Saturday, September 30, 2006

This Baghdad Election Failed, Too!

Ali Baba Goes To Town (1937) is on Fox Movie Channel tomorrow morning, October 1st, at 6 AM EST, and damn it, I'm going to miss taping it. If anyone is so inclined, I would love a copy of the film -- it was one of Marge's and my faves from this year's Cinefest (see my Myrant post on the film
  • right ch'ere, on our stage).
  • It also featured a joke concerning Vermont and Maine electoral votes I'm eager to transcribe and use as the opening quote of Green Mountain Cinema Vol 2, which is at last in the home stretch for publication.

    [An aside: Marge and I are dropping our satellite TV this weekend -- effective tomorrow -- in part due to Direct TV dropping, sans announcement, Fox Movie Channel last week. I had in fact set our VCR to tape a movie, the curious 1965 romantic tragedy Rapture, from FMC, only to check the tape that evening to find the blank black screen and "Contact your provider" text -- they'd fucking dropped the channel that morning! We'd been debating dropping satellite for some time, due to erratic reception and the fact we watch so little television aside from our DVD/video collection. $60+ a month for the only two programs we enjoy -- The Daily Show and Colbert Report -- was too dear a luxury, and with Direct TV's blithe drop of the one movie channel I still occasionally taped movies from, that was that. When Marge made the call, they tried to convince her to stay aboard, but couldn't provide the combo of channels we wanted -- so fuck 'em, we're better off without 'em or TV.]

    Eddie Cantor was a big star by the '30s -- among his childhood cronies was none other than Harry Donenfeld, future publisher of pulps like Spicy Stories and National Periodicals, where Harry made his fortune thanks to Superman and his royal screwjob on its creators -- and Ali Baba is the best Cantor film I've seen. Cantor plays an autograph hunter named Al Babson, who is stupidly injured on the set of an Arabian Nights movie. In a move worthy of Ash in Army of Darkness, he misremembers the prescribed dosage and takes too much pain meds, and he's off to la-la land and dreams he's in Baghdad where he's mistaken for Ali Baba. Cantor becomes prime minister to the sultan, and this is where the film escalates into a rehearsal for the Iraq War: one wonders if Rummy, Wolfowitz and the neocons saw this film in their childhoods and brainstormed the disastrous reconfiguration of the Middle East from this opus, though it's actually (in the context of its day) a satire on Roosevelt's New Deal, which the neocons & GOPs have quite successfully dismantled and sown salt upon its grave (as Hurricane Katrina so amply demonstrated). No wonder they've erected a statue to Reagan in a place of honor; it all gained traction with Reagan, and it's been a steady downhill slide since then.

    Anyhoot, Cantor mounts the first elections in Baghdad history, hoping to establish a democratic state that will simply re-install the ruling sultan, but this sweeping political reform backfires when Cantor -- ahhh, I've already given away too much. I would love a copy -- Cantor stars with Tony Martin, Roland Young, June Lang, John Carradine, Gypsy Rose Lee (billed as Louise Hovick), and there's a great number performed onscreen by Raymond Scott and His Quintet, for you Raymond Scott and cartoon music fans!

    Some sources list this as running 81 minutes, and Fox Movie Channel has it in a 90 minute timeblock, but the print we saw at Cinefest claimed to be longer than extant televised versions, sporting a pretty racist musical number that might be clipped from Fox's print.

    In any case, catch it, you'll be blown away by how this plays in the context of our own times -- and if anyone is able to tape or DVD-copy this for me, I'd welcome it and amply reward you (first come, first rewarded!) -- PO Box 47, Marlboro, VT 05344.

    And while I'm at it, begging in the virtual street, I'll also remind folks I'm still seeking The Comics Journal back issues and happy to pay or barter -- I'm seeking TCJ #28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 39, 41, 43, 44, 47, 50, 55, 57, 266.

    I have indeed filled whatever gaps I could from Fantagraphics's own back-issue mail order, these are the last I need to complete the collection, primarily for my CCS teaching/research use. Special thanks to Brian Defer for responding to the first request for back issues of The Comics Journal -- his requested barter gift is in the mail, so thanks, Brian!