Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Shorts - Let's all go to the Drive-In!

Another short entry today, as we take a look at shorts that were shown before, in between and after the features at drive-ins: (and if you don't know what a drive-in is or haven't ever been to one, well... that's an entry for another day.)

First, a welcome:

Next, it's intermission time:

And, after the second feature, time to go home:

A lot of these shorts are to watch or download for free from the Internet Archive.
Drive-In Movie Memories is not a compilation of these clips, but an hour-long documentary featuring interviews with people such as Leonard Maltin, Samuel Arkoff, and John (Joe-Bob Briggs) Bloom. It's available from Amazon: Drive-In Movie Memories.
Drive-In Madness, on the other hand, is a series of clips from the types of movies that made us love going: Drive-In Madness.

I hope you've enjoyed this little look at the days of the drive-in, and until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saturday TV - We Now Pause For a Word from Our Sponsor

I'm not going to say much today, instead I'm going to let the advertisers take over, because trust me, they've got plenty to say:

These and more classic commercials can be found to watch or download here.
Amazon has a number of collections of classic commercials, so take a look around, but there's sure to be something to please every taste in this collection: 1,001 Classic Commercials Collection.
Netflix also has a number of collections, but this one looks like it might be especially fun: Cartoon Commercials!: Vol. 1

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mixed genre friday - Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964) - starring (Names withheld to protect the Innocent)

Y'know, kiddies, there have been times this week when Yer Ol' Professor has been taking a look at these genre mashups and thought, hey... that's kind of a peanut better and chocolate combination. You wouldn't think they'd work that well together, but somehow, watching the actual movie, they manage to gel, and it winds up looking like a pretty good idea after all.

Then there's this movie. Let's just say I haven't been saving the best for last.

So the movie opens with martian children Bomar (or Boy Martian) and Girmar (Girl Martian) watching Earth television. Specifically, they are watching station KID-TV's interview with Santa Claus. Fearing that martian children, who are fed knowledge from birth and never allowed to play are going to grow up stifled and unable to think as individuals, the leadership of mars (led by Kimar or King Martian) decide that the best way to help the young ones is to kidnap Santa (along with a couple of Earth children) and bring him to Mars to make toys for the Martian children so they can learn how to play and have fun. Of course, there are those who oppose this move, and they attempt to sabotage the plan and then the factory that is built once Santa arrives. Fortunately, though, one of the bad guys decides that he likes the idea of Santa, and is named the new Martian Santa so that the real one can return to Earth in order to deliver his toys to our girls and boys. Oh, and let's not forget the "battle of the toys" where the Earth children and Martian children team up to overcome the bad guys by bubbling them into submission.

Yeah, it's a science-fiction Christmas movie. Yeah, someone (presumably Joseph E. Levine, since it's his name above the title) not only looked at this script and said "Yeah, we need to make this", but convinced Embassy Pictures to put thir money behind it. And a bunch of actors also read the script and thought "Yeah, that's something I need to be in!"

And then someone told your ever-humble host about it, and I thought "Hey, I think I'll watch that and let folks know about it."

Obviously, not all the bad decisions were made in 1964.

Ok, I'm not gonna spend a whole lot more time with this one - instead, I'm going to shoot you right to the trailer, which, as a special treat, also includes a second look at it with a commentary (yes, commentary for a commercial) by Mystery Science Theater 3000's Kevin Murphy talking about their decision to include it in one of their shows:

For those who really want it, here's the skinny:
Title: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Release Date: 1964
Running Time: 81 minutes too long
Color (especially green - they are martians, after all)
"Starring": John Call and an eight-year-old Pia Zadora
Director: Nicholas Webster
Producers: Paul L. Jacobson, Joseph E. Levine, and Arnold Leeds
Distibuted by: Embassy Pictures Corporation

In case you really want to torture yourself check this thing out for yourself, it's available to watch or download here.
If you, say want to share this with your friends (or even better, if you have people in your life that you're tired of being your friends, you can get it on DVD from Amazon: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.
Netflix has the MST3K version of the movie available to rent: Mystery Science Theater 3000: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, but if you want the regular version, it's only available on "Watch Now": Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. (I suspect they're afraid of violating some postal regulation if they actually send it through the mail.)

Ok, if you've subjected yourself to this flick and have something to say about my take on it (either agreeing or disagreeing), be sure and hit the comments below. And also, let me know what you've thought about Mixed-genre week in general. Next week it's back to the usual cycle, but sometime in March I'm planning another specialty week, probably a look at silent films. 

Until next Time, Happy Treasure Hunting
-Professor Damian

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mixed Genre Thursday - The Phantom Empire (1935) starring Gene Autry

Roy Rogers. Tex Ritter. Gene Autry. Singing cowboys. No, today's mixed genre exploration is not about the intersection of musicals and westerns, though we could certainly do that. Instead we're going to take it a level deeper, shoving one of these cowhands into an underground world, take away his six-guns and replace them with ray guns, and pit him against robots and a long-lost race of people. In other words, we're going western/science fiction with Gene Autry in the serial The Phantom Empire

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of serials, for now let's just say that there was a time when going to a movie involved much more than just seeing a feature film. Instead, an afternoon or evening at the movies might involve seeing a cartoon, a short subject (often some kind of exotic travelogue), a chapter of the latest serial, and then either one feature or perhaps even two (thus giving rise to the term B-movie, as they were designed to play the second half of a double-bill). The serial would be usually anywhere from 12-15 parts, normally about 20 minutes long (though the first part, which had to introduce the characters and set-up was often longer), and a new "chapter" would be shown each week. Basically you can think of them as something like today's TV shows 24 or Lost, where a complete story would be told over a series of weeks. The main differences being that since televisions were not the household fixtures they are now, the serials would be shown in theaters, and each chapter would generally end with a cliffhanger in order to draw the audience back the next week in order to find out how the hero (or his sidekick or companions) managed to survive the predicament they found themselves in.

Ok, so that brings us to The Phantom Enpire. In it we find Gene Autry as the owner and head of the Radio Ranch, a dude ranch from which he makes a daily radio broadcast. Along with the usual assortment of ranch hands (who also double as radio personalities, Autry also has as friends two teenagers, Frankie and Betsy Baxter (Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross) who, with their friends like to pretend to be the Junior Thunder Riders, the knights of an unknown city whose horses sound like thunder when they ride.

The only problem with all of this is that unfortunately neither Gene nor the kids know that there really are Thunder Riders. You see, 100,000 years ago, the lost city of Mu sank 25,000 feet below the surface of the earth, and its inhabitants, known as the Muritanians, now live in a fantastic underground city, full of towering skyscrapers, elevators that can take them to the surface, and robots to do their bidding. The city is ruled over by the evil Queen Tika, though there are forces within her empire that are plotting to overthrow her. When it's discovered that Autry's Radio Ranch is situated on the land where the Muritanians passage to the surface opens, Tika plots to kidnap Autry so that he will lose his radio contract and the ranch will be deserted so the Muritanians can continue their ongoing raids on the surface world without fear of discovery.

Yet another twist in the story is that someone on the surface world already knows about the Muritanians and the Thunder riders. That someone is Professor Beetson, an evil mastermind who has built a criminal empire and plots to invade Muritania to seize the radium they are using as a power source. Of course, the evil professor also wants to run Autry away from his ranch so that he can have unimpeded access to the entrance to the Muritanian underground.

Autry finally comes into conflict with the secret race when Tika sends the Thunder Riders to kidnap Betsy and Frankie in order to draw Autry into her lair. From there it's a cavalcade of wonder and excitement as the cowboy and his companions must learn how to deal with this futuristic land and find a way to escape. There are plenty of ray gun fights, explosions, cheesy robots and other thrills in each chapter as the kids and their hero must attempt not only to survive, but to topple the evil queen's empire and ensure that the Muritanians and surface people can live in peace.

Here's a trailer:

All right, I guess it's time for the skinny:

Title: The Phantom Empire
Release Date: 1935
Running Time: 12 chapters, 245 min total
Black and White
Starring: Gene Autry
Directed by: Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason
Produced by: Nat Levine
Distributed by: Mascot Pictures

All twelve chapters of The Phantom Empire are available to watch or download for free here.
If your preference is DVD, it's available in that format from Amazon: Phantom Empire.
Or, if ya just want to rent it, it's also available from Netflix: The Phantom Empire

And if you've seen this serial (or have any other recommendations for serials you'd like to see tackled in my upcoming serials week), whether you agree or disagree with my take, be sure to let me know by clicking on the "comments" link below. Feedback (about the film or any other aspect of the site) is not only welcomed but encouraged.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Mixed Genre Wednesday - The Beast of Hollow Mountain (1956) - starring Guy Madison

Y'know, when your ol' Professor was just a kid,  we spent a lot of time playing a game called "Cowboys and Indians". I feel that I have to explain this to the younger crowd, because they, of course, no longer play this game. Ever since "Indians" became "Native Americans" and kids started getting thrown out of schools or arrested for pointing their fingers and shouting "BANG!", well... And of course, there were vaiations on the game: "Cops and Robbers", "Batman and the Joker", and on and on. Still, even in those days of unbridled revelry, I can't say that our imaginations would have ever taken us so far as to posit "Cowboys vs. Dinosaus". Yet that's exactly what happens in today's genre mashup.

The Beast of Hollow Mountain presents us with Jimmy Ryan, played by Guy Madison, who is investigating the mysterious disappearance of catlle from the area ranches. Jimmy just happens to live in the area of Hollow Mountain, of which "It is said that a mountain surrounded by a swamp is hollow and that a prehistoric monster from 'the dawn of time' comes out during times of drought to stalk the land." Of course, Jimmy and his fellows are having none of it until they are suddenly confronted by a beast that truly is from the land that time forgot.

The movie was actually based on an idea by stop-motion pioneer Willis O'Brien, one of the men behind the original King Kong, and the man who taught Ray Harryhousen the fine art of bringing life to what is basically a metal frame covered with clay. Unfortunately, the film spends far too much time on the Western aspect and not enough on the dinosaur, but it still delivers enough campy fun to be entertaining.

Here's a trailer:

The Skinny:
Title: The Beast of Hollow Mountain
Release Date: 1956
Running Time: 81 min
Starring: Guy Madison
Directed by: Edward Nassour and Ismael Rodríguez
Producer: Unknown
Production Company: Peliculas Rodriguez

Beast of Hollow Mountain is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available on DVD from Amazon: The Beast of Hollow Mountain.
Unfortunately, it doesn't appear to be available from Netflix.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Mixed Genre Tuesday - The Gorilla (1939) - starring Bela Lugosi and The Ritz Brothers

Take a cold, dark night, add Bela Lugosi (doing judo!), Lionel Atwill, a guy in a gorilla suit, and a threat of death, then toss in the Ritz Brothers as three bumbling, slapstick detectives from the ACME detective agency, and what have you got? Well, obviously, kiddies, it's the next feature in this week's look at cross-genre mashups. Today we mix the old dark house mystery thriller with Three Stooges-style slapstick (minus the eye-gouging, thankfully) and come up with 1939's The Gorilla.

Largely forgotten today and definitely in the shadow of both the Stooges and the Marx Brothers, the Ritz's (Jimmy, Harry and Al) were once extremely popular, not only as comedians but also as a song and dance trio. They began performing in 1925, and were headliners by the early 30's. In 1934, they made their first movie, a short subject entitled Hotel Anchovy. Pleased with the Brothers' performance, Twentieth century Fox signed them to a contract to perform in feature length musicals and comedy features.

The Ritz's developed a very strong following, though unlike Both the Marx's and the Stooges, they really didn't develop the type of individual on-screen personalities that would not only allow them to flourish, but also for their fans to distinguish between them. Nor did they ever really leave their vaudeville roots behind, as even in their comedies, they would often break into song and dance.

Though the Brothers seemed to be quite happy with each other and to work well together, one thing they definitely were not happy with was their studio and the increasingly (as they saw it) low quality scripts they were being given. All of this actually climaxed during the production of today's feature as the Brothers walked off the set and out of their contracts during the filming of The Gorilla. The film was finished without them, and the next year the Brothers were hired on by Universal Pictures. Still, they never quite reached the stardom that the other two teams achieved.

Despite what the Brothers themselves might have thought of the film (and honestly, this is the first of their movies that I've seen, so it definitely may have been a huge step down in comparison to their other efforts), The Gorilla is actually fairly entertaining both as a comedy and as a somewhat slight little mystery. The Brothers acquit themselves well, never completely digesting the scenery, and Lugosi (as a mysteriously-appearing and disappearing butler) and Atwill (as the threatened man who may have a secret agenda of his own) definitely lend an air of prestige to the proceedings. Also of note is Patsy Kelly, the household maid who first encounters the gorilla when he reaches into her bedroom window only to pin a note to her shoulder. Never quite reaching Una O'Connor levels of hysteria, she nonetheless provides even more comic relief and has some of the sharpest lines in the film.

Instead of a trailer today, I'm simply going to embed this short clip which will not only give you a pretty good taste of the humor in the movie, but features one of the highlights I mentioned in today's opening paragraph:

Ok, kids, what time is it? That's right, time for the skinny:

Title: The Gorilla
Release Date: 1939
Running Time: 66 min
Black and White
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill, The Ritz Brothers
Directed by: Allan Dwan
Produced by: Harry Joe Brown
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The Gorilla is available to watch or download for free here.
If your preference is DVD, it's available in that format from Amazon: The Gorilla
Or, if ya just want to rent it, it's also available from Netflix: The Gorilla

And if you've seen the flick (or any other Ritz Brothers movies and have recommendations), whether you agree or disagree with my take, be sure to let me know by clicking on the "comments" link below. Feedback (about the film or any other aspect of the site) is not only welcomed but encouraged.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mixed Genre Monday: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter (1966) - starring John Lupton and Nardna Onyx

Hiya, Kiddies! So, your ol' Professor has decided to do something a little different this week. Instead of the usual western on Monday, horror/scifi on Tuesday, etc., this week we're going to take a look at movies that cross the boundaries of genre. Today, for instance we're going to take a look at a movie that is a cross between a western and a horror flick, 1966's Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.

The film opens in the small town of SomewhereintheSouthwest. The town has been suffering from unexplained death and disease ever since the new tenants moved into the castle at the top of the hill that overlooks the town. It seems that (despite what the title says) Baron Frankenstein's Grandson (Steven Geray) and Granddaughter (Narda Onyx) have moved in and are carrying on their grandfather's experiments on the townspeople. They have come to America because of the extreme number of electrical storms which they need to power their experiments. Posing as doctors, they have been kidnapping the local children, but so far they have had no luck in their attemps to bring the dead back to life. And as more and more children have turned up missing or dead, the townspeople have simply been moving away from what they see as a cursed town until only the Lopez family is left. Family daughter Juanita (Estelita Rodriguez) has visited the castle because her brother went up there and never returned, only to be told that he, too, has been taken ill.

Just an aside: the accents are played so thick and heavy in this film that it actually took me a moment to realixw that the Lopez family was blaming the town's misfortunes on "God's Will", and not on a "Cod's Wheel". Whatever that might be.

Anyway, after about 15 minutes of the baroness and her brother it's time to get to the western part of the movie. Now if you had just joined in at this point, you might have no idea that nothing odd was going on, as this part is played just as straight as any oater of the time. We first meet Jesse (John Lupton) and his travelling buddy Hank (Cal Bolder) as they are trying to raise some money by betting on a fist fight between Hank and a man named Stacey. After they win, we cut to the hideout of the remaining members of the Wild Bunch (the film obviously couldn't afford an entire bunch, so we are left with leader Butch Curry, his brother Lonny, and their partner Pete Ketchum) who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jesse and Hank. When the pair finally arrive at the hideout, Butch lays out his plan to steal $100,000 from a coach that will be transporting the money from the town bank to a nearby fort. Lonny, unfortunately wants nothing to do with having to split his take with Jesse and Hank, so he arranges with the town's sheriff (played by Jim Davis, immediately recognizable to Dallas fans as patriarch Jock Ewing) to betray his partners for the reward money and being named a deputy.

Obviously, these two strands are eventually going to intersect, and when Hank is wounded in the resulting ambush, Jesse takes him to the village and the pair find respite at the Lopez house. Juanita then takes them to the castle so that the doctors can patch up Hank's wounds. Upon seeing the strongman, Maria Frankenstein realizes that he is just the specimen that she has been looking for. After a bit of surgery, Hank is rechristened Igor and becomes Maria's undead slave. Will he now follow her orders and kill his former partner? Or will Jesse be able to overcome the newly-made monster?

Ok, let's be honest. We're not talking about a great work of art here. We're not even talking about a stunning piece of filmmaking. What we are talking about is an interesting cross-section of genres that actually plays out pretty well, definitely an entertaining enough way to pass an hour and a half or so.

Alright, so how about a trailer?

And, as an extra bonus, here's another trailer for the movie along with its equally genre-bending co-feature (but that's a film for another day, once i'm certain that it, too, has passed into the public domain.):

Ok, time for the skinny:

Title: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter
Release Date: 1966
Running Time: 83 min
Starring: John Lupton and Nardna Onyx
Director: William Beaudine
Producer: Carol Case
Distributed by: Sam Manners

The movie is available to watch or download for free here.
It's also available on DVD from Amazon, with commentary and an introduction by your Professor's favorite film critic: Joe Bob Briggs Presents: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter.
Or it's available for rental from Netflix: Joe Bob Briggs Presents: Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sunday Shorts - Are You Popular (1947)

"No, girls who park in cars are not really popular, not even with the boys they park with."

Ah, for the good old days. When high school students needed classroom films to teach them the right way to be popular. The producer of today's short, Coronet Films, actually made a number of these films from 1941 all the way up to 1976. Some of the titles they produced were: Where Does Our Meat Come From?, Keeping Clean and Neat, How Quiet Helps at School, More Dates for Kay, Getting Ready Physically, How Billy Keeps Clean, What Makes a Good Party, and today's feature, Are You Popular?.

Apparently, in 1947, the number one rule for girls for being popular was "don't park at night with boys in cars". Why? Well, from what I can tell from watching this film, it's because when they get to talking about you at the lunch table and find out you're a slut who's parked with every guy on the dance committee, it'll lower their self esteem and they won't like you as much... at least not at school.

Nope, sleeping around is definitely not the way to be popular. Instead, apparently the really popular girls are well-dressed and well-spoken bisexuals (it does say you should be as interested in girls as boys) who understand when a guy suggests places you can go that he's telling you how much he can spend, and don't know the difference between a scarf and a pair of gloves. Oh, and they keep it short and sweet on the phone.

And let's face it, are things really any different today?

Ok, here ya go, kiddies. In ten minutes, you'll know how to tell if you're really popular or just a tramp:

Are You Popular? is available to watch or download here.
A number of the Coronet films are available on DVD from Amazon. This collection includes Are You Popular?: Classic Friends & Friendship Films DVD.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Saturday TV - The Lone Ranger - Season 1 Episode 1 - Enter the Lone Ranger

Ok, Kiddies, Yer Ol' Professor's got a really bad riddle for ya today. Q: Where does the Lone Ranger take his garbage? A: To the dump, to the dump, to the dump, dump, dump.

See? I told ya it was bad. But it also makes a point. Because for those of us who grew up watching his adventures (or who listened to them on the radio before he came along on TV), Rossini's William Tell Overture will always be inextricably linked to the masked man, Tonto, and Silver.

The Lone Ranger was actually first created for Detroit's WXYZ radio station in 1933 by George W. Trendle and Fran Striker. It lasted for 2,956 episodes, the last being broadcast 21 years later in 1954. Along with the bracing theme music, listeners were greeted each week by the voice of Fred Foy:

Hi-Yo  Silver — A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a  hearty Hi-Yo Silver … the Lone Ranger! With his faithful  Indian companion, Tonto, the daring and resourceful masked rider of the plains led the fight for law and order in the early West.  Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear.  The Lone Ranger rides again!

When it was time for the Ranger to make the transition to television, he was portrayed by Clayton Moore and his faithful companion Tonto was played by Jay Silverheels. The show actually has a very interesting production history, as the first 78 episodes were produced and broadcast without any reruns or breaks for 78 straight weeks. Then they were repeated for 78 weeks before new episodes were created. When it finally became time to produce new episodes, there was a dispute between Clayton Moore and the producers (some say it was over money, some, including Mr. Moore, say it was "creative differences") and Moore was replaced with John Hart. It was thought that viewers wouldn't notice or care about the change, since the Ranger was never seen unmasked unless he was in a disguise. This was not the case, however, and after these episodes were run and then re-run just as the first batch had been, Moore was brought back for a final run of 52 episodes and the Hart-era shows were shelved and not shown again until the 1980's. After this run of shows was broadcast and again re-broadcast,  final set of 39 episodes ws filmed with Moore in the role.

Today, were taking a look at the first episode, originally broadcast September 15, 1949. In it, we are not only shown his origin, but his first meeting with Tonto, how he came to ride Silver, and what the deal ws with those silver bullets.

This and many episodes of the Lone Ranger's TV and radio shows (and even comics) can be watched/listened to/downloaded for free here.
There are many cheaper collections of Lone Ranger episodes at Amazon, but this one contains all 78 episodes of the first run in great remastered condition with lots of extras and bonus features: The Lone Ranger: 75th Anniversary - Seasons 1 and 2.
This episode plus a couple of others are also available for rental at Netflix: Lone Ranger:  Enter the Lone Ranger

Until next time, instead of my usual "Happy Treasure Hunting", I think I'll leave you with the Lone Ranger's Creed. I suspect it's something we could all actually strive to live by:

"I believe.....
That to have a friend, a man must be one.
That all men are created equal and that everyone has within  himself the power to make this a better world.
That God put the firewood there, but that every man must gather  and light it himself.
In being prepared physically, mentally, and morally to fight when  necessary for that which is right.
That a man should make the most of what equipment he has.
That 'this government of the people, by the people,  and for the people' shall live always.
That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest  number.
That sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with  the world and make payment for what we have taken.
That all things change but truth, and that truth alone, lives on  forever.
In my Creator, my country, my fellow man."

-Professor Damian

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Funnies - My Favorite Brunette (1947) - Starring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour

Way back when your Ol' Professor was but a wee nubbin, one of the local stations (yes, this was back in the days of the dinosaurs when local stations were all we had and there were only four of them, weep for us kids of today, weep for us...) used to have a movie feature every afternoon. Called "The Big Show", they would usually have a theme for each week - one week it would be westerns, the next giant japanese monsters, the next Abbott and Costello flicks. And at a certain point in each showing, the local weatherman would appear with the phone book and a telephone and, picking a number at random, he would ask whoever picked up the phone what movie they were showing. If the person on the other end could answer correctly, they would win whatever the day's pot was. If not, then the prize would be raised for the next call.

I'm sure it was The Big Show, along with my father's enthusiasm for the entertainers featured in these movies that formed the basis for my own love of the movies of this period. Among the staples of The Big Show rotation were the "Road" movies of Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. These movies showcased two stars who were otherwise during that time relegated to the occasional TV special- Bing would show up at Christmastime with his family, and Bob was a regular staple on USO tours where he and other stars of the day would entertain troops. But these movies showed that not only was there more to these guys than just a bit of standup or an occasional song, they were full-fledged movie stars.

Hope himself, besides just the "Road" movies, starred in at least two movies a year (and sometimes as many as four) pretty much every year from 1934 to 1959. and onr of those movies, from 1947, was My Favorite Brunette.  And actually, I suppose I should make a slight correction to one statement I made above - when talking about the "Road" movies I said they starred Hope and Crosby, and that's true, but they also starred Dorothy Lamour, who appeared in all of them but the last and was probably as big a reason for their success as the two marquee names. I bring her up now, because she also appears with Hope in this film, portraying the movie's titular brunette.

The film itself is a pretty light comedy, a parody of the film noir style, with Hope playing a bumbling photographer who wishes he could be a private eye. One day he is answering the phones for the detective who works across the hall when in walks Lamour, the archetypical noir dame. Mistaking Hope for the actual detective, she pleads for his help, and sure enough he finds himself in way over his head. The film also gives us Peter Lorre, Lon Chaney Jr, and Alan Ladd in supporting roles, and even a cameo by Crosby.

Here's a two-minute clip that'll give you a good taste for this film:

And now, the skinny:

Title: My Favorite Brunette
Release Date: 1947
Running Time: 87 min
Black and White
Starring:  Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour
Director: Elliot Nugent
Producer: Daniel Dare:
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

The movie is available for free to watch or download here.
It's also available on DVD from  Amazon: My Favorite Brunette.
And Netflix has it available for rental: My Favorite Brunette

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thursday Kisses - Eternally Yours (1939) - starring David Niven and Loretta Young

Echoing the debonair adventurousness of  William Powell's Nick Charles, today's feature finds David Niven in the starring role of a stage magician/escape artist whose greatest trick may turn out to be reclaiming the love of his wife. Unfortunately, like most echoes, Niven's portrayal lacks both the sharpness and lushness (in all senses of the word) found in the Thin Man series. And Loretta Young, who plays Niven's wife/onstage assistant lacks the fire and wit of Myrna Loy's Nora.

Of course, this really isn't a fair comparison, because we never actually get to see Niven and Young react to poisonings, theft, or kidnappings. Instead, the problems faced by this couple are both more simple and more complicated, for it turns out that while Niven's Arturo lives for the stage, the travelling, and the thrill, Young's Anita longs for a simpler life... or at least so she thinks. She has even sold some jewelry given to her by her husband in order to build a home in the country where the two can finally settle down. True conflict comes, however, when Arturo's latest stunt, jumping from a plane with his hands cuffed behind his back and having to escape from them so he can pull the ripcord on his parachute, proves not only successful, but an immense hit, and he is offered a two year contract to travel the world and put on his act. Realising that they simply want two different things from life and that Arturo is never going to settle down, Anita leaves him and eventually remarries.

This, of course, puts Arturo's life and act on the skids and he is eventually reduced to performing mind reading and hypnotism tricks at private parties. When he happens to be hired by the boss of Anita's new husband to perform at his winter retreat, a chance meeting of the two shows that the spark of their love is still there. The question though, is what can be done, since no matter how the two may feel, Anita is now married to another man. All of this climaxes when an out-of-practice Arturo is scheduled to perform his handcuff-parachute escape at the 1939 New york World's Fair, only to show up and find that the plane he was planning to use has been changed and he no longer has his secreted lockpick. Will Arturo find some way out of his predicament, or will Anita wind up declaring her true love to a greasy spot on the ground?

Lightweight yet engaging, this romantic comedy finds all of its players in fine form. Niven is, of course, quite dashing, and Young plays well off of him. Broderick Crawford plays Anita's new husband, a man who basically finds himself battered on every front and swept up in events over which he has little control. C. Aubrey Smith portrays Anita's father (a bishop!) and practically steals every scene he is in.

Like so many of these films, a proper trailer is not available online, but here's the first few minutes of it just to give you a taste of this fine little film:

Now for the skinny:
Title: Eternally Yours
Release Date: 1939
Running Time: 95 min.
Starring: Loretta Young, David Niven, Broderick Crawford
Director: Tay Garnett
Producers: Tay Garnett, Walter Wanger
Distributed by: United Artists

Eternally Yours is available for free for viewing or download here.
It's also available on DVD from Amazon: Eternally Yours.
And it's available for rental from Netflix: Eternally Yours

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Whodunnit Wednesday - Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943) - starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce

Sherlock Holmes Nazi Fighter? Umm... hang on, wasn't his last case set in 1914 when he was an older man who had retired to beekeeping? Well, according to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, yes, but hey... it was World War II - the war after "the war to end all wars", and the allies needed all the help they could get, especially with all those Nazi spies on our (well British, at least) shores. So they had to recruit whomever they could to protect not only their soldiers but their scientists and statesmen who were doing their best to end the threat and the war.

Actually, this, the fourth pairing of the two, was the second of the Rathbone/Bruce Holmes movies to be set in contemporary times, following the previous year's Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, which explained the time shift with a simple title card that described the master detective and his stalwart companion as "timeless". Fair enough, actually, as this particular portrayal has definitely proven to be exactly that. Excluding the recent Robert Downey Jr./Jude Law outing, if asked, most people (assuming they could name one in the first place) would name Rathbone and Bruce as the classic Holmes and Watson. And considering that they teamed for a total of fourteen films plus numerous radio shows and other appearances, obviously they were an incredibly well -known and popular team.

(Personally, I think the most masterful and definitive portrayal of Holmes is that of Jeremy Brett, whether teamed with David Burke or Edward Hardwicke, but Rathbone and Bruce definitely hold a special place in my heart.)

So what exactly is this "Secret Weapon" that draws Holmes' attention? (Along, of course, with that of Scotland Yard inspector Lestrade, government minister Sir Reginald Bailey, and Holmes' ultimate nemesis Professor Moriarty (portrayed by the intriguing Lionel Atwill)? Well, actually it's not so much a weapon in itself as something that will definitely (at least according to pretty much every one in the film) change the course of the war: a new type of bomb sight. Invented by Swiss scientist Franz Tobel, the new sight uses "sonic waves" to apparently allow it to see through the clouds so that planes approaching from great heights can more accurately drop their payload. At least that's the way I understand it - let's be honest, that's actually more explanation for the nature of this "weapon" than we're actually given in the film.

But, of course, the sight itself is merely the MacGuffin - the plot feature that sets everything into motion. And despite its at-the-time-modern setting, that motion is pure Holmes. Incorporating elements of Conan Doyle's "The Dancing Men", the story gives us an incredibly observant and deductive Holmes (who also manages to disguise himself not one, not two, but three times), a good-hearted but slightly bumbling Watson, a dispicable but quite intelligent Moriarty, death traps (well, ok, again, honestly the "stuff holmes in the bottom of a crate, carry him to our ship and toss him overboard" plan could have used a little more thinking through, though it does give Watson a chance to exert his own powers of deduction), 221B Baker Street (and a pop-in from Mrs Hudson), and just enough humor and good-natured sparring between the two leads to make the whole adventure quite entertaining.

So, how about a trailer?

And, look out! Here comes the skinny:

Title: Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
Release Date: 1943
Running Time: 80 min.
Black and White
Stars: Basil Rathbone, Nigel Bruce
Director: Roy William Neil
Producer: Howard Benedict
Distributed by: Universal Studios

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon is available to watch or download here.
It's also available on DVD from Amazon: Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon
or for rental from Netflix: Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tuesday Terrors - House on Haunted Hill (1959) - starring Vincent Price

"The ghosts are moving tonight. Restless. Hungry."

Doors that open and close themselves! Guests arriving in a funeral procession lead by a hearse! A falling Chandelier! Blood dripping from the ceiling! A witch that appears and disappears! 7 people already murdered! Detached Heads! Party favors that turn out to be loaded guns delivered in coffins! An organ that plays itself! The floating head of Elisha Cook Jr.! Ghosts! Dead bodies that disappear and reappear! Thunderstorms! Secret passages! Ropes that wrap themselves around the damsel's feet! A wine vat filled with acid! A floating skeleton! And an elegant host (played by the ever-charming Vincent Price) who may be trying to kill his wife (who may, in turn, be trying to kill him)! It's obvious that producer and director William Castle was trying to throw everything into the pot on this one.

In 1959, William Castle had made a number of b-grade pictures for various studios, but he was just beginninng to emerge as the king of the gimmick picture. His legacy today is as the man who, while he may not have invented the style, certainly perfected it and used it to bring amazing attention to his pictures. Some of Castle's gimmicks included insuring movie goers in case they died of fright during a showing of Macabre; "Percepto", in which audience members watching The Tingler, already encouraged to scream because the titular monster had gotten loose in the theater, recieved mild electric jolts from wires attatched to their seats; Illusion-o, which gave brave audience members a chance to see 13 Ghosts while those who were too fearful didn't have to; and the "Fright Break" in Homicidal which gave audience members a chance to leave the theater and get a full refund before the climax if they were willing to sign a certificate of cowardicee In the midst of this came House on Haunted Hill which, through the magic of "Emergo" had a skeleton come out of the movie and float over the heads of the audience. (Don't ruin the surprise by telling your friends, but it was actually an inflatable glow-in-the-dark skeleton that was pulled through the theater on a set of wires.)

In the film, Vincent Price plays Fredrick Loren, a millionaire who is hosting a party for his fourth wife. Instead of inviting their friends, however, he has invited five guests who represent different layers of society. He has offered each of them $10,000 if they will spend the whole night in the House on Haunted hill, a house with a history of killings and hauntings. However, soon after they arrive, spooky things begin happening including all of the events listed above. Adding to the intrigue is the relationship between Loren and his wife, neither of whom like the other very much and they both have good reasons for wanting the other dead. The guests soon find that they are completely locked in the house, and there is no way out until the caretakers return in the morning. The haunted house may soon become their tomb and by morning may well have seven new ghostly residents!

Yes, the film is cheesy and some of the efffects are obviously lacking, but for a good low budget scare that is definitely highlighted by the presence of Mr. Price, you can definitely find worse ways to pass an hour and fifteen minutes. And it's certainly more fun than the perhaps technically more proficient but heartless 1999 remake.

Preview time! Here's the Trailer:

And here's the skinny:

Title: House on Haunted Hill
Release Date: 1959
Running Time: 75 min
Black and White
Starring: Vincent Price
Director: William Castle
Producers: William Castle, Robb White
Distributed by: Allied Artists

House on Haunted Hill is available for viewing or download here.
It's available on DVD at Amazon in many different packages, but this version contains both a nicely restored B/W version and a pretty well accepted colorized version: House on Haunted Hill (Color + B&W).
It's also available for rental from Netflix: House on Haunted Hill

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monday Oaters - The Outlaw (1943) - starring Jane Russell

Hiya, kiddies! Your ol' host with the most Professor Damian here. Y'know, when you've got a western that features Billy the Kid, Doc Holliday and Pat Garrett, you've most likely got a winner. But, when you've got a western where all three of those gunslingers are overshadowed by their love interest's outrageous endowments  well, then you've not only got a winner, but you've got a lot of controversy. And that's the story of today's feature.

Produced in 1941 by famed recluse Howard Hughes, on paper, The Outlaw is actually a fairly typical B-grade western. In the movie, Pat Garrett (Thomas Mitchell) is the newly appointed sheriff of the town of Lincoln, New Mexico. One day he is visited by his old friend Doc Holliday (Walter Huston) who is tracking down a stolen horse. It turns out that the horse was stolen by none other than Billy the Kid (Jack Buetel). When they meet up, the two become fast friends, and when Billy is subsequently shot Doc decides to take him to recover at the home of his (Doc's) girlfriend Rio (Jane Russell). Unfortunately, that's where the real trouble begins, both for the characters and for the production itself.

Rio, you see, is played by Jane Russell. Now, Hughes, realising where the real draw of the picture was decided not only to feature Ms Russell, but to do so in the most provocative ways that he thought he could at the time. Therefore we see the definitely full-figured Ms. Russell in a number of low-cut or open-necked blouses. and in a number of "damsel in distress" type situations, including at one point being bound between two trees. Unfortunately, this envelope-pushing by Hughes and Russell was more than those in charge of enforcing the Hays Code could tolerate. They insisted on Hughes cutting at a number of scenes, most of which featured Ms. Russell's bosom. Even with the cuts, however, Hughes had trouble finding distributors willing to handle the film. Finally Hughes decided to stoke the flames of controversy himself, and the resultant outcry caused the film to finally be booked in New York. It only played for one week, however, before the censorship board exerted more pressure on the theaters and it was withdrawn. Finally given a wide release in 1946, the film, likely due in large part to its scandalous reputation, went on to be a box-office success.

For viewers today, of course, considering some of the images that are projected onto the silver screen in our local multiplexes, it may be hard to see what all the fuss was about. However, there is one thing that definitely stands the test of time in this film, and that is Ms. Russell's beauty.

Once again, I wasn't able to track down a proper trailer for the movie online, but the six or so minutes of clips embedded below should give you a good feel for the movie:

Ok, I guess it's time for the skinny:
Title: The Outlaw
Release Date: 1943
Running Time: 116 min.
Black and White
Stars: Jane Russell
Directors: Howard Hughes, Howard Hawks (uncredited)
Producer: Howard Hughes

The Outlaw is available for viewing or download here
It's also available on DVD from Amazon: The Outlaw . This is a two-disk set which comtains both the black-and-white and what i understand is a very well done colorized version.
It's also available for rental from Netflix: The Outlaw

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Sunday Shorts - Duck and Cover (1950's)

(Sunday is going to be a day reserved for short films. Sometimes they'll be cartoons or short theatrical releases, sometimes, like today, they'll be government issue.)

There was a turtle by the name of Bert
and Bert the turtle was very alert;
when danger threatened him he never got hurt
he knew just what to do...
He'd duck! [gasp]
And cover!
Duck! [gasp]
And cover! (male) He did what we all must learn to do
(male) You (female) And you (male) And you (deeper male) And you!'
[bang, gasp] Duck, and cover!

Hiya, kiddies! If you're of a certain age, this song will definitely be familiar to you.  For those younger, perhaps some background would be appropriate.

After the U.S. used nuclear weapons on the Japanese during World War II, they held a monopoly on them until 1949, when the Soviet Union tested their first nuclear device. The two nuclear powers were already engaged in a "Cold War", but this pushed the threats, both real and perceived, to new heights. Soon the two powers were engaged in a full on arms race. As part of the "Civil Defense" movement to teach the population what to do in the event the soviets launched a nuclear warhead at the states, the short film Duck and Cover was produced and shown to school children.

Unfortunately, in the event of an actual nuclear war, "ducking and covering" would be about as effective a defense as taking one's shoes off at the airport is an effective terrorism deterrent. However it is good to look back and remember that controlling the population through fear and half-truths is not merely a trick of recent administrations.

Ok, here's what skinny I could dig up:
Title: Duck and Cover
Release Date: 1950-1952, depending on the source
Black and White, Animated
Production Company: Archer Productions

The short is available for viewing or download here.
It's also available on DVD from Amazon as part of this collection: The Atomic Bomb is Coming! A Collection of Classic Atomic Bomb Shorts.

I wasn't, unfortunately, able to find it on any Netflix offering.

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,

-Professor Damian

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Saturday TV - The Lucy Show (1962-1968) - Season 5, Ep 1 - Lucy Meets George Burns

Happy Saturday, Kiddies! We're gonna take a bit of a break from the movies today and instead look at TV shows that are also in the Public Domain. Like the movies, some of these shows will be well known, some of them won't, some of them will be great and some, well... let's just say there's a reason the copyrights weren't renewed.

Today, however, we're looking at one of the all-time classics. One of the things that truly warms your old professor's heart is sharing the things I love with my children. Showing them that there actually were movies and television shows (and even radio shows and music) that were made before they were born, and that lots of that stuff can still be entertaining today.

Recently I had the opportunity to do just that with my nine-year old daughter. Like most girls her age, she's completely addicted to the Disney channel and shows like iCarly. But every once in awhile I'll pop in a disk of something that she's never seen, just to give her a taste of what came before. That's how we recently wound up watching The Lucy Show (starring, of course, Lucille Ball).We started with an ever-popular favorite, the one where Lucy and her house-mate Viv (Vivian Vance) try to install a shower in their boys' closet. With it's combination of verbal repartee and water-logged slapstick, the episode was a hit. Then we moved on to one of the color episodes. In this one, Lucy is working at the bank with Mr. Mooney (the wonderfully full of bluster Gale Gordon). In walks George Burns, who is there to transact some bank business upon encountering Lucy, however, Burns decides that she would make a wonderful partner for his new act. After a quick training session and negotiations between Mr. Mooney and Burns' agent (a perfectly placed voice cameo by Jack Benny), the episode ends with an extended on-stage routine by Ball and Burns that perfectly showcases the comedic timing and talents of both stars. Of course for me it was a nostalgic tour-de-force. But what did the nine-year old think? Well, considering the room was full of laughs through the show, I'd say it was a hit.

As far as their public domain status,  most episodes of the show are still under copyright, but there are some 30-35 episodes that never had their copyright renewed, and they are now in the public domain and available for free viewing, showing, remixing, or whatever other uses you might wish.

Ok, usually I'd give you a preview or trailer, but I think since we're only talking a thirty minute TV show, I'll go ahead and embed the whole thing below:

The skinny? yeah, here ya go:
Title: The Lucy Show
Original Broadcast Dates: 1962-1968
Total Number of Episodes: 156
Stars: Lucille Ball, Vivian Vance, Gale Gordon
Directors: Maury Thompson, Jack Donohue
Production Company: Desilu

This show (and quite a few other episodes of this series) is available for download here.

It's also available on DVD from Amazon: Best of Lucy & Friends (4pc)

And Netflix has a number of Lucy shows avaiable for rent, including this one: The Lucy Show: The Lost Episodes Marathon: Vol. 1

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,

-Professor Damian

Friday, February 12, 2010

Friday Funnies - His Girl Friday (1940) - starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell

Hiya Kiddies! It's Friday, and that means it's time for a comedy. And has Professor Damian got a corker for you today! In 1940, director Howard Hawks set out, with screenwriter Charles Lederer to adapt for the big screen a play called The Front Page which had been written by  Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. The play involved Newspaper editor Walter Burns's efforts to keep his star reporter Hildy Johnson from leaving the paper in order to get married and get a "repectable" job. During casting for the movie, however, Hawks reportedly had his secretary read Hildy's lines and decided he liked the sound of the words coming from a woman. The script was quickly re-written so that "Huldy" became short for Hildegard, (and became Burns's ex-wife) and the previously female fiancee became Bruce Baldwin.

As one watches the movie, it quickly becomes apparent that there are still sparks between Burns (played by Cary Grant) and Johnson (the lovely Rosalind Russell). It also becomes apparent that despite her continued protestations, Johnson is still drawn to the reporting life. Once escaped convict Earl Williams almost drops into her lap and then convinces her of his innocence, she is almost literally helpless to do anything but follow up on the story, even as her fiancee Bruce comes to realise that he has lost her.

The film maintains an incredibly quick pace throughout its 92 minute running time, containing plenty of verbal jabs between the two main characters along with Hawks' trademark fast-cut dialog which often sees characters stepping on each others' lines and repartee that shoots briskly along. Hawks himself said about the dialogue "I had noticed that when people talk, they talk over one another, especially people who talk fast or who are arguing or describing something. So we wrote the dialogue in a way that made the beginnings and ends of sentences unnecessary; they were there for overlapping." Quite a bit of the dialog was ad-libbed, and there are also plenty of inside jokes, such as Burns's remark that "the last man that said that to me was Archie Leach just a week before he cut his throat" (Archie Leach is, of course, Grant's birth name.)

Grant is in top comedic form in this flick, perhaps his funniest outing until 1944's Arsenic and Old Lace, and Russell proves well able to hold her own against his manic whirlwind, despite her disappointment with not having been Hawks' first choice for the role and her feeling that Grant had most of the truly good lines. They are ably supported by a fine cast that includes Ralph Bellamy as Hildy's fiancee Bruce and Alma Kruger as his mother. There can really be no argument, though, that Grant and Russell are driving this particular train and the rest are just there as passengers.

Ok, feels like it's about trailer time, and thanks to, we have a nice almost three minute preview of the movie. Enjoy!

And now, as usual, here's the skinny:
Title: His Girl Friday
Release Date: 1940
Running Time: 92 min.
Black and White
Stars: Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell
Director: Howard Hawks
Producer: Howard Hawks
Production Company: Columbia Pictures

The film is available to watch or download for free here
It can also be purchased on DVD from amazon. Just click here: His Girl Friday
It's also available both as a DVD rental or to "Watch now" from Netflix: His Girl Friday

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting! 

-Professor Damian
Unless otherwise noted, all movies discussed on this blog and all associated materials are believed to be in the Public Domain. If you are a copyright holder for any of these materials, please email me. Unless otherwise noted, all material created for this blog by Professor Damian is licensed under a Creative Commons license as described below. Creative Commons License
Professor Damian's Public Domain Treasure Chest by Professor Damian is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.
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