Tony and Daniel: Popping Culture 1 (John Carpenter)

Daniel and Tony love pop culture. That’s why they’ve teamed together to discuss different, important components of it. In the first edition of Tony and Daniel: Popping Culture, we discuss the merits of director/writer/extraordinaire John Carpenter, who is sometimes known for two of the segments in Body Bags.

Director John Carpenter.

Tony: All of Kurt Russell’s John Carpenter characters meet up together for the first time. There’s Snake Plissken, Jack Burton and MacReady from The Thing and yeah, Elvis from the TV movie Elvis that Carpenter made. What happens? Who gets along? Who gets in a fight? Who makes out with their chiseled, lantern-jawed doppelganger?

Daniel: 1. MacReady, in a fit of paranoia, sets the flamethrower to Elvis and Burton. Plisskin manages to shoot MacRready before he can be killed, but fails in his mission to rescue Elvis in the 1971 film, Escape From Graceland.

What would consist of a sex position called the “John Carpenter”? I think it would be amazing, weird sex, but you don’t actually get off until ten years later.

Tony: The complex sexual maneuver, or “bang-judo” as no one anywhere is calling it currently, colloquially known as the “John Carpenter,” is a defiantly singular act of fornication. It requires great imagination, nerves of adamantium and a minimalist synth score. It is also usually performed with a small budget and someone who looks like Adrienne Barbeau circa 1980 or ‘81. If someone who likes like Adrienne Barbeau from the early 80’s cannot be procured get someone who looks like Adrienne Barbeau now. Which still isn’t really that bad.

Oh yeah, what’s the act? Basically, there’s a lot of fast action, general end of the world dread, a few moments of unadulterated fear immersion and a lot less blood than you remember the next day. So it’s exactly like scissoring but of course with less blood.

What’s JC’s worst film?

Daniel: Memoirs of an Invisible Man. If there was a mark to miss when making a film, Memoirs missed all of them, except for, sadly, remembering to turn the camera on.

How amazing or terrible would a Carpenter directed sequel to Halloween be?

Tony: A: Well, the thing is, Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch gets dumped on a lot, and it was the brainchild of Carpenter and producer partner Debra Hill. But H3 is actually a really cool idea for a horror flick with a so, so execution. If it wasn’t called Halloween and we all weren’t expecting Michael Myers to show up and kill some goddamn babysitters I think we all would enjoy it a lot more.

Halloween 3: Season of the Witch

So I’ll say if Carpenter went ahead and turned the Halloween franchise into an anthology series like he and Debra Hill wanted and he then went ahead and directed one of the installments, I’d probably end up disappointed. Or at least wishing he’d just call it something else rather than Halloween. But if we could go back and have Carpenter direct the sequel to Halloween, the sequel he already wrote but just did not direct, I think he would have knocked it out of the park.

What JC film would be great if you just changed one element?

Daniel: If Prince of Darkness had a little less vomiting Satan into people’s mouths (and maybe cut out that stupid, stage prop, Alice Cooper stabbed on half a bicycle death,) that film would be amazing.

What is one movie that you think would improve if John Carpenter had directed it?

Tony: Besides Halloween II as mentioned above? I read on IFC that he was approached in the 70’s to possibly direct a Spider-Man and a Batman film. This stuff got no further than talks and nothing ever came of it. I think Spidey is a little too light for Carpenter but a Batman flick by him, especially back then, or in the early 80’s could have been really interesting. I could see Carpenter nailing the tone of something like Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns if he made it right after the book came out in the mid 80’s. I remember watching Sin City and thinking that Rodriguez’s score reminded me so much of Carpenter’s own musically style and how Miller’s writing and Carpenter’s own could be very complimentary if fused together.

Best JC soundtrack to make the sex to?

Daniel: Vampires, as James Woods whispered soft encouragements into my ear.

What is John Carpenter’s pro wrestler nickname? I think John “The Shape” Carpenter works pretty well.

Tony: I like “The Shape”. It’s better than John “Starman” Carpenter. Maybe he could be billed as John “The Duke Of New York, A Number!!!!” Carpenter. He would enter the ring to the Escape From New York theme music and grab the mic and ask the crowd, “WHAT DID I TEACH YOU??!!!”

Give me 3 reasons why JC is better than say We Craven?

Daniel: 1. Even Carpenter’s less than great films are still interesting, while Wes Craven makes Shocker and Scream 3. Not a diss on Craven overall, as he has made some damn great horror movies, but Carpenter’s “failures” manage to entertain me. Except Memoirs. I can’t stand that movie enough.
2. I’m listening to the Vampires’ soundtrack right now. Craven does not have the Vampires‘ soundtrack to any of his films’ credit.
3. Craven sometimes lacks the stylization present in Carpenter films. Craven does have certain themes and special ways that he likes to do stuff, but Carpenter films are exclusively his. Not many people make movies in the way JC does.

Best line in any Carpenter film?

Tony: “We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn’t we Wang?”

Big Trouble In Little China poster.

What was the first JC movie you saw?

Daniel: Halloween. At 7. Thanks, Mom.

Do you ship Dan and Stevie from The Fog too?!?

Tony: I ship Carpenter for squandering what could have been one of his best movies. There is so much potential in that flick and barely any of it is realized. Even Carpenter admits this.

JC and many of his movies all have a strong anti-authoritarian sentiment to them, what do you think is the most badass, nuts to “the man” moment from any of his movies?

Daniel: Roddy Piper shoots up a bank full of aliens after spouting about kicking ass and bubblegum. It’s the most obvious pick, but that doesn’t make it any less bad ass. Honorable mention to all of Escape From New York.

Women ovulate whenever Big Trouble In Little China is played in their presence. Myth or truth?

Tony: Allow me to drop some troofies in your drink here, one of the first times my girlfriend spent the night at my old place the next morning I woke up before her and put on Big Trouble In Little China. Needless to say pretty soon she woke up, got curious and then there was some Big Trouble In Little Vagina.

Okay, Adequate Sized Trouble In Little Vagina. Also that is the last time I use that shitball pun (totally lying, will use again) but the point is, my girlfriend was on the pill. Kids use contraceptives because when you don’t that’s when you have the real Big Trouble In Little Vagina. (See, I did it again.)

If you could let JC make a sequel to any of his flicks what would it be?

Daniel: I want to see a True Grit esque Escape From (Insert Place). Old Plisskin is sorta crotchety and all awesome. He’d have to save Terrence Stamp, probably.

Best gore sequence in any Carpenter film?

Tony: Got to be Rob Bottin’s work in The Thing. But what sequence? Got to be the stomach opening up suddenly with metal jaws and munching on the doc guy’s hands. Never seen anything like that before in a movie. I make the distinction “in a movie” because my real life is crazy. I lived in Tucson.

Give me a haiku about a JC movie? It doesn’t have to be good, it’s a haiku.

Daniel: The girl wants ice cream
Better shoot her because why not?
Time to save our boss.

Little girl shot in Assault On Precinct 13.

Favorite performance in any of his films?

Tony: Hate to go back to the Big Trouble well but James Hong’s David Lo Pan is a staggering achievement. Not just for acting but for human achievement itself. So quotable and so likeable even though he is pure evil. I love him in both incarnations, old feeble, Asian Mr. Burns as well as giant, proto Mortal Kombat villain style Lo Pan. When he says the word “indeed” I cannot help but be happy. Lo Pan deserves a concept hip-hop album about him performed by RZA. It will be called, “The Hell Where People Are Skinned Alive, It’s that simple, Understand? / Ruling The Universe From Beyond The Grave.” Indeed!

JC’s most underrated and most overrated films?

Daniel: Overrated: Halloween has not aged well. Sorry, most.
Underrated: In The Mouth Of Madness. Why am I not watching that right now?

Daniel Dockery is a writer who lives in Asheville, NC. You’re currently reading his blog. He’s also writing a book. Study while you can. He’s all the hope there is.

Tony McMillen is a writer and novelist living in Boston. You can find his pop culture musings, usually full of vitriol and whimsy, at where he writes the column “Touch The Wonder”. You can also find more of his stuff at sites like ManArchy and Hecklerspray. If you wanna party with Tony, find him on Facebook. If you are David Lee Roth time displaced from 1984, don’t worry, he’ll find you.

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