Review- ‘Death Weekend’ (1976)

Review- ‘Death Weekend’ (1976)

Harry is on his way to a country holiday home with his new ex-model girlfriend, Diane when they cross paths with a rowdy car-full of drunken yahoos who try to intimidate them. After the couple run them off the road and ruin the suspension on their car, they are tracked to their country lair with the angry men proceeding to invade this picuresque idyll.

Violence and rape ensues as the hillbilly gang seek revenge. In the course of events Harry is actually killed and Diane is raped when trying to escape. But then Diane turns the tables single-handedly and in brutal fashion.

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The original newspaper advert for Death Weekend when its showed in Yorkshire, UK in the 70s

They are elements of both Last House on the Left and Straw Dogs within this film’s premise (in the UK, this film played as part of a double bill with the latter film) but theres also enough to distinguish Death Weekend from these two films. Theres a strong feeling of the ‘haves vs have nots’ thats interesting. The hillbilly gang see what they don’t have within the house and their lives and instinctively seek to destroy and tarnish it.

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The UK quad for the Straw Dogs/Death Weekend double-bill

Also, this isn’t a case of the good vs the bad- when Diane arrives at the house by the lake she very quickly realises that Harry is a slimeball personified. Hes a swinger who has invited Diane to the house for one reason and that isn’t holding hands and going for long walks. We see him taking pictures of Diane as she gets undressed and showers as the mirrors in the swingers paradise masquerading as a country house are all two-way. Diane finds out this later when one of the gang stumbles upon the pictures that the pervert Harry has taken unbeknownst to her.

Also, just before the gang invades the house Diane is just about to leave as she learns that although Harry had told her that there were other guests who would be joining them, in fact this was a lie. Harry appears to be just as repellent as the gang members who are just about to kick the door in- its just his social class that separates him from them.

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The original newspaper ad for the film when it played with ‘The Changeling’ in the 70s

This film is also made noteworthy by the cast with Brenda Vacarro and Don Stroud deserving special mention.

A very good film that deserves a really good Blu ray release. In fact, this would be ideal for Scream Factory.

3 and a half out of 5.

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Assault on Precinct 13/Halloween Leeds Newspaper Ads

Assault on Precinct 13/Halloween Leeds Newspaper Ads

More hidden treasures from the local newspapers of the past…

Assault on Precinct 13 played for four glorious weeks in Leeds (click on each ad to see it actual size).

 

Later it played in a double bill with the film Halloween.

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The best double bill EVER!!!
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The newspaper ad for the Assault on Precinct 13/Halloween double bill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Warriors (1979)- The Film Leeds Local Authority Tried To Ban

The Warriors (1979)- The Film Leeds Local Authority Tried To Ban

Its amazing what you find when you go trawling through the microfiche archives for your local newspaper.

When browsing through the back issues of The Yorkshire Evening Post for 1979 I noticed that The Warriors, Walter Hill’s gritty, comic book style New York action flick was actually shown at a ‘members only’ cinema called The Tatler here in Leeds rather than the bigger Odeon and ABC cinemas where I’d expect a big studio film (The Warriors was made by Paramount) to play. Why was this?

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The Tatler Cinema Club, Leeds

With a bit more research I discovered why. Local authorities here in the UK can view any film that the BBFC has rated 18, or when The Warriors was released, X certificate. They can then go further than the BBFC and ban a film outright if they wish to do. These are exceptional cases but in the past this has happened. The Life of Brian was notoriously banned in Hull until 2008.

This can also happen in reverse- a local authority can show a film in cinemas in its threshold that the BBFC has banned. This occurred in 1999 when Camden Council awarded The Texas Chain Saw Massacre a special ‘C for Camden’ certificate to show the film even though it was still banned by the BBFC. I was lucky enough to see the film during this run. It was reclassified as an 18 and no longer banned by the BBFC shortly after this.

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The original ticket stub from the TCM screening in 1999. The film was certified ‘C for Camden’ but still banned by the BBFC.

In the case of The Warriors, the local authority here in Leeds chose to ban the film even though the BBFC has classified it as an X. This was due to the violent content of the film.

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What the film critic in The Yorkshire Evening Post had to say about The Warriors and it’s local authority ban.

However, you can’t keep a great piece of art down for too long. There was a loophole that meant that any banned film can be shown uncut in a licensed ‘members only’ cinema even if its been banned by the BBFC or a local authority.

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Original Yorkshire Evening Post newspaper ad for The Warriors and it’s Tatler run

And thats just what happened in Leeds. The Warriors was shown at The Tatler Cinema- a ‘members only’ cinema that at that time was showing ‘erotic’ (or as we’d say here in Leeds- ‘mucky’) films.

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Original newspaper listing for The Warriors in Leeds. Don’t understand the ‘One Hours Wait’ though- yet another mad rule that applies to such clubs?

This must have been a massive two fingers up to the Leeds local authority who thought that no one would be able to see this film that they thought would corrupt and inspire a whole slew of really nicely choreographed gang violence here in Leeds as The Armley Baseball Furies fight for their turf against The Gipton Riffs.

This loophole was later amended by the BBFC decades later to prevent uncut films (specifically with pornography in mind) being shown in members cinemas if the BBFC had banned them or not certified them R18.

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Original Warriors UK quad cinema poster

Strange bedfellows- The Warriors, a film made by huge studio Paramount Pictures being shown at a cinema that primarily showed porn. Overzealous censorship makes great comedy.

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Inside The Tatler. Plush for a cinema that showed mucky films.

 

 

 

Review- ‘On The Waterfront’ (1954)

Review- ‘On The Waterfront’ (1954)

A young ex-boxer and a priest team up with the sister of a victim of the local mob to find out who killed her brother and try to stop the mob from unfairly controlling all of the work and wages that should be going to the dockers in the area.

This is one of those films that everyone says is a classic but I hadn’t got round to seeing. All I can say is- the people who say this is a classic are undervaluing the film greatly. I knew as I was watching this that one of my favourite films that I hadn’t even seen for the first time from start to finish yet was unfurling before my very eyes.

Karl Malden, Eve Marie Saint and Lee J Cobb are all remarkable.

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But then theres Marlon Brando. One still of him from this movie, any still of him from this movie is worth a million Monets. The fact that he went into acting and the movies specifically is a wonder. To see his face, his expressions, everything about him in this film projected onto a huge cinema screen reminded me why I love the movies. Flawless.

5 out of 5. A masterpiece.

Another Reason to Hate Millennials- The Room (2003)

Another Reason to Hate Millennials- The Room (2003)

My local cinema, The Hyde Park Picturehouse here in Leeds regularly shows cult films. I was looking forward to seeing The Room as it had regularly played at a lot of the cult film cinemas like The Prince Charles Cinema and so I thought it must be some kind of newly discovered classic.

The screening I went to was almost sold out. I noticed that the rest of the audience were at least 20 years younger than me. Millennials. Not a good sign. I wondered if they could stay off social media on their mobile phones for the duration of the movie. Or if the concession stand would double up as a safe space for the evening.

And then it started.

Lets get the film’s plot out of the way first. Man is engaged to woman. Woman finds man boring and sleeps with his best friend. Fiancee confides to her mother that she doesn’t want to marry man. Woman tells friends that hubby-to-be got drunk and beat her. This continues until the end of the film where at the man’s birthday party he finds out about the affair and later blows his brains out.

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The Room is a movie that shouldn’t be getting any attention of ANY kind. It makes your average straight to video film feel inspired. Is it a cult because of the depths the film plummets in terms of acting? Is it the wafer-thin plot that is almost non-existant? The cheap production standards? No- The Room doesn’t deserve any attention because its what a cult film should never be. Its boring.

Anyway- back to the cinema that I’m watching the movie in. The audience then starts to indulge in something that I think should be heavily penalised in a cinema. I feel like gagging just typing these two words- audience participation. This is the reason why I don’t go to see one of my favourite films, The Rocky Horror Picture Show when its showing on the big screen. Don’t get me wrong- I love the fact that a heterosexual man finds a legitimate reason to wear suspenders and heels in public rather than just in private. But when assholes in the audience start shouting lines at the screen and stand up to do dance moves so you can’t even see the friggin’ film then I start to get all punchy.

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The Rocky Horror Picture Show- one of the best films ever made. Do I wanna see fans try to outperform Tim Curry? No.

And this is what happened with The Room- attention whore audience members trying to outdo each other by shouting out lines, laughing at moments that weren’t funny either intentionally or unintentionally (not that you could tell a lot of the time as you couldn’t hear over the noise being made) and throwing plastic spoons at the screen (just don’t ask). It was all so contrived- ‘I read on Facebook that you do that kind of thing at this movie!’ Then in that case have a screening for your friends in your halls of residence TV room. Imagine the poor cinema usher having to pick up all of the plastic spoons that some privileged student arsewipes threw at the screen- and all in the name of mediocre cinema supported by those trying to be ‘ironic’ *gag*.

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My favourite scene from ‘The Room’- the end is in sight.

I have no problem with audience participation for some cult movies- as long as the cinema warns people beforehand that this is going to happen. This could be a trigger warning for non-millennials and people who just actually want to sit through the movie and be able to fucking hear it.

I think there should also be some screenings of films that have a tradition of ghastly audience participation where this kind of behaviour isn’t permitted. These screenings should be clearly advertised in advance. Cinema ushers should patrol the aisles with electric cattle prods or tasers so that one whiff of a plastic spoon and the perpetrator could be zapped and then ejected (into the care of the local police who would charge them with disorderly conduct no less).

Going to see a film doesn’t always have to be a case of buy your ticket, buy your snacks, find a seat, watch the film. It can also be a feat of showmanship where the fun isn’t confined to what goes on just on the screen. Think of William Castle and the genius gimmicks he used to to elevate an already brilliant film into a unique experience. John Waters was a Castle fan and used a gimmick himself- the Odorama card for his masterpiece Polyester. A number would appear on the screen in a certain scene and you’d scratch off the number on the Odorama scratch n sniff card you got when buying your ticket. Number 2 was exactly that- shit! This kind of showmanship was inspired, in most cases wasn’t done to detract from a dud of a film and the director was still calling the shots rather than some douchbag audience members trying to steal the limelight.

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‘Emergo’: A skeleton that flies above the audience unexpectedly during House on Haunted Hill (1959)

But whilst I love cult cinema and midnight movies, many of the legitimate examples of this genre have a quality in common that The Room will never possess- in many cases they’re brilliant movies that really are worthy of adoration by those touched by their genius.

The people who go to screenings of The Room and profess to be fans of the film are adherers to the adage that some films are ‘so bad they’re good’. I’ve written about that HERE. Why celebrate bad cinema? A cult film should be so good, its brilliant and so you feel the need to tell all and sundry about why thats so.

A couple of years ago the same cinema showed Pink Flamingos. The audience were the same as any other going to see a cult film at The Hyde Park Picturehouse- keen cineasts who know about the film being shown, fans of the film already but also that strong minority (usually students) who have heard about Pink Flamingos being a ‘cult’ film so it must be ‘really bad, right?!’ I’m a huge John Waters fan and was ready to stab anyone who dared to laugh at the film instead of with it. And you know what? There was not one titter, guffaw or groan at the film’s expense from the peanut gallery. The audience was united in being won over by this cinematice masterpiece. They laughed at all the right places and gagged at the appropriate scenes of filth too. The power of Pink Flamingos- it was shocking in the 70s and if anything, in these times of the youngsters of today being offended by everything and being of an ultra-sensitive disposition, its even more shocking. But its also riproariously funny- a quality which has converted even the most staunch cinema snob to Waters’ genius. ‘Jesus! That was actually brilliant!’ said one student to her friend on leaving the screening. Praise indeed.

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Pink Flamingos. Still the cult movie motherlode.

Please don’t resurrect any old piece of mediocre crap resplendent with bad acting and no plot and elevate it to cult status. Theres enough beige fare in popular culture as it is.

If you’re a fan of The Room you need to see more cult films- and good ones. If you’re a fan and go to screenings, throw plastic spoons at the screen, shout ‘Meanwhile, in San Francisco’ and try to dazzle fellow audience members with your wit, you’re a fucking tool.

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The Room- 1 star out of 5- because its something any film should never be- fucking boring.

No Homo: John McTiernan’s Predator (1987)

No Homo: <em>John McTiernan’s Predator</em> (1987)

I had the honour and privilege to be able to see Predator (1987) in 4K and on the big screen the other day. It felt like visiting an old friend.

Predator belongs in Arnie’s Imperial Phase which for my money runs from the Conan films up until Red Heat. At this time he was making action movies that defined the genre, pushed its boundaries but fully exploited their future status on the medium of video- in other words they were violent and gory as hell.

Predator works on so many different levels.

The film is the perfect example of a comic book come to life on celluloid. The film possesses the kind of exaggeration and imagination that normally couldn’t satisfactorily be translated to film. Predator shows that these forays into the surreal and its larger than life action sequences can be successfully conveyed. All of the characters could equally be seen in comic book panels as much as they could be on film. The film is so gung-ho that it feels like a war comic crossed with a shoot em up video game at times.

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The Predator’s thermal vision that the audience is privy to is also a comic book device.

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Another sequence that is reminiscent of a comic book is when Dillon’s arm is cut off but continues to fire a gun.

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Also, just as action and horror movies were massively successful on video in its infancy  and its growth as a medium, Predator combines elements of both genres and turns them up to 11. The sequence involving Dillon’s arm is a great example of a sequence that appeals to both action and horror fans.

In fact the film is extremely subversive as it starts as a jungle commando action vehicle but then suddenly changes direction. This could have failed to work and come across as forced and completely contrived if handled in the wrong way. But instead it works brilliantly.

The horror and more specifically the slasher conventions within Predator show that the film wasn’t just appealing to the fans of action movies. The Predator’s handiwork is shown as the jungle crew discover the skinned bodies of others hanging upside down. The crew soon find themselves to be the quarry rather than the hunters in the same way that a group of teenagers would be in a stalk n slash movie. They are easy meat.

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The film also contains the same kind of kills found in a slasher movie with skulls, intestines and exploding heads all featuring.

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Another slasher staple that features in Predator is the unmasking of the killer which of course prompts Dutch to exclaim ‘You are one ugly motherfucker!’ The unmasking sequence is especially a staple of the Friday 13th films in which Jason Voorhees is regularly unmasked to reveal his true face.

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A mug you wouldn’t chug- the unmasking of the predator

Predator also goes the extra mile when it comes to its action genre ingredients. There are guns and muscles aplenty. But where Predator tries to excel when it deals with these components, in doing so it instantly becomes very very homoerotic.

There must have been something distinctly gay in the air in some Hollywood quarters in 1986/7 as two other unintentionally/intentionally homoerotic films were also made around the same time- Top Gun and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge.

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The homoeroticism of Top Gun (1986) and
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A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1986)

In fact, Predator is so proudly masculine, homoerotic and therefore camp that to take any of these variants further would topple the film headlong into the genre of gay pornography.

It doesn’t take a lot for the ultra masculine to turn ultra homoerotic and camp. Let me illustrate- think of a clockface as representing all of the different variants of masculinity- 1 represents the camp, effete and effeminate (two examples are Quentin Crisp and Julian Clary) and 12 represents the ultra masculine, musclebound and testosterone soaked (Arnie, your average MMA fighter, the larger WWE wrestlers). There isn’t that much of a distance from 1 to 12 on the clockface is there? Also, just because a man might be camp or effeminate doesn’t mean that he isn’t without balls of steel. Do you think it was easy for Julian Clary and Quentin Crisp to be openly gay and effeminate when they first came to light in the public gaze? No- it took guts and moral fortitude. They are far from being submissive sissies. There are paradoxes at the more extreme positions on the clock.

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Whilst number 12 on the clockface is seen as the most masculine its also, paradoxically very camp and homoerotic also. The male who wishes to assert his masculinity more potently will build up his physique and muscles. To display this ‘uber masculinity’ he will expose his body more thus paradoxically instantly appeal to the some members of the same sex. He wants to accentuate his masculinity and has at the same time become more camp, desirable and homoerotic because of this.

This heady brew of the masculine and homoerotic is first seen in the film when Dutch comes across his old friend Dillon again. A handshake turns into an epic display of biceps and a very manly (and very camp) arm-wrestle. You could be forgiven that this is in fact some kind of 1980’s gay porno movie.

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The camera seems to relish and luxuriate upon the male cast in the film. There are many shots of gleaming muscles, sometimes clutching huge guns. Predator is a glistening, sweaty jerk-off fest for the gay gaze.

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The bead of sweat rolling down the ample chest of the character of Billy is one such example of this. The same character later on in the film decides to ‘take it like a man’ by slitting open his well built chest to prompt the predator out of hiding so that they can go one on one. Its a startling display of machismo that is instantly appealing to the action fan and those who are sexually aroused by such testosterone fuelled exhibitionism. ‘Taking it like a man’ means something very different in gay circles. The pitcher becomes receiver. He decides to ‘receive’ the alien.

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Within the film there is also the spectacle of the slow striptease of Dutch. Throughout the course of the film Arnold appears in varying degrees of undress and displays more flesh and more muscle. There is also an unbelievable shot when the crew arrive in the jungle. Dutch crawls through undergrowth with the camera just above his body as he does this, resplendent with an amazing shot of his arse. Ever wanted to know what it would be like to be on top of the film’s lead character? The camera realises this for the spectator.

Arnold’s striptease cumulates with his character covered in mud (!) with a lit torch in one hand and giving a manly bellow to the heavens to alert the alien that he is ready for battle. Man vs alien- and no ugly extra-terrestrial is going to kick Arnie’s alpha-male butt. Whilst this scene is intended not only to signify the potency of the masculinity on display its also the ultimate in homoeroticism and camp iconography- a distillation of the whole film in one sequence.

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Theres also the bromance/relationship between Mac and Blain. After Blain is killed there is a palpable longing on the part of Mac which suggests that he misses him for being more than just a fellow soldier. This pining between two male characters is reminiscent of Peter being distraught by the passing of Roger in George A Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. Or the ending of Brokeback Mountain. Yes, nothing gay here.

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Male longing- Brokeback Mountain

In fact Blain recalls the ‘macho man’ archetype in the same way that The Village People’s leather-clad biker does- moustache, sexually potent (Blaine describes himself as a ‘sexual tyrannosaurus’), whilst looking down on others who aren’t as masculine. Blaine refers to those people as ‘slack jawed faggots’ the way a leather fan might look down on the camper constituents of his community. Also, notice the use of the word ‘faggots’- Blaine doth protest too much. Or hes just trying to deflect from the obvious conclusions.

With the character of Blaine there also the issue of guns, the size of those guns and the ‘gun as phallus/symbol of manhood’ baggage that is imbued with such imagery. Just as Blaine has stated that he is a ‘sexual tyrannosaurus’ he qualifies this with the gun he carries- a huge gun that can fire countless bullets at once and has a barrel that rotates as its doing this. Blaine calls the gun ‘Old Painless’ and at one point says that its time to bring it out of its bag. This recalls the way a man might say its time to ‘unleash the beast’. Never has a gun represented a penis so obviously.

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Blain and his impressive weapon

Also within the film there seems to be a celebration of gun size as an extension of manhood for each character. There are many shots of gleaming muscles and equally huge guns held proudly by each character. Theres also the incredible scene in which the muscled components of the crew fire their guns into the jungle when they happen to see the alien. The scene goes on for way too long, prompting the audience to question why this is. A joyous piece of action genre abandon? A display of unabashed masculinity? Or the film’s equivalent of a circle jerk? This scene is as close as the film can come to each character having his cock out to show who really is King Dong.

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The Predator circle jerk

In fact the film early on introduces a female character into the proceedings to seemingly try to stop the film being a solely male musclefest. Shes also introduced to make the film homosocial- a female distraction from the otherwise all male action and to show that, ”y’know, we’re not actually faggots or nuthin’ ”.

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Predator’s all male cast. Nothing gay here.

Anna Gonsalves however isn’t the kind of weak and spineless female character who requires a man to save her from any encroaching danger. She is resourceful and an equal. She spends her formative scenes trying to escape from the crew but then is seen as someone more than willing to pitch in to save herself and the lives of the others in the crew from the predator. She is self-sufficent and with this all male crew, thats pretty much for the best. Saving women would take away from their self-love and exhibitionism.

Ultimately what was Predator’s demographic and who it was made for- the laydeez? Of course not. It was made for male action and horror fans. This vehicle of muscles and macho posturing with the odd splatter scene was made for men. It makes the film even gayer/homoerotic.

Even the behind the scenes stills from Predator were homoerotic. Hers a picture of Arnie holding a huge snake.

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But whilst most of society was a homophobic cesspit when Predator was released the world seems to have changed since. Homophobia is thankfully being seen as unjust, outdated and as never being valid in the first place. Arnie is now a successful Republican politician. Whilst everyone was celebrating the amendment that allowed Gay Marriage in America people on Facebook were changing their profile pictures so that they had a rainbow flag filter. Arnie did the same. Most welcomed this. However some old school action fans did not. Arnie’s comeback was epic.

Things really were changing. Just as Arnie was finally embracing gay marriage and equality, was it possible that he knew that Predator was in fact a homoerotic musclefest all along? It would be great if someone from the Predator crew came forward to say that that this was actually the intention. Just imagine the uproar!