Saturday Morning Mystery

The original name of this film was “Saturday Morning Massacre” which is actually way more fitting than the changed title. The movie was filmed completely in Austin and shot in sequence as the director believed that particular shooting schedule would help set the tone … and it appears to have worked.

This movie is based off the Scooby Doo cartoon series; however, it completely demolishes your memory of the fun and quirky cartoon series with its frightening, lethal and, oftentimes, humorous trip through a classic Scooby Doo tale gone psyco. The scary bits are right up there with my very favorite movie of all time “Texas Chain Saw Massacre,” while the humor is solid, although not over the top, pee your trousers funny.

The story line is pretty straight forward. The old Kyser schoolhouse is acquired by the bank in a foreclosure proceeding and needs some TLC before it can be put on the market for sale. Of course, the rumors around town are that this particular building is haunted so others before our intrepid team of paranormal rumor squashers have been scared off by various hauntings. In spite of all the warnings which include ghosts of missing children, crap cleaning skills from the squatters that lived there previously, and the obligatory Satanic sacrifics, our brave team makes the decision to spend a few nights inside to find out what they can find out.

All of the following things happened on the first night:

  • Floyd accidentally spiked the groups drinking water with LSD
  • The team found the dead body of a bank employee
  • Their dog was killed (rought ro, Scooby)
  • The dead dog was partly eaten by some nasty, feral child
  • Floyd and Chad are killed
  • Gwen and Nancy get trapped by some dude wearing a leather mask
  • Lance rescues the girls
  • Lance gets knocked out by the bad guy

Well, anyway, you can see where this is going. I’m not giving away the ending to this one. You really need to watch it for yourself. It’s a bit dark, but the humor intertwined keeps it from being too cringeworthy. Most of the critics disliked Saturday Morning Mystery, but that didn’t stop this movie from becoming a cult classic to horror fans. It still, to this day, has it’s very own website so fans can relive the horror and humor many times over.

 

Sin City, the Stories

This movie is a bunch of really awesome stories put together to make one giant story line. If that doesn’t make any sense to you, you’ve certainly never seen Sin City. And while this was mostly filmed on a “digital backlot” (meaning not real, really made up) the first story was filmed as a stand-alone and later was incorporated into the bigger movie. That story is “The Customer is Alway Right” and was filmed in Austin.

This film, as all the best films are, is based on a series of graphic novels (read giant comic books) written by Frank Miller who also co-wrote, co-directed and co-produced the film with Robert Rodriguez.

There are a total of four stories in the film, each one critically acclaimed in its own right. My favorite is “The Yellow Bastard Part 1” and of course, “The Yellow Bastard Part 2.” Possibly due to the fact the Bruce Willis plays the lead character of John Hartigan, an aging policeman with a bum ticker in Sin City. Hartigan is set on stopping the serial killer, who also happens to be the son of the Senator, from raping and killing an 11-year-old girl named Nancy.

In the climactic scene of “Part 1,” Hartigan, while in severe pain from his bum ticker, shoots off the serial killer’s important bits, plus his hand and his ear. Sadly, Hartigan’s policeman partner shoots Hartigan IN THE BACK and it is then revealed that this partner is actually on the Senator’s payroll and covering for Junior, the serial rapist and killer. The close if this part of the story is sirens approaching while Nancy hovers over a passing out Hartigan.

In the Sin City movie, you now get to watch “The Hard Goodbye” and “The Big Fat Kill” both of which pull you in and almost make you forget Hartigan is dead in the previous story. Not. So. Fast.

In “The Yellow Bastard Part 2” we find out that Hartigan is alive! Super! But there’s a catch. Since Junior is in a coma, Hartigan gets blamed for all the nasty crimes and gets sent to prison where he languishes for 8 years. Nancy writes him letters on a regular basis, so when the letters suddenly stop and Hartigan receives a human finger, of course he confesses to the crimes and is released from jail.

Well, one thing leads to another and Hartigan finds Nancy working as an exotic dancer at the exact same moment he realizes this is all a big setup for him to lead all the bad guys (The Senator, Junior, and Bob, Hartigan’s former partner) to Nancy. Hartigan tries to leave but Nancy sees him and so must go with him. Cue car pursuit with everyone’s automobile being in perfect condition as if they had all just been serviced by the local mobile mechanic, right up until Hartigan shoots the bad guy causing him to lose control and crash his car. Phew!

So, Nancy professes her love for Hartigan. Hartigan puts her off because the age difference is too much for him. Junior shows up, hurts Hartigan and kidnaps Nancy. Off goes the bad guy to torture the girl. But WAIT! Hartigan gets his second wind (or third, or whatever), locates Junior and Nancy on an old farm, and rips Juniors bits right off! Rips them off with his bare hands. So then he beats Junior to death.

It’s almost happy ending time, BUT Hartigan knows that Junior’s father, the Senator, will hunt him down for the rest of his life and Hartigan is just not in the mood. So he sends Nancy away and kills himself.

The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D

What could have been a box office smash was doomed when the decision was made to convert this film to 3-D post production, Critics and reviewers alike noted that this decision actually “damaged the film’s visual look.”

Critical issues aside, this story of Max and his imaginary world is the stuff all kids dreams are made of. Max lives in Austin, Texas, and is a bit a a lonely child. His made-up world, Planet Drool, is where Sharkboy and Lavagirl live and where all the adventures happen in Max’s dreams and daydreams. When a school bully steals and brutalizes Max’s dream journal, the world of reality and dreams appear to collide.

Sharkboy, Lavagirl and Max have several adventures on Planet Drool, including saving a group of kids from a run-away roller coaster, getting captured by Mr. Electric and finding the Planet Drool bully, Minus, has completely changed Max’s dream world causing severe havoc and ensuing mayhem. Due to the lucky timing of Minus’s nap, Max gets to grab his Dream Journal back, and Sharkboy, Lavagirl and Max escape their captors only to have a spat among the three of them which ultimately destroys Max’s Dream Journal.

The team recovers nicely only to be immediately taken in by Mr. Electric. Sharkboy dies; Lavagirl dies. Max dreams them both back to life. (are you still with me here?) Max, in a daydream, kicks the poo out of Minus/Linus so the two boys (Max and Linus) decide to make a better dream world between them.

In the meantime, Mr. Electric is speeding to Earth towards the sleeping Max to try and stop all this “happy” stuff from happening. Max wakes up. His parents are sucked into the tornado, but then saved by Sharkboy and Lavagirl. Marissa gains the Crystal heart and freezes Mr. Electric with it.

Everybody else makes up and they all end up friends. Happy Ending!

This move was filmed on location in Austin as that is the home town of Max, the main character. Much of this film, however, was shot in a studio against a green screen with the majority of the backgrounds and effects being digital or digitally enhanced. This is still a very fun movie, especially for the young kids in your life. You should all make a big bowl of popcorn and watch it right now!

 

Office Space, the Movie

Destined to become a cult classic from the get-go, Office Space is a satirical look at modern office life. It hits so close to home with so many people to this day, that it continues to be one the most watched movies on services like Netflix and Amazon. This comedy is set in or near the 1990’s and tells the story of a group of disgruntled office workers at a software company and how they deal, or don’t exactly deal, with everyday life in their entirely dysfunctional office.

The movie was filmed mainly in Austin with some portions shot in and around and Dallas. Office Space is based on, of all things, a cartoon series called “Milton” that got it’s start on Liquid Television, Night After Night and Saturday Night Live. The inspiration for “Milton” came from the author’s real life experience of working at a temporary position putting purchase orders in alphabetical order. (That couldn’t sound any more dull, could it?)

Office space debuted in movie theaters across the country in February 1999. It didn’t do so well. The films budget hit $10 million and it only made $12.8 million in theaters. However, it more than made up for that in sales of the VHS (what??) and DVD versions. Critics loved it! Well most of them anyway. The Entertainment Weekly review of this movie had horrible things to say about it like “Office Space feels cramped and underimagined” and rated it a “C.”

No matter that one bad review, Office Space to this day remains a cult classic and several quotes from the film can be heard over cubical walls in offices all over. Here are a few of my favorites, in no particular order:

  • The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care.
  • And I said, I don’t care if they lay me off either, because I told, I told Bill that if they move my desk one more time, then, then I’m, I’m quitting, I’m going to quit. And, and I told Don too, because they’ve moved my desk four times already this year, and I used to be over by the window, and I could see the squirrels, and they were merry, but then, they switched from the Swingline to the Boston stapler, but I kept my Swingline stapler because it didn’t bind up as much, and I kept the staples for the Swingline stapler and it’s not okay because if they take my stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…
  • The ratio of people to cake is too big.
  • Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler…
  • This isn’t so bad, huh? Makin’ bucks, gettin’ exercise, workin’ outside.
  • I can’t believe what a bunch of nerds we are. We’re looking up “money laundering” in a dictionary.

If you are one of the people that never saw this movie in theaters or at home, you should do your self a huge favor and watch it. It’s full of laugh out loud office scenes that may strike you as “hey, that’s just like my office.”

Let me know how much you love it in the comments below.

 

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Texas Chain Saw Massacre Movies

As of the date of this writing, there have been a total of 71 movies and films that were made in my home town of Austin, Texas. These films and movies run the gamut from comedies to dramas, and from serious to silly.

The most famous, of course, is the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” movie series. This series of horror movies started with the first film back in 1974. The incredibly violent story was filmed mainly in a then-quiet location near Round Rock (a small suburb of Austin) in and around an old farm located on Quick Hill Road. The project was produced and directed by Tobe Hooper, who also co-wrote the original movie with Kim Henkel. Neither of these gentlemen were very well known at the time.

The production’s original budget was a whopping $60,000! This, of course, forced the production team to use shortcuts wherever possible. The “stars” of this first “Massacre” movie in the series were not well know actors and actresses, and so were willing to work for much less money than any named star of that time. In addition, all of the actors were from in or near Austin and the Central Texas region. You would think being native to the area, they could take the heat! But that is not so. Read on.

The norm for daily production was to work long hours with few, if any, breaks. The team would work up to 16 hours a day, seven days a week in an attempt to get this film in the can (as they say) as quickly as possible in hopes of lowering the cost of all the equipment being used. This was incredibly exhausting to the entire production staff as well as to the actors and actresses. The weather at the time was your normal hot, humid Central Texas summer weather. The hottest day was July 26 when it hit 110 degrees. Ouch!

Most of the filming was done inside the old farmhouse. The house itself, having been built in the early 1900’s, did not have any air conditioning and the ventilation was said to have been horrid to nonexistent. The actor that played the starring role of Leatherface, Gunnar Hansen, was quoted as saying,  “It was 95, 100 degrees every day during filming. They wouldn’t wash my costume because they were worried that the laundry might lose it, or that it would change color. They didn’t have enough money for a second costume. So I wore that [mask] 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for a month.”  (Thank you Wikipedia )

Once the filming was completed, it is said that editing and getting the final cut completed brought the entire cost of the movie to a total of a measly $300,000! The production company almost didn’t get a chance to make ANY money back on the film at all. The original movie was rated “X” due to the amount of violence and gore (and there is gore a-plenty). The movie was actually banned by the “British Board of Film Classification” and was only allowed to be played in theaters there in 1998, a full 24 years after filming was completed.

Of course, the film did open and premiere in Austin on October 1, 1974, and finally made the rounds of many thousands of theaters thanks to the false advertising of “this is a true story” being circulated at the time. And, of course, I have seen this movie and all 6 of the others in the “Texas Chain Saw Massacre” series. They are scary as heck to this day. And still a Halloween favorite of mine!

Welcome to my new website

Hello, and welcome to my new website called Austin Movie Times. I just wanted to say “Hi” today.  I’ll be back every few days or so to give you my take on some of the best movies made in Austin, Texas.

Since I’m rather an introvert by nature, my favorite hobby is films. And, of course, I’ve made it a point to find and follow all the films made in and around Austin, my home town.

I’ll be sharing my favorites with you, so be sure to stop by frequently. You may discover something new about a movie you already like, or a new movie to become another of your favorites!

Either way, thank you for popping in. I appreciate you reading and following my blog.

Desmond 🙂