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Paul Williams Still Alive (2011)
You Too Will Be Glad That Paul Williams Is Alive!
The gist of "Paul Williams Still Alive" (which I caught at its final SXSW screening in Austin this March) is simply this: would-be feature film documentary maker Stephen Kessler was so obsessed with the way the AM-radio hits penned by diminutive 1970s entertainer Paul Williams had made his teen-aged heart go all a-flutter that he decided to make a documentary about Williams -- without even realizing that his "late, great" musical hero was still very much alive!
This is a cinematic concept that should'nt have worked -- but, thank the Pop Culture gods, it did!
Mind you, it never would have come close to passing muster if Williams hadn't kept a veritably complete reference library of his clips on every bad music, comedy, variety, game and chat show that existed during the 70s and 80s. Nor would it have worked if Williams hadn't allowed Kessler full use of that library to reveal the inevitable downhill slide that nearly all of Hollywood's denizens of that time period were prone to follow!
For his part, Kessler reveals himself to be (potentially) the world's worst director of a film like this as well! It's only when he and his childhood hero miraculously find them-selves on "the same page" (courtesy of an encounter with third-world terrorism, of all things!) that the alchemy begins to take place and the hill of Tinseltown dross turns miraculously into a mountain of pure gold!!!
Fans of schlock will be delighted either way, as they roll about ecstatically in the slushy mounds of 70s celebrity offal expelled by the coked-up likes of Robert Blake, Karen Carpenter, Dick Clark, Kermit the Frog, Jack Klugman, Peter Lawford, Tony Randall, Burt Reynolds, Telly Savalas, Barbra Streisand, John Travolta and more!
But more sensitive viewers will find themselves fighting to hold back the tears as the characters refuse to merely remain the two-dimensional "stars" that we enjoyed chuckling derisively at on our little cathode-ray tubes.
Watch in stunned semi-silence as a slack-jawed star-gazer, obsessed with the tear-jerking tune-age that kept his appreciation of Paul Williams from advancing beyond the analytical level of a 12-year-old, metamorphoses into an insightful, savvy observer of character before your very eyes! Shudder in awe as the short-statured subject reveals himself to be more than worth the effort of analyzing!
Whether your personal reference point to Williams is The Muppets ("The Rainbow Connection"), The Carpenters (Rainy Days & Mondays"), or Brian DePalma's midnight movie cult classic "The Phantom of the Paradise", you can trust me at least on one thing about this film: it WILL make you glad that Paul Williams is still alive!
-- Kenneth W. Lieck
Dull enough to even make my heroes and my friends boring!
The episode I watched of this program should have been entertaining to me, no matter what -- I'm a Monkees fan and Micky Dolenz was there, Cybill Shepherd generally seems intelligent and entertaining... and my good friend Margaret Moser was also a guest! Instead, it was like trying to survive on the hostile surfaces of Mars or Venus -- damn near impossible! Bland and inhospitable, the one and only good part of the show was when Micky and Margaret got to discuss the subject of groupies and how the Monkey explained such things to daughter Amii. (Oh, that's right, I forgot -- Margaret had to tell me about it herself because it was the segment they CUT before airing this atmosphere-free dead zone!
NOTE: I see the director's next project was called "Worst Case Scenarios" -- I guess he had the experience for it by then!!!
Serves You Right (1935)
Shemp Howard solo short about the law and the lawless.
PLOT: Shemp Howard, doing business this time far away from his Stooge brethren, plays a process server who's been sent to serve papers to a tough gangster -- who naturally falls head over (high) heels with him when he disguises himself in women's clothing.
Shemp's turn in drag is worth the price of admission for this "solo short" which otherwise is an average, passable comedy two-reeler. His attempt to walk gracefully in high heels is about as successful as a paraplegic trying to use a set of rubber crutches.
(I watched this as part of an all-Shemp VHS compilation from Movies Unlimited which they appear to have discontinued selling. It also included the shorts "His First Flame", "Here Comes Flossie", and the baseball comedy "Dizzy & Daffy" with the Dean brothers. "Serves You Right" was the funniest of the four, which isn't necessarily saying much about the other three.)
George Burns Comedy Week (1985)
episodes of GBCW described
This show appeared during the time that the new Twilight Zone and Spielberg's Amazing Stories were attempting to revive the anthology genre. It was a comedy version of the above, and was rather well done. The title confused viewers, many of whom thought the aging Burns had a new show (he merely introduced each episode, Rod Serling style).
Here's a few comments on some specific episodes: "Home For Dinner" starred SCTV regulars Eugene Levy and Joe Flaherty (other episodes featured Catharine O'Hara and Dave Thomas), and the story was a TZ-type tale about a suburbanite who finds himself cast as mercenaries against his will.
"The Couch" was written by Steve Martin and was the pilot for a series starring Carrie Fisher which lasted ONE more episode! "Disaster At Buzz Creek" was directed by John Landis and starred Don Rickles, Don Knotts and Fannie Flagg. Brilliantly bizarre, that's all I can say.
"The Assignment" was written by playwright Bruce Jay Friedman and starred Telly Savalas & Elliott Gould.
"The Honeybunnies" featured Howard Hesseman and SNL's Laraine Newman, and included an animated sequence that at the time would've been considered "sick".
"The Christmas Carol Part 2" was the outright masterpiece of the series, showing the events of the year after Dickens' original, after Scrooge has turned into a complete sucker and everyone -- including Tiny Tim -- has begun taking advantage of him!
Film House Fever (1986)
Rare Bruce Campbell/Sam Raimi Comedy Clips!
Can't believe nobody's mentioned the REAL reason to check this out -- mixed in among the public domain, z-rated echh-sploitation stuff, you'll find the ONLY legally issued pre-"Evil Dead" footage by young Bruce Campbell, Sam Raimi, and friends! Several segments from their Three Stooges-like comedy shorts "Torro, Torro, Torro" (about a lawnmower gone berserk) and "Cleveland Smith: The Waders of the Lost Park" appear here, reproduced from nice, crisp sources. Unfortunately neither film is shown in it's entirety (for that, you'll still have to resort to the smudgy, muffled bootlegs that have been making the rounds for years.)
- Ken Lieck
4 for Texas (1963)
Better Than a Poke In the Eye...
Four for Texas
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Ursula Andress, Anita Ekberg, the Three Stooges, Jack Elam, There's little to complain about in this Frank-and-Dean Rat-Pack-Goes-Western romp, but plenty of time in which to do it. Director Aldrich attempts to keep this tale of two swindle- happy scalawags running at a leisurely but laugh-getting pace, but at some point in its two- hour-plus course, you have to start wondering if this comic oater really needed to be so near epic length. In the meantime, though, Martin is at his drunk/sober finest, effortlessly tossing off lines so good he must have actually rehearsed them. Frank 'n' Dino's two love interests are fireballs as well, and who could kvetch about a supporting cast that includes Charles Bronson, Victor Buono, and the Three Stooges? That's right, the aging vaudeville trio (Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Curly Joe DeRita) show up for a scene late in the film which has nothing much to do with the plot, but for true Stoogeophiles, it offers a unique chance to see the knuckleheads doing their thing in color, as spry -- and violent -- as they had been 30 years before.
NatLamp or FireSign?
KShrew from Minnesota asked: "Who can forget the image of the Disco Beaver getting too friendly with the lady in the fur coat? Or Helping Horny Hands? Or Rocky Rococo?" Um, apparently the good people of Minnesota can. Or at least KShrew forgot that Rocky Rococo and his freaky feel-up fingers are from the Firesign Theatre's "Nick Danger and the Case of the Missing Yolks" which, unlike "National Lampoon's Disco Beaver From Outer Space", has been released on VHS and is actually findable from time to time. The Firesigns also made a (considerably rarer) feature entitled "Martian Space Party" - perhaps you had that title in your mind and got mixed up - but the thing they did that's closest to "Disco Beaver" was a super-obscure HBO special with Don ("Get Smart") Adams entitled "The Madhouse of Dr. Fear". The only reason I have a copy of that is because a member of the Firesigns personally traded it to me for a tape of William Shatner music videos! - mnw