Friday, October 15, 2021

Death sings about Death

The Grim Reaper is back to perform another creepy folk song while playing the banjo. (He is mixing things up a bit this time out, as he's got back-up singers.)

Clifton Hicks as Old Leatherstocking

We hope this performance helps stir the Halloween spirit within young and old!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Happy birthday to Katy Manning!

Katy Manning, best known as Jo Grant to long-time Doctor Who fans, turns 75 years old today. Here are some photos from the '70s in celebration!

Katy Manning

Katy Manning with Beers

Katy Manning getting friendly with a Dalek?

The Avengers: What the Butler Saw

What the Butler Saw (1966)
Starring: Patrick Macnee, Diana Rigg, Thorley Walters, Denis Quilley, Ewan Hooper, and Kynaston Reeves
Director: Bill Bain
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

In an effort to find and eliminate the person responsible for leaking government secrets, John Steed (Macnee) enrolls in a school for butlers while Emma Peel (Rigg) sets out to get close to (literally and figuratively) one of the prime suspects--a playboy R.A.F. pilot (Quilley).

The central mystery and threat in this episode is so simple that it's hardly worth of the talents of England's greatest spybreakers--some of the particulars are tricky, but the overall effort would have been very easy to trace to its source once detected--but all the stunts John Steed pulls while trying to ferret out the villains, excellent supporting characters, and a grisly murder and body disposal make this episode a lot of fun.

"What the Butler Saw" is also elevated by a fantastic supporting cast. Thorley Walters (as the stern master of an academy geared toward educating gentlemen's gentlemen; Denis Quilley as the dashing pilot ladies can't get enough of; and Kyanston as the old general who may have crossed the line from eccentric to crazy all play their parts brilliantly. Of course, it helps that they were working with a script that was full of banter and humor. It all added up to  mixture that excused the fact the assignment was almost two simple for our two heavy hitters. (Steed's showing off his disguise skills and his butlering antics are contribute in major ways to this.)

Although, that said, the writers of the episode did make the effort to establish the politically sensitive nature of the investigation, as well as taking a very clever approach to giving Steed a little bit of a personal stake in the case. The writers also did an excellent job with the character of the playboy pilot, making him both a excellent sense of merriment as Emma Peel first pursues him so she can get close to him for the investigation, and then later has to take steps to avoid ending up in bed with him. The ultimate twist to the subplot involving him and Peel catapulted him to the status of my favorite supporting character in all the episodes I've seen of "The Avengers".

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Halloween is coming...

 ... and this year, Vampirella is insisting that we celebrate the Big Day as they do on her home planet of Drakulon. To that end, we're all practicing leap-frogging over tombstones in the nearby cemetery.

Vampirella by Tim Vigil

If you don't hear from us for a couple days, assume we've been arrested for trespassing and/or desecration of graves. Please send bail money.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Art of Gorilla Warfare

From "Gorilla Warfare" (2014)

A few months ago, I said that you don't find many straight-up art films posted here at Shades of Gray, nor even reviews of them. But here I am again, posting an art film for you to take a look at. It's also a student film, made at the University of Toledo in 2014.

I found "Gorilla Warfare" fascinating and it kept my attention from the opening scene through the end credit. A single quick Google search did not reveal any signs that the creator of "Gorilla Warfare", Kate Crowley, is working in the film or as either an editor, cinematographer, or director--although what I assume to be her Twitter account is restricted, so she might be. I certainly hope she is, because there's a lot of talent on display in this film.

From "Gorilla Warfare" (2014)

Take a few minutes (4 to be exact) to watch "Gorilla Warfare" and let me know if you find it to be as fascinating as I did.

Gorilla Warfare (2014)
Starring: Kara Cronley
Director: Kate Cronley
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

Brigitte Bardot is a Little Tramp

In 1965, Orlando Suero, a photographer who worked as a still photographer for film production companies and in taking portraits of actors and other celebrities, did a shoot with Brigette Bardot dressed up like Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp character. Why? Because he could!

Here are some photos from that shoot. Why? Because Halloween is approaching, and if Bardot can dress as Charlie Chaplin's signature character, then maybe you can, too!

Monday, October 11, 2021

Musical Monday with Green Day

Green Day in "Back in the USA"

Green Day released "Back in the U.S.A." in 2017 with a neat video that pays homage to the great John Carpenter sci-fi/horror flick "They Live" (1988). Sadly, the commentary provided in the video is twice as true now than it was under the government at that time, even if it's no longer hip and cool to run around and scream about how much you're #Resisting.

Take a few minutes to kick of the work-week with some fine music and an excellent video. In addition to just being fun, it makes great use of the gimmick of turning the black-and-white presentation to color.

Back in the USA (2017)
Starring: Billie Joe Armstrong, Kimberly Cimino, Tre Cool, and Mike Dirnt
Directors:  Brendan Walter and Greg Yagolnitzer
Rating: Nine of Ten Stars

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Comin' Back to Cali!

LL Cool J is 'Going Back to Cali"

In case you hadn't heard, LL Cool J and friends are returning for a 13th season of "NCIS Los Angeles" on CBS. New episodes debut tonight, October 10, 2021.

In celebration of the gang coming back to Cali, we present "Going Back to Cali", a song performed by LL Cool J before he turned to acting.

Bones Coffee's From Dusk 'Till Donuts

With Halloween approaching, we're going to be spotlighting seasonally appropriate coffee blends for you to check out!

George Clooney drinking coffee
Does George Clooney Drink Coffee From Dusk 'Till Dawn? Yes!

This is another blend from Bones Coffee Company that I ordered because the name and packaging amused me with its obvious refences to to the great horror film "From Dusk 'Till Dawn". I didn't have high expectations for the blend itself--jelly donut flavored coffee... really?--but I was wrong about the Maple Bacon blend, so maybe I was going to be wrong about this one, too.

Like some of the other Bones blends I've tried, hints of things to come were evident as soon as I opened the 4-oz. bag of pre-ground coffee and took a sniff: A pleasant aroma of coffee and a sweet fruity smell filled my nostrils. There wasn't a particularly strong scent as the coffee brewed--the usual smell of coffee was present in the kitchen, with a hint of the fruitiness I smelled earlier, but it didn't wasn't strong enough to make it down the hallway and into my office.

The first sip of the coffee poured straight from the pot into the mug reflected this; as I drank it straight, the From Dusk to Donuts had the smoothness of a good medium-roast, with a sweet undertone that satisfied my desire to add almond milk or creamer. As I took a few more sips, the sweetness intensified, and I tasted a strong flavor of grape jelly that lingered in my mouth. Adding unsweetened almond milk brought that flavor of jelly to the forefront and between the two of them, the taste of the coffee was almost completely obscured. And, just like I'd been surprised that Maple Bacon worked as coffee flavor, I found myself enjoying From Dusk to Donuts despite expectations, both with and without milk.

One thing I found amazing about this blend is that it is basically the same if you drink it hot or iced. I find that flavors seem to shift in intensity or change entirely (with the Sinn-a-Bun blend being the most extreme example of this I've encountered in the Bones Coffee line-up so far). When you first start drinking it, dominant flavor is coffee, but the grape jelly taste grows stronger the more you drink, lingering in your mouth even after the cup is empty. This remains true even after adding unsweetened almond milk.

All in all, From Dusk to Donuts was a pleasant surprise, and I recommend it to any coffee drinker who's looking for a somewhat unusual treat as the months begin to grow colder (at least in my part of the world.)

Here's a link to a Pinterest page that's semi-related to this topic!

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Death tells a tale and plays the banjo...

During this month of Halloween, Death will be dropping by to sing us some of his favorite tunes (which also happen to be about him) while playing the banjo. We hope you enjoy these unique, Halloween-flavored treats!

First up, we have "Death and the Lady", a folksong that's been kicking around since at least the early 1700s.

(For more on "Death", Old Leatherstocking, and performances by the man behind the mask, click here.)