Putting On Lipstick

  • videoarchives
  • November 22, 2022

Never trust an experimental musician on today’s triple-feature episode of The Video Archives Podcast! Quentin, Roger & Gala take on Lamont Johnson’s queasy revenge-o-matic Lipstick, before getting into the ring with Henry Winkler in 1978’s showbiz/wrestling comedy The One And Only. Finally, they’ll dive into the nuclear muck to behold the Venice-Beach-set monster time capsule Slithis. I’ve got VHS boxes, film facts, and – yes – the Slithis Survival Kit on Counter Talk today, so let’s start breaking it all down…

We don’t always release Video Archives episodes in the order we recorded them – in this case, however, Quentin really wanted to follow his critiques of Mariel Hemingway’s performance in Star 80 with a film that shows her acting gifts. She’s genuinely revelatory in Lipstick, her first film role; her naturalism grounds the heightened horror of the film’s most dramatic scenes, making it all more sickeningly real. She also has such a lived-in bond with her real-life sister Margeaux, both of the storied Hemingway family. Mariel and Margeaux struggled with their mental health on and off throughout their life, and it’s poignant to see their connection on-screen even when their characters are suffering. (I highly recommend Karina Longworth’s look at the sisters’ lives on her show You Must Remember This.)

The Paramount VHS release of Lipstick is as starkly designed as a makeup ad; if you don’t pay attention to the ambiguously violent scene in the lower right, or the bullet in the title, you might miss what kind of film this is entirely:

I loved learning more about Henry Winkler’s short film career in Quentin & Roger’s discussion of Carl Reiner’s The One And Only. After the film didn’t leave much of an impression with audiences, Winkler only appeared in one other movie before 1996 - his Happy Days buddy Ron Howard’s directorial debut, Night Shift. He’s talked in interviews about the pain of being typecast as The Fonz during these years, which left him out of work as an actor for about a decade. It’s wonderful to see Winkler’s late career renaissance on shows like Barry, but The One And Only gives us a glimpse of the movie star run he could have had.

The One And Only, like Lipstick, comes in one of the classic Paramount fold-open boxes Roger loves so much, with a charmingly simple design (even if it’s hard to make out that’s Winkler in his blonde stage wig and finery) and movie stills on the back:

And if you’re wondering why these are called “fold-open” boxes, here’s The One And Only in all its unfolded glory…

Our final film of the episode is one part creature feature, two parts invaluable documentary of Venice hipsters circa 1978. (Yes, the turtle races at Brennan’s really are still happening.) Roger (and IMDB) insist this film ought to be called “Spawn Of The Slithis,” but at Counter Talk the VHS box is always the final authority, so we’ll simply refer to it as “Slithis.”

The Media Home Video box proudly notes Slithis was nominated for two awards by the “Sci-Fi Horror Academy” – are you surprised to learn that when I Google “Sci-Fi Horror Academy” I only get references to Slithis?

Now, this next item is probably the coolest piece of movie ephemera I’ve had the chance to showcase in this newsletter - from Quentin’s collection, I’ve got a copy of one of the “Slithis Survival Kit” booklets distributed to patrons of the film in 1978. Let’s go through this incredible document page by page:

Here’s the front cover - it’s a few inches square, featuring a photocopy of the poster and instructions inside. (As ‘survival kits’ go it’s pretty slim - no iodide capsules, no MREs, no flare gun…)

On the first page is a shocking revelation - Slithis, the vengeful reptilian product of nuclear runoff, doesn’t want to eat me or kill me, he just wants my adulation! Like the Angel of Death at Passover, his reign of terror will skip over my house as long as I keep a picture of him under my pillow.

Slithis is a bit like Frankenstein’s monster - he didn’t ask to be created, and he can’t help his terrifying appearance. More than anything, he wants my pledge that I’ll raise Slithis awareness in my neighborhood, and help fellow humans understand he’s actually a harmless little fella:

Finally, the back has instructions to get your Slithis photo and membership card. I don’t have either of these even more uncommon curiosities - if you do, please send us the proof!

I always love when Video Archives leads movie fans to check out titles they wouldn’t have otherwise given a shot. Found on the Video Archives Reddit, here’s popular film TikToker @movieboyguy talking about Star 80 after our last episode. If you’re talking about Video Archives films on TikTok or elsewhere online, let us know!

In this week’s Merch Spotlight, Video Archives listener Kina Manahan says “I proudly wore the hat to a fitting for Minx (I’m a background actor). Can’t wait to get the holiday sweater and other merch. Thank you so much for offering such awesome, high quality merch!”

That’s it for this week’s newsletter! Next week we’ve got a great follow-up After Show with more on Chris Sarandon’s career, Andy Schmidt’s exploits, and the adventures of Preston, Bunky and Jeff. Until then, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, rate and review us on Apple and Amazon, and see you next week for more Counter Talk!