Greasy Spoons – Hiram’s Roadstand

Hiram’s Roadstand, Fort Lee NJ.

I’ve been meaning to visit this place for months, after a coworker thought I was talking about it, on one of many days when I lean back in my chair and wax poetic about the perfection of a Rutt’s Hut hotdog. He thought I meant Hiram’s. I’d never heard of the place. Then Anthony Bourdain went there on his New Jersey episode of No Reservations, and I knew I had to get there. He also went to Gencarelli’s Bakery in Bloomfield, and Mario Batali shot him in the Meadowlands in that episode, for pretending to be a New York City hotshot chef, when he really grew up in Bergen. Probably one of Tony’s most entertaining episodes.

Anyway, Hiram’s is on Palisades Parkway, a half mile south of the George Washington Bridge. This spring, I’m going to drag Firecracker out of bed, and we’ll walk across the bridge, get some hotdogs, and then walk along the Palisades, and see the ruins of the old Riviera nightclub. And perhaps the ruins of Zabriskie mansion, but I think that’s a long hike from the bridge. Anyway, watch this space for our hilarious adventure.

Fried chili dogs, right. Afternoon delight.

Hiram’s has been selling deep fried chili cheese dogs, burgers, and accompaniments for 75 years. They have a good size parking lot and a fenced in park with picnic benches for enjoying your dogs in good weather. The place was packed this Saturday afternoon, but thankfully there are two lines for eating in or take-out, and I only waited a few minutes. They lack the lingo of Rutt’s Hut and the Hot Grill, but they make up for it in flavor and good old Jersey atmosphere. The grillmeisters sound more like guys working at an Italian deli than the hot dog slingers at Rutt’s, or the Cheeborger guys at the Billy Goat in Chicago. Which is very comforting for a Jerseyite.

Mustang Sally parked near the picnic area.

They serve up sizzling dogs slathered in chili with a slice of American cheese underneath, much like the Hot Grill meets Rutt’s. They use a big dog like Rutt’s instead of a skinny Sabrett’s dog, and their chili has a sweet, smoky flavor. I give them the edge over the Hot Grill. Their fries are crispy and delicious, without being too greasy. Their fries kick Rutt’s Butt, in my opinion. But they don’t have Rutt’s famous relish, so I think they’re about equal. They also have onion rings, that unlike Rutt’s, actually stay in a ring shape instead of being a soggy mess of grease on your plate. So their sides beat Rutt’s. The dogs are about equal, but if you like chili, they have the advantage. Thankfully no science known to man can replicate the Rutt’s Hut relish, so they will always be safe.

They serve a good birch beer, and American beers on tap. I didn’t ask for a marvis. I didn’t want to push my luck. Hiram’s is a great hot dog stand and definitely worth going out of the way for. If you’re heading over the GWB, or cruising the Palisades Parkway through Fort Lee, you should stop in for a bite. Even if you prefer burgers, they seem to be one of the few places left that serves little char-grilled ones, like the now-gone Anthony Wayne, Red Chimney, and other stands along Route 3 and 46 used to. Here’s to another 75 years of Hiram’s.

Charlton Heston succumbs to those damn dirty apes

Charlton Heston dies at age 84

Heston was one of my favorite actors. Everyone knows him from Planet of the Apes, and perhaps Ben-Hur or Moses, but he was always memorable. Even playing a Mexican police officer in Touch of Evil! With the Alzheimer’s, we can only hope that he didn’t suffer. I can’t imagine a worse fate, seeing your own mind go.

He had a memorable cameo in True Lies, and was an awesome villain as Cardinal Richelieu in the Musketeer trilogy in the 70’s. Add Soylent Green and the Omega Man, and he was in many of the iconic science fiction films of the 70’s as well.

Being an NRA member myself, I never held his presidency of the organization against him, and felt that Michael Moore was pretty disgusting in his treatment of him, and it was a sad end to a great career.

Major Dundee is being shown on Turner Classic Movies in an extended cut on April 8th, under their “starring Richard Harris” feature this month, but Heston was also in it, and it’s directed by Peckinpah. It’s hard to pass up Harris, Peckinpah, and Heston working together. I’ll be glued to the set. I’ll probably watch Planet of the Apes tonight in his honor. RIP, Charlton. I hope they bury you with that antique shotgun the NRA gave you, lest no gun-grabbing fat weasel like Moore pry it from your cold, dead hands.

Weird Japan: The Enigma of Amigara Fault

A friend of mine sent me a link for a manga that she said was cool and creepy. Japanese culture? Being strange? No, I cannot fathom this concept. Reading manga is like picking through port-a-potties looking for lost jewelry. There are some real gems in a large cesspool of mental waste. Much like American comics, really. For every Kurt Busiek, whose Astro City comics take superheroes and elevate them to literature, there are a few dozen stories about people in leotards with mutant powers re-enacting Dawson’s Creek with laserbeam eyes (yes, a barely shrouded jab at the X-Men). I like non-hero stuff like Preacher, which kicks DaVinci Code’s ass, and Transmetropolitan, which is Hunter S. Thompson in a bizarre and appealing future, but those are both finished.

Same with manga. There are masterpieces like Akira, and then there’s a few shelves of schoolgirls who are the destined protector of the forest. The high-school drama meets fantasy/horror/mecha-Shiva robots stuff we usually see is for young teens, but Full Metal Alchemist and Death Note were decent. I like creepier stuff, like Junji Ito’s Uzumaki (Spirals) and The Enigma of Amigara Fault.

It’s only 33 pages, a backup story in his manga called Gyo. While I did read all 1500 pages of Akira, I appreciate a short story. Part of what keeps me from being an avid comic book reader is that the medium is neverending. Stories need a middle, beginning, and an end. 478 issues? No way I’m reading that. I did buy all 28 books of the Lone Wolf and Cub series, which I only read on the subway. They fit in a pocket and are mostly pictures, so you don’t go wiggy reading them on a jumpy train.

The Enigma of Amigara Fault begins with an earthquake that reveals a fault line through a remote mountain pass. People who saw news of it on television feel compelled to go to it. When they arrive, they find human-shaped holes in the rock, leading into darkness. Cookie cutter shapes in the earth that seemingly lead to nowhere. As more and more people show up, they find that the caves are perfectly shaped to their bodies, and if they go in, there is no way out, and no one can follow. Owaki, the protagonist, has nightmares about the holes and their origin; what is finally revealed is bizarre and creepy, reminiscent of the 30’s era pulp tales of Clark Ashton Smith. You can read all of the story here. Drr… drr… drr.. drr… trust me, you’ll get it after you read it.

I also liked Ito’s story Uzumaki, or “Spirals.” It’s about a town that becomes obsessed with spirals. While it does get a campy quality to it by the end, it is genuinely creepy in the beginning. I’ve only seen the movie, which devolves into people turning into snails because of their spiral shells, and a spiral of a hurricane appearing over the town. It’s a decent, somewhat silly horror movie, but I imagine the manga is creepier. Maybe when I’m done with all 28 Shogun Assassin books I’ll pick it up.

Stunt Rock!

A blistering rock concert. Death-defying stunts. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Stunt Rock.

I found the trailer for this on youtube last week and decided to find it. I knew it would be trashy, but I thought it would be better than this. I went through a “this movie is so bad it’s good!” phase back in the 90’s. I am long since past that. Unless Joel & the bots are shadowed on the screen, I can’t waste my time with it. Some bad movies are genuinely entertaining, such as Troll 2, or parody bad movies, like The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra. Then there’s stuff like Stunt Rock, which was destined to be drive-in theater filler and is substandard even for grindhouse flicks.
The film is a puff piece for Aussie stuntman Grant Page and the Aussie hard rock band Sorcery, who are both in dire need of one. The thin plot involves Grant moving to Los Angeles for work, and Sorcery going there to play. It begins in Australia, with a death-defying stunt being performed- sliding down a rope over the ocean.

Sliding down a rope in a Stunt Thong.

Now, it may be dangerous. I sure as hell wouldn’t do it, but it’s not what you think of when you hear “death defying stunts,” at least not anymore. The 70’s did have a period of stuntman chic, with Evel Knievel, and the cult classic The Stunt Man, but this is definitely on the low end, and is perhaps better at showing how thankless the job of a stuntman can actually be. He even says at one point, “If it was really dangerous I wouldn’t do it,” which isn’t the best advertisement for the stunts done for this movie. He also has a penchant for showing off his chest, which may entice the ladies, but is also a sign of the era. The 70’s were a hairier time, as Darth Milk has intoned. We had the good sense not to yank hunks of hair out of our bodies with melted wax back then. That sort of made up for the bell bottoms, don’t you think?

“It’s that big, alright.”

The film makes liberal use of clip footage from other movies that Grant was in. Any time he drives, he talks about car stunts, and the movie cuts to a montage of clips of various car crashes, including some from the original Gone in 60 Seconds, with the infamous ’73 Mach I being chased for 40 minutes with 93 crashes. Just rent that movie if you want car stunts, it’s actually quite watchable. Unlike this, which if it were a Spinal Tap album, would get the review “Shit sandwich.”

In Australia, the Road Warrior is a documentary.

Speaking of Spinal Tap, Sorcery could very well have been an inspiration for the film, if anyone had heard of them. The singer and guitarists look like generic 70’s rock types, but the drummer wears a white tuxedo and top hat, reminiscent of Cheap Trick.

The keyboardist wears a mask at all times, like a Mexican wrestler. Sometimes it is black, other times it is made of tinfoil. What really saves the movie are the stage performers who do the band’s live show- Merlin the magician, and the Prince of Darkness.

Merlin is sort of a magical douche, constantly pulling cigarettes out of people’s ears and ducks out of platters, with the camera carefully framing things to make the sleight of hand rather easy to pull off. Ol’ Satan has muttonchops and a Gene Simmons demeanor, but he’s one of the more tolerable characters.

Annoying people with magic!

The stage show with Merlin and Muttonchops Mephistopheles battling it out fill up at least 30 minutes of running time. There’s a lot of stage pyrotechnics and magic tricks, and it is worth watching them on youtube for Merlin’s smug expressions alone. Hey, I just blew up the friggin’ Prince of Darkness, can I get a little applause here? He even gets impaled and still kicks the Devil’s ass.

Stunts… and rock. Stunt Rock. Yeah.

Many of the stunts are in slow motion, but at normal speed I don’t think you’d miss anything. The stunts would be pretty good if they were in a movie, but they just aren’t very exciting to see them on a fake movie set. We’ve all seen people fall off a building into an air bag, seen a stunt man on fire, and seen someone slide down a rope. The stunt clip montages are pretty good, but I wish they listed which movies they came from.

I am the god of hellfire, and I bring you… FIRE!

Grant Page did work on Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, which like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, is unjustly hated as “the worst in the trilogy,” when actually they are both pretty damn good movies. He also did work on the original Mad Max’s insane car crashes, Jackie Chan’s Mr. Nice Guy, and The Pirate Movie (one of my favorite stupid movies from the 80’s).

When Grant asks for a date, don’t leave him hanging. Ha! ha!

If you get to see this movie at a home screening with lots of beer, or a place like the Alamo Drafthouse, with the right crowd it would probably be pretty entertaining. Unfortunately it’s pretty dated now, and the best parts are the Sorcery concert and the clip footage. This is the kind of thing you project on a wall at a party with the sound off, like Weng Weng’s Agent 00 movies. People who love metal bands ironically like Dragonforce will enjoy Sorcery.

This is if you like keyboardists with tinfoil on their face.

The movie might be hard to sit through twice, but I wouldn’t mind the poster on my wall.

Heath Ledger’s dying gift to comic book nerds

These are spoilers so you may want to skip looking at the photos.

Some nice hi-res photos from The Dark Knight. Not much to say, I’m excited to see the movie and from the teaser they played before I Am Legend, it will be grittier and darker than the first one. As for I Am Legend, the new ending we read about is now available on the bonus disc in the DVD set. It is still being released in HD-DVD format next week, in a combo disc, so I may get it. Especially since the bonus disc is “Very Long Wait” on the Netflix queue.

On the other hand, I do have Batman Begins in HD, and will have to watch it again in anticipation.
Scroll down to see the photos, and click for large.

80’s Trash of the Week: Heavy Metal

In honor of the South Park episode “Major Boobage,” I dug out my copy of Heavy Metal from 1981 to review. I love the movie, but it is definitely trashy; thankfully it has a sense of humor about itself. The sequel Heavy Metal 2000 is apparently terrible, with a single story starring 6’1″ B-movie siren Julie Strain (who just happens to be married to the editor of Heavy Metal magazine, Kevin “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” Eastman). They are planning a real anthology-style sequel with David Fincher attached to direct a segment, so that has promise.

South Park’s version.

If you know nothing about the movie, Heavy Metal magazine is a collection of science fiction, fantasy and erotic sequential art (aka comics) that has been published since 1977. Famous for introducing many to the art of Moebius, H.R. Giger, Jean “Moebius” Girard, Hajime Sorayama and others, it is probably best recognized as the magazine with the robot boob ladies on the cover. It was groundbreaking in bringing great European comics to the U.S. and showcasing some of the best art of its kind from around the world.

The movie is an anthology of stories by Dan O’Bannon (of Alien fame), Bernie Wrightson (Stephen King’s favorite illustrator), Richard Corben, Angus McKie and Juan Gimenez. The animation styles differ for each, and the voice talent includes John Candy and Eugene Levy from Second City, and Roger Bumpass, who has such a great name I had to mention it here.

There is a story that frames them all, about an artifact of ultimate evil called the Loc-Nar. The movie begins with the space shuttle in orbit, in a scratchy, cut-out style of animation that would later be used by South Park before they went digital. A spaceman in a ’58 Corvette launches out of it and lands on a desert landscape to the strains of 70’s hard rock. The animation is crude at times throughout the movie, but much better than other independent animators of the time, such as Ralph Bakshi. This is yet another movie we have Ivan Reitman to thank for. He really helped make 70’s and 80’s a better place.

The iconic opening.

When the spaceman lands, he drives up to his house with a present for his daughter. A glowing green orb from outer space! Apparently this toy was made in China, because it immediately melts his face off and begins tormenting his child with a deep voice, telling her it is the greatest concentration of evil in the universe, and regales her with tales of how it corrupts living creatures into paths of destruction.

Do not taunt Happy Fun Ball.

The next story is about Harry Canyon, New York cabbie circa 2031. Once again we are promised rocket cars of the future, and I know damn well in 24 years we’ll still be on the ground like suckers. Harry has a jet powered cab, and picks up a ravishing redhead after her Dad the scientist is murderized by thugs hunting the Loc-Nar. The Fifth Element generously cribs from this story, ith the cabbie, the orb of ultimate evil, and so on.

New York City 2031.

Thankfully Jaws IV: This Time it’s Personal ended any hopes of a Jaws 7 in 2031. This story is your usual noir with the leggy dame needing help. In fact, it’s a lot like the Mike Hammer film Kiss Me Deadly, with a box full of radioactive goo that will melt your face off. If only we were still using Checker Cabs. They were tanks. We also get our first sex scene with this story. Unlike Kenny on his cat-piss acid trip, we get to see the titties, and like Trey & Matt joked, the entire world of the movie might as well be covered in them.

This resonated strongly in my 11-year old dreams.

The next story is based on Richard Corben’s Den stories, set in a post-apocalyptic or pre-civilization world where everyone runs around naked killing each other when they’re not fornicating like a sackful of ferrets. It begins with a nerdy kid voiced by John Candy being transported to this world, and transformed into bald, musclebound superman Den. He quickly dons a loincloth to save us from the sight of his enormous schlonghood. In the comics, he was never shown with a rapaciously engorged tumescent, turgid member much to the chagrin of the readers, who suggested he was impotent. Maybe the Loc-Nar would be his Viagra.

The film’s major audience in 1981.

Den saves Kath from sacrifice by the evil queen, who wears a Cthulhu-like mask and whose followers chant his name backwards. They get it on of course, before she is captured by the immortal Ard, one of the funniest characters in the movie. He’s so nonchalant and whiney. He will release her if Den steals the Loc-Nar for him. “If you refuse you die, she dies, everybody dies.”

In the promised land of violence and nudity.

I deserve credit for finding a screen grab of Den & Kath that is work safe, mind you. The way to the Queen’s lair is perilous and they are nearly devoured by what seems to be a giant carnivorous Fraggle, but they manage to succeed. Den even gets to bag the Queen, another big-breasted redhead of many in the film. no way to know if the curtains match the drapes, because everyone is shaven down there in this world, but with the other redheads here, there is firecrotch galore.

Amusingly enough, this reminded me of Boober the Fraggle.

What’s compelling about each sequence is that they have their own visual style. Some are a little simplified, but there is always quality there. They use a lot of tricks and aren’t beyond rotoscoping or using psychedelic backgrounds. It doesn’t look as clean as big-budget animation or CG, but it never looks that bad.
There’s a final battle between the Queen and Ard over the Loc-Nar before a roiling pool of living evil or something, and Den uses his nerd knowledge of electricity to settle their hash good. And the nerd gets to live happily ever after, by choosing Kath’s totally rockin’ tits over the omnipotence offered by the Loc-Nar.

My Loc-Nar!

The next story is Bernie Wrightson‘s, and features the slimy Captain Sternn on trial for a all sorts of vile crimes such as a schoolgirl prositution ring and selling drugs in a nun’s habit, among other things. He pays off his lackey Hanover Fiste to be a character witness, but the Loc-Nar has other plans, making him tell us about Sternn’s more lurid crimes, and become a Hulk-like behemoth in the process. He chases Sterrn around the space station smashing everything.

32 counts of rape…

However, when Fiste finally corners Sternn, he pays him off and Fiste deflates back to his wimpy self, so perhaps it was all a scam to let Fiste escape, since his lawyer said he’d be lucky to be buried someplace where his grave wouldn’t be defiled. He then doublecrosses Fiste and dumps him into space, therein ending our comical interlude, and setting the Loc-Nar free to land back on Earth.

Mark McGwire testifies before Congress about Human Growth Hormone.

Back on Earth, the Loc-Nar follows a B-17 bomber that has been peppered with flak. Only two crew-members remain, and one goes back through the plane to check for survivors. Except he finds that his crewmen have been stricken with zombosis! There’s not much to this simple horror tale, but it is very memorable and reminiscent of the Tales from the Crypt comics and the like. This part was written by Dan O’Bannon, the same script that’s morphed into the hilarious space flick Dark Star and the horror classic Alien. He got more mileage out that script than I did on some of my English Lit papers.


After that we get another funny interlude that starts at the Pentagon, where they are discussing what to do about the rampant acts of mutation occurring among the populace. The Loc-Nar is now safely nested between a red-head’s breasts, and the man reading the report suddenly goes apeshit and tries to get it. They are both then sucked up a tube by an alien spacecraft hovering above the Pentagon.

So what if she fucks robots, she’s hot.

Up in the ship she finds a robot with two megaphones for ears, who charms her into bed despite sounding like Fozzie the Bear meets Groucho Marx. The alien stoner pilots decide to snort a roomful of “Plutonian nyborg” before taking off, going on a psychedlic space journey set to more 70’s rock. The soundtrack is actually quite good, and was not released on CD for many years. Black Sabbath (Ronnie Dio era), Grand Funk Railroad, Journey, Stevie Nicks, Devo for some 80’s flair, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, Donald Fagen of Steely Dan, Nazareth and of course the title track by Sammy Hagar are all great contributions and work well with the stories. Riggs, a band heretofore unbeknownst to me, has a few great tracks, including the opener, “Radar Rider.” It’s definitely worth tracking down for a dose of late 70’s/early 80’s enjoyment.

Mommy, why are they snorting floor cleaner?

The stoner aliens crash into a space station after they spirit the Loc-Nar from Earth, and it is assumed that the girl and the robot have a nice Jewish marriage and live happily ever after.

Close encounters of the groovy kind, maaan.

The final sequence is the one best remembered, and it is the longest. The Loc-Nar crashes into a another planet, lands in a volcano and turns a group of people into rapacious rampaging reavers, who slaughter to and fro. Before they can slay the elder of the city, he manages to send a signal to the last of the Tarakians, who guard the universe from evil.
Taarna is the last, the silent, snow-haired sword siren who haunted many a dream of the young adolescents who saw this film back in ’81. Based on Moebius‘s Arzach stories, she rides a pterodactyl-like steed to mete out justice at the end of her bloody sword.

No resemblance to Leeloo here, nopenope.

Taarna never utters a word as she stalks the slayers of the city, soon finding them at a tavern where Devo is playing.

Not unlike Devo’s real live shows.

Much of the film, especially Taarna’s sequence, is rotoscoped. They draw over live-action frames to make things go more quickly. It often looks jerky, but here it’s very smooth, but often a little too slow. Like when she beheads these guys in the bar, it looks almost as if it’s in slow-motion.

Black vinyl battle thong.

But you get used to how she moves. Who’s kidding, you’ll be staring up her asscrack for 30 minutes. The silence gives the sequence a mythic quality, and it’s too bad that the bad guys talk. If they only made zombie groans, it would have been more powerful. The Moebius stories it was based on had no dialogue, so at least they went partway. Taarna is captured and abused, and yes the curtains match the ivory drapes. Her sky critter helps her escape, and her final battle with Mr. Cuisinart Hand is somewhat anticlimactic, but still good gory fun.

I drew stuff like this in school for years afterward.

The film is certainly juvenile in many ways, but rarely takes itself seriously, which saves it. When Ard is whining about the Loc-Nar, the smart choice of picking funnymen John Candy and Eugene Levy, and the good writing temper the sheer onslaught of boobage and fantasy slaughter that would normally put this film next to The Warrior and the Sorceress on the video shelf. That’s the fantasy movie with David Carradine with the sorceress who goes topless the entire movie. And yeah, I wish I’d seen it on HBO when I was 12, dammit.
It is definitely a relic of its time, but still enjoyable now. There were a lot of indie animated films aimed at adults up until the mid-80’s, then things petered out, and were dead completely after Cool World showed just how much money you could lose on such a venture. Hopefully the new sequel will happen, and might even spur some new animated films that aren’t for kids. The Incredibles was a good start, actually. One of the better action movies of its year. If the new one is like that with blood and a few boobies, we may have a hit.

America, Fuck Yeah!

I had a job in Manhattan on 9/11, and while I think radical Islam (and any other 14th century belief system) is going to be a problem to us folks living in the 21st century, some of us go a little too far… Personally I like the placement of the Statue of Liberty above the slogan in blood, “Build More Gitmos!” with a complete absence of irony. Apparently he is also proud to be an infidel.

That’s Pig Latin for I do not like Islam, if you didn’t take it in high school.

Peace the old fashioned way. Thank goodness we’ve never endured a real invasion and the terror of bombing like those pussies in Europe and Asia have. Perhaps if we did, we’d have less of a taste for war.
He is also a Crusader, and goes to that old favorite, love it or leave it. In fact, I love it enough to wish we spent that $1.2 trillion on fixing bridges and shoring up the economy, but that’s commie talk.
God Bless the 2nd amendment! I can agree with that, as long as we include the other 26 of them. Or at least the first 10, especially that first one. I can do without the 16th or 18th. The fake bullet holes all over the car are classy. I’ve never understood those. Maybe he wishes someone would shoot at him so he could shoot back. There’s a 1st Cavalry insignia so maybe he served at some point, or just wishes he did.

Now I respect our military men and women. But until we’re invaded I’m not going to thank them for the fact that I’m speaking English and not Swahili or German, or for the Bill of Rights. Those were secured by the militia, which as a raving psychotic libertarian, I define as joe schmoe with his musket or the modern equivalent.

I think it is a uniquely American right to plaster your vehicle with platitudes defining your each and every belief, so people can guess why you can’t park for shit, or why you’re doing 50mph in the passing lane, you moronic Nader-voting douche with an honor student at diddlyfuck middle school! I will defend it to the death, using that most American of guns, the .45cal 1911.
And freedom is not free (it costs a buck oh five). Its cost is eternal vigilance. And we’ve been snoozing. For fuck’s sake, vote this November, for anyone. If you don’t care, vote for the Legalize Marijuana guy, or some other loony who’ll never make it. The more of us who vote, the less likely the corrupt whoremongering politician scum will assume they can get away with anything.