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Landing: Airport Stories (2004)
I can't believe that she really wants to leave me - and it's getting me so.
As we near the end of our trip through the making of The Terminal, our final stop is a short piece in which several contributors from the previous documentaries recount their own most peculiar or unpleasant experiences at airports. Basically, these snippets of interview are outtakes from the earlier short that show cast & crew putting themselves in Viktor (the protagonist of the film they've been talking about all along)'s situation. Before, after and in between each segment the viewers are treated by more footage of that adorably grumpy little old Kumar Pallana doing juggling tricks.
Catherine Zeta-Jones tells about duty free shopping for Christmas in Singapore. Production designer Alex McDowell recounts being stuck in JFK during a blackout. Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski relates to Viktor because being detained as an immigrant was his nightmare for many years. Composer John Williams remembers the theft of his black leather artist case in which he carried his music orchestrations. Tom Hanks talks about feeling self conscious about his language skills when first visiting Paris, France. But in a bit of a twist ending, director Steven Spielberg confesses he's never had any problem ever visiting airports. He concludes he must have been lucky. But we all know it's because he's Steven Spielberg, that's why.
Since this is the final documentary on the disc, it is the only one with a credit roll at the end, as well as a surprise advertisement for the Terminal original score soundtrack.
6 out 10
Airport, you've got a smiling face. You took my lady to another place
No collection of Digital Versatile Disc special feature documentaries about the making of a Steven Spielberg movie can be complete without at least one focusing on John Williams. No matter which Spielberg film you pop into your DVD player, John Williams is always there. Actually, that's not entirely true, but it certainly doesn't sound like a real Spiel without him.
Talking about The Terminal, Johnny likes this film, very much. And since the main character is from a fictional Eastern European country called Krakozhia, Mr. Williams takes time to explain that he used eastern European music instruments such as the clarinet, the Hungarian cimbalom and even a subtle use of accordion too. Sadly, John doesn't discuss the Krakozhia National Anthem he composed for the film.
But in a pleasant break from the way these DVD features usually play out, Williams gets to talk about his love for jazz. You see, Johnny started his career as a jazz man, and that classic all American music style is linked to the picture of musicians that sort of serves as this films's Macguffin. Naturally John loves this idea and indeed has been familiar with the actual photograph for decades. In fact, in his younger days, Johnny owned the trombone of one of the men featured on it: Miff Mole, (of Miff Mole and his Little Molers). Still, the only aspects of jazz which appear in the film score are part of Amelia's theme, because her character is an American (played by Welsh Catherine Zeta-Jones).
We've almost reached our final destination, the last stop is called "Landing: Airport Stories".
7 out of 10
I hear the plane is ready by the gateway to take my love away.
Now that we've met all the cast and witnessed the construction of the titular Terminal, this fourth documentary (or sixth if you watched the last one as three separate pieces) covers the main production of the 2004 film by that name. And even though the is focus again how wonderful the giant set was for all involved to work in, we learn enough new insights to make this feature worthwhile.
Producer Walter Parkes mentions that the first two or three weeks were spent filming the scenes set in the cramped quarters of the bureau of homeland security. Not the most visually exciting set. Then they allowed Spielberg and co onto the big cinematic 'T' set, about which nobody has a negative thing to say. Because of the entire film takes place in one location, many crew-members expected this film would be a casual shoot but Spielberg always works fast. He explains that even though the main character Viktor remains in one place, the movie has a tremendous pace. Waiting can be exciting and entertaining.
A large part of this feature is devoted to the efforts of Costume designer Mary Zophres. She had the most fun with the background passengers. 600 extras walked up and down the set for 20 days in a row. And in her mind, Mary created a character for every single person that goes in front of the camera by giving them special props to carry and items of clothing to wear. Main character Viktor wears the same suit he came into the country with up until he decides not to leave the terminal. Then he settles down, first wearing more clothes he brought with him, and eventually a new Hugo Boss to impress his date.
Speaking of Cathine Zeta-Jones, she gives a shout out to her personal stylists and also only has tree main outfits in the film. Meanwhile Stanley Tucci had a bonding moment with Mary when they both decided at the same time that a tie wasn't right for his character. The visual effects team also became involved with various wardrobe items when stunts were needed.
Two of Steven Spielberg's most frequent collaborators, Director of Photography Janusz Kaminski and editor Mike Kahn receive special attention. The set was constantly being elegantly lit by Kaminski, who made it look like actual sunlight during the many daytime scenes. The tone of the lighting changes as Viktor adapts to his situation, starting off very blue and cold looking. When he starts to settle into his home, and the audience warms to Viktor, the colors change to more warm, yellow and orange tones.
After working together on 17 out of Steven's 21 films, Steven claims he and editor Michael Kahn are basically one and the same person now. Steven finishes up by confessing he felt that had to take a break from serious films after a run of dark films in the late nineties and early 2000's and wanted to make another feel good movie like the similarly lighthearted Catch Me If You Can two years earlier.
Now that we've settled down, keep relaxing because up next is "In Flight Service: The Music of the Terminal".
7 out of 10
Well I help her with her baggage for her baggage is so heavy
Unlike the other 5 documentaries found in the Extra Features menu on the special and/or deluxe DVD versions of The Terminal, "The People of The Terminal" comprises three separate videos instead of just the one. The first focuses on the main character, the second on the love interest and the third is about the rest of them (six supporting characters in fact). Lucky for us, the DVD menu includes a 'play all' option.
Tom Hanks is "Viktor" (7 minutes 38 seconds)
Tom read the screenplay a long time ago and wanted to do it even before Steven S. got involved. Steven makes it clear that Viktor's home country Krakozhia does not really exist. Tom was influenced by his father-in-law when creating the Krakozshian accent. The two of them compare their working relationship, having made three films together at this point (the others being 1998's "Saving Private Ryan" and 2002's "Catch Me If You Can"). Spielberg reveals that Hanks did more improv and was more inventive while filming The Terminal this third time round.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is "Amelia" (8 minutes 41 seconds)
Catherine recounts that Steven kick-started her career when he spotted her in the 1996 CBS TV movie version of "Titanic", then arranged to meet her on the set of "Jurassic Park: The Lost World" (1997) to talk about a part in "The Mask of Zorro" (1998). Spielberg explains it was quite daring to cast the gorgeous Zeta-Jones as a woman who is unlucky in love. To be precise, she's in love with a man who plays hard-to-get-a-commitment-out-of (played by Michael Nouri, not Chris Sarandon). Viktor wins her heart by just patiently listening. Then the two main actors start gushing about each other while we are treated to behind the scenes footage of them goofing and awkwardly dancing around on set.
Victor's World (15 minutes 30 seconds)
Stanley Tucci is "Dixon". All he's doing is his job. Dixon is under approval for a top position at the airport and can't use a problem like Viktor at this moment. Viktor becomes a threat to Dixon's career. Tucci was Spielbergs first and only choice.
Barry Shabaka Henley is "Thurman". Each time this actor's name is mentioned, it sounds like 'Chewbacca', but it's actually 'Shabaka'. Thurman is not allowed to show sympathy for Viktor's situation. Shabaka worked as a prison guard in San Fransisco and knows exactly what this feels like.
Diego Luna is "Enrique". Diego was another first choice from Steven after seeing Luna in "Y tu mamá también" (2001). His character was part of several supporting characters from various nationalities that underline the film's theme of immigrants coming to a land of milk and honey from all over the world.
Zoe Saldana is "Officer Torres". Zoe was discovered by casting director Debby Zane rather than Steven (this being before she got her part in the first Pirates of the Caribean). She was told main objective was just to have fun with the role and shout 'Next' at the top of her lungs.
Kumar Pallana is "Gupta". Another Zane discovery who's participation was a bit questionable for a while because of his advancing age. He had the part when he shook hands with Spielberg and said hello. His son and daughter helped him out on set with the more physical scenes but their exact contributions remain unclear in this documentary.
Chi McBride is "Mulroy". Chi turns his segments into a stand-up act and mostly talks about Kumar (who is fast taking over the focus of this feature). Spielberg first describes Viktor's friends as the Three Wise Men, then changes his mind and calls Chi the Cowardly Lion, Kumar the scarecrow and Diego the Tin Man, meaning Tom Hanks is Dorothy.
Next we're going to have to fasten our seat-belts for "Take Off: Making The Terminal"
8 out of 10
Where the weather is much better and the food is so much cheaper.
If you just can't get enough of sped up footage of builders constructing a set (accompanied by John Williams music) you're in for a treat with this 12 minute documentary. And lets face it, that kind of stuff never gets old. Director Steven Spielberg and production designer Alex McDowell are the stars of this short, documenting their second collaboration (after 2002s Minority Report) Before production, the former told the latter that the terminal (the setting of practically the entire film, not the title) couldn't disappoint anybody.
Alex pleased Steve by coming up with a look that combined a 1920's retro look with with that of a modern departure lounge. Design and approval, as well as making a detailed maquette took 3 weeks, then during a further 18 weeks the set was built while Steven spent the entire summer studying the model with a tiny camera - just like in those famous pictures of him photographing a tiny representation of the desert set from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
The fake terminal was build as a real piece of architecture with steel walls and granite floors. Only the light plastic roof wasn't weathered proof. According to Alex, it was the first movie set - except possibly the one from Coppola's "One from the Heart" - to incorporate actual working escalators He gives a small tour explaining where the various shops that feature in the film, like Borders, Starbucks and Hudson News are located. Also of note was that supervising graphic designer François Audouy collaborated with Dutch airport signage innovator Paul Mijksenaar, who's revolutionary Wayfinding system, originally developed for Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport had recently been introduced at New York's JFK airport.
A separate hangar at Palmdale housed the set that served as an unfinished wing that was being used as storage in the film and became the lead character's makeshift home. Both sets featured the most amazing backdrop (with moving lights) Steven had ever made use on during his career till that time. Subsequently, they crew also shot footage in Motreal at an actual working airport for the opening scenes at the immigration's.
But back to the star of this documentary, the big terminal. We hear Spiel say he wanted to memorize the set before starting the movie and Tom Hanks exclaim that he never wanted to leave it. But despite of his knowledge, the director didn't plan any scenes beforehand, so that each day upon entering the terminal, it would stimulate him anew each and inspire him with new angles every day. In typical Spielbergian style, he ended up using ever square inch of that set during production.
Next stop: a three part behind the scenes feature collectively known as "Boarding: The People of the Terminal"
8 out of 10
So many destination faces going to so many places
The extra features on the second disc of the 2 Disc Special Edition DVD set of The Terminal open with a menu modeled after the airport's flight information board as seen in the picture. There are six 'destinations' on the first page and a seventh, the photo gallery, on the second page. We will be discussing the first six, five of which links to a short subject by Laurentz Bouzereau while one leads to three separate segments. All of them combined compromise the complete making of the picture from script to post production. Amusingly, the titles reflect the various stages of traveling by airplane, from booking a ticket to departing after landing.
So, we begin with "Booking the Flight: The Script, The Story" and naturally the first interviewee is director Steven Spielberg, who talks about airports on the whole and then explains the story of The Terminal. In doing so, he uses the expression 'snafu' which is probably the closest we'll ever get to hearing Steven utter a dirty word. We get a little insight into the way Spielberg picks his scripts: he usually sits down with a stack of them he refers to as a "weekend reading package" and goes through about 3 a day. The Terminal happened to be the last one he read on a Sunday, but it intrigued him enough to forget the five that had come before.
Also interviewed are screenplay writers Sacha Gervasi and Jeff Nathanson and producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald. Gervasi recounts how he researched living in an actual airport. Nathanson talks about getting into the mindset of Americans and immigrants while Parkes mentions that the casting of Catherine Zeta-Jones changed the tone of the movie from being an 'in like' story to an 'in love' story.
Of course the interviews are illustrated with appropriate clips from the finished film and snippets of behind the scenes footage, many of which feature Kumar Pallana in and out of character as Gupta. After 8 minutes, this documentary ends rather abruptly, leading the viewer to continue with the next destination in this series: "Waiting for the Flight: Buildint the Terminal".
8 out of 10
Great Metrano week: day seven
Last week it was Art Metrano's birthday and this reviewer has been looking at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's & 80's by the man also known as The Great Metrano. Today is day seven: Hill Street Blues season seven: Falling from Grace.
This show is much more grown-up than any of the other series that have been featured in the Metrano week so far, so it's fitting that this one should close out the week (it's also the last one going by air-date). Still, it's funny since this series is practically the complete opposite of that other Eighites staple, The A-Team (reviewed yesterday) but whenever there's a car chase, Mike Post's music sounds almost exactly the same. HSB is also an ensemble peace with serialized story lines, so there are at least three plots here that began in the previous episode, 'Amazing Grace' (as if the title didn't give that away already) but none of these plot lines involve Art Metrano.
The Great Metrano shares a three scene 'arc' with my favorite pair of Hill Street cops: Renko & Hill. He plays shirt-salesman Al Sanderson. When we first meet him, he's shouting up a storm Metrano style in the middle of the street. He claims that a young street kid named Lewis broke into his car and stole his sample-case. The kid and his uncle admit that he broke into the car but all he did was listen to the radio. Sanderson initially refuses to go to the station because that'll take up too much of his precious time, but Renko and Hill insist.
After taking both parties' statements, Al's business partner Joel Hirschman shows up with the case, which was left in the hotel check-out desk. The cops tell Al he should apologies to the kid, but instead he offers him 50 bucks. Proud Lewis refuses. Later on, Hill & Renko bump into Al again and take a particular delight in busting him for sharing some private time in his car with a lady of the night (during the day). It's your typical sleazy kind of character Art Metrano excels at. Would have been nice if he had gotten a more dramatic arc, but hey, you take what you get.
Elsewhere in the precinct, Furillo is still coping with Councilman Wade who shot a man, claiming self defense. Belker is undercover as usual, this time at a car chop shop where he's not allowed to visit the seventh floor. And one of Buntz's finger has been sewn back on after an incident with a loan shark named Falco. The episode is bookended by scenes set in Buntz apartment, where Sid the Snitch appears to be a regular, if unwanted, visitor. Looks like the writers were already setting up the spin-off series "Beverly Hills Buntz" at this time.
One of the most interesting subplots involves Sister Chastity, formerly known as Grace Gardner, who can't help herself but fall for young officer Flaherty. Long time viewers will remember Grace as a regular character since season one. First appearing as the official police decorator, who soon became Sgt. Esterhaus' lover. There's a touching call back to his character (who died way back in season 4) when the Sister is seen straddling his podium while uttering his name (he died in her arms while having sex). They probably wouldn't have done this if the actor hadn't passed away, though.
And that wraps up this Great Metrano Week. Moustached in the Seventies, clean shaved in the Eighties, always a bad guy, never the lead but always putting a smile on this reviewers face as soon as he appears.
8 out of 10
The A-Team: Uncle Buckle-Up (1985)
Great Metrano week: day six
It was Art Metrano's birthday earlier this week, so this reviewer is looking at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's & 80's by the man also known as The Great Metrano. Today is day five: The A-Team: Uncle Buckle-Up.
This episode is not particularly well appreciated among A-Team fans, but at the time it first aired, Art Metrano was better known than ever after playing Mauser in the second and third Police Academy movies. It also puts Metrano up against his near-namesake Arte Johnson in the title-role. Still, we could have done without that opening sequence in a toy store that appears to have come straight out of Santa Claus the Movie.
So, Uncle Buckle-Up is a man in a chipmunk suit who has been teaching kids all about safety on TV since 1956. But he's upset that his formerly quality toy-line has been reduced to cheap knockoffs made in Japan. The man responsible for this, sleazy manufacturer Nick Gretch is of course played by Art the Great Metrano.
The A-Team gets involved because Hannibal has set his eyes on getting the supporting part of 'Ruff the Bear'. Seems he's become tired of playing monsters such as the Aquamanic all the time. Murdock, who is of course an Uncle Buckle-Up expert, poses as Hannibal's manager. There is surprisingly little action for an A-Team episode. We don't get a chase scene until 16 minutes have past (instead we see several men wearing Bear masks practicing a stupid dance). And even then this chase is rather lackluster as it doesn't feature any close-ups of the people involved, hence no witty one liners. The second action sequence is not much better: it's a brief shoot out in a convention hall filled with stuffed toys (but without any innocent bystanders, so there's no danger).
What we do get are no less than three scenes set at a zoo (because Hannibal has to study the bears to get into character). In the third of these, one of the evil henchmen is being held over a lion's den by B.A. Apparently Stephen J. Cannell really wanted to make the most out of their one day visit to the Zoo since all three scenes were obviously filmed on the same day. Not that you could tell by the A-Team since they never change their costumes during the episode anyway (except for Hannibal's bear outfit).
So, the A-Team, with Uncle Buckle-Up replacing Faceman, barge into The Great Metrano's office to point a gun at him and confront him about his falling apart toys. Along the way we get a throw away line by one of the toy manufacturers saying that B.A. would make a great doll. I'm a bit surprised they didn't sneak any of the A-Team toys into this episode actually, since the Six Million Dollar Man and Charlie's Angels got to plug their dolls on their show...
By now viewers of the episode and readers of this review who are paying attention might be wondering why Face is missing during the big Metrano confrontation. It's because he was fighting off all of Metrano's henchmen on the Uncle Buckle-Up set on his own (must have been filmed on one of the infamous days when both George Peppard and Mr. T. decided to leave early). The henchmen capture Faceman and Uncle Buckle-Up's assistant (also secretly his daughter) and they all get locked up in a toy warehouse.
Now I can see why this episode is not high on any A-Team lover's top ten favorites lists, but at least the requisite "A-Team building a tank out of nothing" scene here is an admirable piece of self-parody. The guys make an arsenal out of toy planes, remote control cars, rockets and firecrackers (and remember that Nick Gretch's toys were supposed to be complete rubbish). Armed with all this, they manage to blow up all the bad guys cars and defeat them utterly.
As for Art, he end up like all unscrupulous A-Team villains do: he gets knocked out by B.A. personally. And deservedly so: he was smuggling heroine in stuffed toys.
6 out of 10
The Great Metrano week will conclude tomorrow with Hill Street Blues: Falling from Grace.
Great Metrano week: day five
It was Art Metrano's birthday earlier this week, so this reviewer is looking at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's & 80's by the man also known as The Great Metrano. Today is day five: The Incredible Hulk: Stop the Presses.
Yes indeed, true believers, on November 24 1978, Art Metrano became the first and only man in history to be thrown around by two different TV superheroes from separate publishing houses on the same night and on the same network. First he faced DC's Wonder Woman (see yesterday's entry in this week of reviews) and immediately after that, he went up against Marvel's Green Goliath, the Incredible Hulk. Unfortunately for this reviewer, Art's part only lasts for about half the episode, so this might be an extra short review...
At least T.G.M. is front and center in the first shot of the show, bothering our favorite Hulk hunter Jack McGee at work: the New York offices of the National Register (established 1860). Our Art is 'Charlie' and he makes a buck selling pictures to the Register. But McGee knows Charlie likes to sell the same photos to different reporters and get paid twice. So tells him to stick to working with Joe Arnold, a young, unscrupulous newsman who likes to bend the truth to make his articles juicier.
Joe and Charlie's modus operandi is certainly unusual. They visit Bruno's, a promising new Italian restaurant run by two women and an Asian cook called Fred (Pat Morita, who else?). There they throw some firecrackers in the dumpster at the back so Fred and the new dishwasher (a certain David Banner) run out. While the staff is distracted, Joe and Charlie enter the kitchen, Charlie dumps garbage everywhere and Joe takes pictures. I thought Art Metrano (Charlie) was supposed to be the photographer here, but I guess reporter Joe didn't want to get his typing hands dirty.
Naturally Jill & Karen, the two girl owners (named after writers Jill Sherman and Karen Harris) are upset that a the health scare is about to be reported about Bruno's. Meanwhile dishwasher David is especially worried because Arnold managed to snap his picture. Strange character, that David. Clearly overqualified to be a mere dishwasher and much better at fixing the girls taxes and liquor license. But J&K don't want to see him leave because they both really fancy him.
For some reason Arnold and 'Cockroach' Charlie don't feel like they've done enough damage at Bruno's so they return for round two. But this time David is there. Unfotunately for him, Charlie used to be a wrestler and in no time David is face down in the food and thrown under the table. Somehow that happens to him in every episode. The baddies and bullies always dump Bill Bixby somewhere out of their eyesight for a few minutes so he has time to change places with Lou Ferigno. Then Lou comes out as the Incredible Hulk, pushes the entire kitchen counter at Art, picks him up and throws him out the door. Unfortunately that's the last we see of Art Metrano in this episode, as well as Pat Morita's Fred. They both decide to leave town after the first Hulk-out.
There are a few more things worthy of mentioning about this episode, because Karen & Jill (the writers, not the restaurant owners) keep throwing out more far fetched plot fabrications. David finds a snapshot made by the girls just before the fist garbage incident which just happens to have a newspaper with a readable date visible on it, as well as a clock showing the time. This is proof that Arnold (the reporter, not Pat Morita as he was known in Happy Days) came in later with other people's garbage.
But the evidence means nothing as long as they don't have Arnold's original negatives. So they have to sneak into the newspaper-building and dark haired Jill has to distract the guard by wearing a slinky black dress. The three of them manage to get the negatives, but then Jill, who earlier on mentioned that she briefly worked at the Register, figures out by looking at a 'runsheet' hanging on the wall that some of the pictures have already been duplicated and are at the presses, about to be printed. And of course one of those photographs shows David's face.
So, David sends the two women home and goes down to the presses. It's unclear what he was hoping to achieve on his own, because it sure doesn't look like he planned to get his denim jacket caught in the spinning press, causing him to Hulk-Out faster than usual and smash the entire printing press to pieces. I guess the Hulk must have retained a bit of Banners intentions this time around.
But the fun's not over yet. In another subplot, Jack McGee had just acquired a big game hunter's riffle and while he was just sitting at his desk after hours, admiring his weapon, he gets word the Hulk is on the premises. But McGee proves himself even clumsier with his rifle than Banner was with his jacket: he shoots a tranquilizer dart into his own leg. And that's how we get a scene of David Banner, (transformed back into Banner faster than ever) face to face with his hunter Jack. Only Jack is too groggy and woozy to make out David's face.
What a silly comic book episode this was. It must also be mentioned that a lot of scenes obviously had lines dubbed in at a later stage, whether it's a scene the two girls walking down the street or The Great Art wisecracking 'I Ain't gonna wrestle this guy' during his far too brief confrontation with the Hulk.
7 out of 10
The Great Metrano week will continue tomorrow with another classic: The A-Team: Uncle Buckle-Up
Wonder Woman: Skateboard Wiz (1978)
Great Metrano week: day four
To celebrate Art Metrano's birthday earlier this week, this reviewer is enjoying a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's & 80's by the man also known as The Great Metrano. Today is day four: Wonder Woman: Skateboard Wiz.
Yes, it's another episode in which Steve Trevor only has two scenes, and they are both at IADC headquarters. Also, it's another one of those where Diana Prince interacts with old acquaintances whom we never saw before on any other episode. This week there are three: former IADC supervisor personnel member Leslie O'Neil and her teenage daughter Jamie, plus former LA cop now turned traitor Skye Markham.
Diana has her first vacation in about a year (probably the first one ever, since she started working at the Inter Agency Defence Command as soon as she got back from Paradise Island in 1977) And she wants to spend it with her gal pal the widow Leslie. But the real genius in the family is daughter Jamie. Not only is she a fantastic roller-skater and arcade computer gamer (specializing in a 'Torpedo' type of game), she also has a photographic memory and can memorize top secret information with just one glance. On top of that she has a big mouth, introducing Diana as a spy to her African-American skater pal Kevin who's is only there to be awestruck and totally supportive of Jamie all the time. I'm telling you, there's a bright future for this girl at the IADC. But of course this is the third and final season so we won't see her again (and we wouldn't have seen her again even if the series had continued).
For the first time in this week of reviews, Art Metrano does not play the main villain, but a flunky instead. He runs the electronic arcade down near the beach, which has a secret passage to an illegal casino. This job is not as easy as it sounds: Arty (or Friedman as he's called here) has to change clothes between the two sections of the operation all the time: from frumpy looking manager to suave casino patron. Meanwhile Diana Prince goes to the beach and is almost killed by two muscle heads. She hadn't even realized there's a evil afoot and the poor Amazon's already a target.
The actual head bad guy is real estate shark Evan Donelson, played by Eric Braeden. This actor actually did appear on Wonder Woman before, but as another villain and in another time-frame. He was Nazi pilot Captain Drangel in the 1975 pilot movie, and if he hadn't shot down Steve Trevor Sr. over the aforementioned Island of Paradise at that time, Wonder Woman would never have traveled to the good old U.S. of A. at all. So we should really be grateful to Braeden here. And since Lyle Waggoner plays both Steve the father and Steve the son, maybe possibly we can imagine that evil Donelson here is the offspring of that Ratzi Drangel. Obviously the family changed their surname after the war...
So, Diana noticed that somebody (read: the son of the man who shot down Steve the first over Paradise) is threatening several landowners into selling their property to him. And with a little reluctant help from Skye she's started to investigate. Jamie and her pal Kevin are still hanging around the boulevard arcade where an always just out of frame carousel is constantly playing Civil War era songs like "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Suwannee River". We've also witnessed dumb cowboy gambler Duane Morrisey being kicked out of The Great Metrano's top secret casino on account of his losing streak. The various plot lines begin to come together when Duanne convinces Jamie to help him out with her photographic memory, and she happens to set eyes on a map of Donelson's real estate plans.
So now Donelsen wants little Jamie silenced and Art Metrano and another henchmen are tasked to do the dirty deed. But at least they have the courtesy of letting her enter the local skateboard competition first (the main prize: a trip to San Francisco). Naturally it all ends with a chase scene in which Wonder Woman uses Jamie's board to catch up with Art's big American car and before you know it, Arty and the other henchman are flying through the air and looking perplexed lying on the ground (that's three out of four times Metrano ends up on the ground this week).
8 out of 10
The Great Metrano week will continue tomorrow with The Incredible Hulk: Stop the Presses, which, amazingly enough, was broadcast on the same night as this episode of Wonder Woman, on the Super Hero network CBS.
Great Metrano week: day three
To celebrate this weeks birthday boy Art Metrano this reviewer kicked off a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's & 80's by the man also known as The Great Metrano. Today is day three: Charlie's Angels: Angels in Paradise.
Originally show as a two hour special, this episode is well remembered for introducing Cheryl Ladd as 'Jill's little sister' Kris Munroe and for being shot on location in Hawaii. You can imagine the pre-broadcast excitement: will we see all three Angels in a bikini? No such luck with Kate Jackson still in the cast. In season one, Jaclyn Smith was the least experienced Angel and therefore had to wear a bikini in every other episode. This season (and also the next), it's New Girl Cheryl's turn.
Unfortunately, as is usually the case with these two hour specials, the real reason this episode is twice as long is to compensate for the location shooting. That way they can make two episodes for the price of one, and indeed even on DVD 'Angels in Paradise' is split in two like it is in reruns and syndication. Could it be possible that the original two hour cut has been lost? And while the episode certainly offers a lot of nice things to look at, the script , convoluted though it is, has to be padded out with a lot of hula dancing every other scene. Also, there are two different villains who are both after the same thing: one for part one and the other for part two.
After her introduction, we learn that Kris secretly attended the police academy in San Fran, possibly funded by her sister Jill who assumed she was in college. Then Charlie calls them up sounding chipper as ever, only to tell the Angels he's been kidnapped and could be killed. The four Townsned detectives fly to Hawaii and have a Mai Tai on the beach. But the first bikini on screen clings to villain number one, Leilani Sako, who rises from the sea Honey Ryder style. She then explains that her men kidnapped Charlie because she wants the Angels to bust her husband Billy out of jail. We also learn why Charlie's phone call was so cheerful: he's being treated like a prince (as always) at Leilani's estate.
While the Angels never play it for comedy like that other Spelling/Goldberg TV show reviewed yesterday, they sure are having quite a lot of fun vacationing while their boss is supposedly in mortal danger and they are being forced to break the law (also a young surfing girl gets shot for no good reason). They never actually break Billy out of jail, but free him by dressing Bosley up in a wig and doing the old car switcheroo. Once they have Billy, Leilani is no longer harboring Charlie. He's been kidnapped (off screen) for the second time. As proof we only see some broken crockery on the floor at Leilani's mansion.
The Great Metrano, who should have been the main villain all along, finally appears as Mr. Blue, a man 'both dangerous and ridiculous'. He lives life like James Bond and also wants to swap Charlie for Billie. He's also the only villain (actually the only character other than the usual bimbo's) who interacts with Charlie on a face to face basis. Of course it's not really John Forsythe sitting opposite Art because when Forsythe took the voice-over job he swore never to set foot on the set, and Blake Carrington always keeps his word.
If you're watching this episode in two parts, at least the cliffhanger in kind of interesting: the corpse of a man with Charlie's wallet washes up on the beach and none of the girls can identify him because they've never seen his face. But it's another red herring, of course. Then we get a boring bit in which boring Billy recounts how he met and fell in love with Leilani to a bored looking Bosley.
The girls spend another scene being cute and practicing the Hula while waiting for a phone call that proves that Charlie's still alive. This is followed by a useless detour of new angel Kris going to a nude beach to talk to Mr. Roper (Norman Fell). Poor little Kris. being the new girl, she has to go 'nude' on her first outing. But we actuality see more of Norman Fell (at least from the waste up). That must have pleased the seventies TV viewers a lot.
Well at least the Angels get to do a lot of detective work all around Honolulu until they find out Charlie must be held on Blue's yacht. Meanwhile they are still keeping stupid Billy as a bargaining chip and he never once objects. He's all smiles and doesn't even mind going back to jail if it means can take Mr. Blue along with him.
Finally the Angels, joined by silly Billy, infiltrate Blue's Boat to save Charlie. Now we have both Kris and Kelly in teeny bikinis. Some of this footage is so memorable that it appears in the opening credits up until the last season. But just when Sabrina is just one door removed from saving Charlie, he takes matters into his own hands, jumps out a little window and swims to shore. Obviously nothing is more frightening to Charlie than to meet his Angels face to face.
The wrap up back at the office features still more hula dancing (including some by Bosley). Then, as Charlie calls, we cut to footage from an earlier scene just before he was kidnapped. This makes it appear like a 'here-we-go-again- tag' even though it isn't.
7 out of 10
The Great Metrano week will continue tomorrow with Wonder Woman: Skateboard Wiz
Starsky and Hutch: Nightlight (1976)
Great Metrano week: day two
To celebrate yesterday's birthday of Art Metrano this reviewer kicked off a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's & 80's by the man also known as The Great Metrano. Today is day two: Starsky and Hutch season two: Nightlight, aka Bust Amboy. Personally, I prefer to refer to the second version, since the character of Amboy is played by our man, Metrano the Great.
You know you're watching a Spelling/Goldberg production when the opening shot features three young widows showing too much leg & cleavage exiting a limo. And you know we're back in the Seventies when the next shot has Starky and Hutch trying to hide a walkie talkie the size of a shoe box in a bouquet of flowers. And it gets better: inside the funeral home the three 'widows' can be seen dancing seductively to disco music until S&H burst in to bust everybody concerned. The usual comedic fight breaks out, soon followed by the first car chase of the week.
You see, it's like this: Hutch and Starsky let one of the dumb thugs escape, knowing he'll be stupid enough to lead them right to his boss, Amboy (played by TGM). Amboy for his part is a classy mobster/restaurateur in a white suit who insists on eating only the finest food. When we first see him, he's giving a lecture on the ripeness of corn. Ken H. and Dave S. think they've busted him when they find a stash of green dough hidden amongst the corn, but we're only 10 minutes into the show, so Amboy gets off on a technicality: the boys didn't notice that they crossed the county line. Their arrest was invalid.
That same day, Amboy has his goons pick up Ken and Dave and offers to give them a job over some fine champagne and beluga. All this fancy stuff is gobbledygook to Starsky, but Hutch proves himself quite knowledgeable about the finer things in life a la 007. It's no wonder Amboy employs an Oddjob clone called Itchy as a bodyguard, although he doesn't turn out to be much of a challenge for KH and DS. First the boys enjoy the expensive food and drink Amboy offers them (during work hours), and then Ken thanks their host by going into Public Service Announcement mode scolding their him for turning 9 year old's into drug addicts and putting teenage hookers on the streets. Of course this serious message only takes up a minute or so before the boys are busy beating up Amboy's goons 'Three Stooges style'.
After the required scene with Huggy Bear, Starsky and Hutch start operation 'Annoy Amboy'. First they disturb him during a posh dinner at his restaurant "Andre's" (leading the way for the Blues Brothers to do the same in their movie) and later they catch him with his pants down at the Tailor (similar to things that would happen to Art Metrano in both of his Police Academy outings). After spending the night in their car, the penny finally drops when the two comedy cops remember that Amboy was making a big deal out of reading the London Daily Dispatch during their meeting the day before. Amazingly, they have no trouble finding a copy of yesterday's Daily and they quickly deduce Amboy is eying a cruise ship about to leave for England.
By now S&H are getting too close, so Amboy has them run into some undercover cops (it is never explained what they were doing at his house) which leads to Captain Dobey forcing them off the case by giving them sick leave. That way, the boys can do whatever they want on their own time (as if they ever do anything else). Amboy forces 17 year old hooker Mickey (the object of Hutch's PSA messages sprinkled throughout this episode) to give a false lead to the two boys, but of course H&S soon see through this deceit. They arrive just in time to save Mickey from Itchy and then bust Amboy back at the fancy undertaker where the story started. So in the end, there was no sign of a cruise ship after all, but for the second time in this Metrano Week, Art ends up falling on the ground while fleeing (The writer must have seen his guest appearance on Kojak).
7 out of 10
The Great Metrano week will continue tomorrow with Charlie's Angels: Angels in Paradise.
Kojak: One for the Morgue (1973)
Great Metrano week: day one
To celebrate the birthday of Art Metrano this reviewer is kicking off a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's & 80's by the man also known as The Great Metrano. So lets get started with day one: Kojak season one: One for the Morgue.
The episode starts off with a bang as our guest star of the week appears in the opening shot, dancing in the street as Michael X. Tomasso, Founder and President of the Lower Manhattan Protective Association. The occasion is a celebration in honor of Tomasso himself. His followers are out to cheer him on (and dance with him) and the police (including homicide detective Kojak) are there to protect him. But still two colored thugs manage to slip through the cracks and take a few shots at Michael X. Tomasso survives thanks to a Kevlar vest but an innocent old lady isn't so lucky. She becomes the titular 'one for the morgue', as uttered by the title character himself.
After that the Great Metrano disappears for most of the episode, which is unfortunate for this review. But at least his role was more substantial than in the Partridge Family season one episode "A Partridge by Any Other Name", in which our man only appears in one shot and has about three lines.
So let's take a moment to talk about Theo Kojak. Keep in mind that this is only the third regular episode so not all of his catchphrases and trademarks are in place yet (most noticeably the lollipops are missing). I recently found this interesting comparison written by Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link: "If Columbo was a shabby cop in elegant surroundings, Kojak was just the opposite: an elegant cop in shabby surroundings, with macho Greek bravado in place of Columbo's rumpled humanity."
Indeed, Telly Savalas plays Kojak with so much self confidence and so little respect for any of the other characters that he kind off forces the audience to love him (or else). Kojak treats both friend and foe as little children that he's teaching a lesson. Even his superior at the precinct, Captain McNeil (Dan Frazer), seems to accept being waltzed over by Lt. Kojak all the time.
And although Telly doesn't have the lollipop to fiddle around with yet, not a single prop on set is safe from his hands. Every time he's exits McNeil's office he turns around a little framed trophy just for fun, leaving McNeil to shake his head and chuckle weakly. In another scene he's carrying two bags with enormous fishes sticking out of them while discussing the case with undercover cop Gil. Before leaving, Theo hands Gil one of the fish and tells him "for your mother". Again, Gil accepts this with only a slight raise of the eyebrows. I guess all the guys at the precinct must have seen Savalas' performance in The Dirty Dozen and after-wards accepted that no one is tougher than Telly.
The following paragraph will be especially spoilerific because this review is still meant to focus on guest star Metrano, so be warned.
Tomasso finally reappears around the 30 minute mark as Kojak begins to figure out that Tomasso ordered the hit on his life himself. Which means M.X. is responsible for the poor little old lady's death. And that's something Kojak just can't let slip (also the fact that Tomasso tried to pull a fast one on the entire police department). The Lieutenant sets a trap using young Mitch DuBois, the thug who actually shot the old lady (he is easily recognizable from the earlier scene because of his giant afro and matching sideburns).
Tomasso figures out that Mitch has squealed and tries to shoot the young punk as soon as he's released, clumsily firing a shotgun from a moving vehicle. But Kojak and co are already right behind him and Tomasso's driver ducks into an empty bar, car and all. The Great M. makes a run for it, but he's limping so he doesn't have a chance against Kojak, who shoots him down, but not fatally. When Tomasso is on the ground clutching his leg it's a bit unclear if this is because he was already limping or Kojak just shot him in the leg, or possibly both.
Good episode, albeit rather Metrano lite but Kojak's bravado makes up for it.
7 out of 10. Happy birthday, Art!
The Great Metrano week will continue tomorrow with Starsky and Hutch: Nightlight
Auberjonois week: day seven
To celebrate the birthday of René Auberjonois, this reviewer spent a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's by the incomparable Mr. Auberjonois. Today is the last day. Day seven: Charlie's Angels season four: Angels on Skates.
René Auberjonois returns to the Angelverse to face two new (to him at least) Angels: Kris and (my personal favorite) Tiffany. Apparently our man René agrees, since he immediately comes on to Tiff at the 'Wheels of Fortune skate shop' wearing a Bluto T-shirt (there's a giveaway if ever I saw one). He then introduces himself as 'Frederick Victor Fortune - call me Freddie' and offers to turn the Angels into 'Fortune Girls'.
As soon as the Angels go back outside to skate the Beach of Venice, their teacher Ken's partner Rita is kidnapped in plain view as well as broad daylight. Somehow the Angels can't do anything but watch it happen. Further more, the police are unable prove it really is a kidnapping and Kenny doesn't have enough money to pay a ransom nor the Townsend Agency. Kris still convinces Charlie and the gang to take the case any way. While Kris sticks close to Ken (who may or may not be involved), the others investigate possible suspects and hey, what do you know? They actually use fake names for a change! Bosley poses as 'Warren Rambert of the West Coast Roller Derby', while Tiff and Kel pretend to be 'Yvonne Henning & Tara White of Roller Disco Magazine'.
Of course we all know the man they should really be looking into is Freddie Fortune, owner of Flipper's Roller Boogie Palace where he does double duty as the silky voiced DJ (using a different voice because as we've found out several times this week, that's R.A.'s specialty). Shortly after- wards, we the audience finds out Freddie is indeed behind the kidnapping. His victim Rita Morgan turns out to be heiress Rita Lathrop, who ran away from home 6 months earlier. So that's where the baddies plan to get the money. Also now the Angels can be paid their usual fee by Rita's step mom.
A few noticeable things: every time we cut back to the Palace, Kris and Freddie are wearing a new outfit. But none of the other skaters ever change their clothes, not even Kenny. Also, whenever the two K's, Cheryl Ladd and Ed Begly Jr., share a scene together they have to sit down, because they hardly fit in the same shot owing to the substantial size difference between them. Freddie still hasn't made his ransom demand until after the Angels find out Rita's actual I.D. When he does, he goes to the trouble of attaching a special voice altering device to the phone, but still uses an easily traceable payphone right next to the side entrance of his skating rink. And as we all know by now, Auberjonois hardly needs a machine to alter his voice.
Kris finally takes Freddie up on his offer to join his Fortune Girls. Meanwhile Tiff is on a bike with a bag filled with 1 million dollars in cash: ransom money. At the same time, the skating competition is about to start, so Freddie is wearing his most outlandish outfit yet. This one resembles a sparkly, disco version of the Lone Ranger costume, without the mask but with musical notes on it to make up for that.
It's a shame the Great René A. never puts on a pair of skates himself nor does he participate in the final chase scene. Sure, he loses the game and Bosley holds a gun on him, but we never even get to see Freddie be arrested or hear what happens to him in the office wrap up scene. Ed Begley Jr. does get to skate and be part of the chase, with a lot of help from a professional skating double during the finale of the competition.
9 out of 10
It's been a hoot reviewing 7 Seventies Auberjonois capers in a row. Maybe we'll do this again some time, focusing on another prolific guest star from that era.
Starsky and Hutch: Dandruff (1978)
Auberjonois week: day six
To celebrate this weeks birthday of René Auberjonois, this reviewer is having a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's by master of inflection Mr. Auberjonois. We're already at day six: Starsky and Hutch: Dandruf.
Hutch and Starsky are undercover at a beauty salon as 'Mr. Marlene' and 'Mr. Tyrone' respectively. Hutch is doing a full blown Mr. Humphries act in a blonde curly wig. He also occasionally has a lisp. Meanwhile Starsky is doing a really bad Inspector Clouseau impersonation that is almost insulting to Peter Sellers. At one point, Starsky pronounces 'guy' as 'gay'. Before the end of the first act, they engage in a chase scene that ends that in a pool, as usual.
The focus of our review, René Auberjonois, is 'The Baron', 'who's infamous reputation precedes him'. He is out to steal the Belvedere Diamonds at the unnamed hotel S&H work at. Nobody knows what the Baron looks like, but Scotland Yard does know the kind of cigars the Baron smokes: Corona Supurba. Every time the Baron appears, René uses a different voice in a ploy to secure his secret identity. It's also proof of why René is such a good voice-over artist. His disguises include a doctor, a bartender, elevator attendant and a cop.
Is this show always so over the top? All the characters look and act like cartoon characters. From the cliché gangsters wearing 30's fashion to all the patrons at beauty salon and the hotel guests they bump into. Of course René the A pulls it off well. And the two title characters are portrayed as the object of every beautiful woman's undying affection. Oh I get it, it's a the old Warren Beatty routine from 'Shampoo'. In the Seventies, leading men could still play the gay hairdresser for laughs, but had to make sure to kiss a different girl in every other scene to prove their masculinity.
Tyrone and Marlene run into hotel security Buddy Owens who is in charge of the diamond sale security and reluctantly team up with him. When Buddy ends up in hospital, he is somehow allowed to keep his gun holster on, complete with gun. Huggy Bear also joins the circus in disguise as 'Prince Nairobi' and the other two actually accuse him of 'hamming it up'.
During the all important auction that everything has been leading up to, S&H position themselves on a coach with their feet up and read a newspaper while Huggy manages to outbids himself. It's like writer Ron Friedman is really trying too hard to be funny. This being the fourth and final season, David Soul appears to be bored with the whole affair. If he isn't yawning in another characters face and getting distracted while important information is being divulged, he's fidgeting with his sunglasses and wig. Meanwhile, Starsky is carrying around a stepladder in several scenes for some undisclosed reason.
At least The Baron manages to escape without being identified. He even weeds out the police bug from between the diamonds, though Huggy gets the last laugh by switching the real jewels with fakes.
6 out of 10
Auberjonois week will conclude tomorrow with Charlie's Angels: Angels on Skates
Wonder Woman: Spaced Out (1979)
Auberjonois week: day five
To celebrate this weeks birthday of René Auberjonois, this reviewer is having a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's by the incomparable Mr. Auberjonois. Today is day five: Wonder Woman: Spaced Out.
This installment opens with very funky spy music as our own Auberjonois climbs into the Torrence Aerospace Plant to steal a trio of collimating crystals from a giant telescope. He manages to escape getting caught by the guards by disguising himself as a cleaner, or more accurately, a 'Conciergonois' and hides the crystals in a crate filled with Apollo moon rocks about to lend out to the Space Questicon.
René plays professional burglar James Kimball, who's faced Wonder Woman before (though not on screen). This is something the writers on this show liked to do a lot: Wonder woman and her alter ego Diana Prince both have lots of acquaintances that she met on adventures between the episodes. This particular story is filled with them: apart from having failed to catch Kimball at least once, Diana also knows Sylvester Grogan, son of the 'famous Professor Grogan' as well as the crook Kimball is working for, Simon Rohan. Apparently WW 'ran into him last spring when he was arranging to bug the U.N. committee room' (an adventure that was obviously not exciting enough to be televised).
So Diana Prince reluctantly agrees to accompany Sylvester (who wants to be called 'Sly' even though his friends call him 'Ester') to the Space Questicon's main attraction: a costume contest hosted by Robbie the Robot itself. Kimball meanwhile knocks out an actor known only as 'the Masked Avenger' and puts on his world famous outfit. This actually makes him draw even more attention from the convention goers, who are all enormous Masked Avenger fans. The studio shot convention scenes are inter cut with some footage filmed at the 1978 Galacticon in Los Angeles. Of course none of the early Star Wars cos-players seen here take part in the costume contest, which seems to be promoting some kind of Logans Run cult instead, calling them "Logies" as opposed to "Trekkies".
You've really got to hand it to the man: René Auberjonois spends almost the entire episode wearing a mask over his face, and yet he still manages to convey all kinds of emotions with just his eyes. Not only does this show the man has a refreshing lack of vanity, he also manages to make a lot out of very little. Eventually Kimball and Wonder Woman team up to recover the crystals and catch the bigger crook, Rohan. Kimball manages to slip away from Diana/WW once more (how many times does that make?), meaning that for once, the final freeze frame features Diana looking concerned instead of the usual bright smile.
9 out of 10
Kimball may have escaped, but René Auberjonois week will continue tomorrow with Starsky and Hutch: Dandruf.
Auberjonois week: day four
To celebrate this weeks birthday of René Auberjonois, this reviewer is having a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's by the incomparable Mr. Auberjonois. Today is day four: Man from Atlantis: Crystal Water, Sudden Death.
Our guy Auberjonois is introduced early on as Havergal, first in command to recurring villain Mr. Shubert. They are searching for a mountain of crystals hidden deep within the Mid Pacific. Although Havergal is skeptical, they're underwater craft soon bumps into a force field and then Shubert simply decides to wait until Mark Harris, the Man from Atlantis, shows up to get them past it.
Indeed, the title character and the largely unnamed crew of the Cetacean are soon on their way to the strange sphere that Mark manages to get into without too much trouble. There he finds an underwater world that looks remarkably similar to Earth, the main difference being a blue filter over every outside shot. Nobody ever brings up the idea that Mark himself may have come from this place, and indeed the inhabitants are far more alien looking than him; clad in bright white unitards that cover everything but their white painted faces. They must have had these outfits left over from Everything you always wanted to know about sex...
The guest cast credits at the start of the episode identify the underwater beings as 'Clicks' because of the way they speak, yet Mr Harris from Atlantis has not trouble understanding their language and later off-handedly remarks that their world is called "Killburough Deep". Meanwhile, Shubert and Havergal follow Mark wearing rather unfaltering diving-suits, and soon take over the entire joint with the use of two multi-coloured flashlights. Shubert then forces the Killburoughians to dig up all their crystals and so he can use them to take over the world with giant crystal powered satellites.
Despite all his powers, Mark is rather powerless to stop them, and his pals over on the Cetacean never even bother to put on a wetsuit and go take a peek inside the sphere. In the end it's our hero René Auberjonois who turns the tide by rebelling against Shubert (but only because he doesn't want to die inside the sphere once the crystal power is all depleted). It comes as no surprise that he and Victor Bueno (as Shubert) get all the best lines, but then again they don't have a lot of competition from the Clicks nor the stoic Man from Atlantis, who mostly just emotes in his yellow trunks and sunglasses.
Not much of a stretch for Monsieur Auberjonois this episode was, but at least he got to act all nervous again and was even accused of being 'whiney' by his superior. Haha!
7 out of 10
René Auberjonois week will continue tomorrow with Wonder Woman: Spaced Out!
Auberjonois week: day three
To celebrate this weeks birthday of René Auberjonois, this reviewer is having a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's by the incomparable Mr. Auberjonois. Today is day three: McMillan and Wife: Once Upon a Dead Man.
Since this is the pilot episode, the first 30 minutes are spent getting to know the title characters Stewart and Sally McMillan. Stewart is the San Francisco police commissioner and his chief is played by Grandpa Joe from Willie Wonka. Susan is explained to be the daughter of the late criminologist Fred Hull, setting up a knack for crime solving in her as well as him.
We also get to witness the moment where Mrs. M is first introduced to (who will become a) recurring character Sergeant Enright. The couple has several scenes filled with humorous banter before we get to the actual crime, including some which concerns Stewart's lack of clean underwear. Apparently all the scenes set in the McMillan home were filmed in Rock Hudson's actual house so it shouldn't really have been a big problem finding some...
The coffin of Caesarion, son of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra is stolen while it is being auctioned and of course the high society mingling McMillans are already present on the scene. Various suspicious looking character actors are introduced, including Dr. Smith from Lost in Space and actor Kurt Kasznar, but it takes until well after the crime has been committed until we finally get to see our hero, the Great Auberjonois. Just a few seconds shy of the 42 minute mark, he finally bursts on to the scene as only he can, playing André Stryker, a theater producer with a nervous tick.
Sally and her mother Emily attend one of André's post premiere parties and Mrs. M almost walks into a glass window. Do you think this will be important later? Shortly they are joined by Mr. M, who expresses frustration about being unable to identify the mastermind behind the sarcophagus theft. Guess who we cut to? A big close up of our man René. Coincidence, or just a Red Herring? Possibly a bit of both?
After some more people turn up dead and an exciting chase seen that begins on foot and ends on two bicycles, the Commissioner and his trusty Sergeant figure out what the director and editor have been trying to tell us all the time: André has to be the one behind it all. But his nervous tick gets the best of our man Auberjonois and his stunt double crashes through the plate glass window that was so nicely for-shadowed earlier. So now every last suspect is dead and there's still no trace of Caesarion.
So it turns out René's part, despite being fourth billed, only consists of three scenes. Further more, although he was definitely one of the bad guys, he's not the one that gets his satisfactory comeuppance in the final act. That honor goes to another actor, but his identity cannot be revealed in this review just in case we might decide to spend a week's worth of IMDb comments on him some time in the future.
7 out of 10
Lets hope R.A. will have a larger part when we return tomorrow to review his guest starring role in Man from Atlantis: Crystal Water, Sudden Death.
The Bionic Woman: The DeJon Caper (1977)
Auberjonois week: day two
To celebrate the birthday of René Auberjonois, this reviewer is having a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's by the incomparable Mr. Auberjonois. Today is day two: The Bionic Woman season two: The DeJon Caper.
R.A. bursts onto our screens before the start of the opening credits and introduces himself as Jacques LeRoy, wine merchant from Bordeaux. But OSI leader Oscar Goldman immediately exposes Jacques to be Piere Francois Lambert, extraordinary forger and all around fraud. Goldman then basically blackmails Pierre into helping the OSI catch Michael Beaumont, or 'Michel' as Pierre pronounces it (the alternative being Folsom Prison).
So Pierre and OSI's top agent Jaime Sommers (or 'Babe' as Goldman candidly calls her) fly to Paris (read: the 'European section' of the Universal back-lot), where everybody speaks English with a French accent - even the speaking clock. Of course they all tend to lean a bit towards Peter Sellers' Inspector Clouseau, but nobody pulls it off better than the guest star with the 100% French surname: Monsieur Auberjonois.
The first half of the caper involves Pierre pulling all sorts of pranks to get rid of Jaime, like breaking into another man's house at the Place Victor Hugo and dressing her up like a 'lady of the evening' before calling the Gendarmes. Notice that he only gives her a dress but when she's all dressed up, she's also wearing a wig. Did she get that one out of her OSI special accessories handbag?
Eventually P & J are captured by the very fish they set out to catch, Michael/Michel Beaumont, who still needs Pierre to finish his DeJon forgery. And this is where writer Arthur Rowe really starts to put strange notions into the characters mouths. First, Pierre insists on Jaime posing for him even though he is copying a famous painting, because having a flesh and blood model in front of him, gives him 'a sense of what the masters saw'. In his defense, René just about manages to pull it off convincingly.
Then Jaime, knowing they will both be shot once the painting is finished, comes up with one of the lamest plans ever. She dresses a mannequin doll in her artist model clothes, throws it out of a window and then jumps after it wearing Pierre's clothes. All this to make the crooks think Jaime and Pierre have committed suicide. And of course Beaumont & co fall for it and don't bother to check the bodies ("Tell the gardener to clean it up after we leave"). I can only guess the reason for this malarkey must have been that the writers were forced to incorporate a certain number of Bionic jumps in each episode.
As we get into the third act, Jaime pulls off even more tricks to Pierre's amazement (he doesn't know about her bionic limbs). First she confuses everybody by switching the fake and real paintings at Le Musee Commemoratif De Henri Rousseau, then later she joins in with the fake accents (hers supposedly being Swedish) on the yacht of Don Alfredo Moreau (aka the Corsican Godfather). His yacht is supposed to be anchored in Cannes, but in the background you can clearly see the Marina del Rey Helmsman statue, complete with steering wheel. I'll have to add these errors to the goof page after I finish this review.
Although believability is far to find, it's still a very enjoyable romp thanks to the combined efforts of Lindsay Wagner and René Auberjonois, who end the show on good terms despite of everything. Does she really expect him to stay on the right path from now on and a become an honest painter? Apparently he did because unfortunately Pierre Lambert never made a second appearance.
However, René Auberjonois week will continue tomorrow with McMillan and Wife: Once Upon a Dead Man.
7 out of 10
Charlie's Angels: The Seance (1976)
Auberjonois week: day one
To celebrate the birthday of René Auberjonois, this reviewer is kicking off a week long look at 7 guest starring roles from the 70's by the incomparable Mr. Auberjonois. So lets get started with day one: Charlie's Angels season one: The Seance.
Wearing a dark brown suit and sporting a tidy, trimmed beard, R.A. plays Terrence, assistant to Madame Dorian, a so-called 'spiritual adviser'. The Angels are investigating a string of jewelery thefts and Kelly is posing as 'Miss Osling', a rich oil heiress who recently lost her father.
Terrence speaks slowly, with an articulate and almost hypnotizing voice. Indeed, as soon as he gets Jill to leave the room, he puts Kelly under his spell with a little help from a music box. The melody that this ornament plays will be the trigger that puts Kelly into a trance and will make her reveal all her secrets to him. Later that night, during Madame Dorian's séance, Kelly reverts to a child on hearing the music box and starts to recount a trauma from her days at the orphanage. Of course Jill isn't clever enough to put two and two together and just laughs in her best friend's face.
Up till now, Le Auberjonois has been giving a rather subdued performance. But this changes once Terrence orders entranced Kelly to visit him in the middle of the night. Instead of telling him all about her bank accounts (which he plans to plunder), Kelly tells him the truth about her job for the Townsend Agency. The moment he learns this, Terrence drops the silky smooth voice and begins talking high pitched and nasally. His entire act changes from a smooth, in control butler type to a nervous crook. It's like René is playing two different parts within the very same scene. It is also worth noting that it's quite common in Charlie's Angels that one of their covers gets blown. After all, the Angels usually neglect to use a false name while on a case. But to have the bad guy drop his act in the very same scene is a great twist.
From here on, Terrence knows his game is up and tries to make one final grab of wealth before making a getaway. He occasionally drops his nervous 'actual Terrence' persona to give Kelly orders in his slow- talking 'hypnotist' voice. This is especially amusing since Kelly is shown to answer his questions even when he speaks in the nervous voice. During the final showdown, having already had a Angel Fu tussle with Jill, Terrence puts on the voice one last time to stop Kelly from pointing a gun at him, but by that point, Kelly isn't listening to anyone anymore.
The caper ends up with all three Angels laughing and Terrence looking wide-eyed and lost - a look Auberjonois always pulls off well. Jill refers to him one last time as 'Terrence the Terrible' during the office wrap-up. But René Auberjonois' performance was good enough for him to return to face the Angels again in season four, an episode which we will look at later this week.
As for this Seance, we give it 8 out of 10. Happy Birthday, René!
Auberjonois week will continue tomorrow with The Bionic Woman: The Dejon Caper!
Van Oekel blikt terug (1974)
Sjef and Evert celebrate their best year ever
Such was the success of Van Oekel's Disco Hoek, that the VPRO devoted 80 minutes on New Years Eve of 1974 to a celebration of the first half of the 74-75 (and only) season of this 'Top of the Pops' spoof. The first five minutes are a retrospective of Sjef van Oekel's earlier appearances in "Barend Is Weer Bezig" and "Waar Heb Dat Nou Voor Nodig" before we move on to new material. Van Oekel and his loyal assistant Evert van der Pik are not in their usual fancy Discohoek set, but rather in a small (but obviously fake) living room, complete with ironing board and intrusive chandelier.
Although this is basically a clip show, Sjef and Evert still managed to procure some famous guest appearances. First up is Bonnie St. Claire, who also happened to be the first musical guest on the Discohoek. Then the eternally grateful Donna Summer arrives, only to be upstaged by regular supporting actor Cees Schouwenaar. After the archive footage performance of 'Hostage', Donna gets to perform her new single: The Lady of the Night.
Next up, Barend Servet, Gerrit Dekzijl and Reverend Bongers join the party. Barend performs his 'Hoe Kan Dat Nou' number, but Gerrit explains that he's gone back to burgling following the flop that was his last record. Bongers is naturally not allowed to recite his end of the year eulogy. Later on Fred Haché crashes the party following a lengthy 'flashback' to the Discohoek that was almost entirely set aboard a train. Haché makes his usual claim that if it weren't for him, both Barend and Sjef would never have become TV celebrities. Then he plugs his comedy album released under his real name (Harry Touw).
Sjef recounts his attempts at directing his own show with singer Cherry van Gelder-Smith (also live in the studio). When the unidentified cleaning lady arrives with a tray of traditional Oliebollen, Gerrit and Cees decide to 'make some room for them' and visit the toilet. But the Christmas decorations catch fire and Van der Pik has to act as fireman, ruining the cleaning lady's dress. Next up is a compilation of all the Van Oekel Trophy winners. For his efforts, Evert is finally allowed to perform his carnival hit 'Geen Bier Maar Karnemelk' together with the band Circus, who originated the original version 'Beer or Sangria'. And when I say perform I mean of course mime the song to a record.
Kees Schilperoord arrives unexpectedly to present Evert with a golden record based on the success of his single. Even more surprising, Ad Visser, presenter of the more traditional music show 'Top Pop' pops in to present Sjef the award for TV personality of the year. And all this just before the clock strikes 12. Surprisingly, there are none clips from the controversial Christmas episode that was broadcast just a week earlier.
8 out of 10
The Women of SNL (2010)
The Girlie Show
This special had originally been planned for the first quarter of 2010, during the 35th season of Saturday Night Live, but was postponed until the first half of the 36st in favor of 'SNL in the 2000's'. In between came the ratings high Betty White episode which featured a bunch of female SNL alumni to great effect. In fact, the first sketch after the main credits in this compilation is from that particular show. So it only stands to reason that all of these ladies and them some should return for new material in this tribute to all the women who have gone live and liked it.
The main attraction as far as new stuff goes is the extended cold opening in which Andy Cohen appear to hosts one of his usual Real Housewives reunion shows only with SNLers. Appearing next to the actual Andy C are: Molly Shannon, Maya Rudolph, Tina Fey, Nora Dunn, Ana Gasteyer, Rachel Dratch, (an almost unrecognizable) Cheri Otteri, Kristen Wiig, Julia Louise-Dreyfuss, Amy Poehler and Laraine Newman. Later on Jan Hooks also makes an appearance and all of the above pop up later in the show to reminisce about their own years and other SNL ladies that inspired them.
This cold opening is very funny even to those unfamiliar with the Real Housewives and it's great to see all these galls going at like they never left the show. Notice that Wiig is the only current cast-member who got an invitation to this ho-down and that Louise-Dreyfuss is being touted as one of the big stars of the early Eighties mainly because of the success she gained later on. In reality she was just part of the supporting cast at the time Eddie Murphy was the king of SNL. But since Lorne Michaels has no plans to release any shows from this time period on DVD any time soon, it's kind of hard to check out the evidence.
Now usually these clip shows like to concentrate a bit too much on current sketches for my tastes. But this time around there are quite a few older skits sprinkled in, including some choice material from the Eighties and a nice tribute to Gilda Radner and Jane Curtin. Of course Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wiig are also well represented in the clip department. This is after all another clever way to feature Tina in a retrospective seeing as she still hasn't got enough sketch material to make up her own Best of special. Perhaps they'll add the cold opening to her hit list?
And then of course there is an equal number of former cast members that couldn't make it to the reunion, and therefore only make fleeting appearances (if at all). Names like Victoria Jackson (only spotted once doing her Roseanne impression while she did so much more). Julia Sweeney is briefly seen as 'Pat' , but there's no sigh of Ellen Cleghorne or Melanie Hutsell. Beside Julia LD, none of the other women who were on the show during the Eddie Murphy period get a shout out. But then again, the special is pretty full the way it is now. And it's always nice to see the wrongfully let go Casey Wilson & Michaela Watkins again, if only for a minute. I wonder how long it will take before Joan Cusack and Sarah Silverman will be asked back on the merit of their subsequent fame?
8 out of 10
Making of Oorlogswinter (2008)
If it's a Dutch movie it must be blue tinted
It's ironic that during this making of, everybody is trying to make Oorlogswinter as exciting as possible to a young audience. There are shots of guns, chases, explosions aplenty and even the f-word uttered once by young Brit by Jamie Campbell Bower. Yet the entire thing is sponsored by Omroep Max, the relatively new network specifically for viewers over 50. And while most viewers who fall into that category will probably remember the 1975 TV series based on the same book, that version is mentioned not even once in this documentary.
Director Martin Koolhoven and his young star Martijn Lakemejer receive the most airtime. Big Martin (who seems to model his appearance on Kevin Smith but thankfully not his girth) explains that he always wanted to make a war movie. He's in luck there, since the Dutch film industry is famous for making those. Small Martijn talks about making his film debut and how he learned that he had got the part (at a local snack bar with two friends). Original writer Jan Terlauw chimes in to say that the book is partly based on his own experiences during the war and how much Martijn reminds him of his younger self.
Koolhoven insisted to set the entire film in the snow. Therefore the production had to travel to Lithuania, only to end up producing fake snow for certain scenes over there. Another thing that surprised me was that costume designer Alette Kraan purposely decided to make the costumes look less dated and more 'timeless' in order to make the film look less like a period drama (isn't that what it was supposed to be?). Also, the aforementioned Jamie Campbell Bower compares the action scenes in this film to an Indiana Jones picture. And why not, Indy fought Nazi's as well, didn't he?
But my real pet peeve with Dutch films rears it ugly head whenever we cut from the normally lit behind the scenes footage to a blue tinted scene from the finished picture. Of course I understand that a story set in the past equals muted tones and doubly so when set in wintertime. But it seems to me like every Dutch film made since the Nineties has had the same blue look. It's like they're all developed in the same laboratory where some kind of Blue Meany in charge orders 'more blue!' each and every time. It always reminds me of inexperienced cameramen who forget to reset their lens colors when they move from an inside shoot to the outside. The result: they end up with blue tinted film.
Despite wanting to get his epic winter war movie out of his system, it becomes apparent that the one kind of film Martin Koolhoven really wants to make is a Spaghetti Western. Just check out the Oorlogswinter trivia page if you don't believe me. In this documentary we learn that he cast veteran German actor Dan van Husen because of his early work in said westerns (I bet they were often found talking together between takes). And indeed his next project listed on the IMDb at the time of this writing is 'Martin Koolhoven's Untitled Western Project'. I have a feeling that one will be heavily color corrected as well. Not too much blue I hope, more likely the bright orange and yellow tones every other American blockbuster suffers from these days.
6 out of 10
A Very Gilly Christmas (2009)
Love Kristen, hate Gilly
For the record, I love Kristen Wiig and I still can't believe that despite her making an appearance in nearly every Judd Apatow comedy, she hasn't taken her clothes off in any of them. But here on the IMDb, people have been complaining about her one note characters being over used on SNL ever since Amy Poehler left the show. I like to remind these people that Poehler herself was pretty much in every sketch during the final years of her reign, but to no avail.
Still, it is quite baffling to me why Lorne Michaels and co would pick 'Gilly' out of all of Kristen's recurring characters to headline this 2009 Christmas special. Not only does nobody (and I do mean nobody) seem to like this sketch, but the Christmas connection is also hard to find. The one (former) recurring character people would actually like to see Wiig reprise in accordance with Jason Sudeikis, 'The Two A-Holes', does appear in this compilation. And even though Jason does most of the talking in those skits, the female A-hole still has more lines in that one sketch than Gilly does during the whole of the TV special.
This being the third SNL Christmas special, it is still mandatory for SNL fanatics to seek it out on account of the new material added to the usual collection of Christmas skits. Firstly, there is a Christmas themed Gilly framework story that next to Wiig also features Will Forte, Bobby Moynihan, Kenan Thompson & Abby Elliot. Then, Steve Martin introduces the best SNL sketch of all time (according to him at least) 'A Christmas Wish'. And of course this means his arch rival Alec Baldwin also has to make an appearance to introduce 'Schweddy Balls'.
Naturally some of these sketches have already appeared in every SNL Xmas show to date (Consumer Probe, Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood and Adam Sandler's Hannukah song). But there are new inclusions such as a recent monologue by John Malkovich and two appearances by SNL's current cameo king, Justin Timberlake. It never dawned on my that Dick in a Box was a Christmas Sketch, but there is a Christmas Tree in it I guess. The alternate ending to "It's a Wonderful Life:" is in there as usual, but this time without the introduction by King of Television Bill Shatner (and by the way they just did another alternate Wonderful life skit in 2010 to possibly replace this one in the next compilation).
In the end there are enough laughs and old holiday classics to go around, and if you buy this one on DVD, you can always skip through the Gilly bits to get to the good parts. One of those is being reminded how hot Kristen looked when she was still a brunette (see the 'Santa's my Boyfriend' song she performed with Amy and Maya Rudolph in 2006).
7 out of 10
Features every major European race track but Le Mans
This title is not to be confused with the more famous Steve McQueen 'Le Mans' movie from 1971 or the 1952 film 'Le Mans 1952'. Further more, although there are many extended race scenes set in Jarama (Spain), Zandvoort (the Netherlands), Monza and Modena (both in Italy), at no time do any of the proceedings take place in Le Mans, France. Thirdly, the subtitle 'Shortcut to Hell' is also misleading, for despite several near misses, nobody goes out in a blaze of glory. So in effect, the title is a complete falsehood. But it's still better suited to this race movie than the alternate American title that IMDb lists: 'Summer Love'.
John Lee Scott (Lang Jeffries, your typical beefy seventies leading man) is an ex-racing champion who takes it upon himself to train young up and coming Dustin Rich (Maurizio Bonuglia). Young and impetuous, Dustin has a knack of escaping dangerous accidents. Great Scott tells him to hone his skills in a stock car rally. While not traveling around Europe to compete, all the racers like to hang out around a pool with their girlfriends. These include Scott's wife Sheila (Erna Schürer) and Cora (Edwige Fenech), girlfriend of fellow racer Franco Baresi (Marcello Di Paolo). Although Fenech gets a prominent credit (and indeed is the main reason people such as myself sought out this film) her role is small and insignificant. She does get out of the pool in a wet shirt at one time after being pushed in, as is her wont.
While John Lee Scott meets up with an 80 year old mechanic who's been working on a brand new racing machine that can go 300 kilometers an hour, Sheila appears to grow closer to young Dustin, but he refuses her advances. And that's basically what happens in every plot strand: things are hinted at, but the characters always steer clear of a nasty outcome. In between we are treated to long stretches on the race circuit.This is all fine if you're into cars and stuff, but will seem like a rerun from 40 year old sport extravaganzas to others.
Only in the final race do we get an added element of suspense when one of the cars begins losing nuts and bolts and threatens to rip itself apart. Notice I used the word 'threaten' here, because, surprise surprise, it still manages to cross the finishing line. Still, it's nice work if you can get it, driving fast cars once in a while and lounging by the pool with pretty girls the rest of the time. Especially if one of them is La Fenech.
7 out of 10