Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Gay Purr-ee

From the folks who brought you Bugs Bunny, Mister Magoo, THE WIZARD OF OZ and THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW (!!??), 1962's GAY PURR-EE was not a big hit at the time of its release but was television staple for many years. I can't recall if I saw it new in theaters at age 3 or if it just seems like it due to overexposure.

Just Garland was a decade past her last big screen hits when she agreed to voice and sing for Mewsette. (Was the title a wink to the largely homosexual audience who had kept her a viable stage performer in recent years?) Broadway's "Lancelot" from the then-recent CAMELOT, Robert Goulet, co-stars.

The very stylized production was overseen by Warner Brothers cartoon legend Chuck Jones, which got him fired when Warners found out about it.

Judy herself reportedly brought in Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg who wrote the songs for her signature WIZARD OF OZ role to do the soundtrack.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I was watching blaxploitation films in 1973 but I wasn't all that into "black" music so I skipped WATTSTAX, the black WOODSTOCK.

The film offers highlights of a 1972 concert featuring Albert King, The Staple Singers, Rufus Thomas and more. Richard Pryor, Melvin Van Peebles and an almost shockingly hip Reverend Jesse Jackson  appear either at the show or in separately filmed segments on the black experience.

But at the end of the day, WATTSTAX is all about Isaac Hayes. Known a the time as Black Moses, Isaac makes his long-awaited appearance to climax the film, arriving in a grand entrance and slowly disrobing to reveal his trademark gold chain "shirt." The epitome of cool, he goes through a great version of his "Theme From SHAFT." 

Knowing now--from his later acting roles on everything from THE ROCKFORD FILES to SOUTH PARK-- that Hayes was not only not that cool in real life but rather nerdy gives his performance here a whole new level but makes it no less enjoyable in the end.

Friday, March 14, 2014

In Search of Ancient Astronauts

For me it all started with a TV special based on Erich Von Daniken's theories. It was entitled IN SEARCH OF ANCIENT ASTRONAUTS. I devoured it and then sat in front of the TV with my reel to reel tape recorder and recorded the rerun. Then they came out with a feature length documentary...or two...or three. Almost overnight, these documentaries of questionable theories, almost always narrated by Rod Serling or Orson Welles or someone with a similarly influential voice, became an entire sub-genre.

These two were my favorites. After that, the novelty began to wear off. 

Eventually, the trend led to TV's long-running IN SEARCH OF..., narrated by Leonard Nimoy in what became his major post-STAR TREK gig. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Lee Van Cleef

Never a king in his own country, Lee Van Cleef, after years of portraying mostly bad men in mostly westerns, ended up a worldwide box office champion in dozens of countries around the world...the US never being one of them. Here, he was a trivia question, and when he did return from Europe, he was looked at as the character actor he had been way back at the beginning of his career rather than the superstar he had become. Still, has anyone ever really looked cooler in a cowboy hat than Lee?