Wednesday, June 30, 2010

“Time To Retire It: Going to the Movies!”

At a certain point, you find yourself “retiring” certain things. I’ve become convinced that, with only rare and very special exceptions, “Going to the Movies” has become one of those things.

Going to the Movies”, for me, has never been all that great a priority. It’s a good thing to do when you’re dating. Particularly, when you are going through a string of frequent first dates, it offers a perfect opportunity to be “with them”, but without having to engage in small conversation all evening long. But, thankfully, dating and all of the contrived niceties associated with it (on BOTH sides, I might add) hasn’t been a factor for many years.

I’ve since grown to dislike the movie-going experience. The crowds, difficulty parking, and especially the ticket prices! The theatre Esther and I frequent most often (…that is, if you can use the word “frequent” to describe our very occasional and irregular visits to the whatever-plex) now costs twenty-two dollars for two persons to attend an evening show.Add gas, any food or drink, and the annoyance of sometimes having to buy a ticket in advance (...or risk a sold-out show), actual commercials playing on the big screen (…not movie trailers, mind you, but product commercials!) and the usual late-comers, noise-makers, and view-blockers among the audience, and it is simply not enjoyable for me anymore.

Still, there was the allure of the BIG SCREEN to compensate for all this.

Then, in January, we got an HD TV and Blu-ray DVD Player!

While only 37 Inches (as opposed to the unimaginable 52’’ Sigh!), this TV is magnificent, when compared to the old Standard Def, Non-Wide Screen TV we’d been accustomed to for years. And the Blu-ray player makes even my old “sixties shows” look better than they ever have – much less today’s Blu-ray discs.

The clincher was this spring when Esther and I went to see “Sex and The City 2” in the theatre. I left saying “This isn’t much better than we have at home!”. And it wasn’t!

Add to this – and the list of negatives above – that actually BUYING the DVD of the movie will COST FAR LESS than two theatre admissions! And, you get all the convenience of Start/ Pause/ Step Frame/ Reverse/ Fast Forward/ Stop when you want, as well as having the thing to view to your heart’s content. With “extras” to boot.

Home technology has caught up with the average movie-going experience and, for me, has made the experience bothersome, expensive, and needless. So, it’s “Time To Retire It”! (…Unless, someday, they make that LOBO movie!)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Don’t Ditch Deitch!

So many TOM AND JERRY DVDs, but where’s Gene Deitch? I want my "DV_Deitch"!

TOM AND JERRY has had an unusual release pattern on DVD.

All the Hanna and Barbera shorts – except two – have been released over three volumes called “Spotlight Collections”. There was a complete collection of the “Chuck Jones era”. (Those are the sets worth having!)

There have been lots of made-for-DVD productions, and continuous carving-up and repackaging of the “Spotlight Collection” material.

But, never once has a Gene Deitch TOM AND JERRY cartoon been officially committed to disc.

Yes, they were weird – but they were FUN! If you haven’t seen one in a while, check it out.

Now Warner Home Video has released a new “Tom & Jerry: Deluxe Anniversary Collection”. See THIS REVIEW from DVD Talk.

Included are Hanna and Barbera, Chuck Jones, the ‘70s TV version, the 2000s TV version … and even representation for “Tom and Jerry Kids” (!), But they continue to ignore Gene Deitch!

Someone, please tell me why!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ray Bradbury… and Carl Barks!

And now, a very special introduction:

Good Eve-ven-ing!
Tonight, we consider the most unusual things that can be found… if your eyes remain open, and your mouth remains shut. Though I doubt the mouth of ANY enthusiast and connoisseur of classic comic literature could remain closed at the sight described in this evening’s post. More likely, it would hang open in utter disbelief.

We shall put our thesis to the test after this brief message… which, no doubt, you will find most interesting and enlightening.

Welcome back. I will now step aside, and let our usual Blog writer take over. I expect you will offer him the same enraptured attentions you have afforded me. Thank you, and good night!

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS is another of those underappreciated television gems that continues to demonstrate its brilliance through the courtesy of DVD and other modern, non-broadcast technologies.

Mr. Hitchcock himself introduces and closes his tales of suspense, and usually murder, that often seem a bit beyond the norm of 1950s TV. “Hitch” sometimes directs, and always employs top-notch writers for his television plays.

One such “play” (as he refers to them) was “Shopping for Death” (Airdate: January 26, 1956), and was written by no less an author than the great Ray Bradbury.

It starred Jo Van Fleet and frequent television guest star Robert H. Harris (Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Wild Wild West, The Invaders, Land of the Giants, Ironside… You name it, he did it!)

   During a contentious exchange between annoyed housewife Van Fleet and intrusive retired insurance salesman Harris, Ms. Van Fleet is clearly seen holding – and roughly treating – a copy of WALT DISNEY’S COMICS AND STORIES # 177!

The issue was cover-dated June, 1955 – which may give you some indication of the time of filming, considering it was likely the “currently-on-sale” issue.

Pages from Carl Barks’ untitled Donald Duck story, commonly referred to as “the bathysphere adventure”, are seen to the degree of being conclusively identified!

      The cover of the issue is never seen, nor are pages from ANY OTHER STORY, than that of Carl Barks. Ms. Van Fleet somehow manages to keep the issue open to Barks’ pages only, and even reveals different pages of the story to Hitchcock’s camera.

This was not an episode that Hitchcock directed, but he did see and approve the results of every shooting. (So we know that, at the very least, he laid eyes on the comic.) I seriously doubt that Ray Bradbury specified that it be a Donald Duck comic book in his script – or if it even called for a comic book period. …Maybe it just belonged to the “prop guy”!

But, nevertheless, there it was. A Carl Barks comic, in a Ray Bradbury story, produced by Alfred Hitchcock! Imagine that!
I wonder if Carl Barks ever saw this on TV. I can’t recall it mentioned in any of the extensive interviews with him over the decades. Nor, have I ever read such a tidbit in pro or fan writings on Barks.

But you can see it for yourself on DVD, as part of ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS Season One.

And, say… I wonder whatever happened to that copy of WDC&S # 177!

Was it discarded after the episode wrapped?

…Or did it survive, to end up in someone’s collection?

…Dare I hope it was MY COPY that that brushed with the great Alfred Hitchcock and Ray Bradbury – and was harshly handled by Jo Van Fleet?

…Or yours?

Such are the things we fans enjoy speculating… for now and for all time!

Good Eve-ven-ing!

Monday, June 21, 2010

95 Hundred Wins on the Wall… 95 Hundred Wins…

…If one of those wins should happen to fall (due to recruiting violations, Supreme Court rulings, time stream anomalies, or what have you), 9,499 wins on the wall…

9,499 wins on the wall… Well, you know…

(Enters Hitchcock Mode)

Good Eve-ven-ing!

In this space, I’d promised more detail on the curious confluence of Messrs Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Bradbury, and Carl Barks… however, the best laid plans of directorial, prose fiction, and comic book legends often go astray. For that information, I regret you’ll have to wait a bit longer.

But, while you wait, you can pass the time with this milestone from our national pastime.

(Exits Hitchcock Mode)

Let’s congratulate our NEW YORK YANKEES on their 9,500th win.

In some sort of ironic symmetry – or is it symmetric irony, I keep confusing the two – the victory came at the expense of their Outer-Borough Rivals, the New York Mets.

CC Sabathia bested Johann Santana 4-0, with all the runs provided by a Mark Texiera grand slam. The win also put the Yankees alone atop the American League East.

Just like Hitchcock, Bradbury, and Barks were atop their respective professions. If you’ll forgive this rather awkward method of tying two topics together, I promise you an unusual find that artistically unites these men in a most unexpected fashion… later this week.

Good Eve-ven-ing!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Alfred Hitchcock, Ray Bradbury, and Carl Barks – Together Again for the First Time!


Old Alf would love a teaser like this!

Come back again later in the week for the full story!

Good Eve-ven-ing!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Serialized vs. Episodic TV.

Blog reader and friend Ryan Wynns posted a comment on today’s “serialized” format for hour-long TV shows vs. the more classic “episodic” format of days gone by, to the post on the series finale of LOST. As this post is nearly a month old as I write this, perhaps you missed the exchange.

I don’t usually cheat like this, but I thought the subject was good enough for a Blog post of its own. So, here are my comments to Ryan, as they appeared in that comment thread. I invite comments of your own…

If ever I were “on the fence” between the episodic and serialized formats for TV series, 2010 would clearly place me on the episodic side!

People will debate the merits (and lack of same) of the finale of LOST for some time to come. And, it will be little more than just “people’s varying opinions”. One thing you CAN say for LOST, is that, regardless of your view of it, it HAD an ending after taking us on a six-year ride.

But, where I’ve recently determined that the serialized format does NOT work, is for series that do not have the luxury of choosing their own “end time”.

Just before NBC dropped everything for the Olympics, HEROES had just set up the storyline for its fifth season. Now, it’s not coming back! Perhaps, if one chooses to purge one’s memory of the final act of the final episode, one could say HEROES had an ending. But, the bad taste of being left unsatisfied after following it for four seasons remains.

ABC was once pushing FLASH FORWARD as the successor-in-interest to LOST. They aired half a season, took a break, released a DVD of that half season to hook people for the return… and wrapped up a great ongoing, weekly mystery series in a way that resolved nothing and made little or no sense – other than to arbitrarily fulfill the plot’s earlier prophesies. There is NO DOUBT that the producers of FLASH FORWARD intended to go into another season – and were forced to cut it off now.

On the other hand, when episodic TV ends with a poor, or at least “less worthy”, final episode, you don’t feel nearly as shortchanged for your investment. Of my pronounced favorites from “days of old”, I’d say STAR TREK (The Original 1960s Series), LOST IN SPACE, THE WILD WILD WEST, TIME TUNNEL, and THE INVADERS all had “average to poor” final episodes – compared to what each series did at its best.

But, on the whole, I don’t much care because the “ride as a whole” was great and (very important point) was NOT dependent on the quality of the final episode!

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA had (what was for its time) a great closing episode, with even a hint of finality to it – or, at the very least, sufficient satisfaction at how it wrapped. They even titled it “No Way Back” for good measure! I’d say that might have been because they knew the show was going to be “retired” at the end of the 1967-1968 season.

THE FUGITIVE is said to have had the greatest such closing episode of the era, but (more’s the pity) I never saw it, and so cannot comment.


UPDATE for 2012: I have since seen the final episode of THE FUGITIVE – and was it ever great… especially for its time! 

The final two episodes of LAND OF THE GIANTS were actually two of the best of the series, but that was probably more a case of “luck of the draw” than design.
     Perhaps the best compromise would be a series like STAR TREK THE NEXT GENERATION, which walked a fine line between “episodic and serialized”, knew when it was going to end – and had a superb final episode ready for the occasion!

So, what say you all? Do you prefer the “Serialized” approach, with the crushing disappointment of a potentially poor final episode to show for your investment?
Or, are you partial to “Old School Episodic”, with little in the way of week-to-week continuity and cliffhangers to intensify your interest?

Or, some sort of “hybrid” of the two? And, if a hybrid, how many successful ones have there been?

The Comment Section is open all night… Please stop by!

Monday, June 14, 2010

R.I.P. Allen Swift.

Way late on this one… Sorry!
Versatile voice actor Allen Swift passed away on April 18 at the age of 87.

Mr. Swift was the voice of such characters as Riff-Raff and Simon Bar-Sinister of UNDERDOG, and Odie Colognie, Itchy Brother, and Tooter the Turtle on KING LEONARDO AND HIS SHORT SUBJECTS.

For more on Allen Swift’s work with these characters, read Mark Arnold’s excellent book “
Created and Produced by Total Television Productions”. (Read the book for a lot of other great reasons too! It’s unprecedented in its coverage of this unjustly overlooked studio.)

Swift also, at some point in the series’ run, voiced HOWDY DOODY and other characters on that classic show. Alas, I hardly remember it, and so cannot comment… but I’m certain he excelled at it. He could do no less.

He was a frequent voice on radio commercials that played in New York, as the Vita Herring Maven, and the voice behind Gold’s Horseradish. Surely, so much more that I’m not recalling.

For me, Allen Swift holds two very special places.
He was the FIRST and ORIGINAL host of THE POPEYE SHOW on WPIX in New York. Before the popular “Captain Jack McCarthy”, there was “Captain Allen Swift” to frame the Popeye theatrical cartoons with a “human presence”. In that characterization, he seemed SO OLD, with his grizzled appearance and white beard, that I actually thought he DIED, and was replaced by “Captain Jack!”

The other was his hilarious voicing of Captain Ahab (What was it with Swift and sea captains!), who was in even greater need of serious anger management counseling than was Melville’s original, in the Gene Deitch produced TOM AND JERRY theatrical cartoon “Dicky Moe” (1962), a cartoon yet to be released to DVD.

In and around T&J’s expected shipboard shenanigans, Swift’s Ahab would angrily walk around the decks repeatedly uttering the words “Dicky Moe!”… over and over again, with the anger building to a point at which you thought he would burst into smithereens!

Trust me, it is much funnier than my description could ever convey. Consider that anyone who HAS seen it still remembers it. Especially since TOM AND JERRY, great as it is, was not a series that offered many memorable lines – beyond the occasional horrified gasp and Tom’s exclamations of pain!

But, that’s a testament to Swift’s talents… that he could wring so much out of the repetition of two words!

Dicky Moe… Dicky Moe… DICKY MOE!”

Why aren’t you on DVD, DICKY MOE!

Rest in Peace, Mr. Swift. Wherever you go, may there be plenty of herring and horseradish… and no sadistic cats, mice, and especially whales!

Unexpected Carl Barks Reference!

Or, “Carl Barks Meets The Twilight Zone!”

Every now and then, something surprises me enough to report on it here.

The FOURTH season of THE TWILIGHT ZONE was a series of hour-long shows, and has rarely been seen in syndication. In one such episode, “In His Image” (Aired January 03, 1963), we return from the teaser and opening commercial break to the following line, delivered by episode star George Grizzard, teasing his girlfriend:

I’m so sorry to bother you Ma’am, but I, like, belong to THE JUNIOR WOODCHUCKS and, if you buy a ten-year subscription to the ‘Ladies Home Companion’, I get a genuine toy typewriter free! Now, wadda you say…”

Yes, he said “THE JUNIOR WOODCHUCKS”… a term that, to my knowledge, existed nowhere outside of the Donald Duck comic book stories of Carl Barks – and those stories later inspired by Barks.

I wonder if Barks ever saw that one!

A coincidence, or had Duck fans infiltrated Rod Serling's staff? Stranger things have happened…

And, aren’t you glad I didn’t begin this post with “Submitted for your approval…

Monday, June 7, 2010

Raising Kane – But Not Above Casablanca!

For those who’ve been wondering what I finally thought of CITIZEN KANE, after seeing it for the FIRST TIME – despite breathing Earth’s atmosphere since 1955 (See THIS POST for details), the suspense is over.

I loved it! I can easily see why it’s been called “The Greatest Film of All Time”. Orson Welles and his troupe of Mercury Players (including Ray Collins – best known as PERRY MASON’s acerbic adversary “Lt. Tragg” and sixties animation’s “Dick Tracy voice” Everett Sloane) are amazing, especially given that they were not all established “movie stars” at the time!

Speaking strictly for myself, the film benefits from my ability to view it uninterrupted, and in as near pristine a condition as it could possibly be, courtesy of DVD and HD TV. But, then again, doesn’t EVERYTHING benefit from that?!

It also benefits from the fact that the ENDING is well enough known to have become a part of our popular culture and collective consciousness. Armed with this knowledge, I was able to note that the ending was “telegraphed” at least THREE TIMES during the course of the film that I was able to notice. Without an abundance of detailed elaboration these moments were:

1: Young Kane, playing outside in the Colorado winter.

2: A comment from Kane to Susan, as to where Kane was going when they met.

3: The abrupt stoppage of Kane’s rampage, after Susan left him.
Perhaps other occurances as well....

I’ll say no more, just in case others have managed to reach 2010 without seeing the film as well. (I CAN’T be the ONLY ONE, can I?) We try to be as Spoiler-Free as possible at TIAH Blog. And, yes, I feel, in this case, knowing the ending IS a plus in that I can appreciate “getting there” all the more, rather than spending time and energy in trying to interpret it, as if it were the finale of LOST.

That said, and this, too, is strictly my own opinion, I cannot rank this film higher than “Casablanca”! My own choice for “The Greatest Film of All Time”.

Casablanca” (again, without too much elaboration for those who have managed to… well, you know!), is Bogart, Bergman, Rains, Lorre, and Greenstreet at their best. The mere fact that I need only cite “last names” speaks volumes for the strength of this cast. After all, I may be a big fan of Ray Collins, but I can’t quite refer to him in similar fashion.

Also, on a purely personal level, “Casablanca” does the impossible! It makes me actually wish (if ever so fleetingly) I’d lived in a frightening and dangerous period of modern history that I’m DAMN GLAD I happened to miss! Not too many things can do THAT!

So, “Casablanca’s” still the king, but “Kane” is hereby granted the rank of First (pardon) “Citizen”!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Seventh (Year of) Heaven!

Seven years ago, this evening, my life changed forever for the better.

It was the night I met Esther.

We had dinner and, not even halfway through the meal and conversation, I was in love and knew she was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

We’ve been together ever since, married for six of those seven years, and I’ve loved every day of it! …And will love every day to come!

Thank you, my beautiful Esther, for being my everything.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Weirdest DVD Purchase Ever – or “Citizen Stooge”.

There are certain professions that allow windows into men’s souls.

Psychologist, clergyman, and… would you believe Checkout Clerk at Best Buy?

Think about it for a moment. Best Buy does not deal in essentials for living, like food and clothing. Its stock in trade is entertainment, and the choices we make in that area – choices that can be observed at checkout – are an indicator of the personality of the consumer dutifully submitting his or her Reward Zone Card for electronic scanning.

Your taste in electronics, music, movie and television DVDs, and the like all say something about you. That’s why can program suggestions specifically for you, based on your past selections and browsings, with a fairly high degree of accuracy.

One can’t help but wonder – if one has considerable time to waste, or has a Blog that constantly craves new material – what the checkout person might think of our purchases.

Pairing a STAR TREK movie with a season box set of LOST (as I have done) likely merits neither an eye-bat nor a raised brow. Such products simply “go-together”.

But, imagine the unspoken clerkly thoughts my DVD purchase of yesterday might have inspired.

Oh, I’ll just can the pretentious trappings of literacy and cut to the chase…

Yesterday, in the same purchase, I bought… “Citizen Kane: Two-Disc Special Edition” and “The Three Stooges Collection Volume 8 (1955-1959)” featuring Shemp and Joe Besser!


In cinematic terms there could not be greater polar opposites than the lofty “Citizen Kane” and the lowly “Three Stooges”… and, as if that wasn’t enough, this was the VERY END of “The Three Stooges” – a far cry (or eye-poke) from their glory days.

Indeed, there are probably some Hollywood purists that would OUTLAW such a tandem purchase! But, whatever the thoughts of said purists, and the anonymous Best Buy checkout clerk, there was a reason for combining such disparate elements into a single purchase. Yep, it’s that “Window into my soul” part you’ve all been dreading!

I’ve somehow reached this stage of life without ever seeing “Citizen Kane”. I’ve always heard it spoken of as “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”, and now I intend to find out for myself. The road to satisfying this life-long curiosity was hastened by “Citizen Kane” being packaged as a Warner Bros. “Two-Disc Special Edition”.

Previous such packagings for “Casablanca”, “The Maltese Falcon” and “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” (one of which will be reviewed in this Blog soon) were done SO WELL that this package became nearly irresistible. I look forward to immersing myself in this cinematic classic.

As for “The Three Stooges”, they’ve been a part of my life (and Esther’s I was happy to learn) since the days of “Officer Joe Bolton” on New York’s WPIX Channel 11. I own the previous seven volumes, and I was certainly not about to stop now.

Besides, I love Joe Besser! I loved Joe Besser on THE ABBOTT AND COSTELLO SHOW. I loved him as the “Third Stooge” (though, objectively, he clearly failed to live up to both Curly and Shemp). And I even loved “Scat Scout Scat”, a 1959 Quick Draw McGraw cartoon where hostile Indian “Big Chief Little Runt” was created as a Joe Besser parody character. To see it CLICK HERE!

No version of “The Three Stooges” gets as bad a rap as the final 16 installments featuring Joe Besser. But now I could have them for my very own.

My interest, however, is far from limited to Joe Besser. This set covers the period leading up to – and the sad occurrence of – Shemp Howard’s death. And, in a startling fact I never knew, there were FOUR Stooge shorts made AFTER SHEMP’S DEATH (…not just ONE, but FOUR), using previously existing footage of Shemp and the use of a (sometimes awkwardly utilized) double in new footage! One, maybe, is acceptable… but FOUR additional shorts after the man’s death is downright ghoulish! What say you all?

You can read all about it in THIS EXCELLENT REVIEW FROM DVD TALK!

“Citizen Kane meets The Three Stooges”! Why didn’t anyone think of it before! And there you have a “Window into MY soul”. I suggest you close it quick… and lock it before any more such thoughts escape. “Or, I’ll give you SUCH a PINCH!”