Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Tuesday's Overlooked Films and/or Other A/V: SONS & DAUGHTERS (2006), DEMENTIA (1953) (aka DAUGHTER OF HORROR), and other matters...
Much delayed, but my it's been even more of rollercoaster of late than usually. From work demands to food poisoning, life's rich pageant can be a bit too rich at times.
Sons & Daughters was one of the best sitcoms ever strangled in its crib; a partially improvised half hour on ABC (which has been in a race with Fox over the last decade or so to see how many actually good series they could commission and quickly cancel while carefully nurturing as much offal as possible), it featured the kind of dysfunctional extended family that it took the collective overrating of Arrested Development and the eventual dumbing-down to the level of Modern Family to make a success...when with a little support, ABC might've had the hit, or at least a solid supporting player, years back, with an impressive ensemble cast led by Fred Goss and Gillian Vigman, and not quite adequately represented below, but this gets across a sense of the quality of the show and range of characters:
10 episodes aired on ABC...the Seven network in Australia aired all eleven that were made, and not a hint of DVD action so far...
Bill Crider, in his posting of trailers that catch his eye, snagged that for Daughter of Horror a month or so back, and I'm glad he did, since this clearly no-budget obscurity from the '50s had completely gotten by me before, either under its proper title, Dementia, under which it was completed in 1953, or the 1956 distribution title, from Exploitation Pictures no less, under which it was circulated, with a fairly ridiculous, if happily sparse, narration track added by an enthusiastic Ed McMahon. The "real" film has no dialog, and while it has sound effects, they are most pretty clearly Foley effects added later...and what it does have is a soundtrack, and a fine one, by George Anthiel, as playfully avant-garde as anything he recorded for film (and not too dissimilar to his concert work) and featuring the wordless vocals of a young Marni Nixon, which makes room for a composition by Shorty Rogers and His Giants for "Wig Alley" in a brief sequence in a jazz club. It also has some excellent cinematography, for its budget, by William Thompson, who had a career almost exclusively in no-budget film, including work with Ed Wood and Dwain Esper...but even Vilmos Zsigmond started in the States with the likes of Ray Dennis Steckler. I've yet to see the slightly longer original cut, available on DVD from Kino, but Archive.org offers a good public-domain print of the slightly chopped version (below, and double-click for a full-screen image), which gives a sense of virtue made of necessity of this arty bit of work, involving the nightmarish, somewhat delusion-ridden night of a young woman in Los Angeles who might or might not have committed multiple murders. I'm going to have to pick up the Kino release...the inspiration of the likes of David Lynch by this film is almost certain.
My friend Tom Kraemer was somewhat surprised by the YouTubed version of this, since he hadn't come across the viral campaign Go the F*ck to Sleep (as it is coyly titled) had enjoyed over the last several months...Funny or Die, being professionals, actually paid for the right to post this from Audible.com (or so I assume), and so they have reader Samuel Jackson's little preface appended (you might not want to play this into the open air in uptight situations, such as many offices):
And Rick Robinson brought to my attention the compilation The Greatest Jazz Films Ever...which we agree hardly lives up to that boast, but does have a lot of impressive work on it, most of it from television performances (the least of the problems with its title)...I've seen almost all of these from other sources, and there is at least some complaint about the transcription quality of this disc, but if your can get it from a library...you could do worse.