Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In which we Do Do that Voo Doo that We Do so Well

Here we are waiting for the schedule change that will allow us to shift over from live shows to taping the shows (something to do with the painfully slow commissioning of all that new equipment). Hi-jinx continue unabated (one of these shows' cold open is a fake crawl for the-then Lexington cable company, complete with the same awful typeface and orange background; Keith has an excellent future as a forger), while all n sundry are reporting various Odd Encounters with citizens n taxpayers. Dougie's is typical: in his tale he's on the studio floor doing something or other with a grand high poobah from state government in prepping for the Sunday public interest show, while the grandee fixes him with the steely eye of command, then ahems and States for the Record: "You're on that Monsterpiece show. That's pretty funny." In parsing this comment, the group is divided on whether it's pretty funny that Dougie is on the show, the show is pretty funny, or someone broke wind (which is always funny but seldom pretty).

Meanwhile, the next movie up in our story is Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things. After the letdown from Plan 9, we're just crankin' them out. Many years later, I come to realize that there are three rules of creativity and the Children show illustrates these rules quite handily. The rules are:
  • Just sit down and crank it out every day. Keeps the craftsmanship in shape.
  • Don't assume beforehand it will be a masterpiece, a signficant event, or anything out of the ordinary. The work won't conform to your expectations.
  • If it wants to go in a different direction than you intended, take that road. You can always backtrack if you have to; but if you force your original intention, you'll always wind up in a cul-de-sac.

We knew from our up-front research that this was a Bob Clark laff riot, and were quite prepared to lade the show up with Porky's references. We did not expect to find that this was quite an effective little retelling of Sake's The Monkey's Paw. Barb was off auditioning that week, both in and out of town, so the first time she would see the script would be after it went into production (this being in the Dark Dark Ages before email and whiteboard wikis, however in the world could we do our work I wonder? The kinder remain amazed when we describe these legendary days. No, revise that last to read: The kinder remain bored when we describe these legendary days). Two center-of-show gags wrote themselves:

  • Since the conceit of the movie is that the Beloved Son returns from the dead, it seemed logical to resurrect Dougie from the dead. Actually he was not dead, but merrily toiling away in Master Control; he had not been on the floor during show for months, which limited Millie's opportunities to act with him. So we pulled the Dead Guy mask from the trunk, put it on Dougie, and had him interrupt Millie's learned discourse on the movie with the immortal entrance line "Here I am, Millie, back from the dead!" Keith put Little Jeff on audio (an amusing choice, since the two of them tended to spontaneously combust when in close proximity) so that Dougie could step away from the board. Once I had written "Here I am, Millie, back from the dead!", the follow-up line flowed automatically: "P-U, Dougie, you stink!" and the topper just fell right on top of it, right on cue: "That's because I'm dead." I don't remember any other writing session where the lines just flowed like that.
  • As has been noted by the Teeming Masses, Dougie was armed with one or two Dr. Demento albums for audio cuts, which albums included the equally immortal Ogden Edsel tone pome, "Dead Puppies Aren't Much Fun". Well, why not? The script called for this to to be staged like the Beatles' Hey Jude video, where the camera pulls back to show the population of a small city gradually filling the stage for the interminable Na na na nas. (This being the Dark Dark Ages as noted, I was rewarded with blank stares with the reference to the Beatles and their Hey Jude video. So much for shared cultural heritage.)

We didn't have the population of a small city available to rush the MT set on cue, as our pathetic little band of studio groupies had long since found other ways to amuse themselves at 2AM Sunday morning, but there were a few night owls in the newsroom who came down to feel the love. This represented the last appearance of Wags (the Obnoxious Battery Powered Puppy), with Millie pulling out the Infamous Cast-Iron Skillet to dispatch Wags to the Doggie Hereafter in spite of management's directives to administer no further on-air whackings to small adorable creatures. Keith interrupts Millie to stay her hand in administering corporal punishment to Wags because (cue music).

Somewhere someone's going to find that cut and post it. Dougie had put a hot mic into Master Control, and you can hear Dougie and Keith singing along with the track.


  1. Hola... I think you're getting movies confused here. Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things was indeed also directed by the late Bob Clark, but that was the movie where a theatre troupe spends a night on a local island or something, and the flamboyant director Alan (played by co-writer of the movie, Alan Ormsby) puts on a little show of attempting to raise a corpse from the dead. Little does he realize that his faux-Voodoo ritual actually works! CUE THE ZOMBIES.

    I think the movie you're remembering here was called Deathdream at the time, where a young soldier who was killed in Vietnam returns... and something returns with him! DUH DUH DUHHHHHH!

    The only reason I even remember that was because of something I read somewhere about it being one of Tom Savini's first duties doing make-up. I also remember it because it was one of the few movies you guys showed that actually creeped me out a little.

    Now while I liked Deathdream a LOT... an honestly creepy movie with funny host segments to break up the tension... I totally fell in love with CSPWDT. In fact, it's one of those so-bad-it's-good movies that I still love to watch on my own once in a while.

    Yes I'm a nerd. Now excuse me, I have to go play Magic: The Gathering on my X-Box.

  2. Ah. That's right. We did both movies. After a while all movie dead people begin to look alike.

    Which goes to show, by this point, how much attention we were paying to the movies that were the platform for the show in the first place.

    Other than Barb's ooga-booga voiceovers for Children, I'm drawing a blank on the movie and the accompanying show. I remember vague irritation with the movie itself, because it seemed padded to about an hour longer than the premise could have sustained (kinda like Night Gallery), which made it hard to even pretend linkage between our show and the film segments. With the moderate drama going on around the show and at the station at the time, Children could also have been collateral damage: studio capability was week-to-week, and there were some other issues.

    But I fondly remember Dougie bursting through the studio door, waving like a loon and shouting "Hello, Millie! I'm back from the dead!" It seems to me that everybody's energy picked up during that show, just in time for the final stretch of MTs.

  3. I do kind of remember that skit. That was pretty funny.

    You kind of have to be an afficianado of these bad movies to really be able to remember stuff like this. I'm currently in the process of moving back home and am transferring all of my (considerable amount of) DVD's to keep them in a book, because the thought of moving all of them again across country just makes me want to grate my teeth down to nubs. I've gathered some zingers... from Abby, the blaxploitation rip-off of The Exorcist, to possibly my favorite Vincent Price film, Theatre of Blood. So the fact that I'm goofy enough to remember stuff like this twenty-plus years later doesn't surprise me.

    Children indeed was a bit too long... they should have lopped off the first part of the movie and just gotten to the zombies ASAP. Cor, makes me wanna watch it again, but alas, it is now packed in a box in another DVD book...

  4. Theatre of Blood -- very good. Not as good as The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Better than Dr. Phibes Rises Again.

    I had the pleasure of seeing Vincent Price in person shortly before he died. We had taken the kinder on a fambly cultchur outing to the National Gallery West Wing, and as we turned the corner in one of the galleries -- there was Vincent Price. He was dressed in a pale blue poplin suit, had a corsage, well-worn white shoes, yellow shirt, bow tie -- very natty, very debonair. He was raptly studying a painting. I was very tempted to go up and thank him for being Vincent Price, and for the gift of his movies, but he was so deeply enjoying the painting, it would not have been appropriate. I am quite certain that he would have been gracious and all, because this sort of thing comes with the territory; but sometimes this kind of interaction is more for the gratification of the thanker than the thankee. So we tiptoed on our way to enjoy us our art, and left Mr. Price to enjoy him his art.

    And that's my Vincent Price story. He had a chain of photography studios across St. Louis that did high-school yearbook photos, but that doesn't count.

  5. I think Theatre of Blood stays in my favourites list because it isn't afraid to admit to itself how silly some of those horror movies can be... yet it didn't let that really hinder the story.

    The first Dr. Phibes movie was what gave me my radio DJ name, actually, and that's really my favorite Vincent Price movie. I did get to meet him once, at Morehead... he was there with something about cooking, which perplexed me because I didn't know he was an accomplished gourmet chef at all... but I was only able to shake his hand quickly as the staff hurried him off to another engagement.

  6. hmm ... gonna cut and paste that one into babelfish one of these days