Thursday, December 27, 2007

Will Hays was right

Last night I learned something. I watched two old silent filns directex by Cecil B. Demille, The Whispering Shadow and Old Wives For New. They were both made in the 1917 - 1918 time frame but they couldn't have been more different. Whispering Shadow was a typical for the time moralistic melodrama with a convoluted plot which climaxes in a man being executed for his own murder to protect his wife who had unknowingly become a bigamist by marrying the state's governor. Old Wives was another proposition entirely, a movie that proves it wasn't just off screen scandals that brought about the institution of the Production Code and the Hays Office in 1920.

It was the story of a successful man with a fat, lazy wife who falls in love with the pretty owner of a dress shop. There was little conventional morally about this film. In the course of things a man is shot by a jealous girlfriend. She is given some money and sent away by the hero and there is no hint she ever pays for her crime. The man's widow shows no sadness even as she shops for her mourning wardrobe. Another "professional mistress" is paid off. The fat wife eventually divorces her husband and marries a goldigger. There's even a bit of women runnging around in scantily clad nightgowns. There is no hint whatsoever of any remorse or "home and hearth" stuff. DeMille did things like this in the 20's but it was shock to see it starting this early especially without a trace of moralizing.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Thinning Of The Herd

One thing I can say, I'm learning what sorts of movies I don't like. I've been striking out a lot lately with DVDs. I rented "Sordid Lives" because it featured "Olivia Newton-John as a lesbian cowgirl" and hated it. It was nothing but a bunch of tired camp and cliched wacky Texas characters. "Antoineta", a Carlos Saura film that starred Isabelle Adjani and Hanna Schygulla, suffered from a lack of characterization and motivation. Then there was "A Woman With Red Hair" a Japanese "pink" film that was just there. I did watch a classic British thriller, "Green For Danger" that was fun. I'm hoping for better soon. I still have "Sweet Movie" and "Billy Budd" to get through right now, plus I'm off the next couple of weeks so I should have time to watch a bunch of things, maybe even go to an honest to god movie theater.

Friday, December 7, 2007

All The World Is Sad And Dreary...

I hate getting sick. I spent the entire last seven days with a bad cold which seemed to be exacerbated by blood pressure problems. I couldn't even concentrate about my ongoing problems, not that I can do anything about them anyway. I got someone to recommend some therapists to me. This may be my last chance to save myself so I hope I find someone who can help me.

The DVD thing hasn't been too great lately. I tried watching the movie "Palindromes" but that was too depressing even for me. I also watched Andrei Tarkovsky's last film, "The Sacrifice". I could appreciate it but it didn't really get to me. This time around I at least have the third disc of "Paranoia Agent", a Japanese anime I genuinely think is brilliant. I also got a sample of the old "Untouchables" series which may be interesting to watch with mature eyes.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Let My Cat and Mouse Go!

I saw something unexpected channel surfing last Sunday. Cartoon Network was having a marathon of Tom & Jerry cartoons. This was surprising because Cartoon Network stopped showing classic cartoons years ago but a commercial for an upcoming Tom & Jerry Nutcracker Suite cartoon soon made the reasoning clear. Unlike Popeye or the Warner Brothers gang, Tom & Jerry are still considered viable properties for a kid audience which makes sense. The cartoons are all action and the main characters never speak. Plus their motivations are so primal they can still make sense to a young audience.

Sadly this means their classic work doesn't get the loving treatment Bugs, Daffy, Popeye and Droopy have gotten. Those DVD sets are aimed at adult collectors so they contain uncut cartoons with all the excessive violence, unrestrained steroetyping and other "bad things" that an adult viewer can take in context. Tom & Jerry have to be bowlderized for the kiddies. So their three DVD sets take the shorts out of chronological order, repeat some , edit others and at the last minute Warner even decided that two of them were so henious they couldn't ever be released on home video, lest the little tykes be corrupted. All nonsense of course but that's what happens when the powers that be think they can still squeeze some bucks out of the kiddie market for a particular property.
Watching the cartoons now I got more of an appreciation of what they were about, the over the top slapstick that bordered on sadism, the way the relationship between Tom and Jerry became more of a grudging friendship as time went on, something that Chuck Jones never understood since he jsut replicated the Coyote - Roadrunner dynamic when he did his version. I also enjoyed a couple of the few T&Js where dialogue was a factor, "Solid Serenade" where Tom wooed a female cat by playing a standup bass and singing "Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby", and "Pecos Pest" which guest starred Doodles Weaver as the voice of Jerry's Cousin Pecos who stopped off on his way to a TV appearance to rehearse his whacked out version of "Froggy Went A-Courtin'" or maybe he called it "C-C-C-Cranbo!"

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Visiting The Past

I've finally gotten around to the reason I bought the "Jazz Singer" DVD, the bonus disc of old Vitaphone Talkie musical shorts. It's an interesting trip. The performances aren't too campy. Most are quite good remembering the styles of the time. It is fascinating though that most of the shorts include at least one risque song with lyrics like "She may step out but she won't give in." It's not that big a shock when you think about it. At that point Warners was just experimenting and getting the shorts out there. Nobody thought about playing to small towns with more conservative mores. It's another thing that gives a lie to how straight-laced things supposedly were way back when.
The biggest musical surprise so far has been The Ingenues, an all-woman orchestra where violins, cello, harp, banjos, accordions, and a bassoon were used in addition to the usual big band equipment with every woman playing two or three instruments.

Then there is this other, very strange film I saw. Every now and then I'll run into something like "Project A-Ko" or "Super Milk Chan" that reminds how flat out weird Japanese pop culture can get. I saw a lulu last night, "The Glamourous Life Of Sachiko Hanai". This was a simple little story about a Tokyo call girl who gets shot in the head, becomes a genius as a result and gets involved in a spy plot involving a clone of President Bush's finger when she isn't tearing off her clothes and having sex at every opportunity. This American edition had a self imposed rating of "Seriously F***ed Up" and it was well-deserved. The movie was completely insane and I'm kind of surprised it doesn't have more of a reputation. There is one scene where they show panic aboard a nuclear aircraft carrier by waving G.I. Joe dolls in front of a still picture of a military command center. By the time that shows up it seems perfectly normal.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

24 Big Uns

I could talk about a lot of things like the anti-smoking ad I saw which was based on the false premise that in the 1970's the Muppets were largely aimed at a kid audience or the court ruling that finally overturned the age restriction record keeping for adult videos but I don't feel like it right now. My main focus for the next few weeks will be the 24 CDs I was just sent for reviewing by Cadence. I'm disappointed when I only get a few, but sheesh! I should be careful what I wish for. There seems to be an incredible mix of stuff, some big bands, some vocalists, some free improv. Right now I'm listening to a solo piano CD by Bobby Few and there are a few other big names in this batch (at least, big to me) like Karin Krog, Lee Konitz, Veryan Weston and Sakoto Fuji.

As for movies I just finished muddling through two X-rated films directed by Doris Wishman. They were even more incoherent and random than her usual work which may be because the X-rated material was supposedly added on later without her involvement. I'm suspicious of that claim because these movies broke into a sex scene every five minutes and while, some did have only the thinnest ties to the main storyline and characters, others were obviously germane to the movie. In one of them, "Come To Me My Love", two different characters are killed while naked and immediately after having sex. That doesn't come off like an addition.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Not A Good Day

Yesterday was not a good day. I went out and did something I had been looking forward to for a while but turned out to be less fulfilling than I wanted. That's all I want to say about that now.

Then I come home and try to watch the adult DVDs I had out. The first, "Nina Hartley's Private Fantasies" was on a cracked disc and unwatchable. So I tried the other, Michael Ninn's "Porn Star: The End Od A Supernova". That was unwatchable for other reasons. It was the worst type of glossy, all pretty picture porn. No dialogue, no plot, just hip hop music videos edited between anonymous sex scenes. I watch these movies largely for the personalities of the women involved. When you parade a bunch of interchangeable big-boobed blondes out there and don't even let them say a word I am not in the least bit interested. I've still got "Gonks Go Beat" and "Charley Varrick" to see. I'm expecting them to be big improvements on that mess.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"Mammy!" Yeah, I said "Mammy!.

So I buy the three-disc 80th Anniversary Edition of "The Jazz Singer" when I find out it contains over three hours of early talkie shorts. First I pop in the disc with the actual movie for the hell of it. I'd seen it on TV a bunch of years ago and thought that watching it again it would come off as just another interesting old movie. Right? Uh-uh. Damned if this ancient tearjerker didn't get to me. I know it's because of things I'm aware of now in my own family history but near the end when the dying cantor, played by the future Charlie Chan, Warner Oland, reached up to his son played by Al Jolson, and said "My son...I love you!". I lost it. I just couldn't help sobbing. Again at the end when Jolson is on stage singing "Mammy" and his mother watches him with tears in her eyes, I broke down again.

No wonder this movie was such a hit. Beyond the talking novely it does its job. Maybe a full-talking version with constant dialogue and music would have been over the top but this was brutally effective.

I also went through the wide=spanning extras on the set. There was a short of Jolson in blackface singing three songs and a bunch of trailers from his later movies, also a couple of late 30's shorts revolving around horse racing whose only connection seemed to be cameo shots of Jolson at the track. Strangest of all was a talkie short celebrating Warner Brothers' Silver Jubilee made in 1930. This featured a lot of shots of the current Warners stars of the time but not the crew you'd expect. George Arliss and John Barrymore were mentioned and a very young Walter Pidgeon and Loretta Young appeared but most of the actors even I had a hard time remebering. What about all the wisecracking, hard-boiled types that made the studio's eventual fortune? The only ones there were Joan Blondell, Edward G. Robinson and Frank McHugh. The other future stars, Powell, Cagney, Keeler, Bogart, obviously hadn't arrived yet. Hell, even Guy Kibbee and Ned Sparks were missing. It will be a treat checking out the many other goodies in this set.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Black Bird - Early Drafts

Last night I finished watching the 1931 and 1936 versions of The Maltese Falcon and it was intriguing to see how they differed from the famous John Huston - Humphrey Bogart version.
They both reflect the period in which they were made. The first came along in the racier pre-Code talkie era and made no bones about portraying Sam Spade, played by Ricardo Cortez, as a sleepsround lounge lizard and contained several suggestions that he was having sex with every woman in the movie including his secretary, Effie. There were also a few cheesecake shots of lead actress Bebe Daniels in her lingerie, the kind of sexy shots I've seen in a bunch of Warner Brothers movies from this period. The storyline of this version generally followed the plot of the novel and the Huston version as I remember them although the minor character of Gutman's daughter was still missing and Wilmer, the gunman, got a lot less screen time. It was also a kick to see so many familiar faces in the periphery of things, Dwight Frye as Wilmer, Thelma Todd as Miles Archer's widow and a very young and cute Una Merkel as Effie.
The 1936 version was very different stuff. The title was changed to "Satan Met A Lady", all the characters had new names and even the location was moved from San Francisco to an anonymous California small town. Dashiell Hammett's "The Thin Man" had been a hit movie a couple of years earlier so this version followed that lead and turned the story into a comedy with Warren William playing the Spade character so giddily it became annoying. The absurdity reached its height in the scene where the history of the treasure, here a jewel-filled ram's horn, is told. Instead of hearing it from the Gutman stand-in William gets the story from the Joel Cairo analog, an Englishman played by Arthur Treacher (!) and they do this while puttering around an apartment tearing up furniture and playing with a lamp!
The most noticeable character change is that Kaspar Gutman is a woman this time while Wilmer, now called "Kenneth", is a big, baby faced fat kid. Oddly enough this version, despite all its changes, restores Wilmer to his larger role and includes some key lines from the 1941 film that the 1931 one leaves out.
Both of these versions also feel the need to tack on additional codas past the point of the police leading Brigid O'Shaugnessy away. In 1931 there was a sentimental ending of Spade visiting Ruth Wanderley (They used that as her real name this time) in jail. In 1936 the character was played by Bette Davis so naturally she got a big histrionic exit speech as the cops took here away.
These two aren't bad in their own way but the Huston version looks even more like a masterpiece in comparison.

I also watched "Three Ages", a lesser know Buster Keaton silent feature. This movie was a spoof of D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" with Buster and Wallace Beery fighting over the same woman in three different time periods, the Stone Age, Ancient Rome and the modern era. I haven't seen "Intolerance" so there are probably some specific jokes about the film I missed but it was still very funny with plenty of Keaton's precision-tooled slapstick and a brilliant, totally Keaton joke at the end. In each period Keaton and his now-wife leave their home for an afternoon walk. In the Stone Age, a dozen kids accompany them. In the Roman period, it's only five kids. In the Modern story, it's one small dog.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The New 40's

Yesterday I bought my first skin mag in over a year which is amazing considering my situation. It was called 40 Something and was one of half a dozen magazines on the rack that featured women in their 40s, 50s and even 60s. The ladies in these magzines aren't aging porn stars. These are mature wives and mothers who decided to get a little wild in later life and start posing in the nude or making hardcore sex videos.
I haven't seen anybody comment on the significance of this. A lot of women who were born in the 50's and 60's have taken the lessons of Women's Liberation to heart in their own way and reclaimed their right to be sexy. This is something that flies in the face of the ideal of blank faced young sexiness that continues to be pushed by the mainstream and I think it's really exciting. The women in this magazine have lines on their faces and fuller, heavier bodies but they still come off as incredibly desirable and sexy. It's a great thing to see even if it has yet to rub off into my real life.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The trouble with the Internet is...

It's just too damn depressing to read sometimes with people showing their narrow-mindedness left and right or worrying about irrelevancies. For example I've read a few people raling about the Big Bad Music Industry and how it serves them right that artists like Radiohead and Madonna are now finding ways to bypass major labels. I read that and then I look around at the CDs piled around my computer. They are on labels like ECM, Justin Time, Black Saint, Balance Point Acoustics, ESP, Delmark, Canteploupe Music, Decca, Clean Feed, Antone's... There may be a few rigners in there but honestly who bothers with major labels anymore? All the good stuff is coming from small American and European labels.

In DVD watching I have lately treated myself to Kurosawa's "The Bad Sleep Well", an old gangster comedy, "A Slight Case Of Murder" and a fascinating documentary on a Norhwest U.S. band, Dead Moon, led by a married couple who have been doing this since the 80's and are now grandparents. My new swag for the weekend is some old Keaton, some recent Godard and the original 1931 version of "The Maltese Falcon".

I also get adult DVDs through the mail and I'm trying to explore all the various things out there in that realm artistically. My next two there will be a movie by Michael Ninn who is supposed to be one of the best current directors and an fem dom movie from one of my dreamgirls, Nina Hartley. She's one of the women in the history of the adult entertainment business I find sexiest and most admirable for living her life regardless of what the world thinks. Some of the others I dig immensly are Annette Haven, Ginger Lynn, Serenity, Kylie Ireland, Devinn Lane, Janine, Dyanna Lauren and Barbara Dare. I realize most of those women are long gone from the business but I'm slowly investigating the current ladies.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Case Of The Overrated Lawyer

After marveling that old TV shows like Dragnet, Have Gun Will Travel and Suspense turned out to be hipper and more interesting than I imagined I have run across one that turns out to be much less than remembered, Perry Mason.

I have been watching a disc from the recently issued first season of the show from 1957 and wow! Not exactly golden age stuff. It looks okay on the surface with Raymond Burr expertly playing the shrewd lawyer and catching murderers left and right but something goes awry. It may be that they were adapting Erle Stanley Gardner's actual Perry Mason novels at this point and losing a lot in turning a full length novel into a 45 to 50 minute teleplay. Plot ends are left maddeningly dangling. One show involves a man who seemingly has two wives but that intruging fact turns out to be completely irrelevant to the murder solution. In a couple of episodes shady characters lurk about the scene in the early going but disappear halfway through with no explanation for their behavior.

This stuff really shocked me. I vaguely remember later Mason episodes from the Sixties (presumably after they had stop using Gardner's novels for stories) that made a lot more sense. Later mystery shows like Murder, She Wrote and Law And Order, whatever their faults, were never this sloppy. This is one old series I won't be investigating any further.

Outside of that I've been watching more varied stuff like the creepy Spanish horror film, "Who Can Kill A Child", Ingmar Bergman's "Through A Glass Darkly", a strange Robert Mitchum western, "Track Of The Cat", that had family dynamics out of Eugene O'Neill and more Something Weird shenanigans, notably a "sex slasher" mystery that starred stripping legend Tempest Storm and two detectives played by a sleazy comedy team. The big deal I have to look forward to right now is Akira Kurosawa's "The Bad Sleep Well" starring one of the baddest MF's of all time, Toshiro Mifune.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The Sailor Man

Lately I've been slowly going through the recent Popeye The Sailor DVD collection. I don't find these cartoons as flat out funny as the Warner Brother stuff from the same era but they are entertaining. It's interesting to see how the animation and humor evolved over just a few years and I'm really paying attention to the legendary asides Jack Mercer got in when he was doing Popeye's voice. There are plenty of commentaries from all the usual animation experts who also appear on the Warner Brothers sets like Jerry Beck and Leonard Maltin and extras that include a bunch of silent cartoons some of which only have the barest relation to Popeye including the very fist Felix The Cat cartoon. The only thing that I don't like is that there are no musci tracks for the silents. That isn't authentic since silent movies always had some kind of live musical accompaniment and were never shown publicly without it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Singing To The Siren

A couple of weeks ago I was fooling around in Netflix and adding a Bert Jansch concert video to my queue. The "recommendations" screen popped up and I immediately noticed one title: "Tim Buckley - My Fleeting House". I not only added that one. I immediately put it at the top of my queue. Tim Buckley is one of my all time musical heroes. I got into him with the song "Pleasant Street" and the Happy/Sad album and followed his work all the way through from baroque folk to out there improvisation and finally macho rock and roll. This DVD collects all his rare filmed performances from TV and films and it is marvelous. You see him performing the then-newly written "Song To The Siren" at the close of the last episode of "The Monkees", see him on various TV shows doing stream-of-conciousness improv with his band from the Starsailor period and rocking out on "Sally Go Round The Roses" and "The Dolphins" from his last years.
There's also running commentary from two very important collaborators, his long-time lead guitarist, Lee Underwood and his songwriting partner, Larry Beckett. They also have different opinions about some of Buckley's work. Underwood loves the entire canon but Beckett outright calls Lorca a failure and finds nothing good to say about the first real "rock" album, Greetings From L.A. which I find odd. How can you not dig "Sweet Surrender"? Anyway this DVD was a real treat to watch.

Gonks Give Offense

I have this great curiousity about things off the beaten path, either modern and abstract or forgotten bits from the past. Therefore I get really excited about DVD and CD releases of old obscure work, such as the forthcoming 3-DVD release of the landmark first talkie feature, "The Jazz Singer" that is going to include over three hours of early sound shorts.
In looking through an upcoming DVD list yesterday I ran across an old British 60's rock musical called "Gonks Go Beat". That name was familiar for some reason so I looked it up and saw why. This movie featured an appearance by the Graham Bond Organisation. Bond was a powerhouse organ player and singer who came up in the British blues boom of the 60's. I came to dig him in a backwards way. I first got into the British jazz-rock group Colosseum. The I ran across a Graham Bond album, Solid Bond, which featured that group's Dick Heckstall-Smith and Jon Hiseman. I bought it, listened to it and loved it. This man sang his sandpapered lungs out and played nasty jazz-blues. I later heard him with Ginger Baker's Airforce and followed his career until he died in mysterious circumstances from a subway accident. Through CDs, I've been able to get the albums he did with his classic group of Heckstall-Smith along with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker a couple of years before they ended up together in Cream. I had heard they appeared in "Gonks Go Beat" and I think I even saw a clip from it once during a Colosseum documentary, but I definitely want this. If Netflix gets this one, it goes straight to the top of my queue.
As for CDs, I just heard about something called "Actionable Offenses" which sounds great. It's a collection of recordings of filthy stories that were made at the dawn of the recording era and for the most part, seized and destroyed by the authorities. Reviews of this have marvelled that explicit raunch existed way back when, which tells me that, hard as is it to believe, some people haven't been exposed to the many collections of dirty songs, movies and comics from the early 20th century that have come out in the last thirty years. Still this CD sounds unique and definitely seems to be worth a buy from Amazon.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Primordial Ooze, Suspense Style

Over the weekend I watched "Suspended Animation", about a man held captive by cannibal sisters, which was pretty disjointed and unconvincing and much more interesting, one disc of "Suspense", a TV version of the classic old radio show that dated back to 1949. One of the advantages of digitizing everything, I guess, is that ancient stuff like this can be cleaned up and presented to the public again. It was an interesting bunch of stories, some classic ghost tales, some tawdry stuff about crazed murderers and adulterous married people. The fascinating part was watching all the touches you've never even dream of seeing in modern television like one commercial break and that a three minute commercial for Auto-Lite spark plugs or batteries.
Then there is the fun as always of seeing so many familiar actors, some starts at the time, some just starting out. The shows I saw starred the likes of Boris Karloff, Otto Kreuger, Lilli Palmer and Hume Cronyn but they also had Anne Francis, Eva Marie Saint and Ray Walston in small parts. The disc I saw had eight shows and it was the first of a four-disc set. Plus a second four-disc set is about to be released. It's amazing that so much old material is suddenly out there.

This is one of those weeks when I really miss Tower Records. A ridiculous supply of new CDs by interesting people is being released today. This includes stuff by Devendra Banhart, Herbie Hancock, Iron & Wine, Steve Earle, Joni Mitchell, Meshell Ndegeocello, Billy Joe Shaver, Damon & Naomi and The Red Krayola...oh yeah, and a little thing by Miles Davis, The Complete On The Corner Sessions. I'm definitely going to try to buy one thing at least if I can get to a store.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Catching Up...

Things feel slightly more settled right now. I just got the CD system I was looking for last night, a small one that fits on top of a storgae box. I can finally listen to music again without having to hold my head in a certain position or fiddle with wires to hear out of one speaker. I've got the Mahavihnu Project's Return To The Emerald Beyond playing right now.

That is one of a few CDs I've bought lately. One of the things I look forward to every year is participating in Cadence Magazine's Writers Poll where I get to list my favorite ten CDs of the past year. The only catch is they have to be things that were reviewed in Cadence over that period which I can work with. I always have the things I've written about to deal with plus any other music that fits the criteria that I've bought on my own. About this time I usually buy a couple of extra CDs just to slip them into the mix. This time I've purchased Emerald Beyond, Sylvie Courvoisier's Lonelyville, Brad Dutz's When Manatees Attack, Ann Hampton Callaway's Blues In The Night and Joe Zawinul's Brown Street, though that last was as much propelled by his passing. Buying some of these over the internet took a while but I finally have them all.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Music Is...

It so annoys me when I read someone tyring to show how hip they are by writing that they have John Legend and Kayne West on their iPod or talking about the evils of the "music industry" like that's all there is. There are worlds of music out there and a lot more than that limited pallette. I just look at the stuff I listen to. Lately that has meant Supersilent, Grace Slick, Califone, the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack, Kenny Wheeler and I write this, Candye Kane. There's just so much out there why limit yourself?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Big Jobs No. 2

I'm now embarrassed by all the stuff I wrote yesterday. It's all true but moping about my state isn't going to help anything. I've done that for years and it hasn't gotten me anywhere. I've got to go forward and do stuff even though I cannot know where it will lead. For now my next task will be to go to Best Buy Friday and hopefully pick up a decent shelf CD player. Since I moved I've had to rely on a little portable player with headphones that only work in intermittently in one ear, and this is a ridiculous arrangement for someone who constantly writes about music. I'm going to try to keep thuis blog up and keep it about actual opinions and observations which brigns me to Uschi Digard.

Uschi Digard was a Swedish actress who worked in Hollywood in a lot of adult and exploitation films in the Seventies and was largely known for her huge bust. I remember seeing her in a couple of Russ Meyer movies many years ago and not paying much attention to her but I saw something else of hers a year or two ago and it struck me that she wasn't attractive at all. She had a big nose and uneven teeth and honestly didn't look like much above the neck.
Over the weekend I took another look at her work in the form of a DVD from Alpha Blue, one the chief disributors of old adult stuff, of three old softcore films she made back in the day. Wow! What an ordeal. They were all various degrees of dumb and cheap. Digard starred in the first one, "Getting Into Heaven", and again her looks were a distraction but the movie itself seemed both interminable and stupid. The two other women in it with her were better looking and made it barely worth watching. She looked better in the other two, wearing makeup and maybe sporting a slight nose job, but again could these things get any cheaper? "Affair In The Air" was basically people screwing in a hotel room and on a bad facsimile of an airplane cabin interspersed with the mutterings of two half-stoned goofs who pretended to be the pilot and co-pilot.
Old adult stuff interests me in seeing just how weird and cheap the films could get. After all the rule seems to have been as long as you had the sex scenes, you could fill up the rest of the running time with anything you wanted, and that's just what some people seemed to have done.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Letting 'I Dare Not' Wait Upon 'I Will'

I am starting to feel the burden of the predicament I've slowly put myself in. I have isolated myself from the world, at least the parts of it I should care about. I am stuck in a dead end, nowhere life without friends or realistic hope of things getting any better. Partially from feelings of fear, partially from feelings of inadequacy I've never really connected with people who share my interests or sensitivity. I've tried but I always intimidate myself out of being around anyone for any length of time. Then again I'm always too self-conscious to make friends. I'm totally lost as to what to do. I feel like I'm too old to get a job that meshes with my real talents and interests and try as I might, I just don't where to turn now. Maybe I just need to get out, like to a John McLaughlin concert coming up a week from Friday but there's no passion or purpose in my life and I need it badly.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Touching Sound

I just saw a film that was a lot more inspirational and profound than a lot of the stuff I've been spending time with lately, "Touch The Sound", a film about the world-renowned percussionist Evelyn Glennie, a woman who is profundly deaf yet has become an acclaimed musician who uses her entire body to "hear" music from the vibrations it produces. The notion of feeling with your body and all your senses is one I can relate to and I really need to pay attention the idea that she has never let the world define who she was or what she was capable of. She was shown playing on rooftops, in museums and in Grand Central Station and largely improvising with guitarist-composer Fred Frith at a recording session. Defining who you are and what your goals are in life is a very important thing and something I need to get back to.

Dragnet Extra

I finihsed watching my Dragnet set yesterday and there were a couple of other surprises. Going along with the early actors' work theme. In the first episode I saw a crime lab tech was played by none other than Dennis Weaver, two years before he would break out of the pack by playing Chester on Gunsmoke. Then the last two episodes in the set suddenly jumped from 1953 to 1956-57 and there were some notable changes in the show. Jack Webb's wardrobe suddenly looked better, the episode's writer was listed in the credits and most surprisingly Joe Friday had suddenly gotten promoted to Lieutenant, something I had never heard about before. I don't know how permanent this ever was though because in the show's logo, Friday's badge still sometimes read "Sergeant" and sometimes "Lieutenant".

Saturday, September 15, 2007


I've been watching a lot of early TV shows lately, ones that date back to before I was even born like Sgt. Bilko and Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but the biggest surprise has been Dragnet. I knew the show far better from all its parodies and the campy 60's version with Harry Morgan as Jack Webb's sidekick but watching the original from 1953 is a bit of a surprise. The ping-ponging dialogue, deadpan Webb narration and comedy relief patter is still there but some of these shows were really grim, like one about a man who molested two little girls and confessed at the end that he would have killed them if he hadn't left his pocket knife behind. Then there was a another show about dirty pictures being distributed among teenagers (the same stuff celebrated in books and on websites today). It turned out that the man peddling the porm was an old slient film producer fallen on hard times and that led to a very strange extended sequence where the producer led Friday and Smith on a tour of an old abandoned movie studio ending up on a Western town set where the producer reenacted directing a climatic shootout. It was powerful but odd, as though Webb or his people had stumbled on this old movie set, come up with the idea of the old-timer doing the shootout and worked backwards to the porn peddler plot to give it an excuse for being.
Then there are the hindsight pleasures of seeing later famous actors in small roles. Leonard Nimoy showed up as one of a gang of young hoods and Martin "Adam-12" Milner was one of the schoolkids peddling porn. The big surprise for me though has been seeing Carolyn Jones turn up in three straight episodes. She is billed as "Caroline" Jones but there is no mistaking that voice or those big, luminous eyes. It was amusing to see her play a robbery suspect and a barroom floozie in consecutive episodes, then without so much as a change of makeup, have her being an innocent teenager. Jack Webb was supposed to have an eye for the ladies, I understand, so it's no surprise he'd use her so much.

Now As I Was Saying Before I Was So Rudely Interrupted...

I used to have a blog here but I can't seem to get to it anymore, so I'm starting over again which is just as well since I hadn't written anything over there in months.

Starting over is something I seem to do a lot but I never get anywhere. This time I'm going to try to make things different. I started an expensive but rewarding type of physical therapy yesterday and that's got me feeling good for once and I'm going to try to sustain it this time. It's been been easier to withdraw and slip into depression lately because I recently moved to an area that's only a 15 minute drive from where I used to live but is relatively inaccessible by public transportation. There is a bus route nearby so I can get to work but it only runs between 6:30 and 8:00 in the morning and mostly once an hour between 3:00 and 9:00 in the evening on weekdays. It doesn't run at all on weekends. That severely cramps my style as far as going anywhere outside of work and makes it very hard to get to the two video stores I used to frequent, Video Americain in Takoma Park and Potomac Video in College Park. Plus this house only has basic cable TV with no On Demand so my movie watching is really limited. I did go out to a theatre a few weeks back and saw "This Is England", a nice film about British kids during the Falklands War, but outside of that, thank the Lord for Netflix.
And I've been running into a patch of bad movies there lately. "The Deerslayer" was based on James Fenimore Cooper's stories and had Bela Lugosi playing the Native American Chingachook but that turned out to be an old German silent film chopped up beyond coherency. "The Yesterday Machine" started out like a fun grade-Z science fiction movie about an old Nazi scientist experimenting with time travel but the picture stopped cold in the middle while the scientist gave the clueless hero a "Watch Mr. Wizard" like lecture about the space-time continuum for ten minutes! The 80's TV miniseries "The Wild Palms" turned out to be dated cyperpunk paranoia (Oliver Stone was an executive producer.) that wasn't that interesting. "Hurlyburly" was an "Inside Hollywood" picture with fine actors like Sean Penn, Kevin Spacey and Meg Ryan playing completely unlikable scumbags.
And speaking of scumbags the nadir of it all was "A Hole In My Heart", a Swedish film about a man making porno in his tiny apartment with two screwed up friends while his moody teen Goth son mopes in his bedroom. There can be value in this kind of setup but this particular movie was full of interminable self-hate and ugliness coming to a fitting climax when a man threw up into a woman's mouth...with an angelic choir on the soundtrack. Hopefully I can start making better movie choices in the future.