Friday, February 24, 2012
Sometime back in 1980, I think it was, I ran across a book called THE HORSE IS DEAD. I don’t exactly recall where it came from. As I was in the army in Kitzingen, Germany at the time, it may have been in our upstairs barracks “day” room. As I intended to keep it, I probably swapped it out for a Jake Logan “Adult” Western novel or somesuch.
I was instantly captivated by this book. I’d never read anything quite so funny before in my young life. The book’s cover wasn’t the one depicted above, though. The one you see here is a re-print that Mr. Klane autographed and sent to me some years after I’d initially read it. I’d written a letter to him in care of MGM studios where I’d learned he was maintaining an office. This was in 1985 because I remember the Cardinals were going to the World Series that year and Mr. Klane very specifically mentioned his admiration for centerfielder Willie McGee at that time.
Mr. Klane signed his novel WHERE’S POPPA? for me and added the surprise of throwing in the above copy of THE HORSE IS DEAD as well. I’d sent him the original edition of THE HORSE IS DEAD as well to sign and he was kind enough to sign all three.
The above is also NOT the original edition that I had; this is the English version of the novel. Guess the British are more hip about nudity on book covers at the time than America was. I do recall that in the mid-70s in Missouri a lot of Mickey Spillane’s book covers had nude or nearly nude gals on them (some of the covers featured Mickey’s then-wife, Sherry) and they were kept on shelves underneath drug store counters at the time. Probably next to the rubbers.
Anyway, what kind of humor can you expect from Robert Klane if you are lucky enough to find any of his books? The word “tasteless” comes up frequently. That may be so, but these books are damned funny and entertaining. If you’re offended easily, you WILL be offended. Of course if you’re NOT easily offended, you MIGHT STILL be offended. Have I said it succinctly enough?
So, Mr. Klane goes on to publish a second novel, WHERE’S POPPA? I have a hardcover edition of it as well, but the dust jacket art was not really remarkable. Here’s what the movie edition/Paperback Library cover looks like:
Now if you’ve seen the movie (considered a cult classic these days), then you’ll recognize that the character of Sid Hochheiser (the great Ron Leibman) should not, in fact, have underwear on in the book’s cover photograph. However – and this must go back to the fickle Americans’ sense of decency – they retouched the pic to add the shorts. Everytime Sid goes through the park to get to Momma’s apartment, he manages to either get mugged of ALL his clothes or lands in some other form of trouble.
WHERE’S POPPA? – both book and movie – is considered to be a “mean” comedy. I guess that that’s a pretty accurate description, but it’s BECAUSE it’s a mean comedy that people still remember it today. I have two VHS versions of this movie (never did see it on DVD), one having the book’s original ending, the other stopping just short of the novel’s climactic scene.
George Segal, Ruth Gordon and Ron Leibman are absolutely dead-on as their characters and this adds to the overall “charm” of the movie.
According to Allan (“Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”) Sherman’s hysterical book on the sexual revolution, THE RAPE OF THE A*P*E* (American Puritan Ethic), the film WHERE’S POPPA? afforded actor Rob Reiner the honor of being the first person in an American movie to use the word “cocksucking” (as his character does in a courtroom scene). This is history, folks!
I have no idea if any of the Klane novels were published beyond America and England, but it would be interesting to see if there were and what the covers looked like. Here’s the UK cover for WHERE’S POPPA?:
Ok, we have two Robert Klane novels at this point and one of those two has been made into a movie. What was next?
Well, it was another novel and was called FIRE SALE. I never saw an edition of this book that DIDN’T feature cartoon images of the actors that would go on to star in the film. Here it is:
It’s the story of a New York Clothing Store owner (Vincent Gardenia) whose business – in his estimation – is failing and he’s leading his mentally ill, ex-Army brother (Sid Caesar) to burn the store down by telling him it’s actually a secret Nazi headquarters. Then the insurance will pay him off and he can happily retire. But is anything ever that simple?
See on the book cover that Sid Caesar’s leg is in a flower pot? He lost part of this leg in the war and has the idea that if he rests his stump in potting soil the missing part will grow back. I must admit, I laughed till I cried when I saw this scene in the movie. Alan Arkin stars and directs.
This is the last known Robert Klane novel. But that’s not the end of the Robert Klane story.
He has written a lot for television (M*A*S*H, for one) but is also perhaps best known for writing the film WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S and for writing/directing WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S II.
Ok, it may be hip for people to sneer at these films, but I’m going to step forward and defend them. So, to those of you who just willy-nilly hate and complain about these movies just to go along with the crowd, I say this directly to you: “Shut the fuck up!” You knew what you were getting into when you saw these movies. You knew it was about a dead guy that they’re keeping around to convince others he’s still alive. You knew it was going to be in, at best, questionable taste. Again, shut the fuck up. Why don’t you watch endless repeats of BRIDESHEAD REVISITED if you are so stuck up and artsy-fartsy and leave the rest of us alone?
I still snicker when I think of Andrew McCarthy pulling the rope attached to Terry Kiser’s wrist making it appear as if Bernie is waving at boaters. Also, there’s something conceptually funny about Bernie’s corpse doing a type of conga line dance while underwater in WEEKEND AT BERNIE’S II. I’m proud to say that I own WEEKEND 1 & 2 in my DVD collection. I also own THE TEN COMMANDMENTS and THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST as well, so maybe this balances everything out.
I guess it’s been about three or four years ago, but I found an agency that (at the time) was representing Mr. Klane. I was informed through this agency that he was, indeed, working on something then but they were not allowed to elaborate. They couldn’t even tell me if it was another book or perhaps a film or television project. I guess it wouldn’t have been important for me to know then and there WHAT he was working – it was just good to know that he was doing SOMETHING and that his name will once again be out there. Just as it should.
So thank you, Bob Klane (this is how he signed one of my books), for all the laughs and entertainment you’ve provided over the years. You were definitely one of my influences as I created this blog and the other “silly” blogs I started and still maintain. Hope I can do you proud here.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Doris Wishman once said in an interview, when asked about the movies she’d made, “I’m probably going to hell for this”. At that time I was most familiar with Doris through the films she’d done with Chesty Morgan (“Double Agent 73” and “Deadly Weapons”) and one other, with Sammy Petrillo (“Keyholes Are For Peeping”). I don’t know if Doris wound up in the fiery pit or not when she shuffled off this mortal coil some years back, but if so, perhaps at least SOME of her movies should have gone with her.
I confess that I have not seen INDECENT DESIRES or MY BROTHER’S WIFE yet because Doris had an annoying habit of not having the camera on the person who was doing the talking. A little of that went a long way. However, when I ran across this double feature I couldn’t pass it up. Mostly because it was 10 bucks - as opposed to the 25 bucks I’d seen it for before.
I suppose no one who claims to like drive-in films should dismiss the massive contributions of Doris Wishman to the genre; it’s certainly not my intention to do so here. The last thing one of Doris’s movies makes me, though, is horny. She failed to connect with me if her goal was to give everyone in the mail audience a throbbing boner. I suppose that for history’s sake, I will need to plow through these movies at some point.
The one Doris film I really AM curious about is LET ME DIE A WOMAN. I understand that this is her paean to GLEN OR GLENDA. Anyone seen LET ME DIE A WOMAN?