Monday, June 2, 2014

Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang: The Misguided Love Affair of a Double-Crossin' Bobcat and a No-Good Rattlesnake

Melodrama is funny.  This is something that is well understood by the satirist.  Melodrama is drama that winds so far around the bend that it meets up with comedy on the opposite side.  An example of melodrama is the torrid beach scene in From Here to Eternity (1953), which has inspired many satirists. 

It might seem like a great idea to make love on a deserted, moon-lit beach while the waves are crashing onto the shore, but it's possible that the sand and surf will do more to inhibit lovemaking than enhance it.  The parodies have let us know that the tide can bring in many effects from the ocean depths, including seaweed (Airplane!, 1980), mermaids (Shrek 2, 2004) and sharks (The Simpsons, "HOMR," 2001), and the ocean spray that one would expect to be refreshing could nearly drown a person (Your Show of Shows, "From Here To Obscurity," 1954).

Your Show of Shows ("From Here To Obscurity," 1954)

The Seven Year Itch (1955)


The Private Navy of Sgt. O'Farrell (1968)

Airplane! (1980)

The Nutty Professor (1996)


The Simpsons ("HOMR," 2001)


Shrek 2 (2004)


Chariots of Fire's overly earnest, slow-motion running on the beach scene was parodied by everyone from The Muppets to Mr. Bean.  What did the filmmakers expect?  The beach scene was featured on posters with flatulent taglines, including "Two men chasing dreams of glory!" and "With Wings on their Heels and Hope in their Hearts."  Here are other spoofs of the scene.
Mr. Mom (1983)

National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)

Married with Children ("Go for the Old," 1993)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Old School (2003)

Bruce Almighty (2003)

Madagascar (2005)

The Middle ("Average Rules," 2010)

It surprises me that I have never seen a spoof of the sublimely campy climax of Duel in the Sun (1946).  This may be the most extreme example of melodrama that I have ever seen.  Fiery Pearl Chavez (Jennifer Jones) agrees to meet her former lover, Lewt McCanles (Gregory Peck), but she really plans to kill the man to stop him from murdering his kind-hearted brother, Jesse (Joseph Cotten).  She rides out into the desert under a blazing sun.  She travels for days through rocks and cacti.  She is dry and dusty, but she forges on (At one point, she slurps water from a muddy puddle).  Dimitri Tiomkin's music swells.  Tiomkin didn't give as much oomph to the score of The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964).  Pearl stops and looks up.  She has finally reached the meeting place.  When Lewt waves to her from a mountain ridge, Pearl hoists her rifle and fires at him.  Lewt is hit and topples over.  Though he is mortally wounded, Lewt manages to raise his rifle and apply deadly aim in a single shot fired at Pearl.  The couple is bleeding to death from the gunshot wounds that each has inflicted on the other, but they cry out lovingly to one another across the distance.  At one point, Lewt pauses in his expressions of love to take another shot at Pearl.  Pearl, determined to reach Lewt before he perishes, drags herself up the craggy mountain and claws her way through the dusty earth.  She barely has any strength left when she makes it to the top.  The two stare into each other's eyes and enter into a passionate embrace, at which point Lewt dies.  Pearl lays herself against Lewt's body before she, herself, dies.  The camera pulls back, revealing the couple in their death cuddle.

I expect that people who cried at this moment will hate me for not taking the scene seriously, but I could not help but laugh while this odd combination of fervent love scene and bloody shoot-out scene unfolded before my fragile little eyes.  For those who have not seen the film, I just have to say that words cannot describe the complete extent of this silliness, which the filmmakers stretch out for a total of ten minutes.  Trust me, the scene plays out far worse than my description.  It's bad drama, but good comedy.

The one thing that the Chariots of Fire, From Here to Eternity and Duel in the Sun scenes have in common is sand.  I guess, something about sand is funny.  Now, I dare anyone to tell me that my film analysis isn't insightful.

No comments:

Post a Comment