ALWAYS KEEPING AN EYE ON HOLLYWOOD!!!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

JER’S TURN: WHAT ARE YOUR ‘GUILTY PLEASURES?’

JER: I can sit in front of the numerous shelves that are stocked with everything that makes my film collection...from VHS tapes; DVDs and Blu-Rays: all collected from over 30 years of looking, ordering and purchasing from everywhere and anywhere I can possibly go or visit. I love my collection and very proud of how thrifty my purchases are and have been. Since the age of 13 years, I have host “Movie Parties” at my place. When it comes to the selection of what would play at one of these “Parties”, I always try to choose something that not everyone has seen or even heard of! It can be difficult, but they are definitely out there…for sure!

Some of these selections have even been taken out of the closet…the deep, dark space where movies I am embarrassed by or ashamed to publicly admit watching…much less actually OWNING them, reside!

Well, I now stand before you…Johnny Chazz and our CINEMA: COUNTERPOINT readers… as I remove the doors to my closet and openly admit to my dirty little secrets of what I call my GUILTY PLEASURES!

As per my own definition of sorts, a ‘guilty pleasure’ is a movie (not a film) that would be deemed unacceptable by any respectable ‘film’ lover. I am not talking about a woman loving, for example, THE NOTEBOOK or STEEL MAGNOLIAS…no, no, NO! That ain’t it at all!

Please read on as I pear down to only 5 (and 1 runner up) I will admit to for now (my therapist says I have to do this in stages)

Remember, I do this knowing that I may get some laughs, but DON’T JUDGE ME, WORLD! J A notable footnote to the movies I have selected: they are listed in no particular order and they all are musical in content. Interesting observation I placed on myself as, I compiled my choices.
Some movies I have on my list would be considered “cult” favorites in some circles…you decide!

SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND (1978) The auspicious big- budget film had a cast of well known performers in it for its time: The Bee-Gees, Peter Frampton, Steve Martin, Alice Cooper, Earth, Wind & Fire and Aerosmith…all portraying characters based off the catalog of Beatles’ songs that string the movie through with plot and song. Two popular renditions you may hear on today’s classic rock stations would be EW&F’s: “Got To Get You Into My Life” and Aerosmith’s: “Come Together” came from this soundtrack. This is not like the most recent attempt of placing The Beatles’ music in film, ACROSS THE UNIVERSE, by any means. Frampton has single- handedly blamed the flop of the movie to the termination of his own successful career! The Bee- Gees play the Henderson brothers (“Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite”) and Frampton plays Billy Shears (“With A Little Help From My Friends’) all of which are boyhood friends who formed a music group while growing up in a small town called Heartland. The music makes it to Hollywood’s record industry’s ears and are asked to fly down and start recording immediately! Can the innocence of friends hold them in the topsy- turvey world of rock and roll? As a footnote: original Beatles’ record producer George Martin was asked to produce the film’s soundtrack.
Samples of the soundtrack are featured in this 1977 trailer!

THE FORBIDDEN ZONE (1982) Oh goodness! The tie-in here is on film composer Danny Elfman…let’s start there! A little Music 101 class here, kids…Danny Elfman was the lead singer and founder of the 1980’s New Wave group ‘Oingo Boingo’ (Theme song from WEIRD SCIENCE, got it?) Before there was an ‘Oingo Boingo,’ Danny and his older brother, Richard were the creators of a performing group of musicians and weird French- influenced theatre stage performances called ‘The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo.’ After the performing group had split, Richard wanted to capture the essence of their performing days. Richard pushed and pushed and gave birth to THE FORBIDDEN ZONE! Shot on a very small shoestring budget, the movie was made in black and white and follows the story of the Hercules family as they move into a new home in the LA area. The teenage daughter is a curious little one as she uncovers the fact that, hidden in her basement, is the doorway leading into the 5th Dimension! It is there that we meet King Fausto, played by Herve Villechaize (‘Tattoo’ from the original “Fantasy Island” TV series “Da plane, da plane!”) who rules the 5th Dimension as only a French dictator can! Nudity, potty humor, Cab Calloway songs and Danny Elfman as the devil can only be found here.

PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE (1974) Before the success of CARRIE, director Brain DePalma made this combined tribute to the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ films and to the story of ‘Faust’ in this very dated musical/ comedy/ horror featuring Paul Williams, who not only acts in the film but wrote the music and lyrics to the songs on the soundtrack. William Finley plays Winslow Leach, a struggling musician who is looking for his big break. Williams plays Swan, record producer extraordinaire! Swan is looking for the next big thing to fill his heavy list of talented finds to be the opening act for a new theatre he is about to open: The Paradise! After a horrible disfiguring accident, Leach falls victim to Swan’s lies and ‘signs his life away’ to write music for Phoenix (Jessica Harper) a beautiful and talented female singer. After discovering that Swan was taking credit for Leach’s music, Winslow disguises himself as the Phantom and stops at nothing in preventing the tie between Swan and Phoenix…who he has fallen in love with! The music is very campy with a 70’s grip that only Paul Williams can grab! The film has many wonderful set designs and great photographic moments…but, it is a rock-opera with a flair for humor and violence!!

PUFNSTUF (1970) Does anyone remember Sid and Marty Krofft from the early 70's? Back in the days of children’s programs on TV, before Barney, before Teletubbies...there were the Krofft shows like “Land of the Lost”, “The Bugaloos” and “H.R. Pufnstuf.” What many people didn’t know was that the original origins of “H.R. Pufnstuf” were an actual theatrically released film! The film did well in the box office, because it was a G-rated family musical, but it certainly didn’t go into the pages of blockbuster status! If you have never heard of Pufnstuf, then suspend your vision of reality and join me on this story ride… young Jimmy (OLIVER’s Jack Wild) is an elementary school boy transplanted from the UK to America because of his father’s work. Jimmy is an outcast of sorts, always day-dreaming his life away. After showing up late for school band rehearsals, he and his flute are kicked off the band! Wandering around the nearby woods, his flute magically comes to life named Freddy. Who wouldn’t want a talking flute…or for that matter, what kind of power can come from owning one? A fly-by witch named Wichiepoo hovering overhead on her broom-broom, notices the talking flute and immediately feels the need to take it for her own rise to fame and power amongst other witches! Nearby, a talking dragon named Pufnstuf finds Jimmy and rescues him and Freddy from Witcheepoo’s clutches. In their travels, Jimmy has lost his way home and stays with Pufnstuf for protection and friendship. ‘Mama’ Cass Elliott from the 70’s folk group ‘The Mamas and the Papas’ plays Witch Hazel, a rival witch and features the film with a song.
"Living Island" is the intro to the land that PUFNSTUF lives! Enjoy!

SHOCK TREATMENT (1981) Not a sequel, but an “equal” to THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) continues with the further adventures of Brad and Janet, who are now married. Their lives have traveled a dull road and their marriage is on the skids. The once happy and quaint town of Denton has become one big TV show studio, now broadcasting the doings of the local Dentons for the world to see. Brad and Janet’s dilemma because a show favorite and immediately become ‘reality’ stars! Janet loves the popularity she has and is catapulted into stardom, but Brad suspects fowl play from someone. Original “Rocky” actors returning in different roles are Richard O’Brien, Patricia Neil, Little Nell and Charles Grey! The music has taken a very polished 80’s sound with bright colors and MTV-like film quality, but a very interesting look into the future to be, if you would. Remember, there were no signs of reality television back in 1981, when this movie was made…my, how we have come a long way…or have we?

RUNNER UP: HOWARD THE DUCK (1986) The movie everyone just loves to hate! I remember skipping school (thanks Mom) that Friday back in 1986 and driving two hours away to see this on one of the largest screens in nearby San Diego, CA! I loved it! It was different, new and produced by STAR WARS’ father, George Lucas! How could this be considered such an ugly duckling? Well, it was! The backlash was horrible and it was almost a sin to openly admitting seeing the movie much less liking it.  Howard is an upright standing, cigar-chomping duck from another world where ducks live as humans would on earth. Through a series of events, Howard is transported to our planet and landing in Cleveland where he meets Beverley (Lea Thompson), a struggling lead singer/ songwriter/ musician playing bar dives and getting nowhere. Howard tries to find out what brought him to our world and looks for a way back home. If things weren’t complicated enough, he has to deal with the feds who want to experiment on him, creatures from other dimensions and the fact that he has the hots for a human! The film was produced with a big budget and boasted dazzling special effects! The soundtrack was produced by John Barry (see my previous blog entry as I pay my respects to his recent passing away) and songs by Thomas Dolby (She Blinded Me With Science).
The original theatrical trailer for your enjoyment!

JOHNNY CHAZ: 1. SUSPIRIA (1977): It's funny how some of our selections this week collide; Jer. “Suspiria” is an Italian-based horror film that stars Jessica Harper (PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE). Directed by Dario Argento, this movie starts out with Suzy’s arrival at a top-notch ballet academy in Europe. To some, the film has a “Fascist” feel about it as seen in some of the dark scenes in the middle portions of the story.
Suspiria is extremely disturbing and quite frightening in many ways – yet it still has that bizarre, ridiculous and fantastic “cult” feel about it. The camera angles, the lenses, the sound and the chilling and tense score make this film work on a level that is simply “disturbing”. Something evil lurks at the Academy and we, as an audience, are taken through a violent and suspenseful trip through it all.

What is most rewarding about “Suspiria” is the fact that it is not only intense; it is terrifying in many parts. The simple “expectation” that something terrible is about to happen is what keeps us on our toes during this dark trip. You would probably agree that this is a skill used by Directors that really is lacking in horror films today as they feel the need to throw everything at you at all times.

I recommend “Suspiria” to all audiences (over 18 still) who consider themselves “horror-film” buffs as well as film-aficionados. It’s not “Halloween” or “The Shining”, but in a sense I almost think it is just as good…..if not better.

2. MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL (1975): Of all the Monty Python films, I really have to settle on this one. Starring John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and other ridiculous yet highly skilled actors, there is no doubt that this movie will leave you in tears laughing at the absurdities through and through. The plot is based on King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail – but a quick warning……there is nothing at all “knightly” about this troupe. Set in the middle-ages, there are countless hilarious lines in this movie and you are certain to be quoting them after a viewing. The coconuts, the black knight, the killer bunny rabbit and the police-force on the chase are all part of the absurdities going on here. If the dry, witty British-styled humor is your cup of tea, then I highly recommend “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”.

3. THE FISH THAT SAVED PITTSBURGH (1979): I am 99% certain that I will get some feedback from Jer on this one as it has always been a “guilty pleasure” of mine even knowing how terribly bad the film really is. Still, it appeals to me on a number of levels subconsciously for this and that reason. With a cast of Jonathan Winters, Julius Erving (Dr. “J”), Stockard Channing, Flip Wilson and more, the film is a picture-perfect image of the funky seventies where anything goes. The music is soulful and psychedelic, the mood comes from the moon and the stars and the athleticism is really fun to watch. The film takes itself very seriously and what is so hilarious is that at the time so did audiences. Basketball collides with the Age of Aquarius in this one and it is certainly worth watching if you are a fan of the seventies, sports or both.

The theme song is played with selected scenes from the film...enjoy this funky 70's tribute to da FISH!

4. XANADU (1980): Olivia Newton John and Gene Kelly starring together on the screen were like mixing oil and water – but it worked. “Xanadu” brought the 1940’s and 1980’s together in such a modern and majestic way that it had a true impact on me growing up. What was so fun was the fact that the plot was basically irrelevant as it was the visual and the music that simply took over. With the soundtrack of ELO songs composed by Jeff Lynne, the roller skating scenes, the nightclub, the flashy neon lights and the overall fantasy-feel of the movie, “Xanadu” has always been one of my guilty pleasures. The film was an utter disaster at the box-office at the time, but it glitters and shines in so many ways. This could be considered a cult-film in a sense, but it is actually a fun ride and the visuals are entertaining throughout.

5. THE FORBIDDEN ZONE (1982): How can I not go with you on this one, Jer? Heck, from the moment you showed this at your 2006 movie party, I became a fan for life. Where to even begin with this one? This is a classic “cult movie” and it is hard to say if it would fall in the rank of a 1/10 or a 9/10. Just as you mentioned, Jer, everything around this film comes back to the strange, exotic, bizarre and dreamy world that only a Danny Elfman soundtrack could produce. To add, it is the “black and white” aspects of the film that really, really makes it work. The Cab Calloway tunes are simply hypnotic and the cast of characters including a frogman in a tuxedo, a human chandelier, Danny Elfman as a singing and dancing Satan, the sex-pot Marie-Pascale, and Herve Villechaize as the underworld king. I would classify this as a ‘Saturday-night 2:00 am’ kind of movie that will simply blow your mind. In sum, a person watching this film is really never, ever prepared for what is about to happen on the screen.
Here is the original trailer for THE FORBIDDEN ZONE!

JER:  It does me proud to see you air out your dirty secrets for all to read! I am especially proud of (gulp) your admittance to THE FISH THAT SAVED PITTSBURGH! Readers, the ‘inside joke’ is that I never let JC live down the fact that he can be so prolific with his film options and the numerous films he has shot-down that I have had fondness for…and he comes out with his ‘secret’ love for this movie! I was blown out of the water with that choice!!

Man, I love XANADU, too. I might as well mention THE WIZ as well! THE WIZ had a special kind of magic and was considered great family fun with great music adaptations by Quincy Jones! SUSPIRIA and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL would fall under the category of cult favorites, but I guess they could be ones ‘guilty pleasure’ as well.

OK, we want you, the readers, to chime in on YOUR guilty pleasures as well! Let us all band together and celebrate bad movies! Please comment and let’s see what you got hidden in your closets!

As always, tune in when it will be Johnny Chaz’ turn to select a topic from the old vault...so, as always, we will SEE YOU NEXT WEDNESDAY!
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6 comments:

  1. "Freaks" and "Gator Bait" come to mind.

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  2. LMFAO! I know exactly who this is! I rolled in my chair when you mentioned GATOR BAIT! I forgot that there could be "guiltier" films than THE FORBIDDEN ZONE! Thanks for chiming in!

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  3. Gator Bait and Freaks were way cool, but i also really liked some of the movies choosed by the critics on this blog. I really liked Pufnfstuf and Xanadu too. Alicia, FLINT MI.

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  4. Thank you Alicia from Flint! I (Jer) loved PUFNSTUF since I was a kid and thought I would never find this movie...ever! Thank you Universal for releasing it! BTW, Universal is also responsible for XANADU as well! I will never forget that Summer when "Magic" was the first single released from that soundtrack and buying the 45 single lp! WOW!

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  5. These are funny movies....thanks for the blast to the past guys!

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  6. Glad you enjoyed them...time to put them back in the closet where they belong!

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