Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on January 24, 2013
One of the best gifts I received during the holidays was a set of books that I’ve been eager to get my hands on, Michael Karol’s ABC Movie of the Week Companion and David Deal’s Television Fright Films of the 1970’s. I grew up watching and enjoying telefilms and last year I spent a lot of time revisiting some of my favorites. Today telefilms, much like direct-to-video movies, are often looked at with disdain and are considered unworthy of critical evaluation. But they frequently featured talented actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age such as Bette Davis, Ray Milland, Myrna Loy, Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, Melvin Douglas, Gene Tierney and Walter Brennan and were occasionally directed by noteworthy filmmakers including Joseph L. Mankiewicz, Don Siegel, John Badham, Steven Spielberg, John Carpenter and Curtis Harrington. These small screen films were usually made in just a few short days with very little money but the performances, writing and directing choices periodically elevated the material and many of the best telefilms are still surprisingly effective and entertaining.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on January 3, 2013
Posted by David Kalat on December 15, 2012
This is a season of traditions: those comforting rituals that we reiterate on an annual basis because no matter how small some of them may be (like the making of home-baked ginger snaps), they have become imbued with powerful memories of home and loved ones, such that these little ceremonies carry a weight of meaning far in excess of their actual ability to signify.
There used to be a coterie of movies that belonged to these same holiday traditions—certain films like The Wizard of Oz or It’s a Wonderful Life that were consistently and regularly replayed on commercial television on certain holidays. You could almost set your watch to them.
Since its original broadcast in 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas has been one of the most enduring and beloved holiday mainstays—and its history has a curious Mobius strip like effect. When you watch A Charlie Brown Christmas this year—in whatever media you do (broadcast, on-demand, iTunes download, DVD, Blu-Ray, hallucinatory memory)—you are participating in a metatextual reconfiguration of its core themes! Betcha didn’t even know that!
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on August 23, 2012
She was brash, she was bold and she was damn funny. Phyllis Diller took a road less traveled and in the process she helped pave the way for many female comedians who followed in her footsteps including Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr and Tina Fey. Comedy is still considered somewhat of a “boy’s club” but Phyllis Diller’s self-deprecating sense of humor helped her crack that glass ceiling and today she’s often credited for making the world a better place for female comedians to practice their craft.
Posted by medusamorlock on August 8, 2012
With apologies to all the film aficionados and experts frequently present here on Movie Morlocks, I don’t believe I’m going out on much of a limb in saying that many other people know or have heard of Toshiro Mifune not from his appearances in masterworks of Japanese cinema but from his appearance in one of the most famous broadcast television miniseries ever presented. On September 15, 1980, NBC presented Part 1 of their five-part adaptation of Shogun, novelist James Clavell’s sweeping saga about a British sailor shipwrecked in 17th century Japan who ends up smack in the middle of an intense rivalry between two powerful and ambitious men who crave the same thing — to win the title of Shogun.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on July 3, 2012
On July 18th, Olive Films will begin their roll-out of the Republic Pictures library with DVD/Blu-Ray releases of High Noon (1952) and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). Republic has long been one of the most underutilized holdings in the home video market, passing from corporation to corporation with little concern for the treasures it contained. But upstart Olive has closed a massive licensing deal with Republic parent Paramount Pictures, and is set to release a flood of material (from B-Westerns to prestige pics) in 2012 that had mostly been overlooked in the digital age. While these first two releases have been well-represented on DVD, it is their premiere on Blu-Ray, and there are plenty of rare gems coming down the pike (all transferred in HD), including Nicholas Ray’s Johnny Guitar, Fritz Lang’s Secret Beyond the Door and Orson Welles’ Macbeth.
Posted by Kimberly Lindbergs on December 29, 2011
2011 marked the 40th anniversary of Masterpiece on PBS and I couldn’t let the year pass without making note of the show’s accomplishments and sharing some highlights from their current schedule. After 40 long and impressive years Masterpiece is better than ever and if you’re not watching you’re missing some of the most thoughtful, well-written and wonderfully acted programs on television. I also happen to think that some of the shows currently airing on Masterpiece are more interesting and entertaining than anything you’ll find playing at your local multiplex.
Posted by R. Emmet Sweeney on November 8, 2011
In one of the stranger experiments in cable television history, Showtime’s 1994 Rebel Highway series commissioned ten filmmakers to remake a 1950s exploitation movie. It was the brainchild of Lou Arkoff (the son of American International Pictures founder Samuel Z. Arkoff) and Debra Hill (producer of Halloween). They gave directors $ 1.3 million and a 12 day shooting schedule, to roughly approximate the original shooting conditions (modified for inflation). Unlike the ’50s cheapies, though, they were given final cut, and could choose their own screenwriter, editor and director of photography. This proved irresistible to the (mostly) impressive list of talents who signed on: Robert Rodriguez (Machete), John McNaughton (Wild Things), Mary Lambert (Pet Sematary), Allan Arkush (Rock ‘N’ Roll High School), Joe Dante (Gremlins), Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused), John Milius (Conan the Barbarian), William Friedkin (The Exorcist), Ralph Bakshi (Fritz the Cat) and Uli Edel (The Baader Meinhof Complex).
All of the filmmakers, except for Rodriguez, were old enough to have lived through the era of the film they remade, engaging the aesthetics and politics of the originals in strikingly different ways, alternating between affection and parody often in the same film. Since its original airing, the series has completely disappeared from cultural memory, but Netflix Watch Instantly, that haphazard repository of moving image detritus, is now streaming every entry, and it’s well worth sampling the project’s eccentric film-historical time travel. Below, some thoughts on my favorites.
Posted by medusamorlock on October 31, 2011
I really wanted to contribute something to this Halloween blogfest, so I offer a little nonsensical coda about a movie I’m sure a lot of us have seen many times and probably enjoy. Funny + spooky has been a movie tradition forever, and nobody did it quite as well as the limber-limbed and rubber-faced actor/comedian Don Knotts in his 1966 feature film The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.
Posted by medusamorlock on August 24, 2011
As we’ve seen this past week on our Blondell Blog-a-thon, Miss Joan Blondell was a survivor. Through her long movie career she always managed to come out on top, and her image as a plucky dame was one that audiences cherished and wouldn’t forget. As her motion picture career began to slow down and she entered middle age — never a wonderful time for an actress, then as now — she was fortunate to still have some great career choices available to her. Joan returned to the stage to much acclaim in the 1950s, and also began to appear on television during the same time, picking up roles on many of the prestigious dramatic (and often live) anthologies of the TV’s early years. In the first half of the decade she delighted audiences with roles on Schlitz Playhouse (as Calamity Jane), Suspense, Lux Video Theatre (with her A Tree Grows in Brooklyn co-star James Dunn), Fireside Theatre, Shower of Stars, G.E. True Theater, Shower of Stars, Playwrights ’56, Studio One, Playhouse 90, and The United States Steel Hour. The worst part about this fertile period in Joan’s career is that it’s pretty much impossible today to actually watch any of her performances in these very early TV series. Our loss, for sure.
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