Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The wind is in the buffalo...

Another day, another movie for Bad Movies A to Z. Today's film is not bad at all in my estimation. In fact, it's one of my favorites. But I also put orange Tang on my vanilla ice cream, which I've been told, is super-mega-gross, so what do I know?

A little bit of background: I loved watching "The Monkees" when I was a kid and was aggravated that kindergarten kept me at school until the show was over.

I imagine my parents picked this up at our local video store, Asparagus Video (I think I still have the shirt somewhere), probably because they knew I loved The Monkees. Its star: Michael Nesmith (who wisely avoided being dubbed "Wool Hat" on the show). Its name: Elephant Parts.

Today's movie in a nutshell: It's billed as a video record. It's a collection of comedy skits wrapped around a handful of videos for Nesmith's songs.

The story: Like I said, it doesn't really have a story. I hesitate to say that it's like an episode of Saturday Night Live, but I guess that's the best comparison.

It begins with what looks like a straight performance of "Joanne" from Nez, until you hear that "her name was Rodan, and she lived beneath the oceans of Japan." Then he stomps over a cityscape a la Godzilla.

After this brief gag, Nez explains the premise of "Elephant Parts" before jumping into another skit, this one a pre-"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" audition for a Marines recruiting commercial.

For the most part, if you don't like a skit, just wait a few seconds, because another one is coming up.

Among my favorites: Neighborhood Nuclear Superiority ("This tactical nuclear warhead just attached to my garden hose with ordinary hand tools..."), Clandestine Typing Service (from whence came the title for this entry) and the trailer for the slasher flick "Have a Nice Day."

Interspersed among the skits are five videos: "Magic," "Cruisin'" (better known as "Lucy and Ramona and Sunset Sam"), "Light," "Rio" and "Tonite."

"Cruisin'" and "Rio" are probably the best known, with the latter getting a lot of airplay back in the day.

It looks dated, but it is almost 25 years old. I like to think of it as MTV's older brother, and not in a VH-1 kind of way. If I recall correctly, "Rio" was part of the "Popclips" show Nesmith created for Nickelodeon in the channel's earliest days. That idea was sold and eventually became MTV.

Afterthoughts: This is a bit shorter than the previous entries in Bad Movies A to Z because if I explain the skits, I'll ruin the jokes.

My brother and I grew up watching this, and we could probably perform the entire thing from memory. And considering that I rented this roughly a bajillion times before procuring a tape of my own, the extra stuff on the DVD was a welcome treat.

What was particularly interesting for me is that there are a few scenes that I hadn't seen before, including a clip about the perils of the "tragically hip," which, according to Nez's commentary, is where the band got its name.

It's also fun to discover things about something you're so familiar with. For example, this was co-written by Bill Martin, who also appears in many of the skits. What I didn't know until a few years ago was that he'd written a couple of my favorite Monkees songs ("All of Your Toys" and "The Door Into Summer") as well as a few for Harry Nilsson.

And, according to the IMDB, his voice acting credits include numerous voices for video games and cartoons, including, apparently, "The Monchichis."


One of my favorite things here is the commentary track that Nesmith provides. He explains that the project was made on a shoestring budget, and helpfully points out how certain effects were achieved.

It's a pretty laid-back commentary and is easy to listen to. It also helps that I'm a fan of Nesmith's work, so this is a fun way to kill an hour.

There was also a TV show spin-off of sorts in the mid-80s called "Television Parts," which I barely remember. As I recall, it got shifted around the schedule, so I think I ended up missing it more than I saw it. But I remember a sketch that was called something like "Five-Second Theater," featuring a presentation of "Old Yeller."

We see an old guy.


The End.

You gotta love that.

You can get both "Elephant Parts" and "Television Parts Home Companion" online from Michael Nesmith's Videoranch.

I've also seen "Doctor Duck's Super Secret All-Purpose Sauce," but I'm not sure if that's another Television Parts compilation or what. I actually checked it out of the library a few years back.

So far -- and we're only up to E -- this is my favorite movie on my alphabetical list. I've got a tentative list already drawn up, but if you've got some ideas for the rest of the alphabet, let me know. Who knows -- I may use your suggestion instead of what I've got. How's that for interactive?

But be warned -- if you have a movie that starts with M, it had better be pretty good/bad to change my mind.


  1. OMG! I loved the Monkees!! I even loved them again when they were on MTV when I was in High School. I even went to see their concert. Of course, Michael wasn't there...

    I also met Davey Jones when I worked at Universal.

    Maybe I'll have to rent Elephant Parts. LOL

  2. wow, do I sound lame or what? ROFL!

  3. wow, do I sound lame or what? ROFL!

  4. Anonymous12:25 PM

    Okay -- I am always saying "The Wind is In the Buffalo." It's something my dad used to say if we had something secretive going on or were planning a surprise. But no one else seems to ever know what I'm talking about when I say it. Where did you hear it? Does anyone ever know what you're talking about when you say it?

  5. "The wind is in the buffalo" is from the Clandestine Typing Service sketch in "Elephant Parts." It's what another customer says to the receptionist to get his order.

    And no, people don't know what I'm talking about when I say this. But that happens quite a bit when people talk to me...

  6. and the house glows with almost no help