NEW EPISODE! “By The Time Eye Get 2 Ypsilanti”

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Recorded April 17-28, 2016.

With David Lawler, Andrew La Ganke, Eve Kerrigan, Denny Spangler.

“Show Biz Bugs” (a 1957 Warner Bros. Looney Tunes animated short directed by Friz Freleng and featuring Mel Blanc as the voices of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck), SCTV (a Canadian television sketch comedy show offshoot from Toronto’s Second City troupe that ran between 1976 and 1984(, “Drunk and Dueling” (David Lawler) by David Lawler, Liberty’s Kids (an animated educational historical fiction television series produced by DIC Entertainment, originally broadcast on PBS Kids from September 2, 2002 to April 4, 2003), “Dawn Of The Dead” (a 1978 horror film directed by George Romero), “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad” (Prince) by Prince (from the 1979 album, “Prince”), “Living the Dream” (Joseph Langham) by Joseph Langham.

Artwork by Bronwyn Knox.

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Vintage Cable Box: “Strange Brew, 1983”

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“If I didn’t have puke breath, I’d kiss you.”

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Strange Brew (1983), (Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas), MGM/UA

We start on the big silver screen with a belching MGM lion, and that pretty much sets the tone for the motion picture debut of beer-drinking hosers Bob and Doug McKenzie (Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis); ostensibly a set-up for their movie-within-a-movie, Mutants of 2051 A.D., a hilarious no-budget sci-fi exercise that references Planet Of The Apes and The Omega Man. The crowd watching the movie grows restless and walks out demanding refunds. Moved by a distraught father’s story, Bob gives the man his Dad’s beer money.

Dad (voiced by Mel Blanc) demands beer. They try to scam their way into a free 24-pack of Elsinore with the old mouse-in-a-bottle trick, but they’re referred to the brewery. At the gated, electrified entrance, they rescue Pam Elsinore (the fetching Lynne Griffin) when the gates close on her car. Pam is there to receive compensation for the suspicious death of her father, John Elsinore, the former brewmaster. Bob and Doug fall backwards into jobs at the brewery, checking bottles for mice.

Brewmeister Smith (a fantastic Max Von Sydow) is making a mind-altering drug, which he will use to control the population of Elsinore beer drinkers with violent impulses.  After viewing “improvements” made by Smith (surveillance cameras, an empty cafeteria, and lack of employees), Pam gives him two weeks notice to pack up.  Brewmeister Smith orders Pam’s Uncle Claude (toadie Paul Dooley) to kill her, or at least incapacitate her.  Smith is using inmates from a nearby sanitarium to test his concoction, with orchestrated games of hockey, and it’s up to Bob and Doug to save the day.

Hosehead saves the day
It’s actually Hosehead who saves the day!

This is such a fun movie! After all these years, the material (originally a series of sketches for SCTV) holds up and is given the appropriate celluloid treatment. The characters break the fourth wall. There’s even a brief intermission. One of my favorite gags occurs right after the intermission. After Bob and Doug’s van plummets into the river and they are presumed dead, scuba divers are amazed to find them just fine underwater, drinking bottles of beer. When the diver flashes his badge, Doug reaches into his pocket and produces his driver’s license – all of this underwater!

Bob and Doug are framed for the attempted kidnapping of Pam. They are remanded to the sanitarium after being diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenics by the Court. With the help of retired hockey star Jean LeRose and the electronic “ghost” of Pam’s deceased father (not to mention Bob and Doug’s superhero dog, Hosehead), they rescue Pam and foil Brewmeister Smith’s plan to sabotage the upcoming Oktoberfest.

As directed by Moranis and Thomas, the scenes effortlessly transition, and the narrative is fast-paced. This is serious filmmaking, for a completely ridiculous story. A great deal of the dialogue feels largely improvised. While a sequel was planned (and eventually abandoned) for release in 1999, Moranis and Thomas never directed again, and that is unfortunate because they are gifted comedians, actors, and storytellers. A year or so after the release of Strange Brew, they would famously appear in Pizza Hut commercials.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

Vintage Cable Box: “It Came From Hollywood, 1982”

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“You see?  You see?  Your stupid minds!  Stupid!  Stupid!”

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It Came From Hollywood, 1982 (Dan Aykroyd), Paramount Pictures

In a throwaway sketch straight out of Kentucky Fried Movie or Second City, Gilda Radner hears a report of an escaped Gorilla. She is instructed to lock her doors, shut her windows, extinguish all fires and above all, remain calm. She manages to destroy her house in the process of keeping herself safe. Gilda introduces and provides commentary for movies about lunatic gorillas, men from the jungle, giant monkeys, and robot-gorillas.

Dan Aykroyd is a soldier from another planet on a survey mission, scouting a destroyed Earth (actually it appears to be the Paramount back-lot) and providing insight into silly low-budget (and some big-budget) movies about alien invasions, ranging from Teenagers From Outer Space to the original War of the Worlds, as well as something Aykroyd identifies as “Attack of the Pipe-Welders”.

Cheech & Chong go to the movies. Chong purchases a garbage-can sized bucket of popcorn. They watch The Incredible Shrinking Man, The Amazing Colossal Man, and Attack of the 50 Foot Woman. They also get away with some off-color humor and dirty puns. John Candy presents an affectionate (if snarky) tribute to the movies of Ed Wood. Gilda shows up again to show us some very cheap musicals, most of which I had never known about, which is astonishing to me. One clip of note is the enormously racist 1934 musical, Wonder Bar, complete with black-face minstrels and dancing slices of watermelon.

John Candy presents previews of coming attractions, where we get a taste of The Hypnotic Eye, The Incredibly Strange Creatures (Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies), House on Haunted Hill with Vincent Price, and I Married A Monster From Outer Space. We get a few exploitation movies as well, like Black Belt Jones (Right on!) and Mars Needs Women.

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Dan Aykroyd’s Troubled Teenagers profiles movies like High School Hellcats, hilarious morality plays about venereal disease and teenage pregnancy, and drug movies, The Weird World of LSD, Reefer Madness, and Marihuana (I don’t know why it’s spelled like that either). Some of the material is repetitive, as in Cheech & Chong’s next segment, The Animal Kingdom Goes Berserk. Favorites of mine like Son of Godzilla and The Beginning of the End (with giant grasshoppers!) are featured. To complete the joke, Cheech & Chong smoke an enormous blunt.

It Came From Hollywood is in parts a tribute, a rebuke, an admonishment, and a document of bad movies, silly movies, terrible movies, as well as misguided filmmakers, atrocious performances, and crappy special effects. The headlining comedians offer zany commentary that serves as brilliant counterpoint to the often intentionally serious and unintentionally hilarious films featured in the movie. It Came From Hollywood was obviously an inspiration for Mystery Science Theater 3000, in which a human, stuck in space with his three loyal robots, is forced to “riff” on bad movies sent to him by a mad scientist and his henchman.

Though most of the humor is meant to pad out the running time, and is often, flat and cringe-worthy, I have a soft spot in my heart for It Came From Hollywood. I learned how to make movies (and more importantly, how not to make them) watching movies like this. There weren’t many compilation movies made in those times. The only other movie I can recall from that period was Terror In The Aisles featuring Universal Pictures horror movies like Frankenstein all the way up to The Thing.

Because of rights issues involving many of the films shown in It Came From Hollywood (over 100 titles!), the film was never released on DVD, so it is extremely hard to find, but it is (for now) available on YouTube. It was nice going back to this movie to be reminded of why I love movies. I don’t care how bad they are. I love movies. I miss Gilda and John.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.