Schlock producer/director and genius promoter William Castle was a master of the gimmick. Whether it was literally shocking patrons out of the theater seats during "The Tingler" or sending skeletons flying over their heads during "House on Haunted Hill," he had no problem packing in the public.
So what would he do with the new documentary "I.O.U.S.A."? It's a film that needs to be seen but, given current economic conditions, will probably die a quick death at the multiplex (if it even makes it into one)?
I think he would have trotted out the old life insurance gag, wherein every moviegoer would sign a policy and be guaranteed a payoff if they died of fright during the film.
Is "I.O.U.S.A." that scary? As Sarah Palin might say, 'You betcha.'
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Whereas "An Inconvenient Truth" had, ahem, heavyweight Al Gore at its center and great celebrity endorsement, "I.O.U.S.A." is just as vital to our future on this planet. Yet the film has no glamour, no real pizazz, unless you have a pinup of Alan Greenspan over your bed.
Global warming is glamorous. We can grasp the concept. Yet to most, it is still probably as threatening as a fairy tale.
"I.O.U.S.A." is about hard economics, something that is far from glamorous and dramatic, but potentially just as catastrophic for our future.
The thought that the good old U.S.A. could go the way of the Roman Empire in the next 20 years or so is talk that would put a major buzz kill on any cocktail party.
Not to mention that economics is a subject most Americans, including myself, have about as much understanding of as they do Martian hieroglyphics.
The two unlikely heroes of "I.O.U.S.A." are David Walker, former Comptroller General and head of the Government Accountability Office under Presidents Clinton and Bush II, and Robert Bixby, an anorexic younger Andy Rooney look-alike. Bixby is a diet cola addict, economist and executive director of the nonpartisan Concord Foundation.
Schlepping across the U.S. on their "Fiscal Wake-Up Tour," they warn the populace that government debt is out of control and that if something is not done, and done now, future generations will be left with a quality of life that is lower than abysmal.
A kidney-punch lesson in Econ 101, "I.O.U.S.A." purports that in the future our leaders will not make foreign policy, but our bankers will. Hello, China!
Even if we eliminate all pork-barrel spending, reverse the damage of the Bush tax cuts, and end the war in Iraq, that will only account for a measly 14 percent of our total debt.
We're not exporting like we used to, folks, and come January 2009 our obligations will reach approximately $9.7 trillion. That's not rhetoric, that's reality. The State of the Union is a state of denial, ladies and gents: We are broke. We're spending way beyond our means -- I'll give you a minute to get your latest credit card bill -- and cute little grandpup Toby is fronting the interest.
"I.O.U.S.A." can be too easily dismissed as a liberal diatribe or a knee-jerk Obama commercial. But the truth is, neither political party seems to have a clue. The disastrous last eight years is only a prelude to what lies ahead financially.
"I.O.U.S.A." is, like it or not, a cold reality check for Democrats and Republicans.
Somewhat dry and sprawling in its presentation, "I.O.U.S.A." still manages to land a tough blow to current economic policy. It's not pretty, and it may not be Oscar-worthy, but it's as timely as the latest poll results.
Save up if you can. And remember if you see this in the theater or on DVD, as "I.O.U.S.A." reminds us, "While you watched this film, $85 million was added to the federal debt."