Friday, November 20, 2020

Flowers in the Attic (1987)

 I see from Twitter that this is an auspicious occasion for fans of campy acting choices:

And if there's one film full of performances that cry out to be boned, pressed, and packed in water like Danish ham, it's this adaptation of the V.C. Andrews novel. So for those who may have missed it, here's Bill S.'s gentle but thorough colonoscopic survey.

Flowers in the Attic, Bats in the Belfry

By Bill S.

Last week, in celebration of Mother's Day, I offered up my annual list of Bad Movie Moms. There are some movie depictions of bad motherhood that need more than just a paragraph or two, but require a column all to themselves. In compiling my list this year, I came across two such films, Flowers In the Attic (1987) and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! (1992). After careful consideration, I determined that if I were to sit through the latter a second time, I'd probably want to shoot myself (I might -- repeat, might -- consider it next year), so I opted for the former. I have to confess I hadn't watched it in over 20 years, but I recalled it featuring not one, but two awful moms, and that I gave it a one-star rating after viewing it. (I should explain: back in the '80's when our family had HBO, I used to watch as many movies as I could, then keep track of them in a notebook, assigning star ratings to them. I'm aware of how geeky that is, which is why I no longer do it.)

So I viewed it again, and it all came back to me, much like a bad lunch coming back up. This picture's not so much creepy as it is "cringy." It's based on a book, the first in a series following the same characters, by V.C. Andrews. I've never read it, or any of her work. Perhaps someone who has can tell me how best to rate the quality of her writing: A-Passable, B-Mediocre, C-Terrible or D-"Sweet Lordy Gordy, How Did the Editors Refrain From Gouging Out Their Eyes After the First Three Pages?" Ms. Andrews passed away before the movie was released into theaters, but was on the set during production, and even makes a cameo appearance as a servant washing an upstairs window. She was reportedly pleased with the script and the casting of Kristy Swanson* in the lead role, both of which makes me think whatever illness she succumbed to impaired her mental judgement.
This is the story of the Dollangangers, a family so blindingly blonde and Aryan they make the Von Trapps seem like Sly & the Family Stone. The mother, Corinne (Victoria Tenant), teens Cathy (Swanson), Christopher** (Jeb Stuart), and five-year-old twins Carrie and Cory, all lead a happy, idyllic life, while the dad, Christopher, Sr.(Marshall Colt) goes to work. Each time the father comes home, the kids greet him by hiding behind the couch, jumping up and yelling, "Surprise!"

Cathy is especially close to her father, who considers her his favorite, and, away from the other kids, gives her a Very Special Gift, a ceramic ballerina. We in the audience begin taking bets as to who's going to the smash the thing. Since we see Corinne peering in with envy, she's our first candidate.

On the dad's 36th birthday, the kids ready themselves, arguing about how many candles to put on the cake, when they hear a car outside and assume position behind the couch. But instead, two policemen greet Corinne, and inform her and the kids that the father's been killed in an auto accident. This really ruins the birthday party, and that's the least of their trouble, because they eventually begin running out of money and have to sell off their possessions, eventually losing their house. At no time does Corinne try to look for a job. Perhaps she's not qualified to do anything useful, which gives her a lot in common with the actress playing her.

The family packs up and hops on a bus. Corinne informs them they're going to her parents' home, a stately mansion known as Foxworth Hall. We learn that she comes from a wealthy family, but is estranged from her parents, because, she explains, many years ago, she did something that displeased her father, and was disinherited. But on the bright side, he's now so old and decrepit, he's likely to kick the bucket, and her plan is to win back his love and put her back in the will before he croaks. I can see no flaw in this plan. No, none at all.

Cathy is a bit more skeptical. She also feels her mother should have prepared the kids better for death. "She never allowed us to have a dog, or a kitten...if we had a pet and it died, we would have learned something about that." Yes, good parenting is giving your child a pet in the hopes it will die eventually. Hey, if she was really looking out for those kids, she'd have gotten them a cute, fluffy kitten, clubbed it over the head with a mallet in front of them, and explained, "Life is short. Get used to it." 

Finally, they all arrive at Foxworth Hall, a place so creepy and forboding, little Cory observes, "Witches in there, Mama. Witches and monsters." Maybe not, but the grounds do have a bunch of noisy hell hounds and a creepy butler named John. The children meet their grandmother, who's identified in the credits as "Grandmother", but I've learned is actually named Olivia, because V.C. Andrews ran out of "C" names, I guess. It may be said that Louise Fletcher***, who plays Olivia, displays the only thing approaching competence in this movie, though she's stuck playing a psycho biddy so cold and heartless she makes Nurse Ratched seem warm and cuddly.

Olivia leads the children to an upstairs room, explaining that they're to stay there at all times. She also instructs them to never speak, or even whimper, without her permission, then exits, locking the children inside. There are bars on the windows. The next morning, she brings them breakfast, then asks if the children know why their mother left 17 years ago, and when they inform her they don't she explains: "Your mother's marriage was unholy! A sacrilege! An abomination in the eyes of the Lord! She did not fall from Grace. She leapt -- into the arms of a man whose veins pulsed with the same blood as hers! Not a stranger, but her own uncle! And you, the children, are the devil's spawn! Evil from the moment of conception!" I'm guessing at this moment, that "World's Best Grandma" mug they were planning on giving her, won't go over well.
This shocking back story is a lot for the kids, and us, to absorb, and it's never addressed in any meaningful way in the movie. We can't imagine how or why it would happen, and the writers don't seem to give a shit about telling us anything. (I'm sure the book it's based on offers a perfectly ridiculous explanation.) Olivia concludes by telling them their grandfather must never know they exist.

Meanwhile, downstairs, Corinne takes her first step towards reconciliation with her father, a creepily ancient man (he looks like he could be her grandfather) with long fingernails, who lies in bed withering away, unable to rise. She stands before him and lowers her blouse. Her mother reaches for a whip. The camera, mercifully, cuts away to an exterior shot of the house and we hear the sound of a whip.
(Did I happen to mention that this is movie got a PG-13 rating? I guess someone decided a depiction of incest and sadomasochism was perfectly acceptable fare for kids in middle school.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Yor, Hunter From the Future (1983)

Yor, the Hunter from the Future (1983)

Directed by: Anthony M. Dawson

Written by:  Anthony M. Dawson and Robert D. Bailey, based on the graphic novel “Henga, el cazador” by Ray Collins & Juan Zanotto

 

Tagline: He was a powerful warrior from the future, trapped in a prehistoric land, battling for the survival of his people.

 

Let me get something off my chest right away.  “YOR HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE” has one of those shouty titles that seems to be trying a bit too hard to make me feel proprietary about the hero, the way sports franchises and local TV commercials do.  You know…”Your USC Trojans!” or “at Your Lincoln-Mercury Dealer” or “in Your Grocer’s Freezer.”  What I’m trying to say is, he’s not my hunter from the future.  Personally, I think he’s probably going to do some very stupid things, and I want it completely understood that I’m not responsible for him.

 

Director Dawson – actually a pseudonym for Italian filmmaker Antonio (Cannibal Apocalypse) Margheriti -- gets right down to business by opening up on a shot of the world’s largest sandstone penis.  While we’re still choking on that image, he abruptly slaps us in the face with the movie’s theme song (“Yor’s World”) which sounds like Kajagoogoo singing “Nature Boy” while being flogged with an extension cord by Giorgio Moroder.

 

Yor enters, dressed like the old Jack Kirby comic book character “Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth” – loincloth, crude axe, UGG boots, and the blond Prince Valiant look favored by the mascot for Dutch Boy Paints – and played by “Reb” Brown (at least, that’s what the Orthodox Jews call him).

 

Yor does a couple laps around the fossilized dildo, then exits, pursued by the credits.

 

A tribe of fur-wearing Neanderthals are lighting the Olympic torch, which seems like a risky pastime for folks who are each sporting about three pounds of crepe hair.  The Elder, who looks like a wizened and slightly confused Ted Neely, says, “Now be about your business.  Let this day be celebrated with feasting and hunting,” and while I wouldn’t presume to tell a barbarian his business, it seems like you might want to do the second thing first, or the feast is going to suck, and you’re going to have to hunt with a low blood sugar headache.

 

Out in the forest, Ka-Laa (Corinne Cléry, star of The Story of O, Moonraker, and the 1976 Ernest Borgnine sex romp Holiday Hookers) is already being about her business, getting mentored in bush-lore by Paleo-Jack Elam, who’s wearing an off-the-shoulder bear skin that accentuates his armpit hair and man-boobs.  They catch a tiny plush toy stegosaurus, but just then its mother shows up and gores Paleo-Jack, forcing Ka-Laa to attempt a facial expression.

 

Nearby, Yor pauses to cock an ear.  As an experienced hunter from the future, he recognizes the enraged bellow of a charging Sid ‘N’ Marty Krofft puppet, and he rushes to join the battle. The mother dinosaur is sort of a mash-up between Gamera and a Chinese New Years dragon, and it quickly becomes clear the thing is made from paper mache when our hero hits it with his axe and the head breaks open like a piñata.  A geyser of blood spews into the air while Yor the Hunter gazes at his kill, wondering where Bite-Sized Snickers went.

 

Like Patrick Swayze in Red Dawn, Yor drinks the blood of his prey, and forces Ka-Laa to guzzle a handful too, because pick-up rituals haven’t yet evolved to the point where he can just buy her an Amstel Light.  P-Jack gets up and introduces himself, apparently none the worse for the goring.

 

The tribespeople are transfixed by Yor’s big gold medallion, claiming they’ve never seen anything like it before, although the idea that a bunch of Italians in the early 80s have never seen a beefy guy wearing a medallion is probably the funniest thing in this movie.  But it turns out the Elder knows a goddess on the other side of the mountain with similarly gaudy taste in jewelry, and offers to set up a play date.

 

The Tribe treats Yor to a feast that is rich in barbaric splendor, by which I mean they hand him an underdone brisket while a couple of middle-aged women put on smocks made of cargo netting and spin around like dreidels.  Yor waves his meat in the air and yells “Woo!” suggesting he prepared for the role by studying the lap-dance patrons at Bob’s Classy Lady on Sepulveda Boulevard.

 

Meanwhile, the music attracts some cave men, who were in the midst of following a Ron Perelman makeover in Sabertooth Tiger Beat!  If anything, these guys are even hairier – dripping with furs and sporting wigs taller than the B-52s.  They attack the village with clubs, but the Tribe has mastered stone axe technology; plus they have Yor in their side, and he’s super cut and knows how to karate-chop a troglodyte.  Our hero fiercely defends his new companions, until it starts to get hard, then he runs away.  

 

On the way out of town Yor grabs Ka-Laa and takes her to the cave where he grew up.  We expect they’ll throw off their leather thongs and make barbarian whoopee, but Yor just wants to talk, because he’s baffled by his accessories.

            

“It’s like a fire burning inside me,” he says, fingering his Mr. T-sized medallion.  “A question without an answer.”  Then he gazes off into the distance and waxes poetic.  “Am I the son of fire?  [Unintelligible] mother, father.”

 

This is the point where I really began to identify with Yor, because my class ring often made me wonder if I was the son of Earth, Wind and Fire, and entitled by birthright to a backstage pass when they played the San Manuel Indian Casino with Kool & The Gang.

 

The next morning, Yor and Ka-Laa meander until they get jumped by the Ron Perelmans, who proceed to kick Yor’s taut and frequently exposed ass.  The chief Ron Perelman (we’ll call him Captain Caveman) snatches away the medallion and gloats, “His power is now mine!”  Personally, I’d recommend seizing the power of someone who doesn’t habitually keel over ten seconds into a fight, but that’s just me.

 

The Perelmans throw Yor off a high cliff and he plunges, screaming, to his death, hitting the rocks below with a sickening thud.  Then they drag Ka-Laa back to their lair, because she was won in combat, and now rightfully belongs to them, although for tax purposes she’s legally owned by a shell corporation in the Caymans.

 

But Yor “doesn’t recognize their laws”, including, apparently, the law of gravity, so he stops being dead and climbs back up the cliff.  He’s met at the top by Paleo-Jack, who saw the battle but didn’t have time to intervene, because Yor hit the ground faster than a pair of panties on Prom night.

 

They follow the Perelmans back to their cave, and Yor is just about to charge inside and kick ass, or get ass-kicked, when P-Jack points out “the Beast of the Night” soaring over head.  Yor shoots it with an arrow and the beast – a kite with the paper mache body of a moth – drifts gently to the ground.  He charges the wounded creature and pummels it with a rock, but still doesn’t find any Smarties or Twizzlers inside.

 

Meanwhile, Captain Caveman beats up all the other Perelmans for the right to party with Ka-Laa, but just before he reaches into his loincloth to release his homo erectus, the Kajagoogoo Boy’s Choir bursts out with a triumphant chorus of “Yor’s World,” while our hero hang-glides across the cave, using the corpse of the paper mache moth.

 

Yor floods the cave somehow, drowning the Ron Perelmans, then he takes Ka-Laa and Paleo-Jack to Penis National Park, which looks a little like a John Ford film, if the tall and craggy formations that loomed over John Wayne in Stagecoachand The Searchers had been ribbed for his pleasure.

 

Yor kisses Ka-Laa good-bye, leaving her and P-Jack behind as he goes off to find the goddess with the matching commemorative pendant.  He wanders through the cock rocks for awhile, until he’s jumped by mud-smeared savages brandishing large, flaming barbecue forks.

 

Yor snaps into action, spinning on his heel and running away so fast you expect to hear “Yakety Sax” as he shrinks into the distance.  But the savages had apparently just returned from a road trip to Wisconsin, and they throw a crapload of firecrackers at him.   Yor has a panic attack; then the Mud Dudes gently drape a fishing net over him, and our hero just sort of lays there like a Ken doll under a doily, proving that he’s not exactly the Deadliest Catch.

 

They drag him into a cave (approximately 71% of this movie takes place in caves, part of a filmmaking incentive program called “Clunkers for Spelunkers”) and we meet Yor’s even blonder female doppleganger, Miss Clairol, who’s rocking a beige cape and a one-piece rawhide swimsuit, and whose strong, rugged features answer the question “What would Yor look like as a cross-dresser?”  They fondle each other’s medallions, then Yor is overcome by a fit of Aryan glee and rhapsodizes, “Now you’re living proof that we represent a race!”  He suggests they run off to find their bleached people and breed some Children of the Damned; alas, Miss Clairol serves as the Mud Dudes’ goddess and she’ll first have to submit a vacation request to the HR Department.

 

Yor says, “Either you release me.  Or you kill me.  Now.” 

 

Yor snatches a flaming sword that was just sitting there on the coffee table and starts flailing around with it, setting Miss Clairol’s followers on fire.  The goddess looks miffed, but before she can lodge a complaint, she’s cold-cocked by a falling stalactite.

 

For some reason, igniting the natives starts a seismic upheaval and the cave collapses, which makes perfect sense, as archeologists now know that the earthquake of 464 BC, which destroyed Sparta, was caused by a hoplite smoking in bed.  Yor hustles her outside.  Ka-Laa sees her man cradling a blonde floozy in a pemmican unitard and flies into a jealous rage, which she expresses in typical barbarian fashion by starting a Spanish moss collection.

 

Yor and his companions build a crude raft and light out for the Territories.  Along the way, Yor and femme-Yor wander off to be blonde together, and she says, “Do you know I have never belonged to another man,” which I guess is a roundabout way of confessing that she is a cross-dresser.  Then they kiss, and suddenly it’s all blonde on blonde.

 

Meanwhile, Ka-Laa is worried about Miss Clairol stealing her muscular pageboy-friend.  “That woman,” she frets, “is of the same race as Yor!”  Hell, honey, she’s of the same sex.  But Yor seems like a bit like Captain Jack Harkness – he’s from the future, and he’ll fuck anything.

 

Ka-Laa pulls a knife on her blonde rival, and the scene quickly escalates to a tomcat-fight, but they’re interrupted by Captain Caveman, who survived drowning because, while he can’t swim, his body lice can.

 

Yor attacks the Captain and his hairy men, and we get one of those fights you often see in 7-Eleven parking lots, with a lot of pushing, clinching, and the exchange of incoherent cuss words.  Meanwhile, Miss Clairol gets knocked unconscious again.  I swear, this woman is worse than Mannix.

 

She wakes up just in time to die, whispering to Yor, “You see?  Dreams…are only dreams,” suggesting that just before Captain Caveman delivered the fatal blow, he asked her, “Any last tautologies?”

 

Then she gets woozy and starts reciting Longfellow’s “Hiawatha,” finishing up with directions to the rest of Yor’s people, proving the old adage that if you can’t find your ancestral homeland, give your doppleganger a fatal head wound and it’ll turn them into Google Maps

 

They reach the Jersey Shore, where Ka-Laa wades around the surf in her fur boots until they’re soggy and gross, and Yor has to warn her not to drink the ocean because it’s salty.  Then some alarmingly nude kids are attacked by a large naugahyde dinosaur in a cave.  Yor leaps to their defense, and the giant lizard promptly kicks his ass, then licks him, just to be sassy about it.  Fortunately, P-Jack kills the monster with an arrow through the eye, but since he’s old and hairy and has man-boobs, everyone thanks Yor for saving them, and the kids’ dad offers up his nubile Eurasian daughter as a Thank You gift, sort of the Paleolithic version of the Sports Illustrated sneaker phone.

 

The villagers tell Yor that a god came to them in a metal bird, but they threw clubs at him and he exploded, leaving behind nothing but a speaker from a drive-in and the great smell of Brut.  Then the FX crew shoots the village with a laser and it blows up, and Ka-Laa cries out, ‘Oh my god!”  (Just the one?)

 

The drive-in speaker squawks out some military radio chatter, leading Yor to deduce that he should scream “Damn talking box!” and fling it across the cave.

 

The village is a smoldering ruin, most of its people are dead.  To thank Yor for protecting them, the survivors give him a boat that looks like a wicker laundry basket, and he sails off toward the setting sun, and his destiny.  Ten seconds later it gets a little choppy and he falls overboard, washing up on the shore of Coincidence Island.

 

Cut to the villain’s lair, where an Emperor Palpatine cosplayer is watching Yor, using the same crystal ball surveillance system the Wicked Witch of the West used to spy on Dorothy.  Palpatine points at a robot made from a Darth Vader helmet, the top half of a stormtrooper costume, and a pair of blousy harem pants, and intones menacingly, “The [unintelligible] must be analyzed!”

 

Storm Darthtrooper finds Yor, but before he can analyze the unintelligible, our hero knocks his head off with a rock.  But there are several other robots milling around, equipped with milk cartons on their forearms that emit bad special effects, and cause Yor to swoon.

 

Ka-Laa and Paleo-Jack, who, despite being savages who’d never seen the sea, did not fall off the boat, come ashore like normal people.  Palpatine sends his capri-wearing robots after them, but they’re dragged into a cave and rescued by Dr. Carlisle Cullen from the Twilight franchise.

 

Meanwhile, at Princeton‑Plainsboro Teaching Hospital, Yor is being given an MRI by a Breck Girl.  She downloads his complete browser history from his medallion, and finds out he’s a local boy whose real name is “Galahad” (you may commence snickering).  He’s also the son of the rebel “Asgard,” who was banished, apparently for being a crappy pilot, because ten seconds after leaving Peroxide Island, he crashed and died.  Somehow, Yor survived alone in the savage wilderness, living on dinosaur blood and piñata candy.

 

Dr. Cullen takes Ka-Laa and P-Jack to meet the rebels – survivors of a nuclear war --  who are basically the advanced humans from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but without the gross skin condition.  Meanwhile, Yor sneaks out of the MRI machine while Palpatine is monologuing, hoping to escape before they discover he doesn’t have insurance.

 

Ka-Laa and Yor wander around until they meet up in that hall of mirrors from the climax of The Lady From Shanghai, except now it’s been accessorized with Tiki idols who are enormously proud of their vaginas.  

 

Yor takes Ka-Laa back to the MRI room, because he has a colonoscopy scheduled at 3:00, but then Palpatine teleports in and reveals his whole plan was to get Yor to bring a fertile woman to the island with whom Palpatine could mate.  In other words, the guy we’ve been watching this whole time isn’t even the hero of the movie, he’s just the villain’s wingman.

 

Palp explains there’s a breeding problem, because “many of us carried the germs of the radioactive fallout.”  I didn’t realize radiation was bacterial, but it’s nice to know you can survive global thermonuclear war if you just remember to stock up on Echinacea. 

 

Anyway, the whole thing ends up, as you knew it would, in a Wisconsin cheese factory, where everyone trots around the pipes and catwalks and shoots lasers at each other.  Even Paleo-Jack is wielding a pulse rifle with deadly accuracy, even though he doesn’t know what a toothbrush or a nit-comb is.  The Storm Darthtroopers are pretty easy to kill, but Palp has some even deadlier robots, which you can tell are more advanced because they’re equipped with those plastic neck cones that dogs have to wear after getting spayed.

 

The neutered bots don’t help, and Yor stabs Palp in the kidney with a barber pole, then blows up the cheese factory, and he and Ka-laa and P-Jack, and all the Cullens and Breck People fly off to the mainland to lord it over the stinky Neanderthals.

 

The End.

Hallmarked...for DEATH!


OPENING CREDITS: This is gonna be so much fun! Better take small sips, though! Heehee...

1st COMMERCIAL BREAK: (Can't remember cat's name)

2nd COMMERCIAL BREAK: (Alcohol toxemia sets in)

3rd COMMERCIAL BREAK: (Renal failure)

4th COMMERCIAL BREAK: (Liver attempts to escape by crawling out through anus)

5th COMMERCIAL BREAK: (Make ill-advised booty call to ex)

6th COMMERCIAL BREAK: (Clinical brain death)

7th COMMERCIAL BREAK: (Alcohol fumes expelled as death rattle spontaneously combusts, touching off explosion, flambéeing body, and carmelizing couch)

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Charlie Brown Joins Starfleet


New Slumgullion! As Philosophy majors know, there are two classic logic puzzles that are basically unsolvable: Can God make a rock so big even he can't lift it? And where does Charlie Brown fit into Star Trek canon? Well, in Episode 81, we solve one of 'em.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Hot Rod Girl (1956)


 The Prim...and the Pomaded!

Jeff and Scott give their Show & Tell presentations on Star Trek Day ("Teacher says, every time a bell rings, a red angel gets her wings."). Then buckle up for high octane excitement with HOT ROD GIRL!

THRILL! as people talk about racing but never actually do any! 

GASP as Frank Gorshin imitates Cagney and chickens out! 

SQUEAL as Lori Nelson wants coffee but is cockblocked by her boyfriend's need to avoid sex! 


Thursday, September 10, 2020

By the Wondrous Wands of Watoomb!


HIM: I am Dr. Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts!

HER: Oh, sorry, wrong door. I'm looking for the podiatrist's office.

MAN: He's in Suite 204. (HANDS CRACKLING WITH ELECTRICITY) I call upon the Ruby Rings of Raggadorr to heal this woman’s unsightly Plantar Wart! 

[KRA-KA-THOOM!] 

HER: Oh. Hey, thanks! Do you validate?

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Slumgullion 79: Harley Quinn vs. Star Trek Lower Decks

 
In this episode, Scott dragged Jeff from his near-deathbed to yak about a couple of cartoons. Because he has kind of a dark side.

Also: Jack Bauer was the worst Doctor Who.

The WORST.


Friday, August 7, 2020

It's "Help Jeff Not Die" Day!

Happy birthday to my friend and co-host of The Slumgullion, writer-performer Jeff Holland! (Okay, it's a real challenge to write those words right now and have them not come off as sarcastic, but I swear, it's just the circumstances, not the sentiment!)

As some of you know, Jeff is in dire medical and financial straits after cancer surgery, and we're trying to raise enough money to stave off eviction until he's healthy enough to work again. 

Thanks to everyone who's donated--looks like we've got August rent covered. If you're just seeing this, please check out the fundraiser here; any help at all will be enormously appreciated.

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Man Called Flintstone (1966)

[NOTE FROM SCOTT: Hi guys, just wanted to pop in and introduce a new contributor to WoC: Andrew Leal. I met Andrew through our old friend Ivan Shreve, Jr., and like Ivan he exhibits an encyclopedic knowledge of Old Stuff: Old Time Radio, classic films, Golden Age television, crappy Saturday morning cartoons, and lousy live action Disney flicks from the 1960s, as well as being unusually--perhaps even suspiciously--well-informed on the subject of Character Actors--so much so that he's become my go-to expert if I ever need to tell the difference between, say, a Charles Lane and an Olan Soulé. So please join me in welcoming Andrew to WoC, and enjoy this long-overdue critical reassessment, the first in a series we like to call, Flintstones on Film.]

By Andrew Leal

Ah, Hanna-Barbera. Creators of hat-and/or-tie wearing critters, masters of sitcom past and future, their output dominated TV cartoons for over thirty years. Having saturated the tube, they turned to theatrical features, first with the sprightly Hey There, It's Yogi Bear (1965). The follow-up was The Man Called Flintstone (1966), a considerably rockier (ahem) outing. 

Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera never met a trend they wouldn't hop on or a formula they wouldn't copy (even their own, witness the many Scooby-Doo clones). In this case, there were two trends. One, which faded very rapidly, was half-hour TV shows stretched out for the big screen. This included not one but two McHale's Navy flicks and by 1966, moviegoers were faced with Munster, Go Home! as well as Thunderbirds Are Go and Batman (the latter influencing Man's villain, the masked and caped Green Goose).

Bigger than that was the spy craze, which was everywhere in every flavor: the Bond flicks, Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Avengers, the spoofery of Get Smart, and countless imitations and knockoffs. Heck, earlier in 1966, Our Man Flint (no relation) hit theaters. Cartoons got into it from Bullwinkle's Boris and Natasha (their voice actors Paul Frees and June Foray are both in Man) to HB 's own Secret Squirrel and a previous spyjinx outing of... The Flintstones (“Dr. Sinister” from the fifth season in 1964). That outing was a better and shorter spoof, with a villain who *is* green, jabs at “Jay Bondrock” movies, a bottomless pit, and instead of Dr. No, the sometime ally Madame Yes who conveniently abandons Fred and Barney repeatedly (“I'm too important to be captured!”).


The Man Called Flintstone doesn't just rehash the spy stuff, but another plot (done twice on the show): Fred swapping places with an identical double in a position of importance. (When Bill and Joe recycle, they recycle!) But repeating seems fitting, as the series had just moved into almost perpetual reruns a few months prior. Apart from plot devices, also returning are the voices of modern stone-age family: Alan Reed (radio veteran with supporting parts in The Postman Always Rings Twice and Breakfast at Tiffanys) as Fred, and Mel Blanc taking a break from Bugs Bunny to play Barney Rubble, Dino, and assorted bits and beasties. Jean Vander Pyl is Wilma and Pebbles (though arguably her best HB role was Rosie the Robot on The Jetsons), but Bea Benaderet had jumped boxcars to Petticoat Junction, so we have Gerry Johnson as the second, less giggly Betty Rubble.

Even the new spy characters were cast from the series: Harvey Korman, pre-Carol Burnett and then the insufferable Great Gazoo on the home show, plays mostly straight as the government spy boss (“Chief Boulder,” of course) and less so as a Peter Lorre-esque henchman who in moments of excitement starts muttering “bali ha'i” thus revealing himself as the very first South Pacific fan.


But hush, the “it's a living” prehistoric birds are starting the projector, and The Man Called Flintstone begins. The best gag of all is cut from the DVD and current streaming/TV versions due to ownership changes: Wilma in place of the torch lady in the Columbia logo. Then we get the obligatory stylized credits (take that, Saul Bass!) and ballad about our hero's prowess (“he thrives on a diet of daaaanger!”) which is actually pretty fun.


The movie proper (such as it is) opens with an all-too brief burst of near excitement, reminiscent of Jonny Quest (HB's best adventure effort): volcanos erupt, a feral pterodactyl flies overhead, and we watch a car chase between what appears to be Fred and a pair of swarthily painted thugs, Ali and Bobo (Korman and Paul Frees, both with dialects).


By sixties spy movie rules, henchman had to be racial stereotypes who you knew were bad mainly because they were foreign or wore funny hats.


But no, the pursued is actually top agent Rock Slag (Frees in a Don Adams imitation, one of the better gags), who not only looks just like Fred but is wearing the same goatskin outfit and tie (how's that for sitcom cowinkydinks). Rock is ambushed twice by the Green Goose's goons, in action sequences played fairly straight (but also pretty dull, as far as cartoon cavemen receiving grievous bodily harm).

By the laws of sitcom coincidence, Slag is recovering at the only hospital in Bedrock (despite the high rate of boulder and dinosaur-related injuries) while Fred Flintstone is having his head examined (really). The chief goes all Prince and the Pauper and dupes Fred into “picking up a bird” for the government, with the carrot of an all expense paid trip to Eurock (except the actual countries remain un-stone aged: Italy, France, etc.) Fred is asked to take his place to meet a defecting lady agent Tanya (when she finally shows up, she's voiced by June Foray in Natasha mode) to lead him to this green bird.

During Fred's briefing, we get our first song cue (five more to come!) They stop the action cold every time, and most are hallucinations or dreams. The one here, picturing Fred as a suave spy, is catchier and better illustrated than most, including some gorgeous dames who aren't so modern stone age.


There's also a lyric about Fred using karate chops to send a bad guy “beddy bye,” but the visuals show him clearly pushing up petunias. This is the closest the movie gets to a body count, so enjoy it while you can.

After yet another song, Eurock, here we come! Wilma, the Rubbles, and the kids all come along. The familys' pets Dino and Hoppy the Hopparoo were already checked in at the vet's (Hoppy wouldn't be seen again for decades, so I guess Barney forgot to pick him up). On the plane, the Rubbles have last class accommodations (which means riding on the wing and hanging on for dear life), but the bigger surprise was this bit of prehistoric product placement: the plane belongs to Qantas airlines.


There's sitcomish complications in that Rock Slag, despite being identical to Fred, is a chick magnet, attracting a bevy of high-cheeked cartoon babes mostly meant to resemble the kind of European starlets that would show up in the real spy flicks. I couldn't quite decide if one lady was meant to be Elke Sommerstone or Brickette Bardot.


And still the songs continue. Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm get two treacly imaginary ballads (one with lyrics like “Tickle toddle”)...

...and guest vocalist Louis Prima croons an imagine spot of Fred and Wilma as Romeo and Juliet, in Shakespearean garb and a not-made-of-rocks balcony. One of the kids' songs imagines a knight and a dragon (as well as a Wild West sheriff and a fake Superman). So they're all imagining the future!


In between songs, the characters get what would be location footage in live-action, but here is just someone drawing a twig version of the Eiffel Tower or Fred careening on the Coliseum. The movie also pauses for TV-style gags (Wilma changes a tire just so a turtle jack voiced by Mel can make a wisecrack) which also slows things down.


Visually it's better looking than the show itself, but it's actually below Hey There, It's Yogi Bear


The intermittent action such as it is finally culminates in a showdown with the Green Goose of Paradise at your typical abandoned amusement park hideout, the better to do a chase on rollercoaster cars and into a funhouse mirror (stuff which would actually be pretty exciting in live-action, but for cartoon figures, there's a touch of “That's it?”)  But there are pluses here and there, mostly in the solid voice cast and the background art. There's a gas station with mammoths labeled Ethyl and Regular.


The Green Goose's lair has genuinely morbid flair (and Barney subjected to the rack).

Even the score suddenly gets into it, with a brief snatch of “Funeral March of a Marionette” from Alfred Hitchcock Presents.

But beyond this, the spy stuff is often boringly straight, with chase after chase. The government agency so incompetent it could have been satire (but isn't), although there is this Dr. Strangelove-esque line, in reference to the Goose's deadly missile: “Our anti-missile missile isn't operational yet.” And of course, the Chief's bed has been bugged (why a government agency keeps a bed in his apparently floating office is of course not addressed).


There's also more throwaway gags involving Fred's rear end than one would have expected...


...or desired.


Mostly it just meanders, goes on too long, and just feels phoned in. More heart and effort went into Hey There, It's Yogi Bear, which has better visuals and manages to make one care about the fate of a hat and tie-wearing bear (dealing with typically scheming circus folk and their proto-Muttley dog and the perils of the city). Here, the most genuinely frightening peril Fred faces is an Italian woman and her burly brother who try to force him into marriage (and have absolutely nothing to do with the spy stuff). And yet Hanna-Barbera could produce a cover for the tie-in album which is miles above the movie, perhaps because it doesn't involve anything moving.


Overall, it's the definition of a movie for people who liked the show, or just want to park the kiddies to watch a barefooted neanderthal imperil his marriage on vague government dictates. But at least the end credits are cute, right?


Saturday, July 4, 2020

Slumgullion Episode 78: Artemis Fowl


Jeff, Scott, and Special Guest Fairy Expert MaryC watch Disney's new film adaptation of the beloved YA book series.

At least...it was beloved before this thing came out. I'm not even gonna make the obvious Artemis Foul joke, because I refuse to befowl myself.



Sunday, June 21, 2020

My Heart Belongs to Daddy (Because He's an Organ-Collecting Psychopath)


By Bill S.

It's Father's Day, and, as we do every year, we celebrate by remembering the movie and TV dads who make us grateful for the ones we had. This year, we'll spotlight three memorably awful TV dads (if your own dad was worse, you have our sympathies.)

Billy (Denis Leary) on "Animal Kingdom"


It might not come as a surprise that none of the Cody brothers has the same biological dad. Apparently when Smurf was on the road, she hooked up with a different guy and added a new kid to her brood. (Instead of forming a pop band, like Shirley Partridge, she opted to make petty crime the family business. Probably because the wardrobe was cooler.) It's hard to decide which of Smurf's exes was the biggest waste of space, but I'd pick Billy, the father of youngest son Deran (the "nice" one). After abandoning him for years, Billy drops back into Deran's life, reeking of cheap liquor, skunk weed, and poor judgement (all of which were probably factors in the kid's conception). He nonetheless earns Deran's trust, and repays that trust by sticking around long enough to help the Codys pull off one job, then heading to Deran's bar to help out with some cleaning -- namely, the safe, which he empties, and takes off all over again.

August Cartwright (John Emmett Tracy)/Dr. Ethan Campbell (Sebastian Roche) on "Batwoman"

After witnessing a car plunge into a lake, he dives into the water to rescue 13 year old Beth Kane. He brings her to his home...and holds her prisoner, to be a playmate/pet for his facially deformed son Johnny, who's also basically a prisoner, isolated from the outside world. He turns those children into monsters. As a bonus, he also recovers the body of Beth's mother, and keeps the dead woman's severed head in a freezer, with plans to transplant her face onto his own mother. He later surgically alters his own face to assume the identity of a respected doctor.

This guy would scare the crap out of Norman Bates.

Dr. Martin Whitley (Michael Sheen) on "Prodigal Son"


A prominent surgeon, responsible for saving countless lives. Also, a serial killer responsible for at least 23 murders. When his son discovers one of the bodies, and with it, the truth about his father, he's emotionally scarred for life. 

Michael Sheen deserves an Emmy for turning "My boy!" into the creepiest phrase in the English language. In the Season one finale, we learn Whitley has also done severe damage to his seemingly normal daughter, leading him to proudly beam, "My girl!"

This guy would scare the crap out of August Cartwright.

I'll close with a message to all you Dads out there: Parenting is tough, and you may, at times, wonder if you've made the best choices for your kids. Take heart -- if you're not a murderous sociopath, chained to the wall of a prison cell, wondering when your kids will visit, then you're probably doing an okay job.

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Episode 77: Picard's Ass


Scott and Jeff sit down -- on their asses, to preserve the theme -- and talk about the ass-end of Picard (the series, not the character. Although they do have a brief group therapy session about that Speedo scene). Also featuring Special Guest Villain, Time Dick!



Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Episode 76: May the Fifth Be With


It's All (okay, Mostly) Star Wars on this almost May 4th Adjacent day, as big nerd news sets fan brains a'bubbling and geek tongues a'waggin'.

[Note: We actually recorded this on the 4th, posted it on the 5th, but flacked it on the 6th, because I clearly don't know how the 12 Days of Christmas work...]




Sunday, April 12, 2020

Happy Easter


It was the most difficult and joyless Easter the kids had ever known, separated from friends and family by the quarantine. But they didn't complain, or lose faith, and the Easter Bunny was so touched by their pureness of spirit and the goodness in their hearts that he rewarded the children by revealing his true form to them. It wasn't as enchanting as they'd hoped, and things didn't improve much when he whisked them away to a shuttered AMC multiplex and made them watch his entire collection of vintage 35MM porn.

How Do You Handle a Hungry Man-Fish?

By Hank Parmer

The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959)

When The Creature from the Black Lagoon premiered in 1954, it spawned not just two sequels, but an entire sub-genre of amphibious man-monsters (along with the token She-Creature) coming up from the depths to terrorize unwary land-dwellers. And, typically, to lust after the wimmins, a theme that reached its nasty apotheosis with 1980's Humanoids from the Deep* -- but the less said about that one, the better.

The real heyday of this genre's popularity was the mid-Fifties to the mid-Sixties, an era which at its tail-end brought us such timeless classics as Del "I Eat Your Skin" Tenney's The Horror of Party Beach (1964) and the straightforwardly titled The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965).

As for The Monster of Piedras Blancas, it falls somewhere between those and the original Creature, both chronologically and in terms of production values. Producer Jack Kevan, director Irvin Berwick and cinematographer Phillip Lathan were contract workers at Universal-International, which was experiencing a major money crunch at the time. So the studio was willing to look the other way while its people did some freelancing, even going so far as allowing the producer to borrow equipment as well as bits and pieces of U-I's monster suits.

Because of this, the titular critter looks unusually convincing for a low-budget film and Lathan's cinematography -- while nothing to write home about -- was a cut above what what you typically encounter in this sort of outing. I just wish I could say the same about Berwick's screenplay and direction.

The Monster opens with an establishing shot of the scenic Point Conception lighthouse, followed by a quick dissolve to a close-up of a battered tin pan, chained to a stake driven into the rock. An inhuman, claw-tipped hand reaches up from behind the rocks, snatches the pan out of sight. But it's instantly tossed back.

Someone's impatient for their din-dins.

Cut to curmudgeonly loner, lighthouse keeper Sturges (John Harmon). He yells at a couple of teenagers who're hiking along the edge of the cliff to keep away from his light, then hops on his bicycle for a grocery run down to the sleepy coastal community of Piedras Blancas. (Spanish for "White Rocks".)

Down at the beach, Constable George Matson stares glumly at the off-screen corpses of two fishermen, the Rinaldi brothers. According to the guy standing next to the constable, the brothers' heads have been "ripped clean off". Matson remarks their skin is oddly pale, as if there's not a drop of blood left in their bodies.

When the lighthouse keeper pedals past, Joe Exposition mutters to the constable he's convinced old Sturges knows more than he's telling. Matson orders a couple of the men to take the brothers to Kochek's store, so their corpses can be kept on ice until the coroner arrives. (What with the Rinaldis' hemoglobin deficit, Kochek can probably just stack them right on top of the Swanson's.)

At Kochek's meat and grocery market, the proprietor is a garrulous soul, eager to impart the grisly details while he fills Sturges' order. He was the one who discovered the bodies, after all. Although Kochek claims the Rinaldis had their throats cut from ear to ear, not that they were decapitated.

I suppose, technically speaking, if your head's been removed your throat has to have been been cut at some point in the process, but still...

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