Archive for August, 2020
“This is Really Beneath Me,” He Claims. “20,000 Leagues Beneath Me.”
Because I’m not drawn to drink or drugs, I think I’m more susceptible to other less conventional intoxicants. Case in point – my current addiction to cheesy submarine movies. Whether you consider this peculiar predilection a harmless hobby or a nautical neurosis, I’ll leave to your consideration. I do believe these underwater cinematic spectacles trigger the same neurons in my brain’s pleasure center that are triggered by drugs and alcohol in normal people like you (this may be assuming a lot). I’m as happy as a clam, sitting at attention in my marine mancave, watching soldierly submariners behaving like dutiful amphibians. My life coach says these cheesy submarine movies are beneath me, and she’s right. In one movie they’re 20,000 leagues beneath me.
Don’t you find the term “cheesy” to be a lactose intolerant word? Your cheese is my caviar and I’ve found great happiness in those little underwater fish ova. Underwater things speak to me. Maybe I’m all wet on this issue, but where computers see a binary world of ones and zeros, I see a binary world of submarine movies and not submarine movies. I cannot fathom anything deeper than 2 categories of things. To my way of thinking you’re either part of the submarine movie universe or you’re just…the rest of universe. In the former category you’re part of the solution. In the latter you’re part of the problem. I consider myself a high-functioning person, if only because my 7-layer dip does not contain mulch as one of its layers. However, when I initially encounter a person, place or thing to be categorized, the first question I ask myself is: Does this thing serve the cause of the submarine movie universe; or is it just part of the boring, everyday cosmos? I ponder this question while figuratively submerged beneath the waves in my marine-like mancave.
Don’t you find the term “mancave” to be a caveman intolerant word? It can sound so unkind to a Neanderthal’s hairy ear. In any event, my marine mancave is like a magical aquarium outfitted with artifacts to render my above-ground underwater experience arrestingly authentic. And true to my submarine ways, I’ve spent money on it like a drunken sailor. There’s a sunken treasure chest, bio-luminescent lighting, a little bubbling man in a diving suit and some fishnets. Not the kind of fishnets to catch fish, but the kind of fishnets women wear to catch men – I mean I am a male and this is my manspace I’ve outfitted to suit my interests. And I employ the word “outfitted” with great binary precision. You see women decorate. Men outfit.
Don’t you find the term “outfitted” to be a female intolerant word. Alright, I’ll stop with this running “intolerant” trope. Even I can’t tolerate it anymore. I guess that makes me intolerant of intolerance. But as I claimed earlier, I am high-functioning. I know the difference between being entertaining, and being repetitive. As I said earlier, I know the difference between being entertaining and being repetitive.
Rules of the Sea
In order to qualify as a submarine movie, the film must feature, present or promote the following mandatory items:
- All sailors must have a visible arc of armpit sweat extending from the front of the shoulder to the back of the shoulder – even if they’re shirtless.
- For reasons known only to the tobacco industry, smoking in this confined, underwater gas chamber is not only allowed, but is encouraged. Hence the slogan: Join the Navy and get 3 lifetimes of tar in just one 3-month deployment.
- All food is “chow” and served by a grizzled yet lovable mess cook, Sergeant Falco, who plates everything with a side of cigarettes and a dash of armpit sweat.
- There must be a fraught scene where perspiring midshipmen gaze anxiously at the ceiling for what seems like an eternity as they await the latest detonation in a barrage of enemy depth charges. And when they do explode, they must make sudden phony movements in one direction as the hull absorbs yet another powerfully bogus explosion.
- Smiling is prohibited (unless it’s ironic).
- There must be some recognizable, but out of place actor in it – like Don Rickles, Wally Cox or Trini Lopez (oh, what that man could do with a hammer).
- At some point an exasperated ensign exclaims, “I didn’t sign up for this sh*t.” He’s soon reminded he did indeed sign up for it. For a 4-year hitch.
- At some point the hull will be breached and there’ll be a containable, yet harrowing flood in which 2 superfluous seamen (they didn’t have speaking parts) drown.
- In the mandatory scene where the sub and its crew are plummeting to a potentially watery grave after taking one too many enemy depth charges, you realize it’s not their destiny to die yet. These men have got packs of unlit cigarettes to smoke and hampers of sweat-stained uniforms to launder.
- There’ll be a lot of eerie sonar pings indicating we’re underwater and it’s a submarine movie. No pongs, just pings.
What’s in a Name
All submarine movies except one are about high stakes, underwater peril in the midst of mortal conflict. I’ll give you a moment to think which one that is. OK. Times up. It’s Yellow Submarine. Other submarine movie titles (some real, some perhaps invented) include:
- Ice Station Zebra – A wondrously vague military moniker laid athwart a forbidding Arctic seascape. I’m swooning here. Calgon take me away – to the North Pole!
- Run Silent, Run Deep – Starring Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable. My God, 10 minutes in, before Mr. Lancaster even issued the order to “Take ‘er down ensign,” Lancaster had completely chewed the scenery (not an easy thing to do on an all steel boat). His overacting is all too easily criticized, but we owe a great debt to Lancaster, for without his example, William Shatner may never have honed his acting chops. Some say the actual title should be Run Silent, Run Deep, Run as Far Away from Burt Lancaster’s Acting as You Can. Confession: I couldn’t stop watching this underwater thriller. Little known fact: Before there were talkies, there was another Run Silent, Run Deep movie. It told the story of a mute philosopher who pondered profoundly while he jogged – true to its title he would: run silent, run deep. That film fared poorly. Why? – No submarines.
- Run Loudly, Run Shallow – This Mel Brooks parody of submarine movies belongs in the kiddie pool. Although the farting scene where, after a dinner of pork and beans the crew fills the submarine with so much noxious gas that they’re forced to surface, is hilarious. The rest of the movie stunk. Well, I guess that makes the entire movie a stinker.
- Ships Oy Vey! – In this all-Hebraic sequel to the gentile Ships Ahoy! the nascent Israeli Navy is out on patrol everyday but Saturday. Admiral Nimitzowitz insists each sailor trades in their traditional sailor’s hat for a little white yarmulke with a teeny-tiny brim. Trademark Yiddish humor is on display when each deployment to sea is dubbed a “Jews Cruise.” Burt Lancaster visited during filming, but orthodox Jews refused to allow him on the set because, “He’s just too hammy.”
- Das Boot – German U-boat flick with plenty of surface tension as well as below surface tension. It starred venerable German actor Klaus Traphobic. Reports say Klaus Traphobic had trouble coping with the cramped quarters on the submarine.
- Yellow Submarine – This Beatles submarine cartoon was much more upbeat than the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black Submarine.
- Up Periscope – This 1959 classic featured the impeccably well-groomed James Garner as Captain Morrel Rectitude. The line defining where Mr. Garner’s hair ended and his neck began is delineated with such expert tonsorial precision that the Navy is able to set their watch to it. In one scene the camera pans slowly over the bunks, and in the background I swore I saw a nude picture of Vivian Vance. Either that or it was a nude picture of Marilyn Monroe with Vivian Vance’s head taped over it. Being out to sea does something to a man’s head. Confession: Watched it twice back to back.
- Down Periscope – Kelsey Grammer at his pettifogging best in this uneven salmagundi of hijinks and lowjinks. Note: If your lowjinks last longer than 4 minutes, stop watching and call your doctor. Note to the note: The word hijinks is one of those rare words with 3 consecutive dotted letters – like iiicarumba! In Down Periscope, Kelsey Grammer speaks very clearly, but sometimes Kelsey’s grammar ain’t so good.
- Deep Periscope – Warning. Not a submarine movie, but a XXX sequel to Deep Throat.
- Gee Your Armpits Smell Terrific – Again, not the kind of movie you’d want to take the family to.
- The Hunt for Red October & Crimson Tide – 2 Cardinal-colored covert conflicts. Red-shifted wavelengths abound, proving the universe is still expanding. What is the proper length of a wave? Experts say about 3-4 seconds.
- The Hunt for Red Skelton – When famed comedian Red Skelton fails to show up for a rehearsal, his agent starts looking everywhere for him. He eventually finds him safe and dry at a deli eating a submarine sandwich.
Leveling-Off at Periscope Depth, Secure Quarters, Insecure Dimes, All Ahead 1/3rd, Smok’em if Ya Got’em
Watching submarine movies…let me rephrase that, experiencing submarine movies brings me untold joy. I’d like to tell you about it, but then it wouldn’t be untold, would it? It would be “told joy.” And there are 2 things I promised myself early on: 1. I wouldn’t read Tolstoy and 2. I wouldn’t share “told joy.” No Tolstoy, no told joy (try saying that 3 times fast). And if that’s not high-functioning, I don’t know what is. You see in my long pioneering years of social distancing, well before it became popular, I discovered the importance of being scrupulously honest with my readers so I didn’t suffer their social ostracization. Unfortunately, due to my single-minded interest in submarine movies, social ostracization is something I’m all too familiar with. In any event, social ostracization is not to be confused with being oblivious to things by sticking your head in the sand. That’s called social ostrich-ization, and it’s for the birds. But I’m pleased to be able to differentiate the meaning between social ostracization from social ostrich-ization – even though it comes up infrequently. In fact it’s probably never come up until now. And once again I’ve gone overboard here, but going overboard might be appropriate given the nautical topic. Read the rest of this entry »