Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Amityville Horror

Tonight's movie was the "true story" The Amityville Horror (1979).  I picked up this copy of the book in a thrift store a while back because 1) it's a hoot to read and 2) there's a Scholastic Books logo on it, meaning it was packaged for school kids to buy through their English class.  Elementary school kids.  Because in the seventies, we didn't screw around with "Goosebumbs," we started straight on the hard stuff.

It's... interesting.  As a cultural artifact, it's a nice little piece- were Margot Kidder and James Brolin (Lois Lane and the guy from Marcus Welby!) ever that young?   But watching it after reading the book kills it-you know they're all going to escape at the end, so there's not any real suspense.  In fact the most horrific part a child getting his fingers smashed by a window. (Oddly enough, the Defeo murders are pretty tame compared to an episode of Law and Order).

I also watched the Amityville Horror episdoe of In Search Of... (10.4.79).  It's an even bigger crock of poop than the movie itself (no, I don't buy into the "true story" b.s.) but it does make for a good companion to the movie dealing more with the murders that instigated the events of the movie.

I remember when the remake came out- I was working at a mall bookstore and people came in looking for copies of the book, which at the time was out of print but could be easily found in second hand shops.  I saw the remake in a virtually empty theater and I got caught up in the suspense, up to a point, but I realized I knew how the story ended so I allowed myself to forget about the story and pay attention to something I loved- the sets and props.  And I tell you, the remake is more seventies than the original.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Night Tide

I'm sure there's no such thing as "Southern California Beach Gothic," but if there were, Curtis Harrington's theatrical motion picture Night Tide (61) would be an excellent example of it.

A very, very young Dennis Hopper plays a sailor who falls in love with a mysterious girl named Mora.  She works as a mermaid in Santa Monica and her last two boyfriends died mysteriously.

Hopper doesn't care- he's young (very very young), kind of naive, and Mora is very beautiful.

Of course, things go bad- it's a Harrington movie that has to be a tragedy.

It's a slow paced piece, dreamy in it's presentation, Hopper, a small town boy from Colorado, in a strange place, the ocean side, meeting strange people, mermaids and psychics.

It's an original script by Harrington, and it seems to be more personal than his later work.  It's from AIP so there's a serious Corman vibe to it, especially in the coffeehouse jazz scene.

This concludes Harrington week... until I can find copies of his tv shows- including Charlie's Angels.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Cat Creature

The Cat Creature (12.11.73) is another Curtis Harrington and Robert Bloch made for television collaboration. 

In the collection of a dead man, an appraiser finds a sarcophagus with a mummy wearing a gold amulet.  The amulet is stolen and the mummy disappears.  Soon, people start dying- sometimes mauled, sometimes hypnotized by a mysterious black cat.

A Vampire Cat.  Yes. 

What's really fascinating is the casting- Gale Sondergaard- playing the owner of an occult bookstore, Keye Luke as a thief, John Carradine as a hotel clerk.  Harrington is showing his love of old Hollywood again by bringing in these actors.

In fact, this feels almost like one of Universal Pictures "Inner Sanctum" movies than a movie-of-the-week- in the best possible way of course.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Dead Don't Die

The Dead Don't Die (1.14.75) is another Curtis Harrington treat- a tribute to film noir with a script written by Robert Bloch based on his short story.
Set in 1934, George Hamilton plays Don Drake, a man trying to clear the name of his brother, executed after being accused of killing his wife.

There's dance marathons and zombies- the Hatian kind rather than the flesh eating kind.

Harrington and Bloch had to have been having fun playing with the conventions of the genre with a supernatural twist.  There's the mysterious woman.  A shop with a secret.  The boss behind it all.  Heck, Drake's brother is executed by the electric chair and they even call it "old sparky" and there are shots of lamps dimming.

Here's another wonder when watching it in the Future World of 2015:  In 1975, there would have been people watching it who would have remember 1934 from their childhoods.  In fact, 1975 is only slightly further removed from 1934 than 2015 is from 1975.  I think I hurt my brain.

But, as a member of what Orson Welles' "new Hollywood" (from the unfinished The Other Side of the Wind), it's clear to see Harrington's love of the Old Hollywood in this movie.

(One last thing:  Boy, George Hamilton was tan.  Really, really tan.  Like, tanner than everyone else in the movie.  It's almost disconcerting.)

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell!!

Devil Dog: The Hound of Hell!!! (10.31.78)  Ok, the title doesn't really have exclamation points, but it should.

This is another made for television piece from Curtis Harrington, for CBS this time- for Halloween, even.

Quite the treat, actually.

First, the premise- it's The Omen meets Lassie.  A devil cult breeds a dog with a demon to produce a litter of Satanic puppies.

One of the litter ended up with the Barry family, parents Richard Crenna and Yvette Mimieux and kids Ike Eisenman and Kim Richards, reprising their Escape to Witch Mountain roles as siblings.

The devil dog works it demon magic on the kids making them evil, eventually getting their mother as well.  So it's up to Dick Crenna to save the day.

And of course he does.  Despite the fact it's a Halloween movie special, it's CBS in the seventies so the family unit emerges intact, and stronger for its trials.

Until little Kim points out their dog was part of a litter...

Because things get hazy as you get older, I actually used to get this movie confused with Dracula's Dog (Zoltan: Hound of Dracula) also from 1978.  Imagine that.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Awful About Allan!

My obsession with Curtis Harrington continues!
How Awful About Allan (9.22.70) was an Aaron Spelling television movie based on a Henry (What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?) Farrell novel of the same title.

Allan is played by Anthony Perkins, this time with daddy issues... his father was killed in a fire and Allan develops hysterical blindness as a result.

He recovers some vision.  Not enough to properly see, but allowing him shapes and shadows.   On his return home, however, he has to deal with the psychological and physical scars of the fire... developing a serious case of paranoia.

Yes, Anthony Perkins playing a crazy person.  Imagine that.

It's not bad for a by the numbers movies of the week.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Who Slew Auntie Roo?

Another Curtis Harrington movie, the follow-up to "What's the Matter With Helen?", Who Slew Auntie Roo? (1971).

      At Christmas time, Auntie Roo, Rose Forrest, played by Shelley Winters, has ten orphans from the local orphange over for the holidays.  This time, Christopher and Katy have stowed away and Auntie Roo takes a shine to Katy, reminding her of her dead daughter.

And Christopher has an overactive imagination- he starts to think Auntie Roo wants to eat them, part of a Hansel and Gretel fantasy he's built up.

Harrington, working with a script from Jimmy Sangster, noted for many of his scripts for Hammer Studios, turns this into a dark little fairy tale.

Afterwards, I watched The House of Harrington, a documentary on the director and he declared his films were tragedies- “they all have a tragic ending, every one of them.”  That includes "Who Slew Auntie Roo?".

Sunday, March 1, 2015


   Back to blogging.  February wasn't a stellar month for me, but now it's March, and I'm starting with a series of movies by the director Curtis Harrington.
    I watched his "What's the Matter With Helen?" back in December and was impressed with the mad over the top-ness of the story.
    Tonight, I watched Ruby (1977),  starring Piper Laurie as Ruby, a woman who saw her mobster boyfriend killed by his criminal associates, the night she gave birth to his daughter.  Sixteen years later, she's running a drive in movie theatre with those men, who have given up their lives of crime to help her.

And then there's her daughter, Leslie, deaf and mute... and possessed by her father.

He blames the men for his death and he's taking his vengeance from beyond the grave one by one, in quite spectacular fashion- he hangs a man in the projection booth of the drive-in with film .  Another man he puts inside a drink machine.  Fun stuff.

Piper Laurie claws her way through this movie, over acting to 11, and since she used to be a showgirl, she even gets a musical number.

Roger Davis, from Dark Shadows and Alias Smith and Jones, plays a doctor trying to treat Leslie.

Sunday, February 22, 2015


I've not left the apartment the last few days because of the snow, I've gotten so stir crazy that tonight's movie didn't seem bad.

Flood, or as imdb and wikipedia put it, Flood!(1976), yes,  including the exclamation point.

Irwin Allen for television production values, cast of dozens.  It's bad.

Martin Milner plays the hero, the city councilman who knows the dam is going to break.

Robert Culp plays his flyboy pilot buddy.

Young Barbara Hershey plays Milner's girlfriend and daughter of the mayor, who know the dam will break as well, but won't do anything to spoil the fishing.

Roddy McDowell is there for the fishing.
Seriously, post credits helicopter pick up and drop off, with exposition about how the rain has flooded the lake... then he's gone.  Such a waste.

The problem with this particular disaster is a classic one:  water doesn't scale very well.  When the dam breaks and the waters start, it's not impressive.

Of particular joy for me were small appearances by Whit Bissell (Creature from the Black Lagoon) and Gloria Stuart (The Invisible Man, The Old Dark House, and, oh yeah, Titanic).

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Old Comics Wednesday

Recently,when I talked about trade paperbacks, I mentioned the mass market collections that I loved back then.  Here they are!
I didn't have all of these when I was a kid- heck, at the time I wasn't even a fan of Conan- but the ones I did actually came in a slipcase- two of the Spidermans, The Fantastic Four, and The Hulk. 

They're from Pocket Books, the same publisher that did the trade paperbacks, and they shrank the comic book page from standard comic size to the dimensions of a paperback.  I now just look at the pictures since my oldman eyes can't read the 12pt typeface.  The exception is the Conan book, published by Ace presumably since they had the rights to the Robert Howard Conan stories.  They- wisely in my opinion- just removed the panels from the context of the comic page and put them, closer to their original size, on the paperback page (the exception to this, of course, is the splash page, the first, full sized page that starts most stories.) 

Because of the format Conan used, they only got three issues per book, while the Pocket Books usually got six- a little more for Doctor Strange since his stories didn't take up a whole issue, he was sharing Strange Adventure with The Human Torch for most of that.

Next time I'm at my parents house, I'm going to have to dig my original copies out of storage, the last book I need to finish the collection, Spider Woman, is boxed up in the attic.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The 1971 Tonys

I'm needing something... light, distracting.  We've been running around for work and it's getting a little exhausting, so I type 1971 into the youtube search bar.
What from 1971?  There's ball games (baseball and football) and races and variety shows and... awards shows.
Holy cow.  Someone has uploaded whole award shows to youtube.
and... there's Tonys.
Tonight's choice was the 1971 Tony Awards (3.28.71).  Hosted by  Lauren Bacall, Angela Lansbury, Anthony Quayle, Anthony Quinn, it was the twenty-fifth anniversary of the award, so they did a year-by-year retrospective of Broadway musicals, often sung by the people who earned them the award.
The standout in the this stellar company is Yul Brenner doing Shall We Dance from The King and I with Patricia Morrison.

Monday, February 16, 2015


Title card, yanked from a fansite.
I love detective shows and murder mysteries, in fact it's almost like the seventies were sort of a golden age of television murder mysteries- Columbo, McMillan and Wife, Ellery Queen.

I wasn't familiar with Longstreet until fairly recently- it's not on dvd and doesn't show up in reruns that often.

James Franciscus plays Mike Longstreet, a blind insurance investigator.  He lost his eyesight when a bomb exploded, killing his wife as well. 

He spends the pilot learning to deal with his blindness and figuring out who was behind the bomb.

It actually works well as a comic book style origin story- his training involves not just blind navigation and echo locution, but a workout montage as well.  He gets a radar cane and a sidekick- Pax, a white German shepherd.

I'm going to follow up with episodes later because he even gets a mentor- a self defense instructor played by Bruce Lee!

Sunday, February 15, 2015


Now, this is why I'm doing this, movies like last night's Avalanche (1978) starring Rock Hudson, Mia Farrow and Robert Forster.

It was awful.

Standard set up, people arrive at a ski resort, relationships are defined, the threat is recognized, then all hell breaks loose.

Hudson owns the resort and is building a home on the mountain. Farrow is Hudson's ex.  Forster is a friend of Hudson.  Hudson wants to build on the mountain, Forster warns him against it.  Building and removing the trees makes the mountain more vulnerable to avalanche. 

Someone made a house payment thanks to this thing.

The effects were... cheap.  When you realize it was a Roger Corman production and they'd managed to get the budget for Rock Hudson and Mia Farrow, the effects were practically Star Wars caliber.  Apparently, the majority of the footage of the avalanche was stock footage. 

Now, I've got to find a copy of Meteor from 1979, since they use that stock footage as well.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A New Car! The New Price is Right, Match Game '73 and Adam-12.

I've been away for a few days. I'm learning Russian - I finally got Rosetta Stone to work and that coupled with discovering Hulu has picked up Russian shows- including The Day After, a Russian zombie sci-fi thriller show that I watched all twelve episodes of.  I'm back on track now.

The New Price Is Right (2.14.73) Well, this episode was kind of odd- all the contestants were women, as opposed to the standard ninety-eight or so percent female contestants they usually have, on account it being Valentine's Day.  Bob gave a rose to each of them.  They do have some holiday inspired descriptions..."If you have a lovers quarrel you can go your separate these two cars!" They were 1973 Toyota  Corolla sedans.  So romantic.

Match Game '73 (11.12.73) was a little... surreal.  I mean, I never got Gene Rayburn.  I always had a mental disconnect about him. It was a treat to see Cass Elliot as a panel member.  She was promoting a television special, and it's nice to hear her say anything, including "hello." (She was awesome on Scooby Doo).

Oh.  I was playing along at home and I was getting some of the answers... they were given the clues "________ alley" and "__________cup".  My guesses were "Tin Pan" and "Loving" and I was right.  Perry found this amusing, as I was getting cultural references that are... let's say out of date and leave it at that.

I also watched a couple of episodes of Adam-12, mostly because we eat dinner in front of the television and it's mindless entertainment. Venice Division (10.10.73) was a little disturbing, as a young woman was getting obscene phone calls and the officers suggested that she close her curtains while exercising in a leotard.  The implicit slut shaming was disappointing in what I've found to be a pretty progressive show.
The procedural format was broken in Log 24: A Rare Occasion (2.14.70) when Reed has Molloy over for a cookout and they deal with a neighborhood kid who's gotten high.   It was worth watching for the wallpaper in Reed's house.

Monday, February 9, 2015

"Do I feel lucky?"

Here's another movie I'm sure I'd seen, but as I'm watching it... nope, no recollection. 
But Clint Eastwood's Dirty Harry (71) is totally a seventies movie.
That's a the plus.  The main thing is I've seen David Fincher's Zodiac, about the Zodiac Killer in San Francisco, at least half a dozen times.  Harry Callahan was inspired by Inspector Dave Toschi, and Scorpio, the killer in Dirty Harry, was inspired by the Zodiac killer.
The end of Dirty Harry was used in Zodiac, as one of the characters there to meet Toschi at the San Francisco movie premiere.

Honestly... I think I enjoyed Zodiac more than it's fictional counterpart.

There's something dreamy about Fincher's pacing that I can almost fall asleep to it- I'm a horror fan so my idea of relaxing might not be everyone elses.

The work that went into recreating the San Francisco Chronicle offices, the attention to period detail, it's practically perfection.  My favorite part is the time lapse building of the Trans-America Pyramid.

That said, I'm glad I finally saw Dirty Harry.  Eastwood is the archetypical badass cop, and Andrew Robinson is disturbingly manic as Scorpio.  All those police procedural cliches, watching this you see where they come from.

I'll be watching Magnum Force and the Enforcer at some point as well.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


Shout Factory does dvd's.  They're famous right now for attempting to secure the rights to much of the original music that was used on WKRP in Cincinnati for the dvd release, something that had worried fans since the show had gotten chopped up during syndication as music rights lapsed.
Now, they've got into the streaming game, with a selection of their stuff- Dennis the Menace, Father Knows Best, MST3K, and many others- available for free on Shout Factory TV via Roku, computers and other devices.  It's a nice line up if you don't want to pay for the content through Hulu.

The biggest impact the announcement had on me was "hey, I haven't watched Dennis the Menace in decades."  Another piece of my syndicated childhood, I used to love that show- especially the imagery of child as whirlwind in the opening credits.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Old Comics Wednesday: The Demon and Omac

When I was a kid, I read comics, mostly Superman, with Curt Swan's classic art,  Batman, featuring Dick Giordino's pencils, and Justice League of America, with art by Dick Dillin.
These guys had clean lines and were doing pretty much the same thing, masterfully so, month after month.

So when I encountered Jack Kirby's artwork, again as a kid, there was a disconnect, it was odd.
His characters weren't Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent handsome.
And his ideas... they were big.   And kind of out there.

Like OMAC.  Buddy Blank is a corporate cog nebbish at Psuedo People Inc when he's chosen by faceless representatives of the Global Peace Agency to be their instrument of peace.  His first adventure deals with the Build-A-Friend women Pseudo People produces- killer intelligent bombs.  Really.

Then there was the Demon.  From Camelot to Gotham City, Merlin's weapon against Morgaine Le Fay, Etrigan the Demon, shared the life of an immortal knight, Jason Blood.

Kirby let himself go wild on projects like these, and his magnum opus, The Fourth World Saga, epic ideas that he wrote and drew as a solo artist after over a decades worth of collaboration of work at Marvel with Stan Lee.

Since then, I've read and re-read Kirby's work for DC, and I'm impressed every time.  I just wish it hadn't taken me thirty years to get there.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Something for Everyone

Holy cow.  How have I missed this gem?  "Something for Everyone" (1970) is a one of those movies where a stranger ingratiates himself with a rich family.  The stranger in this case is Michael York as Konrad, and the rich family is that of Countess Herthe von Ornstein, played- to the hilt- by Angela Lansbury. 

He'll do anything he has to get to live in the von Ornstein, including maim, kill and seduce.  In that order, actually.

York is coldly detached as a master manipulator, while Lansbury  is over the top, yearning for her lost glories.

It was directed by stage director Harold Prince, with a screenplay Hugh Wheeler, three time Tony Award winner, and score by John Kander, of Kander and Webb (Chicago, Cabaret), so there's more than just a little Broadway to it.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Chariots of the Gods

The well of the seventies's pseudoscience never seems to run dry.

1970's The Chariots of the The Gods is a special kind of magic, based on books by Erich Von Däniken, proposing that aliens have been visiting earth and influencing human development.

It's really a dreamy sort of movies, narrated in a droney, NPR sort of way, almost as a travelogue- here's Iraq, we go to the South Pacific, here in Mexico, in Egypt.  Lots of exposition about historical sites and how obviously humans couldn't have done (this) or (that) without help.

The treat is the soundtrack, it's this electronic, new agey Music from the Hearts of Space from German composer Peter Thomas.  It's so soothing, coupled with the narration,  I've actually fallen asleep watching this.

Ok, confession:  I use this to fall asleep.  Set the timer on the tv set,  so that it turns off automatically, and start the movie.  Better than Nyquil. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

It Happened At Lakewood Manor

Tonight's movie was It Happened At Lakewood Manor (12.2.77), something I hadn't even heard about until I discovered the list of natural horror films on wikipedia.  Ants.  Killer ants.
Myrna Loy owns a hotel with her grand-daughter, played by Lynda Day George.  It's under seige by killer ants.
It's that simple.
The "why?" is even simpler- pollution!
It's a basic nature amok, seige movie.
Suzanne Somers plays the girlfriend of a developer looking to buy the hotel.  She shows more character development in the 100 minutes of the movie than she did in all her seasons of Three's Company.
I surprised Perry because everytime Myrna Loy's character came on screen, I'd comment, a la MST3K, "I had a man flogged once," referring to The Mask of Fu Manchu.  He finally picked up on it and asked "is that Myrna Loy?  How old was she?".  Which at the time, she was 72.

That's one of the cool things about doing this... stars of the golden age were still active- like Gloria Swanson in Airport 1975.

Saturday, January 31, 2015


Piranha (1978) was another movie I came to via the afternoon movie.

Created in the wake of Jaws, Piranha is a a terrific Roger Corman b-movie directed by Joe Dante where a secret government project-Piranha! imagine that- is accidentally released from a testing facility into the local river system, a river system that involves a summer camp and a resort.

It's one of those eco-horror films like Barracuda, or the waiting to be watched classics Orca, Tentacles, Tintorea, and... oh, Jaws.  Yep, I haven't seen that in years, so that's on my list as well.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Space: 1999. It's like Star Trek, But British

I missed Space:1999 when I was a kid.

I'm not sure why.  It's more British than the Star Trek that I couldn't get enough of, but that shouldn't have been a problem, since I was able to appreciate the Tom Baker Doctor Who's that had made their way across the pond.

So I'm giving it a try tonight, and I'm loving it so far.

The first episode Breakaway (9.4.75), is fantastic.

Visually, with its white sets and tan uniforms and orange space suits, it's reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The effects, zero-g moonwalks, windows shattering into vacuum, and spaceships flying in silence hold up even today.  The energy based zappy effects are dated but I'm sure were state of the art for the time.  And explosions... well, I know you can't hear explosions in space, but for television, you need the ka-boom.

In terms of story, an atomic waste dump explodes and pushes the the moon out of orbit,  taking the crew of  Moonbase: Alpha out of our solar system, it's a little more sophisticated, ending on a pessimistic note- there's earthquakes on Earth in the wake of Breakaway and Moonbase:Alpha realizes there's no going home.

Hulu has the episodes in order of American broadcast, so it's a little confusing because the second episode in the series was broadcast thirteenth, Matter of Life and Death(11.27.75), in which the crew of Alpha encounter their an Earth like planet and their first alien- and he's disguised as the base doctor's dead husband, (reminiscent of the Soviet science fiction movie Solaris) or an antimatter ghost or something.  It was a little confusing at quarter to two in the morning.

Ultimately, it reminded me less of Star Trek, and more of Star Trek: Voyager, a finite crew with limited resources on an impossible voyage.  But with better actors- the cast is led by Martin Landau as Commander Koenig and Barbara Bain as Doctor Russel.  Christopher Lee is showing up in the next viewing and he's always fun.

Watching Space: 1999 also answered a mystery left over from my childhood- back when K-Tel and other record companies advertised on television, there was a commercial for Neil Norman's Cosmic Orchestra, and there was one piece of music I was unable to identify.  If I recall correctly,  "The Day The Earth Stood Still" was the title on the screen as it was playing so I always associated it with the movie... but I wasn't sure, especially after watching TDTESS a couple of times AND NEVER HEARING IT.  So, when I decided to give Space: 1999 a try, it's theme answered that old question of mine.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Based on a True Story: The Town That Dreaded Sundown

I'm watching The Town That Dreaded Sundown(76) in anticipation of the sequel/remake coming on netflix next month- I'm actually going to take a break from my regularly scheduled viewing to watch it.

First, the poster scared the bee-jeebus out of me as a kid as a newpaper ad.  Now that I know that the poster was done by Ralph McQuarrie, I understand why it had that impact- he was the artist responsible for much of the visual look of the original Star Wars trilogy and did the Midian mural for Clive Barker's Nightbreed.

The fact that it's a "based on a true story" that's actually based on a true story, a real, historically verifiable story, makes it all the more creepier.

The Phantom Killer of Texarkana, Texas,  attacked four couples between Feb. 22, 1946 and May 3, 1946, with only three of the eight surviving.  He was never caught.

I find the case fascinating because the MO of the killer- couples in lovers' lanes-is reminiscent of the Zodiac Killer in the seventies, and if the Phantom Killer was in his twenties in 1946, he'd be in his fifties and still pretty vital in the 1970's... something to think about anyway...

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


After watching Snowbeast the other day, I decided it would be fun to watch some other bigfoot stuff from the era.

I started out with In Search Of (4.28.77).   It actually made my head hurt.  There was a hunter, and he'd decided to hunt the bigfoot with a camera- but there was a bigfoot scholar who wouldn't take anything less than an actual body- living or otherwise, he'd be ok with a corpse.  Apparently science was different in the seventies.

I followed it up with "Bigfoot"(70).
It's really, really bad.  Bigfoots are kidnapping women to breed.
John Carradine plays a huckster, trapper while Christopher Mitchum plays the boyfriend of one of the captured women.

The more I watched, the worse it got.
The bigfoots were ape costumes.  Not modified ape costumes, but just ape costumes.

It does, however, have the best wikipedia entry ever.

I had to clear my palate after watching that, but not by much, so I gave Creature from Black Lake(76) a try.  I've had good luck with other movies whose titles include the words "creature", "from", and "black."

Yeah.  It didn't work.
How bad is it?  It doesn't have a wikipedia entry, it's that bad.
Granted, I should have known, just looking at the first few minutes that these would have been stinkers. 

 I think I'm going to watch a couple of chapters of The Crimson Ghost to make the pain go away.

Old Comics Wednesday- Waiting for the Trades

Kids today, they've got it so easy.  When they want a comic book, they can just mosey on down to their comic book stores and know that every Wednesday, the new books will be on the shelves, and if they don't want to collect a box full of single comics, they can wait for the collected edition, a trade paperback with four, six, or even twelve issues worth of story.

Back in the seventies, however, trade paperbacks, or even hardcover collections were rarities, but a delight to find.

The classic, grandfather of them all was Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes, a collection of origin stories from the Golden Age- featuring The Sub-Mariner, Captain America, The Human Torch, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and Plastic Man, among others.  What's curious about this presence of both Marvel and DC superheroes in the same book, mostly because when Feiffer put the project together neither company had any real interest in doing books.  That would change.

DC Comics, National Periodical Publications at the time, was always dipping into their old files  and reprinting classic stories in their monthly comics, but in the seventies, they made the leap into books in several collections, Superman, Batman, and Shazam (Captain Marvel) from the 30's to the 70's, while there was a collection of Wonder Woman edited by Gloria Steinem.

Marvel had Stan Lee doing collections of his early sixties comics, Origins of Marvel Comics, Son of Origins, Bring on the Bad Guys were some of the first volumes- with a standard format.  They'd reprint the first appearance/origin stories and follow that up with a later appearance after the character had become more established.   These were done through Simon and Schuster and later followed up with collections spot lighting the female heroes (The Superhero Women), big fights (The Great Superhero Battles) and several collections spotlighting The Fantastic Four, Spiderman, The Hulk, and others.

Of course, as cool as the trade paperbacks were... the mass market collections were even cooler... but that's for another week.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

American Grindhouse

I've taken a break from the regular retro viewing by watching the documentary American Grindhouse.  It's not just a history of exploitation films, it's a viewing list.
So at some point this year, I'll be watching Cotton Comes to Harlem, Blackula, Night of the Lepus and The Big Doll House... to start with.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Childhood, In Syndication...

I've been writing about television and movies in the seventies, but I find myself hitting programs from the late sixties (and I'm planning on even earlier than that at some point).  I realized tonight what it was:  syndication, where canceled network shows find new life on non-affiliate stations, in my case it was usually UHF stations, 27 and 33.  Stuff like The Brady Bunch, Dragnet, Batman, it was all in rerun heaven.

Tonight I watched the first four episodes of Dragnet (Jan. 12, 19, and 26 and Feb 9 '67) and boy, Jack Webb sure hated hippies.  I understand, in 1967, the need to demonize drug use, but seen from a 2014 perspective, these things are hilarious.  Jack Webb and Harry Morgan are stoic and deadpan in the face of whatever depravities they encounter... but Webb is so, so, so serious.  It's camp.

What's best is that it's not camp like Batman, with a wink, but it's sincere in it's sincerity, playing it straight the entire time.

As a treat, Kent McCord, is actually in two of the four episodes- he plays a patrolman in episode two and plays a rookie under investigation by Internal Affairs in episode four.

I followed these up with Snowbeast (4.28.77).  America didn't just fixate on the Bermuda Triangle in the seventies.  Bigfoot was out there too.

And he KILLED.

It's the Snow Carnival and Sylvia Sidney (Juno from Beetlejuice, the original Mama Carlson from WKRP) owns a ski-resort.  Her grandson runs it, his Olympic skier pal (Bo Svenson) needs a job and his wife (Yvette Mimeux) is a) the grandson's ex and b) a tv-reporter who has coincidentally done a series of segments on (wait for it...) bigfoots.

It's actually a pretty by the numbers take on the "something is out there killing people while the town plans to celebrate" thing Jaws started, but... well, there aren't any sharks in Colorado are there?

I made a point to watch this tonight because of friend of a friend on facebook recommended it, relative to the snow storm hitting the east coast today.

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Well, I've watched Emergency and Project UFO, so I figured tonight, I'd go back to where it all started, for me anyway- Adam-12.  Seriously- I even had the lunchbox!

Following two police officers, Pete Malloy and rookie Jim Reed and their car- the car was as much a character in the series as the officers- practically their own Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: This black and white patrol car has an overhead valve V8 engine. It develops 325 horsepower at 4800 RPM's. It accelerates from 0 to 60 in seven seconds; it has a top speed of 120 miles an hour. It's equipped with a multi channeled DFE radio and an electronic siren capable of admitting three variables, wale, yelp, and alert. It also serves as an outside radio speaker and public address system. The automobile has two shotgun racks, one attached to the bottom portion of the front seat, one in the vehicle trunk. Attached to the middle of the dash, illuminated by a single bulb is a hot sheet desk. Fastened to which you will always make sure is the latest one off the teletype before you ever roll...It's your life insurance and mine. You take care of it and it'll take care of you. 
The clinical precision with which Malloy describes the are is underlined with a professional affection- You take care of it and it'll take care of you.

Watch enough episodes and you'll see there's almost a formula- light hearted incident (woman thinks she's got a salamander crawling on her is accosted by a man in a suit who's trying to save her from having a seizure but he's  attacked by a blue collar worker because it looks like he's being ungentlemanly with the woman... wha-wA! Salamander!), crime (liquor store robbery, robbers apprehended after a chase through the LA aqueducts), serious incident (baby not breathing after getting wrapped in a dry cleaning bag, this incident was interesting because the family was African American, not a common sight in 1967).  Protect and Serve and all that.

Malloy and Reed also make appearances on Dragnet and Emergency.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Blob

I remember the first time I saw The Blob (58) it was on the afternoon movie on WVEC-13 in Chesapeake, Virginia in the late seventies.

I haven't seen it since then- though I've seen the 1988 remake a few times- and I figured tonight was a good night for it.

It holds up pretty well, amorphous alien thing versus a bunch of hot roddin' small town teens. and the effects are still effective, with more than one instance of "how'd they do that?".

Now, I think, at some point in the next eleven months, I need to see Beware The Blob! , because nothing says quality cinema like a sequel directed by Larry Hagman (Yes, JR).

Friday, January 23, 2015

When there's no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth...

Do movie theaters have late shows anymore?
Not like "Avengers 19 opens on Feb 29, so the theater will be open  Feb 28, selling tickest at 10:30 pm so we can show the movie at 12:01 am," but cult, fringe and exploitation movies Dawn of the Dead and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. 
Looking at the local cool cinema- they're showing Harold and Maude and Phantom of the Paradise next month, but those start at 10:30pm.  Heck, even a showing Rock'n'Roll High School stars at 9pm.

I'm rewatching Dawn of the Dead (78) tonight because it's a mindless diversion.  I've seen George Romero's survivors versus zombies in a shopping mall movie about half a dozen time because Zombies.  Watching it again in the context of seventies movies is fascinating.  Romero manages to touch on inner-city strife, racism, sexism, consumerism, and abortion without seeming preachy and still tell a classic survival horror story.

As it was filmed in the seventies when the consumer landscape was changing, it has one of my favourite lines- as they're flying in a helicopter over the Pennsylvania countryside, they approach a large building surrounded by a parking lot and one of them wonders what it is: "It looks like a shopping center, one of those big, indoor malls."

I can't think of a better place to spend the end of the world.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Project UFO

After last night's movie, I needed something with a production budget.  Thank you, youtube, for helping me find Project UFO.
I started with the first episode- The Washington DC Incident (2.19.78), and it was like  rediscovering PopRocks.  My family would watch this show when I was a kid and I can see why we found it so fascinating- it's like Adam-12 meets the X-Files.  I try to avoid using a lot of contemporary slang, but this show is cracktastic.
Two Air Force officers travel the country each week investigating UFO sightings, with narration by Jack Webb, who also produced the show.  It's got a dry, just the facts, procedural feel that Jack Webb nailed with Dragnet, but there's Flying Saucers and Robots and freaky lights.

There's even an episode, The Pipeline incident (10.5.78), guest starring Randolph Mantooth, from Emergency, as a pilot who sees a UFO.   I like to think Webb had kind of an ensemble/stable of actors and and he'd bring them in, as needed.

Oddly, according to wikipedia, the show wasn't rebroadcast in the United States, except for a special episode showing on TV Land, at least as recently as 2010.  Perhaps this is a good thing, because given the nature of the show, it's a natural for fan-fiction writers.  The absence of the show explains the absence of the fanfic.
Thank heaven for small favors.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Living in the End Times

Because I was either too young when it was a thing or perhaps I went to the wrong sort of church, I hadn't heard about the proto-Left Behind movie A Thief in the Night (72).
And wow, it's fascinating.
It's best described as a non-secular drive-in movie.
Hippies discuss pop theology in a manner to make it accessible to the younger generation, focusing on primarily on the Rapture, the Anti-Christ, and the Number of the Beast, and since it's meant to be didactic, it's not very subtle- right after a minister mentions the serpent in a sermon, a veterinarian is bitten by a cobra at the zoo, but he's save by a blood transfusion.

But it's not meant for an unbeliever.   The target audience was church youth groups- much of the stuff about it online is how people remember watching the film in church basements and church halls, serving as a basis for discussion.

Viewed objectively, it's slow- it takes forty of the sixty-nine minutes to get to the Rapture.  Once that happens, it picks up exponentially- the UN takes over, the mark becomes mandatory, and the protagonist, Patty, is on the run from the white vans and helicopters of UNITE (United Nations Imperium of Total Emergency).

Because of it's lack of polish and earnestness of the cast- it was filmed in Iowa (IOWA!)- it's actually more enjoyable than Left Behind - the real one starring Kirk Cameron, not the remake with Nicholas Cage.  I can't bring myself to watch the remake.

Old Comics Wednesday- The Amazing Spiderman 121 and The Fantastic Four 135

Well, I can't imagine what it was like to be a Spider-Man fan in 1973 when issue 121 (6.73) came out, but I know even today the story has an impact.  (Pun unintentional).
The Spider-Man/ Green Goblin battle has been part of the character's story for years, but this issue was the culmination of years of stories- the Green Goblin knew Spider-Man's secret identity and kidnapped his girlfriend Gwen Stacy.  This was a standard trope of superhero comics, villain kidnaps loved one, then hero rescues them.

Well... this time it didn't work like that.  Gwen Stacy was killed from the shock of the fall when the Goblin threw her from the George Washington Bridge.

Things like that just didn't happen in the comics back then and it pretty much change the rulebook for superheros.  When they made the Spider-Man movie back in 2002, the character of Mary Jane Watson was put in the same situation, giving fans more than a little concern (except she was played by Kirsten Dunst and you know she'll be back for the sequel so it's OK.)

Meanwhile at the Baxter Building... Fantastic Four #135 (6.73 as well) The Eternity Machine.  Millionaire Gregory Gideon has kidnapped the Fantastic Four so he can steal their... cosmic ray stuff that gives them powers because he was dying from radiation exposure from an A-Bomb test, so he can save his (and his son's) life. 

Despite dying from radiation poisoning, Gideon's designed a battlesuit that allows him to take on The Thing.  There's also a large dragon robot that's fixated on Invisible Girl, because... ah, King Kong cliche, I guess.

There's lots of soap opera too- The Thing's blind artist girlfriend is worried about him,  and Invisible Girl is estranged from Mister Fantastic, she's worried about their son Franklin and how Mr Fantastic doesn't seem to have time for her but he's got plenty of time for the lab.  Yes, the soap opera was injected to give the story a little gravitas but... it just seems more "melodrama" than drama.

It's funny.  Spider-Man always, *always* did soap opera right.   Aunt problems, she's frail and can't afford her medicine, Uncle problem, *he's dead!*, girl-friend problems, she can't know my secret, best friend problems- he's a junkie and his dad's my arch enemy, work problems, his boss hates Spider-Man, honestly it's just one problem after another but it comes off as just part of being human.
But in the Fantastic Four, it becomes almost parody of soap opera- including the fact that Mr Fantastic was replaced by an evil twin (in addition to the blind girl friend of The Thing)^.  Maybe the team dynamic diffuesed some of the angst that a solo act has to carry.

^It gets better- years later The Thing stayed behind on an alien planet and the Human Torch ended up marrying the blind artist, but it turned out the blind artist he married was actually replaced by a shape shifting alien assassin who'd learned to love the Torch so she turned her back on her own species.  Of course... Spider-Man down the line got a little crazy, with clones of Gwen showing up, and Spider-Man marrying Mary Jane but after Aunt May is nearly killed after Peter reveals his identity on television, Peter and MJ give their marriage away in a deal with the Devil to save May's life.  Yes, maybe things were simpler in the early seventies for Spider-Man.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Poseidon Adventure

Another  I haven't seen this one before...
Somehow.  I was on a disaster film kick a couple of summers ago and we watched Towering Inferno, Earthquake, and many (many, many) lesser disasters but I we missed The Poseidon Adventure (1972). 
I've seen one of the remakes (terrorists capsize the ship, the SEALS save them) and author Paul Gallico wrote another novel that was turned into one of my childhood favorites (The Three Lives of Thomasina), and I'm glad I finally got around to seeing it.

Eight Academy award nominations.  Prior to seeing "What's the Matter With Helen?"  I can't think of any Shelly Winters movies that I've seen, and prior to that I knew her best as a Joan Rivers' punchline.  I'm definitely going to check out her other movies on the strength of her Academy Award nominated performance as Mrs Rosen.

The rest of the cast was pretty by the numbers- Gene Hackman is determined, Ernest Borgnine is grumpy.  The one cast member I'm glad bought it early was the Captain, played by Leslie Neilsen.  Because of his self parody later in his career, all his steely, determined seriousness was hard to watch, waiting for the sight gag or punchline.
I'm glad it paid his bills, but I'm not sure how many of his older films I can watch because of it.

The effects.  Well.  Capsizing a ship and turning the ship's two story dining room UPSIDE DOWN was a pretty neat trick.  My head fairly exploded trying to conceptualize how they did it- a life size set, on a gimble?  Astounding.

The one downside to watching it was that Perry's decided he's never, never, never going on a cruise.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Talk Talk Talk 1

You know what the seventies did correctly?  Talk shows.  Mike Douglas.  Merv Griffin.  Dick Cavett.
It was a rather special time, if you think about it.  All the stars of the era were available, as well as many stars from the golden age, sometimes booked simultaneously- Dick Cavett once had Jack Benny and Bill Cosby on a show together.

Tonight we watched The Dick Cavett Show (2.21.74) with Carol Burnett as his guest and it was fascinating- he was a masterful interviewer, practically just chatting with her rather than asking *the questions*, but he was able to work *the questions* into the discussion in an friendly and organic manner that seemed almost like watching two friends pick up again after years apart at a cafe rather than a talk show.

They started with a discussion about humor and comedy, which they followed with a duet of "A Fine Romance", which is followed later in the program with "Two Sleepy People".  She also talked about growing  up with alcoholic parents and how she was raised by her grandmother.  Cavett asked her if having alcoholic parents would affect her allowing her children to drink, she pointed out at the time that all three of her children were under thirteen.

Maybe because it was Dick Cavett and maybe because it was the seventies, there was a graciousness and civility to their conversation that seems lacking in this horrible shouty era we're living in.

And yes, I know the Dick Cavett show wasn't always roses- here's a terrific clip with Gore Vidal and Norman Mailer feuding with each other... but really, feuding best selling authors?  Isn't that cooler than feuding rap stars any day?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Love is all around...

Trying to give Perry a break in the bad movies and television, I decided to try something I wasn't as familiar with as I should be:  The Mary Tyler Moore Show (9.19,9.26, and 10.3.70).

Mary Tyler Moore plays Mary Richards, a young, single woman starting a new life in Minneapolis after breaking up with her boyfriend, getting a job in a television news-room run by Lou Grant, played by Ed Asner.  She's supported by her old friend, Phyllis (Cloris Leachman), and her new neighbor, Rhoda (Valerie Harper)

I'm going over that because are some people who are even less familiar with the show than I am- I've seen a few episode of the show, but I'm absolutely bowled over that all those characters mentioned above their own spin-offs, Phyllis and Rhoda were sit-coms, while Lou Grant was a drama set at a newspaper.

Another remarkable thing about the episodes I watched?  They still hold up.  They're well written enough that newsroom references (Phnom Penh, Nixon) flow seemlessly and the only really dated reference is to the movie Myra Breckenridge, which could be replaced with any movie title inappropriate for a child and still work.

Of course, the fashions are pure seventies- Mary wears an A-line quilted patchwork maxi-skirt.  And her tam o'shanter hat in the opening credits.

I *was* familiar enough with the show to have a moment of confusion because of the opening lyrics.  For the first season they end with "You might just make it after all", and I was more familiar with the later version "You're going to make it after all."  Just a couple of words difference, but there's a tone shift from the uncertainty of moving to a new city and starting a new job to a more optimistic and dynamic definiteness.

I think, unlike the Norman Lear shows, I'll be returning to the world of Mary Richards and friends.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

"... and it was the end of the world."

It's not what you'd call a "drive-in" movie, but I saw Cabaret(1973) at a drive-in in the early seventies.  As I was younger than five at the time, I don't remember much other than Liza Minnelli's face as tall as a drive-in movies screen.  Oh, that'll leave a scar, huh?

Perry, after the Maude and the Zombies and the airplanes and the Newlywed Game, asked if we could watch something different tonight.

I figured eight Academy Awards (ten nominations) should be different enough.

And it's Fosse! Fosse! Fosse! all the way.  After seeing how Liza almost approaches self parody these days, watching it was a reminder that she won for best actress and she's one of a few performers who've earned the right to wear the EGOT.

But after watching it again, after probably a decade, for the... fifth or sixth time (at least), it's lost a little of it's glamor.  First, because of Chicago, the movie.  More Fosse! Fosse! Fosse! but more polished, even more stylized then Cabaret, choreographed and directed by Rob Marshall, the man responsible for the 1998 revival of Cabaret.
Then there's context.  I've recently (within the last couple of years) seen the movie Christopher and His Kind, where Matt Smith plays Christopher Isherwood*- the Michael York role in Cabaret, the original author of Berlin Stories.  Rather like Cabaret the Non-Musical, but with more depth to the characters that inspired Brian and Sally, because, well, they're real.

That said, it earned eight Oscars, losing the other two, best picture and best adapted screen play, to The Godfather, a testament to Bob Fosse's technical genius and the talent of the cast.

Now, I think a couple of "Women In Prison" or Pam Grier movies are in order - and OH! lucky me, The Big Bird Cage is both, and on netflix!

*Come into the movie after the opening scenes and it's like the weirdest episode of Doctor Who ever.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Who Loves Ya, Tovasrisch?

The fun thing about doing this is rewatching something for the first time; when I was a kid and watched "Horror Express" (1972), I did so on a black and white television.  Until rewatching it tonight, I didn't realize it was in color.

Two of Hammer Studio's major stars, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee are on a train where something is killing the passengers, something that Lee was bringing back from China to England via the Trans-Siberian Express.  Thankfully, Telly Savalas is there to help the case as the Cossak policeman,  Captain Kazan.
By the end of the movie, there are even zombies.

Because I was too young to know at the time- I hadn't even seen John Carpenter's The Thing- but this shares the same source material as  Howard Hawks' The Thing from Another World, John W. Campbell's Who Goes There?,  and as a period movie set on a train, it echos the claustrophobia of the antarctic base of Carpenter's film, making it one of the niftier (not necessarily better) remakes.

This post is an inadvertent Telly Savalas double bill, since last night, after getting halfway through Blatty's novel The Exorcist, I decided to check out some of the Exorcist style movies that came out in the wake of the movie. 

I've enjoyed the Mario Bava films I've seen (Blood and Black Lace, Five Dolls for an August Moon,  among others) so I thought, Bava + Exorcism = Win, right?

Yeah...  not like that.  It turns out Bava did a movie called Lisa and The Devil.  In the wake of The Exorcist, they re-cut the movie with new scenes from another director and released it in the United States as "The House of Exorcism" (1973).  I think, had I been running a fever and sipping NyQuil, The House of Exorcism would have been fine.  As it was, it was an hour and a half of "What was that?".  Not something I needed at two a.m.  "Lisa and the Devil" is still on my to be watched list though.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Post Norman Lear Blues...

After the Norman Lear overdose last night, I had to balance the rest of the nigh out with a little fun.

I started with the original The Day of The Triffids (1963)- I grant myself a little leeway on the blog because I'm pretty sure I saw this on television in the seventies- and it still holds up pretty well.  Killer plants from outer space!  BBC grade special effects! What's not to like?
I do, however, always feel a little lost with Howard Keel in the lead- he's good but as someone more familiar with Showboat or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, I keep expecting him to SING!

I followed that up with two episodes of The Newlywed Game.  Wow.  All I know is I'd pay money to do follow ups on those couples.  Literally.  Take bets on who's still together... it'd be an awesome game.

... and oh yeah, I tried to watch an episode of The Gong Show (ep. 400 from 1977).  I made it a minute, six seconds.  Maybe I'll try again later with another episode.


And tonight?  I'm going to read a book.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

It's a Norman Lear kind of night...

Again, getting this out of the way early, because I figured I was going to have to watch some of these eventually- Norman Lear was *the* sitcom guy in the seventies and All in the Family and its spinoffs formed a little interconnected world on CBS.
I saw a lot of this in syndication, I don't really remember it on first run.

I chose these three episodes at random, each series has two or three "very special" episodes, but I wanted to watch something more representative of the series as a whole.

Maude- Nostalgia Party  (12.30.74)  Wow.  Some things just don't age well.  Maude is throwing a New Year's Eve party and she throws a come as you were party.   She does a Gypsy Rose Lee dance to "The Stripper".  Bea Arthur plays the Bea Arthur character.  The canned laughter is annoying.  The political jokes are even less amusing than they were then.  The odd thing that was a treat was one of the party goers is dressed as Hunter S. Thompson.

The Jeffersons - Florence in Love (12.15.76)  Florence, the Jefferson's maid, has a boyfriend.    Hilarity ensues.  Dated.  Canned Laughter.   Best thing:  Florence has made coffee in a Pyrex percolator.

All in The Family - Class Reunion (2.10.73) Edith's class reunion is coming up and Archie doesn't want her to go.  When faced with the prospect of her reuniting with her high school sweetheart, Archie gets upset- hilarity ensues.  (An odd moment that I'll probably address in another blog- Rob Reiner (Meathead) and Sally Struthers (Gloria) have a moment where they're mimicking Groucho Marx and Mae West, there seemed to have been a strange cultural blip where the classic stars were on the radar again- perhaps because of movies in syndication and revival houses?)
Of the three, I think the All in the Family held up best,  because it was a classic comedy set up and didn't rely too much on contemporary references.  The alleged studio audience laughter still was grating though- at least semi-appropriate with stage set shows like these- when there's canned laughter for shows like the Brady Bunch that REALLY makes my teeth hurt.

Old Comics Wednesday

In the comic book industry, the new comics are on the shelves every Wednesday.  I'm going to twist the idea of New Comic Book Day around and read vintage comics from the seventies every Wednesday.  (Because the tv viewing and the novels aren't obsession enough.

Action Comics #429, Nov. 73 The Man Who Wrote Superman's Obituary Elliot Maggin, Curt Swan

Much like many genre TV shows, Action Comics of the time had a tendancy to to stories that were fantastic in scope, with minimum impact on the overall picture.  This is one of those stories.  Going to the newspaper morgue (file room) for a story as Clark Kent, Superman scans his own file on record and amazingly, it's in Kryptonian, and it contains his secret identity.  Amazingly, his diary in his Fortress of Solitude, transcribed onto sheets of metal by a telepathically controlled stylus, has... become connected to the teletype machine at the Daily Planet and the man in charge of the room has learned Kryptonian from it and discovered Superman's secret.  Really.  "If I can't trust a fellow journalist, who can I trust?" Today, that guy'd be toast within five issues and there'd be angst over his passing.
The Human Target short piece by Len Wein and Dick Giordano is much more satisfying, actually.  Detective Christopher Chance, the Human Target, has taken the place of a rodeo rider who has had several suspicious incidents happen to him.  Yes, someone was trying to kill him.  It's resolved in seven pages.  Economical storytelling at it's best.

Detective Comics #438, Dec-Jan 73/74 A Monster Walks Wayne Manor  - Archie Goodwin, Jim Aparo
Unlike the story in action comics, the lead story in this issue of Detective Comics picks up threads left over from a previous story, specifically one of Ra's Al Ghul's henchmen being left for dead.  He wasn't.  Because Ra's knew Batman's secret identity, so did his henchman Ubu.  Ubu returns to Gotham to kill Batman, but as he's been driven insane, he focuses his vengance on Wayne Manor, closed while Bruce Wayne had re-located to the Wayne Foundation Building in the city.

The issue also features reprints of Green Lantern, the Atom (with guest star Zatanna), Hawkman, and a vintage Batman and Robin adventure.

The real treat is The Manhunter, also by Archie Goodwin and up and coming star Walt Simonson.  Paul Kirk was a forties masked hero who'd been in suspended animation while his body recovered from a hunting accident.  The people healing him weren't good guys though- they'd used his body as a template for a clone army.
Kirk wasn't happy with this and was on a globe trotting quest to stop their plans and destroy his clones.

Put like that, I have to wonder, why hasn't *anyone* picked up this property?  Goodwin and Simonson actually wrote it like a novel, so there's an eventual resolution and everything.

This will be fun- next week- Marvel Comics!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Death in the Sky 1

I've included a number in the title of tonight's post because there are going to be more... because it was the seventies.
I'm doing a double feature of airplane movies tonight, starting with Mayday at 40,000 Feet(11.12.76).
Mayday's got the star studded cast featuring Don Meredith, Ray Milland and Marjoe Gortner.  Gortner plays a prison bound psycho named Greco flying from A to B.  When Greco's marshall escort has a heart attack, Greco grabs his gun and makes a bid for freedom (in a plane...) shooting wild and puncturing hoses that... leak plot fluid.  The captain's shot as well, so it's the whole "can we get there without the captain?" and when they get there, it turns into "can we land?".  They do.

Skyjacked!'s all star cast features Charlton Heston, Rosie Greer, Susan Dey and James Brolin as the movie's psycho. There's a bomb on board the flight that's part of Brolin's plan to skyjack the plane to Moscow.    The thing that strains my disbelief?  A pregnant woman orders a Bloody Mary, and the flight attendant doesn't think anything about it.

Charlton Heston plays Charlton Heston.

This will be fun to see just how many 1970's air plane thrillers there are.

Monday, January 12, 2015

It's like being attacked by Gumby.

"The Crater Lake Monster" is another "how have I not seen this?" movie.  From Crown International Pictures- the poor man's AIP- this 1977 monster movie... it needs help.

There's an absurd subplot about two guys running a boat rental business that should have been cut.  Like in the script stage.  They're poor comic relief and detract from the bigger picture.

There's another subplot about a ABC store robber who's killed liquor store employees.

How difficult could it have been?  Small town, lake, college professors, meteor and killer dinosaur.

Lots of day for night shooting.  Without a blue filter.
Which is not just stupid, it's annoying, especially when the idea of "night" is expressed by someone saying how nice the stars look.  In the daylight.
But the monster in question is a stopmotion, clay-mation  pliosaurus.  Rather like being attacked by Gumby.

For the first time in a while, it feels like I'm doing penance rather than watching a movie.

(PS... I'm thinking I may have seen this.  Or started watching it.  Parts seem familiar, perhaps I've repressed the memory.)

Sunday, January 11, 2015

All The President's Men

I've watched a lot of bad movies and I'm not even halfway through January, so I have to, I need to watch some good movies to balance out the Karma.  I decided I should start with something quintessentially Seventies- All The President's Men starring Robert Redford as Bob Woodard and Dustin Hoffman as  Carl Bernstein.

I saw it last in 1998 during the Warner Brothers 75th anniversary film festival and it *still* holds up as an impressive political thriller.

No need for synopsis, we called it "history class", right?  Ok- short one: Watergate.  Washington Post.  Nixon.

Redford plays Woodward.  They make it clear early on he hasn't been with the paper long, and he's still got some "gee-whiz" Mid-westerness in his system.   There's an old theater rule: "acting is reacting" and Redford has a bit early in the movie where he's making phone calls and he'd figuring out a pattern- he reacts wonderfully as he keeps getting a little higher on a hierarchy ladder, the widening of the eyes, the slight jaw drop.  Fun stuff.

Dustin Hoffman plays what can easily be described as "the Dustin Hoffman character."

I'm going to try and watch more of these non-genre seventies classics more often, but don't worry, I'll be getting around to Night of the Lepus eventually.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Horror...

Even if I've not seen all the movies, I've heard of a great many of the classics.  But somehow I never heard about Nightmare at 37,000 Feet.
I'm glad I've seen it because I've loved Tammy Grimes in pretty much anything I've seen her in, with that purr of a voice I learned to love while listening the CBS Radio Mystery Theatre.  Then there's Shatner.
William...  Shatner... as a disillusioned... former... priest.  But someone has to be the counterbalance to Grimes as... it's not totally clear- she's sort of a Druid.  Being the seventies, lumps Druidism in with Satanism... because I guess to the man on the street, the horned god of the hunt and Ol' Scratch were practically synonymous.

The best part of watching it?  Now that I've seen it, I never need to see it again.

Friday, January 9, 2015

How Strange

I'm watching the seventies tv movie Doctor Strange (9.6.78) based on the comicbook soon to be a motion picture starring Benedict Cumberbatch.  It's not bad, seriously dated, but it's got Jessica Walter as Morgan LeFay, so she's fun.
Special effects on par with the best of what BBC was doing at the time (cough*Doctor Who*cough) but because it was produced through Universal, it's got some polish.
 Peter Hooten plays a good variant on the comic's Stephen Strange, as a psychiatrist rather than a surgeon, he's still a doctor.  His girlfriend Clea from the comic book is his patient/ love interest Clea Lake, pawn of Morgan to get at the Ancient One, played by Englishman John Mills, father of Haley Mills, rather than the Asian Wise Man from the comics.
It's a good pilot, and it's a shame they didn't do anymore with it because it's got a great set up for series, bringing back Morgan as a cult leader.

What's really fun is sitting down and watching it again in a single go.  I've watched bits and pieces of it but tonight was the first time I've done that since... oh... 1978.
I remember watching this in the living room in my grandmother's apartment in Norfolk.

I've started a small collection of Seventies era Doctor Strange stuff- seen here:
Which is nothing compared to the fellow who has the Sanctum Sanctorum blog, his collection is phenomenal.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Death Of Ocean View Park

After watching Beyond The Bermuda Triangle, I wondered what sort of wackiness the kids at Playboy Productions got up to- besides "After Dark", that is- and tonight I was reminded with a rewatching of The Death of Ocean View Park (10.19.79) (I'd forgottten Hugh had produced it.)
Well.  It was everything a made for tv movie is meant to be.  Psychic omens.  Explosions.  Young Love.  Old Love.  Mannix.  That girl from "Soap".  And Oh My God, is that Martin Landau?

Really, it's the kind of thing they don't make anymore because they've become too clever, too tongue in cheek.  If it were made today, there'd be too much irony and bad self referential humor.  The strength of these movies is that everyone plays it straight.  The problem for me with films like Sharknado is that everyone's in on the joke, including the actors.

Before I watched the movie, I watched an episode of High Rollers (5.19.78).  I'd forgotten Alec Trebek was the host, and there was a greater emphasis on knowledge than I'd remembered.  But I hadn't forgotten the cool treadmill operation of the table, how the surface rolled back to retrieve the dice.  It's those little details that matter so much.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Now We're Cookin'

One thing I've been missing lately is cooking shows.  I love that stuff.  Hells Kitchen.  Iron Chef.  Top Chef. 
But, all that's off the viewing diet.
Fortunately, Youtube to the rescue.
First, I watched Graham Kerr's The Galloping Gourmet (c. 1970).  I can't find a concrete date for the episode I watched but I have the book The Galloping Gourmet vol 4, and his recipe for the episode, Beer and Rump Pot Roast, is on page eighty-two. 

Actually, I have volumes one through four of his television cookbook.   Perry and I read cookbooks for fun.

I followed that up with the inaugural episode of  The French Chef with Julia Child.  I've seen the movie Julie & Julia, part biography, part blogger adventure, and that was pretty much my exposures to Julia Child.  French cooking, with all it's sauces and souffles, always seemed like voodoo to me, but she makes it accessable.  Her recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon seemed easy enough and she was kind enough to explain the Boeuf Bourguignon = Coq Au Vin, a French dish that initially intrigued me, then disappointed me when I discovered that it was Coq Au Vin, not cocoa-van.

For dessert, it was Barracuda, 1978.  Low budget eco-horror.  Barracuda are mutating because of a chemical plants dumping.  Hilarity ensues.  Good underwater photography.  A treat for me was recognizing a building in the background from the HG Lewis movie Two Thousand Maniacs, also filmed in the St Cloud area.
Because that's what I do.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015


Well, I've done Killer Bees, Killer Snakes and Killer Dogs, so why not Frogs?
Frogs (1972) is a fun eco-horror piece from American International Pictures, and when you see the AIP logo, it's like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval of b-movies. 
A family has gathered to celebrate their patriarch's birthday at a plantation house near a Florida swamp.   Snakes, lizards, frogs, birds and insects beseige the family, taking them out one at a time.
But to me, it's like the weirdest version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof ever.
Ray Milland plays Jason Crockett, Big Daddy-esque patriarch.  His grandson Clint and Clint's wife Jenny are rather like Brick and Maggie, high school sports hero and cheerleader wife, both feeling the years beginning to add up.  Clint spends his afternoons drinking and his dialogue with an outsider to the occasion, Pickett Smith, a photographer whose boat Clint had overturned, while the two are drying off from having fallen in the lake could be seen as (as the kids say) slashy.  It helps that Pickett Smith is played by a young and shirtless Sam Elliott.
Milland is appropriately domineering and browbeating of his family, as good as Burl Ives or Rip Torn were as Big Daddy.

(After I'd written this, I did a google search- it seems I'm not the only one to see the similarity.)

Monday, January 5, 2015


Tonight's watching was To Tell The Truth from 1971 and one of the mystery guests was an Oz collector.  This was when niche hobbies were looked upon and amusing and eccentric.  Of course, he could justify it because he owned bookshop specializing in  antique children's books.
One of the fakes actually had me fooled because Kitty Carlisle asked about the Oz theme park in Florida, and he corrected her, telling her it was in North Carolina. 
My parents took us there as kids, so that was an "it's him!" moment for me.

That was all I watched tonight.  After that, I read a book. 
Real paper and everything.

It's an Ida Lupino kind of night.

I'm seeing movies that I haven't seen in a long time as well as things I've every reason to have see but somehow missed,
Tonight it's (to the best of my recollection) two misses- The Food of the Gods and The Devil's Rain

I've seen AIP's Bert Gordon film adaptation of HG Wells' The Empire of the Ants a couple of times (Joan Collins.  Giant, Super Smart Ants!) so I guess my brain just persistance of visioned seen AIP's Bert Gordon film adaptation of HG Wells' The Food of the Gods (1976).  The more I watched, the more sure I am that I didn't.  Ida Lupino verses a killer maggot.  Marjo Gortner as a football player.  Giant Chickens.  Giant Rats.  Giant Wasps.  My credulity was strained with Gortner as a football player.

And I have no idea how I missed The Devil's Rain (1975).  It's directed by Robert Feust, the director of both of Vincent Price's Phibes movies.  Ernest Borgnine plays the pope of Satan.  William... Shatner... opposes him.  Ida Lupino plays Shatner's mother.  Shatner fails, so it's up to his brother, Tom Skerrit, and Skerrit's psychic wife to save the day.  He's colleagues with Eddie Albert, playing the Van Helsing role,  which after watching Green Acres, makes this even more surreal.  There's a church in the middle of nowhere that looks like the church from Guns 'n' Roses' November Rain video.  It's... not monstrously bad.  But it's not Phibes.