Friday, September 07, 2007

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

Like most kids in this country in the sixties and seventies, I spent lots of time watching television. Like old songs, they evoke memories. I've enjoyed having old favorites come out on DVD, like Kolchak the Night Stalker and The Outer Limits. There are still DVD's of television shows and movies that I'm still waiting for

1. Fate Is the Hunter
This was a late night favorite, based on a novel of the same name by former airline pilot Ernest Gann.

An airliner crashes, killing everyone on board except a flight attendent, played by Suzanne Pleshette. The airline is quick to blame the pilot, Jack Savage, played by Rod Taylor; he was a World War II vet who was a larger-than-life character with a reputation as a boozehound, a high-roller and a ladies man. Sam McBane, played by Glenn Ford, is his friend, and is assigned to investigate. McBane is up for a promotion, and has been encouraged to tie up the investigation quickly. However, McBane knows that his friend had been an outstanding pilot, and wants to clear his name. He begins to investigate his life, calling upon a gallery of great character actors: Nancy Kwan, who plays Savage's Marine Biologist live-in girlfriend; Wally Cox as Savage's war buddy; Nehemiah Persoff. McBane discovers there was more than meets the eye, and in a climactic scene renacts the flight that led up to the crash, with a nailbiter ending. One of my favorites.

2. Frank's Place
Tim Reid (the actor who played dj "Venus Flytrap" on the wonderful WKRP In Cincinnati) plays Frank Parish, a Boston attorney who is called down to New Orleans upon the death of his estranged father. He discovers that his father ran a popular New Orleans restaurant. He plans to sell the restaurant to the employees, but one of them, Miss Marie, feels that the restaurant is where he belongs, and places a curse on him to be invoked if he leaves. When several incidents happen while he prepares to leave, he decides to stay.

This was a marvelous show, featuring one of the underappreciated actors of our time. It was refreshing to see an African-American actor in a role where he wasn't a pimp, a criminal or a buffoon.

3. The Invaders
Roy Thinnes portrayed David Vincent, an architect who is returning home late at night, and is so tired he is afraid he'll fall asleep at the wheel. He pulls into an old ghost town to catch a little rest before moving on, and is woken by aliens landing near his car. Of course, no one believes what he witnesses, and thus the show's premise. An underground forms to fight the aliens, who are indistinguishable from humans except for a crooked finger.

I remember as a young kid watching this show-- I was spooked out how the aliens would dissolve, leaving a burned outline, when they were killed.

Ironically, Thinnes had a great recurring role as a benevolent alien on The X-Files television show.

4. Journey to the Far Side of the Sun aka Doppleganger
This was a movie starring Roy Thinnes as an astronaut sent to investigate a planet that scientists have detected on the other side of the sun. He crash-lands, and wakes to discover that the planet is a mirror opposite, but otherwise identical to earth. This one came out briefly on dvd, but is now out of print.

5. Savages
This is based on Robb's book Deathwatch, one of my favorite books.

Andy Griffith was cast against type as a sadistic businessman who kills an old prospector while on a hunting trip in the desert. His guide, played by Sam Bottoms, wants to report the death, but Griffith's character doesn't want to. He sets Bottoms loose in the desert to die. Bottoms' character uses ingenuity and his knowledge of the desert to survive.

6. Sammy and Rosie Get Laid
This 1987 movie is set Thatcher's England, where hip modern couple Sammy and Rosie live. They are "urban pioneers," living in a slum, and have an open marriage. Their world is turned upside down by a visit from Sammy's father. He is a former leader in an unnamed third world country (presumably India, Pakistan or Bangladesh), where his life was endangered. He has brought his money with him, and wants to give most of it to Sammy and Rosie. Sammy and Rosie's liberalism is tested by the offer-- it is blood money. The movie examines love, sex, leftism, gender politics and a bunch of other things.

There are great performances all around, including the great Indian actor Shashi Kapoor, and Fine Young Cannibals singer Roland Gift as Rosie's love interest.

7. Batman
The Adam West/Bert Ward television show. This came out when I was five, in 1966. I, and every other five year old boy in the thought it was the greatest thing ever. They had a great cast of villians-- Otto Preminger, Vincent Price, Eartha Kitt, Michael Rennie, Shelly Winters and many others. The show offended comic book purists-- it was deliberately campy-- but it was loads of fun.

8. The Banana Splits
My brothers and I couldn't wait until Saturday morning to catch the antics of Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper and Snorky.

9. Hearts of Darkness
While Francis Ford Coppola was filming Apocalypse Now, and having a meltdown, his wife was filming her own movie within a movie. The footage is revealing and not always very complimentary. It's been rumored to be coming out on DVD for a year or two.

10. The Decline of Western Civilization
A documentary on the Los Angeles hardcore scene in the eighties by Wayne's World director Penelope Spheeris. There were two follow-ups, II and III. Her website says that she is putting together a box set with commentary and extras.

11. Chamber of Horrors
A 19th century Baltimore detective suceeds in capturing Jason Cravatte (played by the great character actor Patrick O'Neal), stopping his murderous spree. Cravatte has a habit of wooing women, murdering and then marrying them, post-mortem. Cravatte escapes by chopping off his own hand, and proceeds to avenge the loss of his hand by killing everyone he deems responsible for it. Great roles for the tireless Casare Danova, Wayne Rogers (who played Trapper John on the early seasons of M*A*S*H), and the beautiful Suzy Parker.

12. The Magician
Bill Bixby potrayed a wealthy magician who hires himself out for investigations and rescues. He was held captive in a jail by a Latin american dictator-- occasionally you see the scars from manacles on his wrists-- so he has a pointed sense of justice.

13. The F.B.I.
I loved this show as a kid. It starred Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. I enjoyed teh "just desserts" portion at the end, where they told what happened to the bad guys. It was produced by Quinn-Martin, which also produced The Invaders.

14. Vega$
No, that's not a typo-- the dollar sign was at the end. The ubiquitious (and late) Robert Urich played Dana Tanna, a Las Vegas private eye. He is way-cool; he drives a sixties-vintage Mustang and lives in a cool house.

This series was done by Michael Mann, who's done lots and lots of great stuff-- Thief, ... and of course the terrific Crime Story television show, which was set in early sixties Chicago and Vegas. in fact, Miami Vice was just about the only thing of his I didn't care for.

15. The Starlost
The premise of this show was that Earth suffered a fatal catastrophe, so an emormous space colony is built, with representations of every earth culture and subculture living in it. A meteor shower damages the ship and kills the crew of the ship. Decades later, a group of people start exploring the ship, looking for clues to ship and trying to reach a back-up command center.

One of the creators, science fiction legend Harlan Ellison, hated the show to the point he had his name removed from it. Maybe it's youthful nostalgia, but I loved it when they showed it on tv when I was a kid. It starred Keir Dullea, the star of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Some of the above shows and movies may never come out on DVD, but then again, there are shows, like Kolchak, the Night Stalker, which I'd given up hope on came out.

Recently, super-cheese classic Food of the Gods, starring former child evangalist Marjoe Gortner, was released on DVD. Jim Jarmusch's 1991 movie Night On Earth is being released by the good folks at Criterion soon, and The Lost World, a staple on the Sunday afternoon Family Classics on WGN television when I was a kid, is being released on DVD on Monday. This gives me hope that at least some of my old favorites will be released eventually.


BeckEye said...

I tried to read the whole post but kept getting distracted by that pic of Rod Taylor. Yummmmmmmmmmm-o.

Splotchy said...

Nice list! About half the shows I am not familiar with.

Never heard of The Invaders, though it certainly makes a Frank Black song I like a lot make more sense:

Bad, wicked world
Bad, wicked world
They are about dressed to deceive
Conquistadores that have been sent
Bad, wicked world
Bad, wicked world
Some sell him out, some wont believe
An architect named David Vincent

A man too long without sleep
He took a wrong turn and people just laughed
A ship that is not there
But he knows that it was
It made a light and a buzz
Hes really hurt because
People dont care
People think hes a creep
He will not stop, he keeps on talking
Just a tie and a suit
Hes a lonely persuader
Fist-throwing crusader
Against invaders
Wont be mute

A Ghost's Story said...

boy, oh boy, am I out of touch with my own pop culture. Other than the Splits and Bixby as the Magician, I don't know any of this stuff!!

I am, however, a BIG fan of The Prisoner-- you know that series??

Skylers Dad said...

Oh yes JY!!! Great picks for old series. You are dead on about Franks Place, the Invaders was awesome, I remember Journey to the far side of the sun, even thought about it a while back but couldn't remember its name. Andy Griffith as an evil dude? Wow, who took that casting risk? My folks never understood why stars would come on Batman for cameo roles. ;^) And Chamber of Horrors was wicked! I don't remember the magician, but always liked Bill Bixby - remember courtship of eddies father? The FBI was cool, and Dan Tanner was the definition of cool.

Thanks for the memories!!

'Bubbles' said...

Family Classics with Frasier Thomas, right? Man, JY, you sure have a memory! That was a fun read!

I'm just catching up on my blog reading and I'm glad you had a great trip.

Great in-laws = Great relationship, IMO.

Erik Donald France said...

Wow. Journey is one weird flick. The Invaders scared the hell out of me as a kid -- so I watched it a lot ;) Frank's Place was cool, different.

Penelope Spheeris -- hopefully she'll get that Janis Joplin project finished some day.


Monica said...

Great list. I'm surprised "...western civilization" isn't on dvd. especially w/ all the kids trying to see "suburbia. franks THAT was a fantastic show. oh, and harlan ellison is a notorious asshole but damn if he wasn't awesome.

GETkristiLOVE said...

One banana, two banana, three banana four...

I love Reid too. Especially as Venus when his reactions got quicker when drinking alcohol on the air with Johnny Fever.

Dale said...

I was trying to remember the name a few weeks ago and couldn't come up with it: "The Banana Splits". Thank you.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Sammy and Rosie Get Laid was a great film. I'd watch that again anytime.

lulu said...

Sammy and Rosie was great. I actually decorated one of my first apartments based on one of the rooms in their apartment in the movie.

Skylers Dad said...

As I re-read my comment from the other day, I don't know whether I was channeling William Faulkner, or on drugs.

It could be both...

Natalie said...

Oh so many more things I want to see and can't. It isn't fair to mention things people haven't ever heard of and get them excited only to let them know they aren't available.

Beth said...

Oh, man, there are five or six on here I'd love to see again!

Distributorcap said...

omg -- the invaders -- that show scared the hell out of me as a kid, i must have been 9 or 10 when it was on tv -- and my father, a major lover of science fiction -- wanted me to watch every show with him --- that is how i also remember watching Star Trek and OUter Limits..... the one where i really thought they controlled the tv set

Anonymous said...

You're getting your wish!

THE INVADERS and HEARTS OF DARKNESS have been released; THE STARLOST is coming this year and JOURNEY TO THE FAR SIDE OF THE SUN will be re-released this summer.