Category Archives: Musical Horror

Grease 2: Part 3 – Make My Stamen Go Beserk!

Not so very long ago, The Great Escape would regularly turn up in the Bank Holiday TV schedules. It was often screened over Christmas, joining the likes of The Sound of Music or the film of Dad’s Army in an unofficial line-up of WW2 themed festive jollity.

It seems to be on less these days, but whenever The Great Escape pops up on telly I like to carry on my traditional viewing of the Steve McQueen motorbike escape chase towards the end of the film. Just to see if he makes it this time. Just to see if once, just once, I’ll be watching a special version in which he gives the Nazis the slip. Of course, he never does. But that doesn’t stop me from shouting ‘Go on Steve…go on Steve…go on Steve…Oh, Damn!’ until whoever I’m watching TV with backs slowly out of the room and comes back with a Calippo and some bourbon to soothe my anger.

Similarly, whenever I watch Grease 2, I find myself hoping* that one of the characters will work out that the Cool Rider who Stephanie gets all excited by is just Michael in some large googles. For after Steph dances away at the end of Cool Rider, one of the T-Birds (T is for Tossmonkey) approaches Michael with a business proposition: they want to pay Michael to do their homework for them. And Michael agrees. Pretty soon, he’s doing homework for all of the T-Birds (How come none of the teachers notice? I’m guessing that pre-Michael the T-Birds either did no homework at all or handed in poorly rendered drawings of ‘lady parts’) so that he can buy himself a motorbike.

So he gets a crappy bike, learns to ride it in about 2 scenes and suddenly the vehicle’s all shiny. You’d think that the bike would get a musical tribute (‘Greased Lightin’ style) but strangely it doesn’t.

Instead, Michael slaps on his biker gear and rides around a bit in front of his classmates, miraculously knocking over baddies (the gang of hoodlums led by Crater Face, the sneery meany from Grease 1) without actually touching them. Stephanie is smitten. People sing ‘Who’s That Guy?’ And then…

Well…Stephanie has a dangerous (but sexy) bike ride with the Cool Rider. Johnny gets jealous. Stephanie gets close to google-free Michael (who has started doing her homework too and has also inexplicably started talking like Michael Caine). Michael can’t handle the deception and sings about it**. The Cool Rider makes a dangerous jump on his bike and goes missing (presumed squished). And then…well…at the end of year luau (yes) Cool Rider turns up, unmasks and everyone sings a sing called ‘We’ll be Together’. (This song is not as good as the song with the same name at the end of the original Grease.) Fin.

I read somewhere that Grease 2 started shooting without a finished script. This would certainly explain the weird patchwork quilt of subplots that don’t quite hold together. In an effort to distract from the wonky story telling, the second half of the film is padded out with a lot of slightly ropey songs about shagging. These songs are not really connected to the plot, but that’s ok as the songs which are connected to the plot (‘Charades’, ‘Love Will Turn Back the Hands of Time’) are even worse.

On the sex song front there’s ‘Let’s Do It For Our Country’ (T-Bird Goose almost convinces his Pink Lady lady friend that nuclear war has started and therefore they must shag. This is all sorts of wrong. And was kind of the inspiration for a terrible Pepsi advert a couple of years ago.), ‘Prowlin’ (all of the T-Birds sing about picking up sexy ladies on their blokey trips around town, even though said trips probably more likely to involve spitting and making rude armpit noises) and then there’s ‘Reproduction’. Oh. Dear. God.

I was going to include a link to the YouTube clip for this song here, but it’s probably not a good idea. That thing is ear-wormy. Do a search for ‘Reproduction Grease 2’ if you like, but please be warned that you may find yourself singing about stamens, pollen tubes and ‘sexual occasions’ (presumably these include Sexual Birthdays, Sexual Christmas and Sexual Pentecost) for the next three weeks or so.

Something I’ve noticed in re-watching Grease 2 is the weird to-do with Caufield’s eyebrows midway through the film. From some (but not all – Grease 2 might look like they made it up as they went along but it probably wasn’t like that.) scenes midway through the film they start to look a bit, well, drawn on. Like he shaved them off and they were painted back on by someone who had never seen eyebrows before. Someone needs to re-edit the film so his brows make sense. Grease 2: The Eyebrow Cut. I’d watch.

Anyway, Grease 2 – no, it’s not as good as Grease 1. They didn’t put enough thought into the story. Or the songs. The characters are pretty unlikeable and unmemorable. But I find that I can’t dislike Grease 2. That’d be like laughing at a puppy that’s just been kicked. Plus, it’s watchable. Watchable in the way that a lot of bad films aren’t.

Also, here’s a thing, there are people who like Grease 2 more than Grease 1. I’ve met them. And somewhere, possibly, perhaps one of them is probably writing a thing about how lame they think the original Grease was.

*Presumably some part of me thinks that films with motorbikes in them are magical and therefore interactive. One day, if I’m feeling especially masochistic, I might try watching I Bought A Vampire Motorcycle*** sometime to see if I can make it into some kind of cinematic ‘Choose your own adventure’ book.

**Because the important thing is to always be yourself. Though in order to persuade the person you are in love/lust with to get off with you, you might have to pretend to be someone else for a bit. So, be yourself even when you’re except when you’re not being yourself. Be yourself even when you’re not being yourself in sexy trousers. That’s the important message of both Greases.

**Late 80s British horror comedy starring Neil Morrissey. I haven’t seen it, but a friend with an even greater fondness for peculiar films than my own watched it on YouTube and sagely described it as ‘a bit bollocky.’



Now Zydrate comes in a little glass vial

The not too distant future. The coastline is choked with corpses and nine-tenths of the island on which our main city’s based is given over to a gigantic graveyard. A plague of mysterious organ failures looked set to wipe out the human race, until the company Geneco invented a quick, foolproof way of transplanting organs. Almost everyone in this society is now in heavy debt, with surgery being pushed as the solution to all life’s ills, and all money flowing towards GeneCo. Default on your payments, and the Repo Man will come to take back the organs you can no longer pay for.

That’s the setting for Repo: the Genetic Opera, a rock opera that was made into a movie in 2008. The plot has several strands, which is honestly part of the problem with the film. There’s Rotti Largo, the CEO of GeneCo, who is a cheerfully unrepentant murderer and torturer and sends his Repo Men out to butcher those who owe him money. He killed a lady because she left him for another man. There’s the other man, Nathan, who used to be a doctor but fell apart after his wife died, and now works as a Repo Man. He keeps his sixteen-year-old daughter prisoner in a room of their house, claiming she has a ‘blood disease’. There’s Blind Mag, a singer with GeneCo eyes who’s hoping to escape her contract. And there are a small host of minor characters, of whom the least annoying is probably the Graverobber, played cool and sexy by one of the creators of the musical, Terence Zdunich. He extracts a substance from dead bodies that acts as the perfect anaesthetic, enabling the surgery addiction of the rest of the populace. So he’s a drug pusher, basically, but a cool and sexy one.

The girl, Shilo, wants freedom and a normal life and to exchange words with someone other than her dad. Nathan is getting tired of murder, and Rotti is dying, trying to decide whom he should bequeath GeneCo – and thus, the world – to after he goes. His three children are collectively the biggest issue with this movie. Paris Hilton actually does a decent job with surgery addict Amber Sweet, but the boys are both dreadful, overplayed and shallow as puddles.

The rest of the cast do a pretty good job, on the whole. Alexa Vega doesn’t really have a rock voice, but she snarls out a few good tunes and fits in well with heavyweights Anthony Head and Paul Sorvino. Zdunich is a lot of fun to watch. The weaknesses of this film are mostly to do with story. It feels as if a lot was left on the cutting room floor. Moments of reaction that aren’t explained, fuzzy motivations – it just doesn’t quite convince.

Having said that, for an audience that likes musicals in general and rock in particular, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Sarah Brightman gives a remarkable turn as the blind singer and the setting is at least original, the visual style of the movie striking, if sometimes a little messy. And though the film that has no compunction about showing off scantily-clad babes heaving and panting at the least provocation, the themes of its story seem to be, at least in part, about the women of the film shrugging off the expectations and assumptions of their paternalistic caregivers to break free, in their own way. That alone is refreshing.

I actually adore this film, but my goodness, I’d be picky about whom I showed it to. A lot of people will bounce right off.

Grease 2: Part 2: Think Pink!

A confused poster on the IMDB message boards for Grease 2 has a probing question, ‘Is “We’re Gonna Score Tonight” a sexual song?’ Either they’re taking the piss or they’ve gone through their life taking the words of every single pop song ever at face value. If that’s the case, they must think that 60% of pop songs are about babies and the rest about food.

The plot of Grease 2 is a gender switched version of the original Grease*. Instead of an innocent young lady falling for a faux hoodlum T-Bird, we have a preppy young gentleman falling for a cool girl who wears sunglasses and is basically a teenage Debbie Harry. In Grease 1, they got a whole song about the fact that Danny and Sandy got together over the summer, when the Rydell High jacket-based social hierarchy did not apply. Grease 2, however has Michael (Sandy’s English cousin) expressing an interest in Stephanie on the first day of school. And Frenchie (back at school for ‘extra credit’) has to explain to him that Stephanie is a Pink Lady. And Pink Ladies have to go out with T-Birds. Or else the universe implodes, or something.

During the film’s opening number (aka ‘Back to School again’ aka ‘decent song number one’) the Pink Ladies say their pledge:
‘The Pink Ladies Pledge to act cool, to look cool and to be cool, till death do us part, Think Pink!’
(If you want to see an animated gif of Michelle Pfeiffer reciting this bit in slo-mo, it’s on tumblr somewhere.)

There’s nothing in the pledge about having to go out with T-Birds, no matter how what massive cockbiscuits they happen to be. And the Grease 2 T-Birds certainly are cockbiscuits. The ones in the first film were twatty enough, but the 1961 vintage are something else. Later on in the film, Principal McGee introduces them at the talent show as ‘The T-Bones’, much to their annoyance. I’m not sure if this is meant to be a ‘Haha – old ladies don’t know what’s going on’ moment or just McGee enjoying winding them up because they’re gits.

Throughout Grease 2, the T-Birds mispronounce the word ‘albums’ as ‘albumens’. They mispronounce lots of other words too, but this one particularly bothers me. How do they know that word? It’s not as if they read books or anything like that. They appear to be the sort of gang whose Mums do their hair for them. Maybe Johnny’s Mum treats his DA ‘do’ to a nice egg wash to make it extra shiny. Unless they mean ‘albumins’, which would suggest that some of them have being paying attention in biology classes which don’t involve singing about flower sex.

Anyway, Michael tries to talk to Stephanie. Who has previously told Johnny the head T-Bird that she doesn’t want to go out with him anymore as she’s outgrown him over the summer. And what kind of man is the new mature Stephanie after? Um, well she explains in ‘Cool Rider’ that she wants ‘A devil in skintight leather.’ Which is a freaky image – would he have leather on his horns? Is he in a gimp suit? Hey, I’m used to all kinds of imagery in songs (lately I’ve been listening to splendid Edinburgh songmeister Withered Hand who sings about pleasuring himself on a friend’s futon and then wondering what what happen if he died immediately afterwards) but…well, she’s only going to grow-up to be disappointed. Or kinky.

Anyway, ‘Cool Rider’ is decent song number two. And soon it’s off to the bowling alley for ‘We’re Gonna Score’, where the lovely Lorna Luft sings a bit like a lady version of Meatloaf, Johnny lipsyncs very badly and then..eep…well, it looks like the decent songs have been used up. And there’s still a lot of movie left. It’s usually at this point that I start to wonder if re-watching Grease 2 is a good idea. And then I carry on watching it, just in case it’s better than I remember. And it isn’t.

Next time: Cool Rider’s mad fighting skillz, the balled of Maxwell’s eyebrows, Where DOES the pollen go?

*Where could Grease 3 have gone with it? Talking dogs?


Grease 2: Part 1 or Strange How Potent Cheap Music Is*

Citizen Kane. An excellent film by all accounts. Almost perfect, some critics would say. A landmark in Hollywood cinema. No argument there.

I’ve seen Kane quite a few times. A couple of years ago, I badgered my family into sitting down and watching it during a Boxing Day Quality Street comedown. We all agreed it was a splendid piece of work.
The thing is, though I’ve sat through and enjoyed Citizen Kane a few times, I haven’t seen it as many times as I’ve seen Grease 2 . I’m not sure what that says about me. Here follows the first part of a far-too in-depth analysis of the Cool Ridin’, rock n’rolling, occasionally cushion-chewingly bad Grease 2. ‘Strange how potent cheap music is.’ Truly the words of a man who never sat through a bad musical sequel. (As an aside, I would have really really liked to hear dear old Noel singing ‘Reproduction.’)

Grease 2, then. The original Grease was so popular that someone thought a sequel would be a good idea. Fair enough. The audience get to re-live their love for the original. The filmmakers get to make some more money. It’s a winner, surely. In fact, there were originally meant to be several sequels to Grease, including one set in the late sixties counterculture. Yes, because that would have been a good idea, wouldn’t it?

(Let’s just imagine what Grease 3/Whatever would have been like for a moment. Superannuated T-Birds trying to sculpt quiffs out of their hip-length hippie locks, Pink Ladies ceremonially burning their bullet bras, Principle McGee of looking on aghast as Rydell High descends into a balls-out full-on freakout and Frenchie is still there trying to be, I dunno, a podiatrist or something.)

Grease 2 is supposed to take place in 1961, though the movie’s version of 1961 is pretty much the same as the 1950-something of the original Grease. Though there are a few 80s haircuts and Michelle Pfeiffer’s dress in the final scene resembles one of the sparkly disco frocks she later wore in Scarface.

Famously, Ms Pfeiffer was one of the few Grease 2 alumni to go on to have a ‘proper’ Hollywood. Which is kind of a shame, really. Lorna Luft does splendidly as a proper song and dance person amongst all the monkey arm moves and terrifying lip synching of the rest of the main cast.

And then there’s poor Maxwell Caulfield. Had he been of age in the actual sixties, he might have done a good line in tortured pretty boys, but instead he gets to sing ‘Charades’, possibly the worst song on the soundtrack. He doesn’t even get to sing it on camera – the song is some kind of internal monologue that plays whilst he emos his way around the canteen. Poor Maxwell.

Next time: America’s dumbest T-Bones, The Pink Ladies pledge and the film-makers get rid of the best songs in the first half of the movie…

*This famous quote comes from Private Lives by Noel Coward. Truly the words of a man who never sat through a bad musical sequel. As an aside, I would have really really liked to hear dear old Noel covering ‘Reproduction.’ That’s almost worth building a time machine for.