You probably find it hard to believe but I write all my Ruthless articles surrounded by aromatic candles immersed in a freestanding claw foot bath.
Well, I say write but what I actually mean is dictate. Indeed, all of my honey-coated missives are transcribed by a slightly drunken Catholic schoolgirl called Samantha. Her proofreading skills are also second to none. I don’t know what I’d do without the little sweetie.
Right now she’s sitting alongside with pen in hand, the sight of a small gold crucifix nestling between her pendulous breasts generating a quite lovely frisson. Yes, it’s fair to say we’re both looking forward to her sixteenth birthday next week.
She says “hi” by the way.
But that’s my Sam. Always friendly, always willing to please.
So, anyway, my bath time tends to combine relaxation, spiritual renewal and the blossoming of creativity, although I must admit (whenever Samantha pops to the fridge for more champers) I do enjoy the odd underwater fart.
Hence, it can’t come as any surprise that I also take a keen interest in how cinema portrays bathing habits. Of course, no one seems to go about it in such a purposeful yet pleasingly naughty way as little ol’ me, but I keep looking just in case I stumble across something to incorporate.
In the meantime, here are ten memorably soggy moments.
I was about twelve when this gangster epic hit cinema screens in 1983 and can still recall the myriad newspaper columnists outraged at the way morality, goodness and decency had obviously all gone to hell in a handcart.
One wallow in its near-three hour depiction of chainsaw killings, heavy cocaine usage, high-powered weaponry and relentless greed and, they claimed, you’d never get the stink off. It was nothing more than an offensive piece of obscenity-laden, violent shit. Think of the children! In short, the mere fact Scarface had been made meant there was very little hope left for society.
Four decades later it’s a hugely influential classic, nestling underneath the likes of Godfather and Goodfellas. It’s almost as if such handwringing reviewers (who always seem to know what’s best for us) really do believe we need movies to return to the apple pie niceness of Doris Day as quickly as possible. Or why not just keep singin’ in the rain with Gene Kelly? After all, such wholesome examples of art were released in much better times. I mean, the Holocaust had only just finished and that charming little conflict known as Vietnam was building every day. People were clearly treating each other so much nicer in those halcyon days.
At any rate, most of the apoplectic criticisms leveled at Scarface centered on its excessiveness. Excessive profanity, excessive drug snorting, excessive violence, excessive… well, everything. For me, it’s this excessiveness which gives the movie its tangy, memorable flavor. Nothing captures that better than the scene of Tony having a dip. It’s just the perfect metaphor for excess. I mean, have you ever seen a tub like this?
The goddamned thing’s colossal, nothing less than a monumentally vulgar display of flashiness and self-indulgence. Now we all know Pacino’s not the biggest guy, but you could still fit a dozen of him in it, as well as a handful of slightly drunken Catholic schoolgirls.
I can’t even get my head round what room this sunken marble monstrosity is situated in. Is it the bathroom? If so, why all the drapes, pillars and sculptures? Plus, I can’t see a bog or a shower anywhere. It’s also got a TV, bar and a fucking chandelier. Dotted around are plates of fruit and champagne on ice. There’s room enough for an elegantly dressed Michelle Pfeifer to sit behind Pacino while attending to her nails, sniffing coke and saying weird things like: “Nothing exceeds like excess. You should know that.” Manny, his partner in crime, has also pulled up a chair alongside to talk business while Pacino sits half-submerged in the middle of it all chomping his cigar and ranting at anything and everything.
The entire scene is insane.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Ah, don’t-cha just love a horror movie that takes itself seriously?
Director Wes Craven peaked here with this wonderfully imaginative work about a killer that comes after you in your dreams so it’s a shame he helped fuck up the genre afterwards with the intensely annoying Scream and its post-modern, self-aware jokey bullshit.
Anyhow, there’s a lot to love about Elm Street. The opening, which sees Freddy manufacturing his finger-knives before chasing a screaming nighty-clad girl around the corridors of a dripping, abandoned factory, is plain brilliant. Then we have the always welcome John Saxon, as well as the amusing sight of Johnny Depp turning into an enormous geyser of blood.
Meanwhile, our heroine Nancy is not having a good time. Apart from having to wear tank tops and knee socks, her friend’s just been sliced to death by an unseen killer and the strain is making her freak out at school.
Time for a nice, relaxing soak.
With her head resting against a blue pillow, she starts half-singing that creepy Freddy nursery rhyme about grabbing a crucifix and staying up late. As she dozes off, the camera switches to the foot of the bath to show a full-length shot of her body. Excalibur-like, Freddy’s razor-tipped fingers break the foamy surface between her parted legs.
Given that the killer’s hand is positioned at her most vulnerable spot while she is both naked and asleep, it’s hard to read it as anything other than a potent sexual threat that must send a shiver through any watching female.
It’s just a corking image, one of the most iconic in 80s horror. No wonder Nancy staggers out and immediately reaches into the bathroom cabinet for her anti-sleep pills.
With a plethora of cracks about chinks,
niggers Nigerian Americans and faggots in the opening fifteen minutes, as well as rape jokes and violence against geriatrics, you have to wonder what today’s PC crowd make of something as gleefully in your face as Blazing Saddles. Hopefully, it’ll make the heads explode of at least two or three (thousand) of them. As you can probably guess, I think it’s one of the greatest comedies of all time.
Part of its success is down to the curious relationship between the movie’s snide villain Hedley (not Hedy) Lamarr and his loyal but thick as shit sidekick, Taggart. Initially their scenes come across as an arrogant, contemptuous mother lording it over a brain-damaged toddler, especially when Taggart jumps into Lamarr’s arms to be consoled during the hanging of a man (and his horse!) outside.
Later on, after a series of nefarious schemes to snatch the land from the good people of Rock Ridge has failed, Lamarr is soaking in a tin bath trying to think of another idea. Taggart, ever the devoted subordinate, sits alongside scrubbing his back with a brush. As usual, his witless blathering annoys Lamarr.
“Be still, Taggart,” he insists, the scorn dripping from his voice. “My mind is a raging torrent flooded with rivulets of thought cascading into a waterfall of creative alternatives.”
An openmouthed Taggart simply stops brushing to gaze upwards. “God darn it, Mr Lamarr, you use your tongue prettier than a twenty-dollar whore.”
Contempt once again darkens Lamarr’s face. “Shitkicker,” he mutters under his breath before starting to panic at the absence of a beloved rubber frog. “Where’s my froggy?” Taggart doesn’t know, causing his panicking boss to slap the water. “Well, look! Damn your eyes, look for him!”
Taggart drops the brush and plunges his hand beneath the water, grabbing a fleshy, frog-sized handful of something that is obviously off limits.
“Taggart…” a stiffened Lamarr manages through clenched teeth in a superb bit of understatement.
Apologizing, Taggart withdraws the offending hand and gives it a good shake as the needy, infantile Lamarr continues to throw a tantrum. Taggart then finds the frog on a table and hands it over.
“That was a close one!” Lamarr murmurs with pronounced relief, the toy obviously the equivalent of a comfort blanket. “Daddy loves Froggy. Froggy love daddy?”
There’s a real sense of co-dependency here, with the pair taking turns to play the brain-damaged toddler.
With its instantly recognizable score, sweeping sense of history, fantastic performances, great production values and Leone’s awesome fondness for the close up, this 1966 pop culture staple is the greatest western I’ve seen.
Yeah, that’s right, even more mesmerizing than Andie MacDowell and Drew Barrymore’s gun-twirling heroics in Bad Girls.
Clint, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach are all kinds of brilliance here, immeasurably helped by Leone’s genius for portraying the brutal, self-interested nature of men. Has anyone ever captured the sweaty, bristly faces of alpha males better?
Wallach plays the Mexican bandit Tuco who’s presented as the dimmest of the three antagonists, yet still possesses a lethal shitload of smarts and animalistic cunning. He’s got a shifty, rat-like face and is wanted by everyone for committing a raft of terrible crimes that include striking a priest and being exceptionally uncouth.
Fleeing the chaos of the civil war in a convoy of refugees, he nips into a bombed out hotel to find a bath filled with water. Unbeknown to him, he’s been spotted by a one-armed bounty hunter that he previously wronged.
Tuco eagerly tips in every available jar of bath salts and is even singing by the time the scar-faced bounty hunter bursts through the swing doors with his gun leveled.
“I’ve been looking for you for eight months,” he tells the vulnerable Tuco with obvious relish. “Whenever I should’ve had a gun in my right hand, I thought of you. Now I find you in exactly the position that suits me and I’ve had lots of time to learn how to shoot with my left.”
Tuco, of course, is far too wily to have ever let go of his weapon, shooting the guy four times from beneath the foam. The force of the blasts sends him hurtling back through the swing doors, leaving Tuco free to casually get up and shoot him again.
“When you have to shoot, shoot,” he says in a classic example of belated advice. “Don’t talk.”
And then he wipes the foam off the barrel and returns to his bath.
The Big Lebowski
Sometimes sitting on my ass relentlessly consuming movies while contributing nothing to ease the woes of my fellow man does throw up its minor frustrations. For example, I become aware of a flick’s impressive reputation, I eagerly get hold of it, and I settle down for a guaranteed evening of quality entertainment only for the goddamn thing to… underwhelm.
Not stink the place out or anything, but just gently disappoint.
Unfortunately, The Big Lebowski is another. And when I wrote (sorry, dictated) that heresy I was looking over my shoulder, wary some Lebowski fanatic or Dude worshipper would start acquainting me with an amphibious rodent. After all, I am lying in the bath right now.
But… C’mon, is Lebowski really that great? [EDITOR’S NOTE: Yes] It’s not bad, it’s perfectly reasonable, but why the love? I’ve watched it twice now and this cult favorite is perfectly capable of giving a pleasing tickle but stops well short of an orgasmic rush. Maybe it’s Jeff Bridges’ laidback and continually unbelievable reactions to quite unpleasant events. Steve Buscemi also has a criminally underwritten role while Sam Elliott’s awkward contribution as The Stranger should have been left on the cutting room floor. Then there are the unnecessary fantasy sequences and the general lack of funny one-liners.
Of course, some of it works, such as John Goodman’s memorable obnoxiousness, but I feel most of the material just lies there in need of a prod. Maybe my lack of enthusiasm is simply down to my below par tenpin bowling skills.
Saying that, I quite like the bathtub scene in which a squirming ferret is dumped onto the baffled Dude. Beforehand he’s smoking a joint and listening to his answer phone messages when three German nihilists kick the front door in, pausing only to smash up the living room furniture. “Hey, this is a private residence, man,” is the Dude’s typically easygoing observation before noticing one of them has an animal on a lead. “Nice marmot.”
The ferret is then picked up and dropped in the bath, causing Lebowski to thrash around. “We believe in nothing, Lebowski, nothing,” one of them offers before they’re out the door again.
Given the devotion of so many fans for this flick, I certainly wouldn’t say don’t bother. After all, when it comes to cinema I’m only right 99.99 percent of the time. Mind you, I do worry that if I ever meet Jeff Bridges, no matter how much I blather on about loving The Last Picture Show, he’ll raise a contemptuous eyebrow and just know I don’t think much of The Dude.
Honestly, such a scenario keeps me awake at night.
Bill Hicks is one of my heroes, a truth-stater par excellence who was taken from us far too soon.
He does this bit of standup about the hoo-ha surrounding Basic Instinct. After repeatedly labeling it a ‘piece of shit’ and then admitting he’s watched it eight times, he goes on to complain about its use of a test audience, a move which resulted in all the lesbian sex scenes being cut out because people were ‘turned off’ by them.
“Boy, is my thumb not on the pulse of America,” he moans. “I don’t wanna seem like Randy Pan the Goat Boy, but that was the only reason I went to see that piece of shit. If I’d been in that test audience, the only one out front protesting that film would’ve been Michael Douglas demanding his part be put back in.”
Are test audiences still used? Is that a naive question? Such insipid practices probably dominate the industry these days. They just seem like a dismal idea, especially galling for the artists involved if their vision is subsequently dismantled or rearranged by studio bosses acting on the politically correct observations of a handful of prudish yokels.
Five years earlier Fatal Attraction was also affected by a test screening, its ending re-cut in a move that Glenn Close strongly fought against. Now I like this movie. The setup is very plausible, especially the way Douglas doesn’t go looking for the affair. He’s obviously guilty of breaking his marriage vows, but really only bangs Close because she puts herself on a plate. Critics who pooh-pooh the idea that there’s no way he’d get jiggy with the likes of Close when he’s got the lovely Anne Archer waiting at home don’t really seem to understand how affairs (and indeed hookups) work.
For almost two hours this movie chugs along very nicely. Even the kid in it is adorable and I hate children. It also gave the world a great phrase in bunny boiler.
Then we get to the climactic bathtub scene.
Frankly, it belongs in a different flick. Everything is heading back to normality with Close seemingly defeated as Archer prepares to take a bath. Douglas is now playing the dutiful husband, bringing her extra towels while offering to make a cup of tea. He keeps checking the house’s downstairs locks as she tests the water temperature. There’s even a clumsy bit of foreshadowing when he pulls out a drawer to reveal a handgun.
Then somehow Close materializes in the bathroom clutching a butcher’s knife with an expression that suggests she isn’t there to play with a rubber ducky. Amazingly she fails to land one telling blow on the sexual competition despite possessing the slightly dangerous combination of knife, insanity, surprise and homicidal intent. Douglas charges in to save the day by drowning the loopy bitch, but like the bogeyman in all those groan-inducing horror movies, she comes back to life. The wronged wife finishes the job by shooting her in the chest.
It’s a shame because it’s a fine movie up until Close ghosts into the bathroom. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize it’s actually a Graham Chapman moment.
Ah, what the hell do I know?
Fatal Attraction, which ditched its original finale of Close self-destructing and implicating Douglas in her death, made more than three-hundred mil at the box office.
“I race cars, I play tennis, I fondle women but I have weekends off and I am my own boss.”
So says a joyful, Scotch-swigging Dudley Moore to an amused hooker he’s just picked up in a chauffeur-driven Roller on the streets of New York. Arthur, of course, is the personification of the goodtime drunk, living a care-free life of indulgence that the vast majority of people on the planet can only dream about.
Like Scarface, nothing illustrates his vast wealth better than his massive bathtub. Although it wouldn’t be able to fit in a herd of cocaine-addicted elephants like Mr. Pacino’s, it’s still a thing of great beauty with its gold taps, garlands of fresh flowers, tasteful lighting and bank of switches that control everything from model trains to the TV. Best of all is the way Arthur bathes wearing a top hat while sipping a martini and singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town.
Summoning Hobson (his despairing, impeccably dressed and acid-tongued butler) over the intercom, he tells him life is wonderful.
“Yes, Arthur, it is,” comes the half-bored response. “Do your armpits.”
Arthur simply smiles. “A hot bath is wonderful. Girls are wonderful.”
Hobson has obviously heard such drunken ramblings from this boy-man a thousand times before. “Yes,” he curtly replies, “imagine how wonderful a girl who bathes would be.”
This 1981 erotic thriller is the best example in the movies bar none of a man being led by his perpetually engorged dick.
Featuring a palpable humidity, killer dialogue (“You shouldn’t wear that body”), great support from the likes of Ted Danson and Mickey Rourke, and fantastic scenes such as the cunt-struck William Hurt smashing his way into Kathleen’s Turner’s house to ravish her for the first time, Body Heat deserves repeated watching.
Both leads excel and I particularly enjoy Hurt’s portrayal of a slightly incompetent, nice enough horndog of a man prone to biting off more than he can chew.
After pounding Turner’s ass (“Don’t… stop!”), the exhausted, sated lovers try to cool off in the bath.
“Is there any more ice?” she says. “I’m burning up.”
Hurt pours in a trayful and for a few moments there are no words. Then Turner starts speaking about her husband.
“He’s coming home tomorrow,” she murmurs while caressing her face and neck with an ice cube. “I can’t stand the thought of him. He’s small and mean and weak.”
Tellingly, Hurt doesn’t reply. He simply kisses the top of her head, but you can almost see the cogs turning in his sex-addled brain.
It’s a chilling, masterfully understated scene in which the seeds of murder are first planted.
Some films overegg the pudding.
Arnie’s Total Recall is one that springs to mind. It’s got a great idea at heart (having artificial memories implanted so you never have to bother going on holiday again) but fucking hell, it really does complicate things to the point you don’t know what’s real or not. A three-titted woman doesn’t quite make up for all the head-scratching twists and turns.
Minority Report is an even worse offender, despite boasting fantastic subject matter. What if murderous criminals could be apprehended before they do the deed? This cracking idea smoothly fuels the flick to begin with while its big-budgeted vision of the future is impressive (despite the lack of three-titted totty).
But Report becomes overlong and far too complicated, clocking in at a bloated two and a half hours when it should’ve been a punchy hundred-minute winner. Still, it does have a cracking bathtub scene.
Tom Cruise has to go on the run after it’s revealed he’s about to murder a man he’s never met. Hunted by his Precrime cop colleagues, he holes up in an apartment block to recover from a gruesome eye operation that will help obliterate his identity. It’s no good, though, and he’s located. Eight spider robots with an array of mind-blowing sensors are sent in after him. It has to be said that these three-legged, eye-scanning technological marvels are as cool as fuck. They’ve even got their own headlight.
In a bravura sequence with an overhead camera, Spielberg zooms around the apartment block showing domestic arguments, love-making and people taking a dump as the spiders check their eyes and coolly eliminate them from the hunt. The Cruiser initially foils the spiders by placing a towel under the door while scrambling to fill a bath with ice-cold water to lower his body temp. But these crafty arachnid bastards quickly find another entry point as he climbs into the freezing bath and holds his breath underwater.
A solitary spider scampers around the bathroom floor, but just as it’s about to leave we see a small air bubble escape the Cruiser’s right nostril. Its tiny popping sound on the surface is loud enough to make the spider pause under the crack of the door and slink back in. A signal goes out and soon all his mates have shown up for a more thorough examination…
This sequence represents how brilliant Spielberg can be at generating suspense, bringing to mind that moment in Jurassic Park when the water in a plastic cup perched atop a car dashboard begins vibrating at the unseen approach of a T-Rex.
Room 237 is a doco about diehard Shining fans offering their crackpot takes on the hidden meanings behind this powerhouse movie. It’s a fairly painful watch and really does represent film lovers at their wackiest. Honestly, and I’m gonna mix my metaphors here, but these retarded interviewees are all anal fruitcakes out of their goddamned tree, especially the ones banging on about genocide, minotaurs and moon landings.
Talk about having too much time on your hands. I’ll tell you what you need to know about The Shining: It’s a bloody great horror movie filled with iconic moments. They should’ve just interviewed me for Room 237, although admittedly they would’ve ended up with a five-second doco.
In Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece, room 237 is the most evil place in the haunted Overlook Hotel, an accolade it probably deserves on its nauseating color scheme alone. Our Jack wanders in and pushes open the bathroom door to see a figure sitting behind the translucent shower curtain.
A gorgeous brunette draws it back ever so slowly.
Once he spots her perfect norks, Jack gives a little grin and you just know this is not gonna end well. She stands to give us a very welcome full frontal before gracefully stepping out of the bath. Christ, this chick’s lithe. Jack’s still standing there like a hypnotized loon. Finally he walks toward her. She runs her hands up his chest. They embrace and kiss and…
Aah! What the fuck’s my grandma doing in this movie?
Given his overwhelming fondness for the delectable Samantha, it may come as no surprise to you that she frequently inspires Dave Franklin’s yen for hardcore porn.