The Concession Stand

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bad Movie Quote

"Come on! You and ten other guys, right? I've seen those lookalike contests!"

Diane, from Eddie and the Cruisers II

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bad Movie Quote

"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

Bad Movie Quote

"You don't want flammable tits, do you?"

-John Carradine as "The Surgeon" in Myra Breckinridge

"Ruckus".... in Germany!

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 Movie....

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

Woodland, CA Movie Fest: "Wasted"

Ronnie Scheib from Variety thinks this is 'Highly Impressive'? Assuming that's in context, 
Ronnie must be easily impressed...

In the pantheon of movies filmed in Woodland, CA, Wasted is definitely the latest addition. Directed by first time director Matt Oates and starring American Pie’s Eddie Kaye Thomas,Wasted follows a group of college aged buddies who reunite when one of their own passes away. That’s pretty much it. Other than drinking, drugging and hanging out, these friends don’t really do much of interest. I’m guessing they were so enamored of their concept that they forgot to actually have something happen in the movie. The film takes place over the weekend of their buddy’s funeral, but you’ll seriously feel like weeks have gone by when the film is through.

The only fun I received from this movie was spotting the Woodland shooting locations. The defunct Al’s Drive In is prominently featured as a big nighttime hangout. (It’s even featured on the DVD box.) Other Woodland landmarks include the Woodhaven Lanes bowling alley and the Woodland Swim Center. Unlike the other Woodland film “Ruckus”, however, there’s nothing really interesting to hold your attention when you’re not trying to spot the shooting locations. (Which must explain why the film had no theatrical release.) To someone from Woodland, there’s novelty value. For everyone else, the film must have been a crashing bore.

The coolest thing about this film for me is that I actually worked in the area the filming took place in at the time. The shooting wasn’t too disruptive and I never saw the actors around town. It’s too bad the film went straight to DVD, but that is to be expected from a film in which nothing happens.

"Ruckus" Goes To The Yolo County Fair

There isn’t much that is truly special or different about the Yolo County Fairgrounds. Every year, the grounds host the same rodeos, the same events and the same “Fair”. The people in these parts try to act like the fair is something special or unique, but it’s really just a place where people can eat the same food, see the same things and “bump” into the same people year after year. For many Woodlanders, the fair is the most exciting thing that will happen to them all year. However, as they walk past the never changing exhibits, bump into the same “friends” who they won’t see again until next year and eat the same food items that their Great-Great-Great Grandfather probably ate, none of them probably realize that they are walking in the steps of giants. 

I speak not of the “Native Woodlanders” who insist on having dirt roads named after them just because they lived, but of Hollywood giants; two of which were actually nominated for real Academy Awards(tm) while another actually won! (Though not for the movie whose production dragged them to Woodland way back in 1980.) Tucked in the back of the Yolo County Fairgrounds is the “Rodeo Arena” which no longer seems to host actual rodeos, but is currently used for the “Destruction Derby”, in which grown ups play bumper cars with real vehicles until only one car can still run. (That just screams classy, doesn’t it?) In any case, this “Rodeo Arena” has a small place in Hollywood history; it once hosted the filming of “Ruckus”, starring the previously referenced Oscar(tm) nominated actors Richard Farnsworth and Linda Blair, Oscar(tm) winner Ben Johnson as well as TV’s “Face” himself, Dirk Benedict.

In “Ruckus”, Dirk Benedict plays a Vietnam Veteran who drifts into town and stirs up the local yokels who round up a posse to hunt him down and harrass him. He gets taken in by Ms. Blair’s character, who proceeds to become his love interest. In one pivotal scene, Mr. Benedict’s character takes Ms. Blair and her son to a local fair. According to director Max Kleven’s DVD commentary, the production company had to pay to bring in a carnival for the shoot. Since we can safely assume that this was a low budget affair, they probably needed to make it appear like this was a massive county fair, but could only afford to rent enough rides and concession stands to fill a small area. Enter the magnificent “Rodeo Arena”, which appears to have been used solely to make the “Ruckus Fair” look like a bigger enterprise than it actually was. If you look closely enough while watching “Ruckus,” you will notice rows of bleachers surrounding this “fair”.

While I previously stated that it seems nobody here in Woodland remembers this film, some wonderful Internet visitors sent me information about getting the opportunity to play extras in the film, so it seems that not everyone forgot about the movie. As it turns out, while so much has changed since the movie was first filmed back in 1980, the Yolo County Fair and its “Rodeo Arena” are two places that have seen very little change. (Maybe they moved the Scrambler over a few spots, but otherwise, things remain much the same as before.) Since Mr. Kleven has stated that he came up with the basic storyline for “Ruckus” after visiting the Woodland area as part of the crew on another film, (Jiminy Crickets, we can only guess what that film might have been…. perhaps Danny Thomas Productions’ “Bloodsport”? ) it is only reasonable to assume that any real “Ruckus” fanatic would want to witness firsthand the sight of the trainwre- er, “film”.

So, anyone with a desire to witness “Ruckus” filming locations in all their glory would do well to head over to the Yolo County Fair and see something in the glorious “Rodeo Arena”. Perhaps you too will be inspired to write a movie about a backwoods town eager to run a poor Vietnam veteran out of town because he dared to ask for a raw hamburger.

Ruckus Revisited

In a distant installment, I extolled the virtues of a movie filmed in and around my hometown of Woodland, California. Well, not actually, but I did remember mentioning that I wanted to obtain a copy of the DVD version of the movie so that I could hear the audio commentary and find out a few answers- Why the hand sweep movement? Why so few women in the town? What did Linda Blair think about Woodland? And most importantly- WHY?????

First off, this was a chance to view the movie yet another time in a situation in which I could concentrate on its brilliance without trying to find the Woodland area shooting locations. This was also another chance to see if I was overly harsh about the film and whether I had gotten anything wrong. There were a few things that I had missed; Dirk Benedict’s character does introduce the sweeping hand movement earlier in the film than I had previously remembered; I might have been taking a nap when he initially gives this signal to Linda Blair’s character who is hiding him from the Pickup Truck posse. And there were a few more women in the movie than I had remembered; during the Burger Window scene, a few women can be seen milling around in the background. These women who I missed previously bring the total population of women in the town to something like 12 or so. My apologies.

So, what mysteries are solved in the DVD commentary? Well, the trio of Director/Writer Max Kleven, Actress Linda Blair and Actor Dirk Benedict do not apologize for the film as might be expected. In fact, they seem quite satisfied with their little film and hold out hope that this DVD release could spawn interest in an all-important Ruckus sequel. Really. They feel that if the movie had been given a chance initially it would have been bigger. I will admit that the film did not get an adequate release, but I find it hard to believe that this would have made a difference in its success. Although, I could be wrong. After all, wasn’t “The Dukes of Hazzard” a huge success at this time?I think that the biggest disappointment for me was the lack of any juicy Woodland stories. Sure, Linda Blair does mention Woodland at the beginning of the movie. There’s also the Knight’s Landing reference midway through, but for the most part they do not reveal anything of interest. Well, Mr. Kleven does say that he wrote the movie around the locations that he found and that seems correct. When I look around here, I too would probably be inspired to write something about overzealous yokels. Or maybe not.

So, while I do not regret getting the Ruckus DVD, it would have been great to hear something about Woodland. (It could have brought some insight into why nobody here at the time remembers the movie.) Maybe everyone just took a nap that month. The mystery continues!

"Raising A Ruckus!"

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.

Mega Bombs: Myra Breckinridge

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.