Friday, October 31, 2008

Election Weekend Viewing

WHISKERS OVER WASHINGTON (1957) Crushed by his resounding defeat to FDR in the 1936 presidential election, a bitter Alf Landon (Kirk Douglas) retreats to his Kansas farm where, after a heavy night of drinking, he's befriended by a talking rat, Cyrus (voice of Desi Arnaz). The vermin promises to help Landon exact his revenge on the Washington establishment by raising a rat army that will overthrow the government, and install Landon as Rat King. The plan goes horribly awry when the rats are bottled up in tedious Senate subcommittee hearings about grain subsidies. Cyrus finds new life in the New Deal and is made head of the National Recovery Administration, while Landon retreats once again, spending the rest of his life trying to raise a moth army. WHISKERS OVER WASHINGTON is seen as a precursor of sorts to WILLARD, though strangely enough, its biggest influence was on SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS.

LET ME MAKE THIS PERFECTLY CLEAR (1978) A powerful alien gamma ray turns the entire US population into bad Richard Nixon impersonators -- save for Laurie Threet (Tatum O'Neal), a singing high school dropout who must make her way across the country to find the secret switch in Washington which will reverse the alien spell. The majority of the film shows Threet encountering Nixons at every turn, and she escapes each potential trap by posing as Nancy Sinatra, serenading the Nixons with such hits as "Sugar Town" and "Some Velvet Morning," a duet she performs with a mechanic-turned-Nixon, Steve Hushman (William Shatner), in an elaborate June Taylor number staged atop a huge tape recorder. By the time Threet reaches Washington, the aliens (Frank Gorshin and Scatman Crothers) have grown bored, and turn America into France, ending on a close up of Jerry Lewis swallowing a glass and yelling "Mon Dieu!" at a baguette. Two years later, this film was parodied in the gay porno classic, LET ME MAKE THIS PERFECTLY HARD.

LINCOLN WAS A JEW (1938) A curious, 22-minute animated film from Walt Disney, which disappeared after Pearl Harbor, but made a minor comeback in the 1960s. Donald Duck is hit in the head by rampaging union strikers and imagines that he travels back in time to Lincoln's White House. There Donald discovers the "hidden truth" about the so-called Honest Abe, from drinking the blood of abolitionists to bizarre late night Satanic rituals in the bedroom that would later bear Lincoln's name. After Lincoln tells Donald that he's going to free the slaves so that they can be used as muscle against white Christians, clearing the way for a United Zionist States, Donald returns to the present and helps lead a military crusade against the Soviet Union, causing Lincoln in Hell to vow ultimate revenge. Reportedly, this short was a favorite of Curtis LeMay's, who screened it for George Wallace, earning him the VP slot on the American Independent Party's 1968 ticket.

THE HONKIEST MILITANT IN AMERIKA (1971) Dejected loner Leigh Harry Oswood (Don Knotts) decides to kill the popular, charismatic President Caroway (Hugh O'Brian) in order to win the heart of Janet Pickin (Ruta Lee), a swinging file clerk who barely knows that Oswood exists. Having no experience with firearms, Oswood buys his way into the Black Panthers, promising Comrade Africa (Sherman Helmsley) his novelty stamp collection in exchange for paramilitary training. An FBI agent gone rogue, Africa strings Oswood along, resulting in numerous slapstick situations, from having to eat a disassembled M-16, to practicing the raised fist salute in a very tiny room, causing the ceiling to collapse. Soon, Oswood falls in love with Sistah Shasta (Leslie Uggams), a Maoist militant who's even clumsier than Oswood. They run off together and open a belt repair shop in San Jose, where Oswood gets involved with a right wing LSD cult, inspiring him to battle fluoridation, holding the city council hostage using an inbred Great Dane strapped with dynamite.

THE MAN WHO SAID "MAYBE" (1988) Low budget documentary look at Rep. Conner Kaye of Florida, regarded as the most indecisive Congressman in US history. So baffled by choice is Kaye, that during staff meetings, he often pretends to be a tall plant in the corner, or an obnoxious character called Victor, who drinks openly from a whiskey bottle and threatens to kill anyone who looks him in the eye. Amazingly, Kaye's constant waffling makes him popular with his constituents, remnants of a secret government population transfer experiment in the 1950s, and he is continually re-elected, oftentimes unopposed. The film falls apart once Kaye realizes he's being filmed, running down alleys, crawling under beds, jumping off porches, and ends with stock footage of a Venus Flytrap snaring a bee.