Friday, December 02, 2005

SNAKE PLISSKEN WOULD LIKE TO KNOW...


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?

Just asking.

18 comments:

Loxjet said...

Dennis:
Should you need further proof that I'm not S.P., I need only to point to the part of the comment that serves it up for "The Wall" dude as greatest director. You and I both know who the greatest film director is, and I don't remember seeing too many car chases/crashes in "The Wall," if you nomesane.

Still, I can see why you suspect(ed) me: How many people know of your Michael Moore-sized Mountain Dew cup? And it would seem the perfect way to get the attention of a guy who doesn't seem to be able to return e-mails. AND I did "escape from L.A." (though I'm doing some serious California dreamin' right now in the sub-freezing north.)

Apropos the Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison question: Although I haven't heard this remastered disc, I did catch the film "Johnny Cash at San Quentin" yesterday on one of the myriad country music cable stations the other night. First-rate. Made me want to buy a pair of Ray Bans and a pack of Camels, slick back my hair with some Pomade, and shoot a man in Reno just to watch him die.

(interesting cultural phenomenon #21172: We have the same number of cable tv stations up here as down in L.A., but instead of foreign-language shows, we have country-music-video stations... which leads me to ask the question: Who does Dolly Parton think she's fooling?)

Anonymous said...

Dennis....

No love for ESCAPE FROM L.A.? Shame on you!

I did get to sample some of the AERIAL album, along with Roger Waters' new opera while shopping last night - didn't spend enough listening time with either to fully gauge them... what I heard Kate's new album is that it's very low-key and almost ambient in places. I didn't buy either one of them at the time - I do imagine I'll pick them up in the near future.

Apparently Kate has a child, or children, which accounts for the long time between THE RED SHOES and AERIAL.

Saw LORD OF WAR at a second run theater, having missed it during its primary run... loved the film, although I don't see it getting any sort of recognition at next year's Oscars.

Robert H.

nilblogette said...

Always one to latch onto the smallest snippet of a celebrity rumor and call it truth, I'm gonna belive it was really the Kurtster.

Snake Plissken said...

In response to your responses to my questions:

1) I listened to samples of the new KB album at our local Barnes & Noble. Unfortunately, from the 10-second snippets they provided, the album sounds pretty low-key and brings back memories of The Red Shoes--an album I didn't DISLIKE but that didn't just blow me away like, for instance, The Dreaming did. I was waiting to see what someone else thought before I blew a fistful of my own hard-earned sawbucks on it. (It AIN'T cheap. Baby Bertie Bush or whatever his name is must need a closet full of Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits.)

2) Alan Parker directed The Life of David Gale?! Jesus Hernandez Christ! Well, forget every good thing I said about him. That's really one of the few movies I've ever walked out on. I was in my own house when I did it, it was only 27 degrees outside, and I was wearing an Oregon Ducks t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off. Death by hypothermia is dreamy and surprisingly warm and pleasant--FAR, FAR better than having to endure that piece of garbage.

3) Your assessment of the Cash disk is right on. Does June Carter Cash sound a little nervous to you on that CD? I know it was the second time they'd played at Folsom, but maybe not in front of 2,000 guys who haven't seen a woman in some months, and while being recorded for a career-restoring album.

4) Jody Watley (thanks for the spell-check, BTW) is, indeed, the correct answer.

5) This was a trick question. A 32-ounce cup of Mountain Dew may not be too much. It's when you have SEVERAL OF THESE IN ONE DAY that it may B 2 Xtr33m! I will give you partial credit for your answer.

6) Thanks so much for the Buck Flower tribute. My favorite Buck Flower moment is in, of course, Escape From New York. I (Snake Plissken) have been trying to track the President down through the ruins of New York via his wrist transmitter/locator. I finally trace his signal to a bum laying in an alley (Mr. Flower). He's wearing the transmitter.

Bob Hauk (the late, great Lee Van Cleef) contacts me and asks if I've found the President. I say, "Yeah, here's your President!" and hold the handi-talkie up to him. The bum sings, "Hail to the Chief, da da da da da da" to the tune of "Joy to the World". It was a small moment; it doesn't particularly translate well to a comment on a blog; but it was really, really funny.

Snake Plissken said...

Now I must answer the questions you have asked me:

1) Xanadu? Ahhh, you must be a fan of Robert Greenwald, as am I. His documentaries Outfoxed and Uncovered are truly fascinating and fast-paced. Now he's setting the world on fire with Wal-Mart: The High-Cost of Low Price, which I highly recommend, if you haven't seen it already. It's Wal-Mart from the lips of it's own mistreated employees and the citizens of the many communities it has destroyed. You always knew they were a bad company, but you will be shocked to find out that you never knew how bad they are.

Back to Xanadu, one of Greenwald's earlier efforts. Do I think it deserves it's status as a cult classic? Heck, no. Do I think it's actually, almost accidentally, a deliriously great film? Well, YEAH, I DO, for all the following reasons:

a) It features Olivia Newton-John at her vocal and everything-else peak. She wears a skimpy pink dress that shows most of her legs and the magnificent part of the body to which they are attached.

b) It features, to my knowledge, the only widely released cinematic appearance of The Tubes, who had some great songs in the '80s.

c) It features, to my knowledge, the only widely released cinematic appearance of the Pan Pacific Auditorium, mere years before it burned to the ground. The Pan Pacific Auditorium was this country's last supreme example of Streamline Moderne architecture, the forerunner of the less-ambitious Googie style that so many of us baby boomers remember from our childhoods.

d) It features, to my knowledge, Gene Kelly's last big-screen appearance. On roller skates. Clapping his hands and smiling to a Bev Bevan song called "Drum Dreams".

e) It features an appearance by Michael Beck, who was SOOOOOOO cool in The Warriors (and who has recently reappeared in The Warriors video game, perhaps the best video game EVUH!!) Michael Beck's wooden acting style is second only to Jack Webb's, and he invokes the same amount of yuks. He's just entertaining no matter what he does.

f) It fused Big Band music with roller disco and '80s pop. No matter what you think of that idea, that took some sac to try to pull off.

g) It some of ELO's best songs, and I don't care how Jeff Lynne feels about that. He tried to remake the theme song a few years ago, and it sounds like he recorded it during a Sominex-and-Johnny-Walker-Black fever dream.

So yeah, I kinda like that movie.

2) "Heavy Metal"? I own it on DVD. How did you know?

3) Re: Norman Tokar and Joe Vince McEveety. How could you omit Bob "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" Butler? All of these guys share some of the responsibility for bringing the Disney empire to its knees in the early 70s, before Michael Eisner could rescue the studio so that HE could utterly destroy it decades later. (Some people just want all the credit.)

In Butler's defense, he did direct "The Barefoot Executive", which is actually a very funny film from that Kurt Russell-Sandy Duncan-Don Knotts-Dean Jones genre.

You ask some great questions!

Sal Gomez said...

I have a few things to say about XANADU.

1) First, it may have also been to my knowledge the last film to use the end title "Made in Hollywood, U.S.A."

2) It also had the fantastical tall drink of water Sandahl Bergman at on the muse sisters in the opening dance number and throught the film.

3) It was also one of the first films to utilize the 6-track Dolby Stereo soundstrips for 35mm presentations.

I recently purchased at new Dolby Digital 2.0 DVD that has a fantastic picture with a very nice, though cheap soundtrack mix yet it is far superior to the VHS and Lasedisc copies I've had in my collection over the past 17 years.

Loxjet said...

Oh, man. Egg on MY face. I thought we were talking about "Xanadu," the classic Rush opus:

"Decreed by Kubla Khan
To taste my bitter triumph
As a mad immortal man
Nevermore shall I return
Escape these caves of ice
For I have dined on honeydew
And drunk the milk of Paradise"

So you're saying it was a movie too? Seriously, what are the odds?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Snake: It never once tumbled for me that Robert "Xanadu" Greenwald, purveyor of TV Movies like "Katie: Portrait of a Centerfold," might also be Robert "Outfoxed/Wal-Mart" Greenwald! Wow. I would wager, Olivia's pink dress or no, that he's probably at a more personally satisfying stage in his career these days, eh? And thanks for number two-- your number two, not-- I don't mean your number-two number two, but-- I mean, your answer to number two. Made my wife laugh until she wet 'em. And we always wanted to know what the "H" stood for-- I'd just always assumed it was "Him" (as in "Him? Him?! What's Him doing here?!")

Loxjet: My apologies to Mr. Needham. He knows where he stands in the pantheon, and he doesn't need some panty-waist like me to confirm it for him. And thanks for the little shot of Mssrs. Peart, Lifeson and Lee. I'm here all night, and I needed the boost!

Sal: The next time we meet, I wanna hear the chorus from "Magic"-- I had no idea!

And now I'm off to the "Kong Trailer" post-- I missed so much just by not being able to access the Internet for a couple of days!

Roscoe said...

Gosh, I loved Life of David Gale.

I've written about something i'm passionate about on my blog, if you have time check it out.

http://zedwords.blogspot.com/

blaaagh said...

Wow, this post, and its ensuing comments, have taken some bizarre and interesting turns! For one, I never realized the same guy responsible for "Xanadu," which we were all embarrassed about upon its release and now may be willing to give another sheepish look, is the same guy who's making these scintillating documentaries. For another, it appears you've got some new readers. H'mmm...the plot thickens.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Yeah, I can't wait to see what Snake and Roscoe and Brian and Nilblogette and Sal and all the rest, and even perhaps our old friend Loxjet, do with the Professor's upcoming Christmas Vacation quiz!

Oh, and by the way, that interview is now completely transcribed and edited-- all I have to do is find time to cut and paste and press "post"!

And I apologize for not getting on the phone or even on the e-mail circuit like I should (Loxjet has already upbraided me for that!) But when I tell you it's been unusually insane, workload-wise, I know you'll know what that means! Nonetheless, a call is in order this week, if only (and, of course, not just only) to let you know what person from my past (not, it seems, Snake) contacted me last week! The plot thickens, indeed...!

Brian said...

I too hated Escape From L.A. but must confess I would bite that apple again, at least if Carpenter were involved. Especially if it was Escape From S.F.

The Life of David Gale may or may not be Alan Parker's worst film (I still haven't seen a bunch, from the Road to Wellville to Mississippi Burning) but for me it's the worst film I've seen since it was previewed for SF Film Society members (which I was not, and can't remember how I got into that screening) in early 2003. Beware of your queue. Still, anyone who considered Parker their favorite director would find themselves in the company of Oxide Pang, half of the directing team behind slick South-East Asian thrillers Bangkok Dangerous and the Eye, and all the directing team behind the simply awful One Take Only. Oxide may have the cooler name, but I suspect his brother Danny may have the talent and/or sensibility that made the first two films I mentioned, and his similarly-themed but superior solo effort Nothing to Lose highly watchable. Still, I'm afraid they've both managed to fall off my list of filmmakers to spend any effort tracking down the work of. I have an unwatched copy of the Eye 2 sitting around somewhere but it doesn't really call me to pop it in the player.

I am scared of your Christmas Vaction quiz. I have other things to do then too, you know!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

I promise, not 42 questions this time! It nearly killed me compiling all that stuff from the summer quiz, and with all the potential new contributors, holy schnieke, it'd be Memorial Day before I ever got anything put together.

Sure, I'd see Escape from L.A. again on DVD, if the timing was right and it required no effort on my part to coordinate the screening (!!) But I find myself pining to see Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars again, which I thought was a nice little return to form for him after so many duds in a row.

As for the Pangs, I'm unfamiliar with anything other than The Eye, and I really wasn't impressed with that to the degree that I was expecting/hoping to be. One of them (you suspect Danny) clearly has the cinematic chops as far as mise-en-scene goes-- there were some very good sequences in that movie-- but I thought it went very soft and diffuse just when it needed to be sharp and unflinching. I've seen The Eye 2 on shelves too, but I've never been interested, based on my reaction to the first one, and based on too much exposure to too many watered-down J-horror retreads of the same set of themes and visual ideas. I missed Pulse too, but I'm hoping the DVD, which is probably available somewhere already, will be coming down the pipe soon.

Beware my queue, indeed! I just sent back Night of the Lepus!

Roscoe said...

I have to say, I didn't follow this post to well, too many references over my head but if i'm to understand there is a xmas quiz?

Kick Arse! I'm in.

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Roscoe, you can check out last summer's quiz here:

http://tinyurl.com/b7x3w

The Christmas Vacation quiz won't be s long, but this is what you can expect as far as questions!

Peter Nellhaus said...

I figured I should return the compliment and visit your site Dennis. Keep in mind that the only baseball team I really care about is the Colorado Rockies. Too bad they haven't been much of a team for the past ten years, but it's kind of like being a fan of the Mets before 1969. (I hope that analogy holds.) I've been slowly playing catch up with the Pangs and really liked Danny's solo Ab-Normal Beauty. Alan Parker's best film, Shoot the Moon is only out on tape.

Roscoe said...

Has anyone seen " How I won the war", the John Lennon movie? I've been dying to see it but it's very difficult to get a hold of.

Peter Nellhaus said...

Hey Roscoe: How I Won the War shows up sometimes on Turner Classic Movies. I saw it in a theater over thirty years ago.