Sunday, September 30, 2007

Here's to Fenway

I've just come back from my few days away and discovered that on Friday, I had more hits than I've ever had before. There were over three dozen viewings of the lip-synched drunken Steely Dan intro alone. Honestly, I can't leave you kids alone for one minute...

Another big event happened in my absence - the Boston Red Sox have clinched first place in their division, as the Yankees tumble to second for the first time in twelve years. Rather than subject you to footage of star reliever Jonathan Papelbon doing an Irish jig in his underwear (oh, all right), I thought I'd give you something more inspiring. Thanks once again to The Sports Guy for introducing this to me.

It was Disability Awareness Day at Fenway Park, and an autistic young man was performing the national anthem. Partway through he got a bad case of nerves, and the crowd came through with supporting cheers, and then by taking up the song. It's got to be one of the best moments of the year for the Sox, and in a year where they capture the division title (at least), that's saying something.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Man from the South Times Three

I'm going off to Maine for a few days and won't be back until the end of the week, meaning no updates until Sunday. But I hate to leave you completely in the lurch, so here's nearly an hour an a half to tide you over.

Roald Dahl's best known for all his children's books, but he was a mighty fine storyteller for adults as well. He liked the macabre humor and the last minute plot twist, and he was great at describing people. I still remember the ratty hitchhiker in "The Hitcher," and the wine critic darting his tongue in a glass in "Taste."

One of his stories, "Man from the South," has been turned into a screenplay three times (four if you count Quentin Tarantino's using it in Four Rooms). I think it might be quite informative to stack them up one after another and see their likeness and differences. Don't you? Course you do.

So here's the Alfred Hitchcock Presents version from 1960, starring Peter Lorre and Steve McQueen.

Here's the Tales of the Unexpected version from 1979, starring Jose Ferrer and Michael Ontkean (Slap Shot, Twin Peaks) and introduced by Dahl himself.

Finally, the 1985 pilot for the updated Alfred Hitchcock Presents, with John Huston and Steven Bauer, plus a fairly impressive cast of women.

See you when I get back...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

I Got Me The Death Star Blues

Big thanks to Mike Daisey for bringing this one to my attention.

Darth Vader's on the verge of death; he's entitled to a little "Whoopin' the Blues" by Sonny Terry.

I think I can safely say that a good half the people who see this will think, "I always thought that's what it looked like!"

Monday, September 24, 2007

Ask a Professional Wrestler

John Stossel, reporter/professional Liberterian, decided to answer the burning question of whether or not professional wrestling was genuine. Among the people he interviewed was David Schults, a.k.a. "Doctor D."

The interview didn't go well.

Stossel later filed a lawsuit against the World Wrestling Federation and settled out of court for $400,000. Schults, who claimed he was simply doing what he'd been told to do, was fired.

Interestingly, Stossel claims in his book Give Me A Break that he stayed on the ground until Schults had stormed off. I guess it sounded better than "I ran like the colors on a pair of Madras slacks."

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Da da da dummmmm

The opening four notes of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony constitute the most recognizable four note intro in the history of music (with the possible exception of the Dragnet theme). Anybody who doesn't appreciate classical music can still appreciate the portent inherent in the opening - and, very likely, they can appreciate the rest of the work as well.

Here, Sid Caesar and Nanette Fabray, playing husband and wife, act out an argument to the strains of the symphony. Not a word is spoken, but everything is said loud and clear.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Marjoe Gortner (the name is a combination of Mary and Joseph) became an ordained minister at the age of four. He was a huge hit on the revival circuit; who can resist a little preacher boy?

His folks trained him hard, and then his father absconded with the millions he'd made. This can get a fellow jaded, and Marjoe eventually left the circuit. But before he did, he was the subject of a documentary, Marjoe, that wound up winning an Academy Award. In it, he discussed how he'd manipulate the crowds; the film wasn't shown in the American South, for fear of riots in the Bible Belt.

Marjoe tried breaking into show biz as an actor-singer, and was briefly married to Candy Clark (American Graffiti), but things didn't pan out there. The documentary was thought lost for years (an Oscar-winner, post-1970, lost - can you believe it?), but the negative was found in a vault and the film restored and now available on DVD. Here's how it begins. (Pardon the bad synch.)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Paar for the course

Dick Cavett used to write on the Tonight Show, both for Jack Paar and Johnny Carson. He heard two people debating which was better. Pro-Paar said, "Carson's a drag. In all his career he'll never shed a single tear." Pro-Carson said, "For which I will be profoundly grateful to him."

Paar was a mercurial raconteur, known for wearing his emotions on his sleeve, which made for some fascinating television. He could also cut to the quick when moved to. Once he was interviewing a fat comic, Jack Leonard, who said, "You know, my wife is an acrobat." Paar replied, "She'd have to be."

This clip captures a lot of that - he's describing working with Jonathan Winters (who's sidesplitting in this), telling a great self-deprecating story, and almost breaking down at the end.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Man of a Thousand Faces

Lon Chaney is best known for his performance in/as The Phantom of the Opera, and for his ability to work wonders with makeup. I've actually seen him in only one movie, but the work he did for it was great - and we got to see what he really looks like.

In The Unknown, Chaney played a circus performer, a knife thrower named Alonzo the Armless. Only his assistant (a Chico Marx lookalike) knows the truth; Alonzo's got both his arms and is wanted for murder. To complicate things, he's in love with the victim's daughter, played by a so-young-she's-actually-attractive Joan Crawford. Director Tod Browning (pre-Dracula, pre-Freaks) does some fine work here, but the film belongs to Chaney, who actually learned how to throw knives with his feet.

Take a look at this and see if you don't want to see more.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A (very) little blue-eyed soul

Michael McDonald first made it into the public's ear when he sang back up on Steely Dan's Katy Lied. He then hit his stride with the Doobie Brothers, and went on to appear on a lot of other artists's albums. He didn't have to be on them long - those distinctive pipes only needed a few moments to work their magic.

SCTV parodied this with their imagining of how the studio sessions went for the Christopher Cross song "Ride Like the Wind." Somehow, I can't help thinking this isn't far from the truth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Truth About Heavenly Creatures

Way, way back in 1994, before Kate Winslet was famous and before Peter Jackson brought The Lord of the Rings to the big silver screen, the two of them collaborated on Heavenly Creatures.

The true story of two Aussie gals who share such an intense friendship that they're driven to matricide in order to maintain it, Heavenly Creatures is a great film, wonderfully realizing the people and places in the girls' imaginary world.

When the film was released, it was revealed that Winslet's character grew up to be the famous mystery writer Anne Perry. In a remarkably revealing interview with author Ian Rankin, she gives her side of the story with a forthrightness that's spellbinding.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Eat lead, froggies!

Hell Comes to Frogtown is the kind of film that knows it sucks right from the get-go, so it might just as suck as long, hard, and bad as it can. If you don't know what you're in for from the trailer, I have to ask you - which would you rather get back, your ability to see or to hear?

Just in case there's a question, check out the stuntman's work here. More specifically, the highly visible mat he lands on.

Coup de grace time: the Dance of the Three Snakes.

Hard to believe we were on about Citizen Kane just the other day, isn't it?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The Ultimate Mashup

Since I get such a kick out of posting other people's creative smooshing of others' creative efforts, I thought I would be remiss if I didn't post the mashup that stopped everyone with two ears (which rules out George Weasley) in their tracks when they first heard it.

Roy Kerr, better known as Freelance Hellraiser, took the instrumental track for the Strokes song "Hard to Explain."

He married it to the Christina Aguilera vocal for "Genie in a Bottle."

The result, now titled "A Stroke of Genie-us," inarguably improved both songs. The far more articulate than I Village Voice explains here what it is about this new version that rubs us the right way. If you'd rather watch and listen than read, take it all in right here.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Coming Soon: Citizen Kane

Orson Welles just couldn’t leave well enough alone. Not only did he make the Greatest Movie of All Time™, he made a terrific trailer to go with it. This pulls off the classic trick, so rarely done, of making us feel we know everything but giving away absolutely nothing. (The shot of the boom mike coming our way was later used in The Magnificent Ambersons.)

Of course, such an achievement can’t not be held up for mockery. Here’s someone reimagining Kane as a trannie comedy.

Better yet, Kane as the #1 playa in da hood (tip o’ the blog to Rooktopia).

Friday, September 14, 2007

You should be dancing, too

My friend Jamie sent me a couple of dance instructor videos that I just had to pass along, seeing as one of the instructors is James Brown...

...and the other is Elijah Wood.

One more dancing instructor for good measure: Mr. Cole, the gosh-darned coolest teacher in the school, doing his Bumble Bee Dance.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dear John

First, for those not in the know, a solid definition of the term from Wikipedia:

The term "Dear John letter" refers to a letter written by a woman to her husband or boyfriend to inform him that their relationship is over, usually due to the woman finding another man.While the exact origins of the phrase are unknown, it is commonly believed to have been invented by Americans during World War II. Large numbers of American troops were stationed overseas for many months or years, and as time passed many of their wives or girlfriends decided to begin a relationship with a new man rather than wait for their old one to return. As letters to servicemen from wives or girlfriends back home would typically contain affectionate language, a serviceman receiving a note beginning with a curt "Dear John" (as opposed to the expected "Dear Johnny", "My dearest John", or simply "Darling", for example) would instantly be aware of the letter's purpose.

One of the great "Dear John letter" stories concerns a young soldier in... well, I'll just let the video tell it...

Sad to say, it's not true. Here it is as portrayed in "M*A*S*H: The Preachy, Sucky Years."

That's from Snopes, the urban legend reference page of choice. Click here to see a version of the story being used back in 1881.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My all time favorite special effects sequence

There have been millions of uses of special effects in the movies. Among the standouts are the cow being hit by the car in O Brother Where Art Thou, Tom Hanks shaking hands with three presidents in Forrest Gump, and Sean Connery's wig staying on underwater in Never Say Never Again.

But for me, I don't think anything will ever top the skeleton army in Jason and the Argonauts. Ray Harryhausen's piece de resistance of seven stop-motion skeletons battling live actors took four months to complete, and it was time well spent. It wouldn't take anywhere near that long with computers today, but I can't see how all the technical improvements made since 1963 could match the sheer energy of this encounter.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

What's the truth about Gladys Hardy?

A friend of mine sent me this clip of the Ellen DeGeneres show, where she phones an 88 year old in Austin, Texas, who gets Ellen laughing fit to bust with her homespun folksy idioms.

Then a local paper said there was no Gladys Hardy in the area, and that it was actually a male comedian. Further investigation on the ever-reliable web gives evidence both ways, but I can't find any postings on the subject more recent than late May. I do have to say this radio ad sounds just a little more like a man imitating a woman...

In fact, it sounds so much like Maude Frickert it's uncanny. Seriously, though - anyone out there know the whole truth & nothing but?

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Return of John-John

Has it really been four months since I've posted a Sesame Street related clip? That ain't right...

I was doing a little cleaning up of past entries and found that a clip I'd posted of John-John, the cutest kid in public TV history, was no longer available. But a hydralike thing happened; three more clips of him had appeared to take its place. Here they all are.

First, one where he and Grover count to one... where they count from one to ten and back again (the last few seconds are the total payoff)...

...and one where he and Bert run the gamut of emotions for losing paper clips. Again, John-John's expression at the end is a treat and a half.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

hah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah, hah,

"O Superman (For Massenet)" by Laurie Anderson made it all the way to #2 on the UK singles charts. To me, that may be the most amazing item in music chart history. This is an eight and a half minute piece of experimentalism that manages to be hypnotic without being boring in its repetition of sounds and (in the video) images. It was influenced by the opera Le Cid, the Tao Te Ching, Herodotus, and the Iranian hostage crisis. And to cap it off, Anderson has been going out with Lou Reed for the better part of a decade. Top that, Beyonce!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Movies by the numbers

The guy who put this together has my respect in a big way. He's picked 100 quotations from the movies, with the numbers 1 to 100, and put them in ascending order. The only one I saw coming was #11, although I've heard another say they knew what #36 had to be.

This lasts about nine and a half minutes; the freeze frame here just happens to be on the halfway mark of #50. If he planned that, he's got even more of my respect.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Mojo, the best music magazine in the world, introduced me to this. So blame them, not me.

There's a group called the Legion of Rock Stars, and their MO is really quite simple. They put on headphones that cancel out all noise, listen to and play along with the same song, and dub the results over video of the original hits by the original artists. The results are... really quite painful.

There are a lot of these to choose from; if you're a fan of the Shaggs and/or you like what you see here, go here for more.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment

The Cramps have a lot of claims in the music world. They have some of the greatest punk names - Lux Interior, Poison Ivy Rorschach, and drummer Nick Knox, to name a few. They put psychobilly music on the map. But perhaps the most amazing of all is their playing the absolute punkest punk concert.

They gave a performance at a mental hospital.

God knows how, but they got permission to bring their sleazy-and-proud-of-it songs to the Napa State Mental Hospital, where they played for thoroughly medicated patients who lurched and jumped and wandered onstage and grabbed them... Not that that doesn't describe their usual audience, but you get the point.

It sounds like an exaggerated rumor, doesn't it? Well, their performance was immortalized by one video camera shooting in black and white, and the evidence lives on today. Here they are doing the Jack Scott song "The Way I Walk."

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

I was too old to grow up with Pinky and the Brain, but what I've seen of it has quite impressed me. It's well animated, well written, and appreciable by adults as well as kids.

They have a running gag where Brain asks Pinky, "Are you pondering what I'm pondering?" Pinky replies, "I think so, Brain, but..." and delivers an absolute non sequitur.

Isn't it wonderful that somebody put them all together?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

A cartoony Tom Waits

I never knew this existed, so I can't tell you how excited I was to find this.

"Tom Waits For No One" is an Academy Award winning short (for Scientific & Technical Achievement), with Waits singing "The One That Got Away" from his Small Change album. The footage got rotoscoped and was designed to be one of the first videos to go on the barely fledging MTV. Things led to other things and it never happened, but here it is now. Said it before, say it again - God bless YouTube.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Warren Oates Film Festival

I much prefer character actors to out and out stars. Not only are they often better actors, they have a very diverse body of work to enjoy. And one of the great ones was Warren Oates. He was likable, he was tough, but above all he was there.

Witness his work in Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia...

...Race with the Devil (can't believe this was PG)...

...and Cockfighter (suppose any animals were harmed in the making of this film?).

Finally, to clear the palate, here's one of my favorite movie lines ever; it's from Stripes, and I'm happy it's Warren delivering it.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

You should be dancing

I'd like to take a moment to thank Deputy Dog for linking to my blog on his site; it's doubled the number of people who've stopped by, and I'm happy for the company.

There have been a couple of interesting sites linking to mine; the Yahoo message board for US global investors linked to my Zero Hour/Airplane post (I sure didn't see that one coming). But the biggest surprise was discovering that readers of Julie Andrews Online had stopped by to see her scary movie mashup trailers.

This next clip is for them. (And they should also check out The Great White Dope while they're at it.)

It was fun to see a clip of Gene Kelly in action that I'd never known existed. It's also nice to hear the guy's part in "Supercalietc." sung without a trace of a would-be Cockney accent.

As long as we're looking at one of the great male movie dancers, we might as well take a look at the other one - Fred Astaire, of course. This is my favorite work of his, and it's not with Ginger Rogers - rather, it's with Eleanor Powell, in Broadway Melody of 1940. The clip's actually taken from the documentary That's Entertainment, with Frank Sinatra narrating.

Both of them are stunning, and considering that this is clearly videotaped off a TV screen, the visual quality's not too bad at all.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Good God amighty

This is the weekend that college football starts, and I'm going to put up a couple of great finishes for your enjoyment. And don't assume you won't just because you're not a football fan.

First we have The Play, in the famous Stanford vs. Cal game of 1982, featuring five laterals and the band on the field. This particular clip is notable for featuring John Elway's remarkable drive right before the madness, not to mention Joe Starkey's delirious call.

But this is the one that's most entertaining. It's got what may be the greatest comeback in high school football history, in a 1994 game between Plano East and John Tyler. Plano was down 41-17 with less than three minutes to play, and they mount an amazing comeback. But what makes this clip is the announcers, three Texas good ol' boys who throw all semblance of impartiality out the window. You have to watch this to the end, just to hear what they say.