spatch: (Fleshy Headed Mutant)
In spite of some pretty serious pain recently, I did have the good fortune to watch a hilariously awful science-fiction film from 1967 called THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE and the title right there should be your first clue as to the quality of the film. Oh, it's presented in all seriousness, mind you, with none of that pesky irony to deal with, and that's what makes it all the funnier.

I mean, seriously: THEY CAME FROM BEYOND SPACE. It's a classic B-movie title if ever there was one. Now nobody in the film actually takes the opportunity to dramatically declare "These invaders, Jim... they're not from space... they're from BEYOND space!" but you can pretty much tell that's the feeling they were going for. So when it's finally revealed that the aliens involved in this film's invasion are coming from the moon, it's a bit of a letdown. The moon isn't beyond space! It's not even beyond Mars! Sheesh!

Golly, I hope I'm not spoiling this cinematic masterpiece for anyone who's just itching to see it but haven't found the DVD in the $1.00 bin just yet. Anyway.

The story of the film involves mind-controlling moon meteorites which get into the heads of a group of scientists and then most of a small town, who then build an impressive mod bunker around the crashed stones complete with a rocket ship which we eventually learn makes round trip visits to the moon once every few days. Then we have a small but dedicated group of scientists who eventually learn to thwart the mind-control rays by, and I swear I'm not making this up, wearing colanders on their heads. (Okay, they're custom-made colanders made out of silver, which is the only metal which can apparently block these mind-control rays, but HELLO, IT'S A COLANDER.) They can also spot the aliens by wearing special goggles that make the Archie McPhee X-Ray Specs look like high-end sunglasses. As you can probably guess, the end result here is absolutely ludicrous, even moreso since it's not tongue in cheek. The scientists look like they're trying out for DEVO. If this video ever got out, these costumes would be a hit at cons.

But even better was the ending to the film. Oh, my! What an ending! What a deep climax of incredible emotion and pathos, and who am I kidding? It's a stinker. I'll summarize like so. If you really don't want spoilers, turn to page 74, where we'll determine which Brady Bunch character our true love would be. For the rest of you, here goes:

SCIENTIST HERO: I've chased you and your mind-controlled minions all the way back to the moon. Now tell me why you've been turning humans into slaves.

MASTER OF THE MOON (swear to god this is his name, honest): We are an advanced race, more highly evolved than you primitive savages on Earth. However, we evolved so much we lost our corporeal bodies and now exist as pure thought. We are also far far away from our home planet. We needed actual bodies to perform physical work on a rocket ship of our very own, so that we can blast off and return home to die. We would never have slaves. These human bodies would be returned to their rightful owners once work is complete.

SCIENTIST HERO: You just want to fix your rocket and go home. If that's all you wanted, why didn't you just ask?

MASTER OF THE MOON: Why... didn't... we just ask...

(It's so crazy it JUST MIGHT WORK!)

SCIENTIST HERO: We'd be happy to help you build your rocket... but by our own free will.

(The MASTER OF THE MOON takes a few moments to mull this over, and then approaches the SCIENTIST HERO. He suddenly RELINQUISHES CONTROL of the HUMAN BODY he was in. This NEW GUY and the SCIENTIST HERO then SHAKE HANDS while the music swells to a dramatic climax. "THE END" is superimposed over the shot of the handshake. SPATCH howls so much the CAT jumps off the bed and makes a beeline for the door.)

My god! Why didn't they just ask?! No science-fiction alien ever just plain asks! Except for like John Valentine, and look where it got him. No, if heroes were to try this tactic in other stories, it'd go like this:

SCIENTIST HERO: If all you want is to gather up Plutonium to feed to your offspring, why didn't you just ask us for it?
ALIEN GUY: Silence!! (disintegrates SCIENTIST HERO's head with his ray gun)

or maybe

SCIENTIST HERO: If all you robots want is freedom and the right to exist autonomously and not as mechanical slaves, why haven't you just asked?
ROBOT GUY: Beep boop bop borp boop (explodes SCIENTIST HERO's head with his atomoblaster)

or even

SCIENTIST HERO: If all you Martians want is some of our women for your breeding purposes, why don't you just ask? I'm sure we have some with loose enough morals around here who'd join you just for kicks.
MARTIAN GUY: WAK WAK WAAK (vaporizes SCIENTIST HERO's head with eye lasers)

Nobody ever asks. They just take. On the other hand, if ever I see a film where a giant irradiated termite walks up to the likes of John Agar and says "Terribly sorry, old chap, but my colony and I are simply famished and we sure could use a good nosh; might you know of any large collection of wooden structures which you don't need?" then by golly I'll totally keep that one close to my heart forever.
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: (Spike Dancing The Hula)
I've noticed a curious callous on the side of my left index finger, just below the second knuckle. I couldn't figure out how in the world I could have gotten such a callous, until last night when I reached for the freshly opened two-liter bottle of soda on my computer desk, grabbing it by the neck for to take a healthy swig.

(I go through so much Diets Coke and Pepper that buying it by the two liter is cheaper than buying it by the six-pack. And I only swig out of my own bottles. Anything stored in public spaces gets poured into a glass in a most genteel and seemly fashion. Honest.)

I had a night of vaudeville last night and I was happy to have it. To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the release of The Jazz Singer and the first feature-length "talkie", TCM played the film and then followed up with an hour and a half of ancient Vitaphone shorts from Warner Bros. The shorts, all filmed with sound around 1929, weren't actual storytelling motion pictures, but of actual vaudeville acts which performed around the country then. Wowee!

I hadn't realized there were such abundant records of vaudeville, which has since passed into legend as one of the truly great American forms of entertainment. Yes, England had its music halls which featured a variety of billed acts just like American variety theater, but there was something about the American vaudevillian's itinerant lifestyle that gave the artform a unique image almost romantic in its nostalgia: enterainers schlepping from town to town, often bringing with their entire worldly possessions in one case, performing in horribly maintaned theaters to indifferent -- or worse, hostile -- audiences, sleeping in fleabag hotels and receiving numerous bedbug bites (a bedbug often feeds in three bites clustered around the same spot on the body, which became known as "Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner"), honing their act, perfecting their craft, and all the while hoping to Be Noticed and move from one of the small-time circuits to the Big Time, performing in the Keith's chain of theatres or, dare we dream, the biggest of all Big Time prizes, the sign that you'd finally Made It, playing the Palace in New York City. The Palace! The acts were wide and varied, from two-man comedy teams to singers both comic and serious to dancers to acrobats, jugglers, revue companies, and of course, trained animals.

The genre spawned its own slang. Some of the more colorful phrases are still in use today: "the big time", "second banana", "bombed", "schtick", "knocked 'em dead", "went over", "headliner" and, in the case of poor amateur acts, "getting the hook."

Ah, yes, vaudeville. )

This was not high art. Heck, some of it wasn't even particularly good. But you must know by now that I'm a sucker for entertainment for entertainment's sake, as well as any evidence of how generations before mine enjoyed their particular kinds of entertainment, and it was all the more fascinating to me since I realized I wasn't watching the cream of the crop. Sure, the acts I saw must've been well-known in their time; they were definitely good enough to be deemed worthy of filming, but they never broke into the new Big Time (films and radio) as far as I know. These were the acting stiffs, the very same who schlepped from city to city, performing these same routines over and over again to a new audience every few weeks. These weren't recreations or parodies of routines that we'd see years later on television; this was the real thing, baby. This was vaudeville! God, it was fascinating!

There are a few groups that are dedicated to restoring the Vitaphone shorts, some of which are available online if you know where to look, and I suggest you do. If only to see the lady with the cello suddenly stop her song and, with a crazed comic look on her face, frantically pound a maniacal boom-tiddy-boom-tiddy-boom-tiddy-boom beat on the darn thing with her bow, then continue on as if nothing had happened. She must've been a gas to hang out with on the train.


spatch: (Default)

July 2017

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