Category Archives: drugs

Quickies 7-18-2013

The Revenant ~ This black comedy revolves around a American soldier killed in Iraq who comes back from the dead with a thirst for blood to survive. Seeking his best friend’s help, they become vigilante crimefighters, feeding on their prey. Imagine a zombie version of The Boondock Saints and you’ve kinda got the picture. Fun if you turn your mind off, better than a Troma flick, but it’s no masterpiece.

Tit for Tat ~ This great Laurel and Hardy short from 1935 was nominated for an Academy Award. The boys run a hardware store and feud with the grocer next door. Look for the ever popular Mae Busch as the grocer’s wife, slightly worse for wear from her Rosie O’Grady role in The Unholy Three a decade earlier. She actually had a successful career in the Laurel and Hardy comedies, a sort of second coming for the ‘versatile vamp.’

He Who Gets Slapped ~ This silent film from 1924 is based on a Russian play and later film set in a circus where a clown, played by the master Lon Chaney, takes grisly revenge for the unwanted affections of a baron on the woman that he loves. It is the sort of twisted revenge story Chaney would become known for when later working with Tod Browning and Valdemar Young. A spectacle featuring Chaney at his emotive best, also starring Norma Shearer and John Gilbert as leads, and directed by Victor Seastrom, this was MGM’s first film.

Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic ~ An excellent documentary from Showtime about the genius comedian. Great footage of concerts and behind the scenes stuff, as well as interviews with friends and family, however, much was edited out for the sake of his family if the rumors are true. That said, still the best doc on Pryor done so far.

The Terrible Truth ~ A couple decades earlier, and a lot less graphic, this ten minute anti-drug propaganda short subject is like a “Dead Is Dead” for the 1950s. Like a cross between Duck and Cover and Reefer Madness, this color short from 1951 has a good message, if dated and funny. The hipsters will probably laugh their asses off.

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Curious Alice

This 1968 curiosity from the folks at Something Weird is a semi-animated fantasy based on Alice in Wonderland but with a more obvious drug theme woven through. It tries to be psychedelic, and probably would be if you were high, but the limited animation makes it difficult.

I can imagine this may have been pretty risqué back in the drug days of the late sixties, but its kinda tame for these days. But let’s face it, back in the day, Ralph Bakshi went much further. Hell, Bakshi could have even done this better.

In this Wonderland, the characters all seem to be using one drug or another – marijuana, pills, even LSD – though I’m unsure whether this short is actually supposed to be pro-drug or anti-drug. It is definitely worth a look-see, at least once, if only as a time capsule to a mostly lost culture.

Paul Williams Still Alive

Paul Williams Still Alive ~ I saw this great little documentary on Showtime one night when I couldn’t get to sleep, and I’m glad I did. I remember Paul Williams. He was everywhere in the 1970s on TV and movies. I knew he was a singer, and more importantly, a songwriter. A serious songwriter. If you listened to the radio in the early seventies, you heard dozens of Paul Williams songs. In a way, he was the seventies.

What immediately pulled me in about this documentary was that the narrator seems to think that as well. As a matter of fact, his perspective and sense of time and space were mine. That commonality made this doc somehow more personal.

By the time the documentarian is actually accepted by Paul Williams, I was hooked and in for the whole ride. Really I would have watched anything at this point, but man, what a treat that it was really good. Writer/director Stephen Kessler is that good, I would have watched a doc about squid if that’s what it became.

The actual doc subject however is Paul Williams. The thing is, this isn’t just a bio of an amazing songwriter, singer, and pop culture icon – it’s also a tale of his fall and redemption. At the time if this doc, Williams was not only on tour, but also twenty years sober and a licensed drug rehab counselor. And it’s also the story of the friendship between the filmmaker and his subject.

Whether you watch it as a Paul Williams fan, as a time capsule of the 1970s, or just as a darned good documentary, Paul Williams Still Alive is definitely worth watching. Check it out.

Pac-Man from Hell

Now I know Pac-Man. Heck, we all know Pac-Man. This thing, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, that I downloaded from the PlayStation Store is not Pac-Man. I don’t know what the hell it is, but it scares me, it scares my heart, my poor poor pacemakered heart.

The board is horizontal, rather than vertical, much like the Atari 2600 Pac-Man game. Unlike that version, this does look like Pac-Man, and the graphics are very precise and very vibrant. Psychedelic acid trip vibrant, and the music is pulse-pounding house techno that seems to get faster and the game gets more frantic. I could feel my heart beating in time to it with the pressure of the game.

There are advantages. You get bombs to blow up the ghosts, but it doesn’t really seem to help as they recover quickly, and there are ghosts everywhere, sleeping until you pass near. They just keep coming. It’s almost as if someone decided Pac-Man wasn’t hard enough, it needed to give you a nervous condition as well.

Whitney Houston 1963-2012

Breaking news, and unfortunately details are sketchy, but multiple award-winning singer and actress Whitney Houston has died from unknown causes on the eve of this year’s Grammy Awards.

Whitney Houston was a superstar of the 1980s, scoring seven straight number one hits in a row, and was said to have one of the greatest voices in the music industry. She was the daughter of gospel singer Cissy Houston, cousin to Dionne Warwick, and Aretha Franklin’s goddaughter. She found success on the big screen in The Bodyguard and Waiting to Exhale.

Her more recent years have been scarred by her tumultuous marriage to singer Bobby Brown and a lingering drug addiction problem. Whatever the means of her demise and sad life of late, we have truly lost a superstar of our time.

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Jeff Conaway 1950-2011

Actor Jeff Conaway passed away today after doctors took him off of life support. The actor was in a medically-induced coma after suffering from an overdose of painkillers. This was after a long battle with drug abuse, much of which occurred in front of the world via reality television, as Dr. Drew tried to help Conaway on several of his rehab TV series. It seems a shame both that he had not only this problem, but also that a whole generation probably only knows him as that wrecked old drug addict on TV.

Jeff Conaway had a long career before crashing and burning, he was on television and film, and was prolific with both. He played Kenickie in Grease, and was a member of the long-running ensemble sitcom “Taxi,” until eventually being fired for drug use, a specter that haunted him even then. I remember also in Disney’s Pete’s Dragon and even though I never watched it, I know he was also a regular on “Babylon 5.”

What I remember Jeff Conaway most for, and while this marks me for not being with the Grease or “Taxi” or even rehab crowds, it cements my nerd cred. I remember him in “Wizards and Warriors.” This high adventure/subtle comedy TV series, mostly directed by Bill Bixby, was CBS’ way of cashing in on the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy demographic. It soon became evident that those folks didn’t watch prime time TV, or at least that show, and it was canceled after just a handful of episodes. I still dug Conaway as the square-jawed hero. playing it straight and standing above. Would love to see that on DVD someday.

No matter how you remember Jeff Conaway, he will be missed, and remembered.

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Dead Is Dead?

“Dead Is Dead.”

Anyone else remember this one? And no, before you say it, I’m not talking about the episode of “Lost” that also carries the title.

Actor Godfrey Cambridge produced this 21-minute anti-drug film in 1970. I saw it at least every year I was in senior high school. Among the things featured in this powerful no-holds-barred short are footage of addicts going cold turkey, the music of Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield, and a female heroin addict vomiting as she falls down a flight of stairs.

It seemed to be the school’s answer to show the film rather than actually talk to us about drugs, a subject many of us at that age already knew more about than the teachers did.

Still, I’d love to see this film again. Anyone else remember it, or better yet know how to obtain a copy?

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