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Showing posts from 2016

Lupino + Ryan = Noir

It’s November which means for film fans it’s #Noirvember, the month in which we celebrate the genre that audiences love to yell at improv performers, Film Noir. With perfect timing Warner Archive has released the 1952 RKO Noir “On Dangerous Ground” on blu-ray for the first time. Directed by Nicholas Ray, whose most famous for “Rebel Without a Cause,” with a score by the great Bernard Herrmann, “On Dangerous Ground” stars Noir giants Robert Ryan and Ida Lupino--who in addition to acting was a pioneering producer and director during a time when that was unheard of.  
Ryan plays New York cop Jim Wilson, a man who has become so hardened and cynical by his job he says to a thug “Why do you make me do it?” before he smashes him to a pulp. Wilson’s soul is gone. He’s seen too many criminals, too much of the dirt of humanity to have any glimmer of hope left inside of him. Jim Wilson wakes up, does his job, eats, goes to bed. However, it’s all become part of an autopilot mode where he’s essenti…

Thoughts While Upon a Christmas Parade Float

How long does this last again? Eh, it’s not that cold out. I’ll be fine. I’ve got my jacket. I wonder who is driving the truck this is hitched to? Should I scoot my chair back a little? I’m not that close to the edge, but things could go wrong. No. No, I will not think about it this way. That’s negative thinking. My therapist said I should make a conscientious effort to squash negative thinking. It’s a Christmas parade! This is a happy place. 
Ah, we’re moving now, a good slow crawl. What float is this again? I don’t remember what group this represents, I just was told “look for the red flatbed with the inflatable Snoopy on it.” Maybe this isn’t a group, just a kindly soul who is enthusiastic about Christmas parades. I did it all because she asked me to and I like her. Is it infantile the way I approach potential relationships now that I’m in my 30s? There I go talking like my therapist again. Maybe that’s good? I dunno. 
Smile, wave, toss candy to kids. That’s all I have to do. I can d…

Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze

Today, the box office is driven by superhero movies, but before 1978 there was no such thing as a “serious” superhero movie. The biggest thing to happen to the genre was the 1966 Adam West “Batman” TV series--which I love with the passion of a thousand suns--but no real attempts at doing anything beyond “kiddie fare” with the genre existed prior to the landmark “Superman” movie of ‘78. A few years back, I talked about the 1994 Alec Baldwin starring film adaptation of “The Shadow,” a pulp hero and precursor to Batman. Much of modern superhero fare has it roots in the hero pulp fiction that peaked in the 1920s and ‘30s. 

Along with The Shadow, one of the most popular heroes to come from the world of pulp is Doc Savage, created by the same publishing house as The Shadow, Street & Smith, and driven largely by writer Lester Dent. No less an authority than Stan Lee has called Doc Savage the forerunner to modern superheroes. In the 1960s the Doc Savage stories were republished in a series…

Dreamweaver

A friend of mine is dating this guy who is a bit, well, super earthy. He’s an alright person, generally speaking, but the patchouli can be detected before he enters the room. He also claims that he can interpret dreams. When the group gets together for a gathering, like a game night, he’ll ask us all if we had any memorable dreams lately. “The memorable ones are the ones you’ve gotta look out for” he says. 
At a recent game night, while I was pondering my hand for my turn at Scrabble, Dreamweaver asked me about my recent dreams. I hadn’t had any out of the unusual dreams lately, just that recurring one where I keep getting a dollar on The Price is Right wheel--Dreamweaver doesn’t own a TV, so I never tell him about this one. I decided to see just how far Dreamweaver could go with this skill set and started making up dreams on the spot. 
“Oh, well the other night I dreamt that I was swimming in a pool full of gelatine while being given swimming advice from the pet Goldfish I had when I w…

The Great Race of Dorian Gray

Got a couple of blu-rays from Warner Archive to talk about this week. Due to life things, I only recently had a chance to watch them. One is a title most appropriate for this time of year, and one I had seen before. The other title is a film I knew only by reputation, but was most pleased to welcome to my zeitgeist. Let’s dive in with that October appropriate one—MGM’s 1945 adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Whenever MGM would adapt a literary classic they always made an effort to make it one of their prestige films of the year—keep in mind MGM was the studio that was THE prestige studio of Classic Hollywood to begin with. “The Picture of Dorian Gray” is one of those films,  even in the marketing for the film, you can sense MGM not being sure how to sell it. They didn’t know if it should be marketed as a horror film, a dramatic thriller, or a romance. The horror elements are a bit downplayed in the marketing—horror was a well MGM rarely dipped their toes in.

Marke…

Blood Cold Mysteries

If there is one bit of esoteric classic movie stuff that simply fascinates me, it’s the trilogy of films directed by veteran actor William Conrad—and all released in 1965. They’re the three of only four feature films directed by Conrad, who spent all of his other directorial adventures on the small screen. The late William Conrad was a famed actor, playing Matt Dillon on the original radio version of “Gunsmoke,” and coming to full pop culture fame on TV in “Cannon” & “Jake and The Fat Man.” For this writer, Conrad will always be immortal for being the narrator on “Rocky & Bullwinkle.” 
The three films in question all were released by Warner Brothers—where Conrad had a production office it seems—and are: “Brainstorm,” “Two On A Guillotine,” and the film I’m going to talk about today, “My Blood Runs Cold.” One of the reasons I’m fascinated by these three films is my built in soft spot for 1960s, black and white horror fare with crazy, bombastic promotion. I adore the films of Wil…

Prudent Events From the Last PTA Meeting

7:00 PM: Meeting called to order, pledge of allegiance held. 
7:05 PM: The source of the squeaking sound was determined to be the science class pet ferret loose in the ceiling—Mr. Fiveash called to deal with situation. 
7:08 PM: Overwhelming majority votes to defund high school chorus trip to New York City. 
7:09 PM: Overwhelming majority votes to fund water polo team trip to Disneyland. 
7:15 PM: Meeting opened up to questions from parents. 
7:17 PM: Concerned parent asks PTA “Why are we teaching science to our children? Don’t you understand you are placing them in league with the devil?” 
7:18 PM: Citizen who supports the question asked by the parent speaks out of turn, demands to know the size of the PTA Chairperson’s hands. 
7:19 PM: Awkward silence falls upon the room. 
7:25 PM: Bored with the meeting, one PTA board member asks if it would be possible to postpone the rest of that day’s business, and play with a parachute from the PE class. 
7:26 PM: PTA votes on who will go and …

Silk Have Nots

I have some beginnings and endings to talk about this week. One of the last of the great MGM musicals, and the beginning of a love affair. New blu-ray releases of more classics from the golden era from Warner Archive. Fred Astaire & Cyd Charisse in “Silk Stockings” (not to be confused with the 1990s cable series), and Humphrey Bogart & Lauren Bacall in “To Have and Have Not.” 
“Silk Stockings” is a 1957 MGM musical, one of the last of the studio’s famed musicals, and itself taken from a Broadway show based on the 1939 MGM film “Ninotchka.” With a score by Cole Porter, “Silk Stockings” was made at a time when the movie musical was becoming out of fashion with moviegoers. An event that would start an identity crises for MGM, who made their bread and butter on musicals. 
This makes the second pairing of Charisse and Astaire on screen, having first appeared together in 1955’s “The Bandwagon”--one of my favorite MGM musicals. I should also point out this is the only time Fred Astaire…

Let's Go Party

I was cleaning in the kitchen the other day,  listening to one of those “90s Throwback Playlists” on the internet. As I was scrubbing up the coffee mugs, “Barbie Girl” came on. “Ohhhhh yeahhhhhhh” I said to myself in a high pitched tone of Middle School days. The song ended, I set all my dishes on the drying rack, and I went on with my day. I went by the grocery to pick up some coffee--the most important ground food in the world. As I walked into the store, I could hear, just faintly in the background “Come on, Barbie! Let’s Go Party!” 
“Huh, well isn’t that something!” I thought to myself. There wasn’t any clear reason for the song to come on, the music changed abruptly to top 40 Country right afterwards--I lost count of how many times I heard the words “Truck” and “Lake.” “That’s a rather odd fluke” I thought, as I loaded the twelve cases of coffee I purchased into the car. After taking the coffee home, I went out into the world again, this time to meet with friends for bottomless st…

Victor Victoria in Dogville

I am so excited this week that I get to talk to you about something I’ve been wanting to discuss in these pages for quite a long time. I’ve got a look at more goodies from Warner Archive this week, including their new blu-ray of 1982’s comedy “Victor/Victoria.” First off, I want to talk about the thing that is simply one of the most bizarre items to have ever come out of a major motion picture studio. So strange, you may not even believe me when I tell you about it. 
What is this strange thing I want to tell you about? Some odd little horror movie or low-budget sci-fi flick someone conned Columbia pictures into making? Nope. I’m talking about something that was actually quite popular for a year or two. Between 1929 and 1931 MGM made a series of nine short films known as The Dogville Comedies. Directed by Zion Myers and Jules White—who would both go on to work for years with The Three Stooges—The Dogville Comedies are short parody films of popular movies of the day. Only they’re all rec…

Who's Afraid of The Bride?

This week I have two Elizabeth Taylor films making their debut on blu-ray from Warner Archive. 1950’s “Father of the Bride,” and 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Taylor being the link that bonds the two films, as both are radically different from one another. Considering the pedigree that follows “Virginia Woolf” around, you might be surprised that this was the first time I actually saw the film. First, I’ll talk about the original “Father of the Bride.” 
If you’re of the same age range as I am, I’m 31, then odds are good you watched a number of Steve Martin films growing up, and are familiar with the 1991 remake of “Father of the Bride,” which is a really good film in it’s own right, and one of the better remakes to have come out of Hollywood. I actually had no clue that ‘91 film was a remake till I came across the middle of the 1950 original on TCM one day, and kept thinking “Why does this look so much like ‘Father of the Bride?’” 
Released by MGM, the original “Father of the …

New Monkees Album!!!

That’s really not much of a title is it? I suppose I could have been far more clever in titling this week’s column, but the truth of the matter is my excitement is such that the title above is the only one that truly suits the text of this week’s discussion. Let me bring everyone up to speed. If you have been a longtime reader of this column, if you know me in real life, if you have ever interacted with me in anyway in which music has come up, then you know that I am a huge fan of The Monkees. 
The Monkees are one of my favorite bands, and this year marks their fiftieth anniversary! So many cool and wonderful things are happening to mark this, in addition to the new album there’s a tour, and a super awesome deluxe blu-ray box set of the TV show that also has their film “Head” as a bonus feature. As I sit here thinking about it, I’ve bonded with more friends over love of The Monkees than any other band. Seriously. Right, onto the new album!
“Good Times!” is the name of the new Monkees al…

Eight Bit Pills

I finally slept last night for the first time in a couple of days. For a handful of nights I’d wake about three hours before I normally do, putter about the house for an hour or so, then fall back asleep, then wake up again at my usual time—only feeling groggy. Insomnia is nothing new to me, I usually have a solid bout of it about once or twice a year. This is a significant improvement from when I would go for months without sleeping well. Insomnia also runs in my family. 
Sometimes I find I can’t quite get settled in bed into a position that I find comfortable. Other times, it’s simply a case of my brain not wanting to settle down for the night. That was the culprit of the current go about with insomnia. The same thing was happening every night. As I would climb into my cozy bed, then close my eyes, I would hear the same thing over and over in my head. 
It was a piece of music instantly recognizable from my childhood, and the childhoods of others from my generation. Let’s see if you ca…

Suspicious Susans

When talk began towards the end of 2015 that Warner Archive was going to amp their blu-ray releases for 2016, it left many a film buff curious. Film buffs love their blu-rays, and classic movie fans in particular love seeing a movie that they cherish get the deluxe HD treatment. Warner Archive is keeping good on their promise. This year they’ve released three Hitchcock titles that had never been in HD before—one of which I’ll talk about below—and they’ve also been releasing titles that even the most ardent of film nut never thought would be released on blu-ray. 
This is the key to the success of Warner Archive. They’re quick to respond to queries on social media, and they’re fairly open about what is coming out, and about what fans are requesting. Their weekly podcast is not only a highlight of that week’s releases, but also a chance to get some context and insight into films that in some cases have never been on home video before. If the dwindling of physical media means it can become…

Changing Weezers

First things first, Record Store Day is this weekend--April 16th--and I want to encourage you to seek your local, independently owned, record store and purchase some records. Why? A couple of reasons. Records can heal your heart, they are magical transportation devices full of music. Also, mom and pop record stores are DEEPLY important. They can’t beat Spotify, they can’t beat iTunes. They’re a place to meet and bond with other people who love music just as much as you do. Also, they’re local businesses, and if you don’t think supporting local business is a good thing, then I’m gonna build a wall around you and make you pay for it.

Right, now that the PSA is done--wowzers is the new Charles Bradley album a thing of beauty! What? You don’t know who Charles Bradley is, you don’t have any music from the mighty house that is Daptone Records in your collection!? Woe unto you, Kangaroo Boy. Daptone Records is a Brooklyn based label that specializes in soul music. Real, honest, beautiful sou…

Your April Community Calendar.

April 8: The Johnson City Swing Choir will be presenting a tribute to Radiohead at The Culp Center. Tickets cost $8, and it is suggested you arrive early. Show starts at 7:00 PM.
April 9: The Farmers Market will be featuring a special collection of artisanal marshmallows, on sale from sunrise till sell out.
April 9: Penny Farthing Bicycle Ride. Taking place at Hollow Berry Park, what is hoped to be the first annual Penny Farthing Bike Ride event will be taking place from 2:00 to 5:00 PM. Come ride with us on wonderful, old-fashioned bikes for charity! Dress in your finest of vintage attire, come enjoy a picnic lunch, with a band playing your favorite marches. Tickets are $10
April 9: Hipster Gawking & Outdoor Lunch: Bring a friend, some food, and join us as we watch our regions hipsters in their natural habitat. This event will take place from 2:00 to 5:00 PM on the grassy hill directly across from Hollow Berry Park.
April 11: Reminder to parents, schools will be closed this day i…