I’ve enjoyed his work in films (well, Escape from New York, anyway—the less said about his visit to L.A. the better), but today Snake Plissken paid a visit to Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule and dropped a couple of juicy comments. He had some choice words for the effects in the 30-second TV ad for Peter Jackson’s King Kong, but more interesting, to me, at least, was his comment under my obituary for Wendie Jo Sperber, which ran yesterday. Snake wrote thusly:
“Thanks for the tribute to Wendie Jo. I remember her from Bosom Buddies, but not from the BTTF movies. It's a terrible loss.
On a happier note, Big D, I was wondering if we could get your opinion(s) on the following:
1) The new Kate Bush album. (You do know that she has a new one, don't you?)
2) The oeuvre of the man who is possibly the greatest director of all time: Mr. Alan “Pink Floyd: The Wall" Parker.
3) The newly remastered CD of Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison. They left all the cuss words in, and I think it has the best version of "John Henry" I've ever heard. What do you think?
4) Paula Abdul vs. Jody Whatley: Whose music stands the test of time?
5) Is a 32-ounce Big Gulp of Mountain Dew just TOO MUCH MOUNTAIN DEW?
6) The Best of George 'Buck' Flower. That dude appeared in more than a hundred flicks. Which do you particularly recommend?
I know your focus is on cinema/baseball, but I really dig your blog and like your writing style, and I would like to know what you think about the above matters.”
As I suggested to Blaaagh in a later comment under the same piece, there are a couple of hints buried in the comment that make me believe that Snake Plissken, at least on the pages of SLIFR, is an old friend from my not-too-distant past. I even accused old pal Loxjet of hiding the Plisskenesque pseudonym. Loxjet, however, claims to know nothing of George “Buck” Flower and was miffed that I would ever mistake him for someone who would misspell Jody Watley’s surname. When I clicked on the blogger name “Snake Plissken” above the comment, I was taken to SnakePlissken.net, not the usual Blogger profile. Not that I wouldn’t welcome the participation on this blog of Matt or Alize (and if “Snake Plissken” really is one or both of you, welcome indeed), but the questions seem particularly pointed toward past obsessions/annoyances of mine, obsessions/annoyances upon which it would be incredibly coincidental for either Matt or Alize to innocently stumble. Even addressing me as “Big D” seems too familiar a stance for a cold-calling commenter to take, and it does sound awfully familiar to me in other ways too. So, in the hopes that we haven’t heard the last of Snake Plissken (except when it comes to another misbegotten John Carpenter movie like Escape From L.A.), here are my brief answers to his queries, followed by a couple of questions of my own.
1) I am very excited to hear the new, none-too-inexpensive Kate Bush album, entitled Aerial. I’ve been a big fan of Kate’s dating back to her 1978 debut, The Kick Inside, and her albums The Dreaming, Hounds of Love and The Sensual World rank among my all-time favorites. However, her 1993 release, The Red Shoes, was a real limp rag of a CD, too cloying by half and conspicuously short on inspiration. I’m hoping Aerial is a whole lot less like that album and more like Hounds, which would signal a return to form. But we haven’t bought it yet because Christmas is nigh, and my wife is hoping that Santa Claus might find a copy on sale at Best Buy and drop it in her stocking.
2) I’m afraid that “Greatest Director of All Time” mantle you’ve bestowed upon Alan Parker is, perhaps, a trifle unearned. I admit that, way back in 1987, I thought Angel Heart was pretty good. But the more I thought of all that pseudo-religioso bayou atmosphere laid on so viscous-thick by Parker’s traditionally heavy trowel, and mysterious villain Louis Cypher (clang!) twirling a boiled egg in his talons, and sweaty, grimy Mickey Rourke humping Lisa Bonet, who combines histrionic and somnambulate in this movie like no other performer in movie history, the more I realized it was just another gleaming turd generated by the Alan Parker Project. Other golden nuggets, with nary a genuine moment between them, include Midnight Express, Fame, Mississippi Burning, Come See the Paradise, The Road to Wellville and Evita. What’s not to hate, huh? I have not seen Bugsy Malone or Angela’s Ashes, so I cannot say how well they fit into the Parker Paradigm, though I will admit that I did not hate Birdy when I saw it as an impressionable lad some 23 years ago. (However, dour metaphorical man/bird endeavors like this one tend not to age very well, so I won’t say that that impression still stands; I prefer my man/bird metaphors in the hands of someone like Robert Altman and Brewster McCloud.) The one Parker film I do like unreservedly is the one least like the Parker films described above-- The Commitments, which retains the lyricism and the kitchen-sink atmosphere of Roddy Doyle’s prose and never falls victim to the director’s tendency toward heavy-handed bullshit. Speaking of cowpies, ever rising on my Netflix queue is Parker’s latest, The Life of David Gale, which, it has been suggested by many smart folks, might be his worst movie yet. The more I read about this potential train wreck, the more I just have to see it.
3) The remastered Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison is as good as you’ve heard. The whole, unexpurgated concert has the feel of a great documentary film, only without the film. You make the pictures up yourself in your head. And “The Legend of John Henry’s Hammer” is indeed great, but for me the highlight of this masterpiece is Cash’s appropriately gloomy rendition of “Dark as a Dungeon,” during which he flubs a lyric and momentarily breaks the spell of the somber narrative with the release of good, hearty, nervous laughter.
4) Paula Abdul’s fame has endured, however flimsily, but whenever I hear one of Jody Watley’s late ‘80s dance hits, like “Lookin’ For A New Love” or “Real Love,” that’s what stirs my pot. She’s a lot purtier too!
5) A 32-ounce Big Gulp of Mountain Dew is, perhaps, too much Mountain Dew. It is definitely too much Mountain Dew X, unless uncontrollable shaking and hives are your thing. (Don’t get me wrong—MDX tastes good, and it’s just the thing for those occasional 25-hour work shifts, but they don’t put it in 14-ounce bottles and call that a serving for nothing.) Currently, my insulated 64-ounce Mountain Dew mug holds only water.
6) George “Buck” Fowler (born in Milton-Freewater, Oregon, according to IMDb), was a familiar face to fans of low-budget genre films, and he was emerged as a favorite of John Carpenter after appearing in several of the director’s films, such as The Fog, They Live!, Starman and (aha! The Snake Plissken connection!) Escape from New York. He was also a familiar face as a good ol’ boy or a villain or a homeless guy in pictures like Satan’s Lust (1971—he played a character named Manheim Jarkoff!), Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS (1975—credited as C.D. Lafleuer), The Adventures of the Wilderness Family (1975), A Small Town in Texas (1976), Berserker (1987), Sorority Babes in the Slime-Ball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), Maniac Cop (1988), Pumpkinhead (1988) and, perhaps his highest-profile movies, Back to the Future I & II (1985, 1989), in which he played “Red the Bum.” Flower also did a lot of guest appearances on TV series, and also had a career behind the camera as a writer and producer, penning B-movie entries like Drive-in Massacre, Party Plane and The Bikini Carwash Company. Perhaps my favorite credit in his long career came early on, in 1971, where IMDb lists him serving as a grip on The Erotic Adventures of Pinocchio. (Insert cheap joke here.) Personally, to see Flower at his best you have to go with the Carpenter movies, but I also recommend A Small Town in Texas for a taste of the actor at his yahoo peak, and Ilsa: She-Wolf of the SS just because it’s so damn weird. George “Buck” Fowler passed away in June 2004. Thanks, S.P., for reminding me, and everyone, of this familiar face.
And now some questions for you, Snake:
How do you feel about Xanadu?
Or Heavy Metal?
What about the films of Norman Tokar and Vincent McEveety?