Thursday, May 30, 2013

My Hitchcock Top 10

I discovered Alfred Hitchcock from his television series that was on when I was little. I didn't actually see an movies by him until the seventies. He quickly became one of my favorite directors. When it comes to pure adventure and excitement mixed with a little romance, a sense of humor (often black but always there) and a dash of horror, he still has never been topped. Last year, Hitchcock's VERTIGO was named the best film ever made. You'll note that it isn't on my list. I tried rewatching it last year and still didn't particularly care for it.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

King Kong Escapes

According to IMDB, KING KONG ESCAPES was released in the US in the summer of 1968. Thus it would not have been my very first exposure to Kong as I was a fan of the 1967 animated series that aired on TV. Apparently that series was co-produced by Toho who had resurrected King Kong for its 1963 KING KONG VS GODZILLA epic. The original wasn't shown on TV at the time and I had yet to discover monster mags so I had no idea that Kong hadn't ALWAYS been an obvious man in a big hairy suit. 

The film features the evil Dr. Who (no relation) and his creation Mecha-Kong. Apparently this robot ape was popular as there would later be a Mecha-Godzilla for a few films as well.

It was around 1972 when KING KONG was re-released and I was finally able to see the wonder of the original, stop motion version. But I've always held an affection for this guy.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Rare Peter Cushing Pressbook Article

Well, Mr. Cushing never made it to this date, of course, but today IS the 100th anniversary of his birth. By all accounts a dear, sweet man, he was supremely capable of playing an amazingly wide range of roles from grandfatherly to sadistic. And somehow he could endear himself to filmgoers at either extreme! A favorite of mine since I first discovered him in the early seventies, this piece is a rare article about Cushing from the pressbook for his 1973 film--his last as Baron Frankenstein--FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL. 

It's presented here as part of the PETER CUSHING BLOGATHON. You'll find links to all the other participating blog posts here. Watch for more related posts here and at BOOKSTEVE'S LIBRARY throughout the week.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Legend of Hell House

By 1973, after three APES movies, I was counting Roddy McDowall as one of my very favorite actors and I was anxious to see THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE. So, of course, it doesn't open anywhere close. Eventually Terry and I had to take a long bus ride to the nearby town of Ludlow to catch it at a Sunday matinee. As ghost stories go, it became my favorite until POLTERGEIST some years later. The film was written by Richard Matheson from his own book which gives it a familiar TWILIGHT ZONE feel as he wrote many memorable episodes of that series.

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Favorite B Western Cowboys

My Dad loved cowboy pictures and I was born in the heyday of the TV western so it was inevitable that I would become a cowboy fan. I was 12 years old, though, before I saw my first of the traditional low budget B Westerns. That was when one local station picked up a package that included a bunch of them. I already had been a big fan of ROY ROGERS form his television series which ran in reruns inti the early seventies!

TEX RITTER was a country and western singing star as well as a most engaging presence in films. His son, John, was alreadya  favorite of mine by the time I discovered him.

TIM HOLT, above, was the first B western star whose movies I saw. They were shown weekly for about a year.

I was already a JOHN WAYNE fan as well since he was still around then and my dad had taken me to see nearly all of his new films throughout my life. 

My first exposure to GENE AUTRY was his science-fiction serial, THE PHANTOM EMPIRE, It would be years later before I would catch his flicks when TNN offered a regular slot with Gene and his former sidekick Pat Buttram introducing them.

BUCK JONES, perhaps these days more famous for his 1940's nightclub fire death, jumped straight into my Top 5 when I first saw one of his films!

Johnny Mack Brown was a former football star groomed for major stardom by MGM and then tossed aside where he became a popular B movie cowboy star. His popularity persists even today as his are the most popular sellers by far at the DVD site I share!

Col. Tim McCoy was a real cowboy who drifted into early films and remained until the forties. He was still around into the mid-seventies when he guested on Tom Snyder's TOMORROW show.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

My First R-Rated Film: Twitch of the Death Nerve

In 1973, I really wanted to see naked women. I was 14 so this was actually quite normal. I hadn't yet started buying adult mags but it did occur to me that R-rated motion pictures surely contained LOTS of boobs and butts and whatever else women might have that I hadn't yet discovered!  The problem was that R-rated films required adult accompaniment. 

This it was that I managed to talk my mother into taking me to see my first R-Rated film--THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE! It was a 1971 Italian film but I didn't know that at the time. Since my parents knew I liked horror movies and this one was getting some TV ad play, I was able to get her to take me.

But it was a double feature and when we arrived the co-feature was just beginning so IT inadvertently became the first R-Rated film I ever saw.

That co-feature was TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE, one of the most controversial and violent films in the controversial and violent film career of the great Italian director Mario Bava. It wasn't my first Bava film as I'd seen several on TV, but certainly not as explicit as this one. It felt so weird sitting next to my mother whose mouth was hanging open in shock throughout.

Ultimately I didn't like it, a view I've since learned is shared by even many Bava fans. At this late date, having never seen it again, all I remember is a few topless scenes and lots of blood...and even then, it seems like most of the topless scenes were in THE NIGHT EVELYN CAME OUT OF THE GRAVE...which, miraculously, my mother still was able to sit through with me! Thanks, Mom! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

My First Theater

 The Liberty Theater in downtown Covington was my favorite theater growing up. The seats were uncomfortable but it was a gorgeous, old-style theater with statues and a fancy staircase up to the balcony, a lovely red carpet and a long hallway filled with posters and lobby cards of upcoming releases between the box office and the actual theater.

The website Cinema Treasures writes: The Liberty Theater featured 1,500 blue leather seats on the main floor and the balcony. Other amenities included an Italian marble lobby complete with a miniature Statue of Liberty, mahogany ticket sales booths, a grand marble and brass stairway, a large organ and a large mural of New York harbor painted on the stage.

When the Liberty closed, either in 1970 or '71 as I recall, this was their final show. All seats were a dime  for that last week's program and popcorn was free. The bill was a long one consisting of one of the Robert Youngson feature-length compilations of comedy clips (not sure which one), Youngson's FURTHER PERILS OF LAUREL AND HARDY, W.C. Fields in THE FATAL GLASS OF BEER, an episode of Jay Ward's FRACTURED FLICKERS ("Dinky Dunston" the irreverent sendup of Chaney's silent classic, THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME), and a whole passel of Ward and Total Television TV cartoons (a treat on the big screen!) including BULLWINKLE, GEORGE OF THE JUNGLE, TENNESSEE TUXEDO and UNDERDOG! 

For a dime!

Posted in a shorter form at BOOKSTEVE'S LIBRARY in January, 2013

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mitzi Green

Originally posted in two parts at Booksteve's Library in 2013 but seems more at home here. Mitzi jumped from nowhere on my radar to being one of my favorite child stars of classic Hollywood.

In the television age, child stars became a dime a dozen--interchangeable, expendable fodder to the Hollywood system. The rare unique ones stood out  but they have largely been cookie-cutter for the past half century or more. One of my favorite discoveries in my recent mining of online pop culture mags is Mitzi Green. 

A talented singer and mimic, Mitzi was born in the Bronx in 1920 and, at age 9, took her talent, her gigantic smile and her accent to Hollywood where she played Becky Thatcher in TOM SAWYER and starred as the original LITTLE ORPHAN ANNIE! 

Mitzi matured a little too quickly for her own good, though. Seen above, in the classic SKIPPY with Jackie Cooper, Mitzi is eleven years old. Below, stealing the ending of the all-star THE STOLEN JOOLS short, she was also eleven.

At twelve, below, one could see her maturing already in the Wheeler and Woolsey comedy, GIRL CRAZY.

Here's the real killer! The image below is from the Jack Benny feature TRANSATLANTIC MERRY-GO-ROUND released in 1934! Mitzi in this FOURTEEN!!!

From that point on, she went onto the stage, her amazing career as a child star ended prematurely by puberty! Her one major return to films was in Abbott and Costello's LOST IN ALASKA, thankfully part of the set of DVD's I was recently given so I will be checking her out at age 30 soon. Sadly, Mitzi passed at age 48 in 1969 and is undeservedly forgotten today. Cute, funny, a good actress and a great laugh. If you get a chance, check out some Mitzi Green movies.

The above bio is from LIFE when she was just 17. Seen immediately below is her stunningly accurate visual impersonation of actor George Arliss. It loses something due to the fact that the once world-famous actor is now largely forgotten except to buffs. Below that, her Harpo!

Seen here at age 16 or 17 on Broadway in BABES IN ARMS where she was the first person to sing the now classic MY FUNNY VALENTINE. She's with Ray Heatherton, later known as TV's Merry Mailman and still later as Joey Heatherton's papa and co-star of her seventies variety series.

Below, again from LIFE.

Mitzi also introduced the song, THE LADY IS A TRAMP, later a Sinatra favorite.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

My Gable Top 10

Since this is a blog about my personal film buff experiences, it’s perhaps sacrilege to admit this but I’ve never liked GONE WITH THE WIND. Granted my first and only exposure to it was when it ran on network television in the seventies in two parts on two successive evenings but I simply didn’t like it. Oh, I was impressed as all get out by its trappings—the sets, the art direction, the color, the costumes, the spectacle. I just did not care for a single character and didn’t like spending that much time with any of them.

That said, I do most certainly do enjoy a good Clark Gable film and here are my Top Ten favorites more or less in order.