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?