The Concession Stand

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Batman At The Movies!

Today is a special day and we're going to spend it looking at Batman! Batman is undoubtedly the greatest super hero ever. What red blooded boy wouldn't want to be the wealthy Bruce Wayne, playing with amazing toys and fighting crime as the coolest alter-ego ever- Batman? Aside from the dead parents, Bruce has the ideal life!

Quickly outpacing Superman, Batman was a natural for the big screen. His first appearance was in a weekly serial. He may have looked a bit different, but the basic elements were there, including the boy wonder.

After taking a side trip on television, Batman would next hit the big screen in 1989's Batman, as envisioned by Tim Burton. This dark gothic take on the caped crusader would serve the world well in two amazing outings that would make people forget about the campy 1960's version.

The darker take of Batman Returns was not appreciated by the various toy and souvenir licensees. Warner Brothers responded by requesting a lighter, campier outing, so Tim Burton was out and Joel Schumacher was in. The follow-up Batman Forever wasn't too bad, but Batman and Robin was a travesty that made the 1960's version look staid in comparison.

It would take almost ten years for Batman to return to the big screen. This time, Christopher Nolan was directing and it was more than enough to make audiences forget about Batman and Robin.

Nobody, not even Joel Schumacher can keep Batman down. Superman is a Boy Scout. Batman is a badass!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Patty Duke!

Patty Duke left behind an amazingly diverse body of work. An overachiever, she hit a home run with her first film- The Miracle Worker, becoming the youngest winner of the Supporting Actress Oscar at that time, playing Helen Keller.

The interest generated by her success resulted in her iconic television show The Patty Duke Show. After her television show concluded, she chose to break her childhood image by taking a role in The Valley of the Dolls, a trashy adult film based on the trashy novel. It succeeded in breaking her squeaky clean image despite being a hellish film to make due to the difficult director. Patty became close friends with her co-stars due to their mutual hardship. Her friendship with Sharon Tate would prove to be tragic. Patty had planned to sell her house to Sharon Tate, but pulled out of the deal when she chose to temporarily reconcile with her then husband. The decision would lead to Sharon Tate choosing to rent a different house- the one in which she was tragically murdered. Ms. Duke spoke of the guilt she felt for years afterwards.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Universal's Show Boat!

The film rights to the novel Show Boat were purchased by Carl Laemmle in 1927 as a possible movie property. He quickly began production on a silent version of the film, though the movie world was seemingly changing around him. The sound era ushered in new possibilities and the novel had been adapted into a popular musical on Broadway. Laemmle realized that he couldn't get away with releasing a silent version of the film, so he decided to re-film 30 minutes of the film in sound. When the film finally hit theaters, it was a mish-mash of sound and silence, which irritated Mr. Laemmle, who felt that the full promise of the property had not been fulfilled.

So just seven years later, Mr. Laemmle staked his fortune and reputation on a sound remake of the film. This time, he bought the rights to the hit songs from the musical and made what promised to be a huge hit for the studio. While he was right about the success of the film, he wouldn't get to enjoy the spoils. Facing huge debts, his board of directors ousted him from the studio he had founded. Mr. Laemmle could only watch as his passion project made millions for his studio, but nothing for him.

While the film brought much needed cash into the studio, it wasn't enough. The Universal board of directors sought quick ways to make money and MGM had a proposition for them; it wanted to make its own version of Show Boat; after all, it was the king of musicals at the time. It offered to buy not just the theatrical rights from Universal, but also the 1936 version of the film. (It didn't want Universal to cash in on MGM's version of the musical by releasing the old one. Several years and stalled starts later, MGM released its version, which became the one most people think of when they picture the film.

The Universal version of the film would languish in MGM's vaults until the advent of cable television when it would finally see the light of day as part of Ted Turner's legendary movie catalog. It has currently made it to DVD under Warner Brothers' Archive Collection.

Monday, March 28, 2016

"Manos: The Hands of Fate" Fun Facts


The legendarily bad film Manos: The Hands of Fate was the result of a chance encounter between Academy Award winning writer Stirling Silliphant and Manos director Harold P. Warren. Mr. Silliphant allegedly bet Mr. Warren that he couldn't make a movie.


Manos director Harold P. Warren had no prior experience making a film- and it showed. As a matter of fact, Mr. Warren's day job was fertilizer salesman. Oddly enough, both jobs produced the same quality product.


The film was poorly received by critics- and one angry old lady. Offended by the scene where a little girl joins up with the cult leader, she repeatedly hit Mr. Warren with her purse after the preview screening.


One of the film's biggest fans is Quentin Tarantino, who owns an original copy of the film on 35MM. He considers the film a comedy.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Strange Movie Cereals

In the 1980's, crass consumerism hit every facet of life at the time. Greed was good, as they say, and the movie studios decided to tap every possible revenue stream they could find. Enter Ralston Purina, who had decided that making food for pets wasn't as lucrative as making food for children, so they entered the cereal aisle with gusto. But with few recognizable brands, how could they compete with Post or Kellogg? By giving the movie studios cash for movie themed cereals!

Well technically he's a mogwai, not a gremlin...

Who knew Bazooka Joe bubble gum was part of a balanced breakfast?

The only thing more gruesome than the Addams Family was this cereal...

Okay, who was the target audience for this cereal?!?

Ralston embraced a "hit and run" policy with these cereals. They would flood the market with boxes of the latest fad cereal when the movie hit theaters, make their money, then move onto the next big thing. Most of these cereals were essentially the same fake mapley flavor just crafted into different shapes with a different picture on the box. Unfortunately for Ralston, kids eventually wised up and their licensing business model eventually died out in the mid 1990's.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hollywood Math: Tyler Perry Edition

Tyler Perry 
Tyler Perry’s Madea 
Slumming actor/actress 
Tyler Perry’s moralizing 
Stereotypical Accented Asian/Latino Actor Actress 
Tyler Perry’s Script
Tyler Perry 
Modest Box Office Hit

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Warner Brothers Fun Facts


Despite his control over the other parts of the company, Jack Warner had little involvement in and little care for the cartoons his company released. In fact, when he was asked by studio staff what he knew about the company's animated efforts he famously stated that all he knew was that his company made Mickey Mouse cartoons. Oops!


In a money saving effort in the 1960's, Warner Brothers spun its Burbank studio off into a separate company called The Burbank Studios. Columbia Pictures became a half owner of this new enterprise and the companies were supposed to share in the costs and profits of this new venture. In actuality, the two companies were poor partners, refusing to invest in projects that might benefit the other. In the early '90s, the partnership was disbanded with Warner Brothers taking full control of its storied backlot. Columbia moved to MGM's former studio lot.


After Jack Warner famously stated that he believed his company produced Mickey Mouse cartoons, he decided to sell his company's back catalog of Looney Tunes shorts for just $3,000 each. It was a massive error in judgement that wasn't rectified until thirty years later.


Monday, March 21, 2016

Best Picture #10: "The Life of Emile Zola"

The tenth film to win the Academy Award for best picture was The Life of Emile Zola. An American film based on French writer Emile Zola's life, the film mostly covers the period of time in which he was involved in exposing the notorious Dreyfus Affair. The film was well-received and is still considered to be one of Hollywood's greatest films.

While many observers at the time of France's Dreyfus Affair felt that the prosecution of Alfred Dreyfus had anti-Semitic overtones, the film ignores this completely. Critics believed this was due to Hollywood's fear of alienating the German market at a time of unrest and tension before World War II. One report suggested that Jack Warner, who was of the Jewish faith himself, had ordered all references to Jews removed from the script, an order his family still denies took place. The controversy has recently been reignited by several books challenging Hollywood's reaction to and alleged of Nazi Germany, though the movie remains one of Hollywood's greatest classics.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Banned! Steve the Tramp

When toys from the Touchstone film Dick Tracy were released, the studio expected they would get a lot of attention from consumers. One of the action figures in the collection got plenty of attention, but not for a good reason.

"Steve the Tramp" hit shelves alongside the rest of the collection of toys from the film and had a low profile until someone read the back of the box. It seems that "Steve the Tramp" was described as an "ignorant bum" with "cauliflower ears" who you'd smell before you saw him. Homeless activists, who didn't differentiate between fictional criminals and real homeless people, became angry and the toys were removed from shelves. Of the entire range, "Steve the Tramp" is worth the most these days on the collector market.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Still More Goldwynisms

"Tell them to stand closer apart."

"I want to make a picture about the Russian Secret Police: the GOP."

"Can she sing? She's practically a Florence Nightingale."

"I'm going out for some tea and trumpets."

"True, I've been a long time making up my mind, but now I'm giving you a definite answer. I won't say yes and I won't say no—but I'm giving you a definite maybe."

"Include me out."

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Director Series: Ed Wood's "Glen or Glenda"

Glen or Glenda was Ed Wood's first directed film. It was originally supposed to be called I Changed My Sex. After all, producer George Weiss had already printed up the movie posters. It was meant to capitalize on the outrageous story of Christine Jorgenson, whose famed gender reassignment survey titillated Americans. Ed, however, made the film more about transsexualism than gender reassignment. Cobbling together random stock footage and casting his childhood hero Bela Lugosi, Ed Wood creates one of the most Woodsian films of his career.

Ed thought his film would be well received, but it was a disaster, displeasing producer George Weiss and incapable of making back its meager budget. The whole debacle didn't sour Ed Wood on movie making, however; he would eagerly search for another opportunity to make another film.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Rest in Peace, George Martin

George Martin, who signed and produced for The Beatles before embarking on a career scoring films has passed away at age 90.

Born in 1926 in London, Sir Martin attended the Guildhall School of Music and drama before joining record label EMI. He mostly produced novelty and comedy albums until he was approached by Brian Epstein, who had an interesting new band he was promoting- The Beatles. Martin soon found himself at the center of the biggest music phenomenon the world had seen and became known as one of the greatest music producers ever. He put his musical talents to work on the big screen, scoring films such as Yellow Submarine and Live and Let Die.

Sir Martin, by now known as the "fifth Beatle", continued to work on various film and Beatle related projects right up until recently. His talents will truly be missed and remembered by a grateful world.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Axel Foley goes to Wonder World

When Paramount revisited its lucrative Beverly Hills Cop franchise, it wanted a bigger set piece for the film. The studio decided that a crooked theme park located in Southern California would be what attracted Axel Foley out west. They set their sights on Disneyland, but the Walt Disney Company was unwilling to let them film there. As luck would have it, Paramount had just purchased a chain of theme parks, one of which was located a one hour plane ride away- Paramount's Great America.

The park had an interesting Hollywood pedigree. Development of the park was started by film and television star Fess Parker, who planned a Western themed park. When his business partner backed out, he sold the land and the project to J.W. Marriott, who built one of three planned Marriott's Great America theme parks on the land.

In 1984, the Marriott Corporation had grown tired of running theme parks and sought to sell the valuable land to a technology company. The city of Santa Clara saved the park from bulldozers and by 1993 it was owned and operated by Paramount Parks. The park would be a perfect set for Beverly Hills Cop 3.

The park was transformed into Wonder World, a Disney-Style theme park owned by "Uncle Dave", a Walt Disney surrogate played by Mr. Ed's Alan Young. His park's security force has taken the park over, making it the center of a counterfeiting ring which gets brought down by Axel Foley and Billy Rosewood.

The film makes extensive use of the park, though several scenes of more elaborate attractions were filmed at Universal Studios Hollywood.

One of the most exciting action sequences featured the park's imposing Sky Wheel, which is sabotaged, forcing Axel Foley to rescue park guests.

Sadly, the Sky Wheel was removed not long after so that the park could place a roller coaster in its place. Eventually, Paramount divested itself from the theme park industry, selling its chain of parks to Cedar Fair, who gave the place a nonsensical new name- California's Great America. Beverly Hills Cop 3 underperformed at the box office, putting an end to the franchise at that time. The theme park still exists, though it is a shadow of its prior self.