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Perhaps the funniest episode of the series
This classic episode has Rerun falling in love with the high priestess (Jonelle Allen) of a whacked out cult who worships a head of lettuce called "Ralph" and chants "Oom Shaka Loom, Shak Shak" (which was a catchphrase for those of us who saw this episode in our school years). Roger and Dwayne get worried that this is a bunko scheme, and try to keep Rerun from being conned out of his money and being made a fool of. Will they succeed? You'll see.
While this episode can be looked at today as entertaining foolishness, it is interesting to note that in the late 1970s, outlandish cults who exploited the confused and gullible were a real concern on the American scene and stories like this that parodied this phenomena of ignorant characters joining ridiculous pseudo religions were a staple of TV sitcoms at the time (this story is remarkably similar to a "welcome Back Kotter" episode of the same era of Arnold Horshack joining an equally moronic cult). However, this plot line quickly vanished from sitcom fodder after the Jim Jones killings that took place several months after this story aired. Conversely given the plethora of followers today of Internet conspiracy theorists, Pseudo-history DVDs of the "Hidden Colors" variety and History channel shows about aliens and UFOs, phony informercials, and ever present political and religious quacks- aside from a couple of dated gags about Shamu the whale and the bald TV detective Kojak, this episode is just as funny and eerily relevant today as it was in 1978.
The Flintstones: Little Bamm-Bamm (1963)
One of the darker Flintstones Episodes
Flintstones fans today may be taken aback by certain aspects of this episode. Shortly after the birth of Baby Pebbles, The Rubbles long for a child of their own and find a baby with super strength that they wish to adopt. Unfortunately, the amiable amigos of the Flintstones face a rich couple who also want the tot. While I tend not to overanalyze cartoons and despise political correctness, there are some really dark moments and implications in this story. To begin with, there is a shocking and horrible scene early in the proceedings where Fred gets jealous of Pebbles' fondness for Barney Rubble, and he snatches away his child and tells the childless Rubbles "Go get your own baby!" and the Rubbles cry. Perhaps the meanest and cruelest bit in Flintstones history. Not cool. as is the inference of infertility in a kids' cartoon. Later in the proceedings, as Barney's chances of adopting Bamm Bamm become thin, he is shown about to attempt suicide (saying "Good bye cruel world" at that). I won't go into how it ends, but this story, which has very few funny minutes, really leaves a nasty taste in the mouth of the modern viewer.
The Green Pastures (1936)
Enjoyable when viewed in context
Before I get into the film itself, here's the little known back-story. Roark Bradford, a white Tennesseean, was mesmerized as a boy by the sermons of a black preacher named John Wesley Henning (aka "Preacher Wes). Rev. Henning entertained and educated his audiences with imaginative biblical tales done in a fashion in which his rural black audiences could relate. Years later in 1928, Henning's twists on biblical tales were the basis of Bradford's book "Ol Man Adam and His Chillun." Marc Connely enjoyed the book, and the result was the play and film "The Green Pastures." The film and play adds the charming frame device of Mr. Deeshay, a black Sunday school teacher telling the Biblical tales from Bradford's text with Noah, Adam. Moses, et.al. as Southern rural blacks. Much has been said about the dialect and stereotypes. Fact is, the dialect is pretty close to the truth of this time and place, as my parents were of that generation (there is a reference to "Sonny Kick Mammy Wine." My parents would make me laugh at their description of a popular moonshine called "Fight Your Mama" that was supposed to have been so potent that it would make the drinker do as the title suggested).
However, the film, as well as much of Bradford's work, is filled with moving truths about the human condition. Witness the dialog between a pre-Rochester Eddie Anderson as Noah and the dignified Rex Ingram as God, as well as the observations about human nature made throughout the film. As for ending, I won't spoil it, but the final scene before the credits says the true message of the film without saying a word. Watch it with an open mind, enjoy, and think.
Incidentally, in 1963, the great comedian Mantan Moreland (who had a bit part as an angel in "The Green Pastures") went back to the source and recorded an album of tales from the source "Ol Man Adam And His Chillun." It's as delightful as the film and along with the original books, make a great addendum to the film.
A prophecy of TV as it would become
I vividly recall watching this episode as a teenager. This is basically a Rod Serling-esque chilling parody of a daytime game show. A middle class white couple and a poor black woman (Juanita Moore of "Imitation of Life") and her son compete for $100,000. The catch? They have to perform degrading stunts for the television audience. The couples have to slap each other in the face and then publicly confess their most humiliating secret (the image of Juanita Moore confessing her past prostitution in front of her son on camera haunts me to this day). The final degrading stunt is for one of the couples to perform an act of Russian Roulette on national television. What happens? Will they do it? You'll see.
I remember thinking this episode of the religious anthology "Insight" was really over-the top and horrifying when I saw it in the late 70s or early 80s. Unfortunately, it was a grim and nearly accurate prophecy of what television was to become in the following decades. Somewhat of a cross between "Network," "Idiocracy," and "The Shape of Things to Come."However, modern audiences who are accustomed to the reality shows that this show predicted will not be greatly impacted by this.
Your Own Back Yard (1925)
This was Hal Roach's favorite, but......
This 1925 Our Gang comedy has gained notoriety because 1) It has been lost for some 60 years and unseen by the public until a recent internet posting 2) Reviewers of 1925 praised it to the skies and 3) Our Gang creator and producer Hal Roach has said that this was his personal favorite of the series. Was it all that great? I finally saw it last night and well......
The film begins with Allen "Farina" Hoskins, the series Black star, being warned by his mother to "stay in your own back yard, and no harm will come to you." Good advice. The White Gang kids treat Farina with vicious cruelty in this film. Jackie Condon and Johnny Downs beat and kick the then 5 year old Farina. Mickey cheats Farina out of an ice cream cone, and Joe Cobb squirts water at him with a trick camera. All of this sends Farina home crying and leaving him with no one to play with but this chickens in his back yard. However, the film lightens up about midway with some gags involving dogs with dental cream passing as mad dogs and Mexican jumping beans. Does Farina have a happy ending or does he continue to be lonely and abused? You'll see if you're lucky enough to find this film.
The obvious problem of the film is that the Gang's treatment of Farina is so heart wrenching that it is painful to watch, especially considering his age at the time and that this film was made at a time when such mistreatment of blacks was typical (Farina himself was once banned from a hotel with his fellow gangster because of his race some 3 years after this film). This pattern would repeat itself in such gang films as One Wild Ride (1925), The Glorious 4th (1927, when Joe and the Gang throw lit firecrackers at Farina and his sister), The infamous Spook Spoofing (1928), and this film's partial remake The Smile Wins (1928). Fortunately, these films were the exceptions to the rule that made Farina a full fledged friend with the gang in most of their films.
It is perhaps due to the fact that Farina is an amazingly convincing actor at the age of 5 in this film that made Hal Roach love it and the bits with the jumping beans and the mad dogs offer some comic relief. The ending, which I will not describe here, is quite clever and creative, and the horrific treatment of Farina is not presented in a manner that is without sympathy for the boy. But if you get a chance to see this, do so if you dare.
Our Gang (1922)
I've actually seen it and....
I've actually seen this film (or at least all that currently exists of it). It's pretty funny. After a few amusing bits involving a boy trying to win over Mary Jane's love through chivalry and Ernie (Sunshine Sammy) Morrison's efforts to find clothes while his mother washes what appears to be his only wardrobe, we get into the storyline about Mary Jane's mother's store being threatened by a crooked businessman.
There is a good deal of funny stuff in the film. A really clever gag involves the kids putting dental cream on the dog's mouths and yelling "Mad dog" to cause people to faint and land in a wheelchair so Sammy could wheel them into Mary Jane's mother's store (not to be confused with Mary Kornman). However, the 12 minutes that survives of the film does not leave you missing what's left. It tells a good story on its own so we could be thankful for what remains. Judging from this, Our Gang was off to a great start.
The Hollywood Knights (1980)
Leave your brains at the door and laugh
Folks, this is not a movie to be judged or rated by ordinary or serious standards as you would "I Am Legend" or "Gone With The Wind." Admittedly, this is a typical early 1980s (set in the 1960s) teen trash and laugh fests crudely mixed together from "Animal House" and "American Graffiti." No real plot, a thousand different things happen at once to group of wild teenagers (played by numerous soon-to-be's) who pull crazy pranks on Halloween Night 1965.
However, if you are not of the overly-sensitive politically correct crowd or watching this with (very) young children, this film is FUNNY! The gaseus rendition of "Volare", wild catch-phrases (his pants fit him like a glove, Lawrence, Lawrence of Arabia, et. al) and senseless raunch makes this ideal for firing up the DVD player while your buddies are over for beer and pizza. Don't expect to find the meaning of life in this one.
The Goode Family (2009)
Does to the left wing what Archie Bunker did for the right wing
I saw the premiere of this last night and really enjoyed it. I'm looking forward to future episodes and will keep my Wednesday nights open for this one.
Essentially, this is a lampoon of modern day political correctness. The Goode family consists of a caricatured ultraliberal couple who are hooked on every PC pop-culture trendy fad-chasing cliché under the sun. For instance, since they want to adopt an "African baby" (as did Madonna, Angelina Jolie, et. al.) they adopt a White South African boy who they name "Ubuntu" (admittedly a clever inside joke, as "Ubuntu" is a native Black South African word loosely meaning "the oneness of mankind."). They struggle over whether to call their Black neighbor "Black," or "African-American" etc. (The neighbor in question wittingly replies, "We hold a convention every year in Memphis to decide such things. You're not invited.)" Black people such as myself who have suffered such scenes from well meaning but silly and patronizing white liberals as the Goodes in real life could relate.
The Goodes (of course) are fanatical vegan/vegetarians, so their dog Che (after leftist icon Che Guevara, of course) constantly runs after smaller animals to eat in disgust of the Goode's refusal to eat meat.
The scene in the health food store (an intercom announces in a horrified tone, "Someone in Aisle 4 is driving an SUV!" while the patrons gasp) is a real hoot! Needless to say, these folks are straight-up boobs. However, as he does with the "just plain folks" of "King of the Hill," Mike Judge draws the careful line to make the Goodes just real and personable enough so that the viewer actually likes these characters while mocking their foolishness. The one drawback is that the gags are so straight out of today's headlines that it will date quickly and confuse future viewers.
On the whole, I'll rate this equally with Judge's "King of the Hill," slightly below the Simpsons, and far above the abominations of animation known as "Family Guy" and "American Dad."
Historic & Classic Episode
This is an important and watershed episode for a number of reasons. This was one of the last television appearances of Diana Ross and the Supremes as a group (she went solo about three months later) and they do the ironic "Someday We'll Be Together" (they would, in a disastrous appearance on "Motown 25" in 1983, which is another story).
But the beauty of this episode is the national debut of the Jackson 5 (not Ed Sullivan-that would air nearly 2 months later on December 5, although a number of references to Sullivan appear in this episode). The brothers (along with keyboardist Ronnie Rancifer and "Cousin" Johnny Jackson on drums) are far rawer and funkier here than in their Sullivan appearance. A live version of "I Want You Back" differs sharply from the familiar version (more harmonizing from the brothers on this one). Mike does some dances here that, as Diana puts it, "I would get arrested for doing." They also jam on James Brown's "There Was a Time." So in a way, this is a watershed episode of the past (Sammy Davis Jr. in a fit of mock jealousy over young Mike), present (Diana and the Supremes), and future (Michael and the Jackson 5) of African American entertainment. Just as historic as the Beatles and Elvis on Ed Sullivan, but this NEEDS TO BE ON DVD, though. I hope Berry Gordy & company is listening.
Folks, you know it ain't Shakespeare-BUT...
My friends, I thought "Gilligan's Island" was one of the stupidest shows of all time even as a kid. But back in the 70s, we only had 4 channels and not much else to do after we played and did our homework after school and you were too young to go out. So we didn't have much choice other than to watch tripe like this.
Anyway, I recall watching some of this particular flick back in the 8th grade in 1978. I think I fell asleep around the time Thurston Howell orders some cigars from a man who is supposed to be Fidel Castro. Anyway, this was on a $3.99 DVD set at the grocery store with other public domain comedy films, so I said, "Why Not?" Now I know the answer to that last question. This was about every bit as dumb as the TV show, mixed in with topical 1970s humor about Jimmy Carter, Star Wars, Watergate, the Castro gag mentioned earlier, etc. along with Gilligan and the Skipper's poor man's Laurel and Hardy antics redux. About 20 minutes before the film ends, you can already figure out what's going to happen. You see, the late 70s was no golden age of TV comedy ("Hello Larry," "Sugar Time," and"Blansky's Beauties" anyone?)
HOWEVER, there is one redeeming value of this that kept me from doing the Frisbee thing with this DVD (and from giving it only 1 star). This film did more than any original episode to show the way the characters (and the real actors, in a way) really cared about each other. I was actually touched of how each time the castaways back in civilization ran into those who wanted to exploit them individually, they stood together in each case as a united front. (This concern actually extended to real life as a very sick Jim Backus reprised his role in a later GI film out of friendship for the cast).
So if you want a good movie, this ain't it. But if you want to see an interesting look at what real friendship is all about, this might help.
The Proud Family (2001)
Get a grip, people. It's not THAT bad!
My nieces and nephews enjoy this, and having grown up on Fat Albert, Bullwinkle, Hoppity Hooper, etc. myself, I think it's kind of amusing.
Admittedly, Penny (the usually appealing Kyla Pratt) can be annoying at times (with her constant shrieking of "DADDY") and the father (Tommy Davidson) is just a bit TOO stupid. And the show tries a bit too hard to be clever and slap happy (a nerdy character is named "Myron Lewisnsky" and a bratty Latina is named "LaCiegnica Boulevardz" after a street in Los Angeles. Uncle Bobby (Cedric the Entertainer) is cursed with a horrible voice that poorly imitates Larry Blackman of Cameo fame (AAAooow!!!). Producer Bruce Smith is no Jay Ward or Matt Groening (of Bullwinkle and Simpsons fame to non-hardcore cartoon fans). Not everyone can do this kind of comedy well. This show's mix between kid and adult humor sometimes goes off of the mark.
With that said, the show is pretty funny when you don't take it too seriously. Stereotypes? Please, given the choice I would rather the kiddies watch this than anything on BET (Booty Entertainment Television). I have yet to see gang banging, dope dealing, prostitution, or gross sexuality or profanity here. As foolish as this family and group of friends can get at times, it's clear that deep down, they have a fondness for each other and every now and then you get a good belly laugh.
All cartoons do not necessarily have to be morality plays and filled with life lessons (although the Rosa Parks episode was charming in a way). That's the PARENTS' job. It's OKAY to leave your brains at the door sometimes and just laugh. I think that is what THE PROUD FAMILY is all about.
Colonel Bleep (1956)
I guess you had to be there for this one
What often happens when people see a cartoon they haven't seen since their fond memories of childhood is that they often confuse happy childhood memories with what was actually good.
Colonel Bleep appears to be one such case. I saw a number of episodes (that I could stomach) on the Giant 600 Cartoon Collection DVD that I recently bought, which is overall an excellent set for adult cartoon fans. Aside form the attention to (pseudo) scientific detail which may have gotten kids of the time interested in science, I cannot see why anyone who did not watch this in childhood or a cartoon historian would (or could) sit through this! What a cheap bunch of junk! Cornball narration, stupid stories, horrendous animation, witless scripts, ad nauseum. This is like an animated version of "Rocky Jones Space ranger" which itself lacked the with and charm of Flash Gordon.
If you are a fifties child who liked this the first time around, then get your nostalgic fix on. Others-STAY AWAY!
Hoppity Hooper (1964)
Today, two types of people know anything about "Hoppity Hooper"-Cartoon historians and collectors, and sixties children who fondly remember this the first time around. I fall in the former category, being born the year it came out in 1964 (it left the air when I was 3, so I have no childhood memory of it). But I saw a good number of episodes recently on the "Giant 600 Cartoon" DVD.
I liked what I saw. Essentially the younger brother of "Rocky and Bullwinkle," this Jay Ward production succeeded the more famous moose and squirrel after they were canceled in 1964. Hoppity is a boyish, Rocky-type frog who travels the country with a con man fox named "Uncle Waldo" (in the pilot, the crooked fox hides out from the cops at Hoppity's house by claiming to be the frog's long-lost uncle) and Waldo's dumb partner, a bear named Fillmore with a classic "duh" voice.
Jay Ward and co. let their imaginations run wild on this one. Adult satire mixes with kiddie fantasy (when Fillore turns into a giant turnip, the frightened townspeople form a lynch mob and shouts "would you let your daughter marry a giant turnip?" Any adult recalling race relations in that era would get the joke). Another bonus is that the stories were ultra-clever and never told the same story twice. However, the humor probably went over the mass audiences head and doomed it to oblivion.
However, if you catch it, it is an acquired taste and you will find yourself searching for more rare episodes. "Hoppity Hooper" is really a lost gem.
A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1963)
Interesting for Schulz fanatics
I'm probably one of the few who's actually seen this, here goes.
As mentioned before, this is not the 1969 movie, but a 1963 (not 1965 as commonly believed) TV special on Schulz and his characters. It was unable to find a sponsor and shelved. It's not hard to see why. It's actually quite dull except for what I'm about to describe.
Most of the documentary follows a day in the life of Charles M. Schulz. We see his estate, we see him taking his kids to school and drawing his strip, with some commentary on all of the above.
The meat of this documentary is the 3 minutes of animated skits by the Peanuts gang. Done after the early 1960's Ford Commercials and before "A Charlie Brown Christmas, these are amusing vignettes on Charlie Brown's perennial failure, Linus' powers with his blanket, and other strip standbys. Other than that, not much to write home about except for hardcore Schulzologists.
No Noise (1923)
Another pleasant way to spend 20 minutes
"No Noise" is an interesting early silent Our Gang comedy involving the gang visiting Mickey Daniels in the hospital and running wild in said institution. The doctors try to scare them away and.....watch the results and laugh! Although a few of the gags are elaborate for a 1920's comedy (those involving the x-ray machine in particular), the naturalness and likability of the kids make this a winner, as is the case with most of the Gang/Rascals films. Some of the PC killjoys will shudder at seeing the doctors ham it up by scaring the kids while chasing them with saws, but most viewers to have enough sense to lighten up and see this for what it is, for entertainment purposes only and let the PC crowd gag on DVD's of the nauseating Care Bears and Barney the Dinosaur.
It may be surprising that the richly comic device of the Gang on the loose in a hospital was rarely repeated in later Gang/rascals comedies that most viewers are familiar with, but the syrup and Castor oil gag with Mickey Daneils and his nurse was remade with Dickie Moore in "Free Wheeling" (itself a remake of the silent "Tire Trouble" and "One Wild Ride"-Hal Roach and Bob McGowan were really big on self-referencing) and this episode was redone in the later MGM post Little Rascals Our Gang comedy "Men in Fright," with Alfalfa reprising Mickey Daniels' role.
Like other early Gang films, it is a truly pleasant way to spend 20 minutes.
Dog Days (1925)
Long lost Gang comedy provides more warmth than howls
This long-lost (until recently) Our Gang comedy is filled with elements that make the silent Our Gangs so special to those of us who belong to their underground cult of admirers.
In a nutshell, this deals with the Gang enjoying their dogs "p'forming" some interesting tricks until one of them comes to the rescue of our lady of cuteness Mary Kornman, playing a rich girl as she did in "Mary Queen of Tots" and "Derby Day." The cute one invites the poor kids of the Gang to her birthday party as a reward, and LOOK OUT! On the whole, none of this will cause you to bust your guts and bang on the floor in hysterical laughter, but it's all quite charming in its simplicity and I would highly recommend it.
Shivering Spooks (1926)
Controversial? Perhaps. Amusing? Certainly
Overall, I'd say this is a pretty good silent Our Gang film.
Essentially, the gang stumbles into the lair of a crooked spiritualist aptly named Professor Fleece, who with his partners in crime try to scare the gang away. That sums up the plot without giving away the ending, but in spite of the slim storyline, a lot happens within these 20 minutes! The opening scene is rather shocking, as it seems that Farina and Scooter are running away form a man shooting point blank at them, but our horror quickly turns to relief and (depending on how sensitive you are) laugher when the camera reveals that we are not watching what we think.
Yes, there are a few unsettling scenes, such as the gang forcing Farina to enter a tunnel out of a cave by saying, "If you get killed, we know it ain't safe." (With friends like these...). However, the bit with the Klan-like ghost scaring Farina, who if you don't know by now was the series' Black star of the 20s, is neutralized by the fact that the phony ghost scares ALL of the children in the film. But the gag involving Farina turning white at the site of the ghost and the exchange with Mary Kornman about seeing "Colored ghosts" in the dark are relatively mild in comparison to some of the far cruder gags involving modern Black comedy (Chapelle's Show and Def Comedy Jam, anyone?) . The humor of the latter scene is clearly based on the innocence of children as opposed to mean-spiritedness (as was the case in some later Gang films as "Spook Spoofing" and the horribly cruel and unfunny "Glorious Fourth").
Yes, Allen "Farina" Hoskins has defended his work with the Gang/Rascals, but how much sensitivity and political correctness could one expect considering he was a small child when these films were made? As in many films of this period, he steals the show years before his tenth birthday! So yeah, the film shows its age and PC types will call their heart surgeons over some of the humor. But much of the film is undeniably amusing and as is the case with the Our Gang Rascals, the pros outweigh the cons.
One Wild Ride (1925)
The Title Fits
This is another one of those good-feeling inducing silent Our Gang comedies, which are my all time favorite pre-sound era films.
Essentially, our half-pint heroes do some ingenious stuff to get out of their chores so they can go riding in their makeshift taxi (a device making a return from the previous year's classic "Tire Trouble"). After picking up rich girl and resident Rascal cutie-pie Mary Kornman, Mickey Daniels' grandpa demands they stop using his horse to pull the cab. When Farina hooks up to the truck, the title takes effect and see the rest.
Usually, the silent Gang films are amusing in a gentle way. The first half of the film is like this as we see the Gang enjoying a childhood that no longer exists as they romp in chicken coops, abandoned lots, and the actual sunny streets of suburban Los Angeles of the 1920s. Farina proves himself to be a five year old child prodigy of comedy as we enjoy his reactions to the thrilling and guffaw generating runaway car scenes that take up the second half of this enjoyable film. For obvious reasons, the scenes of the other children rebuffing Farina's attempts to play with them and enjoy a ride on the crazy car are a bit disturbing (considering his usual full-fledged status as a Rascal), but the rest of the film wipes away any nasty aftertaste over this.
The early silent Our Gang films are largely an underground cult phenomenon and hard to find. Let us pray that there wonderful films will soon get their just deserts on non-bootleg DVD.
Tire Trouble (1924)
Twenty minutes that will make you smile
This early entry of the silent Our Gang comedies represents the juvenile jokesters at their best. Long lost for many years, rabid rascalists will notice that elements of this treasure from the tot troupe resurfaced in more familiar Little Rascals films such as "Free Wheeling" (the Gang's use of a wild homemade car to help a sick person), and "Fish Hooky" (the amusement park scene).
Essentially, the Gang builds a bizarre contraption that loosely resembles an automobile, and the resident Black kids Ernie "Sunshine Sammy" Morrison and Allen "Farina" Hoskins hop a ride to deliver some laundry in a rich neighborhood. After some scrapes with some sissy rich kids, the cops are called and the gang hides out with a hypochondriac millionaire. The millionaire loves the kids right away and decides to join them in their rattletrap contraption in a ride to a nearby amusement park and--WATCH OUT! See what happens next! The film is not strong on plot and the existing print appears to be quite blurry in spots. A few scenes (such as Joe Cobb and Farina's encounter with the circus fat man) require viewing more than once to "get it" as a result. However, the film as a whole is so pleasant and upbeat to watch that it's worth it. Like many of the best silent Our Gangs, this is not exactly the kind of stuff that will make you bust a gut with guffaws or fall down on the floor in hysterics, but it will indeed brighten your spirits and give you a good relaxing smile after a hard day at work or school.
Free Wheeling (1932)
One of the best, and most anti-racist, of all Rascals films
There are those who complain about the supposed racism of the Our Gang/Little Rascals films. This one dispels a lot of that.
This is where rich kid Dickie is hampered by his overprotective mother, who despises Stymie, who she refers to as "That colored boy" and a "street urchin," but the two bond nonetheless and without spoiling it, let's just say that Stymie's actions in this film changes the snooty mother's mind.
Not only is this a nice and somewhat subtle message about friendship across lines of race and class, but the film is good and funny to boot. The gang's makeshift cab, their encounter with the drunken mule, Spanky playing with the monkey, the wild taxi chase, and the gag with the midgets and the car (you have to see this, although it's in pretty good taste). While there is no racism here, this is certainly RASCALism at its best!
One of those "You had to be there" films
Folks, There is only one group of people who will truly enjoy and think this is a great film-the group who it was intended for: those of us who were in our pre-teens or early teens who saw this when it first came out in the Summer of 1977.
The tale is pretty much the kind of thing that every red-blooded American boy of that age would dream about. The little leaguers fire their tyrannical coach and "borrow" a van to play at a little league championship in Houston. To avoid spoiling it, I'll just say that this deals with their adventures along the way and the results. A "Huckleberry Finn" of the 1970s, to be generous.
The overprotective parents and PC squads of today would have heart attacks at the scenes of the kids' foul language, cigarette smoking, chasing a grown woman, committing grand theft auto, and swiping Playboy magazines. But most of us who saw it at the time knew that this was over -the top and didn't take it that seriously.
Yeah, an adult viewer would agree that the story, writing, and acting are atrocious. But this wasn't intended to be Shakespeare. See it with a 13 year old mind and trust me, you'll "get it." For those of us who saw this as 13 year olds in 1977, leave your brains at the door and enjoy the nostalgia and the theme song "Looking Good." To everyone else-you've been warned!
A Lad an' a Lamp (1932)
The racial humor will go over kids' heads
An odd and interesting Our Gang/Little Rascals flick, this is indeed filled with some undertones of racial stereotyping. But much of that will go over the heads of the modern kids who see this.
Essentially, the Gang reads "Aladdin's Lamp" and get the idea to rub all the lamps they could find hoping for a genie to appear to grant their wishes. As mentioned, Stymie, the Black hero of the early 1930s episodes, wishes for a watermelon and for his "pappy to get out of jail" (this running "gag" from the Stymie Beard years is even less funny today than it was in 1932 for obvious reasons). For some reason, Spanky wishes for Stymie's brother Cotton to turn into a monkey. With the help of a practical-joking magician and his smoke pellets, Cotton appears to do just that to Stymie's horror! To make matters worse, Dickie and the rest of the gang consider selling Cotton to the circus! Adults will have a coronary over the racial implications of all this, and another racial gag involving a Black cook trying to woo his girlfriend, who abscond in histrionic hysterics when the monkey shows up. However, modern children who are innocent of the baggage of stereotype implications will just see this as amusing and wonder how the Gang could be so foolish as to think that Cotton turned into a monkey.
Kids will enjoy other aspects of the film, especially when a bully (Donald Haines) bothers the kids and the magician (who is watching all this nearby) drops a smoke pellet, appears, and yells, "Be gone, villain!" while Donald does just that. This will appeal to the imagination of the small set. In a sense, this will play better to children than adults.
Big Ears (1931)
Among the most grim of the Our Gang flix
Usually, an Our Gang/Little Rascals film is a guarantee for 20 minutes of laughs and warm feelings. This isn't the case here.
Wheezer is upset because of his parents' constant (and admittedly hammy and unconvincing) arguments around the house about really silly things such as the coffee being cold and the toast not being buttered right. The writers seemed to have been asleep at the wheel on this one. He gets the parents to reconcile, but only briefly. He overhears his dad talking about a divorce, which drives him to go to his pal Stymie for solace. That is disturbed when big kid Donald Haines callously explains to Wheez what a divorce really means (always one in any crowd of kids) which starts the bawling Olympics all over again. This leads to the medicine cabinet scene where Stymie and Dorothy fill Wheez with stuff form the medicine cabinet to make him sick and hopefully encourage his parents to reconcile. Does it work? You'll see.
This is really grim and dark for an Our Gang comedy. Even the few gags that exist are mostly horrible by modern standards. This film would be unwatchable for anyone who's been through a divorce or experienced this as a child (which luckily, I didn't). Adults would be horrified by the sight of the unsupervised children playing with medicine and feeding Wheez whatever they could find. Was this considered funny in 1930? Stymie tells a yarn about his falling out of a window and not hurting his head but leaving a hole in the sidewalk (modern audiences may be unfamiliar with the ancient stereotype of the alleged hardness of Black people's skulls). YECCCH. Then Wheezers dad casually refers to Stymie in conversation with Wheez as a "pickaninnny." I'm no fan of politically correct prudery myself, but racially loaded language of this kind was actually quite rare in the Our Gang films.
Most Gang/Rascals films often climax with funny chase scenes or hilarious moments of suspense. That is not to be found here, just a VERY bad soap opera. This was not known to have been shown on television with the rest of the Gang/Rascals films. Wonder why? See it (with some Pepto-Bismol at your side) and you'll understand.
The Hate That Hate Produced (1959)
A Look at things to come
This is a 1959 documentary by Mike Wallace and Louis Lomax (the latter was a well-known Black journalist who died in 1970) regarding the rise of Black Nationalist groups such as the Nation of Islam and the African Liberation Movement.
This documentary is famous for introducing Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad, and a young Louis Farrakhan to mainstream America.
Much of what I've read about this suggested that it was a sensationalized "hatchet job" by Wallace and Lomax, portraying the Nation of Islam and other such groups as wild eyed fanatics and hatemongers. After seeing an admittedly poor-quality print of this last night, I'd have to disagree. The point is made that the anti-white feelings of the above individuals was a direct result of what African-Americans experienced at the time (Jim Crow, lynching, etc) and this kind of thing was inevitable under the circumstances, so I would say that as a whole, this phenomenon is placed into context.
The searing comments by Malcolm, Farrakhan, and some now-obscure Harlem street preachers would not shock anyone today who is familiar with the strident Black Nationalist rhetoric of the 60s that had a brief resurgence in the 1990s. In fact, it's quite mild in comparison to what H. Rap Brown and Khallid Muhammad would pontificate on on in these later eras. So in a sense, it is an important historical document that shows the flipside of Martin Luther King's nonviolent movement and a look at things that were to come in the 1960s (and to a lesser extent in the 1990s).
The Melancholy Dame (1929)
Roberta Hyson makes the film
This early Black comedy features Edward Thompson and Evelyn Preer, a husband and wife comedy team in real life, and Spencer (Andy of Amos & Andy) Williams and Roberta Hyson in a comedy of errors.
Essentially, Preer thinks that Thompson is fooling around with Hyson, who is his dancing partner at a cabaret that the couple owns and wants Hyson thrown out on her ample derriere. However, there is more to the relationship between the dancers than exceeds Preer's worst imaginings! Roberta Hyson really makes this film special with her sassy and infectious personality. Her dancing early in the film must have wowed audiences in the early days of sound. But her showdown with Preer is a sight to behold. The look on her face as she gleefully departs after giving Preer a piece of her mind defies description on paper. Sadly, she is forgotten today. This film was remade a few years later as THE BLACK NETWORK with another sister of sass, Nina Mae McKinney. (Coincidentally, Amanda Randolph, also of Amos & Andy fame as Sapphire's Mama, appeared in the latter film).