The Muppets and Beyond: The infuriating ways our kids absorb TV

When I was a toddler my mum said the only thing guaranteed to bring me – and by extension her – a modicum of peace was The Muppet Show. For half an hour each week, the Muppets and their unique brand of noisy, vaudevillian anarchy turned my eyes into swirling portals of obedience.

When my son Jack came along I wanted to forge a common tie between our childhoods. With that goal in mind I set about Muppetifying his existence with the fiery-eyed zeal of a bat-shit Baptist preacher. I was a maniacal man of the cloth, a felt-obsessed fundamentalist with a Henson-sent mission to introduce our son to the all-consuming love of frog almighty.

Muppet DVDs flooded into our flat, all manner of movies and TV specials. Manah Manah became the official nonsensical anthem of our little kingdom of three. As Jack grew older, and gained the ability to toddle and teeter, the Muppet Show’s theme song became a siren’s call, a piece of music with the power to draw him from wherever he happened to be in the house straight to the feet of the TV, where he’d stand bent-kneed and bopping, beaming with born-again-glee and clapping his hands.

It was around this time that his maternal grandmother bought him a Gonzo stuffed toy, which instantly became an extension of his little hand. Jack guarded it like a junk-yard dog, not permitting even so much as a brief separation to allow his mummy to wash the grimy, big-snootered blighter. Piggy, Kermit, Animal and Fozzy soon followed, forming a full Muppet menagerie, but Gonzo steadfastly remained his favourite. He had a book chronicling all of the Muppets from the 1950s to present day, and he could identify the vast majority of them if you said their name.

I bought the Muppet Movie sound-track on CD so we could listen to the gang during car journeys. If ever wee Jack was grumpy and tired, even wailing and screaming from his car seat, it only ever took a few strums of Kermit’s banjo (careful, there) to snap him into contented silence. I swear that the Rainbow Connection was like a dose of aural ketamine.

I’d often sit next to Jack in his room bringing his Muppets to life: doing the voices, making them interact with him. This proved so popular that he’d frequently insist, on pain of tantrum, that those five fellows accompany us everywhere we went in the house, narrating everything as they went. My throat started to feel like a cat’s scratching post. It got to the point where I couldn’t even make a cup of tea without having to engineer a squabble between Piggy and Kermit, or make Gonzo do a death-defying leap from the top of the biscuit cupboard, Jack standing there silently scrutinising the performance, ready to chime in with a Waldorf and Statler-style putdown should things take a dip in quality. I was eventually held so thoroughly hostage by my kid’s imagination that I feared I wouldn’t even be able to go for a shit without Kermit announcing it as an act.


Jack’s mum hated The Muppets. Not straight away, but familiarity very quickly bred contempt. What was nirvana for our son for her felt like being Guantanamoed inside a giant clockwork orange. “You did this to us,” her haunted eyes seemed to say each time they met mine. “You’re the reason that I have to watch puppet pigs singing Copa Cabana eighty times a day, you bastard.” It wasn’t long before she was pig-sick of Miss Piggy, couldn’t bear Fozzy bear, wanted Beaker to beat it, Gonzo to begone, Scooter to scoot, and Kermit to fuck off.

She soon got her wish.

Jack began to refuse or reject items from The Muppets’ TV canon time and again to the point where I stopped offering them as an option. They receded from his day-to-day life, and then started to fade from his memory. Eventually, if the muppets appeared incidentally on some random TV show, or he caught sight of them in a book or magazine, he’d narrow his eyes and scrunch his face up, in the manner of a middle-aged man passing someone on the street they thought they kind of half-remembered from their school days. “Muzzy… Gruzzy… em… Fruzzy! That was his name. Fruzzy Hair. I think he used to sit behind me in English class.”

I’d like to think that in the months and years that followed the waning of Jack’s love for the muppets – as his obsessions evolved and expanded – that his mum actually came to retrospectively appreciate those felty little fuckers, and even kind of miss them. After all, if you’re going to be forced to watch something over and over and over and over again, ad infinitum, then you at least want that something to provide a dung-tonne of variety. And you can’t get much more varied or multifarious than a TV and cinema universe with so many crazy creatures that it makes Game of Thrones look like a two-character Alan Bennett play.

Still. Toy Story was Jack’s next great love. His mum was happier with this. Great movies, right? All three of them. Brilliant movies. You ever watched three movies twenty-five-thousand times? I don’t care if those three movies are home-movies of your own kids being born. After a few consecutive cycles you’re going to be reaching for the baby thermometer and stabbing your eyes out with it. “There’s a snake in my boots! Yes indeed there is. I’m going to use it to fucking strangle myself!”

A little bit of desperate IMDBing heralded the happy news that there were three five-minute shorts and two half-hour specials featuring Bonnie’s (nee Andy’s) gang that we could add into the movie rotation, but even then the novelty quickly wore off (although that scene in the Halloween special where the Pez dispenser pukes in disgust at the sight of the iguana boaking up a toy arm makes me laugh every single time). I even considered sending Disney a begging letter. “Please, please, please, please, for the love of God, hurry up and make Toy Story 4 so we can have one day, JUST ONE DAY, of watching those son-of-a-bitch toys doing something unexpected.”

If you’ve got, or ever had, young kids you’ll know how futile it is to try to counteract their brief but all-consuming obsessions.

“What do you want to watch today? Postman Pat, Ice Age, Count Duckula?”

“Woody and Buzz.”

“Madagascar 1, Madagascar 2, Madagasca…?”

“Woody and Buzz.”

“Oooh, how about How to Train Your Dragon?”

“Woody and Buzz.”

“I’ll give you a million pounds to watch nothing.”

“Woody and Buzz.”

… “The Muppets???”

The worst was yet to come. YouTube is both a blessing and a curse. I credit it with teaching Jack the alphabet – or at least expanding, reinforcing and cementing what his mum and I taught him – and making him more proficient with numbers, but there was a time when he fell in love with a series of videos by a kids’ content-provider called Chu Chu. As in, “I think I’d rather Chu Chu my own arm off than watch another second of these asshole videos.”

Chu Chu is an Indian company that produces Pigeon-Street-style animations of cherubic, rosy-cheeked white kids singing in stilted, weirdly-emphasised English with an Indian twang. Jack watched it so much I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d gone to school sounding like Apu from The Simpsons. Chu Chu bring all of your favourite nursery rhyme classics back to life, just like this one, you know, the one about your Dad chasing his son through the house in the dead of night because he’s going to eat all of the sugar raw… I mean, what the hell IS this shit?

To be fair to Chu Chu, 18-months to 2 years after Jack’s first exposure to their inimitable brand of transatlantic nursery-rhyme stylings we still sing the Johnny Johnny song, and the semi-bhangra version of ‘No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed’ is still our favourite.

While Jack enjoyed a series of micro-obsessions with Thomas the Tank Engine, Puss in Boots, Peppa Pig (that plinky-plonk theme tune is my Manchurian Candidate-style trigger for mass murder), Paw Patrol (one day I will kill you, Rubble, you big jawed arsehole. And why do the people in that town call on dogs for help instead of the fire brigade or the actual bloody police?) and various others, he’s now got a broad and sophisticated palate of televisual tastes. Which is code for ‘we probably let him watch too much television’.

But still no Muppets.

I picked up his little brother Christopher the other day, who’s too young to watch TV but certainly old enough to appreciate its bright and noisy charms.

“I think it’s nearly time we had a chat about the frogs and the pigs, young man.”

Mr Brombellarella: A clip from one of the worst movies ever made

The following video is a clip from an amateur abomination of a movie called ‘The Many Strange Stories of Triangle Woman’ that I found on LoveFilm during a bout of insomnia. Triangle Woman, the narrator, has pretty much fuck all to do with triangles. She just stands in-front of the camera spewing out non-sequiturs and pulling crazy faces. “Have you ever thought about air? I wonder if a squirrel could use it as a bankcard. Hmmmm. My fanny is purple like a dead tree.” Then some bad actors get together for about seven or eight minutes and something mental happens, and Triangle Woman comes back to compare cake to sparrows for a few minutes. Don’t watch this movie, but please, please watch the clip. It’s so stupid, ridiculous and naff that it made me snort out a gallon of tea from my mucous membranes.

I give you… Mr Brombellarella. Just imagine that the Chuckle Brothers had a stab at remaking Twin Peaks.

Where to start? Well, the soundtrack’s clearly been ripped from an early 90’s soft porn film that’s set in space, some movie with a name like ‘Starfish Troopers’, ‘Intimate Space Invaders’ or ‘Phwoar Trek 2: The Girth of Khan’, no doubt. All except Mr Brombellarella’s circus-nightmare themed jingle, of course, which was clearly composed especially for the movie, although perhaps the word ‘composed’ lends a grandeur that isn’t deserved. It is fucking funny and mental though, so kudos.

Who the hell is Mr Brombellarella? What makes him tick? How did a half-daft tramp with Parkinsons’ land a job in a lawyers’ office? What did he stash in the fridge? My money’s on a bagful of human eyes dyed orange and a bowtie with the souls of a thousand children stitched inside of it. Move over briefcase in Pulp Fiction, there’s a new mystery in town!

Here’s a question for you. What’s the connection between a woman with a stiff neck, two young girls with shades of The Shining about them, a lawyer’s office and an old man with a bow-tie who inexplicably dies when a woman slaps a guy? Nothing. Not a sausage. It’s nonsense as fuck. The people who made this hilarious heap of shit probably defend it on the grounds that its detractors ‘just don’t get it’. But there’s nothing to get. This eight minute sequence, and indeed the whole movie, is a schizophrenic’s dream with a budget. Mr Brombellarella did, however, make me laugh like a child hooped up on a cocktail of E-flavourings, so I can’t shit on the movie or its makers too much. They brought me fleeting, but intense, joy. Every little doo-woop noise or bat-shit head-shaking had me in stitches.

Here are a few comments about ‘The Many Strange Stories of Triangle Woman’ from viewers and reviewers on IMDB, in case you’re tempted to watch the full 90 minutes:

  •  Avoid this one at all costs, maybe calling a relative (even one you hate) that you haven’t spoken with in years is better than this. 
  • The ratings don’t go low enough to express how awful this movie was. It is like someone with money got together mental defectives, adults with childlike minds and people suffering from dementia together and asked them to write their own stories.

And finally…

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

An incredible waste of time and an insult to the viewer

1/10
Author: belowareptile from Planet Earth
30 July 2009

I could not watch more than about 15 minutes of this sad excuse for a movie. I was enticed to watch it by the short synopsis given here at IMDb. Big mistake.

From the very start the acting is incredibly bad, to the point that it is frustrating to watch. Vivian Jimenez Hall is unengaging, unprofessional and possibly the worst actress I have ever had the misfortune of seeing. The others “actors” are just as bad.

Quite seriously, EVERYTHING in this movie is bad, bad, bad. The music is bad, the cinematography is bad, the direction is bad, the lighting, the wardrobe, the casting, you get the picture.

Some bad movies attain a cult status, because they are so bad that they are funny. This is not one of those movies. Avoid at all costs.

Was the above review useful to you?

 

There’s even an apology from somebody who was involved in the production of the movie. But you’re probably going to watch it anyway, right? To be fair, it’s better than ‘A Good Day to Die Hard’ but not quite as good as having your balls ripped open with a Stanley knife.

The Best Shittest Films: Twilight (2008)

twi4I don’t like Twilight. Hardly surprising, given that the film wasn’t produced with my nearly-dead demographic in mind. I’m an incredibly miserable, hairy and lumpy man in my early 30s, not an angsty, hormonally-unbalanced teenage girl who dreams nightly of being violated by moody, scowling vampires. In fact, the whole process of rubbishing Twilight is about as futile as criticising the dearth of symbolism and poor cinematography in an episode of The Chuckle Brothers.

That being said, I consider Twilight a boring, irritating, and thoroughly worthless piece of shite, so I’m going to do it anyway.

They'll drink your blood.

They’ll drink your blood.

Let’s put our cards on the table. If you’re a guy, you’ve probably watched this film a) because of a girl, b) because you’re a girl, or c) because you’re a connoisseur of crap films and enjoy shooting sarcastic wisecracks at the screen (or so you keep telling yourself, Mr b) ). And, girls? If you’re young, young at heart, or young at mind (a polite way of calling you a drooling, bum-houking simpleton), or all three, then you’re going to love this film. Vampirism aside, it ticks all of the traditional romantic boxes for a teen love film. There’s the new-in-town, pretty-but-awkward girl, Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), whose personality has been forged in a cold fire of loneliness and intra-parental antipathy. There’s the mysterious, brooding outsider, Edward Cullen (played by a young Charlie Brooker), who puts up emotional ice-screens to protect his fragile, wittle, achy bweaky heart from being broken. Where the plot differs slightly from that of, say, Grease, is by virtue of its male protagonist being an immortal vampire who feasts hungrily on human blood.

Fit like, min?

Fit like, min?

The two kooks are brought together when Edward intervenes to rescue Bella from an out-of-control car, and in the process reveals to her his superhuman strength and speed (car-crossed lovers, you might say). Bella quickly figures out the entirety of Edward’s secret, which isn’t that much of a puzzler, to be honest: the deathly pale skin; the weird and pale family; the aversion to sunny days; everyone steering clear of him: he’s clearly from Aberdeen.

I’ll admit that the first twenty minutes or so of the movie weren’t irredeemably awful, and I was ready to give myself a slap on the wrist for letting my preconceptions over-ride my critical faculties. And then I realised that my preconceptions were bang on the money, and the film really was a massive and steamingly hot, six-storeyed tower of giraffe shit.

Call me cynical if you will, but it’s the speed and nature of the lovers’ relationship that had me groaning the most. Guys, I’m talking to you again. Bella and Edward, a human and a vampire, fall into deep, I-will-kill-and-die-for-you love within about four seconds of meeting. Maybe I can’t remember what teenage love feels like anymore, but Bella comes across like she could boil rhinos, never mind bunnies, and Edward seems like an emotionally maladjusted crackpot who’s a mere few missed meals away from using a hitchhiker’s jugular as a straw for his Irn Bru.

I'm furiously playing with my golden Gamesmaster joystick.

I’m furiously playing with my golden Gamesmaster joystick.

And let’s not forget that Edward – made immortal during the First World War by a bite from his now-foster-father – is 108, despite outwardly having remained a 17-year-old boy. He’s 108… she’s 17. I know my girlfriend’s younger than me, but come on? A 91-year age difference? Imagine if the film had opened with Patrick Moore mind-raping a boy and stealing his body, which he then spent the remainder of the film using to shag teenage girls… Actually, that’s a great idea for a film. Especially now that he’s dead. We’ll call it ‘The Pie at Night – New Moore.’

*(please note that this review draft has been on my computer for years and I’m only just amending it. I could have used a Jimmy Savile joke there, and didn’t. Too much class, you see?)

Bella meets Edward’s nutty vampire family; luckily for her they’re good vampires, in the respect that they eschew chewing humans in favour of getting stuck in about animals. Not long after this we’re introduced to some bad, human-eating vampires, who show up just as Bella and the Cullens are  enjoying a baseball game during a thunderstorm – isn’t that always the way? (Little note on the baseball game itself: it looked and felt so Quidditch-like that I half hoped and expected Harry Potter to whizz past on his broomstick, if only so that the bad vampires could catch him and rape his dead corpse) (I know that’s tautology, but there’s something so satisfying about a dead corpse: especially Harry Potter’s) (sorry for all the brackets).

twi3So, ace, right? We’ve got ourselves some bad vampires who want to kill Bella and rumble with her boyfriend’s family! Amazing! Some action, some bloodshed!! This film’s about to get good, right? RIght?? Wrong. By this point in the movie there had been twenty-million too many crummy pseudo-philosophical Bella voice-overs, and at least eighty-thousand million too many sickening professions of eternal love and sacrifice for the chase segment of the movie to kindle within me any sense of excitement. Not even the fact that Edward himself had problems controlling his urge to eat Bella – despite his insane love for her – could inch me closer to the edge of my seat. I just didn’t – and couldn’t – give a fuck. Bon appetit, mate. Have a wee chew on her thigh bones, Eddie. Sook the meat off them like they’re a pair of barbecue spare ribs from Wongs’.

I just wanted it all to end. End fast. And end like 30 Days of Night: with half a town torn to death and a man frittering away like burnt toast in a hurricane.

Avoid. These vampires are a total bunch of fangies.

The Best Shittest Films: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

s1The movie opens with a chorus of children singing the song-cum-mantra ‘Hooray for Santy Claus’, which is catchy in the same way that a song played over and over into a terrorist’s ear in Guantanamo Bay is catchy. Look out for the lyrics: ‘You spell it S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S / Hooray for Santy Claus!’ These kids are made to look like spelling-spastics by the song’s rampant disregard for its own rules. Look out for my new song, ‘You spell it J-A-M-I-E A-N-D-R-E-W / Hooray for Jamue Androw!’ A minor quibble, perhaps, but in the end it’s the little things that’ll have you prising out your eyes with a rusty tea-spoon.

 

So what’s the plot of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians?

'I'll fucking conquer them alright!'

‘I’ll fucking conquer them alright!’

The movie title makes it sound kick-ass, doesn’t it? I wonder how he conquers them. Perhaps Santa gets his hands on an assault rifle and rips into the alien scumbags John McClane-style? Except he doesn’t. There’s no conquering at all. Not even a wee bit of subduing. The film should really be called: ‘Santa Claus is Really Nice to the Martians, Even Though They Kidnap Him, and Leaves Mars On Generally Good Terms With Its People Despite the Behaviour of a Tiny Minority of Baddy Martians Who Want to Kill Him.’ Not as catchy, but definitely more accurate.

The story begins on Earth. A news reporter is at Santa’s North Pole Workshop conducting a live interview with the bearded chuckler himself, a role actor John Call brings to life by channelling both the lion from The Wizard of Oz and a convicted paedophile.

VERY Bad Santa.

VERY Bad Santa.

As we meet him, Santa is overseeing the global production of all toys. Well, I say global. We can assume Santa doesn’t deliver to Muslim kids or Chinese nationals; just the Christians and capitalist western secularists. Even still, that’s a fuck-load of toys. How does Santa manage to hit his targets for such an epic order, considering that the work shop is about the size of a small potting shed and the workforce consists of only two dwarves? Two dwarves. That’s it. If magic isn‘t involved then Santa’s a more cruel and brutal slave-driver than all of the pharaohs put together, plus Hitler. The dwarves really should join a union.

'Whachoo talkin' about, Space-Willis?'

‘Whachoo talkin’ about, Space-Willis?’

One of the toys on the production line is a doll of a Martian, a wee piece of foreshadowing for our impending trip to Mars. Now, I don’t know if it was the poor lighting, the screen resolution on my laptop, or my own latent racism, but that Martian doll looked less Martian and more, well… black. It was essentially a sci-fi gollywog. The news reporter picked up the doll and said, with fear and disgust: ’I wouldn’t like to meet him on a dark night.’ Of course you wouldn’t, you big Nazi. I double-checked the title of the film, just to make sure I wasn’t accidentally watching Santa Claus Conquers the N*****s. Sorry to jump to conclusions, 1960s, but you ARE the decade that struggled to let Kirk tongue Uhuru, never mind hitch up her mini-skirt and shag her over the comms console.

So, Anyway, the Martians…

I'd be sad, too, if my Dad dressed me up like a total helmet.

I’d be sad, too, if my Dad dressed me up like a total helmet.

Meanwhile, across the solar system, the live broadcast of this interview is being watched by a duo of dead-eyed Martian minstrel kids. They’ve been watching so much Earth television, and getting so little sleep, and enjoyment from life, that they’re becoming little serial-killers-in-training: robotic, listless, and monosyllabic. Their dad, Kimar, whose day-job is Martian supreme commander, is worried shitless about them. If he’d been an American dad he would have known what to do: dope the cunts up with beef burgers and Ritalin. Being Martian and ignorant of Earth ways, he has to plump for a more locally-based two-prong solution.

Step one: put them to bed and knock them out with a sleep ray, without warning or consent. Nice work, Dad of the Year. Final step: get a crowd of mates together and go out into the rocky wilderness to consult a creepy 800-year-old man. Who of course needs to be summoned. ‘Dave? Hey, Dave? DAVE, YOU THERE, MATE?!’ No, that would be too easy. In any case the 800-year-old guy is called Chochum. Not Dave. Apparently Dave isn’t a very common Martian name. We’re all learning something today.

Chochum. A magical space mystic on Mars. That makes sense.

Chochum. A magical space mystic on Mars. That makes sense.

So, Kimar and a bunch of Martian elders all chant ‘Chochum’ into the unforgiving darkness, until the old fucker appears in a puff of smoke, complete with Gandalf-beard, standard-issue-old-mystic-guy staff and pish-scented wisdom. Chochum delivers his lines like a man receiving a sloppy blow-job as he fends off a stroke, which is pretty fucking funny. And disturbing. Fusturbing, if you‘ll permit me the creation of a new and completely unnecessary word.

What does Chochum suggest as a way of releasing the children from their torpor? Kidnap Santa Claus, of course. It’s so logical and sensible it’s a wonder they didn’t think of it themselves. So off they fly in their little spaceship, the operation of which is no more complicated than pressing buttons on a child’s fake calculator. The ship itself is a curious piece of inter-stellar engineering; it looks like a burning condom whooshing through space.

The Search for Santa

s7The Martians reach Earth and begin their search for Santa – using a high-powered telescope, rather than any namby-pamby futuristic technology. To their horror they realise that there are thousands upon thousands of Santas in New York alone. With no way of determining which is the genuine article they do what any military group placed in a similar situation would do: they kidnap some kids. Bloody Martians. Always with the kidnapping! The kids tell the Martians where Santa Claus lives, and they all zoom off to the North Pole to get him.

The two kids, Billy and Betty, are incredibly annoying, and very shit at acting. It’s as if immediately prior to each take the director said to them: ‘The last one was good kids, but this time… NO EMOTION. Brilliant. And remember to deliver your lines in the style of a short-sighted, brain-damaged man struggling to read an autocue.’

Unfortunately, the kids learn not only that the Martians intend to whisk Santa across the solar system against his will, but also that they – being witnesses to the crime – must come, too, never to return to Earth. In fact, as if things couldn’t possibly be any worse, there’s an evil baddy Martian onboard who wants them all dead. His name’s Stevie. Yeah, alright, alright, I’m fucking with you. He’s called Voldar. Fortunately, there’s also a clumsy, clowny Martian simpleton onboard called Dropo, who succeeds in keeping the kids alive through a winning display of consistently retarded buffoonery.

About as scary as a tub of margarine.

About as scary as a tub of margarine.

The action at the North Pole is… shit. The kids escape the ship and run off to warn Santa of his impending kidnap. In the process they get chased by the most unconvincing polar bear in the history of existence. I know the director couldn’t unleash a real polar bear on the kids – some piffling Health and Safety law about not feeding children to large ursine predators – but as far as guys-wearing-shit-animal-costumes go, Barney the Dinosaur is more authentically terrifying than this sorry excuse for a polar bear. Anyway, having escaped one near-death experience the kids then fall into the clutches of Voldar’s killer robot, who looks like the robot from Lost in Space if he was built by a class of special needs kids using cereal boxes and the bin from Oor Wullie.

About as scary as... a second tub of margarine. And also made from tubs of margarine.

About as scary as… a second tub of margarine. And also made from tubs of margarine.

Don’t worry, though. Before the robot can crush the kids’ heads to dust like a couple of loaves of twelve-week-old bread, Kimar shows up to cool things down. The robot is then sent to retrieve Santa Claus, but is defeated when Santa Claus mistakes it for a giant toy, which inexplicably causes it to BECOME a toy, thereby rendering it harmless. Whoever programmed that robot shouldn‘t have been let loose on a microwave, much less a sophisticated cybernetic life-form.

‘Right, brilliant, my robot can kill a man with its bare hands, withstand gun, rocket and laser fire, smash its way through titanium and destroy whole cities with its nuclearised death beam. It’s pretty much unstoppable… oh, as long as an old man doesn’t at any point treat it like a toy. For some reason I programmed it this way and then when I realised the weakness I didn’t bother to correct it. I’m sure it’ll be fine, though… So, what do you want me to build you next? A fucking robot dog that explodes whenever somebody makes it think about Sesame Street?’

The End…

'Ho ho ho! No need for mental health professionals, I'll cure your schizophrenia through laughter!'

‘Ho ho ho! No need for mental health professionals, I’ll cure your schizophrenia through laughter!’

Because I’m quickly losing the will to live I’ll speed up this review. Onboard the USS Flaming Spunk Sac, Voldar tries to kill Santa Claus and the kids by trapping them in the airlock and ejecting them out into the cold, remorseless void of space; unfortunately for Voldar (and all of us) they manage to escape through… well, magic. Yep. Santa Claus defies physics, and when quizzed on the specifics of his escape simply tells a few shit jokes, throws back his head and laughs.

Santa Claus then arrives on Mars and cures the Martian kids by… hmmm mmm, you’ve guessed it: telling a few shit jokes, throwing back his head and laughing. Kimar still slings him in jail, though, because he needs Santa to set up a toy workshop for the Martian kids, which he’ll work in until the day he dies. The kids and the mongo guy help him.

Kimar (right) with his nemesis, Voldar, who looks like an evil Daley Thompson.

Kimar (right) with his nemesis, Voldar, who looks like an evil Daley Thompson.

Meanwhile, Voldar isn’t happy that everyone he twice tried to kill is still alive, and so forms an evil clique with a handful of the most stupid people on Mars. Why do baddies in kids’ films team up with complete idiots like this? They end up spending their valuable plotting-and-killing-time tip-toeing around like Panto villains, shooshing their bungling henchman as they do things like constantly trip over stuff and accidentally detonate bombs, always scratching their heads and saying, ’Uh, um, gee, sorreeee bosssss.’ Don’t hire them then, you fucking arsehole! There’s no equal opportunities directive dictating the make-up of your kid-murdering co-op. Employ real, ruthless killers and criminals; not the guys who turn up to the interview drooling with their jackets on back-to-front. Christ, your heinous plans deserve to get foiled.

This time, though, instead of murdering Santa and the kids, Voldar plans to discredit Santa by screwing around with his toy factory, causing it to spit out weird toy hybrids, like tennis racquets with doll bodies instead of handles. The plan doesn’t work; principally because it’s a shit plan. If he wanted to discredit Santa he really should have gone down the paedophile route. Cast-iron. Anyway, Voldar thinks, ‘Fuck it. I’ll just try to kill them all again.’

s12That plan doesn’t work either; because clearly one man with a death ray is no match for a bunch of kids with paper aeroplanes, water, bubbles and foam.

Santa, Billy and Betty then get to go home, but it’s OK, because Santa leaves the operation of the workshop in the hands of the mentally-deranged Martian, Dropo and a squad of under-age children. Congratulations! You’ve given the people of Mars the Christmas gift of an exploitative sweat shop. Now back to Earth with you, you fat cunt.

SPOILER ALERT: it turns out that Santa was dead all along and the children were the only ones who could see him. Oh, and he was Kaiser Szose.

The Legacy

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was a great stepping stone for the careers of its principal actors: a stepping stone into oblivion. After his role as Santa, John Call didn’t act for another seven years, appeared in one more movie, and then died. Still, we’ll always look back fondly at the iconic roles he played throughout his career, like Man With Bushy Hair and Ticket Taker.

Head Martian Kimar was Leonard Hicks’ only film role. He never even went on to work as a movie extra. He just must have thought to himself: ’Fuck movies.’

The two child actors, Victor Stiles and Donna Conforti, went on a drug-fuelled sex-killing rampage in the 70s, torturing their mostly elderly victims whilst dressed as polar bears. They didn’t really; I’m just getting bored writing this shit. They never acted again.

Uncle Wally/Dropo

Uncle Wally/Dropo

The only ’star’ to achieve any modicum of success was actor Bill McCutcheon, who played Martian mongo Dropo. Bill went on to have a distinguished career portraying many more on-screen mongos, and ended his days working on Sesame Street, alongside other respected luminaries of kids’ TV such as Chris Langham and the big black puppeteer guy who was accused of ass-fucking a boy.

Movie Reboots – THE OMEN PIGEON

'I'm busy, right? Got my manicure today.'

Satan’s rather busy in this modern update of The Omen. So busy, in fact, that he can’t manage his Evil Empire™ alone. Just like McDonalds, he’s franchised out his brand, allowing a series of hard-on-their-luck imps to commit atrocities in his name. Satan realises a little too late, however, that the job of asserting his bloodline in the world of man shouldn’t have been farmed out to a complete knob.

Wee-Ballsy-Bud, played with relish by TV’s Ken Barlow, is entrusted with the task of installing Satan’s son on Earth. Unfortunately, his lack of experience and ability leads him to incubate his master’s seed in Yorkshire instead of New York, and even in the wrong host species. Behold: the Omen Pigeon.

Still, it’s not all bad news. The bird quickly proves to be a chip off the old block, thereby saving Wee-Ballsy-Bud from eternal damnation (another fifteen years in Coronation Street). Securing work as a carrier pigeon, Satan’s feathery son spends his days ferrying evil messages to the unsuspecting people of Barnsley. Messages like: ‘I pecked yer dirty maw’s minge like a piece of breed’; ‘Your aunty’s actually yer maw and yer brother’s yer son’; and ‘You’re ugly, hen, I’ve done sexier shites on car windscreens.‘ Every message is written in a Scottish dialect – the international language of evil.

The only people who can stop the Omen Pigeon are hardened Vatican priests David Dastardly and Michael Muttley. They charter a bi-plane from the pope, and fly to Yorkshire hell-bent on destroying the devil’s verminous son.

The trailer for the film, which I’ve been privileged to see, shows a gripping high-speed chase at 15,000 feet. Just as the two holy warriors are closing in on their Satanic prey, the pigeon pulls a one-eighty spin, flies above them upside down, and poos straight into pious pilot David Dastardly’s eyes. As the bi-plane begins its terrifying earthwards descent, we hear the blood-curdling cry: ‘Muttley…. Doooo something!’

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU’LL LOVE: The Calamityville Horror. The Chuckle Brothers buy a dilapidated old house which carries legends of blood and horror, and proceed to accidentally demolish it through a series of hilarious mishaps. Also look out for: MC Hammer’s House of Horror, and The X-Factor-Cist. Simon Cowell has to find the best demon before the world ends. ‘I was expecting Linda Blair; you gave me Cherie Blair. This could be the best possession we’ve seen this series.’

Movie Reboots – 28 JAMES MAYS LATER

The BBC Top Gear boys get to grapple with rabid monsters in this novel re-imagining of Danny Boyle’s gory zombie thriller.

It begins innocently enough. James May is depressed because he is unable to keep up with Richard Hammond and Jeremy Clarkson: the duo are currently appearing in every single television show broadcast in Britain. So, with the help of an unhinged BBC executive, James May decides to clone himself. Unfortunately, things, as they always do in these sorts of movies, go horrifically wrong.

The cloning machine turns out to be faulty. ‘Because it was manufactured in Germany…’ Clarkson later tells us, ‘by French engineers… you think they would have learned… about teaming up… after they collaborated on the Vichy government.’

The clones are all evil, and quickly dismiss the reason for which they were created. They certainly prove to enjoy the taste of brains more than the taste of fame, ably demonstrated when they crack open the head of the original James May like it was an egg, and eat the goo within. And, because they’re James Mays, they even use the correct cutlery.

It’s not long before the James Mays are chomping their way across the country. Each bite turns its victim into a drooling, savage, and psychopathically famished James May, adding to their terrifying numbers. The only words they can speak are ‘Would you mind awfully if I just killed you?’ Within hours, Britain is literally swarming with James Mays, and there are only two men who can stop them: Hammond and Clarkson.

‘Well, if there’s one thing of which we can be sure,’ drawls Clarkson, ‘…it’s that May’s about as quick… as a Fiat Panda… that’s been engineered in Poland… by a one-armed Serbian goat herder… with AIDS…’

Their sluggishness makes them easy to deflect and herd into a giant vineyard, a feat the twosome accomplish through a combination of Hammond’s dazzlingly white teeth, and Clarkson’s increasingly loud and unhelpful comments about foreigners.

‘I’ve not been involved in many post-apocalyptic scenarios… except if you count my recent trip to Belgium…’ Clarkson says, ‘but I’ve got to say… that this must be… one of the greatest threats that mankind has ever faced… in the world.’

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU’LL LOVE: It’ll Be Alright on the Night of the Living Dead. Dennis Norden (who has been dead for thirty years) takes us through the most side-splitting (literally, in some cases) zombie mishaps and outtakes. See also: I am Legless. Will Smith fights his way through New York, beating people up, talking to dummies, shooting zoo animals, playing golf off the top of skyscrapers, and sleeping in his bath, until somebody points out that he’s just had a bit too much to drink. Out later this year, the terrifying House of Ruby Wax.

Movie Reboots – WHITE VAN MAN HELSING

Dracula: nonce.

‘Bloody place is crawlin’ with fakkin’ vampires,’ says White Van Man Helsing in the film’s first scene. ‘Why can’t they all just fakk off back to Romania?’

Helsing, played by Ray Winstone, snarls these words as he pulls up outside Castle Dracula in his dodgy white van. The action takes place not in Transylvania, but Hackney, where Dracula has built his castle using taxpayers’ money and PFI subsidies. Armed only with a lifetime’s worth of knowledge amassed from The Sun, and fingers of steel thanks to thirty-five years of arse scratching, Van Man Helsing has his work cut out for him. Especially since he refuses to use traditional methods to take down his nemesis. ‘Garlic? Bloody Frog cunts would love it if I used garlic, wouldn’t they? Not until those European nonces let us have our fakkin’ bendy bananas back!’

'Ooooy! You causin' bubble, you pointy-toothed slag?'

‘The Wolfman is alright,’ Helsing tells his apprentice, Danny Dyer, played by TV’s Danny Dyer, ‘at least ee can look after ’imself in a scrap. But that muppet up there, readin’ his bloody books, ’avin bloody orgies and suckin’ ar bloody British blood without liftin‘ a finger to pay tax? Makes my bloody British blood boil, so it does!’

Helsing manages to take out Dracula by force-feeding him a bag of Greggs’ pies until the count succumbs to a massive coronary. ‘Steak-and-kidney pie froo the ‘art,’ he quips, ‘Bloody mug.’

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU’LL LOVE: DSS Interview With the Vampire. Tom Cruise has a tough time convincing the council that his disability benefits are kosher. Especially since they’ve got a video of him draining a virgin while he’s been claiming for a bad back.

Movie Reboots – AN AMERICAN TEENAGE TEENWOLF IN LONDON, TOO

'Woof, woof!'

The reboot retains the spirit, and much of the premise, of its 1980s source films. We follow the travails of John Werewolf, a geeky young American exchange student, as he enrols at Lupine Academy, a Cornish comprehensive school on the brink of financial collapse.

After John is bitten by a werewolf (played with menace by ex-weatherman Michael Fish) he develops the ability to transform into a man-wolf. This comes in handy when he’s asked to represent Lupine Academy in a national schools’ sporting tournament, where his powers just might win the school a large cheque that could rescue it from doom.

John Werewolf: 'All the better to chew you with, my dear!'

Where the new ‘Teen Wolf’ differs slightly from the Michael J Fox versions is, for one, the choice of sport. You won’t see any basketballs here. Thanks to sweeping education cuts in the PE department, Lupine Academy can only afford a darts team. Also, there’s a little bit more evisceration, head ripping, rape and bowel chewing in this one. The UK’s racing pundit John McCririck has great fun as John Werewolf: using his opponents ripped-off fingers as darts; throwing the violated corpse of Jim Bowen into a cheering crowd; wielding a shredded beer belly during a gruelling fight to the death with Bully; and, at one point, even taking a shot from too far over the oche.

Jonathan Ross said: ‘McCwiwick’s Amewican accent is a wittle hard to swawwow at times, but his haiwy man-tits,’ he admitted, ‘are just wight.’  Film Thrice-Yearly gave it one hundred and eighteeee out of ten.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU’LL LOVE: Are You Being Severed? Werewolf John Inman savages Mrs Slocombe’s pussy with his sharp incisors.

Movie Reboots – ALLAN VS PREDATOR

'Please demonstrate how you would lift this human safely, taking care not to hurt your back.'

It’s fair to say that the two AVP films didn’t exactly get the pulses of fans or critics racing. In fact they were shite.

But this time, the Predators face their greatest nemesis of all: Allan.

Allan is an officer with the Health and Safety Executive who objects very strongly to the flagrant disregard the Predators show towards meeting safety standards in the workplace. Although filming is still underway, we managed to obtain a few excerpts of dialogue from a scene in which Allan has a white-knuckle showdown with the head Predator.

'That's it, Tentacle Face. I'm shutting this mother-fucker down.'

ALLAN: Do you think it’s safe to have your staff piloting a large spacecraft through a potentially very busy region of space where there may be elderly space users, when clearly their vision is limited to detecting thermal signatures from warm-blooded creatures? Can I see a copy of your risk assessment forms, please?

HEAD PREDATOR: Graaahhraaahhragraaahhh.

ALLAN: And has the thermo nuclear device attached to your arm been PAT tested yet?

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU’LL LOVE: I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter-Field. It’s kind of like Cloverfield, but you won’t be able to tell the difference. See also: Alien vs Creditor. Phillip the creditor doesn’t care how many mouths they’ve got to feed. He’s still repossessing their eggs.

Movie Reboots – COME SHINE WITH ME

Jack tries to keep cool after his croquettes burn in the oven.

Dinner parties can be stressful at the best of times, but this Film Four production takes social awkwardness to a chilling new level. Reuniting the original cast of The Shining, Come Shine With Me sees writer Jack Torrance returning to the Overlook Hotel to cook for Danny, Wendy, Scatman Crothers, and his mental son’s imaginary friend Tony – all for a crack at the £1000 prize money. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though. Tony used to haunt the finger of a famous French food critic, and so Danny’s index digit is always on the waggle: ‘This food makes me glad I’m only a finger with no mouth, Mr Torrance.’

Add to that the constant pressure on Jack to chop up his family into so much spotted dick, and you know there’s going to be a lot more tension in store before you hear the words: ‘Heeeeerrreeeee’s dessert!’

Dave Lamb’s acerbic commentary is a delight. ‘Good luck slicing the garlic with that axe, Jack. I think there’s a sledgehammer around here somewhere if you can find yourself a walnut.’

Look out for more of your favourite catchphrases in the movie, like: ‘All wok and no sautee make Jack a full boy,’ and ‘Watch out for that fucking axe, Scatman!’ We particularly liked the ending, which sees Jack freezing to death as he tries to retrieve his black forest gateaux from the hedge maze.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU’LL LOVE: Stephen King’s ShIT. One of the writer’s turds is buried in ‘Pat’ Cemetary. It returns to possess a teenage girl, from Maine obviously, who takes a misanthropic writer hostage and breaks his legs with a mallet. Also look out for: Tommy’s Knockers.  

 

Movie Reboots – NEXT FRIDAY THE 13TH

"Oooooh, helloooo ducky!"

To what fresh ground can you take Jason Vorhees once he’s been cryogenically re-awakened in deep space in the far-distant future? Producers and writers have faced this problem for the last eighteen Friday the 13th films. Some would rather forget the critical failure that was Freaky Friday the 13th. Others rather liked Very Camp Crystal Lake, one of the more recent reboots, which saw Jason stalking his prey whilst wearing tight bicycle shorts and a cravat.

Though commercially successful, the film’s ending raised a few eyebrows among diehard Friday the 13th fans. They argued it wasn’t exactly in the spirit of the saga to have Jason settling down in the suburbs with an uptight human-resources manager called Gerald.

Which is probably why Next Friday the 13th sees Jason Vorhees kicking back in the hood with Ice Cube and Chris Rock. Watch out for the increasingly inventive kills: especially Jason taking out a whole crew of Hispanic drug dealers using only a yo-yo and a bottle of Gatorade. Our favourite scene is where Jason rips out a man’s lower intenstines, prompting Chris Rock to quip: “Cos it’s Friday the 13th, you aint got no jobby, you aint got a shit to do.”

Although seemingly impervious to any form of physical pain, Jason is not immune to the social problems that are rife in the hood. By the end of the film he’s been shot fifty-six times, is the father of three illegitimate children, and starts selling weed.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU’LL LOVE: Knightmare on Elm Street. At long last the two worlds of 80s ITV kids’ show Knightmare and Freddy Krueger’s Elm Street are brought together. Also, look out for: Rod, Jane and Freddy Vs Jason and the hotly anticipated John Craven’s New Nightmare.

 

Movie Reboots – JOHN CANDYMAN

"Heeeeeeeeeeeeereeeeee's John Candy!!"

Say his name five times into the mirror, and you summon the angry ghost of John Candyman. Does he flay you with his hook? Disembowel you? Lop your head off? Worse. He casts you in a Steve Martin film.

John Candy had several reservations about appearing in this film – top of the list being that he’s dead. However, Hollywood trade magazine Variety reported that a seven figure sum soon convinced Candy to come back to life. Actors’ unions are now up in arms over what they perceive as a grave case of ‘positive discrimination’.

‘Already we have Rex Harrison resurrecting himself to star alongside a recently re-animated Dudley Moore in Under Siege 26,’ said an angry Jamieson Girthrocket, of Roles Taken From the Living (ROTFL), ‘What next? Die Hard 12 with Clark Gable?’

In the original Candyman, the eponymous villain opened his jacket to reveal a stomach crawling with bees, an echo of his brutal death. In the new film, John Candyman will unbutton his shirt to reveal a fully-grown bull charging from his colon, as a consequence of dying during a violent steak-eating contest against Dan Akroyd.

IF YOU LIKE THIS, YOU’LL LOVE: The House on Notting Hill. Foppish Hugh Grant throws a posh dinner party to impress Julia Roberts. His soul quickly gets torn in half by an angry army of ghosts, who are sick fed-up of his humming, hawing, ooo-ing, ah-ing, and fringe-tossing. ‘If you’re not going to shag her,’ say the ghosts, ‘you might as well die.’ Die Hard 12 with Clark Gable starts shooting next April.

 

In the End, There Was the Beginning

Films are like fashion. Remember that film with the terrible special effects you laughed at in the 70s? Remember that film you loved so dearly you watched it fifty times a day and only communicated with other human beings through chunks of its dialogue? Well, they’re coming back… sort of.

Now that the cinema world has come of age, its going full circle. Over the last few years we’ve witnessed countless reboots, reimaginings, remakes and far-apart sequels; some of them good, some of them great, and many of them grating.

Star Trek, Batman, Terminator, Psycho, Halloween, Friday the 13th, Indiana Jones, Lost in Space, Alfie, the Italian Job: just a small sample of films and sagas that have had the treatment, with many more to follow.

I’m going to be posting tasters of the celluloid remodellings and regurgitations we’ve got to look forward to from the maestros of horror and science-fiction in 2012.