Found-Again Friday: The Animated Rikki-Tikki-Tavi

When I was a very small child, four things terrified me:

  • Heights;
  • That Looney Tunes cartoon where Tweety gets into the Jekyll-and-Hyde potion;
  • My great-aunt Ruth’s lamp, which looked a bit like this one (or indeed, just about any result you get from Googling “Deco panther lamp”; who knew those things were so ubiquitous?);
  • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, which was so obviously calculated to scare the bejesus out of children that it turned up on TV every October despite not actually being a Halloween story.

Why Found-Again? I have no idea why I picked up the DVD as an adult, but it may have been some combination of a low price and the desire to finally see the show while not peeking out from beneath a blanket in sheer dread.I’m a grownup now, right? (Discounting the Highlander posts, anyway.)

(In fairness, I wore less eyeliner as a toddler.)
Historical reenactment of my first seven viewings.

The Premise: Doughty mongoose Rikki is adopted by a very British family living in India and defends them from the scariest damn snakes this side of Raiders of the Lost Ark, with the assistance of a pair of birds and a timid muskrat.

Over the years, I’d never realized that Chuck Jones animated Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, and it was surprising to see how cute Rikki is, the occasional red eyes of mongoose bloodlust notwithstanding. The snakes, especially the main cobra villains Nag and Nagaina, are suitably sinister-looking, but aaaagghh those voices; when we first hear Nag speak, I may not have hidden under the blanket this time, but I did make a noise usually reserved for stepping on hairballs with my bare feet.

When the snakes aren’t talking, Orson Welles’ narration keeps things going, lending so much gravitas to the story that sometimes animation effects like Rikki’s super-swishing tail seem out of place. (The scene of Rikki destroying snake eggs by trampling them to death—shown only as shadows— also keeps things somber.) The cartoon ends in a chase scene that had me glued to the screen even after all this time, rooting for what has to be one of the bite-iest heroes in all of fiction.

The Verdict: Everything about this was better than I remembered except the musical numbers; stick to sidekicking, Mr. Bird.

Might Go Well With: Chicken tikka masala, strong tea; definitely not eggs.

 

Next time: We find out who my least favorite minor character in Highlander is, among other things.

There Can Be Only Monday! Talking About Highlander… A Lot, Part 9

Previously: It wasn’t exactly Law & Order, y’know?

9. Admittedly, I really liked the armor

As Connor presumably…actually, that’s a good question, since the next time we see him, he’s out of jail with no ill effects after hitting at least two cops. Did he call a lawyer? Does he have a lawyer? Did his poor assistant Rachel have to run over there with bail money?

Anyway, as Connor begins the process that mysteriously ejects him from the police station, a car radio announces the headless-guy news before a tape is put in, and a sneering voice is heard in the land.

Yes, it’s the Kurgan, rolling into the city in one of those enormous cars you see in ’80s movies and blasting his stereo (he has the best song on the soundtrack, in my opinion; I wish it were possible to take this song, load it into a rifle, and shoot “Who Wants To Live Forever” with it). He’s eschewed his old armor for leather punk attire, and not a skull helmet in sight.

I miss Zorro’s horse already.

Like a lot of shy people, I have always entertained a hope that someday I’d be the kind of person about whom people say, “Hey, it’s J.A.! Now we can start the party.” I don’t know if I’ll ever get there personally—probably for reasons encompassing my use of “about whom”—but that’s the feeling I always get when I watch this part of Highlander. Anything can happen on a battlefield, but here in the modern age: Hey, it’s the Kurgan: Now we can start the party!

The Kurgan takes a room at a flophouse, signing in as “Victor Kruger” and flashing money at the desk clerk while looking like a god.

Be still my odd little heart.
Be still my odd little heart.

Okay, I’ll admit it: from the moment I first saw this scene and every time since, I have had a very…er…strong reaction to the Kurgan. I can’t put it into words, but I can definitely illustrate it:

Clancy Brown is a handsome actor, but this goes above and beyond that somehow. (Also,  since I noted that Connor at the wrestling match had the facial expression I have at parties, I feel compelled to note that the Kurgan pretty much has my work expression down—kind of a perma-“Oh, for god’s sake.”)

The clerk is sufficiently impressed to offer sleazy concierge services, one of which we’ll see in action in a bit.

What happens when he gets to his room is exactly the sort of thing that drove me to write these posts: a series of things that, taken by a receptive viewer in the right frame of mind, are splendid, and only on repeated viewings do doubts creep in. The first time I saw the Kurgan put together his sword and swing it around, it was unabashedly awesome. About ten viewings later, however…

  • Is a some-assembly-required sword really a good idea for fighting? Especially the kind of fighting these guys do? We’re going to see a flashback in which a swordfight causes A TOWER TO FALL DOWN!
  • What is the point of some of those exercises he does? Some of them are probably relevant to combat, a few are at least good for coordination, but there are a couple that seem purely in aid of saying, “Look who has really pretty arms! This guy!” Well, noted, movie. Noted back in the flophouse lobby, for that matter.

When he’s done with this display, the door opens and a hooker enters, presumably fresh (er, “fresh”) from the desk clerk. “Hi, I’m Candy,” she says.

“Of course you are,” the Kurgan growls with more or less the same level of better-than-this nihilism I had when muttering in the back of my fifth-grade classroom. Yeah, yeah. You despise humanity. Join the club, Captain Pretty Arms.

In conclusion, I’d like to leave you with this bit of meta-commentary, since I knew writing this post was not going to be my finest moment as a sane human creature:

 

Next time: I scrounge up something for Found-Again Friday. I still can’t believe I watched Mister Frost!

Next time on TCBOM!: I wouldn’t call it a meet-cute…

Found-Again Friday (on Saturday): Mister Frost

One of the reasons my college friends and I could play an adaptation of the Kevin Bacon Game called “Four Degrees of Jeff Goldblum” was Goldblum’s European/British period in the early ‘90s: he starred with Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson in The Tall Guy, joined Bob Hoskins and Natasha Richardson in The Favour, the Watch, and the Very Big Fish, and was a serial murderer in 1990 psychological thriller Mister Frost.

When I started looking for the movie again, I expected it to be hard to find; I didn’t expect that Amazon wouldn’t even have it available in US format on DVD.* Fortunately, YouTube has hooked us up once again.

Why Found-Again? Until I sat down to rewatch it this week, that basic outline—and the line “Oh, yeah, the body; I was just burying it when you drove up”—were the only things I remembered about this movie other than a longing for something, anything to happen.

The Premise: Serial murderer/man with no first name Mr. Frost, who has spent two years in silence after being apprehended, is sent to a mental hospital, where he chooses as a confidante Dr. Day (the ever-magnificent Kathy Baker).

Did I mention he might be the devil? The movie sure does, most often through the character of Det. Detweiler (Alan Bates).

I can’t for the life of me (hah!) understand my impression that nothing happened in Mister Frost: there are philosophical discussions of evil, certainly, but there’s also a lot of investigation, internal tensions at the mental hospital, a gentle patient Frost pushes over the edge into clergy-murder, and a detective who is maybe mauled by a ghost. (You’d think at the very least the occasional shirtless Goldblum would have kept my attention as a college student, but I didn’t remember that, either.)

The Verdict: This movie was an awful lot better than I remembered, and exactly what I was hoping for when I started this project of revisiting things. Watching it, you realize that at some level it wouldn’t matter whether Goldblum’s character is the actual, just-what-it-says-on-the-Milton devil; as the lives of the characters spin out of control, he is exactly what we expect of Old Scratch.

I’m not going to go buy a European-region DVD player so I can have Mister Frost with me always, but I can at last recommend it.

Might DOES go well with: Since I had little memory of the plot, I sat down with unintentional irony to watch this with a microwave EVOL meal. Tasty!

 

* Note to self: Figure out why the Dutch are the only people still committing this film to DVD.

 

Next time: Highlander!

There Can Be Only Monday! Talking about Highlander…A Lot, Part 8

Last time: Brenda found a sword and demonstrated some basic knowledge of police procedure. Hurrah!

8. Sword and farcery.

After the introduction of Brenda and her discovery of the sword, we move to Connor at the police station, being stared at by Garfield, the cop who was holding a big gun and doing a terrible Dirty Harry impression back when the Highlander was apprehended. Connor stares back, and Garfield begins to blink nervously.

I’m pretty sure this exchange is supposed to signify that Garfield is alarmed at some instinctual level by confrontation with an eldritch entity he can’t understand, but it also works at a level where Garfield is just a giant weasel with a limited supply of intestinal fortitude.

Lt. Moran tries in the most transparent ways possible to get Connor (or rather, Connor’s current identity as Russell Nash, antique dealer) to admit that he might, just maybe, be involved with making the headless Fasil headless. I’ve spent the past year listening to old-time radio mysteries, so I can say with some authority that this part makes detectives played by Jack Webb look like masters of subtlety. What I can’t believe, though, is that Moran has the sword. You know, that million-dollar Toledo Salamanca from last time? To his credit, it has been placed in a plastic bag, but I have serious doubts about whether in another interrogation room someone is, say, waving a Picasso canvas around and yelling at a suspect. Times were hard in the ’80s in the Big Apple, even without a bunch of immortal weirdos running around, but has no one in the NYPD got a camera these guys could borrow?

To add insult to injury, since it’s Fasil’s sword, it very clearly hasn’t beheaded anyone, yet no one thinks to ask Connor if he’s missing anything sharp.

A tarted-up picture of the Bowie knife my dad gave me before he passed away last year. (He was thrilled that I wanted it until I said "Well, sure: one of those things killed Dracula!") One of many objects Connor could have used, as far as the cops are concerned, to behead Fasil. Or Dracula.
A tarted-up picture of my late father’s Bowie knife. (He was thrilled that I wanted it until I said, “Well, sure: one of those things killed Dracula!”) One of many objects Connor could have used, as far as the cops are concerned, to behead Fasil. Or Dracula.

The cops start tossing around theories of the crime, the first of which is that the two men fought over the valuable weapon in an antiques deal gone bad, and Connor/Nash killed Fasil—but not with that sword!—and then left the scene…but not with that sword.

This is where I start to wonder if they are spelling Moran wrong.

Connor, as they say, gives this opinion the consideration it deserves, sarcastically suggesting Fasil did it himself to protest the wrestling match they were both attending. Garfield suggests a sex-crimes angle, because Garfield is a giant weasel, and Connor slugs him. If you’ve spent the last few years reading any urban fantasy or paranormal romance, it seems odd that an immortal would take issue with someone suggesting he was gay now that we as a culture are knee-deep in fictional pansexual vampires, but I suppose that’s the ’80s for you.

There’s a suggestion of super-strength as Connor tosses police around, and every civilian at the station seems to be cheering him on.

 

Next time: I attempt to make it through Mister Frost again for Found-Again Friday.

Next time on TCBOM: The Kurgan enters the 20th century, and I try to control my glee.

 

Apropos of Nothing: The Early Edition by Capsule.fm

I seem to be in a relationship with my alarm clock app.

That’s because it’s Early Edition, a bizarre offering from Capsule.fm featuring Carl and Miranda, virtual announcers who read headlines of your choice, introduce music of your choice, and occasionally make snotty jokes about humans (they don’t mean you, of course—Miranda in particular is a shameless flatterer). With shutdown haikus, weather reports, and the chance to wake up to things like “[Name,] I see the assassins have failed and you are still alive,” it’s a lot of fun. It is also a big liar, since the ever-optimistic Miranda informed me at 5:35 am that it was “a beautiful morning, with heavy fog and 37º.”

If, like  me, you own an Apple device and are a little strange, I quite recommend it.

Found-Again Friday: Nancy Drew # 59, The Secret in the Old Lace

Today we return to the bookshelf for a look at Nancy Drew.

Why Found-Again? Before I got my hands on The Hardy Boys Detective Handbook or met up with Jupiter Jones and his friends (who I hope will feature in a later Found-Again Friday), this was my favorite mystery book even among my Nancy Drews, competing hotly with The Ghost of Blackwood Hall.

The Premise: With a cache of long-lost jewels at stake, Nancy and her friends travel to Belgium to solve mysteries past and present that involve secret messages, spies, and a cowboy. Yes, in Belgium.

Rereading a childhood classic can have its problems, and The Secret in the Old Lace is no exception: when I think about this book, I remember the European locale, secret messages and lacemaking. I don’t think about the stuff that happens to launch the mystery—Nancy spends time with her dull boyfriend Ned (who kind of beats up a suspect, but somehow still remains boring)! Nancy is waylaid by street toughs!  Nancy is menaced by a guy named, I kid you not, Matey Johnson!

However,  since there was always a certain class of adult telling child-me that she should stop reading trash, things I learned when I read this book as a kid:

  • The existence of Belgium
  • How lace is made
  • A small amount of European history
  • French pronunciation (from asking my mom how on earth you say “François Lefèvre,” anyway)
  • And applicable to all Nancy Drew books generally, who the hell Titian was and why he was really attached to red

The Verdict: It was a lot of fun reading this book again, especially once it becomes a treasure hunt with attached love story. On the other hand, I think I’m about 25 years to old to read anything G-rated involving a “Matey Johnson”; I have difficulty viewing that character as anything more than a sailor on the S.S. Innuendo.

Might go well with : Chocolate, Remington Steele reruns.

 

Next time: The Highlander vs. the cops.

 

There Can Be Only Monday! Talking About Highlander…A Lot, Part 7

Last time: Law & Order: Jackasses

7. Enter the nerd.

Now arrested, Connor is presumably dragged off to the police station—and the first time I saw this, it did my heart good, because Highlander: The Series never seemed to spend a lot of time on things like disposing of headless bodies. I had almost begun to assume immortals just dissolved, so the cops finding Fasil and wanting to know what happened was like a little beacon of logic shining out of the movie.

Cut to the crime scene: a headless body (yay!),  a lot of angry people who would like to know why their cars exploded, and the heroine/love interest of the movie, Brenda Wyatt (we can tell she is going to be the love interest because she looks like a cleaned-up version of Connor’s 16th-century girlfriend: the guy seriously has a type). She’s a consultant/crime scene investigator, which is good since the police at the scene are played by Alan “the captain on Police Squad!” North and John “Always put one in the brain!” Polito, who need all the help they can get.

After being harassed by the idiot cops, Brenda starts to look around the scene and finds what everyone else apparently missed: a giant, shiny sword lying around. Admittedly, she is later revealed to be a weapons specialist, but I like to think I’d have noticed that too. There are a lot of things I love about this scene, though: she is obviously excited by her discovery, she uses gloves like a real technician…mostly I like that they have an expert at something, since so far we’ve seen bumbling policemen, charging Scots, Fasil losing his duel, and the Kurgan losing his chance by making a villain speech. She’s a nerd about something, in an era when you didn’t always see that in movies.

Then the following exchange takes place:

Lt. Moran, who cannot parse the words “Toledo Salamanca”: A what?

Brenda: A sword, Frank. A very rare sword.

Moran: Worth much?

Brenda: Only about a million bucks.

Am I crazy for thinking that there would then be some extra care taken with that sword? As we’ll see next week, I totally am.

 

Read the next one: Connor vs. Police Squad.

Next time: Still trying to pick a Found-Again subject for this week.

Next time on TCBOM: Connor vs. the cops. A battle of…wits.

 

Found-Again Friday: Dynasty

Come with me to another dimension; a dimension not of sight and sound, but of shoulder pads and sweeping hairdos. You are now entering…the Dynasty zone.

The Premise: Oilman Blake Carrington marries his secretary Krystle, who soon finds out that pretty much every rich person in Denver, and especially in the Carrington mansion, is batshit crazy.

Why Found-Again? I am now most of the way into the fourth season, so far down the rabbit hole of rewatching Dynasty that I can’t even remember what inspired me to re-view it. I was seven years old when the show first came on, and all I really remembered about it was that I loved Claudia and Kirby and hated Adam Carrington and Dex Dexter, and that Alexis was always making trouble.

I really have no idea what it says about me that every single one of those things is still true—or that as recently as a week ago I was screaming “Kill him!” at my TV, and for once not at any of the characters in Highlander or Robin of Sherwood, but at Jeff friggin’ Colby. Every single character on this show is his or her own worst enemy most of the time, but it’s absurdly easy to get sucked in and hard to stop caring, even when the show does all the completely inane things we remember from the era of ’80s soap excess: the catfights, the amnesia, the hysterical paralysis.

And then there’s Steven Carrington, who was among the first openly gay characters on television. He is referred to by some of the other characters in terms that will make your jaw drop in the early seasons, but the show never stops portraying him as a real and valuable human being, and it’s interesting to watch the way he develops as part of the show.

There are also things I didn’t remember at all from childhood, some of which are completely nuts—like this from James Farentino’s season 2 turn as psychiatrist Dr. Nick Toscanni, which has to be seen to be believed. It’s his first appearance on the show; Claudia has lost her daughter and attempted suicide, and this is Dr. Nick’s/Dynasty‘s idea of heroic measures (relevant part starts at 3:40 and goes till 6:55; and yes, he drives a DeLorean that looks like an extremely advanced tin can):

I was originally going to try transcribing that. I…don’t think I can.

The Verdict: Hard to tell. It’s very silly, and one gets the impression that Denver is maybe half a mile wide on each side, but I’m definitely hooked.

Next time: Arms and the woman.

 

 

 

Got Time To Kill This Holiday? Watch This!

Happy Thanksgiving, readers (if any)!

 

I’m a recent convert to old-time radio, and this Thanksgiving  YouTube, my cinematic Narnia, became Noir-nia when I discovered The Fat Man, the 1951 movie based on the radio series. J. Scott Smart, the same actor who voiced the titular detective in the radio series, stars, accompanied by a young Rock Hudson, Julie London, and Emmet Kelly. Check it out!

 

There Can Be Only Monday! Talking About Highlander …A Lot, Part 6

Last time: stabbing!

So the flashback ends and we’re back to our hero Connor, who’s just killed Fasil, blown up a parking deck with a Quickening, and made us all try to pretend we weren’t just handed the information that immortals are basically cosmic orgasm junkies—something that was easier to ignore before the bit with the hose coming loose and spewing fluid. (I simultaneously adore all the blatant phallic/sex imagery in this movie and dread admitting that to other people. Hello, internet!)

And it looks like he was smart enough not to have his fight on the same level where he parked, because we see him attempting to speed away in his (very nice and undamaged) car, only to be greeted by what looks like at least a dozen police. It makes you feel sorry for all the New Yorkers whose murders weren’t accompanied by semi-intentionally camp explosions.

Let’s try to reconcile this image—a guy fleeing a loud crime scene at top speed, tires squealing, an entire fleet of squad cars shutting him down—with some of the words we see in the prologue:

 

The Queen song is perhaps a thematic hint, since there’s nothing “silent” or “secret” about the beginning of “Princes of the Universe” either.

Connor is a guy who’s supposed to have been carving out a nice anonymous existence for himself for the better part of 450 years, and who may in fact have been hunting Fasil (see TCBOM part 1). What the hell is he doing? Perhaps some sort of plan would be in order?

Caught, he gets out of his car and is slammed against a police cruiser and searched by a bunch of cops who, in any other ’80s movie about New York, would have been a street gang. They’re so obnoxious you expect Charles Bronson to turn up and start breaking heads, and they introduce a recurring theme of stupid policemen in the movie. Later we’ll be introduced to Lt. Moran, who is played by Alan “the captain on Police Squad!” North, and by then there’s no hope, even though it’s not really fair to fault the police for not realizing a bunch of immortal duellists are running around.

As he is frisked, we get another flashback of 16th-century Connor’s last rites and revival, with bagpipe music just mournful enough that I have no idea who won that damn battle.

 

Read the next one: Future love interest: 1, Huge number of cops: 0.

Next time: Found-Again Friday visits the land of shoulder pads and a surprising number of argyle sweaters with the first four seasons of Dynasty.

Next time on TCBOM: Enter the nerd girl…and Alan “the captain from Police Squad!” North.