The Sunday movie in Morocco was the major event of the week in rural Indiana of 1940 for someone just reaching the first teen years surrounded by flat land, corn and hogs...a land where the towns label themselves "POP 1000" twice...once on the sign coming in, and once on the sign as you leave...and are spaced a neat 10 miles apart on a perfectly square grid [quoteright'/>system of one mile sections. It was easier to hitch a ride to Morocco (my town, Brook, had no theater) than to Goodland to the "Post" theater (officially "Gravel's"...we called it the "Post" because the center of the high roof was supported by a single Iron pipe a foot in diameter...the poor jerk or jerkess who got a seat anywhere behind this only got half the movie for their 20 cents. In the winter, Old Man Gravel came in at least three times during the show to shake down the four-foot-diameter tin furnace that was inside the door to the rear...we never seemed to miss too much during this minute interlude, though. And the fire curtain, ceremoniously pulled back before each movie, still had decorative oval-framed local store advertising painted on it in the best Nineties style!...and I think a Moon River scene in the center.
But the real joy came on Monday and Tuesday when we would nearly roll on the school ground with hilarity while totally replaying the Abbott and Costello movie...or the Marx' problems with Mrs X...or the stupidities of Moe and the other Stooges. Of course, before long we had the Japs to fall out of the palms like cocoanuts, while Bataan's last man emptied his machine gun until one sneaky yellow rat blew both of them up with a hand grenade for the glory of the Emperor and a shout about "bansaiing a bush-or-two" (I only watched that one three times through at the first sitting)...and the Spitfire action in "Mrs Miniver" was pretty good if you could sit still past all the kissy-crying parts.
However, the real staple was the documentary-historical movie that took place in a desert somewhere with lots of slewing and slaying, lots of pompous conversation, no humor...and a glamorous, equally humorless Desert Princess, invariably dressed in some grandmother's best lace curtains over skimpy panties and a bra...and how the Desert Princess stayed so fresh and clean living in that tent in those windstorms is still beyond me!
So if Bud...or Scab...or Corky...or Squeaky (he'd swallowed lye when a baby, but must have survived since we were in high school together)... hadn't seen the movie, I'd have to tell them the whole story and describe the action.
"Well, there was this Desert Princess named Sarah-Sin Hoared, and she had this faithful homely hand-maiden who was so homely she didn't have any choice except to be faithful and who was named Isis-Topus...and also she was homely on account of the princess didn't want any good looker around competin' behind The Tent in the moonlit Camel Lot (you knew it was a Camel Lot because there's only this one camel in the movie that keeps looking around the edge of The Tent) with Sarah-Sin's Zute suitor, George the Riff Raft, who had blue eyes. Blue eyes are scarce in the desert, except in this movie, where all the Ay-rabbs had blue eyes, even the camel drivers.
"So there's this big sand cloud out on the desert, and you see this mean guy close up whose eyes are blue and with Black Beard and no shave for a week and dirty, and you know he's riding a horse because his head is bobbing up and down in the movie screen. And then lots of other faces like his, all bobbing up and down, and they're all waving these corn knives, like they're going to make fodder, except there's no corn in the desert.
"And at The Tent, some skinny little Ay-rabb in a dirty white diaper looks at the sand cloud and runs inside without knocking, and then Sarah-Sin finally says something. 'I must prepare my body.' And Isis-Topus holds up this big towel in front of Sarah-Sin, while her collection of lace curtains comes floating over the top onto the floor of The Tent.
"Then a big bunch of sand kind of swooshes across the screen, and you know its Bad Black Beard and his bunch of desert molestators arriving and sliding to a halt on account of a lot of horses neighing and snorting though you can't see them, and Bad Blackie tells somebody to take care of his valuable Arabian (I guess he means horse, but there is this pretty little black eyed slave girl, and maybe he means her).
"So he stomps into the tent, and there is some ponderous talk, and nobody smiles or has any fun which is all the way through this movie. Then there is a whole bunch of firecrackerin', and he runs back outside and its somebody shooting, and its George the Zute Riff Raft who is raiding Bad Blackie, and in the commotion of eveyrbody waving corn knives again, Blackie rides off and forgets his slave girl, and Dirty Diaper, like any true Ay-rabb knows a good thing when he sees it laying around loose, grabs her and takes her around back of The Tent to the Camel Lot and hides her under a bunch of palm leaves. And this time you know it's a Camel Lot, because here is the back of the camel with his head inside The Tent taking a gander at Sarah-Sin, I guess, which when this happens in the movie is supposed to be a funny thing.
"Next there's this big windstorm, and Desert Bad Blackie comes riding back, because you get to see his face bobbing up and down some more. Dirty Diaper runs into The Tent, and Isis-Topus grabs The Towel again. When Sarah-Sin comes out, she's all dignity and wearing this three-cubit-high feather Empress Crown or something, and the windstorm has sudden stopped or else she'd have got blown across the desert, and everything has got cleaned up somehow from the sand in about five minutes flat.
"Sarah-Sin keeps expecting Bad Blackie to 'have his way with her,' and he grabs her by the wrist and pulls her inside The Tent, but Fate and the camel intervene when the camel sticks his head inside. Only later in the movie you find out he's her bad half brother, but nobody knows he's not after her (because that would be insects), but is out to get her half interest in this Desert Sand Pile, only he has to have George the Riff Raft out of the way first. Only he doesn't want her to know who he is, and he tells her his men've got George on the run and its only a matter of time. But he wants everybody to think he's got the hots for Sarah-Sin so nobody'll figure out what he's really up to.
"Only the little Ay-rabb slave girl is seeking revenge on account of Bad Blackie and all his bunch 'had their way with her,' and she punches pinholes in all their water bags when they go out to pursue George at his Oasis Hideout. They all die in the desert...first you see a close up of one with his mouth open and he bites his wrist and sucks on it, and then his face drops down the screen. Then another, and his face goes down...and on and on, until finally there is a view of the whole dune, and all these black body blobs, which are Blackie's gang, and out front close to the camera Blackie staggers and collapses, and the whole movie audience cheers and claps.
"And then Isis-Topus sees the dust on the desert, and sighs as she goes to get the Big Towel again. Only this time there is a Big Wedding, and Sarah-Sin walks around with her arms locked out all the time holding these diaphanous floating veils so the breeze can blow them, or else because she has got a bunch of Hollywood movie makeup caked under her arms and can't get them down. Everybody feasts on good food like hummingbird tongues, which explains why the desert is no longer aflit with hummingbirds, and maybe also explains why there are still so many horned toads and lizards.
"So George the Riff Raft stops chasing out to slew and slay all the desert riff-raff who keep trying to indulge Sarah-Sin's favors, and starts indulging them himself, which I guess is a good idea because Isis-Topus finally smiles. They give Dirty Diaper and the Ay-Rabb slave girl her freedom (she already seemed pretty free with Dirty Diaper in his Palm Leaf Pile) and also George's Fertile Oasis. Talk about pollution! It wasn't either fertile or an Oasis until George the Riff Raft's Riffs started hiding out there with their thousand horses! So they set up out there in an adobe with the camel who sticks his head in the window all the time and all three live happily ever after."
© 1987 Burt Schmitz
Burt Schmitz has drawn a number of covers for The Ecphorizer as well as providing interior art. He recently worked on a large illustrated tourist map for a Silicon Valley promotion firm.
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