Tag Archives: Sci-Fi

BLOG: YTC Episode 35: Is There A Dr In the Room?

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

The YTC podcast can be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

Readers with keen eyes may have noticed a change in the title of the blog. I have gone from Roman Numerals to regular Western Numbering. This is partly because of a need to be more modern, and even more so because of my own inadequacies at counting in Roman Numerals. Also, let’s face it; if I keep this blog up long enough at some stage I’ll reach episode 40 and will have to title it as ‘XXXX’. This is akin to a rather rude curse- and rudeness will not be condoned on my XXXXing watch!

Actually I started the Roman Numerals purely as a pun. The original six entries are all based on Star Wars jokes. Just as I was due to drop this numbering, a friend and a fully fledged professional writer complimented me on being smart enough to number my Blogs. So naturally I thanked him, quickly confirmed that I was indeed a creative-genius and then decided that I had better keep doing it!

 

The man, the myth… Kool Keith!

Fortunately today’s YTC Subject is someone also not averse to change. In fact this entry will be dedicated to the rapper Kool Keith, a man with more identities than I have had hot dinners. Perhaps due to these constantly shifting identities Keith is not as known by the world at large as he should be, and hey this is a ‘Cult’ blog, not just a film one.

But if Kool Keith is a Cult figure in rap, than two of his persona’s in particular have developed in truly fascinating ways to reflect this, and these will be the topic in this blog. This is the tale of Dr. Octagon vs Dr. Dooom!!!

 

Keith’s past is a little tricky to detail here, since he seems to tailor his interviews to entertain himself. What is known is that one of the most innovative Rap groups of the late 1980’s were the Ultramagnetic MC’s. Gaining fame at around the same time as some unknown groups called Public Enemy, LL Cool J and Beastie Boys, Ultramagnetic may never have quite made it as big as their contemporaries. However they were an innovative force to be reckoned with, and just this year celebrated a 25th year Tour of their Debut album, Critical Beatdown.

Keith’s on the right

You don’t get to Internationally tour a 25 year old album without making waves with music fans and critics, and this is where the Ultramagnetic MC’s really succeeded. Keith was an immediate stand out in the band.

On their first single he displayed incredibly unique vocabulary that dissed the success of Run DMC’s ‘simple’ Peter Piper song. In 1986 with only their second Single, ‘Ego Trippin”, Keith rapped the following lines to set the pace for the whole song, if not the whole Critical Beatdown album.

“They use the simple back and forth, the same, old rhythm
That a baby can pick up, and join, right with them
But their rhymes are pathetic, they think they copacetic
Using nursery terms, at least not poetic
On a educated base, intelligent wise
As the record just turn, you learn, plus burn
By the flame of the lyrics which cooks the human brain
Providing overheating knowledge, by means causing pain”

 

 

With Keith gaining a reputation as an outstanding wordsmith, he began to develop both within the Ultramagnetic MC’s and as a solo-rapper. A decade later, by 1996 Keith would release an album that would affect his entire career and create his most famous creation. By 1996, Kool Keith appeared as Dr. Octagon on the album Dr. Octagonecologyst.

Old Skool cover!

 

This persona of Dr. Octagon played out over the backdrop of an album that mixed science fiction, gore, sex and humour. Much like many of the films previously written about in this blog in fact. With music produced by Dan The Automator (also responsible for much of Gorrilaz first album), Keith created an entire galaxy to play in.

The central role of Dr. Octagon is probably best surmised as an alien from Jupiter , who exists as a practicing Surgeon and Gynecologist. Oh and he time travels a fair bit too. Visually the good Doctor is described as having yellow eyes, green and silver skin and a pink/white Afro. Picture that and then go look at the artwork on any Gangster Rap album from 1996 and you can see Kool Keith is certainly a man on his own path.

The Doctor is In!

As the Dr. Octagonecologyst album plays out, the character is shown to be both perverse and inept in equal measure. In fact most of his sick patients die whilst the Dr is distracted by sleeping with his female patients and nurses.

Sample lyrics from ‘Girl Let Me Touch You’ are as follows;

I got the office closed
you ready for the pros
suckers aint no good
sticking coke up in your nose
my style is wild at home
and on the kitchen table
porno flicks and stacks
play good on the TV cable
I’d rather sign my address on your application
you can call late nights for lonely information”

Whereas On ‘Blue Flowers’, examples of lines are

I come prepared with the white suit and stethoscope
Listen to your heartbeat, delete beep beep BEEP
Your insurance is high, but my price is cheap”

and on ‘Blue Flowers Revisited’…

Homegrown computer wise on the microphone
Utilizing tracks inverted by animical
High typical force space sex intercourse
You get lost and memorize to the Enterprise
Scotty the Captain Mr. Spock keeps rappin
4212 the shit moves at warp speed
Dynamic 7 navigation of the coppers
Moving in crystals, operating lightspeed”

These are just a few examples of Dr. Octagonecologyst’s mix of Sci-Fi, sex and death. The whole album is a lot of fun for and was highly innovative at its release. Yet it also proved to be somewhat of an albatross around Keith’s neck.

 Dropping the persona just as it was getting big sales, Keith would go on to express frustration with the Dr. Octagon moniker, saying in an interview with David Downs for the AV Club in 2009

“Octagon wasn’t my life…I’ve done a lot of things that were totally around different things other than Octagon. Are some people just afraid to venture off into my life and see that I do other things which are great? I think people stuck me with something.”

So just what is a rapper many identities to do when he is tired of one role? Why simply invent another one to kill it off!

In 1999, Keith would team up with different producer, Kutmasta Kurt, to bring life to his new alias; Dr. Dooom.

kool-keith-dr-dooom-first-come-first-served-2lpDr. Dooom’s first album, First Come, First Served, opened with the declaration of intent. The first track is named ‘Who Killed Dr. Octagon? (Intro)’.

This 38 second track has Dr. Octagon paged to enter a room, only for Dooom to say “You’re that Dr. Octagon ass-motherfucka, right? I tell you what take this… [cocks shotgun]… Take two of these and call me in the morning!… [Fires gun]… I’m Dr. Dooom.”

This identity was pretty different in tone and style. Dr. Dooom is a serial killer and cannibal. The lyrics on this album focused on the squalor of New York. The focus this time was not on degrading-futurism, but on the darkly comical grimness of a low rent murderer.

Scary!

Lyrical examples from here show Keith creating what he dubs ‘Horror-Core’ Rap.

So from the song ‘Body Bag’ we have lines like these;

“I ran a meat market behind johnny rocket’s
Paid truckers to haul body pieces from the east to the west
With the devil branded on your chest
I had to step up and the judge wrote confess
Watch the whole arkansas kansas city testify
Against my lies and my alibis, I was suprised
My lawyers dressed in black
And a rolls royce buried in the back
Arms missing, knees cut down to the knubs
All I had was people to grub
Stories to tell to the enquirer
How I set a bunch of people in the nightclub on fire
My intention was to get even like spielberg
Throw like stephen king, children of the corn on a swing
I stuck needles in your face like pinhead
You been dead for eighty hours in a college dorm
With a thunderstorm, lightning with big bolts
I used to hang with jim jones before he started the cults“

The ‘Body Bag’ song mixes horror tropes like storms, slasher icons and dismemberment. Whereas a song like ‘Leave Me Alone’ helps explain why Keith moved away from the success of Dr. Octagon:

“Now it’s time to hurt your feelings as I upsets music industry fan
Hey yo my man, look at my hand, they look human right?
You think I’m a monster? An ill circus clown?
Not a specimen, don’t look at me funny when I come around
A&r been tryin to figure me out for years
Tryin to re-duplicate me but they can’t so they hate me…

I don’t wanna meet insane clown posse and collaborate
I’m tryin to innovate and think quick at a fast rate
Why you mad cause I’m original – you can’t do the material”

So between 1996 and 1999, Keith has created one character in Octagon, gotten sick of being pigeonholed via Octagon, and consequently ditched him publicly for Dr. Dooom.

Now this is where things get complicated.

Over the next decade or so, Keith would take constant jibes at the ongoing requests to revive Octagon across many, many albums under many different guises. I will not even attempt to detail them, but a memorable line from the track ‘I Do What I Want’ from The Personal Album sums it up easily:

“Stuck on Octagon? Oct-is-Gone! You get it…?!?”

I owned this once. Then I sold it for a lot of money. It’s pretty rare so if you see it, grab it!

But by 2002, Keith seemed to have changed his tune. On July 23 2002, Rolling Stone Magazine reported that a Dr. Octagon 2 album was due to come out by 2003. Apparently Keith had been been working with another new producer, Frantik J, to create a return of Octagon. However at some stage,m the two men are claimed to have fallen out over contract rights. At this stage, the label who had signed for the album owned Keith’s demos. They hired a trio of Producers called One Watt Sun to complete the project.

Unfortunately for them,. Keith had only finished 3 complete tracks of vocals. The resulting album, The Return Of Dr. Octagon, was made with old tracks that Keith had laying around from some years previously. Keith assumed no album could come out based on the unfinished mess of material he gave the label to get out of the deal, but he was wrong. An album did come out, one surprisingly cohesive, albeit sounding completely different.

As colleague Kutmasta Kurt stated in another interview with David Downs (from 2009 for East Bay Express) that “The Dr. Octagon character was rapping over sounds that were dark and sinister, but they turned the album into this dancey, electro-pop. A lot of it had this Euro-dance feel.”

(Somewhere along the way, some of these demos even leaked out into an unsanctioned mix, called, brilliantly, Dr. Octagon Part II.

http://i43.tower.com/images/mm111475197/dr-octagon-pt-2-kool-keith-cd-cover-art.jpg

This is a terrible listen, with basic lines and beats and nothing more. But it is an interesting listen for early versions of material used by One Watt Sun on The Return Of Dr. Octagon. It certainly shows the difference they made to the final product even if it is not much of a Octagon project).

At any ate, Dr. Octagon was once more back and once more gaining some major attention by music journalists. But since this was without Keith’s direct involvement or blessing, Keith decided it was time to take control again. By killing Octagon. Again. And so Dr. Dooom returned via the album Dr. Dooom 2

The 3rd track is dedicated solely to this. Called ‘R.I.P Dr. Octagon’, the song features multiple murders of Octagon, whilst also addressing his return via tird parties.. The abridged lyrics for the full song are;

Yo whassup? This is Dr. Dooom
I know I killed Dr. Octagon
Now how they gon’ come back with some type of return?
That’s why I’m back
I’ma put the finishing touches on this guy
You witness the execution, rest in peace

This is a true story, how I put the clamp on Octagon
Drowned him in the water until he was gone
Then he came back alive, I stabbed him over 17 times
But you people out there wouldn’t let him die

Y’all put him on the respirator
The critics that gave him mouth to mouth resuscitation was a hater…

Two weeks later, Dr. Octagon was dead
Electrocuted by electric razor
Octagon is gone, this image was pawned
Every now and then I go visit him in the cemetery on and on

No whack remixes or duplicated copies
(Rest in peace)
Octagon is deceased

Me and Kurt seen him at the hospital yesterday
I pulled the plug out on Dr. Ock…

I beat him to death with rocks in a sock
Left him for dead on some alternative block…

With some bad parents from Germany and Swiss
That wanted him to go candy pop, something called candy hop
The world was forcin’ a nightmare down people’s throats
That had to stop

With all the rock bands offering their condolences
To the producers of ‘The Return’, I had to overshadow their credits
And wait my turn on the worthless, now Dr. Dooom has risen

Octagon is deceased… Octagon is deceased”

So there we have it. In just over a decade, Kool Keith created a character, killed him off via another character, toyed with bringing him back, eventually felt screwed over when the return did happen, and then killed him once more with the same assassin!

To my mind this is the only time a Rap-Battle played out in public has involved the same person!

To anyone who has enjoyed following this creative onslaught of Keith in just these two aliases, believe me they are just a drop in the ocean that is his mind. Keith has 61 aliases to my personal knowledge, whether as fully fledged characters with their own albums or just name-checked characters.

Personally I’m partial to the pun-worthy names of Elvin Presley, Dark Vader and Blackula, but for his best tracks I would recommend his work as Poppa Large and Mr. Gerbik.

Much to Keith’s chagrin, he is almost impossible to escape the Dr. Octagon alias. No matter how many time he kills off the Doctor the sheer impact of the Dr. Octagonecologyst, album will keep it relevant to hip-hop heads for decades to come.

 

The better-known Dr. Octagon Art

Yet, Keith’s self-professed invention of Horror-Core rap via Dr. Dooom more than proves that Keith is absolutely right to avoid being penned in by any single creation. His creativity leaps far beyond anyone role, whichever one that it may be. In fact, the very way in which Kool Keith has had a rivalry with just himself via two separate persona’s mark him out as one hell of a unique artist across all of music.

I’ll bow out with this number just because it was ‘kool’ for Keith to get some credit on a larger stage when Liam Howlett hired him for this little ditty.

Next Time (if the necessary items have arrived) “Who…Who..Who are you?”.

This will take some time to write as it involves around 15hours of viewing, so it may be a longer interval to the next entry.

As always, thanks for reading,

MJ

BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XXVII: Seasons Greetings

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

BLOG PIC

The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

————————————–

http://youtotalcult.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/Poss-final-blog-photo-dream-framev9.5.jpg Hello to you Sirs and Madams. Should you be regular readers then you are in for a treat. In a rare moment of calculation, I am writing this entry as a direct follow up to my most recent bog about sequels (http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/hollyweird/hollyweird-episode-xxvi-hollyweird-2-electric-boogaloo/).

In fact ,this is the sequel to that very blog if you will. The very observational statement of such connectivity is making me stroke my chin hair smugly in appreciation.

Hollyweird Episode 26 detailed films that I would consider to be underrated sequels. This topic is going now to be continued even though this individual selection only exists as a sequel in the loosest possible sense. In fact if the movie in question had have actually been a huge success then its bold stance on sequels would have eliminated a further five piss- poor rip offs of a classic, as well as a further two atrocious remakes. Indeed the world was nearly spared from a total of seven craptacluar movies in the Halloween via the cruelly neglected Halloween III: Season of the Witch.

 

Halloween III: Season of the Witch may as well be called just ‘Season Of The Witch’. It actually has nothing to do with the previous two Halloween films which were based around the killing sprees of a certain Canadian comic’s namesake, Michael Myers.

Both of the previous, Myers-based Slasher Halloween films had been huge financial successes. However the writer-director of both of these films, John Carpenter, decided that enough was enough. Thus to escape getting roped into a third movie, Carpenter ensured that he killed off the character of Myers in a fire. Instead Carpenter and his Producer/Wife, Debra Hill envisioned a complete ‘u-turn’ for any further films in the Halloween-series.

I don’t know who drew this, but I likes it!

Carpenter and Hill advised Universal Studios that the franchise name could still exist, but that the very title of ‘Halloween’ could be changed to represent an anthology of movies. Each year a new, stand alone horror film could be made using this banner name.

Ideally then the studio would keep their franchise, whilst audiences would get a unique type of terror on annual basis from emerging new film makers.

With the studio in agreement for the plan, both Hill and Carpenter became producers on the third Halloween film. They supported the hiring of old colleague and friend, Tommy Lee Wallace. Wallace was the Production Designer and Editor on Halloween, as well as a collaborator on Carpenter’s other films, Dark Star and The Fog. Thus the lineage of Halloween behind the scenes was set to continue, even if Michael Myers and his Carving Knife were never going to feature in the film.

This is not Tommy Lee Wallace. But he did direct It.
This is not Tommy Lee Wallace. But he did direct It.

By 1982 Universal was now in agreement with the Carpenter’s proposed plan. They agreed to make a film titled ‘Halloween III’ that would exist as a different type of film altogether from the first two films. Well they sure couldn’t have gotten much more different!

Forget the prior use of an escaped lunatic who chases kids. Halloween III: Season of the Witch involves killer robots, Stonehenge, evil curses, an Irish madman and a middle aged protagonist who is arguably more of a scum bag than an actual hero. Allow me to elaborate by breaking down Halloween III’s plot. danger

Season Of The Witch begins with a mysterious stranger being chased by a few more mysterious strangers. (In fact this is all a bit of an oxymoron- all strangers must be somewhat mysterious. Otherwise they would just be ‘known familiars’). At any rate, these strangers are all dressed in business suits. The chased man is clutching a rubber mask tightly as he collapses inside a Gas Station. He keeps repeating ”They’re going to kill us!”. Still that’s yuppies for you- always wanting more. It’s not enough that they hound a man. They want to kill him too.

You’d think they could afford better ingredients

The exhausted stranger is driven to the hospital by a clerk at the gas station. He is soon admitted to the hospital under the care of Dr. Challis. Challis is played by the grizzled character actor, Tom Atkins. Atkins is a man that for 3 decades across multiple films has always seemed a middle aged, angry, a red-blooded meat eater. This is somewhat fitting for a man who has his name is shared by a diet program.

tom a 1

More to the point though, Atkins presence is also a sign that this film will not be dealing with teenage babysitters in peril. Instead Season of the Witch is going to be based around men in suits and middle aged doctors, and presumably even witches at some point. Already this is a different type of horror, possibly even a mystery, compared to the earlier Halloween films.

The newly admitted patient is found to be called Harry Gambridge. Gambridge is soon visited by another mysterious man in a suit. This new stranger though is a tad more efficient than the previously discussed strangers in suits. The visitor in the hospital does not just casually chase Gambridge. Instead he kills him. The killer then heads off to his car and sets himself alight. Since the killer takes the time to kill himself in his car, I can only imagine even in the 1980’s smoking was not allowed in hospitals.

Suffice to say Dr Challis is not too happy about this. As an alpha male, nobody gets murdered on his watch unless he is responsible! Naturally then, Challis decides to forget all about his other patients and join Gambridge’s daughter, Ellie, into investigating this entire scenario. Hey if Quincy MD and Diagnosis Murder’s mark Sloan can disappear to solve crimes, then why shouldn’t Atkins. Besides which he clearly fancies the young Ellie. So that’s all OK then.

Just a father and daughter hwalking along. Nothing to see here… Oh god, no! They’re lovers!

There only clue that the pair have is the rubber mask that Harry was clutching as he collapsed inside the gas station. It is a novelty Halloween mask made by The Silver Shamrock Company, so the duo begin their investigation by heading towards the Silver Shamrock Factory.

Mo, Larry and Curley had seen better days.
Mo, Larry and Curley had seen better days.

 

This factory is located in a small town just outside of California. Actually, the factory pretty much is the town. When Ellie and Dr Challis check into a hotel by the plant, they are informed by the owner that this entire town works at the factory. It is a town of Irish descent and they owe all of the prosperity to local Irish business man, Conal Cochran. Although since the town’s entire ‘prosperity’ seems to amount to a factory and a motel, they should perhaps just buy Conal a Guinness and call it even.

I’d buy that for a dollar
OCP Stocks? I’d buy that for a dollar!

Nonetheless, Ellie and Challis stay at the motel after discovering that Harry had also previously stayed there. Being a reckless Doctor and a young girl, they get a single room and soon sleep with one another. After all, Atkins is pure man, baby.

There are some more hotel guests alongside the Doc and Ellie. They are a toy store owner, and a family of three. These additional characters pretty much exist solely to die quite nastily. This is a horror film after all.

Easily the most stand-out of these deaths is that of fellow Motel patron/cannon fodder, Marge Guttman. Guttman is in her room playing with one of the Silver Shamrock tags that are normally attached to the rubber masks. She makes the mistake of trying to open this tag when suddenly her whole face gets lasered clean off!

This is proof that even horror sequels can be educational. Should one ever see one of those grey-discs attached to clothes in a shop, do not try to remove it yourself. It may not have dye in it. It may have a lethal booby trap.

Back into the main protagonists of the film, Ellie and Dr Challis mange to get onto a factory tour of the Silver Shamrock plant. Ellie ends up kidnapped by more of the yuppies, and in attempting a rescue Dr Challis discovers that these business men are actually just robots. I do not type that as a similie for the modern workplace, I mean they really are robots. Made of wires and metal and terrible haircuts.

Fun fact: 'Robot' comes from the Czech word for 'Slave'
Fun fact: ‘Robot’ comes from the Czech word for ‘Slave’

 

Soon enough, Challis and Ellie end up the captives of the Conal Cochran aka the OCP guy from the Robocop series. Conal turns out to be descended from Druids who wish for the commercialised, modern Hallowe’en to return to its original form of Samhaim. This original form will involve sacrificing children’s souls to keep the world in more in line with the ancient powers that be. Although it is equally feesable that that a lifetime of working in a toy factory has just left Conal hating kids.

Conal plans to revive the ancient power of Samhaim via a stolen boulder from Stone Henge (really) which he has incorporated pieces of into alongside computer chips (really). These mystically-endowed computer chips are then hidden within the tags on the Halloween masks (really) and will be powered by evil Celtic magic (really). These masks hidden powers will then be triggered by a secret code embedded via a Television advertisement (really). Consequently, any child wearing a Silver Shamrock mask at midnight who sees the said advert will turn into a pile of bugs and snakes (really).

To be fair to mad old Conal, it’s certainly a more original plan than Michael Myers repeated stabbing of teens. Although it’s a pretty out there plan when he could have just poisoned some candy and given it out.

Naturally Dr Challis, being the pure Alpha Male that Tom Atkins embues, manages kill Cochran and destroy the factory and rescue Ellie. Not bad for a middle aged Doc who originally sneaked off for some rumpy pumpy from a young girl in mourning.

As they drive away into the sunset, Challis is suddenly attacked by Ellie. She is not Ellie at all, but is another android!

Not the best time to lose one’s head

Atkins overcomes her, possibly by ripping her circuits out with his bare teeth. Or possibly by driving the car into a ditch. Believe whichever scenario you prefer. Challis manages to stumble to a reach a payphone to warn the Television Station not to air the Silver Shamrock commercial. Unfortunately he does not reach every station in time though. The signal is sent. The film ends as we hear Challis scream as his very own children begin to devolve….

Although to be honest the children should never have been up in time for a midnight commercial anyway. Also there are several time zone issues with this concept. Still, logic loops are almost always forgiveable if they lead to an enjoyably dark ending for a horror film, and they don’t come much darker than mass enficide.

 

“I had sex with a young girl! Wooooo!”

Now given the off-hand manner in which I have recounted Halloween III: Season of the Witch it may seem as though the film is dumb-trash. This is actually not the case. My recounting of the plot is more down to how absurd and varied it is. The way the film unfolds is actually pretty strong.

The film drips bleakness from the start. There is a sense of nihilism right away, something often necessary but overlooked necessary for creepy films. The beginning of the movie has its lead- a Doctor- unable to save his patient from being murdered under his very own nose. This very same Doctor then abandons his position of care- and even his family- to try and hook up with a young lady who has just had her father murdered…. And this lead character is the ‘hero’ of Season of the Witch!

Atkins aint no saint

By the end of the film, dot only does Dr Challis fail to save America’s children, but he also fails to save his own family. This being the very same family he abandoned on a sexual whim. Put simply, Challis fails and the world pays the price.

Meanwhile as viewers, the audience is exposed to killer robots, face-melting lazers, a Celtic Pagan- psychopath and magic that kills children. These threats seem to randomly crop up from the very start of the film onwards, often with no prior-hint or warning. The net result is to create a world where death lurks around every corner regardless of how fanciful it may be.

Between unexpected scientific and supernatural murders, as well as a protagonist that is not a clean cut good person, Season Of The Witch is the equivalent of a Fox news report. It informs the viewer that they are doomed.

fox

Part of this gloom in the film no doubt comes down to the choice of screen writer, Nigel Kneale. Kneale was a Science Fiction writer of quite some pedigree, having gained acclaim for his work on creating the Quartermass Experiment series.

Kneale wrote the original screenplay for Halloween III: Season of the Witch. Although the final form was so altered that Kneale asked for his name to be removed from the credits. Yet despite many changes it would seem that Kneale’s use of Science Fiction and Fantasy to highlight the hopelessness of man still hangs over the final film.

Given the present tropes of a horror films- reduced lighting, nasty special effects and haunting music- the total film becomes a sheer attack of nihilism on the senses. In this regard Halloween III is certainly a triumph as both a horror movie and as a part of the Halloween series. Much as with Michael Myers, terror is presented here as always worryingly present and unstoppably fantastical.

cream

Interestingly Season Of The Witch did actually turn a profit almost immediately. Made for approximately $2.5 Million, the film made over $14 Million just at the U.S. Box Office. The film was certainly no failure. Still, this positive return was just no match for the cash that Myers appearances had brought in. So out went the Anthology concept and back once again came Michael Myers, via the subtly named Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers in 1984.

Sadly Myers return led to bigger box office returns than the braver Season Of The Witch. Consequently more slasher Halloween films were made leading to Myers seeming-immortality having to be addressed. Frankly, this was a terrible idea.

In the continuation of the original series, ( Halloween: H2O, aside) Myers was revealed to be a part of a global conspiracy. He was born into a secret cult that stole his soul. Now he must butcher his whole family to save the world from supernatural destruction! Yep. That all really happened in the series between parts 4-7. Sigh.

Even old Donnie P couldn’t escape the paycheque of… The Cult of Thorn!

Meanwhile in the second series of Myers films that were ‘re-imagined’ by Rob Zombie, a decision was made to avoid the Cult Of Thorn altogether. Unfortunately these remakes did something just as dumb; Zombie used this opportunity to completely negate the terror of Myers. No longer was he a mysterious, silent killer that could represent the ‘boogeyman’ of anywhere. Instead he became a 7 foot giant with a Jerry-Springer type of background that explained all his behaviour away. Oh and he had a psychic connection to Laurie that involved a big white horse.

c/o meandyouandablognamedboo.blogspot.com

Both routes of the Myers-fasciantion killed off any mystique or terror surrounding the actual character himself. Whether it was a cult that makes his soul-less form invincible or a completely explained back story of a White Trash nutter, Myers was no longer scary. Meanwhile Season Of The Witch may be pretty strange and fanciful, but it does exist as a rare and bold attempt to keep a franchise going whilst having zero to do with the previous films.

Season Of The Witch could have also potentially led to any number of interesting scary stories not beholden to any previous entries. Potentially these ad-hoc Halloween films could have constantly be helmed by fresh film makers, giving the entire series an eclectic and energetic feel.

Admitadlly, depending on your love for the Myers character and your association with him as the Halloween franchise,then perhaps a non-Myers film sounds like a terrible idea for the series. But honestly, could it have been any worse than what ultimately happened to pale face two times over!??

 

Next time will be a look at a man with a voice soaked in bourbon and nicotine- and no, it’s not Joe Pasquale in a Noir movie.

Thanks for reading.

-MJ

 

 

BLOG: YTC_Hollyweird: Episode XVIII: Holy Shat!

Follow me on Twitter: @You_Total_Cult.

In the short term, the YTC podcast can currently be found at http://www.chrisandphilpresent.co.uk/blogs/youtotalcult/

BLOG PIC

The blog below was under an older name of Hollyweird. I have kept the numbering the same so that I could keep track of my posts, but this is where it all begin back in the heyday of 2012…

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Throughout my years I, like many of us, have been involved in the ‘Who are you most like from [INSERT TV SHOW HERE]’ conversation. At different cultural stages I have been a Leonardo from TMNT, a Chandler from Friends and a Mike from Spaced. Most recently I am apparently a Leonard from The Big Bang Theory. Aside from the ability to occasionally pick up women out of my league, I don’t really see the comparison myself. Then again, I am not particularly socially inept, Indian or Jewish, so being a geeky four-eyes is all that’s really left.

The success of The Big Bang Theory has helped to present geek culture in a more sympathetic light, presenting the nerds as plucky underdogs with a lot to learn about real life. Clearly The Big Bang nerds are huge stereotypes and loaded with foibles, but for the most part they are a distinctly likeable bunch. A film from over a decade ago attempted a similar such feat, but with decidedly mixed results. In fact, as opposed to the clueless, pleasant nerds from the B.B. gang, 1999’s Free Enterprise presented its own nerdy-protagonists as socially smooth but hard to connect to. Let’s beam on over and take a gander…

 

freeenterprise

The plot for Free Enterprise can be pretty much boiled down to this; two lifelong friends and Trekkies, Mark and Robert, are worried about their lives. They each juggle unfulfilled film careers with disappointing love lives. As Mark approaches 30, he is concerned that his best days are past him with little to show for it except a comfortable lifestyle. Meanwhile Robert needs to learn to accept responsibility or else face a future of poverty and one-night stands.

A chance meeting leads them to encountering Mr. William Shatner. Seeking their heroes wisdom, they slowly realise that Captain Kirk is perhaps not as smart or cool as they had hoped- in fact, he’s pretty much f’n mental. Shatner’s goal is to put on a one-man play of William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a musical. This, despite the innate challenge of then having to stab himself in the back….

Can the Trekkies learn to grow up via/despite Shatner’s advice? Can Shatner get his project off the ground? I’m sure you can all guess.

Call me Captain, dammit!
Call me Captain, dammit!

The paper-thin plot really does not matter all that much. This is a character-driven comedy, after all. Actually, I don’t believe that I mentioned Free Enterprise is a comedy, but hopefully the summary of Shatner’s theatrical ambition gave it away. Then again, with the real William Shatner any scheme is possible.

Beating the clichés of The Big Bang Theory by a good decade, the two central protagonists in Free Enterprise are not socially-inept misfits at all. Sure, both Robert and Mark have huge life problems to confront concerning those old stalwarts of companionship and finances. But these problems are nothing beyond those that a heck of a lot of the world’s population face. Avoiding stereotyping, Robert is a full on lady killer. He bounces from lover to lover with all manner of different kinky indulgences hinted at. Robert even has a drinking buddy that he shares threesomes with, the too-too-cool-for-school Sean, played by Swingers Patrick Van Horn.

“Superfan 99, on the left”

Similarly, the more grounded Mark is incapable of getting emotionally close to women, but he is not incapable of getting dates with them. Mark may not be a full on party monster like Robert, but he comes across as a believable guy simply too wrapped up in his own ego to love.

In this way the film is somewhat more believable than The Big Bang Theory or films like The 40 Year Old Virgin. Generally the comedy present in Free Enterprise is aimed at laughing along with the character’s dialogue or actions, rather than laughing at them for ‘not getting it’ in the wider world.

Rounding off the core characters is, of course, the one and only William Shatner. Ol’ Shatty plays himself- or at least a heightened, hard drinking, clumsy, porn-reading, parachuting version of himself. Shatner easily has the least screen time of the main characters. In fact he is virtually relegated to occasional cameos. Still, much like Adam West, Shatner has the ability to be astoundingly ridiculous and utterly deadpan within the same breath and consequently steals most of the film. Shatner may be a terrible actor but he sure is a wonderful presence.

Oh, and did I mention that he raps Shakespeare’s Julius Ceaser in it? That should be a golden selling point in itself as far as sheer Hollyweird value goes.

Big Willy Style

Still, if all of this makes Free Enterprise sounds like some fun-filled geek-romp that paints nerds in a glowing light, then you have my apologies. You’ve been misled! (Or is that misread?) Free Enterprise misfires in many areas, and has its enjoyment factor seriously hampered by it.

As refreshing as Mark and Rob’s depiction as nerds is, the surrounding characters are incredibly lazily presented. Mark and Rob’s friends are as follows; black nerd, Jewish nerd, silent nerd, meek nerd and nerd who cannot get laid. I’m not even entirely sure that they have names. Though ‘black nerd’ is played by the vastly underrated comedian and voice actor Phil Lamaar. Lamaar voices one of this author’s favourite cartoon characters, Samurai Jack. Damn good job, Phil, damn good job!

aku
R.I.P. Mako

As lazy as the friends of Mark and Rob are presented, the depiction of women in the film is far worse. With one exception, the women within the film are either reduced to sexual objects or depicted as heartless/thoughtless creatures.

I should note that to my mind Free Enterpriseis not overt or misogynist by design. Woman kind is not directly insulted within the film. Instead it seems to be more of a case of the screen writers not knowing how to present women beyond being dumb, beautiful or bitchy. The worst part about this is that a major part of the film revolves around Rob finding his ideal woman, Trisha.

"Is that a rolled-up wad of Myler bags or are you just please to see me?"
“Is that a rolled-up wad of Myler bags or are you just please to see me?”

Trisha is stunning and nerdy, smart and independent. These traits should make Trisha the most positive character in the film. She should represent a shattering of both female and nerd stereotypes in one fell swoop. Yet instead she is presented as a ‘token ideal’ form of womanhood, and not even remotely realistically as her own person. We never learn what she does or what motivates her, and in fact she repeatedly lets Rob pay for everything despite his established money issues. Finally, she dumps him when he loses his job.

Now in both Trisha’s and Free Enterprise’s defence, Trisha does have a speech about how breaking up with Rob has nothing to do with money and has everything to do with Rob’s attitude. Yet Trisha still crops up throughout the entirety of Free Enterprise as a perfect, sexual fantasy character when the film requires it, and is then subsequently dismissed when Rob is at his lowest.

Once again this is most likely due to paper-thin writing and poor-acting rather than an attempt to present women in a bad light. Unfortunately, by making the one strong female role seem as deep and believable as puddle made of anti-matter, Free Enterprise paradoxically ends up doing a terrible disservice to real female geeks. Regardless of its quite-possible good intention to show that beautiful women can be geeks too, it all it achieves is showing that women are blank slates that look good in their underwear and not worth the time to actually flesh out.

She’s got red on her

(Maybe now is a good time to pint out that the writer and director behind this movie are called Mark A. Altman and Robert Meyer Burnett. Is Free Enterprise just Wish fulfilment at the expense of everything else, perhaps…?)

The secondary major problem with Free Enterprise is that so many of the comedic deliveries are just off. Rafer Weigel, playing Rob, is believably immature and handsome. So his casting as a childish Womaniser is actually strong in a dramatic sense. But he is simply not very funny. Meanwhile Patrick Van Horn seems to be present for stunt-casting purposes. He is almost identical to his character of Sue in Swingers and really has very little purpose here.

Channelling his inner Kirk
Channelling his inner Kirk

In fact aside from the excellent use of Shatner, the only other true saving grace of the film is Eric McCormack of Will & Grace fame. He actually has excellent comic timing which is pretty damn important in a comedy! Sadly even McCormack is let down by the fact that he comes across as so un-likeable for large stages of the movie. The character of Mark puts people down constantly which works for someone like Bill Murray or Woody Allen because their appearance means they need a defence mechanism. Actors like that playing roles akin to Mark’s merely come across as smart but insecure. However, from a tall, good looking actor like McCormick, Mark’s comments just seems cruelly condescending.

Where there’s a Will, there’s a way

As quite the geek myself, I would love to love Free Enterprise more. It is packed with great moments (the Logan’s Run gag is truly inspired) and a lot of the pop-culture dialogue crackles along nicely. I particularly love the times that characters quote other moves with no clarification of where they are stealing from. You either get the line or you don’t, just like in real life geek conversations.

Oh, and of course it has a F’N RAPPING WIILIAM SHATNER IN IT!!!

It is just a shame that Free Enterprise falls apart over teeny-tiny aspects like, um, its casting and characterisation. Regrettably, the success of the few bits are outweighed by the flaws of the many.

Next time we will all laugh whilst we can, monkey men!

Thanks for reading,

-MJ