Pot O’Gold: Robert Mitchum and the Ames Brothers Sing “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral”

TV impresario Ed Sullivan hosted an Irish-themed “really big shew” on St. Patrick’s Day in 1957. Among his guests were actor Robert Mitchum (promoting his new Calypso record!!) and musical quartet The Ames Brothers, who joined sleepy-eyed Bob for a rendition of “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral”:

Now you can begin your St. Patrick’s Day festivities… and remember, drink that green beer in moderation!


The First (Animated TV) Noel: MR. MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL (UPA 1962)

Before Rudolph, Charlie Brown, and The Grinch, nearsighted cartoon star Mr. Magoo (voiced by Jim Backus ) headlined the first animated Christmas special, MR. MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL. First broadcast on NBC-TV in 1962, the special is presented as a Broadway musical, with Magoo as Ebeneezer Scrooge. Directed by Chuck Jones acolyte Abe Levitow , it features songs by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill (FUNNY GIRL), and a voice cast that includes Morey Amsterdam , Jack Cassidy , Royal Dano, Paul Frees (of course!) , Jane Kean, and Les Tremayne. And yes, that is Magoo’s fellow UPA cartoon stablemate Gerald McBoing-Boing as Tiny Tim! Besides 1938’s Reginald Owen version , this may very well be my favorite adaptation of Dickens’ Christmas classic! So here’s my Christmas gift to you all, MR. MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL in its entirety!:


   Merry Christmas from Cracked Rear Viewer!


Holiday Sweets: Fred Astaire in THE MAN IN THE SANTA CLAUS SUIT (NBC-TV 1979)

Eighty year old Fred Astaire takes on nine different roles in THE MAN WITH THE SANTA CLAUS SUIT, his next to last film. Fred is as charming and debonair as ever, and his presence is what carries the saccharine script, with three varied tales of romance, comedy, and drama interwoven and played by a cast of Familiar TV and Movie Faces, kind of like a “very special Christmas episode” of THE LOVE BOAT.

Gary Burghoff (M*A*S*H’s Radar) is a nerdy math teacher in love with his neighbor, a beautiful (are there any other kind?) fashion model (Tara Buckman, THE CANNONBALL RUN). The model secretly digs him too, but the nerd’s too shy to express his feelings, until a chance encounter with a jeweler (Fred) leads him to rent a Santa suit and propose before she makes the mistake of marrying a rich, handsome playboy (again, are there any other kind?). This leads to slapstick hijinks as he pursues her down the runway at Macy’s. Will they finally get together? Is this a TV Christmas Movie? Of course they do!

Story #2 involves John Byner (BIZARRE) as an ex-restauranteur turned street bum because of his fondness for booze. Byner’s got another problem: he found the gun used in a recent bank robbery, and the hoods who dropped it are after him. Taking a cue from his bell-ringing buddy (Ray Vitte, THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY), he too rents a Santa suit to disguise himself and rob a pair of rich ex-vaudevillians (Nanette Fabray , Harold Gould). But the lush passes out, and instead of calling the cops, the couple, along with their butler (Danny Wells, THE SUPER MARIO BROS. SHOW) and their two obnoxious grandkids, nurse him back to health. Then the crooks show up, demanding their gun or else everybody gets it! This one also ends on a slapstick note and, corny though it may be, was my favorite segment, thanks in large part to old pros Fabray and Gould doing some nostalgic soft-shoe routines.

The third story arc gets more heavy, as Bert Convy (TATTLETALES) plays a failed novelist, now a self-important senatorial aide whose work caused him to become estranged from his wife (Brooke Bundy, from just about every TV show made in the 70’s, not to mention A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM WARRIORS) and son (Andre Gower, THE MONSTER SQUAD). The uptight Convy gets the idea to dress like Santa from his chauffeur (Fred again) and surprise the boy before attending a big political speech by the senator. The kid runs away, Convy and Bundy argue, but you just know by the time the credits roll they’ll all be together for Christmas Eve.

Fred pops up everywhere in this, as the costume shop owner, chauffeur, jeweler, an Irish cop, a Macy’s floorwalker, cabbie, hot dog vendor, and Salvation Army chorus director. I don’t think it’ll spoil things to reveal he’s really jolly old St. Nick himself, in New York to spread some Christmas magic to the protagonists. Astaire is graceful as ever, and though he doesn’t dance, he does get to warble the theme song “Once a Year Night” in that trademark light-as-air voice. The late 70’s New York locations add atmosphere, and the cast is more than capable of making the syrupy material work. THE MAN IN THE SANTA CLAUS SUIT won’t disappoint fans of confectionary Christmas films, and it does gives us all one more chance to see Fred Astaire perform his own brand of onscreen magic. What more could you ask for in a Christmas TV Movie?

Merry Christmas from Cracked Rear Viewer!


Halloween TV Havoc!: Boris Karloff in “The Crystal Ball” (from THE VEIL TV Series, 1958)

You all remember Boris Karloff’s pre-THRILLER supernatural anthology series THE VEIL, right? Of course you don’t!! That’s because it never aired! It was being filmed at Hal Roach Studios when they went belly up, and only 10 episodes were filmed. Karloff had a role in most of the episodes, including this spooky oddity entitled “The Crystal Ball”, presented here for your Halloween enjoyment. (The series itself is available through Something Weird Video for all you Karloff Kollectors!):

Halloween TV Havoc!: Richard Pryor Meets The Exorcist on SNL!

Back when SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE was actually funny, guest host Richard Pryor (making his first and only appearance on the show) starred in an EXORCIST parody called THE EXORCIST 2, which is no relation to the later film (and much better!). Pryor and Thalmus Rasulala (BLACULA ) play two priests battling Satan for a little girl’s soul, with Laraine Newman in the Linda Blair role. Enjoy this priceless Halloween spoof from 1975:


This past August, I got to see Alice Cooper perform live in concert (on a triple bill with classic rockers Deep Purple and Edgar Winter!). The Coop’s Grand Giugnol antics, complete with a ten-foot Frankenstein, a murderous danse macabre with a ballerina, the famous guillotine routine, loads of pyro, and the incredible shredding of guitar goddess Nita Strauss, stole the show. Alice has always been the most theatrical of rockers, and the man’s still got it!

In 1975, Alice released his first solo LP without his longtime backing band, “Welcome to My Nightmare”, featuring Cooper classics like “Cold Ethyl”, “Black Widow”, “Only Women Bleed”, and the title track. A videotaped TV special was made to coincide with the album, and horror icon Vincent Price was brought in to play ‘The Curator of The Nightmare’ (Price did narration for ‘Black Widow’ on the record, predating Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”). If you’ve got an hour to spare (and I know you do – it’s a three day weekend!), here’s you’re chance to watch Alice and Vinnie in this Emmy-winning Halloween spectacular:


Confessions of a TV Addict #1: It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… No, It’s CAPTAIN NICE (NBC-TV 1967)

Yes, that’s distinguished actor William Daniels in those long-johns as CAPTAIN NICE, which aired Monday nights on NBC-TV for eight months and fifteen episodes during the height of the superhero camp craze in 1967. Similar in theme to MISTER TERRIFIC on rival CBS, I preferred this one as a kid because of it’s MAD Magazine-level of jokes and gags – which ain’t a bad thing, in my book! The silly superhero series was created by Buck Henry, who also (along with pal Mel Brooks ) was responsible for another campy sitcom, the 60’s spy spoof GET SMART!

Mild -mannered chemist Carter Nash works for the Big Town Police Department, and invents a super-secret super-formula that transforms him into Captain Nice. His domineering mother (Alice Ghostley) sews him up a super-suit and tells him to go out and fight crime like a good boy. Carter’s got all the powers of Superman, except he’s a bit of a klutz and is scared of heights. Nevertheless, Captain Nice hitches up his britches and embarks on protecting Big Town from the rotten bad guys.

Meter Maid Candy Kane (Ann Prentiss), unlike Superman’s Lois Lane, prefers Carter’s intellect to the brawny Captain. Big Town’s Mayor Finney (Liam Dunn) and Police Chief Segal (Bill Zuckert) are a pair of bumbling politicians dependent on the good Captain to save their city on a weekly basis. Carter’s never seen or heard father, forever sitting in his easy chair with a newspaper covering his face, is none other than veteran movie milquetoast Byron Foulger.

Captain Nice battled a super-powered caterpillar that accidently drank some of his formula, a treacherous Sheik (Larry D. Mann), and other assorted no-goodniks. He even had his own arch-enemy of sorts, the mentalist Medula (played by veteran bad guy John Dehner), who appeared in two episodes. Comedian Bob Newhart even guested in an episode as a night club owner targeted by gangsters, who the Captain was assigned to protect.

Despite the efforts of sitcom directors Gene Nelson, Charles R. Rondeau, and Gene Reynolds (MASH), and a writing staff that included GET SMART vets Henry, Dave Ketchum, Stan Burns, and Arne Sultan, the show was destroyed in the ratings by another superpowerhouse, CBS’s THE LUCY SHOW, and beaten to a pulp by ABC’s THE RAT PATROL. CAPTAIN NICE doesn’t have much of a presence on YouTube, but is available on DVD online, or you can watch episodes at http://www.tvguide.com/tvshows/captain-nice200367/. If you don’t take your superheroes too seriously, you’ll get a kick out of this slice of 60’s satirical camp! We’ll close things out here with the theme from CAPTAIN NICE. Maestro, if you please:

(Readers: do you have any obscure TV shows you’d like to see covered here? Please leave a comment and let me know!)