Give That Franchise the (Re)Boot!

Earlier last week, the legendary Leonard Nimoy died and fellow Morlock Suzi Doll wrote up a great piece on all the Star Trek actors here shortly after.  Now the great producer Harve Bennett has died, the man who signed on to the Star Trek franchise with Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and put the series on solid ground after the uneasy outing of the first movie, Star Trek: The Motion Picture.   You’ll forgive me, therefore, if I have Star Trek on the brain.   In my ruminations on the series, I begann thinking about how J.J. Abrams reestablished the cinematic Star Trek franchise after none of the post-Next Generation series took off as movies by rebooting the original series rather than remaking it.  Instead of continuing the story of the original series, or doing a straight up prequel of it, he inserted Leonard Nimoy as a different timeline version of Spock and thus gave himself free rein to do with the characters as he wanted.   People are more forgiving of a reboot than a remake and, as such, it’s a safer path for a filmmaker to trod down when handling a classic.

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Superhero Saturdays on TCM: BATMAN (1943)

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BATMAN is coming to Turner Classic Movies! The revered DC superhero is making his network debut on Saturday, March 7th and viewers will able to tune into TCM every morning (7AM PST – 10Am EST) for the next few months to catch an episode of Columbia Picture’s original 1943 film serial. Serials or “Chapter Plays” were often cheaply produced shorts that were typically shown with cartoons and newsreels before feature films. This format came into prominence during the silent film era and remained viable until the 1950s but fell out fashion due to the development of home television. While many believe that the popularity of superheroes and comic books adaptations are a relatively new phenomenon, the truth is that they’ve been an accepted form of entertainment for decades although until recently they were mostly regulated to short format serials and television. Columbia adapted many well-regarded comic books and strips for the screen including SUPERMAN (1948), TERRY AND THE PIRATES (1940), MANDRAKE THE MAGICIAN (1938), THE PHANTOM (1943), BLACKHAWK (1952) and BRENDA STARR, REPORTER (1945). BATMAN was one of the studio’s most popular productions and it’s earned an important place in comic book history for a number of reasons, which make it a particularly fascinating footnote in the Caped Crusader’s ongoing fight against crime and corruption.

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This week on TCM Underground: THE VISITOR (1979)

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Jesus Christ sends an old man in a fishin’ hat to Earth to stop a corporate cabal from using telekinetic children to take over the world. I think.

Cast:  John Huston (Jerzy Cosolwicz), Lance Henriksen (Raymond Armstead), Joanne Nail (Barbara Collins), Paige Conner (Katy Collins), Shelley Winters (Jane Phillips), Mel Ferrer (Dr. Walker), Glenn Ford (Detective Jake Durham), Sam Peckinpah (Dr. Sam Collins), Franco Hero (Jesus Christ). Director: Giulio Paradisi. Producer: Ovidio G. Assonitis. Screenplay: Giuliano Paradisi, Ovidio G. Assonitis, Luciano Comici, Robert Mundi. Music: Franco Micalizi. Cinematography: Ennio Guarnieri.

Color – 90 min – 108 min. (depending on version)

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That’s Entertainment: The Band Wagon (1953)

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Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse stroll through Central Park together without saying a word. Their silence continues past a bustling outdoor dance floor, but their steps begin to sync in rhythm. Then there is an orchestral swell on the soundtrack, and they twirl individually. It is test of compatibility, a flirtatious movement to see if their bodies can work in unison. Astaire scratches his lip, gauging their chances. Once the melody of “Dancing in the Dark” eases onto the score, though, they move as one organism in a dance of light, joyful communion. It is an expression of love by other means, and, as choreographed by Michael Kidd, is one of the glories of the Hollywood musical.  The Band Wagon (1953) is an overwhelming sensorium of movement and color, and one of the more convincing arguments in justifying Hollywood’s existence. It is finally out on Blu-ray today from Warner Brothers (bundled with KISS ME KATE 3D, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN and CALAMITY JANE in a desert island Blu-ray “Musicals Collection”) and the result is a near-flawless transfer of the three-strip Technicolor.

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The Trek to Stardom for the Stars of ‘Star Trek’

startrioWhen Leonard Nimoy died at the end of last week, many from my generation mourned the loss by posting photos and quotes related to Mr. Spock, Nimoy’s iconic television character, to social media outlets. The outpouring of sorrow and the testimonials of childhood devotion reveal the profound impact that a beloved television program can have on a generation.

Like William Shatner, Nimoy did not always relish his identification as one of television’s most recognizable characters. When Star Trek ended in 1969 after three seasons, both tried to shake off their Trek personas by pursuing other roles. Nimoy even penned an autobiography titled I Am Not Spock in 1975. DeForest Kelley, the third in the trio of interstellar comrades, was not as vocal about moving on to new opportunities, but he, too, was eager to continue his career. It took several decades for the trio to realize what fans knew all along—Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, and Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy were more than characters from an old TV series. Eventually, Shatner and Nimoy embraced their iconic characters, discussing them at length in their bios Star Trek Memories and I Am Spock.

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Shakespeare in Love and Me

Today on TCM, one musical after another is on the schedule and I’ve written up musicals here so often that I have to take a break from the singing and dancing and move a little further down the schedule to write about something else.  So what’s playing later, as we hit the late night hours, at least on Eastern Standard Time?  Shakespeare in Love, that’s what.  Using that as my pivot point is pretty easy because I have more than a few thoughts that immediately spring to mind when I think of that movie, which doesn’t happen very often so perhaps I should say instead, when that movie’s title crosses my line of vision.  Here are just some of those thoughts.

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Rabbits_(Night_of_the_Lepus)
February 28, 2015
David Kalat
Posted by:

Kill da wabbit

So—later this week, TCM will be running Night of the Lepus. It’s been on TCM before—but usually relegated to the late night TCM Underground slot. This Wednesday it’s on at 6pm Eastern where decent folk might stumble across it unawares. Which is awesome.

There are few films as mocked as Night of the Lepus. You only have to mention the premise (attack of the giant bunnies!) and the derision sets in on its own. It’s a wonder the whole genre of horror didn’t just curl up and die in embarrassment. Legions of film critics, genre fans, and innocent bystanders have set up their tents in the let’s-make-fun-of-the-dumb-bunnies camp—all sharing the assumption that the problem here was the choice of monster. How could killer rabbits ever be scary?

But if it is self-evidently obvious that rabbits can’t ever be a scary monster… then what would motivate a motion-picture institution run by responsible adults to invest in a thing like this? What were they thinking?

Come on—click the fold and find out. I know you want to. I promise the answer will surprise you.

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KEYWORDS: Night of the Lepus
COMMENTS: 12
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Okay, Here’s Everything

When I write my posts here at the Movie Morlocks, I try my best to work whatever is on the schedule that day into my piece.  You may have noticed a phrase I use with alarming regularity (seriously, go back and check out my past posts), “today/tonight on TCM,” because I find my inspiration from the movies I watch on TCM.  If I see Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid is playing (last week’s post) I might think of movie deaths that don’t sadden.  The week before that, it was directors who were actors because John Huston movies were playing.   Before that, Poltergeist was playing and I wrote on “Big Horror” versus “Little Horror.”  Before that, it was all about works not normally associated with a director (James Whale’s Man in the Iron Mask was playing) and before that, acting without words (Old Man and the Sea with Spencer Tracy was on that day).   As long as TCM continues to play movies, I’ll have ideas for posts.  It’s almost like wearing a school uniform: You never have to worry about picking out your clothes (“Oh no, what do I write about for my next post? Oh, right, whatever movie is on the schedule.”).  Then, earlier this week I thought, for the first time ever, why not write about every movie on the schedule?  I mean, not in detail, of course, but general thoughts and feelings on each one.  Okay, let’s do it.  Here’s everything.

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Regrettable Viewing Experiences? I’ve Had a Few!

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I follow a lot of people on Twitter and one of the most active and notable is Will McKinley who runs the excellent Cinematically Insane blog. Will has been a guest on TCM as well as TCM’s Official Podcast and he often shares interesting links on Twitter. This week Will led me to The Hitless Wonder Blog run by Dan Day who asked his readers a somewhat loaded question: “What are the worst films you have seen in a theater?” I rarely waste time talking about films I dislike but occasionally it’s fun to blow off some steam so I decided to answer Dan’s question at the Movie Morlocks today. What follows is a list of some of my worst movie viewing experiences. But beware! My post is bound to offend a few readers.

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Movie mapping: Counting my horror film steps

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Because I spend an inordinate amount of time sitting on my can, I try to get out into the real world and get some exercise. I used to run a bit but I’ve slowed it down in the last year or so and I’m more interested in hiking. The bottom line is that I’m around a lot of people who are taking their fitness with great seriousness and it seems as though everybody’s wearing the Fitbit nowadays, or some other device that counts the number of steps they take in a day, a week, a month. My worlds cannot help but collide and so I’ve been thinking about my movie steps, specifically my horror movie steps, and those first fright films that got me started on the weird and wonderful journey that is my life in fear.

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