Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ten Statements About....VAULT OF HORROR (1973)

"Now all I have to do if find a spot on the Santa Monica pier
where the tourists love British character actors..."
"It's getting dark. We always close before dark. They come out in the dark."

1) This is maybe the laziest of the Amicus portmanteau films' framing sequences. From the rather awkward start ("Hey, we're all in an elevator...why is it going to the basement? Oh, look, a club!") to its even more awkward resolution ("We're doomed to retell our evil every night in the Disco of Hell" who, Curt? Why?), it lacks the style, wit or dignified atmosphere of other, superior examples.

2) You know, if everyone in "Midnight Mess," the opening story, had dentition like Anna Massey's Donna, the resolution would have worked. Sadly, though, everyone except Massey's got these long saber-tooth like choppers that make it seem like they're all playing at being walruses.

(And while we're on the subject, should I be worried that I have always found Anna Massey sexy in a starchy way?)

3) Even though I will admit that there are some funny comedic beats in the fourth segment, "Bargain In Death," I wish they had allowed the second segment, "The Neat Job" to stand as the sole humorous story. Because of their previous skill at comedy, Terry-Thomas and Glynis Johns are much more effective in advancing their story while also providing satirical smiles--as opposed to the group of lesser actors mugging and overcompensating to make their laughs work in the other one.

Okay, she looks okay...but check out the walrus tusks on the
vampire to Anna Massey's left!
4) Whether you liked or hated the third segment "This Trick'll Kill You"--I thought it was okay, more or less--there are two things you have to admit--1) The rope/snake effect is actually pretty clever, and probably could have done without the slow motion and the whip cracks obviously dubbed in to sell it, and 2) Jasmina Hilton, who plays the Indian Girl who preys upon our asshated magician couple, is really, really hot.

5) The aforemetioned "Bargain In Death" is a real mess...the plot is unnecessarily convoluted, the narrative is clumsy in its execution (did we really need the main character's conspirator tell us out loud what we figured out, oh, in the first two minutes of the story?), and overtly broad in its 'comedy.' Yes, Arthur Mullard's Gravedigger is genuinely hilarious (the way he seems to be playing with the two hapless medical students, throwing dirt on them 'accidentally' is well timed)...but the sight of people's hair standing on end and running around in speeded up Keystone Kops style is winge-worthy. In a field of generally mediocre stories, this one is the story that actively stinks.

6) Of the five main characters, a pre-Doctor Who Tom Baker (this film was released a year before he became the Fourth Doctor, and apparently he was a busy boy--there's something like five entries on his cv for that year) stands out. With his wild hair, prominent beard and deep voice, he provides a startling contrast to the other soft-spoken, well-manicured types who are waiting to tell their stories.

7) Good thing, too, because Baker's story, "Drawn and Quartered" is not only the longest tale but the best. Baker is able to carry the show based on his natural charisma, and even the borderline cartoony approach to the voodoo element works because it manifests itself in a novel and visually engaging way.

8) Boy, in a film rife with some pretty unpleasant human beings, the ones in "Drawn And Quartered" takes the cake--from the art critic who manipulates Baker's artist and cheats on his wife because, you know, it's the 70's to the art dealer who thinks nothing of trying to shoot Baker because he pisses him off, these guys deserve to be shredded.

And to think I left Bushwick to play this role...
9) Not that everything in this story works--the rather obvious Native American figure in the voodoo hogun's grass hut is a particularly inept (lack of attention to) detail.

10) Look, the hero of "Bargain of Death" is seen reading the novelization of Tales From The Crypt! And the two medical students are played by the stars of Doctor In The House! How wait, NO IT ISN'T! of the weaker Amicus anthology films. While there are small touches that are good, especially performances by Thomas, Johns, and Baker, it doesn't hide the fact that there are four bland stories and one hold out. Definitely one to put toward the end of the queue when doing an Amicus retrospective.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ten Statements About....THE RETURN OF CAPTAIN INVINCIBLE (1984)

The second our President (Michael Pate) sings a song
composed of the word 'bullshit' repeated ad infinitum....
you know this isn't just any super-hero movie.
Long before the Age of Reason
Evil waged unholy treason.
Believe me that no mother ever cried for Midnight."

1) So help me, I am so a sucker for mock newsreel footage. Yes, there's a certain arch tone to the opening sequence that provides us with Captain Invincible's backstory. But there's also--thanks primarily to Alan Arkin--a great deal of fun, and it's hard not to imagine how he'd do in an actual pulp adventure film.

2) This is, of course, another insane film by the insane filmmaker Phillipe Mora--and as such, we have to accept that certain things will be somewhat simple continuity (part of Christopher Lee's scheme is to drive ethnics into ghetto communities--one of which is called 'Sicilian Heights' on the sign outside, and is refered to as 'Sicilian Villa' by the salesman, for example...and that's in the first fifteen minutes).

3) Given that Michael Pate plays the President in both this film and The Howling III: The Marsupials, I have to wonder if Mora actually has his own little universe where all these mad musings of his mind gambol together. But then, if we accept that, we have to accept that in Mora's mind the President is inclined to go into a song and dance number where he repeats the word 'bullshit' about fifty times....

I did mention this is a musical, didn't I?

Dracula sings!  Fu Manchu dances!  Sherlock Holmes...
enjoys the hell of out himself?
4) Of the ten musical numbers, many of which seem to ape different American musical genres, three are the last known songs by Richard O'Brien and Richard Hartley. And boy, do they stand out....particularly the song for Christopher Lee's Mr. Midnight, 'Choose Your Poison,' and the defacto duet of Lee and Arkin, 'Midnight.' Especially after some really rough patches, those songs give the film a jolt of energy.

5) Kate Fitzpatrick, who plays the female lead Patty, is truly dreadful. She frequently resorts to the broadest sort of pantomime to convey what she needs to (like bugging her eyes and grasping her throat to indicate she's suffocating), and actually detracts from Arkin's rather good all-in performance.

6) This film would simply not have worked without the performances of Arkin and Lee, who dive right in and approach their characters absolutely seriously. In a movie filled with caricatures and buffonery, these two actors make sure the immortal enemies Invincible and Midnight are throughly believable...and that keeps the film from sliding headlong into total and absolute nonsense.

7) I really have no idea what's going on in the sequence where it's hinted that we're about to learn Mr. Midnight's evil plan. Why is everything in Keystone Kops speed? Why is that strange monster that serves as Midnight's sidekick romping with black-lingerie clad girls? What. The. Fuck?

...and this is not the most undignified thing Phillipe Mora
asks Alan Arkin to do....
But is a Phillipe Mora film and, as such, bugfuck insane.

8) It's not just that 'Choose Your Poison' is the kind of song that only O'Brien and Hartley could write, with its twisting lyrics that weave in an amazing number of alcohol and cocktail references into's that Christopher Lee delivers it with such overwhelming glee. He seems to actively be having the time of his life singing and dancing in this number, and his enthusiasm is transfered to the audience.

9) With Midnight's scheme of driving all ethnic peoples off Manhattan Island and sending them afloat, I have to think that Mora thought he was doing a satire on the then still fresh in people's minds Superman films...but what interests me is how I am sure this film was an inspiration--unintentional or not--to Albert Pyun's godawful Captain America film, with its boy who worships the hero growing up to be President and asking the help of said hero many years later to stop a maniacal, fascist madman....

10) As bad as this film is in spots, it's impossible to hate something so unafraid of its own corniness as to have its hero inspired by such icons as FDR and--in the climax--Kate Smith (who apparently gave Mora permission to use her famous 1933 recording of 'America The Beautiful').

Overall...a true oddity--how many super-hero musical comedies are there in the world, let alone ones starring Adam Arkin and Christopher Lee?--that makes up for its moments of bad taste and mediocrity with the trademark Phillipe Mora nuttiness and some central performances that manages to pull this film together by sheer force of will.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ten Statements About....SUPER (2010)

Let's be honest...this is the only thing about this film most
of you are interested in...
"Look what happened to you when you don't have a kid sidekick! You get shot by people!"

1) Maybe it's because my previous exposure to Rainn Wilson has only been when he was playing that grotesque on The Office, but I was struck here by how much more nuanced an actor he was. Throughout the first act, there's such a well-meaning patheticness to Wilson's Frank that speaks volumes about the desperation of his life. There's echoes of Dwight in his performance (an argument could be made that Frank is Dwight in the real world), but it's shorn of the broad artifice.

2) That being said, I have to wonder if this film isn't damaged by its super-hero-in-the-real-world angle. Once Frank puts on the costume of the Crimson Bolt and starts wacking people with a pipe wrench, the film loses focus for large portions of the second and third acts. Especially jarring are the moment where the darkness that infuses most of the comedy sloughs off in favor of goofiness with Wilson struggling to change in a car and playing secret identity games with him boss. The costume is the biggest thing that blurs the trajectory of Frank's character arc.

After being let go in the 80's, the Domino Noid struggled with
his identity....
3) Luckily, we have Ellen Page's thoroughly insane performance as Libby, who forces herself into the role of Frank's sidekick 'Boltie.' Spastic, energetic, and demented on every level (her laugh, which is calculatedly too manic to be natural, practically becomes an element of the score), Page gives that portion of the film a jolt, while also providing a much needed contrast to Wilson's underplaying.

(And yeah...Page's costume is hideous in concept....but the way she fills it out is anything but...)

4) While James Gunn has done some good films as a writer and director, he seems to have problems here maintaining a consistent tone. The first act is strictly indie comedy....then it veers into farce, then black comedy, then gory action thriller before finally discovering his its path back to the indie comedy it's finally revealed as being. Gunn really needs to have more control over his projects, as the sliding around from tone to tone, from genre to genre, makes the film narratively murky.

5) ...and adding to that murkiness is the quirky touches Gunn uses sometimes, like the imposition of comic art elements to key moments. That wouldn't be so bad, if it wasn't done so arbitrarily. I can certainly understand the usage of comic sound effect elements during the fight scenes, but filling the screen with 'bombs' in different comic letters when Wilson says the word makes no sense.

6) Look, I know I once said I wanted to see Nathan Fillion playing Green Lantern, but after seeing him filling that yellow Holy Avenger costume like an overstuffed sausage, the opening in his mask emphasizing his double chin....I rescind that statement.

"And this is for badmouthing Steve Carrell!"
7) As Frank's, ummmm, nemesis, Kevin Bacon's Jacques is pretty damn cool. Bacon chooses to play the drug dealer not as a villain, but as a regular workaday guy. Almost all of his mayhem is executed by the people around him (headed by Michael Rooker), and he actually tries to reason with Frank at several points in the film. What that does is make his descent in the climax to a full-on murderous thug all the more impactful.

8) I almost wish we got to see more of John Elway lookalike Gregg Henry's Detective Felkner. His performance seems to hint at something more going on inside the guy's head, and his early exit from the film at the hands of Michael Rooker's Abe and his henchmen robs the film of its opportunity to do its take on the comic book trope of the policeman rival....

9) You know--and I think I blame Gunn's script for this, although it could also be my perceiving a chemistry between the actors--Linda Cardillini has a very small role as a Pet Store Employee who tries to sell Frank a pet rabbit that seemed to indicate she would have a slightly larger role. And yet she doesn't appear again, and I'm sorry that's so especially in light of how the rabbit plays a part in the film's coda.

10) I continue to be struck about how Liv Tyler--who plays Frank's wife Sarah, the character who unintentionally is the center of the story--has grown into her face finally. She's shaken off the creepy Steve Tyler-esque cast to her features, and is now just an attractive woman who is a competent actress.

Overall...while there is loads to like in this film, Gunn's script comes off as narratively ADD and could have been more successful if he didn't impose his comic book obsession on it. There are some great performances, especially from Wilson and Page, and if you're interested in some of these actors, you might want to give it a look.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ten Statements About....COMMITTED (2000)

If you knew the things he's going to do to prove his love
to you, Heather....ewwwwwww....
"I read somewhere that the reason most relationships break down is that each partner is waiting for the other one to fix it. But if you want somebody to stand by you always, you have to be willing to do the same for them, even when they're acting like an idiot."

1) You know what's worse than a second-rate romantic comedy? A second-rate art house romantic comedy. For you see, a romantic comedy just has two people acting extreme and irrational because they're in love. An art house romantic comedy has two people acting extreme and irrational because they're in love, and there's something far, far more meaningful and spiritual that the woman needs to get on with her life.

2) I've made reference in the past to finding Heather Graham kinda insane-looking, especially around the eyes. And that look does work on some level for her here, as a small portion of the film has her, well, going insane. But the best little moments in the film are the ones where she seems to allow herself a little leeway in this rigidly structured film, like when she turns a rather dour group of partiers into dancing just by force of will.

Plus, she looks amazingly hot in red leather pants. Just saying is all.

3) What's really funny is how there's little chemistry between Graham and her husband, played by Luke Wilson--and even less chemistry between Graham and the Designated New Beau, the paper mache' artist played by Goran Visnjic...but the chemistry between Casey Affleck, playing her brother, and Patricia Velasquez, playing the gal who will become his girlfriend, is through the roof. I kept wanting the film to stop following Graham's Jolene and start following them, because their storyline seemed like it was going to be much, much more fun.

4) And speaking of Affleck--there's this strange quality with him that seems to make him empathetic with pretty damn near anyone on screen, and you believe he's invested in his character, Jay, one hundred for that weird-ass moment where it's implied he has incestuous feelings for Jolene. It's brief, but it hangs there for a long time, like a fart in church.

You can end this movie right now, Heather...Please!
For The Love Of God!
5) You know, I understand that in these films there has to be a Designated New Beau so our Heroine Trapped In A Poisonous Relationship has a guy she can walk off into the sunset with...but Goran Visnjic's Neil is so sleazy, from his admission that married women turn him on to the weird sex show he puts on for Jolene with a mannequin, that the idea of him being the Positive Choice is...ick. Just...ick.

6) Wow...So you once played a caricature Mexican trucker who tries to kill Luke Wilson in a bathrub, Mark Ruffalo? My sympathies.

7) This is one of these movies where Jolene would get exactly what she wanted at the point where Wilson's Carl is berating her for sucking away all his luck if she just revealed that it was her speaking up on his behalf to his boss (played exceptionally by a favorite character actor of mine, Dylan Baker) that made his fortunes change in El Paso. But if she did that, the film would be over at roughly the fifty-minute mark.

Boy, do I pray she's crying on the inside...
8) I think I would like Art Alexakis' brief turn as a junkie car thief if a) I didn't know that in real life he turns into a whining lil' bitch that keeps trying to trumpet his band's importance in the world of grunge, or b) I didn't know exactly when he was going to show up to return Jolene's money and reveal that her kindness did lead to his being sober.

9) As much as I hate the presence of the Wise Old Magic Man in these art house romantic comedies (which usually involve a trip to someplace urban audiences would look upon as 'exotic' and a spiritual journey led by a magical figure indicative of that exotic location's indigent people), I'll admit it--I enjoyed Alfonso Arau's turn as Grampy. He also has a great, easy chemistry with Graham, and makes me wonder if the film would have worked if it eschewed the romantic angle and focused on her studying under him to become some sort of shaman. The strange magic realist grace notes (i.e. a trouble doll of Carl Jolene fashions is thrown from a moving cop car, and the next time we see Carl, his leg is broken) only emphasizes that this should have been the way the film should've gone.

10) Boy, that final seven minutes, with it's 'Looks, I's Empowered' montage followed by the half-baked resolution of Carl and Jolene's story (including Graham doing exactly what she said wouldn't work to Wilson at one point because it's a cheap 'woohoo' punch the air moment) is painful to watch.

Overall...God help me, but Heather Graham--Heather Graham!--is better than this. So is pretty much everyone involved with this film.

Except for Art Alexakis. Him, he deserves being trapped in this cookie cutter romantic comedy hiding behind its indie 'depth' in an attempt to fool us into thinking its more meaningful.

Ten Statements About....GET BRUCE! (1999)

"It's a very interesting, intricate kinda relationship between a comedy writer and a person who's scared to death they wouldn't be funny."

1) This film is solely based on the premise that Bruce Vilanch is The Greatest Comedy Writer Ever And You Will Love Him. If you don't...and boy howdy, don't I...well....

2) And the weirdest part of all the schmoozing and slurping of Vilanch is how contradictory the main body of the film is with the clips used as proof. There seems to be a definite disconnect here, as everyone is praising him for being so timeless and eternal when every clip namedrops then current celebrities that are pretty much ciphers at this point (Linda Tripp? Paula Dean? huh?)

3) However, what is interesting is those moments that give us insight into the process of writing comedy. Especially fascinating is the way director Andrew J. Kuehn contrasts how Vilanch develops routines for two of the four major interviewees. Seeing how Billy Crystal has him come to his home and works over things meticulously as opposed to how Robin just has him feed concepts and idea he can rift on reveals what may be Vilanch's real talent of reflecting what is the comedian's strengths back at them. That being said...

4) Man, does Robin Williams come off as a stunted post-adolescent, cock-obsessed jackass in this film. Watching him doing these weird, borderline racist riffs on The X-Files and relying almost fully on impersonations, Williams is served the poorest.

(Although even I will admit that the whole 'what if Jack Benny was Mulder section of said rift is pretty funny.)

5) Crystal, however, shows a real intelligence and thoughtfulness about his craft, and hearing him reason out how he worked out specific gags with Vilanch actually improves his status in my eyes.

6) The other two main interviewees are Whoopi Goldberg and Bette Midler. Goldberg comes off a touch disingenuous, and seems to be defending herself and some of her choices (especially that Ted Danson Black Face thing) a little too much.

7) Midler's segment, on the other hand, is of note because it's mainly about how Vilanch exposed her to older comediennes, especially Sophie Tucker, that allowed her to discover and develop her own stage identity. It's cool not only because it gives us more of the process, but shows us Vilanch not as Comedy Writing Messiah, but as someone shaping and advising someone just starting out. I wish we saw more of that and less of the endless streams of celebs bowing down before him.

8) There are a couple of other interviewees I wish Kuehn has spent more time with--especially George Schlatter, who shows a lot of insight in the few moments we hear from here.

9) If the whole purpose of this film is to tell people How Wonderful Bruce Is, Kuehn should probably not have used as much footage of him performing on his own because, quite frankly, he sucks, and his lack of talent only emphasizes how baseline and without wit he is when he is on his own. Hell, the delight he takes on the concept of making a fart joke out of news of a gas leak pretty exemplifies everything that doesn't work about the flick.

10) That being said...the one moment where we see him on stage at a benefit, struggling with genuine emotions and the jokes he wrote for himself, is the single instance where we learn what he's like for real. For this film to work, we needed more of that and less of Bette Midler doing an insincere 'I love you, Bruce' and then scolding the filmmaker for not cutting afterwards.

Overall...a puff piece through and though that needed more of the process and genuine emotions and less kissing of the less-than-impressive Vilanch's too-wide ass.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ten Statements About....SLAM DANCE (1987)

"I wanted to be different for a long time. But I was the same. I was always the same. I can't go back."

1) I now understand why Tom Hulce didn't have the career so many people thought he would after Amadeus...dude's got a Bobble Head. I mean, his melon is so huge. His inability to actually convince me he's in danger all the while he's being chased around by the New Wave Scumbag Detectives might have something to do with it as well.

2) Since this is an attempt to recast a noir story in a New Wave context, we've got a number of characters played by actual New Wave musicians. Adam Ant, playing Hulce's agent, is actually pretty good (and it's not for nothing that Mr. Ant had an actual career in Hollywood for a few years, mainly playing heavies), as is John Doe as one of the New Wave Scumbag Detectives (and like Mr. Ant, Doe had a small acting career as well), but Mitchell Froom is a little too 'Kid Playing Cowboy'...and since he has the largest role of the three, I'm not impressed.

3) It's interesting how the deeper Hulce's Drood gets into the mystery, the color palette of the film subtly changes, with the brighter reds and blues of the New Wave portion is swapped for the darker, more sombre tones more appropriate for a film noir.

4) Boy, I think my friend Derrick is right...Harry Dean Stanton was born a middle aged man. I do find it amusing that Stanton has the most new-wave name (Detective Smiley--and we do learn down the line that it is his actual name!), and is the most noirish character.

5) Now this film runs an hour and forty minutes--but it would run a little under ninety minutes if director Wayne Wang hadn't indulged in his art-house sensibilities and given us a number of very, very lengthy montages. Hell, the next-to-last scene includes something like three or four minutes of Hulce's preparation for what he's about to do.

6) And Wang's art-house-iness also invades the mystery itself. At its core it's about a sex scandal--but since Wang puts such a peculiar spin on said sex scandal (why are the men wearing Scuba masks? Why is Virginia Madsen sitting in a shallow fountain?), it actually serves to muddy the water rather than illuminating it. Hell, I didn't realize there was a sex scandal until the film was halfway over, even though the scandal is introduced very early on in the film's running time.

7) And speaking of Virginia Madsen....My God, does she fill out that one party dress exquisitely (that was the main selling point of the film in its original run after all). Her role is extremely small, but she does fill it out well.

And yes, I did intend that statement to have a whiff of double entendre....

8) Adam Ant in tiny blue shorts and a snapback cap with a comical moose face on it....some things cannot be unseen.

9) This is one of those neo-noirs--Romeo Is Bleeding is another one-- where there's not a single character who's really sympathetic. And, like Romeo Is Bleeding, the realization that the main character's wife is as scummy as everyone else is the one that sinks the film as a whole for me.

10) And sadly, this is one of those films where the director dresses the film up in the trappings of a social movement without making the film unique to said social movement. It's not as bad as the so-called psychedelic films of the 60's in that respect, it is pretty disingenuous. times very frustrating in its art-house-iness and seeming disinterest in being the new wave detective story it claims it is, this is still intriguing as an artifact of it's time...and, to be fair, it was for the longest time the only place you could hear my favorite Stan Ridgway track of all time, the demented 'Bing Can't Walk.'

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


"Seig Hie--EX-TER-MI-NATE!  I mean EX-TER-MI-NATE!"
"We do not release prisoners. We are the Masters of The Earth."
"Not for long."

1) I will acknowledge that I am too young that I don't appreciate the real reason this show must've had the impact it did when it first aired. The WWII similes come hard and fast throughout the show (this really is the story than cements the Daleks=Robot Nazis concept), and while it's not as unsubtle as, let's say, Torchwood: Miracle Day, it is very, very present throughout.

2) Unlike other 'companion falls in love and leaves the Doctor' final stories ("Hi, I'm Leela, fierce warrior of a primitive culture...and now I's in lurve with wimpy Gallifreyan Guard Guy I have two, three scenes with"), Susan's storyline is very well constructed. Terry Nation makes certain Susan and David have lots of screen time together to build their chemistry and make you believe that they are in love...and I find it interesting that the final decision is The Doctor's, choosing to give her a home rather than selfishly keeping her for himself. It sort of signifies a point in the Doctor's character arc as well as Susan's.

3) We've got another example of Hartnell's struggle with his health as not only do we get him stumbling over his lines, we get in episode four...The Doctor falls insensate so Hartnell can rest for a while! The way this development is introduced is so hamfisted, it's hilarious. And speaking of hilarious....

"It's time you had a life of your own, my child...besides, your
weird-ass face is quite frankly creeping me out...:
4) WHAT. The. Fuck. That Slyther thing....Ye Gods, that's an awful monster. And I love the fact that it's apparently The Black Dalek's 'pet'....doesn't that imply a level of affection the Daleks just aren't capable of? But then....

5) Even at this early point in the series' existence, it's obvious the 'greater-than-four episodes' structure for longer stories start to seem overextended very easily. Not only the whole time waster of the Slyther seems gratuitous, the whole side trip with the women in the shack in the woods could be cut whole without any disruption to the flow of the story.

6) Was I the only one who wanted Barbara at some point to grab Jenny by the collar and punch her repeatedly? Especially after all the 'I'm a ballsy tough broad who will do anything to survive' bullcrap she keeps spouting....only to collapse into a pile of pork gelatin once she's captured by the Daleks in episode five. Ann Davies' portrayal pisses me off.

7) Dortmunn...I understand intellectually why this character existed in the story (The parallels to him and Roosevelt are hard to escape)...but maybe it's Alan Judd's portrayal, maybe it's the way the character is written, but I just don't buy his role. His death, meant to be heroic and bittersweet, just seems anticlimactic to me.

"...and we take bread and fruit and dip it in the's
the party idea of the century!"
8) What I did think was effective was the shots of Barbara, Jenny and Dortmunn running through the empty streets of London, and seeing Daleks wandering around recognizable London landmarks. They ground the story in a weird reality that makes the invasion seem realer.

9) Overall the design sense of this story contributes greatly to the atmosphere and reality of the narrative. Simple things like the Dalek lettering seen throughout the show, or the 'vetoed' signs on artwork and museum pieces all lend veracity to the idea that this is a recognizable city that something truly terrible happened in.

10) Here's something that nags me about Dalek stories as a whole--wouldn't they be more effective, especially given how Episode One's cliffhanger is the appearance of a Dalek out of the water of the Thames, if the story wasn't named 'The Dalek Invasion of Earth?' Apparently, the story at one time was called simply 'The Invaders,' and I can imagine the chill that would go through me if I didn't expect that shot.

Overall...I know a lot of people hail this as a classic, but the truth is it's overlong and somewhat all over the place. Sure, there are some nice moments, but it could have benefited from being shorter and/or more focused. Still, an important story in the development of the show and required viewing.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

BRAVE VIEWED WORLD 2012 Edition Week One

Hey, look, it's a new year...and you know what that means, don't you?

That's right. Mid-Season Replacements. A slew of shows our beloved networks held back in reserve on the off-chance that their initial volley of shows didn't quite work out. And since the 2011 Fall Season was, well, one of the lousiest in recent memory, those new entries are rolling out in droves.

So, just as with the last round of Brave Viewed World (which you can find here and here, I will be looking at the pilots of the few new shows that interests me and giving my short (well, short-ish) impressions. As more and more of these things roll out, I'll also be letting you know how long I will keep up with the shows. Fair warning, though--back in September I sampled a slew of shows, and I ended up watching exactly two of them beyond their second week...and one of those, the schizophrenic adaptation of Prime Suspect that starred Maria Bello, got cancelled.

So let's start the Cavalcade of Pain!

ROB: Technically, this is called 'Rob' with those upside down and rightside up exclamation point....because, you see, CBS has wrung everything out of convincing the flyover states that hipsters, geeks, fatties and rich people are their it's time to start convinicing them foreign people are their lessers!

One of these people is funny...the other is Rob Schnieder.
(Okay, I admit...the main reason I watched this was for the train-wreck potential of Rob Schnieder trying to carry a sitcom).

Rob plays a guy named....well, Rob...who marries Maggie, a woman who is a) taller, b) younger c) Mexican and d) waaaaaaaay out of his league. And while Maggie is the ideal mate in that she seems to have abandoned her business in Las Vegas so she can hang around in Rob's pricey home and beg to have sex with him, her massive Chicano family--headed by Cheech Marin's Fernando and his wife, Diana Maria Riva's Rosa--are not happy their little girl has married a schlubby white guy who couldn't carry a joke in a bucket with biiiiig handles.

To be fair, there are a sparse few lines of this pilot that I found funny, and they were all lines delivered by characters who aren't Rob Schnieder. Cheech Marin may be playing a one-dimensional character (he's the Henpecked Father Type that was perfected by Jerry Stiller in Seinfeld and The King Of Queens, only, you know, Chicano), but so masterful is his craft that he manages to squeeze laughs out of some really godawful lines. And I'll admit to really enjoying Eugenio Derbez' Hector. Hector is obviously designed to be the series' analog to The Wacky Neighbor, but there's a combination of how he delivers his lines and his physicality is hilarious; at one point he explains to Rob that he's just visiting, then add with the same style of intonation 'I'm neeever leaving,' and I couldn't stop laughing. If the show was solely about this Chicano family, I might be compelled to watch.

But, you know, it's a sitcom designed to showcase Rob Schnieder, and on that level it's not funny. I don't get any feeling that he and Claudia Bassols, playing Maggie have even had tea together, let alone that they are Meant For Each Other--and to be fair, Bassols isn't playing a character, she's playing an idealized woman for Rob to have. And Rob himself is such a sucking black hole of lack of funny that it's painful to watch him suffer through this half-hour gauntlet. I shall not be back.

The Finder: 'Hey, you know, Bones is going off the air, but we really don't want to give up that audience...what if we did something a whole lot like Bones, but not...maybe with a little of Monk thrown in...okay, a lot of Monk thrown in. Maybe a little Burn Notice, too."

...and then Michael Clarke Duncan snapped his neck out
of pity, and no one talked about the quirky detective again...
And, before I get into the show proper, I should give props to producer Hart Hansen for going very old school in setting this show up. Apparently, the program--based on a pair of books by Richard Greener--was given a defacto trailer by having the characters recur during the sixth season. That's the kind of thing we haven't seen since the 70's, and I'm all for more of it.

As for the show itself...Walter (Geoff Stults) is a former government man who suffered brain damage while serving his country. The results of this damage is that he's compelled to find things, and will go to great lengths to find what he seeks. He operates out of a disused bar in Key West, aided by Leo Knox (Michael Clarke Duncan) and Willa (Maddie Hansson)...and sometimes by U.S. Marshall Isabella Zambada (Mercedes Masohn), who is obviously meant to be the David Boreanez character, judging from the way we see her having dinner with Walter at one point, and shows up minutes later in her underwear trying to arrest some goons.

And it's...quirky. Maybe too quirky. I really don't find any of the characters charming, and there's this whole mythology rushing at us in hints and references which would be okay if there wasn't a mythology for each damn character. I want to focus on our main character, not get distracted by the teenage closet gypsy or the Marshall who's been suspended for reasons we don't get at. Hansen is so intent on every character being colorful and distinct and odd--the main villain takes trumpet lessons while wearing a succession of slutty swimwear, her henchpeople wear bright orange (and I mean bright orange) track suits, and Hell, if that's not enough John Fogerty shows up to cameo and wax rhapsodic about a guitar--that nobody is colorful and distinct. The mystery of the pilot, where Walter helps a young man discover what happened to his father, downed in the Florida swamps while transporting drugs, has its potential, but isn't all that compelling because Hansen wants us to love his characters, damnit, and nothing's going to stop him. And the dialogue is equally so intent on making us fall in love with the quirkiness that it ceases to be realistic; the lines given Masohn are particularly winge-worthy, particularly because she doesn't have the acting chops to deliver them effectively. The line where she claims she can't go into a secret cock-fighting den because she's too hot, in particular, falls flat with a thud.

Not surprisingly, the one actor who comes off the best is Michael Clarke Duncan, but that's like saying rain is wet.

I am still not sure if I want to give this a second try or not. I have this nagging feeling it is going to seriously piss me off....but it hasn't done so yet. So the jury is out on this one for the moment.

Napoleon Dynamite: This, however...ick. Just ick.

If you think this is a funny should stop reading
this blog.  For good.

I'd really like to know the reasoning behind taking a 2004 cult films whose cult has sort of died, been buried and allowed to rot and turning it into an animated series. 

(On a related note, I look forward to that moment when Fox finally decides that, you know, people are only really interested in The Simpsons and Family Guy, and not every sitcom on Sunday night has to be animated.)

I watched this thing with absolute confusion, wondering who the Hell this show is for. It looks like producer Mike Scully wants to turn this into a Jon-Heder-flavored Family Guy manque...but his confused-as-all-Hell mishmosh of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, American Gladiator and Fight Club parodies that served as the pilot's plot seems to indicate that Scully thinks just having the original actors doing these things is funny enough. Maybe it will to those people who found that original film funny...but as someone who didn't, and watched the show because, well, I am writing a new BNV about midseason replacements, I found it the height of unfunny.

It's not. It was a truly painful experience to watch this, and I chose not to watch the second episode of this 'two episode event'....needless to say, I will not be back.

Next week....A bunch of people disappear on an island thanks to J.J. Abrams, only it's Alcatraz, and it's got added Sam Neill....

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ten Statements About....THE TALL GUY (1989)

Stop razzing Michael Bailey about that haircut Superman
used to sport--as Jeff proves, there was a time when his
coif would be considered cool!
"What's you name?"
"Kate. Lemon. Its a horrid name."
"No. Not at all. It could've been worse. You could've been named Hitler or Tampon or something."

1) I've been told this was the first script written by Richard Curtis, who goes on to write such romcom crimes as Four Weddings And A Funeral, Notting Hill, and Bridget Jones' Diary. I can only assume it is the fact that he was still learning screenplay writing that makes it avoid all the intolerable femmie crap that that makes those other films the bane of men everywhere.

And to fair, he also wrote last year's Doctor Who episode 'Vincent and The Doctor' as well, so this isn't as total an aberration as it seems.

2) One of the reason this film does work is the odd pairing of Jeff Goldblum and Emma Thompson as our romcom couple. These two do not look like they belong on the same planet, let alone in the same city...and yet there is a definite, quirky charm and chemistry when they're interacting together. The contrast of Goldblum's constrained manic energy to Thompson's very underplayed, dry delivery is totally compelling to watch.

3) And it's so to the film's credit that there is a balance to this relationship. It does seem like being together brings something out of both Jeff's Dexter and Emma's Kate--in Dexter, a confidence to blaze his own trails, and in Kate, a sense of humor and sensitivity she seems to have submerged to be a nurse.

4) And while we're on the subject of Goldblum and Thompson....these two are masters of the facial expression. There are a number of jokes that would not have been funny without these two actors reacting to them. Thompson, in particular, is glorious during the extended sequence where she has to sit through the opening performance of the musical Dexter is starring in, Elephant! (based on the life of John 'The Elephant Man' Merrick). The mock musical numbers don't really work, but Thompson's reactions--trying to show enthusiasm when she's really appalled--send the show thoroughly over the top.

Ahhh, the 80's...when this counted as formal wear...
5) Maybe because it does happen so early in Curtis' career, but there's something really charming at this point in setting an American-style romcom featuring a at-that-point name American actor (he still had some residual glow from The Fly) in London. Curtis does take full advantage of the city without giving it the usual 'landmark parade' quality other, lesser romcoms use. It lends the film a certain flavor it might not have had if it was set in and around Broadway.

6) Boy, Anna Massey--playing Dexter's agent--is only in this film a very, very short time, but she makes the most of her screen time and is genuinely hilarious. She's a pivotal character, transitioning the film from the relationship segment to the later one involving Elephant, and makes the sudden shift in gears easy to take.

7) Judging from the two sex scenes, which seem...violent (the main sex scene literally destroys a room), director Mel Smith has not had very healthy personal relationships.

Which is worse...that Goldblum's roommate is apparently
an 18th century scullery maid, or that he's wearing
Slyvester McCoy's old DOCTOR WHO Sweater?
8) Look, I get that this was made in 1989, the dawn of the age when every film--especially comedies--were required to have a music video break, but while the film sets up the use of said music video well (Dexter is established early on as a fan of the band Madness, lead singer Suggs makes a cameo...and when the song comes up, it's Madness' then-single from Keep Moving, 'It Must Be Love'), it's...well pretty awful. When you're reduced to having certain lines sung by a pair of soiled underpants, it's time to discard the sequence entirely.

9) Mel Lewis (who started life as a comedian, and was one of Atkinson's co-stars on Not The Nine O'Clock News) directed this. I'm not a fan, but I will applaud his choreography of the last set piece, a running conversation between Dexter and Kate through a overcrowded, busy hospital full of bus crash patients. Lewis makes great use of the set, and has the trust in Goldblum and Thompson to be able to physically traverse the area in a way that's plausible, charming and funny.

10) As preternaturally beautiful Kim Thomson is in playing Dexter's leading lady in Elephant, the whole plot line where they have a liason that leads to Kate breaking up with him seems...forced. It's as if Curtis felt there needed to be a complication in the middle of Act Three so there could be a big make-up scene. Yes, that final make-up scene works beautifully, but I have to wonder if that element could have been discarded for something better.

Overall...much better than it had a right to be, thanks primarily to the exceptional chemistry and physical comedy skills of Thompson and Goldblum. One of these films that fell through the cracks, and maybe undeservedly so.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ten Statements About....SMILEY FACE (2006)

In this photo, Anna looks like I felt after I watched this film
"When I get home, I'm going to frame a bunch of stuff I love. Like lasagna. I love lasagna. It's so good and cheesy."

1) I should have known the moment that Gregg Araki's name popped up as the director of this film that I was in for a marathon of pain. Fuck Gregg Araki. Dude's been making films since I was in college and has yet to make anything I can find even remotely tolerable (and that includes The Doom Generation, with its gratuitous Rose McGowan nudity).

2) To be fair, Araki isn't the only idiot responsible for this mess. The script is by one Dylan Haggerty, and the next time I see his name on a film, I will remember that he is the man who did what to me was the inconceivable by writing a film that made me hate Anna Faris (although I haven't seen Paul Blart, Mall Cop, so it might not be the only film with that quality).

3) Don't get me wrong--I adore Anna Faris. I think she is extraordinarily talented, both as a comedian and as an actress (if you dont believe me, just watch her turn in May). She manages to find something likable in every character she assays, even in dreck like The House Bunny....except this one.

4) And here's the integral reason why. Throughout the film, we're told at key points that Faris' Jane is supposed to at the core a decent human being. And there are references to her being able to function normally as a human being...and yet, with all that the script tells us about her, we have no sense she is anything other than an out-of-it stoner bitch. There's no baseline to get a sense of what she was like before she started smoking pot like a maniac, so we have no sympathy for her as she goes through this Odyssey.

When John Cho looks at you with pity for your pot use....sigh
5) For that matter, there's absolutely no reason for us to have sympathy for Faris' Jane. Even when the thing happens that supposedly is going to make us feel uplifted by her, it makes no sense. What we end up with is a stoner chick wrecking havoc on her life and the life of others.

6) Who the fuck thought the idea of Faris being convinced Danny Masterson's Steve fucks skulls...only to have us find out that Steve actually does fuck skulls in a black room with satanic symbols painted on the walls when he discovers she has failed him was funny?

Oh, wait...I forgot this was a Gregg Araki picture.

7) Admittedly, I think there was some sort of recognition moment when Faris, while waiting on her audition, interacts with the absolutely adorable Jayma Mays, who played the Anna Faris roles in those awful ______ Movie films. But the humor doesn't come because the fact that Farris is looking at her successor is supposed to be the humor.

8) You know this film has failed in investing our lead with our sympathies where we see her being cowed by Jane Lynch...and you're actually rooting for Lynch to give her an primo supremo dyke beatdown.

"You mean I agreed to work with GREGG ARAKI????"
9) know, that inspiring moment where Jane drops the Communist Manifesto and it splinters into a bunch of pages that are blown up and down the California coast? The question of why it was inspiring aside, the fact that it hinges on a truly dreadful piece of CGI sort of defeats its impact.

10) Oh, and Gregg? I know I get the concept of Anna Faris having Roscoe Lee Brown as her mental voice is supposed to be funny. I know you get it. But the bulk of people watching this film probably were asking, 'Who the Hell is Roscoe Lee Brown?'

Overall...fuck Gregg Araki, and fuck this film.

Ten Statements About.... THE DEVIL INSIDE (2012)

Ladies and Gentlemen--the most persuasive argument for
buying a Posturpedic bed....
"Do you know how to connect the cuts?"

1) Ahhhh, found footage, we meet again....and once more I find you wanting as an effective way to tell a story. The artifice of the found footage conceit keeps getting in the way of any sort of narrative flow this story has.

2) But here is something very positive about this film--it takes pains to set up its world, present its rules and, most importantly, sticks to them. The only moment where the continuity of this story doesn't quite make sense is with a factor that occurs before the story itself takes place, so the film's logic is not disrupted much. And to be fair, I may be the only person who caught this contradiction.

3) ...but then, I'm the only person in this very empty theater who I suspect was listening closely enough to figure out what was happening; the dopey young man who started shouting at the screen 'This is whack' when the film was over didn't. The script by director William Brent Bell and Matthew Peterson has a very clear idea of where they're going and takes the time to lay the groundworks for the trip they want to take us on meticulously. However, these pieces of information that leads us through the narrative are frequently badly submerged by the soundmix, vital clues said in such a whisper as to be unintelligible.

4) And I have great respect for the fact that even though the film wants to be subtle, it doesn't shirk on Showing Us The Monkey. There are three key scenes that are pure special effects laden monster-show-ness, and there are some beats in those scenes which manages to wonderfully blend subtle with brash at the same time. However....

Sometimes, you have bad hair days, but...YE GODS!
5) ...that damn CGI fly. In the middle of what is arguably the film's highpoint, we get a fake green fly escaping from Suzan Crowley's Maria's mouth and making a b-line for Evan Helmuth's David. What's insane is that the script makes the big turning point in the film clear through dialogue and narrative cues both before and after that scene, making the freaking fly pointless.

6) Wow, Mr. Bell....there's that key scene where you make it clear that David is going to drown that baby during a baptism, and you work it out so that you're going 'no, you won', you won' you--MY GOD YOU DID'....except you wimp out and give us that dialogue that tells us the baby's okay. It cheats the audience, makes them feel stupid for thinking you were actually going to do, and ultimately makes them uninterested in investing in all the scares that follows thereafter.

7) Here's another fundamental problem with the film--of the four main characters, one (Fernanda Andrade's Isabella) is played by a woman who has appeared on a number of high profile TV shows, one in a recurring role. Another (Simon Quarterman's Ben) has an equally large career, albeit more in the indie film realm. Throughout the film, I had a nagging feeling I had seen Isabella before, and that continued to put me at arm's length. One of the basic rules of found footage is that you need actors we don't recognize, and having one of the central actors being so easily recognizable defeats the purpose of making it a found footage film in the first place.

"What do I wanna do?  I don't know...bum around, drown an
infant, become possessed by an honking big demon and then
committing about you?"
8) Another thing about this film--everyone has a certain Caucasian Wankery Network feel to them, especially Ben and Isabella. Of all the found footage films I have watched, the characters within them that feel the most real to me--Lizzy Kaplan's Marlene in Cloverfield, Katy Featherstone's Katy in Paranormal Activity, even Heather O'Donoghue's Heather in The Blair Witch Project--worked because they didn't look like actors, but like real, recognizable people. I'm not saying these men and women are too pretty--both Kaplan and Featherstone were very attractive and sexy in their way--but they don't have the feeling of being the kind of people you could see on the street. It's another small strike against the film that makes it fall short of success.

9) Not surprisingly, the most effective person at selling the film's found footage pedigree is Suzan Crowley, who plays Isabella's mother and the source of two of the three big shock scenes. It's not for nothing that her face is the central image of the film's poster. She is very effective in playing a woman who could be insane, could be possessed, and more importantly, she not only looks like she could have given birth to Isabella, she looks like a normal human being.

10) You know....I really have to wonder if the film's biggest sin is its stubborn insistence in sticking to the found footage meme. So many of the film's flaws that I cite above could easily have been solved by abandoning that already dubious genre and embracing the script's obvious desire to be a full on, conventional narrative horror film.

Overall...not the worst found footage film I've seen, and not a good film overall, but one I can at least put in the 'Ambitious Failure' bin. The simple fact is its pedigree drags it down, and I almost wish it could have been done as a full on narrative film.

I saw this at the AMC Village Seven with three other people, one of which laughed at strange times, and the other two chose to carry on a running conversation--one of which was the abovemention man who went off on a rant about how awful he felt the film was. Most of the trailers were ones I already saw before, save for G.I. Joes: Retribution (which, as much as I liked the dumb fun of the first film, may actually surpass it--even if just because we see The Rock firing a big gun and Bruce Willis mowing down people from a pick-up truck) and Gone (which I may end up seeing, because the idea of Amanda Seyfried running around Seattle in pursuit of her sister's kidnapper, yelling and shooting all the way, appeals to me).

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ten Statements About....THE FUGITIVE (1993)

"For the last time, I am NOT The Unabomber!"
"Listen up, ladies and gentlemen. Our fugitive has been on the run for 90 minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground barring injuries is four miles an hour. That gives up a radius of six miles. What I want out of each and every one of you is a hard target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, townhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up to 15 miles. Your fugitive's name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him."

1) You want to know how to write an effective suspense thriller? You set up a smart, resourceful character. You put him in an untenable situation. You sic an equally smart resourceful character on his tail....and you don't let up.

2) The reason why Harrison Ford worked so well as an actor at this period is the tension between his worn, sad face and his physicality. And I'm not talking about big fighty-fighty stuff; I'm talking about simple things like the way he runs, or the way he knocks someone's arm off his shoulder with such conviction. The combination of these two qualities give him an everyman vibe that allows so many people to identify with him.

On his off days, Tommy Lee Jones liked to dress up as a
homeless man and harass redheads for being the spawn
of the devil....
3) But don't get me wrong--this film is owned by Tommy Lee Jones. From the moment he steps into the frame, he makes us watch him no matter where we go. And most importantly...

4) The script by Jeb Stuart and David Twohy (soon to carve out a filmmaking career of his own after this) is hyper-efficient in defining his characters. Sure, we know very little about Ford's Kimble, and even less about Jones' Gerard, but we know what these characters are about, what their motivations are, and what their desires are. We find these character relatable without forcing far too much backstory on their, well, back.

5) Ahhhh, Jeron I wish you had more of an American career like your friend Rutger Hauer. Sure, your role is relatively small in this film, but you are the best when it comes to being oily and smug...and when Ford beats you up, it's just sooooo satisfying....

6) On a related, it's so weird seeing Jane Lynch playing someone who's not evil and wants to make teens unhappy.

If you don't acknowledge his smugness, Jeron Crabbe
will hit you with his girder...
7) You know, at first I was wondering why Sela Ward was so prominent in the cast list, as she spends literally the entire film as a corpse, whereas Julianne Moore's name is way down...but in retrospect, the script gives Ward an integral position as a sort of ghost that drives Dr. Kimble forward on his quest, and Moore's role is just to scowl, yell at Ford and snap at Jones. So, you know, their position is valid after all.

8) The script is so good that even Gerard's support staff--and there are a lot of staff he has in support--has little grace notes that give us very clear idea of where they're coming from.

9) However...if there's one weakness, it's in the portrayal of the Chicago cops. I understand that this is for expediency's sake--after all, the script gets the story into high gear very, very quickly--but the sharpness of the other characterization makes the one-sidedness of the cops seem like plastic caricatures.

10) Yes, the solution starts coming out of left field--an argument can be made that on some level this has the whiff of 'Just Go With It'....but the pacing is such I have to wonder if this was brought up to create a MacGuffin-esque Hitchcock angle to the film. excellent suspenser that works due to a great script, some exceptional casting, and even more exceptional characterization.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Susan was unsucessful in teaching her companions
the new dance craze called 'The Norman Bates'....
"You have no means of telling what's out there! There may be no air, it may be freezing, it may be too hot to exist!"
"Yes, or it might be Earth in the 20th Century. Hasn't it occurred to you? My ship is very valuable, remember."

1) This is the kind of episode that could never have been done with many of the Doctor/companion combos that follow--it certainly couldn't have been done with the revived show. The plot relies totally on the tension that has developed between this iteration of the crew, and capitalizes on it in an incredibly effective way.

2) You know what's creepier than Susan? Susan in a snuggie stalking around with a pair of scissors.

(Although to be fair, not even that is as creepy as modern-day Carole Anne Ford, who looks like a demon trying to pretend to be human).

3) This is the first time where we see overt evidence of Hartnell's increasingly faulty memory, as he stumbles over a number of lines, but it works to shore up the strange behavior of the TARDIS crew.

Wow...William Hartnell lying on the ground...he's going
to be doing that a lot....
4) But even with Hartnell stumbling over those lines...that monologue. Good Lord, is that a great performance. Hartnell just plays out the story of what happened magnificently, and we are totally carried away with the increasing excitement and enjoyment of his voice. It's the highlight of this episode and sort of helps give us new insight into the Doctor while giving us a transition into the softer, more genteel Doctor of later stories.

5) Am I the only one who was amused by the fact that William Russell spends the bulk of the show lying on the ground, only pulling himself into a sitting position to utter a half-assed 'No, Doctor, don't' and the like such?

6) I really enjoy how we're still at a point where the production crew is feeling around trying to define the show. On one hand, that creates the moment where Susan alludes to a previous adventure on an alien planet; on the other, we have all this trouble caused by...a faulty spring?

7) And as long as I kept in mind that this two-parter was done on literally no budget, I have no problem with the goofy clock, which I assume had been corroded and not melted.

"I have this persistant urge to sing 'Yankee Doodle
8) I'm not as accepting of the 'costumes' for this episode--those weird snuggies that seem to be made of foam plastic for Barbara and Susan and that goofy bandage for The Doctor that makes him look like he stepped off that painting of the pipers and drummers leading the troops during the American Revolution.

9) I think that the 'well, now we're all cool with each other' coda that eases us into the next story would not have worked if it wasn't for the way the Doctor and Barbara had seemed to gain respect for each other in the previous two stories. It makes what should be a dubious about face on the Doctor's part plausible--and it helps that Jacqueline Wright is able to signify her emotional sea changes subtlety but effectively.

10) Good Lord, that cloak is ginormous on Ian in that last scene. I understand that they were probably cobbling stuff together from pieces still lying around in BBC's Wardrobe Department, but he could hide a couple of midgets inside it and not break the lines.

Overall...all told, a pretty remarkable piece of work given the lack of budget and the last minute nature of David Whitiker's script--a place setter of a story that manages to advance the character arcs and gives Hartnell one truly amazing moment in that monologue.