Monday, September 23, 2013

luke warm spaghetti westerns

I have this habit of buying old Italian Westerns hoping that I'll find a good one.  I know it's probably not ever going to happen.  I've been looking for the past thirty plus years.  It's been a big waste of time, yet something keeps driving me.  I keep picking up movies in the discount bins ~ Italian Western titles I've never seen before.  There have only been a handful (or should I say 'fistful) of Italian Westerns worth their salt (or should I say garlic).  Last week I found a collection of ten movies for 3 dollars more and reached for it.  As I try to watch them, I find myself falling to sleep about thirty minutes into them.

There was a time in the early sixties that the Italian movie industry was tanking.  I guess their audiences were getting weary of watching gladiator movies.  That seemed to be the majority of the movies exported.  Sergio Leone made a Western that turned the heads of movie goers everywhere and so Italian producers wanted to get in on the action.  Instead of churning out Sword and Sandal'movies, they started churning out what became known as Spaghetti Westerns.  They'd make them until their audience everywhere got weary of watching them.

It was Sergio Leone that introduced the genre, catapulting American second string actors into international super-stardom.  Unlike his rivals,  Leone didn't just make Westerns, he made epic Westerns.  He had a style of shooting that all the other directors emulated, but no one ever came close.  I know, I've seen a lot of Italian Westerns.  Other production companies tried to deliver Ennio Morriconesque scores, (some were pretty darn good scores) but their movies sucked nevertheless.  The anti-hero, the tight close-ups, the extreme panoramic shots, the familiar gunfire were always in the mix.  They tried to copy everything - but they never succeeded.

What they lacked was a good story and the ability to tell it.  Only Leone could do it.  He could tell the story.  He knew how to use the lens.  He was an artist of the same calibur of the directors he himself emulated - John Ford and Akira Kurosawa.  His emulations were not mere copies of the works he admired.  He told his own stories his own way.  Leone didn't do cheap imitations - he did  works of art.

I don't know why I do it.  Maybe I'm doing it to see if there was another master at work back in the day.  Wishful thinking I know.  Why do I keep picking up these bargain movies hoping to find gold among the rubbish?  If you happen to have a title of an old Spaghetti Western that you really liked ~ let me know.  I'd be obliged.

Saturday, September 21, 2013


I noticed when Scooby-Doo pranced into the scene on Saturday mornings, that he sounded exactly like another dog I'd already met.  Scooby-Doo sounded exactly like Astro from The Jetsons.  They both shared the same speech impediment and said the same thing when they found themselves in trouble ~ RUH-ROH!

The reason they sounded alike is because both cartoon characters were Hanna Barbera characters, voiced by the same voice-actor - Don Messick.  Don created the now so familiar voice pattern, and used it for both Scooby and Astro.  Don by the way, did many-many voices from the Hanna Barbera cartoon menagerie.

Later in life, Messick said he could no longer do his most famous voice because he had quit smoking, the rasp that made Scooby - Scooby was absent.

Personally, I always favored Astro over Scooby-Doo.  My 10 year old daughter would beg to differ.

Friday, September 20, 2013

the magnificent severin

Comparing the great Jack Kirby to the magnificent John Severin is like comparing apples to oranges.   Both were incredible artist with their own individually incredible style of illustration.  My introduction to them wasn't through superhero comics, but rather through an unusual war comic 'Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos' that first came out fifty years ago.  Sgt Fury was the concept of Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.  John Severin came in later and took on the inking of the war mag with 'Darling' Dick Ayers as the penciler.

Kirby and Lee had defined the Fury characters.  No one after Kriby and Lee changed the characters, but defined them.  John Severin later came along and gave those Kirby/Lee characters more definition ~ added realism. Some folks didn't like it and I won't argue, because the original Howling Commandos was a WWII war comic on steroids - with a lot of fun comic book exaggeration.  I can't help but be drawn to Severin's way, making each little panel a magnificent work of art.   I appreciate both Kirby's and Severin's talents.  It was Severin's version of Nick Fury that I started trying to mimic.  Still today I see Severin's influence in much of my ink work.  His sister Marie was just as good as John - the Hildebrandts of the comic book universe.

John Severin's work made me feel as if I were watching a movie, rather than reading a comic book.  I appreciate the details, the movement, the action of his inking.  I am no longer a child with a flair, I'm a seasoned artist with over 30 years of graphic design experience under my belt.  Still today I look at John Severin's work and marvel at it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

it's a jungle out there

Back in the late eighties I worked at a production company with an old friend.  We did video for commercials and industrial presentations.  We created a lot of promotions for other companies and rarely for ourselves. Among my favorite projects was a self-promo piece we produced for cable insertion.

Jamey and I came up with the concept and I had a lot of fun developing the storyboard and coming up with the props.  I remembered securing a skull from my friend Derick Mitchell.  The skull had been sawed open like most class room skeletons are sawed open and hinged so students coule inspect the interior of the skull's cavity.  In order to conceal the the cut, I wrapped some masking tape around it.  I was surprised how well the masking tape worked, the color of the tape matched the color of the bone.  It looked great on video and I didn't have to do anything else to it.  I also created a treasure map for our little jungle expedition under Noccalula Falls.  I rendered it in charcoal and design markers on a piece of a brown paper grocery bag that I wrinkled.  We spared no expense. 

It was great working on the concept, props, and co-direct.  I believe it was the only time I was in front of the camera at JMP.  Jamey was also on both sides of the camera.  My brother Brook was recruited to join the party.  All of this took us back to an earlier day when Jamey and Brook shot movie shorts under the Falls years earlier.

After we had the footage in the can, we did the post at Jacksonville State University Communication Department.  At that time, they had a new facility, equipped with the latest editing equipment.  After Jamey and I had polished the copy ~ I got to do the voice-over.  I learned to mimic the voice of Geoffry Holder just for this spot.  At the time, Geoffry was hawking 7-up's 'UnCola' campaign.

I love doing video because it encompasses all of my talents/skills.  This video was challenging and so much fun!  My old picture Jamey posted this image on his facebook account today.  It took me back.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Warren Zevon died ten years ago today.  I loved his music and wish I could still hasten down to the music store and buy a new album of his every now and then.  I used to look forward to going to hear him perform live anytime he was in our neck of the woods.

I miss having you around Warren.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

...and they called him The Streak

Around 1973 a streaking epidemic broke out.  I heard of folks taking off their clothes and running around in public places.  It was in the news, in comedy routines, and in the streets.  Though I never witnessed it in person, thankfully, it was said to have been happening everywhere.

It still happens today, usually on college campuses and sporting events.  I never understood it.  Streaking has been around for quite sometime.  I heard that Adam and Eve used to do it before The Fall.

"The first recorded incident of streaking by a college student in the United States occurred in 1804 at Washington College (now Washington and Lee University) when senior George William Crumb was arrested for running nude through Lexington, Virginia, where the university is located.  Robert E. Lee later sanctioned streaking as a rite of passage for young Washington and Lee gentlemen.  Crumb was suspended for the academic session, but later went on to become a U.S. Congressman."


I'd never heard of streaking until the early seventies, via Ray Stevens and his song The Streak.  Brook and I were in our room listening to a local AM station on the transistor radio. We laughed and laughed.

A Robert Opel achieved the ultimate streaker fame when he slipped backstage of the 1974 Academy Awards and slipped out of his clothes.  He then trotted his taters out on national TV, behind David Niven was introducing Elizabeth Taylor.  Opel flashed a peace sign as he ran behind Niven and in front of the world.

Niven remarked, "Well, ladies and gentlemen, that was almost bound to happen.  But isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings?"

It's now believed that this famous streaking incident was staged and that Niven's clever quip was previously prepared.

I was just a kid, and only heard about it.  Mother did tell me that I was a streaker in my early childhood.  She said that there was this time I didn't want to take a bath and had escaped.  She heard news that her son was riding his tricycle around the neighborhood in his birthday suit.

I don't think streaking should be allowed, because most people don't look good naked.  Naked people as a whole are offensive to behold.  Why every morning when I step out of the shower, I try to avoid looking toward the mirror.  I find myself nakedness highly offensive.  Thank goodness for foggy mirrors...I'd probably faint.  No way would I take this show on the road.

Even celebrities in magazines need lots of body make-up and PhotoShop. 

I especially don't think folks in Alabama should streak.  Alabama ranks the highest in obesity.  Chubby-running isn't pretty.  I imagine naked chubby-running is shocking to see.  The upside to obese people running is that cops could grab'em easier.  Now that would be a funny site to see.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

As a kid, Labor Day wasn't a good day.  Yes, all the Finlayson kids didn't have to go to school on Labor Day.  No, we didn't get to enjoy the day doing our own thing.  We were all rounded up in the morning, marched outside, and handed rakes.  We had a large yard with A LOT of pine trees.  With a great amount of pine trees comes a greater amount of pine needles...and pine cones. Every Labor Day you'd find my dad sitting at the top of the hill, organizing the labor, directing or efforts ~ making sure we were all on task and doing it right.

Our job was to rake the pine straw, making sure we had put pine straw about all the shrubbery around our house.  We had a large house with lots of shrubbery.  We always had plenty of pine straw for the task, with lots of it left over.

I didn't care for Labor Day.  Every time it comes around I think of pine straw.  I quit asking dad if we could skip raking the yard, doing all the extra household chores that Labor Day usually demanded.  He would say "No".  I used to ask "Why?"  Dad would reply, "...because you're supposed to labor on Labor Day."