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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Thursday, July 13, 2006
That's The News...I Am Outta Here!

Okay, I think I'm giving up on Tripod.  Now the blogging software has changed to the point that I can no longer find the button that will let me post links.  I can add subscripts and horizontal lines and datestamps and videos and photo albums and Word documents, but I can't imbed links as far as I can tell.  So I'm moving over to Blogger.  It seems relatively simple to use, and I have already made my first entry.  So please come and join me, won't you?


The new Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot is at:


I'll leave this old site up, so if you ever wanna come on back and wallow in the nostalgia of my DAVID CASSIDY, MAN UNDERCOVER reviews, well, here ye go (to paraphrase the late Dennis Weaver).


See you at Blogger, friends. 

Posted by Marty at 7:44 PM CDT
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Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Are you guys able to read comments now? A few of the posts below have them. El Enmascarado de Plata and A Man Barely Alive are two of them. At the bottom, it should say View Comments (1). Let me know if these are working now. I'm still not receiving emails when a comment is left, but Tripod seems to have abandoned its new posting software at least.

Posted by Marty at 8:25 PM CDT
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Snakes On A Starship
Forget Samuel L. Jackson fighting snakes on a plane. Here's Shatner doing something ten times more kickass: fighting giant space snakes!

STAR TREK #11, cover-dated February 1981, art by Joe Brozowski and Tom Palmer. I'm sure I have this comic someplace. I oughta read it so I can give Sam some choice advice when I see SNAKES ON A PLANE next month.

Posted by Marty at 12:25 PM CDT
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Monday, July 10, 2006
Did You See The Sunrise This Morning?
MAGNUM, P.I. was rarely, if ever, better than the two-hour premiere episode of its third season. Broadcast in the fall of 1982, "Did You See the Sunrise?" finds Magnum (Tom Selleck) and T.C. (Roger E. Mosley) flashing back to their ugly days as prisoners of war in a Vietnamese camp run by the vicious Ivan (Bo Svenson), a Russian KGB agent who delighted in torture and murder.

Their nightmare returns when Nuzo (James Whitmore, Jr.), a buddy with whom they escaped from Ivan's camp ten years earlier, arrives in Honolulu, raving that Ivan is trying to kill him. Executive producer Donald Bellisario's teleplay grows more complex with Magnum feeling guilt over the death of his friend Mac (Jeff MacKay) in an explosion meant to murder Magnum and the presence of Colonel Buck Green (Lance LeGault), Magnum's rival in Naval Intelligence, who's using the P.I. without his knowledge--an action that may have directly led to Mac's death.

It turns out Ivan really is in Hawaii, but not for the reason Nuzo claims. Svenson, who portrayed WALKING TALL sheriff Buford Pusser in two movie sequels and a shortlived TV series, is properly imposing and chilling as the sadistic Ivan, whose cruel nature is powerfully demonstrated in his constant use of racial epithets to bait T.C. (imagine trying to get this episode on the air today).

The reason everyone remembers this episode is its climactic scene, which I won't spoil for you, but it packed a major punch in 1982, as it showed Magnum doing something that TV detectives just did not do. The sensitivity with which the scene is played and directed (by former stuntman Ray Austin) makes it feel "in character," however.

Also on the Hawaii theme, I watched the famous "Hookman" episode of HAWAII FIVE-0 at lunchtime. It was the sixth-season opener, and featured a memorable guest-star turn by Jay J. Armes as a cop-killing sniper. What made the show stand out was Armes himself, who was a real-life El Paso private investigator making his acting debut in "Hookman". He lost his arms in a childhood accident, and was outfitted with a pair of hooks, with which he could do just about anything, it seems, including drive, shoot and assemble a weapon.

As Kurt Stoner, Armes plays a former bank robber who blames four police officers for the accident that robbed him of his arms, one of them being, of course, Five-0 head Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord). Morton Stevens' Emmy-winning score propels the action, particularly the scenes of Armes preparing for his next kill. As Armes has almost no dialogue, the music is handy in keeping up the pace and excitement. Stoner drives a cool Mustang in a good car chase with McGarrett, and, besides the sniper shootings, director Allen Reisner stages a pretty violent shootout between Five-0 and a red herring. Reisner and writers Glen Olsen and Rod Baker weren't generally considered outstanding creatively, but all were at the top of their game with "Hookman," as were Stevens and Armes.

And, yes, I realize the irony of a man named Armes having none of his own.

Posted by Marty at 11:11 PM CDT
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Sunday, July 9, 2006
Get A Good Look At Costanza
Now Playing: THE BURNING
1981's THE BURNING is one of the more interesting FRIDAY THE 13TH ripoffs. It went into production while FRIDAY was still in theaters, and was released in May '81. Set at an upstate New York summer camp, the story is nearly identical to FRIDAY: caretaker Cropsy is hideously burned during a prank pulled by some boys at summer camp, and returns five years later to slaughter the new crop of teens with a pair of mega-sharp garden shears. After a good opening scene (featuring a marvelous full body burn in which the flaming stuntman rolls down a hill into a lake), THE BURNING lies low while it introduces us to its typically fun-loving cast of horny teenage pranksters, who spend all of their time playing gags on each other and trying to get into the opposite sex's pants. It isn't until the halfway mark that the carnage really begins. And, oh what carnage it is.

Tom Savini, the goremeister who created the startlingly realistic makeup effects for FRIDAY THE 13TH, performed the same chores here, and they are astonishing, at least in the uncut version. The theatrical release and early home video versions were missing 45 seconds of gore that had to be trimmed to get an R rating from the MPAA. A few years ago, MGM accidentally put out the original X-rated version on videocassette, and that's the print I was able to watch tonight. It's hard to imagine watching THE BURNING without those seconds, as Savini's handiwork is about the only reason to watch what is basically just another teen slasher flick.

There is another reason to watch, and that is THE BURNING's cast of soon-to-be-famous actors. I can't think of any other horror movie of the era where so many actors went on to have solid careers. First and foremost is Jason Alexander, seen here as fast-talking Dave (with hair), who went on to become a very rich man as George Costanza on SEINFELD. Alexander has one of the bigger roles in THE well as an ass shot! This was his first motion picture.

* Holly Hunter, whose role is much smaller than Alexander's. She's harder to find--I don't think she even has a closeup--but her Georgia drawl stands out.
* Brian Backer, who played Rat in FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH
* Leah Ayres, a pretty woman who went on to lots of TV and movie work, including BLOODSPORT and Marcia Brady in the 1990 TV series THE BRADYS
* Ned Eisenberg, one of those That Guys who seems to play a lawyer in every other episode of the LAW & ORDER franchise. You've seen him a million times
* Larry Joshua, who has guest-starred in tons of shows, including a semi-regular gig on NYPD BLUE. You'll likely recognize his raspy voice too.
* Fisher Stevens, just before SHORT CIRCUIT and one of the few BURNING cast members who actually was a teenager

Just as surprising are the film's producer and its co-writer: Harvey and Bob Weinstein. THE BURNING was their very first film. Brad Grey, who is now the president of Paramount Pictures, was a co-writer and "production consultant." Rick Wakeman of Yes (!) composed the score. The editor was Jack Sholder, who made his directing debut a year later with a good horror film, ALONE IN THE DARK.

Although the quality of THE BURNING doesn't set the film apart from most other slasher flicks that appeared in FRIDAY THE 13TH enormous wake, its cast and crew certainly does.

Posted by Marty at 11:04 PM CDT
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El Enmascarado de Plata
I've also been watching a lot of Mexican wrestling superhero movies lately, one of the strangest Crappy Movie genres. And there can be no discussing Mexican wrestling movies without El Santo, the most famous luchador of them all and one of the biggest movie stars in the country’s history.

Known as “the man in the silver mask,” Santo--who, like The Lone Ranger, was never seen in public without his face covered--graduated from the wrestling arena to the silver screen in the late 1950’s, when he played a supporting role in a pair of superhero adventures. It wasn’t until 1961 and the release of INVASION OF THE ZOMBIES (which Tolemite and I saw last weekend) that Santo became a leading man, kicking off a string of more than fifty wild-and-wooly motion pictures that sicced “El Enmascarado de Plata” against witches, Martians, stranglers, she-wolves, mad scientists and other colorful villains. Only a few of them played in the United States, dubbed into English with the hero’s name changed to Samson, as in SAMSON VS. THE VAMPIRE WOMEN (1962). However, many of them are available now on DVD, usually in Spanish with English subtitles.

If you're curious to know more about Santo, check out this clip. It runs just under two minutes and packs a lot of Santo-kickass-goodness:

Posted by Marty at 1:03 AM CDT
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Saturday, July 8, 2006
What Have I Been Watching
I haven't written much lately about the movies I've been watching. Last weekend saw about a dozen viewings drop into my lap, which is what usually occurs when Tolemite drops into town for a visit.

Tonight I saw this year's remake of THE HILLS HAVE EYES, which is a complete waste of time for anyone who has seen Wes Craven's original, which I wrote about for The Hub. I know everyone always says this about every remake, but the original really is much better. In fact, except for the opening scene, which is as blatant a case of "Hey, audience, we think you're stupid," as I've seen in a Hollywood movie recently, Alexandre Aja's new movie is virtually a scene-by-scene copy. Whenever Aja veers oh-so-slightly off Craven's path, it's always an inferior choice. Barely anything in the 2006 movie is an improvement over the 1977 film: some of the performances (Ted Levine, Kathleen Quinlan), maybe tomandandy's score (although Don Peake's was very good in the original). Whereas Craven made his villains distinctive characters with individual personalities, Aja's are merely driven by plot to show up when needed and disappear when not. None is interesting, and we aren't even told their names. I was surprised to learn that Billy Drago played Jupiter, the patriarch, as I don't think he even shows up until an hour and 35 minutes into the picture. And the deathtrap concocted by the siblings at the end is nowhere near as clever (and sick) as the one in Craven's film.

Seriously, blow this one off and check out the Wes Craven movie instead.

CYBER ZONE is a Fred Olen Ray movie starring Marc Singer (the Beastmaster!) as a "droid gunner" (aka "blade runner") that hunts androids for a living. He's hired to find four "pleasure droids" (aka hot sex robots) and is reluctantly teamed with a prim female technician with glasses (Rochelle Swanson) who--surprise, surprise--turns out to be a major hottie. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power puts in another appearance in a cheap DTV movie, as does much of Ray's repertory company, including Ross Hagen, Robert Quarry and Brinke Stevens (naked!).

STARSHIP INVASIONS is what happens when Canadians try science-fiction. Made at the peak of the 1970s' UFO craze, it stars Robert Vaughn (!) as a UFO expert who is abducted by good aliens who are trying to prevent bad aliens (led by Christopher Lee!) from conquering the earth with a suicide ray (!) that forces Earthlings to kill themselves. There's a stupid-looking robot, TV-style direction (by Ed Hunt) and scoring (by Gil Melle, usually better than this), and the aliens "speak" only in voiceover--so Hunt can shoot faster and cheaper without sync sound.

JUNGLE MAN-EATERS was Johnny Weissmuller’s last official Jungle Jim movie. I wouldn’t be surprised if 20% of this 67-minute feature is recycled from someplace else. Weissmuller fights a crocodile (again!), a lion (again!), some sailors, a bunch of natives and a Frenchman. Jim is kind of an imbecile in this movie, blundering into trouble. Chimp Tamba accidentally hits him in the head with a rock that knocks him out. Lee "Roll 'Em" Sholem directs a few serial-style fistfights that are a bit rougher than the usual Jungle Jim punchfests. There were no more Jungle Jim movies for Weissmuller, but he made three more similar features for Columbia playing a character named…Johnny Weissmuller!

In honor of Jan Murray, the comedian, game show host and actor who died last week in his 80s, I watched his first film, WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR. This delightfully sick 1965 thriller casts the Borscht Belt funnyman in a dramatic role as Dave Madden, a detective who investigates when young club DJ Juliet Prowse is the recipient of obscene phone calls. Sal Mineo is top-billed as the pervert, who works as a busboy at Prowse's club, but this movie is, along with TIGHTROPE and THE MAD BOMBER, one of the few crime dramas in which the hero is creepier than the sleazebag he's pursuing. Surprisingly frank for an independent 1965 film with a name cast (Elaine Stritch, Frank Campanella, Bruce Glover and a young Daniel J. Travanti are also in it), WHO KILLED TEDDY BEAR is badly in need of a DVD release. It's a shame that Jan Murray, who told SCARLET STREET magazine how much he liked the film in a 1995 interview, is no longer around to do a commentary, but Stritch, Glover, Travanti and director Joseph Cates (father of Phoebe) are.

NIGHTHAWKS is a solid pre-FIRST BLOOD thriller for Sylvester Stallone, who was unsuccessful as a dramatic actor after ROCKY (PARADISE ALLEY and F.I.S.T. were not hits). NIGHTHAWKS is his first action-hero role. He and Billy Dee Williams are New York detectives on special assignment to track down Wulfgar (Rutger Hauer making his U.S. film debut), a ruthless European terrorist. It's nothing special, but the action scenes are suspenseful, and the performers are good. Lindsay Wagner (THE BIONIC WOMAN) is wasted in a nothing part as Sly's ex-wife. It's certainly worth viewing.

I also caught a couple of Italian westerns. I think I've already written about BLINDMAN, a strangely black-humored hit about a blind gunslinger (Tony Anthony) attempting to retrieve 50 mail-order brides from a Mexican bandit. The bandit's brother, Candy, is played by Ringo Starr, whose Mexican accent is poor, but who is okay otherwise. I don't think much of Anthony, but BLINDMAN has a strange mix of humor and sleaze, particularly the nude scenes. It's a good movie and definitely never boring.

More standard is $100,000 FOR RINGO (no relation to the Beatle drummer), in which a young Richard Harrison (um, no relation to George...) returns from the Civil War and finds himself between angry Apaches, a crazed Mexican general, and a crooked town boss. By the way, there's neither a Ringo nor $100,000 in the movie.

Posted by Marty at 10:34 PM CDT
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Thursday, July 6, 2006
A Man Barely Alive
Well, I'm hoping those Shatner-narrated clips of THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN blew your mind. No question that Lee Majors as Steve Austin kicks huge amounts of ass. He even fought...

...George Foreman! Holy crap!

And below is more of the Seven Million Dollar Man, seen getting his ass smacked into a wall by Steve Austin in that video below and played by ubiquitous TV guest star Monte Markham:

I remember what a big deal it was when Steve Austin was temporarily surpassed as the #1 bionic badass when Markham (playing a character named Barney Miller, of all things) get racked up in a racecar crash and is given $7 million worth of bionic limbs. Unfortunately, Barney turns evil, and it's up to Steve to stop him. Markham came back in a later episode, but I recall that as being more of a teamup with Austin, rather than a battle.

Markham, by the way, almost took over the leading role in HAWAII FIVE-0 during the 1970's. FIVE-0 was an enormous hit, the first successful network series to lens entirely in the state of Hawaii. The star, as Five-0 leader Steve McGarrett, was Jack Lord, who appears to have been one of the TV industry's major bastards. I've been a fan of the show since I was a kid, and rarely have I heard a good word about him. Lord was apparently an ill-tempered egomaniac who barely got along with anyone besides his wife and FIVE-0 executive producer Leonard Freeman. When Freeman died, Lord became the de facto executive producer, and reportedly ran roughshod over everyone, including CBS. If you watch enough FIVE-0 episodes, you'll notice a helluva lot of different producers in the credits. That's because Lord either fired them, or they quit in frustration.

At any rate, CBS almost fired Lord during the 7th season when the actor pitched a hissy fit over a producer bringing a guest onto FIVE-0's closed set. Perhaps Lord was in the right this time, but CBS was getting tired of his bullshit, and went so far as to hire Markham to play a new character named Kincaid who would eventually take over the Five-0 unit. The situation worked itself out, and Markham never appeared as Kincaid, although he did guest-star at least once.

Apropos of nothing, "State of Shock" by Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger just popped up on iTunes. If a shittier song exists anywhere, I'm scared to hear it.

Posted by Marty at 11:39 PM CDT
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Wednesday, July 5, 2006
Fair And Balanced? Bullshit.
Check out the Fox News story about dead prick Ken Lay on its Web site:

"Vilified" former chairman. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, "vilify" means "to make vicious and defamatory statements about." Fox is implying that Lay was a victim of smear tactics and propaganda. Ken Lay was a dirty, sleazy crook who destroyed the lives of thousands of Americans, and I'm only sorry that he cheated us out of the satisfaction of knowing he was rotting in prison.

Sound callous? I don't think anyone would cry over the death of Osama bin Laden, and I wouldn't place Lay much higher on any morality scale. He and Jeff Skilling didn't blow up any buildings, but thousands of American lives were ruined by their greed.

If I ever make it to Houston, I'll make a point of dropping by the cemetary to drop a deuce on Kenny Boy's grave.

Posted by Marty at 8:41 PM CDT
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Monday, July 3, 2006
Bionics Are Cool
What's that, you say? You've never seen THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN or its spinoff, THE BIONIC WOMAN? are missing out, my friend. When is Universal getting off its ass and putting these two hugely popular adventure series on DVD?

If I have piqued your curiosity, spend 90 seconds with Bill Shatner and Robby the Robot as they give you a crash course in bionic awesomeness:

By the way, Shatner guest-starred in "Burning Bright," an amazing first-season SMDM, as an astronaut who becomes super-smart as a result of an accident in space. It's a neat sci-fi gimmick, but one with a surprisingly mature twist, as Shatner's brain becomes too primitive to handle the exponential increase in knowledge, which leads to a tragic ending on a power transformer. It's not as action-packed as a typical SMDM episode, but I like for Shatner's performance and for its adult slant.

Posted by Marty at 5:47 PM CDT
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