Sunday, August 3, 2014

We All Lifted the Yellow Submarine...

So, I just turned on the TV and caught the last ten minutes of The Three Stooges in Orbit (1962), a film I hadn’t seen since I was a kid. And in that brief span, several elements immediately jumped out as closely presaging subsequent films—to the point that I wondered more than just fancifully if this predictably insipid film filled with recycled jokes and made on the cheap for a very over-the-hill comedy troupe could actually have been the source of certain concepts used in later, higher-profile works.

Look at the propeller-powered flying submarine stolen by the Martians (above). Is this not practically a real-life, full-scale model of the Beatles’ yellow submarine depicted in the 1968 animated feature film? The Three Stooges in Orbit predated Yellow Submarine by six years—yet looking at the similarities in concept and design, it’s not hard to suppose that the director of the Beatles’ film, George Dunning, was a Three Stooges fan who caught their movie upon its theatrical release,* perhaps even screening it privately six years later for the crew of animators to give them a definitive sense of the artistic style he wanted.

* In 1962, Beatlemania hadn’t yet swept England, so Dunning, a Canadian expatriate who had yet to become associated with the Beatles, likely was walking around London with little to do and thus had plenty of free time to see the new Three Stooges film.

Moments later in the film, Professor Danforth, played by long-time quasi-Stooge, Emil Sitka, displays an animated television segment of the Stooges dancing to stock, early 60s pop music. This is perhaps even stronger proof that George Dunning and his crew lifted ideas from this Three Stooges film. As you can see, that’s impressively sophisticated animation for 1962—and it appears very much the progenitor to the dazzling animation of Yellow Submarine. Granted, the Stooges weren’t as limber as the girl dancing to “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” but their particular brand of fat, elderly elegance must have made a lasting impression on Dunning.

Okay, this weakest incarnation of the Three Stooges is no “Fab Four,” but consider the cumulative work of Moe, Larry, Curly, and the criminally underrated Shemp—that’s a four as fab as John, Paul, George, and Ringo, for sure.†

† Continuing the numbers game, the Three Stooges and the Beatles each counted six participating members among their ranks: the aforementioned four in each group, plus, of course, latter-day Stooges Joe Besser and Curly Joe DeRita as well as Beatles’ castoffs Stuart Sutcliffe and Pete Best.

Furthermore, the Three Stooges went into widespread television syndication in 1958, introducing them to a new generation—the Beatles’ generation. With the future Beatles all in their highly impressionable teens at that time, it’s a good bet the lads watched and enjoyed the Stooges’ tomfoolery—especially the angry, young man of the fledgling group, John Lennon, who probably would have appreciated them most. I can easily see the Stooges’ violent tendencies having rubbed off on the volatile Lennon. (The Three Stooges was actually removed from syndication for a time in the 1960s when mothers complained that their children were emulating the Stooges’ dangerous antics.) Now, I’m not saying that a few episodes of Moe bullying Larry, Curly, and Shemp led to Lennon kicking original bassist, Stuart Sutcliffe, in the head—as has occasionally been alleged in the cause of Sutcliffe’s untimely death—but I am saying that an irate John likely was not above rapidly fluttering his hand in front of Sutcliffe’s entranced gaze, then snapping it down briskly, causing Sutcliffe’s head to do the same. Whether that facilitated Sutcliffe’s fatal cerebral hemorrhage, no one will ever know—but it sure looks like a lot of stress on the brain…

As an aside, yes, the Beatles’ animated TV series (which the Fabs had nothing to do with production-wise) debuted a month before The New Three Stooges cartoon in autumn 1965. However, the Three Stooges’ animated series included numerous live-action segments, so it’s highly probable that The New Three Stooges began development before the Beatles cartoon, although there may not have been enough time to permit cross-pollination specifically between the two shows.

Having presented all of this evidence, it cannot be overlooked that any discussion concerning the Three Stooges’ influence on the Beatles begins with the fact that Moe was wearing a Beatles’ haircut before any of the lads were born; thus, the Fab Four owe their most defining physical characteristic to Moe Howard.

But I’m not positing that The Three Stooges in Orbit was a creative well from which only the Beatles drew ideas. Far from it. Though meant to look comic, the Martians in this film actually appear disturbingly grotesque—even more so when the viewer subconsciously realizes that they strongly resemble the horrifying Grendel in the 2007 CGI version of Beowulf—or rather, that Grendel strongly resembles them. One wouldn’t think that the creators of a faithful and brutally explicit retelling of a violent Dark Age tale would look to a Three Stooges film for creative inspiration, but compare the Martians’ distended skulls, heavy eyebrow ridges, and lacertilian digits to Grendel and try to deny a connection…

Of course, Moe Howard—by several accounts, well-read in his youth and possessor of two months of high school study—may have based the Stooges’ brand of aggressive comedy on the original Beowulf

And as game-changing as was the granddaddy of all science fiction films, Star Wars,  it’s glaringly obvious from where in his movie-going youth George Lucas later pilfered the concept of the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the Death Star...

(Images from The Three Stooges in Orbit copyright Columbia Pictures; images from Yellow Submarine copyright United Artists; image from Beowulf copyright Paramount Pictures.)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

This Guy's Got a Little Too Much Nike on the Psyche

These photos have recently made the rounds on I know nothing of their source nor the reason for the drivers unorthodox technique.

My guess is that hes constantly saying embarrassingly asinine things.

Or perhaps hes suffering from a particularly virulent case of Aphthae epizooticae.

If the former, we can only hope that this man is en route to sensitivity training; if the latter, a top-notch veterinarian.

Then again, I suppose this could be a pre-2005 photo of him placing a call on his mobile to Don Adams. (Laws prohibiting using a phone while driving were not widespread or well-enforced back then...)

Friday, July 25, 2014

It's Not a Lie...if You Believed It in 1937

Beg, Borrow or Steal, a rather obscure comedy from 1937, aired on the Turner Classic Movies channel this afternoon. Its description in the Comcast grid:

As a gesture, an American in Paris invites his daughters wedding party to his nonexistent châteauand they all accept.

This plot sounds remarkably similar to Seinfeld Episode 171, The Wizard, in which George Costanza is caught in a lie to his would-have-been in-laws, the Rosses, about not being able to attend a charity event on behalf of his deceased fiancé because he is closing a lease on a house in The Hamptons. When the Rosses dont call him on his lie, an infuriated George decides its time to get nuts and takes it up a notch by inviting the Rosses to his new summer home. Hilarity ensues when the Rosses call his bluff, and George spends two painfully awkward hours driving them to the very end of Long Island, all the while describing in exquisite detail his nonexistent house, including two solariums and a pair of horses, Snoopy and Prickly Pete.

I didnt get to watch the film, but reading Comcasts description of Beg, Borrow or Steal, its not hard to picture American expatriate Ingraham Steward (Frank Morgan) squirming to keep his Costanza-esque lie going as the wedding guests inquire about his” château. A lavish, pre-war, French home likely built in the 19th century most certainly had two solariumsas did Georges purported lease. And horses for sureIm betting Snupây and Épineux Pierre. Lets face it: lies and deceit were all the rage throughout Europe in the 1930s...

It seems as though MGM got nuts and took it up a notch sixty years before George did...

(Beg, Borrow or Steal image copyright MGM; Seinfeld image copyright NBC.)

Carl Spackler's Lifetime of Learning to Think Like an Animal

This U.S. Department of Agriculture bulletin was published in January 1940. No wonder the United States was so unprepared for Pearl Harbor and the Second World War: While the Axis powers were running rampant across Europe, Asia, and Africa, Franklin D. Roosevelts administration worried about relatively harmless mammals that, although endangering American lawns and golf courses with their burrowing, certainly posed less threat to democracy than Hitler, Hirohito, and the other guy.

Geopolitical commentary aside, I believe that very well might be little Carl Spackler learning greenskeeping tips from his father. Carls age is never indicated in Caddyshack, but he could well be in his mid-forties. A life of golf-course maintenance in the unforgiving sun and liberal indulgence with northern California sinsemilla cannonballed by white wine likely has weathered Carl beyond his years, so being the youngster pictured on this 1940 cover is not beyond the realm of possibility.

Sure, as assistant greenskeeper at Bushwood Country Club, Carls primary task is to keep the course free of the destructive gopher, but its burrowing brethren, the mole, poses just as much threat to the American way of pretending to be athleticso dont think for one minute that the mole isnt also Varmint Cong, even if it doesnt prefer dancing to folk-pop as much as its tunneling counterpart. Thus, there is no reason that an experienced groundskeeper such as the man pictured on the Mole Control coveras well as his apprentice sonwouldnt also know how to deal with the pesky gopher that decades later would plague Bushwood and its upper-crust members.

True, one would think that a greenskeeper training since the 1940s wouldnt still be six years from the position of head greenskeeper in 1980, but who knows how long Carl spent in Tibet caddying for the Dalai Lama as well as practicing to become a Cinderella-story Masters champion, himself? And lets not forget that Carl devoted a lot of time to broadening his education on chinch bugs, manganese, and nitrogen, not to mention inventing and registering his own kind of hybrid grass. So even though hes got that going for himwhich clearly is niceCarls career development might be lagging...

Au revoir, mole...

(Image of Carl Spackler copyright Warner Brothers Pictures.)     

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sing Along With O.J. Simpson's Stabbed in the Hearts Club Band...

It was twenty years ago today
Police chased the Bronco driving O.J.
He’s been going in and out of jail
Couldn’t sell his Heisman Trophy for bail
So may I introduce to you
The back you cheered for all those years
O.J. Simpson’s Stabbed in the Hearts Club Band

We’re O.J. Simpson’s Stabbed in the Hearts Club Band
The Juice used to be an All-Pro
We’re O.J. Simpson’s Stabbed in the Hearts Club Band
He did his running in a Bronco
O.J. Simpson’s Stabbed in, O.J. Simpson’s Stabbed in
O.J. Simpson’s Stabbed in the Hearts Club Band
It’s horrible to be here
It’s like being a Buffalo Bill
Such a huge TV audience
He’d like to take you home with him
He’d love to stab you at home

I don’t really want to stop the chase
But Marcia’s gotta prosecute the case
And O.J.s fingers in the glove are too long
So the jury got the verdict wrong
So let me introduce to you
The one and only Orenthal James
And O.J. Simpson’s Stabbed in the Hearts Club Band


What would you do 'bout the lives led to ruin?
Would you stand up and render Guilty?
Lend me your ears and I’ll show you how wrong
You would be not to set me free

Oh, I get by with a little help from the Dream Team
Mm, I won’t fry with a little help from the Dream Team
Mm, gonna lie with a little help from the Dream Team

What do I do when my love’s cold awhile?
(Does it bother you that you killed her?)
How do I feel by the end of the trial?
(Where’d you like the price of your soul billed, sir?)
No, I get by with a little help from the Dream Team
Mm, I won’t fry with a little help from the Dream Team
Mm, gonna lie with a little help from the Dream Team

(Do you need anybody?)
I need somebody to kill
(Could it be anybody?)
My ex-wife and the waiter from Ill.

Would you believe that the glove is too tight?
Yes, I’m certain that it does not fit
Would you convict if the jury were white?
I can’t tell you but you must acquit
Oh, I get by with a little help from the Dream Team
Mm, I won’t fry with a little help from the Dream Team
Mm, gonna lie with a little help from the Dream Team

(Do you need anybody?)
I need somebody to kill
(Could it be anybody?)
My ex-wife and the waiter from Ill.

Oh, I get by with a little help from the Dream Team
Mm, I won’t fry with a little help from the Dream Team
Mm, gonna lie with a little help from the Dream Team
Yes, I get by with a little help from the Dream Team
With a little help from the Dre-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-hee-heem Team!

(Thanks to Drinkmore Pat for Photoshop guidanceGIF of chase copyright CNN.) 

Friday, June 13, 2014

It's Not a Nerd, It's Too Inane...It's Soviet Superman!

Pat e-mailed the rest of the Drinkmore crew this panel today. It’s from Superman: Red Son, a three-issue comic book produced in 2003 and premised on Kal-El having landed in Ukraine rather than the United States and grown up a Soviet “citizen,” fighting a never-ending battle for Josef Stalin and the Red Army rather than Truth, Justice, and the American Way.

Although I’ve never read Red Son, aside from the canon of the story, in which the Soviet Union apparently becomes the predominant superpower and the United States produces super-villains to destroy both it and Superman, it is readily evident just from this panel why the USSR ultimately failed in its goal of world domination: the Russkies were dopes.

Firstly, Soviet Russia officially adopted the metric system in 1918, almost immediately upon its inception. Now, I’m not saying that Tsar Nicholas II might have saved his and the Royal Family’s tsasses by going metric—after all, the Russian Revolution was more socio-politically than metrically motivated—but I am saying that the Tsar could have substantially improved life under his apathetic reign by standardizing the nation’s AAA maps both internally and to the rest of Europe, vastly simplifying vacation travel for serfs. Even so, why the hell was Superman calculating in “capitalist” miles instead of “communist” kilometers? Soviet Superman wouldn’t have made it past elementary school—yet he’s the USSR’s ultimate weapon?   

Much more importantly than simple units of measure, look how utterly vague and scatterbrained is the hammer-and-sickle–chested Superman: In a nation that measured more than 6,000 miles east to west and nearly 3,000 miles north to south—an area of 14 million square miles—he’s “pinpointing” a destination more than 3,000 miles away from a known locale.

Three thousand miles west of Vladivostok, a coastal city in the Russian Far East, is just east of the Ural Mountains. However, the Urals stretch north-south for approximately 2,500 miles. Even considering Superman’s incredible flying speed, that’s still precious minutes wasted in a millions-of-square-miles wild-goose chase across the Soviet Union’s spine. How many people will die and homes will burn while the Man of Stoli searches for this chemical fire by needlessly zooming up and down mountainous wilderness of the Urals like Clint Eastwood looking for his refueling point in Firefox?

Considering that Stalin and Soviet Superman are surely in Moscow—4,000 miles east of Vladivostok and thus obviously much closer to the chemical fire than that cross-continental port city—citing Vladivostok as a reference point makes absolutely nyet sense. Why not use Yekaterinburg, a major city on the eastern slope of the Urals and approximately those 3,000 miles west of Vladivostok, as the reference point? It’s still almost 900 miles from Moscow, thus preserving the image of Superman heroically coming to the rescue from a great distance yet eliminating the asinine inexactitude that betrays his stupidity. After all, one does not summon emergency services by saying that an ambulance is needed fifty miles west of a town located fifty miles to the east…

That neither Comrade Kent nor Stalin—who also foolishly fails to demand a more-specific location—could not fathom such obvious logic displays the kind of flawed reasoning that led to the USSR’s demise. Would American Superman know to go to San Francisco if he were needed “3,000 miles west of New York”? Of course not—but, possessing the American penchant for individual thought and the free exchange of ideas, you can bet he would look into it, he would at least ask for directions. Little wonder the USSR never landed a man on the moon, conquered capitalism, or beat the Broad Street Bullies in 1976—those Soviets were such slaves to their own narrow-minded system, their overbearing Mother Russia, that they were utterly incapable of thinking even slightly out of the Bloc.

Not that the United States owns an unblemished heritage of geniuses at the helm—the US government atom- and hydrogen-bombed its own country more than a thousand times since the end of World War II—but at least our superheroes’ kryptonite isn’t common sense and our pizza deliverymen get their precious cargo to hungry mouths without empty-headedly basing their route on the customer’s distance from the Cumberland Gap.

(Superman: Red Son panel copyright DC Comics; map of Russia copyright

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Abraham, Father of Nations...Abe Vigoda, Father of Patience

Abe Vigoda continues to astonish with his longevity—especially those who thought he died long ago. (The extremely veteran actor has been reported as deceased on at least three occasions over the last thirty years.) Born Abraham Vigoda in February 1921 to Russian-Jewish immigrants, he remains the highest-ranking Jew in the history of the Italian Mafia, enjoying the status of caporegime in the Corleone crime family until his forced “retirement.”

Now 93 years old—and having looked ancient for many decades; he was a mere 51 in The Godfather yet appeared easily to be in his sixties—I’m wondering if Vigoda can hold on to become the oldest Abraham in history. Vigoda passed Abraham Lincoln only two months into the run of his spinoff series, Fish, in 1977, and moved into the No. 2 spot in 1986, when he eclipsed Abraham Zapruder, who had proved not up to the challenge by dying, years before, at age 65. Since then, only the biblical Abraham has stood in Vigoda’s way.*

* We can endlessly debate where Abraham Simpson belongs on this list, but the fact is that his birth year has never been revealed. And with the timeline of his life continually in flux, a determination of his true age would be specious at best. Grampa Simpson is a World War II veteran, yet he also claimed to have fought in the First World War, as well as participated in the 1936 Olympic Games. His service in World War II is undoubtedly true—at least, he was certainly old enough to have served—but given Grampa Simpson’s penchant for meandering tall tales and his suspect memory, much of his background cannot be taken as gospel, even though we know he was of an advanced age when he fathered Homer in the mid-1950s. Yes, through flashbacks and glimpses of Simpsons future, we see Grampa and other Springfield residents at different ages, but because of strictly maintained canon, they never actually age—their age at the time of the series’ “birth” is the age that they have remained throughout the canonical run of the series. Therefore, Grampa, an 80-something when The Simpsons premiered in 1989, remains an 80-something today regardless of the fact that nearly a quarter-century has elapsed. So, even though Abraham Simpson once was likely much older than Abe Vigoda, Vigoda has long since reclaimed second place.

Of course, according to Genesis, Abraham lived to the ripe, old age of 175. Now whether you take the Bible at its literal word or dismiss the ages of its many incredulously long-lived characters as gross exaggerations, 175 remains the sole “official” age of record—and a target still so far away that the nonagenarian Vigoda is little more than halfway there.

Still, I believe Abe Vigoda can do it. The key to Vigoda’s long life thus far has been his languid, almost reptilian, movement. Whether shuffling gingerly through the Corleone compound or planted in fatigued misery behind his 12th Precinct desk, Vigoda’s patient, unhurried manner emulates the slow heart rate and conserved body motion of such long-living animals as the elephant, the whale, and the tortoise. Let’s face it: Vigoda even shares the same facial expressions as a tortoise…

Certainly, none of us will be around to see it, but I wouldn’t be shocked in the least if, early in the year 2096, a shriveled-yet-still-filled-with-vim Abe Vigoda quietly becomes the longest-living Abraham in human history.

After all, a 90-something who can take this hit isn’t going any time soon…

Besides, breaking the record is the smart move...and Tessio was always smartuh.

(Image from Barney Miller copyright ABC; image from The Godfather copyright Paramount Pictures; animated GIF of Snickers ad copyright Mars, Incorporated.)