07 April 2010

Morning Vent, 7 April 2010

Adrienne Barbeau shoots her six-shooter
about 10 times... But I didn't notice.

   In the links below, you'll see that a prequel of John Carpenter's The Thing is in progress. I'm glad it's not a remake, at any rate. John Carpenter remains one of my favorite directors; he has three movies listed on the IMDB as being in production and three in development. He has a gift for the cool. In his movies, there's always some cool character name, cool phrase, cool scene, etc.
    John Carpenter's The Thing was less a remake than a reboot; Carpenter disregarded most of the plot elements of the Cold War version, The Thing from Another World, and returned to the untapped paranoid roots of the original story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell, Jr. (The original Thing flick is uber-cool also, but that's another whole blog entry. ) The Thing had many moments of special FX cool, but its real cool factor is mostly due to a gifted ensemble cast, led by Kurt Russell as the reluctant hero, helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady. Donald Moffat has one of the best lines in the movie, rendered with memorable ire, while tied to a couch. Wilford Brimley has a memorable meltdown scene as the perceptive and paranoid Blair. "No dog makes it 800 miles to the coast!"
    In Escape from New York, which is being remade, Carpenter created the coolest action anti-hero ever, Snake Plissken. The dialogue in Escape is loaded with catchy phrases and names. One phrase from that movie, "Special Forces Unit Black Light", has stuck in my head forever, both due to its inherent cool and the gravelly way it was delivered by immortal bad guy actor Lee Van Cleef. ("I'm ready to kick your ass out of the world, war hero!") Even the small roles have some memorable moments: Buck Flowers' drunken rendition of Hail to the Chief ("La-da-da-da-da-dah!") is hilarious. Escape from New York, in fact, is like a buffet of cool. Isaac Hayes, God rest his soul, remembered by younger folks now for voicing Chef in South Park, was sociopathically awesome as The Duke of New York. He was A-number-1 in that role! Check this out:

The Duke of New York schools the Prez

Damn right. He is A-number-1!

    Even the Duke's final moments in the film provide some uber-coolness as Donald Pleasence, as the kidnapped and terrorized U.S. President, goes abso-fracking-lutely insane with an M16A1 assault rifle.
    Maybe it's a function of budget or maybe just scripting issues, but there's also usually some plot point or scene that's totally hosed in his movies, too. (His more mainstream movies don't seem to suffer from this. Starman is truly excellent, with only a few obligatory nods to cultural cliches.) The ultra-creepy Prince of Darkness, for example, almost gets sunk by a single ridiculous scene with Alice Cooper. Luckily, the creepy factor wins out. Check this out:

The recurring dream from Prince of Darkness

And the link doesn't do it justice, really.

    The dream sequences are salted through the movie, each instance revealing just a bit more... It's brilliant and also brilliantly scary. But that bicycle thing, man... Whisky Tango Foxtrot, over?
    Politics figure prominently in his films. The SF/action film They Live is, on one level, an anti-capitalist propaganda piece. (They Live is also being remade. It'll be interesting to see what political spin gets put on the story this time around.) I'm a libertarian, mostly, so that should bother me, but I find it doesn't. Why? Because John Carpenter managed to make it seem cool. After all, They Live's main character was a direct inspiration for Duke Nukem. Really. Look:

The Bubble Gum Scene

See? Toldya.

    The protagonist, John Nada (I don't care what the IMDB says, it's not "George Nada"), is played by the larger than life wrestler Roddy Piper, who probably gives the only good acting performance in his career, outside of wrestling, anyway. The usual John Carpenter regulars, like Buck Flowers, liven things up, but, best of all, the ever luscious Meg Foster plays the stunningly beautiful, blue-eyed love interest/heroine with a dark secret. (She also starred in another of my guilty pleasures, Sam Peckinpah's The Osterman Weekend, another flawed propaganda piece in action flick wolf's clothing. That movie also had one of the best lines in an action movie ever, which I will steal shamelessly if I ever make a movie: "We've got two dead - hand to hand." How awesome is that?)
    It's been tougher to find the cool in Carpenter's later films. I tried hard to like Vampires. And I tried even harder to like Ghosts of Mars, but, the traces of cool in those two films were difficult to pan out of a virtual river of dreck. Even Pam Grier couldn't save Ghosts of Mars - maybe if her part had been bigger - like maybe if she'd played Natasha Henstridge's role. The cool was in short supply, too, with the anti-hero, Desolation Williams, played by Ice Cube. Cool character name, crappy actor.
    Still, with 6 movies in the pipe for the next year or two, maybe John Carpenter can find his own cool again.

No comments:

eXTReMe Tracker