Gutbrain Records

Wednesday, 05 July 2006

Here's what Lenny Bruce fans should be drinking this summer. Shmaltz Brewing Company, the makers of He'Brew (The Chosen Beer) have introduced the first in a line of beers that pay tribute to Jewish stars. Bittersweet Lenny's R.I.P.A. is an extremely flavorful and robust beer, a Double India Pale Ale with Rye Malt, pretty strong at 10% Alcohol By Volume. It's delicious, brewed with eight different malts and seven different hops (also dry hopped with two of those), truly an "obscene" amount as it says on the label. Wow. Check it out some hot summer afternoon, if you don't have to operate heavy machinery or do much of anything later on.

Tuesday, 04 July 2006

In G.I. Samurai, Sonny Chiba is the leader of a Self Defense Forces unit that inexplicably travels back in time several hundred years, landing in the midst of pre-Tokugawa Japan, an era of constant war and fighting between different feudal clans.

What to do? Since they know enough about history to know that they themselves never ruled Japan, they decide to join forces with a rebellious samurai army and conquer the country, in the hopes that the "god of time" will be upset enough by this to send them back to their own era, thus protecting history from damage.

G.I Samurai came out in 1979. A similar movie came out of Hollywood about a year later. Coincidence? The Final Countdown is about an aircraft carrier that inexplicably travels back in time a few decades to the day before Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor.

Not much happens in The Final Countdown. I think it would be best enjoyed by people who are big fans of aircraft carriers. There are lots of shots of fighter jets taking off and landing, sailors running around doing whatever it is sailors do. Kirk Douglas is at the helm and Martin Sheen is along for the ride. The dialogue and music are mostly lingo and jingo, though there are some good ominous cues for the time travel scenes and a smattering of "should we and could we change history" discussions.

It takes about an hour in The Final Countdown for everybody to agree that they've really traveled back in time. One of their clues is that they pick up Jack Benny's program on the radio. This is slightly problematic. Jack Benny's show aired Sunday nights at 7:00, not Saturday morning or afternoon as in The Final Countdown. In fact, the fragment of the Jack Benny show that we hear in the movie is from the program that was broadcast on Sunday evening, December 7, 1941, several hours after the Pearl Harbor attack.

That episode opened with an announcement, "We will interrupt all programs to give you the latest news bulletins", and later on, in mid-song, Dennis Day's tenor voice is faded out and the following message delivered:

Ladies and gentlemen, a special announcement: the entire regular personnel of the sheriff and police office has been placed on a two-platoon basis with 12-hour shifts. All auxiliary personnel has been directed to stand by for emergency service instruction. The regular county defense program is functioning in an orderly manner and citizens are urged to remain calm and avoid all unnecessary confusion because of hysteria. Citizen volunteers are asked to go quietly to their nearest police or fire station and offer their services if they wish to help. There is no immediate cause for alarm and coolness will accomplish more than anything else.

Later on, there's a bulletin about Japan's taking over the American Shanghai Power & Light Company in Shanghai.

In G.I. Samurai, the nature of the predicament is understood by everybody about twenty minutes into the movie. In addition to going to war against Japan's feudal lords, the Self Defense Forces splinter and fight each other. There's a lot of action and a downbeat ending, as opposed to The Final Countdown's more talky approach — you could probably adapt it for the stage without too much difficulty — and "everything's okay" conclusion.

The two movies have different approaches to the time travel scenes as well. G.I. Samurai goes for a dreamlike, psychedelic approach — nature is tripping — while The Final Countdown has a more clinical-seeming electrical storm as the cause. While we never find out why any of this happens, the time travel in The Final Countdown could be scientific in origin, the result of human hands. In typical Hollywood fashion, one of the sailors in The Final Countdown, just happens to be writing a book about Pearl Harbor and the Pacific theatre, and therefore just happens to know everything there is to know about this period in history.

A remake of G.I. Samurai came out in Japan last year. Can a remake of The Final Countdown be far behind? Maybe. 2001's Pearl Harbor left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths. On the Internet Movie Database, one reviewer described it as "Hollywood At Its Worst". Of course, another reviewer on the Internet Movie Databse declared G.I. Samurai "Probably the worst film ever made". I liked it a lot. I intend to watch the remake as soon as I can.