You Go Canoeing To Aintry With Burt, You Take Your Chances

January 8, 2011

I stumbled across Deliverance the other night and stopped.

After a grueling day under the flourescent lights of an office, a commute from hell, and the rawness of a dark winter’s day in early January, does anything goose the spirits like a river trip to Aintry, hillbillies, and Ned Beatty getting sodomized?

I checked out before the mountain man lovin’, but I did watch the early part of the movie.

I barely remember the hulabaloo surrounding the movie when it came out in the ’70s. I do recall it airing on television as ABC’s Friday Night Movie and the previews issuing one of those omnous voiceovers warning that the following feature was “of a mature nature.”

I didn’t see it then.

I actually didn’t see Deliverance until college, fifteen or so years after the acclaimed movie was in theaters.

Several housemates and I were hanging out one weeknight, watching our school’s basketball team on television. The game ended and, like the other night, we stumbled across Deliverance on cable.

I think that I knew nothing about the movie, but it had a strange vibe that drew me in.

I had no idea where the flick was headed, but I knew within the first few moments of his character’s introduction that following Burt Reynolds into the sticks was asking to be made an example of by natural selection.

We all have a buddy or acquaintence who will constantly be willing to test the bounds of good sense, legal statutes, rational thought, and/or physics, but, if Burt Reynolds invites you to ride the rapids for some weekend thrills in the mountains, there is no excuse for not caveating the @#$% out of the emptor.

It wasn’t more than fifteen minutes into the movie and we had already met the hillbillies and had the bluegrass jam of Dueling Banjos between Ronny Cox’ character and Banjo Boy.

Growing up in a small, Midwestern town, we had our share of rural types, but the hill people in Deliverance were unsettling.

I don’t think any of us moved for two hours as we sat in the dark and watched the movie. We’d gone from boisterous during the basketball game to – for the most part – quietly engrossed by the palpable sense of dread and wondering what would go wrong for our intrepid quartet next.

(maybe Burt Reynolds will open a chain of Deliverance-themed water parks and call it Burt Reynold’s River Ride Through Hell)

And I do still remember jumping a bit at the end when that pale, lifeless hand popped up to the surface of that eerie lake.

Dueling Banjos is well-known, but I seem to remember some trippy, electronic music during one part of the movie that made things super-surreal.

In the real world, I was four when Deliverance was released in July, 1972, so there wasn’t a lot of music I was hearing – mostly in the car from the radio or the random times the parents might put on an album.

But there are a lot of songs that I do recognize from the Billboard Hot 100 from that July in ’72 – a few from then, most from hearing them in the years since…

Looking Glass – Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)
from Have A Nice Decade: The ’70s Pop Culture Box

I seem to recall Looking Glass’ one major hit from that time and, apparently, they had another lesser hit called Jimmy Loves Mary-Anne which, if I have heard, I’m unaware.

But Brandy is perfect, a song that is always welcome when it pops up on the iPod’s shuffle (or in the supermarket, for that matter). It seems that it would be ripe to be covered, but, then again, perhaps its nautical themes and tale of those residing at a port in a harbor town wouldn’t resonate with today’s pop audience.

The Hollies – Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress)
from Big Hits Of The ’70s

I can’t really say that I know much of The Hollies’ catalog aside from a handful of singles, but I’ve always quite liked Long Cool Woman (In A Black Dress). It’s certainly more muscular than the other hits by the band with which I’m familiar.

The 5th Dimension – (Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All
from Up, Up and Away: The Definitive Collection

I do very much remember hearing (Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All on the car radio as a four-year old in ’72. I think that I was even aware that The 5th Dimension had also sang Up, Up And Away which I loved and seem to recall hearing on Sesame Street.

I also remember being quite captivated by (Last Night) I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All as a kid, even though I had no frame of reference for the angst-riddled insomnia of the song. Instead, I’ve no doubt that the gorgeous melody and dramatic vocal was the hook.

And singer Marilyn McCoo, a natural beauty if there ever was one, would become familiar to me from her television series with husband Billy Davis, Jr. and, in the ’80s, as a host on Solid Gold.

The Eagles – Take It Easy
from Their Greatest Hits

Though I’m not as opposed to The Eagles as The Dude was in The Big Lebowski – in which his abiding hatred of the group gets him tossed from a cab – I’ve never been much of a fan, either. Maybe it was the overkill of hearing their music so much on radio as a kid.

Over the years, I’ve slowly softened my resistance to their music and find myself far less inclined to change channels or skip forward when I hear them. And, there is something about the carefree vibe of Take It Easy that is hard to resist.

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Sam He Am (Somebody Give That Hobbit A Potato So He’ll Shut The @$%&# Up)

February 4, 2010

As an ESPN-watching male, I’m aware that I’m supposed to love the movie Rudy.

I don’t.

I’ve tried and, with dire viewing options the other night, I tried again. It’s nothing against Notre Dame or the story per se, it’s the title character. No matter what was going on, Rudy was blathering on and on about Notre Dame.

Half an hour into it, I was hoping that Ned Beatty, playing the father, would take the kid on a rafting trip down the Cahulawassee River and trade him to some mountain men for a jug of moonshine or some beef jerky.

At one point, Rudy gets a job as a groundskeeper at Notre Dame and proceeds to re-enact touchdown runs as his co-workers stare slack-jawed (likely realizing that, yet again, they will have to pick up this jackass’ slack).

Seriously, if real-life Rudy is/was as single-minded as he was portrayed, wouldn’t someone have eventually resorted to violence, if necessary, to get him to stop talking about Notre Dame football for ten minutes?

This wasn’t the first time that Sean Astin, who played Rudy, has driven me to distraction in a movie. In fact, he frustrated me in The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, too. All that bellyaching for boiled potatoes (or something) and his fussing over Frodo grated on my nerves.

Of course, Paloma and I did make the regretful decision to watch all three movies in (mostly) one sitting. I think I would have been irritable after watching The Big Lebowski for that long.

(actually, that’s unlikely, and I’d like to see a remake of the trilogy with The Dude as Frodo’s sidekick instead)

Tolkien seems to be an all-in or nothing proposition. I’d read one of the books and was entertained but not indoctrinated.

But, Paloma and I kept catching portions of the first movie on television. I can’t recall if she had read the books, but I know that she gets a bit googly-moogly over Viggo Mortensen.

(this is why I spend great amounts of time making sure that the two never cross paths)

So, so we rented all of them and set forth on our own journey. We started in late afternoon and made it through eight or so hours before fatigue bested us.

The next morning, after a lot of nervously dancing around the subject, we trudged onward toward Mt. Doom.

(it was Mt. Doom, right?)

How long were those three movies on DVD? Twelve, fifteen, twenty hours? By the time we were midway through the final film, there was no more joy, just a primal drive to keep moving, to reach the end.

Oh, they’re wonderful movies. There’s some amazing cinema to be had, but probably not in such a concentrated dose.

(though I briefly came back to life when the Ents appeared as I am a sucker for talking, ambulatory trees)

Nonetheless, much like Rudy, we showed grit, hung in there, and eventually reached the end credits.

Rudy finally suited up for Notre Dame in the final game of the 1975 season. It was November. I was a second grader and certainly more interested in dinosaurs than music, but, according to the Billboard charts from the time, there were songs that would be quite well known to me years later…

ABBA – S.O.S.
from Thank You For The Music

I snagged a used copy of ABBA’s four-disc box for a pittance and, though I like these Swedes, I’ve only ventured beyond a dozen or so tracks once or twice. I imagine I’ve heard most of the essential stuff.

I was a kid during ABBA’s heyday, but I still remember hearing most of their hits on the radio. S.O.S. has always been a favorite. It swoops – it soars – it’s ridiculously catchy.

Wouldn’t a bio-pic on ABBA be a license to print money?

Jefferson Starship- Miracles
from Red Octopus

I can’t say that I know much of Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship/Starship aside from essentially the radio hits and 1984’s Nuclear Furniture (which, for some reason, I felt the need to purchase). I’ve always loved White Rabbit and I didn’t hate We Built This City as much as the rest of the world seemed to despise it.

As for Miracles, it’s a gorgeous track that always seems to sound better on a rainy day.

The Eagles – Lyin’ Eyes
from One Of These Nights

There was a time when, like The Big Lebowski‘s Dude, I hated The Eagles. Perhaps it was their oversaturation on radio while I was growing up. Though they had called it a day, their songs seemed to be playing constantly.

And though Lyin’ Eyes got played as much as any of those songs aside from perhaps Hotel California, the harmonies and resigned tone of the song made it the one that made me pause on the station. Over the past decade or so, I’ve come to appreciate more of the group’s catalog.

Diana Ross – Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)
from Diana Ross & The Supremes: The No. 1’s

There were a couple summers where I wore my hair in braids and my stylist was a clerk in a record store where I worked who spent nights as a popular drag queen whose specialty was Diana Ross.

(and none of that is made up)

Anyhow, Theme from Mahogany is a pretty song and filled with enough drama for a dozen drag queens. I can’t quite place it, but I seem to recall hearing the song playing in the mall with my parents during the Christmas season in ’75. The memory is there, but I can’t bring it into focus.