Hey folks, been a while since I rapped at ya.
Recently I was a guest on the Fate, Luck & Karma podcast to talk about my latest book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever. It was fun! Groovy times! Click here to check out the episode on YouTube. It’s also on Spotify and Apple.
My thanks to Dean (the host) and the West Midland Ghostbusters for having me on. And let me again thank everyone who has been reading and talking about A Convenient Parallel Dimension. It’s tough to promote a book these days. Well, unless you’re an actor with a memoir. The last piece of literature that seized the nation was written by Matthew Perry. I’m not immune; there’s a copy in my house. My review: this guy has problems money can’t fix.
Speaking of people with serious problems, every day I wake up and the top headline is always some variation of “Can DeSantis Beat Trump?” or “Trump Voters Feeling Their Loyalty Tested By DeSantis” and just once it would be nice to see “Ron DeSantis and Donald Trump Are Both Repugnant Fascists Who Deserve Zero Support And Should Be Frog Marched Into The Nearest Black Hole.” Some other good headlines would be “Nationwide Gun Buyback Program Ahead Of Firearms Ban Sees 100% Success Rate” and “Biden Reallocates $800 Billion From Military To Jump Start Free Health Care.”
Return of The Jedi was released 40 years ago today, which reminds me that the various special editions of the three earliest Star Wars movies have now been circulating longer than the original (and currently out of print) “regular” versions ever were. I subscribe to the belief that George Lucas only started re-editing his three most beloved films in 1997 so he would no longer have to pay his ex-wife Marcia her cut of the profits. I also sort of believe the rumor that George sold Star Wars to Disney on the condition that the original cuts never again see the light of day. Thank god for the bootleggers.
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Aliens, Werewolves, Guys Who Look Like My Dad (coupla film reviews)
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What else can I tell you? Trans rights now, trans rights forever. Season three of “Picard” is actually great (unlike the first two seasons of el stinko garbage). I’m working diligently on my next book. I saw a bluejay yesterday. Bluejays are awesome. Probably my favorite bird.
Save the environment!
Mario, Ciao Bella
The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) is exciting, funny, and mercifully short, which is a godsend in an era where animated films put us through our paces by exploring every cartoon’s lifelong trauma. There’s little of that here, aside from the opening scenes establishing Mario and Luigi as the black sheep in their large Italian family. Even through those fleeting bits I was grinding my teeth. This movie is about the most beloved video game characters of all time. We’re already rooting for them. There’s no need for a Rudy plot line where their father calls them losers.
Look, I enjoy an emotionally complex and thought-provoking experience as much as the next person, but critics who are whining that The Super Mario Bros. Movie isn’t exactly Chinatown are acting like they’ve never enjoyed a handful of M&Ms. Here’s my advice to those poor, wayward souls — put on the Kenny Loggins song from Caddyshack II and try to remember the last time you jumped on a Slip n’ Slide. Do you really need spiritual resonance from Donkey Kong? Why?
The big controversy surrounding The Super Mario Bros. Movie was the hiring of Chris Pratt to voice Mario. Honestly, I forgot it was him for the duration of my viewing. Eventually it dawned on me that maybe Pratt was the perfect choice. Like Mario, he’s eager, goofy, occasionally heroic, and seemingly unflappable. We can’t be rid of either of them.
On the 1 to 100 scale I give The Super Mario Bros. Movie a 95. I hope the sequel follows the trajectory of the original games and introduces King Wart as Mario’s next adversary.
Aliens, Werewolves, Guys Who Look Like My Dad: Hangar 18 and Silver Bullet, Reviewed
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Touch My Monkey! The Fight Over The “Sprockets” Movie
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Underground Dino Zines
Perhaps you know I’m working on a book about the long, convoluted, and absolutely crazy history of Chinese Democracy by Guns N’ Roses. In the course of my research, I had to dig up one of my favorite interview snippets of all time — Slash telling Rolling Stone that he’s really into dinosaurs.
“I’m a huge dinosaur buff. I keep in touch through the newspaper and my National Geographic and all that kind of shit. I get all these dinosaur publications, all these freaky Third World dinosaur fanzines and shit. ‘Underground dino zines,’ they call them. They exist!”
I will never forget reading that when it was published in the Fall of 2000. It was so unexpected, so funny and cool. “Underground dino zines” definitely became a non sequitur catchphrase among my friends.
Through the magic of digital library services I unearthed this entire issue of Rolling Stone. It contains an op-ed by Al Franken called “Is Bush Dumb?” as well as a review of Orgy’s Vapor Transmission. “MTV’s favorite Max Factor-ed male quintet manifests some classic L.A. virtues: trashy allure, brain-melting hooks, Anglo inspirations and billboard-size ambition.”
I also glanced at the chart page and was accosted by turn of the century ghosts like Wheatus, 3 Doors Down, and Nelly. Did you know the soundtrack to Nutty Professor II: The Klumps cracked the top 50 album chart? Amazing.
My stepson wanted to watch all the Jurassic Park movies this week, so we did. I wasn’t too enthusiastic ahead of the 1993 original since I felt I’d seen it countless times and so many of its hallmark moments have been parodied to death, but before I knew it I was glued to the screen. This is a symphony of blockbuster filmmaking, a truly fulfilling experience. What’s the worst thing about the first Jurassic Park? They never explain why the triceratops is sick? That’s about it. I imagine the triceratops is in poor health because it’s a clone created for an amusement park. Just a wild guess!
I didn’t want Jurassic Park to end, but throughout The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) my brain was screaming for a reprieve. I’m astounded that this middling, creatively bankrupt sequel was also directed by Steven Spielberg. How many nondescript white guys stalking the jungle with guns do we need? Every action set piece is three minutes too long and a hundred decibels too loud. And bringing the T. Rex to San Diego — look, I’m not saying that’s a bad idea, I just think the way they handle it punctures the reality these films are trying to present. Still, Jeff Goldblum has some funny lines.
Jurassic Park III (2001) was directed by Joe Johnston, the guy who did The Rocketeer and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids, and that was the perfect energy to bring to this franchise. The spirit of true matinee adventure returns. Part tres also has enough new tricks up its sleeve to make it distinct. That said, the dinosaurs look better in the original, and I’m not entirely convinced that the Spinosaurus is a more dangerous foe than the T. Rex. I mean, I guess I’ll take their word for it.
I appreciate that Jurassic World (2015) just throws us into the bigger, better version of the founding attraction. There’s no preamble about who rebuilt the park and why. You know why! Humans are stupid! I was surprised how much I liked this sequel considering the number of clichés it upholds (broken family, smarter and more dangerous central dinosaur, raptors out the effin’ ass). As for Chris Pratt, I hate to kick a guy when he’s down (Chris Pratt is not actually down) but his work in Jurassic World is pure cheese.
With the franchise in danger of growing stale, the ridiculously titled Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) takes the prehistoric action to strange new places (relatively speaking). If you haven’t seen this one yet I think it’s worth not spoiling anything for yourself. I will say the villains in Fallen Kingdom are some real mustache-twirlers and Bryce Dallas Howard’s character starts to get a decent arc. Chris Pratt continues to be a corny yutz. Charlie Chaplin’s daughter is also in this killer dinosaur movie.
And so the saga concludes with Jurassic World: Dominion (2022), an entry many people take issue with because it ignores the major plot point set up at the end of Fallen Kingdom (thereby sort of ignoring the dinosaurs altogether). My problem with Dominion is that jettisons a couple of the more interesting characters introduced in the previous film. Well, they had to make room for the three returning stars from the original Jurassic Park. They don’t really do anything aside from wear their old costumes, get recognized by children, and reiterate that evil is afoot. Dominion probably should have been tightened up in editing but it is not as bad as the heads would have you believe.
My stepson gave each Jurassic Park movie more or less the same review — “That was great, but a little intense in parts.”
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No More Seamy Underbellies
“I don’t think having [a family] to protect would make me act conservatively. Rather, having something to protect is what enables my becoming a radical.”
These words, spoken decades ago by Michiro Endo, have deeply resonated with me in the past five or six years. I’ve always been on the radical side and becoming a husband and stepfather has only affirmed and heightened those beliefs. Especially since concepts like inclusion and representation and racial equality and economic equality and demilitarization are considered extremely radical by the powers that be. I want to do everything I can to dismantle the systems that work against these ideologies.
Excuse me for belaboring a point but it’s depressing to watch a film like The Candidate or to hear a song like “Suspect Device” and realize a 50 year old piece of art is still applicable as criticism against our socio-political climate. Will the injustice and oppression ever end? Don’t we deserve a more enlightened world? What the fuck is it going to take?
The people running this country act like doing the right thing in any given situation is utterly toxic. Look at the pundits clucking that Trump’s indictment is a mistake because it opens up the other former presidents to indictment. Good! Many of former presidents have committed crimes and should be held accountable! Indict every single one of them and then let’s try constructing a new kind of government where a base line of criminal malfeasance on all levels can’t thrive. No more seamy underbellies.
I wish I had been more vocal and proactive about all this stuff when I was younger. To that end, I often don’t feel great that my first book is about the Misfits, a band with so many members who revealed themselves to be right wingers or conspiracy driven (one of them went to January 6th!). I’ve never wanted anyone to think I validate those beliefs or hold them myself. They sang about UFOs and werewolves. Who could have known?
Well, that’s me on my soapbox. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming. I hear the new season of “The Mandalorian” is bad.
News, Views, Commercials
Great news — Pathmark is offering delicious, refreshing Savarin coffee for just $2.19 a pound. Offer only good if you currently live in July of 1984.
Turning to the literary world, my book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever received a 10 out of 10 from DIS/MEMBER. Reviewer Justin Partridge called it “a triumph” and “a towering examination of Ghostbusters from soup to nuts.” Hey, that’s some serious critical acclaim. Thanks, Justin.
A Convenient Parallel Dimension is out now where ever fine books are sold. There are also ebook and audiobook versions. And here’s an incomplete list of libraries where you can read it for free: Denver Public, Indianapolis Public, Allen Country (Indiana) Public, Cleveland Public, Los Angeles Public, New York Public, Queens Public, Newport (Oregon) Public, the Firestone Library at Princeton University, the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University, and the Library of Congress.
The ghost heads are buzzing right now because the sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife began filming last week. There was also some casting news, which kicked off the usual round of “that guy’s not funny” and “that guy’s too woke” and “where the hell is Rick Moranis?” I don’t care who they put in Afterlife 2 (the working title is actually Firehouse). I’m just curious to see where they go with the story. I enjoy Afterlife but it has third act problems and I have trouble imagining how they can build from that. Well, I guess that’s why I’m in the nonfiction biz.
Another thing I’m curious about with this new Ghostbusters is how many people working on it will get COVID. The virus is still everywhere, continuing to debilitate and kill thousands of people every single day. Lately there’s been an uptick in famous actors complaining about COVID restrictions on film sets. Tilda Swinton made headlines a couple weeks ago when she announced she wouldn’t be wearing a mask on the set of her next movie (even though the filmmakers asked her to). Swinton’s already had COVID and she believes she has enough antibodies and faith for protection.
I hate to rain on your parade, Tilda, but it’s pretty common knowledge at this point that antibodies created during one infection aren’t proven to shield you from future infection. Also, why aren’t you worried about protecting the other people on this film set? Especially the crew members who aren’t worth $14 million? Crew members who can’t afford to miss any work and certainly don’t want to develop COVID-related disabilities? Now they’ll feel pressured not to mask up because a dumb rich actress made a big stink about preferring to see people’s faces.
By the way, Swinton’s 2021 bout with COVID left her bedridden for weeks and by her own account she’s still struggling with brain fog. Well, I guess a functioning memory isn’t that important when you have millions of dollars.
The team behind the new Ghostbusters has been posting behind-the-scenes shots since filming started; so far, I’ve only seen one mask, worn by director Gil Kenan. With so many younger actors involved in this production, I keep thinking about how the people who make “Wednesday” had their 20 year old star Jenna Ortega perform an intense dance routine while she was sick with COVID. She woke up with obvious COVID symptoms and they had her start filming while they were waiting on the test results. Stuff like that probably happens every day.
If I was king of the world, I’d force every actor who is worth more than $10 million to put a significant chunk of their money into a collective account for below the line film set employees. Then those employees could afford to take some time off and Hollywood could stop producing content until the virus is actually under control. In the absence of Doctor Strange 14: Spider-Man’s Cousin’s Uncle’s Revenge, we the home viewers could entertain ourselves by watching old movies. Think about all the old movies you’ve never seen. Think about all the foreign movies you’ve never seen. What better time to watch Berlin Alexanderplatz than right now?
Another cool thing you could do right now is read some of my recent writing. Here’s something I wrote about the movie where Bud Cort plays Hitler’s son (it’s a comedy!). Here’s a piece I wrote about UFOria, the movie where Cindy Williams is a UFO nut. Here’s some stuff I couldn’t fit into my Ghostbusters book. Here’s a story about how I tried to write a book about Dead Kennedys.
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In sports news, I can’t believe the Academy Awards left Gaylord Perry out of the “in memoriam” this year.
What else can I tell ya? My stepdaughter’s really been getting into System of a Down lately. Toxicity is a great album. Their material stands the test of time, which is more than I can say for most of those goddamn Screeching Weasel records I was listening to around the turn of the century.
The Bud Cort Hitler Movie
There’s a theory that the 1979 comedy Son of Hitler, in which Bud Cort portrays a timid woodworker who becomes a pawn in a Nazi resurgence because he is the illegitimate son of Adolf Hitler, was a real life application of The Producers. That is to say, an abysmal movie made deliberately so in the belief failure is often more profitable than success. Maybe this is too fanciful a thought — Son of Hitler may have just been a money laundering scheme. After all, it was conceived by one of Germany’s most famous bank robbers.
Burkhard Driest was a promising law student in the 1960s before he threw caution to the wind and plundered five and a half thousand marks from a Sparkasse savings bank. Driest spent three years in jail for his crime, after which he wrote the semi-autobiographical novel Die Verrohung des Franz Blum (The Brutalization of Frank Blum). In 1977, while working as an extra in Sam Peckinpah’s Cross of Iron, Driest conjured up an idea about a movie involving Hitler’s progeny. “I always thought Bud Cort would be good as Hitler’s son,” he later remarked, “because in a way he’s a very strong contrast to any kind of Hitlerism.”
Cort said he signed on for Son of Hitler because Driest and producer Gerg Goering (ahem — no relation to Hermann) hired Rod Amateau to direct. “I knew it would be important if Amateau was involved,” Cort enthused to The Hollywood Reporter. Amateau was probably best known for directing nearly every episode of “Dobie Gillis,” but he also worked on “Mr. Ed” and “My Mother The Car.” If people my age know Rod Amateau as the director of anything, it’s The Garbage Pail Kids Movie. God almighty, what a résumé.
As you might imagine, studios were not jumping at the chance to finance Son of Hitler (originally titled Hitler’s Son). The film’s $5 million budget was raised through a gaggle of private investors on both sides of the Atlantic. Authorities in West Germany tried to prevent Son of Hitler from shooting in their country, but there was apparently no stopping this bad idea. “We didn’t run into any overt animosity when we were shooting in Munich,” Cort said. “Only groans…our working title was Return to Munich but when we’d confide to someone we were doing a picture about a supposedly fictional son of Adolph Hitler, they’d groan and say, ‘We’re tired of Hitler and dragging all that up again.'”
It sounds like there was more animus between director and star. Amateau described Cort as neurasthenic to visiting Los Angeles Times reporter Bart Mills. Cort conceded that he was difficult. “I do fight for things other actors would let pass. Do I call Hitler my daddy or my papa? I think it should be papa. The authors heard about my changing it and they had a row. I had a stroke. There was a lot of screaming. I said I wanted to call my lawyer and my agent. It’s in my contract that I approve all changes. Eventually I agreed to reshoot the line their way. I did the worst acting I could.”
Dan Warfield from Stars & Stripes was also granted a set visit. At one point, he suggested to Cort that Son of Hitler’s premise was threadbare. “It could be another M*A*S*H,” the actor retorted. Going even further, co-star Peter Cushing, who plays the film’s top ranking Nazi, told Warfield that Son of Hitler “could be another Star Wars.” “Audiences are so unpredictable,” Cushing continued. “This is the sort of picture that will be sold by word of mouth.”
Or not sold at all. Apart from a special screening in London in January 1979, it’s unclear if Son of Hitler was ever actually released anywhere in an official capacity. A print was liberated at some point — Son of Hitler is on YouTube in its entirety. Five minutes was enough for me. Cort’s doe-eyed yokel, replete in lederhosen, mugs like there’s no morgen as an elder in ill health attempts to reveal his true heritage. Naturally, a fatal heart attack occurs between the words “Adolf” and “Hitler.” Interspersed are scenes of Cushing and the brute Leo Gordon exchanging dialogue that would embarrass Rock N’ Roll High School Forever.
Then comes the title sequence, where Son of Hitler is written in what looks like crayon over newsreel footage of Hitler and the whole thing is scored by a “comical” military march. Sorry folks, that’s where I draw the line with this Lil’ Hitler garbage. I felt like I was being poisoned. It’s my understanding that the film eventually reveals that Cort’s character has never even heard of his real dad and would rather find a girlfriend than lead the Fourth Reich. Apparently, hijinks ensue.
Son of Hitler mastermind Burkhard Driest remained a scoundrel of repute in the decades that followed. Amongst his notable later scandals was a 1995 tv series where a scripted stabbing (his own) was presented as documentary fact. Driest did a 180 to Buddhism in the 21st Century, saying in 2009, “There is no longer any reason to build up any aggression against me. I can hardly lift a stone, let alone a club, so take it easy.” Driest died in 2020 following a long illness.
As for Bud Cort, I’ve heard he wasn’t thrilled with what ended up on the screen in Son of Hitler and derided the movie as “a booger.” Well, they can’t all be Harold and Maude.
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