Saturday, July 22, 2017

Double Bill Travesty

If you've never heard of Charles Busch, he's a transvestite actor and playwright. I heard about him a long time ago (on NPR of course), and thought he sounded fabulous. Too bad none of his plays were on film.

Then Netflix recommended Psycho Beach Party (2000). It's a Gidget take-off, based on a Busch play. It stars Lauren Ambrose as a teenage girl who just isn't finding romance like her classmates. We meet her at a drive-in movie, watching Attack of the Three-Headed Pizza Waitress with a nerdy girlfriend. Danni Wheeler. She's fascinated by the psychological tale of female empowerment, by Ambrose is just bummed that she doesn't have a boyfriend. Then... one of the teens is brutally murdered!

The girls go to the beach with their slutty friend so she can meet surfers, and that's where Ambrose finds her passion - surfing. She is determined to be the first chick surfer on Malibu - she becomes "Chicklet".

Yes, it's a play on "Gidget". Ms. Spenser had to explain "Star Cat" (Moondoggie), but I got that "Kanaka" was the Big Kahuna. So, it's a play on Gidget. But this Chicklet has another side, another personality that's harsh, brutal, and profane. And people are getting murdered, so you have to wonder. Even police officerette Charles Busch is concerned. When the star of Three-Headed Pizza Waitress shows up on the beach incognito, anything could happen.

Not only is this a hilarious parody, it is weirdly affecting - we found ourselves caring for the characters, not just laughing at them. It's also just a fun film, with bad back-projection surfing, go-go dancing, and a musical appearance by Los Straitjackets.

It was so much fun that we had to queue up Die, Mommie, Die! (2003), Busch's version of Mommie Dearest. He stars as retired chanteuse Angela Arden, first seen putting flowers on the grave of her sister, accompanied by her gigolo companion, Jason Priestly. She returns to her Hollywood mansion, to her stuck-up, daddy-loving daughter, her gorgeous, druggy, long-haired son, and her fat, old, Jewish, constipated (but I repeat myself) agent and producer husband (Philip Baker Hall). Oh, and I forgot their mousy maid, Bootsy.

That's the setup, now the crime, as Busch slips something into her husband's hot milk. When he won't drink that, she applies it to his suppository, and makes sure he takes that.

I actually don't know how much Mommie Dearest there is in this one (haven't seen it). There's a bit of Valley of the Dolls, some of Aeschylus' Agamemnon,  even a touch of Sunset Blvd. It all ends with a glorious acid trip, and the answer to a mystery that you either guessed right away, or never noticed in the first place.

In summarizing the plots, I've left out most of the outrageous double entendres, tropes, and jokes. But there's a ton of them. I don't know how many more of his plays will be made into movies, but it should be all of them.

In conclusion, isn't it just German for "The, Mommie, The"?

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