The Concession Stand

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Movie Quote Weekends

"Today I settled all family business so don't tell me that you're innocent."

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Movie Quote Weekends

"Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But uh, until that day - accept this justice as a gift on my daughter's wedding day."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Week: "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"

The film was based on John Hughes' short story Christmas '59. Mr. Hughes hated sequels, but felt that he could put together a worthy Vacation film based on his short story. (He had nothing to do with National Lampoon's European Vacation.) It would be the last Vacation film that John Hughes was involved with.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Week: "White Christmas"

In the film, one of the characters shows a picture of her brother who is supposed to be away at war. The actor in the picture is Carl Switzer, better known to millions as "Alfalfa" from the original Our Gang Comedies.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Week: "Miracle on 34th Street"

"Everyone felt the magic on the set and we all knew we were creating something special, I am very proud to have been part of a film that has been continually shown and loved all over the world for nearly sixty years. Miracle on 34th Street has endured all this time because of the special relationship of the cast and crew, the uplifting story and its message of hope and love, which steals hearts all over the world every year. I don't think I will ever tire of children asking me, 'Are you the lady who knows Santa Claus?' I always answer, 'Yes, I am. What would you like me to tell him?'"

-Maureen O'Hara

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Week: "It's A Wonderful Life"

The film was originally a flop whose studio didn't bother to renew its copyright. Falling into the public domain, the film became a classic due to its many airings on television. In the late 1980's, the successor company to Liberty Films realized that the copyright for the music and the script was still active. After re-acquiring the rights to both, Paramount brought the film back under copyright protection.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Movie Quote Weekends


"So what I told you was true. From a certain point of view."


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Movie Quote Weekends

"Get in there you big furry oaf! I don't care what you smell!"

Friday, December 18, 2015

Star Wars Week: The Cartoons of Star Wars

In the 1980's, George Lucas sought to expand his empire. The huge profits coming in from films and merchandising gave him unparalleled opportunities. ABC eagerly took advantage of the opportunity to greenlight two series based on the world of Star Wars. Star Wars: Droids and Star Wars: Ewoks.

Star Wars: Droids took place in the timeframe before Star Wars: A New Hope. R2D2 and C3PO were still just floating around, unowned and moving from master to master. The show featured their hijinks as they tried to stay functional and help their new masters.

Star Wars: Ewoks featured the lovable Ewoks in the years before Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Unlike the Ewoks in the film, these Ewoks spoke regular English and were less prone to the violence depicted in Return of the Jedi. 

The shows were never given stable time slots, which contributed to their low ratings. Lucasfilm insisted on high quality animation, which meant that the shows were more expensive than others. ABC decided to cancel the Droids after just one season and the Ewoks after two.

Star Wars Week: The Force is with US

The Force Has Returned... Enjoy It!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars Week: A Disturbance in the Force

It was the special George Lucas doesn't want you to see! When Lucas was working on the first Star Wars film, he had to scratch & fight to get funding to finish up the special effects. Twentieth Century Fox was not eager to give him more cash, but they did let him scare up the funds any way he saw fit. (Which led to him eventually getting enough money to buy them out, but that's a different story altogether.) in any case, CBS came to the rescue. They would give Lucas much needed funds in exchange for the rights to make a special based on this "Space Film" if things worked out.

When Star Wars became a sensation, CBS remembered its little option and quickly decided to cash in. George Lucas wasn't interested in the project, but he had to follow through with the deal, so he gave his grudging approval. CBS didn't seem to grasp the reason why Star Wars was a hit, so they hired a staff more suited to producing a variety show than a science fiction themed special.

The result was a disaster that George Lucas would like to forget. Celebrities who had no business being in the Star Wars universe were hired. There were bizarre, creepy sketches, including one that featured a leering wookee watching a stripping Diahann Carroll. Using the vast wealth created by owning merchandising rights to his films, George Lucas buried the special after its one airing. Many Star Wars fans dream of an official release, but Lucas has kept it hidden from public view. With his empire now owned by The Walt Disney Company, there's a new hope that the special will see the light of day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Star Wars Week: An Empty Box!

Hardly anyone thought that Star Wars would be a huge hit. Even Fox Studios, which bankrolled the original film, didn't think too highly of the film. When George Lucas needed more cash for special effects, the studio refused to give him any. Desperate, George gave the studio a new proposal- he would work for the guild minimum, taking merchandising rights instead of pay. He would then take his salary and some of the merchandising money and use it for special effects. While this seems like a colossal mistake nowadays, Fox eagerly accepted the deal.

It was certainly a risk for George, but it was the best decision he'd ever make. As we know now, Star Wars was a huge success and the merchandising rights, seen by Fox as useless, were a gold mine that established Lucasfilm as a separate entity that would prove a formidable force in Hollywood. The merchandise would prove to be so successful that they couldn't make it fast enough, so the Kenner toy company did the impossible; it actually sold an empty box!

The empty box, as shown below, featured some nice stuff to look at and a coupon to redeem for the actual action figures at a later date. The mighty Star Wars name could apparently sell anything- even an empty box!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Star Wars Week: A Crazy Bet

When George Lucas was in the midst of making Star Wars, the insanity surrounding the movie's production began to weigh on him. He started to believe the doubters and think that the film was going to be disastrous. He shared his doubts with his friend, fellow director Steven Spielberg, who was working on Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Steven had more faith in George and told him so. George decided to make a crazy bet- he would give Steven 2.5% of Star Wars' gross if Steven gave him 2.5% of Close Encounters of the Third Kind's gross. George had greatly misjudged things- while both films were successful, Star Wars was wildly so. The crazy bet cost George Lucas $40 Million.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Star Wars Week: The Legend Begins

  When George Lucas first began thinking about a film that would take place in outer space, he fixated on an adaptation of Flash Gordon. When Mr. Lucas approached King Features Syndicate to buy the rights to Flash Gordon, they reluctantly informed him that the film rights had already been sold to Dino De Laurentiis, a movie producer who was developing a film of his own and had no use for George Lucas.  

This would prove to be a blessing in disguise for George, who now had to create his own space world. George began shopping his own idea around to the studios. Disney thought it was violent. Nobody else really understood it. Twentieth Century Fox was one of the studios that didn't like the film, but was willing to take a risk because they wanted a relationship with George Lucas, who was seen as an up and coming director. They allocated a modest budget (too modest for a special effects extravaganza) and Mr. Lucas soon found himself trying to stretch the money he had to produce the film he envisioned.

Its lukewarm feelings towards the film led Twentieth Century Fox to make the biggest mistake in film history. Desperate to get more cash to finish his film, George Lucas made a deal with the studio- it would give Lucasfilm the merchandising rights so that they could be sold for more cash that could be injected into the movie. Fox saw it as a win-win; it would get a film with more elaborate effects without having to spend its own cash. If the film did poorly, the deal would minimize Fox's losses. Of course, the film was huge and its related merchandise was even bigger. Fox signed away billions to George Lucas.

In the end, Star Wars turned out to be much bigger than a George Lucas produced Flash Gordon ever would have been. It also gave George Lucas the money he needed to buy all trademarks, copyrights and related permissions for his creations from Fox. Ironically, it was the success of Star Wars that would finally give Dino De Laurentiis the push he needed to get the long gestating Flash Gordon project off the ground. His disastrously campy mess of a film would not be successful.


Saturday, December 12, 2015

Friday, December 11, 2015

Freaky Fridays: "Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny"

Imagine that you've built a lower tier theme park in Florida in the late 1960's, just to find out that Walt Disney planned to build Disneyland East 200 miles north. How do you try to stand out and keep your gates open? If you're the owners of Dania Beach, Florida's Pirates World, you hire a producer of softcore porn to make kiddie movies inside your theme park.

Six Flags Tragic Mountain

Pirates of the Plywood-ribbean

Garbage Gardens

A cheaply made "kids" movie filmed at a fourth rate theme park by a director whose normal films feature topless women looked just like you'd imagine. This version of Thumbelina was a nightmare, with bad special effects and camerawork that was barely more competent than that featured in softcore porn.

"Mr. Director? Is this some kind of fantasy thing?"

Realistic Effects!

The films worked (sorta) but the Trashiest Place on Earth needed more help after Disneyworld opened. Unfortunately, they didn't have enough money to make more films, so they did the next best thing- they filmed a flimsy framing sequence that allowed them to reuse the old footage. Since the new material featured Santa Claus, the film could be sold to theaters desperate for something that could be shown to kids whose parents were busy Christmas shopping elsewhere in the mall. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny would reuse the cheap footage from Thumbelina, only this time, Santa Claus would be telling the story to a group of kids who were community theater rejects.
Donnie Darko's first theatrical role.

The film looks like it was filmed in a dirty vacant lot behind the sleazy Pirates World Theme Park and the "Santa" in this movie looks like a disgusting hobo. (At one point, "Santa" looks like he has soiled himself.)

Travel Advisory: Pirates World guests may encounter inebriated vagrants and undesirables.

The scariest part of the film is saved for the end of the film when we encounter the Ice Cream Bunny. Wearing a musty and disgusting costume that looks like it was dug out of a dumpster behind a mall the day after Easter, the misshapen Ice Cream Bunny is terrifying.

Hey kids, try not to scream...

Despite showing off the sad looking "attractions", the frighteningly cheap "Ice Cream Bunny" and the sad "sights", Pirates World became a casualty of the times. Now just a sad memory, this film is the only remnant of Pirates World, which was bulldozed in the mid 1970's.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Annoying Movie Characters: Droppo

  Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was never intended to be anything more than a film that parents could drop their kids off at while they went Christmas shopping. However, the cheaply made film couldn't even live up to those lowered expectations. Poor acting, an annoying theme song and plywood sets contribute to the film's high annoyance factor. However, in a film filled with annoyances, one character rises above the rest- the "comedy relief" Martian named Droppo.  

We are obviously supposed to find Droppo funny, but Droppo's annoying antics and stupid jokes make us wish that the villainous Voldar follows through on his constant threats to kill Droppo. Watching Droppo doing one of his bits is enough to make even the cheeriest Christmas fan wish the holidays were over. Since Droppo becomes Mars' version of Santa Claus, it seems the Martians will be cursed for years to come. This film marks the debut of actress Pia Zadora, who didn't have the acting skills to play an emotionless Martian girl. Sure, she's a kid in this so we should cut her some slack, but her acting skills never seemed to get any better than what we see here. The studio forgot to renew the copyright for this film (Can't really blame them for that) so this disaster is in the public domain, eagerly aired by local channels desperate to show anything instead of a test pattern.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Ghost of Christmas Present

"Sometimes, you have to SLAP them in the face just to get their attention!"

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Griswold Family House

  In 1989's National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold is inspired to make the greatest Christmas ever after getting locked in his attic. He decides to watch old family movies while he waits for his family to return and becomes nostalgic about Christmases past.  

But does Clark's childhood home look familiar? It should.

The film was not shot in a winter wonderland, but in the confines of the Warner Brothers backlot in sunny Southern California. The house was used in hundreds of other productions, but most notably in Bewitched.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Movie Quote Weekends

"Well something is much bigger than we expected!"

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Movie Quote Weekends

"If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star your dream comes true."

Friday, December 4, 2015

MGM Doesn't Love Lucy

  In the early days of television, most film companies were loathe to work with the medium. Many of the same stars who worked in film, however, were making names for themselves on television, so an uneasy truce was established. When Lucille Ball and her husband Desi Arnaz had conquered television, MGM was eager to work with them. They quickly put The Long, Long Trailer into production.  
At the time, Lucy and Desi offered another project to MGM. Long before the rerun, videocassettes, DVDs and Netflix, audiences had few chances to rewatch their favorite shows. If a viewer missed an episode of their favorite show, they wouldn't often get another chance to see it. Since Desilu Productions used film to record I Love Lucy and retained ownership of the copyright, they made a proposition to MGM- the pair would film 19 minutes of new footage and edit together three episodes of the show to package together as a film. Would audiences pay to see something that had aired for free? MGM figured it was worth a shot. Three episodes were chosen and a framing device was used to tie them together. It was somewhat unambitious; the idea was that a newlywed couple, honeymooning in glamorous Hollywood was attending the filming of three I Love Lucy episodes. I Love Lucy: The Movie was quickly and cheaply pieced together.
Sometime later, however, MGM got cold feet. Fearful that the cheaply budgeted package film would siphon business away from the more expensive Long, Long, Trailer, MGM put I Love Lucy: The Movie on the shelf, where it sat until 2001. Discovered and restored, it was shown as part of a retrospective of the show and wasn't released in its entirety until 2007.


Thursday, December 3, 2015

Terrible Pirates

  In 2003, when Walt Disney Pictures premiered Pirates of the Caribbean, many industry watchers assumed that it would be a big box office disaster. Conventional wisdom was that pirate movies were disastrous undertakings. Why? For these reasons:  

The Pirate Movie was a bad decision from start to finish. They hired non-singers, gave them stupid, smutty songs to sing and made it about pirates. Anyone should have seen that the film was a bad idea regardless of content, but the pirate subject matter got the blame.

Pair up the worst Hollywood studio at the time with the fugitive director Roman Polanski and you get Pirates, an expensive, overlong disaster that made a fraction of its budget back. It's hard to tell how much money the studio lost on this one, however; Cannon Films was notorious about overstating film budgets as a means to defraud investors.

The film that seemingly put the final nail in the pirate film coffin was Cutthroat Island. A long, wild mess, the film starred Geena Davis and was directed by her then husband Renny Harlin. The disastrous production was an even bigger disaster at the box office, effectively killing pirate films for almost a decade.

With this background, it is easy to see how doubtful the industry was about Pirates of the Caribbean's success. But Captain Javk Sparrow was no conventional pirate and PotC was no conventional pirate film. Disney's Pirate film was a huge hit and now a multi-billion dollar franchise.