Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Spoof Peckinpah: Salad Days & Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown

Originally airing in November 1972, the Monty Python sketch 'Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days' isn't just a classic bit of Python spoofery, it's two minutes of nested satire targetting pompous and pseudy critics, the public perception of Peckinpah as a director of violence, and anticipating its own little storm of controversy.

It begins with Eric Idle as a (quite literally) sniffy film critic - the characterisation was apparently based on BBC reviewer Philip Jenkinson - expounding on Peckinpah's aesthetic of "violence in its starkest form" before discussing the director's latest project as a change of direction to more genteel material. The "clip" that follows is priceless, sending up both the absurdity of Peckinpah making an adaptation of something as twee and toffee-nosed as 'Salad Days' (the title has the same initials, and same amount of letters per word, as 'Straw Dogs') and the over-the-top violence that was seen as the defining characteristic of Peckinpah's work.

The sketch is followed by an apology, equally tongue in cheek, asking viewers not to complain since the BBC was still in mourning for its father (Lord Reith, the founder and first General Manager of the corporation, had passed away the previous year). Needless to say, complaints flooded in.

Apparently, Peckinpah loved it.

'Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown', a student film by Jim Reardon (animation director on 'The Simpsons' and co-writer of the Pixar hit 'Wall-E'), pulls a double spoof of its own. It's partly a send-up of movie violence (the remit encompassing Schwarznegger, Rocky, Godzilla and 'Dirty Dozen'-style war movies as well as Peckinpah's more visceral moments) and partly a sacrilegious re-imagining of the homely, all-American milieu of Charles M. Schulz's 'Peanuts' cartoons.

The plot - a bounty is put on Charlie Brown's head; the gang try to bump him off in a variety of ways; eventually he fights back - is simplicity itself. The narrative doesn't resolve so much as spins off into a gloriously demented and chaotic fantasia. The lifts from Peckinpah are inspired, particularly Lucy shooting Charlie Brown in the back a la 'The Wild Bunch'. Just as hilarious is the post-credits exhortation to Schulz not to sue Reardon "because it will drag through the courts for years ... besides, you've already got half the money in the world and I haven't got any".

'Bring Me the Head of Charlie Brown' is dedicated to Sam "The Man" Peckinpah. I'm betting he'd have dug it.


J.D. said...

I have never seen the Charlie Brown one but man, is it ever funny and right on the mark as far as sending up/paying tribute Peckinpah's style. heh. Very cool.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

I love Salad Days, I was hoping you where going to post on it. Good show!