Tag Archives: Television

A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Image via Wikipedia

Created by Charles M. Schulz
Directed by Bill Melendez
Voices of Peter Robbins
Chris Shea
Tracy Stratford
Kathy Steinberg
Chris Doran
Geoffrey Ornstein
Karen Mendelson
Sally Dryer
Ann Altieri
Bill Melendez
Theme music composer Vince Guaraldi
Composer Vince Guaraldi
Country of origin USA
Language English

A Charlie Brown Christmas is a holiday tradition in the USA but it had been ages since I had seen it on TV here in Australia. It was the Peanuts Gang’s first television special, and the best one. The story is a little preachy and the religious message is a bit strong, but it’s honest and decries the increasing commercialism of Christmas.

The  animation is a little choppy but there are some scenes, such as the one where all the kids are dancing, which cannot help but raise a smile in the viewer. It also features Vince Guaraldi’s brilliant and catchy jazzy music which became such a key with the Peanuts series.


The Valley Of Gwangi

Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Produced by Charles H. Schneer & Ray Harryhausen
Starring James Franciscus
Gila Golan
Richard Carlson
Laurence Naismith
Freda Jackson
Gustavo Rojo
Music by Jerome Moross
Cinematography Erwin Hillier
Editing by Henry Richardson & Selwyn Petterson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date September 3, 1969
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

You would think that any movie that combines cowboys with dinosaurs would be the best film ever made, but that is not the case with Valley Of Gwangi. This is not to say that it is a bad movie, it just doesn’t live up to the potential of the premise of the film. It takes 45 minutes until Gwangi, an Allosaurus (not a T-rex), appears.

Despite all this the film is still pretty good. It is impossible to dislike anything that features the stop-motion magic of Ray Harryhausen, although he is not at the top of his game here. Some of the animation is a bit jerky and not as smooth as it should be, for example with the flight of the Pteradactyl or in the scenes where Gwangi battles the elephant. Despite this the film is still enjoyable.


Africa Screams

Directed by Charles Barton
Produced by Edward Nassour
Written by Earl Baldwin, Martin Ragaway & Leonard Stern
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Clyde Beatty
Frank Buck
Shemp Howard
Joe Besser
Music by Walter Schumann
Distributed by United Artists
Release date May 4, 1949
(New York City, New York) May 27, 1949
Running time 80 mins.
Language English

This was one of five independent films that Abbott & Costello made throughout their career. It doesn’t have the budget of their studio films and in fact has the feel of a TV production about it. The sets are rickety and the plot at times is quite un-PC, but the film is enjoyable and a lot funnier than Abbott & Costello Meet The Mummy which I previously reviewed, but nowhere near as good as Hold That Ghost or Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein. They do share the spotlight with some very talented co-stars. Big game hunters Clyde Beatty and Frank Buck were big stars in the 40s and have cameos here, as does Shemp Howard of the Three Stooges and Joe Besser (who would also briefly become a Stooge) with his big sissy persona. They provide a few chuckles. Former World Heavyweight Boxing champion Max Baer and former Heavyweight contender Buddy Baer appear in the film as thugs, with Max making a joke about Buddy’s defeat by Joe Louis‘ knocking him out.

This is just prior to the slide in quality that A&Cs films would suffer throughout the 50s but they were a little hit and miss at this point. Africa Screams is good in comparison to what was about to come. I should also mention that Abbott is quite abusive to Costello in this film and this is perhaps the most un-likable that I have seen Bud.

Africa Screams is in the public domain and there are many poor copies of it about. The best version is available on Amazon for $7.98.


Back To School

Directed by Alan Metter
Produced by Chuck Russell
Written by Steven Kampmann, William Porter, Peter Torokvei & Harold Ramis
Starring Rodney Dangerfield
Sally Kellerman
Burt Young
Keith Gordon
Ned Beatty
William Zabka
Sam Kinison
Robert Downey, Jr.
Paxton Whitehead
Adrienne Barbeau
Terry Farrell
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Thomas E. Ackerman
Editing by David Rawlins
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date June 13, 1986
Running time 96 min.
Country United States
Language English

Back To School is a typically 80s movie, featuring the schtick of Rodney Dangerfield and lots of generic 80s rock. This is not a bad thing. Rodney Dangerfield essentially plays Rodney Dangerfield, so if you know his comic persona you know what to expect, although he doesn’t do as much of the ‘no respect’ stuff here. One thing that I find amazing is that it took him so long to get any success. Although he was a stand-up comic in the 1940s and appeared on TV in the 60s, but it wasn’t really until the 80s and in particular Caddyshack and Back To School that he found widespread fame.

Back To School also features an early appearance by Robert Downey Jr. This would have been at around the same time that he was appearing in Saturday Night Live, but in Back To School he really doesn’t do much except act weird.

Overall there are a few laughs to be had and for better or for worse they don’t make ’em like this any more.

Back To School is available on Amazon for $11.49.

Rodney Dangerfield’s autobiography, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs is also available on Amazon for $11.19.


RIP Tony Curtis

June 3, 1925 – September 30, 2010

Just heard via Twitter that Tony Curtis has died at the age of 85. I think that the first time that I ever saw a movie with Tony in it would have either been Some Like It Hot or The Great Race on TV, both movies that I loved as a kid and still like now. When I grew older I watched other movies such as Spartacus and The Defiant Ones with Sidney Poitier. I wonder how many stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood are still with us. Jerry Lewis, Mickey Rooney, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas… not too many others.


Ride ‘Em Cowboy

Directed by Arthur Lubin
Produced by Alex Gottlieb
Written by True Boardman & John Grant
Starring Bud Abbott
Lou Costello
Dick Foran
Anne Gwynne
Ella Fitzgerald
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography John W. Boyle
Editing by Philip Cahn
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date February 20, 1942
Running time 86 minutes
Language English

Ride ‘Em Cowboy is a 1942 Abbott & Costello comedy that is funny in places but it does feel some boring musical pieces. One bright spot is the number featuring Ella Fitzgerald. I wish that she had of been given a bigger role than just being relegated to the background and singing one number, as well as the duet with the Merry Macs.

Abbott & Costello are quite funny in this, although there are a number of jokes involving native American Indians that today would be considered politically incorrect. Lou Costello is not as annoying as he was in Hold That Ghost, which came out a year earlier, and is funnier. The abuse that Bud gives Lou has also been toned down a lot since that earlier movie.


The Dentist

Directed by Leslie Pearce
Produced by Mack Sennett
Written by W.C. Fields
Starring W.C. Fields
Babe Kane
Arnold Gray
Elise Cavanna
Dorothy Granger
Cinematography John W. Boyle
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date September 9, 1932
Running time 22 minutes
Country United States
Language English

The Dentist is an early talky by W. C. Fields. It’s a series of funny sketches joined together so that the film reaches the 20 minute mark. There is only a slight plot about Fields being a dentist who firstly plays golf, then returns to see a couple of patients in his surgery. There is also another plot with his daughter wanting to marry the iceman but Fields being against it. There are a couple of good chuckles to be had, especially when an errant golf ball from Fields hits another golfer on the head. (This is always funny!)


Network

Directed by Sidney Lumet
Produced by Howard Gottfried & Fred C. Caruso
Written by Paddy Chayefsky
Narrated by Lee Richardson
Starring Faye Dunaway
William Holden
Peter Finch
Robert Duvall
Ned Beatty
Beatrice Straight
Music by Elliot Lawrence
Cinematography Owen Roizman
Editing by Alan Heim
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer & United Artists
Release date November 27, 1976
Running time 121 minutes
Country United States
Language English

I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”

Network is a great satirical film that is quite prophetic in that it tells about what could really go on behind the scenes on news TV if certain media moguls *cough Rupert Murdoch cough* get their way. It’s amazing that this film was made in 1976, a couple of decades before the rise of News Crop., Fox News, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, Jerry Springer and reality TV rubbish like Big Brother.

Peter Finch won a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of newsreader Howard Beale who suffers an on-air breakdown after being fired but is then manipulated by his media bosses into becoming a ‘mad prophet of doom’. His performance is brilliant and almost steals the film.

“We’ll tell you anything you want to hear, we lie like hell.”

The rest of the cast is great too with great performances by Robert Duvalle, Faye Dunaway (Oscar winner for Best Actress), William Holden and Ned Beatty. Sidney Lumet won an Oscar for Best Director whilst Paddy Chayefsky won an Oscar for Best Screenplay. Beatrice Straight also won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress despite the fact that she was on-screen for less than ten minutes.

“Right now, there is a whole, an entire generation that never knew anything that didn’t come out of this tube. This tube is the gospel, the ultimate revelation; this tube can make or break presidents, popes, prime ministers; this tube is the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, and woe is us if it ever falls into the hands of the wrong people, and that’s why woe is us that Edward George Ruddy died. Because this company is now in the hands of CCA, the Communications Corporation of America; there’s a new chairman of the board, a man called Frank Hackett, sitting in Mr. Ruddy’s office on the twentieth floor. And when the 12th largest company in the world controls the most awesome goddamn propaganda force in the whole godless world, who knows what shit will be peddled for truth on this network?”

This is a great film that is perhaps more true today than it was back in 1976.

Useless Trivia

* Only two actors have posthumously won an Oscar, Peter Finch and Heath Ledger. Both won for Best Supporting Actor and both are Australians.

Link to quotes from Network at IMBD


We Want Our Mummy

Directed by Del Lord
Produced by Jules White
Written by Searle Kramer & Elwood Ullman
Starring Moe Howard
Larry Fine
Curly Howard
Dick Curtis
Bud Jamison
James C. Morton
Eddie Laughton
Ted Lorch
Robert Williams
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date February 24, 1939
Running time 16′ 27″
Country USA
Language English

This is just the usual Three Stooges hijinks, this time set in Egypt. I guess if you’re a fan of the Stooges you’d like this and if you’re not you won’t.


Pardners

Directed by Norman Taurog
Produced by Paul Jones
Written by Mervin Houser & Jerry Davis
Starring Dean Martin
Jerry Lewis
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date July 25, 1956
Running time 91 minutes
Language English
This is the Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis film where they play cowboys. I think this is one of the better Martin & Lewis comedies, perhaps because Jerry isn’t as annoying in this as he is in many of his other films (he is still annoying though!). This was of course a staple of Sunday afternoon TV back when I was a kid in the 80s thanks to Bill Collins, but I haven’t seen it for a long time.

Even though some of the songs are kinda annoying it is still a good way to waste 90 minutes.

This is the film where Dean and Jerry break the 4th wall at the end to reassure their fans that they were going to make films together for many more years. Things didn’t pan out that way of course as they would only make one more film together, Hollywood or Bust. By this time they were fighting and I guess that the public must have known about it, which is why they tried to reassure them. I do know that during Hollywood or Bust they weren’t on speaking terms.