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Soup of This Day #303: No Storm Clouds Gathering Terrify

March 27, 2013

Vernon M Wells
Vernon Wells letting off steam for the Toronto Blue Jays – Photo: Keith Allison, 2009. Keith Allison is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This is a post written in tribute to Vernon Wells.

This might strike some as a little strange, for I am a Red Sox fan and Vernon Wells has never played for the Bostonian outfit. Worse than that, the slugger has just now signed to play for the Yankees, the arch-nemesis of my beloved Sox.

Which is a handicap in the race for my respect, but it isn’t in of itself a bar. Kevin Youkilis plays in pinstripes now and I can still manage an amiable dip of the cap to him. Vernon though, has not the cache of warm regards that Kevin can command.

Except maybe in Toronto, where he was a member of the Blue Jays from 1997 until 2010. There he compiled a decent record, occasionally breaking above .300, but mostly not quite delivering on the promise that he’d had out of the draft. His peak was in 2003, when he played a career-high 161 games, in the process amassing 215 hits at .317 and mashing 33 shots long over the fence. Thereafter his numbers generally declined, if only slightly. There were rallies in 2006 (.303 across 154 games) and 2008 (.300, 108 games) but by 2011 the Jays had seen enough and shipped him to join the Angels out west.

Their timing was impeccable – Wells was an All-Star in 2010 while north of the border. In 2011 he hadn’t just travelled south to LA, but also dropped down close to the Mendoza Line, that virtual divider between ‘acceptable’ and what Wikipedia bluntly calls ‘incompetent hitting’. He was better in 2012 but only just, registering a .230 batting average across 77 games. He went yard just 11 times and batted in a meagre 29 runs.

There are just 2 more things for me to mention about Vernon Wells, now of the Yankees: a. In 2006 he slugged the Red Sox for 3 separate home runs in a game, 2 of them off of Josh Beckett. He was later named a reserve All-Star for that year but made it into the starting lineup when the Red Sox’ Manny Ramirez dropped out injured; and b. In 2010 he won the Branch Rickey Award for his work as an advocate for underprivileged kids.

So the man is a good man, if not to the Red Sox and now seemingly past his prime. He is though an admittedly awkward fit for me to be writing up in tribute.

Which is pretty much why I’m not.

Wrong Vernon Wells.

The baseball playing Vernon M. Wells III was born in Louisiana in Shreveport, Louisiana in December of 1978, 34 years before he joined the New York Yankees. That birth is roughly 24,816 kms ( and 33 years away from where and when Vernon G Wells, an Australian actor, entered the world via Rushworth, Victoria in 1945.

That distance is for a walking journey via Google Maps. Please don’t try that yourself – As the good folk at Google warn:

‘Use caution – This route may be missing sidewalks or pedestrian paths.’

It may also be crossing the Pacific Ocean from Japan to Washington by way of Hawaii.

Of course Vernon G Wells could manage that quite handily. He’s made a career out of playing the tough guy, on television and in films. Mostly as a bad tough guy, and sometimes as a psychologically deranged tough guy, but pretty much always as a tough guy.

For example he shot to prominence playing the psychotic biker henchman in Mad Max 2. This was a role he then parodied in a cameo in Weird Science. He kept at the wacky science fiction thing with a turn in Inner Space. Where he played a villainous henchman shrunk to microscopic size and then digested by Martin Short’s stomach acid.

Tough gig.

Meanwhile on the small screen he was cast as a good guy for a change in The Amazing Live Sea-Monkeys. This was a series about 3 Sea Monkeys who were somehow enlarged to human size and the comical antics that ensued.

It didn’t catch on, possibly because a 6-foot tall brine shrimp is a terrifying concept.

All of this is memorable but it’s not why I choose to honour this man from Down Under, where we correctly call a shrimp a prawn and a Sea Monkey a shrimp. It is instead because of this:

Cinematic gold. That is all.

Yep, Vernon G Wells plays the psycho henchman known only as Bennett in the movie Commando. He’s a camp mercenary who was dismissed from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s old special forces team, presumably because he insisted on wearing a chain mail vest. This would have done little to protect him from grievous wounds and would have been a bastard to keep shiny but did make him look like Freddie Mercury’s evil and overweight twin. So there is that.

All in all, in an unintentionally stupendous piece of film-making, Wells’ Bennett is the most unintentional and stupendous of the lot. Even in his death he provides the set-up for 1 of the great Arnold Schwarzenegger lines:

‘Let off some steam Bennett.’

Because Arnie’s John Matrix had impaled him with a pipe. That also punctured a steam tank.

Don’t mistake my tone here – This movie is well above the celluloid Mendoza Line and I’m not trying to mock it. I love this movie. Commando is cinematic genius, shockingly out-grossed in 1985 by Out of Africa and Rocky IV, amongst others. It’s the classic 1980’s action film, over the top without being overwrought, capable of having a bloody good laugh at itself whilst still delivering kick-arse plotlines special effects acting entertainment.

And the movie, like Bennett gave of itself even after it had died. It’s sequel was scripted but Arnie wasn’t taken with the result and so it was reworked and then recast and the world got to Die Hard in 1988 as a New Yorker (Bruce Willis’ John McClane) got transplanted into Los Angeles.

Which is kind of the opposite to what the baseball playing Vernon M Wells has done. He’s gone from the LA Angels to the New York Yankees, swapping a halo for pin-stripes. Here’s hoping he doesn’t sit next to Arnie on the plane lest he end up ‘dead tired’ and that he loses the chain-mail vest before the season starts next week.

No Storm Clouds Gathering Terrify

  1. I feel asleep in the theatre during Out Of Africa. I had no such issue with Commando…or any other movie I saw that year now that I think of it.

    • Fair call. Could see that inducing sleep. Matter of fact, I’m feeling tired just thinking about the sweeping melodrama and the wide open plains of Afri… zzzzzzzzzzzz

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