12/29/06

608 Code Name: Diamondhead

(1977, Action-Spies/Television, color), with:

A Day at the Fair
(1947, Educational-Newsreel, b&w)

Is it just me, or did nothing just happen?

Rating: *

In a nutshell:

Short: A bland farm family spends the day at a bland county fair.
Film: A bland secret agent and his generic Hawaiian sidekicks foil a bland supervillain.

Short Summary:

Let's go eat something gray.A Day at the Fair chronicles a farm family’s outing to the local county fair, where they pit their agricultural specialties against those of their neighbors. One of the sons wins an honorable mention for his calf while his brother’s calf is dismissed from competition. Sister’s pigs, father’s ear of corn, and mother’s homemade jams are also thrown into their respective rings, but we never discover how they fare. When the judging and prize giving are through, the family reunites to seek thrills on the midway through such diversions as game fish displays, miniature carnival rides, and buggy races. Ah, the joys of the fair.

Film Summary:

The thrills continue in Code Name: Diamondhead. A long time ago (several acres of polyester fibers seem to indicate the 1970s) in a faraway place (which the movie alleges is Hawaii) an evil priest goes through customs at an international airport. In a gripping scene fraught with something that desperately wants to be drama, we learn that he has nothing to declare. A few minutes later, he hangs the customs agent from a bell tower.

At a swanky party across town, cops arrest a notorious gambler for vague gambling-related shenanigans. We soon discover the arrest to be a cover for his secret gambler identity—he’s actually the eponymous Diamondhead, a superspy in the service of that bastion of freedom and goodwill, that defender of peace and innocents everywhere, Aunt Mary. I’m not sure whether that’s the name of the secret organization or the code name for the gray-haired, ship-dwelling man who runs it, but it doesn’t seem to matter. Aunt Mary warns Diamondhead that an enemy superagent (the villainously named “Tree”) has infiltrated the island disguised as an evil priest. Diamondhead recruits a dangerously slinky woman named Tso-Tsing and an enormous ukulele player named Zulu to help him investigate.

Tree wants the secret formula for a deadly gas currently in development by the Navy. (One wonders why the Navy is developing a weapon they’re expressly forbidden to use under the terms of the Geneva Convention. One of the peripheral characters brings this up at one point, but no one bothers address it further.) As a master of disguise, Tree has the astonishing ability to murder and take the place of people who already look just like him. Luckily, one such person is the colonel in charge of inspecting the deadly gas tests. He goes into the top-secret facility, demands that they show him their security codes, and schedules a demonstration of the gas the next day.

That afternoon and evening, Diamondhead and his cronies run around the allegedly Hawaiian streets, ducking darts and exchanging meaningless banter with their enemies. It all comes to nothing when Diamondhead somehow falls off a cruise ship. The bad guys get away and Tso-Tsing goes into hiding for some reason.

The next day, Tree starts his ingenious plan to steal the deadly gas formula while his henchmen prepare his avenue of escape. In the meantime, a hysterical jogger finds the slain colonel’s body washed up on a jetty. Aunt Mary realizes what must have happened and sends Diamondhead and Zulu to the test facility. They arrive too late.

Tree kidnaps Tso-Tsing for some reason, and takes her away to his surf shop hideout. Zulu finds them there and gets captured as well. It’s up to Diamondhead to rescue them, but he arrives just a little late and only manages to rescue Zulu and catch one of Tree’s henchmen. Fortunately, Tso-Tsing drew them a map with a ring and a bar of soap, so they hire a boat from a zany ship captain and give chase.

Tree gives up after a brief nautical tussle, and they all share a hearty laugh while the coast guard comes out to pick them up. Later that night, Diamondhead and Tso-Tsing try to slip off for some sweet lovin’, but Zulu and the zany ship captain have invited half the island over for a luau.

Introduction:

He knows a thing or two about a thing or two.Mike and the ‘Bots muse about cleanliness while wading through their own filthy mess. Crow wonders about that “faint, soggy, rotting, industrial, grandma smell.”

Host Segment One:

The Mads point out the obvious incongruity of professing to love cleanliness while living in a pigsty. Mike and the ‘Bots thank them and start to throw garbage through the airlock so they can watch it float off into space. They quickly get bored of this and spread a rug over the rest of the garbage pile. Down in Deep 13, the Mads get worked up about dirt and germs and start to scrub themselves. Dr. Forrester pushes the button and then washes his finger.

Host Segment Two:

Tom reads over Crow’s shoulder, Crow complains about Tom’s breath, and they start to tussle. Mike comes in and amiably breaks up their fight. The ‘Bots complain about his niceness as soon as he leaves, but Magic Voice breaks in to present a little film she’s prepared to show them the error of their ways. Tom and Crow learn how miserable their lives would be if Mike dressed and talked like an evil Den Mother. Quoth Den Mother Mike, “I know a think or two about a thing or two!”

Host Segment Three:

Tom and Crow want to play whiffle fungo (whatever that is) but Mike can’t—he has to alphabetize his CDs. They complain about how boring he is as soon as he leaves, but Magic Voice breaks in to present a little film she’s prepared to show what it would be like if Mike were a Crash Test Dummy. Apparently, she means Brad Roberts of the band The Crash Test Dummies, because Mike in her film has long straight hair, plays an acoustic guitar, and sings something incomprehensible in a deep, quavery voice.

Host Segment Four:

Mike has made sandwiches for Tom and Crow. They complain about his inability to cook as soon as he leaves, but Magic Voice breaks in to present a little film she’s prepared to show them what it would be like if Mike were the Frugal Gourmet. Mike dresses and talks like late television chef Jeff Smith, cutting off Crow’s net and twisting Tom over it like a pepper mill. When the real Mike returns, the ‘Bots thank him profusely for the sandwiches. Quoth Tom, “They’re better than anything any cloying old Seattle windbag could make.” “You didn’t have to say that,” Mike replies.

Host Segment Five:

Mike and the ‘Bots have a luau to celebrate the end of the film. Crow asks Mike repeatedly if he wants a Hawaiian Punch. When Mike finally replies in the affirmative, Crow gives him a glass of blended fruit juices. Mike reads some letters while Tom does an interpretive hula dance. Down in Deep 13, the Mads bathe together, still arguing about which of them is cleaner. Dr. Forrester claims that he has moved beyond mere dirt and is now scrubbing away at the dark stain on his soul. TV’s Frank claims that he is further still, and is now trying to cleanse away Original Sin. Dr. Forrester reaches out to press the button with a wet finger and electrocutes them both.

Stinger:

A hysterical jogger finds the slain colonel’s body.

Thoughts:

Gettin' cozy after a long day of secret agent-ingThis episode reminds me of Episode 305, which, according to my notes, featured a strange little film called Stranded in Space. Looking back at the review for that episode, the best four-word summary I can come up with for it is “actionless Orwell in space.” By way of comparison, a good four-word summary for Code Name: Diamondhead would be “actionless spies in Hawaii.” The keyword in both summaries is “actionless.” The heavily implied fifth word in both summaries is “1970s.” Neither film is particularly fun or painful. I endured both with few laughs and minimal discomfort. Pain and pleasure both inspire memory, and if a film invokes neither, then essentially all I’ve got are the notes I took during the viewing and a vague notion that I once watched a movie called Code Name: Diamondhead.

On a related note, the short film about county fairs in the 1940s feels accurate to me. Its depiction of a family waiting in an enormous barn of livestock is probably every bit as exciting as the real thing.

The best part of this episode is the host segments. Of the two running gags, the “what if” series of films is best. I like Mike as the Den Mother from hell, though his impersonations of Jeff Smith and Brad Roberts are also spot on. The cleanliness gags work as well, especially once the Mads get into their bathing contest. Thankfully, both Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank both remain fully clothed throughout the host segments.

According to my notes, the Satellite crew says a number of funny things during the short and the movie. When the farm family starts to feel hungry, Tom says, “Let’s go eat something gray,” and then sings Nirvana lyrics during the marching band sequence. During the movie, the SOL crew devotes some time to thinking up new code names, like Cubic-Zirconiumhead and Diamondheadcold. After some oddly threatening banter at a blackjack table, Crow tries to work out what they were talking about and says, “Is it just me, or did nothing just happen?” Tom later notes that the heist scene was “pulled off without a moment of suspense.” Like Stranded in Space, this episode is neither frustrating nor particularly funny. I suppose you could watch it one night if you were really bored, and wanted to become more so.