in which we discuss John Milius and how the opening theme from “Magnum Force” is awesome

seriously, it really is. but we’ll get to that in just one moment, for this week’s theme shall be “John Milius, and the things he has said and done that are completely awesome.” granted, it’s at this point that most people say something along the lines of “who the fuck is John Milius, and why should i care about him,” or, failing that, “man, does this website suck!” which makes me sad, not so much because of the disrespect aimed at me (eh, we’re used to it), but that aimed at Milius, who’s given us some pretty awesome things. granted, when your heroes are John Ford and Akira Kurosawa, you’re probably not going to live up to their examples, but still, maybe we could remember SOME of the things you’ve done, right? so let’s recap some of them!

a man's got to know his limitations
okay, i understand it was the 1970s and all, but really, try and tell me that the above credit sequence doesn’t look a little half-assed… even if the theme song is AWESOME

1971-1973: wrote screenplays and story for Dirty Harry and Magnum Force

myself and the Irishman watched these films today (well, okay, just the end of Dirty Harry) and while i did make some jokes about how Dirty Harry took a fiendishly clever murderer like the Zodiac Killer and turned him into lame-ass Scorpio, who’s what the Irishman called “a goober,” we also remarked that they’re still decent films, and Milius is partially responsible for that. actually, even more important: like i said, the opening theme from “Magnum Force” is awesome. really, the entire film’s opening credits are FANTASTIC: the theme is crazy-1970s-awesome; the visual of Dirty Harry’s .44 Magnum is off-center and weirdly compelling, and the credits give you way too much information. do i really need to know who’s responsible for the make-up BEFORE i watch the film? no way. but the theme is excellent and i was unable to purchase it over the internet in a fit of… uh, well, a fit of “wanting to purchase it,” i guess.

so do yourself a favor and check them out, even if Scorpio’s more a weird liquor-store-owner-abuser than criminal mastermind and Harry Callahan has a WEIRD police badge (seriously, look at that thing) and Magnum Force contains a supposedly-silenced revolver (ugh) and a gratuitous Clint Eastwood versus Asian chick sex scene. these are all things you can overlook for the greater good. oh, and John Milius defends that last one by saying the scene’s in there “because Clint Eastwood received many fan letters from Asian women that contained sexual propositions.” seriously, John? well, whatever, i don’t care, i’ll still watch the film.

1972: demanded part of his payment for the screenplay for Jeremiah Johnson to be in antique firearms

i don’t know anything about this “Jeremiah Johnson” film; i’ve never seen it and the title sounds completely lame. what does the internet say about it? “a mountain man who wishes to live the life of a hermit becomes the unwilling object of a long vendetta by Indians when he proves to be the match of their warriors in one-to-one combat on the early frontier.” oh, and “based upon a real-life trapper named John Johnston, nicknamed “Crow Killer” and “Liver Eater Johnston” for his penchant for cutting out and eating the livers of Crow Indians he had killed (several Crows had murdered his wife and he swore vengeance against the entire tribe).” wait a second… mountain man? Indian rage? the repeated and conspicuous consumption of livers? this sounds AWESOME. despite the inclusion of Robert Redford, it’s going on my Netflix queue, or rather, if i had Netflix, that’s where it would go. i guess i’ll rent it at Blockbuster?

ANYWAY, Milius wrote the screenplay for Jeremiah Johnson and the story goes that he demanded part of his fee to be in the form of antique firearms. this is awesome because it’s the kind of weirdo move i myself would pull. “sure, i’ll help you write the screenplay for Indiana Jones 5: Indy And Short Round Meet Frankenstein … but i want $100,000 and one of those rare M3 carbines. i saw one in a museum one time and it made me feel as light-headed as a young girl at a sock-hop in the 1950s.”

wow, the mental image created by that last part is just TERRIBLE.

1975: wrote the “USS Indianapolis” monologue for Jaws

one of the best monologues ever. what, you never saw Jaws? well, i can’t say i blame you, because it WAS responsible for the later creation of the sequel to end all sequels; that’s right, Jaws: the Revenge, where a killer shark travels 2000 km in under three days, ROARS somehow (seriously, watch the movie if you doubt this claim), and then explodes on contact with wood. but forget all that and enjoy this monologue:

“Japanese submarine slammed two torpedoes into our side, Chief. We was comin’ back from the island of Tinian to Leyte. We’d just delivered the bomb. The Hiroshima bomb. Eleven hundred men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about a half-hour. Tiger. 13-footer. You know how you know that in the water, Chief? You can tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know, was that our bomb mission was so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’ by, so we formed ourselves into tight groups. It was sorta like you see in the calendars, you know the infantry squares in the old calendars like the Battle of Waterloo and the idea was the shark come to the nearest man, that man he starts poundin’ and hollerin’ and sometimes that shark he go away… but sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark looks right at ya. Right into your eyes. And the thing about a shark is he’s got lifeless eyes. Black eyes. Like a doll’s eyes. When he comes at ya, he doesn’t even seem to be livin’… ’til he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white and then… ah then you hear that terrible high-pitched screamin’. The ocean turns red, and despite all your poundin’ and your hollerin’ those sharks come in and… they rip you to pieces. You know by the end of that first dawn, lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks there were, maybe a thousand. I do know how many men, they averaged six an hour. Thursday mornin’, Chief, I bumped into a friend of mine, Herbie Robinson from Cleveland. Baseball player. Boatswain’s mate. I thought he was asleep. I reached over to wake him up. He bobbed up, down in the water, he was like a kinda top. Upended. Well, he’d been bitten in half below the waist. At noon on the fifth day, a Lockheed Ventura swung in low and he spotted us, a young pilot, lot younger than Mr. Hooper here, anyway he spotted us and a few hours later a big ol’ fat PBY come down and started to pick us up. You know that was the time I was most frightened. Waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a lifejacket again. So, eleven hundred men went into the water. 316 men come out, the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

the horror... the horror
well, let’s get serious here: who DOESN’T like the smell of napalm in the morning? or Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries? we’re talking about definitively awesome things i both cases, i think

1979: wrote the screenplay for Apocalypse Now

considering that the other excellent creative minds at work here are Francis Ford Coppola (who was notoriously almost killed by the making of this film), Michael Herr (who, as anyone who’s read Dispatches knows, is fucking insane) and Joseph Conrad (not even ALIVE, for crying out loud) … well, i give Milius a bunch of credit here as well. yeah, okay, Herr gets the credit for the scene with Roach (which is somehow LESS nuts than the real-life version of events), but Milius gets credit for the scene that discusses chopping villager’s arms off and lines like “i love the smell of napalm in the morning” and “Charlie don’t surf!” it’s true; the Vietnamese are not, on average, a surfing-loving people.

i suppose the moral of the story is that if you take John Milius and put him in a room with some paper and tell him he can base Vietnam War-era movies on people he knows and put every scene he wants to into a movie… well, you’re going to get some crazy but awesome stuff that may or may not involve a young Laurence Fishburne and/or a water buffalo being hacked to death. which, in total, will be cool. also, people should really pick up a copy of Herr’s Dispatches and check it out: there’s also some scenes from Full Metal Jacket in there, if that sweetens the deal for you.

1982: directed Conan The Barbarian

alright, it’s a given that someone was bound to make a movie about Robert E. Howard’s whimsical barbarian Conan eventually, so i suppose we’re lucky that we had this massive Austrian named Schwarzenegger to star in it; Milius has made some comments about having to “create him” if he hadn’t existed, which adds a weird new Dr. Frankenstein-like level of excellence and/or insanity to John Milius and which doesn’t make me like him any less. i can easily picture such a circumstance: “Oliver! i need to make a crazy barbarian movie! get me James Earl Jones and enough masculine parts to build the man of our dreams!” okay, it sounds a little Rocky Horror-esque there, but, you know, it will result in dudes getting slain, so relax.

ANYWAY, this movie, along with Predator, is pretty much the definitive “Arnold action movie”: they’re not as stupid as shit like “Commando,” they’re not overrated like “Terminator 2” and they’re not old-man Arnold action films. they’re basic but consistent action films where Arnold fucks up everything that moves angrily towards him (even James Earl Jones), and as far as Conan goes, i guess we can thank John Milius (and Oliver Stone) for that.

it’s also worth noting that this film stars former Oakland Raider Ben Davidson as Rexor, which just makes it that much better. that man has just about the greatest mustache of all time.

1983: credited as a “spiritual advisor” on Lone Wolf McQuade

okay, this is yet another film that i have never seen (it basically seems to involve Chuck Norris killing everyone in Texas and/or Mexico because of horse thievery and arms-dealing, as far as i can tell), but i don’t really have to, because John Milius is credited as a spiritual advisor and that means the whole mess can only be COMPLETELY EXCELLENT. what i’m curious about, though, is what he actually DID in his role as “spiritual advisor”: did some otherwise uncredited script work? helped Chuck Norris fight a bear? probably the latter. if nothing else, he at least managed to get himself credited as a “spiritual advisor” on a film, which is now sort of my goal in life. it’s sort of like being a film’s “reason for living,” i think, though if the film sucks, i guess it’s actually an indictment on your self-worth. which might suck.

all that hate keeps me warm
as the man once said, what more can i say? WOLVERINES!

1984: directed Red Dawn

so i probably don’t need to elaborate on how much i love Red Dawn; suffice to say that it’s great and it’s sort of the inspiration for my life and it’s DEFINITELY the reason why i am always spray-painting the declaration “WOLVERINES” onto things. along with “Road House,” it’s one of the Patrick Swayze films i will always, always stop and watch… and it’s written and directed by John Milius, who also, somewhat crazily, placed a caricature of himself as a drawing of Genghis Khan in said film. but that i am willing to forgive because of all the excellent violence.

now, i can get serious and debate the actual merits and flaws of this film: for example, it’s pretty dependent on backstory that’s never really explained beyond references here and there, and some of that backstory (the US suffering some tactical nuclear strikes, but Russia being able to mobilize and transport a large military force without suffering the same in response) is sometimes a little iffy, in my humble opinion. i know they say the concept is based on actual strategic thinking and US weaknesses at the time, but, hey, i’m just one man. but that being said, it’s still a film where i get to watch a bunch of random Soviet goons, be they Russian or Cuban, get mowed down by angry Midwestern teenagers with AKs. and that’s something pretty awesome.

plus, Family Guy once had a bit about a musical version of this film… which i would pay a large amount of money to actually see in person. if it was real. which it’s not. which makes me sad.

1998: the character of Walter Sobchak is based on John Milius

it’s well-known around these parts that i am fairly opposed to comedies; one of the few exceptions is 1998’s the Big Lebowski, which the Coen Brothers wrote and directed and which always makes be smile. and one of the reasons for that smile is the character of Walter Sobchak, a Vietnam veteran with a short fuse, a bunch of firearms and a strong devotion toward his adopted religion of Judaism. i had always seen Walter as a older version of a friend of mine (we’re pretty sure that’s how he’ll end up, anyway), but it also turns out that Walter is based on John Milius. or partially based on John Milius. whatever, let’s assume he’s at LEAST the inspiration for the scene with the Uzi, okay?

and that sounds both a) realistic and b) awesome. could i see John Milius demanding a man “mark it a zero” while menacing him with a 1911? yes, i could, and i am not convinced he would be wrong to do so. could i see him beating up a threatening squad of nihilists? i’m sure he’s already done this! could i see him berating Jeff Daniels for thinking he was rolling out of here naked? yes; i assume John Milius always has an Uzi concealed SOMEWHERE near him. basically, as far as i can tell, the Big Lebowski is a documentary about Milius being a cool guy.

2005-2007: produced HBO’s series Rome

HBO is the king of coming up with great shows like Deadwood that then end before they’re terrible and leave us with a weird conflict between “wishing they ran longer” and “appreciating that we didn’t have to watch them drag out sad, poorer-quality series conclusions.” and John Milius, along with Bruno Heller and William MacDonald, gave us one of these shows with Rome.

now i COULD make a case for watching it (also long as some degree of historical deviation doesn’t make you go completely out of your mind) based on the lavish sets and high-quality acting from cast members like Ciarán Hinds (best.Caesar.ever) and James Purefoy (who sort of ends up turning the later episodes into the Marc Antony Show), but frankly, everyone prefers things that are more… low-brow. so i’ll instead point out that there’s a bunch of blood and nudity throughout this show’s run, and that one of the main characters bites a man’s tongue out and then throws an axe into another guy’s chest. for which i give all the credit to John Milius, who i imagine sitting at a desk and yelling “AND THEN TITUS PULLO BITES HIS TONGUE OUT” as a resolution to every scene, ever. at least that’s how i would handle things if it was my show.

mark it a zero
yeah, you try telling me there’s no resemblance there

oh, and all that NRA-related stuff

Milius is a big supporter of the NRA and, as someone who’s a member of said organization (as well as the GOA and JPFO, but i guess that’s neither here nor there), i always vote for him to be on the board of directors. ALWAYS. because the man behind Red Dawn is the kind of man i want in charge of the things i love! but then, i also always vote for Tom Selleck to be on that same board because i fear the wrath of his mustache, so i guess i’m saying that MAYBE my criteria for voting support can get a little odd.

so there it is: John Milius is better than you or i will ever be. granted, i’m a fan of the man and so i’m easily able to come to terms with that fact, but since some of you might have a harder time with it, well, all i can say is “tough, deal with it.” after all, i hear something about how life isn’t fair, right?

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