Thursday, February 04, 2021

A Kinder, Gentler Super-hero- DC Comics’ “Superman Returns” (2006)-A Film Review

A Kinder, Gentler Super-hero- DC Comics’ “Superman Returns” (2006)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Laura Perkins   

Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh, Kate Bosworth, the now disgraced sexual bandit Kevin Spacey, 2006

Die Superman, die. That may be an unkind start after babbling about a kinder, gentler Superman in the come-on headline for this film Superman Returns but that is that in the hardball world of film review. The world where one day you are king of the hill the next yesterday’s news fit for wrapping in newspaper used to dispose of the fish. Greg Green, the site manager here for the past few months, has been asking for just this kind of lead-in when he tagged me a while back for a review of another Superman so-called saga Batman versus Superman where the righteous Lex Luthor wasted the faster that a speeding bullet guy without rancor or regret. First of all I bitched out that I had to even do a silly film based on a male fantasy comic book series that I did not read as a young girl and yawned my way through with a bunch of screaming kids who only cared about the non-stop action to keep up their interests. Second of all because        
Greg Green persists against all reason, against all the evidence to the contrary including the numbers, in making his stable of writers without exception have to bow down to this super-hero noise over the past few months.   

But none of that, none of those reasons compare to the foolish feelings I have doing this review after I gave Superman a teary farewell and a hero’s funeral in that previous review only to have to recant here and say it was all a joke. I had grown women gnashing their teeth over that death, children committing mortal sins having lost their faith after their lord protector proved to be made of common clay, and grown men committing felony murders in a rage in revenge for the loss of their illusions. Only to find that Superman took a powder for five years doing some sordid spacewalk seeking his origins like any other geek. We won’t mention, mention in mixed company anyway, that nobody seemed very worried about the whereabouts of alter ego Clark Kent who disappeared at the same time as the man in blue and returned at the same time as well.

Did anybody miss this stup. No way. Old flame Lois Lane moved on, moved on fast and furious picking up a Pulitzer for her expose of the Superman legend/hoax, bore a young son of unknown parentage, and found a new paramour in the boss’ son. Even Jimmy Olsen has grown up a bit, moved on from incompetent copy boy to incompetent cub reporter. Superman/Clark get lost, leave Metropolis alone. Of course that is all fantasy since, as usual, the tootling town is menaced once again by the previously imprisoned Lex Luthor now free to muddy the waters-and seek revenge for the bad rap Superman laid on him making him do a nickel in the slammer.

More fantasy smashed. Lois once she sees the he-man, once he does one of those “leaps tall buildings in a single bound” routines has her heartstrings pulled to the breaking point. Forget the nice earthly deal with the boss’ son, forget that little cottage and nice lawn business. Meanwhile this scene is driving Superman crazy since he figured that Lois was his eternally so he makes a pact with the devil. Makes him work old Lex Luthor into a lather to get him to show his super-human skills once again in crushing the weasel.                        

That trick got played out when Lex and his henchmen grabbed Lois and the kid, a nice kid but kind of out of it from the drugs he was sucking in for his asthma. When things get crazy the kid comes through though saving Mom from one of Lex’s bad boy comrades. Showed he was the righteous son of Superman as it turned out just starting to get in harness with his super-human father side DNA skills. The merely human boyfriend, fiancé, whatever is strictly second fiddle now. Especially after Superman saves, ho hum, Metropolis yet again from a single criminal mind like Lex after Mr.Bad had decided to blow the place to kingdom come (which makes me wonder about the moral fitness of the citizens of the town to be saved). Sure there was an anxious moment, no, anxious second, when nasty Lex stabbed Superman with some off-market generic kryptonite but even the five year old kids didn’t stop munching their buttered popcorn over that little blip. Jesus what couldn’t Superman have had the good sense to pass away and leave what Sam Lowell calls a candid world alone. Better yet why doesn’t Greg Green get off the dime and have us review real films-for adults.       

Traipsing Through The Arts-All 20th Century Art Is About Sex-The “King Of The Mopes” Edward Hopper Unchained- In The Midnight Hour Gliding Through “Nighthawks” (1942) Without Wings

Traipsing Through The Arts-All 20th Century Art Is About Sex-The “King Of The Mopes” Edward Hopper Unchained- In The Midnight Hour Gliding Through “Nighthawks” (1942) Without Wings

By Laura Perkins

Sometimes you just can’t talk to Sam Lowell about art. Sam is my longtime companion meaning for those who feel they need to know that as one wag put the situation in the case of Whistler and one of his mistresses we are living together “without benefit of clergy.”  Meaning as well that after five, three him, two her, collective failed marriages we decided to cut out the middleman. Result: we have been together longer than any of the five, three he, two she failed marriages and a lot longer than a couple of them combined. That does not mean that Sam cannot get ornery, can’t be a pain in the ass especially about art. See he never really got over the idea that he should have followed his youthful instincts and gone to art school which his high school art teacher had paved the way for him as an alumnus of Massachusetts School of Art with a scholarship. Sam’s mother, an old Irish Catholic cross to bear whom I never met, wanted him to move up in the world by being the first in the family to go to college and to get a nice white-collar civil servant job that would have satisfied her own youthful busted dreams. Sam finally bought into her argument that life in a cold-water garret as a struggling artist would actually be a step down from the utter poverty they had already lived in the Acre section of North Adamsville.

But Sam never as long as I have known him fully accepted his path, his fate and as he has reached retirement age it has only galled him more. That said, as is well known, or should be, Sam didn’t do that civil servant bit but became over the years starting at the now defunct East Bay Other (California) and going through American Film Gazette and now American Left History and associated publications become an award-winning film critic. What is less well known is that along the way he would write, sometimes under his own name, sometimes under the name Charles Skyler, for Art Today and Art News especially if a film had an art theme like say The Thomas Crowne Affair or more famously The Girl With The Pearl Earring. Which sets up why Sam is sometimes hard to talk to about art and can get ornery about his takes on various pieces of art like the one to be discussed today Edward Hopper’s iconic if somewhat overblown Nighthawks from 1942.

By rights this assignment to traipse through the arts, art museums to select some works for commentary should be Sam’s providence. Unfortunately when site manager Greg Green originally approached him he turned down the assignment since Sam wanted to play out his hand, his term, and track down the reasons a famous California private investigator Lew Archer whom he had known, had interviewed a couple of times before he passed away had never made the P.I. Hall of Fame. Sam had chalked it up to sexual impotence which left Lew less than eager to bed whatever femme was around at a time when guys like Phil Larkin, Sam Spade, and Phil Marlowe were setting the standard for hard-boiled detectives taking a walk on the wild side while solving some bang-bang case. Sometimes Sam can stubbornly go after every possible lead and he did in the Archer case so with some decent results but to my mind not enough to not have taken his natural choice reviewing art works, especially American art works.

Sam’s pass on the assignment was my good fortune although it was Leslie Dumont not Sam who suggested to Greg when he was looking in-house for somebody to take the on-going art work assignment who clued him in that I had taken some art classes and at least had gone to an art museum once in the last fifty years. The bar thus was pretty low, and I almost did not take the assignment either except I got assurances from Greg that he would have my back if I decided to go off on a few tangents. Which I have and he has backed me up despite the hellfire and damnation from a bunch of troll evangelicals who have objected to my talking about sex and sensuality in regard to some pretty hot 19th century art like Sargent’s Madame X and Whistler’s The White Girl. As it turned out, although they are still claiming me as Keil the devil’s servant and bound for the lake of fires, they don’t really give a damn about art one way or another but about talking about sex and art together just in case their young folk decide they want to look at some on the Internet. Yeah, as Sam, and half the guys here would be quick to say, WTF.

Sam Lowell does care about art and that is where this whole thing is heading now. Two things have come together, have collided really. Sam has basically exhausted the Lew Archer impotency bit thus having some time to think about art and when I took on the assignment I knew that I would be consulting him as I went through my paces. He would not be so foolish as to try to usurp the assignment (nor would Greg let him since he is happy to have a quirky look at the arts by me where Sam would go chapter and verse). But he has definite opinions which he thinks I should incorporate int my pieces (what he forever had called “sketches” even that 10, 000-word Archer medical report, or what amounted to a medical report). That came up a bit in Sargent, Alexander and Whistler pieces but hit hard when we discussed Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks where we have two very different takes on what was going on in that midnight hour at that funky New York diner. (By the way Sam insists on calling him Eddie this, Eddie that but I have never seen even the most democratic reference ever call him anything but Edward and so Edward it is.)     
Here’s the general framework Sam and I have total agreement on-all serious 20th century art (and now reaching into the 21st century) is about sex, erotism, sensuality. Period. The jury may still be out on the Minimalists although there are some pieces by Matty Gove that reek to high heaven of sex, rough sex too. You can’t think of a school post-Impressionist, Ashcan, Realist, Regionalist, Abstract Expressionist without being overwhelmed by the Freudian deluge. Don’t even mentioned about Action painting, Pop and Op-Art schools which are drenched with primal sexual urges and dreams. (Only some silly school boy or girl would for example fail to see the mix of sperm and womanly fluids in the drippings of Max Daddy Jackson Pollack.) Where Sam and I differed or have a difference now with Hopper’s masterpiece is interpreting the narrative. I will get to that in a minute but let me tell of a couple of controversies we had on the earlier works I have presented to set up the battle lines.

When we discussed Sargent’s Madame X Sam wanted to go knee-deep into Madame reputation as a professional beauty and as an up and coming new age courtesan where I wanted to deal with the ideal of beauty then with that hideous birdlike nose of hers which by today’s standards would place her in the wallflower category, except maybe among nerdy guys. (On the side I wanted to discuss Sargent’s devious homosexual urges to make Madame X out as a tramp, a whore I think I called her but we decided to tamp that down since while there is plenty of anecdotal material that he and his dear friend Henry James were bedmates the hard evidence through biographers is not there yet.) We took a stab at both themes since this was my first piece, but unlike Sam I was a little uneasy about casting Madame out of high society once those denizens saw how she was advertising her “wares” via the Sargent portrait.                  

Alexander’s Isabella provided a mutual agreement when two things happened- Sam “sniffed out,” his term, that the jar in which an aroused Isabella kept the severed head of her lover done in by her jealous and grabbing brothers was filled with poppies, with the stuff of opium not silly basil and she was high as a kite when she did her ceremonial caress of her doomed lover. Once Sam showed me the photograph of a poppy crop I was won over. More importantly Sam dragged me, not literally he is not like that at all even when ornery, to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to see not the Isabella although we did view that fine work of art but the plethora of paintings throughout history going back at least to John the Baptist, maybe before with Mendon the wanderer where some woman is swooning over the severed head in a fit of ecstatic reverie. Very enlightening and also the cause of more random troll activity responses than even poor Madame X faced.  

Whistler’s The White Girl (we both agree that the later Symphony in White designation is malarkey, nothing but show and the work of some two-bit prissy art curator ) put us at some odds since I believed, still believe that Whistler was attempting to show some age of innocence idea so he could sell the damn thing and pay his back rent and have some dough left over for wine and partying. I refused to believe that a friend of the virginal Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood would be surreptitiously advertising his then girlfriend, mistress, whatever arrangement she had while they lived together “without benefit of clergy” was a latter-day Whore of Babylon. Then Sam showed me the scholarship on what that strangely out of place wolf’s head and fur meant going back to ancient times- the age old “open for business.” Damn. I didn’t like it, was furious at Whistler who by all accounts was hard on his mistresses and models but I had to concede the point.

On the Hopper Nighthawks narrative on those denizens of the deep night I think I am right. I’ll give Sam’s take first and then my own. Sam sees Hopper as strictly a voyeur, frankly a dirty old man, literally and this will not be the last time Hopper lets his sexual fantasies and dreams spill out on canvas. The key question for Sam is why he is so interested all of a sudden in the “night people,” deep night when nothing but stuff that had better not see the light of day goes on when most of his stuff is strictly daytime mopery, my expression. Sam has claimed here a certain amount of “nighttime” expertise having ended an evening more than once winding up at Joe and Nemo’s which is really Hopper’s template here. Sam is thinking of the one on Stuart Street in Boston adjacent to the Combat Zone, no further description necessary, but they were all over many Eastern urban cities including New York and he remembers one somewhere Seventh Avenues. Come a certain hour after the bars close and remember they close later in New York City and the night people come up, among them what used to be called “ladies of the evening” according to Sam. What is going on here is nothing but a “hotel, motel, no tell” between the man and the woman we can see. The distance between them tells that they are not lovers and her looking at her fingernails while he decides whether to take a chance with such a brazen hussy. (If not him then the guy with his back to the viewer is the next in line.) The pair are negotiating the fare and the location, that Hotel Deluxe just beyond the shadows on the left to be their resting place after the evening’s exertions. I at least got Sam to back off on the short order cook who is just some rum-dum who couldn’t get a day job as the “pimp” here. He might have been getting a rake-off from her  to use the diner as a business address but that is all. Christ Sam can get weird, would any woman have that jamoka do anything but serve dish-water coffee and grease-laden burgers-at an hour.         

Yes, sure sex is involved in this muted scene although frankly itdoes not depend on Hopper’s being a dirty old man although Sam pointed to a couple of later paintings that might make that argument. My take is that these two are lovers, disenchanted lovers. But lovers, nevertheless. They had been at Club Nana up the street, a hot spot of sorts before the war but now filled with guys either too old for military service or 4-F laggards. The Nana in those days had Earl “Fatha” Hines holding forth (this before he headed to Boston and the High Hat Café) and the evening had started out pretty well before our grumpy Gus laid up too much liquor, too many whiskeys. Got ticked off that some sailor made a pass or two at his woman and now after they closed the joint down they were doing their inevitable stop at the diner to have him sober up a bit before he heads back to his rooming house up the street and she grabs a cab to her place further downtown. Not happy campers, a not usual scene in a Hopper but not the sullen creepiness that a dirty old man like Sam suspects.            

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-In The Time Of The Hard Motorcycle Boys- With Marlon Brando’s The Wild One In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-In The Time Of The Hard Motorcycle Boys- With Marlon Brando’s The Wild One In Mind


"Black Denim Trousers"
He wore black denim trousers and motorcycle boots
And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
He had a hopped-up 'cycle that took off like a gun
That fool was the terror of Highway 101
Well, he never washed his face and he never combed his hair
He had axle grease embedded underneath his fingernails
On the muscle of his arm was a red tattoo
A picture of a heart saying "Mother, I love you"
He had a pretty girlfriend by the name of Mary Lou
But he treated her just like he treated all the rest
And everybody pitied her 'cause everybody knew
He loved that doggone motorcycle best
He wore black denim trousers and motorcycle boots
And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
He had a hopped-up 'cycle that took off like a gun
That fool was the terror of Highway 101
[Instrumental Interlude]
Mary Lou, poor girl, she pleaded and she begged him not to leave
She said "I've got a feeling if you ride tonight I'll grieve"
But her tears were shed in vain and her every word was lost
In the rumble of his engine and the smoke from his exhaust
Then he took off like the Devil and there was fire in his eyes
He said "I'll go a thousand miles before the sun can rise"
But he hit a screamin' diesel that was California-bound
And when they cleared the wreckage, all they found
Was his black denim trousers and motorcycle boots
And a black leather jacket with an eagle on the back
But they couldn't find the 'cycle that took off like a gun
And they never found the terror of Highway 101

Okay here is the book of genesis, the motorcycle book of genesis, or at least my motorcycle book of genesis. But, before I get to that let me make about seventy–six disclaimers. First, the whys and wherefores of the motorcycle culture, except on those occasions when they become subject to governmental investigation or impact some cultural phenomena, is outside the purview of the things I generally discuss. I am much more comfortable with the ins and outs of boy meets girl (or really boy longs to meet girl) in various 1950s growing up teenage settings like at the drugstore soda fountain either sipping sodas or absent-mindedly listening to some selections on Doc’s jukebox, doing the stuff in drive-in theaters or drive-in restaurants or down by the shore getting all moony and spoony watching the “submarine races.”  But for all of their bad press, for all that every mother feared for her daughter’s safety when they were within fifty miles of town, for all a mother’s feat that she would lose her Johnny to the gangs I have been fascinated by motorcycles since my early youth when these were definitely outlaw vehicles.

Frankly there is no political rule, no political line, as a rule, on such activity, for or against, nor should there be. Those exceptions include when motorcyclists, usually under the rubric of “bad actor” motorcycle clubs, like the famous (or infamous) Oakland, California-based Hell’s Angels are generally harassed by the cops and we have to defend their right to be left alone (you know, those "helmet laws", and the never-failing pull-over for "driving while biker") or, like when the Angels were used by the Rolling Stones at Altamont and that ill-advised decision represented a watershed in the 1960s counter-cultural movement. Or, more ominously, from another angle when such lumpen formations form the core hell-raisers of anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-women, anti-black liberation fascistic demonstrations and we are compelled, and rightly so, to go toe to toe with them. Scary yes, necessary yes, bikes or no bikes.

With that out of the way. Second, in the interest of full disclosure I own no stock, or have any other interest, in Harley-Davidson, or any other motorcycle company. Third, I do not now, or have I ever belonged to a motorcycle club or owned a motorcycle, although I have driven them, or, more often, on back of them on occasion. Fourth, I do not now, knowingly or unknowingly, although I grew up in working-class neighborhoods where bikes and bikers were plentiful, hang with such types. Fifth, the damn things and their riders are too noisy, despite the glamour and “freedom” of the road associated with them. Sixth, and here is the “kicker”, I have been, endlessly, fascinated by bikes and bike culture as least since early high school, if not before, and had several friends who “rode”. Well that is not seventy-six but that is enough for disclaimers.

Okay, as to genesis, motorcycle genesis. Let’s connect the dots. A couple of years ago, and maybe more, as part of a trip down memory lane, the details of which do not need detain us here, I did a series of articles on various world-shaking, earth-shattering subjects like high school romances, high school hi-jinx, high school dances, high school Saturday nights, and most importantly of all, high school how to impress the girls( or boys, for girls, or whatever sexual combinations fit these days, but you can speak for yourselves, I am standing on this ground). In short, high school sub-culture, American-style, early 1960s branch, although the emphasis there, as it will be here, is on that social phenomena as filtered through the lenses of a working class town, a seen better days town at that, my growing up wild-like-the-weeds town.

One of the subjects worked over in that series was the search, the eternal search I might add, for the great working-class love song. Not the Teen Angel, Earth Angel, Johnny Angel generic mush that could play in Levittown, Shaker Heights or La Jolla as well as Youngstown or Moline. No, a song that, without blushing, one could call our own, our working class own, one that the middle and upper classes might like but would not put on their dance cards. As my offering to this high-brow debate I offered a song by written by Englishman Richard Thompson (who folkies, and folk rockers, might know from his Fairport Convention days, very good days, by the way), Vincent Black Lightning, 1952. (See lyrics below.) Without belaboring the point the gist of this song is the biker romance, British version, between outlaw biker James and black-leathered, red-headed Molly. Needless to say such a tenuous lumpen existence as James leads to keep himself “biked" cuts short any long term “little white house with picket fence” ending for the pair. And we do not need such a boring finish. For James, after losing the inevitable running battle with the police, on his death bed bequeaths his bike, his precious “Vincent Black Lightning,” to said Molly. His bike, man. His bike. Is there any greater love story, working class love story, around? No, this makes West Side Story lyrics and a whole bunch of other such songs seem like so much cornball nonsense. His bike, man. Wow! Kudos, Brother Thompson.

Needless to say that exploration was not the end, but rather the beginning of thinking through the great American night bike experience. And, of course, for this writer that means going to the books, the films and the memory bank to find every seemingly relevant “biker” experience. Thus, readers of this space were treated to reviews of such classic motorcycle sagas as “gonzo” journalist, Doctor Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels and other, later Rolling Stone magazine printed “biker” stories and Tom Wolfe’ Hell Angel’s-sketched Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (and other articles about California subset youth culture that drove Wolfe’s work in the old days). And to the hellish Rolling Stones (band) Hell’s Angels “policed” Altamont concert in 1969. And, as fate would have it, with the passing of actor/director Dennis Hooper, the 1960s classic biker/freedom/ seeking the great American night film, Easy Rider. And from Easy Rider to the “max daddy” of them all, tight-jeaned, thick leather-belted, tee-shirted, engineer-booted, leather-jacketed, taxi-driver-capped (hey, that’s what it reminds me of), side-burned, chain-linked wielding, hard-living, alienated, but in the end really just misunderstood, Johnny, aka, Marlon Brando, in The Wild One.

Okay, we will cut to the chase on the plot. Old Johnny and his fellow “outlaw” motorcycle club members are out for some weekend “kicks” after a hard week’s non-work (as far as we can figure out, work was marginal for many reasons, as Hunter Thompson in Hell’s Angels noted, to biker existence, the pursue of jack-rolling, armed robbery or grand theft auto careers probably running a little ahead) out in the sunny California small town hinterlands.(They are still heading out there today, the last time I noticed, in the Southern California high desert, places like Twenty-Nine Palms and Joshua Tree.)

And naturally, when the boys (and they are all boys here, except for couple of “mamas”, one spurned by Johnny, in a break-away club led by jack-in-the-box jokester, Lee Marvin as Chino) hit one small town they, naturally, after sizing up the local law, head for the local café (and bar). And once one mentions cafes in small towns in California (or Larry McMurtry’s West Texas, for that matter), then hard-working, trying to make it through the shift, got to get out of this small town and see the world, dreamy-eyed, naïve (yes, naive) sheriff-daughtered young waitress, Kathy, (yes, and hard-working, it’s tough dealing them off the arm in these kind of joints, or elsewhere) Johnny trap comes into play. Okay, now you know, even alienated, misunderstood, misanthropic, cop-hating (an additional obstacle given said waitress’s kinships) boy Johnny needs, needs cinematically at least, to meet a girl who understands him.

The development of that young hope, although hopeless, boy meets girl romance relationship, hither and yon, drives the plot.  Oh, and along the way the boys, after a few thousand beers, as boys, especially girl-starved biker boys, will, at the drop of a hat start to systematically tear down the town, off-handedly, for fun. Needless to say, staid local burghers (aka “squares”) seeing what amount to them is their worst 1950s “communist” invasion nightmare, complete with murder, mayhem and rapine, (although that “c” word was not used in the film, nor should it have been) are determined to “take back” their little town. A few fights, forages, casualties, fatalities, and forgivenesses later though, still smitten but unquenched and chaste Johnny (and his rowdy crowd) and said waitress part, wistfully. The lesson here, for the kids in the theater audience, is that biker love outside biker-dom is doomed. For the adults, the real audience, the lesson: nip the “terrorists” in the bud (call in the state cops, the national guard, the militia, the 82nd Airborne, The Strategic Air Command, NATO, hell, even the “weren't we buddies in the war” Red Army , but nip it, fast when they come roaming through Amityville, Archer City, or your small town).

After that summary you can see what we are up against. This is pure fantasy Hollywood cautionary tale on a very real 1950s phenomena, “outlaw” biker clubs, mainly in California, but elsewhere as well. Hunter Thompson did yeoman’s work in his Hell’s Angels to “discover” who these guys were and what drove them, beyond drugs, sex, rock and roll (and, yah, murder and mayhem, the California prison system was a “home away from home”). In a sense the “bikers” were the obverse of the boys (again, mainly) whom Tom Wolfe, in many of his early essays, was writing about and who were (a) forming the core of the surfers on the beaches from Malibu to La Jolla and, (b) driving the custom car/hot rod/drive-in restaurant-centered (later mall-centered) cool, teenage girl–impressing, car craze night in the immediate post-World War II great American Western sunny skies and pleasant dream drift (physically and culturally). Except those Wolfe guys were the “winners”. The “bikers” were Nelson Algren’s “losers”, the dead-enders who didn’t hit the gold rush, the Dove Linkhorns (aka the Arkies and Okies who in the 1930s populated John Steinbeck’s Joad saga, The Grapes Of Wrath). Not cool, iconic Marlin-Johnny but hell-bend then-Hell Angels leader, Sonny Barger.

And that is why in the end, as beautifully sullen and misunderstood the alienated Johnny was, and as wholesomely rowdy as his gang was before demon rum took over, this was not the real “biker: scene, West or East. Now I lived, as a teenager in a working-class, really marginally working poor, neighborhood that I have previously mentioned was the leavings of those who were moving up in post-war society. That neighborhood was no more than a mile from the central headquarters of Boston's local Hell’s Angels (although they were not called that, I think it was Deathheads, or something like that). I got to see these guys up close as they rallied at various spots on our local beach or “ran” through our neighborhood on their way to some crazed action. The leader had all of the charisma of Marlon Brando’s thick leather belt. His face, as did most of the faces, spoke of small-minded cruelties (and old prison pallors) not of misunderstood youth. And their collective prison records (as Hunter Thompson also noted about the Angels) spoke of “high” lumpenism. And that takes us back to the beginning about who, and what, forms one of the core cohorts for a fascist movement in this country, the sons of Sonny Barger. Then we will need to rely on our street politics, our fists, and other such weapons.

Vincent Black Lightning 1952

Said Red Molly to James that's a fine motorbike
A girl could feel special on any such like
Said James to Red Molly, my hat's off to you
It's a Vincent Black Lightning, 1952
And I've seen you at the corners and cafes it seems
Red hair and black leather, my favourite colour scheme
And he pulled her on behind
And down to Boxhill they did ride

Said James to Red Molly, here's a ring for your right hand
But I'll tell you in earnest I'm a dangerous man
I've fought with the law since I was seventeen
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine
Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22
And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you
And if fate should break my stride
Then I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Come down, come down, Red Molly, called Sergeant McRae
For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery
Shotgun blast hit his chest, left nothing inside
Oh, come down, Red Molly to his dying bedside
When she came to the hospital, there wasn't much left
He was running out of road, he was running out of breath
But he smiled to see her cry
And said I'll give you my Vincent to ride

Says James, in my opinion, there's nothing in this world
Beats a 52 Vincent and a red headed girl
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeveses won't do
They don't have a soul like a Vincent 52
He reached for her hand and he slipped her the keys
He said I've got no further use for these
I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home
And he gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Out In The Be-Bop Drive-In Movie Night– With Doris Troy’s Just One Look In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-Out In The Be-Bop Drive-In Movie Night– With Doris Troy’s Just One Look In Mind

Sketches From The 

Just One Look Lyrics

Just one look and I fell so hard
In love with you Oh Oh
I found out how good it feels
To have your love Oh Oh
Say you will, will be mine
Forever and always Oh Oh
Just one look and I knew
That you were my only one Oh Oh
I thought I was dreaming
But I was wrong Oh yeah yeah
Ah but I'm gonna keep on scheming
Till I make you, make you my own
So you see I really care
Without you I'm nothing Oh Oh
Just one look and I know
I'll get you someday Oh Oh
Just one look
That's all it took hah just one look
That's all it took woah just one look
That's all it woah baby you know I love you baby
I'll build my world around you come on baby

You know it’s funny how a kid, a guy kid I will let the gals speak for themselves, picked up the various signals, the various nods and looks relating to being cool back in the day, back in the late 1950s, early 1960s day. Cool with guys and cool with girls for they were two very different things. Probably each generation develops out of necessity, or self-defense, its own set of signals but while I was reviewing an “oldies but goodies” rock and roll compilation from the early 1960s I latched onto Doris Troy’s Just One Look to get me thinking about the ways we rather silently communicated what we were about.

The strange thing about the signals, let’s just call it that but I mean nods and looks, was early on when you were just a wet-behind-the-ears kid, say around elementary school no later, your signals tended to be straight up, you liked this or that, didn’t like this or that, thought he or she was a dope, etc. and that was the end of it. Or maybe not the end of it if in your honesty some bigger kid decided to take umbrage and box your ears to show his or her displeasure in a more visceral way. Then almost by osmosis, or maybe design, I am not sure which, you curbed your tongue a little and began with the silent signals.

The first one I clearly remember from down at the old Adamsville housing projects neighborhood was when my best friend in elementary school, Billy Bradley, stopped telling me I was his best friend but instead when we saw each other in the hallways during school he would just give me a slight nod of his head. At first I thought he was putting the freeze on me or something until I asked him about it after school one day. He said he had learned from his older brother, Prescott I think, that guys did not just keep going around saying they were friends when they got older but gave the nod to acknowledge that fact. And so the nod. Once I picked up on it that was that. All through school until graduation, maybe later, the nod became the way guys, guys who thought other guys were cool, addressed each other. Especially guys you did not know well, maybe just played pick-up ball with, maybe just hung around the soda fountain at the drugstore listening to the juke-box, maybe just saw walking down the street and maybe had nothing to say but giving the nod expressed your appreciation of other guy’s guy-ness.      

Of course guy-girl signals were in another universe. No way you gave a girl, I think any girl whether you liked her or not, whether you cared whether she lived or died or not, the nod. No way, first they would not be privy to what that nod meant probably thinking you had some neck problem but as usual with girls you needed a much more elaborate signal system whether you were trying to score or not. Here too there was a shift around late elementary school, right around the time girls went from being nuisance sticks to, well, interesting. Before that time you would just say something unkind and they would do the same in turn, or they would beat you up depending on their mood. But thereafter to show your interest you had to develop your best furtive glance. There were variations on this but the basic idea was that if you were trying to hone in on some lovely say hanging around that drugstore listening to the jukebox with everybody else you casually shot a slight glance her way, enough for her to see that you had glanced her way but not enough to think that you were so uncool as to stare at her with your tongue open. The trick though was to see if she was also going to take a peek your way. If so then the game was on, if not then if you were called on it, although this rarely happened, you could use that neck problem thing to bail you out. Such were the ways of young love. However the older you got the more signals you developed which one Doris Troy, blessed Doris Troy gave us the ABCs on. 

See here is how it worked out in the trenches. Out in the drive-in movie night once those furtive glances paid off, or promised to pay off. A whole galaxy of options opened up. I remember being struck by the appropriateness of the cover artwork on that CD that I reviewed one time that “spoke” exactly to this drive-in night. I had been on a tear in reviewing individual CDs in an extensive commercial rock and roll series called Rock ‘n’ Roll Will Never Die. The artwork which graced the covers of each item, both to stir ancient memories and reflect that precise moment in time, the youth time of the now very, very mature (nice sliding over the age issue, right?) baby-boomer generation who lived and died by the music. And who fit in, or did not fit in as the case may be, to the themes of those artwork scenes. The one for the 1963 CD compilation was a case of the former, of the fitting in. On that cover, a summer scene (always a nice touch since that was the time when we had at least the feel of our generational break-out) we are placed at the drive-in, the drive-in movies for those of the Internet/Netflicks/YouTube generations who have not gotten around to checking out this bit of Americana on Wikipedia, with the obligatory 1950s-early 1960s B-movie monster movie (outer space aliens, creatures from the black lagoon, blobs, DNA-damaged dinosaurs, foreign-bred behemoths a specialty) prominent on the screen.

Oh sure, everyone of a certain age, a certain baby-boomer age, a generation of ’68 age, has plenty of stories to tell of being bundled up as kids, maybe pre-set with a full set pajamas on to defend against the late sleepy-eyed night, the sleepy-drowsy late movie night, placed in the car backseats and taken by adventurous parents (or so it seemed) to the local open air drive-in for the double feature. That usually also happened on a friendly summer night when school did not interfere with staying up late (hopefully keeping awake through both films). And to top it all off you got to play in the inevitable jungle jim, see-saw, slide, swing set-laden playground during intermission between the films while waiting, waiting against all hope, for that skewered, shriveled hot dog, rusty, dusty hamburger, or stale, over-the-top buttered popcorn that was the real reason that you “consented” to stay out late with the parents. Yah, we all have variations on that basic theme to tell, although I challenge anyone, seriously challenge anyone, to name five films that you saw at the drive-in that you remembered from then-especially those droopy-eyed second films.

In any case, frankly, I don’t give a damn about that kid stuff family adventure drive-in experience. Come on, that was all, well, just kids' stuff. The “real” drive-in, as pictured on that cover art just mentioned is what I want to address. The time of our time in that awkward teen alienation, teen angst thing that only got abated by things like a teenage night at the drive-in. Yeah, that was not, or at least I hope it was not, you father’s drive-in. That might have been in the next planet over, for all I know. For starters our planet involved girls (girls, ah, women, just reverse the genders here to tell your side of the experience), looking for girls, or want to be looking for girls, preferably a stray car-full to compliment your guy car-full and let god sort it out at intermission.

Wait a minute. I am getting ahead of myself in this story. First you needed that car, because no walkers or bus riders need apply for the drive-in movies like this was some kind of lame, low-rent, downtown matinee last picture show adventure. For this writer that was a problem, a personal problem, as I had no car and my family had cars only sporadically. Fortunately we early baby-boomers lived in the golden age of the automobile and could depend on a friend to either have a car (praise be teenage disposable income/allowances) or could use the family car. Once the car issue was clarified then it was simply a matter of getting a car-full of guys (or sometimes guys and gals) in for the price of two (maybe three) admissions.

What? Okay, I think that I can safely tell the story now because the statute of limitations must have surely passed. See, what you did was put a couple (or three guys) in the trunk of that old car (or in a pinch one guy on the backseat floor) as you entered the drive-thru admissions booth. The driver paid for the two (or three tickets) and took off to your parking spot (complete with ramp speaker just in case you wanted to actually listen to the film shown on that big wide white screen). Neat trick, right?

Now, of course, the purpose of all of this, as mentioned above, was to get that convoy of guys, trunk guys, backseat guys, backseat floor guys, whatever, to mix and moon with that elusive car-full of girls who did the very same thing (except easier because they were smaller) at the intermission stand or maybe just hanging around the unofficially designated teen hang-out area. No family sedans with those pajama-clad kids need apply (nor would any sane, responsible parent get within fifty paces of said teens). And occasionally, very occasionally as it turned out, some “boss” car would show up complete with one guy (the driver) and one honey (girl, ah, woman) closely seated beside him for what one and all knew was going to be a very window-fogged night. And that was, secretly thought or not, the guy drive-in dream. As for the movies. Did they show movies there? 

Enough said. And enough too of furtive glances…for now.  

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-When Be-Bop Bopped In The Doo Wop Night-With The Classics Til Then In Mind

The Roots Is The Toots: The Music That Got The Generation Of ’68 Through The 1950s Red Scare Cold War Night-When Be-Bop Bopped In The Doo Wop Night-With The Classics Til Then In Mind

Til Then Lyrics

doo-doo-doom) (doo-doo-doom) (doo-doo-doom)
(doo-doo-doom) (doo-doo-doom) (doo-doo-doom)
[Intro continues behind each verse]
Till then, my darling, please wait for me
Till then, no matter when it may be
One day I know I'll be home again
Please wait (till) till then
Our dreams will live though we are apart
Our love will always stay in our hearts
Till then, when of the world will be free
Please wait for me
Although there are oceans we must cross and mountains that we must climb
I know every gain must have a loss, so pray that our loss is nothing but time
Till then, we'll dream of what there will be
Till then, we'll call on each memory
Till then, when I will hold you again
Please wait till then (ooh)


Sure I have plenty to say about early rock ‘n’ roll, now called the classic rock period in the musicology hall of fame. Yeah, I know I have already talked some ears off, maybe yours, about how hard-pressed Mississippi plantation workers (semi-slaves the way the pay-out came down at the  end of the year) gathered around on some sweaty Saturday night to hear Big Bill, Big Jack, Big Little, or Big somebody belt the blues out of some whiskey bottle in some broken down juke joint, and left enough of an impression that that dark boy in the corner, kind of shy but very inquisitive about that beat took it north-ward and put it in an electric outlet and you could see the audience, the woman audience part, swaying that sway that meant they got it, got that rif (and maybe said thanks that shy young brother in their own swaying way). I know too that I have left some ears kind of staggered after mouthing off about who Jesse Lee and Billy Bob, a couple of plain ordinary good old boys maybe heard a far off echo of that electrified music and started riff-ing on their own in places like Memphis and Mobile waiting to be discovered as the next be-bop daddy musical white negro (Norman Mailer’s term, hipster term, not mine but it fits) all young and hungry, ready to play for free, or nickels just to get out of the small town Saturday night and jump.  

So yeah I have talked some, some about the big broad trends coming out of the mid-century muck (mid-20th century just so you know) and within that say I have spent a little time, not enough, considering its effect on us on the doo-wop branch of the genre. Part of the reason for the “not enough,” once I thought about it was that obviously back in those mid-1950s jail-breakout days I did not (and I do not believe that any other eleven and twelve-year olds did either), distinguish between let’s say rockabilly-back-beat-drive rock, black-based rock centered on a heavy rhythm and blues backdrop, and the almost instrument-less (or maybe a soft piano or guitar backdrop) group harmonics that drove doo-wop. Even now that stuff is better left to the aficionados and musical intelligentsia, the guys who make dough putting the stuff in some boxed-in historical perspective. 

All I knew, all any of us knew when our knees started to tremble, maybe wobble is better, to the new beat that came out of some Mother Africa from whence we came, was that it was not my parents’ mannered Tin Pan Alley by-the-numbers music, not close. Get this too as a selling point it did not hurt that they, those same parents, got nervous, very nervous, anytime it was played out loud in their presence. Forever “turn it down” (or father “turn the damn thing down”) raced along with each song. Fortunately, some sainted, sanctified, techno-guru developed the iPod of that primitive era; the battery-driven transistor radio. No big deal, technology-wise by today’s standards, but get this you could place it near your ear and have your own private out loud without parental scuffling in the background. Yes, sainted, sanctified techno-guru. No question.

What doo-wop did though down in our old-time working-class housing projects neighborhood, and again it was not so much by revelation as by trial and error, is allow us to be in tune with the music of our generation without having to spend a lot of money on instruments or a studio or anything like that. Strictly built for po’ boys like us. First of all where the hell would we have gotten the dough, when we were stretched grabbing nickels and dimes, stealing really okay, from Ma’s pocketbook just to keep the juke-box at Sandy’s Diner going, for such things when papas were out of work, or were one step away, and there was “max daddy” trouble just keeping the wolves from the door. Bills and repo men the bane of every family’s existence. (Worse, worse though when papas could not take it anymore and just split, long-gone daddy split with or without some barroom frill or got nasty drunk with the paycheck and left Ma with empty Friday night envelopes and nothing to stave off the collectors.)

Sure, some kids, some kids like my corner boy elementary school boyhood friend Billy, William James Bradley, were crazy to put together cover bands with electric guitars (rented occasionally), and dreams. Or maybe go wild with a school piano a la Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, or Fats Domino but those were maniac aficionados. I remember one time Billy was so hopped up on the fame game that in the height of the Elvis craze when all us other boys were busy growing side-burns and perfecting our sneers (sneers meant for some young thing, in our neighborhood and in that time meaning stick girls who had not gotten their forms yet, to wipe off into the sunset) he tried to hop on the Bo Diddley bandwagon. Hop on that bandwagon until one cruel school talent show night he learned the hard facts of the racial divide in a northern white housing project by one of the older boy rednecks and returned to Elvis-land with the rest of us. Billy, never say die Billy, also trying to break out with a Bill Haley and the Comets routine which worked okay around the neighborhood where all the girls went nuts but got him nowhere when a regional new talent show came through town and he was all geared up to win except the suit jacket his mother had jerry-rigged for the occasion fell apart about half way through his performance. Yeah, Billy had it bad.

Even Billy though, when the deal went down, especially after hearing Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers was mad to do the doo-wop and make his fame and fortune on the cheap. (No need for instruments, cheapjack jackets or racial taunts.) The cover art on a doo wop compilation I once reviewed in an old time rock and roll series made that poor boy and girl point beautifully. No not some Karl Marx brotherhood of man thing or Adams Smith all ships rising if one guy rises. Nothing that heavy, please. The cover showed a group of young black kids, black guys, young guys who looked “from hunger” too like us and who looked like they were doing their doo wop on some big city street corner (maybe Brooklyn, maybe the old days Bronx, maybe uptown Harlem Saturday night). And that made sense reflecting the New York City-derived birth of doo-wop and that the majority of doo-wop groups that we heard on the AM transistor sister radio were black. But the city, the poor sections of the city, white or black, was not the only place where moneyless guys and gals were harmonizing, hoping, hoping maybe beyond hope, to be discovered and make more than just a 1950s musical jail-breakout of their lives. Moreover, this cover art I speak of also showed, and showed vividly, what a lot of us guys were trying to do-impress girls, impress them on the cheap with some harmonies and moonlight and maybe a little side chatter too (and maybe visa-a-versa for girl doo-woppers but they can tell their own stories).

Yes, truth to tell, it was about impressing girls that drove many of us, Billy included, Christ maybe Billy most of all, to mix and match harmonies. And you know you did too (except remember girls just switch around what I just said). Yah, four or five guys just hanging around the back door of the old South Adamsville Elementary School on hot summer nights, nothing better to do, no dough to do things, maybe a little feisty because of that, and started up a few tunes. Junior corner boys with no corner because, well, because true corner-dom required a drugstore, a mom and pop variety store, or maybe if you were lucky a pizza parlor to be real corner boys and we did not have such institutions within five miles of our isolated peninsula projects. Billy, who actually did have some vocal musical talent (he did a very servable Bo Diddley although no way did he have that Afro-Carib beat down being as I later tried to figure out just a tad too white to have immersed his soul in that milieu and also did, if not a son of Bill Haley act if you don’t count the clothes flying off, then close very good job), usually sang lead, and the rest of us, well, doo-wopped. (Sha-sha-do-be-doo, okay just in case you thought I was kidding.) We knew nothing of keys and pauses, of time, notes, or reading music we just improvised. Worked on stuff kind of by osmosis or something and over the course of a summer we started to jell a little (And to keep in that jell mood I kept my changing to a teen-ager, slightly off-key voice on the low, on the very low.)

Whether we did it well or poorly, guess what, as the hot sun day turned into humid night, and the old sun went down just over the hills, first a couple of girls, then a couple more, and then a whole bevy (nice word, right?) of them came and got kind of swoony and moony. And swoony and moony was just fine. And we all innocent, innocent dream, innocent when we dreamed, make our virginal moves. But, mainly, we doo-wopped in the be-bop mid-1950s night. And a few of the songs previously mentioned in that reviewed CD compilation could be heard in that airless night. The stick outs: Deserie, The Charts; Baby Blue, The Echoes; Till Then, The Classics; Tonight (Could Be The Night), The Velvets. And of course Why Do Fools Fall In Love although Billy did not make any mistake this time since he had seen Frankie and his boys on American Bandstand  and so did no imitation.
As for the girls as summer turned to school times on certain humid hot late August nights you could hear a mix and match of young male and female voices like they too had imbibed Billy’s dream, had seen that fame and fortune coming their way and they wanted in on it, if for no other reason than to get out of the projects. Or maybe I dwell too much, after the fact project too much, and they just wanted to bathe in the jail-break night we all knew was coming with the new rock dispensation.

Yah, I know everybody wants to know what happened to Billy since the name does not instantly come to mind when one thinks of the legends of classic rock, or doo wop bop. Well, Billy was wired for that success that always eluded him and after a while, after a few too many failures, bad moves or poor judgment he lost interest in being the president of rock and roll and turned to a life of small-time crime (even there he could not breakthrough since that life was just as “rigged” as everything else if you were not connected), got caught a few times and then I lost contact where he was and what he was doing. Whatever it was he still made many a project kid, including this kid, feel good for a couple of summers crooning out the tunes and bringing the girls around. Thanks Billy, thanks a lot.     

Yah, bop the doo wop

Love Among The Smart Set-Part Three-Jason Bateman’s “The Longest Week” (2014)- A Film Review

Love Among The Smart Set-Part Three-Jason Bateman’s “The Longest Week” (2014)- A Film Review

DVD Review

By Writer Greg Green

The Longest Weekend, Jason Bateman, Olivia Wilde, Billy Crudup, 2014

Readers who have been even marginally attentive over the past weeks know that I have taken over as the site administrator here after Allan Jackson’s retirement (what his old friend and betrayer by casting the decisive to kick him down the road like a can Sam Lowell called with a smirk “putting him out to pasture” which in old “neighborhood speak” meant as he has been spouting recently “purge”) and to get a feel for the job, for what people are writing film reviews about and why I took on a review myself of the 1930s classic The Libeled Lady about the rich and their predilections which I gave a rousing thumbs down to for its quirky and silly premise. The same Sam Lowell whose decisive vote basically got me this job in a subsequent review of another Mayfair swell saga (his term not mine) Preston Sturgis’ The Palm Beach Story took me to task for not drooling over these classic smart set screwball comedies and gave his reasons why. I didn’t expect to keep the dispute going but recently I have had an opportunity to see a film, The Longest Week, which graphically illustrates my point about the thinness of those smart set comedies.

Look the plotline is short and sweet when you think about it. A poor little rich boy, played by Jason Bateman, who is hunkered down in his upscale parents’ swanky Manhattan apartment in the course of a week, a week in which those same parents decide to divorce and leave him hanging, finds himself evicted from said apartment, out of dough, out of luck, out of friends and in love with a beauty, played by Olivia Stone, all the while dealing with his silly plight in a funny way that young audiences today looking at a tough future can relate to but also laugh at. Especially when that foxy lady turns and twists between him and his friend including sleeping with both of them. This is the kind of film we should be, we will be, spending more time reviewing as well as spy thrillers and comic book super-hero films. Let the classics which about twelve people are interested in now mostly cinematic academics with time on their hands go by the board. Forward.      

Once Again Love Among The Smart Set- Preston Sturgis’ “The Palm Beach Story” (1942)-A Film Review

Once Again Love Among The Smart Set- Preston Sturgis’ “The Palm Beach Story” (1942)-A Film Review

DVD Review   

By Sam Lowell, retired film critic

The Palm Beach Story, starring (double) Joel McCrea, (double) Claudette Colbert, (single) Rudy Vallee, (single) Mary Astor, written and directed by screwball comedy legend Preston Sturgis, 1942

Recently the newly installed administrator, the “boss” in common lingo from time immemorial among us slaves, Greg Green, who has deposed my old friend Allan Jackson with what proved to be my decisive vote of no confidence since I felt he was spinning his wheels in some 1960s nostalgia trip which he couldn’t abandon decided as a “democratic” gesture to get his hands dirty writing a film review something that he had never done despite having been what he called the moderator, again “boss” over at the on-line American Film Gazette website. Sandy Salmon my successor here (and also old friend and colleague from our own Gazette days) assigned him the old black and white classic Oscar-nominated The Libeled Lady with an all-star and bankable cast. Apparently in his youth unlike this writer Greg did not spent minute one while in high school or college watching retrospectives from the halcyon days of the black and white film noir days or the screwball comedy of the 1930s and 1940s. He gave the thing a big pan which is neither here nor there and his prerogative. What irked me no little was that he disparaged his grandparents who during their struggle to keep their heads above water appreciated such films. Even if they concerned the Mayfair swells a term he freely admitted he had never of before he talked to me about his feelings after viewing the film.

Well I have news for Greg I am on the trail of another tale from deep among the Mayfair swells when they head to their winter watering holes to escape the hellish Northern winters none other than legendary screwball comic master Preston Strugis’ The Palm Beach Story. On this one though you have to follow the bouncing ball since Mr. Sturgis is up to his “old now you see it now you don’t” best practice.         
For openers we see regular middle class striving Tom, played by durable Joel McCrea a Sturgis favorite and Gerry, played by resilient Claudette Colbert ready to tie the knot, get married and they do. Problem though is they are struggling like crazy to even keep their heads above water in the tough racket architecture design world that is Tom’s chosen profession. Gerry comes up with the bright idea that they should divorce so she can find some rich moneybags looking for an eligible divorcee on the rebound. And she does bagging this oil king played by crooner Rudy Vallee who takes her to his digs in Palm Beach then as now the resort of the very rich no plebeians need apply. (If you don’t believe me read the late Hunter Thompson’s Rolling Stone article on the Pulitzer divorce of the 1980s when the Mayfair swells bared their fangs). Its turns out that the oil king money bags has a promiscuous and flighty sister who at some point in her meanderings grabbed a prince and hence is a princess, played by cagey Mary Astor last seen in this space riding the ride, riding down to the big step off after Sam Spade throws her over to save his own worthless skin when a certain golden egg black bird turned out to be a fake.

While all this is going on Tom, you remember Tom, is lonely for his Gerry and flies down to Palm Beach to find out what is what. What is what turns out to be that old moneybags wants to marry Gerry and this looney sister princess has eyes just then for Tom. The conundrum seems like a dead-end for all parties but that is when you have to do double time with that bouncing ball. Let’s put it this way moneybags and the princess both get married. You have to go back to the beginning of the movie to figure out why all of this is not just a huge case of bigamies of which only lawyers would benefit. I am sure the “boss” would put his thumb down on this one too. What the heck did he do in his young man-hood on those what the hell do to vagrant Saturday afternoons.        

A Kinder, Gentler Super-Hero Saga- George Clooney’s “Batman and Robin” (1997)-A Film Review

A Kinder, Gentler Super-Hero Saga- George Clooney’s “Batman and Robin” (1997)-A Film Review

DVD Review

By Sam Eaton

Batman and Robin, starring George Clooney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman,

I don’t care if I say it, say it right out loud at the beginning. WTF
I had been given the understanding that after several attempts to draw down this fetish with reviewing comic book characters thrown onto film that we were done with this foolishness. Several writers here have rebelled against the trend, at least in print, have rebelled against the idea that the way to reach a younger audience was to cater to this aspect of the American cultural landscape. Still, and here I will name names, site manager Greg Green, Max Steiner, Lenny Larkin, Jim Morris, Ralph Morse, not one of them under forty, still believe that this is the way to go. Hell, Greg Green refused to let any of the writers review a Batman film starring Chris Bale and the late Heath Leger who played the psychopathic Joker when the violence and inanity of the plotline was so over the top he wrote the scathing review himself. That is when some of us thought, foolishly it turned out, that we had turned a corner, that sanity had come back into vogue here as it had under the un-nameable previous regime when reviewing pop culture kids’ stuff was the exception, the great exception not the rule.

Then Greg Green lowered the boom, lowered it on me in the first instance when he assigned me to do this film, this Batman and Robin which he said he had previewed and while there was the usual amount of mandatory violence the bad guys were at least socially redeemable. Reason, reason for handing me this heap of ashes, this fucking crap if you want to know my real feelings. I had not done a super-hero flick review and it was high time I did so under the old chestnut rubric of “broadening my horizons.” Me, a guy who has reviewed Jean Renoir, Jean Cocteau, Truffaut, all the French New Wave, done a million reviews of film noir which I helped to revive in this country by getting half empty theater houses to put on retrospectives which filled up those empty seats in campus towns and decent-sized cities, done all the screw-ball comedy classics, done reviews of half the Oscar-winners over the past thirty years or so, reviewing comic book characters for what did Sandy Salmon call them, yeah, butter-drenched popcorn and sugar refill soda cup kids too lazy to even read the freaking comic books. I refused. Then Greg pulled the so-called democratic fast one on me. Asked me flat out with no way to avoid the meaning if I wanted to go before the Editorial Board, his handpicked toadies, stooges and hangers-on for a vote of no confidence, a vote to get canned by that rubber-stamp crew. Having just now three very nicely brought up kids to get through college I folded, tucked away my sword.              

Here is what you missed if you had avoided that comic book craze when you were a kid and need to get updated on what the kids are watching these days. Always, always, the health and safety of a major American city, Gotham, really New Jack City by the Hudson if you want the real life model is left in the hands of one Batman, wealthy scion Bruce Wayne in civilian life, who has been played by half the rugged Type A males of Hollywoodland, here played by cool and calm and collected George Clooney. In this one he is aided by his neophyte young partner Robin, and later by foxy Batgirl or something like that although I will be politically correct and call her Bat Woman hereafter. You know though this trio is not dealing with real New York City plagued by drugs, poor transportation, expensive housing, inadequate schools and social programs, and racial injustices. Batman, alone or with his newfound company, inevitably has to deal with a single nefarious villain who has the capacity to destroy the whole town without working up a sweat. This time it is a holy goof named Mr. Freeze, played by body-builder, former California Governor and Maria Shriver’s ex-hubby Arnold Schwarzenegger, who after diving in a vat of nasty chemical can only live where the air is, well, chilly. His big problem though is that  those chemicals made him a holy goof trying to take down the world into a new Ice Age all because he couldn’t find a cure for his wife’s ailments.          

No question the new version of the Iceman Cometh is a dastardly dude who wants to ransack dear sweet Gotham for diamonds that keep his funny bunny suit going and keep him, well, chilly. Batman and maybe Robin a little grab him and put him where he can’t harm a hair of honest citizens’ heads. The trouble with these comic book-derived plots is that there is plenty of room for holy goofs of all sorts. Enter Poison Ivy, an ex-scientist who went over to the wild side after stewing in her own vat of unhealthy chemicals, played by Amazon luscious Uma Thurman whose crusade is to wipe out the human race and let the fauna and flora run the earth on behalf of some old flea-bitten hag named Mother Earth. You would think that two holy goofs working at cross-purposes would not have any reason to become allies but so it came to pass. A regular holy goof united front to bring down sweet Batman and Robin and Bat Women protected Gotham first with deep freeze and then with plants not out of Home and Garden.  

Naturally after good old boy Freeze is captured and put away the first step in Ms. Ivy’s playbook is to free her fellow holy goof so he can put the big freeze on Gotham. Meanwhile the divine Ms. Ivy started turning Gotham into the second Garden of Eden. She too gets kicked out of Paradise, pushed east of Eden by none other than Bat Women in her first outing as a high profile crime stopper. Ivy behind bars leaving the Frig to menace the town and he does. Batman and friends make short work of him though since we are in the age of climate change on the hot side not cold side. Case closed.

Well, as Frank Jackman likes to say, not quite. This is where the kinder, gentler villain Greg Green tried to convince me was worth my reviewing this turkey for comes in. Seems Ice Cube was a real scientist before the fall, before he left his Eden. Had worked on a cure for his wife, or tried. Here is where that comes in handy, gets him a reprieve from the big step-off. See longtime Bruce Wayne indentured servant Alfred, an English dude from England is dying of the same kind of affliction that had the Freeze man’s wife in cold storage. Batman plays off of the guy’s human side to give Alfred a little more time on the orb. In exchange the good Doctor gets to work his lab stuff in the nut house they have set up for him. Jesus, I can’t believe that I reviewed this silly excuse for a film. Maybe, just maybe, if he has a lucid moment Greg will blue-pencil this one to death.