Thursday, January 18, 2007

How Does a Cixelsyd Spell Radar? - A Movie Club Column

Wow…Has this past week been wild and crazy or what???. 4 hours of the Gong Showesque American Idol tryouts on Fox featuring Josh the tearful rocker’s renditions of Dancing Queen and Copacabana, plus Jonathan singing God Bless American on the second night….4 nail biting football games.. And of course 4 excruciatingly stressful hours of 24! Can you top that? The only Manning to survive the weekend was Peyton after Jack Bauer shockingly gunned down Curtis!! Between Saturday Nights football game and the back to back nights of 24 and then American Idol, Fox has been getting monster ratings.

As for 24 - holy bananas! They go after the wrong terrorist and then a nuclear war and poor Curtis.. I don’t even know what to make of that! And Kumar of H and K Go to White Castle fame is a terrorist and gets killed off on Monday’s 24 and then on Tuesdays Law and Order SVU also! (And is it me or didn’t the actor who played “Kumar’s” dad on L and O bear an uncanny resemblance to Christopher Meloni?) Unfortunately, I missed the 1st 90 minutes of the 24 premiere so I figured I’d go to to watch it. No dice, they didn’t post it. Then I decided to go to iTunes and watch it there. I plunked down my 1.99 and slowly waited for it to download into my 4 year old virtually obsolete eMachines Computer. Finally, showtime! I watched the first episode.. But then I started to realize that my old comp has a problem synching the audio and video, and due to skipped video frames the tracks were not quite matching up. I think I’m gonna buy a Japanese movie on iTunes to see if the lips actually stop moving when the dialogue stops. Finally, it was Blockbuster to the rescue! Fox released a dvd of the 1st 4 hours, this week, and luckily for me I was able to rent the last copy so now I can finally catch up on what I missed… plus the first segment of next weeks episode.. (Nope, my lips are sealed.. You gotta wait till Monday.)

In honor of Jack Bauer’s alter ego Kiefer Sutherland , I decided it was time to move from The Godfather trilogy (with Robert Duvall) to the next part of the movie club reviews by watching the 1st of our four Robert Altman films - M*A*S*H starring his father Donald Sutherland….with Robert Duvall. Just to recap the weekend… I went from Don Corleone movies to watching Donald Sutherland, heard Don Criqui’s radio broadcast of the Chicago-Seattle game and watched a young afro-ed bearded Donny Deutsch win 5000 bucks on a 26 year old Match Game rerun that aired Sunday morning on GSN. I also got a kick out of how the late Debralee Scott was so blatantly hitting on Deutsch, yet he continuously ignored her.

Before the MASH review…. Here is my disclaimer - I never really liked the show… I rarely watched it,… I did see the last episode and maybe saw one episode since then… the one with George Wendt. I am familiar with the characters such as Hawkeye, Trapper John (I actually liked the Trapper John MD show that aired Sunday Nights at 10 on CBS), the future seeing Radar, and Hot Lips Houlihan. Radar is the only regular character to be played by the same actor in both the movie and TV show. Gary Burghoff continued the role and from what I have read got his acting and comedy training from last weekends birthday boy Charles Nelson Reilly.

Even though I didn’t like the show.. I decided to give the film a fair shot. The movie starts out just like the TV show… with footage of a medical helicopter landing and the song “Suicide is Painless”, except in the movie, you actually hear the words to the song and I must admit.. despite the morbid title, it is quite a catchy tune. It was written by Altman’s son and legend has it he made more money on royalties than his dad made for directing the film. I was actually hoping I would get to hear it again in the closing credits…however Altman came up with a different yet brilliant way to integrate the credits into the movie.

The song does reappear during the movie when Painless the Quagmire-esque Casanova dentist (John Schuck pre- MacMillan and Wife) announces that he wants to commit suicide because his sudden impotence leads him to believe he is gay.. (Radar must have told him that Rock Hudson might try hitting on him later in the Macmillan portion of his career). Hawkeye and Trapper John hold a farewell dinner for Painless, modeled right out of the infamous “Last Supper” with Jesus. As Painless is given a “suicide pill” and lays down in a coffin, a “disciple” starts to sing the tune. As it turns out Painless just falls asleep, but thanks to a very amusing twist involving JoAnn Pflug’s character (who married Chuck Woolery 2 years later) he wakes up the next morning, and all is well with the world.

The movie which really has no plot, tells the stories of Hawkeye Pierce played by Sutherland who at the time was younger than Kiefer is on 24, and his time with the MASH unit in Korea.. which is only identified in the opening credits as taking place there… Altman wanted the story to take place in Vietnam, which was quite the controversial war at that time, but the producers insisted that it be identified as Korea.. I’m surprised we don’t have a remake taking place in Iraq. The story is broken up into a few distinct chapters.. mainly the arrival of Hot Lips Houlihan, and her subsequent harassment, the Painless crisis and a football game between our boys and another unit that starts out as a friendly bet when a General comes to the 4077 on the premise of investigating the complaints filed by the straight laced Houlihan. This football game predates the similar theme in The Longest Yard which was directed by the similarly named Robert Aldrich.

Even though there is no main plot to this movie, the mini plots are filled with humor and in my opinion a lot more watchable than the TV show. The pure nonchalance towards Painless and his desire to off himself is very amusing.. if you like dry humor. The storyline involving Hot Lips is quite hysterical especially involving scenes where she decides to get intimate with Burns while the rest of the gang “listens” in.. That type of crazy voyeurism is still going on in movies today… such as the live web hook up scene in “American Pie“. But this appears to be where it all started. Burghoff is also quite amusing as Radar who thanks to his ability to predict things repeats his orders seconds before his superior says them.. It’s a little strange to listen to at first, but Burghoff has excellent comedic timing. The football game wasn’t all that great but there were some very funny moments including the first apparent mainstream movie use of the F word (not firetruck) by Fearless. The political incorrectness is quite apparent.. (this was right around the time Archie Bunker was created) as the expected football team ringer is referred to as a Negro and carries the nickname Spear Chucker. Maybe they won’t be able to remake this movie now that I think of it.

Speaking of Political Correctness, now I see there is more hullaballoo because a guy on Grey’s Anatomy called a castmate by a “slur” for a gay man. Of course if the gay guy called the other guy an “n” word,. All hell would break loose too. Yet why is it that these words are slurs and Donald Trump can call Rosie O’Donnell fat, and then threaten her with a lawsuit if she says something about him?

The dvd offers some very interesting insights to how the movie was made and ended up so successful.. The studio was producing 2 other very expensive war movies at the same time so they weren’t paying too much attention to what was going on at the MASH shooting. Altman basically ripped up the Ring Lardner screenplay and told the actors to wing it. Lardner won the only Oscar for the movie by the way.. But some of the scenes such as Father Mulcahy blessing a Jeep were just made up on the spot. Another fact was that Altman realized that he needed something to keep the film moving along since there was really no plot to speak of. That’s how the wisecracks on the PA system worked their way into the movie… sort of as an afterthought.. But they are quite amusing.. (one is a verbatim reading of a studio memo banning pics of pin up women at people’s work stations!).

Because of the film’s relatively low budget, they hired a bunch of no name actors to co star with the established stars Sutherland and Elliott Gould.. Many of the actors were making their film debut, and luckily this turned out to be an All Star cast.. kind of like the no names in Diner who all became big names. Some of the actors being “introduced” in the movie were Pflug, Shuck and Bud Cort… shortly before his appearance in the incredibly bizarre “Harold and Maude”. Rene Auberjonois who played Father Mulcahy is now on Boston Legal… One other very very creepy coincidence… the actors who played Colonel Blake… Roger Bowen in the movie and the very amusing McLean Stevenson from the TV show, died on consecutive days in February of 1996.

Keep in mind how important it is to have a good support staff for the heroes on the battle front. While the boys are out there on the battle fields its always very important to have a good crew to provide meals and clothing and other important things needed in day to day life in a battle. Of course, having a good medical crew and talented nurses is important and is driven home in this movie… especially when Trapper John gets into a fight with Frank Burns after he was nasty to Bud Cort‘s character… he threw a nice punch his way and poor Burns ended up falling into ….. a big stack of Tampax boxes… an important product when you have a hospital staffed with young nurses!! I can only imagine the commercials if Tampax had hired Sally Kellerman or Loretta Swit as their spokeswoman instead of Brenda Vaccaro!!

Overall I must admit I really liked this movie… and even though there is no plot to speak of.. Altman successfully weaves together all the sub plots into a very entertaining film. On a scale of 1 to 4 bladders meaning how less likely you would be to leave in the middle to go to the bathroom… MASH gets 3 bladders. Next up in the Altman 4 pack - Nashville… assuming I can find it somewhere!

Now Time for The Clip of the Week:

Since New Years.. 4 friends of ours have had babies! In honor of that… check out this old Family Feud clip showing Richard Dawson totally cracking up after an incredibly odd answer to a question relating to what month a pregnant woman starts to show…


P*U*M*P* said...

One other very very creepy coincidence… the actors who played Colonel Blake… Roger Bowen in the movie and the very amusing McLean Stevenson from the TV show, died on consecutive days in February of 1996.

Wow, that IS creepy!! Sort of like how John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only two men to sign the Declaration of Independence and later go on to become president, died on July 4, 1826 - the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. Conspiracy theorists, unite!

(I may be mistaken, but wasn't there a similar kind of coincidence with the two Dicks (York and Sargent) who played Darren on "Bewitched"?)

Anyway, I was never a big fan of M*A*S*H* either, though I did tune in occasionally and also watched the series finale as it aired in 1983, with my father, when I was 11 (my mother was too busy recovering from an anxiety attack after I came home from school and she discovered that the color of my lunchbox didn't match my Trapper Keeper). I distinctly recall, when Hawkeye and his buddy hopped on the motorcycle at the end and sped away, my father with his twisted sense of humor said to me sadly, "And now they'll crash and die." The powers of prediction run deep in the Pumpstradamus family, don't they!

P.S., nice title. Dyslexics, untie!

N*A*T*E said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
N*A*T*E said...

I did a whole thing about how CNN would have covered the 7-4 deaths of Adams and Jefferson - see the archives from July 4, 2006.

And why are your comments starting to sound like Dangerspouse's blog...with anxiety attacks etc.

And what is a Trapper Keeper?

P*U*M*P* said...