Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Day in the Life: Facebook and me

Between writing new reviews, moving the old reviews over here, taking road trips, and keeping up with Netflix Quikster movies, I just haven’t been able to do the personal stuff.  I guess you could argue that the Road Trip articles are partially personal stuff but that’s kind of a stretch. So I’ve decided that today is the day, and I’ll do it by way of writing some stuff regarding Facebook.  It’s actually stuff I’ve thought about for quite a while now, but today is the day I finally have the time.

Just as a page on My Space once seemed to be an internet requirement, the same thing can now be said of Facebook.   This especially holds true if you have a blog such as this one, a web site, if you’re a celebrity, if you’re promoting a new movie, book, music album, television show or anything else under the sun you can think of to plaster on your page. 

I don’t know how long I’ve had a personal Facebook page but it’s been quite a while.  Like most users, my page was simply a way to keep up with all my family members and friends who are spread out across the country.  It also enabled me to meet up with those that I’d lost touch with over the years. 

So when I began my blog rejuvenation, I decided to try once again to associate a Facebook page with it, and yes, that is a screenshot of it as if you really needed me to tell you that.  You can also get there by using that little facebook button on the upper right on this blog that nobody pays attention to. 

As you can see, I have 19 likes on there. Not even a spit in a ten gallon bucket.   Most of those likes were gathered when I had a mini recruitment among family members and friends asking for support.  Before that the page was mostly ignored.  Of the 19 people who like there are probably fifteen or more whom still ignore it.  But  I appreciate the help anyway.   I’ve had exactly zilch come from curious readers of this blog but that’s to be expected considering this rejuvenation is in its infancy.  Then again, it may always be that way.

The  real purpose of the Facebook  page is to post links to stuff I  write on this blog  to let people know when there’s a new article, and secondly, to post articles and stories that interest me from around the web hoping they will interest someone else as well and they’ll offer up a comment or two for discussion.  It’s the cut and paste stuff that I used to do here on a regular basis, so the page serves to satisfy that need.  I generally got no response to those here, and for the most part, the same kind of result there.

But no politics.  Most of the people I know or are related to hate politics, and some of the others just hate my particular brand of politics.  And some of them hate that I’m more knowledgeable about these matters than they are, and it goes without saying which group they belong to.

I do  have a Facebook page for the political stuff  as well, not to mention a blog that goes with it.  I seldom write on either anymore for reasons we won’t go into right now although I did post a link on the Facebook verision this week. When I get  a chance, I’ll write something as to why I don’t write anything about the political scene anymore.  But until that day,  here’s a screen shot anyway.

The real reason I’m writing this article,  is that I find most of the stuff people post on their Facebook page  to be an uninteresting snoozefest, simply because it has become too much of the same old same old.  It’s like reading someone else’s text messages, and just as boring unless you’re Scarlett Johansson sending out a self portrait.  They are immensely interested in what they are finger typing, I’m not.  If you’re thought process doesn’t go beyond twenty five words or less, than  what’s the point?

You’ve heard of the old saying to never discuss politics or religion at a family get together?  I’m of a mind that everybody should discuss politics, and religion too if you think you and God and your politics  can handle a little criticism now and then.  I’ll even discuss movies and the entertainment industry as long as you’ve got something worthwhile to  say.  Just say something, anything, I don’t care what.  But don’t tell me your Aunt Jenny has hemorrhoids because I don’t give a shit.  Get her a an inner tube to sit on and then  send me an email or call me on my cell phone to relate the sorrowful news.  Or do like I would do.  Write an in depth article on the people who used to do the Preperation H Commercials and see how it’s working out for them.

 

I guess people are afraid to expose themselves in that manner, probably because internet trollery is and of itself a new art form and they don’t want to deal with it.  And maybe they don’t want any hard feelings among family members.  I know I’ve pissed off more than a few of them, but I’m way too old to really lose any sleep over it.  And yeah, they’ve pissed me off on occasion but I don’t lose any sleep over that either.  When I abandoned my old facebook page for the current one, about half of my “friends” and some relatives said screw you, we want no part of your sorry ass.  At least I kind of imagine them saying it and it makes me laugh.

If you’re like one family member I have, and you turn out to be a racist, homophobic, senile old pig, I’m going to say so and then I’m going to cut you off and leave the rest of the family to cuddle up and coddle to your bigoted ass because somehow they had the misfortune to be related to you and feel they just have to put up with you because you’re blood thus overlooking your major shortcomings.   I don’t.

But this blog is not much different.  Most of my family, relatives, and friends, seldom visit.  Correction, have never visited it.  I do have one brother who was a regular reader before his computer blew up on him, and he’s read just about everything I’ve ever posted including this story that I have yet to make a decision about what to do with that no one else has read since I removed it from it’s original location.   I would love to do a major rewrite on it, to disassociate it with the restrictions I had in order to get the thing put on the web in the first place.  But where do I find the time?  I’m pushing the envelope now  as to what I’m capable of doing..

The same brother has a blog as well, but hasn’t post it on it recently because of  the aforementioned computer problem.  More importantly  he is dealing with his wife’s reoccurrence of cancer, which emotionally and financially is a huge drain.  So he probably won’t be making a return anytime soon. 

But boy, how I miss his input on here.  As for his blog banner, I designed it for him and it’s some of the best work I’ve done.  And that is his wife with him on the right hand side.  The thing is, even when he was keeping his blog up on a regular basis, it was mostly ignored by family members as well.  It’s something we would talk about on occasion.  We should be interested in their lives, while they ignore our interests.

I have another brother who has visited on occasion, but if anybody else has they have never let me know about it.  I take that back.  A cousin in Florida finally made it here when I pointed out something to her I’d written but I’m not sure if she’s been back. 

There is also an ex-girlfriend from years ago  that I met up with on Facebook  who is now just  a friend  and she  reads rather regularly and I appreciate that.  What makes that odd is that my my current girlfriend that I write about never does unless I drag her to the computer screen kicking and screaming.  

On the plus side, I can write what I want about The Girlfriend, confident in the knowledge that she’ll never read it. Write more than one paragraph, and she’s lost. Not that I would write anything bad mind you, but like most comediennes do, I have a tendency to exaggerate the eccentric, as I just did and I’m not sure she’ll get the joke.

Everybody else is googling for sex pictures of Jennifer Ringsley, then getting ticked off when as far as this blog goes, they are coming up empty.  I’ve thought about shitcanning that article, but then I’d lose the great majority of my so called readership.  And I guess some readership is better than no readership at all, whatever perverted reasons people may have.

But the same can pretty much be said of the Honorable Sons I’ve written about from time to time, including the one that lives with me. When I tell him I’ve posted something new on here and ask if he’s read it, he makes a face and says he’ll get to it. And he will for the most part, but I’m positive he wouldn’t do it otherwise.

 He has a blog as well, that he’s given up on.  He now has cash, and cash means Paystation 3 and X-Box and PSP and everything that goes along with it.  When he first arrived here, I was going to have him offer his take on some of the movies I reviewed, and he seemed eager to do so.  In fact, as you will see when I repost a few, he did.  But now, it’s bothersome for him to even watch most of them.

But that makes him no different than the majority of people who think blogging is a good idea, then either get bored with it or find out it’s a lot more time consuming than they thought it would be.  I myself gave it up, but not for any of those reasons.  It was a decision that was forced on me, and one I resent to this day. 

My heart is in my writing, much in the same way that my sons is in his PlayStation, my cousin’s is in fishing, and my great-niece’s is in her religion.  So you either really want to write, or you don’t.  If you go at this half-heartedly, you’ll fail.  My other point is that  if you’re writing a blog, don’t expect family to flock to it and tell you what a great writer you are.  They won’t. And if you write more than one sentence at a time on Facebook, they’ll pretty much ignore that as well.  On the other hand, your chances of gaining any readership are non existent unless you’re an exceptional writer and even that’s no guarantee.  There are, millions and millions of blogs out there in internet land, and yours is just a microscopic particle in a vast universe.

When I restarted the blog up, I said it was better not to be read by the whole wide world than have people you know ignore it.  And I meant every word of  it.  I made this statement after having tried  some stuff out on my Facebook page in a feeble attempt to make it my blog.   Some of the people I know  may have commented on some of the things once or twice and that’s about it.  But they have their lives and I have mine, and if the two somehow aren’t simpatico, then that’s just the way it is.  This is nothing really new,  and it’s something I found out years ago.  I just thought on Facebook it would be different.  It wasn’t.

My facebook page now is a means to an end.  I’m really only interested in what is posted on Clyde’s Stuff Facebook page, even though so far I’m the only one who has posted anything although just about any person can do so.  I made Honorable Son Number 3 an administrator, and even he has posted nothing.  Not the first paragraph, or even a link.

Don’t get any ideas about trolling though.  I still can boot off any article or any comment that doesn’t fit.  But it is a good way to keep track of what’s going on here as well if you spend a lot of time there.  As for your Aunt Jenny, I’ve only got one question:  How’s those hemorrhoids treating you?

Clyde’s Movie Palace: To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

 
 
Starring
Gregory Peck
Brock Peters
Collin Wilcox
Mary Badham
Phillip Alford
Robert Duvall
William Windom
Estelle Evans
Rosemary Murphy
James Anderson
Directed by
Robert Mulligan
Based on the Pulitzer Prize Winning  Novel
by
Harper Lee
* * * * *
Macon was a tired old town even in 1932 when I first knew it. Somehow it was hotter then. Men’s stiff collars wilted by nine in the morning. Ladies bathed before noon, after their three o’clock nap and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum. The day was 24 hours long but it seemed longer. There was no hurry because there was no where to go and nothing to buy and no money to buy it with although Macon County had recently been told that there was nothing to fear but fear itself. That summer I was six years old.
* * * * *
I distinctly remember that the first time I saw To Kill A Mockingbird was at a drive-in theater. I was probably about ten or eleven at the time but I can’t be sure. Even at a young age I was captivated by this seemingly simple story told through the eyes of children making it possible for the film to draw even younger viewers such as myself into it’s world.   

Perhaps I was also  drawn to it because a good deal of the story was about a very scary fellow by the name of  Boo Radley, who was a mysterious and eerie presence even throughout the film even though he isn’t even seen on screen until the very end. I'm not about to make the pretense that I understood much of the social significance of To Kill A Mockingbird at that age. How many children would unless it was a topic of discussion at home with their parents or at school with their teachers?  I did not have the advantage of either one of those scenarios.   My deep and never ending devotion towards the book and the film, was encased inside me after  repeated viewings.  It is a film I never tire of.

One of the things that makes To Kill A Mockingbird a great film is the love and respect everyone involved in bringing Harper Lee's novel to the screen had for the original source material. It shows  in every second of running time and in every single frame.  Each performance in this film is perfect.

Gregory Peck certainly  had many fine performances over his long and  storied career, but never again reached depth of humanity that he brought to his portrayal of Atticus Finch.   Is it no wonder that his was one of the most deserving Oscars ever awarded, and that his portrayal of Atticus is more than validated by being named the Number One Hero  in American Cinema by the AFI.

As Atticus, Peck’s love for Jem and Scout enables him to treat his children with respect and honesty. He never talks down to them, but approaches them on a level in which children of their age can comprehend enabling them to learn from his own years of wisdom. He doesn’t preach to them, he shows, he explains, and with every lesson there is sometimes a story or a parable.  There is an early moment in the film in which Atticus is reading to Scout that in just a few brief moments lays bare everything you need to know about his relationship with this children.

Atticus is also a man who believes in the integrity of justice, yet recognizes the failings of our judicial system. When called upon to do his duty, he does so, despite the hatred and venom he knows is going to be brought to bear upon his family by the citizens of the town in which he resides.

Because he puts justice, fairness, and values ahead of his own well being and safety, we know he is a man of great moral principle with a sense of honor and duty. When he is told he has been appointed to defend the Negro, Tom Robinson, he agrees to do so almost reluctantly.  Not because it isn’t the right thing to do, but because it is a job he would rather not have to do.  Atticus knows that in a more perfect world, the Tom Robinsons of the world who are so obviously innocent, would never be brought to trial in the first place.

In casting Jem, Scout and Dill, Producer Alan J. Pakula and Director Robert Mulligan faced a daunting task. So much of the success of To Kill A Mockingbird depended on the pivotal role these actors would play in the film.

For Jem he chose Philip Alford, for Scout, Mary Badham, and for Dill, John Megna. Alford and Badham were both southern natives who had never been in films before. Megna was a New York native but was also inexperienced. It is this inexperience and lack of polish that enables all three to shine. Mulligan began filming by letting them act as if making a film was like recess, allowing them to play on the set, and only moving the camera gradually as they became accustomed to their surroundings. It paid off in every way imaginable. None of the three ever appear as if they are actors acting, and bring a childlike wonder and presence to their roles that I had never seen before, and have not witnessed to the same degree at any time since. This may have been the best casting of children in any film ever.

Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of raping a white girl, also gives a performance which he would never again surpass. You will not find anywhere a more memorable scene in any court room than when he testifies on the witness stand. Because he dared to care about a white girl, he now faces almost certain death if convicted, and perhaps even if not convicted there is still the danger of lynching, something that almost happens before he even makes it to trial.

It is the first time I was able to begin to understand the effects of man's prejudice and hatred of a man simply because of the color of his skin. Just as Jem and Scout came of age, and realized the significance of the injustices of racial hatred, so did I.

Equally significant, is Collin Wilcox as Mayella Ewell. She makes it easy for many to despise her, and such hatred is a natural reaction. But the more we view the film the more we become like Atticus and see in her a person to be more pitied than hated.

She is a product of not only the times in which she lives, but even more so of her wretched upbringing. But understanding that, it by no means excuses it, as even to this day there are those who spread the seeds of racism as if it were an Ebola virus.

Mayella is a victim of an endless cycle of poverty, ignorance, and racism. But ignorance and racism is not the sole province of the poor.  Even to this day it is a tool of a political party to control those who wallow in their dreams of white privilege in order to maintain political power.

Mayella is what she is, but only because of the deep cutting prejudices of those around her. It is Mayella’s heritage that makes her what she is, a heritage that is passed on from one generation, to the the next and every generation thereafter.

To Mayella, being caught enticing a black man into your house for relations  is the ultimate crime and the penalty for doing so is unthinkable.

Is it no wonder that even after this film, the it took the Supreme Court until 1968 to outlaw the final vestiges of state ignorance which continue to have statutes outlawing marriage between different races?

In his screen debut as Boo Radley, Robert Duvall also brings to life the mysterious neighbor that once frightened Jem, Dill, and Scout so much. Though on the screen for a short length of time, without uttering a word, Duvall shows us a man tortured by years of cruelty, mistreatment, and the gossip and whispers of neighbors. He is a man who wants only to live in his own way and to be left alone, yet the bond that links him to Jem and Scout is significant. They are the childhood he had never really known. Just as Tom Robinson, he has never brought harm to anyone, yet suffers  just for the right to be able to exist.
 
Estelle Evans as the Finch’s housekeeper Calpurnia brings a no nonsense approach to the role. She may be the maid, but she’s as much a part of the Finch household as if she were a member of the family and the children respect her for it. When Scout begins to question Walter Cunningham’s (Steve Condit) strange use of maple syrup, Cal yanks Scout into the Kitchen and promptly reads her the riot act.

Yet, when Atticus drives her home it is required that she ride in the back seat of the car. One can imagine the trouble that would be stirred up in a Southern town in the 30’s if a black woman was seen riding in a car sitting next to a white man.
 
There is not too many villains in any film that are more despicable than James Anderson as Bob Ewell.  For him, we have no pity. We feel only utter contempt from the first time that we meet him. He has no redeeming qualities to speak of. In the wrong hands, the character might have been played overly broad or way over the top, but Anderson avoids that trap by letting us know that not only is Ewell no better than human feces, he could also very well be the guy across the street, the guy who comes into your store every day, the guy who comes stumbling out of the liquor store in a drunken stupor.  He is just as mean and dangerous drunk as he is sober.

The care with which To Kill A Mockingbird was brought to the screen can also be seen in the Art Direction by Henry Bumstead and Set Decoration by Oliver Emert. They bring to life the look and feel of a  small Southern Town to such a degree, that we are easily transported to a time and place of a bygone era.

Cinematographer Russel Harlan's black and white photography brings it all vividly to the screen, especially in the way he captures the foreboding of the Radley house, the moments when Bob Ewell approaches Jem when he is left in a car alone, and even more noteworthy near the end of the film when Jem and Scout are walking home from a school play.

If it had been filmed in color, this film would have lost much of its sense of time, setting and mood.

Elmer Bernstein's score is never boisterous, but is as important to setting the mood of many of the scenes played out before us. For the most part he keeps it simple, only swelling the orchestra when it is absolutely necessary, generally when there is danger afoot.  He is one of the great film composers of all time.  His list of composing credits is almost endless, but this one will remain one of the most memorable.
Elmer Bernstein’s To Kill A Mockingbird Score. One of the most appropriate scores ever written.

There have been many eloquent words written over the years about both the novel and the film adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird. It will be forever remembered, long after I am gone, and long after I am writing my reviews in that great movie palace in the sky. There is no doubt in my mind that To Kill A Mockingbird has been and shall remain one of the great achievements in American cinema and literature in my lifetime, and shall remain so for many lifetimes to come. A remarkable film in every sense of the word. My only regret is that the powerful lessons it brought to the screen in 1962, are still ignored to a great over 50 years later.  A+

* * * * *
Neighbors bring food with death, and flowers with sickness, and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a knife, and our lives. One time Atticus said you never really knew a man until you stood in his shoes and walked around in them; just standin' on the Radley porch was enough. The summer that had begun so long ago had ended, and another summer had taken its place, and a fall, and Boo Radley had come out. I was to think of these days many times. Of Jem, and Dill, and Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson, and Atticus. He would be in Jem's room all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.


Friday, September 23, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Outbreak (1995)

 

Outbreak (1995)
starring
Dustin Hoffman
Rene Russo
Kevin Spacey
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Morgan Freeman
Donald Sutherland
Patrick Dempsey

Directed by
Wolfgang Petersen

In the fifties and sixties, the biggest threat to the existence of man on this planet seemed to be the fact that a nuclear holocaust could happen at any minute. I’m not sure that fear has ever left us, it’s just that we’re not nearly preoccupied with it these days since the fall of the Soviet Union.  We’re also smart enough to know now that if the bomb is going to drop, all one can do is put their head between their legs and kiss their ass goodbye.   Hell, you’ll be darn lucky if you have time to do even that. One second you’re here, the next second you’re vaporized.

Once we knew the Commies had the bomb also and either country might blow the world all to shit, Hollywood, being as obliging as it always is, picked up on that theme with such films as Fail-Safe, Dr. Strangelove, Five, and On The Beach.

And let’s not forget the radiation side effects left over from mega-bomb testing that you won’t find in any book or college thesis.   If the bomb itself didn't get us, Film Writers and Producers wanted us to believe that some strange monstrous creature blown up to gigantic size from the effects of nuclear radiation would have us all for lunch.

Eventually, Hollywood's preoccupation with the threat of earth becoming a nuclear wasteland subsided and they seemed to become more preoccupied with more mundane matters such as wiping us out via natural disasters like volcanoes and earthquakes, meteors and comets spinning around in the far reaches of space intent on making earth their target, or aliens from another world coming down and feasting instead of Godzilla chowing down on sushi.

But the more things change, the more they stay the same. Another very real threat loomed on the horizon. Because of our natural tendency to pop an antibiotic down our throats at the first sign of a cough or sneeze, it seems we may have had too much of a good thing. Someday, there may be a virus that will be immune to all popped pills and capsules, and when that happens it will be adios to one and all.

The virus could in fact be man made as it was in Stephen King’s The Stand or it could come from a monkey, living it up in sunny California despite the absence of a passport, visa, or green card.  And that is the premise behind Outbreak, another Hollywood concoction that lets us see our demise in real time before we actually experience the thrill first hand.

In 1967, there is an outbreak of a new virus that spreads through the Motaba River Valley region of Zaire wiping out most of the inhabitants of a Mercenary Camp who come in contact with it. In two days, it has claimed 48 victims.  We witness the horrific effects of the disease when two U.S. army soldiers are flown in by helicopter in quarantine suits to survey the damage and to see if the disease is contained and is no longer spreading. 


After gathering some blood samples, telling a doctor they’ll send supplies in as soon as possible, and reassuring one man that he’s going to be fine, they depart.  Soon thereafter they show their real humanitarianism by ordering the place to be bombed all to shit.



And yes all you morbid violence  freaks out there do get to see the bomb drop with men waving at it as if it’s a big barrel of Big Mac’s just before they’re disintegrated into gooey microscopic particles of skin and bone matter.  But think of the bright side.  It did wipe out their disease and kept them from starving to death. 



You won’t have to hire a voice analyst to know that the voices of the two men in the quarantine suits did in fact belong to  Morgan Freeman and Donald Sutherland.  But who are these masked men? 

Fast forward about 27 years to the present day at the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Disease (USAMRIID for all you abbreviation fanatics) in Ft. Detrick Maryland where Colonel Sam Daniels (Dustin Hoffman) and his co-worker Major Casey Shuler (Kevin Spacey) research and study viruses both old and new in an attempt to keep them from spreading across the planet.

 

Daniels ex-wife Roberta, (Rene Russo), works at the Center for Disease Control (that’s CDC for all you abbreviation freaks), tracking the outbreak of diseases across the U.S. so that they can be contained.  She once worked with Daniels and Shuler as well but for obvious reasons, no longer does.


I don’t know why they’re divorced, but it must have been something really bad because in the early part of the film she seems really really pissed off at Sam whenever he shows up.  The reasons of the break up don’t really matter.  Their split is merely a plot device to add another dimension to their characters.  And it’s one plot device that actually works well.

We find all of this out because Sam is ordered by the voice of Morgan Freeman (again with the voice) to head to Zaire because there’s a level four alert in place.  At the USAMRIID, Sam works at Level IV which deals with extreme biohazards, maximum security, Infectious agents: Ebola, Lassa, Hanta viruses.  Highly Virulent, no known cures or vaccines. So we can assume that any outbreak Sam is called into investigate, can be some pretty scary shit.

(Clyde note:  In 1999 the World Health Organization (WHO for all you abbreviation nitpickers out there) began it’s own level alert system.  Level 4 is listed as containment of the new virus in a limited area or delay of its spread” but it is also an acknowledgement that the virus is contagious between humans. A Level 5 alert signals that the pandemic has begun.  But these standards weren’t issued until four years after the release of Outbreak.)

More importantly, we now know that Morgan Freeman’s voice belongs to Sam’s superior officer and that his name is Billy.  We know that because Sam addresses him as such on the phone, and the next morning when we see his gazillion stripes, medals and stars, we discover that Billy is one hot shot army guy who officially goes by the name of Brigadier General Billy Ford (No relation to Gerald or Henry Ford) .  They seem to be friendly enough, almost like old school buddies.  But looks can be deceiving.

Colonel Sam Daniels: Sir, what did I ever do to make your life miserable?
General Billy Ford: You got up this morning, didn't you?

Along on this mission with Sam is Casey Shuler, and wet behind the ears tissue sample guy Major Salt (Cuba Gooding Jr.)  The three of them are dumped into an African village eerily similar to the one we saw at the beginning of the film with the now familiar bloated and bleeding corpses included.


There is one major difference.  This time the virus “seems” to be contained which means no fireball shooting like a cannonball  from out of the sky, bright as a rose, gleaming it’s eye, exploding, and blowing villagers to kingdom come and beyond. 

After collecting some samples Sam, Casey, and Major Salt return home to study the virus.  But as Sam says, a brand new virus is something you may only see once in a lifetime.

Casey Schuler: I hate this bug.
Colonel Sam Daniels: Oh, come on, Casey. You have to admire its simplicity. It's one billionth our size and it's beating us.
Casey Schuler: So, what do you want to do, take it to dinner?
Colonel Sam Daniels: No.
Casey Schuler:
What, then?
Colonel Sam Daniels: Kill it.


When Sam reported back that the Motaba virus “seemed” contained, it’s with good reason that he wasn't any more definite than that.  He wants officials to issue an alert just to be on the safe side in case he’s wrong. Just because it was contained in the Motaba village, does not mean the virus didn’t escape somewhere, someway, or somehow. 

Like maybe in a Capuchin Monkey in Zaire that is there on vacation from South America.  And  then perhaps that disease carrying little bastard is netted and carried off to be used for lab experiments in the U.S. And once in California, what if the animal were carted away by Jimbo McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) to be sold in a pet shop.  And then let’s just suppose Jimbo gets covered in monkey spit, the pet shop owner he’s trying to sell the animal to gets scratched by one really pissed off miniature ape when he decides not to buy the animal.  And finally, Jimbo McDreamy, unable to sell the little fellow, lets it loose in the California wilderness, just before catching a flight to Boston to lay a big old wet smooch on his girlfriend.  Bye, bye, Miss American Pie.

Meanwhile, back at the USAMRIID ranch, we finally learn the identity of Donald Sutherland’s voice.  He is Major General Donald McClintock and outranks everybody except maybe God, The President and The Pope.  This guy is such an asshole though, he probably thinks he’s in charge of them too.



Since the 1960’s when McClintock ordered the wipeout of the village in Zaire turning it into the world’s biggest wienie roast ever, the Major General and Billy have been doing some things that weren’t entirely on the up and up.  And let’s not forget the fact that genocide, even on a small scale, isn’t part of any Treaty I’ve ever heard of.

These guys have been secretly using the original Motaba for experimentation, hoping to develop a new biological weapon.  And along the way they  developed a serum that they’ve secretly kept in a vault for thirty years as if it were the body of Ted Williams which can prevent the spread of the little booger. And as it turns out, the virus is the exact same one as the strain brought back from Africa by Sam.



Pretty soon the shit hits the fan.  The disease  spreads from one carrier to the next.  Jimbo gives it to his girlfriend, a lab assistant checking blood samples carelessly breaks a vial of blood, then passes the disease on to patrons of a movie theater in the town of Cedar Creek, the President must decide whether to eliminate the town from the California landscape, and as Porky Pig might say, “bida bida bida bida bida That’s all folks.” 

And if you’re sure that the good friendly folks of Cedar Creek will be spared in the end, then you need to have a refresher course in 60’s dooms day films like this one.  When push comes to shove, President whomever it may be, won’t want that stuff creeping across the White House lawn to nail his ass.

 



All the characters in Outbreak are exceptionally well written, especially for a film that is at it’s heart simply another disaster movie. Dustin Hoffman is quite surprising in a role that is completely different from anything else he has done. He is intense, rebellious, highly intelligent, and when necessary, a decent action hero although he’ll never be compared to Harrison Ford who was originally planned for the role. But I don’t see Ford as the scientific type either so it balances out.  Sammy is all things we expect our hero to be, with the exception that he should have been nicer to his ex wife Robbie.



Rene Russo as his ex is good too. She is more sensible and down to earth than Hoffman, yet not so much so that she would let such a dangerous threat as this virus fall completely under the radar. When Sam pleas with her to ask for an alert to be called, she hesitates but does it anyway knowing that while her ex might be an asshole when it comes to relationships, he’s usually right on the money when it comes to interacting with microscopic particles.

Kevin Spacey isn't given a lot to do initially, but this is early in his career and he is the second banana.  But he has a heartbreaking scene with Russo late in the game in Cedar Creek. One thing though and it really annoyed me throughout the film.  Spacey has the weirdest crappiest hair coloring and haircut I’ve ever seen in a movie.  So throw a few raspberries to the hair stylist.

Cuba Gooding Jr. is every bit as good in this film as he would be a year later in Jerry Maguire for which he won an Oscar.  In fact, it’s almost as if he’s auditioning for the part of Rod Tidwell here.  Too bad his film selection since winning that statue has pretty much sucked. 

Donald Sutherland, whom Writer, director, and producer Joss Whedon (he of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the WGTVSE) who worked with Sutherland the Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie, once referred to Donald Sutherland  as being a dick.  If that’s the case, than Sutherland is in character here.  He plays a dick and Sutherland can play a dick better than anybody. 

Morgan Freeman has the more difficult task.  He has to play a dick with a conscience who knows he’s doing some messed up shit, but has to follow orders because Sutherland has more stripes on his sleeves.  As to whether or not Billy can redeem himself in the end, that remains to be seen.


Many aspects of Outbreak are truly frightening. The film opens with one of the most devastating scenes I've ever witnessed, alerting us to the dangers we are about to face. We know beforehand when the monkey scratches the pet store owner what the result will be and we immediately begin to cringe from the thought, just as we do when the monkey is set free. There are other terrifying scenes that deal with how the virus rapidly spreads and begins to infect the population.  Wolfgang Petersen’s adept direction never let’s the film linger, keeping things moving along at a rapid pace, while at the same time not forgetting to focus on his actors whenever possible.  It’s much better than his later effort Poseidon where he just seemed to be going through the motions.

One of the more remarkable  scenes is the one that takes place in the Cedar Creek theater which shows the Virus spreading from one victim to the next.  Later, when Sam tries to figure out how the virus had spread beyond the quarantined hospital rooms, he looks up at the vent, and as the camera takes us through the duct into the other hospital room, Sam realizes the virus has mutated and can now travel through the air.


Nothing is spared from us as we see the devastating effects the disease has on those who become infected. It is all these things that make Outbreak such a good film, much of which the credit for can go not only to Peterson, but to Cinematographer Michael Ballhaus and the many make up artists and special effects wizards who worked on the film, with an excellent cast that took the subject matter seriously instead of just collecting a paycheck.

Outbreak is a good scary what would happen if... film, made more terrifying by the fact that everything that occurs is a very real threat, that may or may not be inevitable.  That alone should be enough to keep you glued to your seat.  And if a film such as Outbreak can keep us edgy and tense while reminding us that it may be fiction, but it’s also possible fact, then I have no choice but to give it a grade of A-. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959)


 
Darby O’Gill and the Little People
Starring
Albert Sharpe
Janet Munro
Sean Connery
Jimmy O’Dea
Kieron Moore
Estelle Winwood
Directed by
Robert Stevenson
It being St. Patrick’s Day Weekend, and not having any green beer on hand, I could think of no better way than to spend it with my friend King Brian of Knocknasheega and downing a few rounds of stout. It was during our  third round at Finnegan’s Tavern when the King looks up at me.




“Clyde,” he says, “ it’s a wonderful Irish name you have there, a name any Irishman would and should be proud of.”

I took a sip of my stout and turned to look down at the king. I know you're not supposed to look down at a King but in King Brian's case, unless he’s standing on your shoulder it’s kind of hard not to.
“Well, actually I think it’s a  Scottish  name,” I told him.

This threw King Brian into a hysterical rage.“YOU DARE TO QUESTION MY JUDGEMENT!”  He says putting down his empty cup.
“Dare to call me a liar will you! I’ll have the plague visited upon you so fast you won’t know what hit you! I’ll send for the Coach de Bower”
I began to panic. I could almost hear the banshee woman wailing away outside Finnegan’s.  I knew about the powers of the little people and also know that when angered, hell hath no fury like an intoxicated Leprechaun.  Take my word for it.  Clyde’s number one rule is never to disagree with  the wee people, especially their fearless leader.
“Why no, your highness, I would never do that. I bow to your infinite wisdom in these matters. If you say it’s Irish, then far be it for me to challenge you on such a matter. It must be the ale clouding my thoughts.”

King Brian poured himself another cup and took a sip. But he still looked angry.  “Don’t be so condescending,” he told me. “But you can make it up to me.“

“Anything you ask, King Brian! Anything at all!” I wanted nothing more than  to please the king, lest I be spirited away to spend the rest of my days in some cave buried in the hills of Ireland.

“Here you are, Clyde, writing movie reviews for more than half a decade now, and you’ve yet to write one for my own film.  And with St. Patrick's Day upon us, him being the great patron saint of all Ireland, the greatest country in the world, and still not one word in that blog of yours about the greatest movie about Ireland has ever been commited to celluloid. What do you have to say for yourself?”

I had to think fast. “Well King, Brian, I was going to write one to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the film next year.”

He looked at me suspiciously. “I don’t care about that,” he said downing the rest of his stout and heading towards the door. He turned to look back towards me. “You write it now. You do it this weekend and no excuses or I’ll……”

“If you want it this weekend, then this weekend it will be,” I told him. He turned to leave but quickly turned back to me.
“And I expect it to have a high grade,” he said. “Otherwise….”

I didn’t want to know what otherwise meant. But I wouldn’t let threats ruin my integrity. I just didn’t tell King Brian that. He’d find out soon enough. I could only sigh as I watched him disappear through the door, not even bothering to open it. I paid our tab to the barkeep. I couldn’t figure out why I was always getting left with the tab when it was King Brian who had the pot of gold.
So that was yesterday and this is today. The movie King Brian was referring to  is Darby O’Gill and the Little People. Darby was a film conceived by Disney in the forties and finally brought to the screen in late 1959. It took a while, but sometimes it’s better to get it right than to hurry the process along and end up with something that’s average at best or mediocre at worst.

Darby O’Gill (Albert Sharpe) is a widower who lives with his beautiful daughter Kate (Janet Munro) in a small town in Ireland. It is Darby’s job to look after the grounds and manor of Lord Fitzpatrick (Walter Fitzgerald). But old age having caught up with him, Darby spends most of his time in the local pub telling wild tales about his many exciting encounters with King Brian and the Leprechauns. As Lord Fitzpatrick puts it, “Darby retired five years ago and didn’t tell me about it.”

So Lord Fitzpatrick hires young Michael McBride (Sean Connery) to replace Darby, at which time Darby will be retired to half pay and will also have to move from the home he lives in to a smaller home on the grounds.

Darby decides to hide this fact from Katie and tells her that Michael is just to be his helper. At the same time, local woman Sheelah Sugrue (Estelle Winwood) and her son Pony (Kieron Moore) plot to have Pony be the one hired by Lord Fitzpatrick so that Pony can than have Katie as his bride.

In the middle of all this plotting and planning, King Brian kidnaps Darby to make him a permanent resident inside of the mountain where the Leprechauns dwell. King Brian sees it as helping Darby out since he's about to be sacked by the Lord of the Manor. It is left up to Darby to plan his own escape, and to get Michael and Katie to fall in love before Katie finds out Darby has been fired. Either that or he must capture King Brian once again in order to be granted his three wishes which he will then use to set things straight.

And it would be a shame for me to tell you anymore than that because to uncover the details of how all of this is resolved would be to give away the many magical surprises the film has in store. Of the Disney live action films from the
fifties and sixties this is one of the best.

Although Disney originally wanted Barry Fitzgerald for the role of Darby, he plucked Albert Sharpe out of retirement and it couldn’t have been a better choice. Although I like Fitzgerald's work, I can’t picture anyone but Sharpe being able to do what he does here which is to make you believe there are not only Leprechauns but that he has a personal relationship with each and every one of them. Sharpe was seventy four years old when the film was made, but he shows no signs of having slowed down in this film. He's one irrepressible old codger.

Janet Munro as Katie is both beautiful and charming, not to mention feisty when the occasion calls for it so she certainly takes after Darby in that respect. There are times when her temper can get the better of her. She is however, not in any hurry to become anybody’s wife. She has her father to take care of and that is enough (although in this film it would seem that the main goal in life of any female is to find a man to take care of). When Munro smiles, it lights up the screen and would melt any man’s heart no matter what country he is from.

Sean Connery comes to Darby O’Gill pre-James Bond. I think it’s his first major role and the freshness of a young actor early in his career plays to his advantage. After all, Michael is the new young colt hired by Fitzpatrick to look after his estate so the comparison is applicable.

What’s more important is whether the chemistry between the three main leads work. (Connery, Munro, Sharpe) It certainly does here.   Michael knows that because of his years and the work experience he has, Darby deserves a certain amount of begrudging respect. Michael actually seems very uncomfortable with the fact that he will be not only replacing Darby, but taking his home as well.  Not to mention that he quickly develops a crush on Katie, who would have to be evicted as well.

The romance, such as it is in these Disney films from the 50’s, acquits itself quite well. To help things along, Sean and Janet sing a charming little song called A Pretty Irish Girl that will have you sing right along with them. Yes boys and girls, ladies and gents, mums and dads, sisters and brothers, James Bond can sing and you can too by playing the included video and lending your dulcet tones to the proceedings. Often it is claimed that Munro and Connery’s singing was dubbed,  and after locating the version by O’Dowda and Murray and having listened I  to both recordings extensively, I’m inclined to discount it..  From Wikipedia:
Regarding the duet, Pretty Irish Girl, apparently sung by Sean Connery and Janet Munro: It has been alleged that the vocals on the recording were dubbed by Irish singers, Brendan O'Dowda and Ruby Murray.  A single of the duet was released in the UK. However, the deeper male vocal and breathy female vocal (which matches Munro’s a capella finish to the song, plainly recorded on set) performing the song in the American version of the film do not match the voices of O'Dowda (a tenor) nor Murray (a trained singer.)  Connery does sing the song Pretty Irish Girl (with solo piano accompaniment) on the 1992 compilation The Music of Disney: A Legacy of Song, and in 1959 Top Rank released a single in the UK (catalog number JAR 163) which featured Connery and Munro singing the song.

A Pretty Irish Girl is sung throughout the movie.

And of course I can’t forget about King Brian and for me to tell you that he was played by actor Jimmy O'Dea would be Leprechaun blasphemy causing me to incur King Brian’s wrath so I just won’t say anything about that fact. King Brian is King Brian and don’t argue otherwise or I’ll sick the banshee lady on you.
For a film about Leprechauns to succeed it has to also be able to make us believe we are seeing real true to life little people.  Darby O’Gill certainly surpasses anything beyond expectations. It’s amazing how a film that I just reviewed that was made in 1976 (King Kong) can be so clunky with its effects, and this film made in 1959 can be done in such a spectacular fashion and still bring wonderment almost fifty years later.

Most of the shots were made using forced perspective and matte painting, but unlike the previously mentioned King Kong film, you are never ever aware of it. It gives credence to the fact that when you take pride in your work and such care in doing so, rather than just spending money and plastering it up on the screen,  that for years people will be scratching their head wondering how you achieved the desired results. (Note: I do know how it was done now after watching the DVD with its special features. Alas, sometimes its better not to know as it takes away some of the magic you’ve always felt for so many years.)


The success for the special effects work can be laid at the feet of special effects technician and matte artist Peter Ellenshaw. Most of Darby was filmed in Hollywood with only a very few location shots added. But it doesn’t matter because thanks to Ellenshaw’s wonderful Matte work and the Cinematography of Winton Hoch, you will believe that every second of this film was made in Ireland as they work to bring it magically to life. You can tell that every frame of this film was put onto the big screen with the love, care, and artistry of someone who took extreme pride in their work.

So honestly, I can think of no better way for you to spend St. Patrick’s Day than to pick up the DVD and enter the world of King Brian and the Leprechauns. Just tell them that King Brian of Knocknasheega sent you. Oh and about that grade……that’s not the banshee I hear is it? It’s an A King Brian! It’s an A! Now send her away!

Clyde’s Movie Palace: King Kong (1976)

 
“No one cry when Jaws die, But when the monkey die, people gonna cry. Intellectuals gonna love Konk; even film buffs who love the first Konk gonna love ours. Why? Because I no give them crap. I no spend two, three million to do quick business. I spend 24 million on my Konk. I give them quality. I got here a great love story, a great adventure. And she rated PG. For everybody.” - Dino De Laurentis


King Kong (1976)

Directed by John Guillermin
Written by Lorenzo Semple Jr.
Produced by Dino De Laurentis
Jeff Bridges
Charles Grodin
Jessica Lange


If you’ve never seen a King Kong movie I have but one question for you: What planet do you hail from and welcome to Planet Earth. I’m sure most of you have seen Peter Jackson’s extravaganza and if you’re any kind of film buff at all you just had to have seen the original 1933 version. But in between the releases of what many now consider the two definitive Kongs there were a few other giant apes running amok tales.

There was King Kong vs. Godzilla brought to you by the good folks at Toho Studios. Yes, the two mightiest monsters of all time once did battle in downtown Tokyo for an HBO special. To make it a fair fight Toho shipped some steroids over from Barry Bonds locker in order to boost Kong’s height by about 300 or so feet. Otherwise the mighty ape might have been saying sayonara after about 30 seconds or so of screen time.

 
 
The film was great fun – for kids 10 and under of course. It was successful enough however that Toho brought their own funky looking man in an ape suit back for a sequel whereas Kong battled Mechanical Kong in King Kong Escapes. Who knew that rubber suited monsters could be so financially rewarding?

 

All of that Kong silliness aside, until Jackson came along over seventy years after Merian C. Cooper had left his indelible mark on the movie screens , there was only one other genuine big budget Hollywood production that dared to venture into the Kong remake factory. And that of course is this 1976 Dino De Laurentis extravaganza which plucked Kong out of the thirties depression and into the gloriously glitzy disco era of the seventies. In fact, one early poster that was issued of Kong is called Travolta Kong because of Kong’s Vinnie Barbarino style haircut. Pre-production on the film began in earnest in 1974 with Lorenzo Semple writing the script and Producer De Laurentis doing the PT Barnum bit in promoting his upcoming epic.

And one thing even I remember is that De Laurentis loved to brag about before the film went into production was that his film was going to have a colossal 40 foot actually working gigantic mechanical monster be the star of his film. The idea certainly stroked my imagination but in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but remember all the trouble Spielberg had with a mechanical shark that was a dwarf at only twenty five feet long. But that of course was in the water and as far as I knew, Kong didn’t have any swimming scenes and nobody was going to need a bigger boat so maybe it would work.
 
It turned out, I was kind of wrong about the swimming bit as Kong did take a quick dip in the East River, but I and a lot of people should have been more skeptical about oversized robots covered with horse hair. Yeah, there were a lot of naked horses running around for a while in 1976.
 
 

An old wise man once said that the taller the robots are, the harder they fall, and he wasn’t talking about taking a dive off the Empire State Building. Okay, I confess. I’m the old wise man who said it.  It turns out that the 1.7 million dollar mechanical Kong toy turned out to be a bust of gargantuan proportions and unlike the shark in Jaws that Spielberg was able to hide through most of the film, it’s kind of hard to find a place to hide a 40 foot mechanical ape especially when he’s your leading man….I mean ape.

 
That left Dino with choosing one of two alternatives. He could use the stop motion animation process used in the original, and enhanced since then in many a Ray Harryhausen film such as Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, It Came From Beneath the Sea, Golden Voyage of Sinbad and Clash of the Titans. Or he could go the TOHO Productions route and put a man in an ape suit. Much to the chagrin of all the stop motion supporters, Dino opted for giving some man a monkey makeover. No, he didn’t try to rent the left over costume from King Kong vs. Godzilla. Instead he hired makeup artist Rick Baker, who would eventually go on to win six Oscars. As for Mechanical Kong, he ended up with about thirty second’s worth of screen time. I think it averaged out to about $500,000 dollars a second.


Linearly speaking, the 1976 film doesn’t delineate too much from the well known plot line. Girl meets Ape. Ape gets girl. Ape loses girl. Ape takes a trip. Ape gets girl back. Ape meets friends in high places and that’s all she wrote.

But there were a few changes and a few wrinkles added here and there. Instead of heading over to Skull Island to film the next great adventure movies, this boat is taking the trip because infrared satellite pictures show that there may be a huge oil deposit laying around waiting to be pumped out of the ground and into your Chevy. This expedition is led by Big Oil Company executive Fred Wilson (Charles Grodin)whom came into possession of the satellite photos after making a campaign contribution to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. No, it wasn’t George Bush.


Also on board the Petrox is a stowaway, anthropologist Jack Prescott (Jeff Bridges). It seems he got wind of the fact that that someone from the Petrox Explorer (the name of the ship owned by the Petrox Oil Company) was buying charts for the same area he was interested in exploring because he heard some silly nonsense about a giant ape like creature. Since Carnival Cruise lines didn’t have an excursion going in Jack’s direction, he decided to just hop on board the Petrox and work out details about his fare later. After Wilson checks out Jack’s credentials, he decides to let him stay on board and become the official photographer.

Not too much later a rubber life boat is spotted and lying inside is Ann Darrow wannabe Dwan (Jessica Lange). It seems she was partying on board a yacht when the storm kicked up and threw her overboard right into a rubber dinghy that was parked nearby. Nobody else on board the yacht was quite that lucky but we really didn’t need to bog down the film with more needless characters anyway.  Besides, they died happy.  They were watching Deep Throat at the time.

Dwan makes a very quick recovery after about a second and a half of mourning those she left behind, and this in turn enables the ship’s crew to donate their clothes to her so that she can quickly shrink them and then pour her 5’8” perfect frame into them in order for Jack to take some photographs and extend the running time of the movie an extra ten or fifteen minutes more so every red blooded heterosexual male can leer at her. Besides admiring Lange’s shape, we are also suppose to notice that Jack and Dwan are falling head over heels for each other. I guess you could call it Beauty and the Geek, the 70’s edition.

After having ogled Dwan for all its worth we finally reach the perpetual fog bank in the middle of nowhere, climb into our trusty row boat and head for shore. This Kong Island (I Can’t call it Skull Island because it is never called that in the movie exactly. It is referred to in a legend as The Island of the Skulls) is quite a bit different from the rendition of that we saw in 1933. Instead of being dark and foreboding, once the fog bank is left behind, the curtain rises on an island that could easily double as the Garden of Eden in a remake of the Old Testament.

 
Just as in the original, the natives are getting ready to marry off one of their own to Kong when the Dwan patrol is spotted and the chief offers a trade of six for one. After Wilson tells them to take their deal to Ebay, the explorers head back to the ship, where Dwan is kidnapped and taken to be wed in Holy Matrimony till death they do part or Kong’s lunch time, whichever comes first. And you know the rest of the story….sort of.


Yes, Kong runs off with his beloved and Jack and the rest of the guys go running after him without Wilson who stays behind to check on his oil reserves. Unfortunately, after having already wired the home office at Petrox, Wilson discovers that the oil isn’t quite cooked to perfection yet. As scientist Roy Bagley (Rene Auberjonois) puts it, “it needs a little more aging of about 10,000 years or so, hardly a drop in the bucket in geological terms.” Still determined to bring in the Big One, Wilson begins devising a plan to capture Kong and to take him to back to star in his very own Petrox Television Commercial. Yep, Kong is now the big ‘un.

Meanwhile the Indiana Jones type adventures behind the Great Wall of No Name Island begin with Jack and the crew battling dinosaurs, Kong fighting a giant T-Rex, a giant Sea Serpent, and giant insects. It’s a special effects extravaganza you’ll……ooops. Sorry for that. That’s the other Kong Movies. My bad.

In this one what you get is one long trek through the jungle, and the only giant anything you get is a huge rubber snake that Kong kind of does battle with except that I think he actually wraps the snake around himself to see how it would look as a giant lei. The snake is so badly constructed that even ToHo studios would have rejected it. I can still hear Godzilla laughing his ass off at those dumb American film producers.

You do get scenes of Kong gazing lustfully into the eyes of Dwan and I don’t think there’s any mistaking what’s on his mind. I guess there’s a scarcity of female giant apes on the island and a horny ape has got to do what a horny ape….. Well never mind. But he isn’t intent on sliding those clothes off of Lange to play strip poker. And although you get no dinosaur battle, you do get a quickie shot of Lange’s left breast if you don’t blink.

We also get a replay of the boat crew being thrown off the log and into the canyon by Kong. Compared to Kongs I and III, (1933 and 2005 respectfully) it isn’t very well done at all or even remotely frightening. There are of course the usual two survivors, Jack and another crew man. Jack who will carry on to rescue Dwan while the other guy heads back to tell Wilson to leave the island barn door open because the big ‘un is going to be coming full steam ahead. And while Kong is battling Klunky Snake in the grass, Jack absconds with Dwan, and the angry Kong comes rushing after them with a full head of steam.


You know what happens next. Kong smashes down the door, begins totally trashing the native village, eating natives, stomping them to smithereens, smashing them into oblivion…..oops sorry. I really have to concentrate better. Wrong movie again. There is no scene of destruction of the native village. There are no stomped natives. There are no chewed up natives. There are no smashed huts. It seems that the natives must have caught the nearest Ferry Boat and headed over to Singapore for a night out on the town. Or maybe De Laurentiis tried to pay them off in bananas so they went on strike.

Kong bursts through the gigantic door and immediately falls into a 100 foot deep pit dug by out by Wilson and the gang and falls gently asleep when several giant drums of chloroform are released while Dwan hums Lullaby of Broadway. Okay, I made that last bit up but when you watch a movie as silly as this one, the silliness begins to rub off on you.

What was a novelty in this film and one of the better sequences put together is the method they used to transport Kong back to the mainland. In the original Kong we had to just guess. In King Kong vs. Godzilla they built a giant raft which they blew to shit allowing Kong to go beat the crap out of the his opponent. In this one they stick him into one of the giant cargo holds designed to transport oil. And once Kong discovers Dwan is on board, he goes into a blind rage nearly destroying the ship which for my money is probably the best done sequence in the film. Dwan manages to soothe the savage beast with a few kind words and we’re off to New York and Shea Stadium.

As good as the Kong sequence on the Petrox Explorer was, that’s how really lame the Shea stadium great escape is. It is also your first chance and only chance to catch a glimpse of the Laurentis mechanical Kong constructed just for the occasion and you’ll know definitively why the whole idea was abandoned, or as some claim was never really meant to be used at all as nothing more than a pre publicity launch for the film.

Brief segment on Mechanical Kong

Worse yet, the indestructible cage looks as if Dino’s grandkids built it with their erector set that very morning. It’s bad enough that they parade Kong out in a giant gas tank, but they went to great lengths to steal a crown from the Burger King and place it on top of his head. And while they wheel Kong out to the crowd, Wilson chants about the power of Kong and the power of Petrox oil as if he is auditioning for the Trinity Broadcast Network. Thankfully, Kong soon puts Wilson and us out of our misery.

After another clunky looking poorly done special effect sequence where Kong takes on a railroad car looking for Dwan, he eventually catches up to her and Jack and decides to take Dwan on a ride to the top of the World Trade Center. Jack, for his part, calls the army and tells them where Kong is headed after eliciting a promise that they won’t kill him. (Like nobody’s going to notice a forty foot ape climbing a building with a sexy blond perched on his shoulder as if she were a parrot). And if you guessed that as soon as they hang up the phone the army calls out the heavy ammo to promptly shoot Kong down, you win the big Ape stuffed animal.

Atop the World Trade Center, it gets bloody messy as Director Guillermin leaves nothing to the imagination. As the bullets rip Kong apart blood flies out as if someone had just struck an oil gusher. Then things get a bit silly as Jack Prescott cheers when Kong grabs a hold of one of the choppers and sends it hurdling to the street. I mean, this was a serviceman just following orders wasn’t it? Of course, they were hurting the giant monkey so maybe we just have to give Jack a pass when he refers to the guys in the choppers doing their job to save New York from destruction as dirty bastards.

Then Kong decides to make one giant leap for apes, and one giant leap for ape kind by jumping off of one tower and over to the other one with poor Dwan holding on for dear life. It’s an amazing stunt and would have been an Olympic record but I think the wind was at Kong’s back so it didn’t count. There’s rules about that, you know, and even giant apes have to follow the Olympic rules.

You pretty much know how it ends so what can I tell you? There are some who praise the movie as being high camp and a novel way to look at the Kong legend. Heck, even Pauline Kael who was a real hard ass, and tougher than my World History teacher in high school when it came to giving out passing grades gave it a good review. But what we’re here for is my thoughts and despite what Kael thought and even Roger Ebert thought, I can’t see my way to giving Dino’s Konk anything better than a low C-. The flaws are way too many and way too obvious to give it any kind of a decent score.

I will admit that a few years back, I might have even given it a C without the minus. But then it’s only competition was the original film if you discount the Godzilla thingy altogether. Now, with Peter Jackson’s film out there, this one suffers even more by the double comparison. It used to be that you would be willing to give it a pass on a few of its many flaws, but now to even watch it at all is a chore in tedium. And this is not a new feeling.

I distinctly remember going into the theater to see the movie upon its release with great anticipation, and then coming out feeling quite a bit let down. I had expected there to be at least a little sense of adventure or even horror but there was none. What you got instead was Kong spending most of the running time on Kong Island leering at Jessica Lange. And although there is one scene well done where she falls in the mud and he washes her off in a waterfall, it’s not enough to overcome the silliness of watching Jessica Lange punch Kong in the mouth. I really don’t think Dwan could have known if that was a gleam of Love in Kong’s eyes, or if his stomach was growling. Frankly, I wouldn’t be sparring with a forty foot ape that obviously has the upper hand.

It doesn’t matter, though. The awful snake and the snake fight sequence destroy any chance the Kong Island scenes had of redeeming themselves. Didn’t anybody bother to look at the rushes? Or by that time did they decide that with no dinosaurs or any other animate objects besides Dwan’s fist to put Kong up against, it was better than nothing at all? Maybe if they hadn’t wasted so much money building Mechnica-Kong that turned out to be totally useless, they could have come up with something better. Frankly, if Willis O’Brian can perform the magic on Kong that he did in 1933, you would think that 43 years later and with 24 million dollars at your disposal your special effects would be dazzling.

They obviously knew that Mechanica-Kong didn’t work, so why bother trotting it out for a few seconds in the Stadium sequence? Its flaws are awesomely obvious, making it easy to spot when we are watching Rick Baker in a monkey suit and when we’re watching the Dino’s 1.7 million dollars worth of what probably ended up as landfill. And that’s another problem in itself. Despite the fact that Baker was able to pull off some magic with the help of Carlo Rambaldi, you are always aware of the fact that you are watching a man in an ape suit. The use of forced perspective runs rampant in this film, along with poorly done and obvious filmed backdrops. The rule of thumb is when it walks like a man, acts like a man, it is a man just horsing around in a monkey suit.

It’s not that the cast doesn’t give it that old Kong try though but they all just come off looking silly as they recite constant groaners such as “Let’s not get eaten alive on this island. Bring the insect repellent” or Dwan calling Kong a “male chauvinist pig ape.”

Lange’s Dwan could have been an interesting character, but Semple’s script does nothing more than paint her as a sex object, and then piles on by giving her an IQ of about 90.

As for Bridges, I just could never be convinced he was an anthropologist or scientist of any kind. Honestly, if some nit wit came and told you that what you saw on a satellite photograph was animal respiration, wouldn’t you have him carted off to the funny farm when you finally finished rolling in the floor laughing? And although Prescott and Dwan were supposed to be attracted to each other, they have absolutely no chemistry in their scenes with each other. Heck, there was more give and take between Dwan and Kong and we all know Kong is an ape of very few words.

If you had watched this film upon it’s release, one thing you would not have predicted as that the two leads, Bridges and Lange would eventually go on to win Oscars.  Of course, it took Bridges a lot longer to live down this mess than it did Lange.

Only Grodin seems to know what kind of movie he is in and he spends just about all of his screen time good naturedly hamming it up. We’re suppose to hate him and what he stands for so that we feel some amount of pleasure when Kong stomps Wilson’s lights out. But I didn’t feel any pleasure, pain, sadness or anything. I just didn’t care.

I’ve never been entirely enamored of John Barry’s score although many are. I find Barry’s scores are usually very overwrought and don’t do a whole lot to compliment what is on the screen and the Kong score is no exception. Still, it’s not his worse. You’d have to visit The Black Hole in order to hear that.   But some people love his stuff so if you’re a Barry fan here is my gift to you courtesy of someone else at Youtube.  But listening to it now, it kind of sounds like he partially ripped off his own James Bond stuff.  See if you notice.

John Barry’s Score from the 1976 version of King Kong.


If you have never seen the film I suppose you should see it at least once and then you can form your own opinion about it. Maybe you’ll be like Pauline Kael or Roger Ebert and actually have praise for these monkey shines. Or Maybe you'll agree with Joe Bob (see video) Or you could rent the original Kong, watch Jackson’s remake again, or even the original Mighty Joe Young with Terry Moore (stay away from the remake of that too!). It would all be time much better spent.
 
Jim Bob gives his take on King Kong in this segment from a TNT Monstervision Presentation

It would have been interesting if Paramount had gathered up Bridges, Lange, and Grodin for a DVD commentary but Paramount is notoriously on the cheap side when it comes to many of their DVD releases. Then again, maybe this is one act that the participants didn’t want to revisit, not now, or ever. I’m sure I won’t be doing so again anytime soon. I’ve seen it enough, after having just watched it to write this review. And that should suffice for the rest of my lifetime as well.