Rupert Pupkin Speaks: My Warner Archive Grab Bag: CLASS ACT and THE COOL ONES ""

Monday, September 23, 2013

My Warner Archive Grab Bag: CLASS ACT and THE COOL ONES

CLASS ACT(1992; Randall Miller)
I had the distinct privilege of seeing this film screened in 35mm at a Heavy Midnites event co-sponsored by Warner Archive and curated by my friend Phil Blankenship. Phil is an amazing dude and the best programmer out there. His Heavy Midnites film choices are reflective of the stuff he loves and he always trots out the gems. In the case of CLASS ACT, I hadn't seen it for about 20 years since I had seen the film(on VHS) and my recollection of it was more than a little fuzzy. My expectations were low and I was just expecting a kind of dopey hip hop comedy. What I got was a lot more. CLASS ACT clearly is affectionately rooted in and inspired by a lot of classic comedies of the old Hollywood era and I got such a kick out of that. Christopher 'Kid' Reid seems to be channeling a Jerry Lewis type persona and he does a fine job of it. The film is also infused a bit with the spirit of Abbot & Costello and the Three Stooges at times as well. All of this wrapped up in 90s hip hop comedy which was just surreal for me. See this movie came out in the summer before my senior year if high school. This is obviously dating myself, but it was such a trip to see that era portrayed on screen again. I always think of myself as a child of the 80s and I am in a big way, but the 90s was a real fertile coming-of-age period for me so my memories of that time ate much more vivid than those of the 80s. Anyway it was fun to time travel back to 1992 with Kid N Play and get a glimpse of how things were then. In my preparation for viewing this movie again, I became curious where its place was in the Kid N Play filmography. They made two HOUSE PARTY films in back to back years prior to CLASS ACT and a third a few years after. Sadly, CLASS ACT was the least financially successful if all their films. I even made a pie chart to to illustrate(see below).
Kid N Play Box Office - in $$ millions.
This bums me out a bit because it clearly shows that CLASS ACT was underappreciated in its time. I can't really recall the HOUSE PARTY movies all that well. I remember thinking they were fine and all, but nothing too crazy special. As much as CLASS ACT is not a groundbreaking comedy by any means, the realization that it was inspired by some old comedies and stars I love was quite a rewarding one. It's a special little film for sure.
Another great realization I had with the movie was that Rick Ducommun was in it! Ducommun is a favorite character actor of mine and when he shows up randomly infant film I'm watching, it could please me more.
So the Warner Archive DVD of this looks nice and its widescreen which is great. For any folks that still have nostalgia for that 'glorious' time called the 1990s, this movie is a trip well worth taking.

THE COOL ONES(1967; Gene Nelson)
You really can't get much more 60s than THE COOL ONES as far as movies go. It's got all pop-deco stylistic flash, the music and the camp you'd expect and it's got Roddy McDowall. I may have mentioned here before that I am not the world's biggest fan of 1960s films. The 50s on down I'm fine with, even the dopey teenager stuff. And the 70s is obviously an amazing time for film so I have no problem there. Not sure what it is about the 1960s as portrayed in films that I just don't jive with. I guess there's that sense of things that one might prototypically call "hippie" that kind of turn me off. I guess it just stands out to me as something that really dates a film of this period as anachronistic in that it feels closer to the present day and yet so far away as far as the countercultural mindset of the movies. What it really is in a lot of ways is Hollywood trying to capture that mindset and their interpretation of it just comes off as corny to me. Anyway, that's neither here nor there in terms of THE COOL ONES because there's much to enjoy here. I love a movie that jumpstarts itself with a groovy tune and especially one that contains the title of the movie your watching. There's something inherently silly about that to me and yet it brings with it this idea of "hey we're putting on a show for you and we even wrote a song about it" that is kind of infectious nonetheless.  Speaking of songs, one thing that caught my eye right off the bat was the mention of songs and music supervision by the great Lee Hazlewood. He wrote not only the title song, but close to half a dozen more for the movie. That gives it a boost above others 60s fare right off the bat. 
Another thing that can be fun about 60s movies is the lingo the characters use. Hard boiled dialog from film noir is about one of the coolest things out there in my opinion, so I'm kind of drawn to any stylized-speak in movies from any period. The 60s beatnik vernacular can be cringe inducing if you let it, but for the most part it's just dopey goofiness. See this clip for examples:
Also, there's the dancing. The way I feel watching people dance in 1960s films is how I think people feel when they watch me dance now. It's really awkward and embarassing to say the least. Oops, did I mention the plot of this thing? Roddy McDowall plays a youthful rock promoter who decides to create a new sound sensation by teaming a go-go dancer and a waning pop star as a couple. His character actually reminds me a bit of the one he played in the way aquatic classic HELLO DOWN THERE(which WAC put out recently) with a little of his 'Mollymauk' role from LORD LOVE A DUCK(which is one of my favorite 60s films btw).
THE COOL ONES' has a prophetic premise obviously and one that still resonates to this day. Not that this movie has too much on it's mind, but there is some commentary happening here for sure. It's absolutely of its time and that's cool because it is an interesting snapshot of not only of a certain kind of music scene in that era, but also of Los Angeles. For fans of L.A. in movies like me it's a neat little archeological excavation of locations that have long since disappeared from the present day L.A. that I've come to know. And yet, you can pick out a street or a specific corner and see how it is still sort of the same in some way. In the words of the prolific Dennis Hopper, "That shit fascinates me." 
As a little bonus, this movie also features Mrs. Miller!

1 comment:

thirtyhertzrumble said...

I have always had a soft spot for CLASS ACT. I remember loving it after seeing it in the theater and expecting it to be a big hit... and then it just disappeared. And while the House Party films endured some lasting affection/nostalgia, CLASS ACT was just never mentioned in the same breath. I enjoy the HOUSE PARTY movies as I do a time capsule of a very specific moment of my mid-youth. CLASS ACT does that and more. I was extremely happy to have picked it up from WAC earlier this year. And it was just much fun as I remembered.