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Monday, November 30, 2009
After seeing trailers for some of Joe Sarno's 70s sexploitation flicks on another Retro-Seduction Cinema DVD, along with a brief retrospective of his work, I was eager to see one of them for myself. I got my wish when CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE (1974) fell into my hot little hands, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a prime example of good filmmaking on a low budget, displaying a certain class and style that transcends the cheap sleaze this genre is often known for while still generously indulging our more prurient interests.
The simple storyline involves a pretty young housewife named named Carole (Rebecca Brooke) and her husband Eddie (David Hausman), who have a wide-open sexual relationship that includes their ultra-horny neighbors Anna (Chris Jordan) and her hubby Pete (Eric Edwards). When Carole's straight-laced, widowed mother Jennifer comes to visit, the young swingers are immediately fascinated by the gorgeous blonde mature babe whose repressed sexuality is just waiting to explode.
As the initially-shocked Jennifer lets down her inhibitions and begins to take part in her daughter's free-love lifestyle, each participant is so deeply affected by her that their relationships with each other are threatened. Not only that, but Carole herself is dangerously close to giving in to long dormant incestual feelings and going ga-ga for her own mom. Complicating things even more is the fact that Jennifer is forming her own relationship outside the group with a handsome young grocery delivery guy who is yearning for love after being abandoned by his wife.
They may not be great thespians, but the actors are appealing and play their characters well. Rebecca Brooke is a fresh young presence as Carole, while David Hausman plays her husband Eddie as a grown-up version of Greg Brady. As Anna, cutie Chris Jordan (Eric Edwards' real-life wife at the time) keeps things light with her comedic performance; aside from her sexual voracity, Anna is constantly stuffing herself with food without gaining an ounce and swooning over Jennifer's baked goods. Eric Edwards, of course, is a familiar face to 70s porn fans, one of those rare examples of the X-rated actor who can really act.
The main attraction here, though, is the stunningly gorgeous Jennifer Wells. Not only a skilled actress, she's also a first-class knockout, and it's easy to understand how the others could be so helplessly attracted to her. Voluptuous and natural (no plastic, no tattoos, no shaved pubes), her transition from apron-wearing mom baking pies in the kitchen to hot-blooded sexual animal is pretty exciting.
This is how you do softcore without making it boring. The sex scenes are hot and the actors are convincingly passionate and enthusiastic. Chris Jordan in particular seems to be literally having orgasms out the wazoo in some scenes. Sarno directs the sex sequences as logical extensions of the dramatic scenes instead of just letting the camera roll while actors boff each other. This looks like one of the better hardcore films of the 70s (without the more graphic shots, of course) when directors like Gerard Damiano were still trying to make actual movies instead of just extended sex scenes linked by minimal dialogue.
The fact that these sequences don't go on forever with endless, numbing closeups of ping-ponging genitalia sustains our interest and arousal levels while maintaining our awareness that a story is taking place. As film gave way to video in the 80s and porn became more of an assembly-line product churned out by increasingly lesser talents, such concerns were either minimalized or abandoned altogether, as shown in Paul Thomas Anderson's BOOGIE NIGHTS.
Joe Sarno's script keeps the melodrama moving along while delighting us with some occasionally kooky dialogue. After their initial meeting with Jennifer, Eddie remarks to Pete, "You know, her tits intrigue me...she never wears a bra" and Pete responds "Yeah, we were sitting there and her old tits were crying for my mouth." Later, while coming on to Jennifer for the first time, Pete gushes, "Your tits drive me outta my bird!"
Sarno makes the most of his $25,000 budget, giving the film a distinctive look with its soft-hued, color-saturated cinematography and artistic lighting. The print used for this DVD is fairly good, though there are quite a few patches that have that choppy, scratchy look commonly associated nowadays with "grindhouse" films. (I grew up watching battered film prints in theaters and on TV, so I hardly notice such things myself--in fact, it gives me a nice nostalgic feeling.) Jack Justis' groovy acoustic-guitar score, which compliments Sarno's subtle, introspective style, is included on a bonus CD. Extras also include an interview with Sarno, a few deleted scenes, an illustrated booklet with "making of" information and some sexy nude photos of Rebecca Brooke, and several of Retro-Seduction Cinema's well-produced trailers.
Retro-Seduction Cinema is doing a great job these days of bringing back the erotic films of yesteryear, and this DVD is no exception. If you're into that kind of stuff, then chances are you'll enjoy CONFESSIONS OF A YOUNG AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE as much as I did. I'm looking forward to seeing more of Joe Sarno's films.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Watching MENTAL: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON is like eating a bowl of peanut M&Ms. It's candy-coated, full of nuts, and not particularly good for you. But you may not want to stop until you've finished the whole thing.
Chris Vance (a dead ringer for a young Harvey Keitel) plays psychiatrist Jack Gallagher, who, in the series pilot, has just been appointed the new head of mental health services at a Los Angeles hospital. Jack has been promoted because of his effective yet highly unorthodox methods, which he displays as soon as he walks in the door. When a schizophrenic patient named Vincent strips naked and starts freaking out because he thinks everyone around him is a monster, Jack immediately doffs his own clothes and joins him. "I've got your back," he tells the agitated man, eventually calming him down. Thus, the episode is off and running with a clear example of what we can expect for the rest of the season--an offbeat hero whose alternative methods and empathy for his patients will save the day and astound his by-the-book colleagues time after time.
Annabella Sciorra co-stars as the hospital administrator Nora Skoff--Jack's ex-lover, as it turns out--who supports him despite much initial skepticism from those around her. This includes another psychiatrist, Dr. Veronica Hayden-Jones (Jacqueline McKenzie), who will eventually become Jack's ally, and two residents, Arturo Suarez (Nicholas Gonzalez) and Chloe Artis (Marisa Ramirez), who are similarly nonplussed at first but begin to find Jack's way of doing things intriguing. Jack's chief adversary is Dr. Carl Belle (Derek Webster), a conniving weasel who wants to turn the psychiatric wing into a testing ground for a large pharmacutical company with big pockets.
Because a regular doctor using conventional methods would be too boring for TV, Jack does cool stuff like breaking into the house where Vincent lives with his sister and her kids and rummaging through his stuff for clues to his behavior. Of course, Jack gets arrested and must be bailed out of jail by Dr. Skoff. He also insists that patients be allowed to sit in on administrative staff meetings, and then takes them outside to frolic around instead of being treated in a controlled environment. It's good that the writers give Jack such a wonderful success rate because I'm not sure how well he'd fare in a real psychiatric ward.
During the 13 episodes of season one we're introduced to a wide variety of troubled patients who need the kind of help that only Jack seems intuitive enough to give. Nicholle Tom guest stars as a woman who claims to be seven-months pregnant although her ultrasound says she isn't. Another patient is a small boy who retreats from his problems by playing a videogame inside his head in which he's running from various frightening creatures. Nina Siemaszko plays a woman pushing her husband, who has OCD and Tourette's, into dangerous brain surgery when she herself may be the root of his frequent relapses.
An autistic girl named Leeza is the only witness to her father's murder, but it takes Jack's intuitive empathy to get anywhere with her. Another patient, a construction worker injured in an accident, seems to be suffering from memories of a mine collapse that happened decades before he was born. David Carradine makes his final television appearance as a catatonic author whose guilt over his wife's death may be what's keeping him from waking up. One of my favorite episodes, "House of Mirrors", is about a teenage girl named Heather who tries to commit suicide by setting herself on fire. While delving into Heather's troubled psyche, Jack makes a startling discovery concerning her physical state as well.
In the penultimate episode 12, "Life and Limb", Jack finally locates his long-lost sister, Becky (Amanda Douge), who suffers from schizophrenia and has been living on the streets for years. It turns out she's the most important thing in his life--his obsession--and he's fighting the efforts of his mother (Samantha Eggar) and stepfather to gain custody of Becky and put her in an institution near their home in Florida. Meanwhile, a troubled young man with a body-image disorder cuts his own hand off because he feels it doesn't belong on his body. While his parents struggle to attain the legal power to have the hand reattached against their son's wishes, Jack tries to convince them that he's happier without it. Weird--and not quite how I might've handled it--but interesting.
The season finale, "Bad Moon Rising", finds the entire cast being held hostage by a werewolf. Yes, this dangerously unstable individual thinks that when the full moon rises he'll turn into a hairy, murderous beast, and after his initial cry for help is rebuffed by a dismissive Dr. Belle (the jerk!) he invades Jack's apartment and holds everyone at gunpoint until the rising of the moon will prove that he needs help. Jack, of course, does the only logical thing available--he tells the crazed gunman to bite him. (Yes, he literally says, "Bite me!") Thus, he puts himself in the same boat with the patient as he so often does, and they both await their impending transformation together.
A parallel plotline has the cash-strapped psychiatric wing threatened with closure unless Dr. Skoff can come up with lots of money fast, making way for the evil pharmacutical company to move in and take over. With dastardly Dr. Belle as their point man, the first order of business is to fire Jack and send him packing--ending the season with your classic cliffhanger.
This 4-disc set from 20-Century Fox Home Entertainment is in widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1 with English, French, Portugese, and Spanish subtitles. Disc four contains an alternate, unrated version of the pilot in which you get to see Jack's bare bum. There's also a brief featurette, "Paging Dr. Gallagher", in which Chris Vance talks about his character ("The stuff that Jack gets up to is...bordering on ridiculous", he candidly admits).
"Mental" isn't great television but it's pretty good compared to most of the dreck that clogs the airwaves. Breezy and easy to watch despite its often dark subject matter, it's a fantasy version of psychiatry that presents unusual mental maladies for its rather flaky hero to deal with in quirky and sometimes downright odd ways. Not quite realistic, perhaps, but I found it almost effortlessly entertaining.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Friday, November 27, 2009
[NOTE: This interview originally appeared in October 2005.]
If you watch a lot of horror and sci-fi movies on DVD, chances are you've listened to a Tom Weaver commentary track. You may also have read some of his many celebrity interviews in magazines such as "Fangoria", "Starlog", and "Video Watchdog." He has penned several books of interest to genre fans, including ATTACK OF THE MONSTER MOVIE MAKERS, SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY FILM FLASHBACKS, and THEY FOUGHT IN THE CREATURE FEATURES.
Tom lives in Sleepy Hollow, New York, which is a pretty good place for a noted horror film historian to live. Recently he was nice enough to offer his responses to some some questions that I'm sure a lot of horror fans would like to ask.
porfle: Thanks very much for taking the time to answer some questions for us. Can you give us a preview of any current projects you may be working on?
Tom: For better or worse, my attention span has gotten so short that, to keep my enthusiasm way up, it helps to have a bunch of projects going at once, so that when one gets to be a bit of a drag, I can jump to something else. I'm still pumping out the interviews--I just did one that I really enjoyed, talking to Lee Meriwether about playing Catwoman in the old BATMAN movie. The Brunases and I are updating and slightly expanding UNIVERSAL HORRORS, and my friend Steve Kronenberg and I are doing a sequel, UNIVERSAL HORRORS--THE 1950S.
I've also just finished helping an actor named Paul Picerni--he was the hero in HOUSE OF WAX, he was the number two man on THE UNTOUCHABLES with Robert Stack--write his autobiography.
porfle: Who were your best interview subjects? Most fascinating, most cooperative, most informative, etc.
Tom: Well, I consider ALL of them cooperative--the ones who WEREN'T cooperative, didn't talk to me at all! The Donnie Dunagan [young Peter von Frankenstein in SON OF FRANKENSTEIN] interview I did last year was very well-received--he had fabulous stories, and that's certainly ONE of my favorites right now. But one that got less attention, but which I thought was just as good, was the one I did with Arch Hall Jr.
No, his movies, EEGAH and THE SADIST, don't have the number of fans SON OF FRANKENSTEIN does, but for a guy who supposedly won't GIVE interviews, I found him to be fabulously forthcoming. He answered every question--and I had SCORES of 'em!--in detail, and I don't get the impression he held ANYthing back. There was so little behind-the-scenes info "out there" about some of his movies that I really felt like the interview he gave was really something special. Well, for fans of Fairway Films, anyway!
porfle: And now I have to ask -- who was the worst?
(No names necessary, but it would be nice.)
Tom: The worst are the ones who you call up...who say, grudgingly, "Okay, okay, I'll give you an interview, call me next week." So you re-watch some of the movies and you hit the library and you prepare a list of questions, you put a lot of time into it, and then when you call back, they say, "Y'know what? I've thought about it some more, and...no thanks." Dan Haller did that to me, Bert I. Gordon, Arthur Franz--there've been a bunch, I'm afraid.
porfle: You've met a lot of celebrities associated with the genre. Who would you say was generally the nicest one? Who was the biggest jerk? (No names necessary, but...)
Tom: Well, the nicest ones are UNBELIEVABLY nice--after the interview, THEY do half of the work involved in maintaining contact and maintaining a FRIENDSHIP, even. Some have even, out of the blue, encouraged me to stay at their HOUSE whenever I come to California! Robert Shayne, who was Inspector Henderson on SUPERMAN [the TV series], was the first to make that offer, I think--I didn't take him up on it, but he was obviously sincere. Robert Clarke, THE HIDEOUS SUN DEMON, and Paul Picerni were both that way too.
William Alland remembered me in his WILL, he left me a lot of his photos--which I since gave back to the family, but...wow.
A lot of them, after I've interviewed them, say, "Hey, you know who I'm friendly with? So-and-so. Do you want to interview HIM/HER?" It's amazing how one contact, one interview, will lead to another and another and another.
As for the biggest jerks ... well, Arthur Franz wasn't very nice. I'd ask him if he wanted copies of some of his horror/sci-fi movies, and he'd bark, "What would I wanna watch THAT (bleep) for??" The whole conversation was like that. Yeah, he was a real charmer!
porfle: Who do you most regret never getting the chance to interview?
Tom: Well, the "standard" answer, naturally, would be Lugosi, Karloff, Chaney Jr., etc. But the "ones that got away" that piss ME off are the ones I contacted, and said yes to an interview, and then **I** stupidly dragged my feet, and they died within a few weeks.
Every time I watch MIGHTY JOE YOUNG I remember that I called up Ben Johnson and he seemed so nice and said yes to an interview, and I blew it by diddling around. Same for Kay Aldridge from the Republic serials, and...you know what?, I'm don't even like to think about those [laughs]!
porfle: Do you recall one particular horror, fantasy, or sci-fi movie you saw as a child that first sparked your interest?
Tom: Honestly, no. I can tell you, though, that here in New York, I started watching the old horror/sci-fi stuff at a time when the real classics weren't on TV much or at all. In the mid- to late '60s, I grew up watching on TV the 1950s movies, good and bad, and the old '40s Monograms and THAT stuff. It wasn't until I was about 12, around 1970, that the GOOD stuff, the classic Universals and movies like that, started playing in New York again, after having been off TV throughout my childhood. So I have to admit, it was some good but mostly BAD movies that got me into this hobby!
porfle: Is there a genre film that is loved by fans and revered by critics, and you can't for the life of you figure out why?
Tom: I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE. I've probably seen it eight, ten times but except for a couple key scenes, it all goes in one eye and out the other, and I can't remember sitting here now which brother walks into the ocean at the end and which one survives!
porfle: What do you feel is the most underrated genre film ever made?
Tom: ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN. Sheer perfection!
porfle: If you could choose any previously-unfilmed novel to bring to the screen, what would it be?
Tom: I'd love to see some more of Lovecraft done. I've always been such a sucker for his stuff that even the NOT-so-good Lovecraft movie adaptations float my boat.
porfle: Which film would you totally erase from existence if you had the power to do so?
Tom: Well, about 95 percent of the horror movies made in the last 25 years could vanish off the face of the Earth and I could go to bed tonight and sleep like a baby!
porfle: You're well known for your DVD commentaries. Which one(s) did you have the most fun doing?
Tom: Well, for "fun," it would have to be the ones I did with Bob Burns for the two Creature sequels, with Lori Nelson sitting in on the REVENGE OF THE CREATURE one also. And to be doing it AT Universal, in the Henry Mancini Building -- Henry Mancini having done some of the music for those movies -- and walking distance from the sets where they were shot ... well, for a guy who grew up, and STILL lives, in Sleepy Hollow, New York, where there are farms on the other side of town ... it felt kinda strange.
porfle: Is there a film that has yet to be released on DVD that you would jump at the chance to do the commentary for?
Tom: Oh, gosh, dozens. Especially if I could drag some of the people who MADE those movies in the room with me too. I'd love to think that the early, black-and-white AIP monster movies will start coming out soon, while the guys and gals who made 'em are still with us. And THOSE I'd love to be a part of.
porfle: For those of us who have never done one, what is the process? Do you view the film on a television monitor? How much of the commentary is done in real-time?
Tom: It's done in real time until you get TOO tongue-tied, or you've screwed up and started missing some of your cues. Then you ask 'em to stop recording while you get your wits about you again. Yes, in most cases you sit in front of a TV, and you've got your script that you've written with the help of a tape of the movie with a time-code on it. Or, better yet, you're sitting there with one of the people who MADE the movie and then you don't even NEED a script, you just have a list of questions for him or her, and some general notes in front of you, and you just enjoy yourself.
porfle: There are a lot of remakes being done these days. Do any of them surpass the original films?
Tom: The only one I ever saw that I liked better than the original was the 1988 THE BLOB. Most of the rest--just about ALL of the rest, that I can think of off the top of my head, sitting here today -- I wouldn't want free DVDs of, I wouldn't know what to DO with them. Certainly not WATCH 'em again -- that'd be the LAST thing I'd ever do with 'em!
porfle: What do you feel is the general state of the horror film today?
Tom: I think I've given you clues to that a COUPLE times already [laughs]!
porfle: Are young people losing interest in the classic horror films of the past? Or will there always be an audience for them?
Tom: Yeeeeesh. I hope so, but I doubt it. When I was a kid, I was interested in "current" stuff, of course -- TV shows, movies, music -- but I also liked the older stuff on TV, and the old-time music my parents had on the radio, and so on. Today, just every young person I know -- not that I know that many, but most of the young people I know, or am exposed to, just turn up their nose at anything that isn't up-to-the-minute. And I love that they call two-year-old movies "old," and something that's like FIVE years old they call "OLD old." When they get to be older, are they going to change their ways and start sitting around watching WHITE ZOMBIE? In a word, "Pfffffffffft!!" So, yeah, I'm afraid I do have a bad feeling that, once we're gone, a lot of these movies are gonna be headed for Boot Hill.
porfle: Any subjects you haven't covered yet in book-form, but would like to?
Tom: I won't lie to ya, I'd have had more fun writing a FILMS OF LON CHANEY JR. than I did writing a FILMS OF JOHN CARRADINE. But there's a perfectly good Chaney Jr. book already out there -- and of course Lugosi and Karloff and Price have been written about to death, and VERY well. Sooooo...I got "stuck" with Carradine. But I would get a kick out of going into an alternate universe library and seeing what "my" FILMS OF LON CHANEY JR. would have been like. I bet it would have been fun to do.
porfle: If you could interview Edward D. Wood, Jr. (PLAN NINE FROM OUTER SPACE, GLEN OR GLENDA?), what would you most like to ask him?
Tom: When Richard Bojarski interviewed you, did you really go after him with a broken bottle [laughs]?
porfle: Being such an experienced interviewer, what question would you have asked yourself that I neglected to ask?
Tom: [Laughs] It's funny, I often end interviews with "What great observation, what fun story do you like to tell, and I haven't asked you to tell?" -- and the interviewee usually dries up at that point, and CAN'T give me one more. And I always think to myself, "Oh, COME on, there must be one more good one. Come on, THINK!" Well, guess what? Now you've pulled that one on ME, and I can't think of a freakin'
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Hey, it looks as though the lovesick Frankenstein monster and his unwilling bride got together after all!
Either that, or the delightfully twisted imagination of artist Kerry "Count Gamula" Gammill has come up with yet another great seasonal banner for the Classic Horror Film Board, this time a wickedly amusing take-off on Norman Rockwell's famous Thanksgiving painting.
As a grandmotherly Elsa Lanchester parks the bird on the table, you can almost hear Boris Karloff intoning in his familiar low, growling voice: "We belong fed." Let's just hope nobody bites into that monstrous turkey and screams: "It's ALIVE!!!"
Here's to a Happy Thanksgiving in the House of Frankenstein--and we here at HK and Cult Film News join the CHFB in hoping you and yours had one in your house, too!
There were other made-for-TV Westerns before it, but THE SACKETTS (1979) is the first big multi-part cowboy epic that I can think of. It came out a full ten years before the LONESOME DOVE series and, though it isn't nearly as good, it does lay the groundwork for this type of sweeping TV Western.
The story follows the adventures of the three Sackett brothers, Tell, Orrin, and Tyrell. Tell (Sam Elliott) is the loner of the bunch, and we're introduced to him as he is forced to flee his mining job after gunning down a crooked card dealer (James Gammon) who happens to be one of the dreaded Bigelow brothers.
Knowing that the other Bigelows will be after him for revenge, Tell disappears into the mountains, where he stumbles onto a rich vein of gold and starts his own one-man mining operation. When he totes a large bagful of the shiny stuff into the aptly-named town of Purgatorie to trade for cash, it doesn't take long for some of the less scrupulous denizens to try and surgically remove him from his new-found riches.
Meanwhile, his brothers Orrin (Tom Selleck) and Tyrell (Jeff Osterhage) have left their Tennessee homeplace to avoid a bloody feud between the Sacketts and another clan, and are headed West with a cattle drive. When they reach Abilene, Orrin falls for the golden-haired daughter of an ambitious politician named Pritts (John Vernon), who aims to drive all the Mexicans out of Sante Fe.
Tyrell, of course, falls in love with a lovely Mexican lass (Ana Alicia) whose father, Don Luis (Gilbert Roland), is the main stumbling block in Pritts' plans. When they all get together in Santa Fe, the situation soon turns deadly and guns start a-blazin'.
The script is a combination of two Louis L'Amour novels, "Sackett" and "The Daybreakers", and it isn't a very smooth blend, crosscutting between the two barely-related stories the way you might switch channels back-and-forth between two movies that are on at the same time.
The stories overlap only twice--once near the end of the first segment when the three Sacketts run into each other in Purgatorie, and again for the big finale as the Bigelow brothers finally catch up to Tell and he's reunited with Orrin and Tyrell to fight them off.
This awkward overlapping of the two stories bothered me the first time I watched THE SACKETTS, along with some jarring hand-held camerawork (no Steadicam here), an endlessly irritating and inept musical score by Jerrold Immel, and a strange performance by Mercedes McCambridge that makes Ma Sackett look like she's either perpetually tipsy or tetched in the head.
But further viewings have helped me to get over the various minus points and begin to appreciate all the good things about this movie. Despite its somewhat rough-hewn quality, THE SACKETTS is an engaging Western with lots of authentic atmosphere, good characters, and a terrific cast.
For starters, there's Sam Elliott and Tom Selleck, who I think are the two best Western actors of the past twenty or thirty years (with the exception of Clint Eastwood, of course), and Jeff Osterhage, a lesser-known actor who does a fine job here. Glenn Ford plays Tom Sunday, the ramrod of the cattle drive who later joins Orrin and Tyrell in their own cattle venture and eventually ends up as their enemy, and his intense, masterful performance (watch his face twitch in those close-ups!) is a joy to behold.
This can also be said for the great Ben Johnson as Cap Roundtree, who becomes Tell's gold-mining partner. Paul Koslo is a hoot as the blowhard would-be gunslinger Kid Newton. The Bigelow brothers are played by Jack Elam, Slim Pickens, Gene Evans, and James Gammon, and also appearing in the cast are the likes of L.Q. Jones, Ruth Roman, Pat Buttram, Shug Fisher, and Buck Taylor, in addition to the aforementioned John Vernon and Gilbert Roland. (Louis L'Amour himself does the opening narration.) If you're like me and you love great character actors as much as A-list stars, this is the kind of "all-star" cast that will put a smile on your face.
I can't give THE SACKETTS a super high score due to its various deficiencies, and the fact that it's not the polished effort that later TV Westerns like LONESOME DOVE would be, but it has enough going for it to get a solid three-and-a-half out of five spurs. The final shoot-out alone is worth waiting for--it's almost as much fun as the bullet-riddled free-for-all that ended OPEN RANGE. And that cast--awesome. There's one scene which features Sam Elliott, Tom Selleck, Glenn Ford, and Ben Johnson sitting around a campfire, and I thought "Damn...I wish I was sitting around that campfire, too."
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Twelfth Century England was a tantalizing mixture of heroism and villainy. While there was tyranny and black magic, there was also romance and beauty – there was Sherwood Forest . And there was also a hero: the outlaw archer known as Robin Hood. On February 23, 2010 , Anchor Bay Entertainment will release the Syfy Channel movie Beyond Sherwood Forest for an SRP of $19.97 that will please rich and poor alike.
Starring Robin Dunne (“Sanctuary,” “ Dawson ’s Creek”) and Erica Durance (“Smallville”), Beyond Sherwood Forest is a story of danger and derring-do, of fantasy and phantasms. The Sheriff of Nottingham has unleashed a hideous winged monster – a tortured forest spirit – to destroy the gentle towns and woods of England , massacre Robin’s men and capture his Maid Marian. Hearts will run cold with fear and streets will run red with blood. Can The Prince of Thieves and his gallant men defeat this beast from another world and her cruel master?
Directed by Peter DeLuise (“Kyle XY”, “Stargate SG-1”), Beyond Sherwood Forest also features a band of stars such as Julian Sands (“24,” “Bollywood Hero”), Katharine Isabelle (Freddy vs. Jason) and David Richmond-Peck (“V,” 2012). With a sly combination of science-fiction, myth and realism this is a story that takes the viewer through torrid skies and shadowy lands; beyond history, beyond fable…Beyond Sherwood Forest!
BEYOND SHERWOOD FOREST
Street Date: February 23, 2010
Prebook Date: January 21, 2010
Catalog #: P2418
UPC #: 0 1313 82418-8 7
Run Time: 93 Minutes
Bonus Features: Behind-The-Scenes Feature; Theatrical Trailer
Buy it at Amazon.com
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
ACTION HAS NEVER BEEN SO SEXY! From The Creators Of Ong-Bak, Five Sexy Spies Star In The Electrifying Thai Action Comedy, Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers, Arriving On DVD December 15 From Magnolia Home Entertainment under the Magnet Releasing label.
Code named Rose, Lotus, Poysien, Spadix and Hibiscus, the five “Chai Lais” (Thai for “gorgeous”) are charged with the perilous assignment to combat evil terrorists, foil a kidnapping and recover a national treasure. A mission unlike any they have known, the quintet of high-heeled undercover agents must use all their ingenuity and prowess to save the day. The heroines combine their unique abilities with ninja kicks and seductive stunts in a highly entertaining battle for victory.
Get a dose of girl power and sexy stunts with "Chai Lai Angels: Dangerous Flowers."
Actors: Jintara Poonlarp, Bongkoj Khongmalai, Supakson Chaimongkol, Bunyawan Pongsuwan, Kessarin Ektawatkul
Directors: Poj Arnon
Format: AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, DVD, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
Language: Thai, English
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Number of discs: 1
Rating: R (Restricted)
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
DVD Release Date: December 15, 2009
Run Time: 102 minutes
Monday, November 23, 2009
Journey to the outer reaches of terror in "PANDORUM" -- coming to DVD and Blu-ray January 19 from Anchor Bay Entertainment
DENNIS QUAID AND BEN FOSTER ARE ANYTHING BUT ALONE IN OVERTURE FILMS’ "PANDORUM"
On DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, January 19 From Anchor Bay Entertainment
BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- Dennis Quaid and Ben Foster join Cam Gigandet, newcomer Antje Traue and martial arts phenom Cung Le in Pandorum, the terrifying sci-fi thriller from the creators of the Resident Evil film franchise, available on DVD and Blu-ray Tuesday, January 19th from Anchor Bay Entertainment (Pre-Book December 17th). Directed by Christian Alvart (Antibodies), Pandorum tells the story of two crew members stranded on a spacecraft who quickly--and horrifically--realize they are not alone.
Featuring a supporting cast that includes Eddie Rouse, André Hennicke, and Norman Reedus, Pandorum is the latest collaborative effort by Robert Kulzer, Jeremy Bolt, and Paul W. S. Anderson, the producers behind the hugely successful Resident Evil movie franchise. SRP is $29.98 for the DVD and $39.98 for the Blu-ray edition.
Justine Elias of The Boston Globe said "Pandorum is a dark, disquieting dream worth watching out for." Added Fangoria’s Tony Timpone, "Pandorum is a fever dream mash-up of sci-fi, horror and mystery that will keep you guessing till the action-packed finish."
In Pandorum, two astronauts awaken in a hyper-sleep chamber aboard a seemingly abandoned spacecraft. It’s pitch black, they are disoriented, and the only sound is a low rumble and creak from the belly of the ship. They can’t remember anything: Who are they? What is their mission? With Lt. Payton (Quaid; Vantage Point, The Express) staying behind to guide him via radio transmitter, Cpl. Bower (Foster; 3:10 to Yuma, Alpha Dog) ventures deep into the ship and begins to uncover a terrifying reality. Slowly the spacecraft’s shocking, deadly secrets are revealed--and the astronauts find their own survival is more precarious than they could ever have imagined.
The Pandorum DVD and Blu-ray bonus features include The World of Elysium: Behind-the-Scenes Featurette; What Happened to Nadia’s Team; Flight Team Training Video; Audio Commentary with Director Christian Alvart and Producer Jeremy Bolt; Deleted & Alternate Scenes; Still Galleries; Theatrical Trailer; and Sneak Peeks.
Anchor Bay Entertainment (www.anchorbayentertainment.com) is the home entertainment division of Starz Media, LLC. It includes the Anchor Bay Films and Manga Entertainment brands. It distributes feature films, children’s entertainment, fitness, TV series, documentaries, anime and other filmed entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray formats. It is the exclusive distributor in the U.S. of the theatrical titles from Overture Films. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy, MI, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Starz Media (www.starzmedia.com) is a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation attributed to the Liberty Capital Group.
Overture Films (www.overturefilms.net) develops, produces, acquires, and distributes feature length, theatrical motion pictures worldwide. The studio is a wholly owned unit of Starz Media, a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation attributed to the Liberty Capital Group NASDAQ: LCAPA, LCAPB), a tracking stock group of Liberty Media Corporation. Its affiliated companies, Anchor Bay Entertainment and Starz Entertainment, make the films available domestically to viewers via home video, premium television, Internet and other outlets.
Street Date: January 19, 2010
Pre-book: December 17, 2009
Cat. #: DV80013
UPC: 0 1313 80013 9 9
Run Time: 108 minutes
Format: 2:35:1 / 16x9
Audio: Dolby Surround 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
The World of Elysium: Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
What Happened to Nadia’s Team
Flight Team Training Video
Audio Commentary with Director Christian Alvart and Producer Jeremy Bolt
Deleted & Alternate Scenes
Street Date: January 19, 2010
Pre-book: December 17, 2009
Cat. #: N3066
UPC: 0 1313 83066 8 5
Run Time: 108 minutes
Format: 2:35:1 / 16x9
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
The World of Elysium: Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
What Happened to Nadia’s Team
Flight Team Training Video
Audio Commentary with Director Christian Alvart and Producer Jeremy Bolt
Deleted & Alternate Scenes
Buy it at Amazon.com
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I saw the 2001 Vin Diesel remake of this when it first hit home video, and now I can't remember a friggin' thing about it. Except it had some hinky CGI car-driving shots in it. They gotta use CGI just to show people driving cars now? They can't get actual stunt drivers to do actual cool car stunts? Anyway, I do remember one single zoopy-doopy CGI shot of Vin Diesel driving a car. Real memorable flick there.
Of course, it wasn't really a remake--it just used the same cool title. The original THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS (1955) was the historic first film released by American International Pictures, the undisputed kings of the low-budget exploitation flick during the 50s and 60s, and one of the first films produced (and co-written) by the legendary Roger Corman. It was co-directed by Edwards Sampson (MONSTER FROM THE OCEAN FLOOR) and the film's star, John Ireland (RED RIVER), and probably didn't cost very much to make, since most of the running time consists of people driving around, walking around, having picnics, and reacting to some ragged stock footage of auto races.
Ireland plays Frank Webster, an independent trucker falsely accused of running another trucker off the road and killing him, when this was actually the other trucker's intention--(hmm, "other trucker" sounds kinda dirty somehow)--since lone wolf Frank was cutting in on a big trucking company's business. Well, Frank breaks out of jail and takes it on the lam with half the cops in the state hot on his trail.
When he meets free-spirited racing enthusiast Connie Adair (Dorothy Malone) on her way to participate in a big race, he kidnaps her and heads for the border in her souped-up Jaguar with her as his beard. It turns out that the cross-country race will end in Mexico, so he enters it. Along the way, he and Connie fall in love (awwww) when she realizes he's really a nice guy who only acts mean and tough when he's kidnapping people and threatening to kill them.
Bruno VeSota, who played living-doll Yvette Vickers' cuckolded husband in ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES and popped up in about half a million other things later on, turns up in an early diner scene in which innocent fugitive Frank practically puts him into a coma. Another familiar face, Iris Adrian (BLUE HAWAII, THAT DARN CAT!), plays Wilma the gabby waitress. And during Frank and Connie's picnic interlude, who should turn up as the park caretaker but silent-film star Snub Pollard, whose movie career began in 1915. Pretty interesting cast, if you're warped like me.
The first half of the movie consists of Frank and Connie driving around and arguing a lot while evading the police, often while sitting in front of a screen with highway footage projected on it. The best thing about this is getting to look at the gorgeous Dorothy Malone. Holy schnikes, was she ever hot. You may remember her as Bob Cummings' girlfriend in the original beach party movie, BEACH PARTY. Or not. Anyway, she was definitely easy on the eyes, and she gives a lively performance as Connie, constantly griping about being hungry and tired, and throwing the keys out of the moving car and trying to get away every time Frank turns around, and generally getting on his nerves as much as possible. Which he deserves, since he's pretty much of a horse's ass, actually.
When they get to the place where the big race is being held, Connie runs into an old acquaintance, Faber (Bruce Carlisle, who was only ever in one other movie, FEMALE JUNGLE, thank god), who has the hots for her and starts trying to squeeze ol' Frank out of the driver's seat. Faber is a huge, irritating turdhead who is so creepy that he even makes Frank look like a barrel of laughs in comparison. When the race starts, Faber and Frank go at each other like characters out of the old "Wacky Races" cartoon all the way to Mexico.
And just as you're thinking "Die, Faber, die!" he crashes, setting up the startling ending that is dripping with irony. Well, maybe not dripping. More like a faint irony condensation around the rim. So when this happened I checked the running time to see how much time was left for the wrap-up, and it said forty seconds. Forty seconds? Yikes--when this movie decides to end, it doesn't let the screen door bang its sprockety ass on the way out.
One more thing I feel compelled to mention: right before the race, Frank decides to lock Connie in a secluded shack so she can't call the police and turn him in for his own good (she's convinced he'll get a square deal since he's really innocent, ha ha). So what's the first thing she does? She sets it on fire. I don't know about you, but setting the old wooden shack that I'm locked up in on fire wouldn't be my first idea. It would be around #11 or #12 on the list, tops.
Fortunately, a passing motorist sees the smoke and gets her out, and he's played by none other than an unbilled Jonathan Haze of LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS. Heck, Roger Corman himself even turns up early on as a state trooper. But, please--if you ever find yourself locked in a wooden shack, don't set it on fire right off the bat just because Dorothy Malone does it in this movie, because chances are that in real life, the guy who played Seymour Krelboin isn't going to toodle by and let you out.
So, while THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS isn't exactly an edge-of-your-seat nailbiter, it's fun to watch if you're into low-budget exploitation flicks from the 50s, and especially if you're a Roger Corman fan. And it actually has real people driving real cars. You even get to see Dorothy Malone tearing ass down the highway in one scene, which is cool in some weird sexual way that I can't even begin to explain. Plus, it was made twelve years before Vin Diesel was even born, so there's absolutely no danger of him being in it.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Saturday, November 21, 2009
There are documentaries--films which record actual events as they happen--and mockumentaries like THIS IS SPINAL TAP, which spoof them. And then there's PAPER HEART (2009), which only partially succeeds at being both.
Comedienne and musician Charlyne Yi (CLOVERFIELD, KNOCKED UP), who executive-produced and co-wrote the film, stars as herself. The idea is that Charlyne not only doesn't know what love is, but she doesn't really believe in true love at all. So she takes off on a cross-country odyssey with director Nicholas Jasenovec (portrayed in the movie by actor Jake Johnson) and a film crew to ask really-real-life couples to talk about their love experiences.
During this time, Charlyne meets Michael Cera (played by Michael Cera, Yi's actual boyfriend at the time) and they start to fall for each other. Eventually Charlyne and Michael chafe under the constant scrutiny of the film crew and want to pursue their burgeoning courtship in private, to the chagrin of director Nick. Will Charlyne find the meaning of true love with a camera crew following her every move?
PAPER HEART has little trouble convincing us it's a real documentary early on, as Charlyne and Nick hatch the idea for the film and set off on their quest. Yi merely has to be herself here, and she's cute and funny--a natural. Despite being a washout as an interviewer, her gawky charm endears her to the various couples she meets and encourages them to open up and reveal some warm, moving anecdotes about themselves. She also wins over a group of yakky kids in a playground and a raunchy gang of bikers and their chicks in a dive bar. These sequences are very appealing and the stories are sometimes augmented by funny re-enactments using crude paper dolls and crayola-scrawled scenery.
It's only when the contrived situation of her meeting and being wooed by the boring Michael sets in that the film starts to get bogged down. This is especially true when, having separated from Michael after he's unwilling to continue with the film project, a distraught Charlyne has to quit being herself and actually act. This is hard enough in a fictional setting, but it's even harder to be convincing when you're pretending that you aren't really acting. (All three leads seem artificial in these plot-moving scenes.) It's something that even much better actors are often unable to do--just think of all those fake "man-in-the-street" interviews you've seen that never quite capture the impression of real people talking. Also, the sound quality and multiple camera angles in these scenes are just too good to come off as on-the-fly documentary footage.
As the fictional story nudges its way to the forefront, we begin to look forward to the brief real-life interludes. One highlight occurs at a wedding chapel in Las Vegas that features its own Elvis impersonator. Another takes place in an empty courtroom as a male judge and a female lawyer recount their long-term love affair with a quiet, deep-seated affection. A visit with two gay guys in New York gets serious when one of them becomes emotional about the death of a former lover. These heartfelt segments, capturing genuine examples of true love that leave a lasting impression, only make the sham-doc parts of the movie seem even more shallow.
The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen with 5.1 Dolby surround and English and Spanish subtitles. Extras include featurettes "Paper Heart Uncut" and "The Making of Paper Heart", deleted scenes, an interesting live musical performance by Charlyne, the music video "Heaven" by Charlyne and Michael (who also scored the movie), and brief interviews with various actors and comedians about their views on love.
PAPER HEART is fun to watch when it's dealing with real people and their compelling love stories, but loses its lighthearted charm when it goes from doc to mock. Maybe it should've just been done as a straight documentary--Charlyne Yi has the bubbly personality to carry it for real, and who knows? They might've captured a serendipitous finale that resonates much more than the cute but hollow paper-doll fantasy that ends the movie.
Buy it at Amazon.com
Thursday, November 19, 2009
(NOTE: This interview originally appeared in May 2007.)
Ted Newsom is a showbiz powerhouse--just check out his extensive credits on IMDb sometime--and to describe him requires scads of hyphens to separate words like producer, writer, director, and actor. He's worked with some of the greatest names in the horror/sci-fi genre, and his films include titles such as THE NAKED MONSTER and WHISPERS FROM A SHALLOW GRAVE.
With all this to his credit, I decided to interview him about his appearance as an extra in an episode of the Saturday morning TV series "Jason of Star Command" back in 1978, because I just watched and reviewed the entire series on DVD and there are certain things that I just "gots to know." Ted, being the gentleman that he is, asked, "You're who, now?" and then graciously offered his recollections of this and numerous other fascinating experiences for us to enjoy. Why, I remember it as though it were only yesterday...
porfle: How did you wind up as a space cadet? Were you familiar with the previous series, "Star Academy", from which "Jason" was spun off?
TED: I'd seen the previous show in passing, but I wasn't hugely interested. An over-the-hill Jonathan Harris was not my idea of something I gott-sta watch. However, I did think Pamela Ferdin was cute. She's big into animal rights now. I've never met her, but I've married her several times in my imagination. We have three kids and seven dogs. She was called Pamela Franklyn for a long time as a kid, you know, but when the English actress Pamela Franklyn started working in Hollywood, apparently she had a prior claim to the name or something. I've met her, but we don't have any kids or dogs.
Seriously, I didn't pay a great deal of attention to the show, though I liked the idea of having a wholesome live-action superhero kid's show on TV. That was the time when Filmation was doing Shazam and Dyna Girl and all that. I thought they shoulda, coulda done far more sophisticated shows, even on the level of the old SUPERMAN show, instead of writing down for kids. But times had changed. Networks had strict do's and don'ts. I have no direct experience with this vis a vis Filmation, but I did slide into it years later, very briefly. Wayne Berwick and I got a chance to go into Marvel Productions to pitch some stories for their animated show that was going to have Mandrake the Magician and a bunch of King Syndicate characters. The first question I had for the exec was, "Can we kill anybody?" "Oh, yeah," he said, "We're syndicated." Meaning they weren't limited by network restrictions on violence in kids' shows. But it turned out to be nonsense. They couldn't kill anybody, even in syndication.
Still, Filmation made the attempt to do some sort of quality work for a specific market, under restrictions of budget and censorship. If JASON is out on DVD twenty--no, thirty--years later, apparently they succeeded.
porfle: As a diehard Trekker, I have to ask about the beloved James "Scotty" Doohan (JASON's "Commander Canarvan"). Did you get to know him?
TED: Briefly interacted with him, and I wish I hadn't been so shy about it. When I started, I think they'd already been shooting for about a week or two, and most of Jimmy Doohan's stuff was done. Likewise, Sid Haig's stuff. But I did chat with Scotty, cadged cigarettes off him when I was out (I smoked Marlboros, but I settled for his Winstons). I was happy to see him working, and I got the idea he was happy about it, too.
The next year, before I learned I'd become persona non grata at Filmation, I briefly saw Doohan's replacement, John Russell, at Filmation. Unlike Doohan, he didn't look happy at ALL. I'm sure the thought ran through his head, "I used to be a star. I was at Warner Bros., for keeriist sake, and I'm at some rinky-dink little outfit in the Valley with my face painted blue." There was none of that attitude from Jimmy Doohan. But then, his face wasn't painted blue, either.
Understand, there's a hierarchy on a set, and you pick up the vibe quickly. Extras are on the bottom rung. Don't bother the actors. Don't bother the crew. Just listen to what the AD tells you and do it.
I just remembered that he'd said he had a job lined up after he wrapped JASON. And I think that may have been the STAR TREK movie, the first one...in one or the other of its incarnations.
porfle: It seems as though it would take a good sense of humor, collectively, to put this kind of stuff over--not to mention a healthy appreciation for the absurd. Was it a light-hearted set?
TED: It was business-like rather than a constant party. I can't remember any big gaffes or bloopers; I don't recall anyone busting up over blowing a line, nor any grand practical jokes or anything like that. The director (and, I believe, co-creator of the show) was a guy named Art Nadel, and I really wish I would've been able to talk to him. He did one of those dreadful latter-day Elvis films. But he was working and I was a space cadet.
porfle: What was the layout of that big warehouse where all of the sets were built? And how much of the post-production and visual effects were done there?
TED: Filmation's main offices were in the San Fernando Valley in, I think, Reseda, on Sherman Way, with a big ol' sign flashing that said "Filmation!" In contrast, the Filmation live-action studio was a rather smallish industrial building in Canoga Park, which is a suburb in the far west end of the San Fernando Valley. This particular area was industrial, with assorted nondescript office buildings with mid-sized companies. One, across the street from Filmation, was a cosmetic company which, I learned later, was where Gloria Jean worked as a receptionist. She was briefly a big kid star in the 1940s at Universal. NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK is the only one anyone remembers. No, I never met her.
The front of the live-action place was a very anonymous, one-story block building. You'd never know they made sci-fi stuff in there. The front rooms of the building were offices: the reception area, an office for Lou Scheimer, probably one for Art Nadel (although I can't remember ever seeing him anywhere but on the floor).
The rear of the building was the production area. There were basically two sets when I was there, the Space Academy set (which I thought was pretty neat), which was just the main room and an adjoining L-shaped hallway. I don't think there was any "practical" equipment in the big control room. That is, none of the buttons and levers and switches worked; the blinking lights were operated by the FX guy or the gaffer.
The other set was the "planet" set. It was neat, although of course I never worked on that set, since I was a lowly peon space cadet and there was so much to do back at Space Academy, like walk down a hall or look at a clipboard. But the planet set was neat. It was probably thirty-five or forty feet long and about twenty feet deep. The cyclorama was changeable, and I seem to recall there were several, all hanging and semi-permanent. To change the planet, you changed the sky, from black to blue, or orange, or whatever. There were often phony rock pieces used there as well.
The effects department was Adjacent of Star Command...sorry...adjacent to the big stage. That's were they did the miniatures. It was a separate, and very small, production unit from the live-action crew. A great guy called Chuck Comisky was the head effects guy, and I liked him. I thought the miniatures were great. As I recall, I may've actually gone there originally to get a job on the FX crew rather than as an extra.
In the back of the building was a small scene dock and storage area. There were more prop boulders and things, some assorted sci-fi-ish things which I can't recall, and, I think, some unused flats.
On the south side of the building was the shuttle set. I think this may have actually had its own enclosure. THAT was cool. Leather seats. Neat chairs. Lots of switches and buttons. In retrospect, the interior looked and felt like a big RV. I remember I wished I had access to it to make a space movie. And it was a complete prop, inside and out. It wasn't as if the exterior was one thing and the control & passenger set was a separate deal.
It was probably very hot during that time, since it was summer in the San Fernando Valley, but I can't remember anybody passing out from prostration, or even complaining.
porfle: Can you remember any shots you were in that ended up on the cutting room floor?
TED: Yes, dag blast it. One and only one time, I was in a tight two-shot with Charlie Dell at a control panel. I think he was supposed to be looking below frame at a panel showing the Space Academy was being drawn into the Sun (or some other foolish melodramatic gimmick). Anyway, I actually was asked to do a silent bit, such as it was. We both looked at the screen seriously. I looked at him grimly and walked off, and he had some dialogue. And yes, they cut it out. I asked the editor if I could get a clip or a frame or something of the shot, but he didn't have it (I may've asked this the next year, actually, and all those trims would have been vaulted or tossed away long before).
The other thing that got cut out had nothing to do with me, but it happened while I was there, and boy did Scheimer raise a stink! Understand, Roseanne Katon had a couple of weeks on the show as a space princess. Beautiful girl, and that summer, she was PLAYBOY's Playmate of the Month. Apparently none of her people had bothered to tell Filmation that this was pending. Ol' Scheimer raised holy hell. He thought the network would cancel the show or something because of bad publicity.
So, there were these guys animating the stop-motion creature, a thing that looked kind of like a Harryhausen mooncalf. And to do this properly, you take photographic tests for exposure, running the camera for a few feet at one exposure, then another, then examining it to see what's best. Well, they had cut out a small photograph of an exquisitely nude Roseanne Katon from PLAYBOY and put it into the model set, standing by a rock where the live action would be inserted later by optical printing. So the test shot showed this multi-armed insectoid glop monster and this gorgeous young black woman, stark naked and smiling. Yeeeoowwee!
Scheimer raised hell again.
Oddly enough, I saw her years later on the set of a CBS nighttime soap opera where a friend of mine was doing extra work. I didn't say hi--there's a question of protocol, and here I wasn't even a space cadet, just a visitor. She was playing a "nice" girl who was revealed to be "bad" because she'd modeled nude. And I think they actually used the interior of the Playboy shoot inside a dummy generic men's magazine. Never saw her again, although, we've married several times and have five kids and three cats in my imagination.
porfle: What were the craft services like? Were you well-fed?
TED: The spread was generally pretty good. Again, there's a hierarchy. The main production people and the cast get fed first, but that just makes sense. But I don't remember that ever being an enforced rule. Lunch was picnic style, mostly sans tables. We'd all go outside where the catering people had set up the food line, then find a spot under a tree or something.
The most memorable lunch I had at Filmation was the next summer, when I was visiting. Julie Newmar was the guest villainess, evil queen of one thing or the other. I've always thought she was one of the sexiest beings with two or less legs, and whatever it was she had on showed a great deal of them. I admit to the old "drop the pencil on the ground and crane your neck to see" trick. Yes, sadly and memorably, she was wearing underwear. I can't remember what was served for lunch.
Susan O'Hanlon was nice, as I recall. I think she was pretty enough and well-built enough to have gotten far more work than she did. I didn't speak a lot to her, just a few minutes doing bits of interview for a story I was writing on spec for Starlog. I was smoking a pipe off and on during this time, trying unsuccessfully to stop smoking cigarettes. Late in the game, I noticed she'd taken up smoking a pipe, a corncob, of all things. She was far too young and pretty to be L'il Abner's Mammy. I think she was married, at the time, to the son of George O'Hanlon, who was the voice of George Jetson.
porfle: Did Charlie Dell, who portrayed "Professor E.J. Parsafoot", ever show up on the set drunk, or under the influence of powerful prescription medications?
TED: His colossal bouts with alcohol and drugs are Hollywood legend. Or San Fernando Valley legend. There was the time he tied two old ladies together to Johnny Weissmueller, using a half-hitch knot. The Las Vegas episode where he used a stolen Apache string-bow to fire a flaming arrow into the open mouth of the giant waving cowboy at the Frontier Hotel. Many's the time he would berate the director with language that would make a sailor blush. He and Brod Crawford used to hit each other in the face with shovels for fun while guzzling Sterno straight from the can. Throwing an epileptiform fit in front of the Viper Room. Vomiting on Hugh Hefner's carpet slippers.
No, that was all somebody else. Charlie Dell was a very sweet guy. It was a silly and stereotypical role, as I guess they all were on the show, but he was very polite and kind to me. In one of my more or less politic and sensible moments, I complimented him on a scene. I said something like, "Given the material you were working with, I thought that was a really nice performance." He said thanks. Actually, that may have been the scene in the show that I'm actually in (in the background, out of focus, of course). That seems to me about the longest single scene the "Parsafoot" character had.
I saw him in something else on TV a couple years later, a brief, rather Franklin Pangbornian role, and I remember thinking, "I'm glad he got some work. He's a good actor."
I hope it's not cause and effect, but doing a live-action series for Filmation seems to have been the kiss of death for anyone who ever did one, except Sid Haig, and even he spent about two decades in the wilderness. Ever see the guys who played Captain Marvel? Nope, except at autograph shows. Dyna Girl? And I think Les Tremayne's last notable gig was on SHAZAM. It's not a reflection on anyone's talent, it's just weirdly consistent.
I thought Craig Littler ["Jason"] did pretty well within the circumstances. They tried, on their little budget, within their limitations, to make an old-fashioned swashbuckling, Errol Flynn hero, a ready smile and (badly written) quips, stalwart, quick-witted. And I think he deserved more. The only other thing I know of that he starred in was a Filipino horror movie called SUPERBEAST, where he did a Jekyll & Hyde character. That, and a very long-running TV commercial for an upscale mustard. Two expensive limos are driving 'way out in the boonies, and one pulls along side the other. The windows roll down, and inside each is a millionaire, one old, one young. The young one was Craig Littler, who says, "I beg your pardon. Do you have any Grey Poupon?" That ran for years, nationally. I was happy for him, because an actor gets paid every time those things run. But other than that, nothing. I'd think he, and Charlie, and Susan, would probably do OK at autograph or sci-fi shows nowadays.
porfle: Does anyone ever come up to you and say, "Hey! You were the guy over Professor Parsafoot's shoulder in that one scene"?
TED: Oh, all the time. ALL the TIME. Sheesh. Fans. I have to beat them off with a stick. If that's your idea of a good time.
Heck, I don't even know if people ever went up to Littler or Dell and recognized them, even at the time, with or without the Parsafoot eyebrows. I'd see these guys on TV and recognize them, but the show had this little niche-quality, disregarded status. It was a Saturday morning kids' show. I'd imagine the very low profile of the show was what the guys involved in SUPERMAN in 1951 were imagining. People telling George Reeves or Jack Larson, "Oh, it's a kid's show, nobody'll ever see it. Take the money and run." In that case, of course, it turned out just the opposite. But also, in that case, it began with some meat to the scripts, which was not the case with JASON.
porfle: You weren't given much to do in that scene, but I noticed that in one shot you raised your right eyebrow. Was that scripted, or was it an ad-lib?
TED: My idea. That's acting. Seriously. I thought about picking my nose and flicking the booger onto the back of Charlie Dell's head, but he was too nice a guy.
I really did want to do SOMEthing, because I'd been acting on stage since I was about 15. But when you're an extra--"atmosphere" players, to use the more polite term--your job is to be anonymous. And I think it was a SAG show, which means if you give an extra something extra--like specific physical business, or heaven forbid, a line of dialogue--the person has the right to expect you apply to SAG for membership, or at the very least, expect a bump in pay. And that never happened once while I was there.
There was some question, by the way, about me shaving off my mustache. I was about 26 or 27, and someone questioned whether a "space cadet" would be old enough to shave, I guess. Like anyone would ever notice...
porfle: So, what's the story on that blonde space cadet? She's only shown in long shots, but as far as I can tell from my DVD player's zoom-in and frame-advance functions, she seems rather, as Mr. Spock would say, "fascinating."
TED: I noticed her, too, when a friend gave me a bootleg copy of the series a couple years back. Beats me. I do remember a girl named Noe, because I worked with her a couple of weeks. Vietnamese, petite, very quiet. Given when the series was shot, about 1978 I think, I'd expect she probably came over here with her parents after the war. Her name was pronounced "Know-ee." Well, my last name is Newsom, and invariably when people spell it, they spell it "Newsome," which has always annoyed me. I drove Noe home one night and said, "We really ought to get married. You'd make the perfect wife for me. When they asked you your name, you could say, 'Newsom, Noe.' And they'd spell it right for a change." I think she laughed. And I think, in that, she was being polite.
I was happily married at the time, by the way. My wife Marsha and I lived about six blocks from the Filmation studio, so I could walk to work. On the days I did work, anyway.
porfle: Is Sid Haig ("Dragos, Master of the Cosmos") really an evil megalomaniac in real life?
TED: He's really a certified hypno-therapist. Seriously. I loved him in SPIDER BABY. Really and truly, he's terrific. I met him years later at some con and told him I'd "worked with him", or at least on the same show, and said, in all seriousness, he's always been one of my favorite actors. I'm happy for his resurgence in popularity through the Rob Zombie films.
porfle: What was Filmation boss Lou Scheimer like?
TED: Nice to me...when he thought I was going to help him. While I was doing this extra work--which by the way was not every day, it was maybe two or three days a week, stretched out over a month or two--I got the idea to do an article on the show for a new magazine that'd come out, something called STARLOG. So he had me into his office, was very open and nice, showing me the storyboard sketches he'd done for one sequence (the stop-motion monster sequence, I think). And I believe it was he who actually drew the sketches. He seemed like a very nice man. Then. So I wrote a little five or six page article and made copies to give to him and a couple of the other actors as a courtesy. I think Susan O'Hanlon read it. In fact, I recall her puffing that corncob pipe while reading it. This was near the end of the shoot. The tone of the article reflected Scheimer's stated goals for the show, filtered through my on-set experience. It was generally fun and upbeat: gee whiz, here's a company that's going to try to bring the fun of a Saturday afternoon serial back to TV.
But there was one line, one lousy line, in the story that set him off. I wrote, "Though the science in the stories wouldn't fool a seven year old (floating down to the surface of a planet without being burned up on re-entry, for instance), the show looks like a promising return to the fun and excitement of CAPTAIN VIDEO and BUCK ROGERS." Apparently Scheimer went through the roof. "What's he trying to do! Ruin my show!?! I never want him anywhere near here again!!!" I didn't know this at the time. Only a year later, when they started up production on the second season, did FX guy Chuck Comisky explain to me that I was utterly unwanted around Filmation, on orders of Scheimer. I was the guy who tried to torpedo the show. Sheesh. And the irony was, the article never saw print, ever. I think Fred Clarke rejected it for CINEFANTASTIQUE as too minor a show to bother with, and I don't think I ever heard from STARLOG at all. So this guy had this great big hissy fit over nothing.
I saw the guy once, a few months later. I was working in a multiplex movie theater nearby, and he came in with his wife or something. I think he recognized me, because he glared at me. I've always thought that was incredibly petty. The one line was so innocuous--and not untrue--but he was furious. I'd needed the money, too.
I think they sold it. I know it doesn't exist anymore. Tough.
porfle: Have you run into any of the old cast or crew over the years?
TED: There was a guy named Berwick, I forget his first name. Tall, good looking, very polite. He was either one of the rare featured players on the show (like, one line every six shows or something), or whatever. He was engaged to Art Nadel's daughter, either then, or slightly later. I remember him, because he worked as an assistant director on a little film for Irv Berwick, who was a teacher of mine, and through Irv, I got to know Irv's son Wayne. Wayne's become a good friend forever; we co-directed THE NAKED MONSTER. But the JASON OF STAR COMMAND Berwick guy was no relation to Wayne and Irv, it was just a coincidence of names. Or maybe he was actually acting in the film for Irv. But that was the only person I've ever run into after the fact. Except Sid Haig. And I've already exhausted my one Sid Haig anecdote.
porfle: What were the immediate benefits of your appearance on the show?
TED: A much-needed check for anywhere from seventy to a couple hundred dollars. I was just married, living on the GI Bill while going to college, and my wife Marsha was working full-time. The fact that we had an apartment within six blocks of "work" was very nice, and I got such a kick out of "working in the business," even in such a minor and forgettable capacity.
I went down the next summer to see if I could continue in some capacity. That's when Chuck Comisky told me I was not wanted at all, not as a space cadet, not as a member of the FX crew, not as an air-breathing entity anywhere in the building. Elephants never forget, and neither did Lou Scheimer. I did get a job for my friend Ram Anand, though. He did a day or two as an extra (with a beard, for goodness' sake), and several days in a big hairy snow monster costume in the series of shows with Julie Newmar and Angelo Rossito. At least I got to meet with and speak with Little Angie. I asked him about working with Bela Lugosi, and he said, "Oh, Bela was nice. We did lotsa pitchures together. He said to me, 'Angie, from now on, I want you in all my pitchures. That way, when they see you on screen, they'll think of Lugosi!'" And he laughed.
Funny thing about that. Years later I interviewed a guy named Johnny Legend, who knew Tor Johnson. He said Tor recalled Bela saying to him, "Tor, from now on, I want you in all my pitchures. That way, when they see you on screen, they'll think of Lugosi!'" Lugosi's lucky he didn't work with Prince Randian or the Hilton Sisters.
porfle: This being early in your career, did you learn anything that helped you later on in your own film endeavors?
TED: Seriously? Yes. The very businesslike atmosphere on the set was impressive. Actors should know their lines (they all did on JASON); you can make something big look much grander if you've got talented people around you. And I learned not to give courtesy copies of articles to the subjects. I hope I learned NOT to be a big jerk if you're a producer.
From the sweat I saw pouring out of the monster costume when Ram did his snow-creature bit, I learned the obvious. Do not wear a rubber monster suit yourself when it's the middle of summer. That lesson held me in good stead when I shot the effects for THE NAKED MONSTER.
porfle: Did you have any idea whatsoever that, almost thirty years later, this little Saturday morning sci-fi show would even be remembered by anyone?
TED: Seriously, I am not surprised at all. My "part" in the show is so marvelously minor, I get a perverse kick out of even bringing it up. I thought the show had the potential to be more successful than it was. It was well-cast, they had some good writers (even working within the non-scientific children's fantasy restrictions), and it was competently directed. Some of the aspects were cheesy, like the limited amount of sets, but I thought what WAS there looked as good on screen as vintage STAR TREK. I think the chintzy synthesized music score makes it SOUND rinky-dink and very much of its era. They could have done better. If it were me, I'd have farmed the music out to somebody to record with an orchestra on the cheap in Europe, or just used stock library music to make it feel BIGGER.
Obviously the first incarnation of JASON was successful enough to spawn the second season, where they did a full half-hour. I'm not privy to the machinations of why this was re-cast. It was probably a question of availability and price negotiations. As you know, they only brought Charlie Dell and Craig Littler back, and Sid Haig, of course. I believe Jimmy Doohan, by that time, had already done the first STAR TREK movie, so price-wise he was probably out of the question, or disinterested in devaluing whatever cache his name had. I don't know if they asked Susan O'Hanlon back, but having watched these things, there was so little in the scripts for her to do as an actress, I wouldn't begrudge her taking a pass.
porfle: Since then, you've enjoyed a long and varied career on both sides of the camera. What are you working on now that we can look forward to?
TED: I've spent months re-editing and re-mixing FLESH & BLOOD, THE HAMMER HERITAGE OF HORROR for English release. This should dovetail with the recent (as of May 2007) purchase of Hammer. Other than the one broadcast in 1994, it's never been seen in England--or most of the world, for that matter.
I started a project about a year and a half ago called IDOL PURSUITS, a screwball comedy on a deceptively low budget, considering what kind of production value we've got so far on screen: action in Sedona, Arizona, with beautiful scenic backgrounds, sequences on a cruise ship at sea, locations in Cabo San Lucas and Mazatlan, a biplane, hang-gliding. It's sort of like THE LADY EVE. Brinke Stevens, whom I've always loved as a performer, does a sort of Barbara Stanwyck turn in a double role. She's always been wonderful in those, like TEENAGE EXORCIST (which we co-wrote) and NIGHTMARE SISTERS. I play the lead, a professorial nerd. I never expected anyone else to cast me in a Cary Grant role, so I figured I'd better do it myself. (Cary Grant in BRINGING UP BABY and MONKEY BUSINESS, that is.)
Last year I did a number of acting jobs for Fred Olen Ray, and he's a joy to work with. Acting is fun. Writing is, too, when you get paid. I still have a script I need to finish, a Sinbad adventure, which I'm writing with Ray Harryhausen and a partner as yet to be publicly announced. There's another very unique script I need to finish, too, but the past year or so has been frenzied.
porfle: If you were me, what would you have asked you that I neglected to ask?
TED: You covered everything.
porfle: Thanks for spending some quality time with us today, Ted! It's been a pleasure.
TED: Is that a question? Very hard to answer. But we got married several times and had three kids and four cats.
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
REAL LIFE SHERIFF AND FILM ACTION STAR WITH OVER 2 BILLION IN BOX OFFICE SALES... STEVEN SEAGAL IS BACK IN "THE KEEPER"
A High Impact Thrill Ride Arriving Exclusively On DVD January 19th From Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
LOS ANGELES, CA -- (November 17, 2009) -- Iconic film action hero Steven Seagal (Hard to Kill, Under Siege) delivers his own form of justice in The Keeper, igniting on DVD January 19, 2010 from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.
Steven Seagal unleashes his wrath--and his fists--in this fast-paced thriller about an ex-cop caught in a web of deceit, racism and murder. Chock full of high-octane stunts and eye-popping action, The Keeper is a nonstop adrenaline rush. Double-crossed by his rogue partner and forced to retire, Los Angeles street cop Rolland Sallinger (Seagal) accepts a gig guarding the beautiful daughter of a wealthy businessman.
But when mobsters kidnap the girl, Rolland’s job turns from protector to hunter as he untangles a dangerous web of lies and murder. Now, in a race against time, Rolland must use his wits, weapons and brute force to get her back--before it’s too late. With a supporting cast that includes Luce Rains (Public Enemies) and Kisha Sierra ("In Plain Sight"), The Keeper was written and produced by Seagal and directed by Keoni Waxman (I Shot A Man In Vegas). The Keeper will be available on DVD for the suggested retail price of $22.98 U.S. Prebook date is December 8.
About Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
A recognized global industry leader, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment LLC (TCFHE) is the worldwide marketing, sales and distribution company for all Fox film and television programming on DVD, Blu-ray Disc (BD) and Digital Copy as well as acquisitions and original productions. The company also releases all products around the globe for MGM Home Entertainment. Each year TCFHE introduces hundreds of new and newly enhanced products, which it services to retail outlets -- from mass merchants and warehouse clubs to specialty stores and e-commerce - throughout the world. Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment LLC is a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, a News Corporation company.
Follow TCFHE on Twitter @foxhomeent
Street Date: January 19, 2010
Pre-book Date: December 8, 2009
Pricing: $22.98 U.S.
Catalog Number: 2261555
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screen Format: Widescreen -- 1.78:1 Aspect Ratio
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby Surround
Subtitles: English, French and Spanish
Feature Run Time: 94 minutes
Closed Captioned: Yes
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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN VIRTUAL FUN BECOMES REAL TERROR?
ANCHOR BAY ENTERTAINMENT REVS UP "GHOST MACHINE"
Materializing on DVD December 22nd
BEVERLY HILLS, CA -- One of the ancient rules of horror films--never disturb the spirits of the dead--gets a 21st century jolt of adrenaline when Anchor Bay Entertainment premieres Ghost Machine on DVD December 22nd. Starring a hot cast, including teen heartthrob Sean Faris (Forever Strong, Never Back Down), Rachael Taylor (Transformers, Shutter) and Luke Ford (The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), Ghost Machine promises a technological journey into extreme horror! SRP is a translucent $26.97, and pre-book is November 19th.
A group of young U.S. military techs borrow a top-secret combat simulator for a weekend of unauthorized gaming. Alcohol, spliffs (a cigarette of multiple types of leaves) and virtual pornstars get the evening off to a cracking start. They set up the system inside an abandoned prison used for the torture of post-9/11 prisoners and discover that someone--or something--has uploaded itself into their A.I. software. A deadly new player has now joined the game: How do you survive the final level of lock-and-load virtual reality when escape is impossible, slaughter is uncontrollable and the enemy is unstoppable? The ultimate battle begins inside the...Ghost Machine!!!
• The Making of Ghost Machine
• Interview with Writer Sven Hughes
• Theatrical Trailer
About Anchor Bay Entertainment
Anchor Bay Entertainment is the home entertainment division of Starz Media, LLC. It includes the Anchor Bay Films and Manga Entertainment brands. It distributes feature films, children’s entertainment, fitness, TV series, documentaries, anime and other filmed entertainment on DVD and Blu-ray formats. It is the exclusive distributor in the U.S. of the theatrical titles from Overture Films. Headquartered in Beverly Hills, CA, Anchor Bay Entertainment has offices in Troy, MI, as well as Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. Starz Media (www.starzmedia.com) is a controlled subsidiary of Liberty Media Corporation attributed to the Liberty Capital Group.
Street Date: December 22, 2009
Pre-book: November 19, 2009
Cat. #: 0 1313 16364-9 9
Run Time: 100 Minutes
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.85:1)
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Anchor Bay Entertainment and science fiction legend Walter Koenig present INALIENABLE on DVD January 19th 2010
"A brilliant piece of work." --Sliceofscifi.com
Anchor Bay Entertainment joins forces with science fiction legend Walter Koenig ("Star Trek") to present an unforgettable thriller that explores science, the universe and moral justice. Inalienable, written by Koenig and premiering on DVD January 19, 2010, includes celestial foil "O-card" packaging that is truly out of this world! SRP is a heavenly $19.97, with a pre-book date of December 17, 2009.
In the film, scientist Eric Norris (Richard Hatch, "Battlestar Galatica") discovers his body is host to a parasite from another world. With the shocking revelation that this microscopic intruder also carries his DNA, Norris confronts the possibility that he might "give birth" to a new son to replace the one lost in a tragic accident years earlier. But will this birth represent a new fusion of human and alien--or spell doom for the entire human race?
Inalienable boasts a "who’s who" cast of sci-fi favorites: Koenig, Hatch, Erick Avari ("Heroes", "The Mummy", "Independence Day"), Marina Sirtis ("Star Trek: The Next Generation"), Richard Herd ("V"), Gary Graham ("Alien Nation"), and Alan Ruck ("Spin City", "Twister, "The Happening").
Street Date: January 19, 2010
Pre-Book Date: December 17, 2009
Catalog #: DV16682
UPC: 0 1313 16682-9 2
Run Time: 105 minutes
Rating: Not Rated
Format: Anamorphic Widescreen (1.78:1)
Audio: Dolby Surround 5.1
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