Monday, December 14, 2009

Commercial Review: THE BIG CLEAN (198?, Michael Ironside)

Stars: 4 of 5.
Running Time: 30 seconds.
Notable Cast or Crew: Michael Ironside.
Best one-liner: "Take a powder, machine!"

INT-WASHING MACHINE-NIGHT. Shot from the washing machine’s POV, the lid lifts up with a quick creak to reveal: IRONSIDE. Immediate voiceover: “2 AM- haven’t slept in days. I needed sleep. But I needed clean clothes more.” Ironside takes off his dress shirt, so he’s now wearing a fedora and a wifebeater.

I wonder if he requested that he could wear his leather-daddy pleather tank top from VISITING HOURS instead? Regardless, Ironside’s concentration is broken by an obnoxious voice that we can only guess represents the anthropomorphic washing machine. “It’s been through the wringer, Sam…,” the machine adds, snarkily. This was common in 80’s commercials. Just look at the back and forth between the Encyclopedia Britannica kid and the stuffy, disembodied voice that always sought to put him down. But Ironside is having none of this garbage. “Take a powder, machine!” he snarls, and is about to toss a scoop of powdered detergent down the hatch.


The subtext to this is definitely that he’s going to rip out the machine’s guts and eat them later. But then something happens that may shock you– the machine retorts with “Wise up, Sam, powder’s passé…get the Wisk.” Ironside backs off, intrigued. “Wisk?” he queries:

“Wisk is a liquid, not a powder, so it sinks right in to get the whole wash really clean!” says the little know-it-all. Ironside considers this.

He pours some Wisk and tosses it in the washer the way a lady might viciously toss a drink in some cad’s deserving face.

(This is the only time ever I will compare Ironside to lady. …unless I’m discussing that scene in VISITING HOURS when he’s in drag.)

“Okay, wise guy…better come clean!” he exclaims, shutting the lid.

We cut to black- time elapses. The load finishes, and Ironside reopens the lid. He lifts the shirt out and smiles in menacing satisfaction.

“Wisk…you’re okay!” he says. “And meeeee?,” needily asks the washing machine.

“Dirty job, machine…,” Ironside responds, baring his teeth. “But somebody’s gotta do it,” the machine finishes. Always gotta have the last word, this guy. But...

I wonder what happened after filming? I’m remembering a story about Robert Mitchum beating the hell out of a horse that threw him during a shoot, and the wheels are turning. I’ll bet Ironside was totally cool, followed the script to the letter, did some obligatory gladhanding, collected his paycheck– but then, when the cameras stopped rolling, the lights went out, and the crew went home, Ironside stayed behind. He was waiting, on set, in the darkness. He waited until it was 2AM for real, and dismantled that washing machine, piece by piece, bolt by bolt, with his bare hands.

Then he sat, in contemplative silence, among the gnarled pieces of the busted machine, his hands covered in engine oil and soap suds. If you were there, all you could see was his silhouette, his teeth gleaming amid the shadows and the blackness. And he was smiling. Now, you’d never guess it if you didn’t already know, because his lips are kind of strained back and his teeth gnashing like he’s in pain or something, but, oh no- it’s a smile: and one of extreme, remorseless satisfaction. After a while, he slowly comes to his feet and shuffles out of the soundstage, another job well done. He flings open the door, and holds it ajar, for just a moment. “Catch you later…” he malevolently snorts. He lets go of the door, and it slams shut, the sound echoing with a soft roar through the cavernous chamber. Catch you later…

-Sean Gill


J.D. said...

Heh. Well, this commercial answers the question, What would it be like if Michael Ironside had guested on CRIME STORY? The essence of Film noir condensed into a 30 seconds? Hmm...

Sean Gill said...

It certainly does whet the appetite for Ironside noir outside the context of a detergent commercial. Though he IS in the loose 1992 GUN CRAZY remake, which I haven't seen.

Semi-related side note: Has anyone seen any episodes of the 1980's Powers Boothe Philip Marlowe TV series?