2015 In Memoriam

The year 2015 saw many of our brightest stars grow dim. Cracked Rear Viewer would like to pay a pictorial tribute to some of the actors, athletes, and artists who passed on this year:

Mr. Cub Ernie Banks
Mr. Cub Ernie Banks
Yogi Berra
Yogi Berra
James Best (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane)
James Best (Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane)
Kevin Corcoran (Old Yeller)
Kevin Corcoran (Old Yeller)
Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig
Yvonne “Batgirl” Craig
Director Wes Craven
Director Wes Craven
Donna Douglas (Elly May Clampett)
Donna Douglas (Elly May Clampett)
Anita Ekberg
Anita Ekberg
Singer Lesley Gore
Singer Lesley Gore
Actress Coleen Gray
Actress Coleen Gray
Dean Jones in The Love Bug
Dean Jones in The Love Bug
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead
"King of the Blues" BB King
“King of the Blues” BB King
Singer Ben E. King (Stand By Me)
Singer Ben E. King (Stand By Me)
Christopher Lee
Christopher Lee
Actor Geoffrey Lewis
Actor Geoffrey Lewis
Actor Robert Loggia
Actor Robert Loggia
Patrick Macnee (The Avengers)
Patrick Macnee (The Avengers)
Martin Milner (Adam-12, Route 66)
Martin Milner (Adam-12, Route 66)
Al Molinaro (Happy Days, The Odd Couple)
Al Molinaro (Happy Days, The Odd Couple)
Leonard Nimoy- "Live Long and Prosper"
Leonard Nimoy- “Live Long and Prosper”
Maureen O'Hara
Maureen O’Hara
Actress Betsy Palmer (Friday the 13th)
Actress Betsy Palmer (Friday the 13th)
Actor/wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper
Actor/wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper
Wrestling icon "The American Dream" Dusty Rhodes
Wrestling icon “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes
Actor Alex Rocco
Actor Alex Rocco
Actress Lizabeth Scott
Actress Lizabeth Scott
Actor/bridge expert Omar Sharif
Actor/bridge expert Omar Sharif
Actor Rod Taylor
Actor Rod Taylor
Singer Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots
Singer Scott Weiland of Stone Temple Pilots

REQUIESCAT IN PACE

 

 

 

Cracked Rear Viewer’s 2015 in review

(The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.) Here’s the stats for CRV in 2015. All in all, I’d say not bad for the first  six  months!

 

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,000 times in 2015. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30: LOGAN’S RUN (MGM 1976)

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When George Clayton Johnson died on Christmas Day 2015, the science fiction world lost one of its giants. The free-spirited Johnson was a mainly a short story and teleplay writer associated with greats like Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson in a loose knit collective known as The Southern California School of Writers. He wrote many story ideas and scripts for THE TWILIGHT ZONE, including the classic episodes “A Game of Pool” (starring Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters) and “Kick the Can” (redone by Stephen Spielberg in TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE). Johnson wrote the first aired STAR TREK episode (“The Man Trap”), the story for OCEAN’S 11, and was a driving force behind the creation of the San Diego Comic Con.  Perhaps his best known work was a novel he did in collaboration with William F. Nolan in 1967, LOGAN’S RUN, made into a big-budget movie by MGM in 1976. David Zelag Goodman adapted the screenplay, allegedly changing some key elements to make it more cinematic. I’ve never read the book, but I can tell you LOGAN’S RUN is eye-poppingly stunning, a visual feast of colors and state-of-the-art (at the time) special effects. It’s amazing what could be done pre-CGI, and the story is greatly enhanced by the film’s look and feel.

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In the post-apocalyptic world of 2274 AD, a huge domed city run by computers is populated by hedonistic youths who live only for pleasure. When they reach the age of thirty, they’re taken to a ritualistic “time of renewal” called Carousel. A crowd gathers to watch as the participants are beamed upwards and float toward a shining ball of light, and when they reach a certain point are disintegrated in a shower of sparks, supposedly renewed into new bodies. The crowd oohs and aahs as if they’re watching a fireworks display, but it’s more like a backyard bug zapper with humans as the insects.

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Logan and his buddy Francis are two ‘Sandmen’, whose job is to track down and  terminate Runners, those who try to escape their fate at Carousel. Sandmen are well-respected in the dome, doing the dirty work for their computer masters. Logan meets Jessica via “The Circuit”, a sort of hologram dating service, and jauntily says, “Let’s have sex!” But the girl turns him down, fearing the Sandman after friend was terminated by one. Jessica’s wearing an Ankh, and Logan is soon summoned to a debriefing room where the computer tells him its the symbol of  a rebel band who help runners escape to Sanctuary in the outside world. Logan discovers “Renewal” is a scam, and 1056 runners have gone unaccounted for. The ‘Life-Clock’ embedded in his hand is reprogrammed to approach ‘Last Day’ and become a runner himself, giving him the task of escaping to the outside and destroying Sanctuary. Unfortunately for Logan, this means he loses the remaining four years of his life. Now the hunter becomes the hunted and enlists Jessica’s aid to reach Sanctuary, with former friend Francis in dogged pursuit.

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There’s action and thrills along the way, as Logan and Jessica encounter thieving  feral children, a murderous face-changing doctor, flooding tunnels, and an ice cavern guarded by a robot named Box, Francis always at their heels. When they finally make it to the outside world, they find the ruins of Washington, DC! The pair stumbles upon a sight they’ve never beheld before…an Old Man living in the former Senate chambers. The Old Man has only cats as his companions, and welcomes the couple with quotes from T.S. Eliot. Logan and Jessica are convinced Sanctuary doesn’t exist and decide to stay, but their reverie is interrupted by an unwanted intruder…Francis!logan5

I won’t spoil the ending for those who haven’t seen the movie yet. Suffice it to say there’s a few more surprises in store before the conclusion. Michael York is perfect in the role of Logan, even if he was a baby-faced 34 at the time of filming. York has appeared in some major productions, including THE TAMING OF THE SHREW, Zeffirelli’s ROMEO AND JULIET, CABARET, Richard Lester’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS and its sequel THE FOUR MUSKETEERS, JESUS OF NAZARETH, and the Austin Powers spy spoofs. The latest issue of Shock Cinema magazine has a great article/interview with the British star, for those of you who still read magazines (I know I do, and the quarterly Shock Cinema is a personal favorite!)Jenny Agutter (Jessica) first came to prominence in Nicholas Roeg’s 1971 WALKABOUT, and won an Emmy that same year for THE SNOW GOOSE. Agutter most recently appeared in Marvel’s THE AVENGERS and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Richard Jordan (Francis) acted with Burt Lancaster in VALDEZ IS COMING, Robert Mitchum in THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE, and Charles Bronson in CHATO’S LAND, but is best remembered as the star of the TV mini-series CAPTAINS AND THE KINGS. The voice of Box was Roscoe Lee Browne, whose credits include Alfred Hitchcock’s TOPAZ, THE COWBOYS (with John Wayne), and THE LIBERATION OF L.B. JONES (director William Wyler’s last film). And the Old Man is played by the great Peter Ustinov, a two-time Oscar winner (SPARTACUS, TOPKAPI), three-time Emmy winner, Grammy and Golden Globe winner. Ustinov was an actor, playwright, director, star of Disney comedies and dramatic films, and all-around humanitarian.

Director Michael Anderson helmed the 1956 Best Picture winning AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS, and a wide range of films from ALL THE FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS to ORCA. His son Michael Anderson Jr. appears as the doctor here. He can also be seen in THE SUNDOWNERS, THE SONS OF KATIE ELDER, and Sam Peckinpah’s MAJOR DUNDEE. Anderson Jr. costarred with Barbara Hershey in the 1960’s youth-oriented TV Western THE MONROES.

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Farrah Fawcett has a small part as the doctor’s receptionist. This was around the time she was just starting to hit it big on CHARLIE’S ANGELS. Her iconic 70s poster was on the walls of lusting teenage boys all across America. This has nothing to do with LOGAN’S RUN, I just wanted an excuse to put the poster in here!

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Those state-of-the-art special effects I mentioned earlier won an Academy Award for L.B. Abbott. He’d previously won for DOCTOR DOOLITTLE, TORA! TORA! TORA!, and THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE. The Art Direction and Set Designs by Dale Hennesy were nominated, but lost to ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, of all things! Hennesy had won for 1966’s FANTASTIC VOYAGE, and his work can be seen in Woody Allen’s SLEEPER, Mel Brooks’ YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN, and the 1976 remake of KING KONG. Jerry Goldsmith’s score enhances the film’s different moods, using electronic sounds for the domed city and a full orchestration in the outside world scenes.

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The film LOGAN’S RUN was so popular a TV series and Marvel comic were based upon it. Neither of them lasted very long, probably because STAR WARS came along in 1977 to completely dominate science fiction fandom. LOGAN’S RUN is a dazzling piece of science fiction entertainment, one I really enjoyed watching. I think you will, too.

 

 

 

CLEANING OUT THE DVR Pt. 5: Fabulous 40s Sleuths

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It’s time again for me to make room on the DVR! This edition features five Fabulous 40’s films of mystery and suspense, with super sleuths like Dick Tracy and Sherlock Holmes in the mix for good measure. Here’s five capsule reviews of some crime flicks from the 1940s:

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WHISTLING IN THE DARK (MGM 1941, D: S. Sylvan Simon): The first of three movies starring comedian Red Skelton as Wally Benton, aka radio detective ‘The Fox’. Skelton is kidnapped by a phony spiritual cult led by Conrad Veidt to devise “the perfect murder”. Ann Rutherford and Virginia Grey play rivals for Red’s affections, while Eve Arden is her usual wisecracking self as Red’s manager. Some of the jokes and gags are pretty dated, but Red’s genial personality makes the whole thing tolerable. Fun Fact: Rags Ragland (Sylvester) was once the Burlesque comedy partner of Phil Silvers.

Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes) Lionel Atwill (Professor James Moriarty)
Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes) Lionel Atwill (Professor James Moriarty)

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE SECRET WEAPON (Universal 1942, D: Roy William Neill): Basil Rathbone IS Sherlock Holmes in this fourth entry in the series. All the gang from 221B Baker Street are along for the ride (Nigel Bruce, Dennis Hoey, Mary Gordon) as Holmes tries to foil a plot to steal a new bomb sight (for the war effort, don’t you know) by his arch-enemy Professor Moriarty. A secret code holds all the answers. That Grand Old Villain Lionel Atwill plays “The Napoleon of Crime”, and it’s terrific to watch screen vets Rathbone and Atwill engage in a battle of wits. In fact, it’s my favorite Universal Holmes movie because of the pairing of the two. Fun Fact #1: Rathbone and Atwill also costarred in 1939’s SON OF FRANKENSTEIN. Fun Fact #2: Kaaren Verne (Charlotte) was the second wife of another screen villain, Peter Lorre!

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TWO O’CLOCK COURAGE (RKO 1945, D: Anthony Mann): Ann Rutherford’s back as a female cab driver who helps an amnesia victim (Tom Conway) piece things together in this early effort from director Anthony Mann. Unlike Mann’s later films, the tone’s light and breezy here. There’s lots of plot twists to keep you guessing, and Conway and Rutherford have good onscreen chemistry. Cracked Rear Viewers will recognize supporting players Lester Matthews (The Raven), Jean Brooks (The Seventh Victim), and Jane Greer (Out of the Past). Hollywood’s favorite drunk Jack Norton does his schtick in a bar scene (where else?). Fun Fact: Actor Dick Lane (reporter Haley) later became a TV sports commentator in the 50’s, announcing pro wrestling and Roller Derby matches!

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DICK TRACY MEETS GRUESOME (RKO 1947, D: John Rawlins): Chester Gould’s stalwart comic-strip cop (personified by Ralph Byrd) goes up against gangster Gruesome, who uses a paralyzing gas to commit bank robberies. Boris Karloff is Gruesome (of course he is!), and adds his special brand of menace to the proceedings. (At one point, Dick’s aide Pat exclaims, “If I didn’t know better, I’d swear we were doing business with Boris Karloff!”) Gould’s trademark quirky character names like L.E. Thal and Dr. A. Tomic are all in good fun, and the Familiar Face Brigade includes Anne Gwynne, Milton Parsons, Skelton Knaggs, and Robert Clarke, among others. Fast moving and fun, especially for Karloff fans. Fun Fact: Boris played many gangsters early in his career, including a role in the 1932 Howard Hawks classic SCARFACE.

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THE THREAT (RKO 1949, D: Felix Feist): Convict Red Kluger (Charles McGraw) busts out of Folsom Prison and kidnaps the cop who sent him away (Michael O’Shea), the DA (Frank Conroy), and his former partner’s moll (Virginia Grey again). The police go on a manhunt to capture Kluger and save the others in this taut, suspenseful ‘B’ crime noir.  Quite brutal and violent for it time, with McGraw outstanding as the vicious killer on the loose. A very underrated and overlooked film that deserves some attention. Highly recommended! Fun Fact: Inspector Murphy is played by Robert Shayne, better known as Inspector Henderson on TV’s SUPERMAN.

Enjoy others in the series:

Cracked Rear Viewer Turns 6 Months Old!

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It seems like just yesterday little CRV was born, but it was actually June 26, 2015! On that date I debuted my first post, a look at the early Peter Lorre noir The Face Behind the Mask. I was so green at the time I didn’t even know how to add pictures! Cracked Rear Viewer has come a long way since then, with a loyal following that seems to grow week by week. There’s now 154 posts (including this one) to choose from, covering everything from horror and science fiction to Western and gangster dramas to comedy classics. Though my main focus is films from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, I’ve occasionally stepped out of that box to look at movies from other eras. I’ve added ongoing series like CLEANING OUT THE DVR, THAT’S BLAXPLOITATION!, PRE-CODE CONFIDENTIAL, and the latest, ROCKIN’ N THE FILM WORLD, as well as NEWS & NOTES for non-film posts. I’ve recently begun running PREVIEWS OF COMING ATTRACTIONS, featuring trailers for upcoming films in review. But I wouldn’t be working on this labor of love without you Dear Readers who take the time to follow me on this trek through film history. Thanks to one and all!

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And according to you Dear Readers, here are the top ten (actually eleven…there’s a tie!) most popular posts of the past six months:

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And a list of (mostly earlier) posts that might spark your interest:

There’s much more to see, including some full films and short subjects to watch and enjoy! And much more to come as I look forward to another six months of movie madness to share with you, Dear Reader. So stay tuned, and don’t forget to bring your own popcorn! As Stan Lee would say, “Excelsior!”

A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a Christmas Classic (MGM 1938)

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Out of all the myriad movie permutations of the Charles Dickens classic over the years, this 1938  production still remains my favorite. The MGM treatment is in full effect, putting their glossy stamp on Victorian Era London and giving the production a high-polished look. Director Edwin L. Marin brings Hugo Butler’s tight script to life in just over an hour, keeping the story moving along swiftly  with no overblown padding. Marin was a competent storyteller whose steady hand guided everything from Bela Lugosi mysteries (THE DEATH KISS) to MGM’s Maisie series with Ann Sothern to Randolph Scott Westerns. A CHRISTMAS CAROL was produced by a 28-year-old tyro named Joseph L. Mankiewicz, later to become an Academy Award winning director ( A LETTER TO THREE WIVES, ALL ABOUT EVE), who did his own take on the story with 1964’s Carol for Another Christmas.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock since 1843 you already know the story. Ebenezer Scrooge is a mean, rotten old skinflint who hates mankind in general, and Christmas in particular. He fires his clerk Bob Cratchit on Christmas Eve, even though Cratchit has a wife and six kids, including crippled Tiny Tim. He disinherits nephew Fred for getting engaged to the woman he loves. Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his dead partner Jacob Marley, who’s wrapped in chains and cursed to wander the earth for his sins. Marley tells Scrooge he’ll be visited by three spirits this eve, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, and given a chance to change his miserable ways. The miserly old sourpuss repents, and learns to love both Christmas and his fellow-men.

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Lionel Barrymore was set to play Scrooge when he became ill. He was replaced by character actor Reginald Owen, who is wonderful as the crusty Scrooge. He blusters, bullies, and berates all around him, his favorite curse a dour “Humbug!”, and his turnabout into a warm-hearted human is a joy to behold. Owen dominates the screen in this, his only starring role. He appeared in over 80 films, lending his presence to A TALE OF TWO CITIES, MRS. MINIVER, WOMAN OF THE YEAR, and MARY POPPINS, among many more.

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For Gene Lockhart (Cratchit), this movie was a family affair. His wife Kathleen costars as Mrs. Cratchit, and 13-year-old daughter June makes her debut as one of the children. Yes, that June Lockhart, the one who played TV moms on the hit series LASSIE and LOST IN SPACE. Terry Kilburn as Tiny Tim will melt even the coldest of hearts, and the Cratchit family’s anguish over Tim’s death will bring tears to your eyes. Barry McKay and Lynne Carver are fine as the lovers Fred and Bess. McKay’s best known as a star of British musicals with Jessie Mathews, while Carver was strictly a B player most remembered as Nurse Alice Raymond in a couple of DR. KILDARE films (with A CHRISTMAS CAROL’s original star Lionel Barrymore as cantankerous Dr. Guillespie).

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The ghost of Jacob Marley was Leo G. Carroll, who later encountered ghosts of his own in the television version of TOPPER. Carroll is remembered by horror fans as the acromegalic doctor who let loose the giant TARANTULA in the 1956 thriller. He was a favorite of Alfred Hitchcock, appearing in seven of the Master of Suspense’s films, and later found a new audience as spy chief Mr. Waverly on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. If the Ghost of Christmas Past looks familiar to you, that’s because it’s pretty Ann Rutherford, one of Scarlett O’Hara’s sisters in GONE WITH THE WIND, and girlfriend of Andy Hardy in the long running Mickey Rooney series. The other two ghosts were Lionel Braham (Present), who gives a robust, jolly performance, and D’Arcy Corrigan (Future), who’s hooded, black cloaked face is never seen, silent as death as well. This apparition is particularly eerie, and used to scare the daylights out of me as a child.

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Franz Waxman’s musical score sets the film’s mood, going from dark in the beginning to spritely by film’s end. Sidney Wagner’s cinematography also adds to the atmosphere, and MGM’s ace set designer Edwin B. Willis outdoes himself. Jack Dawn was MGM’s answer to Universal’s Jack Pierce. His makeup jobs for Owen and the various ghosts are often overlooked by viewers, but they’re excellently crafted. Dawn’s work can also be seen in MARK OF THE VAMPIRE, THE WIZARD OF OZ, DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE (with Spencer Tracy), and THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY. The special effects crew deserve a round of applause too for their contributions to A CHRISTMAS CAROL (I can’t find any information on who they were… any fans out there know?)

Well, I’m off to wrap presents for my loved ones, and will be away from the keyboard for a few days. To all you dear readers out there, I’d like to leave you with the words of Ebenezer Scrooge after his conversion, and the sentiments of little Tiny Tim:

To all of us, everywhere, a Merry Christmas to all of us, my dears!”

“God bless us, everyone”

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