Cine-Trash – Column


by William Ham
Illustration by Michael Corcoran

Recently, your insip – I mean, intrepid reporter fled the countr – ah, took a week’s sabbatical on an island in the West Indies renowned for its friendly locals, balmy year-round climate, and hairstyles that resemble a shag carpet as seen by Juan-Garcia Esquivel after someone slipped an ergot-soaked olive into his morning martini. After assiduously researching my Frommer’s Guide to the Best Places to Develop an Epidermal Melanoma, I chose the finest resort that a “borrowed” Discover card can buy (aptly enough, I “discovered” said card in the hip pocket of a sleeping paralegal on the subway), a place where I could best soak up the rays in peace. The cathode rays, that is. Screw fresh air, water, and especially the sun – I show up at the office with anything resembling a tan and my hermetic movie-nerd rep is blown for good. Never again could I blearily mutter, “Sorry I’m six hours late, but I was up all night flipping between Last Year at Marienbad and the director’s cut of Night of the Lepus” with any credibility. It didn’t matter that my room resembled a Rhodesian interrogation cell or that it had more bugs than G. Gordon Liddy’s guest house – it had the best satellite TV hookup in the Caribbean, the raft on which I could carry out a mission much bleaker than the one Martin Sheen took in that Joseph Conrad book. I was bound for the darkest recesses of the major premium cable channels during afternoon viewing hours, the nether regions where they hide the pale, runty children of their flock without even a deep-focus multi-angled decapitation sequence or a tender romantic interlude between Sylvia Kristel and a Polish sausage to redeem them. This is a bleak corner of the landscape where even angels fear to tread, unless of course they’re portrayed by Kim Cattrall. No stranger to this dark region, I set out, armed only with my remote, a carafe of rum punch (hold the punch), and, er, a big hunk of the native sacrament in order to heighten my spiritual quest at the foot of the fourteen-inch RCA altar. Buckle up, campers. Be brave.

The first rough video beast I encountered was, appropriately enough, Harold Ramis’ ramshackle resort comedy Club Paradise. I remember reading an article by the guy who co-authored the original script for this in Playboy (yes, I actually snuck them out of my dad’s drawer to look at the articles. How twisted am I?), describing the scenario he and ex-National Lampoon writer Chris Miller devised for it, a dark, anarchic thing that featured such characters as a handsome, goofy Frenchman who performed ventriloquist acts with his dick and kept knocking the lightbulbs in the place out with… well, you get my point. It passed (as screenplays do) through many sets of hands before landing on screen with all the sweet-smelling beauty of the big dead fish on the beach in the last scene of La Dolce Vita. Oh, don’t get me wrong, this is not one of those ensemble pictures featuring a gaggle of former SNL cast members belying their original brilliance for the sake of a paycheck. No, this is an ensemble picture featuring a gaggle of former SCTV cast members belying their original brilliance for the sake of a paycheck. But it’s amiable enough, harmless, really, and you do get to see Jimmy Cliff playing some cool pop-reggae stuff, and when things grind to a halt (which is frequently), you can while away the time pondering the question “Robin Williams and Eugene Levy – who’s hairier?” No real complaints – a more horrible island-comedy disaster lay in wait for me later in my travels, but that was yet to come.

As my island sojourn coincided with the twentieth anniversary of Elvis’ famed Lenny Bruce impersonation in the growler of Graceland, I was naturally anticipating a big, rancid hunka hunka burnin’ shit from the Pelv’s passage through Hollywood, maybe Change of Habit, where Mary Tyler Moore plays a nun (“Ohhh, Pope John-Paaauuulll…”), or Charro!, the King’s attempt at becoming Clint Eastwood where he doesn’t even sing (released the same year as Paint Your Wagon, a film where Clint – shudder –does sing), but I was sorely disappointed. I got the doc(tor Nick)umentary This Is Elvis instead. I had high hopes for this one, with its beyond-the-grave narration by a mock-hick who couldn’t cut it as an Elvis impersonator impersonator, but dammit, it wasn’t bad at all. Heavily reverential, natch, but more forthcoming about his decline into drugs, bad food, and karate kicks which looked like they contributed more to E.’s twisted colon than either of the first two, than it had to be. And maybe I’m just getting older, but the last concert scene, from a show only six weeks before his death in which his sequins are stretched so tight you can hear them complaining, and he badly fumfers through the spoken bridge of “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” before doing a version of “My Way” that may be even more creepy than Sid’s, isn’t the explosion of ridiculous camp fun that I imagined. It’s just pathetic, sad, and even tragic. Couldn’t Andrew Solt and Malcolm Leo have tacked on “No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car” at the end, for my sake? Damn, I’m on vacation here.

I took a left turn to elude the overwhelming stench (made worse by the tropical sun) of peanut butter, banana, Percodan and sweaty scarves and – glort! – stepped right into Teen Movie quicksand. My feet began to give way as I recognized the inescapable signs that that Windy City Madman, John Hughes, had been there. The twisted results of his crazed experiments are all over the cable landscape (Uncle Buck, I presume?), just waiting for the unsuspecting traveler. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is what turned up that day – granted, one of his funnier zitsploitation pix, but what sticks in my no-longer-sixteen-year-old craw is the poorly-diguised geek hostility that runs through them all. Think about it: every high school outcast in his ’80s pictures (except for Sixteen Candles, but that was merely to establish a false sense of security before lowering the hammer) gets to endure horrible tortures disguised as life lessons. How did The Breakfast Club end? The burnout got the princess, the weirdo got the jock (yeah, right), and the brainiac got… to write the paper. Then Weird Science: two computer dorks create Kelly Le Brock, who would do anything they want of her – and instead of hog-tying the gigabytch and spending the remaining running time filling her every aperture with dork DNA, they use their power to… snag two kinda frumpy girls who you just know tossed them over the minute their sportscars dissolved into digitized dust. And don’t even get me started on the indignities inflicted on poor Duckie Dale in Pretty In Pink. Bueller really takes the anti-dweeb cake, however. Problems relating to your dad, kids? Do what Cameron Frye (Alan Ruck) does – trash his rare mint-condition ’62 Ferrari and watch the understanding flow! After what he did to Cam, Matthew Broderick deserved to have his life wrecked by that lisping cable installer. Fucker. And I won’t even bother poking my fingers into the myriad logical holes so typical of Hughes, like the school bus scene at the end – does school end at six in Shermer, Illinois? Jeez, no wonder the kids there are all so fucked up…

Next Month: Liv Tyler in Really Ugly Undies! World War II Ends Two Decades Late! Jay Leno’s Chin Puts Some Poor Kid’s Eye Out! And a Flick So Horrendous It’ll Have You Appreciating the Artistry of Cannonball Run II! Stay tuned, furniture watchers…

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