Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A MAN, A .44 AND THEIR LIMITATIONS: MAGNUM FORCE: THE MUSICAL


I have never been one to routinely find myself riding the crest of breaking news, and this little morsel, via Lindsay Vivian, is about a week and a half old, a generation by TMZ standards. (Thanks, LV!) But though it be withered and dusty, I couldn’t help passing it along in the hopes that some of you are as behind on the major pop culture headlines as apparently am I, and in similarly dire need of catching up.
In the grand tradition of Sunset Boulevard, Hairspray, The Producers, 8½, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Shrek, Billy Elliot, Grey Gardens and even, for those of us with extra-long memories, Carrie, there is stirring news out of London re the latest unlikely movie-to-stage adaptation, and this one might just rival the Brian DePalma/Stephen King-based musical for sheer audacity/lunacy (take your pick). Robyn Hitchcock, British pop star, leader of the Soft Boys and the Egyptians, subject of a Jonathan Demme music documentary (Storefront Hitchcock) and occasionally presence in Demme narrative films (The Manchurian Candidate, Rachel Getting Married), apparently has a soft spot for Inspector Harry Callahan. In addition to featuring a song anchored in the fictional police detective’s second film on his latest album, Ole! Tarantula-- entitled “(A Man’s Gotta Know His Limitations) Briggs”-- now Hitchcock, the Magnum Force inspiration for that song apparently not having been entirely quenched, is said to be setting plans in motion for a full-length stage musical based on the 1973 Clint Eastwood sequel, in collaboration with MTV executive Bill Flanagan, which will set the movie’s violent vigilante action to more Hitchcock-penned tunes and (one would presume) lots of big singing-dancing-gun-slinging production numbers.

In a piece reported by Paul MacInnes in the Guardian last week, Hitchcock explained that his relationship with the movie, in which the Dirty Harry template of a rogue cop tracking a killer outside the lines of police procedure is flipped to set Callahan against a cadre of motorcycle cops who take his own methods of justice to perverse extremes, has a strange hold on the singer-songwriter. “It… seemed to be on all the time when I was on tour,” Hitchcock says. “By the fifth time (I saw it), I became addicted to it.” Surely Hitchcock is aware of the apparent oddity of trying to mount such a project, but that oddity, plus the absolute possibility of folly and artistic disaster (or, perhaps worse, mediocrity and indifference), count no doubt as further inspiration for an artist whose career has long thrived at the intersection of surrealist imagery, hooky melodies and challenging, often deliberately obscure subject matter.


Personally, since hearing about this project I have had fewer qualms about whether it’s a good idea or not than I have had fun thinking about the possibilities. I’m imagining a full-on song-and-dance spectacular to introduce the motorcycle cops, hopefully done up with choreography and costuming that amplifies their vaguely fascistic leather-pants-and-boot-straps authority. (No doubt the film’s homoerotic subtext will step right up to full-on text status as well.) Will we get a number in which Harry and his new partner Early Smith (Felton Perry in the film) express their mutual respect for each other, just before Smith gets an early retirement courtesy of a mailbox bomb? And whoever plays the corrupt Nazi-leaning Lieutenant Briggs (remember the brutal gleam in Hal Holbrook’s eyes as he leaned over the wheel of that Ford sedan and revealed the full monty of his nasty plans to Harry?) will undoubtedly be rewarded with a big moment in which to spew bombastic, melody-laden invective against not only Harry but also the drug dealers and pimps and gangster scum whose civil rights the once-reasonable detective suddenly finds it necessary to protect. (I could, however, do without a splashy production number in which a beleaguered hooker gets a can of Drano poured down her throat.)

Let’s just say that I await with great interest any further news of this project’s development. I sincerely hope that I don’t read in the next month or so that it all has been put down to a bad batch of jalapenos on Hitchcock’s tour bus and that the songwriter has abandoned Magnum Force: The Musical as just another bizarre idea that got leaked to the press, one taken out of context as something more than just another spitball that never should have stuck to the wall in the first place. I would see this over the Broadway adaptation of Dirty Dancing, or a Mamma Mia-style revue built around the hits of England Dan and John Ford Coley, any day. If it’s true that a man has got to know his limitations, then I hope Hitchcock either does or remains blissfully unaware, at least for as long as it takes to bring this crazy baby to life.

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And yes, news of Magnum Force: The Musical does beg the question: Can it get any weirder than this? What is the movie-to-stage adaptation you’d most like to see?

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4 comments:

Lindsay Vivian said...

Yes! Stoke that fire Dennis! Gaw, thanks for the shout-out. (Please let this be real)...

Robert H. said...

Just for you, Dennis...

SOUTHLAND TALES: THE ROCKERA (rock opera)

also, think of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, but transposed to America, the race of the boy is changed (either Spanish or African-American), and it's a musical... give it THE WIZ treatment.

I call it LET THE WHITE ONE IN...

Peter Nellhaus said...

Once upon a time, I would have said you'd be nuts to imagine that a big Broadway musical would have been made from a Roger Corman quickie filmed in less than three days.

Ivan said...

I want to see and hear Haneke's The Piano Teacher given the Rodgers & Hammerstein treatment--but R&H have been drinking and they set it in 19th century Australia. She chops her own finger off. Of course there's a full frontal nude scene.

Whew, Mr. C., this post is like LSD: it's wigging me out. Thanks!