Thursday, January 07, 2010

J-Men Forever

In the mid- to late 80's on Friday and Saturday nights, USA Network used to have a show called Night Flight, a cornucopia of music videos, animated films, stand-up comedy and the occasional feature. It is remembered fondly by the people who used to watch it.

The coolest thing I ever saw on Night Flight was this clip from an old animated film in black-and-white, featuring the Devil conducting a bunch of dancing demons and street garbage that transformed into living creatures. It was amazing, both for its bizarre imagery and for the ambitious effects it attempted, like moving camera and motion blur, decades before ILM made such a big deal out of their Go-Motion process in "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Dragonslayer."

I finally tracked it down a few years ago on the Internet. The clip was from "The Mascot," a 1934 Russian film animated by Ladislaw Starewicz. Here's the bit I saw (though it was edited a bit to be faster-paced, if I remember correctly):

But you see, the point is, I tried to order the DVD of this off of Amazon using a gift card I got for Christmas, but they were out of stock, so I settled for the second best thing I ever saw on Night Flight, but hadn't seen since.

"J-Men Forever."

Basically, a couple of guys from a comedy group called Firesign Theater edited together a bunch of clips from Republic Serials like "King of the Rocketmen" and "Captain Marvel," then dubbed in a bunch of funny dialogue on top of it, with help from DJ Machine Gun Kelly. The basic plot is that the King of the Moon, a mad villain known as Lightning Bug, tries to conquer Earth using sex, drugs and rock'n'roll, and only the heroic yet hapless J-Men can stop him. It's fast-paced and funny, with a pun in virtually every line. Someone's posted it on YouTube, but I can't embed it, so go here and watch a bit.

It hasn't aged tremendously well, just because drug humor isn't the comedy gold it seemed to be in the 70's and 80's. It seemed a lot funnier when I was 23. But I enjoyed seeing it again.

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