In the last few months I've reviewed two El Brendel films. Both of them had the drawback of El practically vanishing halfway through the movie. 'Luckily' for me, there is a movie which El Brendel had the main starring role in. NNNOOOOOO!...or, YYYEEEEESSSSSS!, depending on whether or not El is going to be grating or entertaining...
A hit when it was first released, 1930's Just Imagine is a sci-fi musical that 'starred' El Brendel, a move that Fox wasn't too eager to do again (El Brendel was popular, but they didn't think he could carry a movie on his own, which is probably true-ish).
The film opens with a narrator telling us to 'Just imagine what a difference 50 years can make! Take a look at New York in 1880'. The movie shows a Ye Olde New Yorke, and then switches to fifty years later, to 1930's NY. The narrator talks about what a change took place for technology and society, etc. between those fifty years, then the film cuts to the future 1980 (*stifles laughter*), a society where people have numbers (which the film names with ones like LN/Ellen-J/Jay-RT/Artie, etc.), not names, and the government decides who you marry. Flying cars are abound, and spandex is...surprisingly not in...
Holy Crap! 1980 looks like it's going to be a truly magnificent part of human history! Why, in another few years, we could be setting up a space federation! Just Imagine what the year 2012 will hold!
On a futuristic air highway, two hovercar-plane-thingies stop in mid-air, and the pilots, LN-18 (Maureen O'Sullivan) and J-21 (John Garrick) get talking. The two are lovers who want to marry each-other, but LN is forcibly engaged to someone else (Is it just me, or is this a profoundly fucked up society to set your lighthearted slapstick romp in?!).
ln a flashback to J's day, we see that his marriage application to LN is turned down by the tribunal, but he has four months to prove himself as a 'distinguished' man, and if he does, he'll be able to marry LN rather than MT-3 (a stuffy prick).
Back at J's apartment, he's trying to think of a way to prove his worth to the tribunal. One musical number later, J's roomate RT's [Frank Albertson] (fun but kinda grating) girlfriend D-6 (Marjorie White) comes over, ready to go with RT to a medical experiment at her workplace, where her boss is going to try and bring a man who's been dead for fifty years back to life.
The scientists bring the dead man back to life, and before you can say shoot it in the head, El Brendel is up and running. As soon as he's alive, the scientists ditch Brendel, as they don't need him anymore, and J and RT decide to take Brendel-who renames himself Single O-in. As for El, rather than being depressed at the fact that pretty much everyone he knew and loved is dead, he's more upset because his Elks Club membership has expired...
So, the trio all go off, arm in arm (yeah, the 30's were strange) to paint the town red...
After a day on the town, featuring food flavoured pills, the fact that cars not used very much nowadays, being pretty much replaced with planes (Single O: "It looks like someone got even with Henry Ford!"), prohibition is still around (but there are alcohol pills, which still get you hammered, so what kind of prohibition is this?) and this future has a way for couples to get babies that made me think WHATINALLTHEFUCK?!?!
Leaving Single O to wait by a street, J and RT go to covertly visit LN, with D-6. Everything goes fine until a pill-drunk El Brendel accidentally gets the lovers caught by MT. After the trio are forced out by MT, J walks off and contemplates suicide. He's about to drown himself in a river, but is talked out of it by...a guy. The guy takes J to Z-4, a scientist (with crazy Mabuse eyes) who wants to hire J (a pilot) for a mission to Mars. J believes Z instantly (c'mon dude, he could be a serial killer who wants to turn you into awnings!), and, while reluctant to accept the mission at first, is convinced by Z, who tells J that if he completes the mission, he'll be 'distinguished' enough to marry LN.
After a drinking song farewell from their pilot buddies, a party is held, featuring a duet with RT and D (I don't care what this musical number says, I will always swat at flies!), followed by a comedy song-and-dance routine by Single-O. Afterwards, J and RT get in their rocket and blast off, heading for mars.
They soon see that Single-O has stowed away (which doesn't bother J or RT in the slightest), and come a month later, the trio get to Mars and find a strange alien society...
Just Imagine is a weird film. It's meant to be funny, but mostly isn't, but I still found the movie to be pretty entertaining. It doesn't have many actually funny scenes (pretty much all the successful humour comes courtesy of El Brendel), and the plot just goes along from one point to the next until it's over.
The first thing to talk about with this movie are the effects! (Some of which were reused in the 1930's Flash Gordon serial). They range from pretty decent to great, with futuristic cityscapes, an alien planet and Martian idols. One cool thing about Just Imagine is how the plane-cars are always moving in the distance, out of windows, etc.-It makes the movie feel less stagey!
The whole Mars portion is pretty fun, with cool sets, a long and extravagant musical number like the one in 1935's She, kooky outfts (one with what looks like armour made from metal nipples), Martian women who have hairstyles that are actually true to the 80's(!), and a plot hole-if the guys needed proof of Mars, why didn't they bring cameras? Snap up a few photos or film the Martian lanscape, either plan sounds better than bringing nothing but your bodies!
At an hour and forty-eight minutes, Just Imagine may sound overlong, but it isn't, and it feels a lot shorter than it actually is.
The acting is decent, with El Brendel being the standout. He's not annoying in this, sometimes funny, and his trademark j-to-y swapping is back by the film's end-'Yudge'-'Is there no yustice?'-'It's yust mind over matter'- but sadly, he never says 'yee vizz!'...
Thanks to the movie being pre-Hay Code (fuck whoever made the Hays Code with a rusty bayonet covered in dead diseased fleas!), it's full of skimpy clothing for dozens of female characters, which is of course, awesome!
Just Imagine biggest problem is how dated it is, but that's also part of the film's charm. And I suppose 1980 was a far-away-enough year for the film's writers to use...
To finish up, Just Imagine is definitely worth a watch, although some may not enjoy it as much as I did.
One last thing-to quote the movie, with the future having fashion like that, then nuts to the good old days!
Ha! Yes! I think my favorite part is when Single-O gets upset that his Elks membership expired 49 years ago, though the crazy Martian guy with nipple armor is also comedic gold. Great write-up!ReplyDelete
That's probably the only joke in the whole near-two-hour movie that I can remember as of now, so it's probably mine too!ReplyDelete
I wasn't actually going to comment on the armour looking like nipples in-case I might be looking into things too much. Then I read all the way through your post for JI, where you mentioned it too.
Well, I don't know if someone in pre-production said "And this Martian? His armor is totally made out of metal nipples!" but I suspect they did. At the very least, El's tweak of the armor references what they look like!ReplyDelete