Irish monsters, silent lovers and a controversial Velma

GRABBERS (2012) is an Irish ET Monster film in which a meteor storm deposits tentacled flesh eating horrors on the coast of Ireland; the one chance the local village has is that the creatures find alcohol as deadly as the aliens in I Married a Monster From Outer Space (the creators are aware the jokes write themselves but that doesn’t stop them cracking the jokes). This is a solidly entertaining film and for once the mass of tentacles doesn’t look like just overdone CGI. “It’s always the quiet places where the mad shit happens — just look at the paper.”

PAID TO LOVE (1927) is the earliest extant film by future Thing from Another World director Howard Hawks, a silent comedy in which a banker agrees to invest in a struggling postage-stamp kingdom if he and the monarch can convince the car-crazy heir to the throne (“He won’t even look at a girl if she doesn’t have eight cylinders and a carburetor.”) to find a woman and ensure continuation of the dynasty. The solution is to hire an actor to seduce him but on the way to court the woman falls in love for real with a man she thinks is but an ordinary member of the royal guard.

Like most of Alfred Hitchcock’s early films, nothing about this feels distinctive to the future great director, nor particularly entertaining. The most fun comes in early scenes such as a seedy but quiet Paris bar that fakes underworld brawls for the tourist trade. William Powell plays a lecher. “What he needs is a female alarm clock to wake him up.”

When HBO Max announced the VELMA animated TV series I had my doubts — a Scooby-Doo based series with no Scooby? — but there have been equally implausible prequels I’ve enjoyed. And I do think that diversifying the cast makes good sense (Velma’s Indian-American, voiced by show co-creator Mindy Kaling, and Daphne is Asian-American). However the story of how Velma brought the human members of the team together has the same kind of meanness I despise in Rick and Morty, generally unlikable characters, and the first episode felt blandly, generically edgy. Learning the second episode has a bad #metoo joke (Velma claims she says the truth without filters, “like comedians before metoo!”) killed what interest I might have had. If I get the itch for Scooby Doo material there’s no shortage of better out there. “Have you ever noticed how pilot episodes of TV shows always have more gratuitous sex and nudity than the rest of the episodes?”

I watched the first couple of episodes of the British 1966 TV series THE BARON recently and while not as distasteful as Velma, it’s not very interesting. American actor Steve Forrest plays John “the Baron” Mannering (he has nothing in common with the John Creasey series protagonist he’s nominally based on) a London antiques dealer who in the opening episode gets entangled in international intrigue. What follows is by-the-numbers TV spy stuff, though it does make a fascinating capsule of mid-1960s fashion, cars and Cold War attitudes. The second episode, by veteran Doctor Who writer Terry Nation, has a great opening and a wonderful weasel of a villain, but ultimately it’s more of the same. So I think my viewing time can be better spent elsewhere.

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One response to “Irish monsters, silent lovers and a controversial Velma

  1. Pingback: When pirates travel at light-speed, they get … younger! Movies and TV | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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