MT VOID 03/26/99 (Vol. 17, Number 39)

MT VOID 03/26/99 (Vol. 17, Number 39)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 03/26/99 -- Vol. 17, No. 39

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-447-3652 for details.

Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper, 732-957-5619,
Factotum: Evelyn Leeper, 732-957-2070,
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell,
HO Chair Emeritus: John Jetzt,
HO Librarian Emeritus: Nick Sauer,
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.


I see now that they are releasing to the theaters an official director's cut of Bernardo Bertolucci's THE LAST EMPEROR. Here at last we can see the film as Bertolucci would have made it. I remember seeing the film. At the time it was playing in New York City. Evelyn and I went to New York to see it. I do not remember the ticket price, but they are always a great deal more than our local ticket prices. Also I had to pay for parking in New York. It was not an inexpensive day. But I had heard that it was really worth seeing. And I am interested in Chinese history. Well, I did not care for the film. I did not think that it was a good summary of Pu Yi's life. But it did have an implicit positive point. It was what it was. It was Bernardo Bertolucci's film, THE LAST EMPEROR. Supposedly. At the time. Recently I find out that it was not really Bertolucci's film. It was--gasp--someone else's cut. I had no idea. Old Bernardo didn't give me a hint that this was not his film. And I am sure he got his cut of the take. Now we are told that it was not his film and if you really want to see what he wanted you have to pay again. There is no discount for those poor souls who already spent good money on the first one. And Bernardo is not the first person to pull this stunt.

I guess I first became aware of this strategy with the film CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. The film got a second release with just a little more special effects added. It was CLOSE ENCOUNTERS--SPECIAL EDITION. I do not think anybody ever heard again of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS-- REGULAR EDITION. In fact, I doubt if I could get my hands on a print of the regular edition any more. At the time I much preferred the STAR WARS films and I told myself that George Lucas would never shoot a little more footage and re-release his films. He was too nice a guy. He was above all that. He let me down big time. I have not seen THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK or THE RETURN OF THE JEDI in their new formats. I did see A NEW HOPE. Well, admittedly I had never seen a film called A NEW HOPE before. I saw it when it was just called STAR WARS and I am pretty sure it had no subtitle. That is another rewriting of history.

The thing is, I have a criterion for how good the experience of re-viewing--not reviewing but re-viewing--a given film is. You want as closely as possible to recreate what would have been the experience of seeing the original print in completely deserted theater. If you start fooling around with the title, that is a step in the wrong direction. Adding a bunch of new special effects and maybe changing the ending is even more an offense. I thought I could detect some differences in BLADE RUNNER, THE DIRECTOR'S CUT. But at in that case they put right up front what was important to the director. It was his cut. He wanted to increase his cut of the cash.

I am told the Harlan Ellison is pulling the same stunt and is disavowing stories he has written but has since re-written. I have even heard that if you ask him to autograph a book with the earlier version of the story he confiscates the book as if it was contraband. He does not refund the purchase price of which he has already gotten the author's cut. Well I have never been particularly fond of Harlan Ellison--the man or his writing.

But I want to absolutely assure readers that when you get an issue of the MT VOID, it is an artifact to last forever. Every word you get is guaranteed to be what we wanted to say and continue to want to say. There will be no later re-writing and claims that what you have is invalid. I will live by what I have done. That is not counting a certain recent film review in which there is one edition in which in the section where I put it in historical context I reversed the order of two major naval battles in World War II. (I had my nose rubbed in it in time to fix it in the VOID, thank God.) But you should understand that the issue you hold in you hand is a document not just for today, but for all ages. [-mrl]

LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (a film review by Mark R. Leeper):

Capsule: Comic chaos in the criminal class. We have seen this sort of thing before, but it remains amusing. Six different groups of people, all on the shady side of the law, keep bumping into each other. Our four main characters owe money to one so steal from another who are stealing from yet another. The script manages to juggle all six so they are each in constant motion. Rating: 6 (0 to 10), +1 (-4 to +4)

LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS is the kind of farce we have seen before. It is a comedy of chaos. This sort of comedy puts enough groups of people together in a script, none knowing what the others are doing and (perhaps) the audience can follow what is going on, but you can reasonably expect that none of the characters has a clue. Particularly good comedies in this vein are Martin Scorsese's AFTER HOURS and John Landis's OSCAR.

The plot of LOCK, STOCK, AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS works like a well-oiled machine set on high-speed, with everybody doing things to everybody else and nobody being sure who is doing what to whom. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Four young London low- lifes figure they have a good shot at getting rich if they can get into a high stakes poker game. They get together 100,000 pounds. What they did not count on was that the game was rigged and that they would end up owing 500,000 pounds. And they have one week to get it. Luckily a possibility presents itself. Their next-door neighbors are planning to rob an urban marijuana farmer. Our group plans to steal the proceeds of that crime. But that is not all that is happening. All told there are about six different groups of people, all criminal in some ways, running around bumping into each other, double-crossing each other, and shooting each other up.

Everybody is doing something illegal in this part of London; it goes with the turf. Set in a part of London where the law is something of an irrelevancy, this frantic farce is the first outing for 30-year-old writer and director Guy Ritchie. Everyone here is a criminal, but at least he is an eloquent one. As has been the style for crime films since PULP FICTION, the dialog leans to the clever and inventive side and away, far away, from realism. Everybody knows that few real thugs, and certainly not the ones this far down the ladder, are as eloquent and as engaging to hear as the ones in this film. If they were this bright, they would be in a less hazardous profession. But then the filmmaker's first responsibility is to entertain. Some Americans will have problems penetrating the thick accents that unfortunately obscure some of the funniest lines.

Most of the actors have good credentials in British films, though they may be less familiar in this country. One exception is a small part for Sting. Supplementing the cast are some particularly ugly actors, apparently by the credits supplied by a special agency dedicated to providing ugly actors.

The film has considerably more violence than an Alec Guinness English crime comedy would have and some of it may cut against the humor, but Guy Ritchie is a promising director. Rate this a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

Quote of the Week:

     The young always have the same problem--how to
     rebel and conform at the same time.  They have
     now solved this by defying their parents and
     copying one another.
                                   -- Quentin Crisp