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frogtown cake suburbs

Learning To Smile Again

Which is a lot like learning to simile again, except that you never really forget how to simile. It's like falling off a bike and hitting your head on a rock. Or maybe that's just me.

Thank goodness that there was nothing like last entry's angst and pain with movies Y18#12 and Y18#14.

Y18#12 was Dixie Dynamite, a mid-70s Southern-fried romp. If I was feeling less generous, I can think of meaner terms than "charmingly naive" to describe a movie where the big Motocross race is called The Motocross Big Race. But the whole thing had a sort of pleasant sincerity that's hard to find nowadays.

It was a PG-rated movie, so the nudity was minimal, but there were plenty of explosions and car chases. Well done car chases, and decent explosions.

In fact, the movie pretty much started off with a car chase where it seemed like they had to drive through half of rural Georgia in order to find a fruit stand to crash through, then they explored the other half to find a stack of crates (with chickens inside) to burst through. It ended with the hot-headed Deputy Frank shooting out the rear tire of the lead car, which careened out of control off a bridge and down an incline -- where it exploded. Already three stars for quality, and the movie's not yet ten minutes gone. Although I do have to note that it took place in that weird rural Georgia county where there are no non-white people. Except for the "Hard Times, USA" montage where Dixie and Patsy look for work in The Unnamed Big City, everybody in the film is white. Lily white. To paraphrase Tom Lehrer, it's another example of stark realism from the "dream factories" of Hollywood.

The plot involved an evil rich guy (Dade McCrutchen) taking over the town's bank and foreclosing on family homes and farms. He was doing this because he (somehow) knew there were natural gas deposits under the county. He would show up at auctions and bid exactly the amount of equity that the bank needed to get out of the house -- which he knew because he owned most of the bank. Conflict of interest? Mmmmmaybe. Everybody knew he was up to no good, but there wasn't anything that could be done, since he was rich, and everybody else in the county was poorer than dirt.

Basically, it was an excuse for the two daughters of the guy killed by the Deputy at the beginning of the movie (the aforementioned Dixie and Patsy) to steal motorcycles and guns (from Dade's stores) and start up a crime rampage aimed solely at Dade's assets. They held up his grocery stores. They blew up (quite literally) his moonshine stills. They even hatched a plot to take down his bank. They kicked major ass, and if there was one disappointment for me, it was that the scene for which I bought the darn movie was anti-climactic (how do you screw up a boobytrapped toilet scene?!).

Y18#14 featured more actors I'd heard of (Vic Morrow, Sonny Chiba), but less coherency (and more nuts!). Message From Space was made in 1978 (two years after Dixie Dynamite), but it felt timeless in that special way that so many Japanese far-future science-fiction epics are.

Although it felt to me that it might have been chopped down from a three-hour film, there is nothing I've found that would confirm this. Meanwhile, its sequel (Message From Space: Galactic Battle), a twenty-seven episode television program, was cut down to the 70-minute movie Space Ninja: Swords of the Space Ark, and I never guessed when I watched Space Ninja over a decade ago. Wow, I must be really jaded these days.

Anyhow, Message From Space has pretty much everything that you would want from one of these movies. Goofy-serious special effects ("swimming" with the "space fireflies"), mostly-desert alien landscapes, weird pseudo-mysticism (with a recurring musical motif from a certain Star Wars Something), and neat spaceships that probably made really cool toys.

It's got just about everything that a Smithee-person could want except possibly a Worst Science. I got an Overkill clip. I got a Worst Picture clip (although really I will always think of it as "Alas, Poor Moon"). I got some others as well.

I realized that this movie and Zeram have my two potential Worst Picture clips (so far). There's just something about these far-future Japanese sci-fi films that really appeals to me. I suppose I'd better not watch that live-action Atragon movie for a while yet. Or any of the Gameras that I have lined up.

But still -- two films which were enjoyable on their own merits, and not just because I was rubbing my hands together and cackling like a madman thinking of all the potential clips.

Mmm, finger-lickin' book. What?


I got a Worst Picture clip (although really I will always think of it as "Alas, Poor Moon").

Matt-Matt's reaction to this when I read it to him: *outburst of laughter* Oh God! I want to know about that!

Heh. Alas Poor Moon.