Archive for November 25th, 2004

VH1’s “40 Most Awesomely Bad Metal Songs Ever” and revisionist history.

Nov 25, 2004 in Music

No Thanksgiving dinner for me until later this evening, so I’m watching TV and hitting the bottle right now. I’m watching the 40 Most Awesomely Bad Metal Songs Ever on VH1 right now, and while it is quite enjoyable (as enjoyable as VH1’s pop culture crack can be), I have to take issue with the program’s (admittedly well-deserved) derision for late-eighties’ hair metal.

Yes, it’s bad. It was bad then, and it’s even worse in retrospect. But while watching Riki Rachtman, assorted critics and celebrities, and VH1’s producers slam bad metal videos, I can’t help but think that it’s the MTV Networks’ fault for popularizing this trash in the first place. Same with the network’s other bad video shows, in which they trashed “Ice Ice Baby” and other awful hits of the past two decades. If they do another program in ten years trashing the boy bands, hair metal and tween pop they helped to popularize in the 90’s, I’m going to go fucking ballistic.

On the subject of hair metal: As bad as it was, it was virtually inescapable in the late 80’s. In fact, this pop-influenced “metal lite” penetrated so far into the mainstream, that it was mistaken for metal by many people. I had this conversation many times in those days…

Me: “Yeah, I listen to metal.”
Clueless Person: “Oh, do you like Guns N’ Roses / Poison / Insert-hair-metal-band-here?”
Me: “No, that stuff’s crap. I like stuff like Metallica / Slayer / Insert-obscure-thrash-metal-band-here.”
Clueless Person: “Never heard of them.”

The Riki Rachtman helmed “Headbanger’s Ball” was a prime example of this. When it premiered in 1987 (with big-haired future blogger Adam Curry as host), HB was the place for metal fans in the heartland to get their fill of metal videos. In it’s early incarnation, the program ran the gamut from popular hair metal bands to old school metal to the underground. As the decade wore on into the early 90’s, the ascendancy of hair metal overran the program to the point that Riki Rachtman became one of the most hated men in America. (Unfortunate for him; Riki had nothing to do with the selection of videos on the program. That task lay with the network’s programming directors, and Riki’s criticism of the network’s choice of videos eventually cost him his hosting job.)

Eventually, a band called Nirvana came along and sent hair metal the way of the dodo bird. (Ironically enough, Nirvana was mistaken for a metal band by MTV. One of Cobain’s first TV appearances was an interview on HB in a gaudy Victorian-era dress. “It’s a ball, isn’t it?” Kurt wryly intoned.)

Master of the Flying Guillotine : Great Thanksgiving family entertainment!

Nov 25, 2004 in Film

For those of you looking for some Thanksgiving television entertainment, aside from family films, football and cable marathons (especially VH1’s “Awesomely Bad” marathon), you couldn’t do much worse that watching one of the best kung-fu films ever made on extended cable.

Master of the Flying Guillotine (aka One Armed Boxer vs the Flying Guillotine) is a classic in a genre full of cheesy films. The film’s star villain, a blind assassin posing as a monk, wields possibly the coolest weapon ever used in a kung-fu film: a spinning hat-shaped projectile with blades that beheads it’s intended victim. The flying guillotine-wielding monk sets out to assasinate a one-armed boxing instructor who killed two of his disciples in a previous film.

Master of the Flying Guillotine is actually a combination of two film franchises: the Shaw Brothers’ produced Flying Guillotine (in which the weapon is used as a tool in political assasinations), and the Wang Yu starring/produced One Armed Boxer, of which Master of the Flying Guillotine is the sequel.

For a good chunk of the film, the plot is set aside for an tournament sequence featuring some unique and bizarre fighting styles — the coolest probably being the Indian monk with the extending arms. This film also has the coolest soundtrack of any 70’s kung-fu film, featuring the music of German krautrock band Neu! (whose song “Super 16″ was borrowed for Kill Bill 2). Also note the lo-fi rock n’ roll track during the alternate title sequence.

If you have digital cable, Master of the Flying Guillotine will be shown on the Sundance channel today at 3:30pm EST/PST (2:30 CST), and again at 6:30pm EST/PST (5:30pm CST) on the West Coast feed. A two-disc deluxe anniversary edition will be released on December 21, a nice last-minute addition to your Christmas list.