>>> Click here for the RMC FAQ'N RULES <<<


Your January 2009 Unrandom Movie Club Results Are In!

Tagline: He was 25 years old. He combed his hair like James Dean. She was 15. She took music lessons and could twirl a baton. For a while they lived together in a tree house. In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people.

Preshow Entertainment: MAKING THE MONKEES


In 1988, Martin Sheen took an apartment in my building in NYC while performing at The Public. I'd see him now and again, but I wasn't prepared for my encounter with him. Nope.

I had just returned from the video store with a bag of tapes. I was yapping with Jerry the Doorman when Sheen walked past me and made his way to the elevators. I wanted to say something, but didn't want to do the "I'm a big fan" thing. So I held my bag of videotapes up and said, "Hey! I just rented one of your movies!" He walked into the elevator and turned to face me, smiling. "Really? Which one?" Now would be a great time to tell you that I did not have a Martin Sheen movie in the bag. I was just trying to break the ice. Anyway, I didn't want to say APOCALYPSE NOW. I mean, come on. So I thought like a cat - I'll pick something obscure, that no one would ever say to him. And in that split second of brilliance, I blurted out: THE FINAL COUNTDOWN!

For those of you unaware, THE FINAL COUNTDOWN is a sci-fi thriller about an aircraft carrier that goes back in time. Sure, it's no THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT (where the ship goes into the future), but I'm pretty sure it's a crappy "paycheck" movie nonetheless.

Sheen's smile dropped from his face. He paused, then said, "Next time rent BADLANDS." And the elevator door closed.

So I got right on it and watched BADLANDS. Twenty-one years later. I still have yet to see THE FINAL COUNTDOWN.

BADLANDS was Terrance Malick's first movie. He made it in 1973, and since then he has made a whopping three more movies. That's an average of one movie a decade. I guess someone has to offset Woody. So I've seen half of Malick's movies. That would be BADLANDS and DAYS OF HEAVEN, both of which I liked.

Being a huge fan of True Crime stories, I was somewhat familiar with the story of killing spree-er Charlie Starkweather and his teen girlfriend Caril Fugate, on which BADLANDS is lightly based (so was NATURAL BORN KILLERS, among others).

Martin Sheen as Kit Carruthers

Martin Sheen, chiseled and cool, plays Kit Carruthers, a garbageman (only in America can a movie garbageman become a TV president) and rebel without any cause whatsoever. When he gets fired, no big deal, he'll work as a cattle feeder. And when his girl Holly's dad won't let her see him anymore, no big deal, he'll shoot him and leave him to bake in the house he burned down.

Kit meets Holly (the never-let-you-down Sissy Spacek), a Sign Painter's Daughter, early on. She's a sassy yet simple thing of 15 years. Why, she hardly reacts (a slap to the face?) when Kit kills her dad.

Kit and Holly
Kit and Holly flee, making their home in a forest treehouse with their own ADT alarm system (a spike ball on a rope that can knock out a buffalo). But soon these two will have to leave, for as Mickey and Mallory would tell you, you can't just stay in one place when you're wanted by the law. So they head for the badlands, along the way stopping at a friend's house and then a rich man's house where for a trophy Kit steals...a trophy. But that's the thing, you just never know what Kit will do or who he will kill...and who he'll spare. And neither does he, and that is why the suspense works so well. He's going on instinct, just like the animals in the woods they lived in.

It's a bit of a buy that Holly leaves with Kit, but she's a sheltered eaglet not yet attuned to the world. So when she says in V.O., "And it was better to spend a week with someone who loved me for what I was, than years of loneliness," the buy goes away.

Sissy Spacek as Holly

Actually, this whole movie, though its focus is on Kit killing people who are in his way, is actually about Holly learning about life from books and experiences (watch the way she sits on the rich guy's chairs for the first time). It's a girl's awakening played out in lush scenery and harsh realities. She is growing while Kit remains stagnant, which is illustrated in a scene where she's reading a Hollywood gossip magazine. She tells Kit, "Pat Boone says as long as things are going well with his career, education will have to take a back seat." And while Kit's response is "I don't blame him," it is Holly who continues to educate herself. That puts a wedge between them. Just look at her face when she watches a train whiz by, a train she undoubtedly wants to be on. Kit, on the other hand, stands over the badlands, gun on his shoulders and arms slung over it, like a scarecrow at home in his field.

Not a glossy, glorified story by any stretch, BADLANDS is brimming with things that tell you about these people. It's in their actions, sure, but it's also in their faces (the price of admission for me is Spacek's face when she won't go with Kit...actors take note!). In fact, BADLANDS could be a silent film and work nearly as well, save for Spacek's haunting, natural narration, which really makes this movie soar. More than just moving the story along, it's an inner monologue. She's telling us things she'd never tell Kit, which gives us information that can make us actually feel not just for her but for Kit as well. It rounds it all out. It's like reading her diary. Malick also leaned heavily on a female narrator in his next film, DAYS OF HEAVEN. I remember seeing it opening day, and the audience being totally wowed by actress Linda Manz' V.O.

Kit and Holly at home
Though he'd guest starred on nearly every prime time network show and had done a few features, BADLANDS is the thing that got Sheen some notice. Strapping in his tight white t-shirt, he commands the movie as much as he commands the interest of Holly. (FYI - Sheen was 33 playing 25 and Spacek was 24 playing 15.)

BADLANDS possesses, for me, one of the greatest first lines in any movie. While on their garbage route, Kit and his partner see a dog. Kit dares his partner, "I'll give you a dollar if you eat that Collie." Once I heard that, something inside me told me this was going to be a good movie. There was a flavor to this movie. You could taste Texas in the first half (when Kit shows up at her door, Holly looks at him and says, "Well stop the world." That's a line I'll be using now.).

Another personal highlight was a scene where Kit uses a record making machine called a Voice-O-Graph (sure sounds like a Ralph Kramden idea). It's a vending machine/booth where you put in fifty cents and make a record. I want one.

And now a word about how beautiful BADLANDS looks. Credited with three photographers (one being Tak Fujimoto...his first movie), things like Holly's burning house become a watchable event rather than a CGI cartoon, made up of stark images like the piano burning, or the dollhouse burning, or the roasted chicken burning, or dad burning (though we are spared that visual). And the landscapes are often breathtaking.

So those are my thoughts on BADLANDS. Now if I can only get that damned Springsteen song out of my head. No, not BADLANDS. I'm talking about NEBRASKA, a song Bruce wrote, inspired by the movie BADLANDS.


We yapped a lot, plus the pizza arrived quickly, so we didn't get to watch a whole lot of MAKING THE MONKEES, a TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY-ish bio with teeth, where the announcer spoke as if he's telling us of the end of the world: "(The Monkees were)...a machine that would ultimately crash and burn."

But one gem we did catch about the band who, in 1967, sold more records than The Beatles and Elvis combined, was from rock impresario Don Kirshner, who was hired to provide hit songs for the group: "...they were full of themselves...and they figured they had talent, which they didn't really have." Perhaps he is bitter. And perhaps he was right. Me, I got a thrill out of watching Monkees songwriter Bobby Hart (his partner Tommy Hart passed away in '94) talk about how they wrote the theme song.


Feed Burner Subscribe in a reader

Powered byFeedBlitz

About ...

RMC email address
Old RMC Men

RMC is not affiliated with Rochester Midland Corporation, makers of fine restroom disinfecting fluids and urinal mats since 1888.


Powered by Pizza, Red Vines,
& 6 Different Kinds of Soda



This is a Flickr badge showing public photos from Random Movie Club. Make your own badge here.

((( Contribute to our Popcorn Fund! )))

Best Viewed With Firefox 2

Add to Google
Add to My Yahoo!
Add to Technorati Favorites!

eXTReMe Tracker