SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU GOT ‘EM
Australia, 1988, Ray Boseley
Apart from their lead singer Ian “Quinsy” McLean, Blue Ruin’s actual members are replaced with actors. In fact dying on the drums is Kenny director Clayton Jacobson.
Divided into 6 irreverent parts (7 if you include the prologue), Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em is a very short feature film or a very long short film. Either way, it’s 48 minutes of mayhem and morons.
It begins with a blast – literally and figuratively – when a sleepy bearded bloke (John Flaus) awakes to his clock radio warning him of a nuclear strike in 2 minutes time. Before said bloke realises the gravitas of the situation, he dies in Ray Harryhausen-esque stop motion animated death. It is a bloody great opening.
I wasn’t planning to watch the film at the time, but after I witnessed that I had to see more.
When the scavenging threesome (Fred Dugina, Maddog Bott and Danny Lillford) stumble upon the subterranean bunker, instead of being met with hostility they are invited in by the grinning, good-time host, Rob Howard. As the back of the VHS cover states, inside “There’s a band, booze, sex, drugs and fifty sweat-soaked revelers partying like there is no tomorrow… which there isn’t.”
The trio attempt to blend into the chaos, seeking out answers, pointless first-aid and the aforementioned microwaved meal.
Among the end-of-the-world celebrators is a selection of goofs, a pompous artist, a doting nurse (Polly Croke) and this bespectacled bozo (John F. Howard) who is ridiculously-desperate for a dance.
Once radiation poisoning soaks in, party-folk continue to cark it, the vomit starts flowing and a harsh reality rears its ugly head. But before that happens, the rebel-rousers bust into the next door bunker, disturbing an uptight party-pooping neighour (Bill Johnston).
This was an unexpected plot point. Well that is if you don’t read the “Part Three – Invite The Neighbours” title card, like I didn’t.
The film concludes with the party’s host (Rob Howard) and his best bud (played by Nique Needles) escaping the bunker to watch the world plummet to its second death. This is how to die in an apocalypse:
The plot is thin, there isn’t a clear protagonist, and the bigness of some of the performances get a tad grating. But apart from those minor quibbles, Smoke ‘Em If Got ‘Em is a brief but boisterous treat. It is littered with rocking Blue Ruin tunes, contains dark, cartoonish humour and features some superb production design.
The writer/director/editor, Ray Boseley went on to write and direct a bunch of children’s television shows. Including the hilarious Whirly Derfish episode from the kid’s show Round the Twist. Where young Bronson swallows a whirly derfish that causes his penis to turn into a propeller… Kid’s TV at its finest.