It would be difficult to count all the movies that have been set during the prohibition era. Yet for some reason, it seems like all of them are set at the end–usually around the Stock Market crash. It’s nice to see one that kicks off in the early days.
The story bears only superficial resemblance to history. But still, it’s nice to see a period piece that depicts the rise of Al Capone and Bugs Moran.
The protagonist (played by some actor who looks familiar) is a straight arrow, but when his father is murdered by a rival gang, he hires on as a trigger man for Capone.
One little tidbit I didn’t expect was a brief monologue from Capone about how John D. Rockafeller was the driving force behind getting the Volstead Act passed. Hadn’t heard that one before.
Aside from what I’ve mentioned, there’s nothing remarkable about this movie. Back in the day, it would have been called a “B picture.
This book is a prequel to The Vandals. As such, it has inspired me to go back and read it again. And although classified “Y.A.,” I consider My Lonely Room a fine, worthwhile read for men or boys of any age.
The setting is Queens, New York, at the dawn of the rock & roll era. A young outcast lives in partially self-imposed exile due to selfish parents; a sadistic landlady; cliquish kids doing what kids do (only worse, in the big city); and social ineptitude deriving from arrested development.
You don’t have to be Polish, a baby-boomer, or from the Big Apple, to relate to Jimmy Yadenik. Those details merge to form a fascinating backdrop for this tale of a boy becoming a young man, and learning to play the cards he was dealt.
I should clear something up: 1950s street gangs are not to be confused with biker gangs. The latter began as clubs made up of drunken, brawling WWII vets out to have fun and abuse their newly attained civilian freedoms. Later they evolved into something uglier, but that’s another story.
Nor are 1950s street gangs to be confused with later gangs, which were more like fiefdoms in the feudal drug trade, where life is a perpetual nightmare for everyone involved–or even just in proximity.
The gang members of the 1950s were teenagers, mostly. A gang was comprised of kids from the same neighborhood, and was not envisioned as a criminal enterprise by the founders. The members often shared interests (rock & roll, for instance; girls; maybe cars), but what united them was a mutual need for protection. Protection from what? Other kids, mostly.
It’s amazing to me, but a lot of big city folks spend their entire lives in a single neighborhood. It’s been that way for a while. Kids like Jimmy Yadenik didn’t look for trouble; but when they strayed into a different ‘hood, they often found it.
Kids behave like pack animals anywhere, but stack them like sardines in tenaments, and the violence multiplies. Faced with this situation, it’s only natural kids would seek safety in numbers. Or, as the Jets sang in West Side Story:
When you’re a Jet let ’em do what they can
You got brothers around; you’re a family man.
You’re never alone; you’re never disconnected.
You’re home with your own when company’s expected.
You’re well protected.
Sometimes a gang from the next ‘hood would invade yours. Sometimes there were two gangs in the same ‘hood. This is how turf wars got started.
Also, don’t confuse this subculture with the pampered Baby Boomer generation as a whole. Yes, midwestern James Dean wannabes dressed like thugs and tried to act tough during these years, but their “rebellion” came from petulance. No other generation in history had it so easy; had been given everything on a silver platter (except discipline); or had so little to be angry about. “Rebel without a cause” is an apt description for most of them. Or, as Marlon Brando’s character put it in The Wild One when asked what he was rebelling against: “What have ya got?”
But in the asphalt jungle, teenagers weren’t coddled, and didn’t enjoy lives of largesse. Jimmy Yadenik has a father who never bothered to teach him anything at all, much less how to be a man. The father is absent physically and emotionally. The only worth he recognizes in his son is the labor potential, so Jimmy can contribute to the weekly beer fund and the parties at the Polish Club. Jimmy’s mother is a little more humane, but still a lot more take than give. Case in point: they put Jimmy in a foster home so he wouldn’t be an inconvenience to them. As the story begins, Jimmy has just recently come to live with them again.
Perhaps the saddest part of Jimmy’s story is the way he latches onto some advice from a teacher. She gives him a truly underwhelming sample of generic, non-commital social worker talk, and it motivates him. It’s evidently the most encouragement he’s ever received from any adult in his life.
Not especially charismatic or athletic, how is Jimmy supposed to make friends with angry, messed-up kids from other dysfuntional families at school or in the neighborhood?
He acquires a girlfriend who does most of the heavy lifting for him in Love’s Learning Curve, for one thing. (If only all girlfriends could be so straightforward and accomodating.)
Secondly, he finds brotherhood (of sorts) via some streetwise boys who take him under their wings, and help him along in his journey. (If only all de facto orphans could find this kind of peer support.)
It’s certainly not the best path to manhood a boy could take, but it beats the azimuth set for him by his parents and teachers.
If you were born some time within the last half-century, you will probably find something in My Lonely Room that resonates with you.
Motorized Mayhem Down Under! Time to take Speed Week Plus south of the Equator, to a continent comprised entirely of one country–and into the future, where civilization is on the verge of complete breakdown.
Imagine an Australia populated with butch, entitled women; supplicating nancy-boy males considered “men;” oppressed by a draconian police state hell-bent on gobbling up more power until farting in the privacy of your own toilet is a crime punishable by death…
Oh, wait. No need to imagine–Australia is just about there already. Imagine instead an Australia saved from that dystopian present by a nuclear holocaust and utter economic devastation. Whew!
That merciful cataclysm seems to be underway at the beginning of the original, unfeminized Mad Max.
I actually saw the sequel, Road Warrior, before I saw Mad Max. And having seen it, I just had to watch the original.
I should clarify something up front: I won’t be including Beyond Thunderdome for Speed Week Plus, and probably never will review it or the more recent Mad Maxine.
So the “thin blue line” Down Under has become razor thin, fighting a losing battle to keep civilization from toppling. Amoral, perverse gangs rule the roads, stealing whatever they want, raping whoever they want (which is pretty much anyone), and more than willing to murder and destroy in order to do it.
On the side of good is the MFP: Main Force Patrol. Just as our police have come to be known as “cops,” originally “coppers” because of the badges worn by New York policemen, these Aussie lawmen’s badges were made from a different metal, hence they are slurred as “the bronze” by the villains in this film (as well as the hero in Fast Cars and Rock & Roll, which pays homage to many films, including this one).
A very young Mel Gibson plays Max, the MFP’s star patrolman, who’s considering quitting the force and taking his family away from the madness. To bribe him into staying, the MFP makes an unofficial gift to him of “the last of the V8 Interceptors.” It’s a black-on-black Australian Ford Falcon, supercharged, with “Phase IV heads” and “Nitro.” By the end of the movie Max deputizes the Falcon Interceptor to run down the gang that murdered his family and made a vegetable of his friend Goose.
By the way, the clutched supercharger on the Falcon was a pure fabrication sold via the magic of film editing. But Hollywood has plagiarized it with their own clutch-driven blowers in movies like My Science Project.
Director George Miller was fascinated with medical apperattus and you’ll see some on display in Mad Max and its sequel. He must have been equally obsessed with Catholic symbolism.
But the appeal of this movie is the high-octane action, and it’s got a lot. A lot of the speed scenes were undercranked to exaggerate the velocity of moving vehicles, yet it was accomplished with a subtle touch so that it doesn’t make everything comical.
That’s not to say there aren’t some laughable moments (dig that Roman Candle in the exhaust pipe)–if you watch the version with overdubbed American voices, it’s downright groan-worthy. So I recommend getting the version with the original soundtrack.
“We remember the Night Rider! And we know who you are.”
I mentioned this chase scene recently in my post about Cobra. Despite swinging ’60s soundtrack and the advance of both special effects and automotive technology since this cop flick was made, this is still the best car chase I’ve ever seen. So help me, if somebody so much as mentions any of the abysmal Fast and the Furious movies in this context…well, just count yourself lucky that you’re not within slapping range.
Here’s some rumors and trivia I’ve picked up here and there about this famous scene:
The old fart with glasses at the wheel of the Charger is a stunt man who did the actual driving for the shoot.
Steve McQueen did some of the stunt driving as well. Those little throttle blips just before the upshift were him showing off.
At first the suspension of both cars were tuned to handle quite well (especially considering the era and the skinny bias ply tires), but the director wanted them to skid around the corners more dramatically and so had them de-tuned again.
That 440 Mopar was bone stock, as was the Dodge body/frame.
The Mustang’s 390 was warmed over a little, and the chassis stiffened to handle those spine-kinking jumps.
BTW younger generation: This is what an actual Dodge Charger looks like. Those pregnant 4-door luxury sedans on the streets now? They are a result of some German engineers having a few kegs too many at Oktoberfest and mixing the ugliest body styles from both Daimler-Benz and Chrysler (and it should have been called a Coronet or something, though even the Coronets were never that ugly). Putting a badge on it that says “Charger” is just sick German humor.
Geez, a whole lot of Pontiacs get in the way of this epic vehicular battle.
I’ve heard people say that the movie Ronin has a great chase scene. I just watched it again, and it’s a decent flick with some good driving scenes. The chases aren’t as good as this one, though I think I know why some people find it exciting. I just blogged about it last time.
Welcome to Speed Week Plus! You’re in the middle of a series of blog posts dedicated to a specific selection of action adventure, featuring blazing horsepower, shattered speed limits and melting tire rubber.
Up this time is Ronin, an action flick that is part caper and part espionage, with plot twists and double-crosses in all the right places. Robert DeNiro is a superb actor who is brilliant in the villain role but no sloucher as a hero, either, as proven in this movie. In this one he’s a former spook who, like a samurai without a master, must rent out his skills to make a living. He is hired along with some other “specialists” to pull a job that grows increasingly complex as the twists pile up.
It’s a solid action yarn that is well worth spending an afternoon watching. But it was recommended to me specifically for the chase scene.
To be honest I found the car chase rather unremarkable. Its popularity probably has a lot to do with the body count in vehicular destruction, and the now obligatory driving-into-oncoming-traffic segment.
Anyway, the car chase is above for your viewing pleasure and you can decide for yourself how good it is.
I agree with Jean Reno, BTW: De Niro should have just shot her. But then there wouldn’t be an excuse to flog these European luxury sedans through traffic for eight minutes.
This is actually an idiosyncratic selection for me. Stay tuned to watch some American iron raising hell next time.
The centerpiece of NASCAR’s Speed Week–the Daytona 500–just took place. We’re considering a Speed Week of our own right here. Or maybe a Speed Month, anyway.
I have been informed that Virtual Pulp is lacking a review of Cobra, and this simply will not do. So without further ado…here it is:
I would call this action movie a “guilty pleasure”…but I’m really not all that guilty about liking it. When it first hit theaters in 1986 I watched it for every weekend pass while it was still showing at the Cross Creek Mall in Fayetteville. As soon as it came to video I bought a copy, too.
Cobra has a lot in common with the prototype renegade cop flick Dirty Harry. Obviously they’re both about cops who teeter on the edge of vigilantism, ridding civilization of scum that the inept “justice” bureaucracy lets terrorize decent people. But it goes even further than that. Both Harry Callahan and Marion Cobretti have the same partner…at least he’s played by the same actor. Last name is Gonzales in one, Garcia in the other. Remember the villain from Dirty Harry? Same actor plays Cobretti’s nemesis inside the police force in Cobra.
And now for what, more than anything else, made me a fan of this classic action adventure cop movie: Cobra’s ride–a chopped and channeled ’50 Merc lead sled. This is my kind of cop.
“I know what you’re thinkin’: ‘Did he drop two gears or only one?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kinda’ lost track myself. But seein’ as how this is an American V8, the most powerful engine in the world, and would blow your doors clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”
Okay, we can all pick this scene apart if we choose to. There are continuity errors throughout–bulletholes in the trunk that disappear in the next shot; cars doing over 110 MPH on the freeway in one shot, doing 15 on a back street in the next… Obliteration of the laws of physics: a burst from a submachinegun causes a pickup truck to flip bed-over-cab and explode… And in typical Hollywood fashion the best car in the movie is needlessly destroyed. But it’s still fun while it lasts. (Despite some continuity problems of its own, the best car chase ever filmed is probably in another cop flick called Bullitt.)
Another similarity to Dirty Harry is in the blatant attempt to generate memorable lines. Cobra has a few of them, but not all of them are as bad as its reputation suggests.
Now, I agree that “I don’t like lousy shots” isn’t terribly noteworthy (and there is some even worse dialog at the end). But “Go ahead–I don’t shop here,” is hilarious. Stallone even pulled off “You’re a disease, and I’m the cure.” It’s when the marketing people decided to put it on the posters that it became groan-worthy. “Crime is a disease. He’s the cure.” Ugh. Puke.
Did you catch that Sly said, “Drop it!” right before ventilating the ugly psycho at the grocery store? Me neither, the first time. Bang! Bang! Bang! “Stop, or I’ll shoot!”
Trivia note: When Sly Stallone began working on the treatment that was later developed into the Cobra script, the title was Beverly Hills Cop. The suits wanted a comedy though, and the ideas diverged from that point.
For those aware of the massive election fraud in 2012…as the saying goes: you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. There’s so much fraud locked-and-loaded for 2016, that it’s too much for a part-time blogger to keep track of half of it. It’s to the point that the only newsworthy stories during Election 2016 will be about untampered votes cast (only once) by living US citizens.
Hillary implied during the first debate that she has ducked reporters for most of this past year because she was preparing for the debate, and for the presidency. Well, her army of fundamental transformers have been preparing, too.
Early voting does not begin in Ohio until October 12, so no votes have officially been cast in the Buckeye state. However, inside these boxes were, what one source described as, “potentially tens of thousands of votes” for Hillary Clinton.
…With this find… it now appears that Clinton and the Democrat Party planned on stealing the state on Election Day, making any campaigning there now a waste of time.
This is just one of the aspects of the upcoming election which have been inadvertently discovered. For every instance revealed, you can bet money there are dozens or hundreds which never come to light. And even when the Democrats are caught red-handed, the mainstream media assists in the coverup and 90% of the population remains ignorant. Team Hillary will not be held accountable, just like Team Obama was never held accountable. Assuming The will of the people will be determined in November, much less a Trumpslide, is extremely naive.
If the elites played fair, we wouldn’t even be where we are now, would we?
But, sometimes advertising in the right way can give you a bump. For months Shadow Hand Blues has been buried on about page # umpteen zillion or so at Amazon. Nobody bought it, because nobody knew it existed.
Virtual Pulp took advantage of an advertising special on Kindle Nation Daily. (It’s unlikely we’ll ever use Book Bub unless their prices get a whole lot less ridiculous.)
Then on May 29 SHB reached #60 in Mysteries>Private Investigators; #76 in Suspense>Political; # 68 in Historical/Suspense; and # 8,755 paid in the Kindle Store. (The rankings were actually a little better than that before I thought to take a screenshot.) Not bestseller status, of course, but it at least moved the book up out of the enormous slush pile for a hot second where browsing readers might actually find it.
And a few did. Sales spiked for one day. What’s nice is, since the promotion ended, it hasn’t slipped completely back into obscurity. Some E-Book sales are still trickling in, and it’s accumulating some KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) read, along with its prequel, Fast Cars and Rock & Roll, which is targeted at a much narrower niche audience. Maybe one or both will pick up some reviews, as well.
Red-Blooded American Men Examine Pop-Culture and the World