Monday, March 31, 2008

'70s/'80s talk shows rule! The inimitable teaming of NINA HAGEN and DON RICKLES!

I can't even begin to say anything about this clip. It's the single most mind-roasting thing I've found on YouTube since the amazing Dick Cavett-Cassavetes/Husbands show. SAVOR THIS.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Magic (Chris) Marker: some snippets from a career

This week’s episode of the Funhouse contains commentary and scenes from two political features by the brilliant Chris Marker, so I thought I’d refer folks to his works that are currently lurking on — where else? — the ’Tube. We thank the anonymous benefactor who posted these features a while back (plus others he’s promised to put back up at some future instant) and who has taken the time to re-upload them to YT. This is only the very tip of the iceberg of Marker’s films.

Of course, you have to be familiar with one of the greatest films ever made, Marker’s magnificent memory play La Jetee

Kudos to another poster who put up the version of the film that I first saw and fell in love with, an old scratchy 16mm print that is in French with English subs

One of his earliest works was the documentary Olympia ’52 which is a bit blurry and unsubbed in this transfer, but still enlightening.

A collaboration with his fellow “Left Bank” New Wave comrade, the great Alain Resnais (still making great movies in his 80s, like Marker). Les Statutes Meurent Aussi (Statues Also Die, 1953). Unsubbed, but visually gorgeous stuff.

Marker has made films all around the world, here’s one on Japan that mirrors his work in San Soleil. This dialogue-less video piece is called Tokyo Days.

A piece of computer animation by Marker, Les Theorie des Ensembles.

Marker studies the great Andrei Tarkovsky as he makes The Sacrifice in this feature:

For the very hardcore:
Actress Catherine Belkhodja (mother of Funhouse interview subject Isild Le Besco) is featured in the video installation Silent Movie.

Info on an “interactive, hyperactive” gallery installation by Chris that seems like a wet dream for Funhouse fans, the “Zapping Zone”

And a true head-trip: Marker’s very wild 2084, which has been posted in French, but with Spanish subs (providing an overload of sensory input, visual and aural, just the way he likes it).

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Celebrate the Paschal holiday: Christ on a Mexican Candid Camera

I caught this one quite by accident, but it sorta sums up the "let's watch people get hurt" concept started by the late, great Alan Funt, and continued to this very day on shows too numerous to name. Here it's a guy in a passion play, and oh yeah... he just happens to be dressed up as the Lamb of God. Good thing the clip won first prize, I wouldn't want Jesus coming in second.

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The wonderful Christian world of Ron Ormond

When the great June Ormond died a few years back we did a nice tribute to her on the show. June was the "better half" of the "first filmmaking family of Nashville," the Ormonds. This week's Funhouse episode returns to the strangest and most extreme works they made, their Christian films spearheaded by preacher Estus Pirkle (apparently his real name).

This marvelous scene from the wonderfully titled If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?(1971) gives us the brilliant juxtaposition, Communism=bad/Xtianity=good (I never understood that candy part of the equation, I woulda done things differently back in Catholic school).

There are absolutely no limits in this kind of scare-tactic exploitation film. Here we see a kid get harmed, a definite no-no in mainstream moviemaking.

But when you need to frighten people to follow the Prince of Peace, it's perfectly fine to scare the shit out of the kiddies:

The Ormonds only made a handful of these suckers, but they are truly the furthest-out-there they ever went—and I'm talking about a filmmaking unit that created Please Don't Touch Me! and The Monster and the Stripper! This week on the show I present a few clips from The Burning Hell(1974), which is posted in its entirety on YouTube. The pic is only an hour, but I doubt that most of you will want to watch the whole thing, so I will just spotlight two clips:

Go to hell, man!

The greatest thing about this posting on YouTube is that the person who put it up labels it quite sincerely "The Everlasting Sorrows" and appears to take it very seriously, as do some of the commenters. I was quite interested, by the way, to see that my posts last year of Christsploitation and rapture thrillers got some great comments from YT viewers. Check them out:

The smoothest preacher ever

It's Easter time again, and in the Funhouse that means it's time to celebrate Xtian excess. Here's one of the finest discoveries to hit the 'Tube, the kindly "Rev. X," from the L.A. public access show "Spirit of Truth, One Man Show." You've probably seen the initial video that attracted so much attention, but I had no idea that people in Cali had been posting other episodes in which the backdrops are even more eye-catching, and the Rev. busts some moves, with or without his shirt on (but with pimp cane always at the ready).

The initial vid:

Wherein he reveals he's not just a vessel of god, he IS god, bee-yotch!

Wherein he chooses to pose while 'Pac plays, and then can't help but dancin'

More terpsichorean magic

Friday, March 14, 2008

YouTube find of the month: Cassavetes, Falk, and Gazzara guest on "The Dick Cavett Show"

If there is any further proof needed that network TV was a lot more engaging and intelligent way back when, I don't know what it is. This is the 9/21/70 edition of Cavett on which JC and friends discuss Husbands (or better yet, don't really discuss the film). It's amazing to see the three of them hanging out (the only footage that makes the rounds is from documentaries on the making of the film). Also being oddly, charmingly uncooperative with a talk show host (who happened to be one of the smarter, more simpatico talk show hosts of the time). He jokes in this segment that he thinks they're "smashed," and they firmly deny it, but it does seem like they've some fun *somewhere* before the show started rolling. I've linked to the third part of four, but this is well (!!!) worth your time. It's a 40 minute Cavett episode, as he had to do half-strength shows when "Monday Night Football" ran over.

This is like spun gold for fans of Cassavetes' movie work.

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A variety show no one remembers

...possibly even the man who starred in it, the great Dick Cavett. But check out the supporting cast: Chuck McCann, Bob Dishy, and Louise Lasser!

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Vintage Woody clips

The video-vault that is YouTube deserves a weekly perusal. Clips go up, clips go down, and among them are some of the rarest items I've ever seen. I'll be putting up a few today, check them out while they're around.

First is a survey of rare Woody Allen.
Doing one of his best routines on UK TV (known as "The Moose Mingles")

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Woody on the Dean Martin show (no interaction with Dean, just the monologue) doing hip '60s humor

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In an educational short for kids about how baseball gloves are made (don't ask me). Jon Winters has a great physical comedy bit at the beginning that pretty much outshines the laidback Woody.

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and, perhaps the most eye-opening rarity, an interview from the CBC wherein the young Woody discusses his judging of NYC women, the MOMA sculpture garden, his creation of jokes, and how his pool table (what a nice duplex he had on Fifth Avenue!) could be turned into a gag. Very un-p.c. (hey, this is 1967!).

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The real Tex and Edna Boil

My header refers to the sublime characters created by Andrea Martin and Dave Thomas on SCTV, local merchants doing their own low-budgeted ad. Their real-life equivalents, who in this case are video makers, can be found below. I wish 'em all the best in the world. Their partially animated trip through a Christmas craft-fair (follow the links) is particularly mind-warping.
Thanks to Rich Brown for discovering this nugget of joy.

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Supplement to this week's show: Larry David and Ricky Gervais discuss "Sgt. Bilko"

On the Funhouse this week I'll be doing a tribute to the great Phil Silvers Show (aka "You'll Never Get Rich" but best known as "Sgt. Bilko"). Here is a segment from a British TV program (that has never aired in the States) in which Ricky Gervais interviews Larry David, and the two discuss their love of the program. Gervais also offers his love for the sublime Laurel and Hardy (Larry grew up digging Abbott and Costello).

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Deceased Artistes: on the march!

(Well, actually February.) In the Deceased Artiste department, I’m always glad to shine the light on folks whose death merits “lesser” coverage in the media (read: a short mention on TV entertainment news, if at all, and an obit in Variety, the New York and L.A. Times). This compilation features four such individuals.

Lois Nettleton, who died at 80, was a hard-working actress who had started on the stage (she understudied “Maggie the Cat” in Hot Tin Roof on B’way), but is best remembered for her work on TV. Her sweaty turn as a woman in a world suffering from global warming on Twilight Zone, in the episode, “The Midnight Sun,” endeared her to countless fanboys, but I will also admit a fondness for the very cheesy TV movie Women in Chains (1972) which featured Lois being ruled over by nasty bitch warden Ida Lupino. Here I present a sliver of her in a strange role: as an Italian (with a very Russian-sounding accent) on the beloved Naked City TV series. Naked City was generally a top-notch show, with several absolutely classic episodes in its run (check out the DVDs currently available for several milestones, including the Rip Torn/Tuesday Weld “Case Study of Two Savages”). The episode “Debt of Honor” (1960), which features Lois’ Italian character, is a lesser show that is notable for two reasons (besides the reason EVERY Naked City episode is notable, amazing NYC locations): it was directed by Tay Garnett (The Postman Always Rings Twice) and written by the man who gave us the American gangster movie, W.R. Burnett (he wrote Little Caesar and worked on Scarface, and also wrote the perfect High Sierra and The Asphalt Jungle). Not one of his finer days, but Lois deserves a salute, if for no other reason than she put up with one of our heroes, the great humorist Jean Shepherd, in real-life.

Yes, she was Shep’s wife for seven years, and can be heard on at least one of the surviving shows, talking in a phone up to Shep’s ear (they couldn’t broadcast phone calls on the air back in those days). She was the “baby” he spoke to in a series of extremely hokey “couple argues” bits he did on the air (in which you only heard his side of the argument—always ending with him running out and getting her a pastrami sandwich). She was some kinda woman to stand the extremely cranky Shep for that long a time.

Barry Morse, who died at 89, was a British actor who also started on the stage, but was only known for his work on the tube. His best-known part was the “cop” role on The Fugitive TV series, but I also remember him well for the very dull Space: 1999 and the cool but extremely short-lived Zoo Gang series, where he costarred with Brian Keith, John Mills, and Lilli Palmer as former WWII allies who gather together to take on modern-day criminals. I offer Barry in a Naked City sliver (all the character folks did the show) from a 1962 episode called “Memory of a Red Trolly Car.” The single best scene in the ep is the opening, which doesn’t feature Barry, so I offer a classic proto-noir pursuit scene, set in a bus depot, which, given the terrific NYC locations in the show, was no doubt a very real NYC bus depot.

The odd gal out in this quartet is Eva Dahlbeck, but I include this gorgeous blonde Swede because she was very important in the work of Ingmar Bergman. She died a few weeks back at 87, having quit show biz back in the 1960s to write novels (but did have a costarring role in the very enigmatic and unusual sci-fi flick by Agnes Varda, Les Creatures). She was the most conventionally pretty of Bergman’s women, and is best known for her starring role in Smiles of a Summer Night, but I chose to include very disparate moments from two lesser known Bergmans, both currently unavailable in the U.S.: as a woman whose baby has just died in the maternity-ward meller Brink of Life (1958, some excellent Ingmar-style anguish in this pic), and in a farcical scene from the much lighter A Lesson in Love (1958), with the great Gunnar Bjornstrand. The subtitles on Brink are classic white-on-white rep-house terrible, but the scene is primarily about Eva's misery and how it plays out on her face (who would want it any other way in a Bergman film?).

As a capper for the montage, I couldn’t resist paying tribute to Roy Scheider’s finest performance, his shoulda-won-the-Oscar starring turn in Bob Fosse’s self-loathing but smart and sexy (in that wonderfully sleazy Fosse-kind of way) All That Jazz (1979). Both Scheider, who died in Feb at 75, and Peter Sellers lost out on the Oscar in 1979 because the idiots in the Academy were playing catch-up with Dustin Hoffman (who should’ve won at least two or three times over by that point). I had the feeling back then that Roy wouldn’t get another great shot at a major award, and wouldn’t get another juicy part like “Joe Gideon,” the Fosse surrogate. He will forver be remembered for his starring roles in two blockbusters (The French Connection and Jaws, obviously), but it seems like he put his heart and soul into Jazz (even warbling in the compelling finale). I debated including a scene from the underrated 52 Pickup or a bit from my fave, Paul Schrader’s Mishima (which he narrated), but sometimes the YouTube 10-minute limitation is a blessing in disguise. For trivia buffs, here’s a great Scheider double-bill that will never play at your local rep house: L’Attentat, Roy playing opposite Jean-Louis Trintignant and Jean Seberg in an international coproduction (I have a version of this dubbed in German or something) and the never-heard-of-this A Man is Dead, wherein hitman Trintignant is on the loose in L.A., meeting folks played by Scheider, Ann-Margret, Angie Dickinson, Georgia Engel (the Conformist meets “Georgette,” yes), and Jackie Earle Haley. They don’t cast ’em like that anymore.

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