Duck Amuck,
and a few more films

Drive In (1976)
Streaming free at YouTube

#258  [archive]
MAR. 11, 2024

A couple of good old boy weed dealers have a notion to move into more serious crime, by holding up the local drive-in theater.

This is hardly a heist movie, though, or much of a movie at all. Set somewhere very South, it's trying to be an ensemble comedy, with a dozen or so characters whose stories intertwine during a drive-in double feature.

Problem is, there's nothing to any of these characters except redneck stereotypes with filmed-on-location Southern accents. The story is dumb and dull, and the funniest joke is that Oklahoma is "Baja Arkansas."

"If I could have your attention, there's a Chevy out there by the front door with its lights on. Can't read the license number, it's got too much mud on it."

Far more interesting than the movie, is the movie within the movie, called Disaster '76, a mocking mash-up of Airplane and Jaws, which screens at the drive-in while all these dumb characters are being dumb. But saying Disaster '76 is far more interesting than Drive In doesn't mean it's interesting.

Verdict: NO.

♦ ♦ ♦   

Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

Matt Dillon is objectively irritating as an actor, and he's the leading man here, which truncated my appreciation for Drugstore Cowboy when it first came out. I remembered it as potentially fascinating, but damaged by Dillon's face and demeanor.

Ever since, I've been told that I misjudged a masterpiece, so on Tuesday I gave the film another watch.

It hasn't changed, nor has my opinion.

A young junkie (Dillon) leads his gang of 2½ other junkies (Kelly Lynch, James Le Gros, Heather Graham) in raids on drug stores, to fuel their addictions. Their drug-addled world might look apocalyptic to normals, but you can see the appeal of it, which is largely about not wanting a normal life.

I should love a movie about not being normal, and there's nothing wrong and plenty right in the script, but here's the problem:

Have you ever known a junkie in their 20s? I've known several. They look and act like junkies, and Dillon captures none of it. Zero. He never looks even slightly mussed up, glassy-eyed, out of it, hungry for it. Hell, he's never not clean-shaven! When he tells his drug-addicted wife that he's going into rehab, it's with all the emotion of deciding on a ham sandwich instead of chicken salad for lunch. When he digs a grave to bury a acquaintance who's overdosed, he's just a guy with a shovel. A cop who'd beaten him up pops into his room a week later, but there's no apprehension. Dillon's face says nothing. He could be a billboard for Botox™. 

The movie is quite good, Dillon notwithstanding. Lynch and Le Gros nail it. Graham's not bad, and Director Gus Van Sant even squeezed a performance out of William S Burroughs, playing basically Burroughs, spouting drug wisdom built on a lifetime of injected experience.

But every scene with Dillon (which is nearly every scene) is like watching a movie about a movie star pretending to be a drug addict.

Verdict: YES, anyway. 

♦ ♦ ♦  

The Drumlin (1980)
Streaming free at Digital Film Archive

A couple of kids are playing hide-and-seek on a rocky beach, when a giant space alien or maybe space robot appears out of nowhere. It's a strong opening for this amateur short from Roy Spence (Attack of the Saucer People). The space alien then pied-pipers the town's children, with music only the young can hear. 

It's a slightly effective film, with bad acting, thick Irish accents, a panicked musical score, and some unexpected politics. 

Verdict: MAYBE. 

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Duck Amuck (1953)
Streaming free at Internet Archive

If you're too young to have experienced cartoons in a theater before the feature, you'll never know what you missed.

Here's one of the all-time great Merrie Melodies, wherein Daffy Duck thinks he's making a Musketeers cartoon, but almost immediately the scenery is gone. Igloos instead?

Daffy breaks the cartoon's fourth wall to complain, and when he gets too smart alecky, director Chuck Jones deletes the background, and soon an eraser appears on-screen and rubs Daffy out. Jones plays with the sound and sound effects, even steals away Daffy's voice (Mel Blanc, of course) —whatever it takes to annoy Mr Duck.

If you're thinking you've seen these jokes before, this is where the jokes were stolen from. And they're still very, very funny, when told so perfectly. Duck Amuck is among the most inventive and imaginative of the classic Warner Brothers shorts. 

Verdict: BIG YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Earth vs the Flying Saucers (1956)
Streaming free at YouTube

This isn't as hokey as I'd hoped from the title. It's actually kinda good. 

As promised, there are space aliens in flying saucers, but unlike a lot of sci-fi from the '50s, they don't instantly attack. They're in communication with a scientist (Hugh Marlowe), and tell him they're trying to avoid a war that would ruin the Earth. All the aliens ask is our unconditional surrender, but if I've learned anything from sci-fi, it's that Earthers don't want to wave a white flag for no space aliens.

Marlowe is wooden as always, but the story and script are better than average, it's in crisp widescreen black-and-white, and some of the special effects by Ray Harryhausen look quite realistic. Don't take this the wrong way, but the leveling of the Washington DC is beautiful. 

Verdict: YES.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Easy Rider 2: The Ride Back (2013)
Streaming free at YouTube

In case you missed it or wondered, there were no survivors from the original Easy Rider, and really no unanswered questions. A sequel seems odd and unnecessary, but here it is.

The star is Phil Pitzer, a lawyer and lifelong Easy Rider fan who bought the rights and financed the film. He's not an actor, but I've seen worse, and he looks kinda like Peter Fonda. He plays Fonda's character, Wyatt, in  reenactments of motorcycle rides from the first movie, which is unintentionally eerie.

Mostly, though, Pitzer plays Wyatt's older brother Morgan, who was never mentioned in the first film. And yes, there's a third brother named Virgil, just like the Earp brothers at the OK Corral. 

Morgan has restored Wyatt's iconic motorcycle, and rides it wearing the matching iconic helmet. Nothing much happens, and the slow proceedings are often interrupted with flashbacks to Korea, pop songs all hoping to be "Born to Be Wild," and hazy, possibly stoned narration from Pitzer, decrying homelessness and hunger, ecological ruin, and telling us how he misses Wyatt.

Obviously, this is a bad movie, but it's never bad enough to be enjoyable. 

Verdict: BIG NO.

♦ ♦ ♦ 

Easy Street (1917)
Streaming free at Daily Motion

"Policeman wanted, at once," says a sign outside the police station. Charlie Chaplin's "Little Tramp" needs a job, so he applies, and soon as he can be fitted with a uniform, he's sent to fight crime on Easy Street. 

Coincidentally, there's just been a riot, instigated by a big bully with bizarre makeup on his face. He could be a backup player for Kiss. Chaplin beats the bully with his billy-club, gasses him to unconsciousness with the fumes of a streetlamp, and later drops a cast-iron stove from a window onto the big bully's head. 

There's a chase, with the Kiss bully pursuing Chaplin down the street, into a house, into an alley, and into a side plot where a heroin addict tries to rape a young woman, but Officer Chaplin is there to rescue her.

I've seen perhaps a hundred silent movies, so I'm no expert, and for comedies I've mostly focused on Buster Keaton, because he's reliably funny and a favorite of mine. This is only the second Chaplin film I've seen, after his luminescent City Lights, but it's a distant second.

Easy Street is frantic, arguably a spectacle if you like that sort of thing, with lots of running around and around. What it's not, in any way, is funny. Best I can say is, it's over in less than half an hour.

Verdict: NO.


• • • Coming attractions • • •     

Ed and His Dead Mother (1992)
Eight Men Out
Einstein and Eddington

... plus schlock, shorts, and surprises

There are so many good movies out there — old movies, odd or artsy, foreign or forgotten movies, or do-it-yourself movies made just for the joy of making them — that if you only watch whatever's on Netflix or playing at the twenty-plex, you're missing out.

To get beyond the ordinary, I recommend:

AlterCineverseCriterionCultCinema ClassicsDocsVilleDustFandorFilms for ActionHooplaIHaveNoTVIndieFlixInternet ArchiveKanopyKinoCultKino LorberKorean Classic FilmChristopher R MihmMosfilmMubiNational Film Board of CanadaNew Yorker Screening RoomDamon PackardMark PirroPizzaFlixPopcornFlixPublic Domain MoviesRareFilmmScarecrow VideoShudderThoughtMaybeTimeless Classic MoviesVoleFlixWatchDocumentaries • or your local library

Some people even access films through shady methods, though of course, that would be wrong.

— — —

Illustration by Jeff Meyer. Reviews are spoiler-free, or at least spoiler-warned. Click any image to enlarge. Arguments & recommendations are welcome, but no talking once the lights dim, and only real butter on the popcorn, not that fake yellow stuff. 
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  1. I remember my friends and I thought up a sequel for Easy Rider and the actual one sounds as bad as what we had. In fairness we were drunk and had no intention of making it.

    I was going to finish this by saying I had to see this movie, but I just clicked and watched 45 seconds and realized there was another 97 minutes to go and tapped out. Godspeed.

    1. Then you're a smarter soul than me. I stuck with it *despite* knowing almost immediately it wasn't worth sticking with.

  2. Matt Dillon! LOL! For sure, a the worst actor. I can only imagine what Dennis Hopper and Mickey Rourke thought working with him on *Rumble Fish.* Here's my review of his work on the shit-ass *Wayward Pines:* https://ftbtfi.blogspot.com/2015/11/wayward-pines.html

    1. I think Dillon is fantastic in Drugstore Cowboy. It's not meant to be a realistic film, it's kind if a dream of being a junkie. Made by a rich gay kid whose family had connections.

      Dillon was always great from Over the Edge, My Bodyguard, all the way up to this flick, and To Die For. You guys just aren't in touch with your inner homosexual. Think of him as a completely empty, passionless Stanley Kowalski.

      Henry, have you seen The House That Jack Built? That's the kind of film Dillon is bad in, because it's just an incredibly stupid film, one of Von Trier's worst.

    2. Enjoyed your review, more than I'd enjoy that show, I'm sure. The clip looks like an outtake, she's clearly laughing. I'm glad to hear that Dillon is now working on quickly-cancelled TV shows instead of movies.

      Carla Gugino, though. I don't know if she's ever had a chance to really act, but I would certainly enjoy a slice of that pumpkin pie.

    3. Dillon was less annoying when he was a child and adolescent star. He was already just posing as cool, but lots of boys that age do exactly that. It was when he grew up without growing up that he started really getting on my nerves. Also, I never forgave him for taking Kristy McNichol's virginity in Little Darlings, when of course she should've been saving herself for me.

      Haven't seen My Bodyguard in many years, but I liked it a lot... and don't remember Matt Dillon at all.

      Interesting, Dillon as a completely empty, passionless Stanley Kowalski. Yeah, I'll buy that. Reminds me, though, that Tennessee Williams is almost always Too Much. I think I liked The Glass Menagerie, but everything else, jeez, soap opera stuff.

    4. I know it is hard to believe, but that clip is not an outtake. I recorded it years ago straight from the episode on Netflix or Hulu or one of the streaming services! Carla could barely contain herself. And yes, a nice piece of pie, for sure.

    5. I believes you man :) I were just joshing. Classic clip, and I like pie à la mode.


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