Monday, January 30, 2006

Snake Plissken...?

Received some great news today that I get to write an episode of the series I'm working on. Although the tone of the show is slapstick comedy, I feel up to the task. And, God, I need some levity and need to be able to write it. I mean, come on, Blazing Saddles and Arrested Development have brought me so much joy; I grew up watching the Abbott and Costello movies and worshiping the Marx Brothers; and Animal House and Dumb and Dumber rank high on my all time favorite movie lists. Some of it has to have rubbed off on me.

No, I feel good about this. It also helps that the writing staff is very supportive and I will be able to bounce ideas off of them.

Thinking back on all of those movies I watched as a kid stirs up memories of Matt. The two of us must have seen every movie at the old First Run Video store back in North Olmsted. That was, I believe, the very first video store in town. Maybe American Video opened around the same time, but I never heard of American Video until I went to work there in high school (and the Blockbuster didn't open until 1987 either).

My mom won a VCR back in the early 80's; I was in 7th grade. At the time, no one I knew, besides the rich kid I hung out with (who also had one of the first big screen projection televisions) had a VCR. So, when Mom asked me whether she should claim the prize (3rd prize at a home show), I ran around the house screaming. At this pint in my life, I knew I wanted to be a writer, but screenwriting had not entered my mind. I was just excited that we'd be able to rent all of those horror movies Matt and I read about in Fangoria magazine (horror movies that Tony worked on).

That's what we started with... horror movies. For months on end, we watched whatever gory bloodfest we could get our hands on. And my parents were cool with it. I believe that because of Tony, and the fact that we read so voraciously about how make up effects were done, my mom and dad didn't think these horror movies would warp our minds. The jury is still out on that one. At some point, my dad made me agree to watch an old movie with him as a condition to watching whatever I wanted
This is where my love for movies developed and eventually I realized I wanted to become a filmmaker. I saw so many Hitchcock and classic 70's movies at that time. Is still recall seeing Marathon Man for the first time. "Is it safe?"

In 7th grade, Matt and I were still in the Advanced Study Program together. During that year, us ASP kids spent most of the day win Mrs. Whitwell's class. She was a feisty English woman who knew how to put a snotty band director's kid in his place. That year, Matt and I did a presentation on "horror." What is horror? That was the questioned we posed. It was a pretty kick ass oral presentation. We had a four sided diagram on poster board. We turned out the lights and had a black light and strobe light flickering. As we spoke, spooky music played over my tiny cassette player. The presentation ended with "Under Pressure", the Queen/Bowie song. I'm not sure how a couple of 7th graders were able to grasp the message of that song. Part of me believes that we dug the song because it was by the same guys who did the soundtrack to the Flash Gordon movie. Matt and I saw that together.

Soon after we came home with our flip top VCR, Matt convinced his parents to buy their own VCR. "Everyone's going to have one, " he told them. Boy, was he right. We watched Dawn of the Dead and a horrible movie called Maniac propped up on our elbows and jacked up on pop and candy. Matt's dad was also into the classics, but he didn't want anything to do with those old movies. Give me what was new! In color, damn it! Still, he latched on to 2001 at some point. I still don't get that movie. Most of the movies I saw at that time still hold a special place in my heart. Along with the novels of Stephen King, the movies of John Carpenter, David Cronenberg and George Romero shaped who I am... is that bad.

One of our favorites was Escape from New York. Adrienne Barbeau was smokin' hot (boy, would Matt have gotten a kick out of the fact that she's in American Standard); Donald Pleasance was creepy; the music was cool and Kurt Russell was BAD ASS. "Snake Plissken... I heard you was dead." We used to say that to each other. I watched that movie about eight years ago and I was disappointed at how much it dragged. I couldn't believe this was the same flick we'd worshipped.

I think it was because Matt wasn't there to watch it with me.


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