Monday, September 1, 2014

Guest Column: FROGS (Not the Aristophanes One)

By Hank Parmer (AKA "grouchmarxist")


Frogs - or - Package for You, Sir

In any competition for the least terrifying concept ever for a nature-runs-amok movie, there are two clear stand-outs: Night of the Lepus and Frogs. Both hit the theaters in 1972, with the obvious intention of cashing in on the movie-going public's growing environmental awareness.

The carnivorous killer bunnies featured in Night of the Lepus are a pretty ridiculous premise, even if they are the size of Shetland ponies.  To their credit, the producers of Frogs didn't try to conceal the identity of their chief antagonists behind Linnaean nomenclature. But, in a severe disappointment to anyone expecting to be ribbeted -- er, riveted to their seat by the amphibian world's most fearsome predator in all its elegantly lethal glory, the "frogs" which appear in this film are actually toads.


Don't believe me? Take a look at this still:


That, sir, is a toad! They're not even extra-big toads. Frogs, toads, whatever. It's hard to work up much anxiety over creatures whose offensive capabilities are limited to either smothering you under a whole mess of 'em, or somehow tonguing you to death. (Though I'm kind of hazy on the precise mechanics of this, I'm certain you sickos can come up with some semi-plausible scenario.)

But this little bait-and-switch presents the conscientious reviewer with a dilemma: if I refer to the toads who'll appear in innumerable, interminable close-ups as "frogs" I'd be helping the filmmakers put over a deliberate deception. Scare-quoting "frogs" every time would likely give me a nasty case of carpal tunnel. Calling them “pseudo-frogs” or "froads" would just confuse everyone, and sound really silly. To hell with it: I'm going to call a toad a toad! I'm just that kind of guy.

As we'll see, though, it's other swamp critters who end up doing the dirty work. So either the toads are commanding them, or they're a kind of Greek chorus whose comments on the action (I use the word loosely) consist solely of monotonous croaking, as a subtle counterpoint to Ray Milland's monotonous whining.

Frogs opens with Sam Elliott as our protagonist "Pickett Smith" -- whose name sounds like a line of Western-themed casual wear, made in Thailand and sold at J. C. Penney -- paddles his canoe through the swamp. At least, we're encouraged to believe it's a swamp by stock jungle noises familiar to every kid who's watched a Tarzan flick. He's taking photos of creatures culled from the wide selection available in the reptile aisle at Pet World -- and toads. He snaps some more shots, of garbage in the water and a discharge pipe.

He's clad in jeans and a denim shirt -- of course, Pickett wears only natural fabrics. He also wears a Number One (concerned). In keeping with his character's uncomplicated, eco-friendly lifestyle, during the course of this movie Elliott will employ only three expressions:

1. Concerned
2. Pensive
3. The wry smirk

Pickett paddles out onto a lake. Karen Crockett (Joan van Ark) and her brother Clint (Adam Roarke) are screwing around in a fancy ski boat. In a desperate last-minute bid to get out of his contract, Roarke tries to run over Elliott. (I kid: he's too busy chugging a Bud to watch where he's going -- which is a very authentic touch, when it comes to recreational boating.) He swerves at the last moment, but their wake dumps Pickett's canoe.

Clint pulls his boat up next to Pickett and offers a hand up. As he clambers aboard, Pickett yanks Clint over the side. Gotcha, sucker! Clint's a good sport, though: he promises to replace all the equipment Pickett just lost. Clint and Karen invite him to lunch; Karen flirts with Pickett while they tow his canoe to their mansion.

Wheelchair-bound Jason Crockett (Ray Milland) watches them through binoculars. As the ski boat pulls up to his dock, he orders his weaselly son-in-law, Stuart Martindale, to find out what's happening, then resumes biting the heads off whippets.

Toad.

[There are so many cutaways to close-ups of toads and other supposed swamp critters throughout the course of this movie that I'd originally intended not to mention them at all. But the intricate, Schoenberg-esque rhythm of this film's construction is key to appreciating its mind-numbing tedium. So as you read this, just keep it in mind that "lingering close-up of" should precede every mention made in this review of a toad or any other lower form of life -- except for Uncle Stuart.] 

Speaking of close-ups, there's another important character in the drama: Sam's package. His jeans are very tight, you know. You can see everything. Nothing left to the imagination.

Clint's impressed by Pickett's package. He wants to know: "How are you at badminton?" He'd like to play a set or two of tennis, or ping-pong, or something. "We want you for our fun and games!" says Clint, as he drapes his arm possessively around Pickett's shoulders. As we'll see, in addition to his alcoholism, Clint's a randy little bugger, much given to innuendo by sports metaphor.

It seems Pickett has inadvertently crashed patriarch Jason Crockett's big birthday shindig. Jason owns the entire island. Every year, he terrorizes his kin for a couple of weeks around the Fourth.

Toads.

Uncle Stuart meets the trio as they walk across the lawn, through mist-shrouded live oaks and trailing Spanish moss. He warns them Grandpa's in a bad mood today -- which is a revelation on the order of "water is wet" and "Michael Bay makes loud, stupid movies".

Toads.

Pickett meets Jason and his grandson Michael Martindale, who sticks so close to Grandpa it looks as if he's exploring a career in commensalism, like that Kwokian monkey-lizard who picks space-lice off Jabba the Hutt.

Jason demands to know why Pickett's been taking photos all around his island. (He drinks his Metamucil from the skull of the last trespasser.) Pickett explains he's a freelance photographer, working on a pollution layout for an ecology magazine. He's previously won a Pulitzer for his pictorial essay "The Landfills of Madison County".

Jason claims photographing his private island is illegal. Pickett reminds him Ronald Reagan isn't president yet. Mike asks Pickett: "Did you take any pictures of frogs this morning? I saw the biggest bullfrog."

Mike then complains about the racket the frogs have been making. Jason says he sent Grover out to take care of that. There's probably not  much a furry, pot-bellied, purple Muppet who earns money on the side dubbing Yoda can do, but Jason told him to spray the bay on the north side of the island, anyway. Jason asks Pickett if he saw Grover while he was paddling around. Nope. Where's Grover?

Inside the mansion, another disturbing development: the phone is dead. (The toads are nothing if not old school.) Clint's wife, Jenny (Lynn Borden) shows Karen and Pickett an adorable drawing by her kids -- of frogs!

Clint goes upstairs to shower -- a cold one, hopefully -- while Karen introduces Pickett to Aunt Iris. Iris Martindale is Jason's daughter, a flaky matron straight out of Southern Gothic 101, with just a dab of Geraldine Page in Summer and Smoke. She's putting a monarch butterfly in a bell jar for Daddy's birthday. Pickett also meets Karen's cousin, Ken Martindale -- the artistic one -- and his beard, stunning African-American fashion model Bella (Judy Pace). She too is awed by Pickett's packet. The air just fizzles with sexual tension, here at Casa Crockett.

Pickett and Karen leave. Iris shows her bell jar to Ken and Bella. Ken feels it's a much more successful effort than last year's dead vole in a guano-caked bird's nest.

Cut to: bare-chested Pickett, in Clint's bedroom. Wearing a silk bathrobe, Clint emerges from the bathroom after taking his shower. The homoerotic vibe is thick enough to cut with a knife.

Pickett's inspecting a framed football jersey, perhaps drawn to it by Clint's powerful man-musk. Clint tells him that Jenny was the one who framed it: "She's still impressed with me, after I was Midwest Valley Central's highest scorer!" Ah ... another double entendre. My guess is Clint's alma mater was the Midwest Valley Central Institution for the Perpetually Priapic.

Clint has a shrine, made up of trophies from his glory days at MVCIPP. Oh, crap: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof just wandered into the script! Although this dialog does sound as if it could have been written by Williams ... Tuscaloosa Williams, that is. (He's the one nobody in Tennessee's family would talk about.)

Metaphor alert: the trophy display also includes pictures of Jenny, back when she was a cheerleader. While he fondles one of his football trophies, Clint coyly mentions he's the same weight as when he was playing. Just when this might be getting interesting -- toads.

Cut to the garden, where Ken's taking pictures of Bella. Charles, the butler, appears: "Mr. Kenneth, I have a message from your grandfather."

Ken: "With or without the profanity, Charles?"

Charles wisely chooses the latter: "'Get your [bleep]ing ass to the mother-[bleep]ing party, you [bleep]ing little [bleep] or I'll rip your [bleep] off and stuff it up your rancid [bleeeeeeeeeeeep]! [Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep]!'" (Or words to that effect.)

On their way to the party, Ken and Bella pass a reflecting pool; the camera lingers on a concrete statue of a frog. Cut to close-up of a toad.

The Crockett clan's gathered on the lawn. Grandpa gripes about the kids being late for the party, then lectures Jenny about proper child-rearing techniques. Why, the daily beatings -- along with frequent testicular electroshocks -- made him the man he is today! The children, Jason and Tina, run up with a toad they want to show to Grandpa. Mike snatches the toad out of little Jason's hand and pitches it away. Jenny claims all the noise from the frogs is making everyone crazy.

Jason changes his tune: he's decided Pickett must be an "ecology expert" and now wants him to do a frog survey on the island. Anything to shut these whiny titty-babies up. Pickett goes along with the gag.

Toads.

Later, Jason meets with Pickett in private, in the study/gun room. He too is strangely attracted to Pickett's package. I mean, damn, it's right at his eye-level, so what's he supposed to do?


Even veteran actor Ray Milland is mesmerized by the power of Pickett's package!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: "The Unexpected Guests" Edition

MOONDOGGIE: Come on, it's my turn for the sheepskin bed!  You said, "Right after Ellen" and it's been like an hour and a--

MOONDOGGIE: Hang on. I think I'm being abducted by aliens...

MOONDOGGIE:  I'll be with you in just a minute, guys -- I gotta settle this custody dispute over the bed. Oh, and I wanna be called Star-Lord. Is that okay?

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, Doc Logan! I Bring You...The FUTURE!

Yes, today is the natal anniversary of kindly ol' Doc Logan, purveyor of Pavlovian Behavior ModificationTechniques to Undead Americans since 1985.  In addition to being a valued member of the Crapper Commentariat, the good Doctor is also quite active in the Mad Science Community, so the choice of a gift this year was easy. If your profession, like Doc Logan's, involves not getting eaten by zombies, then you're going to want the most versatile, dependable, and compatible technology available, as well as the sexiest hot pants that Science can devise.  Voila!


This actually got me thinking about my first foray onto the Information Superhighway. It was the early 90s, and I was back East visiting a computer programmer friend, who had some TCP/IP E-I-E-O thing set up in his house, and showed me how to use "Gopher" to find documents on "the Internet." It struck me as pretty cool, but somewhat menacing, since it was only a short step to Colossus: The Forbin Project, and if I ever scored with Susan Clark, I didn't want some computer peeping on us while we did the nasty.

A couple of years later this same friend gave me a modem for my birthday (my computer hadn't come equipped with one, so I used it primarily for playing Solitaire and working on my novel, in that order).  I quickly discovered the concept of the BBS, which as we all know is a gateway drug, and this led inevitably to the hard stuff -- AOL -- and a couple hundred dollars a month in per-minute fees, especially once I discovered the Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan group.  So it's kind of a dark story, with a grim, VH1 Behind the Music tone. But on the bright side, that's where I met Sheri, and where we eventually started writing summaries of bad movies to amuse each other, and now...here we are.

So what's your deal? Early adopter, or Johnny-Come-Lately?  Share your  Internet origin story in the comments, and please join me in wishing a very happy birthday to Wo'C Mad Scientist-in-Residence, Doc Logan!
Artist's conception.

We now conclude our broadcasting day with the playing of our National Anthem, and the traditional Sexy Birthday Lizard!
I'm calling this one "Petey."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

News Flash! Elderly Man Confused by News Flash!

By Keith:

Learning English language is a bit like learning the piano. It isn't that difficult to negotiate in a strictly mechanical sense. Years of further instruction and scholarship are required to prevent undesired noise.

Dear readers, today's subject destroys the piano as to be unrepairable. Almost as if the composer (and 1970's art star) George Crumb had placed a vibrating sex toy to the soundboard for special effects.

Speaking of George, is anyone old enough to remember Pat Boone? Welcome to today's WO'C feature.
Like you, I’m sure, I watch a lot of the TV talk shows. Things seems to be changing so fast, and there are constantly “breaking news” announcements interrupting the shows themselves. It’s hard to keep up, but I want to know who did what, and why.
Pat, it's always cool to know who did what to whom. You're a curious fellow still. And it's refreshing your sharing with us that you watch talk shows to which you aren't invited as guest. You were on Carson a few times.
How did we get into this mess with our precious healthcare? And does anybody know a way out? A way back to what we had?
The way out is impossible.  If you need a way-back machine call Mr. Peabody.
Are there answers? Real, substantive, effective answers?
The answer, Pat, is "42", although admittedly it's a pat answer.
Yes…but first, we’ve got to ask the right questions. 
I’ve mentioned this famous fable before in one of my columns, but I mention it here again, because most everybody is familiar with it. It’s the story of the “emperor’s new clothes” the pompous ruler who was so vain he paraded around naked, convinced he was wearing the world’s most expensive and elegant diaphanous garments, intimidating his subjects into professing they too saw and marveled at his grandeur.
I wish you hadn't mentioned. It makes my job more difficult. This is not a proper forum for your blatant bare-butt nakedness. As for your own diaphanous garments would you please wear them again? You might be invited as a guest on Ellen.
But it’s mainly the story of the na├»ve little boy who, looking honestly at the ridiculous ruler, exclaimed loudly, “The emperor has no clothes on! Look, he’s naked! Mommy, why doesn’t he have any clothes on?”
Because son, he is truly naked. You did it yourself – for a gig in the motion pictures State Fair, and Journey to the Center of the Earth, and -- as we'll see far, far below -- Life magazine. [ed: btw thanks to Newsmax for that diaeresis in the word naive. Someone reads the New Yorker.
"Uhhh, listen, can you take a step back? I can feel your dirty pillows on my man-nipples.  Maybe two steps...Really not a hugger...Is the camera still on...?"
It was the right question.
So, I’m asking the two vital questions all the blathering “news people” and “reporters” haven’t had the courage, or the common sense, to ask on two of the most pressing issues of the day.
Pat, I kind of understand the first point of your rant. What, on earth, is the second?
One: why was a Canadian company, with no previous experience, given $687,000,000 to create the monstrosity called the Obamacare website and operational rat’s nest?
Sorry Pat. It was Oracle's debacle. You are not speaking truth to readers. Canada has socialised medical insurance.
Two: why isn’t anybody defending the right of any business or property owner to serve anybody he wants to or decline to produce products that offend his own religious beliefs?
Why “him”? Is health care restricted to men only? (Men are more costly to insure as a result of negligence in seeking advice from a physician.) There's always the nasty problem of public accommodation even in the health insurance industry.
When these questions are honestly and objectively asked, there are answers ... and the American people deserve to know them. And we absolutely must insist that our elected representatives get to the bottom of these things and make the facts known to all of us. 
First, this governmental takeover of the healthcare system is a giant, virulent cancer eating away at us, economically and politically.
OK Pat, done with you. If I had some spare change I would forward a copy of the fascinating extended essay Illness As Metaphor by Susan Sontag. She knew English language rather well. She died of cancer.

As for “getting to the bottom of these things” I'll leave that for you to explore on your way to “Mr. Liquor” on a late night on the town.

So much for English language. As prophesied in the “Space Cadet Handbook” we are all truly doomed.

Good afternoon,

– Keith

[From Scott: Speaking of bottoms...Do you dare to gaze upon the horror (or the hotness -- you decide) of Pat's fully naked Boone-butt and shadowy Boone-batch?  Click below for the NSFW shower image (a rare example of what fine art photographers call "the Reverse Porky's")!

Management accepts no liability for death, dismemberment, or involuntary arousal caused by the image below.



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Faithfully Submitted, Douglas C. Neidermeyer, Sergeant-at-Arms

I think Chairman Preibus is on to me. Recently, a group of rich and popular kids -- Kate Walsh, RNC Finance Director; Sara Armstrong, Chief Operating Officer; Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski; and RNC Co-Chair, Sharon Day -- tendered rather sudden overtures of friendship, inviting me to eat lunch at their table in the cafeteria and hang out at the Cool Kids Only bench in the Quad. As grateful as I've been for these seemingly unprovoked attentions, I've been hesitant to return them, mostly because this is basically the plot of Mean Girls, and that didn't really turn out too well for anybody. Oh, Tina Fey is doing all right, I suppose, and Lizzy Caplan now regularly gets nude on premium cable and has simulated intercourse with Michael Sheen, so you can't say it's all bad; unfortunately, in this scenario, I'm Lindsay Lohan, so...Yeah.  I've been a bit cautious about opening up my heart, and particularly, my wallet.

And Reince has noticed. After resisting the seductive song of his executive suite sirens, Chairman Preibus has left me to the shrill vocalizations of RNC volunteer Diane Umbarger, perhaps to see if vinegar can succeed where honey has failed.
Scott, 
We haven't met, but I’m an RNC volunteer from Mooresville, NC.
Oh man. I'm about to get catfished so hard...
I’ve been coming out to volunteer for the RNC every weekend for the past few months, and I wanted to give you a quick update from the field.
"There's foxtails in mah socks, and chiggers in mah shins..."
You might think I'm crazy for giving up my free time to knock on doors and talk to voters, but I know it makes a difference.
Well, I think you're half right...
Let me prove it to you. . .
If this phrase isn't followed by Ms. Umbarger peeling off a rubbery human mask to reveal the reptilian face beneath, then my faith in self-diagnosed crazy people who visit your home uninvited at the behest of a creature they call "Reince" is going to be severely shaken.
One day, I was knocking on doors, talking to people about how much this election will change the course of our country.
They were stall doors in a men's restroom, and many of her more costive auditors were not receptive. Fortunately, it was the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, so her speech did incite a certain amount of suggestive stance-widening.
And at one house I met a student who had never voted before. The RNC had given me the intel that he wasn't registered, and I was able to quickly register him and give him the info he needed to get to the voting booth in November.
"Unfortunately, he was nine, so legally I could only register him for a Community Water Safety class at the Rec Center Natatorium. But even though we want to drown Government in a bathtub, I don't think we feel the same way about our future voters, so I'm calling this one a bit fat win."
Another time I was door knocking
"And I interrupted a couple who were boot knocking. Sadly, they didn't seem very open to hearing about how this election will change the course of our country -- in fact, they were rather rude to me -- but happily, RNC intel indicated that they weren't married, so at least I made that slut waste one of her birth control pills for nothing."
I met an elderly couple that was frustrated about the direction of the country. They’d lost hope in their grandchildren’s future and didn’t see why their vote even mattered. I explained how important the Senate election is in North Carolina and put my RNC training to good use describing the gravity of the situation. Finally, they got it and agreed to turn out and vote in November!
"Admittedly, they vowed to 'vote the straight Democratic ticket' in the hopes it would make me 'chew my own tongue off,' but the story has a happy end, since they're Negroes, so I was able to report them for voter fraud."
This is exciting stuff!
Just keep telling yourself that, Diane.  You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you to get off their porch.
Real people are turning out to vote Republican because of conversations with volunteers like me.
Well, you showed such grit and enthusiasm registering all those mannequins, Realdolls®, and Resusci-Annies, it was inevitable that your local Volunteer Coordinator would let you graduate, however tentatively, to Homo sapiens.
See you in the field!
Not if I see you first!

Diane Umbarger
RNC Volunteer

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Happy Crapiversary!

Eleven years ago today, Sheri Zollinger founded World O' Crap. Why? Because we like you!  Then she let me play in the sandbox (which might argue against that whole "we like you" thing, but whatevs), and mock was made of Family Circus, and Meghan Cox Gurdon, and Dr. Professor Mike Adams, and then we wrote a book about bad movies, and now here we are: celebrating an odd-number anniversary for which the traditional gift is steel. (I presume they don't mean the alloy, since I've never heard Emily Post telling husbands to "give your wife a girder," except in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, or certain Rust Belt towns in Ohio, where it's considered polite. Probably they mean Danielle Steel, and while I'm not trying to cadge a present here, I wouldn't say no to a nice trade paperback of Season of Passion, or Passion's Promise, or particularly Thurston House, which I assume is a prequel recounting the Howell's marriage before they were swept away in a tempest that mirrored their stormy passions.)

Today also marks another historic event, one as difficult, in it's own way, as stretching out this blogging thing for more than a decade. I'll let the pages of Riley's own journal, stained by the elements and brittle with age, tell the story:
DAY FIVE: Though our provisions and our numbers are both diminished, our spirits remain undaunted, for today we reached the summit of Mount Laundryhamper. Our ascent, though successful, has not been easy: Jennings lost two toes to frostbite, and Fraiser's bag of apples broke open, leading him -- despite our remonstrations -- to chase the tumbling fruit down the sheer and icy north face of the peak, where he fell face first into a crevasse.  We can't quite make out what he's screaming, as his head is wedged tight and all that remains visible are his desperately flailing feet, but no doubt he feels abashed.

Jennings, should I mention the part where we ate the sherpas?...Oh stop whining, man! It's only two toes, and you were a polydactyl to begin with!

Thanks for sticking with us all these years.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Post-Friday Beast Blogging: The Cafe Voltaire Edition

RILEY: I don't need Feminism because I'm wearing a sleep mask like a hat.

MOONDOGGIE:  That...makes no sense.

RILEY:  Exactly.

MOONDOGGIE:  Whaaat...?

RILEY:  You don't need Mama...when you've got Dada.


...