Thursday, March 31, 2016

All That Glitters in April

Oh craps! It's almost April and it's going to be a busy month for me. First off I've got two N@B events I'm anticipating like something you might anticipate with sweatiness. April 7 I will be back in Chicagoland with host Jake Hinkson - he of the recent Prix Mystere De La Critique for L'enfer de Church Street (plus the soon to be released Franco translation L'Homme posthume - and guests Ed Kurtz (whose upcoming The Rib From Which I Remake the World is in contention for my favorite title of 2016), Scott Phillips (whose recent non-fiction piece on Charlie Birger was published in the Riverfront Times and features cover art by Tim Lane - copies of which I will be giving away at the event) and Christian TeBordo (author of Toughlahoma, We Go Liquid and more). But shit, who else may just be hanging around? I hope to see folks like John L. Sheppard, Kent Gowran, Kevin Lynn Helmick, Robb Olson, Livius Nedin, Julian Grant, John Weagley, maybe even nearishby folks like Tim Hennessy, Frank Wheeler, Paul von Stoetzel and recent Chicago deserter Dan O'Shea. And you, of course I want to see you there too.

How's that saying go hope in one hand and shit in the other?

Then on April 9 it's N@B in St. Louis with a lineup of Kentucky authors Jonathan Ashley (whose Out of Mercy is bloody, perverse western I dug), Greg Barth (whose hematoma hemorrhaging Selena will have her own trilogy by show time) and Tim L. Williams (whose collection Skull Fragments will put you off humanity for a good bit - hey, we're overcrowding anyway, right?) will join Ohio import Amanda Gowin (whose Radium Girls will give you a combination of feels you'd never guess you wanted jumbled up) and local rap-sheet regular Joe Schwartz of the extra-ill-will-implicit fictions N@B was created for (check out Joe's Black T-Shirt for some short stories the St. Louis tourism board wants deleted).

That's gonna be a night. Good gravy, that's a sick lineup.

That same night in St. Louis if you're not finished with the twisted tales and sick thrills you could try, but you wouldn't find a better/worse option than Late Nite Grindhouse midnight screening of John Flynn's masterpiece Rolling Thunder at the Moolah Theater. Have you never seen this shit? Rectify that. Now. The script by Paul Schrader has it all: torture, mutilation, damaged , suicidal missions, revenge, whore-house shootouts, William Devane with a fucking hook for a hand... Tommy Lee Jones just stone-cold TLJ'ing like a motherfucker.

Let's all go!

Tell you what, Rolling Thunder perfectly captures so many aesthetics that I look for in crime fiction and films I'd looked into using it as the kick-off for a little project I's happy to announce...

The Hardboiled Wonderland Film Series in St. Louis!

All crime all the time - I'm gonna show some of my favorite movies at the Maplewood Library (7550 Lohmeyer, 63143) starting with John Dahl's Kill Me Again on April 13 at 7pm. The library has been super great about letting me show some killer flicks and talk about them and why you should love them too.

If you're not yet sick of my blathering, you will be soon. Here is the lineup for April/June

April 13 - Kill Me Again 
May 4 - At Close Range
May 25 - Thief
June 22 - To Live & Die in L.A.

I hope to keep this going and I'd love to see you there!

Monday, March 28, 2016

CriMemoir by William Boyle

I first found William Boyle's work on the pages of Out of the Gutter magazine, as scrappy and pulpy a publication as I could hope to house some of my own earliest stories, and it was only the first re-assuring parallel I drew between our respective careers. When I learned William's Gravesend would be among the first titles published by Broken River Books I felt better about trusting the fledgling press with Peckerwood and when Bill started hosting N@B events in Oxford, MS., corralling talent of such gravity he nearly causes a Noir hole to open up every time they gather at Proud Larrys to do their thing, it inspired me to keep going with the St. Louis event and reminded me that I wasn't the only one with an appetite for that sort of thing.

I'm afraid the comparisons diverge into wild speculation after that. He's got much better taste in music, a more voracious appetite for literature and better vocabulary for defending his stance on any particular film you'd care to challenge him on than I ever will. He's also big in France as of this week (check out the cover for the French edition of Gravesend). Hey, Boyle, kiss my ass, how 'bout.

When I started the CriMemoir series the following is a fine example of the sort of wistful little essay I dreamed of getting. Read this, then go pick up Gravesend (if any of you haven't yet) or Death Don't Have No Mercy and you'll find the romantic imagination of the kid in the essay has grown into the full tragic beauty of the author's work today.

CriMemoir by William Boyle

I grew up on the border of Bensonhurst and Gravesend in the apartment where Gaspipe Casso used to live. He cooked his eggs and boiled his coffee on my stove. Whatever else he did there, it was right before he ate a meal or right after. Maybe during. I always pictured him munching biscotti dunked in espresso with one hand and crunching some sad sack's neck with the other. The sad sack, in my mind, he'd wronged Gaspipe. He'd skimmed money. He'd slept with the wrong broad. Gaspipe probably gnawed calimari and plotted hits at the oak table we inherited from him. Polished guns. Maybe he even chopped people up in the bathtub. As a kid, those are the things you think.

Up the block from my apartment, outside Frank & Joe's Bakery (now called the People's Bakery), I saw my first shooting. I was in the paint store across the street with my mother and stepdad. I saw the shooter and his two buddies rush by the window in a blur. My stepfather ran out and held the guy who'd been shot until the ambulance arrived. He was covered in blood when he came back to us in the paint shop. After they took the guy away, we bought a loaf of bread. It was just out of the oven. When I'm home, I still buy bread there, but my stepfather's dead and no one's been shot out front for twenty-five years.

My second shooting was a drive-by in front of Mamma Mia across from my house. I used to watch out my bedroom window every night before I went to bed. It was better than TV. The corner boys always got rowdy, and the guy from Jimmy's Deli would slam the riot gates down and curse in Chinese. The streetlights made everything swampy. That night, a young guido in baggy pants and gold chains came out of Mamma Mia with a hero and got behind the wheel of his Buick. Another Buick rolled up next to him and a red-haired kid leaned out the window and fired into the guido's car and then drove off. The guido slumped over the wheel and the horn blared. It's a sound that should follow every murder. Mario, the owner of Mama Mia, came running out in his sauce-stained whites. That place was my grandfather's hangout. I never liked the food. Nobody knew I saw that shooting and the shooting didn't even happen inside Mamma Mia but from then on I always heard that horn when I folded one of Mario's greasy slices or ate his baked ziti out of a tin tray.

A couple of summers ago when I was home a guy got knifed coming out of a taco shop on Eighty-Sixth Street. We heard the sirens, saw the yellow tape, read that the killer lost his dentures at the scene, and laughed about it. Next day we walked up and saw where they'd hosed down the sidewalk. You could still make out how the blood had browned the curb under a parking meter. I'd never eaten there. Now I don't think I can. I'd worry about getting stabbed on the way out.

All the Italian restaurants I went to as a kid were the ones you see in the movies. Big, well-dressed guys who hugged. The smell of gravy and garlic in the air. Wine like water. Everyone was lovely, especially the connected guys. They pinched my cheeks. I always wondered what went on when the regular people like me and my family weren't there eating. Was that like the movies? Guys getting their heads smashed in vises in the back? Their fingers run through meat grinders? Probably. You could smell the blood in those joints. You could feel the beautiful ghosts of savagery.

For years I ate spinach sandwiches on semolina bread because I thought that’s what gangsters did. I talked out of the side of my mouth like James Cagney. Bloodletters & Badmen was my favorite book, especially the entries on Lucky Luciano and Abe Reles and Legs Diamond. I watched that one scene in Goodfellas where they’re cooking in prison, slicing the garlic real thin, on a loop.

Crime beat stories occupied me. Michael DeBatt shot behind Tali’s on Eighteenth Avenue on Sammy the Bull’s orders. Hits at Joe & Mary’s and Gravano’s Bus Stop club. I clipped them from the newspapers and taped them into a marble notebook. 

Once I saw Stevie Ceretti thwack Gene Villani in the face with an aluminum bat in Shady Park, not far from Spumoni Gardens. I can still hear the sound of the bat against his head across the distance of years, and it still makes me feel like I was a part of something big. 

I live in the south now. I like how everything feels new, even learning about the past, but I miss being a kid in Brooklyn: the blood and concrete and pizza and how it was all wrapped up in wanting to be something that I could never be.

William Boyle is the author of Gravesend and Death Don't Have No Mercy.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Year in Crime Flicks March 2016

Big Bad Wolves - Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado - This one is a wish come true for everybody who thought Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners should've been a comedy. The cognitive dissonance achieved by juxtaposing the lightness of the comedic tone with the horrific story elements and brutal violence felt more like driving too fast in a car with bad shocks and no brakes down a winding hole-pocked mountain road than strapping into an expertly calibrated dizzy-making carnival ride. The resulting stomach cramps are similar, but the memories are filed in very different cabinets to be summoned for opposite uses. Which is a shame because clearly writing/directing team Keshales and Papushado are skilled film makers who can summon tension, humor and horror without breaking a sweat (their violence is particularly effective and ghastly). In fairness I have to consider that the Israeli film may have lost something in the translating, and I'm hoping their upcoming adaptation of Brian Garfield's novel Death Wish (same as the original Charles Bronson flick) employs those skills with better results. Best moment: blowtorch scorch.

Cobra - George Cosmatos - Somehow I'd gone my whole life without experiencing this one and honestly I watched it the way a lot of folks watch American Idol - to enjoy somebody putting themselves on the line and not knowing how badly they're failing. That sounded meaner than I meant it to, but even as a kid I knew from the poster and trailers that this was a terrible film and I was embarrassed to be its target audience. With decades of buffer I was curious to see what levels of badness it had actually achieved and was a little surprised how unironically enjoyable a lot of it was. Kitsch value for sure with the soundtrack, the fashion and a lot of the dialogue, but I'm starting to understand Sylvester Stallone's appeal and at the end of his career this may survive as the Stalloniest movie ever. Dumb fucking movie on every level - but un-self conscious and unpretentious, naked ambition only to give us what we fucking crave. It is the action movie we deserve. Best moment: pick any time Renie Santoni is onscreen. Nobody told him he was in a dumb movie. That guy elevated the material in every scene.

Elevator to the Gallows - Louis Malle - Debut narrative feature from Malle about two sets of doomed, murderous lovers crossing paths and fates on the way down. The film also features an original and improvised score by Miles Davis. I got to share more thoughts on The Projection Booth podcast. Best moment: Maurice Ronet reaching through jimmied elevator doors stuck between floors. His arms stretch out and find nothing to hold onto before being sucked back to hell - pretty fantastic image.

The Gambler - Rupert Wyatt - Yeah I've seen the James Caan flick, but I don't remember it well enough to say how similar they are. The new movie may have been written by William Monahan, but it's is closer to I Heart Huckabees than The Departed in realism and tone in Mark Wahlberg's body of work. It's a weird flick and a glorious mess the likes of which only comes along once in a long while. I'm not recommending you prioritize seeing it, but it is peppered with Mametian/Price-esque speeches delivered by dramatists who are paid to talk for a reason, none more so than John Goodman. Best moment: the fuck you speech.

Gangster's Paradise: Jerusalema - Ralph Ziman - Vibrant and appealing film about a young hustler who grows into a man of the people stripe of criminal toeing the line of legitimacy in post-freed-Mandela South Africa. Equal parts crime flick and social history - it's full of terrific moments like the Best Moment: a group of young kids take inspiration from the movies to commit real crimes and recreate the armored truck heist from Michael Mann's Heat.

The Gunman - Pierre Morel - A terrific cast and good looking photography can't quite overcome the script or the inclinations of the director of Taken. Having not read Jean-Patrick Manchett's source novel The Prone Gunman, I'm not qualified to compare the two, but the reputation of the book doesn't match up to the film. Which isn't to say the film is a complete waste of time - a handful of well-executed action scenes keep it from being that... far better than those in Taken whose time-deaf editing denied me pleasure from the basest of appetites I'd hoped to indulge. Best moment: the bullfight sequence is nicely staged and kind of nuts.

Snow On Tha Bluff - Damon Russell - Slice of life, found footage/mock-doc about an Atlanta drug dealer (and drug dealer robbing) Curtis Snow who plays a version of himself in the film. Naturalistic, unselfconscious performances all around help blur lines of reality and fiction for maximum emotional engagement.

Uptight - Jules Dassin - A brilliant update of The Informer based on Liam O'Flaherty's Troubles novel set in Detroit and opening on the funeral of Martin Luther King Jr. It chronicles the struggle of revolutionaries and blue-collar workers just trying to get by alike as they capitalize on and react in fear and anger over the assassination. Who-ee it's an intense atmosphere and a heartbreaking film which, in the great noir tradition, focuses not on the heroes or antiheroes of the moment, but rather on the ratfinks and Judases and small-time opportunists trying to make their way by unseemly means. Dassin made some of my favorite and angriest films noir of all time (Brute Force, Thieves' Highway, The Naked City) before being blacklisted and having to leave the country to find work (he made perhaps his best known film as a non-French-speaking American ex-pat - Rififi) before returning home years later to finish his career making other types of pictures. Uptight stands out among his later work as an angry, but mostly sad, and very humane film about the times.

Vengeance - Johnny To - Plot, schmlot, Johnny Hallyday enlists the help of a trio of assassins to help him kill a whole lotta motherfuckers who killed his daughter's family. An embarrassment of amazingly shot violence couldn't keep my eyelids from sagging in between as homage was paid to decades' worth of smooth-criminal filmmakers from Jean-Pierre Melville to John Woo in maudlin fill-in-the-blank bits of backstory and manly bonding. Its 109 minute run time feels much longer, but every time the bullets jump and the frame per second rate slows the fuck down I am allllll To's. When that guy sets up an action sequence I forgive the foreplay. Best moment: garbage dump finale.

Viva Riva! - Djo Munga - No grand statements here, just a particularly vibrant and sensuous setting (Kinshasa) for a rise and fall of a gangster picture. Great chemistry too between Patsha Bay and Manie Malone. The energy, the urgency and the Congo locale - all rubble and glamour - make it a highly enjoyable flick I'll want to revisit again soon.

Monday, March 21, 2016

CriMemoir by Marietta Miles

Marietta Miles is the author of Route 12, a two-novella collection brand new from All Due Respect books. I asked her for a CriMemoir piece and got this doozie back. I had to check with her to make sure that names had been changed and enough detail obscured to keep me from being sued for libel.

As a personal aside from the editor I'd just like to say, Fuck that guy.

Otherwise, fuck yeah, this is a piece worth reading. Give it a go and then check out her fiction.

CriMemoir by Marietta Miles

Lost in Los Angeles, thousands of miles away from home, I lived surrounded by people too busy to see me. From myrtles, magnolias and mom making dinner, to palm trees, traffic and people who could care less. 

No matter, I was young and fearless. I was steel. 

L.A. was crowded, fast, and exciting. L.A. was unreal and I had sunset sized dreams. Discover the next Nirvana. Get them signed, make them famous. Work A&R for some cool indie label. Travel around and listen to music.

I wanted to have my own apartment, maybe a house with a courtyard and a lemon tree. Send my tight-lipped, twitchy-eyed, cat-hating roommate back to Pasadena. 

Until then, I was working as a receptionist for the second hottest radio station in L.A, filing health claims for the employees and making coffee for the executives. Living catless with my angry little roommate. 

One weekend my best friend from Virginia came for a visit. She met me at work around 5:30 so I could show her around the station. The top two floors were programming and promotion. Glass walls encased cubicles and offices. Red and gray carpeting ran throughout the halls. Pictures of on-air staff and different bands lined the walls. 

When she and I stepped onto the elevator Davis Lee, Music Director, and his record-label buddy also walked on.

“Where you going?” He offered to hit the button for us.

“Sales and AM, please.” I answered.

Why the fuck would you wanna go there?” Davis Lee looked at his friend and laughed. “Nothing but old guys down there.” The friend bobbing his head to an imaginary beat, grinning. 

“Showing my friend around.” I said.

Davis Lee was an important guy at the station. He had two secretaries. One smart and one pretty. He stalked the hallways, chain smoking, and flicking ashes in the potted plants. 

Once, while walking a coffee service to the conference room I caught a glimpse inside his office. Tall, locked cabinets hugged the walls, even covering up the windows. A nasty blow up doll was hanging in the corner. Pictures of naked women taped to cabinets and walls. There was a remote control car, a Patriots poster, and stacks of CDs, music magazines, porn, and comics.

It was almost 6:30. The two men had worked late but seemed wired and ready to go. By the time the doors opened on ground level, they had invited us to join them. I asked how much cash we might need and they laughed. “L.A. is our treat.” My near-empty bank account was grateful.

After climbing into his BMW, we cruised through Hollywood and into the hills. We entered through a security gate, to a driveway and parked. The house hid behind a wall of stucco and Spanish red tile.
They led us through arches to a porch with a pool and a fountain. They gave us drinks and showed us the balcony. Past several telephone poles and blinking streetlights, we could see the sky changing from pink to blue, lights of the city winking.

With no warning or sign, everything around me fell to black. Noises sounded far away and foreign. I heard myself cry. I heard someone laugh.

I came to, lying on a floor, not sure of where I was. Feeling my way down the dark hallway I found a small room with the door open. I couldn’t see. I looked and looked for a light switch.

My guts twisted, almost knocking me to the ground. Leaning against the wall, I held onto whatever was in my way. I felt something with a handle and a chord. It rolled away when I fell.

My muscles tightened. Tears streamed down my face. Everything inside my stomach came up or came out. I ran from the room and down the hall. I tried to call out to my friend, my throat so sore I couldn’t whisper.

I found her, lying on a lounge chair on the side porch, alone. He kicked her out when she said no too many times. She looked for me but became confused and then sick. 

She wiped my face with her shirt and righted my dress. We held hands and walked down the strangely quiet street. She had kept her purse while mine was lost. From a bodega on Sunset, we called a cab and eventually made it home.

She cut her trip short, leaving the next night. She promised it wasn’t my fault.

I chewed my fingernails, cracked my knuckles but Monday came anyway. Still dazed, I walked to my desk only to find it cleared out. I was told to go to the conference room.

 “We’re moving you to the AM station.” Davis Lee and the program director sat at the far end of the conference table while I stood in the doorway.

“They need another secretary.” AM radio. The all-talk station. News, lost pets and tradio. I could feel my face growing red, tears rising. He just stared at the papers in front of him.

I had no savings, no credit. I had nothing. I meant nothing. I was lucky I still had a job. 

After work, I sat in my Toyota and watched him drive off, a pretty girl in the passenger seat. I wasn’t the first girl he tricked. I wouldn’t be the last. I left Los Angeles soon after, heading home, tale tucked between my legs. 

I’ve filed my time in L.A. fairly far back in my memory bank. Still, a small part of me takes dark solace knowing Davis Lee won’t forget me. The girl he sent running home. Because, you will remember a roofied-up redhead defecating in your broom closet.

Marietta Miles has published stories with Thrills, Kills and Chaos, Flash Fiction Offensive, Yellow Mama and Revolt Daily. She has been included in anthologies available through Static Movement Publishing and Horrified Press. Please visit her website or Facebook for more stories and further information. Her first novel will be available in spring 2016 through All Due Respect Books. Born in Alabama, raised in Louisiana, she currently resides in Virginia with her husband and two

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trials of Various Kinds

The Trust - d: Alex Brewer, Benjamin Brewer w: Benjamin Brewer, Adam Hirsch

Too Late - w/d: Dennis Hauck

Band of Robbers - w/d: Adam Nee, Aaron Nee

All Mistakes Buried - d: Tim McCann w: Tim McCann, Shaun S. Sanghani, Sam Trammell

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Dog Eat Dog

One of my favorite things about having my own damn blog is that nobody else gets to dictate its content. Of course the better I self-govern and sharpen its focus the more likely I am to curate something worth your time and mine so I've an incentive to keep it between the lines.

Crime is the focus here and more specifically crime fiction and within fictions hardboiled and noir flavors are what I'm most interested in. I've taken detours into speculative fiction and horror, espionage and pulps, but there's a very specialized sub-genre of crime I've been saving myself for...

Cop Humiliation!

With the recent announcement of plans for Dolph Lundgren to pick up the premise of Arnie's original Hulking Hardboiled ESL Detective Undignified and Undercover as a school teacher flick, no doubt  Kindergarten Cop 2, will soon be thrilling us in the most anticipated new star, new writer, new director, new millenium "sequel" since Werner Herzog blew our minds with that spiritual companion piece to Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant.

Kindergarten Cop ain't the only game in smallville, but Ivan Reitman's film is clearly remembered beloved more than the Burt Reynolds vehicle Cop and a Half or the formula's inverse: Sylvester Stallone and Estelle Getty in Stop or My Mom Will Shoot. Likewise, Cops 'n Kids is not the only sub-sub-genre of Cop Humiliation, but it was one of the most popular amongst...

Cops 'n Psychics

Cops 'n Ghosts

Cops 'n Movie Stars

and the hugely popular and lucrative

Cops 'n Black People

occasionally re-mixed with mixed results

The relative success and failure of the formula's permutations are usually laid at the feet of the trajectory of the vehicle's star and one wonders what coulda, woulda been had some of these career making/breaking roles been switched. What if Lundgren had been cast in the original Kindergarten Cop and Arnold been Frank Castle in The Punisher? Would Dolph have gone on with Reitman to do the pregnant man flick Junior or even hijacked Arnold and James Cameron's relationship and become a mega-star in True Lies? Would Arnold's star have dimmed and he been reduced to second banana to Jean-Claude Van Damme in Universal Soldier? One wonders.

I do anyhowe.

And so does Adam Howe.

If you've read this blog in the last couple years, chances are you've seen his name attached either to favorable comments from me about his novella collections Black Cat Mojo and Die Dog, Or Eat the Hatchet or perhaps you read his guest pieces on Joe Spinell or Joe Ball. If you've read his fiction or non, you know you're encountering a writer loitering at the crossroads of rare wit and disgusting obsessions.

One of those obsessions? Bad movies.

Today I'm pleased to present Mr. Howe's factual account of events that never happened with the stars of rival projects in another beloved Cop Humiliation genre... Cops 'n Dogs

DOG EAT DOG: How K-9 and Turner & Hooch Determined the Career Trajectories of Jim Belushi and Tom Hanks

By Adam Howe
Incredible as it seems, Tom Hanks and James ‘Jim’ Belushi, two of the finest American actors of their generation, have appeared together on-screen only once, in 1985’s espionage farce The Man With One Red Shoe, a forgettable remake of a French film I haven’t seen. 
According to Hollywood scuttlebutt, the tension between these two rising stars was palpable. Belushi, in particular, resented playing second banana to Hanks. During his short-lived stint on Saturday Night Live, Belushi had honed his comic skills to a razor-sharp edge; on the set of The Man With One Red Shoe, the actor delighted in adlibbing Hanks off his game. For the first, but certainly not the last time, cracks appeared in Hanks’s carefully cultivated everyman persona. After fluffing yet another take due to Belushi’s improvisational genius, witnesses were shocked to hear Hanks call Belushi a “jerk.” True to form, Hanks immediately apologized and retracted the insult, but the damage had been done. For the rest of the shoot, relations between the actors were best described as frosty.
Such was the hostility between Hanks and Belushi, one wonders if somehow they knew that within just a few short years, they would be competing at the box office in rival ‘buddy cop dog’ pictures, then a radical new movie sub-genre. What they couldn’t possibly know – what no one knew – was that their choice of buddy cop dog picture, and perhaps more crucially their canine co-star, Jerry ‘K-9’ Lee and ‘Turner &’ Hooch, would determine the course of their future careers.
But what if each actor had made the other’s buddy cop dog picture? Would their careers have been different? Let’s find out…

   The year is 2011.
A despondent Jim Belushi, his career on the rocks and recently diagnosed with gout, which he announces to the world to abject indifference, is ejected by security from the New York branch of Planet Hollywood, after drunkenly attacking an item of movie memorabilia. The memorabilia in question is the Zoltar make-a-wish machine from the 1988 Tom Hanks hit, Big. As Belushi is shown to the street, weeping, witnesses hear him shouting, “I wish I was Tom!  I wish I was Tom!

   Next morning – SHAZAM – Belushi finds himself back in 1989.
   These are the glory days for Jim.
   The Red Heat and The Principal days.
   Life is sweet.
   And it’s about to get sweeter.
Belushi is offered the human lead in two movies. One is K-9, the other Turner & Hooch. Both are buddy cop dog movies. A new sub-genre, his agent tells him. After much deliberation, despite the apparent similarities of the projects, Belushi chooses the nuanced, lighter Turner & Hooch over the grittier, hardboiled K-9.
And movie history is changed forever, some might say for the better. 
1989 is remembered in Hollywood as The Year of the Dog. 
For movie fans, the box office battle between Tom Hanks’s K-9 and Jim Belushi’s Turner & Hooch is our Beatles vs. Stones. 
Both films contain almost identical plots, such that one suspects the studios employed corporate spies to get the scoop on their rival’s script. A cop (K-9’s maverick wiseass Dooley vs. the buttoned-down OCD Turner) is partnered with a pooch (police German Shepherd vs. junkyard Bordeaux) to solve a murder. You have to hand it to Hollywood; this is classic ‘high-concept’ stuff.  

Highlights from the films include Jerry Lee biting a criminal’s genitals to extract a confession, and banging a poodle to James Brown’s I Feel Good, and Hooch just generally slobbering and destroying Turner’s property.  Not the car!”
But which dog is the better actor? 
Not to devalue Jerry Lee’s fine performance, but the Walter Matthau-mugged Hooch has personality in spades, and in my opinion – here goes my impartiality and journalistic integrity – displays the better, albeit slobberier acting chops. 
German Shepherd-lovers will take me to task for this, but face it, Hanks carries Jerry Lee with another uniformly endearing performance as maverick wiseacre Dooley. As Turner, Belushi wisely plays straight man to Hooch, with all those years living in the shadow of his legendary brother finally paying off. 
When the movies are released, only three months apart, the smart money is on Hanks’s K-9 to win the dogfight. (During the earlier Hollywood fad of ‘body swap’ romps, Hanks’s Big dwarfed Vice Versa, despite that movie’s combined star power of Judge Reinhold and Fred Savage, hot from Beverly Hills Cop and The Wonder Years respectively.) But moviegoers take both canine cop flicks to their hearts, with Hanks’s K-9 and Belushi’s Turner & Hooch each earning approximately $75m at the box office.  Hollywood is proved eerily accurate in predicting that late-eighties movie audiences simply cannot get enough of buddy cop dog pictures. In fact, looking at those numbers, it’s safe to presume the exact same audience sees both movies. By 1995, when Chuck Norris releases his own Top Dog, sadly for Chuck, the fad has passed. 
Flush from his K-9 success, Hanks plays it safe and continues carving a career as a comic leading man – with the occasional supporting role or cameo in prestige pictures like Who’s Harry Crumb? and Only the Lonely. He enjoys fair to middling success with Taking Care of Business, Mr. Destiny and Curly Sue. But critics wonder: Where is the risk-taker, the wannabe serious dramatic actor of Every Time We Say Goodbye and Punchline?
Belushi appears to be a one-hit wonder. He follows Turner & Hooch with the flop Joe Versus The Volcano. The Bonfire of the Vanities, in which director Brian De Palma casts Belushi as an unlikely Master of the Universe, is the epic turkey of its day. (Through no fault of Belushi’s, it must be said, and of all the egos involved in the Bonfire fiasco, as detailed in Julie Salamon’s scathing tell-all The Devil’s Candy, only Belushi emerges with something like his dignity intact.)

Hollywood begins to wonder if the success of Turner & Hooch was due largely to Hooch; not for the first time, Hollywood has seriously underestimated Jim Belushi.
After rediscovering his form in A League of Their Own, as the alcoholic coach of a women’s baseball team, Belushi reinvents himself as a romantic lead opposite Meg Ryan, with Sleepless in Seattle becoming the sleeper hit of the ’93 box office. 
Who would have predicted that Belushi’s brand of boorish, blue-collar Chicagoan, watching-the-game-with-a-brewski, Belushibility would translate so effectively to romantic comedy?
Given the success of Sleepless, Belushi can be forgiven for playing it safe, like Hanks, and churning out endless light romantic comedies. Instead he wows the critics with a straight role as a gay lawyer with AIDS in Philadelphia, for which he is awarded his first Best Actor Oscar. During his acceptance speech, Belushi unwittingly outs his closeted high school drama teacher as a homosexual. People laugh off Belushi’s tactlessness; that’s Jim! At the after-show party, secure in his own identity as Not-John Belushi, Belushi and Dan Akroyd appear as The Blues Brothers, performing Bruce Springsteen’s song, Streets of Philadelphia.
Forrest Gump sweeps the board at the next year’s Oscars, with Belushi reigning in the retard to secure his second successive Best Actor award, a feat not achieved since Spencer Tracy in 1938/39.

   After that, The Belush is loose.

   You’ve Got Mail.

   Saving Private Ryan.

   The Green Mile.


   Catch Me If You Can.  (Does the title refer to Hanks, one wonders?)

An unprecedented run of smash-hit movies that catapults Belushi to the very top of the A-list, and makes him one of the most bankable stars of all time. 
Envying Belushi’s success, fearing he has been typecast as ‘the new Jimmy Stewart,’ and determined to prove his own dramatic chops, Hanks fires back with 1992’s erotic thriller, Traces of Red. (After the success of Basic Instinct, erotic thrillers are, like buddy cop dog pictures once were, the latest Hollywood fad; I’m unaware if Chuck Norris made his own erotic thriller during this period.)  Audiences are repulsed by the very idea of a naked Hanks rutting with co-star Lorraine Bracco, let alone will they pay good money to sit in a movie theater and watch images of it. An actor of two-time Oscar-winner Belushi’s ability might have transcended the role – made it the Last Tango in Paris of its day – but not ‘Mr. Nice’ himself, Tom Hanks. The movie stiffs, irreparably damaging Hanks’s status as a viable leading man. 
Hanks finds himself sinking in a quicksand of Direct to Video movies, failed TV pilots, cartoon voiceover work (a pitiful riposte to Belushi’s success with the Toy Story franchise) and the occasional cameo in Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
In 1999 many believe Hanks’s career has finally rock-bottomed when he stars in K-911, the eagerly unanticipated sequel to his biggest hit; but no, the final indignity comes in 2002, with the threequel, K-9: P.I. Alas, as Chuck Norris has already discovered, the buddy cop dog picture gravy train has stopped rolling. 
Both K-9 sequels are released DTV and quickly vanish without trace.
Hanks finally accepts defeat, gives up his dreams of movie stardom, and takes the lead as ‘Tom,’ an overbearingly nice variation of himself in the painfully middle-of-the-road television sitcom, According to Tom. Belushi, in what insiders consider to be one last fuck-you to his vanquished foe, refuses to allow Hanks to enjoy his TV success, such as it is, and produces Band of Brothers for HBO with close friend Steven Spielberg, with whom he has previously saved Private Ryan. Belushi is also credited with coining the title of infamous gay porn parody Shaving Ryan’s Privates, proving he has lost none of his sparkling wit and is totally secure in his heterosexuality. 
Then, in 2011, a despondent Hanks, his career on the rocks and recently diagnosed with type-two diabetes, is ejected by security from the New York branch of Planet Hollywood, after drunkenly attacking an item of movie memorabilia. The memorabilia in question is the Zoltar make-a-wish machine from his 1988 hit, Big. For Tom, ’88 feels like a lifetime ago. As Hanks is shown to the street, weeping, witnesses hear him shouting, “I wish I was Jim!  I wish I was Jim!

   Next morning – SHAZAM – Hanks finds himself back in 1989.
   These are the glory days for Tom.
   The Bachelor Party and Splash days.
   Life is sweet.
   And it’s about to get sweeter.
Hanks is offered the lead in two movies. One is K-9, the other Turner & Hooch. Both are buddy cop dog movies. A new sub-genre, his agent tells him. Hanks chooses Turner & Hooch.
And the status quo of movie history is restored, some might say for the worse.

Thanks to Sarah Lu and James Merrills for the pix…
Adam Howe writes the twisted fiction your mother warned you about. A British writer of fiction and screenplays, he lives in Greater London with his partner and their hellhound, Gino. Writing as Garrett Addams, his story Jumper was chosen by Stephen King as the winner of the On Writing contest, and published in the paperback/Kindle editions of SK’s book. His fiction has appeared in places like Nightmare Magazine, Thuglit, and The Horror Library. He is the author of two novella collections, Black Cat Mojo, and Die Dog or Eat the Hatchet, both published by Comet Press and available NOW