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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Monday, June 5, 2006
Hypocrisy or Bigotry? Does It Make A Difference?
So President Bush is pushing for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriages because of "activist judges" that overrule state laws that prohibit them. Isn't that exactly what Brown v. Board of Education did in 1954? The Supreme Court decision that overruled state laws that demanded black schoolchildren and white schoolchildren be segregated? Or how about Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 Supreme Court decision that overturned Virginia's law against interracial marriages? That was nine "activist judges" striking down a bullshit law, a law that attempted to tell American citizens who and who they could not marry.

Is there an intelligent person anywhere who believes the justices in the Brown or the Loving cases were wrong? How can someone possibly agree with those landmark civil rights decisions, and yet come down on the side for a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriages? And cite "activist judges" as the reason?

Is it possible that George W. Bush and the (mostly Republican) senators in favor of the amendment hate blacks just as much as they hate homosexuals? How about you? Do you despise "activist judges" that rule against unfair laws written out of bigotry and hate? Do you believe blacks and whites shouldn't marry?

Posted by Marty at 8:43 PM CDT
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Sunday, June 4, 2006
More Fi'dies. Approximately.
LD listed some of his Top 50 in the Comments section awhile back. They're pretty good ones too:

"Deserve's got nothing to do with it."--Eastwood, UNFORGIVEN.
"We all got it comin', kid." Eastwood, UNFORGIVEN
"Fuck the bonus." Rutger Hauer, WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE.
"No you won't." Charles Bronson, 10 TO MIDNIGHT
"What heart?" Gabriel Byrne, MILLER'S CROSSING
"It's a cold sore. It only acts up around morons." Gabriel Byrne to the Dane in MILLER'S CROSSING
"I'm a mean vindictive sunuvabitch." Charles Bronson, 10 TO MIDNIGHT
"Nothing's gonna' stop us now!" DIRTY MARY & CRAZY LARRY
"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe." Rutger Hauer, BLADERUNNER
"He's a pacifist. And you know he has emotional problems, man." "You mean beyond pacifism?" Goodman, THE BIG LEBOWSKI
"I . . . I'm cooperating here!" William H., FARGO
"I'm an eccentric millionare." Charles Bronson, MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
"They're afraid — she's afraid — of me, you, him... all of us. Farmers. Their families told them we'd rape them. Well, we might. In my opinion, though, you might have given us the benefit of the doubt." Yul Brenner, MAGNIFICENT SEVEN
"All right, we waste him. No offense!" Hicks, ALIENS
"I can no longer sit back and allow Communist infiltration, Communist indoctrination, Communist subversion and the international Communist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids." Gen. Ripper, DR. STRANGELOVE
"You sounded . . . taller on the radio." Buford T. Justice, SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT
"Raymond Shaw is the kindest, warmest, bravest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life." Sinatra, MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE
"Never have anything in your life that you can't walk out on in thirty seconds flat, if you spot the heat coming around the corner." De Niro, HEAT
"Someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets." De Niro, TAXI DRIVER
"You think I'm funny? Funny how? Funny like a clown?" Pesci, GOOD FELLAS
"So pretty please with sugar on top, clean the fucking car." Keitel, PULP FICTION
"AK-47--when you absolutely, positively gotta' kill every muthafucker in the room, accept no substitutes." Sam Jackson, JACKIE BROWN

The Gabriel Byrne mentions remind me of my favorite Byrne moment, which is in a bad Schwarzeneggar movie called END OF DAYS. A minion of Satan (or something like that) possesses Byrne in a trendy restaurant and forces him to leave (so he can blow it up). On his way out, he sees a sexy woman on a date. He stops by her table and impulsively puts his hand down her cleavage to fondle her breast while he kisses her. The date gets pissed, the neighboring diners are shocked, but the woman appears to like it. A few minutes later, they're all killed in the explosion. I've always wanted to do that since watching that movie. Make out with a hot stranger in public, not blow up a building.

Posted by Marty at 1:00 AM CDT
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Saturday, June 3, 2006
La Contessa
The beautiful Susan Strasberg was the main guest star in “The Countess,” in which she played Debbie Ryder, a former gangster’s-girlfriend who jumped bail in Chicago and ran off to Europe, where she met and married a count. After her husband’s death, she met another man, a rough-and-tumble American businessman (played by Art Lund, memorable as the corrupt cop who gave Fred Williamson such a hard time in BLACK CAESAR), married him, and moved to Los Angeles with him. There, she runs into smarmy Carl (game-show regular Dick Gautier), who recognizes her from her Chicago mug shot and blackmails her. “La Contessa” hires Rockford to get Carl off her back, which leads to a memorable scene where he tries (unsuccessfully) to physically intimidate the thug on a private beach (“I’ll come back here and pound sand down your throat.”). Carl is shot to death by a sniper, and police lieutenant Diel (Tom Atkins, later a John Carpenter regular) makes Rockford the #1 suspect.

Co-creator/producer Stephen J. Cannell was still working on ROCKFORD’s trademark idiosyncrasy in this episode, which was one of the first to be filmed and looks a lot like Universal’s other crime dramas of the era like MCCLOUD and MCMILLAN AND WIFE. Artie Kane scored it, probably because the studio wasn't yet on board with Cannell and Mike Post's idea of a rock-based score, something which was unheard of in TV crime dramas at the time.

Cannell and star James Garner were still trying to get as much character-based humor into the show as possible, against the wishes of the network, which wanted a straight-forward private-eye show. That ROCKFORD was something entirely different is evident in a scene in which Rockford, on the hook for Carl’s murder, tells Debbie that he’ll spill her secret to the cops before he’ll let them toss him in jail for murder (to which she replies, “Chivalry really is dead, isn’t it?”). Rockford is a moral man, but he ain’t about to let that stand in the way of a murder rap. Sounds like a common case of self-preservation, but there ain’t no way that Mannix or Richard Diamond would reveal a trusted secret just to save their own asses.

Look closely and you’ll see a blond James Cromwell playing a tennis instructor. According to the Internet Movie Database, this ROCKFORD FILES may have been his first television role, although he went on to several guest shots as Archie’s work buddy Stretch Cunningham on ALL IN THE FAMILY. Cromwell did tons of TV shows and small parts in movies until finally achieving great mainstream success (and an Oscar nod) twenty years later as Father Hoggett in BABE. Cromwell continues to rack up credits, including a regular gig on SIX FEET UNDER, Eddie Albert’s role in the LONGEST YARD remake, and the late, lamented Captain Stacy in the upcoming SPIDER-MAN 3.

Posted by Marty at 11:33 PM CDT
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Friday, June 2, 2006
Toothpaste Is A Legitimate Expense
ROCKFORD's second episode, "The Dark and Bloody Ground," is an interesting mystery based upon an arcane copyright law (still on the books?) that ruled that if an author sold the rights to his novel to a third party, but died before the copyright had lapsed, then the third party lost those rights--regardless of how much they had paid for them or how long they had them--and the rights reverted to the late author's spouse. I imagine this was a piece of trivia screenwriter Roy Huggins had picked up somewhere along the road and filed it in the back of his head as a possible story hook. He gave it to Juanita Bartlett, who penned her first ROCKFORD FILES teleplay from it.

Michael Schultz, one of episodic TV's first black directors, helmed it. He was quite inexperienced in television at the time, which may explain why he never did another ROCKFORD. The episode plays pretty well, but much of the dialogue is obviously post-synched, and a car chase fills almost half an act, which may have been the editor's way of padding a short episode to an appropriate length. It sounds like I'm looking for evidence of Schultz's incompetence, but I'm really not. The episode has three (!) car chases that are staged well and one scene between Rockford (James Garner) and Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett) that's full of exposition, but Schultz stages it (in a very small set) with a lot of movement, humor and characterization.

Beth (pictured above), an old flame of Rockford's (as we learn through some clever dialogue asides and the natural chemistry between the actors) and an attorney, enlists the detective to help prove the innocence of her pro bono client, a woman accused of killing her husband in a motel room. I say "enlists" rather than "hires," because Beth attempts to coax a freebie out of Jim, who says he doesn't "do charity cases" and eventually compromises on a fee (that we know he ain't gonna get paid anyway).

Rockford eventually finds the real killer, but not before a suspenseful desert chase that finds him being pursued and nearly run off a mountain by a semi in an action sequence probably inspired by DUEL, which was a Universal TV-movie telecast just a couple of years earlier. Interestingly, the sequence plays mostly without music, just as DUEL often did. (Also of interest is that this is one of the few ROCKFORDs not scored by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. Dick deBenedictis did this one.)

Gretchen Corbett was a Universal contract player who went on to appear in many ROCKFORD episodes. Despite their age difference, she and Garner were believable as a couple, although they were mostly "just friends" on the show. Corbett was definitely an important part of the ROCKFORD "family"--the show's beloved supporting characters that helped the show stand out from other crime dramas of the period--but was dropped from the series in later seasons. Reportedly, it was because she had played out her contract with Universal, which did not want to pay her a higher fee to come back as a freelance guest star. It's too bad, because she certainly was missed.

Posted by Marty at 3:27 PM CDT
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Thursday, June 1, 2006
Ugliest Unis Ever?
Here's lefty Fred Norman's San Diego Padres Topps card, I think from 1973:

That is a lovely shade of brown, isn't it? It meshes well with the baby-food yellow. '70s fashions rule.

Not to pick on Norman, who was actually a pretty decent pitcher. He's one of the few major leaguers to have "Hubert" as a middle name. He was a switchhitter--unusual for a pitcher. He was short and didn't throw hard. He sported what seemed to be a permanent 5 o'clock shadow. And he stayed in the majors for a long time--16 full or partial seasons.

Norman was a member of the 1975 and 1976 World Champion Cincinnati Reds, primarily as a #4 starter. He won 12 games both seasons, but none in the World Series. He retired in 1980 at the age of 37 with a lifetime record of 104-103 and an ERA of 3.64. Not a bad little career. Except for when he had to wear those nasty-ass Padre uniforms.

Posted by Marty at 3:41 PM CDT
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Tuesday, May 30, 2006
More Fi'dies
In case you haven't gone back to read any comments, here are some replies to last week's post about my Top 50 Movie Moments.

Hal Horn wrote:

"24,000? That's too...." Marshal Lucky battling high prices in USED CARS
"I'm still here, you bastards!" Steve McQueen floats out to freedom in PAPILLON
"No one's allowed to smoke..." Groucho outlines his platform for leadership, DUCK SOUP
Pam Grier's wonderfully fake Jamaican accent and subsequent catfight, COFFY (actually, I could probably make a list of 25 Pam Grier moments alone :)
"Springtime for Hitler", THE PRODUCERS
"No, we won't.".....has there ever been a more perfect Bronson ending than 10 TO MIDNIGHT?
"Blue! 69! Blue! 69!".....the original LONGEST YARD
The entire hour from 10-11 P.M. at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, WHO'S MINDING THE MINT?
Buster Keaton vs. the cannibals, THE NAVIGATOR
Buster Keaton vs. the waterfall, OUR HOSPITALITY
Forrest Tucker vs. the rocket-launching VW's, THUNDER RUN
"Where's your Messiah nowwwww!" Edward G. Robinson in THE TEN COMMANDMENTS
"No, you brought two too many." the opening, ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST
"No, dueling is stupid!" Forrest Tucker and Bruce Cabot duel...with wet mops(!), ROCK ISLAND TRAIL
Lon Chaney Sr.'s reaction when he realizes he's lost Joan Crawford, THE UNKNOWN
Charles Bronson and Ed Lauter walk down the street side-by-side gunning down scum, DEATH WISH 3
Gina Gershon and Jennifer Tilly, you know the scene, BOUND,
Also a nod to Joe Pantoliano in the same ("What? I didn't use a good towel.")
Paul Muni's performance in SCARFACE: THE SHAME OF THE NATION (1932 version)
Andy Griffith's performance in A FACE IN THE CROWD; also a nod to the Vitajex commercial in the same movie.
"You knows I likes big titties!" Warren Oates provides one of the many jaw-dropping moments in DRUM
"Deny, deny, deny!" Joey Bishop demonstrates Robert Morse's theory, A GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN
One more Tuck moment: the interrogation at the anthill, BARQUERO
The huddle-cam, H.O.T.S.

Personally, I could probably do a Top 50 USED CARS Moments if I wanted to. From Matt Farkas:

The huge shit-eating grin on Gene Kelly's face when he looks up at the camera and sings, "There's a SMILE on my face!" in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.
Jane Fonda's zero-gravity striptease during the opening credits of BARBARELLA.
The heart-breaking denouement in John Ford's HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY.
"No, Mr. Bond - I expect you to die!" GOLDFINGER.
The kiss and cuddle in the rain between George Peppard, Audrey Hepburn, and Cat at the end of BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S.
Racquel Welch's fur bikini in ONE MILLION B.C.
"Ordinary people...I hate 'em!" Harry Dean Stanton, REPO MAN.
The tour of the Krell furnaces in FORBIDDEN PLANET.
"You won't find it down there, Columbus!" Tura Satana, FASTER, PUSSYCAT! KILL! KILL!
And my own favorite H.O.T.S. moment - Angela Aames amazingly kinetic display of quivering, jiggling, bouncing, unfettered sweater-meat during the wet t-shirt contest, clearly besting the film's actual winners Susan Kiger and Lindsay Bloom (who somehow ekes out a win while wearing an opaque green tee and a BRA, fercryanoutloud!).

Did Lindsay Bloom ever do a nude scene? I don't remember one...and I would think that I would remember it. It's interesting that we all had H.O.T.S. on our list. An amazing coincidence, don't you think? So help me H.O.T.S.

Posted by Marty at 4:48 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 30, 2006 4:50 PM CDT
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Saturday, May 27, 2006
Hey, Good Lookin'! We'll Be Back To Pick You Up Later
I'd say this and the FREEDOM ROCK spot are probably the best-remembered schlocky TV commercials of the late-'70s and early-'80s. Did anybody--anybody--ever buy a Mr. Microphone and spice up a boring party with it?

Of course, professional musicians used it. Riiiiiight.

Posted by Marty at 2:14 PM CDT
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Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Does Your Mother Know What You Do For A Living?

I started the THE ROCKFORD FILES: SEASON ONE DVD box set tonight with “The Kirkoff Case,” which was the first regular episode telecast after NBC aired the 90-minute pilot as a TV-movie several months earlier. For anyone who has never seen THE ROCKFORD FILES, “The Kirkoff Case” is a very good “starter” episode. It offers an intricate plot and plenty of writer Stephen J. Cannell’s trademark dialogue (one character is the deliciously named “Muzzy Vinette”), an exciting climactic car chase (star James Garner often did much of the show’s stunt driving), an early guest role for future movie star James Woods and plenty of humor. Best of all, Cannell and director Lou Antonio (who kept his dolly guys plenty busy) do an excellent job of establishing the main character, Jim Rockford (Garner), as an unconventional (for television) anti-hero, a guy who would rather talk than fight and a private detective who wasn’t particularly great at his job.

This is perhaps best illustrated in a scene where Rockford has been kidnapped by a bunch of goons and taken to a deserted warehouse, where his abductors rough him up. Of course, in most private-eye shows, the hero is able to endure great physical pain and still keep his trap shut, but not Rockford. When his attackers start asking questions, Rockford speaks right up. Hey, it’s better and easier (and less painful) than taking another punch to the gut, right? Rockford is no pussy--he can take a shot--but he’s perhaps the most realistic action hero network television has ever seen. He hits someone in the jaw, and his hand hurts more than the guy’s noggin. He doesn’t charge very much, ‘cause he can’t really afford to, and half the time, his clients stiff him anyway. But we surely do love the guy. He’s a great driver, a fast talker, a regular Joe just trying to pick up enough bread to take a few days off and go fishing with his dad (Noah Beery).

“The Kirkoff Case” finds Rockford working for a rich jackass named Larry Kirkoff (Woods), who was indicted for the murder of his parents, but not prosecuted. Rockford doesn’t think much of him, but can’t resist the smell of the $20,000 Kirkoff offers to find the real killer. His nose leads him to a glib golddigger named Tawnia Baker (Julie Sommars, known then for a sitcom called THE GOVERNOR & J.J…she played J.J.) and a muscleheaded brute named Travis (Roger Davis of ALIAS SMITH & JONES), who turn the tables on Rockford by slipping him a mickey and de-pantsing him. Not ten minutes into the show, and already the hero is being played for a sucker.

Cannell’s plot (which was originally planned, but not used, for TOMA) involves a real estate scam and labor organizers, but, as usual for ROCKFORD, the actual story plays second fiddle to the distinctive dialogue and the characters. This episode has the Cannell touch, particularly Sommers’ character, as “Tawnia Baker” was also the name of a regular character on his THE A-TEAM and was (likely) named after his daughter Tawnia, who now directs TV shows like LAS VEGAS and BONES.

Woods and Garner eventually became quite friendly and co-starred in two highly acclaimed TV-movies in the 1980’s: PROMISES and MY NAME IS BILL W. Woods won Emmy awards as Outstanding Lead Actor for both of them. Garner was nominated twice in the same category, but won one as executive producer of PROMISES, which was named Outstanding Drama/Comedy Special. Garner has been nominated for 15 Emmys during his career, and has surprisingly won only twice; his first was in 1977 as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series: THE ROCKFORD FILES, of course.

Posted by Marty at 11:00 PM CDT
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Well, Are You?

Posted by Marty at 6:30 PM CDT
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Monday, May 22, 2006
8 Months To Day 6
Now Playing: 24
Wow, the President is some lover, huh? What was that--about four minutes?

24 ended its fifth day tonight with a rock-'em-sock-'em two-hour season finale filled with so much coolness, I don't know if I can stand it. Well, come to think of it, if Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) can stand it, I guess I can. In less than two hours, Bauer boarded a nuclear submarine, disarmed a dozen missiles, killed an old friend, drove to the compound of the U.S. President (Gregory Itzin), commandeered Marine One, zapped a bunch of Secret Service guys, kidnapped POTUS, got busted by soldiers, masterminded the President's arrest, and got kidnapped and beaten by Chinese ninjas. Is that about it?

Rumors abound that Day 6 will take place outside of Los Angeles. The word was London, but maybe we're going to Hong Kong instead. Filming an entire season of 24 overseas would be a marvelous treat for fans and for television audiences. Very few American network TV series have ever filmed outside of North America for extended periods of time (there's I SPY and, uh, well, there must be a couple more, right? Not including British productions and syndicated shows?), and it would freshen up the 24 formula. It would likely mean that none of the series regulars besides Kiefer would be able to appear, but I could live with that.

I think that, next season, Jack Bauer, Aaron Pierce, Mike Novick and the O'Briens should open up their own private detective agency and stick it to The Man every week.

Admit teared up at that photo of Edgar and Chloe.

And Buchanan smiled! The unlikeliest event in a typically madcap 24 day.


Posted by Marty at 10:50 PM CDT
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