PAROXYSM

Renfield Lane, Glasgow, named after Dwight Frye’s most famous character. And, when the image of Joe Dante appeared on the screen inside The Old Hairdressers, he had a picture of Dwight Frye on the wall behind him. Synchronicity, or just good planning?

To Glasgow, to Scalarama’s presentation of Joe Dante’s THE MOVIE ORGY, in its five-hour form. This is essentially a mash-up/collage of footage from movies, TV shows, commercials, trailers and other ephemera, with appearances by Alfred Hitchcock, Rod Serling, Richard Nixon, Abbot & Costello, Ann-Margret, Elisha Cook Jr, Conway Twitty, and future Dante players Christopher Lee and Peter Graves, among many, many others.

I wouldn’t have attempted photography if I hadn’t sat at the back (near the bar) but sitting at the back meant my photographs were crummy.

This was — maybe — the first time the movie has screened without Dante in attendance — which is the least exciting world’s first I can imagine — except it’s such a rarity it still felt like an EVENT — and the auteurless showing did have a prerecorded intro from the Great Man which set up the circumstances of the film/thing’s original creation and its campus screenings, the sociopolitical circumstances, and the fact that baby boomers got a nostalgic kick out of re-seeing TV commercials and kids’ shows of their youth (in that era, such stuff screened briefly and then vanished into oblivion). The movie plays somewhat differently to a modern audience, who have no history with much of this material, but the extracts are so well-selected that pretty much everything is funny in and of itself AND in the way it’s juxtaposed with the clip before and the clip after…

I was present in my combined role of critic and disease vector, distributing cold germs free of charge to the people of Glasgow. My physical discomfort, developing into a horrible attack of dyspepsia after I had one pint of the beer on tap (nothing wrong with the beer, just my body), did not prevent me enjoying the thing hugely. There are moments in there that resemble my own modest movie trailer mash-ups, but devised by Dante when I was around a year old.

I recognized ATTACK OF THE FIFTY FOOT WOMAN and THE GIANT GILA MONSTER and EARTH VERSUS THE FLYING SAUCERS and THE BEGINNING OF THE END which are dismembered and redistributed throughout the film/experience in serial form, but I’d never seen (or heard of) SPEED CRAZY (William J. Hole Jr), COLLEGE CONFIDENTIAL (Albert Zugsmith) and though I thought I knew what TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE was, I now realize I’d been confusing it with INVASION OF THE SAUCER MEN, somehow, and I have to see the whole thing.

SPEED CRAZY is a sort of hot rod crime flick in which the maniac anti-hero snarls “Don’t crowd me, Joe!” in literally every scene. Bigger laughs each time.

That’s probably possible, but getting hold of TV show Andy’s Gang, in which a senescent Andy Devine drones hymns at bored kids, accompanied by a cat and mouse strapped into exoskeletal harness costumes which force them to play musical instruments, may prove trickier.

Oh wait, we have YouTube!

Happy nightmares!

Dante described the film/organism as a kind of Rosetta stone of his future work, and indeed numerous points of connection can be drawn, but the real link is THE MOVIE ORGY’s very postmodernity, its vision of a great ocean of pop culture in which all this stuff floats and intermingles, so that Chuck Jones and Roger Corman are artists, but they’re also sources, pumping out raw material that flows into this great Solaris/Matmos, which surrounds us but also penetrates us, and binds the universe together.

There are also several things in the film which can be enjoyed sort-of unironically, like the above Abbot & Costello routine, from IN SOCIETY. I dimly remember seeing this as a kid and finding it funny but also baffling and disturbing, which is exactly how I responded seeing it again. It’s a variation on the more famous “Slowly I turned” routine, in which someone is crazy but only Lou (the fat one) sees it. Only here, Bud (the thin one), also sees it, but just kind of refuses to acknowledge it. And it’s not one crazy person  the whole population is crazy. It really has the quality of a nightmare and what makes it more upsetting is that it doesn’t have any logic or justification other than using repetition as a structure. It’s really a bad dream, but a funny one.

Also also, more mysteriously, there are some more lewd and scurrilously satirical sketches, in the movie/event, which might be Robert Downey Sr. skits or something, I’m not sure. Like the smoking surgeon in the clip above. And an amazing epic heaven sequence with the camera craning over a limitless cloudscape of harpists — really impressive kitsch visuals, and what the hell is that from, Joe?

“Now it’s time to say good-bye…”

Oh, and one more thing. Don’t crowd me, Joe!

Advertisements

14 Responses to “PAROXYSM”

  1. “Puck Your Magic Twanger Froggie!” — a voice from my childhood.

    Joe’s Movie Orgy has much in common with Ken Jacobs’ “Star Spangled To Death ” though Ken’s choices for collage material are way more obscure.

  2. Froggie the Gremlin…

    It’s ridiculous that I haven’t seen the Jacobs film yet…

    Am planning my own collage film — in fact, my video essays have one foot in that circle already — so this exciting to see. I looked at my watch twice, just out of curiosity. First time, the movie had been on an hour. Second time was just before a projectionist character IN the movie announces the onset of the final reel. Five hours passed like ninety minutes.

  3. Within Our Ken

    Fascinating that Ken’s son Azazel is making “conventional” indie movies like “The Lovers” with Debra Winger and Tracy Letts. I first met Aza when he was an infant.

  4. I saw his first one, liked it.

  5. Tony Williams Says:

    GREMLINS 3 – David, the “disease vector!”

  6. Glad you dragged yourself to the Orgy.

  7. In my own boomer youth “Slowly I turned” was inextricably linked to the Three Stooges. “Niiiiiagra Falls” was often ceremonial prelude to unprovoked playground mayhem.

    They did it as part of a show-within-a-short:

    Here’s a shortened version with the callback at the end of the short:

  8. The sketch seems to date back beyond all five comedians, its origins lost in the mists of time with various other comics claiming authorship.

    What I like about the Bagel St/Susquehanna Hat Company variant is that the madness has become a plague…

  9. Sorry you weren’t feeling well, David, but glad you enjoyed it.
    Sorry i couldn’t be there but i already had my yearly trip to Scotland several months ago.
    The heavenly clip you asked about is from Walsh’s “The Horn Blows at Midnight”, which is certainly far from the dog Jack Benny used to joke about it being.

  10. I’ve been meaning to look at that one again! All I remember is a giant coffee cup.

    Fiona and I were in Italy when you were in Scotland — the irony of fate!

    Had a great time despite slight indisposition.

  11. DB McWeeberton Says:

    That ‘Jesus Loves Me’ clip from Andy Devine always fascinates me. It’s so forlorn!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: