The Concession Stand

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Forbidden Planet: Fright Release!

How could a horror movie producer make sure that his film stood out at the box office? Famed schlock producer William Castle invented a way- gimmick marketing. He would announce that his studio had taken out insurance to pay for the funeral of anyone who died of fright during one of his productions, or he would rig up a ghost who would fly over the audience at various intervals. These gimmicks (and the resulting box office bonanza) caught the eyes of lesser filmmakers who saw relatively cheap ideas that they could possibly use to make their films more successful.

In the case of the no budget The Horror Of Party Beach, the filmmakers chose to require audiences to sign a “Fright Release” which allegedly exonerated the theaters and the studio from any responsibility for deaths resulting from fright caused by the viewing of the film. By this time, however, the novelty of the gimmicks had worn off and producers saw diminishing returns.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

A Star Is Born! Michelle Pfeiffer in Wonderland

Many a magical night was spent at Walt Disney's Magic Kingdom watching the legendary Main Street Electrical Parade. Filled with dazzling lights and powered by DISNEYLAND magic, the parade capped off many memorable visits. It also featured more than one future Hollywood star- like Michelle Pfeiffer!

The young Ms. Pfeiffer, who would become a gorgeous movie superstar, appeared nightly in the parade as the beloved Disney character Alice from Alice in Wonderland. One of only two "speaking" roles in the parade, Michelle reigned from atop Alice's lighted mushroom, dazzling thousands of guests every night.

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Giant Gila Monster

Don Sullivan, 1938 - 2018

Don Sullivan, “singing star” of the film The Giant Gila Monster has passed away at age 80. (He was born on New Years Day.) Don was a veteran of the Sci-Fi Convention circuit, graciously greeting his many fans and sharing stories from the sets of his many low budget sci-fi films.

Hooray For Hollywood! A Supporting Trophy

The famous statuette given out to Academy Award winners has always been rare and highly sought after. It used to be even rarer, even among the winners themselves. While the recipients of the major awards always received a statuette, everyone else received a plaque.

The plaque featured a smaller representation of the statuette. In 1944, the Academy discontinued this lesser trophy and every recipient received a “real” Oscar statuette.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Big Ego, Big Budget, Big Disaster: Waterworld

Big Ego, Big Budget, Big Disaster
Waterworld (1995)

Inducted 2018

In the mid-1990’s, Kevin Costner was flying high in Hollywood. He could make any film he wanted and he used that power to make Waterworld. Kevin’s ego would get the best of him, flushing millions of Universal’s dollars down the toilet into a plodding, bloated mess of a film.

Costner’s spending on the film would have shocked even Elizabeth Taylor, though while she spent thousands flying in Chasen’s famous Chili during the production of Cleopatra, he would spend millions on CGI to cover up his receding hairline. Literal disasters occurred on set, making things worse. The film actually tore apart Costner’s friendship with his producing partner Kevin Reynolds.

Rumors from the set began to trickle out about the vast amounts of cash that were being spent to make this mess of a film. Hollywood insiders began referring to the film as “Fishtar” and “Kevin’s Gate” in reference to past legendary failures. Despite Universal’s hope that they’d have another Dances With Wolves on their hands, they got another Cleopatra. The company had bet so much on this film that they even staged an elaborate stunt show at their Hollywood theme park that bizarrely still exists today. Kevin Costner’s career would never again reach the heights it had in the early 90’s, despite his attempts to suggest that the film eventually made a profit. Of course, Cleopatra eventually made a profit, but it still almost bankrupted Twentieth Century Fox. Universal Studios wouldn’t suffer the same fate, but they weren’t exactly ecstatic about the film’s performance- or Kevin’s either. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Hits All The Wrong Notes Musical: Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band

Hits All The Wrong Notes Musical
Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band (1978)

Inducted 2018

Making a motion picture is not quite a science. Louis B. Mayer tried to make it one at MGM, but even he never quite succeeded. It’s hard to figure out how an audience will react to any particular film. Sometimes a particular director or producer will have only one epic film in them. The smarter ones will stop while they’re ahead; others will get their one big hit and assume they’re invincible. That was what led to one of the most disastrous films of the 1970’s- Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Robert Stigwood was on the top of the Hollywood heap after making Saturday Night Fever and Grease. As a result, he thought he could do no wrong when it came to making musicals. He thought he had a guaranteed hit when he combined the songs from the biggest band of the 1960’s with the voices of the biggest band of the 1970’s. Having The Bee Gees singing the Beatles hits seemed like a surefire box office success. It ended up being one of the biggest misfires ever.

The film is an overlong music video and a visually tacky mess. It would sour Hollywood on Robert Stigwood and the world on The Bee Gees. Nobody leaves this film with their dignity intact.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Short in Length and Quality: Mr. B Natural (1956)

Short in Length and Quality
Mr. B Natural (1956)

Inducted 2018

The goal of any sponsored film should be to highlight the sponsor’s product in a way that makes those watching possibly want to purchase it. When Conn hired Kling Film Productions to make a film highlighting its line of CONNstellation brass band instruments, it succeeded in highlighting the instruments, but possibly failed in getting many people to want to buy them.

This short seeks to convince parents that their square children could become ‘hip’ and ‘with it’ if they only loved them enough to buy them a Conn instrument. We get introduced to the wonders of junior high school band by “Mr. B Natural” who is actually played by a woman. The freakish nymph invades the bedroom of the young impressionable Buzz, who introduces him to the joy of fitting in by getting your father to buy you a trumpet.

Aside from the nightmarish pixie man/woman, the worst thing about this short film is the bad lesson it teaches children- you must fit in if you want to be happy. That it recommends joining the band to become ‘hip’ just makes things even more ridiculous.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Low Budget/Low Quality: Catalina Caper (1967)

Low Budget/Low Quality
Catalina Caper (1967)

Inducted 2018

Catalina Island is, as the song says, about 26 miles away from the mainland in Southern California. Its proximity to Hollywood made it an attractive shooting location, though it rarely depicted itself. After 1967’s Catalina Caper, island residents probably wished that their tropical paradise had remained mostly undepicted.

Starring a down on his luck Tommy Kirk, the film is a forgettable beach comedy patterned after his former Disney co-star’s far more successful films. Whereas his former co-Star Annette Funicello voluntarily left Disney to make more mature films, Tommy had been fired due to his bad attitude and scandalous behavior. Therefore the pickings were much slimmer for him. Also featuring an early in his career Lyle Waggoner and the too talented for this film Little Richard, the film doesn’t really aim high, yet it doesn’t even hit that low target. Today, the entertainment value of the film can mostly be derived from its scenic portrayal of a vintage Catalina Island.

While the film is mostly remembered today due to it starring Tommy Kirk, it is best not to mention it were you to bump into him. He’s not particularly fond of it.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Legendary Disaster: The Conquerer (1956)

Legendary Disaster
The Conqueror (1956)

Inducted 2018

Whereas last year’s inductee severely weakened its studio to the point where it had to be sold off to MGM, this year’s film contributed to the utter collapse of its studio. Once one of the major studios, RKO essentially disappeared not long after it made The Conquerer, whose production had been directly overseen by its studio head- Howard Hughes. The film’s failure would sadly not be the worst thing that resulted from its production.

The Conquerer would begin production with several strikes against it. The first strike was that it was going to be personally overseen by RKO’s studio head at the time- Howard Hughes. Mr. Hughes’ infamous obsessive compulsive tendencies were already in effect at this time, which made what would be a hard desert shoot even harder. The film, which sought to bring the life of Genghis Khan to the screen made another terrible mistake in casting John Wayne as the titular ‘Conquerer’. Aside from being racist, the casting choice proved to be a ridiculous one. John Wayne was completely out of his element in this film and was a horrible choice regardless of race. 

The film was a terrifying bore and it struggled to make back a fraction of its budget. Rumor had it that Howard Hughes personally bought the film’s rights to prevent it from airing on television, but not because it was an embarrassment. He had a sadder reason. The film’s production in the Nevada desert took place during the United States military tests of the atom bomb. Before scientists tied radioactive fallout with cancer, the tests were a festive affair with the Las Vegas casinos promoting viewing parties and encouraging tourists to head out to the testing sites. RKO hosted similar parties during The Conquerer’s production. The cast and crew were encouraged to soldier on and keep filming even after the tests had scattered radioactive fallout over the sets. Even worse, when reshoots took place in Hollywood, RKO had sand from the desert sets trucked in at Mr. Hughes’ request to make the soundstage sets look more authentic. This caused many of the cast and crew to get cancer, with the film’s cancer rate proving to be much higher than that of the general public. Hughes reportedly kept the film off the airwaves while he was still alive to assuage his guilt over causing so much misery. While he had intended to make an epic film that would be long remembered as one of the greatest films ever made, he ended up making a film that would have been mostly forgotten were it not for its tragic death toll.

The 2018 Blind Kiyomi Film Un-Preservation Registry

It’s that time of year again- The Blind Kiyomi Film Un-Preservation Registry! Check here all week for the latest inductees!

Happy New Year!