Alan Smithee Podcast 98: Manhunter (1986) / Red Dragon (2002)

Can’t wait for the True Detective season finale? Listen to us re-solve the long-closed case of The Tooth Fairy killer, twice!

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Alan Smithee Podcast 80: Halloween, the extended TV cut (1978, John Carpenter) / The Day After Halloween aka Snapshot (1979, Simon Wincer)

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It’s time, it’s time. Put on your masks and watch…watch. Two days after Halloween, Halloween, the last thing you’d want to do is watch Halloween. An ubiquitous classic, but your reserves have run out for critical analyses of John Carpenter’s horror classic because Rob Zombie so thoroughly sullied the original idea with modern vulgarity and took all the magic away by making Myers a troubled, bullied youth.

You may think those scare us, you’re probably right. Remakes and Zombie on Halloween night? Nah, An Alan Smithee Podcast has waited until the day after Halloween to watch Halloween and an unrelated film (unrelated except by sheer force of a duped viewer’s internal justifications): The Day After Halloween, which was not filmed under that title and has gone by several others. The video distributors knew this Australian turkey (both the Aussie and Golden Turkey sense) called Snapshot wouldn’t sell rentals unless the invisible hand of the market picked you up off a shelf of virtually indistinguishable Halloween ripoffs. Being Australian, they gambled that they’d get away with sticking Halloween in the title and 30 years later, it’s the only reason anyone’s talking about it. So who’s really laughing last?

IMDB being IMDB, they’ve listed the film by its least well known alternate title, One More Minute, just as they’ve reduced the incredibly good Deliverance imitation Rituals to its most exploitative namesake, The Creeper.

To mix things up, the version of Halloween that we’re viewing has a few extra scenes added for television, gently playing with the rhythm of the acts without adding any blatant connections to Halloween II, thankfully. The only element in the mix of Snapshot of interest is the presence of Vincent Gil, the ill-fated Nightrider from Mad Max – the screechy rocker, roller and out-of-controller who gets blow’d up real good in the opening chase scene. Here, he plays a gay fashion photographer who doesn’t raise his voice even once. What a disappointment. There’s another connection the film has to Mad Max (small country, huh?) but you’ll have to listen to the episode to find out.

The larger problem with The Day After Halloween is that Snapshot is only remotely a suspense or a “thriller” film, let alone a slasher flick.

Enjoy this episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast as we squeeze out the last few precious drops of Halloween cheer from an already rotting pumpkin.

NEXT EPISODE: FLETCH (1985, MICHAEL RITCHIE) & FLETCH LIVES (1989, MICHAEL RITCHIE)

Episode 43: Dead Man (1995, Jim Jarmusch) / The Net (1995, Irwin Winkler)

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Do actors still matter? The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would have you believe so. Sandra Bullock’s recent Academy Award for Best Acress is essentially a recognition of lifetime achievement in mediocrity. Ever since Speed (1994, Jan De Bont) Bullock has been filing the quota for inoffensive white women in uninspired product, from thrillers with politically correct gimmicks or sermons about race to “chick flicks” to inspirational dramas like the fim for which she was nominally commended. The actual commendation is for being a reliably undistinguished cipher with name recognition, a pretty face with just enough acting ability to be blandly adequate in blandly adequate entertainment.

The Net was Sandra Bullock’s first actiony-thriller after Speed. As usual, she acquits herself, and is something of a perfect match for director Irwin Winkler who shoots every scene as predictably as possible. Even his attempts at stylish flourish – like crane shots – seems to come out of a manual. The biggest disappointment of the film from modern ironic hindsight is the relative lack of amusing Hollywood ignorance regarding computers. Gross exaggerations of the personal computer’s abilities have been a grand tradition at least since Matthew Broderick hacked into the Pentagon to play nuclear war games against a sentient program on his IMSAI 8080. As the title implies, The Net was at the forefront of extending that ignorance to the era of AOL. Unfortunately 1995’s Hackers was the camp champion of absurdity while The Net merely uses computers and their techspeak as a springboard to get Bullock running from terrorists who want to kill her. They’ve deleted (look it up) her identity from government records, you see, and now her identity has been stolen a good ten years before online identity theft became a cultural meme and burgeoning e-surance industry.

Exceptionally convoluted and wasteful of its few genuine assets (why bring Dennis Miller in as comic relief and then not-so-comically kill him?) The Net is at almost two hours a needlessly long and cumbersome bore which in the grand scheme of things existed only to move Miss Bullock’s career to its next destination. To her credit, she obviously knew how to pick ‘em.

Johnny Depp probably couldn’t be any more different in his chosen career path than Sandra Bullock. Tim Burton’s favoritism toward him in the last decade has drawn some deserved ire lately, and while he has shown an unhealthy predilection to playing foppish or pasty faced dandies, there is something admirable in his refusal early in his career to coast by on good looks as an interchangeable leading man in forgettable romantic comedies and action-thrillers. Were but all talented actors so adventurous! The same years that Bullock was working with Winkler, Depp accepted the lead in yet another black and white movie (having just played another pale fop for Burton in Ed Wood) in the Jim Jarmusch directed Western, Dead Man.

The greatness of Dead Man does not hinge on Depp as the nucleus, which is more or less the point of his praiseworthiness as an actor: he’d rather be in a good movie than be expected to carry a bad or mediocre movie and make it bearable. As with Jarmusch’s other films, Dead Man actually has a constantly engaging array of talented actors in roles as short as one scene, including among others Crispin Glover, Alfred Molina, Lance Henrickson, Robert Mitchum, and John Hurt. Among many brilliant features discussed in this episode, Jarmusch brings to this film the same poetic, naturalist take on an established and mythical genre that he would to crime films with Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai four years later.

Years from now, or maybe today, this film will most likely be reassessed as a “Johnny Depp movie” given that he is today the most celebrated famous person of the production and like so many of his other willfully eccentric roles, he wears fanciful costume and makeup throughout to distract from his movie star handsomeness.

By contrast, Sandra Bullock plays a “hacker” whose shut-in lifestyle is an integral detail of that film’s stolen-identity plot, yet has a trim enough waistline and healthy enough skin to go sunbathing in a bikini. So, who “deserves” an Oscar?

NEXT WEEK: WATCHMEN: THE ULTIMATE CUT (2009, ZACK SNYDER)

Episode 30: Slap Shot (1977, George Roy Hill) / Cruising (1980, William Friedkin)

This week on An Alan Smithee Podcast, we apparently continue our Queer Film Studies program with the most notorious and most quickly forgotten Hollywood movie ever made about gay men, and a not-very-gay movie which nonetheless contains jokes about homophobia and lesbians decades before it was fashionable.

The cult classic Slap Shot has essentially endured solely by word of mouth amongst Hockey fans since 1977. We’re now at the point where most people have at least heard of it, as evidenced by the recent straight-to-bargain-dvd-bin releases of Slap Shot 2: Breaking The Ice starring Stephen Baldwin, and Slap Shot 3: The Junior League starring a bunch of adorable urchins and Leslie Nielsen, getting in some last minute slumming before death. Both these follow ups feature the original film’s most indelibly iconic characters, the lovably dumb and merciless Hanson brothers, still doing their quasi-retarded shtick well into their 40s.

All comedy fans owe it to themselves to check this one out, besides the Hansons there’s the brilliant script (written by a chick, no less), the genial Paul Newman under direction from George Roy Hill of previous work like Butch Cassidy, the prerequisite various goony team members, and for Twin Peaks fans a stirring performance by young Sheriff Truman himself, Michael Ontkean. Oh, and the lesbianism.

Then, we delve into the seedy underbelly of New York gay bars circa 1979 for a serial killer thriller that no one asked for, no one watched, and few will ever defend. William Friedkin must have considered himself quite the progressive for setting what would otherwise be a competently directed potboiler in a subculture whose mainstream counterparts in male homosexual America were barely gaining acceptance on The Match Game and Hollywood Squares. There’s also a really cheap and stupid ending which completely contradicts the film’s mealy opening disclaimer:

This film is not intended as an indictment of the homosexual world. It is set in one small segment of that world, which is not meant to be representative of the whole.

Besides protesting too much-eth, this warning actually tricks one into thinking William Friedkin had something to say about what the newly legal, pre-AIDS gay bar scene meant about the condition of homosexuality in our society. No, he seems to have simply thought gay bars to be the perfect setting for an undercover police thriller. This exploitative approach might have been forgivable had Friedkin embraced it, but the feigned compassion and stupid twist ending make Cruising probably the most off-handedly homophobic movie ever. Pacino has never looked more like Eric Bogosian.

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NEXT WEEK: BARTON FINK (1991, JOEL & ETHAN COEN) & COPS & ROBBERSONS (1994, MICHAEL RITCHIE)

Episode 24: Hour Of The Wolf (1968, Ingmar Bergman) / Caligula (1979, Tinto Brass)

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This week in An Alan Smithee Podcast we get dreary and dreamy as Ingmar Bergman makes a horror movie. Hour Of The Wolf is full of creeptastic images and nightmare logic without ever being jump-out-at-you scary…A better film about going crazy than a true shocker.

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Oddly, Hour Of The Wolf barely features the “hour of the wolf”! You know, the time between four and five AM when that term paper is due and you’re contemplating suicide in the darkest time of your soul before the next day breaks? What a gyp! Oh well, still a cool movie with many clear influences upon David Lynch and other mindfuck auteurs.

Speaking of fucking, this week’s bad movie Caligula featured hardcore pornography and that’s not even one of it’s good points. According to legend, Gore Vidal willingly sold his epic historical biopic script of Rome’s infamously crazy fourth Caesar to Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione with full knowledge that he’d include actual fucking. What was he thinking? Did he really expect some kind of real movie to result?

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What we have instead is the germ of a good idea buried under ten tons of incoherent editing (including the awkwardly gratuitous sex) from Guccione and subpar direction from famous Italian titty director Tinto Brass (“Salon Kitty”). On the other hand, Malcolm McDowell is crazy as he ever was and almost makes the experience worthwhile. Also starring Peter O’Toole, Helen Mirren, John Gielgud and other English actors whose careers inexplicably survived this boondoggle.

While once as synonymous with notorious bombs as Battlefield Earth, people have forgotten about Caligula in recent years and just how bad it really was. We haven’t.

Also, check out this all-star parody trailer for a Caligula remake, the casting of which is partly ignorantly foreseen in our episode:

NEXT WEEK: BLUE COLLAR (1979, PAUL SCHRADER) & THE HAND (1981, OLIVER STONE)