Meth on Films: Johnny Dangerously

Method Man’s aliases are about as long as a Depression era soup line.  Hot Nickels.  Iron Lung.  Tical.   And so on.

Over the years, he’s had the most fun with variations on Johnny Blaze, the motorcylce stunt driver that became Ghost Rider in the Marvel Comics universe.  First going by the Johnny Blaze alias on Raekwon’s Only Built for Cuban Linx album in 1995, he’s since added John John Blazini, Big John Stud, Trapper John MD, and John McClain (though Xzibit claimed the Bruce Willis character’s nom de plume from “Die Hard” starting on his debut At the Speed of Light in 1996) to his closet of rap guises. 

Johnny Dangerous, a take off of Michael Keaton’s Johnny Dangerously (1984), is a fixture for Method Man.  For this segment, we’ll note his usage of Johnny Dangerously on the Wu-Tang Forever cut “The Projects” (coincidentally the same song where we took the name “5 O’Clock Shadowboxers” from), though he has dropped the same reference in rhyme on Redman’s “Do What Ya Feel” and his own “Killin’ Fields” off Tical 2000. 

Why has this particular strain of “John” been a crutch for Method Man?  Maybe it’s because Johnny Dangerously is a beloved cult movie from the 80’s that was one of Michael Keaton’s known roles before Batman.  As per his work with Redman, in the studio and on the film How High, we can also deduce that Tical loves him a good comedy while goofing off between endless puffs of White Owl.  But my guess is that “Johnny Dangerous” just sounds fucking badass, and the fact that the film is a gangster flick at its core, albeit a spoof co-starring Joe Piscipo, was icing on the cake. 

Tagline: “Organized crime has never been so disorganized!”

Referenced in: “Projects” (Welcome to the killing fields with Johnny Dangerous, headbanger boogie n**** going through changes)

Theatrical trailer:

Starring:  Michael Keaton, Joe Piscopo, Marilu Henner, Maureen Stapleton, Peter Boyle, Danny DeVito, Dom DeLuise, Dick Butkus

Directed by:  Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, National Lampoon’s European Vacation, Look Who’s Talking, Look Who’s Talking Too, Clueless, A Night at the Roxbury)

Plot Summary:   Set in the 1930’s, an honest, goodhearted man is forced to turn to a life of crime to finance his neurotic mother’s skyrocketing medical bills and to put his younger brother through law school.

Interesting pieces of trivia:

  • One of the first movies with a PG-13 rating.
  • Two of the movie’s four screenwriters previously created “Different Strokes”
  • Weird Al Yankovic wrote the opening theme song “This is the Life” but for legal reasons the song was cut out of the VHS release in the 80’s.  The song was put back in the picture for the 2002 DVD release.  Cole Porter’s “Let’s Misbehave” substituted.
  • Danny DeVito would later go on to produce Red and Meth’s How High

Hollywood appeal:

  • Michael Keaton was a rising star after the shortlived sitcom Working Stiffs with Jim Belushi.  That show lead to his casting in The Night Shift with Henry Winkler and subsequently Mr. Mom which was a hit in 1983. 
  • Director Amy Heckerling was fresh off of 1983’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which grossed $27mill on a $4mill budget.
  • This was Joe Piscopo’s first film after leaving Saturday Night Live.
  • The film was a spoof of the original Scarface (1932) and White Heat (1949). 

Wu-Tang appeal:

  • Tons of great nicknames and characters for future storytelling joints: Danny Vermin, Killer Kelly, Jocko Dundee, The Pope, Roman Troy Moronie, and Tony Scarano.
  • Keaton’s Johnny Kelly becomes Johnny Dangerously to support his mother and his brother, rising through the ranks of the mob, gets pinched, then escapes prison.  The idea of organized crime paying off with minimal damage was surely appealing to the Clansmen in their younger days.
  • A New York City self-made gangster who rises to the top under an alias?  Hello Wu-Gambinos.

Up next:   Candyman: Farewell to the Flesh


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