Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The 47th Minute Project 3: The Rise of the Machines

Here’s the entry for the Third 47th Minute Project:

No hints, other than to say it’s one of my faves, and I think this is a really easy one.
Submit your guesses (or weird factoids about this week’s entry) in the comments section; thanks!

As For Last Week’s The 47th Minute Project…

There I was thinking NOBODY was going to guess the previous entry into the 47th Minute Project, when old pal Otto Mannix came through: The United Provinces of Ivanlandia have no problem with nepotism.

Mannix corrected surmised minute 47:00 of the 1981 (or 1980, depending on whom you ask) mercenary movie The Dogs of War, starring Christopher Walken (who is sometimes accused of taking work just for the money—and while that might be the case, that’s totally fine with me—like that living god Ernest Borgnine, I’ve never seen Walken be bad in ANYTHING).

Several folks tried to ID the last 47th Minute Project, but goshes, people: I think most of you gave up too soon! Some of you were really thisclose, if you ask me.
Darius Whiteplume’s guess of McBain at first confused me—Rainer Wolfcastle? But then I remembered McBain was the title of another of Walken’s mercenary movies. [Insert your favorite “Walken works for money joke” here.]

The Dogs of War was both Walken’s first “name above the title” and headlining role, as I seem to recall.

He’d been doing lots of excellent supporting actor work from his first film, the fab The Anderson Tapes (Tonya’s very good guess; and subject of a future Ivanlandia essay), to his delicious bit-part/cameo as Diane Keaton’s brother in Annie Hall (“driving into the headlights”) to his Oscar-winning role in 1978’s The Deer Hunter. After taking home the little gold statue, Walken ramped up, with this interesting and unique action film.

A lot of people, including myself, really like The Dogs of War even though we’ll admit it’s not perfect. But there’s SOMETHING about this humorless, bitter and cynical action/suspense flick.
More of a bleak spy or caper flick than a wham-bam gung-ho action blockbuster, The Dogs of War starts and finishes, though, with a couple a incredible set pieces, especially the opening—one of the best ever—when the audience is dropped into the middle of Walken and his mercenaries’ noisy and confusing retreat from an unnamed country in Central America.

And that could be part of the problem—the audience is given an extremely high-level dose of adrenaline, and then the pace changes drastically. Not to say that this tonal shift hasn’t grown on me (The Dogs of War is the gift that keeps on giving), but it probably was what helped relegate this movie to cult status initially—that, and some severe cuts that took 15 minutes out of the original American release (those cuts have since been restored to the last DVD release) and which may have left some viewers scratching their heads.

After the initial combat, the movie slows and grows moody, feeling more like a bleak Cold War spy thriller (with NYC’s Morningside Heights shot to look like Prague) than your average war flick—even Walken’s reconnaissance mission in Africa is grim.

And despite superficial similarities (hired guns overthrowing an African despot), The Dogs of War couldn’t be less like the Frederick Forsythe novel it is based on. The book is too sentimental and contrived for my tastes, despite its similarity to real life.

The US poster for The Dogs of War emphasized the customized multi-round M-79—which frankly looks completely out of place there: a Buck Rogers-looking device for a flick that’s otherwise very realistic and gritty. The producers should’ve made the weapon a color like military green or gun-metal black. Thankfully, the weapon isn’t made to look too bright and shiny during the combat sequences.

But best of all: The Dogs of War taught me how to kill cockroaches.
At one point in the film, Walken returns to his run-down apartment: he turns on the light, and there’s a close-up of a cockroach skittering on the wall, then—SPLAT.
Walken’s hand has splattered the bug.
CUT TO: Walken sitting down in his easy chair to read his mail. We never see him even wash his hands!

It was a lightning flash of revelation for me. For years I’d always have to run for a newspaper or magazine or something to kill an invading roach, and this showed me something. You could use your hands and worry about it later. That’s all.

Since then, many a roach has died by my hand. Ha-ha!

But unlike Walken’s character, I do wash my hands afterward.

BTW, Walken’s Twitter page is INCREDIBLE. It’s now one of my fave time-wasters.

I certainly hope it’s Walken and not some hack or a gag. Because if it is Walken, I feel blessed, like I’m being granted a look at the thought-processes of the greatest Zen master who walked the face of the Earth. And so, like with many religions, I will ignore the facts (it’s probably not the Great Chris W.) and go with my faith (It is Him!).

Some of my fave Walken Twitters (so far):
“The Pope is in Africa "reaffirming the ban on condom use." His old stuff was funnier. I don't get this new material. Too edgy for my taste.”

“A man ate from a trash can while tourists clicked snapshots. I gave the guy 15 dollars & told the tourists to get the Hell out of my city.”

And there’s this one, which seems to be the favorite of many:
"There's a kid on a Pogo stick in front of my house. It's nearly midnight so let's assume he's been drinking. This should end well for him.”

Walken rules. ’Nuff said.

I like mercenary movies. They’re always fun because from the get-go because the heroes are not: They’re killers for money, and we know this won’t end well.

Mercenaries are useless, disunited, unfaithful
They have nothing more to keep them in a battle
Other than a meager wage
Which is just about enough to make them wanna kill for you
But never enough to make them wanna die for ya
John Cale, “Mercenaries (Ready For War)” (1979)
One day I’d really like to write up a “Kompare & Kontrazt” with what I consider the Big 5 of mercenary movies: Peckinpah’s classic The Wild Bunch (which I’ve stopped considering a Western, really), Andre de Toth’s excellent and absolutely cynical Play Dirty, with Michael Caine (like The Wild Bunch isn’t a western, Play Dirty isn’t a WWII movie—it’s also one of Martin Scorsese’s “guilty pleasures”), The Dogs of War, The Wild Geese (a very violent action flick with a jaunty, very British attitude, but also a damn good movie in its own right and very recommended), and Dark of the Sun (another of Scorsese’s “guilty pleasures”).

I remember seeing Dark of the Sun as a kid when it was on WOR-TV channel 9—my memories are vague, but I remember some crazy slaughtering going on. I’ve come to believe I need to see this flick again:

Because here’s what Scorsese says about Dark of the Sun—and what he describes sounds awesome, right? (Best of all, if you’ve ever heard Scorsese speak—that staccato, machine-gun patter, very intelligent, but still NYC Italian voice—imagine him reading the description below:)

Dark of the Sun (1968). This movie -- Rod Taylor vs. the Mau Maus -- was the most violent I'd seen up to that time. There's a scene where Taylor fights an ex-Nazi with chainsaws. In another scene, a train full of refugees has finally escaped the Mau Maus in the valley below -- and just as it's about to reach the top of a hill, the power fails, the train goes all the way back down, and the refugees are slaughtered. It's a truly sadistic movie, but it should be seen. I'd guess that because of its utter racism, a lot of people would have found it embarrassing, so they just ignored it. The sense of the film is overwhelmingly violent; there's no consideration for anything else. The answer to everything is "kill."
But before I can do my “Kompare & Kontrazt,” though, I need to see this movie again!
So what I want to know: WHEN is Dark of the Sun coming to DVD?

And even more important, Mr. Scorsese, why not make a war/mercenary movie? You’ve yet to do that. Give it a try!

P.S. Did you know that Jack Cardiff, who directed Dark of the Sun, was the cinematographer for The Dogs of War?
Cardiff also directed The Girl on the Motorcycle, with the lovely Marianne Faithful.

If anyone has any suggestions or recommendations for other mercenary movies, please leave them in the comments; thanks!


  1. Pvt. Snible: Sir... does this mean that Ann-Margret's not coming?

  2. I like you Pvt Joker. Hell, I might just let you fuck my sister!

  3. Pvt. Snible knows what this movie is, and WOW! That was quick! I guess when I bark out "Frog!", Pvt. Snible will jump, and when I scream, "Jump!," Pvt. Snible will reply, "How high?"
    But everybody else should enter their own guesses, too!

  4. Whoops, while posting I missed Mr. Whiteplume's (also) correct guess.

    I'm just lovin' that folks is quoting the flick. Keep it up!

  5. Travel to foreign lands, see new cultures, meet interesting people, and kill them.

    Paraphrasing, of course.

    I don't think I have ever found a movie so balanced in humor and depravity.

  6. I won't spoil others' fun by giving this one away, although it looks like everyone already knows. but i will say that it is my favorite scene in my LEAST favorite Nam film, based on one of my favorite Nam books, which, along with its sequel, are the only fictional books i've read concerning The Nam. Whew, that was wordy and opinionated. But hopefully it didn't give too much away for those who haven't yet guessed.

    This scene has that rare distinction of having a phrase which has gone into the collective psyche, such as 'here's looking at you, kid,' or 'you can't handle the truth,' or 'hasta la vista, baby,' or 'i see dead people.'

    As for correctly answering the previous 47th Minute question, perhaps i cheated. I had in fact seen the film years ago, but have since forgotten most of it. After reading others' guesses, and thinking about all the clues, i looked at Walken's filmography on IMDB and determined it had to be DOGS. Is that cheating? If so, i herewith express full contrition, and request guidelines!

    As for his taking work just for the money, who the hell are we to judge? Would we say to the sanitation worker, "You're just doing it for the money!" Also, if actors waited for just the right scripts, they'd be out of work most the time. They'd have all our respect, but they'd be eating at the same restaurants we eat at! And ultimately, the movies that everyone says are so 'important' usually become dated quickly or are just plain nauseating. GHANDI, for instance.

  7. 2 Live Crew, As Nasty As They Wanna Be, Track 1

  8. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. I bet you're the kind of guy that would fuck a person in the ass, and not even have the god damned common courtesy to give him a reach around.

    It was from this movie, as a teenager, I learned what a "reach around" is.

  11. Mr. Mannix pointed me over to your little site, and Sir, I must say--I am impressed. Take a look see over here: http://americannationalstandard.blogspot.com/

    Your friend,
    Mr. Ed Porter

  12. Hi Ivan, Capt. Jimmy here sir. I just watched the Wild Geese, starring Richard Burton, Richard Harris and Sir Roger Moore...it was kinda awesome....and they're old mercenaries.

  13. Welcome to all the new readers and visitors to Ivanlandia! Just leave your passports with the security personnel and proceed to the disinfection chambers....

  14. Pvt. Snible: Under what logic was this movie considered a mercenary film? Who is the mercenary?

    It's a great movie though. I was raving about it to a friend of mine who volunteered for Viet Nam -- to evade hard time for Grand Theft Auto. He said there were some good parts but that the only Viet Nam film that comes close is 84 Charlie MoPic, which I haven't seen.

    For your next mercenary film I'd like to see something completely off-the-wall, possibly involving animals. How about Disney's heart-warming Operation Dumbo Drop? Again we have the problem of it not being a mercenary film. (The elephant of the title is a work animal, perhaps it counts?) I couldn't find a regular trailer online but here is a trailer for the Turkish release.

  15. Pvt. Snible: This week's entry into the 47th Minute Project is not a mercenary film; however, the last entry into the 47th Minute Project (The Dogs of War) was.

    I saw 84 Charlie Mopic when it came out; good flick, as I remember--in the wake of all these shaky-cam POV movies out now, it's a shame 84 Charlie isn't that well remembered.

    Sorry I won't watch Operation Dumbo Drop because it has Dennis Leary in it. He's worse than nails on a blackboard for me.