A Pair Of ’70s Crime Capers: The Silent Partner (1978) and St. Ives (1976)

The vast majority of the crime ‘n’ mayhem category in my to-watch list are old black & white b-movies from the ’40s and ’50s, and I was more in the mood to see some out of date fashion and even more out of date social mores in living color, so I watched these two. One was very good nearly great, the other not so good but not terrible.

Do you like my precise review categories? Why, you’re welcome.

Let’s start with the good-to-great The Silent Partner, directed by long-time TV director Daryl Duke and scripted by none other than Curtis Hanson, from the novel “Pick Any Number.” Gould plays a nerdish bank teller in Toronto who puts himself into a chess-like battle of power and brains with a psycho robber played by Christopher Plummer. Gould figures out that Plummer is casing the bank, sets it up to skim money from the robbery, but then Plummer finds out, and wants his money…. and then the two of them keep trying to screw the other one over. And it’s wonderfully clever and fun.

Continue reading “A Pair Of ’70s Crime Capers: The Silent Partner (1978) and St. Ives (1976)”

That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 2

After starting off with XTC’s final two albums, I thought I’d go all the way back to the beginning of their career and focus on their first few records.

It’s a lot like listening to Abbey Road and then going back to Please Please Me and reminding yourself it’s the same band, although the difference between early/late XTC and early/late Beatles is fairly stark. XTC evolved a LOT over a longer period of time.

Other than the distinctive quality of Andy Partridge’s voice, the debut album White Music sounds like a completely different band than the XTC of Apple Venus/Wasp Star. And to a large degree, it was a completely different band, also featuring the keyboards of Barry Andrews and the drums of Terry Chambers, but mostly featuring an earlier and rawer Partridge and Moulding at the center.

While there are hints of the literate quality of Partridge’s lyrics to come, the songs here are simple and quick. Some of them seem rushed and unfinished. But it doesn’t matter – White Music from 1978 overflows with energy, fast nervous beats, overdone affected singing styles and a lot of really good songs. It matches up nicely with the first/early albums of their contemporaries in the New Wave/Postpunk material that certainly flooded my record collection at the time – debut albums from Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, The Cars, Joe Jackson, Devo, Blondie, The Jam and others all came out around this time. And like White Music, they all stand as bursts of energy from acts that evolved, developed, mellowed and altered their sounds and styles over the years, some more than others, and some more successfully than others. The brash we-don’t-care youthful attitude of the brand new rock band permeates this record, and it’s a wonderful listening exercise in tracing the band’s evolution, finding the little hints of what was to come, and hearing a lot of what got left behind. A lot of it is quick and forgettable, but the better cuts like Radios In Motion, This Is Pop, or Statue of Liberty stand out, as well as the lone cover in XTC’s catalogue, an odd version of All Along The Watchtower.

Continue reading “That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 2”

That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 1

I got treated to the 2017 documentary XTC: This Is Pop via a free promo weekend of Showtime. It’s a solidly made doc following the history of the band from its earlier Helium Kidz incarnations to its 1977 album debut, personnel changes, rise, fall, re-rise, strike, sputtered comeback and eventual demise. It’s a great intro to the band if you’re not at all familiar with them or only know them via “Dear God” or wonder whatever happened to that offbeat sounding band with the odd sounding lead singer who sang “Senses Working Overtime.” Lots of music and old wonderfully cheap-styled circa 1980 rock video is presented, along with interviews with musicians, critics, and principal band members, notably Dave Gregory, Colin Moulding, and Andy Partridge.

The band’s history, song by song, is covered in Neville Farmer’s authorized 1998 band bio XTC Song Stories (a book evidently later trashed by Partridge, can’t say I’m surprised for reasons I’ll go into shortly). A lot of the same material is covered in the film visually, but the film adds one amazing scene that’s a true revelation for longtime fans of the band like me.

Andy Partridge has synethesia, where perceptions get mixed up – colors become tastes, sounds become pictures and so on – and this mixed up/associative way of seeing the world is how he writes songs. He strums a guitar and finds a strange sounding chord he claims he’s never heard before…. starts strumming it… says it makes him think of the color brown, but sad, like a brown puddle… and then comes up with lyrics about a sad brown puddle and it all comes together. And all at once the seemingly limitless styles of arrangements, sounds and tones of the vast catalogue of XTC’s music suddenly made perfect sense to me. This scene alone makes the movie worth seeing.

So I thought I’d go back and listen to it all again, bearing in mind Partridge’s synesthesia and seeing (well, hearing…. I don’t have synesthesia) if I could pick elements of it out of his songs. The Moulding songs? No problem, I’ll go along for the ride with ’em… I always liked his stuff too.

Continue reading “That Was Pop: Relistening to XTC, Part 1”

No One Romances A Giant Face Better Than Telly Savalas, Baby

I can’t stop watching this.

We begin with that black polyester shirt & chain, Telly lighting up that heater, and then reciting deep-voiced manly words of love that would make William Shatner reciting “Rocket Man” go crawl away crying into the arms of the Gorn in disgrace.

And all to a disembodied giant face. It’s like Kojack is making love to Blonde Zardoz.

I want stuff like this on my TV EVERY. DAMN. NIGHT.

 

Summer of Movies: Some ’70s Made-For-TV Youtube Fare

A hearty thank-you and a Derek Jeter gift basket for all the movie nerds who digitized old VHS off-the-air recordings of otherwise unavailable 1970s material and uploaded it to youtube.

There’s a ton of the stuff on there. I’ve only begun to fend my way through it. I’m trying to focus on stuff I’ve never seen, while maybe throwing in a repeated viewing of some fond memory here and there, to maintain some balance.

So I won’t be discussing the big 1970s TV movie titles that spring to most minds whenever the genre is mentioned – no Duel, or Trilogy of Terror, or Satan’s Triangle, or Bad Ronald or Killdozer… at least not YET, since a lot of those are on youtube as well. The majority come from the ABC Movie of the Week series, a 90 minute weekly slot filled by various TV production factories of the day – Universal, Aaron Spelling, etc. Here’s a site that lists ’em all, from 1969 to 1975.

Hell, I’m showing Duel for a class next year. It’s still one of Spielberg’s best.

And battling that lil’ cannibal™ doll was certainly Karen Black’s best. But let’s get to a handful of old TV films I screened recently, most of which are worth checking out.

In Broad Daylight (1971) stars Richard Boone as a recently blinded actor who plots to kill his cheatin’ wife (Stella Stevens) and pin the murder on her lover. In order to pull off the plot, he has to work the entire caper after learning how to independently move around Los Angeles now that he’s blind. Susanne Pleshette plays his counselor, John Marley plays the cop. This one plays out like a really good Alfred Hitchcock hour, and it’s set up in a way that makes you root for Boone to get away with it. Continue reading “Summer of Movies: Some ’70s Made-For-TV Youtube Fare”

Summer of Movies: Bookending the ’70s with They Might Be Giants (1971) and Winter Kills (1979)

Watching these two right after one another got me thinking a lot about how they’re both products of their time – more specifically, products of a very precise time.

The ’70s began with all sorts of hope and promise – we were fresh off the moon landings and remnants of all the peace ‘n’ love crap from the late ’60s still had a residue in the culture. I found They Might Be Giants as a good example of this particular zeitgeist. George C Scott plays a judge who has gone insane, thinking he’s Sherlock Holmes. Joanne Woodward plays the therapist brought in to treat him, and it turns out she’s actually Dr. Watson.

Based on a stage play (and feeling like it often), Scott does Holmes more as Don Quixote (the origin of the title – those windmills might be giants, after all) and eventually wins over the sad ‘n’ frustrated creature-of-boring-habit Watson into his happier world of make believe. He galavants around NYC and we meet all the street crazy friends he has who play along with his fantasy, and eventually we wind up with a very similar manifesto to Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s the seemingly crazy who not only can see the magic of living, but MUST see it in order to go on – while those of us who are supposedly sane not only can’t see it, but won’t. Continue reading “Summer of Movies: Bookending the ’70s with They Might Be Giants (1971) and Winter Kills (1979)”

Must-See TV

Vic Tayback racing Dune Buggies AND The San Diego Chicken??

PUT DOWN THAT REMOTE, BABY, WE’VE COME HOME!!!!

Not to mention Cathy Lee Crosby, Erin Gray, Jayne Kennedy, Connie Sellecca, Victoria Principal and a bunch of soaking wet LA Rams cheerleaders, I’m pretty positive high school me would’ve been front row center back when this monstrosity aired, wondering where Adrienne Barbeau was.

Now, of course, the years of feminist enlightenment have taught me not to objectify women celebrities. I’ll be switching over to the Lifetime Movie channel instead.

Yeah, right.

I’ll be downloading this off some Ukranian torrent and watching it in slow motion with the sound off until I pass out. And that should take about fifteen seconds at my age.

I’m old and tired.

Perhaps I need Robert Conrad to be my coach. Now you & I know damn well he must have taken this WAY too seriously and screamed at those guys on his team for not pushing harder.

Well, maybe not that should-have-been-a-buddy-cop-show teaming of Louis Jourdan and Pat Harrington. See? Jourdan is the suave police detective on loan from Paris, while Pat plays his wacky informant who is a master of disguise…

This fall on CBS! We’re looking good!

But scream at Leif Garrett? Well, shit, who wouldn’t scream at Leif Garrett? Even the San Diego Chicken screamed at Leif Garrett.

It’s all cool in the end.  Conrad ordered up a big round of drinks at the bar afterwards and stuck Jamie Farr with the bill when he didn’t believe Farr’s “half the family dying, other half pregnant” story.

And is it just me, or is Connie Sellecca as a pool hustler the sexiest thing on there?

My pool cue is “Flying High,” Bevis…

 

Must See TV

I thought the Yankees had a great line-up, but Dorothy Hamill’s got it beat.

Whenever I see Avery Schreiber and Professor Irwin Corey, I think “disco ice dancing,” I’m sure you do as well. Unless the Hamill Camel comes to mind.

Wonderful Behind The Scenes TV Stories From Prolific Director Ralph Senensky

I’d forgotten that Don Rickles once played a villain on The Wild Wild West, and rewatched that episode today. And then in looking up some stuff about it online, hoping to find perhaps links to outtakes and blooper reels where he became Don Rickles and commented on the mystical evil magician dialogue he’d been given or on Robert Conrad and Ross Martin, I came across this behind-the-scenes story on the filming of the episode written by its director, Ralph Senensky.

Senensky directed TONS of television from the 1960s thru the 1980s, logging episodes of so many of yours & my favorite shows that’s there’s too many to mention here – and it turns out he’s been blogging for years on his memories of them, and has a fantastic website containing all that material, organized by show and episode.

This site is a GOLD MINE! Senensky writes beautifully about what working in television was like back in the days of my favorite old reruns. He brings to life assorted names you’d see on numerous credits of numerous shows – Gene Coon or Quinn Martin and so forth – as well as including interesting stories dealing with both the technical limits & possibilities of the industry all those years ago.  His entries on specific episodes (and check out that sidebar menu for the sheer volume of ’em) include scans of script pages with rewrites & director cues…. amazing stuff, especially for photographic memory geeks like me who can replay the episode in my mind while I’m reading.

And not just the Star Treks he did, either. I can do a lot of the others because ALL I DO IS WATCH TV.

For anyone interested in TV history, or just the old shows & stars & writers you follow in your little nerd-heart-of-hearts, this stuff is indispensable. I can’t believe I didn’t know about it until now.

To quote Spock: “Fascinating.”

Oh, and Rickles? He didn’t disappoint…. Senensky tells us that inbetween takes, he went the full Vegas act on everyone, even making Billy Barty jokes about Conrad’s height. Rickles remains my fuckin’ hero.

And it looks like Ralph Senensky celebrated his 95th birthday a week ago. Happy Birthday, Director!

 

 

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑