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“Choke! Gasp!” Not A Podcast! Not Comics! No, Films! Hey, It’s Free!

John Kane

Hey, I remembered there’s no podcast this week! Just so you don’t miss out on your free content I banged some words down about three films. It has nothing to do with comics at all. Nor sense. But I did it for you because I care.

Anyway, I hope Messrs Lester and McMillan are having a right old knees up or whatever they are doing. And I hope you all find some tiny distraction in the words which follow.

Bit of a rush job here again so, y’know, not even a picture before the “more“. Slacking, innit. Sort it out!

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Kelly Masterson
Original music by Carter Burwell
Starring Philip Seymour Hoffman (Andy), Ethan Hawke (Hank), Albert Finney (Charles) and Marisa Tomei (Gina)


My hopes weren’t too high for this one what with it being Sidney Lumet’s final film and also it being about a “botched heist”. Chances were high it was going to be some kind of geriatric attempt at a Tarantino-type pop culture and profanity doohickey. You know, a film about other films. Being old, there’s a limit to how many films I can watch about how many films the filmmaker has watched, and I reached that limit in about 1996. Charmingly Mr. Lumet seems to have made a film about people. How quaint! Oh, don’t worry they are odious and repellent people and their morally bankrupt antics send them into a downward spiral which is quite hard to watch at times. Lumet tests his audience’s resolve from the off by immediately attacking your eyes with the image of Philip Seymour Hoffman enthusiastically trying to shove himself inside Marisa Tomei, which is a bit like seeing an articulated lorry repeatedly rear ending a shopping trolley. After that you’ll be pleased to hear everything gets worse for everybody.  There’s a nicely tricksy time structure to Masterson’s (excellent) script that makes the inevitability of everything even more psychologically claustrophobic.  The whole ordeal left me feeling grubby, upset and a little bit less hopeful for the future of the human race. Which is VERY GOOD! because I am a chirpy rascal and no mistake.

44-INCH CHEST(2009)
Directed by Malcolm Venville
Written by Louis Mellis & David Scinto
Original music by Angelo Badalamenti
Starring Ray Winstone (Colin Diamond), Ian McShane (Meredith), John Hurt (Old Man Peanut), Tom Wilkinson (Archie), Stephen Dillane (Mal) and Joanne Whalley (Liz Diamond)


I only give him a tap and he’s sparked right out. You clear the upstairs but don’t mess on the bed like last time, it’s dirty and there’s no real need. Here, he was typing summat. It says here, right, it says here, “I like good dialogue and I’m pretty enamoured of wilfully baroque banter that draws attention to its artificiality while also inexplicably appearing to be naturalistic. While light on plot the film succeeds due to the excellence of the cast and the almost epicurean pleasure they take in the words which they roll around their reliable mouths… ”. What’s that about, eh, what’s he on about there, tell me that why don’t you. Sounds like one of them la-di-dah college types, don’t he now? Like a right royal wanker. Hang on, let me get this lit. Better. Bad for me, what are you, me nan. Sell ‘em in sweet shops don’t they, can’t be bad then. Kids and shit, see. Me uncle Ted smoked two packs a day all his life, where’s the harm, eh. Course he died at twelve. Just messing, little joke there. Lightening the mood and that. Hey, I seen this film on dodgy from Big Ted Nutkin down the car boot. Not really stealing is it. Guess what this film is full of. Words, pal. Chocka, in fact. Knoworrimean. Think Pinter, think Little Marty Amis. Nowhere near as good but that’s what they’re after. Think nasty men in a crappy room smacking a dishy waiter around ‘cos he went and diddled one of their missusses. The cheek, diddling a missus. Not so cheeky now, is he? Nor her neither. Can’t have that. Actions have consequences, girl, and no mistake. Could be a dream cunnit, or a whassit, a psychodrama thing. Bout misogyny, y’know, men and women, all that business. Feminist rubbish, innit, everyone loves their old Mum. Or maybe it’s a bunch of top actors effing and jeffing and smacking a bloke about for a bit. Think what you want, son. Free world and all that. Right, he’s coming around, get the silver and let’s f*** off out of it. What? VERY GOOD!, do I have to spell everything out, you total c***.

Directed by Richard Thorpe
Written by Alan Weiss
Original music by Joseph J. Lilley
Songs performed by Elvis Presley
Starring Elvis Presley (Chet Flip), Sylvia Gams (Mahogony Weatherbee), Bill Bixby (Danny Bridle), Walter Matthau (Chet Flip Snr), Angel Lansbury (Talulah Flip) with Disraeli (Chitters The Chimp)


One for Elvis completists here as it’s only available to subscribers of the Journal of Official King Ephemera. Speedway Chimp was abandoned during post production due to the death of Sylia Gams during filming, in circumstances described by Variety as “inexplicable” and “uncouth“. The surviving footage has been newly restored and re-mastered by MGM and released on this once-in-a-lifetime collector’s disc. Fans of Elvis’ cinematic oeuvre will be cock-a-hoop to learn that this is another knockabout sing-a-long romp no-brainer from Elvis the Entertainer! The King plays a half-Cherokee, half-Hawaiian, half tree stump heir to a soda pop fortune, who escapes the responsibilities he is soon to inherit by joining a travelling speedway circus. Chet soon finds a pal in the person of jolly jackanape Danny Bridle but the pair’s good natured japes attract only disdain from tomboy mechanic Mahogony Weatherbee. To win her reluctant heart Chet enters a Singing Speedway-Burn-Off . Complicating matters somewhat it turns out that Chitters The Chimp has witnessed a mafia killing and in order to keep him safe Chet must pretend he is his pillion pal! He’s got a lot of wooin’ to do! He’s got a lot of animal witness protecting to do! And Elvis may just have the songs to do it all! An EXCELLENT! film  to lift the hearts of anyone who is very easily pleased indeed. Anthony Lane gushed, “This is awful. Please take it away.” Pauline Kael declared it “The death of Cinema. With songs.
Featuring the songsGirl Surprise!”, “You Can’t Peel A Banana In A Sports Car”, “Flingin’ Shit”, “Dance You Little Bastard, Dance!” and “Speedway Chimp (Cha-Cha-Cha)“.

Have a simply splendid week, my darlings! Cheers and all that stuff.

(I would like to make it clear that I did not get 44-INCH CHEST from the car boot. I watched it from the rental shop and paid sterling to do so.)

9 Responses to “ “Choke! Gasp!” Not A Podcast! Not Comics! No, Films! Hey, It’s Free! ”

  1. Mr. K,

    Your write-up on 44-inch chest was brilliant and brought a smile to my face. Thank you for that.


  2. “There’s a nicely tricksy time structure to Masterson’s (excellent) script that makes the inevitability of everything even more psychologically claustrophobic.”

    I had pretty much the opposite view. From my review…

    “The non-linear stuff does get to be a bit much after a while, though. There comes a point where the reaction to another flashback is “not this again”. The other problem is that the story starts out by focusing on Hank and because of the non-linear thing, stays with him for a while before shifting to Andy. But as the film progresses, Andy becomes more and more the main character and it’s a little awkward to switch your emotional focus to him from Hank. It’s also not clear that the non-linear stuff really adds anything to the movie, other than allowing them to space out the plot twists.”


  3. Speedway Chimp featuring those great lost songs “Dance You Little Bastard, Dance” and “You Can’t Peel a Banana in a Sportscar” (a track so good it makes “There’s No Room to Rumba…” seem like “There’s No Room to Rumba”, apparently Joe Brown tecorded a Brit disc entitled “There’s No Room For a Bevy in a Chevy”, true story)), well, bless my soul what’s wrong with me? That sounds perfect! Seriously, I’m impressed that you managed to work in real-life Elvis flick references such as the appearance of Walter Matthau (King Creole) and the sad fate of an actress who really *did* die just after making a film with The King (now, yes, you may be verging on poor taste thete but it’s great in its attention to detail so taste be damned) nice work, Mogambo. Best of all is the reference to The Magician himself, Bill Bixby, being in the cast – clever! I can hear the “Lonely Man” theme right now. Brilliant. John the Pinch Hitter Wins The Game! Do you think you could work a mention of chimps into all your posts?! I’m a simple man with simple tastes(;-)) and I like me some chimp-based humour. But then, I *am* pretty peculiar, there’s always that!
    As for 44-Inch Chest, my antipathy to Ray Winstone ouside of him plying Will Scarlet or appearing in Minder (and maaybe Sexy Beast) precludes me wanting to see that (peculiar, you see?). Also, Johnnie Hurt playing a character called “Old Man Peanut”? “Peanut”? “Leave it ahrt”, “Yer ‘avin’ a Larf”etc. One mustn’t prejudge, but that sounds bally awful. Now, if he were Peanut from The Double Deckers… Talking of the Great John, this reminds me of his appearance on the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? (notable only for the episode in which Dervla Kirwan’s family history is touching and interesting, while she is lovely and “hot”, ahem, in my opinion. Ha) in which he makes an arse of himself by claiming to be upset that he wasn’t of Irish heritage as being Irish ” was my banker”, hilariously stupid. A great actor but quite silly, the Irish had a lucky escape, perhaps he’s always half-soused due to the amount he imbibed before he gave up boozing?! Looney digression ends. Um, good reviews all.

  4. In light of this hilarious and thought provoking piece by my man, JohnK, I think it’s fair to ask if the rest of Elvis’ racing oeuvre might have been improved via chimpanzee augmentation.

    Let’s take a look, shall we?

    Viva Las Vegas – 1964

    “Lucky Jackson (Elvis) goes to Las Vegas, Nevada to participate in the city’s first annual Grand Prix Race. Lucky raises the necessary money in Las Vegas, but he loses it when he is shoved in the hotel pool by the hotel’s nubile swimming instructor, Ms. Rusty Martin (Ann-Margret). Lucky then has to enter the hotel’s talent contest in hopes of winning a cash prize sizable enough to pay for his car’s engine. Meanwhile, Lucky’s main competition arrives in the form of Count Elmo Mancini (Cesare Danova), who attempts to steal both the Grand Prix and the affections of Rusty.”

    Chimp Insertion – Are you f’ing kidding me? His name is Count Elmo Mancini!@$#%

    Spin Out – 1966

    “The story of the movie revolves around music performer and part-time race car driver, Mike McCoy, who is pursued by a trio of gorgeous women, each with the single-minded goal to make Elvis their trophy husband.

    One of the lovely ladies just happens to be the spoiled daughter of a millionaire businessman that tries to woo Elvis in his own way to get him behind the wheel of his prototype race car.”

    Chimp Insertion – While the temptation is there to just make the chimp one of Elvis’ love interests I’m afraid that upsets the apple cart and blows suspension of disbelief. No, in this little gem you have the chimp play the role of the millionaire car designer, Howard Foxhugh. How did he get all this money? How did he produce a human child? Is the engine made of bananas? Anything is justified to get a primate to wear a monacle.

    Speedway – 1968

    “Successful speedway driver Steve Grayson (Elvis) and his wise-cracking, gambling-addicted manager Kenny together go on an adventure to stay one step ahead of Uncle Sam after Kenny loses all their earnings at the horse races.”

    Interesting side-note: Apparently, prior to his gamma irradiation, Bill Bixby and the King had some real screen chemistry as the Bix here plays Kenny.

    Chimp Insertion – In this romp we go gender bender. Put the chimp in the gambling addicted manager role and shift Bix over to the Nancy Sinatra love interest. The only real question is whether you have Bill play it in drag or as a man. She / He would be the IRS inspector sent to clear up the money woes as it’s only natural to try to screw your way out of owing Uncle Sam $150,000 in 1968. The sub rosa context is that all the pair’s money actually comes from the Tarzan movies (Kenny played Cheetah, natch, and the things he did for it went well beyond scale wage if you know what I’m saying.)

    Thanks, JohnK!

  5. @Chris Beckett: Mr. B, I thank you for your thanks. Glad it hit the spot.

    @MBunge: Those are good points well made. All I have is, it worked for me despite all the weaknesses in the execution. But, no, it’s not exactly Nic Roeg is it? Plus, I watch Elvis films of my own volition so my standards aren’t exactly demanding. Good points though.

    @Hal: I’m glad the realistic ingredients that went into my Presley pie of lies caught your eye. Oh yes, I will use bad taste on occasion. I thought everyone liked Ray Winstone and his vast acting range of ‘sleepy’ all the way through to ‘violent’. 44-Inch Chest is written by the Sexy Beast boys, I think. So you might like it?

    @J_Smitty: Your Elvis movie-fu is impressive, indeed. Viva Las Vegas is one of the few films ordinary people can sit through without regretting being born. I also like the way it just plain stops like they have run out of film. Also, Count Elmo Mancini! Sadly, Elvis film synopses are more entertaining than the actual films. As you have proven, everything’s better with chimps!

    Keep on dancin, everyone, or I’ll find myself another cat.


  6. OH NOOOOO!!!!!

    John K, none of us shall forgive UK Customs for this sin against you. May God, by which I mean Howard Victor, have mercy on their souls.


  7. @SteveD: I know!

    As Britain’s foremost (well, loudest)Chaykinologist I’ve got a conference call booked with Her Madge and that posho with the face like a bum cheek (Cameroon or something) and no-one is going home until we hash this out, I’ll be bound!

    I think I can get them to release it next Wednesday instead but you didn’t hear it from me, okay?

  8. Pip, pip, cheerio — keep a stiff upper lip, then, and give them the old what-for. HVC… the V is for Victory! Or Viper. Or something.

  9. @SteveD: Well, I imagine this week it’s V for Vulgar! Only joking, HVC! Yes, it looks like next week for HVC’s BK2 in the UK, OK!

    I thank everyone for their support at this time of national uncertainty.

    England Prevails!

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