Archive of articles classified as' "I Luvz Me Some…"Back home
In a lifetime of seeking out odd movies, few have come odder than this. If you’re a fan of low brow bawdy English musical hall comedy, offbeat low budget films, and/or a sci-fi completist have we got a movie for you!
Bees In Paradise is a 1944 quote quickie produced while England was still in the thick of WWII (though eventual victory was in sight). It mines the old trope of an idyllic society of females but does so with a decidedly contemporary twist: Though World War Two is never mentioned directly, it’s clear from the dialog that the women in the story have in direct response to the conflict raging around them deliberately rejected the war-like patriarchy of the Western world and set up on a remote island a new civilization deliberately patterned after a beehive. Males are kept (off camera) as workers and breeders; they have two months of mating time with a female in order to produce offspring and then they’re either executed or set adrift in a canoe!
Into the middle of this crash lands a civilian bomber ferry crew. There is, of course, rivalry among the females for the four men, a lot of songs, silly vaudeville routines, musical numbers, and the obligatory English male comedian in drag. What’s surprising is the straight forward discussion of gender politics, socio-economic systems, and women’s right to sexual self-determination.
Singin’ In The Rain this aint.
It also ain’t very entertaining. Oh, you have no idea how much I wish I could like this movie, even a little, but it just never ever jells on screen. Individual bits and routines bring an occasional smile (two comics try emulating a bit of Road To… movie business and when it fails moan that it always worked for Hope & Crosby!) but there’s just nobody in the movie to arouse any empathy with, the songs are clever and competent instead of actually entertaining, and the production itself looks rather threadbare (though they got excellent use out of sets left over from The Thief Of Baghdad).
I think it would be stretching things quite a bit to say that Bees In Paradise was an influence on Abbott & Costello Go To Mars or Queen Of Outer Space or even Invasion Of The Bee Girls, but it clearly got there first and did the most with the core idea. To that we tip our sci-fi propeller beanies.
The movie was directed and co-written by Val Guest, who later went on to write and/or direct such B-movie classics as the first Quatermass films, The Day The Earth Caught Fire, and When Dinosaurs Ruled The Earth; he was also part of the delirious, glorious mess that was the first film version of Casino Royale. What interest Bees In Paradise has for film buffs is that it’s a decidedly offbeat take on English morale during the middle of WWII, using a sci-fi setting ala Twilight Zone to examine a more serious issue, in this case the rapid change in gender roles and expectations brought about by the war.
 England restricted the number of foreign films that could be shown in the UK by requiring a certain percentage of home grown product for all films shown. In order to get the more popular Hollywood features, UK distributors often booked cheap, inexpensive British made films to raise the number of allowable imports. These were called “quota quickies” and were the equivalent of American B-movies (double features in the US would have an A feature and a B feature, so called because of their placement on the billing, but revenues for the double feature would be divided evenly between the two; US distributors would run low budget exploitation films along with higher priced major studio fare and receive a kickback from the low budget film maker).
 Pilots and air crew unfit for military service due to disabilities or age often were hired to fly military aircraft from their point of construction to their theater of service, thus freeing military pilots for combat duty.
 Meanwhile, as Guest was churning out this movie in merrie olde Englande, across the channel Marcel Carne was making his epic masterpiece Les Enfants Du Paradis right under the noses of the Nazis.
Ray Palmer and his protégé Richard S. Shaver are two of the most outlandish personalities in the history of science fiction — and in a field crowded with world class eccentrics, that’s saying something!
Fred Nadis’ new book, The Man From Mars, gives the reader only the barest of tastes of what the Ray & Rich Traveling Medicine Show was like, but it should be enough to amuse and educate the average reader.
Those of us who are long time sci-fi fans are already well acquainted with the shenanigans disclosed, and a little bit of on-line research will provide one with connections that fill the story out in full detail. But this ain’t a bad starting point.
Ray Palmer was a Midwest prodigy who, at age nine, suffered first a horrible spinal injury then a series of medical emergencies and infections related to it. Determined not to succumb to his disability (as an adult he was a hunchback well under five feet in height), he honed his mind and his body to the utmost of his abilities. Despite his physical handicap he worked as a sheet metal fitter and was an avid bowler.
Mentally, he took off like a rocket. Like many writers, his long periods of recovery from surgery and illness spurred him to read and think at great length, and his fierce determination only strengthened his will power.
Growing up at the same time Hugo Gernsback introduced “scientifiction” via Amazing Stories magazine, Palmer soon gravitated towards sci-fi and by age eighteen was the editor in chief of Amazing Stories itself. Palmer brought his own gee-whiz fannish sensibilities to the magazine and while Amazing Stories was not highly regarded among fans for its literary quality, it was accepted as part of the sci-fi community.
Then Palmer rescued the ravings of Shaver from his slush pile, re-wrote and revised his material, and nothing remained the same.
Nadis well documents Palmer’s tendency to play both sides against the middle in any intellectual debate, presenting “I Remember Lemuria” as a work of fiction but one based on the true “experiences” of Shaver (although Shaver would be first to admit he only recollected these experiences long after they had been buried in his sub-conscious). The “Shaver mystery” (as it became known) was about a war between ancient entities in vast underground caverns battling for the control of the human race, one side for good, the other side for evil; nothing that hadn’t been done before (viz. H.P. Lovecraft) but always as fiction, not fact.
Sci-fi fans of the era did not like their non-fiction chocolate mixed up with their fiction peanut butter and howled in protest at Palmer & Shaver’s loopy lost memory mysticism, but non-fans ate it up and the magazine’s readership burgeoned.
And just as the “Shaver mystery” was starting to lose steam, pilot Kenneth Arnold reported seeing UFOs near Mount Shasta and Palmer was off on a brand new chase, this one to lead him out of science fiction and into the realm of the modern ufology / mysticism / conspiracy theory movements.
Palmer is one of the founders of the whole flying saucer mythos, yet is routinely overlooked by researchers in that area, probably because his outlandish personality and contradictory stances make him difficult to pigeon hole.
Which is a pity, because as much of a huckster as Palmer was, it’s clear he was also a seeker of the truth, albeit it in directions far afield of accepted scholarly or spiritual disciplines. He died a generation too early to have seen the arrival of the internet, but one can sense he would have been perfect for that media.
The book is fairly well written, not quite as lively as the subject, but interesting. There are a few errors that I spotted, mostly minor stuff such as misidentifying covers, etc., that don’t undermine the broad strokes of the story but do make me wonder about each fact presented that hasn’t been verified elsewhere (while Palmer is not well known to the public at large, there is voluminous documentation of his professional publishing career).
A good gift for any sci-fi or flying saucer fan, for the science fiction historian, or as a library check out for the casual reader.
 Full disclosure: While I never had the chance to meet Ray Palmer, I corresponded with Richard S. Shaver via the pages of Title, a letter-zine of the 1970s. Shaver was as well read, polite, and coherent a correspondent as one could hope to encounter even if he was crazier than a woodpecker in a petrified forest.
 To put first time visitors at ease with his decidedly odd appearance, Palmer often jokingly introduced himself as a “man from Mars”.
 Gernsback having lost the title in a bankruptcy, and the new publisher being ill-equipped to capitalize on the market.
 Later it would be discovered that the period of his life in which Shaver recollected these lost ancestral memories was the same period of time he was undergoing hydro and shock therapy in various mental institutions, so go figure…
As classy French painters go, James Tissot was a solid second stringer. A good eye for detail and a sure hand at technique, he supported himself painting charming pictures of French scenes for the bourgeois. Had the obligatory scandalous artist life. Turned to religion in his later years.
Like I said, nothing too special about him…until he started painting pictures of Jesus. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what happened, but the ol’ boy went bonkers and began whipping out a series of water colors that — while historically accurate and in the artistic style of the day — would freak out the average Sunday school teacher.
I’ve changed my mind:
Pacific Rim is a grossly overproduced piece of crap.
We stumbled across Blame It On Fidel (La Faute à Fidel) while playing Netflix roulette. We had never heard of it, had no idea what it was about, just saw the poster thumbnail & decided to give it a whirl.
Boy, are we glad we did.
It is a delightful, charming movie, a drama but told with wit and humor. It’s a simple story but rich with complexity.
9-year-old Anna (played by Nina Kervel) is a middle class girl with a perfectly comfortable middle class life. Unfortunately for her complacency, her parents are becoming increasingly radicalized (the story is set in 1971 France). Anna’s life is soon thrown into complete disarray: The family’s declining finances force them to abandon their petit bourgeois lifestyle, she finds herself bombarded by contradictory and complicated ideas, when her parents aren’t fighting for the cause they are fighting each other, and all poor Anna wants is for some stability to be restored and things to return to normal.
For much of the film she opposes her parents’ choices and actions, a perfect little reactionary right in the middle of a cell of radicals. But despite their short-sightedness and self-centeredness, in the end when they are emotionally devastated by the overthrow of Allende (the father in particular was trying to atone for past failings by doing what he could to support the doomed Chilean government) it is little Anna who realizes somebody has to be the grown-up in her family, and it is she who offers support and compassion to her self-involved parents.
It sounds heavy (and some of the themes are) but director / co-writer Julie Gavras has a mercifully light touch and while the film is not comedic, humor does shine through (particularly funny is a scene where Anna wakes up to find her apartment filled with bearded radicals, whom she then gets into a hilarious economic debate, trying to educate them to the virtues of capitalism by playing shop; it’s absolutely absurd and rings true all at the same time).
After seeing Blame It On Fidel,
I had a startling epiphany:
It is the same story as Pacific Rim.
Oh, granted there are no giant robots in Blame It On Fidel, but the stories are identical. In each some larger, unknown, uncertain outside force overtakes everything the protagonist holds dear, and they must choose how to react to it in order to not just survive but emerge victorious.
The difference is that Pacific Rim creates a wholly imaginary and unreal threat. Yes, art is supposed to symbolize human concerns, but PacRim goes much too far afield. We are asked to feel empathy for characters posing in front of greenscreens as they battle nonsensical imaginary monsters, and to cheer their victory when they prove they have the
biggest dick meanest robot suit on the planet.
Compare and contrast with Anna, who has no weapons at her disposal, who can only cope with the ever changing situation by using her own mind and her own heart.
She doesn’t whip a miraculous solution out of thin air but eventually comes to realize a very simple, basic truth that enables her to cope with her chaotic home life; in fact, not merely cope but triumph over it by letting love and compassion replace the anger and bile that had been festering in her heart.
A beautiful story, an uplifting story, a meaningful story, and all told for a fraction of the cost of one day’s catering on Pacific Rim.
People, dial it back a notch…
I have just learned of the death of Richard E. Geis back in February of this year.
I am saddened to learn it, though not surprised, and certainly not surprised to have taken this long to become aware of it.
Dick was a loner, a recluse, a person more at home behind the keys of his typewriter than in face to face conversation.
I never met him,
but we were friends
for over 40 years.
Actually, it’s not really a kaiju movie:
It’s a giant robot movie, the latest in a long, long, long pedigree of giant robot anime and manga stretching back to the 1920s.
And that’s the problem.
Because it is tons o’fun and if there’s a soft sport in your
head heart for giant robots and kaiju, this will certainly set your cockles aglow.
But I found myself really working to like it.
First off, let us agree this has one of the worst marketing campaigns of any major movie ever:
It’s as if somebody sat down and deliberately crafted a campaign that would keep as many people out of the theaters as possible.
Here, lemme hitcha with what should have been the log line:
Boy meets girl, girl beats boy, together they fight giant monsters.
Giant robot movies are about the giant robots and their pilots. Kaiju movies are about the kaiju. I just saw the movie and I can’t remember the name of a single one of the kaiju, nor can I easily tell them apart.
This movie should’ve been cross promoted as a date film,
not something for giant monster geeks only.
Next, there’s nothing here the giant monster geeks haven’t already seen before.
It’s a Frankenstein monster of a movie:
The main body belongs to Neon Genesis Evangelion, with big hunks of Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea and Independence Day tacked on fore & aft.
And there’s a preggers monster ala Mama Godzilla in
And big monster parasites along for the ride ala Cloverfield…
And a Hong Kong straight outta Blade Runner…
With a smattering of Cthulhu on top…
It looks great (when you can see anything!) though the giant robots and their base seemed to be drenched in an inch thick patina of oil and grease.
Two really cool back up giant robot teams get virtually no screen time until they’re killed. There’s a big build up for what one thinks will be a major supporting character, but he vanishes as inexplicably as he appears.
The script is pretty smart…most of the time. But nuclear reactors can not explode, at least not like an atom bomb. But that’s not even the biggest technical gaffe in the film. The biggest gaffe occurs when the heroine
Allison Reynolds Lydia Johnson Mako Mori stands on a flight deck in the rain while a massive military helicopter lands within spitting distance and her umbrella doesn’t even quiver.
Which brings up a point about all the old classic Godzilla movies:
The best ones take themselves only seriously enough.
They recognize there is an inherent absurdity to their stories, and while sometimes they run off the rails going for the kid market approach, all of them approach their stories with a sense of fun.
While they weren’t cheap, they didn’t get bogged down by tons of onscreen detail and sensory overload. It is possible to spend too much on a project, to make it too big for itself.
There’s nothing in Pacific Rim that couldn’t have been done a whole lot better and with a whole lot more appeal in a more modestly budgeted all-CGI family film like Despicable Me or The Incredibles or Megamind or Monsters Vs Aliens.
Indeed, there are times when Pacific Rim seems like it was drenched in Fun-A-Way.
And by the way, can we also agree that Pacific Rim is a lousy lousy lousy title for a kaiju movie, in fact for any movie other than a surfing documentary?
I’m not really all that negative about Pacific Rim, just…disappointed. Guillermo del Toro did a good job directing, but it’s really the least of all his works. Travis Beacham wrote an okay script with some good, funny supporting characters, some smart stuff, a couple of clunkers, but a real 1: By 2: The 3: Numbers 4: Plot.
And I understand the studios’ concern re the story:
They’re sinking an ungodly amount of money into a story and they want to maximize their chances of recouping it, so they’re reluctant to present their audience with anything but the most basic copy-Aliens-playbook.
Which is a pity, because I kept hoping for a really radical ending, one where the hero manages to communicate with the kaiju and peacefully negotiate an end to their attacks…or else learn that the “Mitt Romney” and “Dick Cheney” characters were secretly selling out humanity to the monsters.
So let me say I liked Pacific Rim. I had a good time.
I don’t regret shelling out a ten spot to see it.
But will I ever watch it again?
I dunno…mebbe…probably not if I can re-watch Godzilla or Gorgo or Destroy All Monsters instead…
I can show you yet another CGI pic
of robots smacking kaiju with supertankers,
or I can just show you the most interesting thing in the movie…
 I use the term “kaiju” [literally “strange creatures”] to differentiate the skyscraper size behemoths popularized by the Japanese vs American style giant monsters (King Kong, Jurassic Park, etc.), which are relatively plausible insofar as dinos and large land mammals on that scale once existed, and big bug movies, which blow tiny creatures up to gigantic proportions but disregard the square-cube law.
 Which places it at about #15 or #16 on the all time great list
 It doesn’t help that the three most entertaining human characters in the movie — Newt (Charlie Day), Gottlieb (Burn Gorman), and Hannibal Chau (Ron Perlman) — don’t even appear in the trailers despite the fact they do everything short of backing a flat bed tractor trailer up to the studio & making off with this film.
 There was one that looked like a big monkey. Kinda. And another one sprouted wings and flew, which was okay, I guess. And then there was a really, really big one. It doesn’t help that almost all the battles are fought in low light conditions w/extremely poor visibility, edited together in between frequent Starbucks runs by a team of caffeine addicted ferrets w/ADD.
 They sure can melt down and cause all sorts of havoc with conventional steam pressure explosions and fires…
 Including the 1984–1995 Heisei series and the 1999–2004 Millennium series
 Or a porn movie. Or a surfing porno.