Thursday, April 29, 2010


There are some actors that transcend acting and so become the musician that they are portraying that afterward when I think of the musician, I always see the actor's face also. This is certainly the case with Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter. Whenever I think of Loretta Lynn, I also have a mental picture of Sissy Spacek, the same as with Buddy Holly/Gary Busey, Johnny Cash/Joaquin Phoenix, and Tina Turner/Angela Bassett.

Loretta Lynn personally chose Sissy to portray her in Coal Miner's Daugter after seeing a photo of Sissy. Loretta wasn't even that familiar with Sissy's acting roles. Sissy Spacek was reluctant to take the role, so she insisted on doing her own singing, hoping that this would deter the producers from casting her. The result was that Sissy doing her own singing is one of the things that made this movie great and probably helped her win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Loretta.

Loretta's father was portrayed by Levon Helm of The Band. This was Levon's first acting role in a major motion picture and he perfectly captures the downtrodden coal miner trying to do the best for his family and trying to look out for his daughter. Levon has only done a handful of roles over the course of his acting career, but everything I have ever seen him in, he was able to fit himself in the role perfectly. I assume that Levon is just a natural when it comes to acting.

Beverly D'Angelo (pre National Lampoon's Vacation movies) plays Patsy Cline, Loretta's friend and mentor. Beverly nails the part, unlike Jessica Lange who five years later would play Patsy in Sweet Dreams (see review here). Beverly, like Sissy did her own singing. The director did add a lot of strings to the background music when Beverly/Patsy is performing at the Grand Ole Opry and as you can see from the above photo, there's not a big string section of violins/fiddles on stage.

Ernest Tubb and Minnie Pearl have cameo parts in the movie and featured in small roles are Merle Kilgore as Cowboy at Tootsies, Vernon Oxford as Preacher and Billy Strange as Speedy West.

Coal Miner's Daughter had to condense a major chunk of Loretta's life into just a little over two hours and did a fine job of accomplishing that task. I would recommend this movie to anyone who has an interest in Country Music, Biopics, or would just like to know more about the Country Music Legend that is Loretta Lynn.

Monday, April 26, 2010


Robbie Robertson not only stars in Carny, but was also the co-writer and producer of the movie. I understand he wasn't happy with the movie when it was finished, because he said that the movie didn't follow the script. Hard to imagine the script could have been even better, since Carny provides us with such a great story as it is. But it must have really soured him on acting, since he didn't appear in another acting role until 1995 with Jack Nicholson in "The Crossing Guard". Too bad since Robbie really nailed his part in Carny.

Robbie Robertson and Gary Busey are two pals who run the "Dunk The Bozo" booth and Robbie also handles other jobs around the midway. Gary Busey meets Jody Foster and convinces her to leave home and travel with him. This creates some tension between the two pals, but she eventually finds out that there is no coming between these two. Jody eventually becomes a "carny" herself, after she helps save the carnival from getting shut down in the twist ending to the movie.

The actual carnival in Carny was a lot like the Fairs that I remember from my youth, with the rides, the games, the sideshows, and of course the girlie shows. Adding to the realism of Carny was having the carnies give each other secret signs (signs that the audience really wasn't even let in on completely) plus the obvious use of a real carnival with real carnies and sideshow people. Adding to all of these good elements was a supporting cast that included Fred Ward, Meg Foster, Elisha Cook Jr., Kenneth McMillan, Tim Thomerson, and Craig Wasson.

But the one thing that you will remember long after watching Carny is Gary Busey's performance as Frankie The Dunk Tank Bozo. He really became The Bozo, the same way he was able to become Buddy Holly two years earlier in "The Buddy Holly Story". This is definitely the "Bozo" that I remember from my youth. The dunk tank was always set off a little from the main midway and the Bozo said anything he could to get under the skin of the ball throwers. Guess some of this wouldn't go over in today's politically correct society.

Carny has been out of print, but you can currently buy it from TCM from their Vault Collection (please note it's cheaper from TCM than Amazon). Also be aware that there is another movie title "Carny" starring Lou Diamond Phillips that has NOTHING to do with this movie.

Sunday, April 25, 2010


This is probably the best dark comedy, with a little pathos thrown in, about stealing a dead musician's body that you will ever see.

First off you must understand that this is NOT a movie about the influential Country-Rock artist, Gram Parsons (Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers). Grand Theft Parsons is a movie about Gram Parson's road manager Phil Kaufman's attempt to steal Gram's body and cremate it in Joshua Tree National Park. This is a pact that the two of them had made with each other. This movie takes a comic look at the whole fiasco.

Johnny Knoxville stars as Phil Kaufman. I'm no Johnny Knoxville fan, but he does a fine job of acting in this movie and his character seems believable from start to finish. Along for the ride is an unsuspecting hippie (Michael Shannon) who has a hearse he rents out and who thinks he's transporting an empty coffin. Chasing Knoxville and Shannon are the cops, Gram's father (Robert Forster) , Knoxville's girlfriend (Marley Shelton), and Gram's ex-wife (Christina Applegate), who needs a death certificate so she can try to get any funds or future funds owed to Gram.

The movie contains a great many chuckles and a few laugh out loud moments (most of the latter with Michael Shannon's character). Robert Forster as the father brings some sadness to the movie as he's wanting to bring his estranged son's body back to New Orleans for burial. In real life, Gram's father was already dead and his stepfather was wanting the body back in New Orleans for estate purposes. Chistina is very good in her part, as the wild-eyed ex trying to get what she thinks is rightfully hers.

Most of the songs heard on the movie soundtrack are Gram Parson songs and most of the other songs fit well within the movie. The exception was the Bruce Springsteen song "Blood Brothers". It was jarring to hear his voice in a period movie and it just seemed out of place.

Near the end of the movie, the real Phil Kaufman makes a cameo on the steps of the courthouse. Also stay tuned through the end credits until the very end, you will get to hear Roger Alan Wade's uncredited song "Rhinestones In The Ashes", his tribute song about Gram Parsons

Besides the trailer for Grand Theft Parsons below, I have also include the trailer for the documentary Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel

Friday, April 23, 2010


I had read about this movie previously and most reviews were very negative. I was surprised to find a fairly decent B movie.

Steve Allen plays Steve Macinter a college sociology professor who is doing a survey on what the young people think of different values in their current society. He first runs into trouble when one of his students, Sally Blake comes home late and pins the blame on Steve. Actually, she has been out late with her boyfriend Marvin (Conway Twitty). After this incident, things start to snowball when it is revealed that Steve's survey contains questions about S-E-X.

Local reporter Betty Duquesne (Jayne Meadows) investigates Steve and is almost convinced that his survey is innocent; until she's at a party with Steve and his students. At the party Steve shows home movies he made of the students and the last part of the home movie appears to show people in the nude (it's later revealed that it's people in body stockings). This last incident leads to Steve being put on trial by the local magistrate, Sam Grover (Mickey Shaughnessy) and brings into town a whole host of real life newspeople (Walter Winchell, Sheila Graham, Earl Wilson) to cover the trial.

I won't spoil the ending of the movie, except to say that it's pretty cliched. However, the ending does let Steve give an impassioned speech about closed-minded people. Getting to this speech seems like it was the main point of College Confidential. The speech made me like the movie a little better, since it used the word "mores" and I really wasn't expecting this in a B movie (Can you tell I was a Sociology Major!). I wonder what the people that originally saw this in theaters in 1960 thought about this high falutin' speech! For all I know, audiences may have been smarter in 1960.

Steve and Jayne are both only fair actors, but it is amusing to see that whenever they are alone in the movie, their lines appear to be ad libbed, even having Jayne call Steve "Allen" at one point (it's during the kitchen scene). I'm assuming she must have used that as a nickname for Steve in real life. The best actors in the movie are Elisha Cook Jr as Mamie Van Doren's father and Mickey Shaughnessy. Actually Shaughnessy's acting is way above everyone else's in this movie, even if his final scene strays a little bit into overacting.

The real reason I watched this movie was to see Conway Twitty. This was one of only two movies that Conway appeared in as an actor, the other being "Platinum High School". Conway's two brief appearances in the movie shows him to be adquate in the role of the "bad boy"; plus he gets to sing the title song "College Confidential" at the professor's party

The only other musician of note in the movie, besides Conway and Steve Allen, was Randy Sparks, who later founded the New Christy Minstrels. Randy Sparks along with Conway and Steve Allen wrote the songs for the movie and Randy also gets to sing a song during the movie.

College Confidential also includes its own inside joke. As Sally Blake (who is played by Mamie Van Doren) is taking the stand to testify, the radio commentator describes her as a "Mamie Van Doren type".

College Confidential is currently out of print. I happened to catch it on a late night TCM Underground showing. If they happen to show it again and you're a Conway Twitty fan or a fan of 1960s Teen Movies, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Video below has the trailer for College Confidential and also includes the trailer for another Mamie Van Doren Movie: The Girl In Black Stockings.

Monday, April 19, 2010


This movie is also known as "Door-To-Door Maniac" and "Last Blood"; however, Five Minutes To Live is the original title that it was released under in 1961.

Vic Tayback is the brains behind a bank robbery. He'll go to the bank while Johnny Cash holds a bank manager's wife hostage. If Vic doesn't call every five minutes, Johnny is to kill the wife and cut out. The only hitch in the plan is that the crooks don't know that the bank manager is getting ready to run off with another woman.

Five Minutes To Live was Johnny Cash's big screen debut and while he wasn't the greatest of actors, he had enough raw talent to make you believe that he really was a psychotic killer.

The real surprise was Merle Travis as a local two-bit thug, who would like to hang with the big guys. He's shows just the right amount of nervousness and and backwardness in his character that makes for a great performance.

Five Minutes To Live bogs down a little near the middle, when the writer or director appears to be trying to make a statement about suburbia. They have Johnny and Vic talking about how dull things are in the burbs as the movie cuts to the family inside the home and and we get a glimpse of their dull everyday life. In a way, I guess the director/writer got their point across, since his is the dullest part of Five Minutes To Live. Thankfully it doesn't last that long.

The oddest part of the movie is when Johnny Cash, who has gotten into the home pretending to be a door to door guitar course salesman, sings the title song while holding the wife hostage.

There's a lot of cool lines in Five Minutes To Live and Johnny gets most of them, from "I like a messy bed" to my favorite "I guess you gals are all alike.....once Johnny steps on your starter"

Five Minutes To Live is far from a great movie, but it was a pretty good movie, even though it's obvious that it was filmed on a shoestring budget. It was well worth my time (80 minutes) to see Johnny Cash as a cool sadistic killer, plus finding out that Merle Travis had the makings of a great actor was just icing on the cake.

For a more in depth look at Five Minutes To Live, I would recommend you check out The Lightning Bug's Lair Review: CLICK HERE

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


This movie is long out of print and never officially released on DVD. I say officially, since every bootlegger seems to have a copy for sale. Luckily, I taped mine off HBO many years ago and have watched it several times over the years.

American Hot Wax revolves around Alan Freed (Tim McIntire) just before the payola scandal and his last live Rock 'n' Roll Show at The Paramount Theatre.

Tim McIntire doesn't really look like Alan Freed, but he occupies his role so completely, you will believe that he is Alan Freed. As a matter of fact, every actor in American Hot Wax is good and this includes a cast as diverse as Jay Leno as Freed's driver, Fran Drescher as Freed's secretary, Laraine Newman as a sort of Carole King/Ellie Greenwich character, Jeff Altman as a music manager, and Richard Perry as a record producer.

One of the stand out actors, besides McIntire is Moosie Drier as Artie, the head of the Buddy Holly Fan Club. He has the most touching scene in the movie when he's talking to Freed about Holly. I found a clip (with Spanish subtitles) that I am including below.

American Hot Wax is a "busy" movie, there's people moving and talking and music playing almost from start to finish. This creates a feeling of excitement in the viewer that goes well with the rock 'n' roll soundtrack. Robert Altman has nothing on the director of American Hot Wax, Floyd Mutrux, when it comes to handling multiple characters at the same time.

While Floyd Mutrux may not be a well known name, he is well known among movie cultists. Not only did he direct American Hot Wax, but he also directed the cult movies "Aloha Bobby and Rose" and "The Hollywood Knights" plus IMDB shows him as an uncredited writer on "Two Lane Blacktop"

Besides all of the background music in American Hot Wax, the movie also contains performances by Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Frankie Ford.

American Hot Wax is not historically accurate and if you view the movie trying to put people, songs, and places into correct chronological order, you're going to be disappointed. However, if you want to watch a movie that will give you the feel and excitement of 1950s rock, then American Hot Wax is for you.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


While Meatloaf and his best friend Gailard Sartain are delivering Shiner Beer, they find an RV that has broken down. Meatloaf is good at fixing anything, so he repairs the RV and agrees to drive it to its destination, which happens to be Hank Williams Jr's gig at a honky tonk. This leads to Meatloaf becoming a roadie for Mohammed Johnson's (Don Cornelius) Rock and Roll Circus Tour. Part of the reason Meatloaf goes for the job is to be with Kaki Hunter, who is saving her virginity to become an Alice Cooper groupie. That's pretty much the plot of Roadie.

Roadie was made in 1980, when you could have a cast as diverse as Art Carney playing Meat's dad, Gailard Sartain playing his best friend, Alice Cooper and Deborah Harry playing themselves, Blondie fighting a group of midgets from a band known as Snow White and Don Cornelius playing a rock promoter and somehow having all of this work to make a very enjoyable movie. You're not going to have many laugh out loud moments while watching Roadie, but most of the time the movie should keep a smile on your face.

For some reason the dvd box cover has absolutely nothing to do with the movie, I guess some marketing genius thought that it would really make the movie sell. Must not have worked, since I got my copy at Big Lots for $3.00 and I see Amazon sells it for $3.98.

Some of my favorite things in Roadie were Roy Orbison giving his growl from "Pretty Woman" in a bar when (duh!) a pretty woman walks by; Roy and Hank Jr doing a duet; Blondie doing "Ring of Fire"; cameos by Merle Kilgore and Ramblin Jack Elliott (don't blink or you'll miss him) ; and musical performances by Alice Cooper, Asleep At The Wheel and Alvin Crow and The Pleasant Valley Boys.

There's a couple of lines in the movie that stayed stuck in my brain long after I had watched Roadie. One was Meatloaf working on equipment and telling someone "Get me 2 beers and a hubcap...I need a Ford" and when Meat tells Kiki he doesn't know who Alice Cooper is , she replys "Don't you read T-shirts?"

Sunday, April 4, 2010


Three girls from New Jersey set their sites on going to New York to see The Beatles who are going to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Pam (Nancy Allen) wants to go to bed with one of The Beatles as her last fling before getting married. Grace (Theresa Saldana) wants to get some photos of The Beatles to start a career as a photographer and Rosie (Wendie Jo Sperber) just wants to see The Beatles, she's the representative of the pure fan.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand was Robert Zemeckis's (Back To The Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump) debut directorial effort. And he only got the chance because Steven Spielberg promised to step in and take over the directing if the movie wasn't going so good. Zemeckis also co-wrote the script.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand really captures the essence of Beatlemania Hysteria. All of the actors are believable with only Eddie Deezen, sometimes being a little over the top. The scene with Nancy Allen and her "love attack" on The Beatles hotel room is one you won't easily forget, especially between her and Paul's bass guitar. I won't say anymore about it since I don't want to give too much away.

The real standout among the cast is Wendie Jo Sperber, she really makes you believe that she is one more rabid Beatles fan. I was sad to find that she had died in 2005, but at least we have her portrayal of Rosie in I Wanna Hold Your Hand on film to treasure for years to come.

There's different little references to Beatles songs throughout the movie, but my favorite is that over and over many of the characters say "Yeah Yeah Yeah".
All the songs on the soundtrack are Beatles songs and the movie is able to have The Beatles in I Wanna Hold Your Hand, without actually having them in the movie, an example of which I'm including below

Saturday, April 3, 2010


I first saw Lady Sings The Blues many years ago and remembered it as being a really good movie. Re-watching it recently, it seems that the passing of years has changed how I feel about it.

Lady Sings The Blues plays more like a TV movie. There's a presumed rape (by Scatman Crothers), but it takes place off screen. There's drug use, but we don't see actual drug use, it takes place off screen. Even the death of Billie Holiday's mother takes place off screen. It's like the director or more likely Motown, wanted to shield the audience and make a cleaner, neater movie than really could be made out of the real life story of Billie Holiday.

Speaking of drug use, the first couple of times the movie leads us to believe that each time that Billie Holiday experiences racism, she turns to drugs. Only the last bout of drug use in the movie is shown to be recreational. Trying to hit the viewer over the head about how terrible racism is and then having, for the most part, the rest of the movie showing us Whites and Blacks intermingling and treating each other as equals causes a perplexing juxtaposition of ideas.

At no time while watching Lady Sings The Blues did I feel like I was experiencing the real characters, I always felt that I was just watching people playing at their parts. I was really surprised when I realized that Diana Ross was nominated for an Oscar for her role as Billie Holiday. Diana Ross is a great singer, but it's a real stretch to call her more than an adequate actress.

Lady Sings The Blues really had a hard time deciding what it wanted to be about: Billie Holiday's life struggle for success, her love life, or her drug life. It seemed to meander from one thing to the next and back again.

At a running time of 2 hours and 14 minutes, it could have easily been cut to 2 hours; since the very last part of the movie moves Richard Pryor from a background supporting player to a main player in the movie in order to kill him off. This just seemed very odd to me.

I don't really care that most of the facts in the movie are wrong or jumbled out of place in Billie Holiday's life; since the movie is entertaining, just more on the level of a movie of the week or a Lifetime movie. I don't really care that Diana Ross doesn't sound or look anything like Billie Holiday. I don't really care that the movie makes it appear that Billie Holiday wrote "Strange Fruit" after conveniently getting off a bus to use the bathroom in the woods and running straight into a couple of lynch victims hanging from a tree. I mainly don't care about these things, because Lady Sings The Blues never really made me care about any of the characters in the movie.

Couple of videos below, one of Diana Ross and one of Billie Holiday both singing "Good Morning Heartache"