Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Werewolves of Landon

I remember this show.  Michael Landon played the youngest of three brothers.  His mom had died a long time ago, but his "Paw" was still kicking.  In fact, his paw was a very rich cattleman who owned a ranch called The Ponderosa.  They would be considered greedy one per-centers by today's standards, but it was admirable to have wealth in those days. 

Anyway, there would be nights were they would all turn into werewolves and go devour cattle.  The next day they would wake up to discover that some of their cattle had been killed by wolves.  They'd all ride out looking for the animal that did this to their livestock but could never find and kill it.

Every show was basically the same.  There would be romantic interests along the way, but somehow their girlfriends would mysteriously get killed by that rascally wild wolf that they never could seem to find. Little Joe would often ride into town and hook up with his teen friends and sing-sing-SING!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre is a long time favorite of mine.  Who doesn't like him?  I can't name all the movies in which I've thoroughly enjoyed seeing him.  At the top of the list is 'Maltese Falcon' and 'Casablanca' along with Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet.  Peter also played in the classic Frank Capra comedy 'Arsenic and Old Lace' with Cary Grant.  These are movies that all should see.  Here's an interesting bit, It was Peter Lorre who convinced his friend Bogart to go ahead and marry Lauran Bacall in spite of the age difference by saying, "Five good years are better than none." 

Who can forget him in Disney's '20,000 Leagues Under The Sea' with Kirk Douglas.  It was the first science-fiction film produced by Walt Disney productions as well as the only science-fiction film produced by Walt Disney himself.  20,000 Leagues casts Lorre against his bad guy type, making him a good guy, giving him a chance to interject some humor into the adventure.  Good stuff!
Peter Lorre was a fellow that kept his presence out there even when film opportunities diminished. His distinct and sinister voice continued on in radio.  He later took to television then returned to principle film rolls in returned in a string of horror movies produced by Roger Corman.  Peter Lorre played many a creepy character, but he was loved by all.

"All that anyone needs to imitate me is two soft-boiled eggs and a bedroom voice."

-Peter Lorre

Saturday, October 27, 2012

hair of the dog that bit him

Resting during a break with his dog during the shooting of The Wolfman.
Lon Chaney, Jr followed in the roll of his father.  He put on the make-up of undesirable, horrendous monsters. He tried to portray creatures who tried to cling to their humanity in spite of their curse.  During his acting career he portrayed all of the popular creatures of his day: Werewolf (there wolf), Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and The Mummy.  Later in his career he played mute characters due to his battle with throat cancer.  Lon Chaney, Jr worked until he physically could no longer work due to alcoholism and a heart condition. 

enjoyed the horror genre, but disappointed with where it was heading.  He didn't like the new monsters that came along, the movies that showed blood for blood's sake.  He thought that horror should be more than gore.  Maybe that's why I don't really care for 'slasher' films of the last twenty-five years.  I like my spooky movies old school.

Friday, October 26, 2012


No Halloween could be complete without seeing this guy's face on the screen.  I don't care for 'slasher' horror movies.  Freddy and Jason can take the backseat to this guy.  Bela Lugosi turned down the roll of  the 'Monster' in 1931's 'Frankenstein' that launched the career of Boris Karloff.  From that day on, Boris became a household name, he could do scary.  Karloff had appeared in eighty films before he became famous playing Frankenstein's monster.

Karloff had injured his back during the making of Frankenstein and eventually had do perform most of his latter rolls in a chair/wheelchair due to it being so uncomfortable for him to remain on his feet for extended periods of time.  Some directors accommodated him by adapting the scripts to have Karloff's character seated.

In real life, Karloff was far from the sinister characters he portrayed on film.  He adored children.  He was known within the film industry for his kind and gentle manner.  Karloff gave generously, especially to children`s charities. Beginning in 1940, Karloff dressed up as Santa Claus every Christmas to hand out presents to physically disabled children in a Baltimore hospital.

I love those old Karloff movies.  Boris was in John Ford's WWI movie 'The Lost Patrol' (1934).  Baby-boomers will most definitely remember him as the narrator of 'How The Grinch Stole Christmas'.  A few nights ago Turner Classic Movies aired 'The Raven' (1963), produced by Roger Corman starring Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, Peter Lorre and Jack Nicholson.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

hill house

"No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.  Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.”
-Shirley Jackson
The Haunting of Hill House

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

ashes to ashes

Yul Brynner died of lung cancer October 10, 1985.  Until then, it seemed quite fashionable to smoke.  Growing up, all the big stars smoked.  Seeing smoke rise across the faces of the black and white celluloid images seemed to add a mystical ambiance.  John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant...they all smoked.  It wasn't until the late seventies that people as a whole started looking at smoking differently - as hazardous.  Remember the Ads that stated "More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette" and "20,679 physicians say Luckies are less's toasted" and "Dentists recommend Viceroy". 

John Wayne started making commercials for The American Cancer Society until his death due to lung cancer.  Yul Brynner had turned down requests by The American Cancer Society to do a commercial; he did however go from talk show to talk show sharing about his illness and urging people not to smoke.  On one of these interviews, on Good Morning America (1985) he seized the opportunity at the end of the interview to address the television audience.  He earnestly pleaded for people not to smoke as he had throughout his life.  Brynner had smoked since he was 12 years old.   The clip was replayed the day of his death and The American Cancer society asked Yule Brynner's wife if it was okay if they used the clip of her late husband in a commercial.  To me, this commercial  was the final nail in the coffin.  It was The king of The King and I, speaking from the grave.

Yes, people still smoke...stars still smoke today...but after losing so many stars to lung cancer...the American people finally got the message (from the grave).   After Yul's post-Morten plea message, cigarettes much of it's appeal and almost all of loose the glamor.

Brynner was cremated and his ashes buried in a remote part of France, on the grounds of the Abbey of Saint-Michel de Bois Aubry

Friday, October 19, 2012

stereo console, the way to go

I don't remember when we got it.  It was just there amid my childhood.  Our stereo console was docked in the dining room like an aircraft carrier.  It was a big piece of furniture.  Our console had an AM/FM radio and record player. The amp and speakers were built into furniture. To access the stereo equipment, all one had to do was flip up the hood.  There was even a concealed cubby for our record collection.  I don't remember the brand or make of the console. I don't remember dad or mom using it much.  I do know that all the Finlayson kids enjoyed playing our 45's on it.

We had a Burle Ives folk music LP that I enjoyed listening to.  We had a Civil War album that featured Ralph Bellamy.  I listed to that a lot.  There was a Disney album that had songs from the movies Peter Pan, Son of The South, Jungle Book (and more).  I was first introduced to the story A Christmas Carol on that console.  Someone had produced a dramatic reading and I was fascinated by the tale and how it was told.

Somewhere in the seventies, these consoles no longer were the thing to have.  We learned a lesson about consoles, if one part dies, like the radio, all you've got is this huge unit housing only a record player.  By that time we had a smaller record player and didn't need an aircraft carrier sized record player.  The funny thing about these stereo consoles, is once everything breaks or burns out, you don't really want to throw it away because it's like throwing away a nice looking piece of furniture.

When it was time to get rid of it, Dad had me take a screw driver to it and salvage the screws, braces, the wood and wot-nots.  Dad liked to salvage hardware, store it for future workshop projects.  So for years the wood from the console leaned against the wall of the garage for years.  Eventually our stereo console faded from memory - until today.

As the eighties rolled around, I had my own cool component stereo system.  I didn't want to hide all the buttons and knobs and switches.  It all stacked on top of each other and I liked laying there listening to the music with the lights of each component...watched the LED pulse to the rhythm pumping from the power amp.

These days I've come full circle.  I don't want to look at electronics.  I'd prefer my sound equipment out of sight.  There are people these days who hunt down the old stereo consoles from the 60's and work them to house new sound reinforcement technology.  A turntable is a must, AM/FM (of course), a CD player, USB docking station for MP3s.  It would be a great place to put a charging station for many of the other electronic devices we use today.   I think it would be real nifty to have the best in tech enclosed in something retro.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

cock-eyed cowboy

Jack Elam was a character actor that played in many film classics.   He could play the meanest  cold-blooded bad guy as well as the most loveable-grizzled good guy.  I wonder if Jack would've gotten noticed if he had not have had that accident back when he was was 12.  Some sources say it was an accident in Boy Scouts by a kid carrying a pencil.  Other sources say he got on the wrong end of a pencil in a school yard fight.  No matter, there was a pencil involved and poor Jack got his left eye poked out.  His handicap had to have contributed to his acting career.  If there was ever a need for a cock-eyed cowboy, Jack was your man.  One eye or two, Jack was one of the best character actors that ever came out of Hollywood.  He seemed to always be up there on the silver screen (or on television) - always standing out and always a great performance.

Sergio Leone used Elam at the first of his western epic Once Upon A Time in the West.  When Jack Elam comes to mind, I think of that extreme tight close up of his face.  Him waiting at the train station with his desperado friends...Elam catching that fly in the barrel of his pistol.  Leone sure knew how to draw back the curtain for one of his shows.  Leone knew how to begin a story with immediate curiosity and anticipation.  It was a perfect moment for Elam

Jack worked under the direction of the best; Don Seigel, Robert Aldrich, Andrew McLaglan, Anthony Man, Howard Hawks and dear old friend Burt Kennedy.   Directors liked working with him and so Jack found himself always in demand.  Jack rode along side film greats like Gary Cooper, James Stewart, John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas and the list goes on and on.  Jack guest starred on oodles of television shows like Bonanza, Twilight Zone, The Rifleman, The Untouchables.  He starred in over 100 TV episodes.  If there was a TV show back in the 60 and 70's - Elam was sure to show up in at least one episode.  Jack Elam was everywhere.  I never got tired of him either.  To this day, I enjoy seeing him ride into the scene.  He was a great actor and a good fellow.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Halloween memories

Man, as a kid I loved Halloween.  I loved dressing up and getting to go out into the spooky night.  I am one of six kids.  We'd usually all go out trick-r-treating together.  I don't recall having any fancy bags - a brown paper grocery bag did the trick just fine for me.  We'd use the ones with the twine handles.  I'd often take markers and do my own Halloween design on the bag.  I was pretty good at drawing bats and jack-o-lanterns.

There were two big Halloween events.  The first of course was Halloween itself.  The second was the BIG Halloween Carnival at R.A. Mitchell Elementary.  It was the ONLY time I enjoyed going to school.  This was ages before people started calling them Fall Festivals and having Trunk-R-Treats.  I had a terrible experience at school, school being a hellish time in my life.   It was very appropriate to host a Halloween Carnival at the scariest place on earth - a public school facility.  That being said, R.A. Mitchell's must've been the biggest and best extravaganza in all of Etowah County because it seemed everyone in the county seemed to show up those nights.

When you go to a Fall Festival today - you don't get bona fide cakes at cake walks.  Back in our day cake-walkers could score the real deal - a two layered chocolate cake!  Man-O-Man!  I think I mentioned in a past post that our school actually owned a casket and kept it stored behind the stage (lunchroom area).  That's right.  They would have a haunted walk back there where a guy in a casket would rise up and scare little kids.  Yep, R.A. Mitchell was good at that, and they really shined on Halloween.

Halloween night itself was always a great adventure.  We'd all walk close together on the cool crisp night from house to house.  Every now and then we'd come across a stretch of road that we'd have to travel with little to no street light.  I remember feeling a little uneasy, thinking maybe it was a place real creatures of the night would find appealing.  Real monsters would like this kind of place.   They could sit there in the darkness and shadows of the dense foliage and wait for some kids like us - waiting and watching for just the right moment to jump out and pounce on their terrified young treats.  Maybe it would go for the kid with the flashlight....the kid with the flashlight would be the first to go.  He would be the one quickest to see to eat!

Hey Cindy, would you like to hold my flashlight?