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September 2017

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In the evening of Boxing Day we took out a DVD. We'd grown interested in the movie Toys because of its Trevor Horn-connected soundtrack, and I picked up the DVD from the Best Buy $5 bin. Since we figured it as a Christmas movie (I guess the opening action is set at Christmas, although the timeline is a little vague) we were saving it to Christmastime to actually watch. This was our first really good chance to see what is by legend a terrible movie.

It is indeed bad. It is a big, sloppy mess, marked by some compelling set design and camera angles. There are a couple good scenes, and a couple moments where the movie feels like it's getting at something clever or insightful, so that I understand why the movie has avid defenders who insist it's a misunderstood work of genius. I can make out the movie they think is there, but, good heavens is it not there. [ profile] bunny_hugger and I ended up live-tweeting our experience (``She sleeps in a duck?'') and I needed time to decompress after watching this, the same way watching a really awful Mystery Science Theater 3000 movie --- however good the riffing is --- requires time to recover from.

Why the movie, about a mad general who figures to turn the toy company into a drone-warfare center, goes wrong is hard to pin down, but I'll blame Robin Williams, since he's the guy we seem to be set up to think is the hero. You can play the protagonist in this setup one of two ways, as either an agent of such pure whimsy that dealing with him is like dealing with the fae folk; or the protagonist can be functionally near-identical to the antagonist and just have happened to turn his mania to producing the world's greatest rubber vomit. (Thinking it over, this sounds like he has to be either Doctor Who in the pixie incarnations or in the jerkface incarnation.)

Williams is mostly in fae-folk mode, but he dips into earthy-base mode often and irregularly, spoiling his character. It makes him creepy, and not in the way Gene Wilder's Willie Wonka carried a taste of danger with him; he gets sleazy. So besides a theme that's somehow both obvious and muddled (toys are good, war is bad, but in the climax, toys are used to fend off the war materials, yielding an obscenely protracted scene of cute dolls being mutilated) there's a central character who's tiresome or making jokes like identifying a doll as ``Mahatma Gumby''.

But I understand people who think there's a great movie lurking around here. There are some good scenes, like one in which Williams's character and other toy-factory workers study minutely the ways to improve some rubber vomit while the walls close in on them (as the war department needs more space), or strange interludes that look like tangible nightmares, like a golf-cart ride down an undulating hallway corridor being halted at a toy duck crossing. It gives off a lot of signals of a movie that means something, even if I can't make myself buy that it does.

And I will admit that a movie that digs into your brain so thoroughly isn't without some merit, but, it digs into your brain to sit on it and make you beg for mercy.

Trivia: United States customs agents seized seven thousand pounds of marijuana in 1964. By 1968 seizures grew to 65,000 pounds. Source: Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America, Peter Andreas.

Currently Reading: A History of Modern Japan, Richard Storry.

PS: Reading the Comics, January 6, 2015: First of the Year Edition, some comics, for the first mathematics comics post of the calendar year and the fifth mathematics post since the last roundup around here.


Let me step ever-so-briefly out of the running narrative of daily life for a pop culture type essay. It's inspired by the climax to Monsters University, but touches also on Monsters Inc, so, there's some spoilers involved and please don't read it if you don't wish to be spoiled.

My question, though, is: does the Monster world actually understand human psychology? Because they don't seem to do very well at getting the emotion-generated energy that they want, considering.

Read more... )

Trivia: Samuel Langley's experimental aircraft of 1903, the Great Aerodrome, was rated as having a 52 horsepower engine, although in practice only 40 horsepower was available in 1914 when Glenn Curtiss was refitting it for the Wright patent trial. Source: First Flight: The Wright Brothers And The Invention Of The Airplane, T A Heppenheimer.

Currently Reading: Astounding Days, Arthur C Clarke.


And another movie we saw recently: Epic, at the Sun theater in Williamston. This is the theater that ran a kickstarter to afford conversion to digital projectors (the one where we saw Les Miserables by accident); [ profile] bunny_hugger had got two tickets and popcorns as reward for her donation and we'd been waiting for the movie to see it with. If we'd known we would want to see The Croods we could've caught it as their grand reopening with the new projector, but, we didn't, and we missed the announcement anyway.

The film's not an epic, naturally; we were ready to blame this on whatever the book it was based on was titled, but that turns out to have been William Joyce's The Leaf Men And The Brave Good Bugs, so we don't know who to blame for this one. It's set deep in the roughly average woods, and the struggle between the forces of life and decay and this human kid gets roped into it because the life-force queen needs to preserve the forest's ``balance'' which the forces of decay, being evil and all, don't respect so. Movies like this are always big about preserving balance and nobody ever explains what's so great about balance anyway. It's great if ``balance'' has put you on the top rungs, but remember what Snoopy said about those who believe in the ``balance of nature''.

(I say they're the designated villains, and yeah, they're causing death and decay. But we couldn't avoid noticing at several points that in this conflict between the designated villains and the heroes that the villains don't do more harm than necessary. Notably, in one scene where it would be very easy to harm a lot of people who are, while not combattants, at least members of the opposing nation, and the Bad Guys don't. The impression is certainly one of rival nations that are eternally at war, but seem to be careful to avoid Total War. It seems like one could tell the parallel story with the designated villains as the heroes with surprisingly little difficulty. You can't call one power ``evil'' solely on the grounds that it wants to be more powerful than its rivals, and acting in a restrained way while pursuing supreme victory is a sign of a moral compass.)

It's an enjoyable film, mostly, particularly in the diversity of plant- and animal-inspired characters and adventures, and there's a magnificent scene with a mouse that shouldn't be missed. Meanwhile, the designated romantic lead is this idiot of a ``Leafman'', something like a knight for the life-forces side, whom we're apparently supposed to like because MK, the human girl dropped into this world, realizes reluctantly that she's supposed to like him too for some reason. No matter. There's bits in the film where MK and the designated-evil leader show better-than-average intelligence, though; and there's also MK's father's dog, a three-legged pug who hits that range of Ugly Enough To Be Adorable, again, enormously worth seeing.

The film is set in Generic Forested Land, although in the closing credits suddenly the movie starts name-dropping Connecticut places like they're getting paid for it. Well, they are; the credits thank Connecticut for support in the filmmaking. Fine enough, and after all, it doesn't really matter what's on Nutty Scientist Dad's coffee mug so why not have it name-drop North Stonington or whatever? (Actually, I think his coffee mug mentions White Plains's science fair, which is New York state, but it's certainly in easy range for a Nutty Scientist Dad from Connecticut.) I'm not sure how the forest could have been made a little more Connecticut-y, but it'd have felt less odd if this were more prominent throughout the film. (Well, there's a New York cabbie early on, but he's easily overlooked as All Movie Cabbies Are New York Cabbies.)

Trivia: Within a year of arriving in the United States in 1927, Harry Lender had set up his own wholesale bagel factory in New Haven, Connecticut. Source: The Bagel: The Surprising History Of A Modest Bread, Maria Balinska.

Currently Reading: Asimov's Science Fiction, August 2013, Editor Sheila Williams.


Were you aware your father was killed a half-dozen times over by the time he was eight? That's the basic lesson of Live and Learn, an early 50s safety short produced and directed by Sid Davis using the facilities of the Los Angeles Childrens Hospital, the Santa Montica Police Department, and a lot of stock footage of a 1951 Ford-based ambulance driving around.

The narrator's point is that a moment of thoughtlessness can produce serious physical injury, maybe permanently crippling someone, maybe killing someone. So the short breathlessly races through demonstrations of horseplay to show the tragic consequences. A kid dives into the pool, and a friend jumps in on top of him. He's knocked unconscious! ... Oh, but they drag him out and give artificial respiration, so he doesn't end up dead ... like this kid in this footage from the Los Angeles Childrens Hospital so there! Or we go off to a couple kids building a fire in the backyard, and one runs back with a gas can and tosses it on the smouldering fire. Oh, now, one of the friends has to be wrapped up by the mummy division of the Los Angeles Childrens Hospital. Kids foolishly go up on the roofs of sheds and then jump off; one makes it, the next falls wrong and shatters his leg.

Kids play stickball in the street. One gets distracted running back for a catch, and what do you know but a car turns the corner and apparently is driven by a distracted kid, because the driver doesn't slow down or swerve or show any evidence he's aware there's a kid running in the street, so, he's dead, I guess. A kid playing with a BB gun doesn't shoot his eye out, but he does shoot out the eye of his friend when the glass bottle he hits explodes. Having a patch over his eye apparently makes the kid only see the left half of the world, by the way, which doesn't match my experience of covering one eye but who am I to argue with the disembodied narrator of a 1950s safety short?

The relentless fast immediate doom of every kid doing anything even a little bit fun has a weirdly comic pace to it, like one of those old Saturday Night Live sketches where the Dan Aykroyd played a maker of defective toys who proved that everything could be dangerous by shoving it in his mouth and falling over backwards so why shouldn't he sell kids a Bag of Broken Glass? It seems like the kind of short which should make great Mystery Science Theater 3000 fodder, although the pace is actually too much. It'd be great to come up with a riff on the kid explicitly said to be a Boy Scout rocked the canoe so as to force his friend to fall out, but there's no time; he throws a life preserver and it's on to the next brush with fatal death.

Trivia: Apollo 17's Lunar Module landed within 656 feet of the planned landing point. Source: Apollo By The Numbers, Richard Orloff. NASA SP-2000-4029.

Currently Reading: The Lonely Crowd: A Study of The Changing American Character, David Riesman, Nathan Glazer, Reuel Denney. OK, there's a lot of interesting stuff here. There's also a description of a children's book (Tootle The Engine) which from the plot description I now hate and expect [ profile] bunny_hugger would too. Most interesting bit as viewed from 60 years later? The talk of how the World War II generation bring ``scarcely a trace of moral righteousness into their scant political participation'', unlike Great War or Civil War veterans.


A Close Call For Boston Blackie opens with Blackie and Runt already in Inspector Farraday's police car, but does the normal fakeout rather than actually beginning in media res. They're being dropped off after helping sort out some woman's problems, and Farraday warns, every time Blackie looks at a woman it gets him into trouble. Sure enough, as soon as Farraday drives off, Blackie sees a woman getting mugged and brings her to his apartment. Gerry's a woman from his past, someone he'd encouraged not to get married, and oh did we mention she somehow left her baby in Blackie's bedroom before she was mugged? Her husband was paroled, and she never visited him, and he doesn't even know about the baby and there's inheritances involved and so on. Blackie tries calling Farraday, but her husband breaks in, there's a scuffle, and someone from outside the apartment shoots him, and of course, the police are racing in.

This is a strange Boston Blackie adventure. In what ways? Why is it strange? What made me think of both Columbo and the guy who voiced Tony the Tiger? The answers may surprise you!  )

Trivia: On 1 October 1890 Benjamin Harrison signed the bill making the Weather Bureau a civilian service. Source: A History of the United States Weather Bureau, Donald R Whitnah.

Currently Reading: The Edifice Complex: How The Rich And Powerful --- And Their Architects --- Shape The World, Deyan Sudjic.

Boston Blackie And The Law starts at the Annual Thanksgiving Party in the Womens State Penitentiary [sic], where Boston Blackie is putting on a magic show for the inmates. This is a completely and totally different movie from Alias Boston Blackie, where it was a Christmas show, for male inmates. Plus this time around there's no wasting of time: the inmate picked for the vanishing-woman illusion actually disappears in just about the first scene, and Blackie's held on suspicion even if it's kind of a dopey scheme: even if he had any contact with the escapee before she volunteered for the illusion, what kind of dope breaks someone out of jail with every prisoner, guard, and officer staring at him?

Does the magician's act explain the decision that, since it's so hard to tell where the possessive apostrophe should go, we're better off leaving it out altogether? And is it actually a crime to burn a dollar in non-pulp-fiction worlds? The answer may suprise you! )

I've given the plot beats little attention this time around, but that's a little unfair. There's a fair amount of scheming and impersonating and double-crossing, including I should note outright deceptions being perpetrated by the magician and by his fiancee, but they all seem to be reasonably well-motivated both by the plot and by what people might conceivably do if they lived in this sort of B-movie universe. It also means the climax is intellectually satisfying: all sorts of plot tokens have gotten moved around, but the movement has content.

Trivia: During the 29 October 1929 stock market crash, the transatlantic cable broke. Source: Devil Take the Hindmost, Edward Chancellor.

Currently Reading: The Edifice Complex: How The Rich And Powerful --- And Their Architects --- Shape The World, Deyan Sudjic.

Boston Blackie Booked On Suspicion has Blackie impersonate seriously ill rare-book-dealer Mister Kittredge in order to run an auction of a rare Pickwick Papers publication, and before he can even start that Farraday's prowling around the bookshop as he and Sargeant Matthews have read the script and know what to expect. Wouldn't you know it but someone's gone and forged a copy, which the printer claims couldn't ever possibly be detected, so yeah, the scene right after the auction an incorrect comma is noticed. And Farraday suspects Blackie because he knows that's why he's in this movie.

Will Boston Blackie spend the whole movie impersonating everybody else in the film? The answer may suprise you! )

So, alas, a story with a lot of involved and really interesting double-crosses ends up not quite able to unwind all the plots in the last scene so they fit together. That's a shame, but it stays reliably interesting, and pretty well-paced, throughout. I can forgive the resolution not really being there.

Trivia: An Associated Press report dated 7 October 1943 claimed the Dvorak keyboard allowed typists to ``zip along at 180 words per minute''. A Business Week report of 16 October 1943 gave the Dvorak keyboard test speed at 108 words per minute. Source: The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting, Darren Wershler-Henry.

Currently Reading: All The Best Rubbish: Being An Antiquary's Account of the Pleasures and Perils of Studying and Collecting Everyday Objects from the Past, Ivor Noël Hume.

One Mysterious Night is a curiously strong entry in the Boston Blackie series, considering this was like the 85th film in the string of B pictures. But it seems to me to do very nicely at keeping the essential elements which make the Boston Blackie story distinct --- there's none of that attempt to break into other genres which made various Lone Wolf entries flop --- while feeling fresh. Case in point, the opening shot is of a street corner sign, which starts to spin, faster and faster, until it drops out of sight. Why? I suppose just to make sure we notice we're in the pricey areas of Fifth Avenue, and why establish that in a dull static shot, even if there's no reason for the sign to rotate?

I'm off to FurFright, so here's some more of my pop culture reports. Will the famous Boston Blackie get nabbed for stealing from the Greater United Nations War Fund? The answer may suprise you! )

Anyway, various kidnappings, escapes, costumes, et cetera --- really, a surprising amount of plot in the back half-hour of the picture, considering it doesn't feel rushed --- and the jewel is recovered, the newspaper reporter has her story, and Boston Blackie is vindicated wholly. Really good show all around.

Trivia: Mercator's Chronologia, mapping all of history, was complete by October 1568 (the publication date was 1569); Christophe Plantin sold twelve copies to a buyer in Paris almost immediately, and by the end of 1569 had sold another 24 copies. Source: Mercator, Nicholas Crane.

Currently Reading: All The Best Rubbish: Being An Antiquary's Account of the Pleasures and Perils of Studying and Collecting Everyday Objects from the Past, Ivor Noël Hume.

PS: Reading the Comics, October 25, 2012, for those who haven't been doing that on their own and are worried they missed some math jokes.

After Midnight With Boston Blackie wastes no time introducing Barnaby, who looks like Ray Walston three years after he died, being released finally from prison so he can violently cough into a handkerchief. Meanwhile Inspector Farraday intercepts a train porter's message for Blackie, and to show that Blackie somehow handcuffed the inspector's ankle to the train seat regardless of how impossible that would be. Farraday stops in to deliver generic warnings to Blackie. This all ought to set up needed exposition but it more kind of fills time while stuff gets going. It doesn't get going until the train ride is over and Blackie learns from Barnaby's daughter that Barnaby's gone missing.

I'm rather better, regarding the cold, though I had to miss the day of work, and of writing. On the bright side I have all sorts of other things to write about now. Anyway, another Boston Blackie movie, but be warned, this is an entry featuring blackface because ugh. On the bright side, I finally notice that Inspector Faraday's assistant, Matthews, is the secret genius behind Faraday's indifferent career. Plus: Will Blackie's sidekick Runt get married to this woman we never saw before? The answer … will probably not actually surprise you.  )

Some folks are fickle.

Trivia: To defuse the tension in the White House while waiting for the returns from the state elections of 11 October 1864, Abraham Lincoln read aloud from a pamphlet with the latest writings of humorist Petroleum V Nasby. Source: Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin. (And apparently he drove Stanton crazy by doing so.)

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Launching The World's First Satellites, Matt Bille, Erika Lishock.

Somebody must have written the alternate history where Lincoln goes into the humor business, instead of politics, possibly as a Nasby-like writer, possibly as a Dan Rice-like superclown. Mustn't they?

The Chance Of A Lifetime has Boston Blackie arguing that criminals should be given this so-called ``parole'' for matters like war work, and despite Inspector Farraday's skepticism they go ahead with a test program, twelve criminals released into Blackie's custody for war work. This film --- directed by William Castle, to inspire many interesting movie-themed gimmicks, by the way --- makes an interesting character step on the way for Blackie and his quest to reform from his safecracking past.

Further prewritten stuff; my enegies today went all to the WordPress mathematics piece, linked below, since I've got a cold and had to prioritize here. Sorry. I really hope I'm better soon.  )

The actual bad guy is coerced into confession, in one of those moves that reminds you that even in the 1940s, before the Bill of Rights was discovered, courts wouldn't just accept anything as evidence.

Trivia: The first time the New York Stock Exchange saw 20 million shares traded in a single day was on April 10, 1968. By the end of 1968 there had been five more 20-million-share days. Source: The Go-Go Years, John Brooks.

Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Launching The World's First Satellites, Matt Bille, Erika Lishock.

PS: Just One More Ride?, about how many more times I could expect to ride Disaster Transport using the coin flipping scheme to decide whether to ride again.

Boston Blackie Goes Hollywood opens with a thief breaking into Boston Blackie's dark apartment. The thief is wearing a hat. Of course he is; it's the 40's. Blackie and Runt are in the other room, getting ready for a trip to Florida. The police show up swiftly, with officer Matthews arresting Blackie, unaware that Blackie's the legitimate tenant and not at all the burglar, who turns out to be Inspector Farraday after all.

I had intended to get back to writing fresh columns today at work, but the day was eaten up by a never-ending meeting in which I kept explaining that yes, I understood what the client wanted, but was not able to deliver it because what he wanted requires data we don't have yet, which the client took as proof I didn't understand what he wanted, so we were caught in a loop which I believe is *still* going on.  )

There's the usual sort of amusing little incidents, including a bit where they run up the fire escapes (people always run up fire escapes in these pictures) and through the apartment of an elderly couple, which Blackie excuses with a little small talk. They remark on having no idea what just happened, but ``he seemed nice''. From such comic elements are this kind of movie made.

Trivia: IBM's Type 405 Alphabetic Accounting Machine, introduced in the early 1930s, allowed IBM systems to process 150 cards per minute and to print out tabulated information in both numbers and words. Source: The Maverick And His Machine: Thomas Watson Sr and the Making of IBM, Kevin Maney.

Currently Reading: The Best Of Fredric Brown, Fredric Brown. Curiously all the internal pages credit the book to editor Robert Bloch.

Alias Boston Blackie opens on Christmas, as Blackie and sidekick Runt figure to take the clown Roggi McKay and other performers up to Sing Sing. But the sister of one of Roggi's old partners, Joe, pleads for a message to be passed to him. She's visited too many times, but Blackie agrees to sneak her up, though Farraday joins the expedition so backstory can be dumped on the audience in case we didn't understand Blackie's mischievous past.

There's a lot of substitutions and body swaps so it's a good thing I watched this while doing my WiiFit step aerobics and so had nothing else to think about but what the heck where the characters thinking they were doing exactly.  )

Happy ending, except for the sense of justice.

Trivia: George Washington's will bequeathed the stock he held in the Patowmack Company, dedicated to building a canal from the Potomac River to the west, to support the endowment of a national university. Source: The Grand Idea: George Washington's Potomac and the Race to the West, Joel Achenbach.

Currently Reading: Ace Science Fiction Reader, Editor Donald A Wollheim. Featuring Clifford Simak's ``The Trouble With Tycho'', Jack Vance's ``The Last Castle'', Samuel R Delany's ``Empire Star'', and a foreward by Wollheim about how awesomely great Ace Doubles are and how great this Triple is, especially in how it finds promising new talent such as by printing abridged versions of Asimov's first two Foundation novels back in the 50s that swiftly fell out of print.

Confessions of Boston Blackie is the second entry in a series of B-movies starring Chester Morris as Boston Blackie, reformed safecracker who keeps getting suspected of every crime Inspector Farraday (Richard Lane) hears about who somehow isn't legally The Lone Wolf. This story starts with a statue of Augustus Caesar being auctioned, and also being copied for the sort of counterfeit scam that's always going on in rare art auctions in B-movie detective-story universes. Inspector Farraday asks Blackie right away what he's doing at the auction, and it's a good question, but mostly, he's invited there and went because otherwise how would the movie get Boston Blackie into it?

More spoilers involved, although that it's a B movie series about the Boston Blackie character pretty much tells you all the important stuff about the plot; the rest is snarking.  )

It's an all right movie. It never quite convinces this viewer that anything is not taking place in a studio set --- even the street intersection doesn't look like they went to the backlot --- and it hasn't got even the scope of the previous movie's spy schemes, or any particularly strong dialogue or even just loopy fun scenes. Several threaten to really catch hold --- the fire particularly --- but it hasn't quite got the life needed for it.

Trivia: The premiere episode of ABC's Saturday Night Live With Howard Cosell featured cameos by Frank Sinatra and Ted Kennedy, a performance by John Denver, a duet featuring Jimmy Connors and Paul Anka, and the American debut of the Bay City Rollers (hyped by Cosell as ``the next Beatles''). Source: The House That Roone Built: The Inside Story Of ABC News, Marc Gunther.

Currently Reading: Undersea Fleet, Frederik Pohl, Jack Williamson. Oh, good, Polynesian offshoots who mutated into deep-sea creatures who, what do you know, get to experience the colonial enslavement side of Western Civilization. Also there's stampedes of Loch Ness Monsters. And the more that the magic 'edenite' used to maintain pressures against deep ocean pressure is on-screen the flimsier it looks. It's a blessing when Pohl and Williamson look more at neat discoveries of exotic lifeforms instead.

Meet Boston Blackie is the first in a series of movies about the honorable-jewel-thief. In this series he's reformed. I know the character from radio, where every single episode somebody gets killed, Inspector Faraday declares Blackie the culprit, and Blackie goes solving the mystery. I believe on radio he was reformed too. The movie seems curiously uninterested in whether we know he's the ``enemy to those who make him an enemy, friend to those who have no friend'', in the radio series's catchphrase. Possibly that's in the books too. The backstory and I think even his name aren't fully given until twenty minutes in.

I have more specific things to write up, but haven't had the time to, and so let me go back to the Turner Classic Movie archives then.  )

Also adding to its appeal are the many scenes set at the amusement park, which might well be named Skyland (``The Playground Of The World'', says one sign). No roller coasters, but a carousel, a dark ride, a number of redemption games and the freak show that's centerpiece for the spy ring. It adds to the style of the thing.

Trivia: In 1924 there were an estimated 750 individuals or companies promoting gland-rejuvenation treatments in the United States. Source: Charlatan: American's Most Dangerous Huckster, The Man Who Pursued Him, And The Age Of Flimflam, Pope Brock.

Currently Reading: They Fly At Çiron, Samuel R Delany.

There's A Message In A Bottle is a 1960s short subject made by someone in Ohio to combat the scourge of teenage drinking, so, good job getting that wrapped up, Ohio. I figure it must date to between 1965 and 1967 because Project Gemini footage appears. It has to have been made after 1965 since footage of a Gemini spacewalk appears. It can't have been after 1967 because it uses a Gemini-Titan launch, and they wouldn't use that if Saturn V footage were available.

There may in fact be a curious link to the way bunny_hugger and I spent the weekend. What link? T he answer may surprise you!  )

To add to the general 'huh?' of all this, the image of a liquor bottle appears over and over in the teens' hands. It has faces painted on it, many of which resemble Mark Trail.

Trivia: Hungary adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1587, dropping the dates from 22-31 October to adjust from the Julian calendar. Source: Mapping Time: The Calendar and its History, EG Richards.

Currently Reading: Gilded City: Scandal and Sensation In Turn-Of-The-Century New York, M H Dunlop.


Heavenly Music is a curious little M-G-M short from 1943, starring Frederick Brady as Ted Barry, a popular yet dead crooner who goes up to the pearly gates, is interviewed by the secretary --- Mr Frisbee, played by Eric Blore, who did Jameson so well in almost all the Lone Wolf pictures --- and sent to a panel of experts to be judged on his fitness to be inducted to Music Heaven.

Naturally the important question here is: will Rimsky-Korsakov blackball him?  )

This short won the 16th Academy Award for best two-reel live action short film, raising the question, wait, that's Buckwheat (Billie Thomas) in the last scene as Gabriel blowing a trumpet? The heck?

Trivia: RKO's first Amos 'n' Andy movie, the 1930 Check and Double-Check, included a second storyline featuring white characters for fear audiences would not follow Amos and Andy in segments much longer than the 15-minute daily shows. Source: The Adventures Of Amos 'N' Andy: A Social History of an American Phenomenon, Melvin Patrick Ely.

Currently Reading: Gilded City: Scandal and Sensation In Turn-Of-The-Century New York, M H Dunlop.


The Harlem Globetrotters, a 1951 film from Columbia pictures, if nothing else answers the question ``What would Sweet Georgia Brown sound like if played by a Studio System orchestra?'' The answer is: weird, like when you hear an orchestra trying to play The Kinks or Take Me Out To The Ballgame. It stars the actual Globetrotter lineup of 1951, plus Billy Brown as Billy Townsend, and Thomas Gomez as Abe Saperstein (and Dorothy Dandridge as Townsend's girlfriend Ann; the film appeared as part of a Dorothy Dandridge marathon). The story and screenplay is by a man named Alfred Palca, so I'm fairly sure what he was nicknamed in middle school.

So how do the 1951 Harlem Globetrotters fare against space aliens? The answer may surprise you! )

Besides the Harlem Globetrotters, named teams include the Grand Rapids Wolverines, the New York Celtics, the New York Rams, raising the question of how many basketball teams New York City actually needs, the Cleveland Stags, the Beacons, the Cardinals, and the Wildcats.

Trivia: A trick secret for David Niven on I've Got A Secret was ``I'm sitting on a keg of ice.'' Another guest's trick secret was ``I have a live snake in my pocket.'' One contestant was the man who figured out Albert Einstein's income tax. Source: Quiz Craze, Thomas A DeLong.

Currently Reading: New Jersey Curiosities, Peter Genovese.

PS: , The Last Ride Of A Roller Coaster, probability inspired by this summer's emergency trip to Cedar Point. Enjoy!


So This Is Washington is a barely-over-an-hourlong movie featuring Chester Lauck and Norris Goff, Lum and Abner. It takes the stars of the rambling serial-comedy radio show and comes up with an excuse to put them in Washington, rather akin to the way Fibber McGee and Molly were dropped into Washington in Heavenly Days, and for the same reason: there was a war on, don't you know? It's not really satisfying, for about the same reason: most of what's fun about these characters is their interactions with their setting. Drop them in with a bunch of strangers who don't have clearly defined personalities and histories and what do you even have them for?

Sorry to pull out another forgotten-pop-culture item, but I spent much of yesterday at a concert and much of today at a county fair so I didn't have time to finish writing my essay on the last full day BunnyHugger and I spent in London. That'll be done for sure soon, though.  )

The version of this that aired on Turner Classic Movies came with title cards mentioning its restoration and preservation by National Film Museum Incorporated, which seems odd given the slightness of the film. However, it was nominated for an Oscar for Best Sound, so it has historic significance, I guess. But you can watch it on just as fine and probably not miss anything important.

Trivia: A Gallup Poll during World War II showed 71 percent of respondents were wiling to give up double features for the duration. Source: Don't You Know There's A War On?, Richard Lingeman.

Currently Reading: Dare, Philip José Farmer.

1966's Daleks: Invasion Earth 2150 AD is another of those weird little movies that somehow got on Turner Classic Movies. One of the many weird things about it is that it's a Doctor Who movie, more or less, starring Peter Cushing as a version of the First Doctor; they hadn't thought of regenerations when it came out. Mostly they'd thought of doing some movies to capitalize on the popularity of Daleks.

I didn't have the chance to resume writing the honeymoon report, but let me provide you with entertainment in the form of reviewing one of the Doctor Who Actual Movies from the 60s. There's a lot of it that's entertaining and interesting, and then somehow it sort of evaporates and the attention starts to wander.  )

It's fun yet somehow hollow.

Trivia: In 1613, Amsterdam already had about five inns for every hundred inhabitants. By 1636 there were likely two hundred within the city walls of Haarlem, an area not much larger than Hyde Park. Source: Tulipomania: The Story Of The World's Most Coveted Flower And The Extraordinary Passions It Aroused, Mike Dash.

Currently Reading: The Stochastic Man, Robert Silverberg.


Is it possible for a comedy about invisibility to be smart? Or at least not stupid? There hasn't been a lot of evidence for the ``yes'' proposition, but Universal's 1941 The Invisible Woman, a thematic sequel to its Invisible Man films, is also not an example of ``yes''. The film stars John Barrymore as Professor Gibbs (non-mad scientist working on the invisibility problem), Virginia Bruce as Kitty Carroll (department store model with a thirst for adventure and a cruel boss), John Howard as Richard Russell (busted millionaire playboy and non-mad science patron), Charlie Ruggles as George (Russell's valet) and in smaller parts Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Housekeeper of the Mad Scientist, and Shemp Howard as the minor mobster Frankie. Spoilers to follow:

Another filler piece, I'm afraid, as I lacked time to compose today. I'll finish my honeymoon tale soon and then get back to something resembling normal, once I finish sulking about my air travelless adventure. In any case, here's a lot of thought about a forgotten and dopey but in its way delightful movie.  )

All right, it's a dopey movie. It's not a horrible one, though. It's probably one to see when you're under ten years old, or to tolerate watching in the background. The plot structure is weird, threatening but not quite becoming episodic --- the department store isn't seen after a third of the way into the picture --- but all right. The special effects are not going to fool the modern eye, but if you watch 1940 movies for the special effects you're doing it wrong. I haven't mentioned much of George the butler's stuff, since it's almost irrelevant to the plot, but he's steadily if broadly amusing. And John Barrymore is John Barrymore, after all; making him play a scientist is automatically giving you a convincing character for the story. And Shemp is Shemp, after all; you may not like him as a stooge, but I do.

Trivia: The landed gentry participating in Robert Dover's 17th century Olympick Games (in Glouchestershire, England) could participate in (among other events) hunting by scent; lesser ranks could shovelboard; townspeople entered ``fighting at the barriers''; and the rural population could enjoy cudgel-play, jumping, and throwing the sledgehammer. Source: Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement, Editors John E Findling, Kimberly D Pelle. (Also, back in 2008, I'd mentioned, there was competitive shin-kicking. England is a weird place.)

Currently Reading: This Is Not A Weasel: A Close Look At Nature's Most Confusing Terms, Philip B Mortenson.