Thursday, May 15, 2014

Briarpatch

Sorry, no Thriller Thursday today because of heat induced laziness yesterday.

So here's an old blog post from August of 2009:


The late, great, Ross Thomas, who specialized in action and spy novels with a healthy dose of humor, has a book called BRIARPATCH. In Thomas’ world, a Briarpatch was the territory under the control of a spy or criminal or political king maker. Might be a city or a larger territory, or maybe even a country. These guys built their territory from the ground up, and now nothing happened in their Briarpatch that wasn’t approved of or licensed or taxed by them. One of my favorite Thomas novels, THE FOOLS IN TOWN ARE ON OUR SIDE, is about an organization that moves in and takes over U.S. City Briarpatches from the old guard and installs their own governments - conquering the Briarpatch and making it their own. Behind this scheme was, I think, a retired spy with a thirst for power. They destabilized some U.S. city’s government - some old political machine that was some old guy’s Briarpatch, and then installed their own government... just as the ex-spy had done for the CIA in a number of oil rich third world countries.


Friday’s Hitchcock entry was originally postponed because I was traveling to the San Francisco Bay Area for a class reunion... and to help my dad with some manual labor around the house. I figured I’d write it and get it up Sunday, but that was before I fell into two different Briarpatches... which means you won’t get to read about ROPE and Hitchcock’s one shot movie until this coming Friday.

I spent Saturday afternoon helping my friend John doing some interesting construction work. John has been a friend of mine forever, he acted in some of my little movies decades ago and crewed on others. These days he makes short films for those 48 hour film challenge contests, directs live theater in the Bay Area, and has written a couple of plays that have been performed. He’s one of the founders of a Bay Area theatre company, too. But it’s not *his* Briarpatch that this story is about...

A local playwright named Kathy - John has directed a couple of her plays - read an article about a group who were trying to preserve one of the Word War 2 Victory ships, the Red Oak, which had been in the “Moth Ball Fleet” (hundreds of old Navy ships “stored” in the San Francisco Bay for decades - and featured in the Sam Peckinpah film THE KILLER ELITE). Since there was no World War Three, these ships had no purpose and were going to be scrapped by the Navy. The Red Oak Victory was built in Richmond, CA - in the Kaiser Shipyards - so a group turned preserving this ship into their Briarpatch. They had it towed back to the shipyards where it was built and have set about restoring it - as a floating museum. I’ve toured the ship and it’s really cool - many of the rooms are exactly like they were in WW2 - and they do sleepovers for Scouts in the crew’s bunks (which the kids probably think are neat, but the crew probably thought was just this side of torture) and tours and events.

Kathy was fascinated by the way these ships were built - often a whole ship was built in a single day - by shipbuilding crews that included a large number of women... Rosie The Riveter. My grandfather worked in the Richmond Shipyards, and probably worked on this ship, too. But Kathy wrote a play about the women in the WW2 workforce who built ships and did “man work” while most of the men where off fighting the war. And she contacted the people in charge of the Red Oak Victory to see if they would be interested in staging her play *on the ship*. They said yes, and the project I helped John and Kathy with was building a stage area in one of the ship’s holds. As we were working on this, one of the people in charge of the Red Oak Victory restoration/museum project was talking to Kathy about other plays that might also be performed on this new theater space - like MR. ROBERTS. Now it seems that Kathy may have her own Briarpatch - doing plays about the Navy and ship building on the Red Oak Victory. She built this territory from the ground up. Read about the ship being restored, talked to the people in charge about doing a play onboard, and now may be the “theatre director” for the ship. She’s in charge of the plays done in the new theatre area we built on the ship - and may even turn that into a career. Before Kathy, no one had even thought about doing plays on the ship.

TRASH FILM ORGY


After we finished work on the stage area, I dragged John to Sacramento to the Trash Film Orgy Midnight Movie. I know Trashy Christy Savage from online (and may have met her before, but don’t remember). She (and a couple of friends) have created their own interesting Briarpatch - during summer they do a midnight movie festival at Sacramento’s historic Crest Theater - one of those grand old movie palaces from the 1930s. The place is huge! Because next weekend is my reunion, this was my only chance to go to the midnight show.


The movies are promised to be trashy and bad, and the whole thing is like a ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW party. The event begins at 11:30pm with kind of carnival booths in the lobby of the cinema... I believe a fair number of folks had come from the bars nearby and were in a good mood to see a bad movie, so it was a party atmosphere. At the booth up front you could buy festival T shirts and paraphernalia, *plus* DVDs of the low budget movies Christy has produced. Christy and her friends make movies like
MONSTER FROM BIKINI BEACH in Sacramento - no reason to move to Hollywood - and sell the films online. MONSTER is a fun combo of 1960s beach movie and 1950s monster movie, and delivers everything you would want from a movie with that title. Unlike the Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello movies from the 60s, bikini tops do *not* stay on (the monster’s first move always seems to be tearing off the bikini top). This is the kind of film that would play at some second string drive in as the B side of the double bill - and that is meant as a compliment. Christy has made the perfect film for $2 a carload night when you smuggled in a couple of cases of beer.

Now, I don’t know whether the midnight shows exist to further their filmmaking projects, or if the filmmaking is an extension of the midnight shows... but it’s all Christy’s Briarpatch. She has built this territory in Sacramento where she gets to make films and have a party almost every Saturday night over summer where she shows so-bad-they-are-good exploitation movies. At midnight (actually, it was 12:08) they start the party in the theatre with a comedy group doing a skit to warm up the audience. Oh, there’s a DJ who has been playing records up until now - lots of metal. There is a giant talking Tiki Head who is MC - and gets the audience chanting all kinds of silly things. After the comedy, they start the film...


LADY TERMINATOR should not be seen sober. It’s a Indonesian knock off of TERMINATOR, but obviously someone in the legal department was worried, so the opening of the film sets it up as based on the legend of the South Sea Queen (I think) who had 100 husbands and bite off all of their man-parts with an eel she hides in her woman-parts. Blood sprays from many a man’s groin area in this film. Like a garden hose of red liquid. Not subtle or realistic. Well, after husband #100 pulls out the eel and saves his man-parts, the South Sea Queen puts a curse on his family - specifically his great grand daughter - and returns to the sea.

Cut to decades later, this smokin’ hot babe who could not act her way out of a rice paper bag, claims to be an anthropologist studying for her thesis who is researching the South Sea Queen legend. Whenever she said she was an anthropologist, it got a laugh - like Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist in that James Bond movie.

Just when you are about to leave the cinema because her acting is so bad it actually hurts, she dons a bikini and dives into the cursed area of the South Sea where the Queen vanished, and comes back as the Lady Terminator... hell bent on finding that Great Grand Daughter and killing her.


And now we get the silliest rip off of TERMINATOR you can imagine, as this often topless killing machine (not really a machine, just a possessed anthropologist) chases the Great Grand Daughter chick - who is a disco singer (so that we can get a bunch of disco numbers throughout the film) and also uses the eel hidden in her woman-parts to bite the man-parts off a bunch of guys. Yes, she comes naked from the ocean and steals the clothes from some punkers on the beach (and bites off their man parts with her hidden eel), yes there is a TechNoir bar scene where she finds the Great Grand Daughter chick singing and machineguns at least a hundred extras, yes there is a scene where her eye is injured and she cuts it out... then washes it off in the sink, dries it on a towel, and replaces it, yes there is a scene where she drives a car into the police station and kills at least a hundred extras dressed as cops with a machine gun, yes she (thankfully) doesn’t talk much as the Lady Terminator. She just walks around bare chested with a machinegun and kills people. Just like Ah-nuld did.

But the funniest parts of this movie are when they try to make it look like it takes place in America. The cops - in a police station unlike any you have ever seen before (there are sofas and recliners) have a never-ending conversation about how much they love hot dogs. After about the third hot dog conversation you wonder if there is supposed to be a strang Gay subtext to these scenes... and wonder if this is plot related. Will the Gay cops save the day because they don't put their man-parts in lady-parts and are immune to the Lady Terminator?

Two of the cops are some sort of Starsky & Hutch undercover team - one has a dyed blond mullet that does not match his very ethnic features at all. They say strange things like, “I’m here in the States” which make you wonder where they might have been before. It’s just crazy - bad!

The often topless Terminator chick can not be killed - she takes a million bullet hits that don’t scar her smokin’ hot body at all, her car gets hit by missiles (and even the car is unscratched!) and almost at the end of the movie after she has caught fire and comes out of it with a totally burned face - but her boobs are completely undamaged. This film has its priorities!

Oh, for some unexplained reason after catching on fire and losing her machine gun, she develops laser rays from here eyes that burn men’s man-parts off. The writer of this film has some issues.

Anyway, halfway through this mess of a movie the Trash Film Orgy has an intermission, which is a good thing. Bad movies are only entertaining for so long, and then they just become bad. Because of all of the cop-talk about how much they enjoy eating hot dogs, the intermission show included a hot dog eating contest. I donated some Classes on CD as part of the prize package. All of the contestants were gals, and the Giant Tiki Head MC commented on this. Members of the comedy team gave play-by-play, and it was a lot of fun - people sitting in the first 8 rows were pelted with hot dogs. This primed us for the second half of the movie - which was just as silly as the first.

By the way, whenever the Great Grand Daughter chick did a disco number (which was fairly often considering she had a killing machine babe hunting her night and day), people got up and danced. Many comments were hurled at the screen (hey, it looks so easy on Mystery Science Theater - but most of the comments were just not funny). (They should have had the comedy folks or Tiki Head come up with some prepared funny material to throw at the screen, and I think the Tiki Head needs some Dean Martin style dancers.) And before they showed the film there were some comedy shorts and trailers for locally made films. It was a fun little party... I did a quick headcount and there were more than 200 people in the audience... Christy’s little cult, her Briarpatch.

To me, the most interesting thing wasn’t the awful movie and it’s odd ideas about male and female relationships and the care and feeding of eels, it was that Christy had carved out this piece of the world for herself where she can make her fun little movies and have a weekly party during summer showing old trashy movies. She didn’t need to move to Hollywood, she created her own Hollywood and became a big fish in a small pond.

There are alternatives to Hollywood. You don’t need to sell a script to a studio. You can create your own little Briarpatch and make your own little movies and have your own local events. You can be the big fish in the small pond - and never have to deal with stupid story notes or bone-head producers or all of the crap in this business. You can do it yourself like Christy and Kathy.

Saturday night at the Trash Film Orgy - BLACK BELT JONES with Jim Kelly (star of one of my favorite flicks, THREE THE HARD WAY) and more foley work than 20 studio films put together - if you’re in the Sacramento area, check it out!

* The Red Oak Victory
* RIVETS - The Musical
* Trash Film Orgy Midnight Movie
* Monster From Bikini Beach

Classes On CD - Recession Sale!

- Bill

IMPORTANT UPDATE:

TODAY'S SCRIPT TIP: Point Of View and RUNNING SCARED.
Yesterday’s Dinner: Denny's Grand Slam halfway to Sacto.

2 comments:

Osvaldo said...

Great coverage, Bill. Left me with desire to watch the WWII play and TFO's is something i gonna check out someday. Even if it's on the 2012 edition, but i hope so.

truegrit said...

Be careful when working on those old navy ships, especially when clearing away insulation (if it wasn't already removed). They contain the most dangerous type of asbestos.

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