Eye of Fatima, formerly Magi, cannot let the buttocks go. We were talking about the remake of Bedazzled--I liked it but he was underwhelmed. I went on to say how terrific Brendan Fraser was in it, and how I was developing a real weakness for…
"Hold it right there," he said. "I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine."
Then he started to explain that he was quoting from "One Night in Bangkok," as if I didn't already know. But what he wanted to make absolutely clear was his absolute and unimpeachable inability to recall whether Fraser's naked bottom was featured in the movie. I don't recall myself, though it does seem like the kind of thing that would make an impression. At any rate, in the interests of harmony, the staff of The Cobra's Nose hereby believes formerly Magi currently Eye of Fatima's protestations that he has no interest in (male) rumps in general, and endorses his antipathy toward Michael Douglas's specifically. Unfortunately, the staff of The Cobra's Nose does not get off so lucky, as it has been permanently scarred by its exposure to said ass, which has been making regular appearances in movies since Douglas's debut in 1969's "Hail, Hero!".
While there never has been and never will be a shortage of bad movies, "Hail, Hero!" is one of those happy few which push through all the way through badness and come out good. Start with the title. I'm not making that punctuation up, just look at the video cover to the left. When I got my own copy of "Hail, Hero!" in the mail and saw this picture I nearly wept with joy. It captures perfectly the hubris of the film which is so thoroughly undermined by fuzzy headed sentimentality that the radical ambiguity it so clearly hopes to achieve gives way to an ineptitude that is cute as a button. Clearly, it portends change--storm clouds that are either gathering or dispersing, a sun that is either rising or setting, militaristic title lettering in flaming pink, a haircut that foretells those of tennis greats Billie Jean King and Martina Navratalova, etc. The behearted flag is wrapped around his nakedness like a bed sheet, exposing sloped shoulders and a swan neck. "He is the future of heroism," it proclaims, "and he is going to get his weenie ass pounded into the ground."
The movie opens with Douglas's character Carl Dixon playing toreador to a truck load of migrant workers. After he bravely stabs the truck's radiator with a stick, the workers cheer and shower him with rotten cabbage leaves. The scene effectively establishes Carl as a world class ninny given to pointless gestures, and I hope makes clear why "Hail, Hero!" must, simply must be viewed in the presence of as many vicious tongued critics as you can assemble to catch every bizarre nuance of Carl's odyssey. For instance, the reminiscence of a WWII vet under a clear blue sky in which he asserts, "It was a day just like this one; it was raining." Will the sight of horses, sheep, cattle, and ducks fleeing before Carl's approach (see photo, below) inspire charges of bestiality? Yes, but to be fair most lifeforms would flee (see photo, below). Will the family dog's appearance when Carl calls out for "my trusty steed" make any more sense after repeated viewings? No, but it does get funnier.
|The mystery of "Hail, Hero!", apart from "why was it made?", is why did Carl enlist in the army at the height of the Viet Nam conflict when he was a protestor and protected from the draft by his collegiate status to boot? "I signed up!" he chirps to everyone he meets, drawing nary a flicker of interest. He tells his mother, but she seems to have enough trouble remembering who he is to process why he might be there. His father is too preoccupied by his son's shaggy wig (Chewbacca had a more convincing 'do) to pay attention to why he is back in town sporting it. He sits Carl right down and gives him a trim, blowing away pieces of hair with little puffs of breath, all the while explaining real men do not grow their hair, though apparently they do cut and style it. Carl has a more rewarding conversation with his grandfather's grave, then sets out with his trusty steed and his horse to (aaarrg!) skinny dip. I'm warning you now so you will have a chance to cover your eyes. The sight took the incomparable Amy by surprise and she declared she had been rendered sterile by it. A lawsuit is pending. It's ugly, both the amazingly-flat-and-shapeless-in-one-so-young-heinie and its effect on loved ones, so do be cautious watching this part of the movie. You will know it's (relatively) safe to look when you hear the sound of two girls giggling, or when the screams die down from those who peeked, or when Carl proclaims himself to be "a beauuuuutiful warrior." He has put on his plaid boxers by then, and will soon say to one of the girls, "You have a great body. Want a cigarette?" (Did I miss something?) Shortly thereafter, the other girl will say, "I think you're freaky!" and jump into the water fully clothed. Which is too bad, because she misses out on Carl's story about the girl he used to know who would rather eat manure than peanut butter. It's a riot. Then, suddenly overcome by nostalgia, he rushes off to the cave where he and the girl used to sit around in the nude and raise mice, also nude. And then, something remarkable happens: Carl meets a character even more inexplicable than himself.
Miss Mirabel's is a withered hag whose main occupation seems to be smoking pot, with a sideline in digging the mummified carcass of a human baby out of the cave wall. She keeps it in a flower box with holes poked in the top, and when Carl sees it he decides he simply must have it. She takes a toke and says, "Well, I like your dog," then points to a cougar skin Carl has wrapped around himself. They hammer out a trade and Carl turns to go, when she puts a claw on his arm, squints at him and croaks, "What do you use to clean your private parts?" She cackles when Carl says, "What?" and replies, "I recommend acetone and yams. Drives the spiders crazy." If you have any idea what she is talking about, please keep it to yourself. Anyway, Carl invites her to dinner then leaves.
The dinner is for his brother Frank's birthday. Frank is played by made forTV movie ace Peter Strauss in his first film, and he threatens to spoil the fun by bringing gravity and authority to his role. Although Carl has spent the movie slandering his brother, and the audience is supposed to understand that the slander is justified by a crude remark Frank had allegedly made years before, Frank is the only one who looks Carl in the eye and calmly asks him why he is being such a dipwad. Carl crumbles immediately, as he does before anybody who exhibits a shred of dignity or logic, but fortunately their conversation is interrupted and he frolics off to a nursing home to annoy some old people and the movie is saved.
You must realize I can only give you a taste of "Hail, Hero!", and no, that's not nearly enough of this miracle of absurdity. Just when you think it's running out of steam, or that it might begin to make a particle of sense, BOOM! Here comes the mural Carl paints on the barn with flowers and horsies and planes dropping bombs, or BANG! It threatens to turn into gay porn (again). It doesn't stop, and it never lets on how nutty it really is because against all odds, this is a movie that shouts Prestige Project. Theresa Wright, one of classic Hollywood's most respected actresses, came out of retirement to play Carl's mother. Five time Oscar nominee and Tony winner Arthur Kennedy plays his dad. Michael Douglas as the son of a big movie star took the lead and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his trouble. Is that enough for a mention on A&E's Biography show? Nooooo. They'll get all tough with the likes of Rasputin and Hitler, but when profiling Michael Douglas, they falter. Remember that if you are tempted to believe that show has an ounce of credibility. And remember the name "Hail, Hero!" the next time you are out looking for movies to rent, or if you think you might run into Michael Douglas socially, as Rebecca P. dreamed she did after seeing it the first time. She imagined, "He bit his lip (in a Molly Ringwald sort of way), blushed red and changed the subject like some kind of professional." Let me know if that happens.
On the set of "Hail, Hero!", single-handedly setting back the parasol movement.