Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Faint at the Sight of Real Blood...However

When I get jaundiced-eyed reading the humorous polemics of C. Wright Mills, the ruminations of Dwight MacDonald from Partisan Review or even the salacious events surrounding the lives of Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord and Madame de Staël, I kick back with a case of Smirnov, pack my brain stem in the freezer, and watch an example of one of my favorite film genres: the Japanese splatter film.

Examples like Ichi the Killer, Battle Royale, Guinea Pig, Shogun Sadism, Machine Girl and Tetsuo, the Iron Man are so over the top in their blood-spurting excess, hot gore juggling, severed limbs bouncing, and agonizing diamond-splitting screams that I need a drop cloth and ear plugs as part of my viewing pleasure. I'd invite others over, but I can't afford an in-house metal detector.

Grindhouse, Tarantino's homage to the American gut-wrenchers of the 1970s, is an afternoon field trip to Peck's Petting Zoo. Saw, Hostel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre or Halloween franchises are like subtle allegorical works of art penned by Herman Mankiewicz in comparison to these buckets of blood.

Japanese splatter-gore is simply raw, unadulterated tens on the gag-o-meter. Many are adaptations of successful manga comics, which means the readership is mostly male and in the millions. Knives, chainsaws, razors, swords, pipes, and shivs come in contact with eyes, ears, noses, heads, genitalia -- the end result a technicolor spray of red dye and Karo syrup with prosthetic limbs thrown around like fists at a drunken wedding party. This is gonzo with ginzu.

Basic story lines feature revenge gone beyond the pale, followed by mass mutilations, geysers of blood, abattoir hoedowns and nifty wire work (when affordable). And what's not to love about those weird foot-tapping ABBA-esque pop culture bubble-gum ditties that come out of nowhere and are sprinkled over the most graphic scenes like carobs on Sundaes? Makes me want to jump up and cut open cantaloupes (even in off-season) with battle axes and samurai swords. Watching them without subtitles is recommended; half the entertainment is creating your own dialogue.

Tokyo Gore Police comes from the visual effects master Yoshihiro Nishimura, make up wizard behind Suicide Club, Machine Girl and other films emphasizing hemoglobin hi-jinks. Eye-balling Eihi Shiina, one of Japan's top models, dancing around in her school girl outfits, flowing kimonos and various other manga inspired accoutrement is difficult at best.

Perhaps Lupo the Butcher was one of the progenitors of rivers of red corpuscles as comic relief. I first saw this diamond about 20 years ago at an animation festival. I laughed so hard I still cough up blood. Danny Antonucci, the Canadian animator behind this classic went on to create Ed, Edd, and Eddy for the Cartoon Network. Had Lupo lived to have sons, they would have been these three boys, minus, of course, selected limbs.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Cultural Reference Older Than Six Minutes

My last blog was entitled "Wimpy is for Hamburgers, Not Americans." I thought it was a rather clever play on words and the title worked well for the main point of the post. With 2.5 millions Americans locked up in stir and with Supermax prisons dotting the countryside like big box roach motels, why the irrational concern from wimpy members of Congress, stoked by whiny media tele-prompter readers, towards adding a couple of hundred more guys from Gitmo to the ledger books? It wasn't as if these toughs were actual super villains who could bend metal or fly at the speed of sound.

I remember in high school being so clever with my double entendres and smart-ass remarks that 1) I got punched in the nose by teacher and student alike; 2) the principal christened my very own chair in detention; 3) I spent most Saturday night in my bedroom alone watching professional wrestling matches broadcast out of the Twin Cities; and 4) even I was confused by half the things I referenced. I would read the encyclopedia just to flavor my classroom disruptions with punchlines a tad more intellectual than "ya, says you" or "your momma wears combat boots from Yosts."

One day, I was slapped with three hours worth of detention for comparing boar, bore and Boer with the yawn factor of the teacher in front of me. Talk about being an obscurantist. None of my fellow classmates understood the final Boer reference, blowing the stand-up totally even though I was seated at the time. Mr. D. did, as he was English, had been born around 1900, and as I woefully discovered later, one of his cousins had died in an ambush there. I did get some laughs when I was dragged out of my seat and shoved out the door. My punishment: writing 50 times Rupert Brooke's poem, The Soldier.

I received several e-mails over the last 48 hours asking me to explain the meaning behind the "Wimpy is for Hamburgers, Not Americans" title. Was I making fun of hamburgers? Was I a vegetarian? Was I saying that Americans are "not?" I thought the line was self-evident. It never occurred to me I had written words in need of a footnote. Then I realized the title actually had a double meaning, one even I was not familiar with. Me bad. I apologize. I should have done a Google search myself.

I was referencing Popeye the Sailor's sidekick, J. Wellington Wimpy. Wimpy, as the above cartoon illustrates, will do anything for a hamburger. In fact, the character's "I would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" was, at one time, as famous an expression as "duck and cover." The Wimpy reference dates back to the 1930s. "Duck and cover" to the 1950s. I'll make my younger readers feel comfortable. So what do you think of The Vapors?

I had no idea that at one time there was an English fast food chain called Wimpys. My father was a butcher in Madison; what was the point of ever going out for a hamburger when I could have rib-eye any time I wanted?

So that's all there is, there ain't no more. Nothing subversive, just a plea for our Congressional representatives to stop whining like a bunch of politically grandstanding stick figures. Speaking of producing appropriate wood, this town in Hardin, Montana is certainly living up to its name.