Thanks as always to those who have contributed reviews and such, and to you readers. Please let me know if I've missed your contribution, this week...
Bill Crider: Bronco Billy (trailer)
Brian Arnold: Noel (NBC 1982); "Miracle on 34th Street" (The 20th Century Fox Hour, 1955); The Great Santa Claus Switch
Chuck Esola: A*P*E
Evan Lewis: 3 Lost Films: Babe Comes Back; Tarzan the Mighty; Charlie Chan's Chance
George Kelley: The Girl in the Cafe; Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame
Iba Dawson: It Happened on Fifth Avenue; O. Henry's Full House; About a Boy
Ivan Shreve: Dragnet (the radio and television series)
James Reasoner: Trail of Robin Hood
Jerry House: The Six Shooter; Captain America (1944)
John Charles: Mean Johnny Barrows; Death Journey
Kate Laity: Spacedog
Michael Shonk: The Delphi Bureau: The Merchant of Death Assignment (pilot for the series)
Mike Tooney: "The Accused" (Daniel Boone)
Patti Abbott: I Want to Live
Pearce Duncan: Tucker & Dale vs. Evil; Trapped Ashes; The Woman
Randy Johnson: A Page of Madness
Rod Lott: Point Blank (1998); Grave Encounters; Tucker & Dale vs. Evil
Ron Scheer: Just Tony
Scott Cupp: Attack of the Mushroom People (aka Matango)
Sergio Angelini: Nightmare (1964)
Steve Lewis: Torn Curtain; East Lynne
Todd Mason: Coming Apart:
A 1969 cult item, which might well've influenced such later films as The Conversation...this Milton Moses Ginsberg film has been his only full-length feature (as writer and director) aside from the somewhat similarly unusual The Werewolf of Washington, released four years later, though he has been relatively busy as a film editor over the last two decades. Coming Apart features Rip Torn as Joe, a philandering, somewhat unstable NYC psychologist who sets up a hidden film camera with sound-recording equipment in a small but well-appointed apartment he's using for trysts and infrequent legit therapy sessions. The "kinetic sculpture" he hides the camera in helps mask its noises, as he records various encounters with women, young and less so (but most younger than Torn, already in his late 30s when filming this), most often an ex-patient of his, Joann (Sally Kirkland), though by no means Joann alone. In fact, Joann, who has been active as a sex-partner-swapping "swinger," brings a party of fellow libertines to Joe's apartment, slightly improbably including a tranvestite homosexual man who was not "provided for" in their party of six; after initially flirting and playing with "Sarabell" (dressed initially as a clown similarly to The Howdy Doody Show's Clarabell), Joe simply stares at him, after he removes his falsies and reveals his XY status, while Sarabell moans a bit as the other two couples, more conventionally hetero, make out around the room. The various women who come to visit Joe seem improbably attracted to him, though the film suggests that he might only be filming those with whom he's likely to have a tryst (aside from a pair of McCarthy for President campaigners who surprise him at one point), and he does prefer to keep company with women he can manipulate relatively easily, the primary exceptions being his wife, and his former mistress (Viveca Lindfors; the scenes with Torn and Lindfors are the most blatantly actorly and stagy, whether because of the nature of their relation or due to everyone losing some of their grip on the project isn't quite clear). All the action takes place in the apartment, from the vantage point of the camera in its box/sculpture, facing a large, mirrored wall, and the camera theoretically stutters and jumps frequently (we are quickly given to understand that this might well reflect Joe's state of mind rather than his playing with switches or the unreliability of his [various sorts of] equipment), noisily cutting in and out in the course of a single action on the part of its subjects, the film frequently running out in the "middle" of a scene. Very much a film of apparatus, with the final scenes apparently reflective of the self-medicating Joann's perspective instead (with time-dilation), and a soundtrack that, when the characters play music, intentionally makes the dialog hard to hear (and in the Kino Home Video version I saw, the music was rather obviously replaced from original contemporary songs by newly-written and recorded music to avoid rights issues, but which required tricky rerecording of the dialog around the music which distorts the voices even more). An interesting, flawed film, and one which has never had particularly reliable distribution...unless one picks up a copy of the out-of-print Kino dvd, one has to watch it, as far as I know, as I did, in pieces on DailyMotion (and one must register, for free, with DM, to cut off the "family filter" which blocks access to half the segments; Amazon streaming no longer has rights to show it), which probably doesn't detract too much from its cumulative effect given the intentional technological limitations of the project. Barry Malzberg offhandedly cited it as an important film, and one which I just might've heard of, some years back, due to a John Simon or other review, and which is definitely largely Overlooked these days.
Yvette Banek: The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)
Bill Crider: The Vampire Film
Ed Gorman: Jerry Lewis; James Franco
Stacia Jones: The Hammer Vault
Todd Mason: television notes:
I've been catching some of the more important, or most interesting, or at least most hyped of the productions on some of the more overlooked channels. Borgen (The Government), the Danish political drama, remains consistently good and intelligent and believable, and a real feather in the cap of Link TV; I haven't yet returned to Starz's Boss, but the companion Encore channels have begun offering a British mob crime-drama import of some interest and no little brutality (probably too much, as the series goes on), The Take.
In a co-production with BSkyB, Cinemax has been offering another import, Strike Back, more into kinetic hugger-mugger than its closest correspondent, Showtime's Homeland, but similarly obsessed with terrorism and espionage in this New World Order we find ourselves in...in this case, a British counterterrorism detail, somewhat segregated from MI-5 or MI-6, tries and rather often fails to aid victims around the world (and mostly in Commonwealth states) of arms dealing and its collateral damage, while pursuing a Pakistani zealot and his organization. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the series is the toll, in casualties and psychic discomfort, taken on the members of the task force; plenty of aw, shucks machismo, but also a pretty fair indictment of the use of political violence by anyone, including all governments. (Iba Dawson pointed out to me in comments that the season I saw was actually the second, with the first not yet imported to the States at all...the third season is apparently in production.)
Another small group is the focus of the public-broadcasting project V-me (a name which puns on the Spanish-language command "Watch me" or "Veme") import from Spain's Antena 3, El barco (The Ship...or The Barque), a goofy (because) Lost-inspired science fantasy series involving the adventures of the crew on an oceanographic vessel meant for educating high school and college-aged young adults, with adult supervision and ship's officers, in a world suddenly submerged by the oceans after a vaguely-referred-to incident at the Swiss particle accelerator. Not atypically for a telenovela, the cast averages even more improbably pretty, particularly the female cast, than even a comparable US production, but there is a certain charm about the two episodes I've seen, and doped out in my halting Spanish (if you think closed captioning is weak for entirely too many Anglophone productions...goodness).
Thanks to LionsGate's pay channel Epix, the other weekend I got to see a kinescope of the 1954 Climax live production of "Casino Royale," famously the first dramatization of the James Bond novels, with a Yank Jimmy Bond (Barry Nelson) conspiring with a British variation on Felix Leiter to best Le Chiffre (Peter Lorre), with the uncertain loyalties of Linda Christian's Valerie Mathis a question at first. This version has almost inevitable early-tv awkwardness (watch Bond's taking shelter behind a pillar to avoid the least adept attempt at a drive-by ever); however, it makes Le Chiffre's predicament rather more stark than the recent film bothered to. Happily, this item is also available for online viewing:
In part since this hasn't been the best season for the larger broadcast or cable tv sources (with such series as House and Dexter having their still-watchable worst seasons so far), I'm happy to also see little bits of history popping up on the nostalgia-oriented broadcast networks This TV and Antenna TV (competitors Retro TV and Me TV aren't easily viewed in the Philadelphia area, even if the quasi-competitive FamilyNet is accessible), such as This's run of The Hospital, the 1971 black comedy starring George C. Scott and Diana Rigg, somewhat censored but not too terribly (I'm sure it was chopped far worse when I first saw it on a large network in the '70s), or the Antenna run of two 1964 episodes of Kraft Suspense Theater aka Crisis aka Suspense Theater (the series title depends on whether you were watching the first run, the summer repackage, or the syndicated repeats), from some of the same folk who would produce I Spy for NBC the next year. The better of the two, "That He Should Weep for Her," featured Milton Berle of all people (the series apparently enjoyed stunt casting) as the accidental killer of the younger of two stick-up men at his jewelry store; the sister of the slain young man (Carol Lawrence) cozies up to Berle's character, with thoughts of at least humiliating him, which she does...not realizing that the man (Alejandro Rey) who got her brother involved in the holdup, and who seems to think he has a right to her love, was ready to kill the jeweler in jealous rage, stoked in part by her continuing rejection of him and in part by his band-mate buddy, a cross between Iago and Eddie Haskell, who also wants to get next to the sister. It's all rather like a somewhat more realistic, somewhat less ramped-up (if a bit rushed), noir tale, scripted by tv veterans George Kirgo and Halsted Welles (notably the adapter of 3:10 to Yuma, among his film work). Anthony Boucher was script consultant to the series, Franz Waxman did the scores, with the main title theme attributed to "Johnny" Williams. It is interesting to see this NBC series, otherwise comparable to such contemporary (or nearly so) anthologies as Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, The Twilight Zone, or The Outer Limits, in color, if indeed the same sort of faded colors that I Spy tends to sport these days.
And, of course, I await the return, particularly, of Children's Hospital and NTSF: SD: SUV to the Adult Swim block, and have been meaning to catch a few of their new series, including Chris Elliott's new show. And CBS's The Good Wife still remains my favorite dramatic series, even given the strong challenges from the likes of AMC's Breaking Bad and even Showtime'sShameless, the US version with an increasingly engaging cast (as the younger kids grow into their roles) and not quite too much cuteness about its rancidness.