Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Classroom Scare Films

The shopping's done, the credit card bills are on their way, and with them the holidays malaise will soon be settling in. Time to get back in the back-to-school spirit and scare some life into the New Year with a retrospective of classic educational scare films. With that end in mind, I put together a film program that will be screened at the Enoch Pratt central Library this January, so mark this date on your calendars:

Saturday, January 28, 2006
2 to 4 pm, Wheeler Auditorium
Pratt Central Library

Mental Hygiene for Captive Audiences!

In their day, the educational films shown in school were considered the future of liberal education, providing educators an opportunity to indoctrinate captive audiences in the proper ways of mental hygiene and physical safety. From the classic era of the ‘50s and ‘60s right up until ABC’s star-studded after-school TV specials in the ‘70s and ‘80s (which featured future celebs like Jodie Foster and Scott Baio), these cautionary tales covered everything from dating do’s and don’ts to the perils of drug abuse and wreckless driving in a hard-hitting style full of tragedy and devoid of subtlety. They were scary, yes, but also titillating – after all, where else could kids get the cheap thrill of seeing the kind of gratuitous drug use, sexual situations, death, destruction, and mayhem typically reserved for mature audiences in restricted motion pictures and late-night TV?

According to genre expert Ken Smith, author of Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1970, these films constituted "a uniquely American experiment in social engineering" whose message was to “fit in” and follow “correct behavior” in grooming, manners, and citizenship. So get with the program – our program - and get ready to become a better, safer, healthier adult!

Following is the film program that will be screened.


Let’s Be Clean and Neat!

Soapy the Germ Fighter (1951)
Soapy the Germ Fighter tells the story of how one young boy cleaned up his act and became a bacteria battler. One night, a talking bar of soap named Soapy appears and teaches Billy Martin that it is not "sissy" to be clean and that he will be his partner if fighting germs. If that doesn’t sound very scary, keep this in mind: Soapy appears to be wearing no pants and apparently shaves his legs. He also appears to be wearing a wedding ring, but where is Mrs. Soapy while her husband visits little boys in the middle of the night (did the soap dish run away with the spoon?)? This film also depicts tough-looking Health Department officers dressed like film noir shamuses, fighting against the bacteriological menace lurking around us. (1951, 10 minutes, video)
See also: Brains On Film Review

Mind Your Manners!

Lunchroom Manners (1959)
A cult classic thanks to early exposure in a Pee-Wee Herman HBO special, Lunchroom Manners used the bumbling exploits of an ill-mannered puppet named Mr. Bungle to show children how to behave in the school chow room. Watch how much soap model student Phil uses in the men’s room – is this clean-cut kid a budding obsessive-compulsive? Fun Fact: Mr. Bungle the puppet inspired Mr. Bungle the rock band (Faith No More vocalist Mike Patton's side band). Dirty Fun Fact: Mr. Bungle was also a character in the 1977 adult film Sharon's Sex Party (also known as Teenage Pajama Party) (1959, color, 12 minutes, video)

Dating Do’s and Don’ts

Dating Do’s and Don’ts (1949)
Long recognized as one of the campiest educational films ever made by genre experts Mystery Science Theater, this fun how-do guide follows clueless Woody’s quest to ask fun girl Ann (pronounced here as “Ay-yun” ) out on a date. The narrator talks him through it and offers possible options for several situations that might arise. (1949, 11 minutes, video)

Let’s Be Safe!

One Got Fat (1963)
This incredibly strange bike safety film could have been named Planet of the Apes Meets Mean Streets. As narrated by the dulcet-toned Edward Everett Horton (the voice behind The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show’s “Fractured Fairy Tales”), a group of children - all wearing ape masks straight out a Devo music video - make themselves bag lunches and pedal off to the park for a picnic. Along the way, the kids who “monkey around” get hit by cars, steamrollers, pedestrians, or fall into open manholes. Except for one sensible lad who ends up with all his fallen buddies’ lunches and a sudden weight problem! (Dale Jennings, 1963, 12 minutes, video)

Live and Learn (1956)
Producer Sid Davis was the King of Gore when it came to Safety Films, and this is one of his best cautionary tales. Here we have kids impaling themselves on scissors, burning their faces off, falling off cliffs and rooftops, and shooting B-B gun pellets into each other's eyes, complete with all the gore before and after. Fun fact: The little girl running with scissors was none other than Jill Davis, the producer’s daughter. Funner Fact: Before he became an educational film producer, Sid Davis was John Wayne’s body double! (He's in 1948's Red River, uncredited). In fact, Wayne loaned Davis $1,000 to make his first production, 1950’s The Dangerous Stranger, and thereafter Davis continued to make a pictures for $1,000 or less. (1956, 10 minutes)

Shake Hands with Danger (excerpt) (1970s)
This Occupational Jeopardy film has one of the all-time great theme songs (excerpted here), which is sung by the film’s Dukes of Hazzard-influenced (and uncredited) narrator, who tells how a worker came to be known as “Three-Fingered Joe.” (1970s, color, 3 minutes, video)

Speed Kills!

The Last Date (excerpt) (1949)
Winner of the 1949 National Committee on Films for Safety’s best picture award, The Last Date tells the story of Jeanne, a popular pretty girl whose life is ruined when her speed demon beau Nick (played by future Bewitched star Dick York!), just can’t drive 55. Throughout the film the narrator warns viewers about a new fad called Teenacide– “the fine art of killing yourself, and maybe someone else, before you're 20. You do it with a car!" (1949, b&w, 5 minutes, video)

Let’s Be Paranoid!

Duck and Cover (1951)
Alert Bert the Turtle shows school kids what to do in case of an atomic attack in this famous Civil Defense short recognized in 2004 by the National Film Registry as a “culturally, historically and aesthetically significant” motion picture. (1951, 9 minutes, b&w, video)

Just Say No To Drugs!

Go Ask Alice (“Party Scene” excerpt) (1973)
Go Ask Alice was allegedly the diary of an anonymous teenage girl describing her rapid descent into drug addiction and an eventual overdose after she got In with the Far-Out Crowd. This excerpt from 1973’s made-for-TV film depicts her first drug experience - set to the sounds of Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy”! – at a brew and (peyote) button party. In no time at all Alice goes from being a “nice girl” to rubbing elbows with pushers, pimps and prostitutes. And yes, that’s a bespectacled William Shatner playing her nerd professor Dad. (1973, 12 minutes, 16mm film)

Stoned: An Anti-Drug Film (edited version) (1980)
Scott Baio (Chachi of Happy Days and Charles of Charles In Charge) stars as Jack Melon, a bespectacled, pocket protector-toting high school nerd who is too shy to form any meaningful relationships with his peers in this edited version of the 1980 ABC AfterSchool Special. Living in the shadow of his popular jock brother, “Melonhead” Jack starts smoking pot and suddenly turns into a confident alter ego he dubs “Super Jack.” It takes a terrifying brush with tragedy for Super Jack to see the dangers of smoking the wacky tobacky. (1980, 30 minutes, 16mm film)
See also: Shocked Cinema Review

Suggested Further Viewing:

The Atomic Café. Dir. Kevin Rafferty, Jayne Loader and Pierce Rafferty. New York: New Yorker Films, 1982. 88 minutes, VHS. Documentary on the films produced in the ‘40s and ‘50s about the atomic bomb and Civil Defense.
Atomic Scare Films, Vol. 1. Something Weird Video, 1996, 120 minutes, VHS. Compilation of atomic scare films from the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s.
Classroom Scare Films, Vol. 1: Drug Horrors. Something Weird Video, 1997, 120 minutes, VHS. A collection of six anti-drug propaganda films from the 1960s and 1970s that focus on marijuana abuse.
Classroom Scare Films, Vol. 2: Health Horrors. Something Weird Video, 1997, 120 minutes, VHS. A collection of eight educational films made in the 60s and 70s dealing with alcohol, smoking, VD, scoliosis, and dental hygiene.
Classroom Scare Films, Vol. 3: More Drug Horrors. Something Weird Video, 1997, 120 minutes, VHS. Compilation of educational shorts.
Hell’s Highway: The True Story of Highway Safety Films. Dir. Brett Wood. New York: Kino International, 2002, 91 minutes, VHS. Documentary about the graphic, sometimes violent and gruesome driver's education films that were produced between 1959 and 1979 by the Highway Safety Foundation of Mansfield, Ohio.
Sex Hygiene Scare Films, Vol. 1-4. Something Weird Video, 1997, 120 minutes per tape, VHS. Compilation of short films on dating, puberty, hygiene and sexually transmitted diseases that were shown to high school teenagers from the 1960s to the 1970s.

Suggested Further Reading:

• Smith, Ken. Mental Hygiene: Classroom Films 1945-1970. New York: Blast Books, 1999.
• Morton, Jim, ed. Incredibly Strange Films. San Francisco: RE/SEARCH Publications, 1986. This guide to unusual films has a chapter on educational films.

Suggested Further Internet Surfing:

You Are Now Entering Loserville, Population: Me

Within 24 hours of getting my big Christmas present, a check for $500, it was gone.

The minute I started up my car outside my sister house, where my family had gathered for a holiday feast, she ran out to warn me, "Hey, your headlight's out." And so it was. No biggie, only $22.78 and an hour out of my day off the next day.

Then came the heating bill from BGE, a new record of $238! But that was expected, too, as we all had been warned about the rising cost of natural gas and how it would hit us hard this Winter. Then came the Verizon bill. Whoopsie. Must have missed last month's bill, because this was a double bill I recieved. No matter, just write a check for $150, Tom!

Ah, but then I had enough to try and get a cheap Winter coat the next day at Target. On my way back from getting a new headlight at the Honda dealership (where I enjoyed reading the new issue of Tennis Magazine in the waiting room while two Towson U. jocks looked contemptuously at me - with my legs crossed and reading specs on - like I was a total poof), I stopped in my favorite department store and found a 30-percent-off puff down/fleece jacket there for a mere $28. Wotta steal, I thought. It was warm, very warm, and black, so I got it.

Heading home, I was vexed that I had spent most of my holiday cheer check on bills and repairs, but I consoled myself with the fact that at least I had a really warm coat - finally! - for the really biting cold weather outside.

Before I went to bed Monday night, I remembered I had the coat still bundled up in the Target bag, so I went downstairs around 1:30 a.m. to hang it up. For some reason I couldn't resist trying it on to get one more "feel" for my new spiffy Winter coat. I preened in front of the living room mirror and said, "Yup, that's snug and warm alright." I was a regular Puff Daddy. Yes sir, I looked forward to wearing it the next day.

But when I went to take off my spiffy new warm coat there was a slight problem. The zipper was stuck. I tugged this way, then that way. I tried to squeeze out of the coat by ducking my head down the collar and pushing the coat up, like I was Houdini the Magnificent escaping from a dangerous puff coat entrapment. To no avail. For 30 minutes I tugged and pulled and squeezed, until I started to panic. I'm gonna hve to sleep in this INCREDIBLY HOT down coat, I thought, beginning to get frenzied. What about showering in the morning? How will I ever get out of it? I could die in this coat, I thought. My thumb was by now so sore, I feared it was sprained, which I really didn't want to happen, what with my Winter Tennis League starting in just a few scant weeks.

It suddenly dawned on me that I was gonna have to sacrifice the coat to get to sleep and not suffocate in a big puffy down coat, so I grabbed a pair of scissors, went out on the front porch of my house, and started cutting off the stuck collar. (Very carefully, because the collar was really tight around my neck and I was afraid that if I wasn't careful, I might actually cut my jugular and be found lying on my living room floor in a big puffy coat splattered with blood and matted down feathers, leading authorities to think I was a victim of some weird Michael Hutchance-esque auto-erotic sex experimentation.) Little white fleece feathers went flying everywhere, as I anticipated. I grabbed a big Hefty bag from inside the house and went out on the porch and carefully stuffed the now mutilated jacket in it. Then I grabbed the Target receipt. There was no way they would take it back in this state, but what the heck. I had to try. ("Hello, customer service? You'll never believe this, but my down jacket imploded!") The jacket was made in China, so perhaps I could play the Sino Free Trade Imbalance/World Takeover Conspiracy Card. Or maybe they'd just believe somebody like me could be THAT STUPID.

So there you have my little Christmas Miracle. It could only happen to me, the World's Biggest Loser. With money, obviously, to burn. But not on anything good. Like a bar tab. An iPOD. A night out at a fancy restaurant. A fancy fifth of single malt Scotch. Tickets to a show at the Hippodrome or the new Aquarium exhibit. Hell no!

But wait, you say, you still have some $72 left from that holiday check! Yeah, well, I didn't mention my credit card bill, which was obscene. Trust me, it's all gone.

Am I a total loser or what? The answer, my friend - like that $500 check, like the down feathers from my temporary down jacket - is blowing in the wind. The answer is blowing in the wind.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Cheap DVDs

Fans of Cheap DVDs - defined as being priced anywhere from 25 cents to $4.99 - should join Live Journal's Cheap DVDs group or check out the Cheap DVDs Website at www.destrucity.com. Like the Crocodile Hunter, these Bargain Bin hunters and collectors obsessively track down new arrivals and share their finds with like-minded minds.


The Curious Mr. Wonderbird (1953, 70 minutes)

This Digiview release is the English-dubbed U.S. version of the 1953 French film La Begere et la Ramoneur (also known in the UK as The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep) by the French animator freres Paul and Pierre Grimault. It features great British voice work from Denholm Elliot, Claire Bloom (Anouk Aimee was the voice in the French version!) and Peter Ustinov as the title character, Mr. Wonderbird.

In his IMDB review, Iconophoric comments, "Imagine discovering a prime Disney feature from their hot 1937-1947 period moldering in the dollar bin, unheralded, let slip into public domain. That's the thrill-- and sadness-- you get from just a few minutes of this obscure French cartoon from 1952." Iconographic goes on to say:
I have heard it said that this film...was an influence on some fine anime directors, and I don't doubt it. It's surreal, sweet and beautiful. It's a pity this film has wound up teetering on the edge of extinction. It is one of the most unique, witty, stylish and strange cartoons you will ever see. It's nothing less than a masterpiece of world animation, deserving more exposure and respect. I would hope KINO or the Criterion Collection will get a presentable copy of this together for posterity; a full restoration isn't too much to ask for this film.Panda and the Magic Serpent (1958)
This was the first Japanese color animated feature film. It was released in Japan in 1958 and made it was distributed in the U.S. in 1961.

Related links:
Cheap DVDs Web site (www.destructcity.com)

Monday, December 12, 2005

Fearless Fighters: A Prudent Purchase

I'll buy both of those for a dollar!
Forget about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, House of Flying Daggers, and all those art-house martial arts films. The greatest kung-fu movie of all time may just be an Old School Chop-Socky classic that I recently picked up on the advice of my Martial Arts Mentor, Dave Cawley (pictured below right), Maryland's reigning master of Soft Sanitizing-Moisturizing Hand-Lotion-With-Aloe Fist style kung-fu.

The film is called Fearless Fighters (1973) and its name is legend. According to the Hong Kong Movies database, this film (also known as Ninja Killers) was made in Taiwan in 1971 before being released stateside in the Martial Arts banner year of 1973 (which also saw the release of The Five Fingers of Death and Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon). Directed by Mo Man Hung, this non-Shaw Brothers film stars Shaw Brothers' veteran David Chiang (Chiang Ming) and Cheung Ching Ching, and featured an ending brawl between the crippled hero and various bad guys that asserted the rights of the disabled to be provided handicap-accessible seating in Chinese teahouses. In January of 2006, Image Entertainment will be offering a fancy $20 DVD widescreen version of this kung-fu klassic, complete with great original lobby poster cover art (pictured below left), original trailer (also available on Something Weird Video's Dusk To Dawn Drive-In Trash-O-Rama Show Vol. 2), and Audio Commentary by US distributor Richard Ellman and editor Dick Brummer. The version I picked up on Sifu Cawley's advice is East West DVD (www.eastwestdvd.com)'s public domain/bargain bin $1 DVD Double Feature edition that is paired with Godfrey Ho's 1979 Fury At Shaolin Temple (pictured at top of page), starring Gordon Lui (the Yul Bryner lookalike star of the Wu-Tang Clan's favorite chopsocky flick, Master Killer, AKA 36th Chamber of Shaolin), which attempts to resolve the age-old question of which kung-fu style is better: Eagle Claw Fist, Dragon Fist, or Shaolin Fist. Better yet, as a librarian (my beloved day job!) I loved Fury's improbable plotline involving the theft of a valuable book from the Shaolin Temple Library and the treachery of the Shaolin Temple Librarian (an ALA-accredited librarian would never send martial arts reference materials to a non-Shaolin Temple institution such as the Eagle Claw Fist School)! But I digress...If you see this DVD, don't hesitate and, whatever you do, don't twice twice, because it's more than alright - it's da bomb!

The bada-bing bada-boom pace kicks in from the very first frame of Fearless Fighters and never lets up - characters literally jump out of frame, say from a teahouse inn to a mountain side road, as expository sequences are discarded as cavalierly as junk mail or free AOL Trial Installation CDs. Yes, plot is thrown out the window like the I-Ching and actions speak louder than a million amusingly English dubbed words. But don't take my amusingly English flubbed word for it.

Fearless Fighters Reviews:

The plot synopsis from Image Entertainment's version is as follows:
Kung Fu Masters Wielding Incredible Devil Weapons! High-flying action, outrageous stunts and stupendous flying appendages are just a few of the sights in store as mighty warriors face off in a battle that can only leave one side standing! The mighty Eagle Claw Clan is torn apart when evil member To Pa instructs his followers to rob honorable Almighty Imperial Lightning Whip, whose children avenge the crime with the aid of a clan member disillusioned by his friend's wicked deeds.

An over-the-top cult favorite, this martial arts extravaganza comes packed with quotable dialogue, vivid characters (including the Soul Pickers and the Dragon Raiser brothers), and enough fun and excitement to keep the heartiest kung-fu fans glued to the screen!

Someone named zwolf had this to say on the Mighty Blowhole film review site:
Some gold-seeking bandits kill a man's family, and he breaks out of jail to seek revenge. He allies himself with a whip expert and his sister, and a traveling swordswoman. The bandits form a gang to combat them, and recruit two martial arts experts called The Soul Pickers to help. One uses golden disks that emit a solar ray, and the other uses a big metal crescent in each hand. A guy called One Man Army also aids the evil doers. The bad guys are also helped by a group of Vampire Phantoms who disguise themselves as statues. One of the good guys falls off a cliff and destroys an arm and leg, but an old master replaces them with bionic weapons. Great kung fu movie with swordfighting instead of hand-to-hand, better-than-usual photography, and loads of colorful weapons and neat camera tricks (which seem to make up for a lack of true fighting skill in some of the actors). Total fun superhero-fu!

Here are some comments from Chris Boyle's IMDB post for Fearless Fighters:
Fearless Fighters is one of the best times I've ever had watching a Hong Kong chop-socky flick. Everything in this film is massively over-the-top, from the hundred-foot leaps straight up that the actors so effortlessly perform to the fight scenes where lone warriors sometimes kill up to ten opponents at the exact same time. The really funny thing about Fearless Fighters is that none of the actors in the movie seem to know Kung-Fu at all! There's none of the brilliantly choreographed fight sequences we're used to seeing in Kung-Fu movies- the actors look like they're pretending the whole time, while flying through the air, jumping over lakes, using outlandish weapons- it's hilarious. Also of note is the English dubbing- it's excellent. NOT as far as the acting goes, mind you (it's TERRIBLE), but the lip-synching is almost flawless...very impressive...This film is a must see, not only for fans of martial arts movies, but anyone interested in opening up their minds to a higher plane of existence, as seeing Fearless Fighters may very well change your life! Oh, an on a personal note: The actor who portrays To Pa has the best delivery of the phrase "mince-meat" I've ever heard.

And here's a fanboy's enthusiastic review from Aint It Cool News that says it all:
The Seventies Kung Fu Film is something of a remarkable genre. I love it like nearly no other genre. At the drop of a hat, if someone says, "Hey, I have this old kung fu flick that I’ve never heard of…" I instantly will dive into the roaring cold… fight the elements and traffic to make my way to the locale.


Now today, Tim League, Patron Saint of the Alamo Drafthouse, invited my father and I… along with the AICN crew to the Drafthouse for a test screening of a flick he knew nothing about.

You see, the true film explorer will walk into a video store or flip through a listing of films… and buy a film, not based on reputation or inherent knowledge… but out of pure instinct and adventure.

Tim recently flew across the country to a warehouse with several thousand prints of nearly dead and dying films. Mostly exploitation and funky flicks… the types of films that nobody knows about… or rather, just a few.

Tim bought several hundred films en masse, rented a Ryder Truck, and drove back across the country to deliver the treasure into the sacred chapel of cinema here in Austin.

Tonight, Tim cracked the first can and pulled out a film called FEARLESS FIGHTERS. The label on the print says it is from 1973 (already more information than IMDB has). It also features David Chiang and the guy that wields 2 axes in THE LEGEND OF THE SEVEN GOLDEN VAMPIRES, as well as the girl in ENTER THE DRAGON, who was the undercover agent on the island. [That would be Betty Chung/Betty Chung Ling Ling. Could this be Cheung Ching Ching by another name?]

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

So we walk into the theater knowing, FEARLESS FIGHTERS (1973). Looking at the print in the lobby we can tell… it had seen better days. The reel is rusty and while it doesn’t smell of vinegar, it looks as though it had been screened to death. Tim said the color looked good though.

Alright, we grab some sodas and head into the actual screening area. Father Geek, Quint, El Cosmico and myself… along with Tim and he who needs no name and the folks from MR SINUS THEATER 3000.

We sit and joke about the film a bit. This is literally the blind screening.
The film starts up and CHRIST ALMIGHTY… It just sucked me in. Completely and utterly enthralled. It is this exact sort of film that Ang Lee saw… that Tsui Hark saw… that an entire generation of film fans… from Brett Ratner and Quentin Tarantino to Guillermo Del Toro and Paul Thomas Anderson…. They saw these type of films and fell in love.

This isn’t a ‘so bad its good’ flick, this is a ‘so fucking good its great’ flick. The story structure and characters are so dang likable… the villains so damn despicable that by the time the film hit the mid-point, I was no longer sitting back in my seat, I was sitting on the edge of my seat, chin on the table top in front of me.

The plotline can be read completely at IMDB’s FEARLESS FIGHTERS page. It seems that in this great land of ours… named planet Earth, there is at least one other soul that has beheld the glory of this movie. Some fella by the name of Chris Boyle in "North Massapequa" somewhere in New York state. He’s seen it. Calls the film, "a possible life-altering experience for all who see it" and then goes so far as to say, "This film is a must see, not only for fans of martial arts movies, but anyone interested in opening up their minds to a higher plane of existence, as seeing Fearless Fighters may very well change your life!" And then goes on to mention that the film has an "EARTH SHATTERING CONCLUSION!!!"

This is where my problem lies. After watching the fights with the killer sparrow flying blades, the One Man Army’s dual blade of death, after the Solar Ray (quite possibly the coolest fricking thing I’ve ever seen in a kung fu movie) and the killer thrown leafs, the astounding body counts every 4 minutes and the great score…
The film was reaching this "Earth Shattering Conclusion," the two heroic girls had broken sword blades impaled through their shoulders… the whip dude was a second away from being impaled himself and EVIL WAS JUST ABOUT TO WIN…. When the film stuck, the frame melted….

I was pumped, I was excited… Tim was running to fix the problem… the film had been sticking and melting at least 4 times through the run through, but this time… instead of the typical 1 minute process… it stretched into 5 minutes… Fear began coursing through my massive figure… Suddenly the house lights come on… Tim is making exasperated faces and signals from the projection booth…

Everyone begins whimpering and crying…. EVIL IS FUCKING WINNING!!! Good guys are being wiped out left and freaking right!

And I come home to do research on this masterpiece and find a freaking review that says the film has an "EARTH SHATTERING CONCLUSION!!!!" and is quite possibly a "LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE!"

What the hell?!?!?!?!?!

Tim says he will screen the last 5 minutes of the film at some future time, but he has to clean the projector of all the gunk from this print. He’s going to clean the print… and he will be showing it sometime in March….

Folks, if you have the means to travel… the screening of FEARLESS FIGHTERS will be free on Wednesday, March 28th at midnight. The print is scratched up beyond any and all belief… but I’m telling you… THIS FILM IS FREAKING AMAZING! How does it end??!?!?!?!?

What happens?!??!?! It’s Earth Shattering I’m told. Change my life…

All I know is there are secret arm and leg weapons yet to be unleashed… I have no idea what they do… Does everyone die? Does evil Triumph? Does… in the midst of this epic final battle… does an asteroid come to destroy planet earth? WHAT HAPPENS!!?!?!?!?! I want to know, but only when sitting in that theater and watching it.

I’m jazzed… If you could see me right now you’d see me typing at the speed of speech… saying everything as I type it…. Shaking and excited… MAN!!!!

Ya know, if you wanted to remake something… apply all the techniques we have today… all the film and dramatics… but use this film as a basis… You’d have a freaking epic cool film on your hands. This thing had everyone jump up and down excited.

Man… MAN MAN MAN MAN…. What a fucking movie!!! The score, the weapons, the fights, the love triangles, the villains, the flying the sound of the swords being unsheathed.. the sounds of blades slashing through the flesh of 10 men in a single arc of violence.

If anyone ever paced an X-MEN or FANTASTIC FOUR film at this pace… you folks, along with myself, would be near frothing at the mouth in an epileptic fit.
Nothing gets me as fired up as a kung fu film, and not knowing what happens next… I mean that.

In Hong Kong and Run Run Shaw Kung Fu flicks… the Good guys COULD LOSE… EVERYBODY COULD LOSE….. and something completely new could happen.

You can’t see this on video… you can’t see this anywhere but at the Drafthouse… and folks… seeing this movie with a packed audience is what life itself is about. I mean it. That audience is going to be alive… kicking and hitting each other all up and down the sidewalks of San Antonio street as they walk to their cars at 2am.

I’m telling ya what… FEARLESS FIGHTERS may not have the dramatics of CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON… but it has a joy and unfurled glee with which it unleashes upon me that I can’t wait to experience again.


Memorable Quotes (from IMDB):
Lei Pong's Master: I shall replace your useless arm and leg with invincible weapons!
To Pa: Great! Just great! Great Kung-Fu! Your technique is matchless!
The Loner, AKA One Man Army: My skills are not worthy of such praise.
To Pa: Indeed they are!

Related links:
Image Entertainment's Fearless Fighters DVD
Ain't It Cool News
Alamo Drafthouse
East West DVD
Chris Boyle's Complete IMDB Review
Mighty Blowhole's Review
Fearless Fighters Cast Photos">Fearless Fighters Cast Photos
Hong Kong Movie Database Entry for Fearless Fighters
Hong Kong Cinemagic's Fearless Fighters Entry

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I'll Buy That For $5 Dollars!

OK, at $5 I know it's a tad more pricey its $1 DVD competitors, but if you see the DVD shown below at your local Giant Food or Dollar Store Emporium, grab it! I'm talking about K. Gordon Murray's English-dubbed version of Rene Cardoza's 1959 Mexican holiday oddity, Santa Claus!

This is the film that introduced the holiday tradition of Santa Claus battling The Devil (actually the Devil's henchman "Pitch") with the assistance of Merlin the Magician (hey, it could happen!) - would you expect anything less from the land of masked wrestlers and Day of the Dead celebrations? Now, thanks to the folks at Brentwood, this bizarro rarity is available in brilliant color (the transfer looks great, no doubt because it was filmed in "Mexiscope" Eastmancolor, as one poster proclaims) for a fin. The cover artwork is, of course, horrible and misleading (with a stand-in Santa model), but that's part of the deal with these rare gems of the bargain bins - you have to look past the crappy covers to make memorable discoveries (like a grab bag, you never know what you'll find, which is part of the fun/adventure). The best cover for this film is the one put out by Westlake Entertainment Group (below right), that retails anywhere from $5.95 (at Oldies.com) to $14.95 (too much!, at Amazon.com!). You can also find versions online for anywhere from $2.95-$3.99, but when you add in shipping and handling...well, shop and compare!

Implausible Plot Synopsis: (taken from the Westlake DVD)
Santa Claus, high above the North Pole in his cloud-borne castle equipped with more surveillance devices than the Impossible Mission Force, prepares to deliver presents on Christmas night. Santa is especially interested in helping Lupita, the daughter of a poor family who wants nothing more than a doll; and a young boy whose parents are so wealthy they never spend any time with him (Santa fixes this by feeding them Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters). However, the Devil will have none of this and sends his minion, Pitch, to foil Santa's plans. Pitch in turn recruits three Naughty Boys to help him set traps for Santa.

What Makes It Great:
Santa Claus lives in a palace that looks like it was designed by Gary Panter circa his design for Pee-Wee's Playhouse (there's a telescope with a big eye at the end and a radio machine that looks like Pee-Wee's pal Chairy with eyes and big whorey lips attached), and then there's the "It's a Small, Small World" sequence in which Santa plays the organ while children from around the world present the most dumbed-down racial stereotypes of their cultures (little African children prance around in loinclothes and shake spears, les enfants Francaise wear berets and chant "Frere Jacques," Mexican kiddies wear sombreros and sing "La Cucaracha," American kids wear cowboy duds while singing "Mary Had a Little Lamb"!, etc.). It goes on for what feels like an eternity, but truly has to be seen to be believed.

In a review from Santo Street magazine, Tony Kay observed the wonder of the weird science and futurism-meets-expressionism set design on display in Santa Claus:
One of the things which makes SANTA CLAUS a fantasy classic is the absolutely amazing, daring, bizarre production design. There are numerous wonderful, colorful, lurid, cheesy and surreal f/x and objects, an exceptional combination of baroque and ultra-modern, reflecting no doubt significant cultural changes in Mexico at the time.

For instance, Santa's "Fantastic Crystal Laboratory" is surely one of the most amazing things ever designed for children's cinema as well. (Disney surely stole many of the concepts for the scientific toy factory in his BABES IN TOYLAND musical, which was released the next year).

An entirely expressionist view of cutting-edge scientific technology, this astonishing super-lab boasts many amazing new inventions, many, curiously, of a "covert surveillance" nature.

The very creepy "Master Eye" was an early cinematic manifestation of the fear and paranoia of Cold War spying, chilling because it might have been true. The design itself is a steal from the Martians in George Pal's exciting WAR OF THE WORLDS.

A TV dish antenna with a human ear grafted on is effective, but perverse, to say the least.

Most odd of all, however, is the absurd "Tele-Talker", a giant face screen with a phallic, light-up nose and gargantuan, talking, ruby-red lips, aptly illustrating every small child's oral fixation, bigger than life itself!

Elsewhere, Santa's mechanical reindeer are extremely malefic, as they laugh in a most sinister (and irritating) way

And then there are the surrealistic images, like something out of Bunuel and Dali. Like this domestic dispute between Mom and Dad with Devil's messenger Pitch (striking a very masculine hand-on-hip pose) looking on.

Or the macabre Giant Dolls coming out of their boxes dream sequence:

And the Mexican kiddies celebrating Christmas "Day of the Dead" style:

So just don't take my word for it. Check out some of the many great reviews for this obscure Bargain Bin Classic. And for more on K. Gordon Murray, the man responsible for bringing the South of the Border Santa Claus to El Norte, be sure to read Michael Yockel's in-depth article for the Miami New Times.

Santa Claus links:
Bleeding Skull
Santa Claus - The Fairy Tales (from The Wonder World of K. Gordon Murray)
Santa Claus Foto Gallery
Santa's Color Wonderland

K. Gordon Murray Links:
The Wonder World of K. Gordon Murray
The K. Gordon Murray DVD Colection
The Wizard of Coral Gables
Michael Yockel's "Miami's B-Movie Mogul"

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'll Buy That For a Dollar!

Christmas has come early this holiday season. They've rolled out the dollar DVDs at the end of Giant Foods' Holiday Aisle and let me tell you people, these are stocking stuffers of the Gods! Especially my new favorite purveyor of 100-penny entertainment, East West DVD (www.eastwestdvd.com). Lord knows they have the cheapest, most misleading cover art known to man, and the films are obviously taken from VHS tapes, but they deliver the goods! (and goods that are extremely hard to find elsewhere). And you don't have to be Bixby Snyder (Robocop's "I'll Buy That For A Dollar" man) to know what a value awaits you!

The gem of my dollar deals has to be something called ANIMATION CLASSICS. This one has absolutely no information on it to let you know who, what, where, when or how, but I'm here to tell you, grab this DVD. It's the Holy Grail of European and indie experimental animation, containing many titles either previously unavailable or available only on 16mm film. I know, because several of them are part of Enoch Pratt Free Library's incredible rare 16mm film collection.

East West DVD is currently selling four animation collections:

All of the original collections are currently out of print, according to the Internet Movie DataBase (www.imdb.com).

ANIMATION CLASSICS is a 96-minute repackaging of 1991's long out-of-print Animation Celebration Video Collection Volume 1, which contained the best films chosen from the first Los Angeles International Animation Celebration. There is no main menu and no description anywhere of what's on the 2-chapter disc. Below is a listing of the 23 short films you will find on it (many thanks to packratshow 's Live Journal blog for compiling the information that follows).

Auguszta szepitkezik (1983, Csaba Varga, Hungary, 5 minutes) - Translates as "Augusta Makes Herself Beautiful." Enoch Pratt Free Library has Varga's similar Az Ebed (Lunch) on 16mm film
'Cat and Mouse' at the Home (1983, Kirk Henderson, 5 minutes) - a spoof of Tom and Jerry cartoons
De Karakters (1986, Evert de Beijer, Netherlands, 7 minutes)
Pileto (The Chicken) (1982, Sortir Gelev, Bulgaria 1 minute)
Come Back To Sorrento
Disconnected (1988, Craig Welch, Canada, 5 minutes)
Happy Hour (1983, Brett Koth, 3 minutes)
Quasi's Cabaret Trailer (1980, Sally Cruikshank, 3 minutes)
Mongo Makongo (1986, Michael Posch, 8 minutes)
Quest: A Long Ray's Journey Into Light (1986, Michael Scuilli and Melissa White, 4 minutes)
Kuku (1983, Velislav Kazakov, Bulgaria, 3 minutes)
Seiltänzer (Rope Dance) (1986, Raimmund Krumme, 10 minutes)
Sunbeam (1980, Paul Vester, UK, 4 minutes)
Traveling Light (1985, Jane Aaron, 2 minutes)
La Belle et la Boîte (1982, Paul Dreissen, Netherlands, 3 minutes) - Dreissen's best known for his work on The Beatles 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine
Second Class Mail (1985, Alison Snowden, 4 minutes)
The Wreck of the Julie Plante (1985, Stephen Watson, 4 minutes)
Animation Has No Borders (1986, Peter Sweenen, 5 minutes) - compiles animation by 36 animators from 36 different countries, set to the music of "The Internationale"!
The Strange Case of Mr. Donnybrook's Boredom (1981, David Silverman, 6 minutes) - an animated Ogden Nash poem
It's an O.K. Life (1980, George Griffin, 3 minutes) - Griffin is best known for his chronicle of animated style, Lineage (for more on Griffin, see Geogrif and Canyon Cinema)
Moebius Play (1985, Tita Cooley, 3 minutes)
Dino Alley (1985, 1 minute)
The Chore (1987, Joe Murray, 2 minutes)
Broken Down Film (1985, Osamu Tezuka, Japan, 6 minutes) - from the creator of Astro Boy!

Related links:
Cheap DVDs

Why I Hate Musicians

(Thanks to Caprice for sharing this revelation with me.)

Can I Buy That Smile for a Quarter?

This morning I stumbled out of bed, pulled a knit cap over my disheveled hair, laced up my snow boots and cruised over to my local Panera Bread cafe to get something hot to wake me up. Cruised is an apt term for my trip, because it turned out to be the first time I have ever been the object of "cruising" at a coffee shop. Naturally, it was not at the hands of one of the many attractive Young Asian Women who were perusing their e-mail on their laptop computers. No, it was courtesy of Ned Flanders.

I had just purchased a Baltimore Sun paper and a large coffee to go, and while filling up my cup, a bespectacled, moustached man interrupted me to blather something, only the tail end of which I caught. "I know this may sound strange but I only want to read the Today section of the paper. Can I buy yours for a quarter?"

Yes, it did sound strange. I glanced over at a full stack of Sun papers and replied, "Why don't you just buy the whole paper for 50 cents?" I could understand someone asking me for the Today section if they didn't want to buy the paper, like, "When you're through with that, can I have it?" Like, maybe he wanted an article in there or he or someone he knew was listed in it. But to buy a part of the paper, was strange. He could just buy the whole paper and leave behind the sections he didn't want. And besides, I wanted the Today section because local movie listings is the only reason I even deign to purchase that glorified fish wrapper called The Baltimore Sun.

Ned Flanders replied,"Because I don't want the whole paper, I just want the Today section." Oh God, my Freak Alarm suddenly went off. This interaction was starting to remind me of of dealing with patrons at my day gig at the the public library where one has to throw logic and rationality out the window for 8 hours a day and step into the Twilight Zone of insane and inane questions and curiously customized customer needs.

"So just take the free copy over there, the one they put out for people to read," I retorted, suddenly irritated and losing interest in the interaction. My cup was full and I was ready to roll.

It then dawned on me that this guy wanted to be the cream in my coffee. If you catch my drift. If you know what I mean. Wink wink, nod nod. Creeped out, I made my way out of Panera's, and glanced at the Today section to see what was so fascinating in there. OK, maybe he really was just Ned Flanders, a Narnia Nerd who wanted the Today section for its write-up on how Christian groups and church sermons have taken up the cause of the just-released film Narnia. In my experience there are only two types of people who ever give you unsolicited smiles - Born-Again Christians ("Have you heard the good news? Christ is risen!") and Sexual Predators. Even hookers don't smile - they flash.

But this notion was quickly dispensed as I was getting into my car. From across the parking lot, Ned Flanders (who had apparently followed me out) called out, "If I hadn't asked, I wouldn't have gotten to see your smile!"

OK, this is a GUY saying this to another GUY. It's not some cheesy pick-up line used on reality TV hook-up shows like eliminiDATE!

"There you go," I not-so-cleverly replied, quickly turning over the engine. As I pulled out, there was still more interaction with Ned, as he simultaneously pulled out in his pick-up truck and almost side-swiped me. Geezus, I thought, this guy really does wanna bang me!

I looked up in my rear-view mirror to check that winning smile of mine (wait - was I smiling or merely grimacing?). Yeah, really beautiful. I hadn't even brushed my teeth, which were now stained with Hazelnut coffee, and it looked like I had dried spittle around the corners of my mouth, like a retard or epilectic. My unshaven face was peppered with bristles, some white, some black (ah the joys of growing old), and wisps of matted, greasy hair were shooting out from under my knit cap. I was the equivalent of a old lady with her hair up in curlers who was making a run for a cup of coffee, yet to Ned Flanders, I was Adonis. Maybe it was the ultimate left-handed compliment. Maybe he thought I was a youngster, a Chicken to his Hawk. I do, after all, have the scrawny physique of an awkwardly developing adolescent, and he certainly couldn't see the saggy bags under my eyes that were hidden away by my sunglasses. If he only knew that at this very moment my love canal was being filled with the digestive after-effects of half a pound of Wal-Mart Trail Mix and Wegman's Tortilla Chips (last night's "dinner menu"), would he still have amorous visions of my hastily retreating haunches?

Anyway, these Ned Flanders cruisers are the people that scare me. Normal, almost mundane, looking people who in my mind were gay religious freaks with secret dungeons in their basements where they tortured hitchhikers and strays and coffee cafe pickups they had lured back to their normal, almost mundane, looking homes. After purchasing their smiles, for a quarter!

Monday, December 05, 2005

The 10 Sins of Bob Dylan

I just finished reading the best Dylan bio ever (surpassing previous title holder Clinton Heylin's Bob Dylan: Behind the Shades), Brit journalist Howard Sounes' Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan (2001). Based on painstaking new research, including the real dope on Dylan's myth-stoked 1967 motorcycle accident, it really details the human side of Bobby Zimmermen, especially his womanizing - there's even a suggestion that his embrace of Christianity in the 80s was partly because of his affairs with his born again Soul Sista backup singers Clydie King, Carole Childs, and Carolyn Dennis (who he secretly married, divorced, and had a love child with).

Though I'm a true Dylan fan, I learned some rather unsavory things about my hero. Nobody's perfect, I know that. It's like Sir Mick once sang, "Every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints." I don't put anybody on a pedestal. But the following are such egregious and heinous wrongs that I must set the record right by deeming them...

The Top 10 Sins of Bob Dylan:

1. "Ballad In Plain D"
Dylan's diatribe against the Rotolo sisters, ex-girlfriend Suze and her "parasite" sister Carla, was the one song Dylan regretted writing. Inspired by his anger following an ugly breakup with Suze at Carla's apartment, it hung its dirty laundry out to dry on 1964's Another Side of Bob Dylan. In the liner notes to 1985's Biograph box set, Dylan admitted that "It was a mistake to record it and I regret it." The closest he came to an apology, apparently.

2. Wanton Womanizing
Ah, Dylan's labrynthine love life...it obviously inspired him, as many women played the part of his muse, but it also taxed him - quite literally. His two divorces -from "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" Sara Lowndes in '77 and backup singer Carolyn Dennis in '92 - cost him many the pretty penny an no doubt had something to do with his relentless touring schedule (touring providing both an escape from the troubles at home and mucho moolah with which to pay alimony and child support - not to mention opportunities for more "road women" affairs and future palimony suits!) It was Dylan's infidelity that cost him first Echo Star Helstrom ("Girl From the North Country"), cheerleader-cute Bonnie Beecher (another candidate for the real "Girl From the North Country"), Suze Rotolo (who was so upset by his flagrant affair with Joan Baez that she attempted suicide and, later, chose to have an abortion when pregnant with Bob's child), Sad-Eyed Sara Lownds, and Joan Baez (who only found out that Dylan had dumped her when Sara answered the door to his room in 1965).

3. Trading Elvis for a Sofa
Andy Warhol gave Dylan an original silk screen of his famous cowboy Elvis painting, but Dylan hated it, first hanging it upside down in his home, then putting it in a cupboard before finally trading it to manager Albert Grossman - FOR A SOFA! Grossman knew a sweet swindle when he saw it (like the contracts he signed with Dylan and The Band), and eventually sold the Warhol at auction for $750,000! Hope that sofa offers state-of-the-art comfort, Bob!

4. Horace Freeland Judson
There are many cruel scenes in Dont Look Back, D. A. Pennebaker's documentary about Dylan's 1965 European tour - the patronization of fellow troubadour Donovan, the cold shoulder given Joan Baez, the drunken party at London's Savoy Hotel suite party - but none more mean-spirited than the assault on Time reporter Horace Freeland Judson, who Dylan rips apart as if he were the clueless Mr. Jones himself from "Ballad of a Thin Man." It's painful to watch. Dylan the rock star is a total dick to a guy just doing his job. What would Woody think?(Reporter Rant Runner-up: The Silver Medal for Media Surliness surely goes to Dylan's Swedish Radio Interview from the same tour).

5. Joan Baez
Dylan asked, "How many roads must a man go down, before he can call himself a man?" Joan should have asked, "How many doors must be shut in your face before you get a clue that hie doesn't care for you?" Poor Joan. She helped Dylan get early folk creds when she brought him on her tours and shared her bed and home with him when he stayed with her in Monterey. And in return? He asked her to join him on his 1965 Dont Look Back tour, then gave her the total cold shoulder, insulted her by never asking her to join in on stage, and made fun of her with his sycophantic cronies (Bobby Neurith chief among them). It eventually was enough to send her back home crying. Even then Joan didn't get it. Hearing that Bob had taken ill in Italy, she went to his hotel room only to have the door answered by Sara - the girlfriend he neglected to tell Joan (or anybody for that matter) about. Oopsie! It would be 10 years before the two saw each other again, this time for the Rolling Thunder Revue and Dylan's cinematic messterpiece, Renaldo and Clara, in which Joan had to act alongside Mrs. Dylan, Sara Lowndes. Glutton for punishment, Joan?

6. Eating the Documents
Dylan cut up the 1966 European tour footage filmed by D.A. Pennebaker, without allowing Penny to make a duplicate print to preserve the valuable historical (and musical concert) footage for posterity. Dylan the Auteur's disjointed mess of a "home movie," Eat the Document, was a bust. Rejected by NBC, which had originally planned to air it as a TV documentary, it took Martin Scorcese to finally salvage and properly edit the footage for his excellent 2005 documentary No Direction Home. Thanks Marty! On a similar note, Renaldo and Clara remains the best record of Dylan's 1975-1976 Rolling Thunder Revue tour, but Dylan had to turn in an artsy-fartsy, imcomprehensible 4-hour "messterpiece" that is, by most accounts, completely unwatchable. Even Dylan fans can't sit through it. Leave the directing to the pros, Bob! They don't tell you how to play music, do they?

7. Love and Theft
Dylan was once asked jokingly at a press conference, "Do you think you'll ever be hung as a horse thief?" It was a funny line, until you consider that in real life, Dylan the record-lover was twice caught stealing people's record collections. When Dylan was in college and living in Minneapolis' Bohemian Dinkytown, he stole his friend Jon Pankake's valuable Harry Smith-curated Anthology of American Folk Music collection. And when he was staying in Denver in 1960, he stole singer Walt Conley's albums and was busted by the police. Charges were dropped by a forgiving Conley, and Dylan hitch-hiked back East. Dave Van Ronk described the early Dylan as a snorer, a Yiddish word for "professional mooch," and this early behavior more than justifies that characterization.

8. Dave Van Ronk
Dylan lifted Dave Van Ronk's arrangement - the one he taught the kid himself! - of "House of the Risin' Sun" for inclusion on his first album and recorded it before Van Ronk's version came out. Van Ronk asked his friend not to record it before his own version came out, but Dylan did and Van Ronk was miffed. Van Ronk eventually forgave him when Eric Burdon and The Animals copped Dylan's version for their hit single version.

9. Liam Clancy's Girlfriend
Dylan's friendship with the Clancy Brothers dated back to his fledgling folk coffeehouse days in Greenwich Village. In 1992, after the Clancy Brothers performed as part of a Dylan 30th Anniversary Concert Celebration in New York, Liam Clancy asked Bob if he ever screwed Liam's girlfriend Cathy while the Brothers were on the road. Dylan hemmed and hawed but finally admitted he did. "Man, she loved you. But she was so lonesome...and...I did comfort her." Some friend. Too old (or drunk) to fight about it, Liam just handed Dylan a guitar and made him sing an Irish folk song for pennance.

10. Faridi McFree
Dylan boinked ex-wife Sara's Nanny, Faridi McFree, the very day the news broke that his divorce was settled. Sara was vacationing with the kids in Hawaii at the time and McFree was home house-sitting for her. Dylan later dropped McFree to insure that Sara, who felt betrayed by her ingrate Nanny, would give him visitation rights with his children. This one hit just a little too close to home.

Related Links:
Bob Dylan's Girlfriends

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Art of War

More Dispatches from the Public Library Front
We have an exit strategy for Operation Enduring Disbelief, er, Freedom, thanks to this Enoch Pratt Free Library patron. Following is a verbatim recounting of a reference query received by a co-worker I'll call Librarian 1 at Baltimore's finest bibliographic resource center. He received this call from a regular we will call Patriotic Patron of the Arts. It concerned a painting, an object so dynamic that it could mesmerize all who looked upon it, much as Dostoyevsky was transfixed by Holbein's The Body of Christ in the Tomb. And like the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant, gazing upon this mystical inanimate object could change the very course of human history. Could it be the classic post-modern masterpiece, Bigfoot Meets UFO (pictured above left)? We'll have to wait until the next call to confirm. In the interim, here is the full dispatch from the reference trenches at Pratt Central:

Patriotic Patron of the Arts:
"…ah, hello. Is this the library? Well, I’m needing information on…well, you know here in America we have IQs and I was wondering if you have any information on the IQs of the Iraqis. You see, I have this report that I need to give the Army. The Army laughs at me, but those people are killing our boys. I have to, you see, there needs to be recognition that the Iraqis are - are they dumber than the United States? Anyway, you see where I’m going with this?"

[Of course. Isn't it obvious?]

"Today, 10 troops died and it didn’t even make it into the morning papers. I have to get this information into my report. I have a painting, you see. This painting is…you know, not Picasso because they wouldn’t even know who Picasso is…but this painting can’t be emotional like the “blue period.” Have you heard of Mark Rothko? Well, my painting has four colors and I can’t tell you or let them know exactly what’s behind the painting. I need to get this painting into the house of every Iraqi. In fact, you should have it in your house, you see…there’s four colors. Am I getting through to you?"

[Of course. Isn't it obvious?]

Patriotic Patron of the Arts:
"Let me tell you why. With all this religious crap—I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love religion and that’s just what’s in these paintings. The Iraqis are dumber than the western world, are they? Do you know what’s on their walls? Nothing! It’s dark in there and these paintings will bring light, as well, and leave our boys alone."

Upon hearing Librarian 1 recount his tale, Librarian 2 commented, "I've talked to this guy before, I think. He told me that he wanted to give paintings to every soldier in Iraq to boost their morale." Librarian 2 then recalled this previous phone call to the library:

Patriotic Patron of the Arts:
"Once the Army sees this painting, they're going to want to give a copy to every soldier. And they can duplicate like ten thousand copies in one day. I have no idea how that's done but the Army has the technology to do it... they have to, right?"

[Of course. Isn't it obvious?]

Librarian 2 added, "He was the guy who wanted me to give him direct contact info to the Army because every time he called one of the numbers they make easily publically available, they never get back to him about his idea."

It's a shame that the pre-war planning for Iraq didn't tale into account the obvious importance of oil-on-canvas. Oh sure, we thought about safeguarding the natural oil bubbling up under the desert sands, but didn't appreciate the shock-and-awl value of the painted variety. I'm sure that had the patron gotten through to the man at the top, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Rummy would have no doubt agreed that "Ars longa vitas brevis." Isn't it obvious?