So after holding a gallon of coffee in my bladder for the better part of forever (where forever = James Cameron’s Avatar) I came down with a UTI. This is already bordering on a case of TMI so I’ll leave it there*. Needless to say Tuesday and Wednesday I was Sick as all hell and decided to spend my time away from the bump and grind watching movies.

Netflix is nice because I can stream flicks on our big ol’ Mac desktop and lay in bed and watch them. I’d cue stuff up and lay underneath the covers freezing/sweating. Here’s a smattering of what I watched and what I have to say. Given my penchant for rambling I won’t get through everything, but I’ll address the most poignant ones.

‘Z':
A French film from 1969 I’ve had in my instant que ever since I watched The French Connection earlier last year. As I believe I probably ranted at the time if I had ever seen Friedkin’s (French Connection) masterpiece before it was when I was little and so I had no real recollection of it and thus was completely unprepared to fall for it as hard as I did. Ever since that viewing the film recurs in my memory on a regular basis – its score, a masterful epic by avante-jazz musician extraordinaire Don Ellis** works symbiotically with it’s slightly documentary/slightly avante garde cinematography by Owen Roizman to create a gritty, ghost-like atmosphere, all of which was obviously being steered by Mr. Friedkin whose impetus for the style and tone of the film were inspired by this film Z.

Z is very straightforward – there is a reason it needs to be. Instead of the usual disclaimer ‘The characters in this film are fictitious and any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental‘ Z has an itch to scratch from the get go and so begins with the ‘disclaimer’ Any
similarity to actual events or persons living or
dead is not coincidental. It is intentional
.” Director Costa Gavras and Screenwriter Jorge Semprun adapt a novel by Greek author Vassilis Vassilikos of the same name that tells a story that is a very thinly veiled fictionalized account of the assassination of Greek Democratic politician Gregoris Lambrakis. The film is not a conventional thriller by today’s standard, all jump cuts and crashing dramatic score. Instead it is subtle and slowly unraveled, like a card shark holding onto his ace until the last minute. And ‘Z’ is so similar in tone to The French Connection that its influence on Friedkin is undeniable (not a bad thing, mind you). Excellent film if you are into the avante strain that was ebbing through Hollywood late 60’s-early 70’s as this is one of that strain’s sources.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE

Another film I had not seen since I was probably seven or eight, and after finally re-watching it I simply cannot figure out why I so vividly remember seeing the infamous helicopter crash that took actor Vic Morrow’s life.

Retention from childhood is a funny thing – I did not remember the Scatman Crothers segment at all, nor the John Lithgow one that was later so beautifully done up by The Simpsons. And yet I remembered parts of the rest of the film crystal clear. Fine, but why the helicopter?

It’s common knowledge that the accident on the set of the first segment resulted in the decapitation of actor Vic Morrow, as well as the deaths of two child actors. I didn’t know this at the time I would have first seen the film, way back when, and yet I have carried with me my whole life a mental picture of the Morrow segment, directed by John Landis, ending with a helicopter crashing into the swamp. People would talk about the Twilight Zone movie and I’d immediately picture a copter sticking cock-eyed out of the swamp.

Any ideas? News report? Psychic whozamadab? I don’t know…

Keep in mind this would have been roughly 1984-85, so it definitely pre-dates the ‘special features’ phenomenon of the DVD era, not that any filmmaker in their right mind would include footage of a disaster on their set that cost human lives in a special features package (well, maybe Uwe Boll would).

The four segments and prologue/epilogue of Twilight Zone take me back to that era where, probably because I was so young at the time, and special effects were still ‘hand made’ film seemed especially magical. The ‘Kick the Can’ segment with Scatman Crothers is a lovely commentary on the human life cycle and not at all suffering from the cheese that I associate with something with a similar concept like Cocoon. Lithgow’s insanity in the last segment, a remake of the ‘Terror at 20,000 ft’ episode of the Twilight Zone series is amazing and almost as much fun as the aforementioned Simpson’s spoof. All in all, this ranks up there with the era that endeared Spielberg (one part of the Producers and director of the Kick the Can segment) to many of us as kids. The funny thing about Spielberg is of course most of those kids have distanced themselves from him to some degree as we’ve aged and a good, honest reason for that had never really occurred to me until watching Twilight Zone: As we grew up so did Spielberg. His movies at that time reflected a young soul, then about the time of Empire of the Sun (1986) he forgot how to ‘kick the can’. Not to say his body of more modern work is bad, but there is a HUGE difference, as if something happened that made the man want to leave childhood behind. He occasionally tries to get it back (Last Crusade, Roger Rabbit, etc.) but as close as he gets, its still not quite the same.
 
NIGHTBEAST

Where to begin. This film from 1982 is remarkable in its atrociousness. Written (if you could call it that) and directed by Don Dohler Nightbeast begins with an Atari-like segment of a spacecraft hurtling through space, hitting a meteor and falling to Earth. Of course it crash lands in a forested area where three hillbillies are getting drunk nearby. They go to check out the crash and all hell breaks loose.

The best thing about Nightbeast is the alien, who looks kinda like that reptilian bounty hunter Bossk from Empire Strikes Back, except it walks around making humans disappear with its ‘Cosmic Disappearing Ray’ in what looks an awful lot like a silver bathrobe.

Swingin’, eh?

Seriously, Nightbeast is a waste of time and a total piece of shit whose only value arises in its kitsch factor, which really only goes so far. However, the joke is on me because I watched it. HOWEVER, as bad as Nightbeast is it is nowhere near as bad as my next and last entry for the sick day,

WES CRAVEN’S NEW NIGHTMARE

Yes, as bad as Nightbeast was it didn’t annoy me even half as much as this piece of total shite. The plot seems interesting at first – the notable creators and actors who brought the fictional epic of Freddy Krueger to film become haunted in their real, off-screen lives by the malevolent force that is Freddy Krueger. The lines between fiction and reality blur, chaos ensues, etc. etc. However, the acting is shite and the script is shite – Craven chooses to spend an unbelievable amount of time peppering the film with dramatic but ultimately inconsequential Earthquakes, not to mention the most annoying little boy to enact a shameless Shining-ripoff in quite some time.

I have no love lost for The Nightmare on Elm Street series – years ago I swore up and down that the original flick was the ‘film’, with all the others being shameless franchising fiascoes. Then I bought #1 and watched it for the first time since its original video release and you know what? I found it pretty much sucked too. Don’t get me wrong, some great moments and images, but overall pretty lame. This is why, even as I grow more and more disgusted of the current Hollywood re-make craze I can argue that some things, such as Nightmare on Elm Street, are ideas good enough to deserve a re-make that treats them with something more than tongue-in-cheek, wink-wink at the camera schlock.
…………………

* Interesting tidbit here. My mother used to work as a nurse/orderly at an old folks home in the early 90’s. When I spoke to her the other day I was unsure exactly what I was sick with, but I mentioned my fever and the fact that I literally felt like I was going insane. I mean really insane. I was laying on the bed swaddled in piles of covers and not only do I think I started to hallucinate but I was, at times, laying there laughing my ass off for no good reason. Just maniacal laughter, echoing through the house and scaring the hell out of my cats. So when I told my mother this she responded with, ‘Oh, it must be a Urinary Track Infection. When I worked at the home, whenever one of the residents would go off their rocker we’d know they had a UTI – it causes people to get goofy.

Imagine that? If anybody out there can figure out a way to bottle and sell the effects without the symptoms, let me know – we’d make a fortune hanging around college campuses.

** Go search Mr. Ellis on Pandora radio and set up a station for him – if you like Jazz you’ll be glad you did.