Wednesday, April 04, 2007

They oughta shoot somebody's eye out

Benjamin "Bob" Clark, the movie director who gave the world the holiday classic A Christmas Story — as well as the infamous romp about libidinous teenagers invading a Florida brothel known as Porky's — died early morning in an automobile crash in southern California. Clark's 22-year-old son Ariel, a budding jazz composer who studied music at Santa Monica College, also lost his life in the incident.

The drunk driver who killed both Clarks, 24-year-old Hector Velazquez-Nava, escaped with minor injuries.

That's the kind of news that burns my biscuits.

I consider myself a forgiving individual, but I hold no empathy for intoxicated drivers who kill or injure innocent people. In my view, vehicular manslaughter resulting from alcohol or drugs should be prosecuted and penalized to the same level as first-degree murder. If you're enough of a heartless barbarian that you would rather risk the lives of other human beings than call a taxi, society is better off with you permanently behind bars.

The reason drunk drivers are not so prosecuted and penalized can be directly attributed to the power of the liquor lobby. That, and many leading politicians — including a certain presently serving Commander-in-Chief — are among the folks most likely to grab the steering wheel while under the influence. Big money and runaway egotism make for dangerous bedfellows.

It would be unkind to use this moment as an opportunity to point out that, with the exception of the aforementioned A Christmas Story, Bob Clark directed a raft of heinously bad movies, including the aforementioned Porky's (and Rhinestone, and Turk 182, and From the Hip, and Loose Cannons, and Baby Geniuses). So I'll refrain.

Instead, I'll mention the one movie in the Bob Clark oeuvre that I really did enjoy: Murder by Decree, which pitted Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson (played here by two veteran scenery-chewers, Christopher Plummer and James Mason) against Jack the Ripper. If you like mysteries, or Holmes, or both, you owe it to yourself to scrounge up the DVD of this film, and check it out. It's a genuine classic, featuring supporting appearances by such talents as Donald Sutherland, Genevieve Bujold, David Hemmings, Susan Clark, and Anthony Quayle. (Fascinating background trivia: Clark originally cast Peter O'Toole and Laurence Olivier as Holmes and Watson respectively, but the two actors hated one another with such a passion that the director ended up having to replace them both just to get the movie made.)

We here at SSTOL extend our condolences to the Clark family upon their devastating double loss.

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