Sunday, August 25, 2013
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
"Man, you know what I'd love to do, right now? Go down to Marie Callender's, get me a big bowl, pie, some ice cream on it, mmm-hmm good! Put some on your head! Your tongue would slap your brains out trying to get to it! INTERESTED? SURE?"
-The insane character Christopher Walken played in Gigli
Sunday, August 11, 2013
WTF? This is apparently the German box art for our favorite little film Ruckus. While the box art does feature depictions of actual scenes from the movie, they're all greatly exaggerated to the millionth degree like something out of a Michael Bay film. Dirk Benedict looks like he's going after enemy invaders, not a sleazy band of inbred backwoods bullies. And Linda Blair looks on with a frightened look on her face; which gun did our hero pull out to show her? I assume many a German bought this film based on this awesome artwork and proceeded to be terribly disappointed.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
Every Adam Sandler Film.....
... has a hot chick who is out of Adam's league, yet still wants to bang him ...
... features a washed up celebrity who was popular when Adam was a kid but is now forgotten & believed to be dead...
... has one or more of his SNL buddies who would not otherwise still be working...
... features an old lady who says or does things an old lady shouldn't say or do ...
... has at least one character who doesn't react to things in a way that even approaches being realistic...
... and has so many jokey winks to the audience, that if it were a person it would be Gilbert Gottfried.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
It must have been an exciting day when a Hollywood cast and crew whisked themselves into the small towns of Woodland and Knights Landing to film a movie that many people would later forget; the master work known as “Ruckus” (or “Big Ruckus in a Small Town”, as some cinema buffs might refer to it.)
This early eighties classic featured such fine actors as Richard Farnsworth, Linda Blair and Dirk Benedict who were all wondering, no doubt, what wrong career turn they had made to end up in backwoods California, making a film that would no doubt be seen by tens of people.
What, might you ask, is “Ruckus” about? It seems that a smelly drifter (Dirk Benedict) rolls into town, angering the locals with his, um- well, other than eating an unspectacular (and raw) burger, there isn’t much that he does to legitimately rile the townsfolk up. (Perhaps there isn’t much to do around those parts.) Despite being roughed up by the local men of the town, he befriends a Vietnam War widow (Linda Blair) who takes him on wild dirt bike expeditions through the countryside.
What does Richard Farnsworth have to do with all of this? He’s the ineffectual lawman who wants to capture the smelly drifter who is guilty of being smelly and drifting. (I guess those are major problems in their area of the country.) The movie mainly consists of chase scenes in which the drifter gets away from the pickup truck posse, dirt bike races and a “relationship” between the Linda Blair and Dirk Benedict characters. What type of “relationship”? Let’s just say that other than dirt biking and fair-going, the only personal moment they share is when they introduce an inside hand sweep movement five minutes before the movie ends. What does the hand sweep movement mean? What sort of relationship do they end up having? Sorry, folks. The movie leaves those questions unanswered. (Perhaps they were waiting for “Ruckus, Part II”.)
There are other questions that go unanswered; why are only three women living in the town? Yes, that’s right- only three women are shown living and working in those parts. In addition to Linda Blair’s character who does nothing but shop, race dirt bikes and befriend smelly drifters, there are only two other women- a feisty bartender and a plain woman who serves up the aforementioned unspectacular hamburgers out of a burger window. (She also serves Royal Crown cola. That’s right, not just any cola, but Royal Crown Cola.) Of these women, only Linda Blair and the feisty bartender get any lines at all. (Okay, maybe the burger woman does get to ask a customer what he wants to eat, but I don’t remember her saying anything important.
Now about the shooting locations; no, the film was not shot in the Southern part of the U.S., but in the confines of California. Not the glitzy parts, mind you, but in the countryside surrounding the small town of Woodland which is itself located in the countryside surrounding Sacramento. The strangest thing about the Ruckus/Woodland connection is that nobody who was around then seems to remember the filming. Sure, most people remember that Danny Thomas Productions filmed a TV movie at the high school stadium in the 1970s called “Bloodsport”, (no, not the one with Jean Claude Van Damme) but nobody remembers “Ruckus”. In fact, I probably wouldn’t have known about “Ruckus” at all were it not for an eagle-eyed cousin who did a search on the Internet Movie Database. Why has this town forgotten “Ruckus”? The evidence of it is right there on the screen- Woodland’s State Theater flashes by in a night scene, the bridge outside of Knights Landing, the massive grain processing buildings, the County Fair Rodeo being used as the entire Fair among other familiar sights. So why is it the film that a town forgot? Perhaps the movie was made with the same sort of secrecy that is utilized by Steven Spielberg. Perhaps everyone in town was on vacation at the time. Perhaps it’s the sort of thing people want to forget. I have to admit, I was around these parts at the time and I certainly don’t remember it either.
“Ruckus” is now available on both VHS and DVD. I have seen the VHS version, but I have yet to see the DVD. It seems, according to the video distributor, that the DVD features audio commentary from Linda Blair, Dirk Benedict and the film’s director. You can see why I am quite interested in the DVD. What do they have to say? I can only imagine the comments they have about Woodland, the script, the rigors of filming, the dirt biking scenes. Maybe they answer many of my questions. Or maybe they just apologize to everyone watching. You see, despite the glowing things I’ve said about the film up to this point, “Ruckus” isn’t all that great. The conflicts don’t make any sense. The movie has no real ending. (Perhaps they ran out of cash?) In fact, I am quite surprised that the film never received the MST3K treatment. But still, despite all of these things, it is a fun movie to watch. Watching the yokel pickup truck posse get constantly outsmarted (I use that term loosely) by the smelly drifter is worth the price of admission alone.
Maybe I’ll never find out the answers to my questions, but that’s quite fine with me. My imagined answers are probably a lot more interesting than the actual truth.
Hollywood was in a bind. It appeared that the big studios had lost touch with their audience and they were desperate to figure out how to get people back in to theaters. While this may sound like a description of Hollywood today, we’re actually referring to the late 1960′s, when big budget epic pictures and musicals no longer packed in the crowds.
At a time of much unrest, it appeared that Hollywood was totally out of touch with what the young people wanted to watch. With millions of dollars at stake, the bigger studios couldn’t take too many risks. However, they needed to do something to remain relevant and to show others that they were ‘with it’. Enter the independent filmmakers. They were taking advantage of their smaller budgets and lower overhead to produce movies that took risks. These movies were made by and for the counter culture generation and were wild successes. Hollywood saw this and realized that content they had previously deemed too risky could actually make money.
Enter the era of big budget counter culture films. Keeping in mind how out of it the big Hollywood execs were to begin with, you can imagine what these films were like. And one of the worst of the bunch was Myra Breckinridge.
Myra Breckinridge followed the formula that the big studios used when making the types of films that they thought would appeal to the young people-
1. Round up and hire any Hollywood legend willing to sacrifice his or her dignity for a paycheck.
2. Put together a script that is supposed to be ‘hip’ and ‘today’, but more closely resembles something an out of touch middle aged screenwriter thinks is ‘hip’ and ‘today’.
3. Run out and find a hip director who knows what the kids find so popular these days. You know you’ve found him if he’s got a shaggy head of hair and looks like a hippie.
4. Make the Hollywood legends further denigrate themselves by giving them embarrassing things to do.
5. Watch a couple of those independent films and make a note of the outrageous things you see happening. Then, ignore the larger context of what the filmmaker was trying to say and just insert these things into your film because they’re outrageous.
There are two classic examples of this formula being used by clueless Hollywood execs. One of which was the forgotten disaster Skidoo, a film that featured the likes of Carol Channing and Jackie Gleason dropping acid and end credits that were sung instead of just printed. (You read that right, they were sung.) This embarrassment was so bad that the film has rarely seen the light of day and (as far as I know) was never even given a legitimate videocassette release. It finally received a DVD release, but it probably had more to do with the economic downturn and its effects on the producer's heirs than a desire to release it due to popular demand.
The other classic example came from the Twentieth Century Fox lot. Still stung by the massive disaster that was Cleopatra and other expensive missteps, Fox was in desperate need of a relatively low cost hit. (The company had already had to sell off vast parts of its storied backlot in order to stay afloat.) They decided that they needed a picture that would bring in the young people, so they instantly set about putting together a ‘today’ picture. First, they bought the movie rights for a book that seemed ‘today’ and ‘with it’, the counter-culture transvestite Gore Vidal novel, Myra Breckinridge.
Fox then went out and found themselves a shaggy haired director by the name of Michael Sarne to direct their ‘today’ picture and coaxed Hollywood legends Mae West and John Huston to take part in the travesty. Falling pinup idol Raquel Welch played the titular Myra Breckinridge, while the relatively unknown Rex Reed played Myron Breckinridge, who was the pre-op Myra. (How they figured that anyone would believe that any plastic surgeon was skilled enough to turn this dog of a Myron into the supersexy Myra is anyone’s guess.)
Problems began literally from the beginning; Mae West and Raquel Welch did not get along and wouldn’t work together, (Scenes featuring the two had to be shot on separate days.) Michael Sarne was obviously in over his head, wasting large amounts of time and money to film even the smallest of scenes. Clueless Fox executives would visit the set to see where all the money they were spending was actually going, justifying the movie’s problems by assuring themselves that this was the ‘today’ picture they needed to pull themselves out of their slump. After the movie had gone completely over budget, Fox finally pulled its checkbook out of Mr. Sarne’s hand and ordered him to use whatever footage he already had to cut together the movie, and thus Myra Breckinridge was ready to be unleashed upon the world. <Click Here for a thorough recap of the movie at the excellent site “The Agony Booth”.>
So what was wrong with Myra Breckinridge? Well, let’s begin with the stars. While Mae West was indeed quite a sexy woman in her time, there is a difference between spouting filthy double entendres when one is young and when one is in one’s seventies. John Huston’s constant references to giving women “The Buck Loner Special” are even more icky. To paraphrase Mystery Science Theater 3000- Grandma and Grandpa, no! Even worse was the decision to cast Rex Reed as the male alter ego of Raquel Welch, for obvious reasons. Raquel herself allegedly commented that she thought they planned to have her dress like a man when “Myra” was “Myron”. Unfortunately, nobody left this production with their dignity intact.
Another obvious problem with Myra Breckinridge was that it seems that the film’s producers and director equated “tastelessness” with “hipness”. While I’ve never read the book, I must say that this film seems like it might have just pulled the tawdry parts out of the novel and plopped them into the film with little or no context and merely to be ‘hip’ and ‘today’.
As might be expected, Myra Breckinridge was a colossal failure, putting Fox deeper in debt. The failure of this film was proof positive that merely throwing together controversial elements to make money rather than a coherent statement won’t result in a guaranteed hit.