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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Bad Boy
Still too busy to blog this week...hopefully I'll get a chance to talk about what I've been up to lately (including the nine consecutive episodes of MAGNUM, P.I. we watched over the weekend!). But, hey, it's not like I've totally left you hanging. That Henry Silva video is worth at least five posts.

I'm adding a new link to my Recommended Friend's Blogs over on the right. My friend Steve Stewart is now online with The Bad Boy Blog. Steve is a member of the Cincinnati Reds' radio broadcast team, working in the booth alongside baseball legend and Hall of Famer Marty Brenneman, and now blogs about my favorite team. I first met Steve when he was a news anchor at WSIL-TV in beautiful (sarcasm alert) Carterville, Illinois and I was a Top 40 DJ at WCIL-FM in nearby Carbondale. It's funny that Steve now has the exact job that I wanted when I was 14 years old. He's a good guy and the world's biggest HOGAN'S HEROES fan, so if you're into Cincinnati Reds baseball, why not drop by and give his blog a look-see.

Posted by Marty at 7:40 AM CDT
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Monday, May 1, 2006
Sorry, Gang
I had a big weekend to write about, but some stuff has come up, and I'm not going to have the time to write about it tonight.

However, I realize I owe you some kickass content, and nobody is more kickass than Henry Silva. I found this video online several months ago and downloaded it to my hard drive, but now that some genius has put it on YouTube, now you can enjoy it too. Basically, someone found some awesome clips of Silva from various Italian crime dramas of the 1970's and edited them to a badass Motorhead tune. Henry Silva + Motorhead = something incredibly awesome.

NOTE: This video is definitely NSFW. Some nudity, a bit of blood, and copious use of the word "motherfucker" see to that. But it's definitely worth seeing, and if you still don't think that Henry Silva kicks tons of ass afterwards, well, there's no hope for you.

Posted by Marty at 11:24 PM CDT
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Friday, April 28, 2006
Maybe I Am Old
Sorry I haven't posted much lately, but I have not spent very much time at home this week. I'm either at work or out doing something until very late. I was barely able to sneak in this week's 24 yesterday evening...and 24 is a major priority in my life. Isn't it in yours?

Went down to the Highdive last night for the Comedians of Comedy tour. These four comedians are playing bars, rather than comedy clubs, which is an interesting idea, I suppose, but I think an ultimately unsatisfying one. For one, the audience has to stand for two hours, and for another, playing in bars where dumbass college students generally go makes for a somewhat rowdy audience. The audience has to be comfortable and relaxed to enjoy comedy, and I don't believe the Highdive is the proper venue.

For the record, the four were Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford and Eugene Mirman. Oswalt, the biggest "name", was the least funny, I thought, but all four were decent enough. I liked Mirman's charm the best, and when I passed by him after the show, I grabbed his shoulder and told him, "Hey, man, good job," to which he responded, "Thank you." Oooo, another brush with greatness. I mean him, not me.

They all mentioned being on the Conan O'Brien show, which I thought was interesting only because I assume that they haven't done Letterman or Leno. I suppose that tells you all you need to know about these performers: good enough for 11:30 Central, but not good enough for 10:30.

Wednesday night, the Stephenses and I went to Csiki's to watch BLADE RUNNER, which I had only seen in its initial video release in 1983 or 1984 and wasn't fond of. The Warners DVD of some years ago is of the "Director's Cut" (which isn't really one) and has been somewhat modified. I still don't like BLADE RUNNER very much. I think it moves too slowly in service of a story that's really not all that. It looks good, of course, and has some nice acting, but it all feels very pointless to me. I also played a bit of FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE on Xbox, which is a kickass James Bond game in which Sean Connery "plays" 007 again. In just the hour or so that we played, Bond got to kill a bunch of Russians, fly a jet pack, blow up a helicopter, sneak through a hedge maze, flirt with Moneypenny, and destroy Q's robots. If I had an Xbox, I'd get it.

Tuesday night was my birthday, so we had some snacks and watched crappy movies. A 1982 theme of VICE SQUAD, CLASS OF 1984 and a BATTLE OF THE NETWORK STARS was on tap. We got to see Heather Thomas in the baseball dunk tank, but also Pernell Roberts in really tiny shorts. You take the bad with the good, is what I always say.

Monday night I went out to BW3, ostensibly to watch the White Sox game, but they either couldn't or wouldn't put it on the satellite, so we came back to my place to watch it. A decent game that the Sox lost in the 9th.

Tonight is Artists Against AIDS downtown, as well as Roger Ebert's Overlooked Film Festival. My neighbors are having a barbecue, and Cheeseburger is coming to town sometime. Busy weekend! And I haven't yet found time for PRISON BREAK.

Posted by Marty at 8:05 AM CDT
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Dancing Shark! Dancing Rickles! Dancing Fucking PALANCE!
I have no idea where this clip came from. I'm guessing it's from 1975 or 1976, judging from Rickles' use of the word "groovy", the JAWS reference, Larry Linville appearing as Major Frank Burns from M*A*S*H, the still-a-celebrity cachet of Otto Preminger, and just the sheer What The Fuck factor. If you've ever wondered why people say that '70s TV kicked tons of ass, you only have to see something like this to understand.

It runs 4:21.

Posted by Marty at 11:11 PM CDT
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Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Today is my birthday. Finally Jack Benny and I have something in common.

Posted by Marty at 7:53 AM CDT
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Monday, April 24, 2006
Just Stuff
I woke up at 4:12 this morning to the sound of the asshole across the street blowing his car horn. There is some dipshit family who lives over there, and they are always doing dipshit things. Their kids play in the street, and I am hoping one or more will get run over.

I'm sound asleep when I hear a very loud car horn. And another burst. And another. It blows about nine times. I crawl out of bed and out to the window where I see the neighbors carrying something out of the house and putting it in the trunk. They drove away, but the car was back when I got up three hours later. Who knows what those idiots were doing.

Today I went home for lunch. I no sooner got in the house than I heard a car alarm going off. I was pissed off, thinking it was probably those dumbass neighbors again. It kept going and going, so I started looking out the window. Hmmm, didn't sound like it was coming from the street. More like my parking lot. So I went to the back door, thinking my neighbors in my house had better get off their asses and turn that alarm off. Oops. It wasn't them. It was me. I don't have an alarm, but I have some kind of panic button on my key fob that I can press if I'm attacked by rapists or muggers by my car. I guess I must have pushed it accidentally after I put my keys in my pocket.

I got an email last week from someone who asked me to judge a local film contest. Unfortunately, I'm still waiting for a few details, namely "when," "where," and "how." Just some minor details. It sounds as though it's painfully disorganized. The deadline to submit films has been extended, and now someone with an existing film wants to enter it, even though that would violate the very point of the contest, which involves entrants making their short within the same (more or less) 25-hour period. At least I should get some amusing stories out of it.

Posted by Marty at 4:43 PM CDT
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Sunday, April 23, 2006
Whatever Happened To..?
I was listening to a few cuts from this Donna Loren compilation album recently, which got me thinking about why she never became a big star. Donna was a child star of sorts, acting and singing on television while still in grade school. As she grew into a teenager, she signed a recording contract with Capitol and began appearing in small roles in the BEACH PARTY movies cranked out in the 1960's by executive producers Samuel Arkoff and James Nicholson and director William Asher at American International Pictures. Most of the time, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello played the leading roles, but Donna, along with several other cuties, could be seen in the background and occasionally got a song of her one to perform. She also did a series of Dr. Pepper commercials, so someone was definitely grooming her for stardom.

What's evident from seeing her on-screen and listening to her music is that she was a very good performer (and cute as a button). I suppose it's hard to judge her acting from the small roles I've seen, including a guest spot as a sheik's daughter infatuated with Davy Jones on THE MONKEES, but she absolutely was a terrific singer. It may not be immediately obvious from titles like "Muscle Bustle" and "Beach Blanket Bingo," but she had a wonderful voice, and she was still just a teenager when she recorded them. I particularly like "It Only Hurts When I Cry," which she performed in the 1965 film BEACH BLANKET BINGO. Not to slight Annette Funicello, who also had a career headstart working for Walt Disney for many years before, but it's clear from watching the film that Loren had star presence that Annette, I don't think, ever did (maybe boys will be boys, but I believe Annette's notoriously prominent bustline had a lot to do with her success).

After a few more TV guest shots and a busted pilot with Aaron Spelling at ABC, Donna Loren retired from show business to get married. Not an unusual move for a budding ingenue, but she was only 21 years old, and it's a pity to think about the wonderful work she didn't allow herself to give to us. Maybe if her stardom had risen more quickly, she would have thought differently about giving it all up. At any rate, if you find yourself coming across BINGO or BIKINI BEACH or PAJAMA PARTY on cable or on DVD, Donna had solo spots in all of them, so stick with them long enough to catch her number. I think you'll be happy you did.

On a slightly related note, here's what I've been listening to on iTunes:
"Danger Man Theme"--The Red Price Combo
"Let Love Come Between Us"--James and Bobby Purify
"Batusi A Go Go"--Nelson Riddle
"Lonely Is the Summer"--The Debonairs
"Out of Tears"--Rolling Stones from VOODOO LOUNGE
"Gramaphone Man"--Spirit
"My Little Surfin' Woodie"--The Sunsets
"She's My Witch"--Kip Tyler
"Grand Ennui"--Michael Nesmith
Main Titles from DESERT OF FIRE--Franco Bixio
"The Throne Room/End Title"--John Williams from STAR WARS
"Songbird"--Fleetwood Mac
JUDD, FOR THE DEFENSE Theme--Alexander Courage
"Karma Sitar"--101 Strings
"Rockin' in the Free World"--Neil Young
"5D (Fifth Dimension)"--The Byrds
"Asshole"--Denis Leary from NO CURE FOR CANCER

Posted by Marty at 11:05 PM CDT
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Thursday, April 20, 2006
Feats Of Strength
I'm writing now, because I'm going into work a half-hour later today. It's okay--the boss knows...and I still might get there before he does. That's no slam. He was with us last night.

Last night, Chicken, Grady, Kellner, LD and I gathered at Moto's to move gigantic chunks of wood with our bare hands. It was sort of like a prison exercise, like George Kennedy made Newman do in COOL HAND LUKE. Moto had chopped down a huge tree in his back yard and cut it into pieces (well, more accurately, had it done), and we had to load the pieces into a truck and unload them out at the Kellner compound. This took two trips of lifting, carrying, dropping, etc. and involved much heaving and cursing. It really wasn't as bad as all that, I suppose. There was good teamwork, not much bitching. I have a few small scratches and scrapes on my arms; I was smart enough to wear gloves, but next time I'll do long sleeves. And the Motos grilled up a ton of burgers, dogs and brats, of which I had way too much (as was obvious when I had to leap out of bed and onto the growler at 3:15 this morning), but it was good stuff, Maynard. And, hey, I admit, it was good for me to do a bit of exercise too. Last night was fun, all things considered. I didn't get home 'til after 11:00 though. Took a shower, read a bit, and hit the hay. Had the windows open. It was good sleeping weather.

I forgot to tell you about the amazingly shitty movies Kevin (my B-Fest compadre) made me watch Sunday night. He brought over a bunch of tapes he had picked up at his local Family Video for $2 each or something like that. One was MULE FEATHERS, which is about as bad as they come. It's a PG slapstick comedy western starring Rory Calhoun as a conman who poses as a priest and carries on conversations using mental telepathy (!) with his donkey (!), who's voiced by Don Knotts. It's like a much stupider version of A BOY AND HIS DOG, but with no cannibalism. The post-synched sound makes it look really cheap, as does the fact that they only shoot the western town set from two angles. The comedy is leaden, the editing incomprehensible, and the sound effects juvenile. MULE FEATHERS was a tough 80 minutes.

After that was an episode of a Japanese TV series called SPECTREMAN, in which superhero Spectreman fought a giant flying whale. Spectreman seems like every other Japanese superhero, like Ultraman, in that he can grow to mammoth proportions, fly, shoot rays, etc. His powers are useless against the flying whale, though, and he discovers that his foe has a strange Corsican-brothers reaction to him. So to stop it, it does...nothing. Literally. He lays down on the beach and sends his homies to float over and drop a bomb down its blowhole. Unfortunately, Spectreman's arch enemies, a pair of cackling space monkeys (!) in a flying saucer, use the opportunity to literally kick the hero while he's down and can't fight back. The coolest thing about SPECTREMAN is its kickass theme song that reminded me of the SONS OF HERCULES theme.

I then pulled out CHAIN GANG WOMEN, which is the world's #1 bullshit title. There are no chain gang women, and no women at all until about 40 minutes in. It's not a bad little exploitation movie, really, but you could be forgiven for being disappointed by it.

We wrapped up with THAT WAS ROCK, a compilation of clips from the legendary THE T.A.M.I. SHOW and THE BIG TNT SHOW, neither of which are on DVD, presumably because of rights issues. Both were huge rock concerts staged in Los Angeles especially for film and featured virtually every major rock, pop and R&B act of the period, which was 1964 and 1965. Not all that performed made the THAT WAS ROCK tape, which featured new intros by Chuck Berry, but among the ones who did were the Rolling Stones, Ike and Tina Turner, a kickass James Brown, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, the Ronettes, Lesley Gore, Gerry and the Pacemakers and several others. The badassedness of these musical greats almost made up for Rory Calhoun talking to his ass. Almost.

Posted by Marty at 8:16 AM CDT
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Monday, April 17, 2006
Walk Tall And Carry A Big Stick

The cinematic saga of Buford Pusser began in the winter of 1973, when the now-defunct Cinerama Releasing Corporation released WALKING TALL, a crude, simplistic, violent R-rated drama about an ex-Marine and pro wrestler who returned to the Tennessee county of his childhood and single-handedly wiped out organized crime. Joe Don Baker played Pusser, who was elected sheriff of McNairy County after a severe beating by hoodlums left him scarred and near death. WALKING TALL struck a major chord with rural audiences, who turned it into one of the year’s most talked-about and financially successful films. Pusser planned to portray himself in the 1975 sequel, but he was killed in a mysterious auto accident, and 6’6” Bo Svenson was enlisted to play the lawman who “walks tall and carries a big stick” in two movies and a short-lived NBC television series.

WALKING TALL, the series, premiered the same month that Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as the 40th U.S. President, which may have been too soon. The Reagan administration’s black-and-white views on law and order were an influence on dozens of violent, high-octane Hollywood action movies, many of them starring macho men like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris. But when NBC debuted WALKING TALL on January 17, 1981, audiences were still in the sensitive grip of the Carter era and perhaps weren’t quite prepared for a single-minded law enforcer who eschewed the civil rights of the accused if they stood in the way of what he considered to be justice.

Svenson, a familiar face to TV audiences from schlocky TV-movies like GOLD OF THE AMAZON WOMEN and SNOWBEAST, probably felt right at home with Sheriff Buford Pusser’s badge and “pacifier” (his term for the hefty four-foot club he carried in the back seat of his police car) in hand again. The show’s premise was just like that of the WALKING TALL movies in which Svenson had starred. He again was a widower who lived in McNeal (changed from McNairy) County, Tennessee with his father Carl (Walter Barnes, taking over for Noah Beery and Forrest Tucker), son Michael and daughter Dwana. McNeal was a small rural community where everybody knew everybody else, which didn’t make it as difficult as you would think for some of its citizens to get into trouble with the law and run afoul of Buford’s temper.

NBC scheduled WALKING TALL for 8:00pm Central on Saturday nights. Its CBS rival, the shortlived FREEBIE AND THE BEAN (also an action-oriented spinoff of a successful film), was no competition, but both series were slammed in the ratings by THE LOVE BOAT, which formed a Saturday-night juggernaut with FANTASY ISLAND for several years on ABC. After five episodes, the show was pulled, only to reappear six weeks later at 9:00pm on Tuesdays, where another smash ABC series, HART TO HART, buried it, this time for good. Only seven episodes of WALKING TALL were made, and all of them are available on DVD from Columbia/Tri-Star. Because I believe that no TV series should be forgotten, what follows is a somewhat comprehensive WALKING TALL episode guide. Print it out and keep it next to your remote.

1) “The Killing of McNeal County’s Children”--Directed by Alf Kjellin. Written by Stephen Downing. Stars Robert Englund, Charles McDaniel, Eric Stoltz, Whit Bissell. Pusser investigates when two teenagers become brain-damaged after a few puffs of some powerful new PCP cigarettes. He threatens pusher Bobby Joe Wilson (Englund, later Freddy Krueger in A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET) and is nearly killed when Wilson’s home lab explodes, but still fails to stop the ring led by oily businessman Oliver Moss (McDaniel). Even Buford’s environmentally dubious strategy of assaulting Moss’ trucks and dumping their chemical contents onto the highway makes little dent in the drug’s onslaught of the local high school. It gets personal after two classmates (one is played by future star Stoltz) drug Michael Pusser’s drink with angel dust, which leaves him perched on the school roof thinking he can fly.

2) “The Protectors of the People”--Directed by Daniel Haller. Written by Donald R. Boyle. Stars Charles Napier, Jesse Vint, William Windom, William Sanderson, Otis Young, Dey Young. One of WALKING TALL’s advantages is its weekly guest stars. Even if an episode doesn’t happen to be working too well, there’s always an interesting actor or two to keep an eye on. This episode may have the show’s best cast, and Boyle (the show’s executive story editor) gives them an incendiary topic to bite into. McNeal runs afoul of the Ku Klux Klan, mainly in the personage of vile Napier (the great character actor with the toothy grin), sadistic Sanderson (NEWHART) and store owner Vint (FORBIDDEN WORLD). In their repulsive desperation to make the county all-white, they attack a white teenage girl while disguised in blackface and then blow up a store owned by black businessman Otis Young (THE LAST DETAIL). It all gets terribly out of control when Pusser’s black deputy Aaron (Harold Sylvester) is framed for raping a white woman.

3) “Kidnapped”--Directed by John Florea. Written by Paul Savage. Stars Chuck Connors, Edward Albert. This episode could have been written for almost any other TV cop show. Its routine plot by GUNSMOKE veteran Savage has been done many times. Theo Brewster (Connors in a “special cameo appearance”) is shot by a guard during his commission of a bank robbery and taken into custody to Pusser’s jail, where he lies on life support. His sons--also his fellow bank robbers--plot to break him out by taking a local family and Buford’s father hostage.

4) “Hitman”--Directed by Alf Kjellin. Written by Robert E. Swanson. Stars Merlin Olsen, L.Q. Jones. Also not a terribly original concept, but strong direction, particularly during the final act, and good performances make the episode worthwhile. NBC sportscaster and former Los Angeles Ram Olsen, just a few months before starring in his own NBC drama, FATHER MURPHY, is Webb McClain, an old friend of Buford’s who returns to McNeal County to renew their relationship. Unbeknownst to Pusser, however, McClain is an assassin who has been hired by mobster Jones to murder Buford. Svenson and Olsen play the tension perfectly, giving the incredulous idea necessary weight.

5) “Company Town”--Directed by Harvey S. Laidman. Written by Lee Sheldon. Stars Ralph Bellamy, Lane Bradbury, Art Hindle, Claude Earl Jones. Leaving his regular supporting players behind, Pusser travels to a mining town to investigate the disappearance of a miner who had been riling his employers with talk about low wages and unsafe working conditions. Learning of other missing mining workers with similar rabblerousing backgrounds, Buford follows the trail of bodies all the way up to the mine’s owner, James Clausen (Bellamy), and his hot-headed son Stuart (Hindle).

6) “Deadly Impact”--Directed by Alexander Singer. Written by Gregory S. Dinallo. Stars Gail Strickland, Ken Swofford, Richard Herd, James Whitmore Jr. Credit director Singer and guest star Strickland for pulling off a late-in-the-game story twist that provides this episode with an effective dramatic punch. It smells like SILKWOOD when chemical plant employee Strickland suspects her boss of authorizing illegal dumps of toxic wastes into the nearby river. After she’s nearly run off the road, Pusser protects her from further attempts on her life by putting her up with Carl and the kids at his house, where his relationship with her turns from professional to personal.

7) “The Fire Within”--Directed by Phil Bondelli. Written by Lee Sheldon. Stars James MacArthur, Ed Nelson, Lance LeGault, Anthony Edwards, John McLiam, Richard Venture. MacArthur, a veteran of eleven seasons on HAWAII FIVE-0, exchanges his badge for a collar in this “special guest star” role as Father Adair, a new priest who takes the confession of a dying criminal. His vows prevent him from telling Pusser any information about what the man was involved with, namely a gunrunning operation masterminded by McNeal County real-estate agent Ed Campbell (Nelson). Look for future ER star Edwards as a horny teenager.

After WALKING TALL’s quick cancellation, star Svenson continued to rack up an army of television and film credits. Many of them were in exploitation movies such as NIGHT WARNING (in which he played a homophobic cop) and the Italian THUNDER WARRIOR (he also reunited with Charles Napier in the Fred Olen Ray ALIEN-ripoff DEEP SPACE), but his best TV performance of the era was a memorable turn in MAGNUM, P.I.’s third-season premiere as Ivan, a KGB agent who had tortured Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) in Vietnam and murdered Magnum’s friend Mac in Hawaii. The final confrontation between Magnum and Ivan was quite a corker and is probably the series’ finest moment. Svenson continues to be a popular supporting actor in low-budget movies and was tapped by Quentin Tarantino to portray a reverend in KILL BILL.

Brian Dennehy also played Buford Pusser in A REAL AMERICAN HERO, a CBS movie that aired in 1978, and The Rock starred in a 2004 WALKING TALL remake that had nearly nothing to do with the original films or the Buford Pusser legend. The seven one-hour television episodes on DVD are nothing like TV crime drama at its finest, but its realistic location shooting (all in Southern California, it appears), fine actors, sharp action scenes, and committed, passionate lead performance by Bo Svenson, who could usually be counted on for one deeply felt monologue per show, make it an appealing curiosity for cop-show fans.

Posted by Marty at 11:48 PM CDT
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Sunday, April 16, 2006
The Greatest Commercial In The History Of Television

Posted by Marty at 5:08 PM CDT
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