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)

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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)

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

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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)

Episode 32: Metropolitan (1990, Whit Stillman) / Of Unknown Origin (1983, George P. Cosmatos)

Manhattanites are prepared to go to great lengths to protect what’s theirs, whether the blue blood stock and their social standing or self-made yuppies and their hard earned real estate.

Whit Stillman’s amazing Metropolitan prefigured what would become the 1990s style of comedy rather inadvertently. Stillman’s background amongst preppies gives the non stop talking a high level of sophistication and sometimes hilarious snobbery that never drops or is contrasted with the lower echelons of society whose Kevin Smith verbiage is only pseudo-intellectual.

What’s more charming and surprising is the empathy Stillman has for these bubble dwellers. He’s perfectly aware that their wealth makes them naive, satire is not his focus. Instead he takes a literary approach to the saga of a new member to a particular casual preppie social circle, whose relative lack of, shall we say, monetary means is ultimately no trouble at all, old sport. He quickly takes to the budding talky romcommelodrama of the 90s….with class.

Elsewhere in town, actually Nova Scotia doubling for the same town, Peter “Robocop” Weller does battle with a rat from hell to save his home in a film from the director of Rambo: First Blood Part II. Sounds great, except every time …Of Unknown Origin dances near the edge of crazy fun it backs away. Which is a shame, since Cosmatos is a perfectly capable director and Weller does a lot with very little to do except scream in anger and go commando.

As the rat puppet scurries around the house there’s considerable suspense. As the rat draws near those in Weller’s life, they don’t get killed. As Weller grows more obsessed with killing the rat, his life seems about to fall apart, then everything works out. As his vacationing family wonders what’s going on back home, they eventually arrive home to find their husband alive and well. The rat loses the duel and Weller holds onto his soul. What was the point again?

NEXT WEEK: THE RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD (1985, DAN O’BANNON) & THE LAST BOY SCOUT (1991, TONY SCOTT)

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Show Notes: Episode 2: Carpenter was a Jesus, Part 2 of 2

Continuing their conversation on Carpenter, Matthew and Andrew pick up with his Christine adaptation. Following a discussion of all his theatrical releases, they touch on his recent television episodes and become wistful at thoughts of his future endeavors.

Films discussed:
Christine (1983), Starman (1984), Big Trouble in Little China (1986), Maximum Overdrive (1986), Prince of Darkness (1987), They Live (1988), Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992), Body Bags (1993), In the Mouth of Madness (1995), Village of the Damned (1995), Escape from L.A. (1996), Vampires (1998), Halloween H2o (1998), Ghosts of Mars (2001), Cigarette Burns (2005), and Pro-Life (2006).