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Where There's a Willis, There's a Way, or They Still Call Me John McClane: Being a die hard's guide to the Die Hard Galaxy

Chris Klimek

Hey, I didn't ask to annotate the Die Hard films for NPR Monkey See.  I'm just a good man, caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

No, I did ask. I was just delighted they were willing to run it at the obsessive, possibly excessive -- but by no means exhaustive! -- length at which I filed it.  It's here.

I didn't have any Nirvana posters on my bedroom wall in high school. I had this one.

I didn't have any Nirvana posters on my bedroom wall in high school. I had this one.

I wrote it in a fit of anticipation for A Good Day to Die Hard, a film that, after reading a dozen or so reviews, I've decided I won't be seeing -- not in the cinema, anyway, where movies live. "This is a Die Hard movie where no one is trying and nobody cares, which is depressing," wrote Deadspin's Will Leitch. I haven't been able to bring myself to watch Amour yet, so if I'm in a mood for depression-inducing viewing, I'm not gonna waste that on a movie that by all accounts debases a franchise and a character I've loved since I was a kid.

I know a lot of people in my demographic felt that way about, say, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (a film I think is better than its reputation), but it's clear that movie was doing its durndest to be a quality popcorn experience that left the Indiana Jones franchise intact. The new Die Hard does not seem to have been made with anything approaching that kind of goodwill, or indeed by anyone with any prior connection to the series -- except of course for Bruce Willis, who should know he'll bank more in the long run by holding out for a good script and a competent director.  Watching this film could only upset me.

When Johnny McTiernan Comes Marching Home

As I was getting this post together I was Tweeting with Mike Katzif, whom I know from when he was the producer of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast.  We were talking about what a fun bit of casting it was to have the singer/songwriter Sam Phillips play a mute, knife-wielding assassin in Die Hard with a Vengeance, the Die Hard sequel I prefer. When I mentioned my memory from director John McTiernan's DVD commentary track (which I heard years ago; I didn't revisit it while writing this piece) of McTiernan saying he'd asked Phillips to sing a version of the Civil War-era folk song "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" for the film, Ms. Phillips herself weighed in to set the record straight.

Cool! This potential for personal contact more than makes up for the Internet's abject failure to have a YouTube clip of the part in ...with a Vengeance wherein Ms. Phillips spectacularly fillets a terrified bank security guard with a very large knife. Thank you, Sam Phillips, for helping to make my Die Hard history that much more obsessive/excessive/exhaustive/DEFINITIVE.

...although this one is also pretty good: