One of the more unterrible retail jobs I worked during art sk00l was my job in video rental store management. In addition to coming into regular contact with such life-changing characters as "Unicycle-Riding Ross Perot Supporter," "Dude Who Cut All the Butthole Photos Out of the Porn Film Sleeves," "Slacker Son of the Deli Owner Across the Street Who Gave Us Free Sammiches in Trade for Adult Movie Rentals," and "Gay, Special Needs, Bear-Hug-Giving Guy," this job enabled me to expand my movie-watching horizons exponentially without having to bankrupt myself on bootlegs. I had a blast with blind watches of films whose covers held an appeal to me. Sure, I danced the disappointment tango many times, but I found a lot of joy in watching things like late-70s star vehicles and insane children's movies.
The thing with seeking out cult film titles in the digital age is that the search becomes very precise, very directed. Everything's a Google search away, and it's easy to miss out on the blind watch experience. Most "blind watches" aren't, really--the potentially misleading cover art can be dismissed after a quick IMDb search, and there's a review for almost every film under the sun. I kinda liked going into a movie knowing nothing more than its flashy poster and maybe the mention of an appealing actor or actress.
One of the movies that seared itself into my brain was "Sextette," presumably so-named because there are no flirty puns on "Octogenarian," which is what Mae West was at the time of filming. The experience of watching that movie was something like this: "Oh fuck this is going to be long... when is the Alice Cooper cameo? Did you have to pay Dom DeLuise NOT to show up in your movie in 1978? I'm cringing... Get me another drink... Something in my consciousness snapped and I think I maybe-like this... Oh there's Alice Cooper... That was fucking heavy." In much the same way that fans of spicy food begin to experience an elated feeling when chowing down on colon-searing edibles, and not at all in the spirit of scab-picking shadendouchery, I came to crave that "fucking heavy" feeling.
The closest I've come to replicating the video rental blind watch is with Netflix Instant, whose offerings skew more towards the "One Dollar Previously Viewed Bin" than towards recent blockbusters. Asylum and Troma offerings dominate the horror section, and there are numerous repackaged-for-urban-markets kung fu titles. Recently, beloved-by-me-and-loathed-by-everyone-else titles "Unmasking the Idol" and "Order of the Black Eagle" popped up. In the spirit of unearthing unexpected gems, Baron XIII and I have taken it upon ourselves to plumb the depths of Comedy Offerings. I think our recent re-watch of "Muppets Take Manhattan" was the gateway drug that lured us into the bizarre universe of the Children & Family section.
Disco Vanity Pictures are amazing--make no mistake. "Sextette" prepared me for a world that includes such wonders as Instant-able titles "Xanadu" and "Can't Stop the Music," the latter of which is a Village People vehicle that manages to never utter the word "gay." The "boys" are "quirky" and "different," but... they don't talk about having sex with men. They're just magical pixies of a sorta-Disney variety, starring in a number of 40s-style song and dance numbers with bespangled outfits, choreography, and pearly white smiles. It's as if some executive un-hip to modern lingo took "gay" in the Danny Kaye way, and everybody else just... sorta... rolled with it. This film also features Bruce Jenner's finest hour--better, even than his work on "Keeping Up with the Kardashians."
may have definitely played a role in the decision making process here, as the film continuously references the fact that the Village People are making the music that will define the decade of the Eighties. The Eighties. THE EIGHTIES.
When I die, you can play key scenes from "Can't Stop the Music" at my funeral.
I was ten years old when "Mac and Me" was released into theaters, and I remember thinking it was a cynical cash-grab at the time. When middle-class Caucasian children are questioning the motives of your alien-puppet movie, you're just a bald-faced motherfucker of a filmmaker. Little did I imagine the dadaist depths into which this movie delves. For those of you who haven't been present on the internets, "Mac and Me" is a knock off of "E.T." that adds extreme commercialism to that film's already-detestable formula of big-hearted kids protecting a revolting-looking alien puppet.
In spite of being the owner of some regrettably easily-plucked heartstrings, I never liked "E.T.," so it was with a certain gloating anticipation that I entered into watching this film. It's like those caught on tape videos where a kid junk-punches a party clown--it's revenge on every party clown who ever freaked you out when you were in the single-digit age bracket.
My favorite element of "Mac and Me" is the fact that after the wheelchair-bound moppet who serves as our leading child decides to protect the larval alien puppet he's discovered in his backyard, his mother begins to think he is mentally ill. She repeatedly expresses her concern that her son is acting out his disturbed rage when she blames the scampish actions of the alien puppet ("scampish actions" such as "drilling holes in the wall" and "destroying the living room by bringing in large clods of dirt") on the boy. Plunk a different soundtrack on top, and you've got yourself a horrifying combination of "Rear Window," "Gaslight" and perhaps "Repulsion" with a beguiling "Mars Attacks" flavor.
The alien creatures in this movie resemble nothing so much as the Pale Man from "Pan's Labyrinth" (Jesus, that thing is fucking terrifying), and yet the audience is expected to react to them as endearing cartoons of a "so ugly they're cute" sort, based solely on the facts that a) Coca-Cola is a life-sustaining force on their planet and b) they looooove them some McDonald's. I can only begin to describe the shuddering, Lovecraftian disgust I felt in gazing upon the dead-eyed, blow-job-mouthed countenances of the alien creatures in "Mac and Me." There's a ghastliness present here that would give Screaming Mad George cause to execute a slow clap of appreciation.
In the spirit of fairness, the Baron and I share movie-picking duties. I would probably not choose to watch a lot of Hong Kong Heroic Bloodshed films were it not for him, nor would I have developed a taste for movies featuring performing chimpanzees. We watch a lot of movies with apes and monkeys in them*, each of which is terrible in its own precious way. "Spymate" is no exception to this trend, and its tale of a super-spy teaming up with a specially-trained chimp. Yes, I WAS hoping that the title "Spymate" would bring with it vintage Playboy models on a mission to save the world from a coalition of other more evil vintage Playboy models, but I didn't get so lucky.
*Dear Germany: Please make a cognate word for this kind of film. Thank you!
Instead, this film follows a precocious tween scientist who discovers a unique drilling method and is promptly kidnapped by a business tycoon. Her single father has to save her with the help of the most aggravating troop of circus performers in the world, a super-smart chimp, and a grown-up lady scientist ("Sorry you got kidnapped--meet your new mom, honey!"). It's one of those movies that made me really--REALLY--want to Treat My Glaucoma and yet no Glaucoma Treatment was available to me. For my primate spy money, I'll take the Duncan Jax movies.
I just can't believe it took three pages of Netflix reviews to get to the keyboard zoologist who helpfully pointed out that chimps are--in fact--apes and not monkeys. *facepalm*