Sunday, March 30, 2014

I AM NOT ASHAMED IPOD PLAYLIST 10

Yes, it is hard to believe but this is the tenth Ipod playlist of songs in my playlist that could be considered guilty pleasures. Of course, I am not ashamed of liking these songs, no matter who tells me I shouldn't like them. You should hunt them down and enjoy them too.

"Flash's Theme" - Queen
"Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" - Green Day
"Key Largo" - Bertie Higgins
"Don't Forget Me (When I'm Gone)" - Glass Tiger
"Strawberry Letter 23" - The Brothers Johnson
"Lost In Emotion" - Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam
"Silent Running" - Mike and the Mechanics
"Whip It" - Devo
"Sk8er Boi" - Avril Lavigne
"Come To The Sunshine" - Harper's Bizare
"I Was Made For Loving You Baby" - Kiss
"Exodus (Theme)" - Ferrante and Teicher
"(If Paradise Is) Half as Nice" - The Amen Corner
"Radio Nowhere" - Bruce Springsteen
"Fallin in Love" - Hamilton, Joe Frank and Reynolds
"Skip a Rope" - Henson Cargill
"My Heart Will Go On" - Celine Dion
"Barbie Girl" - Aqua
"Ride Like The Wind" - Christopher Cross
"Last Friday Night" - Katy Perry
"Monster Mash" - Bobby B. Pickett and the Crypt Kickers
"Moonlight Feels Right" - Starbuck
"Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" - Crystal Gale
"A Wonderful Dream" - The Majors
"My Guitar Wants to Kill Your Mama" - The Mothers of Inventions
"Bobby Sue" - The Oak Ridge Boys
"You're Holding Me Down" - The Buzz
"Come Back When You Grow Up Girl" - Bobby Vee
"A Sign of the Times" - Petula Clark
"Free Ride" - Edgar Winter Group
"Things I'd Like To Say" - New Colony Six
"Centerfold" - J. Geils Band
"Love Is In The Air" - John Paul Young
"Images" - The Freeborne
"Gary Gilmore's Eyes" - The Adverts
"Rock The Boat" - The Hughes Corporation
"Seminole Wind" - John Anderson
"Can Your Pussy Do the Dog?" - The Cramps
"House of the Rising Sun" - Frigid Pink
"I'm On Fire" - The Dwight Twilley Band

NOTE: I try to delete songs I list from the playlist I use to create these list. Occasionally, some songs are either not deleted or multiply recordings wind up in the list, causing duplicates across the other list.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

THE AGE OF TELEVISION ON LP

Let's take a break from the female comic strip character films for a quick post about an LP I found at a record collector's show in Springfield over the weekend. I cannot find any substantial background information on the origins of it's content. It is called The Age of Television. It features the voices of Hugh Downs, Milton Berle, Arlene Francis and Sylvester "Pat" Weaver.

My guess is this was a television special of the early 70s. The LP was released in 1972 on RCA. You are probably saying, "Why would a TV special be released on a record album?" The answer is that this was before VHS, DVD or You Tube. This was common before home video. There was a Tonight Show anniversary special released on LP (I believe I have that somewhere). There were LPs made containing one episode of Saturday Night  Live, the Smothers Brothers, Donny and Marie and Dean Martin shows. I can't find a date on when this show aired or what network, although I'm guessing NBC because of Pat Weaver and Hugh Downs involvement and it was released on RCA (NBC and RCA were part of the same company back then).

If this was a TV special, I would love to see it. This LP is filled with great audio clips from both TV and radio shows. The LP is produced in true stereo so you can hear different clips on different speakers. I want to listen to this with headphones some time. It does come with a booklet of photos, that are a kind of psychedelic collage.

This must not be a real rare LP. Several websites have unopened copies for about $20 (I gave $5 for mine). I wish I could find information on whether this is audio from a TV special or was produced solely for this record. It is a great relic from the 50s nostalgia craze of the 70s.    

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Female Comic Strip Character Movie No. 3: FRIDAY FOSTER

The only Friday Foster comic book ever
We have all experienced that feeling. We watch a movie that we thought was great when we first saw it, only to realize it is not that great. That was what I experienced with the 1975 Friday Foster movie. I probably should say the only Friday Foster movie, since the comic strip Friday Foster only lasted from 1970 until 1974. It is doubtful that there will ever be another Friday Foster movie.


This movie is a perfect example of what comic fans had to put up with in film adaptations prior to Superman the Movie and other more recent films. The producers licensed the characters but did not attempt to create the world of the comic strip/book. Granted, Friday Foster was a character of her times. Her story lines were similar to other soap opera strips as Mary Worth, Apartment 3-G or The Heart of Juliet Jones, with a dash of Brenda Starr thrown in, since Friday worked as a magazine photographer. Basically, the producers made a blaxploitation movie about Friday Foster.

Pam Grier as Friday Foster

First off, Friday is played by Pam Grier, who is absolutely beautiful and incredibly sexy in this movie. I also believe she is more attractive that the comic strip character. The character was created by Jorge Longarion and modeled after model Donyale Luna. As with Brooke Shields in Brenda Starr, Pam Grier plays Friday Foster as a cute and fashionable, but gutsy and resourceful photographer.

In looking at the few examples of the comic strip available on the web, I noticed most of the stories featured her boss, Shawn North, playing a major role. In the movie, Shawn has a small role. The actor playing the part is more Sean Cassidy than the Shawn North of the comic strip. Friday's version of Basil St. John is Blake Tarr (Thalmus Rasulala), who we are lead to believe is the villain for most of the movie. Colt Hawkins in the comic strip was an author of detective novels and good friend of Shawn North. In the movie, Colt (Yaphet Kotto) is Friday's boyfriend and a private eye. Friday's brother, Cleve (Tierre Turner), is not sweet, idolizing little brother of the comic strip, but a joking flimflam artist.
I'm Issac, I'll be your pimp in this movie.

Where the film has problems is when you incorporate the cliches of blaxiploitation films into a movie about a comic strip character. Cleve is making money selling the presents that are meant for his sister from a pimp named Fancy (played by The Love Boat's Ted Lange). He wants Friday to work for him. Fancy refers to his women with the B-word and his business using a word that beginning with S.

Friday's best friend from her modeling days is stabbed backstage at a fashion show hosted by Madame Rena (played by Eartha Kitt). When Colt and a potato chip munching police detective ask who would be behind the killing, she names a rival fashion designer, Ford Malotte (Godfrey Cambridge). She then calls him a "faggot who couldn't design a handkerchief." Friday and Colt goes to meet Mallote at a bar called the Butterfly. The bar is filled with drag queens. After speaking with a waitress with a manly voice, Colt says that "His muscles are bigger than mine." Friday replies "That isn't all that he has that is bigger than yours." Cambridge plays Malotte as an over-the-top gay stereotype.

The N-word is used quite a bit in the film. Friday is also naked in several scenes. Not that seeing Pam Grier naked is a bad thing, but unlike with Kiss Me, Kill Me, there was no nudity in the comic strip Friday Foster. One might say that Friday Foster had too much nudity in her movie and Valentina didn't have enough nudity in her movie.

The point to make about this film is that it does capture the feel of the comic strip. It also goes in another direction. Kiss Me, Kill Me and Brenda Starr work because they kept the story and situations true to their strips. Friday Foster tries to force the material to be something else. It seems like the attempt was made to turn tame soap opera comic into an oversexed, action packed drive-in movie.


With that said, I enjoyed this more than the other movies Pam Grier made at this time because it is lighthearted and fun. Instead of the usually grim, angry and vengeful woman she usually played at this time in her career, she plays Friday as a funny and flirtatious career woman. Friday Foster fails as a comic strip adaptation, but succeeds as an entertaining movie.  

              

Sunday, March 16, 2014

David Brenner, frequent 'Tonight' guest, dies

David Brenner, frequent 'Tonight' guest, dies

This is David Brenner's first appearance on The Tonight Show.

Female Comic Strip Character Movie No. 2: BRENDA STARR

Brenda Starr and Brooke Shields as Brenda
"She looks like the Sunday comics, She thinks she's Brenda Starr"
 Blondie - Rip Her To Shreds Lyrics | MetroLyrics"

I'm going to say something up front that will make me the most hated person on the Internet (which I was for the first two or three years of my blogging career). I like the 1989/92 movie Brenda Starr more than the 2008 mega-hit The Dark Knight. Of course, everyone who reads this blog, and its predecessor, knows I hated the The Dark Knight before it was ever released. Then again, most of people decided to hate Brenda Starr before it was released to American theaters in the summer of 1992. Looking back, over twenty-five years after being made, the movie may have been ahead of its time.

For one thing, it is not just a movie about a comic strip character, it takes you into the world of Brenda Starr. It takes place in the 1940s. This sort of makes it a precursor to the 1990 Dick Tracy movie. There was a definite attempt to design something that looks like a comic strip world, which would latter be done to a greater effect by Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher in their Batman films. Granted, the transitional effects look similar to the Wonder Woman TV series, but it works.

Another thing that make Brenda Starr revolutionary, it was probably the first movie to be influenced by a popular music video. The movie started production in 1986. The year before was the year that the Norwegian band A-ha had a number one hit internationally with "Take On Me." The video to that song features a woman diving into a newspaper comic strip to try to save the lead singer of the band from a gang of villains. It featured rotoscoped animation of the groups lead singer and some actors playing the gang.


Brenda Starr begins with an illustrator complaining about the comic strip and the character being stupid. An animated version of Brenda (voiced by Shields) snaps back that she is tired of listening to his gripping. At that point, she disappears from the panel. Which leads the artist named Mike (played by Tony Peck, Gregory Peck's son) to try to "go in and look for her."


Mike follows Brenda as she tries to find an ex-Nazi scientist played by Henry Gibson (How many Nazi parts did he play in films?), who has invented a additive that turns water into a powerful fuel.  Brenda wants get the first interview with the scientist to save the newspaper she works for, The Flash, from bankruptcy and scoop her rival, Libby Lipscomb (Diana Scarwid) of The Globe.


After visiting with President Truman (Ed Nelson), The Flash's editor, Francis Livright (Charles Durning) introduces Brenda to the mysterious eye-patch-wearing billionaire Basil St. John (Timothy Dalton). Basil tells Brenda that the scientist is in hiding in the Amazon jungle, which is where Basil lives and grows black orchids (They counteract a genetic disease that Basil has). The room has been bugged by the Globe and a gang of Russian spies, who want to find the doctor for themselves.

Dang! She's hot!

Brenda is kidnapped by the Russians and taken to, kidnapped by pirates on the Amazon, forced to walk a tightrope in a circus at gunpoint, water-skies on alligators, all while changing from one snazzy looking Bob Mackie outfit to another. Mike tags along, much to Brenda's chagrin, with Basil frequently showing up just in time to rescue Brenda, much to Mike's chagrin.

In the end, Brenda saves the paper, gets the scoop, embarrasses Libby, receives another black orchid from Basil (who vanishes again) and Mike decides that drawing Brenda is a bad job after all.


Reading some of the other reviews of this movie on other various websites I've come to the conclusion that most of the reviewers were not familiar with the Brenda Starr comic strip, they were also wanting some sort of dire, heavy-handed serious film like The Dark Knight, they don't know the tumultuous history of this film and (the majority of the reviewers) they hate Brooke Shields. I got the feeling some of the reviewers never watched this movie before they trashed it.

First off, the actors actually look like the characters from the comic strip. The actress who played Brenda in the 40s movie serial didn't have the soft features that Shields has in common with the comic strip Brenda (Brenda Starr was modeled after Rita Hayworth).


The character of Brenda's co-worker, Hank O'Hare, as played by actress Kathleen Wilhoite (Gilmore Girls, E.R., LA Law) actually looks like Hank O'Hare did in the comic strip. In the mid 70s made-for-TV Brenda Starr movie (staring Jill St. John as Brenda), the actress who played Hank O'Hare looked more like Katy Perry in the "Last Friday Night" video.


Several reviewers claim the the producers of Brenda Starr had "contempt" for the comic strip. My contention is no, they respected the comic strip enough to try to make the film look like the world featured in the comic strip, right down to stars in Brenda's eyes (see photo above). The reason, I feel the Columbia movie serial and the 70s made-for-TV movie fail is producers made a movie about a newspaper reporter named Brenda Starr, where as the producers of the 80s/90s film made a movie about a comic strip character named Brenda Starr. The only other comic strip or comic book oriented films or TV shows to do this before Brenda Starr went into production was the 1980 Flash Gordon movie and the 1966 Batman TV series. The best example of a movie doing this is the 1990 Dick Tracy movie with used only seven colors to imitate the look of newspaper funnies print.

I say "went to production" and give vague dates on Brenda Starr because it was actually made in 1986, but due to legal issues it wasn't released until 1989 in Europe and 1992 in the United States. This is partially another reason for some of the negative reviews on the Internet as well as when it was released. It is view as a ripoff of Dick Tracy because of the 40s setting, when in reality it was made four years before it. An extra bit of trivia: After filming finished on Brenda Starr, Timothy Dalton began filming The Living Daylights, his first James Bond film.            

Quite a bit of the criticism of Brenda Starr comes from that old fanboy bugaboo of the use of humor. They think that you have "contempt" for the comic if you poke fun at some of the aspects of comic. Two of the funniest jokes in the movie revolve around Brenda self-righteous attitude toward Mike's cursing and his having a "belly button." The last part is an in-joke, because (according to creator Dale Messick) the syndicate would erase Brenda's belly button if it was showing.

I honestly believe that in the future people will change there opinion of this film. It is incredibly underrated as an adaption of a comic strip.  It doesn't try to force Brenda into a serious, scary real world.  To paraphrase what she tells Mike near the end of the film, Brenda Starr stays in the Sunday funnies where she belongs.






Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Female Comic Strip Character Movie No. 1: KISS ME KILL ME a.k.a BABA YAGA (VALENTINA)

Crepax's Valentina and actress De Funes
This is the movie that instigated this series of post. I had mentioned in a previous post the Valentina comic strip by Guido Crepax. I found this movie in a Mill Creek movie set, thinking it may have been a giallo film.

The comic book version

Most American comic strip/comic book adaptations are aimed at kids. The average child wouldn't be interested in this because Valentina is an Italian comic character. That is good, because this is not a children's movie. This is an adult foreign film. While a very good adaptation of Crepax's artwork and story, the best way to describe it to the average person is a kinky, psychedelic mind-f**k (Pardon my French).

Isabelle De Funes as Valentina

Valentina is played by Isabelle De Funes. She is a cute, hip, Marxist, magazine photographer, who is almost killed trying to save a cute, little dog from being smashed by an on-coming Rolls Royce. The driver is a mysterious woman called Baba Yaga, played by 60s American sex symbol Carroll Baker. As you can see from the picture of the comic, Baker looks nothing like the character in the comic book. Then again, do you want to see someone who looks like Crepax's Baba Yaga naked?

Carroll Baker is Baba Yaga

Baba Yaga shows up the next day at Valentina's studio, fondles her (wait for it) camera and invites her to home. After Baba Yaga leaves, the model Valentina is working with tells her that she thinks Baba Yaga is a lesbian. At one point, Baba Yaga steals the tab from Valentina's garter belt lick and suck on it like a Charms Blow Pop.

Can you get one of these at Toys R Us?

Valentina goes to Baba Yaga's spooky old house with a hole in the floor that Baba Yaga says is the entrance to Hell. Baba Yaga gives Valentina a doll, named Annette, that looks like an American Girl doll dressed like a dominatrix. Valentina begins having nightmares about being naked in front of Nazis. She also dreams that Annette turns into a real dominatrix and begins whipping her.

She tells her film director boyfriend, played by George Eastman, that she believes Baba Yaga is a witch. He doesn't believe it until the people Valentina photographs die suddenly. I'll stop here rather than spoil the ending.

Louise Brooks - Valentina's role model

Some interesting trivia about the Valentina strip. Guido Crepax modeled Valentina after an American silent movie actress named Louise Brooks. Her autobiography makes Valentina's exploits look like a Peanuts special. And speaking of Charlie Brown and the gang...

Good Grief! Valentina is naked again

Valentina first appeared in an Italian comic book called Linus that featured Peanuts reprints. She was the Lois Lane to a Superman-like character named Neutron. Eventually, Crepax dropped Neutron and Valentina became the focus of the comic strip.

The theme song is an instrumental entitled "Open Spaces" by Piero Umiliani, the man responsible for the song "Mah-Nah-Nah-Nah," which was made famous in this country by Jim Henson's Muppets.

The story was remade for a TV version of Valentina in the 90s, but it is not as good. It plays too much like a soap opera.

If you like Italian horror films and comic strip history, check this out. Granted, it is not for everyone, but it is interesting.

 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

FEMALE COMIC STRIP CHARACTERS IN THE MOVIES



I had mentioned last week that I was planing a post on female comic strip characters, who made it to the movie screen. When I came up with this idea last month I thought it would be easy. Then after some research I found out somethings that complicated matters. I was mainly thinking of a handful of well-known film version. I was looking on IMDB and found that there were more than one film for some of these characters. To complicate matters more, these are hard to find. Some never made it to VHS let alone DVD. In a way this is okay, because:
  1. This character is not one of my favorite comic strips.
  2. The descriptions of the plots on IMDB suggest that, like the comic strip, it has a right-wing slant.
  3. There are now three versions of the 70s musical based on this comic, the 80s movie, a made-for-TV version and new big screen version with an all African-American cast.

I was planning to call this "Female Comic Strip Characters on the Big Screen," then I remembered that one of the movies I wanted to feature was a made-for-TV movie. The character has never been on the big screen (However, a big screen version is in the works).

I could only find the trailers for an 80s movie based on a British character, a handful of episodes of a short-lived 80s TV series and some old newsreel footage of the actress, who played the character, and the artist, who created the comic strip (I might post because my juvenile sense of humor enjoys how this man calls his eraser "his rubber").

The Italian comic strip that spawned this post has a few "underground" film versions and a 90s TV series, that apparently aired in this country on the Playboy channel late at night.

I found two other versions of one of the characters I was going to feature on You Tube. There was a Columbia serial of the 40s and a 70s made-for-TV movie. Neither was very good, but at least the 70s TV movie had Jill St. John playing the lead character.

Then I noticed that one of the characters I intended to feature was the star of the "one of the longest running film series in movie history." Was I going to actually buy a box set of these movies and watch them all? I watched them on Sunday afternoons in junior high on KSPR. Isn't that good enough?

Then I realized, I might be over my head. My real aim was to just point out movies about these characters that are out there, not right a book. However, this will probably become an on-going series.


I plan to start with a movie based on Guido Crepax's Valentina and, hopefully, follow it with a post on the 80s/90s Brenda Star movie with Brooke Shields. So, as the old saying goes "See ya in the funny papers!"


Monday, March 3, 2014

THE BOOK THAT MADE ME WHAT I AM TODAY


I've been working on a post on movie adaptation of female comic strip characters (Blonde, Little Orphan Annie, Brenda Star, Friday Foster, Wonder Woman, etc). I recently discovered a film based on Valentina, an erotic, psychedelic Italian comic strip illustrated by Guido Crepax (which I plan to mention in my post). I remember seeing sample of Valentina in a book my parents bought me when I was nine years old entitled The World Encyclopedia of Comics by Maurice Horn (I notice in this photo that the biography of Guido Crepax is on the front of the dust jacket, to the left of Yellow Kid).

I tried to look for some updated information of Maurice Horn, but found little on the Internet. I have a video with an interview with him on it and he speaks in French, however, the bio of him in the book indicates he is an American. He was very well-known as an expert on comic art. Milton Canniff even drew Maurice Horn into a Steve Canyon strip. 

The more I thought about this book, the more I realized how much of an influence this book had on my life. It really triggered not only my creative instincts but my need for more knowledge and the realization that somewhere in the world there were people taking the things I was interested in seriously. It also pointed that there were movies and TVs about these comic strip characters, so that made me interested in film and media history. There was a timeline in the front which sparked my interest in modern history. The foreign entries sparked my interest in other countries. This book told me that the was life beyond Laclede County and Lebanon, Missouri. For that I am ever thankful.

   
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