Monday, September 22, 2014

A Study in Red(necks)

World O' Crap's Creature Feature host Hank Parmer (stage name, Grouchomarxist) is back. After authoring what most cineastes agree are the definitive treatises on Jack the Giant Killer (2013, not to be confused with the 1962 movie of the same name, nor, in fact, with movies as a medium) and Frogs (not to be be confused with "frogs," because they're toads), Professor Parmer brings the same scholarly rigor to his monograph on Night Feeders, a meditation on Appalachians versus Aliens (you probably know it best as the film in which Bob Beaver plays "Bubba," and "Catfish" essays the rĂ´le of "Redneck."

Night Feeders (2006)
Director: Jet Eller
Writer: Jet Eller

Night Feeders opens with a crudely CGI'd satellite orbiting serenely above the earth. Suddenly, from the depths of space a rogue meteor scores a direct hit on it! Yee haw, that sucker blowed up real good!

Somewhere in the wilds of North Carolina, a very authentically scary-rough-looking woman is watching tv. Suddenly, it loses the signal. Disgusted, she steps out on the front porch and yells at Roy to come fix the tv. Roy's out in the yard working on his red pickup truck, while his two buddies stand around watching. He yells back that he's busy fixin' the truck. She goes back into house, returns with a couple of pots and throws them on the lawn, declaring "I'll fix your supper when you fix the damn tv!" What a charming comedy of manners, in the Southern white trash mode.

Suddenly, a meteor streaks across the sky. "What the hell is that?" asks one of Roy's buddies. They can't decide: is it a meteor or a plane? It begins to break up.

Cutaway to two more rednecks. One's reading the latest Bargain Hunter -- yes, they're trying to see exactly how many rural cliches they can pack into the movie before the opening credits begin to roll. The other redneck points at the meteor pieces as they whiz overhead.

Two good ol' boys are fishing in a jon boat. A big chunk of meteor plops into the water nearby, creating a ludicrously out-of-scale superimposed splash.

"Did you see that?" exclaims one of the G.O.B.s. His buddy replies, "It must be a UFO!" and chatters wistfully about alien abductions and anal probes. Meanwhile, the other good ol' boy takes his glass-bottom bucket and peers down into the water. Something that looks a lot like a really big mud puppy swims beneath the boat. The boat flips over, and the G.O.B.s are immediately pulled under while the water turns red. Close-up of shredded life preserver. Wait a minute: I thought these alien nasties were supposed to be night feeders? Or was this their equivalent of a midnight snack?

Credits run: writer and director -- Jet Eller. Oh joy, we're about to be treated to this filmmaker's intensely personal vision. Creature effects by “Cactus Dan” -- I'm getting a bad feeling about this …

Four guys are standing around in the woods, next to a car with a very dead deer draped across the trunk. There's weedy guy, Doug, and handsome Italian-looking guy, Andy. John, the pudgy guy with the stupid sideburns, is almost in tears because they've wrecked his mom's car, which still has deer bits dangling from its stove-in grill. Andy, who was driving when they hit the deer, assures him that a little Bondo and paint and it'll look fine. Donnie -- we'll get to him in a minute -- says they should have borrowed John's mom's pickup. John reiterates "for the fourth time" that his mom wouldn't let them use her pickup truck -- they were lucky to get the car.

Now, the other three are city boys, but Donnie's different. He's a simple man, a dweller on the land, the common clay of the New South. You know: a moron. (Not to imply any other character in this movie is the sharpest butter knife in the drawer.) He's a big ol' boy, slow talkin' and slow movin', always ready with the sort of homespun commentary that makes your fingers itch for the nearest blunt object.

However, it's my belief that this amiable exterior is only a sinister pretense. For instance, he's had to have it explained to him about the pickup four times? He's reminded everybody what a pathetic loser his long-time "friend" John is four times on this trip so far, and this is just the first day? Nobody's that dumb, not even a featured columnist at Pajamas Media.

(There's another thing you should know about Donnie: the actor's real name is "Donnie". Apparently, writer/director Eller was so taken with this quirky real-life character that he just had to craft an entire movie around him. And odds are Donnie has trouble picking up his cues, if he's addressed by anything other than his own name.)

The boys get their gear together and prepare to hike to their campsite. Donnie's worried about snakes -- which is of course a natural segue to Andy's Wildean bon mot about the big guy's trouser snake, which he probably hasn't seen since sometime before the second Reagan administration.

Cut to a game warden, who drops in on elderly guy Clyde and his wife at their farm house. Clyde is fiddling under the hood of his SUV: it's cranky and won't start.

Clyde takes the game warden to where his fence has been broken. His cows and his dog disappeared last night without a trace. Clyde then shows the game warden the big chunk of meteor that landed in his pasture. The game warden enthuses about the meteorite probably being billions of years old. Clyde says he doesn't give a damn, if it doesn't make his cows produce more milk. The game warden takes a piece of meteor as a souvenir, but leaves before the dairy farmer can further elaborate on his lacto-centric concept of the universe.

New characters enter: Churlish Redneck and his girlfriend, Terry. C.R.'s at the wheel of some kind of 70s' gas guzzler, bitching at her about wasting money on perfume. Churlish and cheap: what a catch, huh, ladies? He says it makes her smell like a whore. She retorts that it's better than smelling like a drunk. By way of a witty rejoinder, he slams her head against the dashboard a couple of times. C.R. hits the brakes and pulls the car over. Terry gets out, backs away from the car and pulls a pistol out of her handbag. He advances on her menacingly.

She pulls the trigger: oops, he removed the clip! He picks up a handy piece of kindling from the roadside, and chases her into the woods. C.R. loses sight of her, and after a while wanders up to a lake. (Let me guess: it's Meteor Critter Lake.) As he's standing by the shore, Terry sneaks up behind him and smacks him in the back of the head with a branch. He staggers into the lake, falls face-forward into the water, and instantly sinks. Terry has second thoughts, and wades in after him. She takes a deep breath and goes diving for dipsticks.

Sunset. Back at the deer hunters' camp, everybody's hanging out around the campfire. Andy suggests they should get to the deer stand by 4:30 AM. Donnie declares if they try to wake his ass up at four in the morning deer ain't the only thing that's gonna get shot.

Donnie has a big Tupperware container of his super-yummy "special stew". Just like the movie, it's a revolting mess. Donnie says he won't let anybody see him preparing it. Just what are those secret ingredients, anyway, and why is he so adamant about cooking it in private?

Now we find out John's a rock hound: his collection is insured for $200,000. He's a substitute teacher, too. Who lives with his mom. Could he possibly get any more pathetic? More folk humor, as Donnie admits he's never seen Jurassic Park -- he calls it "Jerastic Park". When John fills him in on the plot of the movie, Donnie claims he and his redneck buddies would have cleaned that island out fast.

(Donnie's always talking about his redneck buddies -- as opposed to these high-toned city boys he's hanging out with -- but I have a hard time believing Donnie has any friends, as opposed to people who just keep him around to have someone to look at when they're feeling particularly bad about themselves.)

Donnie proceeds to show ignorant city-boy John his foolproof method for starting a fire, naturally involving gasoline. He nearly sets both of them aflame. A real laugh riot, this. Then he starts to eat his stew, direct from the container. It's roughly the consistency of a slab of congealed-but-not-quite-hardened silicone sealant. "I guess it needs more water ..." What a loveable goof!

Doug borrows Donnie's rod and reel and goes night fishing. Our lucky foursome has chosen to camp near Meteor Critter Lake, natch. The bait's nibbled at tentatively, then the rod's yanked out of his hands. Something lunges up out of the lake and chases Doug into the woods.

Back to the camp. Andy thinks he hears something. He decides he ought to return to the car and cover up the deer carcass. (It's a well-known fact that if you throw a tarp over your kill, scavengers can't find it because they can't see it!) John tells him to do the smart thing: take the carcass a mile down the road and dump it.

Back to Doug getting chased through the woods. He pauses to catch his breath. Then he sees something moving in the shadows. He takes to his heels again, and miraculously blunders out onto the road, where he's almost run over by our friend the game warden. Doug tells the game warden something was after him; he thinks it's an alligator, but the warden's skeptical. (Guess he never saw Lake Placid.)

He gives Doug a ride back to John's borrowed car, where they meet up with Andy. The game warden follows them back to their camp, and checks everyone's hunting licenses. Then he tells them about the meteorite, and gives John his piece of it, probably out of pity for his dweebishness. He returns to his car, and drives off with, of course, a shadowy critter in the back seat. (Horror film cliche No. 2) You know what's going to happen next, right? But he's only lightly savaged. He stops the car, leaps out and runs around to the trunk. At which point he's jumped by the critter. Close-up of keys dangling from the trunk lock while the game warden screams, off-camera.

I think I'd have tried using my pistol first, rather than going for a tire iron. But whatever.

Back to the camp: Doug tells the others he was chased away from the lake by a mysterious beastie that came up out of the water and followed him through the woods. Donnie scoffs at his story, says it was a beaver. Then they spy something lurking in the woods around the campsite. They can't make out many details, just that the critters have big eyes; Doug says they've got arms like a Praying Mantis.

Giant insect-like alien predators might have actually been frightening. Unfortunately, the best "Cactus Dan" could manage is a sort of stiffly-animated cross between a chupacabra and an alien Grey. Except these critters are a uniform dark olive-green. (Little green men ... get it? Eller, you scamp!)

John thinks the critters aren't attacking because they're bothered by the light. Then the boys hear some noise from the direction of their car. So what do they do but leave their nice, well-lit camp, where they have guns and lots of ammo, and even some gasoline they can splash on the fire when they need a little extra illumination. They discover their prized roadkill has been mostly and messily devoured. (Donnie smothers a burp, surreptitiously wipes the corner of his mouth.) John examines the remains and finds a black fang embedded in the deer entrails. He shows it to his buddies.

Well, 'round about now them Dunce boys are figurin' it's high time to get the hell out of there, so they pile into the car. Donnie concedes it's not a beaver. Andy's at the wheel again, so of course he totals the car right off the bat: thinking he has it in reverse when it's actually in forward, he guns it and rams a tree. Andy's more than a bit of a fuck-up, but that's hardly a unique characteristic in this bunch.

Donnie shoots a critter through the car window. The boys realize they're almost out of ammo, so Andy volunteers to go back to camp for more. His "friends" let him go by himself. There are four of these big manly deer hunters, and the aliens -- of which they've so far only seen two or three -- are no larger than your average skinny ten-year-old. And if you run out of ammo, those shootin' irons could be used as clubs, right?

After Andy leaves, Donnie opines the boy's a dumbass, which is particularly rich since just a few minutes ago our hero was bragging to John about the terrible, horrible things he'd do to anyone who dared threaten his kinfolk or friends. Andy makes it to the camp, discovers our light-hating critters have destroyed the lanterns and trashed their gear. He fights off an attack by one of them with his camera flash. Then he improvises a torch, gathers some ammunition and heads back into the woods.

Meanwhile, back at the car, John occupies the time with some clumsy exposition: the critters must be light-sensitive because their eyes are super-sized. He deduces their connection to the meteorite, outlines his contributions to a Unified Field Theory and illustrates why the Trilateral Commission has to be behind the otherwise inexplicable popularity of the Kardashians.

Andy returns to the car. "There's probably about ten of them out there!" he tells his mates. Superlative woodcraft there, Andy! Not many city boys could come up with such a definite estimate, by torchlight, while booking it through the woods.

Andy convinces the others they're dead meat if they stay in the car. But there's that house they passed a couple of miles back up the road. "Two miles -- we can do that in 20 minutes!" he predicts confidently. Yeah, and after about three minutes at that pace, Donnie's heart would explode like a defective party balloon.

They set off down the road. They find the game warden's car. In another stark reminder of exactly how rock-stupid these guys are, Doug doesn't even bother to shine a flashlight into the car before he sticks his head through the driver's window. There's a critter in there, natch, and it attacks Doug. The boys grab his legs and manage to pull him out. Well, most of him, anyway. It's not like he needs that left arm for anything important.

Donnie blows the critter away. There aren't any keys in the ignition, and of course nobody thinks to check the trunk. And nobody knows how to hot-wire a car. They wrap Doug's stump and help him to his feet. It's only a flesh wound, after all.

They somehow make it to the house. It looks deserted, except for some pieces of Clyde's wife in the kitchen. Donnie seems strangely at ease in these blood-smeared surroundings. Why, it's just like special stew night at his place!

John decides they should cauterize Doug's stump. Andy finds a jar of moonshine; they let Doug take a few sips before they proceed with the cauterizing -- while he's still holding the jar. Lots of 180-proof alcohol slopping around near an open flame sounds like a great idea to me! You know, it's really remarkable that any of these fools made it to adulthood.

While Donnie stays with Doug, Andy and John go to investigate a noise. (Note that they've left half-conscious Doug conveniently positioned in a chair, right in front of a window.) They find Clyde, who's been hiding in a closet. He confesses he abandoned his wife when the aliens first attacked, and feels pretty bad about that. He refuses to leave now without all the bits of her. So John and Clyde sneak outside. Clyde thinks they must have dragged some of her into that outbuilding. He peers around the door, sees a critter and suddenly decides maybe the parts he's got are enough.

Clyde remembers his SUV is out of gas: they've got to get more from the garage. Clyde gets ambushed in the garage, his foot chewed off and throat shredded by another critter. John drags him back to the kitchen. Andy has a bright idea: put Clyde out in the yard to decoy the critters while they escape. (So he's a sociopath, as well as a fuck-up at critical moments. Now, remind me again: why are we supposed to care what happens to these people?)

Donnie's horrified -- ostensibly because Clyde's still alive, but I think he's really more concerned with the waste of toothsome vittles. There's plenty of good meat left on the other leg. Donnie says they're all going to Hell -- a sentiment with which I'm certain the audience can agree wholeheartedly by this point. Fortunately, Clyde resolves this tricky moral conundrum for them by dying.

As was utterly predictable, the critters yank Doug through the window. (No. 5 in the list of horror film cliches.) John blazes away at the window. Andy suggests it's time to bug out. Just for good measure, Donnie bravely wastes some more ammo on the window. They toss Clyde's body out in the yard, but the critters devour him so quickly the boys can't take advantage of the distraction.

"Man, we wasted Clyde!" laments Donnie. He may have looked a bit stringy, but with a little Adolph's tenderizer ...  (This is kind of off the subject, but maybe if they'd just stopped feeding them, the critters wouldn't have hung around.) Then the critters manage to knock out the electricity, so the boys make up some more torches and try for the SUV.

They make it, but then Andy realizes he left his camera inside. He runs back into the house. What, he's afraid someone will find those crotch-rocket selfies? When he doesn't return, John and Donnie go back inside and see what's left of Andy scattered around the parlor. No critters, though. Apparently they like to eat and run.

Donnie and John head back to the SUV. A critter leaps off the roof onto John's back. John's knocked down and dragged off, around the front of the SUV. Donnie's paralyzed with something or other. Just before he's pulled out of sight, John spits up a little blood, and favors Donnie with a last look that fairly screams "You are such a useless load!"

Donnie squeezes into the SUV. It won't start -- remember, it's got electrical troubles. But Donnie survives the rest of the night completely unscathed. So I guess the boys could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they'd just stayed in John's mom's car. Although, come to think of it, if I were faced with the prospect of spending a night in close quarters with Donnie, being simultaneously disemboweled and torn limb-from-limb by a bunch of piranha aliens might seem a far more merciful alternative. Especially if you couldn't crack a window.

As to why the critters left him alone, the best I can figure is that after scarfing down two good ol' boys, a herd of cows, a dog, a beefy, abusive boyfriend, a deer, a game warden, an elderly couple and Donnie's three friends, they thought: “Whoa! There's no need to get greedy. We'd better save Donnie for tomorrow.”

That, or they're watching their cholesterol.

Next morning, Donnie gathers up the people scraps and buries them all together. At least, that's what the director wants us to believe, but I'm not convinced: Donnie would have had the makings for one awfully tempting batch of his famous special stew.

Regardless, Donnie promises everyone he'll be back, and walks off, mumbling to himself. He talks to himself a lot.

Donnie decides against trying to hoof it out of there -- he's still recovering from last night's punishing two-mile trek, after all, and he's already blown a good part of the day scraping up and burying body parts and soliloquizing. So he pretends to work on the SUV for a while, then gives up, and starts looking in the garage for some wood to board up the house. He finds an alien hiding in a cardboard box, and shoots it while it grovels helplessly in the sun's glare. He kicks it a few times, and shoots it some more. Conserve his ammo? What are you, some kind of pussy?

Surprise! Terry -- you remember her, right? -- isn't dead meat after all; she spent the night hiding in another outbuilding. It seems she survived her dip in Meteor Critter Lake, even though she felt them bumping against her in the water. She says she thinks her perfume repelled them.

When Donnie tells her about the SUV not starting, Terry claims to have picked up a few things from her "asshole mechanic" boyfriend. (Probably including an STD or three.) It's difficult to see how helpful these proctological pointers are going to be when it comes to dealing with a balky electrical system, but she seems pretty insistent. So Donnie wanders off to fortify the house.

She can't fix it either. While Donnie dozes at the wheel of the SUV, he has a bad dream which will turn out to be semi-prophetic. (Cliche #17) Night falls: the critters are back. Terry squirts him with her perfume. She says that's just in case it was what prevented them from attacking her earlier, but I suspect Donnie must be getting pretty rank by now.

His half-assed attempt to fortify the house was of course a complete bust, consisting as it did of nailing a couple of flimsy boards crosswise on a few ground-floor windows, while leaving plenty of room for critters to squeeze through. Somebody -- probably Terry -- set oil drums with fires in them around the house, but a sudden downpour drowns the flames. When the critters get into the house, Donnie and Terry retreat to the SUV. In all the excitement, Terry forgets to roll up her window.

The critters rock the SUV, while Donnie desperately cranks the engine. In a superb exhibition of dead-on comic timing, Clyde's vehicle demonstrates why it's the best actor in this dog: the hood slams down, and suddenly the electrics come on! It starts! This entire damn movie has been a setup for this one stupid joke.

A critter reaches through the window and claws Terry's neck -- so much for the perfume hypothesis -- as they drive off.

Terry wakes up in the hospital. Donnie's there; he tells her he asked an intern if there was any news about the hunting reserve. Nope, all they've heard is that a meteor fell there. It's not like all those people disappearing while leaving behind a blood-spattered -- hell, drenched -- house and a couple of cars would be newsworthy. This is North Carolina.

Donnie warns Terry that if they try to inform the authorities about the critters, nobody will believe them. It's not like anyone's ever going to ask Donnie what happened to those “friends”, right?

Donnie shyly asks Terry if she'd like to go to a movie with him sometime, and is justifiably amazed when she accepts. Woo-hoo! It looks like he'll finally have a real girlfriend. (Somewhere, a heifer is crying her heart out.) But first, he tells her, he has to take care of some business.

That special stew always loosens him up something fierce.

Cut to: Donnie and his redneck buddies, with a bunch of bikers, brandishing firearms as they head out of town for some alien hunting. (Donnie probably told them they're going after illegal aliens.) In the course of which, if things go as they ordinarily do on these sort of excursions, there'll be two knife fights, five shootings -- four of them accidental -- about a dozen cases of alcohol poisoning and at least one O.D. on meth.

When all's said and done, though, I bet Donnie will be the lone survivor of this group, too. And I wouldn't be surprised if he had one big honkin' tubful of his delicious special stew.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunday Sermonette: Swing Low, Sweet Swank

While spending a few idle moments piecing our archives back together, I came upon this 2009 column from World O' Crap Spiritual Advisor Pastor J. Grant Swank, Jr. ...
(Or as Doghouse Riley used to call him, "Ol' Glamor Shots.")

...and it's as relevant today as was the day it was written. Enjoy.

Remembrance of Thug Heads Past

The imminent collapse of the internet has put Pastor Swank in a reflective mood, and he waxes nostalgic about candy, postcards, and seizures.
There are studies “out there” that project that in a year Internet will crash.  Nemertes Research Corp is one of those prowlers. Conclusion:  Internet traffic will make cyberspace travel “unable to keep up with the demand.” Bandwidth will call QUITS.
I will call Bullshit.
Reason would conclude then that with emails going zip via Internet crash, stamp costs should plummet, rejoicing over the upswing in letter and card flow like when we actually used a pen to write on paper.
I’m not quite sure why the pastor is rejoicing over the upswing in card flow; it’s one thing to click on his Townhall blog, but I can’t really see myself sending him a self-addressed stamped envelope for this stuff.  He’s entertaining, but he’s no Pueblo, Colorado.
I heard this morning on a TV commercial the accent of frugality returning to our lifestyles. It’s because of the tight squeeze on the wallet.
Remember when your little body leaned against the candy glass case to pick out your several cents’ worth of bubble gum and Mary Janes?
The other day in the 5 & 10 in North Conway, NH, those eensy yellow-wrapped Mary Janes sold for 10 cents apiece. I about dropped through the case, flopping into an uncontrollable fit.
Ask your doctor if Mary Janes are right for you.  Side effects include tooth decay, epilepsy, and frottage with display cases.
With worldwide present-tense angst, I actually am looking forward to the future.
It may not be a pluperfect future, but it’ll be good.
I know that swine flu beckons and the Iranian thug head threatens to return his messiah via global smoke streams.
Unfortunately, he forgot to keep the receipt.  Stupid thug head.
PS: I just heard on TV that Catholics will not be exchanging the peace via hand shakes in Mass due to swine flu. Also, communion wafers are nix.
I just don’t understand your kooky teen lingo.
Thank you, Jesus, for living in my heart. That will have to suffice—as always.
No, thank you, Pastor Passive-Aggressive.
Again, looking up, I anticipate cheaper stamps and candy sales like unto Miss Daisy’s Candy Store on North Market Street, Frederick, MD—where I twisted those Mary Jane taffies round my taste buds.
And apparently triggered an acid flashback.  Meanwhile, the pastor is still mad about The Boy:
B. H. Obama is proclaimed as the New Messiah who will be crowned king of the One World Order.  Well, devotees, here is your time.
You’ve set yourself up in a pinnacle of the temple, survived a deadly wound, slain Elijah and Enoch, and generally been an abomination that causes desolations.  Now comes Miller Time.
If there was ever an entry into Jerusalem for the Anointed One, it is when the globe drops prostrate before the pig flu.
Raise the palm branches. Let the shawls fling heavenward. The warblers are singing.
Obama, the mystic weaver, the mob hysteria creator, the Marxist Muslim claiming to be Pied Piper of the proletariat, come forth!
The Community Organizer can now go to it. The wordsmith to fool may position center stage. Time to spring forth as the Global Village Networker par excellence.
This is your brain.  This is your brain on Swank.
Revelation 13:1-10 specifically lays out the symbolic detail. What is intriguing is to figure out the literalism behind the symbolism.
Yes.  That should make things more surreal.
But for biblical believers, none of that is fanciful for it is the Christ vision afforded the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos circa AD 95.
John was actually booked for seven days, six nights on the Isle of Lesbos but his travel agent screwed up the reservation, so he spent most of his time drunk in a beach cabana.
In the meantime, biblical enthusiasts lay the Scriptures down alongside newsfeeds, praying for God’s gift of discernment.
Otherwise known as “Google Reader.”
But now in present-tense it, seems as if, even apart from the discernment gift, one with half a brain tied behind his carbuncles, The Boy is ripe for filling the shoes of the One World Governor—pig flu oinking loudly.
Well.  What can you add to that?
Posted by scott on Saturday, May 2nd, 2009 at 11:02 pm.

Bonus! Original comments to this post below the fold...

Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy Birthday M.Bouffant! I Got You An Extra Head!

Today is the natal anniversary of endlessly entertaining curmudgeon and indefatigable photojournalist, M. Bouffant, proprietor of one of our favorite joints, Web of Evil (formerly Just Another Blog From L.A.).

Last year I got him a plaint from kvetchy old coot Burt Prelutsky, but since M. is himself a proud member of the Coot-American Community, it seemed redundant. So at a loss for a gift, I turned, as I so often do, to the wisdom of Hollywood. For what are films but the collective dream of an audience? In the light and shadows of the cinema, we find a reflection of our common hopes and dreams, the threads which bind humanity together. Look at movies across the ages, and you will see that deep down, we all desire the same things: to love and be loved; to know that we have lived lives possessed of meaning and purpose; and most important of all, to have a parasitic twin.

The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (1971)
Directed by Anthony M. Lanza
Written by James Gordon White and John Lawrence

Director Anthony Lanza learned his craft at the feet of such independent visionaries as Arch Hall, Sr. (Eegah) and Coleman Francis (The Skydivers), and his command of metaphorical imagery is apparent from the very first frame: a close up of an oddly flaccid pear tree, symbolizing to anyone looking for a crappy movie to snark on that there's lots of low-hanging fruit ahead.

Principle screenwriter James Gordon White, on the other hand, leaned more toward the auteur school. Like filmmakers such as John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, and Akira Kurosawa, White often returned to the same grand, overarching themes in his work; in this case he followed 1971's The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant with 1972's The Thing With Two Heads.

Our story gets off to a grindhousey start as a maniac terrorizes a tied-up woman by brandishing a butcher knife and a porn mustache (judging by where her gaze is fixed, she seems to fear the mustache more), while her (parents?) lie dead on the floor, covered with blood so red and rich and thick you just want to dunk your home fries in their jugulars.

Suddenly four Highway Patrol cars pull up for no reason, and then we’re in court, where a judge sentences Porn Stache to a mental institution, and by “court” I mean “Sears Portrait Studio”,  since the judge is sitting at a cheaply-made bench, while the defendant is posed in front of a black velvet curtain. (I guess it’s possible that in this small town, they conduct their murder trials in the same place the Junior High snaps its class pictures.)

Cut to the theme song, a lush cocktail jazz number sung by a sultry chanteuse who just seems to be winging it (“It’s incredible/That we can simply/Ooooopen wiiiiide…”) over scenes of a huge man in bib overalls running through meadows in slow motion like there was a serious casting snafu with a Tampax commercial.

Casey Kasem, World Famous Doctor, visits Marilyn from The Munsters, who’s worried, and has reason to be, because she’s just discovered that she's married to Bruce Dern. “He hasn’t come out of that laboratory in two days," Marilyn frets, although you’d think she would have gotten used to that kind of thing with Grandpa. Anyway, Casey comforts her with some crap about how her husband loves her, despite his recent nervous breakdown, and she should just keep loving him back and keep reaching for the stars, then he goes in to talk some sense into Bruce, which in 99 movies out of a 100 means he’s about to die.

It turns out Bruce can’t leave his lab because he’s achieved a major scientific breakthrough by taping two monkeys together! Casey is impressed, and immediately dedicates “Reunited (and It Feels So Good)” by Peaches and Herb to the conjoined capuchins.

Bruce decides to leave the lab after all, because he’s being glared at by his assistant, Max, who like most movie lab assistants has poor posture and a withered hand. However, unlike the usual crop of willowy, neurasthenic Igors, Max is wizened, bloated, and pasty-white, and looks less like a mad doctor's  henchman and more like Poppin Fresh playing the Jack Nicholson part in Ironweed.

Bruce and Marilyn walk Casey to the door, where their guest is nearly decapitated by the Bib Overalls guy, who is standing on the porch, taking vicious cuts at the air with an axe because he doesn’t feel fresh. But the Derns forgive this behavior because Bib got brain damage from a mine cave-in, and now they love him like their own huge, dangerous, axe-abusing son.  (Bib has a father of his own -- Bruce's groundskeeper -- but since Dad looks like the week-old corpse of Percy Kilbride after it’s been picked clean by turkey vultures, he’s probably not going to make it to the end credits.)

But despite all the love, there’s a spiritual sickness afflicting the Dern Estate, and its inhabitants are breaking the Tenth Commandment right and left: Bib covets Marilyn’s booty, while Max covets Bib’s body. Only Bruce is pure in purpose, dedicating himself to the quest for knowledge. When his taped-together mass monkey dies, he performs an autopsy, and thoughtfully concludes, “If this little fellow were healthy, he’d still be alive.”

The Dern’s marriage is hanging by a thread. Marilyn takes a bath with so much thick, concealing foam she looks like Mr. Bubble, then wraps herself in a towel the size of the tarp they stretch over baseball infields during rain delays, and puts on a drab housedress, and yet nothing seems to entice him! Finally she demands satisfaction, and Bruce promises that if she'll just let him go on duct-taping primates together, he’ll take her away from all this.

Marilyn is unconvinced. "You said that before," she pouts.

“But you know what happened before,” Bruce smoothly explains. “I didn’t mean it…And now I mean it.”

Oh, well that changes everything.

Cut to Porn Stache in the mental institution, choking an orderly to death for wearing the same facial hair. He escapes, while Casey -- a World Famous Surgeon, remember -- picks up some extra scratch reading the news and weather on the local radio station, and reports the escape as it's happening, even though nobody saw it but us, and we weren't paying attention.

Porn Stache shows up at the Dern estate while Bib is out frolicking in the meadow again, and kills Bib’s cadaverous Dad with the old hoe-to-the-head gambit. Then he knocks out Bruce with one punch and elaborately hogties him while Marilyn just sort of stands there like she’s waiting for a bus. Or her check. Eventually her bored, lifeless stare gives the psycho killer the willies, and he abducts her just to have something to do with his hands. They drive off to the accompaniment of a weirdly staccato flute solo that sounds like Ian Anderson suffering a coughing spasm in the middle of “Bungle in the Jungle.”

Bruce and Max give chase, helped along by Casey’s barely disguised voice on the radio, which basically says, “Boy if I were looking for a serial killer who just kidnapped my wife, I’d go to that cabin where he covered people in ketchup two years ago.”  Meanwhile, at Catsup Cabin, Porn Stache wants to menace Marilyn but he doesn’t have a knife, so he breaks a gallon milk bottle and threatens her with that, which I’ve never seen before, but I suppose he probably read about it on some serial killer lifehack site.

Fortunately, Marilyn is able to get to her can of spinach. "The Sailor's Hornpipe" starts playing and she catapults Porn Stache off her, then sprints out to the road, where she flags down her husband who just happens to be driving by. Bruce and Max hop out; Bruce hugs Marilyn and utters some unintelligible, Olive Oyl-like endearments while Max shoots Porn Stache in the kidney. Then everyone piles back into the family car (including the hemorrhaging, morally wounded serial killer) and drives home, where they find Bib weeping over his dead Dad. Bruce puts Marilyn to bed and tenderly shoots her up with her a sedative, and as she slips into unconsciousness she implores Bruce to “help” Bib, which he interprets to mean, “chloroform,” then “sew a maniac’s head to his shoulder.”

Six days go by. Bib and Porn Stache, now fused into the hybrid being Bib-Stache, wake up in the middle of the night, none the worse for sharing a neck, although curiously, neither one needs a shave. (Which is a shame, because I hoped they’d balance out their look with matching Tom Selleck-style lip topiaries.) 

Cut to Marilyn, who sneaks into the lab to see what all the transplanting is about, and is immediately menaced by Bib-Stache. Max comes to her aid and is instantly coldcocked, then Bruce arrives to throw what we assume is acid in his creation’s faces, but which turns out to be barely astringent.  Bib-Stache staggers out into the night and Bruce awakens Marilyn from her swoon (the filmmakers couldn’t figure out how to fake ammonia capsules, but that’s okay, because apparently you can revive fainting victims by making them smell a wadded up Kleenex).

Bib-Stache splashes a little water in his faces, and feels good enough to visit the local Lover’s Lane, where he yanks a young couple through their convertible top and strangles them as Stache laughs hysterically and Bib weeps pitifully, so it’s kind of like watching Jimmy Swaggart masturbate.  (I feel a little bad about the girl dying, but her boyfriend had it coming, if only for his odd decision to mix Hitler’s haircut with Elvis’s sideburns from the 1968 Comeback Special.)

Max ties up and gags Marilyn while Bruce lies to the Sheriff about all the people who’ve suddenly gone missing. Unfortunately, the instant the cops leave, Casey arrives; he's on vacation from the hospital, and apparently got someone to cover his shift at the radio station. So Bruce shoots up Marilyn again, then goes and lies to Casey about how he’s got no time to visit because he’s in the middle of a very important duct-taped ape experiment, and he certainly isn’t keeping his wife bound, gagged, and in a medically induced coma.

The next day, a ravenous Bib-Stache goes out in search of food (since he’s eating for 1 and 1/16th now), but he gets distracted and kills three skeezy bikers. Casey is on his way out of town when he hears about the two-headed monstrosity that killed a couple in Lovers Lane, and immediately goes to the Sheriff to rat out his best friend for building two-headed monstrosities. But the Sheriff doesn’t have time for all that now, because a two-headed monstrosity just killed some skeezy bikers, and he selects Casey to act as today’s medical examiner, in much the same way contestants are chosen on The Price Is Right. After Casey sees the  brutal way Bruce’s creation slaughtered three people, he decides against exposing him, because despite it all Bruce is his friend, and Casey might need help moving some day.

Casey races back to the Dern Estate, just as Marilyn wakes from her nod (considering how often she’s been shot up lately, she’s probably going through heroin withdrawal by now). Casey unties her, just in time for a gun-toting Bruce to return and lock her in a rabbit hutch. But when Bruce finds out his creation has been on a killing spree, he agrees to go with Casey to the Sheriff. Curiously, neither of them thinks to let Marilyn out of the hutch.

As soon as they leave the lab, Bib-Stache staggers into it (just in case you ever wondered what a door-slamming Feydeau farce would look like if it starred Junior Samples as a two-headed tampon spokesmodel). Marilyn immediately faints and Bib-Stache kidnaps her, because go with your strength, but with only her wits to rely on, the plucky, if unconscious Marilyn strikes back by dropping a trail of shoes behind her like breadcrumbs.

Marilyn wakes up in the mine where Bib got his brain damage. This is the fifth or sixth time she’s regained consciousness in this movie, and by this point she can snap it on or off like a Clapper. Bruce, Casey, and Max surprise Bib-Stache, then politely queue up to shoot him with a rifle, throw a net over him, and stab him in the neck with a hypodermic. But it’s the end of the movie, so our monster and monster-makers have to die; Casey drags Marilyn out of the mine while Max dies ignominiously and Bruce dies semi-heroically, blasting away at his creation with a shotgun as an off-camera stagehand drizzles sawdust on his head to simulate a cave-in.

Casey and Marilyn decide they can best honor Bruce's memory by lying to the cops and blaming all the deaths on the grieving, mentally challenged man Bruce mutilated in his lab. And as for that two-headed monstrosity? “You know,” Casey tells a deputy, “Sometimes too much imagination can…can destroy a man.” An admonition the screenwriters obviously took to heart (at press time they’re both still alive).

We now close with the tender love theme from The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant (“Too many times the thunder caused the raiiiiiiin…!”)  Go home, honey, you're drunk. Karaoke's over.

Oh, and there’s a lingering, superimposed shot of a toy robot, but if that’s supposed to mean something, I missed it.

The End.

Please join me in wishing M. Bouffant a very -- as the song says -- Happy Birthday! And as the other song says, It's incredible that we can simply open wide. And while you're thinking about that:

Sexy Birthday Lizards doin' their sexy, sexy thang.
(Today's SBL is an original, courtesy of Theresa DiMenno Photography, h/t to Preznit.)

Monday, September 15, 2014

For I Was Thirsty, And Ye Sold Me a Mug

Well, I'm still not quite up to slumming around the Information Superhighway, but I'm also not about to look a gift horse in the ass, so let's check out some of the masterfully counterintuitive sales spiels from the Bring Back Bush! nostalgia industry:
You remember Sara Armstrong, the RNC Chief Operating Officer who was Laura Bush's Special Assistant Undersecretary for Thank You Cards, and Senior Wine Cooler Uncapper? Well, she's been in a funk ever since the morning of January 20th, 2009, when, for the final time, she broke open a 24-bottle Variety Pack of Seagram's Escapes and handed the First Lady her last official Jamaican Me Happy. Ever since, Sara has been coping with a life bereft of creamy cardstock and fortified Sangria by trying to sell me theme mugs and Beefy-Ts.
After 5 years of President Obama, America needs real leaders like President George W. Bush.
Interesting use of the plural. I guess in Sara's view, President Obama barely qualifies as a leader, while George W. Bush was so much of a leader he was legion, he was a leaders -- a composite president formed by having Dick Cheney shove his hand up Bush's ass and work the jaw (Administration insiders recall the process being very similar to the way Lion Force combined to form Voltron, except it involved more Astro-Glide and squealing.)
While working in the Bush administration, I saw how much President Bush valued honesty and transparency. 
I thought I could live without the "I Miss W." mug until I got to the end of that sentence and realized how badly I needed to do a spit-take.

But it's not only the little people who pine for a man some consider arguably the nation's worst president, certain that if given another chance he would come back and remove all doubt. It's also the major players (and major playahs) like sex machine Ari Fleischer:
It seems like yesterday I was standing next to President George W. Bush while he made critical decisions for the future of our country. 
It is times like this when the character, courage and commitment of an individual are tested. 
"And I'm proud to say that never once, as I watched President Bush struggle with critical thinking skills, did I give in to the urge to bust out laughing. I passed the test. I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Aridriel."
And it is times like this when President Bush especially shined as a leader — and a person.
But he particularly shined as a leaders (the combination of Bush's flop-sweat and Cheney's greasy T-Zone produced an unusually high albedo).
I really do miss W. 
Well then why don't you call him instead of trying to sell me crockery?  It's like having that chick from Fifty Shades of Grey suddenly start mooning about zip-ties and spanking in the middle of her Amway pitch.
Now you have an opportunity to get a cool, convenient American-made mug and make a statement:
Get your official "I Miss W Mug"
I suppose you could debate whether the mug is "cool," but to stretch the concept of irony that far, I think you'd really have to combine "air quotes" with the old "a fish this big" gesture. However, I don't consider a mug "convenient" unless it's right beside my coffee maker, which this one is clearly not, and never will be, so I have to consider that a fatal design flaw. Also, I was confused by the slogan, "SALUTE to a GREAT ONE," until I ran it through Google Translate and discovered that in English it means, "I Guess I Like Bush Okay, But I Really Miss Jackie Gleason." 
I just got mine in the mail, and I must say, it’s a great way to start your day. 
Assuming you've filled it with a Bloody Mary.
Ari Fleischer
Former White House Press Secretary, President George W. Bush
Co-Chair, the Growth and Opportunity Project
Maybe it's just me, but as a connoisseur of corporate euphemisms, the Growth and Opportunity Project sounds kind of like an industry trade group for a particularly aggressive form of cancer.
P.S. Reince says these mugs are flying off the shelves (and I’m not surprised). Don’t wait to get yours.
Seems redundant, Ari, since if I owned one it'd be flying off the shelf too.

Finally, we're joined by RNC Finance Director Kate Walsh, who's got the T-Shirt concession today.
President George W. Bush was committed to protecting our freedom, promoting peace throughout the world, and advancing the ideals and principles that make America so great.
I was also committed to some pretty big goals, before I retired to paint nude self-portraits, and like Bush my efforts not only failed to bring me closer to achieving them, they actually set me back farther then I would have been if I'd done absolutely nothing. So I'm relieved to learn that commitment counts more than accomplishment for our final grade.
He said it best when he proclaimed: “We will not waver, we will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail. Peace and Freedom will prevail.”
Burma Shave.
It’s a good reminder of who we are and what we stand for as Americans.
Stand with us and get a limited-edition, American-made “I Miss W.” t-shirt today.
So we stand for overpriced screen printing? Say what you want about the RNC, at least it's an ethos.