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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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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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