Sunday, April 08, 2018

Across The 20th Century Pop Culture Universe

Still happily reeling a week after a fun KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival, this writer's imagination is back traipsing across the universe. . . and that's as good an excuse as any for starting today's post with a certain great song by The Beatles by that title.

Whirling through the wonderment of the the 20th century pop culture vistas means traipsing lights fantastic across said universe for no reasons whatsoever. It also means that instead of going to the gym, watching that diet and excess avoirdupois, one watches Citizen Kane and The Last Of The Secret Agents back-to-back.

Today's question at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog would be . . . Did anyone, in front of or behind the camera, work in ALL the genres, live-action and animation?

Probably not, but some actors indeed worked in both multiple movie genres, plus animated cartoons, as well as serials. Let's start with Leonard Nimoy's appearances in the Republic serial Zombies Of The Stratosphere and boxing drama Kid Monk Baroni, both well known to Star Trek geeks.

Shatner, who starred in episodes of The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits prior to landing the role of Captain James T. Kirk also appeared in movies between Star Trek seasons. White Comanche (1968) is a guilty pleasure at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.

Did William Shatner work in every conceivable type of movie and TV show? Yes, with the possible exception of kung fu movies (too bad, we'd like to see him Kung Fu Fighting). One would imagine, if there was a single performance among the dozens of credits on Mr. Shatner's resume he'd like us all to forget, it might be his role as the murderous psycho lounge lizard (polyester leisure suits and ultra-loud sports jackets included) in Impulse.

After William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy starred in the first Star Trek TV show - and 5 years after the end of its original run - Gene Roddenberry's space opera was adapted into an animated series. There was a point in the early 1970's when Filmation was bringing back the bare outlines of former hit 1960's TV shows in semi-animated form. Most, such as one inspired by My Favorite Martian, had absolutely nothing to do with the original program - did not even hire the actors who voiced the main characters in the original series (Bill Bixby and Ray Walston) and were mostly an excuse to re-use the same cycles previous done beyond death on The Archies.

The Filmation Star Trek series is something of a surprise. It's actually watchable.

Star Trek: The Animated Series, bucking the general dismal 1970's Filmation trend, turns out to not be Star Drek. It's not bad at all, TV-style limited animation notwithstanding, and hearing the voices of Shat, Nimoy and Deforest Kelley is a kick.

As far as actors who worked in both live-action and animation with great success go, one instantly thinks of George O'Hanlon.

We enthusiastically devoted a post to Mr. O'Hanlon, the rare actor to have starred in science fiction both in animation and live-action, back in February 2015. Of course, the massively entertaining 1957 sci-fi classic Kronos is one of our favorites here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.

Stars and storyline and 50s sci-fi coolness aside, Kronos just wouldn't be half as good without George as the intrepid scientist.

Invariably, when watching Kronos, one of the first responses is "I've heard that voice somewhere!" Eventually, the realization kicks in. . . IT'S FREAKIN' GEORGE JETSON!!!

Always the trouper, O'Hanlon did two Jetsons series and the second one was his last work in a five decade showbiz career.

Before landing that wonderful and enduring gig, Mr. O'Hanlon starred in a slew of extremely funny 1-reelers for Warner Brothers as browbeaten everyman Joe McDoakes.

The Joe McDoakes comedies, initaied as a USC film school project by director/writer Richard L. Bare, ended up running for 14 years and 63 episodes.

Many of the Joe McDoakes 1-reelers are hilarious.

After Joe McDoakes, Richard L. Bare directed numerous television programs of all types, including almost all the episodes of Green Acres, easily the zaniest and funniest of all the Filmways Productions shows of the 1960's.

Now how the heck does one wrap up a post such as this? Well, the crossover from animation to live-action only goes so far. Hanna-Barbera's The New Scooby Doo Movies series featured stars from TV and, as was the custom in the 1970's, beat the concept like a dead horse.

Since such comics as Jerry Lewis and Martin Short already ARE cartoons, it seems anti-climactic to bring theor loose-limbed physical comedy into the animated format. While striking this writer as something tantamount to an Al St. John animated cartoon, this happened - Filmation produced Will The Real Jerry Lewis Please Sit Down? in 1970 and there was an Ed Grimley TV cartoon series.

We close with the intergalactic news that apparently an animated version of Rob Grant and Doug Naylor's TV series Red Dwarf is in the works, and will be galavanting across the cartoon universe. Now how one, even with world-class animators, actually improves on Danny John-Jules as The Cat, we'll never know.

Let's hope all the original Red Dwarf cast members bring their voices to the cartoon version and we see LOTS of way-out ideas, as well as metamorphosis a la 1920's Fleischer Studios cartoons.

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