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Shower of Stars: Cloak and Dagger (1957)
Prime Jack Benny Hosting CBS Variety Hour
Jack Benny is almost always worth seeing, especially when he has material tailored for him by his own writers, as he had here. He joshes with William Lundigan, the Chrysler announcer, who corrects his English (an old Benny joke, recycled from radio days).
He trades quips with Gale Storm and Lawrence Welk (who is pretty stiff) and a marionette even uglier than Waylan Flowers' Madame (an early effort of Sid Krofft before his Puff'n'Stuff success).
There's a long sketch in a nightclub where Hedy Lamarr hires Jack's detective to find a nuclear scientist, during which a lack of tables to be seated is solved when two guests shoot each other.
This was filmed during the time Jack was playing violin seriously with orchestras around the country to raise money for their pension fund, which gets a modest and jokey mention.
The best joke is Jack's, who claims his singing prowess is such that if he put down his violin and oiled his hips, he could be another Elvis!
Amazon Primes Gives Ability to Look Back at Childhood Friends
This was a kine-scope of a 50-minute 1959 TV special starring George Burns. It's amazing to think he died in 1996 and outlived Bobby Darin, who was only 23 at this time and died in 1973. Burns was a big promoter of Darin, and they worked well together. First Darin sang CLEMENTINE, and then he and George did a sand dance. Burns was 54 at the time and really smooth and in great singing voice.
In fact, in his later years, when he was an octogenarian and older, he did substantially this same act, making fun of his singing voice, singing really old vaudeville songs and telling stories about starting out with neighborhood kids as the Peewee Quartet, as well as all the different acts and names he had in vaudeville. There was more singing and less comedy in this, though, and it was great.
Jack Benny was on, ostensibly recreating his first time on stage without his violin, so that he didn't know what to do with his hands; it was pretty funny, although Jack was not really a physical comic; his awkwardness (except when he mimed bowing his violin) was part of the joke.
At the end, Jack, George, Eddie Cantor and Georgie Jessel sang PALS, while they each tried to upstage the other. I enjoyed this very much, although the b/w print was very smeary and hard to see someone youthful like Darin, whose face seemed washed out. Here's a clip from this sequence: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUpLdLupNWk
All the ads were cut and the running time was still 50 minutes; now you hardly get 40 minutes without commercials during an hour.
Ethel Merman showed up at the end to tout her appearance the following week. She looked great.
Girls at Sea (1958)
Idiot Plot about 3 Young Women Stowaways on Board a British Ship
This is a lame British comedy, based apparently on a play, about a stiff admiral (Michael Hordern) with a jealous wife, who spends the night on board a ship as it cruises from Cannes to Genoa for a NATO conference, and becomes slowly aware that 3 nubile young women are on board, strictly against regulations. Lionel Jeffries has a cameo as an American tourist who asks naive questions about the ship's gyro compass. Daniel Massey, younger than I've ever seen him, played a ship's officer embarrassed by the goings on. Ronald Shiner appeared as a sailor who has jilted a French flower seller, who pursues him on board and gets accidentally locked in overnight.
Studio One: A Dead Ringer (1958)
Golden Age TV Anthology Episode Pops up on the Anniversary of its Original 1958 Telecast
Gig Young oozes charm as the slimy kept husband of a doting rich woman, whom he married because her medical diagnosis called for her imminent demise. When she lives on for years, smothering him with nagging affection, he despairs. Then at the NY airport, he runs into his lookalike; the man tells him his name, and later Young hits on the idea of bribing this duplicate to stand outside a NY TV station during the morning weather report, which his wife watches religiously, thereby giving him an alibi at the time of her death.
Young strangles his wife and gets away with no suspicion, but later makes the mistake of marrying her sister (Montgomery), who is younger and more attractive, but as soon as the honeymoon is over, she turns into the smothering nag his wife was.
Young then decides to use his duplicate again, but makes a further mistake of phoning him from his home, so that the NY man knows Young lives in Sacramento. The New Yorker travels there and goes through old newspapers to discover the never solved murder of Young's wife.
STUDIO ONE started life as a live 90-minute TV series, but by the time of this 1958 episode, at least some of it was on film, allowing Young to play both roles, although without the technical split/screen method available in films, so that he never appeared simultaneously as both characters.
Young was married at the time to Montgomery and they played well together.
Ken Mayer, known to SPACE PATROL nerds like me as Major Robertson, had a small role at the end as a NYC cop; and Anthony Eisley a fair size part as Montgomery's jilted boyfriend.
When this appeared in 2016 on the Decades Channel, which broadcasts old TV series, even the Westinghouse TV commercials with Betty Furness were included. According to an on-screen credit, this was actually aired on the anniversary of its original 1958 debut.
Jack can't sleep so he gets up at 3 am and plays the violin. They created an elaborate table top model of his Beverly Hills neighborhood so you could see the lights going on in each nearby house.
Someone calls the cops (Herb Vigran and others), who break in and arrest Jack for disturbing the peace. In the cell, his hands are admired by two thugs because they look as if he could break into Fort Knox.
Rochester hires a lawyer who has no office, but sits under a beach umbrella on the corner (Frank Nelson). Jack rejects him and opts to defend himself. The judge is cranky because some idiot kept him up all night playing the violin; he hands out 30 days hard labor to the previous prisoner who only jaywalked.
Jack realizes he can't say he was the violin player, so he shows the judge his slender hands and says he is a safe cracker. In the end, Jack winds up back home, unable to find his pajamas, because he's already wearing them under his clothes.
Joe Kearns narrated this, Frank Gerstle was a prison guard, Mel Blanc was a drunk in jail and Olan Soule was the court clerk. Great stuff! Lewis Charles was in this as well as one of Jack's cell-mates, who is hoping to get sent to prison because he wants to run the auto license franchise
Balada triste de trompeta (2010)
"Freaks" meets "Santa Sangre"
If you have seen any film by Alex de la Ingelsia, then you know that no two of his films are alike, that they contain a lot of humor and arresting images, and often a lot of graphic gores, and are the product of a very original mind. THE LAST CIRCUS is no exception. There are images in this film that will stay with you for years.
The settings are many and varied, beginning with the Spanish Civil War in 1937 and winding up in 1973 on a War Monument that includes a giant cross and statues for an ending that will bring to mind Hitchcock's NORTH BY NORTHWEST. Along the way there is a nightclub dedicated to Telly Savalas called Kojak!
Pedro Rodríguez has created two very different special effects makeups, one of a man who has self-mutilated his face with acid and a hot iron, and another by man who has had his face slashed with a grappling hook and then stitched back together by a veterinarian. Rodríguez is someone whose future work bears watching.
The setting for much of the action is a traveling circus reminiscent of FREAKS crossed with Alejandro Jodorowsky's SANTA SANGRE. Clowns have always been pretty creepy anyway, but you will never look at them the same after this film.
One Way Pendulum (1965)
Seminal N.F. Simpson play translated to screen
I have longed to see this film and pestered Turner to show it for years, and finally they put it on in October 2011 as part of a Peter Yates series. It has a wonderful cast of British actors, including Graham Crowden (who appeared in the original play), George Cole, Mona Washbourne and Glyn Houston.
Jonathan Miller is cast against type as an almost nonverbal character who is training talking weighing machines to sing as a chorus. I was amazed to hear one of the songs they sang was Michael Brown's LIZZIE BORDEN from NEW FACES OF 1952! If you haven't read the play, you may have trouble following this when a living room turns into a court room; it must have been easier to grasp this watching it on stage where the room was assembled before the audience by the eccentric father.
Thank you, Turner, for finally letting the public see this!
Another Affectionate Spoof from Larry Blamire's Wonderful Core of Zany Actors
One of the great joys of Larry Blamire's films is that he uses the same core cast for each of his affectionate pastiches, so you get to see them in a variety of roles. The affection one feels for them upon meeting up again is akin to that felt for long gone movie actors of one's childhood. This film "presented by Ray Harryhausen" has inexplicably failed to find distribution, even to DVD, but eventually showed up near Hallowe'en 2010 on the Independent Film Channel. It uses INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS as its template (indeed, the late Kevin McCarthy makes a brief cameo appearance).
This has some nice animation (or CGI?) from the Chiodo Brothers, and a really hysterical theme song, which Blamire's wife manages to sing twice in the film a capella (hats off for that!).
This is not as spot on as THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, but it is certainly wonderful enough to deserve distribution. I particularly like the disguise the aliens use of pillbox hats with veils which completely fails to hide their bulging foreheads.
New Faces (1954)
Interesting look at Broadway revue in its fading days.
NEW FACES of 1952 has a backstage structure imposed on it of the cast requiring cash in order for the show to continue; and two cast members being in love, against the wishes of the girl's Texan father. The cast mainly featured Ronnie Graham, Alice Ghostley, Robert Clary and Eartha Kitt. Additional cast members included June Carroll, Virginia DeLuce, Paul Lynde, Bill Mullins, Rosemary O'Reilly, Allen Conroy, Jimmy Russell, George Smiley, Polly Ward, Carol Lawrence, Johnny Lavery, Elizabeth Logan, Faith Burwell and Clark Ranger. The words and music were "mostly" by Ronny Graham, Arthur Siegel, June Carroll, Sheldon Harnick and Michael Brown, with additional contributions from Murray Grand, Ellisse Boyd, Alan Melville, Herbert Farjeon (who gave Joyce Grenfell her start in revues), Francis LeMarque and Peter DeVries. The sketches were written by Ronny Graham, "Melvin" Brooks, Paul Lynde, Luther Davis and John Cleveland. The numbers included: C'est Si Bon Eartha Kitt Meet the Senate Paul Lynde, Ronny Graham & Others Lucky Pierre Robert Clary Penny Candy ? Boston Beguine Alice Ghostley Love is a Simple Thing Robert Clary, Earthy Kitt Famous Southern Writer Ronny Graham Time for Tea Alice Ghostley & Others Alouette Robert Clary Santa, Baby Eartha Kitt Waltzing in Venice ? Take Off Your Mask Ronny Graham, Alice Ghostley Mr. Canker in Darkest Africa Paul Lynde Raining Memories Robert Clary I'm In Love With Miss Logan Robert Clary Pickpocket Paul Lynde, Alice Ghostley, Ronny Graham Lizzie Borden Ronny Graham & Others Monotonous Eartha Kitt Finale Entire Cast
MEET THE SENATE was a senate investigation into jazz, with Ronny Graham in a zoot suit. PENNY CANDY is a heart tugging song by a bejeweled lady thinking back to her childhood when a piece of penny candy could make her happy as nothing in her rich life does now. BOSTON BEGUINE is a famous Sheldon Harnick number which Alice Ghostley really shines in. I couldn't figure out who the "famous Southern author" was supposed to be - Tennessee Williams; Truman Capote (the character's name is Kaput). TIME FOR TEA is a sad lament of missed opportunities in youth which lead to becoming two old maids. TAKE OFF YOUR MASK is Ronny Graham importuning Alice Ghostley to remove her mask at a ball in Vienna, but when he pulls it off, he begs her to put it back on and dashes away on a gondola. MR. CANKER IN DARKEST AFRICA is Paul Lynde in bandages and on crutches, narrating his unfortunate experiences on a recent trip to Egypt. I'M IN LOVE WITH MISS LOGAN is Robert Clary as a young boy with a crush on his teacher and not even knowing her first name. PICKPOCKET is a skit in which Paul Lynde is an unsuccessful pickpocket who is disappointed in his son, Ronny Graham, who plays baseball and gets A's on his report card, and doesn't seem to want to follow him into the family business. MONOTONOUS is Eartha Kitt as a femme fatale, bored with her life even though she "made Johnny Ray smile for me; a camel walked a mile for me."