Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year

“Look” Grandma said, “It was the Great Depression. Private nursing jobs were hard to come by, and if your plutocratic employer wanted you to help him snipe debutantes from his oxygen tent, well then you steadied his palsied hand and didn’t ask any impertinent questions.”

Hey guys. I hope everyone has a good New Years, and a better new year. 

Friday, December 27, 2019

The Jon Swift Roundup 2019

Batocchio has done it again, organizing another tribute to the art of small batch blogging with the Jon Swift Roundup 2019. This year's compendium features so many taste-teasing posts that it's like the smorgasbord of sweets and sin on that island where Pinocchio gorged on ice cream and cigars before transforming into a hideous humanoid-animal hybrid, which seems like an apt metaphor for a year that's ending with the release of Cats.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

That's Entertainment? Babes in Toyland (1934)

By Hank Parmer

Since this is the time of year when Christmas movie reviews litter the intertubes, and since the retro stuff seems to be more my bailiwick, I thought a look back at the 1934 Laurel and Hardy vehicle Babes in Toyland (original title: March of the Wooden Soldiers) might be worthwhile. Even though the holiday connection is rather tenuous, with Santa only appearing for a short cameo, and in fact, according to the movie's outrageously overacting villain the action is taking place in the middle of July.

But from the time this loose adaptation of Victor Herbert's insanely popular 1903 operetta debuted in November of '34, it's been considered a Thanksgiving/Christmas holiday film. So much so that it became a staple on second-tier TV and UHF stations, before Rankin-Bass, etc. began to crank out fare oriented toward a more contemporary kiddie market. There was even an edited down to 45 minutes version, which was distributed free to public schools back in the 1950s.

The "bogeymen" certainly scared the willies out of me when I saw this movie as a preschooler. Viewing it as an adult, though, I can't help but feel there's way too much Victor Herbert -- okay, "The March of the Toys" is a catchy little tune -- and nowhere near enough Laurel and Hardy. Although it is slightly refreshing to see a kiddie flick that wasn't put together for the sole purpose of merchandising hunks of Chinese plastic.

We begin with an introductory solo from Mother Goose:

Sorry... Thought it was the porta-potty!

Of all the lands you youngsters will travel in your dreams, she promises in her tune, the best of them is Toyland.

And at first glance, it does seem an enchanting place. Characters from nursery rhymes and fairy tales throng its quaint, quasi-Medieval streets, everyone from the Three Little Pigs to the Cat with a Fiddle. Who's relentlessly stalked by a mischievous monkey in a Mickey Mouse costume.

That's the original Mickey Mouse, who if you ask me looks more like a rat. His presence here might seem odd to anyone familiar with the litigious ways of our modern entertainment juggernaut, but back then Walt was eager enough for the publicity to let Hal Roach borrow the character. Although that hairy, prehensile tail is disturbingly un-mouselike.

Nursery rhymes are literally interpreted here in Toyland, even to the extent of egregious child neglect, like the rock-a-bye baby whose cradle is precariously parked twenty feet up in the top of a slender pine.

The main plot revolves around the Old Lady Who Lives in a Shoe. You know, the one who had so many children she didn't know what to do. (Note that the question of how she came by all these children is deftly handled by identifying her as Widow Peep. You know, lady, contraception might have been something worth checking out.) Tragically, she's actually only in her mid-thirties.

The eldest of her extensive brood is Little Bo Peep. (Charlotte Henry -- who, at age 19, had played the title character in Paramount's 1933 film of Alice in Wonderland.)  Bo Peep's love interest is Tom-Tom, piper's son and lead tenor. (Felix Knight)

But there's a dark undercurrent to life in this magical realm and capitalist's paradise. For starters, creepy Silas Barnaby (Henry Brandon) is about to foreclose on the old lady's shoe. As is traditional in these affairs, he offers to forget about the mortgage, if he can have innocent Bo Peep's hand in marriage.

Brandon -- billed here in his first credited movie role as "Henry Kleinbach" -- was actually only twenty-two at the time he played the distinctly Fagin-esque miser, a part that launched him on a career as a character actor on the silver screen. Mostly portraying heavies, albeit thankfully without the age makeup. Occasionally in A-list features like John Ford's The Searchers, where he played "Chief Scar", but more often in far less prestigious fare. (MST3K fans may remember him as the space pirate "Rinkman" from the Rocky Jones epic Manhunt in Space.)

Surprisingly, Widow Peep also found space in her size 1000 Doc Marten for a couple of lodgers, Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee. As she's preparing their breakfast, Ollie notices she's holding back the tears. When he learns the cause of her distress, he gallantly offers to donate their savings to help pay the mortgage.

But oh dear, Stannie raided the piggy bank. He spent their entire accumulated capital -- a dollar and 48 cents -- on something he calls his "pee wee". Ollie promises he'll try hitting up their boss for a loan.

On their way to work, Ollie demands to see Stannie's pee wee.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Have a Very World O' Crap Christmas!

I hope everyone's having a lovely day. This is the first Christmas in 20 years or so that Mary and I have been apart, as we drew the Comfort the Afflicted and/or Quadrupedal straw -- she's out in the desert looking after her bedridden mother, while I'm dog-sitting for my sister up in Portland.

I grew up with dogs, but it's been decades since I've owned one, and I'd forgotten how labor-intensive they are -- both emotionally and, uh, alimentarily -- but the companionship they provide is top-notch. However, like the Ethiopians that various British rock stars sung about in "Do They Know It's Christmas?", the dogs apparently don't, and since the house isn't decorated (there was no point since the family would be out of town for the holiday), I've been doing my best to pretend it's not actually the Yuldetide in order to modulate my self-pity.

But then Facebook decided to bombard me with memories of Christmas Pasts, and while I still don't care about the holiday, I do miss Riley, because nobody could get into the spirit of the season like she could:

So Merry Christmas (or ELSE!, apparently....)

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Live Bloggin' Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

BILL S: I think I'll "Liveblog" tonight's airing of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer"

SCOTT: I think that might be a good idea--


SCOTT: Um...

BILL S: In the 50's and '60's, Burl Ives was known as an Oscar-winning character actor and Grammy-winning country singer.Today he's known mainly as a talking snowman.

SAM THE SNOWMAN: Some people say I'm just a ripoff of Frosty the Snowman, but can Frosty play the banjo? No. And do I make sinister promises as I melt, like "I'll be back again someday!", which sounds like something a serial killer would whisper just as you pulled the lever on him in the death house?

Again, no.

Anyway...🎶 Have a holly, jolly Christmas... 🎶

BILL S: If I can't recall "the most famous reindeer of all", why would I remember the others?
BILL S: The lightbulb aspect of Rudolph's nose isn't nearly as off putting as that damn NOISE it makes--it's worse than the Emergency Broadcast test signal.

SCOTT: This has been a test of the Emergency Broadcast Network. Had this been an actual red-nosed reindeer, you would have been instructed where to tune in your area for news and official information.

BILL S: Why aren't Rudolph's parents more freaked out by the fact that he's only a few minutes old and can already speak, and identify Santa? That's some creepy demonic shit there.

SCOTT: To be fair, baby Rudolph is slightly less disturbing than the madly crackling zombie deer head in Evil Dead II.


BILL S: In the first of many times Santa will behave like a total dick in this cartoon, warning Donner that his kid's abnormality will disqualify him to pull the sleigh.
SANTA: Why you little freak! Your parents ought to pin your ankles together and leave you to die of exposure on a hillside, like Oedipus. But I suppose then you'd just come back and bang your mother!

BILL S: All these years I thought the elf aspiring to be a dentist was named "Herbie". It's HERMY--a name that probably dropped in popularity after this cartoon aired.

BILL S: Donner is so embarrassed by his kid's birth defect he forces Rudolph to wear a fake nose. Great parenting, dude.

BILL S: The elves put on a cheerful musical number about how great it is to work for Santa. His reaction: "It needs work". First off, it sounded fine, and second, even if it wasn't, they're toymakers, not professional singers. And they're doing it for him. Ungrateful bastard.

BILL S: The Reindeer Games: bringing back all of our most awkward memories from middle school gym class.

Oh great, now the President's weighing in...

DONNER J. TRUMP: So ridiculous. Rudolph must work on his Anger Management problem, then go to a good old fashioned movie with a friend! Chill Rudolph, Chill!

BILL S: How the heck does Clarice get that bow on her head? Even if she could somehow grip it with her front hooves, she'd fall flat on her face. And don't get me started on the fake eyelashes.

BILL S: "She thinks I'm cuuuuute!!!"
So we have confirmation Rudolph's straight. Still not so sure about Hermy.

BILL S: Santa, being a dick again, telling Donner he should be ashamed of Rudolph, who remember, is still a child, and being subjected to taunts, not just from other kids, but even the coach.

SANTA: You're son's a FREAK! You should have had him DESTROYED!

DONNER: I know, but there's so much paperwork--

SANTA: Nonsense! I RULE these frozen wastelands with an iron hand! Say the word and I'll make that grotesque insult to nature DISAPPEAR! We'll bury him in an unmarked grave, salt the ground, and declare his very NAME a CURSE!


SANTA: What! YOU have a BETTER idea??

DONNER: No! Of course not, sir. I mean...you know...maybe show him unconditional love? Build up his self-esteem a little...?

SANTA: None of that's covered in your dependent benefits. Check your employee handbook, under the "So You've Whelped an Abomination" section, then skip down to subsection IV: Bury, Salt, Curse.

BILL S: "There's Always Tomorrow". Nice tune. Clarice has a nice voice. Yes, I know what I just said.

BILL S: I could swear when this thing originally aired, Hermy and Rudolph had another duet, "Fame and Fortune"--was it cut to make room for more commercial time?

SCOTT: From Wikipedia:
1965–1997 telecastsThe 1965 broadcast also included a new duet between Rudolph and Hermey called "Fame and Fortune", which replaced a scene in which the same characters sang "We're a Couple of Misfits". Viewers of the 1964 special complained that Santa was not shown fulfilling his promise to the Misfit Toys (to include them in his annual toy delivery). In reaction, a new scene for subsequent rebroadcasts was produced with Santa making his first stop at the Island to pick up the toys. This is the ending that has been shown on all telecasts and video releases ever since. Until sometime in the 1970s the special aired without additional cuts, but eventually more commercial time was required by the network. In 1978, several sequences were deleted to make room for more advertising: the instrumental bridge from "We Are Santa's Elves" featuring the elf orchestra, additional dialogue by Burl Ives, and the "Peppermint Mine" scene resolving the fate of Yukon Cornelius.The special's 1993 restoration saw "Misfits" returned to its original film context, and the 2004 DVD release showcases "Fame and Fortune" as a separate musical number. 
1998–2004 CBS telecastsMost of the 1965 deletions were restored in 1998, and "Fame and Fortune" was replaced with the original "We're a Couple of Misfits" reprise...The "Peppermint Mine" scene was not restored; until 2019, it had not been shown on television since the initial broadcast in 1964.
 BILL S: Is anyone else completely grossed out by the Abominable Snow Monster, AKA The Bumble?

Yukon Cornelius: Beware, boys! His tangled, matted, hairy junk is right at eye level!

BILL S: Oh great, they escaped from the Bumble--by floating on a tiny ice raft to who knows where.

SCOTT: I always assumed they were floating down river, Huck 'n' Jim style, to the town of Hyperthermia, MO.

BILL S: The Misfit Toys are sentient, and can talk, sing and dance--that's way cooler than the crap the elves are making.

BILL S: "How would you like to be a bird that doesn't fly--I swim!"
So...a penguin?

BILL S: King Moonracer is a winged lion--which makes him the biggest freak on the island.

KING MOONRACER: Yeah, very funny, smart guy. Too bad for you my cloaca's opening...

BILL S: Rudolph returns home, and learns that his parents and Clarice have left to look for him. They could be dead or seriously injured, but all Santa cares about is how it affects HIM. Without Donner, what will he do? I dunno, use the other seven Reindeer? All this time, he never had a backup plan?

SCOTT: And he's agitated and skinny--everyone comments on it. I think while everyone else is busy making toys, Santa is off secretly cooking meth.

BILL S: Why don't the reindeer escape the Bumble by just FLYING AWAY?

SCOTT: People asked John McCain the same thing, and the answer is the same: the Bumbles, like the North Vietnamese, received sophisticated anti-aircraft batteries from the Soviet Union. The North Pole is where the Cold War got COLD, man.

BILL S: "Why doesn't he get it over with?" Gosh, you almost never hear someone in a holiday special aimed at children express a yearning for the sweet relief of death.

If I ever go missing, I hope nobody in my family is stupid enough to look for me in the den of a dangerous predator.

BILL S: Oh, great the Bumble wants a job. Just what we need, a ladder that eats and poops.

BILL S: "That silly elf song is driving me crazy"
It's a good thing he didn't hear the new verse:
"We are Santa's elves
No life for ourselves
We're enslaved by a cranky tyrant,
We are Santa's elves"

BILL S: The snowstorm is so terrible Santa will have to cancel Christmas. I'm sure Jesus will be very disappointed.

JESUS: Alexa, where's my stuff??

BILL S: So, earlier, Santa was worried about how he'd be able to fly without Donner, his lead reindeer, but now he's asking Rudolph, who's NEVER done it in his life, to lead them all?

Rudolph is was too forgiving. If it had been me, I'd be like, "Oh, NOW you want my help? Suck my pointy antlers, old man."

BILL S: I wonder if those living Misfit Toys are creeped out by the inanimate toys the elves made--imagine being on a plane where half the passengers are mannequins.

SCOTT: Well, I was on a plane once where about half the passengers were watching Mannequin.

It was chilling...

BILL S: Also, an umbrella isn't a parachute, so those Misfit Toys are crashing to the ground to their deaths.

LES NESSMAN: The toys are hitting the ground like bags of wet cement!

BILL S: In the X-rated version of "Rudolph", the line "he went down in history" had a different meaning entirely.

BILL S: Well, that's it. Hope you all enjoyed my live blogging of 'Rudolph". Good night all.

Friday, December 6, 2019


As some of you may remember, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA believes I'm his best friend, and constantly sends me letters fondly recalling all the times we stood together, shoulder-to-shoulder against the gun-grabbers. And I can't blame him for reminiscing, for to hear Wayne tell it each battle was a nail-biter, with the two of us only pulling off victory when I finally pulled out my wallet and made a generous donation. Now, this is basically the same pitch I get from Habitat for Humanity, but at least they don't tantalize me with the prospect that a gunfight is about to break out at any moment. Which is probably a good thing, because it's my personal belief that Jimmy Carter is immortal, and as with Mongo from Blazing Saddles, shooting the former President would just make him mad.

What perplexes me about this situation is that while I have given money to Habitat for Humanity, I've only ever given the NRA grief. So if Wayne and I do have a relationship, it's an abusive one, and if this were a Lifetime movie, I'd be the bad boyfriend. But despite his persistence over the years I think even Wayne has begun to doubt my feelings, because today he got his friend Jason Ouimet, the NRA Executive Director, to pass me a note that basically says, "If You Still Like Wayne, Check This Box [ ]".

Well...I won't send you money, because I don't have any and anyway you'd just use it to buy cheap booze or Congressmen, or cheap booze for Congressmen, but there are other things I can contribute. My time, for instance (these emails of yours don't mock themselves). Or there's that dead raccoon at the end of the block. True, it's getting rained on, but it's still reasonably fresh; yet I can't help feeling you'd regard that less as a contribution and more the sort of oblique warning Mark Singer received in Body Chemistry when his spurned lover mailed him a squashed lobster (For more on their fraught, unrequited love, which eerily parallels my relationship with Wayne, see page 92 of Better Living Through Bad Movies.)

In 2020, you and I are facing an ALL-OR-NOTHING BATTLE for the very survival of American gun rights.
From your lips to God's ears. But you may have to shout to be heard above all the mass shootings.
For the first time in our lives, leading candidates for the White House are openly pledging to registertaxban, and even confiscate our firearms. 
Well, that escalated quickly. From "register" firearms, which most everyone in the country supports, to "confiscate", which virtually nobody advocates--certainly not "leading candidates for the White House", more's the pity. I acknowledge, if not necessarily admire the rhetorical sleight of hand with which the most radical solution to gun violence is conflated with the most anodyne.

NRA: That drug store clerk is making CHANGE!

ME: Well, yes, these Dr. Scholl Corn Cushions are four bucks, and I gave her a five, so I'm owed a dollar in change.

NRA: But she's making RADICAL CHANGE! Instead of a filthy, crumpled dollar bill--the symbol of our proud nation--she's giving you a Sacajawea coin, beloved by Feminists and SJWs! It's like you don't even care about the historical reputation of Lewis and Clark!

ME: No, no, I mean I'd like to walk the walk, but I've got this Plantar's Wart...
And hundreds of U.S. House and Senate candidates have likewise made it clear that destroying your gun rights will be their #1 priority if they’re elected next year.
I've finally figured out why I read this nonsense, and the answer is not flattering: it's basically political porn. Not that I can fap to the Fata Morganas of right wing spleenmail, but just as porn fanciers like to believe in a world where hitchhikers are comely, well-endowed college girls and not hollow-eyed meth-heads with a facial tic and a butterfly knife, I enjoy fantasizing about election campaigns where the candidates actually share my policy priorities.
The bottom line for you and me:
If we lose in 2020, the consequences will be catastrophic.

If we lose in 2020, national gun registration will become the law of the land, and your name, personal information, and gun purchase records will be tracked forever in a centralized government database.
Well the joke's on them, since I've never bought a gun, so I say we call up Aston Kutcher and see how this prank plays out.
If we lose in 2020, huge new taxes on firearm and ammunition purchases – along with mandatory insurance requirements – will put self-defense and recreational shooting beyond the financial reach of millions of Americans.
Sure, but let's not focus solely on the negative here, Jason. Think how many patriots, as a direct result of these onerous new taxes, will not get the opportunity to shoot their own dick off while squabbling over a parking space outside the Wal-Mart, thus depriving liberal Twitter of much needed amusement and memes.
If we lose in 2020, we’ll be facing sweeping bans on semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols that will outlaw more than half of all firearms sold in America today.
If I didn't know that you're basically the modern equivalent of those medicine show quacks who would roll into some frontier town and fob off a mixture of turpentine and gooseberry juice as a cure for whooping cough, I'd be jealous of your fierce and tender faith in the efficacy of the Democratic Party.
And if we lose in 2020, we could be just months or even weeks away from nationwide gun confiscations – with millions of legally-owned firearms being seized by the government and melted down for scrap.
Well I'm sure we could make something useful out of all that scrap. Like playground equipment for school kids! Although thanks to all the un-scrapped guns, there's not as much demand as there might otherwise be.
In short, the most precious freedom in our Constitution – a freedom you and I have known all our lives – is now on the brink of total destruction.
I dunno, Jason. I feel about the Bill of Rights the way a father feels when asked which of his children is his favorite: "I love 'em all equally!" Like Dad, however, I'm lying my ass off, because while I've used the First Amendment extensively (just check the World O' Crap archives for my previous correspondence with your boss), and I sleep better knowing the Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments exist (however imperfectly applied), your most precious freedom has been reaping a bitter harvest for literally as long as I can remember.
And the only group of people in this entire country who can stop the Second Amendment from being wiped off the face of the earth are you and me and our fellow NRA members.
Well, I'd love to help preserve our many millions of guns, but I don't have a lot of spare time what with my new job as a lobbyist for the National Scrap Industry Association.
Scott, that’s why I’m asking you to please make a generous end-of-year contribution[link removed] to NRA-ILA of $28 or more – so we can head into 2020 fully prepared for the biggest election battle of our lives.

Why $28? No clue. Maybe it's an amount small enough they can circumvent some limit or reporting regulation, or maybe it's a code, the way "88" means "Heil Hitler" to the alt right.
Let me be clear.
Not only have we never faced a threat this dangerous, but gun-banners have never been better funded or better organized than they are right now.
Or more pissed off. Fortunately, they've never come up against the awesome power of my Game of Thrones-themed pro-gun LARPing group, Brothers Without Gun-Banners!
And there’s simply no way NRA-ILA can win this make-or-break fight to save our guns without your help today.
You are So. Screwed.
To reach every freedom-loving gun owner in America and get them to the polls next November, we need your generous financial help right now.[link removed]
Have we tried reaching them through the power of prayer? I hear that's pretty effective.
To combat the vicious anti-gun lies being spread by the gun-hating media, we need your immediate help today.[link removed]
Why didn't I think of this in junior high--combating the lies and vicious gossip the popular kids spread about me by demanding everybody hand over their lunch money! That whole "queer bait" incident alone could have paid for an Intellivision!
And to build, organize, and mobilize the biggest grassroots army we’ve ever mustered in key battleground states, we need your leadership now more than ever before.[link removed]
All right, Jason, you've talked me into it! Once you've mobilized our army in the battlegrounds, I'll exercise my leadership by giving them the same orders Robert E. Lee gave his troops at Gettysburg. (I'm not exactly sure what those were, but I assume he won; there's statues of the guy all over the damn place.)

This is an all-hands-on-deck moment for NRA-ILA supporters like you and me.

Scott, you and I need to recognize right here and now that the Second Amendment is going to be the number one issue in this election. Not health care. Not immigration. Not the economy.
At least if the NRA Institute for Legislative Action has anything to say about. Too bad for the future of the Second Amendment that I blew my last 28 bucks on a pallet of Otter Pops at Costco.
If we win this election, we keep our guns. If we lose, we lose our freedoms – FOREVER. That’s why I need you fighting by my side right now.
Well I'm not gonna stay by your side FOREVER if you don't scootch over. My leg's going to sleep.

Whatever you can give before the end of the year[link removed] – $28, $37, $53, $100, or more – I’m asking you to please be as generous as you can.

I'm not saying I don't get a thrill out of watching a grown man grovel like this, but in keeping with the porn theme, I see no reason why I should give them my credit card number when I can probably find the same thing for free on some torrent site.
There’s simply never been a more important time for you to step up and help save the freedoms that generations of Americans have fought to defend.
That's what you say every election, every email, every time. Does the importance of the time just keep increasing exponentially? Or did we reach Peak Important Time somewhere back in the 90s, and now we're just struggling to maintain our relevance or even simply justify our existence like Yakov Smirnoff?

Thank you in advance for your strong NRA-ILA leadership. I’m grateful for your commitment. And I’m thankful beyond words to have you on our team.
Yours in Freedom,

Jason Ouimet
Executive Director

Okay, the closing of the email is admittedly dull, which is why people who dictate letters in movies always say, "Yours Sincerely, et cetera, et cetera" in a bored tone of voice, but I thought there has never been a more important time to include the whole stupid text, because this email contains 10 separate links to their fundraising page, a new record.

Maybe the NRA really is spooked by the withdrawal of certain big dollar donors, who figure all the heat from mass shootings is bad for business, and Jason is hoping the remaining membership is senile enough to click on all the links, forgetting they already gave two paragraphs ago.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Slumgullion Episode 70: The Mandalorian

Join Scott, Jeff, and Mary on The Slumgullion for a chat about the first two episodes of The Mandalorian. We're serving up geek crudité, Salacious B. Crumb kebobs, and Fur Eggs Benedict:

Monday, November 11, 2019

Episode 69: Ed Wood Meets the Terminator

This is a historic episode: number 69. We don't like to brag, but rarely does a foul-mouthed little podcast get to 69 episodes without a filthy, elbow-nudging 'Sixty-Nine" joke, and yet...we did it! How, you ask? Well, we attribute it to clean living,  high morals, and the fact that Scott didn't tell Jeff it was Episode 69, and Jeff doesn't care and doesn't keep track of these things because he's not a weird little Gollum-esque obsessive like Scott.

So here you go. We talk about Edward D. Wood, Jr. and Terminator: Dark Fate. Do we draw a parallel between the two? An incredibly insulting parallel? Well, funny you should mention that, because we...Nah. We won't spoil it for you.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Rip Van Wrinkle in Time

Given that its agrarian utility is all but obsolete, why do we still have Daylight Savings Time? Who benefits from it getting dark an hour earlier? I'll tell you who: 


Which means the U.S. Department of Transportation is in the pocket of Big Undead.

There's only one solution to these crooked politicians, graft-seeking bureaucrats, and the deep-pocketed lobbyists who keep them in power:

Drain the Swamp.

Except then we'd have to deal with Swamp Thing.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Dr. Tongue's House of 3-D Apathy

ME: Look upon this fearsome black cat! Harbinger of evil! Mistress of the dead! She is known as Shadow and her name is spoken only in dread whispers! FEAR HER!

SHADOW: I refuse to participate in this bullshit.

ME: C'mon, it's Halloween--

SHADOW: Fuck off.

All right, fine. Mary's the one with the holiday mojo, but she's been out of town this week caring for her mother and my efforts to enlist the cats in some Halloween hijinks have clearly fallen flat. So I guess I'll just make a drink and go watch It or Them! or some other pronoun-themed horror flick. Hell, maybe I'll get drunk enough to go for a noun (albeit starting slow, with a vague one) and put on The Thing.

Happy Halloween guys.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The Tell-Tale Heart Edition

MOONDOGGIE: I can hear the ocean. 

ME: That’s my femoral artery. 

MOONDOGGIE: Whatever. They’re both clogged with fish oil and garbage.

Friday, October 25, 2019


Scott, Jeff, and two-thirds of the New Movie Crew discuss their relationship status with Joker.

It's Complicated.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Farewell Robert Forster

I've been an admirer of Robert Forster since I first saw him in Banyon, an early 70s TV series about a Depression Era private eye, a formula almost calculated to fail with the viewing public (it got clobbered in the ratings by Love America Style), but likewise guaranteed to tickle my peculiar, age-inappropriate interests. I remember being impressed by his intense, but low-key demeanor and his cool naturalism, and from then on Forster's presence in a film could make me sit through just about anything.

Even this thing.

The Black Hole (1979)
Directed by Gary Nelson
Written by Jeb Rosebrook and Gerry Day

Tagline: A journey that begins where everything else ends!

Starting with your patience.

The Black Hole gets a lot of crap for being just another Star Wars rip-off, which I consider unfair, since it’s actually a rip-off of Disney’s own 1954 picture, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, but with two crucial differences: this version is set in space rather than at sea, and instead of Nemo being a tortured genius using ruthless means to achieve a noble end, he’s just an asshole.

Another criticism of the film is that nearly every performance is lifeless or just plain bad. No surprise with that talking wig-stand, Yvette Mimieux, but even normally fine actors like Anthony Perkins and Robert Forster sound like they’ve been roofied, possibly because they were forced to go back and re-record all their dialogue, something unusual for a studio film shot on a stage.  But in all fairness, if I’d been working on the that movie, I’d have been drinking too.

It’s the Year 2130. NASA has launched the spaceship Palomino (which, as my friend Jeff points out, looks like a butt-plug on a camcorder tripod) and sent it on a mission to boldly go and wander around for a while. It’s a harsh task, because the Palomino is no Enterprise; it’s cramped, filled with fey robots, and has a zero-gravity environment which is tough on the wardrobe. Fortunately, it’s the future, so everybody’s double-knit leisure suits have memory. Also helpful is the fact that the crew is aggressively middle-aged, and prone to simulate weightlessness by standing on an off-camera plank while sweaty Teamsters pump it up and down like a teeter-totter. The exception is Joseph Bottoms, who really throws himself into the zero-g effect, joyfully and repeatedly dangling from wires in his tight jumpsuit with his pert, shapely buttocks aloft, and which has inspired me to invent a drinking game. Every time he does it, yell “Bottom’s up!” and take a shot.

Anyway, we join the Palomino as it executes an unscheduled course correction, which makes the entire crew irritable, because now they’re going to be late for work. They demand an explanation from their GPS device, V.I.N.CENT, a highly sophisticated Coors Party Ball with the voice of Roddy McDowell and the eyes of that Kit-Cat Clock, but less expressive. He explains that the ship has encountered a black hole, “a rip in the very fabric of space and time,” so they’re going to have to take an alternate route.

Anthony Perkins, the ship’s astrophysicist, stares at the black hole (which is depicted as a constant swirl of fluid blue energy that kind of looks like a toilet in mid-flush) and pronounces it, with attempted awe, “the most destructive force in the universe,” although he sounds so bored he might as well be declaring it, “the most disappointing cheesesteak I ever ate in Philadelphia.”

Surprisingly, there’s a ship parked in the Black Hole’s driveway, a massive experimental craft called The Cygnus (the first time I saw this movie I thought they were calling it “the Sickness,” and an hour and 38 minutes later, I realized I should have taken the hint and snuck into an adjoining theater to see one of the many other, better films that came out that year, including H.O.T.S., C.H.O.M.P.S., Roller Boogie, or Caligula).

By an amazing coincidence, Yvette’s father was on The Sickness, which she tells us was sent out some years ago to find “habitable life.” Personally, I’d be satisfied with a habitable planet, but I guess the first step in space exploration is to find aliens big enough that we can live inside them like maggots, or immature marsupials. (Frankly, if this movie had been about the search for an intelligent race of giant space kangaroos, I probably wouldn’t have left in the middle to go buy Junior Mints.)

Newspaper reporter Ernest Borgnine, who’s embedded with the crew, tells them that The Sickness was commanded by mad scientist Maximillian Schell, who “talked the Space Appropriations Committee into the costliest fiasco of all time – and refused to admit failure,” a technique he learned from the cryogenically preserved head of Dick Cheney.

The Palomino trips and plunges headfirst into the Most Destructive Force in the Universe, which causes their muffler to fall off, so Captain Robert Forster orders Joseph Bottoms to land on the Sickness, which Joseph takes as a cue to stick his butt in the air.


The Sickness abruptly turns on the porch light, and we get the full sense of her size and majesty. A mile-long rectangle of glass and steel, it looks as if NASA just decided to launch the West Edmonton Mall into deep space. The crew takes the jetway and emerges into what looks like a Frontier airlines terminal – lots of uncomfortable plastic chairs, but no passengers -- and Robert tells Joseph to stay with the ship. Joseph responds by pouting, then pulling out his ray gun, sticking out his butt, and posing like the silhouette from the opening credits of Charlie’s Angels.


The Palomino crew arrives at CNN Center in Atlanta, where they discover the ship is being operated by “robots” dressed in Mylar hockey masks and roomy space muumuus. Suddenly, the mad-eyed Maximilian Schell, whose shaggy beard and unbelievable bouffant makes Lon Chaney’s Wolfman look like Pluto from The Hills Have Eyes, pops up to announce that Yvette’s dad is dead and to backfill the back-story. Like every spacecraft in virtually every space movie ever made, The Sickness had the crap kicked out of it by a meteor shower, so Max ordered the crew to abandon ship. Meanwhile, he stayed behind, and has spent the last twenty years alone, building robot companions and making fun of bad movies.

For some reason, the incredibly secretive and paranoid Max lets the Away Team wander freely around his ship, collecting spare parts to repair their butt-plug. They snoop in closets, admire the matte paintings, and desperately try to avoid stunts or action. At one point, Ernest Borgnine’s suspicions are aroused by a robot with a bad limp, and he gives chase, but he’s on a slightly raised platform that looks a little slippery, and he runs so gingerly, with his arms flailing to maintain his footing, that you can almost hear him chanting, “Don’t break a hip, don’t break a hip…!”

Mad Max and Anthony Perkins get flirty, and Max invites them to dinner in his wood paneled formal dining room, lavishly appointed with chandeliers and candelabras, making The Sickness the only faster-than-light, interstellar space craft to be decorated by Liberace.

Meanwhile, VINCENT makes friends with B.O.B., a levitating beer keg with the voice of Slim Pickens, and we get to watch the robots play a video arcade game. It’s a slow sequence, and sadly, putting your quarter on the machine doesn’t speed things up any.

Let’s cut back to the dinner party, because what action-packed space adventure is complete without a leisurely soup course? Max announces that he’ll be flying The Sickness straight into the Black Hole, confident he can open a portal to another universe, one which is sorely in need of a Camp Snoopy and a Wet Seal.

After dinner, the crew is served mints and exposition, when B.O.B. reveals that all the robots are really the former crew of The Sickness, whom Max lobotomized, using a special automated lobotomizing assembly line. It seems unlikely NASA included this feature as factory standard equipment, so Max would have had to get the crew to build and install it for him, and frankly I would’ve loved to have been at the staff meeting where he assigned Action Items to Team Automatic Lobotomizer.

Captain Robert snaps into action and decides to take over The Sickness! Or maybe just leave. It’s kind of unclear. Then he reads ahead in the script and sees that he’ll be spending the last twenty-two minutes of the film running from blue screens and matte paintings, so he decides he’d better conserve his energy and just do nothing. Maybe have a Gatorade and a Power Bar.  Anthony Perkins, however, announces that he has decided to stay aboard The Sickness with Max, because he finds that he really enjoys being only the second most creepy person in a movie.

Unfortunately, Max’s senior robot, Maximilian, a recycled Cylon that somebody painted the color of Gallo Hearty Burgundy, gets jealous or something and uses his juicing attachment on Anthony’s lower intestines. Then Mad Max decides to lobotomize Yvette, because it’s not like anyone would notice.

Meanwhile, Robert and the Party Balls sneak around the mall some more. Since the movie was released in December, I can only assume they’re looking for Santa. Instead, they find Yvette, who has been stuffed into a quilted, full-body oven mitt and had her head covered with aluminum foil. Seriously, her scalp is wrapped up like a rump roast; apparently, this is the exact point where the Special Effects department said, “Fuck it,” and cracked open the Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

Anyway, Max’s man-bots are using Lasik surgery to burn their initials into Yvette’s pre-frontal lobe, but Robert shoots the machine with his plastic laser horseshoe. Was he in time to save her from being lobotomized? There’s no way to tell from her performance, so we’re just going to have to wait and see if her insurance company sends her a bill.

You know what? We could really use a big action sequence right about now. What we get are repetitive shots of our heroes as they squat behind those big pastel colored pipes that kids crawl around in at Chuck E. Cheese, and take pot shots at a row of immobile robots who appear to have all malfunctioned in mid Conga Line.

Robert, Yvette, and the Party Balls are pinned down by hostile fire. Joseph, who’s been sitting in the butt-plug the whole movie, runs to save them. Ernest tags along, then decides, “aw, screw it,” and fakes a leg injury like an Italian soccer player. Then he steals the Palomino and blasts off, leaving the others behind. Immediately, however, he loses control of the ship when he starts sweating, grimacing, and needlessly crouching; in other words – and I’m just going by his performance here – he has a suddenly attack of diarrhea, and crashes into The Sickness, taking out the Fashion Bug and a Cinnabon.

Our heroes decide to escape in “the probe ship.” Yeah, whatever. Meanwhile, as promised, the next 22 minutes consist of B-list actors jogging in front of cheap sets and back projection, interspersed with SFX shots as The Sickness is slowly – let me rephrase that: SLOWLY! – pulled into the Black Hole. On the bright side, we learn that V.I.N.CENT ’s large, telescoping testicles can be used as offensive weapons (try that, Jackie Chan!), when the Party Ball deploys his party balls to coldcock Mad Max’s garage sale Cylon.

Now let’s rip off the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, with five minutes of half-assed psychedelic effects as the probe ship penetrates the Black Hole, played at this performance by five gallons of strawberry Jell-O flushed down a john.

But what about Max? Well, he’s just floating in the vacuum of space without a pressure suit, apparently none the worse for wear, although his hair is extremely staticky and tangled from the event horizon, and in need of a good cream rinse. He bumps into his burgundy Cylon which – spoiler alert – is filled with the brain and guts of Yvette’s lobotomized Dad. They do a touching Bro Hug, then suddenly Max is inside the robot himself! Because, irony! He looks confused, a feeling we immediately share when the camera pulls out and we see that he’s standing atop the Matterhorn ride in Disneyland.

Wait. No. Pull out a little farther, and…Oh! Hey. We’re in Hell. Flames, demons, and dozens of skull-faced penitents in black hooded robes. Okay, thanks, Disney.

Cut back to our heroes as they pass through the Black Hole and emerge in another universe, ready to begin life anew and populate a virgin world, like the story of Genesis. Except it’s Robert Forster, Yvette Mimeaux, and the dewy, fresh-faced Joseph Bottoms, so it’s like Adam and Eve and the twink hustler they picked up for a threesome on Sunset Boulevard.

R.I.P., Robert.