Sunday, November 11, 2012

Teenage Tupelo (John Michael McCarthy, 1995)

Oh, D'Lana Tunnell. Your drool-inducing aura causes my engine to operate at a level that is on par with the standards and regulations put forth by the Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Act. Her aura did what? Okay, how 'bout this: Gently place my genitals between two slices of chickasaw fried bread! The gorgeousness that is D'Lana Tunnell is a real live barn burner...with hash browns on the side. That's a little better. I mean, you're on the cusp of making sense. But you're going to have to drop the histrionic double-talk, and, not to mention, be a helluva lot more succinct, if you want people to understand what you're getting at. Okay, I think D'Lana Tunnell is pretty and junk. There, are you happy? Very much so. Now stop sulking and tell the fine folks what you're babbling about. Yeah, I suppose I should do that. I don't mean to be the bearer of bad news, but it's the mid-1990s...again. Are you serious? Does that mean we have to watch Caroline in the City (a television sitcom about a small group of white supremacists living in a yuppie-fied version of New York City) and listen to grunge music on compact disc? Not necessarily. It may be the mid-90s, but don't tell that to writer-director John Michael McCarthy (The Sore Losers and Superstarlet A.D.). Ignoring the cultural trends and styles that engulfed the mid-section of the decade like an out of control head cold, Teenage Tupelo is here to prove once and for all that fully-fashioned nylon stockings are the epitome of sexy and that organized man-hating is alive and well. 
Encased in black and white nylons whenever possible, the ladies (i.e. D'Lana Tunnell) of Teenage Tupolo are goddesses. Photographed in the most loving manner possible, in black and white and in not-so glorious techicolor, J.M.M. obviously worships the ground that D'Lana Tunnell walks on. You think I'm kidding around? Closely observe the way he shoots Miss Tunnell walking up and down the alleyways of Tupelo, Mississippi. I'm convinced that most of you will be jealous of the each slab of concrete that is lucky enough to feel the pressure of her exquisite pumps as they plunge violently into their jagged crevices with every nuanced step by the time you've finished watching her walk in this here film.
All hail, D'Lana Tunnell! Queen of the mid-90s. I'm not trying to cause any trouble, but I don't think you're ready to drink in the awesomeness that D'Lana Tunnell's mind-blowing curves were putting out there in this low budget, but aesthetically precise motion picture. You don't think so, eh? Well, I didn't want to bring this up, but I've drinking in the corporeal essence of shapely ladies before you were even born. In other words, I can safely say that D'Lana Tunnell is one of the most alluring actresses to grace the silver screen.
If she is, as you say, "one of the most alluring actresses," why has D'Lana Tunnell only ever appeared in three movies? What are you nuts? Some of the greatest performances of all-time were given by actresses, and, I suppose, actors, who only ever appeared in one or two movies. And besides, everyone knows that quality is more important than quantity.
It's funny, but I started watching Teenage Tupelo as a lark. What I mean is, I didn't expect to be moved in such a profound manner. But there I was, moved like a randy jaybird at his daughter's adults only debutante ball.
One of the first things we hear is the sound of a guitar string being plucked. As its reverberations began to bounce around my ear canal, I thought to myself: That's not a synthesizer. Oh, you're so right, my Gary Numan-loving friend. It's definitely not a synthesizer. But you know what? I didn't seem to mind. You see, the guitars used in this film had a certain sleazy twang about them that wasn't lame at all. In fact, I think I can safely state that the guitars, and the music in general in this film, all composed by a band called Impala, was pretty fucking cool.
Well, except maybe for the impromptu rock ditty washed up rock star Johnny Tu-Note (Hugh Brooks) sings to his girlfriend D'Lana Fargo (D'Lana Tunnell), who's smoking a cigarette in a treehouse on the outskirts of Tupelo, Mississippi, while not wearing any pants, as I thought it was a tad on the cheesy side (he does get his pants back, though). But other than that, it's garage rock heaven.
As Johnny Tu-Note and his pants recede into the night, we follow D'Lana home. Judging by what we see at first glance, it would seem that she lives with her mother, Wanda Fargo (Wanda Wilson), and her young son Pookie Fargo (Phillip Tubb). Oh, and if you're thinking that Johnny is Pookie's father, think again (the boy's father doesn't seem to be in the picture). Speaking of pictures, D'Lana wants to know why her mother broke her framed photo of Johnny Tu-Note, while her mother wants to know where she was all night. They go back and forth like this for a little while until they both end up rolling around on the floor.
The following morning, D'Lana answers a knock at the door, only to find two squares who want her to sign a petition that would lead to the banning of Topsy Turvy. Who's she, you ask? Well, according to the two squares, she's a stripper turned movie star from Memphis, and they don't want that kind of riff-raff defiling their fair city. Too busy to sign, D'Lana leaves for work. Starting a new job as a waitress at Johnnie's Drive-In, we get our first taste of Tunnellvision, the cinematic technique John Michael McCarthy uses to capture the beauty of D'Lana Tunnell while in motion.
Cutting through the Priceville Cemetery and walking along the railroad tracks, the sight of D'Lana Tunnell commuting to work on foot in her waitress uniform (the heels of her white pumps pounding into the dewy grass) is the stuff of ambulation legend. Suddenly, she passes a group of tough chicks in black working on their car. Telling her that she looks like Topsy Turvy, D'Lana is confused as to why people keep mentioning her. Anyway, the tough chicks apparently worship Topsy Turvy, a, like I said, stripper turned actress, who has also dabbled in nudism.
Hanging out Johnnie's Drive-In, Johnny Tu-Note (who's flirting with a waitress named Cindy) learns that D'Lana is pregnant (her mother called the drive-in). As you would expect, Johnny denies that it's his. But Wanda doesn't seem to care (she's got a scheme brewing). Arriving late for work, D'Lana is immediately fired the second she enters the drive-in. Realizing she's got nothing to lose, D'Lana attacks Cindy (Cindy Blair) with a fork; you go, girl!
Leaving in a huff, D'Lana hits the bricks. And you know what that means? It's time to watch D'Lana walk some more. Yeah, but get this, she does it in nothing but a black bra and leopard print panties (only the crotch area is leopard print, the rest is black) this time around. Doffing her waitress uniform in disgust, D'Lana takes to the back streets of Tupelo with a thunderous aplomb. Her mighty hips swaying with every step, the white pumps attached to D'Lana's long legs (her pale thighs glowing in the morning sun) make mincemeat out of the dilapidated concrete.
When the bra goes, D'Lana puts on her coat; yeah, I forgot to mention that she was carrying a coat (with a fur collar), sorry about that. Moving on, Johnny Tu-Note catches up D'Lana and confronts her in an alleyway (he's worried that she might try to black mail him). But don't worry, the tough chicks in black D'Lana met earlier, Franky (Kristen Hobbs), a long-haired brunette wearing sunglasses, Ruthy (Sophie Couch), a short-haired brunette sans sunglasses, and Joey (Dawn Ashcroft), a blonde wearing sunglasses, come to her rescue.
She doesn't know it yet, but D'Lana is in league with Thee Madd Madd Manhaters, a tight-knit gang of forthright dykes who hate men (duh) and despise country music. Or maybe she does know who she's league with. What do I know? Maybe if I stopped staring at D'Lana's soft, pillowy lips for more than five seconds, I might be able give you a proper reading about what she knows and what she doesn't know.
Even though Franky has called dibs on her, that doesn't stop Joey from dreaming about D'Lana in colour. Lounging in black stockings and eating a banana in what looks like a basement, D'Lana is a sight to behold. Actually, I'm not entirely sure whose dream it is. I mean, Franky is chained to the wall (in black stockings), but Joey (also in black stockings) is bringing Franky bread and water. Either way, the scene is hot.
Embarrassed about the Johnny Tu-Note tattoo that she has on one of her butt cheeks (a rotund mound of pale perfection), D'Lana suddenly finds herself hanging from a rope ("On a rope / On a rope / You got me hanging from a rope"). I'm not sure if this scene is supposed to be real or a dream (it's in colour). But whatever it is, it features Satan altering her tattoo.
After going home to change (before you ask, yes, she's sticking with the panties with the leopard print crotch), D'Lana heads out with her new lesbian friends to catch a screening of Topsy Turvy's movie, Trashus Traileris (a seedy slice of "full-throttle sexploitation"), and, of course, try to meet their idol. Navigating male drag racers and protestors ("Hey hey! Ho ho! Nudie cuties have got to go!") in order to get to the theatre, the gals take their seats. The film is about a group of lingerie enthusiasts, including Topsy Turvy (D'Lana Tunnell in a blonde wig), who get an atomic bomb in the mail. If you're wondering what a bunch of lingerie enthusiasts are going to do with an atomic bomb, it was actually a bit of a mix up. Apparently, the atomic bomb was supposed to go to Cuba, but instead was sent to them. Oh, and what did the Cubans get? They got a box full of edible undies.
Everything that occurs in Teenage Tupelo could be seen as a veiled excuse to film D'Lana Tunnell lying, walking, lounging, sitting, or even just standing (with, of course, her hands on her hips), in her underwear. And, to the surprise of virtually no-one, I'm totally at ease with that. A humid blast of campy wind from the deep south, John Michael McCarthy has proven that his taste in music, women, cars, and clothing is right on the money in terms of righteousness.

video uploaded by thinwhitetrash


  1. Lydia Lunch swatted my face lightly and tousled my hair last night.

  2. For reals? If so, that's awesome.

    Wait a second. Lydia Lunch played Wrongbar on Queen West last night. Or maybe you mean the night before? Either way, I hope it was a kick ass show. :)

  3. Yes, for reals.

    Well, my last night in my loopy sleep deprived world when I wrote that. Which yeah, was the night before in downtown LA. But it still feels like last night, even now. Did you go to the show in Toronto?!?!?

    She played songs I've been listening to non-stop for almost 20 years. It was fucking insane. I lost it. Stuff from 8 Eyed Spy (two of my all-time FAVORITE songs, "Love Split with Blood" and "Ran Away Dark"), the 13.13 album, and more. She even played two of my absolute favorites "Mechanical Flattery" (from "Queen of Siam") and "I Woke Up Dreaming" (a Teen-Age Jesus song). Those two songs were like the sum total of my emotional experience as a teen-age and still remind me of having ripped jeans, staring at my feet, and realizing that god doesn't exist. Honestly, I got all gushy inside.

    Lydia and Algis Kizys, who was playing bass (and played bass for SWANS on all their best albums: GREED, HOLY MONEY, CHILDREN OF GOD, GREAT ANNIHILATOR) both noticed me going all hypnotic gushy during the Teen-Age Jesus songs, and then full on spazzy during "Love Split with Blood." Probably because I was the only one in the club who decided to get next to the stage, head bang, and knew all the words to the song. I don't know if you've ever listened to 8 Eyed Spy, but that stuff is like nuclear powered swamp boogie that opens your brain and spine. It just makes everything in your psychic fabric go "holy fuck" all at once. No other way to describe it.

    The whole evening was a the proverbial emotional roller-coaster of Lydia Lunch baiting and then pushing back the audience with seductive malice. The musical shifts between radically different material played a big role in that. She also performed a spoken word piece with screeching accompaniment from the band. Just visceral. The 13.13 material stood out. So dour, so seductive, so haunting. Like drowning in a vortex of heat and suffocating, drawing further and further in to an inevitable suicide, staring down at the knife of your own lust.

    Sadly, the audience and club was lame. They made her angry. Like drink-throwing-storming-off-the-stage-at-the-end-of-the-show angry. Honestly, your lame-ass hipster club gets Lydia Lunch backed by guys who played in Sonic Youth and SWANS when they released their best material (and the guitarist was excellent, too!) and you start flashing the fucking disco lights because they've gone over time?!?!? It was only 10:00pm and the next day was a federal holiday and it was an 18+ show. Come on, let them play as long as they feel like. People also interrupted Lydia during "Gospel Singer," and interrupting anyone on stage is just fucking rude.

    Ok, I could go on about every tiny little nuance, but I never thought I'd see her play these songs live.

    Oh, this movie looks super cool, too. And its totally related, because 8 Eyed Spy's music would completely fit on the soundtrack. Kinda sorta.

  4. I stopped in Tupelo, MS to gas up my car after presenting a conference paper down the road in Oxford, MS. I got coffee. I left and drove the nine hours home.

    Uh, yeah, that story sucked. Sorry.

    I hope you are doing well.

  5. @ido: Years of listening to industrial noise has caused my ears to become sensitive to any form of loud music, so I don't go to concerts anymore. :(

    Cool. I'm glad the show lived up to your teenage expectations.

    Oooh, seductive malice. I like the sound of that.

    SWANS played T.O. recently.

    Damn hipsters. :D

    It's Mike McCarthy week here at the HOSI. Spread the word! ;)

    @Karim Amir: I'm doing well. It's good you survived Sandy and the election. :)

    Sucked?!? I wish I could tell people I stopped for gas in Tupelo, Mississippi.

    Oh, and David Strathairn was featured in American Vogue (looking dapper, I might add) and a twentysomething Željko Ivanek was in Fangoria (a look back at "The Sender").

  6. Yum-Yum,

    Don't know if you're still checking comments on the blog - but in case you are, TEENAGE TUPELO has finally come to blu-ray!

    "... at the time of this writing Blu-ray copies of Teenage Tupelo can only be obtained directly from the director (in a set limited to 1000 copies). The last directions we received were to visit (which has not yet been updated to reflect the availability of Teenage Tupelo)... You might check price and availability via the email on that page before committing your PayPal dollars, especially if you are reading this at any other time than June, 2023.

    You also get quoted for the critical blub in the review of TT at 366 Weird Movies...

    (and yes; THE SORE LOSERS is also available in BR too.)