Not that I've done a thorough scientific study of the matter, but it strikes me that film dialogue produces more "Wait a minute, did I hear that right?" reactions than novels, plays or even TV shows.
Maybe it's just that I tend to notice them more because I pay more attention to films.
In any case, over the years, I've collected lines of odd dialogue that particularly struck my fancy, and I thought I'd share some of the safe-for-a-family-publication examples here.
After all, when the soundtracks of this summer's films are dominated by explosions, gunfire, roaring engines, the clash of metal on metal or on monster flesh, and various screams, it's worth noting that dialogue, too, can be discordant and/or absurd.
Conversely, though, you can see these quotations as raising some serious philosophical questions on the nature of reality, the meaning of life and how we perceive things.
Take, for instance, this example from "The Mack," a 1973 blaxploitation film starring Richard Pryor where a corrupt white cop says to his mistress, "I'll tell you what truth is. Truth is pimples and garlic and armpits."
Take that, Mr. Keats, with your "Beauty is truth, truth beauty." And so much for poet George Herbert's question, "Is there in truth no beauty?" which "Star Trek" also tried to answer in its third season episode of the same title.
Ah, but not everyone has such an easy time defining truth and reality. In the 1981 horror film "Blood Beach," the protagonist muses about the cause of some mysterious deaths on the Santa Monica beach: "What are we looking for? Is it a person? Is it a thing?"
To which his new stewardess girlfriend, whose mother was one of the victims, replies, "Maybe it's nothing like that."
A sympathetic vampire phrases it more succinctly in "Cemetery Girls": "There are many questions for which science has no answers. Life and death are two of them."
(Sorry, but I don't have a record of which vampire film retitled "Cemetery Girls" for American distribution this might be from.)
Truth or the underlying nature of phenomena (not to mention grammar) seems to be equally elusive in "Call to Darkness" for a scientist trying to explain a strange series of disappearances when he admits, "Anything can happen that's unexplainable."
"A Nightmare on Elm Street, Part 2: Freddy's Revenge" states the issue in more concrete terms when a suspicious father remarks to his son after the family's parakeet suddenly dive bombs everyone and then blows up, "Animals don't just explode into flames for no reason!"
But it's an Insect Fear Film that put all this into perspective in Zen-like fashion way back in 1955, when a woman graduate assistant in "Tarantula" remarks to a scientist as she leaves his lab for an appointment: "Science is science, but a girl must get her hair done."
Unfortunately, our perceptions of reality can still be affected by our prejudices and emotions, as demonstrated in this exchange from the 1975 "Zorro" starring Alain Delon. Don Diego del la Vega, posing as the new governor of the Spanish territory in California, asks his "aunt" about the circumstances of the death of his "uncle," the former governor, "How did my uncle contract the disease?"
To which the woman responds bitterly, "From some wicked woman, no doubt!"
Don Diego: "Malaria?!"
Richard J. Leskosky taught media and cinema studies at the University of Illinois and has reviewed films for more than 30 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.