Channel Zero: The Blog

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

Friday, August 21, 2015

BatRequiem....

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.

Labels: , , , , ,

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....

Labels:

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".

Labels:

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.... :)

Labels:

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!!!"

Labels:

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....

Labels:

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.

Labels: