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Cuckoo on a Choo Choo (1952)
A Victim of 'Soicumstances'?
I am among those who are drawn towards this bizarre Stooges short; certainly because of the reference to the "Penciltucky R.R. Co." (nyuk, nyuk, nyuk) and the railroad car named "Schmow," among others, plus this not being a "typical" Stooges entry. (And in this film in particular, Larry looks almost like a hippie version of former New York Mayor Ed Koch, especially when you consider the longer hair.)
But one has to wonder if this being judged among the worst of their offerings has as much to do with what was going on behind-the-scenes at Columbia's short-subjects department at the time this was being produced, as anything else in the film. This was from the period after Jules White became the sole producer/director of the Stooges (a situation, or 'soicumstance' if you will, which would stand until the closing of the short-subjects unit in 1958), following the firing of producer Hugh McCollum and the resignation of director Edward Bernds (all of whose directorial efforts of the Stooges were under McCollum) out of loyalty to his just-sacked boss and mentor. It is agreed among many Stooge-o-philes that the quality of their shorts plummeted mightily after White took full control. (To be sure, the Stooges' films weren't Shakespeare or anything else even slightly resembling "high art"; but for what they were, opinions differ among fans on when the quality decline took place - Curly's career-ending stroke and Shemp replacing him, the aforementioned backroom studio politics, etc.)
The question thus has to be asked (and probably unlikely to be answered, since almost all the participants are now dead, with the possible exception of actress Patricia Wright who played "Lenora"): How would the McCollum/Bernds duo have tackled such an unorthodox, offbeat script as this? Bernds is usually regarded by Stooge aficionados as helming some of their better entries, and especially his dealings with the actors and working around them (i.e. the final Curly shorts he crafted, where he took into account Curly's illness when making them, unlike White who merely shifted the action towards Moe and Larry; not to mention, in general, White's forcing everybody to work according to his idea of what "worked" in two-reel comedy).
Another Aftereffect of This Show . . .
Though many claim that until "It'll Be Alright on the Night" premiered, bloopers and mess-ups in TV, films and adverts were "hidden" from the general public, we had gotten close to seeing what went on behind the scenes from Benny Hill's occasional "things that go wrong" segments on his Thames specials. Unfortunately, one effect that "It'll Be Alright..." had was to render Mr. Hill's contrived "outtake" quickies passé almost immediately. From the debut of "It'll Be Alright..." in 1977, Benny only did such scripted "boo-boos" for two more years before finally dispensing with that segment altogether after 1979 - which coincided with the start of a new direction for the Hill show that, to this day, remains highly controversial. Oh, yes, and then there's the matter of "It'll Be Alright..." spawning such American equivalents as "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes."
Red Hot Riding Hood (1943)
Was Benny Hill Watching?
I second the comments about this influential cartoon and its effect on the course of animation. But there's one question unanswered, and that's: Did this formula begun with this cartoon and continuing (with Avery, at least) to the end of the 1940's play a role, however indirectly, in the future development of Benny Hill's show after, say, 1980? If one sees the early Hill's Angels numbers, especially the juxtaposition of dancers gyrating and men's various reactions, one can see many similarities; alas, there was none of the relative subtlety and wit for which Avery was most famous. And interesting that both Avery and Hill have been targeted in later years for supposedly being "politically incorrect." Think about it . . .
Now Where Have We Seen This Premise Before? . . .
Many people commenting on this film have made references to an old "Star Trek" episode, as well as "The Girl, The Gold Watch and Everything." However, I can see another antecedent: the "Twilight Zone" episode, "A Kind of a Stopwatch," from its final season (1963-64). Obviously, "Clockstoppers" is more for the peach-fuzz set, not to mention that this newer entry has the kind of special effects that were simply unavailable when the aforementioned "Twilight Zone" installment was made. Personally, I'd go for the "TZ" episode in question, instead.
Benny Hill's High Point
Benny Hill was, in my opinion, to British television what Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle were to American television. But there is one fundamental difference between Mr. Hill and the aforementioned American comics, and it could be summed up in one word: Shakespeare. Mr. Gleason often talked about doing a TV production of "Hamlet," in which he would get to spout off the famous "To be, or not to be" line. But Mr. Hill actually DID a TV production of a Shakespeare play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream," in which he played Bottom. He more than held his own amongst all the fine players who surrounded him. It is only a shame that in the twenty-eight years left of his life, he never did anything that came close to such true artistry.
Red Nightmare (1962)
The Mentality May Be '50's, but the Make Is '60's
Looking back today, it's still hard to believe that as late as 1962 we'd be seeing propaganda films like this. But then, this was made around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis, so in that sense it figures. But in a way, one can see why some people would believe (as many reference books have claimed) that this piece came out in or around 1957, since the '50's were the height of anti-Communist hysteria in America, although Mr. Webb's necktie and jacket lapels were far too narrow for that year, more appropriate for the early '60's. Another key that this was a 1962 piece, if nothing else, was the presence of a young actress who within a year would go on to become the first Bobbie Jo Bradley on "Petticoat Junction", Pat (billed here as Patricia) Woodell. The year this was filmed, she also put in guest shots on some Warner Bros.-produced shows such as "Hawaiian Eye" (whose star, Robert Conrad, also appeared here) and "The Gallant Men", being at the time she was under contract to that studio.
The Joey Bishop Show (1961)
Now, HERE'S A Switch! . . .
During the mid-1960's color boom, many TV programs on the air at the time went from black-and-white to color. But there was one program where the reverse happened: Joey Bishop's early 1960's sitcom. Here's the bit: During most, if not all, of the show's run on NBC-TV, it was filmed and aired in what the Peacock Network called "living color". However, for what turned out to be its final season when the series went to CBS-TV, it went from living color to drab black-and-white (the "Tiffany Network" didn't start "going color" until after the Bishop show left the air for good in 1965). One other detail should be noted: During the NBC years, Mr. Bishop wore his hair parted to the right, however in the program's last season on CBS, his hair part shifted to the left, as indeed it would be set on his 1967-69 ABC-TV talk show (and, for that matter, to this day).
The George Burns Show (1958)
Close, but No Cigar (No Pun Intended)
Following Gracie Allen's retirement from show business, George Burns tried to carry on by himself with his "Burns and Allen" cast and crew -- but fell far short of the mark. Now Mr. Burns, playing himself as usual, was ostensibly a theatrical producer (in a way, almost mirroring his real-life sliding into producing which he would later do with "Mister Ed") tackling the usual problems such producers face (i.e. casting, booking, temperamental stars and the like). Towards the end of this show's one-year run, they attempted to shore it up by adding a live variety show within each episode with guest stars, but in the end it added up to nothing. It wasn't until "The Sunshine Boys" in 1975 that Mr. Burns finally made it from out of Ms. Allen's shadow, as it were.
Green Acres (1965)
A nice slice of proto-Pythonesque surrealist absurdism.
This show, with its nothing-is-real, living-is-easy-with-eyes-closed (a more appropriate moniker, in my opinion, than the "Farm living is the life for me" motto as stated in the series' theme song), through-the-looking-glass structure, may well have been the prototype for such shows as "Monty Python", given what went on in each episode, which didn't have much of anything to do with reality, but rather was more a case of laughter for laughter's sake.