Thursday, February 23, 2017

Son of Dracula: "Don't say that word. We don't like it."

Yes, Alucard spelled backward is....
Universal's best 1940s fright film was a rare collaboration between brothers Robert and Curt Siodmak. Robert, who directed, injects his noir sensibilities into the horror genre. He makes Son of Dracula a visually and thematically dark picture with a downbeat ending, Despite its fanciful bat transformations and swirling fog, it often feels more like a traditional film noir. Curt, who wrote the story, introduces a female protagonist who initially appears to be a victim--but is later revealed to be the film's femme fatale.

Robert Paige and Louise Albritton.
It opens in conventional fashion with the European vampire Count Alucard arriving at the Caldwell family's Louisiana plantation. Katherine Caldwell (Louise Albritton) brushes off her current suitor in favor of the mysterious stranger. Meanwhile, Alucard wastes no time in disposing of Katherine's wealthy father. The twist here is that Louise knows Alucard is a vampire (and presumably her father's murderer) and she still marries him. I'll skip the rest of the plot in order to avoid spoilers, but let's just say that Katherine ranks as one of film noir's baddest bad girls.

Albritton standing behind Chaney.
Given its backstory, it's amazing that Son of Dracula turned out to be a first-rate horror film. Originally called Destiny, producer George Waggner left the project due to delays with filming The Phantom of the Opera. Alan Curtis, who was originally cast as Katherine's wussy boyfriend, injured his knee and was replaced by Robert Paige. Curt Siodmak was fired due to what he called "sibling rivalry" with his older brother and only received an "original story" credit (although some of the dialogue sounds like he wrote it). And lastly, Lon Chaney, Jr. was cast--or rather miscast--as Alucard.

Don't get me wrong about Lon Chaney, Jr. He tries hard in the title role and he doesn't hurt the film. It's just that Son of Dracula could have been better with a more gentlemanly menace (perhaps fellow "B" actor Tom Conway). Of course, the film's true star is Louise Albritton and her performance easily carries the plot. She delivers one of my favorite horror movie lines when Paige's character starts to call her a vampire: "Don't say that word. We don't like it."

Robert Siodmak enhances the film with some stunning visuals. The most famous is when Katherine awaits as Alucard's coffin rises to the surface of a swamp. Mist emerges from the coffin and transforms into Alucard. He then stands on top of the coffin, floating toward Katherine, like some kind of vampire royalty. There's an eerie, dream-like quality to the scene that lingers long after the film is over.

Certainly, Son of Dracula has its flaws--the most serious one being wasting the talents of Universal's resident scream queen Evelyn Ankers. The always likable Ankers has a small, thankless role as Katherine's sister. Also, knowing Katherine's ultimate goal, I was initially perplexed as to why she married Alucard. I later surmised it was part of an arrangement between the two, though screenwriter Eric Taylor could have clarified that point with minimal effort.

Universal made other entertaining horror films in the 1940s, such as the wacky monster rallies House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula. But Son of Dracula remains the studio's best serious terror tale and stands as a testament to the talents of the Siodmak brothers. Another film they worked on together was the 1930 German comedy-drama People on Sunday. Its crew also included Edgar Ulmer, Billy Wilder, and Fred Zinnemann.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Movie of the Week Blogathon is Here!

The Classic Film & TV Cafe is proud to host the first annual Movie of the Week Blogathon, celebrating made-for-TV movies broadcast between the mid-1960s and 1989.

This era is widely considered to be the "Golden Age" of telefilms and included a number of now-classic movies such as DuelBrian's SongMy Sweet CharlieThe Night StalkerTrilogy of Terror, Gargoyles, and Love Among the Ruins (starring Katharine Hepburn and Laurence Olivier).

Many of them were originally shown on ABC as part of the fondly-remembered Movie of the Week, but NBC and CBS also featured their own evenings of made-for-TV movies. In fact, NBC broadcast what is generally considered to be the first telefilm in 1964: See How They Run. It was a thriller, starring John Forsythe, about three orphans being pursued by hired killers.

Love Among the Ruins.
For this blogathon, some of the finest film and TV bloggers on the Internet have posted reviews of memorable made-for-TV movies. We invite you to check out all of them. And when you're done, you can watch many of these films for free on YouTube, though the quality varies (of course). Click here to view a YouTube playlist with over 50 made-for-TV movies.

Here's the blogathon schedule:

Death Takes a Holiday (1971) - Silver Screen Modes
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (1973) - John V's Eclectic Avenue
Escape (1971) - Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things
Gargoyles (1972) - in so many words...
Gidget Grows Up (1969) - Michael's TV Tray
The Gift of Love (1983) - Christmas TV History
Haunts of the Very Rich/Scream of the Wolf - Classic Film & TV Cafe
Home for the Holidays (1972) - Twenty Four Frames
Horror at 37,000 Feet (1973) - Lo, The Humanities!
Love Among the Ruins - Old Hollywood Films
The Love War (1970) - Silver Screenings
The Night Stalker/The Night Strangler - Once Upon a Screen
Pray for the Wildcats (1974) - Movie Movie Blog Blog
Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole (1972) - Caftan Woman
Shadow on the Land (1968) - Captain Video
Sole Survivor (1970) - Apocalypse Later
Strange Homecoming (1974) - Made for TV Mayhem
Thirteen at Dinner (1985) - British TV Detectives
The Two Worlds of Jennie Logan (1979)- Reelweegiemidget Reviews
Who Is the Black Dahlia? (1975) - Film Noir Archive
The 3,000 Mile Chase (1977) - Cantrell's Writing

Cloris Leachman Channels Garfield; Peter Graves Arm Wrestles Clint Walker

This post of part of the Cafe's Movie of the Week Blogathon. Please check out the other awesome reviews by visiting the blogathon schedule.

The hotel at the Portals of Eden.
Haunts of the Very Rich (1972). The opening scene introduces seven people who are en route to a paradise resort known as the Portals of Eden. The guests consists of: a bitter businessman (Ed Asner); a philanderer (Lloyd Bridges); a timid woman (Cloris Leachman); newlyweds (Donna Mills and Tony Bill); a priest who has lost his faith (Robert Reed); and a housewife recovering from a nervous breakdown (Anne Francis). When these seven people reach their destination, they are greeted by their host Mr. Seacrist (dressed in a white suit like Mr. Roarke). For a moment, I wondered if I was watching an early pilot of Fantasy Island.

Moses Gunn as the mysterious host.
However, things turn peculiar when the guests learn that there are no other vacationers and the staff understands but doesn't speak English. Mr. Seacrist (Moses Gunn) explains away these oddities--they are the first guests of a new season and a non-English speaking staff "works better that way." Still, when a tropical storm cuts off all communication with civilization, the Portals of Eden becomes downright ominous.

If you're familiar with Leslie Howard and John Garfield movies, then you've probably recognized this plot by now. Still, Haunts of the Very Rich keeps its big revelation in check for most of its 73-minute running time. It falters, though, near the end with a rambling speech by the otherwise fine Robert Reed and an esoteric jaunt through the woods by Bridges and Leachman.

Cloris Leachman and Lloyd Bridges.
As made-for-TV movies go, it's a strong cast with Bridges and Leachman the standouts as an unlikely duo who find love in the oddest of places. Leachman's character is the first to realize what has happened and the actress excels at slowly, hesitantly coming to grips with the reality of the situation.

Haunts of the Very Rich doesn't rank in the upper echelon of the ABC Movies of the Week, but it's worthy of 73 minutes of your time and you can watch it for free on YouTube.

Peter Graves as a former hunter.
Scream of the Wolf (1974). It's never good to get out of your car on an isolated road on a foggy night, so it's no surprise when something brutally kills a Los Angeles businessman. The sheriff of a nearby seaside community enlists the aid of writer John Wetherby (Peter Graves), a former big game hunter. They find wolf-like tracks around the corpse, but here's what's weird: the tracks change from a four-legged to a two-legged creature and then disappear!

When there's a second killing within a two-mile radius, John goes to see his old friend--and hunter extraordinaire--Byron Douglas (Clint Walker). Byron is an eccentric who specializes in making dramatic statements like: "Once an animal starts killing humans, it never stops" and "A good hunter is never sure of anything except that his prey will do the unexpected." Byron shows open disdain for John, whom he thinks has become weak ("You're only alive when you're in mortal danger").

Clint Walker arm wrestles Peter Graves.
The film's highlight is when Byron agrees to help hunt the animal if John, who once lasted seven minutes in an arm wrestling contest, can last just one minute this time. Peter Graves and Clint Walker in an arm wrestling contest? It just doesn't get much better than that, people!

Scream of the Wolf has an impressive pedigree with a script by Richard Matheson and Dan Curtis in the director's chair. The two were responsible for such enjoyable made-for-TV horror films such as The Night Strangler (1973) and the classic Trilogy of Terror (1975). Alas, Scream of the Wolf is not one of their better efforts.

Clint's impressive sideburns.
Yet, it does provide Clint Walker with one of his best roles. The success of his Cheyenne TV series typecast Walker as an understanding hero for most of his career (a notable exception was his convict in The Dirty Dozen). Scream of the Wolf provides him with a bizarre character and Walker has a grand time threatening wussies, spouting philosophy, and, of course, arm wrestling.

Plus, Clint sports some of the coolest triangular sideburns this side of Pythagoras. You can check them out because Scream of the Wolf is also available on YouTube.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Classic TV Themes Quiz #2 (American edition!)

We received such positive feedback about last month's Classic British TV Themes Quiz that we're back with a second edition. This time, though, the themes are from American television shows of the 1960s and 1970s. That should make this quiz a little easier!

As before, we'll play a snippet of an opening or closing theme and ask you to to name the show. There are ten themes, so it won't take long to play.

Just click on the video below to get started. Please leave a comment to let us know how you did--but don't list the answers. Good luck!

Monday, February 13, 2017

Dead End Drive-in: "It's not so bad in here"

The Star Drive-in is a dead end!
Prior to today, it had been almost 30 years since I last saw Dead End Drive-in, an Australian exploitation film made in the wake of the original Max Max trilogy. To my delight, my wife gave me a DVD of the film as a present (one more reason why she's awesome). Still, I was concerned that my memories of Dead End Drive-in would fail to live up to reality. I am happy to report that it's as good--perhaps even better--than I remembered.

The story takes place in 1990, a bleak future in which "inflation, shortages, and unemployment" have sparked crime waves across the globe. The streets of Sydney are patrolled by ineffective police that ignore the local gangs (called "car boys"). Jimmy (Ned Manning), who drives a van for Big Bob's Pies, takes it all in stride. One night, he borrows his brother's '56 Chevy convertible and takes his girlfriend Carmen (Natalie McCurry) to the Star Drive-in--where admission is $10 for adults and $3.50 for the unemployed. While Jimmy and Carmen are making out, the Chevy's two rear tires are stolen.

Ned Manning as Jimmy (aka Crabs).
Jimmy jumps out of the car to see two cops loading his tires into their vehicle. When the crime is reported, Thompson (Peter Whitford), the drive-in's manager, says he can do nothing about it until the morning. When daylight arrives, Jimmy discovers that most of the drive-in's patrons are still there. They have no way of leaving either. The parking lot's fence is electrified, the gate is locked, and, of course, no one has a working vehicle. Thompson gives a book of vouchers to Jimmy and Carmen, explaining that it can be redeemed for food. It seems that once you enter the Star Drive-in, you can't leave until the "government" decides what to do with you!

Natalie McCurry as Carmen.
The irony is that no one except Jimmy wants to leave. The other 191 "prisoners" eat at the diner, play games, and watch movies at night. The reality is that, for some of them, the drive-in offers a better life than the one they had on the "outside." Even Carmen quickly grows to accept her situation, telling Jimmy: "It's not so bad in here. You'll come round to it."

But Jimmy does not. He is the sole individualist in a conformist society. While the young folks engage in frivolous activities, Jimmy tries to stay in shape, keep the Chevy's engine tuned, and subtly pumps the drive-in manager for information.

I don't mean to imply that Dead End Drive-in is a heavy-handed parable. It is, at heart, a drive-in exploitation film complete with a rock song soundtrack and a climatic chase sequence. Speaking of the songs, you probably won't recognize any of the Aussie performers, but several contribute catchy tunes. The best is the high-energy closing song "Playing With Fire" by Lisa Edwards (who had one top 5 hit in her native country). You can visit our YouTube channel to hear it and watch our original music video.
This impressive stunt cost $75,000!

Whitford as the drive-in manager.
The young cast provides a lot of energy, too, especially Manning and McCurry as the two leads (the latter deserved a few more scenes). The only performer I recognized from other roles was Peter Whitford. The veteran Aussie actor first caught my attention in Baz Luhrmann's delightful Strictly Ballroom (1992). He later appeared as the Stage Manager in Moulin Rouge! (2001).

Incidentally, if you're wondering about the movies playing at the Star Drive-in, two of them were earlier works by director Brian Trenchard-Smith (including the Jimmy Wang Yu action pic The Man from Hong Kong) and the third is Race for the Yankee Zephyr, which was directed by actor David Hemmings.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Seven Things to Know About Lloyd Bridges

1. Although Lloyd Bridges first appeared in films in 1936, he didn't make a major impact until High Noon in 1952. He played a key supporting role as deputy Harvey Pell, who refuses to stand with Gary Cooper's heroic lawman against the Miller Gang. He resigns because the recently-married Coop won't support him as the new marshal.

2. Bridges fared better on television, especially after delivering a riveting performance in "Tragedy in a Temporary Town" on The Alcoa Hour. Sidney Lumet directed this 1956 live drama about a community seeking "justice" against a Puerto Rican worker accused of assaulting a teenage girl. During his climatic speech on mob violence, Bridges became so emotionally invested in his role that he ad-libbed a four-letter word--marking one of the first uses of profanity on broadcast television. His performance earned him the first of two Emmy nominations (the other was for a guest star appearance on Seinfeld).

3. Lloyd Bridges' career was briefly derailed in the early 1950s when he was blacklisted for his earlier involvement with the Actors Lab, a theater group with alleged Communist Party ties. He quickly cleared his name with the FBI.

Strapping on his gear in Sea Hunt.
4. He shot to TV fame playing scuba diver Mike Nelson in the half-hour 1958-61 series Sea Hunt. Ironically, though he was an avid swimmer, Bridges had never scuba dived and had to learn how for the show. By the way, all three major TV networks passed on Sea Hunt, so Ivan Tors syndicated it--and turned it into a major hit.

5. Bridges appeared in numerous subsequent TV series, to include: The Lloyd Bridges Show, a 1962-63 anthology series; Rod Serling's offbeat Western The Loner (1965-66); San Francisco International Airport (1970-71); Joe Forrester (1975-76), in which he played a street cop; and Harts of the West with son Beau Bridges (1993-94). According to several Star Trek books, he turned down the role of Captain James T. Kirk.

With sons Beau (r) and Jeff (l).
6. Lloyd acted opposite his sons Beau and Jeff on several occasions. Both sons guest starred on Sea Hunt, The Lloyd Bridges Show, and The Loner. Lloyd appeared uncredited in Francis Ford Coppola's Tucker: The Man and His Dream (1988), which starred Jeff Bridges in the title role. Lloyd also had a daughter. Lucinda, during his 60-year marriage to wife Dorothy. A fourth child, Garrett, died of sudden infant death syndrome.

Looking unhinged in Airplane II.
7. Lloyd Bridges' acting career got an unexpected boost when he appeared as a scary, glue-sniffing airport tower supervisor in the wacky comedy Airplane!. He subsequently appeared in other big screen comedies such as Airplane II: The Sequel, both of the Hot Shots! movies, and Jane Austen's Mafia (his final film, which was released after his death in 1998). My favorite of his later roles, though, has him playing Ted Danson's life-loving father in the warm comedy-drama Cousins (1989).

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Case of the Color "Perry Mason" Episode

One of the Christmas gifts in our house last year was a DVD set called The Perry Mason 50th Anniversary Edition. The collection includes several episodes, the Perry Mason Returns TV movie, and a lot of interesting bonus content. But its most intriguing feature was the TV series' only episode filmed in color.

"The Case of the Twice Told Twist" aired on February 27, 1966 during the ninth and final season of Perry Mason. CBS executives were mulling whether to renew the series and wanted to see what a color episode would look like. By the mid 1960s, the cost of color photography had decreased significantly and it was becoming standard practice to film in color.

Victor Buono as the villain.
The episode selected was a contemporary variation of Oliver Twist written by series veteran Ernest Frankel. Guest star Victor Buono plays the Fagin-like Ben Huggins, leader of a gang comprised of teenage boys who strip cars of their parts which Huggins then sells in Mexico. Perry gets involved when his convertible becomes one of the gangs' targets and a youth named Lennie (Kevin O'Neal) is caught by the police.

The district attorney's office wants Perry to press charges against Lennie. However, Perry believes the teen can be rehabilitated. Two murders later, though, Perry finds himself defending Lennie of a much more serious charge: homicide.

"The Case of the Twice Told Twist" doesn't rank with the best Perry Mason outings. It'd be more interesting to let the audience discover the Oliver Twist theme on its own. Instead, Perry compares Huggins to Fagin and one of the characters is named Bill Sikes.

Beverly Powers.
The episode does feature an interesting guest cast. Victor Buono, who had appeared in three earlier episodes of Perry Mason, would make his first appearance as King Tut on Batman just two months later. Kevin O'Neal is the younger brother of Ryan O'Neal. Kevin appeared in several of his brother's movies and was a regular on the No Time for Sergeants TV series (1964-65). Finally, one of the strippers at Femmes a Go Go is played by Beverly Powers. Also known as Miss Beverly Hills, she was a real-life stripper and later actress. When she retired from acting, she became a minister in Maui.

Barbara Hale and William Hopper.
As for the color photography, it looks amazingly crisp after all these years. While it doesn't add anything to Perry Mason, it's still fun for the show's fans to learn, for example, that the familiar courtroom walls are gray.

If you're a fan of the show, I heartily recommend The Perry Mason 50th Anniversary Edition DVD set for the bonus features alone. They include screen tests of both William Hopper and Raymond Burr playing Perry (as well as Burr playing Hamilton Burger). There's an episode of a charades-like quiz called Stump the Stars with Burr, Hopper, Barbara Hale, and William Talman. And there's a potent anti-smoking public service announcement by Talman, which was filmed while he was dying from lung cancer at age 53. According to his family, Talman was the first actor in Hollywood to appear in an anti-smoking campaign.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Ventriloquists in Classic Movies

Michael Redgrave in Dead of Night.
The difficulties inherent in injecting a distinct personality into a wooden dummy have caused identity problems for a number of movie ventriloquists. In the most chilling story in the classic anthology Dead of Night (1945), ventriloquist Michael Redgrave went insane after becoming convinced that his foul-mouthed dummy Hugo was looking for a new partner. Anthony Hopkins gave a tour-de-force performance in 1978’s Magic as another mentally-unstable ventriloquist taking murderous advice from a dummy with an apparent mind of its own. Another dummy named Hugo (an obvious reference to Dead of Night) really did have a soul in the underrated 1964 fantasy Devil Doll. Bryant Halliday starred as Hugo’s “partner,” a ventriloquist who has transferred the soul of his assistant into his dummy.

Charlie with Edgar Bergen.
Aside from horror films, the most famous film ventriloquist remains Edgar Bergen. He enjoyed a prosperous career during the late 1930s accompanied by dummies Charlie McCarthy or Mortimer Snerd in comedies like A Letter of Introduction (1938), Charlie McCarthy, Detective, (1939) and the W.C. Fields vehicle You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939). He earned a special Academy Award in 1937 for his creation of Charlie McCarthy.

Danny Kaye in Knock on Wood.
Major stars who have played ventriloquists include Erich von Stroheim in The Great Gabbo (1929), Danny Kaye in Knock on Wood (1954), and Lon Chaney in both the silent and talkie versions of The Unholy Three (1925 and 1930). In 1984’s Broadway Danny Rose, theater agent Woody Allen had a hard time finding employment for a stuttering ventriloquist.

Although it was a TV episode on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, I feel compelled to mention "The Glass Eye." This haunting tale about a lonely woman and a ventriloquist starred Jessica Tandy and Tom Conway. It's highly recommended!

Here's a representative sample of classic movies that featured ventriloquists:

The Unholy Three (1925)
The Great Gabbo (1929)
A Letter of Introduction (1938)
The Unholy Three (1930)
You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939)
Charlie McCarthy, Detective (1939)
Dead of Night (1945)
Knock on Wood (1954)
Stop!  Look!  And Laugh! (1960)
Hypnosis (aka Dummy of Death) (1963)
Devil Doll (1964)
Magic (1978)
Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
When a Stranger Calls Back (1993 TVM)

Reprinted with the authors' permission from the Encyclopedia of Film Themes, Settings and Series.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

W. Somerset Maugham Is Back with a Final Encore

Encore (1951) was the third and final W. Somerset Maugham anthology film, following the excellent Quartet (1948) and its "sequel" Trio (1950). As before, Maugham provides a brief introduction (from his chateau in France). Then, it's on to the first of three stories, "The Ant and the Grasshopper," a cynical look at a ne'er-do-well who does remarkably well indeed. It features a fine cast and makes Maugham's point effectively (i.e., the worthless brother succeeds in life, the hard-working one has a rough time). Still, it's a bit of a boring affair.

Kay Walsh in "Winter Cruise."
On the other hand, "Winter Cruise" starts out slowly, but evolves into a touching tale about a woman on holiday who annoys a ship's crew to the point of exhaustion. Kay Walsh, who was once married to David Lean, gives a wonderfully rounded performance. It was one of those acting jobs that sends one to the IMDb to learn more about the performer.

Glynis Johns about to make the dive.
My favorite of the three stories, though, is the final one: the oddly-titled "Gigolo and Gigolette." Of course, it stars Glynis Johns and  I adore her, so I admit there may be some prejudice influencing my preference. Glynis plays a nightclub performer who dives from an 80-foot platform into a "lake of flames" just five feet deep (click here to watch the sequence on our YouTube channel). Thinking her husband no longer loves her, she appears to have lost her will to live. It climaxes with her climbing the ladder as her husband races to save her. From a narrative point, it's a simple story, but executed wonderfully (I love the small details, such as the sound of the wind at the top of the diving platform).

It's too bad that Encore was the last of the Maugham anthologies--though it's always good to go out on a strong opposed to lingering around too long.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Marathon Man: "Is it safe?"

Memory is a funny thing. Prior to a recent viewing of Marathon Man, the only things I could remember about this 1976 thriller were the unnerving tooth-drilling scene and Roy Scheider doing push-ups with his feet on the bed and hands on the floor.

Although it's an atypical John Schlesinger film, the opening sequence showcases the director at his best. An elderly German man removes a metal band-aid box from a safety deposit box and slips it discreetly to another man. As he drives away in his Mercedes, the German has a run-in with a Jewish man that escalates quickly from a shouting match to a dangerous car chase along the narrow confines of New York city streets. The conflict ends when the two men crash their cars into a fuel truck--the safety deposit key falling to the asphalt as flames engulf it.

Hoffman as the graduate...student.
The importance of this scene doesn't become apparent until later as the plot shifts to Thomas Babington "Babe" Levy (Dustin Hoffman). Babe is a graduate student at Columbia University whose dissertation has the uninviting title of "The Use of Tyranny in American Political Life." Babe still keeps the gun that his father, a famous academic accused of Communist sympathies, used to commit suicide. It's an odd thing to do, but then Babe is a social misfit with no friends other than his frequently absent brother Doc (Roy Scheider).

Hence, it seems a bit odd when a pretty Swiss student (Marthe Keller) responds to Babe's awkward advances. When Doc--the sharp-dressed opposite of his brother--meets Babe's girlfriend, he immediately spots a fraud. But then, nothing is as it seems in Marathon Man and that includes Doc, too.

The most interesting aspect of Marathon Man is that Hoffman seems to be playing an older version of Ben Braddock from The Graduate (1967). Perhaps, this is what happened to Ben when things didn't work out with Elaine after their escape on the bus! (I never expected the couple to find true happiness, did you?) And, of course, the obvious irony is that Hoffman is a playing a graduate in one film and a grad student in the other.

Laurence Olivier as the villain.
As for Marathon Man, after a quick start (the car chase), it lumbers along until Scheider and Laurence Olivier show up. The latter earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination as a Nazi war criminal who is forced to come out of seclusion to secure his investment in diamonds. I don't think the role was a difficult one for Olivier, but somehow he manages to exude pure evil as he interrogates Babe by repeating the single line: "Is it safe?" In fact, that line ranked #70 on the American Film Institute's 100 Years...100 Quotes.

Roy Scheider, one of the 1970s most reliable leading men, excelled in playing edgy roles (The French Connection, Sorcerer, All That Jazz). He makes Doc the film's most interesting character--a sleek professional who is willing to help war criminals for the right price, but also an affectionate brother to the socially-challenged Babe.

The well-dressed Scheider.
Scheider and Olivier make Marathon Man easy to watch, though I wish both of them had more screen time. Frankly, Hoffman's protagonist is pretty boring. Director Schlesinger compensates somewhat by capturing the pulse of New York City, giving the film a much-needed vibrancy. He also book-ends the film with two fine scenes: the aforementioned chase and a sequence in which a concentration camp survivor recognizes Olivier's villain and follows him on the city's busy streets, shouting out his name.

I rarely mention continuity gaffes in movies because...well...anyone can make a mistake. However, I was amused by Babe's changing footwear during his kidnap scene. He appears to be barefoot when initially nabbed. Later, I could swear he's wearing socks. Finally, when he escapes and is running away from the baddies, he sports shoes on his feet. Maybe I just missed the scene where he finds his shoes. Or maybe he's just not as tough as some of those Olympic athletes that run in their bare feet.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Classic British TV Themes Quiz

The Movie-TV Connection Game is taking this month off (at its vacation home in sunny Florida). So, in its place, we're introducing the first edition of the Classic British TV Themes Quiz.

We'll play a snippet of the opening or closing theme of a British TV series from the 1960s or 1970s. Your mission (should you decide to accept it) is to name the show. All of these TV series were also broadcast in the U.S. There are ten themes, so it won't take long to play.

Just click on the video below to play. Please leave a comment to let us know how you did--but don't list the answers. Good luck!

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Claudelle Inglish: "I wanted to be bad as I could be!"

Diane McBain as Claudelle Inglish.
In the late 1950s, Warner Bros. discovered a winning formula for big-screen soap operas aimed at the teenage crowd. These economical potboilers featured young contract players surrounded by Hollywood veterans and featured then-provocative themes such as pre-marital sex, low self-esteem, and illegitimate babies. The most successful of these films were A Summer Place (1959) and Parrish (1961), which both starred Troy Donahue.

Diane McBain and Chad Everett.
Warner Bros. released Claudelle Inglish in 1961. It starred Diane McBain, who appeared with Donahue in Parrish as well as the TV series Surfside 6 (1960-62). She plays the title character, an attractive young woman who lives with her parents on a Southern tenant farm. Her shyness and poverty cause her to maintain a low profile in high school--but that doesn't stop handsome Linn Varner (Chad Everett) from pursuing her.

Claudelle's mother (Constance Ford) wants her daughter to marry the much older S.T. Crawford (Claude Akin), a widower and wealthy property owner. However, Claudelle becomes smitten with Linn and it's not long before she gives in to his manly desires. They become engaged, but decide to wait to marry until after Linn serves his two-year Army hitch.

Alas, one day Claudelle receives a letter in which Linn confesses that he has fallen in love with someone else. At first, Claudelle is devastated, but eventually she decides to get even by making herself available to every man to the county. Despite pleas from her parents, she cannot stop herself from traveling down the road to self-destruction.

The provocative poster.
Based on Erskine Caldwell's 1958 novel, it's easy to dismiss Claudelle Inglish as drive-in movie fodder. However, that would be doing a disservice to Diane McBain's sensitive performance. She makes it clear that Claudelle doesn't become a tramp out of vengeance toward Linn (though that surely played a part in the beginning).

Rather, it's the poor girl's way of coping with low self-esteem. More than once, Claudelle tells people that she never plans to marry. She doesn't think she's worthy of it. She shows no interest in even trying to find happiness. When one of her beaus, who wants to marry her, gets into a fight with a "bad boy" (named Rip, of course), Claudelle jilts the nice guy and goes off with Rip.

Will Hutchins, Robert Colbert, and McBain.
Diane McBain, who played a traditional "bad girl" in Parrish, finds the perfect tone as Claudelle. She sizzles on screen when trying to attract men and then elicits sympathy when she wallows in guilt after sleeping with them. The supporting cast includes two Summer Place alumni: Arthur Kennedy as Claudelle's understanding father and Constance Ford as her pushy mother. The rest of the cast consist of a bevy of familar TV faces, to include: Everett (looking vert young), Akins, Will Hutchins (Sugarfoot), and Robert Colbert (Time Tunnel).

The production values aren't as high as Warner's other teen soaps. Thus, there's no plush color scenery (A Summer Place and Susan Slade) and no fabulous Max Steiner score (although Howard Jackson contributes a respectable soundtrack). Interestingly, the prolific costume designer Howard Shoup earned the third of his five Oscar nominations for Best Costume Design (Black & White) for Claudelle Inglish. He never won an Oscar.

Still, the primary reason to see Claudelle Inglish is for Diane McBain's performance. Sadly, it was probably the highlight of her acting career. Her Warner Bros. contract kept her mostly confined to TV series appearances. When it ended in the mid-1960s, she failed to land any juicy film roles and ended up in "B" pictures like The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968).

Monday, January 16, 2017

Alan Ladd Betrayed in "Captain Carey, U.S.A."

The studio sets are pretty convincing.
Webb Carey (Alan Ladd) provides intelligence to the Allies while hiding out on an island off the coast of Italy during World War II. The local residents know about the Americano and a fellow officer, but not the location of their base of operations. It turns out that Webb has discovered a secret room belonging to the de Cresci family, where valuable art has been stored for centuries.

Webb has also fall in love with Giulia de Cresci, whom he calls Julie. Tragedy strikes when the Nazis somehow discover the secret room and shoot Webb, kill his friend, and drag Julie away--as Webb hears a gunshot.

Years later, long after the war has ended, Webb finds a de Cresci-owned painting--one once stored in the secret room--for sale by an art dealer in New York. That causes him to return to Italy to find out who betrayed him and who murdered Julie.

Made in 1950, the blandly-titled Captain Carey, U.S.A. is a post-war drama in the same vein as The Third Man (1949) and Cornered (1944). It most closely resembles the latter, which is a far better film than Captain Carey. That's not Alan Ladd's fault. He carries the first half of the film on his shoulders admirably. His disillusioned character reminds me of a watered-down version of the noir anti-heroes he played in classics like This Gun for Hire.

Alan Ladd and Wanda Hendrix.
It should come as no surprise that Julie is not dead and, even worse, she is married to another man. When she finally confronts an embittered Webb, he quips: "What do you want from me? A wedding present?"

Any hopes for a post-war noir vanish, though, when Webb and Julie team up to find a killer who has been covering their treasonous tracks. Wanda Hendrix, who portrays Julie, never convinces the audience that she is a strong-willed survivor equally obsessed with the truth. She's certainly no match for Ladd's driven hero and she somehow manages to make him seem less interesting.

Ladd listening to "Mona Lisa."
There are still some bright spots in Captain Carey, U.S.A. The film introduced the popular Ray Evans-Jerry Livingston song "Mona Lisa," which won an Oscar. It was not crooned by Nat King Cole in the movie, though. Instead, it's sung by the partisans as a warning for the approach of the Nazis. The film also boasts an early screen appearance by Russ (billed as Rusty) Tamblyn, who gets a chance to show off his acrobatic skills.

If you're searching for a gripping post-war revenge drama, then I recommend watching Cornered, which features one of Dick Powell's best performances. However, you could do worse than Captain Carey and, if you're an Alan Ladd fan, then you'll likely enjoy it.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Dick Gautier Chats with the Café about Birdie, "Get Smart," Robin Hood, and His Caricatures

As a tribute to the late Dick Gautier, who passed away on January 13, 2017, we're republishing his interview with us from 2013.

Actor, singer, composer, author, artist, and voice talent--Dick Gautier is pretty much a man of all media. Perhaps best known as Hymie the Robot on TV's Get Smart, Mr. Gautier has appeared in over 100 films and TV series according to the Internet Movie Database, as well as ten stage productions. He still acts occasionally (having appeared in an episode of Nip/Tuck) and has gained fame as a caricaturist. Despite the hectic schedule, he found time to drop by the Café for a chat.

Café:  You portrayed Conrad Birdie in the original Broadway production of Bye Bye Birdie and received a Tony nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical. How did you come to be cast as Conrad?

Gautier (in gold) as Conrad Birdie in
the original Broadway production.
Dick Gautier:  Unbeknownst to most folks, I started as a stand-up comedian. I was not really a joke teller, although I enjoy telling stories in which you can improvise and utilize character voices and accents, and that little advertised phase of my career has gotten me to places in the industry I never dreamed of. After my four-year stint in the Navy (U.S., thank you), I worked at the hungry i in San Francisco. I followed Mort Sahl, who had just made a good name for himself. As a side note, Maya Angelou, the distinguished poet, once opened for me doing a calypso act. The Purple Onion, which was across the street, spawned people like Phyllis Diller, the Kingston Trio, etc. I then went to New York and worked (after several fruitless months) at The Blue Angel, where I appeared with Margaret Whiting. It was there that Gower Champion, the wonderful dancer who--with his wife Marge--graced many MGM musicals, came in with Charles Strouse, the composer. They evidently stayed until the end of my show where I sang briefly, because a month later I received a call in Chicago from my agents, who told me that I was to meet about a project called Bye Bye Birdie. I flew to NY, we met, I sang for them and after they bolstered up my insecurities (I was comfortable singing Gershwin or Jerome Kern--but not rock 'n' roll), I got the part, over, I was told, about 750 other guys. I didn’t understand why I was chosen and I still don’t get it to this day. But I’m grateful. It was a great cast, Dick (Van Dyke), Chita (Rivera), Paul (Lynde), and Susan (Watson). Gower was a wonderful director and it began a totally unanticipated phase of my career.

Café:  Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde appeared in both the stage and film versions of Bye Bye Birdie. Was there any discussion about you recreating your role for the film?

DG:  My agents at William Morris didn’t want me to get typecast as a rock 'n' roll guy and the script was undergoing major changes; the part of Kim (Susan Watson) was being redone for Ann-Margret and Birdie was taking a backseat. So, we opted out of the film because, as my agents said: "The film along with the stage show would make the part indelibly mine." Not a good idea. They were right. I avoided the casting trap and poor Jesse Pearson (Birdie in the movie) didn’t have much of a career after that and passed away rather young.

Café:  You were brilliant as Hymie the Robot on Get Smart. How did you get the part and what was it like working on Get Smart?

Gautier as Hymie the robot in the
season 2 episode "Anatomy of a Lover."
DG:  It was fun doing Hymie on Get Smart, though not an actor’s challenge. When I met with the powers that be, I told them that when I was a kid in Canada I saw a man in a storefront window acting like a manikin to drum up business. If you could make him smile, you’d get $10. So, I tried, but not by acting crazy--I merely imitated his movements. I didn’t win the $10, but I got the part of Hymie, which was a little better. Again, I was blessed to be working with a talented, nice group of actors. Don (Adams), Barbara (Feldon), Ed Platt, and even Victor French, who was always stuck in a clock or something. They were always pleasant and creative and encouraging to me.

Café:  You were always a popular panelist on game shows like Password, The Match Game, and Win, Lose or Draw. What were your favorite game shows and why?

DG:  I loved doing game shows. Sure, the games were fun, but the other celebrities were usually quick-witted opponents and we had a great time trying to crack each other up. (I’m a patsy, it’s easy to get to me).  I especially liked Password because I’m sort of a word freak. I enjoy etymology (word derivations) and being a part-time writer. I enjoy word play of all kinds. Match Game was fun because Gene Rayburn and all the others were absolute crackups. I always felt guilty accepting the money. (Well, not THAT guilty!)    

As Robin Hood in When Things Were Rotten.
Café:  You played Robin Hood on Mel Brooks' When Things Were Rotten, a delightful parody that was sadly cancelled after 13 episodes. It has a big cult following now. What are your memories of working on it?

DG:  I was thrilled when I got the part of Robin Hood. I mean who ever thinks of himself as a classic character?  We had the best time. All we did was giggle it was so silly. And to work with our great guest stars like Sid Caesar and Dudley Moore or be directed by Marty Feldman…it was a hoot! I wish it had gone on longer, but Fred Silverman didn’t like it when it was offered to him at CBS, so it was no surprise that we disappeared when he took over ABC.  I don’t think he has the greatest sense of humor anyway. The jokes always parted his hair when they flew over his head.

Café:  You wrote several episodes of the TV series Love, American Style. You also penned the screenplays for Maryjane, a 1968 drama about a teacher framed for drug dealing (starring Fabian and Diane McBain) and the 1972 anti-war comedy Wild in the Sky (aka God Bless You, Uncle Sam). Did you ever consider writing screenplays full-time? And, hey, why aren't those movies on DVD?

DG:  I really enjoy writing, probably more than the people who buy movies. I’ve written at least 11 films, I’ve only sold six and two were produced. Oh well…you can’t be a hit at everything. I’m still trying. Why not? I send them out all the time, better than just sitting in a dirty underwear drawer.

Café:  You worked with just about every actor in Hollywood in the 1970s and 1980s, from Jack Nicholson to Diana Rigg to Angela Lansbury. Who were some of your favorite actors to work with and why?

Gautier and Mary Tyler Moore.
DG:  This is tough. I loved working with Diana Rigg. Mary Tyler Moore was a joy. Jimmy Stewart, what a gracious sweet man, the superbly talented Brian Dennehy, Nicholson of course, Robert Young, the charming Elizabeth Montgomery, the great Angela Lansbury, Jack Klugman--"Mr. Mench," all of Charlie’s Angels, the wonderful and weird Larry Hagman, Bob Newhart was a delight, my good pal Lucy, lovely and terrific Doris Day, funny Buck Henry, the versatile Nancy Dussault, and too many more to mention.    

Café:  You're a well-known caricaturist and oil painter. In fact, you've written several how-to books on drawing caricatures, such as The Art of Caricature (1985), The Creative Cartoonist (1988), and Drawing and Cartooning 1,001 Figures in Action (1994). How did you become interested in art?

Gautier's Sammy Davis, Jr.
DG:   I've always drawn cartoons and caricatures. It got me in big trouble when I was a kid, ridiculing my teachers, but I was a class clown anyway so that was merely another extension of the same stuff. I got a little more "serious" later and tried portraits in acrylics and oils. My relatives in Canada are painters and so I come by it naturally. The books were a complete surprise to me. I got one published and then two… and finally up through fourteen. But no more, I've squeezed an awful lot of books out of a very small talent. I can’t think of another idea anyway.

Café:  Looking back over your acting career in stage, film, and television, what are your favorite roles?

DG:  I’d have to say Birdie, Robin Hood, Hymie, the stage musical Little Me where I got to play seven different characters, all written by Neil Simon, The Rockford Files as a real bad guy, South Pacific where I got to stretch my vocal range as Emile De Becque, and as the preacher in Fun with Dick and Jane with Jane Fonda and George Segal.

Café:  You seem to stay incredibly busy. Are there any upcoming projects you want to share with our readers?

DG:  I try to stay busy, it’s easier since I’m getting "up in years," but I recently wrote a play and it’s gotten some nice reactions from those who've read it. It’s called Commisseration and it’s a dialogue between two guys in their sixties. Some think it’s very funny, some think it’s "touching," some think it stinks. We’ll see. We’re close to a production with a couple of very fine actors and I’ll direct. If this all works out, it will be pretty exciting.  

You can learn more about Dick Gautier at his web site: and even purchase some of his artwork.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Introducing the International TV Blog!

We're pleased to announce that the International TV Blog has joined the Classic Film & TV Cafe's "family." The focus of this new blog is on television series from Great Britain, Japan, Australia, and around the globe.
Its first review is about the addictive Australian television series A Place to Call Home. Set in the 1950s, it centers around Sarah Adams (Marta Dusseldorp), a nurse who has returned home after many years. When her reunion with her mother does not go well, Sarah accepts a job in the rural town of Inverness. Sarah becomes involved with the Bligh family and its powerful matron Elizabeth. The two women clash frequently, in large part because Elizabeth's son George is attracted to Sarah--but also because Sarah knows a secret about one of the family members.

The strength of A Place to Call Home is how its gradually reveals pertinent details about its characters' pasts. For example, it's evident that Sarah is a woman of strength and perseverance from the moment she's introduced. However, the series slowly reveals the pieces from her past that made her that way. Likewise, it's not until season three that we learn how some of George's actions were driven by his relationship with his now-dead father.

You can visit the International TV Blog and read the full review. In fact, we hope you'll drop in from time to time to see what's new in the world of international television.