Friday, June 26, 2020

Every Santa Claus Movie Ever




**Santa, whose intelligence is shown to be just above that of a chimpanzee, gets caught in a trap by an evildoer, gets lost or becomes sick.

**The Care Bears, According to Jim, Strawberry Shortcake, The Shrek and/or Jim J. Bullock are enlisted to help “save Christmas” by finishing Santa’s route.

**Santa is saved or recovers and thanks his new friends for “Saving Christmas”, because as we all know the true meaning of Christmas is getting material goods on the morning of December 25th and not a day later.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Things We Learned From The Movies





Every single woman living in NYC has a gay friend who makes Liberace look like Rambo.

If you hear a noise and think it’s just your cat- you will be murdered in a few minutes.

Irresponsible singles are frequently put in charge of caring for babies, unruly children and/or dogs.

All women have a crazy friend, a slutty friend, a boozy friend & an “ethnic” friend.

A plucky young white teacher is the only thing needed to turn around a struggling inner city school.

It is possible to stop any plane by running in front of it and waving your hands at the pilot.

Every swinging single guy is really just looking for the right woman to step in and take over his life.

Any guy who says his life is perfect while looking at a picture of his family will die within 15 minutes.

When you start singing & dancing everyone around you will join in and know all the lyrics & dance moves.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Mundane Films



“The Mailman of Alcatraz”

“The Happiest Thousandaire”

“Plan Nine From Outer Poughkeepsie”

“Brewster’s Hundreds”

“The Fry Cook Who Loved Me”

“Casino Normal”

“Throw Momma a Party”

“The Best Little Outhouse in Texas”

“The Sneezeguard”

“Willy Wonka and the Cardboard Box Factory”

“The Coke Bottle Redemption”

“Captain Antarctica”

“(500) Days of After-school Detention”

“Die Hard- Of Natural Causes”

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Made Up Anecdotes




“… Donna Reed found the It’s A Wonderful Life shoot to be extremely dull up until the infamous “Pottersville” scenes. ‘Get me a scotch!’ she shouted, ‘Then watch me do a dance that would make Gypsy Rose Lee blush!' When advised that she would be playing a spinster librarian, Miss Reed became upset, but she soon got her revenge when she revealed that she was wearing nothing underneath her character’s matronly overcoat. ‘Have you seen the rare Pottersville beaver?’ she asked. When Jimmy Stewart admitted that he hadn’t, she quickly disrobed, sending Frank Capra through the roof…”

Monday, June 22, 2020

It’s A Wonderful Road House


Every Christmas, millions of people watch the timeless classic It's A Wonderful Life. Millions more stumble upon a similar classic while drunkenly flipping through cable channels- the immortal film Road House. Wait, what?


Yes, it's true. There are startling similarities between the Jasper, Missouri of Road House and the hell hole of Pottersville, the alternate universe in It's A Wonderful Life. Most people forget what life in Bedford Falls would have been like if George Bailey had never been born.





Full of neon and wanton women, Pottersville is supposed to be a frightening place. There's divey bars full of trashy, loose dames:




Wild, boisterous fights:




Shady establishments filled with sultry harlots catering to perverts:




Run by a tyrant interested only in money:




Sound familiar, Road House fans? The Jasper, MO of Road House would give Pottersville a run for its money.  There are sleazy dives:




Trashy, loose women:




Sultry women catering to perverts:




And wild, boisterous fights:




All in a town run by a greedy tyrant:

.


Both Dalton from Road House and George Bailey even have frumpy, frigid women to deal with:





But while they may have had similar experiences, they resolve their problems in strikingly different ways....

George Bailey discovers that life is beautiful and merely chooses to reverse his wish that he was never born, thus relegating "Pottersville" to non-existence:


Dalton from Road House cleans up Jasper by kicking ass and taking names:



So while many folks will celebrate the holidays with the traditional, heartwarming story of one man's importance to his family and friends, maybe it's time to have a Patrick Swayze Christmas this year!

Friday, June 19, 2020

WTF?!? 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, June 18, 2020

WTF?!? 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.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

WTF?!? 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!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

WTF?!? 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.

Monday, June 15, 2020

WTF?!? “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”

WTF?!? Moments: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

The entire film was a WTF?!? Moment- take beloved 
Beatles songs, craft them into a loose story of sorts, then hire an Australian based disco band to perform them.





The poor souls who actually paid good money to see this film must have thought they were having a very bizarre dream. Steve Martin and George Burns sing! Borderline offensive minstrel robots dance! Old people sway to the music with grins on their face that seem to say 'this must be that rock music that's popular with the kids these days!' From beginning to end, there's nothing but bizarre images, poorly cast stars and plenty of scenes that make one question the sobriety of all involved.





It's difficult, but not impossible, however, to choose the biggest WTF?!? Moment and it comes at the very end. The movie ends with a reprise of the title song sung by the most random group of celebrities you've ever seen. Carol Channing, Jose Feliciano, Dame Edna, Wolfman Jack, Connie Stevens, Minnie Riperton, Sha-Na-Na and even more celebs, arranged like they're taking an elementary school class picture, send the audience home on a bizarre note. It was almost like the producers just picked up a Beverly Hills phone book and randomly started calling people until they had enough yeses to fill the bleachers.

In an even bigger shock, Paul McCartney and George Harrison join in the "fun". While it would be easy to see Ringo Starr taking part in this travesty (he had a role in Mae West's Sextette after all) it is difficult to believe that anyone else from the Beatles would want to participate in a film that turns their classics into overly produced desecrations. Since the Beatles had already sold their compositions on the cheap years before, they didn't have any type of control or input on this project. Which makes George and Paul's decision to have a cameo in this trainwreck all the more baffling. They didn't make any money off the songs used in the movie and should have known better.

We can only guess at why the producers chose to round up everyone in Hollywood who said yes and randomly insert them into the end of the film. The best answer is probably that the film was running short and they needed to add a few minutes at the end. Very bizarre, WTF?!? minutes.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Trog!



Towards the end of her career, Joan Crawford seemingly had two requirements for any role she took- the check had to clear and the studio had to let her promote Pepsi, on whose board she sat after the death of her husband. Trog satisfied both of these requirements.


The troglodyte of the title was not Ms. Crawford, but her co-star, a man in a Bigfoot suit who her character discovers in a cave. Joan plays an anthropologist who discovers "Trog" and gets the task of spouting the technobabble dialogue that pushes the story (such as it was) along. Along the way, we get shots of Ms. Crawford and Trog enjoying Pepsi and learning from each other.


The film was typical of the sci-fi movies of the 1950's. Too bad it was being released in 1970. With Joan's needs met, however, she cared little for the film's success or failure.

Subtle product placement!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Lost Horizon!


Lost Horizon was supposed to be Columbia Pictures' big budget Oscar contender in 1973. The lavish musical was supposed to feature vibrant dance sequences that would dazzle audiences who would flock to hear music written by Burt Bacharach. The centerpiece of the film was supposed to be the exciting "Fertility Dance" sequence, which would mesmerize filmgoers with its brilliance. 



Except... At the premiere, audiences snoozed through the overlong setup, waiting nearly 40 minutes for the first song in this "musical". As for that "Fertility Dance" sequence? It succeeded in attracting unwelcome laughs. This overlong turkey was destined for infamy.

Studio chiefs frantically assessed the damage- critics and viewers felt the movie was too long and laughed in all the wrong places. This $12 Million blockbuster was quickly becoming a disaster. Columbia quickly ordered 20 minutes cut from the film, including the "Fertility Dance" which unintentionally cracked up audiences. It didn't help; the film only grossed $2 Million, effectively killing off the musical genre for many years.

The original negatives destroyed, the film only lived on in its edited format. The film's disastrous reception never warranted any special treatment and bad film aficionados could only imagine how bad the edited scenes must have been. Until 2010, when Columbia Pictures restored the film to its original length after an extensive restoration. The film was finally released in its original splendor on DVD and Blu-Ray, almost as though it were a cherished classic. 

Though the revived print looks great, it is easy to see why audiences laughed at the overwrought dance sequences and creaky 70's soundtrack. In the end, it is astounding to ponder how many people thought this film was a good idea. However, every movie- even Lost Horizon and Skidoo- deserves to be preserved. Future generations of moviegoers deserve unintended laughs too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Gotti!


What happens when you take an actor who is desperate for an Oscar, give him a way too small budget, hire an inexperienced director and commission a laughable script? In 2018 you’d get what is quite possibly the worst “Oscar-Bait” movie of all time- Gotti.


John Gotti’s story had been told many times before, but never in a prestige picture. John Travolta had envisioned making an epic film about the notorious mobster, a picture that would be in the same rarefied company as The Godfather or Goodfellas. Unfortunately for him, the project was a hard sell around Hollywood. Various scripts had been written and famed directors attached, but it never quite got off the ground. Travolta’s career has suffered many ups and downs over the years and whenever he built up enough cachet to get the stalled project going, he’d find himself in a low point again.


In 2016, however, things changed. The glut of new streaming outlets and the rise of MoviePass meant that projects that were previously stuck in what the industry calls “turnaround” (A film that is given a ‘yellow’ light but is no longer considered to be in production) were now considered ripe for the taking. MoviePass, which was trying to establish itself as a theatrical exhibition partner, was willing to overlook the problems with Gotti and give it a green light. It seemed like an easy project to approve, since most of the work had already been completed. 


The film was not quite out of the woods yet, however. MoviePass and its production partners could only scrape together a minimal budget of $10,000,000. To try to economize, Travolta took a cut of the profits and asked his wife to play Victoria Gotti. Relatively inexperienced director Kevin Connolly was chosen to helm the film. While he had some experience with directing he had never worked on what was considered to be a prestige picture. Gotti would quickly begin production.


After production on the film wrapped, it was set for a December 2017 release by Lionsgate Films. After the studio saw the finished picture, however, it pulled out of its distribution agreement and handed the film back to its producers. The company never officially announced why it pulled out, but most people believed it was due to the film’s lack of quality. This setback would delay the release of the film for a full year.


When the picture finally made it to theaters, the world was able to see what all the fuss was about. Instead of the Oscar caliber film Travolta thought he was making, the picture was a laughable mess. Travolta plays Gotti like he’s acting in a Saturday Night Live sketch. His real life wife portrays Victoria Gotti as a stereotypical Italian goomar in a performance that looks like it belongs in a community theater presentation of Goodfellas. Travolta bizarrely has little onscreen chemistry with his real life wife. The film was a critical and financial disaster. Too bad John didn’t  learn his lesson about doing passion projects after Battlefield Earth.