Monday, March 26, 2018

Happy Birthday, MaryC!

By Wo'C's Special Birthday Correspondent, Bill S.

It's time once again to wish a Happy Birthday to our own MaryC, and of course, try to select that perfect gift. As always, let's look through our favorite catalogues. let's see what we can find among the THINGS YOU NEVER KNEW EXISTED!

Perfect for announcing visitors or scaring critters out of your yard...any time of day! Place this wicked canine in a spot where it can receive direct sunlight, and it will howl for 11 seconds any time it detects movement with its built-in sensor.

They determined that 11 seconds is the exact length of time you can endure that noise before you wind up kicking it across the yard when it goes off as you're getting the mail. Personally, I'd prefer a replica of the blues singer.

BOOBIES FISHING LURE SET--Guaranteed To Land The Big One! (2 sets for $14)
Even fish like a big rack!
These Double D's are certain to coerce even the most shy fish to take a nibble!

Except for rainbow trout, which, for some reason, seem somehow less susceptible.

JELLY BELLY BEER-FLAVORED BEANS IN A TIN ( $10.98; 2 sets for $17)
Pop the top, and enjoy the authentic taste of a freshly-poured brew! SET OF TWO contains 5 sample bags (total 3.5 oz) of alcohol-free beer-flavored jelly beans.

$17 for jelly beans, and you won't even get a buzz? Moving on...

Let's check out what CAROL WRIGHT GIFTS has to offer
Great Gift Ideas and As Seen on TV Products. Carol Wright Gifts is the world’s 1 source for great Gift Ideas and As Seen on TV Products since 1972.

F-I-T-T-E-D TABLECLOTHS (as low as $6.99)
These wipe-clean tablecloths are elasticized for a smooth, snug, no-slide fit.

And they're perfect for people who aren't getting enough exasperation from trying to fold fitted sheets.

BRING SONGBIRDS TO YOUR BACK YARD (only $5--why pay $7.98)
Brighten your yard with this sunflower! Use as a bird bath or feeder...

...or, if you have cats, as a serving dish.

WARMING FOR HER/COOLING FOR HIM (Why pay $14.95? Ours only $7.99)
Enhance your arousal and intensify your sensitivity with these powerful lubricants. A cooling sensation for him helps improve his erection for maximum satisfaction while a warming sensation for her increases sensual stimulation for greater fulfillment. Simply apply a small to your intimate areas and massage gently for an erotic experience that will have you quivering with desire in no time.

As long as you don't get the bottles mixed up.

POCKET HOSE-The Hose That Grows!(As low as $12.99)
Super-Light, Super-Small, Expands When Water Is Turned On...

Well, I guess if that warming lubricant fails, this thing will do.

POP CHEF-Turn Snacks into Works of Art (only $10.99)
Simply attach one of the six included shape cutters, push into your favorite food and squeeze the bulb to pop out perfect shapes every time.

But...what if your favorite food is pudding? Well, it may not work on every food, but it seems useful if you get invited to a party where you're expected to bring something but don't feel like doing any actual cooking. So it looks like just the right gift!

Happy Birthday, MaryC!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Post-Friday Beast Blogging

Shadow's Journal, Day 5: I attempted to reach the summit of Mt. Mission Chair by negotiating the treacherous Couchback Traverse, but fell into a crevasse, and for all my struggles, I continue to slip deeper and ever deeper toward oblivion. I have but one request: Please cover my final resting place with Temptations brand Shrimpy Shrimp and Tantalizing Turkey Flavor Cat Treats, in the hopes that Moondoggie will eat his way down to me.

MOONDOGGIE: Huh? What day is it? Wha--SUNDAY? But I left a wake-up call for Tuesday!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

It's Tentacular!

I spent most of 1977 waiting for things to die.  Disco. Wide collar Qiana shirts (but I repeat myself). Matching (or worse, contrasting) plaid sofa 'n' curtain sets. Jaws rip-offs. But as history shows, all those trends still had a few years of life left in them, and instead, Elvis died.

It wasn't a great year for me, is what I'm saying.

But if you weren't me, if you were, to take a random example, a washed-up, aging American actor or a tow-headed, talent-free moppet, then times were good. Because no matter what else may have cratered in your life, chances were good that somewhere there was an Italian in tinted aviator glasses and hip-hugger double-knit slacks willing to point a movie camera at you.

Tentacles (1977)
Directed by Ovidio G. Assonitis (as Oliver Hellman)
Written by Jerome Max & Tito Carpi & Steven W. Carabatsos

The movie opens on a palisade overlooking the beach in La Jolla, one of the most scenic spots in Southern California. After giving us a brief glimpse of its natural splendor, the director cuts inside a grungy taxi cab, where the main credits roll over a long close-up of a radio speaker as the dispatcher squawks out street names and addresses. This seems like an odd way to start a monster movie, but maybe it’s clever foreshadowing, and we’ll later find out that one of these apartments is where the giant octopus lives.

A badly dubbed Italian actress gets a vacation to the Greater San Diego area, but pays for it when her baby is abducted from its stroller by a Point of View shot.  Then the director decides his movie has a foot fetish. A salty old sea captain wearing clamdiggers wanders around on deck while we enjoy his naked ankles. It’s implied that he’s grabbed by the monster and skeletonized, but we don’t have time to show that because there’s more feet coming, as John Huston’s shoes take a long walk to Claude Akin’s face. Claude’s the local Sheriff, John’s the local newspaperman, who offers his opinion that “We’re in for a nightmare!” (So while you and I may feel we have good grounds for a class action suit against this movie, the filmmakers were unfortunately smart enough to add a disclaimer.)

John stays up all night, searching through books for the answer to these mysterious disappearances. He doesn’t find it, because they’re cookbooks, but if they ever do catch the giant octopus, the authorities can look forward to a zesty Polpi in Umido that’ll make you want to kiss your fingers.

John’s sister is Shelly Winters, a loving, caring, slatternly drunk who regales him with tales of her latest one-night stand while chugging her first Bloody Mary of the day. There’s also a mop-headed tween boy in the house who’s too young to be either John’s son or Shelly’s; I assume he’s a member of the Partridge Family who fell off the bus and nobody’s noticed yet.

Cut to Henry Fonda’s house, where he’s reaming out the Mayor from Animal House about John’s newspaper article, which implies Henry’s underwater construction company might have kidnapped a baby and stolen all the meat off a man in capris pants. Henry appears both angry and confused by John’s insinuations, and though he doesn’t come right out and say it, you also get the feeling he’s deeply uneasy about the caliber of roles he’s being offered these days.

A doctor shows Claude x-rays of the sailor’s body, and says “even the marrow has been sucked dry”, except he pronounces it “morrow”. But the soundtrack is kind of muddy, so maybe he’s actually saying “even Vic Morrow has been sucked dry”, which I hope is true because it's a better way to go than being decapitated on the set of a crappy John Landis movie. We're told the missing baby was also reduced to bones, but we don't discover if the monster spat it out, or if its tiny skeleton was collected from a stool sample.

John decides to recruit the world’s foremost marine authority, Bo Hopkins, who we find at Sea World, telling the trainers to get tough with their killer whales.  Bo would like to search for the sea monster, but four months ago he had a tragic diving accident (he got water in his ear, or something) and now he’s only qualified to yell at people for mollycoddling Shamu. Instead, he sends two of his best and most expendable divers. A harpsichord riff predicts they’re going to die.

The divers find that Henry Fonda’s high tech underwater tunneling equipment (so advanced, we’re told, that “Buck Rogers couldn’t have dreamed of it!”) has been vandalized and stripped for parts. The police suspect a sub-aquatic street gang (possibly the Jets, but probably the Sharks), but before anybody can break into a Jerome Robbins water ballet, a giant octopus squirts ink into the camera lens and murders the divers off screen so we can’t prove it in court. Nevertheless, the harpsichord wins five bucks.

Meanwhile, Shelly has gone into town wearing a comically oversized sombrero like Speedy Gonzales. We discover the Partridge Family tween is Shelly’s son, Tommy, and despite the constant string of gruesome deaths at sea, she wants to enter him and his friend, Cousin Oliver, in a sailboat race. (Pardon me for getting sentimental, but it's amazing how much Shelly’s character reminds me of my mother. Although to be fair, Mom’s sombreros were more reasonably proportioned, and very few of her plots to kill me required an entrance fee.)

Bo decides to get revenge for his two deboned employees and checks into the La Jolla Holiday Inn with his superhot Italian trophy wife, who played Athena in the Lou Ferrigno Hercules.  Meanwhile, Shelly is shoveling ice cream into her face in a desperate attempt to appease the monstrous sombrero, which appears to be some kind of alien symbiote, like Spider-Man’s black costume.  Even better, Partridge Family Boy and Cousin Oliver are obsessing about the sailboat race, raising the tantalizing hope they’ll get skeletonized before they can break into a chorus of “It’s a Sunshine Day” or “Together (Havin’ a Ball)”. Instead, Shelly (or the alien sombrero controlling her) frets about how frequently Cousin Oliver has to urinate, while Partridge Family Boy affectionately calls his mother a fat whore.

Hey, want to see Bo and a sidekick take snapshots while they cruise around in a two-man submersible craft they bought at a Thunderball garage sale? No? Well, I don’t think that’s really your decision, it’s the filmmakers, and they haven’t steered us wrong yet, have they? I mean, they did give us a monster that makes all the meat fall off a baby, and where else can you find that? Okay, maybe a Chile’s franchise on All You Can Eat Babyback Rib Night, but it’s still pretty rare.

Anyway, hang with this sequence, I’m begging you, because it becomes hilarious when the divers find a dozen large fish doing headstands on the ocean floor. That’s not a metaphor, by the way, these are literal fish with their tails up, balancing on their noses, like we’ve wandered into an all-mackerel hot yoga class.

Meanwhile, some Italians are cruising around the Channel Islands in a yacht while pretending to be Americans, but their boat has broken down, and so have their accents. The big fat guy jumps in the water, and we cut to the giant octopus's eyes popping open as we hear that “Dramatic Prairie Dog” music. This is like ringing the dinner bell for sea monsters, and the fat fake American tries to save himself by pretending to be Mexican.

Fake American #1 shouts, “Shark’s gonna kill ya!” and if this were a better movie, perhaps it would. Alas, Fat Fake Mexican is killed by poorly matched footage of an octopus filched from a National Geographic TV special.

Back on the broken-down boat, Sherry Buchanan, who was born in Biloxi but worked exclusively in Italian films and is dubbed by the same woman playing all the other female parts, making her an American pretending to be an Italian pretending to be an American, sees the fat guy’s feet sticking straight up out of the water (apparently he’s joined the sub-aquatic yoga class) and screams. This attracts the octopus footage, which tears apart her boat.

Cut to Bo, who suddenly figures out that the unseen monster is a giant octopus. How? Does he use forensic evidence, or deductive reasoning? No, he employs the Think System, just like Robert Preston in The Music Man.

“Are you thinking about sharks?” The Sidekick asks, for no good reason.

“No,” Bo replies. “I’m thinking…Giant octopus.”

So there you go. If your movie features a mysterious killer creature, but you don’t want to go to all the trouble of figuring out the clues, just have one of your characters think of the solution! It works equally well for cryptids and cornet-playing.

Now let’s watch Bo’s wife Athena pose in the prow of a yacht as it heads out to sea. Nothing happens, but the shot goes on so long you keep expecting her to break into “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from Funny Girl.

Later that night, Athena and two new Italians find the wreck of the earlier Italians’ cabin cruiser, but before they can do anything about it, Athena’s boat turns into a toy and sinks.

Athena survives and clings to the first wreck, but almost immediately gets sexually harassed to death by some Hentai tentacle porn.

Time for the Death Beach Annual Child Endangerment Regatta!

Shelly sees the two brats off to their doom, then we cut to Bo and John and Claude sitting around a classroom somewhere. John tries to sell the premise of the movie by saying, “I’ve read that the suckers on a tentacle are like the claws of a tiger.” Bo one-ups him by taking a Harold Pinter-sized pause before answering, more in sorrow than in anger, “Compared to suckers on a tentacle, claws are nothing…Nothing.”

John learns that Shelly has entered the local sitcom kids into a boat race, and declares the “giant squid” must be destroyed. He asks Bo, “Can you do it?”

Bo winds up for another big pause, then says, “I only got one thought on my mind…Just one.”


Meanwhile, the monster massacres the boating children. This is symbolized by shots of young actors in life jackets staring open-mouthed at the camera while a prop octopus head gets towed behind a speedboat, making it seem like the creature wants to water ski, but can’t quite keep his tips up.

Some kids live and are picked up by the Coast Guard, including Partridge Family Boy, but apparently he was out there long enough that he had to eat Cousin Oliver to survive.

Bo tows a huge yellow tank into the ocean. It contains his two pet killer whales, which he’s going to use to hunt down the octopus like a couple of coon hounds. He delivers a long speech celebrating all the “love” and “affection” in their hearts, but the tank sinks and the orcas leave him, proving just how intelligent this species is. If we were half as smart, we'd all have stripped to our skivvies and be clinging to a fin right now.

Having accidentally freed the Willys, Bo and Sidekick are forced to dive into the ocean with spearguns, where they spend the next two minutes getting startled by marine life making weird sound effects, in what feels like a Candid Camera episode directed by Ivan Tors. (Sidekick is frightened by a grouper operating what sounds like a staple gun, while Bo pees himself when he’s pranked by a manta ray with a snare kit).

The octopus buries Bo under an avalanche of coral and proceeds to taunt him, but the Orcas arrive in the nick of time like the 7th Calvary, then everybody turns into a puppet and things get confusing. The killer whales play tug of war with the monster while the Red Army Choir starts singing the Soviet national anthem out of nowhere. It's an odd needle drop for the end of a monster movie, and I can only assume the octopus ate he composer.

Sidekick rescues the hapless, buried Bo and gets him to the surface, making me wish I’d learned his name, because apparently he’s the hero of the film. Meanwhile the orca puppets dismember the octopus puppet, severely reducing its collectible value. So while this film wasn't terribly original, I give it points for trying: in most monster movies, the monster dies, only to reappear a couple years later in a sequel. In this Tentacles, the monster died, then reappeared in the same film as an appetizer platter from Red Lobster.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Damian Maffei (The Strangers: Prey at Night)

The new Slumgullion has dropped. In this episode, Scott and Jeff sit down for a conversation with Damian Maffei, the "Man in the Mask" from the new horror film The Strangers: Prey at Night (check local listings for a theater near you).

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Happy Birthday Bill S! & The Minx!

I've been really remiss in the birthday department lately, but that's only because I've been remiss in every department of life; and while some friends caution me against spreading my laziness and incompetence too thin, I'm having a good day and feel like I still have more to give! Or withhold! Whatever.

Anyway, today's a Twi-Night Doubleheader, with Corsican Twins Bill S. (Wo'C contributor and He Who Must Be Referred To For The Next 24 Hours as Bill S! under penalty of law) and The Minx!

And okay, yeah, when we phrase it that way it does sound less like a birthday party and more like an action-packed comic book issue about a superpowered heroine dropping in on an unusually exciting Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and getting in a fistfight with a super villain near the coffee urn. But what if I said there was cake? Hmmm...? And what if I lied, and really just meant there's dessert? And what if I stretched the definition of "dessert" to the point where we all just collapse on the ground and start eating grass like a dog trying desperately to cope with intestinal worms? Because that's the World O' Crap Birthday Way?

Let's begin, shall we?

There were a lot of disgusting crypto-desserts on Pinterest, but I went with this one because Elsie the Borden Cow is something of an unofficial Wo'C mascot, having made her debut in s.z.'s very first post, way back in Ought Three. And since I can't cook, I figured it was safest to go with a "no cook", "no bake" recipe. Plus, it's "thrifty," and who doesn't enjoy that on their special day? Why, I've lost track of the times I've come home after a hard day at my imaginary office, smacked my lips meditatively and announced, "Mmm! I'm in the mood for something thrifty!"

So as the ad says "Why not try this salad today?" Well, there's literally a million reasons, but I'll just go with #45091: "If your aim is to poison a Russian refugee you're better off just putting a nerve agent in his tea, because he's gonna see this shit from a mile away."

Still, I'm pretty sure I can pull this off, because my Grandma actually used to make a version of it for Thanksgiving, except she suspended the cottage cheese in the lime Jello, rather than having it erupt out of the interior like so many maggots, and there was no tuna, because I guess she never really got over the Depression.

Okay, let's see...Package of lime gelatin...Yeah, that'll taste like crap, but at least it'll toughen up our toenails. Hot water...vinegar...salt...Mm, tastes like dessert already. Tub o' cottage cheese...Mayonnaise... Chopped celery...Y'know, this is more complicated than I thought. I need some volunteers from the audience -- someone chop the onions, someone thinly slice the radishes, and someone drain and flake the tuna, okay? Just think of it as an Amish barn raising, except afterwards we'll eat the barn and it'll taste disgusting.

Wait, there's a problem...My store doesn't carry Borden's. Damn! And despite that tone of blasé assurance at the bottom of the add, I don't have my own Borden's Man. Do any of you have your own Borden's Man? And if you do, will you unchain the poor bastard and let him out of the basement to help me?

No? Fine. Okay, change of plans, let's just tune into Borden's TV shows, "The People's Choice" and "Fury."  I can't seem to find them on my cable guide, but I'm sure Ivan can explain what the hell they're about. (By the way, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear has moved, so please adjust your bookmarks accordingly.)

Okay, instead of the Cottage Cheese Tuna Salad, how about we all just wish The Minx and Bill S! a very happy birthday, and we'll call it even.

But first, the traditional Sexy Birthday Lizard!

And because The Minx is also the human companion of Famous Internet Cat ZoeLuna, there's a bonus damp cat in the pic. Enjoy!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The 6th Annual Skelly Awards

By Wo'C's Red Carpet Reporter, Bill S!

The Oscars are airing tomorrow night, which means it's time for us to look at the nominees in this year's four acting categories, and determine who among them has the single most embarrassing prior role, thus winning the not-so-coveted SKELLY Award. As always, if someone was nominated (won) in a previous year, they are ineligible for a nomination again. This rule, however, does not apply to the films they appeared in, as you'll soon see. Let's have a look at this year's contenders.

5th Place: Laurie Metcalf

Laurie made her feature film debut as a hotel maid (an unbilled bit role) in Robert Altman's 1978 comedy A Wedding. Over the years she's won multiple Emmys, a Tony, and is now in the running for Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in Lady Bird. She faces stiff competition from odds-on favorite Allison Janney in I, Tonya. (Is it too much to hope for a tie in this category?) On the road to all those awards, she made an unfortunate stop in the lame-brained 1988 comedy Stars and Bars.

In the first year of the SKELLY competition -- before it even had a name -- I nominated the movie's star, Daniel Day-Lewis, who came in second place (the winner that year was Denzel Washington, for the even more lame-brained comedy Carbon Copy). I have to confess that it's been nearly 30 years since I saw Stars and Bars, and until I was researching film credits to write this column, I'd completely forgotten that Laurie Metcalf was also in it. I'm guessing she's forgotten it too.

4th Place: Sam Rockwell

The favorite to win this year's Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is one of those actors (like recent Oscar winner J.K. Simmons) whose name in the credits provoke an anticipatory grin. We know whatever the film's quality, we can be assured one bright spot.

Of course, everybody's got to start somewhere, and for Rockwell, his earliest roles were not quite so memorable. One such role was in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, playing (as he was billed in the credits) "Head Thug". I'm guessing when this kiddie flick bowed in theaters back in 1990, nobody was imagining that one of the bit players would one day be walking the Red Carpet. Especially since, at the time, the biggest name in the cast was Corey Feldman. And he was playing a turtle.

3rd Place: Frances McDormand
The favorite to win this year's Best Actress Oscar for her role in Three Billboards is the Coen brothers' favorite leading lady, and Joel Coen's favorite lady all around. She's also one of my favorite actresses -- I'll watch her in almost anything.

Which, unfortunately, is how I came to see one of the flimsiest films of her career: Passed Away:

Dead On Arrival

This is probably the most disappointing picture of this year's bunch. It boasts a batch of gifted actors (too many to list, but let's start by asking what possessed Bob Hoskins to sign on) so I had high hopes. Also, I tend to be drawn to movies about dysfunctional families, whether intense dramas like Long Day's Journey Into Night, or black comedies like August: Osage County. This movie is neither of those. It isn't anything, really. One problem is that it seems too short. That's not a usual complaint with bad movies, but the 92 minute running time seems to be the result of laziness more than anything else. Each character is trotted out, their identifying quirk identified (McDormand is saddled with playing the least convincing movie nun since Helen Reddy in Airport '75) and then...nothing much more happens with them. The whole thing feels less like a feature film, and more like a hastily slapped together pilot for a sitcom that would get cancelled in three weeks.

2nd Place: Willem Dafoe
Nominated this year in the Best Supporting Actor category for his subtle, empathetic performance in The Florida Project, Dafore's first film role was in Heaven's Gate, the movie that starred last year's SKELLY winner, Isabelle Huppert. His part in the film wound up on the cutting room floor, so he was spared any true onscreen embarrassment for a dozen more years...when he starred in the kinky melodrama Body of Evidence (see the Better Living Through Bad Movies chapter "Sex, Lies, and Direct-to-Videotape" for a full exegesis of this film).

No evidence of brains

In the third year of the SKELLYs, I nominated Julianne Moore for her role in this film. She only had a small role (her name's not even on the posters), and she looked gorgeous, so our embarrassment level may have been slightly lower that it is for Willem Dafoe, who's one of the leads. He plays a lawyer who's banging his client, which makes him an idiot. And he's cheating on Julianne Moore, which makes him certifiable. And so he manages to embarrass himself more than anyone else in the movie. Including Madonna.

You might be wondering then, why only second place? What could be worse than appearing in a film that was reviewed right here on World O'Crap? I won't hold you in suspense. The winner of the 6th Annual SKELLY Award is...

Gary Oldman

The favorite to win this year's Best Actor Oscar for his role in Darkest Hour, he's never won before, which is surprising. Shouldn't a guy who can play both Sid Vicious and Winston Churchill already have a bunch of them? He generally elevates the quality of the films he's in, but there was one film he couldn't save. That nobody could save. I'm speaking, of course, of The Scarlet Letter:

The most critically mocked picture of 1995 -- even Showgirls received better bad reviews. Publicity described it as "freely adapted from Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel", which is an understatement. In the book, Hester Prynne bears a child as the result of an adulterous affair, and is branded a social outcast. The man leading the crusade against her, the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, is also the father of her child, which makes him a moral hypocrite, and an asshole. In the movie, though, he's a troubled, romantic, even sympathetic hero.

Putting the "dim" in Dimmesdale.

That's not all they changed. For example: Hester first sees the good reverend when she catches him skinny-dipping, and then returns home to enjoy a hot steamy bath, surrounded by candles, and um, pleasuring herself. The movie adds more action to the story, and a ridiculous happy ending (well, two ridiculous happy endings if you count that bathtub scene). They should have just dropped any pretense they were adapting the book at all and made a porno version. That would have been more honest. (You can probably guess what the "A" would have stood for in that.)

Or better yet, when crafting the screenplay, they should have enlisted the talents of esteemed author Clifford Noadtz.

[This year's column is dedicated to the late Roger Ebert, whose book "I Hated, Hated, HATED This Movie" -- a collection of his most scathing reviews -- was a very helpful reference tool, saving me both time and money. It will likely prove to be as helpful in years to come.]