Saturday, December 30, 2006

New Year, New Look

Playing around with the new Blogger tonight, I decided to spice the site up a bit. Many of you are graphic designers, so I fully expect to receive feedback on how hideous the new look is. I'm definitely staying with a light-colored background; black Web site backgrounds are a pet peeve of mine, since I can't look at light text on black for more than a few seconds before my eyes begin hurting. I thought the white was a bit harsh, but this new background feels soothing.

I've also decided to keep track of the movies I watch over on the sidebar. I've been keeping a personal list in Excel form for several years now, and this year I've been tracking movies on the Classic Horror Film Board, but it got to be a bit of a chore bouncing around from site to site.

If I forgot to relist your site in my Links section, please let me know. I lost the previous data when I changed Blogger templates, so my memory may have left yours out. Or, for that matter, if you'd like to be listed, send me a note, and I'll take a look at your site.

I'll probably switch out that corner photo on occasion, but I couldn't think of a better way to ring in a new year than, "!"

Casino Royale (2006)

I don’t want to dump too harshly on the new Bond film, since I enjoyed it more than I expected to, but it feels like a James Bond movie for moviegoers who don’t like James Bond. I wrote in 1999 about THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH:

Watching a James Bond movie these days is like visiting a favorite relative at Thanksgiving. You know exactly what's on the menu, and you know you're with good company; in fact, it's that very familiarity that makes it so nice. You know going in that 007 will ask for a martini, "shaken not stirred". He will introduce himself to someone as "Bond. James Bond". He'll visit a casino. He'll make love to three different women: one bad, one good, and one completely peripheral to the main plot. The main villain will chew out one of his henchman, and then unexpectedly kill a second one as a warning to the first. The heavy will also capture Bond, but, instead of killing him immediately, will either talk long enough for him to escape or contrive an intricate deathtrap (usually with a digital number countdown) from which Bond will somehow manage to free himself. And there'll be lots of gadgets, cool cars, exotic locations, chases, fights, explosions, stunts and imaginative methods of killing. And Q, the crotchety old man who supplies 007 with his fancy equipment, will get P.O.ed at him.

While some of the above occurs in CASINO ROYALE, not quite enough does for my tastes. But maybe I’m just being a fogey. What looks to me like a ripoff of the successful Jason Bourne movies starring Matt Damon has certainly struck a chord with audiences worldwide, as CASINO ROYALE is the most financially successful 007 movie ever made.

NOTE: In a technical sense, that’s true, since CASINO ROYALE’s international box office is an all-time high. However, every Bond movie from GOLDENEYE on, even the abysmal DIE ANOTHER DAY, has broken the box-office record of the movie just before it. And, of course, if one were to judge box office on the basis of ticket sales, there’s little doubt that THUNDERBALL or perhaps GOLDFINGER would prove to be the #1 Bond.

Eon Productions’ 21st James Bond movie is, of course, the most radically different of the series. Constructed as a “reimagining” of the 007 legend, CASINO ROYALE, which bears no resemblance to the 1967 movie of the same name, is a reasonably faithful adaptation of Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel and plays as an “origin story” of sorts. James Bond (the craggy Daniel Craig, a rough-looking blond with ears that stick out), who has only recently received his “license to kill” from MI6, is sent to Montenegro to compete in a winner-take-all Texas Hold ‘Em tournament (another sellout to yokel U.S. audiences) being held at Le Casino Royale. His mission is to prevent Le Chiffre (Mads Mikkelsen), an underworld accountant, from winning the $150 million grand prize, which he will use to finance terrorist organizations. Bond is teamed up with Vesper Lynd (Eva Green), a more experienced agent who holds Bond’s pursestrings.

At 144 minutes, CASINO ROYALE is the longest Bond movie ever made, and it feels like it. After a fast-moving beginning featuring a pair of rousing action scenes, including an amazing parkour-flavored chase through a construction site, the movie bogs down a bit with the protracted card game and an overlong finale. Much of Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and Paul Haggis’ screenplay is pulled straight from Fleming’s novel, including Bond’s shockingly brutal torture at the hands of Le Chiffre. Although CASINO ROYALE is in many ways a fine action movie, I never believed that Craig was James Bond, and the general lack of gadgetry, wry one-liners, the traditional gun-barrel logo opening and even the legendary James Bond Theme (which composer David Arnold holds until the final minute) are missed.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Don

Through mere circumstance, I happened to watch a couple of recent thrillers this week co-starring Donald Sutherland, the great Canadian actor known best, I suppose, as the original Hawkeye Pierce in Robert Altman's Oscar-winning film M*A*S*H. Of course, he may today be best known for fathering Kiefer Sutherland, TV's intrepid world-saver Jack Bauer on the Fox adventure series 24 (and for all the Canadian actors who have appeared on 24 over the years, it's curious that Donald hasn't been tapped for a guest shot or two).

HOLLOW POINT is a 1996 direct-to-video action movie that you probably ignored on video store shelves, but is worth 90 minutes of your time. It's a lighthearted action romp that teams Thomas Ian Griffith (EXCESSIVE FORCE) as a pill-popping ex-DEA agent and yummy Tia Carrere (RELIC HUNTER) as a tough FBI agent that compete with one another to capture a colorful mobster played by John Lithgow (3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN). Sutherland steals all of his scenes as a very effective mob assassin who murders Tia's friend in retaliation for her busting up a mobster's son's wedding. What's tricky about the role is that, after Griffith and Carrere capture him early in the film, instead of busting Sutherland, they cart him around to use as information. Sutherland becomes, in effect, a comic-relief sidekick who befriends his captors and even gives them his loft as a wedding present (don't ask). It's a role that necessitates a good deal of charm, because the movie demands that we like Sutherland--so much so that it's easy to forget that he's a killer. A charming and eccentric killer, to be sure, but one who's very good at his job.

Sidney J. Furie, a former Hollywood A-list director now relegated to DTV fare, does a good job keeping the action moving and the laughs coming. I can watch lovely Carrere in just about everything, and even though she's obviously miscast as an FBI agent, she fares better than Griffith, who's not my favorite leading man and certainly one who seems uncomfortable sparring romantically with his leading lady. He's fine, I suppose, and gets along okay with Carrere. At least he's not Lorenzo Lamas.

Heavier than HOLLOW POINT but no less entertaining is THE ASSIGNMENT, which came out a year later in 1997. Unlike HOLLOW POINT, THE ASSIGNMENT actually received some theatrical playdates, but very few. It probably appeared on no more than a few dozen American screens, although one was in Chicago where it was reviewed by Roger Ebert for the Sun-Times.

THE ASSIGNMENT casts Sutherland as Henry Fields, an upper-level CIA employee who becomes obsessed with capturing an international terrorist named Carlos the Jackal. Stunned to discover that an average Naval seaman named Annibal Ramirez (Aidan Quinn) bears an amazing physical resemblance to Carlos, Fields uses his political pull to "volunteer" a reluctant Ramirez for a dangerous mission: to impersonate Carlos and convince the KGB (the film takes place in the late 1980s) that the killer is in the CIA's hip pocket, forcing the Russians to assassinate him.

Fields and a Mossad agent named Amos (Ben Kingsley) spend two months at a deserted Montreal prison, training Annibal to think like, act like, react like, even make love like Carlos. His disguise must be absolutely perfect for the plan to work.

Directed by Christian Duguay, a Canadian filmmaker with some very good genre credits such as SCREAMERS (a sci-fi movie based on a Philip K. Dick story) and LIVE WIRE (which casts Pierce Brosnan as a bomb squad officer chasing a terrorist), THE ASSIGNMENT is a smartly developed and paced thriller with a couple of exciting action sequences, some wry twists, and a thoughtful, suspenseful climax. Although the very Irish-American Quinn initially seems miscast as a Cuban-American who poses as a Venezuelan (in fact, Andy Garcia turned down the role before it was offered to Quinn), he's plausible enough in a tricky performance that allows him to essay three roles: Ramirez, Carlos and Ramirez posing as Carlos. He pulls it off well, and shines in his scenes with Sutherland, whose character shows several shades of gray.

HOLLOW POINT and THE ASSIGNMENT are different types of films, but both are worth watching, and both feature chewy supporting roles for Donald Sutherland.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A Day Late, But Who Cares

I hope to get back on a regular blogging schedule this week, now that most of the holiday bustle is out of the way. I don't really follow any holiday traditions, but one of my favorites is Darlene Love's annual performance of "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" on THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN.

Love was one of many great musical talents discovered and/or nurtured by the legendary (now notorious) Phil Spector, who co-wrote "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" with Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich for the great A CHRISTMAS GIFT FOR YOU FROM PHIL SPECTOR album released in 1963. Love, who sang on some wonderful girl-group records with The Blossoms, The Crystals ("He's A Rebel," for instance, which was penned by Gene Pitney), and solo, performed the Spector/Barry/Greenwich composition on the album, and began making annual appearances with Letterman in 1994 with full orchestral arrangements by Paul Shaffer.

You may also recognize Love for her recurring acting role as Danny Glover's wife in the LETHAL WEAPON movies. I missed this year's Letterman appearance, but here's the 2005 telecast. Darlene Love and "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)":

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Have A Happy Rat Pack Christmas

Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra perform "Marshmallow World" on a 1967 episode of THE DEAN MARTIN SHOW.

See ya after the holidays!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

There's No Place Like It

For a healthy dose of holiday cheer and goodwill, watch something else this Christmas. 1972's HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, a Christmas-set made-for-TV horror movie, is as downbeat as they come, but is definitely worth watching for its Gothic flavor and for its outstanding cast. You'd be hard-pressed to find more acclaimed actors; HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS' cast notched up 22 Emmy nominations during their careers (and six Emmy wins), as well as ten Academy Award nominations (and five Oscars). Needless to say, screenwriter Joseph Stefano (who adapted Robert Bloch's PSYCHO to the big screen for Alfred Hitchcock) provides the predominantly female cast plenty of opportunities to stretch.

Aged patriarch Benjamin Morgan (Walter Brennan) summons his four estranged daughters to his dying bedside on Christmas Eve: grad student Christine (Sally Field, still best known as THE FLYING NUN at this point), neurotic Frederica (Jessica Walter, just off PLAY MISTY FOR ME), party girl Joanna (Jill Haworth) and Alex (Eleanor Parker, 24 years older than Field), the oldest. None has set foot in the Morgan house since their mother's suicide nine years earlier, a death the daughters blamed on Morgan's affair with the woman he's now married to, Elizabeth (Julie Harris), who was accused of murdering her first husband. Now Morgan believes his wife is trying to poison him to death and wants his daughters' help. As the torrential rain falls, the phones go out, the roads wash over and the electricity flutters, the bodies start to tumble... Who is killing the Morgan clan and why?

At a mere 72 minutes, HOME manages to work up quite a bit of bitterness and terror, thanks to a cast of veteran scenery-chewers and Field, who hadn't quite outgrown GIDGET, but proves herself a game screamer and a cutie of a heroine. None of the actors are exactly cast against type, but the tight direction by John Llewellyn Moxey (THE NIGHT STALKER) provides enough room for them to bite down on, making this a decent enough chiller, if not among the finest on 1970's TV.

It's surprising and more than a little disappointing to note how much tamer television has become over the last thirty years. Sure, networks can say dirtier words and show the side of a breast now and again, but terror like this is a thing of the past.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Joseph Barbera, R.I.P.

Joseph Barbera, one-half of the legendary Hanna-Barbera team that created all of the beloved cartoon characters seen above, has died at the age of 95. If you think your life wasn't touched in a major way by Mr. Barbera, ask yourself how many of those characters you recognize. The answer will be: "a lot."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

I Humbly Accept The Honor

Congratulate me on being named TIME's Person of the Year.

Even though, according to George Will, I'm a narcissist.

Writing about your opinions online = narcissist. Unless, I guess, you're George Will, who writes about his opinions online every week.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

It Ain't Fucking Frosty

Looking for something new to perk up your holiday viewing? Tired of umpteen reruns of A CHRISTMAS STORY and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE? Anxious to add something, er, abominable to the season?

Look no further than JACK FROST, the best killer-snowman movie ever made. Yep, it's true. This 1996 black comic horror movie is about a condemned serial killer named Jack Frost (what an amazing coincidence) who's on his way to the death house Richard Kimble-style when the van in which he's riding smashes into a truck carrying an experimental chemical. Kinda like Ray Wise's death in ROBOCOP, Frost is drenched with the chemical, and, as a result, is transformed into a walking, talking snowman, complete with coal eyes, a carrot nose and a demented grin.

Stalking the snowy community of Snowmonton (the snowman capital of the world--what an amazing coincidence), Snowman-Frost seeks revenge against small-town sheriff Sam (busy TV guest star Christopher Allport) and his family. Locked doors are no hindrance, because he can melt himself down to water and then pass through keyholes or under loose jambs. He shoots icicles from his hands like bullets, all the while mocking his victims with Freddy Krueger-like quips like, "I'm the world's most pissed-off snowcone," and, after jamming an axe handle down a guy's throat, "I only axed you for a smoke."

I don't know what writer/director Michael Cooney's budget was, but he could have used another million bucks. Big setpieces like a car crash and an exploding police station are staged completely off-camera, and the big finale involves little more than a pane of candy glass and a pickup truck. You'll also be treated to 23-year-old Shannon Elizabeth's first film appearance. She takes a bath, but doesn't provide any glimpses of the pert (fake) breasts that would vault her to fame in AMERICAN PIE.

OK, so it's a very silly movie, but also a fun (and funny) one. Occasionally mean-spirited, Cooney keeps it relatively gore-free, and all the horror is played for laughs (although a snowman rape scene might test your taste threshold). Allport strikes the right note as a hero with a sense of humor. It's really just the production values that provide the biggest letdown. Cooney obviously filmed someplace without snow, so the streets are clear, and shaving cream drips from the roofs and walls of buildings. Jack Frost is clearly made from foam balls, and you never do get a good look at the entire creature moving around. I'm surprised it wasn't completely rendered using CGI, but I think it wouldn't have looked any better if it had.

Believe it or not, Cooney and Allport returned for a JACK FROST 2.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Die Hard 4 Trailer

I always thought DIE HARD would have been a better movie if Bruce Willis had had a geeky comic-relief sidekick and the action scenes contained more cheap-looking CGI.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Professor Dave Jennings’ Milton-Free, Universe-Expanding Holiday Midterm

If you're looking for a fun way to kill a few minutes, head on over to Dennis Cozzalio's Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule blog and read the various answers posters have given to his latest meme, which is titled "PROFESSOR DAVE JENNINGS' MILTON-FREE, UNIVERSE-EXPANDING HOLIDAY MIDTERM." It took me a couple of hours over two nights to "take the test," but it was a lot of fun, and I hope someone enjoys reading it as much as I enjoyed reading everyone else's. My answers follow below. If you're interesting in tackling Dennis' meme, feel free to post it in my Comments section. I've found an older one on Dennis' site that maybe I'll tangle with later. Thanks to Chris Stangl for pointing the meme out to me in his blog, The Exploding Kinetoscope.

1) What was the last movie you saw, either in a theater or on DVD, and why?
Boy, did you catch me at a weird time. Sunday afternoon, Chicken, Grady and Michael came over, ostensibly to watch NFL Football, but they decided they wanted to watch “crappy movies” instead. We watched two of them as the sun set on Sunday. The second one—and the most recent film I’ve seen—was THE STABILIZER, which I have viewed close to ten times and have yet to tire of it. THE STABILIZER is quite likely the strangest and the craziest film I’ve ever seen. It’s an Indonesian action movie shot in Jakarta during the early 1980’s, and stars somebody named “Peter O’Brien” as Peter Goldson, an “American cop” nicknamed “The Stabilizer.” Uh, that’s because he “stabilizes” the balance between good and evil in the world. And why did I watch it? Because that’s what they asked for, and Michael had never seen it. And now he’s glad he did.

P.S. Since answering this question, I've watched Code Red's DVD of the boring slasher movie THE FOREST, but I'm sticking with THE STABILIZER anyway.

2) Name the cinematographer whose work you most look forward to seeing, and an example of one of his/her finest achievements.
I can’t really say that I have a “favorite” cinematographer, but I usually think it’s neat when I see Dean Cundey’s name in the credits, or, in fact, anyone who managed to start out in low-budget exploitation movies and break into the big time. Cundey’s early credits include the trashy killer-‘Nam-vet obscurity THE NO MERCY MAN, the blaxploitation hairdresser sleazefest BLACK SHAMPOO and the great BARE KNUCKLES. He hooked up with John Carpenter to do fabulous work on HALLOWEEN and THE FOG, whose look lends the ghost story a spectacularly spooky vibe. A few more Carpenter pics later, Cundey joined Steven Spielberg’s repertory company of sorts, shooting Amblin’ productions like JURASSIC PARK, HOOK and the BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy directed by Robert Zemeckis. It’s really not all that common for a below-the-line talent to rise from the bottom of the industry to the cream of the crop, but Cundey did.

3) Joe Don Baker or Bo Svenson?
Whew, that’s a tough call. A couple of years ago, I would have said Joe Don, no question. But after watching more Svenson than Baker movies recently, I’ve got to make the call for Bo. He, quite frankly, can do more on-screen than can Baker. While he seamlessly stepped into Baker’s shoes for the two sequels to WALKING TALL (and the television series) as tough guy sheriff Buford Pusser, Svenson is also pretty good in the domestic drama scenes and in moments of humor. Consider, for instance, his romantic chemistry with Cybill Shepherd in the light action/comedy SPECIAL DELIVERY or his insouciant, throwaway manner (although this may have been a performance enhanced with libation) in the silly GOLD OF THE AMAZON WOMEN. It’s difficult to imagine Baker in either film, whereas I think Svenson could have acquitted himself quite well in Baker vehicles like MITCHELL or even JUNIOR BONNER.

Don’t take any of this as a rip of Joe Don Baker, who has become a welcome supporting face in major films, unlike Svenson, who has remained strictly in exploitation circles.

4) Name a moment from a movie that made you gasp (in horror, surprise, revelation…)
I don’t want to spoil anything, but I first saw WAIT UNTIL DARK during a high-school assembly (don’t ask me why…I think it may have been leading into Christmas vacation). It isn’t a horror movie—not really—but director Terence Young engineers a “bus” near the end that is as startling and suspenseful as any other I’ve ever seen.

I didn’t literally gasp, but the powerful non-sex sex scene in WITNESS, where Harrison Ford catches a topless Kelly McGillis washing herself, is remarkably erotic cinema.

5) Your favorite movie about the movies.
What else? HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD, the best picture in which the lovely B-starlet Candice Rialson ever starred. It was co-directed by Allan Arkush and Joe Dante, editors of New World trailers who convinced boss Roger Corman they could direct a feature in ten days for $50,000. It’s a very funny and fast-paced comedy that uses stock footage from Corman pictures like DEATH RACE 2000 and THE BIG DOLL HOUSE while simultaneously spoofing them. Rialson stars as Candy Hope, a beautiful wannabe actress just in from Indiana trying to make it big in Hollywood by appearing in low-budget features for Miracle Pictures ("If it's a good movie, it's a Miracle."). A psycho who's systematically killing off Miracle's stars makes her task even more difficult. The plot is less important than the agreeable performances and the anarchic style of the film. Rialson is funny, sweet and sexy, although some scenes appear to hit a little too close to home. Her best moment is probably the scene in which she attends the premiere of her first movie at a sleazy drive-in and gets drunk while bemoaning her fate to appear in such crappy pictures. No doubt Candice drew from her own personal experience for that scene. If you’ve never seen Candice Rialson perform, HOLLYWOOD BOULEVARD is the one movie to watch. Plus, it’s a terrific showcase for resident Corman players such as Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Tara Strohmeier and Dick Miller.

6) Your Favorite Fritz Lang movie.
There’s a lot of Lang I need to see, but I do like 1956’s WHILE THE CITY SLEEPS, which stars Dana Andrews, George Sanders, Rhonda Fleming, Vincent Price and Thomas Mitchell. More melodrama than thrills in this newspaper story about a TV commentator (Andrews), a newswire editor (Sanders) and a city editor of a daily paper (Mitchell) competing against each other to discover the identity of a serial killer stalking New York City. They believe that whomever comes up with the scoop will receive a promotion from their foppish new boss (Price). Some pretty good acting by a great cast makes this drama worth seeing if you keep in mind it's not really a thriller. Ida Lupino, Howard Duff, John Drew Barrymore and James Craig are also in this RKO release.

7) Describe the first time you ever recognized yourself in a movie.
While I’m not thrilled to admit it, seeing Albert Brooks in BROADCAST NEWS was, in so many ways, like looking into the mirror. Although I never quite broke down on a radio broadcast the way Brooks does when he gets his one big chance to anchor the news, so much about his personality, his attitude, his frustrations and his relationship with the woman he secretly loves sadly felt very much like my life at that time.

On a literal level, my ass should have received separate billing in LOTTO, a short film made by my friend Chris here in Champaign about ten years ago. I have one scene, standing on the sidewalk with my rear to the camera, looking into a closed appliance store. I got to see LOTTO on a big theater screen once, and it surely was odd seeing my ass four feet high.

8) Carole Bouquet or Angela Molina?
I must admit, I don’t know who Angela Molina is, and searching IMDb, I don’t think I’ve seen any of her movies. By default, I go with Bouquet, whom I only know from FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, where she was quite beautiful if slightly blank as a vengeful young woman seeking violent retribution for the death of her parents.

9) Name a movie that redeems the notion of nostalgia as something more than a bankable commodity.
I’m with Chris Stangl on this one. I don’t know what this means.

10) Favorite appearance by an athlete in an acting role.
I probably have to go with Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, the former Kansas City Chief who became one of the most prolific black filmmakers in history. Fred pretty much always played the exact same character in every movie he was in, but always backed up his strategy by claiming “The Hammer” is who his fans pay to see. And he may be right. His best performance is quite likely that of gangster Tommy Gibbs in BLACK CAESAR, a crude but crackling action yarn written and directed by Larry Cohen. It’s one of the few films in which Williamson’s character dies…even though he somehow managed a resurrection for the sequel (also by Cohen), HELL UP IN HARLEM.

11) Favorite Hal Ashby movie.
Unlike Fritz Lang, I have seen quite a few Ashby movies. He was still an active (if slumping) director when he died of cancer in 1988, and is one of the best Hollywood directors that few people aside from rabid film fans have heard of. I’m a big fan of THE LAST DETAIL, which is a raw, rough and amazingly profane comedy with an Oscar-nominated script by Robert Towne. It’s also one of the most quotable films I’ve ever seen with Jack Nicholson’s tirade about calling “the motherfucking shore patrol, motherfucker” an even better bit than his more famous FIVE EASY PIECES diner rant.

12) Name the first double feature you’d program for opening night of your own revival theater.
I’ve actually thought about this a billion times, and have come up with a different answer almost every time. For nostalgia’s sake, I’ll say Cannon’s ENTER THE NINJA and REVENGE OF THE NINJA, because those were the titles shown at my very first Crappy Movie Night back in 2002 when only LD and Panno were present.

13) What’s the name of your revival theater?
Hmmm. Starcrash Cinema?

14) Humphrey Bogart or Elliot Gould?
Hey, I like Elliott Gould! And I like THE LONG GOODBYE, the Robert Altman film in which Gould played the most eccentric Philip Marlowe ever.

15) Favorite Robert Stevenson movie.
Does anybody have a favorite Robert Stevenson movie? THE ABSENT MINDED PROFESSOR.

16) Describe your favorite moment in a movie that is memorable because of its use of sound.
If “sound” also means “music,” I’ll go with the shot near the end of THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY where Sergio Leone whip-pans around that cemetery, following Eli Wallach (with one of cinema’s strangest looking runs) as Morricone’s awesome “The Ecstasy of Gold” wails on the soundtrack.

17) Pink Flamingos-- yes or no?
God, no. And I’ve seen it twice. A friend of mine refuses to admit that he’s actually seen it. If I were to call him and ask how he likes PINK FLAMINGOS, he will deny watching it. But he has. And so have I. But I’m still trying to forget.

“How much is that doggie in the window..?”

18) Your favorite movie soundtrack score.

19) Fay Wray or Naomi Watts?
One of the few things Peter Jackson did right when he remade KING KONG was to cast Watts. I don’t believe any contemporary actress would have been more right for Ann Darrow, not just because she’s one of Hollywood’s most beautiful women. She’s also a terrific actress, better than Fay Wray, although KONG made her a cinematic icon who will most likely be remembered longer than Naomi Watts.

20) Is there a movie that would make you question the judgment and/or taste of a film critic, blogger or friend if you found out they were an advocate of it?
Not a movie, but whenever I read ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY or some other mainstream publication writing anything about the talent and/or charisma of bland pretty boys like Ashton Kutcher or Ryan Reynolds, I can’t take them seriously. Fucking Kelso.

21) Pick a new category for the Oscars and its first deserving winner.

Well, if I could hand out an Oscar to anyone, I’d give Roger Corman the same Honorary Award that Robert Altman received last year. And for the same reason.

22) Favorite Paul Verhoeven movie.
ROBOCOP. And I don’t understand people who claim SHOWGIRLS is actually a good movie or that it’s purposely camp. No, it isn’t. It’s terrible. And terribly entertaining.

23) What is it that you think movies do better than any other art form?
Blow up cars. Ever seen a painting of an exploding car? Kinda sucks.

24) Peter Ustinov or Albert Finney?
Ustinov, if only for TOPKAPI. Am I the only one who thinks Finney has aged to look like William Shatner?

25) Favorite movie studio logo, as it appears before a theatrical feature.
American International Pictures or New World Pictures, because I know I’m probably about to see something kickass. I think the James Bond series lost something when they no longer started with the old United Artists logo. I also love the old airplane-orbiting-Earth Universal logo, the radio-tower RKO logo and the Warner Brothers shield. I love the rainbow of Avco-Embassy as it spins around. And the cheese factor of the wah-wah American Cinema theme can’t be overrated.

26) Name the single most important book about the movies for you personally.
The easiest question of all. Michael Weldon’s THE PSYCHOTRONIC ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FILM, which I first read when I was in high school and have devoured cover-to-cover maybe a dozen times since. I still use it as a reference at least once a week, and I’m on my second copy, because I wore the first one out years ago.

27) Name the movie that features the best twist ending. (Please note the use of any “spoilers” in your answer.)
It happens before the end, but MALICE’s twist is very cheeky. But I’ll say SLEEPAWAY CAMP, because it’s fun to watch the audience’s faces when it happens.

28) Favorite Francois Truffaut movie.

29) Olivia Hussey or Claire Danes?
Claire Danes was never in an Australian MOST DANGEROUS GAME ripoff that was so violent, it had to be cut to get an R rating in America. So Hussey (who also was the heroine in the damn spooky BLACK CHRISTMAS).

30) Your most memorable celebrity encounter.
My first lengthy celebrity interview, actor Robert Forster, who was a very nice man and answered a lot of questions he probably thought nobody would care about (“Why is this guy asking me about BANYON, fer Christ’s sake?”). It was even better for me because I had long been a fan who admired his work and his work ethic. It’s impossible to not root for Forster to succeed.

31) When did you first realize that films were directed?
Probably almost as soon as I became aware of films. Even at a very young age, I was a credit reader and remembered the names of cast and crew members that showed up in the credits. I remember once wanting to be a TV director…not a film director…but someone who made all my favorite TV shows. I guess I figured directing BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY was the coolest job anyone could have.

Monday, December 11, 2006


I've been terribly busy the last few days, and haven't had much time to blog. To make it up to you, I'm working on quite an elaborate blog post that maybe I'll have finished by this time tomorrow. However, I feel I have to post something, so here's a preview of "next week's" episode of 240-ROBERT.

I was a big fan of this ABC hour series, which ran only a couple of (very short) seasons. Basically a ripoff of NBC's EMERGENCY! and CHIPS, 240-ROBERT starred a young Mark Harmon and John Bennett Perry as a search and rescue team that covered the Los Angeles area on the ground and Joanna Cassidy as their colleague in the air, a rescue chopper pilot. The CHIPS similarities should come as no surprise, considering 240-ROBERT's creator was CHIPS executive producer Rick Rosner.

Here's the preview for "Out of Sight," which aired October 15, 1979. And what an action-packed episode: a high-rise rescue, two car crashes, hysterical blindness and an exploding gas station!

Harvey Lembeck ("Why me all the time?") is the guest star in that clip. 240-ROBERT lasted only 16 episodes, but Harmon went on to television success on FLAMINGO ROAD and, especially, ST. ELSEWHERE. Perry is perhaps more interesting because of his more famous son: actor Matthew Perry of FRIENDS and STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP. Matthew actually appeared as a child on a 240-ROBERT episode, and later returned Dad's favor by casting John in a FRIENDS, a SCRUBS that he directed, and in his film FOOLS RUSH IN. If I remember correctly (and it's not a movie that tends to stay with you after it's over), they did play father and son in FOOLS RUSH IN.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Man From Binger

Happy birthday to my all-time favorite baseball player, who was born December 7, 1947 in Oklahoma City and was reared in the tiny town of Binger. One of the most exciting nights of my young life was attending Johnny Bench Night at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati on September 17, 1983. It was one of the last games Bench would ever play before retiring at the end of the season. Even though he had mostly been playing third base (and not all that well), due to bad knees earned by squatting behind home plate 150 games a season, he caught that night and batted cleanup. And damned if he not only belted his 389th (and last) career home run, but also legged out an infield single!

The Reds lost to Houston that night 4-3, but no one in Cincy cared. I still carry the Cincinnati Post's box score of that game in my wallet.

Truman Capotay?

If you have five minutes to kill, you could do a lot worse than to watch this classic SCTV game show parody. It was written by Catherine O'Hara, now earning rave reviews for her performance in Christopher Guest's new film FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. She plays "Margaret Meehan" in the sketch, and says she enjoyed writing these game show sketches because it gave her the opportunity to perform with the entire cast.

Eugene Levy kicks ass here as the increasingly flustered host, and the other parts are played by SCTV regulars John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Dave Thomas and Andrea Martin. I believe the sixth panelist is played by one of the writers; Rick Moranis would fill the spot when he later became a regular.

The sketch appears to be a takeoff of the venerable weekend afternoon quiz program G.E. COLLEGE BOWL, but it's more likely based on a Canadian series called REACH FOR THE TOP.

"The Beatles?"

Here's Boomer

Why was NBC the lowest-rated TV network in 1980? Check out this 30-second promo:

HERE'S BOOMER was a ripoff of BENJI, about a little dog who roamed around getting involved with people's problems. PINK LADY AND JEFF I wrote about on my old blog, a shortlived variety series starring unfunny standup comic Jeff Altman and two cute young Japanese women who didn't speak a word of English. And I think you already know how much THE FACTS OF LIFE sucked, although you may have been surprised to see Molly Ringwald in that clip. Before becoming a member of John Hughes' repertory company, she was a regular on the first season only of THE FACTS OF LIFE.

And, yes, that's Casey Kasem performing the voiceover.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Look For Me At 7:03

My name is in the closing credits of CLERKS II. Sorta.

I had totally forgotten about that. I don't remember how I heard about this--maybe my brother told me or something. Several months ago, before Kevin Smith's sequel to CLERKS was released theatrically, Smith announced that anyone who added CLERKS II as a MySpace friend would receive the honor of having his or her MySpace moniker appear in the closing crawl as a sort of thank you. It wasn't adding Smith himself (whom I believe does have a MySpace page), but the movie, CLERKS II. So I thought, what the heck, and I did it (I have since removed it, I think).

Tonight I'm watching CLERKS II on DVD, and I let the credits roll at the end. The film ends, and then the disc jumps to a new track which is literally thousands and thousands of names scrolling at a speed so fast that you can't possibly read them without freeze-framing. Aha, this must be that MySpace scroll that I forgot about. This clip runs 12 minutes, and it's just four columns of rapidly scrolling names. Using the Pause button, I found my name, right between Marissa McKee and Max McKee.

Even though I didn't have to do a damn thing to be included, it still was neat for a second to see my name on the CLERKS II disc. I'm also on the CITY OF THE DEAD DVD, and I'm included in the Acknowledgments page of a recent biography of Paul Frees too. And I didn't do much to earn either honor.

CLERKS II, by the way, is Kevin Smith's STROKER ACE. If JAY & SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK was his CANNONBALL RUN, this is his STROKER ACE. It isn't terrible like STROKER ACE, but it's one of the most self-indulgent films I've seen recently and exists only to give Smith and his friends a good time. I don't really believe we needed to see more of Dante and Randall and Jay and Silent Bob, but here they are, in color this time.

Thirtysomething slackers Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randall (Jeff Anderson) now work at a fast-food joint called Mooby's, a year after their beloved Quik Stop burned to the ground as a result of Randall leaving the damn coffee pot turned on again. It's Dante's last day; he leaves the following morning with his fiance Emma (Smith's wife Jennifer Schwalbach) for Florida, where her father plans to set Dante up managing a car wash. Although Dante manages to cover up whatever anxiety he may have about starting a new life without best buddy Randall, he isn't so successful breaking away from his boss Becky (Rosario Dawson), for whom he has feelings.

If nothing else, CLERKS II brings man-on-donkey sex into the mainstream, so I guess it's good for something. O'Halloran, Anderson and Smith and Jason Mewes still aren't charismatic enough to carry a feature, but Dawson is. She's so bright and energetic and natural and beautiful that she almost makes you believe that she could fall in love with Dante. Almost.

CLERKS II is better than JERSEY GIRL, but no higher in Smith's repertoire, and it certainly isn't even as funny as the CLERKS TV series, an animated sitcom that ABC bitchslapped, mishandled and cancelled after only two telecasts. All six produced shows are on DVD and are worth owning.

For what it's worth, my Smith Scale looks like this:
  1. DOGMA

Monday, December 04, 2006

Don Dohler Is Dead

Baltimore filmmaker and sci-fi fan Don Dohler has passed away at the age of 60. He had cancer. If you aren't into low-budget horror and science fiction movies, you probably haven't heard of Dohler, nor should you have. But when he wasn't editing genre-related magazines or writing about films, he was making them in his own backyard.

His most famous/notorious feature is THE ALIEN FACTOR, which I happened to watch again earlier this year on Retromedia's Special Edition DVD. I think most SF fans of a certain age have seen this 16mm wonder. Somehow, despite its obvious amateur pedigree, it managed to sell to television stations across the United States, where it played at odd times for many years. I saw it more than once on WCIA-TV’s EARLY SHOW and LATE SHOW. I remember it because, even though I was just a kid, say 11 or 12 years old, I was intrigued that something no better than a glorified home movie could get on TV. It just looked different than everything else Channel 3 aired in the movie slot in the afternoon. Even the junky Japanese monster movies looked better than this. THE ALIEN FACTOR represents probably the first time in my life that I realized American movies were made someplace else besides Hollywood.

For some reason, writer/producer/director/actor Dohler’s debut feature clicked with some audiences. The acting, photography, sound and music are terrible, but some of the special effects and creature effects are imaginative and better than expected. A spaceship crashes near a small Maryland town. A trio of alien monsters—all of different species—rampage the area, killing many townspeople. The ineffectual sheriff battles with the greedy mayor, who doesn’t want to bring in the state police because bad publicity might scotch his deal to build an amusement park. The town is at the mercy of an obnoxious astronomer who appears to have his own mysterious monster-killing abilities. Ernest Farino did the good opening titles and the okay stop-motion battle at the climax. The most outstanding effect is probably the 7-foot fur monster suit that works even on snow and ice.

Although Dohler is primarily known for 1978's THE ALIEN FACTOR, he made many other features, including NIGHTBEAST. I have a copy of NIGHTBEAST, but have never gotten around to watching it. Maybe I should.

Meet Steve

So here's the bizarre dream I had last night. I dreamed I met old-time actor Steve Brodie, who died in 1992. I ended up having a conversation/informal interview with him, in which I asked him about starring in a '50s TV series called MEET MILLIE (in which the real Brodie never appeared) and French actor Pierre Brice, who starred in a series of German-produced Westerns based on the novels of Karl May.

I have no idea why I would dream about Steve Brodie, of all people. I haven't seen any Brodie movies in ages. Although I have the lingering feeling that I was calling him "John Brodie" in my dream, and since I watched three full NFL games yesterday...

Of course, it's just my luck that I would have dreams about Steve Brodie and not Angelina Jolie.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Danny DeVito Is Drunk

I think celebrities should appear drunk on live television more often. It's like DeVito is channeling Oliver Reed or something.

The funniest part is perennial stick-in-the-mud Elizabeth Hasselbeck's silent disapproval.

Shatner Keeps It Gay

The funniest 23 seconds you'll see this week.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Are You A Movie Buff?

This is pretty bogus, but...

Your Movie Buff Quotient: 68%

You are a total movie buff. Classics, blockbusters, indie favorites... you've seen most of them.
Your friends know to come to you whenever they need a few good DVD rental suggestions.

Nowhere on the list were MOONSHINE COUNTY EXPRESS or TENEBRAE, strangely enough...

Not Exactly Village Of The Damned

DEVIL TIMES FIVE is a very odd film. It's not a particularly good film, but that may be asking too much of a film with a troubled production history like this one. According to the filmmakers, the original director, Sean MacGregor, struggled for four weeks to shoot on location at Lake Arrowhead, California, and only managed to complete 38 minutes of usable footage. The producers fired MacGregor, two more directors were hired to shoot another 50 minutes or so in just one week in a rented house in Los Feliz. Continuity was a nightmare--sets, hairstyles, props, even film stock doesn't match. Each shoot had its own director of photography, and despite the filmmakers' protestations to the contrary, it's very easy to take a look at each scene and within a few seconds determine whether it was filmed at Arrowhead or Los Feliz. Shooting was so sloppy that one small role is (quite obviously) portrayed by three different actors!

DEVIL TIMES FIVE, released in 1974 as PEOPLE TOYS and later as THE HORRIBLE HOUSE ON THE HILL, is a low-budget horror movie about three bickering couples stranded for the weekend at a snowy mountain lodge. Their fighting is broken up by the appearance of some children, who claim their bus crashed and their driver is dead. They're really from a nearby mental hospital. They killed their driver, and they spend the rest of the movie knocking off the cast members in a number of imaginative ways (impaling, hanging, hatchet...).

Whatever his problems on-set were, MacGregor can take credit for assembling a pro cast. Top-billed Sorrell Booke, later to strike it rich as Boss Hogg on THE DUKES OF HAZZARD, is very good as a timid man pushed around by his wife, his boss, and even strange children. Big Gene Evans played lots of blustering loudmouths in his day, but he was good at it. Taylor Lacher, just off a regular gig as Glenn Ford's deputy on the CADE'S COUNTY TV series, is very likable in what is basically the hero's role, and it's too bad he got stuck playing heavies in episodic TV. The kid actors are genuinely creepy, and you might recognize real-life brother and sister Leif Garrett and Dawn Lyn, as well as Tierre Turner, who's now a busy Hollywood stunt coordinator.

DEVIL TIMES FIVE would never be made in today's post-Columbine atmosphere, not just because of its central conceit of children committing violent murders, but in particular for one scene in which two of them drop killer piranha into a woman's bathtub and then drag her naked corpse across a snowy yard. Although the film is not very good, it does contain an occasional scene, like this one, that makes it memorable.

John Stamos Stars In A RAISIN IN THE SUN

I know that sounds like a throwaway joke on FAMILY GUY or something, but it's actually true.

What's next? Richard Grieco in THE BIRTHDAY PARTY?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Dave Cockrum R.I.P.

What you see here is one of the most famous and most valuable comic books ever produced. Hard to believe now, but THE UNCANNY X-MEN was one of the rare failures of Marvel Comics' Silver Age. Created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, the X-Men never took off the way Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and other Marvel superheroes of the era did. Several other notable creators worked on the title during the 1960's, including Gary Friedrich, Werner Roth, John Buscema, Roy Thomas, Tom Palmer and Neal Adams (the Thomas/Adams/Palmer issues are particularly wonderful), but the damn thing never sold well, and the book was canceled with issue #66 in 1970.

Five years later, the X-Men were revived in GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1, which combined a few characters from the Lee/Kirby era with a few newer characters, such as Wolverine, Colossus, Storm and Nightcrawler. The extra-large 36-page issue was written by Len Wein and drawn by 31-year-old Dave Cockrum, who first made a name for himself as the regular artist on DC Comics' SUPERBOY & THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES, where he redesigned many of the characters' costumes to make them sleeker, hipper and sexier. He did the same with the X-Men.

Unlike the X-Men's initial run, GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 was a smash hit and rejuvenated the characters. Although Wein and Cockrum receive no credit on the recent X-MEN films as creators, the characters and storylines used in the movies bear more resemblance to their X-Men than to the Lee/Kirby X-Men. GIANT-SIZE X-MEN #1 is today one of the comics industry's most valuable books, and is the only GIANT-SIZE title that I don't own (and probably never will).

The talented Dave Cockrum died today from complications relating to diabetes. He was 63 years old. Anyone who read superhero comics during the 1970s and 1980s was a fan of his work, and will miss him.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

She'll Make It Alright

I'm gonna be too lazy over the next few days to post much, but I'll feed your need for entertainment with an occasional YouTube clip. You may know that I'm a fan of TV opening titles. Theme songs too, but also opening title sequences. I even put together a two-hour DVD compilation recently of TV-show openings. Yes, I realize this does not make me especially cool.

Something that is cool: the opening to THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, which is one of the few sitcoms in television history not to feature the name of the series in its titles. This clip is from the first season. Composer/singer Sonny Curtis (a former Cricket) re-recorded the theme for Season Two, changing the "you might just make it after all" to "you're gonna make it after all." After all (heh), she had just finished an entire year associate-producing the WJM news and dealing with grouchy Lou Grant. It's a wonderful song and a very well edited title sequence.

The Season Two DVD box set contains an interesting extra: a half-hour documentary produced during the 1970's on the making of THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW's titles. A camera crew followed producer David Davis and his crew as they returned to Minneapolis three or four years into the show's seven-season run to update the opening titles. They, along with cast members Mary Tyler Moore and Valerie Harper, spent a couple of days in Minneapolis shooting new footage. This led to a famous confrontation when the woman who lived in the house that doubled for the exterior of Mary's demanded money from the producers for the right to film her house. When they didn't pay her, she hung an "Impeach Nixon" banner from her windows so they couldn't shoot without her permission.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Welcome To Cliche Theater, I'm David Caruso, Your Host

If you have ever seen CSI: MIAMI, you know that it is one of the shittiest shows in television history. I think his work on NYPD BLUE is one of TV's great performances, but David Caruso is pretty awful these days as cop Horatio Caine on CSI: MIAMI. This YouTube video is hilarious stuff. It's a montage of Caruso's solemn one-liners that apparently lead into every opening title sequence. This dialogue is bad enough in the context of each episode, but cut together like this and slamming into Roger Daltrey's scream that kicks off CSI: MIAMI's opening titles...well, it's very funny. It's not just the crappy dialogue, but also the solemn manner in which Caruso speaks it, often while using his sunglasses as a prop to, I don't know, add gravitas to the situation. Well, it ain't workin', because you'll find it difficult not to laugh at this video.

I once heard Emily Procter, an even worse actor than Caruso, say on this show that she was looking at the bullet that "fatally killed" the victim. As if there were another way to kill someone?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

John Saxon Had A TV Show?

How many of these stars do you recognize?

I'm surprised no TV producer is doing anything like THE BOLD ONES today. THE BOLD ONES was actually an umbrella title used for a rotating series of three different shows: THE NEW DOCTORS, THE LAWYERS and THE PROTECTOR (THE SENATOR replaced THE PROTECTOR after one season; after its cancellation after one season, THE NEW DOCTORS and THE LAWYERS rotated, with THE NEW DOCTORS going it alone in Season Four). Every week, a different series would air in THE BOLD ONES' timeslot, giving viewers a taste of variety and allowing several name actors the freedom and time off to do feature films while still maintaining a lucrative regular series gig.

I'm not certain how much THE BOLD ONES has been rerun since the show began on NBC in the fall of 1969. I saw several NEW DOCTORS segments during its brief TV Land run in the late '90s. It was a solid enough medical drama, though the only episode I have much memory of is "In Dreams They Run," a drama about muscular dystrophy that marked one of the very few TV directing jobs by Jerry Lewis.

I'm surprised NBC hasn't brought back the umbrella concept with the LAW & ORDER franchise, rotating the three different series in a single timeslot.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Man

If you haven't yet seen this video of UCLA cops tasering the shit out of a Muslim student for no good reason, you should, because it could be you next.

Even worse is the fact that those same cops threatened to use their taser on a young woman whose only "offense" was to ask them for their names and badge numbers.

I give these students in the video credit. Some of them got right in those cops' faces and demanded accountability. In my America, cops can't use tasers on American citizens because they refuse or are unable to show ID. Just how these cops expected their victim to "stand up" after he had been immobilized by their taser weapons at least five or six times is unclear to me.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

By At Least Eight Yards

1980's THE FORMULA is the only film in which the great actors Marlon Brando and George C. Scott star together. Based on a novel by producer/screenwriter Steve Shagan (SAVE THE TIGER), THE FORMULA is a maddeningly complex thriller about the murder of Tom Neely, a former Los Angeles cop, and the investigation into it led by the victim's friend, Lieutenant Barney Caine (Scott). I liked Shagan's novel, but his screenplay removes many of the book's best scenes, and as a result, the film suffers from plotholes that may well leave you scratching your head.

At first, it appears as though the victim's lifestyle is to blame. He's found tied up in bed with seven bullet holes in him and a voodoo doll filled with cocaine placed on his chest. However, when the victim's ex-wife (NETWORK's Beatrice Straight) is also found murdered, Caine digs deeper--far deeper than his superiors on the police force are comfortable with--and discovers the key to Neely's death may lie with his military service in Germany in 1945, where he captured a Nazi general (Richard Lynch) in possession of an amazing formula for synthetic fuel--gasoline that can be created using coal, of which the United States is the world's leading producer. Caine figures that the oil conglomerates may not be too thrilled to learn of such a formula, and heads to Berlin to find more answers.

Brando appears in only three scenes (and was reportedly paid $1 million per scene!), but makes the most of two of them. One is a throwaway that serves little purpose and looks as though it may have been inserted into the screenplay simply to give the film more Brando for the audience's buck. But it's bookended by two marvelously absorbing scenes which are little more than dialogues between Brando and Scott that remind one of the much admired two-man discussion between DeNiro and Pacino in HEAT.

The first is mostly shot as one long take. The two actors stroll down a dusty country road while Scott asks Brando, playing a major oil chairman named Adam Steiffel, a few background questions about Neely, who had worked as a bagman for Steiffel. Their piece de resistance comes at the end, a lengthy wrap-up session in which the two men attempt to explain the mystery's solution and leave the audience satisfied with the denouement. And while Shagan's plot is never satisfactorily pieced together, Scott and Brando aren't too blame. In fact, it hardly matters what the two men are talking about--it's simply a joy to watch these two screen greats sharing adversarial banter.

THE FORMULA was neither a hit with critics or with audiences, and I can't really say that it should have been. It's a talky, confusing thriller that wastes a solid starring turn by Scott and an eccentric performance by Brando, who wears a hearing aid, weaves his hair into a combover and speaks with an unusual mince. It's now out on DVD, and I must say that I enjoyed the film better than I did the first time I saw it, which was on a pan-and-scan VHS tape. The DVD also contains an audio commentary track by Shagan and director John G. Avildsen (ROCKY), which might be interesting, considering that the two men reportedly had a major falling-out around the time of THE FORMULA's release. Apparently, they've made up, but I'm curious to find out whether any contention remains.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"Suppose...Just Suppose, Danno..."

Yesssssss. I've been waiting a long time for this to happen.

Season One of HAWAII FIVE-0 hits DVD February 27. It'll have the first 23 episodes, plus the feature-length pilot, "Cocoon," in which intrepid Five-0 head Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) does battle with Red Chinese baddie Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) for the first time. "Cocoon" is also of interest because McGarrett's number-two man, Dan "Danno" Williams, is portrayed by actor Tim O'Kelly (TARGETS), instead of James MacArthur, who took over the role in the first regular episode and stayed on as Lord's sidekick for eleven of the series' twelve seasons. HAWAII FIVE-0 remains the longest-running police/action series in TV history.

Among those 23 first-season episodes, which I expect to really pop off the screen if CBS/Paramount has done a good job of remastering them, is "Samurai," a not-great episode guest-starring Ricardo Montalban as a Japanese (!) gangster, "Yesterday Died and Tomorrow Won't Be Born," with John Larch (DIRTY HARRY) as a vengeful ex-con after McGarrett, the outstanding "King of the Hill," with Yaphet Kotto as a mentally unstable Vietnam vet who takes Danno hostage in a VA hospital because he believes he's still in combat, "The Box," in which prisoners (including a fat Gavin MacLeod as a wiseass con named Big Chicken) take McGarrett hostage, and "Six Kilos," which has long been out of syndication.

HAWAII FIVE-0 was a very good crime drama, at least for the first six or seven years it was on, and will be well worth catching up with on DVD. I grew up watching the show in syndication, when it aired at 11:00pm after M*A*S*H on the local CBS station. I stayed up 'til midnight just about every night when I was in high school to watch it, and became drawn to the clever plotting, unusual Hawaiian scenery, and, of course, Lord's intensely oddball performance as McGarrett. What's really interesting about the scenery is that it appears to be the only TV series filmed in Hawaii that went out of its way to show the seamy side of the islands as much as its beauty. Directors shot in back alleys, slums, jungles and dirty streets to give HAWAII FIVE-0 a gritty, realistic look. Certainly MAGNUM, P.I. never did this, and I think it added to FIVE-0's visual flair.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I Just Bought This On DVD

My friend John Miller used to say that ARK II was about three hippies who drove around the desert in an RV taking soil samples. And I can't say he was completely wrong.

ARK II is about three young people in the future after Earth has been decimated by war and pollution. With their pet monkey, the youths travel around the country (re: Southern California) in a super-cool ground vehicle called Ark II and help solve people's problems. Episodes included robots, time travel, rapid aging, nerve gas, slavery, a wolf boy--science fiction cliches, perhaps, but they weren't cliches to the Saturday-morning TV audience.

ARK II was produced by a company called Filmation that made several animated and live-action kids shows during the '70s. Many of them were quite good, including STAR TREK and FLASH GORDON. They produced only 15 half-hour ARK II episodes that aired on Saturday mornings on CBS off and on during the late 1970s. Many of them were directed by Ted Post, an accomplished television and film director whose credits include two Clint Eastwood films (MAGNUM FORCE and HANG 'EM HIGH).

I don't recall many specifics about ARK II, but when I noticed the Complete Series DVD box set was available at online retailers for under $20, I thought, what the heck? It contains a lot of extras, so the DVD producers obviously took some care with it. And if it sells well, other live-action Filmation shows may appear on DVD, such as JASON OF STAR COMMAND, SHAZAM and ISIS.

Friday, November 10, 2006

No One Can Crap Bigger Than Jack

Those of us who enjoy Crappy Movies are saddened by the death of the great screen legend Jack Palance, who died today of natural causes at age 85 (or 87, some sources say). I can't say it comes as a big surprise, since I read in the news about three weeks ago that Palance was auctioning off his belongings. Nobody does that unless he knows he ain't gonna be needing that stuff anymore.

Like many actors well-known for their work in exploitation movies, Jack Palance was a genuinely talented performer and a strong screen presence. He was the villain in SHANE. He was in good old pictures like THE BIG KNIFE, PANIC IN THE STREETS and ATTACK. During the 1960's, he moved to Europe to star in a bunch of westerns, war films, sword-and-sorcery adventures. If you've spent enough time at my house, you know Palance from crowd-pleasing crap like WITHOUT WARNING ("Alieeennnnnnnnn!"), ALONE IN THE DARK (again with Martin Landau), THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME (with the floating Palance head and the rubber beam that inadvertently bounces off his head), the two-hour opening episode of BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY (with his cosmic hands of death), TANGO & CASH, GOR (with Oliver Reed), ONE MAN JURY (with Chris Mitchum), CYBORG 2 (with Angelina Jolie!) and more. He won an Oscar, of course, for CITY SLICKERS. He played the boxer in Rod Serling's incredible teleplay of "Requiem for a Heavyweight" on PLAYHOUSE 90. Jack was Jack, and he was great.

Here's one of Palance's less glitzy assignments: a TV commercial for anti-freeze. This likely happened around 1975, when Palance was briefly the star of a CBS cop show called BRONK. In it, which was created by actor Carroll O'Connor, Palance played a laid-back, pipe-smoking detective who solved crimes. The series didn't last long, but likely made Palance a bit of dough.

Something I didn't know about Jack Palance is that legendary comic book creator Jack Kirby used the actor as his model for Darkseid, a popular DC Comics villain who still plays a prominent role in the DC universe. Mark Evanier writes about the Palance/Kirby connection on his blog.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Why Do Americans Think Republicans Are Scumbags?

Election Day trickery infuriates homeless man

Ed Bradley, R.I.P.

60 MINUTES correspondent Ed Bradley has died of leukemia at the age of 65. Next to Mike Wallace, he was my favorite 60 MINUTES cast member--classy, fair, stylish and whip-smart. Broadcast journalism will miss him.

Open Letter

Neil Sarver's The Bleeding Tree is one of the blogs I check out every day, and his Open Letter to Democrats is reading you might find interesting. Which is not to say that I agree with all of it, but most of it.

Random Question Of The Day

Do you think Roger Daltrey is sick of interviewers asking him if he's still down with that whole "hope I die before I get old" thing?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ladies And Gentlemen...The Popsicle Twins

I was surprised to see this pop up on YouTube, since I figured this episode ran once in the 1970s and then never again. It appears as though Game Show Network aired it at least once, bless their raunchy little hearts.

What you're about to see is one of the most amazing clips in the history of network television. If you saw George Clooney's movie CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND, you probably have at least a passing awareness of THE GONG SHOW, a wild parody of TV talent shows that NBC aired in its daytime lineup during the late '70s. Created by its executive producer and star, the ebullient Chuck Barris (who claimed in his autobiography that he was an assassin for the CIA), THE GONG SHOW was an intentionally tacky exercise in which amateur performers would do their acts and be judged by a panel of three celebrities. Behind the judges was a large gong, and if any of the judges thought the act was rotten enough, they would bang it, ending the performance in mid-stream.

The Popsicle Twins were THE GONG SHOW's most notorious performers. It was an act so rude, so raunchy, so tasteless, that NBC allegedly received tons of phone calls protesting the act, and the episode was quickly re-edited for telecast in the Central and Pacific time zones. That's according to Barris, although elsewhere it has been written that The Popsicle Girls' segment did air on the West Coast. It was almost certainly, however, missing from all syndicated reruns, although a few seconds managed to pop up in the long out-of-print-on-video THE GONG SHOW MOVIE that played theaters for about ten minutes in 1980.

So who or what are The Popsicle Twins? Well, at first glance, they appear to be a pair of teenage girls who...well, why don't you watch for yourself?

Chuck Barris = genius.

Let's Have A Convention
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

If any of you other Marty McKees out there find this post through Google, please leave me a comment.

There also are 56 Martin McKees in the United States.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


I just listened to Chris Matthews ramble on about what a great guy ("a regular guy") and down-to-Earth fella Dennis Hastert is. Um, yeah, a crook who used his position to run a highway past his Illinois property that puts a million bucks in his pocket, yet is so out of touch/dishonest that he claimed families earning $40,000 per year pay zero taxes. His re-election just confirms Tolemite's mantra that the people of Shitty DeKalb are idiots.

Good to see bastards like Rick Santorum, Curt Weldon, Don Sherwood, Katherine Harris and Mike DeWine lose their jobs. They are not just incompetent at their jobs, but also awful human beings. It looks like fellow scumbags Conrad Burns and George "Macaca" Allen may lose their jobs too, but it's still too early to tell. Even if Allen wins, it will be at such a tight margin that his White House dreams are shattered. We already got rid of Mark Foley, Tom DeLay, Bob Ney...decrepit people all.

I should say that I'm sure not all Republicans in Washington are inept, greedy and corrupt. I don't think John McCain is, although he is spineless. In fact, he told Matthews tonight that he first realized his party was becoming corrupt "7 or 8 years ago." Well, what the hell has he been doing all that time to rectify the situation? I think Lincoln Chafee and Jack Kingston are honest and genuinely good people. Um. And I'm sure there must be a couple more.

The strangest thing I learned tonight is that former Washington Redskins quarterback Heath Shuler is now a U.S. Representative from North Carolina!

More Vacation

From the sounds of crickets I'm hearing from my Comments section, I can tell you're bored to tears with vacation stories. I spent a day at Universal Studios--the theme park and studio tour, as well as CityWalk, which is kinda like Vegas if it was an outdoor mall. The studio tour was a lot of fun, particularly the backlot where so many great films and TV shows were made. We also drove down to San Diego one afternoon to visit my brother and his mother-in-law. His wife had surgery there about a month ago and she's still recuperating. We didn't get to visit her because she still was recuperating in ICU, but it was fun to visit and to take my brother and her mom out to dinner. We went to Seau's, a restaurant owned by former Charger Junior Seau.

Holy cow, is this the greatest MOD SQUAD episode ever?

You gotta respect that guest cast. You could never assemble a group of actors like that for a TV episode nowadays.

I think I'll watch a little more election coverage. I just heard Ken Mehlman lying his ass off as usual on MSNBC (and toady Chris Matthews letting him, again, as usual). Something Mehlman and also John McCain said tonight is that they're looking forward to bipartisan cooperation and working together to make America a better place. Ha. I bet. Those guys have never been even the least bit interested in working with Democrats, and now that their asses are getting kicked, suddenly they're so cooperative. I agree that both parties working together in Washington is the best way, perhaps the only way, to get anything done, and if the Republicans hadn't spent the last decade or so fattening their pockets and making their own bigotry, paranoia and hatred into law, this country would be a much better place. If we can prudently withdraw troops from Iraq, raise the minimum wage, create better jobs, improve education and provide all Americans with reasonable health care--things the Republicans have resisted (since there ain't any graft in for them)--we would be off to a great start.

See The Light

109 Reasons To Dump The 109th Congress

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Yippee-Ki-Yay, Mother Hubbard

That's me standing in front of Fox Plaza, which is located in Century City, California. It's the headquarters of 20th Century Fox, but, more importantly, it's also Nakatomi Plaza! Yep, Fox used its own building for the exterior of the skyscraper invaded by Alan Rickman's terrorists in 1988's DIE HARD. For me, it was impossible to drive past it and not think of it as the Nakatomi building.

The third day of my California vacation, I accompanied my friend Chris to his job on the Fox lot. It's a fun place to roam around, and I saw a Fox star within about a minute of walking on to the lot. BONES star Emily Deschanel was chatting on her cell phone outside of her mobile home and right next to co-star David Boreanaz's car. BONES is one of several TV series currently filming on the Fox lot, along with SHARK, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, REBA, STANDOFF and others. In fact, in this photo taken on a separate visit, you can see me looking down at the soundstage in which SHARK is shot.

Chris and I did a bit of roaming around the lot that day, but Deschanel was the only TV star we spotted. We caught the tail end of a REBA exterior filming near the commissary, and a stroll around the executive office building found us inside one of the executive screening rooms. I think I need a sweet setup like that in my living room. It would have been nice to have seen the backlot, but BONES was using it that day for exteriors.

A bigger "brush with greatness," even bigger than Emily Deschanel, was lunch with Chris' friend Dean Cochran.

This was the first time Dean and I had met, but we had become acquainted through Chris and had shared some emails. It started when Chris told me through email that a friend of his had acted with Chuck Norris in a movie then shooting in Washington (THE CUTTER). He sent me a photo of his friend with Chuck, and he was then surprised when I told him that I recognized his friend and had, in fact, seen some of his movies. Dean had been top-billed in a handful of direct-to-DVD action movies for an independent studio called Nu Image, including AIR MARSHAL, SHARK ZONE and TARGET OF OPPORTUNITY. When he isn't acting, Dean works for New Regency and had become friendly with Chris. Over the months, Dean and I had emailed each other a few times. I think he was happy that I was familiar with his Nu Image films (which I mostly like), and he seemed like a nice guy. Awhile back, I even sent Chris my AIR MARSHAL and SHARK ZONE DVDs for Dean to autograph.

The three of us had lunch together that afternoon, which was a heckuva lot of fun. We talked a bit about his Nu Image films (he's made several others, but he's got great stories about the crazy working conditions in Bulgaria and the silliness of some of those scripts), but also about the NFL and about New Orleans, his hometown. We didn't even get around to the subject of Chuck Norris (we're both big fans). Dean's a good guy and I enjoyed making a new friend. Big thanks to Chris for getting us together.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hawaiian Beat

Here's kind of a cool clip. The Ventures were a pretty kickass surf instrumental band from Seattle that had its first Top 40 hit in 1960, "Walk, Don't Run." They managed to remain successful throughout the 1960s, and one of their biggest hits came out in 1969. It was "Hawaii Five-0," the theme to the CBS-TV series written by Morton Stevens. I don't know if this is a Scopitone or something that was created to air on THE MUSIC SCENE or another music-oriented TV show, but it's worth watching. The audio and video are a half-second out of sync, but the song is an instrumental, and probably won't bother you much.

I don't know if The Ventures had any other hit singles, but they continued to be popular. Groups like The Beatles and The Go-Gos listed them as influences, and Quentin Tarantino used at least one of their songs in PULP FICTION. The Ventures are also huge in Japan. Of course, so is Alyssa Milano.

We Really Butchered Ya

I suspect that sentence would be pretty high on the list of things you never want to hear your dentist say. I had to go in yesterday afternoon to repair a cracked tooth. I hadn't noticed anything, but during my regular 6-month appointment two weeks before, a new X-ray showed that a tooth in the back of my mouth had developed a small crack. What my dentist had to do was remove the filling, check inside the hole to make sure no decay had set in, repair the tooth, and add a new filling. Unfortunately, he slipped and nicked a nerve, causing quite a bit of bleeding to occur.

Thankfully, the (second) shot had numbed me and I was unable to feel any pain, but it's pretty stressful to lie there while two pairs of hands scramble to stop a blood flow inside your mouth. The drilling is bad enough--for me anyway, as I lie there waiting for the drill to hit a secret pocket of nerves that hasn't yet been affected by the novocaine (is that what dentists still use?).

When the shots finally wore off about five hours later (or 4 1/2 hours after I was told they would), I didn't feel any pain in the tooth. My dentist, whom I have to admit was concerned, so concerned that he called me last night to check up on me. I told him that the tooth seemed fine, but I felt a little sore up there, likely from all the prodding and poking. "Yeah, we really butchered you," was his response.

Only 5 1/2 months 'til my next checkup. Ai-yi-yi.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

On With The Story

My second full day in Southern California began with a trip to the Farmer's Market in Studio City. What's cool is that it's located across the street from CBS Studio Center on Radford Avenue, which is where a lot of great TV series were filmed, including THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, WKRP IN CINCINNATI and SEINFELD. THAT '70S SHOW recently shot on the MTM stage. The Radford facility was also the home of hundreds of Mack Sennett comedies and a ton of Republic westerns and serials.

I saw my first star of my vacation upon entering the Farmer's Market: Kyle Secor, formerly of COMMANDER IN CHIEF and HOMICIDE: LIFE ON THE STREETS. He was there with his family. More surprising was Ed Begley, Jr., who presumably drove his electric car over. But he wasn't shopping, oh, no. Ed has a regular booth there where he shills his own cleaning solution: Begley's Best. You would think Ed would have better things to do every Sunday, but you gotta give him credit for walking the walk. My friend Sara actually bought a bottle from him, and damned if the stuff doesn't actually work pretty well. Very impressive.

This is the beautiful beach at Point Dume, near Malibu. If it looks somewhat familiar, it's because the climax of the original PLANET OF THE APES was shot here, the scene where Charlton Heston finds you-know-what. Here I am in front of that cliff at the end of the beach:

To be entirely accurate, I believe the APES climax was actually shot on the other side of that jutting cliff. You have to traverse the sharp rocks to get over there, and there's a small beach bookended by two cliffs. My friend Chris and I went partway over the rocks, but weren't really prepared or dressed for rockclimbing and returned. At any rate, it's a gorgeous beach, and we had perfect weather for it.

I fell in love with Malibu, in fact, though the weather surely had much to do with it. We drove past "beautiful Pepperdine University," the setting for over a dozen BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS competitions. Unfortunately, we couldn't see the Olympic-sized swimming pool or the track area where Bill Shatner once captained his ABC team to victory, Gabe Kaplan schooled Bob Conrad in the 100-yard dash, and Heather Thomas' gorgeous curves plunged into the baseball dunk tank. We also drove by Paradise Cove, where Jim Rockford's trailer once parked, just behind the Sandcastle restaurant, which often was a ROCKFORD FILES location itself.

Recognize it? Yep, it's the famous Vasquez Rocks, home of hundreds of TV shows and movies over the decades, but predominantly famous for the STAR TREK episode "Arena," in which Captain Kirk fought a man-sized lizard called a Gorn on and around this spectacular rock formation.

Yes, James Kirk himself once ran up to the point of that rock to battle the Gorn. Me? Well, maybe if I was a little younger or a little lighter. This is about as far as I got. Vasquez Rocks is actually a county park and is a really nice place for a picnic.

We got back to the city around sunset and stopped for supper at the Mulberry Street Pizzeria in Encino, which is owned by actress Cathy Moriarty (RAGING BULL). Cathy wasn't there, but sitting at the table next to ours was actress Amy Brenneman (JUDGING AMY) and two small children (presumably hers).

A busy day, no doubt, and one that tuckered me out. I passed out on the couch around extraordinarily early evening for me.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Night That Panicked America / Demons Of The Mind

I'll continue telling you about my SoCal vacation later, but tonight I'd like to wish you a happy Halloween. I spent the evening watching a pair of appropriately themed movies. In fact, what could be more appropriate than THE NIGHT THAT PANICKED AMERICA, a 1975 made-for-TV dramatization of Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater's legendary WAR OF THE WORLDS broadcast that freaked out a nation.

32 years ago tonight, ABC broadcast THE NIGHT THAT PANICKED AMERICA, which is a pseudo-documentary-style retelling of the unbelievable events of October 30, 1938. That night, an estimated 6 million American radio listeners heard CBS' MERCURY THEATER ON THE AIR's adaptation of H.G. Wells' novel THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, as written by Howard Koch and directed by Welles. Welles gave the story a hard, realistic edge by presenting it as a series of fake newscasts, describing how Martian ships were landing in New Jersey, murdering thousands of citizens, including police officers and soldiers, and then spreading out across the East Coast, even occupying New York City. At least a million listeners believed Welles' broadcast to be real and panicked, packing up their families and fleeing their homes.

It seems inconceivable today that people would believe such an outlandish story to be real, but director Joseph Sargent and screenwriters Nicholas Meyer and Anthony Wilson are convincing in their storytelling. Much of THE NIGHT THAT PANICKED AMERICA's running time is devoted to a re-creation of the radio play, and stars actor Paul Shenar as Welles and familiar character actors like Ron Rifkin, Walker Edmiston, Granville Van Dusen and Casey Kasem as some of the Mercury players. These scenes are the film's strength, as Sargent cuts back and forth between the CBS Radio studio in New York and the public's terrible reaction to the show.

Some of these vignettes are more appealing than others, and some are even played for comedy. Most haunting is Vic Morrow (top-billed) and Eileen Brennan's story of an estranged married couple that put aside their bitter feelings for one another and come together to rescue their children from the Martian horde. Other stories include a New Jersey farmer (ROOM 222's Michael Constantine) and his son (a pre-THREE'S COMPANY John Ritter), who wants to go to Europe to fight the Germans before the war spreads to the United States, and young lovers Cliff DeYoung and Meredith Baxter-Birney, whose impending marriage is threatened by her minister father (Will Geer), who refuses to allow her to marry a Catholic.

Welles' original radio play is often re-broadcast around this time of year, sometimes in a re-creation using contemporary actors, but usually in its original recording. If you get a chance to hear it, please do so. The high level of drama and suspense is astonishing.

I also watched a horror film today, but an offbeat one. 1971's DEMONS OF THE MIND is one of Hammer's more intriguing and little-watched films. It barely received U.S. distribution, and played to few audiences until Anchor Bay released it on DVD a few years ago. I watched a dark, but uncut, Canadian TV print, which may have been taken from a VHS master. It probably plays better on DVD, where at least Hammer's typically lush sets and costumes can be seen to their full extent.

Like many Hammers, DEMONS opens slowly and builds to a suitably violent ending. Set in 19th-century Bavaria, Baron Zorn (Robert Hardy) keeps his two children Emil (Shane Briant) and Elizabeth (the extraordinarily beautiful Gillian Hills) locked away in separate rooms, terrified that their late mother, a suicide victim, passed along to them a curse. The fact that the two share incestuous feelings may have something to do with Zorn's fears too. Zorn's sister Hilda (Yvonne Mitchell) uses barbaric bleeding rites to keep Elizabeth anemic and weak after an escape attempt leads to her one-night stand with Carl (former Manfred Mann musician Paul Jones), who falls for her and tries to rescue her from her cruel father.

DEMONS isn't a typical horror movie, even though it offers several brutal murders and an appropriately gory climax. Performances by old pros Hardy and Patrick Magee as a quack hired by Zorn to cure his children are sharp, and Harry Robertson's music adds a touch of class. It's too unusual to strongly recommend, however, and Briant's placid performance is a good indicator of why Hammer's attempt to mold him into the new Peter Cushing fell flat. It's not a bad movie at all, but certainly an uninvolving one.

And what did you watch on Halloween?

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Karloff? Sidekick?"

I was excited to record Edward D. Wood Jr.'s amazing BRIDE OF THE MONSTER on Turner Classic Movies this month. To celebrate Halloween, here's a short clip of Bela Lugosi, um, emoting during the film:

And here's Martin Landau in his Oscar-winning performance as Lugosi in Tim Burton's autobiographical film ED WOOD. This clip may not be safe for work, so headphones on, please:

And switching gears, here's the very good trailer for FRIDAY THE 13TH, one of the most influential and financially successful horror movies ever made. One reason it's a great trailer is that it lays out for you exactly what the movie is about. It's to director Sean Cunningham's credit that the actual film lives up to the spooky trailer.

Although technically not the very first "body count" film (I suppose 1964's Italian BLOOD AND BLACK LACE may have been the first), it was the first to reach a wide mainstream American audience via a major Hollywood distributor, Paramount. Cunningham's ragged slasher has spawned ten sequels to date, as well as countless homages, ripoffs and parodies. What's tricky about watching it today is trying to see it through 1980 eyes, when the storyline of vapid teenage camp counselors being systematically sliced and diced (courtesy of Tom Savini's makeup expertise) must have seemed fresh and exciting. I didn't find the film to be terribly good, and it really plays more like a copy of F13, rather than the massively influential moneymaker that it is. Tolemite and I were excited a few months ago to watch an uncut "X-rated" version that contains more of Savini's gore, and I think the movie plays even better that way, if only to admire the technical finesse involved in the special effects.

The plot is fairly simple, drawing as it does from a variety of influences, including PSYCHO, BLACK CHRISTMAS and the Italian horror movies of Dario Argento and Mario Bava. Seven good-looking teens (presumably college aged) hire on to serve as summer camp counselors at Camp Crystal Lake, nicknamed "Camp Blood" by the locals because of a pair of unsolved murders that occurred there more than 20 years before that has left the facility abandoned until now. Haunted by the camp's grisly legend, as well as the drowning death of a young boy named Jason Voorhees that happened a year before the murders, the seven kids decide to spend the two weeks before the campers are due to arrive drinking, getting high and having sex. And by now, you all know what happens to teens who engage in that sort of activity in a remote area where a serial killer may be loose.

What's surprising about F13 all these years later is how tame Savini's gore effects seem. Whereas they were quite notorious in 1980, leading to much controversy and protests, the FX were clearly cut somewhat to appease the MPAA and earn the film an R rating for Paramount. He's done better work elsewhere, such as in the unrated MANIAC and DAWN OF THE DEAD, but those films were likely seen only by horror buffs. Paramount's push and the R rating opened Savini's craft up to countless audiences who had probably never seen throats slit or bodies slashed with such graphic impunity, and the shocking death of one character who has his throat punctured by an arrow was probably quite a shocker to them. F13's secret weapon may be Harry Manfredini, however, the composer whose "ch-ch-ch-ch ha-ha-ha-ha" score has since been copied to death. Manfredini's music is very good and keeps one's nerves consistently jangled, even when not much is happening on screen. That much of F13's success is due to Manfredini's music is clear when you consider he became typecast as a "horror composer" and was invited back for nearly all the sequels.

FRIDAY THE 13TH does what it sets out to do--kill many young people in relatively shocking fashion--and it does so reasonably well. The killer's revelation had long been spoiled for me (by SCREAM, if nothing else), and the very effective final shock was a staple of the period (see PHANTASM, CARRIE...) and was reenacted in I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, as well as FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2. Believe it or not, FRIDAY THE 13TH was the 18th highest-grossing film of 1980.