CANNON MONTH 2: Mack the Knife (1989)

I was in the middle of watching Mack the Knife and wondered, “Why is this movie so absolutely deranged?” and then I realized, “Oh yeah, this is Menahem Golan directing and writing his own version of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s The Threepenny Opera.”

I’m telling you all, if you loved The Apple, well, just imagine what Menahem could do with two hours, $9 million dollars and the talents of Raul Julia, Richard Harris, Julia Migenes, Roger Daltry, Julie Walters, Bill Nighy and Clive Revill.

Mr. Peachum (Harris) is the boss of the downtrodden, giving them the permits they need to beg on the rundown streets of London, while Macheath or Mack the Knife (Julia) is a killer constantly surrounded by willing women yet he only wants Peachum’s daughter Polly (Rachel Robertson), which starts a war on the cobblestone streets of London.

I was sitting here wondering, “Why is this not on DVD or blu ray?” And then I realized that I may be the only person in the world who wants to see more than one Menahem Golan musical film, much less one that he wrote all by himself and included a catfight between Robertson and Erin Donovan, playing Lucy Brown. Somehow, he got a lot of well-regarded stage actors and actresses to stare directly at the camera and play each part so broadly and loudly that they could be heard in the last row, which makes them emoting directly in our faces to be as bombastic as it gets.

Yes, Menahem Golan made a movie of a socialist critique of the capitalist world. That’s something right there, huh?

Raul Julia is really great in this, but the guy was also great in Street Fighter and he was dying from cancer at the same time, so he was some kind of superhero.

Movies like this are why I’ll never own a boutique blu ray label. I would completely put out a release of this with tons of bonus features and two people would buy it. One of them would be me.

Speaking of Mack the Knife, yes, it was a song.

“The Ballad of Mack the Knife” was a huge hit for Bobby Darrin. Dick Clark told him that a song from an opera wouldn’t be a hit. It was the second best-selling song of 1959. It had been previously recorded as an instrumental by Dick Hyman and sung in another release by Louie Armstrong.

McDonald’s used the song — and the image of Darrin — to create Mac Tonight in the 80s, the first mascot the restaurant had for adults. Created by ad agency Davis, Johnson, Mogul & Colombatto, it combined Darrin’s stage moves with a Max Headroom look and a moon atop the skinny body — that was Doug Jones! — to sell burgers to grown-ups. It worked! It worked so well that Darrin’s estate sued as the commercials infringed upon the singer’s trademark. They asked for the commercials to be removed from the airwaves and that was the end of Mac Tonight.

Sadly, Mac Tonight was turned into a racist meme called Moon Man and the character is now listed on the Anti-Defamation League’s database of hate symbols.

In case you wondered, here’s how his lyrics compare to “Mack the Knife”:

Original

“When you see a gentleman beeRound a lady bee buzzin’Just count to ten then count againThere’s sure to be an even dozen.
MultiplicationThat’s the name of the gameAnd each generationThey play the same.”

McDonald’s

“When the clock strikes
Half past 6, babe
Time to head for
Golden lights

It’s a good time
for that great taste
DINNER! At McDonald’s
It’s Mac Tonight!
Come on, make it Mac Tonight!”

Mac Tonight went nationwide in 1987 and was gone by 1989, the same year this movie came out.

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