HOLLYWOOD – The only fitting death for Casey Kasem was for him to be pushed off a 40 story building by an old man in a rubber mask. It would have tied up his life. Sadly our last vision of Casey is him being wheeled in a stretcher while his wife threw hamburger at the EMTs. It was a bumpy exit for a man who made his living with a smooth voice.
It was a sad day when Casey finally passed away after a long struggle,. His voice had an impact on my life. As an army brat growing up on bases in West Germany, Casey’s American Top 40 was important when it aired on Armed Forces radio. It was the best way of knowing what was really popular music on the other side of the ocean. Most of the musical experience around the base involved lederhosen slapping. My parents weren’t cool enough to take us to see Kraftwerk or Neu! Casey made sure that we knew the 40 songs that were in heavy rotation. Even upon returning to America, Casey remained a good thing to hear. It was 4 hours of radio without having to hear the same Eagles song twice. His prime was at a time when pop radio provided a fine mix of rock, pop, soul and country. This was before Clear Channel destroyed radio by turning your markets’ stations into a segregated demographic penal colony. You could grow up knowing about the Rolling Stones, Chic and Eddie Rabbit.
The best thing about Casey’s legacy is that he wasn’t part of the corrupt musical world. He merely read the Top 40 as listed in Billboard magazine. He had no pull over who was #1. Bands could never hate Casey because they didn’t give him enough payola. Nobody had to deliver a dumptruck of cocaine at Casey’s pool to hear the timpani before their song is announced. That’s not to say labels couldn’t bribe various elements that got a song on the charts. Casey was above the dirty business of payola as he counted down. The only thing he picked was the music for the long distance dedication segment. He seemed honest about those musical moments and their tales of regret, lost love and dead pets. Who knows how many labels had secretaries write heartbreaking letters to nail down the heartbreaking exposure for a band. Here’s Casey’s first big long distance dedication as a girl talks about her stalking George Harrison. This story-song was a minor hit for Casey.
Perhaps the most shocking part of Casey’s countdown career was when he entered the music video era with American Top 10 on TV. After years of hearing the guy, it was kind of a shock to see a dweebish guy in a sweater. That was him? Although this is true of any disc jockey not named Wolfman Jack. I’m happy to find a clip that has Casey talking about Eddie Rabbit so you can get a taste of Casey on the small screen.
The second biggest thing Casey did was provide voices for two of my favorite cartoons. He was Shaggy on Scooby-Doo for nearly half a century. Forget Dick Clark, Casey was the world’s oldest slacker teenager. He also provided the voice of Robin on Super Friends. His Robin wasn’t the wimpiest person in the Hall of Justice thanks to Aquaman.
Casey also acted for American International Pictures which is bonus cultural cool points. He played a hardcore biker in The Glory Stompers. He rode as part of Dennis Hopper’s gang. He was passing out a few hits with bullets at the drive-in. Casey also appeared in The Incredible 2-Headed Transplant. Sadly he was neither head. Shame they didn’t give him a chance to have him share a body with Wolfman Jack.
Over the past few years, I’ve grown to appreciate Casey’s work thanks to WKIX-FM running vintage American Top 40s from the ’70s and ’80s on the weekends. The episodes are perfect at capturing of what was really playing on the radio way back when. There are musical moments that must have been sponsored by more cocaine supplied at the Scarface fantasy weekend camp. Today’s classic rock and oldies stations are revisionist history. They remove the music that might have been a hit back then, but isn’t seen as cool anymore. They don’t want you to enjoy Eddie Rabbit with your hourly play of “Brandy.” They turn bands that had a few Top 40 songs into One Hit Wonders. One hopes that Casey’s original broadcasts are preserved at the Library of Congress since it is history for your ears.
Casey Kasem won’t be missed simply because his voice will never leave us. His old shows are perfect time capsules of an era when pop music mattered. His voice will always be on Scooby-Doo reruns since that show will never vanish from the dial. His long distance dedications still strike a chord with people eager to be healed by the magic of Abba. What is nice is knowing that when Casey went to Heaven, he must have been first greeted by Snuggles.
Sure Twin Peaks: The Entire Mystery isn’t due out on Blu-ray until July 29, but I’m aching for all the extras. Now David Lynch teases us with his chat with Leland Palmer. The resolution and color timing for the Blu-rays appear to be jaw dropping.
The Monkey’s Paw features what’s often considered the grossest of “lucky charms.” Who thinks that it’s a cool to hang onto the chopped off and crusty part of an ape? But maybe the dream that it gives you three wishes if a bigger allure than its gross nature. Jake Tilton (Transformers‘ C.J. Thomason) gets his hand on a monkey’s paw. But he doesn’t really get to enjoy his first two wishes since they involve bringing back an annoying coworker (Tony Cobb) from the grave. As in anything that gives wishes, there’s a serious curse blowback. Things get nasty as the pressure rises for that third wish. Jake’s not jake with the deal. Corbin Blue and Charles S. Button join in on the supernatural nightmare. The Monkey’s Paw is a Chiller network original production. There’s a good tension in the film as the dream of three wishes turns into the nasty reality that Jake has three wishes based off a dead monkey’s paw. It’s a fine little horror film. The bonus feature is a commentary track with director Brett Simmon, cinematographer Scott Winig and Thomason. There’s also a behind the scenes featurette.
Sugar Cookies launched the cinematic careers of Oliver Stone and Troma’s Lloyd Kaufman. This film deserves special treatment and thankfully the guys at Vinegar Syndrome has delivered it. This Blu-ray transfer makes this look better than any Troma film has ever achieved. The luxury treatment is worth the effort to give a clear view of Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000 & Rock N Roll High School). She’s the man character in this psychological revenge drama with a kink twist. A model gets tricked into suicide by a dirty film director. Woronov might be a lover to both. She gets back at him by turning Lynn Lowry (Radley Metzger’s The Score) into the dead girl. What is the end game? No need to give it away. Woronov is amazing in the role the 1080p makes her dazzle even when taking a bath. The bonus features include video interview with Kaufman, Lowry and Woronov. Turns out Woronov’s ex-husband directed the film. She wasn’t happy when he cast himself in a stag film hooking up with another woman. Woronov deserves a Kennedy Center Honors. There’s also a DVD so you can watch Sugar Cookies in standard definition.
Runaway Nightmare brings true glory to a truly independent film made during the late ’70s and eventually finished in the early ’80s. Filmmaker Mike Cartel digs deep into the kind of weirdness that would never escape the development hell of a Hollywood studio. This movie is what would happen if Samuel Beckett had made a movie for Roger Corman. There’s a pure absurdist nature to the film. Two guy are running a worm farm in the desert. During their time under the sun, they notice a crate being buried nearby. When they dig it up, they find a nude woman. They rescue her, but their reward is being captured by a female cult. Will they survive? Who tried to bury the girl in the first place? What about the worm? Can anybody think of the poor worms that are missing these two guys? While the topic seems to suggest massive adult content, there’s not much skin on the screen. You show this to your grandmother if you want to freak her out. There’s some weird timing that makes Runaway Nightmare compelling viewing. The Blu-ray/DVD combo pack is only being released with 1,000 copies. Order this one quickly if you desire to explore the weirdness. The big bonus feature is director Cartel’s commentary. He’s got plenty of stories about the process of making the film. They also include the “nude” moments that were hacked into the video release to spice things up for rental action.
Peekarama: Baby Rosemary & Hot Lunch is a double dose from director John Hayes. These are two films that used the marquee to lure in the unsuspecting. Baby Rosemary is not quite Rosemary’s Baby. Rosemary (Sharon Thorpe) is still a virgin even though her boyfriend is John Leslie. She’s about to leave town for a teaching job when she show up at her dad’s motel to say goodbye. However a couple gives her a major traumatic moment. Then things get extra strange when her dad returns from the grave and she finds herself attracted to a guy who hasn’t been the nicest of men towards her. It’s just a poor mess for her. Hot Lunch provides no cooking tips. John Martin (Pretty Peaches 3) gets fired from a crummy diner and dumped by his wife for his inability to boogie at the disco. His divorce lawyer finds him work. He ultimately does jobs on a few of her clients including the adult icon Desiree Cousteau. This is goofy adult action from that time when plot mattered. Both films must have gotten in plenty of confused viewers thanks to the marquees.
True Detective is perfect to watch on home video since it’s an 8 hour movie that deserves to be seen on one long weekend marathon. The cop show mixes the best elements of Twin Peaks, The Wire and Hill Street Blues. Detective “Rust” Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Detective Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) investigate a homicide scene in a rural part of Louisiana. The body has been ritually marked and displayed including a set of antlers. This will not be a simple case and these are not simple detectives. Marty depicts himself as the by the book family man. He turns out to be neither. Over the years covered in the series, his approach to life gets torn apart. Rust has it even worse as elements of the case overtake his life. Even when they have their suspects and glory, he senses that things aren’t over. He becomes a haunted man who loses himself in metaphysics and Lone Star beer. There is a richness to all elements on True Detective. McConaughey and Harrelson are serious in the cop roles and not merely playing stoners on patrol. The show is the ultimate reason McConaughey won the Oscar. He sealed the deal by creating a cop who loses himself in the case instead of making another crappy romantic comedy. The 1080p Blu-ray looks amazing since most people who watch the series only saw it in 1080i. You can really get into Adam Arkapaw’s cinematography as the atmosphere goes between normal cops to supernatural. This series is an amazing feat for writer Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Joji Fukunaga that puts them in the company of those great European TV shows that are treated as cinema such as Das Boot and Berlin Alexanderplatz. True Detective is the best movie of the year. Bonus features on the Blu-ray include commentary tracks that let T Bone Burnett chime into the conversation. The Inside the Episode pieces add a touch of understanding. Do not watch them until you’ve seen the episode.
Vinyl is based on a true rock ‘n roll story. Once upon a time in the ’80s there was a band called The Alarm. They had a few hits even though their most enduring mark was their spiky haircuts. The band reunited and wanted to release a new single. No major label wanted to deal with old musicians with new music. It’s a Logan’s Run situation. The movie fictionalizes the events. In this case Johnny Jones (Phil Daniels) doesn’t get discouraged when he’s ignored by the industry. He plots how to make them interested in the song by giving it pure youth appeal. He gets a bunch of young kids to mime along with the record. He pulls a Milli Vanilli. The record companies now think the song is great. The song does become a hit. Everything appears to be going great until the kids decide they want to be a real band. Can the truth destroy everything? It’s a fun rock movie. Being based on a real story makes things not feel so outlandish
I Spy: The Complete Series brought espionage back to the nuts and bolts business instead of high tech gadgets. While every other show was doing its best to make the new James Bond, I Spy wanted to remind us that ultimately the intelligence game is about people. The show picked two amazing people to lead the investigations. Robert Culp and Bill Cosby roamed the globe using the cover of Kelly Robinson (Culp) as a tennis pro and Alexander Scott (Cosby) as his trainer. At the time, Cosby was merely a stand up comic, but he immediately grasps the acting tone necessary to pull off an amazing buddy show. Him and Culp come off as tight friends as well as fellow field agents. Unlike Mission: Impossible, I Spy really did take the production around the globe for exteriors. They didn’t merely resort to stock footage. Culp and Cosby were in Hong Kong, Mexico City, Greece, Italy and other foreign locations. They were the original version of Anthony Bourdain. The mixing of real footage with sets back in Hollywood might have made I Spy the most complex production schedule until Game of Thrones. But this little touch makes it even more special of a series. When the show started airing in 1965, there were plenty of TV stations (especially in the South) that didn’t like the idea of white and black spies working as peers. The show only lasted three seasons. NBC shifted the timeslot in the third season where it was smushed between The Big Valley and The Carol Burnett Show. This is a shame since Cosby and Culp are great in the roles. They have the ability to go from glib to serious without coming off as spoofy. The 82 episodes in the boxset are addictive and fun. Don’t let that crummy remake movie with Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson taint the original.
The Angela Mao Ying Collection brings another six titles from the Fist Lady of Golden Harvest Films. She and Bruce Lee were the superstars for the new Hong Kong studio in the early ’70s. She’s known as Lady Whirlwind since she had no problem throwing punches and kicks at a mob of men. The Tournament (1974) and The Himalayan (1976) are two films that deal with men having to win major fighting matches. When Taekwondo Strikes (1973) puts her in Korea with Sammo Hung. They must help the locals against the occupying Japanese. Broken Oath (1977) is a revenge drama that forces a pregnant mother to plot from behind prison walls. A Queen’s Ransom (1976) is George Lazenby plotting to kill Queen Elizabeth during her trip to Hong Kong. Angela is part of his evil hit team. Strange to think of James Bond looking to take out his former boss. Stoner (1974) was supposed to be Bruce Lee’s follow up to Game of Death. It was going to team up Lee with George Lazenby and Sonny Chiba. That’s right, a movie starring Bruce, James Bond and The Street Fighter. But after his death, the budget was slashed and Sonny stayed in Japan. Golden Harvest made the movie with Angela as the mysterious woman investigating a religious cult that might be pushing a drug that seems like ecstasy on the kids around the world. Lazenby is an Australian cop who flies to Hong Kong to tear things apart. He doesn’t look too bad using his kung fu moves even if he fights phonetically. This collection allows a new generation to realize that Angela Mao Ying kicked as much cinematic ass as the boys.
Joe has nothing to do with me. Although it was directed by a classmate and written by an old instructor. Longtime readers of this column will recall the numerous times I offered Nic Cage $20 to play me in my parents’ Christmas video. Sadly that is not a bonus feature. What gets me about this low budget film is that there seems to be a dozen producers and not one of them is named Joe. As a Joe, I find this rather disheartening. How can you make a movie called Joe and not have at least a token Joe? This is not a remake of Peter Boyles’ Joe. Instead Nic Cage plays an ex-con who must help out the abused Tye Sheridan (Mud). The kid works on his tree poisoning crew. For the most part the kid is tortured by his violent alcoholic father played by a real life alcoholic Gary Poulter. The guy didn’t have to dip to hard to deliver this problem. He drowned in a puddle after the film wrapped. It’s rather frustrating that Cage does his best to not crank out another piece of Jerry Bruckheimer crap and it’s rather ignored by viewing audiences. Maybe he should have been begging to star in True Detective 2? Basically Joe is another dip into povertiplotation for director David Gordon Green. What’s odd is that Prince Avalanche was about trees that burned down. Now there’s trees being mass poisoned here. You might not want to watch this film with a tree hugger.
The Soul Man: The Complete First Season brings a little Gospel twist to TVLand. Cedric the Entertainer (Kings of Comedy) is a major Las Vegas entertainer who gives up Sin City to preach at his father’s church in St. Louis. Can he make the transition from glitz to Jesus? Even more questioning is his wife (Reno 911’s Niecy Nash) having to downgrade her life. “Lost in the Move” has their daughter begging to be the focus of MTV’s Sweet Sixteen. “The Ballentine Hands” brings on Tamar Braxton as a choir singer ringer for a big competition. “Preacher’s Block” guests Anthony Anderson as his old songwriting partner.” J.C. Carpenter’s Gospel Show” marks the arrival of Cee Lo Green as a superstar preacher. He got his start singing backup for Cedric. “Loving Las Vegas” takes the family back. Tim Reid (WKRP) plays a casino manager. All 12 episodes from the first season are in the boxset. The bonus features include interviews with the cast and crew and a music video. It is a little bit of a musical show.
Blood Ties takes us back the a time when Brooklyn was a land of bad asses. Clive Owen (Children of Men) is released from prison. His Billy Crudup (Waking the Dead) is a respected cop. He does his best to help his brother go straight, but does Clive have the tools to not take the criminal path? Who could have fathered two opposite sons? Why it’s James Caan (Rollerball). Clive even gets the good loving of Mila Kunis (That ’70s Show). Also in for the love is Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Returns) and Zoe Saldana (Star Trek). The film was directed by Frenchman Guillaume Canet so it’s a ’70s crime flick filtered through a European eye. I respect Clive Owen’s sideburns. They should have been cast in The Friends of Eddie Coyle.
Bushido Man: Seven Deadly Battles is a recent martial arts quest film. In this case you have Toramaru (Mitsuki Koga) forced to go after seven combatants in order to collect a certain prize. What’s the secret to him getting ready for all those big battles? He must figure out what his opponents eat. Once he knows what goes inside them, he can focus on opening them up with his blade. It’s a Game of Death set up since each of his opponents have different fighting style. There’s a lot of variety to the dining choices and the buttkicking tussles. The bonus feature is a making of featurette.
Transformers Animated: The Complete Series revived the show from 2007 to 2009 on the Cartoon Network. The show retells the story of how the Autobots came to Earth. Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Bulkhead, Prowl and Bumblebee locate the Allspark in space. While they want to take it home, they get attacked by Decepticons. This ultimately leads to the crashing on Earth. This leads to the robots learning the local culture and continuing the battle with the Decepticons. There’s an issue with the Allspark that makes for more action as the seasons continue. The 42 episodes have more Transformers arriving on Earth. They just won’t stop. Among the voice on the show is Tom Kenny (SpongeBob) and Bill Fagerbakke (Patrick). The bonus feature is audio commentary.
Fracknation is a documentary that attempts to “answer” Gasland. This is always a tricky thing to do without looking like you’re heat stealing. Phellim McAleer explores the method of hydraulic fracturing to release natural gas and petroleum. Does it really destroy the well water and cause sink faucets to release dangerous gas? He seems to think that Gasland’s claims are overblown. Which filmmaker is right? Maybe we need to refer to the great Richard Feyman who wrote in The Meaning Of It All about how sometimes science isn’t wrong so much as the ability to measure results aren’t quite there yet. Maybe the stuff that slowly working its way back up? What’s the deal with all the earthquakes? Fracknation makes the case that poor people who allow their land to be fracked are able to survive on their royalties. Do we really know what the price is yet for the land that has been altered by the process? The creation of energy is a dirty nasty business. Even giant windmill generators have serious issues for people living near them. While Fracknation tries to explore with a journalistic objective attitude, it comes off with too much of a chip on its shoulder trying to prove it doesn’t have a real agenda. Can either film really sum up a real conclusion?
Duck Dynasty: Season 5 is another batch of episodes about the Robertson family. You might know them from being plastered on every item sold to humanity. Their marketing has made them bigger than Disney characters. You can’t escape their glare in Walmart. Sure they made a fortune with their Duck Commander hunting brand, but they’re Oprah rich thanks to the show. They’re back for 10 episodes of down home Louisiana family charm. “Boomerang Becca” introduces Willie and Korie’s adopted daughter Rebecca. She had a fashion internship in Los Angeles and now wants to start her own company. Maybe she can put her relatives on camo items? “Willie’s Number Two” has the gang protest when the boss hires a cousin to be his assistant. “Life of Si” puts a camera on the old guy to record his day. Strangely enough, it doesn’t feature hours of other people taking video of him. Willie gets lost trying to go to the LSU football game. “Stand By Mia” is an hour long special with Jim Hacksaw Duggan. There’s bonus deleted scenes and a few featurettes.
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