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My Mother the Car (1965)
Definitely Not the Worst Show of All Time!
I remember watching episodes of My Mother, the Car many years ago on Trio and I did not have high hopes for it after that. That having been said, two of the episodes actually did impress me. When I saw it was online, then, I started watching episodes of the show. While I won't say it was a great show, it definitely was not a bad show! The cast is very appealing. Jerry Van Dyke and Avery Schreiber are very funny. And many of the episodes were quite inventive. I'm not sure I would say it was a classic, but I would say it is better than about half the sitcoms on the air now and far better than any of the reality shows aired in the past ten years! I now have to wonder if Trio did not select the worst episodes of the show's run to air, for whatever reason.
If the show was not that bad, then, why did it get its reputation as the worst show of all time? I have read many of the reviews from 1965 and it seems to me that the critics just could not get past the idea of someone's mother reincarnated as a car. True, by that point there had been shows about ghosts (Topper), a talking horse (Mister Ed), a Martian (My Favourite Martian), a robot (My Living Doll), and a witch (Bewitched), but in most of the reviews I have read from 1965 it seems the critics just seized upon the show's premise as a sure sign it was a bad show, even if from today's standpoint it doesn't seem that bizarre for the era. After all, it was only a few days after the debut of My Mother, the Car that a show about a genie debuted (I Dream of Jeannie)! I think My Mother, the Car just fell victim to bad press. The critics hated it and called it the worst show of all time. The show only lasted one season so it was not rerun for literally decades. As a result the label of "worst show of all time" stuck. I think this is a bit unfair. Okay, as I said, it is not a great show. It is not on the same level as, say, Bewitched or even I Dream of Jeannie, but it is an entertaining show that is generally well done and funny. It really needs to be reassessed!
Educational and Entertaining Too
Tennessee Tuxedo and His Tales was one of the best cartoons of the early Sixties. It was not only funny, but it was educational, too. And it had some great vocal talent--Don Adams (who provided the voice for Tennessee the same year he played Byron Glick on the Bill Dana Show), Larry Storch (almost unrecognizable as Phineas J. Whoopee), and Kenny Delmar (who played Senator Claghorn on radio). The animation was nothing to write home about, but they made up for it with witty and charming stories. I do have to point one thing out. This was not a Jay Ward production. It was produced by Total Television, also known as TTV. They were the people who would later produce Underdog. They used the same animation studio as Ward (Gamma Productions in Mexico) and had a similar style, not to mention both were sponsored by General Mills in a time when sponsors had a lot more power than they do now.
Before anything else, I have to make a correction to someone else's comment. Jay Ward and Bill Scott had nothing to do with "King Leonardo and His Short Subjects." In fact, it was the first production of Total Television (AKA TTV), the same folks who brought us "Tennessee Tuxedo" and "Underdog." They used the same animators as Jay Ward and had a similar style, not to mention both were sponsored by General Mills, so it is very easy to get confused! At any rate, "King Leonardo and His Short Subjects" may not be as well remembered as "Underdog" or "Tennessee Tuxedo," but it should be. It has the same wit and sense of whimsy about it as TTV's later work. And the voice work, as with any TTV production, is superb.
The Cell (2000)
Great visuals, Little Else
I must admit that I was looking forward to seeing The Cell. It had an intriguing premise and the trailer looked promising. Unfortunately I was sorely disappointed. The Cell has great visuals and little else. While its premise is original, the plot itself is by the book. The script lends little depth to the characters, so the actors cannot really be blamed if they do not give their best performances. Over all, I would say that one should only see The Cell if one is really into photography and great images. If you want a good movie, go elsewhere.
Not quite as good as Dangerous Liasons
Well, I like both Dangerous Liasons and Valmont, although I still prefer Dangerous Liasons. Valmont just seems to me to be somewhat lacking. At least part of this is due to the cast. Colin Firth does well as Valmont, but he still falls short of John Malkovich in my opinion. And to me Meg Tilly was totally miscast as Tourvel--she is so bland that it is hard to see what Valmont saw in her. Tilly's deficits as Tourvel seem especially glaring when compared to Michelle Pfeiffer's rendition of the character. The other problem I have with Valmont is in its plot. In Valmont it is unclear why the title character loves Tourvel (although admittedly part of this fault lies with Tilly's performance) and similarly unclear why Valmont sacrifices himself in the duel at the end (Out of guilt? Out of love for Tourvel? Out of some death wish?).
Of course, I must admit that Valmont is in some ways superior to Dangerous Liasons. To me Annette Benning is much more convincing as Merteuil than Glenn Close as was. And Fairuza Balk makes a very good Cecille, quite believable as the fifteen year old caught in the schemes of two master schemers. Had Annette Benning played Merteuil and Fairuza Balk played Cecille in Dangerous Liasons, I believe that movie would have been nearly perfect!
Regardless, both movies are well worth seeing, particularly for fans of period pieces.
The Silencers (1966)
This is not the Real Matt Helm!
The Silencers was ostensively based on Donald Hamilton's novel featuring government assassin Matt Helm. Perhaps unfortunately, they took little more than the name of the title character and a few other characters from Hamilton's novel. In Hamilton's books Helm was a government assassin (code name: Eric) working for an unnamed government agency, who had a stronger resemblance to Sam Spade or Mike Hammer than James Bond. He was of Scandinavian descent and made a living writing Westerns between his service in WW II as a secret agent and his reactivation as such in the first novel (Death of a Citizen). I can imagine the surprise of fans of the novels when this movie came out! No hard nosed government assassin, Matt Helm in the movie is little more than Dean Martin doing his usual Dean Martin routine!
That having been said, I can't help liking the film. True, it's not Hamilton's Matt Helm, but it is a bit of Sixties camp that can be enjoyed on its own merits. The Dean Martin persona seems perfectly fitted for a poor man's "James Bond" and Stella Stevens is simply adorable. Probably my biggest complaint with the movie is the music, which is almost annoying. True, The Silencers is not a classic in the espionage genre (it's not even a classic in Bondian espionage genre), but it is a fun way to waste one's time.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964)
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is arguably one of the greatest shows of the Sixties and definitely the best American spy show. It blended tongue in cheek humour with action and adventure for an end result that was extremely entertaining. Unfortunately, all good things cannot last. The first season (when it was still shot in black and white) and the second season (the first one shot in colour) place The Man From U.N.C.L.E. among the best television has to offer. All of this changed with the third season, when the series became so silly that watching its episodes became nearly unbearable. The show recovered somewhat in its abbreviated fourth season (it would be cancelled midway through), but by that time The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had lost its charm. Though the fourth season episodes are watchable, they lack the humour and pinache of the first two seasons. Regardless, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is a testament to what Sixties television could do at its very finest.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Good Movie, Poor Adaptation
While I feel that Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut is a good movie (although it falls short of such classics as Dr. Strangelove and A Clockwork Orange), I feel that it is a poor adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler's short novel Traumnovelle. While I feel Eyes Wide Shut captures the sexual aspects of the novel quite well, I feel it fails to build upon one of the themes of the novel--the juxtaposition of dream and reality. I think this failure could be due to two factors. The first is moving the novel's setting of Vienna around the Twenties to New York City in the 1990s. For viewers watching the movie in the late Twentieth and early Twenty First centuries this can have the affect of making the movie's events seem more real and hence distancing them from the dreams discussed in the film. The second is what I perceive as Kubrick's failure to capitalize on the dreams related in Traumnovelle. Indeed, rather than simply having the characters more or less tell us about some of the dreams, he could have shown some of us the dreams (this is film, after all). In this way he could have taken advantage of one of the idea contained within the novel--the relationship of dreams to reality.
Regardless, Eyes Wide Shut is a must see movie, particularly for Kubrick fans. It is a disturbing journey through human sexuality, all done without judging the characters or pulling any punches. Although not up to some of Kubrick's earlier works (let's face it, they are hard acts to follow!), Eyes Wide Shut is a very interesting work.
Lord of Illusions (1995)
Solid Barker Film
Like Stephen King, it seems to me Clive Barker does not seem to have much luck with movies. Rawhead Rex and Transmutations (also known as Underground) turned out wretched. Even when Barker directs his own films the results can be mixed--Night Breed is only a mediocre movie at best, although much of this is to be blamed on poor editing. Lord of Illusions was then a pleasant surprise for me. Here is an entertaining movie that captures the spirit of Clive Barker's literary works on film. There is violence, gore, depravity, and the mounting terror that one usually finds in Barker's works. My only complaint with the film is that some of the characters, other than Harry D'Amour, are not fully developed. Dorothea in particular seems rather 2 dimensional--she is there simply as the standard film noir heroine. Anyhow, except for the first two Hellraiser films, Lord of Illusions is Barker at his best.
The Worst of the First Three
I have yet to see Bloodline or Inferno, but Hell on Earth is the worst of the first three Hellraiser movies. It lacks both the wit and the sheer terror of the first two films. What's more, it breaks the rules established in the previous Hellraiser films (that is, Cenobites cannot harm the truly innocent, the Cenobites can be summoned or banished by the box, and so on). And while Pinhead actually spoke very little in the first two films, in Hell on Earth he is downright talky. Unfortunately, only a few of his lines are very memorable. It is unfortunate that Clive Barker did not have more to do with this movie (he wrote and directed the first and wrote the story for the second), as it might have turned out much better.