spatch: (RKO Radio Pictures)
One of the classic film urban legends (or rumors, or perhaps "hopes") is that somewhere in South America, stashed in someone's basement or hiding in a chest in an attic, is a full, uncut version of Orson Welles' The Magnificent Ambersons. Welles finished his first cut of the film in 1942 while in South America shooting a documentary called It's All True, which itself was devised in an attempt to improve relations between the US and several key Latin American countries. We were in a war, see, and needed all the pals we could get. If we couldn't get pals, we would've settled for good neighbors.

Neither Ambersons nor It's All True turned out the way Welles wanted them to. Higher-ups at RKO, the studio which was to distribute the films, grew seriously unhappy with the way Orson was behaving while down in Brazil. Oh, sure, the guy worked like a madman, but he also played like a madman as well, and his filmmaking approach (progress? what progress? can't you see there are dances to dance, skirts to chase and delicious drinks to enjoy?) had long since ceased to worry the RKO brass. It had begun to piss them off something fierce. At this point in time Welles had only one film to his name. It just so happened to be Citizen Kane, which nearly everybody but William Randolph Hearst had praised, so Welles was under serious scrutiny from a lot of different eyes. His second film would have to surpass Kane in brilliance or else it'd just prove that Orson had gotten lucky the first time around.

The first audience preview of Ambersons was an absolute disaster. The film was previewed second on a double bill. The first film screened was a light-hearted, zippy peppy musical, which was what audiences wanted, especially so soon after Pearl Harbor. By all accounts, they loved it. The Magnificent Ambersons, on the other hand, was a brooding, slow-paced moody drama with (in the original cut) no uplifting ending, and it clocked in at just over two hours. Faced with this ordeal, the audience turned sour, began heckling, and left behind angry survey cards which were the 1940s version of YouTube comments only with just slightly less cussing (and, one presumes, without seventeen comment cards all containing the same line of dialogue with no extra comment.)

RKO knew they had to make drastic cuts to the film. Orson would never approve of their cuts, and they knew it. They also knew they didn't have to worry about that since Welles was completely powerless, being out of the country and without the right of final cut (he'd given it up during contract negotations.)

Welles could make suggestions from afar via telegram and telephone and he did, very much so, but his dispatches often carried no weight. If he had been in Hollywood, or if Robert Wise, the film's actual editor, could have gone to Rio to work with Welles (his trip was denied due to wartime travel restrictions) there's a good chance that the film might not have been butchered as it turned out to be. As it was, Wise edited the film under the guidance of studio executives who disliked Welles. Also involved with the editing process was Welles' own business manager, Jack Moss, but he was completely ineffective in defending the project and upholding what Orson wanted.

The result was a drastically shortened movie with a new, happier ending tacked on. Welles' relations with RKO fell apart. The studio eventually destroyed all the unused footage of Ambersons ("to free up vault space" was the official story, though it doesn't take a tinfoil hat to theorize they'd done it to keep the material out of Welles' hands.)

It's All True suffered disaster after disaster, including the accidental drowning death of an impoverished fisherman whose true story was being recreated for the film. The jangadeiro was one of four who sailed over 1600 miles down the coast of Brazil in order to bring public attention to their way of life, which involved working in a semi-feudal system of dubious legality. In the spirit of the pseudo-documentary, Welles had cast all four of the jangadeiros as themselves. However, as they were filming the re-creation of the dramatic conclusion of their journey, their raft capsized, killing one of the jangadeiros before a rescue crew could swim out to help him. Stop for a moment and boggle at that irony if you'd like; then we'll move on.

RKO quickly cut their losses on the project, which first had its budget slashed before it was eventually cancelled outright. Combined with the well-publicized Ambersons disaster, Orson Welles' reputation as an enfant terrible who couldn't finish a project was amplified and inflated, however justly or unjustly you want to call it.

Stories would later circulate that a print of the Ambersons first cut had been sent to Welles in Brazil, and there would be some folks in Rio who claimed to have seen it. Where that print went, though, nobody knows. It could very well be stashed somewhere. One can hope.

I only write this tonight (wait, was that just a lead-in?) because of an awesome piece of news out of Argentina. What appears to be an original, full print of Fritz Lang's Metropolis has been discovered in Buenos Aires. Lang suffered Hollywood studio butchery similar to Welles' ordeal when his amazing German impressionist masterpiece went over to the States. Executives at Paramount slashed nearly a quarter of the film's content, oversimplifying the story and removing key scenes for American audiences. Lang's original cut was lost in Berlin, and the versions of Metropolis you can get on DVD today will tell you, at certain points, what the next scene in the original narrative was supposed to have been. Even that, however, is based mostly on speculation.

Well, soon we won't need those title cards anymore. The discovered print has been brought to Berlin for restoration (after 80 years in hiding look as good you will not, hmm?) and it's only a matter of time before it's released. This is an amazing find. I cannot wait. Isn't it wonderful? And to think that maybe someday we'll be saying the same thing about The Magnificent Ambersons. Hope springs eternal, cat. Just remember that.
spatch: (Default)
Q. How do you make Mr. D. Spatchel, Esq. holler OH FUCK YEAH at the television screen when it's not baseball or wrasslin' or a show about, uh, ice cream or something?

A. Be Turner Classic Movies and show Day of the Jackal, Three Days of the Condor, Marathon Man and The Boys From Brazil back to back to back to back.

This is one of the best television nights I've had in a long, long, long, long time.
spatch: (WoW - Hoenikker)
[ profile] hermitgeecko knows how much I likes my World of Warcraft and she knows how much I likes my Alterac Valley PvP battleground, one which at the moment I am unable to play as much as I'd like owing to the fact that the Other Side refuses to play it now that they're not able to win 100% of the time (long story.)

So she made me an Alterac Valley cake:

Alterac Valley Cake

The Alliance spawn cave has been eaten, by the way, so that the Horde has a distinct terrain advantage. I am also considering cutting out and eating strategic pieces, too, to make for some great bottlenecks.

It also makes perfectly clear that Balinda's tower, one of the strategic objectives of the map, is truly a piece of cake.

This is probably the geekiest thing in the house right now, and I am still giggling over it all.
spatch: (Default)
Q. DEAR ANSWERING GUY, I live in Boston and I take the T to work from Davis Square every day. Every day for the past week or so the trains have been late due to one reason or another, and every day we stand on the platform waiting like fools for one southbound train while two or three northbound trains go merrily on by. The thing is, there's only one stop after us on the north end of the line, and that's Alewife. Today was the actual worst, though, as we waited for one single southbound train from Alewife while no less than five, count 'em, five trains went by northbound to Alewife. What the hell is going on, and where did all those northbound trains go?
Someone Who Is Not The Author
The Answering Guy has been answering questions since before you knew what a question mark was.
A. DEAR SOMEONE WHO IS NOT THE AUTHOR, the Answering Guy is very pleased you asked him this question instead of trying the MBTA, for they will not tell you the truth even if you pumped them full of sodium pentathol, gave them a twenty, and then asked nicely. Now the Answering Guy is certain that you know there are two platforms in the Alewife station and both of them send trains back southbound to your Davis stop. You may have already come up with some theories as to how all those trains could have fit, possibly imagining extra track behind the platforms which the trains use when they're backed up, or even theorizing that the trains back up before they even reach Alewife. But none of these answers is correct.

The real explanation is that there is a freak rift in the time-space continuum in the train tunnel and it is centered directly underneath the northbound tracks. Trains travelling northbound don't actually reach Alewife, you see, for they fall through the rift and end up in the lair of an ancient Eldritch horror so arcane and powerful that the mere sight of its full name will cause any mere mortal being's head to explode. In fact, Answering Guy cannot even attempt to spell its name lest too many of its dangerous alphabetical symbols combine to cause even a small explosion, so we shall refer to this being as (') since the apostrophe represents a guttural stop and we're safe enough with that.

At any rate, the northbound trains travel through the rift and find themselves facing ('), who apparently looks like a thousand eyeballs clustered together and each eyeball has a mouth full of sharp sharp fangs and there are also tentacles and possibly demon wings, the Answering Guy is not too sure. As terrifying as it may be, (') actually really likes choo-choos. In fact, it likes the choo-choos so much that it envelops each one as it arrives, absorbing all its choo-chooness as well as all the people inside, ripping apart each soul and dooming it to float in ancient torment until the Eighth Melting of Shu'Maru. (This event, is has been said, will only happen if both Kurt Russell and Wilford Brimley ever find themselves in Antarctica at the same time and that's not going to happen any time soon because the Answering Man is pretty sure Liberty Medical won't deliver diabeetus testing supplies there and honestly, they'll have more important things to test for while in the frozen wastes.)

Do you feel slightly better about your crappy commute yet? I mean sure, you're late today, but at least your soul hasn't been devoured by an eyemouthed creature which has lain in wait since before the separation of Good and Evil.

It doesn't stop there, however, because you'd think the MBTA would notice a few missing trains and, after a while, they do. Up in the Master Control Center, which is this super-cool Quonset hut just off the Pike near the Weston tolls, a big red light starts blinking. The red light has "TRAIN MISSING" written on it and you can't miss it if you're looking in that direction. Eventually Phil, one of the three men in charge of train operations, looks in that direction, but only because he just lost a game of "Made You Look".

"Hey, there's no unicorn over there!" Phil says indignantly to Barry, the winner of Made You Look, who is now doubled over with laughter. "But there is a red blinking light. It says TRAIN MISSING. What do you think that might mean?"

"Hmm," says Pat, who was a third-party witness to the game of Made You Look. "It probably means there's a train missing somewhere. Press the button and see." Phil presses the button and a big friendly map pops up with an arrow and blinking lights and stuff.

"The arrow's pointing to northbound tracks near Alewife," Phil says. "Oh, I bet it's (') again." However, Phil only gets the first two syllables of the True Name of (') out before he vaporizes in a puff of foul-smelling incense so he doesn't get to the word "again", much less the guttural stop. But Pat and Barry know what it means.

"Get the Wee Train-Making Elves on the horn," Pat says to Barry. "We need a replacement train southbound out of Alewife ay ess ay pee. And you may also want to call in for a replacement Phil while you're at it."

So the Wee Train-Making Elves are called into action and begin to build a brand-new train right at the Alewife platform in front of commuters who'd be astonished if they hadn't been atrophied to dull complancency due to the inordinate late times. And before you know it, they have cobbled together what looks for all intents and purposes to be a Red Line train, only you pedal it down the tracks and there's no working heater in any of the cars. The Alewife commuters all smush in and away the train goes southbound towards Davis, where you'll be sardined in next. Satisfied with a job well done, the Wee Train-Making Elves decide to call it a day right then and there and instead of maybe making more trains to help, run off and spend the next three weeks getting completely crunk off of morning dew and making passes at passing pixies. And that's why you're late today. Sorry there's no official record of this on, by the way, but your boss wouldn't have believed you anyway.

Q. This sounds like a load of hogwarsh to me. What's the deal?
A. Well, do you hear the T giving you any better explanation?
The Answering Guy
The Answering Guy can be reached if you are within arm's length.
spatch: (Default)
Here it is, folks, your Moment of Denouement.
Music, Maestro? *ahem*

You and I in our little workshop
Making LED lights from the money we got
Hanging glowies before dawn
Til one by one, they're all done
Three weeks later, MBTA subway
Worker sees one, he goes "Oh hey,
Better call the bomb squad by
Cause ninety-nine Mooninites have arrived"

Ninety-nine Mooninites
Hanging from the overpass
With their middle fingers high
As if to say "Hub, kiss my ass"
Here's Ignignokt, that one's Err
But Boston does not know for sure
The Aqua Teens are advertised
By ninety-nine Mooninites in the sky

Ninety-nine cops on the scene
Can't believe what they've just seen
There's batteries and wires, too
And no one knows just what to do
They look explosive, clench your fists
They must be from terrorists!
We better blast them to the sky
Cause ninety-nine Mooninites must die

Ninety-nine white vans arrive
All with TV crews inside
Everyone's a news reporter
Everyone's a Chet or Nat
Breathlessly they cause a panic
Are these bombs or just Satanic?
Suddenly the bloggers cry
"Wait a minute, those are Mooninites!"

Ninety-nine lulz we have had
And all because of Pete and Sean
It's all over, but Menino's mumbling
Words like "hoax" to hide his bumbling
Folks are selling souvenirs
To commemorate our Day of Fear
And here is a Mooninite
I check eBay and make my bid...
spatch: (Venture Bros - Henchman)
The WWE (formerly the WWF until the other WWF sued 'em) is reporting that wrassler Scott "Bam Bam" Bigelow is dead at the age of 45. Bigelow was a classic heel, a mustachioed bad guy whose bald head was covered in tattoos. He was often accompanied by one of the scariest wrasslin' ladies this side of Sensational Sherri.

But Bam Bam Bigelow was one of the few wrestlers I ever marked out for, and all because of one drunken couple.

For those not familiar with wrestling terminology, a "mark" is one who believes wholly in the 'sport' of professional wrestling; one who takes in the whole spectacle hook, line and sinker, and who doesn't believe (or doesn't care -- or want -- to believe) that the outcomes are pre-determined and storylines plotted out months in advance. In other words, a sucker.

And to "mark out" is, well, to behave like a mark. To throw yourself headlong into the match and support your favorite as if you are the one whose cheers and screams really matter. I haven't followed professional wrestling for a long time now; the WWF of the 1980s was camp, fun kid's stuff and accordingly, as a kid I ate it right up, but nowadays I see this "soap opera for men" and its overblown innuendo and every type of stereotype-bashing and I realize who they're playing to now, and it's not me.

But good old fashioned pro wrestling, with Mean Gene Oakerlund, Hulk Hogan, "Macho Man" Randy Savage, Hacksaw Jim Duggan, Jake "The Snake" Roberts, Bret "Hitman" Hart and Jim "The Anvil" Neidhart, Superfly Jimmy Snuka, "The Birdman" Koko B. Ware, Mr. Perfect, Leapin' Lanny Poffo (Randy Savage's brother who would later become "The Genius"), and good old Barry Horowitz, the professional self-backpatting jobber who could always be counted on to throw a match to help bring a new name up... those were the guys my brothers and I grew up on.

This, then, brings us to Bam Bam Bigelow and the Great Mark-Out. It must have been I think the fall of 1993; it was my little brother's birthday and I'd given him floor seats to the WWF show when it came to our neck of the woods. We went along with my other little brother. I honestly can't remember any of the matches on the card except for a particularly tiresome Doink the Clown match with midget Doinks coming out from under the ring -- I always hated Doink's angle -- and Bam Bam's, because that's when this couple next to us got real excited. They must've saved up for months to make it to this match (I know I did, and I was a broke college student) and it became readily clear they'd only come to see Bam Bam do his thing.

The woman had crammed herself into a pair of fancy goin-out spandex pants and a halter top which had been stretched to the point of obscenity. She smelled like she'd been dipped in booze, I mean literally picked up with a giant pair of tweezers and dropped in a giant vat of Jack Daniels in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Her companion was this tall skinny drink of water with an Adam's apple three times the size of his throat and a pencil thin mustache he must've been working on for months now. The woman first endeared herself to us when she loudly proclaimed early on "I smell PATCHOULI around here! D'you know the ONLY PEOPLE who wear PATCHOULI are? They're the ones SMOKE THE WEED!!" Sure, perhaps she was right, but "I smell patchouli around here!" became a long-lasting catch-phrase between me and my brothers, ranking right up there with "Hey guess what? They have comigs, and cheetahs run fast." (Don't ask.)

The skinny guy didn't say much until Bam Bam Bigelow came out. Bam Bam was a real heel at the time; he'd probably just done something nasty to a fan favorite on a recent TV broadcast and was getting a lot of heat (fan attention) for it. His entrance was heralded with a lot of booing and object-throwing whatnot; his no-name jobber opponent was already in the ring, just counting the seconds until he could fall for a 3-count. As soon as the tall guy saw the bald, tattooed head approaching ringside, he just exploded in a mark-out the likes of which I'd never seen before and probably won't see again. He shot up like a rocket and started punching the air with a gangly fist, knocking his black mesh cap off in the process. Then he started hollerin like you wouldn't believe. It was religious, if your religion involves cussin like a sumbitch.


The lady started providing similar encouragement to Bam Bam, who of course didn't need any of it but received it anyway. It was at this point my brothers and I looked at each other and shrugged. What else could we do? We joined in as well.


We let ourselves get caught up in the fan emotion and gleefully helped this crazy couple cheer on their favorite. We probably were the only five people in the place who, right then and there, actually cared for the big, mean, evil guy who was going to win anyway. But as far as we were concerned, this was the best thing we'd ever done at a match since we'd run to ringside in the late 80s and rubbed the Bushwhackers' sweaty Aussie heads for good luck.

Rest well, Bam Bam Bigelow. I'm gonna miss that guy. One of God's own prototypes.


spatch: (Default)

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