Joe Bob Briggs

Drive-In Movie Critic of Grapevine, TX

Lately quite a few people have been calling me a "greasy yahoo redneck" or a "greasy redneck yahoo" or, for those who didn't graduate eighth grade, a "jerk."

It feels good. I thought I'd lost the touch. It's been years since I've gotten good, solid American hate mail, which always stirs the soul and thickens the blood.

Part of it comes from a new cable show I have Friday nights on TNT. A certain segment of the populace has a violent physical reaction to my intruding into their living rooms.

I always try to imagine what sort of person starts out a letter, "Dear Scumhead, You Suck." Experts tell me that it could be the same person who leads the prayer at the Lions Club on Wednesday nights.

My practice has always been to give hate mail the widest possible exposure. I think newspapers should publish all of it. I think TV networks should air as much of it as they can. In fact, I may be the only guy who always personally answers hate mail, often signing it "Scumhead."

Experts tell me I shouldn't do this. Experts tell me this is a good way to get picked off by a sniper on your way to the 7-Eleven.

But I'm in the minority. Most editors and program directors today don't especially like hate mail. They don't carry a file of it into the board meeting and say, "Gentlemen, we have some quite intriguing communiques."

The only sure measure of the media's power is that people get ticked off. I hope occasionally somebody even gets ticked off at The Weather Channel: "Dear Witless Idiot, The next time you put the Travel Roundup at 23 after the hour instead of 18 after the hour, you're going to have a boycott on your hands, Bud."

Unfortunately, most newspapers are about as exciting to read as the phone book. And most newscasts are about as lively as a garden-club debate about the date of this year's rhododendron festival.

Reason: fear of hate mail.
But it's not so bad, guys. Give it a chance. Believe me, once you've had it, you won't go back.

Speaking of world-champion scum sweepers, Charles Bronson is back in Dead to Rights, which is exactly like the last 385 Death Wish pictures he's made, except that in this one, he's a grandpa.

He's a grandpa and a cop, of course, but still, it's tough to see Chuck working alongside a female partner, and instead of falling in love with her, the partner is his daughter.

This is one of those "Who's killing the nuns?" stories where we find out who's killing the nuns fairly early in the game, and then it's just a matter of time before Big Chuck figures it out, this time with the help of Dana Delany, the tough gal who outranks him as a cop but longs for his approval as a daughter. (Yawn.)

Xander Berkeley is the serial killer, but he doesn't add much to the Crazed Psycho Supporting Actor thing. Mostly he just slinks around El Lay, living his yuppie investment-consultant life, while Chuck and Dana talk about why they were never closer and what happened to Tommy, the dead son and brother who never wanted to be a cop but was forced into it by his dad. (Double yawn.)

I hate it when they try to make Chuck emote.
Five dead bodies. No breasts. (Shame on you, Dana.)
Finger-hacking. Face-slashing. Wife-stabbing.
Bloody finger in a box. Bloody bed sheets.

Gratuitous witness-who-tends-carrier-pigeons scene. (How can there be so many hundreds of these?)

Gratuitous Chuck-goes-to-the-Catholic-church-and-lights-a-candle scene.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for...
* Dana Delany, as the Jodie Foster-wannabe type who says, "You ever wish it was me who died instead of Tommy?"

* And Big Chuck, as the cop who comes out of retirement to help his daughter and his chief, for saying, "He knows exactly what he's doing."

By the numbers. Two stars.
Joe Bob says check it out.

Joe Bob's Find That Flick
This week's pate puzzler comes from...Karl Stiefvater of St. Louis, Missouri:

"OK. Here's one that's been bugging me for a while. Late '70s flick, probably made for TV. I saw it only once, when I was 8, so cut me some slack.

"In modern urban setting, old guy bumps into young guy. Young guy's father (now dead) was good friend of old guy. Old guy makes spooky remark about magic running in the family.

"Young guy, nonbeliever, says: 'Yeah, yeah, whatever. But I like you, so we should hang.'

"Young guy spends the night at old guy's house and accidentally lets evil-sorceress-disguised-as-cat through the protective force field.

"Evil sorceress sneaks up on old guy while he's in the attic. Shoots lightning bolts at him from her hands. Magic battle ensues.

"Young guy, now being eaten by evil sorceress' vine creature, suddenly decides he believes in magic. (Go figure.) He unleashes some magic of his own (more lightning from the hands.)

"At the climax, young guy gives magical/moral support to old guy by calling him 'master,' and old guy kicks the evil sorceress' butt.

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