Sunday, May 23, 2010

SECOND FIDDLE TO A STEEL GUITAR


This is sort of a strange movie. It combines character actor Arnold Stang, two of The Bowery Boys, Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey, with a line-up of top Country Music Stars of the mid 1960's.

The plot, what little of it there is, consists only to provide a reason that all of these stars are gathered together for a concert. It seems Arnold Stang loves country music, but his wife, Pamela Hayes (think Abby Dalton), is a snooty upper class Nashvillian who thinks Country Music is beneath her. She is putting on a Grand Opera Concert to raise money for charity and also to impress the upper crust of society, hoping they will find her to be one of them (she lets it slip that she was once a "farm girl").

The Grand Opera Company that was to play her benefit is stuck in New York City. It seems that they didn't have enough money to pay for their meal at a pizza joint and they're having to wash dishes to pay off this debt. Arnold's wife doesn't know what to do, but Arnold comes to the rescue, promising to get a host of Country Stars to perform a different type of opera. Exactly how Arnold is able to do this is never fully explained, but it has something to do with him being friends with Faron Young.


Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey were hired by Arnold's wife to help set up for the concert and they stay on as stagehands. This enables the movie to have them do some comic bits before and during the show. I have a lot of fondness for Hall and Gorcey, having been entertained by them many times over the years. However, in Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar, I have to say that they were the weakest part of the the movie. They both seemed to be trying a little too hard to be a couple of stooges and their comic bits seemed way over the top and forced. What a shame, especially considering that this was Gorcey's last movie appearance.

The line up of Country Stars appearing: Little Jimmy Dickens, Carl and Pearl Butler, Lefty Frizzell, Bill Monroe and The Bluegrass Boys, Dottie West, George Hamilton IV, Pete Drake, Sonny James, Minnie Pearl, Billy Walker, Connie Smith, Homer and Jethro, Johnny Wright, Kitty Wells, Del Reeves, Faron Young, and Webb Pierce.


All the Country Stars perform two songs, with the exception of Dottie West, Connie Smith, and Pete Drake, who only perform one song each. Merle Kilgore emcees the show, mostly off-stage. I'm willing to bet that Merle wasn't in attendance while they were shooting most of the song performances, since he only appears on-stage during the last quarter of the movie. Also, Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey's scenes all appear to have be shot in a different location, since they too never make an on-stage appearance.


Of course the show is a smash and Arnold's wife is going to go out for a bow. She wants Arnold to be there with her, but she says she first has to go change. She reappears dressed "country style" and when she is on stage she talks to Faron Young, almost like he's her husband, and Arnold is nowhere to been seen. I'm guessing his filming schedule was over and he was long gone.

Second Fiddle to A Steel Guitar was the only movie that Victor Duncan directed; the only movie that Seymour D. Rothman ever wrote, and the only movie that Pamela Hayes ever appeared in. Odd in the case of Ms. Hayes, considering she was good in her role. Not very odd for Rothman considering the badly written brief script (which could have had something to do with Huntz and Gorcey being so bad). And certainly not odd for Duncan considering the terrible direction. The movie appears to have been shot using only one camera. Most of the time the camera holds back for wide shots only. When they do decide to move in for a closer shot, over and over again, they shoot the wrong person singing or shoot someone's face when they should be shooting their guitar playing. A movie with just all wide shots isn't very appealing, but considering what happened anytime they tried a close-up, maybe only wide shots would have been a better choice.


When you watch Second Fiddle To A Steel Guitar, you will probably have your own favorites. The performances I enjoyed most were: Carl and Pearl Butler, they were a strange looking pair, but enormously talented; Pete Drake and His Talking Steel Guitar (remember this was pre-Frampton and Joe Walsh); Homer and Jethro, the original Weird Al's; Johnny Wright, who appeared to really enjoy performing and appears a second time backing up his wife, Kitty Wells; Del Reeves, who for his second song mimics Walter Brennan and Johnny Cash; and someone I had forgotten how good he was, Faron Young.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

FAR OUT MUNSTERS


The Munsters, season 1, episode 26: Far Out Munsters, original air date March 18, 1965.

Eddie (Bruce Patrick) brings home a new record and the whole family wants to hear it. They all think it's really bad, so bad that smoke comes out of Grandpa's (Al Lewis) ears. Eddie tells them it's The Standells and they're coming to town for a concert and he wishes he could see them live.

As a side note: Bruce Patrick in 1983 formed a band called Eddie and The Monsters and their single "Whatever Happened To Eddie" (third video at end of this post) became a hit on The Dr. Demento Show. He also worked with MTV on creating the show "The Basement Tapes".


Cut to an office and The Standells are telling their agent they're glad they're getting $8,000 for a one night gig, but not to book them into a hotel. They want to rent a mansion, but their agent tells them they trashed the last two they stayed in and it's hard getting anyone to rent to them. They ask him to get them something on the outskirts of town and he tells them he working on a place, it's at 1313 Mockingbird Lane.


The Munster family is resistant to the idea of renting their place out, but since they need the money ($1,500) and they are promised a hotel room, they agree. We see the family loading up in The Munster Koach (aka The Munstermobile) and arriving at the hotel. Once in the room, they're not happy with it (Lily remarks the room's not even dusty) and decide to go back home.

In the meantime, The Standells have arrived at Mockingbird Lane and decide to throw a party. They arrived at Mockingbird Lane in their street clothes, but when the guests (mostly Beatnik types) arrive, The Standells have dressed in their stage outfits (mod suits, reminiscent of The Beatles) and are the entertainment at the party. They do two songs: an original "Come On and Ringo" (aka Do The Ringo) and a cover of The Beatles "I Want To Hold Your Hand".


The Munster family return home and they see The Standells performing. The family decides that they actually do like The Standells. After one of the beatnik guests recites a poem, Herman (Fred Gwynne) recites one also. Unfortunately, the next part of the episode is bad and long, Lilly (Yvonne De Carlo) sings the old folk song "He's Gone Away" and this really drags the episode down. When the party is over, The Standells and their guests leave and the house has been trashed, which of course, makes The Munsters really happy.


I always liked both The Munsters and The Addams Family, they both had a different style of comedy and could be enjoyed on different levels. Humor in The Addams family always seemed to be a little more witty and on the macabre side. The Munsters humor tended to be broader and Far Out Munsters is no exception to that rule. Also, look for a young Zalman King (Red Shoe Diaries) who is credited as "The Man with the beard". That's him in the photo above this paragraph.

Not only do The Standells get to sing the two songs noted above, but they also get to do a bit of acting throughout the episode. The Standells had already appeared on TV previously this same year on another sitcom, "The Bing Crosby Show" performing several songs, including "Come On And Ringo". After appearing on The Munsters, the following year The Standells were in a nightclub scene doing an instrumental on "Ben Casey". However, The Standells were still a couple of years away from their classic breakout garage hit "Dirty Water". Below are youtube videos of both performances - these were both taken from a Mexican broadcast of the episode.






Monday, May 17, 2010

HAVING A WILD WEEKEND
aka CATCH US IF YOU CAN

This movie was released as Catch Us If You Can in the UK and released as Having A Wild Weekend in the U.S. I first saw this movie when it had its original run in the movie theaters. I could never remember anything about it, other than the fact that I had seen it. Also, having nothing to do with this review: I once saw The Dave Clark Five live. They put on a great show and it's the only time that I've seen a drum solo that wasn't boring. Usually, when the drum solo starts, everyone would know it was time for a bathroom break. This was definitely NOT the case with Dave Clark. Now, back to the movie.

Even though the poster and the trailer (see below) both mention drama, they both play up aspects that would leave you to believe that this is a similar movie to "A Hard Day's Night". Having A Wild Weekend (HAWW) is definitely not a clone of that movie. The Dave Clark Five (DC5) obviously didn't want to copy The Beatles and do a light hearted romp starring the DC5 as themselves and they definitely succeeded with this movie.

HAWW begins with the DC5 all living together in an old church and some of the action here is definitely reminiscent of "A Hard Days Night". However, when the lads arrive at their job, we find that they are all stuntmen working on a commercial. This is interesting since Dave Clark had originally been a stuntman before teaching himself to play the drums and forming a band to raise money for his football team. This makes me assume that Dave Clark had some input into the script.


Dave Clark's character is named Steve, but all the other members of The DC5 (Mike Smith, Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, and Denis Payton) have the same names as their characters. I really didn't understand why a movie that was made basically to promote The Dave Clark Five would use a different name for the band's leader. This just seemed very strange to me, especially since all the other band members went by their own names.

The plot: At the filming of a TV commercial for "Meat For Go", Steve and Dinah,"The Butcher Girl" (Barbara Ferris in a part supposedly designed for Marianne Faithfull), have a spot where they drive off in a sports car, instead of going back for another take, they just keep going. It seems Dinah (The Butcher Girl) has her eye on an island where she can get away from it all and Steve agrees to help get her there. Dinah's agent decides to use the event for publicity and tells the media that Steve has kidnapped Dinah.

Steve and Dinah meet some interesting people on their journey. The first is a group of beatniks/hippies who having been wandering the countryside and are now hiding out in what appears to be an abandoned village. When Steve goes to get the car, he sees an army storming the place. This at first appears to be a training exercise at an abandoned village, but the army rounds up the beatnik/hippie group and carries them off at gunpoint. I never fully understood how this scene was suppose to play out. I am assuming that the makers of the movie were trying to illustrate that if you try to live free, the government/man/whatever will stop you if they can. I may also be reading too much into this scenario.


Since the army has bombed their car, Steve and Dinah set off walking. They get picked up by an older married couple who at first appear that they are going to be sexual predators, with the wife after Steve and the husband after Dinah. However, it turns out, they are actually just bored with their humdrum life and are looking for a little excitement, which they get in helping Steve and Dinah outwit everyone who is chasing them. I'm assuming this was another point the movie was trying to make about everyday life being so dull.

Steve and Dinah do finally make their destination and Dinah finds that it is a disappointment. She remarks that the journey was the important part, anyway. It's revealed that she has pulled this same type of stunt several times and was only really interested in the adventure. It appears that she has feelings for Steve, but is more than willing to go back into her own life with all the new publicity her romp has caused in the press. This appeared to be the final theme, the importance of the journey, not the destination, fitting in with the U.S. title of Having A Wild Weekend.


While HAWW was making some of its thematic points as discussed above, it would occasionally bring the rest of the DC5 into the movie. Every time they show up, the movie then turns into a light hearted romp ala "A Hard Day's Night". The juxtaposition of the seventy five per cent serious side of HAWW, coupled with these twenty five per cent lighter scenes, made for a movie that really didn't satisfy me on either level.


After seeing it again, these many years later, I can understand why I didn't remember much about HAWW. I'm sure I went to the theater thinking I was going to see a madcap British comedy featuring the DC5, not knowing that what I was really going to see was a downbeat British drama. As a matter of fact, even now, my brain wasn't really that happy watching HAWW, since I had still assumed that it was going to be a mod/pop 60s comedy; however, I found out that I was sitting through a mostly dull drama. At least the songs on the soundtrack were good!

Having A Wild Weekend is currently out of print in the U.S. It is available as a region 2 dvd from Amazon UK (if you have a region free player). I purchased my copy from a collector's site.



Saturday, May 15, 2010

HELP!




I decided I would re-watch Help because it had been so many years since I had seen it. What I found out was that I had NEVER seen Help in its entirety. I've seen different clips from the movie, but for some odd reason I had not seen Help from start to finish, no matter what I had previously thought.

At least I'm pretty sure I've seen "A Hard Day's Night" :-) You know what they say about the 60s, IF you can remember them, you weren't there!

I don't imagine I need to go over the plot, but just in case, here's a brief synopsis: Ringo has received a ring in the mail from some fans, who are part of a cult that needs the ring for a sacrificial ceremony. The cult cannot complete their sacrifice without the ring and they set out to steal it. When their attempts fail and they find that the ring is stuck on Ringo's finger, the cult decides Ringo will have to be the sacrificial victim. Along with the cult chasing after Ringo, there is also a mad scientist played by Victor Spinetti who wants the ring for its perceived power. The remainder of the movie revolves around Ringo and The Beatles being chased by this crazy assortment of characters.

The Beatles said they took their inspiration for Help from The Marx Brothers and you can definitely see that influence. There are also a lot of James Bond influences to be seen, which is understandable considering how big the Bond Movies were at the time.

I can't imagine anyone who doesn't like The Beatles or British humor not enjoying Help. The movie includes eight songs and lots of great quips, what more could you want. As for myself, I'm now going to go ponder what other movies I think I've seen, but really haven't :-)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

DETROIT ROCK CITY

Imagine an episode of "The 70s Show" that lasts 95 minutes. Now imagine that this episode wasn't written very good and the acting was below standard. What you have just imagined is Detroit Rock City. There's only a couple of good elements in this movie and I'll get to them in just a little bit.

The plot: Four guys who are in a KISS cover band have tickets to see KISS in Detroit. The overly religious mother of one of the band members finds the tickets and burns them. Then one of the guys is able to win some tickets from a radio station, but alas, he hangs up too soon and doesn't give them all of his information and so the radio station gives the tickets to someone else. Are their hopes dashed? Will they ever get to see their heroes? If you've seen more than a few movies and/or TV shows in your lifetime, you should be able to figure out the answer to that question. If you can't answer the question, then there's a good chance you'll enjoy Detroit Rock City a lot more than I did.

All four of the lead actors (Giuseppe Andrews, James DeBello, Edward Furlong, Sam Huntington) aren't really bad, they just aren't that good. James DeBello does a pretty good job of copying Jason Mewes "Jay" character from the Kevin Smith movies. The other three actors just didn't seem, to me, to be that much into their parts. Two female actors did stand out in Detroit Rock City: Melanie Lynskey(Two and a Half Men), whose character is named Beth (get it) and has a crush on Edward Furlong and Natasha Lyonne, who plays Christine, a Disco Music lover. Both of them shine in their roles in Detroit Rock City.


The second best thing about Detroit Rock City is the soundtrack songs. The majority of these songs are placed in the soundtrack so that the lyrics fit with the action that was appearing in the movie at the time. Whoever was responsible for this did an excellent job.


The best thing about Detroit Rock City is when the four guys finally get to see KISS. Even if it is only one song, KISS' performance is the highlight of the movie and will blow you away (and I'm not even a KISS fan). In a way, just as the four main protagonists are rewarded for all of the troubles they have faced and overcome on the way to the concert, I felt I finally got rewarded for sitting through the other 90 minutes of Detroit Rock City.


I watched a VHS copy of Detroit Rock City and I see that the DVD version has a commentary by Gene Simmons and telephone interviews on the same commentary track with Peter Criss, Paul Stanley, and Ace Frehley. While I'm not hankering to watch this movie again anytime soon, when and if I do, it will definitely be the DVD version.



Tuesday, May 11, 2010

THE TEMPTATIONS

This is a great two hour movie, too bad the complete running time is two and one-half hours, but we'll get to that later.

Based on Otis Williams' (the de-facto leader of the group) book "The Temptations" we get the story of one of the greatest rhythm and blues/soul groups of all time and probably the greatest group that came out of Motown. The Temptations focuses primarily on the classic line up of Otis Williams, Melvin Franklin, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks and Paul Williams.

The Temptations begins with their early days in Detroit with their two root groups "The Distants" and "The Primes" joining forces into one group. They name this new group "The Elgins", but Berry Gordy rejects that name and they change it to The Temptations. The movie then follows the ups and downs of the group until only the last surviving member (Otis Williams) is alive.

Although it's a lot of years to fit into two and half hours, The Temptations does a good job without appearing that anything is rushed or only touched on too briefly. One of the best things about the movie is that the lip sync is great. My feeling is that everyone was so familiar with these songs that it was easy to do the lip sync. The actors also copy all of the original dance moves quite well. Believe me, seeing these songs and dances recreated will have you smiling a lot while watching The Temptations.

The real standout among the actors is Leon and his portrayal of David Ruffin. Leon has also played Jackie Wilson in "The Allen Freed Story" and Little Richard in the biopic "Little Richard". The picture that we get of David Ruffin is that he had a giant ego and a giant drug problem. From what I have read both of these are true, but David Ruffin also had a giant talent and that fact comes through with bells in The Temptations. Plus, even with his problems, David Ruffins appears to be the coolest cat in the group. The scene where all of the other Temptations arrive in Cadillacs and then David Ruffin pulls up in a white Rolls Royce driven by his chauffeur will be stuck in my mind for a long time as the epitome of cool.

The Temptations also gives you a look into the well oiled machinery that was Motown Records and how a record was put together, with it not being released until Berry Gordy felt it was going to be a hit. Even the movie has a scene about The Temptations leaving Motown and signing with Atlantic and how they found out it was definitely a mistake.

The first couple hours of The Temptations was great. It was equal to many theatrical releases that I have seen and far superior to your usual TV biopic. If the movie had ended at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Awards Show with all of the original members reuniting and briefly forgiving each other, this would had been one hell of a movie. But like a lot of biopics, it feels the need give you a complete story. The last part of The Temptations drags the viewer along (both figuratively and emotionally) as we see how each of The Temptations dies, except of course, Otis Williams.

Even though I'm sure that Otis Williams slanted things to favor himself (and I'm guessing he had a real dislike for David Ruffin), I still felt that I got a fairly good look at the group known as The Temptations. If you enjoy a good biopic or have any interest in Motown and/or Soul/R&B music, I would highly recommend this movie to you.

Below are two videos one of the "Movie Temptations" and one of "The Real Temptations".



Sunday, May 9, 2010

MY DINNER WITH JIMI

Back when me and my friends were "hip", we didn't think a lot about The Turtles. Their songs were pleasant enough, but when it came time to buy an album (because you know, 45's were for like teenyboppers) we went with Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Doors, The Mothers of Invention, Moby Grape, Buffalo Springfield, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, etc. Years have passed and I realize that I only liked some of those groups/artists because it was the "hip" thing to do. After watching My Dinner With Jimi, I now have more appreciation for The Turtles, although I still think that they are a better "singles band" rather than an "album band".

I knew nothing about this movie, but ran across the title one day while scrolling through Netflix. The description "
Howard Kaylan found fame as the lead singer of the 1960s band The Turtles, as depicted in this autobiographical screenplay. We meet Kaylan (Justin Henry) and his bandmates just as they triumph with their single "Happy Together." The band then heads off to England, where their friend Graham Nash (Steven Soldevilla) introduces them to The Beatles and Kaylan later dines with Jimi Hendrix (Royale Watkins) -- an event that changes his life." intrigued the hell out of me. I not only put it on my rental list, but moved it straight to the top. My Dinner With Jimi did not disappoint, it was everything and more that I thought it would be.

My Dinner With Jimi begins with The Turtles at a magazine promo shoot. John Corbett is the photographer in an almost non-recognizable role. We get introduced to each of The Turtles as they get their photos taken. The magazine writer who is at the shoot to do the accompanying story tells them: "Hope your looks don't hold you back." This goes with some of the commentary on the dvd when Howard Kaylan says he could always buy nice clothes, but it he good never buy "thin".

The Turtles are experiencing their biggest hit single "Happy Together" (which knocked The Beatles "Penny Lane" out of the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100). They're playing the Whiskey A-Go-Go and The Doors are their opening act. There's a great scene after the concert when The Turtles go to Canter's Deli. At the deli we find Frank Zappa and Mama Cass Elliot sitting at a table together, plus Jim Morrison is drunk and walking on tables and being a general goofball. I was also delighted to see the late Wendie Jo Sperber,
my favorite actress from from I Wanna Hold Your Hand, in the role of Louella the waitress.

One section of My Dinner With Jimi concerns how Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman are about to get drafted and they get advice on how to flunk their physicals. The advice mainly has them taking massive amounts of drugs plus not sleeping or bathing before they go and being as uncooperative as possible at the draft board. The draft board sequence in My Dinner With Jimi ranks right up there with Arlo Guthrie's in Alice's Restaurant.

When The Turtles get to England they hook up with their friend Graham Nash, who also has Donovan hanging out at his house. Everyone gets stoned and they listen to "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", which won't be released until the next day. After listening to the album Graham takes them to The Speakeasy Club so they can meet The Beatles, who they idolize. Look for the real Howard Kaylan in a cameo as the greeter/doorman at the club.

Inside the club The Turtles find Paul McCartney under the table taking photos, Ringo Starr being his usual laid back self, and George Harrison seeming to be a little embarrassed by the antics of Paul and the sharp tongue of John Lennon. Lennon is drunk and full of insults for The Turtles. Jim "Tucko" Tucker is really crushed by The Beatles and flees the club followed by the other Turtles. There is some conflicting information about Tucker in the movie and what is on the commentary. What truth I can glean is that he definitely did leave the Turtles and didn't play music again. Whether it was due to his disappointment in meeting his heroes or the fact that he couldn't take touring is unclear.

Howard remains behind and before he can reenter the club, he's approached by someone wanting his autograph. He's shocked to find out that it's Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones. In tow with Brian is Jimi Hendrix and the three go back into the club for a meal, but Brian gets sidetracked by some girls and Howard winds up alone with Jimi. I'll let you watch the movie yourself to see how this dinner goes, but will tell you that it starts great, but ends badly.

Since the title is My Dinner With Jimi, it's appropriate that one of the strongest performances in the movie comes from Royale Watkins portrayal of Jimi Hendrix. He really captures that cool laid back vibe that Hendrix always seemed to emit. Although Royale has made a handful of movies and TV shows, he's best known as a stand up comic.

The commentary made a big deal out of how they tried to make everything look as close to possible to how it looked in real life, including the club The Speakeasy. They even used Howard's old house in one scene. While I will agree that everything had the right look of the late 60s, I'm puzzled about the bad wigs and especially about the sideburns used on Justin Henry who plays Howard. In the recreation of The Turtles appearance on The Smothers Brothers Show, the sideburns can actually be seen coming loose. This is the only minor quibble I have with My Dinner With Jimi. Overall, I found the movie very enjoyable and would highly recommend it to anyone.

If you would like to see the trailer: My Dinner With Jimi.

Below is a video of The Turtles in 1967 on The Smothers Brothers Show

Thursday, May 6, 2010

LIVE IT UP aka SING and SWING

Do I like British teen pop movies, pre- "A Hard Day's Night"? I can't answer that question, since this is the first one I have ever seen; however, I certainly enjoyed Live It Up (released in the U.S. as "Sing and Swing"), even though it had a few spots that made absolutely no sense with the rest of the movie.

The plot centers around a group of boys (David Hemmings, Heinz Burt formerly of The Tornados, Steve Marriott, John Pike) that work for the GPO (General Post Office) and in their spare time dream of becoming famous rock stars with their band The Smart Alecs. They even mention once during the movie that they would like to be as famous as The Beatles. They cut a demo, but it gets lost, the band has a "bust up" over this, but eventually all works out in the end. A pretty simple plot that allowed not only The Smart Alecs to perform, but since the movie was revolving around music, allowed the insertion of other musical groups. To make things even better The Smart Alecs song "Live It Up" was actually good enough that it could have been a hit in real life.


Record producer Joe Meek wrote all of the songs in Live It Up and according to the commentary, all the artists in the movie, except for Kenny Ball, were from his stable of performers. Joe Meek is known as the Phil Spector of England and is best known to us here in the U.S. as the producer of The Tornados "Telstar", the first record by a British group to hit #1 in the U.S. Hot 100 charts.

It was nice seeing the parents and adults being supportive of the kids in Live It Up. The U.S. versions of this same type of movie during this period seemed to always have the parents degrading that evil rock and roll. Even the most resistant character to his son pursuing a music career here is
Hemmings' father, who has given him 30 days to finally break into the business or to get a "real" job. When Hemmings wants to give up early, his father shows his support by insisting his son take the whole 30 days and not give up.

In this day and age, it was odd to see the young guys smoking during their scenes, but I guess in the early 60s, this didn't look out of place. The motorbikes and the messengers reminded me of "Quadrophenia" in which the lead character was a messenger. According to the commentary the time period of Live It Up is just a little bit before the Mods vs Rockers riots era. I imagine Pete Townshend had seen this movie in the UK and I wonder if it had any influence on him when he wrote his rock opera "Quadrophenia".

The commentary on the DVD is very strange, they did one commentary for both Live It Up and for its sequel "Be My Guest". About 1/2 way through the commentary, they stop talking about this movie, Live It Up, and start talking about the sequel Be My Guest. I stopped listening to the commentary, since I know it will also be on "Be My Guest", which I plan on watching in the future. I'm not much for listening to commentaries, but this one gave me a lot of insights into the UK during the time period of this movie.

There is one very odd part in the movie that was never mentioned in the commentary, but nonetheless sticks in my mind. The teen girl (Jennifer Moss) who was a brunette and had been trying to attract the attention of Hemmings changes her hair color to blond. After a short trip to find the missing demo tape, she suddenly is a brunette again. One of the other boys asks has she done something different with her hair, but she ignores him. Later Hemmings says with his back to the camera(making it appear this was a voice over) "I'm glad you lost that wig, I never did like blonds". I can only guess that this blond hair was going to be part of the plot, was abandoned and covered up with the above explanations.

Some of the musical numbers are worked coherently into the plot, but on a few occasions, a musical number just suddenly appears between scenes with no rhyme or reason. I'm not sure if this was poor editing, time restraint, or just "let's get another performance into the movie", but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of Live It Up.


The musicians featured in Live It Up: Steve Marriott (The Small Faces and Humble Pie) had been a child actor who had received raves for his earlier stage work in Oliver. His previous acting pays off well here since he is quite good in every scene he is in. You can also spot future Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in the group the Outlaws (photo above), Jennifer Moss plays David Hemmings girlfriend, Gene Vincent who had moved to the UK because of tax problems in the U.S. does one song, Heinz Burt played the lead singer of The Smart Alecs, the Australian singer Patsy Ann Noble, Sounds Incorporated, Kim Roberts, and Andy Cavell and The Saints all perform one song each, Mitch Mitchell who would later play drums in The Jimi Hendrix Experience, plays Andrew (listed in the credits under his birth name John Mitchell) and Dave Clark of The Dave Clark Five listed as David Clark is credited as Recording Man.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WHY DO FOOLS FALL IN LOVE

I knew before I started watching this movie that it was about Frankie Lymon's three wives (played by Halle Berry, Vivica A. Fox, Lela Rochon) and their fight over the rights to the song "Why Do Fools Fall In Love" and any other monies owed to Lymon's estate. Even knowing that, I was disappointed that the movie had so little about Frankie Lymon and so much about the wives. I came away from the movie not knowing much more about Frankie than before I watched Why Do Fools Fall In Love.

One problem is that the story is told in flashbacks from three different viewpoints. Each wife has her own idea about who Frankie was, giving the movie viewer no clear cut picture of him. The only things I gathered from this movie about Frankie was that he started out street corner singing; he was a real ladies man; he was generous with his money; he was a drug addict; and he did a lot of splits during his musical performances.

The movie starts out in black and white with the actor playing Frankie (Larenz Tate) and The Teenagers performing. This immediately established Tate as Frankie with the viewer and even though he didn't look much like Frankie, he had the dance moves down enough that it sets in the viewer's mind that he was really Frankie Lymon. After the opening, Why Do Fools Fall In Love goes to color for the rest of the movie except for the closing scene.

Why Do Fools Fall In Love was released theatrically in 1998, but plays more like a VH1 movie biography. It just didn't have the feel of anything but a cheaply thrown together movie and that's not blaming any of the actors, since everyone in the movie played their parts more than adequately with Larenz Tate as Frankie being the standout.

The best part of the movie was Little Richard who plays the part of Little Richard in the courtroom scenes (in flashback scenes he's played by Miguel A. Nunez). The real Little Richard does his Little Richard act of acting outrageous and hamming it up in the courtroom. Little Richard also gets to do one musical number near the end of the movie, plus add a coda to the movie about how musicians always get cheated.

Other musicians portrayed by actors in Why Do Fools Fall In Love are The Platters with Zola Taylor (one of Frankie's wives), The Shirelles, The Kinks (during the Hullabaloo segment) and for some unexplained reason Jimi Hendrix is shown leaving Morris Levy's (owner of Roulette Records) office.

One thing that didn't ring quite right was when Frankie goes to L.A. to live with Zola it's 1965 , but in the movie it appears they tried to make it look more like 1967, The Summer of Love. One other flaw that I found with Why Do Fools Fall In Love was that Frankie was just 13 at the time of his success and we never see a young teenager in Tate; he looks more like a young man throughout the whole movie. On the other hand, it would have been shocking (even if more realistic) to see someone that looked like a teenager going through the difficult things the wives explain about Frankie.

Even though the movie never purported to be about Frankie Lymon's life, I'm still left wishing that it has been more about Frankie and less about the wives and their viewpoints of what Frankie was like. Frankie's life would make one hell of a movie....think about it...working at the age of 10, hustling prostitutes for extra income for your family shortly after, having sex with women twice his age, marrying three different women, going AWOL from the army, being addicted to heroin from the age of 15, being cheated by your agent and recording company, getting off heroin but later dying from an overdose at the age of 25 by celebrating what you think might be a comeback. NOW, there's a movie!





Monday, May 3, 2010

CISCO PIKE

What can you say about a movie when the best things in it are the Kris Kristofferson songs on the soundtrack and Gene Hackman's 70s porn mustache?

The plot is similar to a lot of crime movies, where the retired master thief is blackmailed into pulling another job. In Cisco Pike, Kris plays a down on his luck musician who has recently been busted for selling dope and has quit dealing. A crooked cop (Gene Hackman) blackmails Kris back into dealing some marijuana that Hackman has stolen. Kris must sell enough of Hackman's stolen dope to raise $10,000 in just a few days and Hackman promises he will make the bust go away.


The rest of Cisco Pike mostly concerns itself with Kris selling dope to different individuals and showing the pains that he has to go through to make the sales and collect the money. At the same time he is trying to conceal what he is doing from his girl friend (Karen Black who is basically playing her character from "Five Easy Pieces").



Some of the Kris' notable clients include: Buffalo (Antonio Fargas best known as Huggy Bear from Starksy and Hutch) who is going to help Kris move a large amount of the dope; Doug Sahm playing a musician called Rex - basically Doug plays Doug and does a damn good job at it (see second video below); Hugh Rommey (Wavy Gravy) in a deal with Kris to sell to a secretive commune and almost getting caught in the process; and Viva of Andy Warhol fame, who eventually helps Kris when all hope appears lost.



Harry Dean Stanton playing an old musician pal of Kris' shows up about three quarters of the way into the movie. He's strung out on dope, recently divorced from his wife and his life is just a mess. Harry Dean Stanton is of course, one of the great character actors of all time and he is nothing less than stellar in his performance in Cisco Pike. A little inside joke in the movie has Harry Dean and Kris talking about getting their band back together. They comment that they want to be sure to get Billy Swan and Donnie Fritts, both who actually were members of Kris Krisofferson's real life band.


Kris had only been in one movie before this, but this was his first starring role and he did a fine job. Of course, playing a laid back musician probably didn't tax any acting skills he might have possessed at the time, but it was nice to catch him at the start of his 90+ movie career.


The real reason I rented this movie was that I've always been a fan of Doug Sahm and he only appeared in two acting roles, here in this movie and later in American Graffiti 2. It was great to see Doug in Cisco Pike, even though the total movie was on the dull side. I would recommend a rental if you're a fan of Doug's, otherwise you can see Kris in a lot better movies.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

WEIRD: THE AL YANKOVIC STORY

OK, so it's not a real movie...but I still wish it was!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

GET YOURSELF A COLLEGE GIRL


This movie was on a TCM Underground double feature with College Confidential. While College Confidential wasn't a great movie (see my review below: click here) it wasn't all that bad. However, I looked forward more to seeing this second feature, since I'm pretty sure I had seen it when I was younger. We didn't have music videos back in those dark days and unless you got to see rock acts live or on Ed Sullivan, you pretty much relied on teen movies that featured music to actually see the acts you heard on the radio.

Get Yourself A College Girl turned out to be a disaster of a movie. It had a plot similar to what you might have seen in later years on "Love American Style", but this movie wasn't up to the level of that TV series. Check out the trailer at the end of this post, as you can see they are much more interested in showing you what music acts will appear in the movie rather than very much about the plot.

The plot: It seems that Terry (Mary Ann Mobley) is secretly a successful pop songwriter, but she has kept this fact quiet at the exclusive girl's school she attends. When her publisher Gary Underwood (Chad Everett) unwittingly exposes her, the college is SHOCKED! This is where the movie started going downhill for me. It was 1964 and I find it hard to believe there would have been any such uproar. They acted like it was 1914 and good girls didn't write songs (especially songs that might have the word sex in them). A word about the song that she supposedly wrote (Get Yourself A College Girl), there's no way it was a pop or rock song, when it's later played in the movie as an instrumental it sounds like something from "Fiddler on The Roof".

Back to the plot, the girls are going on Christmas vacation at a ski lodge. Terry and her friend Sue Ann Mobley (Chris Noel - photo on left) plus their dance teacher, Marge Endicott (Joan O'Brien) all promise to stay away from men during the vacation, so they won't bring further disgrace on the school. (I guess I don't have to tell you how that works out.) Lynne (Nancy Sinatra) is also along for the trip to meet her husband, who she only sees a few times a year. A hard thing to keep straight with this group is that Joan O'Brien as the teacher doesn't look any older than the other actresses playing the students.

The grandson of the founder of the college Senator Hubert Morrison (Willard Waterman, best known as "The Great Gildersleeve") and his obviously gay assistant Gordon (James Millhollin) decide to check out the students on vacation. The Senator winds up "digging" the kids and dancing the Watusi (when he had seen the students dancing earlier, he had imagined them as African Natives dancing). His pants come loose, he gets photographed and is going to lose the election unless the kids rally around him. (If you can't guess the outcome, find out where you left your brain.)

While all of this is going on, Terry who hates Gary has a skiing accident and is stuck in the snow. Gary forces his kisses on her and they immediately fall in love. There's also another subplot about Sue Ann falling for a French painter. The only subplot that is fairly amusing is that Lynne (Nancy Sinatra) stays shacked up in her room with her husband. Every time they go by to check on her she is in a daze and has on a different nightie, it appears that she has been "screwed silly". That's the only explanation I can come up with for her dazed look, since I don't think they were in their room smoking weed.

The first couple of musical performances by The Dave Clark Five (“Whenever You're Around") and The Animals ("Blue Feeling") are pretty tepid; however, they both get to come back near the end of the movie with a couple of pretty good songs. The Standells (pre "Dirty Water") get to do a couple of songs (“Bony Maronie” and “The Swim) near the middle of the movie.

The best musical performances are both by jazz groups - Stan Getz with Astrud Gilberto doing "Girl From Ipanema" and The Jimmy Smith Trio doing "Johnny Come On Home". The movie also includes two oddball performances - The Rhythm Masters doing a hot Dixieland number ("Beat Street Rag") and then following their song performance with tap dancing (yes, tap dancing) and a Vegas Lounge Act - Freddie Bell and the Bellboys with Roberta Linn (“Talkin' About Love").

The Dave Clark Five come back near the end of the movie and have a much better performance with “Thinking of You". They're followed by The Animals also having their better performance with "Round and Round". I guess it goes without saying that all of these performances are lip sync. The strangest part of these performances was that both groups had to carry their equipment on stage before starting their songs.

Even though character actors Willard Waterman and James Millhollin both brought a little bit of zing to this otherwise dull movie and I was glad to catch most of the musical performances (the Freddie Bell and The Rhythm Masters were both so out of place they just made me laugh), I was still relieved to see "The End" on the screen and know that I would never have to see Get Yourself A College Girl Again.