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)

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Alan Smithee Podcast 68: The Muppet Movie (1979, James Frawley) / Muppets From Space (1999, Tim Hill)

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With the fabulous, sensational and hyperbolic debut of a new Muppet movie, the online podcasting world has been all abuzz as to how An Alan Smithee Podcast will score one or two extra Google hits on the ensuing carnage by pairing one good Muppet movie with one bad one which isn’t the new one. Just kidding, The Muppets is actually half decent and a welcome relief to millions of parents choosing between it and Fred Claus. The only muppet movie we could really choose for a bad one is Muppets From Space, which like The Muppets is only a bad movie by the standard of other muppet movies.

Our good Muppety film is the very first one, 1979’s The Muppet Movie, a film which not only celebrated the triumph of Jim Henson’s vision on television but stood as a magical achievement in puppetry as well. This and Star Wars really heralded the arrival of puppetry into state of the art special effects for the following decade, as Kermit and company convincingly co-exist with our world to a degree that had never been seen before. In hindsight of Jim Henson and The Muppets’ legacy since 1979, the story of the Muppets meeting each other and banding together only grows more poignant as time goes on. If you don’t get piss shivers when those first banjo notes of “The Rainbow Connection” play over the helicopter shot of Kermit’s swamp and the title “Produced by Jim Henson” appears, you’re one cold fish. Presumably you’re not, as only true misers and curmudgeons could reject the earnest showmanship of the Muppets and if that’s the way you feel, you wouldn’t be watching The Muppet Movie in the first place.

By the way, why didn’t “The Rainbow Connection” beat out stupid “Norma Rae” for Best Song at the 1980 Oscars? Either the Academy is full of Commies or they thought people would be confusing Kermit’s with that other song about rainbows which won an Oscar 40 years earlier.

Two decades later, the diminished stature and ambition of The Muppets as a continuing part of pop culture couldn’t be better represented in the film Muppets From Space. Unlike the other relatively successful, Henson-less Muppets films of the 90s, Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island, From Space suffers from a serious lack of scale. The story plays out like an episode of some fictitcious Muppets sitcom, right down to the limited number of locations and reliance on Jeffrey Tambor. Fans of the short-lived Muppet Show revival Muppets Tonight! will at least appreciate the deference to characters created for that series such as Pepe the Prawn, Dr. Phil Van Neuter and Bobo the Bear. The conceit of the film – the Gonzo the Great is finally alerted to the origin of his species by messages from outer space – is less the response to unanswered (and unasked) questions about Gonzo’s animal type than the response of uninspired writers to the wave of interest in paranormal alien activity that washed over docile post-Cold War / pre-9/11 America’s imagination throughout the 1990s.

There’s a famous Onion opinion article about a nerd appreciating the Muppets on a much deeper level than you. It’s hilarious for a couple reasons: first, signaling in on the longstanding appeal the Muppets’ innocence has had to emotionally damaged adult nerds who were picked on way too much. (“I never should have let you go to the kitchen for more Pringles during Kermit’s big ‘High Noon’ speech to Charles Durning—the emotional apex of the film.”)

Second and more to the point of this episode, it details the particular connection those who grew up with the Muppet Show feel compared to those who grew up just a few years later with Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock or even A Muppet Christmas Carol. The 70s and 80s were a hard slog for kids living in the exhausted remnants of their parents’ pop cultural golden age and the Muppets offered a window into old-fashioned children’s entertainment for a generation facing the exponential growth in the mainstream of glib cynicism. No one will appreciate the Muppets on the deeper level that Generation X did – Jason Segel is more than happy to remind us – but the body of work Henson and company left us lives on and beyond.

Enjoy this episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast and discover how we felt. Get it?

NEXT EPISODE: POLTERGEIST SPECIAL! POLTERGEIST (1982, TOBE HOOPER) & POLTERGEIST II: THE OTHER SIDE (1986, BRIAN GIBSON)

Alan Smithee Podcast 64: Alien (1979, Ridley Scott) / Alien 2: On Earth (1980, Ciro Ippolito)

The Alien – capital T, capital A “Alien” – has been the Mickey Mouse of sci-fi horror for over 30 years now. That’s because there wasn’t really a recognized hybrid genre of “Sci-Fi Horror” before screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and his partner Ronald Shusett conceived a version of O’Bannon’s early sci-fi comedy Dark Star (directed by John Carpenter) in which the goofy beach ball-looking alien would be a terrifying monster and another crew of astronauts would be stuck in the black void of the cosmos with nowhere to run. The famous tagline “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream” said it all. Selling the audience on both a realistic spaceship and a seemingly real, unprecedentedly bizarre looking space monster helped change the standards by which space movies were judged. The same can be said of Star Wars, which similarly combined a lot of endearing features from an escapist fantasy genre and portrayed their spaceships and aliens so vividly with state-of-the-art special effects that all around the world, the mainstream was reintroduced to those charms as adults.

The fun hypothetical question to ask of both films is, what if the sequels and multi-media franchise empires had never followed? Just one self-contained Star Wars adventure and one Alien? The impact on the rest of the movie business actually would have remained much the same. Mickey Mouse would have remained in the dark shadows of our imagination, that’s for certain. The most prominent features of Ridley Scott’s original film, compared to the later sequels of James Cameron, David Fincher et all, are the slow pace of the story and the way the alien is shown as little as possible. This was not a case of the effects being unconvincing and necessitating minimal view as with the shark in Jaws, but simply Scott’s preference as the director. He did not consider himself a horror film maker after all, and under the harsh light of a horror movie fan’s experience, the film really ceases to be suspenseful or scary after the first viewing lets you know when the monster is going to suddenly emerge. Coupled with loud noises on the soundtrack when said jack-in-the-box “jump” moments occur, the overall effect of Alien on the horror end of the equation is ultimately rather lacking. No wonder the sequels barely bothered trying to be scary after people had seen the Alien in full view by the end of Scott’s movie – a view which practically reveals the zipper running up it’s back. Whoops. So close.

The residual strength of Alien is ultimately in the science fiction department. While unmistakably drawn from the late 1970s, the film’s cast of characters live and work in their spaceship as if they were born there. Their descent onto the alien planet and discovery of an alien ship containing alien eggs is a masterpiece of wonder in the face of the unknown, a creation of mood helped by Jerry Goldsmith’s awe inspiring score. The methodical arguments between Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm and Tom Skerritt over what actions to take grounds all the fantastic elements down to a practical level and makes the future seem all the more real. Culminating in the unforgettable sight of the mysterious alien “facehugger” wrapped around one of the astronauts, the first act of Alien is as engrossing and impressive an introduction to a possible future as Kubrick’s 2001.

Being a big studio, high profile, new post-Star Wars Summer blockbuster event picture, Alien contained a massive amount of gloss and polish which not every “Sci-Fi Horror” film produced in its wake could compete with when trying the experience. These Alien influenced horror films could, however, afford to imitate the most talked-about grossout moment of the movie: the infamous “Chestburster” scene where a penile hand puppet with teeth explodes out of John Hurt’s belly. Thus in the immediate wake of that infamous demise came a whole spate of fake heads and torsos being busted open from within by ugly sock puppets. Probably the worst among these is Alien 2: On Earth.

Alien 2: On Earth exists in the company of many other Italian knockoffs and unofficial sequels to American genre movies, such as 1983’s Escape From New York cash-in 2019: After the Fall of New York, previously featured on this very podcast. But where 2019 had some resources behind the production and ideas to add to the initial premise stolen from John Carpenter, Alien 2: On Earth appears to have been made for a handful of lira and adds absolutely nothing creative as a fake sequel to Alien. Following a team of modern day geologists on a doomed excursion into some Californian caves, the film does include blobby alien hatchlings which cling to and burst out of faces, but nothing else which could be confused for the original. The sole defense you could make of this film is that its producers did what fans of the real Alien movies waited decades to see – the aliens “on Earth” – but the incompetence of the filmmakers on every level makes any viewing an endurance test of pain.

Only sheer obscurity has kept 20th Century Fox from suing over the title, even after the recent Blu-Ray release by Midnight Legacy – who, like the film’s creators, are probably banking on the title and not the abominable film itself.

NEXT WEEK: NAZI HUNTING SPECIAL! BLACK BOOK (2006, PAUL VERHOEVEN) & BLOODRAYNE: THE THIRD REICH (2010, UWE BOLL)

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)

Episode 23: Yojimbo (1961, Akira Kurosawa) / Bad Magic (1998, John & Mark Polonia)

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This week Andrew and Matt soak up the essence of 20th century commercial filmmaking as Akira Kurosawa crafts the template for a zillion action movies about lone badasses with Yojimbo, starring the greatest ever Japanese thespian of dramedy and slicing off dudes arms with swords: Toshiro Mifune. Goons with novelties are dispatched hilariously and all works out most satisfactory.

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Then it’s down past the end of the other spectrum to a spectrum somewhere in the bowels of hell with .

The Polonia Brothers

The Polonia Brothers are possibly the most amateurish, zero budget horror movie makers (“movie” is really a stretch here, this is only an hour long) whose videos somehow inexplicably found their way to shelves. Beyond any budgetary or suspension of disbelief our feeble human minds can comprehend, we were somewhat driven to Lovecraftian madness by the knowledge that movies like these can have their own imdb pages, and that Feeders was somehow the 1996 Blockbuster “most rented independent title.” Only in the 90s?

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The 20+ year saga of The Polonia Brothers is indeed a strange one and listeners can expect more where that came from in future episodes!

NEXT WEEK:

GOOD MOVIE: HOUR OF THE WOLF (1968, INGMAR BERGMAN)

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BAD MOVIE: CALIGULA (1979, TINTO BRASS)

Episode 17: Elvis (1979, John Carpenter) / The Resurrection of Broncho Billy (1970, James R. Rokos)

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This week in An Alan Smithee Podcast, Andrew and Matt indulge in John Carpenter’s lost treasures – the 1970 Academy Award winning short film he edited, wrote and composed. Future Escape From New York co-writer and erstwhile Coup De Villes band member Nick Castle, seen here playing keyboards while Carpenter pretends to be a wizard, lensed the short’s black and white photography and co-wrote.

“Broncho Billy” is the tale of a young man in Southern California circa 1970 who wants to be a cowboy. There is lots to read into, knowing what we know now: fans are quick to note the similarity of many Carpenter films like Assault On Precinct 13, Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China and Ghosts Of Mars to Westerns. There’s also some good ol’ film school follies, like having Billy wake up from bed in the very first scene!

Check out the whole thing here!

Also on the roster is the epic two-anna-half hour 1979 TV movie event ELVIS, in which Kurt Russell does a pretty darn good imitation of The King. While Carpenter does not write or produce, his compositions and chemistry with cast make this a fascinating oddity. Airing only two years after Elvis’ death there’s a considerable amount of whitewashing, eschewing the fat years and pills, and instead framing his life in the context of the two most important women in his life: “mommhuh an’ Priscillhuh.” The latter is played by Season Hubley, soon to be real life wife of Kurt, although the dissolution of their marriage (art predicts life) is not shown to be the cause of Elvis’ downfall…

There’s also a ton of songs for padding. Check out this excerpt of “Suspicious Minds,” lip-synched by Russell AND performed by someone other than Elvis:

Come to think of it, they don’t even acknowledge Elvis died in this! A truly reverential tribute, and intermittently very entertaining.

Discover all the hidden details and trivia of these two John Carpenter rarities from two guys who know way too much about the legendary John!

NEXT WEEK: TANGO & CASH (1989, ANDREI KONCHALOVSKY) / CALIFORNIA SPLIT (1974, ROBERT ALTMAN)