RALEIGH - The time warp took me back to 1977 over the course of a fortnight, all the icons were coming to town. In those days, I was able to see an acting icon, a western legend, white boy jazz smartasses and the greatest stand up of his generation. I still feel like I’m back in Junior High except I can buy booze this time around and don’t have to beg for a ride from my mom.
Things flashbacked when I wandered to the downtown Red Hat Amphitheater for a glimpse of Steely Dan. I didn’t buy a ticket since I had a late night meeting down the block from the venue. The plan was to sneak inside to catch a song or two. The show started like an early bird dinner at 8:15 p.m. without an opening act. By the time I got to the gate, five songs were over. They shut down the box office so I couldn’t buy a ticket if I wanted to spend $50 to sit on the mini-lawn. But this wasn’t a pain in the ass moment. The venue is outdoors so all could be heard clearly. The fence is only five feet ten inches tall. This gives a clean view of the Dan without heads blocking. Not being close to the stage didn’t bother me since it eliminated the shock of realizing Donald Fagen and Walter Becker aren’t merely throwbacks to the ’60s. They’re in their ’60s. Although even at that distance, Fagen looked like he was doing Ray Charles at a Vegas Legends show. Their sound is still youthful except when Becker takes the lead. He’s got the voice of a Walmart Greeter at this point. Then again, he never quite had the range of Carl Wilson.
Originally I was just going to watch a song or two. I’d skip home after hearing Fagen declare they’re doing Everything Must Go from start to finish. They avoided their comeback material which made me a member of the knothole gang for the next 90 minutes. It was a fine night to steal a Steely performance. The biggest disappointment was when they dusted off “Razor Boy,” they had the three background singers take the lead. While they have very lovely voices, they lacked the sardonic edge required in the lyrics. Towards the end of the show, a really nice woman was doing her best to poke her nose over the fence. She kept shouting for them to perform “Katy Lied.” I didn’t have the heart to correct her that the album Is Katy Lied. The song is “Doctor Wu.” They never heard her request. What mattered most was that they played “Josie.” Here’s a video of that moment that someone else took. Bonus points if you can guess why I chose this song.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar dropped by Raleigh the following Friday to sign copies of his young adult novel Sasquatch In the Paint (co-written with Raymond Obstfeld). As die-hard Celtic fan, you’d imagine I’d show up to heckle the former Los Angeles Laker. But Kareem is more than the sky hook. He’s had an amazing acting career. He fought Bruce Lee in Game of Death. He co-piloted Airplane. He barely escaped Slam Dunk Ernest. Thus I grabbed my daughter and we got in line at Quail Ridge Bookstore. The following is video of our encounter. I apologize in advance that the framing is really off. My defense is that I aimed the camera where I usually do when filming someone at a table. Turns out on Kareem, this angle is his chest. This is what most NBA guards saw when they drove the paint on him. My initial question about him putting on his socks comes from the HBO special on the UCLA dynasty during Coach John Wooden. Just off camera I show him a copy of the upcoming The Bruce Lee Legacy Collection boxset from Shout! Factory. This brings Bruce’s Golden Harvest movies to Blu-ray.
Steve Martin arrived the next day to perform as part of the Wide Open Bluegrass festival. He was at the Red Hat Amphitheater, but this time tickets were purchased. Before he came on, we marveled at the work of the Infamous String Dusters. They were tight. Now that Mumford and Sons is taking a break, please consider the String Dusters as your new favorite band.
People will often whine that they wish Steve Martin would return to stand up. But if you watched him on Steve Martin: The Television Stuff, you realized that he was always mixing his banjo playing with his comedy. All he’s done is given his stage time a proper balance so there’s more music than talking. He hit the stage with The Steep Canyon Rangers and Edie Brickell. I was able to capture his first minute on stage:
Watching Steve Martin on stage proved he’s more than that schlock movie actor who can’t stop making those crappy Pink Panther and Cheaper By the Dozen movies. He’s still a comic genius as long as he stays away from Shawn Levy. By the end of the show, I gave up my plans to protest his lifetime Oscar on the grounds of The Big Year. Give the man whatever honors his heart craves. Although if he makes Pink Panther 3, I will hire Ninjas to steal his lifetime Oscar and will melt it down to make a Cable Ace Award.
Topping off the evening was dropping by a bar to say howdy to Randy Jones, the legendary Cowboy from the Village People. He was still glowing from his recent marriage. We chatted for a bit about his various projects. He’s amazingly busy in a world that can’t get enough disco. There’s no video of our encounter. Oddly enough, I still haven’t taken a photo with Randy after all these years even though he’s the king of candids.
What did I learn from my encounters with the icons of 1977? It was a good year to be an icon.
VINEGAR SYNDROME TIME
Night Train to Terror leaves the station with one of the great musical numbers of the ’80s. “Dance With Me” goes up there with anything from Footloose. The outfits of the performers deserve to be stashed at the Smithsonian. You almost forget there’s more movie as the kids dance around the clumsily constructed train set. Also on board for the ride is God and Satan. The duo fight over the souls of three characters. To be more precise, they form a framing device around three shorter films. The shorts include organ harvesting, death cults and interning for Satan. You automatically know what kind of movie this is since it stars Cameron Mitchell (The High Chaparral). There’s also a part for John Phillip Law (Barbarella). The movie was written by Oscar winner Phillip Yordan (1954’s Broken Lance) so it’s not the normal scruffy horror flick. His son Byron Yordan sings the song. So it’s a family affair on the screen. This is one of those films that has only grown in cheese factor with the ’80s style filling in the plot issues. The bonus features include the original trailer. There’s a commentary with co-producer Jay Schlossberg-Cohen where he explains how this semi-anthology came together. The film wasn’t a hit, but has gained a cult following over the years thanks to home video. The Hysteria Continues contributes a commentary that brings up the history of the film. The DVD includes the movie Gretta. Editor Wayne Schmidt does an audio interview about his work on Gretta. Did this run on USA’s Up All Night when it ran obscure flicks? All that matters is that if you’re having a Big ’80s Movie Festival at your house, you should run Night Train to Terror after Slumber Party Massacre II.
The Oral Generation is all about the tongue. This is one of the unsung epic titles of the X-rated theater era. Who wouldn’t want to see this on the marquee? Maybe Michael Douglas. Because the film is barely an hour long, the producers at Vinegar Syndrome have put together a two hour presentation that you might have seen at that theater your Aunt Anna wanted to shut down. “Clinical Sex” has the classic educational voiceover except this time the doctor explains why he has to hook up with his patient as part of the treatment. He also has his nurse help out. “Anyway You Like It,” “Naked Sexes” and “The Different Sex” round out the shorts. Before the movie, there’s a clipped scene from Oral that features a red haired woman and her extremely pasty lover. Oral Generation starts with a narrative about how this is a time of sexual liberation thanks to Times Square theater. These people would be amazed by what you can find on the internet. The film’s focus is on modern techniques of love that women can use to please men. Remember to take notes. The transfer of the movie is better than any of the XXX theaters ever projected on their messy screens. This is an adult DVD from a bygone era.
Drive-In Collection - The Virgin and the Lover & Lustful Feelings are as naughty as they sound. This is another double feature of New York City based adult films directed by Kemal Horulu. He’s having a bit of a revival thanks to Vinegar Syndrome also buffing up his films for the double features The Sexualist & Wendy’s Palace and Vixens of Kung Fu & Oriental Blue. He’s back with two more epics from the sticky floor cinemas of the ’70s. The Virgin and the Lover (1973) is the original version of Mannequin. A filmmaker has only love in his heart for his dressing dummy. But he imagines she’s flesh. It’s amazing how much better this film is when you don’t have Andrew McCarthy dragging around the dummy. Jennifer Welles is back and on her back. Lustful Feelings (1978) is the classic story of a woman going the extra mile to help our her lover. In this case Jaime Gillis has a massive drug debt so Leslie Bovee ends up hooking. Well at first she thinks she’s just posing for gentlemen magazines. But this just eases her into high paying profession of prostitution. Gillis has such an amazing edge in his role. It’s like he’s the lead in an X-rated Scorsese movie. Kemal Horulu is finally getting the career retrospective two pictures at a time.
All Night Horror Marathon lives up to the promise of a long night of scares with 4 films inside the box. What’s the Matter With Helen? (1971) is from the genre of insane aging actresses. Debbie Reynolds (Princess Leia’s Mom) and Shelly Winters (Lolita) go out to Hollywood in hopes of being the big new stars of the 1930s. But things are bound to get dramatic with those two actresses sharing a bedroom. The Godsend (1981) has a mysterious pregnant woman drop by a family’s house. The woman vanishes leaving her daughter behind with the family. The kid might have issues after she gets older. The Vagrant (1992) reminds people to fully examine a house during the due diligence period. Bill Paxton is a hotshot yuppie who buys his dream house. What he doesn’t know is there’s someone else living under the roof. Things get bad when the mystery roomie leaves stuff in the fridge. The Outing (1987) is the dark side of staying in a museum . What goes wrong? How about school children unleashing an evil genie trapped inside a lamp. This isn’t a lovable Robin Williams type genie. This one wants to do evil things. This set is exciting since it delves into the MGM catalog which means it’s a double dose of their old Midnite Movies line. This is a great way to spend an overnight during Spooky Season.
Curse of Chucky brings back everybody’s favorite doll that’s possessed by the soul of a serial killer. You get to choose between the R-rated and Unrated version of the movie. Why would you want less of a Child’s Play sequel. This is the sixth film in the series. A mother and her wheelchair bound daughter (Fiona Dourif) get an unexpected knock on the door. The FauxEx man has a big box for them to sign for. What’s inside? Neither of them ordered a giant Chucky doll. The mother gets freaked out by the doll and tosses it in the trash. That’s not a good idea since in the middle of the night, mom goes nuts and stabs herself to death. Her grieving daughter is now stuck with the doll. The girl’s older sister shows up with her huge family. This is just the proper recipe for more victims for Chucky. A fine twist is that the girl finds information about the homicidal Chucky doll online. It just would be wrong if rumors of a talking, killing doll didn’t have devoted websites. The girls have to figure out how to stop the doll without looking like they’re nuts. It’s brisk fear inducing film that will make you throw away your sister’s American Girl Dolls. The bonus features include deleted scenes and a gag reel. There’s a documentary about making the film and a commentary track with the director, main puppeteer and Fiona Dourif. The movie is a bit of a family affair since the voice of Chucky is her dad Brad Dourif.
The Eagle Has Landed is a mega size World War II adventure from the pages of Jack Higgin’s novel. The Nazis are ready to pull out a major gambit. What could this nefarious plot involve? How about sending an elite unit into England to kidnap Winston Churchill? And they don’t just send any Nazis. The crack unit is led by Robert Duvall (The Godfather), Michael Caine (Batman Returns) and Donald Sutherland (Kiefer’s dad). This is a fail-proof plan since what British soldier would think Michael Caine was really a Nazi? This was always a great film to catch on the late show. Now it looks even better in Blu-ray (there’s a DVD in the boxset, too). This was John Sturges’ final film. He understood men on a mission movies with his resume including The Great Escape, The Magnificent Seven and Ice Station Zebra. Why doesn’t Struges have more directorial respect? The man ought to be treated as a legend. There’s plenty of bonus features including vintage interviews with the stars and visits to the location. Screenwriter Tom Mankiewicz recalls his time on the project .
A Hijacking reminds us that more than one cargo ship has been hijacked by Somali pirates. A Hijackingis about a Danish ship that didn’t have the same Navy Seals arrive like in Captain Phillips. The MV Rozen gets boarded in the Indian Ocean. The movie take the point of view of the cook on the boat. But unlike Steven Segal’s character in Under Seige, he’s really a cook and not an ex-military super soldier. In a major sense, there is more suspense in the movie since we don’t know who it ends. There was no wall to wall coverage and breakdowns of the rescue. We’re following the lowly cook who is normally the expendable crew member in a big Hollywood production except when they’re played by major action heroes. Pilou Asbaek has the look of the good hearted piece of dead meat. Will he be able to make it to the end of the film or will he be shot and dumped into water by his kidnappers? Things get naturally tense without so much in jeopardy.
Exploding Sun is the final installment in Doomsday Series. They go full throttle with the disaster as big as the sun. In fact the sun is what’s going to bring about the end of the world this time. The first privately owned spaceship with passengers is launched off toward the moon. This should be a great event. The president’s wife hitches a ride on this revolutionary travel advance. But there’s no chance to soak in the moment. Instead solar flares have gone out of control. Not to give away the big moment of the nearly 3 hour movie, but something gets sent to the sun that makes life on Earth extra hot. Can we be saved? Well do you think J.A.G. star David James Elliot would let us down? Of course not. Julia Ormand (MadMen) also hopes we don’t get turned into burnt bacon. Hard to think if they could have upped the ante on Doomsday during this ReelzChannel series that tops most of the SyFy original movies.
Barabbas brings back the Biblical epic to TV. Barabbas is noted as the criminal who the crowd wanted freed instead of Jesus. While not much was said about the guy in the Gospels, there’s enough speculation to make a thrilling three hour miniseries. The miniseries is based on the novel by Nobel Prize winner Par Lagerkvist. Billy Zane (Titanic & The Phantom) p lays the thief who gets to live with the burden that he was given amnesty so that the Son of God could be sacrificed on the cross. It’s a rather heavy role, but the normally glib Zane is up to the task. During the scene where the Romans give the crowd the choice, Zane has the insecure look down. He eventually sets himself off on a road to redemption. The production design brings out the story so it looks quite appealing in Blu-ray. This is the perfect thing to watch when your relatives come over during the holidays.
The Beverly Hillbillies: The Official Fourth Season brought the Clampetts into the world of color. Finally in the Fall of 1965 CBS decided to make more color shows. While several shows including The Fugitive had issues with hues, The Beverly Hillbillies were able to change the film in the camera without ruining the feel of the show. The big change for the Hillbillies this season was the lack of shooting on location at the Mansion. The story goes that TV Guide published the address and fans flocked to see the place. This upset the real millionaires that lived behind the gates. The fourth season launches with “Admiral Jed Clampett.” Mr. Drysdale wants him to buy a boat, but Jedd might end up owning a battleship. “The Private Eye” has more double naught spy action involving Jethro. “Possum Day” and “Possum Parade” features Sharon Tate as part of the secretarial pool. “Sonny Drysdale Returns” is the final return of the greatest lifelong student. Sonny (Louis Nye) has to get serious about life and marry Elly May. Nye appeared in one of Steve Martin’s Comedy specials featured on Shout! Factory’s Steve Martin: The Television Stuff. “The Beautiful Maid” brings out Julie Newmar as a Swedish accent needing to learn how to be country. She ought to win an Oscar after studying Granny up close. The Official Fourth Season boxset is only available through Walmart. You can order it online in case you fear it won’t be stocked in their DVD section.
Petticoat Junction: The Official Third Season is the best season of the series. Why? Nearly half of the episodes featured guest appearances from the new residents of Hooterville. Normally this show is about Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan), Kate (Bea Benaderet) and her daughters Billie Jo (Gunilla Hutton), Bobbie Jo (Lori Saunders) and Betty Jo (Linda Kaye Henning) running the Shady Rest Hotel that’s midway on the railroad track between Hooterville and Pixley. But now they have new neighbors when Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert) and his wife Lisa Douglas (Eva Gabor) check into the hotel while the Haney Farm is being fixed up for them. That’s right, it’s Green Acres crossover action. As part of the cult of Green Acres, these episodes are so revealing. It’s almost like a lost season as it shows Mr. Douglas constantly dealing with the scheming Uncle Joe. He helps the guy get out of jury duty. He also foolishly hires Uncle Joe as a contractor for fixing up the farm house. Mr. Drucker continues to have double duty on both shows. If you only buy and watch one season of Petticoat Junction, this is the essential viewing since it sheds more light on the early days in town for the Douglas family. This boxset is also a Walmart exclusive that’s best ordered online.
Rocko’s Modern Life: The Final Season brings to an end the greatest animated cartoon about a wallaby stuck in a strange town. The fourth season was noted for creator Joe Murray stepping back from his show running duties. Steve Hillenburg took over. “With Friends Like These” makes Rocko (Carlos Alazraqui) decide between Heffer (Tom Kenny) and Filbert (Mr. Lawrence). Why? Cause he only has one spare ticket to a big wrestling match. Who deserves it? “Sailing the Seven Zzzzzz” lets Ralph Bighead (Joe Murray) dream of being a pirate. “Ed Good, Rocko Bad” is a race for O-Town’s dog catcher. “Mama’s Boy” has Heffer finally move to his own house. But will his partying ways get in the way? “Magic Meathead” has Ed Bighead use a Magic 8-Ball for advice. This is a time honored tradition for stock picking. “Turkey Time” is the Thanksgiving special. Rocko wants to save the turkeys. You should buy this DVD set just so you can have an actual Thanksgiving special to watch in November instead of being nailed with pre-Christmas specials. The show was cut by Nickelodeon in 1996 which was a shame. But don’t feel too bad for Hillenburg since he’d be back shortly with his little cartoon idea: SpongeBob SquarePants. The big bonus feature is a live cast reading of Wacky Delly with Murray and the voice cast. Be thrilled to see Tom Kenny’s face. For those of you who haven’t been collecting the show by the season, you can grab Rocko’s Modern Life: The Complete Series.
The Neighbors: The Complete First Season is the ABCFamily series about a family that moves to the suburbs only to realize they are way out of town. Marty and Debbie Weaver (Jami Gertz) have found the perfect house in a gated New Jersey community. They fear their big city ways are going to make them look out of place. But that’s before the Welcome Wagon arrives. Turns out all the neighbors are named after sports superstars. It’s like an ESPN theme park. They realize something is messed up with the bizarre behavior. Turns out the neighbors are aliens who have been waiting a decade for the mothership to take them home. But they might be stuck on Earth. They do have the ability to snap into their real form with a handclap. It’s an interesting doubles match with two groups of people that feel like outsiders in the neighborhood. The first season has 22 episodes spread over 3 DVDs. You might want to get a fresh pie before watching the first episode.
Littlest Pet Shop: Petacular Escapades is another Hub show that my daughter is addicted to watching. For those who haven’t had their child demand marathons, the animated series is about Blythe Baxter and her dad moving into an apartment over the Littlest Pet Shop. While anyone with a nose might see this as a bad move, it does make for a fun cartoon series. This compilation DVD has 5 episodes from the first season. “Blythe’s Crush” has her return the keys to a boy she swears likes her. Does he? Back at the pet shop, a parrot claims to be a big time hero. Is he faking it to impress the other critters? “Dumb Dumbwaiter” gets the girl and the animals trapped inside the building’s dumbwaiter. Those mini-elevators are so tempting to crawl inside. “Lights, Camera, Mongoose” exposes your child to the musical numbers found in Indian cinema. Blythe gets sick and loses her ability to communicate with the pets on “What Did You Say?” “Terriers & Tiaras” makes you cringe at the pet pageant scene. This is worse than Honey Boo Boo on GoGo Juice. The show is cute as it lets the tiny animals play big.
My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas is part of the Classic My Little Pony Movies. This is not based on the new character designs that air on the Hub. Even though this holiday special was made in 2005, it almost looks like a product of the ’80s with the Friendship Is Magic character design. Minty screws up and breaks the “Here Comes Christmas Candy Cane.” This is the only way Santa knows how to find Ponyville. Her attempts to fix the problem don’t work out so well. This means she must hop a hot air balloon to go visit Santa and beg forgiveness. But it’s not an easy flight to the North Pole. The special episode is 45 minutes long so plan accordingly with bedtime for the kids. The bonus features are sing-along versions of “That’s What I Love About Christmas” and “Nothing Says Christmas Like a Pair of Socks.” The last song is so true. You now know what to get that Brony in your life.
The Frozen Ground is an all-star dramatic recreation of the hunt for Alaska’s most notorious serial killer. Nic Cage is Sgt. Jack Halcombe. He’s on the trail of guy who has been kidnapping women in Anchorage and taking them out to the cold wilderness to dump their bodies. It’s not a good thing. A break in the case happens when Vanessa Hudgens escapes from the killer. She thinks she’s safe, but the killer doesn’t like loose ends. Also featured in the movie is John Cusack in a role that might make you forget his time soaking in the Hot Tub Time Machine. 50 Cent sticks out in the frozen city. This is the kind of movie that will test your HDTV since the higher resolution will bring down the temperature of your family room by 10 degrees. The bonus features include a commentary track with director Scott Walker, deleted scenes, behind the scenes and history of the real case. You can also get a streamed version of the film through UltraViolet.
Dead Before Dawn puts a twist on zombie and demon possession films by giving us demon possessed zombies. Devon Bostick doesn’t heed the warning of Christopher Lloyd (Taxi) to not go near a dangerous item in his occult store. Naturally the kid doesn’t just touch the item. He drops and breaks it. This unleashes a massive curse in the area. Instead of just having people get possessed by demons or turned into zombies, this time the town is overrun by Zemons! The good news is that there’s a chance they can reverse the curse, but it has to be done before sun up. If they fail, the Zemons will infest the world like World War Zemon. I blame Christopher Lloyd for all of this ugliness. If he had properly secured the cursed statue, the kid wouldn’t have busted it open. Would it have been too much to lock it up in a man-size safe? The bonus features include a behind the scenes featurette and the trailer. The original film was presented in 3-D. You get a sense on the 2-D DVD as to what objects should be flying at your eyes.
Redemption lets Jason Statham (The Expendables) stretch a bit in his action role. He’s an Afghan war veteran who returns home on to have no center of balance. He’s completely falling apart and things get worse as he turns to drugs and booze to help himself. He ends up living on the street. He gets a little bit of support from a nun. He also stumbles into another man’s life that allows him to escape the streets. Instead of becoming completely straight, Statham picks up work in the underworld. He shakes down people that owe major amounts of money. Somehow the violent life gives him direction. He lives off that buzz of beating down those that deserve it. This is Statham at his focused prime. He’s allowed a full character without sacrificing his fight scenes. This is more of his Charles Bronson best instead of the remake of The Mechanic. There’s a short behind the scenes featurette as the bonus. There’s also a way to watch the movie on Ultra Violet.
The Garfield Show: A Purr-fect Life packs another six episodes of CGI feline action into a compilation DVD. The newspaper comic strip action is given a 3-D feeling on the small screen. “The Art of Being Uncute” features a reverse cat show where the ugliest cat gets the prize of six months in Greenland. Garfield is bent on getting Nermal that big prize and thus out of the house for quite some time. “History of Cats” ticks off mice how have their accomplishments stolen by Garfield. Will he get historically accurate? “Meet Max Mouse” is an outside troublemaker willing to bust the mice-cat truce. “Garfield Astray” has him lose his memory. Nermal gets his revenge by making Garfield a completely different cat. “Black Cat Blues” get Garfield cursed. “Pampered Pussycat” is Garfield having to teach royalty how to live. The bonus is five shorts that barely last a minute each.
Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters - Predacons Rising gives more to the story of the robots that transform into cars.
Leave a Reply