Friday, March 26, 2010

Rehashed Reviews :: The Made for TV Edition!

Inspired by the equally inspired folks behind the Made for TV Mayhem Blog, namely Amanda by Night, this latest, and critically overdue, batch of rehashed reviews found me digging up and dusting off our long dormant CultTV section for seven tele-films, one for each day of the week, from the 1970's that are weird and wonderful and well worth your time. Enjoy!

Check out Pamela Franklin and 2/3rds of Charlie's Angels, who
are rats trapped in a maze as they fight the minions of evil
and lose, sort of, in Satan's School for Girls.

Then, when Deborah Raffin and Lynne Moody pick the wrong
place to have a flat tire and run into
a sadistic Sheriff, he quickly
railroads them right into a Nightmare in Badham County

Next, get yourself over the mid-week hump with this tale
of a sentient and homicidal piece of earth-moving equipment
that, somehow, keeps managing to sneak up on people.
Behold, the stealthy Killdozer.

Our Thursday night spectacular finds the Rifleman, that guy
from The Invaders, Jed Clampett and Captain Kirk trapped in a
plane and in a battle for their very lives against an unwanted
supernatural stowaway in The Horror at 37000 Feet

Then, our weekend starts off with a bang. A lot of them,
actually, when mad sniper Kurt Russell starts a killing spree,
making nowhere safe from The Deadly Tower.

Saturday:And the world of sleuthing will never be the same when psychic
race-car driver Leonard Nimoy teams up with occult expert
Susan Hampshire to unravel the mystery of Wyndom Manor.
The results of which are guaranteed to leave you Baffled!


And last but not least, our week wraps up with the Deadpan-Duo,
Detectives Joe Friday and Bill Gannon, as they try to track down
several missing women and solve a few other, grisly murders.
Yassir. Just the facts in Dragnet 1966.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Conan, Killdozer, and Me :: A Shared Obsession (-- With Sentient, Homicidal Earth-Moving Equipment).

I don't know about you all, but me, personally, I was squarely on Conan O'Brien's side in the whole Tonight Show fiasco come to pass these past few months. From the ignoble forced exit of Johnny Carson, to Letterman's hose-job, to turning the reins over to some boob who wouldn't know funny if he accidentally tripped over it, twice, the brass at NBC can just suck it. And suck it hard.

Now, before Conan got the boot a friend
of mine told me about one of his new Tonight Show features, a take on Oprah's book club, where the host would recommend a movie to the masses, and his inaugural pick was an old, made-for-TV turd-burger from the 1970's about a possessed 30-ton piece of homicidal diesel-powered machinery that managed to keep sneaking up on people to pounce on them called -- wait for it -- Killdozer. This news got a huge laugh out of me, and when my friend asked what was so funny I told him that was probably my copy of Killdozer Conan was watching.

It's true. Well, it could be. And to get the full picture of this strange and somewhat twisted story, we're gonna have to back up
about ten years and start with an April of 2000 interview Conan did with actor Robert Urich about his association with the movie in the question:

Like Conan, I too watched Killdozer wh
en it premiered back in 1974 and this wonderful piece of gonzoidal cinema struck such a primal chord with me that it got permanently stuck in my brain, which is why it was one of the first films I reviewed when I started posting my film write-ups way, way back then. Now remember, this was ten years ago and the internet was just beginning to stretch its legs, and things like YouTube, HULU and Netflix were a mere pipe-dream, and a person really had to dig to find these old obscurities, and often pay out the nose once you found them.

So, imagine my surprise one Thursday morning not long after I initially posted the review, when I received an e-mail from a Sharon Hardy, who claimed she was a junior producer with Late Night wit
h Conan O’Brien. Apparently, Robert Urich was set to return for the following Tuesday’s show and they wanted to embarrass him a little by showing clips from Killdozer. And to do that, Ms. Hardy wanted to know if I could get her a copy of the film.

To this day, Killdozer still hasn't had a legitimate home video release. I had obtained my VHS bootleg off of eBay for an amount of coin that
, frankly, I'm a little too embarrassed to reveal. Anyways, I was a little suspicious since I got a lot of requests for dubs of hard to find films back then, and as a rule, due to time constraints I usually just turned everyone down. But after a few e-mail exchanges, with Ms. Hardy's bona fides firmly established, I agreed to dub a copy for a little website plug and an autographed picture of Conan.

Alas, they couldn’t plug the site but I was promised several souvenirs and reimbursement for my trouble. And Conan’s autograph ... Eh, what the hell. With that, I sent the dub via priority mail to guarantee receipt by Monday, the day before taping, and then proceeded to tell everyone I knew what had happen
ed. After the weekend passed, I got a confirmation e-mail on Monday saying they'd received the tape, it looked great, and that payment and the promised souvenirs were on there way back to me. Fairly excited with this brush of near celebrity, when I got off work Monday night I went out and bought a blank tape to preserve Tuesday’s episode of Late Night for my personal posterity.

E'yup. Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 was gonna be a big day.

The phone rang early the following morning. My boss, Becc
a Allen, called and left a desperate message for me to call back into the paper A.S.A.P. Figuring I was in trouble I rolled out of bed, called back, and when I jokingly apologized to the Chief (-- a nickname I’ve cursed her with --) for whatever I did wrong, she said, “You haven’t been watching the news have you?” No, I hadn’t. I just got up. “Terrorists have crashed planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.”

It took a couple of minutes for that to sink in. I turned on the TV just in time to see the first tower collapse. Then, it sunk in hard. Dumbstruck, I continued to watch, transfixed, until the doorbell rang. It was the Fed-Ex man, who
needed me to sign for a package. Taking it inside I opened it to find a thank you note from Sharon, a Late-Night T-shirt and check for my trouble. Then, as I looked back at the TV and realized that Conan probably wouldn’t be on tonight, or for many nights to come, and as the same devastating footage kept replaying, over and over again, all I could think about was that Thursday seemed like a real long damned time ago.

Needless to say, the interview never happened, the tape I sent
left unused. It didn't really matter anymore. Shortly after, Robert Urich lost his fight with cancer and passed away. Conan eventually came back. We all came back. Time passed. I kept writing film reviews. And eventually, Conan got promoted, which brings us full circle, back to Killdozer.

And then he got canne

Sorry, man. You deserved better than that.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Movie Poster Spotlight :: Glenn and Nancy, Together at Last.

It'll probably never work. She's from Allied Artists. He's from the other side of the tracks at American International. She's a little Reynolds Brown. He's a little Al Kallis. She got exposed to a Super-Sized Alien. He got exposed to an experimental Neutronium Bomb. Regardless, here's the poster art for Attack of the 50ft Woman (1958) and The Amazing Colossal Man (1957). Can true love be far behind?

One Sheets ::

Three Sheets


Half Sheets

Lobby Cards

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Cloudy, with a Good Change of Flogging :: A 12-Vidcap look at Storm Warning (1951)

___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___
"Don't force me to show you how we handle people!
We're the law here. We're the judges and the jury!"
___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___ ___

Storm Warning is a surprisingly effective, if grounded, crime-noir from Warner Bros., where Ronald Reagan takes a break from flushing out those dirty stinkin' Commies to go after the KKK. Rock-solid work from cinematographer Carl Guthrie and art-direction from Leo Kuter keeps things nice and shadowy, steamy and seedy, but the rock on which the film is built is Ginger Rogers' take on the reluctant murder witness who keeps quiet to protect the granite-headed husband of her baby sister. And after finally seeing The Major and The Minor, coupled with this, Ms. Rogers' stock is currently going through the roof in my classic film portfolio.

Other points of interest:

The newspaper ads for Storm Warning at the Morgue.

Storm Warning (1951) Warner Bros. / P: Jerry Wald/ D: Stuart Heisler / W: Daniel Fuchs, Richard Brooks / C: Carl Guthrie / E: Clarence Kolster / M: Daniele Amfitheatrof / S: Ginger Rogers, Ronald Reagan, Doris Day, Steve Cochran, Hugh Sanders

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Saving Private Wilhelm! :: The Most Heard Unheard of Hollywood Cliches Ever Heard Ever!

To be real honest, as far as westerns go, there really wasn’t anything special about the Gary Cooper vehicle Distant Drums. Cooper dons his buckskins, does battle with the Seminoles in the swampy Florida Everglades, saves the girl, and saves the day. Like I said; nothing special; except for that one part when one of his troopers gets eaten by a gator...

“AaauuuArrggghhh,” that trooper said.

(Video courtesy of Jean-Francious Boivine.)

Who knew it then, but, when that anonymous soldier got eaten -- mostly off screen, his death-rattle would go on to resonate in Hollywood for the next fifty years. You’ve probably heard it and not even realized it. Whenever someone would meet a quick and unexpected demise, there it was (AaauuuArrggghhh!). He cashed in during the Battle of Hoth in The Empire Strikes Back (AaauuuArrggghhh!). He also bought it at the Battle of Helm’s Deep in The Two Towers (AaauuuArrggghhh!), and even John Wayne got him once in The Green Berets. (AaauuuArrggghhh!)

“Wait, wait,” you say. How could this be possible? Well, as the legend goes, after Distant Drums, the sound-bite was labeled “Man Getting Bit by an Alligator” and filed away in the stock sound-effects library at Warner Brothers. Two years later, the clip showed up again in another western, Gordon Douglass’ The Charge at Feather River. Here, an unlucky private named Wilhelm, while he paused to fill up his pipe, is struck in the leg by an arrow. (AaauuuArrggghhh!).

Now, it was during the climax of Douglass’ next film, the sci-fi classic THEM! , that I realized I’d heard the death-scream before.
During the film’s climax, when James Whitmore becomes some giant-ant kibble, I realized that same scream kept cropping up in many of my childhood staples -- most notably the Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark franchises. And all along I had been attributing that mystery yelp to Whitmore whenever I heard it.

Turns out I was wrong (AaauuuArrggghhh!), and hadn’t traced the source back far enough ... It was over on the BMMB, during a heated kerfuffle / nerd-off concerning overused movie cliches, when I brought up the [misidentified] Whitmore-Scream and learned the truth, and then my education on the origin of this particular bit of movie trivia commenced.

Seems that when he was a kid, Oscar winning sound-man Ben Burtt heard this shriek when he saw Feather River. (He also assumed that was the clip’s origin but it was later tracked back to Distant Drums.) It must have made a heck of an impression because he tracked the sound-bite down and christened it the “Wilhelm Scream.” And he’s been using it ever since. You see, Burtt works for Lucasfilm, and has been sticking it into almost every project that goes through the Skywalker ranch. Over the years, Wilhelm has shown up in at least 75 features and television shows; so much so that it became somewhat of an industry inside joke and it became a challenge for sound-men to one up each other to sneak the shriek in. And judging by what we've heard, they’ve been fairly successful. From Titanic to Toy Story, and from Spider-Man to Kill Bill, Wilhelm is alive and well and still meeting his maker on a regular basis.

Presenting Private Wilhelm's Greatest Hits:

(Video courtesy of chrisofduke.)

So, the big mystery remains: Who was it that originally got eaten by that gator back in 1951? There was no screen credit given for that poor sap, but the general consensus, lately, is that the voice behind the Wilhelm Scream was probably none other than Sheb Wooley. A character actor and cowboy crooner, Wooley is probably most notorious for cutting and releasing the novelty song “The Purple People Eater.” Wooley was in Distant Drums, and Burtt uncovered some records that showed Wooley was brought in to do some voice over and ADR work for the film after filming was completed.So was it Wooley? I’ve seen almost every episode of Rawhide, heard several of his songs, and all I can say is it could be him. We’ll probably never know for sure. (Wooley died in 2003.)

What is for sure, no matter who it is actually providing the lung-butter, it doesn’t take the sharpest of ears to hear the Wilhelm Scream; the problem is, once you do notice it, you can not not hear it and it tends to stick out like a sore thumb. People are more aware of it now -- hell, there’s even a band named after it, making it harder to sneak it in, and Burtt swears he isn’t going to use it anymore, but I have a feeling we’ll still be hearing poor Wilhelm take another one for the team for a long time to come.

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