This movie takes me back to my childhood and our long trips to Florida to see the rockets take off from Cape Kennedy. We’d pile in the family battlewagon, wood paneling peeling on the side, and burble south on I-75 until we could smell rotting citrus. “SEE ROCK CITY” signs dotted the highways. Maminka would turn to Tatka and say, “We should go to Rock City.”
“It’s a bunch of crap!” he’d shout, spittle flying, and nearly would crash through the barrier into the opposing lanes of traffic in his dizzying rage fit.
“But the deti want to see it!” Maminka would say. The first time, she turned around and looked pleadingly at my sister and me. We shrugged at her.
One year, Tatka gave in to her, and we drove well out of our way to see Rock City. It was a bunch of crap. “What did I say?” Tatka rumbled, in both rage and victory.
“It’s not so bad,” Maminka mumbled in defeat. But it was bad. So very, very bad.
We continued down to Florida, mostly in silence, the AM radio chirping out the hits of the day. That was the summer that Bo Donaldson and the Heywoods sang, “Billy Don’t Be a Hero.” I remember seeing them on The Sonny and Cher Variety Hour wearing gold-spangled, bell-bottomed onesies, their chest hair in full bloom.
We watched the Apollo rocket take off in a big plume of chemicals, the ground shaking, me with my plastic space helmet on, my sister listening to Bobby Sherman on her little 8 track player shaped like a bright yellow Smiley Face.
This movie brought all of that back for me. The rockets, the arroyos and sagebrush, the mountains with their secret caves… yes, all of those Florida things. “Wait,” you say, “Florida has mountains?” To which I say, “Watch this movie, stupid! You tell me!” I say this in Tatka’s voice, the voice of victory he used on those rare occasions when he was clearly right and Maminka was clearly wrong.
Sure, there are a few stretchers in this movie. It’s science fiction, dummy! One of the stretchers is that we’re about to be invaded by Absinthe Fairies who can flit into the heads of dead people and control their bodies. The Absinthe Fairies, like nearly everyone in the cast of this movie, are from a faraway planet called “New Jersey.” This “New Jersey” is led by a rage-a-holic named Chris Christie who wants revenge on earth, so he sends two incompetent Absinthe Fairies named Nadia and Herman to shoot down rockets. They take over the bodies of a bickering couple and continue the bickering. Herman’s arm keeps falling off. Chris Christie communicates with his two minions on a radar monitor that’s been spliced with a Tesla coil. He demands frozen women. So they find a woman for him, wrap her in a space blanket, freeze her, and transport her back to New Jersey by using a bucket of bubbling chemicals from a Super Fund site. That’s how New Jerseyites get around, you know.
Other things happen. There’s a love story in here, but the acting is so wooden I couldn’t tell if they were serious or not. I’m guessing not. Also, there’s a German rocket scientist who speaks with a Yiddish accent. Back in Germany, some years before, when the Fuhrer would drop by the rocket lab, everybody would say, “Oh course he’s not Jewish mein Fuhrer! Ha, ha, ha! Silly Fuhrer!” And the Fuhrer would say, “I want to see a foreskin on that rocket!” Ja wohl!
Senile, stroked-out Ike was still in the White House, fingering his golf clubs, when this movie came out. I can see him watching this movie in a private showing, while his vice president sat beside him asking, “Are you still alive Mr. President? Blink twice for no!”
“Shut up, Dick! Or you’ll get my putter up your ass!” says the still feisty Commander-in-Chief. “Say, Dick. How many World Wars do you think Adlai Stevenson won?”
“None, sir!” Nixon barks out.
“You are correct!” Ike says, and then passes into a coma for ten to fifteen minutes. He comes out of it just as Nixon is prying the nuclear football out of the grip of the Navy lieutenant commander on whose wrist it is handcuffed. “Put that down, Dick! Catch me up on this movie!”
“Well, sir, the local real estate agent just dressed up like Elmer Fudd. I believe he wants to hunt down those Absinthe Fairies from New Jersey as if they’re wascally wabbits!”
“Or like they’re microfilm in a pumpkin… right, Dick?”
“Hah, agh, agh, hah!” Nixon goes, in his best approximation of a laugh. Or maybe he’s just choking on his own bile.
Instant vacation to “Florida”: http://www.amazon.com/Cape-Canaveral-Monsters-Scott-Peters/dp/B009W4AQQ8