Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Banjo For Sleestak!

Banjo music is often the butt of jokes, but personally I like it pretty well.

Other than classic Bluegrass tunes though, the few times banjo music has broken into the mainstream is when Steve Martin plays it on stage, or the old Delivance movie tune "Dueling Banjos" which dominated the AM airwaves for several months in the 70's.

The third instance of banjo music is the theme song for Land of the Lost, the Sid and Marty Krofft television classic.

I'm on record as loathing the Will Farrell-vehicle remake of the the classic television series, but my completist soul still wanted a copy if only for the Sleestak scenes. I finally found a copy cheap enough in a discount bin to justify my buying it.

Listening director Brad Silberling's commentary revealed a lot to me about how this regrettable movie came to be. First off, I found I enjoyed parts of it more this time since I've let go of the expectation it would give us a large-screen quasi-serious treatment of the themes in the original show. Knowing it was a farce, freed me to take it on its own merits. I have to say that Danny McBride is pretty funny at times.

And listening to the director it's clear that it was meant to be a farce from the get-go. What I knew to be true watching the movie was confirmed when certain scenes turned out to be improvisations, and despite sometimes being funny, it's these very scenes which bring the movie to a grinding halt in terms of plot. The director apparently the found the show a kitsch-laden hoot from his childhood and intentionally wanted to riff on the images which had attached to his memory.

Another movie which apparently inspired the remake was Beneath the Planet of the Apes and this can be seen in the rugged landscapes fused with bits and pieces of modern society as well as the graphic treatments used for the fonts of the logos and end titles. I will confess the movie looks great at times, especially when the cast is running away from the dinos across the bleak landscape.

Silberling did reveal though that the banjo theme song had a real intriguing and possibly disturbing origin given that we are talking about a kid's show. It seems as revealed by one of the Krofft brothers, that it was in fact the movie Deliverance and its music which inspired the banjo theme for the TV show.

So now we know that two of the most infamous river rides in cinematic and television history are linked not only by the happenstance of time, but by the enthralling and memorable nature of their musical identities.

Here is "Dueling Banjos" from Deliverance.

And here is the memorable theme song from Land of the Lost.

And here is Steve Martin playing "Dueling Banjos" with the Muppets. Why not?

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