Monday, January 05, 2015

REMARKABLE DJ Alan Freed

I binged this weekend on Alan Freed movies — “Rock Rock Rock” and “Don’t Knock the Rock” from the mid-50s.  Freed was somewhat of a stiff but somehow he convinced Hollywood that he had box-office appeal.  In fact, he sings on a Coral label single, “Rock Boogie,” which could be a collectable if you have it.  RRR features a 16-year-old Tuesday Weld who is conniving to get $30 to buy a prom dress and then there’s an abrupt segue where Freed introduces several rock acts including Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Chuck Berry and a bunch of unknowns.   Connie Francis sings while Weld moves her lips.  RRR,  from DCA a poverty studio, is inept in several area:  acting, editing, script and directing.  But there are some good acts and others so obscure you have to watch.  The actor/singer who plays Weld's love interest looks old enough to have children in high school himself and was recruited for his biceps rather than his acting chops.  The same DVD has a documentary on Freed which is worth seeing.  
 “Don’t Knock” from Columbia is almost high art compared to RRR with crooner Alan Dale who is about 40 romancing a teenager.  Production values are quite professional and the dance numbers are the best in any '50s rock musical.  Sony gets high marks for remastering "Don't Knock the Rock" and the companion DVD, "Rock 'round the Clock."

Friday, December 26, 2014

BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR

Abandoning self interest and coming together for the common good is what advances humanity,  So this message is wrapped up in the blockbuster Sondheim musical “Into The Woods” which director Rob Marshall (Chicago, Nine) delivers with gusto, dramatic pacing and a star studded cast.
As the Wicked Witch, Meryl Streep’s character is self absorbed and makes the baker and his wife crazy getting her a magic potion to reverse the ravages of old age (and who doesn’t need that?).  Ms. Streep gets a couple of extreme makeovers in the movie.
Johnny Depp recycles some of the makeup left over from “Pirates” as the Big Bad Wolf who seduces Little Red Riding Hood.  So the “woods” are the real world after you leave fairy tale land.
If you go for the handsome prince hang onto your popcorn because you get a double dose in the campy duet “Agony” performed by Chris Pine and  Billy Magnussen.  As Prince Charming tells Cinderella, “Although I am charming, I am not faithful.”  That sums up the false promise of that fairy tale.

In a rare moment at the West End Theater, the audience applauded during the closing credits.  Although it’s a Disney release, it’s too scary for small children but then so are most fairy tales. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Horror Festival Is A Weird Universe

BLOOMINGTON CRYPTICON
I could barely contain my excitement at getting a photo with the outstanding Zach Galigan, movie star known for “Gremlins” (1984) and “Waxwork.”  Zach is still stunning. What a life!  One day you’re making movies for Spielberg and 30 years later you’re getting a $5 bill from Dave Zarkin to have your photo taken by a stranger.

MORE CRYPTICON
Felix Silla of “Return of the Jedi” was a featured celebrity at the Bloomington Crypticon.  The “exhibitors” and discussions were outstanding at my first spooky convention devoted to horror movies and related media.

CRYPTON MADNESS
Adams Family and Star Trek Next Generation actor Corel Struycken was kind enough to pose for a guy in a Spooky World t-shirt that Evon Minelli gave me in 2006.  I need to wash it.

BAD MOVIE PRODUCER AT CRYPTICON
Craig Muckler, producer of ”Microwave Massacre,”  is just one of the many crazy stories at Crypticon in Bloomington last night.  The movie is several years old and features the tag line:  “they came for dinner to find they were it!”  Comedian Jackie Vernon starred in this epic.

CRYPTICON CONFIDENTIAL
“Friday the 13th” star Betsy Palmer dismissed the script for this movie as a piece of bleep and did the movie because she needed $10,000 to buy a car, according to Adrienne King who played Alice in the movie.  King, who spoke at Bloomington’s Crypticon horror event Friday Oct. 24, 2014, said expectations for the movie were low, the script was written as the movie was being made and the production ran out of money twice during filming.  
King’s favorite scene in the movie involved a snake and a machete.  Palmer knocked King down in a scene where the Alice character is slapped.  Despite the rough stuff, King said that Palmer made her a better actress during the 10 days Palmer was on location in New York State with the 1979 movie.
King is a painter and operates Crystal Lake Wines (a homage to the movie) in Oregon.

HOW TO SCARE THE KIDS THIS HALLOWEEN

Chris Costello of Forest Lake is dedicated to Halloween, classic Universal Pictures Gothic horror films and building a front yard fright scene.  He spoke with boyish enthusiasm Friday night at Bloomington’s Crypticon fright festival.  Costello is featured on YouTube in a Halloween documentary filmed by a teenage fan.  You can find him on Facebook’s Thursday Night Fright Night movies for kids.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

WHAT I DID FOR THE CONFEDERACY

When I first saw the 1939 “Gone with the Wind” it was in 1967 at the historic Ada/Egyptian Theater in Boise so I hadn’t much of a clue about the story before I saw it again (in HD) for the second time yesterday in a nearby mall cineplex.  In GWTW’s four hours we see Scarlett O’Hara (played brilliantly by Vivien Leigh) go from flirty school girl to a money-grubbing capitalist.
Scarlett is the strong take charge mistress of Tara, the family estate and cotton plantation, as the men are slaughtered on the battle field and her father goes insane.  In the first two hours, we learn of the horrors of war and anti-hero and river boat gambler Rhett Butler points out the futility and stupidity of the Confederacy going against the industrialized north.  The Butler character is a free spirit beholding to no one but himself who states the obvious throughout the film:  Scarlett is a self-centered opportunist and engages in marriage as a profit-making venture.  
1930s heartthrob Clark Gable had to be Butler with his winning good looks and sex appeal, but Ms. Scarlett is not swayed but his charms and yearns for the gentile manners of aristocratic Ashley Wilkes (played by British actor Leslie Howard.)  Her obsession with Wilkes and then her realization that Butler loves her leads to her sorrow but comes too late in her story.  Butler walks out the door, proclaiming:  “Frankly, I don’t give a damn.”
A post-war melodrama is the focus of the second two hours and is somewhat of a let down given the heightened drama of the previous two hours with the burning of Atlanta.  

African American actress Hattie McDaniel received an Oscar for her performance as the slave maid “Mamie” but was not allowed to attend the premier in 1939 in an Atlanta, Ga., theater in less enlightened times.  GWTW portrays African Americans in racial stereotypes associated with the 1930s and 40s in this country.  The movie is being shown during its 75th anniversary in theaters nationwide.  A PBS documentary on the war describes in greater detail the horrors of the Civil War with corpses of dead soldiers rotting in the fields.  I found it amazing that after 75 years an audience exists for any movie, but this one is special. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

Campy Gothic Horror Sendup is a Delight

I willingly drifted into Charles Ludlam’s ultra campy Gothic horror sendup “The Mystery of Irma Vep” last night at the Jungle Theater wherein Lady Enid and Lord Edgar attempt to learn more about the death of Edgar’s first wife, Irma.  A gander at the set for the British library drawing room country estate is worth the price of admission.  It’s like Roger Corman and Mario Bava on acid designed this nightmare.  I admit to being a willing captive of this subversive humor.  A garish portrait on the wall reminds us of Irma’s haunting presence as we are assaulted by a vampire, werewolf and mummy and are treated to that old standby, the wall that opens up to unspeakable horror.  No one slept while this three-ring zany circus was underway.
Bradley Greenwald and Stephen Cartmell are the incredible actors in this manic fast-paced tour de farce that has to be experienced up close to get the full measure of their insanity.  They play the roles of the butler, maid, werewolf, vampire, Egyptian guide and Lady and Lord Hillcrest.  We hold our breath as they do numerous costume and makeup changes in hopes that the maid will appear with Lord Edgar’s mustache, but to no avail. 

Of course the duo have to travel to ancient Egypt to converse with the mummy in hopes of learning how poor Irma met her untimely demise.  Having enjoyed Charles Busch’s “Die Mommy Die” I was a ripe candidate for this over the top nonsense.  It’s difficult to imagine how “Dracula the Musical” in October at the Howard Conn Theater will top this burlesque journey.  We shall see and then report to you faithful readers.  Stay tuned.  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

"Yum Yum" Not a Tasty Treat in 1963

Didn’t we suffer through some rotten movies in the ‘60s?  Dean Jones doesn’t look like the dude who would agree to a chaste trial marriage with a sadistic professional virgin played by Carol Lynley in “Under the Yum Yum Tree.”  This movie got a lot of hype in LA in 1963 so I took a date to see it at Grauman’s Chinese Theater which was a big deal then. 

It’s being shown this month on GetTV so I revisited it and got a slice of the LA lifestyle circa 1963.  Horny bachelors of the day favored garish apartments with red walls and drove customized cardinal red Imperials.  Jack Lemmon played the lecherous bachelor landlord of the apartment building where the unwed couple cohabited while Walter Matthau or Don Rickles would be better.  The story dithers into a tit for tat Laurel and Hardy slapstick scene with Jones and Lemmon.  Reason to see this mess:  Paul Lynde as the gardener and Imogene Cocoa as the maid.  Lynley had an evil look that better suites her to “Dracula’s Daughter” than a romcom.  James Darren sings the title song and he could have handled the Jones role.  When it came to ‘60s comedies, AIP nailed it with the beach movies franchise.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

THE LIFE LESS ORDINARY

He was the most famous wrier of his generation and she was determined not to be “a footnote to  someone else’s life” which didn’t bode well for the merger of Ernest Hemingway and pioneer woman war correspondent Martha Gellhorn.  Their tumultuous relationship is brought to the screen in the compelling “Hemingway and Gellhorn” film directed by Philip Kaufman.  I noticed this DVD at library checkout while I was picking up “A Stricken Field,” Gellhorn’s novelized account of covering the human tragedies in World War II Central Europe.  
With Gellhorn, the macho Hemingway more than met his match.  Nicole Kidman is outstanding as Martha and Clive Owen is memorable as the Hemingway who was boozing and fishing while the “misses” was covering the war for Collier’s magazine.  (I previously read her Collier’s articles.)  Hemingway dismissed Gellhorn as a “journalist” writing human interest stories.  When Hemingway stole her Collier assignment to cover the Normandy Invasion, she found a way to scoop him on that story by going undercover as a nurse on a British hospital ship accompanying the troops.  In a memorable scene, Joan Chen plays Madame Chiang Kai-shek  at a dinner with the Hemingways with Gellhorn raising unpleasant references to Chinese poverty and hunger.  While Hemingway feared being branded a communist sympathizer, Gellhorn confronted social justice issues head-on.

In the scenes involving the Spanish Civil War, John DosPesos, photographer Robert Capa and movie director Joris Ivens (“The Spanish Earth”) are featured.  European war scenes are shown in grainy sepia tone or two color (Cinecolor) process.  It worked for me, particularly when  matched with Richard Attenborough’s “In Love and War,” which is the “Fairwell to Arms” story about Hemingway being rejected by the nurse Agnes who recounts the affair thusly:  “The hurt boy became an angry man.”  Now I need to find a decent DVD of “Farewell to Arms,” the original.