Saturday, August 9, 2014

I'm Not Helping Your Legacy, Am I?

I read that Menahem Golan, of The Cannon Group and Golan-Globus fame, passed away yesterday at the age of 85, and while my enjoyment of his films was somewhat impaired by how much I didn't enjoy them, I do admire the guy's work ethic.  He produced 200 movies, directed 44, and undeniably left a mark on film history; one might even say a bruise.

So I thought, "attention must be paid to such a person," and tried to recall if we'd written about any of Mr. Golan's pictures in the past.  There're probably several examples, but the first thing that came to mind was this piece on the 1983 Hercules, starring Lou Ferrigno:

Hercules (1983)
Directed by:  Luigi Cozzi (as Lewis Coates)
Written by:  Luigi Cozzi

The screen is black. Sadly, it doesn’t stay that way.

A string of Black Cat firecrackers explode, representing the Big Bang, and leaving some flakes of charred paper stuck to the camera lens.

“From the primordial explosion,” our deep-voiced narrator explains, “Emerged the Fire of Chaos.” At this performance, the Fire of Chaos will be played by a flaming Kingsford Charcoal Briquette, confirming Stephen Hawking’s theory that while the Universe has no boundary in space-time, its edges light quickly.

“Chaos merged with Darkness, and from this union were born the elements: Night, day, matter, and air.”

I think you’re missing a couple elements there – fire, water – and according to the Periodic Table, Night and Day is actually a Cole Porter tune from The Gay Divorcee.

Due to layoffs and budget cutbacks, the Greek pantheon has been reduced to just three gods. This understaffed celestial call center is ruled by Zeus, father of gods and men, lord of creation, and judging by his wig and beard, an off-season Salvation Army Santa with one of those crowns you get when you taste Imperial margarine.

The gods live in a crater on the moon, in a temple which recalls the majestic architecture of Classical Greece; except the columns look like giant plaster dildos, and appear to be covered in melted wax like Chianti bottles, so it’s sort of like ancient Athens if the Parthenon were a gayer, more fetish-oriented Shakeys.

Zeus creates a champion “who is stronger and more intelligent than all other men,” a process which involves watching Lou Ferrigno go through his Mr. Universe pose down routine in the middle of a planetarium show. Ordinarily this would just be horrifying, but Hercules goes the extra mile by having Lou wear a flesh-toned G-string to simulate nudity. And for those who’ve wondered whether steroids actually shrink genitalia, check out the contrast between Lou’s bloated musculature and flat-front thong; it’s like someone grafted Barbie’s pelvis onto a Stretch Armstrong’s torso.

Zeus plays flashlight tag with the earth, before depositing a glowing glob into a baby, in a scene about which the less said, the better.

Sybil Danning, who is dressed like one of King Tut’s molls from the old Batman TV show, conspires to kill “little Hercules,” (apparently she saw the flesh-toned jockstrap too), and her troops offers another fresh perspective on the founders of Western Civilization. In addition to their Illyrian helmets, Boeotian shields, and bronze spears, Greek soldiers were also equipped with Bedazzlers, judging by their heavily rhinestoned armor. Apparently there’s a previously unnoticed footnote to the Iliad which reads, “Fashions by Bob Mackie.”

A maid snatches up “Poor Little Prince Hercules” and flees through the forest, although the Foley guy seems convinced she’s running through corn flakes with a goat in her arms.

She puts Baby Hercules in a boat and sends him floating down the river, where he bumps into Moses going the other way. The boat drifts past some View-Master slides, then goes over a waterfall, but the infant is saved when his boat is caught in mid air by a giant cartoon hand from Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Hera is one of the three remaining gods and is pissed that she has to work a double shift, so she sends two snakes to kill Hercules. And when I say “snakes,” I mean “two yard long turds that have been flocked like Christmas trees and spray-painted the color of split-pea soup, then given two bicycle reflectors for eyes.” It doesn’t work out.

Herc is plucked from the river by two Greek peasants who live in the Flintstone’s house for some reason (possibly Fred was laid off from the quarry after the transition from stone to bronze tools, and he and Wilma walked away from their mortgage. Or maybe Dino matured into a velociraptor and learned how to open the front door).

Herc’s foster mother is barren, but likes to press the infant to her dry breast just to mess with him. Nevertheless, he grows up into big ‘n’ tall Lou Ferrigno, who mercifully trades in his invisible G-string for a Naugahyde diaper.

Herc is out in the forest, harvesting Styrofoam trees, when his father is mauled by stock footage of a bear. Hercules is so enraged that he screams and punches the camera, then throws a Build-A-Bear into orbit. It passes a bone hurled by a slightly more intelligent hominid from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and stages a brief Laser Floyd show before eventually turning into the constellation Ursa Major (better known by its common name, "Explosive Decompression."

Meanwhile, Minos has abandoned Crete and is also now living on the Moon, where he has been crowned king of an old Star Trek set. He uses the transporter to summon Dedalus, who as we all know is an alien woman dressed in a plastic unitard and a shower curtain with a cellophane Dracula collar, a baseball infielder’s cup, green spray-painted cowboy boots, and a golden leather football helmet with fish fins.

Minos believes in Science!, so he commands Dedalus to create some mechanical monsters which can destroy Hercules. She responds with a couple of Mexican Day of the Dead figurines and a Millennium Falcon model someone assembled while on acid, then burned in the driveway.

Back on Earth, Hercules is plowing a field by dragging some rocks behind him. Weaker men might have preferred to plow using something with an edge on it – like a plow – but Herc likes to flaunt his demi-godly strength, and frequently uses rocks in place of ordinary household items, like forks, or toilet paper.

Suddenly, Hercules’s friend Mulletus gallops over the hill and screams, “Your mother is in danger!” Then he turns and trots off. Herc’s expression is rather blank, but he undoubtedly appreciates Mullutus telling him that his mom is about to be killed. He probably would have appreciated a ride even more.

By the time Hercules jogs home, his foster mother has been killed by Dedalus’ machine (it’s supposed to recall the mechanical owl from Clash of the Titans grown to Brobdingnagian proportions, but more closely resembles a Norelco shaver made out of Legos and despair).

After an implied fight with the Tinker Toy monster, Herc cremates his mother, then torches the Flintstone place. Mulletus asks why he’s burning down his own house, and Herc replies, “I don’t have a house anymore.”

Well, no, now that you’ve set it on fire. Burns good for a big granite mushroom, though.

Hercules goes off to audition for some king who’s looking for bodybuilders with a reasonable amount of stage combat training. Our hero doesn’t qualify, but his Fairy Godeditor helps out by enchanting Herc’s sword, so that whenever he smacks someone it farts out a crappy video effect.

Next, Hercules must fight twenty men at once. Unfortunately, he never learned the complicated rules of Greco-Roman wrestling, so he just picks up a giant log and crushes everybody. Then he hurls the log into deep space, where it becomes the Duraflame constellation.

The king’s daughter Cassiopea wears a veil, because it is foretold that she will marry the first man who sees her face, or maybe because she just hasn’t waxed her mustache lately. She’s Greek, after all. The king subcontracts Hercules to escort Casio to Athens, but first he has to clean all the horseshit out of the stable, then see what he can do about rinsing some of it out of the script.

Herc tosses a rock into the Grand Canyon, which somehow makes the Colorado River ride an elevator to the top and drown all the horses. It also turns the stable into a sparkling gay bathhouse.

The mildew-free tile and wet, dead horses arouse Calliope, and she removes her veil in slow motion. She and Herc kiss, but a badly superimposed Zeus appears and tazes them with a lightning bolt from his forehead (my dad used to do this too, but at least he’d wait until I got to second base).

Sybil kidnaps Cassowary and Herc washes ashore on that island where H.R. Puffnstuf is mayor, and is immediately molested by Witchiepoo. She takes him to the Cave Room at the Madonna Inn and tests him for steroids and diabetes, then drinks his blood sample and transforms from a hideous crone into a beautiful maiden! Or at least into a pleasant-looking MILF with only the usual amount of dried rubber cement on her face.

The woman, Circe, takes Hercules to the Los Angeles County Arboretum, where they gawk at a waterfall.

“This,” Herc exclaims, “is a Garden of Eden!” Apparently it’s the beta version.

Meanwhile, Casserole is imprisoned in one of those cardboard jails where people pay “fines” to get “bailed out” at Rotary Club fundraisers.

Circe leads Herc across the “Rainbow Bridge,” which leads to “the Gates of Hell.” They don’t find his missing girlfriend, but they are greeted by lots of dead pets.

Charon, the skull-faced boatman ferries them across the Styx (at this performance the role of the River Styx will be played by a cement floor and a fog machine), then Circe transports them to a Beach Party movie, where Herc has to fight the King of Africa, who arrives on a sedan chair borne by the Washington Generals. Circe uses her magical powers to transform Hercules into Ultraman, and he grows large and tall enough that we really can’t help but look up his skirt. Thanks Circ.

Unfortunately, one upskirt shot and Circle falls in love with Hercules, which makes her lose all her powers. But they accidentally arrive at their destination anyway, where Circe is immediately shot with a laser by – I’m not kidding – a robot Cyclops centaur. Hercules smacks the thing around until it makes a sound like a 1970 Plymouth Duster swallowing a valve, and then, in it’s death throes, it performs anal sex on itself with its own tail.

I’m still not kidding.

Herc wakes up chained to the floor, just as Sybil arrives with a chalice full of “The Black Lotus” and tells Herc they’re going to get high and then boink, suggesting the screenplay drew upon several classical texts: Hesiod’s The Shield of Herakles, Euripides’ Children of Hercules, and Sophocles’ Letters to Penthouse Forum.

Minos takes Cassette into Mount Doom, where he plans to stuff her into a picnic basket and lower her into the lava. She seems okay with this, probably because the “lava” appears to be Campbell’s tomato bisque on a low simmer.

Herc surprises Minos, coming prematurely to do battle after coming pre—well, you get it. But the king is armed with a glowing, flaming, multi-colored sword that’s kind like a light saber if they came in Neopolitan flavor. So it's on, bitch!

The fight is kind of dull, until Hercules accidentally makes the volcano erupt with stock footage. Castrol and Herc panic and run around the tiny set, while we cut to shots of burning Styrofoam pyramids and hear the ADR folks shrieking gamely from the looping stage.

So, Herc has managed to kill everybody on the island, but he did get the girl. He just doesn’t seem to know what to do with her, as Cassaba tries to give him a kiss, but he deflects it and retaliates with a little pack-patting hug. Then they suddenly shoot into the stars, where they become the Just Good Friends constellation.
Two bears goin' at it (feel free to supply your own caption).

R.I.P., Mr. Golan.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

until it makes a sound like a 1970 Plymouth Duster swallowing a valve

Ah feel yer pain, Scott.

Doc Logan said...

Menahem Golan produced a film that was eerily prophetic about the current split in the Republican party, predicting the current tensions between the traditional hypercapitalist wing of the party and the insurgent fundamentalist wing. I speak, of course, of "Texas Chainsaw Massacre II".

The Sawyer family are committed to making as big a profit as possible, cutting costs literally to the bone. Then you have Dennis Hopper as Lefty, loudly quoting bible verses as he battles the Sawyers, both sides blithely ignoring the collateral damage in their wake.

Rest in peace, Menahem. If only we had heeded your warning, Sarah Palin would have remained in obscurity.

Anonymous said...

Caption? I was going to search for a catchy slogan from a lube advertisement but now I'm leaning towards: "Man, adopted by bear, taught to shit in the woods".