Wednesday, June 18, 2008

11 is 1 Better.

Having no one better to do, last night I watched the AFI's Ten Top 10. It was a peculiar grouping. They were counting down by genré, yet several major genrés were omitted altogether: no horror movies, no thrillers, no non-romantic comedies, no slapstick comedies, no satires nor parodies, no action films, no war movies, no musicals, and of all the 100 movies discussed, not one movie starring ME! Cretins!

Not that there was no entertainment. Jessica Alba was good for a laugh when she said how she related to Shrek because it was about not judging people by their looks, and overcoming your ugly exterior. I am so glad Jessica Alba has been able to triumph over being judged by her hideous looks. She's deep, every bit as deep as Shrek. I was reminded of the movie Magic with Anthony Hopkins and Ann Margaret. Ann Margaret's character in that picture carried emotional scars from being thought of as homely as a little girl. Oh yes, I wept for days over poor, repulsive Ann Margaret having to overcome her incredible deformities. She managed though, as has Miss Alba.

We also got a good, if that's the right term, look at Leslie Ann Warren's new face, although the edges and chin appear to be still under construction.

Fans of This is Spinal Tap may recall when Nigel Tufnel, played by the always amusing Christopher Leigh-Curtis a.k.a. Lord Haden-Guest, introduced an amplifier that went to 11, because 11 was 1 better than 10, an assertion that can not be refuted in this dimension. Taking a leaf from his book (Oh look, it's maple. How lovely.), I am going to improve each of their Top 10 lists, by going to 11, through the inclusion of a film from my own resumé from each genré.

So genré #1 was Animation. (And just right off, isn't that a medium rather than a genré?) Their 10 were:

10. Finding Nemo
9. Cinderella (Really? Over, say, The Incredibles? Or The Corpse Bride? Or Fantasia 2000? Or 101 Dalmatians? Or The Nightmare Before Christmas? Or Bambi Meets Godzilla? Or Gumby? Or ANYTHING ELSE? It's really a mediocre entry in Disney's canon.)
8. Shrek
7. Beauty & the Beast
6. Toy Story
5. Fantasia
4. The Lion King (Again, why are the animals so glad to have more lions?)
3. Bambi
2. Pinocchio
1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

In 1939, I appeared in the sequel to Snow White, titled 7 Brides for 7 Dwarfs. I played the Wicked Queen, who survived her fall from the cliff, and has regained her throne and her - well my - legendary beauty. With Snow White now beyond my power, I decide to revenge myself upon the dwarfs who crossed me. I disguise myself as another beautiful lost waif, albeit one with my maturity and sophistication, and take "Refuge" at the dwarfs cottage, taking over Snowy's functions in the dwarfs' lives.

Of course, I can't cook worth gin. My Queen character has never set foot in a kitchen. What are servants for, after all? Cleaning isn't my strong suit either, but that's what woodland animals are for, to provide a maid service. I must try and see if I can get my cat and dog, Snatches and Baskerville, to clean up this place, because it's a mess. My talents were at their best at the wet bar, preparing the dwarfs' cocktails when they come home from their Bling Mine, greeting me with their familiar musical salutation, "Hi, ho!", even though I'm not charging them for my other services, the ones performed upstairs, on their seven little beds. I sing the lovely songs
Whistle While You Drink, I'm Swishing, With a Smile and a Thong, and my big hit from the film, Some Day This Queen Will Cum, which I sing while the boys swarm all over me, indulging their tiny lusts.

I return to my evil castle where, with the aid of my Magic Mirror, I find five female dwarfs to marry and thus make miserable Doc, Happy, Sleepy, Sneezy, and Bashful, a male dwarf for Rumpy, and a gay dwarf for Dopey. The dwarfs I find are the beloved Seven More Dwarfs: Slutty, Skanky, Smelly, Tipsy, Horny, Swishy, and Poontang. My revenge backfires in a positive way, as the dwarfs are all happy in their match-ups, and they live happily ever after. As for me, well, it's a Disney film, so I get a happy ending too, finally falling for my One True Great Love, namely, exactly what every wicked Queen I've ever known has only truly loved, the mirror. Yes, the Magic Mirror and I live happily ever after. I discuss this beloved film at greater length in my earlier posting Feeling Grumpy.

Next Fantasy, which at least is a genré.

10. Big (Everyman's fantasy. "Yes darling, 4 inches is huge!")
Thief of Baghdad (One of only two silent films on the show, this is the Douglas Fairbanks version. Pinhead Leonard Maltin said on the show that audiences in 1924 had never seen a live man actually fight a dragon before. Well, the ones who had seen Fritz Lang's 1924, 5-hour Fantasy epic Die Nibelungen, one of the greatest of all silent films, had seen Siegfried defeat a 17-foot mechanical dragon, but mentioning that would require "expert" Leonard Maltin to actually know what he's talking about, and that's hardly likely.)
Groundhog Day (Bill Murray matures. Yup, that's a fantasy.)
7. Harvey (Is it a fantasy, or is Elwood P. Dowd simply insane?)
6. Field of Dreams (Is it a fantasy, or is Kevin Costner simply an idiot?) (Take your time answering.)
5. Miracle on 34th Street (Is it a fantasy, or is Little Natalie Wood simply dead?)
4. King Kong (Fantasy? He was my boyfriend! See my recent posting just below: NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh and, just to be clear, technically, King Kong is science fiction, which is the next genré.)
3. It’s a Wonderful Life
2. The Lord of the Rings
1. The Wizard of Oz

And for #11: my 1964 Disney classic live-action children's musical, Mary Poppers. I played a magical nanny who takes a whiff and goes flying. I sailed into the lives of a proper English sexually dysfunctional family, and use my musical magical poppers to straighten out their screwed up sex lives. It was sort of a change of pace for Disney. I sang Just a Spoonful of Vodka, Feed the Bats, and Go Fly a Kite.

Next came Science Fiction, which AFI sees as different than Fantasy. No fantasy in Planet of the Apes, or Star Wars. This was the the first of only two categories where Little Dougie had seen all 10 films.

10. Back to the Future (Really? More than Close Encounters of the Third Kind? More than Metropolis? More than Dr Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb? More than The Time Machine? More than Plan 9 From Outer Space? All right. They can have that last one.)
9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (This would be the first one, from 1956.)
8. The Terminator 2
7. Alien
6. Blade Runner
5. The Day the Earth stood Still
4. A Clockwork Orange
3. ET
2. Star Wars, Episode VI: A New Hope (During the show, this movie added a couple more words to it's ever-grownig title. When it opened in 1977, it was just plainold Star Wars.)
1. 2001 A Space Odyssey

Well here's another silent film to add to the list. In 1927, I made a film which is revered today by all connoisseurs of fantasy motion pictures, the brilliant science-fiction masterpiece Beyond Belief!

The movie was set in the far-off, futuristic year of 1980, when interplanetary travel is commonplace. Sherman Oakley plays a human male and I play a Martian woman. In the story a plague on Mars has wiped out all the Martian men and so the women of Mars have gone to the other planets in search of men to repopulate our planet. Venus is a matriarchy, so the Venusian men are the most docile, while Jupiterian men are the biggest if you take my meaning, therefore Jupiter and Venus have attracted most of the Martian females, but I’m a rebel with a taste for earthmen. Typecast again.

I come to earth disguised as a human female (My make-up was amazing! I looked
exactly like a human!) searching for a mate and meet Sherman, the hunkiest man in the solar system. Unfortunately, there are barriers to our love; he’s a Catholic and I’m a Martian, so our love is forbidden! We become fugitives, pursued by the interplanetary sex police. Finally Sherman and I escape from earth and live happily ever after together on the planet Mercury, where people will leave us alone.

The most remarkable aspect of this incredible picture is it’s portrayal of life on earth in 1980. At the movies for instance, you not only saw the films in three-D, but you could smell, taste and feel the movies as well, though, of course, films were still silent and in back and white, after all, we didn’t want to go overboard and have the film look
ridiculous! Everybody has in-home entertainment with big, spectacular 13-inch radios, who get their signals from cables wired right into each home. Further, everyone has machines that allow them to record their favorite radio shows on wax cylinders.

In the movie, by 1980 people have "Atomic" Ovens that can bake a potato in
just half an hour! Everybody drives flying cars. Books have been eliminated entirely and replaced by home wax cylinders that read the stories to you.. Civilization has also completely eliminated war, crime, disease, poverty, homosexuality, rain forests, live theatre and black people. It is a veritable utopia!

Beyond Belief! stunned audiences of it’s day with it’s unparalleled honesty and graphic frankness in dealing with the delicate and controversial subject of human/alien sexual relations, as well as astounding scientists with it’s spot-on and completely accurate forecast of humanity’s future. It's just been released in a completely restored DVD edition, with a commentary track by me, by Kino. Buy it. You won't believe your eyes.

Sensing the need in a three-hour TV show for a prolonged break, the next genré was Sports Movies, thus giving everyone some free time to go to the bathroom or the kitchen, or take a nap, or just hit themselves in the head with hammers; anything rather than watch this boring genré. This was Little Dougie's least-seen genré, as he'd only seen 4 of the ten turkeys on this list.

Sports movies have usually one of only two basic plots, either the underdog person or team that wins against all odds, or else the great athlete who gets a fatal disease, ala Pride of the Yankees, Million Dollar Baby, or Brian's Song. If you managed to avoid doing either of these two standard sports plots, you automatically made the list, but there weren't ten that did, so plots 1 and 2 still were included.

10. Jerry Maguire (No plot)
9. National Velvet (Plot #1)
8. Breaking Away (Plot #1)
7. Caddyshack (Plot #1)
6. The Hustler (Plot #1)
5. Bull Durham (Plot #2, if you count aging as a fatal disease, and it is.)
4. Hoosiers (Plot #1)
3. Pride of the Yankees (Plot #2)
2. Rocky (Plot #1, except there's a twist: against all odds, he loses!)
1. Raging Bull
(It's a simple character study: A guy who beats people up for a living turns out to be a jerk.)

I never made a sports movie. Why on earth would I? However, my World War II service musical, Privates on Display, has a famous sequence where I play a game of touch foot-balls with the privates. Anytime I touched a private's balls, I scored. If their feet touched my privates, they scored. The winning team got to spend the war stateside, diddling me. The losers had to storm the Normandy Beach on D-Day. Now those are some high stakes!

In case the sports movie section wasn't enough of a break, they followed it with Westerns! They had sports movies and westerns, but no monster movies or musicals; whoever compiled these lists was straight. Dougie did a little better here, having seen 5 out of the 10, although 3 of those 5 he'd seen once only , so long ago he couldn't actually remember seeing them, only that he had seen them.

10. Cat Ballou (Wait a minute! What's this doing here? I like this movie!)
9. Stagecoach (The early one with John Wayne, not the remake with Bing Crosby.)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (It turned out Butch Cassidy was not Hopalong's lesbian sister. Go figure.)
6. The Wild Bunch
5. Red River (Wasn't that one of the plagues of Egypt?)
3. Shane (Little Dougie's dad dragged him to this when he was fairly young, sort of an anti-bonding experience. Ah Little Brandon DeWilde.)
2. High Noon (I always am.)
1. The Searchers (I'd be searching all right, for the exit!)

My first picture for Universal, back in 1954, was a western called Johnny Horndog. I played a tough-talking, straight-shooting cattle rancher named Tombstone Tess, who battles rustlers, Indians and suitors. In that film I was the first to make Iron Eyes Cody cry. (Let’s face it, the man was a waterworks. And now the Headless Indian Brave tells me he wasn’t even a real Indian!) At the end I give up the outlaw Johnny Horndog, who has saved the ranch by killing all the bad guys and eradicating an entire tribe of Indians, and marry the sheriff who hangs him.

I spent most of the movie in the saddle, and often on horseback as well. The director later accused me of giving all the men in the cast saddle sores, or something like that. So silly. Easily half the men in that cast rode side saddle, if you catch my drift.

The next 10 were Gangster Movies. [SPOILER ALERT] The Godfather was number 1. Anyone not see that coming?

10. Scarface (The remake with Al Pacino. And a polite person wouldn't call him that.)
Little Caesar (Not, as it turns out, a movie about Rome.)
The Public Enemy (Not, as it turns out, a movie about President Bush,)
Pulp Fiction (Little Dougie used to live in the building where they shot the scenes of obtaining the briefcase full of glowsticks. On the AFI special they ran a clip of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson riding in it's elevator, standing on a spot where Dougie had actually performed oral sex. Great memories, that's what the movies are all about.)
6. Scarface (The original, but it's still rude.)
Bonnie & Clyde
4. White Heat (I love at the end, when Jimmy Cagney excitedly tells his mother that, at long, long last, he's a top! And then, buy does he cum!)
Godfather Part II
2. Goodfellas
1. The Godfather

It was in 1953 that I made the low-budget crime film, Scofflaw. I played a no-nonsense career criminal who goes on a wild cross-country crime spree, jay-walking, running stop signs, passing stopped school buses, ripping tags off of mattresses, going through the nine-items-or-less checkout station with twelve items and committing other anti-social activities until finally brought to justice by a crusading District Attorney who happens to be my husband. During the touching final scene, when I bid goodbye to my husband who has sent me up, and leave for my ninety days in the hoosegow, without the possibility of early parole, and beg him to wait for me, the audience reaction could hardly be contained. The honking and blaring of car horns usually completely drowned out my co-star, Kent Clark, as he spoke the final line, "Speed it up, jailbird. I’ve got a date."

They called the next genré Mystery, but you'll notice a few non-mystery suspense films on the list. This is called "Fudging" or "Cheating". I'm sorry, Dial M For Murder is not a mystery! Pinhead Leonard Maltin said that it was difficult for it to have suspense, because you knew who did it all the way through the film.

As usual, Maltin is a moron. Hitch, with whom I made two films, one being my contribution to expanding this list to 11, said that Mystery requires concealing information from the audience. You can surprise or shock them, but Suspense requires the audience have information. They have to know what can happen to be in suspense, so Mystery and Suspense are actually opposites. Mysteries are intellectual puzzles. Suspense films are emotional thrillers. And Leonard Maltin is an idiot. Dial M For Murder is a suspense film. Dougie was up to speed here, as he's seen all the films in this 10.

10. The Usual Suspects (Kayser Sousé is the sled!)
Dial M For Murder (Not a mystery. See above.)
8. Blue Velvet (Not so much a whodunit, as a What-the-fuck-is-going-on-here.)
North By Northwest (NOT a mystery!)
The Maltese Falcon (How'd this get on the list? This IS a mystery.)
The Third Man
Rear Window (Barely a mystery. Did or didn't Perry Mason kill Della Street? Except if he didn't, then the whole entertprise would be pointless!)
2. Chinatown
Vertigo (Ever notice that in Vertigo, Hitchcock never even tells us if the murderer gets caught or not? Yet, it's one of the greatest films ever made.)

In 1943, I made the second of my two films with Alfred Hitchcock, Amnesia. I played a woman with no memory who doesn’t know if she’s murdered her husband or not. Gregory Peck played my doctor, who believes I’m innocent and is trying to unlock my memories. Jimmy Stewart is the detective who thinks I’m guilty and doesn’t care if I remember or not, just so I fry for the crime.

Of course, it turns out that all three of us have amnesia; I’ve forgotten that I’m innocent. Jimmy Stewart has forgotten that he’s in love with me and Gregory Peck has forgotten that he is my husband and hasn’t been murdered at all. Peck then thinks that he’s the murderer, even though there is no murderer because he hasn’t been murdered, so he becomes afraid that when I get my memory back I’ll accuse him of murdering him, so he tries to murder me, and Jimmy has forgotten to try and save me. At the climax there’s a big chase all over Washington DC, and I end up dangling from the top of the Washington Monument until everybody remembers that no crime was ever committed and that we’re all just being silly.

The critics, who normally loved Hitch, weren’t all that crazy about
Amnesia. "Gives new meaning to ‘Pointless’" wrote Variety. "Amnesia is unforgettably forgettable." wrote The Hollywood Reporter, while the Los Angeles Times wrote: "A murder mystery with no murder and too much plot, Amnesia shows that even the great Alfred Hitchcock can go a little psycho sometimes. Watching the notorious Tallulah Morehead get so spellbound in her role as a woman who can’t remember that there isn’t anything to remember that it drives her into a frenzy, left me with vertigo. Audiences should give this turkey the birds."

Rom-Coms were next. AFI really embarassed themselves this time. A list of the top ten Romantic Comedies of all-time, and there's not one single film by Preston Sturges! You might as well omit Coppola from gangster films, or leave out Hitchcock from suspense movies. IDIOTS!!!!

10. Sleepless in Seattle
9. Harold & Maude (Nice to know that I am not the only person in the world who sees a man in his 20s and a woman 80 years his senior as a perfectly acceptable romantic couple. Jason Timberlake, AFI says I am not too old for you! Are you going to argue with them the way you did with me, while chewing your way through that rope? By the way, you still owe me $20 for the rope you ruined.)
Moonstruck (Cher ends up with Nicholas Cage. That's not romance; that's horror!)
7. Adam’s Rib
When Harry Met Sally (Over any Preston Sturges movie? They're insane.)
5. The Philadelphia Story (I vastly prefer The Palm Beach Story.)
Roman Holiday
3. It Happened One Night
2. Annie Hall
City Lights (The last silent film on here. Yes, it's a great comedy, possibly one of the top 5 movies of all-time, but a "Romantic Comedy"? At no time is the blind girl in love with Chaplin. She isn't that blind! And her sense of smell is unimpaired.)

It was 1932 when I made my romantic, transvestite farce The Lady Steve. So convincing was my male drag in this picture, that it began the rumors that persist to this day that I am actually a man. Darlings, if I had a penis, I'd have better things to do with my hands than type!

Courtroom Dramas came next. This was another catch-as-catch-can category, including dramas and mysteries, and other stuff also. They were pretty lenient with their standards. In Cold Blood is on the list. That movie is 2 hours and 14 minutes long. Of that 134 minutes, about 5 minutes are spent on the trial. It's a True-Life Police Procedural.

10. Judgement at Nuremberg (I saw this. What a let-down! Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich together in one movie, and they never sing together! Just a lot of blah, blah, blah! Boring!)
9. A Cry in the Dark (The movie that popularized the phrase, "Hey baby, eat my dingo!")
In Cold Blood (See above.)
Anatomy of a Murder
Witness for the Prosecution (It was written by Agatha Christie, but couldn't make the Mystery list.)
A Few Good Men (Too few if you ask me.)
4. The Verdict
Kramer vs Kramer ([SPOILER ALERT] Kramer wins.)
2. 12 Angry Men (I apologised to them again and again. Sometimes I pass out and miss a date or 12.)
To Kill a Mockingbird
(Who killed the Mockingbird? "Not I!" said Henny Penny. "Not I.!" said Chicken Little. "Not I!" said the butler. Who dun it?)

In the spirit of including In Cold Blood, I am including my 1937 musical Babes Behind Bars. The movie starts on a close-up of me in a courtroom, and we hear a judge say, "Guilty!" I scream, and then am dragged out of the courtroom, still shrieking. The courtroom scene is 9 seconds long, and the rest of the movie is set in a women's prison, where I fall in love with the executioner who has to fry me, until I am pardoned in the last scene, and we live happily ever after. This was the first movie Rod Towers and I made together after he became my fifth husband. It's mostly a musical comedy, not unlike the more recent Chicago, but the 9 seconds in the courtroom are very dramatic, so it's a Courtroom Drama if In Cold Blood is.

Finally, when AFI was running out of time, if not genrés, came Epics. And here the joke is on Cecil Blunt DeMille. He's supposedly the master of the form, and he only had one film on the list, and it was #10.

10. The Ten Commandments (The sound one with Cheston, not the good one with Theodore Roberts.)
Reds (There's a whiff of communism about this film, if you ask me. If this were 1950, just seeing this movie would get you hauled before HUAC.)
Saving Private Ryan (Excuse me? This is a war movie.)
All Quiet on the Western Front (So is this.)
Titanic (The James Cameron romance, not the Clifton Webb fantasy. Yes a fantasy. Clifton Webb is married to Barbara Stanwyck in it, and they have two kids together. That's a bigger fantasy than The Lord of the Rings.)
Spartacus (Wait a minute. Titanic just yelled "I'm Spartacus!" Now Reds is yelling "I'm Spartacus!" Now all 100 films are yelling "I'm Spartacus!", all except Kirk Douglas, who just said with quiet dignity, "My name is Mrs. Norman Maine.")
Gone With the Wind (It's too painful a memory to recount here. Buy my award-dodging autobiography My Lush Life, and read the chapter titled "1939" for the full, bloody tale of why I didn't play Scarlett O'Hara. This movie could have been good.)
Schindler’s List (The top 100 Jews in Germany? I can't believe Izzy Moskowitz didn't make the list. He's much more Jewish than Fred Marx.)
Ben-Hur (Done him.)
Lawrence of Arabia

I am synonymous with Epics. Everyone loves my Civil War epic of 1939, East Versus West. My Biblical epic with Steve Reeves as Moses, Torah, Torah, Torah, is a favorite, but I've decided that my tenth #11 should be my Egyptian masterwork The Revenge of Cleopatra, made in 1934, when the life and death of Cleopatra was still fresh in everyone's memory.

Paramount had had a huge success that year with Cecil Blunt DeMille’s Cleopatra, starring Claudette Colbert. Everyone expected them to turn out a sequel but DeMille instead chose other projects, announcing that there could be no sequel to Cleopatra. How wrong he was.
Our legal department at PMS had discovered that Cleopatra, Marc Antony, Egypt and the Roman Empire were actual historical personages and places and thus in the public domain. Paramount didn’t own them. Anybody could make a movie about them. Thus Louie B. Thalberg, who never saw a bandwagon he couldn’t jump on, decided that if DeMille wouldn’t make a sequel, Von Millstone would. And so I came to play the title role in PMS most expensive movie ever,
The Revenge Of Cleopatra!

I played Cleopatra, of course, and Rod Towers played Caesar Augustus. Despite being a natural Platinum blonde, I played Cleopatra as a brunette, thus demonstrating the broad range of my legendary versatility.

The film begins at the very moment that DeMille’s picture ended. Cleopatra lies dying of snake bite beside the body of Marc Antony. My faithful friend Polidorus, played by Harry Rumpole, sucks the snake venom from my wound. Over Antony’s body I vow revenge on Octavius who killed him and has become Emperor Caesar Augustus of Rome. With Polidorus’ help I travel to Rome, disguised as a Greek Princess, intending to make Augustus fall in love with me so I can then kill him and take over his empire.

When I get to Rome all goes according to plan. I find Caesar Augustus is under the influence of his evil wife Livia, played to perfection by Delores Delgado, and her cruel son Tiberius, played by the always amusing Vincent Lovecraft. I seduce Augustus and he falls for me hard. I’m about to kill him when we meet Jesus Christ (Spencer Hooks), when he comes to Rome with his disciples. I realize that I’m now in love with Augustus and we both convert to Christianity. With the help of Jesus and the disciples we foil the evil plans of Tiberius and Livia and kill them. Then the Roman Empire converts to Christianity and Augustus becomes the first Pope. Jesus himself gives the Pope special permission to marry me and we live happily ever after in the newly built Vatican.

As this brisk summary of what is, after all, a four hour movie, shows, unlike DeMille’s pagan orgy of gratuitous sex and violence, our film was a moving and deeply religious epic about the power of Faith to change history.

Critics were stunned by this massive film, and their reviews reflected their bewilderment:
The Times wrote: "In The Revenge Of Cleopatra Miss Tallulah Morehead makes a spectacle of herself." Variety wrote: "In his Egyptian/Roman epic Cyril Von Millstone is unfettered by historical fact" The Christian Science Monitor, never my fan since I cancelled my subscription, gushed: "Miss Morehead’s performance as Cleopatra is every bit as believable as the screenplay." The London Times wrote: "Watching a movie in which Cleopatra, Caesar Augustus and Jesus Christ creep about a palace at night and stab Livia and Tiberius to death in their beds, is to understand how far civilization can sink."

Though popular, the film was simply too expensive to turn a profit and plans for a second sequel,
Cleopatra Saves Atlantis, were scrapped despite the most powerful screenplay I’d ever had summarized for me.

Little Dougie's final tally was: he'd seen 79 out of the 100 films. As you can see, 11 is indeed, 1 better than 10.

Cheers darlings.

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