Monday, November 26, 2007

THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T

While Doug watched MAME, STONE PILLOW, BENJI and DOLLS, Danny got into the sprit of the holidays with a little charmer from across the seas:
THE CHRISTMAS THAT ALMOST WASN'T should be renamed THE DVD THAT ALMOST WASN'T!!! because I ended up fast forwarding through most of it.  This is a rare Italian family movie from 1966, with Italian actors, poorly dubbed into English that should remain rare for it's own good!

The plot goes something like this: aptly named Mr. Prune didn't like Christmas so he bought the North Pole and threatrened to evict Santa and his band of truly frightening elves. I found the one that looks like Rachel Dratch the most haunting. There was also a tall creepy guy in charge of the elves that sang (Oh yeah, did I tell you it's a musical?)  "Gooble gaggle boogle faggle toys, boys, noise!  Flit, flat, clit, blaht mysogyny rules!"  For real!
Later, in order to help save Christmas, creepy Mr. Whipple (No, not that one, the accountant one) convinces Mr. Macy of Italy to let Santa work in the department store.  So there's Santa selling roller skates.  Wait!  That was MAME.  This is LAME. So Santa's job is to sit with Mr. Whipple and play with toys while singing.   My favorite toy was the toy train that kept bumping into Santa's ass.  I suspect it was his favorite toy, too!  Soon the kids are all at the store sitting on Santa's lap, whilst Santa gives them the most frightening toys ever.  In this shot Santa gives a little girl what we called the Deer Spider!!  In close up you see what it really looked like ...
Yes, these are the sick & twisted toys Santa was handing out.  In an effort to stop Santa, Mr. Prune tried popping balloons, but they just had more.  Then he tried pouring itching powder on Santa & the kids, but he just got it on himself.  So he took the next logical step...just fucking blowing up Santa and all them damn kids with dynamite under Santa's chair!!! He must REALLY hate Christmas to blow up Santa!

Fortunately, a very stern looking boy child caught Mr. Prune's eye and wiggled his finger as if to say, "nah uh, not cool."  That one simple finger wiggle was enough to stop Mr. Prune from blowing up the shit out of that place.  So, Mr. Prune finally buys Italian Macy's and fires Santa and Auntie Mame!!!

Then in the throes of desperation, Santa sits on a park bench in a dimly lit park.  Now, I was still fast forwarding, but if I got it right, it went like this...  this very adult looking 9 year old boy comes to Santa carrying a tree, (you see...he's got wood for Santa) Then, he and Santa look longingly into each other's eyes.  Then, Santa takes the boy's hand and the boy gets on his knees.  I figure the kid was all, "Hey, Santa, I can help you get your rent money by turning a few tricks.  I'll show you how I do it..."  then he starts blowing into a horn-like thing and all the kids in Italian world bring their piggy banks and give them to Santa and he pays his rent.

Wow! Christmas has been saved! Therefore it's THE CHRISTMAS THAT WAS AFTER ALL! Next year, I'm watching MAME instead.

On Doug's scale - lotsa "Huhs?", but no hugs - 4 out of 10 from Danny.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

DOLLS


Another Holiday weekend treat - bridging the ever-shrinking gap between Halloween and Christmas. Stuart Gordon's DOLLS (1987) opens with two slutty punk rock chicks hitchhiking by the side of the road somewhere in Europe…as a car carrying a family speeds by. The family turns out to be a high-strung dude named David Bower who is on a very ill-concieved vacation with his selfish new wife (and possible transexual) Rosemary (aka Cruela Devil) and his whiny young daughter Judy. They are driving through the country when a sudden freak rainstorm traps their car in the mud. When they have to leave the car, Rosemary, tosses little Judy's teddy bear into the woods so it won't slow them down. Huh? Judy then imagines her teddy bear coming to life and ripping her stepmother's to pieces! If only.



The happy family stumbles upon the only mansion around, and are startled by a kind, but creepy old couple named Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke who live there with their collection of dolls. Are they Satantists? Are they witches? Or are they just old old and crazy? The elderly duo invite the family to join them for dinner and to spend the night. Precocious little Judy quickly makes friends with the old folks, who turn out to be accomplished (and extremely prolific) toymakers! Just like Santa Claus! Before too long a loveable manboy named Ralph arrives at the house along with the two annoyingly rude punk chicks (named Enid and Isabel) who turn out to be British - so they ARE authentic punks - despite the fact that they look like Madonna and Sheena Easton.

Little Judy takes a liking to Ralph, turns out they both like to play with dolls. Gabriel takes Ralph and Judy on a tour of the mansion, and we begin to notice odd camaraderie between the three. The old man gives Judy a Punch doll to play with because her teddy bear is gone. The punk girls make themselves at home by blasting terrible music and hatching a plan to steal some dolls after Hilary tells them that some of the dolls are antiques.

Cruela is relieved that she doesn't have to share a room with her stepdaughter Judy. We can't figure out what bug has crawled up Cruela's ass, but whatever it was causes her to always wear some sort of turban on her manly head.

Later, we learn Judy seems to think that the dolls or "little people" can come to life and nobody seems to believe her- except for her "friend" Ralph. The Madonna wannabee sets out to explore the house (looking for things to steal) while Sheena hangs out in the room dancing and putting on more makeup. Judy decides she needs a glass of water, and eventually the dolls do decide to come to life!!! As the night progresses, Judy convinces Ralph that something's up in the house and soon they discover blood in the hallway. While exploring the attic we see that the Madonna chick has been murdered. One down, one to go.

Sheena then accuses Ralph of raping and killing Madonna and suddenly Judy's father is aware that his prepubescent daughter has been wandering around the spooky house with a grown man - and accuses Ralph of molesting Judy. Are you following this?

Next, Cruela gets attacked by a bunch of dolls with little mini-weapons, and she looks down to see that one of the dolls is sawing off her arm, while two other dolls are trying to saw off her leg! They even yank off her turban! After showering, David gets into bed with Cruela, unaware that she's been killed. The white sheet she's under starts to have this spreading blood stain on it, and then her doll-mangled corpse is revealed. Ewww...

More chaos ensues as Ralph realizes that Judy's right about the living dolls. At first he starts stomping on them, and they launch a full-scale attack on him, but Judy convinces them that he's really a big kid and after a quick meeting, the dolls decide he's okay by them. Whew - that was a close one!

After discovering Cruela's corpse, David is now on the warpath and we see that many of those dolls had little tiny skulls underneath their porcelin heads, possibly indicating that they began their existence as human beings!!! What exactly is Hartwicke up to???

There's a big, final confrontation between all parties involved, which I will not spoil - but I will say that there is a clever twist ending involving Judy, her dad, Ralph and her real mother (who lives in Boston). The next morning, Gabriel and Hilary have lots of cleaning up to do, especially since another car has broken down outside their house...

I loved this movie. The doll effects were cheesy, but effective. The acting, while not great, was always enjoyable. Even little Judy wasn't as annoying as horror movie kids usually are. At times it felt like all the actors were not taking any of this too seriously, and that helped make the whole affair quite fun. I give this one a 9 outta 10 "Huhs?". See it!

BENJI

Continuing my holiday movie weekend, and battling a bad cold - I choose to revisit a childhood favorite. I was ten years old when I first saw Joe Camp's kiddie classic BENJI (1974), and I remember loving it because it didn't look or feel like a kid's movie. Watching it again 33 years later (on Turner Movie Classics no less!), I can see why I thought that. The film is shot mainly from the dog's point of view, and most of the human characters are "grown up", making it feel like a movie for big people.

The movie opens as we see what looks like a haunted house - only it's not haunted (too bad) - it's Benji's house! Next we witness what appears to be the little dog's daily activities - as gets his breakfast from a friendly, but guarded, housekeeper named Mary and receives affection from two annoying kids named Paul and Cindy. The kids love Benji, but their MD dad has a problem with dogs be cause his brother was bit by one - once. After hiding Benji and his food bowl under the table (and on her lap) - Mary sends the dog off for his daily scuffle with THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW's Aunt Bea and her cat. After that he stops by the park for some romantic advice from a cop and finally swings by Bill's Café to wake up Bill (slow Uncle Joe from PETTICOAT JUNCTION) for his daily bone. So to speak. Each day apparently ends with a trip back to his house- which is abandoned and filled with antiques! We see Benji go through the routine at least four times - I think even as a kid I thought that was too much.

So Benji has it pretty damn good. Until one day, when things begin to change. A foursome of dopey troublemakers named Riley, Henry, Linda and Mitch break into his house with two bags of groceries (including pudding cups!) and declare it as a base of operations for their planned evildoings. Two of the guys think the house is haunted cause their pudding cups keep disappearing. Meanwhile, Benji meets up with a little white bitch named Tiffany, who becomes his domestic partner. Tiffany soon joins him on all is daily visits and is welcomed by the townsfolk as well. Mary even gives Tiffany a little makeover!

Meanwhile, back at the house: the plan is that the four villains are gonna kidnap Paul and Cindy and hold them for ransom. It's up to Benji to foil the plan, which is not easy considering he can't talk and Cesar Milan is not around to translate his constant barking. When Benji tries to help out, one of the bad guys kicks Tiffany - and we are thought to believe that she's dead. Of course, Benji eventually figures out how to communicate to the cops and townsfolk who close in on the bad guys and rescue the young hostages. There's a great scene near the climax between Mary and bad girl Linda (Deborah Walley of GIDGET and THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW fame). In the end, Tiffany just has a broken leg and the kids' dad changes his tune and lets Benji AND Tiffany move in with the family. Yay!

As a film, the story is simple and very slow-moving. The acting is mostly subpar, with Benji delivering the best performance. The music ranges from cute, to great to really, really annoying. On my "Huh?" scale, I'll give it a 6 just for old-times sake, but only watch it if you've had your proper daily caffeine intake. There are 3 sequels and numerous TV productions starring Benji as well. I think I'll pass on them, for now.

As social commentary, the parallels between BENJI and the recently reviewed STONE PILLOW are staggering. Sure, Benji is a cute, sweet little doggie that works his way into the lives and hearts of a bunch of lazy Texans, much like Lucy's Flora character. They give him plenty of food (remember even Lucy gets old sandwiches, rotten veggies and cat food) and attention whenever the stops by their homes or workplaces, but they never address the bigger issue here - this dog is HOMELESS!!! Getting on my soapbox for a minute: Just call me Bob Barker, but I think BENJI should now be re-purposed to help enforce mandatory spaying and neutering, micro-chipping and leash laws to help keep the stray animal population down and give homes to the millions of pound puppies in this country. Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 23, 2007

STONE PILLOW


The second film in my Lucille Ball Double Feature is STONE PILLOW, which I like to call WHATEVER HAPPENED TO AUNTIE MAME?

This 1985 CBS TV-movie was Lucy's big attempt at being taken seriously. Following in the fottsteps of Carol Burnett in FRIENDLY FIRE and Farah Fawcett in THE BURNING BED, America's sweetheart decided to play a cranky bag lady in a "gritty" (for network TV) expose of the homeless problem in America.

The story opens on the mean streets of New York City, where we see a pile of black garbage bags. Under that pile is Lucy! Baggy eyed and dressed in many layers of tattered clothes, this is a far cry from the soft-focus of MAME. But yet, as soon as she speaks - it's the same old Lucy we've seen everywhere else, only this time there's no Ethel Mertz or Mr. Mooney to bail her out. We learn that her name is Flora, and she's the neighborhood's favorite lovable bag lady - like a stray dog that everybody pets and feeds but doesn't want to take in because she may have fleas.

After crawling out of the garbage, Flora parks her shopping cart and proceeds to wash her face with a hose. For some reason I'm reminded of the old Harpo Marx mirror gag.

Next we meet, Carrie played by Daphne Zuniga, after THE SURE THING but before SPACEBALLS and MELROSE PLACE. Carrie works at a women's shelter where someone has broken in and stolen supplies. I think it was Carrie's fault. Her boss tells her that she needs to see what it like out there on the streets. I don't think he means literally. I could be wrong.

Meanwhile, Lucy brushes her teeth and hair (good grooming never hurt anyone!) and a beat cop brings her an old sandwich. He also tells her about some drugged up kids who killed another old lady. She ain't scared of no kids!

Lucy settles down on her cardboard box to read yesterday's paper. Then a fruit truck shows up and Lucy helps herself to some damaged veggies - and in an obvious homage to ROCKY and possibly Edith Massey - eats a raw egg. Ewwww!

Meanwhile, Carrie tries to chat with a homeless guy who offers her a sip from his bottle of booze. Some teen-age toughs try to steal Lucy's crap - then she crosses the street with her cart and almost gets hit by a car because she spots Carrie feeding pigeons with a discarded bun that she had her eye on. The tough guys then mug Carrie in broad daylight and steal some crap from Lucy's cart. Where's that damn cop now that we need him?

Lucy thinks Carrie is a runaway - she tells her to get herself to a shelter-pronto! Lucy then yammers on about somebody named "Sonny" - possibly her son? I'm just guessing.

Next the guy who played the fake "Michael Garrison/Hudson" on ANOTHER WORLD attempts to buy Lucy some coffee while she attempts to take a poop in a stairwell. While trying to pinch one out, another homeless woman tries to steal her shopping cart - but Carrie steps in and foils the robbery. What a team these two make!

Lucy finds half a roast beef sandwich and slice of melon in the trash and offers it to Carrie. Once again Lucy tells her that she needs to go to the shelter, but Carrie's just not having it. After they share a dinner, Lucy drinks vinegar "to toughen her feet" - she also spouts out some sage nutritional information about things like raw vegetables and iodine. Luckily she doesn't sing.

One of the produce store guys warns Carrie that some girl was raped in the alley, prompting Lucy to teach Carrie how to act "crazy" to defend herself. Oh that Lucy, gotta love her! I'm guessing it's about 10PM at this point. Then they have a heart-to-heart and Lucy tells Carrie all about her farm where she used to grow her own veggies. Lucy tries to leave Carrie behind in the Port Authority, but they both end up getting kicked out by a mean guard. Must be like 11PM now, right?

The long night continues as they attempt to get some money by recycling some soda cans, but the supermarket worker comes on to Carrie and she runs out without the money or the cans. Lucy calls her dumb (or was that me?) and Carrie breaks down, crying "Life is so hard, I had no idea!!!" Is it midnight yet?

Then they settle in a stairway for the night (so they think) and Lucy takes out her teddy bear. And soon a stray dog joins them. Awww...they have become a little family. But then a another mean cop wakes them all up - forcing them to head for Grand Central terminal. Once there, Lucy shows Carrie her son Sonny's baby spoon, and tells the story of how she ended up on the streets. Turns out Sonny got sick then she got sick and was hospitalized. When she got out her husband and son were gone. She tried to find them to no avail. Then she tried working as a housekeeper, but that didn't work out. After trying to live on welfare she ended up "outside" without an address to get her checks mailed. Then she gives Carrie the spoon because she kinda looks like Sonny. Huh? I'm guess it's around 1AM now. It's gotta be.

Suddenly, Carrie is sick to her stomach (from Lucy's terrible "cooking"). Lucy goes to get her medicine and while she is gone a guy named Max turns up - and he begins spouting statistics about homeless people and tells Carrie the backstories of some of the people who live in the Underground. He thinks Carrie's a reporter or something - especially when she freaks out over the lice in her hair. 2AM-ish now, you think?

Meanwhile, Lucy sips tea with Mr. B, the pharmacist, who is being evicted cause he lost his lease. What time of the night is it exactly ??? Why is Mr. B. still working at this late hour? It must be like 3AM by now...

Back in the Underground, two sleazy guys try to rape Carrie despite her lice and her telling them she's sick and contagious. A nice, helpful African American woman saves her and cleans her up while telling her tragic backstory. Lucy returns with pills for Carrie, but Max tells her that Carrie is not what she appeared to be. 4AM...I'm just guessing.

Lucy heads to the Women's Shelter in hopes of finding Carrie there - she does - only Carrie is all cleaned up (and de-liced?) and working!!! Huh? Is this REALLY all one night??? Come on...

Lucy freaks out over Carrie's manipulation and gets separated from her shopping cart and is put on a bus to Brooklyn with a bunch of other (mostly crazy) homeless women. Carrie's boss reads her the riot act as Lucy continues to freak out on the bus. The Brooklyn shelter woman gives her money for carfare back to Manhattan - but a gang of metalheads and a rat make her change her mind. She'll stay for just one night. Wait - it's still night?

Lucy showers and tries to sleep, but a cat fight erupts - and Lucy tries to intervene and is banished to the TV room where other homeless women are watching DYNASTY - at 5AM??? One of the women freaks out and smashes the TV - of course Lucy gets blamed. Oh sweet Jesus - can things get any worse for Lucy???

After Carrie calls the shelter and is treated poorly - her coworker Anna Maria Horsford (of AMEN fame) tells her that she can help Lucy get off the streets. Lucy gets her carfare and heads out of the Brooklyn shelter. She thinks she see Sonny, but it's actually a pile of rats. After yelling like Lucy Ricardo, she finds shelter in a dark, abandoned building. She then finds a toy horse, leans against a wall and slowly sinks to the floor. She then flashes back to her previous life: her husband, her home, her son and her younger self. This part was actually effective and quite moving - either that or my cough medicine kicked in.

Well, it's FINALLY morning - and after the longest night ever recorded - Lucy awakens! Carrie calls the Brooklyn shelter again - and again gets no help. She then heads to all Lucy's favorite haunts but can't find her anywhere - but one of the Underground women from last night leads her to Max! Meanwhile, Lucy eats cat food.

Max turns out to be "public accountant" who helps homeless people by doing pro bono work for them. He's also befriended them because they are just like us - except homeless. Max leads Carrie to Lucy - but it might be too late - Max declares her dead. But it's NOT her - the real Lucy then shows up and the nice cop gives her another stale sandwich! Carrie gives Lucy back her cart - then Lucy almost gets hit by a car AGAIN!

Carrie tells Lucy she wants to help her - she wants to give her a REAL home again - but Lucy says NO! Carrie has friends who will rent a guest house with a garden to Lucy (I hope it's not those Upsons!). Carrie wants to repay Lucy for taking care of her - but Lucy says NO! Then Carrie gives Lucy back the spoon.

THEN Lucy changes her mind and chases after Carrie. Over the end credits, we see Lucy driven to her new home - and the dirt patch where she can grow her vegetable garden - and fertilize it with her own poop!

This movie felt twice as long as MAME - like an entire season of 24 all at once - and had so many "Huh?" moments, my brain was numb afterwards. I guess it was a brave choice for Lucy - but torture for us viewers. To erase the image of Flora from people minds, Lucy later returned to TV comedy in LIFE WITH LUCY. Wish THAT was on dvd!

7 outta 10 "Huhs?" because Lucy poops.

MAME


This 1974 film adaptation of the 1966 Broadway smash starts with the reading of the will of Patrick Dennis' late father, by his trustee, Mr. Babcock. We see our first glimpse of Patrick in his damn short pants as well as various photographic portraits of stodgy relatives - concluding with a soft focus photo of Auntie Mame! The will states that Patrick is to be left in the care of his aunt, Mame Dennis (Lucille Ball).

Patrick and his nanny, Agnes Gooch (Jane Connell recreating her Broadway role after Madeline Kahn was fired by Lucy) take a train ride to live with Mame.The train ride gives way to a migraine-inducing montage of an art deco MAME logo super-imposed with stock footage of sex, violence and depravity from the WB film archives. Accompanying this visual assault is the song "St. Bridgette" song by Connell.

When they arrive at Beekman Place, they walk into a big cocktail party at Mame's palatial NYC apartment. Underneath a portrait of Lucy by Gustav Klimt, Mame is doing an awkward shimmy on her baby grand piano wearing a red velvet pantsuit and a giant diamond-encrusted crucifix. Lucy then proceeds to warble out a horrorific rendition of "It's Today", thus setting the tone for many musical atrocities to follow. Then Lucy does the Charleston and young Patrick introduces himself by asking if he may slide down her bannister!

Mame announces his arrival to the crowd and then offers him a martini. We soon meet Mame's buddy, stage actress and lush, Vera Charles (deliously played by Bea Arthur, creating her stage role under the direction of her husband Gene Saks). Lucy (in a soft focus close-up) reprises "It's Today" as Patrick gets to slide up and down the long bannister!

The next morning, Patrick wakes up Mame (who sleeps in full make-up) with his bugle. After learning that "Auntie Mame is hung" she tells that she is enrolling him a very non-traditional "School Of Life." Then she gives him a pad and pencil in order for him to write down words he doesn't understand like "libido," "bastard" and "vocal coach." Vera then wakes up in Mame's bath tub and for no good reason, mean-spirited Mame turns the shower on, drenching her best friend.

Then we are treated to Lucy shrieking out "Open a New Window" as a montage shows Mame and Patrick riding a pony, going to a museum, attending a womens' rights rally, going to see a burlesque show, visiting a firehouse, parachuting, sitting on the crown of the Statue of Liberty (huh?), arriving at the clothing-optional School of Life, praying at St. Patrick's Cathedral, studying the Torah at a temple and doing the tango at a speakeasy! All seems to going well until the police arrive and it's a raid!!! Everybody gets off though because the judge is one of Mame's society pals. She is apparently very well-connected.

Mr. Babcock arrives to check on Patrick, running into vindictive Vera, who is blabbering on about Coco Chanel, and leads the trustee right to the controversial school- causing Patrick to be taken out of Mame's custody!!! At that same exact moment, Mame learns that the stock market has crashed and she's wiped out. This is not a good day to be Mame Dennis.

To make amends to Mame, Vera offers her a very small role in her new show - an extremely modern operetta about a woman astronomer. "The Man In The Moon is a Lady" (sung by Bea) climaxes with a total Lucy Ricardo moment as Mame is still backstage admiring herself in the mirror when she is supposed to be onstage delivering her one line - which she eventually flubs and causes chaos when she falls off of a crescent moon and is beaten by Vera with a telescope!! The show is a fiasco, but the audience seems to enjoy it. Mame begs Vera for her forgiveness, but Vera declares "The Man In The Moon is a Bitch" and then slaps a little old lady who is trying to help her with her costume. I wonder if Bea improvised that.

Patrick, who was in the audience, reassures Mame that she's that he still loves her by singing "My Best Girl" - Lucy responds by croaking "My Best Beau" back to him. Poor little guy. Meanwhile, back at Beekman place - the repo men are taking her piano, her artwork, etc. Mame soon gets a job working selling rollerskates in a department store, For some reason, she's wearing a nun's habit (sans veil) with a big black bow. Mame demonstrates a pair of rollerskates by for a customer named Beauregard Jackson Pickett Burnside the 3rd (Robert Preston). However, Mame gets herself fired because she doesn't know how to write up a cash sale. Huh? After first skating around the entire store, Mame proceeds to rollerskate all the way home.

When she gets home, Patrick is visiting and Mame decides to lift everyone's spirits by giving early Christmas gifts. The boy gets a pair damn long pants- and her servants Ito (George Chiang) and Gooch also get something. Lucy then leads the foursome in a rousing version of "We Need A Little Christmas", while they decorate Gooch up as if she was a an Xmas tree and throw fake snow at her. Lucy then dons the most horrifying Santa Claus mask ever created. Agnes and Ito surprise Mame by telling her the butcher bill has been paid up till next September! How'd they know how much meat they're gonna want all the way into the future??? Patrick then gives her a kiss "on account" whatever that means. Ewww.

Just then, Beau shows up at the front door and invites everyone to dinner!!! Christmas has come early!

Before you know it, Beau takes Mame and Patrick to to visit his peach plantation in Peckerwood, Georgia - where they meet sugary-sweet, but wicked by Sally Cato. (Joyce Van Patten). Beau's grotesque mother, a Jabba the Hut lookalike, Mother Burnside greets Patrick with a belch. Mame, newly-blonde arrives dressed as a southern belle, complete with an embarrassing accent. Sally Cato signs Mame up to ride sidesaddle in a foxhunt- riding the "mad" horse named Lightning. The following day, Lucy's stuntwoman works overtime as she rides the crazy horse, passing the other hunters, passing the dogs, passing the fox and jumping over Mother Burnside's car! Mame is thrown from the horse and catches the adorable little fox, and impresses everyone by NOT killing it. This prompts several dozens of peoplee to serenade her with the titular, rousing and bombastic theme song, "Mame".

Mame and Beau, are soon married and on world tour. Robert Preston croons "Loving You" as they slow dance on a cruise ship, in a Japanese garden, in soft focus and in front of a fountain. Meanwhile, Patrick goes through puberty, goes to college and starts dating debutantes. Bruce Davison takes over the role at this point. A ski trip to the Alps leads to an avalanche which kills Beau, leaving Mame widowed and alone again, naturally.

Mame then returns home and is reunited with Patrick, who is dating a snobby bitchy girl named Gloria Upson. A post-funeral reunion with her old friend Vera leads to the fun duet "Bosom Buddies", a song which once led a friend of mine to declare (90 minutes into the movie) that "the one on the left can't sing". It took him THAT long to notice!!!

Mame and Vera then decide to give frumpy Agnes a makeover and send her off into the world because "Life is a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death." Six months later, Agnes returns home, pregnant - just as Mame is dining with Patrick and the dreadful Gloria. Patrick sees Agnes, who's been hiding in the kitchen, and decides be a good idea for Mame to visit the Upsons at their home in Connecticut.

What follows is my favorite sequence in the whole film, as Mame visits the Upsons (Don Porter and Audrey Christie) at their home, Upson Downs. After meeting all the various Upsons, Mame learns that Patrick and Gloria are engaged! The Upsons entertain Mame in their rumpus room (a former slave quarters) and introduce her to their black maid Bertha ("so many of them are so snotty these days"). Then they serve her appetizers made of tuna, clam juice and peanut butter. They ask Mame to help pay for a piece of property next door to so that the newlyweds could live there, as opposed to "the wrong kind of people."

They Upsons then show Mame home movies of Gloria - but Mame can't be any less interested. When Mame leaves, she confronts Patrick about her dislike of the Upsons, proclaiming him a snob (which he is) after he tells her that he's ashamed of her and her "crazy" friends. She tells him that the Upsons are bigots and he tells her to forget she ever knew him. This is where my favorite part ends, because as heartbroken Mame drives back home to NYC, Lucy butchers the beautiful ballad "If He Walked Into My Life". Where is Eydie Gorme when you need her???

Apparently Mame and Patrick have patched things up off-screen because the Upsons are now visiting Beekman Place. Patrick soon meets Mame's pretty new maid, Pegeen (Bobbie Jordan). The Upsons arrive, all pissed off because the property they'd wanted had been bought thanks to "some Jew lawyer." Then Mame serves them some baked monkey and Vera makes a grand entrance into with a quintet of nameless men wearing tuxedos singing "It's Today ". Vera then toasts to the new couple, mistaking Pegeen for Gloria. At that moment, pregnant Agnes crashes the party and is invited her to sit with everyone. Suddenly, a bus full of unwed pregnant women barge in, singing "Open A New Window" as Mame reveals to the Upsons that she bought the land next door to Upson Downs in oder to build the Beauregarde Burnside Memorial Home For Single Mothers. The Upsons have total fit, exclaiming that Mame isn't "one of them," dragging Gloria with them - just as Patrick makes eye contract with Pegeen! Hmmmm....

Flash forward, Patrick and Pegeen are now married and have a son, Peter. Mame, sporting gray hair, is off on a trip to Russia, and asks if Peter could join her. Although Patrick and Pegeen resist at first, Peter tells them off and they relent. Huh? Mame and Peter wave goodbye and board the plane. No luggage - I guess they will shop for long pants in Siberia. Music soars as the plane takes off. What follows is a montage of Mame hugging Vera, Gooch, Beau, adult Patrick and finally young Patrick! The End!

Whew! What a way to start the holiday movie season! I have to say that MAME is one of my favorite films of all time. I know Lucy's singing was atrocious, her dancing wooden, her comic timing is off at times, and at age 63 she was way too old to be playing a character in her 40s - but all I know is that when I saw MAME at Radio City Musical Hall as a child - I had a great time - and that's all that mattered.

Of course, IF Angela Lansbury was allowed to star in the film version - it may have been critically acclaimed, it might won some Oscars and might also have been a box-office hit. But that never happened. What did happen was Lucille Ball as Mame - and I relish ever minute of it. 10 outta 10 "Huhs?" and worth every one of 'em.

Monday, November 19, 2007

THE WONDERFUL LAND OF OZ

As the holidays draw near, it's time for a family-friendly review from my friend Danny.
It all started innocently enough with a wonderful dinner from Kung Pao Bistro, then something went horribly wrong!!!!  For the next 70 minutes I was horrified to be watching THE WONDERFUL LAND OF OZ, a 1969 "sequel" to THE WIZARD OF OZ directed by Barry Mahon, also known for such classics as SANTA AND THE THREE BEARS, SANTA AND THE ICE CREAM BUNNY and I WAS A MAN: THE TRUE STORY OF ANSA KANSAS, AN HERMAPHRODITE (It's true - look it up on IMDB.com).
 
If I was naughty as a child, surely this movie was my comeuppance!!!  It was just Awful!  The cardboard sets, the bad lighting, the horrible singing, the crappy story, the abominable acting and the purple papier-mache cow couldn't keep me from admitting that it was leaps and bounds better than Disney's Broadway crapfest known as TARZAN.

Anyway, this surreal movie goes beyond any description, but here goes; imagine THE BRADY BUNCH is putting on a fundraiser show in their backyard.  They've chosen to do THE CRYING GAME using leftovers from Alice's old crafting night class, Carol's discarded wardrobe and costumes from an abandoned AUSTIN POWERS sequel.  And since there are so many Brady kids, they have to just throw in some other characters, including the lying translator for Cindy to play.  The Story, well it's the CRYING GAME , you know, for kids. Um, this kid, Pit (the writer/director's son) makes a Pumpkinhead, it scares the witch (who looks like a DAWN OF THE DEAD background actress) who uses her magic powders to bring it to life. Then they sing a song. Badly. 

Then the witch tells Pit she's gonna turn him into a stone statue so he sings a song about not wanting to be a statue. Badly.
With the help of Pumpkinhead (read: African American slave), he escapes and goes to the emerald City where the gay Scarecrow rules, but the cattle call girls from the abandoned AUSTIN POWERS sequel led by a drum majorette, attack the City and take over, but regret that none of them knows how to make breakfast.  

Anyhoo, Tip, his slave & gay fag friend go to the Tin Woodsman, who's getting a hot lube/rub job from some smokin' chicks, for help.  Then,  they meet up with Glinda who sings a random song decently, then takes them all back to the witch to get her help in finding Ozma, the princess and rightful heir to the stool, I mean throne.  So the witch brings the whole crying game thing in by revealing that Tip isn't really a boy, he's Ozma, a girl!  Just like Ansa Kansas, only opposite!

The wizard transexualized him so that Ozma would not be found.  Glinda says she's gonna bring Ozma back and Tip is all, "But I don't wanna die!" and well, maybe the ACTUAL DIALOGUE would explain it best...

GLINDA: It is not exactly that you are going to be a girl. You're going to remain Tip. The girl is Ozma. You are not exactly Ozma now, you have grown into an adventurous boy. When I transform you,Ozma will be the girl, and Tip will be your spirit, a wonderful, adventurous spirit, that will float out into the land beyond, and become a part of every little boy.

Ozma comes back  and the AUSTIN POWERS rejects go to Denny's for a hearty breakfast.  Oh yeah, there was a disturbing purple cow that was late on ALL of its cues.    I imagine the director (sic) saying,  "Moo!  That's all you have to say!  One word!   When he stops talking, you say "Moo!"  Alright, I get that you may not be able to tell he's  actually  talking, but when his lips stop being slightly open, you say MOOOOOOOO!!!"

This movie should be avoided at all costs.

Doug (who watched it WITH Danny) rates this a 3 outta 10 "Huhs?". Only true OZ completists need to see it - if only to see how NOT to make an OZ film.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

THE DAYDREAMER


THE DAYDREAMER (1966) is a recently re-discovered obscure feature by *Animagic* inventors Rankin-Bass (of RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER fame). The film opens with a likable title song by recently deceased Las Vegas crooner Robert Goulet and some great Al Hirschfeld caricatures of the all-star cast.

After the song (in a live action segment), we discover it's 1801 Denmark and we meet pathetic Papa Andersen the shoemaker (commie "witch hunt" victim Jack Gilford) and his young son Chris (15 year old Paul O'Keefe of THE PATTY DUKE SHOW) - who we soon discover ALWAYS wears the same snug red polyester tights and suspenders, even underneath his nightshirt! Papa is visited by Elmira Gulch herself when Margaret Hamilton comes a knockin' looking for her shoes, only Papa's such a rotten shoemaker that they are not fixed yet. We also suspect that Chris' mom left Papa cause he's such a loser. Gilford, usually very charming, seems as though he's reading from cue cards here.

After Papa tells him of the legendary Garden of Paradise, narcoleptic Chris is visited by an animated version of the Sandman (voiced by Cyril Ritchard)- who tells him that in order to be happy and successful he MUST find the Garden of Paradise. So Chris falls asleep on a boat - and is transformed into an living, breathing Animagic character! Only it doesn't last too long because his boat crashes and he drowns. The End.

So Chris is dead, and The Little Mermaid (voiced by Disney sweetheart Hayley Mills) discovers his lifeless body. After her father (Burl Ives, phoning it in as Father Neptune) tells her that there's no hope for Chris, she makes a deal with the fabulously goth Sea Witch (Talullah Bankhead, giving Pat Caroll's Ursula a run for her money) who brings Chris back to life. They then swim around and the "Ariel" falls in love with the formerly dead boy. He tells her to fuck off cause he's just not into her, besides he's got a garden to find. So he breaks her heart and wakes up all wet in a boat.

Back in the real world, Chris next befriends an ugly duckling. But then he falls asleep again, this time falling in with two conniving tailors (voiced by Terry Thomas and Victor Borge) who are busy designing the Emperor's New Clothes. Chris and the tailors pull a fast one on the narcissistic king (Ed Wynn), but get exposed themselves when a little kid alerts the townsfolk to their scheme. Chris then awakens (in the real world) and gets arrested for poaching a duck!!!

In the most bizarre live action sequence in the film - Chris is tied up bondage style and dragged through town while singing a showtune about being unlucky while back-up dancers perform an elaborate Fosse-like routine around him. The scene MUST be seen to be believed!

So Chris falls asleep again, this time he meets up with Thumbelina (voiced by Patty Duke as Neely O'Hara). Thumby shrinks him down to her size and the two meet up with a Rat (Boris Karloff) who pimps her out to a Mole, who plans on marrying Thumby. Meanwhile, they find a dead sparrow and Thumby touches it and covers it with her sweater. Didn't she ever hear that children shouldn't play with dead things??? Disturbing. Following a musical number by bats - the dead sparrow comes back to life because of Thumby's sweater. Huh? Somehow the wedding doesn't happen and Chris learns the valuable lesson that "your size has nothing to do with your true happiness." Hmmm...that's not what all those emails in my inbox say...

So eventually Chris gets to his Garden of Paradise - where there are cotton candy trees, monotone peacocks, butterflies, blue marshmallows and the Tree of Knowledge!!! He is told(by an offscreen voice) that he must not eat EVER the blossoms from the tree. This story is starting to sound awfully familiar.

After pledging that he won't eat the blossoms, Chris does a little dance - and is visited by a horny and devilish version of himself. Of course Horny Chris convinces our hero to eat the thing. So he eats it and after a fiery apocalyptic finale - he's banished to The Land of Nothingness!!! Wakes then up in reality, where Papa is arrested and shackled to Chris. Papa saves them both by bribing the warden with his wife's wedding ring. Guess Mama Anderson's not coming back after all. We then learn that Chris grows up to become Hans Christian Andersen!!! Wow...I did not see that coming!

I was really hoping to love this film. After recently watching MAD MONSTER PARTY? for Halloween and looking forward to my annual viewings of their Christmas TV classics, Rankin-Bass usually can do no wrong. But I think the uneven performances and choppy storytelling really make parts of this unwatchable. They probably thought they were making the next WIZARD OF OZ or MARY POPPINS - but ended up making something that would alternately bore and frighten little kids, their target audience. I'll give this one 6 outta 10 "Huhs?" mostly for the awesome bondage musical number.

Two interesting notes: In another WIZARD OF OZ nod, Ray Bolger has a brief cameo as The Pie Man. Parts of THE DAYDREAMER were filmed on location at the Denmark Exhibit at the 1964 New York World's Fair.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

THE DAY TIME ENDED


So this 1979 movie starts out with an at least four-minute shot of outer space with some guy babbling endlessly about something... then suddenly we see a few shooting stars head towards Earth. I imagined the opening notes of ELO's "I'm Alive" and hoped we'd soon see 9 fabulous muses streaking across LA. Unfortunately all we get is a little town (which I dubbed Tatooine) that gets showered with stardust.

Meanwhile, at LAX Jim Davis (aka Jock Ewing from DALLAS) pulls up to the curb and greets his futuristically dressed family, which includes his wife Miss Ellie (played by Dorothy Malone of PEYTON PLACE because Barbara Bel Geddes was busy). We soon meet his annoying granddaughter Jenny (who I will call "Punky Brewster") who is visiting with her mom and dad. Dad's working on some top secret project, so he won't be spending as much time with the family.

The family drives out to the dessert, where we first see grandpa Jock's solar-powered Monsanto House of the Future. Then Jock gives Punky a pony. Punky shows her Holly Hobbie doll to the pony and it runs away. When Punky calls for her pony, it does not respond, instead she is drawn to a green glowing pyramid...which she begins to chat with about her pony! Then she hugs the pyramid and her pony reappears. What the fuck???

Meanwhile, inside the house, Jock, Dorothy, their daughter and teen-age son discover that the house has been ransacked! They suspect some local bikers...but are distracted by little Punky who wants to show them the glowing pyramid. Of course it's gone when Punky brings the family to see it. After they leave she discovers it's shrunk to the size of an Everlasting Gobstopper - so she picks it up and puts it in her pocket! Nice going, Punky!

When Punky goes to wash up for dinner a cracked mirror suddenly repairs itself! Then the lights and bathroom water turn on and off by themselves! This is the house of the future! Or is it haunted by the past? After Miss Ellie eats some corn, her and grandpa Jock stroll along in the night desert and notice a bright light in the distance. Before you know it, 2 donut-shaped UFOs zoom over their heads. They practically ignore it and head inside.

I have decided that this family is not fazed by anything.

After Punky uses the toilet and doesn't wash her hands, she sees smoke in her bedroom - followed by the appearance of a pixie-like Claymation alien. The alien does a little ballet for her and then the two of them disappear. Then the alien visits Grandma. She screams. What the fuck...again???

Then there's a small earthquake - and they realize that Punky is missing. Not to worry, they soon find her outside where she was "playing with her friend".
Doesn't faze anyone. Okay, this family is just plain creepy.

Then the family car won't turn off - until Punky tells it too. Punky's mom wants to leave, but Grandpa assures everyone that he'll protect them with his pistol. Punky is then visited by a robotic flying toaster oven that burns a hole in her bedroom wall. Punky's missing again (I think - she goes missing a few times), but Jock's still got his pistol.

Suddenly there is a battle of Ray Harryhausen dinosaur creatures outside the house. What the what the fuck???

Meanwhile, Punky's dad tries to buy gas and the attendant gives him a hard time. He eventually gives in and charges him 65 cents a gallon - talk about inflation!

Back at Tatooine, Jock and his teenage son let some horses out to distract the monsters - and then the monsters chase the horses. I'm totally NOT making this up. I swear. After that the sky is suddenly ablaze with a bad fireworks display that reminded me of Fantasmic! at Disneyland.

Okay, After the fireworks end, the house is surrounded by a bunch of damaged vehicles - a plane, a train, an automobile, a truck..all sorts of shit. Then I think there are more fireworks and some crazy slow-motion shots of Punky and Jock running towards each other super-imposed over the fireworks. I think Punky goes missing again, this time with her mom. What the friggin' fuck???

Meanwhile, after crashing his car, Punky's dad is strolling through a field of yellow flowers - then he comes across a horse - could it be one of Jock's?

Jock declares that they are stuck in a "time space warp" with "...strange things and strange creatures" - and some vortex may have taken Punky and her mom. Jock and Miss Ellie look up to see two suns in the sky - just like on Tatooine!

The family then naps, but is awakened by a giant sun - which makes a small green pyramid. Don't ask. Punky's mom reappears - and she's suddenly at peace with the universe. She starts spouting something that I swear sounds like Dianetics - and she tells everyone that Punky is safe - in fact she's with her dad.

Then everyone is reunited and they look into the horizon to see...Oz! Yes - a beautiful crystal city awaits them and their "new way of life"!

This one was also known as EARTH'S FINAL FURY - but i'd like to call it EARTH'S FINAL WHAT THE FUCKING FURY. 10 outta 10 "Huhs?"

Friday, November 9, 2007

ALICE SWEET ALICE

ALICE SWEET ALICE (1976), directed by Alfred Sole was originally released as COMMUNION but returned to theaters two years later to cash on the fame of child-actor Brooke Shields. The film is set in 1961 for some reason and has many references to JFK, Jackie and even to PSYCHO. It's also known as HOLY TERROR - but I'd like to rename it PROBLEM CHILD: THE BEGINNING.

The film opens with some real groovy titles - then we visit a rectory where a hunky priest named Father Tom (Rudolph Willrich) lives. Single mom Catherine Spages (played by Jackie Gleason's daughter Linda Miller) and her two daughters Alice (19 year-old LIQUID SKY actress Paula Sheppard playing a prepubescent teen!!!) and Karen (a very young Brooke Shields) are paying a visit.

Angelic Karen will soon make her first holy communion, and the sexy priest gives his late mother's crucifix to her as a gift. I sense some sexual tension between Catherine and Tom. Karen's bratty sister Alice is jealous, and wanders about the rectory - scaring the wacky Italian housekeeper Mrs. Tredoni (Olympia Dukakis lookalike Mildred Clinton) with a really creepy Halloween mask.
Later Alice (who sort of resembles the Downs Syndrome girl "Jill" from the infamous menstruation education film ALL WOMEN GET PERIODS) is seen terrorizing Karen by abusing her toys and locking her in a room. Mom Catherine doesn't seem to react to her daughter's morbid hobbies, possibly because she's distressed about her failed marriage. Things soon go from bad to worse when Karen is strangled at her first communion - by a stranger in a yellow rain slicker and Halloween mask! And I thought vomiting at MY first communion was bad! (This is true - I threw up and they thought I was possessed!)

After Karen is killed, her body is stuffed into some sort of bench, her crucifix is stolen and then her corpse is set on fire with a church candle. Jeez! Where was the Catholic League when this was released???

When Mother Superior sees smoke, she opens the bench and screams - attracting the attention churchgoers including Catherine and her meddling sister Annie (the very effective Jane Lowry). A funeral follows and Catherine's handsome
ex-husband Dom shows up to help. Annie decides to stay with Catherine to help her through this difficult time and to attempt to discipline Alice, who has only gotten more bratty since Karen's murder. Alice then recruits her chubby cousin Angela to taunt the reclusive and extremely overweight landlord Mr. Alfonso (possibly the most disgusting character since Divine played his own rapist in FEMALE TROUBLE). Suffice to say, people who piss themselves should NOT wear white!

Dom begins to work with the cops to solve his daughter's murder, and tries to call Father Tom, but Mrs. Tredoni interferes, with the intention of protecting the priest from getting too involved. Tom later tells Dom that the police suspect Alice is the killer. Back at the Spages' home Alice drops a bottle of milk and Aunt Annie has a shit fit and tells her it's time to go back to school. Alice then puts on her yellow slicker and pays Mr. Alfonso and his cats a visit. After she wrinkles the rent check, Mr. A. tries to feel her up - she responds by picking up one of his cute kitties and throws it across the room, killing it. What a little bitch!I sure hope the Humane Society was there for that scene!

We see that Alice has built an altar in the basement - where she has candles, her mask, her raincoat, a two-face doll, ballet sleepers and other assorted creepy items. This girl needs therapy in a big way.

Aunt Annie heads out during a storm, but as she walks down the stairs she is suddenly attacked by a masked figure who stabs her repeatedly in her legs and feet. She fights back as best as she can, yelling out Alice's name and attracting Mr. A as a witness. Catherine finds her sister lying in a pool of blood on the sidewalk just as Dom and Rev. Tom drive up. Good timing, guys!

Later at the hospital, Annie tells her milquetoast husband Jim that Alice tried to kill her. Soon Alice is taken in for a lie detector test. She kinda fails when she tells the cops that she saw KAREN attack her aunt. Huh? Karen's dead...I think. Another disturbing scene follows when two cops discuss Alice's breasts. What the fuck - she's supposed to be like 11 or 12. We later learn that Alice has has her first period. This IS just like the Jill video - except Jill doesn't kill anyone from what I remember.

Catherine and Dom are convinced that Alice is innocent - Catherine thinks Annie just wants to pin it all on Alice because she has always hated the born out-of-wedlock child - and Dom thinks Angela (Annie's daughter) is the slasher. Sparks begin to reignite for the divorced couple, until a phone call from his new wife serves as a cold shower for Dom. Dom then receives a suspicious call from Angela. But the voice on the phone is an adult's - and Dom doesn't notice. Huh? "Angela" tells Dom that she has Karen's crucifix and wants to meet him in an abandoned building. Okay... After believing for an hour that Alice was the slasher, I began to wonder just WHO the masked killer was. Could it be Catherine? Could it be Annie's husband Jim? Could it be Alice? Angela? The sexy priest? One of the cats? I'm stumped!

Dom arrives at the warehouse and is attacked by the slasher (wearing the Halloween mask and the yellow raincoat.) He is soon stabbed in the shoulder and then hit in the face with a brick. Dom is then tied up and pushed out of window. This is so not a good week for the Spages family!

Finally the slasher takes off the mask and is revealed to be...XXXXXXX!!!! HUH??? Wow - I did NOT see that coming! XXXXXXX declares that Dom and Catherine are sinners. During Dom's autopsy, they find Karen's crucifix lodged in his throat, apparently he tried swallowing it to keep it away from the killer. Thanks, we were wondering where that went.

It's soon time for Sunday mass. Alice first stops by Mr. Alfonso's apartment to put cockroaches on his stomach as he sleeps.
Nice. Meanwhile, XXXXXXX packs a knife in a shopping bag and stops by the Spages' apartment. Mr. A wakes up and spots XXXXXXX - and thinking it's Alice, he grabs the killer, who then pulls out her knife and stabs him!!! Well, that's one character I can live without.

Later at church, just as XXXXXXX is about to receive Holy Communion, the slasher pulls out the knife and stabs Father Tom in the neck. The priest falls on the altar and into XXXXXXX's arms. Chaos ensues. In the final shot, we see Alice as she walks away from the altar carrying the shopping bag. Then she pulls the bloodied knife out of it and stares blankly into the camera!!! SUPER CREEPY!!!!

What else can I say about ALICE SWEET ALICE? This movie is fan-fucking-tastic! 10 outta 10. Scary, funny, crazy, sacrilegious - this one's a keeper with or without little Brooke. Thanks to my buddy Mike for helping me recall some of the details on this one.