Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Great Recasting: Pulp Fiction in Ten Genres or Less

This is the first installment in a little thing I like to call The Great Recasting.  This post first appeared over at my film review site, The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World, but I had soooo much fun with it, I had to repost it here at my new blog.  Basically, what this is, is me taking a modern day film, and recasting it, using classic film stars and directors and such.  For this inaugural run at The Great Recasting, I have chosen, as I'm sure comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me, Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction.  Let's see how that works out.

After choosing Pulp Fiction for my film, I tried to decide what classic genre to place its characters in.  Film Noir of course, immediately sprung to mind.  But what about Precode Gangster Film?  Or maybe a Swashbuckling Epic?  How about a Classic Melodrama, or a 1930's Screwball Comedy?  Maybe a Musical, but which kind?  A Precode Busby Berkeley Musical or an MGM Musical Extravaganza?  How about a Classic Western, or even a Universal Horror Film?  Maybe a Classic work of Animation?  Then I thought to myself - why not all of them?  So, without further ado, here is my quite overboard first installment of The Great Recasting.  Pulp Fiction in ten genres or less.  Well, okay, ten genres exactly.  But first (okay, with a little bit of ado) I suppose I should give a quick synopses of Pulp Fiction, just in case there is anyone out there yet unfamiliar with the film.

Pulp Fiction (as is):
Tarantino's film revolves around some small time hoods in L.A..  We have mob enforcer's Vincent Vega, played by John Travolta and Jules Winnfield, played by Samuel L. Jackson.  These men work for Marsellus Wallace, played by Ving Rhames.  Then we have Mia Wallace, played by Tarantino stalwart Uma Thurman.  Mia is the boss's wife.  At one point, Vincent is asked by Marsellus, to take his wife out for a night on the town.  This shows the trust Marsellus has in Vincent, as he trusts his wife with him.  Vincent and Mia head to Jack Rabbit Slim's, a 50's diner, where they participate in a dance contest.  We later see Mia and Vincent with the trophy, but there is a strong possibilty they stole said trophy after losing the contest.  These are gangsters after all.  Of course things go quite awry when Mia finds Vincent's heroin, and and decides to snort it, inducing her to O.D..  Vincent, in quite the understandable panic, rushes Mia to his dealer's house so they can inject her with adrenaline, thus reviving her.  The dealer, Lance, is played by Eric Stoltz, while his wife Jody is played by Rosanna Arquette.  

The second main storyline in this circular narrative, involves a boxer named Butch Coolidge, played by Bruce Willis.  Butch is supposed to take a dive in the fight but decides not to, and instead bets everything he has on himself to win, and then make a run out of town with his girlfriend Fabienne, played by Portuguese actress Maria de Medieros.  Of course this angers the man who told him to take the dive, a certain Marsellus Wallace.  There is a whole quite disturbing set of scenes at this point, that would not have made it past the production code back in old Hollywood, not even in the precode days, so we won't even bother mentioning them here.  Let's just say, Butch and Marsellus come to an understanding and Butch leaves town with Fabienne.  This segment of the film also brings on a flashback to Butch's childhood, where a friend of his war dead father, a Captain Koons, played by the always fun Christopher Walken, hands down the gold watch Butch's daddy had made him promise to bring back to the states.  Let's just not mention where Captain Koons happened to hide this watch when captured.

We next see Vincent and Jules, after accidentally shooting an informant in the head, hiding out at Jimmie's house.  Jimmie is played by the writer and director himself, Quentin Tarantino.  Jimmie, a suburban squarish type, happens to be related to Marsellus Wallace, but is not a bit happy with these thugs being in his house - with a dead body and blood-soaked car.  But not to worry, for Marsellus has called in the Wolf, aka Winston Wolfe, played by the great Harvey Keitel, a fixer-of-problems kind of guy.  Our film then ends where it began.  In a cylindrical narrative we go back to the opening scene where we find a pair of cheaply dressed robbers, calling each other Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, played respectively by Tim Roth and Amanda Plummer, who decide to rob the diner that Vincent and Jules happen to be eating in.  Big mistake guys.   Anyway, this is Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, and this is the film that we are going to toss into the Way Back Machine and see what comes up in our night of ten genres.

Pre-Code Gangster Film:
It is the hey day of the early sound period in Hollywood and Warner Brothers, with its flair for dangerous subjects, is at the top of its game.  Just two years before the Hays Office implemented the  production code that would put a veritable stop to even the slightest allusions toward sex and violence (other than those that studio directors will become extremely adept at sneaking into their pictures), William Wellman, fresh off The Public Enemy, one of the defining films of the new gangster genre, has created yet another subversive precode crime masterpiece.  1932's Pulp Fiction, in all its pulpy goodness, stars that king of the genre, James Cagney as mob thug Vincent Vega, turning this character into an icon of the genre.  Along with partner Jules Winnfield, played by the always great but often overlooked George Raft, these tough-as-nails mob enforcers work for the king of the underworld, the megalomaniac Marsellus Wallace, here portrayed by Edward G. Robinson, in one the actor's greatest performances.

The highlight of this classic precode film though, may very well be Jean Harlow as Mia Wallace, decked out in her slinky silver dress and winning that dance contest by sheer sexiness alone.  But then, things go downhill fast when Harlow's original blonde bombshell gets into Vincent's stash and falls unconscious.  But Harlow's Mrs. Mia Wallace is saved by drug dealer Lance, played by Edward Woods (the "other" guy from Wellman's The Public Enemy), assisted by his wife Jody, played by Mae Clarke (but this time not getting a grapefruit shoved in her face).  But even as a near O.D. case, Harlow still looks as good as anyone has the right to look.  Of course, when it came to how things went behind the scenes, Harlow acted the prima donna, was rumoured to be having an affair with Wellman, and was just using the role to help her status in negotiations with MGM.  But damn, she looked good in the slinky silver dress.

Then we have the storyline of bum pugilist Butchie Coolidge, played by Pre-Code stalwart tough guy Lyle Talbot.  Talbot's down and out fighter decides to not take the dive he is ordered to take, and instead takes Marsellus Wallace's money and runs off with his exotic girlfriend Fabienne, here played by the sexy and talented Ann Dvorak, an actress who's insistence on not playing the studio game, resulted in a shortened career and an almost unknown legacy.   Bad career move Ann, and overall bad idea Butchie.  But after some pretty shady stuff taking place between Butch, Marsellus and a couple of quite unfortunate small time hoods, played by C. Henry Gordon and Osgood Perkins, Butch goes his own way.  The highlight of this segment of the film is the cameo appearance of The Man You Love to Hate, Erich von Stroheim, as Captain Koons, delivering the gold watch to a young Butchie.  Von Stroheim wasn't really a member of this genre, but when Warner's found out he needed the work, and would do it for cheap, it was an obvious choice.

We then head back to Cagney and Raft.  After accidentally killing one of their informants, Jules and Vincent must take shelter in the suburban home of Marsellus's cousin Jimmie's house.  Jimmie, played by the chameleonic Paul Muni, fresh off his performance as the villainous Tony Camonte in Howard Hawks' Scarface (from mob psycho to nebbishy bumpkin in back-to-back films), is not happy, but his fears subside when his cousin sends in the Wolf to make everything better.  The Wolf, aka Mr. Fix-It, is played by the booming Wallace Beery, who comes in and makes everything right again.  This leaves Jules and Vincent free to head out for some morning R and R at the diner.  This is where Cagney and Raft come up against the wouldbe robbers Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, here played by Chester Morris and Joan Blondell.   The film was a big hit for Warner Bros. and became one of the seminal works of the genre.  Sadly, the production code would come into effect less than two years later, and much of the violence and sexual innuendo found in this classic would, for the next two and a half decades, be a thing of the past.

Busby Berkeley Musical:
Choreographer extraordinaire Busby Berkeley had a pretty amazing string of stunning musicals throughout the thirties, and 1933's Pulp Fiction was one of his best.   Co-directed by Berkeley and Mervyn LeRoy (LeRoy handling the non-musical segments of the film), this beautiful musical, full of the outlandishly elaborate musical numbers that made Berkeley a legend, stars heartthrob Dick Powell as hoodlum Vincent Vega and the smooth and sophisticated Adolphe Menjou as his mob partner Jules Winnfield.  Their opening numbers, "Royale with Cheese" and "Ezekial 25:17" were big hits.  But probably the showiest number of all is the one that pairs Powell with his regular leading lady, Ruby Keeler as Mia Wallace, the mob boss's young wife.  As the stage widens to a seemingly impossible width, and these two young and beautiful stars sing and dance to the classic Cole Porter tune "Jack Rabbit Slim", and the chorus girls encircle them like a never-ending parade of pomp and circumstance, it is surely a sight to see.

The film also stars Warner Baxter as mob boss Marsellus Wallace.  Baxter doesn't do any real singing or dancing here, save for a few lines half-sung in the number "Zed's Dead Baby", but he is large and in charge and that is all that matters.  We get some dramatic moments between Baxter and the buff George Brent as boxer Butch Coolidge.  The film also stars Bebe Daniels as Butch's girlfriend Fabienne.  These three belt out the aforementioned "Zed's Dead Baby", which may not have the chutzpah of many of the other songs in the film, but has always been a fan favourite.  A number that does seem to raise the roof, especially in Berkeley's unique overwhelming theatrical style, is the Harry Warren/Al Dubin number "You Send a Shot of Adrenalin Through My Heart."  This number is sung by Powell and Keeler, and semi-sung by comic relief Frank McHugh and Una Merkel as Lance and Jody.    Another great musical number is performed by Busby Berkeley himself.  Playing Captain Koons, Berkeley dances his way through the classic number "Gold Watch," an enormously extravagant number involving a seeming endless cavalcade of chorus girls and dancing hunks.

Powell and Menjou bring the rather racy song "Dead Minstrel Storage" (in the retroactively racist black-faced manner of the times) to vibrant life.  Assisted by fun-loving but nervous Guy Kibbee as poor schmucky Jimmie, and an especially sleazy, but lovably so, Hugh Herbert as Winston Wolfe, the number may have its bad taste mojo in overload (and has been edited out of some home video versions of the film), but it sure was a crowd pleaser at the time.  The finale of the film is highlighted by three co-existing musical numbers that go back and forth and back again.  The first is the rousing  "Everybody be Cool, This is a Robbery," sung by Ned Sparks and Ginger Rogers as Pumpkin and Honey Bunny.  The second is "I Just Don't Dig on Swine" performed by Powell and Menjou, and the third is Menjou's solo number, the show-stopping "Bad Mother F***er."  The film was ranked 13th on the AFI's list of the greatest movie musicals.  A great classic of the genre indeed.

Universal Horror:
I first saw Tod Browning's 1935 horror classic Pulp Fiction on late night TV when I was about ten years old.  I probably shouldn't have been up watching the late show, but there I was, and I gotta tell ya, it scared the hell out of me.  Sure, by today's standards, an old fashioned horror flick like Pulp Fiction may seem rather tame, but to this ten year old's eyes, the images coming off of that tiny television screen at the foot of my childhood bed was simply terrifying.  With Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff as grave robbers Vincent and Jules, and Fay Wray as the mysterious Mia, this age old tale of things that go bump in the night, is a classic of the genre.  I remember it also had the great Charles Laughton as cult leader Marsellus Wallace, Lon Chaney Jr. as the rough-and-tumble Butch, and Julie Adams (remember her in that white bathing suit in The Creature From the Black Lagoon) as the exotic gypsy Fabienne. There was also the slithery John Carradine as creepy henchman Jimmie and Claude Rains as Winston the Werewolf.  I think the creepiest part was when Vincent Price and Maila Nurmi, who would later be known as Vampira, showed up as witch doctors Lance and Jody.  Granted, there was comic relief too, with Abbott and Costello as Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, as well as a great, but scary, cameo from the legendary Conrad Veidt as The Man Who Laughs.  It was one of the first horror films I ever saw, and it is still one of my favourites to this day.

1930's Screwball Comedy:
There were many great purveyors of the Screwball genre, and one of the best was Preston Sturges.  The writer's first film as a director, thought to be lost until a dilapidated print was found in a Peruvian monastery back in 2007, and restored to its former glory just this past year to rave reviews and an eventual Criterion release this coming September, was the 1938 comic romp Pulp Fiction.  The film stars Cary Grant as good-hearted thug Vincent and William Powell as the dapper hood Jules.  These two sly gentlemen work for underworld kingpin Marsellus Wallace, played in one of his finest performances, by the great profile himself, John Barrymore.  Katherine Hepburn, whose Bringing Up Baby out the same year has always been considered one of the best films of the genre, plays gun moll Mia Wallace.  And if this isn't already a seeming work of comic genius, the film also has the sadly forgotten Lee Tracy as Butch the Boxer, the great and beautiful Carole Lombard as his girl Fabienne, Edward Everett Horton and Jean Dixon as cronies Lance and Jody, and the suave Herbert Marshall, playing against type, as the schmucky Jimmie.   With cameo appearance by legends such as W.C. Fields and Mae West as a pair of wouldbe robbers known lovingly as Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, The Marx Brothers, sans Zeppo, as the fix-it team of Wolfe Enterprises, and a surprising turn from Charlie Chaplin as Captain Koons, this once forgotten masterpiece of screwball comedy is thankfully finally rescued from the dark nether regions of film history.  I already have my Criterion Bluray on pre-order.

Swashbuckling Epic:
1942's Pulp Fiction, a tale of 18th century pirates, was the ninth and final film Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland would do together.  It was also the last film that Flynn would do with his long time collaborator Michael Curtiz.  This was meant to be the director's thirteenth collaboration with the actor, but midway through production, Curtiz was fired.  So while Curtiz moved on to a little film called Casablanca, Raoul Walsh, who had directed Flynn the previous year in They Died With Their Boots On, and would go on to direct the actor in another six films after this, was hired to finish the project.  Fraught with production woes and back stage bickering (by this time, Flynn and de Havilland, who had never really liked each other in the first place, were barely on speaking terms anymore) the film almost never was.  When it finally came out it was a box office flop.  Even to this day, it is considered one of Flynn and de Havilland's worst films together.  But still, even though it is not the swashbuckliest of films, there is some enjoyment to have in this film that almost never was.  As for the cast, it was Flynn and fellow swashbuckler Tyrone Power as pirates Vincent and Jules, Miss de Havilland as Maid Mia, Douglas Fairbanks Sr. as reputable Spanish governor Marsellus the Mighty, Ronald Coleman and Maureen O'Hara as Prince Butch and his fair lady Fabienne, Flynn pal Alan Hale as fellow pirate Jimmie, and the pencil-mustacheoed Basil Rathbone as the sly villain known simply as the Wolf.  There is also Cornell Wilde and Deloris del Rio as rival small time pirates Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan as Lance and Jody, a pair of lovers found on a desert island, and finally, through the magic of special effects and old footage, the legendary late Rudolph Valentino as Captain Koons of the Spanish Navy.

1940's Film Noir:
In this classic noir directed by the great Howard Hawks, a followup to The Big Sleep, we find two hoods going about the daily routine of collecting money for their boss.  Vincent, played by Humphrey Bogart, is a real hard case thug, while Jules, played by Alan Ladd, is the suavest of all gangsters.  Their boss, the powerful and dangerous Marsellus Wallace is played by Edward G. Robinson, reprising the role he made famous fifteen years earlier in William Wellman's Pre-Code crime classic, and in a performance that would nab the actor his first and only Oscar, just beating out favourite Edmund Gwenn as Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street.  The film also took home the Oscar for Best Picture and Hawks himself won for Best Director.  But all this success does not preclude the film from having more than its share of controversy, most of which revolved around the casting of smart and sassy heiress/gun moll Mia Wallace.

Bogart of course had wanted his new wife, Lauren Bacall to play the part, but Hawks, out of possible jealousy over the young actress choosing Bogie over him when they made To Have and Have Not together, refused to cast the actress.  Instead Gene Tierney was cast in the role of Mia, and even though she was quite good in the film ("Tierney's overt sexuality excites the very camera itself" New York Times critic Bosley Crowther said of her performance), Bogart was angry at Hawks - a riff that really never came to mending itself.  Lauren Bacall, in a show of inherent class, praised the performance of Tierney, calling it one of the finest of the year.  But enough of all this behind-the-scenes hoopla, we still have a movie to discuss.  Bogart wasn't much of a dancer, basically just standing there and letting Tierney slink about around him, but they took the trophy anyway.  Of course then it all went south as Tierney's Mia drank herself into near oblivion and wandered onto the railroad tracks, being rescued from certain doom by Lance and Jody, a couple of hobos played by Peter Lorre and Peggy Cummins, who in turn are hit and killed by the oncoming train.

The film's real tough guy portion revolves around down-and-out boxer Butch, played by that king of the tough guys, Robert Mitchum.  Mitchum's Butch decides not to take it on the chin, and instead runs off with Marsellus Wallace's money.  This section of the film is highlighted by a monologue by Robinson (the one that probably won him the Oscar), the slinky comehitherness of Veronica Lake's Fabienne, and the appearance of Orson Welles as Captain Koons.  Of course, to make things even better, we can imagine this being the Orson Welles of a decade later, a la the quite corpulent Touch of Evil version.  The film continues with an encounter between Cagney and Ladd's hoods and Bad Luck Jimmie, played by Elisha Cook Jr., and the criminally-minded Big Bad Wolf, played of course, by Sydney Greenstreet, before ending at a roadside diner in a shoot-out between our intrepid crooks and a pair of naive small timers named Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, played here by Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell.  Today, the film is considered one of the hallmarks of the film noir genre.

Classic Melodrama:
This female-centric melodrama decided to go about things a bit differently than those versions of the story that came before it.  Actress turned director Ida Lupino would make her directorial debut with 1949's Pulp Fiction, and to give it the unique twist she thought necessary for the picture, all the male roles would be played by women and all the female roles by men.  And thanks to this reverse casting gimmick, we would see Joan Crawford and Bette Davis together on the silver screen for the first time ever.  With Crawford as Velma Vega and Davis as Jules Winnfield, a pair of hard-as-nails ladies who do not take no for an answer, and the vicious crime lord boss Marsellia Wallace, played here in an Oscar winning performance by the legendary Marlene Dietrich, we see something very rarely seen on the big screen - a women's weepie playing out as a gangster film.  But there is romance as well, as Mel Ferrar, as the wicked Miles Wallace, husband of Marsellia, tries his best to seduce both Velma and Jules.

The film's other big hitter is Barbara Stanwyck as Cool Hand Butchie, the brazen broad with the killer right cross.  Her decision to double cross Marsellia Wallace backfires on her and we get to see Stanny and Marlene go hand to hand combat crazy on each other.  It was heralded (and reproached) as the best cat fight in Hollywood history.  Rumour has it that neither lady held anything back, and many of the bruises were quite real.  Rumours flew in other directions as well, as they always did for both Stanwyck and Dietrich, but who are we to play in idle gossip?  Another intriguing part of this story was the young stud who played Butchie's boy toy.  Though he had appeared, uncredited, in a film the previous year, Pulp Fiction would mark the very first screen credit of the man who would be known as Rock Hudson.  Here the young Rock plays Fabian, young buck lover to Stanwyck's imposing Cool Hand Butchie.  It was a star making turn indeed.  The highlight of this part of the story though, other than Dietrich and Babs going all fists of fury slaphappy crazy, is the cameo appearance of the legendary Gloria Swanson as Captain Koons, a W.A.C. friend of Butchie's mom from the war.  It was this performance that led Billy Wilder to create the role of Norma Desmond for the forgotten actress, for his masterpiece Sunset Blvd.

We also get appearances from Susan Hayward, as a rum runner pal of Velma's, and Charles Boyer as her husband, an ex bootlegger from prohibition days, who is still in the family business.  They help to save Miles' life when he poisoned by an angry Marsellia.  It is after this that Velma and Jules head out to the country to hideout in Marsellia's cousin's farm house.   This cousin, Jillie, played here by the director herself, Ms. Lupino, wants nothing to do with these, as she puts it, "low down bitches" and has to call in the Wolf, played with a perfect blend of charm and sexiness by Joan Fontaine.  The finale of the film, which incidentally displays a hell of a lot of face slapping, even by Crawford and Davis standards, is an all-out brawl at The Cocoanut Grove between Velma and Jules and a pair of small-timers by the names of Pumpkin and Honey Bunny.  Pumpkin is played by femme fatale Gloria Grahame, in one her smaller, but juiciest roles.  Honey Bunny is played by the other unknown future superstar in the cast.  The eighteen year old James Dean had just graduated high school when he was cast in the part of Grahame's young consort (which incidentally was something Grahame was supposedly into, having slept with her thirteen year old step son, only to marry him seven years later).  Dean had just enrolled in Santa Monica College, as a pre-law student, when the film was released.  The thrill of the sudden success made the young man change schools, as he would transfer to UCLA and change his major to drama.

But these stories of up-and-comers Hudson and Dean were nothing when compared to the tabloid escapades of Crawford and Davis and their on-going, never-ending public and private feud.  Both actresses suffered minor injuries on the set, all of them due to one or the other taking offense to something the other said.  But this back-stage in-fighting was nothing (hospital stays would be necessary in the only other film the two rivals did together) when compared to the publicity blitz each attempted, at the expense of the other.  Both Crawford and Davis took out everything from full-page ads in Variety to building-sized billboards and constant TV ads.  But it wasn't the movie they were promoting, but themselves.  As you can see from one of Crawford's Variety ads (above), these were meant to highlight the actress more than the film.  Both actresses did this thing, and both used ever younger photos of themselves.  Crawford actually used one of her flapper pics to advertise the film at one point.  This bitter and quite self-serving attitude did not put either actress in much favour with the powers-that-be at Fox, nor did it make Lupino a fan of either one, refusing to work with either one ever again.  But despite all this, the film received 12 Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Screenplay, Supporting Actress for Dietrich (which she won), and Best Actress for both Davis and Crawford (another barrage of attack ads were mounted in what ended up as a lost cause, as both women lost out to Olivia de Havilland for The Heiress).  The big upset was the lack of a Best Director nod for Lupino.  It would still be another twenty-seven years before a woman would be nominated as director - another sixty until a woman would win the award.

Classic Western:
1951's Pulp Fiction was John Ford's 108th film, and his eighth of an eventual sixteen films with his life-long friend John Wayne.  The Duke played gunslinger Vega opposite gunfighting partner Robert Ryan as Jules.  These two rough-and-tumble men's men worked as enforcer's for land baron Marsellus, played with his usual bravura by the great Walter Huston.  But trouble comes when Wayne's gunman-with-a-heart falls for Marsellus' young buxom wife Mia, played by an often scantily clad Jane Russell.  Vega and Mia are found out and almost killed by hired hitman Lance, played by Lee Von Cleef in his film debut.  Lance is accompanied by a thirteen year old girl with one of the quickest draws in the West.  This Lolita-esque darlin' is played by Claudia Cardinale, who would go on to become a sex symbol in Italian cinema in the 1960's.  Marsellus also goes after turncoat Butch, fastest gun West of the Pecos, played here by Randolph Scott, after he steals the baron's gold and heads for Mexico with his whore-turned-wife Fabienne, played by Lupe Vélez,  Vélez, who was originally cast before her suicide in 1944 (the film was held up for seven years in pre-production purgatory), was injected into the film using the few scenes of footage shot before her death.   We also get to see the ubiquitous Walter Brennan as Jimmie, a cousin of the baron's who is unwittingly hiding out the runaway Vega and Mia, along with Jules, until The Wolf, played by the always dangerous Lee Marvin in his film debut, is called in to put an end to Vega and his friends.  Again on the run, Vega, Mia and Jules end up in a saloon in Dodge City.  Here they have a final shoot out with the young, brash Kid Pumpkin, played my Montgomery Clift, and his gal pal Honey Bunny, played by Jennifer Jones.  With a cameo by Roy Rogers as Calvary Captain Koons, this is a classic indeed.

MGM Musical Extravaganza:
Just two years after they made their masterpiece Singin' in the Rain, Stanley Donan and Gene Kelly collaborated once again on a movie musical classic-to-be.  1954's Pulp Fiction, a musical about twenties gangsters, was an all-out musical extravaganza, featuring many of the stars of MGM ("more stars than there are in heaven").  This smash-hit picture features the song-and-dance stylings of Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire (in one of just two movies the dance legends made together) as singing and dancing hoods Vinnie and Jules, the heavenly voice of Judy Garland as gun moll Mia, the chutzpah of Frank Sinatra as crime boss Marsellus Wallace, the fleet-footed moves of Danny Kaye as strawweight boxing champion Butch, the sexy, slinky Cyd Charisse as the exotic Fabienne, and the crooning legend of Bing Crosby as The Wolf.  The film is also highlighted by Jules Munshkin and Vera-Ellen as bootleggers Lance and Jodykins and Donald O'Conner and Leslie Caron as dancing bank robbers Pumpkin and Honey Bunny.  For comic relief we get Oscar Levant as the schmuck Jimmie.  And of course, in the cameo of the year, we find Maurice Chevalier as Police Captain Koons.  This second musical version of Pulp Fiction includes, as did the first, the Cole Porter classic "Jack Rabbit Slim", along with brand new toe-tapping hits like "Foot Massage", "A Glass of Beer in Amsterdam", "Fox Force Five", "Catch-Up/Ketchup", "Adrenaline Rush to My Heart", "The Wolf Will Be Here in Ten", "I Want a Pot Belly", and the now classic "Say What Again!"

+ A Cartoon Short:
In keeping with tradition, there was even an animated short film made of Pulp Fiction.  A veritable who's who of animated stars, this short, which incidentally ran prior to 1949's Pulp Fiction, and won an Oscar for Best Short Film that year, features Mickey Mouse as Vincent Vega, Bugs Bunny as Jules Winnfield, Betty Boop as Mia Wallace, Woody Woodpecker as Butch Coolidge, Red Hot Riding Hood as Fabienne, Koko the Clown as Marsellus Wallace, Droopy Dog as Jimmie, Felix the Cat as The Wolf (I suppose the Big Bad Wolf would have been too obvious a choice), Pepe Le Pew and Penelope Pussycat as Lance and Jody, Roger and Jessica Rabbit as Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, and Popeye as Captain Koons.  You can find this film as an extra on most of the Pulp Fiction DVDs and Blurays.

Well that is that.  I enjoyed greatly going overboard and recasting Pulp Fiction in ten different genres with ten different casts, but even doing that there were favourites galore left on the proverbial cutting room floor.  I was saddened by not getting to cast such faves as Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Mary Pickford, Grace Kelly, Ava Gardner, Miriam Hopkins, Lillian Gish, Jimmy Stewart, Gregory Peck, Kay Francis, Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable, Buster Keaton and Dean Martin, but hey, I had to stop myself somewhere.  But do I really have to stop?  I enjoyed doing this alt-history project so much that I am going to incorporate it into my regular shindigs.  Once a month, or once every other month, I will recast a new modern day film with classic stars and directors, though probably not quite as overboard as this time around (perhaps only two or three different versions in future installments).  But still, a regular feature it will be.  See, you have made a monster out of me.  All installments of The Great Recasting will be posted simultaneously both here, at All Things Kevyn, and over at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.  Next up is an alt-history rendezvous in a galaxy far far away.  See ya 'round the web. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Time to Give Thanks...Well, Maybe Not if You're a Turkey

Every animal has its own special name when talking of a group of said animals. Some of the better ones include a shiver of sharks, a colony or warren of bunnies, a bevy of swans (though they're called a wedge when in flight), a pod of whales, a flamboyance of flamingos, a bloat of hippos (that one seems a bit cruel), a scurry of squirrels, a streak of tigers, a shrewdness of apes, an unkindness of ravens (my personal favourite), a watch of nightingales, a prickle of porcupines (maybe that's my favourite one), a bask of crocodiles, a murmuration of starlings, an exaltation of larks, an intrusion of cockroaches (sounds appropriate), a leap of leopards, an (and this is quite real) army of herring, and, of course, the oft-talked-of murder of crows. But what, pray tell, does one call a group of turkeys? Since it's Thanksgiving and all, or Turkey Day to most of us (stats claim anywhere from 87% to 92% of Americans devour the bird on Thanksgiving Day), now is a good a time as any to get the answer to this query.

I kinda take pride (yeah, I take pride in the weirdest things) in knowing a lot of these aforementioned animal congregation names. So much so that I did not have to look up any of the names used in the opening paragraph. But alas, I do not know the name for a group of turkeys, so, to Google I go. Well, what is the answer? It's a rafter of turkeys. Sometimes a gang, but more commonly a rafter. That's right, a rafter. I suppose this is a good thing to know at Thanksgiving, though chances are, that 87% to 92% of American households, will only be having one turkey over for dinner today, so there will really be no need to throw out the term rafter when trying to impress friends and family. But hey, if ya do want to impress and influence people this holiday season, then let's look at some other Thanksgiving/Turkey trivia and jokes and other doodads to get us in the mood.  I'm sure my lovely wife, being the vegetarian that she is (once upon a time in an interview, Jim Morrison listed meat as his favourite food, and that is pretty much my stance on it as well) would rather see and hear the pro-turkey side of things. Hell, I'm pro-turkey. Always have been. I'm a thigh man myself.  Howzabout you? But I digress.

Gotta love Judy and Mickey fighting over the wishbone. My money's on Judy.  Here are some fun facts for your Turkey Day. Abraham Lincoln was the first president to proclaim Thanksgiving a national holiday (incidentally, given the idea by magazine editor Sarah Josepha Hale, the woman who wrote "Mary Had a Little Lamb"), though it was not given an official seal by congress until 1941. Turkeys are susceptible to heart problems. When the US Air Force was doing tests to break the sound barrier, many of the nearby turkeys were said to have dropped dead of heart attacks. 1924 saw the very first Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, as the first balloon, Felix the Cat, made his way through the streets of midtown Manhattan. My favourite traditional Thanksgiving Day food item, all of them. Well, okay, the green bean casserole can be left off the table. I suppose that is enough fun facts for right now. Let us move onto other fun Thanksgiving tidbits.

Of course we cannot have any sort of real Thanksgiving discussion without mentioning a certain 1978 episode of a show called WKRP in Cincinnati. For those of you not in the know (and shame on you if you are not), the October 30, 1978 episode of the once proud CBS sitcom, titled "Turkeys Away" (episode seven of season one) sports one of, if not the funniest Thanksgiving moment in television history. If you have not seen the episode, then by all means, rush over to Hulu or Netflix or Youtube or wherever and check it out. If you are too lazy to do that, here is a clip of the best part. Turkeys away. And if the link doesn't work (and they are prone not to), blame Youtube, not me.

Supposedly, the episode is (maybe) based on a real life 1962 event in Kewanee, Illinois, when thousands of ping pong balls were dropped from a helicopter. Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of science and how downdrafts work, already knows how that event turned out.  Now just replace ping pong balls with live turkeys and you get the drift. Damn that was a good show. Coincidentally, Richard Sanders, the actor who played Les Nessman on the show, and myself were both born and raised in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. I remember one of my earliest crushes (after Laurie Partridge/Susan Dey and Nancy Drew/Pamela Sue Martin) was Bailey Quarters on WKRP.  She was played by the ever adorable Jan Smithers (now retired from show biz).  I was just eleven when the show came on the air, so the 29 year old actress was a bit out of my age range. The sex symbol on the show was supposed to be the bleach blonde buxom Loni Anderson, as receptionist Jennifer Marlowe, but those of us with more imagination (Marcel Proust once wrote, "Let us leave beautiful women to men devoid of imagination") took more of a shine to Bailey than to Jennifer. Not that Smithers was not pretty (she was quite stunning actually) but she was not what society called beautiful, at least not what society thought of as sexy. Just like those who preferred Mary Ann to Ginger or Jan to Marcia, it was always Bailey over Jennifer in this guy's not-so-humble opinion. But I am getting way off subject here, so back to the turkey talk.

So what else is there to talk about on this Thanksgiving Day post? There's the oft-repeated tale of how Ben Franklin had wanted the turkey to be our national symbol, but who hasn't heard that one.  But, if ole Ben had gotten his way, would be eating bald eagle on Thanksgiving today?  We could discuss how it was deer, and not turkey, that was eaten on that iconic first Thanksgiving, but that's a bore. We could tell a Thanksgiving Day joke. What happened to the turkey when he got into a fight? He got the stuffing knocked out of him! Considering that after scouring the internet for Thanksgiving jokes, the best one I could come up with was that one, perhaps we should just move on. We could talk about the ending of Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but that will just make me cry (how dare they make a comedy with an ending like that!!).  We could take a look at Thanksgiving, the Eli Roth-directed fake trailer from Grindhouse. And remember, don't blame me if the link sucks.

But enough of this nonsense. You can take your own time to check out Adam Sandler's Thanksgiving Song or Food, Glorious Food from the musical Oliver!. Right now I should just let you go so you can gobble gobble gobble your gobble gobble gobble. I have some eating of my own to do anyway. Happy Turkey Day. And to all my Canadian brethren - Thanksgiving is not in October!!  See ya 'round the web.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Let's Talk About Pez, Baby! Let's Talk About Pez and Me!

Almost sixteen years ago, I met the woman who would become my wife. Four weeks after we met, on Friday, March 13th, 1998 (yeah, Friday the 13th...on purpose) we were married. Take that society!  Still happily together lo this decade and a half later, we are a wonder to behold.  The envy of all around us. The love to end all loves!  Too much? Okay. But this is not the story of love at first sight or anything kanoodly as that. No, this is the story of the eight little plastic toys my wife came with, and what was built out of these little suckers.  

The toys I speak of so fondly ("A Treat to Eat in a Puppet That's Neat") are eight little Pez dispensers.  Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Santa Claus, a Witch, a Valentine's Day Heart, a Pumpkin, the Easter Bunny, and the Tasmanian Devil, aka Taz. These are the eight Pez dispensers that, without any fanfare whatsoever, my lovely new wife brought into our marriage. A dowry of sorts? Perhaps. Perhaps indeed. Now, cut to fifteen and three quarters years later, and a silly off-kilter aside turns into a vast and all-encompassing obsession.  From a corner of the dresser to a wall shelf to a cabinet to one side of the room to an entire room all of their own, the collection has grown and grown and grown. Have I mentioned that our collection (the missus calls it my collection these days, but I still consider it a team effort) has recently surpassed 2200 different dispensers, and approximately 300 other various sundry Pez-related items? No? Well, it has. 2244 to be exact. Yeah, that's right. Two thousand, two hundred, and forty four Pez dispensers. Take that!

The reason I bring this up, is because there was an article done recently about our Pez collection. Written by local writer Chris Mautner, the piece appeared last week on a local news site called Penn Live. There are even pictures to go along with then words.

Begun in Austria in the 1920's (Pez is short for pfefferminz, the German word for peppermint) as a stop-smoking mint and dispenser (the first dispensers looked like lighters - it would be another 25 years until character heads were added, and the Pez dispenser proper would be born), these dispensers are a huge collecting niche in today's world.  The founder of eBay even claims that the online auction site was created to help his girlfriend buy and sell Pez dispensers (apocryphal, this story is merely a human interest twist that makes for good marketing). There are conventions held throughout the world (at least a dozen every year, ranging from Myrtle Beach to L.A. to St. Louis, Cleveland, even Sweden, Finland, Japan, and of course, Austria) and yes, the wife and I have been to several of them. There have even been a couple Pez museums, only one of which still exists though.

And as for what and how many Pez dispensers are out there? Tons, baby, tons!  Probably well over 10,000 different dispensers and variations thereof (varying stem colours make for added fun in the world of the completist) have been produced over the years. Everything from Peter Pez, a clown who acts as the company's de facto mascot, to any number of animals and animated characters (most cartoons and animated movies have been covered) to a line of Pez Pals who can "dress" up as different characters (sheik, pirate, doctor, nurse, cop, fireman, pilot, maharajah, etc) to historical figures (Betsy Ross, Daniel Boone) to music stars (Elvis, Kiss) to pretty much anything else you can think of (including the US Presidents and The Lord of the Rings). And this doesn't even cover all the fantasy Pez that are created (I happen to have a Hunter S. Thompson AND Sadam Hussein AND H.R. Pufnstuf).  

Seriously, there are a lot of Pez dispensers, as well as other Pezzy items like yo-yo's and snow globes and pins and buttons and tin signs and masks and puppets and flashlights and cups and blankets and hats and t-shirts and rulers and pens and pencils and toy cars and porcelain figurines and Christmas ornaments and so on and so on and so on. Howzabout Pez dispensers such as cowboys and Indians, Disney Princesses, trucks and trucks and more trucks (from Wegman's to CVS to Duane Reade and Bottom Dollar, the advertising rigs are kinda getting outta hand), baseball, football, and Hockey Pez, French Pez (that's right), and mini Japanese Pez (like most everything else in Japan, they are sold in vending machines), even those guys on Orange County Choppers! You name it, Pez makes it.  

Anyway, that is my story, and I am sticking to it. It is all true though. Honest. But enough rambling on (I am as prone to ramble on as I am to interject parenthetical asides and digresses ad nauseam - ha!). I only came here to tell you about the article about me and my Pez (yeah, the little missus decided to hide in the other room while the interviewer and photog were here). And remember, if you ever come to visit us, don't be too taken aback by our Pez display (it isn't even all up and displayed!). Whenever a new guest is over, and they travel upstairs to the bathroom, they must first walk through the Pez room (the only way to get there!) and there is always a gasp of shock and awe. Take that! Below is a fun shot of a few of the famed Pez collection. That's it gang. See ya 'round the web.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Let's Talk Oscars!

Every year, over at my film site, The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World (always linked in the sidebar), I try my hand at early bird Oscar nomination predictions.  The actual nominations are not announced until mid January, for a late February or early March Oscarcast (the Oscars will be on March 2nd this year), but I like getting a big head start.  Usually these early bird predix are posted in June or July (I told you I like to get a head start) but with the the entanglements of some rather annoying job-related proceedings (see my previous post for a little bit on that) I wasn't able to get anything up and running until a month ago, but it is still early enough to be considered early bird-esque, so there.

Anyway, since this is my new blog, and All Things Kevyn was not around a month ago (not even two days ago), I thought I would post a link to these aforementioned early bird Oscar nomination predictions here and now.  They are a month old (exactly a month actually) but nothing has changed in the past month to make me reconsider any of these predictions, so I give them to you as is (update: see end of post).  Granted, I am sure some things will come up over the next two months, and the slew of critics awards that are announced throughout December, to make my final nomination predictions (to be posted the evening before the nominations are announced in January) look a bit different than what you may see here (Scorsese's Wolf of Wall Street is a big ole question mark right now), but chances are, especially with the lateness of these so-called early bird predix, not that much will change.  In the past I have done quite well in predicting the eventual nominees, even when I am predicting in my usual June or July spot, and this year is shaping up to be no different.  Have I mentioned how predictable these awards have become as of late?  Yeah.

And please remember that these are not necessarily my own choices for what and who should get nominated and win, but my predictions of who and what will get nominated and win.  If it were up to me, films such as Wong Kar-wai's The Grandmaster, Park Chan-wook's Stoker, Richard Linklater's Before Midnight, Abdellatif Kechiche's Blue is the Warmest Color, Shane Carruth's Upstream Color, Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives, and Jia Zhangke's A Touch of Sin would be getting a lot more nominations than they will probably get, which may be as little as three or four between all of them together.  But that is neither here nor there, my own choices for the best of the year will be posted on or around January 1st, and these films will undoubtedly pop up quite a bit then.  For now though, please allow me to offer up my early bird-esque Oscar nomination predictions for all to see.

Read my Early Bird Oscar Nomination Predictions at The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World.

And remember, to come back here (and/or The Most Beautiful Fraud in the World) on January 15th to see my final Oscar nomination predictions (nominations will be announced on the morning of January 16th).  Well, actually I hope you come back many times before that, since there will be more than a few new posts between now and then, but you get the drift.  See ya 'round the web.

* Update (11/29): I have made two changes to the linked Oscar nomination predictions.  I have removed (sadly) Matthew McConaughey from Best Supporting Actor, and have replaced him with Barkhad Abdi from Captain Phillips, and I have removed (extra sadly) Sally Hawkins from Best Supporting Actress, and replaced her with June Squibb for Nebraska.  I really hope to add Hawkins back in there for my final predictions in January.  All other categories (for now) stay the same, and I will probably not make any more changes until my final predix in six weeks.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

First Post Anyone? Here Ya Go...

As an introduction to my new blog (this being the first post and all), I decided to include a picture of myself. I do not often post pics of my true self, choosing instead to show anything but myself as my token avatar, aka placeholder, so you should feel honoured. Sure, others have posted pics of me over at that Facebook place (though to this day, I have never used my own image as a profile pic), but otherwise, if I can help it, you will not see this face anywhere around these intrawebs parts. Like I said, honoured. Okay, so that's settled. There's my picture and you should feel honoured. Yada yada. Now let's get on with a proper introduction to this goddamn new website of mine. Here we go.

This past Summer (and most of the Fall as well) has been what one would call a real game-changer in the lives of the lovely little missus and myself. After 4+ years of jointly running Harrisburg Pa's lone arthouse cinema, we were unceremoniously let go, aka, chucked to the proverbial wolves without any real rhyme and/or reason. Now I am not about to get into any sort of former employer trash talk here on such a public forum, but let's just say that the wife and I have more than enough material to do a pretty juicy tell all expose on the folks that owned that aforementioned cinema. But for now, let's get past the atrocious way we were treated by a company full of bad people (oh, there I go), or the fact that we were dismissed in order to move friends of the bosses into our respective spots (oh, there I go again), and move on to what the future holds for yours truly and the lovely wife.  And maybe, if you're lucky, I will also explain just what this website is all about.

After our Summer of Leisure (aka, joblessness, but in a good way, since running the cinema did make both of us a collective ball of stress, all but relieved now, not to mention how we never had time for anything else), and my lack of writing anything of substance, or really writing much of anything at all (believe it or not, I was once a pretty prolific, and in certain circles, kinda popular-esque film critic, averaging several reviews and/or other film pieces per week - see here), as well as some failed experiments with cartooning, and delusions of me being the next Daniel Clowes (see here), it is time to get on with our lives. So, what is up? Glad ya asked. Well, the missus has gone back to writing the poetry she was once famous for writing (she too hasn't been the most prolific as of late) which is a great thing, because she is great at such things (a much better writer than I). As for myself, I am about to get back onto that old war horse of film criticism. I should have a new review up and running in a day or two (Blue is the Warmest Color), and then keep going at it back on my regular schedule (Dallas Buyers Club, Captain Phillips, 12 Years A Slave, and even a long awaited Blue Jasmine review coming quickly in succession after my comeback review). I am also working on two books (yeah, two!), at least one of which I hope to have finished (and hopefully published) sometime in the second half of 2014. More on those in a later post. Right now, maybe I should tell you just what this site is meant to be.

As you may have already guessed from the title of this here blog (unless you happen to be a fucking idiot, in which case, I probably don't want you reading my blog anyway! Go away fucking idiots!!) it is about all things me.  Oh yeah, I haven't formally introduced myself, have I? My name is Kevyn Knox, and this web log (yeah, that's what blog stands for!) is all about me. Some of you may already know of me (remember, I was once popular-esque), others, not so much. Whatever the case may be, this site will be all about me. Pretty egotistical, huh? So what! Actually, it's not really all that egotistical. This site is not necessarily about me so much as it is about whatever goes on inside my head (a scary place indeed). Basically this is just a place to talk about whatever happens to come into my head (as the tagline above says). A spot to gather all my random thoughts (look out!) and all the random stuff I do around the web (have I mentioned the Tumblr site I have, with equally random things populating it? It's called Random Fraudish Monkeyshines, and can be viewed here) and bring it into one big ole cyberhub right here, right now (did I just quote Jesus Jones?). Yeah, so anything I come up with will be shown here. Right here, right now dammit!!

Be they links to my aforementioned film reviews or ramblings about current events or babblings about what happened on this week's Walking Dead or Modern Family (the two best shows on TV today) or some sort of nostalgia-infused remembrance of things past (that one's an inside-ish joke for the wife) or what weird freaky thing our new puppy, Marcy Proust (yeah, that's her name - now do you get the inside-ish joke a bit better?), did last night or some kind of story about the 2200+ Pez collection we have in our house (some foreshadowing for an upcoming post) or a diatribe on anything from why The Velvet Underground is the greatest American rock band to a proposed sitcom that could be the perfect comeback vehicle for Jim J. Bullock (a revisionist history of Star Wars is in the making) or even one of those failed experiments at cartooning that everyone's been talking about (I do still plan on doing the occasional comix-related doohickey).  Whatever gives, will indeed be given. We are here for some words and some fun, and to quote the Cos, back in his Fat Albert days, if you're not careful, you may learn something before it's done. Now here, for no reason whatsoever (other than because it is one of the cutest freakin' things ever!), is a picture of a baby tapir. See ya 'round the web.