Friday, December 2, 2022

The Lone Ranger Museum in Mount Carmel, Illinois

Earlier this year a friend of mine and I spent a week traveling through the state of Illinois and stopped over in Mount Carmel, the hometown of Brace Beemer, known to millions as radio's Lone Ranger. The museum is worth checking out if you are a fan of the masked rider of the plains, with collectibles, memorabilia and historical artifacts on display. 

The display is located in the Wabash County Museum at 320 Market Street. A mock studio shows Fred Foy and Brace Beemer holding a Lone Ranger radio script. A saddle owned by Brace Beemer, authenticated by his family, is on display. There is a fascinating display case of memorabilia owned by radio announcer Fred Foy. Young children can use plungers to replicate the horse hoofs of Silver just as the sound men accomplished on the radio program. The casting call board from the original studios of WXYZ is on display just as you walk through the door. Over 1,500 items related to The Lone Ranger are available for display, rotated on a regular basis to ensure every visit will have something different.

Most unique is the entrance to the exhibit, where you walk through the original door from the Maccabees building at radio station WXYZ, in Detroit. 













We spent more than two hours at the museum, not just reviewing the numerous items on display, and timeline along the wall, but also looking over some of the items that were not on display. A die-hard fan like myself had to see everything -- even if some of the collectibles were not on display for the general public. The curator was awesome is granting my friends and I the privilege.

If you want to financially support the museum, you can buy a Lone Ranger mug, key chain, clock, lunchbox, Christmas tree ornament, trinket box and much more. The link is provided below. (Disclaimer: yes, my Lone Ranger book is available for sale through this link. I donated the books to the museum and am in no way making a profit for the sale.)

Thursday, November 24, 2022

RESIDENT EVIL: The Television Series

Two months ago Netflix brought us a new TV series, Resident Evil, based on a series of popular video games that in turn launched a series of horror movies beginning in 2002. I would like to state right off the bat that I never played the video game (I rarely play any video games) and the 2002 movie starring Milla Jovovich is on my top five must-see zombie movies ever made. (Among those five, in case you are curious, is 28 Days Later, the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead, and the original 1968 Night of the Living Dead.) The movie was so good that it gave me reason to watch the five sequels that followed it – with each movie getting more convoluted and confusing. 

So when Netflix pays for a series of eight hour-long episodes based on the game, I wanted to check it out. 

This version of Resident Evil follows two timelines: one leading up to the moment a deadly virus caused a global apocalypse, and one that picks up 14 years following those events. Here we follow Jade Wesker at two critical points in her life. As a teenager in the year 2022, where she and her twin sister Billie follow their father Albert Wesker to his work in the town of New Raccoon City, a burgeoning community run by the infamous Umbrella Corporation that is attempting to erase its connection to any of the disastrous events of its past. And through these eight episodes we bounce back and forth fourteen years later, set in 2036, where an adult Jade has a family of her own, and she is one of only a few hundred million people on Earth who managed to survive an apocalyptic zombie outbreak. As she is hunted by both the legions of the undead and foot soldiers from the Umbrella Corporation, Jade must uncover the mysteries of her family legacy and how all of it is connected to the survival—or the destruction—of the human race.

 


The television series is not meant to maintain continuity with the motion-pictures, but it certainly makes reference to the events of the first two movies in the franchise. And, like the movies, the T-virus not only re-animates the dead but mutates from host to host and ultimately goes out of control, creating various creatures. 

 

In an era where zombie movies and television programs have become fashionable, Resident Evil has the problem of standing out from the rest of the pack. Every program seems to be a variation-on-a-theme, with most avoiding the popular Walking Dead program that set a standard. Personally, I found the Resident Evil program to be above average both in budget and storyline. The program gave you a few mysteries that ultimately, over time, was answered. The special effects were well done. The premise was grounded enough to ensure the worst is yet to come but isolation always breeds fear in horror pictures. If I had any complaint, it was that this series really needed closure so that a second season – if there is going to be a second season – presented a new storyline in the Resident Evil universe and not just a cliffhanger to keep you wondering what happens next. With so many scripted programs produced these days, I find myself appreciating “limited series” (self-contained mini-series) more, and long continuous story arcs less. Keeping track later of when the next season of any program that never yet concluded is starting to become troublesome.

 

Interesting enough, I question whether this new program is not without irony. It seems fans of the franchise – or zombie/horror programs in general – who have access to the Internet are using this series to voice their opinions… and not always in a good way. It used to be that you could google a television program or movie and find some information about it including reviews. Today it seems a standard google search not only brought up a few reviews from television critics, but postings (with theories) questioning whether Netflix would even produce a second season, one person citing an entire blog entry to “worst programs ever” and other such negativity that I wonder if those people are not zombies themselves. (On Facebook it has become more prominent to see negativity posted instead of positivity.) So I guess this particular virus is now spreading on the Internet in general. if any new television program is going to be subjected to this type of trolling, I question if any new television program will ever have a chance.

 

I, for one, hope Netflix produces a second season. But alas, this was not meant to be. It was recently announced a second season was cancelled. Darn shame.

 

Thursday, November 17, 2022

BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER (Movie Review)

It has been two years since the passing of Chadwick Boseman and our hearts haven't been the same since. Following up with the 2018 movie, Black Panther, and his appearance in The Avengers: Infinity War and The Avengers: End Game, one had to question how Marvel Studios would continue telling the saga without replacing him for another actor. The studio said it would be disrespectful to have another actor play the role. As emphasized in the final episode if She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Marvel Studios decided to move forward with emotional story telling and avoid the pitfalls that became far too recurring in their movies. No longer would there be super soldier serums and heroes and villains with daddy issues. And with Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Marvel took a daring chance with a story that ten years ago would never have been dramatized in a super hero movie... and as a result, hit the bullseye.

Here, the country of Wakanda momentarily mourns for the passing of T'Challa, the rightful ruler of Wakanda, also known as The Black Panther, and takes time to celebrate all that he left behind. But the primary focus is on the principal players in the film, and those directly connected to the life of T'Challa, as they grieve each in their own way. Shuri, his sister, is the last to grieve, instead choosing to retreat to her laboratory in the hopes of saving many more lives through science and technology -- for which she was unable to do and failed in her attempt to save her brother from a fatal illness. While the rest of the world is sympathetic to the plight of the country, they nonetheless are concerned about the unauthorized use of Vibranium for weapons, and the country's insistence on protecting the valuable resource. When the underwater resident known as Prince Namor, also known to comic book fans as Sub-Mariner, starts to wreck havoc on the surface world, Wakanda is the prime suspect. Here, Shuri and her mother, Queen Ramonda, must wage war against the underwater citizens led by the vile Namor, while holding their own. It is during the climatic battle that the meaning of life is found not through violence, but through the grief Shuri has for her brother's untimely death. 

Along the way, another Marvel superhero is introduced: Siri, who also known as Iron Heart. And, once again, the villainous Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, also known to comic book fans as Madame Hydra, continues to either recruit a new superhero or eliminate a pawn off the board, leading us to what will ultimately become a major problem in a future Marvel movie. Tenoch Huerta is perfect for the role of Sub-Mariner, but the film's true star is Angela Bassett who delivers a powerhouse performances that is worthy of an Oscar nomination.

The good folks at Marvel Studios are not afraid to try something different. Like most of their movies, this sequel does not follow the same formula applied in the former entry, offering us a totally new story. In this case, an emotional tale led by a superb soundtrack that emphasizes the mood of each scene. This is why Marvel continues to dominate the box office. Daring storytelling that emphasizes rebirth through love, loss and forgiveness. 

Summed up, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (along with Prey and Top Gun: Maverick) is one of the top three movies of the year. 

Thursday, November 10, 2022

LIGHTYEAR is a Nod to Classic Science-Fiction

It is evident that Angus MacLane, the director of Pixar’s 
Lightyear, is a fan of science-fiction. Even more so for Flash GordonBuck Rogers and Star Trek, which was evident when my wife and I recently went to the local drive-in to watch a double feature. (The other film was Marvel’s Thor: God of Thunder.)  

Lightyear tells the story of young astronaut Buzz Lightyear, who, after being marooned on a hostile planet with his commander and crew, tries to find a way back home while confronting a threat to the universe's safety. The concept of a human Buzz Lightyear, who exists in a fictional universe (within another fictional universe) is explained in the very opening of the picture.

 

Buzz Lightyear, a space ranger in Star Command, and his commanding officer and best friend, Alisha Hawthorne, explore the habitable planet, T'Kani Prime. They are forced to retreat to their exploration vessel after discovering that the planet hosts hostile lifeforms. Buzz damages the vessel during the retreat, forcing the crew to evacuate in order to conduct repairs and continue their journey.  

 

One year later, the crew have constructed a nascent colony along with the necessary infrastructure to conduct repairs. Buzz volunteers to test hyperspace fuel, a key component of the repairs. However, after a four-minute test, he finds that time dilation is possible. More importantly, he finds himself working with a rag tag team of misfits as they combat the Zyclops robots, led by the mysterious Zurg.

 

If you are a fan of the old Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon adventure serials, this is the type of movie that best resembles the nostalgic flavor – with a dash of 2001: A Space Odyssey thrown in for good measure. The foggy forest scene was a nod to the Star Wars franchise, an obvious scene provides a nod to The Black Hole (1979), and evading capture under the floor in vent shafts reproduced a scene from Aliens. Add a temporal paradox, hypersace travel and colonial defense forces, and you have a fun film.

 

To be fair, this was not a great film, nor is it a bad film. In an era where science-fiction movies released theatrically are dominated with Star Wars and superheroes, this one is a welcome change of pace. The movie settles for being a rather conventional origin story instead of reaching for the stars, but this gorgeously animated adventure accomplishes a mission of straightforward fun.


Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Return of Betty Boop

Make room on your DVD shelf. Betty, Grampy, Pudgy and the whole gang are back with a new Blu-Ray courtesy of Steve Stanchfield of Thunderbean Animation. A few years ago Olive produced a series of four DVDs and Blu-Ray releases containing Betty Boop cartoons from the 1930s, restored from archival elements. Regrettably, those four releases were not complete. Fans of Betty Boop cartoons even petitioned for Olive to release additional volumes, but nothing met fruition. Flash forward to today where Thunderbean has released a Blu-Ray titled The Other Betty Boop Cartoons, Volume One, with 18 additional cartoons remastered from archival prints. Obviously, the title is in reference to cartoons not found in those Olive releases, thus titled The Essential Collection. Fans can rejoice, too, for the fact that a volume two is also in the works.

All of the cartoons were scanned from original 35mm and 16mm prints, many available foe the first time in High Definition. The Library of Congress logo is featured on the back of the case, indicating the source material for some of the archival masters. Included among the 18 cartoons is the thought-lost "Honest Love and True," recently discovered and available now for the first time. In that film short, Betty works at a saloon in the Klondike. Until 2017, that cartoon was considered "lost" but UCLA found a print, albeit with no audio. The cartoon would ultimately be restored and screened at the UCLA's Festival of Preservation. That very cartoon is included in this Blu-Ray.

Until 2019, there remained one lost Betty Boop cartoon, "Betty Boop at the Concert," when a print was discovered in Russia and preserved at the UCLA Film and Television Archive a year later. Fingers crossed, that other "lost" cartoon will be made available in volume two of The Other Betty Boop Cartoons. Thanks to Steve and his friends, this Blu-Ray release brings us one step closer to seeing all of the cartoons digitally restored for future preservation. 

You can purchase a copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Other-Betty-Boop-Cartoons/dp/B0B1BWZM81/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=the+other+betty+boop+blu+ray&qid=1653959952&sprefix=the+other+betty+boop%2Caps%2C149&sr=8-1


FOR THOSE WHO WANTED A LIST:


Betty Boop’s Ker-Choo

Betty Boop’s Crazy Inventions
Is My Palm Read?
Betty in Blunderland
No! No! 1000 Times No!
Betty Boop and Grampy
Henry, The Funniest Living American
Betty Boop and the Little King
Betty Boop and Little Jimmy
Happy You and Merry Me
Grampy’s Indoor Outing
Be Human
House Cleaning Blues
Pudgy Picks a Fight!
Ding Dong Doggie
Honest Love and True
Rhythm on the Reservation
Musical Mountineers

 

Friday, October 28, 2022

The Screaming Bean is a Dream Come True

Every dream starts with a small beginning. Mine has been to own and run a coffee shop. And not just any ol' coffee shop, but one that provides an intrinsic sense of fulfillment for the employees. A company culture with a single mission: "Where Community Happens." A coffee shop that impacts the community by helping local fund raisers and charities. Basically a coffee shop that defines Main Street, not Wall Street.

It is mainly about connecting and impacting people. A coffee shop is just the bridge to connection.

With a full service espresso bar, the goal is to offer craft coffee -- not just drip coffee that is commonly available throughout Harford County. (Yes, there is a difference.)

If this comes as a surprise to you, don't sweat. Opening a coffee shop has been in the research and planning stage for five years and only my close friends knew about this. Today I can go public with the news.

My wife and I were handed the lease contract a few days ago, which took months of negotiation to ensure we have a good contract, not a bad one. Now we go into the architectural stage, permits, trending, drainage and plumbing, more permits, contracts, hiring, inspections and more permits. But as mind-boggling as all that might sound, right now we are stepping into the biggest and most challenging phase of the project -- fund raising.

It is regrettable that Interest Rates are the highest in two decades because a business loan will be murder. No one likes to pay interest. (I know I don't.) But today we have crowdfunding -- an alternative funding that make dreams come true. As of yesterday I launched a Kickstarter to generate starting capital. The more money we raise, the less we have to borrow from the bank.

(Have no fear, this new business venture does not mean my present book projects will come to a halt.)


I have never asked a favor like this -- ever. Usually it is I doing the favors, whether it includes funding other people's book projects, donating money to people on Go Fund Me who are down on their luck, or helping to raise money for children with treatable cancer at the annual MANC convention. Why? Because I have always lived with the mantra to make the world a better place than it was when I woke up this morning. It is my hope The Screaming Bean will become a shining example of how local business can support the local community. 

So this is my time to ask for a favor. 

Please visit the Kickstarter link below and if you share that same belief, consider pledging. 
And help spread the word to your friends.
With sincere appreciation,
Martin

Friday, October 21, 2022

Basil Rathbone in "The Man Who Was Hanged" (1936)

On the evening of February 2, 1936, The Baker's Broadcast presented the usual half-hour Sunday night feature of music, comedy and drama -- music provided by Ozzie Nelson, vocals by Harriet Hilliard, comedy by various comedians (formerly Joe Penner for a full season) and drama ranging from domestic squabbles to mystery thrillers. The program was also known as Believe-it-or-Not because Robert Ripley had a weekly feature on the program. Basil Rathbone was among the celebrity guests that particular evening and he starred in a six-minute sketch titled "The Man Who Was Hanged."


A few years ago all of the radio scripts were found and a digitizing process began to copy all of the programs into PDF files. As expected with many radio broadcasts of the 1930s, the majority of The Baker's Broadcast does not exist in recorded form. So these scripts prove valuable for almost every fan of pop culture. In this case, fans of Basil Rathbone would love to read the drama and as an interesting side note, he voiced the role of Will Purvis without being billed as Basil Rathbone. Why a character actor of radio did not play the role instead of Rathbone remains a mystery. But click the link below and enjoy this six minute oddity.  

https://www.dropbox.com/s/hlnb8hutqwcbkuq/BAKERS%20BROADCAST%2C%20The%20Man%20Who%20Was%20Hanged%20%28February%202%2C%201936%29.pdf?dl=0


Friday, October 14, 2022

THE TWILIGHT ZONE: Nightmare at 20,000 Feet (1963)

Production #2605 “NIGHTMARE AT 20,000 FEET”

(Initial telecast: October 11, 1963)

© Cayuga Productions, Inc., October 4, 1963, LP27130

Dates of Filming: July 12 through 16, 1963

Script dated: April 25, 1963

 

Production Notes

Producer and Secretary: $1,626.02

Story and Secretary: $2,660.00

Director: $1,375.00 

Cast: $9,770.08

Unit Manager and Secretary: $726.01 

Production Fee: $1,800.00

Agents Commission: $2,500.00 

Legal and Accounting: $250.00

Below the line charges (M-G-M): $55,813.23 

Below the line charges (other): $3,374.82

Total Production Costs: $79,895.16

 

Cast: Dave Armstrong (police officer); Slim Bergman (a passenger); Nick Cravat (the gremlin); Extelle Ettere (a passenger); Madeline Finochio (a passenger); Ed Haskett (a passenger); Hath Howard (a passenger); Edward Kemmer (the copilot); Asa Maynor (the stewardess); Bob McCord (a passenger); Beryl McCutcheon (a passenger); Jean Olson (a passenger); William Shatner (Bob Wilson); and Christine White (Ruth Wilson).



Stock Music Cues: Etrange #3 (by Marius Constant, :09); Milieu #2 (by Constant, :21); Onslaught (by Fred Steiner, :35); The Station (by Bernard Herrmann, :07 and :07); Struggle (by Steiner, :36); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :31); Goodbye Keith (by William Lava, :06); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :04); Second Vision (by Steiner, :21); Puzzles (by Steiner, :46); Forboding Preamble (by Lyn Murray, :11); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :16); Struggle (by Steiner, :36); Goodbye Keith (by Lava, :06); The Sun (by Herrmann, 1:04); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :21 and :32); The Station (by Herrmann, :47); Dead Phones (by Steiner, :18); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :29 and :19); Ford’s Theater (by Jerry Goldsmith, :17); Moat Farm Murder (by Herrmann, :16); Goodbye Keith (by Lava, :06); Dirge (by Goldsmith, :14); Now We Move (by Nathan Van Cleave, :17); A Story #1 (by Constant, :03); Magdalena Curtain (by Murray, :05); and Milieu #2 (by Constant, arr. by Herrmann, :21).

 

“Portrait of a frightened man: Mr. Robert Wilson, thirty-seven, husband, father, and salesman on sick leave. Mr. Wilson has just been discharged from a sanitarium where he spent the last six months recovering from a nervous breakdown, the onset of which took place on an evening not dissimilar to this one . . . on an airliner very much like the one in which Mr. Wilson is about to be flown home . . . the difference being that, on that evening half a year ago, Mr. Wilson’s flight was terminated by the onslaught of his mental breakdown. Tonight, he’s traveling all the way to his appointed destination – which, contrary to Mr. Wilson’s plan – happens to be in the darkest corner . . . of the Twilight Zone.”

 

Plot: Robert Wilson, accompanied by his wife, Ruth, is flying back home one evening, having been released from a sanitarium for a severe case of nerves. Flying through a storm, Robert suddenly notices what appears to be a man on the wing of the aircraft. Regardless of the warnings, neither his wife, the stewardess or the copilot believe him. Robert’s problem grows when he realizes that it wasn’t a man outside – but a gremlin – and witnesses the creature tampering with one of the plane’s engines. Robert insists he is not having another nervous breakdown, but his wife gives him a pill to ease his nerves, hoping he will sleep peacefully until the plane lands safely. Minutes later, after his wife and everyone else on board falls asleep, he spits out the pill and sneaks down the aisle to secure a gun from an armed officer. Tightening his seat belt, he opens the emergency glass and amongst the chaos and screams of the passengers, Robert manages to shoot the gremlin off the wing. Back on the ground, Robert is taken away in a straitjacket . . . but content with the knowledge that he will soon be released when the inspectors find evidence that proves the engine plate was tampered with.

 

“The flight of Mr. Wilson has ended now. A flight not only from point A to point B, but also from the fear of recurring mental breakdown. Mr. Wilson has that fear no longer, though, for the moment, he is, as he said, alone in this assurance. Happily, his conviction will not remain isolated too much longer . . . for happily, tangible manifestation is very often left as evidence of trespass, even from so intangible a quarter . . . as the Twilight Zone.”

 

Trivia, etc. The wing section was secured by M-G-M from a plane that was being taken out of service. The transport of the plane wing from Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica to M-G-M Studios was $435. The exterior airline set cost $1,650, while full-size effects set construction cost $1,441. An eight-blade Ritter wind machine, the same kind used for the Twilight Zone episode “The 7th is Made Up of Phantoms,” cost Cayuga $180 in rental fees. Three extra special effects men were required to operate the machine and the gremlin’s wires, costing a total of $716 in employment costs. With additional costs involved, the exterior of the airliner cost a total of $4,800.

 

On July 8, 1963, Nick Cravat visited the Cayuga office to discuss the role he would play in this episode. After a full understanding of what he would be subjected to, high winds, water splashing on him, makeup on the face, and so on, he then went to wardrobe for a fitting and then to the makeup department so a preliminary mask could be made for the facial features. Before the day was over, Cravat visited Ralph Swartz regarding fittings for the wires, which would be used to keep him suspended on the plane wing. Nick Cravat was hired for the role of the gremlin because of his past expertise as an acrobatic circus performer (who once partnered with actor Burt Lancaster, performing as “Lang and Cravat”). His athletic prowess helped meet the physical demands of the role.


Actress Christine White, who had appeared in “The Prime Mover,” also played the role of Abigail Adams in Ichabod and Me, a short-run television comedy for which Serling had written a script. He and White remained friends for a number of years, and it was through their friendship that he arranged for her casting in this episode. 

 

Richard Matheson had wished that William Shatner and Pat Breslin, the same couple from “Nick of Time,” would play the leads, as he envisioned the two when he wrote the script. On July 11, William Shatner went to wardrobe before joining Christine White for a script reading. On the evening of that same day, Ralph W. Nelson wrote to Rod Serling, explaining that this episode “is rehearsing today and testing all of the effects in the airplane set. This set certainly looks like it will work out very, very well. Dick Donner is directing it.”

 

“I got the job directing ‘Nightmare’ because I was doing a lot of television shows for M-G-M at that time,” recalled Richard Donner in a phone interview. “I remember the initial sit-down with the producer and we discussed how this was going to be put together. We had rain hitting the actor in the gremlin suit, wind, and lightning. That was one of those moments I realized I had something material to make out of a simple television script. I recall we ran behind by the evening of the last day, so we kept filming all through the night. Someone needed to use the set the next day so we could not have possibly returned to finish the job the next day.”

 

The entire episode was filmed on Stage 14 at M-G-M Studios. “Someone must have complained about the long hours,” Donner continued, “because I almost lot my job there. After they viewed the rough cut, Bill Froug, I think he was responsible for making the studio heads change their minds, but Bill let me keep my job and assigned me a few more [episodes].”

 

All of the extras in this episode, the passengers on board the plane, were hired for scale – and informed in advance to bring topcoats and hats. “All should be smartly dressed for traveling aboard a modern airliner,” they were instructed. According to CBS policy, one Negro was hired to play the role of a sailor on board the plane.

 

“[William Shatner] was a great nut. We were always putting each other on and having the time of our lives,” Donner revealed in an interview with Robert Martin for the July 1981 issue of The Twilight Zone Magazine. “On that last night of shooting, he was visited on the set by Edd Byrnes, ‘Kookie’ from 77 Sunset Strip. We were all exhausted – it was quite late – and when my back was turned, Shatner and Byrnes decided to stage a fight. I happened to look up at the wing of the airplane and saw this fight going on. I started running over, of course, and just when I got there I saw Byrnes hit Shatner, who went over the wing of the airplane, down forty feet to the [water] tank below! What I didn’t know was that they had dressed a dummy in Shatner’s clothes. All I could think at the time was, screw Shatner, now I have to re-shoot this whole thing! But Shatner is a wonderful guy. I enjoyed working with him tremendously.”

 

After filming was completed, the wing section was stored by M-G-M, according to an interoffice memo: “as per Maj. Alberts of Air Force, Hollywood Office.” Much of the music for this episode was lifted from Bernard Herrmann’s music score from the premiere episode, “Where is Everybody?” while some small segments were lifted from Fred Steiner’s music score for “King Nine Will Not Return,” another episode involving an airplane.

 

The Tucson Daily Citizen reviewed this episode as “the only redeeming quality of this farfetched half-hour is the acting of William Shatner, as the only passenger in a plane who can see an inhuman creature tampering with the engine.”

 

This was one of three episodes to be remade for Twilight Zone – The Movie (1983). Richard Matheson recalled to interviewer Tom Weaver: “In my story, and in the original Twilight Zone episode, the guy had had a mental breakdown, but George Miller thought to make it just a guy who was afraid of flying. I can’t say that I liked the characterization, but I must admit that John Lithgow was marvelous – I mean, to start out at 99 percent of hysteria and build from that is a little difficult, but he somehow managed to do it! Visually that episode was marvelous, although a lot of it I didn’t care for. And I thought the monster in the movie was much better than in the television show.” (In the June 1984 issue of The Twilight Zone Magazine, Matheson was quoted as saying “I thought the monster on the wing was somewhat ludicrous. It looked rather like a surly teddy bear.”)

 

For the movie version, Gregory Peck was originally slated for the role of the nervous passenger, so Matheson wrote the script for the movie in which Peck was like the character he played in Twelve O’Clock High (1949), having already been familiar with gremlins. Suddenly, without advance notice, Peck was unavailable and director George Miller decided to go with John Lithgow. 

 

This episode influenced a number of salutes and spoofs including an episode of The Simpsons in which Bart witnesses a gremlin outside his bus window. The bus driver, of course, did not see the gremlin every time he humored the young lad’s screams. On The Bernie Mac Show, Bernie eats a slice of undercooked turkey and suffers his own “nightmare” when he dreams Vanessa is a gremlin on the wing of an airplane. In the motion picture, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls (1995), actor Jim Carrey looks out the window of an airplane and imitating William Shatner, claims he sees something on the wing. Shatner himself made an appearance on The Muppet Show when Miss Piggy sees a gremlin on the wing – and Shatner informs her that it’s no use – he’s been trying to tell people for years. On the television sitcom 3rd Rock from the Sun, William Shatner makes a guest appearance, arriving at an airport, making reference to having seen something on the wing of the airplane.

 

The 1979 album, Extensions, performed by The Manhattan Transfer, featured two tracks, back to back, titled “Twilight Zone,” which reached No. 12 on the Billboard’s Disco Chart. That musical number also made reference to this episode and “The Obsolete Man,” “The Last Flight” and “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” The 1990 album Cure for Sanity, performed by the pop rock group Pop Will Eat Itself, features a song titled “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet.”



Martin Grams is the author of the award-winning book, The Twilight Zone: Unlocking the Door to a Television Classic. To order your copy, click here: https://www.martingrams.biz/products/the-twilight-zone-unlocking-the-door-to-a-television-classic

Thursday, October 6, 2022

WORST MOVIE OF THE YEAR: BLONDE (2022)

The headline says it all.

It was over a year ago when I heard that Ana de Armas was going to play the role of Marilyn Monroe in a biopic about the actress, and I knew right off the bat that she was perfect for the role. For more than a year I looked forward to seeing this movie, even when Netflix later announced the film would be rated NC-17. Now, after watching this film on a wet and rainy afternoon, I found myself wasting three hours of my life I will never get back. 

Incidentally, I suspect the scenes that deemed the film NC-17 were insert shots -- filmed after production and inserted into the finished film to claim justification for the rating. To be fair, I have seen films rated R that had more graphic scenes than this one so the rating was not necessary and (I suspect) was nothing more than a marketing ploy.

The movie follows Norma Jean's life from a troubled little girl with a mentally disturbed mother to her untimely and unintentional overdose in 1962. She was a silver screen emblem for the era's sexual revolution that was to become synonymous with the 1960s. She could sing and dance and proved she could act and play a role -- not just be a pretty face on the silver screen. But Andrew Dominik not only wrote the screenplay (based on Joyce Carol Oates' novel of fiction) and directed the almost three-hour movie, chose instead to focus on her trials and tribulations as a tormented soul. In Blonde, Monroe faced the notorious casting couch, laughed at multiple times when she mentioned a book she read, physically beaten by her second husband, and was humiliated by the most powerful man in the country. What I hoped would have been a biography of triumphs was a three hour biopic of a woman abused and tormented. This was streamed on Netflix but had I paid for a movie ticket, I would have asked for my money back. No one wants to pay to see a depressing movie. 

Andrew Dominik's direction was terrible. It has been eleven years since I watched a movie with terrible direction and that was Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance back in 2011. That movie, if I recall correctly, had two directors and neither had enough experienced behind the camera to direct a major Hollywood production with a large production. They played with the camera in a manner as to make the movie a business card, but playing with the camera was a bad decision. In Blonde, Dominik did the exact same by filming every scene in a different manner from 1955 VistaVision to replicating a scene from the 1962 cult classic, Carnival of Souls. Worse, the script was written with the assumption the viewers knew everything about Marilyn Monroe -- a challenge for anyone writing a biopic but more often overlooked in such pictures. It seemed like every ten minuets I had to lean over and explain to my wife who the person on the screen was, that she had a number of miscarriages, that she was an obsessive reader, and other factoids that were never explained or revealed in the movie and were (apparently) necessary to understand the dialogue exchanged on screen.  


There were three movies on my "must-see" list this year and Blonde was one of them. I know sometimes, over a period of months, my expectations go up and the movie I wanted to see was below par as a result. Believe me, I went in with no expectations for this movie.

Ana de Armas should receive an Oscar nomination for best performance. As Marilyn Monroe, she was perfect. Adrian Brody was great as Arthur Miller. But what might have been the best performance ever given by Ana de Armas could not save this movie. 

Thursday, September 29, 2022

DARK CITY: The Lost World of FIlm Noir

If you are a fan of film noir, then you are probably already aware of this book. If not, you are in for a real treat. DARK CITY: The Lost World of Film Noir by Eddie Muller was first published in 1998 and considered by film buffs as the essential book on the subject. Personally, I find this to be the best book on the subject for which no other books about film noir are required. Thoroughly enjoyable with magnificent prose, historical perspective and social critique mixed together. So you can imagine how pleased I was to know that this out-of-print book that was expensive in the past few years is now available with a new printing -- an updated and expanded edition. 

Yes, this is the same Eddie Muller who is a weekly host of the film noir thrillers on Turner Classic Movies. 

The new edition is available in hardcover. To my knowledge, the prior rendition was paperback only. And to avoid confusion, I am only posting a photo image of the expanded edition that was just published. 

Nothing much else to say since the above sums it up perfectly. Treat yourself to a great book if you have not read this one yet and love watching film noir.


To purchase a copy, click here:

https://www.amazon.com/Dark-City-rebuilt-Lost-World/dp/0762498978

Friday, September 23, 2022

The Williamsburg Nostalgia Fest, November 2022

I am proud to announce the Williamsburg Nostalgia Fest, held this November in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Formerly titled the Williamsburg Film Festival, the annual event ran 25 years strong with a strong focus on cowboy westerns of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. Anyone who worked in a John Wayne western, made a guest appearance on a television western or played second fiddle to a cowboy hero was expected to make an appearance. The event drew in people from all over the country, and a few from Canada, England and Australia. Over the years, however, the event  migrated to a focus on television stars of the 1960s and 1970s. And with the convention opening doors to celebrities of the bygone era, regardless if they had no connection to westerns, an era of cowboys is slowly riding into the sunset. As it must be with everything, we must adjust to changing times.  

As of this November, the event undergoes a major change with new management, hoping to expand the venue size with a top-notch lineup of celebrities signing autographs for fans. Hosted by the same crew of the popular Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention (the Maryland show that draws thousands to the hotel every year), the expectation level is pretty high. The bar has been set and all indication is that the Williamsburg event will not only be huge, but possibly over-crowded. But in the words of the convention promoter, "that is a good kind of problem to have." 

Below is a flyer promoting the event and the celebrities who will be attending. If you live within driving distance of this event, do yourself a favor and mark this on your calendar. You are going to love it. 



Monday, September 19, 2022

Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention 2022 Recap

The 17th annual Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention has come to a close. It is with pride that I deliver the following report in three sentences: Best. Convention. Ever.

Like a good movie involving hundreds of talented individuals, once every so often everything -- and everyone -- hits their mark. The slide show presentations were above average with diverse subjects including three from author Robert Matzen: the 1942 plane crash that killed actress Carole Lombard, James Stewart's World War II career, to Audrey Hepburn's charitable career.

Yours truly presented a slide show on The History of Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, which will be presented again via Zoom at the Metro Washington Old-Time Radio Club in December. (Anyone who wants to see the presentation can e-mail me for a link before the December meet.)

The charity auction broke a record raising money for children with treatable cancer.

Celebrities from all ends of the spectrum arrived to sign autographs and pose for photos with fans. Nancy Kovack, who worked with Vincent Price, Kim Novak, and Elvis, and appeared in such classics as Jason and the Argonauts, The Outlaws is Coming, Diary of a Madman, Tarzan and the Valley of Gold, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Bewitched and many others proved to be a national treasure... even though she flew in from Italy to attend. Linda Gaye Scott, who played roles on Lost in Space, Batman and The Green Hornet made an appearance, bragging how she was the only person on The Green Hornet to kick Bruce Lee's butt. Sharyn Wynters attended, also a villain on Batman, but also a killer robot who, alongside Linda Gaye Scott, took over a theme park in Westworld

Jamie Farr and Loretta Swit attended together, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the premiere of M*A*S*H on that Saturday evening, complete with cake and a live radio interview. Melissa Gilbert reminded us that in a world full of Nellies, we should all be like Laura. Jimmie Walker cracked jokes all weekend, Bob Eubanks signed autographs for fans for the first time at any convention, and Sam Jones proved he was Flash Gordon with his thunder buddies for life mantra that made everyone love the life they have. Truly motivational. 

Beverly Washburn from Old Yeller, Laura Cayouette from The Green Lantern, Greg Evigan from B.J. and the Bear, Linda Thorson proved she could be among The Avengers, Mindy Cohn from The Facts of Life proved she was even more popular for voicing the role of Velma on Scooby Doo, and Constance Towers impressed everyone with her spry ability to move about at her age and with an impressive memory -- we should all be so lucky.

During the Saturday night dinner banquet, we surprised actress Linda Gaye Scott with a stage performance of The Witch's Tale, for which her grandmother played the lead back in 1932. A recording of that radio broadcast does not exist so we re-created the drama on stage complete with radio scripts, microphones and sound effects. This was under the direction of Don Ramlow, who was directing his 500th performance.

Vendors had so much available for sale it was amazing. But don't take my word for it. Enjoy the photos!

Melissa Gilbert poses for a photo with fans.

Jamie Farr signing a board game with a
photo of him on the box.

Robert Tevis received the Parley E. Baer award.



Celebrities signed autographs all three days for fans.

An awesome magazine, RETRO FAN.



Yes, that is Bob Eubanks seated at the bottom left.



Herb Boomhower and Mary Ethel Vinje reunite at the show.



Bear Manor Media Publishing had so many books for sale!

Celebrity panels are always a highlight of the weekend.


Joe Harvey, a.k.a. Iron Knight Cosplay,
dressed up as Sergeant Preston, with
his wonder dog husky, Yukon King.

Nancy Kovack flew in from Italy to meet fans.

The ever beautiful Constance Towers signing
an autograph photo for a fan.


Sam Jones signed photos in a flash.

Jamie Farr

Loretta Swit


Sharyn Wynters signed Batman memorabilia.

Linda Thorson from The Avengers.


The Saturday Night dinner banquet had a special cake.

My wife, Michelle, proud to meet Flash Gordon himself.

Left to right, following the celebrity panel:
Bob Eubanks, Loretta Swit, Jamie Farr,
Kay Lively (the host) and the great Jimmie Walker. 



The crew at the Zane Grey Society. Recommended you
become a member of their club.

Jimmie Walker from Good Times and
Sharyn Wynters from Westworld.
Both were delightful people to chat with.

Actress Laura Cayouette signing for fans.




Cosplayer Tyler S. Schafer and podcast host Steven Turek.

An old-time radio drama for The Witch's Tale, from 1932. 



Bob Eubanks making his first autographing
for fans -- ever!

The volunteer staff who puts on the event to ensure it
runs smoothly. Most important people at the show. 

Joe Harvey as The Green Hornet