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  • Seven Old Movies Based on a Premise That Couldn’t Happen Today

    Posted on July 28th, 2018 "Tiki Chris" Pinto 2 comments

    Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney in Laura

    Before cell phones, wi-fi and unlimited internet, people relied on wired telephones, fax machines and radio to communicate. Cutting someone off from help was as easy as cutting a phone line or knocking out their electricity. Many books, and of course movies, had plots based on the idea of “no way out”, or no way to get help in a bad situation. Or, had a plot that depended on not being able to be found, or communicate with, other people.

    Here’s my collection of movies that could never take place in our present, tech-heavy world.

    The Shining, 1980

    Premise: Cut off from the world in a secluded hotel, a family deals with loneliness and solitude…and malevolent spirits. Winter storms knock out the phone lines and block the only road with snow. Their only communication with authorities is a 2-way radio, and once that is disabled, there’s no conventional way to reach anyone for help.

    Today: “The Overlook Hotel”, being a very popular resort, would absolutely have excellent cell phone reception and wi-fi. By 2018, they would probably have buried the phone lines to keep the phones working in storms.  Even if they didn’t, the snow wouldn’t affect the cell phone towers, so they would be able to use their mobile devices for Social Media, phone calls, watching TV, etc. The seclusion factor would be minimized…and the ghosts wouldn’t be nearly as scary, as a hotel that haunted would no doubt be the star in multiple ghost-hunter TV shows and overnight events.

    Laura, 1944

    Premise: A woman is murdered by a shotgun blast to the face in her apartment. She is assumed to be Laura, the resident of the apartment, but it is later discovered that the real Laura was at a secluded cabin with a broken radio, no phone, no newspaper and no connection to the outside world. The murderer’s alibi is that he was doing a live radio performance at the time of the murder, but it turns out to be a recording.

    Today: Where shall we begin??? Laura, even in a secluded cabin, would have had her cell phone. Even if we assume she didn’t have any reception, the cabin would probably at least have wi-fi, and a land line. So she would have been reachable…once the police realized it wasn’t Laura who was murdered (again…even without an autopsy, her friend would have undoubtedly had her own cell phone with her, and her ID. ID wasn’t a big deal in 1944…many people didn’t have any. Today it’s a necessity). And the murderer’s alibi would have been easily checked today, and very few radio, podcasts, or TV programs are done live.

    Red Dawn, 1984

    Premise: Soviet/Communist paratroopers invade America undetected. Scattered, a group of teenagers with no way of calling for help wages guerilla warfare against the invading army.

    Today: There are so many satellites monitoring every inch of America…both government and civilian (Google), it’s hard to imagine any kind of “sneak attack” from the sky. Planes are monitored by computer, and even if an invading army managed to get some troops to drop out of a half a dozen planes, our militarized police and the fact that is an estimated three million AR-15 rifles in the hands of civilians, makes the scenario kind of impossible. Add to that, that the minute paratroopers started falling out of the sky thousands of people would start videoing them and calling the cops on their cell phones that it isn’t likely an air invasion would be very effective.

    Blackboard Jungle, 1955:

    Premise: Juvies and greasers causing mayhem at school.

    Today: Forget it. Those kids would have been arrested on day one.

    The Exorcist, 1973:

    Premise: A young girl is possessed by a demon. Doctors and psychiatrists can’t help, and two priests are called in to do an exorcism.

    Today: Because this takes place in Washington DC, to a girl with a non-religious parent who is a well-known actress, it’s very likely the family wouldn’t keep this quiet. The girl and the mother would post about it on social media. As it worsens, doctors, psychiatrists, holistic healers, the CDC, you name it…would be offering their help online. Doctor Phil or whatever daytime TV doctor is on at the time would have them on the show. The demon would probably get so freaked out by all the attention that it would just leave. If not, the exorcism would be done on-air, in front of a live audience of several million. The world’s first live-televised exorcism would not be condoned by the Catholic church, but they’d find some willing participants nonetheless. After the successful exorcism, people would argue on social media for years to come whether it was a Hollywood stunt like the Fox alien autopsy film, eventually coming down to party-lines with the religions right saying it was real and atheist liberals calling it a hoax.

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974

    Premise: A van-load of kids go looking for their family’s abandoned house in Texas, only to be terrorized and murdered by cannibals.

    Today: The whole plot hinges on them needing gas, separating and not being able to communicate with each other. Unless there are vast areas with no cell reception in Texas, they could have called AAA for the gas and each other at the first sign of trouble.

    Jaws, 1975

    Premise: A giant, hungry shark terrorized a small town’s beachgoers and boaters.

    Today: At the first sign of trouble the town would shut down the beach due to insurance costs and not wanting to get sued. To make up for the lost tourist revenue, the town would invite everyone from the Sharknado guys to the Shark Hunters to National Geographic to film and exploit the mega-shark.

    Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986

    Premise: A high school kid ditches school with his best friend and girlfriend for a day of adventures. Hijinks include joyriding in the friend’s dad’s $100,000 dollar vintage Ferrari, going to a ball game, singing in a parade and posing as Chicago’s Sausage King to get into a fancy restaurant. All while Ferris pretends to be sick.

    Today: Since the Principal suspected Ferris of foul play, he would call Ferris and his friends on their cells through the day, and would get the cops to use GPS to track their whereabouts. That $100k Ferrari is now a $15M museum piece that would have had a hell of a lot more security on it than a glass garage. With social media, everyone would be wondering why sick/dying Ferris and his family wasn’t posting constant updates on his condition…or, everyone would realize he either just didn’t feel good or was, in fact, ditching. No flowers, no fundraiser. And, it’s probably that Ferris would have been arrested for jumping on the parade float…hell, in today’s Chicago, he might have been shot for it.

    So there it is, folks. Thank God for the old days!

    -Tiki Chris, reporting from the screening room at Tiki Lounge Talk

     

     

  • Watching Old Movies on the Big Screen: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

    Posted on June 15th, 2018 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    Most of us were born too late to watch flicks like The Maltese Falcon and Gone With The Wind in the theater. In my case, I was born too late to even see things like Jaws on the big screen.

    Luckily for us, over the years some local art house theaters showed some of the best…lucky, if you were lucky enough to live near one. For most of my life the best I could hope for was a midnight showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, although in the 90’s I did get to see Casablanca at the local 4-screen cinema, and Dracula vs. Frankenstein at an Art House.

    Now, between Fathom Events doing special viewings at out local multi-plex, and multiple art houses doing special engagements, I’ve been lucky enough to catch some great ones…and some not so great but really fun ones.

    In the past two years I FINALLY got to see The Shining on the big screen…Raiders of the Lost Ark again…The Maltese Falcon…and more recently Killer Clowns from Outer Space. Not all from the mid-century era, I know, but still cool.

    Tonight we are going to see one of my top favorite movies of all time…The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the original from 1974. It’s part of the Popcorn Fright Nights Film Festival being held at Savor Cinema, aka/previously Cinema Paradiso in Fort Lauderdale, FL. In a wonderful tribute to the theme of the movie, they are including a BBQ dinner. I’m not asking what kind of meat it is.

    It may seem odd to consider “Chainsaw” to be an old movie. But when you think about it…Maltese Falcon is from 1941…which means Falcon was only 33 years old when Chainsaw came out…and Chainsaw, at the time of this writing, came out 44 years ago! Mind blown yet?

    What’s the big deal about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

    When I was a kid, the movie was already a legend. This was before VHS or cable, so the only way to see old movies was on TV. And this movie, as far as I know, NEVER made it to TV. It was talked about as being so violent, so gory, that it had been banned in several countries (this turned out to be true). So kids like us never got to see it, at all.

    Then HBO came along in the 1980s, along with video tape rentals. I got to see The Shining for the first time on HBO (and it screwed with my head for years). Then I finally got to rent Chainsaw as a teenager. I was not disappointed. Not only was it a good horror movie, it was just insane. The way it was filmed, the art direction, everything about this movie was so different from Freddie and Jason and Micheal, so gritty and a REAL. Disturbingly real. The low-budget only affected the quality in so much as it made it more realistic, more insane.

    Some of the things that stood out to me, that made the film really stand out and enjoyable:

    (Spoilers ahead):

    • That claustrophobic van. It reminded me of the stifling heat riding in my Dad’s van, no AC, middle of the summer. Horrifying.
    • The creepy guy washing the bugs off the van at the gas station.
    • Realizing later in the movie what the “barbecue” they ate at the gas station actually was.
    • Creepy abandoned looking house with dozens of cars parked close together, under camo. Who’s cars are they?
    • That sliding steel door.
    • The body jumping around as his nervous system reacted and died out.
    • Are those real chickens? Are those real bones?
    • Nice sofa.
    • Girl on a hook.
    • Finally killed that annoying guy in the wheel chair.
    • Poking the girl with the broom handle and laughing.
    • Whack on the head with the hammer.
    • Are those dead bodies mummified in those chairs?
    • Holy cow that guy isn’t a mummy, he’s still alive!
    • Who’s your interior decorator? Oh, right.
    • Guy getting run over with all the wheels of the truck.
    • Chainsaw on the leg!

    I can go on and on, but I think you get the idea. If you’re a fan of the movie, you’re saying, “Oh yeah!”, if you haven’t seen it, you’re saying, “Whut?” That’s ok. You need to see it. Here’s the trailer:

     

    -Tiki Chris, reporting from the Screening Room at Tiki Lounge Talk

  • A Few Words About David Bowie…

    Posted on January 11th, 2016 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments
    David Bowie, 1967

    David Bowie, 1967

    On the day of his passing, January 10, 2016, here’s a few words about David Bowie, may he rest in rock n roll heaven:

    Although not considered a part of the mid-century music that we love here at the Tiki Lounge, many people don’t realize that Bowie’s career began way back in 1962, when he played sax in a band he formed with his friends. He was truly part of the “new generation” of kids that dug rock n roll over swing and jazz, and of course went on to be one of the musicians who transformed the music landscape. For this reason, I believe he should be remembered as part of the history of mid-century culture.

    Although not my personal taste, I appreciate how Bowie’s music touched millions, including many of those who grew up on Tommy Dorsey and Bing Crosby, who expanded their musical tastes later in life (my Mother was one of those people…born in 1943, she became a huge fan of musicians like Bowie, Hendrix, etc.) And although not my taste, a few of his songs, to me, broke through and stood aside from his usual format, songs like Let’s Dance (borrowing the title from the 1930s/40s Make Believe Ballroom theme and Benny Goodman’s opening theme), and the jazz chord-infused Changes, where Bowie plays the alto sax solos.

    So today we say goodbye to a true musician and artist, a man who devoted his life to his craft and to making people sing and dance. Cheers to you, David Bowie…the music in heaven just got a little more exciting now that you’re there.

    -Tiki Chris

     

  • MAD MEN Series Finale – One Last Comment

    Posted on May 17th, 2015 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    mad-men-peggy-donMay 17, 2015: Christopher “Tiki Chris” Pinto, author of several novels set in mid-century America, discusses his thoughts and ideas on the MAD MEN series on the eve of its series finale.

    They are calling it “The End of an Era”, a fun double entandre that eludes to both the end of the era that Mad Men represents, and the end of one of modern television’s most respected and acclaimed shows. It’s the series finale of a TV program that promised us a glimpse into the events and lives of our favorite era, the era of mid-century pop culture, of cocktails and Tiki bars, Bachelor Pad music and finned cars.

    And as we prepare to watch the finale, I have to admit I look back at the past 7 seasons with a bit of disappointment. Not in the quality of the show or its writing,  and certainly not in the fine acting. Not even in the enjoyment I’ve had watching it, absorbing it, and appreciating the small details and hidden meanings that made it so great. Just in the fact that it moved way too fast into the 1960s for my taste, and for most of my friends who also tuned in to watch a show about mid-century cocktail culture in the 1950s.

    Because when MAD MEN was first promoted, that’s exactly what it promised: A look into the lives of the cocktail culture set, played out during the 1950s, defined by the most notorious drunkards of the time, advertising executives. We got what we expected in season one, from sexy, accommodating secretaries in tight dresses to smarmy, misogynistic, Martini-swilling ad men with thin ties and pocket squares, driving big fancy cars and taking over the world one account at a time while their wives played the part of homemaker with the kids. We got to see incredible, larger than life ad pitches that rarely happen in the real world but fit perfectly into our imagination’s concept how the good old days must have been. And we were treated to all this eye candy with the best background tracks plucked from the Ultra Lounge series of Bachelor Pad and Exotica tunes of the day.

    But we were misled (by advertising!). Almost as soon as it started, the 1950s decade ended in MAD MEN, swinging us full-on into 1960 before the paint on Roger’s ’59 Caddy had a chance to dry. But we were OK with that, because, after all, it’s mostly agreed that the golden era of cocktails and mid-century pop ended somewhere around the time of Kennedy’s assassination, the coming of The Beatles, and escalation of the Vietnam war. So we figured “our show” would linger in the early ‘60s, maybe with more glorious flashbacks to the 1950s.

    cadillacs

    Car styling as well as advertising styles changed dramatically from the late 1950s to early 1960s. The elegance and grandeur of fins and chrome surrendered to a much more conservative look, and that was reflected in the simpler, plainer ads.

    Not so, of course, as this was not “our show”, it was Mathew Weiner’s. And Mr. Weiner happens to be a huge fan of 1960s pop culture. His intent from the start was to base the show at the END of the cocktail era, and show the drastic changes that took place in American culture in the 1960s. AMC may not have made that fact obvious in their advertising, but they sure as hell hooked us in.

    Don’t get me wrong…it’s a great story, and one that Mathew Weiner has told incredibly well, from a perspective not seen before. Let’s face it…whenever someone makes a show or movie about the 1960s, it’s always from the point of view of the young, the rebels, the hippies and college kids who wanted to change the world, not from “the man”, the established middle class who fully enjoyed the world they had created after WW2. It’s about time someone told the story of the anti-anti-establishment, the coolest cats and kittens who dug drinking at the Tiki bar and thought hippies were kooks.

    And yet, as the series comes to a close, I can’t help but personally ask, “Is That All There Is?” Couldn’t the show have lingered just a little more in the late 1950s/early 60s? Couldn’t there have been fewer time jumps, where the show could have done some more things with what was happening before the major culture-changing events of the 1960s, especially with advertising?

    It just seems to me, as a writer, that there were so many juicy things going on that got glossed over or completely ignored. For instance, color television made a huge impact on the industry. Directors and camera operators were suddenly faced with shooting TV spots that looked good in both black and white AND color. Production costs rose. More people needed to be hired to accommodate the changes. Agencies were in upheaval, trying to figure out how to accommodate the new medium while remaining profitable (just like they have with the internet). That alone would have made a good season thread, if not a multi-show plot line.
    And what about changes in the auto industry? Sterling-Cooper made every effort to get a car on the roster. But the show never went into how difficult it was to effectively advertise/market automobiles at a time (1959-64) when horsepower, styles and tastes were changing faster than the liquor bottles on Don’s minibar. Back then car styles changed pretty drastically every one or two years. When you consider that today’s models usually stay exactly the same for 5-8 years, you can imagine how difficult it must have been to convince buyers that the car they just bought last year was out of date junk. I really would have liked to see the show back up to around 1958, and get the Edsel account. Imagine how much fun that would have been!

    playboy bachelorAnd then of course, there is the whole concept of the Playboy bachelor, the never-married, successful young man who drives an Austin Healey sports car, listens to Martin Denny, reads Esquire and of course Playboy, drinks Macallen Scotch and plays golf on weekends before hitting the nightclubs in search of a tipsy, willing bird. It really surprises me that not a single major character on MAD MEN was single because he wanted to be. What a fun and interesting addition a true cocktail set bachelor would have made to this show!

    But that’s just my own personal opinions and ideas, and that’s not the show. That’s not MAD MEN as Mathew Weiner envisioned it. We may have been misled by AMC’s advertising in the beginning, but we soon realized this wasn’t going to be a show about the 1950s. It was about the ’60s, and how that decade changed everything. And guess what?

    We still love it.

    Adieu, Mad Men, and thank you Mr. Weiner for bringing us one hell of a show.

    – Christopher “Tiki Chris” Pinto, reporting from the television viewing room at Tiki Lounge Talk

  • MAD MEN Season 7 Premier: What you need, to watch the beginning of the end

    Posted on April 13th, 2014 "Tiki Chris" Pinto No comments

    mad_men_season_7_poster Tonight starts a bittersweet journey through the final 12 episodes of MAD MEN, arguably one of the best dramas ever to be transmitted over the airwaves. Sweet, because we get to enjoy another season of Don Draper bulldozing his way through life. Bitter, because it’s the last time we’ll get to enjoy Don Draper bulldozing his way through life. And to make it a little more bitter, AMC has decided to split the season in half: Six episodes will be aired this year, with the remaining six to be aired sometime next year. (Era-appropriate note: Cold war era audiences would not stand for such nonsense, as it was never a given that there would be a “next year”.)

    Matthew Weiner has given us a tiny glimpse into the very end. He recently told The Hollywood Reporter, “What has really been the pressure this year, no matter what happens, is that these people are going to end this season frozen in time. That’s the last time we see them.”

    But let’s not dwell on the impeding end. Let’s talk about how we can celebrate this fantastic piece of yesteryear, right now, in the present. So here are some Tiki Lounge Talk suggestions on how to make tonight’s premier a little more fun, and a little more exciting.

    Cocktails (of course): Martinis, Manhattan, Screw Drivers…the most popular drinks of the 1950s were also very popular at the end of the ’60s, but there are a few new ones that you can add to your menu, including…

    The Emma Peel
    The tough honey from The Avengers TV series earned her own cocktail. Just add a cherry to a champagne flute, mix 1 oz chilled cherry brandy and 1 oz chilled pineapple juice and top with champagne.

    Southern Comfort Manhattan
    Two oz So Co, one oz sweet vermouth and three cherries, on the rocks.

    The Hippie Cocktail
    1 oz. Gin, 1 oz. Peach schnapps, 0.5 oz. dry vermouth, 1 tbs. Grenadine, 3 oz. Ginger ale
    Put a half lemon wheel, half lime wheel, half orange wheel in a large old fashioned glass, and half fill with ice. Mix it up so the fruit is suspended in the ice. In a shaker add all ingredients except the ginger ale, with ice. Shake and strain into the glass, top with ginger ale. Garnish with a daisy.

    swanson-tv-dinnerDinner: TV dinners were as popular as ever in the late 1960s…possibly even more popular than the ’50s, as more people watched the tube and had less time to cook. I wonder if any of these still come in tinfoil trays?

    Attire: This is a big event, so you should be dressed for the occasion. Resist the temptation to throw on ripped jeans and a tie-died t-shirt. Believe it or not, people were still dressing up in the late 1960s. Most restaurants wouldn’t allow gentleman to dine without a jacket and tie, and many frowned upon pantsuits for the ladies. Business attire still meant black, blue or gray conservative suits for the men (even if they could get away with some colorful, double-breasted, wide-lapeled beauties at the track) and long dresses or skirts for women. Of course this was also the heyday of the Mod era, so if you’ve still got that Austin Powers costume you bought in 1998, break it out!

    1969-fashions

    Snacks: After the TV dinner, you’re going to want some ’60s style snacks to get you through the rest of the hour. If you want to be era-accurate, you just have to stick with the traditional things: Plain potato chips, corn chips, mixed nuts, homemade onion dip, melted Velveeta and salsa dip, Doritos (invented in 1964) and pretzels. Stay away from anything too modern like Bugels, or things that promise “extreme” flavors…although it was an era of extremes, they never called it that.

    For more reading, there’s a good, non-spoiler article on the Mad Men Season 7 Premier at The Hollywood Reporter.

    -Tiki Chris Pinto, reporting from the screening room at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar