Archive - September 2009
World of Strange
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|September 30th, 2009|
|Ohmighod! It's Only--|
|THREE DAYS UNTIL MID-OHIO CON!!!|
|WHERE'D I put that suitcase?
Well, I'm sure I'll find it in time before we head off to the Mid-Ohio Con.
In the meantime, a few quick words about the flick we actually left the house to see last night, "Up" (2009)...
|Yup, I managed to stay awake all the way
through, which regular readers of this blog
will recognize as a personal triumph, seeing
as how I've had problems previously keeping
my eyes at full-mast during several past
computer animated feature films (though I'll
admit that they ALMOST lost me with the introduction
of a pack of (scientifically enhanced) talking
dogs!!). Lynn had a harder time buying into
the whole house-lifting balloon scenario
than I did--with all those pretty colors,
I'm sure not gonna complain--but being the
old softie I am, I was willing to go along
with most anything after viewing the opening
sequence that culminated in that marvelously
sweet--and sad--montage of Carl and Ellie's
life together (replete with a beautifully
effective accompanying score), so, yeah,
okay, an old man wants to send his house
to South America via thousands of helium
balloons, I'm on board!! Kudos to the folks
who wrote, directed, and acted in this thing.
(In the category of things that bothered ME--but really, only if you want to stop and make an issue out of it, and I actually don't--our villain retires to the jungles in an effort to find a mythical beast he'd been accused of making up decades earlier, thus blemishing his heretofore heroic resume. While away, he apparently invents a collar that allows dogs to talk--THAT'S not enough to get him back in the public's good graces? "Look, people, I never could find one of those mythical animals I told about awhile back, but hey, I DID come up with something that'd allow you to converse with Rover--pretty impressive, huh? NOW can I be a hero again?...")
But no, that's just a silly sticking point. I give the movie an enthusiastic (what else?...) thumbs "Up"!!
|September 29th, 2009|
|It's Getting Closer!!..|
|FOUR DAYS UNTIL MID-OHIO CON!!!|
|And wow, WHAT a guest list!! I hope I get to meet each and every one
Moving on (yes, we're a little pressed for time, making our preparations and all...), back in August, TCM devoted an entire day to screening Red Skelton films. As a kid, along with Jack Benny and Bob Hope, I made a point of never missing Red anytime he turned up on the tube, but sometime in the late sixties, he fell out of fashion with me (unlike the aforementioned pair), and I don't think I'd watched anything with him in it for nearly forty years! But I was intrigued enough by the notion of a trilogy of films--"Whistling In The Dark" (1941), "Whistling In Dixie"(1942), and "Whistling In Brooklyn"(1943)--that I taped all three and watched 'em soon after.
|And I was sure glad I did cuz they were terrific!!
And here's the good news for you folks--TCM is running all three of 'em, back to back, on October 6th, starting at 1:30 eastern time (they're actually found under the Monday, October 5th listings--coincidentally, the very day we'll be driving home from Ohio, which is why I'm tipping you off early, as I likely won't get the chance then)!
In each, Red plays Wally Benton, better known as "The Fox", a celebrated radio sleuth. Ann Rutherford is his long-suffering fiancee, and real-life boxer turned cinematic stooge (he even looks a bit like Shemp) "Rags" Ragland, is around for all three episodes, firstly as bad guy Sylvester, secondly as both good guy twin Chester AND Sylvester, and thirdly just as Chester, contributing immeasurably to the proceedings (Ragland passed away in 1946, which didn't allow him time to amass a particularly large body of work, which is a shame, as he was wonderful in these flicks).
After setting up the mystery de jour, each movie then showed Red in the studio, broadcasting one of his shows (which should be of great interest to old time radio buffs), complete with his trademark howl. Afterwards, there's always at least one extended sequence that has Red and his retinue in deadly peril (I'm partial to the third film's group dangle in the empty elevator shaft), with a rock 'em sock 'em battle with the baddies just before closing credits (Red is a BIG guy, and was far more physical than Bob Hope--and certainly Jack Benny--in similar roles! And even Ann Rutherford--no shrinking violet, she--gets in plenty of good licks!!). Sure, these things are formulaic, but given that, they're very well written (the initial one was based on a play, one that had been previously filmed in 1933, while the pair of sequels are largely the work of Nat Perrin, a writer long associated with Groucho Marx, which should tell you something about their quality...).
I had a personal flashback watching "Whistling In Brooklyn", realizing when Red took the mound in Ebbets Field disguised with a beard that woulda made the Smith Brothers proud (don't ask...) that I had seen this movie before, back when I was very, very young, cuz that's the sort of image you simply don't forget, but instead bury away deep in your subconscious for nearly a half century!! (Oh, and if you're an old-time baseball fan, you'll not only get a nice tour of long gone Ebbets Field, but glimpses of Billy Herman, Mickey Owen, Ducky Medwick, and other Brooklyn Dodger greats, not to mention witnessing manager Leo Durocher's screen debut!! Lot going on in THIS one!!)
Turns out that these B movies were SO successful (after the initial one afforded Red his first chance to headline a picture) that MGM pulled the plug on them so as to elevate the star to A vehicles. Too bad. I found them vastly entertaining, comparing nicely with even the best of the Bob Hope mystery comedies of the day.
So, there you have it--set those VCRs (okay, okay--DVRs, too)!
|September 28th, 2009|
|Say, WHICH Day Is It Again??..|
|FIVE DAYS UNTIL MID-OHIO CON!!!|
|I'm looking forward top meeting a LOT of
fine folks for the first time when I attend
this weekend's upcoming Mid-Ohio Con, not the least of which would be the delightful
individuals behind the World of Strange line of fascinating outerwear!! Shouldn't
be all that difficult cuz I've been informed
that they'll be manning the booth adjacent
to mine, hawking--amongst other swell items--Hembeck
tee-shirts!! I'm sure spending time with
Ben and Tracy will be lots of fun, and who
knows? Maybe I'll finally be able to persuade
them to take my notion of Hembeck Underoos
seriously!! (Though as the con lasts a mere
two days, probably not...).
Ah well, check 'em out after you check in with me!
Now, as to our daily dose of TCM reflections, several days ago I promised you "the most ridiculous premise I've ever encountered attempting to support a full-length film!", and today, I DELIVER!!
However, just to keep you in suspense a wee bit longer, ponder this--it was one of two starring vehicles for the Sixties' British Invasion band, Herman's Hermits--"Hold On!" (1966), "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" (1968)--but WHICH one?
|You might well think it's"Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter", in which Mrs. Brown in question is actually
a racing dog, one that's instrumental in
causing Herman (heading a fictitious group
who play only to raise the fees to enter
their beloved canine in races) to meet a
human Mrs. Brown, who does indeed have a
lovely daughter--but you'd be wrong, WAY
Next to "Hold On!", "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" is--if not "Citizen Kane" (that'd be "A Hard Days Night"), at the very least "The Magnificent Ambersons"! "Hold On!" doesn't even measure up to one of those cheesy Paul Masson wine commercials Orson Welles did! True, "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" is no classic, but it is marvelously generous spotlighting scenes of its lovely English locations, shot by a bona fide Academy Award winning cinematographer. The all-British cast boasts several celebrated veterans of the Broadway stage (as well as the gent who provided the voices for Paul and Ringo in those long-ago animated Beatles cartoons)--AND the opportunity for the other Hermits to actually speak a few lines of dialog, maybe even get in a gag or two, and participate in a rousing round robin musical number--alongside thespian Stanley Holloway--warbling a few lines each of their very own!! Make no mistake--Peter "Herman" Noone is clearly the star of both pics (and for a Brit rock frontman, he clearly has more natural acting ability than most, as well as obvious appeal), but in "Hold On!", Peter had as many lines of dialog as John, Paul, and Ringo had in their film debut combined, while the other four Hermits together were lucky to match George's output in that selfsame flick!! Second time around, things evened out, if only slightly. "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" is a pleasant movie, and worth a look if you're at all interested in the music--or the England--of the era.
"Hold On!", on the other hand, was filmed in the USA, manned entirely by American sit-com actors (save for Bernard Fox--best known as "Bewitched"s Dr. Bombay, who does a credible job as the group's thoroughly British manager). Shelley Fabares play the lover interest, Sue Ann Langdon the publicity hungry starlet eager to attach herself to the wildly popular (as the film would have it) group, and most notably, Herbert Anderson ("Dennis The Menace"s TV dad) who play a scientist with given the task of more or less stalking the group and then reporting back to his superior.
Well, THAT'S where the totally, absolutely, no-two-ways-about-it, completely unbelievable premise comes in.
Bear in mind, it's the mid-sixties. The space program is big news. Launches happen with measured regularity. Okay--got that?
Well, Anderson--who plays his role throughout as a hapless buffoon, a far cry from his more reserved take on Henry Mitchell--is assigned to follow the pop sensations because, thanks to the fact that the next group of astronauts scheduled to be shot into space couldn't agree on a name for their space craft, instead allowing to their children to choose one, and the kids chose (you guessed it) "Herman's Hermits", and the head NASA honcho is concerned not because that's an incredibly STUPID name for a space capsule (AND an idiotic way to determine it), but because the group is ENGLISH!!! Can't have a Brit name on an American space-craft, uh uh, no way, not unless the lads measure up! So, Anderson has to make sure if they do, and (SPOILER WARNING), they do.
Have you ever heard of anything so DUMB? I mean, "Beatles" I could understand--maybe even "Dave Clark 5"--but "HERMAN'S HERMITS"?? C'mon...
And does the flick ever look CHEAP!! (Did I mention it was a Sam Katzman production?) There's a number sung in and around the space capsule that even Ed Wood wouldn't have had the nerve to try and get past the paying customers.
But you can see for yourself, in a truncated manner, as nearly three minute trailers for each movie can be found online. A warning, though--an older, more washed-out print compared to what was broadcast on TCM, the "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" clip doesn't look nearly as crisp as it should, while the "Hold On!" trailer--directly from TCM--appears much spiffier. Don't be fooled--"Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter" is better than the trailer makes it out to be, and "Hold On!" is considerably worse than the preview seems (but hey, if you perversely enjoy bad movies like me, it's a pretty good time...).
Here now the links:"Hold On!"
And "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter"
See you back here tomorrow as the countdown continues!!
|September 27th, 2009|
|What Day Is It??...|
|SIX DAYS UNTIL MID-OHIO CON!!!|
|Y'know, I've been to a lot of conventions
over the years, but I've been informed by
head honcho James Henry that THIS time around,
I'll experience something I've NEVER previously
been a part of. This time around, at the
2009 Mid-Ohio Con, I'm slated to be part of a group panel
discussion moderated by none other than Mark Evanier! Now I FINALLY feel like a true member of
the comics community!! Let's just hope I
don't stammer overmuch...
And speaking of comics, it's been awhile since I've directed you over to one of The Comics Reporter's weekly Five For Friday surveys, but with the topic being to name five things you like about Steve Ditko, well, how could I possibly resist contributing (...but ONLY five?...)? Lotta interesting replies from other correspondents as well--go take a look!
Today's TCM first view film focus aims itself at a pair of William Castle, ahem, classics, "I Saw What You Did" (1965) and "Homicidal" (1961)
|A pair of teen girls, spending the evening
together sans parents, kill time by making
prank phone calls, breathily intoning the
phrase "I saw what you did, and I know
who you are" to a series of random strangers,
one of which--wouldn't you know it?--had
just stabbed his wife to death while in the
shower (HE was in the shower, she was fully
dressed, but that didn't stop him), and hair-raising
hilarity ensues. Joan Crawford plays an incredibly
needy neighbor who wants the big lug all
to herself now the missus has been dispatched,
and I found myself--not a violence junkie
by any means--nonetheless rooting for Joan
to feel the working end of that blade. Happily,
before long (SPOILER WARNING) she does. As
for those two teens, well, this flick has
aptly been described elsewhere as "The
Patty Duke Show meets Psycho", which
totally hits the mark (especially given the
peppy ersatz sixties rock theme music that
runs throughout, which is entirely wrong
for an ostensible thriller). Still, I'd file
it under the category of "Stupid Fun,
Sixties Division", and admit I enjoyed
A few days later, I caught director/producer Castle's earlier scare show, "Homicidal", which I'd have to describe as (here we go again with another SPOILER WARNING...) "Psycho, only if it had had Tony Perkins spend about a third of his screen time dressed up as his mom, with a female voice badly dubbed in, only in reverse". In other words, see that "guy " up there? That's "Warren"--only it's REALLY Emily (actress Jean Arless, who never went by that moniker again, instead making a career for herself as Joan Marshall). Viewers aren't supposed to realize the connection between the two until the film's final moments, but trust me, if you haven't figured things out by THEN, well, congratulations!! Single digit I.Q.'s are a rarity these days!!
And as for the end of said flick, showman Castle has a particularly ridiculous gimmick for theater-goers, The Fright Break.. Allow me to quote the Wikipedia entry at length, followed by a quote from filmmaker John Waters from his book,"Crackpot: The Obsessions of John Waters".
A 45-second timer overlaid the film's climax as the heroine approached a house harboring a sadistic killer. A voice-over advised the audience of the time remaining in which they could leave the theatre and receive a full refund if they were too frightened to see the remainder of the film. To ensure the more wily patrons did not simply stay for a second showing and leave during the finale Castle had different color tickets printed for each show.[ About 1% of patrons still demanded refunds, and in response...
Waters: "William Castle simply went nuts. He came up with 'Coward's Corner,' a yellow cardboard booth, manned by a bewildered theater employee in the lobby. When the Fright Break was announced, and you found that you couldn't take it any more, you had to leave your seat and, in front of the entire audience, follow yellow footsteps up the aisle, bathed in a yellow light. Before you reached Coward's Corner, you crossed yellow lines with the stencilled message: 'Cowards Keep Walking.' You passed a nurse (in a yellow uniform?...I wonder), who would offer a blood-pressure test. All the while a recording was blaring, "'Watch the chicken! Watch him shiver in Coward's Corner'!" As the audience howled, you had to go through one final indignity -- at Coward's Corner you were forced to sign a yellow card stating, 'I am a bona fide coward.' Very, very few were masochistic enough to endure this. The one percent refund dribbled away to a zero percent, and I'm sure that in many cities a plant had to be paid to go through this torture. No wonder theater owners balked at booking a William Castle film. It was all just too damn complicated."[
I'm not one to watch so-called slasher flicks, but aside from a couple of quick bursts of B&W violence, both of these movies are extremely tame by today's standards. Silly, too, which for me is the main appeal. So take a look--if you dare!!
(Trust me, you dare, you dare...)
|September 26th, 2009|
|The Coundown Continues!!
SEVEN DAYS UNTIL...
|Yup, that's my version of Mike Zeck's iconic
cover for the ground-breaking (as in, "Yikes!
Now we're gonna get an avalanche worth of
these things!!") MARVEL SUPER-HEROES:
SECRET WARS#1, here all gussied up with color
and utilized as a promo for next weeks big
Mid-Ohio Con, where yours truly will be a guest. More
on the show tomorrow!!
Now, as promised, a few short comments on one of the many, many films I've recently viewed on TCM.
Today's topic: "The Man From Planet X" (1951).
|This workman-like sci-fi flick is interesting
on several levels, the least of which being
it's rather pedestrian story (SPOILER SENTENCE:
alien lands on earth, struggles to communicate
with the natives, any trust that's eventually
built up is destroyed by an evil scientist,
military destroys spaceman to prevent planned
invasion). Thanks to one of Robert Osborne's
always invaluable intros, I found myself
watching how director Edgar Ulmer filmed
this thing in six short days and still somehow
managed to make it not look cheap. The answer:
he utilized the still standing sets of a
big budget Ingrid Bergman vehicle from three
years earlier, "Joan of Arc", additionally
setting a lot of the action--a WHOLE lot!!--on
the moors, which had the smoke machines working
overtime! Sure, the actors were coughing--even,
at times, on camera--at the faux fog, but
hey, what atmosphere!!
And speaking of the actors, that was my OTHER point of interest. The aforementioned bad scientist was played by a young William Schallert (with mustache and goatee, no less), perhaps best known in these quarters as Martin Lane, the father of Patty (and uncle to Cathy) Lane on "The Patty Duke Show"! (Mr.S's long career continues, as he turned up on two episodes of "Desperate Housewives" as recently as last year.). Then, thanks to Osborne's prefacing remarks, I learned something I was totally unaware of--the film's leading lady, a young woman by the name of Margaret Field, was none other than the mother of Sally Field!! I had absolutely no idea that the Oscar winning actress had a mom with such an extensive (if decidedly B and C level) list of credits!! Just like her celebrated daughter, the elder Ms. Field is cute as a button (see picture above). Thespian-wise though? Well, based on this admittedly small sample of work, there's reason why the Academy didn't like her, really didn't like her (or at least, not enough...).
The alien's kinda cool looking in a fake, fifties type manner--and happily, they're not stingy with his screen time (as a kid, I used to hate watching a monster movie which limited the main attraction to a few scant seconds at the tail end of the proceedings. That doesn't happen here.). Not a great film, but if you've ever wanted to see a movie pairing the TV father of Patty Duke with the real-life mother of The Flying Nun, well, friend, THIS is the movie for you!!..
(And hey, if you really DO want to see it, the whole thing's online at some place called Veoh--here it is :"The Man From Planet X". Um, if you do check it out, sure hope you didn't read the part where I gave away the whole plot...)
|September 25th, 2009|
|Let The Countdown Begin!!
EIGHT DAYS UNTIL MID-OHIO CON!!!
At which yours truly will be, for the very first time, amongst a vast plethora of guests appearing at this year's Mid-Ohio Con 2009! Pretty darn thrilling, as the last time I left the Tri-state area (NY, NJ, and Connecticut) to attend a convention was way, way back in the mid-eighties! So come check me out, Ohioans--it may be while before you see MY like again!!
Anyhow, to keep the excitement level up--AND serve as a constant reminder for area folks to attend the show!!--I'm gonna be back each day, feverishly counting down the days, maybe throwing out a little nugget about the show, and hopefully tossing in a capsule movie review (or two) in the process.
But not today. Today we share with you the last half dozen illos we'll be posting up on Ebay--at least, not until after we return from the magical land of Columbus. So, here we go gang, one more time...
|SPIDER-MAN versus ELECTRO!!|
|SPIDER-MAN versus KRAVEN The HUNTER!!|
|SPIDER-MAN versus The GREEN GOBLIN!!|
|SPIDER-MAN versus The SANDMAN!!|
|JUSTICE LEAGUE of AMERICA!!|
|JUSTICE SOCIETY of AMERICA!!|
|Wanna see 'em bigger? Graze yer mouse across
the illos, and POOF!! Bigger!
Wanna buy one (or more?)? Here's a direct route to our current round of Ebay auctions!!
Back tomorrow as the Countdown continues!!
|September 21st, 2009|
|I had really hoped to have posted a more
traditional blog entry over the last few
days--one, y'know, with actual WRITING in
it--but I've been so busy catching up on
stuff daughter Julie distracted me from doing
over the summer (yeah that's right--blame
the kid...) as well as getting ready for
my appearance at the upcoming Mid-Ohio Con,
now just less than two weeks away, and I'm
afraid I've simply come up short once again.
Which is a shame, as I'd LOVE to share my thoughts with you all on the (no lie) 42 additional movies I've watched (4 in the theater, the rest on TCM) since I last did a capsule comments round-up .Y'know, something like
"Before he was Matlock, before he was Sheriff Taylor, Andy Griffith was Lonesome Rhodes--the orniest superstar this side of Jerry Lewis--in "A Face In The Crowd" (1957)!! Awesome movie, unforgettable performance!! The only question left unanswered? Just exactly WHO was Opie's REAL mother--Patricia Neal or Lee Remick?..."
Okay, that's one down, 41 to go!!
In the meantime, while I go work on chipping away at that rather daunting list (including a mini-rant concerning the most ridiculous premise I've ever encountered attempting to support a full-length film! WHICH film? Come back again soon--I promise to tell, honest. Just not today...), here are eight more new illos for you to take a gander at...
|BATMAN versus The PENGUIN!!|
|SPIDER-MAN and The BLACK WIDOW!!|
|NIGHTWING and STARFIRE!!|
|DAREDEVIL versus The KINGPIN!!|
|Three more members of The LEGION of SUPER-HEROES: PHANTOM GIRL, CHAMELEON BOY, and ULTRA BOY!!|
|WOLVERINE and CAPTAIN AMERICA!!|
|SPIDER-MAN versus DR.OCTOPUS!!|
| As always, you can get a better look with
a simple click of the mouse, which will enlarge
And also as always, here's yer free ticket to our current Ebay auctions--if you see something you like, ante up and who knows? it could very well wind up being yours! Gee, ain't THAT swell?
Well, back to the drawing board for yours truly--AND to my ever ongoing, self-taped TCM video library!! It's either "Strange Cargo" or "The Man From Planet X" for me tonight--or hey, maybe BOTH!! (Yes, I'm obsessed--but if there's a cure, I sure don't want it!!...)
|September 11th, 2009|
|Let's take a look at some brand new illos
that I have up for grabs, shall we? Starting
SPIDER-MAN versus MYSTERIO!!
|The DEFENDERS: DR.STRANGE, The HULK, and SUB-MARINER!!|
|GALACTUS and The SILVER SURFER!!|
|The LEGION of SUPER-HEROES Founders: SATURN GIRL, COSMIC BOY, and LIGHTNING LAD!!|
|The INVISIBLE MAN flashing The INVISIBLE WOMAN!!|
|Sweep yer mouse over any of the above images
to get a gander at larger versions.
And here's yer instant access to our current Ebay auctions.
Thanks for stopping by--see ya!!!
|September 8th, 2009|
Let's get right to the headline here:
I'm on the YouTube!!
Well, not exactly, but sorta--explanation to follow...
I've told you about the World of Strange folks in the past--they're the fine fellows who produce tee shirts showcasing way nifty art, with even a few of their garments featuring my work. They're a fairly new business, y'see, and to help them get a little extra publicity, they had an idea for a YouTube video--Cartoon Fred interviewing Wonder Woman!! To play the Amazon Princess--and incidentally, cobble together an expert version of the iconic costume--they enlisted the lovely, talented, tattooed, and (yes) bountiful Renea La Roux. For Cartoon Fred, they naturally got ME!
I wrote up a little Q&A with the Star Spangled Sweetie, and then, with the help of Julie's boy buddy, Alec, recorded my dialogue on the computer (yes, that's my voice) and sent it off to the World of strange technicians (I actually recorded WW's part as well, so as to give Ms. La Roux a notion of each lines intended inflection--and I'm happy to say, her thespian abilities exceeded even my lofty expectations). I also sent along a series of Fred Heads to match each of my lines, with the final product consisting of an interchange between still pics of moi and a real live super lady!! It runs just under six minutes.
Here's the link to Dateline:@#$!: Fred Hembeck Interviews Wonder Woman. Take a look, should you be so inclined--it's WAY shorter than "Watchmen" and just as likely to be ignored by Alan Moore!!.
Two caveats: There's a faux newscrawl underneath the video. I didn't write that (nor, as of yet, had a chance to read it, having only seen the clip once so far). I note this to save some of you the embarrassment of telling me it was your favorite part of the proceedings!
Secondly. though it's billed on YouTube as "Fred Hembeck Commercial For World Of Strange", it is NOT a commercial!! There is absolutely NO salesmanship included within the piece, neither hard nor soft. No hawking of shirts whatsoever. It's better described as a promo piece in that the World of Strange logo is ever present whilst a (hopefully) amusing little skit takes place in the immediate vicinity! So, don't let the word "commercial" scare you off (hearing my VOICE will do that!!)...
Brief follow-up to yesterday's Telethon marathon:
On Facebook, Steve Olle informs me that Norm Crosby WAS in attendance, briefly introing an act Steve couldn't quite recall, but he was definitely there. Good to hear. And Shaw Israel Izikson opined, "I THINK they wanted the young, lively "Barkers Beauties" like co-hosts this year as opposed to the older than old hat Norm Crosbys of the world . . .", which is a good call. Perhaps they figured, with Ed out of the way (to be crass about it), it was best to jettison all the oldies save Jerry. Although, as Mike Curry pointed out, Norm Crosby may simply be a fig newton of my imagination!
As for Callas versus Carson, the always reliable BookSteve found this comment attached to a YouTube video of the pair (but no, NOT the incident in question--oh, how I'd LOVE to see that!!..):
Charlie Callas' last appearance on "The Tonight Show" was September 21, 1982. Callas had trouble generating laughs and Carson made a "buzzing bee"? sound - the audience went wild. Charlie Callas pushed Johnny Carson off his desk chair and onto the floor in an act of desperation. Carson banned him on the spot.
Thanks, Steve! My NEW goal is to get ON "The Tonight Show" so I can have a shot at getting banned for life too!! Wish me luck!!
|September 7th, 2009|
This year, I indulged my annual Labor Day tradition via a series of ongoing updates following the action on my Facebook page. I gather 'em all up together here, sequentially, for those of you without access to Facebook to read, adding some brand new commentary (italicized for your reading convenience) in between.
We start out on a bit of a downer...
I anxiously await the start, mere minutes away, of this year's Jerry Lewis Telethon, and wonder, morbidly, will THIS be the last one? The last one with Jerry, that is? We've seen the last with Ed, after all. No disrespect meant, but hey, I ...can't help but ponder the situation... That said, ENJOY THE SHOW!!!
Then, after taking in the opening segment...
In the Telethon's first hour alone, we saw a nice tribute to Ed, three young women fawn over the host's newly minted Oscar--including a complete replay of his acceptance speech--and Jerry asks a sweet little girl who raised money via a Readathon if any of the books were dirty!! And some people wonder WHY I watch?...
Jerry had a lot of energy coming out of the gate, more than in some recent years. This year's poster child--the aforementioned reader--was truly adorable and engaging, capably singing a number from "Wicked" in the telethon's waning hours and winning a well deserved standing O--AND the invitation to return next year in the same capacity! She still won't be old enough to read "The Best of Penthouse Letters" though...
Highlights of Hour 2: a ventriloquist, singing the Michael Jackson part, duetting on "The Girl Is Mine" with a Paul McCartney puppet; the host mugging his way thru a big production number of "God Bless America", and best of all, this year's first hopelessly outdated reference to Madame Nhu from Jerry!
How many of YOU know Nhu, or are saying "WHO?" (And the talented ventriloquist was Terry Fator. Good as he was, I always enjoy the bit Ronn Lucas does every year where he affixes --and manipulates--plastic mouthpieces to actual people, which he did to nice (if rushed) effect Monday afternoon.)
Hour 3: Charo practically gives Lewis a lap dance, then takes her number out into the audience, prompting Jerry afterwards to wonder aloud, "What are we all going to do with the erections?..."! Another highlight: a GREAT clip of Charlie Callas (who, from the intro, I mistakenly thought was there in person)!
More about Charlie later. Meanwhile, War does a terrific medley of their hits while Jerry makes faces on the sidelines, though I was later informed that only one original member of the group was actually up there on the stage. Herman's Hermits--with the original Herman but likely some replacement Hermits--did a mini set of three tunes. As best I could tell, this year, Gary Lewis and the Playboys were not in attendance. Too bad. Everybody loves a clown's rock-tune singing offspring after all...
Hour 4: Jerry says "goddamn", makes some self-directed impotence quips to kill time while a technical problem with Joshua Bell's mic is fixed, and sings a sappy ballad to his almost-18 year old daughter Danny while sitting next to her (which actually tugged my heartstrings, mainly cuz my own kid's 19--the two kinda grew up together, y'know?). Newsflash: Billy Gilman has facial hair!! Gosh, I AM old!...
And if Jack Jones hadn't brought his OWN 18 year old daughter on stage for a duet directly after the host serenaded his own progeny, the moment may not've seemed as diluted. At least Jerry's girl didn't start giggling nervously in the middle of her big moment, but then, Danny didn't have to sing, just listen (and thus, didn't get an icy--albeit smiling--admonition from her dad to carry on...). Wonder if this was how Allen Jones was with little Jack?...
Jerry's finally gone to bed!! (By the way, I Googled Charlie Callas to see if he's still with us--he is--but discovered this odd factoid about his Tonight Show history: "he was eventually permanently banned by Johnny Carson himself, on air, for shoving Carson in a desperate attempt to generate laughs while bombing"! I couldn't find any further details--anybody?...
No one in my comments section had any concrete info on this intriguing incident, though the name of the missing Casey Kasem came up, with Mark Evanier volunteering the news that he's not been well of late. The question I totally forgot to ask until all was said and done, though, was, WHERE was Norm Crosby? Telethon perennials like Bob Zany and Max Alexander went unaccounted for as well, at least during the approximate 10 hours on screen Jerry put in (I didn't see much of the rest), but for years now, Norm was always the first one to perform (after the opening production number), and would invariably host a couple of the overnight hours, But this year, nothing. Which was a shame, because corny or not, he always manages to make me laugh. George Wallace took his stand-up spot, if not his hosting gig, the only stand-up seen during Jerry's on stage tenure. As they used to say on "Cheers", "NORM!"...
Jerry went to sleep, I went to sleep. I got up, but there's still no evidence Jerry has--I'll keep watching! (Y'know, there were those years when I would tape the overnight hours, planning to watch 'em later--look! The Jerry Lewis Telethon on Christmas Eve!!--but more often than not, never quite got around to it, so I skipped the gesture entirely this year...)
I didn't tape a single minute of the show, but I did manage, what with Julie already off to college and the day miserable enough to keep me inside, to see more of it than in quite a long time (although, truthfully, it's only the first 45 and last 15 minutes I made a point of watching closely, most of the other time toiling away at the drawing board, merely monitoring events...).
Locally, we have Tony Orlando co-hosting with channel 9 sportscaster Russ Saltzberg, and--every year--the now 83 year old Mrs. Gil Hodges answers phones in the NYC segment!! Yup, we hear "Knock 3 Times" at least 1 time EVERY year!!
And every year, Russ calls for the induction of the late-Brooklyn Dodger--and Miracle Mets manager--into baseball's Hall of Fame. Gotta agree with him there.
Hope you had a restful evening, Jer. (Actually, he seemed a bit lethargic at first, and his voice needed to be cleared more than once. Maybe he overdid it a little the night before?...)
Jerry just showcased the potential star of his upcoming Broadway production of "The Nutty Professor", singing a centennial tribute to Johnny Mercer--nice voice, and he looks enough like Jerry to make me think that they're clearly not going in an Eddie Murphy-type direction...
Too bad Sammy Petrillo is no longer available for the job...
4:02 PM--Jerry's annual Eva Braun reference! After which, mere moments later, he announces "Max Rose", his next movie!! Wow!
A new movie? A Broadway play? Man, Jerry's gonna give Stan Lee a run for his money in the category of "Most Active Octenagerian"! (Or has Hugh Hefner got that one totally nailed down?...)
Need a big finish, Jerry? An Al Jolson medley does the trick every time! (If that time is also favorable to Anne Bancroft "Miracle Worker" references, that is...)
I LOVE Jerry's ridiculously dated references!! Why not juts throw in "Regis Toomey" and be done with it? (And let's just all be grateful Mr. L performed Jolson sans blackface...)
...And he's gone! Ending as always with "You'll Never Walk Alone" (choking up as always during the final chorus), Jerry Lewis has left the building and Labor Day is now officially over!! School tomorrow kids--get your sleep!!
Well, actually, after Jerry (who didn't get his "one dollar more" but, reports have it 5 million less than last year--though 60 mil in THIS economy ain't nothing to sneeze at!!...) walks off stage around 5:45, NYC area viewers get another hour and a quarter of Tony Orlando (minus Dawn) working the tri-state area, which ended this year with all concerned singing a string of rock chestnuts, going out amidst a raucous and ragged rendition of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction".
Quite a show this year. Sure hope Jer's up for another NEXT September!! Check back here for the details!!
|September 2nd, 2009|
|Praise The Laird
Ever hear of Laird Cregar?
Probably not--unless, like me, you were an avid reader of monster magazines back in the sixties (particularly CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN). Cregar was a tall, burly character actor who was on the verge of achieving actual stardom thanks to "The Lodger" (1944) and "Hangover Square" (1945). Unfortunately, in a misguided attempt to hopefully qualify as a romantic lead, he dropped over one hundred pounds in a very short period of time, and had a fatal heart attack as a result, dying two months before "Hangover Square" hit theaters, his one and only top-billed feature (though clearly the star of "The Lodger", the well-known actress, Merle Oberon, had her name listed first).
These two films fall into the category of films burned into my noggin via decades old monster mags yet never seen, so, when, remarkably, TCM scheduled both of them within a few weeks of one another, how could I possibly resist? (And no, it wasn't a Laird Cregar film festival--the first was part of a day devoted to Oberon, the second to an evening saluting the composer Bernard Herrman, who provided the haunting music for Cregar's composer character to play).
In "The Lodger", Cregar plays a man seeking room and board, a man who may--or may not--be the infamous Jack The Ripper. Even if he isn't--and the scenario remains coy to the very end--he's definitely more than a little off and easily capable of violence! It's a remarkable performance, every bit as good as CoF's reviewer said it was over forty years ago!! I was totally mesmerized--he sells crazy without overselling, and even when trying to pass as normal, evinces a chilling hint of psychosis with the tone of his voice and the darting of his eyes. I waited a long, long time to witness Cregar in action, and friends, he DIDN'T disappoint!! Just imagine the career he coulda had if only there'd been Jenny Craig back in '44!!
"Hangover Square'--by the same director, the same screenwriter, virtually the same setting (turn of the century England, give or take a decade or two between the flicks), and even a young George Sanders in similar roles--a police detective in the former, a police doctor in the latter--seems, at first, to be a rehash of the earlier film. However, there are some distinct differences, starting with showing Cregar clearly killing a man in the opening scene. The gimmick here is that HE doesn't realize what he's done, only that, for reasons specified later--hearing discordant sounds combined with an agitated state serving as his trigger--he goes on a destructive rampage that his memory suppresses after he comes out of his trance. And while out of his trance, he's portrayed as a real nice guy, normal even. And THIS is the biggest deviation from "The Lodger", cuz in that, he's NEVER portrayed as normal. Fact is, for the longest time, he's being played as a big lovesick schlub by ambitious singer Linda Darnell, who's keeping him from his high-brow concerto (which, incidentally, is being sponsored by Alan "Alfred The Butler" Napier) so he can write tunes for her low-brow stage shows. His confused expression during these scenes reminded me of nothing short of an overweight Gomer Pyle (the young Sanders resembled an UNCLE-era Robert Vaughn crossed with CNN's Anderson Cooper, for whatever THAT observation's worth...). After "The Lodger", I found it a little difficult to swallow Laird as a big dope, but eventually---CLANG!! Discordant sounds! Expert eye rolling, and a finale that has to be seen to be appreciated, as his long-awaited concerto gets its first--and likely LAST--performance!! Quite a way to go out, on screen and off.
I'd recommend both of these films, but, if at all possible, try and see "The Lodger" first, as it's the better movie. Cregar was never gonna make it as a romantic lead, based on his efforts in "Hangover Square". A killer, yes, a kisser, no.
(But hey, who can tell about these things? I found Darnell far more appealing than Oberon, but the latter was the one with the long successful career, and the former wasn't. Of course, I base this purely on one singular performance each. Who knows what tomorrow will bring on TCM?(Well, thanks to their schedule, we ALL do...))
|September 1st, 2009|
|Suddenly, Summer Vacation Is Over...
Lynn and I spent the past weekend up in Geneva, getting daughter Julie settled in for her sophomore year of college. We met the five girls she'll be sharing a suite with, and spent some time with boyfriend Alec as well. Minus the pair of nearly five hour drives up and down the New York State Thruway, I'd have to say it was an enjoyable getaway.
And then, when we arrived back home, suddenly I was confronted with the stunning news that Disney had bought Marvel!!
I guess Howard can finally get rid of those silly pants now, huh?...
|Later, in an attempt to unwind from the long
trip, I settled down in front of the tube
with a flick I'd taped off of TCM the night
before we'd headed out:
I'd long been curious about this film. Hey, it featured Frank Sinatra as a presidential assassin--how could I NOT be??
(BIG TIME SPOILERS COMING UP--BEWARE!!)
Turns out Ol' Blue Eyes plays a psychotic ex-GI who's willing to shoot the president simply for monetary, not political, reasons (he doesn't even know who's behind the massive payoff--and doesn't much care, either). Sinatra and his two confederates commandeer a house on a hill directly above the area where the Chief Exec's train is scheduled to stop and transfer the President to a waiting limousine. Frankie, encumbered with a house full of hostages, meticulously sets up his long-range rifle on a bolted down table in front of the bay window, and then just waits. Sinatra plays his role with a winning combination of both crazy and calculating, making him seem all the more dangerous. The suspense is taut throughout, despite the fact that, going in, we all pretty much know the president WON'T wind up being shot. It's a pretty good film, one I'd recommend.
There IS one glaring plot contrivance that just doesn't add up for me: two thirds of the way through, Sinatra sends accomplice Paul Frees (yes, Ludwig Von Drake/Haunted Mansion Paul Frees) down into town to make sure everything is still on schedule. Even Frees' character--well aware that the tiny town of Suddenly (thus, the film's name) is crawling with State Police AND Secret Service--knows that he'd stand out like a sore thumb, but Sinatra sends him anyway. Frankie is portrayed as nuts, yes, but not stupid. But this is an incredibly stupid move, and naturally backfires on the plotters. If I were assigning stars to these things, I'd drop a full one for this scriptwriting blunder, but even so, it's worth a look.
And, over on something called Joost.com, you can actually view the whole of "Suddenly"--ain't the internet somethin'?
(Incidentally, I've been watching PLENTY of other TCM flicks--yes, I'm keeping a list--but there's just no time to go into any sort of detail now. Not suddenly, no, but maybe eventually...)
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