Monday, December 10, 2012

The Lathe of Heaven

To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven.
Chuang Tzu

Based on the 1971 novel by Ursula Le Guin, this first direct to TV production by PBS in 1980 tells the story of George Orr, a young man who goes to forced therapy after trying to kill himself with pills that suppress his dreams. He believes he has dreams that can change reality so that nothing that came before the dream happened, so only he remembers it. It doesn't take the therapist, Dr. William Haber who in short order, realizes that George can in fact "effective dream" and change reality. 

This production is, in a word excellent. That's not to say it's not aged over time. The electronic music is a little tiring, but only a little and the minuscule 250,000$ budget shows... but barely. There was a more recent, and much less successful adaption that didn't come close to capturing the feeling and philosophy of the book. The acting is well done and the story and characters cover a lot of strange ground in a way that keeps mysterious and yet is still easy enough to follow as the plot unfolds. 

Haber, after discovering George is telling the truth about his powers to change things, makes every attempt to use him, not in an evil way, but in a very well intentioned attempt to "fix" the world's problems.. starting with the the nonstop years of rain in the futuristic world of 2002 Portland and then onward to bigger and more ambitious things. Dreams being dreams, nothing quite turns out as cleanly as he would like. As things go for bad to worse, Haber embarks on a plan to cure George and transfer the abilities to someone more worthy and stable... himself, of course. What he doesn't realize is that the entire scenario, including George's ability to effectively dream up reality was the result of something terrible... it was in a sense, George's dying wish, so taking away the power from him just unleashes, once more, the horrible event that put things in motion to start with. 

PBS jumped into original films with a truly original film. It passes on the best ideas in sci-fi minus the current trend of high end effects and leaves many thing open ended enough to interpretation to make this film fit in the same sort of genre of Nicolas Roeg's "The Man Who Fell to Earth" in many respects. Did I mention the voice of the aliens is the same voice as the HAL 9000? 

Monday, October 15, 2012


DEBBIE WATSON (the movie "Marilyn Munster" and the final "Tammy") stars as a defiant Go-Go Girl who has a fit during a taping of the hit show "Whizbam" and creates a new dance craze called "The Tantrum".

Roddy McDowell plays a 'Phil Spector' - type.

Also featuring vocal novelty act MRS MILLER  in her only screen appearance and
Music by the Leaves, the Bantams, Glen Campbell, the Forté Four.

and the always fabulous  NITA TALBOT  ( who really should be in EVERYTHING).

The film is available to purchase on DVD here

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Count Dracula (1977)

This 1977 Masterpiece Theatre version of Bram Stoker's gothic horror classic "Dracula" is considered by many people to be the best of this often retold and re-imagined story. It stars Louis Jordan, who, at the time was also known for playing the 400 year old count in the comedic broadway play version inspired by the art of Edward Gorey.

The claim this is the most faithful version is not unfounded, but even at 150 minutes long, some liberties were taken. A couple characters are combined into one and Lucy and Nina are sisters, an odd decision since it neither adds or subtracts from the story. Dracula, as in most adaptions, is young looking throughout and clean shaven, unlike the old mustached repulsive character who gains youth in the original tale.

The acting holds up fairly well overall. A notable exception is the sexy vampiric Lucy who comes across as fairly ridiculous with her suddenly raspy voice and Linda Blair inspired tongue wagging. Louis Jordan is perhaps a little too understated in his performance, coming across as bored occasionally. The role of Van Helsling is played with humor and sincerity by Frank Findlay.

The real problems with this telling is in the production values. The images are flat and the night scenes are obviously lit by a single spotlight, sometimes with great effect and other times, not so much. Music choices are downright bizarre. 70's horror electronica. While most of the effects are stylistically fitting, the decision to use the never appropriate "solarization effect" really ruins the gothic feel of the story and settings. Some scenes involving a bat, as in almost every other filmed version, are simply terrible. Even today, this particular effect is always a weak point in the production values. Oddly enough, I saw the Jordan stage interpretation and the bats were better than I'd seen in any film.

One odd critique in this mostly lauded television play is that Jordan was too old for the part. It's unfounded, he looks perfect in the role. Dracula is a man hundreds of years old, not a tween.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Thankh God: The Love Machine is on DVD!

Oh my goodness! All things ankh have come your TV set as this is finally on DVD. My favorite Jackie Susann book (that's right, it is) is here and sadly, mine's without subtitles-oh, what a joy this would make. The dialogue, sets, casting (Robert Ryan! Jackie Cooper! Shecky Greene! John Philip Law in the lead role as "Robin Stone," aka Love Machine; Dyan Cannon! David Hemmings!), costumes by Moss Mabry, makeup and huge hair make this a campfest beyond compare. And the ankhs! Good lord. (Click to enlarge all photos.)

Short story: Robin Stone sleeps his way to the top, namely with the big boss' wife, Mrs. Austin, played by Dyan Cannon, who is the real star of the film. Robin's best friend is uber-bitch queen David Hemmings, "fashion photog" who has a pal named Alfie. That's all you really need to know.

The end culminates in Mrs. Austin finding an incriminating "slave bracelet" that she shoves down her cleavage and a huge bitchfight ensues. Why is this movie not a midnight cult classic? Every line of dialogue should be memorized and recited!

 Behold the power of the ankh!

 The ankh is so powerful, Shecky Greene must avert his gaze.
 Dyan finds the slave bracelet.
Dyan dares Alfie to go where he's never gone before.

Dyan: Oscar WINNER!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Danny Peary's Cult movie Books

If you've never read Danny Peary's incredible books on cult films, you really must add them to your collection immediately. The film critic and sports writer has written the definitive essays on 200 cult films over 3 book published between 1981 and 1989.

Each film is given a synopsis, cast and crew list and other facts in a sidebar but it's the in depth critiques that really makes them stand out. In 1981 the term cult movie wasn't really in the vernacular and Peary gives a very concise definition of what constitutes a cult film. His books are like a list "what to see" in the world of oddball, arty and forgotten cinema.

What I really love about the films chosen is they are not his personal favourites, but rather they are the films that meet the criteria he set out at the start of the project. While each film a detailed and fair critique and history, he makes it very clear that not all these films are great, or even good and a few are downright disgusting and offensive.

The world of cult cinema has, sadly, died out pretty much completely these days but this series will remind you why these films brought a feeling of finding something odd and wonderful to life as well as why they deserve (or don't) to be seen over and over with a like-minded audience.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Resurrect Dead

Resurrect Dead a superbly directed documentary on the Toynbee tiles phenomenon. Now on Netflix. I'm going to avoid waxing - if you disagree after seeing it - let's duke it out then. One caveat: the Wikipedia article will definitely spoil it for you, so read it afterwards.

Sunday, July 8, 2012


ne of the greatest nights of my life was with wonderful Tova Borgnine's makeup artist extraordinaire David Frank Ray (among many others), who took me as his date to Ernest Borgnine's birthday party. It was a surprise party, held at Elvis Presley's former Beverly Hills home (which we didn't know until the way out, when our table-mate Harry Hamlin wondered why there were photos of The King in the hallway. Had we only known that the Robin-Hood-like fireplace was once graced by Elvis and the Memphis Mafia, it would have only made the party even better, but singing "Happy Birthday" along with  Debbie Reynolds (who ribbed fellow guest Connie Stevens about their mutual husband Eddie Fisher) really didn't get any better. Ernie made fun of his "I masturbate a lot" gaffe and how "that guy on the radio, Howard Stern" made it so "even the guy who fixed my back this morning had to ask me!"

It was a small gathering and I got to meet him. I told him "I was going to ask you-you know, but I figured that joke was old already." He burst into that famous Borgnine laugh and gave me a big hug and a kiss. What a guy!

(There are more stories from that night as you can guess, but this is about Ernie.) This picture has been the wallpaper on my cel phone ever since that night because it just reminds me to not take life so seriously.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Can we bring back the midnight movie?

If anyone here at the slammer is too young to remember the midnight movie circuit, please go back in time thirty years to the Orson Welles Cinema in Cambridge Massachusetts and then continue reading. For the rest if you I pose the question, can we revive the midnight movie tradition in today's digital world? I say, yes we can!

For years after the invention of video players, many of us have had movie nights with friends (in my case, bad movie nights) in a way to share our film obsessions and keep the social aspect of seeing a movie then discussing it afterwards, just like we did in the cinema lobbies and nearby cafés in days gone by. I don't know why this couldn't be expanded by local theatres, art galleries, coffee shops and bookstores to add a little income by showing films at midnight on Saturdays with discussions to follow.

I think enough time has past for the idea to be nostalgic and enough people are tired of Facebook interactions taking place of live ones to be very appealing. After establishing an audience with more known and more recent films would create buzz and interest to allow the revival of those important cult classics shown and themed min festivals. Imagine being able to see the latest Herzog doc with his Fata Morgana! Like the original midnight movie concept, it would take time, maybe a couple years even to make it a phenomena again, but not impossible.

The days of sold out Rocky Horror Picture Show presentations may be over, but we can still share our film history and obsessions as well as helping create a new crop of film buffs by giving them a way to see, explore, discover and discuss some of the most bizarre, controversial and interesting films of all time. I wonder if there will be fist fights after showings of the original Wicker Man over wether or not the cop deserves his fate, just like when I first saw at the Orson Welles. Let's hope so.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Great Gabbo

Erich Von Stroheim, Stroheimin' out. World's angriest Eastern European. But the reason to watch it is, this dummy FREAKED ME OUT. Watch it below or download it here (on the left) The only psychology is Gabbo's tranferrence to his dummy Otto, manifesting bipolarity. No supernatural nuthin'. The hidden secret about this film is that it's a musical, replete with pre-Hays outfits and Zeigfeld like crowds of cast members, wherein the numbers performed get pretty trippy. The climax is wonderfully executed using the special effects of the day, bipack and dissolves. Stroheim while not actually doing the ventriloqism, performs beautifully with the dummy.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Ann Blyth with the Man of Steel

Saw this on tumblr and thought it was cool because Mister Peabody and the Mermaid is a great film, and hey- Ann Blyth making the scene with Superman in Action Comics 130, WTF? Some kinda cross-promotion, no? They've even got a cameo by the great Nunnally Johnson who wrote and produced the film. I've got to imagine it's possible to buy reprints somewhere but I can't find 'em.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Dark Count's Secret Identity

Sorry people, there's like 12 more and I'll quit. I'm private-memeing... at your expense He's BRIX WAYNESCU CEO of Waynescu Industries.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Monday, May 21, 2012


It seems I was not the only 5-year-old terrorized by this Movie-of the-Week (which happened to be on when my teen brother and teen uncle were babysitting me). The intro screams and the shadowy figure of the lady buried alive saying "help me, help me" was all I needed to see/hear to send me cowering under the covers praying for mommy to get home.

The Screaming Woman is a 1972 American television film starring Olivia de Havilland and directed by Jack Smight. It is loosely based on a short story by Ray Bradbury (which in turn was based on his 1948 radio play for the CBS show Suspense) with a script written by Merwin Gerard.  It features John Williams's last score (to date) for a TV movie.

A wealthy former mental patient goes home to her estate to rest and recuperate. While walking the grounds one day she hears the screams of a woman coming from underneath the ground who has been buried alive.

check out this fun site

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Monday, April 30, 2012

Bitches - amirite?

Probably completely apocryphal, in an era where "pictures or it didn't happen" has lost it's meaning. A delight nonetheless from Tumblr via Completelyunproductive
Clique for bigger.

Sunday, April 22, 2012


As the Queen of Abyssinia in The Pearls of the Crown


I can never get enough Arletty. Do you know of Sacha Guitry? Criterion has released four of his films and they are available on Hulu Plus, as most of the Criterion Collection is (!) His films are a delight. Arletty is in Désiré, and The Pearls of the Crown. (Don't read too much because they are so much fun to watch, beginning with the credits.) As for Arletty...what a woman! "My heart is French, my ass is international," she supposedly said, after having an affair with a German officer during the occupation. Bad Arletty.

photos from the Criterion Site.

Bettie Page's Birthday!

Teaserama- full movie

Downloadable here.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Johnathan Frid 1924-2012

Best known to all of us in the Slammer as Barnabas Collins form the gothic horror soap opera "Dark Shadows" made in the 1960s, actor Johnathan Frid died this week. He kept up acting on stage and occasionally TV right up until the end. He died of natural causes, though supernatural ones might have been more fitting. He was given a cameo... along with Lara Parker, David Selby and Kathryn Leigh Scott in the upcoming film with Johnny Depp. Sadly for us the new film looks like it will do more to dishonor his legacy than honor it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Perception of Dors

Like what I did there? With that title? Hah? HAH!?! Either way this site is a gem - one of those old-school web layouts with GIANT FONTS and stuff that looks like links but aren't.
I think the purpose is to sell you a naked picture of Diana Dors, via the swapsale domain, but who the hell knows - life's too short to dick around with meaningless content, no?

Net-net it is, however an obsessively wonderful overview of Diana's career, replete with clips pix and posters. Go - have an ogle at this sometimes questionably beautiful, baloney-lipped wonder.