Sunday, November 26, 2017

This Saturday: the 25th Anniversary KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival



Next weekend, the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival rides the vistas of "our celluloid past" yet again.



This is the 25th anniversary of the first time archivists Sci Fi Bob Ekman and Paul F. Etcheverry schlepped 16mm projectors and boxes of reels into Room 5015 of Foothill College to produce a benefit show for our favorite radio station, KFJC 89.7 FM.



Our favorite KFJC on-air personality, the mindbogglingly knowledgeable movie and television music expert Robert Emmett, hosted the cinematic crazy quilt: the customary Psychotronix Film Festival deluge of ancient commercials, weird and forgotten cartoons, bizarre beyond belief musical short subjects, trailers from bad movies and clips from long-gone TV shows.



To his emcee role, Mr. Emmett brought the same flair and wit with which he has hosted The Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show on Saturday mornings for three decades.



In 1997, Scott Moon, publisher of Planet X magazine and prolific producer/curator of 16mm film presentations in Sacramento, joined us and immediately upped the Psychotronix Film Festival ante.



Scott, archivist from the Cinema Insomnia TV show and the uncrowned King Of Scopitones, brought his imagination, humor and showmanship to the proceedings and gave our shows quite a lift.






So here we are, 25 years later, amazed we're still doing this. Yours truly (Mr. Blogmeister), having seen massive and Draconian changes in his life over the past 18 months, shall return to his former stomping grounds, the San Francisco Bay Area, for another opportunity to put on, as the great impressionist Will Jordan would say, "a rilllllllly big shoe" with this dream team of Robert, Sci Fi Bob, Scott and, presenting the always epic display of one sheets and lobby cards, Gary "The Poster King" Hascall.



The 25th anniversary KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival, New And Improved like 1950's dishwashing detergents, will bring the aforementioned usual suspects back to the Foothill College campus for another delirious all-16mm extravaganza.



As it was when we started presenting this cornucopia of pop culture mayhem, our overstocked and overheated archive is bursting at the cellulose acetate seams with some of the oddest - and I mean the oddest - films a moviegoing human shall see.




For the audience, we will have our customary Wide World Of Cheesy Door Prizes, such as Star Trek figurines, "drinking monkey" shot glasses, a Psychoanalyst comic book and delightful B-studio cartoons and Z-studio features on DVD - Glen Or Glenda, The Slime People and other masterpieces - that will never come close to making the AFI "7500 Best Films Of The 20th Century" list.



The night's program, including vintage snack bar ads, bloopers, well-meaning but clubfooted 1950's educational films, as well as trailers from drive-in movies featuring guys in robot and lizard suits, shall present quite the Mojo Workout!



The 25th Anniversary KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival



When: Saturday, December 2, 2017 - 7:00 PM to 11:30 PM
Where: Room 5015, Foothill College campus
12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills (El Monte exit off 280)
Why: We like cheesy movies.
How Much? $5 Donation Benefits KFJC. Bring $3 for Parking!
Parking: Lot #5
Public Transit: Cal Train and VTA
Info: Foothill College Transportation & Parking.



Arrive early, as the shows often sell out. Doors open at 6:00 p.m.



One can hear the fellas who produce this, the straws that stir the Psychotronix drink (Messrs Emmett, Ekman, Etcheverry, and Moon) jabber about the festival - A.K.A. attempt to explain something that absolutely, positively defies anything remotely resembling rational explanation - on KFJC tomorrow evening, November 27 on ThoughtLine from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.



Let's finish the 2017 the right way - Psychotronically!



Be among those who can say "I was there" at the 25th anniversary KFJC Psychotronix Film Fest!


Saturday, November 18, 2017

Unfortunate Print Ads: Comedians, Penguins & Cigarettes



Celebrity endorsements can be a tad tricky now, begging the questions of just what Bill Cosby was specifically using that Jell-o Pudding for and whether hot dog producers will have the temerity to approach Louis C K, Harvey Weinstein and Anthony Weiner about reviving the "I wish I were an Oscar Mayer Wiener" campaign.



That said, movie stars plugging smoooooooooooooth satisfying tobacco products goes back to the silent era. None other than swashbuckling Douglas Fairbanks Sr. was immortalized on Players cigarette cards.



Yes, even during the worst days of the Great Depression, there was serious dough-re-me in endorsing smokes. The health-conscious Mae West very likely never touched tobacco offscreen, but here she is, plugging Old Golds along with her latest flick, Belle Of The Nineties (1934).



Cigarette ads prove much less of a surprise with Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis.



This is for two reasons. One. . . ever seen Dino without a cigarette?



Two, the very Chesterfields Dean & Jerry are sounding off for were among the sponsors of The Colgate Comedy Hour, as well as their radio program. Smoke a pack of Chesterfields, then brush your teeth with Colgate Dental Creme!



This writer thinks the Kool Penguins are funny, if not necessarily in the Joe E. Lewis sense of the word. Fortunately, as far as we knew, the Kool Penguins did not perform in nightclubs, and did not - as far as we know - have run-ins with The Mob.



The little guys were big hits in print advertising.



The Kool Penguins even had their own theatrical animated commercials, contemporaneous with the terpsichorean tobacco ads that Oskar Fischinger was creating for Muratti Cigarettes. In this one, the penguins run and staff the Kool cigarettes plant in Kentucky and even the Statue Of Liberty smokes Kools.



One would think Bob Hope would not be caught dead endorsing anything as gnarly and unfashionable as cigars, but, like Martin & Lewis, he was prominent among the many comics to enthusiastically promote Chesterfield Cigarettes.



Lucille Ball endorsed Chesterfields, then switched to Phillip Morris when it joined the sponsors of I Love Lucy. That meant that Lucy would NOT "rather fight than switch."





The chain-smoking wheeling-dealing Sgt. Ernie Bilko was a natural for a show with a cigarette company as its chief sponsor.



So Phil Silvers, never to be outdone by Lucy & Desi or anyone, starred in a series of print ads for Camels. Both Phil and Ernie needed the cash for the next wager!




We thank the Phil Silvers Appreciation Society for posting a bunch of these ads.


Thursday, November 09, 2017

This Weekend: Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum Pays Tribute To Mabel Normand


"Scholars would do well to refocus attention on Normand’s distinctive contribution to early cinema and slapstick comedy, as well as the nature of her directorial work for Keystone." The Women Film Pioneers Project



Tomorrow is the 125th natal anniversary of one of the greatest comediennes in the history of motion pictures, the winsome and very funny Mabel Normand (1892-1930). Fittingly, the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum shall present a tribute to Mabel this Saturday and Sunday, November 11-12, 2017.



Recent books about the silent movie great include Timothy Dean Lefler's biography and Steve Massa's comprehensive and superb book on the numerous women of silent film comedy, Slapstick Divas, which devotes an entire chapter to her.



Recognition for Mabel Normand - an actress, comedienne, writer, director and an aviator who did her own stunts - is long overdue. Timothy Lefler will be on hand to sign copies of his book, Mabel Normand, The Life and Career of a Hollywood Madcap, as part of the weekend tribute at Niles.



Mabel preceded Charlie Chaplin as a movie star and appeared in 220 films. She started working in movies for Vitagraph, where she began headlining the studio's "Betty" comedies in 1910. Her recurring character even supported top comedian and king of the lot John Bunny.



This would be followed by her starring roles in a slew of short subjects produced by Mack Sennett at Biograph in 1912. She demonstrated exceptional talent and versatility - acting, writing, directing and performing death-defying stunts - including, in the preparation for her action-adventure-comedy A Dash Through the Clouds, flying an airplane.



When Sennett left Biograph to form his own studio, Keystone, later that year, Mabel would be key among the stock company, (along with Sennett, Ford Sterling and Fred Mace), starring in one of the studio's first releases, The Water Nymph. Along with Charlie Chaplin and Roscoe Arbuckle, she would be among the breakout stars of Mack Sennett's Keystone in the World War I years.



Her style was often subtle, underplayed and naturalistic, looking forward to the likes of Myrna Loy and Claudette Colbert while simultaneously demonstrating a flair for 1916 style visual comedy. She could take pratfalls with the best of them but also shine in dramatic roles, such as the part in Roscoe Arbuckle's brilliant 1916 film He Did & He Didn't. In this respect, for the most part, Mabel's performances differed from such talented, funny and likable "baggy pants comediennes" as Louise Fazenda, Alice Howell and Gale Henry, her sisters in slapstick who were the silent era predecessors of Lucille Ball and Joan Davis.



One could argue that the greatest comedienne to ever appear in motion pictures was not Lucille Ball, Martha Raye, the larger-than-life Marie Dressler or even the amazing Carole Lombard, but that bright star of the teens and 1920's, Madcap Mabel. Dubbed "the female Chaplin," she was the top comedienne in silents.



Mabel co-stars with Charlie in some 1914 Keystones, and they work beautifully off each other.



The museum's Mabel Normand Birthday Weekend program begins on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with three films she starred in for Mack Sennett.



In the feature presentation, The Extra Girl (1923) Mabel plays a small town girl who comes to Hollywood with aspirations to be a movie star; let's just say things do not work out quite as planned. It will be preceded by two short subjects, the aforementioned A Dash Through the Clouds (1912), in which ever-intrepid Mabel takes a spin in a marginally more modern version of those contraptions flown by Orville and Wilbur Wright, and a 35mm print of the Keystone classic Fatty and Mabel Adrift (1916), a wild and melodramatic action comedy with sweet, romantic undertones; Mabel shares the spotlight with frequent co-star Roscoe Arbuckle and, portraying the crazed raving psycho villain (with about 8 pounds of relish), rubber-legged Al St. John.



At 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 12, there will be free screenings of two short films about Mabel Normand by Rudy Cecera, Madcap Mabel (2010) and Mabel’s Dressing Room (2013). As part of the Laurel & Hardy Talkie Matinee show at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, there shall be a screening of Mabel's 1926 Hal Roach Studio vehicle The Nickel-Hopper, which features Oliver Hardy and Boris Karloff in supporting roles.



This represents Miss Normand's last film series, some of which were written and directed by Stan Laurel. Also on the bill: Beau Hunks (1931), starring Laurel & Hardy, and the Our Gang short Shrimps for a Day (1935).



For more: there is a Mabel Normand YouTube channel



Also highly recommend the very good entry on Mabel posted as part of the Women Film Pioneers Project website.



As previously mentioned, read Timothy Dean Lefler's Mabel Normand, The Life and Career of a Hollywood Madcap and Steve Massa's Slapstick Divas. Here, Mabel and many more groundbreaking grand dames of motion pictures finally get their proper due.




Saturday, November 04, 2017

And This Blog Loves Winsor McCay



Binge-watching turn of the 20th century films by Émile Cohl, for this movie buff, leads inevitably to the films by another innovator in animation, Winsor McCay, the creator of amazing comics and editorial cartoons. We love the epic comic Little Nemo In Slumberland. When it comes to pure visual fantasy, Little Nemo can't be beat - more than a century later.



Count us among the frequently astonished and awed by the comics and films of this astoundingly talented artist-vaudevillian-animator-raconteur.



The prolific illustrator began creating comics for the New York Herald such as Little Sammy Sneeze and Dreams of the Rarebit Fiend in 1903 and originated Little Nemo in Slumberland, comic and fantasy Technicolor dreamscape, in 1905. McCay started in movies by bringing Little Nemo to animated form. Note that in the opening, one of Winsor's pals is Vitagraph comedy star John Bunny.



At Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, we love the wonderfully grotesque film Winsor McCay made starring a wiseguy mosquito. Its not just the film's obvious visceral impact - it's that the flying blood-sucker's just a bit of a mischievous bastard. Could be considered one of the first cases of characterization in animation.


And then there's Gertie. . .



McCay's vaudeville act, with him as ringmaster and Gertie the dinosaur as featured performer, must have been something to behold.



From Wikipedia: Gertie the Dinosaur debuted in February 1914 as part of McCay's vaudeville act. McCay introduced Gertie as "the only dinosaur in captivity",[66] and commanded the animated beast with a whip.[66] Gertie seemed to obey McCay, bowing to the audience, and eating a tree and a boulder, though she had a will of her own and sometimes rebelled. When McCay admonished her, she cried. McCay consoled her by throwing her an apple—in reality pocketing the cardboard prop apple as a cartoon one simultaneously appeared on screen.[67] In the finale, McCay walked offstage, reappeared in animated form in the film, and had Gertie carry him away.[68]



Our favorites: the way-out Dreams Of A Rarebit Fiend cartoons.







One of the most astonishing McCay films is the surviving fragment from The Centaurs (1921), featuring advanced sophistication of animated movement and line.



For more info, check out John Canemaker's comprehensive book Winsor McCay, His Life And Art.