Plumbing At The Movies
Four Four-Star Classics1. Psycho. Of course, this is No. 1. Showering would never be the same after this came out in 1960. Considering contemporary slasher movies, Psycho is almost a quaint walk in the park these days. Psycho also wins hands down as perhaps the most famous movie in which plumbing gets the real star treatment. From the spray of the shower head to the blood (director Alfred Hitchcock used chocolate sauce) circling down the drain, the plumbing gets more camera time than Janet Leigh.
2. The Godfather. In my book, this is not only the best movie ever made, but the best movie that will ever be made. That’s all the more reason plumbing contractors should cherish this treasure because where else would the Corleone family have ended up if it wasn’t for the gun taped behind the toilet in the back of Louis’ Restaurant? There certainly wouldn’t have been a Part II or III, I can tell you that. Nope, it’s one of the old-fashioned, pull the chain toilets that saves the day and leads Michael Corleone eventually down the road to damnation. Plus, the scene that precedes the restaurant killing has one of the best lines in a movie full of memorable dialogue. So rent The Godfather, and pick up II and III while you’re at it. Just don’t plan on going anywhere for 10 hours.
3. Diabolique. I haven’t seen the recent remake with Sharon Stone and Chazz Palminteri. But that’s not the one I want you to see anyway; from what I hear the remake stinks, and completely trashes the truly surprising ending of the original. The original is a French flick made in 1955. Yeah, all right, so it’s got subtitles. Bear with me, it’s the only foreign movie I’ll recommend. The original put the “boding” into foreboding. You know something is coming — but not that! I can’t say too much about this movie without ruining what is very definitely “The Mother Of All Surprise Endings.” Let’s just say that if Psycho scared you out of taking a shower, this movie will scare you out of taking a bath. And if you still can’t get past the subtitles, than watch for this reason: the bumbling inspector was the model for Peter Falk’s Columbo.
4. The Conversation. Here’s one you may not have seen. The scene I’m thinking about isn’t on camera for too long. But when it is ... well, I guarantee you will not look at a toilet in a hotel room the same way ever again. The movie combines the paranoia and suspense of a Hitchcock-style thriller with a painfully detailed character study of a man destroyed by his guilt-ridden conscience and a need to assume responsibility for his actions. In the end, any hope of redemption is thrown right back in his face. On a lighter note, there’s a real young Harrision Ford and Cindy Williams, you know, “Shirley” from Laverne & Shirley. And of course, there’s that toilet.
Honorable MentionsDr. No. The first James Bond movie has the best Bond Villain and the best Bond Girl of all time. But I’m recommending it for the biggest howler of a shower scene you’ll find. The setup is Bond and Honey Ryder have just been contaminated with radioactivity. So what’s the best way to wash it off? Why, a shower and some soap and water, of course. Would somebody please bring back the Cold War?
2001: A Space Odyssey. OK, maybe someday man will reach the stars, but he’s still going to have to go to the bathroom when he gets there. The scene I’m writing about doesn’t last more than a couple of seconds, but it shows one of the actors briefly reading the instructions on how to use a zero-G toilet. If you enjoyed last summer’s Contact, then you owe it to yourself to check this one out. Contact is nothing more than 2001 meets Field Of Dreams.
Witness. There’s a scene that will make everyone yearn for those simpler, pre-water-conservation days of old. Danny Glover has just cut some guy’s throat in a public restroom, so what does he do? Pauses to wash his hands, that’s what. He turns on the faucet — which of course stays on — and water just comes gushing out like a waterfall. Hey, Danny! Try doing that with a metered faucet!
Rain Man. In a pivotal scene, Tom Cruise realizes that the reason his autistic brother, played by Dustin Hoffman, was sent off to an institution was because his parents thought “Raymond” (Rain Man) had scalded him in a bathtub. No, the plumber didn’t get sued for $10 million, but remember — this is just pretend.
Pulp Fiction. Blood. Guts. Drugs. Dead-body Disposal. Leather Freaks. A Wristwatch That Has Passed Through More Than Generations. This movie isn’t for everyone, but a couple of scenes do hinge around John Travolta answering Mother Nature’s call.
Fatal Attraction. This movie ends up being Friday the 13th for adults in which the killer we all thought was dead comes back to life after a climatic bathtub scene. Evidently, the original ending called for Michael Douglas to go to jail since his fingerprints were on the knife that Glenn Close used to commit suicide. Now that would have been a better ending. (On a personal note, I saw this movie with my future wife, mother-in-law and sister-in-law. What the heck was I thinking?)
Full Metal Jacket. What you get with this rental is actually two movies: a great first half set at Marine boot camp, featuring the world’s scariest drill sergeant, followed by a pretty ho-hum war movie in the second half. Do yourself a favor: Rent Apocalypse Now at the same time and pop that in after “Gomer Pyle” ... well, I won’t say. All I can say is it takes place in the “head.”
And The Award Goes To ...Best Performance By A Sewer Line — The Shawshank Redemption.
Best Upside-Down Toilets — Poseidon Adventure.
Best Booby-Trapped Toilet — Lethal Weapon II.
Best Poetic Use For A Toilet — Trainspotting. (Close second: The lawyer who gets eaten by the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.)
Best Toilet Humor — Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Naked Gun and Dumb and Dumber.
Best Shoot-out In A Public Restroom — True Lies.
Best Shower Scene In A Poignant Movie — Risky Business.
Best Shower Scene In A Horror Movie — The Shining. (And let’s not forget that the classic “Here’s Johnny” line takes place while Jack Nicholson’s wife and son have locked themselves in the bathroom.)
Best Shower Scene In A Low-Budget Slasher Movie — There’s not enough pages in this magazine.
Hydronic Hall of FameWet Heads get gypped when it comes to the movies. There appears to be no shortage of people using ductwork to hideout in or break into somewhere. Die Hard and Mission Impossible come to mind. But sorry, Wet Heads, I couldn’t find much in which hydronics has a part ... except for a movie that I really have a hard time generally recommending.
The movie is called Eraserhead, no doubt the darkest, most disturbing movie ever made. It’s not that the movie is offensive or gross — it is both — it’s more that this movie is just plain weird. Make that with a capital “W.”
I rented this recently since I really had trepidation about endorsing it, and it had been years since I’d seen it back in college during a midnight showing at a bar that projected the film directly onto a wall. (Don’t tell my Mom, but I think this was for one of my classes.)
It was just as disconcerting as I remembered. The thing is there’s a great fantasy sequence involving a cast-iron radiator. Not once, but twice! Definitely not for everybody, but you probably know who you are if it is. Don’t even bother trying to find this one at Blockbuster.
Best Supporting Role By a Hot Water HeaterThis one’s a real stretch since the water heater is way in the corner and only appears for a minute. But it shares the frame with Robert DeNiro, and anything with Robert DeNiro is worth a look-see. The movie is The King Of Comedy, a not-so-successful film by very successful director Martin Scorcese.
There may be no business like show business, but there’s no business as vicious. DeNiro plays a comic who wants to be a star, regardless of his supreme lack of talent. So in order to do his shtick on a Johnny Carson-like talk show, he kidnaps the host played by Jerry Lewis. The movie also has Sandra Bernhard before she got famous. The scene in which she “seduces” Lewis is worth the price of the rental alone.