Spring Break Scenes That I Love: The “Which Vinny?” Scene From Jersey Shore Shark Attack


The reason that I’ve picked the scene below for today’s scene of the day is that I want to encourage everyone to exercise caution this Spring Break.

Things can get crazy out there, especially on the Jersey Shore.

From 2012’s Jersey Shore Shark Attack:

Embracing the Melodrama Part III #4: The Grasshopper (dir by Jerry Paris)


“It’s very simple what I want to be: totally happy; totally different; and totally in love.”

— Christine Adams (Jacqueline Bisset) in The Grasshopper (1970)

Seriously, is Christine asking for too much?

Total happiness?  That may sound like a lot but trust me, it can be done.

Totally different?  That’s a little bit more challenging because, to be honest, you’re either different or you’re not.  If you have to make the effort to be different, then you definitely are not.

Totally in love?  Well, it depends on how you define love…

At the start of The Grasshopper, Christine thinks that she’s heading to America to find love.  While an oh-so late 60s/early 70s theme song plays in the background, Christine leaves her small hometown in Canada and she heads down to California.  She’s planning on meeting up with her boyfriend Eddie (Tim O’Kelly) and taking a job as a bank teller.

Of course, it soon turns out that working in a bank isn’t as exciting as Christine originally assumed.  Eddie expects Christine to just be a conventional girlfriend and that’s not what Christine is looking for. As well, it’s possible that Christine may have seen Targets, in which O’Kelly played an all-American boy who picks up a rifle and goes on a killing spree.

And so, Christine abandons Eddie and heads to Las Vegas.  Since this movie was made in 1970 and Uber didn’t exist back then, Christine’s preferred method of traveling is hitchhiking.  This gives her a chance to meet the usual collection of late 60s weirdos who always populate movies like this.  One driver crosses herself when Christine says that she plans to have a baby before getting married.  Another is a hacky Las Vegas comic.

In Vegas, Christine applies for a job as a showgirl.  As she explains to sleazy casino owner Jack Benton (Ed Flanders), she “once did Little Women in school.”

“Did you do it nude?” Jack replies.

Yep, that’s Vegas for you!  It’s the city of Showgirls, Casino, and Saved By The Bell: Wedding in Vegas, after all!

Anyway, thing do get better once Christine meets and falls in love with Tommy Marcott (Jim Brown), a former football player who is now working as a door greeter in Jack’s casino.  Everyone tells Christine not to get involved with Tommy.  One of Jack’s men, a menacing hitman who looks just like Johnny from Night of the Living Death (he even wears glasses), warns Christine to watch herself.

Through a long series of events, Christine ends up on her own again.  The usual collection of 70s events occur: murder, drugs, prostitution, and ultimately a stint as the mistress of a rich man played by Joseph Cotten.  The important thing is that it all eventually leads to Christine and a skywriter getting stoned, stealing a plane, and deciding to write a message in the sky.

That’s when this happens:

Yes, it’s all very 1970!

Anyway, The Grasshopper is one of those films that tries to have it both ways.  Establishment audiences could watch it and think, “Wow, those kids are really messed up.”  Counterculture audiences could watch it and say, “Old people are such hypocrites.”  Oddly enough, The Grasshopper was written by future director Garry Marshall and it’s an incredibly overwrought film.  There’s not a subtle moment to be found in the entire film and the film’s direction is flashy but empty.  However, for those of us who love history, it’s as close to 1970 as we’re going to get without hopping into a time machine.

Film Review: The Dallas Connection (dir by Christian Drew Sidaris)


My first thought when I came across 1994’s The Dallas Connection:

Oh my God, it’s a movie about my hometown!

And, just judging from the film’s poster, it appears that Dallas is blowing up!  Look at all of those flames behind Reunion Tower!

(Whenever a film is set in Dallas, you know you’re going to see Reunion Tower in the background.  Depending on when the film was made, you’ll probably also see Bank of America Plaza.  That’s the green building.)

Of course, film posters are often inaccurate and it’s not really a spoiler for me to tell you that, at no point, does Reunion Tower blow up in this movie.  Don’t get me wrong.  A lot of stuff does blow up in The Dallas Connection.  It’s a Sidaris film, produced by Andy Sidaris and directed by his son, Christian Drew Sidaris.  The Sidaris name is pretty much synonymous with stuff blowing up.

That said, a good deal of The Dallas Connection does take place in Dallas and, unlike a lot of other films, it was actually filmed in Dallas.  This wasn’t a case of something like Dallas Buyers Club or Killer Joe, where New Orleans was used as a Dallas stand-in.  Nor was it like that terrible “Babylon” episode of The X-Files, where a bunch of Canadians in denim were awkwardly cast as Texans.  It’s always fun to see building that you recognize when you watch a movie.

That said, The Dallas Connection opens in Paris.  We know it’s supposed to be Paris because of all the French stock footage.  Inside a Parisian mansion (which looks suspiciously like a house one would expect to find in the suburbs of Dallas), an assassin named Black Widow (Julie Strain) is murdering a scientist.  Black Widow’s trademark is that she has rough sex with her targets before murdering them.

Meanwhile, Black Widow’s associates — Cobra (Julie K. Smith) and Scorpion (Wendy Hamilton) — are killing scientists in South Africa and Hong Kong.  The South African scenes feature a lot of grainy stock footage that was probably lifted from a nature documentary.  Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, death comes via an exploding golf ball.

Why are all the scientists being killed?  Well, it turns out that they’re all due to attend a scientific conference in Dallas.  (Woo hoo!  Way to go, Dallas!)  Apparently, they’ve developed some sort of missile defense system or something.  The last remaining scientist, Morales (Rodrigo Obregon), needs to be protected from Black Widow and her assassins so it’s time to call in Chris Cannon (Bruce Penhall) and his team of incompetent government agents.

In typical Sidaris fashion, the plot is pretty much impossible to follow.  That’s not because the story is especially complex or clever.  This isn’t one of those films where you need to rewatch it to pick up on all the details or the clues or anything like that.  Instead, The Dallas Connection’s incoherence feels as if it’s a result of everyone just making it all up as they went along.  It’s a Sidaris film so you know that, inevitably, everyone’s going to end up in the bayous, blowing stuff up.

And yes, yet another remote control boat shows up and explodes.  Of all of the Sidaris trademarks, the exploding remote controlled boats is perhaps the strangest.  At the same time, it’s also the most amusing.  Seriously, whenever anyone is standing near any body of water, you just know a tiny speedboat’s going to come along and blow him up.

In the end, The Dallas Connection is a typically incoherent Sidaris film but at least it features a lot of scenes shot in my hometown.

Book Review: On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming


(MAJOR SPOILERS)

“The World Is Not Enough”

— The Bond Family Motto, as revealed in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming

First published in 1963, Ian Fleming’s 10th James Bond novel opens with Bond in a familiar situation.  He is back at the Casino Royale, both to gamble and to visit Vesper Lynd’s grave.  Much as he did after being tortured by Le Chiffre, Bond is considering resigning from Her Majesty’s Secret Service.  However, in this case, Bond’s desire to quit is not motivated by petulance or wounded pride.

Instead, it’s due to frustration.  Bond has spent the past year searching for any evidence that SPECTRE and Blofeld survived the events of Thunderball.  Bond is convinced that SPECTRE no longer exists but M disagrees.  Feeling that he’s wasting his time, Bond has even written out an official resignation letter.  From the minute that we read Bond’s self-satisfactory resignation letter (along with Bond’s thoughts as to how M would react to each passage), we realize that, after two novels in which Ian Fleming seemed to be bored with his most famous creation, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is going to be a return to form for both Bond and Fleming.

As opposed to continuing to search for Blofeld, Bond is much more interested in getting to know Contessa Teresa “Tracy” di Vicenzo.  When Bond first sees Tracy, she’s boldly racing past him in her car.  The second time, he rescues her from the social embarrassment of revealing that she doesn’t have the money to cover her gambling debts.  The third time, he prevents her from committing suicide in the ocean.  It’s only after all of this that Bond learns that Tracy is the daughter of Marc-Ange Draco, Europe’s biggest crime lord.  Draco and Bond discover they have a lot in common.  They both operate in the shadows and they both want to protect Tracy.

That’s right, James Bond is in love!  Over the course of Fleming’s novels, James Bond falls in love three times.  The first time was with Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale and it ended with Vesper’s suicide.  The second time was with Tiffany Case in Diamonds are Forever and it ended when Tiffany left him for an American.  The third, and final time, is with Tracy.  Just as he did with Vesper, Bond eventually asks Tracy to marry him.  This time, Bond and Tracy actually do get married but the marriage only lasts an hour before ending in tragedy.  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service features Fleming’s darkest ending since From Russia With Love concluded with Bond seemingly dropping dead in a hotel room.

What makes the ending so shocking is that, up until those final few passages, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is such an enjoyable and almost carefree adventure story, a throwback to Dr. No and Goldfinger.  With the help of Draco, Bond discovers that Blofeld is currently hiding out in Switzerland.  However, ultimately, it’s Blofeld’s own vanity that exposes him.  Blofeld writes to the College of Arms, asking for confirmation that he is actually descended from royalty.  Assuming the identity of genealogist Sir Hilary Bray, Bond travels to Switzerland and uncovers Blofeld’s latest plot.  It’s actually a pretty silly scheme, one that involves brainwashing British girls to return home and destroy Britain’s agricultural economy.

But it doesn’t matter how silly Blofeld’s plot may be.  Indeed, the plot is so over the top that it’s impossible not to enjoy it.  In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Fleming seems to have rediscovered his passion for not the character of Bond but also for M.  (One of the book’s best scenes occurs when Bond visits M on Christmas morning.)  This is a fun read, without any of the slow spots that were present in Thunderball and The Spy Who Loved Me.  Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that, while Fleming was writing his book in Jamaica, Dr. No was being filmed nearby.  Not only does Fleming work a winking reference to Ursula Andress into On Her Majesty’s Secret Service but he also revealed that, like Sean Connery, Bond was Scottish.

All in all, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service is one of the best of Fleming’s original novels.