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Saturday, February 07, 2009

On the
Other Hand...

Last night, I broke down and watched "Li'l Abner" on TCM. Based on one of my favorite comic strips as a yout', the musical had promise.

Al Capp was the comic-strip version of Rush Limbaugh in his day, except that everyone loved his work. Conservative in outlook and politics, Capp skewered the silly sensibilities of the nation from the Depression era on, Conservative and liberal alike. His work in the Sixties was priceless (The hippie activist group S.W.I.N.E.: "Students Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything" was a study in gimlet-eyed punditry), and he did not fear the sacred comic-page cows of his day; Capp did a strip-in-a-strip featuring Li'l Abner's favorite crime-fighter Fearless Fosdick, a swipe at the bizarre characters in the "Dick Tracy" strip.

I will not comment on the pulchritude of the Dogpatch beauties like Daisy May, Moonbeam McSwine, and Stupefyin' Jones.

The movie was based on the eponymous Broadway play, and a merry romp it is. Stubby Kaye plays "Marryin' Sam" who rides into town on a mule to make ready for the Sadie Hawkins Day festivities, wherein the eligible gals of marrying age and temperament chase the eligible bachelors who may not have the temperament, but who do have a head start, and get to marry the guy they catch. Just one catch: The estimable Senator Jack S. Phogbound ("There's no Jack S. like OUR Jack S.!") has helped the Army determine that Dogpatch, the hillbilly home of our heroes, is the most useless spot in the US of A, and thus the perfect place for AY-tomic bomb tests. (Fallout from Nevada desert testing was dirtying the craps tables in Vegas and hurting the industry.) The search for something, anything , that would give Dogpatch any value whatever ensues. For them wot likes musicals this is a fun movie, but it has the feel of a quick-and-dirty production.

Occasionally, you will see a filming error in a movie: a script left on a nightstand, a microphone dipping into the scene, like that. "Li'l Abner" has raised this to an Olympic height. The canvas backdrop with Dogpatchy graphic blandishments painted thereon droops at the top, affording many views of the soundstage ceiling, Kleig lights, and other filmic hardware.

Many, many views. Almost every long shot of Dogpatch real estate affords a "Making Of" glimpse.

The first scene in General Bullmoose's office is rife with boom mike dippage. Even Appassionata Von Climax's (Stella Stevens) breathing cannot distract, but surprisingly, rather than detracting from the movie, it spurred me to creativity: The Li'l Abner drinking game. Every time you see summat that you're not supposed to, you take a drink of your preferred potent potable. If you are conscious by the end of the movie, YOU WIN!

Loen was spurred by the egregious hill use of "has", as in "I has a pinin' fer Daisy Mae." or "I has been whammied by Evil Eye Fleegle." Every time "has" is used thusly, you take a drink. I discourage this, as most stalwarts would die of alcohol poisoning midway through the third act. Cleanup is such a hassle.

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