Frogs (Trick or Treat 1)

(Thanks, Burbanked!)

I rather liked science class as lot as a kid despite running into a few bumps in the road, literal warts and all. I recall almost no one wanting to dissect those pickled frogs that the teacher placed on each lab table one fine day, save for two guys in the back (why are the shady ones always in the back and equipped with sharp knives now?) who I guess either turned out later to be really good doctors or even better serial killers later on in life. That and there were a couple of too gleeful girls who obviously didn’t believe that kissing a very dead frog would generate a very dead prince or a live one, for that matter. They just wanted to gross out those that spied them doing it, Ewww.

The more amusing thing here was those girls otherwise hated the class except for this one time and a few other incidents where mayhem was a potential outcome. There was the one time they (about a year later), along with one of the two boys from the back ‘accidentally’ created ammonia gas in the lab that cleared the whole floor, eventually leading to school being dismissed for the day, whee. Uh, don’t try that trick at home, by the way. It’ll the be the perfect cure for everything that ails you with the very obnoxious little side effect of a bit of invisible but acrid smelling poisonous death (and neither a fine nor noble death at that).

(Thanks. Henridellik!)

Eventually, during the two days, I caved into the learning process and with a fellow equally skittish student (we were all paired up in the class – less dead frogs means a sharing moment for all), we took the plunge. Yes, I thought of all those company-farmed frogs taking a plunge one fine day for a final swim they didn’t know would have them a few hundred miles away dead, well-preserved and soon to be splayed out like ghastly centerfolds courtesy of class-provided scissors and scalpels. My partner in (non) crime was a girl who mentioned before we cut into the preserved formerly ribbiting animal that she had frog once for dinner and yes, it tasted like chicken.

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The Missing, The Mail, And The .19 Pork Chop

Well, Hi There.

If asked how I’m doing, I’d say I’m more very much more annoyed these days than usual, but I’m still breathing, which is a hard realization to work around with all this dice throwing going on by the political machine in spots. “Roll your dice, move your mice!” Yes, it’s hard to dance around the elephant in the room, but after seeing EMS pop by the building a few too many times over the months, plus a growing amount of undelivered mail sitting downstairs, it’s been a bit too joyless around here. Well, until I found out that the mail carrier who regularly did the job perfectly was off taking care of his parents for a spell and the person now doing his job was pretty much rushing it by what it seems was sticking the mail in whatever mailbox was laid eyes on and getting the hell out of the building as fast as possible.

Boo, Sir, Ma’am, or otherwise. At least I got to play mailman for an hour or so by dropping off some bills and letters to their correct apartments later, as did a few others who got someone else’s correspondence. Now, I’m a fan of the post office normally, but not when an employee does this to everyone’s mail on the route. Whatever miserable death count I was grimly thinking of was chopped down considerably by some mislaid mail, but that was a merely a small decline in the joylessness. One bit of a laugh came when I deposited some bills at one apartment and the guy who lived there opened the door, saw he had bills and let out a deadpan “Wow. Gee, Thanks.” he really didn’t mean.

Hey, don’t shoot (a mean glare at) me – I’m only the messenger.

(Thanks, MyMotownTunes0815007!)

Still, a few neighbors have gone and left the building (is that literally or figuratively? I forget!*), so that’s a painful fact to work with. Even though we weren’t close, a chat in the elevator, a wave and smile at the right time, or some weird conversation about ice cream are all memory banked and filed for future use now. Processing is different for all of us, but I’d say similar in how we hold onto that past. Presently I’m back and forth on a few things relevant and not so, but I try not to go under the waves more than necessary, as madness stalks that dark, dank alley and that’s a total drowning pool.

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Random Film of the Week: The Sailor Who Fell With Grace From The Sea (1976)

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Just another day at the beach…

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This isn’t Altman’s Popeye, to say the least.

I first saw this film on network TV some decades ago and don’t remember much except that I later realized it was edited within an inch of its life, as when I saw it the next time in my teens on cable, the film had a load of stuff I missed plus stuff I understood better, but still missed because of the TV version’s heavy censoring. That said, I’m gathering that over that first network airing, the nudity was chopped out as much as possible and anything overtly sexual didn’t make the cut except for brief flashes. As for violence, I remember the infamous scene with the cat (more on that below) was also chopped down, but you still got the idea of how horrifying it was.

Anyway, flash forward to seeing the film again recently, and while The Sailor Who Fell With Grace From The Sea is both beautiful to look and quite haunting, it’s also going to be for some viewers (as I found out when I recommended it to some friends), a “pretty repellent film” when all is said and done. Two tastes that don’t taste great together for some, but at least the tagline on the poster is quite applicable. It’s got memorable performances, lovely cinematography, direction, and so forth and so on, so I can’t and won’t complain about any of that. I think the issue with some viewers is with the original Yukio Mishima story it was based on and the film not changing its tone into a more kinder one, although it shifts what some say are morally questionable characters and plot to a breezy, stunning English seaside setting instead of its original Yokohama location. But this wasn’t meant to be a film that bent itself to a particular set of generic movie rules.

(Thanks, MADWORLD1247!)

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(Not So) Random Film of the Week: The Flesh Eaters (1964)

THE FLESH EATERS

Cheesy, but very perfectly so.

TFE_adI think about Jack Curtis’ exceptionally cheesy but really awesome sci-fi/horror hybrid The Flesh Eaters maybe a bit more than I should, but there’s a good reason for that. It was one of the many fright films I grew up watching on television so many times that its unnerving 91 minutes were engraved in my brain for decades. While I’d seen many other horror/sci-fi films as a kid, this particular one stood out for the unsettling for a kid gore factor and overall tone that screamed EC Comics-style nightmare fuel.

I found out later in my teens that it was written by very prolific DC, Marvel and other publishers comics writer Arnold Drake who also made storyboards for the film to assist the director. It’s also by location, classifiable as a New York-based film because it was partly shot in Montauk, New York. The plot kicks off as a small seaplane takes off from Manhattan, runs into a bad storm, and is forced down on a small island in the area with, let’s just say, some rather interesting results in store for all involved.

 

 

On that plane are faded starlet and professional drinker Laura Winters (Rita Morely), her lovely but very harried assistant Jan Letterman (Barbara Wilkin), and debt-ridden pilot for hire Grant Murdoch (Byron Sanders), all of whom survive the in-flight stormy surprise landing. They soon meet a German-accented marine biologist Professor Peter Bartell (Martin Kosleck) who’s all by himself on the island save for his little microbial friends whom we will soon find out more about. The not so good Professor has taken up some evil WWII experiments in breeding nasty little bacteria who need fresh flesh to thrive, and between the human and many more fish skeletons that start turning up in the troubled waters around the island, everyone is in for quite a bad time if something REALLY stupid happened to that plane, right?

TFE_Hello There

It’s too bad the folks on that plane didn’t see the beginning of the film as the in-flight movie, as they kind of missed out on a few important things…

Guess what happens to the plane? Free popcorn to the winning guess!

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Laurel & Hardy: The Definitive Restorations: Two Cuckoos In A Happier Dance

L&H pose

A pair of kings.

Classic comedy fans, take note: Well, this is a fine mess, and a particularly good one coming soon on both Blu-Ray and DVD on June 16.

L&H

Get one for yourself, and one for a friend!

The comedy films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy have been beloved around the world since they were first released between 1927 and 1940. So beloved that many of the available copies are blurred dupes printed from worn-out negatives. Now, the best of their short comedies and two of their finest features have been fully restored. They look and sound as spectacular as when they were first released… Here are a few videos that prove it:
FEATURES
* NEW! 2K and 4K transfers from the finest original 35mm materials in the world.
* WORLD PREMIERES! Laurel and Hardy’s legendary 1927 silent “pie fight” film THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY makes its video debut after being “lost” for 90 years! The only reel of L&H bloopers and out-takes, THAT’S THAT!
* Classic short comedies BERTH MARKS, BRATS, HOG WILD, COME CLEAN, ONE GOOD TURN, HELPMATES, THE MUSIC BOX (the legendary Academy Award winning “piano moving” short), THE CHIMP, COUNTY HOSPITAL, SCRAM!, THEIR FIRST MISTAKE, TOWED IN A HOLE, TWICE TWO, ME AND MY PAL, THE MIDNIGHT PATROL, and BUSY BODIES in addition to the feature films SONS OF THE DESERT and WAY OUT WEST (which includes the team’s famous soft shoe dance routine).
* EIGHT HOURS of EXCLUSIVE extras – 2,500 rare photos and studio documents, audio and film interviews with L&H co-workers, original music tracks and trailers plus a full restoration of their one surviving color film, THE TREE IN A TEST TUBE.
* Commentaries by L&H historians Randy Skretvedt and Richard W. Bann
*Restorations provided by Jeff Joseph/SabuCat in conjunction with UCLA Film & Television Archive and Library of Congress.

Eight hours of special features? That’ll get me to watch those first, then. I grew up with these gentlemen on the TV screen quite frequently, so I know I’m going to be laughing too hard at the main events. Those features will be the educational part of the day’s programming.

-GW

Random Film of the Week: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die

TBTWD_title

Not inspired by actual events!

brainBy 1981, I’d seen The Brain That Wouldn’t Die on TV maybe a half dozen times and had started going to sci-fi conventions the previous year, my first being the old Creation Conventions here in NYC. I bring this up because it was at one in 1981 where I met a rather quirky gentleman named Jack Tiger (J.G. to his friends) and ended up working with him on a project that could have been popular at the time, but wasn’t able to get fully off the ground.

Now, I should be reviewing either one of his two low-budget films here or at the very least the film that gained me some temporary employment with the man,  Frankenstein’s Bloody Terror, a film that had neither a Frankenstein and thanks to the censors here, nor much Bloody Terror in it. Now, I’ll admit that I haven’t seen it in decades and really need to do so again, but in its original uncut Spanish version. Also, I’ve only ever seen one of Jack’s films by very happy accident a few years back on TCM when I came home very early in the morning from a lousy party I stayed too long at, and it was on TV unexpectedly.  So, Brain it is because it’s a fun flick and there’s also a small personal connection there you’ll read on and find out about. So, read on, please.

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Jan thought the Doc was kidding when he said she could lose about 100 pounds in a crash diet…

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The Heavy Lifting, Courtesy TCM

(TCM)

 

I was a bit under the weather yesterday, so I was offline resting my brain and had no idea Kirk Douglas had “left the building” as they say until very early this morning. Needless to say, that wasn’t a good thing to wake up to. Still, at age 103, you could safely say the man lived quite a long life and as an actor, producer and person of some talent and merit for a good deal of those years. Turner Classic Movies has posted two videos about Douglas so far today, but I bet there will be more on a few performances from his individual films at some point.

I don’t have a favorite role of his, but the first film that comes to mind is the monumental and powerful Paths of Glory, which kept an entire theater silent when I first saw in at a Stanley Kubrick retrospective a few decades ago. There are a good deal of other films and performances of his as well to consider, but I’m too weary to cover more here at the moment. I’ll bet on a blogathon of his work in the future that tosses in a few films will likely help some in discovering or recalling the man’s work, but let’s wait and see, shall we?

 

 

(TCM)

 

-GW

Weird Tales (and It’s All True)

Thanks, OOdie Smith!)

 

Amusingly enough, my last post seemed to cause some voodoo spirits* or whatever to affect my posting through Firefox, as I’m now writing this on Google Chrome after installing it because I can’t post or respond to posts using Firefox now. Weird, as it’s been an issue since last night when I was trying to post two reviews and respond to a few comments and I couldn’t. It was late and I was tired, so I did the usual human thing of going to bed without resolving the problem.

Of course, this didn’t work at all as a proper solution when I went to check early this morning to see what was up.

VOODOOOOOO!!**

I think I turned into Sir Ben Kingsley as Don Logan in Sexy Beast at this point, or I got up and had a cup of strong coffee, or both. But like a politician, I choose not to remember certain things as a matter of convenience. Oh, that video you clicked on was very NSFW (no, not in a sexy manner), but I may also have been (ALLEGEDLY), and Sir Ben is better at emoting, so there. Nyah.

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Review: Love Laughs at Andy Hardy (1946)

Love Laughs at Andy Hardy_MP

This French poster looks as it was started in 1909 and completed a few dozen years later.

“Well, I certainly wasn’t going to laugh…”  is what I immediately thought after viewing this tepid 1946 film on TCM a few evenings ago. To be fair, I’d seen a few Andy Hardy films in the past and found them to be drolly amusing light comedies and as fluffy as could ever be possible, especially the three with a young Judy Garland as Mickey Rooney‘s co-star. This effort, however just left me cold and in a few parts, rubbed me the wrong way save for one performance that steals the show.

The absolutely drop-dead gorgeous Dorothy Ford was actually 5′ 11″, but played her too brief part as Coffy Smith at well over six feet in heels and yes, steals the film from Mickey Rooney’s tired but competent shenanigans. She also turns out to be the “wisest” character in this film, offering up some sage relationship advice and dealing with having to dance with Rooney in a lively, but paradoxically strangely dull sequence where her height is the butt of a few jokes. Andy being about breast high being one none too subtle bit, but that’s actually funny for a few seconds.

 

 

Then again, the film very likely will be loved by the comfort flick crowd for a lot of the usual things the franchise was known for. You get that long Andy and Judge Hardy (Lewis Stone) talk with morality and choices as the center, and yes, the family Hardy is as wholesome as Instant Ralston with Jam, and cream mixed in (ewww). There are some amusing moments like the homecoming sequence when Andy comes back from his service in WWII, and a few of the college scenes are cute and chuckle-worthy. Still, for me, the film was a chore to sit through because of the “Poor Andy Hardy” scent emanating from the plot.

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Review Quickie: The Spy in Black/U-Boat 29 (1939)

U-Boat 29_MPLike a perfectly prepared fine aged steak, this Alexander Korda/Irving Asher production of The Spy in Black (or U-Boat 29) comes in hot, sizzling and rare, offering strong performances by its cast along with the first teaming of director Michael Powell and screenwriter Emeric Pressburger, who would go on to work on 24 pictures including a number of absolute classics across a few genres.

Conrad Veidt is excellent as Captain Hardt, a German U-boat commander whose given the task of meeting with a fellow German, a female spy, as they attempt to deal major damage to British Fleet at Scapa Flow, as war raged on in 1917. As the film begins, Hardy and a fellow seaman arrive back in Germany to almost depleted food resources, even at the finely set officer’s restaurant where steamed fish and carrots are the sole offerings. Amusingly enough, the local newspapers trumpet the country’s U-boats and their sinking of English ships that have allegedly been hitting food supplies there, but they seem a bit suspect in their retelling.

TSIB_02

“WARNING: Smoking can cause Victoria”

Hardt is ordered to to a bit of infiltration into Scotland, as a plan has neatly been hatched to dispose of a teacher planning to move to a sleepy village near The Old Man of Hoy and with the aid of a disgraced British Navy officer, former Commander Ashington (Sebastian Shaw), who is no fan of the service that did him wrong. Hardt doesn’t want to be a common spy, but orders are orders and surprisingly, his part of the mission gets off to a fine beginning. When he meets his partner in crime, Fräulein Tiel (Valerie Hobson), things go a bit sideways and she locks him in his room every night and as his new commanding officer, keeps him in check even as he makes small advances towards her.

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