Ask The A.V. Club - March 28, 2008
Alas, Poor Deadwood, We Knew You
These all regard original HBO series. They should all be quickies, so I figured I'd lump them together.
1) Whatever happened to the Deadwood movies that were promised as a way to wrap up the series properly? It seems like an eternity ago that the last season of Deadwood ended.
2) Somewhat related—is there any way now that I can find out at least what was going to happen on John From Cincinnati in the future? It was a pretty trippy show, so I'd like to at least know what the deal was with John and whatnot.
3) In regards to Tell Me You Love Me—How is it that HBO can't/doesn't show sex acts, but can show them via props that look completely realistic? What kind of weird censorship rules are they skirting when you can't show an erection, but you can show a completely realistic depiction of an erection?
4) I've not watched either of them much, because they bored me to tears—but Tell Me You Love Me is the exact same show as In Treatment, right? Minus aforementioned props and plus Gabriel Byrne. It annoys me that good shows like Deadwood and Rome get canceled early so they can repeat the same humdrum show twice!
Thanks, A.V. Club!
Kyle Ryan does not wish to get took for a duckling:
Deadwood's frustratingly anticlimactic final episode first aired on Aug. 27, 2006, so yeah, two years does roughly equal an eternity in TV time. But with HBO, where a new episode of Flight Of The Conchords won't air until 2009—not to mention the interminable breaks between Sopranos seasons—it's par for the course. I'm afraid, though, Deadwood's time has passed. Although creator David Milch was apparently writing the films at the beginning of 2007, the project was supposedly scrapped by the time the writers' strike rolled around. No less an authority than Al Swearengen himself—a.k.a. Ian McShane—told Cinematical that the project was dead. A few weeks later, Maureen Ryan from the Chicago Tribunegot someone from HBO to say there was the tiniest chance the movies will be made. But really, if you're a fan, it's time to let go.
You know what else is dead? Milch's post-Deadwood series, John From Cincinnati. HBO dropped the ax right after the first season's finale last August. The show was little-loved and even less watched, and it was apparently the first hourlong series in HBO history to get canceled after one season. As for its future story arc, Milch told Tavis Smiley, "I know where John From Cincinnati would go if they're going to keep doing the show." But he didn't give any details, unless this makes sense to you: "I think all stories are the same story Which means that if God is anywhere, he's everywhere, and it's my task—I said to a priest, as he was dying, 'I'm grateful to have lived long enough to be able to say to you that the shadow in which I always believed I and my characters must move is cast by God's sheltering hand.' So any story can let you do that." It couldn't be clearer!
At any rate, Milch and HBO are still working together; the network renewed his contract last fall, and he's currently working on a new series about the New York Police Department, set in the 1970s.
Regarding your third question, it's hard to say. I asked an HBO representative—ah, saying the words "erect penis" to a total stranger—and she wasn't entirely sure, either. Unlike most networks, HBO doesn't have a standards-and-practices department to set these rules. The FCC doesn't regulate pay cable, so the networks usually set their standards individually, but the HBO representative I spoke with wasn't aware of them, if HBO does. She guessed the Screen Actors Guild may have some standards for sex scenes, and it also depends on what the individual actors will or won't do. Obviously, the cast of Tell Me You Love Me had to be more adventurous than most. HBO is premium pay cable, so in theory, they're allowed to show just about anything, but even the raciest Real Sex is generally tamer than the hardcore porn you can find on pay-per-view. So even if HBO doesn't have written rules, there are obviously some things it won't do in its scripted programming.
And the similarities between In Treatment and Tell Me You Love Me? They definitely look alike at first glance, but they're pretty different shows. I doubt it'll ever show Gabriel Byrne locking his bedroom door so he can jerk off in peace—for my money, that's a good thing.
We Can't Rewind, It's Gone Too Far
My boyfriend's got a movie short stuck in his head and he was wondering what it was or where he could find it. It's about a guy who goes into an office looking for someone. He's attacked/chased by a reel of film. He somehow determines that he can fend off the film with a magnet. But the film outsmarts him. It sneaks under the carpet, wraps around him, and eats him. Then the film types up a suicide note. He saw it in the early '80s during a school program. He also thinks it's stop-motion. Thanks for your help!
Donna Bowman is coincidentally on the run from experimental goo herself:
Your friend needs to take some remedial physics, Greg. A magnet wouldn't have any effect on celluloid film. But videotape—now, that's a different story. Memo to the Worst Case Scenario Survival Guide folks: If trapped by murderous living videotape, a horseshoe magnet is the key to your escape.
The short film is called "Recorded Live," and it was made in 1975 apparently as a USC student film by S.S. Wilson, who later went on to work as a writer and director on the Tremors series. (His other credits, along with writing partner Brent Maddox, include Short Circuit, Ghost Dad, Heart And Souls, and Wild Wild West.) It was a staple in the '80s on HBO's "Short Takes" between-movie programming, which is where most folks have seen it. I guess it's possible that a school showed it, but there sure ain't much educational value to it (other than the aforementioned magnet-videotape science connection, which doesn't seem to have stuck very well in your friend's memory).
It's basically a spoof of The Blob, with a pile of videotape substituted for the original blue gelatin. A mustachioed '70s dude goes to a suspiciously palatial TV studio for a job interview and spots some reels of one-inch tape next to exclamation-point-dotted memos about experiments. Suddenly, the reels unspool onto the floor and come after him in a black shiny clump, chittering and moaning with tape-speed sound effects. The applicant flees down the hall to an office with a prominently labeled "FUN with Science!" box, and discovers that he can force the tape monster back with a magnet. But while he's trying to get the window opened to escape, the tape creeps under the door and devours him. What the tape types and signs at the end isn't a suicide note, but another letter inviting a potential employee to come in for an interview.
It's a charming and sometimes cleverly executed combination of live action and stop motion. I especially like the split-screen effect where the man is peeking around a doorframe while the animated tape gathers in the hall, and the reverse filming when the tape is creeping through the cracks around the closed door while the man slowly retreats (accomplished by having the man walk slowly forward while pulling the tape back through the cracks, then printing the scene backwards). For those used to spoofs that get right to the point, the lengthy setup and slow-on-the-uptake protagonist might be frustrating, but you can't deny that the endgame and denouement are refreshingly snappy.
If the YouTube clip isn't hi-res enough for your memories, you can buy the Tremors 4: The Legend Begins DVD, which contains "Recorded Live" as a bonus feature. And if you'd like an explanation of the genesis of all Wilson's skittery little critters, you can browse his beer list at the website of his company, Stampede Entertainment.
"You May Obtain Immediate Relief By Screaming!"
There was a movie I remember seeing as a kid that was done very much in the Hitchcockian manner: all black-and-white, bathroom shots, etc. etc. The campy catch, however, is that all of the blood is red. In the one main scene I can remember, a girl is being chased by someone (I'm assuming) and locks herself in the bathroom. She turns around and is greeted by a huge, white claw-foot bathtub filled with bright red blood. I want to say there was a hand coming out of this blood (or other ghastly assortments floating around in it) but I can't remember exactly.
Noel Murray is not embarrassed about opening his mouth and letting rip with all he's got:
This is The Tingler, a B-grade suspense flick written and directed by legendary showman William Castle. It's about a scientist who discovers a parasite that feeds on human fear, and when he extracts one and sets it loose into the world, trouble ensues. The mix of black-and-white and color is far from the film's only gimmick. Castle filmed an opening warning (seen below), and reportedly hired an actress to sit in every theater and faint on cue. But The Tingler is most famous in cult-movie history for Castle's invention "Percepto," a tiny vibrating device attached to a few movie theater seats. The projectionist was instructed to give the crowd a zap during the scene where the creature gets loose. And they say interactivity is the wave of the future
Your Arm's Off!
I'm hoping you can help with a kung-fu film that features two double amputees, one with no legs and the other with no hands. It was probably set in feudal China or Japan, and might have been made in the '70s. I saw it in college in '97 or '98. I went into the dorm lounge about 2:30 am and one of the stereotypical "geek" kids was sitting all alone laughing his ass off watching this movie. I joined him, transfixed by the quality and absurdity of the spectacle, but I only caught the last 20 minutes or so. The fighting is well done by any standard (or at least seemed so to my drunken mind). The two heroes take on dozens of enemies in the standard kung-fu-movie style.
I can't remember if it was dubbed or subtitled. I'm sure it was part of one of those late-night kung-fu marathon shows. Thanks for the help.
Tasha Robinson thinks your kung-fu is weak:
This is another one of those questions where the answer was maybe a little too obvious—Googling "amputee kung-fu film" leads you to the most likely answer pretty rapidly. And yet the question is worth taking up here, for two reasons. First off, there are doubtless people out there who haven't yet heard of 1979's The Crippled Masters. Or as it's called in this fairly wandering trailer, The Crippled Master:
In the film, an evil crime lord punishes two of his lackeys, cutting off one's arms and pouring acid on the other's legs. They eventually band together, train in kung-fu, and come back for revenge, ultimately learning, thanks to an ancient McGuffin, that they need to fight as one in order to defeat their enemy. Both "crippled masters" are actors with birth defects—Sam Chung-Chuen (a.k.a. Frank Shum, Peter Chen, and other aliases) has a short stub of an arm, while Hon Chiu-Ming (a.k.a. Jack Con) has shriveled but obviously present legs.
And second The Crippled Masters is the most widely available of their films, and the best known, and the law of averages suggests that that's the one you saw. But the two actors were in two other, far-less-known movies together, and it's much harder to dig up information on those. If a chimpanzee was involved in the movie at any point, it was Two Crippled Heroes. And I'm betting it wasn't Fighting Life, since you place the film at some time in the past, and that one takes place in the modern era. (Though it's reportedly the most polished of the three.) These days, none of them seems to be in print, though there are probably more used copies of Crippled Masters floating around on eBay and the like. But while the three films are often referred to as a trilogy, or a series, their plots are entirely unrelated, so you can start with any of the movies you can actually find.
Next week: A sneaky video, Holocaust movies, and another round of Stumped! Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.