This week on TCM Underground: DEATHDREAM (1972)


A grieving mother’s wish brings a soldier back from the war… and the dead.

Cast Richard Backus (Andy Brooks), John Marley (Charles Brooks), Lynn Carlin (Christine Brooks), Anya Ormsby (Cathy Brooks), Jane Daley (Joanne), Henderson Forsythe (Dr. Allman), Michael Mazes (Bob), Arthur Anderson (Postman), Jeff Gillen (Bartender), Bob Clark (Officer Ted), Mal Jones (Sheriff). Director: Bob Clark. Screenplay: Alan Ormsby. Cinematography: Jack McGowan. Music: Carl Zittrer.


Showtime: Saturday 11/29, 2014. 11:00pm PST/2:00am EST [...MORE]

A Thanksgiving Feast… of Photos!


Alfred Hitchcock hopes you’ll tune into TCM Friday afternoon when they’ll be airing a batch of his films that you can enjoy with your Thanksgiving leftovers.

Happy Thanksgiving! Like many Americans, I’ve been busy this week planning and preparing a holiday feast for my family. With this in mind, I thought I’d share an abundance of Thanksgiving themed publicity photos featuring classic Hollywood stars. Some are sexy pin-up style pictures or imaginative publicity stills while others showcase beloved and admired actors cooking at home or just enjoying their own holiday feast. Enjoy!


Binary Code: When Aliens Attack/When Aliens Hug

George Pal has a few movies today on TCM but not my favorite, War of the Worlds, which he produced while Byron Haskin directed.   I’ve always loved War of the Worlds, in both book form and both major movie adaptations, 1953 and 2005, as well as that certain radio adaptation in 1938.  In fact, I’ve always loved alien visitation movies, a big sub-genre in sci-fi, and have found myself torn between which kind I like better: ones where aliens visit and destroy us or ones where they show up and make nice (and we’re the bad guys).  Both have produced great movies and both have produced personal favorites but, as I showed in my previous Binary Code installment, on dramatic action versus pure action, I definitely come down on one side over the other.  Question is, how long am I on that side before I change my mind?



Missing Reels: A Novel of Silent Movie Love



Repertory cinema regulars can be off-putting types. They log their screenings like kids with baseball cards, reducing art to a collectible. This is the stereotype, at least, of shut-in cinephile obsessives. And these people exist – head to any Friday night screening at MoMA, where the rustle of plastic bags replaces human interaction. One might say this is not a promising milieu for a novel, but then they might not have the effervescent prose of Farran Smith Nehme’s Missing Reels. Smith Nehme is better known as the Self-Styled Siren, classic film blogger extraordinaire, undoubtedly familiar to readers of this site. A contagiously enthusiastic writer, she also has the rare talent of focusing in on performances – from the elaboration of star personas down to the minutest detail of their fashion choices. Missing Reels is her first novel, and it faithfully recreates the repertory movie scene in late 1980s NYC, focusing specifically on the silent movie nut crowd. It begins as a bittersweet screwball romance about being young and poor in the city, and develops into a shaggy dog mystery involving a lost silent feature that may yet be found.


Chuck Workman Finds the Magic in Orson Welles

magicianposterMovie lovers will recognize Chuck Workman as the filmmaker responsible for Precious Images, the original name given to the short documentary that encapsulates the history of American film in eight minutes. Originally commissioned by the Directors Guild, the film is a compilation documentary consisting of brief shots from 470 classic movies. Precious Memories won an Oscar for Live Action Short and is listed on the National Registry of Films. Workman is also responsible for The First 100 Years, a similar compilation documentary produced to celebrate the 100th anniversary of projected motion pictures. Workman’s montage style in which he makes visual and thematic connections through clever editing is more complex than the pleasing surface of Precious Images suggests. The approach harkens back to the theories and practice of Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov. Workman’s latest documentary on director Orson Welles also involves film history but in a different way.

At Sarasota’s Cine-World Film Festival, which closed last week, I caught Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles. The great director makes for a timely topic considering next year is Welles’s 100th birthday. Given Workman’s skill and background in assembling clips, it is not surprising that the film contains well-organized snippets from archived interviews with Welles and some of his associates long since dead. There are also new interviews with former classmates, associates, and romantic companions.


The Real Thing

Since the movies began, special effects have been a part of their existence. Georges Méliès was one of the early geniuses of special effects cinema and using matte paintings, time-lapse photography, overlapping multiple exposures, and more, he created worlds never before seen in the realm of theater.  Characters would disappear in a puff of smoke or rocket across the sky.  As the technology progressed, so did the effects.  From miniatures and matte paintings to green screen and CGI (Computer Generated Imagery), special effects became more realistic while becoming, at the same time, as fantastical as the mind could imagine.  And yet, sometimes, I’m a hell of a lot more impressed by a guy making an omelet in real time in an uncut scene (more on that later).  The movies market make-believe and rely on the viewers to suspend their disbelief but sometimes, simply showing something real is all a movie needs to do to hold our rapt attention.



November 22, 2014
David Kalat
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When Harry Met Ollie

Undoubtedly one of the strangest and most interesting bad movies ever made, Zenobia is a jumble of bad creative decisions so inscrutable as to be almost indefensible.



KEYWORDS: hal roach, Harry Langdon, laurel and hardy, Oliver Hardy, Zenobia

This Week on TCM Underground: THE CAT O’NINE TAILS (1971)


Il gatto a nove code

A journalist and a blind man join forces to stop a serial killer in Rome.

Cast: Karl Malden (Franco Arno), James Franciscus (Carlo Giordani), Catherine Spaak (Anna Terzi), Pier Paolo Capponi (Superintendent Spini), Horst Frank (Dr. Braun), Rada Rassimov (Bianca Merusi), Tino Carraro (Dr. Terzi), Cinzia de Carolis (Lori), Aldo Reggiani (Dr. Casoni), Carlo Alighiero (Dr. Calabresi), Ugo Fangareggi (Gigi the Loser). Directed by Dario Argento. Written by Dario Argento, Dardano Sacchetti, Luigi Collo. Produced by Salvatore Argento. Music by Ennio Morricone. Cinematography by Enrico Menczer.

Italian title: IL GATTO A NOVE CODE. Showtime: Saturday 11/22 @ 11:00pm PST/2:00am EST


10 Things You Might Not Know About Rod Taylor


I’ve always liked Rod Taylor. The broad shouldered, barrel-chested actor with a booming voice is intimidating on screen but there’s a warmth in his smile that’s undeniably inviting. He was universally good in every film genre he took part in and made the challenging transition from serious drama to action movies, thrillers and romantic comedies seem effortless. He was at home in military fatigues or a three piece suit and that breadth and depth of character makes him extremely fun to watch. Tonight TCM viewers can tune in and catch Taylor in a few of his best films including THE BIRDS (1963), THE TIME MACHINE (1960), DARK OF THE SUN (1968), SUNDAY IN NEW YORK (1963) and HOTEL (1967) so it seemed like a good time to share some of the interesting facts I recently discovered about him after reading Rod Taylor: An Aussie in Hollywood. Stephen Vagg’s 2010 book is typical of most movie star biographies and provides a general overview of Taylor’s career as well as his personal life. I didn’t know much about the Australian born actor beforehand so it was an eye-opening read that gave me a new appreciation for Taylor as well as the film’s he appeared in.


The Mysterious Intruder, Serials, and Richard Dix

Later tonight on TCM, Mysterious Intruder (article by yours truly here) airs, an installment in the Whistler series of the forties.   As I write in my article, the Whistler serial was a proto-anthology series, along the lines of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone, because they tell a different story each time, with different characters, narrated by the same person each time, the Whistler.  The voice of the Whistler was provided by Otto Forest, who remains unseen throughout.  Unlike Hitchcock and Rod Serling, the Whistler’s voice is heard while the viewer sees his shadow against the buildings and sidewalks he passes.  He tells the viewer what’s about to happen, much like Hitch and Serling, always intoning that something dark will soon happen that will change the life of one of the characters forever.  The Whistler sees all, even as none of the characters ever see him.


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