by J.D. Rhoades
After five thousand years of
civilization…we could all use a break.
from a forgotten 70’s movie.
Oy. January. January may actually rival August for my least favorite month, despite (or maybe because of) my birthday being this month. The fun of Christmas is over, the bills for same are rolling in, and it finally got cold in North Carolina. So when those midwinter blues set in, it’s time to shake them off with something fun. But this kind of malaise requires a special kind of fun: dumb fun.
The other night, we rented
“Grindhouse.” If you’re not familiar, “Grindhouse” was a movie released last
year by directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez that was intended to
be a tribute to those great low-budget features of the late 60’s and 70’s, the
one’s that played in the low-rent, low-class theaters like the old Sunrise in
my home town. You know the ones I mean: the ones where your feet stuck to the
floor with every step because they rarely, if ever, mopped the place. The ones
where you threw Atomic Fire Balls at the screen whenever the film broke, which
was about every other movie.
Actually, “Grindhouse” is two
movies, in honor of the fact that the old cheap-seats cinemas were running
double features more often than not. In this case, the two movies are Tarantino’s “Death Proof” featuring Kurt
Russell as a homicidal stunt driver, and “Planet Terror,” Rodriguez’ entry in
the killer-zombie-virus genre.
About “Death Proof”, the less said
the better. I didn’t know it was possible to be that bored by a Tarantino
movie, and I’m a huge Tarantino fan. But “Planet Terror”– now that was some
great lousy cinema, right there. It had
everything a low budget horror flick needs: scantily clad women, zombies, gore,
more zombies, stuff blowing up for no apparent reason other than it looked
cool, zombies blowing up, homicidal lesbian doctors, and a one-legged stripper
who replaced her hastily engineered peg leg with an assault rifle that
propelled her high in the air when she fired the grenade launcher attachment at
In short, “Planet Terror” was dumb. It was GLORIOUSLY
dumb. I laughed till my sides were sore.
Now I like a smart, sophisticated
entertainment as much as the next
feller. But lord help me, every now and then I just like something
dumb-but-fun. And in mid January, when the cold winds whistle ‘round the
corners of my old pile of an office building, and everyone but me seems to be
coming down with something, it just seems like a good time to turn off the
frontal lobes and indulge in some nice mindless cheesy amusement.
Note: This is the sort of thing
that some people refer to as “guilty pleasures,” but I don’t believe in feeling
guilty about my pleasures. So I just call them what they are: dumb, but fun. So
here we go.
In music, the epitome of
dumb-but-fun is the Ramones. Ramones music wasn’t exactly what
you’d call complex. What it was most of all
was propulsive. Everything was geared to create a sense of urgency, from Joey’s
staccato, machine-gun repetition of lyrics ("Twenty-Twenty-Twenty-four
hours to go…"), to bassist Dee Dee Ramone’s warp-speed bass to guitarist
Johnny Ramone’s buzz-saw guitar attack.
It was the lyrics, however, that
really made the Ramones what they were. Joey wrote words like "Guess I’ll
have to break the news/That I got no mind to lose/ all the girls are in love
with me/I’m a teenage lobotomy," and the mathematically challenged verse
"it’s the end, the end of the Seventies/It’s the end, the end of the
century…" And Joey hung onto the mike stand as if the band’s sonic assault
were about to blow him off the stage and delivered lines like "The KKK
took my baby away" with a total seriousness that, paradoxically, made them
all the more hilarious. The Ramones were rock and roll made goofy.
But, you say, this is a site about
reading and writing. What about books?
Oh, there are plenty of dumb books around. But for sheer outrageous mindless
amusement value, it’s hard to beat the Destroyer series of pulp adventure novels by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy. In the
series, which must be over 200 books by now, police officer Remo Williams has
his execution faked by a secretive government organization called CURE. After
this, he becomes a secret agent, and a
disciple of Chiun, the only living master of the oriental martial art of
Sinanju. And what a martial art it
is: “A master can hold his breath over an hour, rip steel doors from their
hinges, dodge bullets, overturn a moving tank, outrun a car, seem invisible –
you get the idea. They have mastered the full potential of the human body.” Oh, and there’s a bonus, since of course the Sinanju training turns you into the world’s greatest lover. But you have to be careful, because most Western women will not be able to bear the intensity of Sinanju style lovemaking and will, in fact, go insane.
dumb. But fun. Largely because the books refuse to take themselves too
seriously, and the banter between the haughty Chiun and Remo is hilarious.
So, fellow Murderati and assorted
spectators–chime in. What are your favorite examples from music, literature,
and film that are dumb dumb dumb, but
fun, fun fun?
Film: The Creeping Terror which was about a man eating carpet from outer space. Pure brilliance!
Music – I am a huge fan of the Ramones – great fun. For sheer good fun and entertainment value (but not dumb) – anything by The Cramps. Even from the ir song titles – ‘Can Your Pussy Do The Dog’, ‘It Thing Hard On’, ‘Hot Pearl Snatch’, ‘Dames, Booze, Chains and Boots, ‘The Creature From The Black Leather Lagoon’. Not to mention their lyrics – from ‘What’s Inside a Girl – “Whoa…there’s some things baby I just can’t swallow. Mama told me that girls are hollow. Uh-uh…What’s inside a girl? Somethin’s tellin’ me there’s a whole nuther world. Ya gotta pointy bra…ten inch waist. Long black stockings all over the place. Boots…buckles…belts outside. Whatcha got in there yer tryin’ a-hide? Hmmm? What’s inside a girl? Ain’t no hotter question in a so-called civilized world” – just sheer good fun.
Books: Well, again DEFINITELY not dumb but for entertainment value and not taking himself seriously at ALL you can’t beat Richard S Prather’s Shell Scott books. Love them, love them, love them.
My middle daughter bought me an ABBA’s greatest hits CD for Christmas – and I love it.
Entertainment Weekly has been my guilty pleasure for years, but that probably doesn’t count because there are some smart columnists.
Movie I’ll watch every time it comes on? The Boy in the Bubble one with Jake Gylaanhal.
No books. I also write erotic romance and read a lot of it and I’ll never ever ever call it trashy or dumb.
My movie nomination? The Blob. Hideous, oozing monster plus Steve McQueen! Does it get any better? No. Except maybe if he took off his shirt.
Music: Anything by Cyndi Lauper. ‘C’mon, you know you love her.
Books: Anything with Dirk Pitt in it. Honestly, gentleman, do you really take those books seriously? Because if you do, you should let me handle all your investments. And bank deposits. And I’ll take your car to be serviced. No, really, especially if it’s a BMW.
Geez, Dusty. I’ve been such a hermit recently that I don’t even have a list of GOOD music and movies, let alone dumb and trashy ones.
Then again, just about anything with Patrick Swayze in it might fit the bill.
Towering Inferno. One of the all time great cheese fests. There’s a scene, right after the first person catches on fire, when Paul Newman is freaking out and O.J. Simpson, playing the head of security, grabs Newman by the shoulder and speaks sternly: “Get ahold of yourself, man”. Whereupon Newman is brought to his sense and proceeds to save the day. I’m telling you, it’s a great moment in cinematic history.
Dusty,I burst out laughing when you mentioned Atomic Fireballs. Would you believe they’re the candy I’ll be handing out at my booksignings. Don’t ask.
Okay . . . to your questionOne of my favorite dumb, dumb movies is: DARK STAR. It’s such a low-budget film with the most stupid props.
I still giggle every time I see the “alien” pet they have — which is so obviously a painted beach ball.
Dumb music? Well, not dumb, but wonderfully funny: many of the songs by The Bobs. One of my faves is: “Please let me be your third world country.”
Dumb books? I can’t think of any positive dumb ones — but a case could be made for the Captain Underpants series.
Music (to date me by): The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens and, in particular, Duke of Earl by Gene Chandler. I love listening to both these songs.Literature: Well, truly dumb ones aren’t.Film: Starship Troopers — downright silly to me, but maybe it’s more a guy film.
Happy birthday six days early, Dusty!
The movie DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, 1999, with Kirsten Dunst,Ellen Barkin,Denise Richards & Kirstie Alley. I got it for Christmas last year from a friend. We live in MN & it’s set here, so she thought I would get all of the jokes.
For the SF lovers out there, try GALAXY QUEST. Too funny.
Dusty, I’m not too sure any of my pleasures are smart these days. In fact, they all seem dumb if I look at them closely.
This has some kind of connection to how nobody is ugly through beer goggles at 2 am, but I refuse to analyse any further.
THE BOBS? Pari, you know THE BOBS? Cripes, I thought we were all extinct. I presented them in concert once, long ago at the Casa Loma Ballroom in STL. Lost my shirt and other garments on them, but what audience there was reported they had a great time.
Starship Troopers, definitely. LOVE that one. Legally Blonde, if you can stand the chirpy goodness. South Park. Definitely. Especially Season Five. Episode Three. The Super Best Friends. Guaranteed to make you pee your pants.
My guilty pleasure is People. I’m a little hacked at them right now because they can’t seem to get my subscription into my mailbox. Drives me insane. I need my Sunday afternoon People fix.
Dumb books – that’s one I can’t answer.
As a child in the 70’s I watched a rather surreal and at many moments dumb show called the Goodies.My favourite episode consisted of Bill Odie dressed in breeches and a flat cap wielding a black pudding… well just hitting people with the black pudding in a demonstration of the ancient martial art of ‘ecky thumph’. I think the puddings went feral at some stage too. Maybe it was more absurd than dumb, but I do remember laughing a lot at how well the silliness would escalate.
Tom,Some of my friends lived in Washington a long time ago and introduced us to them. I adore their music, harmonies and incredible wit.
I just went to their website and they’re still at it — albeit minus one of the originals — and I still think they’re the bee’s knees.
Oh my, I loved “The Night of the Lepus” and “Monolith”. What’s better than giant rabbits and prisms destroyed by coffee, I ask you? Any of the old Saturday morning classic movies about radioactive creatures are still great fun as far as I’m concerned. Even my spider phobia wasn’t triggered by “Tarantula”, they’re so campy and fun.
Muscially, the Roches song “The Train” always has me smiling, along with “I Can See Your Aura (and it’s ugly)” by the Rude Girls, and Dar Williams’ “Alleluia” leaves me helplessly grinning. Never exempting John Gorka’s “Up Until Then”, the ultimate revenge song.
Bookwise, I proudly admit that I’m a fan of the J.D. Robb series. Deep meanings? Bah. I’m in it for the fun!
But Pari . . . Captain Underpants? Dumb? Don’t tell that to my 6 year old who wanted to learn to read so bad just so he could read the Captain Underpants books to his 3 year old brother. They giggle constantly. And then there’s the GOOD FAMILIES DON’T by Robert Munsch that deals with flatulence. Anything about excretion is a huge hit with my boys. I swear, it’s not me. It’s a boy thing. I don’t get it.
Yeah, sure, Allison. It’s not you. Uh huh. Yeah, right.