Moe, Larry and Tor

Shemp Howard, the original and greatest third stooge, died in 1955. He was soon replaced by Joe Besser, and we all know how that went.

Also in 1955, Tor Johnson starred in Bride of the Monster. This fine video, which was uploaded by a youtube member nine months ago and yet has amassed only 145 views as of this writing (proof that there is no accounting for the taste of the general public), demonstrates the opportunity Moe allowed to pass him by. Tor Johnson might have been just the ticket the Three Stooges were looking for to revitalize their career.

Maybe it's because Moe, a short old Jewish guy, was intimidated by the 400-pound Swedish Meatball that was Tor. Moe was in charge of the act, and Shemp and Curly were his brothers, so he could do with them as he pleased. But slap Tor on the head a little too hard, and he'll crush you between his fingers. You must not anger Tor. Still, his natural timing, physiognomy and heavy accent could have been comedic gold, and well worth the risk to life and limb. Just keep a variety of artisanal cheeses in your pocket to treat his frequent tantrums.

On a related note, I'm selling this thing in my Etsy store, but who cares whatever.


The Warriors - Director's Cut

from wikipedia:

The Warriors opened on February 9, 1979 in 670 theaters without advance screenings or a decent promotional campaign and grossed USD $3.5 million on its opening weekend. The following weekend the film was linked to sporadic outbreaks of vandalism and three killings - two in Southern California and one in Boston - involving moviegoers on their way to or from showings. This prompted Paramount to remove advertisements from radio and television completely and display ads in the press were reduced to the film's title, rating and participating theaters. In reaction, 200 theaters across the country added security personnel. Due to safety concerns, theater owners were relieved of their contractual obligations if they did not want to show the film, and Paramount offered to pay costs for additional security and damages due to vandalism.

The Warriors received negative reviews from contemporary critics, (but) President Ronald Reagan was a fan of the film, even calling the film's lead actor, Michael Beck, to tell him he had screened it at Camp David and enjoyed it.

This "director's cut" has nothing to offer in way of additional or re-edited footage. The only updates are the introduction (directly likening the film's narrative to the Anabasis by Xenophon), and, significantly, the comic book panel transitions between scenes.

I'm generally not a fan of retrofit movies, but I consider this, like Blade Runner, to be an improvement. Bear in mind that director Walter Hill wanted to do these transitions when he originally made the movie, but Paramount didn't allow it. So this is what he intended it to be, and it works well with the cinematography, editing, music, everything. It's always been a pop art masterpiece, but now it wears its pulpy, sensationalist allure on its sleeve all the more proudly.


Movie of the Week: The Beastmaster (1982)

My best friend in the seventh grade couldn't stop talking about this movie. Every day for a week, on our long walks home from school, he'd detail everything that happened in the film and how great it was. That weekend, the two of us were dropped off at the theater by his dad, so he could see it a second time and I could finally experience the magic. I fell asleep within the first 40 minutes (of a two-hour movie) and didn't wake until the lights went up and the end credits were rolling.

I was disappointed, of course. I didn't get to see much Beastmastering, but at least I made it to the part with Tanya Roberts' titties. And that was no easy feat in the pre-internet era for a 12-year old, let me tell you. In a PG-rated film, no less. Anyway, I had my chance to catch up on the rest via cable TV for many years after. It was such a programming mainstay by the mid-80's that the HBO network was jokingly referred to as an acronym for "Hey, Beastmaster's On".

No wonder. Despite being lengthy, it's an entertainment juggernaut, standing up to repeated re-viewings, whether in whole or in part. It's almost like a collection of Saturday morning serials. Directed by Dan Coscarelli, genius behind possibly the greatest of all movies, Phantasm (1979).


Movie of the Week: The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies

Thee inimitable one and only!  I worked hard to find this film on VHS cassette at a hole-in-the-wall video rental store about two hours train ride from my house back in the late 80's. But now you can get it streamed to your computer or iphone or appletv or cyberwhatever instantaneously for free. This is a golden age of enlightenment we're living in, and let us not take it for granted.

1980 Johnson-Smith Comic Book Ad

I found this in the back of one of the many Marvel comics pulled from my collection to add to the free library I installed outside our house. This one page hits all the classics: x-ray specs, hovercraft, 8-foot balloon, gorilla mask, lie detector, and perhaps the ultimate in mail-order chicanery, the U-Control Ghost. I made a high-rez scan and uploaded it to my server, so you can download, or use your browser, to zoom in on all the thrilling details.


When Basic Cable Was Good

Someone has posted a clip from the USA Network's Night Flight, which aired for a total of eight hours(!) every Friday and Saturday evening, from 1981 to 1988 (it was also brought back for three years starting in 1990, but that incarnation was related by name only, and consistently unwatchable).

 I discovered tons of music, art and film via this program, which spanned the entirety of my teenage years. Here in this segment is a rapid-fire collage of exceptionally outré art and entertainment, the sort of which, in the pre-internet era, I'd only otherwise find on homemade VHS tapes from collectors procured via mail order or film conventions (which I was also doing in my teens). In order, I'm recognizing a Betty Boop cartoon with Cab Calloway, a clip from The Mascot by Ladislas Starevich, a clip from possibly my favorite Three Stooges short Disorder in the Court, a vintage toy commercial, a mondo newsreel, a trailer, Georges Méliès' A Trip to the Moon scored to Pink Floyd,  a collection of Atom Age Sci-Fi trailers, a worn 16mm reel of Star Trek bloopers, and a Mr. Bill short. There are worse ways to spend 24 of your minutes, both on a weekend night in 1985 and in here in 2014. What else are you going to do, turn on the TV so you can zone out to a six-hour back-to-back marathon of Storage Wars?

(bonus clip here and here: an example of Night Flight's original programming, a typically irreverent interview with DEVO)