Thursday, January 25, 2018

Sarno's 3rd - Available Now

I thought I should remind my friends and followers that the third Joseph W. Sarno Retrospect Series Blu-ray is now out, devoted to the comedies made by "The Ingmar Bergman of 42nd Street."

The packaging is a little deceptive because the front mentions only the two main features: DEEP THROAT - PART II (which, perhaps needful to say, is NOT hardcore but a kind of R-rated spoof of IT'S A MAD MAD MAD MAD WORLD cast with porn stars) and PANDORA AND THE MAGIC BOX (an early B&W burlesque comedy set in ancient Greece).

There is also a second disc herein that contains two BONUS features: A TOUCH OF GENIE (a kind of Yiddish Theater twist on LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS) and Sarno's "Jekyll & Hyde" comedy THE SWITCH, OR HOW TO ALTER YOUR EGO. The latter film is especially interesting and akin to Jerry Lewis' THE NUTTY PROFESSOR in terms of how it allows its comedic framework to venture into some dark places. No commentaries here, but I did write an ambitious essay for the set called "Sarno and Comedy," which features the valuable input of Joe's wife Peggy Steffans Sarno, who gave me biographic information and insights that enriched these films for me greatly.

I'm presently researching and writing a book about Sarno's work and you can follow its development in my contributions to this series - but more importantly, thanks to the 2K restorations being undertaken by Pop Cinema's Michael Raso, and the additional contributions and support of Film Media, Something Weird Video and Film Movement, you'll be able to see Sarno's work in even more optimal condition than it was ever seen theatrically. 

 Also available are Volume One (SIN, YOU SINNERS and VAMPIRE ECSTASY, with my liner notes) and Volume Two (ALL THE SINS OF SODOM and VIBRATIONS, with my liner notes and a full-length commentary for VIBRATIONS).












(c) 2018 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

50 Years Ago: Sherlock Holmes in Cincinnati

Nigel Bruce and Basil Rathbone as the 20th century Watson and Holmes.




















Last night, while looking through CINCINNATI ENQUIRER archives through the courtesy of newspapers.com, I realized that 2018 likely marks the 50th anniversary of my first exposure to Universal's venerable Sherlock Holmes film series starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. 

When I first met these films, which updated the classic Arthur Conan Doyle mysteries to what were then modern times (minus 1939's THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES and 1940's THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, which adhered to the original 19th century settings and were not included in the Universal syndication package), they were presented in what I considered the perfect time slot: Sunday nights at 11:30pm, on WCPO-TV, Channel 9 (then Cincinnati's CBS affiliate) - at the height of summer vacation, which meant that, if I'd a mind to do so, I could stay up till 1:00am watching television. And I very much had a mind to do so.

It's possible, even likely, that I'd had limited exposure to the Holmes films prior to this, but I recall clearly that they made their first and deepest impression on me when I was exposed to them as a set, as a Sunday night ritual. During the previous year of 1966, Channel 9 habitually ran the films on different week nights on their 11:30 movie, but since I had to be in bed by a certain hour on school nights, the only chance I would have had to see any in late March through late April, when five random titles were shown in the Friday night slot: 

3/31 THE WOMAN IN GREEN

4/07 DRESSED TO KILL

4/14 SHERLOCK HOLMES IN WASHINGTON

4/21 THE SCARLET CLAW

4/28 SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON


Two months after this modest run, on July, Basil Rathbone died at the age of 75.



In perusing these old newspaper TV listings, I found out a couple of unexpected things about the series I knew as Channel 9 presented it. 

First of all, the films were scheduled as part of an existing Sunday late night movie block called THE BIG SHOW. (The week before the first Holmes film was trotted out, this same time slot was reserved for HARRY MARCH AND THE TIGER, an adventure film starring Stewart Granger and Barbara Rush.) Secondly, though my memory summons up these Sunday night viewings as an enduring ritual, it seems they ran only once in this time slot. (That said, once the films ran, Channel 9 began showing them an a Saturday afternoon time slot, first at 3:30pm and then changing to starting point to 4:00pm some weeks later.) Thirdly, in a detail that would have annoyed me had I known more about the series at the time, the films were shown completely out of order.

And finally, and most surprising of all, I can find no indication that they were ever presented as a "Sherlock Holmes Theater," though one of the most wonderful parts of the whole Sunday night ritual was how the films were introduced. Each movie was preceded by an apparently station-produced bit of black-and-white 16mm film showing a man in a smoking jacket, seated in a comfortable overstuffed armchair, possibly smoking a pipe but certainly looking pensive as he cast about for something to do with his empty evening. He suddenly he stood and, walking around his chair, turned to a well-stocked book case built into the wall. After running his index finger across a series of leather-bound thrillers, he pulled one down one from a long line of individually bound Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Having made his selection, he returned to his chair and began reading - fade down to movie. It really set the mood. Local stations cared more in those days.

Here are the dates of these 1968 syndication broadcasts and the order of the films in which they appeared. The parenthetical numbers reflect the order in which they were first released:  

6/02 – PURSUIT TO ALGIERS (10)

6/09 – THE SPIDER WOMAN (5)

6/16 – TERROR BY NIGHT (11)

6/23 – SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE VOICE OF TERROR (1)

6/30 – SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH (4)

7/07 – SHERLOCK HOLMES IN WASHINGTON (3)

7/14 – SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON (2)*

7/21 – DRESSED TO KILL (12)

7/28 – THE HOUSE OF FEAR (8)

8/04 – THE PEARL OF DEATH (7)

8/11 – THE SCARLET CLAW (6)

8/18 – THE WOMAN IN GREEN (9)*

The two asterisked (*) titles are conspicuous in their absence from the ENQUIRER listings, and the movies scheduled in these respective time slots went unreported. Therefore, it's elementary: whatever did play in these time slots was very likely one or the other. 

On 8/25, THE BIG SHOW resumed its usual Sunday night offerings with INDISCRETION OF AN AMERICAN WIFE.

In August 1971, Cincinnati's independent station WXIX-TV, Channel 19, acquired the Universal film syndication packages, including the studio's classic horror films (which were booked on Saturday night's SCREAM-IN broadcast starring Dick Von Hoene's Cool Ghoul) and the Holmes series, which settled into a Saturday afternoon time block from 1:00-3:00pm. They ran the films well into the early 1980s (during which time I practically memorized them), until June 1994 when WAII-TV, Channel 25, acquired them.

 (c) 2018 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.


Monday, January 15, 2018

THE FAT BLACK PUSSYCAT... UNMASKED!


I'm presently doing some research at the moment on the actress Patricia McNair, who did some Joe Sarno movies, and tonight I decided to take a look at her earliest screen credit, THE FAT BLACK PUSSYCAT (1963), which is available from Something Weird Video on a double feature DVD with THE BLACK CAT (1966). The movie is remarkably giallo-like for an American film of this vintage; it has a NYC beatnik milieu and also a very interesting cast, including Hugh Romney (the future "Wavy Gravy"), Hector Elizondo (whom I didn't see), an unbilled Geoffrey Lewis, and some great bookshelves - but there was another actor in the film I knew I had seen and heard before, but I couldn't place him for the life of me - and there was no other familiar name in the credits.


Fortunately, before the movie was over, I got a fix on him. The voice is UNmistakable. Oh, man - talk about people hiding in plain sight.
 



You read it here first, my friends: THE BLACK FAT PUSSYCAT features the earliest known screen appearance of Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, better known as Dr. John the Night Tripper! 

P.S. This is not presently noted on the IMDb.

P.S.S. Patricia McNair is far and away the best actor in the picture.








(c) 2018 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Someday I Need To Get Organizized

For several days, while working on what will become my first audio commentary of the New Year, I've been reflecting on how much I love the music score for this film (all I can tell you is that it's an Italian gothic) and lamenting that probably no soundtrack album release exists. In the past hour, in the course of some online research, I was gobsmacked to discover that a soundtrack album did in fact exist and was on the point of rushing over to Screen Archives Entertainment to buy it... but something about the packaging looked vaguely familiar, and a little voice told me it was better to be safe than sorry... So I got up and crossed the room to that neglected, disorganized shelf where I tend to put duplicates of discs (releases I once annotated, that kind of thing) or discs I didn't have time to listen to when they came in the mail or otherwise properly process, where reading the tiny writing on the lowermost spines requires a physical flexibility that is now more nostalgic for me than actual. After pulling out about five fistfuls of CDs, many of them still shrink-wrapped and producing various shades of amazement and disbelief, there it was! I actually had this music on disc all along, and it has been lost in the limbo of that terrible shelf since it came out in 2006, just 10 steps from my desk in this much too cluttered office of mine.

At least there is evidence that I played it once!


(c) 2018 by Tim Lucas. All rights reserved.