Severe Jump Cut Disorder or The Descent Into A Snake Pit of Slithering Film Strips

By Stu Kobak

     Just because it started on the tennis court doesn't necessarily mean it had anything to do with tennis. Iím talking about this problem I have. Severe Jump Cut Disorder. Itís not an airborne disease like the virus in Outbreak, but still, beware, it may be catching. Katharine Hepburn is not a bad athlete, but there is no way that her strokes in Pat and Mike did anything to inspire her vision to come between me and my own ball toss. It did, though. I mean, tennis really hasn't had that much play in the movies anyway. Farley Granger hit some mean stokes in Strangers on a Train, but tennis was purely incidental to the Hitchcock perversity play. Of course it wasn't Farley Granger hitting the balls anyway. The tennis scenes in that movie were done with excellent style and certainly provided the greatest amount of tension prior to the institution of the tie-break rule. The most recent movie tennis strokes I recall were a simply embarrassing exchange between Robert Downey, Jr. and Kevin Kline in Chaplin. It certainly was hard to believe that those two famous players had anything in common with the court racket. The most ludicrous film tennis episode had to be when Richard Pryor suffers multiple racket indignities losing in the most ignoble fashion to a thoroughly abrasive Bill Cosby in Neil Simon's California Suite. It's hard to imagine a worse tennis vision than all those balls blazing by Pryor like machine gun tracers mowing down his manhood. That was probably the worst episode in that film to boot.
     Sorry. It was just a short attack. You see, the unnamed disease can even impose itself on my writing. I set out to simply recount my tale of woe which began on the tennis court and before you can Jack Kramer I've digressed into a set of tennis film references before tossing up the service ball of original intent. I've become a progressive digressive. Thank god Freud isn't out on laser disc yet because I might be tempted to glean some worthy pointers from the bard of mental illness. But Montgomery Clift in that awful beard. Was Freud hiding behind something. Is he hiding behind me?
     But then, remember, I only said it started on the tennis court. I swung my tennis racket to intercept a marauding mosquito that came buzz bombing at me prior to my address of the little yellow ball for serve. So, like any god-fearing, red-blooded man--too much blood, but not enough to share with that humming vampire insect--I took my best shot at the insect, not the ball. Well, this Dragonslayer, with one fell swipe of the racket (oversized, of course), felled that menacing miniature beast. Before I could toss the ball again for serve, I was invaded by a pestilence of a different order, created from an overload of celluloid intake. My mind did a jump-cut with the demise of the mosquito to a scene from the movie Red Sun when Toshiro Mifune teaches Charles Bronson the true meaning of great bladesmanship by trimming the wings off a mosquito with the most miraculous flicks of his samurai sword. This was not a very good movie despite an appealing cast and only a severe state of dementia could have forced it to erupt into my conscientiousness from the mass of movies stored in my overloaded mental database. Red Sun is not available on laser disc but a pretty poor DVD has been issued. Watch at your own risk.

Severe Jump Cut Disorder can raise up and dominate me at any moment with little or no warning. Unlike Walter Mitty, my bouts of fantasy do not include images of myself playing out scenes in period costume. Danny Kaye stars as the title character in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. mitty.jpg (29627 bytes)His fantasies may be set off with no warning as well, but they him dominate him in the inimitable manic style for which he's justly famous. Billy Liar, an English film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Tom Courtenay was another film about various escapes into fantasy. It's a good candidate for laser. Jerry Lewis even tripped his way through a Mittyesque fantasy in Don't Raise the Bridge, Lower the Water.

You might take this as all very innocent and benign, but there are perils beyond the obvious. Driving can be a total disaster. An errant glimpse while treading traffic on the Long Island Expressway can lead to anything. Take the bubble over there, for instance, the one enclosing those tennis courts. Its night time glow catches my eye and I'm off on a trip to Silent Running, a sci-fi flick starring Bruce Dern as an outer space gardener. That was one of his most normal roles too. Running Man, Man on a Tightrope, Trapeze, Man on the Flying Trapeze, It Happened One Night: slowly sucked from reality, ensnared in web of criss-crossing sprocketed strands on the verge of somehow progressing to the Midtown Tunnel.
     There was a time that my only distraction while driving to work each morning was The New York Times. I used to be able to get through the entire paper during my thirty mile drive. I guess Things Change. My eyes certainly have. I can hardly see the Times sitting in my easy chair, much less read the thing while doing my imitation of driving. I wasn't always farsighted and in fact I had great night vision. You can't have everything. At least my insurance premium went down when I reported to them that I no longer read the newspaper while driving.
     Sitting in a garrulous restaurant amidst the delightful dinner banter at my table, any stray conversation from the Manhattan mayhem might intrude on my consciousness and set off another bout of Severe Jump Cut Disorder. The word "human" floats by and I pivot my head to catch a man with prominent uppers imbedded in a blood rare lamb chop. Robin Williams plays a cave man in Being Human. After his family is abducted by a tribe of marauders I can picture a scene (that isn't in the movie) of a forlorn Williams, boar chop in hand, leaning over a fire of dancing flames, boar blood flowing down the sides of his mouth meeting with a stream of tears in the forest of his beard. Blood's was on everyone's mind when the bombastic and bathetic Interview With A Vampire opened. Is it my imagination or are patrons staring greedily at fellow diners? Are those eye teeth growing? Will the vampire inherit the earth? More likely in every fashionable eating palace diners are counting the days until the proposed new Titanic is built and they can sail on the most luxurious ship in the world. Hell, if James Cameron really had foresight, he would have built a full scale Titanic for the film. Problem is, as devoted to detail as the man is, he would have sunk it despite the protests of studio execs. At this point I can't keep my mind on food and drink. The movies are trying to take me over. It's like some grade X horror movie. Which reminds me, The Man from Planet X.....Thank god, the waiter spilled a glass of wine on my lap. I never drink.....wine.
     Once, while touring the Duke University campus with my son, there's a girl on the tour tour with her mother from the same Long Island high as my son. The daughter's name is Bree. "What a lovely name," is my response. But the name catches me in the trap of another episode of mind over reality. All I can see is Jane Fonda being stalked by madman Charles Cioffi between the racks of clothing at Goldman's factory. KLUTE.jpg (13682 bytes)The movie is Klute and Fonda's character is a call girl named Bree. Donald Sutherland is Klute in this outstanding thriller. I was brought back to reality by my son's repeated "Dad, dad. We're moving on." I can't help but ask the mother if she remembers the movie Klute and she responds that she does. "Did you name your daughter after the character Jane Fonda plays," I ask. "How did you guess. I loved that name from the first moment I heard it." Neither of us mentions Jane's profession.
     All this new media neurosis relates closely to free association. Amazing, you say. Bingo! Off we go!  The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse starring Edward G. Robinson. Zip to Dr. Erhlich's Magic Bullet, another Robinson vehicle via the MGM bio machine (Neither of these is as yet on laser or DVD.) Everybody does it. Birds do it. Bees do it. Even laserphiles do it. Free association On a limited scale it's but a minor distraction and a far cry from Severe Jump-Cut Disorder. After all, just because you free associate it doesn't mean you go off the deep end, slipping into a mental blackout of the present. But watch out if the symptoms lead to a fall to the very bottom of The Snake Pit. That's when it doesn't stop at the magic bullet but goes on to A Bullet for Joey, Bite the Bullet, Love at First Bite, George Hamilton, Linda Hamilton, Terminator . It starts out free and turns nasty, an uncontrollable string of related inconsequential images forming so rapidly that they prevent reasonable termination. Nothing in this world is likely to be free. So much for free association.
     What's the plural of "all's well that ends well." Easy, right. It's "all's well that ends Welles." Sorry about that, my final impulse had just A Touch of Evil. Can you imagine Welles strangling Akim Tamiroff with a convenient strand of film that was cut from The Magnificent Ambersons. Before I succumb to the continued poison of Severe Jump Cut Disorder, here is a look at a few of the discs floating in the universe of silver Frisbees in the infinite void between my ears. Hereís a look at some of the films based on symptoms of my cinemanical disease.

 


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