Essay: ‘Moving Violations’

Moving Violations
Rated
: PG-13
Starring: John Murray as Dana Cannon
               Jennifer Tilly as Amy Hopkins
               James Keach as Deputy Halik
               Wendie Jo Sperber as Joan Pudillo
               Dedee Pfeiffer as Cissy

Directed by: Neal Isreal

Written by: Pat Proft and Neal Isreal

Tagline: “A crash course in traffic school from the creators of ‘Police Academy.’
By Rob Rector
Perhaps it was one of nepotisms finest cinematic moments (yes, this includes the little-seen 1993 direct-to-video brethern-of-movie-star classic Death Ring, whose cover featured the names SWAYZE, NORRIS and McQUEEN in large all caps — only to be preceded by the 7-point revealing the names Don, Mike and Chad, respectively). The film ‘Moving Violations’ featured no fewer than four sibs to the stars. John Murray, little brother of Bill, Jennifer Tilly, lil’ sis of Meg, James Keach, young bro of Stacy and Dedee Pfeiffer, the younger sister of Michelle, were all accounted for in the cast of this quickly produced little slice of quintessential 80s-ness that followed the prototypical format of ragtag losers (traffic offenders) taking on strict authoritarians (traffic cops) in a film that was created by a team that was no stranger to the format, as they produced both ‘Bachelor Party’ and ‘Police Academy.’
Pre-screening memories: To ease the transition, they even gave John the occupation of a groundskeeper, perhaps one of Murray’s most iconic roles ( OK, so technically, he was a landscaper, but isn’t that just splitting hairs?).
Memories of this film were based solely on Murray’s character, Dana Cannon. I remember often pilfering witty rejoinders from the character and trying to emulate his easygoing, sarcastic demeanor in the face of authority (funny how that rarely seems as charming in real life…). You see, it was much easier to lift lines from lesser-known films and pass them off as your own, than, say something more universally known as “Ghostbusters,” where the response would most likely be, “Ha ha, very funny, Dr. Venkman.” But I imagined myself looking suave with a cock-eyed grin when getting yelled at and having the perfect retort to diffuse a situation and win the adoration of many as a result. Only now does it occur to me that there are very few historical instances of wise-cracking landscapers who’ve reached national prominence.
There really was little else to recall of the film. The only other supporting characters who had any discernable impact on me since those multiple screenings more than two decades ago were a fellow traffic offender who saw one too many horror films (my hero!) and that chubby gal from ‘Bosom Buddies’ who held the key to Buffy and Hildegard’s true identity — Wendie Jo Sperber.
So, I am once again ready to take a possible wrong turn down Memory Lane and revisit this little speed bump of a film that had remained part of my consciousness, Moving Violations.’

 

 

Post-Screening: I honestly wonder if at some point the producers just threw up their arms and said, “You know what? F***k it, let’s just produce a PG-13 Animal House.” I have witnessed many a variation of the iconic film, but have yet to see whole chunks lifted so cavalierly as they had in Moving Violations (and this is from a connoisseur of crap comedy who has viewed such era films as Screwballs, King Frat, Mad Magazine’s Up the Academy, The Hollywood Knights, and the short-lived Animal House spinoff sitcom Delta House).
Shall we put the evidence on Lady Justice’s scales, shall we?

  1. A Dean Wormer-esque authority figure (played by James Keach as a traffic cop) who despises a lowly group of misfits, led by a slovenly good-time Belushi-like guy (played by Murray)
  2. A ” When the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor” rallying cry from said good-time guy.
  3. A incident involving the bedding of a girl who admits she’s underage pre-coitus (though no tissues were used to stuff the bra).
  4. A sexually aggressive female authority figure, though this time its Sally Kellerman as a judge who stands in for Dean Wormer’s cucumber-comparing wife.
  5. A finale that features a downtown parade that erupts into calamity and confusion.
  6. A float being commandeered by our heroes and driven at high rates of speed.
  7. A beauty queen atop of said float in said parade who dutifully stays put and waves to the crowds.
  8. A “where are they now” blurb at the end credits on the fate of our protagonist landscaper.

I’m sure a more trained eye could pick up more, but at this point I felt I had spent way to much time in my CSI-like analysis on it.

Some other items I did glean from the viewing include:

  • A blink-and-you-missed-it cameo from one Don Cheadle as a fast food employee. (His only line was “Can I take your order?” repeated a handful of times.)
  • The film boasted the name of Clara Peller in the opening credits, better known as the “Where’s the Beef?” lady from the 80s Wendy’s commercials. (Are you really sure that’s a hook you want to hang your film on? That’s like saying, “Special appearance by The Noid,” or “Featuring the comedic stylings of the “Dude you got a Dell” guy.)
  • James Keach is actually the more charismatic lead in the film as the psychotic motorcycle cop whose slow seething turns into violent rage. Though by the film’s conclusion he’s reduced to parading around in a dog collar and leather undies — best not to ask.
  • The horror-film afficionado was actually more amusing than I remembered, especially when he was stoked to see one of those gore-soaked “instructional films” titled “Blood Runs Red on the Highway.” I remember being shown such a PSA (similar to this one) in grade school in which a log carrier accidentally unloads its cargo at a high rate of speed through the windshield of an unsuspecting reckless driver. Yes, in grade school. Is it any wonder I turned out worshipping the works of gory effects masters such as Rob Bottin, Rick Baker and Stan Winston?

New Memories: I admit to still getting a few chuckles from this film made on the fly (it was written in a month and shot and released within six). When a girl says, “My ride’s here, it’s my sister…” and a nun pulls up in a Chrystler is classic stuff and what’s not funny about a lowly puppeteer being abused by the same kiddie audience he’s trying to entertain?). And this scene is quite cute:

 

It cannot be forgiven, though, that they cast the go-to guy for stiff-shirt comedy, Mr. Fred Willard, and fail to use him for his true potential. But what truly amazes me is that I ever found John Murray’s performance to be notable for his wit or charm. And I am thankful that I did not follow my admiration of his role to more extreme lengths, as I am pretty sure I’d make a lousy landscaper.

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‘Silent Rage’

Silent Rage (1982)

Rated: R
Director: Michael Miller
Screenplay: Joseph Fraley
Starring: Chuck Norris as Sheriff Dan Stevens
                Steven Furst as Deputy Charlie
                Ron Silver as Dr. Tom Halman
                Toni Kalem as Allison Halem

Tagline: “Science created him, Now Chuck Norris must destroy him.”

By: Rupert Pupkin (as told to Rob Rector)

Pre-screening memories: Before Braddock, before Braddock, before hawking gym equipment, before countless disfiguring facelifts, even before shilling for Mike Huckabee, Chuck Norris was in a Silent Rage!

Hot off of seeing Good Guys Wear Black, a young Rupert Pupkin swore he was born to be a karate man. His aspirations may have superceded his ability, but that failed to stop his desire from trying.

Take, for example, one particular day in grade school when young Rupert decided to test his abilities. He honed in on a pair of metal double doors that would be the inanimate recipient of his as-yet-untested high kick. In all his years, he knew these doors to be open and would swing wide under the pressure of his forceful foot.

As his running start grew to an airborne leap, Rupert extended his legs to blow open these metal barriers and thus demonstrate to the school his agility and perhaps one day follow in the deadly footsteps of his cinematic hero. Sadly, the doors were locked shut, thus ending Rupert’s short-lived dream to be a six-time karate champion like his then idol.

This did not stop him from spending time in the darkened theater with his matinee idol, though. And within months, he was back in the box office, relishing in another roundhouse romp in Silent Rage. But Rage was quite a different beast, he soon realized, and what he thought was to be a 90-minute class in ass kicking actually struck fear in his young heart, perhaps solidifying in his mind that the martial arts was not on the path of his future.

What struck fear into the heart of this young lad, and how has it affected him today?

You can download it here, as well.

It’s time to return favors…

OK, so here’s the thing…

This blog has started as somewhat of a secret testing ground, a cinematic Area 51, if you will. Truth is, we have been in contact with a much larger film-realted site that is interested in hosting our content. So I began compiling them here to ‘work the bugs out’ before handing it over to our (hopefully) new home.

The only ones who really knew we even were a blip on the blogosphere are the number of writers whom I have contacted to contribute to the site (and there are several more comin’ but I can only edit so fast!).

In the mean time, we’ve been discovered by a pretty tight group and I have to return some shout-outs, so Scott and Whitney, both very talented bloggers who have incredibly diverse, yet equally worthy sites of their own have sent this little ‘experiment’ some great traffic. For that, I am very thankful and perhaps they may collaborate on a film of their own here as well, if they so choose. And I hope they will follow us to our new digs when I ultimately feel comfortable enough in launching this thing fa’ real.

So, to everyone who is a contributor (or random stumblers), please check out their sites Dear Jesus and He Shot Cyrus, as I think you will enjoy both as much as I have. Now, if you will excuse me, I have three more nostalgic experiments I must edit to make it sound as though we know what the hell we’re doing.

‘Fire and Ice’

Fire and Ice (1983)

Rated: R
Director:          Ralph Bakshi
Screenplay:      Roy Thomas

                        Gerry Conway
Characters:      Frank Fazetta

                        Ralph Bakshi
Tagline: “Heroic Fantasy Adventure!”

 

By Gurn Blanston

 

Pre-screening memories: The animated fantasy epic Fire and Ice was released in 1983 at a time when I had just finished my fifth or so read through of “The Lord of The Rings” and was starting to move on to other sword and sorcery type books.  Eventually this would become a life-long love of sci-fi and fantasy literature. Sure, I had seen all the Star Wars movies, and was a diehard fan of Star Trek, but I was not an avid reader until after I graduated high school. God bless the public school system.

 

Along with reading fantasy and science fiction, I had truly begun to appreciate the art that was paired directly with it through book covers and magazines. Of the artists involved in this genre, Frank Frazetta certainly stood out, from his painting on the first Molly Hatchet album cover, to his ability to portray the pure physicality of your average over muscled barbarian. His true talent, in my hormone-clouded estimation, was his lusciously curved, scantily clad damsels and Amazon warriors.  Mmmmmmm….Art!

 

I did not see this movie in theaters, but at home on our state-of-the-art “Home Box Office” system. State-of-the-art meant a foot-long brown plastic box connected to the TV by 20 feet of cord with 14 buttons on it to select channels. If you switched the selector switch down you were able to view another 14 channels (mostly static).  I remember thinking: “What’s next, playing ping pong on my own TV?! Far out.”

 

As an aspiring artist with severely limited talent, I was blown away by the animation in this movie, which used the process of rotoscoping, in which scenes were shot in live-action and then traced onto animation cells.  I had seen this previously in “The Lord of The Rings” animated movies and thought that it was a great idea to help capture natural human movements realistically.

 

The action was a bit sparse, but I liked the basic, easy-to-follow, good-and-evil plot. I watched it several times, one of the advantages of having the space-age Home Box technology at my sweaty fingertips, (I watched “Last Tango in Paris” 47 times; I still can’t look at a stick of butter with out getting the shakes.) and then promptly forgot about it completely for 20 years.

 

Will a recent viewing of the film leave Gurn hot or cold?

 

‘Monster in the Closet’

Monster in the Closet (1987)
Rated: PG
Directed by:  Bob Dahlin

Starring
Donald Grant: Richard Clark
Denise Du Barry: Professor Diane Bennett
Claude Akins: Sheriff Sam Ketchum
Howard Duff: Father Finnegan
Henry Gibson: Dr. Pennyworth

Tagline: It’s Out! It’s Out! It’s Out!

By Jason Plissken

Past Memories:  The last time I saw this movie, I was in 7th or 8th grade.  Being somewhat of a geek, I always looked forward to watching monster movies on the weekends.  There was a period of time during the late 80s that Channel 17(Philadelphia’s first-ever UHF station, WPHL) would show late night monster movies.  (Ed. Note – This is where I, too, developed my love for monsters in rubber suits and such, since it aired many a Godzilla movie, as well as the series Ultraman and Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot).

I think the segment was called “Friday Night Frights” (hosted by Bill “Wee Willy” Webber).  Saturday afternoons on Channel 48 often would play monster movie matinees during its Creature Double Feature as well.  My favorite presentations were the seemingly endless stream of Godzilla movies with the model cities, toy tanks, and excrutiating dubbing.
I watched Monster in the Closet on a Saturday afternoon.  I believe my first encounter was on HBO (back when they were none-too-discerning what they showed during the afternoon).  The movie actually freaked me out pretty bad, and had a lasting impact on my psyche.  I thought the monster suit was pretty creepy looking… at least creepy enough for a 12 year old.  The death scenes also seemed pretty gruesome to me as well, from what I recall.  Most of the titular monster’s victims were grabbed unsuspectingly and yanked or dragged into a child’s most feared corner of his or her bedroom. It was there they would meet an agonizing death, filled with screams of terror from the victims and elation from the beast.  I can also recall its Alien-like mouth that protruded out of its primary gaping mouth when it was ready to attack.
One particular scene involved a seeing-eye dog being hung (by its guide-grip) on the inside of the closet door when the creature was through with it. The scene disturbed me then, and the thought actually still does today.The film, for whatever reason, stayed with me years afterward.  I can remember that, for years afterwards, I always had to have my closet door closed before going to bed.  By the time I was senior in high school, I was finally able to let go of this closet door phobia.
Is Jason now twitch-free when he slides open that door to retrieve his Oxford shirts or shoebox full of Star Wars trading cards?

 You can download the episode right here.
  

‘Jaws’

 

Film: Jaws
Rated: PG
Directed by: Steven Spielberg

 

Starring:
Roy Scheider:  Sheriff Brody
Richard Dreyfuss:  Hooper
Robert Shaw:  Quint

 

Tagline: Don’t go in the water

 

By:  Efferdent Johnson

 

Past memories: In 1975, I was doing my best to propagate the best hair helmet any pre-teen had ever hoped to wear. My interests were few and my fears were many. Some of which were brought to the surface by a frightening grey machine with a zillion teeth and a thirst for blood. By my tenth year of life, the most frightening movie experiences were the ever-so-scary villains of Disney. I can remember sinking in my seat during Willy Wonka’s boat ride, or almost all of Chitty Chitty Bang AHHHHHHHHH!!!

 

Jaws would never affect me… or so I thought. The chances of me seeing the movie were less than my chances for a Senate seat. My mom would make sure that her young sons would not be turned to evil, sexually confused or exposed to the violence of the cinema. The following summer Rocky came to town and my brothers and I were not permitted to go. “It is way too bloody and violent. No. I will not tell you again.” I can remember hearing that daily for two weeks.

 

 Mom, though, couldn’t censor every facet of a 10-year-old’s life.

 

The commercials started and it led to a frenzy of attention in our tiny land-locked community in southern Colorado. Every conversation both of adults and kids seemed to begin and end with some reference to a man-eating shark. On the play ground while sneaking up on the girls, my friends and I would be revealed by our own musical accompaniment, “Dunt Dunt, Dunt Dunt”. After the movie played in town and moved on to the drive-in theater, the book appeared on every shelf not already packed with Rockem Sockem Robots, Hardy Boys lunch boxes or Billy Beer. I even remember the local sporting goods store with a Jaws display in the window next to the fishing tackle and baseball cleats. 

 

Never seeing the movie juiced every waterborne fear a 10 year old could have. As an avid swimmer on the swim team, my paranoia was limitless. If a teammate was to scrape at my toes while swimming laps, the chance of something other than urine coming from my Speedo was possible. I guess Spielberg my have been responsible for some of my best times.

               

I am sure the first time I saw the movie was on network TV probably five years later. Robert Shaw has always been the salty fisherman in my mind while reading books about the sea. I can imagine him now as Hemingway’s old man or Melville’s whale-obsessed, one-legged captain. Ah, what a glorious time before Stakeout, Another Stakeout or a terrible Poseidon remake when Richard Dreyfuss was cool. Or to see Roy Scheider  ( R.I.P) as something more than a douche bag flying a fictitious helicopter.

               

Ultimately, the movie didn’t live up to the expectations of my 10-year-old imagination. It was years later while in high school after watching the horrible sequels that I realized why the original had transfixed my tiny hometown. People from every walk of life could relate in some way to a story that was chock full of the human experience. Man vs Man, Man vs Beast, small town politics and obsession that ultimately leads to a bad and bloody end or just having the crap scared out of you, take your pick.

 

If nothing else my friends and I had so much fun replaying the Saturday Night Live skit “Land Shark” that to this day the mention of it will bring us all too contagious belly laughter.

 

And what did Eff think about his most recent screening of a film he had not seen in more than a decade?

Or to download: Here’s Episode V:Jaws.

‘Excalibur’

excalibur.jpg

Excalibur (1981)

Rated PG/R

Director: John Boorman
Written by: Thomas Malory (book), Rospo Pallenberg (screenplay)

Starring
Nigel Terry: King Arthur
Helen Mirren: Morgana
Nicol Williamson: Merlin

Tagline: No mortal could possess it! No kingdom could command it!

By Gurn Blanston

Past Memories: When this film was released in 1981 I was still one year away from a driver’s license. Which meant that any movie I saw had to be with my parents, or I had to arrange my own ride and money. Since they had no interest, and I had no ride or funding, I had to wait until 1982, when I had a license and the movie was playing at the local dollar theater, to see it.I went with several like minded friends, by like minded I mean bored and cheap, and we all pressed into the tiny theater with butter saturated bags of popcorn and Bacardi Rum laden soft drinks, (just because we were a bunch of Asteroid playing, Star Trek quoting geeks doesn’t mean we didn’t know how to party,. …which we didn’t) to watch the show.

What I remember most was the stylized portrayal of the knights and ladies, the grand matte painted castles, very flashy and clean, and how everyone seemed so polished and energetic. Forget the story, this film looked cool! The scene where the Lady of the Lake (or the moistened bim if you’re a Python fan) was stunning, and the sword itself made my hands itch to wield it, even though my massive 120 pound frame probably could not have lifted it. At the time we all assumed that this was historically accurate and that we had been educated as well as entertained. It’s not that we were stupid, just slightly tipsy. We ran around the parking lot afterwards engaging in pretend, mostly non-homosexual, sword fights and jousts.

The strength of Max von Sydow as Merlin, the allure of Genevieve Bujold as Guinevere, the pageantry and the spectacle all combined to make this the standard, in my mind, for all medieval era films I was to see for the next decade. Unfortunately, I now know that neither of these actors were actually in the film, and that it was also the first film for both Gabriel Byrne and Liam Neeson, neither of whom I remember being in it at all. Bacardi marred memories be damned, Mr. Von Sydow, you will always be Merlin to me.

New Memories?

Download: Episode IV: Excalibur.

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