Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas From 1939 And Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog

Last year, creator of cool radio shows and film scholar Aaron Neathery posted a great Eddie Cantor tune, The Only Thing I Want For Christmas, on The Third Banana blog last year. I like it a lot and, being way too damn lazy to write a blog, cribbed Eddie's 1939 Yuletide offering for today's Merry Christmas blog entry.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Last Day For Holiday Fundraiser



The
Menu For Hope fundraiser runs through Christmas Day! If you're lucky enough to have a job or investments that didn't tank, bid online for these very cool gifts - and have fun doing it!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

More Cheesy Christmas Commercials

Courtesy of RetroJunk.com, here are some truly cheesy Christmas commercials for reprehensible and diabetes-inducing products. I feel guilty enough to flee to the gym with turbo-jets on my ass after just one viewing of these ads!



Friday, December 18, 2009

Cheesy Christmas Commercials

Until I find a 1976 TV commercial in which reggae icon Peter Tosh says "friends, here's a wonderful Christmas gift for anyone who smokes herb" (giving new meaning to the phrase "it's TOASTED"), this Christmas chestnut from Your Hit Parade will have to do!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Psychotronic Paul's Favorite Technicolor Musical Sequence Ever

I saw this, believe it or not, for the first time last night at San Francisco's fabulous Castro Theatre, as part of their excellent Samuel Goldwyn retrospective.

Also thought I had seen every bizarre musical production number ever committed to film in 1928-1934. Well, think again!



The final 20 minutes of Kid Millions had me sitting with gaping-mouthed astonishment, marveling at the sheer quantity and variety of WTF moments!

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival Returns

Like a determined yet mindless zombie in a George Romero flick, the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival returns to wreak its harvest of pop culture mayhem yet again!


  • When: December 12, 2009, 7:00 to 11:30 P.M.


  • Where: Room 5015 on the Foothill College campus, Los Altos Hills, El Monte exit off of Highway 280.


  • Who: Hosted by Robert Emmett of KFJC-FM's Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show. PLUS special guest appearance by horror host Mr. Lobo of Cinema Insomnia.


  • Why: a frothing celluloid mixmaster simply oozing with a multi-decade concoction blending ridiculous comedy, the indescribably bizarre and swingin' music never fails to be loads of fun!.


  • How Much: $5 Donation to Benefit KFJC and $2 Parking.




Get there early - these shows sell out!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Boris Karloff Blogathon Ends Today

The Boris Karloff Blogathon started a few days ago, bringing forth throngs of scholarly and well-written tributes - I especially like what John McElwee posted on his exceptional Greenbriar Picture Shows blog, both on November 23 and in his 2006 Karloff tribute - to the icon of Universal and AIP terror.

Here's Boris, in his element as host of the early 1960's Gothic horror-suspense-spook story-noir anthology series, Thriller. Imagine, in 1961 one could watch Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Thriller back-to-back on freakin' network television!




A tribute that Boris' daughter, Sara, presented at the Balboa Theatre a few years back included a splendid home movie clip of the horror movie icon making funny faces in full Frankenstein makeup; this, to me, capsulized just why we like this guy so much - and was also the funniest thing I had seen along these lines since Karloff's classic Butter-Nut Coffee commercial and the episode of The Jack Benny Program in which Peter Lorre sings "I Want A Gal Just Like The Gal That Buried Dear Old Dad".

Those glimpses of wry humor were, with his willingness to tackle
varied genres and mediums (radio, film, recordings, voice-overs for animation, television shows and ads) among the reasons why Boris pulled off that rarity in show biz, a lengthy and rewarding career, while both embracing and transcending the inevitable typecasting that comes with scary movie stardom.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving 2009 From Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog

No matter how thankful one is, everyone can use a laugh. Here are quite a few, courtesy of Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and their crews of ace animators at Warner Brothers.


Looney Toons - Bugs Bunny 189 - Bugs Bunny's... by jomjul-supafreak

Monday, November 23, 2009

Lillian Roth, 1934

Here's a bit from Story Conference (1934), a far better Vitaphone musical short than the one I posted a couple of days ago. This peppy production number stars the fabulous singer-dancer-comedienne Lillian Roth as "Little Alimony Sal".

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nothing Ever Happens

Since Warner Archive has just issued a 6-DVD box set of Vitaphone musical shorts (about which I will scout around for discount deals online), that gives me an excuse to post a 1933 Vitaphone two-reeler.

This mini-sendup of Grand Hotel has a few fun moments, mostly involving gratuitous high-kicking showgirls. Granted, this is not as anywhere near as glorious as the "Grand Mills Hotel" feature-length spoof concept Buster Keaton pitched to Irving Thalberg (which, alas, was rejected, very likely by Louis B. Mayer). And even considering that the hilarious Lyda Roberti, at that time starring in feature films, was not cast as "Madam" and that neither Vernon Dent nor Lupino Lane are among the leads, this remains a diverting bit of early 1930's fluff.






Vitaphone musical shorts were issued in the 1990's briefly on laserdisc and didn't sell, so classic movie buffs, support this endeavor and enable more stuff from the vaults to get restored and released on DVD! Supposedly, plans are in the works for further restorations of 1920's and early 1930's Vitaphone short subjects.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How To Yodel

While I have no idea where Weirdo Video found this footage from the Hadley's Town Hall Party TV show, it definitely features the best yodeling I've seen other than Republic Pictures western and 50's television star Roy Rogers.



Do any of this blog's readers know anything about the strummin', yodelin' vocalist in this clip, Diane Jur (pardon me - I have difficulty understanding the Hadley Town Hall Party host's introduction)? She sings, yodels and plays the acoustic guitar with panache and would appear to be a contemporary of Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson. The honky tonk style pianist is good, too.

And, speaking of Patsy Cline, also a quite capable yodeler. . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Bay Area Sports News Flashes by Paul F. Etcheverry

The Golden State Warriors traded Monta Ellis to the Memphis Grizzlies for a bologna sandwich, with bologna to be named later. Coach Don Nelson is currently publicly humiliating two pieces of Wonder Bread. Team President Robert Rowell is at Retro Fit Vintage getting properly fitted for a Napoleon-style commandant outfit. Owner Chris Cohan is on his knees thanking God for Al Davis.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lowe, Hite & Stanley, 1945

Here's a clip which emphatically illustrates why vaudeville died. Still, I've thought about obtaining this Soundie to spring on an unsuspecting KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival or Lobo-tronic Show audience (hmmmm . . . must be my Andy Kaufman-esque desire to watch people squirm). The tall guy has a couple of nice double-jointed dance movies towards the end, but admittedly, this doesn't hold a candle to Reg Kehoe And The Marimba Queens, let alone such iconic risqué Soundies as Row Row Row.



Could these guys have been openers for Bert Lahr and Joe Frisco? Maybe, but they were certainly lower on the bill than both boxers-turned-comedians Mitchell & Durant and the toy poodle act.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

What late-1950's B-movie trailer could I post (on blog entry #333) that includes the essential elements of the Frankenstein genre, mixed with breathtakingly lame-brained grindhouse exploitation and both inept and indefensible horror? While I considered coming detractions from the mind-numbingly bad B-film The Brain That Wouldn't Die, this trailer for Atom Age Vampire takes the cake and makes Edward D. Wood, Jr. look like Orson Welles.



Since Halloween actually falls on a Saturday, there are tons of events throughout the San Francisco Bay Area tonight.

Oddball Film offers a
Terror Noir screening, local Jazz Mafia luminaries meet at Coda for the 7th annual
Mobster's Ball jam session, while Dragula and Tran Helsing host the Midnight Mass/Trannyshack Horror Show, featuring uber-ghastly horror movie clips and a special performance by guest star Jackie Beat.


And, alas, if you are a parent and/or hold a job that (drat) requires getting up early, check out the kid-friendly 4:00 matinee or the 7:30 screening of Paul Leni's Gothic ghost story/mystery The Last Warning at the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum's Edison Theatre.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Movies In San Francisco Bay Area

Halloween-related movie events are happening all over the San Francisco Bay Area this week. Since these shows overlap, it isn't possible to attend all of them, but do your best, classic movie mavens and late show insomniacs!

Tuesday and Wednesday, October 27 and 28 at 7:00 p.m.
Shock It To Me presents a Vincent Price Double Bill featuring The Last Man On Earth and The Tomb Of Ligeia, directed by Roger Corman. Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115.

Wednesday, October 28 and Thursday, October 29 at 7:00 p.m.
Bay Area Film Events presents Creature Features Live; host of KTVU's Creature Features from 1979-1984, John Stanley, will preside over two fright nights, the first family-friendly and featuring Son Of Godzilla with Frankenstein Vs. the Wolfman, the second not-so-family friendly and co-billing Motel Hell with The Howling. Grand Lake Theatre, 3200 Grand Avenue, Oakland

Thursday, October 29 at 7:30 p.m. Thrillville presents
Halloween Gore n' Snorefest co-bills Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers with Zontar, The Thing From Venus. Live in person: special guests The Deadlies and Lady Monster. Balboa Theatre, 3630 Balboa (at 38th Avenue), San Francisco.


Thursday, October 29, at 9:00 p.m. The Cosmic Hex presents Werewolves On Wheels (1971) and Simon, King Of The Witches (1971), with ORDNUNGSAMT (from Germany) performing LIVE between features. Vortex Room, 1082 Howard (at 7th Street), San Francisco


Friday, October 30, 8:00 PM
Paramount Movie Classics presents Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein. Box Office opens @ 6:00pm Doors open @ 7:00 Curtain rises @ 8:00pm. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Burt Bacharach Day

And here's yet another amazing collaboration between two guys who know a thing or two about pop songcraft, Burt Bacharach and Elvis Costello, from the 1998 Sessions At West 54th concert.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Joe Frisco, 1931



How comedian/dancer/actor Joe Frisco, seen in this clip from the American Masters documentary Vaudeville, executed this precision act without swallowing that stogie like a cartoon character, I'll never know. Without a doubt, if Michael Jackson ever saw this clip, he would have tried to incorporate these nimble dance floor moves into this terpsichorian bag o' tricks. Maybe Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly saw Frisco's act and did just that.

Joe Frisco appears in Happy Hottentots, one of numerous Vitaphone musical shorts on the Al Jolson: The Jazz Singer - Three Disc Deluxe Edition. For more information on genuine vaudeville that was filmed at the dawn of talkies, check out
The Vitaphone Project.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

This Friday In Sacramento: Lobo-tronic Spookshow Extravaganza

This Friday evening at Sacramento's LDV Auditorium, a good portion of the footage-crazed rapscallions who bring late show insomniacs the notorious KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival will proudly present:



Friday evening's Spookshow will star an unspecified and never-to-be-repeated amalgam of goofy Halloween-related footage, with "your horror host", Mr. Lobo from Cinema Insomnia presiding over the festivities as m.c. and ringmaster.

That said, my purpose upon this earth today will be rummaging through reels of 16mm film, seeking anything involving actors in ridiculous monster, skeleton, robot, ghoul, Frankenstein, Dracula and "thunder lizard" costumes. I would add that if you're in the Sacramento/Fair Oaks area and you have kids, bring' em over for the fun, as this is very likely as family-friendly a show as we will ever do.


The event: Mr. Lobo's Not-Very-Scary Spookshow
The date: Friday, October 9, 2009
The time: 6:30 p.m.
The place: Leonardo DaVinci School
Auditorium
4701 Joaquin Way
Sacramento, CA 95822
(916) 277-6496

Saturday, October 03, 2009

For The Love Of Funk, New Orleans Style



I attended the "For The Love Of Funk" concert aforementioned here, in which George Porter, Jr. and Zigaboo Modeliste, two founding members of New Orlean's legendary groove gurus The Meters tore the roof off San Francisco's DNA Lounge and proved that, yes, Poncé, there is a fountain of youth. This was the hardest rockin' group I've witnessed since a late 1980's concert of Ornette Coleman's Prime Time, which funked it up like mad (two electric guitarists, two electric bassists and two drummers drove that beat) while also exploring the far frontiers of Coleman's distinctive harmolodic universe in a most deliciously dangerous way.

For just a taste of this New Orleans treat, jambalaya served hot to one nation under a groove, enjoy this clip of 3/4 of the original members of The Meters rocking out at the 2009 New Orleans Jazzfest.



Psychotronic Paul says: don't miss this motherfunkin' band if they play in your town (U.S.A. or elsewhere). They rock - and embody the highest level of spiritual expression.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Today And Tomorrow In Santa Cruz, CA: The Fab Four Film Festival



Bay Area Film Events presents a tribute to the Beatles at the Del Mar Theatre in Santa Cruz this weekend. Here's a trailer promoting the event, which will include live performances by Drew Harrison and Peter Lomenzo of The Sun Kings.



Since I still have quite the soft spot for the Fab Four after all these years - especially the era involving that most productive competition between the Beatles-Sir George Martin and Brian Wilson (objective: make the most progressive, most orchestral, most mind-blowing pop album ever), this appeals to me.

I also have a soft spot for the still mod films of Richard Lester, so seeing A Hard Day's Night again on the big screen is a must, and am ready for a followup event involving Eric Idle's The Rutles, George Harrison's contributions to the early Saturday Night Live and various Monty Python-related endeavors.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Art Car Fest Hits The San Francisco Bay Area

Art Car Fest 2009 brings a colorful cornucopia of "vehicles gone wild" to the Bay Area this weekend. They will be in Redwood City on Saturday and Berkeley on Sunday. Here are clips from previous Art Car Fests, packed with amazing - and often hilariously funny - objects d' art.





It has been suggested to me, a film collector (by an artist, no less), that I create an art car with reels, projector/splicer parts, projection lamps and footage. While this is a fantastic idea, the only problem is that I, as a serious classic film geek, would opt to make my strange vehicle with ridiculously rare tinted silent movies and I.B. Technicolor cartoons on 35mm nitrate film. Nitrate is highly combustible, so it would ultimately be necessary to torch the vehicle, Burning Man style; alas, I love both cars and films too much to do this. Come to think of it, being a musician, I could never bring myself to light any of my guitars on fire (a la the great Jimi Hendrix), even the axes I didn't like.

For more cool stuff on this fun event, which brings new meaning to the phrase "cash for clunkers", check out the Art Car Fest Blog.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Born On This Day In 1926

John Coltrane (1926-1967), one serious musician. Here's a rare bit of an interview recorded in 1966.



I believe the following clip is from the John Coltrane Quartet's appearance on the KQED-TV program Jazz Casual (correct me if I'm wrong).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Burt Bacharach Day

I can think of no better way to precede a listening of Elvis Costello Live With The Metropole Orkest - My Flame Burns Blue (recorded at the 2004 North Sea Jazz Festival) than by enjoying my last Elvis Meets Chet (Baker, not Atkins) blog entry, followed by this stellar performance of "God Give Me Strength" featuring no less than Burt Bacharach, the maestro himself, on piano. Now, if there could be an Elvis Costello - Diana Krall tour with Burt as conductor/pianist. . .

Friday, September 11, 2009

Interview: Two Songwriters Extraordinaire, Isaac Hayes And David Porter, June 2008

Note on this interview from the Conclave Learning Conference in Minneapolis (June 28, 2008): I have omitted Part 2, as there is no audio on Part 2 of the youtube clip, as well as Part 4, which is devoted to audience questions.



Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Never Can Say Goodbye by Mike n' Ike - Pick Your Favorite Version!

Here's a tune written by Clifton Davis that topped the charts and became concert show-stoppers for at least two 70's icons. In this corner, from Motown Records, The Jackson 5!



And in this corner, from Stax Records, the fabulous Isaac Hayes! I'm partial to the following version and Hayes' baritone vocal stylings - although both renditions are great.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Raymond Scott Quintette, 1938

It's Labor Day Weekend, so I'm really too lazy to write today. So here's a clip from Happy Landing (1938) featuring the music of the amazing Raymond Scott Quintette and tapdancers dressed in Sitting Bull costumes.



So dear readers, however many or few, have a great weekend! If you're gainfully employed, enjoy and relish the time off. If you're out of work, I sincerely hope that paying and fulfilling employment (or an inspirational entrepreneurial brainstorm) comes soon!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

More San Francisco Bay Area Jazz



Here's a bit of much-needed balm in these unrelentingly lousy economic times:

Tonight, the excellent "little big band"
8 Legged Monster is having its CD release party at San Francisco Yoshi's. Of four exceptional S.F. Bay Area female jazz singers, Kim Nalley, Tré Taylor, Lavay Smith and Karina Denike (add a fifth chanteuse, Paula West, when she is not on extended engagements in New York), two - Lavay and Karina - will be belting 'em out with 8 Legged Monster tonight.

8 Legged Monster's 8:00 p.m. set will be followed by a late show by The Shotgun Wedding Hip-Hop Symphony, an ensemble which blends jazz rhythms, arrangements and improvisation with the linguistics and distinctive beats of hip-hop. As hip-hop can often be very metric and free-flowing "without a net" improvisational jazz is anything but metric, I don't know how they do it, but this band pulls it off. They are carrying on the artistic tradition of Herbie Hancock, who mixed funk, 1960's style bop, r&b, free jazz (thanks to Bennie Maupin's powerful saxophone work), synth-pop and rock brilliantly back in the 1970's.

Across town at
Amnesia on Valencia Street between 19th and 20th, Gaucho pays homage to the sweet, sprightly and enduring "Gypsy Jazz" music of guitar god Django Reinhardt and The Hot Club Of France.

While not yet near the level of that last stretch of Bay Area music glory in the early to mid-1990's (ah, yes - heady days of many great young jazz bands, several of which featured innovative guitarist Charlie Hunter, playing the Elbo Room, Radio Valencia, Bruno's, Up & Down Club, Beanbenders, etc.), activity has been building slowly over the past few years. Hallelujah, we have a live jazz scene again.

So don't blow 250 semolians to attend one concert by some dinosaur act that doesn't need the money anyway, check out these fine local musicians instead. Support local arts and artists - it's up to you!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Back To The Sandbox, 1966

Here's one of the great songs Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks wrote in the sandbox (yes, there was a piano in the sandbox) in 1966. Brian, Van Dyke - I look forward to hearing you guys perform in the San Francisco Bay Area again sometime!

Friday, August 28, 2009

In The Rear View Mirror by Paul F. Etcheverry

With apologies, I leave the playgrounds of music and movies. I'll return to the sandbox - like the great Brian Wilson in 1966 - pronto.

Eulogies for Senator Edward Kennedy continue to pour in and literally thousands are paying their respects at the Kennedy Library as I write this. Not only is there the sense, with the recent deaths of the Senator from Massachusetts and his sister, formidable activist Eunice Kennedy Shriver, of the end of an era in our shared history. There's a gnawing feeling that a certain style and approach in American politics, one in which you can battle opposing forces toe-to-toe without demonizing and dehumanizing them, is vanishing.

Senator Kennedy and Rep. Jack Kemp, both recently passed, as well as 2009 Medal Of Honor recipients (Kemp posthumously) this year, represented the two opposite sides of this coin. Both were lightning rods who followed their own paths, assertively partisan yet capable of listening to and at times even finding common ground with political foes. They found the most unlikely collaborators in public service and ruffled feathers in both parties along the way.


The concept that legislators can disagree vehemently on how to solve the problems of the day while
working together on policy initatives, not only maintaining a civil relationship but actually (shudder) becoming friends - something Ted Kennedy was particularly and singularly adept at - is rapidly becoming a quaint anachronism.

Much to our country's detriment, the status quo now, not just in campaigning, but in governing (as well as in the often brain-dead national discourse), is to not just destroy your opponent but leave scorched earth and a pile of smoking ashes behind.


And we wonder why social and political problems get worse and nothing gets done.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Happy Centenary To The Incomparable Prez



To celebrate the centenary of the inspired, fabulous and ever-soulful Lester Willis Young (1909-1959), here he is, the one and only "Prez", playing "Pennies From Heaven" with Hank Jones (piano), Ray Brown (bass), Bill Harris (trombone) and Buddy Rich (drums).



Following this is one of the greatest films ever made about jazz, Jammin' The Blues (1944), stylishly directed by Life Magazine photographer Gjon Mili.




It is my hope that Lester found some peace in the hereafter that he largely did not enjoy in his time on this planet.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Some Stevie Wonder For A Sunday

Continuing the Steve Wonder thread, we'll start with a genuinely moving clip from a somber occasion, the Michael Jackson memorial service. Something I would have loved to have seen that didn't happen (thanks, the many conspiracy theories about Michael's death being a grand hoax notwithstanding, to The King Of Pop's abuse of some awfully heavy-duty prescription drugs): a CD of splendid songs and performances from Michael and Stevie hanging out in the studio informally, having fun, singing each other's tunes, contributing creative arrangements, making music for the pure joy of it.



And, on a lighter note. . . I have sought out clips of Stevie playing live during his inspired early to mid-1970's stretch that produced the great albums Talking Book, Innervisions and Fulfillingness' First Finale. Found one of him performing "Superstition" in 1973, unfortunately sans Jeff Beck's brilliant guitar work but wonderful nonetheless.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Realistic Orchestra



The Realistic Orchestra will be part of the 40-piece ensemble that will play at Yoshi's San Francisco from Thursday through Sunday. Here are more music clips by this Jazz Mafia mainstay, carrying on the Gil Evans-Miles Davis flame while adding original spins to the mix.


This first composition reminds me of Wayne Shorter's late 60's and early 70's compositions. Nice mysterioso feel and top-notch brass n' reed arrangements here. The second clip, featuring the vocal stylings of Chris McGhee, is from one of the band's annual Stevie Wonder tributes. Since Stevie started writing bonafide jazz chord changes from about the age of eleven, it's a good fit. Enjoy!






Sunday, August 16, 2009

San Francisco Jazz: August 2009


Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project, live at the Riptide

For today's entry, I will single out two of my current favorite bands in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Ralph Carney's Serious Jass Project (A.K.A. The Cottontails) has a new CD,
available via cdbaby.com. Ralph brings the same blend of fun and stellar musicianship with humor to small group swing-to-bop-jump music that he has to his extremely wide-ranging other projects (including creative accompaniment for silent movies he did with another S.F. Bay Area luminary, Beth Custer, at several shows I produced). There's also some of the fire and intensity you got back in the days when mighty players like Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Lester Young and Ben Webster roamed the earth. Buy this recording!

The Realistic Orchestra's recent tribute to the music of Michael Jackson sold out the expansive confines of Yoshi's in San Francisco. Here's just a bit of the excitement from that concert on August 5, 2009.




I sincerely hope the entire set of fresh takes on MJ classics will be issued on DVD or CD sometime. Perhaps we will be seeing more streaming video soon on the Jazz Mafia website. It's a fitting tribute, as well as fantastic music.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The World Is Dyslexic

I have at least one reason for a fair amount of the conflict, strife and senseless violence around the globe, including a fair amount of current putrid horseshit (and I mean that with sincere apologies to all the nice horsies out there). It all starts innocently enough, with this incredibly irritating TV commercial:



Now a certain number of folks just watched that ad and concluded "that's the most IRRITATING thing I've ever seen, but I can't stop thinking of the jingle, and want to buy this product - and I don't even have a dog! Dammit, I'm telling all my friends with Schnauzers NOT to buy Ken'l Ration, EVER!"

Everyone else just saw "My GOD'S better than your GOD!" The world is dyslexic.

No doubt this commercial got translated into hundreds of languages and made it to the far corners of the globe. This concept. . . "My GOD'S better than your GOD!" drives everybody from the suicide bombers to the settlement movement to hysterical nut-jobs in the United States

Please, ladies and gentlemen, go with the rational-thinking first reaction. . . yes, that means don't buy that, ever!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Moth Who Came To Dinner

Don't have much to say at the moment, so I'll post a classic Looney Tunes cartoon. Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng all made some pretty amazing contributions to the black and white Looney Tunes series. Here's a particularly fun one directed by Bob Clampett. Love the theme song, hilarious voice work by Mel Blanc and Sara Berner, and the cheerfully wacky spirit of the animation.



To appreciate the many original touches in Eatin' On The Cuff, check out John Kricfalusi's shot-by-shot breakdown.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New On DVD: Retrospective Of Silent Film Comedy Innovator by Paul F. Etcheverry


"Charley Chase's run of Pathe two reelers from 1925 through 1927 are an astonishing group -- two dozen comedies, each with carefully crafted gag situations that aren't repeated, almost every film a gem. The only track record comparable are the Laurel & Hardy silent MGM shorts of 1927-1929. The few Chase MGM silents that escaped a fate of nitrate decomposition (such as THE STING OF STINGS and LIMOUSINE LOVE) are equally outstanding." Historian Ed Watz, author (with Ted Okuda) of The Columbia Comedy Shorts

Prolific writer-director-comedian Charley Chase - some of you may know him from his role as "the practical joker" in Laurel and Hardy's Sons Of The Desert (1933) - just got some more of his due recognition earlier today.



All Day Entertainment released Becoming Charley Chase, a 4-DVD box set spanning his early career in silent films. While it's a good bet that many of this blog's readers know who Charley Chase (A.K.A. Charles Parrott) was and have seen some of his films, as well the classic two-reelers he directed at Columbia Pictures for The Three Stooges, even fans may not be aware of his importance in film and comedy history.



Chase, along with fellow innovators Harry Langdon and Lloyd Hamilton, essentially changed film history in the mid-1920's by bringing a less frantic, more sophisticated and varied approach to both slapstick and that bastard child of entertainment, the comedy short subject. All three expanded the screen comedy palette. Chase in particular added more sophisticated storylines to classic sight gag humor.



Prior to that, sophisticated comedy and slapstick were strictly separate genres, especially in short films. Sophisticated comedy, exemplified by the popular Mr. And Mrs. Sidney Drew, primarily stuck to pratfall-free but absurdity-filled marital farces. Slapstick - epitomized by the "louder, faster, shorter" school of Mack Sennett, Henry Lehrman and Larry Semon, the king of epic sight gag spectacle - was a rip-roaring characterization-free zone where guys with gargantuan mustaches ran around frantically, threw pies, destroyed cars, water towers crashed, fat guys got doused with gallons of goo, little guys scampered on skyscrapers, lions chased terrified actors, stuff "blowed up real good". . . and stuntmen worked hard, very hard.



Charley Chase mastered all of the above: directed marital farces starring Mr. And Mrs. Carter DeHaven, slapstick for Sennett, Hal Roach (the Snub Pollard series) and Chaplin imitator Billy West, as well as Lloyd Hamilton, whose 1920's and 1930's comedies blend sight gag humor with subtle acting, deliberate timing and an eternally world-weary sad sack characterization. Charley also was among the creative team that developed the Our Gang comedy series for Hal Roach in 1921-1922.



By merging elements of the two genres, as well as fostering a more character-driven approach with Our Gang, Chase changed the very nature of film humor, paving the way for both Laurel & Hardy and the screwball comedy genre that became popular just a few years later.



Although he has been hailed as the originator of situation comedy and aptly compared to Dick Van Dyke (especially Dick's 1960-1965 TV series, created by Carl Reiner), Charley Chase also points forward to quite a few comedians both in and outside of that genre who became prominent long after his death in 1940. The clever invention of his ideas recalls Ernie Kovacs. The contrast between an everyman and a host of improbable, bizarre and wacky things that can happen brings to mind an equally funny guy whose style is very different from Chase: the great Bob Newhart, master of standup comedy and the sitcom. And his mannerisms - especially in such still hilarious films as Mighty Like A Moose (1926) - often make me think of The Goons and The Pythons (watch the Ministry Of Silly Walks sketch and then reference Charley's inebriated gait in His Wooden Wedding).



The 4-DVD set traces his artistic development and features a selection of short and sweet one-reel short subjects he starred in and co-directed with Leo McCarey.



It includes over 40 silent shorts from Chase's early years in movies, both as actor and director, and chronologically moves from his first directorial efforts for Mack Sennett, later films he made as a freelancing director (including one in which he co-stars with the always fabulous Oliver "Babe" Hardy - before either worked at the Hal Roach Studio) and Chase's re-invention as starring performer.



I extend big time thanks to David Kalat, Robert Blair at VCI Entertainment and all the film historians - Ben Model, Robert Arkus, Richard M. Roberts, Paul Gierucki, Rob Farr, Yair Solan, Bruce Lawton, Dave Stevenson - who contributed to this. If you love classic comedy and film history, buy it.






Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bring Back Classic Cartoons To Television!

Now that classic cartoons don't even show on the Cartoon Network anymore, we animation fans don't want them to go the way of the do-do and bipartisanship. We want cartoons back on TV!

In pursuit of this worthy goal, animator and producer of Cartoonland Presents, "Cap'n Kevin" Coffey, has commenced a campaign to bring his show, which ran from 2001 - 2005 on channel 29, back to local TV screens in the San Francisco Bay Area. Here's a clip of the Cap'n, accompanied by a strangely familiar looking First Mate, introducing the cartoon fun:



San Francisco Bay Area cartoon fans: strike blows both for classic animation and the tradition of freewheeling, fun local programming by lobbying for the Cartoonland Presents show on the KOFY-TV website. Or write to and phone the KOFY-TV programming department demanding it!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Burt Bacharach Day

Since, as far as I know, there weren't any Burt songs about the July 20, 1969 moon landing, this month's selection will be the next best thing, a Diana Krall cover of "Walk On By".



It's probably just as well - I'm having difficulty envisioning "one small step for man. . ." as a Burt bossa groove.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Good Unfinished Idea

Since this idea for a cover by The Beach Boys of "Walk On By" was never completed (at least, not that I know of), I hesitate to select it for Burt Bacharach Day. Still, the glimmer of brilliance and originality, as Brian Wilson adapts those "Four Freshman" vocal harmonies to Bacharach's songwriting, is undeniable.

This sounds like it's from the era when the Beach Boys were experimenting with quite a few covers: when Wild Honey (1967), which also includes the "Brian meets Motown meets Bacharach" gem Aren't You Glad, was their latest album.



From the brief evidence here, it sounds like this - had it progressed beyond the germ of an idea stage - would have been a fabulous Beach Boys recording. I certainly hope this one minute bit was not all there was to it.

That said: yes, I admit it, dear readers, it's time for yours truly to join the nearest Beach Boys/ Wilson Brothers 12-step group!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Scream Queens And Silent Movies On The Big Screen In San Francisco


"Twelve years of Catholic school and you end up with this." Peaches Christ

This weekend, San Francisco Bay Area residents have their pick of several classic movie extravaganzas. As if it wasn't enough that The Creature Of The Black Lagoon in 3-D is at the fabulous Paramount Theatre, there's two nights of Peaches Christ's Midnight Mass at the Bridge Theatre, as well as the San Francisco Silent Film Festival at the Castro.


Peaches Christ never fails to entertain as quick-witted MC, interviewer, filmmaker, raconteur, TV show host and architect of the often hilarious Midnight Mass film series, which will kick off its 12th and final season tomorrow night.



Linda Blair, everyone's favorite 1980's B-movie star and a consistently strong performer in a wide range of film and television roles, will be there - LIVE IN-PERSON - for screenings of Roller Boogie and The Exorcist (which arguably features the greatest scream queen star turn ever) and to reminisce about her decades in Hollywood. The genuine Linda Blair “hero” costume from the jaunty, cheesy and riotously campy Roller Boogie will be auctioned off, with all proceeds going to her top-notch animal rescue charity, the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation.


I love the San Francisco Silent Film Festival and it's back, now in its 14th year. There will be 35mm archival prints (accompanied by gifted musicians), historians, authors, film collectors and happy classic movie geeks galore all weekend.



This year's fest will include films by two of my all-time favorite directors, Josef von Sternberg and Gregory LaCava, as well as a selection of very cool early Disney cartoons animated by, among others, the best draftsman in the West in the late 20's, the great Ub Iwerks. The customary killer-diller accompanists - Donald Sosin, Dennis James, Phil Carli, Stephen Horne among them - will be there to rock the house.
The Castro Theatre is a treasure, a genuine art-deco movie palace (like the Paramount and Stanford Theaters), and the best place to see this stuff on the big screen.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

One Of Life's Burning Questions, Not Quite Answered by Paul F. Etcheverry

What Is Truth? Something we seek, provided it doesn't reflect badly on us in any way, ever.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Incomparable Nicholas Brothers, 1940

Had the pleasure of watching Harold Nicholas skillfully transport a willing audience to uptempo oooh bop sh-bam scat singing land with Jon Hendricks in San Francisco's North Beach a little over 40 years after this production number was filmed for Down Argentine Way, an epic Betty Grable - Carmen Miranda musical produced by 20th Century Fox.

Little did I know that the swingin', scattin', dancin' machine entertaining the lucky audience that day was indeed the same guy who, with his brother Fayard, was responsible for jaw-droppingly unbelievable acrobatic dance routines in a slew of 1930's and 1940's musicals.

So here, check it out, is the real deal - what entertainment is all about.



Harold and Fayard, thankfully, enjoyed a lengthy career, even turning up on The Jackson 5's TV show in 1977; I would have posted that clip if the picture quality had been better.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Blood Drive July 1 At Stanford

As the refrain of "I'll Be There" still wafts its ear-worm rhapsody through my consciousness, I dedicate post #300 to an important event and cause taking place tomorrow.

Mr. Mark Alexander, a good friend to yours truly and many of this blog's readers, was critically injured in an accident on June 3.


Our friend, Mark Alexander


I still do not know the particulars, but he suffered numerous compound fractures of both legs and feet. He has undergone several surgeries and will be undergoing more. Only immediate family has been allowed to see him; it will be awhile before he is able to take calls or visitors.


So tomorrow has been set aside, from noon to 7:30 p.m., for a drive on Mark's behalf at the Stanford Blood Center.



If you are healthy, by all means, give blood. Donors: eat, drink plenty o' fluids and:

  • Be at least 17 years of age
  • Weigh at least 110 lbs (no problem for lots of us)
  • Be free of nasty cold and flu viruses
  • Bring photo ID

If unable to give blood - you're unwittingly carrying pathogens or take injectible drugs based from bovine products - stop by anyway and hang out in beautiful Palo Alto, as you will likely meet friends.

The amazing thing is that even if you're at the age where you can say "I've got more medications in my bloodstream than William S. Burroughs and Keith Richards combined - and didn't have any fun in the process", you might still be OK to give blood. Call the folks at the Stanford Blood Center and find out. The information numbers of Stanford Blood Center are (toll-free) 888-723-7831 and
650-723-7831.

Mark's friends - and he has been a steadfast, trustworthy and reliable one to many - have set up a blog to post updates, share support, goodwill and prayers.