Robin Hood: Men in Tights

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/38-robin-hood-men-in-tights

Robin Hood: Men in Tights (PG-1)
1993
48% rotten tomatoes

Is it safe to assume we all know who Mel Brooks is? After the recent traumatic passing of Stan Lee, I’m almost afraid to invoke his name, lest his body remember it’s 92 years old. Just in case any of you are 14 (if you are, please know that this content is not curated for you and is very inappropriate; nevertheless, we love a rebel so hello), Mel Brooks is a titan of film comedy. He is responsible for such classics as Spaceballs, Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles, Dracula: Dead and Loving It, Life Stinks, History of the World: Part I, and of course, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. As a side note, I, as a lover of people who use grammar and syntax to their full potential, enjoy how many of his titles have colons in them, and how much additional information he’s able to give with just a three word clause. But wordplay is one of his signature motifs, and I am here for it. I dare you to find a five minute stretch of Mel Brooks that doesn’t include a double entendre.

the man, the mensch, the legend

So what perfect alchemy of nature brings forth a comedy savant like Mel Brooks? He was born Melvin Kaminksy in 1926, in Brooklyn NY. And as we all know, the 20’s transitioned right into the 30’s without any kind of hiccup, right? Wait, what? You mean… oh… Oh noooo. We’ll come back to that, yikes.

Back to finding out how to reproduce the conditions that created Mel Brooks (which kind of could be the premise for a Mel Brooks movie). Well, I can’t find any specific details about Brooks’ childhood, but from what I can gather, he grew up poor, but in a very loving home. He was the youngest of four boys, and his father died when he was two. His mother got a job working ten hour days out of the house, and then continued working at home. When his brothers were old enough (12!!) they went to work as well, in addition to going to school. These mid-WW folks are some serious badasses. I’m so soft I complain about my forty hour a week job that pays well and comes with a chair.

look at those lil baby Depression ties!!!

Brooks talks about his experiences as a kid with a lot of brevity and humor. He jokes about running across a particular bridge scared, because if you fell in, none of the other Jews would be able to save you (the implication is that Gentiles wouldn’t WANT to save you), because Jews in his neighborhood couldn’t swim. The only place to swim was in a non-Jewish part of town, and they would be chased away if they tried. Additionally, he recounts a suicide in the neighborhood and being terrified that it was his mother. She had, unbeknownst to him, worked late that night and since there were no telephones in poor areas, much less cell phones, he just had to sit and wait, wondering if she would come home. He wasn’t impervious to the constant near-tragedy of his life, but even from an early age he seemed to develop a “why cry when you can laugh” attitude as a coping mechanism. So maybe that’s it – you get a kid who has the funny gene already, put him or her in some shitty living conditions, but make they have the support of the family. And since we’re heading for a new great depression, let’s take a moment to review, shall we?? We need to be prepared.

Okay, so you know how a meth binge makes you feel like you can do anything and anything you do is the greatest thing ever, but then when it’s done you spend the same amount of time feeling like pure shit? I mean… so I’ve heard. That was pretty much the stock market from the 20’s through the 30’s. The 20’s were just one great big meth party (I assume that’s why it’s called the Roaring Twenties), and then when the economy couldn’t take any more rich old white men taking advantage of it, she crashed. Hard. You know, let me rephrase that – we’re not victim blaming the economy here. Let the record show the guilty party was … yeah rich old white men. Okay fine, they weren’t all old. Here’s how it went down:

All throughout the 20’s, there was a ton of speculating being done. What is speculation? Well if it’s done honestly, it’s just being really good at guessing. You look at a bunch of cheap stocks and think *deeply* about which ones might become valuable stocks one way or another. I really don’t know how people come to these conclusions, and I personally find investing so boring that I couldn’t bring myself to find out. Anyway, I don’t understand everything that happens next (see above: my unwillingness to find out) but I gather that people were speculating on the stock market itself at some point. Like instead of betting on a card game, you bet on the casino winning that night (can’t lose, right?). But when everyone starts betting on the casino and stops betting on the card games, the casino doesn’t make any money. And then instead of trying to regroup by betting moderately on more card games, the bettors pawned their chips off on someone else as fast as they could and ran. Those were the lucky assholes. The unlucky ones were unable to find anyone to buy their chips, so they had to just stand there with their arms full of useless chips while the casino burned to the ground from the chaos and looting that was started by the first wave of panicked rich white guys ditching their chips.

OH BUT IT GETS WORSE. Right before the shit hit the fan, the rich assholes who owned the banks saw that some of the peasants were getting interested in speculation on card games, too. So what do banks do to poor, uneducated people? That’s right – they prey on them. They make it super easy for those peasants to borrow a lot of money. Lord forgive them, they knew not what they signed. Society was telling people everywhere they looked that they could get rich this way. It’s kind of like when everyone was investing in commercial real estate in the 90’s. Or am I the only one who remembers that being a thing. Anyways, banks were offering chips “on margin” which meant that the peasants could put a little bit of their own money towards the card games and borrow the rest. You know. Like how you buy a house. Ahem. So when they saw this demand, the players already at the tables of course increased their bids way higher and also dragged in a shit ton more tables. Inflation. Greed. Good christian values in our good christian country.

And to be fair, things had been really good in the village for the peasants for a long time. They all had jobs and food, and places to live. We’d been post-WWI for about a decade now. The only thing missing was a shitload of cash from winning at the casino. They were soft and coddled. They weren’t afraid of things going badly because things had gone so well for so long… except for farmers, who had been struggling for a while, actually. So anyway, some say that the tipping point was when casino management upped the rates for playing the game (the federal reserve raise the interest rate by 1%). So… the one thing articles skip over is WHAT DOES IT MEAN when the stock market crashes – not contributing factors, not financial climates – what are the events that happen – how do you know the stock market just crashed? Do you know where I actually got the answer I was looking for? WIKIPEDIA.

So here’s the deal. Direct quote: “Stock market crashes are social phenomena where external economic events combine with crowd behavior and psychology in a positive feedback loop where selling by some market participants drives more market participants to sell.”

It’s basically like someone yelling “fire” in a crowded theatre. One bettor in the casino was like “Whoa, management just upped these rates, and I’m not even sure what this shit is worth anymore – these companies are making massive amounts of terrible shit. I’m out” and then the player next to him is like “oh man, I’ve heard some things about the drought affecting crops, and the interest rate just went up – I bet that guy knows something I don’t. I’M SELLING OUT, BITCHES” and so on. Then the fucking media sensationalizes the whole thing and it’s turned into a runaway train by this point. A perfect storm of events. So basically, it’s the exactly the same as what caused the surge, but in reverse. It’s Newton’s third law, applied to societal constructs.

♪ It seems no one can help me now / I’m in too deep / There’s no way out ♫

Back to real life. Recap: Everyone’s like “WOOOOOO EASY MONEY!!!!” and then banks were like “HEY PEASANTS, GET IN ON THIS HERE’S SOME MONEY***” and then some cocaine crazed proto-yuppies started screaming “BET IT ALLLLLL” and smashing guitars against the wall and then people were like “uh oh there’s too many people here and it’s not cool anymore” and then no one wanted to play and everyone lost their keys in the club. Onward!

Everyone was in a panic to sell all their stock but no one was buying it, so the value plummeted. I think we have a naive trust in the system – not trust meaning that we think any big system has our best interest at heart, but a kind of trust that it just is what it is. Corn is yellow, the ocean is salty, stocks are based on demonstrable value. NOPE. It’s all made up. The value of stocks are based on demand, or how much people want it. It’s why I do not understand stocks at all. I had always labored under the delusion that valuable stocks were from successful companies, but that’s only half the story since there are people out there gambling on whether a particular business, or industry at large, is going to be successful. I still don’t know how someone plays stock on an entire industry, like solar power. I mean… which companies??? More than half of them are going to suck, right??? Do you just invest in all of them?? ARGH I’M ALREADY SO BORED.

Okay, let’s flash forward just a little bit. The market has entered refraction (hee hee hee). People have lost their fortunes and their jobs. Companies have lost their investors and shut down, or shut down because all these newly broke people didn’t have money to buy their unnecessary shit anymore. People who worked there have lost their jobs and couldn’t pay back the banks for the stock game money they borrowed. If you had money to get in the bank, banks couldn’t give it to you, cause guess what. They invested it in the stock market. And they couldn’t make their money back on loans, cause… oh right. Unemployment. Just a big circle jerk of misery.

Oh wait – there’s more. In 1931 or thereabouts, we get the Dust Bowl. Did you think to yourself “well why don’t I just pack up and move to the Midwest, where I’ll become a farmer? At least we’ll have plenty to eat!” EEEEHHHHHHH. So sorry, the American Midwest has decided to stop raining. Here’s some dust wind, though! Now, there were dumbasses who didn’t know how to farm trying to farm long before the market crashed. The government used to hand out grants to people to settle the huge tracts of land they stole, so of course immigrants and fourth sons and what not took advantage. I mean, why would you not? You figure it’s one of those things you’ll just pick up as you go along.

My point is, the Dust Bowl was bad enough on its own, but the Midwest had been only settled by these folks for the past 70 years or so, and they weren’t the most experienced at it. If you stay in a historically continually populated place like France, and there’s a drought or something like that, the collective knowledge about how to weather the season and get as much as you can out of your fields is going to be greater than what we had going on in the Midwest and southern plains. We had people, plenty of whom may not have come from farming families (at least originally), and who didn’t have a lengthy knowledge of the land. Keep in mind, we’d already driven out the First Nations populations, and I feel they’d likely have been disinclined to help us anyway.

So there’s a money shortage, and now there’s also a food shortage.

By 1933, the unemployment rate was 25%. The Great Depression officially lasted from 1929-1939, but for many families, this would shape an entire generation. Heading back east, we have had the great industrialization of the 19th and earlier 20th centuries exploding populations in cities and the surrounding areas, and then suddenly it all comes to a halt. There are now tons of people in crisis, all in a generally small vicinity.

This seems like a good time to briefly recap early 20th century history:

  • 1914-1918 we have Sandbox Scuffle I – 15-19 million people killed
  • 1920’s are pretty decent tbh, even though Prohibition is enacted in 1920; constraints can be freeing and folks get creative
  • 1922 – Stan Lee is born in Manhattan
  • 1926 – Mel Brooks is born in Brooklyn
  • 1929 – Stock market crash
  • 1931 – Dust Bowl
  • 1933 – Record Unemployment, but bonus! No more Prohibition!
  • 1939 – Great Depression unofficially ends, butttttttt… Sandbox Scuffle II kicks off, resulting in 50-80 million deaths by the time it ends in 1945.

You know, for being called the silent generation, these folks ^ sure made some loud history.

Can you imagine growing up in this kind of environment? Can you imagine being a WOMAN in this environment? The ban on birth control (Comstock Act) wasn’t lifted until 1938, and the birth control pill wasn’t approved by the FDA until 1960 AND STILL WASN’T LEGAL FOR UNMARRIED WOMEN UNTIL 1972!!!!!! PS – this was only shortly before the Vietnam war ended. I image that for a very long time, women felt like they were bringing children into the world just to starve or die in war. I can’t fathom trying to raise four boys on my own – mother of shout outs to the titanic fortitude of Mel Brook’s mother. And they were Jewish, to boot, so also racism in the mix!

this shit is too depressing, so here’s a happy dog with happy flowers

Okay, so onto more fun stuff. Mel was a soldier in Sandbox Scuffle II (at 17 years old, mind). He did some camp shows during this time and really got to flex his showman muscles, and after his time in the war was done, he bounced around until he found

In an interview done by Playboy in 1975, Brooks responded to allegations that his comedy is undisciplined and “anarchic,” which he waves away with a joke. This is definitely what I appreciate about him the most. He does things you’re not supposed to do. The fourth wall breaks, the actors break character, the jokes are often in poor taste, but in the charmingest way. Brooks’ movies are nothing if not full of mirth and whimsy, and self deprecation, and exploiting ridiculous things. It’s fun in the way that kids have fun – it doesn’t make sense. I don’t want to reduce him to just a product of his environment, but I can’t see what about real life would make sense to a boy that grew up in the 30’s. So why not turn everything into a parody – especially things that people have decided to take very, very seriously. Like space operas. And Shakespeare. And gothic horror. And Robin Hood.

In an article in the Atlantic, the author points out that he has an “endless fascination with such primal experiences as fear and cruelty, accident and death.” It’s not an uncommon fascination to be sure, but how Brooks manifests it is so unique and somehow light-hearted. Rob Reiner once asked him how he differentiates between tragedy and comedy – Brooks said, “If I’ll cut my finger, that’s tragedy. … Comedy is if you walk into an open sewer and die,” and then denied bastardizing the David Hume quote. Classic Mel.

So – on to Robin Hood. What do we know about him? He probably wasn’t a real dude. He might have been the Tooth Fairy, but for grownups. That belief we have that someone else is going to come and solve our problems; make the bad guys go away. (spoiler alert: that shit is the pipiest of dreams. Vote, mutherfuckers).

The legend seem to originate at the tail end of the medieval period, in the 13th century. You might say he was the original anarchist, but he probably wasn’t. We love a good political rebel, though. William Wallace, Pancho Villa, pirates, Spartacus, Boudica, the American colonies, dudes who wear socks with sandals. The latter excepted, we like people who break stupid rules. Robin Hood and his Band of Merry Men robbed and murdered rich assholes, and redistributed the wealth to poor people. Was it wrong? Legally, yes, but they were rebelling against a legal system that was never going to be beneficial for the poor. Was it wrong morally? If you take out the murder, then I don’t see the big deal. Yes they were stealing, but if you take the “laws” out of the equation, the money taken from peasants did not represent a fair return on investment. And guess what happened in 1381?? A Peasant’s Revolt! See, the peasants felt they were being unfairly taxed, among other things. Why is every organized government since the dawn of time convinced that overtaxing the poorest population is a solution? I mean, I understand the greed, but I just don’t see how they think, “oh, but this time it’ll work!” Ugh. Anyway.

Later stories liked to portray Hood as being a nobleman himself, but I prefer the idea that he was a commoner who tried to take the reins of destiny. Power to the people and all that. It feels more honest to me if it’s a man of the people. When it’s a lord who’s lost his home to the same dirty leaders that have been abusing the peasants for years, and it’s only then that he looks around and goes “huh – this is fucked up” it feels too selfish. Don’t tell me you’re doing it for justice, Robin. You’re doing it for your old feather bed and 2,000 acres. So in this way, Mel Brooks has given us the standard post-medieval version of the Robin Hood story – good little nobleman breaks bad.

via GIPHY

But put yourself in some medieval shoes. The forest would have been the most valuable resource after water. You gots wood to make your houses and tools, li’l animals to eat, weird plants to munch on and use as medicine, shelter for outlaws on the lam. You know, the necessities. But usually these kinds of laws were meant to keep huge areas of undeveloped land EMPTY so the king or regional leader and his cronies could go hunt without any peasants getting in the way or reducing the game population (cause they like everything to be easy; more deer = less effort). It’s the theme of greed and powers – the convenience of the few is more important than the survival of the many.

You can see why a figure like Robin Hood would be appealing. Hell, it’s appealing now. It’s kind of like how we’re all hoping Anonymous is going to swoop in and save the day. So when there are historical records of outlaws in Northern England using a surname from the Robin Hood legends it’s tempting to jump to conclusions. But this doesn’t mean that they’re likely the real Robin Hood or his descendants, but it’s more likely a wishful Dread Pirate Roberts situation. These men were desperate, and taking his surname was a way they could convey that their actions were not done in malice, but in service to the ideology of Robin Hood. This is not to say there wasn’t an actual Robin Hood, but it makes it even more complicated to try and figure out what’s what. Like that one part in The Dark Knight Rises where all those hockey dads kept dressing up like Batman.

There is one possibility, apparently. There was a Robert Hod held as prisoner in 1225. He had lived in York, which is indeed in the North of England. The timeline, proposed by John Major in 1521, states that this Robert Hod was Robin Hooding in the 1190’s, had become a proper outlaw by 1225, and died in 1247 (there’s a grave that supposed to Robin Hood’s in the place where the legend says he died). Also helpful is that the legends usually mention King Richard and Prince John. That would be King Richard the Lionheart (ruled 1189-1199). He was a great warrior, but an absent king. He was off templaring with the knights on crusades more than he was at home being king. Prince John ended up being King John (ruled 1199-1216) and he sucked in the opposite direction, and was also much less handsome. John did try to steal the throne before he “earned” it, which is often a big part of his character’s political machinations in the stories. He was a real asshole as a king, more so than a normal king. He like… invented red tape and bureaucracy for medieval England. There was great record keeping, but come the fuck on. He also micromanaged everything. They kind of go together. As does a fee schedule for getting out of military service, or for getting expedited legal services and shit. Oh, and he cared more about creating revenue for military adventures than he did about his people being able to eat. Not like – we’re at war, but like, I really want this territory. But it’s cool. He got excommunicated, he never took those territories he wanted, his court rebelled against him (his northern courtiers, I should mention), and he died of dysentery. This seems like the perfect set up for Mel Brooks. A scheming schmuck, an unlikely hero, and a disgruntled populace. Just throw in some love triangles and some visual puns (as well as verbal puns) and you’ve got a comedy.

So. There are a lot of movies out there about him. I looked it up on Wikipedia and counted 79. That’s just movies and dedicated TV shows – that’s not including Robin Hood themed episodes of stuff. And there are at least half a dozen projects currently in development. What is it that makes this story so enduring, and if it’s relatability, how are we no better off than we were 800 years ago? The details are a little different, but the resources are still being horded by a small but powerful percent of the population. We rebelled and made our own country to get England to quit it, and we’re getting right back to where we started. The majority of our country isn’t represented in our government, so maybe we all need to tap into the Robin Hood that lives in our hearts.

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41. Outlander 1.13 – The Watch

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/41-outlander-113-the-watch

Episode 1.1 “Lallybroch” – original air date May 2, 2015

The next installment in Nikki and Sher’s Outlander sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

As usual, this episode is only pretending to be about Outlander, while Nikki and Sher catch you up on their lives and comment on The Watch.

*spoilers for the books and episodes*

Favorite Quote: “All right, but you’ll be fetching me a good, stiff dram before we start.” – Jenny Murray

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

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40. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

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Nikki and Sher bitch about old lady knees, compare their Christmas experiences to this movie, and eat pistachios. Enjoy!

Favorite quote: “Merry Christmas! Shitter was full!” – Eddie

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39. Die Hard

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Christmas joy! Nikki and Sher discuss the boom of the working woman in the 80’s and 90’s, whether Die Hard really is a Christmas movie, and also get sloshed on wassail.

Favorite quote: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.” – Hans Gruber

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38. Men in Tights

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/38-robin-hood-men-in-tights

Nikki and Sher bring joy to your lives by talking about the Great Depression, anti-Semitism, and the myth of Robin Hood. We’re soooo heppy you’re joining us!

Favorite quote: “I lost. I lost? Wait a minute, I’m not supposed to lose. Let me see the script.” – Robin Hood

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37. Outlander 1.12 – Lallybroch

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/37-outlander-112-lallybroch-2

Episode 1.1 “Lallybroch” – original air date April 25, 2015

The next installment in Nikki and Sher’s Outlander sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

As usual, this episode is only pretending to be about Outlander, while Nikki and Sher catch you up on their lives and comment on Lallybroch.

*spoilers for the books and episodes*

Favorite Quote: “Jenny, will you please turn around while I try to get out before my cock snaps off!” – Jamie Fraser

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

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36. Sleepy Hollow

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Nikki and Sher explore Tim Burton’s beautiful world of horrific ignorance and bad parenting! JOIN US!

Favorite quote: “Villainy wears many masks, none of which so dangerous as virtue.” – Ichabod Crane

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35. Alien

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/35-alien

Nikki and Sher talk about alien fetishes, an Alien/Predator/Bladerunner universe, Predator sex, Klingon sex, Battlestar Galactica, and suspended animation. Also, there are some spoilers for Passenger.

IT’S STILL HOT HERE, so there’s a little background noise from the air conditioner. It’s hot, y’all. Enjoy!

Favorite quote: “I can’t lie to you about your chances, but you have my sympathies.” – Ash

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33. Outlander 1.11 – The Devil’s Mark

(The Outlander series of podcasts is not researched or prepared in advance the same way as our regular podcasts. Because of this, our accompanying blog posts will not contain notes/transcripts.)

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/outlander-111-the-devils-mark-0

Episode 1.11 “The Devil’s Mark” – original air date April 18, 2015

The next installment in Nikki and Sher’s Outlander sub-series! We’ll be reviewing all the episodes of Outlander, in honor of droughtlander. We’ll continue reviewing episodes until the end of the series!

As usual, this episode is only pretending to be about Outlander, while Nikki and Sher catch you up on their lives and comment on The Devil’s Mark.

*spoilers for the books and episodes*

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Favorite Quote: “Looks like I’m going to a fucking barbecue.” – Geillis

What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!

Speed

Listen to the podcast here: http://notyourmom.libsyn.com/32-speed

Speed (R)
1994
93% rotten tomatoes

Li’l baby Keanu was 30 years old when this movie was made. LOOK AT HIS LI’L BABY FACE AND HIS LI’L BABY BUZZCUT!

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Ack, okay down to business.

1994 and thereabouts is a special time in movie history. This is kind of the last time we get movies without a major CGI component. All of the effects here are just standard trickery and deceit.

o-SPEED-900

CGI was definitely a thing by 1994, but it wasn’t extensively used like it is now. In fact, Jurassic Park was the first physically textured CGI, and that was in 1993. What is physically textured CGI you ask? I’ll tell you. It’s Level Three computer magic. 2D computer animation is Level One (beginning in 1972), 3D computer graphics is Level Two (beginning in 1976). That is the extent of my knowledge. Okay, okay. I can’t find a really good description of the processes, but from what I can understand of what I did read, computer graphics prior to Jurassic Park were just kind of layered over whatever was shot on film. The difference in the physical texturing is the use of green scenes to implant the computer images into the final product.

Some additional landmarks – Toy Story was the first full-length CGI film (1995). Starship Troopers had the first big ol’ CGI battle scenes (1997). Fight Club first used something called photogrammetry, which is using photographs to measure things (1999). Perception/timing alteration – The Matrix (1999). First use of motion capture GOLLUM from LOTR: The Two Towers (2002).

The point is – all the action in the old action movies has a different kind of feel to it, prior to all the CGI. I’m not saying CGI is bad – it’s great, but it’s different, that’s all. Two things can be different but still equally lovable.

A note on the script – the characters in this movie are all unexpectedly well-developed. Well guess who wrote the dialogue for the movie? JOSS WHEDON. You know he has a great talent for inter-character relationships. Buffy. Firefly. All have casts with crackling chemistry and very believable human interaction.

Okay, so let’s do a short plot recap. Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels are super cops. Not like Robocop, but since they’re the focus of the movie, we’re led to believe they’re better than other cops. Even the other SWAT cops. And we’re right, obviously. The movie starts out with them foiling a disgruntled ex-bomb squad guy’s plan to extort money by trapping hostages in an elevator.

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Side note – being trapped with a random selection of people inside an elevator in peril is an excellent way to see someone’s true colors. It’s a good first date idea. Keep that in mind.

Okay, so ex-bomb guy is like, oh yeah? How about I DIDN’T actually blow myself up like you thought – I escaped, because I’m an evil genius. And by the way – if that wasn’t elaborate enough for you WATCH THIS. I’m going to blow up a random bus when it’s right in front of you, just to get your attention so I can tell you that I’ve rigged a random city bus with a BOMB. But not just any bomb, oohhhhh no. This is an extra special, needlessly intricate, super dramatic bomb. It’s just going to chill under this bus. BUT – once the bus gets up to 50 mph, then it’s ARMED. And once it’s ARMED, the bomb will go off if you let that bus get BELOW 50 mph.

2hpfhu

So our super cop Jack finds a way to get on that bus dammit, because that’s the only place he can solve the problem. Using a walkie-talkie (cell phones were neither widely available nor affordable in 1994), he can communicate with other super cops and make all the right turns to avoid LA traffic so they won’t slow down and explode. Here comes a series of obstacles: panicked guy shoots the driver. A panicked woman tries to get off the bus with the injured driver and oh ho ho – ex-bomb squad guy thought of everything because he already has a tiny bomb under the bus stairs for just such an occasion. He explodes the stairs and panic lady gets crushed under the bus because that’s the punishment for panicking.

Jack, because he’s so young and level-headed, decides he’s going to get under that bus, goddammit. So that’s what he does. And what does he find??? A FAKE BOMB. The peasants rejoice. But then finds the MUCH BIGGER REAL BOMB. The peasants despair. But what’s this??? A clue??? A shitty gold watch OMG THE BOMBER MUST BE EX-POLICE BECAUSE THIS IS EXACTLY THE SHITTY GOLD WATCHES WE GIVE TO COPS ON THEIR WAY OUT. So based on this and other context clues, I guess, they figure out this guy used to be on the Atlanta bomb squad. No word on why he’s in LA. I guess because at the time Atlanta wasn’t a big filming destination, and he couldn’t be from LA because then the cops would have known who he was.

So Jack’s beloved partner goes on a raid to dude’s house and – I have to pause here for a moment. This fella has been blowing stuff up all over the city, right? So you’re gonna just walk up in his house. Cool – so they get blown up, and now Jack is devastated that his partner has been blowed up. So of course he’s going to redouble his efforts, because REVENGE.

Buncha stuff happens, but let’s skip forward to – the end. Everyone is off the bus now except for Jack and Annie. They couldn’t get off because of reasons. So they find a pipe laying around, jam it on the pedal, hurl themselves off the bus, and watch it crash into a plane and explode. I assume the plane was empty.

Now Jack has to chase down the money they left for Atlanta guy, but Atlanta guy is so far ahead of them – he’s anticipated every move (because he’s an ex-cop and he knows how they think, ya know), so he’s gotten the money away, but he RESURFACES AND KIDNAPS ANNIE because women is bait, y’all. So he puts a suit made of bombs on her and takes her as a human shield to the subway, then handcuffs her to the subway.

He’s making his getaway on the subway when he decides it’s time to fondle that sweet dough. There’s a dye pack in there though, and it explodes in his face, and makes him super mad. He hears Jack stomping around on top of the subway car and goes up there to finish off that meddling kid. But instead he gets decapitated.

So now Jack and Annie are in a runaway subway car that’s going too fast and being conducted by NO ONE. He takes off her suit made of bombs but can’t manage the handcuffs. (?) So he derails the subway car on purpose, which results in it being jettisoned out onto the street where it turns on its side and all the windows break and Annie is THROWN on top of Jack (lucky) and also they kiss. The end.

So what is the point of all this, you ask? Good question. A good action movie has to have a good bad guy motivation, otherwise it just drowns in its own preposterousness. On the surface, Howard Payne is pissed because his thumb got blown off and he was forced to retire. But… you have know when you join a bomb squad that you might get maimed. It seems like it’s probably on the job application. I’m not sure why the amount of money he wanted was 3.7 million, but it’s possible I just missed it hidden somewhere in the dialogue. I think the reason this movie doesn’t feel ridiculous and contrived, even though it is, is not so much Payne’s motivation, but rather his dedication. This fool is very determined to get his money, and the elaborateness is him giving a big “fuck you” to the career that spurned him. As someone who appreciates vengeance, I can fully buy into this villain.

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As you may know, Speed has been called “Die Hard on a bus” and I am inclined to agree. Why you ask? There’s lots of broken glass in this movie. So many explosions. Underground tunneling. Bomb complications. Hero embroiled in a situation far more intense than he’s trained for. Villain always three steps ahead, and has complex plans – in short, he’s a respectable equal to the hero, instead of a bumbling brute. Villain kidnaps the hero’s woman. Villain dies a grisly death. Speed is Die Hard on a bus.

Okay, enough gushing. Let’s get to poking holes. The scene where the bus jumps the gap in the road. We all know that’s physically impossible, yes? Let’s explore.

I got details from a couple of physics focused websites.

Here are some physics basics – gravity has no horizontal effect, so as soon as the bus leaves the road, it is falling. It’s completely up to its horizontal velocity as to where it’s going to end up.

SO – the gap is 50 feet, or 15 meters. The road from which they jump appears to be mostly flat, about a 5 degree incline. The bus launched into the air traveling 67/68 mph. In reality, the front bumper of the bus would have smacked onto the other side of the jump, and then would have plummeted to the ground, killing everyone, unless the bomb went off first, which would also have killed everyone.

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Just install some hydraulics to give your bus that extra lift before charging over certain death

In order for this jump to have worked, the following changes would have to take place: The bus would have to be travelling at 78.3 mph, and would have to take off from a 30 degree incline. That’s quite a bit different than what was depicted.

But let’s talk about physics some more, shall we? What always bugged me as a kid – while the bus is mid-air, there is no friction against those spinning wheel, yes? So what would the speedometer actually read? Would it drop or spike up? Does it matter if she kept her foot on the gas? What happens when you touch back down if you have it floored in midair? Then I realized I actually have no clue how a speedometer works, so INTERNET.

Let’s find out how speedometers work, shall we? Speed is just how long it takes you to go a certain distance, which sounds like it’s measured after the fact, right? What your speedometer tells you is your instantaneous speed – how fast you’re going right now. We know the basic car mechanics, right? Fuel combusts, pistons pump, engine turns over, which engages the driveshaft, and then the wheels go.

So apparently, there’s a li’l speedometer cable attached the driveshaft (it can also show up in other places). The speedometer cable spins a magnet inside something called a speed cup, which creates eddy currents in the cup that spins it as it tries to keep up with the magnet. There’s a hair spring on the drive shaft between the magnet and the speed cup, and it tightens, which keeps the the cup from turning all the way. The pointer on your speedometer is based on how far the hair spring lets that cup turn. Which leads me to wonder how do we ever know how fast we’re actually going.

Electronic speedometers use magnets positioned to pass each other on the drive shaft and create a little current. A circuit measures the time between those pulses and converts it to a speed reading, just FYI.

Okay, so this is all good to know but it doesn’t really answer my question, so the next obvious step is consult an expert car guy. Enter James – ex-Marine, current mechanic, all-around cool dude.

He told me that in addition to this sensor system, some newer cars will have a GPS mechanism to read speed. I don’t think that applies in 1994, so we’ll stick with the mechanical system.

Whilst in the air, the speedometer would have shown higher than their actual instantaneous speed because of the reduced load on the drive train due to the absence of friction on the tires. This makes sense now. Additionally, he says the bus would have slowed down in reality, yes, because the drive train has nothing to push against. So as long as the bus didn’t slow down to under 50 during it’s descent, and was able to keep moving swiftly once it was on the other side of the road, it’s plausible that the bomb wouldn’t go off – ASSUMING – he says, that the bomb was wired to the speedometer, and not something weird that would measure the actual speed of the bus. In which case kablooey.

Apparently, people who worked on this movie thought it was going to be an epic failure, but it turned out to be rousing success, as well as other movies like it. I feel like it was a changing of the guard of sorts. We’re moving out of the 80’s action movies that were very campy, and so sweaty. Die Hard came out at the end of the 80’s, in 1988, so it acts as the vanguard for change.

Let’s review. The 80’s were full of movies starring jacked dudes just tearing shit up. Terminator, Robocop, Predator, Rambo, Commando, Mad Max, Conan, Escape from New York, Road House, Bloodsport, Lethal Weapon, etc. The big names were Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Steven Segal, Chuck Norris. I will admit I’m being a little selective. I’m not including horror/sci-fi or adventure movies, like Alien and Indiana Jones. I’m focusing on the manly action movies.

To be fair, a lot of these guys were still kicking around in the next decade, but additionally, the 90’s were full of movies starring Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Jean Claude, Tom Cruise. The new class of action heroes were still buff, but not on steroids. The fighting shifted from brute strength and huge machine guns to very skilled combat. We looked for action stars to not only be physically capable, but mentally agile and cool under pressure as well. We’ve got a lot of movies where an average guy gets caught up in some crazy stuff – Point Break, The Fugitive, Independence Day, Con Air, The Fifth Element, The Matrix, Face/Off, Desperado, Cliffhanger I guess, Universal Soldier, etc. That’s not to say these things were absent in other decades, but the concentrations were shifting.

In conclusion, here are some rippling forearms:

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What did YOU think of the topics we discussed? We’d love to hear from you!