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.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Squeeky? Really? Gavrillo Princip, THERE'S a name!

It's one of those things that's just on the otherside of my recall barrier- The Ford Administration.  I knew about it, I *think* there may have even been a mock election Ford v Carter at my elementary school. 

But Carter, with those teeth- and peanuts!- was the first President that I really remember.  At seven, I guess that's not too bad, considering all I had to think about at the time was The Little Rascals and Batman.

So whenever I learn something about President Ford, it's usually something I learned before, like in high school government class, but it doesn't really stick.

 When I was watching tonight's news- KOVR Action News from 11/21/75-  I was reminded about the wacky antics of Lynette Fromme.  And by wacky antics, I mean assassination attempt on President Ford.  For Manson. Insane.


 That was all I watched tonight.  Work kicked it up a notch, yes, even on a saturday night. -- I've been trying to get an approximate when for something and then I realized the when occurred when Ronald Reagan was shot... and now that I'm pondering that, I realized another when occurred when Spider-Woman was on TV... so using those events to place when my grandparents were living in specific places, why are my memories of their apartment from my first ten years so vivid?  My grandparents moved from an apartment in Ghent to one on Little Creek Road, then to a condo by the Navy Base. I remember watching Spider-Woman on Little Creek, which ran from September 79 to January 80.  So, in that window, or before they moved from Gates Avenue to Little Creek Rd. Then factor out time we didn't live in Tidewater during my first ten years, then cognitively, I was only really familiar with Gates Ave for say... seven years.  Damn.  It was then I became a hard core reader - I still have a bookshelf she painted and decoupaged that she allowed me to keep my books on at her apartment.

I'm getting rambly and nostalgic... time for bed.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Columbo, you're a gem

The thing about previews is they're a great source of ideas of what to watch, like the ABC Fall Preview 1974-75, including Saturday Morning cartoons These Are the Days (with the Watchmen's Jackie Earle Hailey doing voice work) and Devlin- I remember Devlin from when I was a kid (a motorcycle stunt team family) but I didn't realize that These Are the Days (small town, turn of the century, slice of life cartoon) and Devlin were both dramas, as good as Hanna Barbara could manage anyway.

 I recently commented on Facebook about "Always" movies- movies that have become so ingrained into the cultural psyche that it's hard to remember a time before them.  The Sunday and Monday Night Movies previewed were a good example of that- The Last Picture Show. High Plains Drifter. Thunderball. The Poseiden Adventure.  All of them making their television premeire that season. Perry hasn't seen The Last Picture Show.  That goes to top of the list of good movies to watch.

There's a lot of fun episodic stuff that season, but since Kolchak: The Night Stalker is on Netflix, I'll be working my way through the series.  I need to find episodes of Get Christie Love! because it looks damn cool.

Because it's *always* good, I treated myself to an episode of Columbo, Negative Reaction (10.6.74), one I'd managed to miss somehow.  Dick Van Dyke plays the killer and if you close your eyes, it's like the weirdest episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show ever.  Series regular Vito Scotti, only Peter Falk is in more episodes,plays a wino and F-Troop's Larry Storch plays a driving examiner.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Life Before IMDB

We don't realize how well we have it.
You want to know about a movie these days, check out IMDB or Wikipedia. Back in the day, there were all sorts of guidebooks for movies.  Lots of black and white pictures and short synopsies of plots, with the director and a couple of leads lists.

Even then, they were more like wishbooks... you'd see a movie that looks interesting, then keep an eye out for it in the weekly newspaper listings. Back in the seventies when I'd watch the afternoon movie on WVEC-13, I'd always check the green-sheet, the listings guide in the Virginia Pilot/Ledger Star, every saturday- especially on weeks that ended with a Friday the 13th and Halloween- that's when they'd do a line up of horror movies.
(Another special week that they'd have was "Ape Week" when they would run the Planet of the Apes movies.) While I'm doing the retro project, I'd love to get to the Norfolk Public Library and check out the VP/LS fiche for a few of those Friday the 13th weeks. Fun thing about the Pictorial History of Science Fiction is- it's copyright 1975.
 Think about that for a moment.
Pre-Star Wars.
The only mention of George Lucas is THX-1138.  No mention of Steven Speilberg what-so-ever.

Imagine that.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Those are real zircons...

After I posted last night I re-watched Quatermass and The Pit for the first time in years. having first seen it on the afternoon movie on WVEC in the seventies, with the proper American title Five Million Years to Earth.  Being unfamiliar with Quatermass back then, all I knew was this film was crazy.  It starts at a archeological dig in a tube station in London that goes oh so wrong.  Ghostly neanderthals.  Crickets from mars.  And Satan.  Now, imagine a kid fixated on Star Wars seeing it for the first time.  MIND. BLOWN. I've been able to see a couple of the other Quatermass pictures and they've got this terrific... Britishness about them. Like Doctor Who, but with a more grounded in reality  feel.

Watched the first episode of The McLean Stevenson Show (12.1.76).    Stevenson plays a hardware store owner who lives with his children- his son lives in the basment, his daughter's moved back in with her two sons.  His wife's mother lives with them in a spare room and she's "The Mother-In-Law" character.    I made it eight minutes into the show before I had to cry "Mercy."  The show ran from December 76 to March 77, broadcasting ten of the twelve filmed episodes.  That's nine too many.

As a palate cleanser after that, I watched The Price Is Right (1.6.76).  Game shows are good for mindlessness.  Amazingly, it's just like I remembered.  I think that has more to do with the fact that the show was the same thing for decades rather than my memory being sharp.

 I finished the evening off with What's Up, Doc? (1972), the Peter Bogdonovich tribute to screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby, starring Ryan O'Neal and Barbara Streisand.  I'm not a fan of Streisand's more recent projects and antics, but this was before she was "BARBARA", and she's a remarkably good comic actress.  Lots of mistaken identities and luggage mixups, it's just a romp that doesn't take itself too seriously.