Big thanks to Ivan at Thrilling Days for bestowing upon SBBN the “Your Going Places, Baby!” award, which has quite possibly the cutest icon I’ve seen in a long while. This award — like all awards — has morphed over the weeks. Originally stated, “This award means you’re really going places, Baby. You’ll still be blogging about your great adventures 10 years from now, and I’ll still be reading them.” At some point, two things were added: Recipients were required to state where they wanted to be in 10 years, and to also pass this along to 10 other blogs.
As most of you know, sometimes I pass along these awards, sometimes I don’t. I won’t be sending the award along this time, simply because I have been unable to keep up with more than about 4 blogs recently.
However, I will answer the question as to where I want to be in 10 years, as it’s a nice segue: I’d like to be somewhere where I don’t have 450 damn movies sitting around waiting to be watched.
I wish I were exaggerating when I said I have 450 movies to watch, but that’s an accurate estimate. My goal as of late has been to cut down on this backlog and free up some DVDs so I can start recording more movies to watch OH GOD I HAVE A PROBLEM.
Up first on today’s watch-it-and-get-it-the-hell-outta-here pile was “Johnny Guitar”, a movie I had been intending to view for well over a decade.
This was terrific. If you ever wanted to see Joan Crawford in Mom Jeans, this movie is for you!
“Johnny Guitar” is all about people who hate each other but they also want to sleep with each other, plus everyone’s worried about everybody else’s guns.
The movie starts out with Johnny Guitar riding into town amidst a sandstorm, explosions from construction for the new railroad, and the hold up of a stagecoach. He makes it to Vienna’s gambling hall and saloon just outside an Arizona town. Vienna is also lover to the Dancin’ Kid, a local maybe-criminal who Emma Small (Mercedes McCambridge) may or may not be in love with. Emma and a few dozen men from the town bust into Vienna’s with the body of Emma’s brother who was killed during the stagecoach holdup. She thinks the Kid and his gang were behind it and that Vienna is in with the Kid as well. The Kid and friends show up and insist they weren’t the ones who held up the coach, but Emma refuses to believe them.
Vienna says that’s because Emma is in love with the Kid and jealous of Vienna. However, by the end of the film I wasn’t convinced she really did love the Kid. Everything she said about him and did to him conveyed the opposite of love, and there didn’t seem to be any reason to take Vienna’s word for anything, given all the lies she told. The first lie was about Johnny Guitar. He was no guitar player — as a former amateur Spanish/classical guitarist myself, I knew straight away that the music dubbed in was deliberately amateur. Johnny is Vienna’s old lover and well-known gunman Johnny Logan who she sent for as protection. Later, when Vienna is righteously chewing out the townsfolk who are on the verge of hanging her, she fails to mention she’s hiding a wanted bank robber in her saloon. Add to that the obvious glee she has that Emma’s brother was killed and I didn’t find Vienna sympathetic at all, let alone instantly believable.
We also don’t get much explanation why Emma and rich landowner McIvers (Ward Bond) don’t want Vienna to help build a railroad to the town. Vienna says it’s because they don’t want her to make money, but Emma says it’s because the land will be portioned out and fenced up instead of staying open, which sounds more reasonable. And did we ever find out who robbed that damn stagecoach?
The banter in this film was so good. Every actor in the film did a great job, with the exception of a dubbed-in small role of a man in the posse, the one standing next to Denver Pyle, but you can’t have everything. The action was terrific and the quirky approach worked well, my favorite example being when Vienna and Kid stay in the saloon to talk while a huge fistfight goes on outside. You hear but don’t see the fight for 2 minutes before the camera cuts to it. Phenomenal stuff.
I had been expecting more camp and a lot more overt lesbian desire between the 2 female leads, but that’s par for the course with a movie that is 50% substance and 50% reputation. Also, I note that the oft-told story about Crawford scattering McCambridge’s wardrobe across an Arizona highway seems a bit odd when you consider McCambridge only had 2 outfits in the whole film.
Speaking of wardrobe, anyone else notice that when Vienna changes from the big white floofy dress so she doesn’t “stick out like a lantern” she picks a bright red shirt? Yeah, bright red doesn’t stand out in the middle of Arizona range land at all.
Warning: Spoilers again!
You’ll notice there are almost no screencaps in this entry. That’s because I often blog during work downtime; however, work requires me to log into my specific work account, and running media players screws up IE so that it isn’t compatible with work anymore. Isn’t Windows great? Yeah. Yeah, it is.
Hence the poster for “Hot Rods to Hell” (1967) instead of screencaps. Poster courtesy Wrong Side of the Art; clicken here to embiggen to massive size. The poster is funny for a lot of reasons: All the heads are pasted on yay, plus Dana Andrews’ head must come from a movie made 15 years earlier. The poster also includes actors that don’t appear in the film. Neither the dark haired girl with the heavy eyeliner nor the lady in the car appear in the movie, and no one wears black leather jackets. Meanwhile, two of the actual teen leads — Mimsy Farmer and Paul Bertoya — can barely even be seen on the poster.
Which should tell you just how great this movie is. I’m all for B movies, but DANG was this a big hot boring mess. It starts out great: The ideal family is getting ready for Christmas when Dad has a car wreck and is in the hospital for months with a serious back injury. He suffers from PTSD triggered by fast cars and “Jingle Bells.” This. Is. Awesome.
Without finding out anything about the place, they let themselves get talked into buying a hotel in the middle of Nowhere Arizona, Population: Hotrodders to Hell. Dad freaks at the irresponsible teens driving up and down the highway at speeds of nearly 65 MPH. When did drag racing get so boring? Dad pisses off these suicidally bored teens by threatening to call the cops and, unfortunately, discovering he has accidentally bought the wild party place all the hotrodding juvie delinquent teen scum hang out at.
But then the stupid starts. There’s a run-in with a drunken middle aged man (played by fellow Missourian William Mims) who drives 60 MPH through a child-filled park, and while this segment almost saves the film — the cop who lectures him must have been the basis for most of Hank Hill’s dialogue — it, too, quickly turns boring.
And I know from boring. After the family leaves the park, they arrive at the hotel, beginning a 30-minute stretch of movie where we watch as people walk across a dark parking lot. No edits, no dialogue, nothing to break it up. Just walking. Sometimes they’d cut to teens dancing in the club, but mostly it’s just with the walking. My husband and I decided that this was a drive-in movie that no one was going to be actually watching by this point (if you get my heavily implied meaning here), but the Interhole tells me this was supposed to be a made-for-TV movie, so that theory is shot.
Things pick up a little at the end when dad and family try to drive to the next town but are harassed by the hotrodders again. They pull into a truck stop which turns out to be closed, but dad decides to break in to use the pay phone. Again with the stupid: No one with half a brain cell would think a pay phone in a broken down, abandoned shack would work. Yet we watch a very slow Dana Andrews breaking a window while his wife and kids make the most horrifyingly stupid faces as they watch. Dad cuts himself a little on the glass and they all shriek and hold each other in terror. Does anyone get out of the car to help? Does anyone keep an eye out for the hotrodders? Heavens no.
Now, I am one to occasionally make fun of a drunken actor. Wendell “Hic!” Corey is my favorite actor to tease in this regard, and I am fully aware that Dana Andrews had a similar career path for a time, but I was extremely uncomfortable watching Andrews try to enunciate but slurring everything. On one hand, if an adult wants to drink like a fish, it’s his/her right. On the other hand, alcoholism isn’t funny. People, I worry about these things, which is why I don’t sleep at night. (And a chorus of SBBN readers again shouts “Seek help!” at their monitors. Don’t worry, I hear you.)
P.S. This movie was parodied on “Freakazoid!” They did a good job of it, too, although you never do get to see Weena Mercator.
P.P.S. Despite my deepest desires, no one dies in “Hot Rods to Hell” except the drunken middle aged guy.