Channel Zero: The Blog

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

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.... :)

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Sir Christopher Lee, 1922 to 2015, Rest in Peace.

There are some actors who literally perish from their typecasting, George "Superman" Reeves certainly did, others let is burden and cripple them despite their manifest talents Bela Lugosi being a good representative example in this category. And then there are actors like the late Christopher Lee who enthusiastically EMBRACE the typecasting and strive to use it to the very best advantage. Lee had a staggering filmography over the course of fifty years with a good share of junk ("Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace") to outright weirdness ("The Return of Captain Invincible")and even a dose of peplum ("Hercules in the Haunted World"). But if Christopher Lee stumbled into some bad movies he himself is rarely bad in them, the man had a singular talent he could not be corrupted or dragged down by mediocrity. Along the way Sir Chris also managed a true horror film trifecta playing Count Dracula, The Frankenstein Monster and The Mummy a record only bested by Lon Chaney Junior (who was All That AND The Wolf Man as well)... Always welcome in any film he did, never a bore, never miscast Christopher Lee literally caught the last train out of Horror Star-dom. He made it all work for him and managed to keep his marriage intact through-out. And what the hell, he made literally the single greatest exit in the history of sound film, at the very climax of "The Face of Fu Manchu" (1965), when the evil Doctor's plan is thwarted and his secret hideout is blow up Lee is seen superimposed over the conflagration resplendent in his Dragon Robes and intoning in that priceless baritone "The World...Shall Hear From Me....Ahhhhgainnnnnn!!!"

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Monday, June 01, 2015

Archie's Betty (2015)

I give Gerald Peary credit, he has managed the implosion in the film criticism market with aplomb reinventing himself as a Professor of film Studies and now lately a director of documentaries. And he wants to spend three years tracking down the real life inspiration for "Betty Cooper" (from Archie Comics) who the hell am I to judge? Gerald Peary is unique, he is a comics fan with no abiding interest in super heroes, his tipple from boyhood was Archie Comics. Hence this his current documentary which among other things explores the career of Archie Comics artist Bob Montana who grew up it turns out in Haverhill Ma and likely based a lot of the characters on his friends at the local high school! And from there Peary traces the inspiration for blonde Betty Cooper to one Betty Tokar, the ninety four year old Hungarian widow of the Police Chief of Perth Amboy New Jersey. The detective work seems pretty definitive & Peary's narration is breezy the whole concoction though is more akin to a "Essay Film" focused as much on the director's lifelong relationship with Archie an his universe as it is on the career of Bob Montana and the quest for "Betty Cooper". Nevertheless the facts are all there and Ms Tokar's claim to being the perpetually lovelorn Betty Cooper's avatar seems as secure as it can be given the slippery committee driven nature of comic book artistry. I think though, Peary have hit on something here, there are literally dozens of good stories from the golden age of comic books begging for documentary treatment. the Rise and Fall of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Who Really Created Batman? or even good long sit down with Ramona Fradon one of the few women artists who date back to the golden age of comics and that just off the top of my head. Anyhow the ICA is screening this film twice more on June 14th I advise all and sundry to check it out....

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

H 6 v2

RUN don't walk down to the Suffolk Modern Theatre (located atop the ruins of the Combat Zone on Washington Street in Downtown Boston) to see Shakespeare's Henry VI, Part Two, ably directed by Shakespeare & Company's own Tina Packer. *** I won't try to hide it, I love Henry the Sixth, Part Two, part of the appeal lies in the repulsive portrait of the scheming English Nobility and their endless cabals and schemes against their hapless inept but goodhearted King Henry...one could easily infer that Shakespeare Had It In for ambitious aristocrats. Quite literally every single character in the course of this sprawling two and a half hour play comes to a sad or violent end from Monarch down the most inauspicious Knight. Its not quite as relentlessly violent as "Titus Andronicus" with it's thirty plus gruesome homicides, but Henry the Sixth has the same grim tone and waiting in the wings like a grinning incubus is arch hell hound himself Richard the Third. Yes it is a long play with a convoluted plot, but like any good renaissance schemer, Director Tina Packer knows how to impart celerity to her proceedings, the production just seems shorter and so much more intense by some directorial alchemy only known to Her and perhaps her best creative Grand Sire Orson Welles. And I'd also like to take this opportunity to decloset myself a bit and declare; I Love Jack Cade he is one of Shakespeare's most inspired creations, a blusterly authoritarian would be revolutionary leader whose plan for England's reformation includes abolishing money and burning down the grammar schools. Cade is himself nothing but the dupe of the power-hungry Duke of York who hopes to use the uprising as a means to depose Henry and Seize Power. This is Shakespeare neatly illustrating Edward Luttwak's famous dictum that their are revolutionary leaders whose rebellions do nothing except hold the bridle that some glittering Generalissimo may Mount Up and Ride. Allyn Burrows is superlative as the overburdened Duke of Gloucester (Henry's defacto First Minister) but his turn as Jack Cade has a sort of Strangelovenian glee to it. Given all this and the sheer amount of fun I had watching one Shakespeare's less well known histories I'd like to renew a public plea for Tina Packer to please direct Marlowe's "Doctor Faustus" As Soon As Possible. Her reputation is made, the Actor's Shakepeare Project has a vast amount of talent on hand and Boston needs a definitive staging of Marlowe's Faustus...think about it Tina Now Is The Time, This Is The Moment.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Happy Birthday Orson Welles

One Hundred Years Young as of Today! Y'know Orson there are maybe a dozen or so directors, worldwide whose total filmography in and of itself a complete film school education, and you are one of them, shit you may be first in line. That pre-eminence comes at a terrible cost, lost and or abandoned projects litter your resume from a filmed record of your stage adaptation of "Moby Dick", to your last unfinished film "The Other Side of the Wind". I can honor your memory by extolling your movies or pine away for one of your lost or missing projects, but I've done all that already. No the best way to enhance your legacy is help someone else get their dream project realized. Like maybe John McGuiness, one of Channel Zero's occasional collaborators who has been working for years on a Holocaust Documentary, like Orson, he needs "End Money" to finish up his film, Unlike Orson he has recourse to Kickstarter to stimulate funds. I know John to be a serious and able man, he needs short money doesn't seem so far fetched that he can't dig up the remaining funds on line, click on the link and if it seems worthwhile make a contribution. He is a tenacious man who talked with some truly tenacious people, death camp survivors, the very guarantors of our civilization. The footage looks promising...Just like "It's All True" except now WE can make something happen instead of hoping for some studio to come to it's senses. Film and filmgoing must become democratized if the cinema is to survive, projects like this with their open fundraising appeal to the public can make that happen. Think about it.

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Sunday, April 05, 2015

Channel Zero Returns to the Somerville Theatre Friday April 10th @ 8pm

With a screening of: "The Perils of Pauline" (1967) Pamela Austin Stars as Cinema’s First Action Heroine in this Colorful High Camp Pastiche of the Classic Serials from the Swingin’ Sixties! Costarring Pat Boone as her fearless fiancée and Terry-Thomas as Pauline’s Lecherous Nemesis along with a Police Line Up of Memorable Character Actors! Friday April 10th @ 8pm (Sharp!) The Somerville Theatre (Micro Cinema) 55 Davis Square Square Somerville Ma. 617 625 5700 Admission: $7.50 (cheap!) Why screen "The Perils of Pauline" (1967) ? Because it is a unique cinema artifact from a brief era in Hollywood when everyone was trying to duplicate the colorful, campy success of the Batman TV Series. There were sitcom superheroes like Captain Nice, Mister Terrific as well a proposed pilots for Dick Tracy and yes even Wonder Woman (both of which were screened at the very first Channel Zero event twenty years ago BTW). The Producers of "The Perils of Pauline" decided to emphasize Batman's "cliffhanger gimmick" and cast the dollsome Pamela Austin (known for her work in commercials mostly) with Pat Boone as her square-ass boyfriend (taking a break from the usual ne'er do wells and beatniks Boone usually played) and the buffoonishly ineffectual Terry-Thomas as the villain. The campy pilot never sold, but the resulting material was deemed strong enough to form a stand alone film that is itself crammed with some of Hollywood's best character actors, everyone is in this movie, Kurt Kasznar, Leon Askin, Vito Scotti, Billy Barty, Edward Everett Horton and even June Foray manages to contribute some voicework! Hell this is psychotronic cinema at it's best and most obscure, why wouldn't we screen it??

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Friday, March 27, 2015

Richard III AKA "Crookback Richard"

last of the Plantagenets and late King of England, was finally laid to rest this week with Full Pomp and Circumstance having been duly dug up from underneath a parking lot after he lost the Battle of Bosworth in fourteen something-or-other. His Majesty was buried....according to the Anglican Rite despite the fact that Richard was a nominal Roman Catholic, indeed his Monarchy came and went decades before Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. You'd a thought, Richard's bones might have been at least handed over to the Franciscan Friars for stately reburial (they having allegedly concealed his body the first time)...but no the Archbishop of Canterbury presided without anyone in the U.K. turning an eyebrow. This is a muted example of the Catholic-Protestant schism in England that was rage on and off up to Bonnie Prince Charlie at the Battle of Culloden in 1702. It is also an ironic inversion of Machiavelli's famous Dictum from "The Prince", in this case "The Religion of the People Shall Be the Religion of the Prince".

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