Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Thursday Thirteen #39 -- Campy Movie Classics


The Gal Herself


Yes, I'm a connoisseur of terrible pop songs. But I delight in bad movies, too. I never miss an opportunity to watch one of these clunkers. They are all earnest, sincere, unselfconsciously and gloriously bad. A big glass of milk, a box of Nilla Vanilla wafers, and one of these, and I’m simply in heaven. If you're a fan of bad dialog, unreasonably lavish wardrobes, cheesey special effects and completely unbelievable plot twists, then these movies are for you! Since this is the witching time of year, I’ll lump all the stupendously stupid horror movies together at the top.

1. Attack of the Puppet People (1958). A lonely Gepetto-type lures people to his studio and then shrinks them so he’ll have company forever and ever. My favorite scene: When the Puppet People try to get help by climbing the phone cord and attempting to dial Gepetto’s ginormous (at least to them) rotary desk phone. You don’t have to be loaded to enjoy this cinematic gem, but it helps.

2. Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). A group of scientists sail down the Amazon and encounter a scaly underwater creature with love on his mind. My favorite scenes: Every time the Creature grabs Kay, the female scientist who has captured his heart, but can never return his love because she is promised to another (who, incidentally, is of her own species). It probably doesn’t help their relationship prospects that the Creature tragically has no genitals. I know this because I search for them every time. If I ever get hi-def, it will be because of this movie.

3. The Brain that Wouldn’t Die (1962). After a terrible car crash, a mad scientist keeps his girlfriend’s head alive. In a shallow dish. On a long table. While her hair is hidden under a turban, her makeup is always perfect. Never could figure out how she managed that with no hands. At any rate, the prospect of a future with no body, or perhaps with a transplanted body, leaves her grumpier and grumpier as the movie wears on. My favorite scenes: Any of the Brain’s scenes with the drooling mutant brute who is also kept in the la-BOR-a-tory. She’s all bossy attitude with him. You have to admire her spunk under these trying circumstances.

4. Valley of the Dolls (1967). Sex, Broadway, sex, pills, sex, Hollywood, sex, cancer, sex, dementia, sex, booze, sex … and some of the worst acting and incongruous wardrobe, hair and makeup choices in the history of cinema. This is my most beloved wretched film of all time. My favorite scene (and it’s hard to choose just one): when movie star Neely O’Hara confronts Broadway legend Helen Lawson in the ladies’ room, rips off her wig, and tries unsuccessfully to flush it down the toilet. No, I'm not kidding. You have to see it to believe it.

5. Written on the Wind (1956). The lives and loves of two men who have been friends all their lives, even though one (Rock Hudson) is earnest but poor and the other (Robert Stack) is the playboy son of one of Texas’ richest oil families. My favorite scenes: Any with Dorothy Malone, who inexplicably won an Oscar for her over-the-top portrayal of Stack's Bad Sister. When called a filthy liar, she responds coolly, “I’m filthy. Period.”

6. Change of Habit (1969). Elvis made a lot of bad movies, but none worse than this. Mary Tyler Moore plays a groovy nun who switches from her habit to miniskirts as she helps Dr. Elvis in his ghetto clinic. Only he doesn’t know she’s a nun and he falls in love with her. Watch for Ed Asner, Mr. Grant himself, in a bit part as a very uncool cop. My favorite scene: At the end, when MTM is in church, trying to choose between the Son of God and The King of Rock’n’Roll.

7. The Best of Everything (1959). Career girls in New York want it ALL! Careers, men, and children. But no woman can have it all, as miserable, old, childless, spinster career woman Joan Crawford warns them. But they won’t listen. No, no. Caroline (Hope Lange) and Gregg (Suzy Parker) and April (Diane Baker) have to learn it for themselves, the hard way. Fortunately for us, they learn it in beautiful apartments while wearing great clothes and spouting hideous dialog. My favorite scene: When aspiring actress Gregg is driven mad by her unrequited love for the caddish Louis Jordan and is reduced to spying on him and his new girl from the fire escape … and then tumbles to her death.

8. Billy Jack (1971). He’s a mysterious half-breed Green Beret who protects the peace-loving hippies at the Freedom School. Almost always with his feet. The thing I love about Billy Jack is that he comes from Shatner school of dramatic pauses. He may be a man of few words, but it takes him FOREVER to spit them out. My favorite scene: After the incident at the ice cream shop, when Billy Jack says, “When I see … what you did to this little girl … this little girl that we call … ‘God’s gift of sunshine’ … and I think of all the years that she will carry the memory of this … I JUST GO BERSERK!”

9. Glen or Glenda (1953). The inimitable Ed Wood directed himself in the title role of misunderstood young transvestite with a fondness for angora. My favorite scene: Bela Lugosi reciting, “Beware of the green dragon. He eats little boys and puppy dog tails and big fat snails!”

10. Ski Party (1965). Much like the beach party movies, but with an important difference: this one takes places IN THE SNOW! Frankie Avalon and Dwayne Hickman have to dress in drag in order to go on a “girls only” ski weekend. And they can’t even ski! I’ll bet you can just imagine all the trouble those wacky scamps get into on the slopes! My favorite scene: Teen idol Leslie Gore at the ski lodge, singing “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows.”

11. Madame X (1966). Lana Turner was one of the worst actresses ever. And, oh boy, does she ever stink in this one! A girl from the wrong side of the tracks marries a politician -- even though she looks and acts older than the politician's mother -- and has a beautiful son. She gets bored with the life of a socialite/political wife and has an affair with Ricardo Montalban. (How could she resist?) That nasty Ricardo threatens to expose their affair so she kills him and then disappears to save her husband’s career. She becomes a hopeless drunk who has to kill again. This time it’s a sleazy blackmailer who figures out who she is and also wants to ruin her husband’s career. This time she gets caught but refuses to reveal her real name or motive for the crime. Hence the appellation “Madame X.” She finds herself represented in court by the public defender who is (gasp!) HER SON! My favorite scene: In the courtroom, when the doctor explains that she’s HOOKED (!) on absinthe, which causes INSANITY!

12. Tammy Tell Me True (1961). I love the entire Tammy Trilogy, but this is the worst and therefore my favorite. Tammy Tyree, a sweet, uneducated girl who has lived her entire life on a riverboat, somehow ends up at a prestigious university without the benefit of grammar or high school. My favorite scene: When she rebels against being treated as a child, announcing, “I’m a woman, fully growed! Front and back!” and inviting Professor John Gavin to check her out.

13. Showgirls (1995). Remember Jesse Spano from Saved by the Bell? Have you ever wanted to see her dance naked? Here’s your chance! You have to buy the premise that whereas little girls once wanted to run off to New York to star in Broadway musicals, in the 90s they want to run off to Vegas to be the lead “exotic dancer” at a resort hotel. My favorite scene: When our heroine says, in a typical moment of introspection, “I like having nice tits.”

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Works for Mom has facts that are so appropriate for the day

2. Nicole Austin always has good TTs and this week is no exception, but I can't load it (Sorry, Nicole.) Please, everyone, go check her out.

3. Greatfullivin has fun and family friendly cartoons

4. Nicholas not only has an interest list of books with one-word titles, he has the damndest TT banner I've ever seen!

5. Courtney has an upbeat TT

6. Malcolm has a fun list of 13 shows that Jumped the Shark

7. No Nonsense Girl takes us on a tour of her desk

8. Morgan Leigh enthusiastically shares her passions

9. Susan Helene Gottfried celebrates a Shapeshifter Halloween

10. Pussreboots shares her thoughts about National November Writing Month

11. Lisa rants, and who could blame her?

12. Lori gives single parents tips for taking care of themselves -- but we can all benefit from it

13. Moondancer teases us about "White Lotus"

14. Sandy Carlson has a Halloweeny TT about Riverside Cemetery in CT

15. Raggedy teaches us to "speak Southern"

16. Cordia Amant shares some imaginative Halloween costumes

17. Open Grove Claudia uses her imagination and converses with the dead

18. Mommyba has an inspirational TT about weight loss. Go, girl!

19. SJ has 13 terrific baseball movies to warm your heart this offseason

20. Lori's TT brings us up to date with enhancements to her blog

21. Dane lists shows that "spun off" from other shows

22. Yenn explains digital scrapbooking

23. cj shows us what would be in her dream trick or treat bag

24. Damozel presents some great Halloween photography

25. Xakara gets us started on her NaNo project

26. Janet's TT is spoooooky

27. WAHM (Bloggers) shares tips for keeping the wee ones occupied

28. Scooper lists intriguing sentences from books

29. Aline outlines 13 books she's written … AND HAD PUBLISHED!

30. Wakela shares 13 things about Wakela

31. Holly loves these 13 things about Halloween

32. Carrie Lofty takes a tumble

33. Sassy Lucy is up for some games

34. Sparky Duck has a serious, heartbreaking TT

35. Harlekwin (who gave me this banner) celebrates the single life

36. Lisa shows us how she keeps busy

37. Titania Starrlight celebrates my favorite color

38. Sleeping Mommy loves the fall, and here's why

39. ellen b takes us to "the other side of the pond"

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It's Halloween, so naturally I scare people

One of the weirder aspects of my emotionally-charged relationship with my iPod is that when it's on "shuffle," I'm often surprised and delighted by the songs it plays. This is dopey because I downloaded every last damn song on the thing. All 1,711 of them. I should know what's on there, and if I want to hear something I should be able to just click on it. But if I was that aware and organized, I guess, I'd be someone else entirely.

Anyway, this morning the song I was thrilled to rediscover through my headphones was "You Make It So Hard (to Say No)" by Boz Scaggs. I LOVE THAT SONG! (Perhaps that's why I downloaded it.) As I was crossing Michigan and Randolph, I heard my favorite lines:

You know I tried to get you out of my mind
But now I'm to the point I find
I just can't leave and not have kissed you
You know I could never resist you

The pedestrians crossing beside me were eyeing me. This seldom happens. If you make eye contact with someone downtown, then you may end up talking to them, and no good will come of that. It may be a former lover's best friend, or someone you interviewed for a job but didn't hire, etc. Everyone knows that. So why were these people looking at me?

Uh-oh. I touched my vocal chords and realized I was singing. Perhaps loudly. Certainly tunelessly.

I wish I'd recovered from my humiliation quickly enough to stare back and yell, "BOO!" But I didn't. I just hunched my shoulders and walked faster.

I still really love that song, though.