The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu [1980)

Again we come back.

Revitalized?

Perhaps.

Definitely living with chemistry.

Better living ahead?

Maybe.

But death followed for Peter Sellers.

This was his final film.

And so it is spooky (in a way).

It came out two weeks after his death.

I must admit.

I had a hard time watching this one at first.

On first view, it wasn’t that funny to me.

Indeed, it is a rather strange comedy.

But let’s get really strange.

The executive producer was Hugh Hefner.

Follow the white rabbit.

And now we shall come to QAnon in full force.

Is it real?

Is it bullshit?

Fred Manchu.

Call me Fred.

Who is QAnon?

They don’t mention much about rabbits anymore, do they?

And like me, they are fond of taking inordinately-long pauses between bursts of communication.

Transient random-noise bursts with announcements.

My brain is coming back.

Watch out, world!

Fred Manchu did laundry at Eton.

Eton blue or shelduck blue.

Sid Caesar or Cyd Charisse.

Caesar’s Palace or…

Down to brass tacks.

Tax?

This film is in parallel to (believe it or not) Live and Let Die.

Jane Seymour (Bond) and Helen Mirren (Sellers).

And Sellers in Casino Royale of 1967.

Not to be confused with the best Bond film made thus far:  Casino Royale of 2006.

Seymour (OBE)

born Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg

Mirren (DBE)

born Helen Lydia Mironoff

Live and Let Die (1973) was really the breakout performance of young Seymour’s early career.

There is juxtaposition…because you might know Seymour best as Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman (1993-1998).

Sultry “Solitaire” (Seymour) is hardly recognizable next to her twenty-year-senior “Dr. Quinn”.

But sex sells.

And it just goes to show that HARDLY ANYONE gets to start off classy.

Stay classy.

In our film, the promiscuous Alice Rage (Mirren) ironically (?) gets an undercover job as a double for the Queen of England.  She then falls for the black-fingernailed Fu Manchu and becomes the 166-year-old (?) villain’s wife.

For those who only know Mirren as The Queen (2006), it is worth revisiting her early years for a jolt of WTF.

Though Mirren had been working in film seven times as long as Seymour when she took this role of Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, it was still something of a feather in her cap (one might imagine).

And though we might suspect this was the depth of her crappy early roles, it wasn’t.

The previous year, Mirren had been in the infamous film Caligula (produced by Penthouse magazine).

[as noted earlier, our film was a Playboy Productions venture with Hugh Hefner acting as executive producer]

Further, Mirren played a prostitute in the contemporaneous Hussy of 1980.

If you only know Mirren from American Treasure:  Book of Secrets, I can imagine your shock.

BTW…don’t make the easily-forgivable mistake of confusing Mirren for Judi Dench (the “M” of the Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig-era Bond films).

Which brings us back to Q.

Is QAnon legit?

Where is Q?

Why hasn’t Steve Pieczenik commented on Q?

Is Q a “flypaper coup” (to quote Wayne Madsen re: Turkey’s failed coup)?

Hard to say.

For me.

One thing is for sure:  Mirren and Dench both appeared in 1968’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Burt Kwouk makes a brief appearance early in our film…as he drops the MacGuffin (after drenching his burning sleeve with it).

Look to Stonehenge.

Moreover, Steve Franken (the butler from The Party) plays Sid Caesar’s FBI partner here.

Franken was disgraced Minnesota Senator Al Franken’s cousin.

Let’s see if Q has posted anything.

Nope.

Weird.

 

-PD

 

The Silencers [1966)

If you wanna know why Austin Powers was a “photographer” (strange bit of dilettantism that), then look no further than the beginning of the four-film spy-spoof series starring Dean Martin.

Matt Helm (Martin) is very much in the Derek Flint vein.

A couple of interesting possibilities exist in these films.

First, Martin’s parent agency in the spooky, alphabet soup world of espionage is ICE:  Intelligence and Counter-Espionage.

Second, the SPECTRE-like organization he fights is called The Big O.

obama.png

bigO

bigO2

Which brings us to #QAnon.

Sleeper.

…all of a sudden.

Hussein.

Tung-Tse might drink egg foo yung out of a can–might be a Dr. No knockoff, but it brings up the question:

Is QAnon real?

Fortunately, we have Stella Stevens to reassure us.

Just as magical as she was in the Jerry Lewis masterpiece The Nutty Professor.

But even hotter here.

Heat among friends.

Furnace.

Learn our comms.

Cyd Charisse drops in…festooned with pasties.

Twirling like an Amish stripper.

Now comes the pain.

Panic in DC.

 

-PD

bowie

SNL Season 1 Episode 10 [1976)

“…I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know…”

Ah, Bill Withers.  A lyrical genius.  And though I kid, I mean it.  This section of “Ain’t No Sunshine” is one of the most tense portions of pop music ever laid down on tape.  In case you’re wondering, there’s 26 “I know”s.

And indeed, the powerful Mr. Withers performed this very song on SNL backed up by Howard Shore’s band to amazing dramatic effect.

Now, if you have been following along with my clinically-insane review of the entire Saturday Night Live oeuvre (or canon, if you will) you will know that the musical guests thus far had been:

Billy Preston, Janis Ian, Simon & Garfunkel, Randy Newman, Phoebe Snow, Esther Philips , ABBA, Loudon Wainwright III, Gil Scott-Heron, and Anne Murray.  [Hopefully I didn’t leave anyone out.]

I mention them again because almost all of them (with the notable exception of Simon & Garfunkel) were pushing product.  To use the terminology which Kurt Cobain so presciently keyed in on, they were attempting to be “radio friendly unit shifters”.  Shift those units.  Move that product.

This is significant when viewing Bill Withers’ performance.  “Ain’t No Sunshine” was from his 1971 album Just As I Am (that’s five years before this broadcast).  He’d had at least four albums come out since 1971.  He would have a fifth released in 1976.  And though he only got to perform one song, he went back to his big hit.

It makes me wonder whose idea that was.  Lorne Michaels?  Perhaps even a wily A&R man trying a counterintuitive tactic.  Kinda like, “Hey…I’m Bill Withers.  Remember me?”

All…that…having…been…said:

this is a fantastic episode!!!

I must admit I had no idea who Buck Henry was upon viewing this.

Pierre Henry?  Of course.  But Buck Henry?  No way.

Sure, I’d seen The Graduate, but paying attention to who the screenwriter was had to be the last thing on my mind as the credits rolled.

I like films without scripts.  Godard.

The only script I can honestly say I’ve ever read out of admiration for the film (and writing) is Ernest Lehman’s fantastic North by Northwest (brought to the screen, of course, by Alfred Hitchcock).

To make a short story long, Buck Henry is an amazing actor.

I don’t know to what extent he was involved in the writing of skits for this episode, but I can confidently say that this show surpasses all the others before it.

What is more, Buck Henry is ten times the actor that is Elliott Gould (the previous week’s host).

So, there.  Buck Henry is great.  From his role in John Belushi’s Samurai Delicatessen to his part as Gerald Ford’s aide in the Oval Office.

Speaking of these two skits, they are certainly among the highlights (if not the outright best two).

Belushi was improving with every episode.  From Samurai Hotel came Samurai Delicatessen.  It is an artful role on par with the talent of Peter Sellers.

The extra portion Belushi brought to the table was his singing (yes, singing).  We heard him earlier in the debut season doing a send-up of Joe Cocker.  In the episode under consideration, Belushi and Dan Aykroyd debut a proto version of The Blues Brothers…in bee costumes!

I must say that their performance of “I’m a King Bee” is infused with the punk spirit which was then coursing through the veins of New York City.  Belushi takes his breaks from singing as opportunities to do ridiculous, stumbling cartwheels around the stage.

This is one thing for which you have to give the Not Ready for Prime Time Players credit:  they would do anything for a laugh.

The precedent had been set early on by Chevy Chase.  No one could fall quite like Chevy, and thus it was natural for him to portray the unlucky Gerald Ford.

One of Chevy’s real miracles was a failed attempt (as Ford) to put the star on a 15-foot Christmas tree.  I don’t know if Chase had stunt training, but his falls are impressively wild.

But again, in this episode we see Chase developing his comic timing and humorous subtleties which he would later parlay into a successful movie career.  Chase’s portrayal of Ford is particularly smooth (peppered, of course, with appropriately clunky dementia).

Two more bits bear mentioning.  Michael O’Donoghue’s anti-impression illustrates all that was good about the early days of SNL.  It’s flailing about, but it is such a refreshing flailing.

And finally, I must mention that Toni Basil returned to the show (after making an appearance earlier in the season with the dance troupe The Lockers).  This time Basil does some great scat singing (and, of course, dancing) on the old tune “Wham”…(re bop boom bam).

It’s an impressive performance with a touch of Cyd Charisse in the choreography.

Bravo SNL!

 

-PD