What was the deal with putting A*S*T*E*R*I*S*K*S in movie titles? M*A*S*H may have started it in the movies. It was short for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and is Robert Altman’s most well-known film. The movie was just called MASH and they stuck asterisks in between the letters of the poster so you didn’t think it was about potatoes.
A few years later came the espionage spoof S*P*Y*S starring Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland, which bombed. Probably because of the stupid name. Why not just Spies? I haven’t seen it, but I imagine it’s a goofy acronym, like Secret Person Yankee Surveillance. Both of these movies star Elliot Gould, so maybe he is a secret asterisk supporter, or S*A*P.
W*A*L*T*E*R was a failed M*A*S*H spinoff in 1984, and we didn’t see stars again until the ’90s, when B*A*P*S came around- standing for Black American Princesses. Should’ve been B*A*Ps, but that just looks silly, doesn’t it? I’ve never seen it, despite it starring Martin Landau. It got awful reviews, but much of its humor has been internalized in how white boys imitate black women. It’s rather a shame that comedian Robert Townsend was involved, as his movies are usually pretty funny.
In the ’80s we got *batteries not included which mocks those print ads for toys that we drooled over, bought the thing for $5.95 and found out it required 12 D cell batteries that cost $20. But that wasn’t the same. I still didn’t see it, because the title felt so gimmicky.
The father of all asterisks movies is **** by Andy Warhol, which is probably meant to mean “fuck.” But that’s not a commercial project, so it really shouldn’t count. There is a power in the use of punctuation, or lack thereof. Look at e.e cummings, who we still won’t capitalize, and the archy & mehitabel stories, which aren’t capitalized or punctuated because they are supposed to be written by a New York city cockroach jumping on the keys of a typewriter.
I took punctuation very seriously as a child, and when I was in the shower, I would think up movie ideas. They usually involved me as a cross between James Bond and the Terminator, tasked with saving the world, with Sheena Easton and Nastassia Kinski hanging from each bicep. But some were spoofs, and my masterpiece of spy spoofs, dedicated to Mel Brooks, was entitled:
© 2010 Tommy Salami