Sunday, March 25, 2018

The KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival Returns This Saturday!



We're baaaaaaaaaaaack! Schlepping reels of 16mm film to Foothill College this Saturday to sully Room 5015's hallowed halls yet again. . .



With a brand spanking-new KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival, our first for 2018!



Saturday's program shall include the usual suspects, all on 16mm film, the vinyl of visuals.



That means trailers from schlocky drive-in movies (featuring guys in robot and gorilla suits, well-meaning but inept educational films and public service announcements, cheesy "snack bar" ads. . .



As well as Scopitones, Soundies, cartoon rarities, campy 1950's commercials. . .



And bizarro comedy shorts, kidvid and the inevitable "thunder lizards."



Also serial chapters, puppet animation, and whatever else on celluloid we can dredge up for the occasion.



Archivist-producers Bob Ekman, Scott Moon and this blogmeister create the program on the fly, responding to audience reaction and choosing films accordingly.



Host for the evening's celluloid festivities: expert on all things involving film and TV soundtrack music, Mr. Robert Emmett of KFJC-FM's "Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show."



The all-16mm celluloid extravaganza is a reaction against the standard rules of film programming, which didn't interest us. 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.



Sometimes this writer gets asked just what "Psychotronix" is or means. The word "Psychotronix" is a variation on Michael Weldon's The Psychotronic History Of Cinema and The Psychotronic Video Guide the book which remains the encyclopedia of all varieties of non-Gone With The Wind style extravaganzas and that means B, C, D, F and Z-films.



These would include monster movies, horror, science fiction, "guilty pleasure" comedies (Bela Lugosi Meets A Brooklyn Gorilla), rock 'n' roll flicks, any film featuring "Queen Of Scopitones" Joi Lansing, etc.



While both Psychotronix and Psychotronic present a unique and hallucinatory excursion through the irritated bowels of popular culture, the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival programs extend much farther back into film history than the grindhouse and exploitation film (from Dwain Esper to Herschel Gordon Lewis to Doris Wishman) focus of The Psychotronic History Of Cinema and Psychotronic magazine. RE: H.G. Lewis, the super gory stuff is generally not in the mix, even in trailers. Also, Ms. Wishman's gleefully filthy XXX stuff - while entertaining - is not represented, either.



While are "coming detractions" trailers from all sorts of low-budget movies - that's for sure - our m.o. is to take all the genres the 16mm guys love, throw 'em in a blender, push "frappe" and see what the heck comes out.



So what we do at the KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival encompasses psychotronic movies but also includes silent movies (especially early cartoons and oddball short subjects such as the Snub Pollard comedy with the "magnet car"), varied material from television, musical films and animated cartoons from all eras.



If the evening's celluloid cornucopia can establish a subject link or a Monty Python-esque visual or verbal link between the various short 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 - A.K.A. bring a bunch of reels of film, two projectors and yell "KAWABUNGA!"




The KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival
When: Saturday, March 31, 2018: 7:00 PM to 11:00 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 PM.



Be there or be a trapezoid!
.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Celebrate Pi Day by attending World Premieres of Laurel & Hardy restorations on April Fool's weekend!



It's March 14 and that means happy 3.14159265359 day. At Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, we consider Pi Day as good an excuse as any to watch movies in which pies are thrown.



As fate would have it, the film featuring the pie fight to end all pie fights shall be among new restorations of Laurel & Hardy comedies which shall premiere, rather appropriately on April Fool's weekend.



Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy will get their due on both coasts, with shows in Los Angeles (American Cinematheque) and New York City (Film Forum). Archivist and filmmaker Jeff Joseph will introduce the shows at Santa Monica's Aero Theatre and the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. It begins March 30 at the American Cinematheque, which presented the previous group of UCLA Film & Television Archive's restorations in May 2016. This is excellent and timely, as UCLA's Restore Laurel and Hardy! fundraiser is ongoing and extends to April 14th.



The Los Angeles screenings start at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 30th at the Aero Theatre on 1328 Montana Avenue in Santa Monica.



Kicking off the program will be the new UCLA/SabuCat restoration of the silent comedy cornerstone The Battle Of The Century.



The famed L&H pie-throwing epic, about half of which was in the "lost film" category until a complete print was found in the collection of the late archivist Gordon Berkow, will be accompanied by a new score by Donald Sosin.



The Battle Of The Century will be followed by the 1929 early talkie Berth Marks, now with the original Vitaphone soundtrack heard by moviegoers when it was originally released theatrically on June 1, 1929.



The feature for the Friday night Aero Theatre program will be Way Out West (1937), restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Film Foundation.



Laurel and Hardy co-star with perennial nemesis Jimmie Finlayson, Rosina Lawrence and, as the femme fatale, Sharon Lynne, known by movie musical fans for her spunky delivery of Turn On The Heat, the memorable production number from the 1929 Fox feature Sunnyside Up.



The Saturday night show at the Aero Theatre includes the two short subjects The Chimp and The Music Box and the 1939 feature The Flying Deuces, which was produced by Boris Morros for RKO with much of the Hal Roach Studios crew and stock company.



Regarding the new restorations, the American Cinematheque program notes elaborate:



“The Chimp” (1932, 25 min.) When the circus where they work goes out of business, Mr. Laurel and Mr. Hardy are left with a flea circus and a chimp named Ethel - which, as bad luck would have it, is also the name of their landlord’s wife.“



"The Music Box” (1932, 29 min. Dir. James Parrott) In this Best Comedy Short Oscar winner, the Laurel & Hardy Moving Co. struggle mightily to push a piano up a huge flight of stairs. Photochemically preserved and restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive.



The Flying Deuces (1939, 70 min, USA, Dir: A. Edward Sutherland). Following in the footsteps of their earlier short “Beau Hunks,” the boys get into another nice mess when Ollie’s heart is broken by a Paris innkeeper’s daughter. To forget her, he and Stan join the French Foreign Legion, where the two tackle a mountain of dirty laundry, soft-shoe through “Shine On, Harvest Moon” and commandeer an airplane. Among Laurel and Hardy’s most enjoyable features, and now fully restored from 35mm elements.




The 5:00 p.m. Sunday show at the Egyptian Theatre, on 6712 Hollywood Boulevard, shall present the 1933 L&H feature Sons Of The Desert, directed by the ubiquitous William A. Seiter and co-starring Charley Chase and Dorothy Christy.



Among the Laurel & Hardy feature films, Sons Of The Desert, featuring a hilarious turn by fellow Hal Roach Studios star Chase as an obnoxious practical joker conventioneer, is certainly up there (with Way Out West and Blockheads) in the top two or three.



Sons Of The Desert will be preceded by the World Premiere of brand new restorations of Brats and Hog Wild (both 1930), two of the funniest of the Laurel & Hardy short subjects.



Brats now includes its original Vitaphone soundtrack; the existing prints tend to have the soundtrack used for the 1938 reissue.



Hog Wild, one of this blogger's favorite Laurel & Hardy 2-reelers, has been restored to its original Vitaphone aspect ratio.



Last, but not least, the East Coast part of the L&H weekend will be an April Fool's Day program at New York City's Film Forum. The Laurel & Hardy matinee show starts at 11:00 a.m. and includes Brats
, Hog Wild, The Chimp
 and Berth Marks.



We extend kudos, bravos, huzzahs and respectful tips of the brown derbies to the UCLA Film & Television Archive, Jeff Joseph, American Cinematheque, Film Forum,The Film Foundation, Laurel & Hardy: The Official Website and, for many of the frame grabs seen in this post, Dave Lord Heath of the Another Nice Mess: The Films Of Laurel & Hardy website.

Friday, March 09, 2018

This Sunday in Saratoga: Music from The Movies



Residents of the South Bay Area (Santa Clara County), there will be a very cool concert at the McAfee Performing Arts and Lecture Center in Saratoga by the San Jose Metropolitan Band this Sunday afternoon. The KFJC Psychotronix Film Festival's own Robert Emmett shall precede the orchestral performance with tales of the intrepid movie soundtrack composers.

Headlining Cinema Magic II: Symphonic Band Music from the Movies, the San Jose Metropolitan Band has performed with guest artists Allen Vizzutti, Oystein Baadsvik, The Canadian Brass, and Eddie Daniels. For more info, see the San Jose Metropolitan Band website.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The Wonder Of Technology. . . In Animated Cartoons



Instead of a brilliant, striking, insightful, penetrating essay for today's post - we don't have one - here are a few musings regarding inventions (a.k.a. The Wonder Of Technology) in animation.

We'll start with a cartoon starring Gandy Goose & Sourpuss, two characters considered guilty pleasures by Robert Crumb, Ralph Bakshi and here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.



This cartoon-loving blogger has hoped that if an official Terrytoons Blu-ray ever gets released, the following Gandy Goose & Sourpuss opus, Post War Inventions, shall be included.



It is dreamlike, in bad taste and imaginative in the oddest way, somewhat along the lines of Terrytoons storyman's John Foster's crude but funny Van Beuren cartoons of the early 1930's.



Although the wildly imaginative and gleefully off-model animator most associated with Terrytoons, Jim Tyer, was working for Famous Studios at the time Post War Inventions was produced, the talented Carlo Vinci, auteur of Mighty Mouse action sequences, was there and doing excellent work. Vinci's dynamic animation frequently lifted otherwise routine Terrytoons out of the ordinary.



Briefly in the mid-1940's, Vinci would be joined by former Terrytoons animator and Disney ace Vladimir "Bill" Tytla, with, especially in the Mighty Mouse series, splendid results.

While wacky inventions had become an animation sub-genre in the 1933 "technocracy" era and already were the cornerstones of such very funny cartoons as Scrappy in The World's Affair and Betty Boop's Crazy Inventions, the granddaddy of all this was the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist, Rube Goldberg.



Rube Goldberg, of course, was the originator and master of ingenious inventions, many of which transformed what would be a simple task into something hilariously complex.



Goldberg, whose work is kept alive and celebrated today by his granddaughter Jennifer George, remains the uncrowned king of this genre, as well as the spiritual predecessor of the 21st century Maker Faire. Writer Paul C. Tumey, has devoted a segment of his website, The Masters Of Screwball Comics to the contraption-packed comic strips of Rube Goldberg and one segment entirely to Rube Goldberg's Cartoon Machine Inventions of 1913. Here's a rare glimpse of the cartoonist.



Over 100 years ago, Rube rocked the inventions - invariably extremely complex ways to accomplish simple tasks - with humor and ingenious fun. The concepts still work like a charm - and there's a Rube Goldberg Machine Contest annually.



While Rube Goldberg dabbled in animation, writing and directing a 1916 series, animated by George Stallings at the Barré Studio and based on The Boob Weekly strip, and also worked on live-action films (the wacky 1930 Fox feature Soup To Nuts, starring Ted Healy & His Stooges), it was his newspaper cartoonist contemporary Winsor McCay, who brought futuristic inventions and concepts into animated cartoons. The Flying House in particular is still a stunner 95 years after its production.



As far as inventions in movies go, the illustrator/cartoonist turned stop-motion animation innovator Charley Bowers frequently played an eccentric inventor, that is, when not playing a Baron Munchausen style "tall tale teller," when he starred in 18 "Whirlwind Comedies" produced for FBO and Educational release in 1926-1928.







From the WW1 era days of silents up through the early 1940's, the studio most obsessed with inventions would be that of Max and Dave Fleischer; small wonder, as Max & Dave were inventors themselves and always interested in advancing animation technologies. When it was, after the strict enforcement of the Production Code in July 1934, no longer possible to produce Betty Boop adventures in which the charming gal made of pen and ink (who could win you with a wink) spent her 7 onscreen minutes getting chased around by Harvey Weinstein style lechers, a genial inventor named Professor Grampy was added as one of the series' co-stars. He's a delightful guy who happily devises Rube Goldberg-ish devices from found objects, always enlivening the party in his appearances in Fleischer cartoons.





A favorite of all Fleischer Studio cartoons remains the following 1938 paean to the World's Fair and new technologies. If only, in 2018, robots were a tiny fraction as charming as those in this cartoon. . . as opposed to actual 21st century bots, invariably diabolical, evil and profane and working for the diabolical, evil and profane.



The last series produced by the Fleischer Studio, the successful animated adaptation of Joe Shuster's Superman comic strip, is dominated by both futuristic inventions and stark raving mad scientists.



Never to be outdone on anything, ever, Tex Avery created a series on the "big, bold, beautiful tomorrow" extending for several cartoons, beginning with The House of Tomorrow. A plethora of Avery's patented ingenious sight gags exist alongside a plethora of mother-in-law jokes. TV Of Tomorrow strikes this blogger as the funniest and most prescient of the series.









Disneyland's epic Tomorrowland may have gotten the last word on this "great big beautiful tomorrow" business, but these four gag and invention-filled cartoons by Tex Avery come closest in the 1950's to the antic spirit of Rube Goldberg.