A few months ago at the old site, there was a Friday Five (the series returns this week, folks!) where five songs were featured that were completely redefinied by their inclusion in major motion pictures.
Of course, several movies have rendered a second lease of life to songs of old previously long-since forgotten, and always on the lookout for new series possibilities, I thought, “Hey, why not take a look at other such motion picture-led rebirths?”
And so today we launch…
Songs rediscovered and redefined through film.
“Blast From the Past” is one of the movies that you wouldn’t pay to see, but once it came out on video/DVD (wherever most of society was at the turn of the century), it was an alright rental for a family movie night. Now it pops up every once in awhile on basic cable, and if its star power (Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken and Dave Foley, notably) wasn’t enough to make you cough up $7.50 10 years ago, it’s at least enough to keep you interested until a commercial break now.
If you haven’t seen it, the basic idea is this — there’s this family in California, the father (Walken) is an extremely intelligent guy, but is routinely lambasted by colleagues as a bit of a nut. He has a bit of fear of nuclear annihilation and builds an elaborate deep under the family’s home that can serve as a formidable housing unit for as long as it takes the after effects of nuclear explosion to wear off. One day a plane crashes into the house, and thinking nuclear war is underway, moves himself and his pregnant wife underground for about 30 years.
They raise a well-behaved, intelligent kid (Fraser), and after about 30 years, they get a bit antsy and want to go up and see what the world’s like now that the nuclear holocaust is over. Of course, a bomb never went off — society just charged right ahead without them, but when Dad pops up for a peek, he comes back down mortified at the changed world. The kid pleads to go up and be afforded the opportunity to find a love and life of his own, and of course, all sorts of outrageous hilarity ensues as a kid raised in a 1950s world tries to make it 1990s Los Angeles.
This is the scene where he encounters his muse — a typically cynical, uneasy-to-impress 1990s chick, played by Silverstone (start really paying attention at the 4:17 mark):
Growing up, I didn’t really know much about Perry Como. My great Uncle Gene would go on and on about him and say his name with ridiculous reverence (much like Fraser’s character in the above clip), but for whatever reason, Perry’s music didn’t make it’s way through the family generation lines like Frank Sinatra’s or Dean Martin’s. Personally, I think it’s just as well that it worked out like that. Not a huge loss, you know?
The charm of the clip above, of course, is the ridiculous pleasure Adam takes in Como’s music (I now find myself saying, “This is where it really takes off!” when listening to any song I particularly like with a friend), and enthusiastically referring to Como as “Perry!” (he also refers to him as “Mr. Como” at another point in the film). It kind of reminds me of Uncle Gene, and makes me wonder whether it was something about the guy that commanded such reverence or if it’s just the way people referred to artists they admired in the late 1950s.
Of course, the real genius of the clip is that although director Hugh Wilson centered the particular scene around the song, more attention is paid to the developing interplay between Adam and Eve and the song serves as just a funny backing to a guy who’s beside himself to hear the song on the radio, and a girl who’s a little weirded out by her overenthusiastic passenger. It plants the seed of the song in the audience’s head, but it doesn’t really pour any water on it or encourage it to grow in any other way.
Which is good. Because while it’s a charming little song, it’s also borderline annoying-as-f*ck, and take caution that when you download and listen to the song, it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. It just will. And at first it’s alright, because it’s an easy hook and is kind of fun to whistle or quietly sing to yourself. But when you find your brain hasn’t moved on four hour laters, you might regret buying Round and Round and Other Hits. Although you’ll certainly understand why the song made it to number one in 1957. It’s audible brainwashing. Maybe that’s why Uncle Gene always said “Perry…” like that, come to think of it.
A couple weeks ago, a friend came up and asked if I had a DVD copy of “Blast From the Past.” I said I didn’t, but I could easily sum up the movie with one song and threaten to mentally handicap all of us for the ensuing 24 hours.
And thanks, Mr. Como.