The Benny Calls, circa early 1980s


For my money, the best prank calls of all time were an endless series of calls made to someone by the name of Benny at Al White Motors in Tennessee by someone named Arnie at some point during the early 1980s. I say the 1980s, because Arnie asks Benny if he’s campaigning for Jesse Jackson at one point and Benny reacts very angrily (I can’t remember if this snippet is part of the calls at the links I’m supplying).

The premise is this: Arnie constantly pesters Benny about being friends … sometimes multiple times an hour … and Benny is … well, less than accommodating. Benny curses out Arnie at every opportunity, most frequently calling him a “buzzard bastard, “bastard buzzard,” “son-of-a-bitch-bastard buzzard” or telling Arnie to “Go to Hell!”

At first, the calls seem monotonous. But if you listen for a while, the pure benign stalker-ish charms of Arnie wash over you like a warm shower … and Benny’s (understandably) annoyed and tortured responses are … sorry … really really funny.

If you listen, you will also notice some drama emerging. It seems that Benny got a friend’s sister pregnant while he was in the Army and dumped her. The friend’s name is Barney and Arnie reveals that he is Benny’s long-lost son. Whether any of this is true or not is pure speculation, but the question does emerge of why Benny stays on the phone so long with Arnie and puts up with him. It’s the weirdest, most evocative expression of audio S&M ever recorded.

At some point in the 1990s, someone made a feature film out of the calls called “The Corndog Man” starring Noble Willingham as the Benny substitute. While Willingham delivers a career-best performance, the movie is uneven and quite frankly, I was a little disappointed the film “explained” the reason why Arnie was audibly torturing Benny. I kind of liked it when it was a mystery.

If you like the 45 minutes of calls linked above, there’s another 45 minutes at the link below, you bastard buzzard! And if you don’t like Hotpoint, go to hell!

“The Boys in Company C” (1978) dir. Sidney J. Furie


One of the first major studio films to deal with the Vietnam War after the war was over, “The Boys in Company C” was released near the beginning of 1978. The film got mixed reviews at the time and whatever notice it got was overshadowed by the double punch of Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter” (released at the end of 1978) and Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” (released in the summer of 1979).

It’s a real shame that “The Boys in Company C” has been shuttled to the sidelines over the years, because it’s a really good movie. Admittedly, it’s uneven at times (at one point, it shifts from a war movie into a sports movie). But the film is extremely ambitious, attempting to tackle several important subjects (combat, drugs, racism). And the film boasts several terrific performances, specifically by Stan Shaw, Andrew Stevens, Craig Wasson, Michael Lembeck, James Canning, R. Lee Ermey, James Whitmore Jr., Noble Willingham, and Scott Hylands.

This was R. Lee Ermey’s first acting role and it’s very reminiscent of his role in Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket,” which many people mistakenly believe is his debut. Ermey plays the same hard-ass drill instructor we all know and love (and — gulp! — are deathly afraid of), but in “Boys in Company C,” there’s also a humanity that’s missing from his performance in Kubrick’s film. The scene above is a compilation of Ermey’s entire performance, but the part you really need to watch is the scene that starts 3:10 into the clip. This is Ermey and Shaw having an intense discussion about boot camp, Shaw’s struggles with being company leader, and Ermey’s explanation of what he needs Shaw to do. It’s a powerful scene, wonderfully acted by Ermey and Shaw. Please note that because it IS Ermey playing a drill sergeant, the language is beyond rough and extremely politically incorrect.

And not to slight Shaw. Most people remember Shaw as the doomed Toomer from “The Great Santini,” but his performance as Washington is outstanding, and in a film that’s basically an ensemble piece, Shaw is the lead of the film. Had this film come out a few years later, Shaw arguably may have had the career Denzel Washington had. His performance in “Boys in Company C” demonstrates he has the talent and charisma to have gone all the way.