I used to think that all the Madison Avenue guys who make commercials were pretty dang clever.
I remember all those movies starring Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon where the advertising writer is really more brilliant than his job demands, and someday he'll write the Great American Novel. And some of 'em even DO write the Great American Novel.
But the current crop didn't seem to get past Remedial Comic Books 101 in college. 'Cause there have been some real stinkers lately.
Not just bad commercials. dumb commercials. Commercials that look like they were put together by outer-space zombies.
The first dumb commercial I noticed--from one of the biggest agencies--uses Janis Joplin's recording of "Lord, Won't You Buy Me a Mercedes-Benz."
While she sings the song, they roll out a Mercedes-Benz. A bright, shiny, brand-spanking-new one.
In other words, the creators of the commercial think that Janis Joplin is encouraging people to buy a Mercedes.
Now people did a lot of drugs in the '60s, but nobody listened to that song and thought it was a call for all of us to become Yuppies.
You could be stoned and on an eight-day LSD trip and you would still know it was meant to be ironic. Sarcastic. A joke.
People who loved that song hated everything Mercedes-Benz stands for. But evidently there are recent graduates of the Wharton School of Business who just don't get it.
Second example. There's a commercial for Doubletree Hotels that uses Roy Orbison singing "Sweet Dreams, Baby." As he sings, we see these peaceful shots of men, women and children falling gently asleep on the beds of Doubletree Hotels.
The only thing wrong with the image is that Roy wasn't really wishing his baby would have sweet dreams, because as long as she has sweet dreams, she's not thinkin' of him.
Are we supposed to think that when Roy sings, "How long must I dream?" he's singing to all these people who have dissed him, refused his love, been blind to his suffering?
It's a bittersweet song. It's heartachey. I know this. Rednecks in rural Georgia know this. How come the ad agency doesn't know this?
Finally, there's a commercial that shows a house in the middle of a winter storm. A voiceover announcer says, "Whoever said, `Now is the winter of our discontent,' never stood behind Corning Fiberglass windows."
Message for the Rhodes Scholar who thought this one up:
1) Shakespeare wrote it. Everybody who's taken freshman college English knows this.
2) Richard III said it. He was an evil hunchback king who wanted it to be winter. He was upset that things had become summery.
3) The reason this is not clear is that, "Now is the winter of our discontent" is not the full sentence. It's not even a complete sentence. The complete sentence, the first two lines of the play, goes, "Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this son of York."'
In other words, he's saying, "Things are great around here, and I don't like it."
So the sentence is about summer. It's not even about winter.
Who are these guys anyway?
Speaking of killer geeks, this week's flick is Dead Boyz Can't Fly, the sensitive story of a mama-hating transvestite, a rapist who teaches yo-yo tricks to little boys and a dimwitted, vaguely ethnic hood.
They team up to terrorize an office building on Memorial Day weekend by blasting their way through the offices of a lawyer, a doctor, a dentist and--most hated of all--the guy who runs the employment agency.
Somewhere along the way, the murdering transvestite gulps several quarts of pills, engages in a fight to the death with a Vietnam-vet-turned-janitor, gets his throat slit ear-to-ear, but finishes the movie.
This is one of those New York independent dealies that goes so far off the violence scale that congressmen stand in line to blame it for the crime rate in the Bronx.
There are Mafia hitmen who would throw up if they saw this movie. There's one scene, in which one of the punks poses as a doctor and "examines" Delia Sheppard, that will make women wake up screaming 30 years from now.
There's a disgusting scene that goes on and on and on where Marilyn Monroe look-alike Ruth Collins gets molested at knifepoint in an elevator.
Of course, I loved it.
It satisfies the first rule of great drive-in moviemaking: Anyone can die at any moment.
And it satisfies the second rule: Just when you think you know who's gonna die next, you're wrong.
Fifteen dead bodies. Eleven breasts. Mannequin bashing.
Death by yo-yo. Nonelective tooth extraction. Dental drilling.
The old head-in-the-filing-cabinet torture. Disinfectant in the eyes.
Corpse mutilation. CPR with a frayed electrical cord. Bullet through the forehead.
Do-it-yourself tourniquet. Throat-slicing. Hanging.
Thirteen-story swan dive onto the pavement.
Gratuitous topless dancing.
Gratuitous hockey mask.
Drive-In Academy Award nominations for...
*David John, as the Vietnam vet janitor-by-day, writer-by-night, who says, "The enemy is here and he's one of ours.''
*Ruth Collins, as the bimbo who laughs at the chief punk and doesn't live to tell about it.
*Jason Stein, as the most normal of the psychos, for saying,"You spoiled my day, and now you ruined my evening, bitch!''
*Brad Friedman, as the transvestite drughead ringleader who binds and gags his Mama and says, "It's what you always wanted--a little girl!'' and, "I'm a sociopath, lady.''
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
*Daniel J. Johnson, as the dim-bulb thug who says, "You killed him for nothing!''
*And Howard Winters, the producer-director, for doing things the drive-in way.
Check it out.
Copywright 1995 Joe Bob Briggs. Distributed by NYT Special Features/Syndication Sales.