Alan Smithee Podcast 93: Beware! The Blob (1972, Larry Hagman) / The Blob (1988, Chuck Russell)

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In this episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast we discuss the witless camp of “Beware! The Blob” – the 1972 follow-up to the original monster movie classic with a surprisingly catchy theme song and galaxy of stars improvising their way through a sitcom version of the original story. Plus, Dean Cundey puts blob goop on a kitten’s cute little paws.

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Then, it’s back the the future of Blob technology with the 1988 version, featuring AMAZING special effects but nothing else to recommend it – unless you’re a Del Close completist, in which case you’ll actually need to see both blobs. Be an upright citizen and enjoy!

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Alan Smithee Podcast 84: Invaders from Mars (1953, William Cameron Menzies) / Invaders from Mars (1986, Tobe Hooper)

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The ides of March are upon An Alan Smithee Podcast this month and we’ve got the madness! March is also, of course, the month of Mars, the Roman god of war who namesake is shared with our neighbor, the fourth rock the sun. This gives us a great excuse to pick from about a hundred movies set in, on or near Mars and do it twice. Check back in two weeks – the ides of March, the 15th – for another pair of Mars movies!

Our first pair of the month is a twofold evocation illustrating a generation of children’s terror regarding visits from the outside in shorthand as Martians. Ray Bradbury this twice-told tale is not. If the movies have taught us anything, it’s that any potential inhabitants of Mars wants to kill us.

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Invaders From Mars (1953, William Cameron Menzies) is a real modern American folk legend, one of the earliest and craziest films about alien visitors as soulless conquering spies and murderers, all wrapped up in the hallucinatory imagination of terrified innocent. 1953 was also the year of The War of the Worlds and the images contained in these films would define the alien invader genre forever. Surreal, gripping and discreetly goofy in a low-budget way every so often.

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After influencing a generation of genre filmmakers, the Invaders returned in Tobe Hooper’s 1986 remake of Invaders From Mars. Despite an eclectic, effective cast, slick direction and a wittily sardonic screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Don Jakoby it failed to find its audience. We, the martian ambassadors at Alan Smithee Podcast are only too glad to sing its neglected praises.

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BEWARE THE IDES OF MARCH: MISSION TO MARS (2000, BRIAN DE PALMA) & RED PLANET (2000, ANTONY HOFFMAN)

Alan Smithee Podcast 76: I Married a Witch (1942, René Clair) / Bewitched (2005, Nora Ephron)

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Regular listeners of An Alan Smithee Podcast know that we’re pretty shameless when it comes to being topical. When your movie podcast is basically about whatever the hell movies you feel like talking about, you have to be a little topically trendy to catch new listeners. However, don’t assume that this episode’s choice of Nora Ephron’s worst movie (probably) was chosen to dishonor her memory. This is mere coincidence and frankly, we do a fine enough job dishonoring her memory with ad hominem insults (mostly mine, Andrew has class) when we were under the assumption she’d live at least another week or so.

In deference towards Ephron’s M.O. – after the fact – let’s say this episode is sort of about feminism, vis-a-vis the short niche history of romantic farces about women with magic powers and the zany predicaments they put their men into. On stage and screen the concept doesn’t date back much further than Noël Coward’s play Blithe Spirit, in which a séance brings back the ghost of a man’s nagging wife. This play was only produced a year before the 1942 film I Married A Witch, surely one of the most famous romantic comedy fantasies that people know by name without having watched. As a key work in her career’s meteoric rise and fall, Veronica Lake plays heavily into that as the titular witch. In the long run, the film begat Bell, Book and Candle (1958), with Kim Novak as another romantic trickster witch, which then begat the TV series Bewtiched in 1964.

I Married A Witch is a devious, playful and tart treat. Veronica Lake is not an innocent sugar cookie like Elizabeth Montgomery, initially intending to torment rather than marry the hapless Fredric March until literally falling in love with him by accident. The story and dialogue are as brisk and witty as any great screwball classic from Hollywood’s golden age and director Clair, who began in the silent era, devises a good deal of photographic tricks and practical effects to bring the magical elements to life. The battle of the sexes at play here carries a lot more weight than the Grant-Hepburn variety, as essentially March’s soul is on the line. Only March’s bitchy fiancé Susan Hayward makes Lake look likable by comparison, which doesn’t exactly present the ideal picture of womanhood between the two of them. They are both STRONG women, however, which is less than can be said for the women in the bad movie of this episode…

Bewitched is, without hyperbole, a failure on every conceivable level. Worse, one wonders what dramatic or comedic purposes Nora Ephron and her co-writer sister Delia Ephron even had in mind. A Marxist critic in 1942 would probably hate our being asked to identify with an opportunistic politician of family money and connections; Frederic March is running for governor and that’s not exactly necessary for the story of his love triangle between a cold fish and a Satanic nymph. However, only a commoner with no ability for class critique whatsoever could stomach, let alone enjoy the sucking vortex of insulated world views that comprise the scenario of Bewitched 2005. Forget for a moment that literally not a single character in this film is not rich, famous or endowed with magical powers. Could the meta-story of a Bewitched movie being about the remaking of the Bewitched TV show possibly be any more unnecessarily convoluted? Exactly what aspect of this plot could anyone possibly relate to?

Here’s the only corpse kicking that needs to be done: Nora and Delia Ephron wrote a story in which the unlimited powers of witch Nicole Kidman and her warlock father Michael Caine are unconsciously represent the privileged life they grew up in. Mister and Mrs. Ephron were East Coast professional screenwriters who moved lil’ Nora and Delia (those NAMES, good gravy!) to Beverly Hills as small children, where they proceeded to graduate from Beverly Hills High School. Afterwards, Nora fled back across flyover country to one of the most snobby elitist schools in America, Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She then interned at the JFK White House, presumably performing executive maintenance functions alongside Mimi Beardsley. After starting her career as an essayist, she married Carl Bernstein and divorced him before finally following in mom and dad’s footsteps as a screenwriter. She then defined the modern brainless-in-Seattle rom-com chick-flick with When Harry Met Sally and, yes, Sleepless In Seattle. Phillip Wylie, Robert Crumb and Rush Limbaugh combined couldn’t conceive a more exaggerated parody of a liberal feminist Jewess than this woman’s life.

In Bewitched, Nicole Kidman wants the execrable Will Ferrell to love her LITERALLY because he’s a “helpless” dope and as a super-powered witch dabbling in civilian life, any helpless dope will do – even if he’s a movie star. After using her magic powers to conjure a home worth millions in Los Angeles, she resolves not to use her powers to make Ferrell fall in love with her, except she changes her mind about that, twice. Ferrell and his Hollywood ilk in this film are vulgar Hollywood stereotypes, not like those sophisticated and literate New Yorkers who agree to write the scripts for meta-remakes of 1960s sitcoms. So far as Ephron’s feminist street cred, Kidman’s utter lack of personality whatsoever should posthumously wipe the record clean. She’s merely a cipher for Ferrell, whom Ephron presumably had more interest in working with. Arguably the show itself was similarly constructed – with Dick Powell and Dick York getting all the laughs in reaction to Samantha’s antics – except Ferrell doesn’t even know Kidman is a witch until the last 20 minutes of the horrific 101 minute running time. So there’s no farce, and at least Elizabeth Montgomery had some kind of charm.

Presumably, had Bewitched been a hit, Ephron’s version of I Dream of Jeannie would be about Billy Crystal finding a real genie to star on an off-broadway musical remake of the TV show, who then blogs about it on The New York Times Magazine website. Blecchhh.

NEXT EPISODE: SPACE BABE SPECIAL! BARBARELLA (1968, ROGER VADIM) & GALAXINA (1980, WILLIAM SACHS)

Alan Smithee Podcast 75: Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma) / The Rage: Carrie 2 (1999, Katt Shea)

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For a long time, Carrie was a title that evoked a reaction from perhaps more non-fans than fans of the genre, and this is the highest compliment you can pay the authors. The name conjures a very broad idea of high school, with many variations depending on one’s personal memories of that time in their lives, all retaining the common thread of inherent hellishness within the walls of that mythologized American institution. Who among us (who are reading this) has not at one time imagined themselves the social scapegoat of their entire school, and subsequently imagined themselves the avenging angel of the prom that Sissy Spacek became?

Carrie was not merely the first horror film to deal with the unpleasantness of high school, but one of the first American films, period. Incredibly, the film includes John Travolta a mere two years before he helped heap on more of the same bullshit about the best years of our lives in Grease, nearly undoing all the pig-killing work he accomplished for Brian De Palma. As a film, Carrie is so damned good that even though every single detail has been parodied and referenced relentlessly in the past 35 years, it detracts not one whit from the viewing experience. This is the highest and rarest compliment you can pay to anything enmeshed in mass pop culture unconsciousness.

A shame then that Carrie does not enjoy the same reverence it once did for so long, even amongst horror fans. Whatever cache it once held has depleted and wouldn’t you know, there’s a remake on the way to rewrite history for the young unknowing. Tragically the film has suffered a fate cousin to the pain of the bullied – the pain of anonymity.

Before the anonymity, there was an intervening period of post-Scream quasi-recognition for young movie fans: those weird years of normalization when the New Horror of the 70s became accepted and dulled by the mainstream. This was a time of opportunistic revivalist sequels: if a Scream fan was likely to at least have heard of Carrie, some executive somewhere reasoned, then why not make a sequel? Whatever shallow inspirations led to the production of The Rage: Carrie 2, you can at least say on it’s behalf that unlike filmmakers in the modern era of soulless remakes, the authors of this poor sequel at least had some kind of reverence for the original. That doesn’t translate to a good film because unfortunately, the authors were also idiots. They bring back Amy Irving as Sue Snell from part one and, her for exposition and carelessly discard her.

Worse than being stupid, The Rage is also sorely bland. The influence of TV on film can be seen plainly going from Carrie 1 to 2 – for all of De Palma’s visual glossiness, the high school of Carrie felt like it could be a real place. The school of Carrie 2 is a WB (CW now) teen drama, down to each melodramatic story point and especially Carrie 2 herself, who is conventionally attractive and nothing at all like Spacek’s wonderfully awkward misfit.

Incidentally, The Rage: Carrie 2 came out the same year as the Freddie Prinze Jr classic, She’s All That. Both films are alike in their basic teen-soap logic that all an attractive girl needs to do to be made over into someone even more attractive is take off her glasses. They really should’ve been the same movie, with Rachel Leigh Cook torching the big dance at the end. They could’ve just made a film of the infamous Carrie: The Musical.

NEXT WEEK: WITCH MARRIAGE SPECIAL! I MARRIED A WITCH (1942, RENE CLAIR) & BEWITCHED (2005, NORA EPHRON)

Alan Smithee Podcast 62: Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983, John Landis & Steven Spielberg & Joe Dante & George Miller)

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The Twilight Zone movie has an infamy mostly forgotten and an epochal significance in movie history rarely acknowledged.

The infamy belonged to John Landis, for killing b-movie workhorse Vic Morrow and two kids in a helicopter crash. This wasn’t the first or last time actors would die on movie sets, but the attachment of Steven Spielberg as producer kept the affair in the news until Landis was acquitted several years later. Ironically, is career only began declining after this acquittal and the only reforms to come about from the accident were stricter child actor laws, as both kids were underage and working after accepted child actor hours.

The rest of the film represents the state of popular fantasy filmmaking in America at the time, which may as well have meant American filmmaking period from that point onward; the aftermath of those heady Spielberg/Lucas/Jaws/Star Wars gold rush days. This was just one year before Spielberg wielded his influence to create the PG-13 rating, inaugurating the slow de-evolution of all American film into pseudo-sophisticated adolescent escapist drivel. The state of adolescent fantasy films in 1983 was still very good indeed, though. Spielberg’s celebration of the television show which probably had a greater impact on his fellow monster makers and pop-fantasy moralists was like a victory cry: We have grown up, we have accepted the mantle of Rod, and now we are the music makers and dreamers of dreams. Let us rejoice.

Besides himself and Landis, Spielberg’s choice of newcomers Joe Dante and George Miller affirmed the notion that violence, horror, humor, kinetic action and a dash of sweetness could all be synthesized together into something for everybody. Dante’s Gremlins, produced by Spielberg in 1984 along with his own alternately heart-ripping and heartwarming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom under the brand new PG-13 banner, legitimized this perpetual adolescent orthodoxy for good. Miller’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome came the following year in 1985, and while Spielberg was not formally attached, it was clear the influence had rubbed off: where George’s prior Mad Max films were full of violent battles with sadistic homosexual biker gangs, Mel Gibson’s chief concern in Part 3 became saving a tribe full of adorable orphaned ragamuffins.

The entertainment value of Twilight Zone: The Movie is a mixed bag, which is why between the four directors and their segmented offerings we decided to let this episode stand with this film alone. Landis’ opening prologue and fatal first segment are cloddish, while Spielberg’s rendition of “Kick the Can” redefines mawkishness and nearly induces fatally freezing waves of douche chills on the viewer. Joe Dante’s version of “It’s a Good Life” on the other hand, is a clever reworking of the original story along Dante’s thematic preoccupations with television and cartoons. George Miller’s version of “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” may lack the slow-burn intensity of William Shatner’s performance from the original episode, but his camerawork is as brilliant as ever and generates constant excitement within the confines of the gremlin-besieged plane. Additionally, Jerry Goldsmith turns in a fine score throughout the whole film and I-am-legendary author Richard Matheson pens both Dante and Miller’s segments.

Has there ever been such a marked difference in quality between the first and second halves of a film? This episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast is a good movie and a bad one, all in one.

NEXT EPISODE: TIM BURTON SPECIAL! MARS ATTACKS! (1996, TIM BURTON) & SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999, TIM BURTON)

Alan Smithee Podcast 60: Breathless (1960, Jean-Luc Godard) / Breathless (1983, Jim McBride)

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The world of film was rocked in 1960 by Breathless, a film which mostly played either like a home movie or documentary more than its simple story would suggest. In short, a French car thief shoots a policeman and unsuccessfully attempts to convince his American girlfriend to flee the country with him. Directed by Godard, a film critic for the influential Cahiers Du Cinema, the scenario consciously referenced many American crime film tropes, then cleverly removed everything that was exciting or entertaining about them and instead allowed the characters to lounge around talking about their sex lives and the sex lives of others. At the time, this lack of thrilling-ness was amazingly thrilling and Godard rode a wave of acclaim for nearly the entire decade, making more post-modern films in which nothing happens except beautiful young French people droning on about the unfairness of life and whom they’ve slept with lately, all while loosely acting out the motions of American movie musicals, dramas and romantic comedies. When not focusing on the incompatibility of men and women, Godard also devoted his films to the themes of Communism and why Americans are inferior to the French. He wore sunglasses and smoked a lot.

In a 2003 retrospective review of Breathless, the voix du peuple Roger Ebert wrote:

“Modern movies begin here…what is most revolutionary about the movie is its headlong pacing, its cool detachment, its dismissal of authority, and the way its narcissistic young heroes are obsessed with themselves and oblivious to the larger society…You cannot even begin to count the characters played by Pacino, Beatty, Nicholson, Penn, who are directly descended from Jean-Paul Belmondo’s insouciant killer Michel.”

In other words, JLG finally made it OK for movie protagonists to be unmitigated shitheads. The trend has yet to decline.

Besides carrying on the French traditions of pretension and narcissism, Godard has also devoted his career to the French national past time of Jew hatred. In 1968, he called producer Pierre Braunberger a “Filthy Jew” to his face, an incident witnessed by Francois Truffaut and over which he severed their friendship.

In 1973, French-Jewish filmmaker Jean-Pierre Gorin contacted Godard to be paid for his collaborative work on 1972’s “Tout Va Bien” (“Everything’s Fine”), to which Godard responded, “Ah, it’s always the same: Jews call you when they hear a cash register opening.”

In 1981 he said the following about Moses and Jews in general:

“Moses is my principal enemy…Moses, when he received the commandments, he saw images and translated them. Then he brought the texts, he didn’t show what he had seen. That’s why the Jewish people are accursed.

In 1985 he said the following about moneylending bloodsuckers in Hollywood:

“What I find interesting in the cinema is that, from the beginning, there is the idea of debt. The real producer is, all the same, the image of the Central European Jew. They’re the ones who invented the cinema, they brought it to Hollywood…Making a film is visibly producing debts.”

In 2009, Godard was quoted by Le Monde as saying:

“Palestinians’ suicide bombings in order to bring a Palestinian State into existence ultimately resemble what the Jews did by allowing themselves to be led like sheep to be slaughtered in gas chambers, sacrificing themselves to bring into existence the State of Israel…“Basically, there were six million kamikazes”

And in the same interview:

“Hollywood was invented by Jewish gangsters.”

There are plenty of other quotes and even sequences from Godard’s films in reference to the state of Israel being a crime against all non-Jews in the Middle East, but in deference to the pedantic escape clause of Jew haters that being “anti-Zionist” is not the same as hating Jews for no good reason, we’ll leave out any further evidence. It’s hard to top the “Six million kamikazes” line.

He’s not particularly impressed by black people either, but at least they’re merely a novelty and not a cancer when attempting to share the same planet with him:

“I am generally interested in the ‘other’. It’s the same thing with blacks. First, they were colonised, and later everyone acted as if they were just as we are. Of course, a black person can wear glasses and a watch, but this doesn’t make us the same.”

Between Godard’s Jew bashings, Jewish gangster-run Hollywood acquired the remake rights to Breathless and in 1983 produced a frivolous new version starring Richard Gere, who was probably hoping this film would cement his reputation as the thinking American woman’s sex symbol. He cavorts around LA like a wacky sitcom neighbor, being cooly flippant even in the face of the law closing in after he killed that cop who was after his stolen vehicle. His French girlfriend (geddit?) doesn’t want to leave the country with him any more than the American girlfriend in the original did. So, after visiting a lot of locations, being silly in the face of danger and dispensing cleverness to the ever-watching camera, he meets the same fate as his French counterpart.

Amazingly, Jim McBride and screenwriter L.M. Kit Carson manage to fit everything that happened in the slow paced original into exactly the same running time, plus new scenes about Gere’s obsession with Silver Surfer comics, the creation of two filthy JEWS named Kurtzberg (Jack Kirby) and Lieber (Stan Lee). The film has no point, as the point of the original film was pointlessness. In that regard, it’s probably one of the more successful remakes ever made. Thanks for showing us ignorant Jew-brainwashed Americans the way, Godard, and here’s hoping your new Arab population in France is as hip and cosmopolitan towards The Other as you are.

NEXT WEEK: REVENGE OF THE NERDS SPECIAL! REVENGE OF THE NERDS (1984, JEFF KANEW) & REVENGE OF THE NERDS II: NERDS IN PARADISE (1987, JOE ROTH)