Thursday, January 31, 2008

David Lynch has an opinion.

I'm not going to ruin this with a long lead in. Here are two clips of David Lynch expressing his opinion on product placement and iPhones. God bless him.



Reexamining Frances



As a closeted gay teen, loaded with angst, I gravitated to the film Frances on cable Tv in the 80s. It was poetic and tragic (with a haunting score by John Barry) starring the radiant Jessica Lange -- and I ate it up. In the Oscar-nominated film, Frances doesn't take any shit from anyone (how very punk rock). She writes an atheistic essay at 16 and pisses off the locals. She then becomes a movie star, pops pills, fights police at The Knickerbocker Hotel, and has to be forcibly restrained before she'll play the 'Hollywood game'. Oh! and she also tells off her parents. Atta girl.

Well, imagine my surprise, 20 years later, when a friend clued me in to the TRUE story behind that 1982 film.

Frances Farmer was most likely what they would call bi-polar these days. With a defiant and independent streak, Frances had a difficult time playing the 30's submissive starlet role and eventually became a hard-drinking feisty lesbian.

She WAS institutionalized in Washington State Hospital for a time -- but was NOT icepick/transorbital-lobotomized into submission as the book Shadowland by Seattle film critic William Arnold claimed. As fate would have it, Mel Brooks' Production Company stole the "research" on FF from that book for his 1982 film Frances. Nobody checked the facts. Embellishment made for better drama. Kim Stanley's monster mother characterization of Lillian was Hollywood hype. The real Lillian Farmer was directly quoted several times defending Frances' decision not to resume her career.

The biography Shadowland was written with Arnold's Scientologist anti-psychiatry agenda. The controversial "church", that some say is simply a cult, still uses FF as their poster child for their "horrors of psychiatry" campaign. While in court for the Mel Brooks copyright infringement case, author Arnold admitted his FF bio to be "fictionalized."

The tagline on the movie posters read: "Her story is shocking, disturbing, compelling... and true." (that's showbiz!)

Frances got out of the hospital eventually, did a horrificly humiliating This is Your Life episode, and continued to get into more public drunkenness trouble. She settled in Indianapolis with her lady lover (who ghost-wrote FF's autobiography), hosted a local movie matinee TV show for 6 years, and died of throat cancer in 1970 just shy of her 57th birthday.

Unlike the very dramatic movie which ended with the caption "Frances Farmer died as she had lived...alone", I am telling you it looks like Frances actually lived and died as a woman full of piss & vinegar!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Static Cling

There was a time that TV stations did not continuously broadcast 24 hours a day. After the late news and the late shows, the station would sign off, as if to give it (and the viewer) a much needed break to rest and recharge for the next day of television viewing.



As a child, I got a real sense of achievement if I could stay awake until the conclusion of the broadcast day. It was if I had outlasted TV in some way. I would watch with a sense of pride the images of fighter jets superimposed over waving American flags as The Star Spangled Banner played. Then the song would end, the images would fade and the TV picture would abruptly cut to static. It would be then, bathed in the flickering glow of static, that I would realize exactly how late it was, how dark it was, and how completely alone I was. Suddenly, sneaking into the farthest room from my parents bedroom to watch TV didn't seem like such a great idea.

There is something inherently scary about static. Maybe it's the way static moves and sounds like insects that triggers some deeply buried cultural memory. Maybe static is scary because nothing good is associated with it. If you see or hear static you instantly know that something is wrong. The most famous, and in my opinion the best, use of static to set a scene is in POLTERGEIST (1982). When you see Carol Anne crawling towards the TV full of static you just know that no good can come from it.

The LASH Picture Show

When it's not boring me to tears with earnest films about saving the planet and other such trivial hoo-ha, the SUNDANCE Channel actually presents something that gets me all excited. Let's see, I think the IMDb sums it up best:


Absurdism
Fashion
Surreal
Satire
France
Nudity

These are a few of my favorite things and they are all there in the fluffy mess of "WHO ARE YOU, POLLY MAGOO?" It is the celluloid version of a collage collaboration by BIBA (they're back, dahlings!) and Salvador Dali.








Actually, the filmmaker is WILLIAM KLEIN, who also had a little side job as a fashion photographer back in the day....
The "plot" revolves around super model, Polly, and a TV show attempting to do a profile of her...but is there any depth to a model? What is the meaning of fashion? Is Prince Charming a foot fetishist? Where can I find a Saarinen-inspired TV like the Prince has in his bedroom?This flick doesn't answer any of these questions, however any movie that incorporates Fashion, Fetishism, French philosophy and Fabulashes that would make Twiggy blink thrice has moi as a new fan!

As a delightful little side dish, here's Polly's Yankee Doodle Cracker commercial! Sadly, Dorothy MacGowan-an unknown at the time, disappeared soon after the film was done...unless she's Julianne Moore's doppelganger!







Apparently, there's a box set of Mr. Klein's better-known works available...and it's going straight onto my Amazon Wish List:

"William Klein s explosive, challenging New York street photography made him one of the most heralded artists of the fifties. An American expatriate in Paris, Klein has also been making challenging cinema for over forty years, yet, with the exception of his acclaimed 1969 documentary MUHAMMAD ALI, THE GREATEST, his film work is barely known in the United States. In his three fiction features WHO ARE YOU, POLLY MAGGOO?, MR. FREEDOM, and THE MODEL COUPLE he skewers the fashion industry, American imperialism, and middle-class complacency with hilarious, cutting aplomb. Today, Klein s politically galvanizing and insanely entertaining social critiques seem even more ahead of their time than works of the more famous New Wavers that overshadowed them: colorful, surreal antidotes to all .."

Anything that has Donald Pleasence as "Dr. Freedom" and Serge Gainsbourg as "M. Drugstore" has got to be worth viewing! Oh, and now I'm sold...what a glorious montage of 1960s excess:



Mmmmmm......I can just taste a delicious double scoop in the art house of my mind: "PUTNEY SWOPE" and "MR. FREEDOM"!

I love Marty.

I'm one of those people who thinks everything Martin Scorsese does is brilliant, and I'd like to spend a few weeks just talking to him. Then again, we're both Scorpios obsessed with film, and we'd probably talk each other to death.

Check out this homage to Hitchcock via a Freixenet ad he did. Be sure to watch until the end.

PS. I'm going to see Tippi Hedren again tonight! Details to follow.

Monday, January 28, 2008

TOOMORROW! Olivia Newton-John takes off on a wild rock & roll trip 1970 style!

I've been obsessed with this film for ages...it's like a bizarre Partridge Family on acid with a happy sorta Wild In The Streets meets Star Trek vibe if that makes any sense. It's called Toomorrow & was released in 1970. Here's some info from an olivia newton-John fan site:
In 1970 Olivia made her second movie entitled Toomorrow. Don Kirshner, who had created the Monkees in 1965, wanted to repeat this success and manufacture another pop group. He teamed up with Harry Saltzman maker of the popular James Bond movies. The group Toomorrow was to be launched via the cinema and via an album and single.
The group consisted of Australian 21 year old Olivia; English keyboard player Vic Cooper 25, American drummer Karl Chambers 22 and Ben Thomas American 24 year old singer. Originally Chirs Slade (who went onto ACDC fame) was to be a member - but before the movie was made he left and was replaced by Karl Chambers (Karl sadly died Feb 2002 from cancer).

There is a record as well, great odd music! Someone put the whole film in 11 parts on Youtube! here's one clip:
Don't freak out!

ps. 4/2008: oh no! it's gone ... but don't fear, the slammer team bought the film!


Sunday, January 27, 2008

A 'Tard is Born


I thought I would blog about some of my favorite feature films and movies-of-the-week that always proved to be a "special" occasion.

When it came to "handicapable"- themed films, I was not a slow learner, and discovered at a young age that when an actor chose to play a character with mental retardation, you were apt to either get (1) a moving experience of watching a 'special needs' person overcome obstacles and prejudice, or (2) an actor milking the retard role for acclaim and (hopeful) award wins - and crossing the line into unintentional humor.

Ernest Borgnine played the slow-witted Marty in 1955 to an Oscar win. Some could argue that the determined and likeable Rocky Balboa in Rocky (1976) was a little "touched" himself.

In 1979 , we got 2 memorable films about mentally retarded adults finding love:

Like Normal People starring Linda Purl and Shaun Cassidy.
(On the grade school playground, we'd imitate Linda's call to her retarded true love: "ROOOOOGGGEEER!"). This film was nominated for a Golden Globe.

and

No Other Love starring Julie Kavner and Richard Thomas.

In 1981, Mickey Rooney won critical acclaim for his role of a retarded man in the TV film Bill.
Rooney enjoyed the raves and awards so much (after decades of schlock films, voice-overs, and Disney fare) that he reprised Bill again for a sequel Bill: On His Own (1983).

After Oscar-nominated Leonardo Dicaprio wow-ed critics and brilliantly drooled his way into our hearts as "Arnie" in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), film studios gave us a retarded Juliette Lewis in Garry Marshall's heart-tugger The Other Sister (1999) and Oscar-nominated Sean Penn as a retarded man fighting for his parental rights in I Am Sam (2001).

Retarded characters seemed to be back on the map again, then Rosie O'Donnell came along as loudmouthed retarded "Beth" in Riding the Bus with My Sister (2005).

This TV film (about a special-needs adult bewildered by life transitions) harkened back to the genres' heyday of the 70s and 80s, except Rosie's acting was met with snickers by snarky bloggers (ahem) and talk shows.

Some thought Rosie's performance was over-the-top, condescending and forced - with many critics questioning her choice of using baby-talk and high volume ("I need a new toiwet seat ovah heeahh !" she yells to a store clerk in one scene). Despite being directed by Anjelica Huston, the film did not earn any awards (shocker!).

Here are some highlights:

Leading Lady pre-stardom Ads






1967 ad for tampons with Ali MacGraw
***

1970 ad for underarm shavers with Cybill Shepherd
***

1981 ad for raisins with Molly Ringwald
***

The Boy In The Plastic Bubble (1976)

Sure, everyone remembers when John Travolta had his "breakthrough" in 1977 as the disco dancing swine Tony Manero in the classic flick "Saturday Night Fever."

But how many people realize 1976 was arguably, an ever bigger year for the "only Sweat Hog with a future" who had a very prominent role in the horror smash "Carrie," an abominable soft-rock hit single called "Let Her In." And, perhaps most distressing of all, was his decidely odd turn as Todd Lubitch--the lad who was born with an immune system deficiency--in the aggressively sucky television drama "The Boy in The Plastic Bubble."



In our feature presentation, Bubble Freak is kept in a germ free enclosure in his room in his parents' house and has no actual contact with other humans. Still, he's secretly popping a boner over the girl next door (as was I), Gina (the preternaturally adorable Glynnis O'Connor). Gina is a pot smoking, booze-sucking high school senior who--quite reasonably--thinks Todd is a complete turd.



But the casting of Todd's parents is the REAL story here! Former Brady Bunch dad Robert Reed is on hand to play Todd's permed father, and his mom was portrayed by Diana Hyland--who Travolta was supposedly dating, and who was fated to tragically drop dead from cancer the following year--saving her from an embarassing few years on "Eight is Enough" tolerating Willie Ames.



Amyway, this hellish load of horse manure of course lurches to a phoney "happy ending," as Travolta throws caution to the wind and bounds out into his yard looking to get his bad self down with the (by-now lovestruck) Gina. Everyone is grinning foolishly and all is well with the world.

Funny how history repeats itself


Concerning the recent Cloverfield barfing issue:

I was living in Boston. I had been fired from Landmark's Kendall Square Cinema and was working at The Coolidge when The Blair Witch Project was screened in exclusive advance limited release at about 12 Landmark chain theaters. My friend and former boss, Nancy Campbell, snuck me into one of those advance screenings. During the film several people ran out of the room to chuck. As history would have it during that two week run the Landmark chain had exclusive rights to cleaning up neatly mapped trails of vomit from their auditoriums to their restrooms.

Artisan Entertainment came down hard on Landmark employees during this two week screening platform demanding that no one was to speak to the press about the motion sickness/vomiting issue. Nancy made it a point to not only hide in a closet with a cordless phone to be interviewed by the BBC in regards to the epidemic, but also to give a statement to the Boston Globe explaining their predicament.

Eat your heart out, Wes Craven, with your Last House On The Left promo barf bags.

Popcorn for your Zombie Movie, Sir?

Mr. Lethal and I are sitting here and there's Orville Redenbacher on the tube. The clip looks old, but the microwave popcorn-shot isn't. "He's been dead for years," says Mr. L. I thought so, but I wasn't sure. He was right - Redenbacher croaked in '95! I guess the digital recreation ads creeped too many people out, so they've revered to old clips recut. Check out the postmortem, reanimator-Orville:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Lemora: A Child's Tale of The Supernatural (1973)

Continuing the Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith theme, I thought I would weigh-in on a fabulous cult horror film that Cheryl starred in in the early '70s. This is a film I remember seeing on local television in Boston as a teenager in the wee hours of the morning on one of the VHF channels at the time 27, 38 or 56.

I was mesmorized by Cheryl's earnest performance as lost girl Lila Lee, and by director Richard Blackburn's truly creepy, atmospheric no-budget filmmaking.

Speaking of creepy Blackburn also tackles the role of "The Reverend" who simultaneously wants to save Lila's soul and deflower her body.

Cheryl Gilb gives a weird performance as Lemora (the lemon-fresh vampire, just kidding). The touchy-feely bloodsucker treats our woozy heroine (according to Blackburn Smith was wasted out of her gourd for the entire shoot) to a sensuous sponge bath and seemingly much more as the scene fades out.

Anyway, this is out on DVD and I highly recommend checking out "Lemora" for fans of schlocky but swell '70s horror.

Somewhere Over The Rainbeaux

I watch a lot of bad movies. If it has a low budget and an exploitable premise I'll watch it. More often than not, I'm disappointed by the movies I see, but I keep watching them because I am looking for diamonds among these lumps of coal. One of these diamonds is Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith.

Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith's biggest role was Lavelle in CAGED HEAT (1974), but she is probably best known for her work in the Cheerleader movies of the mid seventies. She appeared in THE SWINGING CHEERLEADERS (1974), THE POM POM GIRLS (1976), and REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS (1976). Rainbeaux isn't the lead in any of these movies, she doesn't have the most lines, or get the most screen time, but she has a presence that makes you want to watch her whenever she is on screen and that is a quality that is rare in any actress.

In this scene from REVENGE OF THE CHEERLEADERS (1976) Cheryl "Rainbeaux" Smith is the pregnant girl in the bathroom holding the lizard.



Friday, January 25, 2008

Ingrid Pitt: The Vampire Lovers


Ingrid Pitt Bites Back

Sexy, deadly cult cinema vampiress rises again





During the Sixties and early-Seventies Britain's Hammer Films cranked-out a truckload of Grade B horror flicks that were drive-in movie favorites and generated a fine profit due to their lurid nature and the films' decidely low-budget origins.
Although the best-known actors in the Hammer stable were probably Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing the one who made the biggest splash was undoubtedly Ingrid Pitt.
Pitt, who starred in "The Vampire Lovers" (1970) and "Countess Dracula" (1971), brought sex appeal (and nudity) into the Hammer horror tradition and helped usher in a new era of truly sensuous bloodsuckers.
Today, Pitt is a successful author and still has a hand in the film world with several upcoming projects based-on her writings, as well as her website
Pitt of Horror.




Was the making of "The Vampire Lovers" a fun experience?

INGRID PITT: Fun experience? It was certainly less hassle than most film making. Due almost entirely to Roy Ward Baker's deft and experienced control. There were some funny incidences like the time I lost my vampire teeth down the from of Kate O'Mara's decollete. That brought on the giggles and when I kept repeating the trick the whole set was reduced to near hysterical laughter. In the end I warned her that if she didn't shape up I'd fang her for real. Fat lot she cared.




How was Roy Ward Baker as a director?

IP: Patient and willing to work out any problems that might crop up without sounding irritable or giving the impression that it is a burden having to work with a load of dumb broads. Something that not a lot of directors are capable of doing and still keeping control.




Were you reluctant at all about the the fairly extensive (for the time) nudity in the film?

IP: I don't know about reluctant. I didn't think there was anything gross or indecent about what we were doing. I think Maddy Smith was probably a little more apprehensive than I was but again I must salute Roy. He gave us a closed set and treated it all as the most natural thing in the world. I do get people who seem embarassed when they buy nude photographs of me, They're very apologetic. I'm not sure why. It doesn't bother me. In fact I'm quite proud of the young bod. Something to show the grand children and remind them that Grandma wasn't always an old bag.





Which film do you feel you did your best work in?

IP: With reservations, I would say Countess Dracula. The reservations? First I'm not ecstatic about the fact that they dubbed my voice. With no reason as far as I was concerned. I had done Where Eagles Dare for MGM, Vampire Lovers and half a dozen American TV series as well as some minor English language films and nobody had ever complained. Another thing that didn't go down too well was that they intercut some of my most dramatic scenes and lost all the power of the performance. But that's probably just me being actressy. I also was quite pleased with what I did in Nobody Ordered Love. Perhaps one day it will turn up and I will be able to reappraise it.




What's the story behind all that?

IP: Story line is that an aging actress is being shafted by a producer who wants to get her out of the picture they are making to put his new girlfriend in. The actress goes a bit potty and murders the younger woman and turns a bit Norma Desmond in the end.




What happened to the film is a mystery. Bit like what happened to the edited out-takes from The Wicker Man. It seems that the producer had a row with the distributor and went off in a huff with the film under his arm. He married a Yankee lady and promptly died. Said Yankee Lady sold the house and left the tins of film in the garage. That's one version of the story anyway. There are others.




You're also an author. What sorts of books do you write?

IP: So far I've been a bit daft. Everyone knows that if you are going to be a successful author you have to develop a particular line of writing. I've done a thriller about spying, a drama about life in a concentration camp, a political drama, a couple of children's stories, a book about Indians etc. Only recently have I caught on to the idea that I ought to specialise. The Bedside Companion for Vampire Lovers, The Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters, The Ingrid Pitt Book of Murder, Torture and Depravity and now I'm working on Ingrid Pitt's Darkest Britain. When it comes down to it I'm a whore. I'll write anything for anyone who rustles a few quid under my nose.




Your books have some "dark" titles. Do you get a lot of goth kids seeking your autograph at conventions?

IP: I guess so. They are all very polite. I go to the festival in Whitby most years. This is entirely Gothic in character and is a good weekend.




Do you keep-in-touch with your old Hammer co-stars?

IP: We meet sometimes, but there isn't an Olde World sorority or anything like that. Mostly we keep in touch by turning out at the same Festivals and Conventions.




What do you think fans would be surprised to know about you?

IP: They would probably be surprised to find out that I am an all-in wrestler.




What's an "all-in wrestler"?

IP: All in wrestling? I don't know what else to call it. It's on TV all the time and consists of big fat men jumping on each other and doing things which would obviously kill anyone if it was done for real.




What do you think of the horror movies that are coming out today like "Scream"?

IP: Great fun although I could do with less of the visual gore. I think most of the film makers have forgotten that 'horror' is the cinema of reaction. However graphic a scene, it can never match up to an individuals' own concept of what the horror confronting him or her could be. Each person has their own idea of what is horrific. Rats, spiders, heights, confined spaces have different menace for different people. So Fred, who is petrified standing on a thick carpet, can't undestand why Doris goes into hysterics at the sight of a spider in the bath. Albert, whose worst nightmare is a closed telephone box, loves rats, etc.
So, in the best horror films it is more effective to show an individual's "reaction" to the horror confronting him than to see what it actually is. If I want to see steaming viscera I'll take a night job at an abattoir and experience it first hand. For the ultimate in unseen horror see Alien.




Okay. Getting back to you: What will fans find on your site Pitt of Horror?


IP: Lots of lovely goodies. And all the latest on what is going on in my neck of the Universe. For instance, I've just come back from a two week trip to Transylvania--where, among other murky adventures-- I slept in a coffin in Castle Dracula. You can find out more about that on Pitt of Horror or, if you want the academic viewpoint, go to Dracula's Homepage.

>
Any upcoming projects?
IP: Masses. Trouble is that such a small percentage come up that you spend your life rushing around pitching and then you're too exhausted to enjoy them when they achieve lift-off. Main one at the moment--other than Darkest Britain--is something I've been working on for a decade. At last it looks like coming to fruition. It's called Dracula Who...? and is about Dracula trying to become a vegetarian - much to the displeasure of his blood sucking wife. I now have John Glen (eleven Bond films) as director, Chris Chrisafis (thirty-nine major films) as producer, Gary Kutz (Star Wars) as co-producer and a top horror star as Dracula. We hope to get up to speed either in Autumn, 2000 or Spring, 2001--Depending on when everyone is available at the same time.




Email:
info@pittofhorror.com
Fan Club & Merchandise:
Pitt of Horror
PO BOX 403
Richmond, Surrey TW10 6FW
England

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)





THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE

by Chris Parcellin
1974, Rated R, 83 minutes, Vortex/Henkel/Hooper Productions











In a rural Texas community, a "family" of deranged white trash animals is slaughtering people.

The story unfolds as innocent, doe-eyed Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her annoying hippie friends are cruising along in their filthy van when they fall into the clutches of our fabulous dismembering heroes. The youngsters themselves are a bunch of whiney, self-absorbed, post-flower child punks. Believe me, when they begin dropping dead you won't shed a tear.

The real fun group here is the pack of homicidal looneys who capture them!

As you can imagine, "standing-out in the crowd" is a tall order in the most dysfunctional household since the Manson Family. But the utterly charming Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen) is a real showman with power tools. (The stocky lad also gets points for his cute, squeaky Mickey Mouse-sounding voice.) In a flashy gang of brutal sadists, he has "star" written all over him.

Leatherface wastes no time in killing the twenty-somethings, including wheelchair-bound Franklin (Paul A. Partain), who is the first to get a taste of the chainsaw treatment. Our man Leatherface has a neat trick of hiding behind a steel door in the rear of his house while the young pinkos wander in -- thinking the place is abandoned. Then he springs out at the stunned peaceniks and drags them back into his fabulous meatlocker/kitchen. Bon Apetit!

The only one to escape is Sally, who is probably a total loss as a human being judging by her maniacal laughing as she speeds off in the back of a pickup truck. But even her over-the-top "I've gone kooky!" act is overshadowed by Leatherface's exquisite whirling-dervish-with a-chainsaw turn in the middle of the highway as the film ends. Charisma? You bet.

"Based-on a true story," this is a black-humored, unflinching look at the Ugly American at his psychotic worst. And Tobe Hooper is at his twisted best as a writer and director on a low budget. Lord knows he's gone on to direct some real dogs, but this film possesses more true scares than the entire "Horror" section of your local videostore, or a week of "Oprah" re-runs.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Shiny Apple! Fishy Apple!


Oh sweet Golan and Globus!!

Tonight I was watching Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares on BBC America. It's an episode from October 2007 and Gordon is saving a Brighton UK restaurant from ruin. The place is owned by a former actor named Allan Love and it's called 'Love's Fish Restaurant'.

I look on imdb and I almost flipped out to see in Love's sparce 80s/90s film credits is listed "The Apple".

OMG! It's him! He's 27 years older and pudgy but that smile is unmistakable. Allan Love was not only one the leads, but he sang the title song! He played "Dandi"- one of the corrupting forces at Mr. Boogaloo's International Music (the "BIM") that leads an innocent singing duo from Moose Jaw, Canadian obscurity to fame, drugs, and sex parties...and over-the-top musical numbers.

The Apple is a 1980 film spectacle (set in the distant future of 1994!) that makes Xanadu look coherent.

Thanks Chef Ramsay for dishing up a great plate of nostalgia for me.

Seeing Double


I have always been struck by the similarities between these two movie posters. The first one is for ANGEL (1984), a movie about a teenage girl who is described as a "High School Honor Student by Day. Hollywood Hooker by Night". The second poster is for ICE PRINCESS (2005) and this movie is about a teenage girl that goes "From small town Mathlete, To big time Athlete". In both posters the "good" girl is on the left chastely holding her books with her normal world featured in the background and on the right, the "bad" girl is displayed all tarted up for her secret life as Sin City looms behind her. Both girls have their backs to their secret other life showing that they are two sides to the same coin, different but essentially the same. They are going to have to decide which world to live in, but the hard line drawn down the middle of the poster tells us that once the decision is made, there's no going back. It's not going to be an easy decision to make because in both posters the normal world suffers from inclement weather as the storm clouds gather in Angel's world and the Ice Princess' farm has been immobilized by snow, but Sin City sparkles with clear skies and promises of fun.

Obviously, these movies aren't the same. ANGEL is a gritty low budget B movie about an underage girl that hooks when her family abandons her and ICE PRINCESS is a family friendly Disney picture about a young girl who wants to be a professional ice skater. Yet, I can't help but wonder why the same images were used to promote both movies. Is this how Hollywood sees teenage girls or am I reading too much into this?

Rosemary Kennedy's Day Off


This little known true life tale is seldom discussed, but since my friend Lorraine ("a Kennedy expert") wrote about it on the 30th anniversary of the Chicago incident (October 5, 2005), I thought I would repost her recap here.

The event screams for an Oliver Stone feature-film retelling and has an uncanny similarity to 2 films shot on the same Chicago streets where it happened. As you read about lobotomized 57-year-old Rosemary Kennedy's day of freedom, you may be reminded of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) and Baby's Day Out (1994).
__________

October 5, 1975 was to have been a reunion of sorts for sisters Rosemary and Eunice Kennedy, the latter was in Chicago attending a fundraiser for her husband, democratic presidential candidate R. Sargeant Shriver. The Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi brought Rosemary to Chicago to meet Eunice. Eunice had a full Sunday of activities planned for Rosemary – morning mass at St. Peter’s Catholic Church on Madison Street, lunch at the Palmer House, and then a long walk along the glorious Lake Michigan lakefront.

After the 11 o’clock mass, Rosemary was at Eunice’s side in the church vestibule when Eunice stopped to examine some religious booklets. When she looked up into the crowded vestibule, Eunice told police, Rosemary was gone. Eunice, along with the priest and two other women searched the church for a half hour. Eunice went into the street and flagged down a passing squad car. The police woman drove Eunice slowly up and down the surrounding streets, not realizing she was the wife of the 1976 democratic presidential candidate or that the person they were searching for was the retarded sister of the late President Kennedy.

Eunice finally identified herself and the policewoman notified Lt. Joseph Locallo, watch commander for the Chicago Police Department’s Central District. Fearful that Rosemary might be found by a person who could hold her for ransom or harm her, Lt. Locallo ordered 50 police officers to ride or walk the Loop streets looking for her.

Meanwhile Rosemary, dressed in a belted, puffy white coat and red pants, strolled the streets. She carried no money or identification, and because of the lobotomy that her father ordered for her decades before, she was unable to talk except to identify herself. For the first time in 24 years Rosemary was free, away from the scrutiny of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi, who never gave her a moment’s peace. Downtown Chicago was unusually crowded that Sunday. Rosemary was swept away in the crowd hurrying down the sidewalks, joining the flow of life like a seasoned urbanite.

For the next five hours Rosemary was lost while a frantic Eunice rode in the back of a squad car searching for a glimpse of her sister’s red pants. Police radios broadcasted Rosemary’s description at regular intervals. Soon, the Chicago media also heard of Rosemary’s disappearance. They, too, combed the streets looking for her, not so much to find her, but to be the first to get fresh photos of President Kennedy’s retarded sister.

WGN radio reported that Sen. Ted Kennedy, the lone surviving son of Joe and Rose, had also been contacted. One can only imagine his conversation with Eunice. (“GODDAMIT, EUNICE, HOW COULD YOU LOSE HER!”) Police searched public buildings, restaurants and alleys, but no Rosemary.

Finally, Peter Nolan, a reporter for WBBM-TV, spotted Rosemary as she walked north on Michigan Avenue, looking at display windows in the Monroe Building at 104 S. Michigan Ave., about five blocks from where she disappeared. Nolan asked if she was looking for Eunice. “Yes,” Rosemary replied, quickly turning back to her window shopping. Two policemen observed the encounter and took Rosemary away.

After Rosemary was reunited with Eunice at 800 S. Michigan Ave., Eunice cried, “Rosie, are you all right?” The two sisters were interviewed at the Central District station. Security was tightened to keep away the swarm of reporters, but still they managed to get pictures of Rosemary leaving the station in her snowsuit jacket with her nun caretakers and Eunice looking sheepish and embarrassed.

“Goodbye, thank you very much. You were marvelous, your whole force was,” Eunice told the district commander, clutching his hand. Eunice left with Ald. Edward Burke, a friend of the Kennedy family who was active in fundraising for the mentally retarded. Rosemary was returned to St. Coletta’s School for Exceptional Children where she remained out of sight until her death at age 86.


Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Suzanne Pleshette - 1963's "Most Exciting New Star"


Remembering the likeable Suzanne Pleshette who passed last week after a long illness, I discovered that an old 1962 favorite film of mine, 40 Pounds of Trouble, was supposed to have been Suzanne's breakout role. 

The picture (released December 31, 1962) marks an important stride on Pleshette's road to fame," reads an old pressbook, "and one result of her role is that the Theatre Owners of America, the nation's most influential organization of movie theatre owners, have named her '1963's Most Exciting New Star.'"

"I made 40 POUNDS OF TROUBLE, with Tony Curtis," Pleshette said, "but I had a shallow role. The part of the girl didn't further the plot."


R * E * V * I * E * W *S
  • "Suzanne Pleshette SCORES as the grown-up girl after Tony's heart." —Beverly Linet, MODERN SCREEN (3/63)
  • "Mr. Curtis, Suzanne Pleshette as the singer and Claire Wilcox as the baby-talking child are as BANAL as spot-commercial hawkers of headache tablets or crunchy breakfast foods." —Bosley Crowther, NEW YORK TIMES (1/24/63)
  • "Pleshette, whose manner is reminiscent of Joan Bennett's, handles her romantic assignment with FINESSE." —VARIETY MOVIE GUIDE
Suzanne would find a better film showcase a few months later with the release of Hitchcock's THE BIRDS.

Personally, I recall enjoying when  40 Pounds of Trouble made it onto the Sunday Matinee Movie on UHF tv in the 1970s. It was my first glimpse of what the Disneyland park (and attraction interiors) really looked like. As a kid, I'd sit through the talky scenes involving mobsters and poker playing to get the big Disneyland chase scene featuring the Snow White ride and Tom Sawyer's Island.

This Damon Runyon short story had been previously filmed twice by Paramount: in 1934 as LITTLE MISS MARKER and in 1949 as SORROWFUL JONES.

The film marked a number of "firsts":
• It offered the first use of Disneyland as one of the principal settings.
• It marked the film debut of director Norman Jewison, whose previous work was entirely in television.
• It was the first picture to be completed under the Curtis Enterprises production banner.

see trailer here:
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057069/trailers-screenplay-E11147-310

"The Scenery Diet " - by Pia Zadora


One of my faves!

The Lonely Lady is a 1983 film directed by Peter Sasdy and adapted to screen by Ellen Shepard from the novel written by Harold Robbins. Some consider it one of the worst films ever made mainly because of its clichéd storyline. Its plot and bad acting won it a Razzie.

Jerilee Randall (Pia Zadora) is an innocent schoolgirl living in the San Fernando Valley who dreams of becoming a famous writer. Shortly after winning a trophy for her creative writing, she meets the son of a famous screenwriter, Walter Thornton (Lloyd Bochner), at a party. She goes home with the son, along with some other friends. During a late evening pool party, Jerilee is sexually assaulted with a garden hose nozzle by one of the "friends" (Ray Liotta). Walter Thornton arrives after the assault has taken place and saves her from further attacks. A friendship develops between them, and they soon marry, despite the disapproval of Jerilee's mother (Bibi Besch).

The marriage begins to fall apart when she rewrites one of his scripts leading to his humiliation and erectile dysfunction. Divorce is inevitable when Walter scorns Jerilee during an argument and accuses her of enjoying her prior garden hose assault.

As the years pass, Jerilee has several bad affairs while trying to get her screenplay produced. She is coerced into a hot tub three-way with a producer and his aggressive wife. Jerilee is so traumatized by this experience that she showers while fully clothed (rubbing off the shame?). This scene leads to her nervous breakdown sequence where she sees the callous people of her past appear as faces on the keys of her typewriter which she tosses to the floor.

The film ends with Jerilee finally successful and winning a prestigious award (Oscar-ish) for her screenplay of a film called the "The Hold-outs". At the live awards telecast, she admits to her ex-husband Walter Thornton (in attendance) that she has never learned "the meaning of self-respect." Jerilee Randall then refuses to accept the award, and walks out of the auditorium with her newfound dignity.

trivia:

  • Pia was fresh off her Golden Globe award win for her work in the incest drama "Butterfly" - a win which many Hollywood insiders contributed to as having been "bought" by her billionaire hubby (gee, ya think?)
  • "music coordination" is credited to The Scotti Brothers (Tony Scotti began his career as an actor, portraying Tony Polar, in the 1967 cult camp classic "Valley of the Dolls".)
  • When touring the talk show circuit to promote this film, Pia Zadora repeatedly portrayed it as "a cross between Rocky (1976) and Emmanuelle (1974)".

Skidoo! Skiday!



This is one of Mark and my favorite movies. Actually, I think Mavis and I first saw it at the Film Forum years ago! How on earth can I describe it? Otto Preminger made a film about LSD that stars Jackie Gleason, Carol Channing, Frankie Avalon, Groucho Marx (as crime kingpin "God,"), Mickey Rooney; several of the Batman villians - of which Preminger was one: Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, and Cesar Romero; Arnold Stang (!), Michael Constantine as Gleason's cellmate who proudly declares, "I'm a rapist!" ... Carol Channing doing a striptease on Frankie Avalon's swinger bed while hubby Gleason trips on acid for for the first time, demanding, "Give me a flower!" Watching it demands a group experience: you can't help but blurt out "Norton!" after almost every one of Gleason's lines, such as his grilling of daughter's boyfriend John Philip Law: "What is he, a faggot?" Not only that, Slim Pickens and Harry Nilsson (who sings the film's credits!) are the prison guards. Imagine Slim Pickens on acid.

Here's Nilsson on "Playboy After Dark" promoting the film. Otto Preminger is already there on Hef's couch:


The great thing is that TCM is now showing it, so I don't have to resort to my badly bootlegged copy to show people this unbelievable film.

Sextette

Without a shred of self-effacing irony , Mae West played a sex bomb (at age 91?) in 1978's film SEXTETTE. oh, and what a cinematic gift she gave us! Miss West was living in her penthouse at The Ravenswood Apts on Vine Street, Hollywood -- and she was listed in the phonebook at the time (just in case a producer needed her). We all need her.

"We used to go to dinner with [Mae West] every Thursday night. Rumor had it that she was 91 years old when she made that and she wasn't very good at remembering her lines. I do remember one scene that I had to come into the bridal suite with her (she was my bride), and I used to have to say, 'Oh darling, I feel like the first man who landed on the moon' and her line was something like, 'That's a small step for man and a giant leap into the boudoir', but she could never remember it. I don't think she even knew that the Americans had landed on the moon, so there was a kind of lack of connection with this line! We did it again and again and again, and she kept forgetting, and every time we stood outside the door waiting to begin she'd tug at my sleeve and say, 'What's the line?' She'd get so, so annoyed with herself! One moment we walked in and I said, 'Darling, I feel like the first man who landed on the moon,' and she said, 'In a minute you're going to feel like you landed on Venus,' and into the boudoir we went!" (Timothy Dalton)



The Yin and Yang Of Ib Melchior

Ib Melchoir wrote quite a few things in his career, but I find two films of his on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. I actually like them both. One, for being innovative with a small budget, the other for showing how bad low budget films can be. These films are of course, “Planet of the Vampires” and “Reptilicus”. “Planet of the Vampires” (also known under I think 1000 other names), which is truly a film that shows that low budget is not always low concept. This film was obviously an huge influence for Ridley's Scott's “Alien” (see clip), it's miniscule budget still managed fantastic set pieces and really hot leather space outfits with matching skull caps that somehow managed to contain some of the biggest beehive hairdo's in Sci-Fi (I NEED one of those outfits, or at least the skull cap!)

“Reptilicus”, on the other hand, is a film about piece of dinosaur tail that grows into giant monster that throws up on people to kill them. This film also includes a 10 minute tour of Copenhagen (did the tourist bureau put up the cash for this thing?) and in the uncut version... hard to believe every centimetre of film wasn't used no matter how bad, it even included a “musical number” of the mentally challenged maintenance man singing a song about Reptilicus to a group of children for no apparent reason. (see clip)

Other highlights in his career were also interesting. He wrote “Death race 2000”, was the creator of “Space Family Robinson” (or “Lost in Space”)... he seems a writer stuck somewhere between genius and complete schlock!






Why I love America.

Where else can you see an angry, closeted Paul Lynde trade tired vaudeville jokes with four boys in full Glam drag? Throw in Margaret Hamilton reprising her role of the Wicked Witch and you have a true piece of American weirdness.

Sixties cult film sensation Tura Satana

Tura! Tura! Tura!

Tura Satana is not a lady you want to mess with. But no one who’s seen her ass-kicking performance as Varla, a homicidal, kickboxing go-go dancer in Russ Meyer’s classic Faster Pussycat...Kill! Kill!(1966) is apt to argue that point. This performance alone would’ve made her a major cult movie figure, but her role in Astro-Zombies (1969) and her turn as a sexy secret agent in The Doll Squad (1973) has helped to make her a bonafide legend in the wild world of underground cinema. Though Tura had stayed conspicuously clear of the spotlight for many years, she has re-emerged recently with her own website and plans for a book and film based-on her life.
Why do you think people still love "Faster Pussycat...Kill! Kill!" today?
Tura Satana:
I think it's as popular today because it carries the same message that it did when it was first done. Plus, I think that a lot of people are seeing it for the first time. I think that the message that the film sends is a message to women in general. It is that women can be feminine and yet still be strong. They no longer have to feel that they are the weaker sex. We might not have the same strength that the males do, but we can learn to use the strengths that we have to make ourselves heard and felt throughout the world. It also shows women that they can still be as feminine as they want to be. I have always felt that I can be as feminine as I like. I like having someone open up the doors for me, and doing things for me that make me feel attractive. But, I know that I am capable of doing those things myself, as well.

Of the movies you've done, which is your favorite and why?
TS:
I have to say that FPKK is one of my favorites, besides The Doll Squad. I think that it's my favorite because I put so much of myself into it. I let out a lot of the anger that was in me during the filming of the picture. It helped a whole lot to make me a better person as well.


Are you as tough as you seem in your films?
TS:
I would have to say, that yes, I am as tough as the films. Because I have to be, not because I want to be.

Have you had to belt anyone lately?
TS:
Not lately, but I wouldn't hesitate if I had to.

I read somewhere that you dated Elvis. What era was this in? Was it serious?
TS:
Yes, I dated him back in the late fifties and early sixties. He asked me to marry him and I told him no, because we were both working on our careers. And we really didn't have the ability to put up with that and our careers. Sometimes I am sorry that I didn't, because I think that he would be alive today if I had.

Were you upset when you found out there a was a rock band out there using your name?
TS:
Yes, I was upset but I was also flattered. I just hope that they were good, because I wouldn't want my namesake to be bad in the entertainment industry.

What are you up to these days? Any upcoming projects?
TS:
At the present time I own an engine rebuilding business in Long Beach and I’m trying to make it a success. I have a couple of things in the wings. I am writing my autobiography and I’m talking to some people about making it into a film. Also, I’m helping to write a movie script and I have been asked to work in a couple of films. Plus, I write to all of my fans who write to me on the Internet.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Atta Boy Luther!

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken (1966)

In the first and funniest film of his 5-picture deal with Universal, Don Knotts plays Luther Heggs - a meek type-setter who in his quest to become an ace reporter agrees to spend the night in a spooky mansion and becomes a local hero.

Vic Mizzy's peppy (and creepy) score adds to the brilliance of the film.

character actor sightings:
  • Jesslyn Fax and Nydia Westman as the bickering boarding house ladies.
  • Reta Shaw plays the banker's wife and head of the local occult group.
  • Charles Lane and Ellen Corby show up in the courtroom scene
  • Philip Ober as villian Nicky Simmons (was the real life hubby of Vivian Vance until she divorced him in 1959)
  • Hope Summers ("Clara") and Hal Smith ("Otis") are brought over from TVs Mayberry as similar characters in the first scene of the film.
  • Bert Mustin plays the old man boarder who lends Luther his flashlight.
trivia: Don Knotts personally contacted the makers of Bon Ami to get permission for a running gag where the product is mentioned. The other running gag has an off-camera wiseacre yelling "Atta Boy Luther!" in every crowd scene. Knotts said in his autobiography that the voice belonged to screenwriter Everett Greenbaum.


Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wild Wild Planet

I tivo'd this last night on TCM. How on earth I'd never seen it before is beyond me, because it's got everything: huge hair and wiglets, outrageous eye makeup, bad overdubbed dialogue, silver go-go boots, bald villains in trashbag-fabric capes, sexy Franco Nero (in a supporting role), freaks, bad models of "space," and lots of lamé (on both sexes.)



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Vampira Memorial Fund


From Vampira's Attic:


help lay vampira to rest

Friday, January 18, 2008

Lunch is for the Birds

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'Acid does what Eterna-27 cannot'

We watched this the other nite and I can't get this woman out of my head! She's fascinating ... I wish there was another documentary just about her friends. There's even a woman named "Francine" in it. Rent it now if you haven't seen it:

Friday, January 4, 2008

3-Finger Joe

Be careless for a moment, spend a lifetime with the blues.
Shake Hands with Danger, 1970.


proving the axiom of "Comedy is someone else walking down the street and falling in a hole."




We love the Internet Archive and The AV Geeks.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Saint Constance of Bennett

Constance Bennett illustrates for us, and I couldn't agree more.



Oh! Eve and I are so happy, someone finally posted this on YouTube. It's been one of our favorites for years. I wish she would have gone on for hours ... in fact, I wish I was Constance Bennett!

"Wishing you loads and loads of loveliness"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Edward Everett Horton

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I wonder if that's where this pic was taken?
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He played butlers so much he even shined his own car!


Maybe I should write Mr. Horton on his myspace page ... or ask his buddy Eric Blore? I'm so glad that old sissy character actors live on.


I want this address!
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Maybe I should tell them that Mark and I visit Franklin Pangborn regularly?
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oh you do, don't you? be sure to keep me tidy!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Dr. Loveless

some of you may have read my other musings on "the wild wild west," especially my discussions with mavis about the recurring themes of a) robert conrad's supertight pants*; b) his usually shirtless whippings, slappings, and beatings, often by women; and c) robert conrad's supertight pants*. max cady sent me this interesting article on michael dunn, aka "dr loveless," who was the stuff of nightmares for me as a kid. my friend linda and i would play "wild wild west" (sadly, i could never get any neighborhood boys to let me tie them to posts and whip them for minor espionage infractions) and she would always whisper "dr loveless is coming to get us!"

‘There was something strange there'

Dunn was in England to play the role of Birgito in the production of "The Abdication,” when he died Aug. 30, 1973. According to a news report, officials said Dunn reported his leg was injured in his hotel room, and he telephoned for help. When help arrived, they found the actor dead.

Circumstances of the death always made family members think "there was something strange there,” Reed said. She said Dunn's mother received a telegram shortly before his death that said, "I'm OK. The cops are looking.”







Max muses: "Here's my new theory about Michael Dunn's death: Can Conrad account for his whereabouts on August 30, 1973? Maybe he dared Dunn to knock something off his shoulder and things got out of hand. Probably snapped because of all the jokes on the "WWW" set about who was taller, Bob or Mike?"





someone made a bunch of "wild wild west" music videos on youtube - wow! who ARE these people? god bless 'em!


i'm back to let you know i can really shake 'em down!


*i rest my case.

The Devil is a Sissy

I tivo'd this little gem on TCM, selected by Harvey Fierstein who gleefully told Robert Osbourne, "I am a sissy!" in that great voice of his. What a title! What a cast! And what a premise:
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How could I resist? Naturally "Claude" (Freddie Bartholomew - who else?) wears his Little Lord Fauntleroy ensemble the whole time - matching short pants and jacket, with white shirt (he abandons the cap after his first day, but one wonders why his books aren't tied together with a ribbon.) Claude's parents are divorced (oh, the shame!) and despite his mother's disaffection for NY ("Well, all I see is squalor and dirt. And unpleasantly swarthy people.") she ditches Claude-y pants with his father, a clueless architect who remains unconcerned when Claude's retelling of his first day at school includes "electric chair," "up the river," and a "kick me" sign on his back, wishing, "I want them to like me, Father - more than anything ... in the world!" Day two's afterschool request is boxing lessons and a black eye, resulting in a "jolly good!" reaction from Dumb Olde Dad. Bad boys Mickey "Gig" Rooney (son of electrified father and prostitute aunt) and Jackie "Buck" Cooper set out to get Claude and the fun begins.

The IMDB synopsis is much more serious: At a cafe owned by a Frenchman, Claude ostensibly orders a special sauce in French, but actually tells the owner to call the police. When they come, the bullets start flying.

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Sadly, neither Franklin Pangborn nor Edward Everett Horton are in it, so it's not "the greatest human drama" that it promises, but still worth watching.

I'm feeling very ... "French" today.