Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
Ween -- You F***ed Up
From the God Ween Satan album.
Oh wait...hold on a second...my fiance told me plastic bags get into the ocean and turtles try to eat them and they choke on them and they die...I am now doing a full reversal on that earlier paragraph...I now believe that we need a full ban of plastic bags!
Gomez -- Shitbag
Gomez -- Shitbag 9
From the Abandoned Shopping Trolly Hotline album.
The Stereophonics -- Handbags and Gladrags
From the Handbags and Gladrags EP.
"CooperKatz, one of the first communications agencies to recognize the enormous impact of consumer-generated media on business products/services and corporate/brand reputation, factors Cogence into our strategic response to every client challenge, helping organizations to:
- Find the online influencers who are their biggest evangelists and vigilantes
- Listen actively and transparently to these vocal individuals via as many online channels as possible
- Engage constituents in a dialogue through social media channels
- Empower individuals to spread the organization’s message online
At CooperKatz, Cogence – our proprietary communications discipline – is a key part of the breakthrough strategic thinking and creativity that enable us to achieve exceptional results for our clients."
"Hi Matt- I hope you are well and had a good weekend. I wanted to reach out to you regarding your post from Saturday http://sorelevant.blogspot.
com/2008/07/ascap-vs-gitmo.ASCAP vs. Gitmo. We work with ASCAP and their PR/communications team and after reading your post wanted to send a note of clarification. html
In your post you noted a story on Wired.com and referenced that the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (“ASCAP”) “might sue the government for using their member's music in torture...”
We wanted to reach out to you and let you know that ASCAP has not made any such demands. I believe that certain commentators, in blogs and elsewhere, have posited that under copyright law such uses of copyrighted music may in theory be public performances that require licensing. However, all such discussions were of a theoretical nature as far as ASCAP was concerned. Again, ASCAP does not pursue licenses for such uses.We hope that you will consider including a note of clarification on your blog so that this confusion does not perpetuate. Please feel free to contact me if you have any additional questions regarding ASCAP.
So it looks like the articles written were based on possible "wishful thinking" rather than cold hard facts.
What is possibly most exciting to me is that I could maybe be one of the "online influencers who are their biggest evangelists and vigilantes"...I am hoping maybe more of an evangelist and not a vigilante.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
It may not be the Bush administration's biggest worry about Gitmo policy -- after all, they've lost both Supreme Court cases about detainee treatment and Barack Obama and John McCain, who agree on little else, both want the place shut down.David Gray -- Babylon
Insult, meet injury: Now there is talk that the US government may owe royalties on the song that has been blared over and over and over again to to weaken detainees' resolve of "War on Terror" prisoners warehoused there.
Most prominently US forces in Guantanamo Bay have played David Gray's "Babylon" on heavy rotation -- not that the song itself constitutes torture, of course.
Arguably, that constitutes a public performance and conceivably makes it subject to royalties owed ASCAP and BMI.
From the Greatest Hits record.
From today's Seattle Times:
Turns out, the dozens of spikes plucked from the lake bottom probably were put there not out of malice but with the best of intentions as part of a campaign launched more than two decades ago to rid the lake of milfoil, a pesky weed that clogs the lake.
Kathy Whitman, city aquatics director, confirmed Friday that looped metal spikes were used in the early stages of milfoil control in the 1980s to hold down plastic sheeting, and the spikes found this month may be those devices. The metal spikes were replaced later with plastic ones, she said.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The Decemberists -- The Perfect Crime No. 2
From The Crane Wife album.
The Wrens -- Everyone Choose Sides
From The Meadowlands album.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Here's the preview for the new episode:
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Man I wish I could rediscover that poem today just to see if I was close with ten years of literary experience behind me...Anyway, I raised my hand, gave my answer, and silence of the class gave me a clue that I might be off base a little bit...Mr. Sampson looked down, ran his hand through his beard, and said, "well...that's a unique perspective."
Much the same can be said about the focus of this post Shawn Colvin's song "Sunny Came Home." It is one of those song that I listed to a thousand times on I-94 in my hometown until I actually took the time to listen to what she was singing about.
Let's examine the lyrics:
Sunny came home to her favorite room
Sunny sat down in the kitchen
She opened a book and a box of tools
Sunny came home with a mission
[The obvious question is where did Sunny come home from? At this point, let me propose either it was jail, or my personal favorite, a mental institution.]
She says days go by
I'm walking on a wire
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind
Into the fire
[More evidence that the mental institution might be the right answer...she feels "hypnotized" maybe by the drugs they give her. The lyric "I fly out of my mind" maybe a reference to schizophrenia. And then we come to the final lyric of the chorus and possibly the answer to why Sunny would be in the institution to begin with: pyromania].
Sunny came home with a list of names
She didn't believe in transcendence
It's time for a few small repairs she said
Sunny came home with a vengeance
[Now we are coming to one of my favorite verses in contemporary pop music. What I think we have is Sunny has escaped from a mental institution and she's out for revenge against the people that put her there..."A few small repairs"? How about a few fires and maybe a few singed bodies? I wish I could write lyrics like "Sunny came home with a vengeance."
She says days go by
I don't know why
I'm walking on a wire
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind
Into the fire
Get the kids and bring a sweater
Dry is good and wind is better
Count the years, you always knew it
Strike a match, go on and do it
[Here I think we are in Sunny's mind...they pyromaniac side is giving her instructions..."Dry is good and wind is better" are clearly reference to the best conditions to start a good house fire. "Count the years, you always knew it / Strike a match, go on and do it" we are referring again to the time that she spent in the institution plotting her revenge...]
Days go by
I'm walking on a wire
I close my eyes and fly out of my mind
Into the fire
Light the sky and hold on tight
The world is burning down
She's out there on her own and she's alright
Sunny came home
Sunny came home...
[Sunny is literally burning down the world now and she makes her escape to make the next "repair" on her list...]
Or this all could be metaphorical...
Shawn Colvin -- Sunny Came Home
From the A Few Small Repairs album.
P.S. Here is the album cover in case you think I'm off base:
Frank Zappa -- Willie the Pimp Part One [Live at Fillmore East]
From the Live at Fillmore East album.
Frank Zappa -- Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance
From the We're Only In It For the Money album.
Frank Zappa -- Peaches En Regalia
From the Hot Rats album.
Frank Zappa -- Muffin Man
From the Best of Frank Zappa.
I was reminded today of an email I forgot to post from a few months ago. If you remember this post/tirade about about the Gin Blossoms then you will enjoy an update on the situation:
P.S. The Gin Blossoms played Sawdust City Days last week, 6/12/08, from 9 - 11 pm. Mandy and I heard the loudest sound ever coming from Carson Park. I bicycled down to Cameron Street, only to be greeting by the simultaneously sucking and blowing sound of "Hey Jealousy." GODDAMMIT. I HATE THE GIN BLOSSOMS.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
And the possible reason for the breakup:
Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper wrote with reference to The National Examiner tabloid that George and Laura Bush were planning a divorce after the presidential election in the USA.
According to the supermarket tabloid, George and Laura Bush hardly ever speak to each other. George feels very unhappy and does not want Laura to leave him. However, the newspaper wrote, Laura is tired of everything; she is determined to live her own life.
The couple still keeps their relationship alive just because they are contractually obliged to stay together during George W. Bush’s presidency; it is not a matter of feelings at all.
The tabloid dwells upon the reasons which could lead to the possible divorce. The newspaper believes that George . W. Bush has been having an affair with US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. A former employee of the presidential administration told The National Examiner that Laura Bush once spent her night in a hotel to stay away from the White House.
From the Inbox this weekend:
I don't have much information here but I would say it's like Nick Cave but with not quite as deep a voice...
Joe Jack Wagner -- We Ain't Horses
Joe Jack Wagner -- Hello Darling
Joe Jack Wagner MySpace
I would say Paul Turner is like David Gray mixed with Cat Stevens. Not the extremist Cat Stevens though...
Paul Turner -- Love Meteorite
Paul Turner -- City Lights
These songs are from the debut album Clear Blue which will be out September 16th.
Paul Turner MySpace
Paul Turner Website
Recommended if you like The Wrens...a performance by Titus Andronicus:
Watch the full concert at baeblemusic.com
Sinkane is the new drummer for Of Montreal and he also opens for them on their new tour...I'm not sure if all the music is instrumental but "Color Voice" is...it has a real nice free jazz form.
Sinkane -- Color Voice
Saturday, July 19, 2008
This song is playing when Michael drives off the road in Season Six, Part 2, leading to his death at Tony's hands. It is Mr. Morrison covering Pink Floyd's classic.
Van Morrison -- Comfortably Numb [Live]
From the Van Morrison At the Movies: Soundtrack Hits album.
I can only imagine what it is like for the people of Austin, TX who have to cope with the South By Southwest festival and the Austin City Limits Festival.
In one episode, everyone was sort of liking the new Kimya Dawson album until we got to Amy who couldn't stand it. "Thankfully I have not heard that..." She continued "an entire record of that would drive me up the wall. Later she picked the ear pollution "Shake Your Pompom" from upcoming Missy Elliott's Block Party album as something good. Here is a video put together for the song [I don't think it is the official video]:
This is the kind of music they use to torture people in Guantanamo. This song is almost like audible assault with Missy Elliott commanding me to look at her "butty shake."
In another episode, Phillips and Boilen get into what can be called the closest thing to an argument on All Songs Considered. Boilen was agreeing with a listener who wrote in saying that what was great about the 60's music was it threw out all the previous music and invented something new [For example, there was never anything like Jimi Hendrix before Jimi Hendrix]. Phillips disagrees [of course] and says that The Rolling Stones were influenced by 50's blues. To which Boilen gets as close to blowing his stack as I've ever heard:
"It [the 1960's music] did [sound like the blues] until 1966, that's where it all shifted. And you can't hear...you can't listen to Beggers Banquet and hear "Sympathy for the Devil" and think of blues because it was really different. Sympathy for the Devil was not a blues song...there was nothing else like it."
Friday, July 18, 2008
I did a little series about the things I would miss when leaving Seattle and now here's one I'll start when I find something that I won't miss...First item, metal spikes put in the local beach by someone to cut the feet of swimmers...The Post-Intelligencer has more:
Four dozen metal spikes had to have been intentionally lodged in shallow Green Lake waters, city officials say, but almost a week after they were found, police have no idea who put them there.UPDATE: They've found some more spikes!
Authorities still aren't exactly sure how long the spikes, found Sunday, were under water. They say the corrosion on the metal spikes, ranging from 12 to 18 inches long, shows they were likely there for at least a month.
I don't think you should be allowed to sing lyrics like "If you've lost your faith in love and music, oh the end won't be long" without being dead serious about what rock music can do and the serious nature of it. No smirking allowed. It was this seriousness that attracted me to The Libs and they almost pulled it off until the humanity of the members caught up with them.
The Libertines -- Good Old Days
From the Up the Bracket album.
As you can see the album is called "Forth" and will hit our shores August 26th. There are a bunch of different ways to the buy the album and some have bonus tracks available as well as downloads right away. Check out all the info at The Verve's store.
Here are a couple of older Verve tracks:
The Verve -- Star Sail
From the A Storm in Heaven album.
The Verve -- 6 O'Clock
From the No Come Down album.
Of all the new generation of British bands [let's say from Coldplay on], Bloc Party is my favorite. But after watching this video, I am struck by how bad it is. Criticising the United States is such an easy trap to fall into, especially for a band that isn't American. It is so easy to say, "look at them, they're horrible, they're so stupid they would elect a horse/crab thing."
As I once said to my girlfriend who is living in Europe currently, "don't ever let anyone from England make you feel bad about being an American." The level of absolute bullshit and tyranny England unleashed upon this world is staggering for it being such a small country. [And I say this with 1/4 English blood running through my veins]. Here's a short list:
--Invention of concentration camps [Boer War]
--Occupation of Ireland...why isn't Ireland united yet?
--They still have a Queen. What kind of gutless country determines the type of government they will have because it might effect tourism sales?
--No English person should ever say anything about George Bush...because you have your own: Margaret Thatcher. At least we have the foresight to limit Presidents to terms [eight years]...Thatcher got 11. Not to mention Bush's partner in crime Tony Blair.
--You think America's racist, American racism can learn a lot from Enoch Powell.
--An unwritten Constitution...make fun of Americans' phone getting tapped all you want at least we have actual rules that you can see and read. It sort of helps in protecting them.
--Occupation of India, United States, Canada, Egypt, Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia, etc...
The point is this, is America perfect? Far from it. But the English shouldn't be the ones to criticize.
Ben Folds Five -- Kate [Ska Remix]
From the U.S. version of the Brick single. I think it is shocking how much better this remix is over the original.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
A Night in the Box -- Fiddle Foot Jones
A Night in the Box MySpace
One of my favorite bands has a new mixtape they are offering free on iTunes...here are a couple of songs they given away over the years...
Voxtrot -- Heaven [Talking Heads Cover]
Voxtrot -- Love Vigilantes [New Order Cover]
Voxtrot -- Summer Mix Tape entitled "First Thought Only Thought"
You should really own their self-titled debut.
The email from this group of Swedes includes comparisons to Jens Lekman and Adam Green and I would have to agree. Good stuff here.
Klas -- Honda Civic
Klas -- Birds
Calamity Magnet is Sara Radle and fairly or unfairly she will also be referred to as an important member of the 2nd reincarnation of The Rentals. However, she is more than Matt Sharp's accomplice as you can here on the new Calamity Magnet album.
Calamity Magnet -- Baby, You Forgot
This song is from their self-titled album.
Calamity Magnet MySpace
I've driven through Iowa twice in the past three days and but I missed Sioux Center both times...
A prosperous hamlet of 6,300, Sioux Center is home to 17 churches, 13 of them with the word "Reformed" in their name, a sign of a strong evangelical presence. In 2004, 16,000 people in the county voted, 14,000 of them for Bush.
UNKLE -- X Files Theme (UNKLE Remix)
From the X-Files: I Want To Believe soundtrack.
Here is the preview:
You are as big a douche bag as this photo makes you look:
The king is dead, long live Aaron Rodgers.
My solution...the Packers should do nothing and just pay him and bench him. He can ride the pine for the rest of his contract even if Rodgers throws 4 interceptions his first game...don't forget what Brett's first game was like.
I've built up quite a bit of blogging steam here and so I need to take a breath...one post at a time...it's like this song from the White Stripes "Little Acorns"...the lesson: "Be like the squirrel."
The White Stripes -- Little Acorns
All the White Stripes albums are good but the best is Elephant.
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Supergrass -- Moving
From their self-titled album.
Butthole Surfers -- Moving to Florida
From the Left of the Dial collection.
Blur -- Movin' On
From their self-titled album.
The Byrds -- You Movin'
From the In the Beginning collection.
Beastie Boys -- Body Movin'
From Hello Nasty.
The Black Crowes -- Movin' On Down the Line
From the Warpaint album.
Moby -- God Moving Over the Face of the Water
From the I Like To Score album.
Yoko Ono -- I'm Moving On
From the Double Fantasy album.
Art Brut -- Moving to L.A.
From the Bang Bang Rock & Roll album.
The Warlocks -- Moving Mountains
From the Heavy Deavy Skull Lover album.
Deep Purple -- You Keep On Moving
From The Very Best of Deep Purple.
Wombats -- Moving to New York
From A Guide To Love, Loss and Desperation.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
The staff presented him with a wooden box made from a giant oak tree that fell on the White House lawn in 2007. Some of the wood from the tree, planted by Benjamin Harrison's daughter in 1892, had been sent to Texas to be fashioned into a box about 12-by-18 inches. They filled it with notes and cards from members of his senior staff.
I don't even know where to begin.
Vertigo might be the oddest and most enchanting film I have ever seen. For all of its complexity, the plot is relatively simple. The detective going out on one last case and falling in love with the woman he was hired to be watch, etc. The plot could have easily come out of a film noir or a Michael Connelly novel.
I've enjoyed some very good films that I really don't have any desire to see again. Chinatown is an incredible movie, but it's a movie that I only intend to see once a decade or so. It is a deeply uncomfortable movie despite its genius. Anyone who has seen Dylan Baker's performance in Happiness can attest that incredible acting does not necessarily equal a desire to ever see it again. And I'll probably watch North by Northwest at every opportunity, because it is so easy to watch. You can be dropped in at any point and quickly understand it.
I never felt mesmerized watching Vertigo as I did when I watched Rear Window or Lifeboat or even the first half of Rope. There are some movies that you can't get into because the plot is so Byzantine that you give up. And there are others where the actors are sleepwalking through it, so you match their level of effort. Vertigo has neither of those problems, yet it didn't completely suck me in. But that tracks with how Scottie is seeing the world. The notion of a dead woman inhabiting Madeleine is so un-Hitchcockian. One of the reasons I have enjoyed watching his films is that his suspense is borne of reality. He doesn't need the supernatural to create tension -- the real world will suffice. Scottie doesn’t really believe Madeleine, which makes it kind of surprising that he doesn’t see what is happening. We get sucked in the way Scottie gets sucked in: slowly, surely and entirely.
It was not highly critically received at the time of release and it is not hard to see why. The film's name is not only a description of Scottie's condition, but how the audience feels when they leave the theatre. It is a disorienting film that lacks an easy payoff. In the final bell tower scene, the bad guy is in Europe. We have liked Scottie from the beginning, but his obsession with Madeleine/Judy is positively creepy. Our sympathies should transfer to Judy, a woman willing to do anything to be with the man who she yearns for, but her duplicity robs her of that trust. It is one of the few climatic scenes I can remember where everyone really is in shades of gray.
The performances are incredible. Kim Novak has to play the dual role of the cool, dark and beguiling Madeleine Elster and her counterpart, the down-to-earth Judy Barton who knows the truth. In many respects, Novak's portrayal of Madeleine is representative of the film as a whole. Her exterior is a bit cold and it is clear that there is something disturbing about her. But in spite of her problems, there is something underneath that is seductive...it draws you in. I wish I could write those sentences in a way that pointed to something concrete in the film that makes me want to see it again despite the fact that I am still not sure how much I really liked it. I guess that is the magic of Hitchcock.
Grade: Anywhere from a B to an A+. Ask me in a few months or so when I rent it again.
Up Next: North by Northwest
The Trouble With Harry
Saturday, July 5, 2008
Okay, first up Obama in Butte, Montana...large groups of voters? Check. Babies to kiss? Check. Hands to shake? Check. Michelle looking cute as ever? Check.
He even took a turn at the barbecue.
Now on to McCain in Mexico. Large groups of voters? Ah...well maybe in Mexican elections. Babies to kiss? None in sight. Giant police helicopter with Spanish writing on it? Check.
This reminds me of working on Student Senate campaigns...you would be out there campaigning on campus and just amazed that your opponents were not out there in the freezing cold trying to persuade students to vote for them...It made you excited that you might just pull this off and win, but at the same time there was a feeling of "what am I missing?" Of "they can't really be this stupid?"...in the end, it was always a case of the opponents had really no idea on how to run a campaign.
Don't you have to ask, what is McCain thinking wasting the July 4th week in Columbia and Mexico, two countries his party views as simply "future illegal aliens?" Why isn't he in Philadelphia delivering a speech about securing the next 232 years of America's freedom?
"When President George W. Bush went to his first Group of Eight summit in 2001, a dominant issue was the dollar -- the strong dollar, that is. The U.S. currency was on a record-setting streak, and the free-marketeering president wasn't going to stand in the way.
On the eve of Bush's last G-8 appearance, the dollar's gyrations are again in the crossfire. This time, it is a weak currency, upended by slumping growth, a housing recession and record gas prices, that is gnawing away at the world economy.
The dollar's 41 percent drop against the euro during Bush's term writes the economic epitaph of an administration that set out to restore American preeminence. Instead, Bush heads to Japan next week for his final international summit with diminished leverage as Russian and Chinese influence grows"
Friday, July 4, 2008
Wizards From Kansas -- Codine
"The Wizards from Kansas were an obscure country-psych rock group from Kansas. In 1968, four of the five original members (from the Kansas City area) formed a band called New West, and began playing in the Lawrence, Kansas area, at clubs and parties, near Kansas University. Guitarist Robert Manson Crain, from California, joined the group soon thereafter, expanding to a quintet. At that time, the guys were calling themselves "Pig Newton", then Pig Newton and the Wizards from Kansas. The name Pig Newton was apparently one of their inside jokes, however, as there was no one named Pig in the group. The band would often make up stories about Pig Newton to confuse people, according to Crain (whose songs, incidentally, are credited to either "C. Manson Roberts" or Mance Roberts).
The five-man group played shows in the local area, and in the summer of 1969, toured the east coast. They were invited to play the Fillmore East in the fall of that year, a gig that led to them being offered a number of record deals, which they initially turned down. Finally, towards the end of the year, Mercury Records persuaded the band to sign a contract. The label reps did not like the "Pig" part of their name, however, and made the group drop it. Six months later, in July and August of 1970, the Wizards From Kansas recorded their eponymous debut album, The Wizards From Kansas, in San Francisco. The album was issued in October, but a week before its release, drummer Marc Caplan and bassist Bob Menadier decided that they'd rather play jazz instead of rock and left the band to pursue those interests. With no band to promote the record, Mercury lost interest and the album sank without a trace. The Wizards From Kansas disbanded shortly thereafter"
Wizards From Kansas -- Freedom Speech
Wizards From Kansas -- She Rides With Witches
Wizards From Kansas -- Mass
All tracks are from the self-titled album.
Bunning: "Regular order!"
Byrd: "Who said that?"
Bunning: "I did."
Byrd: "Who are you?"
Bunning: "I'm a senator."
Byrd: "You're a great baseball man."
Bunning: "I'm a senator; I have the same rights as you."
Byrd: "Yeah, man, you're a senator." [Ends by laughing hysterically at Bunning.]
Bob Dylan -- Maggie's Farm
From Bring It All Back Home.
Bruce Springsteen -- The Rising
From the album of the same name.
The Rolling Stones -- Gimme Shelter
From the Let It Bleed album.
Artists: These are artists he mentions in the article but not the specific songs. The songs are of my choosing.
Bob Dylan: Obama reference the entire album Blood on the Tracks as one of his favorites...I've selected two songs from that.
Bob Dylan -- Buckets of Rain
Bob Dylan -- Shelter from the Storm
These two tracks are from Blood on the Tracks.
Aretha Franklin -- Chain of Fools [Live]
From Aretha in Paris.
Stevie Wonder: Obama is apparently a big Stevie fan and he mentioned five albums in the interview that come from the 70's.
Stevie Wonder -- Girl Blue
From Music Of My Mind
Stevie Wonder -- Big Brother
From Talking Book
Stevie Wonder -- Heaven is 10 Zillion Light Years Away
From Fulfillingness' First Finale
Stevie Wonder -- Higher Ground
Stevie Wonder -- Sir Duke
From Songs in the Key of Life
Earth Wind & Fire -- September
From their Greatest Hits collection.
Elton John -- I'm Still Standing
Elton John -- The Bitch is Back
Both tracks are from Greatest Hits 1970-2002.
John Coltrane -- Impressions [Live]
From the Live in Antibes 1965...which can be yours for only $1.78.
Miles Davis -- Directions
From The Cellar Door Sessions.
Miles Davis -- Salt Peanuts
From the Steamin' album.
Charlie Parker -- Koko
From The Talented Mr. Ripley Soundtrack.
Howlin' Wolf -- Killing Floor
From The Definitive Collection.
Sheryl Crow -- All I Wanna Do
From the Tuesday Night Music Club album.
Sheryl Crow -- D'Yer Mak'er [Led Zeppelin Cover]
From the Ecomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin album.
Jay-Z -- Big Pimpin'
From the MTV Unplugged album.
Jay-Z -- 99 Problems [Grey Album Version]
I don't think we've ever gotten to #1 on the list...but then again The Who never made it either.
I'm off to get a 'slaw dog...or two.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
I've got to say that I do love Christopher Hitchen's writing pre-Desert Storm II [I particularly liked Why Orwell Matters] but there are times over these past few years in which I wished he could be water boarded...well, my wish came true.
The video of this procedure is semi-shocking and Hitchens lasts about 10 seconds...which is about 5 seconds longer than I would make it...What did he think of the experiment? Let the title of the article speak for itself "Believe Me, It's Torture."
It's easy to forget that Hitchcock was English and not American. His films were American, his actors were some of the biggest stars this country has ever produced and they were released by American studios. Because his films are American national treasures, it is easy to assume that Hitch is one as well. His national treasure status is an honorary one and watching The Trouble With Harry quickly reminds you of Hitch’s roots.
The Trouble With Harry couldn’t be more of a British comedy if it involved John Cleese and a dead parrot. Its subject matter is macabre as a small child (The Beav, Jerry Mathers, in his first role) discovers a dead body in an idyllic Vermont wooded area. The man is laying there with dried blood on his forehead from some kind of deep wound. The hard luck rabbit hunter believes he fired the fatal shot that killed the well-dressed stranger. The man’s estranged wife believes she killed him when she knocked him loopy by hitting him in the head with a milk bottle. A local spinster, who the victim mistakes for his wife in his delirious state, believes she killed him when she defended herself by striking him in the head with a spike at the heel of her shoe.
None of the characters are that broken up by his death. To the hunter and the spinster, he’s just a body. The estranged wife says she doesn’t care if they stuff him as long as he remains dead. And the local artist wants to use the situation to get closer to the new widow. The boy, the widow’s son, isn’t the least bit disturbed by finding the body. He’s weird enough as it is. There is no horror or revulsion at dealing with a dead body, burying and exhuming it several times within 24 hours. The only concern is in not having to explain themselves to the local deputy sheriff, a Barney Fife without the charisma and charm. There is so little crime in the town that he gets paid by the arrest.
The humor is filled with the kind of non-sequiters loved in Britain. When Jerry Mathers shows off his dead rabbit, the kindly hunter asks him, “What do you call it?” The boy looks at him, matter-of-factly, and replies, “Dead.” An American film would have the film’s final joke be one designed to get guffaws. Hitchcock goes for the rimshot instead.
A typical Hitchcock dame was mysterious and alluring. She had a tough exterior, but retained all of her feminine wiles. Think of Eva Saint Marie in North by Northwest. Shirley MacLaine’s character was none of that. In the space of one day, she went from having her first conversation with the suave artist to being engaged to him. It is difficult to see why she was such a catch. If the typical Hitchcock leading lady was the girl in high school who smoked, dated college guys and had a cold sensuous nature, MacLaine’s character was the girl with the boyish haircut who had a facial tic and was prone to blurting out non-sensical answers in class. Yes, she might be endearing, but she isn’t someone you trip over yourself to land.
This wasn’t a film Paramount was tripping over itself to make. Hitchcock wanted to make it ever since he read the original story. Had anyone but Hitchcock proposed it, Paramount would have rejected it with record speed. This was a film that only Hitchcock could make. Paramount was willing to indulge him in order to maintain good relations.
This is a film that you will either like or despise. I don’t mind dark comedy in small doses, so I chuckled a few times and would watch it again if I saw it on cable. This is the kind of film that cult followings are made of, so I imagine it has some devoted fans.