Aug 22, 2012
After 18 years in the making, Greek-Canadian auteur Demetri Estdelacropolis finally completed his conspiracy theory-ridden anti-John Wayne/anti-action camp-masterpiece Shirley Pimple in the John Wayne Temple of Doom (2000); an innately absurdist cinematic meta-essay that was certainly worth the belated wait, even if very few people, including dedicated cinephiles of the cinematically strange, were there to take notice. It came as sort of a revelation to me that Armenian-Canadian auteur Atom Egoyan (Exotica, Chloe) acted as an associate producer for this well-nigh unknown film, but like most cinematic works by the critically acclaimed director of The Sweet Hereafter (1997), Shirley Pimple is an uncompromising piece of celluloid daredevilry that examines the more seedier side of sexuality and human motivation, but from a vehemently tragicomedic camp angle that can even be appreciated by the most prudish purveyors of philistinism. Shirley Pimple resembles what Andy Milligan probably would have assembled had he spent a couple semesters in film school, relished in a week-long John Wayne movie marathon while high on marijuana, and attempted to direct a thematically/aesthetically transposed remake of John Milius' unintentionally farcical anti-Soviet action-thriller Red Dawn (1984). Set in the year nineteen hundred and thirty (give or take 30 years), Shirley Pimple is a film about an effervescent little girl on the verge of complete biological womanhood who describes herself as a, “11 year old, surreal serial killer, heroin addict, and B-movie star” with “a selective hearing process; otherwise known as deafness" that physically resembles Shirley Temple, but considers her true doppelganger to be John Wayne; the Hollywood screen legend that has been a uncontested symbol of indomitable masculinity amongst the American male public for over ½ a century. At 7 years old, Shirley Pimple became the lead attraction of the propaganda film factory The John Wayne Institute for the Preservation of American Ideals – a quasi-Warholian neo-fascist and ameri-ccentric spreader of the hokey Republican metapolitical doctrine of “John Waynism” that initially exploited and eventually enslaved the little sass by getting her addicted to Cocteau’s kick – but as she grew older, the increasingly sadistic sweetheart adopted a counter-revolutionary weltanschauung and established soldierly solidarity with The Psychotic Weaklings; a group of pants-wetting, child molesters and little girls who use real live babies (described by Pimple as, "eating, shitting, sucking machines") as exploding terrorist devices. Needless to say, Shirley Pimple is probably the most conspicuously ‘campy’ action film ever made and the sort of ostensibly outlandish work that Troma co-dictator Lloyd Kaufman wishes he had made, but lacked the preternatural intellectual aptitude, drug-inspired discipline, and bona fide wacked-out creative obsessiveness to do so. Apparently, penned by ‘Marion Morrison’ (which, being John Wayne’s ironically effeminate real name, is obviously a tongue-in-cheek pseudonym) and featuring many of the ‘superstars’ (Esther Vargas, Rick Trembles, Estdelacropolis himself, etc.) from his debut feature-length film Mother’s Meat & Freud’s Flesh (1984), Shirley Temple is another (and his only other) auteur-piece from the delightfully deranged director Demetri Estdelacropolis; a procrastinating semi-perfectionist who clearly consumed a wealth of heroin and film history books during the nearly twenty year production of this highly cinema-reflexive and Hollywood-repellant action-packed trash epic that features everything from interminate infanticide to pornographic Uncle Sam-inspired graphic art propaganda.
Right from the beginning of Shirley Pimple, one is blitzkrieged with a charming yet schizophrenic crash course in the history of Hollywood movies. As the viewer learns early on in the film by Ms. Pimple's monotone narration, the real Shirley Temple was dethroned by puberty and John Wayne (most specifically, his performance in John Ford’s 1939 film Stagecoach). Although unofficial adversaries as legendary American cultural icons, Shirley Pimple makes the reasonable (if patently offensive) argument that both stars shared the same audience composed of R&R and R&R (Republican, Retarded and Right-Wing, Reactionary). Although John Wayne was seemingly sexless in his preposterous posturing stoicism, bipolar English writer Graham Greene (during his more obscure days as a film reviewer) argued in his 1938 review of John Ford’s Wee Willie Winkie (1937) starring Shirley Temple that little lead actress was a sex icon among perverted old men; a claim that would get the author sued for libel by 20th Century Fox and cause him to flee to Mexico so as to escape a prison sentence. Being a butch brat with homicidal tendencies and suffering from heroin withdraw, Shirley Pimple is hardly a sex symbol, but that does not stop her from joining up with The Psychotic Weaklings; a militant anti-Wayne revolutionary group that finds John Wayne’s legacy and manhood to be quite dubious, as expressed most humbly by one its leaders' most potent political rants: “despite the fact as a war hero, a soldier’s soldier, a cowboy’s cowboys, John Wayne was the most repressed closet queen and panty-waisting beta-pussy of them all.” Although an active Republican (though a self-described “socialist” during his college years) who influenced many young American males to fight in wars ranging from World War II (starring in 13 films during the war) to Vietnam (even starring in the 1968 film The Green Berets; the only film made in support of the war), Wayne was a draft-dodger (obtaining 3-A status, "deferred for [family] dependency reasons”) who never fought in an authentic battle in his entire life with the only real-life live bullet ever shot at him being from his second wife Esperanza Baur; a mentally unstable Mexican actress (undoubtedly another unsavory biographical detail for patriotic Wayne fanatics). With the exception of the highly quotable scene from Alex Cox’s cult classic Repo Man (1984) where the character Miller announces that, “John Wayne was a Fag” who “come to the door in a dress”, Shirley Pimple is very possibly the only film to characterize the true reality behind Wayne’s magnified and mythical legacy. In fact, aside from being the most anti-Wayne flick ever made, Shirley Pimple in the John Wayne Temple of Doom, as given clear evidence in its decisively screwy postmodern title, is a work that wages total war, maliciously mutilates, and ultimately deconstructs the moviemaking magic of Hollywood. Estdelacropolis’ incorrigible anti-Hollywood ethos ultimately reaches its climax in Shirley Pimple when John Wayne in zombie-like form is liquidated via ‘commie piss’ in a western-style showdown scene with Shirley Pimple that perversely echoes the especially eccentric chaffed essence of the satirical suicide of ultra-nationalist true believer General Jack D. Ripper (due to his insistence that his “precious bodily fluids” were tampered with by Reds) in Stanley Kubrick’s classic cold war era spoof Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).
As mentioned early on in Shirley Pimple, the real John Wayne eventually died in an undignified manner after losing a battle with cancer; the same fate his character feared in his final screen role in The Shootist (1976) directed by Don Siegel (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dirty Harry). Many believe that Wayne contracted cancer while ill-advisedly playing Mongol leader Genghis Khan in the critical and commercial failure The Conqueror (1956); a work filmed near a Nevada nuclear testing ground that resulted in 91 individuals of a 220 person film crew contracting various forms of the malignant neoplasm disease by 1981, thus one could argue that the Hollywood legend was ultimately a (unconscious) victim of the cold war he so gallantly promoted with his lackluster acting. Shirley Pimple may featuring tons of explosions and senseless brutality but it is as far as one can get from a John Wayne flick; portraying little girls and child molesters as the most menacing and malevolent of coldblooded of killers, henceforth boldly underscoring the strabismic romanticized view of war in classic Hollywood propaganda films, most specifically those starring “The Duke” himself. Shirley Pimple concludes in a manner comparable to Sidney Pollack’s satirical “pro- and anti-war” flick Castle Keep (1969) with an extravagant 20+ minute battle between the pugnacious pedos of the Psychotic Weaklings and the wimpy Waynites at the John Wayne Temple of Doom; a militaristic building with a “Joseph Mengele Search and Destroy” wing. Undoubtedly, a much less intimate and personal work than Estdelacropolis’ previous effort Mother’s Meat & Freud’s Flesh, Shirley Pimple in the John Wayne Temple of Doom is an equally unhinged and unconventional expression of the auteur filmmaker's particularly warped yet wonderful psyche, thereupon it is a work that demands a cult following that it currently has yet to obtain. After all, the world still has a legion of individuals watching the films of Shirley Temple and John Wayne in a notably onanistic fashion.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 7:12 PM
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