Friday, April 06, 2007

SELF-CONSCIOUS VAMPIRES AND THE PORN STARS WHO LOVE THEM

The three of you reading this will recall, about a month ago in the midst of brain-freeze as to what to queue up for the next FSMOMYOTD, I offered my loyal readers the chance to choose to next one.

With all of America's horny guys pushing middle-age rushing in to vote, Hardbodies won a landslide victory, leaving Meatballs as the runner up. And both of those classics wore their Friday Morning stripes in the weeks that followed. But, if you look deep into the black hole known as memory, you'll recall a third option: a mid-eighties flick that actually stepped into that we-know-we're-in-a-horror-movie space a full decade before Scary Movie and I Know Who You Slept With Last Night, and all those parodies (which further spawned parodies, all starring at least two of the Wayans Brothers and Jennifer Love Hewitt).

Hardly anyone voted for this film, but the votes cast came from famous, important places. Look at the supporters in the comments: Martin Scorsese (just days off his Oscar win) & Bela Legosi (the more famous brother of "Bella Legosi" who showed up a week later to comment on Hardbodies). With a crew like that, who am I to deny them.

Might as well do it. Ladies, gentlemen, film directors well past their prime, and dead horror movie icons-turned shameless junk fiends & stooges in sub-B movies, may I present to you, today's Friday Silly Movie Of My Youth Of the Day . . .

Fright Night

This one came out in 1985, and I know I didn't see it 'til it came on cable, probably in 1986 or '87, making me 18 or 19. And by that time I began to pick up on, and enjoy, "cleverness" and all that shit. My romanticization of high school-era cable TV watching notwithstanding, it was really those winter breaks and summers during college -- mid-to-late 80's -- that represent the halcyon days of straight-to-video-flick watching. I'd already been away from home, I was becoming a man (yeah, whatever). I knew I was more sophisticated, more aware, sharper than all the boneheads back in my hometown: parents, neighbors, high school friends, etc. After a semester at college, I was experienced (and let your own internal euphemism-generators roll freely here; my college days were the same as yours -- whatever you think I mean, you're correct).

So, back at the ole' homestead, during those afternoons, evenings, & post-partying late nights when I watched classics like Dr. Strangelove, soon-to-be classics like Full Metal Jacket, and even a few non-Kubrick movies like . . . uhhh, Hardbodies or Fright Night, I watched them through a lens of self-proclaimed superiority. Yes, I was watching a mere titty flick, but my "sense" of tits was different than it'd been during high school. Sure, I might be watching a goofball comedy from the late 70s, but I now understood the irony.

(Hey, what can I tell you? Think I'm intolerable now, imagine me at 19)

Well, that's what Fright Night had going for it: irony, self-consciousness. Perfect for a collegiate snob-to-be still struggling to balance his teenaged need for comedy, action, thrills, and snickering sexuality with a growing appreciation of aesthetics, of cleverness, of what I'd come to think of as post-modernism, with its allusions & blurring of the line between art, entertainment, and real life.

Although, in fairness, we're doing a "silly" movie post here, and Fright Night was silly. I'm not saying it was "important." I'm just saying I looked for that sort of thing during those times at home during college. So enough of that: The basic plot, as I recall, was that Charlie, his girlfriend, and their geeky/loser friend were huge fans of "Fright Night," a TV show hosted by a Vincent Price sort of guy. And they lived next door to a slick, handsome fella, who they were convinced was a vampire. Why?

Because the plot said so, that's why. And because -- again if I recall correctly -- he moved in at night, had large coffin-shaped boxes shipped downstairs, and sat on his porch sipping blood out of a clear bottle with a wedge of lime, all that sort of stuff.

(It was the 80's, the era when Corona hit the scene and all the yuppies fell in love with it, but I made up the last part. Would've worked though, huh?)

The film had a breeziness that served it well, moving seemlessly from horror to comedy to the half-developed "we know we're in a horror movie about horror movies" sort of thing I've been referring to. At least that's how I remember it. Maybe it was as "breezy" as a dump truck stuck in the mud. Nevertheless, let's get to . . .

The Cast:

Playing the protagonist, Charlie, was William Ragsdale, who went on to greater glory playing "Herman" in "Herman's Head," best known as the dumb TV show that proved Hank Azaria was too talented to be wasted on a dumb TV show. As for Ragsdale himself, he went on to do nothing more than appear in a bunch of TV shows I've never seen. He was in an episode of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" that I saw & liked ("The Five Wood"), but I don't remember him in it.

Continuing with the Fox TV show theme, Amanda Bearse played Charlie's girlfriend in Fright Night. She's probably best known as Marcy D'Arcy, Ted McGinley's wife, on "Married With Children." According to her Wikipedia entry, she's been "openly lesbian" since 1993, which is really pretty early in the game to have been so open about that. In fact, in 2006, she directed the pilot episode of "The Big Gay Sketch Show."

Chris Sarandon was really good as the smarmy-but-evil Jerry Dandridge. Two years before perfecting the formula in Princess Bride as Prince Humperdinck, Sarandon in Fright Night was wall-to-wall false charm, leering smiles, faux sincerity, and easily unleashed violence. Along with Roddy McDowell, he made the movie.

He's been around for a while now, chalking up his first film role as "Leon Shermer" in 1975 in Dog Day Afternoon. The mid-80s stands out as his "prime," with this one and Princess Bride, yet he's played a series of odd or interesting roles over the last 20 years: "Frankenstein" in a 1987 TV version of Frankenstein; Abraham Lincoln in both "Lincoln & Seward" and "Lincoln and the War Within" on television in 1992; and the voice of Jack Skellington in Tim Burton's incomprehensibly overrated 1993 sap-fest The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Concluding the "main characters" portion of the cast, we had Roddy McDowall as vampire hunter Peter Vincent. McDowall was in so many movies & tv shows (246 to be exact), it's all-but impossible to reduce his career to one role. But to me he'll always be Cornelius, from Planet of the Apes. That said, he managed a few "moments" in his long career: an uncredited role in one of the first FSMOMYOTDs, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry; "Flood!" a 1976 television disaster movie co-starring Robert Culp and Barbara Hershey that I remember seeing as a kid (hmmmm, future FSMOMYOTD possibilities abound); Rabbit Test, an abysmal late 70s "comedy" starring Billy Crystal & directed by Joan Rivers (!); even an episode of "Supertrain."

Starring as Charlie's friend, "'Evil' Ed," was Stephen Geoffreys. Steve had a few flicks worth noting, such as the mildly amusing Heaven Help Us; At Close Range, featuring an acting tandum we should have seen more of, Sean Penn & Christopher Walken; and Fraternity Vacation, mentioned a few weeks ago by Maurinksy as Tim Robbins foray into straight-to-vid teenage sex romps. But that portion of Geoffrey's career is of little or no consequence here.

What I find far more interesting is the gay porn portion of his career. Yes, that's correct. After a stint in straight porn, "acting" under the name, Larry Bert in Tell Me Something Dirty, Geoffrey began appearing under the moniker Sam Ritter in man-on-man hardcore. Wow! Starting in Sex On The Beach, in 1994, he starred in about 30 more of these movies, mostly as "Sam Ritter," but also as "Stephan Bordeaux." And the best titles from this collection: Mechanics Bi Day, Lube Jobs Bi Night, Latin Crotch Rockets, The Big Screw Up, Cock Pit, & today's winner of the "Subtlety in the Title" Award, Guys Who Crave Big Cocks.

(Guess they won't be needing me as an extra in that one. Alas.)

And you see, we're all about equal opportunity here at the FSMOMYOTD. I don't only write about the talentless actresses who end up in porn.

Moving along, we see that playing "Detective Lennox" was Art Evans. Based on Evans' roles, I'm gonna guess he's a Black man, and in fact his first part, in Claudine starring Dianne Carroll & James Earl Jones, was as "Young Brother." 1974 being 1974, I don't think they meant "brother" in the filial/sibling sense. In 1976 he was in an episode of "Chico & the Man" as "Bubba," and later that year he played blues legend Blind Lemon Jefferson in Leadbelly, directed by Gordon Parks (Shaft) and starring Roger E. Mosely (T.C. on "Magnum"). Evans' resume stands as Exhibit A in the "Damn, it must've been somewhat humiliating breaking into movies as a Black man in the pre-Denzel/Will Smith Days," with such roles as "Tambo," "Junkie," "Abdul," "Baggage Master," and "Sanitation Worker" in the first 8 years of his acting career.

Hollywood Shuffle, indeed.

He ended up finding his way into a number of movies, and he's definitely one of "Those Guys" we've all seen numerous times, even if we don't know his name. It could've been much worse. He could've had Prince Hughes' career. Hughes, best known (?) as football player "Bubba Kincaid" on HBO's awful "1st & Ten" in the '80s, also played characters named "Bouncer # 3" (that's the Fright Night role), "Black Wino," "Scary Inmate," "Big Bubba," "Idi Amin" in The Naked Gun (not quite Forrest Whitaker there), "Fat Ernie," "Rubbernecker," "Rat Bag Baxter," "Jumbo," "Pimp," "Orderly #3," and "Tiny."

Whoa. His "average" role would be a game named "Bubba," who was "Fat, Black Pimp #3." Maybe he should've considered gay porn.

Returning to the more-familiar FSMOMYOTD territory known as "Damn, it's always been somewhat humiliating breaking into movies as a hot, young woman," we come to Heidi Sorenson who played . . . you guessed it, "Hooker" in Fright Night. She got her start in film as one of the vestal virgins in History of the World, Part I, which she quickly parlayed into a selection as June 1981's Playmate of the Month. Later that year she appeared as "Herself," i.e., as a Playmate, on "George Burns' Early, Early, Early Christmas Special," allowing me not too feel like too much of a dirty old man since George had over 50 years on me at that point.

And for her too, it certainly could've been worse! She could've had Lene Hefner's career. According to her IMDB bio, she was raised in a strict Baptist family, before embarking on her own hard-core porn career. (I'm telling you, Fright Night wasn't an exploitation flick. Women, Black men, and homosexuals were not forced into dead-end careers after appearing. I blame it on the vampires). Hefner (no relation, I'm assuming . . . though Hugh probably knew her) starred in a bunch of porn films with really, really lame titles. I'm feeling robbed here. Except for one movie, we've got no puns, no double entendres, none of that. Although she offered a strong challenge for today's "Subtlety in the Title" Award with the one exception, 2004's Prettiest Tits I Ever Came Across. And why did that lose out to Guys Who Crave Big Cocks for that award? Because Prettiest Tits I Ever Came Across contains a pun.

Finally, Bob Corff, in his last acting role, played Fright Night's "Jonathan." Not that he appeared in too many movies. Instead, Corff seems to have been one of Hollywood's premier "voice coaches," instructing the actors on their diction & delivery in such films and TV shows as St. Elmo's Fire, "Silver Spoons," "Baywatch," Jurassic Park, and Toy Story.

I don't know what to say. Those aren't exactly the best movies & shows in history, yet there were some serious actors and actresses in those efforts. Can you imagine a guy who played a nobody character in Fright Night coaching Tom Hanks or Richard Attenborough on his vocal delivery?

I wonder if he also "coached" Sam Ritter & Lene Hefner?

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26 Comments:

Blogger Shane Rollins said...

Don't forget his great role in Mannequin 2:On the Move

10:34 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Who are we talking about here?

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

What a lovely retrospective on the self as an 'experienced' and sophisicated 19-year old, Mike. Really.

Our college years were, indeed, the same.

I was so damn proud of myself when I knew about the irony of the postmodern perspective - the gaze upon the gaze. And was so sure that my parents were utterly incapable of grasping such nuances.

(It didn't occur to me later that maybe they just had better things to spend their time on.)

Ah youth. I only miss parts of it now....

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Kelly said...

And speaking of "coached," in the last line, there, my husband recently taught the term "fluff" as used in the porn film industry.

As in the director says "somebody fluff Tom for the next scene!" (and then all these porn-industry-type ladies start, um, well, getting Tom into a good mood.

I bet this is something that regular readers of the "movie of my youth" column already knew, nes't pas?

11:11 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

And was so sure that my parents were utterly incapable of grasping such nuances.

(It didn't occur to me later that maybe they just had better things to spend their time on.)


And there we part ways, Kelly! Mine were incapable of grasping those or any other nuances. ;-)

(Though I'm sure they would've bothered if they could.)

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

Had you not named "The Prettiest Tits I Ever Came Across" in this post, I was going to have to hunt you down and have a LONGGGGG talk with you.
That's some funny ass shit.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Ed in Westchester said...

Lene was also in
King of the Load.

Another winner!

11:14 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Kelly - Yeah, I've heard the term. But mostly because I read about this movie, The Fluffer:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0245115/

I was going to have to hunt you down and have a LONGGGGG talk with you.

No worries, Ed. I found my groove about halfway through this one. Spotting the funny porn movie titles is one of my few natural talents.

I think King of the Load, while funny, lacks something. Not sure what's wrong, but it's not speaking to me.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Smitty said...

I have never seen this movie. And after that glowing report, I may not want to live that part of my youth that would want me to Netflix it and watch. Some things are better off just not being done.

As always, though, your reviews are unparalleled. All I do for my reviews is drink a beer.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Bula Lugosi said...

Michael,

VELCOME TO FRRRRIGHT NIGHT!

It is about time you reviewed this magnificent picture. Oh, I just loved it when Chris informs Roddy: "you've got to have faith for that to work, MR. VINCENT."

I felt we should have incorporated such ideas into our movies.

In any event, thank you.

But please, do not say such bad things about the wonderful 1st and Ten. It was one of my favorite television programs.

Bula

11:47 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

Some things are better off just not being done. As always, though, your reviews are unparalleled.

Among those things that just aren't done, referring to these posts as unparalleled has to rank pretty high.

Unless you mean unparalleled in length, ramblingness, or incoherency.

Bula -

First off, I had no idea that Mama Legosi had so many children with similar names. Have you thought of spelling your name Beulah?

And 1st & Ten sucked. Don't try to fool us with your vampirish wiles.

12:05 PM  
Blogger George said...

Line of the day:

Hey, what can I tell you? Think I'm intolerable now, imagine me at 19.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Yeah, I had a decent feeling at least a few folks would like that one.

(Truth always makes the best material.)

12:49 PM  
Blogger Mort said...

That will be twenty Hail Marys and fifty Our Fathers. (Holy water spritz, holy water spritz)

1:59 PM  
Anonymous John Royal said...

You forgot to mention my favorite Art Evans movie -- and yes, I know who he is. He's Lt. Bender in Ruthless People. That's also the first movie that I remember seeing Bill Pullman in. I think it's Evans who sees Pullman and calls him the stupidest man alive.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Mort said...

Have you done Porky's Revenge yet?

3:13 PM  
Blogger Marked Hoosier said...

Oh come now, Herman's Head was a great show... GREAT I SAY!!!

4:36 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Have you done Porky's Revenge yet?

Nope, and since I've never seen it (and never will), it's staying that way. The original, though, has all the ingredients.

(By the way, is that a new Running Man character?

John - I don't remember that scene exactly, but it does ring a bell. Glad to know you're a fan. I'm sure Art is as well.

Marked - First Bobby Brown and now "Herman's Head"? Man, you're worrying me.

Azaria was, as usual, funny, even though his part was badly underwritten. But otherwise, it was a one-note gimmick.

(Though I'll admit I watched it. Either way, it was no "Parker Lewis Can't Lose.")

6:46 PM  
Blogger Mort said...

By the way, is that a new Running Man character?

No, it's Mr. Freeze, from Batman and Robin. The governator, yah.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Comandante AgĂ­ said...

1985 was a good year. My favorite movie of childhood was released that year - Back to the Future. I wanted to be Marty McFly all through grade school.

Right now I'm so itching to watch Grindhouse. Zombies, gun-toting strippers and Rosario Dawson - what else do I need?!?

9:24 PM  
Blogger Mort said...

Mets 11, Braves 1. Woo hoo!

10:52 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Right now I'm so itching to watch Grindhouse.

Me too. I haven't wanted to see a new flick this bad for a while.

Mets 11, Braves 1.

Speaking of a grindhouse.

7:17 AM  
Blogger Ben Varkentine said...

Trivia you may have missed:

Chris Sarandon is the Sarandon in Susan Sarandon.

Or rather, he used to be (boom-tish!).

They were married from 1967 to 1979, wherafter she kept his last name professionally, I presume because she had already become established.

And you left out Jonathan Stark, who played Billy, the vampire's "roommate."

Stark became a TV writer and won a WGA and an Emmy award for co-writing the episode of "Ellen" where she came out.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Chris Sarandon is the Sarandon in Susan Sarandon.

Interesting. So the throw-away Tim Robbins line fits in somehow. It's all connected.

Emmy award for co-writing the episode of "Ellen" where she came out.

Which certainly fits into this post's theme. Damn, I'd have liked to get that factoid in there. Alas.

12:52 PM  
Blogger fridge said...

I love these posts so.

3:59 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

Gee, thanks.

(Seriously.)

4:09 PM  

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