Friday, September 28, 2012

Untold Stories from the Hollywood Slush Pile

In any given year roughly 250,000 speculative screenplays circulate around Hollywood, written for free by someone with a dream and a keyboard. Perhaps 50 will be purchased. That means 249,950 untold stories will silently wither, never to stimulate our imagination. But that Darwinian process changes today. Every Friday Write Enough! resurrects moribund scripts from the Hollywood Slush Pile, drawing on a veritable Marianas Trench of passed over pictures for a peek at might have been.

Today's offering is the 1983 sci fi/historical thriller: E.T. Panzer Ace.

Eager to piggyback on the success of Steven Spielberg's 1982 mega-hit, screenwriters typed out their top friendly alien offerings. But one canny scribe counter-punched. Aspiring wordsmith Moss Karling, a military history buff and bartender at Bob's Frolic Room in Hollywood, poured his dark passions onto the page. Eventually he convinced character actor (and regular customer) Gill Hong to show the script to his agent.

Karling's story followed the Spielberg path of a lost alien. But Moss elected to have the creature  marooned in 1943 Germany. The frightened being is discovered hiding under a Panther tank by lonely gunner Manfred Knobble. Knobble lures it into the barracks by leaving a trail of schnapps and cigarettes. Through an improbable series of events, E.T. eventually becomes a top panzer commander on the Eastern Front, personally decorated by Hitler who is told the odd-looking soldier hails from Tibet.

In a rare production still, E.T. (Gill Hong) is awarded an Iron Cross by Hitler (Loaf Masters).

But a suspicious Gestapo want the chain-smoking alien brought in for questioning. Knobble helps his friend construct a device to call for rescue, using an old concertina, barbed wire and a Volkswagen battery. The contraption works and a spacecraft arrives. Soldier and alien toast farewell with mugs of schnapps. As the groggy extraterrestrial staggers onto the ship, Manfred presents a parting gift—an antitank rocket. Thick with drink, the befuddled E.T. accidentally triggers the weapon inside the craft, setting off a thermonuclear explosion that vaporizes ship, alien, Knobble, and twenty-nine acres of the Black Forest.

"I'm just not seeing this," said Gill Hong's agent. A determined Karling set out to film the picture himself. He raised enough money to shoot fourteen minutes of footage, using borrowed equipment and actors like Cleveland Bevel who went out to become a featured extra in Air Wolf.

In time, Karling's interest in the project waned and he began a successful career writing historical fiction. His copy may be found on many official U.S. government websites.  Hong worked steadily, later becoming a fixture in Tucson dinner theater. His former agent was arrested for lewd conduct with office furniture.

But now a lost tale has finally been told.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hotel Transylvania Film Review Up at F.O.G.

Not surprisingly, Transylvania's favorite innkeeper turns out to be Dracula. But troubles dog the vampire hotel owner, voiced by Adam Sandler, when a slacker human drops in and courts Drac's daughter. Does trouble ensue or does the film simply end? Learn more as "Reviews of Films I Have Never Seen" examines 3-D animated feature Hotel Transylvania over at the always intriguing Forces of Geek. Discover the subtle interplay between corporate sponsors and the creative side. Read in awe as I thunderously denounce something. Go now and bask in words.
A suit of armor brown-noses the boss as Dracula (Adam Sandler) is all inn.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Prophecy of Freakazoid

The Escapist notes that long ago in the 1990s the future of the "Information Super Highway" was previewed by the Guy with Lightning in His Hair. See how Freakazoid correctly foresaw the future of the Web in a neat video salute to TV animation past. (Thanks to Keeper over on FB for pointing this out.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Rapid Fake Movie Reviews

This week I'm introducing the Snap Review. These fast, hip-shot takes are designed to introduce readers to upcoming cinema; cinema I deem worthy of note but not worthy enough to watch or cover in "Reviews of Films I Have Never Seen."

Opening Oct 5, we have The Oranges, a tale of suburban dysfunction, home-wrecking, and narcissism run amok, all caused by the return of a randy daughter to her New Jersey home with an orange the size of a beach ball. She will neither share the immense fruit nor disclose its origins. Furthermore, the daughter flies into a fury if anyone snarks the orange. (NOTE: This element has been scrubbed from the trailer.) Take an hourglass containing 90 minutes worth of sand. Now place an orange next to it. Add a photo of Hugh Laurie. Hand a family member close to twenty dollars. Eat some popcorn and stare at these items for an hour and a half. Was it fulfilling? Only you can decide.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Resident Evil Up at F.O.G.

Never underestimate the craftiness of the Umbrella Corporation. Alice and her chums have their hands full with a new kind of zombie and a new kind of menace in the form of campaign finance laws. Forces of Geek presents another edition of "Reviews of Films I Have Never Seen," home to the hottest pretend reviews of the latest Hollywood movies. Can combat-savvy Alice transfer her skills to federal court? Go and learn at once before others beat you to it; snarky others; others who will ridicule you for your ignorance. Fly! (Image: OneIndia)
To defeat her foes, Alice (Milla Jovovich) must obtain a zombie-shooting waiver.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Old Zombies, New Tricks

Lovely but heavily-armed Milla Jovovich returns to once again confront the seemingly unstoppable Umbrella Corporation and their army of undead. But this time, the corporate rajahs have discovered a new, absolutely legal way of countering the pesky Alice and her allies. Learn more Thursday at Forces of Geek as "Reviews of Films I Have Never Seen" returns with all the fictional scoop on this week's hottest release.
Alice (Milla Jovovich) must look but not touch the undead. Learn why tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

So Long Karen Kinder-Than-Most-Heart
  She was born Karen Goodheart. Thirty-five years ago I would tease her by coming up with variations on her maiden name. Karen was nineteen years old in 1977, married and training to be a mail clerk at the post office in Skokie, Illinois.  I was twenty-four, recently out of the Marines and working there on the loading dock, slamming mail into trucks, unloading other trucks, and racing every evening to collect letters from the mail boxes around town.

  There were four separate routes in this northern Chicago 'burb. As a clerk trainee, Karen was assigned to one, stuffing letters into dirty sacks then speeding back to the post office to transfer the mail onto an outgoing truck.

  In the summer, we'd finish our routes early and meet at a Burger King, sipping cokes and smoking cigarettes in the parking lot. She had a throaty chuckle, a delightful giggle and a wonderful open laugh. We'd discuss the supervisors and the obtuse government rules we were expected to follow. (Like turning off our vehicles and locking them every time we exited. You couldn't do that AND pick up the mail in time.) Karen had a wonderful eye for absurdity and it served her well working for Uncle Sam. We'd split the parking lot just in time to catch the last truck.

  But winters were different. Mail boxes would be buried under snow drifts and the AMC trucks we drove came equipped with ceremonial heaters that only warmed a small arc of air directly in front of the vent. With her hair in a bun and a long olive scarf, Karen would slog back into the post office, nose red, sniffling from the cold, while I scraped ice off my moustache. We'd exchange exhausted looks like survivors of Stalingrad. Then she'd laugh and I'd laugh. Her spirit brightened a room like a flare. 

  After our swing shift, it was refreshment time. Despite being a small, compact woman Karen was not afraid to belt down shots and beers—boilermakers, a Windy City staple. Over time, she became a full-fledged clerk and was transferred to the midnight shift. We didn't see each other as much but stayed in touch even after I moved off to California.

  As decades slid past, we wrote and called and occasionally met. Karen held strong opinions and could be passionate about things she cared for. Sometimes we'd argue, but we never ended a phone call on a sour note. I always felt the better for having spoken to her as we veered back to our busy lives.

  Karen ended up in Florida, got a business degree from Florida State and went to work as a "bank buster" for FSLIC. According to Wikipedia:

"The Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC), a federal government agency that insured S&L accounts in the same way the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation insures commercial bank accounts, then had to repay all the depositors whose money was lost. From 1986 to 1989, FSLIC closed or otherwise resolved 296 institutions with total assets of $125 billion."

   During her FSLIC work, Karen began to develop a sensitivity to odors. Certain common smells like perfume would cause her to break out in a rash and have trouble breathing.

  This was only the beginning.

  For the next twenty-odd years her health deteriorated under a barrage of infections and maladies with exotic names and difficult treatments. I couldn't even tell you what they were called. But Karen could and would. And if she could include photos, then you got 'em. She became a ninja at negotiating medical bureaucracies.

   In good spirits, under pressures that would've buckled many, she chronicled her health battles at ksquest.

  In the meantime, after a divorce and string of dud boyfriends, she married a good man, Walter Dome, in 1994. I flew out for the wedding, not realizing it would be the last time I'd ever see her.

  She called me on 9/11 and it was from Karen I learned the towers were gone.

  Karen and Walter bought a little house in Wilton Manors, Florida. She loved laying brick, and orchids, and hunting for shark tooth fossils. She cared for plump cats. And Karen and I would exchange phone calls after natural disasters. Me and my earthquakes; she and her hurricanes.

  She never made it out to my wedding in 1997. Subsequent attempts to meet always fell short because of her dicey health. Her life was a hash of bizarre health troubles, money woes, relationship struggles, but Karen would not let it break her. And from her, I drew strength in my far lessor challenges.

  Then, diabolical icing on the cake, her husband was diagnosed with brain cancer.

  He died on April 19 of this year. In her last blog entry, Karen wrote:

  "Long months ago he [Walter] asked me what my life would be like if he passed away.  I told him.  So he said,  All right.  Then I'll fight it.  I'll fight to live.

No one will ever love me like that again.

I do not want to learn how to be a widow."

  She wouldn't have to.

 Karen Dome died of infection on August 29. Her nephew Brian dropped me an email. It only confirmed what I suspected was coming.

  For all her outsized troubles she was given an uncommon store of wit and grace, perseverance and grit.

  Brian will be writing up a farewell at her blog. Karen made many friends online who will be saddened by her passing.

  I do not know what manner of services, if any, were held for her. I do not know if she was buried or cremated.

 But I do know she deserves a eulogy. 

  All my old photos are in boxes, stacked and unmarked. Otherwise I'd dig out a picture of Karen in better days with her halogen smile and eyes twinkling.

  I am sparing in my tears. Few alive have seen them.

  Today they flow in a steady drip, the plumbing of grief.

  I count myself blessed to have known Karen.

  Her heart was most truly good.