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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.

Do you enjoy my writing? Do you wish to express that by paying a nominal recurring fee? Then sign up for JG2LAND PREMIUM. At two bucks a month, it’s cheaper than an Arch Deluxe and grants you access to exclusive bonus content. What kind of bonus content? Here’s a list!

Aliens, Werewolves, Guys Who Look Like My Dad (coupla film reviews)

Touch My Monkey! The Fight Over The “Sprockets” Movie (Mike Myers saga)

Cartoons, Reviewed (numerous thoughts on animated classics)

Idle, Awkward Moment (deep dive on 1978 drama Moment by Moment)

Uncle Rump (review of 1995 horror film Rumpelstiltskin)

Robot Town (review of 1986 Transformers movie)

Greg, Paul, The Devil, & Mickey (deep dive on Paul Shaffer’s devil sitcom)

Of Wolfen And Man (deep dive on 1981 horror film Wolfen)

Ass My Kiss (deep dive on the official Kiss tribute record)

Too Hot To Stop (review of the insane Pierce Brosnan film Live Wire)

Witchy Woman (review of forgotten gem The Good Witch of Laurel Canyon)

The Individual Will Be Destroyed (review of The Parallax View)

The Anti-Remake Remake? (deep dive on Gus Van Sant’s Pyscho)

“Faerie Tale Theatre,” Reviewed (capsule reviews of every episode)

Danny And Sandy Control The Universe (review of Two of a Kind)

There’s plenty more where that came from, so get on board!


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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For just $2 a month, you can subscribe to JG2LAND PREMIUM and unlock wonderful bonus content, like this deep dive into the legal slobber knocker that derailed a big screen version of “Sprockets.” Remember “Sprockets?” Hey, who could forget it?

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.

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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Idle, Awkward Moment

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Sally Kellerman Was Punk Rock

This review originally appeared on The Classical Mess, a Substack I was doing a few years ago before I found out they gave money to bigots.

Actress Sally Kellerman — you loved her in M*A*S*HBrewster McCloud, and Meatballs III: Summer Job. Like many stars of stage and screen, Kellerman also had a passion for music. One of the more interesting subplots in her 2013 memoir Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life concerns Kellerman’s quest to be accepted as a singer, often at the expense of her bank account and her ego. Neil Diamond invited Kellerman to lunch after seeing one of her concerts; his review was comically blunt.

“You should never sing again,” he told her. “It’s not your thing. You really can’t do it.”

Anyone who’s heard Kellerman’s bluesy 1972 LP Roll With The Feelin’ can tell you she had a unique, besotted bluster that handled like a ten cent carnival ride. She was never mewling and retching like Darby Crash, though, so Diamond’s critique feels harsh. Kellerman’s reaction to Neil was definitely punk rock. She refused to let him obliterate her. “I was going to ignore Neil Diamond and keep on chasing my dream to sing.”

And so Kellerman did, establishing a musical body that occasionally bled into her screen work. If you dare to watch Sally play a live action version of cartoon femme fatale Natasha in 1992’s cable tv movie Boris and Natasha you’ll be treated to her Bon Jovi-ish rendition of “It’s Good to Be Bad” over the ending credits. Kellerman doesn’t comment on this song in Read My Lips but she does refer to Boris and Natasha director Charles Martin Smith “a darling guy” and defends the final product as “pretty good.”

Read My Lips cycles through all the other highs and lows of Kellerman’s life with varying degrees of reflection (expect more on working with Robert Altman than her appearance in the “Star Trek” pilot). It’s all presented with honesty, humility, and humor, which I would also describe as very punk rock. I’m forced to agree with the Elliott Gould pull quote printed on the dust jacket.

“It’s totally human, and you have to love it.”

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Unseen Filmed Object: The Long, Strange History of UFOria

UFOria is the best romantic comedy about aliens ever made, although it is not actually about aliens. It is, as The Hollywood Reporter put it, about “the need to believe in something, the potency of individuality, [and] the fine line between celebrity for its own sake and espousing a cause.” Cindy Williams stars as a rural grocery store clerk named Arlene who believes she has been chosen to lead humanity onto a space craft for our next phase of existence. Fred Ward is her love interest Sheldon, a hapless drifter who only cruised into town to make some dough with his phony evangelist buddy (Harry Dean Stanton). Surrounding them are a flock of hilarious townies and a country music soundtrack that fits the film like a glove.

Variety called UFOria “a snappy, beautifully written piece of work.” The New York Times raved that the film was perfectly cast and compared it to Preston Sturges. Unfortunately for the public, UFOria was as fleeting as a saucer in the sky. There were only sporadic appearances after its 1980 filming. Today, UFOria only available in a low quality VHS upload to YouTube. So why was this movie suppressed? And what’s keeping it that way?

The story of UFOria begins in 1975. That’s when writer and director John Binder read an article in The Los Angeles Times about Marshall Applewhite and Bonnie Nettles, the two cult leaders alternately known as Bo and Peep. Bo and Peep were trying to convince people that Jesus had left Earth on a space ship and that another ship would be coming soon for the rest of us. “I remember thinking it could be a funny movie but only if the spaceship really comes,” Binder said. “I mean, Spielberg had not made Close Encounters by that point.”

Binder was already in movies — he’d worked sound for 1970’s Woodstock and for 1972’s Marjoe, another Oscar-winning documentary about (surprise surprise) a phony evangelist. Binder wrote UFOria, originally called Escape, and shopped it around. Cindy Williams was interested by the time the script got to Melvin Simon Productions; Simon agreed to get moving on UFOria and inked a deal with their partner 20th Century Fox for distribution. The film was shot about an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles in the cozy confines of Lancaster, California. Photography was completed by March 1981. Seven months later, the MPAA gave UFOria a PG rating. Release was imminent.

Or so it seemed. Suddenly UFOria vanished, shelved because 20th Century Fox executives got cold feet. An angry Binder vented about the situation to Rolling Stone in a June 1983 issue. “This film would have been distributed if another company had had it. It might have encountered some difficulties, but if the picture had been made by Dan Melnick or something like that, that company would have found a way to sell it. Certain choices were made.”

Binder was also frustrated with Melvin Simon president Milton Goldstein for not holding Fox to the terms of the distribution contract. Goldstein responded by saying UFOria’s shelving was a mutual decision between the production companies because they were still trying to figure out the correct marketing angle. “Sure, we can enforce the contract,” Goldstein said. “But we feel it needs a special type of distribution. We’re still trying to find a handle on which way to market it. We don’t want to take a risk on a special picture.”

Binder conceded that UFOria was a different kind of animal. “The movie’s very unusual. The humor’s a little surprising. It has a peculiar tone to it. It’s funny one minute, it’s slightly serious the next. It runs on sort of two tracks. There is some letdown because people are expecting a Close Encounters kind of thing, and it’s not. I thought that mostly younger people felt they were being hoodwinked with all the humor because it doesn’t have that visceral payoff that kids are used to. Kids do not handle irony anymore.” On top of that, there was the obvious problem with UFOria’s name, not to mention the fact movies set in our “redneck” heartland were rarely box office winners.

Binder also credited Melvin Simon with continuing to pay interest on UFOria’s $5 million dollar budget during this release hiatus instead of simply writing the film off for tax credit. As fate would have it, by the time of the Rolling Stone article, UFOria had been picked up for distribution by Universal Pictures. Alas, Universal didn’t really know what to do with the film either. Against Binder’s wishes, the studio refused to screen UFOria for critics or open it in large metropolitan cities, opting instead to do test screenings in Peoria and Rockford under the title Hold On To Your Dreams. The movie did not, as the old saying goes, play in either Illinois city. UFOria only survived after this because of Charles Lippincott, a marketing bigwig at Lucasfilm, who saw it, loved it, and got the movie into the 1984 Filmex festival in Los Angeles.

The Filmex screening delighted reviewers. “Unquestionably a pleasure,” wrote Variety. “A tasty slice of contemporary Americana that’s an oasis amid so much somber fare,” said The Los Angeles Times. Theater chains started requesting UFOria. The movie enjoyed a seven week run in Boston in 1985. That same year, UFOria ran for a week at the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Times was there: “If anything, [UFOria] seems even more fun than it did when it was shown at Filmex last year.”

A New York premiere scheduled at the Bleecker Street Cinema for January 3rd, 1986 was tempered by Universal’s refusal to fork over any budget for advertising. Bleecker’s booker J.D. Pollack hired publicist Lauren Hyman to spread the word about UFOria. This attracted New York Times film critic Vincent Canby, who loved the movie.

“It’s anybody’s guess why it’s taken so long [for UFOria] to get here,” Canby wrote in his review, “though somebody seems to have goofed…it’s about the most enjoyable movie of its kind since Alex Cox’s Repo Man and Jonathan Demme’s Handle With Care, both of which it resembles…[John Binder] lets his comedy build through a leisurely accumulation of bizarre details, as well as through dialogue that sounds absolutely accurate, even at its craziest. The film is also perfectly cast. As Arlene, Miss Williams comes across as someone who’s as utterly sweet and sincere as she is possibly schizoid.”

In a later column, Canby declared, “Every January should have at least one movie like UFOria.” Bleecker Street Cinema showings began selling out, and Binder felt vindicated. Universal was quick to remind the director and anyone else reading reports about UFOria’s comeback story that art house success was not real world success. Even the meager advertising budget the studio had spent wasn’t being recouped by the film’s box office. A true wide release never came, unless you count the VHS of UFOria that eventually arrived.

UFOria is not on DVD, Blu-Ray, Netflix, Hulu, or any other streaming service. Some have cited the expensive soundtrack, which includes music by Brenda Lee, Hank Williams, Jr., Waylon Jennings (a hero to Ward’s character in the film), and John Prine. I say Universal can afford to take a loss on this one. It’s a gem. Expertly restore it, lovingly package it, remind viewers what we had with Cindy Williams, Fred Ward, and Harry Dean Stanton. I’m sure Minions: The Rise of Gru brought in enough to finally put UFOria out properly.

There is one chilling postscript to UFOria. The cult that inspired Binder to write the movie in 1975 was, of course, Heaven’s Gate, which made grim headlines in March of 1997 after 39 members were found dead in a mass suicide near San Diego. It wasn’t clicking when Binder heard the news until his wife mentioned Bo and Peep. Bo, alias Marshall Applewhite, was among the dead (Bonnie “Peep” Nettles died from cancer in 1985). Binder let out a hollow chuckle in disbelief, his emotions tinged with sorrow.

“Back in the ’70s, you didn’t take UFO stuff seriously,” Binder told The Los Angeles Times shortly thereafter. “Bo and Peep looked like a hundred other prophets riding around in Volkswagen buses. They were nuts, fruitcakes, but they were American fruitcakes and basically harmless. You could relax and have fun with it.”

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Uncle Rump

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