>> Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Stop the presses! Booze Movies has ranked another mention in newsprint. The Sacramento Bee ran several articles on hangovers in its Sunday, December 28th "Living Here" section; and one of the pieces included a mention of this site. The article also included a quote from my review of The Nutty Professor (1963), the film which contains the single greatest hangover scene of all time.
You can find the article HERE.
P.S. - I've been taking it easy over the holiday, but more reviews are on their way soon. Next up is the movie I've received the most email requests for... Sideways (2004). Happy New Year's Eve Eve!
>> Wednesday, December 24, 2008
>> Thursday, December 11, 2008
Back in August, I reviewed a documentary short subject by a first-time director entitled Moonshine. I found the film to be excellent. It was well shot and edited, and most importantly, it had a fascinating subject in Jim Tom Hendrick, the distiller of illegal, 140 proof whiskey. Still, I had one small criticism--at 22 minutes, I found the film to be too short.
Now comes word that filmmaker Kelly L. Riley has answered my criticism with a 62 minute follow-up, Still Making Moonshine. Personally, I can't wait to sample the new brew described as:
"A drunken tale of lost language, severed limbs, buried shine and black outs. Have a taste of bootleg whiskey and Jesus, "140 proof."If you want to enjoy the new product or Riley's original cocktail, CLICK HERE to order his films. For those of you that require a taste before you indulge, here's a small sample of Still Making Moonshine:
I'll post a review of Kelly Riley's new flick once I get it in my hands.
In the meantime, cheers,
>> Sunday, December 7, 2008
USA/B&W&C-103m. (Originally released at 135m.)/Dir: Luther Reed/Wr: Luther Reed (based on the play by Guy Bolton and Fred Thompson)/Cast: Bebe Daniels (Rita Ferguson), John Boles (Captain Jim Stewart), Bert Wheeler (Chick Bean), Robert Woolsey (Ed Lovett), Dorothy Lee (Dolly Bean), Don Alvarado (Roberto Ferguson), Georges Renavent (General Ravenoff)
The early talkie Rio Rita (1929) has often been sited as historically important for a number of reasons--1) This filming of the popular Flo Ziegfeld stage production was a forerunner of numerous stage-to-screen musicals--2) The last half hour of the film displayed an early use of two-strip Technicolor--and 3) The movie was the first to team popular comedians Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey, who would be second only to Laurel and Hardy in popularity during the 1930’s. However, prior critics have overlooked one other historically significant aspect of Rio Rita--4) The picture featured an early (if not the first) filmed demonstration of a stock device of screen comedy--a drink of near-deadly potency.
The plot involves the attempts of a Captain of the Texas Rangers (John Boles) to capture a bandit known as the Kinkajou and to woo a pretty Mexican lass (Bebe Daniels). Things get a bit dicey when the Captain begins to suspect the girl’s brother (Don Alvarado) might be the bandit. At the same time a bootlegger (Bert Wheeler) visits Mexico with his lawyer (Robert Woolsey) in order to get a quickie divorce and remarried. Of course, none of this matters very much. It’s all just an excuse for a lot of singing and dancing.
For a prohibition-era picture, an awful lot of alcohol is consumed in Rio Rita. Setting the story in Mexico allowed the characters to imbibe without fear of reprisals from the authorities. Still, the film is not really a Booze Movie through and through. Rio Rita gains its soused cinema status on the virtues of one particular scene, in which Wheeler and Woolsey get gloriously stinko on cognac, brandy, and old Aztec wine. The final beverage on the menu is a precursor of all of the supercharged cocktails that would follow, such as the Alaskan Polar Bear Heater (The Nutty Professor), Nasty Canasta’s Usual (Drip Along Daffy), and the Pan-Galatic Gargle Blaster (The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy). The old Aztec wine is so powerful that when Bert Wheeler pours it into a glass, the glass smokes and dissolves into nothing. Consequently, Bert is forced to slug the stuff directly from the bottle. The effect of the fluid is immediate. Wheeler barks like a dog and proceeds to converse in high-pitched baby talk. “Now that’s what I call whisky!” Woolsey observes, but he is reluctant to join his pal in ingesting the extreme elixir. However, when Bert begins seeing visions of a beautiful, disrobing blonde, Woolsey eagerly takes a swig. “Why, I know the girl!” Woolsey expounds soon after.
Rio Rita, but their superbly timed comic and musical performances steal the picture from romantic leads Bebe Daniels and John Boles. The only other cast member who really makes an impression is diminutive cutie, Dorothy Lee, who plays Bert Wheeler’s love interest. Short, spunky, and pretty, with a baby doll voice, Dottie was like Betty Boop brought to life. It is no wonder Bert and Bob brought her back to co-star in twelve more of their features.
On the whole, Rio Rita shows its age. The story is melodramatic, the acting is amateurish, the filming is primitive, and the editing and continuity is choppy. Of course, the latter may be due to the fact that the film was released at 135 minutes, but the existing print only runs 103 minutes. Luckily, the old Aztec wine sequence survives intact.
Drinks Consumed--Beer, cognac, brandy, old Aztec wine (possibly whiskey), regular wine, and champagne
Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech, hiccups, harmonizing, brawling, and hallucinating
Potent Quotables--WAITER: Ah, but when you want some more brandy, just let me know.
CHICK: No. This is a little weak for us.
WAITER: Oh, I’ll take it away.
ED: Leave it. Leave it. We’ll use it as a chaser.
WAITER: If you want something really strong, try this.
ED: Whatta ya got?
WAITER: This is a bottle of old Aztec wine.
ED: Yeah? What’s it like?
WAITER: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t dare drink it myself, so I cannot tell.
Video Availability--Rio Rita is available as a manufacture-on-demand DVD-R through The Warner Archive.
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Bert and Bob served spiked lemon soda in Caught Plastered (1931).
Wheeler & Woolsey: The Vaudeville Comic Duo and Their Films, 1929-1937 (McFarland Classics)
>> Monday, December 1, 2008
USA/C-126m./Dir: Howard Hawks/Wr: Leigh Brackett/Cast: John Wayne (Cole Thornton), Robert Mitchum (Sheriff J.P. Harrah), James Caan (Alan Bourdillion Traherne a.k.a. Mississippi), Charlene Holt (Maudie), Arthur Hunnicutt (Bull Harris), Ed Asner (Bart Jason)
El Dorado is often referred to as a remake of Rio Bravo (1959), but that isn’t entirely accurate. Both films feature a similar look, tone, cast of characters (including a lawman turned drunk), lead actor (John Wayne), and even several of the same sets; but the story is unique. That said, writer Leigh Brackett borrowed several plot and thematic elements from Rio Bravo (a film she previously co-wrote) for the second half of the picture. However, Western films as a whole share so many iconic elements that it is unlikely that anyone would of noticed the borrowed material if director Howard Hawks and star John Wayne had not been involved with both movies.
Wayne plays Cole Thornton, a hired gun who comes to El Dorado to check out a job offer from a land baron, Bart Jason (Ed Asner of all people). Jason wants Thornton to muscle a family off valuable land and take care of the town Sheriff (Robert Mitchum) should he get in the way; but Thornton turns the offer down flat. The job goes against the gunfighter’s principles and the sheriff just happens to be an old friend. Of course, no virtuous stand ever goes unpunished, and Thornton ends up with a bullet in his back. At this point, the narrative jumps forward by six months, and things start to get Rio Bravo-y. Thornton decides to go back to El Dorado when he hears that the sheriff has become a boozer and that a new group of hired guns are headed towards the town. Horribly outnumbered, the gunfighter and drunken lawman try to keep the peace with only the help of an old Indian fighter (Arthur Hunnicutt) and an inexperienced hanger-on (James Caan) who is rubbish with a gun.
Like Rio Bravo, El Dorado is more of a story about sobering up than one about drinking, so it is fitting that the most memorable scene in the movie involves James Caan’s recitation of the ingredients of “Johnny Diamond’s Sober-Up Fast Sauce” and the subsequent concoction and consumption of the medicinal muck. Mitchum’s reactions after swallowing the foul mixture are the highlights of the film. Otherwise, the “sober up the sheriff” subplot receives short shrift. Alcoholism was used much more effectively as a plot point in Rio Bravo, where Dean Martin’s alky agony was more thoroughly explored.
On the whole, El Dorado comes up short when compared with the previous Hawks/Wayne collaboration. Of course, it is an unfair comparison, because Rio Bravo is one of the most iconic and entertaining Westerns ever produced. However, El Dorado does surpass the previous film in one aspect--the casting of James Caan as the young foil for John Wayne. Caan was a much better actor than Ricky Nelson, and he steals the picture with his humorous characterization.
While not quite on the same level as Rio Bravo, El Dorado is great fun and well made. There are much worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.
Drinks Consumed--Whiskey and beer
Intoxicating Effects--Brawling, hangover, and the shakes
Potent Quotables--HARRAH: What the hell are you doin’ here?
THORNTON: I’m looking at a tin star with a drunk pinned on it.
Video Availability--El Dorado is available on DVD from Paramount as a standalone title or as part of The John Wayne Century Collection.
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Rio Bravo (1959), of course.
Warning!!! Don’t try this at home! The following recipe is revolting; likely inedible; could cause diarrhea, vomiting, or death; and would very likely curb your cocktail consumption. Stay away from it at all costs.
El Dorado (1966) features one of the most disgusting concoctions ever depicted on film--Johnny Diamond’s Sober-Up Fast Sauce. It isn’t really a cocktail. In fact, it is explained that “It does something to a man’s stomach, so it naturally won’t hold any liquor.” However, because this mixture is one of the most memorable cinematic concoctions, it feels only right to include it here.
In the picture, Sheriff J.P. Harrah (Robert Mitchum) is three sheets to the wind, and the bad guys are on their way. Due to the state of affairs, the sheriff’s friend, Cole Thornton (John Wayne), asks his companions, Bull (Arthur Hunnicutt) and Mississippi (James Caan), “Either one of you know a fast way to sober a man up?” Mississippi offers the following solution:
MISSISSIPPI: Johnny Diamond had a recipe. Let’s see. Cayenne pepper, mustard--the hot kind, ipecac, asafetida, and oil of cloves… or was it? No, it was croton oil.
BULL: Croton oil?! I’ll be a suck-egg mule. You know what that mixture’ll do to a fella?
MISSISSIPPI: Guaranteed kill or cure.
As they are stirring the mixture together, Mississippi reveals the final ingredient--gunpowder. “I hope you don’t blow him up,” Thornton (Wayne) observes.
After administering the black, oily medicine to the unwilling patient, the sheriff (Mitchum) reacts as one would expect. “You dirty, lousy, rotten, sheep-herdin’--What did you do to me?” he bellows. “What’d you give me? I’m all crawlin’ inside.” The sheriff takes a swig of whiskey, but it doesn’t sit right. Mercifully, the messiness that follows takes place off-camera.
El Dorado (Paramount Centennial Collection)
>> Monday, November 17, 2008
Attention all drunken, suicidal crow lovers! On Sunday night (or early Monday morning depending on your time zone) the first season of The Drinky Crow Show will premiere at 12:15 A.M. EST as part of Cartoon Network's Adult Swim line-up.
Back on May 13th of 2007, Cartoon Network aired a pilot for the series, based on Tony Millionaire's underground comic strip, Maakies. Apparently the ratings and viewer feedback were sufficient to encourage the network suits (or perhaps grubby t-shirts) to order an initial five episodes of the program. If you can't wait for Sunday's airing, keep an eye out on the official Adult Swim Drinky Crow site. Episodes often appear online before the official air date. The 2007 pilot is also available for viewing if you missed it the first time around.
Cheers and dook, dook,
Drinky Crow's Maakies Treasury (Hardcover)
Tony Millionaire's Drinky Crow PVC Figure
>> Thursday, November 13, 2008
The era of the theatrical short subject faded to a close in the late 40's and early 50's, as double-features and gimmicks (Widescreen, Cinerama, 3-D, etc.) replaced the block of programming that had once been standard fare in studio-owned theater chains. However, the soused cinema short is not dead. It simply has a new venue -- funnyordie.com.
Creator Derek Waters and filmmaker Jeremy Konner have produced a series of very funny short films in which individuals tell stories from American history after getting hammered on hooch. As the partly lucid narrator spins the tale, the historical events are reenacted by the likes of Michael Cera as Alexander Hamilton, Jack Black as Benjamin Franklin, and Danny McBride as George Washington.
These alky auteurs have produced five Drunk History shorts thus far, all of which are embedded below. I've also posted a link to the Drunk History page on funnyordie.com under my "Drink Links," in the hopes that more Drunk History is yet to come.
Enjoy the info-tainment,
Drunk History Vol. 1 - Hamilton Vs. Burr:
Drunk History Vol. 2 - Franklin Discovers Electricity:
Drunk History Vol. 2.5 - Franklin F**ks:
Drunk History Vol. 3 - Washington & Oney:
Drunk History Vol. 4 - William Henry Harrison Dies:
>> Sunday, November 9, 2008
USA/B&W-21m./Dir: Charles Rogers/Wr: H.M. Walker/Cast: Stan Laurel (Stanley), Oliver Hardy (Ollie), Walter Long (Captain), Arthur Housman (Drunken Sailor), Mae Busch (Masie)
The great, drunken character actor Arthur Housman is the title spook that haunts Laurel and Hardy in the 1934 short subject, The Live Ghost. As in his previous pairing with the popular comedy duo, Scram! (1932), Housman was given more screen time in The Live Ghost than his specialty act was normally afforded. In this case, Stan and Ollie may have been generous to a fault, because Housman staggers off with the lion’s share of the laughs in the 21-minute short.
As the film begins, a gruff sea captain (Walter Long) barrels into a bar looking for a crew to man his ship; but the barflies refuse to take him up on his job offer, because they believe the vessel is haunted. Stuck with only a single, perpetually soused sailor (Arthur Housman), the captain enlists Laurel and Hardy to help him shanghai a crew. The boys actually manage to abduct the denizens of the bar, but in the process, they end up shanghaied themselves.
Only through the captain’s threats are the boys spared the wrath of the rest of the shanghaied seamen; so when the crew are eventually granted shore leave (with the exception of the drunken Housman), Stan and Ollie refuse to join them, preferring the safety of the ship. Since the boys are staying aboard, the captain puts them in charge of making sure that the drunk doesn’t sneak off the ship to grab a “teensy weensy.” Of course, the hooch-hound is determined to elude his guards, and falls into a tub of whitewash during his attempted escape. Covered in paint, the boozer bedevils Stan and Ollie, who take him for one of the ship’s ghosts.
The Live Ghost is not one of Laurel and Hardy’s best efforts. The plot is a convoluted mass of coincidences, designed to set up the situation for the fright comedy ending; and the physical gags are not as inventive as one usually expects from a Laurel and Hardy short. Still, the film isn’t the boys’ worst work either. It’s a mediocre Laurel and Hardy comedy, but that sets it on a higher plane than most of the work of The Three Stooges or Abbott & Costello.
The real saving grace of the film is Arthur Housman. His inebriated antics enliven every scene in which he appears, and for once, he is given almost as much screen time as the stars themselves. Housman could slur and stagger like nobody else, so having the rare opportunity to see his “drunk act” at the center of the action is reason enough to recommend the film.
Drinks Consumed--Beer and whiskey
Intoxicating Effects--Slurred speech and staggering
Potent Quotables--CAPTAIN: Hey! Where d’ya think you’re goin’?
DRUNKEN SAILOR: I’m goin’ ashore and get a little teensy weensy (winks).
Video Availability--You can find the short on DVD in the United Kingdom, Germany, and Holland, but it has not been officially released in the U.S. However, a collector's copy is available on DVD in Laurel and Hardy Classic Shorts Volume 1 (Hollywood's Attic).
Similarly Sauced Cinema--Arthur Housman also provided comic support to Laurel and Hardy in Scram! (1932), The Fixer Uppers (1935), Our Relations (1936), and briefly in The Flying Deuces (1939).
Laurel and Hardy: The Magic Behind the Movies
>> Wednesday, November 5, 2008
You hoser! According to The Canadian Press Rick Moranis has decided against lending his voice to the new Bob & Doug McKenzie animated series. Dave Thomas will still be voicing Doug, but Dave "Full House" Coulier will be filling in as Bob.
This turn of events is not entirely surprising. Earlier this year, Moranis stated that he would not be participating in a possible Ghostbusters III. Apparently, he made a killing on the Honey I Shrunk the... movies, and he no longer has to work.
The Canadian Press article linked above does mention that Moranis will keep executive producer status on the new show, but it is unclear if he will have any real input.
For more info regarding the upcoming series, you may want to keep an eye on World of Hosers.
Strange Brew (DVD)
>> Saturday, November 1, 2008
A Star Is Born (1937), the story of a Hollywood starlet’s (Janet Gaynor) rise with the help of a declining, alcoholic actor (Fredric March), was remade twice--first in 1954 with Judy Garland and James Mason, and yet again in 1976 with Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. However, the 1937 original was itself a reworking of an earlier picture, What Price Hollywood? (1932), from the same producer, David O’ Selznick.
The 1932 film tells the story of Mary Evans (Constance Bennett), a sassy Brown Derby waitress whose life changes overnight when a pie-eyed movie director (Lowell Sherman) staggers into her restaurant. Having forgotten to pick up his date for the premiere of his new picture, the amiable inebriate invites the waitress to accompany him as a substitute. Mary manages to persuade her new friend into giving her a walk-on role in his next picture; and before you can say “montage,” Mary has become a colossal star, promoted by the studio as “America’s pal.” Of course, success comes with a price. Mary finds that her career interferes with happiness in other areas of her life, while her alcoholic mentor slides deeper and deeper into the bottle.
Not only was What Price Hollywood? the first version of the A Star is Born; it is also the best. Produced before the Hayes censorship code diluted studio output, the film is a fresh, potent mix of drama, comedy, booze, behind-the-scenes glitz, and scandal. All of the pitfalls of screen stardom are covered in the brief 88-minute running time--gossip rags, promotional hype, rabid fans, marital woes, and even the paparazzi--but despite the soapy subject matter, the movie rarely descends into melodrama. Smart-alecky dialogue by Bundy Drive Boy Gene Fowler helps to keep the atmosphere light; and director George Cukor propels the material forward at a brisk pace (with the help of some well-edited montages).
The performances are also first-rate. Forgotten actor (and real-life director) Lowell Sherman is a delight as the perpetually pickled filmmaker Max Carey; and Constance Bennett is equally engaging as starlet Mary Evans. The script requires both of their characters to evolve dramatically over the course of the film, and the actors pull off the comedy and drama with equal aplomb.
More than 75 years after its premiere, What Price Hollywood? remains an intoxicating entertainment. This fizzy forgotten cocktail deserves to be rediscovered.
Drinks Consumed--Whiskey, champagne, and gin (martinis)
Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, slurred speech, drunk driving, jail time, yodeling, and suicide
Potent Quotables--MARY: Why do ya drink all the time? Can’t you cut the heavy swilling?
MAX: What, and be bored all the time?
Video Availability--The film has not been released on DVD, but an out-of-print What Price Hollywood [VHS] (Turner Home Entertainment) was previously released. The film is also shown occasionally on television on TCM.
Similarly Sauced Cinema--George Cukor got another crack at similar material when he directed the 1954 remake of A Star Is Born.
What Price Hollywood Metal Cigarette Case
>> Tuesday, October 28, 2008
More soused cinema reviews are on there way, but first, a brief sales pitch...
The treasures of our rich film heritage (including alky-centric gems) are quickly turning to dust. Fifty percent of the films made before 1950 are lost forever, and resources are limited to save those that remain. Each year, in an effort to add a bit to those resources, the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra Website produces a Silent Movies Calendar. The calendar features film stills and informal photographs of silent film stars donated by the posters and readers of the alt.movies.silent newsgroup; and all of the proceeds (after printing costs) are used to benefit silent film restoration.
The 2009 Calendar is now available. This year, the theme is "Lost Films;" and in addition to the silent cinema artwork, the calendar features birthdays of silent-era film stars and personalities, as well as notable marriages, deaths, film openings, and other significant dates.
Now, you may not know it yet, but this calendar is exactly what you need. You love movies, and if you drink as much as I do, you are going to occasionally forget what day (or year) it is. The calendar plus postage is just $17.83; so just click on the link below already, and buy the damn thing!
Get it here--> 2009 Silent Movies Calendar
>> Thursday, October 23, 2008
I've often said that James Bond's reputation as a drinker is overrated. He's a cocktail sipper at best, and in an interview with London's Time Out magazine, Daniel Craig has confirmed it. Here's the exchange in which he explains that the martinis put him on the floor:
TIME OUT: Here’s the bar manager at Duke’s Hotel. Martinis: shaken or stirred?
CRAIG: I don’t know who drinks stirred cocktails anymore. I like them ice, ice, ice cold, so you have to shake them up.
TIME OUT: He wants you to know that Duke’s serves the original Vesper martini. Have you tried it?
CRAIG: Do they? Yes, I’ve tried about ten of them. They’re knockout. We did a proper taste test: full measure of gin, full measure of vodka and then another liqueur on top of it. I ended up on the floor.
TIME OUT: Gin or vodka? Twist or olive?
CRAIG: Vodka. With an olive.
I'm sorry, Mr. Bond. In my opinion, it's not a martini unless it's made with gin (preferably Plymouth). Of course, whether or not Daniel Craig is a true boozer, he's a damn fine actor--the best yet to portray Bond (sorry, Mr. Connery). I'll be the first in line for Quantum of Solace on November 14th.
Here's a link to the full Time Out interview: Daniel Craig Interview
Here's a link to my Booze Movie review for Craig's first foray as Bond, the excellent Casino Royale (2006).
Quantum of Solace (Two-Disc Special Edition)
Quantum of Solace [Blu-ray]