Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tex Avery-Walter Lantz Cartoon "SH-H-H-H-H-H"/The Laughing Record

TV historian Kliph Nesteroff tweeted an offbeat audio recording last night dating back to 1923. Titled "The Laughing Record," it features nothing more than a trombonist attempting to play a sorrowful song but unable to do so as he and his female companion keep cracking up laughing.

This reminded me of an old cartoon, produced by Woody Woodpecker creator Walter Lantz, in which a nervous man goes on a vacation on doctor's orders to relax at a quiet retreat. The man's vacation is disturbed, however, by his raucous neighbors in the adjoining room who are playing a trombone and laughing loudly.

I looked up the cartoon on YouTube, and not only does the cartoon follow the same conceit as "The Laughing Record," the cartoon uses the exact record as the soundtrack! The record even receives a credit in the cartoon's opening! I love when connections like this reveal themselves.

Here for your pleasure is the cartoon, produced by Lantz and written and directed by Tex Avery (his last theatrical cartoon), titled "SH-H-H-H-H-H," followed by the original "Laughing Record," complete with a link to download the public domain recording for your own collection. Enjoy!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Hello Down There

This week's Tuesday's Overlooked Film is the 1969 aquatic comedy Hello Down There.

Hello Down There stars Tony Randall as Fred Miller, an engineer who designs an underwater home for his company. To prove its feasibility, he moves his wife (Janet Leigh) and children into a prototype, named the Green Onion, to live there for thirty days. His teenage children (along with a very young Richard Dreyfuss) belong to a rock group that gets the attention of a record exec (Roddy McDowell) who is so impressed with the group that he books a television appearance for the band on The Merv Griffin Show from the Green Onion with the real Merv Griffin in tow!  Add to the story a rival engineer (Ken Berry), a fight between sharks and dolphins, a pet seal, and Jim Backus, and you get an offbeat late 60s romp of a film.

As silly as the description sounds, it's actually a fun film--at least my boyhood self thought so back in the day. The film was once released on DVD but is unfortunately out of print, but you might be able to pick this up on the secondary market.

In lieu of the actual film, enjoy this clip of Dreyfuss lip synching to a voice that sounds nothing like him (the voice of big time music producer Jeff Barry, to be exact). Enjoy!

Sunday, July 28, 2013

5 Celebrities You May Have Forgotten Were Dead

It's common to feel a bit saddened when he hear of the passing of a celebrity we enjoyed and admired, even though we didn't know them personally. But sometimes, there are certain celebrities that, after a few years, we may have forgotten were no longer with us, usually because their creative output may have been fewer and far between in the years leading up to their death. Below are five such celebrities that you may have forgotten have gone to the great beyond.

Robert Palmer, 1949-2003

Robert Palmer is best remembered for his iconic 80s rock song and video "Addicted to Love," with Palmer standing at the microphone, while several young ladies clad in black with ruby red lipstick and their hair in tight buns "play" instruments behind him. He would also have success as a member of the supergroup Power Station, featuring members of Duran Duran. Palmer would later return to his roots as a blue-eyed soul singer. Palmer passed away of a heart attack at the age of 54.

Laura Branigan, 1957-2004

The only female on my list, Branigan was a pop music success in the early to mid-80s, making it big with her cover of the 1979 Italian-language song "Gloria," followed by contributions to the soundtracks of the films Flashdance and Ghostbusters, then having her biggest international hit with the song "Self-Control." She also was the first person to record Michael Bolton's "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You," making him a rising songwriting star. She took some time off during the 90s and didn't have the same success in America that she had in the 80s, but she was still in demand in other countries. Branigan died of an undiagnosed cerebral aneurysm in August 2004.

Bernie Mac, 1957-2008

I'm breaking my own rules here a bit, as Mac was still a big star when he died of pneumonia in 2008 at the age of 50.  Mac had become famous as part of the "Original Kings of Comedy Tour" alongside friends Steve Harvey, Cedric the Entertainer, and D.L. Hughley. Mac also made appearances in films such as the remake of Ocean's Eleven, Mr. 3000, and Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. He had his biggest success with his TV series The Bernie Mac Show, a mixture of comedy and drama about taking in his troubled niece to live with his family. Mac would frequently break the fourth wall to talk directly to the viewer about what he was thinking at any point in each episode. (Language in clip NSFW)

Robert Pastorelli, 1954-2004

Pastorelli, a New Jersey native, had his eyes on a career as a boxer until a car accident ended his chances, so he turned to acting. He eventually landed the role of Eldin Bernecky, the house painter who never seemed capable of finishing, on the hit sitcom Murphy Brown. He also had a brief stint as the titular Cracker, an American version of the British series that starred Robbie Coltrane. Pastorelli died of a drug overdose in 2004, the same time police were reopening the fatal shooting of a girlfriend of his that occurred years earlier, leading some to speculate that he committed suicide.

Bruno Kirby, 1949-2006

Kirby was a popular character actor remembered for his short stature, high-pitched voice, and strong New York accent. He first gained fame in The Godfather Part II and later had memorable roles in This is Spinal Tap, Good Morning, Vietnam, When Harry Met Sally, and his biggest role in City Slickers. Kirby died of leukemia in 2006 at the age of 57.


Friday, July 26, 2013

It's the Me and You Friday Night Dance Party!

Hey there hep cats! It's Friday, the start of a great summer weekend--time to party! Enjoy the first ever Me and You Friday Night Dance Party! Get down with your bad self!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

July's Underappreciated Music: Barbara Lewis

I unfortunately wasn't prepared for June, but I'm back for Underappreciated Music for July. This month, I shine a spotlight on smooth R&B singer Barbara Lewis.

While never a breakout star, Lewis had a great soulful voice which improved any song she touched. She first gained national attention with her #3 pop hit Hello Stranger in 1963.

Her next two biggest hits appeared in 1965. One is the fine "Make Me Your Baby."

But I believe her finest song is in fact one of my favorite songs by anyone ever. It's a favorite of my mother, and I've fallen in love with it as much as she has. This ranks right up there with the best love songs of all time. The beautiful "Baby I'm Yours." I defy you to find another song as amazing!

Lewis still tours occasionally today. I'm happy to share her great work with you. Thanks!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked: Dennis Farina, 1944-2013

I was saddened to learn of the passing of character actor Dennis Farina on Monday at the age of 69. Farina was an actor I always enjoyed seeing in various projects. His blue collar attitude always appealed to me. Although he was from Chicago, he could have fit right in my South Philly neighborhood. He always gave the impression of a man who was tough as nails on the outside but driven by values and principle on the inside.

This image can easily be seen in the TV series that first made him famous, Crime Story. The series about a Chicago police captain and his Mafia antagonist during the early 60s was a cult hit during its two seasons on NBC during the mid-80s. The series was highly stylized and often over the top, but it developed a cult following (including my parents and older siblings).

Here is the series' memorable opening, which featured the Del Shannon oldies classic "Runaway," and the first few minutes of the series pilot.

Here also is an episode of the old IFC series Dinner for Five, in which Jon Favreau and four other film industry members shared casual conversation around a dinner table. In addition to Favreau and Farina, this episodes features Gina Gershon, Ron Livingston, and Faizon Love.

Finally, a link to a previous Tuesday's Overlooked, the 1987 action comedy Midnight Run, costarring Farina as a Mafioso trying to stop accountant Charles Grodin from testifying against him in court.


Friday, July 19, 2013

List O' Links for Friday, July 19th, 2013

It feels like it's been awhile since I've posted some links, so it's high time I get back to that. Cool off from the ridiculous heat with these fun links!

I won't go into my love for the movie Jaws yet again, but if you want to experience the film in a flash, enjoy Jaws in 3 animated GIFs. These pretty much sum it up!

While we're on the subject of sharks, here are 10 close shark encounters. Too close!

It may be too early to think about Halloween just yet, but in the spirit of Free Comic Book Day, the comics industry is having its second annual Halloween ComicFest October 26th and 27th. Get the details here!

I won't go into my love for the Incredible Hulk TV series yet again (sound familiar?), but this blogger does a great job of explaining his.

Your mileage may vary, but here is a list of the 10 Greatest Syndicated Comic Strips in American History. I think you know what I believe should be #1, but this isn't a bad list.

Finally, with all the crazy weather we seem to be having all the time, it might be a good idea to invest in a good weather radio to stay on top of the latest conditions, especially in times of severe weather. The Surfing Pizza recommends just such a model.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Bugsy Malone

Tuesday's Overlooked Film this week is the 1976 children's gangster flick--you read that right--Bugsy Malone.

Bugsy Malone stars Scott Baio as the titular character, a boxing promoter down on his luck who keeps company with a successful speakeasy owner, "Fat Sam," during Prohibition. He helps out Sam during his feud with a rival gang and falls for one of the speakeasy's female performers, played with sass by Jodie Foster.

Oh yeah--the entire cast is comprised of children. And it's a musical.

The film was Alan Parker's directorial debut and featured songs and a musical score written by Paul Williams. The film takes an intriguing turn with the usual gangster film cliches, by including characters in song, who are played by children yet singing voices are provided by adults (a choice Parker and Williams would later admit was a mistake). To get by the gang violence, real guns were replaced with the unfortunately named (for a kids film) "splurge guns," which shoot cream pie filling instead of bullets.

The movie was only a modest success at the box office, but got repeat airings on cable TV. I for one remember WTAF-TV Channel 29 in Philly (now a Fox affiliate) airing it every year or so, and I always considered it a treat when it appeared. Give it a chance and you will too.

In fact, you can try it right now! Here is the film in its entirety courtesy of YouTube. Enjoy!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked TV: Justice League of America Unaired Pilot

Fresh from a long holiday weekend, Tuesday's Overlooked TV is also an infamous one--the unaired pilot for the live action Justice League of America series.

The pilot, in the form of a 90-minute film, follows a young meteorologist who develops the superpower of control of ice and cold. She is then recruited to be a member of the Justice League, which consists of Green Lantern, the Flash, Fire (a character familiar to League fans of the 80s and 90s), the Atom, and Martian Manhunter (played by the always intriguing David Ogden Stiers). Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are conspicuously absent. The team bands together to fight a weather powered villain played with campy malevolence by Miguel Ferrer.

It's easy to see why CBS passed on the project. The costumes and special effects look awkward, and the performances aren't exactly Peabody-winning caliber. Suffice it to say, it definitely looks like an action/adventure TV show of the late '90s that you might find in syndication (where I wonder if it might have had at least minor success). Although this never aired in the US, it did air in many other countries, and can easily be found on bootleg DVD at comic cons and Internet retail sites.

Better yet, watch the entire pilot right here.  Thanks!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Find Philadelphia," 1977 Tourism Film

Happy 4th of July! I hope everyone gets a chance to enjoy the nice (hopefully long) weekend. Being a citizen of the City of Brotherly Love (in spirit if not in exact locale--southern New Jersey counts), I offer you this intriguing "find" I just stumbled across yesterday.

"Find Philadelphia" is a 10-minute plus tourism film created by the city to--well, promote tourism. Filmed in 1976 and released in 1977, it offers a fine look at the city as it was at the time of this film's creation, when Philly was inviting the nation to enjoy America's bicentennial. It's a fun, nostalgic look back that perhaps can only be appreciated by Philadelphians, but at least it's a cool look at big city America in the 70s, which let's admit, was a very interesting time. Enjoy!

P.S. According to YouTube commentators, the young gentlemen juggling and eating an apple at the 8:44 minute mark is none other than Penn Jillette!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tuesday's Overlooked Film: Cabin in the Woods

Sorry for the long time since my last posts. I've been out of town for a few days, and the lead-up time to that trip required a lot of my attention. I'm back now at the start of July, which means half of 2013 is officially over. And to think I still have the aftertaste of New Year's Day nachos lingering in my mouth. Oh well, let's make the most of the second half of the year with a new Tuesday's Overlooked Film...the 2012 comedy horror film Cabin in the Woods.

Cabin in the Woods is about five college kids spending a weekend in a remote...well, you know. They seem to resemble the usual formula of horror film victims: the jock, the brainy guy, the slacker, the good girl, etc. They also seem to make the same horror cast mistakes. Why do horror films always seem to follow the same formulas? This movie offers an explanation.

I won't spoil the main conceit of the film, even though it may be common knowledge by now, but Cabin in the Woods takes all the horror film tropes and turns them on their heads, giving them new life and a fresh way to look at them. Cabin also does a great job of mixing humor with horror, without diluting the power of either, something that's not easy to do. However, writer/producer Joss Whedon and writer/director Drew Goddard have experience successfully doing just that via Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, so the film has a great pedigree.

I really shouldn't categorize the movie as Overlooked, as it did quite well both critically and commercially, but it's worth a second look, as it's a smart, well-crafted tale.

Oh, and a Cabin in the Woods amusement park ride is opening at Universal Studios Orlando this fall.

Here is the film's trailer. Thanks!