In this episode, it is just me! What?! Due to an unfortunate last-minute cancellation and the fact that everyone else I asked flat out said no to doing this episode I have no guest.  Yes this is true. Last week too many guests and this weeks no guest, I only do extremes apparently. I will be orating about Cheech & Chong’s : The Corsican Brothers and Choke.

Cheech & Chong’s : The Corsican Brothers
Release: 1984
Director: Tommy Chong
Stars: Cheech Marin, Tommy Chong, Roy Dotrice

Choke
Release: 2008
Director: Clark Gregg
Stars: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald

I spent a really long time writing up this episode so I am just gonna put a transcript in here this week.

Hello my name is Tracey James and Welcome to off my shelf, a podcast about movies that are well off my shelf. Where we go through my DVDs and talk about the movies in my collection. Due to an unfortunate last-minute cancellation and the fact that everyone else I asked flat out said no to doing this episode I have no guest. What?! Yes this is true. Last week too many guests and this weeks no guest, I only do extremes apparently.

Since I didn’t want to skip or reschedule the episode this led me to think about before I started the podcast and the process I went through to come up with the format. I know sitting with a guest and chatting isn’t particularly innovative but it wasn’t my first choice when starting out. Something I wanted to do was have a specific format and scripted episodes. But the idea just made me tired as I couldn’t decide on a format and its a lot more work than just chatting with a friend. So this unexpected situation allows me to explore what could have been.

Since most regular listeners to the podcast are probably accustomed to the meandering and varied conversation I will do my best to incorporate that free flowing feel throughout this.

This week I am talking about 2 movies that, until I read the DVD case, are both based on books. The movies are Cheech and Chong’s : The Corsican Brothers and Choke.

I know you’re thinking, “What? A Cheech and Chong movie is based on a book? Craziness!” but it is true. According to the DVD wrap this movie is supposed to be a retelling of the Alexandre Dumas book “The Corsican Brothers”. Dumas is known of course for his grand Victorian tales such as The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, and Man in the Iron Mask.

To be honest, though I read quite a bit, I have never read any of his books. What I know about them is purely from the film adaptations. The last one I remember was 2011’s The Three Musketeers. Which I would call a travesty of filmmaking and an insult to the work of Dumas directed by Paul W.S. Anderson starring Milla Jovovich (which is no surprise as half his career is based on her). It is just a gaudy monstrosity really with a lot of flash and bang that does nothing.

But The Coriscan Brothers, though a lesser known tale, has had many adaptation into plays, a musical, and films. Including 2 parody films, 1970s “Start the Revolution Without Me” starring Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland, and this Cheech and Chong one.

If you don’t know, and I didn’t. The Corsican brothers is about 2 conjoined twins that were separated at birth but still feel each others pains and triumphs. One grows to be a lawyer in Paris and the other stays home and is a huner and marksman. There is something about a feud and then somebody dies. That is the gist of it.

Now you may be wondering, what does this have to do with Cheech and Chong, the perpetually high counterculture comedy duo from LA? The answer, nothing. Nothing at all. The movie has a very abrupt and odd setup to get to this tale. For some reason they are in a band in france and they make a lot of noise and people pay them to be quiet. They go to lunch and a woman sits beside them and tells them she has a tale to tell if they pay her. And that is it. That is the setup.

This woman, who is listed as “The Gypsy”, in the credits is played by Rae Dawn Chong. Though a person I immediately recognized from Commando, I didn’t know her name. I thought it was Tommy Chong’s wife but she is actually his daughter. I never would have guessed.

Though they did mention that they were supposed to be in france during this opening sequence I doubted it a great deal. Nothing about how it was shot or the locals spoke to me as actually being Parisian let alone European. It seemed like a badly done back lot or corner of some american city that happens to not look totally american. But to my disbelief it is listed as being filmed in france. What a waste.

The tale begins at the birth of the twins, to a noble man, in a weird scene about opening a window and a woman in labour being ignored due to the heat in the room. Which ends in the arrival of the twins who are just Cheech and Chong in diapers. I did not need to see that.

Of course these 2 babies look nothing alike and there was a duel between the fathers. In the scene it looked like they were using flintlock pistols which where the weapon of choice for dueling. These were short range single shot weapons. Short range meaning they did the most damage and were most accurate within 25 yards (about 23 meters). But typically in duels you each took 10 paces which is about 12 to 15 yards (11 to 14 m). Based on the bit of googling I did the representation of what occured in the scene is an insult to the pistols used at the time. At the distance they were firing they would have hit their targets (if they wished – I say that because it was very common for people to purposely miss by firing into the ground, into the air, or a target obviously not their opponent.) Also it is approximated that the pistols, as long as they were well made, would miss fire maybe 1 in 6. So this may be interpreted as a gross misinterpretation of a fictional duel that would have happened maybe 180 years ago, but who knows, I wasn’t there. I am basing this on have read articles on a quick google search…

Anyways, nevertheless both fathers die and the boys are given to a woman in the village. We catch up with the boys 3 years later being served lunch in high chairs. I know the specificity of this time jump because we get a card on screen that tells us so. We get to see 2 grown men, playing toddlers in bibs and bonnets, playing with their food. This is where you find out that they feel each others pain through both narration and slapstick. This scene is way too long, gross, and I really wish I could unsee it.

We get another card that flashes on screen that say 6 years later. The boys are now 9 and for some reason are walking around in the woods. I may have tuned out of a sec cuz we are like maybe 15 minutes into the film and it feels like hours. They have a very short disagreement on the way to get home and they go in different directions.

We get another card, 21 years later. They are 30 and bump into each other on the same spot. They characters names in the film are Louis and Lucien but I don’t remember which is which so they will be refered to just as cheech and chong. Cheech has been to Mexico for some reason and just got back to france and Chong has become a brave man of the sword sworn to protect his land and his people.

Now here is where they do the one joke that made me laugh in the whole movie. The brothers are catching up and Chong is talking about his deeds and decides to show his brother the new weapon he has. He pulls out a potatoe with a wick in it, lights it, and throws it. A second later it explodes. Cheech, amazed, asks what that was. With a stern triumphant face chong responds, “Bomb-de-terre”

I know it is a horrible lame joke but I can’t resist a good pun.

Anyways, then you are introduced to the horrible aristocrat Fuckaire and his weird makeup and poodle. Something happens, sorry again i have tuned out, and they end up in what I think is supposed to be Paris to be executed.

When I say Fuckaire had on weird makeup it really wasn’t weird for the time period. We have all seen the paintings and depictions of france in the 18th century where they wear white makeup, have round patches of rouge on their cheeks, and a drawn on mole. This was not just women but men as well. The ideal beauty at the time was to have a pale blemish free complexion with rosy cheeks. The paleness meant you had a life of leisure not toiling in fields in the sun. The rosy cheeks was a representation of health. And the mole I am not sure about but this is where the term “beauty mark” comes from. The ironic thing is that the makeup that most of these people wore to give them the appearance of wealth and health was killing them. As it was lead based causing blemishes, rashes, discolouration, hair loss, discolouration of their teeth, and death from, well, lead poisoning. Though not depicted in this, they would have also worn powdered wigs to hide loss of hair. The reason the wigs would have been powdered was to hide smells from diseases and generally bad hygiene of the time.

So the story continues and stuff happens. It was just so nonsensical that I was either confused or I tuned out. There was something with boxom blondes that were the most beautiful women they had ever met, the Queen’s hair stylist who was a gross stereotype of homosexuality that dressed like a victorian superhero for some reason. I will note though that the Queen was portrayed by Edie McClurg who I mostly associate with Grace, the school secretary in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but she has been in so many things. She has 209 credits on IMDB.

Also there is a scene in the dungeon where Fuckaire used a rudimentary elevator which is really just a rope and pulley system where the elevator box is counterbalanced by the body of one of the prisoners. As far as I understood it the elevator wasn’t invented until the mid 19th century but doing a bit of tippa-tappa I learned that is not really the case. I mean when you think about it that would make sense because as I said it can be a rope and pulley system and those have been used for centuries. But according to what I found on History.com one of the earliest elevators in its simplest definition (a device used to transport people or goods vertically) was used by Archimedes in 236 B.C. This of course evolved with time but because they were still mainly using ropes to lift they were not really trusted for transporting people as there was a fear of snapping ropes sending people plummeting to their deaths, a fear that many people have still today. But then along came Elisha Graves Otis in 1852 who invented the safety break that “revolutionized the vertical transport industry” I never thought of it as the “vertical transport industry” before. When you see “Otis” in elevators it is all because of that guy and his company.

So, through their antics they start the French revolution. I know the why the french revolution happened but I don’t know how they started it. But this also made me realize there is a timeline discrepancy in this movie that the anachronistically astute individual would recognize. Dumas’ tale takes place in the victorian era (1837-1901) and according to the book would have been 1841, where as the french revolution happened in the era of enlightenment (1715-1789). But now that I think about it there was no king just a queen of france. But France would have had a king in 1841, Louis Philippe I. So really they just threw a bunch or random historic french stuff together for this movie.

Also for some reason by the end of the movie Fuckaire is a cross between Gene Simmons’ the Demon and Dr. Frank-N-Furter. It was a combo of the wig, makeup, cape, bdsm lingerie gear. It was all very unpleasant to look at.

The story abruptly ends and we are back in the “present” and the band is playing again. The movie is 90mins but felt closer to 900 unfunny torturous minutes. Sorry 899 unfun minutes and 1 fun minute. This was also the last of the cheech and chong movies.

Usually I have some sort of anecdote as to why or how i percurded this film but I don’t for this. I don’t know why I have it. I have no recollection of ever watching it before but I may have simple pushed the memory out of my head.

It is a whole different story when it comes to Choke. I actively sot this movie out once I found out it existed. I was really into the books of Chuck Palahniuk. His style of writing in succinct yet vivid telling tales that happen on the fringe of our society. Of course this stems from my viewing of the movie Fight Club which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year (WHAT!!) which lead me to find the book and thus read many more of his books.

My favourite book of his is survivor. There are a few scenes in there that have just stuck with me.

Though his style is what I fell in love with his content can be a lot less desirable. But I kind of enjoyed the stories he weaved. There are a few of his books I have had to put down and walk away from due to its content but I don’t think any of his works are for the faint of heart.

One thing I did not remember about my copy of choke is that I seem to have acquired it from Blockbuster. How do I know, well it is in one of their lock cases and when you open it is has their classic ripped ticket logo on the inside. I probably got it during one of their inventory sales. Oh the memories of the blockbuster being lit on a friday or saturday night. You’d bump into friends and grab candy and snacks and pick a movie! The best was sleep over nights when you were there with your friends in the first place.

I dropped the disc in to play and was treated to a weird combination of trailers that I am unsure who they were targeting. There was The Haunting of Molly Hartley a horror movie where a girls parents sold her soul to the devil or something; Notorious the Biggie bio-pic; S.Darko a Donnie Darko tale which retells Donnie Darko from the view of his sister Samantha; and a video from
Dr. Ronald Chevalier – The Art of Relaxating. If you don’t know who Dr. Ronald Chevalier is that is understandable. I only know who he is because I saw the movie that it is a reference to. WHich is the weird and wonderful Gentlemen Broncos. But yet they make no reference to film itself at any point.

But the connection between Gentleman Broncos and Choke if that they both star Sam Rockwell. I don’t think he is underrated anymore but he definitely has not received enough accolades for the work he has done. Even if he is in a bad movie you always enjoy and are impressed with his performance.

The movie is written and directed by Clark Gregg. Now mostly known for his part in the MCU as Agent Phil Coulson, at the time of seeing this movie I only knew him as Richard from the Julia Louis Dryfus sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine. So that seemed like a real departure for him as most of the roles he did back then were one offs on TV, or made for TV movies, but it turns out it was not the first film of his made into a movie. He had written the screenplay for 2000s What Lies Beneath starring Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer a movie that didn’t get particularly good reviews but I kinda liked it. This was his first time directing though. He also plays the character Lord High Charlie, a pompous ass who takes his portrayal of colonial character a little too seriously at a colonial themed park.

Since this is based on a Chuck P work the movie gets off to a perverse well researched start. It is dirty, gritty, and very vulgar as you are quickly introduced to one of Victor’s (played by rockwell) vices as he walks into a Sex Addict Recovery Workshop and quickly breaks the rules. You are sort of introduced to his friend who is a chronic masterbator but who is legitimately trying to change his life with this workshop.

Moving at a fast pace you are also introduced to his dying mother portrayed by Angelica Houston who I totally forgot was in this movie, who is in an institution, his next female conquest his mother’s new doctor, and the fact that he works as a reenactor at a colonial theme park.

You of course also get a further look into his psyche as you see how he views women. They are sexual objects that he uses and he often simply visualizes them naked so he does not have to connect with or view them as people. He also views love as this extreme act that exists in fleeting moments that he exploits with his money making scheme where he pretends to choke (hence the name of the movie) and people send him money after they save him. That moment of connection that makes them feel responsible for him is what he exploits.

The movie’s pace slows down as you mainly jump from 3 locations, the institute, his home, and the colonial theme park. But peppered throughout this are flashbacks to his unconventional childhood and his unhealthy connection to his mother. These flashbacks help you piece together that as a child he was regularly taken from her and put into foster care then she would come back and essentially kidnap him again.These foster homes were not horror stories that you hear about but people who were kind and genuinely wanted to help him. She pretty much brainwashed him into a highly skewed view of the world where he can’t function in conventional ways. Yes we all have some sort of skewed view that is based on our upbringing but this is clearly not right. But she loves him and does everything she does just for him. The love is there just misguided. And he continues to take care of her because of this love even though he knows she screwed him up and he should hate her for it.

Throughout this he somehow falls in love with Doctor. It really is unclear as neither of them do anything love worthy. He comes to the institute and has sex with her and leaves. They don’t really talk, except for about his mother, and then he goes about his business. The problem really lies at the fact he cant….let’s call it perform when he is with her. And because of this he spends a lot of time wondering why this is the case as he has no issues in other situations.

There is also a plot that develops where he may be a descendant of Jesus. Yes, you heard that right. There is a convoluted story about stolen foreskin and artificial insemination. All this information is lifted from the mother’s diary that is written in italian but translated by the doctor. It is really ludacris but that is lifted from the book if I remember correctly.

At first he resists the idea that he could be the holy descendant questioning his life, his decisions, and generally the kind of person he is. Though he continues to resist the idea there is still an inkling of the possibility in his mind and he asks the question “Do you think Jesus was automatically good from the start?” to his friend’s girlfriend who just happens to be a stripper, not really expecting an answer but she gives him one. Saying that “Jesus was all about the idea
that people are transformed…” It not an answer he expected from a person he never treated like a person.

Side note this stripper named Beth aka Cherry Dakari is played by Gillian Jacob who I mainly know as Britta from Community and she also did that Netflix show Love. But her character name gives another religious connection. Beth or Elizabeth is from the hebrew name Elisheba, meaning oath of God.

This also made me think or the great and hilarious book by Christopher Moore, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. It just talks about Jesus in those in between years that are not in the bible. And how he lives vicariously through the misdeeds of his best friend Biff. It explores all religions, the understanding of human nature, and really just a coming of age tale. You don’t have to be religious to get it. It is just a good read.

There is another flash back that shows where Victors sexual diversion manifested. He was on a plane and opened the bathroom door to find a woman sitting naked. There is some talk about the excitement of finding out what is behind a door and the excitment of having sex with a stranger. It really makes little sense to me as I guess I don’t think that way but it does to him and they get it on. He not only finds a new way to look at things but joins the mile high club.

That made me think about the term mile high club. Are you really a mile up? No, not even close. Cruising altitude is about 35,000 ft, which is just under 7 miles in the air. But I guess the 7 mile high club doesn’t have the same panache.

Also this made me think about
how small airplane bathrooms are and though a scandalous and titlating idea it is, having sex in an airplane bathroom is probably incredable uncomfortable.
How dirty those airplane bathrooms must be. I do my best to avoid using the bathrooms on planes because of how gross they are.\

Then we get to the end of the movie. We find out he is not related to jesus in any way, she is not actually a doctor but a patient. Well she was a medical student who had a breakdown and was comatose for a while until his mother gave her a lab coat and she could suddenly function again. And the mother dies.

When the movie was done though I thought something was missing. I swear there was something in the book about the doctor actually thinking she was a time traveller sent back from the future sent here to get impregnated for some reason that would same the human race. I guess I will have to reread the book to find out.

I am not really sure what you are supposed to learn from this movie as the characters, except for his friend, don’t really change or evolve and their actions seem out of place.

When I first watched this movie I liked it. I think it is because I had read the book and remembered the details. So his actions in the film made more “sense” but watching it now with little memory of the details this movie comes across flat and pointless. The overall direction and editing reminds me of a 90s indie film. Not bad, not good, but definitely doesn’t age well.

But, if you have read Chuck P books you know his books are that easy to adapt to film. They are very in the mind of the characters and putting their feelings and reasoning on film is difficult. But also his books are just surreal. Fincher managed to do an exceptional job with Fight Club and if anyone else had tried it, it may have come across laghable and stupid. I would love to see some try to adapt Rant (my third fav novel of his). It’s subtitle is “The Oral History of Buster Casey” The book is presented as a retelling of events by various people and include excerps from a diary and playback from news reports. If presented correctly it would be such a fantastic film.

After watching these 2 films I am very happy I didn’t talk some poor soul into watching these and I totally understand why people who had seen them before didn’t want to watch them. They are boring unenjoyable films that are both 90min that seem to drag on and on and on.

Music Used in this Episode

Wallflowers – Bad Snacks Support by RFM – NCM: https://bit.ly/2xGHypM

Louis Couperin: Pavane in F-sharp Minor
Jacques C. de Chambonnières: Pavane “L’Entretien des Dieux”
Jean-Henri d’Anglebert: Tombeau de M. de Chambonnières

Glory Be – Patrick Patrikios Support by RFM – NCM: https://youtu.be/HiotfeUVDYk

 

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