Extreme Cinema! “Fu-Man Chews”

Robert Englund makes a cameo as the bus driver in the dream sequence that begins the movie. Christopher Young, an enormously talented film composer, does the score. He did a great score for The Fly II and the Hellraiser movies. I know this because I have several of his scores on tape and compact disc. Mark Patton is the unpopular kid in the schoolbus. Turns out Freddy’s driving. There’s some great visuals here, lots of fun.

So Mark Patton’s having bad dreams. Nice cutaway to the slicing of a tomato, and then a horrible scream that the parents (Hope Lange and Clu Galager, who seem too old to be his parents) ignore. If my daughter screamed like that, me and my wife and every cop in Queens would be in her room in two minutes. Notice the cereal? Fu Man Chews! So Mark’s got a not-girlfriend, Lisa, kinda cute, redhead – reminds me a little of Annette O’ Toole. There’s like 15 different activities going on in the high school sports field. Archery, volleyball, soccer, baseball.

His friend, Robert Rusler, was in Weird Science as Robert Downey Jr.’s friend, the two geeks who torment Anthony Michael Hall and Ilan Mitchell-Smith. He’s a jock-type, probably popular, but he befriends Mark Patton, who seems uneasy in his skin as he dream nightly about the spectre of Fred Kruger.

Three of the four movies we talk about tonight were released (or distributed) by New Line Cinema; A Nightmare on Elm Street 2; Freddy’s Revenge, 12:01. and The Hidden – released in 1987, produced by Bob Shaye, who ran New Line, also produced the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise. We have a bank robbery, a high-speed chase – I believe that’s Chris Mulkey as the bank robber – he was also in Jack’s Back as one of the detectives. He’s featured prominently in Jack’s Back, but he only has two words of dialogue, which was weird. Michael Nouri is a cop investigating Mulkey. His partner is the great character actor, Ed O’ Ross. They set up a road-block, with shotguns and everything. The beginning of this movie reminds me of Dead Heat. They riddle Mulkey’s car with bullets. He gets out of the car, battle-scarred, the car explodes.

Next, he’s in the hospital in critical condition. Ed O’ Ross, pissed off as usual tells a doctor Mulkey wreaked all kinds of carnage in two weeks. Clu Galager plays the pissed-off police chief (“cash and dash fuckers!”). Introducing Kyle Machlachlan as an FBI spook, assigned to this case. I’ll wager he’s there to piss off the cops, lots of pissed-off people in the movie. These cops are overworked. This part is a bit of a primer for Kyle, who would go on to play another weird FBI guy in Twin Peaks.
Written by David Lawler and Andrew La Ganke.
“Love Theme from Extreme Cinema” composed and performed by Alex Saltz.
Introduction written by Bronwyn Knox.
Narrator, “The Voice”: Valerie Sachs

Running Time: 1:34:35

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Vintage Cable Box: “The Osterman Weekend, 1983”

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“The truth is a lie that hasn’t been found out.”


The Osterman Weekend, 1983 (Rutger Hauer), 20th Century Fox

Inappropriate saxophone-laden soap opera/porno movie/elevator music (by Lalo Schifrin) accompanies the opening credits, wherein John Hurt is doing the deed with a french lady I can only presume is his trophy wife. Men in black (on orders from Burt Lancaster’s section chief) arrive to kill the lady with a hypodermic injection. Later, Lancaster orders Hurt to neutralize political pundit John Tanner (the great Rutger Hauer) and his friends – weirdo plastic surgeon Dennis Hopper, sleazy banker Chris Sarandon, and the titular Osterman (Craig T. Nelson).

John Hurt tips off Tanner that one or more of his friends may be involved in a Soviet splinter group known as Omega, and that he has been instructed to watch them during an informal weekend gathering. Hauer agrees to Hurt and Lancaster’s demands, provided Lancaster appear on his television show. For the rest of us watching the movie, we already know what’s going to happen before it happens, so suspense is kept at a minimum. In poker parlance, it’s like showing your hand before you’ve put your money on the table. There is talk of Tanner’s troubled marriage to Meg Foster (with her gorgeous glowing blue/green eyes), but their relationship seems like every other normal married couple to me. Perhaps I should examine my priorities!

What follows is an unusually-edited chase sequence. There is an attempted abduction of Tanner’s wife and son with emphasis placed on an enormous pipe going through a windshield. Bits like this are few and far between for a movie like this. Hurt wires Tanner’s house with security cameras in every room, and he spends a lot of time watching all the couples get kinky. The weekend commences, and already nobody seems to be having a good time, and everybody is suspicious and paranoid from the start. It’s like Edward Albee but with naked pool parties. There is a funny bit where Hurt pretends to be a weatherman on the television as he attempts to communicate with Tanner while his friends are watching.

With a great cast and story with so much potential, it’s disappointing to note that this was Sam Peckinpah’s final film. It shows none of the wit, none of the break-neck and feverishly-paced action central to Peckinpah’s work. In addition, the sound quality is abysmal. Nearly every scene shows signs of “looping” (that is when the sound is spotty or of subpar quality, actors return in post-production to re-record their dialogue). What’s the point of having boom operators and sound recordists if you’re just going to re-record all of your dialogue anyway? The sound effects editing is equally atrocious.  The actors sound as though they are shouting in a tunnel when they running through the woods.


Utilizing the old severed-dog-head-in-the-refrigerator gag, the party breaks up and everybody books. Tanner announces to Hurt that he is through. Hurt traps everybody on Tanner’s property. As it turns out, all of this has been a revenge scheme orchestrated by Hurt against Burt Lancaster, whom he knows ordered his wife’s death, and poor Tanner (not to mention his friends) just got caught in the middle. The movie is inconsistent; there are terrible scenes and then there are moments of brilliance that belong in a better movie.

A relative had gotten me a box set of author Robert Ludlum’s classic books (titles like The Bourne Identity and The Gemini Contender among them) so I had read most of his books at the time before I saw this troubling adaptation. It seems to me the writers wrote up a rudimentary outline of the novel (or not even that – they just flipped through the pages wearing blindfolds and pointing to certain passages). Ludlum’s Bourne series was made into a highly successful franchise starring Matt Damon.

Sam Peckinpah was a legend and a god to modern-day action film directors like Walter Hill, John Carpenter, Robert Rodriguez, and John Woo. He directed The Wild Bunch. Straw Dogs, The Getaway, Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, and many other films noted more for their graphic violence than their fine narratives.

By the way, the dog didn’t die, but he was gagged and stuffed in the closet of a recreational vehicle, along with Tanner’s wife and son. I told you there were moments of brilliance in this movie!

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.