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“This Town Exists Apparently Just to Write Speeding Tickets"
March 10, 2014 1:44 PM   Subscribe

The small town of Hampton, Florida (pop. 477), is facing disincorporation after a state audit discovered massive irregularities in its finances and records. The audit was triggered by the excessive ticketing practices linked to the town's notorious speed trap on a corridor of U.S. 301. As The New York Times reports, between 2011 and 2012 the Hampton police (many of whom were essentially irregular volunteers) issued 12,698 speeding tickets to motorists on the 301 corridor.

Hampton's local notoriety dates back to the 1990s, when AAA designated it and its neighboring towns, Waldo and Lawtey, as speed traps.

In late 2013, the mayor-elect of Hampton, Barry Moore, was arrested on charges of Oxycodone possession with intent to distribute.

The state's move to disincorporate Hampton may be a bit redundant given the resignation of the town's acting mayor, chief of police, and essentially the entire city government following discoveries that "the city...had for years kept shoddy records of expenses, left 46 percent of its water unaccounted for, employed 17 police officers to generate more than $200,000 in speeding tickets but failing to keep track of where all those revenues went, entered into contracts without records -- and even lost public records 'in a swamp.'"

As Republican state senator Rob Bradley remarks, "It's like something out of a Southern Gothic novel."
posted by kewb (74 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
That whole area is pretty nuts. Nearby Kingsley Lake used to be home to the most insane waterpark in the state, Strickland's Landing, which featured a series of 30-foot dive platforms in about 6 feet of water. If you angled your body right it was possible to jump off of a platform and hit the soft lake bottom just hard enough that your feet got sucked in to the mud and you had to dig them out before you drowned (but not hard enough that you broke anything).

God I loved that place.
posted by saladin at 1:55 PM on March 10 [24 favorites]


And when anyone complained to the city about the dealings there, their water was turned off.

And a fledgling dictatorship gets whacked...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 1:56 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Hampton is right in the middle of Lawtey and Waldo, so this comes as no surprise. That stretch of 301 is bananas.
posted by phunniemee at 1:58 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Is this pink square with an appendage the city limits? Because that alone screams PROBLEM to me.
posted by Big_B at 1:58 PM on March 10 [24 favorites]


Big_B: “Is this pink square with an appendage the city limits? Because that alone screams PROBLEM to me.”

That's discussed in the article:
Traffic fines were by far the chief source of revenue in a city with two gas station convenience stores and only scrapings of property taxes. In fact, Jim Mitzel, 50, a former mayor who left office in 2008 after a conflict with the police chief and the city clerk, said he helped Hampton annex the tiny slice of 301 in the mid-1990s simply to help fill city coffers. “This town has struggled financially for years and years,” Mr. Mitzel said. “But once we got 301, our chief went crazy.
posted by koeselitz at 2:01 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


Shades of New Rome.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 2:04 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Years ago I was stopped for speeding in a small Texas hamlet I later learned was a notorious speed trap, and which I will call "Wildwood Ridge" for the sake of the story ("Ridge" is correct). I was young and cocky, and for once did not have any pot on me in the truck, so when Officer Bubba came up to my window and said "did you know you were weaving, sir?" I replied:

"Yes, officer, I was just weaving Wildwood Widge."

$200, albeit more money in 1992 when I was a much poorer musician, was a small price to pay for the mileage I've gotten out of that story since. And for the look on his red face.
posted by spitbull at 2:08 PM on March 10 [80 favorites]


Rewated Fworida wabbit humor.
posted by spitbull at 2:11 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


Tee hee! The family finds itself on 301 about half a dozen times a year, so this news delights me to no end. Watch out, Waldo!
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 2:16 PM on March 10


Old school! South Georgia and Florida used to be plagued with speed trap towns, especially before I-75 was finished.
posted by thelonius at 2:18 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


Not limited to Florida.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:18 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Can't we just 'disincorporate' the entire state and give it the same status as Guam?

It's a deal, as long as you're willing to take all of your old people back.
posted by saladin at 2:19 PM on March 10 [16 favorites]


Is this supposed to be unusual for Florida the South?
posted by telstar at 2:20 PM on March 10


"Begin the invasion!" said Canada.
posted by srboisvert at 2:26 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Can't we just 'disincorporate' the entire state and give it the same status as Guam?

I'm in favor of just giving it back to Spain.
posted by Aizkolari at 2:29 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


kewb: "issued 12,698 speeding tickets to motorists on the 301 corridor."

For two whole blocks, the speed limit drops from 65 to 55, and "cops" (I use the term loosely) issued over 12,000 tickets to people over two years? Holy crap. That's 16-17 tickets per day, every day for two years. Yeesh.
posted by zarq at 2:30 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


How about not giving it "back" to Spain, but "back" to the Seminole tribe. It was theirs.
posted by spitbull at 2:31 PM on March 10 [35 favorites]


Also, is there a higher authority people could complain to after being threatened to have their water shut off?
posted by zarq at 2:32 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


the most insane waterpark in the state, Strickland's Landing

OMG, I had forgotten about that place. The zip lines were amazing (but IIRC, we couldn't use those in drought years.) How has it been closed for over 10 years now? I feel so old.

And yeah, one of the highlights of any road trips in that vicinity was making damn sure you set the cruise control well under the posted speed limits if you had it, and if not, delegating a passenger or two to help you watch your speedometer and for any nearby police.
posted by asperity at 2:33 PM on March 10


spitbull, haven't the Seminole people suffered enough?
posted by blnkfrnk at 2:37 PM on March 10 [26 favorites]


Also, is there a higher authority people could complain to after being threatened to have their water shut off?

In my experience that's usually something you complain to the city inspector about, unless your state has really robust landlord tenant laws(which are usually beefed up by the city laws to actually do much good anyways). A lot of times you really only have a lot of protection if you're renting.

And, even if you did, you know they're going to drag their feet on it and all the court bullshit with the state or whatever is still going to mean you have no water for a couple months.

Reminds me of fights i'd get in with landlords for not paying the garbage company to pick up my garbage, or not replacing a broken fridge. The law says XYZ time must be dealt with, but in reality you just have piles of garbage or no fridge for long enough that you end up just dealing with it yourself. And yes, i've seen this happen to someone with water. Ugh.
posted by emptythought at 2:37 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


New Rome is indeed a bizarre story... [they raised] nearly $400,000 gross annually from speeding tickets, but primarily vehicle citations, including trivial offenses such as dusty taillights and improperly tinted windows. Nearly all of this money was funneled back into the police force, which almost exclusively dealt with traffic violations and so essentially existed to fund itself. The 60-resident village had as many as 14 policemen (all part-time), with the Village Council wanting more.

Reading that, I realized that all you have to do is scale up this kind of crazy operation up by one order of magnitude, and embed it within a municipal or county law enforcement operation. Makes it a lot easier to graduate from speeding tickets into the big money: seizures and asset forfeiture.
posted by crapmatic at 2:42 PM on March 10 [8 favorites]


augusta drive in augusta MI

up until about a year ago, there was a cop who could just about always be found there, waiting for eastbound traffic to prematurely speed up from 35 to 55 - he was also notorious for giving people tickets because they didn't wait 5 seconds to move from a stop sign, which he said was "running a stop sign"

one winter night, he started after a speeder and wiped out on a patch of ice, ending up in a ditch - the end result was the local media had a field day, his odd little rule about stop signs was ridiculed and he lost his job - traffic enforcement is somewhat less zealous now in augusta, although i'd still wait to go past the 55 mph sign to speed up, just to make sure
posted by pyramid termite at 2:45 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


crapmatic: Makes it a lot easier to graduate from speeding tickets into the big money: seizures and asset forfeiture.

So, you mean Utah or Texas or Tennessee, or, um, Tennessee?
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:46 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Actually, if they keep on the path they're headed, the Seminole tribe might end up buying back large pieces of Florida. Best thing that could happen to the place.
posted by spitbull at 2:52 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]


I'm sorry but in my opinion Florida can use all the traffic enforcement it can get. Double the number of cops on the road I say.

Except in Miami. Triple cops for Miami
posted by fshgrl at 2:55 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


I once got a ticket there just for passing through using Google maps.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 3:02 PM on March 10 [9 favorites]


Locally collected fines really, really need to not go to local governments. Collect them into a giant pile at the national level and distribute it evenly to all taxpayers every year. No incentive to fine anyone except for punishment.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:04 PM on March 10 [20 favorites]


i once got a ticket there for folding my map too fast
posted by pyramid termite at 3:04 PM on March 10 [11 favorites]


Texas is famous for little town speeding traps, so much so that in 1975 the lege passed a law capping speeding ticket revenues for small towns at 30% of total town revenue. Other states cap ticket revenues too. It's not clear these caps really work though.

San Francisco has long moved towards automobile tickets as a significant source of revenue. Mostly parking tickets. An expired meter, for instance, is $74. I'm surprised the city hasn't been more aggressive with red light cameras.
posted by Nelson at 3:34 PM on March 10


This isn't isolated to the South - lots of little towns in Eastern Washington State, Idaho, and elsewhere in the West do this. Colfax WA is a fine example...
posted by stenseng at 3:37 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


...nepotism at City Hall. Jane Hall, the former city clerk, is the mother of the former maintenance operator, Adam Hall, who also ran the water system, and the wife of Charles Hall, a longtime city councilman. Her daughter also worked there for a short time. “I called it, the City of Halls,” Mr. Mitzel added.



Councilman Frantz Innocent said a lack of staff and “oversight” was part of the problem. “We are just trying to fix things that happened,” he said. “If you want to go poking around looking for something, you can always find something wrong.”

You can't make this stuff up, folks.
posted by lostburner at 3:41 PM on March 10 [9 favorites]


Fucking Florida dude. Say what you will about the tenets of Texan nationalism, at least it's an ethos.

The fly-blown metropolis of Selma, just north of San Antonio, ran their entire city budget off of snagging "speeders" on I-35. The judge and court house were always in session and happy to see you. Just be sure to bring your wallet...
posted by jim in austin at 3:49 PM on March 10


The city of Harpersville, AL tried taking this to the next level. With public/private partnership! It was, as one might have foreseen, a Kakaesque nightmare working as an extortion scheme.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 4:00 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]


I once got a ticket for giving someone directions through there.


They called it "Aiding and Abetting."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:26 PM on March 10 [6 favorites]


There are speed traps in a ton of suburbs in Dallas. Recently a man was charged (and later released) when he stood in the median holding a sign that read "POLICE AHEAD!" in Frisco. He was arrested for violating a sign ordinance of all things. The charges were eventually dropped.
posted by Benway at 4:32 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Imagine driving down a 4 lane highway at 65 mph and all of sudden the speed drops to 55 and then 45 and then 35 within a quarter mile. The speed then remains 35 for one mile and then gradually goes back up to 65. All so some redneck cops can write an insane number of speeding tickets. Everyone who drives that stretch of 301 has at least one ticket from one of those "towns."

As someone who has to drive through those 3 little shit towns several times a year (just last week as a matter of fact) I wish someone would nuke them from orbit and salt the ground where they once stood.
posted by photoslob at 4:48 PM on March 10 [6 favorites]


Except in Miami. Triple cops for Miami

still not enough
posted by photoslob at 4:52 PM on March 10


The town of Sherwood, OR, is on 99W and used to do exactly the same thing. The highway was posted 55 MPH, and then just as it got to Sherwood the speed dropped to something like 25, and the town cop caught a lot of speeders there. (I don't have any idea whether they still do.)

I imagine there are quite a few places like that in the country.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 4:59 PM on March 10


Fucking Colfax WA.

$90 for 5 mph over, and the officer threatened to draw his gun on my dog.
posted by The Power Nap at 5:10 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


There are some grey areas here though. Find me any major city that does not contain 25 / 35 mph roads that seamlessly become higher speed highways somewhere near the boundary of the city. Should we just move all the roads so they don't go through small towns? Should smaller towns simply accept high speed traffic? Speed limits should go down where people live.
posted by idiopath at 5:15 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Colfax is a hell hole.
posted by Uncle at 5:19 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


Speed limits should go down where people live.

You need to check out the google maps link to the town on question, then.
posted by PMdixon at 5:19 PM on March 10 [7 favorites]


This another of those bizarre "only in the USA" moments. Why on earth are small towns having their own police forces, and issuing their own speeding fines? You've really got some fucked up ideas about normal government and governance.
posted by wilful at 5:34 PM on March 10 [11 favorites]


Shit. I got a ticket in the mail just now for visiting the site.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:37 PM on March 10 [7 favorites]


saladin: "Can't we just 'disincorporate' the entire state and give it the same status as Guam?

It's a deal, as long as you're willing to take all of your old people back.
"

You're gonna miss their money.
posted by IAmBroom at 5:42 PM on March 10


There's a whole string of speed trap towns along 301. The speed limit goes from 65 to 45 to 25 in the space of a few miles, and you can bet there's a cop car sitting and waiting for you, day or night, because it's essentially the only way the town can earn money. A bit down the road from Hampton is a town called Waldo, outside of which I once spotted 1) a billboard warning in extra-large font of the upcoming speed trap, seemingly paid for by a disgruntled ticket-receiver and 2) a retaliatory billboard further down the road proclaiming that Waldo is "more than a speed trap town".

As a former ticket-receiver myself, let me be the first to shed absolutely no tears for this miserable town.
posted by dephlogisticated at 6:01 PM on March 10 [5 favorites]


...the officer threatened to draw his gun on my dog.

Was your dog packing?
posted by sneebler at 6:08 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


We have many towns like this in Colorado, like Empire, which I think maybe has some other reason for existing but seems to primarily just be a shit-hole that you warn people about when making a simple drive to Berthoud pass...they think they're such badasses too, like hey, we put our main street right on a fucking highway and you need to slow down ya'll, city folk! Fuck your town, salt the earth like someone said. The residents can live wild in the mountains, because they're tough mountain people ya hear.
posted by lordaych at 6:11 PM on March 10 [1 favorite]


'Kakaesque nightmare' is a description that should be reserved for parents of newborns.
posted by Killick at 6:15 PM on March 10 [4 favorites]


...the officer threatened to draw his gun on my dog.

Cool. So he was, like, an artist?
posted by hal9k at 6:19 PM on March 10 [11 favorites]


'Kakaesque nightmare' is a description that should be reserved for parents of newborns.

I think you mean caca-esque.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:44 PM on March 10


My fiancé is from Florida originally, and we've driven that stretch a number of times. Luckily, being a native, he knows all about the speed traps. Once, when we entered Starke, we of course slowed down to whatever the sign said. All of a sudden, we were being tailgated aggressively by some jerk who was clearly frothing at the mouth at having to deal with our slow pace. I believe it was some decked-out pickup truck. The driver seemed about ready to actually place his hood inside our trunk, and kept edging ever closer, and I was starting to worry. We wouldn't go any faster, obviously. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an unmarked car with tinted windows parked just off a side street. Finally, we came to a light that had turned yellow and was a millisecond away from red. We decided to stop. The driver behind us couldn't stand it anymore and whipped around us, barreling through the now-red light, taking off like a shot, as if his truck were blaring "SUCKERS!!!" in macho triumph.

Exactly two seconds later, the car with tinted windows had pulled him over and was busily issuing a ticket as we trundled past on our merry way.

So, on one hand, speed traps are awful and stupid. On the other hand, I may never see such a satisfying display of instant karma (truckma?) again in my life.
posted by ilana at 7:53 PM on March 10 [18 favorites]


Hell, I got pulled over in Russell, Kansas for driving exactly the speed limit.

(...and being three-quarters Mediterranean, having a two-week beard, and driving a plain-white SUV...)
posted by notsnot at 7:54 PM on March 10 [2 favorites]


Doesn't matter how you spell it, it's still poop.
posted by spitbull at 7:54 PM on March 10


If you drive exactly the speed limit when everyone around is 10-20 over, they pull you over because they think you're high on cheeba.
posted by spitbull at 7:55 PM on March 10


Exactly two seconds later, the car with tinted windows had pulled him over and was busily issuing a ticket as we trundled past on our merry way.

Something similar happened to me, except it was one of those jackasses who goes slow until you try to pass, then speeds up. I think I passed him (and he passed me) four times before he went on to torment someone else. I forget if it was Starke or Waldo where I saw him pulled over.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:08 PM on March 10


In case y'all haven't seen it, this maht be a good time to remind y'all of that wacky gothic comedy film Nothing But Trouble. Akroyd stars as "Judge Alvin 'J.P' Valkenheiser", along with John Candy, Chevy Chase.

A $40M budget and $8M box office suggests this film was underseen. One of the strangest movies to come out of the SNL crew - but well-pointed.
posted by Twang at 8:10 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


zarq: "That's 16-17 tickets per day, every day for two years."

Looked at that way that seems like serious under achievement; an 8 hour shift is only averaging a ticket every 30 minutes.
posted by Mitheral at 9:34 PM on March 10


Makes it a lot easier to graduate from speeding tickets into the big money: seizures and asset forfeiture.

Previously: The Use and Abuse of Civil Forfeiture
posted by homunculus at 10:12 PM on March 10


Looked at that way that seems like serious under achievement; an 8 hour shift is only averaging a ticket every 30 minutes.

I guess it depends on the through traffic. It sounds like they were targeting football game fans passing through during the season.

But yeah, the podunk town just north of me managed to rack up $800,000 from speeders in one year, but they were on a busy Interstate.
For comparison, my town, which is literally 100x the size, got about $2.5 million in the same year.
posted by madajb at 10:42 PM on March 10


Wasn't this the plot driver of Convoy? Time for the remake with SUVs and Twitter...
posted by Devonian at 2:49 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


In case y'all haven't seen it, this maht be a good time to remind y'all of that wacky gothic comedy film Nothing But Trouble. Akroyd stars as "Judge Alvin 'J.P' Valkenheiser", along with John Candy, Chevy Chase.

Not only is that movie amazing in general and just fucking bizarre, but it also features a completely awesome performance by 2pac and digital underground.

I have at least once referenced the judge jamming out on that organ as what it felt like my organs had gone through during a truly epic hangover.
posted by emptythought at 3:43 AM on March 11 [3 favorites]


Kakaesque nightmare

Oops. Sorry for the spelling error. I thought I previewed for errors, but I'm nursing a broken arm and all hopped up on goofballs.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:21 AM on March 11


Around where I live, warning of speedtrap towns has gotten routine. What bothers me more is that we also have to give some friends different driving directions to our place to avoid the town with the habit of pulling folks over for DWB.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:15 AM on March 11


they think they're such badasses too, like hey, we put our main street right on a fucking highway and you need to slow down ya'll, city folk! Fuck your town, salt the earth like someone said. The residents can live wild in the mountains, because they're tough mountain people ya hear.

Nobody here is saying that.

The practice of rapid and poorly-signed speed changes for the express purpose of creating revenue for the town is the problem here. Plus, the stretch of 301 being ticketed here should in no way at all be construed as part of the town, except as a legal fiction.

Apart from the bizarre idea that these tiny little towns would have their own police forces (seriously it makes literally no sense at all to do this; most towns in Ontario are policed by the Ontario Provincial Police, partly because police are expensive but the overall expense can be distributed), this speaks to that very American "taxes are evil" mentality. A town that can afford its own police force should have the tools to raise enough tax revenue to fund itself without having to rely on fining people to balance the books. If you're not big enough to do that, you're not big enough to have a police force--the state should be providing that service. I'm not saying speed traps don't exist in Ontario, because they definitely do, and the exact same point about funding applies to them too.

In case y'all haven't seen it, this maht be a good time to remind y'all of that wacky gothic comedy film Nothing But Trouble. Akroyd stars as "Judge Alvin 'J.P' Valkenheiser", along with John Candy, Chevy Chase.

Fuck it, I've had that movie on my shelf for years, this is like the third time in ten days someone has said something about it.

I'm going to watch this thing. Give me strength.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:00 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


Charlie Pierce: The Place Where Government Goes To Die
...[T]here is a lot more to the story beyond the fact that the people involved in it seem to be living in a Carl Hiassen novel. There are thousands of Hamptons around the country -- little cities in which the tax base has shrunk to nearly nothing, and full of people who simply have given up on politics -- and therefore self-government -- because they have decided that there is no point to it any more. And, sadly, there is an entire portion of our political class that makes a living telling those people in those places that they're right to have given up, that democracy is for suckers, and that Government is something alien to them. There no longer is a consensus that the primary job of being a citizen is to participate in governing, and that consensus was deliberately shattered over the last 30 years, mainly in the interest of shoving the nation's wealth upwards, and increasing private profits at the expense of the public good. In that climate, in which the voters have declined to participate in a government they consider alien to themselves, it's easy to see how an amoral and criminal class of politician can rise. If government is an Other, a thing to be pillaged, there will be people who involve themselves in government for the purposes of pillaging it. The only difference between the three full-time employees of the city of Hampton and the politician-lobbyist revolving door on K Street is a better class of shoes.
posted by zombieflanders at 9:22 AM on March 11 [6 favorites]


PMDixon: no argument that speed traps exist and this is one. I'm just saying not every town with a reduced speed limit is a speed trap.
posted by idiopath at 9:30 AM on March 11


As a lifelong native of Washington state, I must agree: fuck Colfax.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:49 AM on March 11 [1 favorite]


While my point stands, I made a mistake.

I got my Ticked for "55 in a 50 mph zone" in Othello WA.

So, in summary, as a Cougar F-U Colfax, as someone who's family lived in Western Washington F-U Othello.
posted by The Power Nap at 1:44 PM on March 11


Wow, how the hell does colfax come up in like 6 posts on mefi in a thread?

multiple people i know have stories about that place. Apparently if you're driving through downtown there's a GTA with 4 stars amount of cops just CONSTANTLY circling around too, trying to catch anyone rolling a stop sign even slightly or anything.

My friends dad, who has anger issues and hates the police, drove like 4-5mph through the entire place with like 3 cops following him without their lights on or anything. Apparently they followed him WAY out of town even though he technically followed every traffic law, and is a normal looking business-casual dressed white guy driving a normal looking jeep.

This could really be a discussion about the bullshit that small town cops are/can be, and how as said above there should be no such thing as a small town police force. I can seriously only think of negative experiences, and that's not because the bad ones are more memorable than the good... but because there are no good ones i can remember. It's 100% "Pick up that can" short-cocked power play abusive bullshit.

I mean, i almost got booked once for pushing a shopping cart i found in the road down the sidewalk. Someone could have wrecked their car on that shit, and i picked it up and started pushing it and intended to leave it somewhere that was actually safe. I was also carrying a 35~lb rabbit(the largest i've ever seen) which i had popped in the cart because goddamn.

I think that may be the only time a cop has ever yelled "PICK UP THE RABBIT AND PLACE THE SHOPPING CART ON IT'S SIDE SIR, OR YOU'RE GOING TO JAIL". He seriously wanted to charge me with felony theft of the cart, and when he realized that wouldn't stick said in the most smarmy voice "Well, hows possession of stolen property sound? I'm sure we can come up with something".

Fuckin boonie cops, man.
posted by emptythought at 3:09 PM on March 11 [1 favorite]


Dukes of Hazzard was a Cautionary Tale.

The pull-quote from the Esquire story above illustrates it so concisely it's painful.
posted by tomierna at 4:34 PM on March 11


I think that may be the only time a cop has ever yelled "PICK UP THE RABBIT AND PLACE THE SHOPPING CART ON IT'S SIDE SIR, OR YOU'RE GOING TO JAIL".

he'll do you up a treat, mate
posted by pyramid termite at 5:16 PM on March 12 [1 favorite]


A $40M budget and $8M box office suggests this film was underseen.

Does it? I dunno... I don't usually find that big money box office flops are great movies, not as a rule anyway. Who says that?

"Well, it was a disaster at the box office, but they spent so much making the dang thing it would be impossible for the movie to break even. It's like a... vanity project for someone, maybe a second-rate cast member from the original SNL, famous by proximity to actually funny people; plus he did some bit with a bass in a blender that was alright... It's like he wrote some demented screenplay where all the elements are in place, big name stars, big production and promotion, and within 20 minutes people are so disturbed by the makeup and deplorable behavior they become ill and flee the theaters in terror and disbelief, the fools! Don't they know how much blow Dan was inhaling in those days? They paid residuals in Peruvian flake... Don't people know how expensive a cocaine fueled comedy was to get finished in the '80s? This tells me that people aren't in tune with the costs of production. It's always the same, the producers were correct in their investments- they must've snorted through an eight ball just writing the treatment, so you know no expense was to great in service to laughter and mountains of cash and all that delicious uncut coca, and audiences were wrong and probably not doing lines beforehand, and just didn't get it. And now you know why Dan Aykroyd still thinks the Blues Brothers are just fine and super funny without John Belushi, and why he has taken up hunting for UFOs in earnest. That's right: He's rich, coked up and fucking crazy! Bam! Bass-o-matic! We're talking quality here guys...

"So... It's in my queue and ready to play... hey, everyone get them rails snorted or your junk smacked up or call your sponsor or whatever it takes for you to prepare to be dazzled, entertained, and ultimately shamed by the costly spectacle about to play before your very eyes! Waterworld it is!"

One of the strangest movies to come out of the SNL crew - but well-pointed.

I mean... It looked like maybe a good premise, and the first time I saw it years ago (yes, in the theater), I had a feeling it would be great (because Fletch, plus I was a kid) ... until it became clear in the first act that this is a comedy backwoods haunted house concept without any sympathetic characters to be found, and not funny like Scream nor anything like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, except for the incest. Hey, if it's a social taboo with an excess of inbred recessive genetics, and if it makes the audience feel like they're getting a two hour wet willie on Uncle Ernie's lap as a full grown adult sitting on a very old man who smells of trains and hot dogs and simmering lust and white boy cocaine blues and dementia... Dan Aykroyd knows comedy gold when he sees it!

Oh yeah, I guess it starts out with a small town speed trap, which is the mcguffin, so citizens of Hampton take note: Don't let the guy with more money and blow than sense take over your town and start ticketing tourists and enslaving them, because it involves model trains and hot dogs and moats and inbreeding. And no matter what you do, don't let him play his harmonica, and for the sake of us all, under no circumstances are you to tell him you'd like to read his screenplay... It's a trap!
posted by krinklyfig at 12:13 PM on March 13 [1 favorite]


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