Alan Smithee Podcast 63: Mars Attacks! (1996, Tim Burton) / Sleepy Hollow (1999, Tim Burton)

MP3 DOWNLOAD

iTUNES LINK

Tim Burton’s career has quietly turned 25 years old and probably still has a long life ahead. We at An Alan Smithee Podcast feel that Burton’s best years are long behind him, but his best work constitutes some of the best movies of these past 25 years…it’s just that they’re relegated to the first 10. Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure is probably among the few perfect comedy films ever made, and Pauline Kael was among the few critics of 1988 to declare Beetlejuice the comedy classic which it is. There were his epochal Batman films, the tender Ed Wood and the animated landmark The Nightmare Before Christmas. From the 80s through the 90s, who wasn’t a Tim Burton fan?

Lately Burton has repeated himself, mainly as a reliable hand for stylized remakes – his very name becoming shorthand for movies with a certain kind of heavy art direction. Lest we forget, he did start at Disney, a company whose attention to visual branding is second to few. The overall effect of Burton’s transformation into a brand could all be seen piecemeal in Edward Scissorhands: pastel suburban kitsch, monochromatic angular gothic, and Johnny Depp to bring in the women.

In Burton’s defense, his style has been imitated to the point of being a popular influence and has been practically institutionalized as a globally recognized “look.” The Nightmare Before Christmas merchandise sells all over the world across all cultural lines like Mickey Mouse…who happens to own Nightmare. More importantly, mainstream films are fantasy films and fantasy films are mainstream films. The emergence of the superhero movie genre apexed with the ponderous drivel of The Dark Knight and it’s nauseating critical salutations; a natural long-term result of the trails blazed by Burton’s Batman, which had no precedent to rely upon except the Superman series.

The heady thrills of Burton’s effects-driven films are as commonplace now as the original Star Wars movies. The graphic design he brought to them has also become de rigeur, to the point that the “Tim Burton” style has become shorthand for a certain kind of specific look. Burton has become a peddler of himself, and may as well add “Tim Burton’s” to the title of whatever modern remake he’s adding his trademark gloss onto.

On his own terms, there’s a distinct point at which thing went sour for Burton’s movies simply because he stopped taking artistic risks. In this episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast we pick apart the turning point. I think for a while we both blamed the critically derided hit remake Planet of the Apes, but that film wasn’t the beginning of the end. That would be 1999′s Sleepy Hollow. This was the first Burton remake, his first Johnny Depp for-no-reason vehicle and the first truly not-good Tim Burton movie.

Our good Tim Burton movie was therefore the last sign of life he ever showed, the great yet indifferently received Mars Attacks! from three years earlier. This is a film which deserves Pauline Kael’s “comedy classic” status and rediscovery by fans of Burton’s early, anarchic comedies like Beetlejuice and Pee-Wee. The anarchy would cease forever after Mars Attacks!, and a new Burton would emerge who is preoccupied with refashioning intellectual properties owned by AOL TimeWarner with diminishing creative returns. Listen to this episode to hear us try to figure out why. (Hint: The Internet)

With music by Danny Elfman…of course!

NEXT EPISODE: ALIEN (RIDLEY SCOTT, 1979) & ALIEN 2: ON EARTH (1980, CIRO IPPOLITO)

About these ads

Alan Smithee Podcast 59: Escape from New York (1981, John Carpenter) / 2019: After the Fall of New York (1983, Sergio Martino)

MP3 DOWNLOAD

iTUNES LINK

In the 20th Century people were big into the idea of the post-apocalypse created by nuclear war, instead of by realistic causes like zombies. The apocalypse, it was presumed, would happen after the Soviet Union and the United States laid waste to the world and civilization was wrecked. A few films were made along this premise in the 1970s, like A Boy and His Dog and Damnation Alley, yet none of these fantasies struck a chord in the public imagination until 1981 when George Miller directed his masterpiece The Road Warrior and rising auteur John Carpenter made Escape From New York. Carpenter’s conceptual masterstroke was combining what the new subgenre was getting at – that the future would be looking more like Lord of the Flies than The Jetsons or even Zardoz – with the assumption that New York City was so far gone to crime it may as well drop dead. Aside from Walter Hill’s The Warriors, no sci-fi / action / adventure films had explored the fantasy of New York as a lawless playground for gangs and Carpenter’s conception of Manhattan island as an inescapable prison colony captured the imagination of genre fans everywhere.

He also gave Kurt Russell a second career after years of Disney boy Bobby Driscoll roles, as Snake Plissken, a truly self centered and cynical antihero who perfectly matched the grim, bleak tone of his dystopic future adventure. Further rounding out the cast is possibly the best array of character actors ever assembled: Harry Dean Stanton, Adrienne Barbeau, Ernest Borgnine, Issac Hayes and Lee Van Cleef invest a sense of reality to the low budget landscape like no other cast ever has. As we discuss, this film truly shows off Carpenter’s auteurist skills at their peak from the synthesizer score to impeccable cinematography by his best collaborator Dean Cundey. Escape From New York is one of Carpenter’s greatest films and for the first time since our first episode we do our best to summarize its brilliance.

2019: After The Fall Of New York is by its title alone something of an admitted ripoff. What’s delightful and oft-stupefying is how many other science fiction genre ideas Ernesto Gastaldi, Sergio Martino and Gabriel Rossini decide to borrow when the premise of a Kurt Russell lookalike going into an abandoned Manhattan island to get someone out isn’t enough to sustain an entire movie without copying every single plot beat from Carpenter. Amongst these ideas are escape from Earth via spaceship, de-evolution of humans into ape-like creatures, infiltration of humanity by cybors, and a global infertility crisis threatening to wipe out humanity. This last idea may sound familiar to viewers and readers of Children of Men. 2019: After The Fall Of New York is a textbook case of Italian knockoff cinema complete with a totally overdubbed soundtrack and an exhilarating absence of narrative logic. Highly recommended to fans of Escape From New York and The Road Warrior who are also fans of every other sci-fi adventure ever made.

NEXT EPISODE: BREATHLESS SPECIAL! BREATHLESS (1960, JEAN-LUC GODARD) & BREATHLESS (1983, JIM MCBRIDE)

Alan Smithee Podcast 58: Airplane! (1980, Jim Abrahams & David Zucker & Jerry Zucker) / Airplane II: The Sequel (1982, Ken Finkleman)

MP3 DOWNLOAD
iTUNES LINK

Airplane! did not invent the parody genre, but ushered in a new era which lasted nearly 20 years before indbreeding with the “_____ Movie” series. Jeff Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Jerry Zucker – ZAZ to their fans – would reach their peak with the Naked Gun trilogy, starring Leslie Nielsen, and peppered the 80s with other genre spoofs while inspiring countless imitators. Airplane! was their first hiring of Nielsen, whom along with the rest of the supporting cast was not from a comedy background. Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves and Robert Stack all evidently were adroit at self-parody and ready in their careers to do it. Stack actually beat the rest of them to the punch the previous year with Spielberg’s 1941. Their commitment to straight faced silliness is the quantum leap from previously silly feature length film parodies, which were pretty few and far in between to begin with. Coupled with ZAZ’s rapid fire pace of jokes of all kinds ranging from tasteless shock gags to groanworthy wordplay, there’s something silly in Airplane! for everybody.

The film’s longevity is as epochal as our own culture’s inward decay. The genre context of the 1970s which Airplane! was based on is as distant to modern attitudes the 1950s thriller fodder ZAZ remembered the supporting cast from. Leslie Nielson is the focal point of the film by way of being referenced on The Office and An Alan Smithee Podcast’s least favorite film critic Roger Ebert’s deeming him “The Olivier of Spoofs” in his review of Jerry Zucker’s unfortunate Scary Movie 3. Obviously we are now in the decadent phase where all culture that could be parodied is a self-parody or ironically bad or copied on Family Guy and re-edited on Youtube. As George W.S. Trow wrote, after chronicling the unraveling of existing context, we will establish the context of no-context and chronicle that.

Airplane II: The Sequel is not an awful film, but the lack of immediate continuance in the sequel-heavy 80s is indicative of either higher standards for low comedy than we have in the wake of Scary Movie 4, or a lack of standards for the nascent subgenre of parodies and spoofs. ZAZ disowned the film, and have since done worse.

Besides being completely pointless, writer-director Ken Finkleman brings nothing new besides the ultimately irrelevant (but trendy) replacement of the airplane with a space shuttle bound through space for the moon. Science Fiction parody is gently brushed against once or twice and never again, probably since producer Howard W. Koch was already nervous that ZAZ abandoned him and didn’t want Finkleman to deviate too much from whatever it was worked the first time. Thus returning are Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty as the stars plus Bridges and Graves. The rest of the supporting cast is admirably chosen for their previously serious or at least mostly-serious careers, like Rip Torn and Chuck Conners, yet they’re underutilized or misused. William Shatner does catapult the movie into solid mediocrity by giving a then-rare comedic turn in the final act.

The returning cast is pressed on to repeat their jokes from the first film, as if Airplane II: The Sequel can be a parody of a parody. In this navel-gaving Finkleman might have been a bit ahead of his time. A few good jokes here and there, but with so many that’s to be expected. Airplane II: The Sequel is a waste of effort to watch, except for Shatner, and when that’s the best recommendation you know something stinks.

NEXT WEEK: ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK (1981, JOHN CARPENTER) & 2019: AFTER THE FALL OF NEW YORK (1983, ERNESTO GASTALDI)

Episode 56: An American Werewolf in London (1981, John Landis) / An American Werewolf in Paris (1997, Anthony Waller)

MP3 DOWNLOAD

iTUNES LINK

Which is the more forgotten, John Landis or An American Werewolf In London? Which was the more important? The latter, his masterwork sole feature foray into horror. If everyone has one good story in them, perhaps every comedian has one jarring scary story. Before the Twilight Zone: The Movie debacle killed the legitimacy of a career, Landis introduced comedic horror into from the fringes of exploitation into 1980s big budget Hollywoodland and set the precedent for films like Ghostbusters (scored by American Werewolf composer Elmer Bernstein.) Besides genre blending innovations, Rick Baker’s makeup special effects caused such a stir that the Oscars felt compelled to create a new award just to recognize them, right at the cusp of the decade’s special effects renaissance.

However ahead of their time all technical or comedic aims achieved were, they’d be moot if the rest of the film weren’t so meticulously empathic as the horror mounts. The story is deceptively simple in taking the audience along on the experience of being in denial about becoming a werewolf, transforming for the first time and coming to grips with the aftermath. The momentum builds up to and winds down from David Naughton’s first night of lycanthropy as the fulcrum of the movie and this is a brilliant idea.

Praised at the time for giving a passe genre a “contemporary” take – costar Griffin Dunne was cast from a national Dr Pepper campaign – An American Werewolf In London retains a dry laconic wit and sympathetic story that hasn’t aged a day. After a diminished legend in tandem with the industry’s near-abandonment of practical special effects in favor of CGI, this film deserves renewed esteem as a modern classic of the newly humorous and splattery direction mainstream horror films took off into afterward.

The splatter boom of Freddy and Jason was long over and recently deconstructed by Scream when the ill-advised sequel An American Werewolf In Paris was finally released in 1997. Unlike the similarly belated but goofy and genial Escape From LA, Paris involved none of the original cast or crew. The film is barely even be recognizable as a sequel except for the clumsy mis-reuse of Landis’ subplot about werewolf victims haunting people as undead corpses. In deference to diminished attention spans in the intervening 16 years, there are a lot of werewolves this time around. The only titular American werewolf, Tom Everett Scott, is an obnoxious bore compared to David Naughton. They transform constantly thanks to a special serum, and their transformations are CGI video game sequences of the totally cheap and gratuitous kind made possible by recent technology.

An American Werewolf In London has been slated for remake in 2011 through Dimension Films and penned by coincidentally British hack Fernley Phillips (an upperclass twit of the year name) whose only previous credit has been the Jim Carrey laughingstock The Number 23.

We assure you, we don’t find this in the least bit amusing.

NEXT EPISODE: KING FEATURES SYNDICATE SPECIAL! FLASH GORDON (1980, MIKE HODGES) & POPEYE (1980, ROBERT ALTMAN)

Episode 55: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974, Tobe Hooper) / The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1994, Kim Henkel) aka Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation (1997)

MP3 DOWNLOAD

iTUNES LINK

Some tales are told, then soon forgotten. But a legend…is forever.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been synonymous with the horror genre for almost 40 years now and there’s probably nothing new left to say about it, but that won’t stop An Alan Smithee Podcast from trying! Fortunately one of us brings a fresh pair of eyes to the spectacle, while the other has seen it more times than is healthy. If you’re a regular listener you can probably guess who’s who. This imbalance brings up many elementary points of discussion around the film which have been taken for granted so long that they’ve fallen into neglect: Hooper’s exquisite compositions, the subtle omission of any explicit gore, and the insidiously disturbing reappearance of a friendly character we didn’t yet know was part of Leatherface’s crazy family. Even the annoyances of Franklin, apparently everyone’s least favorite wheelchair–bound lamb to the slaughter, get debated as the podcast’s longstanding TCM fan defends the character’s relative whininess (given his circumstances) against the average moviegoer’s initial take on him. Finally, we’re just like Siskel and Ebert! Even if you’ve seen this film before – and you should – now you can vicariously experience the film’s famous shocks all over again through a TCM virgin’s first bloodletting.

After thoroughly chronicling the tumultuous history of Cannon Films and New Line Cinema’s attempts to turn Leatherface into the next Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees, we turn our attention to the most ill-begotten Chainsaw sequel of all.

The Return of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre was held on the shelf for three years before finally being shortened and released as Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation. The delay was due to stars Renee Zellweger and Matthew McConaughey hitting in big in the interim and their agents throwing a fit over what this movie could do to their careers. Easy as it is to hate those who would blacklist the horror genre itself, this movie really is wretched. The story is a sparse rehash of the original with nothing to add but lame attempts at over-the-top humor, mostly supplied by an unrestrained McConaughey whose face-biting antics would’ve been much more useful in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past or Fool’s Gold.

The only compelling idea Henkel introduces is an infamous last-act twist involving a left-field appearance by the Illuminati, favorite brand name conspiracy of international global domination conspiracy enthusiasts. The revelation of their secret involvement with the chainsaw clan at least explains the absence of continuity between sequels (each movie was some kind of separate Illuminati attempt at a hilarious prank.) We do our best to square Henkel’s intentions against the results, which may or may not have sucked on purpose. Can this documentary reveal the answer? Does it matter? Who will survive and what will be left of them?

NEXT EPISODE: AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF SPECIAL! AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON (1981, JOHN LANDIS) & AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN PARIS (1997, ANTHONY WALLER)

Episode 54: Please Teach Me English (2003, Sung-su Kim) / Zardoz (1974, John Boorman)

MP3 DOWNLOAD

iTUNES LINK

The book of Genesis, written and illustrated by Robert Crumb, tells of an enormous tower built by a united humanity following the Great Flood through which Noah floated his boat. And God said, “They are one people and have one language, and nothing will be withholden from them which they purpose to do. Come, let us go down and confound their speech.” The resulting divine wrecking ball on the tower of Babel scattered the languages of the Earth into those which confound us to this day: Spanish, Italiano, Farsi, L33t speak, Esperanto, English, Korean and Science Fiction. This episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast attempts to disseminate the latter three for normal talkin’ folks.

South Korean flicks discussed previously on the podcast (Conduct Zero, Asako in Ruby Shoes) tend to successfully juggle more than one genre of film within a broader category – a dash of action and/or drama to spice up comedy, or vice versa. This happens because S.K. filmmakers are apparently not too hung up on pigeonholing their film’s storytelling potential – which is unlimited, because it is film – based on marketing demographics. They trust their audiences to enjoy being pleasantly surprised and not explode when the movie they’re watching isn’t all tragedy or comedy, much like life.

Please Teach Me English is a comedy about Koreans taking ESL classes. In terms of filmmaking language, Sung-su Kim is already multilingual himself. Although the main character is a girl, this is not a “chick flick.” Although the crux of her story is a romance, this is not a “romantic comedy.” Although the film is very funny, there is drama, but don’t dare call it a “comedy-drama.” To be sure, this film speaks all those languages – enough to get by. The dialect however is unaffected by the lazy American slang we’re used to.

Zardoz is a tongue twister of a movie, and not just because the title requires an explanation. Everything does, from names to history to “second level meditation.” Science Fiction authors with grandiose ideas to depict have their work cut out for themselves translating concepts that must take place hundreds of years in the future to seem remotely possible. Sometimes the aesthetics of a piece are beyond technobabble or quasi-plausible scientific language though, like a giant floating stone head named Zardoz who pukes up guns. This is why dense sci-fi / fantasy novels like Dune are usually laughed out of theater before their lengthy pre-credits exposition prologues are even finished.

John Boorman followed his commercial and critical smash hit Deliverance with this satirical dystopic adventure of his own devising and although as a director his command of visual language is impeccable, he just didn’t seem to understand how to translate his ideas as anything but terminally silly. Every film of this type has a good share of made-up vocabulary and terminology, but when every other scene introduces more and more there’s just an information overload. Deciphering the code of Zardoz is an especially difficult study and we do stay a little late after class to crack it.

An Alan Smithee Podcast will slowly talk you through the trickier phrases of post-Planet of the Apes, pre-Star Wars sci-fi after a delightful bilingual flirtation.

NEXT EPISODE: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE SPECIAL! THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974, TOBE HOOPER) & THE RETURN OF THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE aka TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE NEXT GENERATION (1994, KIM HENKEL)

Episode 53: Sweet Bird of Youth (1962, Richard Brooks) / Bats (1999, Louis Morneau)

iTUNES LINK

MP3 DOWNLOAD

The dichotomy between our two movies in this episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast is as simple as the difference between bats and birds. Both are examples in their own right of movies done by the numbers according to formula. The raw materials at hand make all the difference.

Tennessee Williams adaptations were something of a cottage industry for Hollywood after Marlon Brando’s breakout role in A Streetcar Named Desire, such as Baby Doll (1956), Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (1958) also directed by Brooks, and Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). Sweet Bird of Youth came at the tailend of that cycle, just before ending with Night of the Iguana (1964) as the last popular Williams film adaptation for many years. Brooks made a perfectly serviceable drama here, thanks to the talent at hand. A couple years prior, Williams himself had somewhat written the play for Broadway with his own recent fame in mind, and one feels his security in the recurring elements he knows he does well: Southern gentility, alcohol and drug fueled madness, patriarchy, and as the title implies, faded youth. Sweet Bird is also about the fear of lost fame, beginning and ending with Paul Newman and Geraldine Page reprising their stage roles as a deliriously addled movie star panicked that she’s growing old – and Newman, her pool boy / valet / boy toy. They’ve holed up at a hotel in Newman’s old Flordia hometown, to settle unfinished business with old girlfriend Shirley Knight, her political boss father Ed Begley and an unrecognizably young Rip Torn as Begley’s right hand nephew. Brooks’ direction is flat, but with the acting talent and author at hand it doesn’t matter. While Sweet Bird didn’t set the world on fire, they made a truly enjoyable movie practically on autopilot and that’s commendable.

Bats came out eleven years ago today. Like Sweet Bird, this film also has self-assurance written all over itself, except that they’re all calculated around the soft bigotry of low expectations. Is there an elegance to the simplicity on display? The Williams movie was about the tragedy of youthful beauty being not long for one’s posession, like a bird disappearing to the wind. Bats is about bats. Would you be surprised to learn that the titular bats were altered by science? That there’s a sheriff played by Lou Diamond Phillips? That the lead beautiful Chiropterologist Dina Meyer has a wisecracking black sidekick played by a rapper with one word in his name? That this film was released a week before Halloween?

Bats was destined for calculated success. It may have only made 10 million worldwide on a 6 million budget, but the popularity evidently endured long enough for the 2007 direct to television sequel, Bats: Human Harvest.

Listen on to discover the connection between Bats and Scream 2 (hint: hold your computer screen up to a mirror) among other sweet bits of trivia about these movie-by-numbers kits.

NEXT EPISODE: PLEASE TEACH ME ENGLISH (2003, SUNG-SU KIM) & ZARDOZ (1974, JOHN BOORMAN)

Episode 52: Far Cry (2008, Uwe Boll) / Conduct Zero (2002, Geun-shik Jo)

MP3 DOWNLOAD

iTUNES LINK

This week on An Alan Smithee Podcast we follow the exploits of two tuff furriners taking on the very very odds. Our wonderful global village produces many multicultured approaches to encroaching perils. In South Korea, where coming-of-age dramas are just as dangerously wacky as ghost stories, a tuff man will alternate between buffoonish badassery and doe-eyed sensitivity to accommodate the hodgepodge of genres at play in the typical SK flick. The stoic German, on the other hand, accepts an escalating hodgepodge with laconic forthrightness – even or perhaps especially when the tones attempting to be juggling by the filmmaker keeps dropping to the floor.

Conduct Zero, aka Zero In Conduct and No Manners is almost maddeningly typical of South Korean movies: it incorporates different moods within a single category, in this case a high school comedy-drama, and does so deftly. As the trailer helpfully explains, this is an “Ultra Spectacle Sup Cap-jjung Romance Comic Action Drama” type picture. Charmingly roguish Seung-beom Ryu is Jung-pil, the worst behaved delinquent at Moonduk High. Life turns upside down when he falls for a goody two shoes named Min-hee and has to romance her while retaining his bad boy image to the rest of the school. Befitting the fact that this is also an unannounced 1980s period piece, Jung-pil seeks the help of a nerd to get closer to his geeky girl. Unlike your average teen movie though, writer-director Geun-shik Jo is almost as interested in the peripheral characters of this drama as his protagonist and a little sympathetic to almost everyone, even Na-young, the girl gang leader equivalent to Jung-pil who targets Min-hee out of jealousy for Jung-pil’s attention. Empathic humanity combined with digitally enhanced slapstick direction makes Zero In Conduct a perfect example of why South Korean movies are so uniquely well made and accessible to American audiences.

Far Cry is technically several kinds of bad movie, the action-syfy channel-horror timekiller, yet this hybrid has been around so long it’s practically one genre. There only annotation required to explain why it caught our attention over all the others is that the director is Uwe Boll, king of German tax sheltered crap video game tie-ins. While we hate to admit the guy has become somewhat a more competent director since 2003′s House of the Dead – if not of actors then of middling action scenes – his resident screenwriting team of Michael Roesch (Alone In The Dark,) Peter Scheerer (Alone In The Dark) and Masaji Takei (Bloodrayne II: Deliverance, as featured previously on An Alan Smithee Podcast) definitely haven’t evolved in the least. The dialogue and unbalanced interspersing of comic relief with the genetic super-soldier carnage seems more a ploy to keep their boss from getting bored while making his own movie than creating an emotional rollercoaster ride. Lead teutonic tuffman Til Schweiger – recently featured in Inglourious Basterds as another German, Hugo Stiglitz – fares a lot better with the comedy than the action, and faring well in any regard under the auspice of Uwe is no small feat.

Prefacing this episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast is a special spirited wrap-up on the subject of Piranha 3D, a film heavily theorized about in our previous Piranha themed episode and our look at the James Cameron 1981 sequel. What happens when two fans of the original don’t see eye to eye on the new version? Who will survive and what will be left of them?

NEXT EPISODE: SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH (1962, RICHARD BROOKS) & BATS (1999, LOUIS MORNEAU)

Episode 51: Piranha (1978, Joe Dante) & Piranha (1995, Scott P. Levy)

iTUNES LINK

MP3 DOWNLOAD

Horror franchises and would-be franchises evolve and devolve in the most unpredictable directions. The Piranha series is an illustrious and obscure one, as we began talking about in our look at Piranha II: The Spawning. In this episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast we complete our preparations for Piranha 3D, the biggest 3D horror event since the last one, with praise for the 1978 Roger Corman-produced original Piranha and abhorrence for the little seen 1995 Showtime channel remake also produced by Corman.

In 1978 Joe Dante got to direct his first film for Roger Corman after working for him as a trailer editor. Piranha announced to the world Dante’s expertise at monster movie nostalgia, a filmmaking role he was destined to practice throughout the special effects driven regressive childhood of the 80s. Alan Smithee has discussed his unjustly ignored monster and boyhood nostalgia throwback Matinee (1993). One of the few filmmakers taken under the wing of Steven Spielberg – that kindlier, cornier purveyor of boomer childhood and other people’s adulthoods – Dante must have known there’s no better way to get his attention than making a smarter and funnier competitor to that year’s Jaws 2.

Death Race 2000 or Rock ‘N’ Roll High School might have been the trash masterpiece that marked the peak of Corman’s second renaissance after the days of Vincent Price, but Piranha gave movie fans a warmup for Dante’s future stories of monster movie tropes intruding on the TV version of reality.

One of Piranha‘s secret weapons was the first genre screenplay of Johny Sayles, who’d go on to become one of the most respected independent filmmakers in America. In 1995, Corman was selling off his assets and remaking old titles for as little money and thought as possible, including the liberal recycling of the old scripts themselves. Piranha ’95 is a photocopy of the original crumbing away on cheap, brittle paper. The piranha themselves are mostly recycled as well, footage from the original film. This movie is almost guaranteed to disappoint fans of the original even more than Piranha II: The Spawning.

Piranha 3D has the good luck charm to be the third reputable follow up to the continuing adventures of good old Project Razorteeth. The cast indicates an appreciation of the original’s b movie eclecticism: Ving Rhames, Elizabeth Shue, a long lost Christopher Lloyd and Richard Dreyfuss in a Jaws spoofing cameo. Director Alex Aja knows how to pile on the grist they way they did 20 years ago. Incidentally, Dante has a 3D family friendly horror film called The Hole coming out later, so all three may now join that exclusive club inhabited by Dante and James Cameron called “What the heck do we have in common? Oh yes, piranhas and 3D.”

NEXT EPISODE: CONDUCT ZERO (2002, JO GEUN-SK) & FAR CRY (2008, UWE BOLL)

Episode 50: Death Of A Gunfighter (1969, Allen Smithee) & The Birds II: Land’s End (1994, Alan Smithee)

MP3 DOWNLOAD

iTUNES LINK

Why is this Alan Smithee Podcast special different from all other Alan Smithee Podcast specials? Simple! You can only have one 50th episode special, and brother, this is it!

Although the one good movie / one bad movie / one hour format has only been in effect for 37 of our 50 episodes, that’s still 74 good movies and bad ones discussed, minus a few good ones from special episodes like our Robocop or Darkman trilogy retrospectives. To start the festivities we each take a look back at our top 5 favorites and least favorites. As most of our good movies were recommendations from one host to the other, each top 5 list is completely unique from the other. Amongst our bottom 5, there is one film so awful it cracked both lists – so listen to discover what’s agreed upon as the worst movie ever chosen for An Alan Smithee Podcast. (Hint: the director’s name rhymes with “Heaven Myth.”)

The oeuvre of Alan Smithee is a strange one: frequently awful, usually obscure and semi-occasionally brilliant. As a fictional creation himself with many authors standing behind him, this puts him in a category unique to any other amongst the rare pseudonyms in film history. Smithee has lent his name to talent as diverse as Stuart Rosenberg, Kevin Yagher, Sam Raimi and David Lynch, and not once were they proud about forfeiting their own names. Alan Smithee’s career with the DGA ended in 1997 when a man who’d never disown anything, Joe Eszterhas, thought it would be funny to write a comedy about a director named Alan Smithee who goes on a rampage when Hollywood won’t allow him to use his own name.

Alan Smithee’s first credit, the 1969 western Death Of A Gunfighter, is An Alan Smithee Podcast’s first western and probably the best film ever branded with what would later be the infamous moniker. Richard Widmark plays an aging sheriff marked for early retirement by the crooked town council, and by any means necessary. Lena Horne, John Saxon and Carroll O’Connor round out a great supporting cast. Particularly O’Connor, whose character devolves from bemused onlooker to manipulative opportunist to back stabbing murderer by the end of the story. Originally helmed by Robert Totten, a TV western director, the film got reassigned to the great Don Siegel when Totten and Widmark began feuding and delaying production. Siegel refused credit and in compromise, Mr. Alan Smithee was born. Little did anyone know they were creating a monster.

Rick Rosenthal already has a history with An Alan Smithee Podcast, being the director of the first film for which we recorded a commentary track, Halloween II. Not content directing the sequel to one classic horror film, Rosenthal returned to the world of thankless, unnecessary tasks by directing 1994′s The Birds II: Land’s End, which makes Halloween II look like The Birds. His decision to rescind credit is curious: the movie is absolutely awful, but was he planning on ducking responsibility if he took the job just for the work? Did he think it was going to turn out better than it did? Certainly the name Alan Smithee was known amongst genre fans by the time David Lynch wanted his name off the extended TV cut of Dune. In any case, movies like The Birds II are the type of film for which the pseudonym was not made, but destined.

NEXT EPISODE: PIRANHA SPECIAL! PIRANHA (1978, JOE DANTE) & PIRANHA (1995, SCOTT P. LEVY)