Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies 3/28/15!

Who cares what picture we see?

Well, I do, frankly, and considering I'm at this very moment attending a horror movie convention with nearly the entire cast - this must be the choice for tonight:

One of my very favorite horror movies from the 80's - a smart, funny, and scary movie about young horror movie fan Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) discovering his handsome and charming next door neighbor Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is really a vampire!

Charley can't get his girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) or the school weirdo "Evil" Ed Thompson (Stephen Geoffreys) to believe him, so he manages to enlist vampire movie actor turned TV horror host Peter Vincent (the late great Roddy McDowall) to help him destroy the bloodsucker. But that's not going to be easy - Jerry's smart, and he has help - the sinister Billy Cole (Jonathan Stark) - who can get around in the daylight.

I have been a huge fan of this movie since seeing it in the theater - and it holds a place of honor in the video vault. We could be checking it out any night but tonight - because I'm at the show - but any other night you're not afraid to venture out after dark - come watch it with me!

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Wooden Stake, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All Aboard the Supertrain!

Let's talk about Supertrain!

Back in the late 70's the ABC television network was enjoying great success on Saturday nights (imagine caring about ratings on Saturday night?) with The Love Boat (and the show following - Fantasy Island - also added to the ratings success.)

The cast of The Love Boat is all smiles at their ratings.

Poor ol' NBC was tanking in the ratings around this time - in third place after ABC and CBS. (No Fox or any other networks around at the time - other than public television - PBS.) NBC decided it was high time to launch a comedy/drama series with a big vehicle carting around a load of guest star passengers every week - not that they were trying to rip anyone off or anything like that. Because no TV network ever ripped off another network's show ever.

"Yeah, that's the ticket!"

ABC had a boat, so NBC would have a train! And not just any train - a SUPERTRAIN. They then proceeded to sink anywhere from $5 million to $6 million building sets and miniatures to show their Supertrain in action. Yeah, that boat show got by with some stock exterior shots of a real cruise ship - but NBC was going to go one better than that! They hired several familiar faces as the crew of Supertrain - led by veteran character actor Edward Andrews - and off they went!

Among the regulars - Robert Alda (Alan's dad); Patrick Collins, Edward Andrews,
and Harrison Page, probably best known as Sledge Hammer's Lt. Trunk. 

The show premiered in early 1979 to decent ratings - but those ratings slipped each subsequent week.

After the fourth episode aired - the show was yanked - for retooling.

When it came back a couple of months later the regular cast was trimmed down - and although touted as the "All New Supertrain" only the credits sequence was different. Five more episodes aired - and NBC pulled the plug. I don't know how much money they lost over the failure of Supertrain - but it was a big loss and really hurt the network, which continued to languish for several more years.

Here's some really amazing pictures of the sets and miniatures. I am a huge fan of miniature vehicles in movies and TV - and I LOVE the Supertrain models. (I mean the toy trains, though that blonde popping up in some of the shots is very easy on my eyes too.)

Here is the full size mock-up sitting in the Grand Central Station set:

Here's model Rhonda Foxx (Wotta moniker!) with the full size engine mock-up:

Here's the swimming pool set:

Now on to the miniatures!

There were two different scale models - the smaller was shot exclusively on miniature sets with photographic backdrops in an airplane hangar in California:

Here's Rhonda Foxx with the smaller model. 

The larger model had two uses - it had interior sets it could be shot on -

But here's the really wild thing about the larger model - they built about 1500 feet of its track - that's nearly a third of a mile - and the train and the track were designed to be taken out on location - so that this train could be shot with natural landscapes as the backdrop - helping make the miniature look all the more real! Check this out:

Here's a video compilation of the miniature trains in action:

Here's an article about the series:

And here's 8 minutes from a 1979 Today show telecast with a big behind the scenes look at the show the day it premiered. It's sad how much the Today hosts keep talking about the giant investment in the show and their hopes for a good long run - considering the nine episodes they got on the air.

And here's an interesting tidbit that appeared long after the show had disappeared:

I actually didn't watch the show when it was on - I don't know what I was watching at the time - probably Mork and Mindy and whatever came after it on ABC. However, I'm working to track down the nine episodes - I know they're out there somewhere - and if I find them you can come watch them with me if you'd like!

Until next post you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #208!

It's time for a...

Theme Week!

1 Movie, 3 Posters!

House of Wax  (Warner Bros., 1953)

I love this movie - but I love any old school 3-D movie where they worked overtime shoving stuff at you. As usual, I'll pick a favorite here - it's the quad in the middle. The overall design; the best presentation of something coming off the screen, and the blurbs - "the hand is at YOUR throat...the kiss is on YOUR lips..."

One other note - that last poster is from a re-release in the late 60's - anyone care to explain in comments how I know that?

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday Night at the Movies 3/21/15!

Who cares what picture we see?

This blog's good buddy JP Mulvanetti of the brilliant blog The Nostalgic Attic most certainly does, and one of his latest posts inspired this choice for tonight...

Directed by the man himself and shot right here in Wilmington, NC - this is not great cinema by any measure of the normal film review yardstick - but as a big "blow stuff up and let the actors chew the scenery" flick it's pretty damned fun.

A comet's tail covers the Earth as it passes, and every mechanical device on the planet comes to life with murderous intent. After establishing the mayhem on a wider scale, the story boils down to a dozen or so folks stranded inside the Dixie Boy truck stop near Wilmington NC as sentient semi trucks patrol the parking lot - waiting to kill. Of particular menace is the toy truck with the Green Goblin's face mounted on the front. The cast is also worth mentioning - Emilio Estevez, Laura Harrington, Pat Hingle (the movie that convinced him to live out the rest of his days in the area), Yeardley (Lisa Simpson) Smith, and before we knew him - Giancarlo Esposito (Gus from Breaking Bad).

It's the only movie Stephen King has directed (so far, anyway, and likely to remain so, and you can read more about why that is over at The Nostalgic Attic's post about the movie HERE) and is worth watching for that alone - but it's also an entertaining movie for those so inclined.

I also got to hang out with one of the movie's main stars a few years later:

This sat out on the studio backlot here for years after the movie - I took this pic in the early 90's.
The head disappeared some years later - rumored to have blown away in a hurricane - but it might
also be in someone's backyard a few miles from here too...

Maximum Overdrive is in the video vault on a double feature disc with what seems a strange choice for a second feature - Arnold Schwarzenegger in Raw Deal - but that movie was shot here too - so it's a clever Wilmington NC double feature (and likely not together for that reason - but more because both were made by Dino De Laurentiis's DEG Studios.) We could be watching one - or both - at any time - even tonight - if you're brave enough to dodge any trucks between here and there and come watch it with me...

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Comet, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Secret Origins: Bond Fandom!

I was putting together a post for the upcoming April 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge that I've participated in four times 2011-2014 - and found myself doing that thing I sometimes do again. I started thinking about how to approach the subject of the post - and started with my introduction to the person in question - then backed up a bit further - and a bit further - then realized half of that post wouldn't even be about the person.

Hence this post. Here's the backed up to the beginning story - of how I became a fan of James Bond 007.

The starting point.

Way back when, my older brother and I watched Goldfinger. This would have been the early 70's and I would have been no older than 4 or 5. The thing is, my memory says we watched the movie during an afternoon showing, like a local channel showing it on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. But I don't think it would have been available for that - I think it would have been licensed to the ABC network exclusively and they only would have shown it as a prime time nighttime movie.

Regardless of my memory - we definitely watched it - and after the big climactic fight between 007 and Oddjob in Fort Knox - with Oddjob's hat getting thrown around by both gentlemen - we went out to our big empty garage and started playing Bond vs Oddjob - which consisted of throwing a fairly aerodynamic orange hunting hat like a frisbee at each other while the target dodged as best he could.

This is the style of hat we were throwing at each other. It flew very well
and had enough weight for a good impact when it connected.

We were laughing and soaked in sweat by the time we tired of the game. I tried to get my brother to repeat the game often - but he was occupied with other things - being a newly minted teen - and we only got in one more game some months later before hanging up the orange Oddjob cap forever. 001 point.

Years pass - as they do. In the very late 70's or very early 80's  - summer - I was over at the house of friends of my parents - they had a pool. I was inside the house checking out this wild thing they had on their TV called Home Box Office - or HBO. The next movie to come on was 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me - which was one of those James Bond movies. I sat through the exciting pre-credits sequence - which had a skiing 007 evading Russian agents by slaloming off a mountain. When his Union Jack parachute opened - I laughed at the coolness of it. Then it was out to jump in the pool and miss the rest of the movie. 002 points.

Later that same summer I half watched Moonraker on my cousins' HBO - and adapted some of the action to our swimming antics in their pool. 003 points.

When home video was in its infancy I saw that The Spy Who Loved Me was going to be showing on ABC, but during a time I was going to be out with my parents. I wanted to see the rest of that movie. My brother's best friend at the time - a guy named Tom - had early adopted a Betamax machine - and I cajoled him on the phone to tape the movie that night - then really cajoled him to let me come over one afternoon after school to watch it. He finally agreed - and while he was out mowing the lawn or something I was boggled to watch the movie from that recording - sitting through the commercials as there was no way with those early machines to fast forward with the picture on - and while I got confused in the middle when a movie that was thematically about the ocean had a major sequence set in the desert - it was the next setpiece. 004 points.

That summer, For Your Eyes Only became the 12th James Bond movie to hit theaters. Seeing the movie playing at the mall theater - I tagged along with my mom and one of her friends for a trip to the mall. They shopped, and I went to see For Your Eyes Only - which I loved. 005 points.

A few months laterin the early 80's I was using OUR brand new Betamax VCR to record that year's Oscar ceremony. During that telecast Roger Moore presented the Irving G. Thalberg honorary award for excellence in producing to James Bond producer Albert R. "Cubby" Broccoli. Before Cubby came out they played a brief montage of clips from the series - all set to the iconic Bond theme - and I was so intrigued I kept that tape cued up and played that little montage dozens of times over the next few months. 006 points.

That fall, as a freshman in high school - during study hall - which as you can tell is supposed to be about studying - I was delighted when the faculty used a SelectaVision laserdisc player to show us movies - usually taking three study hall sessions to complete the flick - and one of the movies they showed us was Goldfinger. Full circle - and 007 points. I became a total fan forever and ever amen.

I started reading everything I could about the series - and the Ian Fleming novels. In those early home video days when rentals were still just getting going my best friend was ABC - which still showed several 007 movies a year as their prime time movie on different nights of the week. I think I first saw every Bond movie all the way through (except For Your Eyes Only - first seen in the theater) on ABC.

I then started renting the movies - on Beta and later VHS - to see them uncut and without commercials. I also had gained my driver's license JUST before the premiere of the 13th James Bond movie - Octopussy - and its rival production with Sean Connery - Never Say Never Again - later that summer - and I've seen every Bond movie opening day since (except GoldenEye - which I had to see on Saturday as I was busy working on the CBS series American Gothic the day it opened).

For Pierce Brosnan's later efforts I was actually allowed to leave the set of Dawson's Creek to see Tomorrow Never Dies and The World is Not Enough at noon on Friday the days they opened in 1997 and 1999 - then return to work immediately after.  I was running a bookstore when Die Another Day premiered, and had scheduled the day so that I could pop up to the mall theater for the noon show that day. I now routinely set the day a new 007 movie opens off from work - I had November 6th 2015 set as a day off in late 2014 for Spectre. Feel free to join me that day if you can!

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Maniacal Movie Poster Monday #207!

The Devil's Messenger  (Herts-Lion International Corp, 1961)

Lon Chaney (having dropped the Jr. some time before) went to Sweden and shot scenes hosting a creepy anthology horror show called 13 Demon Street which only played overseas. A few years later, an American film company bought the rights to string three episodes together and release it as an ersatz movie in the US. It's not bad, and it's always nice to see Jr. You can find the movie in countless bargain DVD sets.

Invisible Invaders  (United Artists, 1959)

How can you go wrong with 50's sci fi starring John Agar and John Carradine? You can't, if you like those guys and 50's sci fi!

Panic in Year Zero  (American International Pictures, 1962)

This is a cool little low budget thriller - with Ray Milland both directing and starring - as an atomic apocalypse leaves handfuls of survivors spread across the country - and as usual, the end of the world always brings out the worst in people. I like that the musical score by Les Baxter gets more poster real estate than Ray's directing credit, buried at the bottom of the poster.

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!