Wednesday, December 12, 2012

LIE #66(6): Escape From Beneath the Conquest of the Planet of Squeaky’s Revenge! Taking “The Zed Zee Quiz”

For once, I am a force for good! Huzzah!

In the wake of LERNER INTERNATIONAL’s First Quiz and My Answers to said quiz, the fabulous Sq.Dave of The Zed Zee Conundrum (and the unfortunately now-defunct Rockin’ Monkey) posted his own quiz!

Quiz! Quiz-quiz-quiz!

Very much a continuation of my own topic for quizification—that topic being “Favorite That’s Not”/“Silver Medal,”
Sq.Dave has come up with several excellent questions of his own—
Answers below/Gentlemen, start your engines!

12/12/12 Update: Damn, I am taking too fucking long between posts, and I hate that. But it’s been tough lately…

First off, the title of this post: Why “Squeaky”? Because that’s Sq.Dave’s nickname (when we’re not calling him “Boss” or “Massa”).

How’d he get that nickname? If he wants you to know, he’ll leave a comment—but maybe you shouldn’t know.
Perhaps the Mysteries of the Whispering Yakuza of the Northern Fires should never be known…
Maybe you should find out on your own…like during a long car ride down an empty country road…after seeing a Lucio Fulci double-feature….

And now, onto The Zed Zee Conundrum’s “RIGHT BACK AT YA! More 'Favorite that's Not' questions from ZZC...”

1) Favorite revenge movie that's not POINT BLANK, GET CARTER, or ROLLING THUNDER:
Revenge! It’s that dish best eaten cold—if at all—but it’s what we all want, especially me.
One of my great regrets in life (and something I should let go of, if I ever want to evolve and grow as a person) is that I will not be able to get revenge on so many of the people I want to hurt for hurting me in the past.
So many fuckers are going to get away with their crimes!
That’s not right! If I was fearless, and maybe knew kung-fu, they would pay…

Right off the top of my head—and I know I’m forgetting something, and I’ll be kicking myself really hard later—but I’m going with Chan-Wook Park’s Oldboy (2003), one of the most intense revenge films ever, a grueling flick to get through.
Love this movie although—SPOILER—I hate that the protagonist cut out his own tongue. That angered me.

No spoilers here—the very theatrical and twisting mystery/thriller Sleuth (1972; Joseph L. Mankiewicz), where revenge is a major component of the plot, but I refuse to say how (it’s a mystery!). The film is an essentially two-man show, with Michael Caine versus Laurence Olivier, both of them at the top of their powers.

Sam Fuller’s Underworld USA (1961) Yep, one of my fave Fullers—see question #8 below
Quasi-Shakespearean neo-noir where a street urchin devotes his life to revenge against a very corporate mob organization: lots of opportunities for Fuller to engage in sick humor, and honestly, there’s no way this flick wasn’t an influence on John Boorman, director of Point Blank.

Revenge Ping-Pong/Warring Families:
The Hills Have Eyes (1977; Wes Craven)
Pink Flamingos (1974; John Waters)

Sentimental Fave:
Nevada Smith (1966; Henry Hathaway) Steve McQueen’s a half-breed out for blood! Great knife fight between McQueen and villain Martin Landau.

Favorite Movie with “Revenge” in the title: Godzilla’s Revenge (1969; Ishiro Honda)—I’ve championed this film before, and will continue to do so: More of an “Afterschool Special” than kaiju, this film is derailed by expectations placed on the flick by the mention of The Big G. Don’t bring those expectations, and you will be vastly rewarded.

2) Favorite martial arts movie that doesn't star Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Lee, Sammo Hung, Gordon Liu, Donnie Yen, or Tony Jaa (Chuck Norris and Steven Segal films don't count):
Urrrrrrrrrgh, this is tougher than smashing a cinderblock with my forehead!
First, I will praise to high heaven the last martial arts flick I saw in a theater (which is probably not allowed in this quiz because of its star-studded cast)
Flying Swords at Dragon Gate (2011; Tsui Hark) fookin’ incredible, and the best use of 3-D ever); written about HERE.

Sonny Chiba’s The Street Fighter (1974; Shigehiro Ozawa)—beautiful mad brutality! And the infamous X-ray head smash!

Universal Soldier: Regeneration (2009; John Hyams)–Dude, this new breed of mixed-martial arts direct-to-DVD madness/reboot, especially with its mind-blowing cameo by Dolph Lundgren (JCVD ain’t too bad in this flick, either), is GREAT. 
This is the shit we would’ve killed to see back in the day on Kings Highway or in Chinatown.
Can’t wait to see the sequel Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.

3) Favorite post-apocalyptic movie that's not part of the MAD MAX franchise:
A Boy and His Dog (1976; L.Q. Jones) written about extensively HERE

Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970; Ted Post) yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s not as good as PotA,
annnnnnd so what?
There’s telepathic mutants, bad ape makeup on the extras, mediocre matte paintings that I love, “All Hail the Mighty Bomb,” the end of the world, much more, and as the warmongering Gorilla General Ursus, we have JAMES GREGORY, a reason to love a movie unconditionally (and you must see the film The Love God? (1968; Nat Hiken) to catch his insane performance as a right-wing ACLU lawyer).
(That said, we can never forget the infamous Ursus-Zaius steam-room strategy sessions, moments only surpassed by Tom Byron’s “tribute” Planet of the Gapes.)

Whereas 1968’s Planet was a satire on race relations and the generational divide, deftly helmed by underappreciated professional Franklin J. Schaffner (he also directed Patton and Papillion), the heavy-handed and a tad clunky Beneath was about Vietnam (Ursus’ militarism), the encroaching Nixonian police state (with telepathic cops, you can’t hide—very similar to PK Dick themes), and the rise of the “Crystal Palace” neo-evangelical religions of Southern California (Jesus freaks working as high-tech defense contractors for General Dynamics or Raytheon, praying for The Rapture—in other words, radioactive zombies worshipping a doomsday bomb). 

Beneath is one of those sequels—like French Connection II (1975; John Frankenheimer) or Alien³ (1992; David Fincher)—
that would’ve been better appreciated by the general public if they’d been rip-offs of their original films, as opposed to continuations, like William Castle’s Homicidal (1961) as opposed to Psycho II (1983; Richard Franklin).

Another example is Halloween 2 (especially when compared to the monumental success of Halloween rip-off, Friday the 13th):
These movies cannot live up to the first film’s innovation or infamy, but have enough unique ideas that they’re not complete failures. Just a bit off, that’s all.

Had they been “original” productions (like Beyond the Door to The Exorcist), it’s not likely that the Guardians of Culture would have appreciated these flicks more, but fans wouldn’t have been as dismissive, the films would not be “just a sequel,” and could have had lives of their own.
Like the ways that Clint Eastwood’s Tightrope (1984; Richard Tuggle) and The Gauntlet (1977) aren’t as derided as Magnum Force (1972; Ted Post—also Beneath’s director) was, even though they could all fall into the broad definitions of a Dirty Harry-esque Eastwood Rogue Cop…

But that’s only if you are a sucker for the “accepted wisdom” that used to prevail that sequels were never good. Nowadays, the sequel is usually better than the original.

Back to Beneath
Rushed into production, so never quite given the time to improve the script (its dialog repeats a lot of PotA, especially as new astronaut Brent follows Taylor’s footsteps—quite literally; and the question of Nova’s being sloppy seconds does come to mind unfortunately), and with a much-reduced budget from the first film (it does look cheap—the underground NYC sets were reused from 20th Century Fox’s production of Hello Dolly), and hamstrung by headliner Heston’s demands (he would only work one week on the flick), Beneath is far from perfect—but all those “negatives” help increase the sci-fi lunacy and turn the flick more into some B-movie sci-fi rip-off of PotA.
Badly dub this movie into Italian (directed by “Teodoro Posto”?), and Hasslein time-slip it back to 1970, and see it get the appreciation it deserves!

Giving credit where credit is due: much of the long-lasting love of the 1970s Apes films is due to the hard work of screenwriter Paul Dehn, who wrote the second through fourth films, destroying, recreating and then mutating the world via intelligent apes and their human slaves.
Dehn was a spy during WWII for the limeys, and after being a film critic, he worked on such pictures as the still-topical nuclear terrorism film Seven Days to Noon (1950; John & Roy Boulting; for which Dehn won an Oscar), Murder on the Orient Express (1976; Sidney Lumet) and Goldfinger (1964; Guy Hamilton), which created the template that so many James Bond films still follow.

With Dehn’s impressive track record, it’s obvious producer Arthur P. Jacobs was hedging his bets, but by hiring someone outside the sci-fi field (unlike PotA co-scripter Rod Serling), Jacobs was looking for something different.
While sci-fi master Arch Oboler has been reported as an uncredited co-screenwriter on Beneath (and I could see him coming up with the telepathic mutants), Dehn was the prime writer on the three films and provided much of what is canon.
Personally, I love the dialog in Escape between the President and Dr. Otto Hasslein, where questions of morality, political expediency and the implications of time travel are discussed and dissected: the type of wordsmithing hardly seen in good science fiction films these days.

If you notice, all the good Apes films end in “death”—
Taylor’s spirit, the world, Cornelius and Zira, Human/Modern Civilization—

Also, that god among men, John Kenneth Muir gives a thorough going-over of Escape at his site HERE.

[And BTW, that’s why we’ve got all these Apes and related pix all over the place.
And a special thanks to all the sites that I’ve swiped—uh, borrowed images from! Love ya!]

4) Special question for those of us that dislike John Wayne but love westerns—
Favorite John Wayne movie, even though I hate him, that's not The Searchers:
 John Wayne is hard to like: he was the Tom Cruise of his day, always playing the same part over and over again, and for that crossdresser The Duke, it usually meant playing some lunkhead, anti-intellectual caveman that we’re supposed to like because every once in a blue moon he’ll mutter some inarticulate phrases that (because the music is telling us what to think) indicate that he has feelings.

As readers of “My Answers” know, I do love They Were Expendable (1945; John Ford), but that’s despite Wayne’s presence—he’s especially jerky in this one: uno hijo de puta grande!
In fact there are several Ford films I like that Wayne is in (and Hawks’ Rio Bravo, but mainly because of Dino and Angie—meeeeeeeeeeow!—Dickinson), that could easily be recast with, say, Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea or Robert Ryan, and the flicks would be fine.
Hell, The Searchers with Robert Ryan would’ve been blistering!

5) Favorite wacky musical that's not HEAD:
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971; Mel Stuart)
The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953; Roy Rowland)
Skidoo (1968; Otto Preminger) (written extensively about HERE)

Sentimental Favorite:
Mad Monster Party (1967; Jules Bass)
These are all MUST-SEEs, if you haven’t yet, do so immediately, no matter how “old” you think you are. They will all make your life better.
All of these films are in my personal collection. Love ’em all!

6) Favorite soundtrack composer that's not Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, Lalo Schifrin or Henry Mancini (and no need to say John Williams either):
Was it Brian Epstein who told the Beatles that maintaining constant cutting edge success meant that they had to know what the avant-garde was doing, as well as what the lowest-common-denominator was doing, then find the point in-between the two?

Because that’s exactly what late, great composer Jerry Goldsmith (1999-2004) used to do. Listen carefully; he’s often “borrowing” from Penderecki and others, with pop culture tweaks, like xylophones or the Moog, or all-wooden percussion, depending on the cultural zeitgeist he’s grooving on at the time.

I love Goldsmith’s work, especially on some “lesser” films when he’s encouraged to go way over-the-top, like:
Logan’s Run (1976; Michael Anderson), the bombastic score to Peter Hyams’ underrated Capricorn One (1978), the psychotic Middle-Eastern dirges that pepper Damien: Omen Two (1978; Don Taylor—who replaced Get Carter’s Mike Hodges as director), and Escape From the Planet of the Apes (1971; Don Taylor, again) which lays an incredible layer of proto-Funkadelic fuzz-guitar over Goldsmith’s already established Apes themes. 
All of it beautiful, mad turbulent stuff—give it a listen!

Runner-Up: Christopher Komeda, composer of Polanski’s early films and creator of the haunting and unforgettable theme to Rosemary’s Baby (1968).

BTW, the music John Williams was making before Spielbergian radiation infected him horrifically was pretty nifty—check out the soundtracks he did for Irwin Allen, like the Lost in Space theme

7) Favorite special effects make-up artist that's not Rick Baker, Lon Chaney Sr., Tom Savini, Dick Smith, Jack Pierce, or Carlo Rambaldi (I think this one is really hard):
Oh Squeaky, your plan to confuse me backfired—had you included Rob Bottin on this “favorite that’s not” list, I would have had a really hard time of it.

Unless of course you wanted everyone to include the makeup wizard behind Dante’s The Howling (1980—which I prefer over An American Werewolf Etc.), Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), Verhoeven’s Robo-Cop (1987) Fincher’s Fight Club (1999) and so much, much more.
Unfortunately, Bottin hasn’t been working much lately. Come back, Rob, we love you! (That said, a big shout-out to the legendary John Chambers who created the make-up effects for the original Apes films, and is currently saving CIA agents in Iran in the film Argo.)

8) Favorite Sam Fuller film that's not SHOCK CORRIDOR, PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, or THE NAKED KISS:
The Steel Helmet (1951)—one of the best war movies ever, and then under-appreciated super-noir Underworld USA (1961), written about above, and HERE.

Now that that's done... this is between you and me and the fencepost called the Intertubes, I’ve only recently gotten over some severe psychic turbulence—sort of a series of anti-synchronicities in my life that have played havoc with my emotions/feelings/thoughts. A dark time in my Jungean-psyche-sphere, as it were.
Damn you, you damn enticing Mind Parasites!!!

Nor do I feel that these black clouds are completely gone—but I have survived their first attack, and that gives me hope. But I also know it means I will be putting a lot of hard work into other things,
and I worry that it may continue to interfere with my ability to post; creative brainpower needs to be focused on writing cover letters these days….

Now that I’ve gotten a preemptive mea culpa out of the way, hopefully I will learn to start posting shorter, more concise essays with more frequency. Maybe…
Thanks for letting me babble….

The November 2012 Index! The Best New Old Films Discovered This Year! And More!

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