Sunday, December 08, 2013

Tropical Piano Tuner

I am going to tell you the ending of a movie. Sometimes I have to! So if you do not enjoy spoilers, please stop reading here. (Ha ha, you never started. You don't exist! That remains my theory.) We watched a John Wayne movie last night. It also starred a man to whom Dr. Theresa referred throughout as "Mr. Sexy" (pictured). A poor man's Errol Flynn if you ask me! No, not even that: a poor man's Tyrone Power. (Later in this "post" I will realize he was Gig Young.) The movie was called WAKE OF THE RED WITCH and John Wayne fights a giant octopus, something you hardly ever see him do, as I remarked at the time. He gets away from the giant rubber octopus just fine, as we know he will, because it's a flashback. But later he gets tangled up in some more underwater shenanigans and he doesn't make it. He dies. AND THE MOVIE ENDS WITH JOHN WAYNE SAILING A BOAT TO HEAVEN. He's with the love of his life, who is also dead. Yes, this is a John Wayne movie with a pinch of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. I think that's how the old movie of WUTHERING HEIGHTS ended, "happily," with Heathcliff and Cathy sort of reunited as half-dissolved ghosts holding hands and all smiles unless I am making that up. Am I making that up? I don't know. When we turned off the dvd, a P!nk concert was starting on the television. I think it was starting. There was an air of prelude. You remember P!nk. That's how she spells her name! And here is one of the two INCREDIBLE COINCIDENCES of the night: as a pale clown (?) descended - a real Pierrot Lunaire type - (or was he a rascally, grimacing angel?) over a darkened stage, a piano tinkled: the VERY SAME MELODY (I think; Chopin, I think) that John Wayne's dead girlfriend played on the night they met in WAKE OF THE RED WITCH! (And here I include a parenthetical digression. One New Year's Eve I got lost in the woods. At first I found it amusing, but as it began to get dark and cold I started to think, oh, gee, this could be how I die, hmm, help, help. Later, after I was reunited with the rest of the gang, back at the cabin [police had been called!], we watched Dick Clark's Rockin' New Year's Eve. This was the year that P!nk had the big hit about getting "the party started," and she came out and sang it, and I danced, friends, oh how I danced, I danced because I had not frozen to death in the woods.) Oh yes, I forgot to tell you that there is a piano in the house on the tropical island where John Wayne and Mr. Sexy are stranded. There always is! Ha ha, "always." But two examples leap right to the top of my head: THE ISLAND OF DR. MOREAU (Brando version) and THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME. In movies with a tropical island, there is always a mysterious white man already living there, and he always has a piano, representing, I suppose, Western "culture"? As if to underscore the point, John Wayne retires to a balcony and the piano is drowned out by the distant drums of the islanders, get it? Think how hard it must be to keep your piano tuned on an uncharted tropical island, what with all the humidity and the scarcity (I assume) of professional piano-tuners. Maybe I'll write a movie about a Jerry Lewis type who travels from island to island, tuning the pianos of the various isolated madmen. But wait! There is another coincidence! Oh, about three hours later I happened to "channel surf" past TCM, where I saw a man engaged in a battle with a giant red rubber octopus! (It is occurring to me that in both cases the animal was probably a squid, as great billowing quantities of ink were expelled at each of our heroes, but the difference between an octopus and a squid is one of the many things I don't care about.) They dragged this guy to the surface and removed his cumbersome diving helmet and he was Ray Milland, not John Wayne. BUT WHEN I CHECKED THE CAPSULE DESCRIPTION OF THE MOVIE, IT TURNED OUT TO CO-STAR JOHN WAYNE. In other words, friends, after remarking upon the very unlikeliness of it EVER happening, I saw TWO man vs. octopus battles in two separate John Wayne movies last night. The "post" should end here. So, I detected a tang of desperation in the DHARMA & GREG reruns I watched at 3 AM when I couldn't sleep. First of all, they had comically stoic dogs. It felt like an executive decision, like, "People love Frasier, and Frasier has a dog! We'll get TWO dogs and people will love us twice as much as Frasier!" Only maybe the impulse was unconscious, like what they actually said aloud and forced themselves to believe was, "This will be a wry, knowing commentary on Frasier." I found "Greg's" performance in the opening credit sequence very upsetting. His expressions range from bemused to pained. Now, he is SUPPOSED to be bemused at first, when Dharma blows bubbles in his face, signaling the arrival of her free spirit into his uptight life. But even when he is picking her up and twirling her with what it surely meant to represent "a rhapsody of intoxicated glee," he displays an unfortunate look, as if asking his Creator, "WHY? WHY AM I HERE? AFTER ALL MY TRAINING IS THIS WHAT IS TO BECOME OF ME?" (See also.) Wait! Mr. Sexy was Gig Young. I didn't recognize him the whole time. ("I meant it ironically," claimed Dr. Theresa this morning.) Looking for illustrations for this "post," I was reminded of something else I meant to tell you about in WAKE OF THE RED WITCH: John Wayne literally gets crucified. "The Passion of the Duke," said Dr. Theresa, remarkably blasé at this surprising turn of events. So, yes, I just want to remind you before I go: John Wayne grappled with an octopus and got crucified in the same movie and nobody cared.