May 6th, 2009

FLYING TIGERS (1942) ** ½

At first, Flying Tigers sounded like it was going to be a badass Kung Fu flick or maybe even a funny Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie.  It’s neither.  It’s actually a fairly decent John Wayne WWII jet pilot movie.


After some stock footage bombs the shit out of the Chinese, The Duke gets all pissed off and orders his American stock footage to bomb the shit out of the Japanese.  Then Wayne comes back to base and tries to get into the pants of a pretty young nurse.  When some more stock footage threatens the lives of his crew members, he retaliates with some stock footage of his own.


If you couldn’t already tell, Flying Tigers is chockfull of stock footage.  Most of this movie is just a bunch of sweaty guys in cockpits reacting to stock footage of twirling airplanes.  Although some of the dogfights are OK, half the time you’ll be expecting a newsreel announcer to start narrating over the action. 


But I kid this movie.  Look, I freely admit that Wayne’s war movies aren’t exactly my cup of Jack and Coke as I’m more of a fan of his Westerns.  That didn’t stop me from enjoying Flying Tigers though.  Sure, the film was rife with a bunch of clichés (Two guys battling for the same girl, the washed-up pilot with something to prove, the hot shot guy with a pencil thin moustache who doesn’t follow orders, etc.), but that’s to be expected in these wartime action flicks.  I especially liked the part when the down-and-out pilot with poor depth perception took the place of the tardy flyboy and wound up getting shot down.  (This scene was later brilliantly lampooned in Hot Shots.)  The film was also packed many jingoistic touches and rousing speeches; all of which are rather effective.  (FDR’s “Day That Will Live in Infamy” speech is heard.)  So much so that I might have given the flick an extra star if I’d seen it when it was first released.


On the downside, the pacing is rather uneven and particularly drags during the stretches where the pilots sit around in their bunks and bicker with each other.  On top of that, the film runs on a bit too long and could’ve stood to have an unnecessary subplot or two snipped from the final cut.  The good news is that Wayne’s charisma carries this thing a long way.  The Duke gets some pretty great macho dialogue in this flick that’s good for a chuckle or two.  My favorite came when somebody asked him where the bullet holes in his plane came from and he says, “Termites”.

SUSPICION (1941) ***

Joan Fontaine is a mousy chick with rich folks who gets wooed by the devious and debonair Cary Grant.  Most people sense that old Cary is up to no good but Joan still loves him even though he calls her “monkey face” a lot.  After they are married he reveals to her that he’s penniless and jobless and has a sizable gambling debt as well.  As time goes on, poor Joan slowly starts to suspect that her handsome hubby wants to poison her and take her dough.  But he wouldn’t do that would he?  I mean this is Cary Friggin’ Grant we’re talking about here!


Suspicion is a solid if unspectacular thriller from the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.  The film’s firm foundation is built upon the dynamic performances by the two leads.  Fontaine (who won an Oscar for her role) is engaging as the shy gal that desperately needs to be loved by SOMEONE, even if they are a murderer.  The flick really belongs to Grant though.  He’s a straight up pimp in this movie.  He’s smug, arrogant, and flippant to his wife and yet she still adores him.  Mad respect Cary.


The film works much better in the early going during Fontaine’s whirlwind courtship.  Once the couple gets married however, the suspense if somewhat marred by Hitch’s relentless stalling and an abrupt and unsatisfying ending (imposed on Hitch because of the censor board).  Hitch returned the next year with Saboteur.


Hard Ticket to Hawaii is perhaps the greatest Andy Sidaris movie ever made.  It features everything that a great Andy Sidaris movie should have; namely topless gut-toting Playboy Playmates, softcore sex scenes, Kung Fu, remote control helicopters, scuzzy drug dealers, studly guys who can’t shoot straight, beautiful locations, Jacuzzis, random guys driving motorcycles and ATV’s, people sipping champagne on a yacht, comic relief henchmen, James Bond references, shit blowing up, etc.   As an added bonus, there is also a subplot involving a killer mutant cancer-ridden snake.


Folks, how many movies can you name off the top of your head that feature killer mutant cancer-ridden snakes?


I first caught this flick when I was ten years old on Skinamax at about two in the morning and have never forgotten it.  Hard Ticket to Hawaii served as my introduction to the world of Andy Sidaris and that’s also another reason why it has a special place in my heart.  Nobody combines tits and guns like Andy Sidaris and in Hard Ticket to Hawaii, he really outdoes himself.  We get a lot of tits and a lot of guns.


The main problem with Andy’s films is that they are all interchangeable and it’s hard to tell one from another.  Also, the stuff that doesn’t revolve around tits and guns isn’t nearly as much fun.  I’ve seen every single one of Andy’s flicks from the 80’s and 90’s and despite their varying quality they all get *** from me just for the sheer number of naked Playmates and explosions.  


The thing about Hard Ticket to Hawaii that sets it apart from the rest of Sidaris’ work is the fucking awesome killer mutant cancer-ridden snake.  Andy doesn’t get a lot of credit as a “director” director but the scene where the snake pops out of the toilet ranks right up there with the shower scene in Psycho.  Other than that there’s a pretty cool scene involving a razor-lined Frisbee as well as the bat shit insane part where a blow-up doll gets bazooka’ed to death!


Andy also knows how to write some fucking brilliant dialogue too.  Not many of the lines make a whole lot of sense (“One man’s dream is another man’s lunch!”) but I got to tell you, Sidaris is a gifted writer.  Who else could write the line, “If brains were bird shit, you’d have a clean cage!” and get away with it?  


Picasso Trigger was the next in the series.