Back in the 1970s, prior to the success of TV shows like “Saturday Night Live,” there were movies that featured various comedy sketches instead of a feature-length plot. These movies tended to have a lot of raunchy, satirical, countercultural humor and were extremely popular as cult and midnight movies. The most popular of which were “The Groove Tube” (1974) and “Kentucky Fried Movie” (1977).
In the mid-1980s, “Kentucky Fried Movie” director John Landis tried to replicate one of those classic sketch comedy films with “Amazon Women on the Moon.” The concept was that you were watching a really low-rent UHF station late at night and saw a wide variety of cheesy programming. Like “The Groove Tube” and “Kentucky Fried Movie” (as well as a typical episode of “Saturday Night Live”), many of the sketches were hit or miss in “Amazon Women on the Moon.”
However, “Son of the Invisible Man” (starring Ed Begley, Jr.) was always my favorite sketch. The concept is beyond stupid, but hilarious. I won’t reveal what happens in this 3-minute clip, but I laugh harder each time I see it. Due to some brief (but non-offensive) nudity, it’s not safe for work. But I promise you, this is really really funny stuff.
A really beautiful, Neil Young-style cover of the Replacements’ classic “Bastards of Young,” recorded live at Atlanta’s Criminal Records in 2008 by former D Generation lead singer Jesse Malin. The studio version can be found on the stellar 2007 album “Glitter in the Gutter.”
One of the best … and saddest … true-crime films ever made, “The Onion Field” is a docudrama about a real-life case in 1963 where two plainclothes police officers Karl Hettinger and Ian Campbell (played by John Savage and Ted Danson) were taken hostage by two petty criminals Greg Powell and Jimmy Smith (played by James Woods and Franklyn Seales). When Powell pulls a gun on Campbell, Hettinger reluctantly gives up his gun. Powell, misunderstanding California’s “Little Lindbergh law,” believed that the mere kidnapping of a police officer was punishable by death, so he shot and killed Campbell. In truth, kidnapping under the Little Lindberg Law was only a capital crime if the subject is harmed. Hettinger manages to escape. But the real nightmare is ahead …
Hettinger is scorned by his fellow officers for being “cowardly” and his experience is used in a training film on what not to do when stopping and approaching a vehicle. The overwhelming guilt causes Hettinger enormous emotional pain, at one point being forced to resign due to a shoplifting incident while working a security detail in a department store. At his lowest moment, Hettinger strikes his infant child when the child won’t stop crying, easily one of the most shocking and depressing scenes in any major motion picture.
Powell, on the other hand, became a master manipulator of the legal system. Initially sentenced to death, Powell was able to push forward multiple appeals, eventually getting a second trial and getting his sentence commuted to life.
“The Onion Field” contains some excellent performances, especially by Wood and Savage. Wood’s performance is so good, I would almost say it’s his best, if it weren’t for his performance in 1986’s “Salvador.” However, Savage’s performance is truly heartbreaking. Not only a career best, Savage not only should have been nominated for an Oscar, but walked away with it as well. It’s unforgettable.
Based on Joseph Wambaugh’s superior non-fiction book of the same name, “The Onion Field” is one of those awesomely complex films of the 1970s that’s rarely discussed these days. Director Harold Becker takes his time getting to the actual crime, but the details we get on all of the protagonists’ lives are extremely rich. His depiction of Powell and Smith’s pathetic criminal life prior to the kidnapping is one of the best depictions of low-level petty crime ever filmed. It’s high time “The Onion Field” gets rediscovered and celebrated. While the DVD is out of print, if you have Amazon Prime, it’s currently available for free viewing.
The attached scene is the depiction of the actual shooting. While it’s tastefully directed and edited, it’s still a pretty upsetting scene to watch.
I remember seeing this really cheesy ad for a 4-record set of 1960s songs (starring Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees) when I was about 4 or 5 years old and asking for the album for either my birthday or Christmas. I remember playing it constantly and it was my first introduction to so-called pop music back in the day.
Unfortunately, the person who uploaded this vintage commercial decided to have some words in red font annoyingly travel across the screen while you’re watching the clip.
My first introduction to the music of James Brown came from this 1978 TV commercial for a Brown “best-of” album. While I remember being impressed with how “hard” this music sounded, I think what I most remember about this ad was the cartoon scene of two female butts in short shorts doing the bump while Brown shrieked “Hot Pants!!!!” over and over again. There are some other interesting “special effects” in this spot as well. This is 1970s advertising cheese at its finest.
From the transitional 1992 EP “Broken,” “Wish” was the first Nine Inch Nails song that made me say “F–K YEAH!” A lot of my friends loved Nine Inch Nails already, but while I liked the attitude of 1989’s “Pretty Hate Machine,” it had too many synths and not enough guitars for my taste. Well, be careful what you wish for, because Trent Reznor added some guitars all right. Gobs of them. Even over 20 years later, the result is still one of the heaviest songs ever recorded. And I’ve since come around on “Pretty Hate Machine” as well.
Placebo’s “Pure Morning” is a nice updating of Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?,” albeit with a 1970s British glam-rock feel. This was originally supposed to a be a B-side, but was released as an A-side instead. It’s Placebo’s best-known song in the US, but lead singer/songwriter Brian Molko allegedly hates it and rarely performs it these days.
This is a post-hardcore, but pre-“Licensed to Ill” Beastie Boys from 1985. Produced by Rick Rubin, “She’s On It” provides a nice blueprint of what that landmark album released in 1986 would be, with Rubin’s trademark metal-rap fusion that would explode into the mainstream with the Run DMC/Aerosmith collaboration “Walk this Way” the following year. The video is quite the artifact from the mid-1980s.
Here’s the infamous scene where Dean Stockwell’s whacked-out Ben character lip-syncs to Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” while Dennis Hopper’s equally insane Frank Booth looks on in David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet.” Stockwell allegedly came up with Ben’s “look” by reading Lynch’s script and imagining what kind of person Frank would consistently praise as being “suave.” I love the way that the otherwise aggro Frank gets very emotional while watching Ben’s performance and then about 1:14 in, abruptly starts having a psychotic break. Two brilliantly weird performances in a masterpiece of a film. I’ll watch this scene 1,000 more times than have to endure one more scene of some movie character singing Motown tunes into a hairbrush. And would someone please send me that smoking jacket that Ben wears?
The classic Warner Brothers cartoon about a sheepdog and a coyote, who are otherwise friends, clocking in and doing their respective “jobs” of hating each other and stopping each other from doing what they’re supposed to do … albeit being very mindful of the clock. Chris Rock once said this cartoon epitomized the concept of “racism” for many people in this country, meaning that a lot of it is people going through the motions of what they feel they’re supposed to be doing, rather than any legitimate hatred on their part. Which … may arguably be worse.