Saturday, January 17, 2009

DVD'S I HAVE KNOWN

With all of that sub-sub-SUB-zero weather we've been having the past few days at least I now have a good excuse to stay indoors and hunker-down with what I would call some serious television viewing. However, with the television scene being as stinky as it has been for the past three decades I've found that it's prudent for one to have a good stock of DVD's and perhaps even some old VCR tapes that should be transferred to disque one of these days in order to preserve them, because who knows what kinda entertainment they're gonna be shovin' down our throats a good twenny years from now! And what a better time, now that my computer DVD drive seems to be more or less working again, to spin some of those shiny disques that I have received for Christmas! Yes, Santa has been kind to me not only with the Ed Wood Box Set he had sent my way (courtesy of one Mr. Lou Rone) but with a few other goodies that I was fortunate to find under the tree this past Holiday Seasoned. So without further ado (and to do yet another "change-of-pace" weekend post) here's what else I happened to get from old Mr. C, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof, almost a good month back!

First on the itinerary are the pair of disques sent my way from none other than Bill Shute, who not only has a good enough gauge as to what my own tastes are but seems to have pretty good taste himself as these two picks of his'll prove. DVD #1's a beaut in that it contains not one, but two moom pitchers featuring none other than (hold onto your hats) The Three Stooges in roles that have probably not been seen by the vast majority of their fans twixt the seventies until the big Stooge putsch of the early-eighties when just about all of their rarities were beginning to hit the cathode tube either via broadcast or shoddy VHS releases. The biggest surprise about these two flicks (GOLD RAIDERS/MEET THE BARON on Warner Brothers Home Video) is that they were both fairly common enough fixtures on broadcast tee-vee back in the mid-fifties meaning that their original airing dates via syndicated movie packages predates the late-fifties Stoogemania that was created when their shorts hit the tube creating a wave of revived interest that lasted for a good umpteen years afterwards as I recall!

GOLD RAIDERS is one of those films I'm sure more than a stations ran on Saturday mornings back when that day and time was the bastion of old western films and cartoon reruns long before the early-sixties begat the Saturday Am kulture we've all known and loved for years. It would figure, because even if the Shemp Howard-era Stooges were absent from this hour-long b-grade it would still rank as a typical low budget western that would have seen a quick run in theatres only to be followed by years of syndication before getting tossed into the public domain videotape bins where it would rot for quite a long time. But GOLD RAIDERS is worth it for the Stooges as comic relief doing some of their great gags in a Wild West setting complete with a good enough cast, most notably George O'Brien as himself out to make sure the gold arrives safely, Fuzzy Knight as the weak do-nothing sheriff, and of course Lyle Talbot as the heavy in yet another role he didn't turn down. And it was directed by Edward Bernds who sure knew enough about the Stooges and low-budget cinema to crank out not only a good feature-length Stooge vehicle but a western thus hitting it big with the kids' two favorite types of entertainment in one fifty-five minute cheapie!

As far as feature #2 MEET THE BARON goes, this vehicle for vaudeville/radio personality Jack Pearl is benefited by an early appearance by the Ted Healy-manned trio, and even if you (like me) find Healy to have been way overbearing (perhaps due to the mainlining that made Shemp quit the trio in the first place?) and the Stooges mostly put to bad use at MGM (the worst studio for just about anything save a few Buster Keaton films, FREAKS and Tex Avery cartoons) you'll probably want to watch this to experience the genesis of the Stooge style you've come to know and love via years of bleary-eyed distant-signal UHF viewing. Of course the rest of the film is actually good enough even with the patented MGM gloss, with star Pearl doing his dialect act coming off like a less transparently phony Willie Howard and co-star Jimmy Durante making do as the second banana. The major storyline (with Pearl being mistaken for the legendary Baron Munchausen after being left for dead in Africa by the real one!) and the subplots (a love affair between Pearl and Zasu Pitts of all people!) are halfway-there early-thirties fare, but the Stooges in a variety of scenes really do save this from being yet another switchoff to the late news. However without the Stooges one could say that MEET THE BARON is so staid that even the "scandalous" shower scene at the all-girls college will make you celibate, but I'm sure that for most of you readers there will not be any major changes made in your standards of living.

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WAIT!, there was one more disque to be found in the package that I got from Bill, and boy that addition to the set was a soo-prize indeed! I remember when WILL THE REAL JERRY LEWIS PLEASE SIT DOWN (available from "Classic Cartoons on DVD", c/o Ira's Candy Store) debuted on ABC's Saturday Morning schedule back in '70, and I should remember that because at the time I was one big Jerry Lewis fanatic who used to watch all of his movies whether they be his oldies with Dean Martin that were popular syndication fodder on Sunday afternoons at the time or his solo ones which were also popping up on local tee-vee but more than often were showing up on prime time. Whatever, I thought that Jerry Lewis was the coolest kinda guy imaginable...yeah, I didn't watch his NBC series (a episode of which I reviewed here) because at the time I thought it was too "grown up" and I have no recollection of his down-in-flames ABC show which is legendary if only for its failure, but hey if Lewis had his own show onna tube during my days of Lewis fanaticism I surely woulda been front and center for it! Of course it all went down when I heard the guy telling dirty jokes on the telethon about somebody dancing around like "Charo in heat" (I thought he was a nice guy, just like everyone told me!) but for awhile if there was anyone I wanted to be my dad it was Jerry Lewis! Well, at least think of all the pills I coulda scarfed up!

I dunno why, but even during this big massive Jerry Lewis "infatuation" I don't recall liking this animated series one stinking iota! In fact, I believe I tuned in to this 'un only once or twice at the most during those Saturday AM hours and then shrugged the whole thing off like I would such other kiddie bits of distaste like arts & crafts and enemas. These cartoons weren't anything like the movies I was hogging the set for (and had none of that fifties/early-sixties style and verve I appreciated more than the flower power gloop that was permeating everything at the time!), and the jokes just weren't as hotcha as the ones I heard Jerry do on a variety of programs. In fact, I gotta admit that I found the show instant dungeon, unfunny and kidstuff crap that didn't appeal to a guy who liked his kidstuff real pre-LBJ-like! Well, at least there were no references to "Charo in heat" to be heard, but I still found myself preferring to do outside peon work in the yard to watching this particular load of douse.

You'll probably think that time has softened this old turd just like Dulcolax with regards to my current opinions regarding WILL THE REAL JERRY LEWIS PLEASE SIT DOWN, and if you'd thunk that for once in your life you'd be right! Maybe it's that old Filmation Studios style that was so predominant on television at the time, coupled with that same cornball canned music that dredged up memories of my occasional viewings of ARCHIE, but danged if this series didn't have a good sorta zing to it that goes down a lot smoother here in 2009 than it did almost forty years back!

Not based on Lewis' long-running DC comics title (which was the last of their once-plentiful celebrity comic line, lasting well into 1971 and the just-post DC slug logo days when the character in question's picture would appear on the upper-left-hand corner of the cover in proud Golden Age fashion), WILL THE REAL JERRY LEWIS PLEASE SIT DOWN centers around a personification of the just-post Martin-era Lewis (voiced by future Squiggy David Lander) as the inept employee at an odd job firm who lives with his screwball scientist father (one of the many Lewisclones to be found in this series) and a kid daughter of indeterminable importance. Not being one to mess with the formula, WILL THE REAL JERRY LEWIS PLEASE SIT DOWN also's got the typically short-fused boss/foil and his secretary/Lewis' "love interest" more or less and a wide variety of characters based on various ones Lewis created for certain features including a stereotypical Snidely Whiplash/Simon Legree villain, a vainglorious muscleman, a gangster and a Chinese detective and his overweight son, all of them purporting to be relatives of some sort! And, if you're hankering to see these because you liked the Archie series that Filmation perhaps banked their overall success on there's even a Hot Dog clone not to mention an obvious Miss Grundy swipe as a librarian in the college episode, and I even caught a Jughead imitation stuck in a crowd scene! Well, you can't argue with success.

So what's the verdict? Well, what else could I say about a television series that had its own laugh track that was even used during the opening and closing credits! In fact, the laugh track seems to go on and off at regular intervals almost like it did on THE ADVENTURES OF OZZIE AND HARRIET, or at least that's what Bill "ZIPPY" Griffith claimed and you know he might be right. And yeah, even a born curmudgeon as I would admit that WILL THE REAL JERRY LEWIS PLEASE SIT DOWN was a fun enough seventies-era cartoon series that maybe should enjoy some sorta retrospective these days. True it's no TELECOMICS but I'll bet it sure woulda looked neat watching the ABC Sunday AM reruns of it a few years later 'stead of some fru-fru poets on CAMERA THREE or Rex Humbard fleecing the flock!
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Finally on today's tour into the world of digital dorkitude's this weirdie sent me by Brad Kohler, who seems to have this persecution complex about himelf and the presents he gives me for Christmas. Listen Brad, it's the thought that counts, and if you could only THINK a little more about what you're giving your Benevolent Leader as a gift then maybe you wouldn't have these pangs of guilt tugging away at every sinew and bowel in your body! But Brad did think, and he sure thought up a good one in getting me OHM (Ellipsis Arts) which is a collection of various electronic music videos that are compiled and glopped together in order to present to you, the viewer, some visuals to the audio that you've been listening to for quite a few years already. And yeah, I'll bet that if you do a few namechecks on youtube every second of this DVD will pop up in some form and for FREE as well, but if you're the kind of person who's concerned about such trivialities as "quality" and "expediency" then you'll probably like OHM enough to have it moil in your DVD collection next to the performance art and radical manifestos. As for why Brad got this one for me I'd say that it was probably because he remembers the stories about the term paper on electronic music that I did for English class during the sophomore year of my high school existence, the one that Jillery typed up for me mis-spelling a good number of words in the process the most notable one being "Sien Ra" instead of "Sun Ra", a faux pas which burns me up even this late in the game and you can bet I never let her forget it!

If I only had a copy of OHM back then I would probably have turned in a better paper, but that would have been an impossibility considering not only that there were no DVD's in existence back when I was in high school but a good portion of these videos weren't even made at the time! But if they were, they would have been helpful to this kid because they do feature good bits of info and some surprising revelations, if you're willing to wade through a tonna muck that is!

A good portion of OHM seems to be taken from private home videos, like the conversation with theremin player Clara Rockmore and her performance accompanied by pianist, while other clips are definitely of a higher production value which doesn't mean they're any "better" than such clips as Leon Theremin giving electronic composer Paul Lansky a lesson on his creation. Frankly a heaping hunk of this does come off strictly PBS, with the better moments reminding me of seventies PBS at their most adventurous and the more clunkier/avant-pretentious ones coming off like that famed network during its eighties days. And they sure do dredge up the memories if only for that...watching the clips of Robert Moog and his kids with patented seventies long hair and wire rims making a synthesizer brings back fond bleary-eyed memories of the stuff I'd watch on PBS in the seventies while waiting for MONTY PYTHON to come on. However, watching a piece on robots with an admittedly good Steve Reich soundtrack but horrid computer graphics only reminds me of tuning into PBS in the eighties while waiting for the nightly rerun of BEST OF GROUCHO, only to find out that an episode of POV dealing with gay Spanish communist revolutionaries fighting "fascists" or people who might as well be because they're "different" is being shown...and if you're mad that you sat through all that drivel only to end up seeing a buncha commies then you'd have every right to be!

But even with such inanities as some computer animated goop dealing with a "dust bunny" and the bear who wants to obliterate him (mostly a high-tech BARNEY BEAR cartoon) and more dilettanteness than your system can stand there are more than a few items totally worth your viewing at least once, such as the one with Alvin Lucier making percussive clank with his alpha brain waves and Milton Babbitt talking about the Columbia University synthesizer which is cool especially since many in the chattering class of music think he's a dork so he must be doing something right. The clip dealing with synth trio Mother Mallard brought back a few long-forgotten memories since I was pondering buying up some of their records back in the late-seventies thinking they may have had some sorta krautitude in their electronic makeup. After watching this I guess that maybe I was wise to save my money since they come off less kraut-electronics and more hippydoodle, at least judging from the bit that looks like it was copped off a PBS documentary that didn't quite make it to any stations here. I guess whether or not you purchase OHM all depends on how much you like listening to the old pioneering electronic music, or for that matter whether or not you can tell a Sien Ra from a Sun Ra.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

"if there was anyone I wanted to be my dad it was Jerry Lewis!"

So when you were a kid you wanted to be Gary Lewis?

Christopher said...

Haw! If you read the original transcript of what I wrote in BLACK TO COMM a few years back, I also mentioned that I wanted Lucille Ball to be my mother!

diskojoe said...

I can still remember the following joke from that Jerry Lewis cartoon show after all these years:

"They named a town in Massachusetts after you. Marblehead!"

Anonymous said...

So Chris, what is your opinion of Jerry Lewis finally getting an Oscar after all these years?

Christopher said...

Thanks for the news since I decided to spend my Sunday evening in a positive way and watch THE HONEYMOONERS on WGN. As far as Lewis getting an Oscar it really doesn't phase me either way, like it would have if he had gotten one back when I was a kid and he was tops on my list of all around fun things to watch!

Anonymous said...

If someone back then had predicted that Jerry Lewis would EVER get an Oscar (even a lifetime achievement Oscar like he just got), they would have been thought to have been either crazy, French, and/or both!