Sunday, June 23, 2019

Chaos in the Outback

This is my second entry in the Blizzard of Oz Blogathon hosted by Me

Earlier in this blogathon I intimated that my first entry, Strictly Ballroom, was not really, in general, my type of movie.  Many of you may already know this, but for those of you new to the blog I'll map out what IS my type of movie.

Science fiction.  Cars.  Explosions.  Guns.  Chaos.  To wit, the average "man cave" movie.

The Road Warrior  was one of the first movies I saw in the theater after I turned the age of consent and could go to any damn movie I wanted to without my parents' permission.  I really had no idea what to expect.  Although it is a sequel to Mad Max, a 1979 Australian film directed by George Miller, it was promoted initially as an independent feature.  Meaning I had no knowledge of the first movie when I went to see The Road Warrior, and it wasn't even promoted as Mad Max 2, at least not in the United States.

It was also my introduction to Mel Gibson.  His star had yet to rise in the U.S. (that would come later), but he had been around for a few years.  Credit could probably be given to George Miller for his "discovery", however.  And after The Road Warrior, he never had to look back. 

The first Mad Max film never really went into detail about the background for the society that surrounds Max Rockatansky (Mel Gibson), although this brief synopsis should help:  Max is a policeman in a world where chaos has pretty much taken over and gangs rule the road.  A gang that Max tangles with ends up killing his family and Max ditches his policeman status and goes on a revenge rampage. 

By the time of The Road Warrior some time has passed.  (I estimate maybe a year or so).  At the beginning of the movie the narrator tells a little more of the background of how the world that Max currently lives in came to be.  It was a world war initiated by two great powers (and although they never state which powers, it doesn't take a PhD to infer the culprits).  Now the road is ruled by various gangs who are out in search of the elusive commodity, gasoline, to power their cars and motorcycles.

The Road Warrior (1981): (aka Mad Max 2)

Max (Mel Gibson) is a loner who roams the Outback with his dog. 

He is assaulted by a gang, intent on taking his vehicle and whatever gasoline he has.  But max has other ideas.  Wez (Vernon Wells) and his gang come away empty as Max outmaneuvers and out guns them.

Farther down the road Max stumbles upon an apparently abandoned gyrocopter.  Intent on raiding the vehicle for gas for his own car he is captured by the Gyro Captain (Bruce Spence).  But Max quickly turns the tables on the Gyro Captain and takes him prisoner.  In an effort to save his own skin, the Captain tells max of an enclave just up the road where he can get "all the gas you want."

Upon arriving at the enclave, Max and the Captain discover the enclave surrounded by a gang intent on taking the gasoline for their own purposes.  As Max and the Captain watch from afar, two separate vehicles leave the compound, but are immediately surrounded by the gang.  The gang is being run by a character called the Humungus (Kjell Nillson), whose right hand man is our old friend Wez from the earlier assault on Max.

After the gang leaves the victims, Max approaches one of the vehicles and finds one man still alive.  Assured by the man that if Max takes him back to the compound he can have as much gas as he can carry.  Unfortunately the man dies upon arrival, and the leader of the compound, Pappagallo (Mike Preston, who looks, to me, quite a bit like a rather well-worn  Peter O'Toole...) tells Max that his "deal" died with the dead man.  Not only that, but he takes Max prisoner.

As the gang continues their assault outside the compound, Humungus addresses the besieged people, claiming that if they surrender the entire supply of gas within the compound he will allow them to leave.  Of course, no one believes him.  Max then tells Pappagallo of an abandoned rig he saw just down the road that he promises he can bring to them in exchange for the gas that he originally wanted.

With the help of the Captain, who apparently must be desperate for companionship after the way Max has been treating him, they end up getting the rig to the compound.  Although Pappagallo pleads with Max to drive the rig and gas out into the Outback, max claims that his part of the bargain is over and leaves.  But he is attacked by the gang and his car is wrecked.  And a couple of would-be gang thieves are killed as the car explodes taking the precious gas within with them.  Max, severely wounded but still alive, manages to crawl back to the compound where he finally agrees to drive the rig to safety.

I just realized I completely forgot about one of the secondary characters in the flick, a boy only referred to in the credits as The Feral Kid (Emil Minty).  A wild child in the extreme,  and a deadly shot with a boomerang, the Kid bonds with Max and tries to tag along with him.  And it is revealed at the end of the movie that the Kid, now grown, is our humble narrator.  (As a side note: Minty only appeared in three movies, all as a kid.  According to wikipedia he went to school and studied to be a jeweler and now resides in Sydney in the capacity of a jeweler.)

Australian films of this type rival Hong Kong action flicks for sheer chaos and destruction.  An excellent documentary I saw a few months ago, Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild Untold Story of Ozploitation! (which, by the way was the inspiration for creating this blogathon) tells the riveting story of how Oz became the rival for sheer action on film.  Some of the films in the documentary I am actively seeking for future entries on The Midnite Drive-In.

Well folks time to power up the Plymouth and head home.  Hope I manage to avoid the road gangs.  Drive safely folks.


Friday, June 21, 2019

The Ugly Duckling

This is my first entry in the Blizzard of Oz blogathon hosted by Me


There is absolutely no logical reason why I should like this movie.  It's a romantic comedy, for one thing and I'm not enamored of romantic comedies in general.  I'm not entirely sure if "love" even exists.  (I'm a 57 year old jaded single man, if that helps...)  Also it involves a lot of dancing.  I have yet to watch a Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie simply because I'm not interested in classic dancing (although, give me Saturday Night Fever and I'm hooked for the next 2 hours...)

But I must admit the movie captured my interest one dark night back in 1994 when I saw it on cable.  And, although unlike the reviewer in Videohound's Independent Film Guide, I haven't seen it a dozen times yet, every time I watch it I'm entranced by it.  Peopled by several actors and actresses who are making their debut in film, including stars Paul Mercurio and Tara Monice, and being the directorial debut of Baz Luhrmann, the film has an attraction that will draw many into it's web.

Luhrmann, who also gave us Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Australia and the recent remake of The Great Gatsby has been on the scene for over 25 years now, but hasn't got a very long credit list.  The 5 movies mentioned here comprise his entire output of theatrical releases (although he has several "shorts" in his repertoire).  But I think it's pretty significant that those 5 are well remembered by any fans.  Strictly Ballroom, along with the aforementioned Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge comprise what is known as his "Red Curtain trilogy". 

"Trilogy" is a bit of a misnomer to those who think that "trilogy" means they are all related in plot.  Instead, "trilogy" here means that all three use a certain motif of theater: (Strictly Ballroom: dance, Romeo+Juliet: language, and Moulin Rouge: music.)

Strictly Ballroom (1992):

Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) is the son of ballroom dancers.  His mother (Pat Thomson) has dreams of her son achieving the glory of being the king of ballroom dancing, something that she never quite achieved.  But Scott has his own ideas about dancing, including incorporating some rather outre moves that don't quite fit in with the standard rules for ballroom dancing.

Mom and Dad

In a contest against the undisputed current king, Ken (John Hannan) and his partner Pam (Kerry Shrimpton), Scott not only disqualifies himself with his rather strange moves, but he manages to piss off his partner, Liz (Gia Carides), who bemoans that she wishes her partner was the rather egotistical Ken.  "What do I want?  I want Ken Railings to walk in here and say 'Pam Short's broken both her legs and I want to dance with YOU!'"  Which is exactly what happens.

Ken and Pam

Now Scott not only has his illegal dance moves but he has no partner to do them with.  Enter Fran (Tara Morise), an amateur, who has a secret love for Scott and asks him to dance with her.  At first Scott is rather reluctant.  Not only does Fran not have the extensive training needed to perform at the professional level, but she is rather plain looking to boot.


Fran convinces Scott to give her some lessons which, after seeing her perform some of her own creative moves, he agrees.  Meanwhile Mom frantically searches for a new partner for Scott.  The deadline for the next dance contest is only a few weeks away.  But most of the partners that Scott tries out with are unacceptable.

Gradually Scott and Fran work out enough that Scott is convinced that she is the acceptable partner, and wants her to be his partner.  She turns from the ugly duckling into a swan, especially after she removes her glasses and lets down her hair, and revels she's a pretty damn good looking woman after all, and she can dance too.  The trouble will be convincing Mom and Dad to allow such a thing.  Because while Scott has been training Fran, Mom has worked out a deal in which the top female ballroom dancer, Tina Sparkle (Sonia Kruger) will agree to being Scott's partner.

Fran and Scott

In all this time, Scott has finally met Fran's father, Rico (Antonio Vargas) and her grandmother (Armonia Benedito),  Fran's family is Spanish, and Scott tells them he wants to dance the Paso Doble with Fran.  But Rico sneers at Scott's attempts to prove his ability.  Grandma insists that Rico teach Scott how to do it with feeling.  Eventually he becomes a fantastic Paso Doble dancer with Rico's instructions.

But Mom has insisted that Scott take Tina as his partner, much to the disappointment of both Fran and Scott.  See, in all this time Scott has fallen in love with Fran.  But he reluctantly goes along with Mom and dances with Tina.  Mainly because he has been told that his parents missed out on their chance at a championship because Dad (Barry Otto) had, like Scott, insisted on using his own unconventional dance moves.  But that was a lie just to get Scott to play ball, as he later finds out.

So will Fran and Scott finally get to dance in competition?  I think you know the answer to that.  Check out this film, and if you are not at least enthralled by it, I'll gladly refund your misery so you can watch a depressing movie instead.

Time to head home.  Drive safely, folks.


The Blizzard of Oz Blogathon is Here!

Well, if you been waiting in ant---ic---i---pation for it, The Blizzard of Oz Blogathon is now here.  The celebration of Aussie cinema, Aussie stars and Australia in general is now ready for posts.  Keep checking back over the weekend as this post will be updated with the entries as they come in.  And while you're at,  put another shrimp on the barbie...

The Blizzard of Oz Roll Call:
(Note:  I was tired Friday night, so all who posted Friday, sorry for the delay in updating...)

Realweegiemidget Reviews peeks in on the Neighbours

My take on the indie film Strictly Ballroom

It's the wandering life for Caftan Woman and The Sundowners

Silver Screenings takes us on a Picnic at Hanging Rock

Its road trip time!  Angelman's Place rides on Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

Revealed in Time gives us the whole story of The Thorn Two parts

Diary of a Movie Maniac plays some Road Games

Coffee, Classics and Craziness sings the praises of her Gladiator

The Stop Button delves into Malcolm

Dubsism likes Living Dangerously

Crítica Retrô helps us follow In the Wake of the Bounty

Hamlette's Soliloquy gives us a guided tour of Five Mile Creek

Revealed in Time  takes us to the real Australia

Movies Meet Their Match introduces us to The Man from Snowy River

And, finally, my second entry on The Road Warrior

Thanks to all who entered.


Thursday, June 20, 2019

A Fishy Story

This is my entry in the Hotter'nell Blogathon hosted by Moviemovieblogblog(ii?)

Recently Avengers:Endgame blasted records for a movie release, surpassing every movie ever released in history except Avatar (and it may yet surpass even that.)  The so-called "summer blockbuster"  has been a designation that has been around for about 40 years or so.  Of the top grossing films of all-time, at least half if not more were released during the summer.  (The other half were released during what is at least equal to summer as a big money time to release movies, during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season).

The one that started it all for the summer blockbuster designation however was Jaws.  This movie proved that a great movie, released at an opportune time, could mean profits that could line studios pockets for months (or even years) to come.  When people forgo going to the beach for the weekend in order to spend two or three hours in a theater to watch a film, that says something about the power of movies.  And studios for the last 45 years or so have strained to capitalize on that market.  Jaws made some $470 million off a $9 million budget.  (It also had the effect of reducing the amount of traffic at the beach that summer, but that is for later in the review...)

Jaws was such a huge hit that, of course, Hollywood tried to go back to the well again and again.  It spawned 4 sequels, to date, each increasingly worse than the original.  Fortunately for us it didn't make it to Jaws 19... (a movie "predicted" in Back to the Future II.  "This time it's REALLY REALLY personal!")

But the original still can be an exciting film.  A couple of weeks from now Flashback Cinema is going to re-release the original for a one-week stand.  The theaters that will have it are part of a conglomerate of theaters and if you'd like to see if it will be showing anywhere near you, you can check out the list here.

Jaws (1975):

"You're gonna need a bigger boat..."  -Chief Brody.

Villains come in all shapes and sizes.  What motivates a villain to act the way he or she does can vary across the entire spectrum of the so-called "seven deadly sins".  The predominant one in my opinion, having seen hundreds of movies featuring villains, is greed.  The villain of Jaws is not the shark, in this view.  The villain (or villains, if you will) are the greedy townspeople of Amity, who don't want their money ticket, the summer vacationers, scared away by a "rumor" of a shark.  In other words "money talks and BS walks".

At the start, on Amity Island,  a girl goes skinny-dipping with a guy, and is attacked by a shark  (and this should be a warning to you youngsters.... it's a bad idea to go "skinny-dipping"...)  After discovering remains of the body,  Chief Brody (Roy Scheider) wants to close the beaches, but the Mayor (Murray Hamilton) won't hear of it.  Doesn't Brody realize that the entire economy of the island depends on vacationers coming to use the beach during the summer?

When the coroner (who was either uneducated in shark attacks or maybe bribed by city officials) determines that the death was the result of a boating accident, Brody reluctantly agrees to forgo his plans to close the beach.  But the shark attacks another boy.  What ensues is havoc, as the mother of the boy offers a reward for the capture of the shark.  This brings out every amateur money hungry fool to try to get the reward.

At a council meeting local fisherman and would -be aquatic hero, Quint (Robert Shaw) offers his services, but for no less than $10,000.  His offer however, is rebuffed, and in the meantime two of the fools trying to get the smaller reward bring in a tiger shark, which is pronounced by everyone to be the culprit shark.

Everyone that is except for marine scientist Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss), who claims that the tiger shark is too small and proves his theory by cutting open the shark and finding no proof that it had attacked either of the victims. 

The second half of the movie includes the (finally) introduction of the shark in question.  (Imagine!  We were halfway through the movie and had not actually seen the monster.  That's a tribute to how intense the build up was.)  Our first introduction is when Brody, who is rather reluctantly tossing chum out into the water in order to attract the shark actually succeeds in bringing the culprit to the surface, and determines that the boat they are in is a bit inadequate for the job.


Quint, saddled with two amateurs, and being overly enthralled with his own abilities, has his hands full.  But the three manage to survive without killing each other.  Can't say the same about the shark.  Old "Bruce" (as the mechanical shark was called during production) has other ideas about who is going to come out on top in this battle of wills.

In the end, all the sophisticated gadgetry is pretty much useless.  Saddled with no less than three barrels which have been harpooned into him, the shark continues to wreak havoc, and while the ultimate end may come off as a little anti-climatic (at least it did to me), it does satisfy.

The movie had an affect on people who watched it.  It caused many to be wary of going into the ocean.  I don't know what the actual figures were, but the reduction in beach traffic seems to be a given in talking about the effect Jaws had on the public.  

And it became a part of the zeitgeist of American culture for years to come.  It continues to be an influence.  It crops up in political cartoons, TV and movies (just the strains of John Williams' "Duh-dum duh-dum duh-dum" and most people know exactly what the film is referencing, even if they haven't seen it+.  And being afraid to go into the water?  That crops up too.  A 1981 film, Blood Beach, capitalized on the theme with a catch-phrase of "Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the can't get to it!" (That movie featured what was apparently a giant ant lion living on the beach).

The Jaws phenomenon made Steven Spielberg a household name.  Its success opened the door for a wealth of great (and not-so-great) movies over the years.  Spielberg followed up Jaws with Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. the Extraterrestrial, the Indiana Jones movies and Schindler's List (which netted him his first Best Director Oscar), just to name a few.

As stated earlier, I will be going to see Jaws on the big screen later this month.  Although it will be at an indoor theater...

Well, folks, time to get the old Plymouth fired up for the ride home.  Drive safely folks.


Tuesday, June 18, 2019

My Personal Reminiscence on Stephen King

Early 1979 was a turning point in my life.  I was a junior in high school.  A friend of mine and I were discussing books and he told me about some stories in a book he was reading called Night Shift by a guy I had never heard of, Stephen King.  The stories my friend related sounded extremely fascinating and I immediately went to the local supermarket and found a copy of the paperback issue of the book.  As it turned out, I had actually read one of the stories before.  My uncle had a copy of the July 1976 issue of Penthouse under his bed, which had printed "The Ledge", and I had read it a couple of years before, but I didn't remember who the author was until I read it in the Night Shift collection.  (I'm not telling whether I looked at anything else in the issue.  but I was 15, so what do you think...?)

It turned out that King had been around for several years.  Not only the short stories published in Night Shift, but he had also published a few novels, and one, Carrie, had been made into a movie.  Of course, this was before my coming of age at 18, so I had not seen it, or for that matter even heard of it.  I started reading the books that were at that point available, and fortunately for me my introduction to King was in time for me to be aware of the TV miniseries made from his second book  'Salem's Lot. (which for some reason was changed to Salem's Lot without the first apostrophe for the TV show.)

This started a 20 year love of Stephen King.  I read everything that came out by King over the next 20 years.  I must admit I have grown lax in the last 20 years.  At some point I started to get annoyed with King who, rightly so in my opinion, has been accused of having "diarrhea of the word processor".    I have only read a handful of the books published since Desperation and The Regulators.  That last one was published under the pseudonym of Richard Bachman.  Which brings up a separate point.  King was such a prolific writer that he published 5 separate novels under the Bachman name, ostensibly because his publishers thought that more than one book by King on the market might hurt sales of both.

(As a side note:  I bought the Richard Bachman book The Running Man  off the rack at the supermarket when it first came out.  This was prior to King's exposure as being Richard Bachman.  I never cottoned to the idea that maybe it was King under a pseudonym at the time.  I still have the book.  It is worth, according to my last research, about $100 if I wanted to sell it.  Which makes it the most valuable thing I have in my house...)

My lapse of interest in reading King has not hurt my love of watching movies made from his work, however.  Although, truth be told, many of the movies made from King's works tend to be somewhat different from the stories themselves.  Being a traditionalist, I get annoyed with the ones that seem to have only King's name attached to them as a selling point, while the film itself has virtually nothing to do with the story.  Case in point, 1992's The Lawnmower Man.  Only one brief scene in the movie had anything to do with the actual story, but it still carried the title Stephen King's The Lawnmower Man.  (A side note:  King himself disavows the film and even sued the production company to have his name removed from the title.)

Many of the King movies I saw, as opposed to my blog title, in indoor theaters.  I think it's fitting, though,  that I saw Christine in a drive-in theater.  (Although not in my father's '60 Plymouth Fury, which would have been even more fitting, but even if he had been willing to let me borrow it, I never learned to drive standard transmission vehicles...)  Christine is not my favorite John Carpenter movie, but it is one of my favorite movie made from one of King's books.  I wholly identify with Arnie Cunningham (Keith Gordon).  I was the class geek in my own high school.

My first introduction to Stephen King film was the aforementioned TV mini-movie Salem's Lot.  It was a couple of years before I was old enough to go to the typically R rated theatrical versions of his work.  I just barely missed getting to see The Shining, so I only missed that and Carrie in the theater, but I religiously tried to get to every one thereafter, especially for a few years.  Creepshow was the first, and it remains one of my favorite horror films. Between 1982 and 1989 I went to the theter almost every time a new Stephen King movie came out.  (For some reason, I missed the original Children of the Corn.  I can't exactly remember why, but perhaps it never made it to the local theater where I lived.  And I wouldn't have driven to Dallas just to watch a movie.)

There is something about King that appeals to me.  His characters are easily acceptable, and many times I feel a certain affinity for some of them.  Arnie Cunningham from Christine is not the only one.  I also liked Bill (Emilio Estevez in the film) from Maximum Overdrive, Uncle Red (Gary Busey) in Silver Bullet and Stu Redman (Gary Sinise) from The Stand.

Not all the film adaptations are gems.  In fact, some of them are downright crap.  But the books and stories from which they (sometimes ostensibly) get their inspiration are great.  (Unless you are a sado-masochist, I wouldn't recommend any of the Children of the Corn movies.  Even the first one which is at least somewhat based on the story.  The rest are just typical Hollywood attempts to cash in on a "cash cow"... or "cash corn" if you'll forgive a pun...)

And even though horror is the primary milieu of King, I have to admit that my favorite book is Different Seasons, which featured four novellas, none of which are really in the horror genre.  Three of which were made into pretty damn good movies.  The Shawshank Redemption was based on "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption", Stand by Me was based on "The Body" and Apt Pupil was based on "Apt Pupil".  The only one of the four that has yet to be made into a movie is "The Breathing Method", but word is it is coming to a theater near you as a film sometime next year.

A guy named Scott von Doviak has published a book in the Hal Leonard FAQ series called "Stephen King Films FAQ" which is a great place to start if you are not ready for a full course meal in Stephen King films.  It is also a great reference book for those of you who might be King fanatics.

Hope you enjoyed this reminiscence.