Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Island Love

This is my entry in the Jean Simmons Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema and Phyllis Loves Classic Movies

The Blue Lagoon started out life as a novel by H. deVere Stacpoole.  It has been filmed three times (with a fourth somewhat loosely based version that was made-for-TV).  The most famous one is the 1980 version featuring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins.  But a silent film version from 1923 featuring Molly Adair and Dick Cruickshanks predated it, as did a 1949 version featuring Jean Simmons and Donald Houston.  This post is about the second film.

The Blue Lagoon (1949):

On a ship in the middle of the ocean, a boy's father is laid to rest in the sea.  The boy, Michael (Peter Rudolph Jones), is put into the care of one of the sailors, Paddy Button (Noel Purcell).  Meanwhile, Emmaline (Susan Stranks) is a passenger on the ship.  When the ship catches fire, the plan to abandon ship ensues.  But both Michael and Emmaline, along with Paddy, end up being left behind.

The three end up stranded in the ocean, unaware of where they are, or where the rest of the ship's passengers and crew have gone.  They float endlessly for a few days until they find an island.  On the island they find an abandoned hut, of which all that remains of the previous resident is a cask of rum.

Paddy takes charge of his two new wards and tries to establish a temporary home, always counting on someone coming to look for them.  When a ship appears on the horizon the try to light a signal fie, but an unexpected rain dashes their hopes. Distraught, Paddy returns to the hut and gets smashed on the rum and eventually ends up dying.  Now the two children are all alone.

They survive by their wits and grow into young adults.  What was initially a relationship as brother and sister (although they aren't related, I should note), eventually develops into a love.At one point they consummate their love and Emmaline becomes pregnant.  But they are still stranded on the island and really don't have any idea how to be husband and wife, much less parents.

eventually they are found.  But the rescue is not what they expected.  The "rescuers" are some pirates who force Michael to work for them, diving for pearls.  Fortunately for the pair, the greed gets the better of the pirates, however.

The question of whether they will ever get off the island comes to Emmaline finally convincing Michael they need to build a boat.  She is concerned for the well-being of their baby and what will happen to it after they get even older.  What happens at the end is left for you to discover.

Time to head home folks.  Drive safely.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Cybernetic Future Shock

This is my second entry in the Robots in Film Blogathon hosted by Hamlette's Soliloquy and ME.

Anime and manga are a form of entertainment that originated in Japan.  Manga is adult comic book format, while anime is the adult cartoon form, often derived from manga versions of the same.  Go to any comic-con or sci-fi convention and you will encounter devotees of both.  You will even see people dressed up as their favorite manga and anime heroes (just like you would fans of American films and TV shows).

Ghost in the Shell (1995):

In the future of 2029, almost everyone has some cybernetic adaptations.  The common man, it seems, has their brain hard-wired into a system.  The internal, still existing human is referred to as the "ghost".  Some are even more cybernetically enhanced. and some, such as our hero of the piece, Major Kusanagi (voiced by Mimi Woods in the American dubbed version) are basically living organisms with robotic bodies.  The cybernetic brain allows some to be able to access the equivalent of the internet through their own brains.  (The future as depicted in Ghost in the Shell has some stuff that predicts the future of sorts, because anyone can access the internet, even without cybernetic enhancements, through small hand-held computers... cell phones, anyone?)

In this future world, nations are still committing intrigue and deception.  And even internally there are subterfuges going on.  Kusanagi works with section 6 of an unnamed country (but which I identify as Japan for convenience).  Section 6 is the police force of the nation, and finds itself at odds with section 9 (which is something like our American C.I.A.)  Kusanagi works as a secret agent of section 6, trying to prevent the defection of a high-level computer programmer to a foreign country, and assassinates a rogue embassy official from said country.

In the process, she and her partner Batou (voiced by Richard George [Epcar]) discover that the real culprit behind the scenes is a mysterious figure known as "The Puppet Master", a hacker who can access the cybernetic brains of individuals and reprogram them to do his will.  During their investigation they uncover a plot by section 9 in which the Puppet Master has been lured into another body, with the intent to control it.

But an attempt to transport the body to another site goes haywire.  It seems the Puppet master is a bit more powerful than anyone expected.  Kusanagi and Batou work together to try to recapture the Puppet Master.

That's about all I can tell you with out revealing too much about the movie that will intrigue you if you discover it for yourself.  This movie is quite a bit more complicated than your average Disney cartoon.  You will need to bring your entire brain to the game.  It does contain some that sounds rather existentialistic to my mind,  and it is a bit more violent than any Disney film.  Despite the fact that it is a cartoon, in other words, you probably don't want to watch it with the kids.

Drive home safely, folks  Time for me to shut down for maintenance.


Friday, January 25, 2019

The Robot Blogathon Starts Up

Well, all you mechanically brained readers, our Robots in Film Blogathon has reached it's premiere date.  When you have your blog entry ready, post it and then notify either Hamlette or me and it will be added to the roster.  Hope all of you enjoyed the look into the realm of science fiction (or science, if by the time you are reading this sometime in the future, robots have become ubiquitous).

The Robots in Film Blogathon Roll Call:

 First on the block is my own entry on robots in the classic TV series "The Twilight Zone":

Realweegiemidget Reviews delves into a somewhat noirish Ex Machina.

Hamlette's Soliloquy looks at Will Smith and friend in I, Robot

Angelman's Place delves into the definitive robots in Star Wars

Caftan Woman has her sights on Hymie in Get Smart

It Came from the Man Cave goes really deep into space with Interstellar

The Stop Button gives an international twist to the robot with Icarus XB-1

John V's Eclectic Avenue delves into The Questor Tapes

Taking Up Room goes on a quest for "imput with Johnny 5 in Short Circuit

Imagination's Edge talks about the robots in Transformers

My second entry, this time on an anime classic, Ghost in the Shell

Sidewalk Crossings gets "trash"y with Wall-E

Sidewalk Crossings plays her cards twice, this time with Silent Running

Speakeasy gets down and dirty with the robots at the Chopping Mall

MovieRob chimes in with three entries: Battlestar Galactica, C.H.O.M.P.S and Real Steel

Critica Retro takes the WayBack Machine to 1916 with Tales of Hoffmann

Coffee, Clasasics and Craziness is crazy about Gort (The Day the Earth Stood Still)

Movies Meet Therir Match introduces us to the Robots

Thanks to all who played.


Thursday, January 24, 2019

Robots in Twilight Zone

This is my first entry in the Robots in Film Blogathon hosted by Hamlette's Soliloquy and ME.

The first actual robot seen in a Twilight Zone episode was in "One for the Angels", in which an aging street vendor sells knickknacks and doodads.  This is just a miniature toy, but it is a replica of Robby the Robot from Forbidden Planet.

As usual with The Twilight Zone, episodes of the show often involved twists of fate, not always to the good of the protagonists.  When robots are added to the mix, this sometimes leads to horrendous revelations for the characters.  One of the recurring themes of The Twilight Zone was the message that one shouldn't tempt fate.  Although sometimes pathos was initiated by the story (as with the episode "The Lonely"), oft as not the main character got his or her own "just desserts" (such as happened to the woman in the episode "Uncle Simon").

The Twilight Zone: "The Lonely" (first broadcast: Nov. 13, 1959):

The first appearance of a robot on the iconic series was early in it's run.  The seventh overall episode featured a story about a man, Corry (Jack Warden), who has been sentenced to life imprisonment on a remote, desolate planet.  And he is all alone.  Every other prisoner is on a separate planet.  (Logic never played much in The Twilight Zone, but one has to ask why the Earth would ship off it's criminals each to a different planet.)  Corry is visited every three months by a supply ship.

Corry's favorite supply ship captain is Allenby (John Dehner), who is sympathetic to Corry and sometimes smuggles what would be considered contraband to him, which he does in this episode.  What Allenby brings him is a robot, Alicia (Jean Marsh).  At first, Corry is not very accepting, but he gradual develops a love for the robot.  Which makes the ending rather heart-breaking.

Twilight Zone: "The Mighty Casey (first broadcast June 17, 1960):

Ever hear of the Hoboken Zephyrs?  They were a perennial last place team among the big behemoths of baseball,  like the Yankees and the then still New York Giants.  Jack Warden (whose only two appearances on TZ pitted him against robots, make of that what you will) plays the manager of the Zephyrs, "Mouth" McGarry (who seems to remind me of another character he played, Max Corkle in Heaven Can Wait).  The shlubs who play for McGarry and the Zephyrs are so far in last place they would need a stepladder just to see fresh air.

Enter a scientist who presents McGarry with a gift.  A new pitcher.  One who can throw a fast ball that burns through the catcher's glove and a slow ball that takes a week to get to the plate.  Casey (Robert Sorrells) is a robot however, and this goes unnoticed until he accidentally gets beaned with a hit.  The revelation that the Zephyrs have been using a robot causes consternation among the league's governing body.

Twilight Zone: "The Lateness of the Hour" (first broadcast Dec. 2, 1960):

A young woman, Jana (Inger Stevens), leads a sheltered life with her aging parents, the Lorens (John Hoyt and Irene Tedrow).  Jana becomes increasingly frustrated with how dependent her parents have become on their robot servants.  She wants to go outside and experience life but is denied that opportunity.  She also begins demanding that her father dismantle the robots he created.  This despite the fact that all of them are fully developed,  with memories of a life (although ones created by the father himself, so that each has something of a personality.)  Eventually Jana's father submits to the demands of his impetuous daughter, but all is still not well in the household as Jan gradually comes to realize her true nature.


Twilight Zone: "I Sing the Body Electric" (first broadcast May 15, 1962)

A widowed father (David White) of three children has trouble finding a caretaker for his kids.  He finally resorts to getting a robot from a factory.  The robot, named ":Grandma" (Josephine Hutchinson) is almost immediately adopted by the younger two children, but the oldest is somewhat resentful, mainly because she sees "Grandma" as an attempt to replace her mother.  It takes some time for her to come around, but since this is one of those rare heart-warming TZ episodes, you know she eventually does.

Twilight Zone: "Steel"  (first broadcast Sept 27, 1963)

In 1974, boxing has been outlawed.  Boxing by humans, that is.  But boxing still goes on in the form of robots.  Which was somewhat prescient.  Many of you will remember a show on cable in which enterprising inventors pitted their robots against each other a few years ago.  (Although real boxing is still legal, however).

"Steel" Kelly (Lee Marvin) was a former boxer during the days when it was still legal, but he is now reduced to being a manager, staging fights for his decrepit robot boxer, "The Battling Maxo" (Tipp McClure).  The problem that Kelly has with his robot is it is outmoded model, one in which new parts are hard to come by.  Kelly and his partner, Pole (Joe Mantell), still try to keep the money rolling in, but they are fighting newer models and the creaky Maxo just can't keep up.  In fact, Maxo breaks down just before a scheduled fight, so Kelly makes the rash decision hat he will pose as Maxo in the ring and fight The Maynard Flash (Chuck Hicks), a far superior robot.

Twilight Zone: "Uncle Simon" (first broadcast Nov. 15, 1963):

Twilight Zone : "The Brain Center at Whipple's" (first broadcast May 15, 1964):

Both these episodes feature the appearance of the most recognizable robot, at the time, Robby the Robot.  In both episodes, the main character, both of which were the typical obnoxious character of many a Twilight Zone episode, gets replaced by a robot.  Particularly appealing is the second of thes, where a plant manager named Whipple (Richard Deacon) who, in his determination for efficiency, has replaced all the workers in his plant with computers.  In "Uncle Simon", a woman who has the job of taking care of her uncle, who is rich and eccentric" eventually becomes desperate to receive the inheritance she thinks she deserves for having put up with him so long.  But she finds one of the codicils of the will is that she has to take care of Simon's laboratory experiment, which, you guessed it, is a robot.

One final entry, although technically not a robot in the sense we think of robots is the episode From Agnes-With Love.  In this episode, Wally Cox plays James Elwood,  a computer programmer who starts taking advice from the lab computer, "Agnes", on how to approach the woman he loves to get her to fall for him.  "Agnes" continues to give him faulty advice which makes the budding love fall flat. "Agnes" has ulterior motives, because "she" loves James herself.

For an early introduction into the world of robots, The Twilight Zone was probably at the forefront on the possibilities.  At least as far as "The Lonely" "I Sing the Body Electric" and "The Mighty Casey" it even predicted the coming of characters like Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.  One could wish for such improvements on daily life even today.

Well, folks, I think its time to fire up the old Plymouth.  Got a date tonight with a computer dating prospect.  Her file says she's extremely intelligent...  Drive home safely.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

High Riding Woman with a Whip

This is my entry in the Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood and Maddy Loves Her Classic Films

Barbara Stanwyck was, in my opinion, the quintessential strong woman of film.  I never saw a movie where she was a simpering female (unless it was to get her way, proving the "strong woman" status in the first place).  Forty Guns is no exception.

Forty Guns is a western, but I also feel it has many attributes that would rank it also as a film noir.  Which is not entirely a stretch, since both Stanwyck and the director Samuel Fuller have more than their fair share of film noir films under their belts.  Fuller, for his part, was also the director of such classic film noir pieces as The Crimson Kimono, The Naked Kiss, Pickup on South Street and Underworld U.S.A.  Of course Stanwyck made femme fatale history with such tiles as Jeopardy, The Strange Love of Martha Ivers, The File on Thelma Jordan and Double Indemnity.

Forty Guns (1957):

Three brothers ride into Tombstone.  Griff (Barry Sullivan), the older of the three is a former gunslinger, who has now taken on a job as sort of a bounty hunter, or more specifically as an agent for the federal government.  He arrives with Wes (Gene Barry) and Chico (Robert Dix), who are seconds in his quest.  He has a reputation that has preceeded him as a gunslinger, but he is now on the side of law and order.

Just outside of town a woman, Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) storms past their wagon, followed by an army of men, the titular forty guns.  Apparently Jessica never goes anywhere without her huge escort.  It eventually becomes apparent she is some sort of big shot in the territory and there are hints given throughout the film that some of her dealings may be a bit shady.  For the life of me I couldn't really figure out what it was, but maybe I'm dense.

Anyway, Jessica does have her own army of men and they include a man named Howard Swain (Chuck Roberson), a man whom Griff Bonnell has come to arrest for crimes committed elsewhere.  But before he can initiate his arrest he has to contend with a bunch of rowdies in town, led by Jessica's little brother, Brockie (John Ericson).  Brockie is a really bad egg.  He first has threatened the town's marshal (Hank Worden) which he follows through by shooting the poor man in the leg, and then, with his gang, begins to tear up the town.  Until that is, Griff walks up to him and conks him on the head with his gun.

Jessica rides into town angry that her brother has been arrested, but also a bit peeved at her brother for causing problems.  Apparently his actions have threatened the security of whatever shady dealings she has been instigating.  When Griff shows up on the farm to arrest Swain, she and Griff have some words, but he goes away with his captive.  The Sheriff of the town, Logan (Dean Jagger) talks with Swain, trying to persuade him not to betray Jessica (for whatever it is she is doing), but Swain says he knows things and will tell.  At which point someone shoots him in his jail cell, while the sheriff ignores it.  (See, even the sheriff is in on it.  Whatever it is.)

Meanwhile Brockie has it in for Griff.  Which doesn't bode well for Griff's relationship with Jessica, which against all odds is developing into a love.  But he still has to find out who killed Swain and all evidence seems to point to Brockie.  Brockie is the quintessential bad seed of the family, apparently.  And it turns out that Jessica raised him since her mother died giving birth to her brother.

The other two brothers do have some impact in the film, they aren't just window dressing.  Wes is Griff's right hand man, essentially his backup to make sure that brother Griff isn't ambushed in his dealings, both as a former gunfighter and now as a lawman.  And Chico wants to be included in on the goings on, despite the fact that Griff wants Chico to return home and become a farmer on the family homestead.

This film has a couple of flaws if you like things wrapped up tightly.  For one thing, as I said before, I have no idea what Jessica is doing that needs to be covered up.  Surely it can't be cattle rustling because at one point early in the film she berates her brother over a cow in her herd that has the wrong brand.  (Or maybe she is berating him because he hasn't re-branded it yet... I just don't know)

The second part that I find a bit unbelievable is how a love relationship between Jessica and Griff can develop so quickly, since initially she has nothing but contempt for the man and his former occupation.  Still, if you can get past those two details, the movie is pretty entertaining.  Especially if you like Stanwyck.  (or for that matter Samuel Fuller...I always was a director's fan).

Well folks time to saddle up and ride off.  Drive home safely.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Martian Menace

This is my entry in the Made in 1938 Blogathon hosted by Pop Culture Reverie and In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. 

Back in the 30's and 40's, a trip to the movies was like an all-day sucker.  You got more than just one film (and I don't mean an interminable series of coming attractions).  You got a newsreel (this being before television nightly newscasts), a cartoon, maybe even a second feature, but you also sometimes got what were referred to as serials.  Usually these would be a 15 part series that continued weekly, and you had to go back every week to see how the serial hero (or heroine) got out of the last cliffhanger predicament.

Hank Davis in his excellent two part book series Classic Cliffhangers describes the serials as as "classic examples of early low-budget filmmaking."  He even credits the bad ones as "silly and stilted, but always charming and sometimes bizarre."  The serial actually got it's start in the silent film days, mainly with a 1914 series called "The Perils of Pauline", but it really took off in the early 30's.  You could go see many of the action stars of the day in a weekly recounting of an adventure, which almost always ended with the hero in some predicament that left the audience anticipating how he or she would get out of it, thus insuring a return next week.

The serials weren't always well-acted, which explains why a lot of the serial stars never made the transition from serials to major motion picture star status.  (John Wayne being one of the exceptions, who got his start in three serials from the 30's; The Shadow of the Eagle, The Hurricane Express,  and The Three Musketeers.)  Serials are something that I think could improve the movie experience today  I find them enjoyable, and although I tend to watch them all in their entirety in one sitting, I think I could enjoy a weekly ongoing adventure if one were done right.

Flash Gordon's Trip to Mars (1938):

Firstly, one of the neatest things about this serial is the opening.  If you are familiar with serials, each episode, after the credits, usually included an encapsulation of what has gone on before.  In some serials this was a voice over and in others it was just a text on screen.  In this serial they added a twist that I hadn't seen in other serials I watched.  A Martian guard appears before a screen and adjusts the screen which segments through four visuals on the screen.  It looks like a comic strip panel from the Flash Gordon comic strip, and to my untrained eye, it looks like they might have even been drawn by the artist, Alex Raymond, who actually drew the comic strip at the time.

Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe), accompanied by Dale Arden (Jean Rogers) and Dr. Zarkov (Frank Shannon) are returning from having defeated the evil megalomaniacal Ming the Merciless (in the 1936 serial Flash Gordon). But the Earth is in serious danger.

A series of devastating earthquakes and floods and other natural disaster is wreaking havoc on the planet.  Initially it is thought that the planet Mongo, which is still in proximity of the Earth, is the source of the havoc.  Flash, along with Dale and Dr. Zarkov head off to find out what's going on.  Unfortunately they have a stowaway in the persona of Happy Hapgood (Donald Kerr), a reporter who has managed to insinuate himself on to the ship.

 But it soon becomes clear that Mars is the actual culprit, emitting a beam that is sucking all the nitron (which I think may be movie-ese for nitrogen) from the Earth's atmosphere. And while the Queen of Mars,  Azura (Beatrice Roberts), is behind the evil plan, Ming (Charles B. Middleton) is also helping.  Which becomes a surprise to Flash (and anyone who watched the first serial), because at the end of the last adventure it seemed apparent that Ming had perished.  But as anyone can tell you, you can't keep a bad man down.

 The reason behind the nefarious plan to steal the Earth's nitron is Azura needs it to defeat the Clay People, a race on Mars that refuses to bow down to Azura's rule.  Azura is an expert of magic, which allows her to change recalcitrant subjects into Clay People and also to disappear at will.  (You would think if she had that kind of magic she could just eliminate the threat of the Clay People with a wave of her hand, but if she could, there would be no adventure...)  Azura's magic derives from a white sapphire which she is never without.

Flash and company land on Mars, but not without consequence.  The rocketship they used to get there is destroyed, so there is apparently no going back.  But Flash is unperturbed, as is usual for a hero.  His only goal is to save the Earth, and nothing is going to stop him from completing his mission.  That is unless Ming and Azura can prevent him from doing so.

Over the course of the 15 episode serial, Flash and friends continually find themselves gaining the upper hand, only to find the advantage disappear with alarming regularity.  Of course, as was necessary with the cliffhanger theme, each episode ends with Flash apparently finally defeated, only to have some twist of fate (or deus ex machina) appear to save him from his imminent demise.

Some things that appeal to me are:  One, the Clay People, although initially distrusting of Flash, eventually become his ally when they realize that he really intends to try to help them.  (The Clay People are, for some reason, not able to do much against Azura on their own because part of their curse is they cannot leave the cave in which they dwell.)  Montague Shaw as the king of the Clay People and his tribe eventually do come around to Flash's way of thinking, however.  And Prince Barin (Richard Alexander, who looks like he could have been a professional wrestler), who had allied with Flash on Mongo in the previous serial appears on the scene to help Flash in his quest.

Eventually it becomes evident that Ming is working at cross-purposes.  He is supposed to be helping Azura in her quest to defeat the Clay people, but what Ming really wants is to take over Azura's throne.  (you didn't really expect a guy like Ming to be a supportive ally, did you?) 

The fight scenes are the only down-side to this serial.  They look entirely fake, and some look like those fake moves they pull in the WWF.  Which makes Alexander all the more possible as a pro-wrestler in a previous life. Even the special effects look positively new age by comparison.

 Of course, I don't need to tell you that Flash and company are victorious in the end.  And I probably don't have to tell you that Ming is once again vanquished, apparently for good.  (But since he is once again the villain in the third serial, Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe, that should come as no surprise either.)

Flash Gordon not only became an icon in the 30's serials and in comic strips, he became, briefly, a hero on the radio, and when television was in its infancy, a television star.  He was also the star of a series of novels back in the 70's.  A feature film in 1980 reintroduced Flash Gordon to a new generation.  And recently the SYFY channel tried its hand ant producing a new TV series.  It certainly appears that Flash is still an attractive commodity, even if he doesn't quite become the franchise that a Superman or a Batman might have become.  But he does have some appeal.  Primarily, at least for me, that he relies on his athletics and wits, rather than his extraterrestrial strength or his cache of rich man's toys.  And as long there is an evil megalomaniac from Mongo around, he won't be without a foe to pit them against.

Well, folks, time to fire up the retro rockets on the Plymouth (I wish).  Drive home safely.


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Versatile Blogger Award

Virginie @ The Wonderful World of Cinema nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  The only thing I like better than talking about movies is talking about myself :-D.  So I want to thank her for this opportunity.

So the rules for the award are thus:

1. Thank the person who nominated you.
2. Provide a link to their blog.
3. List 7 things about yourself.
4. Nominate 15(!!) other blogs.  (And I am taking the easy route on that and just nominating everyone who reads this...)

So,  the 7 things I came up with about myself:

1.  I got involved in reviewing movies because when I was in my 20's I threw the Dallas Times Herald paper in my town.  On Friday, after throwing the Friday edition, I would make a habit of reading Joe Bob Briggs' (John Bloom's pseudonym) column which covered the drive-in movies.  At that time, drive-ins were still ubiquitous, and most of the drive-in movie fare was low-budget horror, sci-fi and slasher stuff.  Briggs was fired from DTH for making some off-color remarks, but he has still continued his career, and in 2000 I came across two collections of his reviews; Joe Bob Goes to the Drive-In and Joe Bob Goes Back to the Drive-In.  (Both of these books are out of print and Amazon has sellers selling them for $100+ a pop so, no, you CAN"T borrow them...)

2.  Speaking of books on movies, those aren't the only two I have.  My collection of movie books takes up three shelves on my bookcase.  A few of which I have reviewed here.  My most extensive collection is the FAQ series published by Hal Leonard Books, of which I have 12 or so.  You should check out what's available as they are eminently readable.  Especially well written are Armageddon Films FAQ and Film Noir FAQ.

3.  I am one of John Wayne's biggest fans.  I can say that because I have every (available) movie that John Wayne was ever in.  He may not have been the consummate actor of his day, but I really enjoy the way he comes off on the screen.

4. If you've read this blog, you already know, but my favorite movies are action and sci-fi.  But I also watch just about any movie that is recommended, if the plot intrigues me, even plain old domestic dramas.  Like my attitude towards new foods, I'll try anything once.

5. Humor is my milieu.  Some people might call it sarcasm.  Fine with me.  But I have such an extensive knowledge of movie quotes that I can respond to external stimuli with a comment that I think is funny. Not everyone gets the quote, however.  But if they do, it makes the effort that much better.  Example:  In the shipping department of my place of work I ran across a box that had "Pier 1 Imports" stenciled on it.  I said "Pier 1 Imports!  Man, this place has everything!"  One person in hearing got the reference to the movie "The Blues Brothers".

6.  Outside of movies, my other passion is festivals.  Locally we have a menudo festival every year.  (Menudo is a Mexican dish made with tripe).  I also try to get to the Poteet Strawberry Festival held every year in Poteet, Texas (about 90 miles away).  And just down the road, New Braunfels, a German conclave, has Oktoberfest.  Anything that features food is sure to attract my attention.  I love to eat.

7.  The last thing is, never challenge me to a Trivial Pursuit game.  My mind is cluttered with a bunch of useless trivia, but it comes in handy.  I remember one time playing team Trivial Pursuit.  Our team was up and the other team drew the card.  "Oh, you guys will never get this." they said.  The other two members of my team expressed the same negative opinion, but I said, "No, we'll get it."  They asked the question "Who has won the most Oscars for costume design?"  Without a beat I said "Edith Head".  The rest of them just about fell out of their chairs.

Want to play?  Just post to your blog, but let me know so I can read your 7.


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Is This Day Never Gonna End?

This is my entry in the Year After Year Blogathon hosted by Movie Movie Blog Blog

"Well, what if there is no tomorrow?  There wasn't one today!" -Phil Connors

What if tomorrow never came?  How would you cope with it? What if you woke up this morning, and you were reliving the same events, over and over and over and over again?

Sorry, you can't pick the best day of your life and just relive those events for eternity (otherwise I'd opt for Nov. 15, 1985 and just endlessly go to the Cowboys-Bears game that was played that day, and laugh uproariously as the Cowboys get shellacked by the Bears 44-0.  But even that would get boring after a year or two.)

No, it's just a random day in your life.  And to top it off, you are stuck in a town you don't particularly like.  And the people in the town are celebrating a holiday that you just can't stand.  What if you had to live on that day for the rest of eternity.  Not just the rest of your life, because you aren't going to grow older.  If you woke up the day before your 40th birthday this morning, tomorrow it would still be the day before your 40th birthday and on and on forever.

This is the concept that Danny Rubin came up with one day while trying to come up with a script idea that could get his foot in the door in Hollywood.  He first had the day established as just a day in late January, but then hit on the idea of establishing the event that transformed Phil Connors' life as February 2, Groundhog Day.  This idea had some appeal because if it actually did get filmed it would have it's own annual tradition already set in, much like Miracle on 34th Street or A Christmas Carol have become an annual tradition on another holiday

Several changes occurred from the first draft of the script to the final finished film.  First, in the original draft, we would have seen the beginning of the movie as Phil is already trapped in the endless time loop in the middle of the time loop with no indication of why he has been subjected to the time loop.  After studios balked at this idea (although director Harold Ramis liked the concept), Rubin added a scene where Phil broke up with his current girlfriend who cursed him with a spell.  But Rubin was never really satisfied with this.

Eventually we got the finished script that we can see today.  One notably trivia piece is that both Tom Hanks and Michael Keaton were  approached to play the role of Phil Connors.  Hanks didn't think he could pull off the asshole Phil convincingly enough because he thought his audience would expect him to be nice, and Keaton just didn't understand the concept.  (He has later admitted he regretted the decision).

By the way:  The movie was actually filmed in Illinois.  It turns out that the real Punxutawney didn't have the right feel for those involved in producing the movie and so the town of Woodstock, Illinois substitutes  for the legendary town.

So how long does Phil live in this endless loop?  Estimates have ranged from 10-10,000 years.  In order for Phil to go from being confused to desperate to complacent in his predicament, and in order for him to eventually become a consummate artist and musician (which he does by the end of the movie), a good estimate is somewhere around 34 years, according to a website I looked at.  

Groundhog Day (1993):

The movie establishes what a jerk Phil Connors (Bill Murray). a weatherman on a Pittsburgh TV station, is early on.  He is rude and sarcastic to just about everyone, including his news broadcast co-host, his cameraman Larry (Chris Elliot) and his new producer, Rita (Andie MacDowell).  Phil is scheduled to go on a remote to Punxutawney to cover the groundhog celebration and his distaste for it is evident.

Connors is set up in a bed and breakfast house because he refuses to stay in the local hotel and wakes up to the fading sound of the Sonny & Cher song "I Got You, Babe", and a pair of D.J.s telling him to put on his booties because "Its COLD out there!"  He goes down to the groundhog celebration, running into several recurring characters in the process, including the overly enthusiastic Ned Ryerson (Stephen Tobolowsky), with whom Phil had gone to high school.

At the groundhog shindig, Connors continues his disgruntled demeanor, causing both Rita and Larry to confer that he is a "prima donna".  They leave Punxutawney to return to Pittsburgh, but the blizzard that Phil had confidently claimed would bypass Pittsburgh hits, forcing them to return to Punxutawney.  Connors reclaims his room at the B&B and goes off to sleep.

Upon awakening, the first indication that something is amiss is that the radio wakes him with the same fade out from "I Got You, Babe" and the same D.J.s telling him "It's COLD out there!"  Unfortunately for Phil this is the beginning of a nightmare, because he seems to be stuck in repeating the same day he had just lived through yesterday.

And it's not over yet.  Because the next day he wakes up again to the same radio and meeting the same people.  Phil doesn't really know how to react to this, but eventually he begins to try to explain to Rita what seems to be happening to him.   Of course, she thinks he's nuts or at least just overworked because neither she nor anyone else for that matter is aware of the time loop.

Eventually Phil starts to be Phil and use the inconvenience to his own advantage.  At one point he takes advantage of a lapse of attention to steal a bag of money from an armored truck.  He finds an attractive woman and learns a few details about her so that during the next cycle he can seduce her.  But even this becomes boring after a while.  He then goes through a period where he just wants to end it all.  But even suicide is not an option, because the next morning he still finds himself waking up to those same fading strains of "I Got You, Babe".

Over and over again Phil tries to find ways to improve upon his lot.  His driving passion becomes one to get Rita in bed, and he spends several episodes gradually learning things about her in order to get her to fall in love with him.  But Phil is still learning how to be a decent human being and his lessons don't seem to be cracking through that thick skull.

Phil finally starts to get the idea that he can use the situation to improve himself and learns how to play the piano and become an expert at ice sculpture, among other things.  And finally, he learns to be a decent human being.  But will it be enough to get him out of the time loop?

The movie has some great comedic moments, but it works better as a sort of bizarre romantic comedy.  Phil's efforts to get into Rita's panties transform from just crude sexual desire to an honest effort to get her to love him for whom he is (or for whom he has become through the endless time loop).

Well folks, its time to fire up the old Plymouth again (Say, haven't I said that before...?)  Drive safely, folks.  (That, too...? Hmmm.)