An interesting side note to The Buddy Holly Story is Gary Busey had previously been involved in a failed attempt at making a movie about the life of Buddy Holly, Three-Sided Coin, in which Busey was going to play the part of The Crickets drummer Jerry Allison. Three-Sided Coin was scrapped due to some legal wranglings over the rights to Holly's life story. That failed movie, in which Busey was working with the original Crickets drummer, gave Busey inside information about Buddy Holly. This must have really helped Busey in his portrayal of Buddy Holly, since this is one of the finest performances of an actor portraying a rock and roll star you are likely to see. Charles Martin Smith and Don Stoud also help in adding to the realism of the film's musical performances, by doing their own live singing and playing during the filming of the movie.
The Buddy Holly Story follows Holly from his teen years in Lubbock, Texas, to his eventual stardom and, of course, to the final tragic plane crash which took the life of not only Holly, but also Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. Besides Richie Valens (Gilbert Melgar) and The Big Bopper (Gailard Sartain), the film also features Eddie Cochran (Jerry Zaremba), King Curtis (Craig White) and in a surprise, at least to me, comedian Paul Mooney is terrific portraying Sam Cooke.
I first watched The Buddy Holly Story years ago and was amazed at the time by Busey's portrayal of Holly. When re-watching the film recently, Busey is still great, but the film itself isn't a good as I remembered it. Even though Holly died at the age of 23 and the movie doesn't have a long life to portray, it still had to condense a lot into the 114 minute running time. As with any biopic, events and people have been changed and some of the scenes just don't ring true. If you haven't seen The Buddy Holly Story I still highly recommend the film. Busey has allowed himself to become a punchline for jokes these days, but watching this movie should make you marvel at what he is or at least was capable of.
It's hard enough trying to fit someone's life into a two hour theatrical movie. It's really hard to fit someone's life into a two hour TV movie, since once you remove the commercials, that only leaves approximately 86 minutes. Director Robert Townsend did a commendable job of hitting enough points in the life of Little Richard that you do come away with some knowledge about "The Architect of Rock and Roll".
Little Richard begins with him and his band at an outdoor concert in Australia. Richard sees a comet and thinks it's a sign from God telling him he should quit rock and roll and go back into the ministry.The rest of Little Richard is told in flashback style beginning with Little Richard as a young boy, moving on to his teenage years, his involvement in vaudeville, and finally becoming a huge rock and roll star. Leon, who also did a great job playing David Ruffin in The Temptations, is once again outstanding in the titular role in this film. Without Leon's excellent portrayal of Richard Penniman, this movie would have been far less than it is.
There are two main points Little Richard seemed to want to get across. One was that Richard enjoyed wearing women's clothes at an early age and on into adulthood. The other point was Little Richard was adept at reading "signs" to guide his personal and private life. Since Richard is listed as an executive producer in the credits, I can only surmise he wanted these two points driven home to viewers of this movie.
The best parts of Little Richard are the song performances, lip synced by Leon to actual Little Richard recordings. I can't quite say the same about Ty Hodges (who portrays young Richard), who appeared to be doing a Stevie Wonder impression during his one song performance. Gregory Gast did a fine job as Pat Boone, however, it was off-putting to me that he looked more like George W. Bush than Boone. Two other musicians of note are portrayed in Little Richard: Tressa Thomas makes a brief appearance as Ruth Brown and Conroe Brooks is great as Sam Cooke performing "Send Me Some Lovin'".
One final note on Little Richard, some misconceptions have arisen on the internet and quoted a fictional sequence in the film as being truthful. In Little Richard, he is shown performing at Simm's Peachtree Theatre in 1957 in Greenville, SC. This sequence has Richard stripping down to his gold lame underwear to show what a wild man he had become at that point in his career. While I can't dispute the fact Richard may or may not have stripped down to gold lame underwear on stage at some point in his career, I can set the record straight that there was NOT any such named theatre located in Greenville, SC.
If you get a chance (the dvd is out of print and quite expensive to buy used, but the movie does show up occasionally on BET), Little Richard is well worth viewing, mainly for the music and for Leon's performance; but please realize the movie is only a quick overview of the life of one of the founders of rock and roll. The film has fictional elements and true elements all mashed together to create an entertaining movie, it is NOT a documentary and as with any biopic should not be viewed as one.
Dolly Parton is what Mrs. Goode refers to as "a natural actor" or one who appears on screen to be pretty much like they would be in "real life". Which is even easier for Dolly in A Smoky Mountain Christmas because she's basically just playing a version of herself in this Christmas fantasy which she not only stars in, but also co-wrote.
Lorna Davis (Dolly) is a country star living in L.A.; She's getting burned out and decides to take a break and go back to her roots in the Tennessee mountains where she grew up. She breaks a window when leaving and everyone assumes she has been kidnapped. When she arrives at the cabin, Lorna/Dolly finds a bunch of kids (escapees from a local orphanage) are already living there. Since neither Dolly nor the kids want to be discovered by the outside world, they all agree to keep each other secrets. There's a lot of great interaction between Dolly and the kids and I think some of it must have been improvised by Dolly when some of the child actors reacted as normal children.
Dolly has several forces working against her in A Smoky Mountain Christmas. One is a mountain witch woman (Anita Morris) who has an unfounded jealousy about Dolly and the local Sheriff (Bo Hopkins). Then there's the Sheriff himself, who tracks the kids down and carries them back to the orphanage and arrests Dolly at the same time. Finally, unbeknown to Dolly, she has been followed from L.A. by a paparazzi (Dan Hedaya) who's trying to get a scoop on her. Luckily Dolly has at least one person, Mountain Dan (Lee Majors), on her side.
There's a couple of nods to fairy tales in A Smoky Mountain Christmas. When Dolly first arrives at the cabin before the kids come home, it's very reminiscent of Goldilocks and The Three Bears. Later in the movie, in a nod to Sleeping Beauty, the evil witch feeds Dolly a poisoned apple pie putting Dolly into a deep sleep. There's a twist with this story, since the handsome prince's (Mountain Dan) kiss doesn't awaken the sleeping princess, but I won't spoil the story by telling what does.
There were only a couple of very slight flaws in A Smoky Mountain Christmas. First, I thought there were too many close-up face shots between Dolly and the children smiling at each other. This, of course, would have to blamed on the director, Henry Winkler. The other flaw was on several occasions Dolly would be singing while the kids were doing whatever work was involved at the time. While I realize this was a way to integrate some of the songs into the movie, it just seemed out of place to me each time it occurred.
I guess it goes without saying....but, I'm going to say it anyway....A Smoky Mountain Christmas has a happy ending. There's nothing wrong with that and the film isn't as saccharine as you might think. And even if it is as sappy as you might imagine when you get a chance to watch A Smoky Mountain Christmas, you just might just find your Grinch heart melting a little bit.
I always thought of Herman's Hermits as a light-weight pop group with some pretty good tunes and was really expecting to be entertained by Hold On. Since the lads always seemed a pleasant bunch, I thought the movie would be along the lines of some of the other British Invasion era movies I have watched (Ferry Across The Mersey, Help!, The Ghost Goes Gear). Guess I was wrong!
Herman's Hermits have come to the U.S. because the kids of American astronauts have chosen to name the next space flight after The Hermits. NASA thinks the world will think the U.S. is still some sort of English colony and sends one of their scientists (Herbert Anderson of Dennis The Menace fame) to keep an eye on the group....I know the preceding plot line doesn't make any more sense when written out, than it did when I watched the film. At the same time an actress (Sue Ann Langdon), wanting to boost her career, has set out to be photographed with The Hermits.
Hold On turned out to be a terrible movie with the songs (most written by P.F. Sloan) performed by Herman's Hermits being the only reason to watch this dud of a film. The movie is filled with awful jokes which all fall flat regardless of who is delivering them. Topping everything off are two goofy fantasy sequences in the movie. One with Peter Noone as a lovelorn Knight on a beach, and if that sounds odd, it's nothing compared to the second one: An outer space fantasy, in which Peter Noone sits inside a rocket while the other members float outside playing their instruments. (All of the other members of the group are dressed as astronauts except one, who is an angel....WTF!) During this segment the group sings "Leaning On A Lamppost", a song which would have been super easy to insert into the film with Herman actually leaning on a lamppost singing to his love interest in Hold On, Shelley Fabares (who also sings one song "Make Me Happy" in the movie).
Maybe I expected too much from Hold On, after all it was produced by famed B movie producer Sam Katzman, who had done similar bad movies based around musical acts as far back as the 1950's (Rock Around The Clock, Don't Knock The Rock). Katzman understood plot wasn't all that important to the fans who would be more interested in seeing Herman's Hermits on the big screen than the storyline. It probably didn't help matters that Hold On was written by 44 year old Robert E. Kent and directed by 78 year old Arthur Lubin. I would recommend Hold On only for fans of Herman's Hermits. If you're a fan of 1960's British Invasion movies, you would do better to look elsewhere.
I've owned Star Wars Holiday Special on vhs for several years, but never got around to watching it. After having it transferred to DVD and seeing Jefferson Starship was one of the guests, I thought I'd watch it before another Christmas rolled past me. There was only one thought that kept running through my head while viewing Star Wars Holiday Special: "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, LET THIS THING BE OVER".
The story revolves around Chewbacca's family, wife Malla, father Itchy, and son Lumpy who are awaiting his return so they can celebrate Life Day. The special is filled with LOTS of grunts (Wookie language) from the family. This became irritating within the first five minutes and is one of the many reasons this is such an unwatchable mess.
Star Wars Holiday Special incorporated the guest stars in a variety of ways. Diahann Caroll is created by a virtual reality machine. Art Carney is a human trader and a friend of the Chewbacca family. Harvey Korman is a cooking show host that Malla is watching on her TV. Bea Arthur runs the Mos Eisley Cantina, where Harvey Korman once again appears, this time with "the hots" for Bea. Jefferson Starship are on Malla's music video box.
The music in Star Wars Holiday Special is just as bad as the rest of the special. Diahann Carroll sings "This Minute Now" and along with her dialogue in this segment and the inclusion of Wookie-Women, this segment looked like a bad outtake from a soft core porn movie. Bea Arthur sings "Goodnight, But Not Goodbye" while being backed by The Cantina Band. Carrie Fisher sings a song celebrating Life Day to the tune of The Star Wars Theme. Jefferson Starship (featuring Marty Balin and Paul Kantner) perform "Light The Sky On Fire" in what I guess was supposed to be some type of far out groovy psychedelic segment. I'm no fan of Jefferson Starship, but this really sounded no worse than any other songs I've heard from them.
The only parts of Star Wars Holiday Special which were tolerable were the cartoon of Chewbacca's past adventures (This cartoon also introduced the Star Wars character Boba Fett) and the commercials. Neither the cartoon or the commercials, with the exception of the Kenner toy commercials, were all that entertaining, but compared to the mess which Star Wars Holiday Special was, they were a welcome relief in this otherwise dreadful special.
If someone had told me they were going to make a movie about The Doors and the group would be portrayed by Val Kilmer (Jim Morrison), Kyle MacLachlan (Ray Manzarek), Kevin Dillion (John Densmore) and Frank Whaley (Robby Krieger), I would have said..."Man, you got to be crazy". To my surprise, this quartet of actors were able to resemble their real life counterparts enough to give the film a slight documentary feel. Only MacLachlan as Manzarek was a little distracting to me. Something about him just didn't quite look right, but maybe I kept thinking I was seeing Agent Dale Cooper in a wig.
The real standout here is Val Kilmer who loses himself in the role of Morrison. In order to convince director Oliver Stone that he was right for the role, Kilmer spent several thousand of his own dollars and made his own eight-minute video, singing and looking like Morrison at various stages of his life. During the concert scenes in the movie, Stone used the Doors' master tapes without Morrison's lead vocals and Kilmer did the actual singing in order to avoid lip-syncing. This gave the concert scenes a "true" look instead of having to sit through an obvious lip synced performance, which is the case in a lot of music biopics.
The biggest flaw with The Doors is the direction by Oliver Stone. He picked the songs he wanted to use in the film and then "wrote each piece of the movie as a mood to fit that song". While this may have seemed like a good idea to Stone, it bogged the movie down in many places with fantasy sequences. This caused the flow of the plot to grind to a halt several times during the film, making me feel I was watching music videos at those points....and I might add....boring music videos. Overall The Doors was a pretty decent movie and if it had had some of Stone's "moods" edited out it would have been even better.
Sid & Nancy starring Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb as the titular characters is a pretty good movie with outstanding performances by both of the lead actors. While part of the storyline is based around the seminal punk band The Sex Pistols, the majority of Sid & Nancy concerns itself with telling us the story of the duo Roger Ebert called "Punk Rock's Romeo and Juliet".
Sid & Nancy, also known as Sid & Nancy: Love Kills, begins with the death of Nancy Spungen and flashes back to when they first met. Nancy, a groupie/sometimes prostitute/heroin addict from the U.S., has met Linda Ashby, a prostitute friend of Malcolm McClaren who manages The Sex Pistols. Sid is not very impressed with Nancy at first, but after she promises to get him drugs, the love story really begins.
Since Sid & Nancy revolves around the title characters, the other members of The Sex Pistols are only featured sporadically throughout the movie. Johnny Rotten (Andrew Schofield) gets the most screen time, while the other members of the group have such little screen presence, they are basically treated as inconsequential by the filmmaker. Courtney Love has a small part in the movie and Wikipedia notes Slash, Iggy Pop, Nico, The Circle Jerks, and Edward Tudor-Pole, of Tenpole Tudor are also in the film.
I could never decide while watching Sid & Nancy what Nancy's underlying emotions were for being with Sid: did she really love him, did she like being someone's famous girlfriend, or was she just using him as a source of income to buy drugs. After the breakup of The Sex Pistols, she is the one who gets him a few solo gigs (which turn out to be disastrous), but her motivations behind helping Sid could still be construed as any of the three mentioned above. A lot of this mystery about Nancy should go to the great performance given by Chloe Webb. Nancy in "real life" was nicknamed "Nauseating Nancy" and Webb's portrayal of her in Sid & Nancydefinitely would make you NOT want to be around Nancy Spungeon any more than you had to be.
Gary Oldman's masterpiece of a performance in his portrayal of Sid Vicious stands with Gary Busey's merging of self in The Buddy Holly Story and Sissy Spacek as Lorretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter. Saying "stands with" those two performances actually isn't completely correct, since even in the aforementioned movies, I still had a sense I was watching an actor. With Oldman in Sid & Nancy, I felt I WAS watching Sid Vicious. An interesting side note - Oldman lost so much weight to play the emaciated Vicious that at one point he had to be briefly hospitalized. It has been noted Gary Oldman is one of the greatest actors never to be nominated for an academy award. I would go further and say Oldman is the GREATEST actor never nominated for an academy award and if you want to see why, just watch Sid & Nancy.
Chad Stuart and Jeremy Clyde best known as Chad and Jeremy played an English duo called "The Redcoats" on "The Dick Van Dyke Show" in an episode titled "The Redcoats Are Coming" (Season 4, Episode 20) originally broadcast on February 10 1965. Chad and Jeremy were called Ernie and Freddie, but near the end of the episode they gave a wink to their real names.
"The Alan Brady Show" has booked the English singing duo sensation "The Redcoats" and there are girls running all over the studio trying to track them down. "The Redcoats" lives have been so hectic trying to dodge their fans that they are worn out and could use a good rest. Mel (Richard Deacon) comes up with a plan to secretly encase the boys for one night at Rob (Dick Van Dyke) and Laura's (Mary Tyler Moore) house, so the lads will be well rested for the show. Everything goes fairly smoothly until the following morning when "The Redcoats" are spotted by their screaming fans. Since the fans don't get to actually touch "The Redcoats", they clean out a lot of the Petries furniture, assuming it was touched by their idols. The end of the episode has the Petries watching "The Redcoats" perform on TV, where they dedicate a song to them. "The Redcoats" say they learned the song from a couple of their friends back in England....Chad and Jeremy.....wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
I haven't seen The Dick Van Dyke Show in years and I'll have to say it was just as funny as I remember it. Chad and Jeremy handled their roles with ease and their comic timing was as good as anyone else's on the show. During their first arrival at the studio The Redcoats/Chad & Jeremy sang "No Other Baby" and on The Alan Brady Show they sang "My How Time Goes By". Chad and Jeremy went on to do "The Patty Duke Show" later in 1965 and the following year they did a guest spot on "Laredo".
The Helen Morgan Story directed by Michael Curtiz and starring Ann Blyth as the titular character purports to show the life of torch singer Helen Morgan. I use the word purport since The Helen Morgan Story as noted on Wikipedia "has fictional touches liberally added for dramatic purposes". This isn't really surprising since most all biographical movies change and add facts in order to make a feature movie entertaining, as opposed to someone making a documentary.
The failing with The Helen Morgan Story is that I knew nothing about Helen Morgan before I watched the film, and after watching The Helen Morgan Story I feel I still know very little about her. What I gleaned from the movie was Helen Morgan was a torch singer, picked the wrong type of man, and had a problem with alcohol. I'm sure there was more to her life than these facts.
Ann Blyth was quite attractive in her role and a very good actress with one exception - she wasn't very believable in the parts of the movie where she had to appear drunk. This is a weak spot, acting drunk, where I have seen many other actors and actresses struggle. Paul Newman, as one of Morgan's poor choices in men, was just as cool as you would expect. A surprise, at least to me since I associate him with stand-up comedy, was Alan King as Newman's sidekick. He not only was very believable in his part, but also had great repartee with his girlfriend/wife in the movie, Cara Williams of Pete and Gladys fame.
The songs in The Helen Morgan Story were sung by Gogi Grant and lip-synched by Ann Blyth. This is a real puzzlement to me as to why this was done, since Ann Blyth was a singer in her own right. Ann Blyth/Gogi Grant perform eighteen songs in the movie. The Helen Morgan Story also features Rudy Vallee performing one song and The Castro Sisters are also featured in the movie.
One last interesting fact I found when researching the movie was that Doris Day was originally offered the part and turned it down, since she didn't think the portrayal of alcoholism would be conducive to her clean cut image. I personally don't think the inclusion of Doris Day instead of Ann Blyth would have changed the movie very much.
Pray TV is a 1980 theatrical release and should not be confused with the 1982 TV movie of the same name. Pray TV (1982) is a drama starring John Ritter, while Pray TV(1980) is a screwball spoof starring Archie Hahn, who is best known to my family as Doughie Duck. Archie's character at the first of Pray TV has many references to ducks and Hahn even does a short bit as Doughie Duck. One other interesting side note to Pray TV is that it was the first big screen appearance of Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman).
Pray TV is about a failing TV station placed in the hands of Dabney Coleman, who promises to make a success of the station. He does this by changing the format of the station to anything with a religious subtext, from cooking shows to exercise shows. This sets the movie up for a series of comedic vignettes, most of which are fairly humorous.
My only disappointment with Pray TV was Dr. John and Devo are both seen primarily as background to other events happening on the screen. Dr John leads the choir at a drive-in movie theater that has been converted to an evangelist's church and he sings "The Collection". Devo appears as Dove at a religious award show singing "Shrivel Up". It's a puzzlement to me why the producers went to the trouble to hire Dr. John and Devo and then under-use them in the movie.
I couldn't find a trailer for Pray TV, but I did find a video clip from the movie featuring Devo as Dove.
Thunder Alley was the last movie Annette Funicello made for American International Pictures, purveyor of The Beach Party Movies, and except for a bit part in Head, she didn't appear in another major motion picture until 20 years later when she re-teamed with Frankie Avalon for Back To The Beach. Annette wasn't idle during that period, she made appearances in numerous TV shows. Her appearance in Thunder Alley was her most adult role in any of the AIP films, even more so than in Fireball 500, and like that movie, Thunder Alley has a stock car racing theme. This time out her usual co-star/love interest Frankie Avalon was replaced with Fabian
Like Avalon in Fireball 500, Fabian also tools around in a George Barris customized car. As you can see from the above photo, his Dodge Charger is a pretty ugly piece of machinery. It seems Fabian always gets black-outs when he gets boxed in during a race and his last black-out caused the death of another racer. He finds the only person who will hire him is Jan Murray, who runs a Thrill Show (similar to Joie Chitwood's Thrill Show) and can use another driver.
Annette plays Jan Murray's daughter and she also drives in his Thrill Show. As you would expect, Annette and Fabian, at first, can't stand each other, but eventually fall in love. Both Annette and Fabian did great with their parts, with one exception. Part of the plot called for Annette to get drunk and whether Annette had never been drunk or just didn't have the acting chops to play drunk is undecidable. However, this is the only weak spot in Annette's acting in Thunder Alley.
Fabian has no songs in Thunder Alley and Annette sings only one song, "When You Get What You Want", a very slow and plaintive song, accompanied by The Band Without A Name (who later changed their name to The American Revolution). The Band Without A Name also does the title song to the movie "Thunder Alley".
I found Thunder Alley to be the least enjoyable of any of the Beach Party offshoots. It moved slow and the story was predictable. I would recommend it only to anyone interested in seeing some vintage stock car racing and/or Thrill Show footage.
Back To The Beach opens with an intro blending the world of movies and TV with real life. We are told all about Frankie being a teen idol and that he was once a great surfer and that Annette used to belong to a cult known as The Mickey Mouse Club and has an addiction to Peanut Butter (she once did commercials for Skippy). This was a nice touch and is probably the way those who grew up with Frankie and Annette could actually jumble reality and fantasy in the deep recesses of their minds. On a side note, the name "Frankie" is never used in Back To The Beach due to some legality with the original series. Avalon is always referred to as either The Big Kahuna or some play off that name and the end credits list him simply as Annette's husband.
Back To The Beach's plot is on par with the original Beach Party Movies and pokes gentle fun at all the tropes from those movies. Frankie and Annette live in Ohio and decide to take a vacation. They'll stop in California and visit their daughter for a couple of hours. Of course this visit turns into an extended stay and, as if you couldn't guess, Frankie and Annette wind up becoming jealous of one another, have a spat and, of course, get back together before the end of the movie.
Even with the recycled plot, Back To The Beach is a fun movie. Not only did I get to revisit with Frankie and Annette, but Back To The Beach is filled with cameos: Bob Denver and Alan Hale Jr. from Gilligan's Island, Barbara Billingsley, Jerry Mathers and Tony Dow from Leave It To Beaver, Ed "Kookie: Byrnes from 77 Sunset Strip, plus Don Adams of Get Smart fame has an extended role. I should also mention that everyone's favorite football star/convict, O.J. Simpson, makes an appearance spoofing his old Hertz commercials.
On to the musicians: Dick Dale, Frankie, and Connie Stevens sing "California Sun", Fishbone and Annette sing "Jamaica Ska", Stevie Ray Vaughn and Dick Dale perform "Pipeline", Pee Wee Herman rocks out on "Surfin Bird" and Frankie, Annette and the cast all sing "Some Things Go On Forever". Plus, the soundtrack from the movie is loaded with other great "feel good" songs.
I really enjoyed Back To The Beach and I think you will too, if you enjoyed the original Beach Party Movies. So, check out Back To The Beach, I don't think you'll be disappointed and you'll probably have a smile on your face when the movie is finished.