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December 09, 1993 - Image 11

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The Michigan Daily, 1993-12-09

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The Michigan Daily - Weekend etc. - Thursday, December 9, 1993 - 3

'B' league
of their own
By SCOTT PLAGENHOEF
"Alligator"--the story of Ramon,
an alligator flushed down the toilet
who eats chemical waste, grows to
ungodly proportion and wrecks havoc
on New York. "Private Resort" -
Johnny Depp and "Northern Expo-
sure" star Rob Morrow, circa 1984,
are girl-crazed teens let loose in Mi-
ami. "Attack of the Killer Refrigera-
tor"-no explanation necessary. Not
necessarily Oscar material, or of any
*espectable qualities, but these films
;and those like them are all entertain-
ing as hell and all without a chance of
being seen in a theater anytime soon.
Teenage sex comedies, slasher
films, the "nuclear testing gone awry"
science fiction film and other mod-
ern-day "B" movie genres are lamen-
tably dead in American theaters.
4 The "B" film was once a profit-
;*ble enterprise. The films were, pro-
duced on the smallest budget possible
with the intent of attracting the largest
possible audience in the shortest
amountoftime before being discarded
aiid replaced by equally poor fodder.
The "B" film king, Roger Corman,
can even count contemporary lumi-
naries Martin Scorsese, Jack
Nicholson and Robert DeNiro
amongst his prot6g6s. This form of
*elluloid prostitution was perfect for
the long forgotten institutions of the
drive-in and the double feature. Yet
the rise of the video cassette recorder
and cable television has all but de-
stroyed the "B" film.
Cable and video have provided
the producets of pure crap a profit-
able arena for presenting their work.
Yet as the production companies
rofit, the public loses. The classic
"B" films are no longer made and
those that are can only be enjoyed by
those who stumble across them at
-their local video store or who sub-
scribe to a pay cable station. The
quality of the "B" film has also some-
how sunk. The kitsch and playfulness
of "The Amazing Colossal Man" and
"Class of Nuke Em' High" or the hip,
cult potential of "Rowdy" Roddy
iper's "Hell Comes to Frogtown"
and "Frankenhooker" have been re-

Santa on crack
Holiday shows need to get a life
By MICHAEL. THOMPSON -
'Twas the month before Christmas and all through the house was the blast
of the TV featuring a green-skinned louse. Ormaybe just a bunch of mean and
nasty reindeer. Maybe a serious look at the commercialization of Christmas
itself? Yes, all of these and more. It's that time of year when we see Rudolph,
the Grinch, Charlie Brown and some kind of weird, usually disastrous
experiment involving some annoying cartoon that just happens to be popular
at the time. That's right, holiday shows.
Just how many years has the Grinch tried in vain to steal Christmas from
the Hoos? Are we ever going to tire of seeing Rudolph overcome his personal
problem by turning it into a triumph? Hell no. You got to find a better way to
So we ease the seat back and watch the
Christmas spirit ride the air waves because it
was sapped out of our souls many years ago.
waste a half and hour; "Cheers" is gone, sucker.
So we ease the seat back and watch the Christmas spirit ride the air waves
because it was sapped out of our souls many years ago. Hey, g'et in here, the
Grinch is about to get all his faith back. And bring me another beer, will ya?
Gone are the days of milk and cookies for Dad dressed as Santa, but we'll
always have claymation messages and Scrooge to tell us what we should really
be feeling.
And what the hell ever happened to the awesome claymation story of Kris
Kringle? We watch him move from an orphan to a wonderful man to the great
Claus himself. Long gone because it was too involving. Hell, there's a story
there. Can't have that, it's the Christmas Season damn it! We need something
the kids can follow just enough so that their parents will say "Oh, I remember
this. Isn't it wonderful?"
So instead we get some kind of bizarre moment in the snow. Yeah, there
really was a Ziggy Christmas special. Ziggy! And Garfield too! That darn
special never seems to end.
What we need is a little guilt and redemption. We need to feel the true spirit
of pain and suffering for Christ's sake! That's why we need "Abel Ferrara's
Christmas Special." That's right, "Bad Santa." He drinks, gambles, frolics
with the elves from the South Pole and beats Mrs. Claus. But, of course, he
finds redemption in the act of giving a crack baby a small teddy bear. Santa is
saved only frames before Rudolph blows him away for more drug money.
Cocaine keeps the nose red, my friends.
Or "Callahan's Happy Christmas Cartoon." I'm not even going to try to
suggest what this sick genius would do. But I would speculate that "Howard
Stern's Guide to Gift Giving" would feature a lot of half-nude women and the
number for a mail order sex catalog. While not a cartoon, this show could
enlighten millions of kids on what mom really wants for Christmas.
Tim Burton could easily make an interesting TV sequel to "Nightmare
Before Christmas" entitled "The Nightmare of Christmas Shopping." What
could be more entertaining that watching two claymation moms literally
tearing one another's limbs out over a rotting Cabbage Patch Doll?
It's hard not to be cynical when the only really good Christmas show was
made so long ago that now everyone involved has sold out. Linus and Charlie
theorize and criticize beautifully about the commercial side of Christmas, but
that all seems like a waste now that they are also pedaling Met Life insurance.
Frosty melted, folks. Santa got old. And Rudolph was a scapegoat. Merry
Christmas. And there'll be no Happy New Year because 12 months from now
it will start all over again.

Johnny Depp should get an Oscar for all the "B" movies in which he has starred. But he's such a cutie!

placed. Cable's version of the "B"
film is a Shannon Tweed soft-core
film or a young adult, erotic thriller
starring one or both of those classy,
lovable Coreys (Haim and Feldman).
The true "B" film and its early
'80s counterparts are celebrated on
no less than three cable television
programs: Comedy Central's "Drive-
in Review," "Mystery Science The-
ater 3000" and the USA Network's
"Up All Night" triple-features. How-
ever, none of these programs air the
films in their original format.
Network TV used to contribute to

the "so bad they're good" movie craze,
but rather than creating star-driven
laughers such as "KISS Meets the
Phantom of the Park" or the Suzanne
Sommers' man versus nature film
"Ants," they now confine themselves
to melodramatic true-life shit.
The recent proliferation of sec-'
ond-run theaters suggest a possible
arena for the presentation of the ab-
surdly hilarious, yet without the safety
of the double feature, the risk on such
films would never be taken. Nowa-
days the studios can produce any prod-
uct so long as it features a name actor

because it will flourish in video rent-
als no matter how poor its quality or
box-office receipts.
Even if cable, video tape and net-
work TV - the factors which con-
tributed to the demise of the drive-in
and the production of the ridiculously
entertaining film-can produce qual-
ity "B" level films, they will still be
limited to the small screen. What is
really special about 50-foot Amazon
women if they are only a matter of
inches tall? And how frightening are
killer cockroaches or "Rabid Gran-
nies" without Cinemascope?

Happy
Holidays
from the staff of
Weekend etc.

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