Change Your Image
Upload An Image
Crop And Save
Surfside 6: The Chase (1961)
Rather different Surfside episode with a big part for Cha Cha O' Brien
An unusual "Surfside 6" in that it gives a meaty leading role to the show's singing regular Cha Cha O'Brien (the ill fated Margarita Sierra, playing a character who tends to grate on me, Surfside's Spanish answer to to the more likeable and likewise "daffy" Cricket Blake from "Hawaiian Eye"), and takes place out in the boondocks rather than the show's familiar urban backdrop, and has a plot with none of the characteristic Surfside mystery element
"The Chase" is an appropriate title in that Cha Cha finds herself relentlessly pursued by a murderer she may be able to give evidence against. That the villain, Dmitri Grajian, is played by the very creepy looking, skull faced Reggie Nalder, best known as the terrifying vampire Mr Barlow in "Salem's Lot" many years later, is a definite plus for the episode. There are some suspenseful Hitchcockian moments, as an increasingly nervous Cha Cha is watched and stalked by Grajian at a lonely garage, leading later to car chase, followed by the on foot pursuit, in which she flees through undergrowth, a swampy river, and into a deserted ghost town, trying desperately to hide from the rifle toting killer.
The only Surfside detective with a significant role in this episode is Dave Thorne (Lee Patterson, probably the strongest actor out of the 3 male leads on the series, and the most suited to displaying the kind of "Most dangerous game" style action heroics required here ) who ends up fleeing from Grajian himself. One nagging question is why the usually smart Mr. Thorne doesn't take his gun with him when looking for Cha Cha.
An exciting and atypical "Surfside 6," co-written by Roger Smith of "77 Sunset Strip," and notably well directed by Allen Baron. One of the best in a series, which, like all the Warner's detective shows, often tends to be much better than its too pervasive critical reputation as lightweight pap.
The Tom Ewell Show (1960)
Tom Ewell in family sitcom land
A character actor (often in comedic vein) Tom Ewell had a brief fling as a somewhat unlikely major star in the mid 1950s. He was Marilyn Monroe's costar in "The seven year itch," and was the male lead in "The girl can't help it," a colorful major studio treatment of the burgeoning rock and roll phenomenon. By 1960 51 year old Ewell's career as a movie star had waned, and in a short period he'd gone from the slimline Tom of "The seven year itch" into as rather pudgy man. It was in that year he was given his own single season prime time sitcom, produced by Four Star television.
"The Tom Ewell Show" has the actor playing a real estate man in a fictional town situated near Los Angeles, the only male in a middle class household of females - wife, mother in law, and 3 daughters (even the pet dog and bird are female). This is pretty much the usual "father can be a bit of an idiot" stuff from the 1960s. But Ewell is a very good actor, one whose performances can gild a routine script. Familiar supporting player Norman Fell is a semi regular male in the cast, as the man who runs the local coffee shop Tom frequents. There are some interesting guest stars. One such is western regular John Dehner, who plays against type as a prissy author in "Mr Shrewd. Even Four Star Television boss Dick Powell turns up as himself in "Site unseen." Tom Ewell smokes cigarettes constantly in the show, which might cause some to wonder how he survived until he was 85.
"The Tom Ewell show" is a sitcom which provides a few chuckles, with a likeable cast, and the usual superior production values seen in shows from the Four Star company.
Adam gradually comes to reluctantly understand the true nature of the charismatic man who saved his life
A pretty good character study episode, centering on Tom Wilson (Rory Calhoun) a handsome drifter who saves Adam from drowning after he's fallen into a fast flowing river during the rescue of a calf.
This is an "Adam" episode in which he is gradually forced to see the serious flaws in Wilson, the man he owes his life to. Wilson is a person with no ethical moorings, one whose moral compass must be very rusty, if he ever had one at all; someone who goes through life in the easiest way possible, who will use and discard others, while avoiding hard work, getting along by taking what life offers, with no qualms about dubious or illegal means being required to meet his ends; a man with the fortunate advantages of strong fists, a quick mind, a glib gift of the gab (he can tell a good joke!) and a magnetic allure for women which suits his Don Juan tendencies. For Wilson, life is about amusing himself, and his rescue of Adam (which he approaches in a meandering, easy going manner, without any indications of urgency or concern, giving us some early hints about the sort of person he is ) we come to see is something he does because he thinks it will be to his advantage, rather than from any altruistic motivation. Certain incidents - stealing, cheating at cards, carrying on with a Cartwright pal's girlfriend - force Adam to reevaluate the man he had liked and wanted for a friend, and eventually he has to confront the awful truth that Wilson is also a murderer.
Tom Skerritt, who would appear as Little Joe's would be nemesis in the final "Bonanza" episode in 1972, here plays the part of the young man whose girl (played by the very cute Linda Foster) falls head over heels for Wilson. It looks as if women tend to chase Tom Wilson rather than the other way round - an infatuated saloon girl is perpetually draped over him in some scenes - and he's happy to oblige if they suit him.
It's fitting that the episode comes full circle, and the climactic events take place by and in the river, near the spot where Tom Wilson had rescued Adam.
Weak British crime thriller
"Crosstrap" was a lost film for years. Quite recently rediscovered, viewing it leads one to conclude it would have been as well if it had stayed lost. One of the many short B feature crime movies being churned out at the time in the UK, this is one of the poorer examples. A cast of mainly seasoned pros can't overcome miscasting, clumsy direction, and a lack of any real tension for most of the running time in a movie which is meant to be a thriller. Plot wise, it's a sort of proto "Straw dogs" with a young couple menaced by criminals in the remote British countryside. Arriving at a cottage he's rented, where he hopes to write his book in some peace, an American novelist and his fairly new bride soon find they have fallen among not one gang of ruthless thieves but two. One gang, who have staged a robbery in which a murder was committed, are using the cottage as a base while they wait for their getaway plane to arrive; the other gang, lurking outside in the dark, are after the loot for themselves. One major casting problems of the film is Laurence Payne as Duke, the womanising leader of the heist gang. Payne, once familiar to my generation as TV's Sexton Blake in the 1960s, just can't convince as a ruthless master criminal. His lecherous pursuit of the writer's rather chubby and frumpy wife, at the expense of his glamor puss moll (portrayed by Zena Walker) also appears rather strange. Bill Nagy, a Hungarian born actor (who often played Americans) made a career in British movies and TV in the 50s and 60s, and was capable of delivering interesting characterizations even with routine scripts, but here he's just wasted in a stock "henchman with a gat" role. The film does pick up a bit near the end with some quite well done action/violence scenes.
Rogue's Yarn (1957)
A kind of British Columbo many years before the American one.
This British B movie, one with important nautical elements in its plot, reminded me of an episode of Columbo. It's a tale of murder and detection where we know "who dunnit", and how the killer fixed himself the "perfect alibi", from the start.
Egged on by his greedy mistress, a middle aged man of what was once called "good breeding", kills his rich, termagant of a wife (who was expected to die, but is in recovery) for her money, and gives himself a seemingly unbreakable alibi. Initially the murder appears to have been the work of a burglar, but enter our hero, Inspector Walker, a short, not handsome or attractive police detective, who cleverly suspects the husband almost from the start, and sets about looking for the evidence to get him. Walker is a much more conventional type than Columbo, but still something of a maverick as an investigator (though he doesn't harass and irritate his suspects to death!) nor is he such an eccentric personality as Peter Falk's character, there are no real moments of Columbo reminiscent comedy in the portrayal. Unlike Columbo, Walker is often seen working with a police underling (the man playing that part resembling comic actor Edward Everett Horton!).
Elwyn Brook-Jones, whose appearance meant he often played villainous parts on screen, here gets a chance to be a good guy (sadly this distinctive actor died in 1962 aged only 50). Derek Bond (once a screen Nicholas Nickleby, whose career was on the slide by the time this movie was made) is the distinguished looking murderer. Nicole Maurey was a very attractive lady, but here she overacts at times as the grasping mistress - a character who is somewhat inconsistently written.
There is one completely risible scene where our detective escapes death in a way that stretches coincidence way beyond the even remotely plausible, but on the whole I quite enjoyed the film. The performance by Mr Brook-Jones interested me enough to find out more about this rather obscure character actor.
A notable cast list in a variable Gothic chiller anthology from the BBC
I caught a couple of episodes of this short Gothic horror TV series on the BBC when it was first broadcast in 1977. Now it's available as a box set, I decided to take the opportunity to have a look at them all. Having watched all 8 episodes, it turns out the 2 I'd seen back then were among the better ones - those being "Night of the marionettes" and "Dorabella".
The premise -
At a club in the late nineteenth century, a group of Victorian gentlemen are told "true" tales of terror by people involved in the events recounted. The tale teller's object is to become members of this exclusive club. If the members listening are impressed, the teller can join, if not, he will die - for this is "The club of the damned"...(da! daaaaaa!)
1. Ghosts of Venice - The series gets off to a shaky start. Robert Hardy as an unbalanced retired actor, returns after many years, to Venice, where he meets a ghost from his past... and becomes one himself! With obvious studio sets substituting for Venetian locations, obscurely plotted and hammy, I really didn't understand this one - I think it might have been trying to say something about impotence.
2/3. Countess Ilona/Werewolf reunion - Things pick up with this 2 parter. A countess invites her 4 despicable former lovers to her isolated Hungarian castle where they are killed one by one by a mysterious creature. Being a 2 parter, there's more time here to develop the characters of the guests and the enigmatic Countess herself. The episodes are strongly cast and acted, though the werewolf is hardly seen (probably for the best!). Featuring the splendid Ian Hendry (he makes his cynical and callous arms dealer seem rather likable) - also with Charles Kay, John Fraser, Edward Hardwicke (later Dr Watson to Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes) and Billie Whitelaw as the countess.
4. Mr Nightingale - Jeremy Brett, years before he became Sherlock Holmes, as a shy bachelor taken over by his lustful, crude, rude, vicious, doppelganger. A Jekyll and Hyde story which differs from Stevenson in that the transformation of Mr Nightingale is supernatural rather than scientifically based - though it might just be his disturbed mind at work. Notable for the then thirty something Mr Brett's cackling performance as the old, ugly, and crazy Nightingale, and as a showcase for Lesley-Anne Down's extraordinary beauty.
5. Lady Sybil - A clunky psychological study of insanity rather than a horror yarn. The actual supernatural bit seems more or less an irrelevant add on here ("We need something ghostly in this guys..."). Is a man's ghost returning, intent on killing his elderly wife? Are her middle aged sons the real culprits? Interesting to see "Look back in anger" playwright John Osborne in a rare TV acting role, and Denholm Elliott is always worth watching.
6. Viktoria - The familiar "murderous doll " trope, as a little girl seeks revenge on the wastrel dad who has killed her mother. Only of some interest for its gay subplot.
7. Night of the marionettes - Gordon Jackson as an author writing a book on Shelley discovers the origins of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" in a strange Swiss hotel. Okay, but not great. I enjoyed the always creepy Vladek Sheybal as the hotel owner.
8. Dorabella - Best of the lot; the series bows out on a high note with this genuinely chilly vampire entry. Starring former pop singer Jeremy Clyde (of sixties duo "Chad and Jeremy") as a rich young man obsessed with a mysterious, aristocratic young woman, who seems to be a supernatural being. With a companion he travels across the countryside, staying in lonely inns, lured on by the beckoning Dorabella - until they arrive at an isolated castle. The episode includes a memorable turn by movie veteran John Justin as Dorabella's father. Like a more low key Hammer horror movie.
The premise of the series, that guests who fail to impress the listeners by their tale will be killed, seems inconsistent with the conventional, urbane, very normal seeming club members presented here. I can't recall actually seeing who gets accepted into the club and who doesn't in any of the episodes; none of them are seen physically being "knocked off" having failed. And it seems a pretty silly chance to take - risking being murdered just to get into a club!
One of the other problems with the series is that, apart from some of the exteriors, it's shot on tape, not film, and tape is simply not the right medium for this sort of material. If it had been all done on film, for example, "Dorabella" would have been a great episode rather than just a good one - all of them would have been significantly improved by using film instead of tape.
Well hated Batman - a worst episode candidate.
By season 3 "Batman" was really running out of steam. It had lost its twice a week slots, so no more regular "Bat trap" cliff hangars, and budgets had been dramatically reduced. All the producers had was the new addition of Batgirl (Yvonne Craig) to the show to help rescue sagging ratings - which didn't work. In this environment, viewers who still bothered to tune in were confronted by a whole raft of season 3 stinkers, of which "Nora Clavicle" is one of the grimmest examples.
As to what makes this episode so bad, it's hard to know where to start. It has a plot hinging on women being too terrified to do anything about an invasion of mechanical mice, said mice eventually being "pied pipered" into Gotham river by Batman and co dancing about playing tin whistles! There is confusion in the writing as to the motivations of the villainess. She is an extreme feminist, fighting for women's rights/she is just a straightforward selfish and greedy crook, using a "cause" cynically to loot Gotham to make herself rich. Which is it? The lazy, incoherent script never deals with this. The portrayal of the useless, gossipping, shopping obsessed policewomen, who make up the new Gotham police force after Nora gets herself made commissioner, is something which looks antediluvian, even for 1968, and its sheer crassness might stun a dedicated male chauvinist. In mitigation, it could have been said that Nora chose deliberately to recruit only certain sorts of unsuitable women for the job, so her gang would have little trouble from them when it came to looting the city - however, we aren't told that by the script, so it comes across just as a blanket piece of clunking "satire" saying "Hey guys! This is funny - see how girlies make terrible cops"! But it's not all a one way street. We see a man, one who has managed to become mayor of a big city, is incapable of cleaning a shirt, or of cooking for himself when his wife goes on strike. Gotham should rename itself "Stereotype city". And, most terrible of all, the sheer ill disguised cheapness of the thing. A lot of season 3 is shot on indoor studio sound stages that the makers can no longer be bothered to make look like anything but indoor studio sound stages. "Nora Clavicle" has its share of sound stage pantomime like scenes, the worst being the one at Gotham river side, which features a painted backdrop of supposed buildings which would shame a kindergarten school play. To cap it all, this wretched little episode, uniquely, doesn't even have a Bat fight! Not content with parading the reactionary concept across the screen that women are not suited to being good cops (had the guys not heard of Batgirl then?), these producers and writers were too priggish to even let them fight, in an episode where the situation demanded that they should.
Is there anything to be ventured to attempt a defence of this episode? Well, Barbara Rush, who plays Nora, is a good enough actress, but she's too serious a player to adapt comfortably into the "Batman" atmosphere (something which happened with a few other guest villains, such as Michael Rennie) - this is not her forte. She's also cursed with probably the worst script of her career, portraying a baddie whose motivations are inconsistent. Nora's statuesque "Greek goddess" henchwomen are a sight to behold, but the ridiculous script asks us to believe these nasty gun toting women and their cunning boss can be captured (off screen - naturally) by 2 old men, Alfred and Gordon, along with the inept Chief O'Hara (who couldn't catch a cold!). The human knot is an interestingly unique "death trap", which leads the series into slightly "kinky" areas - which one might speculate the maker's were not really aware of.
So, despite a few little hints at the potential of a "Nora" story, in sum this is a really horrible episode. One where the makers had clearly forgotten" camp" does not mean simply "stupid", the attempt to mine humour from extreme stereotypes comes across as jaw droppingly outrageous, and it appears nobody cared any more about having quality in any aspect of the "entertainment" they were presenting to audiences.
The adventures of Oscar the mouse
A documentary film of great charm from Iceland following the adventures of "Oscar" the wood mouse in Iceland. In the UK this critter is normally called a long tailed field mouse.
When you see the little mouse evading predators, including swimming, trying his best to survive in a hostile world, its hard not to be sympathetic towards this plucky and intelligent animal many merely regard as a pest to be exterminated. Oscar meets his love Helga when both find themselves stuck in a humane mouse trap in a farm house.
The ending is rather sad...but such is nature. Glynis Barber provided an English language narration in the version I saw. This film may change your attitude to "meeces".
The Corridor People (1966)
Prime time surrealism subverting the crime drama
Only in the 1960s could such an oddity as this have gone out on a prime slot on the UK's (then) only commercial TV broadcaster.
Nominally a crime/espionage drama of intrigue, "The corridor people" plays like a theatre of the absurd satire, making other "oddball" 60s shows like "The Avengers" and even most of "The Prisoner" seem rather conventional by comparison.
What does the title of this series mean? Possibly it refers to the "corridors of power" (a term coined by the English novelist CP Snow a few years earlier)-but there seems to be more to it than that. I have my own theory that the title is a reference to the characters existing in metaphorical corridors, not whole "proper" human beings because they lack any ability to empathize with others, are bereft of any altruistic instincts in their dealings with people.
So, here we have our main characters. A portly police official called Kronk (played by John Sharp-the show's eccentricity is reflected by the character names too), assisted by two Keystone coppers called Blood and Hound, an international villainess/adventuress called Syrie Van Epp (Elizabeth Shepherd) and a sleazy American private eye called Phil Scrotty (Gary Cockrell), a sort of Chandleresque Phil Marlowe gone wrong. None of these characters are sympathetic. Scrotty, who would have been the hero in a more conventional series, is a double dealing rogue always out to financially profit from whatever he's involved in; he's made, superficially at least, a bit likable by reason of his quick wits and natural ebullience. Kronk is an Establishment guard dog, with a totally ruthless and amoral approach to his business. He is the creature of the powers that be. Syrie, sexy but chilly, is (like Scrotty) out for money, or at least anything else which will increase her share of selfish worldly pleasures.
The doings of these characters are played out mainly on a small series of sets, the show rarely leaving the confines of the studio. Shot on tape and in black and white, it looks a little like the early video episodes of "The Avengers", probably a mark against it in 1966, by which time many of ITV's hour long crime series were being made more expensively on film, using a lot of outdoor location shooting and even colour (though this development bypassed most 60s viewers who had black and white TV sets).
Confusing, erudite, self consciously absurd and pretentious, "The corridor people" can be easily dismissed as the most extreme example there was of arch 60s TV tosh, injecting Kafka and Alfred Jarry (and maybe Karl Marx too) into the 60s spy/crime show, something done better (and with a much bigger budget) a year later by Patrick McGoohan's "The Prisoner". However, for some this unhinged little series will provide a few hours of brain twisting pleasure. As you watch, bemused by the eccentric dialogue, narrative oddity and sights like a midget hit man assassinating someone from a pram (the kind of flummery you might also see on "The Avengers" and "Get Smart") you may discern that the world of "The corridor people" is, uniquely for a 60s crime drama, utterly bleak. This is severely cynical stuff. Even if given 35mm film and a lavish budget "The corridor people" could never have been "The Avengers". The latter was utterly conventional in portraying a dominant ethically run society, but one threatened at times by various evil forces who must be vanquished by feats of derring-do in order to reassert a benign status quo. This basic narrative was often (especially in the later filmed episodes of "The Avengers") spiced up with nods to pop art and surrealism; the makers using 60s "kookiness" while at the same time mining a rich vein of good old English eccentricity. But there is no benign status quo in "The corridor people"; the "villains" are morally indistinguishable from the principals (you could not call them "heroes"). Evil is not some external threat, but is a key element within the established order, an order which naturally makes (clandestine) use of the immoral and amoral (Scrotty, Syrie) in exercising its control and authority.
"Nothing odd will last" said Dr Samuel Johnson, a maxim which proved all too true for "The corridor people", which ran for a mere 4 episodes. Whether this was what was intended all along, or the "plug" was pulled on it due to poor ratings, I don't know. But it's hard to see something like this series going on for years. The show was produced by Granada, the same ITV company who made the prosaic eternal kitchen sink soap opera "Coronation street". One wonders what "Corrie" viewers at the time made of "The corridor people"-the two shows don't seem to be from the same planet, never mind being shot at the same time by the same studio.
I have no recollection of seeing this show in 1966. For long it remained something of a legend among TV cultist, many probably fearing it had been wiped along with so much else from the 50s and 60s. However the magic of DVD has unearthed "The corridor people" and made all of it available to view today.
Batman goes to camp-it's hip to be square
Bruce Wayne/Batman in this series is the ultimate "square". The producers of this series take the righteous TV/comic book hero of the 50s and caricature him into absurdity.
"Camp" was not the done thing on TV before this series came along and swept up in the ratings. It was a dangerous move, born from producer William Dozier's desperation about how to handle this project the ABC network had landed him with. Dozier and his colleagues thought..we'll do a send up, exiting for the kids and with knowing satire for adults, ridiculing genre clichés by taking things to an extreme. They said, "Let's give this a try..it's all we have!". To everyone's surprise it not only worked completely for a large domestic audience, it created a worldwide sensation...Batmania!
So "Batman" knew what it was doing, where other makers of cornball hokum either weren't aware of the hackneyed, cheapjack and ridiculous elements in their productions, or were working so fast they had no time to care (or didn't care anyway!). So the "Batman" show starting in 1966 really invented the whole camp "concept" in movie/TV entertainment-"so bad it's good". From the first the show was designed to be self consciously "bad", or rather should one say a "send up", parodying all the clichés of action entertainments on the screen or in comics, and taking them to their ultimate absurdity. "Batman" is a sit-com with no laugh track. The fact that William Dozier himself chose to narrate the show and his voice and manner perfectly fit the intended ambiance of the series, was another triumph.
"Batman" set the trend and other shows followed in its wake. For some established shows like "The Man from UNCLE", going camp was a disaster. Shows like "Voyage to the bottom of the sea", po-faced from the start, straight adventure series, became infantile and stupid.
Other "camp" TV superheroes hitched a ride on the crusader's cape in the wake of the Batman craze. "Captain Nice" and "Mr Terrific" both flopped because their nerdish crime fighters were too wimpy, like Wally Cox was playing Superman (and had uninteresting villains too). "Batman" succeeded, at least initially, because West was a traditional "tough" 6 foot action hero, he was also a competent crime fighter. He is the movie serial style hero, but made so saintly and annoyingly sanctimonious that anyone from teens upwards would rather root for the colorful villains than for such an uptight "Clyde" and Robin, his irritating teenage sidekick. Actors like Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin and Burgess Meredith played Joker, Riddler and Penguin with such verve how couldn't you prefer their exuberantly homicidal and larcenous company to that of boring Bruce and his moralising masked alter ego. Being bad clearly had its advantages-the male villains seemed to invariably attract stunning female accomplices, whereas poor old Bruce Wayne didn't seem to be able to get a date, despite being a millionaire (when one of the bad women came on to Batman, he was far too upright and uptight to take up the offer!)
The total uselessness of the Gotham city police force was also a great running joke. They couldn't catch a cold, never mind an arch-criminal. Dozier and co surely took the risk of feeling the Establishment's disapproval in creating such a sub Keystone cops police force, whose members made Gunther Toody of "Car 54 where are you" seem like Eliot Ness by comparison.
Yes "Batman" 1966 is clever satire. Nobody had done it like this on TV before, there were few "camp" movies before the mid 60s. This was the start. To see treasured moralities and role models subverted in this way was pretty radical stuff back then.
The show generally worked well and was very entertaining in the first season, but soon began to run out of steam from the second. One of a number of problems was it seemed that the producers decided to award villain roles to their quite unsuitable old Hollywood pals-it seldom worked-so we had dullsville villains from the likes of Milton Berle(Louis the Lilac), Van Johnson (Minstrel), Zsa Zsa Gabor(Minerva), Michael Rennie (Sandman), Cliff Robertson (Shame), Rudy Vallee (Lord Ffogg) etc. Even David Wayne's Mad Hatter, which some people like, doesn't seem to work at all to me, despite Wayne obviously trying hard to do something with the character. Whatever the merits of some of these players, they shouldn't have been allowed within a mile of "Batman" villainy. A couple who did work were Roddy McDowall as the Bookworm and the splendid Victor Buono as King Tut. In a way it's odd, as producer Dozier's initial choices for the iconic main villains-Gorshin, Romero, Meredith, Newmar, were so right for their respective roles. Dozier should have recruited people like Paul Lynde, Don Rickles, Theodore Marcuse (relegated to a minor henchman role in a Riddler story). Not as big names as likes of Ida Lupino, Anne Baxter, Tallulah Bankhead, and Liberace, who put in guest appearances as villains (Baxter actually played 2 different Bat-enemies, neither any good), but far more suitable players for "Bat baddies".
"Batman" seemed to fall into the same trap as many imitator shows which tried to go "camp" in the wake of Batman's ratings success, piling on the ludicrous and forgetting the clever satire. Infantile and camp are not the same thing. With rapidly falling budgets to add to its problems, the show was doomed, despite the attempt to breathe new life by adding Batgirl to the mix, in the shape of perky Yvonne Craig. "Batman" on live action TV expired in 1968, ending with one of the worst episode of all, in which producers Dozier and Howie Horwitz put in cameo appearances.
Tail Gunner Joe (1977)
Good actors in a movie perpetuating political mythology
A hard to find film which coasts on the still pervasive mythology of Senator Joe McCarthy as a political demon king. Boyle (as Joe) gives a compelling but historically inaccurate portrayal of the Wisconsin Senator, the caricature McCarthy many take as the real one. Meredith, as wily Army lawyer Joseph Welch, who outsmarted McCarthy at the Army hearings in 1954, is very good, as always.
In fact, McCarthy and Cohn were quite right in worrying about the appalling security situation in the Army, and the 1954 Army hearings became enmeshed in the smokescreen used by the Army to deflect the investigation away from their security failings, which the committee were investigating, by counter-charging that McCarthy and Cohn were trying to get favours for their staffer, David Schine, whilst in the service.
The film is self satisfied agenda driven polemic, based in the pervasive myths which have passed for the truth with many people for decades-that the "red scare" was essentially phony and McCarthy, HUAC etc were always blasting away at the wrong targets, being no more than lying, career ruining publicity hounds, who were trampling over the constitutional rights of startled innocent liberals, who were accused of being security risks/communists.
People who know little about the matter still feel confident in repeating misinformation on McCarthy and the "red scare" to this day-Clooney's Murrow hagiography is an example. The misinformation is pervasive, no wonder people have swallowed it. A recent obit of Budd Schulberg in the serious left wing UK newspaper "The Guardian" headlined that the Hollywood writer "named names" "to McCarthy"- perpetuating the lie that McCarthy "investigated" Hollywood as head of HUAC-the truth being that McCarthy was never even a member of HUAC and he had little interest in the politics of Hollywood types-his investigations were confined almost exclusively to arms of the US government.
The mythology about the "red scare" being baseless is now completely exploded by recently opened Soviet and US government documents, if anything McCarthy and co underestimated the sheer scale of Soviet and fellow traveller infiltration in the US, but decades of public misinformation about this period will be hard to correct.
One day maybe some really brave Hollywood soul will make a movie telling the truth about how many American men and women clandestinely aided the mass murderer Stalin, and worked to impose his vicious system of government on the western world, giving an accurate account maybe of Joe McCarthy's career-but I won't hold my breath. Till then, we have this mythical, drunken lying scoundrel of popular imagination so familiar in the media...."Tail gunner Joe".
The Law and Mr. Jones (1960)
Good legal drama ,in need of longer episodes to develop many of its plots and themes
"The law and Mr.Jones" was half hour legal drama starring character actor James Whitmore(the "Spencer Tracy" of television),from the Four Star production company. The series struggled thru one network season,was resurrected thanks to campaigning fans for a second season,but was then cancelled for good,despite Whitmore's best efforts to save his show.
Watching the series in an entire run recently,I would say that it significantly improved after a pretty shaky start. A lot is very good indeed,serious themes tackled intelligently(if hastily!)and featuring many of the fine,largely unheralded character players who were working extensively in television at this period(Dan Tobin,Paul Richards,John Larch,Chares Aidman,Whit Bissell,Edward Binns,Hugh Marlowe,Harry Townes etc) An early episode like "Music to hurt by" comes off like a short,inferior copy of the "Untouchables",with gangster protection rackets in the frame and our lawyer Mr.Jones behaving more like Eliot Ness than Perry Mason. It took the show a few episodes to find its individual identity,though the mood of the series remained erratic,humorous episodes like "The broken hand" and "C'est la showbiz" contrasting with sombre fare like "Reunion",with John Larch in fine form as a racist murderer,"Cold turkey",which sees Peter Falk giving his all as an addict suffering the horrors of narcotics withdrawal and "No law for ghosts",where a cop with personal demons tries to railroad an alcoholic bum for murder. "Unbury the dead" considers the core issue of how we can know and judge the character of others,with Paul Richards as a man jailed for deserting his comrades in war,returning to his hostile home town to claim his inheritance. The final episode,"Poor Eddie's dead",deals with the thorny issue of "political" blacklisting and is a rare chance to see young Bruce Dern as a flaky good guy,instead of his usual role of a flaky bad guy.
It seems to have been a point of honour with the producers(especially in the first season)that Mr.Jones should become involved in an unlawyerly knock down drag out brawl in almost every episode possible. Sometimes this can fit the story,as in "Music to hurt by", where Jones demolishes 2 gangsters. At other times it all seems horribly contrived,such as in the episodes "Mea Culpa" and "Everybody vs Timmy Drayton",where Jones has a totally gratuitous punch up with guest star Dick Powell(playing his client at that!).
Another problem with the show is that the "half hour" format means that some interesting stories become annoyingly truncated. There simply isn't time for things to be developed properly. Some episodes suffer more than others from this. "A quiet town" is one example. Well written and acted,there are a number of interesting threads to the story which cry out for a longer treatment(they should have made some such episodes two parters). We have the question of bias in a judge(Larry Gates giving a great performance). Splendid old character actor Henry Daniell makes a welcome appearance as a conservative legal expert,whose ambiguous role in the proceedings could have been more fascinating if given the time to deal with it more extensively. Though still a fine drama,the lack of time to develop the screenplay makes it seem rushed and all a little too contrived. The trial scenes end well before the case is closed and the result of the case is hastily tagged on as an epilogue scene. While watching such an episode you wonder-they are bringing in all this to the tale,how on earth can they deal with it properly in 25 minutes? And of course,they can't.
A number of stories bring in Jones's rather irritating "crusader" father(one is not surprised this character inflicted the first names "Abraham Lincoln" on his hapless son). These "crusading/comic" episodes are among my least favorite. At times one wonders how Jones actually completed any of his work,as whenever something more interesting presents itself,he is always eager to drop whatever he is doing at that moment(such as some lucrative corporate work!)to charge into battle on behalf of the often penurious client who appears in his office.
James Whitmore as Jones gives his usual reliable performance,injecting a well rounded likability into a character who might have come over as a rather crusading monomaniac otherwise(a description which fits his annoying father). Pretty Janet De Gore is pleasing as his secretary(a slightly implausible romance is seen developing between her character and Jones)and it is a little surprising her acting career was not more extensive. Conlan Carter is the young heavily spectacled legal trainee in the office and the temptation to make the character too much of comic relief fall guy is thankfully largely avoided.
A worthwhile series which could have been more than it finally is if it had been given a longer time-slot to develop its story lines.
Stagecoach West (1960)
Fine short lived western series
From the heyday of the TV western comes this superior entry. Starring a young Wayne Rogers(long before M.A.S.H.),the fine child actor Richard Eyer and Robert Bray,the series concerns the adventures of stagecoach drivers in the west in the period soon after the civil war. Produced by the "4 star" company,which usually guaranteed good quality entertainment,this well written series features some excellent guest stars like Harry Townes,Lon Chaney,James Coburn,Beverly Garland,Virginia Grey,Cesar Romero and Jack Lord. Robert Bray as one of the drivers and father to young Richard Eyer,is so often a villain in movies and TV series and has such a "bad guy" look about him,it's a bit odd seeing him on the side of the angels in this show. The failure of "Stagecoach west" to survive for more than a single season seems odd,unless it was simply a case of there having been a glut of western shows on TV at this time. TV western fans may well feel they've discovered an obscure gem if they can locate this rare series.
Hey, Jeannie! (1956)
A wee Scots girl takes on New York
This attempt by Four star television to make a major US star of English(not Scottish as she plays here-but her accent is good)actress and singer Jeannie Carson,was not a great success at the time.It is a fairly routine sitcom of its era,with the eccentric difference that Miss Carson bursts into a song (and at times dance as well!)about once in each episode.Jeannie is a naive Scottish girl staying as the home of a cab driver and his sister in Brooklyn,New York.She has come to the US from Dunfermlin,Scotland,to attempt to make her fortune,like steel magnate Andrew Carnegie did in the previous century.She gets into various scrapes and adventures,often centered around jobs she's trying out,or as a result of typically zany misunderstandings.We see Jeannie as a cab driver,a policewoman,a golf caddie and even as a Chinese singer in a restaurant.In one episode she gets distinctly raunchy mixing with the rock and roll "bop" cats!.If there is one word which could sum up Jeannie Carson's character here it's perky.At first her tweeness can be a bit annoying,but she grows on you.Pretty Jeannie Carson,slim,petite and talented,had one of the loveliest faces in showbiz and it's rather surprising she did not achieve a greater level of stardom.Backing up Miss Carson on the show are reliable old hands Allen Jenkins as her Runyonesque sponsor the cab driver Al and Jane Dulo as his sister.The unmarried state of her two hosts tempts Jeannie to try match making for them at times. Guest stars appearing on the show include Hans Conreid,Richard Long and Charles Bronson!
Go, Johnny, Go! (1959)
Required viewing for fans of early rock and roll
In what was to be his last movie, legendary 50s DJ Alan Freed(1921-1965), playing..er..legendary 50s DJ Alan Freed, once again presents a host of early rock and roll stars,hung together with a threadbare perfunctory plot(just as in "Rock Rock Rock","Rock around the clock" and "Don't knock the rock"). Shot at the Hal Roach studio in Culver City, Los Angeles (where Laurel and Hardy once romped)in January 1959,"Go Johnny go" is one of the most interesting and enjoyable of the early rock films. Chuck Berry features, not just as a performer but an actor as well, he's seen hanging out with Freed,accompanying him, it appears, wherever he goes! As was usual in Freed's cheap and cheerful films, the rock and roll stars on display are some of the best.The movie has the only big screen performance of Richie Valens,who died very shortly after he filmed this appearance,in the notorious 1959 plane crash,which also claimed Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper. Another tragic rocker here is Eddie Cochran, a car accident victim about a year and a half after he made the film. The story, such as it is, concerns Freed's desire to make a star out of a talented nobody-this means we get a lot of crooning from lanky teen idol Jimmy Clanton, playing the aforesaid nobody(the "Johnny" of the title). I can never make up my mind about Clanton; he was competent actor,though he is certainly surrounded by his betters as performers in the line up here.
Look out for scene with Alan Freed jamming on drums along with Chuck Berry and his group on the marvelous "Little Queenie", Freed looks like he's having a ball. Sadly the good times were not to roll much longer for Freed as personal and career problems mounted. He became embroiled in the payola scandal, and was pursued relentlessly by the tax man.Dropped from his TV and radio shows, moving to the west coast to get work, his drinking was turning him into a serious and sick alcoholic, he died broke,killed by Uraemia in 1965.
Performers(alphabetical)- Chuck Berry-"Go Johnny go","Little Queenie" "Memphis Tennessee" The Cadillacs-"Jaywalker","Please Mr Johnson"(They may have been the poor man's Coasters,but they're great here,acting out their song stories on the stage in a club). Jo-Ann Campbell-"Momma can I go out?" Jimmy Clanton-"Angel face","It takes a long time","My love is true","Ship on a stormy sea" Eddie Cochran-"Teenage Heaven"(watch Eddie dance with his guitar!) The Flamingos-"Jump children"(a performance of breathtaking exuberance) Harvey Fuqua-"Don't be afraid to love me" Sandy Stewart-"Heavenly father","Playmate"(the last one a perky piece performed in a recording studio) Sandy Stewart/Jimmy Clanton-"Once again" Richie Valens-"Ooh my head""(performed for Freed and his pals and a tiny group of teens) Jackie Wilson-"You'd better know it"(Wilson,a reliable showstopper as always-and one of the coolest rockers ever.If you've seen stills or clips of Jackie performing in front of a silly coffee pot with a face backdrop,this is where it's from!)
Saints and Sinners (1962)
Hard hitting,sadly short lived newspaper drama.
Nick Adams followed his successful western series "The Rebel" with this barely remembered show concerning the dramas of city life,as seen by the the employees of a big New York newspaper."Saints and Sinners" was a "spin off" like "Burke's law",from an episode of the anthology series "The Dick Powell show/Theater". Much less popular than Captain Burke's glossy light toned adventures, the gritty "Saints and Sinners" lasted a mere 18 episodes. Adams played Nick Alexander, young star reporter for the "New York Bulletin". Nick's heart is in the right place, but his crusading impetuosity needs to be tempered at times by his mentor, wise, kindly, but authoritative editor,Mark Grainger,played by John Larkin. This is a very good series, well written and directed,and often superbly played. Executive producer Adrian Spies had been a newspaperman, which helped get the detail right on the show. Nick Adams is a revelation here, giving heartfelt full-blooded performances, and is thoroughly convincing. Alexander, a workaholic 24 hour a day news man, is not a natural conformist,and that "rebel" streak in him provides the beef to many of the most interesting elements in the stories.He is highly strung and has a very short fuse,gets emotionally involved with the people in his stories, something Grainger often tries to counsel against. Richard Erdman is featured as Klugie,the staff photographer.
The stories are of moral dilemmas,the themes are serious and adult("The Rebel" was often unusually cerebral for a western too)involving an array of acting talent in guest roles,including Paul Muni,who makes his final screen appearance in the episode "A shame for the Diamond wedding"."The year Joan Crawford won the Oscar" features a singer,played by Robert Lansing, so obviously modeled on Frank Sinatra, one is surprised they got away with it! One of my favorite episodes, which explores some very complex moral issues is "Judith was a lady". Here Grainger and Alexander set out to dig into the past of a dead woman,to try to show she was loose living(get the dirt on her in other words!),in order to stave off an expensive lawsuit by the woman's husband, who is angered about insinuations about her that had been made in the "Bulletin"."Night of horns and bells" is a tour de force of ensemble acting, as inexperienced Alexander is forced to take the editor's chair during the absence of Grainger and his deputy on new years eve, having to cope with the myriad problems which arise in the job on such a night,as well as placate an irate girlfriend he has had to let down because of the emergency. Sadly both the leads in the series were to die prematurely within a few years. Larkin was 52 and starring in "12 O'clock high" in 1965 when felled by a heart attack.In 1968 Adams died from a drug overdose at 36, in somewhat mysterious circumstances.
Out of Sight (1966)
Damp spy camp at the beach party
The sands were running out for the Beach party movie cycle by the time this major studio entry hit the Drive-ins in 1966."Out of sight" tries to vary the formula with a witless spy plot,aping the Bond mania of the time.A Russian type villain called Big D(John Lawrence),aiming to sabotage the local teen scene,finds himself up against pretend secret agent Homer(Jonathan Daly-who is like a cross between Jerry Lewis and Bugs Bunny).Big D tries to bump off Homer using a group of assassin babes,including Wende Wagner(from the "Green Hornet" TV series)and the amazing Deanna Lund(from "Land of the Giants"),who plays a hip swinging bad girl called "Tuff Bod"!Also featuring some gags about a girl and a male midget on a motor cycle as agents of..ahem.."F.L.U.S.H"(they are not the main bad guys),and naturally including lots of hunks and bikini girls doing the "jerk" at the beach.
I actually liked a lot of the music here,which kicks off with Gary Lewis and the Playboy's great "Malibu run",and includes the Astronauts doing a creditable "Baby please don't go",the Turtles performing a semi-psychedelic/Byrds type number in someones front room,ersatz concert footage of Brit joke rockers Freddie and the Dreamers and best of all,Dobie Gray with his classic minor dance hit "Out on the floor"(criminally interrupted by a silly chase scene).The catchy theme tune is by Nik Venet,early producer for the Beach Boys at Capitol records.
Everybody comes to Dante's in a forgotten 60s crime show.
Dick Powell had originally played "Willie Dante" in a couple of 50s TV plays.When Powell's TV production company "4 Star Television" decided to "spin off" the character into a series,second rung 50s movie star Howard Duff took over the role."Dante" is a half hour crime drama,a category of programme which has vanished from the schedules,but was common during the early days of filmed television series.The show is reminiscent of the series "Mr Lucky",which made its debut in 1959,the season before "Dante" appeared.Dante is a gambler,who runs a night club-Mr.Lucky was a gambler who owned a gambling club/restaurant,though the latter operated from a ship at sea,while "Dante's Inferno" was on dry land.Like Mr.Lucky,Dante seemed to have a vaguely shady background,with the police regularly suspicious about his activities,though Willie Dante,like Lucky,has long abandoned any behaviour not strictly "legit".Duff is the sort of hero who is tough but suave,great with the women,and always ready with a good retort or quip when required.The series is helped greatly by the presence of character players Tom D'Andrea as Biff,and Alan Mowbray as Stewart,Willie's associates from way back,who work with him in the club.Biff the barkeep still harbours some regrets for the good old (less legal)days,Stewart,the urbane polished Maitre D,a former con artist,seems more settled with his present respectability. One of the main problems for Willie and the boys is that people have a tendency to pop up from their past,plunging them back against their will into the milieu of crime-they have to deal with this,while making sure their roles in the business can't be wrongly construed as illegal by a police force ready to think the worst of them.It's often surprising how much these half hour dramas can fit into a tight running time-"Dante" succeeds thru solid "4 Star" production values,neat if routine little stories,good characterizations from the principals,and the reliable array of guest stars(Robert Strauss,John Anderson,Joan Marshall,Ruta Lee,Charles McGraw,Patricia Medina-and even a young Yvonne Craig among them)"Dante" appears to be a "lost" show,rarely referred to or remembered,and does not seem to have made even the kind of minor mark in popular culture achieved by "Mr Lucky"(the latter series was undoubtedly helped here by the Henry Mancini music-Lucky certainly had the better theme tune,and the music became popular on record at the time). There were 26 episodes of "Dante" made.Duff went on to greater TV success in the late 60s with "Felony Squad".The inspiration for "Dante" probably came from the film "Casablanca" and Bogart's character Rick Blaine.
The Smothers Brothers Show (1965)
The Smothers boys contribute to the fantasy sitcom genre
Tom Smothers is an incompetent apprentice angel,sent back to earth by angel supervisor "Ralph" to earn his spurs(er..wings?),by helping people,using "angel powers",usually roping his frequently exasperated living brother Dick into his adventures. This was the first of the Smothers brothers TV shows of their own,a half hour black and white sitcom,which lasted a year,the premise of which was hardly uniquely "whacky" in the era of "I dream of Jeannie","the Munsters" and the notorious "My mother the car".The brothers' status in the TV comedy pantheon is based on their later "satirical" variety-sketch show "The Smothers brothers comedy hour",and they seem embarrassed about,and dismissive of this predecessor.However,the show is a perfectly acceptable example of the "fantasy" sitcom,so popular at this time,and is by no means unworthy as a showcase for their talents.Each episode starts with a short stand up routine by way of an introduction to the story.Then Tom-reluctant Dick often in tow-launches into his latest "angel assignment"-to end a hillbilly feud,make sure an ex con doesn't return to crime,or whatever.Like its contemporaries,sometimes silliness threatens to overwhelm the whole thing,and Tom's comic persona can become irritating if allowed too much leeway.But the presence of fine supporting casts,especially co-star Roland Winters-as Dick's blustering boss at "Pandora publications"-and guests like Edward Andrews,Gerald Mohr and Percy Helton,good production from the reliable "4 Star" television company and interesting stories,all complement the likable brothers,helping to make a very watchable show.
This sitcom may well wear better today than the "Smothers brothers comedy hour",where the agitprop comedy is very much anchored in the political and societal concerns of the late 60s(nothing dates like satire!).Modern audiences who enjoy the escapist fantasy sitcoms of the 60s,and have exhausted the likes of "Bewitched",might enjoy discovering this "lost" show-rarely seen since its original transmission.A colorized version would do no harm to the "integrity" of the series,and enhance the slick "Madison Avenue 60s" clothes.
Operazione Goldman (1966)
Super-spy to stupid spy
Shot in Rome,usually known in the English speaking world as "Lightning Bolt"(so like "Thunderball"!),this movie is an especially tacky example of the Euro-Superspy genre of the 1960's.Often these movies starred second string American actors to help US sales-and this has Anthony Eisley(best known as a lead in the TV detective series "Hawaiian Eye"),who spent a lot of his career in such Euro schlock.Handsome,tough looking and businesslike,Eisley was suitable for these kinds of roles,but here he is immersed in a distinctly third rate "Bond" caper.The story has elements from "Dr No"(villain who shoots down US moon rockets-cue the grainy stock footage of Cape Kennedy which fills the movie),but here the tale is clumsily developed and full of absurdities.The villain,vaguely resembles Goldfinger,and is-wait for it-a fiendish beer manufacturer,just like the villain in the Matt Helm movie "The Ambushers"(1967).Eisley's hero "Harry Sennet" at times acts with incredible stupidity.He drives right on to a rocket launch site to try and stop it leaving-just as it blasts off!In another unprofessional moment,Sennet,captured and surrounded by thugs,goes into a rage and tries to attack the gloating villain,when it's obvious he will fail and just gets more battering from the bad guys for his trouble-007 would be appalled!And here is a hero who more than once tries to "buy off" enemies by offering them cheques!(a wonderfully absurd scene has him doing a cheque for a gunman who's ready to shoot him!). The English dubbing is clear but often incongruous(a renowned rocket scientist who speaks in a "Barry Fitzgerald" Irish burr?).To try to make the narrative more coherent,we have Sennet providing a frequently cornball "tough guy" voice-over at certain points.
I did quite like the villainess with an acid squirting gun,and the "underwater city" hideout has a certain threadbare pop art mid 60's charm(with its ice-chamber where the villain stores his frozen victims).The final action and destruction scenes are far better done than the rest of the movie,the director seems more at home with fighting/mayhem than other aspects of film making.
There are a lot of better examples of 60's Eurospy out there,but "Lightning Bolt" is tolerable if you are interested in the genre.
Point of Order! (1964)
Joe McCarthy versus the U.S. Army
Emile De Antonio assembled "Point of Order" from old TV kinescopes, taken during what have become known as the "Army-McCarthy" Hearings of 1954( the Hearings lasted 36 days and took up 187 hours of broadcast airtime).There is no narration and those with little knowledge of what these Hearings were about,may wonder what is going on.Here we have the Senate Permanent Sub Committee on Investigations(the PSI),chaired by Senator Karl Mundt,looking into the charge that Senator Joseph McCarthy and his staff-especially chief council Roy Cohn(Schine's close friend),had tried to use their influence to get the Army to grant "favours" to G.David Schine,a wealthy young man on the Committee staff, who had been drafted,and was a special friend of Cohn.The Army had brought these charges in response to Senator McCarthy's allegations of serious Army security risks-specifically at Fort Monmouth,New Jersey.McCarthy had been Chairman of this Committee, but stepped down,being replaced by Mundt for this investigation,as McCarthy was personally involved in the allegations.One important aspect of "Point of order"(the title taken from Mc Carthy's frequent interruptions-the phrase becoming a comedians joke-further undermining the Senator's reputation),is that the left wing De Antonio has edited it to show McCarthy in the worst light possible.There are a lot of omissions of material necessary to comprehend the charges and counter charges between the McCarthy camp and the Army(in the version I saw,David Schine's appearance at the Hearings was absent!)The Joe McCarthy we see here is a man who was beginning to disintegrate-years of controversy and pressure led to his increasing reliance on the alcohol which would eventually kill him.He was ill,suffering constant headaches and sinus problems,he looks bloated,and the serious gaffs he makes may be attributable to his heavy drinking and poor health.The most famous of these is his blurting out the name of attorney Fred Fisher as a member of the Lawyer's Guild(a communist front)-giving Fisher's boss,Army council Joseph Welch his chance to tear into McCarthy with his famous "Have you no sense of decency,sir?" speech.Many see this moment as the vital one-where McCarthy was shown up,exposed and humiliated on camera before the American people,leading on to the final blow which finished him soon after,his censure by the Senate.Whatever ones views on McCarthy,the exchange between wily old Joe Welch and Joe McCarthy-who rumbles on,seemingly oblivious to the damage he is doing to himself,is a riveting piece of real life drama.The final report of the Committee found that pressure had been put on the Army on Schine's behalf by Roy Cohn and others,with McCarthy's assistance(McCarthy,who couldn't have cared less about Schine,thought so highly of Cohn he allowed himself to be pulled down into disaster by him),but the Army chiefs had been guilty of pandering to it,and of obstructing the Fort Monmouth investigations.You will not find this out from "Point of Order",which ends with the scene of people filing out of the Committee room at the conclusion of the Hearings-McCarthy sitting at the table seemingly ignored and abandoned.
The truth about McCarthy is that he was a complex,intelligent,personally kind and affable man,who loved the limelight and the bottle,had a volatile temper and did have frequent serious lapses of judgement-but he was not the one dimensional ogre who persecuted "innocent" people by calling them "communists" of historical myth.Time has largely vindicated McCarthy and the anti-communist investigators,with the opening of the U.S.and Soviet archives,which detail the enormous levels of infiltration by Moscow's agents into crucial positions in the U.S.That McCarthy and his allies were more correct than wrong has yet to change the "red-baiting" myth,and salvage the reputation of the most famous "Witch-hunter" of them all.Emile De Antonio's film remains the most accessible picture of McCarthy-and he's at his worst,serving to perpetuate the image of "Tail Gunner Joe" as an irresponsible overbearing villain.
The Munsters (1964)
Monstrously good series
"The Munsters" was filmed at the Universal-Hollywood lot, where the original monster movies of the 30's and 40's featuring Frankenstein's monster, Dracula, Wolfman etc,were made. By the 1960's it was felt these creations(makeup copyright still owned by the studio)were ripe for spoofing(well they had actually already been in comedy films with Abbott and Costello a few years earlier)."The Munsters" could have been terrible-its easy to get this sort of thing all wrong, witness the appalling 80's remake "The Munster's today"; but this series works beautifully.It's not the scripts-though there are some great lines,they are often not especially outstanding. What makes the show so good is the cast, particularly Fred Gwynne as scary, hopeless, lovable Herman-what a performance he gave! Despite all the makeup he can do wonderful things with his face,and that gentle cultured voice coming out of the monstrous Herman-taking any line-often a very ordinary one, and making it totally hilarious. Herman, with his easily punctured vanity, childish tantrums and booming laugh, is one of the great comic creations. A word of appreciation too for Al Lewis, the vampire Grandpa, whose mad scientist Count comes over like a third rate vaudeville magician from New York (he even works as a stage magician in one episode!),and who enjoys nothing more than insulting his clueless son in law, Herman. The rest of the cast are fine, though Yvonne DeCarlo as Lily was given little else to do but be shrewish with Herman as the series went on. Another fortunate thing was that in the mid 60's,when the show was made, there were many marvelous character actor/comedians in Hollywood, and lots appear on the show, such as Frank Gorshin, Neil Hamilton, Jessie White, John Hoyt, Louis Nye(his TV horror host character, "Zombo", is actually scarier than any of the Munsters)and best of all Paul Lynde, who shows up twice as the Munster family doctor,and has some classic comedy moments with Herman. One of many highlights is Herman doing a cod "Ginsberg" style poem in front of an admiring beatnik audience in "Far out Munster". A treat, a show which should live forever.
The Primitives (1962)
Night club entertainers moonlight as heist specialists.
A group of night club musicians,featuring an exotic dancer,commit jewel robberies,wherever they perform.
THE PRIMITIVES is one of the many routine minor second feature crime movies churned out in the UK in the late 50's and early 60's.This one is a little unusual,firstly in the occupations of the crooks,and secondly in showing a woman as the gang boss(not very common at the period,or now come to that).She is played by talented Jan Holden,an actress with an uncommon and striking sort of beauty,in a rare leading role(Miss Holden is clearly not the masked exotic dancer we see performing in the Primitives stage act).Lighter in tone,and with less overt violence than was common in these sort of movies,THE PRIMITIVES lacks any real thrills or dramatic tension.Jan Holden excepted,the cast mostly act without much enthusiasm. Some(like me)quite enjoy watching this kind of low budget movie,as they preserve an early sixties Britain we remember with affection.
One odd point is that Jan Holden,leader of the Primitives,uncannily resembles Tracy Cattell,lead singer of British 80's pop band-the Primitives!
Honey West (1965)
Cool school crime show
The sort of show that epitomised mid 60's Hollywood hip-great clothes and cars,fab music,graced with the presence of slim beautiful Anne Francis as the foxy sleuth.Okay the plots are elementary at best,and can veer towards silliness("Little green Robin Hood" anyone?),and the show is too darn short at half an hour to do real justice to itself.Also it's in black and white-but who cares-just watch Francis and John Ericson in action.Like the "Burke's Law" series-where Honey West first appeared on screen-there's quite a lot of wit in the writing(this show,like "Burke's Law",is from "4 star" television productions).And there's Bruce,Honey's amusingly roguish ocelot.Some interesting guest stars include Everett Sloane(in one of his final appearances),Edd Byrnes,Alan Reed(Fred Flinstone!)and Dick Clark!Special mention should be made of the brilliant montage of pictures accompanying the jazzy opening credits.
Strange Luck (1995)
Quirky,underrated show with the wonderful D.B. Sweeney
One of the few shows of the 90's I really loved.Quirky,eccentric and difficult to classify,"Strange luck" followed the adventures of freelance photographer Chance Harper,who is afflicted/blessed with,well,strange luck,which leads him into all sorts of odd and at times dangerous situations.A lot of the charm of the series was thanks to D.B.Sweeney,a low key and enormously likable actor,who breathes life into the slightly seedy,lovable Chance,denizen of one of TV's weirdest rundown apartments,and eternal wearer of an ancient overcoat.Angie is Chance's friend,a counter assistant at the second rate eatery where he hangs out.Probably too odd for popular success,Fox soon pulled the plug on Chance and his overcoat. Should become a cult show.