Sunday, October 20, 2013

All Garbling

I was starting to think our Halloween Film Festival would never bounce back from the depressing effects that THE VAMPIRE had on us. It makes you want to stop having Halloween Film Festivals! But yesterday during a discussion of scary movies Megan Abbott's dad - that's right, Megan Abbott's dad! - mentioned "the one where the woman turns into a wasp, what's it called?" And I said, "THE WASP WOMAN?" I happened to know the title because it's sitting there on the old dvr. Hey! Speaking of dads, my dad was a consultant on tomorrow's all-new episode of ADVENTURE TIME. The way I remember it, Pen had an idea called "Everybody Fixes a Car." He sent me a picture of a broken engine and I sent it to my dad - who has been taking apart and putting back together all kinds of engines for well over half a century - and the first thing my dad said was, "That's not a car engine. It's a truck engine." Well, now the episode is called "We Fixed a Truck," so already you can see my dad's influence. Let me explain that whatever my dad told me, I later told the people in the writing room, and then the people in the writing room may or may not have transmitted it in whole or in part to Cole Sanchez and Andy Ristaino, who were writing and storyboarding the episode. So don't blame my dad for any technical inaccuracy that may have slipped through: ALL GARBLING BEGAN WITH ME. I'm the worst! Anyway, Dr. Theresa and I took Megan's dad's comment as a sign and watched THE WASP WOMAN yesterday. It was satisfying! You know why? Because you think it will be about a woman who turns into a wasp and kills people... AND IT IS! (See accompanying illustration.) The imaginative and loony direction of Roger Corman helps too. As I am sure you will recall, Corman directed ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS, a highlight of our 2011 Halloween Film Festival. So of course we were invigorated and in the mood for another Corman movie. So we watched NOT OF THIS EARTH, the original one, not the 1988 remake, which I must confess I saw in the movie theatre. You see, my friend Ben and I had this elaborate ritual of going to see two movies every Monday (I think it was Monday, and I think it was Ben) and there were all these complicated rules about picking that I can no longer remember, but which I believe resulted in us going to see NOT OF THIS EARTH (the remake) and the Run DMC star vehicle/action movie TOUGHER THAN LEATHER on the same day, that was some day! But back to yesterday. A doctor walked in and I was like, "That's the guy with the pipe!" Yes, the doctor from NOT OF THIS EARTH was also in THE WASP WOMAN, and in THE WASP WOMAN he "let his pipe do most of the acting," as I believe I once said in an article about Dick Powell in THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. Another noteworthy pipe-based performance occurs in the Paul Anka voyeurism movie ("click" here for more details, ha ha! I know you won't). But you know the type of performance. A lot of actorly business with "lighting your pipe" every time you walk into a scene. The curiously sympathetic murderous aliens in NOT OF THIS EARTH dress like the Blues Brothers, as Dr. Theresa first observed - sunglasses, hats, and suits. And may I say that they are much more vampiric than the lead character in THE VAMPIRE? I am still holding a grudge about that. Our main alien keeps his refrigerator well stocked with blood, just like (if memory serves) the vampire in THE NIGHT STALKER from last year's festival. Say what you will about modern technology, it is a real life-saver for today's busy vampire on the go. (Here I should mention for the sake of completeness - ha ha! who cares? - that Dr. Theresa and I watched NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS after THE VAMPIRE. NIGHT OF DARK SHADOWS was directed by Dan Curtis, who did THE NIGHT STALKER and TRILOGY OF TERROR, so we had high hopes, and we were coming off of THE VAMPIRE, so we were ready to enjoy something for a change, but it was kind of a mess. It did nothing to inspire us to keep the Halloween Film Festival going! It felt like the last gasp. We were enervated by it! The theme song sounded like a swanky cocktail lounge with a tipsy piano player, like something from THE APARTMENT, with Fred MacMurray and Shirley MacLaine sitting in the dark back corner, and then the theme would be taken up by guitar and a wheezing, melancholy harmonica. The movie itself had weak strains of WUTHERING HEIGHTS and REBECCA... its most effective set was a creepy old slimy swimming pool with a gnarled tree branch lying in it; it kept promising something better and snatching it away... I guess the best thing it did was "introduce Kate Jackson.") Corman fave actor Dick Miller gets murdered by the main alien in NOT OF THIS EARTH. Miller's character was a door-to-door salesman who used beatnik lingo ("Crazy!"), which reminded me that Dean Moriarty in ON THE ROAD is a door-to-door salesman at a couple of points, and NOT OF THIS EARTH came out right after ON THE ROAD, and I don't know what I'm talking about. There's an idea in there somewhere.