Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gidget Goes to Rome

Be honest now. You didn't even know Gidget Goes to Rome was a movie, did you? This is the first you've ever heard of Gidget's trip to Italy, right? Well, I'm here to tell you that it happened. It wasn't interesting, but it happened. But it did not happen much like it is described in the book.

That happens sometimes. The author has to work from an early version of the script, and if a scene gets cut at the last second, it's possible for it to still be in there. In this case, though, I think the entire script was rewritten and thrown out. But they didn't bother having the book rewritten, possibly because, seriously, who cares what's in the novelization of Gidget Goes to Rome?

The differences start in the very first scene. In the book, it's described this way: "And it was there I was lying one July noon last year, pretty much as God made me, except for a few minor accessories like a black bikini and a pair of sunglasses." In the movie, it's a red bikini. And no sunglasses. Okay, that's pretty small. But as soon as she gets to Rome, the book describes an entirely different series of events. Sure, the overall outline is the same (she fights with Moondoggie and has a crush on an older Italian man), but every element is different.

So with that out of the way, I want to go back to that part about "pretty much as God made me". Is that a reference to nudity? In a Gidget book? Oh my yes. Here's the scene after Gidget has dived into a fountain (which happens at the beginning of the trip in the book, as opposed at the end of the book for a totally different reason in the movie) and is getting examined by an older doctor, who will later turn out to be married, with children, and stringing her along:

With an air of detached sovereignty he inspected the thermometer, smiled knowingly and then asked me to take off my p.j.'s. First I got purple as a plum, but then it came to me that I had nothing to hide. While not as generously endowed as Lucy and Libby, I am endowed. Besides, he was a doctor, wasn't he?

Off came the top of my p.j.'s.

He placed his efficient hand on my back and began to knock around with the knuckles of his other hand in the general vicinity of my lower thorax. Then he bent down and affixed his ear to my back and asked me to breathe. Then he asked me to lie flat on my back.

I complied. My no-longer-hidden treasures pointed straight to the ceiling. Dottore Paladino again leaned his perfumed head over me and pressed his ear toward the region of my heart, just underneath my right half-bosom. I have been examined before, but never like this. It tickled.

I mean, really now! I can assure you that that did not take place in the movie I watched. Also, "right half-bosom"?

Another spot I found strange was when Gidget is pontificating on the difference between jet travel and boat travel. She's very worldly, this Gidget. She also talks in Latin a lot more than I would have expected. And here, what's with this section on her parents' drinking habits?

It's different with wine. We drink it at home, my folks making a sort of a ritual out of it, serving it at the right room temperature (red one), or slightly chilled (white one), and my ma being what is known as "a second plateau drinker" (steady intake of small sips from 6 p.m. onward), while my old man has reached "the first plateau" long ago (steady intake from 5 p.m. onward). But they never get bombed. Drinking wine just puts them in a benevolent mood.

I trust that it will not come as surprise that a Google search for "second plateau drinker" yields no results.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Grease: The Novel

Here's a movie novelization I bet you didn't know existed: Grease, by Ron de Christoforo.

Technically, that should read "Grease, by RON DE CHRISTOFORO, based on the screenplay by BRONTE WOODARD, adaptation by ALLAN CARR, based on the original musical be JIM JACOBS and WARREN CASEY". And then there's something about ACTION PHOTOS FROM THE MOVIE, but this is not one of those photo-novels you sometimes see where a cut-down version of the script is put next to movie stills; this is an actual 220-page novelization. Of Grease.

I do not know why there's a novelization of Grease. I realize it was a successful movie (in 1978, it was the third-highest grossing movie ever, just trailing Jaws and Star Wars), but you don't see that many novelizations of musicals. I'll get to the way they handle the songs later (hint: it makes no sense!) but let's count down the Crazy Things in this book.

5. "Another Original publication of POCKET BOOKS". I guess that's supposed to mean that this first appeared in paperback instead of first being in hardback, but it seems odd to trumpet the originality of a book whose author line includes the words "based on" and "adaptation by". I imagine this is related to the way paperbacks used to have a line about "This is the full and unabridged text of the original edition" to soothe fears that they were just cut-down versions of the hardback text.

4. "Ehey." That's not a word, is it? So how come it appears so often in this book? Like this: "Ehey, Danny-boy, I think that chick in the white is giving you the eye." I think it means "Hey", but I've never run across that spelling before. It's sort of the way John Travolta talks, I guess, with that sort of hiccup in the middle of a syllable, but his character isn't the only one that does it.

3. The author thinks this is a real novel. Seriously, he seems to believe he's writing a coming-of-age story set in 1959. This explains why, for example, there's a chapter about Richie Valens, the Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly dying. Maybe it's me, but I don't remember this scene in the movie:

We spent the rest of the day talking softly about the singers, mostly going over what it meant to have someone we cared about suddenly die.

"First it was James Dean a few years ago, and now this," I said.

"Shit, what a way to go -- a plane crash," Kenick said, almost to himself.

"Yeah," Roger said, "and what a way to wind up -- face down in the snow."

"Somewhere in Iowa," I added.

"You guys know what?" Danny asked quietly. "It's only the beginning . . . for us, I mean. I don't think from here on out that we're going to be having too many more new idols -- we're just gettin' too old for that stuff. But what's gonna happen is -- all of our ols idols, the people we grew up lookin' up to, they're all gonna fade on us, or die. . . . It's lousy, and I don't like it."

There was something too true and final in Danny's words. In his own way, he sometimes had a real sad understanding of things.

What? In the middle of freakin' Grease, we're stopping to consider our own mortality? Interesting choice!

Also an interesting choice: The first fifty pages of the book take place before the movie begins. We follow Danny (and Sonny, because he's the narrator and therefore has to be shoved into every scene except where he's being told about what happened by Marsha) to the beach and see Danny meet Sandy and blah blah blah eventually school starts. The last chapter happens after the movie's over (but before Grease 2):

Chapter 36

So school ended and we had our girls back and we were all in love and everything was terrific. Hunky-dory, right? Sure, we both know better.

Me, Kenickie, and Danny went to summer school together and finally graduated from Rydell without too much ceremony, except for a pretty good drunk we tied on in the parking lot of the Palace with the Ladies.

By the fall, things started changing, too quickly. It was too much to face and keep up with at the same time. We had to look for jobs, clean up our act, and things of that nature which I promised myself I wouldn't talk about here.

That New Year's Eve we had a big party with the T-Birds and the Ladies as we saw the last of the Nifty Fifties -- and, to be perfectly honest, I don't think any of us felt all that terrible about seeing that decade and that part of our lives finally coming to a close.

Yay! Now Grease ends on a downer!

2. I mentioned that Sonny is in every scene, right? I realize the character's around a lot, but he's not everywhere. The only times he hasn't been shoved in are where Marsha relates to him (in great detail) what happened at, say, the slumber party. It's distracting, because I keep thinking, "Wait, wasn't that scene just between Kenickie and Danny? Why did Kenickie say 'Ehhh, Danny, you and Sonny think you can hang around and help me out?'"

1. The songs. Whoo hoo hoo. Hoo.

Okay. I would have thought that there were two ways of dealing with the songs. First, you could pretend they didn't happen. You know, "Then Danny started talking up the car. He made it sound great. Now we were excited!" Second, you could accept the singing and dancing and put it into the narrative: "I saw Rizzo walking through the hall, singing about how there were worse things she could do." That sort of thing.

As it turns out, there's a third option: you take the lyrics of the song and pretend they're dialogue. Without, and this is important, editing them in any way. Allow me to demonstrate how the novelization of Grease does this in with "Beauty School Dropout". Frenchy is describing a dream she had:

"Not only did Teen Angel say that my story was a sad one to tell, he said I was the most screwed-up kid on the block! Oh, geez you guys, what am I going to do? I know he was right when he said that my career is washed up. On top of that he reminded me I couldn't even get a trade-in on my Beauty School smock!

"Teen Angel really rubbed it in. I mean he said "Beauty School dropout, Beauty School dropout" over and over again. He knew I flunked my midterms and that I even failed shampoo!

"Well he went on like this and pretty soon I started to get pissed but I didn't have nowhere else to go and I didn't know how to get out of the dream. So I was stuck . . . listening to this stuff."

And it goes on like that!

Incidentally, what I've got here is the original 1978 edition (I found it in a used book store, where it was next to one of the more normal "photo-novels" I mentioned earlier; I assume somebody was divesting themselves of their Grease collection), but it was apparently rereleased in 1998 (for the movie's rerelease). That means not only did somebody think it was a good idea to write this, it got published more than once.

Crazy, crazy book. It's awesome. And I've just now learned that there's a novelization of Grease 2! Stand by for further information.

New topic: Movie Novelizations!

Okay, you know what? I'm tired of just writing quick blurbs about every movie I see. I tend to fall behind, and then I have to rush out a bunch of things like "Meet John Doe was fun, but too preachy and I like Cooper and Stanwyck better in Ball of Fire. Next! The Wizard Rockumentary was adorably amateurish and I just want to pinch the cheeks of all the bands in it. Next!" and so on.

So from now on, I'm narrowing my focus. From now on, we're talking Movie Novelizations. I'm kind of fascinated by them. So that's what I'm going to talk about. Ready? Go!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Golden Globe Nominees

So the Golden Globe Nomination List is out. And I've seen a grand total of three movies mentioned anywhere on that page. Two of them show up only under "Supporting Actor" (two people from Tropic Thunder and Heath Ledger's Inevitable Win for The Dark Knight) and the other is WALL-E down in Best Animated Film and Best Song. Even with two separate "Best Picture" categories, I've seen none of the movies the Hollywood Foreign Press Association thinks were the best of the year. This is because I was off watching the remake of The Wizard of Gore (verdict: not great. And too tilty) instead of Mamma Mia and In Bruges, which is apparently a comedy. Who knew?

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Sci-Fi Boys

If you have any nerd in you at all, this is a great movie. It's about, sort of, how sci-fi movies came to be. It starts with Forrest J Ackerman and "Famous Monsters of Filmland" and then has a lot of famous directors like John Landis and Peter Jackson talk about how they wouldn't have become filmmakers without that magazine. And then all the special effects guys like Stan Winston and Rick Baker come in and talk about how they learned about Ray Harryhausen (and how to make monsters) from it. It's a lot of fun and has very entertaining clips of amateur movies made by young boys who would go on to become professionals. There's a lot of stop-motion animation shot with cameras ill-suited to the task, which is always fun.

I mention this movie for two reasons. First, I watched it last night and loved it. Second, Forrest J Ackerman died last night, and he was Important. He practically invented sci-fi fandom. He did invent the term "sci-fi", but then he was always inventing words. "Scientifiction" didn't quite take off. I've got a fanzine he made in 1936, and I wish I'd gotten him to sign it when I got to go to his house a few years ago. It was a great house, packed with amazing stuff. Like "the medallion Bela Lugosi wore in Dracula" amazing. He used to have a lot more stuff (when he lived in a huge house called "the Ackermansion"), but had to sell a lot of it. Much of it is here in Seattle at the Science Fiction Museum, and I hope something similar happens to the rest of his stuff.

I'm sad that Forry is gone, but I'm happy to enjoy a world he affected. Oh, and that 1936 zine I have is awesome, by the way. It's got a piece written for Robert E. Howard's death, and that piece is written by H.P. Lovecraft.