Birch barked and ran to the fence. I could see a deliveryperson turn to look at the sound, wondering - quite reasonably - whether some rude dog was about to masticate his shin. I mean, you never know. I waved - thanks! Thanks for the Saturday delivery of whatever it is! Daughter has been ordering things on Amazon at a brisk clip, shirts and geegaws and film for her camera. I thought I’d best see what it was, and half-expected it to be the thin USPS overnight envelope that had my handwriting on the label. Every day I expect to see it, and every day I’m glad it doesn’t appear, and unnerved that it doesn’t.

See, I wrote the wrong address on the mailing label to the Brazilian embassy.

Or not. Leaving the post office two weeks ago, I’d had a sudden pang - did I address the label correctly? Oh don’t be silly. Yes you did.

But also, see, I forgot a document. I found one in the stack of papers the other day, and it seemed important. It had lots of signatures on it. But I had checked off every single item on the list before sending in the visa application, and this wasn’t one of them - unless it was, and I had mistaken a document for something else.

But! Upon talking to the program coordinator the other day, she’d said that two exchange students had received an email from the Brazilian consulate, asking for additional documentation. This was a great relief. They didn’t just shoot the whole package back with a REJECTED stamp on it, they reached out. I’d asked daughter if she’d gotten any such email. She had not.

This could only mean that I had screwed up the label, and it never got there in the first place. It had been . . . eight days. They’d said 10 - 15 days was normal. But it was more likely that it had been lost, and every single document would have to be recreated including her passport, and all of this would delay her a month and I would be to blame. The entire experience would be ruined and it would be my fault.

No, I said to myself, looking up at the ceiling at 2 AM, that did not happen. The USPS would find a way to get the package back to me if I had screwed up the address. And the USPS would not throw the package into the incinerator. It got there. It had to get there.

The silence, however, was deafening.

I told Birch that everything was okay and went out the gate to the front porch. There it was: the certified or whatever-it-was envelope. I picked it up, and I could feel my knees shaking. Ripped it open.


It was her passport with the visa.

I snapped a picture and sent to her, since she was at a Portuguese lesson and probably would find this a happy thing to see. It was. I was overwhelmed with relief.


So I went to buy her birthday presents and also maybe look at a new car.

Summation Video clocked in at an hour, to be honest. This was something I had dreaded doing, since it meant going through hours - hours of video to clip out little bits of this and that, assembling a life story to the moment of launching.

It’s remarkable, the raw material I have. And it’s not even the raw material! I had the foresight to scrape as much of the raw footage from the old tapes in case Daughter ever wanted to edit her childhood as she pleased, but of course, she won’t. That child on the video might have the shape that would resolve into her face, and the personality might be there in incipient form, but she has no connection, no recollection -

Except when she does. Sometimes a picture or a scene pings a dormant neuron and she lights up. I wonder if I’ve helped to surface and reinforce the buried memories; hope so. If not, here it is: all the fun, all the smiles, the toys, the My Little Ponies in parade formation. Jasper Dog is omnipresent, which makes my heart pang and smile. He was always with her, with us as we played on the floor, in the corner when she watched Olie, on the bed, waiting for play, ears deployed to rake in all the necessary information. He fades out in the end of the second act, content to be inert. And then he’s gone.

Let me say this: keeping a camera handy with the intention of making monthly movies was a capital decision. It’s not the big things. It’s the small things. In one scene I put the camera on the dashboard as I belted her up after lab school; she’s grinning, mugging for the camera.

“Turn it around, daddy,” she says, referring to the camera pointed at her. “Look at the beautiful day.”

There’s another moment, same age, around four. She’s making a sandwich. I mourn how my baby is grown up and making her own lunches now.


Fourteen years premature, but there it is.



Presenting the Clara Bow Story:

If that title gives you an inkling of a hint of the overall cheapness that dogs every frame of this movie, this should confirm all suspicions:

I know there are people who praise and admire Corman - he gave lots of talented people their first break! He's an auteur in his own way, in that cheesy C-movie style we have been taught to respect because Quentin Tarantino says it's great! He . . . he gave lots of talented people their first break! Yes, yes. Also, he's a hack. Let's go to Space Command Central Control:

You can tell they're sending up space probes, because they have pictures of actual space tacked up on the wall, so they know where to point the rockets.The galoot on the left is Peter Graves, who walks through the flick with his usual granite scowl of heroically concealed indigestion.

The Villain:

You've seen him in a million moves. Lee Van Cleef. Made 170 movies, starting with "High Noon." In this film, he's a deluded scientist who's been communicating with a Venusian, helping It come to Earth and start a reign of peace, or terror, or general peace with occasional terror. I think this review from imdb says it all:

Why don't you nay-sayers give a second to remember WHEN it was made? It's one of the best examples of 50's drive-in treasure in collective memory. This silly yet earnest little movie has wormed it's way into the consciousness of anyone who's ever seen it. Paul Blaisdell's Venusian Carrot remains one of the most memorable aliens to ever grace the screen!

Add to this total piece of weirdness one of Beverly Garland's best performances, most memorable in her first sighting of the Carrot: "So that's what you look like.....You're ugly!!!". Where was her Oscar for delivering this line with total conviction (and a straight face?) Yes, there was life before bloated CGI computer effects, and this superior potboiler proves yet again that once upon a time, imagination and ingenuity could work wonders. One of the all time-great sci-fi movies!


But . . . what if it’s not entirely lousy?

I mean, what if it’s not as bad as it looks? Cheap interiors, suburban houses for exterior sets, surplus army togs, no budget - it has all the hallmarks of 50s sci-fi cheapies that just threw a “monster” on the screen and hoped that the teens in the audience got a few jolts.

Or, what if it’s as bad as its monster? Here's our first sight of Paul Blaisdell's Venusian Carrot, which would also be a fine name for a vegetable-drink franchise in LA in the late 60s:

Some sort of space-potato that's sprouted in transit, apparently. As you can imagine, the creature spurs PANIC, causing people to run for their lives and with their instruments:

The world’s coming to an end! Save the woodwind section!

Hey don’t you you mean the brass section that’s a metal instrument

You fool it’s classified as a woodwind but there’s no time for that now

By the way, I was able to find the location.

No plaque? Unforgiveable!

The first time I saw this, I yawned. The second time, I was a bit more forgiving. Yes, it’s Corman; yes, it’s cheap. But the Body-Snatcher routine, where people are taken over by the Horribly Smart Alien Mind, is nicely done. People get bit on the back of the neck by a flying critter, and -

Oh, let’s see how that works.

We can depend on Peter Graves to save us, and this requires some rather stern work. He discovers his wife has been corrupted by the Brain, and is part of the collective that answers to the Carrot. She’s taken a walk while the flying critter corrupts hubby, unaware he killed the thing with a fireplace poker.

And so:

That’s unexpected. It’s the start of an action cycle for Graves, where we have him acting in uncharacteristic ways towards authority figures.

Damn, that’s cold. Also:


At least we don’t think he’s enjoying it too much. At the end, soldiers find the creature . . .

And manage not to burst out laughing. Our bad guy realizes it was wrong to invite an alien to take over earth, and gives him what-for, right in the eye - a scene that was shocking at the time, and had to be snipped from some markets.

Whew! It’s dead. The only thing left is for Graves to intone about humanity and how improvement much come from within, a speech that’s perfectly composed and uttered, and wouldn’t really happen if someone had just shot several men and watched an alien die while killing your best friend, but I guess for some guys that makes you all philosophical.

GRADE: On careful consideration, B ultra-minus. Because C seems a bit too cruel.




That'll do.

Hey, matchbooks. There's a stunning surprise.


blog comments powered by Disqus