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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Friday, December 30, 2005
From The Bad Photo Archives

Fonzie fights The Syndicate! That's the kind of plot you don't see in sitcoms today. I don't really like HAPPY DAYS very much now, but I watched it a lot when I was a kid (mainly when it was in weekday morning reruns on ABC during the summer). I probably saw this episode somewhere along the line, which appears, from the photo in the ad, to guest-star Harvey Lembeck.

The episode my brother and I always looked forward to seeing was the demolition derby three-parter. Epic in scope (it ran 90 minutes and was partially filmed in location), it pitted the Fonz (Henry Winkler) and his tough-talking gal pal Pinky Tuscadero (Roz Kelly) against the menacing Malachi brothers, whose signature move in the demolition derby arena was the deadly Malachi Crunch. The first episode ends on a cliffhanger with those bastard Malachis trying to sabotage Pinky's car. The stakes were higher after the second episode, which found Pinky seriously injured after a cheap shot by the Malachis. In the third part, Fonzie kicks some major Malachi Brother Ass and books to the hospital, where he proposes marriage to Pinky. By the end of the show, however, Fonzie has already pussed out and broken up with her, because--ayyyyyyy!--the Fonz has to be free.

Comedy, drama, action, tragedy, heroics--hey, what more could you ask for in a sitcom?

WELCOME BACK, KOTTER was one of my favorite shows as a kid, but, man, it is terrible. I tried to watch it a few times when it was running on TV Land and could barely get through it. It's interesting to watch for the Travolta factor; he's horrible as Vinnie Barbarino and I can't imagine how he got cast in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. What's amazing is that he's very good in SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER. All of the actors playing the Sweathogs look like they're around 30, and Gabriel Kaplan barely seems to be acting at all (much of his dialogue appears cribbed from his standup act).

I wonder if Vinnie kicked Big Wheel's ass for stealing his girl the way Fonzie got medieval on those damned Malachis.

Posted by Marty at 9:12 AM CST
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Low-Kicking High-Kicking Double Feature
A dwarf flying over the jungle with a jet pack strapped to his back. Topless women playing tennis in slow motion. A kung-fu brawl against a charging bull. Whenever you think you’ve seen everything film can offer, something like Mondo Macabro’s new DVD release of FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY and CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER comes along, leaving you with your mouth open and your faith in humanity restored.

It’s a sure bet you haven’t seen anything like FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY. Produced in the Philippines, this action-packed thriller is fairly routine in every regard except one, but it boasts one heck of a ringer. Playing the leading role of Agent 00 is Weng Weng, a 2’9” dynamo completely devoid of acting ability, although I challenge you to take your eyes off of him. Armed with an array of crime-busting gadgets (including x-ray specs!) that would make the head of Q Branch fall down laughing, Agent 00 challenges 007 in the spying and loving departments, bouncing around Manila in search of a scientist named Dr. Von Kohler who has created a powerful new bomb. Von Kohler has fallen into the clutches of an international crime syndicate led by the mysteriously unseen Mr. Giant, who unleashes a never-ending barrage of beret-wearing flunkies with bull’s-eyes painted on their chests to assassinate the Mighty Mite.

Let’s face it — it may not be politically correct, but a pint-sized, kung-fu kicking superspy is entertaining. In the hands of Weng Weng, armed with a bizarre hairline and an eye-burning array of white leisure suits, FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY comes to life in ways nobody could imagine. You really can’t call yourself a well-rounded film fan until you’ve seen Weng Weng kicking ass and taking names, using his powerful kung fu to smash the testicles of his enemies. Whether he’s using his mighty midget mojo to sex up hot Filipinas or mowing down dozens of henchmen with his deadly trick pistola, Weng Weng makes Sean Connery and Steve McQueen, in their primes, look like pantywaists. Let me put it this way. There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have experienced the awe and mystery of Weng Weng and those who have not. You don’t want to be someone who has not.

As if one insane Asian action movie isn’t enough, Mondo Macabro tests our endurance by including a second feature, Hong Kong’s CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER. Directed by Bruce Le, this romp is set in Spain, Hong Kong and Macao, and stars Le and American-born Richard Harrison as globetrotting CIA agents Wong Leung and Richard Cannon. Assigned to retrieve a stolen serum that can cause mass sterility in the world’s male population, the two men attack their assignment doing what they do best. For Le, that means showing off his sweet kung fu skills, taking on opponents that include ubiquitous Chinese actor Bolo Yeung (BLOODSPORT), former pepla muscleman Brad Harris and an angry bull, which Le dispatches with an homage to Sonny Chiba’s THE STREET FIGHTER.

Meanwhile, Harrison’s specialty appears to be taking off his shirt and flexing his mustache. Director Le introduces him in an amazing scene that finds Cannon lounging around his estate, surrounded by beautiful nude women who swim, shower and even play tennis… in slow motion. Cannon’s lovemaking prowess makes James Bond look like Jughead Jones. And if all this isn’t crazy enough, look for Jack Klugman in a silent cameo that’s so bewildering, I’d be willing to bet that to this day, he has no idea he’s even in the movie.

FOR YOUR HEIGHT ONLY and CHALLENGE OF THE TIGER are silly, no doubt about it. But you have to admire their unpredictability and willingness to present material this absurd. Both movies will quite likely give your DVD remote’s rewind button a major workout as you think to yourself, “Did I just see what I think I saw?” If you think you saw a disco-dancing dwarf in a karate fight with a bunch of drunks, the answer is, “Hell yes, and you want to see it again.”

Posted by Marty at 4:43 PM CST
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A Big Party Up At Erik Estrada's House
Now Playing: NEW YEAR'S EVIL
Want to kick off the new year with a serial killer, Pinky Tuscadero and lots of shitty new wave music? Thanks to the badasses at Cannon, namely Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, you can.

NEW YEAR'S EVIL is a slasher movie about Blaze (Roz Kelly), a remarkably talentless (even though the movie claims otherwise) host of a network New Year's Eve special that's counting down to midnight in all four U.S. timezones while kids dance to punk and New Wave bands in the studio. Just before the ball drops in New York (the movie is set in El Lay), Blaze receives an on-air phone call from "Evil" (Kip Niven), telling her that he plans to kill someone close to her at the stroke of 12 in every timezone. The movie is so poor that this never happens; in fact, except for his first pre-call murder, Blaze knows none of his victims.

Director Emmett Alston, who later made the memorable George Kennedy/Bigfoot/space zombie opus DEMONWARP, attempts a red herring by having Blaze's teenage son Derek (a lousy performance by the amazingly-still-working Grant Cramer) act strangely and even wander around backstage wearing a red stocking and dark glasses on his head. Why, I don't know, because the killer's identity is no mystery, and a late twist will surprise no one.

Alston even fouls up the killings, staging them off-screen with precious little gore. Evil is one of cinema's lucky serial killers; either that or he's a master planner, because everything seems to go his way. He's aided by several stupid cops, and his first attack is predicated on knowing that his victim, a nurse, will unquestionably follow a complete stranger into a back room and have sex with him.

Roz Kelly was an odd choice to play the Final Girl in a slasher movie. She was almost 40 and not exactly blessed with ingenue looks. Her claim to fame was playing Fonzie's tough-chick ladyfriend Pinky Tuscadero in a handful of HAPPY DAYS episodes. Kip Niven had been around too; he may have been a Universal contract player for awhile, and he also appeared with Robert Urich and David Soul as vigilante cops in the Clint Eastwood thriller MAGNUM FORCE. You'll also see Taaffe O'Connell, next seen being raped by a slimy space worm in GALAXY OF TERROR, and a young and boobular Teri Copley, who went on to star in a couple of sitcoms and bounce around in some BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS competitions.

Cannon released NEW YEAR'S EVIL near the end of 1980. There's no telling whether anyone went to see it, although it does have a pretty good trailer that plays up the murder-per-timezone gimmick and shows the killer wearing a scary-looking Stan Laurel mask, something he barely does in the film.

Niven lures one of his victims out of a crowded bar by telling her he's going to "a big party up at Erik Estrada's house". Awesome!

Posted by Marty at 8:08 AM CST
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I Hope It Was A Good One
Did everyone have a nice Christmas Day? Mine was...okay, I guess. I'm beginning to wonder whether Christmas is just for little kids. Or maybe I've just lost my Christmas spirit, I don't know. I don't even bother to put up a tree anymore. It seems like a lot of work just for me to look at. I still have the habit of hanging the Christmas cards I receive on the doorframe, so there is some semblance of holiday spirit in my place.

I didn't have a bad holiday, it just seems...I don't know...not so special. I spent the weekend with my dad, my brother, his wife, and his wife's family at my brother's house near St. Louis. Most of my time was spent eating or watching football, and while it was nice to just hang out and not worry about going to work or checking email or updating a blog or moderating Mobius Home Video Forum for a few days, eh, well, it still doesn't seem very special to me. I'm not sure I can really explain it, and I'm not sure how I can shake this feeling by next year.

Things are quiet back at work, as they usually are this time of year. I'd say at least half of my department takes the whole post-Christmas week off, meaning not only is it really quiet around here, but it's difficult to work on some projects because other people who need to provide you with pertinent information or to approve your work are not in the office. I actually have a few things I can work on this week, so the near-empty office shouldn't affect me very much.

Got back in time last night to head to Chicken's to watch the 555th and final episode of MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL on ABC. NFL games will continue next season on Monday nights, but over on ESPN (with Al Michaels calling the game), while NBC takes over prime-time duties with a Sunday night game (FOOTBALL NIGHT IN AMERICA) and a pregame show hosted by Bob Costas. ABC recruited former play-by-play man Frank Gifford to appear on the show with Michaels at halftime, but the bigger coup was taping some segments with "Dandy" Don Meredith at his home in New Mexico. It was quite a charge having Meredith ask, "Are you ready for some football?", before the game.

Feel free to post your Christmas stories. I hope you got plenty of loot. I got some cash, a box of kitchen cookware and a Visa gift card this year. Yeah, I only got to unwrap one present this year. But I ate enough ham to make up for it.

Posted by Marty at 5:01 PM CST
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Friday, December 23, 2005
Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed To Have Money
Chicken, LD, J Brown and I were talking about the DIE HARD movies. I think DIE HARD 2 is the best of the trilogy. Chicken virulently disagrees and doesn't even think it's a good movie. LD sort of had my back, even though I don't know if he believes it's better than DIE HARD.

At any rate, I went to and found that a box set of all three DIE HARDs, in 2-disc Special Editions, was available for under $30. I immediately bought it.

I don't feel too bad, because I emailed the link to the other guys, and Chicken and J Brown bought them too.

Merry Xmas and Happy Holidays, gang. See you next week.

Posted by Marty at 2:34 PM CST
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Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Day 5
Less than four weeks until the Best Show on Television returns. 24 begins its fifth season in January on back-to-back nights of two-hour episodes...four hours over two consecutive nights...before settling into its regular Monday timeslot. Tonight I watched a 10-minute prologue to Season 5 that was funded by Toyota expressly for the DVD release of Season 4. It doesn't appear to be directly related to upcoming events and exists really to sell Toyotas (they reportedly paid $1,000,000 for the "mini-episode").

In it, Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland), who had faked his own death and was last seen wandering into the sunset David Banner-style, is in Chicago, where he drives up an empty street in a sleek Toyota 4-door, parks, gets out, and hides behind a big truck. There he meets Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub), who tells him that her computer at CTU has been invaded and his autopsy records examined and that he'd better get the hell outta Chicago. Before she leaves (in another Toyota), Jack asks her how his daughter Kim is doing. It has been 12 months since Jack's "death", and Chloe tells him that she was heartbroken, but has gotten better.

Chloe splits and Jack gets into his car, where he spies a mysterious motorcycle rider whose features are hidden by his helmet. Then--SCREEEEEECHHHH!--a car whips around the corner...and we've got a car chase! It wouldn't pass muster on a typical T.J. HOOKER episode, but I guess it's as good as we get from today's TV directors (there are no cast or crew credits on this "episode", so I don't know who directed this one).

Jack eventually maneuvers his way into an auto junkyard, where his pursuer slides sideways into a forklift and fatally crashes. As Jack surreptitiously drives off, the mysterious motorcyclist watches...

Today was our annual White Elephant game at work. If you saw the hilarious Christmas episode of THE OFFICE, where they called it Yankee Swap, you know how it works: everyone opens a gift, which could be something nice or something lame. Then there's a stealing round, where you can either keep what you have or swipe someone else's gift and trade them yours.

I am the King of White Elephant. For five straight years, I have left with something pretty good and definitely better than what I brought in. I usually use it as an excuse to dump some old VHS tapes I don't need anymore, so someone this year took home a collection of Don "The Dragon" Wilson, David Carradine, Treat Williams and Jeff Wincott movies. I ended up with A CHRISTMAS STORY on DVD. Some of the "zonks" this year included an ugly hummingbird candle that has been re-gifted three years in a row, a Wal-Mart gift card with no money left on it, a framed photo of one of my co-workers, a Xmas tree ornament of a cappuccino machine and an oven mitt that came in a custom-made iPod box complete with a photo of Steve Carell (those of us OFFICE fans thought this was a hilarious gift).

Posted by Marty at 11:19 PM CST
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Yes Or No?
Just one question and we can go back to robot monkeys. It's a yes or no question. I don't wanna hear any Bill Clinton this or Bill Clinton that. Just yes or no.

Do you feel comfortable with the President of the United States--any President--having the authority and ability to eavesdrop on your conversations, phone calls, e-mails, etc. just because he feels like it and without obtaining a warrant?

Posted by Marty at 6:05 PM CST
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Tuesday, December 20, 2005
'Twas Beauty
Bah, who wants to see the new KING KONG anyway? Do you realize that in the 187 minutes it takes for Peter Jackson to tell his giant-monkey story, you could watch both KING KONG VS. GODZILLA and KING KONG ESCAPES? Now which scenario do you think delivers the better value?

I'm writing about them for the next issue of The Hub, which will be the first of 2006, so I won't go into much detail now. 1962's KING KONG VS. GODZILLA was actually Kong's first big-screen appearance in nearly 30 years, since the original RKO KING KONG in 1933. He comes out of retirement when a pharmaceutical company travels to Pharaoh Island (re: Skull Island) to capture a mythical god rumored to be living there among the natives. Kong appears and fights a giant octopus before he succumbs to hallucinogenic Juicy Juice and wakes up on a raft bound for Tokyo. He gets pissed and escapes, but is eventually subdued again. His dignity takes a beating when the Japanese lift him into the air using wire and helium balloons and airlift him to Mt. Fuji to fight Godzilla. Trapped in an iceberg at the conclusion of GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER/GODZILLA RAIDS AGAIN, Big G is back and ready to dropkick a mudhole in Kong's ass.

In 1967, Toho brought Kong back in KING KONG ESCAPES, which was, believe it or not, inspired by a lame American TV cartoon series called KING KONG that was then airing on Saturday mornings. It's colorful and well-paced like a good kiddie show. Square-jawed sub commander Carl Nelson (Rhodes Reason, whose actor brother was incredibly named Rex Reason), a nurse and a Japanese cohort take a cool flying sub to Mondo Island, where they discover...who else...Kong, who fights a dinosaur and a big snake. Meanwhile, evil villain Dr. Who is in cahoots with the sexy Madame X (Mie Hama from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE), who may or may not be from Red China, but definitely wants the radioactive Element X to use for nuclear domination of the world. Dr. Who's giant robot King Kong (!) fails to mine the element, so Who decides, naturally, to kidnap the real monster and hypnotize (!) him into doing Who's bidding. The climax finds Kong and the robot Kong fighting atop the Tokyo Tower. The only thing cooler than a robot and a monkey is a robot monkey. When's the last time you saw one in a movie?

Posted by Marty at 10:26 PM CST
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The Answer Is Clear
How can you tell when a Republican knows he's wrong about something? He claims it's Bill Clinton's fault. I don't know how many times today I've heard that Clinton is to blame for President Bush illegally eavesdropping on the conversations and correspondence of American citizens. The National Review and Newsmax are just two sources that are claiming falsely that Clinton set a precedent for Bush's actions, and two commenters on my previous post say the same. What they really mean is, "Yes, Bush fucked up again, but I just can't admit what I know to be the truth." Look, I don't even care if Clinton did do it. Or Reagan or JFK. It's illegal, it's morally reprehensible, and whoever does it should be punished. End of story.

On the other hand, the Right can't even be consistent in their Blame Clinton stories. Here, Bill Kristol says that Clinton didn't do illegal wiretaps, but he should have, because nobody would have blown up the World Trade Center if he had. Actually, Dick Cheney said this too.

It's hard to explain how ludicrous that statement is. If an illegal wiretap would have produced enough evidence to prevent 9/11 from happening, illegal wiretapping wouldn't be necessary. The NSA could have gotten a FISA warrant. What makes this whole argument so stupid is that FISA warrants are ridiculously easy to get. Since 1979, do you know how many times FISA has refused to issue a warrant to someone who has asked for one? 4. Four times in 25 years. And they have issued 18,742 (through 2004). 18.742 to 4.

So why didn't Bush get a FISA warrant? The answer is obvious, isn't it? It's because he knew FISA wouldn't give him one. Because he knew he was spying on somebody (or somebodies) that he wasn't supposed to be spying on.

By the way, guess who said this in 2004:
"Secondly, there are such things as roving wiretaps. Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution."

Yep. George W. Bush. Let's go to the videotape.

I guess he was against wiretapping before he was for it. There are so many lies and obfuscations in the Bush administration's stories that it would be silly for me to list them all, including Condoleeza Rice's appearance on a Sunday talk show (where she swore up and down that Bush was following the law, but was unable to explain exactly what law he was following). But all is consistent with the current White House's dictatorial strategy in which they do anything they want to without any fear of reprisal.

Do you really feel safer knowing that the NSA can read your email anytime it feels like it, even though it hasn't obtained a legal warrant? Remember, the Bush administration also favors a national ID card ("You vill show me your papers!"), a Berlin wall along the Mexican border, torture (McCain's anti-torture bill stopped that), and concentration camps (Guantanamo Bay and the secret prisons in Asia). Are you honestly okay with that kind of government in the United States? I'd love to hear your reasons.

Posted by Marty at 6:19 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2005 10:27 PM CST
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Monday, December 19, 2005
Truth Is A Lot Scarier Than Fiction
Last week I started reading Fletcher Knebel's 1965 novel NIGHT OF CAMP DAVID, which I picked up months ago at a flea market for under a buck. I'm four chapters into it. It's about a junior U.S. senator from Ohio who is tapped by the President to be his Vice Presidential running mate for his second term after the current VP resigns in the wake of a scandal. The senator comes to realize, after a couple of late-night one-on-one bull sessions at Camp David, that the President is insane, partially because of the Chief Exec's mad rantings about the necessity of eavesdropping electronically on American citizens who, in his paranoid mind, may be plotting against him.

So imagine how I felt last week when the New York Times reported that President Bush has been illegally tapping the phone calls and emails of American citizens. And, like the President in Knebel's novel, doesn't find it the least bit suspect morally. Holy fucking shit, man, the goddamn plane has crashed into the fucking mountain. Does the guy know anything about American history? It's not like he wasn't alive and an adult during Nixon's term in office. He's (mis-)managing the Iraq war in the same manner in which Nixon screwed up Vietnam (to be fair, Nixon had some "help" in that regard from Johnson, McNamara et al.) and now he's bugging phone calls like Nixon did. If it means he'll be resigning soon, I guess I'm all for it. I'll even let him listen to my phone calls if it'll get him tossed out of the Oval Office.

Knebel also wrote SEVEN DAYS IN MAY, which was adapted by Rod Serling into a taut 1964 movie. Long before I started reading NIGHT OF CAMP DAVID, I imagined Dick Cheney as the Burt Lancaster character in that film, and I'll bet I'm not the only one.

Posted by Marty at 7:46 PM CST
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