Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: Going to the Castle

I wish I'd had the idea to write a book-length study of the 56 films directed by William Castle (1914-1977). But it's probably just as well that I didn't. I doubt I could done it as well as author Joe Jordan does in Showmanship: The Cinema of William Castle (BearManor Media).

While many, if not most, of Castle's admirers know him for his horror films of the 50s and 60s (House on Haunted Hill, Strait-Jacket, Homicidal), he first took the director's reins at Columbia Pictures in 1943, when he directed Chester Morris as Boston Blackie in the series programmer The Chance of a Lifetime. For me, one of this book's strengths is the author's decision to look at all of the films Castle directed, rather than just the ones movie fans know best. This approach lends depth and context that pay off when it's time to analyze the canonical horror films.

Jordan's reading of the films are intelligent and informed without being pedantic, pointing out themes and recurrent motifs without drowning in minutiea. I also appreciated his interviews with Castle players like Pat Cardi (Let's Kill Uncle) and Joyce Meadows (I Saw What You Did). This is a fine contribution to film scholarship.

NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, September 1, 2017

A "Very Special" Issue

I'm slightly embarrassed to admit how much I used to look forward to TV Guide's Fall Preview Issue back in the 70s. Long before anyone had heard of the World Wide Web, back when there were three major channels in most cities, this was big stuff. Page after page of details, with full-color photos, of all the new shows waiting to be sampled. A big grid showing the entire prime-time schedule.

For many of us old-timers, TV Guide died the day it gave up the interior pages of local program listings, and converted from digest size into a glossy, slender magazine that looked like a hundred others. I don't buy it anymore. But I still remember a time when one of the highlights of Labor Day Weekend was getting this once-a-year issue into my hot little hands.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Let's Drink to Hal's Birthday!

Born on this date 101 years ago, talented character actor Hal Smith (1916-1994) is probably best-known for his recurring role as the perpetually tipsy Otis Campbell on The Andy Griffith Show. But he won one of his first career breaks when he was cast as next-door neighbor Charlie Henderson* on I Married Joan. Less frequently seen than his wife Mabel (played by Geraldine Carr), he nonetheless turned up in some of the series' best episodes, including "Changing Houses" and "Mabel's Dress" ("You know your orange cake is dynamite!")

For more about I Married Joan, one of the funniest sitcoms of the 1950s, go here.

*Or Charlie Harrison. The writers couldn't seem to make up their minds.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Rose Marie's Turn

Wishing a very happy 94th birthday today to multi-talented Rose Marie, who's been entertaining us since she first stepped on stage as a toddler.

Did you know that there's a new feature-length documentary chronicling her life and work? Go here to read all about it, and find out how you can see it.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Grumpy Old Guy at the Movies

Last night I tried for the first time in a couple of months or more to watch a contemporary movie. I made it about halfway through.

Here, in no particular order, are a few of the grouchy gripes I noted before throwing in the towel:

1. The movie was over two hours long, and needlessly so. It wasn't that complicated a story! Was it Harry Cohn who said, "When my ass gets tired, the picture's too long!"?

2. The "naturalistic" acting was so "natural" that I had to turn on the subtitles to understand what one mushmouth was saying.

3. Yes, I realize people have medical procedures done that involve intense pain. Doesn't mean I want to see two of them in 45 minutes, acted out in excruciating detail. Call me squeamish.

4. Put the damn credits at the beginning. I want to know who's in the movie, and who directed it. And speaking of credits, five production companies (each with its own logo, of course) to make one modestly budgeted film? Really?

If this is modern moviemaking at its finest, I'll take the 1940s any day.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Five From the Archive

So, Warner Archive was having this sale a couple of weeks ago, and almost as if by magic, five new (old) DVDs showed up in my mailbox.

Above are the two films I've watched thus far -- the mystery thriller Lightning Strikes Twice (1951), and the comedy-drama Tish (1942). They don't have a great deal in common except I'd wanted to see both for some time now -- and I thoroughly enjoyed them. Interestingly, neither won universally effusive reviews, either upon their first release, or with latter-day classic movie fans. But they suited me fine.

Hey, Warners, how about another sale?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Catalog Capers

It's here! The McFarland Fall catalog of new releases -- or, as we call it in my household, "David's Christmas Shopping List." Naturally, the Performing Arts section is my top destination, and this time around there are books I can't wait to read on page 17 ... and page 20 ... not to mention page 21 ...

You get the idea. Jump here to start browsing.