Monday, December 07, 2009


(Mad magazine cover courtesy of Doug Gilford and his amazingly comprehensive site devoted to Mad magazine.)

Look, Ma, my time has come! I’ve been parodied! I always wanted to know how the actors and directors and magicians behind all those ubiquitous TV ad campaigns felt when they found themselves parodied in the pages of Mad magazine. Well, now I know. Greg Ferrara (the very first respondent in the current professorial quiz on these pages), owner/operator of the very well-tread (and read) Cinema Styles, has honored the popular SLIFR quiz with its very own Mad movie satire of a sort—a twisted brainteaser entitled ”Professor Guy-From-Somewhere-In-Time’s Late Year Quiz or Something.” Though my raging ego couldn’t deal with the thought of being made sport of, in the spirit of fun and fair play and getting along and all those other things I’m not sure I believe in anymore I rushed straight away to fill out Greg’s (if that’s really his name) quiz before I could be accused of getting steamed or huffed or miffed or any of the other new jack poses the kids like to adopt these days, thereby accidentally exposing the titanic level of my actual aggravation. How dare he! Isn’t there such a thing as intellectual prop—Oh, well, never mind. You can hustle yourself on over to Greg’s house (or shack, or love hut, or den of iniquity, whatever it is) and take the quiz your own damn self. And while you’re there, write hilarious and filthy limericks on the walls of the bathroom. Thanks, Greg! This was a lot of fun! My answers (followed by the terms of my lawsuit) follow below.

1. Dinah Shore or Russell Crowe?

Dinah. She was way prettier than Russell, she knew how to comb her hair, and her Southern accent was way better than his.

2. What was the last movie you saw on DVD? In a theatre? In a large abandoned warehouse with a Satanic cult in the corner trying to hold a ritual while yelling at you, "Hey man, turn it down!"?

2a) Play Dirty (1968; Andre de Toth) starring Michael Caine and Nigel Davenport.
2b) The Pink Panther Strikes Again (1976; Blake Edwards) starring Leonard Rossiter and Colin Blakely.
2c) Pauline at the Beach (1983; Eric Rohmer) Could barely hear the heartfelt, sometimes fumbling, always witty romantic repartee for all the sobbing and cries for mercy.

3. Second favorite Carrie Henn movie.

The Hiding Place (1975; James F. Collier) Huh? Oh, Carrie Henn. The little interstellar ragamuffin from that James Cameron movie? I thought you meant Carrie Ten Boom. I always get those two mixed up. And it’s Corrie Ten Boom. God, I’m completely confused.

4. The Cat From Outer Space. Yes or No?

Only if there’s a version in Ron Miller’s basement somewhere in which Ronnie Schell gets his little eyes scratched out.

5. If you were eating yogurt and I walked up and said, "Mmmm yogurt," then took a big spoonful without asking, then went, "Ewww, gross!" and spit it back into the yogurt cup, would you keep eating it? Why or why not?

If you were at the same time eating, say, a chocolate bar, then we might have the makings of a wildly popular (if slightly repulsive) TV ad campaign in which two tastes, thought to be incompatible, existed together in a delicious, slightly messy treat. But you didn’t say anything about a chocolate bar. So I’d toss the yogurt in your face and have you arrested.

6. Most misunderstood film of 1907.

D.W. Griffith’s scathing undercover documentary expose I Was a Rough Rider for the Ku Klux Klan.

7. When was the last time you punched someone in a movie theater? (submitted by Marilyn)

Only about a month a half ago. I turned this old lady’s head into pulp after she began harping on rather loudly to a group of her blue-haired friends about the trailers before a screening of Zombieland. “Oh, that Sarah Jessica Parker is a doll!” “Why is everything so loud?!” “Ugh, not another Tarantino rip-off!” Right after that they got into this conversation—and mind you, they’re sitting right behind me, at a screening of Zombieland!—about excessive violence in cinema, and when this old bag blurted out something about Grand Illusion being better than Inglourious Basterds, well, I fucking flipped. I jumped over the back of the seat and just started whaling on the vicious old biddy with her own cubic zirconia-encrusted handbag. It took four—FOUR—of her septuagenarian sidekicks to drag me off of her, and as the minimum-wage usher (and a couple of police officers) escorted me out, I whipped my bucket of buttered popcorn at her and nailed her right in her dome. Greased up her little cronies too!

8. Marie Dressler or Robert Wagner?

I’m a little embarrassed to say that this one sent me to my IMDb. I’ve always loved Dressler’s broad (no pun intended) comic style, Tillie’s Punctured Romance and Dinner at Eight being favorites, though I never cared for her in dramatic roles. (Oscar obviously disagreed, giving her the Best Actress award in 1931 for Min and Bill.) On Wagner, however, I drew a blank, and even after scanning his rather voluminous career as a TV and film actor (and occasionally paramour to aged movie queens) I am at a loss to think of one single appearance of his that I have personally witnessed. So advantage, Dressler.

9. Why do the ladies love Bill so much? (submitted by Bill)

I think it’s because of the way he presents himself in his blog-- intelligent, erudite, fun-loving, occasionally cranky. That’s a full-bodied presentation any female would find attractive. It’s only when they meet him in real life and realize he’s not the man pictured in the header of the blog that their enthusiasm turns to bitter disappointment. Goddamn it, if we weren’t all so superficial and susceptible to physical beauty!

10. Favorite scene in a movie where a t-rex terrorizes two children in an electric SUV stalled on a track while the lawyer that was in the car with them has fled to the bathroom and two scientists, one a mathematician and the other a prominent archaeologist, are in another stalled electric SUV behind them? Mine's Marty.

Well, Marty would have been my answer too, but I think Rod Serling did a fine job answering the power of that scene in Requiem for a Heavyweight. Two T-Rexes are always better than one. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Chayefsky.

11. How many fingers am I holding up?

One, and it’s perfectly balanced by the two fingers on the right side and the finger and thumb on the left.

12. Jeff Conaway or Hoot Gibson?

Well, Jeff Conaway had the greatest feathered pre-mullet hair there will ever be. But Hoot Gibson rode with Tom Mix and Harry Carey, and he was a real rodeo rider. And Hoot, all due respect to Conaway, knocked the shit out of Kenickie for the Oklahoma City Community Theatre Association just before his death in 1962. So really, no contest. Advantage: Gibson.

13. Movie you would like to see remade entirely with squirrels?

Roland Emmerich’s 2012. (Conveniently, Amanda Peet could then remain in the cast.)

14. When will Larry Aydlette delete his current blog? Two months from now? Three months? Tomorrow?

Larry, being the omnipresent and benign overseer, created his blog primarily as a figment of the collective blog community’s imagination, an ethereal attempt to remind us that good work can indeed be done. It only disappears when we all get too dependent on it for inspiration.

15. Where have all the flowers gone?

Get that piece of shit out of my bar! What the hell’s wrong with this country anymore?

16. Donna Pescow or Lloyd Nolan?

Jeez, talk about two I can never keep straight! Lloyd starred with Diahann Carroll in the smash hit NBC TV series Julia, and Donna starred in her own ABC sit-com called Angie! But I always thought Donna did scowling, irascible, crusty yet benign better than Nolan, when it comes right down to it. (See her Connie in the 1982 “My Friend, the Executrix/Programmed for Love/Baby Talk” episode of The Love Boat.)

17. You know how in Casablanca Louis keeps his mouth shut about Rick shooting the stinkin' Nazi? Isn't that fucking awesome?

Are you saying that Casablanca is a better film than Inglourious Basterds now? Huh?! Come here, you gasbag! You harlequin! You will feel the rapier sting of my mixed-metaphor white-hot knuckle sandwich!

18. What in the hell is that awful smell?

That might have been me.

19. So at the end of The Godfather after the door closes on Kay, Michael opens it back up and says, "You know what, I lied. I did order Carlo's death. Forgive me?" as he makes a puppy dog face. Then Kay says, "Oh okay, I forgive you. [wagging her finger in mock disapproval] This time! Hey, how about ham salad for lunch?" Michael says, "Sounds good. Kissie?" Then they peck a couple of times and rub noses while the other guys all pretend to look at the bookshelves. Then Kay goes off humming "Come on-a My House" while Michael says before closing the study door, "Who's up for a game of backgammon?"

Better ending, right?

I actually prefer the one Coppola talks about on the commentary track of last year’s Blu-ray restoration of all three Godfather films. There was an actual alternate ending shot, and it is available as an Easter egg in that same box set. (Two right-clicks, press “play” and “menu” simultaneously, and then wave your index finger in front of the infrared transmitter on the front of your Blu-ray remote in a circular motion for 6.3 seconds to access the extra.) In this alternate ending, just before the door closes with that awful finality on the image of Kay looking at Michael, you suddenly hear this loud whooshing sound. Kay is enveloped in a lightning flash of electric blue light and you hear the sound of screeching wheels. The door never closes all the way because by now Michael and his capi di cappuccino are all rushing into the room. Suddenly, just as Michael begins to make his way toward Kay he’s blindsided by a little balding man in an aluminum foil suit who buries a sharp, unidentifiable instrument into his chest. Michael falls away, gasping, as the capi di cappuccino perforate the strange invader with gunfire. The invader falls back, twitching in a death dance that directly refers to the death of Sonny earlier at the tollbooth. Only this time the victim falls back against a brushed metal-looking vehicle almost futuristic in design—long, dagger-like, with sharp edges and doors that fold out like wings and a bizarre engine assemblage spewing out of the vehicle’s rear like some sort of twisted wreckage, not at all a car that rolled off a Detroit plant line in post-war America. As the invader slumps, bloodied, against the body of the car now dotted with bullets, we realize that the man in the aluminum suit is none other than Fredo Corleone, who has returned from the future to assassinate his own brother before Michael could have him offed in the fishing boat in The Godfather Part II. As the two brothers lay dying, Kay and the capi exchange looks of confusion, as if they were trying to parcel out the confusing time travel plot line in their heads, in sympathy with the audience. It is on this look of confusion that the door closes on Kay as The Godfather ends.

A couple of interesting notes. Apparently Gordon Willis, director of photography of The Godfather and The Godfather Part II (but not the one in the parallel universe), strenuously objected to the introduction of the blinding flashes of blue light that introduce the time-traveling Fredo to the end of the picture. Coppola, on the audio commentary, claimed that Willis was “extremely pissed” at the idea of rupturing his carefully composed chiaroscuro visual scheme that characterized the rest of the movie and wouldn’t be party even to a test filming. So Coppola pulled young cinematographer Dean Cundey out of USC film school to helm the sequence, which he would replicate to such great effect in the Back to the Future films a decade later. Also, Coppola admits that, though he liked the strange, out-of-nowhere twist the new ending brought to The Godfather, Robert Evans and others at Paramount were concerned that if Coppola followed through with it the effects budget for Part II would become astronomically high. Coppola himself later realized that the shocking appearance of Fredo preventing his own death would too drastically alter the tone of the sequel and that audiences, once aware that the familial organized crime saga had suddenly taken a fanciful turn toward science fiction, would stay away from the theater in droves. It was for this reason that Coppola resented George Lucas for several years after the release of Star Wars a mere three years later. This also explains why Robert Zemeckis, once a Coppola favorite, would become persona non grata at Zoetrope Studios, the last of his films Coppola would ever see being Romancing the Stone.

20. 21st favorite question on this quiz.

Ooh, I can feel my soul folding in on itself! And a good thing too, because I could never reach it with my back scratcher!



Greg said...

As I said at my place (but if you can be two places at once so can I):

Yogurt and chocolate! I never thought of that. I'm going to get some right after I spit up my lunch in your cereal.

There's another blog run by Bill! Who knew? And it's run by someone named Eileen and there don't appear to be any posts. Dennis, thank you for that chance discovery. And DON'T CHANGE THE LINK!

I go with Donna Pescow too if only because when I first saw Airplane I said aloud, "Hey! That's the guy from 'Angie!'" Also, she has the face of a cute little Pekingnese puppy.

Now, about The Godfather. I personally didn't like Coppola's alternate ending but did find the unused footage shot for Part II intriguing. I think my favorite was of Fredo, hunched over and naked coming back in time to the shock of a local garbageman ("what the hell?") only to be followed by Connie on her way to off Fredo before he can complete his task.

And thank you for taking the time to actually answer some of the most moronic questions ever devised. Except the Larry Aydlette one. That one's real. I mean come on, we all know the second he starts a new blog the clock is ticking.

Anonymous said...

Reading this I get the feeling that Moe Howard is just about to knock your two knuckleheads together. [insert Stooge-ian sound effect] What a fun read. Great job, guys.

le0pard13 said...

Both you response and Greg's quiz were fun (posted my answers there). Thanks.

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