The Concession Stand

Monday, October 17, 2016

Horror Month! Joan Crawford's Strait Jacket!

Long before Faye Dunaway turned her into a campy, psychotic monster, Joan Crawford was creating nightmares herself. In Strait Jacket, Joan stooped to appear in a William Castle cheapie that had been setup at Columbia Pictures when he became attached to the studio. William Castle had been known for making gimmicky films with crazy gimmicks like taking out insurance policies in case someone was scared to death, or hiring people to pretend they were being electrocuted in their seats.


Strait Jacket would be one of the first films in which Joan would push Pepsi in the most blatant product placement ever. The biggest surprise of the film, however, is that despite all of the posters and related pictures depicting Ms. Crawford wielding an axe from the film, she is not actually the killer in the end.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Croc'o'dull Dummee

The success of Crocodile Dundee was astounding. Nobody expected the smallish film with the small budget to be much of a success, but it went on to make $330 Million worldwide. Of course, a sequel was in the offing, and it arrived a few years later. As soon as the 1980's ended, however, the world's interest in eccentric Australians had waned. Yahoo Serious was a huge failure, nobody was interested in Jacko anymore and Olivia Newton John's Koala Blue stores all closed down. Even Paul Hogan, star of Crocodile Dundee, could no longer get people into the theaters. Strangely enough, ten years after all this Paul Hogan thought that it was time to go back to the well. Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles was born.


When looking for a script, Paul Hogan had two requirements- it had to be squeaky clean and it had to feature his wife. The controversial production resulted in a writer's guild fight and a flat film that was largely ignored by audiences. It was the only Crocodile Dundee film to lose money. Paul Hogan's life would then spiral out of control, resulting in his virtual retirement.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Horror Month! Classic Killers in Rope!

Alfred Hitchcock was a master of producing chilling films. In Rope, there's actually no real mystery; we see the two young friends commit the murder onscreen. They believe they've cleverly hidden their crime in plain sight. The body is stashed in a cabinet that they prominently display during a dinner party, daring their guests to figure out what they've done.


Only their nosy college professor, played by the legendary Jimmy Stewart, suspects that something is up. Sir Alfred builds up the suspense while the audience begins to see the two killers begin to unravel. Will they be found out? These two killers are made all the scarier because they appear to be two normal young men who commit a murder simply because they want to see if they could get away with it. Anyone would trust guys like these, right?


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Horror Month! The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was another early horror film imported from Germany.


What was with the German fascination with horror films? Quite possibly after the horrors of World War I, the country was willing to embrace fake horror to take its mind off of the real life horror they experienced. In any event, the impressionist Caligari was a brilliant but of escapism. Rather than portray realistic settings, the film's sets were made to look like massive impressionist paintings. The film 's plot was about the horrific hypnotist Dr. Caligari, who used his powers to hypnotize others into killing for him.


The film's remarkable cinematography and set design were definitely ahead of their time. The film was a smash hit in Germany, though the film had a rougher go of it overseas. The fresh memories of a horrific war and fears of German film studios taking over the global movie business led to the film getting an outright ban in France. Samuel Goldwyn had a rough go of it in the United States, but the dazzlingly horrific film eventually got an audience.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Horror Month! Nosferatu

One of the earliest horror films was the silent German classic Nosferatu. Interestingly, this classic was an unauthorized adaptation of Dracula. The film's producers were unwilling to meet the financial demands of Bram Stoker's widow, so they just changed the names of the characters.


The film was originally released in Germany in 1922, though it didn't make it to the United States until 1929. It was an instant success in America, becoming a huge hit. Audiences loved being scared. The film's success hinged on the creepy performance of Max Schreck, whose creepy transformation into the vampire Count Orlok would inspire many nightmares.


His creepy visage created an urban legend that he was a real vampire who the production company just rolled film on. It was an easy leap to make, since Max Schreck was unknown to American audiences at the time. This legend was explored in a fictionalized version of the film's production- 2000's Shadow of the Vampire.


Of course, Mr. Schreck was stern, but obviously human.


Despite this classic's success, it would be the only movie produced by its studio. The filmmakers purposely declared bankruptcy when the film was completed to avoid having to pay money to Bram Stoker's widow who had filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against them.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Whatever Happened to "The American"?

Movies have always been expensive propositions. Even MGM's famed assembly line often produced expensive films. That's one reason why even films hated by everyone involved still make their way to theaters; it's too costly to leave them on the shelf for too long. Unfortunately, some of them never get off that shelf- like the 1927 film The American.

The film starred silent film stars Bessie Love and Charles Ray. Little is known of the plot, though the film's alternate title was The Flag Maker. Could it have been about Betsy Ross? Some people described it as being a western, so maybe not. Little is also known about why it didn't get released, though it most likely had to do with how it was filmed. Producers used an experimental widescreen camera, so it probably couldn't be shown on standard movie screens. Unfortunately, this film got lost, waiting for theaters to catch up with it technology-wise. Hopefully the film might be found in time for its 90 year anniversary next year, though the odds of that happening are slim.


Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wings Over Petticoat Junction

The 1927 film Wings, while not well known today, was responsible for numerous "firsts"- it featured the first nude scenes in film, (Clara Bow, the lead actress of Wings, bares her breasts for a fleeting moment and nude soldiers are shown from behind in a shower) the first same sex kiss, (though it wasn't between gay men) and the first film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.


Another first for the film came forty years later. In the 1960's, television shows were more innocent than today. They were less referential than shows today and when they did mention outside entertainment, it was usually fake actors and films. In 1968, however, Petticoat Junction broke with tradition and featured Wings prominently in an episode in which Uncle Joe (played by Edgar Buchanan) recounts how the greatest thing that ever would have happened in their small town- a movie premiere- was canceled because the Stars who were in it decided to go to New York instead. Uncle Joe writes a letter and the two stars of Wings- Richard Arlen and Charles Rogers- finally arrive in Petticoat Junction, forty years after the premiere. Proving that it's never too late to make amends.


Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Famed Directors of Schlock: Coleman Francis

Virtually unknown to those outside the world of bad film aficionados, Coleman Francis is one of the most inept directors ever to get put in charge of directing a film. Amazingly, he directed three of them- a trilogy of error. In The Beast of Yucca Flats, he forgot to turn on the microphone, which necessitated the use of an overbearing narrator. Red Zone Cuba was needlessly sleazy and incomprehensible. The Skydivers was simply a mess.

Coleman sleazing it up in Red Zone Cuba

The best known (relatively speaking) of his films is The Skydivers. A lifeless bore of a film that was obviously financed by its talentless extras who must have "invested" good money for a role in this film, The Skydivers is full of lifeless skydiving scenes and features a sleazy script. There are affairs, loose woman, giantesses and lots and lots of coffee. Its endless flaws aside, it is a veritable Citizen Kane compared to his other two films.

Every leap brings us closer to the lord!

Coleman later became an alcoholic, allegedly down on his luck when fellow director Russ Meyer hired him to play a drunk in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. He passed away just a few years after that.

Monday, October 3, 2016

An Unfortunate Decision

In the 1970's, Bruce (Now Caitlin) Jenner was huge. He received many offers for roles in television and film and two offers in 1979- the first was for the role of Roger Murdock in Airplane! Bruce (Now Caitlin) turned the part down and it went to Kareem Abdul Jabbar.


So what did he choose instead? The craptacular film Can't Stop the Music. Many in his inner circle were perplexed by the decision, especially when the tacky film flopped.


Bruce (Now Caitlin) never worked in movies again. Now she probably regrets her decision.