THE TOP TEN FILMS OF ALL TIME THAT MADE A MAN OUTTA ME!
Can you imagine the audacity of some of these bloggers out there! Here they are, world-reknown with friends aplenty, promo records by the bushel and more marijuana than a Mexican peon can grow, and you can just betcha bottom dollar that these all-knowing blogomites just hafta go 'round making up top ten lists of their favorite films just so's all of us lowly bunsnitches can read about these cinematic excursions and live vicariously through the tastes and actions of said bloggers! Nothing really wrong there, 'cept when said blogger's tastes are about as exciting as your standard big city filmscribe's boho obscurer-than-thou pretensions...just snap here for an example of just how dullsville some flicker pickers' tastes can be (you may have to scroll down)...sheesh, the whole sordid episode just begs to ask the question "Are there enough arthouses and berets in Australia to sustain the uppercrust snootiness of at least ONE moom pitcher maven struggling for love and acceptance in the Antipodes?"
In order to clear the flatulence-laden dinge of the aforementioned top ten list, I thought I'd just drop a post your way as to my faverave films of all time. Frankly, I find this list a lot more real, down-to-earth and ultimately more satisfying than dribbling on about urban cowpokes and the Amerigan Experience at the dawn of the eighties and all that above-it-all hokum, and besides these films are a lot more fun too!
1) MANIAC (1934)
MANIAC was director Dwayne Esper and Hildegarde Stadie's brave attempt to cash in on the horror craze of the day with this totally off-the-wall look at mental illness wrapped in pseudo-Edgar Allen Poe. If Parker Tyler were really as on-the-spot as he thinks he was, this one would have been mentioned in his bright-yet-brainy book on underground cinema, only I think he was too intellecto to do such a thing and besides he died before film camp of this nature was lifted to an art level anyway.
2) BOWERY TO BAGHDAD (1955)
Leo Gorcey and the boys discover a genie in a lamp and grapple with a buncha gangsters who want to use the guy for their own nefarious purposes. Considering the locale where Gorcey and co. end up, the film may have a lot more meaning in today's political clime than it did back then. I'll bet Lillian Hellman shuddered seeing the fruits of her dark, socially-consiousness-riddled play evolve rather quickly into a series of quickie crank-out b-films displaying none of her Stalinist intent. Serves her right!
3) PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (1957)
I coulda sworn I saw this one on tee-vee at age four on the afternoon horror movie show and shuddered in fear over the doom-laden music, spooky cemetery scenes and walking dead. Too bad I didn't get to see it age nine when I would have appreciated its science-fiction turned sideways tale of interstellar invasion. For me it has WAR OF THE WORLDS (Martians land, blow up things, die of disease and everything is all happy) beat all hollow.
4) STOP, LOOK AND LAUGH (1961)
Clips from Three Stooges shorts are shown between ventriloquist Paul Winchell mixing it up with his dummies (plus the Marquis Chimps a year before hitting the small screen in THE HATHAWAYS). Memorable film, not only because I like dummies and chimp humor, but because for years this was the only Three Stooges (w/Curly or anyone other'n the sixties features) that was shown on local TV. I remember Christmas Break '74 when channel 33 was hyping this film by running the trailer incessantly. Only trouble was that the film was being broadcast on the morning everybody went back to school...believe me, I was planning to play sick just to stay home and watch the thing, only my conscience got the best of me. Stupid conscience! Stupid programmers!!!!
5) THE SADIST (1963)
I've heard a bonehead compare this film to the works of Orson Welles, which kinda makes me wonder...when are all of these highly-praised and critically acclaimed films (mainstream or not) going to be compared to fun low-budget "trash" like THE SADIST??? Ace punk Arch Hall Jr. plays the Starkweather role in this straightforward crime film a lot better than Martin Sheen did in the oft-lauded BADLANDS, and I don't even think that Hall thought he looked like James Dean one bit unlike Sheen, who probably practiced his sneer in the mirror!
6) SATAN'S BED (1965)
It's hard to tell if this is aspiring to be one of those art house films that the laxative devil mentioned above creams his corn over or just two unfinished films crammed together. Vocalist Yoko Ono stars at least in one half of the film as a mail order bride who ends up getting beaten up by some guy who happens NOT to be a Beatles fan, while the other half stars these three hoods (including a lezbo) who go around raping women before the axe falls harder than if Ed Ames threw it. Maybe if Yoko didn't end up marrying the world's biggest gasbag she coulda continued starring in movies like SATAN'S BED, which would have been a lot more pleasing than sitting through a spin of SEASONS OF GLASS anyday!
7) THE WILD BUNCH (1969)
Yeah, some of this tends to snooze and coulda been edited, but the action-packed scenes spill more blood and shard more skin than a dozen illegal cockfights. Besides, it's kinda neat watching respected actors from the forties and fifties like William Holden, Robert Ryan and Ernest Borgnine cussing and fighting in the amoralest of ways which must've had their old-timey fans scratchin' their heads in disbelief...
8) MACON COUNTY LINE (1974)
In the age of AMERICAN GRAFFITI and HAPPY DAYS, a more realistic approach to fifties "nostalgia" was taken in this great, non-pretentious drive in flick that was actually shown uncut on channel 21 back in the early-eighties...until somebody caught on and the remaining time was filled with LITTLE RASCALS shorts. Two brothers cheat and fornicate their way through the mid-fifties South, pick up some gal dressed like an extra from a Ma and Pa Kettle film, then end up in one of the Biblest parts of Georgia where they meet up with none other than Jethro Bodine as the local redneck sheriff. Then a bunch of guys who look like they were just kicked outta Ian Dury and the Blockheads show up in a 1950 Studebaker and kill the sheriff's wife, which is where the fun really starts...
9) THE NIGHT PORTER (1974)
Dirk Bogarde's this former concentration camp commandant hiding from the good guys in postwar Vienna working as a night porter in a hotel, surely a comedown from slaughtering millions only a short decade earlier. Meanwhile there are a whole buncha other nazi pervos and murderers also in Vienna, and all of 'em are keeping an eye on each other for obvious reasons. Then suddenly Charlotte Rampling (who must've starved herself for this role considering the flesh and bones look she has in the surreal Marlene Dietrich scene) re-enters Bogarde's life...y'see, she was a prisoner and Bogarde fell for her in a big way, and well, as the Everly Brothers once sang, "love hurts." At that time there were a whole slew of movies coming out that dealt with the subjects of love, lust and death, but THE NIGHT PORTER won't make you puke like some of the others will. It'll make you wanna run wild and kill people, but you won't get sick to your stomach!
10) HENRY, PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1987)
This one had my sister gasping and saying "Chris, how can you watch this?" Actually, a good straightahead crime film that perhaps is marred not by the violent content, but by the boring, non-violent scenes (like where the dimwitted sister of Otis tells Henry about how her father sexually abused her...yawn, like we really needed that in this film!). Actually pretty neat despite a load of boring beret-heads flocking to this one as if it were some poetry reading or new intellectual Susan Sonntag (rest in pieces!) screed!
WAIT---THERE'S MORE!!!, mainly a review of the COMBAT! Season One, Campaign One box-set available through Image Entertainment.
You know, I should be insulted! Total angry and frothing at the mouth MAD over the way I've been misrepresented and pre-judged by a number of you people out there in computerland! And if you wanna know just how I've been run through the mill by a few of these people, just look at the way they've judged not only me, but the movies and tee-vee programs that I've championed in previous pages of my BLACK TO COMM fanzine! Take Jay Hinman f'rinstance...now, I don't wanna go picking any fights with him, but there was one thing he said in a posting on his blogsite that I think was more'n a bit misleading, and perhaps ON PURPOSE misleading rather'n "oops" misleading as well. Y'see, in a post dealing with something I don't want to get into here, Hinman mentioned what he considers my love of "Eisenhower-era television" or something like that which, although perhaps a totally innocent comment and all prima-facie like, may have been a heavily-packed slam of sorts. I mean, yeah, I do go for tee-vee shows of the Ike days (though my main love more or less lies in late-period Eisenhower through Kennedy through mid-Johnson administration television as any astute reader could tell ya!), but I have the sneaking suspicion that Hinman decided to use Eisenhower and Eisenhower only in his remark to portray to his readership that li'l ol' me is stuck in the oft-loathed "fifties" with all dem bad things that wuz happening in Li'l Rock and to commies and all that which ruined those days until young and shiny JFK appeared on the scene to set things straight! Like I said, maybe not, but I wouldn't put that past him. Even though Ike wasn't quite as staid as his image lent (after all, he was the one who sent the troops in to desegregate the aforementioned L. Rock, and beside ol' Ike was a reader/follower of Wilhelm Reich so he couldn't have been as Mister Rogers as everyone makes him out to be!), those images that moderne kiddies have pounded into their skulls re. the "fifties" (booo! hissss!) and what it stood for re. repeated viewings of ATOMIC CAFE sure don't do any good fer my image. It's like that reader who told me he thought I liked the fifties and its movies and tee-vee and automobiles and general gulcher because that was a time when women, minorities and gays were kept in their place by overbearing white males like me! Uh, I guess this reader never heard of things like great fifties trash culture and general Amerigan teenage FUN that hasn't been duplicated since (not to mention the good stuff like low crime rates and less polarization), but what can you expect from a generation that rejected everything that was good and wholesome (in a degenerate BTC way) and took the laziest, stupidest, most boring aspects of "youth" to heart in its stead?!?!?
Anyway, what I want to talk about right now is the burnt DVD set (sent courtesy Paul McGarry, who was front and center when it originally aired) of COMBAT! (the first half of the first season...you gotta pay more for the full thang!), a program that not only aired during the greatest years of not only television but of general low-fi living (1962-1967) but featured some of the best, high-energy intensity to be shown on television during those already-intense times. And intense COMBAT! is, intense as THE TWILIGHT ZONE or THE OUTER LIMITS not to mention THE FUGITIVE and NAKED CITY, and even more powerful than a long-forgotten fave like ONE STEP BEYOND. Believe me, this show was a powerhouse of energy and emotion, perhaps thanks in part to main director Robert Altman, who was certainly put to better use directing shows like this and M-SQUAD rather'n later yawnsville features like M*A*S*H which seem to wash away any sorta respect I might have for the man, which I don't even if he was a vital part of this series.
So, what was COMBAT! anyway? I'll tell ya what is wuz...nothing but the first and the best of the World War II-themed series that seemed to permeate television during the early-to-mid-sixties. Ya gotta remember that when COMBAT! debuted on ABC in the fall of '62, WW II had ended a only mere seventeen years earlier, yet enough time had elapsed that a television program dealing with them days was now a fresh enough idea (sorta like the rash of Vietnam War series that popped up in the eighties)...nothing "nostalgic" mind you, but let's just say it was now safe to milk those times with a hard-hitting, power-drenched show about the war. And after COMBAT!'s success more and more WW II series came, from THE RAT PATROL to GARRISON'S GORILLAS, and who could forget the infamous HOGAN'S HEROES with all those "lovable Nazis" that caused such an outrage. (Heck, I remember some kid I grew up with who thought the Nazis were cool with their uniforms and tanks and goosestepping after watching HOGAN'S HEROES, and I still recall the lecture I got from dad when all these shows were on about how bad them krauts were and how they killed Jews like my neighbors and all that [they didn't kill my neighbors but people like them over in Europe!]...it was kinda confusing because I wasn't even a fan of these shows at the time being more a sitcom and cartoon kid myself and don't recall saying anything pro-Nazi to anyone! Maybe he was just being pre-emptive!!!) Anyway, COMBAT! was yet another cool coup for ABC, which at that time was the "small" network with a buncha UHF stations that were little more than low-budget indie channels that happened to run network programming, but they sure made up for it with their fantastic schedules that mixed lowbrow, teenybop and innovation.
I think it 's cool how they had two stars of this show who more or less alternated as featured players every other week. Rick Jason (who later committed suicide after years of obscurity) stars as Lieutenant Hanley, a mature, perhaps reserved yet still wiry enough guy when the situation calls, while the great Vic Morrow (aka Artie West and a buncha tee-vee wiseguys before fighting in the Big One...only to lose his life and head making a comeback in a lousy attempt at them Baby Boomer dollars viz a viz the TWILIGHT ZONE revival) stars (or co-stars if it's Jason's turn) as Sergeant Saunders, a guy so cold-steel surly that you'd think the world would crumble if he merely smiled. The supporting cast is fine as well, from the cool Cajun called what else but "Caje" as well as Kirby, the strung out guy who always seems to be on the verge of losing his head, Littlejohn who for some reason flashes images of Steve Hesske into my brain probably because I think that's what Hesske looks like, not forgetting comic Shecky Greene as Braddock, the shifty conniving private who reminds me of Lou Costello to no end!
Yeah, some of this may show signs of early-sixties "consciousness" (like the episode with the "nice" Nazi, which brings back memories of that old MAD story about how Germans were portrayed in monsters in movies during the war yet twenty years later they were more or less made out to be confused and misunderstood, who was captured by Saunders and crew who can't come to the conclusion whether to let him go or kill him as they make their escape!), but thankfully any sorta deep introspection and intellectual blabbery is washed away by the energy, the intensity and the explosions and deaths galore (and even the familiar faces get snuffed on this show making things seem even more personal). All mixed with a strange sort of cameraderie and a depth that seems totally alien especially in these cyborg times.
Episodes that stick out in my mind...Albert Salmi as a tough sergeant who's giving the already-tough Saunders more'n a little grief (look for Ted Knight, better known as Ted Baxter on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, as a Nazi!) only to make the ultimate sacrifice (the ending will leave you a bit stunned, perhaps even more stunned than Saunders himself!), plus the one where a soldier meets up with his doctor father in a small French village and discovers dad's playing footsies with the Germans also keeps you a bit on edge. Another COMBAT! that sticks out in my noggin's the one where Saunder's company get three new and inexperienced soldiers, one a pudge of a cook, the other a ballet dancer and the third a wise-cracking deejay whom I'm surprised Saunders didn't beat to smithereens the way this guy irritated not only Saunders but I'm sure most of the viewing audience to no end. I think I like this episode because these three "losers" eventually prove themselves to be true fighters (with the chubby ex-cook ultimately giving his life)...perhaps I tend to like these shows and films where the loser underdog types succeed, perhaps getting slaughtered in the process because I somehow see myself as the fast-failing nincompoops portrayed on screen and feel great when they vindicate themselves, but I don't want to play psychoanalyst like too many self-conscious pundits out there. I also got the same feeling in the episode where this middle-aged guy who had a comfy assignment in England joins up with Saunders and gang in order to make a dent in his lackluster existence, only to lose it all by the end of the program. Believe me, there's a lotta sweat, blood, sinew and pain on this program that I haven't seen anywhere in a long time!
If you're man enough to be reading this you MAY have a hankerin' for what I would consider classic tee-vee, and it ain't "Eisenhower-era" or what snob big city critics consider "The Golden Age" (to them 1949-1959 I guess)...the BLOG TO COMM GA is roughly 1957-1967, with the strongest years being 1959-1963 and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. It's fitting that COMBAT! debuted during the 1962-1963 season, one of the ten best ever (with THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES and McHALE'S NAVY debuting, plus it was the last year for not only LEAVE IT TO BEAVER but NAKED CITY, DOBIE GILLIS and HAVE GUN, WILL TRAVEL) and left us in '67, perhaps the final year of lingering early-sixties prime-time television coolness before it all slipped into a late-sixties dump that didn't crawl up and out until the early-seventies. Either way, I found these COMBAT!s a fine alternative to most of the rot available nowadays, and if you like a little power sans political piousness and Amerigan self-hatred you might love it as well.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
THE TOP TEN FILMS OF ALL TIME THAT MADE A MAN OUTTA ME!