Electrocuting An Elephant (1903) Retro, Retro, Retro Review

As some that read this may be aware, my long-time colleague and fellow Screwhead Jeffrey Kieviet recently completed a four-part series of what he refers to as “Real-Time” reviews. That is, crafting a review for a piece of media as you experience that media. In this vein, Jeff experienced and reviewed a film, a graphic novel, a video game and an album.   

I thought this idea was either brilliant or staggeringly lazy, and either way I was determined to steal it. At a quarter past midnight on a dewy summer night, I crept into my local Blockbuster through a heating vent. Upon accessing the main room, where the ‘videos’ are kept, I swiftly incapacitated the night watchman – the fools! They had employed only one guard to protect their vast stash of valuable cinematographs, and they didn’t even make him chloroform proof. Chuckling at my fortuitousness, I donned my ATN PVS7-3 night vision goggles – which I had acquired for a mere $2,500 from my black market contacts – and I began to peruse the quiet shelves, brimming with titles.

The first film to catch my eye, was, of course, Love Actually. But as I reached for it, I spied a fearsome sight. Though distorted by the green lens of the night vision goggles there was to be no mistaking the disapproving face staring back at me –

hughgrantHugh Grant! I felt a chill surge to my very marrow and I was, in that moment, sure that Hugh Grant could see me. And he knew what I had done. He knew about the night watchman – But Hugh, I did not kill him, I was careful – he knew about the black market deal for the goggles – It was a good deal, Hugh – he even knew that I was stealing Jeff’s idea. And he was judging me for all of it.

hughJudging. Me.

Loosing a mighty roar, I flung every DVD both blu-ray and normal off of the shelf and dashed to the corner, clamping my hands over my ears and whispering the lyrics to Pantera’s Walk, hoping to drown out the charmingly dainty voice of Hugh Grant, which was still whispering judgement into my ear.

“Can’t you see I’m easily bothered by persistence-”

Hey, you. 

“Is there no standard ANYMORE!”



You there, in the corner…

“Can’t you hear the violins playing your soooooong!”

Don’t move, asshole!

“Shut up, Hugh Grant!”

Hugh Grant… wait, what the hell? 

I looked up from the quivering mass of loathsome tears that I had collapsed into, and, to my surprise and relief, I found that the source of the voice was not, in fact, Hugh Grant, but simply the Blockbuster night watchmen pointing an Uzi at me.

“I don’t know who the hell you are, or why you’re here,” he said, leveling his weapon, “But I am authorized to kill intruders on sight.”

I stood slowly. “Please, don’t hurt me,” I said, “I just want a movie to review. Hold on- how are you standing? I incapacitated you!”

The guard shrugged. “I am chloroform-proof. I have been conscious the whole time. I just wanted to see what you were up to. You know you can come in here during daylight hours if you want a movie, right? They are ninety-nine cents.”

“And support your fascist, capitalist regime?” I said, “No thank you. Now, I am doing a real time review for the website primitivescrewheads.net and I need to find a good one. Go ahead and shoot me if you must.”

“I am not going to kill you,” the guard said.

“Why not?”

“Because,” he said, reaching into his pocket and drawing out a gleaming flask, “I heard you singing Pantera. I love Pantera. It would be unethical to kill a fellow fan, even one who has desecrated my sacred Blockbuster. Come, take this flask. It contains 100-proof bourbon. We shall drink for Dime.”

Darrell "Dimebag 'Dime' Darrell" Abbott (1966-2004) May this Rock God Rest In Peace.
Darrell “Dimebag ‘Dime’ Darrell” Abbott (1966-2004)
May this Rock God Rest In Peace.

Still pointing his Uzi with his right hand, the guard extended the flask toward me with his left. Pulling off my night-vision goggles, I stepped over towards him and accepted his offering. I unscrewed the lid and sniffed the contents – strong whiskey, indeed.

“For Dime,” I said, and took a swig. Then I handed the flask back to him, and he likewise took a swig.

“For Dime. Now, If you need a movie, maybe I can recommend one. I’m a big fan of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.” 

“Is that a porno?” I asked.

“It is not. If not that film, perhaps Inglourious Basterds.”

“Is that -”

“A porno? It is not. We do not really carry those here.”

“Oh,” I said, crestfallen.

“Look, if you just want a movie that pretty much everyone likes, why not Lord of the Rings? You can’t go wrong.”

I shrugged, as the guard pointed to a copy of the first film in that series on a shelf. I picked it up, and, although I had to strain to see it in the darkness, it looked pretty good.

“It’s basically about some midgets who have to walk across all of New Zealand to destroy an evil piece of jewelry. The third one won a bunch of Oscars.”

I studied the DVD case still more fervently. “How long is it?”

“That is the extended edition. It is four hours long,” said my guard friend. I dropped the DVD case like it was on fire.

“Okay, not that one. Before we keep looking, how about another drink for Dime?”

He offered his flask again. I accepted and took a big swig, scowling as the bourbon seared my throat. Suddenly, the world was spinning around me. Odd, I thought, I only had two swigs, I can’t be that drunk-

Then blackness.

When I came to, I was lying on the Blockbuster floor, my hands and feet held together with zip-ties. The guard was standing over me, drinking from his flask.

“What, I, what-” I stammered.

“I told you, as a fellow Pantera fan, I would not kill you. However, you still have to go to jail for breaking and entering,” the guard said, “I was merely stalling for time while the police headed down here.”

“But, I was unconscious-”

“Yes,” said the guard, “The whiskey was spiked with chloroform.”

“But you drank-”

“I am chloroform proof.”

“Please, Mr. Guard, I have to watch a movie and review it before Monday morning. How can I do that from jail?”

The guard knelt down beside my supine body, “You only have just over a minute before the cops get here. I don’t know how you think you’ll review a movie in that time.”

“Please!” I shouted, “You can’t let a fellow Pantera fan miss his movie review day. You have to help me – I don’t care about jail, but I need to write a review! Please– for Dime.

The guard sighed and reached into his pocket, pulling out his iPhone. “Okay. I can think of one movie that is a minute long. In 1903, Thomas Edison made a film called Electrocuting an Elephant. In it, he films the use of AC current to execute a large elephant named Topsy. The elephant had, shall we say, naturally selected three people and had to be put down. This was before the discovery of LSD – which as we all know kills elephants – and conventional weapons are mostly ineffective against animals that large. So Edison electrocuted it, and filmed it. I will show you.”

He tapped the screen on his iPhone a few times, then held it up to me. In the span of the next minute, I watched a black and white film featuring a drugged elephant being led over to be executed in a messy, smoky affair. As Topsy toppled, the Blockbuster was filled with red and blue lights. Sirens blared outside, as police demanded I surrender to them.

Spoiler Alert: Topsy dies.
Spoiler Alert: Topsy dies.

I had only moments to review the film. Luckily, while Thomas Edison may have been shrewd, he wasn’t exactly a skilled filmmaker, so I was able to dictate my review to the arresting officer, the very friendly Sergeant Lyle P. Baltimore, who only committed, like, two acts of police brutality as he dragged me to the police car. I told him what I’ll now tell you:

This movie sucks! No, color, no sound, and Topsy doesn’t even kill anyone on screen. Disappointing.

Thank you for reading my real-time review.

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