Sunday, December 21, 2008

It's Good to Be the King?

Not from The Onion:
Burger King Corp. may have just the thing. The home of the Whopper has launched a new men's body spray called "Flame." The company describes the spray as "the scent of seduction with a hint of flame-broiled meat."
I wouldn't try wearing that while on a nature hike. Or...ever, really. Can I get a scent of fries with that? But, wait, it even gets more freakish:
Burger King is marketing the product through a Web site featuring a photo of its King character reclining fireside and naked but for an animal fur strategically placed to not offend.
I have to go be ill now...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Deep Thought

Why is it they can invent a way for me to check my e-mail while standing at a bus stop but they can't develop a municipal snowplow that doesn't dump a three-foot high wall of snow at the end of everyone's driveway?

Merdle by Numbers

Perhaps this year, the Dickens book to read is not A Christmas Carol. My first thought when I read about this whole Madoff Ponzi scheme business was of Mr. Merdle, a character in Dickens' Little Dorrit. Throughout the book, he is incredibly wealthy, powerful, and worshipped by society, introduced thusly:
Mr. Merdle was immensely rich; a man of prodigious enterprise; a Midas without the ears, who turned all he touched to gold. He was in everything good, from banking to building. He was in Parliament, of course. He was in the City, necessarily. He was Chairman of this, Trustee of that, President of the other. The weightiest of men had said to projectors, "Now, what name have you got? Have you got Merdle?" And, the reply being in the negative, had said, "Then I won't look at you."
Toward the end of the book, he turns out to have been a swindler, a complete fraud who caused the financial ruin of everyone who invested with him. He ultimately has an attackof conscience and kills himself. Why oh why can't scumbags today have such crises of conscience?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I, Mitosis

Hi keeba! One of my favorite musicians—Andrew Bird—has a new album coming out in January! I also note that he is playing the Orpheum Theater in Boston on January 31. Hm. I shall have to IM mi hermano about that...

Meanwhile, here is the somewhat Hitchcockian (that is, Robyn Hitchcockian) video for one of the best tracks from the last record, 2007's Armchair Apocrypha.

I will be flying overseas on Sunday, so long-time followers of this blog know what Andrew Bird song I will be posting in next couple of days....

I, Tunes

So this is my beef with iTunes. While I use iTunes the program all the time to play songs I have ripped from my CDs, I rarely buy songs through iTunes; I prefer CDs, and here's why. (Well, one of the reasons why.) I bought a new computer a few months ago and the couple of songs I bought through iTunes needed to be re-authenticated, because Apple's DRM (digital rights management) only allows any given iTune to be loaded on as many as five computers. So this means that I am allowed to buy three more computers in my life before I have to re-buy the songs I have already bought. Nuh-uh. I'll stick with CDs, which I can play wherever and whenever I damn well please. As John Locke (the character on Lost, not the philosopher) would say, "Don't tell me what I can't do!"

After all, I think I have single-handedly kept the music industry in business for the past 20 years; do I really need to be treated like a pirate and a thief? (Is it any coincidence, for example, that after I moved out of New York, Tower Records went out of business?)


Via Version 1.0, an MSNBC story about what may very well be the latest trend in dying (at least since the days when the Egyptian pharaohs had all their crap buried with them): taking your cellphone with you.
Ed Defort, publisher and editorial director for American Funeral Director magazine, says it's a definite trend.

“I’ve even heard of cases where people are being buried with their iPod. Or one guy who was prepared for his viewing with his Bluetooth (headset) in his ear.”

But it’s the cell phone, in particular, that seems to be the burial gadget of choice.
And given how ineptly people on cellphones drive, the devices certainly seem to be hastening their owners' demises. Even more weirdly:
“I’ve seen people leave cell phones on and tell me they’re going to call their loved one later,” says Vetter. “Not that anyone will answer, but they want to have that connection. I’m sure the family gathers around the phone when they call. They feel connected with that person because it’s their phone, but at the same time it helps them realize that a death has occurred.”
It kind of reminds me of that old Twilight Zone episode "Night Call" where an elderly woman kept getting mysterious phone calls—and it turned out that a storm had knocked the phone lines down on top of the grave of her long-dead fiancĂ©, who was apparently calling her from beyond. Today, though, with Caller ID she could easily see who it was: "Oh, it's my dead fiancĂ© calling again. I think I'll just let voicemail get it."

Phish Phlakes

The scammers aren't even trying anymore. Just got this last night:
Two things struck me. First, the salutation says "Dear costumer." I have never worked in the theater, and haven't even created a Halloween costume in decades. Also, do they honestly think that I am going to take seriously financial correspondence that has the reply-to address "finegirl_13_2002" with a Yahoo address? Come on now.

Seriously, though, for those unhip to these scams, if you ever do receive one of these things (from a bank, PayPal, credit card, etc.) the best way to authenticate it is to either a) call the institution in question and ask, or b) log onto your account using the bookmark or link you normally use. That is, never click a link embedded in one of these e-mails. And never send an e-mail to finegirl_13.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Crazy Like a Fox

While this story is upsetting on a variety of levels, I guess the real, unanswered question is how—and why—someone has easy access to any quantity of fox urine.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Lost in Translation 2

There is a lesson to be learned from the prestigious science magazine Max Planck Research, and it doesn't involve Planck's constant. Rather, if you're going to put Chinese lettering on your cover, you might want to have an inkling of what it says.
While exact translations are open to some interpretation, what it apparently says is:
"With high salary, we have sincerely employed [lots of strippers/girls] to stay in our daytime show.

"Jiamei as the director, she will personally lead young girls who are as pretty as jade.

"[We have] beauties from the north who appear in all their glory with thousands of deportments.

"[We have] young housewives who have hot body that will stir up your [sexual] fire.

"They are sexy, horny and enchanting. The performance will begin in few days!"
Essentially, it's an ad for a Hong Kong brothel. So they quickly revised the cover. The replacement text refers to a book written by the 16th century Swiss Jesuit, Johannes Schreck, titled Illustrated Explanations of Strange Devices. Hmm...not worlds apart, in a way...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gonna Fly Now

Rocky Jones, Space Ranger, was a low-budget syndicated science-fiction program that ran for two seasons in 1954. It was set at some point in the 22nd century, and chronicled the exploits of the titular Space Ranger, sort of an outer space policeman who helped the United Worlds of the Solar System battle its enemies. Bland and personality-less, Rocky Jones was accompanied by his irritating sidekick Winky, as well as navigator/space babe Vena, 10-year-old whiz kid Bobby, and the doddering 800-year-old Professor Newton, who often seems as if he had Apple’s corporate headquarters fall on his head. The 39 episodes were usually divided into three-episode story arcs—which was helpful, as three half-hour shows could then easily be edited together into one feature-length movie, which is in fact what they did with pretty much the entire series. Two of the “movies” (thus six of the episodes)—Manhunt in Space and Crash of Moons—were done on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and a third, Menace from Outer Space, was included in my science-fiction box set, and is this week’s Mis-Treatment.

Other entries in this Mis-Treatment series of silly sci-fi movie recaps include:
Night of the Lepus
Gammera the Invincible
Kong Island
The Skull
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
The Wasp Woman
The Horrors of Spider Island
The Atomic Brain
The Amazing Transparent Man
She Gods of Shark Reef
Moon of the Wolf
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Queen of the Amazons
The Incredible Petrified World
I will confess this at the outset: I actually kind of like these movies. Sure, there is plenty to make fun of, but they are actually not terrible. Sure, the special effects are cheap (but then it was 1954), the writing is pretty abysmal, and the acting a tad stilted, and even though the target audience was 8–10-year-olds, these movies have a certain goofy appeal. In true 1950s style, there were good guys, there were bad guys, and the good guys always won at the end. It was a time before everyone got so cynical and dark, which is actually kind of fun. Those were the days. And gee, our old LaSalle ran great.

Menace from Outer Space (1956)
Auteur/Perpetrator: Hollingsworth Morse (what is a Hollings worth, anyway?)
Star of Shame: no one to speak of
Monster(s): evil scientist who looks like a cross between James Coco and Boss Hogg
“Plot”: an evil scientist is trying to conquer Earth, for some reason

The hero is played by Richard Crane, a character actor who appeared in just about everything throughout the 1940s, 50, and 60s. The guy who played his annoying sidekick Winky was another story. Scotty Beckett was the Archbishop of Canterbury whom King Henry II had killed by saying “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”...No, wait, I typed the wrong thing into he write Waiting for Godot? No...Ah, here it is: Scotty Beckett was a child star of the 1930s and 40s who was one of Hal Roach’s Our Gang. He was compared at one point to Jackie Coogan in Chaplin’s The Kid (though not to Jackie Coogan in The Addams Family). His star ascendant, he entered adolescence and began appearing alongside A-list adult stars (Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Fredric March, Elizabeth Taylor), but, alas, succumbed to Child Star Syndrome and began a quick descent into booze, drugs, and crime—decades before there was a Diff’rent Strokes. By the mid-1950s, the best role he could get was a sidekick on a cheesy show like Rocky Jones, and ultimately he had to be replaced in the show’s second season after he ended up in jail for possession of a concealed weapon. He eventually died in 1968 from a drug overdose. Sad, really.

Anyway, back to Menace from Outer Space. As I said, I did rather like this one, but I shall cynically and sarcastically savage it anyway. What can I say...I’m a product of my age.

By the way, for my el cheapo DVD box set, the movie was digitally demastered by transferring the original 16mm film to a VHS tape that had been soaking in brine for two weeks, then the video uploaded to YouTube where it was re-videotaped by setting a camera in front of the computer screen as it played back. Oh, and the apparatus for this latter step must have been set up underneath a barber’s chair given the tufts of hair that waft across the picture like tumbleweeds.

And we launch into the titles with its triumphant 1950s adventure music. The production designer was Dick L’Estrange. You know, he never had a good relationship with his wife....

We open on the octogenarian Professor Newton, who has his own “Newton Observatory,” which looks conspicuously like Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. I guess in the future, the city gave it to him. He is peering into the eyepiece, watching a comet. He is deep in thought, as if trying to figure out what it is. (They call him “Professor,” but they don’t specify what he is a Professor of. My guess is Comparative Literature.)

Vena and Bobby arrive at the Observatory in one of the “cars of the future” (the “future” in this case being the model year after the movie was made, it would appear). They get out of the car and look into the sky, apparently also seeing the comet. Interesting thing about Newton’s telescope; it makes objects seem farther away. The Professor refers to it as a meteor, “and it is drawing nearer and nearer.” Bobby chirps, “You already have a comet named after you. This one is mine.” So is it a comet or a meteor? “‘Bobby’s Comet,’” the kid fantasizes. “Maybe it’s as big as a world. Maybe bigger.” The Professor says, “Just now it’s very small, but very menacing.” Kind of like Bobby. “In moments now, it will strike the Earth.” They’re all pretty calm about this. Shouldn’t someone be doing something? Like stopping it, or evacuating cities, or something more than sitting around trying to decide what to name it? “We can watch it all on the visiograph,” says the Professor, turning on the television. “Let’s hope it doesn’t fall too close.” Um, shouldn’t he be able to determine that? “Gosh, Vena,” says Bobby, “it’d be a dirty trick if my comet landed right on top of us.” Yeah, kid, a dirty trick. That’s what it would be, not fiery death from the sky.

They hear a noise coming over the visiograph. The Professor is perplexed. “A comet doesn’t make any noise,” says the Professor. Well, nothing does in space, but go ahead... “I’m going to get a closer look.” Wasn’t he just looking at it through the telescope? What’s he going to do now, climb on the roof of the observatory? Is there another professor on Earth someplace they can consult?

He runs up the stairs to the scope and takes another peek. This time, it is not a comet, but a missile. Ah, even better. Can they name that “Bobby’s Missile”? The Professor immediately calls his secretary. What? Oh, Secretary Drake, the guy in command of Earth. “What are your observations of the meteor?” asks the Secretary. “It’s not a meteor!” says the Professor. “It’s a rocket! A man-made weapon!” The Secretary’s assistant, Marshall, runs to the teletype machine (wow, that is futuristic) and obtains some readings on the object. It is due to hit Earth, “In 1510 plus 30.” That soon? “Professor,” says Bobby, “who’s shooting at us?” “I don’t know. No one knows.” Well, I would imagine the people doing the shooting do. As it happens, they have 45 seconds until it hits. They’re all pretty calm! It turns out it is heading right for the Observatory. I guess the aliens don’t like being looked at. And the missile hits, with an explosion that knocks everyone at the Observatory to the ground. They struggle to their feet, watched by Drake and Marshall. “A meteor was playing tag with us,” shouts Bobby. I thought it was a missile. The missile missed the mountain they are on, “but I’m afraid it hit the Inter-Nation Airport.” LAX? Oh, that is a shame. “The White Zone is for immediate loading and unloading only. There is no missile bombardment in the White Zone.”

“We’ll drive over immediately and see,” says the Professor. They jump into Vena’s car and zip over to the smoldering hole where the Inter-Nation Airport used to be. The Professor gets on the carphone and reports to the Secretary. Yep, the missile hit the airport, but missed the landing strip, and no one was injured. “I’ll order some equipment to lower me down into the wreckage.” Don’t they have able-bodied military personnel who do that kind of thing? Or is Professor Newton the entirety of Earth’s military force? (Kind of like SDI—Senile Dork Initiative.)

The Professor then asks where Rocky Jones is. Marshall says he is rust-proofing his car. Oh, wait, that’s Rusty Jones. Rocky Jones is trying to make sure that “Griff” is dead. Who? Marshall then points to a large wall map of the Solar System. “He’s patrolling the Asiatic Region.” But he just pointed to Venus. Have they moved Asia?

We then go to the Orbit Jet, Rocky and Winky’s ship. They couldn’t have given it a cool-sounding name or something? Inside, Winky is sleeping as the phone starts ringing. Sorry, the astrophone. It’s the future, after all, where all nouns need to have modifiers like “astro” and “space” in front of them. It was a law passed by the Office of Space Linguistics. It’s Drake calling from the “Office of Space Affairs.” I bet the Office of Space Affairs will have its hands full when Captain Kirk starts making time with all those pastel-colored alien women. But that’s still a few years off...

The patrol is cancelled; they need Rocky back on Earth. Rocky looks derisively at the sleeping Winky, then does...something with the ship to jolt Winky out of his seat. “You backtracked into our sound wash to wake me up.” Wow, Winky’s started drinking early. Well, it must be noon somewhere in the Solar System. Rocky then suggests that Winky will be given an office duty at the Tibet Observatory. I don’t know; I think even the Dalai Lama would want to beat the crap out of Winky.

A missile then flies by their ship. Winky is startled. “What in the name of space...” Does space have a name?

Back in Drake’s office, Professor Newton sits at a table with an array of stones in front of him. “Now these,” he begins, “I passed this morning.” What? Oh, wait, I got that wrong... “Now these fragments I was able to dig from the crater.” They’re from the missile. The entire missile was made from that material “which I would call a poor substitute for our alloys.” Rocky bitch-slaps Newton by saying that for anything to remain after the impact it must have great power. Yeah. “Phenomenal power, Rocky,” agrees the Professor. “Yes, we on Earth, with all our ego, are far behind whoever built this missile.” You’re just making this all up, aren’t you? “What about atomic energy,” asks Winky. “Oh, they probably had that long before we did,” says the Professor dismissively. And fat-free ice cream technology? Forget it! Drake asks Marshall if they have heard from the Tibet Station. “They haven’t responded to my signals.” Probably the Chinese army again. The Professor then blurts out, “I can say this however....” “Estelle Getty is one hot mama.” Oh, wait... “The power used to project their strange weapon is developed by friction.” So this is more like science-friction. “Rub two pieces of crystal together and intense heat and energy are generated.” Wow, that is highly advanced. So their missile technology is not far removed from a carpet burn. Bobby of course has to find out this himself so he begins vigorously rubbing two of the rocks together and burns his hands.

That bit of gobbledygook over with, it’s Vena’s turn. Vena, by the way, must have set many a young boy’s heart a-flutter with her short skirt, festive cape, and gilt cross-the-heart/here-are-my-breasts piping on her shirt. She walks over to the big Solar System map (which curiously stops at Jupiter), says she has traced the missile back and “it could only have come from here: Jupiter’s moon.” Which one? Says Rocky, “Fornax.” What? The moon of Jupiter called Fornax? “I can hardly believe it. Professor, that moon is so hot it was used to coin our word ‘furnace.’” (For the record, the word “furnace” is from the Latin word fornax, which in turn was derived from the word fornus which means “oven.” Jupiter has no such moon.) “Nothing could possibly live there,” says Rocky. “Ah, nothing but crystal,” says the Professor. Huh? Crystal Gayle, maybe? “Crystal grows in intense heat, and growth is life!” Um, yeah.... So when icicles grow from my eaves or frost grows in my freezer, they’re alive? No wonder people were shooting missiles at this guy. “We’ve always believed that there could be no life on Fornax, but a true scientist never believes anything until it’s proven.” What about him, though? “Professor, you’ve heard the saying, ‘Seeing is believing.’” says Rocky. Yeah, but he didn’t believe it until someone proved it to him. He is pretty ornery like that. You should see him in a restaurant going through the menu line by line. (“I don’t believe this is cooked in a ‘zesty’ marinara sauce. Prove it.”) Rocky then implies that they’re all going on a mission to Fornax.
Says Secretary Drake, “Professor Newton believes they need our ores and alloys for metal just as we would like to learn about their great wealth of energy.” When did he say that? Didn’t he just say that he didn’t believe anything—like the existence of life on Formax—until it was proven? And suddenly he’s not only assuming there is life there but ascribing motivations to it? Or is Drake putting words in his mouth?

So the issue is how to get out to Jupiter’s moon, since this is apparently further than the Orbit Jet usually travels, and there is an issue of having enough fuel. Winky asks where the refueling station is and Rocky heaps shame on him. Not to turn down any opportunity to heap shame on Winky, but it was a reasonable question...

Marshall finally makes contact with the Tibet station. The second missile that Rocky and Winky had seen earlier apparently fell nearby, but Drake insists that the guy who is running the Tibet station should tell everyone that it was just a meteor and to squelch the “real story.” However, as we cut to the Tibet station, we see that the guy who is running it is being held at weird-space-laser-point by a balding man in a highly futuristic space parka. This turns out to be “Griff,” who I think is some recurring all-purpose bad guy. Griff overhears the conversation with Drake, that Fornax is a “rich prize” and that Rocky “is going to stake a claim.” He makes a mental note of this, just as the other guy starts beating the crap out of him. Griff wins—funny how he keeps holding his weapon but is content to just slug the other guy. He then turns to the map on the wall—an identical map to the one in Drake’s office. He looks at the picture of Jupiter and says, “Sorry, Rocky, you won’t get to Fornax first. In fact you won’t get there at all.” Rocky is a pretty two-dimensional character, and a bit on the doughy side, so I guess it’s easy to mistake him for a picture of a planet.

Back on Earth, Rocky hand-picks his crew: Professor Newton has to go, ideally so they can ditch him in space when no one is looking, and Winky of course has to go, perhaps for the same reason. Bobby asks to go, and boasts about how big he’s getting. Rocky points out that space on the ship is limited, and Bobby changes his story and points out that he’s still a little kid. “Gosh, I hardly weigh anything. I’m anemic.” You might want to have that looked into. Says Professor Newton: “Bobby is more valuable to me than his weight in instruments.” There’s a weird, upsetting relationship between those two that one dares not speculate about without becoming violently ill. Rocky accedes to the will of Professor Newton. “Roaring rockets, you mean I can go along?” exults Bobby. You just don’t get this kind of cornball dialogue in movies anymore. For which we should be thankful, I suppose, but it is a distinct improvement over the endless stream of f-bombs that passes for movie dialogue these days.

Triumphant “we’re off into space!” music plays, and we see the Orbit Jet being rolled out to the launch site, and the crew parades toward it, Professor Newton decked out in his foppish hat worn at a jaunty angle. Secretary Drake tells Winky that almost all the weapons have been removed from the ship to reduce the weight. I thought the Space Rangers zipped all over the Solar System, and now they can’t get to Jupiter without everyone freaking out? Just how many United Worlds can there be between Earth and Mars? It also seems that their launch site is an electrical power substation.

They sure don’t make it easy to board that rocket; to get into it, you have to climb a 50-foot-high ladder, and to get to the ladder to have to clamber over the giant metal wheel of the gantry. Rocky and Bobby have no problem, but the director wisely cuts away as Professor Newton approaches it. Best to imply that he is spry enough to make it. Besides, I doubt they could afford a stunt double.

Rocky then warns Vena that with the force of take off that will be required, they will black out for a short period. Vena says not to worry about her, the Professor, and Bobby. They’re all old pros at blacking out. Heck, I bet it’s a struggle to keep the Professor conscious at all. “We’ll be the best crew you ever had,” she says. He’s used to Winky, so the bar has already been set pretty low.

There is then a bit of business with a blast-off synchronizer that emits an irritating noise that goes on for rather a long time. In the ship, Rocky and Winky strip down to their T-shirts which are a few sizes too small for them, while the other three strap themselves into what looks like a La-Z-Boy recliner showroom in the back of the ship. And they’re off, and everyone immediately falls asleep. I know how they feel. The ship is run by a robot control. However, Winky wakes up first, which is a first, leans over the control panel, then immediately passes out again—maybe he shouldn’t have had those five bourbons before taking off. He slumps onto the control panel, turning off the robot control. The ship immediately starts to nosedive. Good one, Winky. Drake has been watching the launch from his office and starts panicking. Rocky manages to wake up just in time and save the day. Winky wakes up, discovers what happened, and starts to apologize. Rocky cuts him off and says, “Go tell the rest of the crew that blast-off was super-stellar.” You know, passive-aggressive behavior just doesn’t cut it with Winky; wouldn’t aggressive-aggressive behavior be far more satisfying? Like, say, kneeing him right in the winky?

Vena asks Rocky how they plan to land on Fornax should they have no landing facilities. “Or do we face that problem when we come to it?” Yeah, because interplanetary space travel is the kind of thing you just want to make up as you go along. “If the Professor is right, and he usually is—” He is?! Sorry, I don’t grant the premise. “We won’t find the necessary steel for a blast-off cradle. Our best bet is to land on our tail section, then we’ll be ready for a return flight.” So, in other words, just like they always do.

They soon discover that they are being pursued by another unidentified ship. It is Griff, and Griff starts attacking the Orbit Jet. Rocky shoots one of the only missiles they have and it scores a direct hit. Well, that was suspenseful. Rocky is not happy. “Hey, Rocky, switch on the grin.” Is there a control for that? It turns out that they have barely left Earth and the gas tank is half empty (not half full) already. What with Winky’s screw-up on blast-off and the dogfight that lasted a nanosecond, they expended a lot of fuel. So he outlines three options: return to Earth and refuel (the Professor and Bobby vote that down immediately, and who asked them anyway?), divert to a nearby space station and refuel (which the Professor also nixes, saying it would waste time), or gamble that there is a way on Fornax to refuel—despite the fact that they have no idea if there is even anyone there. They all decide to go for the most irrational, unsafe option.

Before long, Fornax comes into visual range. Rocky and Winky stare at it on the screen. “Well, rattle my rocket reflexes.” Oh, shut up, Winky. Everyone crowds into the bridge and is shocked and awed. Rocky turns on the Fasten Seatbelt light and everyone straps themselves in for landing. Winky is concerned. “These instruments must be daffy.” It bugs him, I know. The gravitational pull of the planet is twice as strong as on Earth, which means they have to expend even more fuel to land without crashing. Shouldn’t the Professor have been able to calculate that before they got there? The original Professor Newton was. “Erect and stabilize,” orders Rocky. Moving right along...

They finally land, but are now completely out of fuel. “Sparkling stardust, skipper, I never thought we’d make it.” Oh shut up, Winky. Everyone crowds back onto the bridge and gazes at the landscape in awe. There is some kind of structure in the distance. “This means there’s life here!” exults the Professor. “Yeah, but what kind?” asks Winky. Well, it’s a low-budget 1950s TV show so I’m guessing human but wearing a wacky costume.

“Man with his small mind is too ready to accept the apparent,” says the Professor. “We’ve always believed that life wasn’t possible on Fornax.” Didn’t you say that true scientists don’t accept anything until it’s proven? Why did they bring him again? “But look, Rocky, those pyramids, they are not a phenomenon of nature.” They’re also not pyramids. Bobby wants to just run outside and play without thinking that the atmosphere might not be breathable. I say let him. Rocky orders Winky to get out the “electronic canary” and check atmospheric conditions. Winky carries on a rather lengthy and emotional conversation with what is essentially an electronic sensor. “Now listen to me, chirp chirp, if you tell me I’ve got to put on a space suit, I’m gonna pluck all your tailfeathers out one at a time the hard way.” Is there an easy way? And just how many bourbons did he have before take off?

The Professor goes off to take the atmosphere readings. Great; I bet those’ll be accurate. “The atmopshere is 20% oxygen, 60% nitrogen, and 20% Metamucil.” Vena worries that she brought the right clothes—even though she’s only got one outfit. And is there a dress code on Fornax? Rocky starts dictating his log to Vena. Winky comes in, says, “The birdie says tweet tweet.” Oh, so he’s on Twitter. That figures. Adds the Professor, “It’s comparable to a May day in Connecticut.” Is that a good thing? Maybe Fornax was colonized by a race of Joe Liebermans. Isn’t that a terrifying thought. The Professor starts rubbing his hands over his chest and says “I can almost smell the flowers.” Maybe the Fornaxians have a home they can put him in...

The Professor takes Rocky aside and points out one of the large structures, and says something about alloys...steel...blah blah blah. And then that it was made out of stone blocks. What? He also mentions that the stone blocks would weigh twice as much here as they would on Earth. “The ratio of weight here is two pounds to our one. We’ll all feel it, and we’ll be a lot heavier, too.” It’ll be fun watching him collapse like one of those old collapsible top hats or something out of a Tex Avery cartoon. Rocky then rags on Vena and tells her to step on the cargo scale. Vena freaks out that she now weighs 236 pounds. Even Bobby chides her, “Jumping satellites, you gotta go easy on the mashed potatoes.” Ha ha ha ha—kill them.

Outside, they all descend an enormous ladder—cleverly done so that they don’t have to build an exterior of the spaceship. Just extend the ladder up off the top of the frame. Says Bobby, “Well chutes and satellites, this is super cosmic.” Oh, shut up, Bobby. Says Winky, “Hey, Professor, you said Connecticut. This is more like Palm Beach, Florida.” Oppressively humid and full of mosquitoes? “I sure hope a 200-pound bathing beauty walks by.” Oh, shut up, Winky. Says Vena, “Where’s the reception committee? Isn’t there anyone here to greet us?” Yeah, where’s the bellhop? Could someone get the luggage? This place, like, rilly bites. Bobby yells “Hello” and his voice echoes for some time. Professor Newton excitedly points out the same structure that they had just been looking at on the ship’s viewscreen. I guess it’s much more exciting in person than on TV.

They amble over to the structure. “Ama-a-a-a-a-azing,” groans the Professor. What, that he can walk 20 feet in 2g gravity without his bones snapping like dry twigs?

A door slides aside and kettledrums herald the emergence of several figures—humanoids wearing capes and headdresses. (Told you.) They walk up to Rocky and Winky. “We likey your moon,” says Winky, in patronizing pidgin English. “You, us, we be good friends. Be cosmic pals?” Oh, shut up, Winky. No wonder they’re trying to destroy the Earth. “You have journeyed from Earth?” asks the figure in perfect English. Wah wah wah. The Fornaxian is happy. Turns out the missile was only intended to get Earth’s attention. Surely there was a better way of doing that. The Fornaxian then heaps shame on Winky, as well he should. Rocky asks how he knows their language. “Rosetta Stone.” You know, he was a simple farm boy, she an Italian supermodel, and he knew he would have just one chance to impress her. After all, what is more attractive to a supermodel than being able to speak the same language? That’s really all it takes. But I digress...

The Fornaxian—Zorovac (isn’t that a line of wet/dry vacuum cleaners?)—says that they had been preparing for this for some time, and that they have had previous contact with Earthmen. Zorovac is the ruler of Fornax, and they all introduce each other (it seems that Winky is his given name), and Rocky and the Professor excitedly mention the prospect of setting up trade relations. I can see how this show would appeal to 8–10-year-olds; what red-blooded American boy wouldn’t be captivated by a TV show about interplanetary trade relations. I bet all the neighborhood kids got together after the show was over, got together, and drew up little play trade agreements...

But, uh oh, out of the building comes someone the soundtrack tells us is bad, and who has some kind of past with Professor Newton. An old flame, perhaps? “Professor Card Us!” What? Oh, Cardoz. “Congratulations on your landing,” says Card Us. “I crashed. I owe my life to Zorovac and his shvantzes.” Sorry? “Forgive me; vonsoom means wife in English.” Whew! “You’ll find me a changed man, Professor,” Card Us continues. Yep. The vonsoom changes him twice a day.

They show Zorovac and Card Us the Orbit Jet and Zorovac is impressed, for some reason. Zorovac offers to vacuum the floor. Winky leads Zorovac and Card Us into the back of the ship to attempt to explain how the ship works (oh, like he’d know) and Rocky asks about Card Us. Apparently, Card Us was a college professor who ruthlessly killed his two assistants. “Oh, he was a brilliant man, but an egoist! And extreeeeemely ambitious.” So, basically like any college professor. Card Us escaped and was presumed lost in space.

Meanwhile, Zorovac continues to be impressed by the ship. He then offers to show them the wonders of Fornax. That shouldn’t take long. He then says he is going to fix his daughter up with Bobby. “Thanks, Mr. Zorovac. I always wanted to meet a girl who was out of this world.” Zorovac reconsiders... Card Us says they are about to experience “boundless luxury.” Rocky suggests that Winky and he remain on the ship. Winky is disappointed. Rocky is staging an intervention, which is a good thing...

They decide to spy on the goings on on Fornax using the visiograph. “I don’t know,” says Winky. “We’re here, we can see it with these things”—he points to his eyes—“and you want to see it on that thing.” So for Rocky, nothing is real unless he sees it on TV? Is this a Don DeLillo novel all of a sudden? The visiograph is quite a remarkable device; they can see inside the building with it. And get audio. “Oh, those boundless luxuries,” says Winky, even though on the screen are Professor Newton, Card Us, and Zorovac. Now, that’s just weird.

Card Us tells Newton that the missile was the only way they could communicate with Earth. “Now what about this great power?” asks the Professor. Zorovac hands him a rock. “I call it the Dirt Devil...” Oh, wait... Says Card Us, “On Earth, you would call it an extremely sensitive form of silicon.” If you tell it that it’s not as good as carbon, it gets really upset. Card Us then proceeds to explain it. Blah blah blah. Bobby bonds with Zorovac’s daughter and Vena has apparently become one of the harem and is decked out in the local garb. That gets Winky’s attention, even though it’s a less revealing outfit than what she normally wears.

Zorovac and Card Us go off alone, and Rocky and Winky discover that Card Us has been telling the Fornaxians that Earthmen make slaves of any planets and satellites they encounter, despite the fact that Zorovac seems quite optimistic about setting up friendly relations with Earth. “They first deceive, then colonize and enslave,” says Card Us. “For the time being, we’ll play their game of deceit.” But eventually they’ll move on to Pictionary.

There is a whole evil scheme that Card Us has the Fornaxians working on. The missile, as it turns out, was just Point 1, to test their accuracy. “Now, on to Point 2.” They then go into a workshop-like room, but there is “something in the walls” that blocks the rays of the visiograph. So Rocky and Winky go to investigate in person. This’ll go well. They put on their jackets and caps and somehow make it all the way to the workshop room without encountering anyone. They sneak into the room and stand in the doorway, unseen by anyone, as they are all hunched over a table across the room. They duck into an alcove and eavesdrop. Card Us tells Zorovac that the warhead is attached, and “we are now ready to launch a missile every Earth month.” Maybe Earth has subscribed to the Missile-of-the-Month Club. “Four of them should turn the trick.” What? Do outer space aliens get card game references?

Zorovac then pulls out a Viewmaster or horizontal periscope-like thing from the wall and looks through it “Look, Professor Card Us,” he says. Yep, just the Orbit Jet, pretty much where it’s been for the last few hours. Card Us grins weirdly. “Yes, that’s the spaceship that will take us into their communication zone to negotiate a surrender.” Ah, so they’re going to shoot missiles at Earth and hijack the Orbit Jet. Check.

Zorovac is having an existential crisis. “You had always taught me that we were surrounded by a galaxy of enemies, that there was no such thing as friendship in the universe.” Oh, so Card Us had a show on Fox News. Zorovac is no longer convinced and stalks off menacingly. Or as menacingly as anyone can be wearing that outfit. He kind of looks like Maude playing Lawrence of Arabia. (You know, I would use more contemporary references, but is there anyone on TV today that could be compared to Maude?)

Rocky and Winky go to leave but a Fornaxian charges in, sees them, and a brawl breaks out. Winky does a good job of getting pinned almost immediately, and soon Rocky is subdued. A crystal is rubbed against the floor until it’s good and hot, and it is brought closer to Rocky’s face until Card Us stops him. Card Us will tell Zorovac about “the way you have returned our offer of hospitality.” Oh, good one.

Some time later, Bobby has somehow becomes the ambassador from Earth, and explains Earth policy to Zorovac. “We don’t try to conquer anybody,” the 10-year-old tells the alien leader, “The laws of the United Worlds of the Solar System give every planet and moon their independence.” Can a moon, by definition, really have independence? “And the only fighting we do, Mr. Zorovac, is when somebody gets out of line.” Then we whack ’em, and whack ’em good. The Asteroid Belt is the East River of the Solar System.... Zorovac will himself determine which side the Earth people are on by going to Earth with Rocky and Winky. Meanwhile, Billy, Vena, and the Professor will be held as hostages “under the rule of my bassoon.” What? Oh, vonsoom (wife) again. Zorovac also adds that they will lend all assistance to adapting their power to the Orbit Jet. Does anyone have one of those international voltage converters?

Some time later, Winky comes in and says, “Hey, Rocky, we really got some thoroughbreds in the harness.” I do hope that’s an analogy about the power supply. Rocky asks the Professor for an instrument count, and the Professor starts to rattle off the entire string section... No, wait... Billy jumps in and starts babbling pretentiously about mass this and exhaust velocity that. Blah blah blah. Well, Zorovac’s daughter is in the room, so he’s probably just being a little show-off. A bit young for that nonsense, isn’t he? At any rate, Rocky says they will conduct a test flight that evening. Zorovac’s daughter—whose name is Harmonica (can that be right?) wants to go along, impressed with what Bobby was rabbiting on about. Rocky says he is going alone—and this time, no Winky. This is the first sensible decision this guy has made in the entire movie.

So Rocky starts enjoying his sweet freedom. Remember that scene with Tom Cruise dancing and lip syncing in Risky Business? Winky is getting separation anxiety and pleads to come along. Barring that, Winky insists that Rocky never stop talking to him over the astrophone. Is this guy codependent or what? “Sure, Winky” says Rocky in a tone that could just as easily have said, “Get knotted.” As Rocky straps himself into his seat, I get the sense that he must have overdone it on the Fornaxian food because in his white T-shirt he kind of looks like the Michelin Man. “Well, the heat’s on,” says Rocky. Good, the new gas furnace works. Rocky seems overjoyed to be getting away from Winky for at least a few hours, and who could blame him?

And up the rocket goes, and Rocky immediately passes out. Everyone below is watching. “Amaaaaazing!” exults the Professor, who has apparently never seen a rocket take off before. “Super-stellar, eh, Winky?” says Bobby. Winky goes off the deep end. “That’s some powerful stardust you’re packing, Rocky, and you wouldn’t let me join in the fun. Well, this is what I say to you: baaaah!” Rocky did get his goat, didn’t he? Meanwhile, Card Us smirks from elsewhere in the building.

They are suddenly upset about the fact that they cannot make contact with the unconscious Rocky. Card Us smirks again. Winky is despondent. Zorovac walks up to him, and Winky says, “I was just thinking about something Secretary Drake once said to me...” “Winky, I’m going to start smashing your head on my desk and I may never stop.” Oh, wait... He actually told Winky, “Wait till you have a pal out there in space and he doesn’t answer...There’s nothing quite as frightening as silence.” But I thought Depeche Mode said that we should enjoy the silence?

Winky then asks Professor Newton a question about “the fuel.” “I’m afraid I have no answers to any of your questions,” says the Professor. And how is that different from any other time?

Bobby and Harmonica clamber up the side of the building. Bobby insists that he sees something in the sky and, sure enough, it is a ship landing. He bellows, “It’s Rocky” and his voice again echoes across the landscape. “I’ll never get used to that echo.” Funny, he’s the only one who triggers it.

The ship lands, and everyone gets excited, Winky starts walking in circles and whimpering, a like a dog whose master has been away for too long. They still can’t make astrophone contact with the ship. After Rocky comes back out, he explains that the thrust of the ship forced all the instruments right out of the panels. That can’t be good. Professor Newton says he can help weaken the power of the thrust, and Winky says he can solve the problem of the instruments with some glue, string, and rubber bands. So, basically, future technology is currently available at the local Office Depot. Winky then rabbits on about exhaust velocity and...blah blah blah. Oh, like he knows what he’s talking about. He then mentions a kangaroo at one point. What? Has he had even more bourbon?

Zorovac walks over. “Welcome back, Rocky. And now we can...what do you call it?” Love? “Oh, yes, blast off for Earth.” Whew! Meanwhile, Card Us frowns.

Dissolve to some time later, even through everyone is standing in basically the same places. Card Us is still glaring at them. Rocky tells Bobby and the Professor, “Keep an eye on Card Us.” Yeah, those two will be an effective security force. And Rocky, Winky, and Zorovac take off for Earth.

Get this: they apparently returned Zorovac’s hospitality by making him stand the entire way; he is hovering right behind their pilots’ chairs. They do have that La-Z-Boy showroom in the back... Professor Newton calls in, and he can just barely be heard, as the ship is almost out of Fornax’s communication zone. Sounds like my cellphone plan. Newton again obsesses about the power and how well it’s working. Winky jumps on the other astrophone. “There’s only one way to describe it: it’s super-spatial.” Oh, shut up Winky. “In fact, we just passed a meteor like it was standing still.” Rocky eyes him like he would love to bludgeon him with something. Will no one rid him of this meddlesome sidekick? Zorovac then gets on the astrophone. “Is my monsoon with you, Professor Newton?” Huh? Oh, vonsoom again. The Professor passes the astrophone—which, by the way, looks like a large, black pickle, to Mrs. Zorovac just as the line goes dead.

Meanwhile, on another ship, Griff and another bad guy are speaking over an astrophone in an alien tongue that sounds not unlike Sid Caesar doing his foreign language skits. Griff picks up in English and it turns out he is talking to Garganto (can that be right—it sounds like a large Italian tomato). Garganto is their contact on the plant Officious. Huh? Was the planet colonized by a bunch of meddlesome and interfering administrative assistants? “Oh, yes, we’ll take over your planetary government for you.” Oh, I see, it’s spelled Ophiucius. Well, that’s no fun. Anyway, in the Rocky Jones show, Ophiucius is a planet that keeps making trouble for Rocky Jones. In this episode—I mean, movie—Griff and other guy have forged some sort of alliance with Ophiucius and are headed there to make repairs following the skirmish with the Orbit Jet. Says Garganto, “I’ll arrange an audience with Sousaphone Cleolanta at once.” There is going to be a Sousaphone concert? Oh, I see: “suzerain” is the title of Cleolanta (not Cleopatra, no, not at all), the woman who rules Ophiucius.

Ophiucius is basically a model building that looks like it was out together from a girder and panel building kit I had when I was a kid. The bad guys’ ship lands. Cleolanta wears a low-cut black satin evening gown and tiara, and looks like she just got out of a state dinner. They debate the existence of life on Fornax for a while. If there is “strange fantastic power” on Fornax, as Garganto describes it, shouldn’t Ophiucius go and get it? Just think how large Garganto’s tomatoes could grow with such power. Cleolanta asks if he wants to make an “exploratory flight.” He says he would rather call it a “flight of conquest.” Boy, he does know how to appeal to a despotic ruler. She smiles smugly. And that’s pretty much how you get any government funding.

While they are cackling malevolently off-camera (you know they have gotten out a box of fake moustaches just so they can put them on and twirl them), the Orbit Jet lands on Earth. Zorovac is impressed. “A forest of iron and steel.” Whatever you do, don’t show him Manhattan; he’ll plotz. He is so impressed by the sight of an electrical power station that he apologizes for ever being suspicious of humans’ motives. “I see now that Card Us was an evil man.” Is that all it takes to turn this guy around, a few electric power pylons? I could show this guy my circuit breaker box and convince him to give me his planet.

Back on Fornax, Bobby is chatting up Harmonica, teaching her Earth words like “picnic” and “vacation.” They enter a half-open doorway which leads directly to the missile workshop. They are looking, apparently, for Harmonica’s “headquarters.” She stresses that they are not supposed to be there, and they overhear a conversation conducted in the Fornaxian tongue. Harmonica translates: “It’s Card Us. He wants to overthrow the rule of my daddy’s pontoon.” What? Oh, it’s that damn vonsoom again. So...that would be your mother. “He wants to fire more missiles at Earth.” And with warheads. They run off to tell the vonsoom about what they heard. The vonsoom is dubious. “Harmonica, are you sure you heard Card Us say all those things.” Bobby pipes up, “Sure she did. I was right there, too. She translated and told me.” Oh, that’s convincing testimony. The guys in the missile room could have been comparing quiche recipes for all he knows. The vonsoom says, “I’ll talk to those men who were plotting against my husband. And that Card Us—I’ll teach him a lesson.” Oooh, I’ll give them such a pinch! I would think that high treason probably deserves a little more than a stern talking to.

The monsoon blows into the missile room and looks like she’s about to hit Card Us over the head with a rolling pin. (Well, this was the 1950s. Didn’t women do that back then? Or...ever?) She has the guards carry Card Us off to prison. Now that’s more like it!

Up in space, Griff, Garganto, and...the other guy approach Fornax. They detect the strong gravitation and make “an observation dive.”

Down below, Bobby hears the ship approaching, and suggests it may be Rocky and Zorovac returning. Says the Professor, “That’s not like Rocky.” Rocky never returns after having gone somewhere else. They all rush outside—even Card Us. But, hey, wasn’t he supposed to be hauled off to prison? As they all muse about what ship it could be, Card Us has some kind of moment of inner ecstasy. Inside the ship, the bad guys recognize Vena, Bobby, and the Professor, but make especial note that Rocky Jones’ ship is nowhere to be seen. They get on the loudspeaker, “Attention, Fornax inhabitants. We intend to land, by force if necessary.” They’ve already landed, but go on... “This is Garganto...” and his name echoes across the planet. The Professor either recognizes the name or he has a temporomandibular joint problem, because he makes a variety of very strange mouth movements.

A short time later, Card Us is lounging in the missile room with Griff and Garganto. He has forged an alliance with them to keep from being sent to prison. And Card Us had to utter the line that was bound to turn up at some point: “Whoever has this power, which we control here, can rule the universe.” Bwa-ha-ha-ha! He asks if Cleolanta would reward him. “You give us the universe,” says Garganto, “and name your prize.” The kettledrum on the soundtrack makes the offer official. Or Ophiuciul.

Vena and the Professor are despondent over the prospect of the invaders firing more missiles at Earth. Bobby silently springs into action and strides purposefully out the door...only to be nabbed by a guard and shoved back inside again. Okay, Plan B... “What would Rocky do in a case like this?” Knee Winky in the groin? Bobby thinks hard, but has nothing.

On Earth, Rocky and Zorovac are in Drake’s office. Let’s see, is Zorovac impressed? “Look at this stapler! And any planet that has a caddy full of paper clips can’t be evil. Oh, and these ballpoint pens...” Well, not really, but I guess they wisely kept all that stuff hidden from him or he’d be swooning all over the place. Professor Collins comes in (I guess they have another Professor on Earth, who takes over when Newton is away) and says there is a missile approaching Earth. Yep, from Fornax. And it has a warhead. Rocky’s idea: detonate it before it hits Earth. “Winky,” he says, “strap yourself to the nosecone of the Orbit Jet and ram it.” Well, no... “Winky, take along a double load of atomic missiles and fuel for a quick blast off.” Ooh, a double load. That turns Winky on.

On the Orbit Jet, Rocky, Zorovac, and Winky are en route to intercept the missile. Winky is making note of something on the radar. Zorovac asks, “Is it the warhead missile from Fornax?” No, dickweed, it’s a school of bluefin tuna. What do you think? “I want you to know that I’m on your side, Rocky. All the way.” Well, he would almost have to be, as it would make no sense for him to have Earth bombed while he was on it. But then this guy isn’t the brightest star in the firmament, so who knows... “We’ll talk more about that later. Right now, we’ve got to do something about Bobby, Vena, and Professor Newton...and that missile coming toward us.” Uh, hopefully not in that order. Winky charges in. “What’s the plan, Rocky? We have to act fast.” And then they sit and watch the missile for a while. The plan is to shoot one of the atomic missiles of their own at it. Not exactly rocket science, Winky. Oh, wait, actually it is... “Too bad we haven’t got a lariat. We could rope her on over to Ophiucius.” Oh, shut up, Winky. Besides, how do they even know that Ophiucius is involved at this point? Everyone straps down, except Rocky of course, who has to get up and fire the missiles from what looks like a thermostat on the far wall of the bridge. There’s good ship design. They couldn’t have put the missile firing control on the main control panel? At any rate, they hit the incoming missile and as Winky veers off, Rocky is thrown to the floor. He is, of course, perfectly fine. They set course for Fornax.

On Fornax, Griff is having the Fornaxians load sacks of crystals into the Ophiuciun ship. One Fornaxian is slowly and carefully climbing the very tall ladder into the ship and is berated. “Be careful with that sack of crystals!” The guy was! What a dink. Bobby and Harmonica go back to their regular spot on the stone wall. Bobby has an astrophone and tries calling the Orbit Jet. He apprises Rocky of who all is there. “They’re waiting for you, Rocky. They’re gonna blow the Orbit Jets to bits.” Rocky takes all this in. “What are their plans?” he asks. To blow the Orbit Jet to bits! Wasn’t he listening? Bobby says he doesn’t know if they plan to fire another missile at Earth, but says he will find out. Rocky suggests they synchronize their watches. Is this Mission Impossible all of a sudden? Bobby takes out a pocket watch. “Mine has stopped. And there’s no way to set a watch on Fornax.” No wonder everyone is always late for things there. “It’s 1544,” says Rocky. Ah, of course. “Try to find out what you can, and call me back at 12:00 noon.” Wouldn’t it be less confusing if they stuck to one consistent type of time measurement? And it’s good thing that they synchronized their watches; Rocky wouldn’t take Bobby’s call at any other time. Not that I blame him.

Bobby hangs up, then tells Harmonica to tell Vena and the Professor that he has been in contact with Rocky, and that Rocky destroyed the missile that was on the way to Earth. But Rocky didn’t tell him that! Do they convey important information through some sort of unspoken code?

Griff notices Harmonica slinking back into the building and gets suspicious. Bobby, meanwhile, sneaks into the missile room at the exact moment that Card Us tells Garganto says “We’re ready to roll the second missile into place.” They then lay out the entire plan within Bobby’s earshot. Unfortunately, it happens to be the same alcove right next to the door that Rocky and Winky had hid in earlier, and Griff charges in and immediately nabs him.

Bobby is hauled off to prison. Harmonica sneaks over and calls to him through the window. She wants to know how he can get him out. Ah, I see; she’s going to pull a Sydney Carton, disguise herself as Bobby and let him go free, that way it will be she who is taken to the guillotine. You know, this is the strangest adaptation of A Tale of Two Cities I’ve ever seen. “It is a far far better thing I do now than I have ever done before.” Well, maybe not. “Never mind about me,” says Bobby. “You’ve got to call Rocky Jones. You gotta!” A guard approaches, and Bobby ducks down and sits on his cot in his cell. I bet he could use a harmonica right about now. When the guard leaves, he hands Harmonica his pocket watch. “When both hands get together straight up, you’ve got to call Rocky.” “What should I tell him, Bobby?” “Shh, the guard’s coming back.” Is that what she’s going to tell Rocky? Alcatraz never had this much security.

Harmonica does as she was instructed, calls Rocky, and gives him the lowdown on the missile plans. “And they’ve got Bobby locked up.” That’s a bad thing? Although, Rocky does look over as if thinking, “Why, oh, why couldn’t it have been Winky who was locked up?”

The Orbit Jet arrives at Fornax, and targets its own missiles as Garganto’s ship, and fires. On Garganto’s ship are Garganto, Griff, and Card Us. Garganto pulls a gun on Card Us and tells him to stay put and prepare to fire. Card Us, mentioning all the crystals on board, hightails it out of there. Griff follows him. So much for honor among thieves. As the three of them flee the Ophiuciun ship, the Orbit Jet spins around, fires, and destroys it. So much for the crystals. As the explosion rocks the building, the rest of the cast comes out, and vonsoom yells, “Crowbar infidels!” What? The guards grab Garganto, Griff and Card Us and haul them inside. So why didn’t they do this earlier?

Finally: epilogue.

Rocky tells Garganto that he will be brought up before the United Worlds and “will get everything that’s coming to you.” Miracle Gro? And Card Us will be turned over to the Civil Police. Well, at least in the future the police are civil. “And Griff...” This should be good. “You know what happens to spies.” “And when it happens, I want to be in on it,” adds Winky. One shudders to think.

Everyone is led off to the Orbit Jet. Vena and the Professor are strapped into their La-Z-Boys. Winky comes in from the bridge. “Rocky wanted me to count noses.” Since the crystals were destroyed, are they now bringing back a cargo hold full of powerful Fornaxian noses? Vena points out her own and the Professor’s, but adds, “You won’t find Bobby’s.” Was it cut off while he was in prison? They turn on the visiograph and catch Bobby making time with Harmonica. Um, please turn that off, Gladys Kravitz. They see Zorovac come over and turn the hose on them. I mean, he says, “Tell Rocky Jones that people of Fornax will be his friends through eternity.” You just did, actually. Bobby says okay, and Harmonica watches a tad too intently as he climbs the ladder....

“That kid has a way with the women,” says Winky, perhaps a tad jealous. And away they go.

The end. Wait—you’ve giving Winky the last line! You’re sure about that, movie?

And now it’s time for...

Profiles in Incompetence
One of the back stories to the Rocky Jones series involves the stirring tale of the birth, death, burial, realization of a horrible mistake, disinterment, resuscitation, and continued life of Professor Newton.

Many people believe that, given the time frame of the Rocky Jones TV show, that Professor Newton was born in the future. Newton was actually born in the past. Long past? Your past. No, actually, long past.... In fact, he was known to call Sir Isaac Newton “Sonny,” often in the context of “Get off my lawn!” and “Stop throwing apples at me!” The founder of classical physics was known to often look at Professor Newton and remark, “If I have seen further it’s because I have stood on the shoulders of those whose spines would snap like fresh celery if I ever tried it.”

No one is quite sure how Newton—who had just the one name—got the title “Professor.” The most likely explanation is that, with his unkempt white hair (which had developed by the time he was 25), pince-nez glasses, and penchant for white lab coats, everyone just made the assumption, even though the closest he had come to an academic institution was an incident involving a fraternity hazing, a school mascot (a large, grimacing foam rubber cockatoo), and a vat of lime Jell-O.

Over the course of his academic life, Professor Newton earned three degrees; that is to say, his body temperature went up to 101.6°, where it remained permanently.

His big break came in the late 2050s when, due to a typographical error on some legislation, he was inadvertently given the Griffith Observatory by the City of Los Angeles. For some time, he rattled around inside it fairly aimlessly. Within 20 years, he had noticed the giant telescope which, he soon discovered, had an unobstructed view of Venice Beach.

In the early 2100s, a chance meeting with Rocky Jones led to his being involved with the Space Ranger organization. (One afternoon in a Wal-Mart parking lot, Professor Newton had accidentally backed his car over Winky, and Rocky was forever in the Professor’s debt.) Soon, Professor Newton met Bobby, the precocious 10-year-old with a deep interest and love of both science and really, really old people, and the team became inseparable, however much Bobby tried to escape.

After Rocky Jones’ adventures were canceled, Professor Newton retired to his Observatory where he still stubbornly refuses to die. It is rumored he feeds on the lifeblood of the young like a succubus, but that could just be a myth. The Mythbusters people are due to film an episode about it in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Armed and Dangerous?

I have to say this: the chairwoman of Obama's Council of Economic Advisors will have to juggle a lot of things. What will make it easy, I think, is that, if this picture from the December 8 issue of Time magazine is any indication, Christina Romer has three arms!
Either that, or someone over at Time needs to take a refresher course in Photoshop.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Acid Redux

No, not from The Onion, but rather Engadget:
Violet announces dal:dal internet-connected lamp

the lamp will change colors to relay different information, or, as Violet puts it, convert the "world's ebb & flow and endless stream of events into halos of living colours and audio micro-messages." No exact release date just yet but, according to GeekLifeBlog, it'll set you back €59, or about $75
An Internet-connected lamp? Sounds like sort of a modern version of a lava lamp, although "world's ebb & flow and endless stream of events into halos of living colours and audio micro-messages" sounds like it is being primarily marketed toward heavy LSD users. Hm...kind of like lava lamps, now that I think about it.

Friday Octopus Blogging

Some of you may remember the classic videos "octopus escaping through a one-inch hole," "octopus unscrewing a jar," or perhaps the chilling "octopus eating a shark" so you know how wily the cephalopods can be (hmm...should someone invent a cephal-iPod for octopus videos?). Anyway, an aquarium in Germany has found that Kierkegaard's statement "boredom is the root of all evil" is certainly true of its own eight-armed denizen:
Otto the octopus wreaks havoc

A octopus has caused havoc in his aquarium by performing juggling tricks using his fellow occupants, smashing rocks against the glass and turning off the power by shortcircuiting a lamp.
"We knew that he was bored as the aquarium is closed for winter, and at two feet, seven inches Otto had discovered he was big enough to swing onto the edge of his tank and shoot out the 2000 Watt spot light above him with a carefully directed jet of water."

Director Elfriede Kummer who witnessed the act said: "We've put the light a bit higher now so he shouldn't be able to reach it. But Otto is constantly craving for attention and always comes up with new stunts so we have realised we will have to keep more careful eye on him - and also perhaps give him a few more toys to play with.

"Once we saw him juggling the hermit crabs in his tank, another time he threw stones against the glass damaging it. And from time to time he completely re-arranges his tank to make it suit his own taste better - much to the distress of his fellow tank inhabitants.
An octopus that that is evil!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Unfriendly Ground

What would we do without The Onion to tell it like it is? (h/t to Dr. Joe.)
American Airlines Now Charging Fees To Non-Passengers

FORT WORTH, TX—Cash-strapped American Airlines announced a new series of fees this week that will apply to all customers not currently flying, scheduled to fly, or even thinking about flying aboard the commercial carrier.

The fees, the latest introduced by American Airlines in a continuing effort to combat its financial woes, will take effect on Monday. According to company officials, these charges will include a $25 tax on citizens traveling with any other airline, as well as a mandatory $30 surcharge for passengers who decide to just stay home for the holidays instead.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Splitting Hares

This was Turkey Day weekend, and what would be a more fitting Mis-Treatment than one of the classic turkeys of all time.

Here’s what happened. In 1965, an Australian author named Russell Braddon wrote a political satire called The Year of the Angry Rabbit. The book is set in the future (that is, the late 1990s, which was the future in the mid-1960s) and details what happens when a myxomatosis-resistant strain of rabbit appears and becomes the scourge of Australian farmers. The government develops a chemical weapon that is supposed to kill off the rabbits, but instead proves fatal to humans, not rabbits. The Australian government decides to use this weapon to try to take over the world. As I said, it’s political satire, and is supposed to be pretty funny in a deeply cynical way (I have not read it and, since even Amazon can’t get it for less than $70, I suspect I will continue to not read it).

Somehow, someone in Hollywood got the bright idea to option the book, but take out all the satire, change the setting to the southwest United States, and make the rabbit-killing drug instead turn the rabbits into giant man-eaters. And thus we ended up with the 1972 “horror” movie Night of the Lepus, one of the classic bad movies of all time.

It stars Stuart Whitman, Janet Leigh, Rory Calhoun (not the UConn basketball coach, but the actor who stood on his hind legs), and DeForest Kelley (“Bones” from Star Trek). Actually, what many people don’t realize is that Janet Leigh has been down this road before. In the original draft of Psycho, Norman Bates attacks her in the shower dressed not as his mother, but instead as a giant rabbit. Hitchcock wisely made some script changes.

Other entries in this Mis-Treatment series of silly sci-fi movie recaps include:
Gammera the Invincible
Kong Island
The Skull
Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet
The Wasp Woman
The Horrors of Spider Island
The Atomic Brain
The Amazing Transparent Man
She Gods of Shark Reef
Moon of the Wolf
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Queen of the Amazons
The Incredible Petrified World
Night of the Lepus (1972)
Auteur/Perpetrator: William F. Claxton (he directed this shortly after installing the first printing press in England—oh, wait, that was William Caxton; never mind)
Star(s) of Shame: Take your pick
Monster: Giant flesh-eating bunnies
“Plot”: Um, well, giant flesh-eating bunnies...what more need be said?

By the way, here’s a bit of nerdiana for you (OK, us) Trekkies out there: the movie co-stars, along with DeForest Kelley, Paul Fix, who played the U.S.S. Enterprise’s chief medical officer in the second Star Trek pilot episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before.” Too bad they couldn’t get John Hoyt, who was the ship’s doctor in the first Star Trek pilot. Then it would have been a hat trek. Ahem.

Also, let’s get this out of the way right at the outset:
That’s no ordinary rabbit! That’s the most foul, bad-tempered rodent you ever set eyes on....That rabbit’s got a vicious streak a mile wide! He’s a killer! He’ll do you up a treat, mate. He’s got huge, sharp... He can leap about... Look at the bones!
Anyway, moving right along. I hit Play, and oh, no, a lion! Oh, wait, that’s just the MGM logo. We open on a newsreader, discussing the population explosion. “We think of it in terms of human beings.” Well, yes, what else would we think of it as? Table lamps? “Will they have enough clean air to breathe?” In all the discussions of overpopulation, I have never heard “not having enough air” coming up. Is there a danger of running out? “Will there be enough food to feed an increasing number of mouths?” Maybe we need to breed people without mouths. That would solve the problem, right? “Nature, up to now, has maintained a carefully controlled balance.” It has?

He then cues up a film. Uh oh. Whenever these types of movies open with a pseudodocumentary explaining the premise, you know it’s going to be a tough one to swallow. In this case, the documentary is called “Rabbits Threaten Pastoral Lands of Australia.” How does this tie in with overpopulation? “This imbalance occasionally happens in the animal world.” I would say it almost entirely happens in the animal world. We then zoom into the grainy black-and-white footage of a plague of rabbits Down Under, “rabbits so numerous they threaten man’s existence by devouring crops, killing animals, and destroying property.” What about delivering colored eggs. That’s never good. Wait...rabbits kill animals? How does that happen? “Does man have a right to defend himself against an enemy that threatens his life and property?” Oh, but I kid the health insurance industry...

On the screen, we see herds of rabbits scrambling here and there. Looks kind of fun, actually, especially when they bounce against the rabbit-proof fence. Boing! Hee hee. Boing! That looks like fun. Can we watch this for 88 minutes? Please? (There is no truth to the rumor, by the way, that the 2002 movie Rabbit-Proof Fence was a remake of Night of the Lepus.) So how did the rabbits get there? Apparently, they were imported to Australia as a food source, and their reproduction got out of control. You have to admit, you wouldn’t have had the same problem with, say, potato chips or Snickers bars, although that would make for an interesting movie—chocolate bars running rampant across the landscape, hurling themselves against candy bar-proof fences, killing animals, devouring crops. It would be no more ridiculous than this movie.

We then cut to an on-screen graphic you don’t see very often: “Rabbit War”! Not many people realize this but in the original draft of the Star Wars saga, Lucas originally had, in lieu of the Clone Wars, the Rabbit Wars, where the Jedi Knights fought against wave after wave of killer rabbits. Come to think of it, it might have been a better movie than Attack of the Clones. But wait, about that rabbit war: “U.S. Battles Pests to Save New Trees.” How did we get from protecting man from threats to his very existence to saving trees? Apparently, all over the American west “the same battle lines have been drawn.” Isn’t it mostly desert? Wouldn’t the problem sort itself out before too long? We are told that “Science is doing everything it can to control this population explosion.” Not scientists, but science. I would have thought a few ranchers with shotguns would pretty much take care of the problem—hell, that pretty much took care of the passenger pigeon.

Okay, newsman, bring us on home: “Right now, a new plague of rabbits has broken out in the Southwest, as seen in these color films just received from our news team in Arizona.” I’ve been to Arizona; it’s mostly desert. How does a plague of anything break out?

We are then told that the rabbit is “scientifically known as Lepus.” Actually, that’s not true. Hares—of which there are 30 different species—are biologically distinct from rabbits (hares have longer ears, longer hind feet, and longer tails than rabbits) and are classified under the genus Lepus. Rabbits—28 species of them—are classified into 10 different genera (Sylvilagus, Pronolagus, Nesolagus, Brachylagus, Bunolagus, Caprolagus, Oryctolagus, Pentalagus, Poelagus, and Romerolagus; I suppose Night of the Sylvilagus doesn’t have quite the same ring to it). Both rabbits and hares belong to the family Leporidae. But, well, I suppose that’s just splitting ha— oh, let’s not go there. It’s a good thing this is only the night of the Lepus. If it was the year of the Lepus, could we call it a Lepus year? Anyway, moving right along...

The newsreader ends on an ominous note: “Can this population explosion be contained?” Cue titles...

Okay, so, there is a plague of rabbits in the Southwest, and science is being called on to stop them. Got the premise? Good. Let the carnage begin...

But first, the tender “Love Theme from Night of the Lepus.” This is interesting: the director of photography was Ted Voigtlander who, as it happens, was the director of photography for the TV series Wild Wild West, each episode of which was titled “The Night of...” something. Not many people know this, but there is actually a union rule in Hollywood that stipulates if you title a production “The Night of” something, you are contractually required to call Ted.

The movie also co-stars I. Stanford Jolley. There’s not much else he will stand for; I stand for even less.

All right, that done, we see rancher Cole Hillman (Rory, not John C., Calhoun) riding his horse across the prairie. There are a number of mounds, which contain rabbit holes. They’re pretty clear to see and maneuver around, but Hillman rides his horse directly into one, and the horse trips in a hole, and goes down. The horse’s leg is presumably broken, as Hillman then shoots the horse. Don’t blame the rabbits for that one, buddy; you could easily have ridden around the rabbit mound. I hope this guy doesn’t own a car.

Hillman walks back to his ranch, and sends a ranchhand out to retrieve his saddle from the dead horse. He couldn’t have carried it? He gets on the phone and calls Mildred, presumably the telephone operator. Ah, those were the days, when telephone operators ran the world. “Get me president Elgin Clark at the college in A-hole.” In what? Oh, Ajo; I get it. He was a trifle brusque and we get the sense that Mildred is reading him the riot act, because he apologizes. You didn’t mess with telephone operators back then; it would be like dissing the Pope.

Cut to the college and Hillman is walking briskly across the campus with said president Elgin Clark (DeForest Kelley). “These rabbits are eating me out of house and home,” says Hillman. “Dammit, Jim, what the hell do you want me to do about it?” No, wait... Bones, I mean president Clark, has set up a meeting with Professor Taylor. “Not that guy,” says Hillman. Taylor had gotten rid of Hillman’s coyote problem. “He’s just a little bit too good.” Huh? “I haven’t heard a coyote yapping around there in over a year.” Is that bad? “That’s terrific news for the rabbits, but lousy for me.” There’s no pleasing this guy, is there? Clark then offers Hillman Plan B: a young couple from the east named Bennett. They are there on an exchange program. Exchange program? Anyway, they are working on “new ways to control insects without killing everything else at the same time.” That is a noble cause. Did they phrase it that way in their grant proposal? Naturally, Hillman is a grouch. “I got rabbits, not bugs. There’s nothing left for the bugs to live on.” Then what are the rabbits living on? Are they having pizzas delivered? “Trust me, Cole,” says Clark. “They won’t go around killing everything in sight.” Who, the Bennetts? Do they put that on their resumes?

Cut to said Bennetts, Roy (Stuart Whitman) and Gerry (Janet Leigh, who is starting to bear a slight resemblance to Norman Bates’ mother by this time). The sky is thick with bats (kind of like my old apartment) and the Bennetts are standing outside a cave, picking bats off a mesh fence they had set up across mouth of the cave. It’s about noon. Aren’t bats nocturnal? Why are they flying around at this hour? Are they insomniac bats? Gerry smiles lovingly at Roy as he cuts a bat loose from the mesh. I’m guessing these two get Halloween and Valentine’s Day confused. They are joined in this endeavor by their eight-or-so-year-old daughter Amanda, whom I will henceforth refer to as The Cause, for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Roy is carrying the bats in a wooden box and starts shaking it vigorously. Is that really the best way to handle live bats? Why not pitch the box off a cliff, or throw it in front of a truck. Jeepers. He then holds a microphone up to the box. Is he interviewing the bats? he says he is “trying to record their sound.” Yeah, man, the bat sound was all the rage in 1972. He shoos the womenfolk away, and Gerry makes some joke to Amanda about how “bats like hair.” No, that’s actually a myth. I think this movie needed a science advisor because so far it has gotten just about everything wrong.

President Clark arrives and is greeted by Gerry, and Roy is trying to keep them quiet so he can record his bat sounds. He keeps banging on the box to get them to squeak. “That’s the cry of fear,” he says smugly. Yeah, wait for Act III, pal. Heh. So what the heck is this guy working on? “If we can drive them away with that sound of fear, we can control their entire flight,” he explains. Huh? “By introducing them into areas infested with mosquitoes, we can get them to do the same job that DDT does.” So...he’s trying to figure out ways of persuading bats to eat the things they normally eat already. Are these bats on a hunger strike as well as being insomniac? I think president Clark should ask for the grant money back. Clark then asks a favor, involving Cole Hillman. “He’s got a rabbit explosion.” “Rabbits aren’t exactly Roy’s bag,” says Gerry. She’s right; the rabbit-skin handbag doesn’t go with his shoes. Bones, I mean Clark, is persistent. “Cole Hillman’s on your side. He’s trying to avoid poison.” Roy is nonplused. Clark continues, “Once those rabbits spread out, ranchers will bomb the whole countryside with cyanide.” Uh, really? Is that a good idea? That gets Roy’s attention, as well it should, and they head on up to Hilman’s ranch.

They drive past ranchers shooting rabbits, and The Cause is upset. “I like rabbits, mommy,” she says. Yeah, wait a couple of acts, kid. Heh.

Roy examines a rabbit. “Out here in the southwest, they’re called Silver Lagers.” What? How many silver lagers has this guy had? Hillman explains where the rabbits came from. Someone was raising domesticated rabbits, he had a fire, and a couple hundred got away. “Oh, so these are mongrels,” says Gerry. Mongrel rabbits? (I stand corrected; according to the Microsoft Encarta, the term “mongrel” can be used to refer to any animal or plant that is a mixture of different breeds or strains.” Okay, movie, I’ll give you that one.)

Hillman then asks how the rabbit plagues were take care of in Australia and New Zealand. “Poison,” says Roy. No, that’s not what they used (they introduced the disease myxomatosis, caused by the Myxoma virus, and which is only lethal to rabbits). “But the poison killed the birds which caused a plague of grasshoppers just as bad as the rabbits.” No, it didn’t; now he’s just making stuff up. Maybe that college town was called A-hole, since that seems to be where he’s pulling all his facts from.

Roy then come up with a hare-brained idea: “Hormones.” Isn’t that kind of what caused the problem in the first place? The idea is to “disturb their breeding cycle.” Or, he also suggests, “a disease that would affect only the rabbits.” Oh, like, um, myxomatosis? Roy then asks to borrow a few rabbits to make some tests. A rabbit test? Gerry had said that rabbits were not Roy’s bag, and truer words have never been spoken.

I think for Roy’s edification, we should cue up Radiohead’s “Myxomatosis” (actually the best track on their Hail to the Thief album...well, okay, “2+2=5” is pretty good, too).

As Roy is filling up a galvanized trash can with rabbits (!) one bites Hillman. Roys says, “You should have that looked at. the bite of the Lepus—that’s a Latin word for rabbit—can be dangerous.” Come on, Roy, you know you want to add, “Thousands of people are killed each year by rabbit bites. See, rabbits are poisonous and their venom is 100 times deadlier than that of the black widow spider. In fact, rabbits have been known to spin silk webs and trap their prey in it.” I mean, if he’s gonna make stuff up, he may as well go all out. Anyway, it bears pointing out that any bite or cut can be dangerous if it gets infected.

Some time later, we are at the college which, if it hired Roy, can’t possibly be accredited. The Cause is examining a row of rabbit cages—I guess this is Roy’s rabbit test. Gerry explains hormone experiments to an eight-year-old: “Well, we were trying to make Jack a little more like Jill and Jill a little more like Jack.” Just show her Dame Edna’s show. Adds Roy, “We can’t shoot them full of hormones without sending their nervous system into shock.” They’re rabbits; what doesn’t send their nervous system into shock? “We could spend months developing the correct lab procedure. Well, nothing seems to work.” He the takes out a test tube and fills a hypodermic needle with its contents. “On the other hand, here’s something they’ve never been exposed to before.” Raspberry preserves—but why? “Dr. Dirkson from the Public Health Department sent it over this morning.” Is he a member of the Mysterious Vial of Fluid of the Month Club? Gerry grabs a rabbit, which I suspect is affectionately named Keith Richards. “I wish I knew what the effects of this serum would be.” Is this guy just injecting random liquids into rabbits? Forget whether that’s ethical; is it even sensible? “I’m going to try some windshield wiper fluid next. And then get me a bottle of Mrs. Butterworth syrup.”

As Keith Richards the rabbit is removed from the cage, The Cause cries out, “Not that one, mommy. It’s my favorite.” They’re all the same, you little— As he injects the rabbit, Roy says, “This is a villain in certain birth defects.” The rabbit, the serum, or the kid? Oh, must be the serum. He continues, “It causes hereditary changes.” Gerry asks, “Will it transfer to other rabbits?” “I should hope so. It’s difficult to inject 10–15,000 wild rabbits.” So...birth defects are contagious? What? This guy doesn’t really have a degree in anything, does he? Okay, so, the serum causes some kind of genetic mutation which can somehow be transferred to other rabbits. Okay movie, if that’s your premise, let’s move along...

At that point, Hillman calls, and after Gerry puts the “infected” rabbit back in its cage, she conveniently joins Roy on a teleconference...why they need to have a lengthy teleconference with that guy is anyone’s guess. But it does give Amanda the opportunity to surreptitiously switch the infected rabbit with one from the control group. Good one, kid.

But wait a minute: after they hang up—and, by the way, they have this conversation conveniently out of view of the rabbit cages—Roy says, “Cole says the rabbits are getting meaner and hungrier.” Why then do you need to muck about with hormones or sera? If they’re hungry, that means their food supply is dwindling, which in turn means that the population will soon correct itself . This is what you guys are actually talking about when you rabbit on about “nature’s balance.” Any animal population grows or shrinks based on the available food. Although it occurs to me that the real question is: why am I going on about this in a recap of a dumb killer rabbit movie? Oy...

Anyway, as The Cause is busy switching the rabbits, Roy says, “Heaven help us if any of these rabbits get away before we know the effects of the serum.” Dum dum dum!

The Cause then pleads with her parents to let her have one of the rabbits as a pet. They agree. “One from the Control Group?” asks Gerry. They’re not real clear on the whole science thing are they?

Naturally, The Cause chooses the one she had switched—which is to say, the infected one. Let the fun begin.

To make matters worse, The Cause shows off her rabbit to Jackie, Hillman’s son, who, quite understandably, hates rabbits. “They killed my chickens!” And you know what they say about a boy and his chickens. So he grabs the rabbit and lets it run away. Now we’re off to the races! Jackie apologizes; The Cause is oddly forgiving.

Back in the lab, the “scientists” have noticed that rabbits injected with the serum are getting bigger. “One more week and these won’t be babies anymore.” Wait a minute—they’re experimenting on juvenile rabbits? Then of course they’re getting bigger! If was a bold choice of president Bones to let Ph.D.’s in business administration run the Biology Department. “If Cole’s gonna use poison, he’d better do it soon.” Then what are they doing there?

Out here in the fields, where the rabbits fight for their meals...ahem. Out in the fields, Hillman is pouring gasoline in the ground. Apparently his plan is to...uh...burn the rabbits? Can that be right? His neighbor confronts him and says that poison would be a preferable alternative.

Kill the wabbits...kill the wabbits...

They light up the field, and we watch as tons of rabbits scamper away...presumably the infected one, too.

Some time later (that same day? A week later? A month?) Hillman, Roy, and Gerry are out riding in the field, and Gerry spots a strange animal track. They all muse about what it could be. Hillman estimates that the animal that made it is about 100–150 pounds. Big Rabbit Foot?

Meanwhile, The Cause and Jackie are hanging out and Jackie wants to introduce her to a friend of his—Captain Billy (?), who owns a gold mine. A gold mine? “Well, he hasn’t found much yet, but he says he’s going to.” Ah, so in the same way that I’m a millionaire, but I just haven’t made a million dollars yet. Got it.

Over at the “gold mine,” Captain Billy is nowhere to be found, but the house (well, shack) is a shambles. Jackie notices some large animal tracks in some flour that had spilled on the floor. The Cause wanders into the mine and finds Captain Billy...on the ground, being eaten by giant rabbits. He’s dead, Jim. Take a good look kid...this is all your fault! We then get the first of many many closeups of rabbits’ faces smeared with red paint; apparently the best way to convey their huge size is to shoot them in extreme closeup. The Cause screams. As well she should.

At Roy’s house, the doctor pronounces The Cause’s problem as “mild shock.” She should be given a mild shock. Jackie is asked if he saw anything. “I can’t be sure. It all happened so fast.” No it didn’t; it took forever. Glaciers move faster. Gerry says, “Something must have happened. She didn’t just imagine it. Amanda’s too sensible.” Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Only a mother... Then again, Janet Leigh has the same reaction to showers, I would imagine.

Roy says he’s going to talk to Dr. Dirkson...for some reason.

That night, a truck is driving in the middle of nowhere, and pulls off the side of the road. The truck says “Refrigerated Lines” on the side. Hm. Someone is delivering the movie’s dialogue. Why does it need to be refrigerated? God knows it’s already turned.

For some reason, the driver opens the back of the truck seemingly for no other reason than to attract creatures. Which he does. We then get a montage of rabbit faces and low growling. Something leaps, and the truck driver screams. He’s dead, Jim.

Jump cut to he next morning and a police car pulls over to where the truck has been left. Interesting police car. There are no markings on it, but it does have two red lights on the roof. I guess the county wasn’t too clear on the concept of unmarked police cars. Deputy Jason (not wearing a hockey mask) looks inside the cab of the truck, then in the back of the truck, then notices all the empty boxes on the ground directly behind the truck—and, finally, the horribly bloody and dismembered driver. I’ve had mornings like that. I guess he is under strict orders to make sure the truck was all right first because the body would have been completely visible from his car as he pulled up.

The deputy must have made a call when we weren’t looking, because another police car pulls up—Sheriff Cody (Paul Fix). “What’s so urgent?” growls the sheriff. Now the deputy is in a fix. The deputy points out the body. “What’d they use on him, an axe?” Why the rabbits didn’t eat the guy is a good question. And if they weren’t going to eat him, why just randomly sever his limbs? For sport? The sheriff then gets a call. “What?!” he barks. “Get the body into town. Get Doc Wilson to do a post on him immediately.” What? They’re going to put a post on him? Oh, I get it, the sheriff’s department has a blog and they’re going to do a blog post about the dead body. Okay. “Looks like we got another one.” That is, Captain Billy’s body had been found, “hacked to pieces.” Maybe it was Steve Hackett.

At the lab, or, more precisely, from what it looks like, a dentist’s waiting room, Dr. Leopold is examining...something through a microscope and waxing poetic about how much you can uncover by looking at things through a microscope. He holds up a damaged aluminum can. “This can was not opened with an axe.” What about a can opener? “Something punctured the metal.” Wow, Quincy’s got nothing on this guy. (I guess I should say the CSI people have nothing on this guy; why dwell in the past...except for the fact that I liked Quincy a lot more than I like CSI.) “The crates on the truck weren’t broken either. They were gnawed.” He then rattles off an entire thesaurus entry for “gnawed.” He also found traces of dried saliva on the cans, the boxes, and the victim. Sheriff Cody then looks through the microscope, sees some red and yellow wriggling ooze, and is satisfied. Was that dried saliva? “What have we got here—vampires?” he growls. “Possibly,” says the medical examiner with a straight face. “The only thing that could have caused this sort of destruction is a saber-toothed tiger. As a matter of fact, a lot of them.” Does he have a lot of data on saber-toothed tiger attacks on delivery trucks? If so, that’s quite a feat, since they’ve been extinct for a few thousand years. Is there some other medical examiner they can consult?

Meanwhile, another cop radios in from some picnic grounds, where a family of four has been “horribly mutilated.” They’re dead, Jim. We’ve all had family outings like that. We then pan slowly over the bloody corpses—and again the bodies are simply smeared with red paint. Why didn’t the rabbits eat them? Did they prefer the potato salad?

Back at the Ajo State College and Delicatessen, The Bennetts and president Clark are conferring with Dr. Dirkson, who has been studying abnormalities and birth defects all his life—“which comes pretty close to home for me,” he says. That explains the hair. Says Roy, “Rabbits as big and as ferocious as wolves? That’s inconceivable.” This explanation should be good. Says Dr. Dirkson, “The genetic code for every living thing is contained in each cell of that organism.” No, it’s not. What about red blood cells, which lack nuclei? “Assuming we introduced defective cells into that one rabbit, it’s conceivable that we could have created the seeds for a mutated species.” Roy finds this inconceivable. Now wait a minute—wasn’t this his entire plan for getting rid of the rabbits in the first place, introducing genetic mutations that could then be passed along to other rabbits? And wasn’t he remarking earlier that he noticed the rabbits getting bigger? “It’s just too hard to believe and I won’t until I see one.” Heh. Wait a few minutes. “All we have to go on is what Amanda had to say.” Maybe she sees Harvey. It is suggested that the sheriff be notified, but Bones, I mean Clark, thinks a cover up would be a better idea. “Can you imagine the kind of sensational publicity that would bring down on the university if it became generally known?” Dammit, Jim, I’m a college president, not a scientist! (You knew that was coming.) I think your college’s reputation is far more endangered by hiring professors who don’t actually know anything about their field of study.

Roy agrees. He tells Gerry to call Hillman and have him join him. “Tell him to bring poison feed, cyanide, dynamite, and anything else he can think of.” Soup? Baking powder? Mini marshmallows? Plastic tubing? Swim fins? A snorkel? I mean, someone can easly think of a lot of things. But he still doubts that there are any giant rabbits. Says Dr. Dirkson, “I don’t suppose there’s a chance you could bring back one of those rabbits alive.” Roy just wanders way. So, the answer is “no.”

They drive out to the mineshaft. Inside, we see closeups of bunny faces. Outside, Roy orders Bones and another guy, Frank, to go to the top of the hill and see if there are any other allow the things he doesn’t think exist to escape. Hillman goes into the mine to set the charges to blow up the things that Roy doesn’t think exist. Up top, Bones, I mean Clark, radios down and tells Roy that he has found additional holes, created presumably by the things that Roy doesn’t think exist. Bones then has an idea; he drops a tiny rock into the hole, and we hear a mad scramble of giant rabbits. Bones holds the radio up to the hole and lets Roy listen.
Roy abruptly decides that he wants to go in and investigate whatever is in the mine that was making the weird noises. “Whatever’s back in there is a mystery. If we cave it in, we’ll never know.” Oh, come on, pal; you’ve proven at all turns up to this point that you’re really a high school gym teacher, so don’t start pretending you’re an actual scientist now. He says that he is going to try to pull one of them out. “Hey, Rocky, watch me pull a rabbit out of my...cave?” He says he wants to analyze its cells and blood, “Or if I can’t do that, I’ll take a picture of it.” Or, if he can’t do that, an amusing caricature. Hillman decides to go in with him. Gerry takes her own sweet time to call Bones and tell him to hold off on setting off the dynamite. Not that I can blame her.

Inside the mine, Hillman says, “We must be in about half a mile by now.” No, you’re not, you’ve gone about six feet. More closeups of bunny faces. The insomniac bats are up and active. Hillman believes the rabbits are right around the corner. He lifts his gun. “Don’t shoot,” says Roy. “The whole place’ll come down on us.” Really? They round the corner and lo and behold: the rabbits! Roy takes out his Kodak Instamatic and starts snapping pictures. “There must be thousands of them. This must be their breeding ground.” I think a rabbit’s breeding ground is pretty much wherever rabbits happen to be at any given time. We are then treated to another means of conveying the huge size of the rabbits: having proper sized rabbits hop about a miniature set. Hillman and Roy decide to run. However, Roy is attacked by one, and we are treated to the third, and to my mind best, way of conveying the rabbit’s size: quick cuts to a guy in a bunny suit. Hillman smacks the bunny-suited guy in the head with the butt of his rifle. He (that is, Hillman, not the guy in the bunny suit) and Roy run.

Meanwhile, a short distance away, a giant rabbit emerges from a brand new hole and charges into the wooden shack, where one of the guys—Jud—is eating something. Immediately, the guy in the bunny suit jumps on him. Peter Cottontail, no! Gerry hears him screaming and runs in with the rifle. Closeups of the guy being strangled by bloody, hairy paws are intercut with closeups of a proper rabbit covered in red paint, and the effect doesn’t quite work. Gerry starts shooting, and the guy in the bunny suit jumps out the window. Jud is horribly mauled and covered in blood and is in shock. Gerry consoles him as if he just got a paper cut. “We gotta get out of here,” says Jud. “They ain’t coming out of the mine alive.” Meaning, I guess, Hillman and Roy. “Yes, they are,” says Gerry. “And we’re not going anywhere.” Shouldn’t they get this guy to a hospital or something? He’s lost rather a lot of blood by the looks of it.

The rabbits in hot pursuit, Hillman and Roy barely make it out of the mine. As they run through the adit (hey, I get to use a crossword puzzle word) they shout to blow the mine. Which they do. Is that the end of the rabbits? Well, the movie is only half over so, no.

Some time later (that same day? Next week? A month?) Roy, Gerry, and Bones are looking at the photograph Roy had taken of the rabbits. How come no one has asked how an infected rabbit got loose? The Cause should get her effect, if there’s any justice. They finally decide to tell Sheriff Cody. Everyone is afraid to broach the subject with him, aren’t they? It’s only Paul Fix. Don’t they call him The Fixer? Roy is suddenly afraid that after the picture hits the newspapers, the press will be all over the place, and he suggests that Gerry and The Cause should flee. Funny, he was cool with them being around the giant rabbits, but the press? Gasp! Anything but that! Says Gerry, “I suppose we’ll drive up to Wooddale and stay at the lodge.” Yep: “I know this little motel away from the interstate. Run by a Norman Something-or-other.”

As they share a tender moment, the rabbits stir inside the mine, and find a way out. Now they’re on the move and hop through a Lionel model train set on their way toward the Hillman ranch. They spook the horses, which start freaking out, even though the rabbits are about a mile away. Sensitive creatures, they. Suddenly, the rabbits are on a ridge overlooking the horses (this is so the director can use his favorite shot in the movie, which is to have rabbits jump over the camera). Anyway, the guy in the bunny suit decides to go horseback riding and jumps on a horse. It goes down, awash in red paint. More horses get attacked. Meanwhile, Jud steals a truck and gets the heck out of there. Since he was the one who had been attacked earlier, he’s understandably skittish around giant rabbits. Unfortunately, he drives right into the herd of them, and they swarm the truck. He spins around and goes back to the ranch, the rabbits in hot pursuit.

At the ranch, Hillman is getting everyone into the cellar. Hillman tries to make a phone call to Mildred, but Jud, who is a bigger danger to himself than the rabbits are, loses control of the truck and knocks over the telephone pole (of course he does.), making the phone go out. It’s dead, Jim. He scrambles out of the truck directly into the path of the rabbits. He is soon pounced on. He’s dead, Jim. Hillman tries firing his rifle at a bad process shot of the rabbits in front of the truck. He runs down into the cellar. I’ll bet in the porn version of this movie they used Playboy Bunnies instead.

The rabbits break into his house and raid the kitchen. “Sounds like a cattle stampede,” says Frank. Actually, it sounds more like a popcorn popper, or perhaps a half dozen hamsters in a drier. The kitchen is directly above them, so Hillman and Frank shoot though the ceiling, hoping to hit the rabbits. It’s probably not a good idea to weaken the floor so the rabbits crash down on top of them. Just a suggestion. A paw pokes a hole through the floor, and they continue shooting. They hit the rabbit, and blood drips through the bullet holes. Either that or they hit a bottle of ketchup. It’s hard to tell.
The rabbits hit the bunny trail and head toward the General Store, which is where you go when you don’t want to buy anything specific. The store is run by Mildred, who bears a striking resemblance to a fish. If they ever make Night of the Large-Mouthed Bass, she’d be a natural for the lead. At any rate, the two men who were keeping her company leave just in time—just after they drive off, Mildred hears hippity-hopping in the distance. And, of course, just as she turns her back to the front window, in they charge. The guy in the bunny suit knocks her to the ground and slathers red paint all over her neck. Again, they don’t eat her; just knock her down. I bet she’d taste like seafood. She’s dead, Jim.

Down the road, another rancher is attacked, despite his valiant attempt at self-defense by trying to hit the rabbits with a wooden stool. He’s dead, Jim.

The next morning, Roy bids farewell to Gerry and The Cause (they’re still there? I thought they left days ago.) They climb into their RV (which I bet has no shower) and head off to what will have to be certain doom. Bones, I mean Clark, pulls up in a station wagon that, in true 1970s fashion, is larger than the Starship Enterprise. He says that Sheriff Cody is on his way back from the crime lab in Phoenix and they will meet him at the airport. Yep, Sheriff Cody was bigger than The Beatles and his legions of fans would gather en masse at the airport to greet his arrival. However, for some reason, the sheriff arrives at the airport in a car. What? “Sheriff, we have something horrible to tell you?” says Roy. The movie isn’t over yet? “Your frantic call wouldn’t have anything to do with rabbits, would it?” barks the sheriff. Sheriff Cody says the crime lab people (well, the one guy) discovered that what killed Captain Billy and the truck driver were giant rabbits. I guess he rethought the saber-toothed tiger hypothesis. Well, you know, saber-toothed tigers, giant rabbits. It’s a fine line.

Bones, I mean Clark, and Sheriff Cody commiserate. After all, they’ve both worked with Shatner so they’re used to large creatures that devour scenery. The three of them then go up in a helicopter to head out to the mine.

Meanwhile, Hillman is walking along the highway and tries to hitch a ride. Unfortunately, he is carrying a rifle and tries to “thumb” a ride by waving both his arms, and the gun in the air. Oh, sure, I’d stop and pick him up! Needless to say, the one car that passes him does not. He soon realizes what the problem is and chucks the gun away.

In the car that passed him by is a family of four and, like every other child in the movie, the two kids have blond hair and blue eyes. Was the children’s casting call for this movie conducted at a Hitler Youth meeting? Neither parent has those features, so I guess these are Mr. and Mrs. Recessive Gene. The kids are whining that they want to stop, and the car pulls over at the destroyed General Store. The neglect to see the dead Mildred, or the herd of giant rabbits inside, and instead muse that they found a real “ghost town.” Ba-dum-bum.

Meanwhile Janet Leigh and The Cause are motoring down the highway, the latter quite perky, even though she was responsible for about a dozen deaths and thousands of dollars of destruction so far. Where’s the justice? They approach the turn off the Wooddale, which is a dirt road that leads into the middle of nowhere. Oh, no! The “lodge” they’re going to is the Valley Lodge—this is turning into Manos, The Hands of Fate. Ahhhh!!!! The road they take apparently requires a mountain bike or a Sherman tank to successfully traverse, so their RV immediately gets stuck in the sand. Of course it does. Oh, good: maybe The Cause will get eaten by rabbits, proving that there is some justice in the world.

The helicopter arrives at the mine—oh, that’s right: at this point, only Hillman knows that the rabbits escaped from the mine. I forgot about that. They come across a fresh hole and surmise that some rabbits got out. Bones, I mean Clark, again tries his trick of dropping a rock in the hole. This time, no sound. Roy points out that it gets dark at 5:30, so they have a few hours to find out where the rabbits got to. The sheriff calls his office, and asks that the National Guard be sent out.

Hillman finally arrives at the General Store and sees the carnage—and the rabbits. He quickly dashes away, and tries to hitchhike again—this time, sans gun. A car does stop for him—a Mystery Machine-like van driven by a priest. “What the matter?” the priest asks. “If I told you, you’d think I’d been drinking.” Oh, I don’t know; I’ve been to Catholic mass.

Bones, I mean Clark, Roy and Sheriff Cody arrive back at the airport. Deputy Jason is there to pick them up—and his car now finally has a “Sheriff’s Department” sticker on the side. I guess it was on order and it finally came in the mail. The Deputy tells the Sheriff that the response from Phoenix was that they can use the National Guard however they’d like. Cool; will they cook and do laundry?

At the Sheriff’s office, the military has arrived. Roy asks if there are any other mines in the area, “or any place they could hole up”? The sheriff doesn’t know. Even Jason doesn’t know. So, basically, the only two policemen around have absolutely no knowledge of the area. With his near-handlebar moustache, Deputy Jason is Mr. 1970s; and wasn’t he in the Village People?

Now get this: The phone rings, and the sheriff picks it up. He listens for a moment, then says, “Put him right on.” We cut to Hillman in a phone booth. “It’s me, Cole Hillman.” The sheriff is surprised. “Cole!” Wasn’t he just told who it was before he said “Put him right on”? Or does he have the worst short-term memory on the planet? “Now listen to this,” says Hillman, “the rabbits attacked the ranch last night and killed Jud. Also Mildred, her husband, and less.” What? Oh, Les. Never mind. “They’ve only been moving at night, and are heading in your direction.” Says the sheriff, “Stay right where you are. I’ll have a car pick you up.” He then hangs up. Since Hillman didn’t say where he was, that will probably take a while. Hillman also might have mentioned where the rabbits were now, especially since, when they were last seen in the General Store, they weren’t moving in anyone’s direction. The sheriff really isn’t very good on the phone, is he? After he hangs up, he tells everyone, “Cole just came from Golanos. He says they’re holed up in a building there.” No, he didn’t! Hillman said none of those things! Don’t tell me the sheriff is now making stuff up? The military guy—whose armband says M.P., so one wonders how much authority he’s got—says “We’ll hit the whole town with rockets. I’ve got two fighter bombers on the runway right now in Tucson.” Fighter bombers? And, uh, what about...

Ah, good, took the words right out of my mouth: the sheriff is worried about survivors—a fair point. “It’ll be dark before I can get there with enough men to handle the situation.” Really? According to my Rand-McNally road atlas of Arizona, it’s less than 100 miles from Tucson to Ajo. It takes a long time to fly a “fighter bomber” that distance? Chips in Roy, “When it gets dark, you won’t be able to handle the situation.” Why? Does he turn into a pumpkin after sundown? “When those rabbits start coming, they could be here in a couple of hours.” They made pretty good time the previous night. And giant rabbits move faster than “fighter bombers”? Asks Roy, “Does that give you enough time to evacuate the town?” Nope; apparently the town is full of trailer parks and ranches all spread around, “many of them without telephones.” Says the sheriff, “What we need is a fence, about 10 miles long and about 20 feet high.” Do you want to put it anywhere in particular, or do you just have a thing for fences?

Roy then muses that he hasn’t heard from Gerry and The Cause. He confesses to Bones, “I didn’t want the girls here when reporters came around.” Says Bones, “Wooddale’s a good 20 miles west of the rabbits.” Non-Sequitur Cinema! He wasn’t worried about the rabbits, he was worried about the reporters. And is 20 miles that big a distance when you’re talking about the rabbits?

Night starts to fall, and a military convoy heads...somewhere. And, likewise, the rabbits start heading...somewhere. It’s kind of like Pamplona, Spain, and the running of the bulls, only weirder (well, on second thought, not that much weirder).

The sheriff is on the phone getting a status report. “The National Guard reports that the rabbits are near Four Corners, killing as they come. Other companies are setting up machine guns outside Ajo.” This makes no sense geographically. Four Corners? How did the rabbits get there? Four Corners is in the very northeast corner of Arizona, and Ajo is down not far from the very southwest corner of Arizona. That’s a good 500 miles. I thought these rabbits started out not far from Ajo. Did they go visit Monument Valley and are now coming back? Even more bizarrely, we see the rabbits hopping down State Route 83, which runs near Tombstone in the southeast corner of the state. These rabbits are taking quite the tour of Arizona. Not that I blame them, of course.

Meanwhile the town—presumably Golanos—is being evacuated. Suddenly, it seems to be quite the little metropolis. The sheriff and Deputy Village Person are overseeing the evacuation. Officer Lopez radios in and says that the rabbits are 15 miles from Golanos. Wow, they do move fast. “At the speed they’re going, I figure you got 40–50 minutes.” So they move about 20 miles an hour. Not bad for rabbits.

The military guy is looking at a map. “If they’re coming across a front that wide, I can’t possibly stop them.” But the line of them was only as wide as a street. You can’t fend that off? The sheriff suggests waiting until they hole up for the night, but Bones grouses, “Dammit, Jim, the town will be a disaster by then.” Which town? Then Roy chimes in. Hoo boy. “Sheriff, you were saying something about a fence.” Uh, he was actually kidding. I think. I hope. “Yeah, about 2 miles long and 20 feet high.” No, you said 10 miles long the last time. I think it might be time for the sheriff to retire. Roy asks Bones, “Doc, how far do you think those rabbits travel with each stride?” Doc? Since when is college president Clark, I mean Bones, the “Doc”? True, he probably has a Ph.D., but how did he suddenly become an expert on anything in this movie? Although, for some reason, Bones has the answer: “Judging from the tracks we’ve seen, I’d say, oh, four, maybe five feet.” Roy asks, “Do you think that railroad dispatcher is still on duty?” What railroad dispatcher? “He should be, unless he’s been evacuated.” Ewww. Says Roy in an odd voiceover that was ineptly dubbed in later, “We’ll funnel them into a five-mile area at the tracks.” Really?

Roy calls the railroad dispatcher and asks if they can isolate a stretch of railroad track about two miles long. I thought it was five miles. Was this entire movie improvised? The dispatcher says something about a siding five miles to the east, and fiddles with some knobs. However, there is a freight train on the track, which they have to wait to clear before they can do anything. Tell me about it; this is just like any Amtrak trip I have been on.

At this point, the military guy quite sensibly asks what Roy is planning to do. (Yep, another case where a kooky scientist who has been wrong about everything the entire movie is put in charge of military strategy. They should call in Dr. Hidaka and the Japanese Orville Redenbacher.)

Roy’s brilliant idea: “A fence between the rabbits and the city. An electrical fence. We’ll electrocute them on the railroad tracks.” Why can’t they just shoot the rabbits?

Here is my favorite moment in the movie. A cop pulls into a drive-in movie theater, which has more patrons than I think live in that town. Anyway, he gets on a bullhorn and announces, with a straight face:
“Attention, attention. Ladies and gentlemen, attention. There is a herd of killer rabbits headed this way and we desperately need your help.”
I think everyone would need to stop laughing first. Anyway, everyone is instructed to turn their lights on and follow the cops. Surprisingly, everyone goes along with this!

As the Sheriff, Roy, and Hillman (hey, how did he get there all of a sudden) head out to the train tracks, Roy discovers from Bones that Gerry and The Cause never arrived at Wooddale. He panics, and has the sheriff order the helicopter to meet him at the railroad tracks. “Sure!” chirps the sheriff. The idea is to run the power lines down to the railroad tracks and, as soon as the freight train clears, electrify the rails. Is this really the best idea? After leaving them all with this dopey idea, Roy takes off in the helicopter to look for the womenfolk. Then, the cars from the drive-in arrive, and the military directs them to park in a straight line and leave the lights on. And the rabbits keep on a-comin’.

Meanwhile over in the middle of nowhere, it has been about six hours since Gerry and The Cause got stuck and they are finally now getting around to doing something about it. What have they been doing all day? Watching videos in the RV? They hear something. Three guesses what it is. Yes! The little creep is gonna finally get her comeuppance. Gerry instructs The Cause to lock herself inside the RV. Yeah, kid, go read Watership Down. That’ll take your mind off things. Gerry takes some signal flares out of the glove compartment. she lights one and holds the rabbits off with it. She tosses it and it sets one of the rabbits on fire. Well one down, a few hundred left to go. (On the plus side, this seems like a less daft idea than the whole electrify the train tracks thing.) The rabbits then start swarming on a model RV. And just when things looked bleakest (or most promising, depending on your point of view), Roy arrives in the helicopter and rescues the women. So why didn’t the rabbits swarm the helicopter?

Anyway, the rabbits go on the move again and this time take out a herd of cattle.

Over at the train tracks, Sheriff Cody is getting grouchy. Well, more grouchy. He asks the dispatcher what is taking the train so long; the dispatcher says it’s a slow freight and will take five minutes until it passes the switch it needs to pass before they can electrify the tracks. Yeah, right; that’s what they always say on Amtrak, and then two hours later you’re still sitting there.

One of the military guys then tells the line of cars from the drive-in that the herd of rabbits is nearly there, and that it is the car lights that are going to funnel them onto the train tracks. Oh, and there will also be a lot of rifle and machine gun fire. Um, I question the legality of suddenly drafting civilians and putting them right in the middle of harm’s way. And if all the people get killed, why do they need to care if the town gets destroyed? Are the buildings more important than the people? This is kind of like “if realtors ruled the world.” And the again, why do they need the people to stay in the cars? They just need the lights to stay on. Can’t the drivers get out and go someplace safe?

They take some time connecting the power to the tracks. Roy returns to watch his dippy plan come to fruition. Or fail miserably. Shortly, the freight train passes—curiously, it was only one car long. Yeah, right. I have been stuck at enough railroad crossings to know that freight trains are usually miles long and take forever to pass. The train gone, the turn on the power, just as the rabbits come over the hill. The military opens fire. And we see they are still on Route 83. Nope, one shot later they are on Route 82. That would put them around Sonoita, which is still about 300 miles from Ajo—or where everyone is waiting for them.

The helicopter reports that they are heading right for the tracks. So why are they avoiding the cars? They never seemed especially shy before. (It get the sense that somewhere along the lines in this movie they seemed to have picked up the idea that rabbits were afraid of light. I’m not sure how or why they got that idea.)

The rabbits charge across more of the Lionel model train set they have been using throughout the movie. They hit the rails and start sparking like it’s the Fourth of July. And, after quite the melee (and sea of bad process shots), against all odds, the dippy plan worked. They’re dead, Jim. They all gaze in awe at the pile of singed fur. So, get out all the hasenpfeffer recipes. Still, I get the sense that next Easter is going to be a rather muted affair.
Some time later (the next day? Some weeks later?) Hillman drops by the college, where Roy, Bones, and the rest are playing football. Wow, and I thought Syracuse had a crappy football team. Hillman tells Roy that he heard some new coyotes, but the rabbits are still there—“but not like they used to be.” I guess that means “not huge.” Roy and family are invited out to the ranch, an invitation that they take up. Hillman was only being polite; they weren’t supposed to accept! The Cause runs off to frolic with Jackie, as some normal sized rabbits sit calmly by.

The end.

Hey, wait, I have a complaint. Well, okay, several actually, but one in particular. How come The Cause got off scot-free? So that’s the moral lesson I take away from this movie. A creepy kid can be as much of a spoiled brat as she wants, can have free reign of her parents’ science lab, and demand that she be given a pet rabbit, then unleash a wave of death and destruction and not even be punished in any way? No slap on the wrist? Not even a stern talking to? Kids need to be taught that actions have consequences.

You know, just like they pointed out in the prologue: if you introduce foreign species into an environment, very often unintended consequences wreak havoc. Rabbits introduced for pets or meat can become major pest. Or, if you star in one of the best, most popular horror movies of all time, some day you may have fallen on hard times enough that you have to take a role in a crappy giant rabbit movie—and play the role of the mother of a major pest.

Still, I do have to love whatever college it was that Bones was running. It was a bold choice to hire faculty who had absolutely no actual knowledge about their fields of study. I can see the college’s promotional literature now: “Come to Ajo College. Our illustrious and esteemed faculty includes Stephen Jay Gould as dean of the business school, John Kenneth Galbraith heading the mechanical engineering program, Carmelo Anthony is the dean of the medical school, and Doris Kearns Goodwin serving as head coach of the men’s basketball team.”

On the other hand, it kind of sounds like high school, if I remember high school correctly (and I try not to).
“I don’t know why I feel so tongue-tied
don’t know why
I feel so skinned alive.”
My thoughts are misguided &
A little naive
I twitch & salivate
like with myxomatosis
You should put me in a home or you should put me down
I got myxomatosis
I got myxomatosis
Now no one likes a smart-arse”
“But we all like stars”