by Tony Dayoub
It's my birthday, which I share not because I want you to leave me some mushy comment (that's what Facebook is for), but because it's my way of saying this post is going to be written in the spirit of this special day. That is, I could write about the Seventies gem Five Easy Pieces (1970), which I saw last night at Atlanta's historic movie palace, the Plaza Theatre, in a restored print celebrating the film's 40th anniversary; or some marvelous presents I received today, Criterion's Blu-rays of 8 1/2 (1963) and Red Desert (1964), as well as the Blu-ray of Hitchcock's classic, North by Northwest (1959); all beautiful films which deserve deeper thoughts than I'm willing to bring forth today. Instead, I'll save those for the near future because today, I'm just kicking back, dashing off some quick notes on some of the other gifts I got today which, though excellent in every way, don't really deserve something epic in the way of critical consideration.
The first gift I received was a screener for Tuesday's big new DVD release, Hot Tub Time Machine (2010), given to me by MGM Home Entertainment (who were completely unaware it was my birthday). I might have bitched about the annoying anti-piracy label which pops up randomly on each of the four corners of the screen from time to time. But why bother? This movie is the prime example of one you can completely enjoy while having a conversation, reading a book, or reminiscing about the era it depicts while you lay in your bed with your spouse, all of which I did two nights ago. Obnoxiously funny (mostly due to Rob Corddry), Hot Tub Time Machine is a movie aware of its titular shortcomings, and it wallows in them, recreating the crap-tastic "ski-resort sex comedy" (i.e., the similarly title-challenged Hot Dog... The Movie) genre stylings it pokes fun at quite expertly. Simultaneously a total waste of time and utterly hilarious, I am not reluctant to say it's worth a look.
The Warner Archive Collection gifted me, also ignorant of the special occasion. Two on a Guillotine (1965) is a campy cult classic reminiscent of those gimmicky William Castle haunted house spook-fests which got more unintentional laughs than actual chills and have served as fodder for some lamentable recent remakes. What's not to love about Guillotine for this TV-baby? Directed by a pre-Cannon William Conrad, it stars a post-Hawaiian Eye Connie Stevens, a pre-Love Bug Dean Jones, and a pre-Batman Cesar Romero. Which is to say its too-earnest, noirish atmosphere is undercut by uneven second-shelf performances. Notably, it does contain the last score by the legendary Max Steiner (Gone with the Wind) did for Warner. Conrad's visual flair is also strongly supported by the crisp black-and-white photography of Sam Leavitt (Anatomy of a Murder), showcased pretty strongly by this newly remastered Manufactured-On-Demand DVD. Appearances by Parley Baer, John Hoyt, and Richard Kiel (Jaws in Moonraker) close the deal.
This next present is no joke. Bestowed by my lovely wife, the new Star Trek III: The Search for Spock double CD compiled by Film Score Monthly takes me back to my childhood. James Horner's soundtrack was the first one I ever purchased on vinyl, and I played it until I memorized every anticipated hiss or pop. But FSM's package bests the original not only because of the high fidelity CD-quality affords. it offers two distinct programs, one which duplicates the 44-minute original LP, and for the first time, a second 70-minute one which duplicates the complete score as heard in the film. One of Horner's best scores, the Klingon theme, is the most memorable for reasons that may surprise listeners. It was reworked very minimally for use in James Cameron's Aliens (1986) just two years later. Anyone who hasn't visited FSM's website is missing out on a mother lode of rare film scores worth checking out.
Anyway, that's it. Hope you enjoyed getting to know the more unusual corners my taste often runs to. To paraphrase my friend Chris Wadsworth's birthday message to me, May you have a Knight and Day-free weekend!