Thursday, September 3, 2009

Can These Marriages Be Saved?

Has married life got you down? Has your once attentive fiance turned into a couch potato husband? Have your dreams of eternal romantic love scattered to the winds just like the rice pitched at your wedding?

There, there dear. Junk Cinema understands. Over the decades it has featured an endless stream of desperate housewives coping with less than ideal husbands and suburban angst. So before you turn Kate Gosslin-like on your your "lame fish" hubby (who probably deserves it for carrying on with the nurse who assisted with your tummy tuck), please consider how these gals coped with marital disappointment.

"Beyond the Forrest" (1949)-Rosa Malone (Bette Davis) is a "midnight gal" stuck in a "9 o'clock town". Making things worse, she's stuck with a panty waste husband and a smart-mouth teenage maid. Rosa is left with nothing to do but tweeze her brows, sneer at her husband's yokel friends and shoot porcupines. Then she begins a torrid affair with a city slicker who promises to whisk her away to Chicago. He backs out of the deal, of course, and poor Rosa finds herself with an inconvenient bun in her oven. When a withered old coot threatens to reveal Rosa's affair, she shoots him, which takes care of one problem, and then throws herself over a highway embankment, which takes care of her other problem. But not for long. As all sinners must be punished, Rosa develops a lurid brain fever and begins slathering her face with make-up. Then she begins to drag her slowly expiring carcass across the rail road tracks in a last ditch attempt to leave her puny hamlet. "It's tough on a girl like Rosa living in a town like this," a neighbor observes. "It's tough on the town," retorts her friend. Amen.

"The Bride and the Beast"(1958)-Here's a question I bet etiquette expert Emily Post never got asked: how long should a bride wait to tell her new husband after the wedding that she's no longer in love with him, but is in love with gorilla he keeps chained in the basement? Such is the dilemma faced by Laura Carson (Charlotte Austen) in this Ed Wood scripted domestic drama.

Worried that his wife and Spanky the gorilla are becoming unnaturally close, hubby Dan consults with an eminent psychiatrist who hypnotises Laura. What they discover is a corker: Laura was a gorilla in her past life! No wonder she can't resist Spanky's animal magnetism! This revelation, however, may be good for Laura's peace of mind, but bad for her marriage. Realizing she can't deny her true self any longer, Laura dumps Dan and runs off to Africa with live some mountain gorillas.

If this movie has a major flaw, it's what prompts Laura to realize she was a gorilla in her past life: an angora sweater. See, she puts on the sweater and it arouses her past life memories. Viewers are left to wonder why Laura's reaction to angora didn't reveal that her past life was as an angora goat. But that would be too logical and there was nothing Ed Wood avoided more in his movies than logic. The real reason scriptwriter Wood chose an angora sweater for the catalyst to Laura's monkey shines is because he had a thing for angora. Wood put angora sweaters in his movies every chance he got, whether it made sense or not. In "Glen or Glenda?", the angora sweater Glen's confused fiance Barb owns becomes a symbol of their reconciliation and you could argue that made sense (Glen had always wanted to wear it). However, in "The Bride and the Beast", the angora sweater connection doesn't work. The best way to get through any Ed Wood movie is to realize it's his world and your just living in it.

"I Married a Monster from Outer Space!"(1958)-No, this is not the name of Kate Gosslin's new reality show. It's the heart wrenching ordeal of new bride Gloria Talbott, who's dreams of marital bliss are torpedoed on her wedding night. Seems hubby Tom Tryon just can't bring himself to consummate their union. He's also spending a lot of time with his "friends" who are equally uninterested in their wives. Gloria knows something is wrong and boy is she right: her husband's body has been taken over by an alien who wants to mate with earth gals in hopes of reviving his dying race. The problem is the aliens haven't quite figured out the intricacies of human copulation. What will Gloria do when she learns the truth? Will anyone believe her? And if the aliens finally figure out the ways of human love, will Gloria succumb?

Some people have argued that this oh-so-serious sci-fi flick is actually A) a subtle jab at commies-under-every-bush paranoia or B) a subtle jab at closeted gay men who married to keep up appearances. Either way, you can't help but feel bad for Gloria, who wrings her hands in the best women-in-distress fashion and blames herself for all her troubles. However, in this case of marital misery, it's definitely the guy's fault.

"Frigid Wife"(1961)-The title says it all. The only interesting thing about this flick is that double Oscar-winner Sally Field's mom Margaret has the title role.

"Suburban Roulette"(1967)-Love thy neighbor as thy self? Herschell Gordan Lewis takes a break from his usual drive-in blood baths for a look at that seething cauldron of lust, the suburbs. Here folks try and take their mind's off their 30 year mortgages by doing drugs, getting stewed, having orgies, indulging in wife swapping and throwing the occasional barbecue. The real danger in this neighborhood, however, is not unkempt lawns or too loud stereos, but husband and wife switch-hitters Ron and Margo (Tony McCabe and Allison Louise Downe). No gal is safe from these two, including poor Ilene Fisher (Elizabeth Wilkinson) who's foray into suburban sleaze drives her attempt suicide. Although Ang Lee's "The Ice Storm" covered this topic with more taste and restraint, Herschell Gordan--and Junk Cinema--got there first. Not recommended for anyone who wants to respect themselves in the morning or head their local neighborhood association.

Of course, no salute to wifely misery would be complete without mentioning actress Constance Ford. Although best remembered today as the the saintly and long suffering Ada on the defunct soap "Another World", Ford had quite a run in the late 1950's and early 1960's as the ultimate desperate housewife and shrewish mom. Her reign of terror includes "A Summer Place"(1959), where Ford hasn't let husband Richard Egan touch her in years and forces teen daughter Sandra Dee to wear cast iron griddles so she won't "bounce when she walks". In "Claudelle Inglish" (1961) Ford is the bitter wife of a poor farmer who actually encourages her teen daughter Diane McBain to sleep around. When Claudelle refuses to become the trophy wife of rich Claude Akins (and who could blame her?), Constance swipes her kid's best dress and runs off with the future "Sheriff Lobo" star herself. Last but not least is 1963's "The Care Takers", where Robert Stack tries out his controversial group therapy techniques on a zany collection of mental hospital patients (like grieving mom Polly Bergen, ex-hooker Janis Paige and "Breaking Away" mom Barbara Barrie) while head nurse Joan Crawford practice judo moves on the very devoted Constance Ford. Paging Dr. Phil!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Is There A Doctor In The House?

Health care reform is the most contentious issue facing Americans today. Across the country, town halls are jam packed with citizens testifying, arguing, rallying and criticising. The air is thick with tension as the shrieks of sky high premiums! Socialized medicine! Government take over! Death panels! and Pre-existing conditions! shoot off like thousands of fire works over a Fourth of July weekend.

Is there anywhere in this great nation where people have access to quality, affordable health care, where doctors can treat their patients with a minimum of red tape, where cost containment doesn't lead to the specter of rationed health care and millions more uninsured?

Yes there is. It's on TV.

Just turn on your favorite soap opera or medical drama and you will see folks getting top notch care without exorbitant co-pays or double price hikes.

The long-running CBS sudser "The Young and the Restless" is a perfect place to start. Currently, there are 3 residents of Genoa City facing a serious health care crisis, but figuring out how to pay for it isn't one of them.

First up is model Lily. Newly married and hoping to start a family, she has since learned she has cancer. We know Lily is really suffering because she has lost her hair and wears nothing but sweats these days. However, she's bravely enduring chemo with the full knowledge that her teenage bout with VD has not been ruled a "pre-existing condition", thus denying her provider the chance to drop her coverage just when she needs it the most.

In fact, Lily is not the only gal on "Y&R" that has battled cancer and was subsequently treated humanely by the insurance industry. Several years ago, master chemist and Jabot heiress Ashley Abbot was diagnosed with breast cancer. She bravely pulled through and never once fretted about co-pays, rising premiums or being referred to one of Sarah Palin's ominous "death panels". Indeed, freed from these pressures, Ashley could concentrate on her recovery and, more importantly, decide if she should tell her young daughter Abby that Brad, the man who has raised her, is not her biological father, but that super tycoon Victor Newman is (Ashley wisely chose to stay silent for the time being).

But back to the present. While Lily is bravely enduring her trials, across town spokes model Sharon is experiencing a different type of medical crisis.

The death of her daughter, a divorce and an unhappy remarriage have pushed Sharon to a shattering mental breakdown. What's more, she's pregnant with no less than 3 guys (husband Jack, ex-husband Nick and brother-in-law Billy) as a possible sire. However, her health insurance clearly recognizes that mental illness is every bit as real as cancer and thus covers its treatment equitably. That's why even though Sharon is confined to a lock-down facility, she has her own room, is allowed visitors, receives prenatal doctor visits and still sports her designer wardrobe and high heels.

Last, but not least, is plucky toddler Summer. The daughter of Nick (Sharon's ex) and his possessive wife Phyllis, Summer has one of those Extremely Rare Food Allergies and landed in ICU a few weeks back. She, too, received top notch care and while her parents ranted and raved about who poisoned their child (it was nut job Patty/Mary Jane), neither Nick or Phyllis wondered how they would pay the resulting hospital bill. Furthermore, Nick and Phyllis' health insurance has no long waits for referrals. Turns out, little Summer needs to see a specialist and their health care provider quickly recommended one--in Zurich. When last seen, Phyllis and Summer were heading to the airport with hopeful hearts and comprehensive coverage intact.

Of course, no health care delivery system is perfect and Genoa City is no exception. Their primary lapse, however, is not in treatment or cost containment, but security. For instance, Ashley was able to artificially inseminate herself with Victor Newman's banked sperm without anyone being the wiser--including Victor and the sperm bank's staff. And she wasn't the the only gal in town to pull off this stunt. Another of Victor's ex-wives also swiped his "man juice", but apparently forgot to read the fine print. Thus, when her bundle of joy arrived, it turned out to be not Victor's kiddie, but Jack Abbot's--Jack having banked his sperm at the same place.

Nor is this shocking laxity confined to "Y&R". Over on "The Bold and the Beautiful" ("Y&R"s spin-off), Taylor was horrified to discover the eggs implanted in her body (which allowed her to conceive baby Jack) were not her own, but arch-rival-for-Ridge's-affections, Brooke. Other than that, everybody on both shows is perfectly happy with their health care.

Soap operas, of course, are notorious for being especially wacky. After all, where else on earth do people age from 6 months to 12 years in a weekend, folks regularly come back from the dead and a revolving door of marriage and divorce and remarriage threaten to turn any child born into their own first cousin? Thus, let us turn our attention to another TV staple, the medical drama.

Whether it be "ER", "Grey's Anatomy" or "Private Practice", the hard working doctors and nurses portrayed there in ply their healing skills in a network of hospitals and clinics that combine comprehensive care with an effective, stream-lined administration process that has little if any red tape or unnecessary cost-over runs. That doesn't mean everything is perfect, however. Observant viewers will no doubt have detected these abnormalities among this framework of efficiency:

1) All the doctors and nurses appear to have paid for med school by being Chippendale's dancers or Oil of Olay models.

2)You or someone you love could be having a serious medical crisis, but your doctor's personal life comes first. That's why "Private Practice" doc Tim Daly can leave a waiting room full of patients experiencing everything from an ear ache to the advanced stages of the Plague while he makes whoopee in his office.

3)A person can be refused treatment for reasons that have nothing to do with pre-existing conditions, coverage gaps or reduced benefits. Back on "Private Practice", one of their female ob/gyns refused to treat a gal experiencing a difficult pregnancy because the said gal's husband confessed he no longer loves his wife, but is love with her. Conversely, a distraught mom with a sick child can refuse to allow an assigned doctor to treat her son because she discovered he liked porn.

These quirks aside, American citizens might want to ask themselves the following question: "If my soap opera characters and medical drama cast members can enjoy universal health care coverage in a single-payer system with minimum administrative costs that employs nothing but hot looking doctors and nurses who enjoy wild nights of passion after curing the sick, why can't we have such a system in the real world?"