Thursday, April 17, 2014

EASTER IS...

One of my many childhood obsessions was oddly enough Lutheran Television. Growing up Catholic, it seemed like our Protestant friends had better choices when it came to TV productions. They had the terrifically soapy THIS IS THE LIFE, we had SUNDAY MASS. They had the claymation duo of DAVEY & GOLIATH, we had SUNDAY MASS FOR SHUT-INS. They had EASTER IS... and we had EASTER SUNDAY MASS.
 EASTER IS...was an animated special about a boy and his dog from the early 1970s that was a sequel to CHRISTMAS IS... (which I also loved and will be covering in December). I recently found both these Lutheran TV classics unwrapped on VHS at a gay thrift shop in Palm Springs! It's an Easter miracle!
 Actress/singer/game show icon Leslie Uggams lent her talents to the production, a few years before her appearance in the disturbing exploitation film POOR PRETTY EDDIE, which also involved a dog.
 Our story focuses on Benjy, a young boy and his poor sense of what it means to be a good pet owner. His sheepdog Waldo wanders around the neighborhood without a leash, gets attacked by bees and is left sitting on the bus stop waiting for Benjy to come home from school. Probably doesn't get his shots either.
 At school, Easter season is in full swing - and everyone knows what that means : girls dressed as pink bunnies while boys point at them, colored eggs and baskets full of candy.
 Benjy's teacher (Leslie) tells the class that they are going to be competing against the other classes in an Easter decorating contest. Think of it as PROJECT: RUNWAY with lots of pastels.
 The teacher assigns Benjy the most important task of designing the poster for the classroom door. She doesn't want it to look like crap, so he's gotta really work hard on this. I mean real hard.
 As his hippie Jesus poster looks over him, Benjy begins to toil away night after night on his Easter poster, ignoring Waldo and becoming more and more obsessed with conveying the true meaning of Easter.
 The following day, Benjy scolds Waldo for being too co-dependant and the poor dog wanders off in a state of distress, only to be attacked by a magical (yes, I said magical) Siamese cat on loan from LADY & THE TRAMP.
 Waldo ends up spending the night on the streets, in a dump, and drinking polluted water.
 Meanwhile Benjy's ignorant parents think that all the boy needs to do is put food outside and Waldo will turn up.
They don't even offer to drive around and look for the dog. Out of sight, out of mind. I really want to smack these two smug assholes.
 Benjy prays to God to bring Waldo home. Maybe he should have thought about getting Waldo a leash and harness at some point and treated him better?
 But God doesn't listen - and Waldo ends up getting captured by a red-headed brat. It's always a red-head. Even Lex Luthor was ginger before he lost his hair.
 Red decides to hold Waldo hostage, thinking that his owner actually cared about him.
 Benjy is told that he needs to come up with FIVE DOLLARS in ransom otherwise he'll never see Waldo again. Great orange phone by the way.
 Rather than going to his stupid parents for help, Benjy decides to steal $3.05 out of the family piggy bank. Luckily his African-American friend is around to help him.
 Benjy and his friend confront the read-headed kidnapper, but its too late-Waldo was attacked by rats during the night and escaped Red's garage...leaving behind a trail of blood!!!
 Oh Hippie Jesus - what is Benjy going to do? What will become of poor neglected Waldo? Where did you get that awesome vest? PROJECT: RUNWAY, perhaps?
 Well, the next day Benjy's dumb-ass parents convince him to go to church for Easter - and Waldo just shows up. All dirty, but not bleeding. The two are happily reunited and all is forgiven. Did Benjy learn his lesson? Did he learn anything at all? I really don't think so.
 Benjy's stoned Sunday school teacher lets him bring Waldo into the classroom. "Like, that dog is so intense!"
 The creepy Sunday School students listen as Benjy and the teacher tell the miracle of Waldo's Christ-like return.
 The next day at Albrecht PUBLIC SCHOOL. (I typed it in all caps for a reason).
 Tim Gunn shows up to judge the Easter-decorating contest - and guess who's class wins?
Turns out that Benjy's Hippie Jesus collage is just what a PUBLIC SCHOOL wants hanging on a classroom door! I guess maybe Tim Gunn thought it was the Brawny Man or some other hunky dude and not Jesus. Well that's where Benhy's story ends...but actually I have a confession...
When this show aired in the 1970s, I loved it so much I mailed away for an EASTER IS...Hippie Jesus poster, which I proudly displayed on my closet door for years, until it was replaced by Lynda Carter. Amen!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Mickey Rooney is THE MANIPULATOR

Here's a post from 2008 - in honor of the late Mr. Rooney. Ever wonder what it would be like if Sid & Marty Krofft produced Stephen King's MISERY? Well, 1971's THE MANIPULATOR (aka BJ LANG PRESENTS) is a pretty close approximation of what it might look like.It all starts innocently enough on a rainy night, when we see a dark figure in a hat and raincoat walking on a dark city street accompanied by standard 1970s TV-movie theme music followed by the opening titles "Mickey Rooney...Luana Anders...THE MANIPULATOR". A fancy old car then pulls up to a warehouse and Mickey exits sporting his YEAR WITHOUT A SANTA CLAUS beard. He then gets into a freight elevator as flashes of random Fellini-like horrors begin. This is when we start to know this is no ABC Movie of the Week.

Mickey walks by what looks like a dusty animal carcass and climbs up a ladder into what looks like a Hollywood prop house. He then sits in an old leather chair, takes off his rose-tinted sunglasses and begins talking to himself as if he is various members of a film crew. Okay. He chats with a mannequin named "Wally" in a what could be a scene from ANDY HARDY HAS A COMPLETE MENTAL BREAKDOWN-decides to "put on a show!!!" Too bad Judy wasn't around to help out!

So Mickey begins to describe the upcoming scene to his imaginary "cast & crew". He calls "action!" and turns on a strobe light, imagining a pair of nude elderly actors dancing in the spotlight as he shouts the lyrics to "Chattanooga Choo Choo" at them. Then he showers the naked old folks with flowers. HUH??? The old people soon disappear, then Mickey pulls back a curtain and screams - and a real woman (Luana Anders) screams back at him. She's his "star", Carlotta - and she's hungry. In fact she asks him for food repeatedly. Turns out she's his prisoner and he has her tied to a wheelchair - and it's time for her lunch! Mickey then feeds her water from a silver chalice and baby food from a jar. Classy.

So then we learn that Carlotta has been cast as Roxanne (the Daryl Hannah role) in BJ Lang's film version of CYRANO DE BERGERAC. While Mickey is feeding her, she bites his finger and tells him that she's grateful for his kindness to her. Then he yells at some "crew members" and rolls in a huge spotlight followed by a (believe it or not) a fast-motion dance with a broomstick intercut with insert shots of a growling wild animal. Very Krofft-like. Meanwhile, Carlotta unties herself. Run like the wind, girl, run!!!

I guess she didn't run cause Mickey then shows up in drag make-up...and whispers to Charlotte about when he used to make up Marilyn's eyes. Then her gets all femme as he applies Carlotta's Roxanne make-up. This is a very disturbing scene. What would Judy say???

Mickey hears some cackling laughter in his head and is now sporting a really fake Witchie-Poo type Cyrano nose. I guess he's the director AND star of this production! Then he pushes Carlotta's wheelchair head-on into a mirror and demands that she recite her lines from the balcony scene. Then he yells at the thunder outside to be "quiet". Huh?After playing with some color gels, Mickey gives a pep talk to his imaginary background players (actually a collection of broken mannequins). Then he forces Carlotta to act out a scene - he calls "cut!!!" and breaks into another "Chattanooga Choo Choo" performance. Jesus - please make it stop!!! Then he tells her all about "fear" as he pretends to choke her. That's when I decide that ANDY HARDY MUST DIE!!!

So, Mickey calls "action!!!" again and they act out their big scene and unseen crowds roar with applause and "bravos!" Carlotta then tells him that the audience LOVES him. What follows next is the most bizarre scene in the film - We see a naked baby walking around a cocktail party where we also see the usual assortment of late 60s/early 70s "freaks" - you know - nudists, drag queens, Ruth Gordon-type old ladies, more nudists, pot-smokers, hippies, sex maniacs and others eating Saltine crackers with spinach dip and tripping out on acid. This all culminates with a giant orgy where Mickey is caressed by both women and men...and the naked baby is in the middle of it all!!! Really...I ask again...WHAT would Judy say???

While preparing for his big "duel" scene, Mickey suddenly collapses and Carlotta begs him NOT to die. Huh? She gets herself free and begins kicking the shit out of him. Why doesn't she just RUN??? Of course he manages to pin her down and kiss her! What a MANIPULATOR! Carlotta then begins running in very slow motion down a looooonnnnnggggg hallway while crazy electronic special effects music plays. Soon Mickey leaps out at her with his Cyrano sword. She decides to hide behind some sheer curtains. Smart girl, that Carlotta.

Then Mickey chases her through the mannequin display - and she attacks him with the spotlight. Carlotta then continues to run through the prop house through what looks like a combo wardrobe department and meat locker. She then crawls around the catwalk as Mickey hollers out orders to his "film crew"...and he once again breaks into song - yes, that's right - "Chattanooga Choo Choo" for the third fucking time!!! I beg of you....Please make it stop...please!!!! I will never listen to that song the same way again. Actually, I will never listen to that song again, PERIOD.

As Carlotta continues to navigate her way through the wardrobe, she suddenly stumbles upon "guest star" character actor Keenan Wynn - who Mickey stabs with his sword and kills. I guess it was just a cameo. Suddenly we're in a slaughterhouse, where a string quartet entertains both women in furs and butchers wearing bloody aprons as Carlotta dances for them all. I just can't say "huh?" anymore - I'm totally exhausted.

Mickey tells Carlotta he'll let her go if she tells him that she loves him. She doesn't - but he lets her go anyway. Okay, HUH? She then runs through the damn wardrobe again!!! She climbs down the ladder into the freight elevator...but she can't figure out how to open the door - so she just slams herself against the walls till it opens. Oh my god...I can't take much more of this.

Finally - Carlotta runs out into the rain - and locks herself in his car!!! She starts blowing the horn as Mickey pounds on the car windows - finally smashing the window with a trash can. He unlocks the door. Fade to: she's back inside with him. They kiss - and she laughs. This drives him CRAZY. I mean REALLY CRAZY. Then everyTHING around him begins to laugh. Mannequins, dead animals, boxes, jars of Vicks VapoRub, Chia Pets, etc. Then she starts yelling "No!!! No!!! No!!!" at him and he recites the final lines from CYRANO - and she actually looks at him... LOVINGLY!!!

Then he stabs himself with the sword and dies. She hears applause and takes a bow. The End. After the end credits we see Mickey's sped-up dance with the broom again. I almost expected Pufnstuf to show up and join in. The End for real.

Holy Shit! I really think Mickey thought he was gonna get an Oscar for this "brave" film role. I'm just surprised he ever worked again after it!!! This movie needs to be seen just to show how an actor's ego can lead to bad film choices. I do have to say that Luana Anders was truly compelling as Carlotta - and I look forward to seeing some of her other films. Sadly, she passed away in 1996.

The film really rates a 10 outta 10 - but only deserves 2 outta 10 because by the end you just feel so beat up, mentally drained and MANIPULATED from watching it. Wonder who that poor nude baby at the orgy grew up to be? Jimmy Osmond?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Can 2 divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?

With news of CBS possibly airing a new version of THE ODD COUPLE starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon, here's a post from 2008 when I was just starting to watch season 4 of THE ODD COUPLE on dvd, and I declared that the show, in my opinion is the second greatest American sitcom ever. That's right, I said it.
After MARY TYLER MOORE, no other US sitcom is more consistently funny, well-acted or holds up as well over the years. Based on Neil Simon's Broadway play and adapted into a 1968 feature starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. The TV version, starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall premiered on September 24, 1970 and ran for five seasons in a variety of timeslots on ABC - usually on Thursday or Friday nights. The series was never a Top 10 hit, and actually was in danger of cancellation every season it aired. The first season is quite unremarkable, having been filmed with one camera and an added laugh track. The show really came to life in season two, when a live audience was added to react to the mis-matched antics of Oscar and Felix.
The show really took off in popularity in the late 1970s when syndicated reruns aired on local stations. Channel 11, WPIX air four episodes a night. Two in early evening and two at 11PM. I watched them all, repeatedly. And watching them again now on dvd is, to quote a friend of mine "a sheer delight".
What makes the show so great? Well, Felix and Oscar are such great, unique characters - and because of that, so many later sitcom characters borrow freely from them. You can certain see traits of fastidious Felix in Sheldon from BIG BANG THEORY and Niles from FRASIER. Oscar's grouchy brashness has influenced a whole generation of cranky comedy curmudgeons, notable EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND's Frank Barone. While the show lacked continuity in so many instances (don't get me started!), the interplay between the two leads and excellent supporting players make this the best thing Garry Marshall has ever been part of. While the show "jumps the shark" with celebrity guests (Monty Hall, Howard Cosell, Paul Williams, etc.), it makes up for it with clever plots that incorporate the guest stars into the world of Felix and Oscar. Since Felix is a portrait photographer and Oscar is a sportswriter, it makes sense that they encounter these folks in New York City. Why not? I once rode in an elevator with Howard Cosell. He had big ears. AND I was a contestant on the most recent version of LET'S MAKE A DEAL! (Even though that happened in L.A. and Billy Bush-yuck!-was the host, but Monty was there. See photo below)But enough about me. While I was watching the classic PASSWORD episode recently, with guests Betty White and Allen Ludden, I wondered if any other MARY TYLER MOORE alumni ever appeared on THE ODD COUPLE. With a little research I discovered that in addition to Betty White ("Herself" on OC,"Sue Ann Nivens" on MTM), there was Bill Quinn ("Dr. Melnitz" on OC,"Dr. Walter Richards," Mary's dad on MTM), Penny Marshall ("Myrna Tuner" on OC, "Paula" on MTM), Barbara Colby ("Monique" the drunk bartender on OC, "Sherry" the hooker on MTM) and the late, great Brett Somers ("Blanche Madison" on OC and "Aunt Rose" on MTM). Not bad, considering the shows aired on different network during roughly the same period.
Both actors won Emmy Awards for their roles. Jack in 1971 and 1973, Tony in 1975 - after the show was cancelled. The duo reunited for a misguided 1993 CBS TV-movie called THE ODD COUPLE: TOGETHER AGAIN. I guess ABC's miserable MARY & RHODA reunion movie was payback. Jack and Tony had become best friends in real life, and after Tony's death in 2004, Jack wrote a memoir about their relationship, called Tony and Me: A Story of Friendship. The book has been hailed as a touching portrait of a professional partnership that, in the end, became deeply personal. The book includes over 50 photographs, many from Jack and Tony's private collections, and a DVD of never-seen-before outtakes from THE ODD COUPLE.
In the 1980s, THE ODD COUPLE was revived - with an an almost all African-American cast. Demond (SANFORD & SON) Wilson is Oscar and Ron (BARNEY MILLER) Glass is Felix. THE NEW ODD COUPLE could have been a descent show if they didn't decide to recycle scripts from the original series that were already considered classics by fans of the show. Ironically another black version of a Neil Simon play, BAREFOOT IN THE PARK only lasted 12 episodes on ABC in 1970, also airing on Thursday evenings. I'm holding out for a new version of THE SUNSHINE BOYS with James Earl Jones and Samuel L. Jackson.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Dead Celebrities (2007-2014)

I think we've reached the point where the news of celebrity deaths is reported almost instantly through social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. I no longer feel the need to post such passings here - unless they directly relate to something that I was planning on posting anyway. After seven years - I am re-evaluating this blog and hope to come up with a format that works for both me and my loyal visitors. Cheers and have a great day!


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Holiday Greetings

To my faithful blog readers - thanks for sticking with me through the years even though I only post occasionally these days. You can follow me these days on Facebook - where I hope to be more timely in my posting. Hope you all got exactly what you wanted for Christmas! Enjoy these wonderful vintage cards I recently picked up for 25 cents each!



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Dougsploitation Holiday Dream House

Back by popular demand...
I've been collecting vintage Christmas decorating books and magazines for a few years now, so it's about time I share some of my favorite photos with you all. The above picture is an example of what the Dougsploitation Holiday Dream House would be like. A blazing fire with a highly flammable wreath hung above it. All the fellas would wear red vests and the gals (whether real or factory-made) would be as pretty as could be. Our Reader's Digest Condensed Books would be in year order on the shelf and popcorn would be offered to all guests.
Our white tree would be decorated with red balls and Mariah Carey meets Mothra style butterflies.
Or maybe we'd do a blood red tree simply decorated with White Wing Doves. All gifts would be wrapped in red so as not to stand out from the tree.
In addition we'd have this smart pastel spiral tabletop tree in our green room.
Our dining room credenza will be decked out in throngs of gold garland with gold balls on thick red ribbons hanging in front of the mirror. Who needs to look in the mirror anyway?
Speaking of garland - lets just hang all of it over the living room window. Take a gander at that gold candelabra. Classy, eh?
Our other fireplace would have an amazing Santa with bells and reindeers display. The three stockings add a nice touch to the already festive mantle story.
Our snacks would be served in the most unique ways...who else has a donut caddy? The pretzel tree is a bit sloppy, but I have no idea what's go on with that thing on the right. Any ideas?
And finally, our third fireplace would be adorned with a life-size Baby Jesus coming out of the wreath to greet us. Who wouldn't want to spend the holidays in this Dream House?