Saturday, February 23, 2019

Duck Out of Water






This is my third entry in the So Bad It's Good Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room






In the 70's, a new "hero" appeared on the comic book scene.  Marvel Comics presented the ultimate character from another world in the guise of an anthropomorphic  duck, a character from a world in which the duck, rather than the ape, was the dominant species of the planet.  In the comic book universe, Howard, a citizen of Duckworld, is kidnapped by an evil alien and deposited on Earth.

Howard first came to awareness of the comic book reading audience in an issue of Man-Thing, but eventually got his own comic book.  Created by Steve Gerber, the character had many adventures and eventually, George Lucas, creator of Star Wars, latched on to the series and became infatuated with the idea of making a movie of the character.

Although initially it was going to be an animated character (apparently along the same lines as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, which had live action people interacting with animated characters), this idea was eventually shelved in favor of having animatronic ducks as well as actors in duck suits.  (The reason, as stated in a DVD featurette, was that the time limits prevented the animated idea, because the studio wanted a summer release, and animation would have required a couple of years of production).

Howard the Duck was a box-office bomb, in the extreme.  It barely made back it's budget.  This despite the fact that it had George Lucas' name attached to it.  Critics, to a man, panned it.  And it wasn't accepted by movie audiences very well at the time, either.  Although some audience members loved it, others didn't get the concept.  Surely most of it was due to the story line, because Lea Thompson and Jeffrey Jones are great in it.  It also features an early performance by Tim Robbins, who was nominated for a Razzie for his performance.  But I disagree with the Razzie committe.  I think Robbins is a hoot in it.

Like Xanadu, history has been kind to Howard the Duck in the ensuing years.  Yes it is considered one of the worst movies of all time, but it has it's share of devotees who really enjoy it. 







Howard the Duck (1986):

There is life in the universe beyond that of Earth.  But not all life takes on a humanoid appearance.  A long long time ago in a galaxy far far away life on a planet evolved not from apes, but from ducks.  On Duckworld, Howard (played by Ed Gale, among others, and voiced by Chip Zien) comes home from a long day at work.  While relaxing in his recliner he is drawn into a vorthex which eventually deposits him in Cleveland.




In Cleveland he ends up meeting Beverly Switzler (Lea Thompson), who takes him in to her apartment after he rescues her from a pair of would-be assaulters.  Beverly is the lead singer of a group called "Cherry Bomb", along with Ronette (Liz Sagal), K.C. (Holly Robinson) and Cat (Dominique Davalos).










Beverly takes Howard to see a friend she knows who she thinks is a scientist (but who is essentially just a dimwitted lab assistant), Phil Blumburrt (Tim Robbins).  Howard is not impressed, especially since Phil seems to be on some sort of comic book wave-length, and tries to get Howard to show some sort of alien super powers he thinks Howard has.




Howard and Beverly part ways in a pique of animosity and Howard tries to find his way in his new world.  But of course he is the stranger in a strange land and fails.  He eventually ends back up in Beverly's world, where he uses his adeptness at "quack fu" to convince her sleazeball manager, Ginger (Tommy Swerdlow) to give up his rights to her musical career.

Phil shows back up in Howard's life with a real scientist, Dr. Jennings (Jeffrey Jones) who has a line on what happened to Howard and a plan on how to get him back to his own world.




But a mishap in the laboratory ends up drawing in a demon, called the Dark Overlord,  which inhabits Dr. Jennings body and proceeds to make an effort to draw in the rest of his compadres to take over the Earth.






Watching Jones transformation from Dr. Jennings into the evil alien is part of what makes this movie so bad it's good.  You have to see it to believe it.  Howard becomes the unwitting hero as he and Phil and Beverly try to prevent the Dark Overlord from achieving his goals, which may not be as easy as it seems.  Especially after the demon deserts Jennings body for his real form.




Well folks, time to get this old Plymouth rolling again.  I have an appointment with destiny.  Somewhere in Washington, D.C. there is a politician trying to take over the world with some outlandish policies.  I think he may really be an alien in disguise.  Drive safely folks.

Quiggy




Friday, February 22, 2019

Ed Wood Haunts My Dreams (Still)






This is my second entry in the So Bad, It's Good Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room


Note:  Way back at the beginning I inaugurated this blog with a tribute to Ed Wood.  If you have been reading ever since, maybe you've had time to get over that harrowing experience, so it's time to throw another Wood tribute at you.


Ed Wood, Jr. had a symbiotic relationship with Bela Lugosi.  Both needed something from the other, and although the relationship was friendly, both tended to use the other to achieve a personal goal.  As depicted in the Tim Burton loving biopic Ed Wood, Lugosi had fallen on hard times.  He was a morphine addict and could not get work in Hollywood, his metier of classic horror having fallen out of fashion.  Wood was a struggling wanna-be director, but he was not getting much success at getting jobs in his chosen profession.  When the two met it was a match made in heaven (or that oither place depending on how you feel about Wood, or Lugosi for that matter...)

In 1953, the two met and Wood saw his chance.  He had recently approached George Weiss, a purveyor of low-budget sleaze to direct a potential film about the life of Christine Jorgensen.  Jorgensen had had a sex-change operation that transformed her from a man, George Jorgensen, into Christine.  Plans for the movie about Jorgensen fell through when she threatened to sue if it was done.  Undeterred, Weiss hired Wood to write and direct a movie, already titled I Changed my Sex, just without any references to Jorgensen.

Instead, Wood decided to make his own story, about transvestitism (men who wear women's clothing).  Since Wood himself was an aficionado of doing the same, this turned the film into a more personal story.    He cast himself as the star of the film, under the credit of "Daniel Davis", and cast his new-found friend Lugosi as a guide through the film, a somewhat bizarre combination of mad scientist and god.

Because Weiss wanted a sex-change movie, and what Wood had originally created was just a film about transvestites, Wood added a second part to the movie which covered the story of a man who actually does have an operation, but the main focus of the movie was Wood's personal plea for compassion for those who are somewhat different from the norm.  It should be noted that the film is a victim of it's own time and ethos.  At the time a man dressing as a woman could get him arrested.  Whatever your view is about the transvestite is today, society has relaxed somewhat on their view of the phenomenon.  It is no longer illegal to dress up as a member of the opposite sex, and only one's personal view of the situation has any impact at all.

The message of acceptance is there, but because Wood was a rather inept, if not enthusiastic, director, the message is sometimes lost. Wood's ability to find ways to use stock footage from the vaults to somehow emphasize his story is one of the things that can both enhance and detract from the intended message.  (A rampaging horde of buffalo?  Omly Wood himself knows what that means...)





Glen or Glenda? (1953):

In the making of this film, which deals with a strange and curious subject, no punches have been pulled-- no easy way out has been taken. Many of the smaller parts are portrayed by persons who actually are, in real life, the character they portray on the screen. This is a picture of stark realism-- taking no sides -- but giving you the facts -- ALL the facts -- as they are today... YOU ARE SOCIETY -- JUDGE YE NOT...

The movie opens on the God/Scientist (Bela Lugosi) informing the audience that sometimes things are not always what they seem to be.  Or maybe he's just being cryptic.  You decide.



Man's constant groping of things unknown, drawing from the endless reaches of time, brings to light many startling things. Startling because they seem new...sudden...but most are not new to the signs of the ages. A life...is begun! People...all going somewhere. All with their own thoughts, their own ideas. All with their own personalities. One is wrong because he does right...one is right because he does wrong. Pull the strings! Dance to that, which one is created for. A new day is begun. A new life is begun. A life...is ended.



The opening is on a man dressed as a woman who lies dead, having committed suicide.  It turns that that he committed suicide because, try as he might, he couldn't resist the temptation to dress in women's clothes, despite the public outcry that such a behavior was abnormal.  (Remember, I said earlier at this time it could get you arrested if you did such things that were not considered fit for "normal" people to do.)  A police captain, Inspector warren (Lyle Talbot) approaches Dr. Alton (Timothy Farrell) to try to get some information on why any one would want to be in such an abnormal mental state.





Dr. Alton tells the inspector he has two cases in which he can illustrate the phenomena better for him.  The story of Glen (Edward D. Wood, Jr. under the screen name "Daniel Davis") constitutes most of the film.




Dr. Alton takes pains to establish that Glen is not a homosexual.  He is just a guy that derives pleasure from the feel of women's clothing on his body.  Some of this, it seems, may be attributed to a rather bizarre upbringing.  His mother wanted a daughter instead of a son, and there is some indication that Glen's father was rather in his attitude toward his son.  (Much like Wood's own childhood, if his background story is to be believed).  When Glen was a young boy he wanted to dress up as his sister for Halloween, but it didn't stop there.




Now Glen is in his thirties and on the verge of marrying his sweetheart, Barbara (Delores Fuller, who was actually Wood's significant other at the time).  Barbara doesn't know of Glen's predilection for wearing women's clothes, and Glen fears that he must actually tell her before she discovers the awful truth for herself.  He debates on whether or not to tell her before the marriage and risk having the plans for marriage come crashing down, or if he should wait until after the marriage, and thus risk alienating his new bride.  (In the parlance of the time, it's either damned if you do or damned if you don't.  There doesn't appear to be a third option where she accepts him for who he is.)






The Scientist appears again, heralding a segment of the movie in which Glen is haunted by all sorts of bizarre fetish inspired dreams.



Beware...beware! Beware of the big green dragon that sits on your doorstep. He eats little boys...puppy dog tails, and big, fat snails. Beware, take care....beware!



The dream sequence seems to have been added only to titillate the viewer, although it could easily be the inspired haunting of Glen wrestling with himself over his dilemma.   Eventually Glen does decide to come clean with Barbara.   Since this is a parable of Wood's own worries about his own transvestite tendencies and not a morality play, of course she accepts his predilection, although as she says, "Maybe we can work this out".




Since the movie was supposed to be about sex change, there is an additional sequence tacked on about Adam/Anne ("Tommy" Haynes).  Adam's story also somewhat parallels Wood's own story in that he, too. wore women's underwear while fighting in WWII, with the exception that when Adam gets out of the service he does have a sex-change operation and becomes Anne.


Yeah, so if you aren't ready for really bizarre, you aren't ready for Ed Wood.  I won't even get into the soft core porn he made after his career as a mainstream director fizzled out.


Drive home safely, folks.

Quiggy

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Don't Fear the Reefer




This is my first entry in the So Bad It's Good Blogathon hosted by Taking Up Room




Drugs are bad for you.  You don't need me to tell you that.  But some of those 30's movies that supposedly exposed the dangers of illicit narcotics are just plain weird.  And we can blame Dwain Esper for many of them.  Esper directed such "classics" as Sinister Harvest (about opium), Narcotic (about drug addiction) and Marihuana (about you-know-what).

He also had a keen eye for the exploitation of other movies.  He came across a movie called Tell Your Children!, which he didn't direct.  It was directed by a man named Louis Gasnier.  But Esper took it  and edited it and sent it out on what was known as the exploitation circuit.  The movie went by several names, depending on in what region of the country you saw it.  My favorite title is, undoubtedly, the one they used in the Pennsylvania area; "The Burning Question".





The original film had been seriously made and produced by a church group to warn parents of the dangers of marijuana.  But even with out the salacious edits and insertions Esper added to the film for his exploitation round, the movie is pretty ridiculous.  And I say that even if the viewer has never partaken of the evil devil weed in question.  But if you have experienced the sensations from trying it at least once, you will see that the assertation of the film about the effects of smoking border on the insane.

You probably won't recognize any of the people in this movie.  Many of them did go on to make other movies, but I found out if you click on the links available in the wikipedia entry for Reefer Madness, each of the entries that actually has a picture of the actor or actress in question is a still photo of a scene from this movie, which suggests it is the only film of note in which they were ever involved   The exception may be Carleton Young who, according to IMDb, has 258 film and TV credits.  Personally I remember him as delivering the final line from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:  "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend".







Reefer Madness (1936):

From the opening crawl at the beginning of the movie:

The motion picture you are about to witness may startle you. It would not have been possible, otherwise, to sufficiently emphasize the frightful toll of the new drug menace which is destroying the youth of America in alarmingly increasing numbers. Marihuana is that drug - a violent narcotic - an unspeakable scourge - The Real Public Enemy Number One! 

It's worse than that!  As Dr. Carroll (Josef Forte, not even a real doctor, mind you, just an actor) states it's even  more vicious and more deadly than opium, morphine and heroin! (Really!)  Just witness what it does to people in the movie.  One puff (and apparently not even having to inhale it... Bill Clinton, anyone?) turns normal people into raving lunatics.





Dr. Carroll  relates a story that happened right here in "your city".  There is a band of drug dealers, headed by Jack (Carleton Young) and Mae (Thelma White).  Mae harangues Jack.  As opposed to Mae, who prefers to deal only to adults, Jack has an affinity for dealing with teenagers.  (Not sure if these "teenagers" are high school kids, or already out and going to college.  They sure look old to my eyes.)




Helped along in Jack's scheme is Ralph (Dave O'Brien), who is a college dropout.  Apparently Ralph  smoked one too many joints and decided he liked that life better.  He and his own lady friend, Blanche (Lillian Miles) help host weed parties, where dancing and smoking are de riguer.





At these parties, a regular is a character, known as "Hot Fingers" (Ted Wraye), who can tickle the ivories like nobody's business.  But after each set he has take time out for a smoke break, which he does in a closet with a hilarious looking paranoid face.  (Question:  Why is he hiding when everyone else in the place is smoking, too?  Your guess is as good as mine.)















In one scene young Jimmy (Warren McCollum) is playing chauffeur to Jack, who has gone to pick up more joints from his distributor.  Jack leaves Jimmy alone with a reefer (marijuana cigarette) and when he comes back, Jimmy takes off in the car like a rocket sled on rails.  He ends up hitting a pedestrian, but doesn't stop, apparently not noticing it.






Back at Mae and Jack's apartment, Bill (Kenneth Craig), who has come to the party unaware of the illicit aspect of it, begins to talk with Blanche and she convinces him to smoke one of her kind of cigarettes.  You can see the immediate effect and transformation of Bill in his expression.





Bill's transformation from a clean-cut, top student comes to the attention of the authority at the school,  our Dr. Carroll, whom I can't decide whether he is a guidance counselor or a principal, but he addresses the change in Bill.  But Bill denies there is anything influencing him, so the doctor lets it go.  But Mary is distressed and seeks out Bill and ends up at the pot house.  Where Ralph tries to get her high and puts the moves on her.





This being a moral tale and an exploitation film, some serious repercussions occur, not the least of which is Mary being accidentally shot and killed.  Jack tries to frame Bill for the shooting and Bill goes on trial.  How it all plays out in the end is typical of these types of moral films, and Dr. Carroll ends with the admonition to his audience that vigilant observation of your children is the only solution because what happened to Bill could happen to "yours, or yours, or yours or YOURS" (while significantly pointing to the screen audience.)

Who knows how effective the film was on audiences of the day, but it is significant that the "menace" of the dangerous drug was never eradicated.  And it's overblown hyperbole has been refuted.  For those of us who turned out all right despite the danger, it becomes a humorous look at history of drug control.  (And, just so you don't get the wrong idea, your humble blogger no longer indulges, but I do stand with those who seek the complete legalization of marijuana).

Well folks, time to fire up the old Plymouth and head home.  Drive safely, folks.  Especially if you have been indulging yourself.

Quiggy


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Never Too Late for Crocodile Tears






This is my entry in the Arthur Kennedy Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema





Things I have learned from watching film noir movies:

1.  Never trust a woman.
2.  If you meet a woman stranded on the side of the road, never trust a woman.
3.  If you see a woman across a crowded room, never trust a woman.
4.  If you are selling life insurance, never trust a woman.
5.  Even if you are married to her and think the marriage is a happy one, never trust a woman.
6.  And especially if that woman is Lizabeth Scott, never trust a woman.

Unfortunately for Alan Palmer,  he failed on the last two.  He's married to Jane (Lizabeth Scott) who already has one dead husband, and she's about to have her second.





Too Late For Tears (1949):


Married couple Jane (Lizabeth Scott) and Alan Palmer (Arthur Kennedy) are traveling down to the road on their way to a get together with another couple.  But Jane really, really, really doesn't want to go.   She implores Alan to turn back and go home.  She doesn't like the other couple, especially the wife, whom she feels looks down on her because of her class as a poorer financial status.  Alan finally concedes even though he thinks she is overreacting.




When they turn around a car coming the other way swerves towards them.  Although Alan avoids a collision, his convertible is the recipient of a package that the passing car flung into their convertible.  When they check out the package they discover that it contains bundles of cash.  Not only that but another car gives chase to the Palmers.  They manage to elude the other car, but now have another dilemma.




While Alan wants to turn the money, which is possibly illicit, over to the police, Jane thinks they should hold on to it for a while.  She eventually talks Alan into stashing it in a locker at Union Station for a week while they decide what to do.  But Jane has dollar signs already in her eyes.  Unbeknownst to Alan, she purchases some rather extravagant items behind his back.

When a police detective shows up at her door asking questions, she allows him in the apartment, whereupon the ruse is exposed.  Danny (Dan Duryea) is not really a detective.  He is the driver of the car that gave chase to the pair after the inadvertent transfer.  See, Danny is a blackmailer who had been the intended recipient of the payoff, and now he wants his money.  When he demands the money, Jane lies, telling him they turned it over to the police.




Of course, Danny finds out about the lie and returns to be even more forceful in his demands.  Jane then makes plans to get the claim ticket from Alan, but only if Danny agrees to split the loot with her.  Figuring, apparently that half is better than nothing he agrees.  Unfortunately for Alan, who has decided to turn the money over to the police after all.  Because Jane arranges a situation where she kills Alan and dumps his body in the lake, with Danny around to pose as Alan so no one gets the wiser when she comes back.




Jane's neighbor, who is also Alan's sister, Cathy (Kristine Miller) becomes suspicious and starts to investigate.  She is assisted by a newly arrived former army buddy of Alan's , Don Blake (Don DeFore).  They try to discover what has happened to Alan, whom Jane has claimed has run off.  It doesn't hinder Jane's story when the family car is stolen and found near the Mexico border.




In true film noir fashion, nothing is really what it seems.  There are enough twists in the plot of this one to open a bakery shop.  Just one word of advice, should you choose to wade in; take nothing at face value.  Except for the fact that Lizabeth Scott is the most duplicitous woman this side of Phyllis Dietrichson.


As a side note, I have a new crush.  I think Kristine Miller is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in the film noir movies, and I'm lining up several to seek out in the future, just so I can see her.  (And I won't be entirely disappointed if it turns out she's not all that good an actress...)




Well folks, this old Plymouth is bound for home.  Thank goodness it isn't a convertible, so I won't become the unwitting recipient of a large bundle of cash.  (On second thought, maybe I'll saw off the roof before I leave...)  Drive safely, folks.

Quiggy




Friday, February 15, 2019

A Horse and It's Horn






This is my entry in the Angela Lansbury Blogathon hosted by Realweegiemidget Reviews.



What would you do if you found out you were the last of your kind?  (Being "one of a kind" doesn't count.  It would be a fruitless endeavor to find another me...  And before you think I'm being egotistical, you are "one of a kind", too.)

Peter S. Beagle created an endearing classic in 1968 with a fantasy novel called The Last Unicorn.  It has had a profound effect on many who have read it.  The novel ranks in the top 20 of all-time classic fantasy novels.  The story of a unicorn seeking out the truth of whether sh is indeed the last of her kind could not fail to leave at least some impression on the reader.  After all, the need for companionship of one's own kind is the force that drives everyone to venture out beyond the four walls of their own home.

In 1982, the animated production company of Rankin/Bass, those purveyors of such animated Christmas gems such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, The Little Drummer Boy, Frosty the Snowman, and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas brought to the big screen an animated version of the beloved tale.  The studio only made a handful of full length movies, but with the exception of The Hobbit, I imagine you haven't seen or even heard of the full length movie oeuvre.  This one is one that deserves a look, however.

Angela Lansbury, although her role is rather brief, plays a decidedly more diabolical witch than you would imagine.  Miss Eglatine Price, in other words she is not (and kudos if you didn't have to google that to find out who I am referencing...)  But I imagine you could come up with a smattering of other characters she played who are even more diabolical (this is children's animation, remember.  Can't have Mrs. Iselin batting down the door.)



The Last Unicorn (1982):

In a forest, a group of hunters determine that the reason that they are unsuccessful on their hunt is that a unicorn must live in the forest, and her magical aura protects all that live in it.  As they ride away, one calls out a warning that she may indeed be the last of her kind. The Unicorn (Mia Farrow) begins to wonder if what she has heard is true.

A butterfly (Robert Klein) appears at her side and sings and tells crazy riddles, but the upshot is that he tells her that all the unicorns in the world have been herded away by a mysterious beast known only as The Red Bull.  She decides to go off and leave the forest in search of the other unicorns.

On her way, she is captured by an evil witch / sideshow entrepreneur named Mommy Fortuna (Angela Lansbury).  Along with Ruhk (Brother Theodore), her henchman, an an incompetent wizard named Shmendrick (Alan Arkin), she gulls the public into believing she has a manticore (which is really an old lion), a satyr (which is really a decrepit chimp) and a Midgard Serpent (which is really just a plain ordinary snake).  She casts magic spells on the all, both to keep them in line, as well as to fleece the unsuspecting public.

She also keeps a real harpy, which she uses her magic to keep docile (but her magic is only so strong.)  When she finds the unicorn she captures it too.  She knows it is a unicorn, but most of the public would only see it as a white horse, so she casts a spell on the unicorn, giving it a magical horn so the foolish crowd will see what she wants them to see.

Eventually Schmendrick helps the Unicorn escape and accompanies her on her quest.  Along the way they also acquire a female companion, Molly Grue (Tammy Grimes).  The trio continue on until they reach the kingdom of King Haggard (Christopher Lee).  It turns out that Haggard is the actual keeper of the Red Bull and uses him to capture all the other unicorns.  As the trio approach Haggard's castle, the red Bull appears and immediately tries to corral the Unicorn.

Schmendrick saves the day (sort of).  He turns the unicorn into a beautiful woman and the Red Bull immediately loses interest.  (She's no longer a unicorn, so the bull thinks the unicorn disappeared.)  Upon reaching the castle, Schmendrick introduces themselves, calling the unicorn "Lady Amalthea".  Haggard's son Prince Lir (Jeff Bridges) is immediately smitten with Amathea.
 
The unicorn, now Amalthea, begins to suffer from the transformation as she gradually becomes more human and is beginning to forget not only that she was a unicorn, but what had brought her on this quest in the first place.  And she iso beginning to fall in love with the Prince, and eventually starts to think she'd prefer to remain human, even though it will means she would eventually die.

One must leave some things for the viewer to find for him or herself, so I won't tell you how it all turns out in the end.  Suffice to say this is an entertaining film for all ages.

Well, it will never look like a unicorn (or anything even halfway as beautiful), but this Plymouth will still get me home.  Drive safely, folks.

Quiggy


Thursday, February 14, 2019

Honky Tonk Romance






This is my entry in the "Meet-Cute" Blogathon hosted by Phyllis Loves Classic Movies.




Unless you are close to my age, you probably don't remember the early 80's.  In the late 70's through to about 1985, country music took on a huge popularity.  I think it was a backlash to the disco era myself.  But the fact of the matter is that every so often a new fad in music takes hold, and people who might have been dismissive of the genre a few years before suddenly take an interest.  The era of "Studio 54" and the disco music fad faded away and the era of "Gilley's" (a legendary country music dance hall in Houston) stepped in to fill the vacuum.

Of course, country music had evolved over the previous 50 or so years (and it continues to do so).  My opinion is the so called "outlaw" generation had a lot to do with it. Formerly an unapproachable frontier, country artists like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and the Charlie Daniels Band were now cracking into the top 40 radio, bringing in new devotees who had previously dismissed the genre.  Since I had grown up listening to country music and had only recently started listening to pop music in 1978, I was a devotee of the genre going years back, but suddenly I wasn't the only "roper" in my clique.

In 1980, a friend of my mother from her high school showed up for a visit.  She and her 17 year old son were going to go see Urban Cowboy that afternoon and she invited me to go along.  The movie was the latest in a string of movies that had been addressing the popular music culture (and the third music oriented film that had starred John Travolta.  The previous two having been Grease and Saturday Night Fever.)  I went along even though, at that time, I was going through a phase of listening to pop music and wasn't particularly gung-ho about country.  The result of seeing the movie was that, instead of going to the disco I started going to the country music nightclub.

(As a side note:  Christmas 1981 was a memorable one. A few days before Christmas we were going shopping as a family.  My mother asked what I wanted for Christmas.  I said "A cowboy hat.  But it would have to be black.".  Christmas Day I got my black cowboy hat.  That in itself would have been memorable, but it turned out that she had bought it already.  And she thought I had seen it.  My mother and I didn't always see eye to eye, but she had me down pretty well that year...)




Urban Cowboy (1980):

Bud Davis (John Travolta) is packing for a trip to move from his small town of Spur to Houston, where he plans to get a job on the pipeline.  He says goodbye to his family, climbs into his pick-up truck and heads off into the wild blue yonder.  (BTW, there actually is a Spur, Texas.  When I first saw the movie I thought they made it up.  Red McCombs, former owner of the San Antonio Spurs professional basketball team was one it's former residents. It's in northwest Texas, making it about a 500 mile trip for Bud).




Bud arrives at the home of his Uncle Bob (Barry Corbin) and Aunt Corene (Brooke Alderson), where he plans to stay until he can get settled.  Bob and Corene take Bud to Gilley's his first night in.




There Bud meets Steve Strange (played by James Gammon, but is based on the real co-partner of Gilley's), who hooks him up with two honky-tonk sweethearts.  But he also catches the eye of Sissy (Debra Winger).




Bud gets a job as a flunky on the pipeline, which the line boss says he's only getting because Bud's Uncle Bob is a well-thought-of worker with the company.  That's OK with Bud because it's at least a job.  Bud spends his days working and nights at Gilley's.  He eventually meets up with Sissy, which leads to the "meet-cute" first meeting.  Sissy spots Bud leaning against the bar and approaches him.

Sissy: "You a real cowboy?'
Bud: "Depends on what you think a real cowboy is..."
(Awkward pause)
Sissy: "You know how to two-step?"
Bud: "You bet.."
(Really long awkward pause)
Sissy: "Wanna prove it"
Bud: "OK."  (Bud is a bit dense, as you can see.)





Love blossoms and Bud and Sissy get married.  But Bud still has a lot to learn about modern women.  He thinks that there are certain things a guy can do that a girl just shouldn't do.  This includes riding the new mechanical bull that Gilley's installs.  But since Sissy is an independent woman, she goes behind Bud's back to start taking lessons on how to ride it.




 That in itself would be enough to send Bud into a funk, but there is also an added feature.  Wes Hightower (Scott Glenn), a former convict out on parole, has just gotten the job of operating the mechanical bull.  And jealous old Bud thinks Wes's motives are not entirely altruistic.  He thinks Wes  is trying to put the moves on Sissy.




When he learns of the subterfuge Sissy pulled, they break up and Bud moves on to Pam (Madolyn Smith).  Sissy, although still in love with Bud, decides to move on herself and shacks up with Wes.




The ultimate goal is that both Bud and Wes become entirely competitive as both enter a mechanical  bull-riding  contest.  (Wes is fired from his job, thus he can enter the contest, and he has experience since he was an expert at real bull-riding when he was in prison at the prison rodeo.)




Bud is the epitome of the anti-metrosexual, in my opinion.  He thinks women are inferior, often berating Sissy for trying things that he thinks should be a man's domain, including that of riding the mechanical bull.  Sometimes its hard to like Bud, but he is definitely a better catch than Wes, who is just a full blown jerk.  Bud does get a lesson from his uncle on how to be a real man, although you might wonder if it came along a little too late.


Will Bud win the contest?  Will Bud and Sissy make up and get back together riding off in the sunset?  If you don't know the answer, you are definitely a novice to romantic movies.  I have often professed I don't care for romantic movies, but Urban Cowboy (as well as The Princess Bride, another romantic movie I like) have a lot going for it on the side that make them interesting, even with the romance aspect.

Well, folks, time for me to do my own riding off into the sunset.  Any Sissy wanna-bes out there that want to go along?  Drive safely folks.

Quiggy