Wednesday, October 31, 2018
This Halloween, we ponder the passing of John Zacherle, one of the greatest and funniest TV horror hosts ever, on October 27.
The horror host's recorda, "82 Tombstones," "Dummy Doll" and "Dinner With Drac" actually precede Bobby "Boris" Pickett's hit The Monster Mash. That is appropriate, given that Zacherley rose out of a coffin to introduce the Grateful Dead at Fillmore East.
Must tip that battered top hat worn by John Carradine in countless low-budget movies to Zacherley.
Joining Zacherley in today's Halloween post will be current horror host Mr. Lobo of Cinema Insomnia.
We'll raise that, and the dead, with Halloween blackouts from The Ernie Kovacs Show and Take A Good Look.
And, of course, the one, the only Auntie Gruesome, with a version of Cinderella this writer prefers to both Disney's Cinderella and Jerry Lewis' Cinderfella.
We finish today's post off, appropriately, as the great John Candy's birthday was on October 31, with an episode of Count Floyd's Monster Chiller Horror Theatre. OWOOOOOOOOO!!!
We wish all the readers of Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog a Happy Halloween! As Tallulah Bankhead, chain smoking and hoisting a shot while wearing a designer witch costume would say, Happy Halloween, dahhhlings!
Saturday, October 27, 2018
This is a 20th century pop culture blog, and somehow, 12 years and 1034 posts in, the topic of Golden Throats, celebrities and TV stars who tried their hand at crooning, with mixed results, has never been the topic of a post, until now. We'll start with the romantic sounds of Telly "Kojak" Savalas. Bill Medley, Bobby Hatfield and Phil Spector, eat your hearts out!
Jack Webb was married to the super talented songstress Julie London. Why shouldn't he give singing a try?
Lorne Greene was the star of the #1 rated television hit Bonanza. Why shouldn't ultra-macho patriarch Ben Cartwright perform Bonanza's theme song, as well as two-fisted western ditties in French?
This semi-scholarly ride through pop culture tumbleweeds also extends to crooners who, in hopes of boosting record sales, waxed tunes that could not be a worse stylistic fit. For example, this Beatles cover by Der Bingle.
The great Mel Tormé recorded some of this music fan's favorite albums, first at Verve Records and later in collaboration with pianist George Shearing, but the following Donovan tune is. . . definitely not a fit for swingin' Mel.
Teenage pop star from the 1950's, songwriter and subsequent Vegas entertainer Paul Anka sounds a lot like Richard "Dick" Cheese in this Nirvana cover.
Actually, Frank Sinatra Jr. sounds fabulous delivering the theme song from Gumby cartoons. Really.
Do we like James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock from the first Star Trek, both of whom clearly had aspirations to sing like Bing? Yes. We even like the Filmmation animated Star Trek produced in 1973-1974 and wish there could have been at least one cartoon in which the cast members double as crooners.
Now imagining DeForest Kelley as Dr. "Bones" McCoy singing "Got To Get You Into My Life," we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, as big fans of Spock n' Kirk as anyone, note that both William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy did their very best to either sing pop songs or deliver their lyrics as dramatic readings. There was even a music video produced to promote the 1968 album Two Sides Of Leonard Nimoy.
We admit it - the William Shatner records are not-that-guilty pleasures. Tough for us to make fun of them - we like them, if nothing else for Shatner's undeniable chutzpah.
Shatner's rendition of the Elton John-Bernie Taupin 1972 pop hit Rocket Man is quite enjoyable. It's 3 Sides of William Shatner!
Others must agree with this blogger, as Shatner has revived his recording career and done some interesting stuff along the way.
Much of this focus on TV star pop recordings and veteran showbiz mega-stars trying to "get hep" to appeal to youth started with the extremely funny Dave's Record Collection segments from Late Night With David Letterman, mostly from the 1980's NBC version of the show. Has this once cutting-edge cult hit, now completely unknown to those under the age of 40, still hold up well? You be the judge.
Someone has done us the favor of posting compilations of all the Dave's Record Collection segments.
Very likely heavily influenced by the Dave's Record Collection segments, Rhino Records staffer Gary Peterson, pop culture historian Pat Sierchio and writer Irwin Chusid collaborated on four Golden Throats compilations, chock full of questionable celebrity decisions and songs that in some respects transcend what used to be called "camp".
At times when absolutely nothing can get the grey skies to lift in these dark days, it's time for the heavy artillery: ALL FOUR Golden Throats collections from Rhino Records.
Golden Throats 1: The Great Celebrity Sing Off
Golden Throats 2: More Celebrity Rock Oddities
Golden Throats 3: Sweethearts Of Rodeo Drive
Golden Throats 4: Celebrities Butcher The Beatles
As far as we know, there is no duet recording featuring Maurice Gosfeld and Allan Melvin warbling September Song - and that's probably a good thing.
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
On Saturday, October 20, my frequent and frequently inspired cohorts in classic film presentations, Sci Fi Bob Ekman and Scott Moon, will present a Halloween Psychotronix Film Festival.
The evening shall present a spooky selection of B-movie trailers, commercials, short subjects, film clips, cartoons and advertising films (Eldon and Ideal Toys), Castle Films monster movie excerpts, Ted Cassidy doing the 1965 dance craze "The Lurch" and more.
There will also be plenty of Halloween-themed commercials from the 1950's and 1960's, as well as Scopitones and Soundies.
Looks like a fabulous show will be forthcoming and a blast will be had by all who attend. Big screen fun shall ensue at Nightmare Island in Vallejo's Mare Island.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
Today's topic is not The Kinks' You Really Got Me but - as this blogger watches The Damned Don't Cry on TCM'S Noir Alley - movies that, via incendiary brilliance or indelible imagery, left a powerful impact on the individual and collective psyche. Most were genuinely good films, others influential strictly as a result of having been run over and over and over on television in early childhood days, the late 1950's and early 1960's.
A few movies and/or cartoons turned out to be both frequently shown and fantastic. First and foremost, there would be Buster Keaton, getting chased by what appeared to be the entire L.A.P.D. in Cops, the movie that made this correspondent a classic film buff for life.
This tour-de-force for Keaton (as director, actor and death-defying acrobat) propelled this correspondent on his merry way to the universes of silent films and film collecting.
Another silent film that really got me - and got me laughing - was the Charley Chase comedy Limousine Love, first brought to my attention in one of the Robert Youngson silent comedy compilation features.
In this 1928 classic, which has been reviewed on the Magnolia's Musings website, Charley ends up unknowingly driving to his wedding with a nude woman in the back of his car. (Note: frame grabs from Limousine Love are courtesy of Dave Lord Heath's website, Another Nice Mess: The Films Of Laurel & Hardy)
Charley's car is out of gas, and while he walks to and from the gas station, the nubile Mrs. Glanders, having fallen in a massive mud puddle, ducks in his car to change clothes. While Mrs. Glanders' clothes - all of them - are outside the car, Charley jumps in and drives off, totally unaware she's in the back seat.
How the storyline resolves this very tricky situation adds up to ingenious comedy. Co-starring Hal Roach Studio stalwarts Edgar Kennedy, Edna Marion and Viola Richard, this is brilliant, sophisticated, funny and a harbinger of the pre-code era that was just a couple of years down the road.
Charley would continue to make great comedy short subjects, frequently teamed with comedienne Thelma Todd, well into the talkies, but Limousine Love would never be topped.
Stop-motion animation invariably packs quite the emotional wallop and is imbued with an emotional immediacy rarely found in 21st century CGI. This may be due to the uncanny ability of such innovative animators as Willis O'Brien to breathe life into their creations.
As far as visual and emotional wallop goes, the entomologist turned stop-motion filmmaker Ladislas Starevitch (Wadislaw Starewicz) had multiple haymakers.
Noting O'Brien's blazing genius in King Kong, the hydra and the indefatigable "swordfightin' skeletons" produced by his protégé, Ray Harryhausen (by far the most celebrated of stop-motion marvels) and the way-out whimsy of Charley Bowers, it's Wadislaw Starewicz that repeatedly gets this animation fan in a most profound way.
THE MASCOT may be the most wonderfully harrowing of the dreamlands from Starewicz' five decades in filmmaking - and a vividly surrealistic piece that invariably gets audiences riveted to the screen. The Starewicz adventures, in silents and talkies, are the stuff fever dreams are made of.
Way back when stop-motion animation (and animation in general) was still considered the kiddie department and looked down upon, saw one of Preston Sturges' Paramount features, Sullivan's Travels, in a college film history course. Found it devastatingly great.
While there are numerous clever lines, including many regarding "Ants In Your Pants Of 1939," throughout Sullivans Travels, the sudden shifts from comedy to road picture to stark drama absolutely floored this film buff - and led to a mission to see every film Preston Sturges ever was involved in. Was not disappointed!
We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog still love Citizen Kane, as fashionable as it is nowadays to not profess love for Orson Welles' 1941 "let's show 'em how to make movies" opus, but found his 1965 film Chimes At Midnight a stunner. This dyed-in-the-wool moviegoer was blown away and sitting silently in the theatre seat 15 minutes after the lights went on.
Orson inhabits the character of Falstaff and demonstrates astonishing filmmaking creativity from start-to-finish.
While Chimes At Midnight is available on Blu-ray in a beautiful transfer - if you must watch it at home, get the most massive and sharp big screen TV possible - this expansive and ambitious epic is best seen in a movie theatre, on the big screen with an audience.
In this writer's opinion, even Welles' lesser efforts demonstrate incredible imagination, originality and ingenuity. Like Ernie Kovacs, Mr. Welles was always 15 years ahead of everyone else.
Saturday, October 06, 2018
Since we like our music here at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, the above ad for Philco's Port-O-Sound Cart (turntable + tube amp + two-way speaker on cart = COOL) definitely struck a Bb13 #9 chord and confirmed that Mrs. John Q. Public in the suburbs was listening to those classic Charlie Parker Dial records while cooking the roast. In 1948 and 2018, music just makes dinner taste better.
Selling state-of-the-art audio technology to the home market was nothing new in the 1950's. Two decades earlier, the stop-motion animation geniuses of the George Pal Studio were selling Philips radios - the last word in 1930's audio - with elaborate, imaginative and painstakingly produced animated films. This one illustrates how Philips radios bring music and entertainment from all around the world to one's living room.
Yes, the Dutch loved American jazz and, in the latter portion of the following George Pal Puppet-toon, as was frequently the case in movies made before World War II, paid homage via 1920's vaudeville/minstrel show stereotypes . . . all part of a boiling cinematic bouillabaisse featuring incredible stop-motion animation, expert use of color, deft matching of sound to image and the ever-buoyant dance music by Bert Ambrose & His Orchestra. The music has got me ready to buy a top-of-the-line Philips radio right now!
Philco's Port-O-Sound Cart would not be its only high tech in the home product. The futuristic and state-of-the-art swivel screen Predicta TV, origially designed for the Holiday Inn hotel chain, was, like the Edsel, expected to take the world by storm. It didn't. The commercials were very cool, nonetheless.
At one point in the 1960's the stereo reel-to-reel tape deck was the height of audio coolness.
The ultimate version of the Port-O-Sound Cart would arrive decades later, at the end of the 1970's, as the Sony Walkman, The writer of this blog very sincerely hopes he didn't look as ridiculous as the actors in this 1980 TV ad for Sony Walkman did when he took his frequent constitutionals, every step tuned into Charlie Parker recordings, dubbed from vinyl and CDS to that wonder of technology, the cassette tape.