Well, this has been a couple of weeks worth of complications, bad choices and horror stories. Life’s Rich Pageant, in other words. Boring to anyone who isn’t me. Though the time a University Professor informed me she couldn’t be interviewed by me unless it had first been cleared through Communications and Legal (when we both work for the same University) is still a show-stopper for me. Literally.
I’m not bitter that bit of blockage made me do a four minute story about a fucking bake sale. Oh no. Not at all.
So. There is no better way to deal with the suffering that life dishes out than to make others suffer. This is a lesson I have learned from the evening news over the years. So it was undeniably time for another Crapfest.
Dave bought a house in the last year, and moved out to the boondocks, if indeed the eternal devouring Houston has a place that can be considered “boondocks”. He’s now ten minutes closer to me, anyway, which is all that matters in my selfish worldview. So I managed to work my way through the very beginning of rush hour traffic to his domain, while the other fools toiled in the guts of Every Person In A Major City Trying To Get Out To The Boondocks On A Friday Afternoon And To Hell With Everyone Else.
The evening’s itinerary had been the subject of much secrecy, but suffice to say, Dave’s desire to see “something cool” had been squandered on the Crapfest that had not occurred in October (illness, sudden emergencies), and he was once again out for blood, and I was complicit in these desires.
Rick arrived with three DVDs of performances from NBC’s The Midnight Special, which served to fill time until everyone arrived. These were from the latter years, 78-80, when I was in college, and likely too busy playing records and getting stoned to watch Midnight Special. Nonetheless, this stuff was a treat. Bands actually playing their instruments – what a concept. Was Steve Perry ever truly that young? Lionel Ritchie just a face in the crowd with the Commodores. Paul arrived, as did The Other Dave, for his first Crapfest.Alan was absent by virtue of being in a show.
We continued to cherry-pick the performances on Midnight Special, until Paul and Rick conspired to choose Peter Allen’s I Go to Rio. As this was during the aforementioned Lost Weekend phase of my college career, I had missed Peter Allen’s attempt to be a big star in America. I hadn’t even realized he was married to Liza Minelli for while, but then there was likely a period when I was married to Liza Minelli that I just don’t recall. I’ll have to admit that Allen is working his ass off on that stage, dry-humping his piano bench and ripping off his shirt to reveal a leather Yor the Hunter from the Future vest thing while he shakes his maracas and blows time on a coach’s whistle. It was also, bar none, the gayest thing I had seen in a long, long time.
Sadly, that performance is not on YouTube. There is, however, the version he sang at Radio City Music Hall, where he was the first male to dance with the Rockettes:
THIS IS A MESSAGE FROM THE FUTURE: In the intervening years, that Peter Allen video was withdrawn from YouTube… but that very same clip from The Midnight Special became available!
After that, the fajitas being cooked, the margaritas being made, we began in earnest. With the movie Dave had urged me to save, Frankenstein Island.
If you’ve known me for a while, you also know that once upon a time, I was one of a million online movie critics (though when I started, there were only thousands), and I was a member of a coalition of B-movie critics called the B-Masters. We did organized roundtables built around common themes, and the like. One of the traditions was the Secret Santa, where names were drawn out of a hat, and we told whoever we drew what movie he or she was going to review. I was asked to step out of retirement this year, I agreed, and was promptly in a deja vu situation, as I found myself int he same arrangement as the last time I participated: I gave Andrew Borntreger The Spirit, and Ken Begg gave me Frankenstein Island.
Ken Begg, of course, is the proprietor of Jabootu’s Bad Movie Dimension, and he likes to break people. He reduced Andrew to a puddle of protoplasm with Sextette, and Andrew survived shelling in Iraq with aplomb. This is the third movie Ken has given me, the rotten bastard. The first two were Doomsday Machine and Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I think he still resents the fact that Seagull did not kill me.
I got the Retromedia DVD for Frankenstein Island from Amazon Markets for, I think, $2.50, which means it cost more to ship it than its actual worth (which is a telling point). Another tip-off to the quality is that the box says “Directed by Jerry Warren”. Another is that when I spot-checked the disc to make sure it played, the first five seconds make me say out loud, “Oh, fuck you, movie.”
As expected, it is a mess. There is an island, and there are cavegirls, and Frankenstein’s great great etc granddaughter owns it, and she’s married to Van Helsing, and there’s an Igor, and turtleneck-and-stocking-cap wearing zombies apparently on leave from the Batman TV series, and the Monster is chained up in a grotto, and the Floating head of John Carradine crops up ever ten minutes to say the same damned thing over and over again and plastic props and vampire teeth from the post-Halloween sale at Walgreens are in evidence and Cameron Mitchell drunkenly quotes Poe forever and ever and
Surprisingly, this did not break our audience. If anything, it was embraced, as we attempted to keep the incredibly ambitious plot straight in spite of the inept delivery. A bit of palate-cleansing was performed by an episode of Super President (which people still don’t believe existed) and it’s companion feature, the infinitely more badass Spy Shadow. These were also well-received.
Not so our second feature.
It is probably due to the fact that, after much anticipation, I had recently seen The Losers, another DC comics adaptation recently, and was incredibly disappointed, but I liked Jonah Hex. Probably not going to see it ever again, but it was okay. Even though I spent most of the time, as the only person in the room who had read the comic book, confirming that “No, that’s not how it is in the book.”
Best running gag: The Other Dave’s “Aw man, that was the building where we stored all our dynamite!” “Aw, man, that’s the train where we stored all our dynamite!” “Aw, man…”
The Other Dave then begged off, pleading an early morning. which meant it was time for our last surprise feature of the evening:
Yes, that is Ron Ormond’s Please Don’t Touch Me, which had been requested long ago by Paul. An “educational” film, it purports to be a case study of hypnosis and its use in psychoanalysis, along with a bit of historical re-enactment and mondo footage for background. In general, it is the story of Vicki, the drool-inducing redhead in the clip, and the fact that she can’t have sex with her husband. Even the non-psychs in the audience can point out that this might be due to the fact that her mother apparently inserts “Too bad you were raped at the age of 15” into every conversation with her.
Of course, the power of hypnosis and the illuminating lantern of psychoanalysis demonstrates that she was not raped – she was assaulted and passed out, but a kindly passer-by interrupted the crime – and has only been going on her mother’s word all this time. And her husband’s wedding ring, of all things, was what set off the association. And all this is accomplished in one session. This guy is the Einstein of psychiatrists.
Of course, the usual excuse for making an educational movie is giving the audience some skin under the protection of the “educational” excuse, which doesn’t quite happen in Please Don’t Touch Me, even when, via hypnosis, we experience Vicki’s wedding night, When The Trouble Began. There’s a naked back, a bit of side-boobage, and a lot of salaciousness, but nothing explicit, which is surprising when you consider Dwain Esper was throwing nudity at audiences in the 30s all in the name of education.
Also, Ruth Blair, who plays Vicki, is the only woman I have ever seen who can make sliding onto a psychiatrist’s couch sexy, with a expertly nonchalant plucking at her skirt to reveal her garter belt. That’s talent.
The evening wound down, and there was only one thing left: I had promised Rick the episode of Pink Lady and Jeff guest-starring Jerry Lewis, and Dave’s earlier glee at inflicting Frankenstein Island and Jonah Hex on his unsuspecting guests turned into agony and horror. This wasn’t just decompressing, this was explosive decompression.
There is not much left to say about Pink Lady and Jeff. The bits with Jerry Lewis actually have some laughs, primarily because Lewis wrote that stuff himself. One of the interminable Art Nouveau salesman bits gets a bit funny when an elephant goes off-script and Jeff Altman, the Antichrist of Comedy, starts yelling that it’s not funny. A sketch about the second inauguration of Abraham Lincoln turning into a Dean Martin style roast yields the racist joke of the night, about plantation workers starting the NBA; Alice Cooper appears on tape to do “Clones”, and the @#$%ing kids I am watching this with ask, “When did Alice Cooper turn into Gary Numan?”
And we set off to our own hovels, secure in the knowledge that a) That was the house where kept all our dynamite; b) Though there was unaccountable longing for a Frankenstein Island sequel, the Jonah Hex sequel ain’t happening; and c) despite Paul’s whining there are still three unseen episodes of Pink Lady and Jeff.
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