Movies 4 Millennials: Steve Martin
Warning: These movies might contain language, images and jokes that have not fully benefited from being viewed in the 21st century. BGCP does not endorse intolerant, sexist, racist or to be honest any other shit against other humans so if you’re here for the banter…..piss off!
In the first of a new series of articles for BGCP, I look back at some of the best movies you might not have heard of. I’ll start with one of my comedic heroes, Steve Martin, rated the 6th most funny stand up comic and the wild and crazy guy who for the last 70s and early 80s created and starred in some of the most bizarre and hilarious movies ever. From the chaotic, The Jerk to The Man With Two Brains, Dead Men Don’t Were Plaid and of course, his own stand up I want to broaden your mind and show why Martin should probably be on our screens more.
Films that are shown regularly like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Three Amigos and The Father Of The Bride depict a calmer, sadder and more mainstream actor but I think we need to delve back almost 40 years to see the real anarchic Steve Glenn Martin.
If characters like Iron “Balls” McGinty, Kitten Juggling and linguistic confusion intrigue you let’s begin our journey back through the mists of time…..
Born in Waco, Texas in 1945 Martin’s family moved to California and after stints as a Cheerleader, as a team member in Disneyland and finally joining California State University as a philosophy major did he start to think about the anatomy of jokes. Coupled with his great hand dexterity, learned at Disney, he postulated the following:
What if there were no punch lines? What if there were no indicators? What if I created tension and never released it? What if I headed for a climax, but all I delivered was an anticlimax? What would the audience do with all that tension? Theoretically, it would have to come out sometime. But if I kept denying them the formality of a punch line, the audience would eventually pick their own place to laugh, essentially out of desperation. Never let them know I was bombing: this is funny, you just haven’t gotten it yet. If I wasn’t offering punch lines, I’d never be standing there with egg on my face.Being Funny, How the pathbreaking comedian got his act together: Steve Martin
Martin bombed on the stage and bumbled around Theatre and TV in the 60s and early 70s he turned his chaotic vaudeville show into an abstract, physical showcase. He removed politics from his comedy and included the audience as a part of the act. As his timing and speed increased so did his appeal and during the 1970s he grew from a short skit artist into what we would recognise. Classics like Comedy for Dogs, The Great Flydini and Orange Juggling all show in early clips.
SNL & VHS
No article about Martin can ignore his profound effect on shows like SNL, as of 2022 he is only eclipsed by Alec Baldwin as a host and the night of his first appearance this show jumped by over 1 million viewers. But with sold-out shows, awards for albums and regular appearances on TV it was time for Martin to move into movies. Now reading up I have found that some of the original movies were actual box office bombs, but in the early 1980s bombed-out movies found a welcome home in Video Rental Shops and found a whole new audience (including a very young and impressionable me)
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid (1982)
A Film Noir spoof, using the cut technique to take old films spliced with Martin and the cast reacting is a fresh and still used technique to film. Later in the 1980s, adverts using the technique for a lager were hugely successful. The plot: Noir comedy directed by Carl Reiner and starring Steve Martin, Rachel Ward and Barbara Stanwyck. Rigby Reardon (Martin) is a down on his luck private investigator hired by Juliet Forrest (Ward) to investigate the suspicious death of her father, a noted scientist and cheesemaker. When Reardon acquires a list of names of ‘the friends and enemies of Carlotta’, he begins to encounter many sinister individuals in his search for answers. Thanks to cleverly edited clips from some of Hollywood’s classic noir films, these suspicious characters are portrayed by such revered stars as Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart and Burt Lancaster.
I know SD black and white films are not everyone’s cup of tea but in the hands of director Carl Reiner and actor/writer Martin the timings, pathos and comedy as a joy to watch. It’s also a great gateway movie to the classic Noir films it lampoons as well as to the early work of Martin.
I give it a 9/10 as a score and you can rent or buy it here
The Jerk (1979)
Navin is an idiot. He grew up in Mississippi as the adopted son of a black family, but on his 18th birthday he feels he wants to discover the rest of the world and sets out for St. Louis. There everyone exploits his naivete until a simple invention brings him a fortune. Martin’s blank face timings as he drops joke, after joke, after joke mean that there’s something for everybody in this movie. This is Forrest Gump set in 1979 with lots of swearing and jokes. His pet dog, Shithead guides him through his journey from rags to riches and back to rags again. At its most depraved we see the hidden sport of Cat Juggling and I only hope you find it in your heart to donate to stamp out this despicable sport.
Again, most streaming services have this to rent from as little as £2.49
The Man With Two Brains (1983)
Recently widowed Doctor Michael Hfuhruhurr, the world’s greatest neurosurgeon, injures Dolores Benedict in a car accident. He operates on her and saves her life using a technique of his own invention: cranial screw-top brain entry. As Benedict recovers, Hfuhruhurr falls in love with her and they are soon married. However, Benedict is only interested in Hfuhruhurr’s money and Hfuhruhurr still yearns for his previous wife. They travel to Vienna to attend a medical conference where Hfuhruhurr finally divorces Dolores, meets a mysterious Doctor Alfred Necessiter and becomes entangled in a series of murders committed by The Elevator Killer.
This film is probably up there with Spaceballs, Airplane and Young Frankenstein as my favourite comedies. Hfuhruhurr saves the life (and brain) of Benedict (played by the stunning Turner) but in Vienna finds his soulmate in Anne Uumellmahaye a disembodied brain in a jar that he falls in love with. No second in the movie is wasted without trying to cram in another joke.
For me, the movie is at its best with a sexually frustrated Hfuhruhurr starting to hump the walls, doors and desk after Benedict keeps enticing him but refusing to consummate. Even in 2022 it shows that you shouldn’t expect sex no matter what you’ve encouraged! The penis through the window just out of the scene adds additional effect!
Again you can rent the movie for just over £3.50.
Only Murders In The Building (2021)
Three strangers share an obsession with true crime and suddenly find themselves wrapped up in one. When a grisly death occurs inside their exclusive Upper West Side apartment building, the trio suspects murder and employs their precise knowledge of true crime to investigate the truth. Perhaps even more explosive are the lies they tell one another. Soon, the endangered trio comes to realize a killer might be living among them as they race to decipher the mounting clues before it’s too late.
For those enjoying this series, which I think actually peaked with the silent episode 7 you will not have long to wait to see what happens after the cliffhanger of a finale. For new fans, you can watch it on Disney+ and binge them greedily to get ready for season 2.
I hope you enjoyed this Movies 4 Millennials: Steve Martin article and I’ll be writing one every few weeks to showcase great films from the 1980s or even earlier!
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