Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Back when Columbia wasn't afraid to offend foreign dictators: You Nazty Spy!

Months before Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator reached theaters, The Three Stooges took their own potshots at the posturings of Adolf Hitler in their 1940 short You Nazty Spy! Just how ballsy was this movie in its time? To quote Wikipedia:

The film satirized the Nazis and the Third Reich and helped publicize the Nazi threat in a period when the United States was still neutral about World War II, and isolationist sentiment was prevalent among the public. During this period, isolationist senators such as Burton Wheeler and Gerald Nye objected to Hollywood films on grounds that they were anti-Nazi propaganda vehicles designed to mobilize the American public for war. According to the Internet Movie Database, You Nazty Spy! was the first Hollywood film to spoof Hitler...

The Hays Code discouraged or prohibited many types of political and satirical messages in films, requiring that the history and prominent people of other countries must be portrayed "fairly" [but] short subjects may have been subject to less attention than feature films.

BTW: Both Moe Howard and Larry Fine reportedly cited You Nazty Spy! as their favorite Three Stooges short. No kidding.

Mitt Romney stands up for The Interview. No, really.

Before there was The Interview, there was... Hitler -- Dead or Alive

With all the current hue and cry over The Interview -- the comedy that Sony won't be releasing on Christmas Day -- I am once again reminded of Hitler -- Dead or Alive, an ultra-low-budget 1942 B-movie starring Ward Bond as an ex-con who tries to collect a bounty on Adolf Hitler. No, I'm not making that up.

Back when I taught a college course focused on war movies, I often screened the final minutes of this obscure oddity, to give students an inkling of American attitudes during the early days of US involvement in World War II. Because even though the movie was an unabashedly cheesy Poverty Row production --  it dared to be a fantasy-fulfilling slice of cheese: At the end of the flick, Hitler is shot by Nazis who don't recognize him after Bond and his buddies shave off Der Führer's  mustache. Again: I'm not making that up. Start looking around the 1:04 point in this video, and you'll see what I mean.

When I saw Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, and marveled at the movie's climactic killing of  Der Führer, I couldn't help thinking of Hitler -- Dead or Alive. But I swear: I didn't know Tarantino actually was a fan the '42 film until he spilled the beans to Playboy in a November 2012 interview:

When it came to Inglourious Basterds, there was a movie done in 1942, Hitler —Dead or Alive. It was just as America had entered the war. A rich guy offers a million-dollar bounty on Hitler’s life. Three gangsters come up with a plan to kill Hitler. They parachute into Berlin and work their way to where Hitler is. It’s a wacky movie that goes from being serious to very funny. The gangsters get Hitler, and when they start beating the fuck out of him, it is just so enjoyable. They shave his mustache off, cut off that lock of hair and take his shit off so he looks like a regular guy. The Nazis show up, and Hitler, who doesn’t look like Hitler anymore, is like, “Hey, it’s me!” And they beat the shit out of him. I thought, Wow, this is fucking hysterical.

Yes, it is. Unfortunately, it looks like we'll have to wait a while before we see whether Seth Rogen or James Franco do anything comparably comical in The Interview.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Guess the North Koreans didn't see the Red Dawn remake

In the wake of the (alleged) North Korean hacking of Sony Pictures -- a crime (allegedly) triggered by a fictional assassination attempt on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Sony's upcoming The Interview -- one thing seems certain: The folks who made and released the Red Dawn remake must be very, very happy right now that their film flew so low under the radar.

As I noted in Variety when reviewing the remake at Fantastic Fest in 2012:

China was depicted as the aggressor when this Red Dawn was shot in 2009. But after MGM, its original distributor, declared bankruptcy, the producers opted to make the pic more appealing to other distribs (particularly those wary of offending Chinese government officials) by re-filming scenes, relooping dialogue and digitally altering flags and military insignia to transform the bad guys into war-mongering North Koreans.

Thank goodness the North Koreans didn't know about that. At least, I think they didn't know about it. I mean, the fact that the remake premiered in Austin... that wouldn't have anything to do with Austin being on North Korea's must-nuke list, would it?

BTW: I guess the North Koreans didn't see Olympus Has Fallen, either.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My dream comes true in the Kingsman trailer

For years -- decades, really -- I've thought one of the extended "nah-nah-nah-nah" riffs in Deep Purple's cover of "Hush" (a '60s hit originally recorded by Billy Joe Royal) would work terrifically well on the soundtrack of some kick-ass action flick. Particularly in a scene where there's a great deal of, well, ass-kicking.

Lo and behold, my wish finally has been fulfilled -- sort of -- in the new trailer for Kingsman: The Secret Service. Mind you, they didn't use the Deep Purple version of "Hush" -- instead, they chose Kula Shaker's take, which ain't chopped liver -- but the "nah-nah-nah-nah" stuff works just as well as I've always thought it would. I don't know if this musical selection was approved by the film's director, Matthew Vaughn. But it should be noted that one of the guy's previous credits is.... wait for it... Kick-Ass.

By the way, when I went looking for a video clip of Deep Purple performing "Hush," I found this 24-karat oddity, shot on location at the Playboy Mansion.