Thursday, February 14, 2013

# 95: 8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (1997)

File:Eight heads in a duffel bag.jpg

Code-name: Octo-homicide

Writer/Director: Tom Schulman
Type: [Black] Comedy

Tommy- Joe Pesci
Charlie- Andy Comeau
Laurie Bennett- Kristy Swanson
Dick Bennett- George Hamiliton
Annette Bennett- Dyan Cannon
Ernie- David Spade
Steve- Todd Louiso
Fern (aka Grandma Bennett)- Ernestine Mercer


Have you ever had one of those movies that you don't know how you came across it, what you were thinking by watching or why you'd never been able to completely forget about it?

This is one of those movies for me... and I tell you, it's the strangest thing. I'm sure my mom or dad came across it on some random cable network like WB with commericals and censoring and all that... I must have been somewhere between the age of 8 and 10, perhaps 11... even more funny, I've found that that stuff I came across as a kid, no matter what form it takes, I manage to remember almost every detail about it. 

I know it's been a couple years since I'd seen "8 heads" but I never forgot about it... and it is probably one of the stupidest movies ever made... well, maybe not, compared to all the remakes, sequels and so on.
Actually, in places, it is actually kind of a smart movie. Don't know how I'll ever be able to explain that... I don't think I have enough readership on this where I can simply say 'trust me on this'

Joe Pesci was part of my childhood already simply because of the "Home Alone" movies. And years later, I would come across "My Cousin Vinny" and "Goodfellas" and love him in both movies. He plays to the stereotype of the mobster/gangster and as always, you don't wanna mess with this guy. 

His character is in the process of transporting the heads of 8 guys that got whacked by a couple of gangsters to their boss. But due to a few constraints, he is unable to take the bag on carry-on, so it has to be checked into cargo. 
And wouldn't you know it, a med. student also has a duffel bag and picks his up by mistake. On the other side of the coin, Charlie is meeting his girlfriend Laurie's parents for their vacation to Mexico for her dad's birthday. 

As if it isn't enough that he unknowingly smuggles human heads, he smuggles them into a third world country. He and the Bennett family check into this run-down motel that's run by, maybe, a handful of people speaking Spanglish accents (english tinged with stereotypical spanish).
Naturually hilarity enuses as Charlie, his girlfriend and his girlfriend's mother come across the heads and they don't know how that happened. 

Annette literally goes off the deep end because she wanted to hide her present for her husband in Charlie's bag... not only does she fall off the wagon, but she goes completely psycho when it comes to Charlie and for a while, nobody can figure out why. After which Charlie finds the heads while trying to unpack and he tells Laurie while he tries to figure out what to do.

I'd seen Dyan Cannon around a few times, mainly as a judge on "Ally McBeal" since this movie and because of this role, I cannot shake the association... to me, she always looks she's under the influence of something... it's rather unfortunate.

Only a couple years afterwards did I learn who George Hamiliton and Kristy Swanson were... all the guys will scream "she's the original Buffy!"... and George had a stint on "Dancing with the Stars" a few years ago... he always looks like he's extra tan, doesn't he? 
I thought Andy Comeau looked like Tom Hanks' son or that he could be... 

Meanwhile, Pesci throws a fit when he finds out he got the wrong bag... only in the movies would we also have the coincidence that the two guys happened to sit next to each other on the plane and they kinda knew one another before this mix-up. 
Finding a few clues in the bag, one of them being the manuscript for a book he was writing, he goes to his college and has a little "fun" with Charlie's roommates, Ernie & Steve. We see a couple of scenes of him torturing them in a number of ways and they eventually get a break, finding through a friend of a friend about where Charlie is.
So while on the campus, Pesci takes a couple of the cynogenically frozen heads to make up for the ones Charlie lost based on how much they looked like the guys that got whacked.

Through a series of phone calls, the three guys find out that Charlie lost one of heads... apparently a maid had cleaned the room and it ended up in the laundry with a bunch of his clothes. Luckily the maid in charge of laundry is blind so she has no idea.

I could round a series of quotes that explain how funny this movie is.
One part I loved early on was when Charlie told Laurie about the heads and she keeps screaming. The staff is overhearing this and thinking that they're just crazy. At one point she freaks out so much that she locks herself in the closet... and she only comes out, screaming of course, when Charlie says "You have to come out... the bodies are in there"...
of course he's making this up, but you get the point.

Then on campus, the guys are looking for a new set of heads and Steve gets a conscious in saying that the frozen heads on campus were all people once with hopes & dreams and they shouldn't be used just because they look like someone else. 
Meanwhile, Ernie takes completely normal and Steve gradually becomes a candidate for a strait jacket. 

As funny as it is, Mr. Bennett never finds about the heads throughout this entire movie and the staff has no idea whatsoever. Third World Problems!

after finding the heads:
Laurie: Let's call the police. 
Charlie: No! 
Laurie: Why not?
Charlie: Because we're in Mexico. A third world country. You don't just call the police in a third world country and tell them you found eight human heads in your luggage. 
Laurie: Why not? 
Charlie: Because they have no laws here. They'll turn me into a taco. 

We also get introduced to his mother, Fern... who I thought, for YEARS, was Phyllis Diller... she just happens to be another little old lady, with a particularly foul mouth... she kept pace with Pesci in that department... RIP Ernestine Mercer (she died in 2011)

Pesci finds the motel, Charlie is nowhere to be found (Mr. Bennett got arrested at the airport when they found heads in his luggage and Charlie's going to try to prove his innocence as well as get the 2 heads back), and everyone goes into the van for a road trip.
Annette finds the heads in the back seat, again starts freaking out ("I'm losing my mind. Everywhere I look, there are heads!!" the camera hilariously eyes all the people in the van)... apparently she recognized one of the heads as her ex-boyfriend Hugo.

But she isn't completely without a sense of humor. Pesci eventually throws Fern out of the van and Annette gasps something to the effect: I thought she'd never die
[unfortunately the credits say different, although she's practically in a body cast, having been thrown off a cliff that may be part of the Grand Canyon]

In the van is where Steve eventually goes crazy... but c'mon, all those head puns are funny, and no matter how many times they tell him to shut up, he keeps going

Another scene I've always remembered was where Pesci pulls into another small motel to look at the heads, trying to sort through who he has and who he needs to replace... he sets them all out and later he dreams of them all singing their own verison of "Mr. Sand-man"...  sand becomes head.
earlier in the movie, he turns off the radio when it plays that song, saying he can't stand it.

Ulitmately, this is how the ending works out:
Pesci gets all the heads to the mob boss and retires to Hawaii.
The two gangsters (who whacked the guys, who had been in pursuit of Pesci, not wanting him to get credit for their heads) get arrested by airport security.
Mr. Bennett gets out of jail and Charlie & Laurie get married.
Ernie's a brain surgeron and Steve, as I said a couple times already, loses his mind and is in a strait jacket.

Sure, the jokes are easy and the ethnical/cultural stereotypes are exploited to the max, but who really cares? This is a movie I'd personally describe as "freaking hilarious"

It was also the first time I came across David Spade... I'd only seen maybe a couple of his movies and a tiny bit of "Just Shoot Me" (of which I remember next to nothing, other than he played a guy named Finch and it also starred... omg, I'm totally blanking out on this... and I just learned recently, the girl who played Kit in "Pretty Woman" ..)

He has to have one of the most recognizable, cool voices in the entertainment industry. Whether in sarcasm or not, I've always loved listening to it... and it had to have started with this movie being all the way back in my childhood.
Just recently I saw a comedy show he did maybe a few years to a month after this movie... so funny, love him. And other than the storyline, he's one of my favorite parts of the movie "Tommy Boy"... which I think we must have watched a dozen times in study hall along with "Billy Madison", but I didn't care. It's a great road movie with a lot of heart.

Wendy Malick! I'd seen her around in a couple other parts, but "Just Shoot Me" was the first time I saw her in anything.

I don't think "8 heads" was necessarily meant to be anything big, important or whatever... but it's  a lot of fun and if anything, a great way to pass the time when there's a whole lot of nothing going on 8-)

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