‘Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown’: Future ‘Simpsons’ director turns ‘Peanuts’ into a bloodbath
02:57 pm

In the mid-1980s, Jim Reardon was at the highly regarded Character Animation program at the California Institute of the Arts, and one of his student projects was a remarkable mashup of the Charlie Brown universe and the Sam Peckinpah universe—all of it undertaken with what must have been a deep affection for both worlds. The four-minute film’s title is “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown,” an obvious reference to Peckinpah’s 1974 movie Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.

The short is presented as the commercial for a “heartwarming holiday special” featuring the Peanuts gang. So the Great Pumpkin places a bounty on Charlie Brown’s head, which causes an immediate death spiral into ultraviolence. All of the familiar characters (Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, etc.) attempt to assassinate Charlie Brown, until finally the hero is forced to take matters into his own hands, grabbing a machine gun and mowing them all down.

The second half of the short is truly a bloodbath, and definitely Reardon has Peckinpah’s masterpiece The Wild Bunch on the brain most of all. Peckinpah was known not just for violence but most of all for lush slow-motion sequences focusing on the carnage, and “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” certainly has several of those. The moment when Lucy nips Charlie Brown in the shoulder is a direct callback to a sequence from The Wild Bunch involving William Holden’s character Pike Bishop.

Reardon’s short, which is in black-and-white, is a little crude by professional standards, but for a student project it’s incredibly effective and engaging. “Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” is dense, somewhat akin to MAD Magazine, with references covering everything from Popeye and Travis Bickle to Arnold Schwarzenegger and Godzilla. The closing zinger, spoken in Arnie’s trademark accent, is “Happiness is a warm uzi,” a remarkably canny mix of the strip’s treacly motto “Happiness is a warm puppy” and John Lennon’s memorable ditty “Happiness Is a Warm Gun.” 

“Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown” also owes a debt to the old Warner Bros. cartoons, particularly in the bomb Lucy creates to dispose of her football-kicking buddy.

Based on the strength of this short—one imagines—Reardon was quickly hired by John Kricfalusi (later of Ren and Stimpy fame) as a writer on Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures. Later on he would be a supervising director for seasons 9 through 15 of The Simpsons  and co-wrote the script for WALL-E.

Watch it after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider
02:57 pm
That time the most famous director in Mexico shot a film critic in the balls

Even if you’ve never seen one of Emilio Fernandez’s movies—even if you’ve never seen him in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch or Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia—you’ve seen Emilio Fernandez. According to legend, he was the model for the Academy’s Oscar statuette.

Another legend attached to Fernandez is that he shot a film critic in the balls at one of his parties. Bob Dylan mentions this tale in Sam Shepard’s one-act play Short Life of Trouble:

BOB: You know, Emilio Fernandez used to shoot the critics that didn’t like his movies. At parties.

I first heard this story from the writer Barry Gifford after I tracked him down in Berkeley years ago. He’d heard it from the director and actor Alfonso Arau, who played the part of Herrera in The Wild Bunch. Like a no-nose bike seat, the account in Brando Rides Alone, Gifford’s book about One-Eyed Jacks, supports everything but the testicles:

Mexico’s most famous (along with Luis Buñuel)—certainly most infamous—director, Emilio Fernandez, known as “El Indio” because of his mother’s origins, made many unforgettable films, several featuring María Félix (Enamorada) or Dolores Del Rio (María Candelária, called by Beatriz Reyes Nevares “the classic and most memorable of all Mexican films”); he also directed a version of John Steinbeck’s story The Pearl/La Perla, starring Pedro Armendáriz. […]

Arau told me that after completing a new film Fernandez invited to dinner at his estancia the most prominent film critics from Mexico City. After dinner and undoubtedly many drinks, El Indio screened for them his latest effort, then solicited their opinions. One after another, the critics, stuffed and glowing from whiskey and Tequila, praised the film, telling their host what he wanted to hear, that it was his best to date, possibly another masterpiece, as moving as María Candelária. Then a journalist rose and begged to differ, not impolitely, but making clear his opinion that the new movie, while reasonably effective as melodrama, was not a particularly worthy addition to the maestro’s oeuvre. A silence fell over the room. El Indio, initially uncomprehending and a good two-and-a-half sheets to the wind, finally realized that he was being disrespected on his own turf and drew from beneath his coat a revolver. Without hesitating, he shot the disputatious fool, killing him in front of his fellow guests.

Arau said that for the offense of murdering a critic Fernandez was forced to spend some time in jail (where he was well treated), but since he was a national hero, and the insulting behavior of the deceased was compounded by the fact that at the time of the incident he had been availing himself of El Indio’s hospitality, the director’s sentence was cut short. Emilio Fernandez is a legend. (He died in 1986.) Nobody remembers the name of the dead critic.

More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall
07:36 am
Sam Peckinpah explains why he was a ‘good whore’: A rare interview from 1976

“I only have questions,” Sam Peckinpah tells Barry Norman in this seldom seen interview from December 1976.

“As a film maker I must look at both sides of the coin, and do my best as a story-teller. I have no absolutes. I have no value judgments,” Peckinpah goes on to say, before asking, “Why does violence have such a point of intoxication with people? Why do people structure their day on killing?”

This is an incredibly honest and brilliant interview with Peckinpah, who doesn’t flinch form any of Norman’s questions—discussing his ignorance, his mistakes—explaining why he was wrong in thinking it could work as catharsis in The Wild Bunch, and why he was “a good whore.”


Posted by Paul Gallagher
07:35 pm
Rudy Wurlitzer: Two-Lane Blacktop And Beyond

In reference to Rudy Wurlitzer‘s ‘69 debut, Nog, none other than Thomas Pynchon said: “The novel of bullshit is dead.””  A not bad start for Wurlitzer, the sole member of the piano-making clan who never saw a dime (or not many) from his family name.

Tracing the often-psychedelic wanderlust of its title character who was either insane or drug-addicted (or both), Nog brought Wurlitzer a certain degree of fame as a novelist, but he’s perhaps best known, and celebrated, for his screenwriting.  His collaboration with Sam Peckinpah yielded the Bob Dylan-scored Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid.  Two years before that, though, he and Monte Hellman pulled off one of my all-time cinematic favorites, Two-Lane Blacktop.

Starring James Taylor and Dennis Wilson (both looking shockingly boyish) as eternally drifting drivers, Two-Lane featured sparse dialogue and even sparser performances.  Visually, though, it’s pure poetry, and, to me, a still-vital piece of American existentialism—especially in its final moment.  The trailer for Two-Lane follows below.

And just up at Chuck Palahniuk‘s website, an excellent, yet typically elusive, interview with Wurlitzer where he discusses everything from Dylan to Pynchon.  Regarding his new-ish novel, The Drop Edge of Yonder, Wurlitzer also addresses, politely, “l’affaire de Jim Jarmusch.”  Apparently, the director “pillaged” from Wurlitzer the raw material he’d later shape into Dead Man.  You can read the interview here.

See also in Arthur Magazine: ON THE DRIFT: Rudy Wurlitzer and the Road to Nowhere

Posted by Bradley Novicoff
03:30 pm