Behind the Bastards

There’s a reason the History Channel has produced hundreds of documentaries about Hitler but only a few about Dwight D. Eisenhower. Bad guys (and gals) are eternally fascinating. Behind the Bastards dives in past the Cliffs Notes of the worst humans in history and exposes the bizarre realities of their lives. Listeners will learn about the young adult novels that helped Hitler form his monstrous ideology, the founder of Blackwater’s insane quest to build his own Air Force, the bizarre lives of the sons and daughters of dictators and Saddam Hussein’s side career as a trashy romance novelist.

Part One: The Twilight Zone Movie

Part One: The Twilight Zone Movie

Tue, 17 May 2022 10:00

Robert sits down with Caitlin Durante to discuss one of the greatest disasters in film history.

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Hey, Robert here. It's been like two months since I had LASIK and I'm still seeing 2020. All I had to do was go in for a consultation, then go in for a maybe 10 minute procedure and then my eyes have been great ever since. You know, I healed up wonderfully. It was very simple, couldn't have been a better experience. So if you want to explore LASIK plus I can't recommend it enough. They have over 20 years experience in the industry and they performed more than two million treatments right now if you want to try getting LASIK plus you can get $1000 off of your surgery when you're treated in September, that's $500. Of per eye, just to schedule your free consultation. Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried true crime. And if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams. Let's breaker handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's Want to say I don't know less? Listen to stuff you should know more. Join host Josh and Chuck on the podcast packed with fascinating discussions about science, history, pop culture, and more episodes. Dive into topics like was the lost, city of Atlantis Real? And how does pizza work? Say goodbye to I don't know, because after listening to stuff you should know. You will listen to stuff you should know on the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. That's that's that's it. That's the whole thing, how we're starting the episode, Sophie. The ********. The only podcast where the host, Robert Evans, is sick. Caitlin Durante, how are you doing? I'm doing quite well, thanks. I'm sorry to hear that you're sick. Just as a heads up, we're going to be relying entirely on you for our, our, our frenetic energy this week, so, all right, you better bring it. Yeah, here we go, everybody. It's behind the ********. Thank you, Caitlin. This is exactly what we needed. Now, Caitlin, you are the host of a podcast. Well, the Co host, but I'm in a feud with your co-host, so I'm just going to say you're the only host of the Bechdel cast. To hell with Jamie Loftus and his *** **** Webby. Don't cosign that. Also shout out to shout out to our Webbie that we won, shout out to your Webbie. Indeed. Huge Congrats. Very proud. Caitlin, how do you feel about movies? Well, Robert, I'm so glad you asked me about how I feel about movies, because I famously have cultivated an entire personality around. Movies and loving them and I really have nothing else going for me. Yeah, I mean your nickname famously is Caitlin. I think films are not at all problematic. Durante. Which is a little bit of a mouthful, but you know. Too many syllables, too many syllables. But you know we respect your choices. Daddy, who do you got a favorite director? I honestly. That I should, I should for how I much I don't want to anyone should, but I forget. Well, well, we'll be talking a lot about auteur theory in a little bit. But yeah, I think it's debatable as to whether or not you should have a favorite director. That's the thing. I mean, because there's no one director who has made like every movie in their repertoire, their overall. Are there other ways? Maybe George Miller. Short well, have you seen happy feet though? That I thought happy feet was about kind of a bank. Know that I am the only person, apparently, who thinks that happy feet sucks ****. But wow, wow. Strong opinions on happy feet. Well, what what's fun about George Miller is number one. He comes up in this episode, although not in a negative way. But you know, he's one of those directors where if you're talking about things you don't like, you're generally talking just about like, well, this film didn't work for me. Right, sure. To today, we're primarily talking about a director who inspires rather more strong opinions for for important reasons. Caitlin, what do you know about John Landis? I know, OK, here's everything I know about John Landis, which is not very much. I know that he directed a film in which. Either some people died or some horses died. OK, that's good. That's good. Good start. Good start. OK, people dying in horses dying. But we're all just animals, aren't we? In the world, on the on the Earth. I I've I just remember there being conditions on his set which were very dangerous and some living things died. You're going to have fun with this one. You talk a lot about directors that are like their movies are problematic because of issues with like gender and and other kind of stuff like that with with John Landis it is it is problematic on a level of like human rights violations that lead to deaths. It's a hoot, Caitlin. We're going to have fun with this one. First, we're going to talk a little bit about some film theory now. You know, you live in LA now. I lived in LA for half a decade. We both worked in and around the entertainment industry. And I think we can both agree that the worst people on planet Earth are film nerds, right? There's film nerds and then war criminals just a little bit lower than than film nerds. You know, that's that's how I tend to think about it as a film nerd. Certainly one of the worst people walking on this earth. Yes, yeah, we need a Nuremberg for people who think too much about Magnolia. PTA and other director that sometimes I'm just like, why are we all going to bat for this guy so much? Ohh man, that Tom Cruise in that movie is a pretty incredible performance though. You know what is is. As much as I love to hate Tom Cruise, I also love to love a lot of his performances. Look, you you can't you can say a lot of things about Tom Cruise, and most of them are bad, but you can't deny it. The man is a star. He's he's he's a star and he's a talented performer. Yeah, absolutely. So. We're talking about kind of auteur theory, right? Which is a term that we get. I've read a few things on this. I'm not an expert on any of this, but it seems broadly agreed upon that, like the word emerged in its common usage in the 40s and 50s among a bunch of like French film nerds, and the basic idea is that the director of a film should be seen as the author of that film, and thus films are primarily reflections of the specific vision of whoever directs them, if you're looking at a film made by a specific director. Going to have themes and visual cues that work as signatures. This is obvious. Like, this is not like prop particularly problematic. It's obviously true of a lot of directors, at least. There's certainly directors like Brett Ratner where it's like, I could, I couldn't tell you if that was someone else's film or Brett Ratner's film, because they're all, they all look like a million other films. But then there's guys like, like if if if you put a Quentin Tarantino film on that you've never seen or heard of, you'll you'll immediately be like in 10 minutes, oh, this is a ******* Quentin Tarantino film, right? Yes. Same with like Paul and Paul Thomas Anderson sympathy. Even like a guy you wouldn't, most people wouldn't call an artist like Michael Bay. You put a Michael Bay film on. Most people are gonna be like this. This seems like a Michael Bay movie is an author. And yeah, absolutely. It has very recognizable conventions that he uses in his filmmaking and storytelling and, you know, all that stuff. So as kind of a basic sort of element of analyzing film, there's nothing like highfalutin or even like problematic about the idea of like. An odd, like odd auteur theory, right? Like, it's not neutral. Yeah, it's it's just like a pretty neutral concept. It's kind of hard to argue with at at its basic level. The term itself was coined by, again, a bunch of French film critics writing in a journal I'm not going to try to pronounce, and a lot of these guys became French new wave directors. New York University professor Julian Cornell points out that the basic idea of an auteur in a film had existed as long as films had, and it probably originated its most clearly from a German theater. Director Max Reinhardt. In the 19 teens the concept started to gain popularity though in the United States starting in the 60s and 70s. And this came alongside the rise of like the directors generally seen as like the auteurs right, guys like Alfred Hitchcock, Marty Scorsese, Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola and William Friedkin. Right. And these are the the area in which like this idea of like the and it kind of expands from this idea that like films have a recognizable author. Or like the director is, this kind of is like the God of the movie they're making, right? Right. They are the only voice that matters. And if you if you wanna really make great film art, they have to just be kind of followed blindly by the people on set. And this, you know, one thing you can't argue with is that this is an era in which a lot of the most influential films of all time are being made, right? You're getting the exorcist, you're getting **** like the birds psycho, you're getting Easy Rider, taxi driver. 2001 a space. The godfather. Like some some pretty ******* good movies are getting made in this. Yeah, that's like defining the language of cinema and yeah, exactly, yeah, the ******* shining, right? So yeah, this isn't the the era in which people start to see directors this way is also the era in which movies that are generally seen as like the most famous movies of all time are getting made. And the sheer density of history, making works of cinematic art in this. Leads people to get a little bit. Carried away with kind of how important a director is and how they should be treated, right? Man power. Giving a man ultimate he's an artist specifically. Not just giving a manpower. Giving a bunch of men in their mid 30s with access to infinite money in cocaine ultimate power in any situation is going to lead to problems, right? Yeah. And it is not for nothing that this is the era in which cocaine goes super viral too. But one of the clearest examples of like how auteur theory can lead to some relief, or how the idea of like, the director is this kind of author of the film can lead to some ****** ** behavior, is Alfred Hitchcock's the birds. This is one of the most famous horror movies of all time, and it relied heavily on the director's ability to mentally and physically abuse actress Tippi Hedren. We've discussed this at some length in our Hitchcock episodes, but I'm going to read a brief summary from a write up. People based on Hedrons recently released memoir, quote Everything, was building towards the famous bedroom scene. Hedren writes of the scene in which her character Melanie suffers a vicious on camera attack by the birds. Up until the day of the filming, Hedren says, Hitchcock had promised her they'd used mechanical birds. But on the day they started shooting, Hedren was informed by assistant director James H Brown that the mechanical birds aren't working, so we're going to have to use live ones. Hedren writes that she endured 5 days of filming where handlers hurled Ravens, doves and a few pigeons at her. It was brutal and ugly and relentless, writes Hedren. Cary Grant, one of Hitch's favorite leading men, happened to be visiting the set that day and told me between takes, you're the bravest woman I've ever seen. On the final day of shooting the scene, live birds were loosely tied to Hedren's costume while she lied on the floor, the actress says when action was called, the birds that were tied to her started pecking her and the Wranglers again through live birds directly at her. So that's good. Great for the actor, great for the animals, great for everybody involved. For an idea of, like, how much this ***** with Tippi Hedren, the next big thing that she will do is spend five years living on a compound with several 100 adult lions and tigers and her family and filming it. They all get horribly mauled. Several times she has her legs shattered by an elephant. This movie again, it's it. It Oh my God, it is a ****. What was the roar? It's called roar. It is incredible. It's amazing because you're just watching. There's like maybe 30 minutes of actual dialogue in the film and most of the movie is them struggling to get through their lines and every like 10 seconds someone gets brutally mauled by an animal. It's so good. It's amazing and it's a mark of watch it because like I I don't want to, but I mean her, tell everyone in involved. That knows what they're getting into. Unlike the birds, where Hitchcock, like, tricked her into traumatizing her, they they knew we're living in a house with 200 lions and tigers, right? Like nobody's misled about the danger, and it's a mark of, like, how much Hitchcock, how much damage he did that I don't think Tippi Hedren considers being repeatedly mauled by giant animals to be the most traumatic event of her career. Like, you know, like watching roar and realize like that to her was a lot less bad than working with Alfred Hitchcock watches roar often. I love this movie. It's the, it's the, it's the movie he decided to put on. When my mom and I came to his house, he was like, no volume. Yeah, you don't need to hear the dialogue. It's not important. Such a good movie anyway, so there's nothing inherently problematic or wrong about using auteur theory to analyze movies, but the obsession with these directors is the sole voice and driving force behind their art. Led repeatedly to whole teams of adults just kind of standing by. While again, dudes often think Hitchcock was older, but often just like dudes in their 30s or 40s abused entire cruise full of people and specifically generally female act like actors. Like that's where most of the violence comes down, and a really good example of this. Would be the classic William Friedkin film The Exorcist. Now, this is still considered to be one of the scariest movies ever made. Friedkin was obsessed with the idea that his movie wouldn't be frightening enough to the audience if he didn't deeply traumatize his actors. Ellen Burstyn played the mother of a possessed child in the movie, and one day her daughter, played by Linda Blair, pushes burst into the ground. Now, that doesn't seem like it should be a super intense scene, but again, Linda Blair is like possessed with a demonic spirit, right? So she's super strong. So Friedkin wanted to have burst and basically yanked to the ground. By a wire police system to simulate being like, shoved by demonic super strength. Hurston later recalled quote when she knocks me to the ground, I landed on my back and William Friedkin said cut, take two. And I said, Billy, he's pulling me too hard because I had a wire pulling me to the floor. And Billy said, well, it has to look real. And I said, I know it has to look real, but I'm telling you I could get hurt. And so he said, OK, don't pull her so hard. But then I'm not sure that he didn't cancel that behind my back because the guys smashed me into the floor. And this is hard enough that she suffers a permanent spinal injury. Right, like she's injured the rest of her life because of this scene. And there's a bunch when the Exorcist comes out, a whole lot's made about like, uh, most of the advertising campaign has to do with like. People have seizures in this movie. Like, you can't come in after it's started. It's too scary. Like you won't be able to handle it. Like people are like getting hospitalized. Like that's that's a whole big part of, like, the push behind this movie is that it's hurting the audience. And like, I'm going to say right here as as someone who's watched and enjoyed the Exorcist, Friedkin was nuts because that movie was not scarier because they permanently damaged Ellen Burstyn's spy. Like, no. They could have done without that. There's like, look, there's some very frightening movies that I have seen in my life. It follows very scary movie get out, very scary movie. That one VHS, where their documentary crew and they come upon a bunch of like a demon cult in the jungle. Pretty scary. I don't think any of those movies permanently damaged somebody's spine. Yeah, it's not, it's not necessary for there to be horror in your movie. It's like that. Famous I forget who it is who's supposed to have said this about like method actors. But it's like you could just like act instead like you don't need to, you don't need like a police system to damage your actresses spine. She could just act. That is the thing about like method acting and author directors who abuse their power is just like it's not considering for a second how your choices. Are affecting other people because you like seeing your vision into fruition and not compromising your vision for any reason is like the most important thing. And it's like, no, the most important thing is that your workplace is safe and it is a movie, but it is. It is a movie. Like the stakes are not. You don't need to nearly kill people to see your vision come to life. That is not how that works. You you almost exclusively see it with people directing horror, right? Like, that's where really a lot of the worst abuses come from. Like, you could look at the shining too, where it's not so much physical, but Shelly Duvall is like really mentally abused in that movie. Yeah. And I guess because they want realism or some ****. I, I'm a big Michael Mann fan. I, you know, I'm a, I'm a gun nerd and the movie heat is is regarded by like, people who are professional. Gun users as a perfectly accurate movie, with the gunfights that that big bank is just like technically everything ideal. You notice that Michael Mann did not put life bullets in those guns and require his actors to get shot for real. Because, again, you can film an incredibly convincing gunfight without killing people, and that's the beauty of cinema. Yeah, because it's a movie. It's it's just wild to me that anyway, this is not. The only injury on the OR even the most severe one on the the set of the Exorcist. And I I want to note here too, Burstyn, who suffered that permanent spinal injury years later, she said in an interview of William Friedkin quote. Billy is one of those directors that are so dedicated to getting the shot right that I think some other considerations sort of fall by the wayside sometimes. He's a brilliant director and I don't want to knock him. However, I did injure my lower back and I had to work with it ever since. But it's OK and, like, it's not Ellen. It's not OK, you can you can knock him, and you should. Yeah, he should get knocked, especially because of the story we're about to tell. Umm, so at least Burstyn was an adult, right? She is. She was not fully informed of how dangerous the scene could be, but she was old enough to choose to get injured on a set, right? Stunned actors do that all the time. Linda Blair was 14 years old when she played the possessed little girl in The Exorcist. Now, one famous scene called for her to shoot bolt upright. In bed, right? This is if you like. If you're watching a documentary that talks about movies and they show a scene from The Exorcist, this is the scene they're gonna generally show where she like, and it's it's a very, like, sudden, sharp movement. In order to make the scene look kind of properly unnatural, Friedkin again used a mechanical rigging system to move her body. Blair later explained quote in this particular take, the lacing came loose. I'm crying, I'm screaming. They think I'm acting up a storm. It fractured my lower spine. No, they didn't send me to the doctor. It's the footage. That's in the movie. So when you see that scene in the Exorcist, her back is being broken. She is 14 when she's so child and a spinal injury, slash, breaking your back is so scary and has such a high stakes. Yeah. And I mean, Speaking of high stakes now, she does. She's in a couple of other movies. Later on that she also gets hurt, less hurt in, but she winds up suffering severe scoliosis as a result of her injuries. And yeah, this cavalier disregard for the safety of children in the name of shooting a good, scary movie only grew more pronounced over the next decade as the auteurs increasingly took over in Hollywood. The Exorcist was filmed in 1972. The movie we're talking about today, the Twilight Zone movie, was filmed in 1982. 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A therapist can help you become a better problem solver, which can make it easier to accomplish your goals, no matter how big or small they happen to be. So if you're thinking of giving therapy a try, better help is a great. Option it's convenient, accessible, affordable, and it is entirely online. You can get matched with a therapist after filling out a brief survey, and if the therapist that you get matched with doesn't wind up working out, you can switch therapists at anytime. When you want to be a better problem solver, therapy can get you there. Visit behind today to get 10% off your first month. That's better Hey, it's Rick Schwartz, one of your hosts for San Diego Zoo's Amazing Wildlife podcast. In this special episode, we sit down with Doctor Jane Goodall to hear her inspiring thoughts on how we can create a better future for humans, animals and the environment. Getting particularly young children out into nature so that they can experience it and take time off from this virtual world of being always on your cell phones and so on. And get the feel of nature so that you come to be fascinated, then you come to want to understand it, and then you come to love it, and at that point you want to protect it. And then we'll come to the sort of healthy world that I envision as a good future for us. And the rest of life on this planet. Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. Ohh, we're back. How are we feeling? How's everybody doing? Great. I mean, I feel, I feel like I usually do when I'm a guest on this show. And it's just, I mean, I'm, I'm very happy to be here, very happy to be always happy to have you with you. But then I'm also like, oh, right. People are bad. Although I do this, this episode, this topic is is far more in my wheelhouse than anything has been any of the other times I've been on the show, so I feel I'm feeling extremely confident. Honestly. That is very good. You know, one of the documentaries I watched preparing for this was was called Cursed Films. There's a series of, like, episodes about different movies that had horrible things happen on set and on the episode that is about the twilight zone. To be one of the people they interview as, like, a voice of sanity, of how, like, actually, no. All that matters is safety. And it's crazy to take these kind of risks to get a good shot in a ******* movie is like the one of the dudes who ran Troma, which is one of my favorite Troma. Oh my God. It's where I'm James Gunn. Got us started. Among other things, it they did, like, really gory. Violent, like, like, purposefully outrageous. Schlock like sex and nudity and like puppets exploding and blood and got like awesome **** but also had a very good track record for like not killing people because they at the end of the day we're understood that they were just making movies anyway, good documentaries to watch. Also Troma very fun film studio. So both actresses in the Exorcist seem to have the opinion that the artistic qualities of the film. At least mitigated their suffering, right? I'm not gonna make a judgment on that one way or the other. It's there. They're they have the right to feel however they want. I have to imagine that, like, yeah, if if you suffer, but the thing that gets made is like a legendary work of art, then maybe that makes it a little easier. It makes it feel, like, more meaningful or something. Yeah. Doesn't justify it, certainly. But I guess it's like, well, if I broke my back, at least it wasn't for the worst movie ever made. Exactly. And today, like, we're gonna primarily be talking about people sacrificing everything for a uncredible stupid movie. It's so funny. It's not funny. Children die. Anyway, before we get into that, we should spend some time talking about the auteur behind the Twilight zone movie, John Landis. Now, John David Landis was born on August 3rd, 1950, in Chicago, IL. His family were reasonably well. Off his father was an interior designer and decorator. Also, his mother's original last name was Magaziner, which is not something I realized people had as a last name. I actually think it was like her last name from previous marriage. I just never heard of magazine or as a last name, and I think it's silly. I think we need to have an approved list of last names that people are allowed to have. I like the idea of taking a noun, just kind of an object, adding an R or an ER to the end of it, and then making it kind of like a oh, what do you do for a living? I'm a magaziner. Well, that I I guess I would know a couple of ******* which would actually be pretty funny. Do they make ******? Do they? I mean, still do. Tachi is a last name, so hmm, fair enough. OK, the Landis family relocates to Los Angeles when John is four months old, which is a decision that would have cataclysmic impacts on Hollywood for decades to come. When he was a little boy, John watched the 7th voyage of Sinbad, which he told interviewer Robert Elder was the movie that made him want to become a director. Quote, I had complete suspension of disbelief. Really. I was eight years old. And it transported me. I was on that beach running from that dragon, fighting that Cyclops just really dazzled me and I bought it completely. And so I actually sat through it twice. And when I got home, I asked my mom, who does that, who makes the movie. So this is like how he decides he wants to be a director, right? So John gets a job as a young adult. I think he's like 17 or 18 as a male boy for 20th Century Fox. He pretty quickly moves on to working as a Gopher on film sets. Basically, he would just kind of hang around and do whatever. Odd job needed doing and this was under the logic, which is actually really good logic in Hollywood. A lot of people get their start in a variant of this way that like, if you're just there, eventually something you want to do will need doing and you can be like, oh, I'll do that. And that's how you start getting jobs that are more of the jobs you want to do is this a lot of guys, especially in this. Where things are a little more wild, get their start that way. So he gets his chance pretty quickly after he gets started in Hollywood in 1969. Uh. When he scores a rare gig as assistant director on the World War Two heist film Kelly's Heroes, which was filmed in Yugoslavia, he just sort of again been on set at working as a Gopher. And then the original assistant director gets sick and has to go home. And the director is like, well, we need another AD and you know, John Landis is like, I can do that and he gets the job. You know, after this, his career moves steadily upwards. He had more formal roles on Once Upon a time in the West, El Condor. And a number of other action adventure movies. He was known for being the guy who would do literally any job the film needed done, even if it was dangerous, like stunt work and not something he knew how to do. As he later said quote I worked on some pirates movies, all kinds of movies, French foreign movies. I worked in a movie called Red Sun where Toshiro Myfunc kills me, puts a sword through me. I worked as a stunt guy, I worked as a dialogue coach, I worked as an actor, I worked as a production assistant. So he's just doing absolutely any job that they have available and. He builds enough kind of experience, he builds enough connections with other directors and some actors that when he's 21 years old he's able to put together the resources to direct his first feature film. Although calling it a feature film is a little bit of grace that maybe it doesn't deserve things 61 minutes long or something. Or it is. It is ultra low budget. Most of the money is provided by his dad. He, like, takes up a collection from family and friends. The title of the movie is schlock. Like, it's literally called schlock. Very good, good. Here's how IMDb describes it. A small town is terrorized by the banana killer, which turns out to be the missing link between man and ape. Now, I have not watched this movie. My time is slightly more valuable than that, but I also came across a fan summary of the storyline on IMDb and my goodness, I would be doing everyone a disservice if I didn't read that too. A monkey type monster falls in love with a blind girl which thinks that he's a giant dog after kidnapping the girl and fleeing. King Kong like onto the roof of a gym. He gets involved with the army. Now. I have not seen this movie John Landis. To be to be entirely fair, John Landis is on the record as saying it's terrible, right? So, like, he he he does not pretend this was any good, and it was supposed to be like a so bad it's it's funny movie, right? Like that was the goal. This was not like a serious like, it was a loving sendup of of of ****** monster movies. That's why it's called schlock, you know? Now John wrote, directed and starred in costume as the Eight Monster. He had actually originally intended his first film to be an underground **** movie, but he apparently gave up on the idea when he learned that he'd need to cut in organized crime. So if you're wondering where John Landis's moral lions lie, I guess that's that's as close as you're going to get. Again, schlock was a really bad movie, but it did have one thing about it that was undeniably excellent. The monster costume was really good, and it's really good because Rick Baker did the costume. Now Baker would go on to play King Kong. In 1975, he did the makeup for The Exorcist, for Star Wars, for the Rocketeer, for the Nutty professor, for men in Black, for mighty Joe Young. Hellboy for just like, he's a legend. Rick Baker's huge, incredibly influential makeup artist Landis could never have afforded him as an actual professional, but Rick Baker wasn't yet a professional Max landed. Or John Landis stumbles into Rick Baker when he's like, living with his parents and cooking latex costumes in their kitchen oven. So he's basically able to get this kid for his first gig, this guy who becomes like a legendary, like monster kind of prop. Baker type dude. So that's one of the reasons why this movie is noteworthy is that, like as much of schlock as it is, there's a pretty ******* cool monster costume on it. So for two years, Landis is unable to get any kind of distribution for his weird film. He makes it in 71. It doesn't get distributed until 73. The closest he gets is an offer from Roger Corman. Roger Corman is an incredible schlock director. He's the guy who taught James Cameron everything, by the way, and Corman offers to distribute it if John Landis, quote adds ****. Roger Corman. OK, 100% agree. Every review, every movie needs more ****. Yeah, if you have, if you have spent 30 seconds Googling Roger Corman, you will be like, yeah, that makes sense. That's totally scance. Yeah. So luckily for John Landis, and probably mostly due to the quality of the monster costume, the film does eventually get distributed because of a single influential fan, Johnny Carson. Now where we will do a whole episode on Johnny Carson because he was a monster. He was. It's a horrible, horrible human being. But he is also like the absolute king of late night television for like half a century. Like basically if you have, if your parents are boomers for most of the time they were alive. Johnny Carson was like the most influential man in entertainment, pretty much. There's no one alive today who has the kind of cultural cachet that Carson had in the 70s like that. We just, it's not possible to be that influential in in pop culture anymore. I want to play a little audio of. John Landis explaining what happened next so you can get a feel for the guy. Uh, and because I think the story is kind of interesting. He very generous and he had me on his show. And it was funny because that time I was 23. The movie was finished for over a year and a half. Buddy, I was told I had to say I was 21 because that's the gimmick was I was 21 year old filmmaker. I go, yeah, but I'm 23 now. Shut up. So anyway, I was on that show and they showed clips and that's I got a distributor like that. So that's how he like, right? It's like a a little bit of a con from Johnny like he. Johnny Carson. Being a guy who knows what gets people interested is like, nobody's gonna care about some kid made a movie but some 21 year old makes a movie. Well, that's a little bit of a story. You know, Mike Carson's not a good accent, but **** **** him. He sucked. So one of the people who watched the Johnny Carson show that night and saw John Landis on it and saw clips from his movie schlock was Bob Zucker. Now that's a last name that should be familiar to people, right? The Zucker brothers are the people who eventually will give us airplane and the Naked gun trilogy, and also a bunch of much worse movies. At this point, there again in like their early 20s, and they're part of a sketch troupe called Kentucky Fried Theatre. And they eventually get together with John Landis and he's the director. They write the screenplay and they put together what's called, like Kentucky Fried movie, which is like, you know, it's like we we've all seen like hot rod is like the movie from ******* what's his name? Andy samberg. Andy Samberg, sketch troupe. Like, you get like, this is the thing that's been happening for forever. This is one of the first cases of it where like, you've got this sketch. Group they're pretty big and they get a movie, right? Like, it's this thing that will become kind of a big part of how comedians break into having their careers. And this is this is like a reasonably successful take notes. Learn how to have a career. Well, it helps to be a Zucker, brother. I'm just like, yeah, I would, I would definitely try being Bob Zucker if you can. Thanks. So with this movie, it's a big enough hit that John Landis makes a name for himself and a universal executive picks him out to direct their next big movie in the pipeline, a college comedy film called Animal House. Yeah. Have you seen Animal House? I have. It's been many years. I don't remember it very well, but I I remember like the noteworthy parts of it, the drinks, the whole bottle of liquor. Yeah, there's some, there's some fun stuff in it. Like, no. But Belushi, like, really was a very talented comedic actor. It's a movie that's got some really good parts. I haven't seen it in a couple of years. I'm sure there's some stuff that hasn't aged well. It has aged better than its descendant film, revenge of the Nerds. Which is like maybe the worst aged movie I have ever seen. It's right up there. It's real hard to beat that one in terms of is now unwatchable. Animal House I at last I saw like, again, there's some really good bits in Animal House, and it's one of those things Animal House invents, like the college comedy genre. Like there's a Futurama episode patterned off it. There's episodes and like a ton of different TV shows based on it. And like every college comedy movie that's come since is patterned off of Animal House. It's also like the first gross out comedy, like it effectively invents that genre of comedy like. *******. American Pie, like a whole bunch of ******* movies, yeah, that that come later are all kind of made in the image of Animal House one way or the other. It also is what kind of really electrifies the career of John Belushi, which does tragically lead us to the career of Jim Belushi. But. You can't blame John Landis for that. So John's first contribution to the film when it's still kind of in production was to make it, in his words, much less hateful. The original draft was it was a National Lampoon movie and they liked mean comedy. And so he he felt there was nobody to root for. He made, you know, the, the, the frat that is the heroes, like a lot less awful. That's kind of the way he's put it. I haven't seen the original draft of the script. He also wanted it to be more authentic, right? He really wanted it to feel real, so he wanted to film it a real university. They actually picked the University of Oregon and Eureka, and he arranges for his cast to party with a bunch of actual 70s frat brothers so that they'll understand what, like, real frat parties are. Like, this does not go well. See, the frat kids were not impressed with having, like, be these guys at the time. Like, most of these folks are like B&C List Hollywood types, right? They're mostly the folks who show up at the party at least, are mostly not big. Names, yeah, and a misunderstanding occurs. And the frat boys beat the **** out of Landis's actors. Whoa, yeah, it's really fun. They just ******* whale on them. I'm gonna quote from Stumped magazine now. Landis was never told about the fight, as he was saved by his first assistant director, Cliff Coleman, a crusty cowboy boot wearing Sam Peckinpah veteran. It was Coleman who insisted that nobody told the director a thing about the brawl, and he also found the necessary medical care for the actors, bruises, chipped teeth and other wounds. He was gruff and big and we were kind of like the grizzled old Sergeant Private, Landis says of Coleman, adding that he was glad he never heard about the fight, noting I would have freaked out now given what comes next. I don't know if I believe that. But whatever you want to say about his tactics in this movie, Animal House is a huge success. It changes the game for comedy blockbusters, and it turns John Landis into something approaching a household name. Now, that was 1978. In 1980, John Co wrote and directed what will probably always be his best film, The Blues Brothers, starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd and featuring every living musician worth anything in the United States. And I know I'm a big Blues brothers fan. I've honestly never seen it. It's a good ***. I watched it very recently. That ************ holds up. That is a good *** movie. It's got like Aretha Franklin in it. It's a really quality, quality film. Features, like the most police cars ever destroyed in a movie. There's a bunch of cool **** in the. And it is also. This is something I think people may not realize who have watched it more recently because most of us encountered it 20-30 years after it was filmed. Animal House was a 2 1/2 million dollar movie, right, which is not like micro budget but is not high budget for the era. Blues Brothers is a $30 million movie. It is one of the most expensive films in history at the time that it's made. Wow, yeah, it's a budget. Yeah, 30 million. Which is like at the time, yeah, huge. Well, because there's, I mean the climax of it, there's like hundreds of police cars crashing into each other, flying off of overpasses like it is a, it is a like the. The the climax of that movie is pretty spectacular. Man, it's really good. It's a really good movie. Max Landis, or just sorry I keep mixing them up. Max Landis is a bad director. John Landis is not a bad director. He's a bad person and not all of his films are good, but like he directed some solid movies and Blues brothers is a really good movie and so this rockets, this makes it. He's a list now right after ******* Blues brothers. It's it's still one of the most successful comedy movies of all time. And at this point he has become like one of the. Are tours that studios are going to shovel money at and try not to **** with. You know, he and Steven Spielberg become friends in this period from 78 to like the early 80s, and the two allegedly have a friendly competition to see who can get the most expensive movie made, right? So, like, they're competing, you know, they're they're like 3334 in this period of time. Yeah, they have unlimited money. Everybody's telling them they're geniuses and they're all powerful on set, right? They're both. Crazy in this period of time, scary. Talk about horror movies. That's a horror movie. Yeah. Now in 1981, John gets to make another one of his screenplays into a movie, an American werewolf in London. It was another really big hit. It effectively invented the comedy horror film as a viable profit making genre. There had been like comedic horror before. This is the first time it's actually like, oh, you can make some ******* money doing this **** right? So by the time 1982 runs around, John Landis has directed one of the highest budget movies of all time. He's invented gross out comedy and he's in he's effectively like invent, help to invent, like comedy, horror as like viable, profitable genres, right? He didn't like create the idea, but he was the guy who like made them make money for Hollywood. He's a *******. He's, he's, he's on top of the *** **** world, right? Animal House, more like powerhouse. That's not. About my best attempt at a joke, but I'm proud of you. Jesus Christ and I love you, Caitlin. I love you. So, Albert, we're the same person. Anyway, moving on. So when Warner Brothers decided they wanted to release a reboot of perhaps the most beloved franchise in American Horror history, the Twilight Zone, they knew exactly who to go to. John Landis. So he signs on to produce the movie alongside his buddy Steven Spielberg, right? It's ******* 1982. You've got John Landis and Steven ******* Spielberg on the same production. Like, yeah, like, right. You couldn't be more set up for success. You know, now it's a little bit of a weird movie because again, it's based on a TV series that's kind of an episodic series. They decide the right thing to do with the twilight zone movie is to make it an anthology with four segments directed by 4 different directors. Now two of them, Spielberg and Landis, are some of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time. The other two are less well known, Joe Dante and George Miller. Now George Miller had just directed Mad Max 2, which is most people have not seen the first Mad Max. It's like a really kind of niche. Like, he's still a cop in the movie. It's set before, like the world really completely crumbles and it's very much like an Australian movie, as opposed to Mad Max 2, which is obviously still Australian but is a huge hit, right? So Miller had just directed Mad Max too, like the year before, so he just kind of broken out as a big director and Joe Dante hadn't yet. He was about two years off from making gremlins, which is the film that makes Joe Dante huge, right? So you've got Spielberg and Landis, which are these. Huge names and then you've got George Miller and Joe Dante, who are going to be huge names, but they're still like kind of earlier in their in their careers at this point. Although I I shouldn't say George Miller is early in his directing career. He'd already spent decades working as like a an emergency medical doctor, which a lot of people don't know about. George Miller, yeah, he was an ER doctor for years and years. Learn that I feel like every few years and then I promptly forget and then I relearn it and I'm just just as amazed all over again if you watch, I mean this is still more or less the case in Fury Rd, but if you watch the old man maxes whenever there's a car crash. Nobody like walks away from a car crash and one of his movies they like crawl while like puking and concussed because he's treat like he's specifically the reason he made the Mad Max movies he says is that like well as a doctor in Australia? We don't have a gun culture, but the thing that our young men do to get each other killed is street racing. And so like that was the a big part of why those movies are the way they are because he's treated a lot of people from car accidents. And that's why happy feet is the way such a brutal movie about Penguin based crime, which is the primary cause of death in Australia to this day. Exactly, yeah. So anyway, the twilight zone movie opens with a prologue scene featuring Dan Akroyd and Albert Brooks. Akroyd is, you know, most famous for Ghostbusters, and Albert Brooks is Brooks's most famous for voicing Hank Scorpio on The Simpsons. So both guys are kind of driving through the night and discussing their favorite twilight zone episodes. As the prologue ends, Dan Akroyd convinces Brooks to pull over so he can show him something scary. He then turns into a pretty corny monster and eats. It's not a great start for the movie. Kind of not very imaginative for again, you know, Landis is directing this scene. He's certainly a guy who's capable of some imagination. It's maybe a sign that the movie was not actually in great hands and that Landis wasn't a good pick. But, you know, in general, most critics agree that Joe Dante's segment of the film, which focuses around a child with the power to warp matter, torturing a bunch of strangers, he's forced to act as his family, as like the best part of the movie. It's it's got some really cool monster work, too. There's like a cartoon the kid pulls out of the TV. It looks pretty good. Uh, George Miller segment is also fine. It's a recreation of nightmare at 20,000 feet. That's the episode with the Gremlin on the wing of the plane, right? But this time, John Lithgow is like the dude who's singing the gremlin, which anything with John Lithgow is instantly a piece of beloved Americana. Absolutely, absolutely. John Lithgow has never done anything wrong. I think we can all agree on that Spielberg segment is weaker. It's a weird thing about old people temporarily becoming young and it just doesn't fit in well with the rest of the movie. I don't get Spielberg's not not like a great horror director, in my opinion. I mean, the only other thing I can think of that uh, well, I guess poltergeist. And then he did duel. Yeah, one of his earliest he's got poltergeist, but I I still don't think Poltergeist is very scary anyway. Whatever. Yeah, yeah. You know what is good at horror? These products and services because there's nothing more frightening than capitalism, Caitlin. It's an engine of blood churning us all ever closer to destruction. Just as. 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Was it cruel to animals, like, was it factory farmed? Is it cheap because of unfair wages paid to people? And so alleviating poverty is tremendously important. Listen to amazing wildlife on the iHeartRadio app or wherever you get your podcasts. We're back. Sophie seems happy. Nope. No. What what's up, Sophie? You're just so annoying. Yeah, well, yeah, well, you know, you're trapped here. Sophie, Caitlin's lovely. We we we have a network now. Thank you. You are my business partner. Forever. So. Now, we've talked about the other segments of this movie, which again are not ******* worthy, and I'm just going over to give you kind of a context of what's in this film. Sure, we're going to spend the rest of our episode talking about John Landis's segment, which would turned out to be one of the most disastrous things ever filmed. It was a reworking of the old Twilight Zone episode, a quality of mercy. Now that episode, the original Twilight Zone episode, had been about like a young army officer at the end of World War Two, ordering like. There's a bunch of trapped Japanese soldiers and they're like sick and he orders an assault on their position, even though as sergeants like, the war is almost over. We don't need to do this. And he's like transported to earlier in the war as a Japanese soldier in the opposite situation. Anyway, he learns that it's bad to want to kill people, right? Like what? Whatever. It's not one of the better Twilight Zone episodes, I would say. Landis decides to reimagine the episode in some baffling ways. It focuses on Bill Connor, an angry racist who's like at a bar, and he's ****** that he lost a promotion opportunity to a Jewish colleague. And then he, like, curses, says a bunch of racial slurs in front of, like a black dude. And he does a bunch of, like, racist **** and then, like, suddenly finds himself transported to Nazi occupied France as a Jewish man. And then he is transported to Alabama in the 50s as a black man fleeing the KKK. And then he winds up in Vietnam. It's a random villager avoiding bloodthirsty U.S. troops. Now, the script was supposed to end with him transported back to the Holocaust, being shipped off to a camp, and that is a questionable story in and of itself, shall we say. Yeah, and this is the story I think that the studio wants him to tell. Landis has some. Oh, sorry, this is the story Landis initially wants to tell. I think the studio has some notes. In any case, they they want to make the. The ending less bleak. And they want to have, like, a redemption for the character Bill Connor. So Landis rewrites the script so that it ends with Cooper as a Vietnamese villager rescuing 2 young children from an attacking American helicopter. Right. So they changed, you know, what's supposed to be the climax of the episode? Now, as you'll remember from Animal House, John Landis had a thing for realism. And that's, you know, it wasn't necessarily a great decision for making a movie about fraternity kids partying. It's going to be a real problem now that he's making his first Big War movie, because he wants to really, he wants to. He wants his twilight zone scene to have, like, deadly accurate combat recreations that are, like, as harrowing as the actual Vietnam War. So he's really obsessed with having a helicopter swoop in on actor Vic Morrow, who plays Connor and the children as they're struggling through a raging river as, like, explosions detonate this village. Behind them, and gunfire stitches through the foliage around them. This presents some problems. For one thing, no kidding. If if you're gonna hire children, there's certain complications, right? There's certain things you can't do with child actors on set. For example, have them next to explosions and a helicopter that is flying solo that it could hit a human being, right? You're not supposed to do that with small children on a film set, even in the 80s, right? Things are looser than. But even in the 80s, you're not supposed to do this. Also, he want the scene is at night now. Everyone around John Landis is like, well, let's shoot day for a night, right? Which is a way of shooting a night scene in the day that doesn't look as good but is safer because it's safer to have a helicopter swooping low over people while explosions happen in the day than it is in the dead of night. You know, I shouldn't have to explain why, but it is safer. John Landis is like, no, that's not real. But it's also illegal to have children working at night, in addition to all of the other things about this that are illegal. So because the way he wants to shoot this is illegal, John Landis decides to break the law. Yeah, bad boy. I'm gonna quote from a write up by crime library here. The second assistant director, Anderson House, had reservations about working children after hours and around a helicopter and special effects explosives. He shared those concerns with Allingham. House wanted to know if Landis planned to film the kids during the daytime and artificially simulate night and then insert those shots into ones actually made at night. Allingham told him no. Later, House asked if Allingham knew Landis had considered using dummies or dwarf stunt people instead of children. Allingham replied that Landis had rejected those ideas because he thought they would look phony. House pursued the issue and Allingham told him there was no point in discussing it further. In early July 1982, Landis asked George Folsey to locate two young Asian children for the roles. Folsey agreed to do so despite misgivings. Production Assistant Cynthia and I recalled Folsey coming out of a meeting with Landis and production manager Dan Allingham. The trio discussed the illegal hiring of kids and according to Nye, Folsey joked we'd probably will probably all be thrown in jail for this. Folsey phoned Dr Harold Schumann, husband of Folsey's production. Secretary Donna Shuman Folsey knew that Doctor Schuman had often worked with Asian people and asked for his help. Doctor Schuman called a former associate of his doctor, Peter Chin, and explained that he had friends who were trying to cast a couple of Asian children in a movie. Doctor Chin phoned his brother Mark, who had a 6 year old daughter named Renee. Mark discussed this idea with his wife, she, Anhui and Little Renee. Shenhui thought that being in a movie would be a very fine experience for Renee, who would have a lot of memories of what she had done when she grew up, the prospect of acting. Thrilled the girl. So. They get two kids, six and seven years old for this movie. Obviously you see why, like the kids are excited. You see why the parents are excited. Sure the parents are not. We will talk more about this in Part 2. The parents are not being told entirely what these scenes will involve and the kids sure don't know now. From the beginning, John Landis showed a distinct preference for realism in his twilight zone segment over the safety of the crew. At one point he grew furious that his prop teen couldn't suggest a way to. Realistically, there was a scene where like troops were shooting through jungle underbrush. And the blanks weren't realistically tearing up plants. And his crew had some suggestions for how to, like, blow up the foliage, you know, to make it look like gunfire. But they were all gonna take too much time, and Max or John Landis grew furious about it. And I'm going to quote now from the book, outrageous conduct. How long will it take? Landis asked when Stewart said, who's his prop guy said that he would need 15 or 20 minutes, land a shot back impatiently. We don't have that kind of time. Camera operator Stephen Lydecker, who observed that. Exchange next saw Landis and Stewart walk back towards the special effects truck. When Stewart returned a couple of minutes later, he was carrying three Remington shotguns. Stuart handled one of the shotguns himself and distributed the others to members of his team. Lydecker saw 12 gauge shotgun shells set on top of the camera battery. Vic Morrow wanted to know what was going on. Landis reassured him and in a moment cried action. The scene called for Morrow to Duck under the water in front of the banana plants, come back up, and then leap out of the frame as the guns began firing to make sure that marrow escaped in time. Kenny. And also a stuntman who was standing out of camera range actually pulled Vic away from the banana plants. Just three seconds later, the effects men began firing at the plants. According to Stewart, they fired 12 rounds of ammunition at the target. About half were shotgun shells that Lydecker had observed and the other half were red jets, plastic projectiles that are less potent than real bullets but can still be lethal. So they are firing live ammo towards an actual human stuntman who has only not shot because he is physically pulled out of set immediately. Before the gunfire starts. Yikes. This is not good film safety. No, I would say not. This is not how you should do anything with guns except for shoot at people. This is actually pretty close to how you shoot people. Just don't have someone pull them away. If you actually want to shoot a person and hit them, that sounds like this is 2/3 of the way there. Yeah. So Vic Morrow finds all of this really unsettling. He's not happy with this, but he's also an old actor. He's on the downswing of his career. This movie is kind of like a comeback attempt for him, right? He's had a couple of rough years, and he's he's seeing this as like, his best hope for revitalizing his career. And so he he doesn't confront Landis directly because he feels like if he goes to Landis and complains about how dangerous things are, starting to see him on set, Landis will. Yeah, and Landis will blacklist it, right? Yeah, because the director is God. You know, Landis is a is famous for being dictatorial. That's what a lot of people will say, and he does not take being questioned well. So as is the standard in Hollywood back then, safety concerns by the crew are put aside because the auteur in charge of the production had a vision. And unfortunately for everyone that in that vision next included a helicopter hovering low over Vic Morrow, 6 year old Renee Shin, Yi Chen and seven-year old Micah. Mainly in Part 2, we're gonna talk about what happened next. But now, Caitlin, we're gonna talk about your puggles. Oh my gosh. Well, you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram at Caitlin Durante. You can check out my podcast about film, in which my co-host Jamie Loftis and I often talk about our tour directors and the ******* that happens on their sets, usually as a result of. There. Tyranny. So check check that out. The Bechdel cast, produced by our very own Sophie Lichterman. And yeah, those that concludes my plegables. Well, you should also check out my new podcast where I listen to episodes of the Bechdel cast and and devise new drinking games to go with them. It's called get rectal cast with the Bechdel cast and you can catch it five days a week on cool Zone media. So no, check it. Check it out 100%. No, I'm sorry, what was it called again? Get rectal cast with OK, so. But it just sounds like rectal yes. Yes, it does. Yes, that's actually what everyone involved in production told me and I bravely did not listen to them. Well, that's because you're an auteur. Exactly what I shouted to them while waving a shotgun. Ohh, good stuff all right. Hello, I'm Erica Kelly from the podcast Southern Fried True crime, and if you want to go from podcast fan to podcast host, do what I did and check out spreaker from iheart. I was working in accounting and hating it. Then after just 18 months of podcasting with Spreaker, I was able to quit my day job. Follow your podcasting dreams. Let's breaker handle the hosting, creation, distribution, and monetization of your podcast. Go to That's If you could completely remove one phrase from your vocabulary, which phrase would you choose? I don't know. Correct answer. No, I meant I don't know which phrase, and the best way to banish I don't know from your life is by cramming your brain full of stuff you should know. Join your host, Josh and Chuck on the Super Popular podcast packed with fascinating discussions on science, history, pop culture and more episodes that ask, was the lost city of Atlantis Real? 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