Great, Now We Have An Alligator Problem

March 20, 2009

The other night, I fell under the spell of a show about an expedition to find giant alligators living in the sewer system of New York City.

How could I pass on such riveting and educational fare?

How could anyone?

There were a lot of eerie shots from remote portions of the sewers – absolute darkness illuminated by the cameras and insects buzzing about in the glow.

Nothing of significance was found, but the interviews with a retired, long-time sewer system employee were interesting. His vibe had me expecting him to, at any moment, blow his stack and colorfully express amazement that anyone would doubt that mutant alligators live below the city streets.

He had plenty of tales from the briny deep (and has probably frightened his grandchildren into a catatonic state).

The expert leading the expedition concluded that, based on footage filmed by remote cameras, the sewers of Manhattan are an environment in which alligators would thrive.

Another expert disagreed. The skeptical expert offered up his thoughts on the subject while lounging next to large alligators in some game preserve (or such) in Florida.

Finally, out of nowhere, some fellow in flannel weighed in from what appeared to be a cabin in the Pacific Northwest.

He warned ominously of a future New York overrun by hordes of alligators from the deep if this threat was not addressed.

He was, if I heard correctly, described as an expert on Bigfoot.

I suppose he might need a bit more vetting.

And, it seems to be an immutable law of personal physics that I will watch anything involving a giant lizard or amphibian.

Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – Gator On The Lawn

Southern Pacific – It’s A Cold Night For Alligators
A cover song from the tribute to the legendary Roky Erickson, Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye.

Curve – Alligators Getting Up

John Cale – Gatorville & Points East

Godzilla, I Can’t Stay Mad At You

March 14, 2009

The first movie that I can recall seeing in a theater was Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster.

(simply typing the title makes me as giddy as when I was four)

Yes, perhaps you’ve seen a Godzilla flick or two, but there’s none of them like his match with the Smog Monster.

It has an early ‘70s environmental bent to it, blending psychedelic rock music, cartoons, Japanese hippies, and a Godzilla that could fly.

It truly was everything that a child’s first big-screen experience should be.

Some of it did, admittedly, frighten me (I was four).

Through the years, it was always like Christmas to stumble upon a Godzilla movie on late, late night TV. I must doff my chapeau to the Japanese for enriching my life through a man in a giant lizard suit.

Godzilla, sushi, and providing inspiration for Styx’ Mr. Roboto – the Japanese have greatly contributed to who I am today.

I thank you all (seriously).

So, I bought into the hype for the Godzilla remake in ’98. I remember checking out some trailer for the movie which arrived on the internet a year ahead of the flick.

The movie eventually did come out and did so while I was traveling in the UK with a couple friends. So, it had been in theaters for a week or so before I managed to see it. If I recall correctly, I went with some friends the evening of my first day back in the States.

Undone by jet-lag and crushed by the weight of expectations, Godzilla left me angry, disappointed, and hurt. You can’t CGI the inestimatable charm of a man in a fake suit (and the Puff Daddy song that came out the week before I left for the UK should have been taken as a very bad omen).

I’ve caught it on cable a few times in the last year, though, and I’ve learned to love it for what it is and not lament what it isn’t. I do think that the opening credits work well.

And the first twenty minutes or so do a good job of building suspense. His arrival in Manhattan, though, is where Godzilla and I part company, but it’s with much more mutual respect now than there was a decade ago (we both are older and more mature I suppose).

But it sure would be cool to stumble upon his predecessor – hanging with the hippies and saving the world from pollution – while channel-surfing.

There simply aren’t enough songs about Godzilla and I’ve already posted the Blue Oyster Cult classic, so here are a handful of songs that were popular in the spring of 1971 (when Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster was released)…

Keiko Mari – Save The Earth
OK, this wasn’t a hit, but, by God, it should have been. Save The Earth plays over a montage which opens Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster and truly sets the tone. It was actually kind of creepy – lava lamp graphics, images of pollution-choked harbors filled with manikins and such.

Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
To state the obvious, What’s Going On needs no comment from me.

The Doors – Love Her Madly
In high school, The Doors were arguably the most popular band amongst the general population (despite the fact that Jim Morrison had been dead for more than a decade). So popular were they that two sisters were adamant that they were the illegitimate daughters of The Lizard King (Morrison, not Godzilla – although going with the Godzilla angle would have been equally as believable).

Lobo – Me And You And A Dog Named Boo
This is the one song in the bunch which I actually remember hearing on the radio at the time. I imagine the fact that the singer had a dog appealed to me (my brother and I had to make do with a hamster and hamsters, if no one has ever told you, don’t fetch).

Straight To Hell, Indeed

March 12, 2009

For several years, I worked in a very large record store. One of the perks of the job (aside from cocooning oneself from reality) was free rentals from our video department.

One night, after working a closing shift, I was perusing the “midnight movie” section, and locked onto a spine that read “Straight To Hell.” I pulled it from the rack and the cast drew me in.

Joe Strummer.

The Pogues.

Elvis Costello.

Dennis Hopper.

Grace Jones.

I recognized the director’s name – Alex Cox. He had directed Repo Man, a strange little film involving aliens, punks, and Harry Dean Stanton mentoring a young Emilio Estevez in the arts of the titular profession. The film was a must-see for teenagers in the ‘80s.

Straight To Hell opens with a botched bank heist by a gang including a pre-celebrity status Courtney Love. They end up fleeing to a bizarre, desert town right out of some Sergio Leone flick which is run by a gang consisting of members of The Pogues and The Clash’s Joe Strummer.

(it’s been well over fifteen years since I’ve seen the movie, so some of my details might be off)

The entire population of townsfolk is all whacked out on caffeine, swilling coffee like whisky which is served by Elvis Costello as some kind of butler.

There was also a hot dog vendor/troubadour.

Supposedly, the movie came about following the collapse of a scheduled tour in Nicaragua by Costello, Strummer, and The Pogues in support of the Sandinistas.

Since everyone now had an open schedule, they headed for Spain under the guidance of director Cox and made a movie.

Though I didn’t know that back story at the time, the surreal, spaghetti Western setting and Pogue Shane MacGowan in all his orthodontically-challenged glory had me expecting much.

I was certain that I would see one of the most entertaining things in the history of cinema or such an unmitigated disaster that it would still be one of the most entertaining things in the history of cinema.

It failed to achieve either inspired extreme.

Instead, I yawned a lot and the movie seemed to last longer than the time Paloma and I decided to watch the entire Lord Of The Rings trilogy in just one sitting (me being pretty much unfamiliar with the Tolkien epic).

And, when Straight To Hell ended, I had pretty much the same reaction I would have years later at the conclusion of Frodo’s road trip (or Mr. Frodo as that sycophantic sidekick kept calling him).

I just kind of stared at the television screen, slack-jawed and inert.

At least Straight To Hell had a cool little soundtrack.

The Pogues – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Yes, it’s The Pogues doing Ennio Morricone’s classic theme. Actually, it reminds me more of the style of Big Audio Dynamite (who were led by another member of The Clash – Mick Jones) than The Pogues.

Pray For Rain – The Killers
If I recall correctly, The Killers played over the opening credits of Straight To Hell. The song is stellar, but things went downhill from there.

Joe Strummer – Evil Darling
Evil Darling is one of two songs by the late, great Joe Strummer featured in Straight To Hell.

Zander Schloss – Salsa Y Ketchup
I mentioned that there was a hot dog vendor/troubadour in the movie. Well, that part was played by Zander Schloss of The Circle Jerks. Throughout the movie, the MacManus Gang which runs the town torments him. “Lets make that Weiner Kid sing his song. Wanna?”