Sunday, March 21, 2010

Conan, Killdozer, and Me :: A Shared Obsession (-- With Sentient, Homicidal Earth-Moving Equipment).

I don't know about you all, but me, personally, I was squarely on Conan O'Brien's side in the whole Tonight Show fiasco come to pass these past few months. From the ignoble forced exit of Johnny Carson, to Letterman's hose-job, to turning the reins over to some boob who wouldn't know funny if he accidentally tripped over it, twice, the brass at NBC can just suck it. And suck it hard.

Now, before Conan got the boot a friend
of mine told me about one of his new Tonight Show features, a take on Oprah's book club, where the host would recommend a movie to the masses, and his inaugural pick was an old, made-for-TV turd-burger from the 1970's about a possessed 30-ton piece of homicidal diesel-powered machinery that managed to keep sneaking up on people to pounce on them called -- wait for it -- Killdozer. This news got a huge laugh out of me, and when my friend asked what was so funny I told him that was probably my copy of Killdozer Conan was watching.

It's true. Well, it could be. And to get the full picture of this strange and somewhat twisted story, we're gonna have to back up
about ten years and start with an April of 2000 interview Conan did with actor Robert Urich about his association with the movie in the question:

Like Conan, I too watched Killdozer wh
en it premiered back in 1974 and this wonderful piece of gonzoidal cinema struck such a primal chord with me that it got permanently stuck in my brain, which is why it was one of the first films I reviewed when I started posting my film write-ups way, way back then. Now remember, this was ten years ago and the internet was just beginning to stretch its legs, and things like YouTube, HULU and Netflix were a mere pipe-dream, and a person really had to dig to find these old obscurities, and often pay out the nose once you found them.

So, imagine my surprise one Thursday morning not long after I initially posted the review, when I received an e-mail from a Sharon Hardy, who claimed she was a junior producer with Late Night wit
h Conan O’Brien. Apparently, Robert Urich was set to return for the following Tuesday’s show and they wanted to embarrass him a little by showing clips from Killdozer. And to do that, Ms. Hardy wanted to know if I could get her a copy of the film.

To this day, Killdozer still hasn't had a legitimate home video release. I had obtained my VHS bootleg off of eBay for an amount of coin that
, frankly, I'm a little too embarrassed to reveal. Anyways, I was a little suspicious since I got a lot of requests for dubs of hard to find films back then, and as a rule, due to time constraints I usually just turned everyone down. But after a few e-mail exchanges, with Ms. Hardy's bona fides firmly established, I agreed to dub a copy for a little website plug and an autographed picture of Conan.

Alas, they couldn’t plug the site but I was promised several souvenirs and reimbursement for my trouble. And Conan’s autograph ... Eh, what the hell. With that, I sent the dub via priority mail to guarantee receipt by Monday, the day before taping, and then proceeded to tell everyone I knew what had happen
ed. After the weekend passed, I got a confirmation e-mail on Monday saying they'd received the tape, it looked great, and that payment and the promised souvenirs were on there way back to me. Fairly excited with this brush of near celebrity, when I got off work Monday night I went out and bought a blank tape to preserve Tuesday’s episode of Late Night for my personal posterity.

E'yup. Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 was gonna be a big day.

The phone rang early the following morning. My boss, Becc
a Allen, called and left a desperate message for me to call back into the paper A.S.A.P. Figuring I was in trouble I rolled out of bed, called back, and when I jokingly apologized to the Chief (-- a nickname I’ve cursed her with --) for whatever I did wrong, she said, “You haven’t been watching the news have you?” No, I hadn’t. I just got up. “Terrorists have crashed planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.”

It took a couple of minutes for that to sink in. I turned on the TV just in time to see the first tower collapse. Then, it sunk in hard. Dumbstruck, I continued to watch, transfixed, until the doorbell rang. It was the Fed-Ex man, who
needed me to sign for a package. Taking it inside I opened it to find a thank you note from Sharon, a Late-Night T-shirt and check for my trouble. Then, as I looked back at the TV and realized that Conan probably wouldn’t be on tonight, or for many nights to come, and as the same devastating footage kept replaying, over and over again, all I could think about was that Thursday seemed like a real long damned time ago.

Needless to say, the interview never happened, the tape I sent
left unused. It didn't really matter anymore. Shortly after, Robert Urich lost his fight with cancer and passed away. Conan eventually came back. We all came back. Time passed. I kept writing film reviews. And eventually, Conan got promoted, which brings us full circle, back to Killdozer.

And then he got canne

Sorry, man. You deserved better than that.


Jessica R. said...

That is a really boss story. And I'm Team Conan too.

W.B. Kelso said...

Thanks, J. When people ask me about that picture, I always answer "Well, that's kind of a long story..."

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