Archive for The Simpsons

The Sunday Intertitle: Dinner for Three

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on June 25, 2018 by dcairns

“Set the table for three: we dine with death tonight!” — or words to that effect (it’s late, I’m sleepy — technically not even Sunday here anymore).

The MOMA restoration of Lubitsch’s first US film, ROSITA, starring Mary Pickford, is beautiful, as you’d expect from something with those talents as well as Charles Rosher on camera and William Cameron Menzies on sets. Also, as a Snitz Edwards completist, I’m very glad to get this one viewed (under the stars! with a live orchestra!)

Snitz isn’t the only actor in it who sounds like a Goon Show character — there’s Holbrook Blinn and Charles Belcher and Bert Sprotte, and one of the writers is Edward Knoblock. A lot of low comedy characters, you might think, and not be wholly wrong, as Lubitsch’s smutty sophistication and bawdy silliness are both on display here, along with some surprising melodrama (it’s based on an opera).

Street singer Rosita’s loud, vulgar family were just reminding me of The Simpsons when Rosita herself declared “Caramba!” in another intertitle and sealed the deal.

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Headroom

Posted in FILM, literature, Television with tags , , , , , , on January 25, 2017 by dcairns

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Finished off disc 3 of Season 3 of The Twilight Zone — as good a place to start as any — with the legendary To Serve Man. Which is not as smart a piece of science fiction as ARRIVAL, I’d say. Just the question of translation is not as well handled. The earthlings have been working on alien Richard Kiel’s space book for some time, but all they’ve managed to translated is the title, To Serve Man. One would think that the word “to” might turn up somewhere in the body of the text as well as in the title, and that might help…

If you start describing the story to a modern human who hasn’t heard it or seen the Simpsons parody of it, at a certain point they will say “It’s a cook book, isn’t it?” and this certain point will occur long before you get to that revelation. Which I don’t mind: it just gives you an insight into a more innocent time.

Despite having smart SF scribe Damon Knight as its original author, the episode has a number of “innocent” moments. “What time is it?” demands the UFO abductee, only to be told that time is a meaningless concept in outer space. “What time is it ON EARTH?” he insists, oblivious to the fact that his question is stupid. It’s not one time on Earth. It’s not even one time in the USA. Nevertheless, the giant Richard Kiel alien says “It’s noon.” Maybe he’s just humouring the jerk.

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What was most striking was the fact that poor alien Richard Kiel has to stoop to come through the door — on his own spaceship! Wouldn’t it be built with him in mind. I can imagine poor Richard’s expression on viewing the set: even when they build a set just for my character, they don’t put in enough clearance.

Alien Richard Kiel has a big bulbous bald head, like many space aliens before and since, but what’s especially good about it is it looks like he’s wearing a chef’s hat inside his scalp. Combining astronomy and gastronomy.

The door thing made me think of MOONRAKER, where Richard Kiel as Jaws never seems to hit his head on any doorways, despite the fact that it’s NOT his spaceship and you’d think they’d want to keep costs down by ignoring the slender possibility of one of their passengers being seven feet tall. The spaceship makers could have saved a fortune and the filmmakers could have gotten quite a lot of value out of Big Richard banging his forehead on every door frame in the joint. I mean, it’s not like such business would be beneath the dignity of a late-period Roger Moore Bond film…

It also made me think of KING KONG, which has the opposite problem. The natives have built a wall, a great big beautiful Donald Trump wall, to keep Kong on his side of Skull Island (how old is Kong anyway?) The trouble is, in a fit of political correctness they have thoughtfully built into their wall a Kong-sized door, despite the fact that the one thing one guesses they would not want to happen is —

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Oh well…

The Sunday Intertitle: Give Chase a Chance

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , on February 19, 2012 by dcairns

This intertitle, from the Charley Chase-Leo McCarey short HIS WOODEN WEDDING, strikes me as the greatest achievement of western civilisation. Of course, by tomorrow I may have a new favourite… Seems likely the whole film grew from this one pun, since it’s the most “logical”, compact and perfect aspect of the movie. Getting to the line requires considerable ingenuity upon McCarey’s part, and considerable suspension of disbelief for the audience.

Charley is about to be wed when his malicious rival slips him a note —

Two funny things — the insanity of the rival’s scheme, and the fatuous signature “A FRIEND.” Plot contrivances pile up like rugby players, eventually convincing Charley that the note speaks true.

Charley immediately imagines what married life will be like a few years hence, in this Nightmare Vision of the Future —

All Charley’s clan have Long John Silver peg-legs (his wife still looks quite normal, but Charley isn’t taken in by that).

Even Buddy the dog gets in on the act. (Yay, Buddy!)

It’s getting so that a Chase film without an appearance from Buddy leads to disappointment as inevitably as a film with Jeffrey Hunter in it. The only acceptable substitute is Josephine the monkey. I long to see Chase’s Tarzan spoof, NATURE IN THE WRONG, because it has a great title, because the idea of Chase as Tarzan is very fine, because it features Charles Gemora as a gorilla and James Finlayson as the voice of a lion, and because Josephine must surely turn up somewhere in there. (Plot: “Charlie receives a letter from a company in Texas telling him he’s related to Tarzan.”)

I recollect a gag very similar  to the peg-leg family in The Simpsons when Aunt Selma is contemplating marriage to the short-sighted Hans Moleman. Her imagination conjures a room full of myopic kids, stampeding around, crashing into each other and the furniture. I seem to recall one toppling out the window. All in a shot just few seconds long.

(I think the swipe is perfectly allowable, even if deliberate, and I’ve unconsciously pilfered from The Simpsons myself so I’m in no position to throw stones…)

Next week I really will write about Max Linder…