DID YOU READ

Five camp moments from the Cold War.

Five camp moments from the Cold War. (photo)

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Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall, which passed with less fanfare than you’d expect. The Los Angeles Times‘ Betsy Sharkey had a decent list of Cold War movies she digs, along with a lament for a past of clearly defined villainous foreigners and heroic Americans. But while you’ve probably heard of most of her picks or should’ve, where, then, are the truly bad examples of the Cold War on film, the hoariest detritus caught in a political culture trap? Here are five oddities:

“The Red Menace” (1949)

The ’40s and ’50s didn’t lack for hysterically titled referendums on the menace within our borders. (“I Married A Communist” is as memorable a title as there is.) “The Red Menace” is the story of embittered ex-GI Bill Jones (Robert Rockwell), who falls for Party operative Nina Petrovka (Hanne Axman) until both of them figure out the Communist Party does not have the best interests of the American people at heart, at which point they flee and — as Dennis Schwartz explains — “give themselves up to a small-town Texas sheriff, who sympathetically listens to their story all night and it’s decided that they acted stupidly by joining the Party and now will get married and raise their children to be good citizens.” They probably should’ve figured this out before attending a meeting where a dissenter is labeled “a Mussolini-spawned Dago who wants to grovel at the feet of the exploiters of his own people” by the woman in charge. Said Italian-American is beat up in short order, leading the dear leader to ask “What’s the matter with you, Nina? Weak stomach — or is it your loyalty?” That clip’s below.

“The Iron Petticoat” (1956)

Katherine Hepburn and foreign parts never really got along: her turn in 1944’s “Dragon Seed” as Chinese villager Jade Tan was poorly received. Even odder is this Hepburn-Bob Hope vehicle, where she plays Captain Vinka Kovelenko, who flies to London, after being passed over for promotion, where an Air Force captain (Hope) attempts to convince her to defect and become an American propaganda prize. Romance, comedy, etc. But nothing can cope with the disorienting qualities of Hepburn’s accent as she growls “Your face reminds me how vile even a Rrrrrrrrussian can be.”

“World War III” (1982)

The Cold War film as a genre really flourished in the ’80s, launching a final golden age of hyperbolic America-vs.-Russia conflicts (think “Rocky IV”). “World War III” was an NBC miniseries with a Soviets-invade-Alaska premise that looked back to the likes of 1952’s “Invasion USA” and anticipated 1985’s twin double-feature of “Red Dawn” (Patrick Swayze and gang versus Soviets) and “Invasion U.S.A.” (Chuck Norris solo versus vaguely Soviet-ish foreigners). Here, American soldiers duke it out with soldiers on a very fake-looking Alaskan set (lots of fake snow flying around) while President Rock Hudson leads negotiations. This already inadvertently surreal scenario (with grizzled second bananas like Brian Keith in the cast, it starts looking a lot like “Airport ’82: Nuclear War”) is only heightened by the fact that the below trailer is riddled by Japanese super-titles, which somehow makes sense.

“The Ninja Mission” (1984)

This is the kind of movie that was New Line Cinema’s bread and butter during their early exploitation years. It concerns Soviet scientist Dr. Markov (Curt Broberg) who wants to defect to Sweden and is instead kidnapped by the KGB, who convince him he’s now in Sweden and encourage him to keep doing his nuclear research. This is the point when the CIA sends in their crack ninja team to rescue Markov — though, judging by the clip below, this ninjas have an unusual fondness for automatic fire-power. This clip is heavy on implausible gore and really bad stunt falls; it’s also probably NSFW. Fun fact: this is one of the highest-grossing Swedish movies of all time. Take that, “Let The Right One In”!

“Russkies” (1987)

Applying “E.T.” logic to a Cold War treat for the whole family, “Russkies” has young Joaquin Phoenix (then credited as “Leaf”) and pals finding a simply adorable Russian sailor (Whip “former brother-in-law of Kurt Russell” Hubley) on the shores of Florida and taking him in — buying him clothes, taking him to the mini-golf course, teaching him how to play arcade games. Nevermind that the sailor was part of a Russian trio assigned to steal computer parts from the local U.S. military base — your eyes may well melt at this warm and fuzzy clip. Song montage!

[Photo: No-goodniks Boris and Natasha of “The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show,” 1959-1964, Sony Wonder.]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.