Thursday, October 18, 2007

One More Reason to Live

As a young lad, and future point man for the MTG, there were few pleasures more real to me than dashing home from grades 3 and 4, heels barely touching the ground, before skidding to a sweaty stop in front of the TV set just in time to mainline my daily “Speed Racer” fix. Immediately following those 30 thrilling minutes my friends and I, while running the streets, would solemnly discuss, rehash, contemplate and dream about the latest episode of the ongoing animated series that was the collective obsession of our adolescent male fantasies.

A brief synopsis for the deprived- Speed Racer was both the title of the show and the sexy moniker of our main protagonist. Speed was a perhaps teenage boy (maybe early 20’s, it was never really established) who spent his days traveling the world in his tricked out car-The Mach 5- sometimes actually rally racing and other times just enjoying wild adventures with his lovely GF, Trixie, occasionally by his side and often his little brother, Spridel, in tow along with Spridel’s monkey friend, Chim Chim. Of course, and inevitably, there were deep dark secrets hidden in Speed’s family past and the formidable Racer X, the Masked Racer, was always lingering on the edge of the plot like a vengeful sword waiting to fall.

And now word approaches (I realize that this news may not be the freshest loaf on the shelf but gimme a break, I’m on the other side of the planet and these Internets confuse and frighten me) that the Wachowski’s (of the Matrix series) are in production and currently shooting for a ’08 release date of a Live Action Speed Racer Movie. I'd call it a film but we all know that this is, hopefully, a movie. Casting is rumored to be complete, filming rumored to be state-of-the-art and the Mach 5 is rumored to be looking SWEEEEEEET!

But, please understand, it is not my intention to critique these rumors, comment on the W project or chime in with unsolicited advice; I’m no filmmaker and so I only wish them all the luck and hope for the best of what may come while simultaneously keeping my expectations very low.

No, I’m here to celebrate- albeit late to the party- the continued cultural triumphs and sustained advancement of even the flimsiest of our MTG childhood fantasies into that of Multimillion dollar cinematic realities soon to be coming to a Theater near YOU! We are ascendant!

They’re giving us Speed, man…….and the MACH 5!
I never thought I’d live to see the day.

And what, the uninitiated are likely asking, is so significant about Speed Racer?

I must recall that 3rd grade boy and state simply that Speed was everything he was not, did everything he could not, had everything he did not. Devilishly handsome looks, bravery in the face of tasty danger, fast fists in any fight, a passport to the Widest of Worlds and a fine-ass GF with a killer smile to go along with the only keys to the Bossest Ride on the Planet. A car that could jump through the air (and the sound effect of that leap would be unequaled in my childhood world of sound effects until the 6 Million Dollar Man came along and did some jumping of his own), swim through the sea and slice through a forest like a hot knife through butter. The Powerful Mach 5 had a bulletproof cockpit, all terrain tires and a keen robot bird/drone that could launch from the hood to recon or otherwise just harass the enemy and every one of these features was available at the touch of a steering wheel button and, let me tell you, that choice ride looked damned good sitting perfectly still too.
Speed drove fast and played hard everywhere and anywhere, mostly winning in the end but often pressing his luck too far and having to get his ass pulled out of the fire by the menacing, mysterious Racer X, sometime before he sped off leaving Speed to wonder how he got to where he was in one piece.
You see, that little shorty, and many others I imagine, sitting rapt in front of that 70’s Boobtube always believed that if he could grow up to be half the solemn, strong, selfless and quietly loyal Antihero that was Racer X then his life would most certainly be a true accomplishment.
If he could somehow snag a lovely, lively, slender, smiling, supportive girl like Trixie to stand beside him and cheer him on (and before the American Women who I love march on my house with torches to burn me to the ground then stomp on my roasted corpse please let me explain that this was the very early 70’s, sometime before slender, smiling and supportive became misogynist epithets and well before standing beside and cheering your man on became unworthy, un-American activities far, far beneath you) then any cost would be worth the price.
If only life were a race where victory belonged exclusively to the daring and brave and true with shadowy figures remaining strictly in the background waiting to help you when you faltered……………..

And then 5th grade started and I pretty much forgot all about that crap and only wanted, instead, to play baseball and feel some tits, basically in that order.


But, gratefully, the wonders of the show remain forever logged in my deepest memory and although the central mysteries of the series- there were 2 which eternally perplexed me- may struggle to stay fresh in my now fading brain they lay urgent and ever-present in my still aching adolescent heart.

1.) When the Hell is Speed going to find out that Racer X is actually- WAIT FOR IT- his long lost and forgotten brother, Rex Racer, who left home years earlier (after wrecking his father, Pops’, prized vehicle in a lone rookie crash) vowing to never return until he was THE BEST RACE DRIVER IN THE WORLD and could thereby redeem himself in his father’s eyes and rejoin the Racer Clan with his pride intact.


2.) Why the f**k does Speed wear a “G” on the front of his shirt? His initials are S.R. and his car is the Mach Five. “G”??????

At last (as of yesterday when I rhapsodized with a MTG J-friend, thank you Naruhito-san, who assured me that the Show was equally popular among J-boys)this secret was revealed to me. Sure some ‘net savvy geeks may have found out with a few flicks of their pipe cleaner wrists but, Dammit, I flew 14 hours and talked to an actual human being in order to discover the answer so how about a little compassion!

Our little American cartoon show, you see, was of course actually created in Japan in 1967(later sold American)by the brilliant Tatsuo Yoshida and its original J-title was- Mach (pronounced MaHa) Go Go Go.
This was a nifty little play on words- Go was the Hero’s first name (and also a not uncommon boys name in Japan) in the original- just like Speed/Speed Racer- as well as being the word for # 5 in Japanese, as in the Mach 5, Go’s ride. In addition, since it was the 60’s, the Go-Go was thrown in for the rebellious connection to a hip rock-n-roll lifestyle and, lastly, Go obviously has its own separate meaning in English which J-folk love to manipulate to their own satisfaction.

“G” for Go/Speed! I cannot explain to you how radiant I am right now, glowing with the most sincere and complete feelings of warm peaceful satisfaction!

And it only took me 30something years.

The following is for nothing. My Dream Casting-

Speed- Elvis, Jailhouse Rock version or Johnny Depp circa 21 Jumpstreet/Platoon.

Trixie- Edie Sedgwick early Warhol era.

Pops Racer- Burt Reynolds right after “Hooper”

Steve McQueen (hey, I said it was dream casting) any 60’s/70’s period.

Since all of the male MTG has the American Theme Song permanently burned into their brain pans I figured I’d treat you to the Original. The singing isn’t quite as good as the schmaltzy American version but the Music is the same and the animation(Speed tooling around Africa jumping over elephants and shit) a bit cooler.

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