Movies

Friday A/V Club: Rock 'n' Roll Invasion from the Moon

Two Firesign Theater veterans recut some ancient movie serials into a conspiracy comedy.

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Waiting for the man or someone like him.
International Harmony, Inc.

In 1979, two comics from the Firesign Theater—Philip Proctor and Peter Bergman—took a bunch of sequences from some pulpy old Republic serials, dubbed in new dialogue, added some linking material, and called the result J-Men Forever. The film is often compared to What's Up Tiger Lily? (1966), the movie Woody Allen made by redubbing and rearranging a Japanese spy picture. And there are obvious similarities. But to me J-Men feels more like a precursor to Mystery Science Theater 3000: As Proctor and Bergman add their smartass comments to these scenes, it's sometimes easy to imagine their lines coming from a couple of robot silhouettes.

The story, such as it is, involves a lunar conspiracy to subvert the Earth with rock music and drugs. At its worst, this deteriorates into stale square-baiting and rote stoner humor. But at its best, it takes some old movies that were already pleasantly weird and amplifies their strangeness into something grand.

The person who posted the movie to YouTube divided it into nine chapters. You'll find them after the jump:

Bonus links: See the Firesign Theater's car commercials here. Watch scenes from another Proctor & Bergman picture here. Check out past editions of the Friday A/V Club here.

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  1. And here comes the IP lawsuit!

    /Marvin Gaye’s Estate

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  2. And you can believe Hillary, because she never lies, and she’s always right.

    Shoes for Industry! Shoes for the Dead!

    1. I came to the sad realization that knowledge of Firesign will die with the generation that grew up in the 70s. Making a Firesign reference around 20-30 somethings these days is like casting pearls before swine, and met with blank stares.

  3. The person who posted the movie to YouTube divided it into nine chapters. You’ll find them after the jump:

    Might as well jump.

    Go ahead and jump.

  4. Youtube really is one of the great features of modern life. It is amazing the things you can find there. So many old TV shows, documentaries, strange movies can be found there. And of course pretty much every single rock and roll bootleg known to man. Some day we will explain to our grand children that there was a time when you had to actually look for things like that and often times just couldn’t get them.

    For years I heard about the famous “Listen to this Eddie” Led Zeppelin bootleg of a 1977 show in Los Angeles or the “Philadelphia Special” never released sound board recordings of them in 1972 but had never heard them. Then came Napster, which provided a taste at very slow dial up speeds. Now we have Youtube and real internet and they are available with a mouse click.

  5. Thanks Jesse will check this out later!

    Loved Richard Theiss’s Zappa-esque intro music.

    MST3K!!

  6. This is a hilarious movie I first saw on the late, great Night Flight TV show. It’s probably best seen stoned.

  7. “What’s Up Tiger Lily?”

    ….Was my personal fave ‘stoner movie’ in high school. everyone needs one. that was mine. The idea of a japanese super-spy named “Phil Moskowitz” was just love at first sight.

    Lines like, ‘mmmmmm…. an oriental.’ were the perfect kind of ‘tastefully stupid’ that appealed to me.

    1. Another other excellent “movie made from other movies” is Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.

      1. Absolutely. Tho DMDWP requires some degree of classic-film-literacy to get all the joke references. Otherwise you miss about 30% of it.

        1. “What are you doing?”

          “Adjusting your breasts. When you fell they shifted out of whack.”

          Rachel Ward… *SIGH*

  8. Thanks for posting- Netflix doesn’t even have a disc of this, been in the “saved” part of my queue forever.

  9. You can buy it on DVD from laugh.com for just $14.11

    There’s a lot of Firesign material at firesigntheatre.com

  10. I’ve loved this movie since I first saw it on USA Network’s “Night Flight” back in the early 80s. My wife gave it to me as a Christmas present several years ago. Still funny as hell.

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