Friday, November 12, 2004

FRACTURED FLICKERS 3-DVD set (VCI Entertainment)

Longtime readers of BLACK TO COMM have been wondering just why I haven't been reviewing the old movies and television shows like I had been throughout the nineties. Whazzamatter they say, can't I get that light on my VCR to stop blinking or sumpin'? True, the last three or so issues have not exactly been ones for the more cinematic or boob-tube-oriented amongst us to savor, but there's a good reason for my virtual vamoosing from the "Video Schmideo" and "Moom Pitchers" columns since those filmatic days of yore. Y'see, back in those halcyon days Bill Shute and I had been sending each other huge boxes of VCR tapes, books, comics etc. as sort of a cultural exchange (or "Care Package" w/o the lumpy white stuff those starving kids used to gobble down), he crating off to me heavy parcels (complete with an iron truss for the mailman) brimming with copies of obscure thirties late-movie items and rare syndicated television wonders (while I responded with a whole batch of fifties/sixties TV series and films that made it to BTC's review pages along with comic strip anthologies and perhaps a BATMAN comic or two), and naturally the steady diet of PRC films and HATHAWAYS sitcoms affected my brain in such a way that I began devoting hefty portions of the mag to such long-forgotten wonders as EAST SIDE KIDS films and George Nader's 1961 syndicated detective series SHANNON. However, when Bill stopped all contact with the outside world for whatever reasons he had (I'm not too sure, but I assume it was because he wanted to live the same kind of hermetic lifestyle that I only wish I could) the Educational Pictures comedy shorts and George Zucco films just started drying up and I didn't feel the strange urge to watch all of those zilch-grade wonders and forgotten sixties sitcoms like I used to. So for all of you readers out there disappointed by the lack of mid-Amerigan dunce-level entertainment reviews...NOW YOU KNOW WHY!!!!

But it ain't like I have totally forsaken the anti-art of cheap cinema and low-budget tee-vee fare one bit! Readers of the latest issue will note that I did purchase the entire series of both SUPERCAR and FIREBALL XL-5 on DVD which kinda blows my mind because never in a million years did I ever think I would be able to view both of these long-forgotten "Supermarionation" series in their entirety! (And let me tell you, I used to fantasize about how there was probably some small UHF station in Biloxi Mississippi that was still running both these shows years after the fact and when I'd go past channel 33 in Youngstown I actually believed they had a basement brimming fulla those old SUPERCARs, BARNEY BEANs and all those shows they used to air before the hippies got in charge and deemed such Saturday Afternoon Barbershop Kid entertainment "verboten"!!!) And now, thanks to a tip via the "comments" box I hit upon today's item in question...a 3-DVD set containing every episode of FRACTURED FLICKERS ever made! I mean, WOW...what's next, the entire run of CRUNCH AND DEZ or better yet some totally off-the-wall (and presumably lost) wonder such as the puppet version of FEARLESS FOSDICK??? Who knows what the future (courtesy of the past) may hold for us!

FRACTURED FLICKERS wasn't the first attempt to take old film and dub in hilarious dialogue nor was it the last (I remember this relatively dud series that ran on cable in the mid-eighties where Shirley Temple features and the like would come in for a well-deserved ribbing that should have been more well-deserved considering the tepid tone of the program), but it was the best of 'em all (WHAT'S UP TIGER LILLY included). It hadda've been, mostly because FRACTURED FLICKERS was the brainchild of Jay Ward Productions who were riding high on the success of ROCKY AND HIS FRIENDS (the original cartoon series airing on ABC weekdays and cut to 15-minute syndication by the time FRACTURED FLICKERS made its Fall '63 debut) and of course the Sunday evening BULLWINKLE SHOW which lasted until '64, and if you thought the dry, understated humor of Rocky and gang was the toast of the early-sixties phony-intellectual college student brigade you should see how that same humor comes off when unchained from the restrictions of proper children's programming. Yes, you could say that FRACTURED FLICKERS was every bit the off-the-wall humorous equivalent of Ernie Kovacs, Harvey Kurtzman, Bobby Kennedy and all of those other early-sixties crackups out there!

Hans Conried was the perfect host for these 26 half-hour collections of old flicks with the standard Jay Ward stock company voices (Bill Scott, June Foray, Paul Frees and even Conried on occasion) with his droll mid-European manner fitting in perfectly, while the wide array of guests (everyone from Rod Serling and Paul Lynde to a Bullwinkle puppet!) are compatico playing against fuddy-duddy Conried. The use of old film (mostly from the silent period though I've caught plenty of clips taken from thirties Educational comedies starring the likes of Monty Collins and Joe Cook), given the typical Jay Ward treatment take these already classics to new and different heights that certainly won't endear themselves to everyone. (After all, Lon Chaney Jr. was ready to trek all the way to the TV station to rip the film right off the projector after seeing what FRACTURED FLICKERS did to his father's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, later on telling the press that it just wasn't right for Jay Ward to go around and smear people who weren't around to defend themselves!) I could also see the ultra-serious silent film fan shrieking in horror over these "burlesques" complete with their outrageous and often cutting humor (I mean, there's even a gay reference to Sonny Liston here that I'm surprised didn't get Jay Ward sued for millions a la the Chevy Chase/Cary Grant debacle in the eighties!), but for ignorant dolts like me (an admitted on/off silents fanatic I'll confess), things like FRACTURED FLICKERS rank amongst some of the funnier, more engaging comedy material to have come down the pike long before such programs as FRIENDS sorta set the standards for non-funny, dry as a desert and rather limited entertainment fare.

There are a few mini-surprises here too, like special-guest Bob Newhart feigning anger over his patented laid-back narrative schtick being used for a number of skits (complete with a fairly good voice imitation courtesy Scott---the great and unfortunately forgotten Eddie Lawrence was also "borrowed from"), and it's a hoot seeing teen idols the likes of Fabian and Annette Funicello slyly poking fun at their own pre-adult fame and fortune status as well. And I also got to mention the swift editing which really helps the faster-than-usual comedic pace of this program. Forget Eisenstein, Jay Ward's the true master of montage!

I gotta say one more thing about FRACTURED FLICKERS, and that is this program was at least ten years ahead of its time. Now don't get me wrong, it's still pretty much in the early-sixties canon of comedy coolness like I alluded to earlier, but frankly there just weren't that many programs like it on the box during its 1963/4 run. However, by the early-seventies screwball syndicated comedies along the likes of FRACTURED FLICKERS would flourish amidst the Saturday pre-Prime Time hours usually on big city network VHF stations. It can't be denied that FRACTURED FLICKERS was the spiritual forefather of such equally-skewered syndicated wonders as IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT starring Joe Flynn with Charles Nelson Reilly, Jo Ann Worley and Billy Baxter, not to mention such oft-harharhar'd creative programming as DON ADAMS' SCREEN TEST, shows I would have loved to have eyeballed at the time only living in a valley complete with a small corner reflecter on the roof kept my viewing habits, er, limited way back when. I only hope it's a matter of time before someone makes the entire runs of IGNORANT and SCREEN TEST also available to us lumpen (and lumpy) hoi polloi because, if anything, we need more sixties/seventies mid-Amerigan cheepniz in a world of 21st century stultifying boredom!


INTERESTING WEBLOG CATCH HERE!: While on the lookout for more blogs so I could read about more people who are writing more nasty things about yours truly (hahaha!), I came across this one. There's nothing bad or defamatory written about me here yet, and frankly I doubt there ever will ever be because nothing's been written on this blog in well over a year, but I thought I should mention it to you because is/was the weblog of none other than the very same Nancy Foster who used to publish the highly-influential NEW AGE (before that term became co-opted by the crystal-mystics amongst us) fanzine, which from 1975 until 1980 or so was a pretty good amateur-level analysis of the new wave punk explosion along with sidesteps into various other pop facets. I never was able to get any of those but did get hold of two issues of her early-eighties THE GROOVE ASSOCIATES which continued on the same path as the original with loads of fanzine chirping on everyone from the Remains, Stiv Bators and the Velvet Underground to the Hampton Grease Band, REM and Michael Jackson! I've written about THE GROOVE ASSOCIATES in the latest ish of my mag where I tell y'all about the difficulties in ordering these self-produced wonders as well as how I never got a second order for back issues (as I wrote in #25, I have my own conspiracy theories as to why I had a hard time getting the first batch of mags and never got the second one, though I can't prove a thing at this time). Anyway, for some more currently available scribings (that I know of) from the likes of Foster (who actually got a big-city critics job thanks to her grass-roots fact, she is on-line somewhere so just plug her name into your fave search engine) just click here even if it's only for a week or so of interesting patter (I had no luck accessing the "archives" and I doubt you will too!), but it's nice seeing that some of the old guard is still around, even if they are being sporadic about it.


Anonymous said...

DON ADAMS' SCREEN TEST? My, what a memory you have!!!
I'd completely forgotten that. I loved the VERY short-lived 70s version of IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT so much that I tape-recorded the soundtrack from it on my cheesy little Radio Shack tape recorder so I could LISTEN to the shows afterward.
Evidently the original 1940s radio show of IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT, featuring the great TOM HOWARD and GEORGE SHELTON of Educational Pictures comedy shorts fame, ran for quite a while. Unfortunately, I just have a few shows on cassette. That Tom Howard--the William Burroughs of comedy--was a genius!!
Hope all is well!


Christopher said...

Bill-If you're interested, copies of the radio version of IT PAYS TO BE IGNORANT are available on CDs, or at least on those downloadable discs which seem to contain about thirty episodes per. They seem to be pretty inexpensive as well and worth the time and effort to search out (try ebay) for the serious fan, and really what true-blue BLOG TO COMM reader isn't? As for DON ADAMS SCREEN TEST, I remember episodes from that one-season series being chopped up and shown on one of those mid-eighties blooper shows, probably the infamous Dick Clark/Ed McMahon one!