Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Building a better billabong

It's only 61* days to:

To make sure I am fully prepared for a blow-out series of blog posts for Ventriloquists Down Under Week (or THE WEEK! as it’s being referred in all the web "buzz" circles), I had to account for my fascination with Australia and New Zealand. Why am I so gleeful about bringing word of Australian ventriloquism to the rest of world? Why does every thought I have of Australia bring a smile to my face?

The answer: McHale’s Navy.

I’m referring to the classic 1964 movie that featured all the kooky, wacky characters of the popular television series. Please don’t confuse this comedy masterpiece with the 1997 Tom Arnold movie which frankly insulted the name, or the tad inferior sequel McHale’s Navy Joins the Air Force (1965) which inexplicably did not have McHale in it. No, it’s not that it didn’t have the incomparable Academy Award winning actor Ernest Borgnine in it. It didn’t have the character McHale in it.

Makes you wonder who thought that would be a good idea. Like a Star Wars movie without a star or a war.
But I digress.

In the movie, Tim Conway plays Ensign Parker, who devils Captain Binghamton (Joe Flynn) virtually nonstop. As the movie approaches its amazingly hilarious conclusion, Ensign Parker masquerades as an Australian soldier and, of course, runs into the captain.

It's through this segment of this movie that I was introduced to the charm of Australian slang and dialect.  Thanks Tim, for making it seem so real. It really was brilliant.

For those of you who haven't seen the movie, don't worry. The clip below contains no spoilers. You'll be able to enjoy it in full when you score your copy.

As a quick primer of Aussie slang in the clip:

Billabong : an ox-bow river or watering hole
Cooee, not within : figuratively a long way away, far off - England weren't within cooee of beating Australia at cricket
Cooee, within : nearby - I was within cooee of landing a big fish when the line broke. He lives within cooee of Sydney.
Australian Dingo: a domestic dog which has adapted to life as a wild dog.

Get ready to laugh and learn! And remember, you can play this clip over and over. you're going to want to invest another 8 minutes of your life time and time again.

Based on the definitions, does what Ensign Parker say in this clip make sense?  You decide.
McHale's Navy (1964) is not available on DVD. Go figure.

I told you not to throw away your VCR.
How the clip wind up digitized for the web? Not telling. I'm not terribly concerned about copywright issues. In fact, the studio might just send me a check for promoting this movie for the first time in 30 years.

Or is it 40 years?
* 61 is a prime number.
Yesterday in the post Stop Croweing now, I was pretty harsh about Russell Crowe. Crowe is a New Zealand-born Australian transplant, and maybe there's a spot for him in Down Under Week. I probably should have just said he's not my cup of tea.

I'll say this:  He does a great job of talking with his lips barely moving. And from a budding ventriloquist, that's saying something.
I really feel like I'm going to get my butt kicked for that. Some guys just can't take a compliment. It's ok, though. It's not like he's my BFF.

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