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Rich Man, Poor Man - Book II (1976)
The grippingly-nominated sequel...
The gripping sequel to the award-winning television mini-series 'Rich Man, Poor Man' stands the test of time, and also is a stand alone representation of a well-produced piece of drama. Peter Strauss returns in fine form as Senator Rudy Jordache (the original 'Rich Man' of the title) as the story continues to chronicle his life, career and family. The story proceeds to 1968 and is transfixed to this period of time as opposed to relaying the action over a period of years as per the mini- series. The introduction of Rudy's nephew, Wesley and stepson, Billy adds a new entertaining dimension to the elements over 22 episodes. The series features some very good acting performances in support which includes Susan Blakely, Van Johnson, Ray Milland, Peter Haskell, Susan Sullivan, John Anderson and Kay Lenz. However, it is the portrayal of the psychotic 'Falconetti' by William Smith that illuminates the on- screen chills in his ongoing vendetta with anything connected with the name 'Jordache'. The young guns of the cast also shine with notable turns from Gregg Henry, James Carroll-Jordan, Penny Peyser and Kimberly Beck. The series received two Emmy-Award nominations and upon viewing the cliff-hanging courtroom scenes in Washington it's not difficult to understand why, as Rudy attempts to bring to justice the corrupt billionaire, Charles Estep; the dramatics are wonderfully executed. 'Rich Man, Poor Man - Book II' was never going to hit the heights of the classic status of the preceding mini-series, but it has achieved popular worldwide recognition as a welcome, and most enjoyable, sequel of a great story.
A Beard and A High-Starched Collar
This is a wonderfully unique experience to watch 'The King' in this western-story setting as an ex-outlaw turned good. Elvis plays it straight equipped with a beard to fight his former gang of 'friends' - the leader of which is Victor French in a tour-de-force performance. A fine supporting cast which includes Ina Balin and Solomon Sturges turning in two admirable screen performances, helps to give Elvis' movie career a boost at this point in the 'Comeback' era of his musical oddyssey. "Charro!" is a fresh and uplifting western and is a welcome change to hear EP only sing one song in a movie, and this one is over the opening credits. Elvis delivers a good character portrayal of Jess Wade, and isn't as stereotyped as some of the previous characters from the other films from his mid-60's celluloid repertoire. I think any western/Elvis fan would view this as more than just a 'curiosity piece' because it does turn out to be quite an engaging 94 minutes. You almost forget that it's the man himself on screen who we are so used to watching being surrounded by Girls, Bikini's, Cotton Candy, and racing cars. The movie also features some beautiful Arizona cinematography. Recommended.
Girl Happy (1965)
Entertainingly Girl Happy about it!
I recently obtained the newly-remastered DVD of "Girl Happy" and I must admit that I was surprisingly taken aback at how much I enjoyed this rather entertaining 'beach' movie.
I first viewed "GH" on TV back in 1986 and suffice to say that it didn't really make a great impression on me due to the somewhat lacklustre material of songs that Elvis performed in it. However, even a few of these managed to charm my tastebuds this second time around.
Obviously, it's not one of Elvis' best overall movies but is certainly in the category of one of his best (and much-loved) 60's musicals - it is really entertaining. Elvis is in fine form along with a good supporting cast that includes leading lady, Shelley Fabares along with Bing Crosby's son, Gary plus the sultry Mary Ann Mobley and Harold J. Stone.
A particular scene that I found fascinating was the action-packed fight in the club, Elvis appears to be doing so well fending them off with some karate moves and all when suddenly he takes a bottle over the back of the head! An unusual and unpredictable happening in one of his movies at this point.
"Girl Happy" is not one of my favourite Elvis movie soundtracks but the title track is OK, albeit somewhat faster in speed. There's also the catchy "Cross My Heart, Hope To Die", a duet of "Spring Fever" which wasn't featured on the original album, and the sweet ballad "Puppet On A String".
It's worth checking out, and if it doesn't grab you the first time then maybe it will on a second viewing.
Live a Little, Love a Little (1968)
The Edge of Reality
I recently viewed this underrated gem for the first time in many years and almost forgot what an entertaining ride it is - especially in that 'speed buggy' at the start of the opening sequence.
I very much prefer the movies Elvis was churning out towards the end of his movie career as opposed to the likes of "Harum Scarum", "Clambake" and "Easy Come, Easy Go".
"Live A Little..." gave us a more mature Elvis in his first adult-type comedy film role, and even though the script engages a series of weird scenarios that border on the insane, it's great to see EP make his mark in this type of movie. Elvis looks great physically and his wardrobe too has got to be admired - check out the scene were he is wearing those shades...so cool! The film boasts only four songs but they appear to be of a higher standard than most of his mid-60's vehicles. The two stand-out numbers are the No. 1 smash hit "A Little Less Conversation" and the dramatic dream sequence of "Edge of Reality".
The tag line of the movie is "Watch Elvis click with these chicks!" and that he most certainly does especially in the form of leading lady Michelle Carey and Co-Star, Celeste Yarnall ('Miss Little Less Conversation'). Elvis' pet Great Dane, 'Brutus' also gets a co-starring role and almost steals the show - his character is called 'Albert'! A fine male cast helps the proceedings too in the form of Dick Sargent, Don Porter and veteran singing 'heartthrob', Rudy Vallee. So, "Live A Little, Love A Little" is entertainingly weird and wonderful and along with "Charro", "The Trouble With Girls" and "Change of Habit" was the slight departure from his typical sixties musical that Elvis needed at this point in his career.
Finally, if you're only viewing this as just a curiosity piece then be curious enough to check out that amazing fight scene in the Newspaper printing warehouse - this has got to be the best fight scene in an Elvis movie ever staged!
Thriller is a Killer!
Classic Seventies VT Drama at it's suspenseful best from one of Television's best-ever writers - Brian Clemens.
Many a youngster who was embarking on their early growing-up years in the mid-70's will no doubt have either vague or very fond memories of this series. These memories will no doubt be of the eerie opening/closing titles and theme music which added to the atmosphere of the stories. "Thriller" does have a vast cult following across the globe and with the lavish 16-Disc DVD Boxed Set now available to buy at a bargain price online, this following will continue to grow. If you're a fan of "Thriller" then you can re-live the magic of what it was like when first watching this on a Saturday night way back when.
The production is certainly of it's time with a combination of VT studio and filmed location footage, along with at least one American Guest Star in, more or less, every episode. Brian Clemens really pulled out the stops with his venture into the supernatural, murder and mystery genre's and kept us on edge with each weekly installment. You'll have your favourites and not-so favourites, but basically there is something for everyone in this British Anthology series. There are plot twists a-plenty in each episode and some less obvious than others, along with some great acting performances from the likes of Robert Powell, Diana Dors, Norman Eshley, Brian Blessed, Hayley Mills et al.
Don't miss out on this one - "Thriller" provides you with a wonderful piece of British Television history that you won't find being shown on Terrestrial TV anymore.
Fleetwood Mac: The Dance (1997)
The Chain of Dreams
This concert is what all musical dreams are made of and it's just fabulous. I first viewed this 10 years ago (the year it was filmed) and it's a wonder I haven't outplayed the CD and Video/DVD! From the opening chords of "The Chain" through to Christine's beautiful encore of "Songbird", the chills and thrills will run up and down your spine just like Lindsey's fingers run up and down his guitar fretboard.
This is a live musical masterpiece and is very addictive viewing and listening. The fabulous five are in fine form throughout, and it appears to be a total reinvention of sorts. The wonderful arena of the Warner Bros. Studios compliments the occasion with it's lavish stage set.
There are so many highlights in this great concert including "Dreams", "Everywhere", "Gold Dust Woman", "Landslide", "Over My Head", "Go Your Own Way" and Mick's drumming! However, it's the lead guitar-driven performances of Lindsey Buckingham that steals the show from the hard-rock blues of "I'm So Afraid" (which is a passionately orgasmic experience to behold!) to the acoustically fresh "Big Love" and "Go Insane" both of which illustrate wonderful grace and beauty.
There are also some new songs in there too namely "Temporary One", "Bleed To Love Her", "My Little Demon" and "Sweet Girl". Stevie Nicks' crowning moment comes in the form of the beautiful "Silver Springs" - wonderful! The finale is something to behold too, complete with the accompaniment of the USC Marching Band - "Tusk" and "Don't Stop", which leads us to Christine's heartfelt encore at the piano - Fabulous!
If you don't own this on CD and DVD then where have you been for the past ten years - go out and buy tomorrow!!!
North and South, Book II (1986)
A Civil War Sequel!
Book One of this great mini-series ended on the brink of the Civil War, and now with Book Two, based on John Jakes' novel "Love & War", we are thrown dramatically into the unfolding of the proceedings.
The North and the South are greatly divided in this full scale war which is beautifully staged on the screen with some very tense battles of hatred and prejudice.
However, throughout all the warfare that is taking place we are taken on a further journey of the Pennsylvanian Hazard family and the South Carolina Main family. The story not only unfolds through the eyes of best friends, George & Orry but includes the trials and tribulations of other members of their families. We have a fine supporting cast once again, even though we have a couple of new players they appear to enhance their character's stories - Parker Stevenson as Billy Hazard and Mary Crosby as Isabell Hazard.
Book Two also features the great acting mimicry of Hal Holbrook as Abraham Lincoln, and also a big congratulations to the make-up department in aiding with his portrayal.
North & South: Book Two is a must-see and a must-buy for any Civil War enthusiast, as well as any fan of the Hazard and Main families. This mini-series must be regarded as one of the best TV sequels of all-time!
Blue Suede Shoes (1985)
The 30th Anniversary
A truly great TV Special performance form a truly professional and genuinely nice Rock 'n' Roll pioneer - Carl Perkins.
It's great that this classic show has finally got it's DVD release so that it can be savoured by future generations to experience the origins of 'Rockabilly' music from a legend from the Sun Records era. An all-star musical ensemble including Dave Edmunds, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and two of the members of the 'Stray Cats' ignite this celebration of what would have been the 30th Anniversary of Carl's classic hit "Blue Suede Shoes".
This show was recorded at Limehouse Studios in London in 1985 and is a wonderful record of just how great a musician and performer Mr. Perkins was. It's fabulous to see the adulation that the likes of Dave Edmunds and especially George Harrison bestow upon the man whilst performing at his side. All his classic hits are here including the very first song he recorded at Sam Phillips' Sun Studios in Memphis. The other great highlights include a rousing version of "Honey Don't" by Ringo Starr, a foxy performance by Rosanne Cash - Johnny's Daughter, some wild drumming from Slim Jim Phantom and some double-bass beating licks from Lee Rocker. And that's Carl's son, Greg on guitar too!
A great segment during the show has everybody seated on stage with their relevant instruments and taking part in what Carl refers to as his 'School of Rock'. We are then taken on another trip down Rock's memory lane as the group pay homage to the sound of the man who made Rockabilly music an art form in itself - Carl's ol' buddy, Elvis Presley.
"Carl Perkins & Friends" is an emotional event and will have you cheering and dancing in the aisles just like the TV audience at the finale - Long Live the music of Mr. Perkins!
The forerunner to the most historical concert ever performed by a single artist - "Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii Rehearsal Concert" was performed two days prior to the actual satellite telecast that was beamed to over 30 different countries on January 14th, 1973.
This concert was performed at 8:30pm on January 12th, 1973 at the Honolulu International Center Arena, and was performed as a dress-rehearsal in case anything went wrong with the transmission of the concert on the 14th.
A lot of fans prefer this actual show stating that Elvis is a lot more 'loose' and is in better vocal shape than the concert 2 days later. Elvis drops a few numbers from the official set-list but it certainly doesn't suffer for it. The show still has it's fair share of adrenalin and excitement through Elvis' dramatic arrangements of such classics as "You Gave Me A Mountain", "Steamroller Blues" and "An American Trilogy". Some fans claim that his performance of the latter song is the best version ever.
The Aloha Rehearsal concert is part of the deluxe 2-disc DVD set of "Aloha from Hawaii" and is a welcome addition of a concert that is very rarely viewed these days.
So, whether you watch the telecast show from the 14th or the rehearsal show from the 12th either way you won't really be disappointed.
Long Live 'THE KING'!
Auf Wiedersehen, Pet (1983)
Get It Right!
Get It Right - this must be the best TV Comedy-Drama of all-time! From the origins of it's classic first series in 1983 and it's equally enjoyable and 'troublesome' second series through to the welcoming third and fourth series after a 16-year gap, and the final special in 2004 - it's all such glorious stuff from a cast and crew of brilliant writers, directors and actors.
The characterisations are superbly crafted and it's very hard not to love these guys who at one point represented the turmoil of Maggie Thatcher's working-class Britain. There are many wonderful episodes to be viewed throughout the series that not only will have you rolling off the couch, but also reaching for the odd hankie or two.
A much-deserved Award-winner!