Pop Culture Ephemera
- Sisters (1972) (Directed by Brian De Palma): “I saw a murder, and I’m going to prove it!” – Grace. Brian De Palma’s first foray into horror feels like a practice run for the next couple of decades of his films. From the very first scene, it feels like an homage to Hitchcock unlike his later pictures that will feel like they are influenced by Hitchcock. The plot is right out of Hitchcock in this era. A neighbor sees a murder through a window across the apartment building. Without a body, she can’t make anyone believe her. Throw in a supporting cast of unique characters, including half of a set of conjoined twins, and you have a fun little horror film that hints at future greatness for the director. Margot Kidder and Jennifer Salt are wonderful and push the Hitchcock “leading lady” character forward into the Seventies generation. It’s hard to say much more and not give away some key plot elements. This metaphorical passing of the baton (the Bernard Herrmann score clinches it) is definitely a must-see.
- Midnight Club – “The Wicked Heart” (S.1 E.3) (NETFLIX) (2022): “People fear death even more than pain.” – Janitor. Nice nod to creator Mike Flanagan as Dusty pulls a copy of Stephen King’s The Gunslinger out of his locker. Family Day creates more levels of isolation and awkwardness as two residents don’t have family show and there’s dissatisfaction with the other visitors. The conceit of having one of the patients tell a ghost story for the last half of the episode is a nice touch of Universe building. Kevin’s story of Dusty who has secrets and sees dead teens is the best so far. It’s a way to build a psychological base for each character with the symbolic stories. I like the format and like other Flanagan series, there’s lots of dialog, spooky lighting, and religious symbolism. This is a good episode that moves the plot along towards what should be a ghost filled finale by the time we finish the ten episodes.
- The MASH – “Suicide Is Painless” (1970) (from Soundtrack to M*A*S*H): “The losing card I’ll someday lay / So this is all I have to say.” Music written by Johnny Mandel. Lyrics by Michael Altman (director Robert Altman’s son). The song plays over the titles to the film M*A*S*H (1970) sung by the Ron Hicklin Singers (known as the “real” voices of the Partridge Family). It also plays during the “Last Supper” scene with “Painless Pole.” Meant to be a very unserious song, the tune has become associated with one of the most respected and long lasted television shows of all-time. Robert once joked that his teenage son, Michael, made more off writing the lyrics to this song that Robert did for directing the film.
- Carrie (1976) (Directed by Brian De Palma): “Telekinesis… thought to be the ability to move… or to cause changes… in objects… by force of the mind…?” – Carrie. I’ve watched this film previously with attention to how the adaptation changes the impression the book made upon me. I tried to watch it this time with De Palma’s filmmaking techniques in mind. Three years after Sisters (1973) and two year before The Fury (1978), this film solidified the careers of both De Palma and writer Stephen King. The Hitchcock influence on De Palma’s style is here in the split screens and the way he jettisons the supernatural and religious elements of the book in favor of personalizing the experience as a symbolism of teen sexuality. If there is any doubt that this is about teens more than telekinesis, that’s put to bed with the full frontal female nudity in the first 90 seconds. De Palma is in control from that first moment and this film holds up better than any other adaptation of the book still. Sissy Spacek is perfectly cast. This is a character-driven story for a director that has been trying to find his voice up to this point. While I’d still love to see an adaptation that stuck to the expository style of the book, this film is a lesson on how to build a horror film that doesn’t have the first blood until you’re an hour into the story.
- Pet Sematary: Bloodlines (2023) (Directed by Lindsay Anderson Beer): “Death is a gate to eternal life.” Taken from a couple chapters in the original Pet Sematary (1983), this prequel tries to expand on a backstory to help fill some plot holes in the original films but ends up creating so many more. Set in 1969, it attempts to fill in Jud Crandall’s background, tell a story of a returned son from the Army, and reach back to the original creation of the Sematary by the Mi’kmaq tribe. On paper, a cast including David Duchovny, Henry Thomas, and Pam Grier should have made for a decent picture. Unfortunately, the older actors mostly sleepwalk through the film, only just reading their lines. The younger folks, especially Jackson White as young Jud Crandall, do a good job with what they are given. The 1969 setting is forced and only fleshed out by a CCR song, a the Band song, and a mention of the Draft for the Vietnam War. The raised bodies are no longer hostile zombies but they are undefeatable Terminators with evil spirits inhabiting them. The book still deserves a full treatment but this doesn’t bode well for the IT prequel that’s coming on HBO. There are elements in the first half that promise a decent horror film but none of it is realized once the killing starts.
Best of the Rest
- Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks return to World War II and I know the exact date that I’m starting my Apple+ subscription. It appears that Masters of the Air (Jan 26) is a nine-episode limited series set in the European Theater and tells the story of the high-altitude bombers. I trust Spielberg and Hanks with my World War stories and my Space Race stories. In the meantime, catch up with The Pacific (2010) on Netflix. You’ll thank me later.
- This instrumental version of “Suicide Is Painless” had become known as the “M*A*S*H Theme” by 1973. This version by Ahmad Jamal and his incredible work on the electronic piano replaced the vocal version on the recorded soundtrack albums but the vocal version was still featured over the opening credits on prints of the film. It has the feel of a television theme song more than a film. The start of the song could have morphed into the “Theme of Taxi“.
- The first half of using Taika Waititi’s double in an ad for New Zealand Tourism is full of some wonderful visual jokes. The rest of the ad is clever but mostly, I just want to look at pretty pictures of New Zealand.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 5/4/2008, it was a beautiful weekend, as our early May can be, and it was a full baseball life of games on Saturdays and Sundays. It was Dee’s dance-recital weekend, and I can still feel the pride I had seeing her up there. My #80 Favorite Film of All-Time was Modern Times (1936). I would safely put three to four Chaplin films in my Top 100 (The Great Dictator (1940) was #78). I ranked Seth Rogen and the best of the Freaks & Geeks alumni. No need to rerank but I would move Martin Starr into the top five. The week had many of the usual suspects like American Idol (Fox) and Lost (ABC), but I was reminded of the brilliance of Sci-Fi Network on Saturday nights.
- Aztec Rex (2008) (Directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith): “No dinosaurs were harmed in the making of this film.” – Credits. These Saturday-night films always have a simple plot description that gives you a double take. The Aztecs summon a T-Rex to defend themselves against Cortes and now need the conquistador’s help to stop the thunder lizard from killing all of them. Ian Ziering of Beverly Hills 90210 fame accepted this role as Cortes for the free trip to Hawaii and the Bon Jovi wig. His accent and three-day-beard growth come and go freely from shot to shot. The Aztec princess is played by Dichen Lachman who will later show her acting chops on Dollhouse. The dinosaur CGI is laughable at best and looks out of a CD-ROM game that you got with your Fruit Roll-Ups. The scenery is nice but for those of us who watched Lost, we expect to see a plane in the trees or a polar bear at every turn. The Hawaii Board of Tourism was doing a good job in 2008. This is so bad but we loved tuning in on Saturday nights.
1973 in Review
- October – The October issue of Children’s Digest includes a cover and two-page story by Charles Schulz and the eighth part of Tintin “The Castle of Doom” by Herge.
- October 13 – The WHA Los Angeles Sharks start the season against the Houston Aeros. Marty and Mark Howe will play with their father Gordie Howe as the first father-son teammates of U.S. professional sports.
- October 22 – The Oakland A’s would defeat the New York Mets in seven games. The Mets have the worst record to make the World Series at 82-79. Broadcast on NBC with Curt Gowdy and Tony Kubek, it had an average of 34.75 million viewers per game. The NHL preview in this issue celebrates a seven-year contract for $1.05 million signed by Bobby Clarke with the Philadelphia Flyers that would pay him $50,000 a year until 1994. The average NHL player in 1973 would make an eye popping $55,000 per year.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Doritos Dinamita Sticks: Smoky Chile Queso
The brand was originally called Rollitos as a rolled Dorito, I guess. Rebranded a decade ago as Dinamita (little stick of dynamite), I very rarely purchase this offshoot. Why bother when Doritos are such a perfect snack? The smoky chile queso is a spicy number that hits me as slightly more chile than queso. There’s plenty of heat and that overwhelmed any other flavor for me. I like the crunch but this would have been better in a Dorito chip.
Scoops Ahoy: Triple Decker Extravaganza
Named after a treat enjoyed by Eleven and Hopper, this is a busy but fun treat. The vanilla is very buttery and the maple gives it a syrupy scent. I loved the bits of waffle cone and the candy toppings sent it to another level of complexity. Sweet, rich, creamy, crunchy, smooth. This isn’t as good as some of the others but in a small dose it’s a fun addition to the Scoops Ahoy collection.
Coca-Cola Zero Sugar: Y3000
If this is an “optimistic future” that has the flavor partially designed by AI, then the future is not one that we should have any part of. I tested the Zero Sugar version first because I’ve heard negative reviews of the full sugar version. It tasted like a generic soda-flavored gummy candy that had vanilla added at the last minute and then the sugar removed. Neither scent nor flavor live up to the Coca-Cola name. At least the previous Limited Editions have maintained the Coca-Cola quality. This belongs in the heap with Pepsi Blue.
“The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger, watch it grin” – Altman