The Concession Stand

Monday, July 31, 2017

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Monkey's Too Short Uncle

When the Tommy Kirk and Annette Funicello film The Monkey's Uncle came in a bit short in its run time, Walt Disney chose not to try padding out things out with extraneous scenes.

Instead, the company did something that would be virtually unthinkable these days; it edited a television special down and ran it as a featurette before the film. Not only had the film aired on television for free, but it also was a lengthy advertisement for Disneyland.

That Walt Disney could take a television show and put it in theaters was a testament to his careful attention to quality. Just about every episode of his weekly show was filmed with high quality cameras and to feature film standards, which made it easy to put them in theaters.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Eight Arms To Hold You

The original title of The Beatles film Help! was Eight Arms To Hold You. The guys liked the title Help but there was already a film of that name. When Brian Epstein found a loophole that meant Help! with an exclamation point was different from Help, the band went with its preferred name for the picture.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Mother For Jason

When the filmmakers behind Friday the 13th were looking for an actress to play Jason's mother, they wanted an Academy Award winning actress who had fallen on hard times and would thus be willing to take less money. The top two choices were Shelley Winters and Estelle Parsons. Ms. Winters wasn't interested at all, while Ms. Parsons started negotiations but chose not to make the film in the end. Coincidentally, the two actresses would play mother and daughter years later on Roseanne.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Comic Con Geekend: A Doctor Crosses Over

When Star Trek: Voyager's living doctor died at the beginning of the pilot episode, the ship had to activate a previously unseen feature of all starships. It was the holographic emergency doctor, who was meant to be a temporary presence until the ship could return to Starfleet. With Voyager light years away from known space, the hologram doctor became a permanent presence onboard the ship. 

Since we learned that every ship has a holographic doctor, it would only be natural that he would appear on other Trek projects, even though his main ship was stranded on the other side of the galaxy. Paramount took advantage of this in Star Trek: First Contact, which featured a humorous scene where the holographic doctor is activated to distract a Borg attack. It would be a rare instance in which a Trek character would cross over from television into film.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Comic Con Geekend: Dual Roles

Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed that Paul Reubens had a small role in 1992's Batman Returns as the Penguin's harried father. It was a nice role given to him by Tim Burton at a time when Hollywood had turned its back on him.

Twenty five years later, Paul would do something nobody had ever done in the Batman franchise; he would play the same character in the rebooted prequel Gotham. On Gotham, he would play Penguin's father yet again. While his first role portrayed him as nothing short of a monster for abandoning his son in a sewer. In Gotham, he was more sympathetic; he didn't know that he had a son and quickly embraces him into his world. [Spoiler Alert]  He wouldn't live long on the show, but he would have a huge influence on his son.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Comic Con Geekend: Boldly Cal

Did you know? Both Chris Pine and John Cho, who are featured in the new Star Trek films attended college at Berkeley.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Comic Con Geekend: Star Wars 1976

In 1976, both Comic Con and Star Wars were relatively unknown and untested. Since Twentieth Century Fox believed that Star Wars would fail at the box office, George Lucas had to marshal his own meager resources to gain publicity for his film. He was putting every nickel he could find into the film, so he sent a representative down to Comic Con with a bunch of posters to sell hoping to get some credibility with the geeky audience he knew he would need as his base. The posters sold for $1.75 each and had a dual purpose; to get the film's name out there and at least recover the money it cost to setup a booth. The posters sold out, delighting George and possibly sparking up interest in the movie. As you can probably guess, the people who purchased these posters were very lucky indeed. Mint condition posters purchased for $1.75 in 1976 can command thousands of dollars today.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Deja View

Most of the time the elaborate sets built for Hollywood films are ephemeral; destroyed and thrown out at the end of the production. Some sets, however, take on an extended life long after the film they were eventually used in has taken its place in a Wal-Mart DVD dump bin.

One such set was Air Force One, which was built for the Harrison Ford film Air Force One. The filmmakers spared no expense in recreating the famed aircraft and realized afterwards that it was so realistic that maybe other productions might want to rent it out. Renting out the set became a lucrative side business. One such renter was NCIS, which used the set in its first episode. The characters even joked about the "real" Air Force One looking just like the one from the film.

Monday, July 17, 2017


We have a morbid curiosity about disasters. While most of us will be lucky to never have to live through a disaster, we'd like to think that we would survive one because we wouldn't be as stupid as everyone else. The disaster films of the 1970's allowed people to vicariously witness a disaster and try to imagine themselves as rising above such a situation.

The trend resonated throughout the 1970's as audiences sought out fictional horrors to take their minds off of the real life ones that surrounded them. Oddly enough, while there were unlimited possibilities for disasters and situations, Hollywood chose to use the same types of conflicts and tropes in just about every one of them.

There was the eccentric old lady. Pioneered by Helen Hayes in Airport, this character was mostly there for comic relief. Helen's character, for example, was a perpetual stowaway. Martha Raye sacrificed her dignity in Airport '79 to play an old lady who was scared of flying in the least sexiest wet T-Shirt scene in movie history.

Another oft-used character type was the old person with the hidden talent that will be coincidentally useful later. If we see a frail old person mention an unlikely skill in the first few minutes of a disaster film, you can bet that it will be needed and used to rescue others in the end. Burgess Meredith used his acrobatic skills in When Time Ran Out... while Shelley Winters put her swimming skills to good use in The Poseidon Adventure. Amazingly good luck for the survivors, huh?

Another common storyline is the forbidden love. If the film takes place on an airplane, it's an affair between the pilot and a stewardess. In other situations it's between the hero and someone he shouldn't be dating- like the daughter of the boss. It typically works out for them in the end, however. In Starflight One, the cheated on wife graciously steps aside after making sure that her soon to be ex-husband is safe, wishing his side-piece good luck for the future.

Of course, the most consistent character found in these types of films is the ruthless capitalist. Despite all warnings about impending doom, the capitalist refuses to shut down the resort, make the necessary repairs or do anything to otherwise circumvent certain doom. To the delight of audiences, they always get their comeuppance in the end.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

#RIP Martin Landau

Rest In Peace, Martin Landau

Martin Landau, whose brilliant performance as Bela Lugosi earned him an Oscar, has passed away at age 89.

Mr. Landau began his career on the Silver Screen in such films as North By Northwest and Cleopatra. It would be his work on the 1960's television show Mission Impossible that would propel him to superstardom, leading to a multitude of film roles. His career would wane in the 1980's until he earned an Academy Award nomination for his role in the film Tucker, which would reinvigorate his career leading to his award winning role as Bela Lugosi.

Martin Landau was born to play a down on his luck Bela, drawing on his own career lows. It was an amazing performance and led to another career resurgence. Martin worked consistently for the last few years, retiring from acting two years ago.

Rest In Peace, George Romero

I Believe in DISNEYLAND!