci-fi, horror and cult movies, many of which in that era were rated R (think "Alien", "Halloween, "Phantasm", etc).

But sometimes the plan went horribly awry. What follows is an account of one such time.

In the spring of 1981, my friend and I were dying to see "Scanners", the newest David Cronenberg movie. We had previously seen Cronenberg's awesome "The Brood" and "Rabid" at The Oriental and had subsequently developed an interest in him. Plus, the trailer for "Scanners" showed a guys head exploding. I mean, if the trailer showed a guy's head exploding, the movie itself must be awesome, right? We checked the showtimes in the paper, and to our delight saw that it was playing at Northtown, practically our headquarters for sneaking into movies.

We caught a city bus to the theater. Bought our tickets for the PG movie we intended to skip out on. So far so good. Then we scouted to the hallways to see where "Scanners" was playing. To our horror, there was an usher posted in front of the door. Time for some method acting. We walked towards the door, talking like nothing was out of the ordinary, just going to see "Scanners." Suddenly the usher said the two words we dreaded: "Tickets, please."

Having no choice, we showed him our tickets. He looked at them and said "This theater is showing "Scanners." These tickets are for "____________." That's in the theater over there." OK, no big deal...this has happened before. You just go to your movie, wait for it to start, then slip out and into the other theater. You miss a few minutes of the flick, but sometimes a price must be paid. But this was no ordinary usher we were dealing with. This was some new breed of super usher. Everytime we looked out or pretended to go to the bathroom, there he was, eyeing us balefully. The jig was up. He had our number. At least for that day.

So we had to sit and endure the entire PG movie. And what was the movie, who's title I purposefully left blank above in order to build the drama? Well friends, that movie was this:

That's right: "Going Ape!" A movie starring Tony Danza as a man charged with caring for 3 orphaned orangutans so that he can inherit $5 million dollars. Hilarity ensues. Especially when the mob gets involved and tries to kill the apes for some reason I can't quite remember.

So instead of seeing this:

We were forced to watch this for an interminable hour and a half.

Which means instead of watching someone's head explode, we felt like ours were going to. Or wished they would, as watching "Going Ape!" is a experience that makes you long for the sweet release that death will bring. Make no mistake: I have nothing against orangutans in film, per se. I love both examples of the Clint Eastwood bare-knuckle brawlin' with an ape by your side ouvre ("Every Which way But Loose" and "Any Which Way You Can"), and in fact own both on DVD (thanks to a Sam Goody store closing sale, where they were found for a mere $3.99 each!) But "Going Ape!" was a most unworthy entry into this genre.

I eventually did end up seeing "Scanners" though. My dad took me to it. He liked horror movies, and was pretty good about taking me to see R-rated fare, and in fact was my escort to "The Howling", "The Thing" and "An American Werewolf in London", among others. Thanks, Pop.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Today's Halloween clip

As part of ongoing celebration of Frankenstein Season, here's an old TV spot for a a movie I've always dug, 1975's "Phantom of the Paradise." This is a strange beast: a cult film directed by a young Brian DePalma, it's basically a rock version of the old "Phantom of the Opera" story. But this one has diminutive 70's personality Paul Williams (a musician who later showed up on "The Love Boat", "Fantasy Island" and every variety show that was on the air at the time. He also played an orangutan in "Battle For The Planet of the Apes", the last and worst of the POTA series.) as the villain, and a Phantom that obviously helped inspire the look of Darth Vader a couple of years later. The soundtrack to this movie is awesome, too. Plus, this TV spot is narrated by none other than Wolfman Jack. Ah-woooo!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Dang, that is f'ed up

In honor of the forthcoming Halloween holiday (or "Frankenstein Season", as many like to call it), I will be posting some of my favorite horror movie clips throughout the next week or two.

Here's one I really dig from the criminally underrated 1978 remake of 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers." It's a fine film, chock full o' paranoia and dread. Plus, it has Leonard Nimoy and a human head on the body of a bulldog. Anyway, here's the shock ending to the film, when Veronica Cartwright runs into her old friend Donald Sutherland. Both had been running together from the pod people, but were separated. She was spineless, he was the hero...intelligent and stoic. Now the world appears to have been completely overrun buy emotionless replicants of humans. But if this blubbering chick had managed to escape detection and survive, he must have too, right?

Wrong! He's a pod person! Yaagh!

And then, to take things up a notch, the camera zooms into his mouth! Game over. Roll credits.

Monday, October 15, 2007

5 days and counting

Get on the horn and order a special 3-tiered cake or reserve a banquet hall, because a truly special occasion that is near and dear to our hearts is just around the corner: The 40th anniversary of the famous Patterson / Gimlin Bigfoot film.

That's right true believers. On October 20, 1967, intrepid trackers Roger Patterson and Bob Gimlin rode on horseback into the dense forest region of Bluff Creek, California, armed only with a camera (and some rifles. And presumably various forms of tobacco), intent on capturing proof of Bigfoot's existence. Did they? Who knows. What is factually inarguable is that they came back with some grainy and jumpy film of something large and hairy walking across a dry creek bed, something that turned to glare at them as it walked hurriedly away. That something is either a buddy of theirs roasting in a fur costume that is better than anything Hollywood was able to put on the screen at the time, or what is basically a missing link / North American great ape.

Here's a cropped and stabilized view of the Zapruder Film of my generation:

It could certainly be a hoax...arguably one of the most enduring ones ever perpetrated. But ask yourself: Why would they give the costume breasts? How were two poor ranchers / amateur wildlife photographers able to construct n suit that displayed such visible musculature (check the legs, etc)? Argue amongst yourselves.

And don't forget to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this footage this Saturday. And just what would constitute an appropriate celebration? Hmmm. I think you should walk like the Patterson Bigfoot all day. That should do it. Swing your arms, turn at the waist to look at things, and take long, knee-buckling strides. Like Groucho Marx with a dash of Walter Matthau, basically.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A cute little starter missle base

From our bulging and voluminous "Strange But True" files comes
current ebay auction, which lists a former Titan Missle Base in central Washington state for a mere $1,500,000.00. Not bad for a huge underground facility that sits on 50 acres.

The seller (who has a positive feedback rating of 151, which is fairly trustworthy) claims that the nearly 45,000 square feet of missle base can conceivably be retrofitted as living space, or even as some sort of underground mall. Now you have the perfect location to start your white-jumpsuited, genetically superior race in secrecy. Or you could live in one of the power domes, or even in one of the launching silos. The possibilities are truly limitless. As any of the multitude of home improvement shows on TV will tell you, a little bit of paint and some throw pillows make a huge difference in giving any space warmth.

Unfortunately, all the original electrical and water systems have been stripped out. But it does come with a new septic system. Just be sure to get it emptied on a regular basis, or you risk your beautiful lawn becoming a smelly bog. Here's some pics to whet your appetites:

The front yard. Trick a friend into adding a coat of whitewash to the fence, plant some flowers for a little curb appeal, and voila'.

Your quaint entryway. Big enough that even the most near-sighted, weak-armed paperboy can't miss it.

The compound in it's entirety. You may want to get a couple of those hipster scooters to get around. Or better yet, a golf cart or Segueway.

The base was built in the 1950's, then decomissioned in the 60's. It has a private well and is located a mere 1.5 hours from scenic Spokane. Maybe you crave total isolation. Maybe you still live your life in mortal fear of "the big one" being dropped on us. Maybe you're the Mole Man.
Whatever the case may be, act fast, because this property is sure to stir up lots of bidding activity, especially with interest rates as low as they are.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Funny, but not 'ha-ha' funny

Last night I was flipping though TV channels in an attempt to stop my wife from constantly watching "Mystery Diagnosis" (on what is apparently the Mystery Diagnosis Channel), when I stumbled upon "Bravo's 100 Funniest Movies of All Time."

So I watched it for a spell. And what I saw sickened me to the core. Here are some examples of their egregious errors:

They listed "Mrs. Doubtfire" (#39) and "American Pie" ( #49) higher than "Young Frankenstein." (#56) Good god. Not only is "Young Frankenstein" sure top-10 material, those others aren't fit to smell it's shit, if I may quote Bela Lugosi in "Ed Wood."

They ranked "Good Morning Vietnam" (#36) higher than "Monty Python and The Holy Grail (#40). See above.

The fact that not only did they rank "Zoolander" (#86) not only higher than "Kentucky Fried Movie" (#87), but that they bothered to rank it in the first place.

And the final kicks to the comedy balls?

"Arthur" at #10. And "Shrek" at #3. It's almost enough to drive a guy back into the embrace of "Mystery Diagnosis."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Happy Anniversary, comrade!

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Sputnik launch. That's right, way back on October 4, 1957 Russia stunned the world by getting a tiny satellite into space before the U.S. could, thereby launching the space race that would consume the two countries for almost two decades thereafter, spurred on in no small part by the rivalry that was the Cold War.

The Sputnik (which is Russian for "fellow traveler") was about the size of a beach ball and weighed 184 pounds. It was filled with nitrogen (to control temperature), storage batteries, radio transmitters and various relaying instruments. Plus, it looked cool. And its launch really shook up our country, to say the least. After WW II and the period of manufacturing-based growth that followed, we had assumed the we were the technological 800-lb gorilla in the room. Then all of a sudden, someone we had viewed as a second-rate power bested us. That freaked people out, as did the military possibilities of having an orbiting eye in the sky above us. People were literally walking down the street and looking fearfully up at the sky after it's launch. Four months later, our first satellite, the Explorer 1, was launched in response.

But Russia didn't stop there. Swelled with national pride and emboldened by their embarrassment of us, they pressed their advantage and also got a man into space before us. Yuri Gagarin entered orbit in the Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961, where he remained for 108 minutes. 23 days later we responded, and Alan Shephard entered sub-orbital space for the U.S., followed by John Glenn, who completed 3 orbits around earth on February 20, 1962.

Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space and collector of colorful medals

The Russians also carried out the first spacewalk, beating us to the punch on March 18, 1965. By then, sick of playing second fiddle, we put the pedal to metal, so to speak. Although unmanned Soviet probes had reached the moon before any of our craft, we got a person there first, with Neil Armstrong becoming the first person to set foot on said moon on July 21, 1969.

As you may have gathered, the U.S/ Russian space race is a subject of some interest to me. It's a nice mix of history, science, hubris, paranoia and ego. It's got it all! I could go on and on, but interested parties should just go to their public library, were they will find many interesting and lavishly-illustrated books on the subject.

Land of the I Once Was Lost But Now Am Found

Here's an interesting image that I found on a messageboard somewhere. I think it's amusing but can guarantee that every Grandparent in the world would hate it, and would hate you for showing it to them. So don't show it to your Grandparents. In the interest of assigning due credit, I'm assuming someone named 'Monty Propps' did it, since those words are printed in caps on the image. Monty, my compliments. You nailed the cold, reptilian stare of the raptor. And yet, it appears calm and at peace. The erupting volcano and soaring pterdactyl in the background are a nice touch as well.

Bigfoot in New Mexico

Hot off the newswire is the story that some men may have inadvertantly captured some new Bigfoot footage and, you guessed it, it's blurry, shaky and shot from 17 miles away. Here's a screen cap.

Even more eerie is that in addition to a shambling hairy beast, it also clearly shows another legendary creature from the cryptozoology pantheon: floating green letters that spell out "Las Vegas." This elusive beast has been whispered about around campfires for decades, but only now has it been caught on film. Finally...proof of Las Vegas!

OK, now that I've beaten that meager joke into the ground, let's examine the story behind the new Bigfoot footage. Apparently two guys were on their way back from a trip and one of them was "dangling the camcorder" out of the car window, filming nothing in particular in a remote area of New Mexico. Then, when later looking at the footage, a sister of one of the men spotted the animal.

The footage hasn't been seen in it's entirety yet, as the men are negotiating with interested parties for the rights. One of the authorities who was able to see it said the figure "could be a horse." Wha...? How could it be either a 4-legged animal with a long neck, giant head and a tail or what is basically a tall, bipedal, hairy man? Confused, I am.

Thanks to the tireless folks at Cryptomundo (linked over to the right) for blowing the lid off this story.