Friday, January 19, 2007

THE 13TH PLAGUE

It's the big day. THE big day. And what day is that? NY's first snow of this wacky-warm winter? Two days 'til conference championship Sunday? Four days til the War with Iran begins? Yes, yes, and maybe. But not the "hell, yes" I was thinking of.

And what is that hell yes, you ask? Why . . . it's Friday. Friday morning, more specifically. So, it's time for the world-famous, never-duplic--

You get the idea. We've had our share of decent movies. We've had musicals, and comedies, and more than one non-comedy that was funny as hell. We've had television specials. We've even moved into the 80s. What could be next? Maybe it's now time for a movie that I can't sum up simply by saying, "And I loved it," when describing my reaction as a boy.

You mean . . . a movie I didn't like, even as a youngster? It's not as bad as it seems: I hated Annie Hall when I first saw it. Why? I didn't get it. At all. Totally over my head. Wasn't crazy about Raging Bull either. I wasn't even too psyched about Airplane! the first time I saw it. Too scattershot, too allusive. So you see, folks, it's easy for a young fella -- even one as preternaturally brilliant & cultured & gifted as I was -- to "miss" on the greatness of a great film when he first sees it.

Unfortunately, this week's Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of The Day doesn't fit under that description. Nah. I didn't like this one because It Sucked. But you know, I think that's well within the expected parameters of the FSMOMYOTD. And even if it isn't, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Or should it be, the more things stay the same, the more they change? Maybe, on the other hand, I should say, Fool me once, shame on you. Or was it, You can fool all the people some of the time, but you can't . . .

{And, as Mike spends the remainder of his day amusing (and stroking) himself, the Producers would like to hijack the post, cut him off mid-ramble, and get to the FSMOMYOTD. Hit it, boys.}

Wholly Moses!

1980. For whatever reason, I saw it with my mother. Must have been a day off: either a vacation day or one of those mornings when she "allowed me to be sick" so she could drag me -- by the greasy locks of my floppy, middle-parted hair -- to go clothes shopping, or some other hideous chore. Which, on the surface seems odd.

No, not that she "played hooky" for me, or that I was rewarded with a movie at the end of the grueling day. She did that plenty of times. And before you think, "Gee Mike, what a lucky stiff you were," let me ask you: 12 years-old, you'd rather be at school, playing football at recess and making fun of the Jordache-wearing, Farrah-haired girls that you secretly liked, or having the crap beaten out of you in a department store by your mother as she forced you to try on sweaters & corderoy jeans?

(That's what I thought. I felt the same way. And now you understand Reason #64 why I'm so fucked up. Back to topic.)

What was odd was that she chose for us to go to a comedy, a genre of movie of which she wasn't a fan. But she did like some of the early Mel Brooks gang, and as you'll see, this flick had its share of the Brooks Troupe. In fact, as with many disastrous comedies (see, 1941, the FSMOMYOTD two weeks ago), this one lacked nothing in the casting department. We'll get to it soon enough, as always, but let me tease a tad by saying, this cast was Stacked. Comic power oozing from the screen. And ooze pretty much describes the film. My 12 year-old opinion, along with that of my pathologically non-humorous mom, was that the movie was singularly unfunny.

(Not that I knew what "singularly" meant at the time. Which is why I didn't describe it that way. In fact, I'm not even sure I really know what it means now, so why the hell am I saying it?)

Screw it, I'm sure I said to myself, in 1980, that movie wasn't funny. It sucked. So that's what I'll say now: Unfunny. You know what, it was so lacking in laughs, I'm gonna say it was Doubly Unfunny. Yes, it was that bad. Proof? Not only does it earn a horrific 4.3-out-of-10 on IMDB, but the "Memorable Quotes" section is empty. A comedy . . . with no memorable quotes.

So what was this horror show about? Dudley Moore played Herschel, the real man chosen by God to free the Israelites from their Egyptian bondage, but Moses somehow gets the credit. And a bunch of other biblical stories play out too. So, I guess that puts it chronologically & thematically somewhere between 1979's Life of Brian and 1981's History of the World, Part I. But unlike those two, it wasn't funny.

(And I thought History Of The World, Part I was screamingly funny when I saw it in 1981, with the old man. And, as regulars here know, seeing comedies aimed at 13 year-olds with him, was par for the course. And that's reason #65.)

And, by the way: Three studio movies satirizing the bible in a two year stretch. What are the odds of that today, 25-30 years later?

Anyhoo, not much more to say about the movie. And at this rate, I'll be exposing all variety of family secrets within a paragraph or two, so let's just get to The Cast. As I said, it's filled with established comedy stars: In addition to Moore, it featured James Coco, Dom DeLuise, Jack Gilford, Andrea Martin, and a few more that we'll get to in a second. Didn't help Wholly Moses! rise above Holy Shit, but it does make for a fun stroll through the cast. We also had . . .

Larraine Newman, making the Honor Roll as a Two-Time FSMOMYOTDer.

John Houseman! The scariest law professor in the history of film, plus the bad-ass that explained the secret behind Smith Barney's old-fashioned money-making prowess. Ok, who's next?

What's that? You feel that I've left something out here? You're expecting me to say something else relating to John Houseman? To make a joke so predictable, so stale that you don't really want to hear it, but something inside of you is just screaming & begging for it? Is that what the rumbling from the peanut gallery is all about? Fine. I'll let you have it, here it comes . . .

But I had to make you earrrrrrrnnnnnnn it first.

Heh, heh. (And I accept my sentence. Whatever sentence you've just imposed.)

Richard Pryor. Another honored Two-Time FSMOMYOTDer. And in Wholly Moses!, Pryor played the Pharaoh. And that was the joke! Get it?

Uhhhh, you don't? You see it was 1980, still back in the day where the joke was the fact that the Pharaoh was played by . . . {whispering} a Black guy. Get it now?

Or now?

(Me either. And with Anwar Sadat in the news all the time back in those days, even in 1980 I wasn't sure what was so incongruous about a Black Egyptian. So in 1980 . . . easier to satirize the Bible, but harder to allow the era's best comedian to move beyond limiting, racial stereotypes. Hmmm, let's call it a draw.)

John Ritter & Madeline Kahn -- as "The Witch" and Satan, respectively -- complete the dead-way-before-their-time-comedy-stars portion of our program.

Tom Baker, straight from the "I've Never Heard Of The Bum" Files, deserves mention here for a few extremely tenuous connections to things that associatively relate to . . . well, something that sort of makes sense in my mind. His first film appearence was in 1966's Hallucination Generation. Of all the movie genres throughout the century, not many are as straight-out awful as those 1966-1969 drug culture/hippie flicks. I don't mean Billy Jack or Easy Rider, or any of those films (some good, some not so much) that, while dated at least stand up as "movies," 35-to-40 years later.

And I'm definitely not talking about the wonderfully deranged Head, in which the Monkees demolished their teeniebopper image (and their careers) in a blaze of glory. (Get it, blaze? Because it's likely that everyone involved in that movie was . . . oh, never mind.) And I loved Head (stop snickering, Ed). No dissing of Rafelson's/Nicholson's masterpiece here.

Nah, I'm talking about shit like The Trip, or Psych-Out, or any number of other similarly-titled movies, all of which starred Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell, Bruce Dern (FSMOMYOTD alert!), Peter Fonda, or a combination of all four. Even though none of them appeared in Hallucination Generation.

But Tom Baker did. And from that point until his untimely death at age 42 -- less than two years after appearing in Wholly Moses! -- Baker was in The Young Nurses, Candy Stripe Nurses, More American Graffiti, and even the John Royal-referenced Two-Minute Warning. And, most importantly, Baker is now a Three-Time FSMOMYOTDer, having held small roles in both American Hot Wax and Rollercoaster.

A moment of silence for a fallen comrade if we may.

{Pause}

Brion James (another (!) of the early departees from this mortal coil), a true Hollywood journeyman. With about 150 movies in 25 years, he was all over, and you've certainly seen him: 48 Hours, The Player, Dead Man Walking, "Roots," Southern Comfort, Blade Runner, the list goes on & on. He was even in one of the silliest of the FSMOMYOTDs: Kiss Meets The Phantom Of The Park.

I tell you, It's All Connected. (Ohhhhhmmmmmm.)

And, as a final note, the director, Gary Weis, has a very interesting resume. Mostly comedy and musical, it's a wild combination of The Weird, The Bad, and The Surprisingly Excellent. I'm going to put The Looney Tunes 50th Anniversary television special in the first category, and the two Bangles videos, including "Walk Like An Egyptian," in the second.

But the third? Check this shit out: 1976's Beach Boys TV Special; the "Rubber Biscuit" segment of a Best of Dan Ackroyd show; an outstanding 1973 documentary, self-explanatorily titled, Jimi Hendrix; Steve Martin's 1978 hit TV special, "A Wild & Crazy Guy," (this is the one with "King Tut"). And, most impressive of all, the underrated Beatles mockumentary-satire, The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash, featuring Eric Idle, Michael Palin, George Harrison, Bianca Jagger, Ron Wood, and most of the Not Ready For Prime-Time Players. A very clever, and often hilarious, film. And it came out 5 years before This Is Spinal Tap. Not saying it's as good as TIST. I'm just saying.

But unfortunately for Mr. Weis, he also directed Wholly Moses, which establishes a fourth category: The Awful.

18 Comments:

Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

(stop snickering, Ed).

No.Chance.In.Hell.

And I loved Head

Who doesn't?

9:40 AM  
Blogger George said...

My guess is you loved Head in Central Park.

11:02 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

George, that horse is deader than John McCain's presidential aspirations.

But, they should show that one as a Monday Night Summer Movie in Bryant Park one of these years.

11:05 AM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

WWF wrestler Al Snow used to come to the ring with a manequinn head, named "Head". Here was the chant:

What do we want?
Head

What do we need?
Head

What do we love?
Head

Yes, I watched too much wrestling as a youngster. Wanna make something of it?

11:20 AM  
Blogger Smitty said...

My wife and I thought it'd be funny to Netflix some campy 80s comedies.

Yeah.

Not so much.

This was one of them. We turned it off.

No Head either. The whole night was a loss.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Smitty - You could have had head bigger than Barry Bonds', the night was a capital L loss the minute you put Wholly Moses! in the DVD player.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Toast said...

*sigh*

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

*sigh*

Which is precisely what you'd say had you seen it.

And based on the dearth of comments, this movie's been as successful for me as it was for its producers.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

I don't remember much of this film, except a growing distrust of Dudley Moore.

But the John Ritter note made me think of 1979's Americathon, a movie that seems tailor-made for this feature.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078766/

I can't decide if I should rent it again and risk being let down, or let the warm and fuzzy memories stay intact. Anyone see it recently? Or, ever?

3:50 PM  
Blogger Otto Man said...

the night was a capital L loss the minute you put Wholly Moses! in the DVD player.

I'm actually stunned the movie was even put on DVD. I would've assumed copies only existed on Beta.

3:52 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

1979's Americathon, a movie that seems tailor-made for this feature.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh my, what a cast. John Ritter, Meatloaf & Elvis Costello??? If I'd seen that flick as a kid, it'd have gone down back in November.

Maybe I'll Netflix it, and offer some dispensation from the usual " . . . of my youth" portion of the requirements.

But, as to you, great childhood memories are too sweet to spoil seeing a movie that you know will be, at best, pretty crappy. Stay away.

4:03 PM  
Anonymous Applesaucer said...

"And based on the dearth of comments, this movie's been as successful for me as it was for its producers."

lol. You KNOW that I'm into the Friday Movie. And I like to contribute to the Friday Movie discussion. But I had nothing to say. Not because of your piece -- I liked that. It's just that the movie was so LAME.

Applesaucer

4:06 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

I tried to make sushi from rotting fish! What have I done???

4:21 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

Richard Pryor? As the Pharoh? I still don't get it. Explain, please?

I remember "Americanthon." I don't know if it's good to revisit as I don't want to lose my warm fuzzy thoughts of it. I think Leno was in it, as well. And I think Israel and Egpyt were one country.

With a theme song by Eddie Money.

Now, what movie did Mike post about?

4:57 PM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Now, what movie did Mike post about?

Awwwwright, I get the idea. But with so many cast members no longer here to strengthen the resume, let's let WM rest.

We'll have, if not a "good movie" next week, at least one that I knew was worthy at 12 years-old.

5:48 PM  
Blogger DED said...

Like 1941, I remember liking this movie as a kid, though for different reasons. And some of those reasons I can no longer remember. I'll take your word for it that it sucks to watch as an adult (though for you it apparently always sucked).

10:29 PM  
Blogger Cheesemeister said...

I never saw this one. And from what you have described, I'm not sorry.

4:34 AM  
Anonymous Mike said...

Not one to put on your Netflix queue, that's for certain.

10:01 AM  

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