Friday, December 26, 2014

Reefer Madness! (What more needs to be said?)

Reefer Madness (aka "Tell Your Children", "The Burning Question," "Dope Addict", and "Love Madness") (1936)
Starring: Dave O'Brien, Dorothy Short, Kenneth Craig, Carleton Young, Lilian Miles, and Thelma White
Director: Louis Gasnier
Rating: Four of Ten Stars

A societal scourge is exposed through this cautionary tale where Bill (Craig) is framed for murdering his sister (Short) and a hood (Craig) is driven mad... all because of the evils of marijuana!

"Reefer Madness" is one of those Bad Movie Night mainstays that I have been avoiding for many years. Everyone had written about it, it didn't sound all that interesting to me, and there were so many other unseen films out there. A friend gave me the "Taboo Tales" DVD collection for Christmas, and since "Reefer Madness" is the first film on the first disc, I figured the time had come to watch it.

I found that it was neither as bad nor as unintentionally funny as I had been led to believe. For the most part, it's a ham-fisted melodrama that alternatively exaggerates and misrepresents marijuana and its effect on those who use it. It moves along at a steady steady while beating viewers over the head with its anti-drug message, never being exactly boring but never being all that engaging because the characters are mostly unlikable. It gets truly interesting only in those few scenes were it goes way over the top with caricatures of marijuana smokers. Like so many drug movies, I think this is probably funnier if you're stoned while watching it.

For me, the most interesting part of the film was that I only really grew to care about the fate of Ralph, an utterly despicable thug and rapist played by Dave O'Brien. I think this was because the character was being played by one actors with honest-to-God careers in the field, and because Ralph holds a more important place in the story than even the character we're supposed to care about--the poor kid who's life is being ruined by drugs, drug pushers, and drug users. I suppose the film really is more about Ralph than Bill, since Ralph's even the subject of the movie's greatest scene, in which he beats a person to death in a fit of marijuana-driven paranoia.

I wouldn't say this film is worth going out of your way for, nor even that you should start with it if you find yourself with it included in a DVD multi-pack. The Four rating I gave it is as low as it can be without being a Three, and it barely earns that on the back of my being entertained by Dave O'Brien's performance. I suppose the nicest thing I can say about it is that it's far better than the other Dwain Esper-involved film I've watched. But, like I said above, maybe it's funnier if you're high. I understand EVERYTHING is funnier if you're high.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas!

May Santa bring you the gift you want the most!

Although... I suppose Santa may be taking Peggy Dow *with* him, rather than leaving her there. So... if he doesn't leave you the gift you really want, I hope he at least doesn't steal your wife or girl friend! (Because that could happen. What man can complete with Santa Clause?! Other than Chuck Norris.)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

'Twas the Night Before Christmas...

... and Barbara Eden was trying to convince the Elf (and his drunk friends) to get back on the Shelf.

I hope Santa brings everyone reading this something cool this year! Merry Christmas to you!

Christmas is almost here!

Myrna Loy is helping Santa get ready by feeding the reindeers buns laced with Red Bull! Are you excited for Christmas yet?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

All Santa's helper wants for Christmas is..

... a pair of pants.

Santa has told me that if NUELOW Games sells ten copies of A Christmas Box (a collection of roleplaying game material, fiction, and comics) that the royalties he's paid for the use of his name and likeness (as well as that of Mrs. Clause, their daughter Sugar Plum, and Rudolph the Reindeer) he will be able to afford to buy Penny a pair of pants.

So, there you have it. Get A Christmas Box--if not for yourself, then for Penny! Let the Christmas Spirit guide you to some off-beat Christmas fun (and some great comics).

(The collection contains 8 separate NUELOW Games releases, and you'll get them for half the price of what it would cost to get them individually. Click here for details.)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Are you excited yet?

There are only two days until Christmas Eve! (Santa's Helper Ann Miller would like everyone to know that she's happy getting sweaters and other articles of clothing for Christmas.)

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Santa's helpers are busy...

... making notes and checking them twice. Are you on the one listing the naughty or the one listing the nice?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mary Ann Mobley dead at 76

Mary Ann Mobley, one of the few Miss Americas to find lasting success as an actress and television personality, passed away on December 9, 2014. She starred opposite Elvis in a couple films and frequently appeared in guest-starring roles during 1960s television shows such as "The Man From UNCLE" and "Perry Mason." She was even originally cast as Batgirl in the "Batman" TV series, but was replaced by Yvonne Craig before filming began. Her acting output slowed as she raised her daughter during the 1970s, but she returned to television acting in the 1980s and became a regular on several 1980s game shows like "Hollywood Squares." She also appeared as a co-host on a talk show hosted by her husband, Gary Collins. She continued appearing in movies and in television through the 2000s.

She was preceded in death by her husband in 2012, and she is survived by her daughter, Clancy.

Here are a couple of pictures of Ms. Mobley, in honor of her memory. The second picture is, by all accounts, a lie, as she earned awards for her humanitarian work.

Monday, December 8, 2014

... in which I pretend to be an artist

Here's the cover image for the soon-to-be-released "ROLF!: Fugue for Johns in D Minur," a Houseboat on the River Styx scenario from NUELOW Games.

The battle scenario sees John Lennon, Johnny Cash, John Bohnam, and John Philip Sousa join forces with John Denver in the afterlife to stop another atrocity on the scale of Justin Bieber!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

'Second Chorus' is an obscure gem

Second Chorus (1940)
Starring: Fred Astaire, Burgess Meredith, Paulette Goddard, Charles Buttersworth, and Artie Shaw
Director: H.C. Potter
Rating: Seven of Ten Stars

When a pair of musicians, Danny and Hank (Astaire and Meredith), attempt to dodge Ellen (Goddard), a debt collector, by (literally) charming the pants off her, they end up on the fast track to fame with her as their booking agent. When she is later hired away by the famous band leader Artie Shaw (Shaw, playing himself), the two friends begin to sabotage each other in a bid to earn Ellen's romantic attention.

Fred Astaire described "Second Chorus" as his worst movie. He may not have liked it, but it's a lot of fast-paced fun, and chockful of great musical numbers and strong performances from the entire cast. Goddard is spectacular, as usual, and Meredith's comedic performance here really makes one wonder what sort of super-star he might have become if his career hadn't been detailed by McCarthyism during the 1950s.

The only complaint I have about the film is that the main protagonist, played by Astaire, is a king-sized jerk. I understand that the tricks he plays on his friend Hank to gain the upper-hand romantically and professionally are supposed to be viewed as comedic by the audience, but time and again, he resorts to an almost scorched earth sort of approach with an apparent desire to destroy his supposed best friend just so he can tell himself that we "won." In the process, he ends up sabotaging himself as well--and this karmic justice keeps the character from becoming completely unsympathetic--but his 11th-hour conversion to Nice Guy comes a little too late to win me over as a viewerm even if it does get him the girl. (That's not a spoiler... given that it's Fred Astaire vs. Burgess Meredith, it was a foregone conclusion who Paulette Goddard would end up with. Except, of course, in real life, where Meredith and Goddard ended up as a couple and eventually married.)

Hardcore Fred Astaire fans may be disappointed in the film for the same reason I suspect Astaire rates it as the worst of his efforts: He does very little dancing in it. There's really on one remarkable routine where he takes to the floor with Goddard at roughly the halfway point. But of those who enjoy big band swing music and 1940s comedies, "Second Chorus" is going to be time well spent.

Friday, December 5, 2014

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