WELCOME TO THE BASEMENT HALL OF FAME
To recognize People and Entities that have had a significant impact on Welcome to the Basement.
(Episode 25: My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done?; Episode 83: Premium Rush)
Michael Shannon is Matt and Craig’s acting crush. Sometimes Craig can impersonate him, but usually not. Starting out on the Chicago stage he went on to movies such as “Bug (mentioned in ep. 12)” “The Runaways,” “Revolutionary Road,” and “Take Shelter (ep.14),” “Man of Steel” (ep.29) and the HBO series “Boardwalk Empire.”
When he finds out about being chosen to be in the Hall-of-Fame, we hope that he reacts with a flash of anger in his eyes, an annoyed twitch to a cheek, followed by emitting an overwhelming sadness and a polite changing of subjects. Later, when alone he will think about the honor and allow himself the slightest of smiles, which if witnessed causes grown men to cry, because it reminds them of a time their father smiled. He then quietly gets back to learning his lines and honing his craft only occasionally pausing to wonder why people have to give him honors and
things when he’s just a simple actor doing his job.
(Episode 7, Top Gun; Episode 13, Scanners; Episode 32, Starship Troopers)
Part of the reason he is honored at the WTTB Hall of Fame is that he is the first actor to appear prominently in two separate episodes. The rest of the reason is that he is, as Craig calls him, the “Living Embodiment of Authority”. Ever wonder what Jack Nicholson would be like without all of that acting? Look no farther than Michael Ironside. Known to most as “that guy” due to his ubiquity in film and television for the last 3 decades, he’s also known as “the goon in Total Recall” and “the guy who’s chomped in half by a giant bug in “Starship Troopers.” Ironside is perfect for these gross-out moments, as his roots lie in the icky world of David Cronenberg, exploding onto the scene by exploding a guy’s head. With his mind (See Scanners, Ep. 13)
From his Canadian upbringing he went on to join the Hollywood Military and Police Force, earning many characters with the rank of Det., Insp., Capt., Col. Lt., Maj. or Gen and in “Top Gun” Lt. Cmdr. Rick Heatherly, or as we like to call him, Jester. As a Canadian who looks great in any American uniform, we salute him.
“AMERICA’S CAVEMAN” RON PERLMAN
(Episode 12, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale)
So far, Ron Perlman has only appeared in a supporting role in one film in our series, but he has merited mention in many others. There may be no actor (besides Warrick Davis) who is so adept at acting through the thickest of make-up, as he has proven in the cult tv show “Beauty and the Beast,” the Hellboy series, “The Name of the Rose” and his film debut “Quest for Fire.” Discussion of QFF inspired Matt and
Craig to dub him “America’s Caveman,” and it has caught on with our viewership. But he excels out of make-up as well, appearing in “Drive”, “City of Lost Children”,”Enemy at the Gates” and the FX series “Sons of Anarchy.” He has acted in English, Spanish, French, or all the languages of Europe at once (as demonstrated in “The Name of the Rose”), and he can also effortlessly crush skulls. In 2012
he broke the Scales of Awesome, by honoring a Make-A-Wish Foundation request to meet Hellboy by meeting a young boy in full Hellboy costume and make-up.
(Episode 1, Nanook of the North)
If raw manliness were the scale by which we measure WTTB Hall-of-famers,
Nanook would be on the top of the list. He can spear a fish (then bite it in the
head to finish the job), snare a fox, harpoon a walrus, spear and skin a seal, ride across a frozen wasteland, lick a knife in the bitter cold, store a moderately sized family in a kayak, and toss up an igloo (with an iceblock skylight) like it’s just another day — because it is just another day for Nanook of the North. There’s
only one other man who would do that, but not out of necessity, but because he is crazy, he’s german, and he’s also in the Hall of Fame.
(Episode 9, Fitzcarraldo; Episode 88, The Great Silence)
Of course, we speak of Klaus Kinski. Matt has dubbed him the “Crazed eyed mad man of film,” which is like calling King Kong a “notable monkey.” According to some sources, Herr Kinski has appeared in over 200 films from “Dr Zhivago” to Spaghetti Westerns to…well pretty much anything, yet he turned down a role in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” because he found the script “moronically shitty.” What he is most known for, though, are the five films he made with quasi-nihilistic, obsessive director Werner Herzog (see Fitzcarraldo, ep. 9). His daughter Nastassja was mentioned in episode 11, “Unfaithfully Yours,” so Kinski is the first Hall of Fame family dynasty. Matt dressed as him for our first Halloween episode.
Inductees – Non-human Category:
THE MEGAFORCE THUMB KISS
(Episode 8, Megaforce, Episode 132, The Rocketeer)
You’re standing on the tarmac about to hop a plane to take you on a suicide mission across the border of some nameless country. Across the field, you spy the love of your life come to see you off. She wanted to join you in battle, but you can’t put her in danger. You want to hold her one last time, but she’s too far away. The engines
You have to board now or the mission will be in jeopardy. What can you do? Do you blow her a kiss or give her an assuring “thumbs up”?
Well, why not both?
Using the infamous MEGAFORCE THUMB KISS, you can show her that you are just as incompetent in romance and toughness as the makers of Megaforce. Simply kiss your thumb and give her the thumbs up. If she does the same to you, it might be love…love of campy 80’s action movies. And you can assure yourself that there’s a woman back home waiting for you who catches all of your most obscure movie references, and that’s a woman worth fighting…and living…for.
(Episode 24, My Own Private Idaho; Episode 25, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done?; Episode 27, Armageddon; Suspiria, Episode 111)
It started so innocently. Matt imitated him when his films “Blood for Dracula” and “Flesh for Frankenstein” were offered up for Seen It (episode 13). On the same episode we nearly watched “Suspiria” which he also co-starred in. It was as if we accidentally uttered a spell: name three movies and imitate him once, and he shall appear. Udo circled over our show for months like some sexy German eagle before striking and striking and striking again. He would just appear in supporting roles as if to say “You bore me with this Kinski worship. Ich bin ein intense German the whole family can make love to.”
Udo entranced us with what can best be described as his “Udocity”. It’s a sensation akin to “seetting on a boolleet sinking of pow-her.” Those of course are the lyrics to Mr Kier’s 1985 crazy-ass bit of Europop “Der Adler,” a song that would be the theme song for WTTB if we could afford the royalties.
(Episode 24, My Own Private Idaho)
On episode 17, Matt discovered Craig’s emotional Kryptonite, and his name is River Phoenix. Craig nearly couldn’t talk about “Stand By Me” during Seen It because he’s still recovering from Phoenix’s early death in 1993. It often seems that River Phoenix has been forgotten by everyone but journalists who love creating awkward moments during interviews with his brother Joaquin. For those who need reminding, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, he was the film world’s Kurt Cobain. Both were seen as the epitome of legitimate coolness, artistic integrity and emotional truth in shallow industries; both were burdened with messianic expectations; and their deaths both signified the ends of eras. Indie movies and alt-rock both became a lot less indie and alt after those two quit the scene.
He was the actor deemed perfect to play a young Indiana Jones, as mentioned on episode 40 as a coda to Craig’s notorious rant regarding a lesser actor. Almost all of his 13 movies are worth seeing, but if we may recommend “Dogfight” it’s a truly unique movie romance.
TRIVIA: “River” is his real name, but “Phoenix” is not. His last name was originally Bottom. This name would hardly befit a movie star.
(Episode 23, Bedazzled; Episode 28, Help!; Episode 90, Alfie)
Ms Bron does not hold the record for being in the most movies featured on WTTB but no one has played more roles. In “Bedazzled” alone, she played six wildly different parts while holding her own opposite two of the great comics of the era. Add to that the double agent Ahme in “Help!” in which she had the challenge of acting opposite the most popular rock band history has ever known. Her name stuck in Paul McCartney’s head, and soon thereafter he half-named the song “Eleanor Rigby” after her. If that’s not enough rock star cred, she is also name-checked in Yo La Tengo’s tribute to British films of the 1960’s “Tom Courtenay” (Craig’s favorite YLT song). The WTTB Hall of Fame is not the first boy’s club she’s broken into. She was also the first woman to join the famed British sketch comedy troupe the Cambridge Footlights (which is how English people pronounce Second City). Up to the point of her arrival in 1959, the Cambridge dons of comedy spent 76 years thinking that “man + dress = comedy.” She proved the imperfection of that equation, offering up her own: “woman (talent + wit) = just as funny if not more so.” Her Cambridge co-star Peter Cook did not forget.
(Episode 40, Valhalla Rising)
Look at that face. Was he carved out of stone by ancient Danish tribes as an idol to ward off evil spirits? We have no proof to the contrary, so we must assume the answer is yes. Herre Mikkelsen stabbed, thrashed and strangled his way into both our basement and our hearts with “Valhalla Rising.” Few actors could pull off the role of the silent but deadly “One-Eye” with such depth. If you haven’t seen VR, you might know him as the guy who beats up James Bond’s crotch in “Casino Royale” or as a real-life Nazi fighter in “Flame & Citron.” These days he lives outside of Anthony Hopkins shadow playing a young Hannibal Lecter on tv. Whether tearing out his enemies intestines or cooking up some brain in a hollandaise sauce, Mads Mikkelsen makes beauty out of the terrifying. And to answer the question of what tough guys can and cannot do, he preceded his acting career by spending his twenties as a dancer. This makes him the Danish Christopher Walken.
(Episode 26, The Wicker Man; Episode 38, Horror of Dracula; Episode 122, The Three Musketeers)
We all know actors get typecast, but what’s easy to forget is that roles get typecast, too. For a quarter of a century, to think of Count Dracula was to think of the short and creepy Bela Legosi. It wasn’t until 1956 when tall and charming Christopher Lee changed everything by walking up to us and saying “I’m Count Dracula,” and the world replied, “Yes. Yes, you are.” He smashed our perceptions, removing our mental typecasting of what the Count could be. Unfortunately, this got him typecast himself and it took him until 1973 to escape the cape, with the one-two punch of playing the affable pagan Lord Summerisle in “The Wicker Man” and the title character in “The Man with the Golden Gun.” In the decades that followed the children who grew up on his movies became directors themselves. Spielberg, Lucas, Burton and Peter Jackson all sought him out to bring his tall, suave spooky gravitas to their movies.
Mr Lee beat up Gandalf, chopped off Darth Vader’s arm and put out a number of death metal recordings, all when he was past the age of 75. And we cannot fail to note that he was a spy during World War II, and though he can never talk about what he did specifically in the war, he did once explain to Peter Jackson what it really sounds like when a knife enters a body.
(Episodes 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 16, 17, 18, 21, 22, 23, 26, 28, 30, 31, 32, 34, 35, 36, 37, 41, 42, 43…for starters)
If there’s anything WTTB has proven, it’s that the appropriate time and place to dance is anytime and anyplace. It’s the natural thing to do in discos, dance studios, Broadway rehearsal halls, Cape Cod drug parties, rock concerts, dockside taverns or just walking down a path singing a Song of the South. But it also works in mining camps, on distant planets, at an Indian political rally, down in a dungeon, while enjoying a pagan sacrifice or attending a biker funeral. It doesn’t matter. Sometimes, you just feel like dancing. It doesn’t matter if you have the genius of Tony Manero (“Saturday Night Fever”) or Lucky Garnett and Penny Carroll (“Swing Time”), or the drunken ineptitude of Ben Rumsen (“Paint Your Wagon”), if you gotta dance, you gotta dance. Even “The Great Train Robbery” had a dance number, and that movie was silent. In our archives there are more movies that include dancing than gunfire. Maybe even more than kissing. How can we not pay tribute?
WTTB HALL OF FAME 2014
BARRY BOSTWICK (Episode 008: Megaforce)
How great of a guy is Barry Bostwick? Since 1975, he has been known as “Asshole” thanks to his performance as Brad in “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (Seen It, ep. 010, Lost Highway) and he is, from what we hear, o.k. with you just calling him that on the street. And he flew a god-damned flying motorcycle in “Megaforce.” That’s how great he is. But, what makes the eternally boyish Tony winner really great is that he somehow appeared on our show, telling you to watch “not every Friday, every other Friday,” before spreading the love in the way he does best, with a Thumb Kiss (See Episode 051 “The Man With the Golden Arm”).
KATSUHIRO OTOMO (Episode 56: AKIRA)
There are only a handful of directors who sprang into the world fully formed, presenting a masterpiece on their first try. Examples would be Sophia Coppola with “The Virgin Suicides,” John Huston with “The Maltese Falcon,” and the Coen Brothers with “Blood Simple.” But, there are only a couple of directors that completely changed the game upon arrival. One of them is Katsuhiro Otomo. Before 1988, Japanese animation was a lazy, cut-rate, static world of limited color palates and rigidly still characters whose mouths flapped around with no regards paid to the dialogue. Then came Otomo and “AKIRA.” He treated the anime rule book like he was a telekinetic superchild blowing up Old Tokyo. Suddenly, we had a highly detailed setting with more colors than Pantone could ever imagine. We had realistic muscle movement and fantastical muscle expansion. This wasn’t anime. This wasn’t Disney. This was something new, and it has not only affected cartoons, but video games and live-action action films to this day. It also inspired both Matt and Craig’s season 3 Halloween costumes (ep 064 Pet Semetary).
RAY MILLAND (Episode 021: Love Story; Episode 054: Dial M For Murder; Episode 103: Panic In Year Zero)
Welsh born handsome man Ray Milland was the jealous, monologuing husband plotting to “Dial M For Murder,” Oliver Barrett III, the aloof father of Oliver Barrett IV in “Love Story,” and the family man trying to survive when society collapses in “Panic in Year Zero” (which he also directed). Whenever he comes down to the Basement he brings three things, an elegant and dignified air, meticulous and charismatic craftsmanship, and a bat. He does not like that bat. This flying little beast comes from Billy Wilder’s “The Lost Weekend,” the first film to deal seriously with the perils of alcoholism: recklessness, poverty, and bats. It is the movie that won Milland his Oscar, and also the very first Best Actor award at Cannes. It also is one of the many reasons he joins our Hall of Fame.
GREGG TOLAND (Episode 015: Song of the South; Episode 045: Wuthering Heights)
Some say he is the best cinematographer of all time, others say he is the most influential. We say he’s the first one to appear in the WTTB Hall of Fame. You know in movies, when the foreground and the background are equally and seamlessly in focus? That’s called Deep Focus. He invented that. For that alone, he’s earned his place, but he did so much more. When John Ford wanted to bring a documentary realism to “The Grapes of Wrath,” when William Wyler wanted to capture what home looked like to a returning veteran in “The Best Years of Our Lives,” and when Orson Welles wanted to make the most visually dynamic movie of all time, they knew there was one man for the job, cinematographer Gregg Tolland. He has also lugged his lenses into the Basement, bringing a Scottish gloom to the California locations of “Wuthering Heights” for which he won his only Oscar, and a swampy Georgian languor to “Song of the South.”
ROBERT LOGGIA (Episode 010: Lost Highway, Episode 058: The Ninth Configuration)
Gravel-voiced Robert Loggia has been acting since the Truman administration. After a few decades of bringing the gruff to pretty much every drama that TV had to offer, he finally gained prominence in film by encouraging, then getting on Tony Montana’s bad side in “Scarface” (Seen It, episode 017, Beethoven’s Christmas Adventure). After that he went on to growl his way through “Prizzi’s Honor,” “Independence Day” and “Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie.” He first appeared on WTTB playing Mr Eddy in “Lost Highway” where he gave out some vital roadside driving lessons (a role specifically written for him after he lost the part of Frank Booth in “Blue Velvet” to Dennis Hopper). He shouted some more as one of the menagerie of kooks in “The Ninth Configuration” in which he did a bit of dancing as well. Not the last time he would dance on film: he and Tom Hanks had two body double dancers fired from the movie “Big” insisting that they could dance on a giant piano just fine. One imagines that Hanks did the polite insisting to director Penny Marshall, while Loggia just locked eyes with her and waited.
Non-human category: FALLING
Falling has been a near constant presence on our show since Nanook first toppled his sled in episode one. Since then we’ve had characters fall from New York bridges, London clock towers, Chicago tenement balconies and No Name City brothels. They’ve landed on rainy Portland sidewalks and snowy Boston fields. They’ve flopped into bathtubs, Italian rivers and Texan garbage dumps. Balloons have fallen tragically to earth, astronauts have fallen triumphantly into planets’ atmospheres, and creepy little girls have fallen out of wardrobes. Whether you are exhausted, dying or have just received a round house kick to the face from Billy Jack, falling is there for you. Let us remember our fallen brothers and sisters by welcoming them and the gravitational force that they find so attractive into our Hall of Fame.
BILL DUKE (Episode 70: Car Wash)
He acts, he directs and he’s got a face that could stop a truck (and I mean that in a good way). Whether he’s stalking through jungles in Predator or staring down Terence Stamp in The Limey, Mr. Duke brings a calm intensity to all of his roles.
He has been directing since 1985 and his directing credits include Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (but we won’t hold that against him). He’s also directed a whole lot of TV and appeared in the Busta Rhymes video for “Dangerous”.
Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Mr. Duke. If there’s anyone who could possibly defeat Michael Shannon in a staring contest, you’re the man.
BOB BALABAN (Episode 52: Altered States, Episode 73, Catch-22)
Are you looking for a calm, non-threatening, aloof, kindly, and droll intellectual? Do you find Richard Dreyfus too high-strung, Ron Rifkin too serious, and Austin Pendleton too weird? Then do we have the guy for you! We present Bob Balaban, who for nearly 50 years has been offering up his refined and subtle skills at underplaying both comedy and drama. He is great at playing the intellectual curious: people who really wants to know what’s going on whether it’s alien sightings around the world (“Close Encounters”), what is the mind’s full potential (“Altered States”) or what exactly is pegging (“Broad City”). Mr. Balaban is instantly recognizable on screen, with one notable exception: “Catch-22” in which he showed up all clean shaven and goofy to play the film’s heroic oddball Captain Orr. Orr is Balaban minus all things Balaban. Or as Matt called him “Bob Barely-recognizable-ban.” Still, amidst an army of much more famous actors he couldn’t help making his quiet presence known.
WILLIAM CAMERON MENZIES (Episode 79: Things to Come, Episode 80: Invaders From Mars)
When Matt accidentally chose two Menzies movies back-to-back during Sci-Fi July, it was clear that the fates were shoving the golden age director/designer into the direction of the Hall of Fame. A quick glance at his resume pretty much guaranteed it. Not many people are so innovative in their field that a new job title has to be invented to describe him [“Art Director”]. He burned Atlanta for “Gone with the Wind.” He figured out how to make a carpet fly for “The Thief of Bagdad” (in 1924, long before carpet technology advanced into the aeronautic age). He helped bring the nightmare visions of Salvador Dali to the big screen for Hitchcock’s “Spellbound.” But, here in the Basement, he’s a director first, a director who can’t help but build astonishing worlds. Whether creating something as simple as the stark and endless police station lobby in “Invaders From Mars,” or the sleek cavernous Everytown of the future in “Things to Come,” Menzies couldn’t turn off the “art” when he was a director.
RICHARD PRYOR (Episode 3: The Mack, Episode 10: Lost Highway, Episode 70:Car Wash)
Known to millions as a profane truth teller, legendary cautionary tale and arguably the most important stand-up comedian ever. What is forgotten is that he was a damn good actor. Look at “The Mack.” The movie is as much a camp classic as it is a Blaxploitation classic, but amid all this cartoonishness, Pryor brings real humanity to his role. A few years later, he would briefly appear as a more outlandish character in “Car Wash,” but when his wealthy celebrity preacher is confronted with a moment of truth, Pryor allows a crack to show in his façade. He not only could play a perfect comic foil for Gene Wilder, but also go toe-to-toe with Harvey Keitel and Yaphet Kotto in the drama “Blue Collar.” And let us not forget that he once urinated on Shelly Winters during the filming of “Wild In the Streets.” Due respect to Ms Winters, but you don’t become a legend by NOT urinating on Shelley Winters.
Welcome to the Hall of Fame, Mudbone.
OLIVIA HUSSEY (Ep. 088 — Romeo and Juliet, Ep. 091 — Black Christmas).
One may think that Olivia Hussey is merely a lovely Anglo-Argentinian actress who was something of a star in the 1970’s, but if you look closer, you will see that she is an agent of destruction. Wherever she goes death follows. Her breakthrough performance was in “Romeo and Juliet” where a goodly portion of fair Verona was wiped out. In “Black Christmas”, all of her housemates, her boyfriend, a cop and a neighborhood child all croak it. She witnessed death on the Nile in “Death on the Nile,” and was in the tv movie version of Stephen King’s “IT.” Her greatest bloodbath, though was “Virus” [a.k.a. “Day of Resurrection”] in which almost the entire population of the planet is wiped out.
Ms Hussey, you may not be the safest person to hang with, but we’ll risk it by placing you in our Hall of Fame.
SCREAMING (Pretty much every episode, except for the silent ones in which screaming is merely implied. But not “Nanook of the North,” because Nanook don’t scream.)
You ever get into one of those situations where satanists are torturing you via voodoo doll? How about when you zombies are pulling you apart or the Germans are shooting at your bomber? Then why not try screaming? It’s great for expressing your feelings, and it releases a lot of tension. It helps if you need that little oomph while Chinese boxing (“Way of the Dragon”). You can use it to tear a hole through a brick wall (“Phantom of the Paradise”), or if you work at a “Car Wash” and you need to scream with laughter at every little thing that happens. Or you can be like us and scream from the safety of the old leather couch when those cave things revealed themselves in “The Descent.”
Appearing at the end of every episode since #4, this loveable rotund tabby has become the official mascot of Welcome To The Basement. He can occasionally be seen wandering in the background of shots and making unexpected appearances on the old leather couch during a movie. He is an important addition to our Hall of Fame and he is a good boy.
(Episode 75, Phantom of the Paradise; Episode 111, Suspiria)
Are you making a quirky 1970’s cult movie that is stylish and fun and weird, but you forgot to give your female lead any depth or backstory? Good news! We have an actress who doesn’t need a well-rounded character to create an intriguing woman that you can’t help but care about. Her name is Jessica Harper and she’s here to give a bit of emotional weight to your poorly drawn work. She did it for young Brian de Palma and Dario Argento. Who was Phoenix in “Phantom” and Suzy in “Suspiria,” really? No one knows. But, you cared about them because Ms Harper brings a weary vitality to the roles that makes you want to protect her while at the same time demonstrating that she’s smart and strong, and doesn’t really need any help.
(Episode 5, Paint Your Wagon; Episode 52, Altered States; Episode 95, Marty)
First off, Mr. Chayevsky could have got into the Hall of Fame based off the fact that he wrote the script for Marty alone. The story of the lonely butcher who finds love at the advanced age of thirty-four (oh, how times have changed) swept Craig and Matt off their feet, but that wasn’t the first time Paddy C. was featured in the Basement. He first reared his head all the way back in episode five as the rewrite man for “Paint Your Wagon,” and later as the man who wrote the book that “Altered States” was based on. Think of that: he wrote an outer-borough realism film, a slapstick western, and a post-hippy psychedelic psycho-drama. Add to that the fact that he wrote the peerless media satire “Network,” and it becomes clear that Paddy Chayevsky truly contained multitudes.
(Episode 068: Beyond the Valley of the Dolls; Episode 093: Faster, Pussycat, Kill! Kill!)
Russ Meyer is a slinger of Sexploitation, a lifelong dirty old man, and something of an artist. Do his movies make sense, or take place in a setting anywhere close to reality? No, but that is all by design. Meyer understood that his movies were fantasies, but instead of wizards and unicorns, you have structurally impressive women seducing and/or trying to murder muscled-up man-hunks. His camerawork is surprising, weird and vibrant, like the lens itself is giddy with excitement that it could be present for such spectacle. Sure, his actors were cast based on looks not talent, and his movies were ethically questionable, but in the end, he proved that a movie doesn’t have to be good to be great.
(Episode 72, Ishtar; Episode 73, Catch-22; Episode 106, Beethoven)
Charles Grodin’s career was going great. He had a wide array of roles ranging from family fare to smart adult comedies, to the occasional dramatic part. He was working with DeNiro, Hoffman, and a big sloppy dog. And then in 1994, he just stopped. At first, it was because he started in having a political talk show, and then it was to raise his children that he had late in life. This left a void because no one else could quite pull off irascibility like he could. He seemed not to care at all whether or not the audience liked him, which paradoxically made them like him anyway. He played the cranky dad in Beethoven, the neurotic criminal accountant in Midnight Run and quite possibly the worst man in the world in The Heartbreak Kid (where he perfected the Comedy of Awkwardness 30 years before Ricky Gervais created David Brent). After a nearly two decade hiatus, Grodin has returned to acting working on projects for Louis C.K. and Noah Baumbach, two directors who are perfect matches for his dry, cantankerous humor.
(Episode 107. Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice; Episode 114, Miracle on 34th Street)
Born in San Francisco in 1938, Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko made the right choice to change her name to something a little less Russian when she became a child actress at the height of the Cold War. Her plan worked out and we got the All-American Natalie Wood. She started acting young, rocketing to success at nine years old running rings around her adult co-stars in Miracle on 34th Street. She grew up (though not tall: she topped out at an even five feet), without falling prey to the child star curse of losing it all upon adulthood – despite having ample opportunity (during her wild years she dated troublemakers Dennis Hopper and her Rebel Without A Cause director Nicholas Ray). Not just an accomplished actress, but a sharp business woman: She learned her lesson after not taking a percentage of the take for West Side Story, and raked in plenty when she did the opposite for Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, which kept her quite comfortable for the rest of her short life. It should also be noted that her daughter Natasha Gregson Wagner played a small part in “Lost Highway” [Episode 10].
Where would movies be without punching? For one, boxing movies would make no sense at all. Most people think all punching is fueled by hatred or power. Take these examples from season 5: You want to save your St Bernard? PUNCH A GUN TOTING SCIENTIST! (Beethoven) Are you the Joker establishing dominance? PUNCH THE BATMAN! (Batman: Mask of the Phantasm) Are you staging a mutiny on the Potemkin? PUNCH THE OFFICERS! (The Battleship Potemkin) It only makes sense.
What we forget is that punching can also be used to express love. We DO NOT condone this, but we have encountered it here in the basement. You want to express the glee of middle-aged love? PUNCH A STREET SIGN! (Marty) Are you Rachel McAdams and crazy in love with Ryan Gosling? PUNCH HIM! (The Notebook) Are you Ryan Gosling and crazy in love with Rachel McAdams? PUNCH YOURSELF! (ibid.). Again, do not punch your lover or yourself. Save it for the ring, or your local Fight Club or your neighborhood Nazi.
(Episode 130: Big Trouble in Little China)
Craig wishes James Hong was his grandfather. Maybe it’s that Hong was born in Minnesota, not too far from where Craig’s own grandfather was born. And who wouldn’t want a distinguished, yet sprightly old man around who will encourage hard work and artistic expression by his own example?
It’s amazing that it took over five years for James Hong to appear on our show, because the guy is prolific. Since making his movie debut in 1954 he has amassed over five hundred film, tv and video game credits. And at 89-years old he’s still going strong, adding eight more projects onto his nigh-endless résumé in 2017. He pops up in such classics as Blade Runner, Chinatown, The In-Laws, Mulan, Kung-Fu Panda and Airplane! His greatest claim to fame, though, is the movie that brought him to the Basement, Big Trouble in Little China in which he plays the charmingly demonic David Lo Pan. Lo Pan may not have been as immortal as he thought he was, but Hong will live forever in our Hall of Fame.
(Episode 106: Splice; Episode 128: Cube)
About two minutes into the movie Cube, a man steps into a booby trap and gets chopped to pieces by a flash of wires. And just like that, the guy is cubed, a devilish pun to start the directing career of Canada’s own Vincenzo Natali. Though his debut could easily be seen as an ancestor of the torture porn school of horror films such as Saw and Hostel, there is something a little more palatable about his tale of strangers trapped in a murderous puzzle box, a certain something that belies the hopelessness of the situation. He again gave his audience an unexpected gift in a familiar wrapping paper with Splice, his disturbing satire of the perils of parenthood dressed up as a modern Frankenstein tale. Weird presents, horrifying boxes, family drama: it’s only appropriate for a man whose name sounds like the Italian word for Christmas.
(Episode 069: Romeo and Juliet; Episode 105: Logan’s Run; Episode 122: The Three Musketeers)
This feline-faced, syrup-voiced British actor first swaggered onto our screens in Franco Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet, as the doomed (well, who isn’t doomed in that story?) Tybalt. It’s a great role to get yourself noticed. You get a lot of screen time (in the first half at least), you hardly talk (he only has 17 lines of dialogue), and you get one hell of a sword fight (Scratch that: two hells of a sword fight). His skill with the blade, as well as a surprising adeptness for physical comedy, was again on display playing the aspiring musketeer D’Artagnon in The Three Musketeers. Add to that his other swaggering appearance in the Basement in his most iconic role as the title character in the camp sci-fi thriller Logan’s Run. No sword fighting there, but he gets into a fair number of life or death scrapes. And, hey, he also played Basil Exposition in the Austin Powers trilogy, so there’s that.
He was nearly in a fourth WTTB selection, but he turned down the role of Oliver Barrett in Love Story, since they were only paying scale, plus a percentage of the gross. It seems that he thought the movie wouldn’t make much money. And that’s the story of how Michael York didn’t make $10,000,000.
Run, runner, straight to our Hall of Fame.
(Episode 028: Help!; Episode 127: Yellow Submarine)
Yes, they recorded around a dozen albums over a nine year span, reinvented rock and roll on a regular basis, and were under near-constant scrutiny by the media, but they also made a few movies while they were at it, which also happened to be insanely innovative. Sure, Help! was a bit of a mess, but it was still far more epic than your typical Elvis movie. Yes, Yellow Submarine had impersonators doing their voices, but their music fueled the vision for the film—which is unlike any mainstream cartoon you’ll ever see.
Their cinematic influence reverberates beyond the handful of movies they made together. They gave tv director Richard Lester his first movie (the joyful semi-autobiographical romp A Hard Day’s Night). Lester went on to direct The Three Musketeers, [Ep. 122] and his style was echoed in countless rock videos. George bankrolled Monty Python’s Life of Brian, The Long Good Friday and Time Bandits. Ringo starred in the weirdo comedy Caveman, while Paul crafted arguably the greatest James Bond theme song. The role of the nihilistic computer programmer Professor Falken in Wargames was written for John who died before production. It’s only fitting that their band’s name is a movie reference: it is said their namesake is the Beetles, Lee Marvin’s shaggy biker gang in The Wild One [ep.133].
(Episode 006: Roman Holiday; Episode 136: The Omen)
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Of burrse, he’s nurt urnly knerrn furr these two murbies. He’s also in The Guns of Naburrone, Murrby Durk (as Captain Urrhab), Gentleman’s Aburrment, Spellburrnd, On the Burrch, and of currrse, his iconic and Oscurr wurrning purrferrmence as Atticus Furrnch in To Kill a Mockingburrd.
Bur bur burr, Mr Peck. Bur-burr burr buurrrrrr.
(Episode 023: Bedazzled; Episode 122: The Three Musketeers)
Chet Huntley was one of the first television nightly news anchors, a paragon of gravitas and one of the most respected personalities in America. In 1970, he appeared on the Dick Cavett Show, sharing a panel with Raquel Welch…and the guy went freaking insane. Stammering, flustered and vocally ecstatic that he was in the presence of Her. It was as though he was sitting next to the living embodiment of Lust, which, ironically, is the first role she appeared in on our show (Bedazzled). Though she is usually seen more as a sex symbol than an actress, she proved herself a skilled comedian in The Three Musketeers sharing a clumsy forbidden romance with fellow Hall of Famer Michael York. Yet, for a generation of film-goers her most notable movie appearance was in The Shawshank Redemption where her image emblazons Andy Dufresne’s final poster. In the womanless world of prison, she was not just a sex symbol, and not just a symbol of her sex, but of all the things men lose when shut off from the world. She was escape, she was freedom and she was redemption.
These monsters, they get such a bad rap. Sure they bite people, torment beautiful ladies, rampage through cities, and ruin Christmas for everybody forever, yet what would we do without them? Not to be a monster apologist, but if it weren’t for these career evil-doers, where would horror and sci-fi movies be? Who would watch The Omen if it were just about a diplomat working out trade negotiations between the US and Britain? What if The Valley of Gwangi followed through with its first act promise and was just about cowboys rustling some tiny horses? What if Mr Sardonicus was just a normal-faced rich prick? What if the adventurers in The Mummy just found a normal mummy that was dead and stayed dead? They’d be boring, with no reason to exist. Without David Lo Pan and his gang of supernatural goons, John Carpenter wouldn’t be following Jack Burton and his buddies around with a camera. Without the serial killer, Black Christmas would just be a slice-of-life movie about a sorority. And for those movies where the true monster was…mankind, Alfie would be about a guy just trying to find a suitable bride. And sometimes the monsters aren’t all that bad. Just look at the lovable jungle cats in the movie Roar. Well, that might be a bad example. Still, monsters: we love ya. Crawl out from underneath our children’s beds and take a bow.