invasion of the paramount: day five

day five brings us a pair of strange bedfellows courtesy of stacey fellers, the paramount's executive marketing director. we begin with rowdy, that's right - rowdy, herrington's road house (1989).

you know those cookbooks where they go into the lab and retroengineer name brand products so you can make them at home? well, i think i have cracked the code so you can whip up your own road house:

1 cup high noon (1952)
2 cups every which way but loose (1978)
10 pounds of explosive charges
6 cans of aquanet
1 throat, ripped
1 truck, monster
3 quarts of dirty dealing
1 teaspoon of dirty dancing (1987)
1 truckload of velveeta

stir together until messy, sprinkle liberally with bone crush'ns and overheat for 114 minutes. voila! don't bother saving ben gazzara any. there's no way he has any room left after all the scenery he chewed. holy cats! this movie is just nuts. it exists in a world where bouncers are spoken of in awed, hushed tones and people routinely spend their saturday nights heaving beer bottles at blind guys. patrick swayze plays a bouncer with advanced degrees in philosophy, hair feathering and kicking ass. he is tapped to clean up a small town beer joint that resembles the thunderdome more than a bar. in doing so, he runs afoul of ben gazzara, who has somehow managed to become incredibly wealthy by extorting a town that seems to have only about half a dozen businesses in it altogether. i guess the feed store does a brisk business. sam elliott shows up as swayze's mentor and is cool in that sam elliott way until gazzara's goons stick a knife in him. swayze is pushed to the breaking point, having watched gazzara and his minions take everything he cares about and stab it, blow it up or run over it with a monster truck, and he goes for the throat. hey-o! we get to the final showdown and, just as swayze is having his zen moment, the downtrodden townsfolk show up and blow gazzara full of holes, leaving swayze and the hot lady doctor, kelly lynch, to bone with clear consciences. did i mention this was BASED ON A TRUE STORY? this madhouse has rightfully slugged its way onto the mount rushmore of modern camp classics. it is a goldmine of lines-that-weren't-meant-to-be-funny and the unintentional(?) homoeroticism is nearly off the charts. it has no regard for its characters and rolls right over everything in its path on its way to valhalla. it really is the last gasp of a certain, very specific type of exploitation film and does it ever put that pedal to the floor. it's like the eighties were dying before their very eyes and everyone involved in this project was bound and determined to squeeze every last explosion and brawl from it before the bitter end. i stand in qualified awe of its dubious merits.

going from one of hollywood's favorite hoofers to another, we follow that, somehow, with vincente minnelli's an american in paris (1951).

it is a lithe and lively musical adaptation of george gershwin's tone poem of the same name from 1928. gene kelly plays the titular expatriate, trying to make a living as a painter in the city of light just after world war two. he is having little success, though, until his work is noticed on the street by a wealthy patron of arts who  apparently makes it a habit of falling for artistic types that leave her high and dry. well, she's not breaking that pattern any time soon, as kelly promptly interrupts their first date to fall in love at first sight with leslie caron. he doggedly pursues caron, winning her heart while ignoring his patron's overtures, but there is a fly in the ointment. that fly is one his best friends that caron is going to marry out of a sense of obligation for his protection during the war. don't worry. true love triumphs in the end. it's paris, don't be a maroon. plot-wise, it's standard issue musical melodrama. that's not why we're here. we're here for gershwin's music and the incredible dancing on display. it is among the best ever committed to film. interspersed throughout the movie are a handful of musical interludes featuring all of our principals, each one thoroughly entertaining, capped by an astounding sixteen minute finale. it is a ballet set to the title tune and even for people like me, not typically a fan of musicals, it is impressive, depicting kelly's ardor in a series of technicolor reveries that span the length and breadth of the city and his romantic imagination. kelly has always been my favorite of hollywood's classic musical leading men for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that just underneath the surface he is a bit of a bastard. fred astaire and donald o'connor could have never played the surrogate for h.l. mencken that kelly did in inherit the wind (1960). there's a versatility and darkness there that the others just didn't possess that made him leagues more interesting to me. he also took the grace the others displayed and added an athleticism to his work that they couldn't match. the guy is a powerhouse and incredibly fun to watch. you really should at least see the big finish of this, if nothing else. it is crazily ambitious, a polychromatic burst of rhythm and melody pretty much unmatched by anything in hollywood's golden age. plus, you get your happily ever after. perfect for a summertime saturday matinee.

thanks, stacey! that was a weird good time.

tomorrow finds us leaving the cozy confines of paris for a pair of treats from south america.

don't forget your passport.

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