Sunday, May 7, 2017

still creepy after all these years

INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1956) still holds up after all these years.  I was just a lad, too young to pick up on the underlying political connotations that people drew from the film.  McCarthyism and Communism was an issue for grown-ups.  I saw it only as a great scare-the-pants-off thriller.  Still, if you want to have an understanding of the concerns and paranoia that obsessed post WWII America ~ you might want to watch this flick. 

Even so, I still enjoy the movie on the surface, as a well executed thriller.  The movie was a low budget film that starts out in a very believable world then quickly propels the protagonist (and the audience) into a high speed roller-coaster ride.

The imagery is stunning.  The props/effects are not elaborate but adequate. Now over a half a century old, the movie still holds together and still thrills.

There have been three adaptations of this film, all of them with larger budgets and more elaborate special effects, but are mere soulless replicas of the original film.

"People began to read meanings into pictures that were never intended. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers is an example of that. I remember reading a magazine article arguing that the picture was intended as an allegory about the communist infiltration of America. From personal knowledge, neither Walter Wanger nor Don Siegel, who directed it, nor Dan Mainwaring, who wrote the script nor original author Jack Finney, nor myself saw it as anything other than a thriller, pure and simple."
~Walter Mirish

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Paradise Cove

The Beach Boy's 'Surfn' Safari' album cover photo was taken on Paradise Cove at Malibu Beach.  Ten years after this photo was taken, James Garner's P.I. character Jim Rockford strolled up and down this very spot in Rockford Files.  Rockford's trailer was situated in the parking of the Sand Castle Restaurant.  The restaurant is still there where Rockford used to frequent ~ only under different management as Paradise Cove Beach Cafe.

There have been many television shows and movies filmed at this very location down through the years. The earliest production I found was 'Belles On Their Toes', a 1952 sequel to the original 'Cheaper By The Dozen'. The sixties rolled around and the Cove became the production locations for a tidal wave of beach films that include Beach Blanket Bingo, Gidget, and Sea Hunt.
The area is still often used as a production site for commercials, television and movies. It's peculiar that there's a trailer park amid all the multi-million dollar homes. I guess if I ever head that way, I'll be keeping my eye out for a '74 Sierra Gold Firebird parked outside one of those trailers on the beach.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hey Vern, knowwhatimean?

Jim Varney's Ernest character is one of the great comic characters, but the movies were of the poorly scripted B movie variety.  Ernest was in a series of movies and had his own television specials as well as a children's television show called 'Hey Vern, it's Ernest'.  But all those productions were subpar.  Ernest deserved better. 

We all first met Ernest in a series of hilarious regional commercials in the early eighties.  I always looked forward to what Ernest was selling in Vern's window next.  It's a shame they couldn't take Varney's character in better vehicles.

I put the Ernest P. Worrell character on the same level as Don Knott's Barney Fife.  Both Varney and Knott's had their character down, and comedic timing down pat.  Knott's had Mayberry, and I wish that Varney had found his Mayberry.  For me, Don Knott's never had a good vehicle after Mayberry.  Jim Varney, I feel, never saw his full potential before he died.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Garrison's Gorillas

ABC replaced Combat! with another WWII action series called Garrison's Gorillas.  The pilot was originally shot as the last episode of Combat!.  Of course the Combat! cast were not told that they were being relieved of command during the production of the spin-off.  The pilot never aired as the last combat episode.  The parts with Rick Jason (Lt. Hanley) were edited out and the show was aired as Episode 1 called 'The Big Con'.

Somewhere along the way the network had decided they didn't want two wartime shows on the air simultaneously. I am pretty sure they knew what they were doing all along.  Garrison's Gorillas was going to be cheaper to produce because the network didn't have to pay the actors of the greatly successful Combat! the money they were demanding - at least that was the scuttlebutt.  Another reason for ABC to move away from the idea of having two WWII series is because of sentiments regarding the ongoing Vietnam War.

Garrison's Gorilla's was nothing like Combat!, it was meant to be a television version of the hit movie The Dirty Dozen.  The producers even secured Telly Savalas to portray the same type of demented character in the pilot that he did in The Dirty Dozen.  Not only did Garrison's Gorillas mimic The Dirty Dozen, but there was a Mission Impossible flavor to the show.  The show had a good cast, and well written, just not that original.  The sets were the same as Combat!, and the sounds were Combat!'s. To me, the show wasn't able to grow out of the shadow of it's predecessor.  Combat! would always be the better, the more original, the more authentic series. Garrison's Gorilla's ran only 26 episodes - almost a full season.  ABC replaced it with The Mod Squad.  As a kid, I didn't give the show much of a chance because it replaced Combat!  Tonight I watched the pilot of Garrison's Gorillas on YouTube.  I enjoyed the show, but it wasn' know.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

on an unclear day I could see forever

The Etowah Theater is located in Attalla, AL.  I don't recall much about it other than mother loading us in the station wagon to go see The Sound of Music there.  I was very impressed by the movie.  At the time, this theater was a second run theater, but in 1965, the owners managed to outbid the first run theater's in Gadsden for exclusive rights for this cinematic blockbuster.  It was this theater's most successful showing.

I was seven years old in 1965.  I remember seeing the movie, but not much about the theater itself.  I had never been in there before or ever since.  I do remember how colorful and the brilliance of those grand hills and songs.  I also remember the contrast of stepping from such a brilliant and grand cinematic experience into a most un-brilliant and un-grand overcast day.  Before heading home, mother pulled the pale blue Galaxy into the Attalla Piggly Wiggly and left us kids in the car as she picked up a few items.  The songs still reverberated in my head as the sky darken a little more.  A brief shower arrived at the parking lot as I gazed through the glass The rain tapped on the hood, beaded and streamed down the window.  There we were, having left a world of living color into a muggy black and white day.

It was the first time in my life that I experienced that contrast from cinema to reality.  It was a very stark moment for me, stepping down from the lush mountains of Switzerland, onto 5th Street of Attalla Alabama.

The skies did brighten up after we drove up the mountain to our home on Scenic Hwy.  We had our own lively hills at the Finlayson house.  The dark clouds were no more and I remember climbing the hill in our backyard and personally recreated Julie Andrews twirling and singing 'The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music'.  Those nine words were all the lyrics I knew of the song, so I just kept twirling and singing what I knew over and over again until I got dizzy doing it, and the afterglow of it gone.

...don't tell anyone I told you this.