Saturday, December 29, 2012

Children of a Lesser Tarzan...

As prior mentioned, 2012 marks the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Creation of Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle. As far as his film career goes, Tarzan's topmost avatar has always been Johnny Weissmuller, the Olympic Swimming Champ who took the Ape Man to Glory and Big Box Office back in the 1930's and 40's. Thus Weissmuller is in a rare cinematic category along with Sean Connery as 007 and Chris Reeve as Kal El, consistently everyone's favorite version of their respective characters. Johnny's appeal was simple, he was first Tarzan explicitly marketed to women on the basis of his good looks and simpleminded relationship with Maureen O'Sullivan as Jane. Whatever problems purists may have with the scripts and Tarzan's pidgin english or progeny "Boy"...The approach stands the test of time as the iconic Tarzan interpretation. So far as Tarzan is concerned literally the race is to come in second behind Weissmuller. For me three actors come into contention:
Jock Mahoney The great problem of Mahoney's brief two film reign as Tarzan back in the early 1960's is that he came to the part a decade too late, being almost forty two when he was cast in what is my favorite color Tarzan movie "Tarzan goes to India" (1963). Forty two or not, Mahoney is a lean, quick, slightly feral Tarzan who is trying to save a herd of Indian elephants from a dam project that threatens to flood their home. Its a simple movie and Mahoney plays it with a lot of heart as a very human sort of a Jungle Lord. This is also the first Tarzan film to push Lord Greystoke into the role of "International Adventurer" all in color and shot on location as well.
Ya gotta love Mike Henry last of the original All-Up Color Movie Tarzans, a pro football player turned actor, he reputedly refuses to this day to sell his autograph to fans at nostalgia shows despite the fact that his association with the Tarzan franchise could net him a nice annuity. Nope Mike has wonky sort of integrity and he is in the weirdest of the 1960's adaptations of the character "Tarzan and the City of Gold" (1966) which takes Lord Greystoke from International Adventurer to outright Secret Agent as the Jungle Lord must thwart a coup plot in Mexico! 007 needs a souped up Astin Martin & a Walther PPK, Tarzan gets by with a Bowie knife and some arrows. And anyway, look at Mike Henry's physique...the man is literally a Renaissance statuary come to life! His muscles had muscles! Mike is no scenery chewer, none of the post Weismuller Jungle Lords ever were, but when he goes prowling thru the underbrush, he looks at home like he is the Apex Predator of legend.
Gordon Scott, who must have been a yard across at the shoulders in his prime, can credibly claim to be the Man Who Saved the Tarzan Franchise. Initially cast as the successor to Lex Barker Scott limped thru a few cheerless black and white jungle features complete with pidgin English until Producers Sy Weintraub & Sol Lesser got their hooks into the series shot them in color made lavish use of location work and set Gordon Scott free to speak in proper syntax. The result was a box office bonanza, the films started doing huge business overseas with Scott as the most massive, seemingly unstoppable Tarzan of all...Hell in "Tarzan's Greatest Adventure" he throws down with 007 Sean Connery(in a rare villainous role) and wins... All the above mentioned films are available for purchase thru the Warner Brothers Archives, either on Blue Ray or DVD.

Friday, December 28, 2012


Late word comes to us of the death of British TV Producer, Gerry Anderson creative spirit behind such classic kidvid series as "Stingray", "The Thunderbirds" and that SF-noir for the Elementary School crowd, "Captain Scarlet". I will remember him primary as a technical innovator of the first rank, if the public wanted puppet shows from him then he made sure that the puppets he was using were technological marvels of the first rank. Anderson was smart, maybe not the best writer in the world (this became apparent when he made the leap to human actors in the 1970's) but he reinvested in his own product and tried to do better with each succeeding series. Like The Beatles, he figured out early on that $uccess depended on penetrating the American market, to this end he made sure to leaven his British produced product with some American voices (chiefly US actors Shane Rimmer and Ed Bishop) as his shows became less comical, more adventuresome and violent.
Like William Shatner and Jonathan Harris, Anderson's various characters, the stolid Thunderbirds crew or the pre-liberated Lady Penelope, or the semi suicidal Captain Scarlet, all form veritable pillars in a pre-Star Wars science fiction driven childhood. In point of fact, the whole of the special effects industry in Great Britain has its origin with Gerry Anderson's many supermarionation series, dozens of creatives who worked with Gerry and his talented then-wife Sylvia all went on to work on almost all the major SF films of the 1970s. Truly there is no Star Wars without "Joe 90". Alas though, supermarionation eventually maxed out (ten years of research and still Anderson could make his puppets walk realistically) and Anderson tried his hand at producing an all up live action "Star Trek" style franchise "Space 1999" there some of his creative limitations revealed themselves... But to the end of his life he remained invested in the latest technology, a decade ago he was executive producing a remake of "Captain Scarlet" using CGI animation and at last the immortal Captain could walk right! Anderson must have been relieved....

Friday, December 14, 2012

Happy Birthday Lord Greystoke....

Its been a bittersweet year for the protean fantasy worlds of Edgar Rice Burroughs, "John Carter" (Warlord of Mars) tanked at the box office compelling a managerial shake up at Disney and consigning ERB's science fiction to bookshelves for the foreseeable future. A certain amount of stock taking is in order, but at the very least lets take a moment to celebrate the Century Anniversary of Burrough's greatest creation, Tarzan of the Apes! Ah but Tarzan was a marvelous creation, an English Aristocrats sense of duty married to an animal's ferocity and lust for freedom. Indeed how could the Ape Man miss? Unlike most of Edgar Rice Burroughs' other creations, Tarzan though a titled English Baronet AND "Lord of the Jungle" is not a conqueror per se. Once Tarzan emerges from the jungle to claim his hereditary birthright he settles down to ranch live in some fabled rainforest with his chosen mate Jane Porter. Tarzan "is" he does not "rule" any more than any other prowling predator rules over abd above the dictates of their animal instinct. That to me is what has given Tarzan his unique appeal down thru the years, he is Free and has the Strength and Character to maintain his freedom without recourse to brutality or mendacity. He speaks several languages (including the gutteral tongue of the Great Apes) and yet he holds all civilization as a very paltry thing indeed. Conquerors & tyrants are almost always Tarzan's mortal enemies...running some lost City founded by a lost Roman Legion on the up and up is NEVER on the Ape Man's agenda. Tarzan is in short, the ultimate escape fantasy...he is also very much rooted in the contemporary world even if his version of Africa may as well be another planet given the inconstant nature of Edgar Rice Burroughs' zoology. Still it's a milieu that needs little explanation and is accessible to everyone from Tarzan's mate Jane Porter to the usual motley collection of communists, film crews and absent minded scientists. Proof of the Ape Man's power lies in the fact that even as jungles and rainforests shrink...his power over the imagination crashes thru the tree tops unabated...And with the Broadway musical and the Disney ice show, the Ape Man has demonstrated unmatched popularity in almost ALL media outside the printed page. Let me close then with one of Edgar Rice Burrough's greatest descriptive quotes from the original "Tarzan of the Apes" "Mother Was a Lovely Beast..."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Red Dawn (2012)

Y'know it probably isn't a good idea to remake a bumptious xenophobic anti-communist "classic" with a cast seeded with all too pretty Australians. I mean you haven't heard sheer irony in a flat mid pacific accent until your hear Chris "Thor" Hemsworth inspire his scrappy band of American guerillas with a cataract of Patriotic sentiments. I mean sheee-it can't the commies invade and occupy Canberra for once? Then maybe some American actors can stumble into some work... *** The problem with "Red Dawn" (2012) is plain and simple it is a famously anti-appeasement plotline, alas the people who made this misbegotten mess chickened out completely and went the Munich route digitally reconfiguring the film in post production to excise the original Chinese invaders and replacing them with...North Koreans. Oh and the big McGuffin in this script, Chris Hemsworth's scrappy rebels have to steal North Korea's unhackable walkie-talkie system. *** It seems The People's Republic of China is a biii-ig export market for US Films so everyone had nice Neville Chamberlainish second thoughts about offending the Middle Kingdom to say nothing of awakening their terrible wrath. You can't denounce appeasement by...appeasing, that sort of cognitive dissonance is strictly Mitt Romney in form and content. *** The current version suffers from the angst of Modern Conservatism, sans communism to denounce & exploit today's wingnuttery are reduced to pumping hot air into the ruptured envelope of Muslim Extremism, North Korean Irredentism etc, all pale shadows of the original Red Threat. Hell the original anticommunist films of the 1940's & 50's are counter cultural classics compared to this bilge..."The Red Threat" (1948), "My Son John" (1952) or the utterly demented "Red Planet Mars" well worth screening in revival. Not so "Red Dawn", cowardice fairly leaks off the screen, what would R. Emmett Tyrell & Bill Safire say about such truckling before Peking?? Anyway NORTH KOREA??? Give me a break the Minuteman Council of the Boy Scouts of America could take them down in a week who are these mooks kidding???

Monday, November 19, 2012

May the Mouse be With You...

Lucasfilm has sold out completely to Disney, netting George Lucas a four billion dollar windfall. My first impressions of the acquisition were entirely venal and sarcastic "George Lucas loves Money like a Hog Loves Slop" to paraphrase the late lamented Earl K. Long. Of course I resent the "corporatization of fantasy", but I then again I truly wonder what a Star Wars movie with worthwhile dialogue would entail.... Shee-it if The Mouse has any brains they will coproduce the new franchise with Pixar...that might be a Star Wars worth anticipating at long last.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

"The Man with the Iron Fists" (2012)

Y'know, I wanna believe that RZA can produce, direct and star in a successful revival of the classic formula chop-socky epics of the 1970s...Honestly I am pulling for him to be the next Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan....even the next Alexander Lo Rei. And the film has it's merits, good pacing, akin to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" sans all that lovey-dovey stuff. And his CAST! Ricky Yune, David Bautista (who has future in the movies IMHO),Lucy Liu and Russell Crowe at his most dissolute and cameos from Gordon Liu &Pam Grier as well! And it isn't like RZA doesn't have the best sort of an education to be a martial arts movie star, like me he clearly watched a lot of "Ocean Shores Video LTD" titles on VHS back in the day.
Alas though, the man just doesn't have the acting skills or the physical props to carry an all up Wu Shu movie, I admire his moxie, I hope he perseveres in his efforts to revive the genre but this film was a bit of a glorious well intentioned misfire. I think RZA needs to direct and write and find someone to act as his on camera muse...exactly who that person would be I cannot say, but Gina Carana is surely at loose ends she might do some business goin' forward.

Friday, November 09, 2012


THIS is a good book! Why? Edgar Rice Burroughs just communed with his audience, it wasn't enough to send Tarzan to a land of prehistoric monsters and cave people, oh no he had to throw in reptile men, man-apes, a Zeppelin, a sexy cave princess and of course, 17th Century Pirates! The man practically invented "Fan Service"....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Atlas Shrugged Part Two (2012) or "Fear and Loathing in Galtsylvania"

Let the record show that I had to pay $10.50 at the Woburn Ma multiplex to finally hear Raymond Joseph Teller (of "Penn & Teller" fame) actually say something in a motion picture. Too bad that motion picture is "Atlas Shrugged Part II" a cheaply made, crudely acted mishaugas that doggedly cashes in on the classic objectivist novel and it's cult appeal. Teller must have wanted to speak up in defense of his well know libertarian principles in the worst possible way....and so he did. There is just something grimly ironic about a group of artistic nonentities creating a two hour long piece of utter hackwork whose core mission it is to denounce and deplore the mediocrities that persecute the producing class. *** It is important to locate Ayn Rand within a larger continuum of 20th century political thougt, that is the ongoing quest for a rigorous Counter-Marxist system of thought. For a while there, Counter Marxism was Big Medicine within and without political science with a diverse range of players everyone from Dr. Fred C. Schwarz to Billy Graham, William F. Buckley, William Simon (that founder of numberless conservative think tanks in Washington DC) along with heavy hitting intellectuals like Eric Voegelin and Friedrich Hayek and numerous others along for the ride. There were some serious charlatans mixed in there as well, Counter-Marxism could be a lucrative intellectual discipline if you played your cards right. And right there at the center of the maelstrom was Russian refugee, novelist, screenwriter & philopher Ayn Rand who saw no validity to anyone else's system of thought but her own, even her fellow Counter-Marxists. It is ironic to note that in some ways, Rand was a better Bolshevik than she herself realized, utterly humorless, zealous to the point of fanatism and a militant atheistic to her dying day....and indeed its her Godlessness that put her at lifelong odds with the more conventionally spiritual US Anti-communists, the William F. Buckleys and Billy Grahams. No, Rand believed in elites, good old fashioned Pre-Marxist Nietzchean elites, success was the indispensible indicator of superiority, as long as wealth favored cunning then the elites were secure and the masses can go hang. This is a ideology of particular appeal to US Sophomores, everyone wants to belong to an elite, especially in college, unself conscious mediocrities on the other hand always crave a caste of helots and thralls to patronize and deplore. It was all so simple simple enough to ensnare two generations of college sophomores. What unites Rand with Buckley and Schwarz and all the rest is the unstated notion that the confrontation with Marxism-Leninism is somehow a crisis of faith, and that what gives communism its power over the masses is the fervor and density of the belief system. The response therefore is simple anti-communists must generate and then simultaneously proclaim a powerful Counter-Marxist Creed and transform the whole confrontation into a cosmic war for intellectual, spirit and physical supremacy. There is something ironic about so famous an atheist as Ayn Rand birthing an entire system of theology for others to moon over and worship, but then again there was always a dead void where Counter Marxism's sense of humor should have been. To which I stand athwart the whole process and cry HALT!! A clash of faiths, especially synthetic ones derived from political philosophy is a conflict uniquely freighted with fantasy distortion and cognitive dissonance. Moreover you read history, economics, sociology and mere factuality right out of the argument. Faith is easy, the facts are always hard to find and tougher to proclaim. *** Ah but the movie is was awful, the SyFy does it better with it's Saturday Afternoons devoted to "Mega Octo-Squid versus the Atomic TornadoQuake" they certainly take the time to collect and rehearse better actors. I think SyFy stalwart Debbie Gibson would definitely make a better Dagny Taggart than Samantha Mathis...Gibson would pout less and wouldn't perhaps bark her orders with so much uncertainty. Ah but these are true believers we are talking about, all they need is a threadbare $20 million dollar production to sell to the true believers for the next generation or more. Certainly a mere two years ago word on the street was the two planned sequels to "Atlas Shrugged" were cancelled on grounds of poor box office, clearly DVD sales made up for this or a new collection of suckers were dug up to back the franchise. It is also notable that nearly the entire franchise was recaast from part one to part two with no appreciable improvement in the delivery of Rand's leaden self satisfied dialogue. And indeed we must recall when we see films as bad as "Atlas Shrugged Part II" that to the end of his life Ed Wood Jr. insisted that "Plan Nine from Outer Space" was a very serious anti-nuclear movie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Channel Zero Returns This Friday Night!

With a screening of "Journey Into Fear" (1942) (Allegedly) Directed by Norman Foster Joseph Cotten stars in this classic WW II spy movie as a befuddled American engineer who must flee wartime Turkey with Nazi Assassin's in pursuit! Starring Joseph Cotten, Ruth Warwick, Jack Moss, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorhead & Delores Del Rio. See this movie & recall one of the great mysteries of Hollywood's Golden Age, "Did Orson Welles Really Direct Journey into Fear"? This Friday October 12th 8pm The Somerville Theatre (micro cinema) 55 Davis Square Somerville MA Admission $5 (CHEAP!) 617 625 5700 Good Luck Finding Us on Facebook!! *** Y'know,let the record show that every time, Orson Welles tried to reintroduce himself to Hollywood it was usually with some sort of a thriller movie. This is sort of ironic given his reputation as an iconic auteur of heavy dramas. Stop and think though, "The Stranger"(1946) was spy drama designed to repair Welles' reputation for profligacy and "Artiness" after the whole It's All True/Magnificent Ambersons mishaugas. "The Lady from Shanghai"? A doomed bid to land himself a production deal at Columbia using the unique leverage of Welles own wife Rita Hayworth over Studio Boss Harry Cohn. The result was a quirky noir that is one of Rita Hayworth's best films...even if she plays a thoroughly disreputable character. In 1958 Welles made yet another attempt to re-enter the Hollywood ranks with the very last of the noir thrillers "Touch of Evil". Hell the very first property the Mercury Theater optioned was a spy story called "The Smiler with a Knife". Taken all together one gets the distinct impression that Welles was constantly trying to create a default position for himself in Hollywood as a sort of domestic brand of Alfred Hitchcock. Who was perhaps the Wellesian ideal, a superb artist with a robust record of success at the box office. As for "Journey into Fear" the script is a bit of a mess (little of the source novel's risque atmosphere makes it into the screenplay) but the whole thing is enlivened by an excellent Mercury Theater cast and a sock-o ending worthy of Hitchcock at his best. Supposedly Norman Foster directed the film, but we here at Channel Zero have our doubts...maybe Orson Welles did direct this film after all- It sure looks like an Orson Welles movie if shot on the fly a bit...
Come and see for yourself!

Monday, October 01, 2012

Late word comes to us

that WMFP-TV Channel 62 in Lawrence Ma has changed hands from the eminently watchable "ME-TV" with the re-runs of "The Rifleman:,"Lost in Space" and "Batman" to something called "Plum-TV" defined as "Lifestyle Television" ergo infomercials, 24-7. Appalling! WMFP-TV was quite literally the last place on basic cable where one could see Van Williams and Bruce Lee in "The Green Hornet"on the small screen the Way Ghod Intended! Oh well I guess it is back to watching Texas'unfolding "Feral Pig Crisis" on A&E. More and more I suspect that if we do not want to live in a television world dominated by the thrilling antics of pawn shop clerks, we may have to make a Last Stand on Local Cable Access.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Marie Antoinette at the A.R.T.

Y'know I liked this play, but I did not love it. But that is a huge concession from me given the A.R.T.'s record of artistic bungling nigh these past five years or so. Oh it is a flashy witty production to be sure, anchored by a bravura performance from Brooke Bloom as the doomed Queen of France she goes easily from a sort of Lucille Ball clown to a trembling haughty Hepburn facing that final blade. Ms. Bloom seems bound for bigger places based on this performance. If I have a complaint its that the scenario is nigh hilarious in the first act and then as the Royal Family faces deposition and execution it darkens and darkens to pitch black. But then again that tracks pretty much with the broad flow of French History before and during the revolution, first farce then the massacre. Kudos to dramatist David Adjmi for catching that aspect of the story. As for the A.R.T.I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest their current fascination with all things transgressive, flashy and contemporary strongly suggests they ought to abandon all classical revivals and confine themselves to new plays a'la The Gate Theatre in Dublin. There is nothing worse than watching the A.R.T. work a disco glitter ball into something like Marlowe's Doctor Faustus. They are doing "Pippin" in december, that seems like a good start.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pick of the Week...

is undoubtedly Carmine Gallone's 1926 silent Italian epic "The Last Days of Pompeii" screening at 4pm Sunday September 23rd at the Harvard Film Archive (for free no less!).
Carmine Gallone was a reliable hack who directed any number of forgettable fare under the aegis of Benito Mussolini back when the Blackshirts ruled the roost. His high point was directing "Scipio Africanus" (1937) a bloated lumbering epic given to celebrating the joys of Roman colonization in North Africa. After the war his career staggered on directing costume epics until the early 1960's....the man was nothing if not consistent. Well, we should know, Channel Zero first screened "Scipio Africanus" over ten years ago at the Coolidge Corner Theater. I just wanna say that this appears to be the third time in a year that the HFA has screened films dating from the Italian Fascist era, a film making epoch which, up until now, has been pretty much been the province of Channel Zero. Oh well, this is the HFA we are talkin' about they at least understand the worth of the film. But I reiterate, anyone out there who can get me a line on North Korean propaganda films....drop me a little note. Either that or wartime Japanese fare...I'm starting to get desperate...

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Channel Zero Returns Next Month!!

With a screening of "Journey Into Fear" (1942)

(Allegedly) Directed by Norman Foster

Joseph Cotten stars in this classic WW II spy movie as a befuddled American engineer who must flee wartime Turkey with Nazi Assassin's in pursuit!
Starring Joseph Cotten, Ruth Warwick, Jack Moss, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, Agnes Moorhead & Delores Del Rio.
See this movie & recall one of the great mysteries of Hollywood's Golden Age,

"Did Orson Welles Really Direct Journey into Fear"?

Friday October 12th 8pm
The Somerville Theatre (micro cinema)
55 Davis Square
Somerville MA
Admission $5 (CHEAP!)
617 625 5700
Good Luck Finding Us on Facebook!!
Channel Zero, now in our sixteenth year of genteel video transcendence…

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Late word comes out of Somerville

of the unexpected death of Courtney Wayshak last week.
Long ago, in the life before The Internet made grubby pamphleteers of us all, Courtney was our editor and friend at the now defunct Boston Comic News. He was charming, full of anecdote and encouragement for the writers and artists in his charge....Courtney made an unpaid writing gig at an obscure publication into an adventure, a duel with giants, a ribald comedy and an epic of youth.

He will be missed, Peace to His Ashes, Succor to his Loved Ones.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Meanwhile back in the Granite State

Photographer Evelyn Lamprey has her first gallery show ever at The Studio in Laconia New Hampshire.

Yeah I KNOW it is a schlep but this is a new artist in the making, yuh wanna get in on the ground floor of something good doncha?

Ah Laconia, had a lot of fun there back when I was a wee summer camp counselor...Did a lot of good laundry, got spurned righteously by the local girls....

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Final trumpet Sounds on the Red Line....

This evening on the Red Line a gorgeous young blonde haired woman sat down opposite to me wearing a pair of unlaced boots and a diaphanous white sun dress. No purse, no book bag, no IPod, I could not figure out how she paid her fare. She was utterly unencumbered.
She had a placid untroubled countenance, imagine a benign version of Paris Hilton. By the time we reached Downtown Crossing I noticed she was cradling a tiny brown kitten in her lap...and by the time we reached Park Street I was convinced she was the very Angel of Death come to ring down my final reckoning.
Truly the only other thing she had on her ghostly person was a tiny pair of safety scissors, a very surreal scene to be sure.

She had to be an angel, she sure as shit wasn't leaping over the turnstyle in that teensy little dress. She got off at Alewife, my very stop just to make it all very very Gothic indeed...I searched the platform the shades of my Honorable Ancestors were nowhere to be seen.
The Angel meanwhile disappeared up the stair still petting her tiny little doubt to return from the Divine Altitudes from whence she came.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Batman: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Batusi...

"Some Days, You Just Can't Get Rid Of A Bomb!"

Such was the dilemma for Adam West in 1966 and such was the climax of "The Dark Knight Rises" in 2012, Bruce Wayne escapes a glacially slow moving "inescapable death trap" in Anarchystan only to spent the last ten minutes of the film careening around Gotham CIty trying to defuse a "Four Megaton Nuclear Device" with an inane five month fuse.

Spoiler Alert (Weapons Research & Development Division), You can't fly a four megaton H-Bomb out to sea via Bat Helicopter and hope to spare Gotham City, blast fire radiological effects and very likely a "nuclear tsunami"as well.

My point is, that director Christopher Nolan wanted to end his Bat-Trilogy on a Wagnerian note in the worst possible way, and he succeeded beyond Warner Brother's wildest dreams. What they got was a huge box office, what we got was a hopeless game of connect the dots, from yawning plot hole to plot hole.
I mean Bane can punch holes in marble columns, but Batman smacks the bad guy in the fetish-mask a few times and the Gramsci quoting lout virtually falls to his knees in a swoon.
And DON"T get me started about Talia, the dumbest passive aggressive bimbo on Batman's A-List of super villainy, seriously her big plan to steal the Wayne Family's personal nuke and vaporize Gotham CIty???
Whaddya callit..."Operation Thunderball"??!!
The Caped Crusader has a few too many unoriginal lackwits in his very crowded rogue's gallery, he can afford a cut a few out without damaging his bottom line...
For all that the movie was was magnificently acted, Christian Bale is officially in Chris Reeves orbit in terms of character identification, he let nothing slip thru out the entire cycle, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Tom Hardy....superlative work down the line redeeming a hash of a script.
Oh and Ann Hathaway as Catwoman, freaking amazing...I initially disparaged the choice when I heard it, I'd like to take a moment to publicly apologize, like Bale, she let nothing slip past her for two hours and forty five minutes, her intensity and focus helped save a film with an out of control script.
No doubt even as I write this she is being bombarded with ideas for a solo Catwoman film "RESIST ANN RESIST!" I cry "Remember Halle Berry!"

In short great cast, hopeless script mired in excess....Nolan has done better work elsewhere.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Pick of the Week!

Is undoubtedly The Harvard Film Archive's revival of "The Island of Lost Souls" (1934) starring Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau, HG Wells' infamous maker of animal-human hybrids.
For years this bad baby did no circulate on the revival circuit as Paramount was uneasy with the unsubtle hints of rape, bestiality and homosexuality....1934 was clearly a tad too early to explore John Waters' territory! I must have requested it a dozen times for the olde Orson Welles Sci Fi Marathon..Well here it is at last screening on Quincy Street in the teeming heart of Harvard Square and it even includes a stellar cameo appearance by Bela Lugosi as the beastmen's nominal lawgiver.
The balloon goes up at 9:30pm Sharp be there, this is a once in a lifetime big screen screening....

Saturday, July 28, 2012

HRH Elizabeth Regina, of England Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland....

Now reduced to co-starring with Daniel Craig like she was Keira Knightley or some damn thing.

Proposed Caption; "The Things That I Do For England, God Almighty but I Miss the Luftwaffe!!"

Monday, July 23, 2012

Pick of the Week!

The HFA is screening Marlon Brando's only directorial effort "The One Eyed Jacks" (1961) tonight at 7pm.

Go figure, it's a western from a famously pro-American Indian activist...

Well whatever, it has to worth seeing, if only because it hales from an era when Brando still took his craft seriously and had artist goals (however vague and unobtainable they may have been).
I could write about the man all day long, his excesses and mistakes were only matched every step of the way by his supreme ability.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pick of the Week!

This Friday, July 20th, celebrate the sixty eighth anniversary of "Operation Valkyrie Day" with a rare screening of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis in "Artists and Models" at the Harvard Film Archive.
9pm, sharp...and yes Shirley MacLaine does get all tarted up as Dean & Jerry's own comic book creation "Bat Lady".
I mean, take THAT Caped Crusader!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Pick of the Week

Run don't walk to the Harvard Film Archive for tonight's 7pm screening of "Wedding March" (1928) directed by and starring da king of da Teutons, Erich von Stroheim and featuring Fay Wray with the ever suffering much put upon,Zasu Pitts.
This film does not normally circulate either in repertory screenings or on DVD owing to the extreme rarity of the film, the HFA had to secure a print from the Library of Congress no less, making tonight's screening an authentic rarity.
Its a silent movie, but that doesn't mean you can talk or check your phone messages or anything...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Robert Blake may be

guilty of murder, but the fact that he called the repellent and corrupt Piers Morgan "Charlie Potatoes" to the CNN's host's hateful little face, is just too precious and lovely for words.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Happy Belated Birthday

Richard Starkey, late of The Dingle in Liverpool and better know to the universe as Ringo Starr.

Y'know I've finally decided that Ringo wasn't the most talented or creative member of The Beatles, but he did have was charisma, loads of it.
Consider that he replaced Pete Best after what amounted to coup within the band itself thus making the drummer's sinecure inherently perilous as far as The Beatles were concerned.
And EMI was pushing back on the band with respect to Ringo's musicality...and the fan reaction in England to his inclusion was awful to say the least.
But Ghod love him, Starr turned it all around, wove a spell over the audience, got his band mates behind him and somehow convinced EMI that he was a valued member of the team.
And it was charisma that carried him through it all, when Peter Best clearly demonstrated his hold on The Beatle's fanbase, John, Paul and George did naught but ceaselessly plot his downfall.
When Ringo demonstrated and even greater appeal, John Paul & George shrugged and repaired to the green room to write songs for Ringo to sing.

Like I said, charisma....

Monday, July 09, 2012

Question for the Day....

How badly does Bill Murray want to win an Academy Award?

Consider the record..."The Razor's Edge" (1984), Murray 2003 Best Actor nomination for "Lost in Translation" and his ongoing association with Wes Anderson (a director who could well end up winning Best Picture by accident one of these days).
Now comes word of a historic impersonation, FDR no less in the yet to be released "Hyde Park on the Hudson".
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just luvs historic impersonations...just sayin'.
The question is, why does Bill Murray want to win an Oscar?
He might be the least ego driven actor in Hollywood (which ain't sayin' much I know)...Lots of actors want the Oscar for reasons of unquiet neuroses (Jim Carrey) or else sheer vanity (Robin Williams) but Bill Murray's motivation (if I'm guessing right here) remains utterly inscrutable.
Or else maybe Bill just thinks its a hoot for an actor with no management and no staff and no production company who makes all his commitments in person or over the win an Oscar.
A subtle way to flip off tinseltown if'n ya think about it.

Well whatever, the acceptance speech will be one for the ages...if I'm guessing right.

Feel free to discuss....

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Moonrise KIngdom (2012) Directed by Wes Anderson

THIS is a film for everyone out there who has longed to see Harvey "The Bad Lieutenant" Keitel play a uniformed Boy Scout Leader beneath a flowing walrus moustache.
Otherwise this is the best movie I've seen this summer and illustrates perfectly the notion that everything I know about the opposite sex I learned in the Boy Scouts of America.
I know, the thought chills the blood....

Monday, July 02, 2012

Games I like to play:

"Fakes", generating spurious and entirely non-existent film titles and casts with the stipulation that the cast itself must be reasonably accurate to the era. So the "year" tends to be the important variable along with the captione genre:
"The Loves of Rasputin" (1940) starring Bela Lugosi, Maria Montez, Grady Sutton, Jon Hall, Sabu & Shemp Howard

"Fascist Beach Partei" (1964) starring Deborah Whalley, Tommy Kirk, Yvonne Craig, Bobby Watson, Joe Devlin, Harvey Lembeck, with music from Peter & Gordon, The Supremes and Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

"Zorro and Calamity Jane Against the World" (1964) starring Gordon Scott and Joi Lansing

"I Orbited The Moon with an All Girl Crew" (1968) starring Dean Martin, Mary Ann Mobley, Yvonne Craig, Stella Stevens and Wally Cox"

"Django Against Sputnik" (1966) starring Franco Nero, Lee Van Clief and Chelo Alonso

But whether my intent is parody or simply close mimicry, I could never come up with a title as patently ridiculous or a film as inane as "Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter".
As Harrison Ford once told George Lucas on a sound stage far far away "George you can write this shit, but you sure as hell can't say it!"

Thursday, June 28, 2012

I sometimes like to imagine

that it might be possible to revive the classic action serials of the 1940's. They say the attention span is ever shortening, well the better serials, from Republic Studios at least, featured chapters no longer than fifteen minutes.
This is as good a place as any to start sez Zolok.
That roughly tracks with the space limitations on a site like Youtube, you could compensate a bit by running serials of say twenty chapters or so. This might be perfect for adventure characters were once popular but are now on the skids, Doc Savage, The Spider, The Phantom....Hell imagine what could be done with a little irony and public domain stalwart like "Calamity Jane".
Of course you'd a studio's backing, money and visionary leadership, all in short supply these days I'm afraid.
Besides the cliffhanger format has changed, evolved and interbred with so many durable genres that it can hardly reconstitute it's original style.
Still it is fun to think about...
I guess in matters both political and cultural, I am a Jacksonian, for the people and against the interests and elite driven top-down institutions. If feature films are being made in the backyards of America no matter how problematic the results then something good is indeed happening.
Meanwhile Channel Zero is gonna offer kowtow to the olde time serials tomorrow night with a rare screening of "Captain Celluloid versus the Film Pirates" (1965) a loving contemporary homage to classic chapterplays.

The Nefarious League of Film Pirates wants to corner the world’s supply of Classic Cinema! Only one man stands in his way, that Masked Marvel of the movies, Captain Celluloid!
Take a contemporary silent movie, a great love for the old Republic Serials a genuine feel for action cinema, and this is what you get, the weirdest Superhero Movie ever made!!
All in Super Monochromoscope!

Plus a surprise or two in the ineffable Channel Zero Style!!

Friday June 29th 8pm Sharp!
The Somerville Theatre Screening room
Admission 5 bucks cheap!
55 Davis Square
Somerville Ma 617 625 5700
Channel Zero Boston’s Cheapest Entertainment Franchise now in our sixteenth year of Genteel Cinematic Transcendence!

Good Luck finding us on Facebook!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I think that I must've waited

all my life for the advent of home video.

And why?

Because I am a lifelong serial fan and until I was in my twenties classic chapterplays did not really circulate in cinemas or on TV.
Oh Channel 56 once screened all the "Flash Gordon" serials at 11pm on weeknights, a welcome byproduct of the "Star Wars" craze to be sure.
But if you wanted to see "The Purple Monster Strikes" (1945) you had to wait and hope that the feature film ("D-Day on Mars" I LOVE THAT TITLE!) edited out of serial somehow got screened on an obscure UHF station.
Mostly until stuff started showing up on VHS, the serials I wanted to see had to be read about, Glut and Harmon's "The Great Movie Serials" being the then definitive work on the subject.
I can safely say that my ardor for serials is such that the two Kirk Alyn "Superman" serials are both good examples of movies long anticipated with high expectations that in turn lived up to the hype in every way.
Top that "Avatar"!
The genre is dead and gone now and I think that is a helluva shame...silent serials pioneered female action heroes (The Perils of Pauline, the Hazards of Helen, all of which featured brave self reliant heroines in a pre World War One milieu), sound serials help creat modern stunt work and fight choreography and formed the first venues for comic book characters like Superman, Batman and Captain Marvel.
Though almost no one trifles with the genre anymore, serial DNA lives on from every "Dr. Who" cliffhanger to the endless storylines of daytime soap operas.
To say nothing of "Indiana Jones" a last lavish love letter to a bygone genre of film-making.
So it is with some affection that Channel Zero screens "Captain Celluloid versus the Film Pirates" this friday night...a relatively concise silent homage to the old Republic Serials produced under independent circumstances in 1965 by true serial lovers and sadly forgotten since then.
Channel Zero can't screen "The New Adventures of Tarzan" as all 12 chapters would run for four hours of screening time...So Captain Celluloid at 45 or so minutes will do as a good substitute.
And we will have some surprises to screen that night as well to round things out to "feature length".
Anyhow...tell your friends!
"Captain Celluloid versus the Film Pirates" (1965)
Friday June 29th 8pm Sharp!
The Somerville Theatre Screening room
Admission 5 bucks cheap!
55 Davis Square
Somerville Ma 617 625 5700
Good Luck finding us on Facebook!!
Forget Batman, Forsake The Avengers, Captain Celluloid is All The Hero
the Summer of 2012 Needs!!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Star Trek Update...

Per the producer of the new (old) Franchise, there will be No Borg, No "Gary Mitchell", No "Yeoman Rand" (SACRILEGE!) and no Ruk the Android in the upcoming sequel.
Which leaves the door wide open to another gay romp with the Klingons, Tribbles, a return bout with "Gary Seven" or perhaps, just perhaps Harry Mudd's Hour has at Long Last Struck!
This being Star Trek, the Blockbuster Franchise, Mudd will be played be Seth Rogen, and if they can't get him then Jack Black or Jonah Hill (if he can fit the movie in)...with Mudd's Infamous Fembots played by Wanda Sykes, Katherine Heigl and Michelle Rodriguez (assuming Janeane Garofalo has thrown in the towel on movie work)...

All snarkage aside, I like the new Star Trek, but I have a feeling they wanna be a blockbuster franchise and not a science fiction built around "Seeking Out New Life, New Civilizations"....

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Diskovery" on Washington Street in Brighton

is going out of business. It was the last of the great filthy flea bitten used book and records stores in Boston, the ones with all the great buys and a owner willing to negotiate.
With this, and the closure of Movieland on Beacon Street the great age of Bohemian Independent Shopping experience in Boston draws to a very sad close, at least insofar as books and sundry entertainment goes.
Brookline and Allston Brighton once bastions of offbeat independent retailers, is gonna get less interesting and a lot more standardized, but don't worry Panera Bread and StarBucks will no doubt make sure neither storefront is idle for long.
Meanwhile I threw down $15 for some used paperbacks, Diskovery is still stuffed with bargains for anyone willing to make a last book & music run.
And yes, they've got vinyl!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Venerable Harvard Square Cinema

is closing next month.

That causes a bit of a pang, back when they were an independent in the pre-Home Video days the "Daily Double Feature" was a veritable film school unto itself.
I saw there...
"Night of the Living Dead"
"Dawn of the Dead"
"Fritz the Cat"
The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat"
"Clockwork Orange"
"Pink Flamingoes"
"Female Trouble"
"Desperate Living"
"Dr. Strangelove" (of course)
All the Marx Brothers Canon...
"Flesh Gordon"
"Broadway Danny Rose"
"The Creature from the Black Lagoon" (in 3D)
"Enter the Dragon"
"The Man who Fell to Earth"
The List Goeth On...
Back in High School it was a very easy going venue if you were a kid when a definite yen to see R-Rated Movies.
Geez if I owned this venue, I'd probably try and get a wine and beer license a'la the Somerville Theatre, I'd repurpose the main theater as an occasional live venue (What is left of Harvard Square once vibrant live music scene??), try and get some traction in the community (in the fashion of the Coolidge Corner) and aim a lot of my content at the best walk-in crowd in the city, college students.

The Parking in Harvard Square is crappy to say the least, but the venue is on the Red Line with thousands of 18 to 24 year old's forcibly domiciled nearby, there has to be something that can be done with a mix like that.
Oh and I'd also repurpose one of the theaters as a micro cinema for rent to local film fans etc.

Y'know for all those other Channel Zero's out there...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pick of the Week...

"Khrustalyov, My Car!", being a sort of film memoir of Joseph Stalin's final days screening at the Harvard Film Archive Saturday Night @ 7pm.

Hell All Channel Zero did was screen Stalin's bloated "Funeral Film", and now the HFA comes along, grabs our idea and comes up with a title three times as good as what we had!
It's like when Salieri wrote a fanfare for Mozart, only to watch the young genius take his labored march and turn it into something exquisite.
Anyway...this one sounds very interesting and we never begrudge one of the majors when they work our side of the street, the Big Guys have the reach after all to extract maximum value from a screening.

Our Current Flyer....

Apologies for the crude JPG format which does not do justice to the punchy character of the flyer. The Franchise Marshal did an outstanding job this time, the whole thing just pops off the page!
My only complaint, the great age of bulletin boards has entered it's twilight, we are compelled to hunt just a bit for appropriate spaces wherein to tack this bad baby up for all to see or just drop a stack of flyers for folks to pick up.
Damned internet...
This is an interesting irony as our anecdotal "audience research" at our recent screenings indicates fully half the paying audience is hooked in by these flyers!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

There is nothing quite like a weekend

given over to a screening of "Prometheus" (junk) and then John Carpenter's 1998 remake of "The Children of the Damned" (sad junk) to put one off the genre of horror-sci fi movies entirely.
Sometimes I think that the whole film making process must needs be democratized, the most interesting genre films these days are being made in backyards under amateur circumstances.
I mean, look at these guys, they've decided to revive the chapterplay era lock stock and barrel.
Someone ought to make a real horror film up in New Hampshire, lots of scary places and scenes up there to work with...Ever been to Hampton Beach in October?? An indescribable Poe-like atmosphere permeates the resort town, that and a slate grey mist that roles off the ocean and has to conceal monsters on the other side.
For that fact, someone ought to make an old fashioned horse opera western here in Massachusetts. I can think of a number of rural areas that would make an appropriate backdrop. Be straightforward about it and try to avoid the cliches that have all but taken over that genre.
I mean think about it, a Spaghetti Western shot entirely on location in the Berkshires amidst the Commonwealth's own ghost towns the ruined factories and mills of our bygone industrial past.
Think on it anyways...My main point is, that as certain skills and trades become obsolete, some of them inevitably fall into the hands of artists. Printmaking, calligraphy, the production of comic books, all superceded by technological developments and all thriving in the art schools of America. Maybe feature film-making is about to descend to that very happy level...

Monday, June 18, 2012

Winston Churchill was born in Saint Louis Missouri

was a progressive and a 19th century "goo goo", wrote nine novels, moved to Cornish New Hampshire, sat in the Granite State's legislature (twice) and in 1906 came within an ace of the GOP nomination for Governor.
Churchill was the intimate of two US Presidents, notably Woodrow Wilson made the mansion in Cornish NH his summer White House on at least one occasion.

What you don't believe me??
The facts are all there in Black and White on Wikipedia....but tis' strange not a mention of the Battle of Britain or the Yalta Conference.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

We got some good ink from

The Boston Sunday Globe today....

Our plan is to let "The Avengers", "The Dark Knight Rises" etc etc "punch themselves out" then deliver a haymaker courtesy "Captain Celluloid"...
So again for the record Channel Zero is screening "Captain Celluloid versus the Film Pirates" Friday, June 29th at eight pm in the Micro Cinema of the Somerville Theatre (55 Davis Sq Somerville Ma), for a mere five bucks.
Anyone with a pronounced taste for the bizarre and outre' is strongly encouraged to attend...And if that don't work we have a few surprises in store that night as well.
Meanwhile....For the Love of Ghod Almighty in Heaven Above, avoid "Prometheus" at all costs. It is two tedious hours you will never ever recover, good cast witless script, your time is better served anointing your head with a ball-peen hammer.
It is the worst sort of Hollywood excess, the entirely unnecessary origin story.
Destiny has quit on Ridley Scott, lets be up front about that....

Thursday, June 14, 2012

If the Globe is to be believed

2012 allegedly marks the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the Boston Strangler's reign of terror.

So I'm just gonna suggest quietly and disinterestedly, that maybe the Harvard Film Archive (or some comparable entity) might wanna revive the 1968 Tony Curtis adaptation of the whole sorry tale.
"The Boston Strangler" is one of those select films I refuse to watch on DVD owing to the complex split screen cinematography which was really designed to be seen on a forty foot high screen...And only on a forty foot high screen.

Channel Zero can't really traffic in a film like this owing to the modesty of our designated venue, it requires a Big Screen and preferably a fresh print on celluloid.
Well if yer gonna dream, dream big sez I.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

RIP Ray Bradbury

Let the record show, that as far as I am concerned, Ray Bradbury's best medium outside the printed page was radio, not movies or TV.
Dimension X's audio adaptation of "Zero Hour" lives on my memory much more vividly than any scene from the "Illustrated Man" starring Rod Steiger.
Why exactly this is, I do not know, maybe it's because of the sheer Hemingway-esque sparseness of Ray's dialogue and descriptive sense.
It all translated but poorly to the visual medium...
Whenever Bradbury needed to send his character's outside the solar system he was content to describe their transport as "a rocket" and leave it at that.
You can't get away with that in Hollywood, no that rocket has to be tarted up like the Battlestar Galactica.
Ray didn't traffic with FTL drives and elaborately appointed doomsday machines, if he needed technology he just got a few old gimmicks out of the prop room no need for CGI or Industrial Light and Magic.
This is what gave his writing such power & focus, and it all stands in stark contrast to say his fellow SF writer E.E. "Doc" Smith with his planet sized alien superbrains and inane dialogue eructated by department store mannikins.
Ray had characters, those were all the SPFX he ever needed.
Like his hero Edgar Rice Burroughs, Bradbury is one of those select authors who follow people right out of childhood and may be read re-read and enjoyed right up to the point of senescence and for a goodly while thereafter.
Now at the age of 91, after a lifetime of inspired other writers and being the very bridge out of the sci fi ghetto and into the mainstream, Ray has passed on.
And if there is a merciful and ironic Ghod in Heaven Above, then yes, Ray awoke at the instant of his death on the red sands of Mars, Dejah Thoris on one side of him and a few of his brownish golden eyes martians giving him the puppy dog eyes on the other...

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Apropos of Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee...

Isn't it funny how the whole House of Windsor can get tarted up in elaborate military drag, and yet you get no whiff of fascism off of them?

Normally they all look like a bunch of Argentine Colonels that just seized power in a coup, but the Windsors all treat it like it is mere appropriate costumery and nothing at all untoward.
That to me, is a key part of their mystique...

Friday, June 01, 2012

Broadgay Highlights...

Had a chance to disengage for a few days last week and head off to New York City to take in some legit the-aterrr.
And this is what I saw:

"The Best Man", a revival of Gore Vidal's 1960 drama about the backstage politics at a presidential nomination convention that features extended supporting turns by James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury.
Who knew that in their eighth decade such an accomplished pair of actors would shamelessly caper, cavort, mug & upstage the leads out a pure thirst for thunderous applause?
I sh*t you not about that applause, Jones and Lansbury's every entrance and exit is greeted by prolonged adulatory clapping.
Alas Candice Bergen, comes in very little of this, she has to get by with being merely excellent in every way.
As I said, it is all very shameless and at times overshadows the contest between the lead characters (John "Night Court" Larroquette and Eric "Will & Grace" McCormack)as a Former US Secretary of State and a US Senator who traffic in accusations of homosexuality and mental illness on their way to an un-named party's presidential nomination circa 1960 or so.
Nonetheless, it is fine revival in every way, we often forget Gore Vidal's talent for witty dialogue and prophetic political set-ups.
Now, to hear Vidal tell it, the play was a sort of meditation on the emerging 1960 presidential contest between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. I myself have always suspect that the whole thing was really about the internal GOP rivalry between then Vice President Nixon and New York's Governor Nelson Rockefeller both of whom clashed in the GOP presidential primaries that year.
Nonetheless it was well worth it, how many more times can you see Angela Lanbury shamelessly upstage five other actors in one go or see James Earl Jones play a blusterly ex-president and come off a little bit like Teddy Roosevelt in the process?
See it, it is strong in the hind legs and well worth your time.

The Columnist: I had to take the Acela to Manhattan to find out that the late Joseph Alsop was gay.
I have no defense either I have a master's degree in political science...You'd a thought it would have come up during all those discussions about the Viet Nam War??!
Anyhow this is another winner, John Lithgow is freakin' amazin' as the erudite, witty painfully uptight Alsop who is tormented by the fact that he had to reveal his homosexuality to the FBI in order to forestall an attempt to blackmail him by the KGB.
So tormented is he, that the columnist works himself into a anti-communist frenzy banging the pots for war in Viet Nam even as the elite Washington strata he inhabits cracks crumbles and disintegrates.
Alsop was a bastard, and Lithogw plays him as such but a human even humane bastard, a man whose sexuality prevents him from embracing the past and whose politics prevent him from facing the future with any poise.
As bad as Alsop was, I almost miss him, who stands in his place?
That shameless shill George Will? Rush "Oxycontin" Limbaugh...Laura "Hollow Leg" Ingraham...a gruesome unwholesome lot to be sure. If Alsop was alive he'd never invite any of them to one of his elite dinner parties no matter how much they might agree with him.
So basically I spent forty eight hours on Broadway immersed in the politics of homosexuality circa 1960...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Pick of the Week

2012 marks the fiftieth Anniversary of Orson Welles' adaptation of "The Trial".

Kafka is of course, nigh unfilmable, but Orson gave it the old college try anyway with remarkable results..

The Brattle Theatre is reviving it today at 1:30pm and then again at 7pm, see how far one man can go with no money and an unlimited fund of genius.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Gym Notes:

#1) Comedy Central broadcasts the original "Revenge of the Nerds" (1984) with all the rude gestures, Anglo Saxon expletives & sundry explicitness lovingly blocked, obscured and or bleeped out.

AND THEN runs commercials extolling a "name brand" condom that features a frantic young woman careening thru a pharmacy searching for prophylactic latex with real pleasure inducing properties.

#2) (Duly noted after watching the first twenty minutes of "The Love Guru") Say what you like, but Mike Myers is a talented "Voice Man" cut from the same clothe as his idol, the Late Peter Sellers.
Without execrement jokes though, Mike Myers would starve or else have to back to digging ditches on Thunder Bay.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

July is Wide Open...

no update on the Harvard Film Archive's Calendar as yet. So why not some suggestions? Well let me mark out hard once again for a proper Charlton Heston retrospective, That Axiom of American Cinema is long overdue for a critical re-evaluation...Especially if some of Heston's early TV work could somehow get dredged up! And while we are at it, I wanna strongly suggest a Don Siegel retrospective, mostly cued because I saw his one collaboration with Mickey Rooney "Baby Face Nelson" and thought that anyone who went from Mickey Rooney to Clint Eastwood was ready for their moment in the sun.

Moreover how about Sam Fuller, nobody has a good review of his career leastways in Boston. How about it? C'mon everyone wants to see "The Steel Helmet" on the big screen!!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"So Long, and Thanks for All The Tharks!"

Richard Ross, has been ousted as CEO of Disney as a direct result of whole "John Carter" fiasco this winter. Helluva shame really. I can see some malign consequences of of this, Director Andrew Stanton may well be at a career dead end once the dust settles. This is a great pity as he has done some great things at Pixar and could well do great things again. Well Andrew, Channel Zero needs a good director we've got all kinds of ideas for short films, drop us a ting-a-ling baby, we can get this thing turned around.
The other malign consequence is that a dumbass Hollywood fatwah will likely be pronounced against all of Edgar Rice Burroughs' non Tarzan works. Since Disney allegedly has the options on his entire bibliography, this likely means we will never see adaptations of "Carson of Venus", the "Pellucidar" series to say nothing of any more excursions to Barsoom. This is a shame because Burroughs created extraterrestrial politics, bizarre interplanetary evolutionary excesses and the whole modern space opera idiom quite frankly. But because his speculative fiction has been off market in terms of media adaptations, what was groundbreaking in 1912 now appears utterly derivative in 2012. And on that petard the whole mishaugas has been hoisted. Sad. It seems pretty clear that Disney is gonna put all it's emphasis on tentpole movies based on their Marvel Comics Properties...As far as I'm concerned, Dejah Thoris could kick Iron-Man's white ass from here to City of Helium.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Channel Zero Returns in June!!!

"Captain Celluloid and the Film Pirates"

Hollywood is under attack, a nefarious Film Pirate bids on cornering the world market in Classic Cinema! Only one man stands in his way, that masked man of the movies, Captain Celluloid!
Take a contemporary silent movie, a great love for the old republic serials a genuine feel for action cinema, and this is what you get, the weirdest Superhero Movie ever made!!

Plus a surprise or two in the ineffable Channel Zero Style!!
Forget the Avengers, come see a Real Superhero Take Charge!!

Friday June 29th 8pm Sharp!
The Somerville Theatre Screening room
Admission 5 bucks cheap!
55 Davis Square
Somerville Ma 617 625 5700
Channel Zero Boston’s Cheapest Entertainment Franchise now in our sixteenth year of Genteel Cinematic Transcendence!
Good Luck finding us on Facebook!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I for one cannot wait for Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" remake

The only creative question in play is just how will Johnny Depp's vampire character Barnabas Collins learn life's most important lesson which is.... "Be Yourself".

If Tim Burton directed an adaptation of Dante's Inferno, that would be the great moral learned by Satan in the bottom-most pit of hell.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hail Kenya!

First three runners in today's Boston Marathon were once again, Kenyans.

This is getting ridiculous these people are smoking us like cheap cigars at every marathon...I think just to keep it interesting next year the Kenyans should be compelled to run the Marathon backwards or on their hands.
Who am I kidding?
They'd still win if they were manacled to cinderblocks.

Well all kidding aside, this is their "highlight reel" for the Kenyan Olympic Committee a nice speedy performance here is a potential gold medal elsewhere.
Which is enough to swell my civic pride by gosh.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Pick of the week!

The Brattle Theatre (in the teaming heart of Harvard Square), is running "King Kong versus Godzilla" on a double bill with "Godzilla on Monster Island" tomorrow at 1pm.
Tis all a part of their annual "Schlock Around the Clock" marathon...and if this alone isn't a reason to drop all obligations and debtor and make a beeline for this blessed venue,they are also running "Death Race 2000" on Sunday at 5:30pm.

I've always liked the Brattle Theatre, for one thing, its one of the few remaining venues in Metro Boston that has yet to throw Channel Zero out it's ear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I hate it when....

The Harvard Film Archive takes one of Channel Zero's ideas and refashion's it into something sublime.
Its like watching Mozart go to work rewriting one of Salieri's lugubrious fanfares.
Case in point a month or so ago, Channel Zero explored the twilight of the Stalinist Era by screening "The Great Farewell" the official Soviet propaganda documentary detailing Joe Stalin's funeral.
In June the HFA blows our asses out of the water with a retrospective of Soviet director Aleksei Guerman's films, a man with a great ongoing interest in the Stalinist era. We direct your attention in particular to the June 23rd screening of "Khrustalyov, My Car! " (1998) a film centered around the last weekend in Stalin's miserable life.
Oh and they are also screening a full retrospective of Sergei Eisenstein's works including "Ivan the Terrible" parts One and Two.
How the hell do we keep up with that??

Honestly, anyone out there got a line on contemporary North Korean Cinema??

Drop us a line for the Love of God!

Oh well we never really hold it against the HFA they have the money and the venue and the content, after sixteen years of obscurity Channel Zero is not above tipping it's chapeau at the Machers, they are there for a reason after all.

A Boyhood atop Collapsible D or The Revenge of the Titanic

I first encountered Walter Lord's marvelous book "A Night to Remember" when I found an abandoned paperback copy of it atop a coat rack at the Old Brackett School in (Romantic) Arlington when I was in the Fourth Grade or so.
Despite a boyhood that was rapidly spiraling downward into defeat and obscurity, I remained a precocious reader, so the Titanic's story of epic futile catastrophe really resonated with me.
Shit I was a bound over on the same trip, I could grasp that right away...
Now when it came time for some pre-cyberspace cultural synergy, I had to wait around until Channel 56 re-ran the 1958 film adaptation (in glorious black and white which registered so sharply on the old portable black and white TV set in my parent's bedroom)...For once a good movie and good book got together in holy matrimony and there I was, bearing the ring on a little red cushion.
There are certain incidents from history that we revisit time and again, because of their natural tragic drama, because of the lessons we affect to extract from them or because we like to feel humbled by "Big Events".
The whole Titanic phenom has all of that in spades, it is Man and his Machines versus Melville's Inscrutable Malevolent Nature, and of course, Nature clears the boards.
Walter Lord would have us think that the RMS Titanic was the breaking point between the old and new order, Captain John Smith taking her straight to the bottom, Herbert Lightoller going down with the ship and living to the tale, Sir Cosmo Duff Gordon and his spouse floating off to safety in what amounted to their own private lifeboat.
Aiyee, there are a lot of old and new tropes to that story...a vertiable cozy lace trimmed Steampunk Apocalypse (Think about it, a 35,000 ton luxury liner depending on two sets of eyes and no binoculars to navigate an icefield at night...Jules Verne couldn't have done better!)
So this is powerful stuff, even if all the current hype seems like....well...annoying hype.
Shee-it, The Titanic spawned the first "Instant Movie" "Saved from the Titanic" (1912) starring Dorothy Gibson a real life survivor of the disaster who happened to be an actress mercenary enough to be the first extract boffo box office from the tragedy.
The Nazis saw fit to create a big budget propaganda epic out of the story, "Titanic" (1943) which gets in the usual cracks at "British Plutocrats" and features an entirely fictional virtuous German Officer to the storyline. The film only played in markets outside Germany though, Dr, Goebbels abruptly decided that a downbeat movie about ship sinking was too stark a reminder of the Nazi regime's long term prospects.
Of course after World War II the Titanic finally rose from the depths and came into here own, Walter Lord's book was published, Fox released "Titanic" (1953) in which the great liner goes under soap suds while Barbara Stanwyck and Clifton Webb torment each other with brio & Robert Wagner sings "The Navaho Rag".
Of the lot, including James Cameron's super epic, I still like "A Night to Remember" (1958) best, it packs a great emotional punch, doesn't back off the class element and features a fine performance by Kenneth More as Fifth Office Lightoller...I liked it as a kid and I like it now.
Most people forget though that the book was first adapted as live television play in 1956 on the "Kraft Television Theater" and a veryu good adaptation it was as well featuring narration from Claude Rains no less.
Channel Zero always wanted to screen the kinescope but was hamstrung by the unavailability of a good copy and the sure knowledge that a third of the aud would show up expecting Kenneth More and Honor Blackman.

Well, that is our inbound iceberg isn't it?

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Market Report

Vampires have peaked as investment opportunities thanks to Twilight and all the multivarious vampire based TV series. Pitches are going on all over town for new YA series featuring the Last Vampire on Earth beseiged in a mansion by an army of vampire slayers, the only vampire at an exclusive girl's school or some AV HS nerds who go in for vampirism to improve their social position. Saavy Investors are looking at a plateau situations with more creatives piling in, less dividends paid out.

Zombies are approaching a plateau situation, critical market stressors include the Walking Dead TV series, a plethora of graphic novels and a continuing output of new tentpole movies featuring Romero-template zombies. Flesh eating ghouls are still a short term Blue Chip Bet with Saavy Investors running the numbers in their heads furtively darting their eyes at the lifeboats.

Everyone on the street is still talking up Frankenstein's monster on the basis of strong pre-war and post war performance, but Big Frank hasn't been heard from since the Branagh-De Niro merger back in 1994, Saavy Investors are waiting for a Steve Jobs to innovate Frankenstein back to market dominance.

The Wolf Man? The dirty secret here is the old howler is a niche market performer, a penny stock despite strong brand penetration. A long time favorite of Lady's Garden Club investment roundtables who have happy memories of Lon Chaney Jr nonetheless Saavy Investors politely give lycanthropy a pass.

The Mummy: A dependable investment with the same creative blockage as Frankenstein's monster, hamstrung unfairly as a kidvid dependable due to the association with Brendan Fraser. Saavy Investors though are enamored with the Mummy's vast install base derived from the ongoing popularity of Ancient Egypt exhbibitions.

The Field:
Imps, Leprechauns, The Master Works of Edgar Allen Poe, Japanese Product, public domain fairy tales...and of Sarah Michelle Gellar. All worthwhile ground floor opportunities, just steer clear of the Disney Channel.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Season of the One Season Wonder...

Success is great and all, it has its lessons to impart, but failure is no slouch in the race to be "educator of the year".

I make no secret that failed television series utterly fascinate me, "one season wonders" I calls em', back in Channel Zero's Outlaw Days we used to screen them with perverse impunity.
That was back in olden analog times, these days all sorts of obscure televisual catastrophes get tossed out onto DVD, in many cases it's a last attempt to cash in on a series that lacks a sufficient episode count to be profitable in syndication.

Two upcoming titles of note:

The Invisible Man (1975) This was a hugely hyped NBC series circa 1975 starring David McCallum as an invisible scientist who undertook secret agent stuff for the government. As I recall this was NBC's response to the whole "Six Million Dollar Man" phenom. To be honest, David McCallum with his huge blonde cranium, is nigh perfect at this sort of role he has a certain sly wit and never takes the outlandish set up too seriously.
Too bad the scripts were all mid seventies spy stuff, mediocre and uninspired. The Show went for the terminal dirt nap after seventeen weeks, as I recall NBC execs blamed the failure on the fact that McCallum's character was happily married and thus limiting plot possibilities!

So of course, Harv Bennett (showrunner on "The Six Million Dollar Man) was hired to create a sort of successor series called "The Gemini Man" which was an unmarried rakehell invisible secret agent played by the weirdly uncharismatic Ben Murphy. Damn thing went off a cliff in seventeen week, David McCallum no doubt laughed. If the Gemini Man ever turns up on DVD I'll discuss it in more detail to be sure.`

Logan's Run (1977) Ahhhhh 1977, a storied year when Science Fiction went from a nerdy cult to An Industry, overnight thanks to Star Wars/Close Encounters.
All the TV networks wanted in, unfortunately, CBS got the bright notion that the cheap and witless film version of "Logan's Run" was a good bet for an ongoing television series. In the patois of the time it was "a natural" with it's simpleminded futuristic hash of "The Fugitive" the sort of set up readily understandable to television executives.
The show had problems, chiefly it's lead, Gregory Harrison a preposterously handsome actor who could underplay a test pattern, he was duly buttressed by actor-writer Donald Moffat as Rem the Android a sort of acerbic Mister Spock knock off and Heather Menzies a decorous actress whose character thought a minidress and ballet slippers acceptable post apocalyptic attire.
For all that, the show had some serious science fiction chops behind the cameras, Star Trek alum DC Fontana was the story editor and she was able to hook in no less than Harlan Ellison and David Gerrold to contribute scripts before the ax fell.
Maybe it was the concept, these Fugitive knock offs fall into crippling formula pretty quickly if you don't watch out, or maybe it was the cheap cardboard sets...still Heather Menzies was easy on the eye and Donald Moffat was pretty funny all told...As for Gregory Harrison, I hear he was always good to his mother.

BTW The Four "Man from Atlantis" TV movies have been released on DVD, regardless of Patrick Duffy's lingering appeal, the main reason to pick up something like this is to see the Late Victor Buono as the evil "MIster Shubert".
MyGhod but that man was born to play villains, from his days on "Batman" and "The Wild Wild West" Buono stole every single scene he was ever in with aplomb! If you want to watch a classically trained Shakespearean effortlessly redeem mediocre material then by all means track these sonsabitches down.

Well there you have it, ghod almighty we really LIVED in the mid 1970's....

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Red Line...

Is "One Hundred Years Young" as of today.

The rat infested sumbitch makes me late for dinner on a regular basis.

It is filthy...

The PA systems literally vary in functionality from car to car.

You get me home in about the same amount of time it took my father to commute from Government Center in 1966, this you regard as a sort of triumph over adversity.

The damn thing desperately needs a maintenance upgrade, both the rolling stock and the tunnels themselves as well as the switching system.

One does not exit the parking garage at Alewife Station, one competes one's sentence and is tardily sent out into the world.

It has compelled me to walk from South Station to Central Square on one memorable occasion and lesser strolls at various times.

It keeps the cab companies very much in the black.

Ghod help the Red Line commuter on the day after a blizzard, a medieval oxcart would be a surer mode of transport.

But what the hell, without it, I'd be digging ditches on Mount Gilboa in Arlington, and all those delays have proved a heaven sent change to get caught up on my reading.

So Happy Birthday Red Line...yer a dirty swine but you are all I have to get to and fro my phony baloney job.
I may not love you, but I'll still be there for you long after everyone else has taken to hang-gliding to work or flipped over to some sort of sail powered skatboard hybrid.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

From left to right...

there seems to be a nigh universal skittishness among The Parents of America about letting their elementary school offspring see "The Hunger Games" (Which opens Friday I guess).
These are the "Wife Swap" type parents, overbearing Xians, Alternastyle Hippies, Helicopter parents off all stripes...concerned that upsetting images will take root in their issue's soft little noggins.
Yet these are the same people that would be rotten glad if their kids read and appreciated the carnage and bloodshed in The Book of Judges...or Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus (highest bodycount of all Shakespeare's works BTW).
Ah, but that is the point, different emotions and parts of the brain are activated by reading as opposed to viewing.
Put it another way, no kid is ever wracked with nightmare from merely reading about the feeding habits of H.G. Welles' martians from the War of the Worlds.
But just see that sh*t on the big screen and it's Katey-Bar-The-Door.
Well I can afford to be specious, I have no children no hostages to horrific fortune so to speak.
I saw plenty of horror films whence but a youth, a few of them very scary indeed, but nothing of that pursued me to adulthood.
But lets face it, reality is plenty scary for grown ups, that is what keeps me up at night.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pick of the Week!

"My Living Doll" infamous one-season wonder from 1964 is at last available on DVD.
Julie Newmar stars as "Rhoda the Robot", an Air Force AI project seconded to a psychiatrist played by the insufferablly smarmy Bob Cummings who is tasked to turn the shapely automaton into the "the perfect woman".
Supposedly Cummings walked off the show after twenty one episodes due to conflicts with the methody Julie Newmar, that and the fact that he wanted to ditch the blame for the inevitable cancellation...vaguely rodentish Jack Mullaney filled in until the show went for the terminal dirt nap in whatever cemetery is reserved for patriarchy driven comedy.

This is a sitcom concept designed to give even Marabel Morgan the screaming of course I have to have it.
For historic purposes of course!
Years ago Channel Zero once had a scheme to screen some old female driven mind sixties teevee shows, appalling obscurities like "Occasional Wife","The Governor and J.J." and the lead off was most definitely gonna be "My Living Doll".
We were gonna call "Riot Grrls of the Great Society"...

"Regrets, I've had a few..."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

I just watch "The Celebrity Apprentice" for the movie trailers...

And this week they were pimping out hard for the Farrelly Brothers' "Three Stooges" revival.
To be blunt it looks awful in extremis.
You can't impersonate what was "Lightning in a Bottle" by way of post war TV re-runs you just can't.
Mind you, "Animal Crackers" the play gets revived now and again with Marx Brothers Impersonators, but that was a work specifically written for the brothers as characters.
To revive it, you have to impersonate Groucho, Chico, Harpo & Zeppo....The Farrellys are creating a ersatz original work featuring Moe Larry & Curly's likenesses. There is an important distinction between revival and joyless simulacrum.
Why not wait on the technology to digitally recreate The Stooges...Hire Andy Serkis to mime Moe Howard?
Me I'm waiting for a lavish Shemp Howard biopic starring Sean Penn as the embattled Horowitz Brother.
Hell what I really want is Shemp Howard's old solo Columbia Two Reelers to get released on DVD, it is my firm conviction that Shemp did his best work alone.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

John Carter (Of Mars) (2012)

Before I swing into my usual palaver, I want to say firmly and unequivocally that I liked this film, it has perhaps the best man versus four-armed albino ape fight ever committed to whatever the hell has finally replaced celluloid.
Oh they made changes to be sure, the villainous straw that stirs the drink has been beefed up from Book to Movie, "The Holy Therns" once a decadent theocracy have now become parasitic immortal shapeshifting super villains but do not worry, much of Burroughs theme and intent seems intact.
And Taylor Kitsch (Our Leading Man) is a man to watch, if in nothing more than Steve Reeves was once a man to watch when the curtain rose on his hour in the spotlight.
For that fact, Lynn Collins is most definitely a woman to watch in the best Frank Frazetta Cover sense of the term.

True though, my expectations were controlled and low as I eased into my seat at the Reading Imax Theater, I recalled sitting thru "The Land That Time Forgot" in 1974 in Fresh Pond with expectations as high as Hindenburg.
As I've said before, we are in a third age of peplum movies, buff supernormal actors cavorting semi naked thru some mythological realm tarted up with as much CGI as common decency allows.
In that respect, Director Andrew Stanton succeeded, he spent an amount of money comparable to Mitt Romney's entire fortune and every damn penny is up there on the screen for all to see.
Alas it may well be a case of "Too Much Too Late".
Just for a moment though, I'd like to digress, as co-curator of the Channel Zero Film & Video Series (now in our sixteenth year of genteel obscurity) I can speak as an expert in the attempted revival of departed genres. From Peplum Movies (Hercules Unchained and Hercules in the Haunted World) to the Ritz Brothers ("The Gorilla"), Channel Zero has manfully attempted to spark new audiences to forgotten artists and their films.
And if it is one thing we've learned down through the years, there are some dead horses that are strangely resistant even a thorough beating.
It doesn't stop us from trying (Jungle Girl pictures anyone? Believe me we are working on it!), and Ghod Bless Andrew Stanton he was certainly in there pitching, but I fear it was all for naught.
What is Old is Not Always New, sometimes it can be The Original and yet still Derivative.
In the case of Edgar Rice Burroughs' sumptuous Mars Series, the man literally invented the entire genre of extraterrestrial geo-politics, braced it with a heavy load of exo-zoology and armored it with the Modern Myth of the Messiah From Another Planet.
And that is just the first book, written in 1912, in an eleven book series!
Tevis' The Man Who Fell to Earth, Siegel & Shuster's Kal El, Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land, Cameron's Avatar and dozens of others all shamelessly derive from Burroughs' protean imagination.
But because Edgar Rice Burrough's epic science fiction has been largely off market in terms of film or television adaptations nigh these one hundred years the general audience has no idea that ERB's "Barsoom" is the robust original and not some preposterous "Dune" knock off.
And that is the shoal on which the film founders, it comes to market fifty years too late. If for example a string of low budget "John Carter Warlord of Mars" peplum movies got churned out in the 1960's, shot in Spain and starring Gordon Scott and Maria Canale (directed by Mario Bava natch) there might have been enough of cultural hook on which to hang the current incarnation.
But there isn't ERB's science fiction has languished so long it has become too strong a purely literary cult with no links out to the mass audience.
Tarzan, John Carter's almighty cousin in African has no such problem, he has never vanished off the cultural radar screen since he slaughtered his first lion and proposed to howl about it.
But still, it was a well attended show last night, in front of me sat a little blonde nine year old girl, who watched with Saucer Eyes the whole myth unfold.
She was peppering her poor befuddled father after the show with questions about "The Other Mars Books" as they departed, I am sure Wikipedia got consulted via Iphone in the car on the way home.
I suspect this film won't make enough money to warrant a sequel, but maybe just maybe it'll plant a seed for the next generation.
Meanwhile, I do love it when my favorite books become good movies or even passable ones, but there is something to treasure about Edgar Rice Burroughs and his science fiction that is so very impregnable to successful film adaptation.