You Think It's An Epidemic Like The Flu? Now Playing: TRUE CONFESSIONS
I don't watch crappy movies all the time. Occasionally I like to delve into something more, uh, conventional. Mature? Hmmmm. Well, at any rate, I caught a letterboxed print of TRUE CONFESSIONS on cable. Based on John Gregory Dunne's novel, TRUE CONFESSIONS (which is not yet on DVD) stars Robert DeNiro and Robert Duvall as estranged brothers who become involved in the horrible murder of a so-called "party girl" during the 1940s. Duvall is a slightly crooked cop who investigates the murder, in which the victim was cut in two and dumped in an L.A. vacant lot (loosely based on the notorious Black Dahlia case). DeNiro is a monsignor whose ambition to move up in the Catholic hierarchy has led him to do favors for wealthy congregation members, such as Jack Amsterdam (Charles Durning), a former hood who now runs a successful construction business...successful because of the jobs building Catholic schools that DeNiro keeps throwing his way.
Even though the story is centered around a brutal murder, the movie isn't really about it, and if you're looking for an absorbing mystery, TRUE CONFESSIONS isn't the movie. It is, however, a great showcase for two of America's finest actors, at least at that time. Both DeNiro and Duvall have a tendency to either overact or sleepwalk through projects that don't interest them, but not in this case. They are marvelous in TRUE CONFESSIONS, particularly in a poignant final scene in which the brothers finally become closer than they have ever been. In addition to Durning, Ed Flanders, Burgess Meredith and Kenneth McMillan are quite good, and an actress named Rose Gregorio, of whom I know next to nothing, is superb as a middle-aged whore with whom Duvall has a history.
TRUE CONFESSIONS isn't a forgotten classic or anything like that. It's slow-moving and nowhere near as interested in its crime plot as I think it should be, but it's of some interest, especially if you're a fan of superlative screen acting.
And then I watched an episode of F TROOP that guest-starred Don Rickles as a rampaging Indian out to scalp the Fort Courage gang and got all that "quality" out of my system.
Don't Like Chicken On Sunday
I've got a lot of terrible movies in my collection, but I don't know if any of them are worse than SKIDOO, which is considered to be one of the worst films in the history of Hollywood. A notorious flop produced and directed by the great Otto Preminger, who not only made one of my favorite courtroom dramas, ANATOMY OF A MURDER, but also played Mr. Freeze on BATMAN, SKIDOO is an all-star abomination released by Paramount in 1968. Everything you've heard about it is true. I recently had a discussion with a friend who claimed that GIGLI was "not as bad as the critics made it out to be." Yes, it is, but SKIDOO is much, much worse. So if you're thinking, "Whatever, how bad can it be?", well, you've been warned.
SKIDOO was clearly intended to be a hip, "with-it" youth comedy, but it was unfortunately made by old squares who don't seem to have even met anyone under 30, much less ever been that young themselves. 52-year-old Jackie Gleason stars as Tony Banks, a former Mob assassin who retired from the organization seventeen years earlier when his daughter Darlene (Alexandra Hay) was born to his wife Flo (the forever unappealing, unattractive and untalented Carol Channing). The same evening the conservative Tony meets his daughter's new boyfriend, hippie Stash (John Philip Law), his old business acquaintance Hechy (Cesar Romero) drops by with his son Angie (Frankie Avalon) with a proposition. Gangster "Blue Chips" Packard (Mickey Rooney) plans to testify against the head of the Syndicate, the mysterious germ-hating God (Groucho Marx), who orders Tony to infiltrate the prison where Packard is incarcerated and "kiss" him. That's right--Groucho plays God.
Instead of a linear story, SKIDOO consists of a series of increasingly absurd comic scenes that are unlike any other you've ever seen. Not that this makes them funny or entertaining, mind you, just jawdroppingly wild. For instance, Gleason's LSD trip, in which he lies on his prison bunk hallucinating Groucho's head rotating on a flying screw (!) and his cellmates shrunken to the size of a mouse and surrounded by a glowing pink pyramid. Or Groucho himself puffing on a joint. Or Channing's excruciatingly tasteless striptease (she was 47 at the time). Or Preminger's wildly inaccurate view of the hippie lifestyle. Handed an M rating by the MPAA, probably for its drug use and mild swearing, SKIDOO, like MYRA BRECKINRIDGE and HEAVEN'S GATE, lives up--or is that down--to its reputation by throwing so many sight gags and over-the-hill guest stars at the screen that, mathematically, some have to work. None do. Among them are the obviously British Peter Lawford as an American senator, Burgess Meredith, George Raft, Frank Gorshin, Fred Clark, Richard Kiel, Austin Pendleton, Slim Pickens, Robert Donner, Michael Constantine, Arnold Stang and L.A. Ram Roman Gabriel.
Something that is very cool about SKIDOO--and really the only good thing about it--are its credits, which are sung by composer Harry Nilsson. I'm surprised no other movie (AFAIK) has ever done this. If you're able to sit through the first 93 excruciating minutes (and you're forgiven if you can't), the last four consist of Nilsson singing the titles, including the indicia, the copyright date (in Roman numeral form), and, of course, his own composition credit.
It's actually a catchy little tune, and such a good idea that you would think someone else would think of it for their movie. I have it as an mp3, but if you watch this trailer, you'll get to hear snippets of it. The trailer, which is "hosted" by Timothy Leary, is more entertaining than the feature anyway, and features most of its stars, including Sammy Davis Jr. (who isn't even in the movie).
The last two days have been oddly stressful, but I think everything has been (mostly) taken care of. Props to Chicken for going for beyond the normal call to help out; I wouldn't have been able to get as much done as quickly without him.
I got a "new" larger TV Wednesday night. Some co-workers got a new plasma and asked if I wanted their old (1997) 36-incher, as opposed to the old (1997) 27-incher I have now. Holy crap, that thing is heavy, and we needed a last-minute assist from Moto to get it up my stairs.
Then, I had to get a new entertainment center, because mine would only fit a 27-incher. Here I had some luck, in that I was trying to figure out how to get rid of it. I asked the downstairs neighbors if they wanted it, and couldn't believe it when they said, "Mmmm, yeah, we do need one, we were just going to buy one." So Chicken and I moved it downstairs, which was not difficult.
The two of us then went to Meijer (after dropping off an orange at Kristin's so she could drink beer...I don't know, just go with it...) to buy my new entertainment center for the 36-incher. This is where my stupidity/bad luck jumped in, because even though I had (I thought) carefully measured all my components that would have to fit into this entertainment center--receiver, DVD recorder, cable box, DVD player, VCR--after I bought it, brought it home, and assembled it (with more much-needed Chicken help), the two larger items (cable box, DVD recorder) were too wide to fit into it. I knew it would be snug, but I could have sworn they would fit. Unless the display model is a different size? Ahhh, I don't know.
So, for the time being, I moved a table into the living room with those components resting on it, but I think that if I get a small table or maybe even a small entertainment center, I can move it next to the other one and it will look/function okay. Or even what they call a "video/audio" tower.
Bottom line: I now have a 36-inch TV (which is somewhat ridiculous in its very small room), which will come in handy watching blurry dubs of Kilink movies and old episodes of THE RAT PATROL. At least I finally got everything plugged into it, and it all seems to function. One thing I did--does anyone else do this?--is label each of the cables and wires when I unhooked them, so I would know what they plugged into when I put them into the new entertainment center. Kinda dorky perhaps, but I'm really not very good with electronics, and it sure helped me.
Here is his entire hilarious bullshit response. Feel free to either laugh or cry. Both are appropriate responses.
"Actually, I think what we did was reform the student loan program. We are not cutting money out of it. In other words, people aren't going to be cut off the program. We're just making sure it works better as part of the reconciliation package I think she's talking about? Yeah ? It is a form of the program to make sure it functions better. In other words, we're not taking people off student loans. We're saving money in the student loan program because it's inefficient. So I think the thing to look at is whether or not there will be fewer people getting student loans. I don't think so.
Secondly, on Pell grants, we are actually expanding the number of Pell grants through our budget. Great question. The key on education is to make sure that we stay focused on how do we stay competitive into the 21st century, and I plan on doing some talking about math and science and engineering programs so that people who graduate out of college will have the skills necessary to compete in this competitive world. But I think I'm right on this. I will check when I get back to Washington, but thank you for your question."
Yeah, I bet he got right on that as soon as he got back.
Why Isn't Today A National Holiday?
The World's Greatest Living Actor, the one and only William Shatner, turned 75 years old today and God bless him. I'm an unabashed Shatner fan and have been ever since I was about 11 years old and started watching STAR TREK rabidly. You can laugh if you want, but I learned a lot about friendship, honor, loyalty, professionalism, justice and duty from watching Shatner's Captain Kirk. I never quite mastered that two-fisted neck chop though.
I only wish those who dismiss Shatner as a "bad" actor took the time to really pay attention to his best stuff. The two TWILIGHT ZONE episodes, the Roger Corman film THE INTRUDER (perhaps the best movie Corman ever directed, and certainly Corman's personal favorite), the two-part STUDIO ONE episode with Steve McQueen that spawned THE DEFENDERS, and STAR TREK episodes like "City on the Edge of Forever", where he fell in love tragically with the doomed Edith Keeler (Joan Collins), "Obsession", "Where No Man Has Gone Before", "Metamorphosis" and many more. I think Shatner's work in STAR TREK II: THE WRATH OF KHAN is among the best acting I've ever seen in a science fiction movie (it helps that Montalban and Nimoy are so great in it too).
And, yeah, I love the crap too. PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS, where Shatner, Robert Reed and Marjoe Gortner go off on a cross-country motorcycle trip with murderous pervert psychopath rape killer Andy Griffith. IMPULSE, where Shatner plays a sweaty gigolo serial killer. I own the DVDs of T.J. HOOKER, where his determined portrayal of a scum-hating conservative cop definitely walked the line between sincerity and parody.
However, I have no rational explanation for this video. I simply stare at it in awe and marvel that I live in a world where this could exist.
People Start Pollution Now Playing: NIGHTFORCE
You may have noticed that my blog entries have been shorter lately. I'm just experimenting a little bit to see how that works. Or maybe I'm just lazy, I don't know. I rarely receive any comments, so I have no idea who's reading this blog (if anybody) on a regular basis or what's popular and what isn't. I know Cheeseburger thinks my blog is "boring," and I suspect 1000-word treatises on 35-year-old TV shows like MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE are being soundly ignored.
I don't plan on posting many videos, since I suspect they take up a lot of bandwidth, but I spent a couple of hours doodling around YouTube last night, and found a few things to share. I have to give Chicken credit for watching the entire KIDS FROM C.A.P.E.R. title sequence, which I'm sure looked to him like a Japanese game show or something ("What the fuck, kids used to watch this? On purpose?" Yes, yes, we did...).
The following video I'm sure you've all seen a zillion times. It's likely the most famous public service announcement ever made, and used to air constantly on late-night television.
Some points of note: * I think the music is hilariously over-the-top. I'm sure it's a library cue that someone pulled off an old record, and I'd love to know what it is. DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA-DA! It sounds like a dune buggy chase on MANNIX or something.
* Iron Eyes Cody, the actor playing the Indian, was actually not a Native American, but rather an Italian-American. He played a shitload of Indians in movies and TV shows going back to the 1930s, and even pretended to be an Indian most of his adult life, I suppose to get acting gigs. He even married an Indian woman and adopted Indian children.
* You probably recognize the narrator as radio star (he played Matt Dillon on GUNSMOKE), voiceover artist extraordinare and occasional film and TV actor William Conrad. Blessed with one of the world's great voices, Conrad narrated several TV title sequences, including THE FUGITIVE and Glen A. Larson's BUCK ROGERS IN THE 25TH CENTURY and THE HIGHWAYMAN. I can't believe he didn't do Larson's KNIGHT RIDER. At the time this PSA was popular, Conrad was the star of the CBS detective series CANNON, a well-produced and written Quinn Martin show. CANNON was a very good program, and maybe I'll write about it someday.
* This clip first aired in 1971. It was parodied in 1993's WAYNE'S WORLD 2.
Race To Your Place On The Case Every Time
YouTube is very damned addictive. I'm shocked that I accidentally found this. I have no idea how I would react if I saw this show today, but I was a big fan of it when I was about eight years old. We even used to play THE KIDS FROM C.A.P.E.R. in the backyard. Here's the opening title sequence. Catchy tune...