When Basil Met Nigel #3


Letting him loose or tying him up? You decide.

People I Wasn’t Expecting To See #1

So I was watching White Christmas for the first time the other day. Or at least the first time all the way through. Rosemary Clooney steps up to the plate to do a nightclub torch song, abetted by four male dancers:

And along they go, the dancers posing away in the sort of jazz-dancy way their black leotards would lead you to expect. And suddenly recognition dawns:

Holy crap, it’s George Chakiris! Seven years from immortality in his Oscar-winning turn as the fiery yet sensitive leader of the Sharks, Bernardo:

Since we’re here anyway, let’s talk about this scene for a minute. Rosemary’s character has just quit the show in Vermont, broken up her sister act with Vera-Ellen, landed this gig at an awfully swank New York club, got herself to New York, rehearsed with the sizeable band and the sexually ambiguous dancers, and the club got a poster made advertising her that couldn’t have existed before because she was previously in a sister act. This all happened, as near as I can tell, in about a day.

Look, I know it’s churlish to chastize a musical for being implausible. First of all, it’s a musical. It’s like giving water a stern talking to for being wet. But White Christmas is just awash in far-fetchitude. There’s good songs to be sure (and better dancing – made awkward by the fact that since neither Bing nor Danny Kaye are particular rug-cutters, all of Vera-Ellen’s dances have to be suddenly partnered by an anonymous cast member). And there’s some low-key charm, and Michael Curtiz’ always admirable direction. There’s also songs that seem like they belong in a different show altogether (“Count Your Blessings”) and songs that flat out suck (“What Can You Do With a General” – sheesh). I know there’s people that love it, but it’s adding up to a collective “meh” for me.

So anyway, Rosemary Clooney and George Chakiris. Who knew? You did? Well congratulations, Master of Musical Theater!

Iron Chef Television #1


                              HOP-SING                    Versus         MEL SHARPLES

In Battle: Short Ribs!!

Great Punches In Cinema History #2

Mongo only pawn in game of life

Mongo only pawn in game of life

Mere Television #1

Barney Miller

Detectives Fish and Yemana kickin’ it at the 12th.

Krimi Korral #1

Das Indische Tuch, aka The Indian Scarf, 1963 (Vohrer).  That’s Klaus Kinski under the plaster, by the way.

The Edgar Wallace Krimis were German crime films of the 60s (and a little 50s and a little 70s), derived from Edgar Wallace stories (plus some from his son Bryan).  I’ve never read a one of these, but they certainly moved copies back in the day.  They mostly faded from print in America but remained quite common and popular in several other countries, Germany most conspicuously.  They were mystery/thrillers, sometimes featuring a madman killer, or an evil genius, or some sort of locked house Ten Little Indiansish thing about secret wills and murdering one’s way to an inheritance.  Some of the masked villains would have fit in just swell in a Scooby Doo cartoon. 

There were quite a few cheap english-language film adaptations in the 30s and 40s, but this 60s German incarnation featured jazzy scores, a rotating cadre of detective heroes, a dash of naughty/bloody luridness and a fair amount of fourth wall-breaking humor, of the sort that would eventually find a happy home in The Avengers.  The genre seems to be a substantial tributary to (and die in favor of) the Italian black-gloved killer giallos of the 70s.  To learn more, do check out http://www.latarnia.com/krimi.htm, which has some nice English-language information.  Also have a look at Video Watchdog #134, where Kim Newman has a lengthy, just-the-facts-ma’am rundown of 8 DVD boxes worth of Rialto Studios Edgar Wallace Krimis.

Mouse On Cat Violence #1

Posters We Don’t Own #3

The Phantom, 1963 (Wincer)

The Phantom, 1963 (Wincer)

The Phantom slams.  He doesn’t smash.  The Hulk smashes.  Smashing is more violent.  Slamming might just mean saying something derogatory about someone in the media, like panning their new album.  Luckily, he only does this to evil people.  So you’re unlikely to see the headline “Phantom Slams New Amy Winehouse Album”.  But you could see “Phantom Slams New Montgomery Burns Album.” 

Phantom slams, Hulk smashes.  I’m forever getting these mixed up.  The Shadow, by the way, neither slams nor smashes.  He only has the power to cloud men’s minds, like a trayful of Cuba Libres or Charlie Rose.

While we’re looking at this – I know the Phantom’s outfit is meant to be purple, but doesn’t it vibe a little pink here?  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I’m not sure one is worse than the other.  I’m just sayin’.  Pinkish.

Everyday Bava #1

Black Sabbath, 1963

Please To Enjoy… #1

Cobra Woman, 1944 (Siodmak)

This certainly has its following, not least for fans of Maria Montez.  Maria is, I’m led to believe, a minor, esoteric flavor of gay icon.  I’m not sure she’s that compelling, but the film sure is.  Around this time Universal was doing some really lovely technicolor on what must have been a relative shoestring.  The story is a mash-up of The Man in the Iron Mask, She, and Thief of Bagdad.  More pertinently, it is completely wild-ass crazy-eights barking mad.  All Hail King Cobra!


Lon Chaney Jr, deep in thought

Lon Chaney Jr, deep in thought


Lots of rope swinging in this flick

Lots of rope swinging in this flick


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