Monday, June 27, 2011

Dope Island: The Best Movie Book Nobody's Ever Heard Of

I've recently been enlightened that the Cleveland Movie Blog is open to book reviews as well. I suppose I always guessed that, but the full reality was too much for me to face. It's bad enough I go on about miserable movies all the time. You don't want to let me loose going on about books.

That's because of my complicity in assorted crimes against the art form. True, thanks to my early Super 8mm experiments and now dabbling on YouTube, I can sort of claim to be a "filmmaker," as shameful a confession as that is. But there's no getting away from it that I am, with no libelous exaggeration at all...an author.


No, not just a contributor to hardback and paperbound mass-compilations of movie reviews and trivia by divers hands, but a real, live, honest-to-Amazon author, my name on thousands of book spines, my autograph in dozens of copies. Not even self-published, either! Two solo books out, one due this September, and another in the pipeline that I really should be working on at a steadier pace. My last publisher having had an internal meltdown, I am now under the imprint of Schiffer Books of Atglen, Pennsylvania, www.schifferbooks.com, and if you are really interested you'll search for my name there. Astoundingly, this piece is not intended as a plug for myself but somewhat the opposite.

One of the other authors published by Schiffer is a fellow named James O'Rear, whose Wikipedia entry is a lot bigger than mine (any Wikipedia entry is a lot bigger than mine). Dude has been a performing magician since childhood, an actor in various indie and B-horror films, and a paranormal investigator-author. He wrote Tennessee Ghosts first for Schiffer and has just come out with Hollywood and the Paranormal: Fact and Fiction. This title bids to fact-check some of those increasingly CGI-special-fx-heavy, based-on-actual-events occult blockbusters Hollywood offers up, such as the recent A HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT, the 1980s raped-by-a-spirit tale THE ENTITY and others. The biggie, is, of course, THE EXORCIST, which although derived from the bestselling William Peter Blatty novel, is also supposed to originate with a real-life exorcism performed at a Catholic university in St. Louis in the 1950s on a "possessed" boy from suburban Maryland (the 2000 cable-TV horror flick POSSESSED, with Timothy Dalton and Christopher Plummer, alleged to tell that "true" tale). What really happened? Check out Mr. O'Rear's investigation. I was most pleased to learn that, even though many years have passed and the child subject is now in his 60s, O'Rear refrains from printing the name of the EXORCIST kid; neither the boy nor his family ever sought fame and notoriety. Hmm...movie-inspiring people not seeking fame or notoriety? Sounds like fiendishly unnatural forces were at work after all; save us, Erin Brockovich!

O'Rear told me he's sort of sidestepped the whole UFO/alien genre in his book to focus on ghostly and demonological stuff. That leaves the field wide open for me to make this suggestion, that if you read only book this year - besides my three and O'Rear's two - I want you to dig up an obscure title called Hollywood Vs. the Aliens by a certain Bruce Rux.

I know nothing of this Bruce Rux. Maybe it's even an anagram for, I dunno, "RC Ubu Rex?" But his fat trade paperback, which I found several years ago in the eldritch archives of the downtown Cleveland Public Library, is one of the most extraordinary things I've ever read. Either a work of pure crackpot mental illness or the most brilliant piece of movie criticism that Andrew Sarris or Pauline Kael can only WISH they'd written.

Book starts off with a long, info-dump prologue-rant about X-File-ish flying-saucer mischief, Roswell crash documents, vanishing space probes and mysterious metal doors in the Great Pyramid that nobody's allowed near, with the classic UFO kook stance that a breakthrough in the whole conspiracy-coverup is just around the corner, any day now. If you can get through that you can get through anything, but it's worth it for what follows.

Rux's thesis is that extraterrestrials and their disc-shaped craft are real, of course, and this truth is being kept carefully managed by the government. But the American movie industry, full of CIA and military lackeys, are, despite all appearances, a big part of the whitewash. Alien-invader movies, even the worst ones - especially the worst ones - are part of a massive disinformation campaign by the power elite, to make the `reality' of ET's seem too ridiculous for the public to accept, to make potential witnesses cower in shame. At the same time, however, those same awful sci-fi flicks quietly indoctrinate the viewers by opening them up to the possibility of aliens - softening the blow when the theoretical day of "disclosure" arrives and we are finally told that we are in a shooting war with hostile outer-space creatures.

Threaded rather elegantly through Rux's gonzo argument is terrific film trivia and history, such as a roll-call of all the Hollywood names who could have had ties to the Pentagon (given that most the movie industry served in the Signal Corps during WWII, that's not hard to do). Everyone from Roger Corman to Gene Roddenberry to Ed Wood (who wore women's underwear during D-Day) are likely Army-Intelligence. Even ostensibly non-military, non-political Vincent Price had all the classic features of a CIA deep-cover operative; he traveled the world, acting, collecting art, cooking, and...looking and talking all sinister in a Vincent Price-y sort of way.

Best of all, Rux parses an astounding amount of B-movie bulldada - dude has seen EVERYTHING that Super Host or Big Chuck or the Ghoul used to show on Cleveland TV - to suss out the "nature" of the alien threat, via the same motifs recurring again and again. Pincer-like robotic claws instead of hands. Names, features and references concerning ancient Egypt. And the planet Mars. These things pop up again and again in cheesy sci-fi movies, hypnotizing generations of kids staying up at 1 a.m. for the creature-features, writes Rux. Such poverty of the imagination can't just be accidental. It must be some sort of message to us from the higher ups.

In other words, there's no way Hollywood science-fiction cinema over the decades could be so thoroughly bad by pure chance. It has to be a secret operation, clandestinely coordinating countless desperate actors, bumbling directors, hack screenwriters, in a Golden Turkey black ops on a larger scale than the Manhattan Project. Now I ask you, is that a devastating piece of veiled criticism of widespread movie suckage? Even if Rux is perfectly sincere in this argument, it's still a hilarious condemnation. And it also applies to that TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN very nicely. There was a Pyramid, remember?

So that's my recommended summer reading, Hollywood Vs. the Aliens. When the saucers arrive this X-Day (July 5, in the Subgenius calendar) only those who have read this book have the only real hope of survival!

I'll try to get other book reviews in now and then, as time permits. Movies destroyed so much of my brain, though...

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