Category Archives: DVD

Turner Classic Movies Is My New Best Friend

As a child I used to love to read movie monster magazines, especially Famous Monsters of Filmland. I used to look at the pictures of all the old horror movies and think how much I’d love to see them. Every Saturday night Chiller theater would play two or three old horror movies, and while I was always hoping for a classic, it seemed more often than not I got The Monolith Monsters.

One of the movies I really wanted to see was a black and white film called The Island of Lost Souls. It was an adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau. In 1977 Dr. Moreau was remade with Burt Lancaster and Michael York. I got to see that one when it hit HBO and even got to read the Marvel comics adaptation, but The Island of Lost Souls was still just a dream for me. It was even at one point considered a lost film due to the censorship it had faced back when the Hayes Code was in effect for movies.

Another string of films I really wanted to see, but that continuously avoided my viewing pleasure, were the silent film classics of Lon Chaney Sr. I got lucky enough to catch The Phantom of the Opera on PBS one time back in the days of their Matinee At The Bijou program, but never any of the other films that earned him the name “man of a thousand faces”.

About two years ago I started doing a podcast, Cinema Toast Crunch, ( http://www.cinematoastcrunch.libsyn.com )where I would get together with family and friends to watch a movie and immediately review it. It was a lot of fun even if our number of listeners never climbed all that high. After a bit I decided that I would like to try and do a second podcast on movies. This one would concentrate on the Oscar nominated best pictures from each year. As luck would have it, Turner Classic Movies was playing a lot of Oscar nominees and I was able to catch rarities like The Racket and The Crowd that had been nominated at the first Oscars. I also wanted to catch some of the films from this time period that had not gotten nominations just to see what the competition had been like. This required constantly checking the listings for TCM to see if any of these gems were playing.

One night as I was scanning through the upcoming films, a title jumped out and grabbed me. Turner was playing The Island of Lost Souls. The “lost” film from my childhood was going to be playing on my TV after a nearly 50 year wait. I sat my DVR with sweet anticipation and then also found that The Most Dangerous Game was also playing. It joined the list as well.

When I finally had the chance to sit back and watch the movies I was captivated by them. They were everything I had hoped for even if The Most Dangerous Game had never been as huge of a draw for my attention. I was so happy to have finally caught The Island of Lost Souls and scratched it off my movie bucket list. Then Turner decided to help me knock off a few more films by playing a Lon Chaney marathon. Here was my chance to finally see The Penalty, The Unholy Three, Laugh Clown Laugh, and several others.

As much as I love DVDs, and trust me, I love them a lot, Turner Classic Movies has become my new best friend. Many of the films they have offered are not available on DVD, and even many of the ones that are aren’t readily and easily available. The only problem is I don’t have as much time to watch movies now as I did in my youth, and sadly I have a harder time staying up and watching them without falling asleep. If only TCM and DVRs had been around when I truly had free weekends and a 3 months long break every summer. I might never have left my house at all.

Forgotten Films of My Teenage Years

I love movies. You don’t have a collection of nearly 8000 DVDs without having a major affection for the world of cinema. One of the things that still amazes me, however, is how a film can almost completely disappear from the public’s memory. Just the other day I was thinking about several movies that I would love to see again, or better yet pick up on DVD or Blu-ray. Remember these weren’t silent films that were truly lost or destroyed. They weren’t films that were held back or banned by the talent involved or the courts either. None of these were huge hits, but they all got fairly wide releases as far as I could tell.

Partners starring Ryan O’Neal and John Hurt
So Fine also starring Ryan O’Neal
Coast To Coast starring Robert Blake and Dyan Cannon
If You Could See What I Hear starring Marc Singer
Nate & Hayes starring Tommy Lee Jones and Michael O’Keefe
Die Laughing starring Robbie Benson
Americathon starring John Ritter

I would also love to once again see a couple of foreign films I saw at the old Plaza East Cinemas and one I saw at the old Capitol theater.

Shadowman
It’s Not The Size That Counts
Flatfoot

I think the Warner Archives may have a couple of these films and I actually found a region 2 DVD of Shadowman under its original title Nuits Rouges on Ebay recently but was unable to spare the money for it at the time. Of course I’m not saying that these films are impossible to track down. I managed to track down bootlegs of Beyond Westworld and National Lampoon’s Disco Beaver From Outer Space, so if I really wanted these films I’m sure I could find them. Heck some might even be on Netflix. But of those 10 films is there anyone else that remembers all 10 of them? Does anyone remember 5 of them? How about The Fantastic Animation Festival, 20th Century Oz, or The Legend of Hillbilly John?

Some studio spent thousands or millions on these films and now they are nearly forgotten. Well here is my salute to these forgotten if slightly flawed gems. And let’s just throw out Squeeze Play while we’re at it. Now if I could just remember the name of the film about the young girl working her summer at a British hotel…

Don’t Throw That Out

There was a comedian on The Bob & Tom Show awhile back that commented on how Hoarders and American Pickers are two sides of the same coin. They both feature people going into people’s homes where they kept everything and never threw anything out. On the one show they talk about how sick these people are and that they need help while on the other show they talk about how amazing these people are and how they are preserving rare bits of the past. My wife sometimes accuses me of being a hoarder while I think of myself more as preserving the past. The thing is, every time I give in to her and throw something out, I always end up regretting it. It’s been that way all my life.

Now let me be clear. I do not have a house that you can’t walk through with stacks of empty milk cartons and half eaten peanut butter sandwiches stacked from floor to ceiling. I do however have a large collection of books, magazines, toys, DVDs and CDs. I also have a collection of candy bar wrappers. Okay, that one may seem a bit strange, but hear me out. As a child I used to love going to 7-11 and buying candy bars. One of my favorites was the original Marathon bar. One of my fondest memories of my years going to National Education Center’s National Institute of Technology was going to the Ben Franklin’s next door and buying a candy bar for break. I was quite fond of the Mars bar. Neither of these candies are produced any longer, and as I watched more and more limited edition candy bars come and go like the inside out Reese’s Cup, I decided to save some of the wrappers. I began by carefully removing the candy and then placing the wrapper in an old photo album. I’m a little behind in placing some of my wrappers into the photo albums, but one day I will. And while this may sound like the collection of a mad man, it’s actually pretty cool in my opinion. I love seeing how M&Ms have tried all these new flavors and promotions over the last few years. There’s a crispy M&M wrapper, a white chocolate M&M wrapper done for one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, ogre sized M&Ms for one of the Shrek films, raspberry, orange, candy corn, and all sorts of other specialty flavors.
MandM

My wife has tried to convince me (half jokingly) to throw the old wrappers away, but to me they are little pieces of art. Also I know as soon as I do, I will immediately regret it. I used to have several years worth of Entertainment Weekly and in an effort to cut back on the amount of stuff I have, I agreed to throw them out. They were magazines and they were for the most part written to recap the entertainment news of a particular week. Why would I ever want to refer back to them. About two months later I was cursing the decision as I tried my best to locate an article they had done on scenes that had been cut or altered in Fantasia only to realize that issue was one of the ones that got pitched. I ended up buying most of the issues back through eBay. A similar thing apparently happened with some old composition notebooks I used to have. These books contained a listing and mini review for every film I had seen from around 1976 until 1982. They told where I saw it, when I saw it, and who I saw it with as well. I would love to have them to look back over now, but I think they got tossed during one of our moves. There is still hope that they may be packed in one of the books in the attic that we haven’t moved over to the new house yet. The only thing for certain is that I will never replace them on eBay.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard for me to throw out stuff like this, but it is. I have successfully pitched some magazines without any regrets (Esquire, Interview, Radio Electronics), but then I have regrets over purges of other magazines from as far back as Junior High. I have made some horrible trades for things I was really excited about at the time. I traded a Mego Star Trek Enterprise play set for a daybill style ad for Futureworld and I traded a stack of old EC comics for the first appearance of the Swamp Thing. I sold a huge collection of Fantastic Four comics for far less than I should have to help finance a trip to Canada back in High School (and then ended up not going on the trip because I didn’t get enough money) and sold some Aurora Monsters of the Movies model kits for money to buy some Doctor Who paperbacks at a science fiction convention.

So I have a collection of lots of useless geegaws that mean nothing to most people, but they still mean something to me. I have my original 1978 Star Wars calendar in the original mailing carton it was sold in. It will never be 1978 again, but for me there is a tiny bit of the magic from that wonderful time in my life trapped inside those pages. It contains the fuel that lights 1000 memories of my childhood. How could I possibly part with that?

Last night I was depressed. My health was giving me problems, my finances were out of whack, and I had decided to just sit there and internalize it. I sat down for a few minutes before I went to bed and tried to work some of my issues out by writing about it right here on this blog. When I got up this morning I found out that my post had been chosen as a “Freshly Pressed” winner by Word Press. The funniest thing is that right before I found this out, I was thinking about how depressing the whole post had been and that I would have been better off taking the time to follow the one depression cure that has always worked for me.

I discovered a few years ago that if I wanted to feel better all I needed to do was watch Smokey and the Bandit.
Smokey_and_the_Bandit
There are so many reasons why this works for me. Smokey and the Bandit takes me back to the 70’s. I was a kid without a care in the world. The film tapped into the whole CB radio craze of the time and had an amazing cast. Burt Reynolds was the man back then. Jerry Reed was a singer turned actor that seemed like someone you could have a good time with. Sally Field was shedding the image of the flying nun and was incredibly cute and sexy without being overly sexual. Jackie Gleason was hilarious, which was a real eye opener for a 13-year-old kid that hadn’t grown up on The Honeymooners. And of course the icing on the cake was the presence of Paul Williams. Paul Williams wrote some of the greatest songs of my youth, created one of my all-time favorite soundtrack albums with Phantom of the Paradise (which he also starred in with Gerrit Graham and Jessica Harper), and played Virgil in Battle for the Planet of the Apes which had been my favorite film of all-time just a few years earlier.

So if I had only popped in the brand new Smokey and the Bandit Blu-ray that I got for Christmas last night, I probably wouldn’t have written the post that I did. Sure I might have felt better, but I would never have known the joy of being recognized for my writing. Well except for that one award I got several years ago for my ability to write quality porn for a now defunct web site.

They Don’t Make Movies Like That Any More

When I was a kid movies were a big part of my life. Mom took me to a lot of movies, I saw a lot of advertisements in the morning paper, and I caught tons of trailers on TV or in front of the movies we went to see. I don’t go to as many movies these days partly due to high prices and partly because I work 6 days a week. Newspapers don’t have the big ads any longer. Most of the ads, if there are any ads, either only list the movies by title or they list the theater’s web site. The only thing that has remained constant is that they still run trailers on TV and in front of the movies. Of course these days they also run trailers on the front of DVDs and on the Internet.

As much as the advertising of movies has changed, the types of movies they make have changed as well. When I was a kid there were several types of movies that were very popular that have almost all but disappeared these days.

1. The Car Chase Movie
The drive-ins and theaters were filled with these for several years. The classic formula was evident in films like The Gumball Rally, The Cannonball Run, Eat My Dust, and Vanishing Point. Some car chase movies tried to add a little more in the way of plot elements and took out some of the cars. This led to films like Smokey and the Bandit, Death Race 2000, and Race with the Devil.

There have been a few recent car chase movies, but they don’t have the heart that these movies had. The Fast & The Furious is more about showing off the cars rather than any actual sustained chase. The Death Race remake was more a Nascar version of a car chase movie.

2. Nature Documentaries
It seemed like every month there was a new nature documentary when I was a kid. Most of them were extremely low-budget and produced by some small independent company. Many of them were “four wall” pictures where the distributer would rent the theater (all four walls) for two or three weeks and keep all the ticket receipts while the exhibitor kept all the concession sales. These films were always advertised as being in town for “One Week Only!” until the week was over and then it was “Held Over For One More Week!”. Keep in mind the distributer and the exhibitor already knew that the theater had been rented out for that second week before the first day the picture opened. Films like this included Cougar Country, North Country, The Outdoorsman, and The Ra Expedition. The only recent examples that I can recall are March of the Penguins and a couple of Disney films. Of course Disney made plenty of these films back then as well. They called them True-Life Adventures and had titles like The Living Desert, The Vanishing Prairie, and The African Lion.

3. Sexploitation Films
These were a staple of the drive-ins of my youth. There were movies about stewardesses, cheerleaders, teachers, and in a subgenre all to themselves, women in prison. There was a wonderful book written about these films a few years back and Something Weird Video has rescued many of these films from obscurity and released them on DVD. I watched the Harry Novak classic The Pig Keeper’s Daughter on one of their double feature DVDs a few years ago. These movies weren’t much on plot or acting. There was the flimsiest of plots to keep the story moving, but there was always lots and lots of full frontal female nudity. The closest thing we have these days are made for cable or direct to video stinkers where the women are as plastic as the Mego action figures I grew up with. At least in the days of the drive-in they used real natural women.

The Greatest Day Of The Week

From the time I was a little kid until my teen years Saturday was the greatest day of the week. As a kid there were Saturday morning cartoons to start the day and Chiller theater to close it out. Later on Saturday evenings gave way to Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Saturday Night Live. There were other fun things sandwiched between the cartoons and late night tv, but the shows were the items that sat the tone for my day.

If I got up early enough on Saturday the stations had old episodes of Lassie, Skippy, and Daktari. If I got up too early there was the farm report or a test pattern. Neither of those interested me, but I loved the old Ivan Tors animal shows and Lassie was okay as well. A little later in the day the Saturday morning cartoons would start. Most of these were just that; cartoons. Live action Saturday morning fare was much less common. The big and possibly only exception to this rule was Sid and Marty Krofft… oh and the Hudson Brothers.

Recently I picked up season one and three of Land of the Lost on eBay for about $3 each. I already had the second season, so this completed the original series from my childhood. There was a reboot of the series in 1991 which my son watched, although he swears he only remembers watching the show on Nickelodeon. I never really warmed up to the reboot, and the theme song was nowhere near as catchy, but I loved the original 1974 version. It was one of the shows I hated to miss. The show I practically refused to miss was Return to the Planet of the Apes. I remember Mom had made a doctor’s appointment for me one week during the time Return to the Planet of the Apes was airing and I was extremely vocal about my disappointment in missing it. To Mom’s credit she didn’t smack my ass and tell me deal with it, she tried to reassure me that I could catch it on a repeat. Sadly it was cancelled and that episode never was repeated. I now have the whole series on DVD, but after 37 years I’ve forgotten what the storyline even was in the episode I missed. One day I just need to sit down and watch the whole series from start to finish. It only ran for 13 episodes, so that should be about 6 hours or less.

There were a plethora of fun shows on Saturday mornings during those years, but Chiller theater became more important to me toward the end of grade school. I was a huge fan and regular reader of Famous Monsters of Filmland, Castle of Frankenstein and The Monster Times. My fondest wish was to try and see all the classic monster movies. Every once in a while I would get lucky and find one of the Mummy movies or the Wolf Man, but usually it was B grade fare like Monster on Campus, The Monolith Monsters or The Indestructible Man. I still watched them, but I yearned for Frankenstein, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, or Godzilla.

As I entered fourth grade, I discovered Monty Python and British comedies. I would stay up until 11 PM waiting for the new Python episode. Python had a completely different sense of humor and I loved it. It also had occasional nudity which was another plus. The first episode I remember watching featured the skit Blackmail, where a game show host played video footage, showed pictures, or read partial lists of information about an illicit tryst in order to blackmail the guilty parties into paying him money.

Saturdays changed forever once our local NBC affiliate finally picked up Saturday Night Live. They didn’t carry it during the first season or two, opting instead for episodes of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman. My nephews had been watching it from the first episode and I got to see one episode when we were visiting them (for the record it was the one hosted by Hugh Hefner). I watched SNL up until the early part of the sixth season. I caught a few sporadic episodes over the next five years, but didn’t really start watching again until the 11th season which was probably one of the worst seasons in the show’s history. I gave up on it again until season 14 and then watched it religiously for several years.

These days Saturday mornings don’t even play that many cartoons. Most of the ones they do play are not exclusive to Saturday mornings either. And of course unlike in those days of yore, Saturday morning is not the only place you can find cartoons on tv. There is Cartoon Network, Toon Disney, Boomerang, and many other channels carrying nothing but animated programming. Chiller theater is long gone, but the classic monster movies are almost all available on Blu-ray or DVD. The only thing missing is a DVD of our syndicated horror host, Seymour. The entire series of Monty Python’s Flying Circus is available as are the first five seasons of SNL. I still wish the other seasons of SNL were available, and I would also love a region 1 release of The Goodies which I also watched on PBS during that same time period.

The other big change is that now I don’t get up early enough to watch whatever the stations are showing, and I’m at work usually when SNL is on. I set my DVR for it if for no other reason than to catch Weekend Updates or the occasional on air flub (thank you, Jenny Slate).

DVD review: Tosh.0 Deep V’s

Tosh.0 Deep V’s is a 2 disc Blu-ray containing 16 episodes from season two of Tosh.0. I have trouble finding time to watch a lot of tv and when I do have time, my legs usually end up cramping on me and I have to give up. That’s why I split watching this Blu-ray into 4 sessions. I watched the first six episodes one night. Several days later I picked up and watched the next four episodes, finishing out the first disc. A few nights later I popped in disc 2 and watched the last 6 episodes. Finally I sat down and polished off the bonus features.

Tosh.0 is a series that airs on Comedy Central and stars stand up comic Daniel Tosh. Daniel shows videos from the Internet and makes jokes about them. The format is usually to open with about six different clips. One of them he usually has a filmed skit to go along with (usually a “re-enactment” of one of the videos. One clip he will have them put 20 seconds on the clock and see how many funny comments he can make. The last clip will usually be given the “video breakdown” where he analyzes it, pausing it several times along the way. Then it’s time for a commercial break so he gives us a teaser and then shows one more quick clip. After the break, he shows another video. This one he will bring the “star” of the clip out to Hollywood for a “Web Redemption”. In the early episodes, the clips were usually of someone screwing something up, so he would recreate the event and give them the chance to get it right. Later ones may only consist of him interviewing the person and doing some sort of skit around the premise of the video. This disc had several of both. After the redemption it’s time for another commercial break which he prefaces by saying, “We’ll be right back with more…” and then naming a cancelled Comedy Central series. Coming back from the break he will usually do something related to his audience, a previous show, a challenge, or something that he has discovered on the web. One episode had him doing “Things you should never run into a room and yell”. A few episodes later he showed videos his viewers had made using the same idea. Another segment is the viewer video of the week. This is supposed to be a video uploaded to his blog by his fans. Some of them are funny. Some of them are cute. Some of them are pure crap. Usually he will have a few comments which will often make the crappy videos tolerable. A prime example of this is a video of an older asian lady doing what looks like martial arts warm up exercises.

Deep V’s contains the last 16 episodes of season two. This is where the show really started to find its voice. I have watched all three of the DVD sets and there is definitely a more relaxed feeling in the season two episodes. The early episodes had a more rigid feel to them and they also had the usually horrible celebrity videos. The one with Dave Attell was amusing but still a little too long, but the one with Fred Willard was just a bad joke stretched past the point where any humor could be milked out of it. Side note; when is someone going to release full season sets of Insomniac? I have the two “Best Of” collections, but I want them all! Comedy Central could make this happen, but if they won’t Shout Factory needs to jump in for us.

The bonus features are all just extended bits from usually the Web Redemption segments. I find these to be interesting, and the expanded panel with the “world’s worst stand up comic” managed to be both funny and informative. An additional bonus feature was the Spoiler Alert segment on Human Centipede. Spoiler Alert has only appeared twice in these episodes. It is not a regular feature. This particular spoiler alert was the full 23 minute retelling of The Human Centipede. If you haven’t seen The Human Centipede, let me just say that it is not as disgusting as I expected it to be, a feeling Daniel seems to share. If you have seen it and enjoyed it even a smidgen, then you have to go online and watch Human Centipede The Musical. A comedy troupe took the Centipede story and performed on stage a musical comedy version of it. It is wonderful.

Tosh.0 Deep V’s is definitely entertaining if you like the show. I wish they had released the episodes in order, but unfortunately the 16 episodes between Hoodies and Deep V’s are on volume 3 Cardigans Plus Casual Jackets which is a Wal-Mart exclusive available only on DVD. I would also loved to have had some more behind the scenes bonus footage and a commentary track or two would have been nice. I’d also like it if they offered non-pixelated versions of the clips. The language has been uncensored for the DVD release, but nudity is still blurred out. Give us the uncensored nudity as a bonus feature.