Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The 47th Minute Project #5: The Dream Child (Xmas Martian Invasion Edition)

Gosh, it’s been so long since the last 47th Minute Project that you’d think I’d been to Mars or something….

First. Let’s start the next contest:
Starting for a triple play (three-way tie for last?):

Here are three (!!!) chances to win—three opportunities to identify the 47th Minute of three different films.

The first (below) : this is the 47th minute of undoubtedly one of the greatest movies ever made. Toestubber should know this one. It’s one of his faves, and maybe—please?!?—he’ll leave a comment…?

The second: this is the 47th minute of one of one of the favorite films of The National Film Board of Ivanlandia.

The third: this is a gift from Darius Whiteplume. (And it's actually a flick I haven’t seen yet—but want to!)

Please leave your answers in the comments section, or if you’re connected with me via Il Fache-Book, leave a note there.
Seeing as it takes me forever to create each entry into the 47th Minute Project, so expect #6 in November….

As for the last entry into The 47th Minute Project

All green of skin...
800 centuries ago, their bodily fluids include the birth of half-breeds.
For the fundamental truth self-determination of the cosmos,
for dark is the suede
that mows like a harvest.

The last entry into the 47th Minute Project was this frame of Jack Nicholson under bad makeup as Art Land, doomed corrupt land developer (one of two roles Jack played in the movie) from Tim Burton’s 1996 cult fave (and financial flopperoo) Mars Attacks!

The big winner with the first guess was the fab Mark H., rocking things from the Pacific Rim!

Otto Mannix made enough sarcastic hints to register as a correct guesser as well.

Darius Whiteplume tried manfully, though, with a wild swing:
“I have no idea. Looks like Owen Wilson dressed up (badly) as Charles Napier.”
(And what a flick that might be! And makes me think Mars Attacks! may have been very interesting in the hands of a Russ Meyer: What he would have done with the Martian Madame—Va va va voom!)

Mars Attacks!’ lack of success, I think, helped push Burton onto his current (and disappointing if not hateful) path of remakes and reimaginings (another version of Alice in Wonderland? Ay-yi-yi! Snooze City, here we come!).
(And why isn’t the excellent “elderly Alice” tale Dreamchild not on DVD yet, eh?)

SYNOPSIS: The Martians invade and have a grand old time destroying everything.

Humans are on the verge of complete annihilation when a kid
(wearing that awesome Alien Sex Fiend T-shirt with the close-up of Warren Oates as the mutant from that episode of The Outer Limits)
figures out that Slim Whitman’s song “Indian Love Song” makes the Martians’ heads explode.

World saved, although completely wrecked.

Released by Warner Bros., “Mars Attacks! [was]… scheduled for a Christmas release which explains Burton's color preference for scenes in which victims vaporized by the Martians became glowing green or red skeletons,” says TCM.

In Mars Attacks!, however,
several dumb plots involving screeching or jabbering humans in goofball/manic situations a la It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World or 1941 interfere what we’re all here for:
Scenes of total destruction.

Now, I enjoy some of the human-related so-called comedy (especially Nicholson’s unctuous President Dale or Sylvia Sidney’s addled grandma), but other scenes are painful to watch (Annette Bening channeling her sister-in-law; Jack Black’s typical jerk shtick; a painfully miscast Michael J. Fox, and so on).
And Burton’s idea of comedy never seems to vary from shrill and heavy-handed (which works sometimes, primarily with animated alien skeleton-face brainheads).

And because some characters come and go so quickly (like Danny DeVito or Christina Applegate—who looks good in hiphuggers in this movie, though), it becomes obvious that several subplots were radically cut (which is not to say that it’s a bad thing—in fact, most of the subplots should have been cut immediately after the first Martian attack—we’ve seen these people in their lives, now they only exist to be seen getting killed by a Martian: it’s a comedy so poignant moments are unnecessary).

If I can’t have more Martians (I understand the budgetary limitations: those critters cost boo-coo bread, man),
I wanted fewer humans.

But what makes me love Mars Attacks!, though, is its sick sense of humor.
The Martians are mean and spiteful and completely uninhibited in their tastes. They perform ghastly, inhuman experiments because they can.
And for a while, they blow up plenty of stuff real good!

Who doesn't love an alien invasion film? Who doesn’t love seeing all our untouchable stuff smashed?
There’s a thrill of seeing American soil violated—and after all, an alien invasion flick is only a variation on the disaster movie!

It would be great to see a director’s cut DVD, with supplemental features including the stop-motion animation sequences that were never used. But I doubt that’ll see the light of day. There is a petition, though….

Mars Attacks! was very much a spoof/reference to
Ray Harryhausen’s excellent Earth Vs. the Flying Saucers (1956; collapsing Washington Monument, the design of the saucers) and
George Pal’s even better The War of the Worlds (1953; superdestructive, the very exquisite Technicolor palette).
Needless to say, both of these films are highly recommended—and in fact are required viewing by all citizens of The United Provinces of Ivanlandia.

But Mars Attacks! is actually based on a series of bubblegum cards from Topps—and it’s not the first movie like this: The Garbage Pail Kids Movie (also based on a series of Topps cards), a stupefyingly bad movie—a movie so utterly useless it doesn’t even deserve a viewing just for weirdness’ sake, honestly—gets that “honor.”

But returning to Mars….
According to
Alex Cox, the director famous/notorious for Repo Man and Sid & Nancy:

“I was the person who brought Mars Attacks! to the attention of the
studio. They were bubblegum cards I had as a kid. I developed Mars
with Jon Davidson, the producer of Robocop, for quite a
while, but at some point my project got shut down and it was given to Tim Burton.
“It was a bit of a shame,
but I think both the script

I wrote and the Tim Burton one suffered from not being enough like the
bubblegum cards.”

[He’s right.]

From TCM:
In 1962, Topps had issued a series of cards called Mars Attacks!, but they contained some scenes that were deemed too "intense" for younger children, and they were quickly removed from the marketplace.

The most infamous Mars Attacks card was “Destroying a Dog,” I think. Whiny citizens groups were bugged or something. They thought kids shouldn’t see examples of canine incineration. Idiots.
I remember reading about the Mars Attacks bubblegum cards in The Monster Times, and while I didn’t get my paws on any actual cards until I was a teenager, I knew what the cards were like due to the diligent work of mags like The Monster Times.
BTW: As a kid, “Horror in Paris” was my favorite card—I used to draw that bug on all my textbooks!

You MUST check out the awesome collection of Mars Attacks cards at the Hairy Green Eyeball blog: Seeing them all in a row is brilliant!

Somebody I used to work with always used to gripe that the ending of Mars Attacks! was a rip-off of the ending of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, where some bad song (called “Puberty Love") is used to make the mutant tomatoes shrink back to normal and the townspeople rush out and squash ’em.

Mars Attacks! needed an ending, and dumb luck was the best they could come up with. Nor would I be surprised if the similarities to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes weren’t unintentional.

I would’ve preferred that they ripped off one of those Star Trek episodes or Marvel Comics, where it turns out the all-powerful alien is actually an immature child.

Meaning, the
Martians were children and their parents (about 100 feet tall each) come and pick them up in some gigantoriffic star cruiser flying saucer.

In ponderous but terrifying and weird, slow-motion “Ack! Ack!” monolog, the “Dad Martian” chastises the kids for being late for dinner.

Of course, once the Martians are gone, because there is no longer any sort of “law and order” (governments are gone, every figure of authority is dead), the humans immediately revert to caveman thinking and start fighting amongst themselves to see who's boss.

In their parent’s departing super-saucer the Martian "children" watch on the viewscope as the hairless apes finish the job they started. My version of Mars Attacks! ends with them laughing and laughing.

Because FOR ONCE, don’t you think the Martians should win?!?!

(And to be really overly high-brow (and therefore actually lowbrow), I’d start my version of Mars Attacks! with that Shakespeare quote,
As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods;
They kill us for their sport

Technically, the flick is almost perfect, but Danny Elfman’s score needs to be singled out for praise. It’s absolutely the best Bernard Herrmann soundtrack that the great Herr H. never got around to composing.
It’s essential listening to all fans of soundtrack music.
The score borrows equal parts from The Day the Earth Stood Still and Brian De Palma’s Sisters (itself an absurdly over-the-top score), with a dash of The Devil and Daniel Webster, creating
whimsy, satanic mayhem and theremin-infused interstellar weirdness.

Probably one of the few positive reviews from the mainstream press of Mars Attacks! in its initial release came from Entertainment Weekly:
“Burton stages the destruction of the world as lyrically surreal spectacle. Even when the special effects are a parody of '50s cheesiness, they have a funky, ramshackle beauty — the wonder of a puppet show that almost looks real.”

From Bryant Frazer’s good review at Deep Focus, most of which I tend to agree with:
Mars Attacks! …takes its cues from the same sources as… Independence Day -- old alien invasion flicks, disaster movies, and big-budget special effects extravaganzas. But unlike Independence Day, which was a painfully middle-of-the-road appeal to the hearts, minds and wallets of America… celebrat[ing] the resilience of human beings, Mars Attacks! portrays us as the greedy and hapless schmucks that we are.

“While Burton’s satiric skewering is scattershot at best,” says Nick Schager at the (now unfortunately defunct) Screengrab, “the uninhibited madcap energy of his tribute-cum-big-budget-blockbuster nonetheless frequently makes it more amusing and inspired than that of the cheesy '50s B-movies (and bloated '90s summertime action-sagas) on which it deliriously riffs.”

If you have not yet seen Mars Attacks!, by order of the National Film Board of Ivanlandia, you MUST.
Over & out! Ack-Ack!

Mars Attacks! (1996)
Director: Tim Burton
Producers: Larry J. Franco, Tim Burton
Screenplay and screen story by Jonathan Gems

Rewrites by Gems, Burton, Martin Amis (!), Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski
Based on the Topps cards
According to IMDB, the cards were created by
Len Brown, Woody Gelman, Wally Wood (see some of his rough sketches for the cards below), Bob Powell and Norm Saunders

Cinematography: Peter Suschitzky
Music: Danny Elfman
Editor: Chris Lebenzon
Production Design: Wynn Thomas
Art Direction: John Dexter
Set Design: Richard G. Berger, Nancy Haigh, Randy Thom
Costume Design: Colleen Atwood
Sound/Sound Design: Dennis Maitland, Sr.
Special visual effects by Industrial Light & Magic and Warner Digital Studio
Visual effects supervisors: James Mitchell, Michael Fink, David Andrews

Cast: Jack Nicholson (Art Land/President Dale), Glenn Close (Marsha Dale), Annette Bening (Barbara Land), Pierce Brosnan (Donald Kessler), Danny DeVito (Rude Gambler), Jim Brown (Byron Williams), Martin Short (Jerry Ross), Michael J. Fox (Jason Stone), Pam Grier (Louise Williams), Tom Jones (Himself), Sarah Jessica Parker (Nathalie Lake), Natalie Portman (Taffy Dale), Sylvia Sidney (Grandma Norris), Rod Steiger (Gen. Decker), Paul Winfield (Gen. Casey), Lisa Marie (Martian Madame), Frank Welker (Ack-Ack sounds)


  1. You are totally right about the Garbage Pail Kids movie. I love those cards so much. And when I was flipping through the TV channels a few years back, I saw that the movie was coming on. I thought it would be animated like the cards. Much to my horror, it as live action - and it was probably the worst movie ever made. So bad that I had to tape it and make friends watch it.

  2. Jesus, Ivan, you are going for the record for Longest Blog Post, ain'tcha?

    The first shot is William Holden's back as he thumbs a ride in the rain in Sunset Blvd. Threw me off at first because I thought the still was reminiscent of a noirish-SF movie like Blade Runner.

    Do you know that this comment window won't accept pasted text? Or that the cursor won't move using the arrow keys? What the fuck.

    Yes, Mars Attacks! is a mixed bag, but filled with fun. Ed Wood is the best Burton movie all around, but this comes in second place. Good mile-long post, sir! Welcome to America. You are speaking my "lanaguage!"

  3. Dean,
    I think the Garbage Pail Kids movie has a subliminal signal in it that makes you stupider as you watch it: it's like molasses on the brain.

    If you think this post is long, then you obviously have not been visiting Ivanlandia much. Check out the biker movie post...

    You've ID'ed Jamie Gillis' late older brother Joe--how about the other two?

    Sorry about the weirdness with leaving a comment; it's always been like that, and I'm not computer savvy enough to tweak it yet. But it seems to be the reason many folks don't leave comments. Of course, both my home and work computers of POS, so it's tough to engineer out the faults. Excuses, excuses...

  4. Damn! I should have known the first one. That movie ignited my passion for old movies- and you were the one who showed it to me! What happened to his hat? That just shows he's a bum. I thought it might be Detour.
    Second one-I'll buy whoever gets this one a beer.
    Three-you just put this one up cause it's hot.

  5. 2. The taking of pelham one two three?

  6. #1-"Sunrise Avenue". Actually, i NEVER would have guessed even though i've seen it at least five times, except that you said it was one of the best movies ever, and then you mentioned Toestubs (i saw it at a theater with him once, back when it came out), and i happen to know that the people over there love this one. But i see he already nailed it. And yes, it appears that rat-bastard didn't even look at our BRILLIANT analyses of the biker flicks... ahhhh, we get no respect, even from our loved ones.

    #2-"The Warriors"?

    #3-"National Lampoon's European Vacation". What do i know? She kinda looks like Beverly D'angelo.

    Also, we here at Otto Mannix may at times be sarcastic, but at least we aren't cynical!!! Our research teams may have cheated in guessing MARS ATTACKS by cross-referencing the Jack-factor with the year of production. That's why we didn't officially guess, because of our unwavering integrity.

    And finally, we at OMR are famous for our hatred of TIM BURTON, but i am now reminded that we do approve of this movie, if for no other reason than the weird alien chick that does the weird walk. good touch.

  7. Tonya,
    Sorry, #2 is not the magnificent ToP-123 (there is only one--Ivanlandia does not recognize the recent repuke).

    Otto: Nor is #2 The Warriors--although I like that guess!--and #3 isn't the NAT LAM's EurVac. And Otto, are you implying that I'm cynical?

    Keep guessing everyone!

    And a big HELLO to all the new followers of The United Provinces of Ivanlandia! We love you!

  8. Hmm... I did not get one or two. Three, I know. As a perhaps hint, it was a fabled T&A movie from my youth - one I had heard about but dared not dream existed... and it actually lives up to the hype, as it is quite the flesh fest.

  9. I noticed the yellow ribbon in the car,that is the trademark of the president of the Philippines.