Large Association of Movie Blogs
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, April 27, 2018

Postscript to The Alice Howell DVD Project

Good news (for a change) - the Kickstarter noted here last Saturday, raising funds for The Alice Howell DVD project - 6 rare silent comedies not only made its initial goal in 8 hours but more than doubled it, passing the $10,000 benchmark and surpassing the stretch goals.

That said, the fundraiser by Ben Model and Steve Massa is on through Tuesday, May 8 and one can contribute to said Kickstarter here.

The more money raised, the more hilarious Alice Howell comedies will be available for viewing on DVD!

New stretch goal is 340 contributors.

Thanks to the enthusiastic response thus far, now there will be eleven rare films starring Alice Howell on a 2-DVD set instead of six on one DVD. The following titles have been added to The Alice Howell DVD project:

Shot In The Excitement (1914) Keystone Comedy, co-starring Alice with the equally wacky (and triple-jointed) Al St. John and gonzo circus clown Rube Miller, termed "a triple threat of the uninhibited" by writer Lea Stans in her review from the Silent-ology website which describes the film's utter mayhem: over-the-top performances, cartoony gags, slow-flying cannon balls, you name it.

Under New Management (1915) Henry Lehrman Productions a.k.a. L-Ko, co-starring Gene Rogers and Alice's fellow L-Ko Studio comedienne Gertrude Selby. Ms. Howell started at L-Ko (short for "Lehrman Knock-out") as a supporting player in the films of Billie Ritchie, formerly (like Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel) of the Fred Karno company, before headlining her own series.

Her Lucky Day (1920) Reelcraft, co-starring Dick Smith, Alice's husband and frequent collaborator (in front of and behind the cameras) in her films for Reelcraft and Universal. Smith also directed the Marx Brothers' first film, a 1921 silent, Humor Risk.

Father Was a Loafer (1915), L-Ko comedy, co-starring the lowdown, ever-misanthropic Billie Ritchie as "the loafer" and Gertrude Selby as the heiress the loafer is wooing.

Neptune's Naughty Daughter (1917) Century Comedy, directed by the prolific John G. Blystone, whose last film was Laurel & Hardy's 1938 feature Block-heads. Check out Alice's duck walk!

The producer of the DVD collection, Ben Model of Undercrank Productions, is targeting the end of November 2018 for completion of the project and a February 2019 release.

Logistics for the film transfers are lined up and ready to go with the Library of Congress. One additional short is being scanned for the project from 35mm nitrate by EYE Filmmusueum in the Netherlands.

Since none of her starring vehicles for L-KO, Century Comedies, Emerald Motion Picture Company and Bulls-Eye/Reelcraft were available when Robert Youngson produced his influential series of silent comedy compilation features - The Golden Age Of Comedy, When Comedy Was King, Days Of Thrills & Laughter, 30 Years Of Fun - in the 1950's and 1960's, recognition for The Queen Of Slapstick has been a long time coming.

As a direct result of the utter unavailability of her films, until the recent books She Could Be Chaplin: The Comedic Brilliance Of Alice Howell by Anthony Slide and Steve Massa's Slapstick Divas: The Women Of Silent Comedy, there hasn't been a heckuva lot written about the hard-working silent movie comedienne.

Mr. Massa, the aforementioned author and co-curator of The Alice Howell DVD Project, elaborates further on Ms. Howell and silent film comedians in this interview on the Vaudevisuals website.

For more info, there's the following: an excellent article by Trav S.D., author of Chain Of Fools: Silent Comedy And Its Legacies - From Nickelodeons To YouTube, the full chapter she receives in Lame Brains And Lunatics: The Good, The Bad And The Forgotten Of Silent Comedy by Steve Massa and a section in Eccentrics Of Comedy by Anthony Slide.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Alice Howell DVD Project

Happily, a Kickstarter has been launched to raise the dough-re-me for a DVD collection featuring the funniest gal in silent movies not named Mabel Normand: the one, the only, the wacky redhead 30 years before Lucille Ball - Alice Howell, star of her own series of slapstick 2-reelers for L-Ko, Century Comedies, Reelcraft and Universal. Stan Laurel considered her among the top comediennes in motion pictures during the rough-and-ready days of silents.

Alice was hilarious and gifted at physical comedy, as this brief clip from one of her many L-Ko comedies produced in 1916 demonstrates.

Since she starred in comedies affiliated with Universal Pictures, a company not known for preserving their backlog of silent films, only a dozen of Alice's starring short subjects exist.

Slated to be on The Alice Howell Collection DVD: How Stars Are Made (1916), In Dutch (1918), A Convict's Happy Bride and His Wooden Leg-acy (both made in 1920, distributed by Reelcraft and discovered in the Artie Mogull film collection), Distilled Love (1920) and Under A Spell (1925)

The hope is that this Kickstarter will not just meet but surpass its goal and a subsequent commercial release of this collection of her classic comedies will bring much deserved and long overdue recognition to a great comedienne of the silent era.

The Kickstarter is on until Tuesday, May 8 at 11:59 PM EDT. For more info, read She Could Be Chaplin: The Comedic Brilliance Of Alice Howell by Anthony Slide and Slapstick Divas by Steve Massa.

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.