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A missed classic of my youth
Dodo, the Kid from Outer Space, was a regular Saturday morning staple for me and my friends back in the late 60's. A brilliantly inventive program, Dodo's short-lived TV life here in the States is symptomatic of creativity being the sacrificial lamb of the marketing department. Had Dodo been exploited commercially as was The Archies, maybe it would have lasted. I heard last that Dodo had been on cable in Europe a few years ago. Anyone else out there remember Dodo? Would Cartoon Network have an interest in this missed classic? Can this Kid be saved for posterity?
Yours, Mine and Ours (1968)
Here's a story, of a lovely lady...
Lucille Ball has always been a favorite actress/comedienne of mine, and so this vehicle, Yours, Mine and Ours, was a good showcase for her talents. One year later, Florence Henderson was to "reprise" the same role in the Brady Bunch TV series. This movie has it over the Bradys hands down. When all of the kids that belonged to Henry Fonda's character met Lucille Balls' character for the first time, they got her drunk. Would never happen on the Brady Bunch. And all those kids! I think it was either 19 or 20! Much more responsibility in this combined household. Don't forget shopping day, with the caravan of shopping carts, I'm surprised collateral didn't have to be put up for the groceries. The idea here is that the sheer enormity of this situation makes it so hilarious, along with all the petty jealousies and conflicts inherent in all families, creates a movie that viewers can relate to on several levels. You don't need to have 20 kids to appreciate the film. The Brady Bunch seemed too perfect. The Norths and the Beardsleys had to put some tough love and effort into this to make it work, and this is reflected in Yours, Mine, and Ours. See it just for the fun of it. Look for Tom Bosley (Howard Cunningham of Happy Days) as the family doctor. Great fun!
You Only Live Twice (1967)
Bond dies? Not this time...
The opening of You Only Live Twice shows the unflappable James Bond being used for target practise, ostensibly left for dead, given a naval burial at sea...is the movie over? Wrong! The deepest cover is afforded Bond via this ploy, to make You Only Live Twice a favourite of mine in the world of 007. The on-location scenery is eye candy par excellence for those fond of rural Japan and the peaceful fishing villages. Otherwise, be prepared to find yourself with James Bond in a variety of interesting and somewhat dangerous situations, including-dare I say it-marriage! If you like escapism, this movie is for you. It fits well into the Bondian formula, with its own little twists. For a real spine-tingling experience, listen intently to the theme song, as sung by Nancy Sinatra. Even 32 years later, I still get a chill in my spine hearing that haunting melody. Not to spark a debate here, but you will see why Sean Connery is the one and only James Bond when you see You Only Live Twice. Enjoy!
Mad Monster Party? (1967)
Fun with clay
Mad Monster Party was just plain fun for kids who saw it first in the 60's, and it is a shame that it is not shown on TV so that the 90's kids could see what fun with clay is all about. Boris Karloff lends his eerie voice to this project, as does the equally eerie Phyllis Diller. Great fun to watch on a rainy day, or any day close to Halloween, for that matter.
Dont Look Back (1967)
This time you might want to look back
Looking back on D.A. Pennebaker's 1967 classic Don't Look Back, think about one scene in the film as fresh as today's music scene: Bob Dylan was the first to do a "rap" video, believe it or not! His "Subterranean Homesick Blues" scenario would be MTV playable today, and I wonder why this is overlooked in the contemporary music scene. Music videos are not as new as one would think-the Monkees utilized similar video vehicles, as did the Beatles, years before MTV. To put things in perspective, check out Don't Look Back and know that "the pump don't work 'cause the vandals took the handles."
The Blues Brothers (1980)
An All-Star Romp with the Blues Brothers
The contribution to comedy made by Dan Akyroyd and the late John Belushi culminated into the Blues Brothers. No one dare calls it a "musical" in the sense of Mary Poppins, but more of an all-star romp with the greats of Rhythm & Blues. Elwood (Akyroyd) cracked me up in the diner scene when he asks for dry white toast...a later conversation during the infamous chase scene into Chicago is classic: We got half a pack of cigarettes, a full tank of gas and about 110 miles to go...well as it turned out, this movie had more than a full tank of gas throughout, with appearances by Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, Cab Calloway, and other musical geniuses...if you're not laughing throughout this film, either your stitches are too new, or you've run out of gas, something that the Blues Brothers never do here. It's raucous comedy, it's destruction on a massive scale, it's the Blues Brothers, so watch it!
That '70s Show (1998)
The "Happy Days"of the 90's also in Wisconsin
That 70's Show is not "the same old thing we did last week", as the opening song suggests in its lyrics. I was the same age as the teen characters of this program back in 1977, and the trials and tribulations are amazingly accurate. Someone in their mid to late 30's out there has hit upon a very funny program, but I wonder what will happen in two or three short years...will the program have to be renamed That 80's Show? Will Eric and Donna ever marry and become (gasp!) Yuppies? Parallel this with HAPPY DAYS, also set in Wisconsin, and what do you know? That 50's show became a big hit. Even without the leather-jacketed equivalent of Fonzie, That 70's Show is going places, but hopefully not on hiatus. There's too many of us out there who were in HS in the 70's, and we can appreciate the storyline, as I hope many of you will also.
I've got to be direct...if I'm not please correct...
No one has to stand on my neck to spread the word that the MTV animated Daria is a smart, funny, altogether smash hit! All the characters in the cartoon are present in all of us in some degree. While I am not pierced or tattooed as is Trent Lane, I do possess some of the vanity of Quinn, the bohemian funkiness of Trent's sister Jane, the perfectionism inherent in Helen Morgendorffer, the futility of her husband Jake, and mostly, the biting sarcasm and unpopular demeanor of dear Daria. In its third season, Daria continues to convince us that shallow and superficial just don't cut it, not just in Lawndale, but in Anytown, USA. Give it a try. It's not the Simpsons. It doesn't try to be. LA LA LA LA LA, LA LA LA LA LA...
Boyz n the Hood (1991)
"Boyz" grow up real fast in the hood
If your first inclination about Boyz n' the Hood is all about being a thug and poppin'caps, be prepared for an education. John Singleton filmed what can be best described as a brief glimpse into hard living in hard times in Compton, CA. It's about surviving the hood, and holding on to the dreams that can get you out. Whether the vehicle is a football scholarship or a '64 Chevy Impala lowrider, the message isn't about violence, but about peace, and increasing it without ceasing it. Forget all those rap videos, your true education begins in the school of hard knocks, Professor Singleton's Intro to Reality 101. This is a film that has you rooted to your seat. Especially powerful is Lawrence Fishburne telling his son how the real estate interests have no interest in the people except what they can grab from them. Learn from this film.
Northern Exposure (1990)
We need more intellectually stimulating TV like Northern Exposure
When I saw the pilot for Northern Exposure, I saw a hit in the making. The setting was pure escapist for most of us in the lower 48, and the philosophical discussions courtesy of Chris in the morning on KBER were a pure delight. Essentially, the show demonstrated that anything is possible in this the best of all possible worlds. If you want to catapult a piano, do it. If the Aurora Borealis has strange powers to transfer dreams from one to another, see it as one of nature's mysteries and groove on it. The show was strong up until the point when Rob Morrow (Joel Fleischman) left. His character developed beautifully from the beginning to the end and played well against Maggie's independent personality. Fun to watch, you'll be pleasantly surprised when you expose yourself to Northern Exposure. It's TV for the mind (Not quite like the Bill Moyers series that explored the mind), but you'll energize from its good scripting and fine acting. Next stop, Cicely, Alaska...see you there!
Rerun heaven found in MASH
As a youngster, I missed the original run of MASH, mainly because I wanted no part of popular trends (a la Daria). Everyone was watching MASH, so I didn't. After the show ended in 1983, I began to see the reruns at night. What that show did for my appreciation of sharp, fast-paced humor cannot begin to be chronicled here. Let's just say that Alan Alda's incredible wit played a bit part in my own professional development. I may not ever get to meet him, but I would like to use this forum to thank him for making me understand that life is too short to be taken too seriously. Considering the Korean War context of the series, this may be especially true. I am somewhat sorry I didn't get to see the show back in the 70's, but as an adult, I can really appreciate its message and would like to herald it as perhaps the funniest TV program ever. Three cheers to all the cast and crew that made MASH possible. Keep showing the reruns, and I'll keep watching them. Even though war is unacceptable, MASH couldn't have been done under any other circumstances. Rerun heaven exists, and its name is MASH.
A Patch of Blue (1965)
When black and white makes A Patch of Blue
Considering the time the film was made, A Patch of Blue made an impact on viewers, especially this viewer, some 30-odd years after it was filmed. Race relations in the mid-60's were difficult at best, yet this story, featuring a young Sidney Poitier, made many of us wonder if we weren't as "blind" as the young actress opposite Poitier. The harsh acting style of Shelley Winters played a fine contrast to the kindness of Poitier's character. Hatred can be caustic, but kindness can wear away the barriers that divide us. So much history can be gleaned from the film, including the ramshackle housing conditions that the D'Arcey's were subject to, even into the mid-sixties. Moreover, this film dealt with the subtle issue of the handicapped; in particular, the blind. Overall, the film made a significant impact on me. It's melancholy ending is laced with sadness, but bolstered with hope on many levels. A sequel to this film, as another reviewer had hoped for, may have been of interest to some, but the story, as told, gave us a chance to glimpse into the netherworld of a sight-impaired young woman who knew nothing of black and white past age 5, but was aware that as long as love and hope are strong, even the "blind" can see through the ignorance at A Patch of Blue, a chance of hope, of redemption. Brilliant film.
The Misfits (1961)
No animal lover is a Misfit!
Although this was to be the last film roles for Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe, The Misfits is a touching film that served as a springboard for environmental issues, especially the plight of the Nevadan wild Mustang. Those animals did nothing but what they were doing naturally-living free in the wilds. The drive to capture the wild mustangs and the rodeo scenes were particularly cruel. It would be fair to say that the early 60's were not the most ideal time to do a film with animal rights overtones, but The Misfits succeeds, with its subtle treatment of this issue, which would later in the 60's, culminate into a worldwide roar for rights on many different platforms. History continues to be a righteous teacher, as the real misfits in the film turn out to be the very people which championed mass slaughter and confinement of animals to turn a quick profit. Kudos to the cast and crew of The Misfits for making a timely statement with beautiful western scenery added. Certainly a cinematic coup and curtain call for Gable and Monroe. Show this film in the schools (high school level), and let the kids know that no animal lover is a Misfit.
Wild River (1960)
A history lesson comes from the Wild River
I just saw Wild River for the first time last evening, and the movie appealed to me on the basis of history more so than its dramatic component. Whilst the acting itself was nothing extraordinary, the tale told captivated me. The old woman in the movie was nothing short of brilliant, as wild as the Tennessee River before the TVA dammed it. She WAS the spirit of the river, finally yielding to political pressures. The affair symbolised the changes that were taking place; i.e., the older, steadfast ways yielding to "progress". The symbolism in the final scene epitomised the changing landscape. It's always sad to see a traditional way of life get steamrollered, but the country at the time of the TVA had to get into a "progressive" mode. Millions were starving, and these work programs were implemented to pave the way to ensure future generations would have electricity, etc. Compare (if you dare) to Grapes of Wrath: the displacement of traditional folks for the sake of a "better" future. Oftentimes the "old woman" is right. Nature's rules must be respected and timehonored despite the cattle calls of progress. This movie really makes you think. I think it's worth watching with history in mind, although there are pastoral entertainment elements throughout the film.
Mon oncle (1958)
Cursing in comedies is not funny, Mon Oncle is!
These days, almost all comedy is beholden to major expletives to get a rise from the audience. Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle is exactly the opposite of today's filthy-mouthed troubadors of trash. Physical comedy is probably the most difficult art form imaginable-yet Tati executes it flawlessly, demonstrating to the viewing audience that being on Comedy Central does not mean that you have arrived, nor does it mean that you're funny. Check out Mon Oncle and tell me you didn't laugh genuinely for the first time in years. Steve Martin can be credited with the quote, "Comedy is not Pretty", but from this perspective, it doesn't have to be laden with foul language, either. Mon Oncle is truly a comedy of historic proportions. I give it 5 popcorn kernels (out of 5).