Friday, July 29, 2011

"Rome, Italian Style" Track of the Day: The Wondermints, "The Party"

Don't do anything stupid. Under the table, her machine gun leg is also pointed at you.
Song: "The Party" by the L.A. power pop band The Wondermints
Released: 1996
Why's it part of the "Rome, Italian Style" playlist?: For the Henry Mancini tribute album Shots in the Dark, which is best known for featuring a Scream-era Rose McGowan on its artwork, The Wondermints covered Mancini's psychedelia-lite main theme from The Party, the mostly improvised 1968 Blake Edwards comedy that thumbs its nose at Hollywood douches and SoCal stuffed shirts. (They didn't call anyone "douches" back then, so what did they say instead? "Hey, don't be such an un-groovy female sanitary napkin!"?)

Somewhere, Bjork is jotting this down as an idea for a new hat to wear.
(Photo source: DVD Beaver)
Although I really like the brilliantly directed silent movie-style slapstick in The Party, especially any set piece involving the practically mute waiter who gets himself plastered (Steve Franken, cousin of Sen. Al Franken), I can't get past Peter Sellers' aggravating brownface act (even though his docile Indian outsider character was written to be one of the few sympathetic and likable people in the movie, it's still brownface). The late Edwards was full of odd contradictions as a filmmaker. For instance, he'll emasculate Asians in one movie (either in Breakfast at Tiffany's or, to a lesser extent, in The Party) but then give an Asian American a pretty progressive role for its time in another (James Hong's dramatic role as a surgeon wrongly accused of murder in 1972's The Carey Treatment, a much-maligned but interesting and Roy Budd-scored whodunit that Edwards disowned after directing it for MGM).

This is like that scene in Titanic where the band continues to play while the ship goes down, only much more groovy.
(Photo source: Nanó Wallenius)
The 1996 Shots in the Dark take on "The Party," which is slightly updated with '90s production trickery and opens with a clip of the film's most quoted line, is a faithful rendition of one of Mancini's most underappreciated themes. In '96, Brian Wilson's future backing band was about to get some recognition the following year for its Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery song "Austin Powers."

All the other "Rome, Italian Style" Tracks of the Day from this week:
Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi, "Her Hollow Ways"
Parodi/Fair, "James Bond Theme (GoldenEye Trailer Version)"
Goldfrapp, "Lovely Head"
The John Gregory Orchestra, "The Avengers"

Here we see Claudine Longet and Peter Sellers inventing the first of those nightclubs where clubbers and ravers dance around in Mr. Bubble soap.
This is the final "'Rome, Italian Style' Track of the Day" post. The "Rome, Italian Style" block on A Fistful of Soundtracks airs Mondays through Thursdays from 11am to noon.

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