Saturday, December 31, 2016

So Long, Farewell Auf Wiedersehen, Goodnight

Note: In the days since Scott and Jeff recorded this retrospective, we have lost George Michael, Watership Down author Richard Adams, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds. This episode is respectfully dedicated to their memory.

Note 2: This episode is completely unedited.

Note 3: This episode contains several very important announcements.

Note 4: 2016 will never be spoken of again.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Agog With Blogs!

The 2016 Jon Swift Roundup is live, featuring the best blog posts of the year, chosen by the bloggers themselves (well of course they'd think these were the best published this year. But hey, it's the Age of Trump now, so conflict of interest no longer exists). All thanks to Batocchio for keeping the tradition, and the memory of Reasonable Conservative Jon Swift, alive.

Check it out when you have a few moments, because there's some great stuff on display this year (and also one of our posts, but that's just there for scale, or contrast, or something).

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Slumgullion Presents: It's a Wonderful Life

Merry Christmas, guys. As longtime readers know, we've got a tradition around here of writing up really horrible holiday movies, but this year I thought we'd try something a little more multimedia. Since I'm fortunate enough to have access to the very talented John Szura and Blanche Ramirez, who narrate the audiobook version of Better Living Through Bad Movies, I wanted to give everyone a preview of the new volume (Better Living Through Bad Movies II: The Sequelizer [coming soon]).

And what better film to begin with than that quintessential Christmas classic, It's A Wonderful Life. Now some people may disagree with this choice, and I won't argue that it's well made and well acted, but once you stop taking the movie at face value, you realize that far from simple selfless folk brimming with small town virtues and the milk of human kindness, every character in this picture is a raging ego beast who will happily cut a bitch to get what they want. Except for George, who's such a pathetic masochist that porn actors in a German fetish video would decline to pee on him because he just seems too needy.

Hope you enjoy.

And check this space in coming days for big news about the podcast.

Rogue One Singular Sensation

Tired of hearing your racist uncle pontificate over the giblets then holiday? Then plug in your earbuds and settle back with some baby blue milk and cookies for a highly Star Warsy episode of The Slumgullion. This time Jeff and Scott are joined by the New Movie Crew (i.e., Mary and the Voices of the Better Living Through Bad Movie: The Audiobook, John and Blanche) for a cheerful, no-spoilers-barred autopsy of Rogue One.
[Note: This show was recorded before Carrie Fisher's recent health problems, and there's one, maybe two jokes in there we'd really appreciate if you'd overlook. Thanks.]

And check back later today for our Annual World O' Crap Bad Christmas Movie Spectacular.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Pre-Christmas Beast Blogging

SHADOW: Hm, well...for the new year I'd like less division between Americans, less hatred between ethnic groups, and...maybe a little less contrast in photos.

MOONDOGGIE: Okay, just wake me when it's 2017. And in the meantime, please pour my treats down this hole. Thank you.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Dejah Does Barsoom or Was This Trip Really Necessary?

By Hank Parmer

The planet Mars has long been a source of fascination for me. When I was a young boy, it was one of the two other worlds in our solar system where scientists thought life more advanced than a bacterium or virus might exist. For some reason, the Jurassic swamps and planet-covering oceans of science-fictional Venus never appealed to my youthful imagination the way that Mars did, with its canals and ice caps and mysterious features that seemed to change with its seasons. It was a frequent setting for my daydreams of being a fearless space explorer.

I was a sucker for any story featuring the Red Planet. So it was inevitable that sooner or later I'd latch onto Edgar Rice Burroughs' Mars series. The first one I read -- okay, devoured was The Mastermind of Mars. The story had everything needed to enthrall my ten year old self: a mad scientist swapping subjects' brains for fun and profit, a ferocious four-armed giant white ape who's had half a human cerebrum plopped into his skull, flying battleships, radium pistols, desperate swordplay and fantastic adventures on an alien world. Over the next few years, it was a frabjous day indeed when I came across one of these novels in the shop where my eldest brother bought his pipe tobacco. He would take me along to get me out of my parents' hair, since the place also sold used paperbacks, making it a little slice of heaven to my geeky SF-craving self.

At that age, of course, it's easy to ignore the fact that the author kept recycling pretty much the same plot: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy fights his way across a planet of weird aliens and gruesome monsters to rescue girl. Though my tastes may have become a bit more refined since those days, I revisit the novels every few years, because despite their creaky pulp fiction tropes they're still colorful, wildly imaginative and just plain fun.

Burroughs romantic vision of the Red Planet -- or "Barsoom" as it's known to its inhabitants -- with its ancient, highly advanced science, strange peoples and bizarre fauna, its magnificent ruined cities and dead sea bottoms covered in ocher moss was a hit with the public when the first novel in the series (which was also Burroughs' first novel) was serialized as "Under the Moons of Mars" in Argosy magazine in 1912. Published in book form as A Princess of Mars, this was followed by eleven more adventures, the last of them written in the late 1940s. The series remains a major influence on science fiction, although some hairsplitting types prefer to call this genre "science fantasy".

Obviously, the sets and effects required to bring this world to life on the silver screen make it a daunting proposition. With Burroughs' enthusiastic support, Bob Clampett -- yes, *that* Bob Clampett -- tried unsuccessfully to sell MGM on the idea of a series of animated shorts back in 1936. It took Disney almost 25 years to finally get their 2012 version of that first novel off the ground.

Given the deep hurting I experienced reviewing those two crap-stravaganzas from the Larry Buchanan of our time, Mark Atkins -- Jack the Giant Killer and P-51 Dragon Fighter -- you can imagine it was a real WTF moment for me to discover that three years before the Disney flick this auteur du merde got a chance to apply his Reverse Midas touch to the same story. Straight to video, and without crediting Burroughs. Which shows considerable chutzpah, considering Atkins' screenplay utilizes major elements of the plot, characters, incidents and (until they changed it in later releases to John Carter of Mars) even gets its freaking title from the book. (They attempt to weasel out of this by crediting Edgar on the DVD cover.)

The really odd thing about this piece of crap is that it follows the original novel rather more closely than the Disney film did. Not that that lessens the pain, but it does mean that for once Atkins had a story which doesn't seem to have been written by trolls. Naturally his stab at adapting it into a screenplay will fail miserably, but I have to say it has a surprisingly coherent plot -- for a Mark Atkins joint.

As so often happens with an Atkins film, it appears to have been cobbled together hastily in order to leech off a much bigger-budgeted production: 2009's Avatar -- which was also clearly inspired by Burroughs' novel. I can almost admire Atkins' temerity in tackling this project: With the resources and talent he would bring to bear, it was the cinematic equivalent of setting out to raft the Colorado on a pool float, with a 2-liter bottle of Big K Cola and a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos for provisions. And ended just about as well.

So on with the show:

Princess of Mars (2009)
Directed by: Mark Atkins
Screenplay by: Mark Atkins
Director of Photography: Mark Atkins
Edited by: Mark Atkins

(We are so boned.)

John Carter -- beefcake model, soap opera stiff and Trump fanboy Antonio Sabato, Jr. -- is a Special Forces guy in Afghanistan. While on a mission to put a stop to some opium smugglers (the CIA hates freelancers) he's betrayed by his contact, Sarka the tea seller. Severely wounded, he wakes up in an Army field hospital. An officer tells him he's so messed up he's not likely to survive the night.

However, there is an experimental procedure they can try. According to him, all the data needed to reconstruct Carter's body atom-by-atom resides on this 16 gigabyte USB flash drive. Riiiight .... That's one hell of a data compression algorithm they've got there. It's fortunate they won't have to dedicate much file space for this actor's talent.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

A Splash of Color for Drab Winter Days

By Keith

Hello W-O'-Crappers. 

Post-election, Keith is in entrenched writer's block mode, the kind where tangible ideas are reduced to a Jello-O salad that refuses to firm up under refrigeration. Like the screenplay for Ridley Scott's "Prometheus." 

As a holiday shout-out, let me share some photos from 2016. The brain may not work quite well, but can still snap a shutter.

To quote Steve Colbert: "May your winter feast be an orgy of delight to everyone!"


Sunday, December 11, 2016

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The "Camera Confessions" Edition

SHADOW:  I've got a naughty little secret. And it's big, and orange, and...a butt.

MOONDOGGIE: Why hasn't anyone put this face on a coin yet? I ask you!...Look at this face! I'm already sort of penny-colored, and your useless Lincoln face money would totally increase in value because every coin would suddenly become collectible!  It's a foolproof plan to make all Americans zillionaires, assuming they have a jar of pennies on their dresser.

Or maybe a medal! But a fancy one, like the Croix de Chat, or the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Delicious Treats! C'mon!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Scenes From a (Geeky) Marriage

SCOTT:  Oh oh...

MARY: What's the matter?

SCOTT: I don't know if this is good news, or bad news...

MARY:  What?

SCOTT: Says here George Lucas saw Rogue One...and he loved it.


MARY:  I see your dilemma.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Happy Birthday Actor212! I Got You a Parade!

Today is the natal anniversary of our old friend Carl (alias Actor212), working thespian, thoughtful writer, and comic commenter par excellence. Carl can be found many places -- in the laughter of little children, in the gentleness of animals, in various filmed segments on Saturday Night Live, in his own blog Simply Left Behind, and in our comment threads, which he has been bedazzling with the Ronco Rhinestone & Stud Setter of his mind since Dinah Shore Ruled the Earth, if I may borrow a title from Christopher Durang and Wendy Wasserstein. And why not? They're New Yorkish, and so is Carl, for he is a man who has traveled every inch of every borough that isn't Staten Island by bicycle.

And not only is Carl warm, witty, and frighteningly huge, he's also kind enough to celebrate his birthday on or about the date of the Hollywood Christmas Parade, so I've got something to write about besides what a great guy he is. And he is, don't mistake me -- I'm not just saying that because he could snap me in half like a balsa wood kite stave.

Anyway, I did what I usually do every holiday season: wandered around the staging area of the parade and looked at half-flaccid balloons, then got the hell out before the paraders started parading.  But by taking a few photos and placing them in cunning proximity to the first two paragraphs of this post, I can make it seem like we went to the trouble of throwing a parade in honor of Carl's birthday! (Shhh! Nobody tell him! I'm hoping if I can get the hang of this fake news thing, I can land a highly paid journalism gig with a Macedonian teenager.)

Things were getting rambunctious even before the event started, with a gassy penguin saluting Gumby's ass. Now I'm no expert, but Gumby has always struck me as having rather a flat ass, rather than a Dat Azz!, but to each his own.

It's Clifford, the Big Red Hindenberg!

Overly zealous members of the military shout "hoo-rah!" and force the pirate balloon to drop and give them twenty.

A CDC Rapid Response Team is dispatched to treat and quarantine a group of young women suffering from a sudden outbreak of kawaii.

Clifford viewed from the perspective of the setting sun, and through the local eyesore Mary has dubbed "the Migraine Monument".

And finally, even if your legs are oddly deflated, that's no reason you can't still ogle Gumby's disappointingly concave ass.

But enough of the brobdingnagian effigies looming over Hollywood Boulevard, let's serve the cheesecake!
Loretta Young in Play-Girl (1932) "She wanted love in the worst way--and she got it!"

Sadly, this photo seems to have driven our Sexy Birthday Lizard to a somewhat inappropriate response...

Dude! Stay in your lane, please.

And please join me, won't you, in wishing Carl a very happy birthday.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Pre-Friday Beast Blogging: The Kitnappers Edition

MOONDOGGIE: I've taken your underpants hostage! If you ever want to see them again, you'll leave a bag of Whiskas Crab & Tuna Flavor Treats at the southwest corner of the couch. Come alone, or else. And you better hurry...your pants are warm and fluffy and April Fresh from the dryer, but if I see one cop, I'm horkin' up a hairball into the crotch!

SHADOW: Wait...We're allowed to kidnap underwear? Why didn't anyone tell me during Orientation? That really seems like something that should'a been in the Employee Handbook.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Hear No (Okay, Some) Evil

Hey guys, Episode 20 of The Slumgullion is out! And boy is that a confusing sentence for people who subscribe through iTunes and know the show actually came out on November 18. So I'm late with the announcement, but then the show was also late, and I like the carpet to match the drapes, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, it's a Very Special Episode, featuring Special Guest Stars who are universally known and loved, at least by those who followed the old All-Star Summer Jamboree (ASSJAM) podcast, where I started as but a lowly intern. Check it out.
The Slumgullion Episode 20 “Peter Hooten is an Earthbound God”
Starring Scott Clevenger and Jeff Holland
Special Guests: Mary Clevenger, John Szura, Blanche Ramirez and ?
Music by Lynn Ahrens
You may have thought the recent election is the most surprising thing to ever happen, but this episode actually has it beat.
It’s the New Movie Crew (Coming right at you!)! Today’s topic: Doctor Strange.  Scott, Jeff and Mary handle the non spoiler discussion after Jeff proves he knows very little about Harry Potter.  There is an educational break.  The SPOILER discussion of Doctor Strange features Scott, John, Blanche, and two immortal alien stoners.
Although they’re not really here, as you’ll hear.
Strap yourselves in, nuggets.  This is an E Ticket.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hi, Koo.

Pompadoured golem,
Dreams beneath the neon sign,
Of hamburger noir.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Last Pre-Apocalypse Podcast!

Just time for one more episode of The Slumgullion before the free fall of Western Civilization reaches terminal velocity (assuming the worst on Tuesday) and leaves behind a continent-wide stain that vaguely resembles -- when seen from space -- Pepe the Racist Reddit Frog, thereby providing both a suitable grave marker, and a kind of quarantine warning for future alien explorers.

But we can at least take pride in going out on a high note, with a show that features World O' Crap staff writer Hank Parmer. Hank brings his wit, Southern charm, remarkably loud background cats, and years of experience as a student of films good, bad, and terrible.

And because Hank's definitive exegesis of Frogs inspired Jeff to write Frogs: The Musical, my podcasting partner has kindly consented, or condescended, to sing a new song from the show. Sadly, it's not the ode to Sam Elliott's penis, but it's still pretty good.

Finally, in the Unknown Movie Challenge we take on a terrifying (to me, anyway) school of film: the Made-for-TV movie. This week the Movie of the Week is the 1972 classic(?) Gargoyles, featuring some interesting early creature work from SFX genius Stan Winston, and some interesting hair from decaying matinee idol Cornel Wilde.

I'd never seen the film before (I assume it came on after my bedtime), Jeff hadn't seen it in years, and Hank saw it when it first aired on ABC, so there's a plethora of conflicting opinions and emotions, and a fair nuumber of laughs. Please check it out:

The Slumgullion Episode 19 “No One Mentioned Spike Lee”

And in case you missed it, the long awaited (by me, anyway) audiobook version of Better Living Through Bad Movies is now available, featuring new bonus content. Here's all the details.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to get to the liquor store before it's all barricaded and bristling with shotguns like the lonely farmhouse in a zombie film.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Happy Birthday to...US!

Not the United States, I mean us. We few, we happy, although often clinically depressed few, who have birthdays in October, and don't receive the recognition we're due because Scott -- who's one of us, and yet betrayed us! Dolchsto├člegende!  -- can't organize his time well enough to hold down a job and blog at the same time. Pretty pathetic.

Oh well...In the miserable bastard's defense, I will say that the job he's taken on, while temporary, is also an exacting and time-consuming one, and with a single exception, he's been working seven days a week since September 20th. And I ought to know, because that plucky young man is...


Now you know...the rest of the--

Hang on, I'm getting a call from M. Night Shyamalan. I better take this...

Uh-huh...Uh-huh. Right. Yeah. Okay, thanks. Nighty-night, Night! [click!]

Hoo boy, did he read me the riot act. Wow...

Okay. To sum up, I guess I'm not going to try and add a signature twist ending to every blog post, because apparently that way lies madness. And despair. And abysmally, albeit predictably, poor box office receipts. So I guess I'll just press on. What the hell was I talking about...?

Oh, right! Natal anniversaries that come just as the first fingers of frost shyly caress your pumpkins. We've missed a whole bunch of them so far, so let's recap.

Previously, on World O' Crap:

Dr. BDH, Wo'C Chief Medical Office celebrated his birthday on October 4th. I assume some sort of balloon was involved. Possibly a barium punch.

On October 11, Joanna, better known in the blogoworld as Anntichrist S. Coulter, endured her birthday, and it wasn't all that great according to my informants, so please give her a laurel and hearty hand job clasp in the comments.

On October 18, KWillow had a birthday in Superior Court, in and for the County of Los Angeles. In a moments, the results of that birthday.

[Dragnet march. Mug shot of KWillow. Superimposed title: "Convicted of Malicious Kindness and Aggravated Wit. Now serving 3-5 cupcakes, without possibility of profiterole."

Cut to Jack Webb for Fatima cigarettes.]

November 1, the birthday of fellow Hollywoodian Chris Vosburg, the Renaissance Dutchman, known for his encyclopedic knowledge of things you can't find in the encyclopedia. So maybe he can explain THIS:
Skinless weiners?! Why is that good? How does that even work? And assuming it's true, as Jean insists, why is Ted here so happy about it?

Look, just leave the skin on, okay? Otherwise you'd have to use some kind of brush-on sealant to keep the meat from falling apart the instant you get it between the buns, and I don't want anybody varnishing my weiner!

On November 2, Zombie Rotten McDonald celebrated his birthday, although I'm not sure you're still entitled to cake and presents after you're dead. Seems like double-dipping to me.

Rather than bake a cake, since I don't know if he has a sweet-tooth, I got a condiment to spice up all his table fare:

And today, November 5, is the actual, I'm-not-late-for-once birthday of Li'l Innocent -- keen observer of feline-anthropoid relations, and illustrator of my all time favorite comic book that I never actually got a chance to buy and slip into a Mylar bag and then sell for an unconscionable mark-up on eBay.

And hey, it's such a nice day out, let's not stay indoors and eat cake and drop clothespins into milk bottles or play Pin the Tail on the Donkey -- let's get out into the fresh air. So to celebrate, I'm taking us all to the racetrack!

Welcome to the 2016 Breeder's Cup. First up, the Juvenile Fillies Turf, for two year olds. In the lead is Santa Baby, followed by Berber From Gerber, with National Arrowroot coming up on the inside!

Come onnnnnn, Santa Baby! Baby needs a new pair of baby booties!

Please accept my apologies for the tardiness, and also this stunning, suitable for framing Sexy Birthday Lizard!
"Drink me in, folks!"

Please join me in wishing a very happy and very belated birthday to Dr. BDH, Anntichrist S. Coulter, KWillow, Chris Vosburg, zombie, Li'l Innocent, and...Me.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The "World's Most Narrowly Focused Supervillain" Edition

SHADOW: Ahhh...I see you placed plastic tape on the ends of the couch to foil my claws!

SHADOW: Well played, my friend. Well played indeed. Hmmm...There must be some way to finish shredding this upholstery...But how?

SHADOW: Well, nothing's coming to me off the top of my head, but it'll take more than a roll of packing tape to thwart my redecorating! Now, into my Fortress of Solitude to think, reflect, and devise a cunning pla--Ooh! Look! An old dried up pea!"

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Rather than guzzling novelty cocktails and gadding about in costume, I'll spend the evening trying to circumnavigate the West Hollywood Halloween Parade so I can get to the airport and pick up friends returning from an idyllic Hawaiian holiday. But that's no reason you shouldn't enjoy your fancy dress balls and tooth decay. So in honor of the occasion, here's hoping that when you tote your plastic Jack 'O Lantern full of Three Musketeers bars to the front door, you'll find a trick or treating Anne Francis, dressed up as Peggy Cummins from Gun Crazy.

I'd advise you to give her the regular, rather than fun-sized candy bar, or you might just yourself fed a tall gin rickey with a mickey finn and wake up to a bad headache and a bum murder rap, while Anne skips to Mexico with that satchel of Swiss bearer bonds you embezzled during the Occupation.

Happy Halloween, everyone. And if you haven't yet, please check out this post about our just released audiobook.

Better Living Through Listening!

Hey guys. A rare Big Announcement from someone who likes to keep his announcements travel size: The audiobook version of Better Living Through Bad Movies is now available! 

Featuring special audio-only bonus materials, including a new review and additional life lessons that look at Red Dawn (1984) vs Red Dawn (2014): Red Dawn of Justice! Now you can mix 'n' match your Patrick Swayze with your Chris Hemsworth, and make a whole new hunk who can fight Russians and Cubans, and then die, or take on the even more daunting task of battling Chinese troops who later change their minds and decide they're actually North Koreans. And then die.

Performed by the very funny John Szura and Blanche Ramirez (who some of you may know from appearances on The Slumgullion), Better Living Through Bad Movies: The Audiobook is available from Audible, Amazon, or iTunes.

Click on one of the links above to hear a sample. Makes a great gift idea. Not available in any store (except the ones I just mentioned). Offer void in Utah.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The Drive Through Edition

♪♪ I love you like a sista/but you need to switch/and that's why they called/U bitch, I betcha ♪♪

What? If she's not gonna be ready when I come to the door, then I'm just gonna honk the horn and listen to the radio.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Random Mid-Week Beast Blogging: The Halloweenipede Edition

SHADOW: Look, Orange Guy, I really think we can make this Pushmi-Pullyu costume work for Halloween, but you gotta push!

MOONDOGGIE: You're making my foot go to sleep.

SHADOW: What's your point?

MOONDOGGIE: Nothing, just...You're making me envy my foot.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Shake Your Groove Thing

The debate concludes on a surprisingly congenial note as Trump and Clinton grant an audience member's request and sing a medley of Peaches & Herb.

Stop! Look! Listen!

I'm behind on my birthdays again, but it's busy, busy, busy around here, and will probably remain so until Wednesday. Still, it's the Halloween season, and I wanted to take at least a moment to light this bag of dog poop on fire, ring your doorbell, and run away.

First, there's a new Slumgullion up -- a relatively short one, because I'm too busy even to yammer about my opinions on pop culture. I sincerely apologize for this, and assure you that if I had a yammer, I'd yammer in the evening. I'd yammer all over this land -- so if you didn't catch the latest remake of The Magnificent Seven, you can relax; we glared at it for you. If you did see it, then I don't know what to say, other than I hope you had the foresight to make out a Living Will.

The Slumgullion Episode 18 “It Should Have Remained Unknown”

Starring Scott Clevenger and Jeff Holland 
Guest starring Mary C, Blanche Ramirez, and John Szura. Also the Ghost of Alan Ludden. 
A Quinn Martin Production 
Jeff does a theme song mashup as format is thrown out the window and the remake of The Magnificent Seven is mangled to a magnificent mush.

Second, I'm not the only one around here who's been laboring like Mickey Mouse in the The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment of Fantasia, and if you haven't had the chance yet, I highly encourage you take a few minutes and enjoy Hank's review of Violent Road, a crappy American retread that carjacks the plot from the French suspense classic Wages of Fear, and proves that Brian Keith is no substitute for Yves Montand when it comes to brawny, sweaty existentialism (although I personally think Yves Montand would do a perfectly serviceable job replacing Brian Keith in Family Affair).

And finally, Moondoggie stopped by the Sears Family Portrait Studio and sat for his Fall Glamour Shot:

I call it "Man in the Moondoggie."

Shadow has gotten over her aversion to my new robe, now that it no longer smells like Mervyns, and will finally sit on my lap again, although she's clearly not thrilled at my habit of marking the occasion by humming "Ebony and Ivory."

SHADOW: Stop it. Stop it now. I'm warning you, I've got a hairball all cued up.

I hope everyone is doing well. What's going on with you guys? Catch me up in the comments. I feel like we never talk anymore.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Wages of Drear

By Hank Parmer

Violent Road (1958)
Directed by Howard W. Koch
Screenplay by Richard Landau
Story by Don Martin (dik-dik-dik FAGROON klubble klubble)

Tagline: To ride the load he rode you had to be more than a man! (Yeah, I don't have the slightest idea what this means, either.)

Violent Road opens with a bang, literally, as a Redstone missile -- that cutting-edge example of good old American know-how, as supplied by some barely ex-Nazi German rocket scientists -- lifts off. All seems to be going A-OK, when suddenly it veers out of control. It smacks into an elementary school just as the school day is ending, incinerating dozens of kids and their moms in a fiery holocaust.

Oopsie! Wer-ner, you got some 'splainin' to do .... It's a shame they didn't have Don lighten this scene up a bit with some goofy sound effects.

Cut to tough, cynical Mitch Barton (Brian Keith) as Carrie (Merry Anders), his lady friend for the night, drops him off at the Cyclone Rocket Company. They have a brief conversation, in which we learn that Mitch isn't the kind of fella who'll let himself be tied down by one dame. (Two, maybe -- three, definitely!) She drives away, bitterly disappointed. At least he could have kicked in some money for gas.

After leaving his suitcase with the security guard, he wanders onto the plant yard, which is the scene of frenetic activity. He asks directions to the Boss's office from a helpful truck driver, Pat Farley (John Dennis). After he exits, Pat sneaks around to the back of his truck and takes a nip from a fifth he's cleverly concealed beneath a pile of ropes. Sweaty, bare-chested, hard-hatted worker Ben (Arthur Batanides) -- looking like he's just back from a rave at The Toolbox -- walks up and rags on Pat for goofing off. But co-workers mixing hard liquor and heavy machinery don't cause this guy to bat an eye.

Arriving at Nelson's office, Mitch greets the secretary's gams with a wolf-whistle and overwhelms her with his tough, cynical charm and pumped biceps. During his job interview with the boss of Cyclone, we find out that Mitch fudged it a bit when he said he was from Continental Trucking: He was actually fired by Continental three days ago. But by golly, he knows trucks and drivers -- he can smell them, he claims.

Nelson isn't impressed by Mitch's olfactory talent. He threatens to have security "blast him out of this office" (rather an unfortunate choice of words, if you ask me) but our hero isn't about to be intimidated. He knows Nelson is between a rock and a hard place. He has to move the plant elsewhere, immediately, what with those silly townspeople having been spooked by that little boo-boo with the missile that massacred their kids. Sad, really: If only Cyclone had been sited in Texas, none of this would have been a problem.

Mitch found out through the truckers' grapevine that Nelson has some cargo that's so hot none of the trucking companies will touch it. He needs drivers and helpers for three trucks. The boss says he's looking for a driver who's familiar with the road: every bump, every hole, every patch of gravel. So despite Nelson's misgivings, we can be certain he'll have no choice but to hire our hero for the job.

I ain't askin' for a million dollars, Mitch assures our captain of industry, I just want a job. He exits, leaving Nelson to ponder his options. The camera pans to a cheap plastic toy replica of a multi-stage rocket. (I believe I had one of those when I was a kid.)

Time to meet our other major protagonist: Frank "Sarge" Miller (Dick Foran), former war hero, now just a late-middle-aged failure.

His wife gripes at him for being late to dinner, then they sit down to their joyless meal. Hung on the wall behind Frank are a Japanese flag and various souvenirs from his glory days in the Marines. Not your typical choice of dining room decor, but I guess it's important to beat the chumps -- er, audience over the head with the fact that Frank just won't let it go.

While they glumly masticate their overcooked pot roast, mashed potatoes and green beans, Frank's wife tries to coax him into taking her to a movie, just to get out for a change, but no dice. She desperately pleads with him to pack up and get out of this two-bit burg before it's too late -- ooo, foreshadowing! -- but he's not listening. Why, he says, there could be a new war any day, and then they'll need him.

This depressing tableau concludes with Frank heading down to the local watering hole.

At Garnet's Bar, Mitch drools over a pinup calendar, while the script tries to flesh out Ben and Pat's characters a bit: Ben is a compulsive gambler, desperate for a stake so he can blow this dying town and head for Vegas. Pat's hitting the booze again and dancing with unenthusiastic Carrie, while Pat's younger brother, Ken (Sean Garrison) and his date watch.

Enter Frank, still wearing his old Corps fatigues and forage cap, faded sergeant's stripes on his sleeves. He sits down at the bar, next to a couple of Marines from the nearby base. The catty bitches make snide remarks about his age, his weight ("the battle of the bulge") and general uselessness. Back to Ken and his disgruntled date, who now supply Pat's back story: He's drowning his sorrows in drink because he was a hot-shot quarterback in college, but now he's just a regular shlemiel.

Pat also has a tender tummy, and has to interrupt his performance of The Dance of the Tequila Fairies to dash to the john. After a prolonged conversation with Ralph, Pat listens to his younger brother reiterate that college-hero-now-a-zero back story, sprinkled with a liberal helping of Ken's resentment over growing up in Pat's shadow and always getting hind teat.

Meanwhile, Carrie reconsiders her choice of date for tonight, reviews the limited selection, and hooks up with Mitch again.

Next morning, Joe -- Perry Lopez, who sadly doesn't seem important enough to get his own back story -- knocks on Mitch's door and tells him Nelson wants to see him. The movie delicately implies Mitch and Carrie spent the night together by having him glance back into his motel room before he exits. Then, just to make certain you got the hint, there's a quick pan to Carrie's convertible. How very discreet of them.

At the plant, Nelson and scientist George Lawrence (Efram Zimbalist, Jr.) fill Mitch in on the job. They need three trucks to carry the separate components of rocket fuel: hydrazine, concentrated hydrogen peroxide, and nitric acid. Since the authorities won't let them transport the stuff over public highways, they'll have to use the old gravel road across the mountains to get to the new plant site. To sweeten the deal, there's a $30,000 bonus, to be divided between whoever survives the trip. They'll get to keep the trucks -- and spend the night in fabulous Bismarck!

Let's pause for a moment to reflect on the story so far: I imagine most of my readers (smart, good-looking individuals that they are) will find this plot familiar, either from having seen William Friedkin's Sorcerer or Henri-George Clouzot's original 1953 thriller, The Wages of Fear. But in those films the trucks are transporting nitroglycerin. (In Friedkin's remake, it's dynamite that's been stored too long and become unstable.) Once the protagonists set out on their perilous journey, the suspense lies in whether anyone will make it, with the distinct possibility that at any moment they'll be blown to atoms.

However, Messrs. Landau and Martin just ensured that in this cheap, crappy and most of all uncredited remake, you can safely assume all three trucks will make it. Otherwise, the whole thing would be an exercise in futility. This is an American movie, dammit, and will remain uncontaminated by the slightest hint of that wimpy, Frenchified bleak existentialism.

Great job, Dick and Don!

The film treats us to a montage of preparations for this hazardous trip, while Leith Stevens supplies one of his trademark strings-and-brass-bloated, men-doing-manly-things-with-machines musical interludes.

There's a tense moment, when it looks as though one of the tanks of nitric acid is going to get away from them as a crane's loading it onto the truck. Mitch saves the day by leaping into the cab and moving the truck. Whew! While the tanks of acid are being strapped down, we find out that George was in charge of making the rocket fuel and feels terribly remorseful about those schoolkids. Though Nelson tries to dissuade him, he insists on going along.

Pat and Ken arrive. Pat's falling-down drunk, but kid brother Ken claims he can take care of the driving. Mitch objects, but Nelson overrules him: The kid does some stock-car racing, so he's clearly qualified to handle a heavy-duty truck hauling a volatile load over rough terrain. Sarge will drive the nitric acid truck, with George as helper. Because their names rhyme so nicely, Ken and Ben get the concentrated hydrogen peroxide, and Mitch will take the hydrazine truck, with Joe along to keep him company. Pat is left behind, even though he does an uncanny impression of Brandon de Wilde in the last scene of Shane.

Their perilous trek begins. The script makes up for not having given Joe a back story earlier by having him tell Mitch he's planning to use the money for college. More padding is supplied by having Ken do his a capella rendition of the obligatory pop tune those hep youngsters demand from their movies: "Breezin' Along with the Breeze".

They turn off on the long-disused gravel track they're to follow over the mountain. Chugging along up the steep road, they come to a spot where a landslide has partially blocked the way. But Mitch believes he can negotiate the narrow passage between a boulder and the mountainside. Joe dismounts and walks backwards in front of the truck, to guide Mitch through this tricky spot.

Something -- I guess it's supposed to be the vibration from the truck -- dislodges some gravel up above, as well as what must be one of the most unconvincing paper-mache boulders in movie history. But before it can hit on that truckload of hydrazine, quick-thinking Joe deflects it with a flying kick!


I tell you, these fuc -- er, truckers were tough, back in them days! That boulder must have weighed at least half a ton, and it was bounding down that near-perpendicular slope like a jackrabbit with its tail on fire. A less masculine mortal would have been lucky to get off with a shattered leg, but not this guy. Nosiree, Bob. Joe dusts himself off and rejoins Mitch.

Sarge gets his truck through without a problem. But Ken has to show off: He bets his partner $500 that Ben doesn't have the stones to ride with him as he blows through that narrow gap. He floors it, and speeds past the obstruction, just ahead of another puny spate of gravel and more paper mache boulders. While Ben changes his underwear, Mitch chews Ken out, and threatens to stick his head in the sand if he tries another stunt like that.

More driving. You just can't get enough of these shots of trucks rumbling along gravel roads and desert highways. Not having used a stopwatch for comparison, I can't be certain, but it seems like there's more driving during this part of this 86-minute film than there was in the two-and-half hour long original. Probably because instead of the brilliant, white-knuckle set pieces which distinguished the original, the best these clowns can come up with is this feeble nonsense. They have to have been desperate for filler.

In the nitric acid truck, George has a flashback: Turns out his wife and three kids were casualties of the missile mishap, too. No wonder he's so out-of-sorts. Actually, he seems remarkably laid back, after having had his entire family flash-cooked just a few days previously.

Suddenly, their engine starts missing. The other two trucks pull over. Mitch leaves Joe -- who, unlike George, is a mechanic and not just a useless load -- with Sarge, telling them to catch up with the other two trucks later, once the engine's fixed. While Joe's working on the carburetor, Sarge inspects the tanks. Oh noes: nitric acid is leaking from one of them! The cap must have been jarred loose during that rough patch.

Sarge instantly flashes back to the particularly acrimonious argument he had with his wife last night, after she caught him trying to sneak back into the house in the early hours. She mercilessly shreds his dreams of renewed martial glory, screaming that nobody needs him and nobody wants him. "Big soldier boy!" she taunts him. "Big soldier boy!"

So he now makes the only logical choice, and tightens that leaky cap with his bare hand. The flesh on his acid-splattered hand smokes and bubbles. Close-up of Sarge's agonized grimace.

'Kay .... Well, heck, it's not like they would have issued these guys heavy-duty rubber gloves, or a pipe wrench, for just this eventuality. You think this Nelson gink is some kind of Nostradamus or something?

If you're at all familiar with The Wages of Fear, it should be blindingly obvious that Dick Foran's "Sarge" is  modeled on Charles Vanel's "Jo". In somewhat the same sense that what my cat just horked up on the doormat is modeled on Rodin's "The Thinker". Unlike in the original film, here the character is horribly injured in a way which leaves Mitch -- our store-brand version of Yves Montand's "Mario" -- entirely blameless. No moral ambiguities in this flick, Bub! They'd only confuse the audience.

Rather than trying to move him, Joe ties Sarge down in the back of the truck and races to catch up with the others. In a truck hauling nitric acid -- which has already leaked out once before. Mitch of course decides there's nothing they can do but keep movin' on.

Outside the town of Bismarck -- in a really disappointing bait-and-switch it's the one in Arizona, not the glittering capital of North Dakota -- they're met by the sheriff and some hostile locals, who're adamant that the trucks won't be allowed to pass through their town. Mrs. Sarge shows up,  having evidently been informed by mental telepathy of Sarge's injury. She's just in time to deliver a tearful monologue to her dying husband. She's really, really sorry now that she nagged him so much. I'm sure that's a big comfort.

The problem with the good people of Bismarck apparently resolves itself, or they found a detour, because next morning the boys are merrily trundling through the desert again. They're confronted with a new challenge, though, when the brakes fail on an oncoming school bus. Careening down the steep mountain road, it somehow manages to negotiate a series of switchbacks and hairpin curves as it barrels toward them.

"Do you want to go faster?"

Our guys heroically pull over, just in the nick of time! Joe breaks his collarbone when he dives into a ditch. And without realizing it, Ken cracked his truck's oil pan when he made that emergency stop.

Fortunately, the bus finds a nice, safe place to run off the road, and nobody's hurt. After all, the story's already killed off its allowable quota of children.

The journey continues. After a while, Ken notices the oil pressure's dropping and the engine is overheating. Time for another pull-over and consultation. Joe tells them he can't stop that oil leak. If they continue to run the engine, he warns, it'll throw a rod, then the truck will lose its brakes. But Mitch isn't about to give up. He says it's all downhill from here -- something I figured out roughly five minutes into this turkey.

So Mitch takes over and manfully wrastles that truck down the mountain. As far as this film's concerned, there's no such thing as too many rear-projection process shots. Of course our hero makes it to the bottom safely.

But there's still a ways to go to their destination. They rig a tow, with the defunct truck chained between the other two so the one in front can pull while the one behind brakes. You know, you can learn a thing or two about trucking from watching this film. That, and how to utterly botch every element of the classic thriller you're shamelessly and incompetently ripping off.

George -- who's been tapped to steer the towed truck -- gets cold feet, but Mitch has a totally butch heart-to-heart with him. He points out that if they don't complete the trip, Nelson's just going to make somebody else do it all over again. (Dear God! Nooooooooo....) George sucks it up and agrees to be something more than a waste of protoplasm.

Ben stands too close to the rear chain when they're taking in the slack, and his hand is injured, too. I'm beginning to think the filmmakers may have figured that if all else failed, they could market this dog to Jam Handy as an instructional film about workplace safety.

The trucks arrive at Cyclone Rockets' new plant without further incident, and there is much extremely masculine rejoicing. In a final thumb in the eye to Clouzot's film, outside the gate Carrie is waiting in her convertible for Mitch. She slides over and lets him take the wheel. Our two love birds drive off together, as Leith's score swells to a triumphant coda.

Americans know how to wrap up a manly movie about real men doing guy stuff the right way, see? Unlike you cheese-eating surrender monkeys, with your "lone surviving protagonist thinks he's immortal and dies foolishly when he crashes his truck" downer of an ending. So in your face, Jean Crapaud!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Talk the Talk, Walk the Walk (Slowly, With a Cane)

Sorry for the long hiatus around here. I've had some health problems, mostly impaired motion due to pain, which has led to impaired motivation due to whininess, but I won't bore you with the details because I've done that before, and I swore on my mother's grave that I'd find some fresh, new way to bore you. (Just kidding! My mother was cremated, so none of this is legally binding.)

On the bright side, some of the silence is thanks to actual paying work. But as is usually the case in my script doctor practice, the patients are both dead and late for an appointment, so there is much frantic working of and at long and odd hours.

Anyway, I've managed to miss three -- THREE! -- important birthdays, plus my own podcast (Hank wrote to say he figured I wasn't feeling well when he noticed there was a new episode of The Slumgullion up, but no mention of it on the blog -- a fact which suggests that pain is stronger than egotism. Granted, there is as yet no scientific evidence for this hypothesis, but I submit that it could be proved with a lengthy series of easily repeatable experiments involving somebody kicking Donald Trump in the shin).

Before we descend further into self-promotion, let's pause to blow a single mournful note on a party favor in honor of these Crappers who didn't receive their Sexy Birthday Lizards in a timely manner:

September 5: D.Sidhe

September 19: M.Bouffant

September 23: acrannymint.

Geez, I suck.  However, let me make some small amends by passing around the celebratory hot dish:

Satisfy? Oh, perhaps. But I shudder to think what will ultimately happen to the "Inner Man" after eating whole onions stuffed with beans.

Please join me in wishing D.Sidhe, M.Bouffant, and acrannymint a very happy, and very belated birthday. And since it's a group celebration, let's hire a rainbow gecko made from the union of many melted Crayons to jump out of the cake and serve as our...
Sexy Birthday Lizard!

Before we get into this week's (actually, last week's -- geez, I suck!) podcast, I just want to thank Doc Logan for his kind comments about The Slumgullion, and Wo'C scribe Hank Parmer for his emails on the subject. The feedback is both helpful and enormously appreciated, guys.

Here's the link to the lost episode. Sure it's old, but you could say the same about me, so who am I to point a palsied, knobby-knuckled finger? Besides, a lot of stuff happens in this one. We talk about the new Mystery Science Theater 3000 and Christian propaganda movies like God Is Dead, and play the "Who Should Beat Up Kirk Cameron?" game. Jeff introduces a new theme song for the Unknown Movie Challenge, and then we split open the carcass of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai -- Across the 9th Dimension and crawl inside and make a fun fort out of it.

(I should probably add a disclaimer here: I recorded the episode with a migraine, so by the end of it I kind of sound like that faint, tinny voice emanating from the post-mortem radio set in The Dead Talk Back.)

The Slumgullion Episode 16 “The Quicker Picker Upper”
• September 14, 2016Starring Scott Clevenger and Jeff Holland

In which our heroes, dealing with pain, insomnia and demonic possession, discuss MST3K, religious propaganda, and who could and should beat up Kirk Cameron, as well as have a free floating discussion about a free floating film: “The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai-Across the 8th Dimension”.  Other things are mentioned and the theme for the Unknown Movie Challenge is revealed.

And here's the bright shiny new episode: 

The The Slumgullion Episode 17 “My First Straight Boner”
• September 25, 2016Starring Jeff Holland and Scott Clevenger 
With Special Guests Mary Clevenger and Indy McDanie 
In which a happy discussion about Stranger Things turns into an angry rant from Jeff about three new horror films.  After we relive some childhood memories, the Unknown Movie Challenge is 1957’s Invasion of the Saucer Men.  And it's ultra cheap remake, Attack of the the Eye Creatures.
Click here to check it out.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Happy Birthday, S.Z.!

Astronaut/Supermodel/Spy (Ret.)

Blow your flu-flubers, and bang your tar-tinkers, because today is the day that gave birth to Sheri Zollinger, who later gave birth to World O' Crap (it was a natural, at home, through-the-forehead birth like Athena's), and even later co-parented Better Living Through Bad Movies (in which we took turns doing the Lamaze breathing, but she was too high minded to take the epidural so she gave me hers and hoo boy did I go on a bender -- which turns out to not be that much fun when you can't feel anything below the waist).

But for many years now she has dedicated herself to others, visiting the orphans and widows in their affliction, and keeping herself unstained from the world with the stain-fighting enzyme crystals in new Bold detergent!

She's also the patron saint of pets. In a town that lacks a shelter -- and therefore condemns stray animals to summary execution -- she volunteers her time to find homes for displaced cats and dogs, and offers her own home until that can be done. I try to remember her example -- bottle feeding kittens one moment, cleaning up explosive diarrhea from a parasite infested puppy the next -- whenever I'm inclined to bitch about having to walk two blocks to the grocery store for a small bag of Iams.

In addition to all that -- which seems like more than enough goodness to contribute to the world -- she's also one of the smartest, nicest, funniest people it's ever been my privilege to know. And a good friend.

And does she ask anything for herself? Just one, small, insignificant thing: a prune party.

I think it's the least we can do, don't you?

Unfortunately, like everything else in this fallen world, prunes have become debauched, and before participating in the festivities, they demand to be whipped!

And before we can do that, we have to determine if Frank Perdue is a top or a bottom.  Because I'm too faint-hearted to lay on the lash with any conviction, so we clearly need a hard man, a tough man. But a man, howsoever tough he may, who knows how to leaven stern discipline with tenderness, lest our prunes be reduced to juice. And judging by this viral video, which I've had examined by the finest wingnut photoanalysts, Frank is both tough and tender. And a tenor.

All right, let's bring on the plump, tender prunes and whip them mercilessly until they're quivering with flavor!

Now I don't want to embarrass Sheri with the fulsomeness of my praise, because she's a modest, private person who doesn't seek the limelight and likes her birthdays the same way she likes her prunes: "never mushy!"

So we'll just quickly run through the recipe so everyone can play along at home.
Combine all ingredients except prunes in double boiler over boiling water. Beat with rotary beater 10 minutes or until mixture holds its shape.
If the mixture doesn't hold its shape you can punish it with a forced enema the way Sally Field's mother did to her in the 1976 TV mini-series Sybil ("Hold your water!"), although giving an enema to prunes seems like gilding the lily.
Fold in prunes and chill.
After folding in prunes I like to Netflix and chill, but then I'm a sybarite.
Serve with custard sauce and watch your family's smiles grow wider by the spoonful.
Prunes apparently work the same way The Joker's "Smilex" gas does in the 1989 Batman.
You'll discover all your prune dishes being received with equal delight
This part I believe.

Ahhh. I don't know what it is about this particular birthday celebration, but I feel not only relaxed, but relieved. Let's close in the traditional way, shall we, with an indigenous and Sexy Birthday Lizard!

Utah's Green Basin Collared Lizard, with Special Guest Appearance by some burnt umber and avocado green lichen from the Seventies!

Please join me in wishing Sheri the very happiest of birthdays. Never have so many owed so much to such a one.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Breaking All the Rules...of good taste

By Bill S.

A while back, s.z. and I both explored the deeper meaning behind Charlene's pop hit "I've Never Been To Me", an song that barely made a dent on the pop chart in the '70's but exploded in the '80's when a DJ ran across a copy of it and began giving it airplay, making it the musical equivalent of a zombie (more so than it was in 1977). The song still remains popular as a camp classic-there's even a dance remix, complete with a rap interlude. Here's the link to that:

No need to say "Thank you", the look in your faces is reward enough. But prior to the song's '80's resurrection, it was covered by several other artists. Jazz/pop stylist Nancy Wilson had a modest hit on the R&B chart with her version, Mary MacGregor recorded a version that reached the Top 30 on the Adult Contemporary chart, making it the most successful version at the time. (It's also the best one, by default, because a little less dirge-y than the others). MacGregor is best known of course for her massively popular 1976 hit "Torn Between Two Lovers". She's usually labeled a One-Hit Wonder but this isn't technically true, as she scored a second Top 40 hit in 1979 with "Good Friend"(from the Meatballs soundtrack). She had another single that fell just a few spots shy of the Top40, "This Girl (Has Turned Into a Woman)". If the title of that one doesn't tell you everything you need to know, you're probably too young to be reading this.

But back to her biggest hit. If you were looking for the song that summed up what was most embarrassing about the Me Decade, "Torn Between Two Lovers" would be the best choice. So it's a bit surprising to learn it was written by veteran folkie Peter Yarrow, and allegedly inspired by the love triangle in Dr. Zhivago, with the genders flipped around. That makes me think if the song had been recorded by a man, and been about a bisexual love triangle, it might have been subversive. Or interesting, at least. As it was, "Torn..." isn't even embraced by drag queens, because, unlike "I've Never Been To Me", it's too aggressively earnest to work as a camp classic.

Mary MacGregor " Torn Between Two Lovers " ( Live )

There are times when a woman has to say what's on her mind
Even though she knows how much it's gonna hurt

Yeah, "even though". And sometimes, "especially when".

Before I say another word, let me tell you I love you
Let me hold you close and say these words as gently as I can

It doesn't bode well that you seem to be trying to prevent me from grabbing any sharp objects.

There's been another man that I've needed and I've loved


But that doesn't mean I love you less

Well, it kinda does.

And he knows he can't possess me, and he knows he never will

"He wanted to possess me, NO! He cannot possess the goddess!"

There's just this empty place inside of me that only he can fill

Are--are you talking about butt stuff? Because you know, I might have been wi--oh, never mind. You probably WEREN'T talking about that.

Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool

Not as much as me.

Loving both of you is breaking all the rules

No, not ALL of them. Just the ones set when you enter a monogamous relationship. If this was an open one, it wouldn't even be an issue.

You mustn't think you failed me just because there's someone else

WHAT. THE. FUCK? Are you high? That is so NOT what I'm thinking. And what a thing to assume.

You were the first real love I ever had

Faked it with everyone else, eh?

And all the things I ever said, I swear they still are true.

Well, mostly true.

For no one else can have the part of me I gave to you

You mean the part that faked being happy while secretly craving side action? Gosh, I'm honored.

Torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool

I'm feeling like Jeannie Berlin in The Heartbreak Kid

Loving both of you is breaking all the rules
Torn betwee- Oh, you know the rest.

I couldn't really blame you if you turned and walked away

Could you blame me if I started throwing all your stuff out the window?

But with everything I feel inside

A deluded sense of nobility?

I'm asking you to stay

Oh, I am staying. The cab's for you, Felicia. Don't let the screen door hit you on your way out.