Large Association of Movie Blogs
Large Association of Movie Blogs

Friday, August 27, 2021

This Weekend: Paper Prints and Thunder Lizards

August 2021 comes to a close with several classic movie related events. While our minds are on the recent passings of Charlie Watts and Don Everly, the Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog reprobates will turn our short attention spans to film preservationists and giant radiated reptiles. Like dark chocolate and coffee, they go together!

On Sunday, August 29 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time, 12:00 noon Pacific Time, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents Reanimating History: Preserving the LoC’s Paper Print Collection. Library of Congress archivists Meghan Holly and Erin Palombi tell the story of how silent movies, preserved over 110 years ago on paper rolls, are getting restored to film and how this process has evolved over the decades.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival press release elaborates:

During the earliest days of cinema, the Library of Congress received moving image copyright deposits on paper instead of celluloid. Filmmakers submitted a series of still images printed on paper rolls resembling film reels.

These unique artifacts form the basis of the Library’s Moving Image Collection and in many cases are the only surviving evidence of a film’s existence. Since the 1940s, many efforts have been made to reanimate these prints as projectable moving images. Advancements in preservation technology have brought us ever closer to being able to view these images as they were originally intended. Join Library of Congress archivists Meghan Holly and Erin Palombi to learn more about what is surely one of archival history’s most often-revisited preservation projects!

Following last weekend's "King Kong Crashes Godzillafest" screenings of the 1962 King Kong Vs. Godzilla and the new Godzilla Vs. Kong epic at the Balboa Theatre, the official Godzilla Fest rampages through the San Francisco venue yet again. Godzilla remains a most marketable franchise and new thunder lizard epics keep coming out every year, so this year's lineup combines 1960's and 1970's classics such as Invasion Of Astro Monster (a.k.a Monster Zero), Godzilla Vs. Megalon and Terror Of Mechagodzilla with more recent versions of the King Of The Monsters such as Godzilla 2000, Giant Monsters All Out Attack, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. and Shin Godzilla.

We at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog love Godzilla, Ultraman, Johnny Sokko & His Flying Robot, Inframan, even cheaper thunder lizard variants and the SCTV sketch starring John Candy as Gigan. Now these movies demand a rowdy SRI crowd hooping and hollering, so I hope they get a good turnout. If you plan to attend, remember to bring a mask and a proof of vaccination card, thanks to That Darn Coronavirus.

Godzilla Fest 2021 lineup is as follows:

4PM Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)

5PM Godzilla 2000 (1999)

7PM Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. (2003)

8PM Godzilla (2014)


11AM Godzilla Vs. Megalon (1973)

12PM Terror Of Mechagodzilla (1975)

2PM Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)

3PM Giant Monsters All Out Attack (2001)

5PM Godzilla: King Of The Monsters (2019)

6PM Shin Godzilla (2016)

8PM Godzilla Vs. Kong (2021)


11AM Godzilla Raids Again (1955)

12PM Godzilla (2014)

230 PM Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002)

3 PM Invasion Of Astro Monster (1965)

5PM Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000)

The Historic Balboa Theatre is in the San Francisco's outer Richmond District at 3630 Balboa Street, between 37th and 38th Avenues.

For more info, see the Cinema SF and Bay Area Film Events websites.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

August 21 Means Friz & The Count

Two 20th century greats were brought into the world on the 21st of August. One was responsible for a million laughs, the other a million concerts and countless outstanding recordings. We're talking cartoonmeister Isadore "Friz" Freleng and a bandleader with a flair for supple yet subtle piano, William James Basie a.k.a. "The Count" - two powerhouses from Kansas City! Both entertained audiences from Torrance to Toledo to Timbuktu starting in the 1920's.

The name I have seen on the silver screen and orthicon tube the most times is very likely Friz Freleng. Imagine someone whose name is in credits as frequently as William "One Shot" Beaudine whose films are, for the most part, actually good. That would be Friz!

Freleng, a cohort of Walt Disney and his gang of animators (Ub Iwerks, Hugh Harman, Rudy Ising, Rollin Hamilton) in the 1920's, would work on numerous Harman-Ising productions released by Warner Brothers, including the first Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.

Friz would be among the dream team of directors who cranked out inspired cartoons for Warner Brothers animation: Tex Avery, Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson and Arthur Davis.

We'll start today's post with a documentary about Friz' amazing seven decade career as a producer-animator-director and Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies master.

Friz was also interviewed in 1980 as part of the Animafeastival event curated by Toronto film archivist Reg Hartt.

Freleng made a slew of lesser known humdinger cartoons in the 1940's and early 1950's.

A favorite of the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog is THE TRIAL OF MR. WOLF, which is riotously funny and preceded Tex Avery's MGM masterpiece RED HOT RIDING HOOD.

Of the WW2 propaganda toons DAFFY THE COMMANDO is among the best of the best.

Not to be outdone, Friz and his ace story writers (Tedd Pierce and Mike Maltese) followed a cartoon in which Daffy Duck takes on Hitler with HERR MEETS HARE, featuring Hermann Goering as a villain (as he and his ilk were emphatically in real life). The Mike Maltese disdain for Richard Wagner which would be a driving force in later Chuck Jones cartoons is a key factor in this Freleng gem. Love the commentary by film historian and animation expert Greg Ford.

Freleng was a master of the western spoof. It was said that Yosemite Sam was based on Friz!

Friz was also a jedi master of the extended chase and featured many variations on the chase within the twisted relationship between Bugs Bunny and ever-moronic Elmer Fudd.

The guy who writes this blog, a kid during the 1960's who watched The Addams Family, The Wild Wild West and Get Smart religiously - and also saw It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World on the big screen at our long-gone local movie palace - knew who Count Basie and Duke Ellington were because, in the halcyon days before the current mirage of many choices but in effect many less choices, jazz bands appeared often on television.

A few years later, this blogger would be among the rock generation kids who listened to rock & roll and progessive rock but also sought out jazz.

The extent to which jazz, even fairly gnarly modern jazz, was seen before 1971 on American television is astounding.

Often, swingin' sounds could actually be found on 1950's and 1960's television, especially on such programs as The Nat King Cole Show, Here's Edie, Art Ford's Jazz Party and The Hollywood Palace (where frequent hosts Bing, Frank, Sammy and Dino were clearly fans of the big band sound).

The Count Basie Orchestra was even the subject of SHOW OF THE WEEK in 1965.

The early 1960's lineup a.k.a. The Atomic Band, often appeared on television. Here is a concert which remains available on one of the Jazz Icons DVDs.

Bugs Bunny's favorites, The Duke Of Ellington, The Count of Basie, The Satchmo of Armstrong and sometimes even The Earl Of Hines would appear on TV in those days. American jazz would continue to be featured on European television, but seldom were seen anywhere on American TV. Even rock music got phased out once the 1970's ended; the point came when rockers would only be seen as guest stars on Saturday Night Live and SCTV (especially John Candy's glorious The Fishin' Musician sketches).

The BBC sometimes did music lovers a tremendous favor by featuring interviews with and about jazz greats, such as this one with Count Basie by fellow pianist Oscar Peterson. Once in a blue moon, these interviews would be shown on PBS or be used in documentaries.

The earliest appearances of The Count on 78s I've heard would be the 1920's and 1930's recordings of Bennie Moten's band.

While more in the Fats Waller stride school at this juncture, Basie drives the Moten band as surely as he would the powerhouse editions of the Count Basie Orchestra on The Atomic Count Basie and Sinatra At The Sands.

The recording of Lady Be Good by Jones Smith Incorporated was a watershed and featured the casual and smooth (while always soulful) musical genius of saxophonist Lester "Prez" Young.

Every Tub from 1938 is another Basie-Prez winner.

Unfortunaely, we don't have any film clips of Count Basie from the Bennie Moten or 1935-1936 Jones-Smith Incorporated days.

That said, there are silent film clips, dubbed in with Basie recordings, from the orchestra's famous performance from the 1938 Randall’s Island outdoor concert.

The early 1940's edition of The Count Basie Orchestra appeared in a bunch of Soundies, all prized by 16mm film collectors. There was a fascinating piece on the Hi De Ho blog about how Cab Calloway met Count Basie and that they worked together at one point. Footage of those two bandleaders working together would be even more prized than Cab's killer Soundies and Paramount 1-reelers.

In the following Soundie, vocalist Jimmy Rushing brings blues to the Basie mix in his rendition of TAKE ME BACK, BABY.

Fans of crooners got hip to Basie via his many collaborations with Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra-Basie, followed by It Might As Well Be Swing, are particularly wonderful albums and preceded Frank's memorable appearance with The Count Basie Orchestra on The Hollywood Palace.

Sinatra At The Sands, featuring the Count Basie Ocrhestra and charts by Quincy Jones, remains one of the Chairman Of The Board's most played and celebrated albums.

"Corner Pocket" is one of the cornerstones of the 1960's Count Basie repertoire.

The formidable Joe Williams does the honors on vocals on numerous 1950's and 1960's Basie records.

Closing this post: our all-time favorite photo of The Count. This one's a gem from the Library Of Congress collection, snapped by William P. Gottlieb, celebrated chronicler of mid-20th century music. This was shot at NYC's Aquarium Club and successfully captures both Basie's musical brillance and something essential about who he was.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

And This Blog Loves Stuff Smith

"The main attraction was Smith himself, attired in a worn-out top hat and sometimes sporting a parrot on his shoulder."

Hezekiah Leroy Gordon, a.k.a. "Stuff" Smith was born on this day in 1909. We respectfully tip a worn-out top hat to a consummate 20th century entertainer!

Stuff Smith was up there with Joe Venuti, Stéphane Grappelli, Michel Warlop, Eddie South, Svend Asmussen and Ray Nance among those intrepid violinists whose motto was "swing the Stradivarius."

This brief clip of Stuff rocking the violin on Art Ford’s Jazz Party is the best 44 seconds I could ever post.

Additional excerpts from this TV show, which can be seen in its entirety here, are not too shabby as well.

Smith successfully adapted European classical music's cornerstone instrument to the idiom of jazz and brought both the swagger and improvisational mojo of Louis Armstrong to the violin. Here he is, yet again swinging like mad with an all-star JATP/Verve Records ensemble, led by Ella "Perfect Pitch, Only Always" Fitzgerald, Roy Eldridge and Oscar Peterson's trio.

As Stéphane Grappelli did, Stuff repeatedly demonstrated an uncanny ability to bridge the musical eras.

Stuff's Live At The Montmarte concert album, a bluesy offering from late in his musical career, is a standout. He's backed by the killer quartet from Ben Webster's terrific albums on the Black Lion label: pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen and drummer Alex Riel.

This exceptional group even appeared on television in the 1960's.

Smith began making recordings in the 1930's with The Onyx Club Boys, a swing quintet and New York City fixture also starring trumpeter Jonah Jones and drummer Cozy Cole. He continued making amazing albums through the mid-1960's.

Like Pops, Dizzy and the aforementioned trumpeter-violinist-vocalist Ray Nance (from The Duke Ellington Orchestra), Stuff was an entertainer and showman.

Not surprisingly, his frequent collaborators included Dizzy and Stéphane Grappelli. Dizzy Gillespie & Stuff Smith is a felicitous combination and favorite album of music lovers around the world.

In addition to Ella Fitzgerald and Roy Eldridge, headliners and bandleaders Nat King Cole, Earl Hines, Carmen McRae and Billy Taylor all incorporated the violinist's distinctive brand of string swing into their sonic mix.

A listen to The Complete Verve Stuff Smith Sessions is most illuminating. Did not, unfortunately, purchase this epic box set when the opportunity arose (briefly); Mosaic Records compilations sell out quickly. In particular, love the album with Stuff backed by the usual suspects from Verve Records (Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessel, Ray Brown & Alvin Stoller). volume 1 of the Mosaic Records compilation, as well as volume 2 and volume 3 are incredible listening.

We're also enthusiastic fans of the Stuff & Steff album, in which The Hot Club of France meets The Onyx Club! Their equally swinging Violins No End album is another winner.

Also outstanding: MPS Records' Black Violin album.

This 1965 Paris concert of The Earl Hines All-Stars - Stuff Smith, Roy Eldridge, Ben Webster, Don Byas, Kenny Clarke and bassist from the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland Big Band Jimmy Woode - is particularly wonderful.

For an introduction to the scintillating string swing magic of Stuff Smith, the swing-obsessed population at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog highly recommend the following compilation of his blazing 1939-1944 recordings.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Eddie's Back!

While he never went away, especially in the hearts of classic movie buffs and devotees of Fractured Fairy Tales, the great Edward Everett Horton is back as of today - and always a favorite at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog.

Not only is Eddie back, he's back on DVD as a headliner in silent movies. Yes, we kid you not, silents. The new 2-DVD set, mastered from Library of Congress 35mm prints, can be purchased here.

It would be an understatement to describe this week's releases of Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies, Thunderbean's Rainbow Parade cartoons volume 1 and Charley Chase At Hal Roach: The Talkies Volume 3 as fabulous news for classic comedy and animation fans.

As fate would have it, Horton starred in a series of very funny 2-reel comedies produced for Paramount Pictures by Harold Lloyd's company, Hollywood Productions. He's incredibly funny in these silents and you can practically hear the mutterings of his character. No surprise that Mr. Horton would subsequently be a riot as a prolific comic character actor in countless 1930's - 1940's movies and TV shows through the 1960's.

Ben Model's Undercrank Productions, along with Steve Stanchfield's Thunderbean Video (now shipping its new Rainbow Parade cartoons compilation) and Tommy Stathes' Cartoons On Film our favorite DIY producers of classic stuff on Blu-ray and DVD, has officially released Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies, featuring hilarious entries from this series. This release was the result of a successful Kickstarter last year, which we at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog were delighted to contribute to.

Mr. Horton has his legion of fans, so it did not take long for the original Kickstarter to meet and exceed its goal.

Today's Travalanche post, Edward Everett Horton: 8 Silent Comedies, penned by one of my favorite bloggers, has covered this new release by Undercrank Productions exceedingly well.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

The Pie-Eyed Piper at The Gates Of Dawn

For reasons unknown, the phenomenon of pied pipers, from the legend of the 14th century to 20th century recordings, cartoons and movies which used the Pied Piper of Hamelin name, is today's topic.

There are lots of pied pipers - Brian Wilson spoke of one in a musical fairy tale penned for Mount Vernon and Fairway, the EP that accompanied the 1972 Beach Boys album Holland. Count us among the enthusiastic fans of Brian's late 1960's and early 1970's songwriting and arrangements, especially SMiLE.

Another was a prominent singing group within Tommy Dorsey's Orchestra. At one point, Frank Sinatra sang with them.

Someone no doubt familiar with the Pied Pipers and big bands was recording artist, bandleader and frequent Louis Armstrong collaborator Jack Teagarden, who provided a memorable vocal and trombone solo to the Walter Lantz Swing Symphony The Pied Piper Of Basin Street, directed by Shamus Culhane.

British humorist Paddy Roberts made a record about The Pie-Eyed Piper, a randy flutist if there ever was one. He also made an album titled Songs For Gay Dogs featuring a dog on the front cover. It's tough to not love a guy who recorded a tune titled "Merry Christmas, You Suckers."

Numerous cartoons cast their series' headliners as pied pipers - and Porky Pig turns up more than once in this role. Pied Piper Porky, directed by Bob Clampett, strikes this viewer as less a Pied Piper story than an excuse to give the porcine protagonist a wiseguy rodent adversary with a voice patterned on Eddie Anderson from Jack Benny's radio show.

Porky Pig - Pied Piper Porky (1939) from WB Cartoons on Vimeo.

Clearly influenced by the aforementioned Looney Tune cartoon, the following Columbia Fable by future Bob Clampett crew storyman Lou Lilly also stars a loudmouthed wiseacre mouse. Some of the over-the-top gags seen here turn up in one of the Clampett cartoons Lou Lilly storyboarded, Buckaroo Bugs.

Having the Daffy Duck/Bugs Bunny character be as extreme as possible while breaking the fourth and fifth walls repeatedly anticipates Tex Avery's "let's turn the animated cartoon upside down, backwards and sideways" Screwball Squirrel series, featuring a character so extreme and obnoxious Avery eventually bumped him off. Maybe Lou and Tex were friends.

Director and longtime Warner Bros. ace animator Robert McKimson and crew return to the Pied Piper of Hamelin legend in Playing The Piper.

The animated cartoon closest to the original story, not surprisingly in the least, was produced by Walt Disney, always intrigued by fairytales, folk stories and legends. This cartoon, which I first saw on a VHS collection of Silly Symphonies way back when, is surprisingly chilling and effective. Watch it to the end.

One of the hot new record releases of August 1967 was Pink Floyd's first album, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, referring more to Pan than to the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Given that it was 1967, everyone was pie-eyed, especially the band's founder, Syd Barrett.

At Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog, we enjoy this early experimental version of Pink Floyd and especially Barrett's guitar playing. This psychedelic incarnation of the group was filmed three times in 1967 to promote songs from The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and later to promote the second Pink Floyd album, A Saucerful Of Secrets in 1968.

Just how today's post transitioned from Brian Wilson to Tommy Dorsey to Walter Lantz Swing Symphonies to Paddy Roberts to Looney Tunes to Columbia Fables to Silly Symphonies to Pink Floyd, we don't know. And the gang at Way Too Damn Lazy To Write A Blog has no clue why we forgot all about Crispian St. Peter's Pied Piper tune, either.