Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Yet More Fibber and Molly

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

WC Fields Vs. Charlie McCarthy by Sam Viviano

MAD artist Sam Viviano here illustrates moments from the legendary radio feud between the great WC Fields and ventriloquist Edgar Bergen's wooden boy, Charlie McCarthy. I like little Candy's cameo. It's surprising that the artist, known for his caricatures, didn't even seem to try with Bergen, in spite of his decades of TV and personal appearances making his likeness very well-known.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pop with Davy Jones

In July of 1972, Davy Jones headlined a Saturday afternoon TV special called POP that served as a pilot for a show to rival Dick Clark's AMERICAN BANDSTAND for teens. I never heard of it because locally it was pre-empted by a football game.

POP also featured, among others, The Osmond Brothers and the Mike Curb Congregation (pre-Kathy Coleman). Here's some info I found on the show. Maybe YOU saw it?

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Review: Shame of the Jungle 1975/1981

Here's another review I just found that I wrote in 1981, this for a dirty feature length Franco-Belgian Tarzan cartoon comedy. I had seen ads for it when it played locally in 1975 and read a little about some controversy that led the character's name to be changed from "Tarzoon" but that was all I knew when I rented it on Beta in 1981. 

A strange little film, this feature-length European cartoon plops an irreverent version of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan into a sci-fi tale of strange creatures and a would-be world conqueror. That plot takes a back seat to the film’s basic lunacy and satire, adapted into English by SNL’s Anne Beatts and Michael O’Donoghue. There are more than enough scenes f sex and violence to earn this picture’s original X rating. A bald woman with 14 breasts wants a hair transplant form Tarzan’s wife so June (not “Jane” here) is kidnapped by the woman’s penis-shaped minions. There follows a long chase scene in which our hero (whose name is consistently blacked out on the animation) finds and rescues his mate. The voices are provided mainly by SNL cast members, some uncredited. The best parts are the throwaway gags, both verbal and visual, such as John Belushi’s perfect voice for a 13-year-old slob who considers himself a Zen master and travels on a flying carpet carried aloft by birds. Much of the scatological humor gets old really quickly, leaving the voice acting to carry whatever’s left. Although the English-dubbed voice credits are woefully incomplete, Bill Murray is recognizably in there and classic Tarzan actor Johnny Weissmuller’s son, Johnny, Jr, is credited, presumably as the main character. SHAME OF THE JUNGLE is done in an original, although not particularly fluid, animation style and while there’s really not much here, it should be enjoyable to Tarzan fans, animation fans, or SNL fans who aren’t easily offended…because this movie IS offensive!

SHAME OF THE JUNGLE is now is on YouTube and has its own Wikipedia page detailing the credits and the film's history at length. Even Christopher Guest, aka Christopher Haden-Guest, Fifth Baron Haden-Guest--you know, that guy from THIS IS SPINAL TAP and BEST IN SHOW--voices several characters. And if you listen closely, you'll hear Judy Graubert, who played Jungle Judy on the kids' show, THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. 

Friday, July 17, 2020

Lum and Abner--Art and Makeup

LUM AND ABNER was a long running rural comedy on radio that also spawned a series of movies and books and even today a comic strip! It was a favorite of my father, who told me all about it for years before I ever ran across an episode of it. I'm not a huge fan but I quite enjoy it and will listen to it every once in a while. This vintage article gives some insight into the show and its characters.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

2010 Review: Batman vs the 3 Villains of Doom, 1966


Ten years and three months ago, a book blog entitled Pattinase invited me to write a guest review for their "Forgotten Books" column. This is the book I chose and the review I wrote in 2010.   

I’m known for an interest in old television and comics so I chose for my review a novel that combines the two…literally. Batman Vs. Three Villains of Doom by the pseudonymous “Winston Lyon” was originally published in the year of Batmania, 1966. To the best of my knowledge, it was the very first prose appearance of Batman and Robin and it isn’t at all bad. It is, however, rather an odd bird in and of itself.

Although ostensibly a tie-in to the then-new and phenomenally hot Batman TV series, Batman Vs. Three Villains of Doom is in actuality a bizarre hybrid of parts of that series and the more serious (by comic book hero standards at least) 1950’s DC comics stories of the Dynamic Duo.

The author seems to have been given at least some access to the TV series or perhaps simply early scripts as we have the familiar bust of Shakespeare opening the Batcave entrance, Alfred (who was deceased at that time in the comics!) protecting the characters’ secret identities from Aunt Harriet and over the top scenes such as Bruce Wayne reading and memorizing every story from a score of daily newspapers.

On the other hand, we also have the Batcave entrance being in the Wayne Manor living room as opposed to the private study, the batsignal displayed on the side of the tallest building in Gotham and we are introduced to “Inspector” O’Hara, the Irish cop.

As for this book itself, there’s a natural tendency to presume that it might be the source material for the Batman feature film that was made and released before the end of the year but it was not. There are three of the same four villains from the movie, there’s a yacht and there’s a scene where the Caped Crusader has to get rid of a bomb but the similarities end there. “Lyon” would, himself, go on to also novelize the Batman movie, but that’s another book and another story.

At 128 pages, this is a short novel but nicely laid out. In the beginning we are shown a conference of criminals in which the Joker, the Penguin and the Catwoman are all introduced as competitors for crimedom’s “Tommy Award,” a gold-plated tommy gun, to be presented for killing Batman. Tellingly, the characters are all described as they looked in the old comics instead of their television incarnations, with the Joker being tall and thin (a description that would never have fit Cesar Romero!) and the Catwoman having a “smoothly furred leotard” and a long green cloak.

Batman and Robin have already gotten wind of this confab, however, and arrive to break it up, capturing Catwoman in the process but being themselves bested by the Penguin. We then see Penguin take his shot at winning the award with a long, realistically paced chase scene and a genuinely thrilling blimp crime.

When the Tuxedoed Terror inevitably fails in his ultimate quest, the Joker takes his turn. It is pointed out that this is the truly insane Clown Prince of Crime from the early comics or as he returned in the 1970’s. The Joker is genuinely scary in some of his scenes, both to the other characters and the reader as well.

Finally, just when you think it should be over, an escaped Catwoman returns to the plot with the deadliest trap yet for the Caped Crusaders.

“Deadly” is a good word for the criminals’ intentions here, by the way. On the series, the serious consequences of the villains’ attempts at “getting rid of” Batman and Robin were always downplayed and even sugarcoated. Here, that is most definitely not the case. For example, the Joker tricks Robin into leaping at a dummy and then immediately opens a trap door beneath them so that Robin will fall directly into corrosive acid a mere five feet below him! How he survives that very realistic and scary trap is the biggest stretch of credibility that the reader is asked to buy in the entire novel.

Which brings us to the biggest fault of Batman Vs. Three Villains of Doom—it can’t make up its mind as to how serious it wants to be! The parts of the book that play like a straightforward crime story are the best with the author giving almost noir-ish descriptions of settings and fight scenes. On the other hand, the concept of “camp” as popularized by the TV series seemed to completely throw him and he instead relied on a vague Mad-style (or maybe Cracked-style) parody feel in the book’s few attempts at actually treading that fine line.

“Winston Lyon,” by the way, was the pen name for former comic book writer William Woolfolk. Woolfolk had worked on many comic heroes beginning in the 1940’s including Blackhawk and the original Captain Marvel. He even claimed to have coined the latter’s “Holey Moley!” catchphrase. Two heroes he had not worked on before, though, were Batman and Robin.

By the early 1960’s, Woolfolk won praise as one of the main writers for the long-running television legal drama, the Defenders. He became a successful novelist both as Winston Lyon and under his own name, eventually even hitting the bestseller list, a feat his daughter, Donna Woolfolk Cross, would repeat many years later with her 1996 novel, Pope Joan.

Batman fans all have their own idea of how the character “should” be so this unusual and unique combination of serious and silly versions may not appeal to everyone but taken as a product of its time I found it immensely entertaining and, for the most part, very well written by an author who seemed to have quite a good feel for the characters. I wish he had written more Batman stories!

Batman Vs. Three Villains of Doom, with its Adam West cover, was originally published in April of 1966 and is long out of print. If you’re intrigued, however, you can generally find inexpensive copies through EBay, Amazon, Abebooks and all of the usual Internet sources.

PATTINASE is still posting great book reviews at:http://pattinase.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 09, 2020

Booksteve Reviews: Rich Little and Suzanne Somers, April 1980

Today, I ran across the review I wrote of the Suzanne Somers/Rich Little matinee show I saw with my mother at Cincinnati’s Palace Theater in April of 1980. I was 21 years old. This was just a couple of months before my mother was diagnosed with cancer. My dad was still recovering from his accident. This was the last event she and I attended together, just the two of us. When I got home, I wrote the following review. There was no Internet then so it’s remained unpublished until now, 40 years and nearly three months later. Here’s what I wrote:

The show began promptly at three, with the announcement coming from large speakers on each side of the stage. Out from the wings, attired all in silver, came Suzanne Somers. During the course of her act, she sang many songs including a Ted Lewis song, a slow dance number, and a medley of TV themes including THE JEFFERSONS, GOOD TIMES, ONE DAY AT A TIME, CHICO & THE MAN, MAUDE, ALL IN THE FAMILY, and, of course, she ended with parts of the THREE’S COMPANY theme. “They’re playing my song!”
Joined by two male singer/dancers for much of the show, she sang a tribute to Chrissy, her TV character, dressed in a pink Chrissy blouse and with the side ponytail. This tribute included some Chrissy jokes:

            Chrissy: I’m taking singing lessons.
            Man: Are they teaching you how to use your diaphragm?
            Chrissy: They don’t have to. I’m on the Pill!

A spoof of TV commercials featured Suzanne in a feathered chicken outfit shuffling across the stage singing the Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup jingle. The Q & A session that followed saw her asked her age, weight, and measurements (“Thirtysomething, twentysomething, thirtysomething.”) and, “Is John Ritter really gay?” “I can tell you from personal experience,” she said, “that John Ritter is the horniest heterosexual in the world!”

A short reel of THREE’S COMPANY bloopers followed and featured John supposedly nude under a box but holding the box high enough to accidentally reveal his brief briefs. Suzanne and Dick Sargent were seen continually breaking  glasses and breaking up during a  toast and then Suzanne was seen messing up and the clipboard man going “Take Two, “Take Three,” etc., eventually shouting, “With all due respect, Take FIVE,” followed by Suzanne’s quiet aside on film, “Wise-ass.”

She then performed a medley of “Your” songs—“This One’s For You,” “Your Song,” etc., finally closing with “Razzle Dazzle,” a real show-stopper. Or rather, that SHOULD have been her closing number. The fact that she then went right into a badly timed “American Traditional” medley probably cost her a standing ovation. Several costume changes—two or three literally onstage—left her in a glittering dress. She said that now she’s a star of “Stage, Screen, TV, and PLAYBOY. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable, professional show with a few dull moments.

After a 20-minute intermission, the curtain lifted again and Rich Little, shrouded in dimly lit blackness, stood above the orchestra and sang an introductory song for himself before leaping onto the stage to begin his act. 
Filled with political humor, risqué jokes, and some serious film star tributes, he offered a good selection of his famous impressions including Paul Lynde selling an album of “1000 Golden Stinkies” by John Wayne (“My Horse is Queer”), Boris Karloff, Johnny Carson’s Carnak, and others. The beginning of his act had Rich commenting on the cold weather and someone in the audience yelling as if on cue, “How cold IS it?” which prompted Rich to crack up and say, “This audience is really on the ball!”

Later, in Groucho makeup, Rich ran through the audience, tossing off one liners like, “Do you know the difference between making love and making a salad?” only to get the answer, “Yes,” from an audience member who said he had read the reviews of the show. Everyone cracked up, once again including Rich. 

George Burns and the late Jack Benny had a discussion on modern politics next. Rich himself called the Ayatollah, “Rip Van Winkle.”

An MGM tribute was the highlight of the show with Rich channeling Durante, Kelly, Satchmo, Bing, Louis Jourdan, Howard Keel, and, the show’s best moment, Clark Gable. To a film tribute to Gable—scenes from throughout his career—Rich, in character, sang “It Was a Very Good Year” very poignantly, even somehow managing to LOOK like the King of Hollywood. 

Tough to top that but he moved on into a political debate with Cronkite, Brinkley, and Reasoner asking questions of Ford, Nixon, Kennedy, and Carter. At one point during this section, Rich had trouble with a Chinese joke and instead talked about Chinese people who were in the audience at one of his shows in Vegas.

A few other of the many voices the man did were Bogart, Walter Brennan, and Maurice Chevalier. He finished up with singing impressions that included Neil Diamond, Perry Como (his best!), Frank Sinatra, Anthony Newley, Tom Jones, and Robert “Ghoulie” as he called him. 

Afterwards, he came off stage and walked through the audience as the orchestra played, shaking hands with everyone all around, including me! 

A fine, funny show from two very talented people!