Sunday, June 26, 2016

#Filmistines Live Tweet Saturday, July 16, 2016 - Lemonade Joe

1.          Ironic portmanteau of “film” and “Philistine” describing a member of a motley crew of people arguing, riffing, laughing and indoctrinating each other with their diverse tastes in movies. Devolves into bitter love/hate disputes when the subjects of Blade Runner and 1950s Danish cinema come up, yet somehow it perseveres.

     And so, apparently, we come to the birth of a new tag, the #Filmistines, a grassroots movie live tweet appreciation gathering running around 11PM EST on Saturday nights as a sort of prelude to the TCM Underground. I’ve gone with the flow of a number of back room VHS viewings, chat room movie nights, and live tweets in the last twenty plus years, and I had the honor of coming up with a name for the group that everyone seemed to like (it’s always nice to know that my complete lack of talent can fall back on making one new word out of two different words… I should put in an application to The Pokemon Company). Over the past month or so, the #Filmistines have waded into shallow waters with movies like Blade Runner, The ‘Burbs, the French New Wave classic Bob Le Flambeur, and Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Some of us love them, some of us hate them, we kid around, we riff, we bum each other out when we don’t all fall under the same opinion of a classic, but we keep at it because that’s what movie lovers do. And we are making every attempt to dive deeper. It’s not an original concept, but if you can find someone with whom you can laugh and argue at the same time and keep coming back every week, I think that’s coming pretty close to what you’d call friendship. But I’m not here to give a motivational speech about getting along. I’m here to talk about me.

     Coming hot on the heels of my #MondayActionMovie and #CinemOn The Road takeover night on July 18 (see previous blog post for full details), I’ve called dibs on the #Filmistines Saturday night of July 16 to feature something special to me. I became a fan of Czechoslovakian film—and foreign film in general—as a very young child through, believe it or not, preschool animation. I had the distinct pleasure of the fledgling Nickelodeon channel and premium cable in the early 1980s, and early cable needed filler. Channels like HBO and shows like Nickelodeon’s Pinwheel had the opportunity to pad out their time with cartoons from all over the world including Russia, Sweden, Hungary, Australia, and Finland. That diversity, coupled with horror host broadcasts of Kung Fu and Japanese monster movies, would foster an admiration and appreciation for the diverse cultural styles of film that remains with me today. It was through those local network horror hosts that I would be introduced to the legend and the master that was Karel Zeman, a man some call both the Czechozlovakian Ray Harryhausen and Walt Disney. His animation style was a major influence of Monty Python's Terry Gilliam, but his work still doesn't seem to get the exposure and appreciation it deserves around the world. I would not have seen any of his work at all if not for some dubbed VHS releases of 1961's Baron Munchhausen and Saturday afternoon TV broadcasts of the dinosaur epic Journey to the Beginning of Time. If I thought I could wrangle enough people in the #Filmistines to buy some imported BluRays of those films from Zeman's own museum website (which I haven't dared to purchase myself yet for lack of money and fear that the BR player I have just might be one of the models that won't play the questionably region-coded discs), I'd go for it in a heartbeat, but for now, I'm testing the waters of Czech film appreciation with a more accessible title that did get a domestic US DVD release, 1964's Lemonade Joe.
     By 1964, that aforementioned cultural diversity had made its way around the world several times over already, been driven out of some countries by war and social upheaval and managed to make its way back again. In the West, the American Western genre specifically was suffering, but it was gaining ground in Europe and even Japan with Akira Kurosawa’s Western-influenced samurai films and the success of Italian “Spaghetti” Westerns from directors such as Sergio Leone. The formula stayed mostly consistent, but with every border crossing into a different culture, even the most well known archetypes and tropes take on new interpretations and controversies. Things took an interesting turn in Czechoslovakia, where the American Western had been a popular genre among the Czechoslovakian people as early as 1918 until American Westerns were banned under both Nazi and Stalinist rule for nearly twenty years. Although Westerns would not begin to reappear in the country until the 1960s, just in time for that new life Kurosawa and Leone breathed into the genre themselves, the influence of the American Western survived through the work of satirist Jiří Brdečka in the 1940s with Lemonade Joe. Lemonade Joe grew out from serials to radio to the stage and, eventually, to film in the 1964 musical comedy Limonádový Joe aneb Koňská opera, poking fun at the concepts of the American Western, commercialism, and aspects of top governing powers of the time, both Capitalism and Communism alike.

Recommended reading: International Westerns: Re-Locating the American Frontier

     July 16, 2016, at 11PM EST, join me as I subject the #Filmistines to Lemonade Joe. Falling a bit short of its 50th anniversary but just in time for the 10th anniversary of its DVD release to English audiences in 2006, Lemonade Joe can be found on Amazon Prime if a physical copy of the original DVD eludes you before show time. I’m delighted at the opportunity to revisit it and give it a little more exposure. A little song, a little dance, a little lemonade down your pants.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

#MondayActionMovie X #Cinemon X #GHWP - Live Tweet All-Out Attack (Monday, July 18, 2016)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Original planned date was June 13, 2016, but I'll be out of town for a family funeral. 

I’ve got myself a full plate three days out of the week again with live movie tweeting, and I’ve landed a three-hour slot for July 18 that promises to be a whopper. First, for my fill-in #MondayActionMovie, I’ve chosen a belated Memorial Day tribute of my own with the 1956 Robert Aldritch WWII action drama Attack! I would link the trailer here, BUT trust me when I say that, if you haven't seen it, then you're better off not watching it. It's one of those trailers that feels like it tells too much of the story, and it even features a poorly-delivered alternate take of one of the best scenes of the entire film. Watch the trailer after the movie or not at all. Just my two cents.

“I'm not a war movie buff. I saw a number of Vietnam War era movies as a young child because I had premium cable during the Nam nostalgia boom of the early 80s, but outside of seeing a few classic Cirio Santiago movies as a kid, I wasn't really into war movies. I wouldn't have given this movie a chance at all if not for the Phil Hendrie Show on talk radio. One reason I became a fan of his show was how similarly we share tastes in classic movies, and this was a film he mentioned fondly and often, even taking time out during one show to explain why he loved the movie and why he quoted it so much. Phil's recommendation still stuck in the back of my head for a few more years before I finally got my hands on it. Attack! immediately became one of my favorite movies of all time with a cast of some of my favorites from Richard Jaeckel to Buddy Ebsen to Lee Marvin, and it's Jack Palance and Eddie Albert at their best. It's a dark and powerful tale of political nepotism putting soldiers' lives at risk and putting integrity, morality, and mental stability to the test on the battlefield.”

The above review quote was copied and pasted from my Letterboxd page (SonOfKaras). I don’t even remember writing it. I almost sat on Microsoft Word writing an entirely new review that would have said the same thing almost verbatim, so I’m glad I checked Letterboxd first and saved my addled brain some time. It's worth repeating that I owe Phil Hendrie everything for that one. I’m one of Phil's “no life, VCR-petting geek” talk radio listeners. He didn't mean it as a compliment when he said it, but I take it as one. Every once in a while I'll dig into my old Backstage Pass collection just for shows like an hour he did in December 1999 about made-for-TV movies like Deliberate Stranger; Mother May I Sleep with Danger?; Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway; and Sweet Hostage. A few months earlier, he devoted an hour to the films of George C. Scott (with the aid of young film buff R.C. Collins) shortly after the actor’s passing, and I can't count how many times he printed off a filmography list from IMDB and ran through it with hilarious commentary. I'll never forget how hard I laughed when Phil's intern Bud Dickman insisted that all of the titles of John Wayne and the Little Rascals were gay porn. Phil inspired me to seek out several of those films (I don't mean gay porn, not that there's anything wrong with that), but there are many that I still need to see. Some of the quotes Phil snuck into the dialogue of his show the most came from classics like Halloween, The Exorcist, Dracula, and, of course, Attack! 

Some people listen to music on a portable music player when they're on the go. I listen to music, too, but I also mix in a heavy dose of Phil for some of the best laughs I ever got when I was driving home from college in my early twenties between 1998 and 2003. I still have a shelf of cassette tapes of almost every show he did from Summer 2001 up until 9-11 and even into parts of Spring 2002, recorded myself right off the local radio, and I'll pop one of those tapes into the car tape deck every so often depending on the mood I'm in. Since his was considered a comedy show, my local station was one of those afraid he was going to keep doing comedy following 9-11. He didn't, but it took them more than a week to figure that out and put him back on the air where he belonged. His straight talk and his understanding of history were just as important to me in those times as his Comedy Gold, and I consider him a mentor and part of the family. If you're reading this, Phil, and I know you're not, I love you, brother.

As I say in every review I’ve ever written on a war movie, I just don’t do war movies. Even the fiercest recommendations like Phil's usually take me a few years to pursue. Nonetheless, when I do get around to watching a war movie, I really sink my teeth into it. Two of the maybe five war movies total I have seen in my life are among my top favorite movies, and I only saw one of those for the first time—Das Boot—three days ago (June 4). I’ve hoped for years that Turner Classic Movies might add Attack! to its schedule at some point, and I’ve been saddened to see that it’s available on Blu-Ray in France but was released only on DVD several years ago in the US (and I think is out of print). For the love of Pete, it’s Robert freaking Whatever Happened to Sweet Charlotte on The Longest Yard with The Dirty Dozen Aldritch! Well, y’know what? It’s on YouTube. If TCM ain’t gonna host it, then I will.

(Edit: I'll already have hosted a few #CineMon shows by the time this altered schedule takes place, but for the sake of continuity, I'm postponing this particular Route 66 episode until July 18 as well.)

After Attack!, I’ll be starting a new bi-monthly gig as host of #CineMon. I’ve filled in a few times here and there, but I’m in for the long haul now for at least the summer, grasping the reins every other Monday from the previous co-host to take us out of the water and onto the open highway. I’ve been in the mood for some classic television lately, but live tweeting Japanese superheroes (Spider-Man on Tuesdays and Spectreman on Fridays) has all of my #GHWP hosting slots filled for the foreseeable future. The offer of the #Cinemon slot was perfect timing, so now I’m using it to plug in something that’s been itching in back of my head for a little while: an old favorite called Route 66. As the heat of the summer rises, I'll mix in a little more of The Hitchhiker along the way. Or I may do a little of both in one night.

I’m a Nickelodeon baby, as a couple of my previous blog posts have stated very clearly. Nick and I grew up together. We lost touch around the age of twenty, but I was right there at the ripe young age of seven on July 1, 1985, when Nick at Nite was born. It was an amazing feeling staying up late one summer night watching Lassie, Dennis The Menace, Turkey Television, The Donna Reed Show, My Three Sons, National Geographic Explorer, and, of course, Nick at Nite’s flagship drama series, Route 66. A few years later, even though a couple of cherished favorites like Route 66 were gone, I was still with the channel every night for Susie; Mister Ed; Car 54,Where Are You?; Bewitched; The Monkees; Mad Movies with the L.A. Connection; Make Room for Daddy; The Dick Van Dyke Show; Laugh-In; Saturday Night Live; The Patty Duke Show; Looney Tunes; Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp; Green Acres; Dobie Gillis; SCTV; The Mary Tyler Moore Show; Alfred Hitchcock Presents; On The Television; Fernwood 2Night; Hi Honey, I’m Home!; Mork & Mindy; F Troop; Casey Kasem’s annual New Year’s rerun countdowns; a marathon of Sid and Marty Krofft shows; and another all-time favorite drama, Dragnet. I heated up Nick at Nite on a spoon and shot it directly into my arm for well over a decade. There was no other channel worth watching after 8PM any night. Old reruns were king. And they still are thanks to current channels like MeTV and H&I.

Having watched The Incredible Hulk while still in diapers (my grandmother has photos to prove it), Route 66 was my second taste of a dramatic anthology, and this one didn’t have any flashy colors or mutating superheroes. If you were seven years old in 1985 and had the attention span to sit up around 10PM or later at night to watch a show like Route 66 or Dragnet, then you’re already a friend of mine. Although Route 66 was shot in black and white, it was a beautiful travelogue of scenery of 1960s America and a who’s who of amazing actors such as George Kennedy, Beatrice Straight, Walter Matthau, Darren McGavin, Julie Newmar, Leslie Nielsen, Lois Nettleton, Lee Marvin, and even Rin Tin Tin. I had no clue who Jack Kerouac was at age seven, but I already felt familiar with him when I pursued literature in my college years thanks to Route 66. It was a weekly series depicting the frustrations of youth to find a place in the world, always finding out that you never were far from home no matter how far you traveled (or ran) away from it.

I’ll be starting my #CineMon run with a real Route 66 gem and perhaps the most famous of the series: Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Tail, guest-starring the legendary Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr., AS THEMSELVES! As an added bonus, the episode available on YouTube is an original 1962 broadcast complete with original station breaks and commercials! I never caught this episode on Nick at Nite as a child. There's no doubt I would have worshiped it if I had. The first time I saw it was on MeTV on Halloween night 2014, a year to the day after my mother died, and it was a blessed hour lifting the fog. Horror movies and old TV reruns were something my mother and I shared very passionately, and this was the best of both worlds.

So cinch up your danglies, maggots, and join me Monday, July 18, for #MondayActionMovie with  Attack! at 8PM EST. Then, stick around at 10PM EST for #CineMon and Route 66 – Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Tail.

Monday, June 6, 2016

GHWP Superhero Summer Tuesdays - Spider-Man in Japan

             Venturing farther into the reaches of unknown space, Gaping Head Wound Playhouse comes to rest on Planet Spider. Tuesday nights after #TrashTue this summer, coincidentally falling in line with their June Bugs marathon, #GHWP is happy to present the adventures of Spider-Man. Peter Parker? No. Miles Morales? Guess again. Parallel universe Gwen Stacy? I’ll give you one more chance. The clone Ben Reilly? Now you’re just being silly. It’s none other than Takuya Yamashiro, Toei’s very own Spider-Man in Japan.

             Marvel Comics helped change the landscape of Toei’s superhero universe forever in 1978 when an overseas partnership threw some major new ideas on the drawing board. While American audiences were watching Nicholas Hammond web-swing around the city as Peter Parker, audiences in Japan were treated to Shinji Todo (best known and loved in GHWP circles for playing Metalder's nemesis God Neros) as motorcycle racer Takuya Yamashiro, fighting the forces of evil with a different arsenal of skills and gadgets. Not unlike Peter Parker, Takuya has the tragic death of a loved one on his shoulders that urges him forward against his enemies, but Toei’s Spider-Man is an instrument of vengeance rather than one of power and responsibility. The Iron Cross Army, led by Professor Monster, murders Takuya’s father and comes close to killing Takuya himself, but Takuya soon discovers that there is more than one alien hiding on Earth. The Iron Cross Army’s previous conquest was Planet Spider, and its sole survivor, Garia, followed Professor Monster to Earth to seek revenge.
Overpowered in his final battle against Professor Monster, Garia was trapped in a cavern of poisonous spiders, but Professor Monster did not count on Garia’s ability to endure his imprisonment. It couldn't have had something to do with Garia coming from a planet called Spider, could it? Nah. Silently, patiently waiting for 400 years, Garia finally sees his opportunity and his successor, injecting the wounded Tayuka with a serum of Garia's blood called “Spider Extract.” Takuya Yamashiro’s very DNA is altered, making him both a brother of Planet Spider and of Earth. Takuya Yamashiro is Spider-Man, and he has access to Garia’s entire cache of Spiderian weaponry including the signature Spider-Man uniform known as the “Spider Protector,” the flying Spider-car GP7, and the massive space battleship Marveller that, with a simple command, transforms into the sword-wielding giant robot Leopardon. The Iron Cross Army, big or small, doesn’t stand a chance.

Shotaro Ishinomori’s previous formula, successful from 1971-1978 with series such as Kamen Rider and Himitsu Sentai GoRanger, kept its superhero tales mostly at a human-sized level. Mecha, or giant robots, were considered a separate sub-genre of television science fiction, finding their own success in series such as Jonny Sokko and His Flying Robot and Super Robot Red Baron. Ishinomori’s superheroes were more espionage-based action stories, adding costumes and stunts to stories that were more dramatic and closely related to The Man from U.N.C.L.E. or the James Bond franchise with a science fiction twist. Toei’s Spider-Man, however, was the first to blend both of those ideas together, partnering Spidey with a giant transforming robot. Branching away from Ishinomori’s formula once and for all, Toei’s sentai series would come to be known as the Super Sentai series, and every team of Rangers, beginning in 1979 with the Marvel-inspired Battle Fever J, would incorporate a giant transforming robot. Fortunately, Ishinomori’s style and influence remained intact for the Kamen Rider franchise and several other one-shot Toei sentai series, but Super Sentai became forevermore a mixture of costumed heroes and giant robots that progressively relied more on gimmicks and merchandising than plot. 

Change, Leopardon! (Leopardon now available at your local retailer. All parts sold separately and some assembly required and you don't really love this show and have terrible parents if you don't get up right now and BUY ONE!)

Ultimately, this isn’t another sad tale of the West tainting eastern culture because it was Toei’s decision—with some disagreement from Marvel at first—to include mecha in the story, and it seemed as though this was to prevent that sort of thing from happening. Perhaps Toei didn’t think the plain, average, every day American Spider-Man was capable of pulling off 41 episodes of human-sized action drama on his own without the help of a giant robot. Ironically, the giant monster and robot battles barely took up two minutes of each episode, consisting more often than not of repetitive stock footage of the robot Leopardon himself almost never coming into the same frame with his opponent, so, in the end, the success of the series truly did hinge on Spider-Man following roughly the same human-focused superhero formula as the Riders and Rangers that came before him.

With sooooooo much more posing. Move over, Madonna. Voguing didn't start with you.

Under the #GHWP hashtag on Twitter, episodes of Spider-Man will be live tweeting every Tuesday night around 10PM EST following #TrashTue beginning June 7. Streaming availability comes courtesy of and their beautiful catalog of tokusatsu and Asian drama.

I did mention a lot of posing, right?

 And in case you've been off the radar, #GHWP's flagship series Spectreman is back on Friday nights at 10PM EST following #Kolchak. The hand-talking misadventures of Dr. Gori and Karas are even more fun the second time around.