Year 8, Day 174 - 6/22/16 - Movie #2,374
BEFORE: The parallels between the subject matters of the films that I watch and the things that happen in my daily life never cease to amaze me. Maybe it's just random, maybe I'm always able to find connections between things, even when they're not really there. But yesterday's film concerned an entertainer not received credit on the marquee, while at work we're debating over who gets into the credits of this animated feature, and how big everyone's billing is. Now today's film is all about comic book writers and artists, while I'm deep in the planning for our annual trip to San Diego Comic-Con, which of course is a focal promotional point for comic book writers and artists (and just about everything else).
My planning for this annual July event usually begins a year in advance, that's when we have to put down a deposit for the booth, and it's easiest to take some money from our booth sales and put it toward the following year's booth. This means I have to walk across a crowded convention center to the sales office carrying about $1,500 in cash, but so far I've never had any problems (although it gives me a great idea for a heist film, set at a comic convention...title it "The Big Con", get some young kids from the Jay Baruchel / Jonah Hill / Seth Rogen crowd to star in it, this thing writes itself...)
Anyway, round 2 of my planning takes place in January + February, where I have to line up hotels and flights for my boss, his wife + son, and me. This year I got him on the list for exhibitors who want to arrange hotels through the convention (many hotels set aside blocks of rooms for just this purpose) because for the last two years, it's been hard to find him a decent hotel, and impossible to get him into the one he wants. But this year we signed up for Exhibitor Housing AND his favorite hotel was on the list, so that explains why I haven't been able to get him a room there lately! And even though my usual "el cheapo" hotel changed their policy - they're only taking reservations last-minute now, two weeks before any given date - I was able to get an AirBnB reservation for myself at a good price on my third try (two hosts cancelled my reservations when I mentioned Comic-Con, because they're planning to triple their prices that week. Not cool, and BTW, that's against the terms of service...) so luckily everything in Round 2 fell into place.
Round 3 is just paperwork - submitting the booth's floor plan, getting a variance for the line of sight, applying for a California temporary tax vendor ID, requesting a panel, submitting a description of the panel, submitting names for badges, getting a booth listing, finding some help for the booth, and determining if we want to get guest badges for anyone we know. Round 4 is checking our stocks of merchandise to see if we're running low on anything, and Round 5 will be promoting our booth, panel and screening on social media. Round 6 will be shipping and packing. I'm on Round 4 now, with just about 4 weeks to go before the big event.
Once I double up on a couple of Jerry Lewis films this week, I plan on sticking to a daily viewing schedule right up until I get on the plane for San Diego, and wherever I leave off, there will be a week's gap, nothing I can do about that. Years ago I tried to watch movies while in San Diego, and it's just not possible. I have time to work at the booth, eat some good meals, go to maybe one or two fun events at night, and that's it. The rest of the time I'll need to be sleeping.
Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis carry over again, and this is the last of my films with both of them. This ran on TCM around Jerry's 90th birthday in March, and once again I was having trouble with my DVR (why is it always with TCM?) so I missed out on "You're Never Too Young" and Jerry's solo film "Which Way to the Front?" but they ran most of the films over the following week on the Free Movies on Demand channel, so I didn't get everything, but I got most of their tribute.
THE PLOT: Rick Todd uses the dreams of his roommate Eugene as the basis for a successful comic book.
AFTER: This is the only one of Martin & Lewis' films to appear on the list of "1,001 Movies to See Before You Die", and I have to question why that's the case. Is it because this is the most representative example of their musical & comedy stylings? Is it for the early-career appearance of Shirley MacLaine, showing off her music and dance skills that weren't displayed in "The Trouble With Harry"? Or is it because this could be the first major Hollywood film that was not-so-secretly a fetish film?
Now, before I proceed with this theory, I have to define my terms. The Hollywood code was still in place when this was released (1955), and in 1954 the book "Seduction of the Innocent" was published, blaming comic books in particular for juvenile delinquency and moral corruption, which lead to a Senate investigation, and a general re-vamp of the popular crime and horror-themed comic books, leaving mostly superhero books to pick up the slack. There are definitely references in this film to this topic, what with the comic-book publisher complaining about the lack of decapitations and gore in an artist's work. Then the former comic-book artist appears on a talk show to discuss how damaging the comics are, and we see the actions of a bratty kid who's read too many - but he couldn't be acting out because his mother is so domineering, now, could he?
Claims that Batman and Robin were gay partners, or that Wonder Woman had a lesbian/bondage subtext were a little dubious (although, Wonder Woman DID tie a lot of men up with her lasso, and her creator lived in an open three-way relationship with two women...) and though I'm not an expert on the subject, I have to theorize that many MORE people started reading things into the comic-book images after "Seduction of the Innocent" was published. (Hey, that image of a woman kidnapped and gagged didn't strike me as a sexual image, but now that you mention it...)
I grew up watching the old "Batman" and "Wonder Woman" TV shows, and with all the skin-tight outfits on characters like Batgirl and Catwoman, well, let's just say anything can be porn if you don't have access to porn. And that's where fetishes come from - attractions sparked by certain objects, clothing or situations, and the triggers that they set off inside people's brains, which develop over time with repeated exposures.
So, while you might see a bunch of Russian spies tearing off a woman's costume and leaving her tied to a chair as just a plot point in this film, to a guy with a fetish, it means SO much more. (And she's left wearing blue nylon stockings, that's probably a thing for some guy somewhere.) This film is full of stuff like this, especially a woman who poses as Bat Lady, I guess she's like a female Batman, and Batman had only been around for about 15 years at this point. So we've got the bondage fetish, the superhero fetish covered, what else?
There are a few times in the film when people get kissed by surprise, or against their will. I'm sure this must be a fetish for some people - hey, if tickling is a fetish, then anything can be a fetish. But this is really part and parcel for Dean Martin's tendency to play womanizer characters - the theory is always that any woman's resolve can be broken down by repeated attempts to charm her. Only in the movies, right? Unfortunately his pursuit of her despite her constant rejections started to come off a little stalkerish, maybe even a little rapey. Switching places with her roommate to give her a secret massage with sun-tan lotion in particular - it's an unapproved round of touching, and just because they fall in love later, that does NOT make it OK. MacLaine's character also pursues Lewis' character, because her astrology charts told her to, and since he's such an innocent when it comes to women, this also seems a little suspect - but of course, there's a double standard here, since the pursuer is the woman, making it more of a man's fantasy fulfillment.
Lewis' character goes ga-ga for the Bat Lady, but is less attracted to the same girl when she's out of costume. She practically needs to hit him over the head to get him to notice her - she sings at him so loudly, he keeps falling down the stairs while climbing to the building's roof to sit out in the sun. I guess he finally figures it out, because they plan to hook up at the big Artists and Models ball, with her dressing as the Bat Lady and him dressed up like a giant cartoon mouse. Kinky...
There's definitely a line that shouldn't get crossed, and since I'm a married man, I'm well aware of it. It's generally "Look, but don't touch." And that works for Comic-Con, too - there are so many women walking around in superhero outfits that it would be impossible for me to not look at them, so I just get them to pose for pictures, and that's that. Later I post them on Flickr and I think my photo feed has a lot of fans with superhero fetishes, based on the feeds of the people who send me friend invites on that site. (Sorry, I know I said "no judgments", but some of you people are seriously deranged...)
NITPICK POINT: If you're an artist, and you manage to get some paying gigs, like, say, painting a billboard, and you keep hiring your screw-up friend to help you, only he keeps screwing up, so the two of you can't get any money for food, I would think that the solution would be simple: STOP hiring your friend. Because at least then you could complete one job and get paid, which would allow both of you to buy some groceries.
NITPICK POINT #2: Eugene's comic-book storyline (which come from his dreams, as he talks in his sleep) accidentally contain the formula for a secret U.S. space station, and once it sees print, the secret agents get involved. But how do you express the "formula" for a space station? How can "X34 minus 5R1 plus 6-X36" possibly represent an object in the physical world? Wouldn't it have made more sense for this to be some kind of chemical or biological formula?
Also starring Shirley MacLaine (last seen in "Irma La Douce"), Dorothy Malone (last seen in "The Big Sleep"), Eddie Mayehoff (also carrying over from "The Stooge"), Eva Gabor (last seen in "Touch of Evil"), Anita Ekberg, Jack Elam (last seen in "Support Your Local Gunfighter"), Kathleen Freeman (ditto).
RATING: 6 out of 10 massage therapists