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By Bud Simons, Christopher Null, and Jerry Renshaw

NOVEMBER 17, 1997: 

The X-Files

Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose/War of the Coprophages
D: David Nutter/Kim Manners
with David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson (20th Century Fox laserdisc)

Two of The X-Files' finest episodes from the series' third season have been paired for laserdisc and videotape release. Both are written by Darin Morgan, a favorite of X-Files fans, and each benefits greatly from his off-the-wall sense of humor and ability to balance comedic and dramatic elements.

"Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" is considered by many to be one of the series' true high-water marks, and tells the tale of one Clyde Bruckman (played perfectly by Peter Boyle) whose ability to see into the future is limited to knowing how a person is going to die. Elements in the episode include a serial killer, numerous references to silent film creators, and of course, the stupendous Yappi. The dialogue and performances are all dead-on, and the story is alternately funny, thought-provoking, and touching.

"War of the Coprophages," or the cockroach episode, is an entomological romp in the mythical town of Miller's Grove, where an infestation of cockroaches may or may not be killing members of the local populace. Although lacking the depth and resonance of "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose," "War" is nonetheless enjoyable taken on its own terms, which frankly, get pretty messy at times.

Both episodes are introduced by creator Chris Carter, whose respect for Morgan is both obvious and deserved. Hopefully, Carter can coax a couple more teleplays out of him before The X-Files concludes somewhere down the road.-- Bud Simons


L'Enfer

D: Claude Chabrol (1994) with Emmanuelle Beart, Francois Cluzet

This little-seen French number's title translates as "Torment." Or more to the point, "Hell." In other words, not your typical get-cozy-and-snuggle-up-by-the-fire-with-a-loved-one art flick. But as the film opens, everything is as happy as could be. Nelly (Beart) and Paul (Cluzet) are young hoteliers with a gorgeous country estate. Paul is the consummate host and concierge, while Nelly's stunning beauty and playful friendliness are worth the trip alone. But there lies the problem; it starts with a smile that lingers too long, a lost keepsake, or a few unaccounted-for hours... and pretty soon Paul is convinced that his wife is up to no good. By the time the picture ends, Paul has become hysterically possessive, and L'Enfer's cryptically French ending will make you glad you can rewind a few times to catch the nuance. The lead roles could not have been cast better, and Beart does better work here than in anything else I've seen. As a thriller, L'Enfer is a solid film. As a character study of the horrific way jealousy can ravage a man's soul, L'Enfer is not to be missed. --Christopher Null


70s Party Video

(Psychocandy, no credits listed)



Jan Brady (Eve Plumb) refused to participate in The Brady Variety Hour. Not Marcia!

This gem of a compilation is chock-full of the kind of television that simultaneously made TV bizarre and insipid in the Seventies. It includes the opening credits sequences for shows like Baretta and S.W.A.T., commercials for toys like the Sno-Cone Snowman (that never worked like it did on the ads), and the Evel Kneivel play set and tons of clips from long-forgotten cartoons. The worst thing about commercial compilations, though, is when the awful realization sets in that you've been watching 30 minutes of ads!! The very thing that they invented the mute button on your remote for!!

Who remembers that bizarre Jetsons hybrid, The Partridge Family 2200 A.D.? Or the cartoon Osmonds? There's The Bugaloos, the Banana Splits (with a craaaazy musical number), H.R. Pufnstuf, and a weird, druggy installment of Multiplication Rock with a very Tom Petty-ish character. I had forgotten that the Hudson Brothers show had such a funky, rockin' theme song! Much more excruciating, though, are the clips from the Donny and Marie variety hour, with the crapulently clean-cut Mormon siblings doing some " I'm a little bit country -- I'm a little bit rock & roll" duets, complete with chorus girls going through the paces of a third-rate Busby Berkeley routine. Guess it's what you'd call an LSD flashback. Oh, and Peter Frampton does "Show Me the Way" live, with Elton John doing "The Bitch Is Back" (both of them object lessons in why punk rock was inevitable).

But the answer to the question, "How bad could TV really get back then?" has to lie in the mercifully short-lived Brady Variety Hour. This has to be one of the most vomit-inducing displays of wretchedness ever committed to videotape. The whole miserable clan (replete with faux Eve Plumb, after the genuine article said "No, thank you" to this little venture) stands on risers and halfheartedly mouths the words to a disco medley, with Florence Henderson in a glittery pink gown with pink boa, Robert Reed in a pumpkin-colored satin tux, and the rest of the brats in similarly eye-wrenching polyester. Chorus girls swim, lights flash, synthesizers warble, mirrored disco balls spin, and the Bradys cut up with each other in a most appalling fashion among the five-dollar Vegas glitz. Yeesh.

If you're under 25, you'll get a good laugh. If you're over 30, it'll dislodge a clot of fetid memories like a gas-filled corpse rising to the top of a hog-waste lagoon. --Jerry Renshaw


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