Channel Zero: The Blog

Cultural notes from "Boston's most notorious entertainment franchise".

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Why Welles?

Channel Zero has an admitted "Thang" for Orson Welles, his life, his legacy, his unique style, all of it. We freely concede he has many many contemporaries in the pantheon of Great Film Directors, but none exceed him as a storyteller of rare power and skill. And his life, with all the Wellesian setbacks and catastrophes, self induced and inflicted from without is a living narrative on the sheer power of ambition and the vital necessity of staying true to oneself. Because at the end of the day what is Orson Welles' real sin? None of his movies made enough money to give him John Ford/Alfred Hitchcock class leverage over the studios. The audience wasn't there so the accountants claimed. Which is ironic because Welles held his audiences in the highest regard he thought they deserved the very best he could offer, he thought well of their patience, sense of humor and appetite for the offbeat. In Death, his faith in his audience is completely vindicated regardless of the tortured production story behind say "Touch of Evil". Because truly today's Orson Welles audience is literally tomorrow's the and end Welles won the argument hands down. So tomorrow night, Channel Zero is pleased and proud to screen what is admittedly one of Welles' lesser efforts "The Orson Welles Show" a self directed self produced 1979 pilot to a proposed late night talk show hosted by Himself. Don't for a moment think this format was somehow beneath Welles, he hosted almost the exact same program on the radio back in the 1940's and did pretty well by it all told. Besides between the poetry reading the magic tricks, punchy banter, The Muppets and his guests Angie Dickinson & Burt Reynolds the whole format is ineffably "Orsonian" in character. And besides that, Channel Zero has come into possession of a sort of "Wellesian Artifact" from the 1950's (duly preserved on DVD) which is a very short film one indeed that we can guarantee has never ever screened in Boston Ma. SO PLEASE TELL YOUR FRIENDS... Channel Zero can survive anything we were once chased out into the streets of Brookline after all....but we can't bear the thought of Letting Down Orson Welles and his Legacy! "The Orson Welles Show" (1979) The Somerville Theatre (Micro Cinema) 55 Davis Square Somerville MA Friday October 2nd 8pm (sharp) Admission a mere $7.50


Sunday, September 27, 2015

Channel Zero Returns to the Somerville Theatre, Friday October 2nd!!

2015 is Orson Welles’ One Hundredth Birthday! To Mark the Occasion Channel Zero is screening “The Orson Welles Show” a 1979 talk show pilot directed by & starring The Great Auteur Himself featuring Burt Reynolds, Angie Dickinson, The Muppets and Jim Henson as his guests. This proposed talk show may well constitute Welles’ last completely realized directorial project & was a sincere effort by The Auteur to bring fresh ideas to the Late Night Talk Show Format! Plus a few surprises in a definite “Wellesian Vein…” The Somerville Theatre (Micro Cinema) 55 Davis Sq Somerville Ma Friday October 2nd 8pm (sharp!) Admission: $7.50 (cheap!) 617 625 5700 Channel Zero, Boston’s Most Obscure Award Winning Repertory Film Series!

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Jack Larson R.I.P.

The actor who single handed elevated "Jimmy Olsen" from cameo status to featured co-star in the Superman mythos, Jack Larson has died at the age of eighty seven. Never has a performer so lightly and expertly escaped the bounds of typecasting as Jack Larson who effortlessly segued into writing producing and directing in the theater after his seven year stint as "Superman's Pal". Larson piled up enough accomplishments in other areas of show biz that he was always able to bear the burden of "Olsenishness" very lightly, he didn't need to sell his autograph to survive he could play paterfamilias to the Superman fanbase sans worry or woe. Along the way to "Grand old Man of DC Comics", Larson did something pretty amazing his goofy trouble-prone characterization of Jimmy Olsen was deemed so central to the TV show's popularity that he inspired a comic book "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen" which had an impressive nineteen year run on the spinner racks. And I swear, Jack Larson that out and proud playwright lived a good long life in part so he could remind people that scandal, a tangled personal life & mysterious death aside, George Reeves was still a very nice man and a princely castmate. Or as he once told a rapt audience at the Brattle Theatre (on the occasion of Superman's 60th anniversary) "Jimmy Olsen has been good to me, so I am going to be good to Jimmy Olsen".


"Black Mass" (2015)

I've finally come to the conclusion that the elusive "Boston Accent" never sounds right in the movies not because the actors can't do it, but because we Bostonians don't get it right ourselves. So once I concede that I can sit back and relax and enjoy "Black Mass" for the sheer vicious confirmation that Whitey Bulger (Johnny Depp)really was in the end a treacherous thug who never killed anyone who was in a position to give him a fair fight. That and credulous former FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) who is really the last of the Southie kids who believed all that shit about honor and tribal loyalty as his alleged key informant Whitey Bulger went on a city wide criminal rampage. Yup the whole stupid story is there baldfaced for all to see, it might not play in Peoria but it resonates here by Ghod...right down to Depp's Bulger who struts around South Boston in a belted black leather jacket like he is Rotwang the Mad Scientist from "Metropolis". And what da hell, "Black Mass" has brought Johnny Depp back from the dead, this is a fifty year old actor last seen playing "Tonto" the Lone Ranger's Faithful Indian Scout. What he will do with his resurrection is an open question...likely something self destructive & inane like a remake of "The Wizard of Oz"....but if Depp wanted to stick with Bostonians he'd do worse than a big biopic of notorious 19th super criminal Adam Worth...

Friday, August 21, 2015


Let the record show that the late Yvonne Craig, back in her Batgirl Days, was a skilled practitioner of the Art of Running in Spike Heels. Likely she took the secret to her grave.... *** Ah but Batgirl was a true pioneer, DC Comics's first all-up super heroine on TV. Watching the show today she seems quick to get her tongue in her cheek and give the aud a very knowing look indeed even as Adam West & Burt Ward occasionally stray into oinkerish territory. That and her almighty physical poise, Yvonne Craig could throw out her hip at a veritable ninety decree angle and still look dollsome and perfectly balanced. One gets the impression that Yvonne Craig was a bit of a thwarted comedienne but the usual wife-girlfriend fodder would have never have engaged her enthusiasm. Otherwise Yvonne Craig (who was a former professional ballerina) was an able journeywoman actress with a preposterously long list of TV credits on her resume having worked with everyone from Tommy Kirk to James Coburn and even a very young Davey Jones. TV back in the 1960's was strange incubator indeed, where else could Yvonne Craig work with future Oscar Nominee Bruce Dern on an Episode of "Land of the Giants"? Last year the big news on the super hero front was the long delayed release of the Batman TV show to DVD, we saw quite a bit of Adam West and Burt Ward and nothing of Ms. Craig and guess now we all know why. Ah but today's actors could learn something from Yvonne Craig, chiefly the subtle art of looking like you are having a grand old time fighting crime while gunning around town on a lace trimmed Harley Davidson..... Despite the fact that the producers never ever let Batgirl throw a punch at a villain she was still in the vanguard of Equal Rights. A lot of young girls starting writing themselves more heroic narratives on the basis of what they got off of Batgirl's single season on "Batman". That downstream effect is always the most telling and the most fraught with change. Yvonne Craig will be missed, peace to her ashes, succor to her loved ones.

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Sunday, August 09, 2015

"Jurassic World" (2015)

I was profoundly Impressed with Bryce Dallas Howard and her ability to outrun a tyrannosaurus rex in high heels & a pencil skirt. Other than that I had to check the calendar to make sure it was really 2015 out there and not 1955 as seemingly postulated by the film's producers....


Friday, August 07, 2015

The Big Literary Flap This Summer

is of course the paternity and worth of Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" the alleged sequel to "To Kill a Mockingbird". I'll skip over all the handwringing over the Fate and Characterization of "Atticus Finch" in favor of the simple observation that sometimes the mark of a Global Literary Classic is a Truly Dubious Sequel. And I can say that as someone who has read 's nominal sequel to "Inherit the Wind" "The Gang's All Here", which is otherwise a play that delves deep into the dramatic possibilities of the Harding Administration. Ever heard of "The Land of Mist"? Conan Doyle's sequel to "The Lost World"? His bumptious Professor Challenger goes from dinosaur hunting to mewing over the revealed truth of spiritualism. The biggest literary damp squib of 1926 and very much the "Go Set a Watchman" of it's time. And this is to say nothing of "Let Em' Eat Cake" a direct musical sequel to "Of Thee I Sing". Said follow up apparently features among other things singing & dancing fascists years before "The Producers". I haven't see "Let Em' Eat Cake" (not for lack of trying) or "Bring Back Birdie" (sigh...YES a sequel to "By By Birdie") but they both spring from a strange cataract where creativity and perhaps the lure of sure money glitter gush and intermingle. "The Land of Mist" I think I can pass over there are limits even to my advocacy for the underdog misbegotten sequel. So in a way be glad, the outrage attending on "Go Set a Watchman" only redoubles the worth of the original. And if that doesn't work I invite everyone give some reconsideration to "Shock Treatment" the infamous 1981 sequel to the "Rocky Horror Picture Show".


Monday, July 06, 2015

Channel Zero Proudly Presents "Sing Boy Sing" (1958)

1950’s Teen Idol Tommy Sands stars as a rising rock-n-roll singer who comes under intense family pressure to give up stardom & become a rural Preacher! It is the Pulpit vs Pop Music! Featuring Edmond O’Brien, Lili Gentle, Nick Adams & a classic rock-n-roll soundtrack! Also featuring short subjects from local film maker John McGinniss! The Somerville Theatre (Micro-cinema) 55 Davis Square Somerville Ma Friday July 10th 8pm (sharp) Admission: $7.50 (cheap!) (617) 625-5700 Why Tommy Sands? Why this film? Rock-n-Roll was young brash and the upstart's upstart in 1958, very controversial and already hard at work creating it's own stereotypes & cliches. Tommy Sands (who was signed by Colonel Tom Parker at the age of fifteen) is the very embodiment of that process, a musical malleable country boy rocker who yearned for stardom, he was literally Elvis Presley's first true impersonator a harbinger of hip thrusting sequined Incubai to come. Ah but if Elvis passed thru Hollywood on his way to Mount Olympus (a throne next to Marilyn Monroe surely), Tommy Sands fell short, got married to Nancy Sinatra (it had to be love, what man in his right mind would want Frank Sinatra as his Father in Law??) and then vanished into the ghetto of sixties TV guest star roles. But in "Sing Boy Sing" we have a good solid musical miniature portrait of A Hollywood Studio's Amusing Ambivalence towards a rising style of music in part hyped by other corporations. One the one hand they wanna crash in on this crazy kid's stuff on the other hand they are just concerned enough to want to defang the alleged monster. Thus we get Tommy Sands playing a nice likable preacher's grandson who is himself "conflicted" over his fame as a rocker. To say the least Tommy Sands is literally playing himself here...which is why his acting stands up reasonably well against Nick Adams histrionics and Edmond O'Brien's beetlebrowed Bluto act. Anyway Channel Zero just wanted to reach back to when Rock-n-Roll first starting literally thinking about itself and indulge a little counterprogramming along the way, drop y if you've had your fill of CGI Saurians.... :)