"I take orders from the Octoboss."

Monster Squad

tn_monstersquadAfter catching up with NIGHT OF THE CREEPS I knew I had to see director Fred Dekker’s second movie that I’d always avoided. You know, he’s one of those directors who wears his horror nerd-dom on his sleeve, and some members of the internet community have too much loyalty to guys like that. There’s this whole “he’s one of us!” idea where if they swear they love some comic book or something that proves they’ll do a good job of making a movie. But of course, we all know ten guys who love that comic book who we wouldn’t trust to return a movie to the video store on time, let alone direct one.

So I was always skeptical about that claim with Fred Dekker. ROBOCOP 3 did not seem like the work of a born director. But it turns out it was – his first two movies are real gems. Two against one.

mp_monstersquadMONSTER SQUAD is another horror comedy, but this time from a younger kid’s perspective, like around 12 years old and younger. Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the mummy, the wolfman and the creature all show up in a small town because Dracula’s bent on destroying the amulet that can kill him once every 100 years (tomorrow). Only a bunch of kids know about it and can stop them. So it’s very similar to GOONIES, although Dekker conceived it as The Little Rascals meet the Universal Monsters.

I liked it better than last time I saw GOONIES, because these kids don’t scream and whine as much as the Goonies and the jokes are funnier. Dekker wrote the script with Shane Black, which explains all the funny quips (including smartass cop banter, because the main kid’s dad is a cop) and jokes like the little girl who thinks we’re at war with Vietnam. “It’s in RAMBO,” she explains. There’s a definite Shane Black wiseass feel to this thing, with two main characters known mainly as descriptions: “Fat Kid” and “Scary German Guy.” Even their friends call them that.

Like NIGHT OF THE CREEPS the comedy is grounded with messy relationships. The kids’ parents are fighting all the time, but the kids don’t seem to notice because they’re preoccupied with kid things and monsters. There are some great father-son and mother-daughter moments where they try not to let the fighting get to the kids, and maybe get a little relief by spending that brief time with their child. It’s such a goofy movie but with surprising humanity.

But more importantly it has surprising monsterity. A kids movie with Dracula, Frankenstein, etc. teaming up? What are the chances they’re gonna treat the monsters with respect? Well here they do. Yeah, it’s Dracula in a cape, but they don’t make a joke out of him, they treat him as a serious threat. And the movie is drenched with atmosphere, that surprised me. I never guessed a movie called MONSTER SQUAD would be shot this beautifully. You know how you can tell Dekker is a serious Dracula fan and not casual? Because an armadillo runs by in Dracula’s castle.

The way they handle the wolfman is a good example of how credible the monsters are. After a protracted battle one of the kids shoots the wolf with a silver bullt. He morphs back into his human form, laying on the ground pathetically dying. And I thought, “Oh shit, this poor kid just murdered a human being in cold blood, he’s gonna have to live with it for the rest of his life.” And then the human-wolfman looks at the kid all teary eyed but he doesn’t say, “Why?” He says “Thank you.” It’s so perfect because it’s a relief, it makes the death less horrible, but it’s also a tribute to the tragic nature of the original Universal wolfman. They got it just right.

The makeup by Stan Winston is great. It’s not a Universal movie so they couldn’t use the same looks as the Universal movies, but they are able to capture some of their qualities while putting their own spin on it. The mummy is my favorite. I’m not really a fan of mummy movies, but in this one he’s the best looking monster. I also gotta give props to the creature from the unnamed, uncopyrighted lagoon. And I’m sure somebody has pointed this out before, but holy shit, him and the Predator could be cousins! Check it out:

But the best character is definitely Frankenstein’s monster. I guess that’s another way it’s like GOONIES because they have their deformed giant friend Sloth in that one. Here Frankenstein’s monster is sent to kill the kids, and there’s an homage to the famous scene where the monster finds the little girl throwing flowers in the water and tries to play along by throwing the girl and killing her. But here it cuts away before any throwing occurs, and the next thing you know she’s dragging him around like he’s a puppy she found. And she figures now she should be allowed into the boys’ monster club. The monster becomes a member too, not through any choice to do the right thing but just because he relates to them and doesn’t know any worse. I guess even in our dead flesh it’s natural to be nice.

I’m happy to report that MONSTER SQUAD is one of the good kiddie movies. I can see how it’s a big nostalgia thing for people who saw it growing up, especially people who grew up into horror fans. It’s all a big tribute to the world of the budding horror fan: obsession with monsters, kids trying to see a slasher series called GROUNDHOG DAY, a kid wearing a shirt that just says “Stephen King rules.” There aren’t that many movies that speak to that kind of kid, so if that was you growing up this makes perfect sense as a sentimental favorite. But lucky for me it’s also good enough to work on me too.

I have to say though, after hearing the quote a thousand times over the years I thought the wolfman was actually gonna have “nards” hanging out. No, he wears pants for the whole movie. Fuckin Hollywood always playin it safe. Total ripoff.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2009 at 12:54 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Horror, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

94 Responses to “Monster Squad”

  1. Vern – Of all the Shane Black witty lines, you forgot the best one with the “cool kid” (i.e. older kid wearing a leather jacket who hangs with children for some reason) with him marching off to fight the vampires:

    “I’m in the goddamn club, aren’t I?”

    Seriously, how many kids movies give us a good genuine badass line/moment?

  2. “Mom says you have to let me in or else it’s perscription.”
    “That’s discrimination jerk, perscriptions drugs which you’re on if you think you’re getting in here.” WHY COULDN’T I BE THIS SMART WHEN I WAS TWELVE!!

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the part where Scary German Guy admits that he does know a lot about monsters and it cuts to his concentration camp tattoo. The single best touch of the whole movie, it gos back to the Night of the Creeps thing where Dekker just puts in these little touches that make these goofy characters have that much more heart and soul (so of course this was the part the studio demanded he cut).

  3. I´m in love with Night of the Creeps, this one is not that great, but i think it´s a perfect kiddie movie.

  4. Fred Dekker = Tibor Takács: two great movies followed by bad luck and bad cinema.

  5. My favorite part is when Dracula calls the kid and leaves a message with his mom.

  6. I don’t know, the movie just did nothing for me. It has some great moments, but as a whole it just didn’t work for me. And if you know me, you know that I’m a sucker for good kids entertainment! And classic movie monsters. Especially werewolves!

  7. When I first heard of MONSTER SQUAD, I somehow got the impression the film was about a Squad of Monsters as the heroes. Like a supernatural Mod Squad(Modster Squad?), and I can see that movie now. The team at first don’t get along, either due to natural adversity (vampires/werewolves) or being loners/alpha dogs not used to working in a team, maybe Dracula hits on Bride of Frankenstein. But by a certain point they find common ground and bond and become an asskicking machine (cue montage of them taking it to other monsters or maybe the mob), and it culminating in the Vampire taking a silver bullet for the Werewolf at the end.

  8. CJ Holden – Ah you’re just still peevy over Scary German Guy. Maybe he should have been called instead Scary Italian Guy, Scary Puerto Rican Guy, Scary Czechslovakian Guy, Scary Luxembourg Guy, Scary Gibraltar Guy, etc.

    Stu – Wasn’t there a cartoon from 70s television hell along those lines?

    And for the record, I would pay good money to watch your monster squad movie pitch.

    *Cue trailer Voice-Over*

    “The mob thinks they can get away with everything because they’re monsters….wait till they meet some REAL monsters!”

  9. They would have to fight some kind of elite government force trying to steal their DNA, or lock them up or who kidnapped the werewolf puppies or something. There would have to be an EEVIILL religous leader that condenmed the monsters just for being different, so that means at least one of the monsters would need to have some religous hang-ups (probably Frankenstein, or perhaps Dracula, but it would be cooler if he was the Han Solo type who didn’t believe in anything but then maybe he said a Bible verse or something right before avenging someone or sacrificing himself).

  10. Yeah, I think it’s the scary German guy. You can call us everything, but you just cross a line when you call us scary. :'(

  11. CJ – Man, for a fair trade off, Frankenstein is German. Or at least ripped off a real-life German alchemist.

    I mean shit, even Stu might be jealous of you all there.

  12. That’s the same thing that happened to me when I first saw the movie , Vern , and I wasn’t exactly a kid . I immediately connected with the kids and with their passion for horror movies and monsters, and I started to wonder what are my favourite movies and creatures . For the kids ( and Dekker , I think ) it was the classic Universal / Hammer films , for me the creatures from Aliens and the Thing , and Vern , obviuosly , mentioned that goddamn armadillo. This movie is always a good community experience , because one of its strongest points is the “fan” factor of everyone involved.

  13. Actually I’m sorta incorrect.

    There is a Castle Frankenstein, real family clan lived there and all that one-hit wonder Mary Shelly visited before she wrote her breadwinner. There was an alchemist who did work there, who died because he was testing himself by drinking his “immortality” potion.

    Also his name was Dipple.

  14. I heard on the biography channel that Mary Shelley stole the idea of Frankenstein from an unused story of the Brothers Grimm. One of her parents worked for them.

  15. Stu – I said it before , and I will say it again : I want to see a zombie apocalypse movie where all the survivors are classic monsters like werewolves , vampires , supernatural slashers and so on . They need to work together to survive , but also keep an eye on each other .

  16. CJ Holden – Brothers Grimm dropped the ball. Shelly gets famous for writing the first true Science Fiction novel.

    And the brothers get Terry Gilliam’s worst movie.

  17. This was a big favorite for me and my brother and cousins growing up, and I still like it, but something that struck me funny watching it again recently was that Dracula never bites anyone on camera, but he does use dynamite like two or three times, so basically the main threat he poses in this movie is exploding you with dynamite.

  18. Josh – Remember that scene when instead of driving/flying downtown to stop the damn kids with the amulet, Dracula takes the time to drive to the kids’ clubhouse and explode it.

    What an asshole.

    Also, why does he need a car when he can fly? Guess a pimp is always a pimp.

  19. Hello guys. I’m AsimovLives from Portugal and this is my first proper post. Not exactly my first post per se, as that was a post defending my long time friend and buddy RRA from the vile comparison to the infamous AICN “reviewer” Massawyrm. But anyway, i just wanted to make myself known to you fellows. It has been my desire for quite some time to contribute with my rants for the most excelent site of the Venerable Vern, estemed online critic. Vern is a reviewer wihich, more then anybody else, i found myself in agreemwnt with, 90% of the time. Except when he is talking about Steven Segal movies, which, frankly, i can’t give a shit about. Yeah, what can i do? Nobody’s perfect! But i do share Vern’s complete despise for Michael Bay and a big admiration for Point Blank, that should count for something. Well, of cours,e there’s some rare moemtns i foudn myself in disagreement with Vern, and always they are complete “What The Fuck” moments for me, because i don’t expect them. It’s uncanny how sometimes we found ourselves with such agreement with people we really do not know, who are form a different country, from a different walk of life, hell even from the different side of the system, Vern being an ex-con, me being a court clerk. But really, who cares, right? It’s the meet of minds that matters, right? Well, except concerning Jar Jar Abrasm’s Shit Trek, which Vern really loved and i loath and hate and despised with a fury comparable to my loath for Armageddon… which is a lot, baby. This will be a recurrent thing about me, so please forgive me. Anyway, i always had lots of fun reading Vern’s reviews, i hope i can have as much fun as interacting with you fine gentlemen.

  20. And i write a lot of typos too. And not as entertainly as Vern.

  21. Mate, I’m sure Brendan was joking around when he said that. and maybe he was right for my broad dismissal statement on HAPPY FEET. I thought it was daffy and basically about penguins singing/dancing about…well you know.

    Anyway, welcome dude. Just don’t go all AICN/CHUD on us, ok? Don’t piss in the pool.

  22. Happy Feet: Top Gun-like gay pinguin hero in Hawaii?? Fuck’s sake, that’s lame! Who cares about that movie?

  23. Wrong movie mate. That was SURF’S UP. Which I never bothered with..

    No HAPPY FEET, the penguin CGI musical. From the MAD MAX filmmaker, who won an Oscar.

  24. Same difference.

  25. But….George Miller!

    I mean shit it was the movie that beat CARS for the Animated Oscar.

    Which isn’t saying much, but there you go.

  26. Actually RRA I was talking to the guy who posted before you about how Happy Feet fits into Miller’s overall utopian society vision thing or something or other, specifically how Masswyrm made a stink over how the movie was trying to convert kids to atheism (although I maintain his only real beef was with the way the message was hidden in the ads and stuff, not with the message itself). Of course, by the time I finished, you had jumped in and broken up the back and forth between me and the Filmist. You cunt. I kid! I kid! This is why we should label our responses, a valuable lesson we all should learn, less this tragedy spread to our children, and our children’s children. And our children’s children’s children. And our children’s chil-you get the idea.

    AsimovLives, glad to have you here. Your typos are our typos and ours are yours. Wasn’t Asimov the one who had the creepy fucking robot/puppet/thing made out of him and sent to conventions? No, wait that was Philip K. Dick. Anyway, welcome.

  27. What was Monster Squad rated? This is one hardcore kids movie. You got that huge shotgun wound on the Creature from the Off-Brand Lagoon, a bunch of vampyros lesbos getting staked and spitting up blood, and an exploding werewolf with twitching appendages. Plus, a four-year-old girl gets called a bitch. This is one kids movie that knows that kids are tougher than grownups think they are. The only time it drops the ball is when Van Helsing gives the thumbs up. That’s the kind of pandering horseshit I’d hoped the movie was above.

    Also, that montage song rules. Giggler, if you want to do a swap for that disco version of the Psycho theme, I can throw in some tracks from Revenge of the Nerds to sweeten the deal.

  28. Dracula doesn’t bite anyone on screen but he does turn three terrified women into his undead followers, blows up and beats the shit out of cops, call toddlers bitches, sends Frankenstein to brutally murder children and comes thisclose to dragging a preteen into Hell. That’s a pretty good committment to being an evil bastard right there.

  29. Monster Squad was PG but has been re-rated as PG-13 for the current release. Still though, if you happen to be showing this movie to a younger sibling, and say for example, your Mom walks in and overhears the “Hey asshole” line and sees the werewolf appendages thing, just explaining the rating will not be enough to get you out of trouble. Hypothetically anyway.

  30. Dammit. I knew AICN would start leaking onto these talkbacks.

    There goes the fucking neighborhood.

  31. Aint that swell?

  32. Brendan – Oh damn, I’m incredibly sorry mate. Shit happens?

    AsimovLives – Aint That Crappy News?

    Damn, I’m 11 again.

  33. Josh – that’s a great observation, I didn’t notice that but it’s absolutely true. Of course, most Dracula movies could use more dynamite.

  34. Hey gang. That kiddie show about monsters teaming up and fighting crime. It was called…wait for it…”Monster Squad” and it starred that Gopher dude from the Love Boat. Here’s the imdb.


  35. I KNEW IT!!!!

  36. Well now I’m scared of crazy AICN people stalking me through the talkbacks, angry because I compared someone he agreed with to someone he disagreed with. YOU HAVE MADE ME A MARKED MAN RRA! Dude c’mon that is not cool, the Monster Squad would never do that to each. You have shamed the Monster Squad, RRA. May God have mercy on your soul. Or if not God, maybe, I don’t know, Harry or Vern or someone.

  37. I love this movie but had forgotten, until I watched it with my then 10-year-old and 6-year-old daughters, that the kid’s sister’s virginity is a major plot point (ie, when she cannot do the magic ritual it is discovered that she is not a virgin). Lead to some awkward discussions in my house.

  38. I always just say that a virgin is someone who has never had a boyfriend/girlfriend. That usually covers it.

  39. i caught bits and bobs of this movie on cable growing up, but i don’t think i ever saw the whole thing. i never was really tempted to watch it all. to be honest, it always seemed kind of lame to me, kinda like THE GOONIES stripped of my nostalgic love for it (i watched THE GOONIES right when it came out when i was the perfect age for it, and i cherished it and watched it countless times – it does have some honestly good stuff in it though, for example, most of the interaction of the fratellis and especially the scene where they kidnap chunk and he tells them his whole life story – cracks me up every time).

    BUT based on this review, maybe i will check it out. also, i tend to be a fan of horror/comedies when done well. i am actually more likely to get excited about a horror/comedy than about horror films in general (though i have been warming up to horror lately, thanks to watching a lot of classics for halloween this year – there’s just so much ABSOLUTE SHIT to wade through to get to the good ones).

    btw the japanese title for monster squad is: DRACULIAN. not sure if that means anything specifically or not.

  40. Brendan – You are Marked.

    FOR DEATH! Screwface is comin’ for ya boy!

  41. Whatever happened to Shane Black? I know he directed Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang but his output has been pretty low over the last few years.

  42. r2- He’s attached to write some spy movie, and recently, it was announced he was adapting some old pulp figure into a new franchise. He also did work on Iron Man 2. Also, he’s apparently actively developing a sequel to Kiss Kiss.

  43. Saw this about a year ago at a showing with Fred Dekker, the main kid (Andre Gower), and the actress who played the little girl. And I’m ashamed to say she’s superhot now. (Wait, IMDB says she’s 5 years older than Lady Gaga…what???)

    But yeah, the humanity and heart really does set apart Monster Squad from similar movies. Plus (and this sounds like a backhanded compliment) – I really love the length of the thing. Damn thing runs 82 minutes, yet I cared about everyone in the squad more than I cared about the squad in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Go figure.

  44. Screw that noise RRA, I shall find the cursed object and send it twofold upon your pagan head!! Bwahhahah!


  45. Brendan : Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 2 ? ( Or Reloaded ? Or Revenge ? Or Requiem ?) ?
    It’s that true ? That’s the best news I’ve heard in a while !

  46. Just saw this movie for the first time. My wife demanded it (she still hasn’t watched fucking Cemetery Man with me, been on the goddamn top of the TV for three months) because of–wait for it!–childhood nostalgia.

    I never watched it previously due to:

    a) It looked like Goonies Redux. Fuck Goonies. Those kids are assholes. I knew it then. I know it now.

    b) “Wolfman’s got nards!” This is ALL anyone seems to remember, and it ain’t even one of the better moments in what is in fact a pretty damn good kid film.

    c) Seriously? Fuh realzers? Fuck Goonies. In fact, fuck E.T. And Roseanne. While we’re at it, fuck almost any eighties suburban-based kid entertainment where the protagonists (all approximately my age) were nasty little shits to each other. River’s Edge? Yeah. I get that. The tragedy of the thing. Fuck, GUMMO! I lived next door to those scary bastards (and, at one point, an axe murderer. And, at another point, an ATTEMPTED axe murderer. God bless the Confederate states that I love!), and that movie breaks my heart on so many levels. But spoiled little shits who call each other “dick weasel” and “penis breath”? I don’t fucking need it. (Second thought: Dick weasel is funny.)

    But this one? I got a small army of friends around me, and we got babies everywhere. Horror is our lifeblood, these pals of mine. How do we introduce our kids? Well, between this and Trick ‘R Treat, this past couple of weeks has given me cinematic hope for the youth of my brethren.

    But wait! Oh no! TRICK ‘R TREAT HAS BOOBIES! Well, damn it, Barbarella didn’t scar me…

  47. Well, man the stuff I read was vague, but he’s said there’s a script, producers are interested, and Downey and Kilmer have committed to doing more movies as those characters. So it’s just a question of funding. If he delivered Warner Bros. some new mega-franchise with the bronze guy or whatever, I’m sure they’d be happy to give him a couple mil to dick around with noir and narration however he pleases.

  48. Vern doesn’t care for The Goonies? I’m afraid for once I’m gonna have to disagree completely with Vern

    oh and Stephen King does indeed rule

  49. Well then, we need to start a fundraising , right now . “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang 2 : The Marsupials ” – produced by the Outlaw Vern Committee . With all our money it will be 3 minutes long : a single scene of Mr. Black chasing us with a shotgun after we trespassed in his property . Still better than Transformers .

  50. Ah, Brendan. Massa’s review is just insane, mang. Luckily, it found a good counter-balance in Moriarty’s review.

    But, he’s gone, now. Such a force for bad craziness goes unchecked. Gravity breaks down. Center can’t hold. The Ant Bully is a Communist Manifesto. Dogs fucked the Pope – no fault of mine.

  51. Haven’t watched it in a couple of years, but have been meaning to check it out again.

    One of my favorite moments is the reaction on the little girls face when Dracula grabs and lifts her up, because it was REAL. I think they mention it on the commentary and the girl wasn’t aware that he would do that and it’s just pure fright on the poor things face. I think she tells the story on the commentary even.

  52. RRA

    Mobsters vs. Monsters


  53. Can’t remember who said it, but the studio didn’t make Dekker cut the concentration camp tatt. It was always in the film. Just sayin’. Great, great flick.

  54. Alfonse G. – Your ideas intrigue me. Do you have a xeroxed pamphlet that I can subscribe to?

    A sequel to KISS KISS BANG BANG would have to be called FOR KEEPS. Or at least I LOST IT AT THE MOVIES.

  55. I’m sure the posters would say K2B2II or some shit like that. That’s cool, though. Whatever it takes. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of those movies that I’m pretty sure was made specifically for me. I’m glad that y’all like it too.

  56. First time I read a Vern review on AICN, I took the midnight train to Geocities and never looked back

  57. Nix-I was the guy who said that, and I was just saying that on the commentary Dekker said that the producers and studio were not happy with the tattoo and told him to cut it but he refused.


  59. Rudy can’t fail.

  60. Now I have that song stuck in my head, and since my iPod died yesterday in the greatest tragedy of all time, I can’t listen to it. Thanks.

  61. Stu — Your squad of monsters movie exists. It’s called Hellboy.

    Welcome, AsimovLives. I agree, don’t piss in the pool. And if you do, don’t eat asparagus first.

  62. “Rudy can’t fail.”

    You sir receive bonus points for a random obscure Clash song reference.

  63. Mr. Majestyk – Would it help matters any if I throw “A Message to You, Rudy” out there?

    AsimovLives – I was reading the recent OLEG talkback on a aicn and saw that there’s a guy on there who calls himself “AsimovDiedof AIDS.” Just thought you’d like to know that you’ve got an evil doppleganger out there somewhere.

  64. Jareth, I appreciate the effort, but Rudy Can’t Fail ain’t going anywhere. It’s lodged in my mind grapes for the duration.

  65. I can think of worse fates, Mr. M. Like having the theme song to THE FACTS OF LIFE t.v. show stuck in your noggin. That would dure suck.

  66. Sing, Michael, Sing.

    The Bosstones do a really nice cover of it, too — in fact, supposedly it was the first song they ever played together as a band.

  67. seems like we got enough clash fans on here that we could maybe persuade ole vern to review The Future Is Unwritten.

    I enjoyed reading his This Is It review ,it’d be cool to see what he thinks of the (arguably) greatest punk rock band of all time.

  68. And Vern ought to be interested in them as the first white act ever to put out a rap
    single (waaay back in 1981, with “Magnificent Seven”). Although WESTWAY TO THE WORLD
    might be more interesting, since it deals more with their music than with their singer (for
    the record, I think FUTURE is one of the best documentary biographies I’ve ever seen,
    nuanced and unflinching, and would love a review of that one too).

  69. dieselboy : Amen to that , man .

  70. Yeah The Future is Unwritten is powerful stuff, even if you aren’t a huge fan of the band. I watched it with with my wife,she wasn;t really into them like i am, and she was crying by the end of it because it just really makes you feel like you know Joe. Seeing him go through that period post-clash where he was really trying to redefine himself but noone seemed to care about him anymore is really tough to watch,it really upset me for some reason.

  71. Majestyk Mind Grapes!

    I’m not a big 30 Rock fan, but every now and again they come up with something brilliant. Like mind grapes.

    Or Cheesy Blasters.

  72. Wait, we had a Clash orgy here and nobody invited me? I had lube here ready to go. Mr.S, you should have been named Mr. Slave.

    Yeah FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN was terrific. Great music too obviously. But I really cringe in retrospect at the Bono interview scenes.

    The guy seems obviously moved by The Clash/Strummer and their activist music. But recently U2 had grossed $300 million with their current world tour, yet they spent so much on many (stupid) things, they’re hoping at best to break even by the end of the year.

    For an Anti-Poverty advocate like Bono, this shit makes him come off as a wanker.

    That’s why even with his nasty faults (which FUTURE highlighted in somber brutal detail), I admire Strummer (and rest of the Clash guys) even more. I mean how much fortune did they lose by keeping tickets and merchandise reasonably cheap, and royalties they blew to make those multi-disc LONDON CALLING and SANDINISTA! albums very affordable?

    Shit unless I’m mistaken, they didn’t clear their music for commercials until the late 90s. I don’ hold it against them for finally needing to pay off their kids’ college or outstanding gambling debts.

    Point is The Clash (for their time) were the only band that mattered. The most musically talented and ambitious arguably of the Punk acts, scoring an evolutionary chart depth that dwarves the Stooges, Ramones, Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, etc. Not dissing them, just its true.

    And U2 sucks.

  73. I am a big 30 Rock fan. Huge. My personal favorite little touch is the poster in Tracey’s dressing room of one of the movies he was in. To the naked eye, it would appear to say “Tracey Jordan in Who Dat Ninja” but only through the magic of DVD zooming technology can you see that it actually says “Tracey Jordan IS Who Dat Ninja.” Which is about 9/11 times a thousand times funnier.

  74. RRA — I’ll hold off on the Mr Slave bit for the time being, but I am provoked into going on and on about how much I love FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN.

    It breaks my heart to read the IMDB message boards on the movie, where everyone says it lowered their opinion of Strummer (sample post: “THis Movie taught me that Joe Strummer was a POSEUR!!!”). The movie really lets people who he disappointed during his life talk about it very openly (in fact, it seems almost unfair, since he doesn’t get a chance to defend or explain himself) and it’s painful to watch, but its also kind of the point. Great men aren’t born, they’re made. The inspiring thing about the movie is that he made a lifetime of mistakes but ended up a better man than he began. Joe, unlike so many people, went through life with his eyes opened, learning from every painful mistake, great revelation, and new face. And by the end of his life, you can tell that he truly was closer to the person that he had wanted to be from the beginning.

    People often say they are disappointed when they learn more about their idols — that’s the thing about idols, we want them to be the way we imagine them, an ideal, unflawed version of our hopes and aspirations. Maybe we need that too, but for me, I have greater respect for a real human — who struggled and failed often, but always tried to live up to that ideal and maybe, by the end, almost made it– than I ever could have for an abstraction. That’s why Joe is still a person I look up to, who I think is as good a role model for the kids as I know. He knew the right thing to do, failed to do it sometimes, but regretted it, learned from it, and tried to do right the next time. Would that we could say that about everyone in this world.

    And the proof, of course, is that you can make a film about a person’s lifetime told entirely by people he met and changed along the way. Some folks — like Topper in particular — you can see that he broke their hearts, but then, here they are paying tribute to him in this film, too. No one really seems acrimonious, just sad when someone they loved and respected failed to reach as high as they had hoped. But is sadder when you care about someone, and that’s the legacy that Joe left — people who cared more; for him, for each other, for the world. People who had hope for a fairer, more humane world, and better people therein. That’s called striving for excellence.

    RIP, Joe

  75. At the very least, if the Clash and THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN aren’t really Vern’s scene, I would whole-heartedly suggest that he watch Jarmusch’s MYSTERY TRAIN (assuming, of course, he didn’t rush out to see it after experiencing the life-changing awesomeness of GHOST DOG). Strummer is pretty good in MYSTERY TRAIN, and the film serves as a neat bridge between STRANGER THAN PARADISE and DEAD MAN.

    And of course everyone should see Strummer in the brilliantly awful STRAIGHT TO HELL.

  76. Excellent excellent grade-A shit right there Mr.S, and you’re right. Sorry for the Mr. Slave joke.

    If anything, FUTURE made me respect (if that is the right term) Strummer even more. You remember that bit of Rhodes that wanker going on about how he “created” punk and effectively casted* The Clash. Then told them to act the part by going “political.”

    Rhodes, unless I’m wrong, was involved in creating the Sex Pistols and I guess he wanted to make more dough off the nilhistic/whiney loud bitching at how everything sucks. Except Strummer and guys went off and actually made FIGHT songs. Tunes that made you want to get your fatass off the couch, and at least recycle your bottles today. Maybe brawl some theo-fascist shitheads tomorrow.

    For as long as they lasted, the Clash were good insurgents at keeping their independent credibility streak within the commercial rock industry. Shit even their slammed “sell-out” album in COMBAT ROCK is still damn eclectic for a “payday” album.

    And Strummer through his many failures and faults, kept at it and his last album was pretty fucking terrific. Anyone that says they didn’t tear up to his cover of “Redemption Song”…Well, they’re liars. Cut their tongues off.

    *=Though unlike most of the Monkees, Paul Simonon went from bass novice to writing a kickass mini-classic in “Guns of Brixton.” His “Crooked Beat” was good too. Suck it Davey Jones.

  77. Jareth Cutestory – Or shit, Alex Cox’s WALKER which Strummer did the soundtrack. Good music, just….either it was an awful movie I saw, or just too damn self-aware witty for its own good.

    And for the record, as good as the pioneering white-recorded “Magnificent Seven” was….their other rap song “Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)” is alot better methinks.

  78. RAA – I don’t know if he ever actually reviewed it, but I seem to remember Vern mentioning his fondness for WALKER. It’s been so damn long that I don’t really remember it well. But I watched STRAIGHT TO HELL again a few months ago. It’s still gloriously bad in the best possible way. And Tarantino ripped off elements from it.

    To this day I maintain that Strummer’s EARTHQUAKE WEATHER is one of the great under-appreciated albums of the post-punk era. And Columbia Records are rat bastards for keeping it out of print for so long.

    Strummer’s “Dum Dum Club” on the SID & NANCY soundtrack is also fucking great. I loved that guy. I was in India when an Australian tourist told me he died. There was no way to confirm the news, so I just pretended that old Joe was still with us. Actually, I refused to believe that he had died for a good year and a half after the fact.

    And the sad thing about those last few solo records: they were fantastic played live, way better than the somewhat anemic recordings would have you think. The guy had a real passion.

  79. Jareth – Yeah Vern should pop out a review for WALKER. As much as I hated it, I kinda think its good that the Criterion release allowed people to give it a good shot. Who knows, maybe Alex Cox was ahead of his time. Or the wavelength is more friendly friendly now than in the late 80s. Plus Ed Harris playing piano during a gunfight is….awesome.

    I’ll be honest, I was pissed when Strummer died because that dashed any hopes for a Clash reunion. Jealous reason yes, but its true.

  80. I think it’s safe to say that not very many people were consoling themselves with the thought that at least the key players in Big Audio Dynamite are still around.

  81. Jareth – Reminds me of that classic George Carlin line.

    “The wrong two Beatles died first.”

  82. I was working once this discussion really took off on Joe’s life and post Clash movie career started and now it seems all has been said by those who say it better.

    Mr. S- that may have honestly been the best eulogy of Joe’s life I’ve ever heard. You really are terribly good with words.

    Funny how the Monster Squad thread ended up with us discussing our favorite contributions to film and music from Joe. Thats the magic of this site I guess.

  83. Bleed on, Brendan. Interpreted your post incorrectly.

  84. Is it wrong that my strongest association with the Clash is alternating songs off Combat Rock with a Skynrd compilation while standing in the back of a pickup truck in the middle of a field, blitzed to the tits in the hammering rain, pouring cheap beer over each other’s heads and singing all the guitar parts in harmony?

    That’s not punk, is it? Is that punk?

    There’s a really great Lester Bangs thing about hanging out with the Clash and discovering they weren’t, indeed, apostles, but were in fact a bunch of drunk youngsters with musical equipment. Wild what you can learn.

  85. The thing about punk is that it’s just supposed to be about not giving a fuck about rules, but then it got codified into this list of shit that you’re supposed to be in order to be punk, which is the opposite of punk. If you were mouth-guitaring along to Skynyrd like you don’t give a single solitary goddamn about whether it was cool or not (it is, by the way), I’d say that makes you the punkest motherfucker in your circumference.

  86. I’m one of the few who genuinely loves WALKER as an impeccably made slice of absolute insanity. Is it entirely successful at what it’s attempting? Nah, not really; it’s both too subtle and too overt at the same time. But damned if it ain’t the weirdest, ballsiest thing on the block, an anchored by some genuinely awesome performances and action. Harris’s plays the role with a feverish intensity nearly unmatched in cinema, and the thing’s worth seeing for him (and hilarious, crazy Rene Auberjonois) even if the “acid western” (as wikipedia calls it) vibe of the thing isn’t your cup of tea.

    Strummer’s soundtrack is great, and just one more odd nuance which makes the thing stand out, for better or worse; just don’t buy the hype that he’s actually in the movie. I watched the thing 3 times with the help of freeze frame, trying to pick him out (it doesn’t help that he’s completely unrecognizable in a manson beard, hat, period costume) and was only sure I caught a glimpse of him once, near the beginning. Apparently a good amount of film ended up on the cutting room floor (surprise!) including almost all Joe’s sequences, which is especially a shame since he apparently got really into it, living the part for the entire shooting schedule. There’s a fascinating interview with him from this period online — see below


    As for his work with the Mescaleros, I think its among the best of his career. Both “Global A-Go-Go” and “Streetcrore” are masterworks of musicianship, imagination, compassion, and earthy fun (and yes, Jareth is right, even more fun live — but those albums do catch a great deal of the magic, the earlier “Rock Art and the X-Ray style” suffering a little more from bland production; but then again, such a unique and diverse sound that it had to be very difficult to produce.) “Earthquake Weather” is also very much worth a listen, although you definitely hear Joe suffering from the lack of Mick Jone’s savvy arrangement and the inevitable dip in quality of no longer working with his old band. “Island Hopper”, off that disc, is one of my long-time favs, though, as is “Leopard Skin Limousines”.

    I have been meaning for awhile to write to Tim Armstrong and demand a Joe Strummer Box Set. I know there’s hours of unheard live material etc, especially from the Mescalero era, and it’s time that Earthquake Weather and his scattered other rarities found a permanent home (although they’re pretty easily found on the internet, if you look for them). Armstrong (head of Hellcat records and Rancid singer) is obviously a big fan himself, and he owes it to the rest of us to quit holding out on the goods.

  87. I just wasn’t that into this one, sorry. The monsters aren’t scary and the kids aren’t relatable. Oh, and as has been ably pointed out, Dracula is a mad bomber. I did like the bit with the wolf man’s death-by-silver-bullet though.

  88. Mr. S – Thanks alot for the link.

    Though I must ask….

    How much did you think CUT THE CRAP suck?

  89. Mr. S. – I did the same kind of frame-by-frame viewing of Jarmusch’s DEAD MAN looking for Gibby Haynes. Turns out he was the guy in the alley getting a blow job.

    Iggy Pop was a lot easier to spot, what with the dress he was wearing.

  90. “Turns out he was the guy in the alley getting a blow job. ”

    Sentence of the Day on the Internet.

  91. RRA –Cut the Crap… yeah, its not all that good. I mean, listen, it’s not really a travesty, as some people would make it out to be, but its just… not all that good, either. You can kinda hear some good ideas there (I think it was you who first put me onto the original Strummer demo for This is England, which you can clearly hear is a pretty good song) but they’re just buried in terrible production and some not-terribly memorable material. Really, it’s more a Bernie Rhodes album anything, since he pretty much ran the whole production (including all the backup band material, group vocals, synths, drum machines, etc); Joe wrote the basic songs and actually does a pretty committed vocal performance, but by all accounts neither Paul nor Joe seemed to really want much to do with it (Rhodes even changed the title of the album at the last minute without consulting anyone). It should probably never have happened, but since it did I try to make the best of it, and its listenable enough in a certain mood. How’s that for damning with faint praise?

  92. Mr. S – Sounds just like my assessment.

    Mate, I take it you’ve heard the RAT PATROL FROM FORT BRAGG bootleg demos, right?

  93. I’m really enjoying the design and layout of your blog.
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  94. grimgrinningchris

    January 20th, 2024 at 9:54 am

    Happy to report that the new anniversary Blu corrects a decades long oversight and adds Phoebe to the artwork.

    I mean she’s in the god damn club, isn’t she?

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