Monday, October 30, 2006

Halloween Trailers #3 (Jack Broder Productions)


No doubt this 1952 Jack Broder Productions epic, Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla, was featured on Count Floyd's Monster Chiller Horror Theatre - the week before "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House Of Pancakes". . . or perhaps two weeks before "Dr. Tongue's 3-D House Of Stewardesses". Oooooooh, it's scarrrrr-yyyy, all right, particular those shameless Martin & Lewis imitators.

You gotta love schlockmeister producer Jack Broder, several steps down from such talented low-budget filmmakers as Roger Corman and Russ Meyer, but several steps up from Jerry Warren, Doris Fish and the immortal Edward D. Wood Jr. Broder also featured the ever-hard-working "guy in a gorilla suit" prominently in his 1951 opus Bride Of The Gorilla.

Can't watch this trailer without thinking of my favorite line from a movie made in the past 20 years, the moment when, in Tim Burton's inspired 1994 biopic Ed Wood, Martin Landau, as a down on his luck and strung-out Lugosi) laments "No one gives two f^*&!%^ks for Bela."

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Halloween Trailers #2 (Hammer Films, again)



Because, as far as I'm concerned, pulchritude beats standard-issue gore, thrills and chills every time, here's another Hammer Films trailer, this one for Countess Dracula, starring the drop-dead (hey, it is a horror flick) gorgeous Ingrid Pitt.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Halloween Trailers #1 (Hammer Films)



While I look forward to tonight's "Midnight Movie Massacre", hosted by Mr. Lobo of Cinema Insomnia, as part of the Shock It To Me Fest at San Francisco's Castro Theatre, here, to keep us going until then, is the trailer to Hammer Films' Curse of Frankenstein.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Milt Gross


For your viewing pleasure, here's just one bouyant panel from Milt Gross' Cartoon Tour Of New York, courtesy of the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive, which is already a veritable Dead Sea Scrolls of comic art. Steven Worth and the crew there are doing exciting things and have already digitized thousands of classic animated films, comics, illustrations and historic memorabilia.

To see the rest of this jewel from Milt's mighty pen:
Milt Gross' Cartoon Tour Of New York, Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

The mention of this mega-talented artist dovetails nicely into my last (October 22) posting. After creating two brilliant (not to mention iconoclastic, irreverent and aggressively "non p.c.") MGM cartoons,
Jitterbug Follies and Wanted: No Master, both starring his "Count Screwloose & J.R. The Wonder Dog" characters, Gross was unceremoniously fired by Fred Quimby, the Metro sales executive inexplicably installed as head of their new animation studio. Thus ended what would have undoubtedly been a historic contribution to U.S. animation; Gross would have clearly given Bob Clampett some spirited competition for "king of the black and white cartoon" in the late 30's.

I don't know if Quimby quite gets the Eddie Selzer "what does all this laughter have to do with the making of animated cartoons?" booby prize, but he's certainly close. He fired Milt Gross and didn't think Tex Avery cartoons were funny.

Milt and Tex got the last laugh. Even now, when it comes to comics, Milt remains the gold standard.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Suits And The Animation Biz

Years ago, I had a good friend, artist-photographer-computer graphics developer-music-history-politics-film-animation-fine arts aficionado and expert on many more topics named Chuck Walker; unfortunately, he passed away at 38 in 1994. Chuck was one of my favorites, always a witty, entertaining fellow with an well-informed and original view of the world. He was also brilliant, unrelentingly creative, scary-smart and among those on the advance guard of the cutting edge in the 1980's graphics technology revolution; among other places, he worked with Marc Canter at (then) MacroMind, now Macromedia. Chuck had much of interest to say about the power shift in technology from creatives to executives in the late 80's and early 90's. I loved the sneer that appeared on Chuck's face and the undisguised contempt that dripped from his voice when he uttered the phrase, "the suits are taking over."

Now, don't get me wrong - I love. . . or at least like. . . "the suits". You need 'em - and there are times when bean-counters prove absolutely necessary; for example, Walt Disney and Roy Disney, no doubt, to some degree offered useful checks on each other. However, the suits should never, ever, have the absolute final say on artistic endeavors, period.

Well, those suits (and expensive ones) are really really in total control of animation, film and music backing and distribution. Nothing new about that - the silent cinema transitioned from artist-moguls like Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford and Harold Lloyd to the all-powerful studio system. It happens. It's the way of the world.

There is no doubt in my mind that in our current climate, a great artist - a Duke Ellington, a Charlie Parker, a Bob Clampett, an Ernie Kovacs - would have absolutely no chance. Unless what they did made semitruck fleets full of money for someone, of course (come to think of it, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and Chappelle's Show must be incredibly lucrative cash cows - otherwise they'd be banished from the airwaves, pronto).

Right now, there's stimulating discussion around the blogosphere about the relationship between development executives and the artists who actually make animated TV shows. For a bit of background, to paraphrase John Kricfalusi. . . "here's the most offensive article ever written about animation", Development Executives And How They Got There

And check out what John K has to say about
Why Rock Stars Should Become Animation Executives

Then follow it up with an excellent Cartoon Brew post by Amid Amidi, author of Cartoon Modern, about the barrel o' laughs that is "pitching" TV series concepts - and explore all the links in the article,
To Pitch Or Not To Pitch

Friday, October 20, 2006

Burt Bacharach Day

I declare the 20th of every month Burt Bacharach day. Why? Because I can - it's my f#$%^&*n' blog.

Every month we'll feature a different piece of music written by Burt. I will choose clips that are, at the very least, a tad unorthodox - with all due respect to the fabulous Dionne Warwick - whenever possible. This one is a real corker, among the best: a typically incendiary performance by The White Stripes, complete with "happy" audience members singing along. Real rock 'n' roll, baby!

I love Burt Bacharach. I love the White Stripes. And while you're at it, say a rosary for the late great Dusty Springfield.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

My Space

Well, now all throngs of grey templed Monty Pythonquotin' 1960's music-Air America-Ipod listenin' retro movie watchin' Whole Foods marketin' swing dancin' tofu-eatin' Cabernet drinkin' Food Network watchin' Belgian Trappist ale sniffin' hybrid drivin' cilantro choppin' IKEA shoppin' old gas passers so over-the-hill we no longer have even the vaugest idea where the damn hill is anymore have belatedly discovered myspace.com.

Don't believe it? Want proof? Holy s#$%&t, I'm on
myspace and so are a lot of my friends and contemporaries. The young, hip and trendy among us, without a doubt, abandoned myspace as oh-so-very-passé before George W. Bush (a.k.a. "The Decider") accused John Kerry of being a "flip-flopper."

The most hilarious thing about joining myspace is some of the people who immediately show up in the inbox as your "friends". A typical one: "I'm (fill in a twenty-something age), looking to meet guys and fool around. Here's a link to my NUDE PICTURES."

At this moment, heterosexual males of all nations, races, creeds and intelligence quotients can be seen transforming into Cro-Magnon level slobbering "Tex Avery wolves" at their monitors and mindlessly following that link. . . which will inevitably lead to a porn or adult dating site that will invariably ask for info like home and cell phone numbers, address, SSN, credit card #s, etc. Sly Stone made a great album titled There's A Riot Goin' On - I believe "There's A Scam Goin' On" here.

Of course, it works - every time. To quote Blue Collar Comedy tour standup maestro
Jeff Foxworthy's take on what guys actually think, "Ah wanna beer and ah wanna see somethin' nekkid."




Monday, October 16, 2006

Pictures From Lobo-tronic 2 Show



Well, I did promise pictures from our October 7 San Jose soiree on the blog. Here's one: Mr. Lobo reciting the "Cinema Insomnia" oath, supported by The Queen Of Trash and the Creature From The Black Lagoon.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Born Yesterday



Well, not literally born yesterday in 2006, but definitely on October 10 (reputedly 1917), was the great Thelonious Monk. While Monk's original compositions represented bold, brilliant new ideas, his sound had deep roots in jazz tradition (small wonder, one of his mentors was the innovative Harlem pianist/composer James P. Johnson). His rhythms can be jagged and broken - and swing hard all the while. Monk also wrote lovely ballads and often found expressive power in standard tunes. . . beauty in the most arcane of moldy chestnuts. Here's an example of Monk doing just that, performing "Don't Blame Me" in a 1967 concert. Enjoy.



Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Buck O' Neil


While a tad late with this post, as a baseball fan, I'm compelled to put my two cents in. Buck O 'Neil, player, manager, super-scout, Kansas City legend, baseball historian, the first African-American coach in the big leagues and the last man standing from the Negro Leagues - as well as a guy who did more after the age of 80 than a lot of us accomplish in a lifetime - passed away last Friday, October 6, at the age of 94. For more info, check out this piece from the Kansas City Star.

To paraphrase the superb
Black Baseball webpage:
"John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil, also called The Skipper, was not only a talented ball player but also an intelligent and cunning manager. Buck started his career briefly with the Memphis Red Sox and the remainder of his playing years were spent with the Kansas City Monarchs. In 1942 Buck lead his team against the Homestead Grays hitting .353. In the 1946 title game against the Newark Eagles, he hit .333, which included two home runs, one of them being a grand slam (The Negro Leagues Professional Baseball, 1998). In 1946 he also led the Negro National Leagues with a batting average of .353 for the season (Mills, 1996). The Monarchs lost in seven games despite his efforts. One outfielder, Jimmie Crutchfield, was quoted saying, "I respected Buck in the clutch. He was that type of hitter. A smart, highly intelligent ball player. Also a good manager and I admired him for that. A hustling ball player" (The Negro Leagues Professional Baseball, 1998).

In 1947, he became manager of the Kansas City Monarchs until 1955 (Margolies, 1992). He coached them to four titles in 1948, 1950, 1951 and 1953. As manager of the Monarchs, Buck sent the most Negro League players on to the white Majors than anyone in baseball history. Some players include Ernie Banks, George Altman, Gene Baker, Sweet Lou Johnson, Satchel Paige, and Bob Thurman. In 1956, the Chicago Cubs hired O'Neil as a scout where he discovered great talents like Lou Brock and Joe Carter. Later he became the first African-American coach in the Major Leagues with the Cubs in 1962. 1998 was Bucks return home, when he got a job as scout for the Kansas City Royals (The Negro Leagues Professional Baseball, 1998)."

Buck's enthusiasm, good humor, amazing memory and considerable skills as a narrator created some of the best moments in the Ken Burns Baseball documentary. Haven't seen the reflections of Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays and Lou Brock on Buck O' Neil, but I'm sure they had plenty to say.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Thank You



Bleary-eyed but recovered enough from yet another late-night movie extravaganza, I tip my hat to Mr. Lobo, Bob Wilkins (for encouraging Mr. Lobo to do a TV show), the Queen Of Trash, Eric "Man Of Many Monster Disguises" Yee, Ken Patterson of KTEH, the Silicon Convention sound techs - and the Convention for having us. Will post photos shortly.

But most of all, I want to thank the spirits of Bela Lugosi, Bob Clampett, Jayne Mansfield, Jack Webb, Joi Lansing, Tex Avery, Raymond Burr, Dave Fleischer, Ed Benedict, Sonny Tufts, Willard Bowsky, Barbara Payton, Jack Broder, the ubiquitous "Guy In A Gorilla Suit" - not to mention the producers of 1955 Coca-Cola commercials, the Sapporo Beer-powered Toho Studio designers who created that bejeweled armadillo-rhino monster and the deservedly anonymous producer of "Sadie The Sunbather" - for making it possible for bemused 21st century citizens to play in this pop culture sandbox.


I fully intend to keep on playing in that sandbox, like
Brian Wilson and
Van Dyke Parks did when they wrote "Smile".

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Midnight Movies At Silicon Tonight



Here's at least one obvious reason to forego such mundane activities as sleep and attend our late-night Lobo-tronic Film Festival: the fabulous Queen Of Trash.

Now it appears we're doin' the midnight movies thang. . . but show up at 11pm, anyway, at least to find out what cool costumes convention-goers will wear to the masquerade.

The Silicon programming page says - and I quote: "Presentation - The Lobotronic Film Festival, 12:00 am - 1:30 am in Donnor Pass Ballroom".

Be there or be oblong.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

More Films We'd Like To See



I will periodically spotlight favorite films that are too obscure for DVD. . . or, come to think of it, mankind.

This classic cartoon is from my all-time favorite era of movies, the early 30's, the pre-Code epoch when Barbara Stanwyck "hos" straight up the corporate ladder - sneering more contemptuously than Lou Reed every step the way - in Baby Face (1933) and silent screen icon Billy Haines, in Way Out West (1930), looks straight in the camera, with a smurk, and quips "I'm the wildest pansy you ever picked". And before overtly sexual humor, most notable in the incredible surreal films of the Max Fleischer Studio, was sanitized out of cartoons (at least until Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and Frank Tashlin took on the censors - who were not swift enough to catch their subversive antics - in the 40's).

The Hash Shop is just one of many wildly, insanely imaginative cartoons that Walter Lantz (yes, the kindly host of The Woody Woodpecker Show, if you are an over-the-hill "boomer" and remember such things) produced in 1930. They are distinguished by the remarkable - rubbery, expansive, creative, way-out - draftsmanship of Bill Nolan, who was doing "acid trip animation" decades before Vince Collins, Paul Driessen and Sally Cruikshank.


The m.o. of the best pre-Code cartoons, especially those by Fleischer, is "anything can happen - and there doesn't have to be a reason." Besides Fleischer, who truly produced films for the ages, Walter Lantz, Van Beuren and the transplanted New Yorkers at the Charles Mintz studio number among the most egregious exponents of this cartoonmaking philosophy.

When Disney became supreme, draftsmanship and continuity in animation improved dramatically, but the phenomenon of "anything, I mean, anything, for a laugh - and besides, this is a freakin' cartoon", unfortunately, fell by the wayside. Again, it took Tex Avery and Frank Tashlin becoming Looney Tunes directors, soon followed by Bob Clampett, to challenge the gospel according to Disney. But, save a brief mid-1940's blast by the aforementioned directors, we would not see anything quite as uninhibited as early 1930's animation until the heydey of Ernie Kovacs and Monty Python decades later.


My favorite moment in The Hash Shop:
Oswald is a waiter in a restuarant. A loud customer asks "HOW'S YOUR LIVER?" Oswald nonchalantly pulls up his skin to reveal a little organ flopping around, pauses, and then answers "OK" in 1930 de rigueur cartoon character falsetto.

Saturday Night Live, MAD TV - eat your hearts out!



Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Our Host For Saturday Night's Show


Considering that my last post was on the topic of "voting for your creep" (something we'll be doing soon enough), this campaign mailer featuring Horror Host Mr. Lobo - our master of ceremonies for Saturday night's Lobotronic Film Festival - is certainly apropo. At this point, I would take the Monster Party, the Halloween Party, or for that matter The Silly Party over the GOP or Demos in a heartbeat.


Mr. Lobo, "your horror host" of the syndicated program Cinema Insomnia will bring his unrelenting panache, and presumably a necktie once worn by the great "Creature Features" host Bob Wilkins. And I will be crushed if the supporting cast does not include the lovely Queen Of Trash.


Still don't know what room I'm going to bring my ale-addled countenance, Nixon-era vintage 16mm projectors and 1930's-1950's film clips into on Saturday night at the DoubleTree Hotel. All I know is the show starts at 11:00 p.m. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Election Year Advertising, 2004 Style by Paul F. Etcheverry

We're going to endure some charming examples of political ads in the coming weeks. Just in case you've been avoiding the inevitable sleazy, manipulative political commercials like mid-14th century folks wanted to avoid the black plague - and about as successfully - here's a reminder from the 2004 elections, a sterling example of deep pockets democracy in action.

The Swift Boat Veterans For Truth added yet another hard-hitting attack ad to their election arsenal. The latest alleges that John Kerry was not only "unfit for command" and loathed by his comrades in war, but brazenly listened to provocative materials throughout his Vietnam service.

The ad presents grainy black and white photos of a battery-powered cassette player - a newfangled contraption in the late 1960's - accompanied by two cassettes, one labeled. "Now if you zoom in real close on the labeled cassette," Swift Boat spokesman Richard O'Neill Corsi Rove claims, "you'll see the ugly, disgusting truth, which is crystal clear."

"I Enjoy Being A Girl" by Eartha Kitt

"The proof is in the proverbial perverted pudding," Rove charges, "John Kerry was listening to ‘I Enjoy Being A Girl’ in the Mekong Delta! Only a subversive, a traitor would listen to Eartha Kitt while shirking his patriotic duty and merely being struck by shrapnel and rice fragments. Do you want such scandalous, un-American behavior from your Commander-In-Chief?"

Why was this never disclosed to the public? "As a matter of fact", Rove adds, "the F.B.I. knew all about this in 1969, but the liberal president, Richard M. Nixon, suppressed the information." Sources close to the F.B.I., however, insist that the order came from the agency director.

Hoover, it turns out, was quite the fan of "I Enjoy Being A Girl", even owned a pristine vinyl pressing of Nancy Kwan's rendition of the ditty from Flower Drum Song.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Plug-O-Rama

I'll be doing the Saturday night show at the Silicon Convention - in San Jose's posh DoubleTree Hotel - October 7 at 11:00 p.m. It will be the usual archivists' jam session, featuring 50's commercials, film clips inexplicably preserved for posterity (Mickey Rooney and Jayne Mansfield at the 1957 Foreign Press Awards), Scopitones, Soundies, Godzilla-style monster mayhem, unintentionally funny Coronet Instructional Films, pre-code comedy shorts, trailers from cheesy movies and lots of cartoon fun. . . and anything else we can throw into the mix.

Is there anything I'd love to show but can't locate a 16mm print of? (pregnant pause)


  • Service With A Smile, the 1934 Vitaphone short with Leon Errol as the proud proprietor of a gas station staffed by showgirls.


  • A Pair Of French Heels, a Paramount one-reeler which is the closest thing to - imagine this - "Mr. Mike" O'Donoghue and/or National Lampoon making a comedy short in 1931. In this lovefest, boxers-turned-comedians Mitchell & Durant make Shemp-era Three Stooges look like Noel Coward. . . The film's co-called "plot" stops arbitrarily so Mitchell & Durant can - for no apparent reason - pound the living daylights out of each other. And, Noel Coward fans take note, the "butt-kicking at the society party" bit is a. . . er. . . classic.


There will be descriptions of more gems we'd like to find from underneath the ragged fingernails of popular culture in future posts.