Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Virtue of Vera Valiant

Here's a post from 2009 - with a few edits:

A long-forgotten, short-lived soap opera parody from the 1970s. This was Stan (The Man) Lee's daily comic strip answer to Norman Lear's brilliant MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN late-night syndicated serial.

This rare 1977 collection (the first of two) featured strips from October 1976 to January 1977. It was MARY WORTH, BRENDA STARR, REPORTER and WINNIE WINKLE all rolled into one with a satirical touch. Drawn lovingly by Frank Springer, the series daly never caught on–probably because readers had no idea it was all a parody! This is from the paperback introduction:

Here's a sample storyline from 1977 when daytime TV executives are hoping to turn Vera's real-life tragedies into plotlines for a 'reality' soap opera!
Talk about predicting the future! Who knew back then that most TV by the year 2009 would be 'reality' soaps? If only THE REAL HOUSEWIVES was more like The Virtue of Vera Valiant and less like, um crap. Here a reminder of what made MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN so great:

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Here's a re-post from 2009... My friend Jeff came by recently to treat me to a movie called RUBY (1977, directed by the late great, underrated Curtis Harrington). This is a film that I've been dying to see for ages, but for some reason or another I never did. Well, I'm glad to say, RUBY was worth the wait!
RUBY stars the awesome Piper Laurie (best known as CARRIE's mother and a star of David Lynch's TV classic TWIN PEAKS) in the role of a lifetime. Marketed as a horror film to capitalize on Laurie's CARRIE success, RUBY is more of a "slightly less than grand" guignol melodrama with some thrilling and hysterical twists. Harrington's other big films, the Shelley Winters double feature WHAT'S THE MATTER WITH HELEN? and WHOEVER SLEW AUNTIE ROO? are camp classics and his TV films HOW AWFUL ABOUT ALLAN  and DEVIL DOG: HOUND FROM HELL are also fun. I also recently watched THE KILLING KIND and look forward to seeing the rest of his work. I'm never disappointed by Curtis Harrington!
In RUBY, Harrington blends elements of SUNSET BOULEVARD, BONNIE & CLYDE and THE EXORCIST and it somehow all works! As Ruby, a former moll who runs a dying drive-in theater, Laurie not only chews the scenery - she practically digests it!!! This woman is having a great time onscreen, and you can't help but love her.

I don't want to give too much away because I think people need to see RUBY, but take a gander at the trailer and I'm sure you'll be seeking out RUBY before too long.

Seeing that just made me just wanna watch it again...and again. This is what movies should be like.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Dougsploitation: The San Francisco Treat!

A re-post from 2009 (in honor of Doris Day's 90th birthday!) As a child I fell in love with the city of San Francisco. Not even knowing where exactly it was on the map, I often declared that it was a place that I wanted to live. I think my first exposure to the city by the bay was a famous commercial for a noodle product.
Over the years many TV shows I watched were set in the city of cable cars, including several seasons of THE DORIS DAY SHOW.Every week when I saw this classic opening, I knew it was where I wanted to live.
A few years later, PHYLLIS moved from Minneapolis to SF–therefore making my desire to live there even greater.Another TV show from the 1970s that fueled my desire was the Quinn Martin production, THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO.
Many other dramas also took place in SF, notably cop shows like IRONSIDE and McMILLAN & WIFE, soapy shows like FALCON CREST and HOTEL and doctor shows like TRAPPER JOHN, M.D. and PRESIDIO MED. Did anybody ever watch that last one?
Other famous sitcoms that were based in the city included TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT, MY SISTER SAM and FULL HOUSE (which to this day, I'm proud to say, I've never seen one episode of!)
But the show that really pushed me over the top was the original 1993 PBS adaptation of Armistead Maupin's TALES OF THE CITY. Having read the first five books, I was already in love with Maupin's wonderful cast of characters. But seeing them come to life in the city that was a much a character as the people themselves drove me to move to the city in 1995, making it my home for six years.
Since then, there were 2 very good TV sequels for Showtime, plus a dreary film adaptation of Maupin's tangental spin-off, The Night Listener. A 6th Barbary Lane novel, the wonderfully melancholy Michael Tolliver Lives was published in 2006.
Followed by 2010's lovely Mary Ann in Autumn.
All this SF talk really makes me miss the city by the bay. Oh, by the way, if you're wondering...nobody in San Francisco eats Rice-A-Roni. Ever.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013