GORGON (1964)

We were born too late to experience the great Universal horror films in first run theaters. Instead, we watched them on our local TV station’s “Shock-Horror-Monster-Chiller-Nightmare Theater.” You remember. Those late night weekend shows where the TV weather guy dressed up as a vampire or mad scientist and showed all those great Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi movies that had scared our parents.

In fact, those old black & white monster movies created such a sensation on TV that British movie studio, Hammer Films, made a tidy sum remaking endless variations of “Frankenstein,” “Dracula” and “The Mummy” so we’d have some color horror to see at the drive-in ourselves.

But one of their films featured a totally original monster and is still tremendous fun to watch today, The Gorgon from 1964.

I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE

I Walked with a Zombie may be the best movie with the dumbest title in motion picture history. Cranked out by b-movie horror unit at RKO pictures in 1943, this low budget gem is far better than you might expect.

This was the second in a string of really good low-key horror movie produced under the supervision of Val Lewton, one of filmland’s most underappreciated artists.

RKO had two rules Lewton had to follow. One, he had to produce his films on a small budget. Two, he had to use titles the studio’s marketing department had already dreamed up and tested. The studio didn’t care about the actual plots, as long as Lewton used the titles.

We loved Kookie on 77 Sunset Strip not just for the way he dressed and his famous hairstyle. We loved the hipster slang he would use in every episode. We didn’t know if the terms were actually in use among the cognoscenti in large urban areas or if the show’s writers were just making them up. And we didn’t care.

Here are a few classic “Kookie-isms.” See how many you remember:

Don’t point your ears – Don’t turn around

Endsville – The best

Ginchiest – Beyond Endsville

Light up the tilt sign – Lie

Slip me a Washington – Give me a dollar bill

Wheeling – Driving

The beam came to me – I got the idea

Mushroom people – Night owls

Blasting off – Leaving

It’s real nervous – It’s real good

Satchels – Bags under the eyes

That cat has hi-fi thoughts – The guy is smart

Fold a fender – Park a car

I’m still sending – I’ve got more to tell you

 Video Village was one of the first game shows to debut after the infamous quiz show scandals.  Up until its debut, most quiz shows fell into one of two categories. 1.) A contestant tried to stump a panel of D-list celebrities (I mean, did anyone ever know what Arlene Francis was “famous” for?) 2.) Two contestants answered questions or solved puzzles while in isolation booths or standing right next to the game show host.

Video Village’s concept was as simple as it was different. It was a board game transferred to TV. The contestants were the living game pieces. They had friends or family members (almost always a spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend) who spun the dice.

The Rat Pack (started by Humphrey Bogart and inherited by Frank Sinatra after Bogey’s death) made two movies in the sixties. Neither were great shakes as movies go, but the first one, Ocean’s 11, is a wonderful time machine back to a place and time that no longer exist.

 

Released in 1960, Ocean’s 11 can be seen as the 1950’s last hurrah. In just a few short years, the British invasion in music and fashion would change everything. Film historians think the film was conceived as way to give Frank, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and the rest something to do with their days while they were headlining at the Sands resort at night.

Many of the classic movie comedy teams from Laurel & Hardy to The Three Stooges scampered across the TV screens of our youth, but only one actually appeared in a brand-new, made-for-TV series. That was Abbott and Costello.

Actually, to say the series featured brand new material is a bit misleading. What The Abbott and Costello Show accomplished is something far more significant. It preserved for future generations a portion of American theatrical history that might have been lost to the ages without them.

How to Marry a Millionaire is a classic Hollywood comedy of the 1950’s.  How many remember that there was a short-lived TV version of the film, one that co-starred a young actress named Barbara Eden?

The How to Marry a Millionaire TV series was one of the first times they made a hit movie into a weekly TV show. Frankly, it’s not remembered today because it was slightly less successful than M*A*S*H.

The movie came out in 1953. It wasn’t until 1957 that National Telefilm Associates (NTA) got around to producing their TV version. While the show was not carried by the three major networks, NTA did manage to sell it to 115 local stations around the country.

Yes, it really happened! Bill Murray has portrayed a Marvel super-hero. The year was 1975 and Marvel was trying to expand from Saturday morning TV into the world of radio. So they spent $47,000 on a Fantastic Four radio series.

Murray was a struggling comic who had migrated from Chicago to New York. He was already working on The National Lampoon Radio Show, but picked up extra work when he was cast as Johnny Storm a.k.a. The Human Torch!

The shows were all adaptations of the very early issue of the Fantastic Four comic books of the early 1960’s. They were narrated by none other than Stan Lee himself. They are the cheese fest you would expect with all of Lee’s breathless, over-the-top prose and Murray faithfully shouting the Torch’s catchphrase “Flame on!” in every episode.

Sadly, the series lasted only 13 episodes and earned a paltry $22,000.

Oh, John Belushi was up for the part of the Thing, but was turned down.

A year later, Murray replaced Chevy Chase on the second season of NBC’s Saturday Night (it wouldn’t become Saturday Night Live until near the end of the second season). And the rest is show biz history!

If you love gangsters movies and haven’t seen this film, stop what you’re doing and buy, rent, stream or in any way possible see this movie!

If you saw the Oscar-nominated Trumbo (2015) and are curious about the films Douglas Trumbo wrote while blacklisted, see this movie!

Gun Crazy may be the greatest film most people have never heard of!

It's been awhile since we looked in on our friends in Mayberry. Here's how they're doing:

One of the great movies of our adolescent years was Bye Bye Birdie, the film version of the successful Broadway musical.

It’s one of the rare instances when the changes Hollywood inevitably brings to Broadway adaptations actually improved the story.

The story was inspired by Elvis Presley’s 1957 induction into the army. The title character’s name was a play on then current rock singer (and future country star) Conway Twitty.

Dick Van Dyke and Paul Lynde were brought in from the stage show to play essentially the same parts.

There were two big changes.

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