Saturday, February 20, 2016

NORTHERN SOUL
LIVING FOR THE WEEKEND


The term for a certain type of music called Northern Soul is hard for me to grasp. In an effort to understand it better, I watched this BBC documentary. After viewing this special, I came away with the following definition of Northern Soul: Motown Sound, but not on the Motown Label , plus obscure Soul Music on obscure labels. 



Just like Carolina Beach Music songs, which often cross paths with Northern Soul songs, this allows for a wide variety of music. Carolina Beach Music however, has to have a certain rhythm for the Shag Dancers. I could not distinguish any certain beat in Northern Soul. And while the male partner in Shag dancing has the most ornate footwork, the Northern Soul dancer (male or female) many times doesn't even require a partner.



Living For The Weekend draws a direct line from The Mods of London to Northern Soul to Disco to House Music and ends up with Pharrel Williams and his song "Happy" fitting into the mold of Northern Soul. Do I know exactly what Northern Soul is after watching this documentary....no I don't and I don't think I ever will, but I do have a slight understanding of the phenomena that I didn't have before.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

SEASIDE SWINGERS aka EVERY DAY'S A HOLIDAY


If you only have time to see one mid 60s movie built around an English band who aren't The Beatles, please don't let it be Seaside Swingers. Pick Ferry Across The Mersey with Gerry and The Pacemakers or Having A Wild Weekend with Dave Clark Five or even The Ghost Goes Gear with The Spencer Davis Group, but unless you're really want to be bored to tears,  don't let it be Seaside Swingers.



The main reason Seaside Swingers is so bad, compared to those other films, is that it isn't built around Freddie and The Dreamers, even though the movie poster would lead you to believe otherwise. Instead, it's light romantic musical comedy, which includes several dance numbers in the style of Oklahoma or Seven Brides For Seven Brothers. Freddie and The Dreamers are only featured in minor roles as goofy cooks. Since Freddie & the Dreamers were a minor British Invasion band, I guess in a way that's appropriate. In Seaside Swingers, they perform one absolutely terrible song and then during a talent show, they sing another song, which is just barely listenable. I still think Freddie & The Dreamers could have carried a move (and certainly a better one than this), IF they had a script written around them. 


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

MASKED and ANONYMOUS


This was my second time watching Masked and Anonymous. On my first viewing it didn't seem to be as bad as some critics had made it out to be, but after a second viewing I have to agree, it's pretty darn bad. Written by Larry Charles and Bob Dylan (using the pen name Sergei Petrov) the dialogue is heavy-handed and juvenile trying to deliver "important messages".  Dylan's acting is so bad, that even though he's basically just playing himself, he can't seem to pull that off. Bob surrounded himself with a great bunch of actors, all working for scale in order to be in a film with Bob Dylan. Unfortunately, having a great cast of good actors just made Dylan look even worse.


The plot, such as it is: In a dystopian future Jack Fate (Dylan) is in prison, but is released to do a benefit performance. As Dylan proceeds to the concert site and prepares for the show, we meet a variety of characters, all played, for the most part by famous actors. Dylan sings several songs (the oddest of which, to me, was "Dixie") and the soundtrack provides more Dylan tunes covered by different artists. As noted above, this movie seemed to be striving, but definitely not succeeding, in providing some message about politics, or society, or Dylan himself. Your guess is as good as mine.


Most days I'm a Dylan fan (probably why I didn't think this film was so bad on my first viewing), but I consider this movie to be one of the lower points in his career, even worse than his Christmas album and his Sinatra covers album. If you want to see Dylan in a movie, I would recommend "Pat Garrett and Billy The Kid", where Dylan actually acts,  or even the laughably bad Hearts of Fire, which is still better than Masked and Anonymous.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

CULT of THE DAMNED
aka ANGEL ANGEL DOWN WE GO


I have an obsession with AIP (American International Pictures) and had never seen a movie from AIP  that didn't entertain me in some way or the other, either in my youth or now in my AARP years, until Cult of The Damned destroyed that axiom. Not only is this the worst AIP movie I've seen, it's also one of the worse films I've ever seen. One bright thing about the film is Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann composed the songs, so at least there are a few decent tunes in the movie. Released originally under the title Angel Angel Down We Go, a year later it became Cult of The Damned to capitalize on the Manson murders (yeah, Hollywood, what a way to show your sympathy....or maybe you were showing your sympathy......for The Devil!)



The plot (and I use that word loosely) follows Tara (Holly Near), the overweight daughter of one of the richest families in the world. Her parents hire a rock band for her coming out party. The lead singer, Jordan Christopher doing his best Jim Morrison impression, plays rock star Bogart Peter Stuyvesant, the charismatic leader of the band (which also features Lou Rawls).



Jennifer Jones is cast as Holly's gold digging mother. It seems mother was a porn star in her former life. Her father is rich and gay. Eventually, Christopher seduces Holly Near, Jennifer Jones, AND the father. For any of you fans of Holly Near, who have always ached to see her naked, this is the movie for you. There's a lot of talking in this film (and that includes piles of bad dialogue), but the main problem with the movie is the director tried to make so many "arty" shots that it just made a mess of the whole film. I'm sure at the time (1969), the director thought he was sending a "heavy" message. The only thing that got heavy with me was my eyes, which kept wanting to close and not watch this piece of crap.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

MYSTERY TRAIN


Mystery Train is one of my top ten favorite movies (actually, there's 11 on the list). Those are the movies I can watch over and over. Films make it onto my list for a variety of reasons, but all of them speak to me personally on some level.  Having said that, I can't quite get a grasp on why this movie speaks to me. Is it the specter of Elvis and his music that looms over the whole production or is it something else? I really can't decide, but there's something in Mystery Train that makes me want to watch it again and again.



Mystery Train is three vignettes, all tied together by one cheap hotel on the wrong side of the tracks in Memphis. The first story is about a couple of young Japanese tourists, who are exploring the music cities of the United States. The second story is about an Italian woman who is escorting her dead husband's body back home, but is stuck in Memphis for the night. The third tale is about Johnny, an Englishman, who has been nicknamed Elvis and has lost his job and girlfriend, all in one day. All of these lives intersect at the cheap hotel, although none of the main characters ever meet each other. 



During the course of the film we see several musicians, the first being Rufus Thomas at the train station, bumming a light from the Japanese tourists. The hotel the tourists check into is run by Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who is so good in his role, makes me wish he had done more acting. The final musician we see is Joe Strummer, the Englishman with the nickname Elvis. Strummer and his problems are the major plot points of the third story. If you noticed, on all these musicians I stated the word "see", and that's because Tom Waits is a disc jockey who is only heard on the radio in all three segments, but never actually appears in the film. Also, I could never be sure, but I think Clarence Gatemouth Brown is shown walking down the street; however, I can find no evidence of this being him or not being him, it may just be the cowboy hat tricking my mind.



Each episode has its own story to tell and each one can stand on its own without having to watch the other segments.  Part of the fun in watching the movie is seeing how the stories and some of the characters overlap and little details in each segment refer to other segments. Mystery Train really shows off the talent of director Jim Jarmusch.  While this is one of my favorite films, these stories slowly unfold and I would caution those who aren't into films based on characters, you might not be as enthralled as I am with Mystery Train.



Sunday, November 9, 2014

BLACK DOG


I found this on VHS at a thrift shop and couldn't believe I hadn't heard about it previously.  I was super excited to watch this film since it starred Patrick Swayze, who is one of my guilty pleasures with a trio of his movies: Dirty Dancing, Road House, and Next of Kin (overlooked in Swayze's canon of films, as good, if not better than Road House). Unfortunately, Black Dog didn't live up to my expectations, especially with Swayze doing some of his weakest acting.



The plot is about an ex-trucker pulled back on the road to haul a load of contraband to save his family from being killed. Meat Loaf plays a bad guy trying to intercept and steal the load for himself. Randy Travis is a would be country song writer, who is riding shotgun with Swayze and his motives as to which side he is on remain suspect.



While Swayze was never the greatest actor, he usually could tear up a role that called for over the top tough/sensitive guy histrionic acting. In Black Dog, Swayze's acting is weak, either he didn't have the right direction or his heart just wasn't in this film. Meat Loaf is his dependable self as the bible verse spouting bad guy, but the real revelation here is Randy Travis. He's so good that the film would have been better with Travis as the lead. Maybe the part of Earl, "a good-ole boy wanna-be country song writer", just came too easy for him, whatever it was, he is superb in his role and is the only reasson I would recommend watching Black Dog.

Monday, November 3, 2014

SCARED STIFF


Scared Stiff turned out to be a major disappointment for me. I bought this video sometime back and held off watching it until Halloween, since it was a remake of The Ghost Breakers starring Bob Hope and Paulette Goddard, which was really a great movie.



Through a series of mis-adventures, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis wind up on a boat headed for Cuba and agree to help a damsel in distress, Lizabeth Scott, with a castle she has inherited. Is the castle really haunted or is there some other reason people don't want her to assume possession? Well, you can probably guess the answer to that question.



Produced by Hal Wallis with additional dialogue provided by Ed Simmons and Norman Lear, this film looked like it would be a sure winner. While Dean Martin was good as the smooth swinging lover boy character and Jerry Lewis was probably good as the idiot character, that's where my problem lies. I just don't get Jerry Lewis (maybe I should have been born in France). I assume Lewis' man-child acting must amuse plenty of folks, the humor is just lost on me. Scared Stiff was a long drawn out unfunny film for me with only a few bright spots.
 

Dino sings a couple of tunes, as does Carmen Miranda (in this her final film) and although I really was just in a hurry to get to the end of the film, these musical interludes were better than most of the movie.  In a uncredited part,  Frank Fontaine (Crazy Guggenheim from the Jackie Gleason Show), pops up as, what else, a drunk and this is probably the best comedic scene in the film. However, the very brightest spot in Scared Stiff was a brief cameo by Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, in their few seconds on screen, they out shined Martin and Lewis by a mile.