Friday, December 30, 2011


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.

Monday, December 26, 2011


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.

Friday, December 23, 2011


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.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


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.

Friday, December 16, 2011


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.