Thursday, December 28, 2006

Happy New Year

Compelled to take a little time off from this "I blog, therefore I am" business, but will return somewhat faithfully in '07.

While I feel unbelievably lucky to have living family members, as well as various roofs over my head and doubly thankful to have not suffered a death in the family in 2006, there's no getting around it - the end of the year can be a difficult time. So make it a double, triple (mixed drink or Belgian strong ale) or, if you must, a Shirley Temple (or the Shirley Temple with a few slugs of Johnnie Walker's Black Label, a.k.a. Shirley Temple Black), toast the fact that you're still livin' and say Happy New Year! Go get, in the immortal words of Louis Jordan, "obnosticated" - and, please, designate a driver.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Just Call This The R.I.P. Blog - This Time, Farewell To The Godfather Of Soul


James Brown - Sex Machine (live)
Uploaded by Van_Lock.

Think of any popular music from the last 50 years, any genre: James Brown, bandleader, singer, arranger, visionary, show-stopping performer, got there first. His career was so long, beginning back in the heydey of such classic gospel-based 50's rhythm and blues artists as Jackie Wilson, The Five Royales and Sam Cooke, and extending into the 21st century, that it comes as a surprise that he was only 73 years old at the time of his passing at 1:45 a.m. on December 25.

No James Brown, no r&b, no funk, no crunk, no hip-hop, no rap, nada. Here's a great clip of The Godfather Of Soul, backed by one of his customary razor-sharp precision bands.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Nat King Cole - Christmas Song



Merry Christmas, Peace On Earth, Good Will To Men - And Women - With The Incomparable Nat "King" Cole!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

My Favorite Christmas Special



Ever-bawdy lounge singer-comedienne Dusty Towne (Catherine O'Hara) hosts her Sexy Holiday Special, featuring guest star Divine (John Candy) on SCTV. Originally broadcast December 1981.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Burt Bacharach Day



Commemorating this month's Burt Bacharach Day, Mr. Bungle performs "What The World Needs Now Is Love" live at the Sno-Core mini-festival on January 18, 2000.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Adieu, And (Again) Thanks For All The Fun And Laughs, Joe Barbera (1911-2006)


(left, with Bill Hanna)
Boy, do I get sick and tired of writing these R.I.P. postings for my blog (didn't even get to the wonderful Betty Comden and the eternally swingin' Anita O'Day, sorry about that); however, the great artists from the 20th century are departing this earth, one by one. Another one, Joe Barbera, passed away at 95 yesterday (December 18). With the passings of gifted artists Bernie Wolf and Ed Benedict earlier this year, we are getting very close to "last man standing" when it comes to veterans of the "Golden Age" of Hollywood and New York studio animation.

Amid Amidi has contributed an excellent post - with links aplenty - on Mr. Barbera at Cartoon Brew.

This ties in to my recent postings in one respect. . . the young Joe Barbera was at one point a gagman for. . . the Van Beuren studio, producers of Piano Tooners and other wacky early 30's gems.

I will reflect further on Joe Barbera's contributions to animation in a later post. And check your local public library for his book My Life In Toons, or order it (think you can still procure a copy online) if you have the requisite do-re-me. . . before, like all film history books, it becomes impossible to find.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Truly Obscure Animated Cartoons #7



Lady Play Your Mandolin, first Merrie Melodie, 1931, is a good example of the manic and peppy style of the early musical Warners cartoons produced by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Truly Obscure Animated Cartoons #6



Piano Tooners is a classic 1932 cartoon by the Van Beuren Studio, a ragtag group of ex-Paul Terry-toon staffers located just across the street and down from the Fleischer Studio. While they never quite hit the gloriously surreal heights of Fleischer (it's OK - practically nobody else did, either), Van Beuren cartoons - blending primitive animation, sick humor and elements of the bizarre - remain quite funny. My take is that the Van Beuren staff took full advantage of getting out from under Terry's influence and had the collective thought "Hey, Terry's not here to say no - we can do crazy #!&$^* now! Yippee!"

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Psychotronix Film Festival Redux

While the Psychotronix Film Festival has absolutely thrived upon its status as an underground phenomenon, without a doubt, that's over. Clearly, we have achieved some public notoreity and the winds of change are upon us. Will it be necessary to make major alterations in our method and madness in response to this? Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows? The creators of the Psychotronix Film Festival - myself included - are seriously pondering these questions.

Until then, my next show, in February '07, will combine 90+ year old silent movies with live music and sound effects by two master musicians who know how to have a good time. Stay tooned. . . and be seeing you.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Photos From KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival - December 9, 2006

Just a sampling of what San Francisco Bay Area residents who chose not to brave the torrential rains to attend last Saturday's KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival missed:


The beautiful Queen Of Trash, horror
host Mr. Lobo, KFJC Psychotronix
Film Festival co-founder Robert Emmett,
unsuspecting audience members and
a green mutant lead the multitudes in
the Cinema Insomnia oath.



The capacity crowd vacantly
recites the Cinema Insomnia oath.



More audience members, brains
utterly reduced to mush by the first

half of our show, join Mr. Lobo in
the Cinema Insomnia oath.

Right with 'em - and attempting very
unsuccessfully to hide out in the back
right corner: festival co-producers
Scott Moon and (in red shirt and
black hat) yours truly.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

R.I.P. And Thanks For The Laughs, Peter Boyle (1933-2006)


Here's the late great Peter Boyle, as the top-hatted song-and-dance-man version of "the hideous monster" in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, performing "Puttin' On The Ritz" with Gene Wilder. Too bad Boris Karloff didn't live to see it - he would have howled!

Now, if only I could find that clip of Peter and John Belushi doing "Duelling Brandos" from a 1976 episode of Saturday Night Live.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Psychotronic Cartoons, Exhibit B

Here's yet another amazing piece of work by the Fleischer Studio, Bimbo's Initiation (1931). If only we could be rewarded for our travails with a roomful of Betty Boops (dog ears or not)!



Although the cartoons got tamer and less risque as the 1930's progressed and the Production Code took effect in July 1934, the Fleischer Studio still periodically came up with wondrous, wildly imaginative and brilliant stuff, such as this tremendous futuristic cartoon about the 1939 New York World's Fair. The bit with the robot dance partners is one for the books.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Psychotronic Cartoons, Exhibit A


We slip a fair number of classic (and not-so-classic) cartoons into the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festivals. The early 30's work of New York's Fleischer Studio - surreal, macabre, bizarre and loaded with unabashed risqué humor, pre-Code style - remains the epitome of the "psychotronic" cartoon. Here's a good one: Silly Scandals (1931), uploaded by voiceman91.

This Fleischer classic could have been included among the Truly Obscure Animated Cartoons I have been posting, except for the appearance of Betty Boop, resplendent in her early 1930-1931 "dog ears" incarnation. Betty sings "You're Driving Me Crazy", a classic standard recorded in 1930 by the incredible Louis Armstrong and in the 40's by Peggy Lee. The song is also the cornerstone of a wonderful 1931 Screen Song cartoon. Clearly, somebody at Fleischer's was musically hip.

We concur with the audience of Fleischer cartoon animals: WE WANT BETTY! WE WANT BETTY!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival

Another December has rolled around, so that means it's time for the customary KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival. Huh? The customary what?

"Psychotronix" is a variation on Michael Weldon's "Psychotronic History Of Cinema", the encyclopedia of all varieties of under-the-radar B-films: monster movies, horror films, science fiction, cheap comedies, rock 'n' roll flicks, etc. The
KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival presents a unique spin on this hallucinatory excursion through the irritated bowels of popular culture. The first half of the show focuses on short films: trailers from truly wretched movies, well-meaning 50's educational films, schlocky drive-in movies with guys in stupid-looking robot and gorilla suits, vintage TV commercials and theatre ads, cartoon rarities, Japanese monster epics, Scopitones, Soundies and other even more obscure musical shorts, silent film clips, kidvid, serial chapters, puppet animation, double-entendre packed pre-Code comedies and more. Our gala feature films are plump holiday turkeys that would invariably make the heart of the late Edward D. Wood Jr. go pitty-pat. . . We consider the evening a smashing success when the audience starts heckling the feature before the projection lamp goes on.


The festival is also something of a reaction against all standard rules of film programming. Instead of devoting a screening to one director, one genre or one series, our celluloid concoctions throw a wide variety of films from different places, genres, techniques or time periods together. As far as content goes, the more obscure, the lower the budget, the more under-the-radar, the better. If we can establish a subject link or a Monty Python-esque visual or verbal link between the segments, great, but this is not absolutely necessary. Or to make a further Monty Python reference, this could be called the "And Now For Something Completely Different" approach to film programming. Some of our best shows are essentially improvised, with archivist-producers Bob Ekman, Scott Moon and myself creating the program on the fly, responding to audience reaction and choosing films accordingly.


The next KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival will occur on Saturday, December 9, from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM, in room 5015 on the Foothill College campus in the lovely Los Altos Hills, not far from the dreaded Silicon Valley. There will be a $5 donation which benefits the innovative, refreshingly un-corporate and fearless KFJC 89.7. You'll also need $2 quarters for a parking permit.

Rob Emmett, host of "The Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show", presides over the festivities with panache, bon mots and a boatload of cheesy door prizes. Special guests will include the Mighty Megafant, the Queen Of Trash and the host of Cinema Insomnia, Mr. Lobo.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Truly Obscure Animated Cartoons #5


DISCLAIMER: From the view here, this cartoon looks terribly racially offensive; however, this shot only represents a few brief moments in the film. These character designs are demeaning. Unfortunately, I have yet to see a 1930's cartoon - including the ones made by animators who adored black artists - that does not portray African-Americans in this grotesque way. That was 1939. This (well, for 28 more days) is 2006.

Disclaimer said, this is a brilliant and hilarious cartoon. Jitterbug Follies, originally released on February 25, 1939, is among two "Count Screwloose and J.R. The Wonder Dog" cartoons made for MGM by legendary comic artist Milt Gross. Ace animators Bill Littlejohn, Ken Muse, Emery Hawkins, Irv Spence and others did a masterful job of transforming the energy, humor and spirit of Gross' drawings into expressive movement.

Jitterbug Follies was originally to be just one in a series of Milt Gross cartoons. Fred Quimby, the de facto executive producer, called the whole thing off after two films. The now infamous response, attributed to either the notoriously humorless Quimby or mega-mogul (with an iron fist) Louis B. Mayer, was that the Milt Gross cartoons were "beneath the dignity of MGM." Too bad - clearly, Milt would have given Bob Clampett, then the unchallenged master of black and white cartoons (Fleischer, the former champ, having abdicated by that time) a run for his money. Besides, Otto and Blotto, the penguin duo in Jitterbug Follies, richly deserved their own starring series.

For more info on Milt Gross' brief stint at MGM, check out Joe Barbera's enjoyable memoir My Life In Toons. And thanks to Kevin Langley (whose animation art blog rocks) for uploading this.