One of the dozens of things that sucked about Paul Haggis' 2005 Best Picture winner, Crash, is the fact that it instantly and forever overshadowed a smaller, odder, more intriguingly flawed picture of the same name–that is, David Cronenberg's Crash, his 1996 adaptation of the infamous J.G. Ballard novel. But Cronenberg's Crash isn't the only film to have been so usurped. For the past 12 years, I've had to tiredly explain myself when recommending the movie Twister to friends. No, I don't mean the 1996 tornado thriller starring Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton. Yes, I do mean the 1989 surreal comedy starring–zoinks–Suzy "Mrs. James Cameron" Amis as the sister of Crispin Glover. And Harry Dean Stanton as their dad. Plus a cameo by Tim Robbins. And one by William fucking Burroughs.
Twister director Michael Almereyda, to my undying admiration, assembled a nightmare cast that even my own sick mind has trouble wrapping itself around. Rounding out the aforementioned roster is a young, buff Dylan McDermott, who acts as the movie's tiny inner voice of normalcy and reason. As if that helps. The film is a detached, often meandering plod through non sequitur soap opera, nonsensical quirk, and head-scratching character sketches that haul around the framework built by folks like David Lynch and Tim Burton–without fleshing it out with anything nearly as arresting or dreamlike. (Sure enough, Almereyda would wind up working with both his heroes: Lynch on Nadja and Burton on an aborted adaptation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'Rappaccini's Daughter.") As our own Nathan Rabin perfectly summed up in his 2004 review of the DVD, Twister is "a winning little sleeper [that] might just be too low-key to inspire the sort of over-the-top enthusiasm that engenders a cult following."
That said, I love the hell out of Twister. I'm not sure exactly when it was released on VHS, but my high-school friends and I must have rented it very soon after; I remember watching it with them for the first time in someone's basement, totally eating up every absurd scene and snippet of dialogue. We were all very much into weird for weird's sake back then–hence our obsession with anything Crispin Glover–but Twister was a cornucopia for our little group of nerds with a hunger for dumb in-jokes. Which, besides nostalgia, is the main reason Twister still lingers in my consciousness: All these years later, I can still walk up to my old pal Frank, say the word "twister," and–all Manchurian Candidate-like–he'll immediately recite one of Glover's best bits of Twister-speak: While confronting a hick suitor of his fiancée, his character, Howdy, gestures grandiloquently from a flight of stairs and commands, "Get out of my house! Get out of mine!"
I wish there were more clips from Twister on YouTube. Merely reading these quotes just doesn't give enough context, nor enough of a sense of Glover's flair for paralinguistic freakiness (although Glover fans can easily imagine). Besides "Get out of mine!", he drops all kinds of insane zingers: While watching a detective show on TV, he turns to Amis and–apropos of absolutely nothing–casually utters the phrase "colonial squid boys" as if it's the program's title or something. Colonial squid boys! To an 18-year-old fan of Flaming Carrot and They Might Be Giants like I was at the time, that was just magic. Another fantastic scene is Howdy's song, a screeching, Bongwater-like drone in which Glover–looking like he took a wrong turn on his way to a Velvet Underground audition in 1967–mauls a guitar and croons: "But that is where you are wrong / I got my pretty baby / And I got / I got / I got / I got my pretty baby…!" (Of the other Almereyda films I've seen, good and bad, one thing can be said: The man knows his music. Hamlet sports a Birthday Party song. The Eternal–quite probably named after the Joy Division dirge–makes great use of Stiff Little Fingers' cover of Bob Marley's "Johnny Was." And Happy Here And Now features none other than New Orleans' version of Little Richard, the late Ernie K-Doe.)
Of course, the crowning quote of Twister comes from William Burroughs. I was experiencing my initial flush of Burroughs worship the first time I saw the film, and I had no idea he was even going to be in it. The movie takes place in Kansas, and it's entirely possibly that Burroughs, a longtime resident of Lawrence, simply wound up in Twister via serendipity. In any case, his short scene is just electric: Glover and Amis look on, I can only imagine in abject awe, while Old Bull conducts target practice in his barn and tersely relates the tale of a man who "went around killing horses for a while, and then he ate the insides of a clock and he died." (After doing a little research I found out those words aren't even Burroughs'–he ripped them off from fin de siècle writer John Millington Synge. Somehow that just makes it cooler.)
Like Glover's "Get out of mine!", Burroughs' eerie yet mundanely deadpanned "He ate the insides of a clock and he died" became part of my dorky lexicon for years, an in-joke that didn't even benefit from having come from a true cult movie. I've only met a handful of people who've ever seen Twister, fewer who actually liked it, and zero who can remember all these disembodied lines that still have squatter's rights in my psyche. But what about you guys? What random film quotes, obscure or otherwise, have wound up becoming unshakeable in-jokes and taking up valuable real estate in your brains?