Toying With Me

You know, ever since I heard of the Baader-Mainhof Phenomenon I’ve been seeing examples of it everywhere. Let me share one. You maybe remember not watching Barry Levinson’s 1992 magnum something Toys, in which Robin Williams struggles to remain Robin Williams while struggling against an oppressive reign of set designers. Certainly I remember thinking I wouldn’t go see it, preferring instead to wait for it to come to me and insist to be let into my life and maybe use the bathroom and make a phone call to get its car towed. Police warn about falling for this scam; in 2012 alone, the last year for which there are these kinds of statistics, Peter Chelsom’s Town and Country broke its way into over fourteen Long Island residences and made off with collectible foyer knick-knacks valued at over $3.50 each. This may not sound like much but remember there’s a lot of things, including guitars and the Large Hadron Collider, valued at over $3.50 each.

But when my love discovered the soundtrack to Toys was produced by Trevor Horn, whom you’ll remember as discovering that electronic smashing-piano sound that pops into mind right after the phrase “owner of a lonely heart” deep in a southeast Asian jungle and bringing to public awareness, and Hans Zimmer, who worked with the Buggles before they got famous. And the soundtrack has got “The Happy Workers”, a gorgeously bleak bit of dystopian New Wave tune that’s about the perfect song for lugging yourself to a pointless job of no imaginable purpose or reward. We were overcome by curiosity about where it fit into the movie and besides the DVD was in the $4.99 bin at Best Buy and I had a $5 gift certificate and was on the verge of weeping openly that there wasn’t anything I really wanted to buy, including candy bars, in the store. I had to buy the DVD and a candy bar lest I make the computers explode by buying a $4.99 item with a $5 gift certificate. Don’t ask; that just makes the floor manager crawl under the contract-free cell phone display and refuse to come out.

Anyway, as you might expect, this engagingly despairing song is for the cheery happy part of the early film where genuinely content workers go to their toy-making job of waiting for a giant plastic doll head to belch much smaller, fully-bodied dolls, which they then pick up and set back down. These are the 104th, 118th, and 98th most baffling minutes of the 121-minute film, respectively, though they are the 3rd, 9th, and 8th most baffling minutes that explicitly remind the viewer of Zardoz. I tweeted some of my impressions while it was going on and I’m still not sure what happened.

Anyway, since all that, I’ve been seeing the Toys soundtrack everywhere. One friend pointed out he did a thing years ago where you record scenes from a game like Myst and splice it together to make a music video to the songs from it, which apparently is a perfectly normal thing that people do that I never heard of before. He was happy to share it with me, although since it was a video I downloaded it to find out nothing would play it, so he re-coded it, and I could watch that, although the aspect ratio was all messed up, so instead of displaying at a 4:3 ratio, the video appeared in a psychedelic spiral projected across the belly of a Chinese dragon. I think it’s a Quicktime Pro setting, right beside ‘scatter little green dots like candy sprinkles in the uniformly-colored section’.

I just wrote that off as an odd coincidence fired by his hearing I saw the movie and was still decompressing, but then another friend who I don’t think noticed any of this posted his own video, using “At The Closing Of The Year”. That is a violently twee song used at the start of the movie for one of those elaborately-staged Christmas pageants toy companies put on because Paul McCartney dared Trevor Horn to create a song too precious to even listen to without kit gloves draped across your head, and Barry Levinson figured this was the perfect way to foreshadow how in the climax things would explode.

Nothing exploded in our friend’s video except our unjustified confidence that we lived in a world in which the Toys soundtrack would not suddenly leap out at us. But we’re recovering well enough while staying wary, waiting for the next bit of music to drop from a giant baby doll head, be picked up, and set back down.


Author: Joseph Nebus

I was born 198 years to the day after Johnny Appleseed. The differences between us do not end there. He/him.

4 thoughts on “Toying With Me”

    1. I have to admit, watching Zardoz makes me wonder how often Sean Connery thinks about the experience of making it, and what he thinks about it when he watches it, if he ever does. They’re answers that have to be interesting, I’d think.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad to delight you so.

      My love pointed out that I used the initial joke in this post before, and I had forgotten that, and I’m a little sad I didn’t find an original take. Maybe when I edit it together for the book publication …


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