Sunday, April 15, 2018

Auteur Watch - Bill Gunn

What to say about Bill Gunn?  I mean, other than a bad pun like "Well, he's still firing away, even after his passing in 1989..."  So tasteless.  Welp, you gotta give the guy credit.  I mean, sure, he had a little bit of luck at the start of the '60s, being in shows like "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." and what not.  Something about those James Bond-type shows that were big back then.  There were other shows to be sure, like "Route 66" and a "Tarzan" TV show that lasted two, count 'em... TWO seasons! 
But then, the 'X' rating went mainstream, more or less... historians may never know when the 'X' rating became an official thing.  I can't put my finger on it... or in it, either.  I'd have to at least wash my hands afterwards.  Love that joke.  But Bill couldn't resist, and so we have his directorial debut called Stop.  One of those things filmed over a weekend, probably about sex... sure, Bill had the script in his desk all along, ready to go in the event of a seismic shift in cultural morays about the first of the big three... you know, sex, drugs and Rock 'n Roll.  I guess they go in order of appearance.  And, of course, with such songs as Ke$ha's "Your Love is My Drug," they're now trying to combine sex and drugs into one thing... drex?  Suggs?  Is a list of three things too complicated these days?
Well, after 1970's Stop, Gunn took his own advice and moved to more R-rated fare, starting with 1973's Ganja & Hess.  One of those titles that, sadly, hasn't yet floated to the top of the list of such titles.  I mean, there's Homer and Eddie, of course... like I need to tell you.  Oh, James Belushi wasn't acting in that one; that's just the way he is.  Then, of course, there's "Starsky and Hutch" which Gunn might have been a part of!  You got your "Tequila and Bonetti"s, your O. C. and Stiggs, your "T Bone N Weasel"s, what have you, and round and round we go.
Work for him kinda slowed down in the 80s... a lot.  But he did get a recurring role on... some TV show that we can't talk about anymore.  We just can't.  And then, as all who buy a ticket for this crazy ride, it came to an end, and it was time to go to that big director's chair in the sky.  A chance to point a camera into the clouds and tell the angels where to sit with their harps.  For Bill Gunn, this was in 1989 in Nyack, New York... a town so nice, they sort of named it twice.  Couldn't do it completely due to copyright infringement issues, of course.  But in Hollywood, death is sometimes never quite the end.  Take Turner Classic Movies, for one!  Unless you're one of those people who get depressed by old, black and white movies.  Apparently, someone else went through Gunn's desk at one point to see if there was a good screenplay in there.  And they found a whole movie, in fact!  Well... on old video tape, anyway.  But he learned to keep the camera real still, and not move it too much in really bright light... and 38 odd years later, here it is, ready to be judged by a mostly forgiving world.  It's called Personal Foul... no, wait, that's that Rockford thing.  No, Gunn's is called Personal Problems.  And it's apparently as current today as it was back then.  I understand Lars von Trier's already planning on doing a remake of sorts.  Just as long as he doesn't have to follow any of that Dogme 95 bulls... stuff.  What a stupid idea that was!
In other Bill Gunn reincarnation news, I'm told by the IMDb that Spike Lee is currently making a Bill Gunn script into a new movie... oh, I guess it already happened.  Instead of calling it Ganja & Hess, however, Spike's new joint is called Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.  The plot sounds a little similar to Ganja & Hess.  You can read about it here yourself.  I was struck by the seeming contradiction in terms, however.  It says "Dr. Hess Green becomes cursed by a mysterious ancient African artifact and is overwhelmed with a newfound thirst for blood. He however is not a vampire."  I guess that is why you need to see the movie.  If you have a newfound thirst for blood... how are you not a vampire?  Maybe it's a Masons thing.  I mean, Dracula must have been grandfathered in a long time ago with a Thirst for Blood contract or something.  And then you might ask yourself... just what makes a vampire, anyway?  Is it the cape?  The fangs?  The need to stay out of the sunlight, or to sleep in a coffin on a bed of the soil from your native land?  You know, so all the mycelium in your back will have something to munch on during the night?  Maybe the guy's just a zombie.  Okay, zombies only eat brains, sure... but maybe it's just for the blood in the brains?  Maybe brain blood has more oxygen in it than your garden variety blood or something.  So many questions... anyway, a toast to Bill Gunn for cheating death a little bit.  Bill Shakespeare, eat your heart out!

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