Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask. Code Entertainment 2006.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not a very big fan of horror, but I do enjoy a mockumentary, especially a comedic one, and horror is a genre that’s always ripe to be mocked.

I hadn’t heard of this movie before the part of the internet that works in mysterious ways (okay, the mysterious ways governed by data and math) brought it to the surface. It’s a pretty simple premise, as a serial killer to be invites a documentary team to follow him as he plans his blaze of glory, and instead of calling the police or anything, they go get their killer story.

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The Missing Corpse

The Missing Corpse. Producers Releasing Corporation 1945

Before watching the movie:

I just found out about this movie, and it sounds like a lot of fun. A newspaper mogul gets killed and planted in his rival’s car, so the rival then has to hide the corpse to not get charged for the murder, only the body keeps going missing and somehow turning up in conspicuous places.

Some of the names in the cast seem vaguely familiar, but there’s not really anything that would’ve made it stand out except the black box algorithms that control our lives thought I might like it, and for once it looks like they’re right.

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8 Heads in a Duffel Bag

8 Heads in a Duffel Bag. Orion Pictures Corporation 1997.

Before watching the movie:

It occurs to me that I’ve only seen Joe Pesci in Home Alone. So here’s another movie he made spoofing his typecasting as a criminal, only a much more hard-edged one than the family friendly Wet Bandits. He plays an actual mobster who just happens to get caught up in hijinks because his bag accidentally got switched with someone else’s bag at the airport.

I think that this kind of poster isn’t one to make stuff up for the symbolism of it, so maybe there’s an actual vulture involved in the hijinks? That seems as wacky as the tone that seems to be implied.

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Support Your Local Gunfighter

Support Your Local Gunfighter. Cherokee-Brigade 1971.

Before watching the movie:

I don’t think I’ve paid much attention to anything with James Garner. He was in Move Over, Darling!, but I don’t really remember who was in it, just what happened, which movies of that time seem to be particularly susceptible to.

So, James Garner comes into town and gets mistaken for a notorious outlaw, and things get even more mixed up. So kind of like The Shakiest Gun in the West, but less neurotic.

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The Shrimp on the Barbie

The Shrimp on the Barbie. Unity Pictures 1990.

Before watching the movie:

I’m not sure I’ve encountered a solo Cheech Marin vehicle before (aside from that weird kids’ songs album where he’s a school bus driver). I’ve only ever seen him since Tommy Chong or in an ensemble or as a cameo.

It’s also an interesting idea to blend him with Australian culture. I certainly never would’ve thought to put the two together. He can be the scruffy, embarrassing fish out of water anywhere, but Australia isn’t really a common setting to throw such fish into.

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Snuffy Smith, Yardbird

Snuffy Smith, Yardbird
(or Private Snuffy Smith)
Monogram Pictures 1942

Before watching the movie:

This is based on the newspaper comic strip (Barney Google and) Snuffy Smith, that’s coming up on its hundredth anniversary and is still in newspaper comics today that one could argue that fresher strips deserve, except at this point all the new strips worth reading are webcomics. In that hundred years, the focus shifted from city slicker gambler Barney Google to the hillbilly rascal Snuffy Smith, to the point that Smith was added to the title by the 1930s and Google was written out by the 1950s, only very recently being remembered by the current writer(s).

It looks like it’s going to be hard to tell what the movie changed from the strip and what the strip itself changed between the 40s and the time I became familiar with it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Snuffy’s moonshining, which seems to be a major character point here, was a bigger part of the strip that got deemphasized to the point of nonexistence by the 90s for the purpose of making the funny papers safe for children who might accidentally learn about alcohol and lawbreaking otherwise.

After watching the movie:

Snuffy Smith is a moonshiner in the hills outside the Appalachian town of Hootin’ Holler, who defends his still from the Revenuers with the help of his friends. When revenue agent Ed Cooper tracks Snuffy back to his cabin, he goes to his friend Saul’s cabin to hide out, and arrives while Saul’s daughter Cindy is being courted by Don Elbie, a Hootin’ Holler native now a US Army Private. As Snuffy is impressed by Don’s khaki britches, gold buttons, and description of “all the food you can eat, a nice place to sleep, and $30 a week”, and as he interfered in Saul trying to run off Don for blood feud and daughter-protection reasons and so now can’t hide out there, Snuffy decides that joining the Army sounds like a pretty good deal. However who does his sergeant turn out to be but Sgt. Ed Cooper! Also there’s a distilling accident that turns Snuffy’s dog invisible.

The concept of “cartoon character joins the military” stories during the 40s is pretty well-traveled. Popeye didn’t wear his iconic outfit before he joined the Navy, and of course Disney and Warner Bros. characters made propaganda cartoons that are still enjoyed today. Everyone was making “the characters you love join the military to do their part for their country (so how about you do too?)” movies. So it’s not too weird to take a hillbilly with no interest in leaving his part of the hills and drop him into the military. What’s odd is that he doesn’t just enlist or get drafted, he tries to enlist, gets refused for very good reasons, and then the General is accidentally indebted to him, and gives Snuffy special dispensation, to a point.

The invisible dog is a much more random element, and what’s bizarre is that an entire movie could be done with that, but instead, it’s a really minor thing that’s used for some jokes here and there, but mostly just gets Snuffy out of some scrapes in the third act. Snuffy and Loweezy don’t understand why this batch turns things invisible, and Snuffy suggests he’ll paint his still with it to hide it from the Revenuers for good, but then the Army calls him up and tells him he can’t bring his dog, so he just pours the invisible spirits on the dog and brings him anyway. That’s weirder than anything that I can imagine happening in the comic.

So like a lot of the propaganda wartime “join the army” stories, this is all about being at a camp still at home. The rising action is mostly concerned with Snuffy’s division winning a wargame with a special new gunsight that Don invented, but there’s also American fifth columnists trying to steal the gunsight to sabotage the army, which would be the most bizarre thing about the movie if not for the invisible dog that’s mostly ignored.

I understand why this exists, but also, the entire thing is a “why does this exist?” Most pieces make sense on their own, but they add up to something highly unusual and not necessarily good. The parts that aren’t confusing are fun, though.

Anger Management

Anger Management. 
Columbia Pictures 2003.

Before watching the movie:

This is another movie I’ve been pretty sure would show up here eventually since almost the beginning. Back when Adam Sandler made movies people wanted to watch, I guess.

It’s been quite clear that this is about a guy and his therapist living together and driving each other crazy, but it wasn’t as apparent until I saw what I’m looking at now that the patient isn’t actually all that explosive, except around his eccentric therapist.

The “client and patient shackled together and nearly kill each other” concept is similar to Analyze This and What About Bob?, the former to the point (at least on the surface) that if this movie and Analyze This weren’t five years apart I’d call them duelling movies.

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