Alan Smithee Podcast 72: Mannequin Two: On The Move (1991, Stewart Raffill) audio commentary track

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This week on An Alan Smithee Podcast we return to a magnificent obsession that began with our first good-movie / bad-movie episode, the wonderful world of Mannequin. In keeping with that milestone, this is also our first non-special commentary track. Yes, we just did one for Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2 but that was for Christmas and this isn’t for National William Ragsdale Appreciation Month or anything.

The first Mannequin is sort of fondly remembered by pubescent fans of the very non-threatening Andrew McCarthy. What pubescent girl is going to dream of William Ragsdale? This is an important question as the target audience for the McCarthy-less Mannequin Two surely must have been undiscriminating girls being taken by their moms to the Saturday matinee. Or Andrew Wickliffe, whom it turns out was at such a screening in the unholy year of 1991. Even Kim Cattrall knew to stay away from this one, much to the chagrin of Crow T. Robot, since she can always brighten up dark stains on cinema like City Limits or Split Second. Or not.

Among topics discussed in the film’s excruciating 95 minutes are consumerist fantasies, 80s teen heartthrobs, Comedy Central’s movie programming in the 1990s, the city of Kill-adelphia, the awful filmography of Stewart Raffill, Meshach Taylor’s courageous portrayal of African-American Homosexual-American “Hollywood” Montrose, Terry Kiser’s awfulness, real dolls, the semantics of Two/Too/2 in the titles of unrelated 80s sequels, excising homosexuality through film editing, the lamented career of Zach Galligan, and much much more!

NEXT WEEK: WHIZ KIDS OF 1985 DOUBLE FEATURE! MY SCIENCE PROJECT (1985, JONATHAN R. BETUEL) / REAL GENIUS (1985, MARTHA COOLIDGE)

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Episode 45: Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare (1991, Rachel Talalay) / Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994, Wes Craven)

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With the remake of A Nightmare On Elm Street upon us, we take a look back this week on An Alan Smithee Podcast to praise Freddy and bury him. The remake is taking care of the latter while spitting on his grave, unfortunately. We can’t believe that there’s a nightmare on our street and this time staying awake won’t save us. So are you ready for Freddy?

New Line Cinema was known as “The House That Freddy Built” after the monumental success of the original A Nightmare On Elm Street(1984, Wes Craven) and the hastily produced, homoerotic sequel catapulted the company into the black. After the second and third sequels, the series’ increasingly budgeted elaborate special effects showcases had turned a sadistic and disfigured child murderer from an object of fear into simply the villain of a fantasy-adventure film franchise and an international pop culture phenomenon. The spectacle took the edge off Freddy Krueger’s scariness, and by the time of the 6th film Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare he’s reached a crescendo of corniness even in spite of his final outing, the wisecracking Master of Ceremonies on the last night of his own Las Vegas variety show. Special guest stars! 3D! A highlights reel from the previous films! More Robert Englund out of his Freddy makeup!

Freddy’s Dead is the slightest trifle that anyone ever funneled a lot of money into out of ceremonial obligation while leaving the details to take care of themselves. The film’s story is so convoluted and idiotic as to be rivaled only by Marvel and DC comic book specials in terms of requiring previous familiarity with a series to attempt comprehension. The special effects are perfunctory and the scares are not even attempted, in some weird acknowledgment that no one was seriously expecting them from the series by this point. Directed by Rachel Talalay, who started as a Production Assistant on the first film and worked her way up through each successive Elm Street film until Robert Shaye could one day finally say “She’s earned it, and what the hell, it’s the last one anyway. I’ll write the script to make sure it works.”

Three short years after writing the supposed final chapter of his cash cow, Robert Shaye would be playing himself and explaining to Heather Lagenkamp (the star of the original film, also playing herself) that the public’s insatiable appetite for Freddy is what actually keeps him coming back to life. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is the least successful Nightmare On Elm Street film ever, and also the most intelligent, which is a shame.

Craven actually wanted to tell the postmodern tale of a real life Freddy coming after the people who made him seven years earlier. Had the film been made then it would have at least made a lot of money and been critically ignored. Instead the opposite happened, not that Roger Ebert’s 3 star thumbs-up review got anyone to see it who wouldn’t have otherwise. Had the film been made a few years later, after the snark milestone Scream made ironic self-reflexiveness in horror trendy, New Nightmare might have been too sincere in its considerations of what Freddy means to our cultural consciousness to catch on with anyone, but it would have gotten a lot more attention initially.

The real discovery of New Nightmare is actually a rediscovery of Lagenkamp, who proves herself a more than capable actress in selling concern for her child, Miko Hughes – better known as the creepy little kid in Pet Semetary and running on all cylinders for creepiness here as well. Craven actually wrote the events of Lagenkamp’s life into her self-portrayal so much – stalkers, special effects artist husband, et all – that it’s almost a method performance. However she and Craven arrived at her postmodern persona, this film remains all the better even after Freddymania has faded for telling the story of a scream queen whose work literally comes back to haunt her. New Nightmare is more than just a Freddy film, it’s one of the best horror films ever made about horror films.

Over the closing credits montage of Freddy’s Dead, Iggy Pop rhetorically asks us: Do you really think…Freddy’s….dead..?” One unfairly forgotten pseudo-sequel, one delightfully shlocky franchise crossover and one soulless Michael Bay remake later, we all know the answer to Iggy’s world weary query.

NEXT WEEK: GEORGE ROMERO SPECIAL! THE DARK HALF (1993, GEORGE A. ROMERO) & DAY OF THE DEAD (1985, GEORGE A. ROMERO)

Episode 37: Mean Streets (1973, Martin Scorsese) / Showdown in Little Tokyo (1991, Mark L. Lester)

This week on An Alan Smithee Podcast we grab our pieces and visit two urban jungles of two different ethnicities. Who runs their little ethnic enclave better, the Little Italians or the Little Japanese? If either film is to be believed, crime is a huge problem in both areas. The big difference is whether the local mob is home grown or imported directly from Big Tokyo. This also determines the tone of the movie, since one of the films directors carries some childhood sympathies for the people and lifestyle, while the other cast a world famous white guy and dropped him into smack dab into yellow peril.

Mean Streets is the film that made Martin Scorcese famous. The story involves the mafia, a subject which his films helped make famous almost as much as another Italian American gentleman, Francis Ford Coppola, with The Godfather that very same year. Unlike that famous crime saga, this film focuses on the low levels of mob employment and a young man struggling to justify his future career with his Catholic fear of eternity in Hell, played by Harvey Keitel. As if this weren’t enough to worry about, his best friend – Robert DeNiro, in a star making turn – is a loose cannon with a big mouth and debts all over town.

Scorcese never really grew as a filmmaker: he was great from the start. His interests didn’t have to grow either, he would continue to make films about crime, Catholicism and urban alienation with or without DeNiro in the coming decades and has only recently seemed to choose projects based on books he picked up at the library, like a random biography or cheesy horror novel. Mean Streets is at the epicenter of personal connection to the things which mattered most to him, filmed in the part of New York he grew up in and scored to the pop songs he grew up listening to. A real Italian slice of life with extra parmesan.

If the filmmakers behind Showdown in Little Tokyo had made Mean Streets, someone probably would’ve been killed with a pizza. That is to say, director Mark L. Lester of Commando fame did not bring with him any personal cultural understanding of the Japanese culture. The biggest overtures to Japanese culture are the casting of two non-Japanese Asian-Americans, Tia Carrere of Wayne’s World fame and Bruce Lee’s belated son Brandon Lee in his first American film.

The real star is not just a white guy but one of the whitest guys you know: Dolph Lundgren, out to clean up the mean streets of Little Tokyo with the superior understanding of Asian martial arts that only a Swedish guy can engineer. He and Lee trade some gay banter, crack skulls, and unlike a lot of buddy actions movies we’ve seen here on An Alan Smithee Podcast, director Mark Lester truly does not mess around when it comes to flattering one’s short attention span with outrageous violence. A big dumb fun dose of brain damage from 1991, the year that action movies died inside.

NEXT WEEK: THIS GUN FOR HIRE (1942, FRANK TUTTLE) & CONGO (1995, FRANK MARSHALL)

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Episode 33: The Last Boy Scout (1991, Tony Scott) / The Return of the Living Dead (1985, Dan O’Bannon)

This episode of An Alan Smithee Podcast is dedicated to the memory of Dan O’Bannon, the director and writer of our good movie The Return Of The Living Dead. O’Bannon was a true genre journeyman, whose ideas for Alien (1979) have been influencing our pop culture for decades now.

While attending USC he acted and co-wrote for John Carpenter in Dark Star (1974) then began contributing to Heavy Metal magazine. Some of his work would show up in the 1981 Heavy Metal movie. In 1977 he designed computer animation for Star Wars and was hired by Alejandro Jodorowsky to create the special effects for an unmade version Dune, during which time O’Bannon met the artist HR Giger. After the cancellation of Dune, O’Bannon co-wrote the Alien screenplay with Ronald Shusett and sold the screenplay it to 20th Century Fox, who then hired Giger to create the now-classic look that compliments O’Bannon’s slow, suspenseful story.

The 80s saw O’Bannon’s most prolific period, with many credits including Dead & Buried, Blue Thunder, Tobe Hooper’s Lifeforce and Invaders From Mars remake, Total Recall (once again with Shusett,) and most importantly his sole directing and writing credit; the zombie film which encapsulated, satirized, and reestablished the “zombie movie” as a genre of horror as much as Alien created the Alien style horror movie.

It hurts to be dead. Let’s all applaud him at home during the Oscars death clap.

Shane Black is nothing like Dan O’Bannon, except that he’s a screenwriter by trade with one hallmark series to his name: Lethal Weapon. Black may have also been a tad nerdish, but inside him rages a misogynist streak a mile long. The Last Boy Scout is a healthy exercise in the degradation of women, and completely fails at pairing Bruce Willis with Damon Wayans with any kind of humorous buddy comedy chemistry.

Directed by Tony Scott, this film is shot through a thick cloud of LA smog and exists in the nether regions between the post-Cold War death of violent and homoerotic right wing action movies and the onset of big, dumb and slick action movies starring a pair of big dumb names in outrageous situations. This period was also known as George H.W. Bush’s single term.

NEXT WEEK: 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT (1984, PETER HYAMS) & THE HIDDEN FORTRESS (1958, AKIRA KUROSAWA)

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Episode 13: Mannequin (1987, Michael Gottlieb) / Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, James Cameron)

Episode XIII
Mannequin (1987) / Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
It is a period of transition. A period of passive voice.
Hosts Matt and Andrew discuss one of the biggest blockbusters of the last twenty years, not to mention the only film in the last twenty-five years to feature G.W. Bailey acting like an idiot.*
* if you ignore the countless other films where he acted like an idiot. But Mannequin does feature James Spader licking his hair, which not many films (?) do.

Films discussed
Mannequin, Mannequin: On the Move, Weekend at Bernie’s, Weekend at Bernie’s II, 
Police Academy, Less Than Zero, St. Elmo’s Fire
Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Terminator, Aliens, Alien, Piranha 2: The Spawning, The Abyss, True Lies, Titanic, Predator, Commando, Terminator Salvation