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“Bullet in the Face” creator Alan Spencer shares his series inspirations

Alan Spencer

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By Alan Spencer

IFC asked me to share my influences for creating “Bullet in the Face.” I submitted a list of meds I’m on, but they said they were more interested in the movies and TV shows that fueled my subconscious. A session with a local hypnotist, who also does automotive work, unearthed the following magnum opuses embedded in my brain.

“Johnny Cool” (1963)

“Johnny Cool” influenced me because it starred friendly and familiar faces from TV playing prostitutes and lowlifes. Samantha from “Bewitched” is a hussy whose magic power is making her slacks disappear. She’s madly in love with the title character described as an “international murder machine,” an early example of outsourcing. Long before Albert Brooks’ turn in “Drive,” this film featured comedians playing heavies: Jim Backus, Joey Bishop and Mort Sahl. (In “Bullet in the Face,” I’m honored to have Eddie Izzard uphold this tradition.)

“Impulse” (1974)

Since the main character of “Bullet in the Face” is a sociopathic criminal, I referenced William Shatner’s peerless portrayal in this little seen thriller “Impulse.” The Captain formerly known as Kirk plays a paranoid, leisure-suit-wearing weirdo who romances women and kills them (merciful so they don’t have to see the rest of the film). Shatner inspired me to cast a Canadian actor as our lead, so Max Williams plays Gunter Vogler. Max sometimes pauses in between sentences, but not as long as Shatner.

“Alphaville” (1965)

“Bullet in the Face” takes place in a surreal, crime ridden city called Bruteville. Most people think it’s inspired by a graphic novel or video game, but I admit Jean-Luc Godard’s seminal film “Alphaville” crossed my mind. The movie is hard for me to describe, mostly because I’ve never seen it… but here’s the trailer:

“The Abominable Dr. Phibes” (1971)

I wanted the villain Eddie Izzard plays, Johann Tannhäuser, to have a baroque lair. I imagined him using the same decorator as Vincent Price’s outrageous serial killer Dr. Anton Phibes, a disfigured genius. Long before Don Draper, Phibes was the best of the mad men with campaigns all about terror. The art direction in this flick remains a marvel. I’m pleased “Bullet in the Face” also possesses great visual style.

“Tannhauser” (1843)

My inspiration for the character of Tannhäuser was the fabled knight and poet of the same name. According to legend Tannhäuser found Venusberg, the subterranean home of Venus, and stayed there a long time to worship the goddess. That sounded like a case of agoraphobia to me, which Eddie Izzard’s bad guy suffers from. I’m also a fan of opera and incorporated that into the story. Opera tends to mirror relationships as it always features men and women bellowing at each other.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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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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Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

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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

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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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