The Greatest American Hero “The Hit Car” (part 4 of 9)

Bill now launches into a big, hairy, five-minute info-dump about how he’s been trying to nail Johnny the Dancer—whose other nickname is “the Disco Prince” [!!]—on dope-smuggling charges for 15 years, ludicrously claiming to have spent nights and weekends in the FBI library poring over documents and testimony to find some angle against him. Uh huh. Although, given Bill’s track record as an FBI agent as established later in the series, I’d say solving a case once every 15 years sounds about right.

Fortunately, the mob moll we met earlier, Brainless McWhorebody, has suddenly agreed to testify; Bill just has to get her safely from San Francisco to the grand jury in Los Angeles. With one attempted hit already, Bill needs Ralph and the suit to ensure the blonde’s safety.

Caption contributed by Mark

“Johnny the Dancer was the first time I missed a collar since the Mr. Bojangles prostitution ring back in ‘71.”

Ralph caves, of course, submissively agreeing to ditch his students, his son, and his girlfriend in order to help Bill supervise the transportation of a harlot. Even better, on his way out, Ralph cravenly drops the entire play on Pam, telling her to set up rehearsals and send out the invites to the parents. Now, if I were Pam, I would grab Ralph by his stupid sock tie and say, “Look, buster, I am a lawyer. Law. Yer. Six letters, no free time. Got it?”

But Pam, being a girl, is only concerned about this newly identified threat to their relationship. And so she chooses to taunt Ralph about how beautiful Bimbo McDeepbreaths is. (She’s famous enough for Pam to have seen her in People magazine, which has evidently acquired a Showgirls & Strippers department since the last time I looked at it.) Ralph is forced to stammer out the compulsory “if you like that sort of thing” before Bill literally yoinks him out of the scene.

Oh, and back when he barged into the auditorium, Bill warned Tony the Hoodlum not to steal his hubcaps. Meaning this series is really set in the ‘40s, not the ‘80s. But now we get the payoff: Tony removed Bill’s hubcaps, but left them stacked neatly in the front seat. That’s hoodlumese for “zing!

The article continues after this advertisement...

And suddenly we’re in San Francisco, which I can confidently infer from a big pan across our requisite Highly Visible Landmark, the Super-Grainy Stock Footage Golden Gate Bridge. And, okay, then we pull back to see the Super-Grainy Stock Footage San Francisco Skyline. And then we get Super-Grainy Stock Footage Cable Cars. Starting to get the idea here?

And—oh look, there’s a Super-Grainy Stock Footage Drunken Baboon! Hi, Daisy! Hey, don’t fling tha—hey, what happened to being thankful you’re not an anteater!? Lousy ungrateful drunken baboons. Worse than anteaters! …Sorry, where was I?

Caption contributed by Mark

Tonight on Full House: Uncle Jessie puts on a bright red costume and jumps out a window! He doesn’t get superpowers or anything, he just hasn’t been very happy lately.

Now we’re on a landscaped rooftop somewhere, and we finally get to meet our terrifying villain, Johnny the Dancer. He’s a slim California guido with, of course, his shirt open to the navel, exposing a hairy chest and gold chains. He’s being fitted for a maroon suit, and he tells the tailor to make sure to show off his waist, now that he’s lost twenty pounds. Yeah, the All Blow Diet will do that to you.

Turns out he’s suiting up for the Grammys [!], so we know he’s a playa for sure. Johnny wonders whether a yellow velvet bow tie would be “too much for this outfit,” and finally orders yellow piping, the yellow tie, and a yellow and black cummerbund, yuk yuk. I think it’s pretty clear they’re saying guidos have no taste, but given that Ralph dresses like a dip, Bill’s suits always look like he’s slept in them after an all-weekend bender, and Pam’s dresses are handmade horrors from the Butterick Shapeless Sack Collection, I don’t think snideness about mobster fashions is really warranted.

Johnny’s henchman, Creepy Thin Guy, gets some secret bad-guy news over the phone. Johnny walks Creepy Thin Guy over to a corner with his arm around his shoulder, continuing the previous Grammy-related conversation thusly:

Johnny the Dancer: We’ll show those L.A. spandex goofballs how we do it up in Frisco!

Wow. How exactly do you do it up there in Frisco, Johnny the Dancer?

Caption contributed by Mark

”You make sure the fix is in for Aural Intensity no matter what! Bash some heads in if you have to!”

Creepy Thin Guy smiles creepily, no doubt making a mental note to pick up condoms and lube for Grammy night, before reporting that some guy named Larry is “gonna put a tail on” our buddy Bill Maxwell, who (as we know already) is in the process of flying up to San Francisco. Interestingly, Creepy Thin Guy actually points out that using the hit car is risky (read: stupid), because if a cop happens to spot it, they’ll lose two good men and the car. Well, yeah. Personally, I think they were better off with their previous, much more plausible assassination strategy, which as I recall involved something about cloning swim team stars with promising SAT scores.

Johnny tells him to send the car down to L.A. loaded on a truck, but exposits that his alibi necessitates the hit happening up here in San Francisco.

Wait—why does he need an alibi, unless he’s going to be in the hit car? But surely there’s no need for Johnny, the head of a huge dope-smuggling ring, to actually be in the car doing the hit personally, right? That would be really stupid, wouldn’t it?

Actually, on listening to it a second time, I think this means that the next hit attempt, as planned, is supposed to be an ordinary, carless hit, in which case Johnny would definitely need an alibi. But they’re placing the hit car in L.A., just in case Bill and Busty McTightblouse evade the San Francisco hit and make it all the way down to L.A., where the grand jury is. It’s, yeah, not especially clear.

Cut to the Golden Gate Bridge again, this time in grainy nighttime footage. We hear Ralph berating Bill for his treatment of Pam (ignoring the fact that Ralph dumping the play on her, irrespective of her own responsibilities and commitments, was a lot ruder than Bill’s randomly sexist bluster). As we cut to the interior of (I guess) their rental car, Ralph turns to complaining about his own treatment:

Ralph: And you gotta remember this is not like in the comic books. I mean, I have responsibilities. I have people that depend on me. I can’t be expected to just duck into a phone booth and “wham, bam, pass the jam.”

Wait, duck into a phone booth and—what?? Actually, I think “wham, bam, pass the jam” is what Johnny the Dancer and Creepy Thin Guy have planned for Grammy night.

Caption contributed by Mark

After Million Dollar Mermaid, Victor Mature quit acting, moved to San Francisco, and opened up a car service for superheroes.

Bill, of course, is totally not listening, and who can blame him? He breaks in to say he may need Ralph to fly “high cover”, but Ralph is refusing to fly anymore. (At this point in the series, Ralph doesn’t want to fly, because he can’t control it very well and he’s afraid of crashing into things and possibly getting people hurt.) For extra added fun, this part of the conversation is conducted entirely in semi-audible muttering, which is certainly an interesting storytelling device. It’s like Apocalypto without the subtitles.

Now they’re in a seedy hotel. Bill knocks on the door with the butt of his gun (classy!), and Starlet answers. Ralph is instantly mesmerized. He stares at her as saucy violins instantly start to swell, causing me to look around for Moneypenny Jr. and the AFSD. Curly-haired superheroes with sock ties sure are pushovers in the dame department. Unfortunately, this means that for the next half-hour, Ralph will be thinking entirely with his red-jammy-clad dick. Hey, I wonder if the suit comes with a red flannel jock?

What’s really fun about this shot is that we’re supposed to have our attention drawn to innocent young Ralph being suddenly smitten with this sexy siren. Only, they evidently didn’t film a close-up on that particular day, so they created one in the editing room instead, by zooming in on the film itself. The result: a grainy, blurred close-up of Ralph crushing on this woman.

Caption contributed by Mark

Do not adjust your set. The ineptitude is on our end.

Gaussian Blur Ralph smiles wide-eyed at this gum-smacking vision of feminine pulchritude and says, “Hello, Miss Wild!” Hey, I think I’ve met your father, Thejokers!

Mark "Scooter" Wilson

Mark is a history guy, a graphics guy, a guy for whom wryly cynical assessments of popular culture are the scallion cream cheese on the toasted everything bagel of life. He spends his time teaching modern history at Brooklyn College, pondering the ancient Romans at the CUNY Graduate Center, and conjuring maps and illustrations for ungrateful bankers at various Manhattan monoliths. Readers are welcome to guess at reasons why he’s nicknamed Scooter, with the proviso that all such submissions are guaranteed to be rather more interesting than the truth. Mark lives in the Midwood section of Brooklyn with a happy-go-lucky, flop-eared dog named Chiyo who is probably, at this very moment, waiting patiently for her walkies.

Multi-Part Article: The Greatest American Hero "The Hit Car"

You may also like...