Wednesday, March 31, 2010

'tis a Vile and Thankless Task

Back in my stand-up days, a fellow comic named Faye Haire had a series of "Your mommma is such a dumb hooker..." jokes I was very fond of. The biggest laugh of the batch was for, "Your momma is such a dumb hooker, she forgets to collect her pay, which means she's just a slut!". Too often, that is exactly what it feels like to be me in this showness we call biz. In the elusive and vain hope of getting visibility and recognition and perhaps that great mythical second cup of coffee, plenty of us know-it-all movie snots do all manner of unpaid work. Not just blogs like these, obviously, but book forewords, screening intros, and especially DVD commentaries. In our heads, we are thinking why, if Gloria Stuart could get cast in TITANIC after her wonderful repartee with Bill Condon and Curtis Harrington on the laserdisc of THE OLD DARK HOUSE, surely one of us thriftstore Eberts could get heard on some low-budget Z-movie release and be hired by one of the big eight to wax eloquently on one of their silver platters, right? WORNG! But we do it anyway. What can I say? While Faye's joke is appropriate, I guess my name is Heuck and I like to feuck.

Now, I have built up a small reputation for being a good talking voice on the genre DVDs. I have also built a reputation for being willing to take on assignments that none of the more respectable moderators in the business would accept. As such, this is why I actively discourage people from labeling me a movie critic or trying to classify this blog as any kind of scholarly journalism. I will freely own up to the fact that I have done commentaries for movies that I know in my heart are irredeemable crap. More importantly, I will own up to the fact that I want people to buy and watch them, both to bear witness to my hard work, and to make money for the companies who hire me so that they will be inclined to hire me again...and maybe next time pay me something.

To be clear, it's not unpleasant to do special features for a bad movie. In fact, it's often fun depending on the demeanor of the participants. When I was enlisted to moderate commentary for the previously unreleased (for good reason) horror comedy NIGHT OF THE DRIBBLER, it gave me the pleasure of trading goofy impressions and corny jokes with veteran comedian Fred Travalena, and it was a thrill to go round-to-round and hold my own with him. In retrospect, as none of us at that recording session were aware of his ongoing fight with non-Hodgkins lymphoma which would ultimately claim his life four months later, I was darned lucky and privileged to have my role in what would be one of his last public speaking events. Yeah, in all candor, the movie is about as funny as a hangnail, but if you listen to my commentary, you'll find yourself laughing for all the right reasons.

And then, there's commentaries like the one I did for this better-forgotten horror film from 1981, SCREAM. The director, Byron Quisenberry, was a nice and sincere enough fella, but darn it if he wasn't dryer than dust in a lumberyard. If you're willing to laugh for all the wrong reasons, listen to me extend to him every possible interpretation of his film, its L.A.-rush-hour-slow pacing, and its near-incomprehensible resolutions, that would exonerate him and justify the artistic decisions (or lack thereof) that have been mercilessly ridiculed by almost every IMDb reviewer and blogger that endured this snorefest...and listen to him just repeat the mantra, "Eh, it is what it is." I mean, I can't be that asshole who rips the movie to shreds in his presence, but when he all but admits on mic that he made the thing because he could get the Paramount Ranch cheap for a week and call in favors from a bunch of old actors, and that he barely had a script, and that it's a miracle it turned a profit in theatrical release, any normal person would crack from the intransigence and call him out. But I'm not a normal person. So if you've ever thought James Lipton was a fawning blower of smoke, listen to this commentary and you'll think I'm Union Fucking Carbide! Then again, if I can make this abuse of guitar picks look like more than "what it is," imagine what I can do for your movie. So how about giving me a gig? A paying one?

Oh yeah, and meanwhile, buy the DVD! Use the $18 you were gonna spend on CLASH OF THE TITANS this weekend; if necessary, tell your brats they can watch the old Harryhausen version and deal with it. And if they keep bellyaching, make them watch SCREAM with you; once it's over, they'll know never to disrespect your authoritah again!

1 comment:

  1. That's funny. The commentary played (to me anyways) like you were genuinely intrigued by the film, and were looking to solve its mysteries. The director, however, wasn't biting. The truth, it seems, is that there was nothing to tell, and you were just trying to be nice. I admit to kinda liking the film, hoping to glean insight from the commentary, which eventually amounted to "keep things vague and slow, and hope someone will add their own meaning".