Film Nerd 2.0: Universal monsters, Bud and Lou, and something really scary
We go from (Bud) Abbott to (Twilight) Zone to discuss what scares the boys
Finally, things sort of came full circle. Toshi's been sniffing around the Universal "Classic Monsters" box set, asking to see "The Wolf Man," and I'm not sure he's ready. "Frankenstein" has a totally different rhythm than "The Wolf Man," and I think George Waggner's aggressive monster is scarier than Karloff's broken creature. His godfather is a longtime friend of mine, and he's known to the kids by a name that has to do with a birthday gift he got for Toshi several years back, a big puppet theater with all sorts of puppets to use. He is Craig Puppetshow to the kids, and he told Toshi he was going to come see him play one of his final baseball games of the season. Toshi's gotten good this year, and in that final game, he got around the bases a few times, got a few singles, threw for some outs, and in general played his ass off. His coach gave him the game ball, something they do for a different kid every week, so Toshi was in a tremendous mood when he came off the field. He asked Craig to come back to the house and watch a movie, and Craig was able to make the time. The conversation about what to watch began on the way home, and Toshi was trying to use the opportunity to try all sorts of things.
"We could watch 'Raiders Of The Lost Ark' if you wanted," he said, trying to sound like he really didn't care.
"I don't think so, buddy. I think it's still a little rough."
"Well, we should watch something good, so you can show us something really good. Like we could watch 'The Avengers.'"
I had an ace up my sleeve, something I thought Toshi would really enjoy, and it made sense to watch this with Craig. He was the one who gave Toshi those orange Monster books. Craig's favorite film is "Creature From The Black Lagoon," and he had a lot of fun talking to the boys about it. When we got to the house and settled into the office, I turned on Netflix and went to one of the last entries in my queue. Toshi saw it before I even said it to him. "Hey, daddy, can we watch 'Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy'?!" And as soon as he asked, Allen was all about that as well, adding his voice to the mix.
There's not a lot of Mummy in the film, and it's later in the career of Bud and Lou, but like most of their movies, there are a few moments. And those few moments were enough for the kids to belly laugh a few times and talk about why mummies are cool and take turns sitting with Craig and talking to him. One of the things that is most important about the time I spend with the kids during these screenings is that it's time spent bonding with them. Sharing something. By watching with them, you get to see how something works on them, how they react, what delights them, what provokes them, what they get and what they miss. Allen is still The Shadow. He takes his cues from Toshi. He is the first one to say "I get the joke!" and often the last one to actually get it, and it's adorable. He will claim to have knowledge and experience and then immediately follow it with "What is that?" Toshi's the one who is starting to express some very specific tastes.
For example, one of the films that he plays often because it is on the very small list of films my wife finds innocuous enough to have on repeatedly is "The Pirates Of Penzance" with Kevin Kline and Linda Ronstadt. That's not a movie I would have guessed would resonate, and it's not a movie I showed him. It's just something he thinks is fun to watch. If I had to guess a hundred movies my boys might like, Gilbert & Sullivan would not have even begun to occur to me. That is, as they say, a surprise.
But they like Abbott and Costello. They have probably seen eleven of their films all told now, and they laugh at every little gesture and joke, in the best of the films and the worst of them. They just plain like Bud and Lou. Or more accurately, they like Lou. They are aware that much of the comedy comes from the fact that Bud is a total dick. "Jerk" is the version the boys use, but it's hilarious to me how Bud Abbott just plays this horrible, abusive, insulting asshole, and that's the "straight man" shtick that made him rich. It gets worse as the series wears on and they get older, and in "Meet The Mummy," they're both showing some wear and tear. The boys didn't care. They made me play back two segments after we finished, and then they finally were ready to say goodbye to Craig. Scared certainly wouldn't describe their reaction, so I guess we've made progress from that first gateway experiment with Toshi. There will come a time when they're ready, and I will scare the ever-lovin' blue eyed jimmer-jammers out of the both fo them.
But for now, "Twilight Zone" remains a long way away.
"Film Nerd 2.0" is a regular feature here at Motion/Captured.