Marco who?

August 28, 2011 | By

Do you know how to use the three seashells? And more important: does it really matter?

That was my reaction back in 1993 when I saw the Demolition Man trailer in theatres for Joel Silver’s latest Kaboom Production, starring Sly Stallone, Wesley Snipes, and two nobodies named Benjamin Bratt and Sandra Bullock.

When the name Marco Brambilla appeared among the credits, my group all head-scratched, and someone said ‘Oh, he directed a bunch of Gino Vanelli videos.’ (I think “Wild Horses” was one of his efforts.)

Still, Brambilla was among the ‘stylish’ commercial directors Silver liked to court, and sometimes things clicked (John McTiernan gave us Predator and Die Hard), and sometimes they stunk (Andrew Sipes, and Fair Game). Sometimes newcomers made a bloated mess (Heathers’ Michael Lehman + a Bruce Willis vanity project = Hudson Hawke), and sometimes new writers were given a plum chance to blossom with A+ elements (Shane Black, and his Lethal Weapon Cinderella career, which remained the envy of young screenwriters for more than a decade).

Sometimes a hot star becomes poison before his film is released in North America, and not at all in the U.K. (The Adventures of Ford Fairlane), and sometimes a first foray into TV production comes up as just blah (like the TV movie Parker Kane, which kinda rhymes with Die Hard’s John McClane, and the aforementioned Ford Fair-lane).

But Demo Man has aged really, really well, which is abnormal when its story isn’t really novel. The big credit goes to co-writer Daniel Waters (Heathers, Hudson Hawk, and, er, Ford Fairlane) for the social & pop satire that dots every scene.

Waters is a master of quick-witted social jabs and outright absurdity, which director Brambilla termed in his DVD and Blu-ray commentary as “oblique.” That’s perfectly fine, because sometimes a strange joke coming from the depths of a writer’s unconsciousness which he / she thinks is funny just happens to work.

If I had a condo with one of those useless half-bathroom / guest bathrooms, I’d have it customized, so there’s no toilet paper; just three golden seashells on a marble ridge, and see what happens when a guest walks out.

I’d probably hear a rapping sound through the closed door, and the guest would say half-embarrassed ‘Hey, you’re out of toilet paper,’ to which the exchange would go like this:

‘You have to use the three seashells.’


‘You have to use the three seashells, to your left.’



‘You don’t know how to use the three seashells? Hey guys: X doesn’t know how to use the three seashells.’

‘The f**k is wrong with you? Get me some wadded paper.’

‘You have to use the three seashells. I can’t help you any further.’

Then I’d have to duck away and avoid the guest, but wouldn’t anyone want to rework Waters’ classic bizarre gag into one moment in real life, just to see if the person ‘gets it?’

Perhaps I’m alone in this humble fantasy of foolishness.

In any event, Brambilla’s debut actually fared well with critics and action fans, but his next project was the Alicia Silverstone dud Excess Baggage (1997), which she co-produced. Whether that experience soured him from Hollywood is unknown, but Brambilla went on to create some intriguing, elaborately conceived digital art, which is worth examining in various online snippets.

Several additional video links will appear on the right panel when you watch the extract on YouTube’s proper site, but I’m not sure why a video on breastfeeding is also part of the group. Something for YouTube Five-O to figure out.

It’s actually a shame he never made another feature film, because he had the right instincts in shaping Demo Man into a sleek sci-fi film whose look and editing style haven’t really dated to the extent of something like Total Recall (1990).

Warner Home Video’s Blu-ray sports a pristine HD transfer with robust sound, and ports over the extras from the 1997 DVD, and I’ve posted a review [M].

Seriously. That would be my guest bathroom.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor ( Main Site / Mobile Site )

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