Saturday, October 10, 2009

Some Mod Music

Tonight I do not feel up to a full fledged blog entry, so I thought I would leave you with three songs from groups favoured by the Mods of the Mid-Sixties United Kingdom. Of course, here I have to point out that the music the original Mods preferred was Modern Jazz. Indeed, the term Mod derived from Modernist, someone who prefers Modern Jazz over Traditional Jazz (their polar opposites, then, would be Traditionalists). It was a little later that the preferred music of Mods became rhythm and blues and still later it shifted to rock bands such as The Who and Small Faces. Anyhow, without further ado, here are three songs from groups favoured by Mods.

"Sunny Afternoon" by The Kinks

This is the promotional clip to The Kinks' song "Sunny Afternoon," a single from 1966. The Kinks had established themselves with songs driven by power chords, such "You Really Got Me" and "All Day and All of the Night." "Sunny Afternoon," with a bit of a musichall sound, was then a bit of a break with their previous style. It went all the way to #1 on the British charts.

"Heart Full of Soul" by The Yardbirds

"Heart Full of Soul" was written by Graham Gouldman, who also wrote The Yardbirds' hit "For Your Love," as well as hits for The Hollies, Herman's Hermits, and Wayne Fontana. He would become better known in the Seventies as one of 10cc.

"We Gotta Get Out of This Place" by The Animals

"We Gotta Get Out of This Place" was composed by the songwriting team Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, who wrote numerous hit songs over the years. Oddly enough, it was originally written with The Righteous Brothers in mind (Mann and Weil having written "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" for them earlier). Fortunately, Allen Klein would hear the song and give the demo to record producer Mickie Most. Most then gave the song to The Animals, whom he was producing at the time. The Animals' version was rearranged from what the original version had been. At any rate, it is hard to imagine The Righteous Brothers actually performing the song--it would have been very different if they had!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Classic Cinema Survey

I hope Kate Gabrielle of Silents and Talkies forgives me for snagging another idea for a post from her, but this classic cinema survey was too good to pass up! It was originated by Amanda of Noodle in a Haystack in in honour of her 50th post. If you decide to take the survey as well, please let Amanda know at her original post! 

1. What is your all-time favourite Clark Gable movie? Gone With the Wind. It was there that Clark Gable played the part that he was born to play, Rhett Butler!

2. Do you like Joan Crawford best as a comedienne or a drama-queen? I think she was much more effective as a drama queen, although given how scary she could be, I think she was most effective in her later horror movies!

3. In your opinion, should Ginger Rogers have made more musicals post-Fred Astaire? Ginger was a great dancer, but ultimately I think she really needed a dance partner to shine in musicals, and the only one who would do was Fred. In other words, no.

4. I promise not to cause you bodily (or any other serious) harm if you don't agree with me on this one. So please be honest: do you like Elizabeth Taylor? I really can't say I like or dislike Elizabeth Taylor. To me she was just always sort of there.

5. Who is your favourite offscreen Hollywood couple? Okay, they were never married, but their affair seems to be the stuff of legends! Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.

6. How about onscreen Hollywood couple? Definitely, Doris Day and Rock Hudson. They had amazing chemistry together. I don't think Pillow Talk would have worked with any other actors!

7. Favourite Jean Arthur movie? Shane. Admittedly, Jean didn't have a lot to do, but it is the second greatest Western of all time.

8. What was the first Gregory Peck movie you saw? To Kill a Mockingbird. In the theatre, no less! No, I'm not that old. When I was in third grade our class got a free trip to the cinema and that was the movie they showed. I have no idea who at the 4th Street Cinema thought the movie was fitting for third graders....

9. What film made you fall in love with Alfred Hitchcock? (And for those of you that say, "I don't like Hitchcock" -- what is wrong with you?!) Rear Window. It was the first Hitchcock movie I ever saw.

10. What is your favourite book-to-movie adaptation? A Clockwork Orange. It does differ a bit from the book, but I think Stanley Kubrick did an amazing job of bringing Anthony Burgess' novel to life.

11. Do you prefer Shirley Temple as a little girl or as a teenager? Okay, I'll probably get lynched for this, but I honestly preferred her as a teenager. In too many films she made as a child I found her, well, annoying....

12. Favourite Character Actor? Just one?! Okay, I'll pick an actor and an actress--Charles Coburn and Thelma Ritter. No, Thomas Mitchell and ZaSu Pitts. No...I just can't make up my mind! There are too many good character actors!

13. Favourite Barbara Stanwyck role? Phyllis in Double Indemnity. To me she played the ultimate film noir femme fatale in that movie.

14. Who is your favourite of Cary Grant's leading ladies? Wow. That is difficult to say. I'd have to go with a four way tie. He had great chemistry with Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. And while they didn't associate much on or off the set, I think he had good chemistry with Doris Day in A Touch of Mink as well. Of course, I  have to include Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief and Carole Lombard in In Name Only because, well, they are Grace Kelly and Carole Lombard....

15. Bette Davis or Joan Crawford? No doubt about it, it'd be Bette Davis.

16. What actors and/or actresses do you think are underrated? John Wayne for one. It is a myth he only played "John Wayne." There was actually a good deal of variety to his roles. Rooster Cogburn is nothing like Ethan Edwards, yet Wayne played them both. As far as actresses, Pamela Tiffin.  She did a great job as Scarlett in One, Two, Three! Sadly, I think the fact that she was spectacularly beautiful led her to be typecast in roles not worthy of her talent.

 17. What actors and/or actresses do you think are overrated? I might receive flack for this,  but I think Spencer Tracy is a bit overrated. It seems to me that in a lot of his roles,  he pretty much played, well, Spencer Tracy.

18. Do you watch movies made pre-1980 exclusively, or do you spice up your viewing-fare with newer films? I actually watch quite a few newer films and even have my favourite modern directors (David Fincher, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Jackson, and so on).  Here I must point that a lot of the post-1980 films I like are not exactly commercial and those that could be considered commercial tend to be either science fiction, fantasy, spy thrillers, or horror movies. I will say this--I hate modern comedies!

19. Is there an actor/actress who you have seen in a film and immediately loved? If so, who? I can think of at least five --Louise Brooks, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Carole Lombard, and Thelma Todd. I don't think any red blooded, American, heterosexual male could help bit fall for those five....

20. Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire? Gene Kelly, although I like Fred too!

21. Favourite Ginger Rogers drama? Kitty Foyle. I thought she gave her best performance in that movie.

22. If you wrote a screenplay, who would be in your dream cast and what roles would they play? (Mixing actors and actresses from different generations is allowed: any person from any point in their career.) Terence Stamp (the hero, a superspy), Diana Rigg (his love interest and partner, also a spy); Christopher Lee (the macabre sidekick); David Niven (the head of the spy agency); and Laurence Harvey (the really evil bad guy). No idea who would direct, but it would definitely be a Bondian spy thriller, with some horror and  some Swinging London thrown in for good measure (actually, that's the dream cast for my novel...)!

23. Favourite Actress? A tie between Carole Lombard, Grace Kelly, Doris Day. and Louise Brooks.

24. Favourite Actor? A tie between Steve McQueen, Humphrey Bogart, Boris Karloff, and Christopher Lee.

25. And now, the last question. What is your favourite movie from each of these genres:

     Drama:  Seven Samurai. I know a lot of people see it as an action
      movie, but it is actually more about the characters than it is anything else!

     Romance: Casablanca. Is there any other greater romance movie?

     Musical: Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

     Comedy: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the

     Western: High Noon

      Hitchcock (he has a genre all to himself): North by Northwest.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Carole Lombard Birthday Tag

Gracie Bird of Dreaming in Black and White has a birthday tag for the 101st birthday of Carole Lombard (which was Tuesday). Kate Gabrielle posted it on her blog, Silents and TalkiesAs a big fan of Carole Lombard, I thought I would do the questions that accompany the tag!

1. Favourite Carole film.

That is very hard to say, as I love so many of her films. If I had to choose, however, it would probably be My Man Godfrey. Not only was it the first Carole Lombard film I ever saw, it is absolutely hilarious.

2. Carole's career was cut tragically short in 1942. Though she worked with many amazing and talented actors, who would you have liked to see her with?
This might sound strange, but I would have liked to have seen her opposite Humphrey Bogart. I think they would have made a very interesting team! Bogie made too few comedies as it is.

3. Ok, so who was your favourite out of Carole's leading men?
That's actually hard to decide. She played opposite some of my absolute favourite actors--Clark Gable, Cary Grant, William Powell, Jimmy Stewart... But if I had to pick a favourite, I think it would be Jack Benny in To Be or Not To Be (Robert Montgomery in Mr and Mrs. Smith would be a close second). In my humble opinion, Benny was the greatest comic of all time, while Carole was the greatest comedic actress.

4. Do you think Carole's relevant today? if so, why?
Yes. She was one of the greatest movie stars of all time. Not only was she stunningly beautiful, but she was intelligent and extremely funny. In fact, I think if she had not died when she did, she might have event taken up writing and directing (she did direct Hitchcock in his cameo in Mr and Mrs. Smith). She is a role model that modern actresses should strive to be.

5. Do you agree with contemporary views that someone like Cameron Diaz is the new Carole Lombard?
Ye gods, no! Diaz is not nearly as talented, funny, or intelligent as Carole Lombard was, nor is she even a tenth as hot!

6. On a scale of 1-10, how cool was Carole?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The 50th Anniversary of Pillow Talk

It was on October 6, 1959 that a motion picture debuted that would change movies forever. It teamed two of the biggest box office draws of the era, Doris Day and Rock Hudson, for the first time. And while it was not the first of the Sixties sex comedies , it became the quintessential Sixties sex comedy (even if it was released at the tail end of the Fifties). That film was Pillow Talk. Directed by Michael Gordon and produced by Ross Hunter and Doris Day's husband, Martin Melcher, it would arguably become Doris Day's most famous film. It would also cement the cycle towards sex comedies that had begun with Teacher's Pet (another Doris Day vehicle) and would continue until 1968 with the release of Where Were You When the Lights Went Out (another Doris Day vehicle).

Even though Doris Day had played the sexually charged role of Ruth Etting in the biopic Love Me or Leave Me and had already appeared in the sex comedies Teacher's Pet and It Happened to Jane, as of 1959 Doris Day's image was still very much that of the girl next door. It was producer Ross Hunter who realised that Doris Day had a great deal of sex appeal which had never been fully exploited. What is more, Hunter figured that Day's sex appeal could be brought out even more by teaming her with six foot four, handsome Rock Hudson?

Primarily written by Stanley Shapiro, a veteran of the TV show The Real McCoys and a writer on the sex comedy The Perfect Furlough, and Maurice Richlin, another veteran of The Real McCoys who would go onto write both Operation Petticoat and The Pink Panther, Pillow Talk had a very complex premise. Rock Hudson and Doris Day played  playboy Brad Allen and interior decorator Jan Morrow respectively, two people who live in the same apartment building but have never met, and who find themselves constantly at odds over the use of the building's party line. When Brad finally sees Jan at a nightclub, he puts on the charade of being rich Texas rancher Tex Stetson to get close to her. Pillow Talk featured all the hallmarks for which the Sixties sex comedies would become known: the battle of the sexes, ridiculous situations, a strong element of deceit  (usually a character pretending to be someone else, as in Pillow Talk), glamourous settings, and lavish costumes. Indeed, Pillow Talk may be the first sex comedy to feature an extravagant bachelor pad of the sort which often appeared in the sex comedies of the Sixties. While very much a product of the sexual revolution, in many respects it was also a throwback to sophisticated comedies of the sort made in the Thirties. The dialogue was witty and came fast and furious.

Oddly enough, Rock Hudson was initially resistant to doing the film. Rock Hudson was worried about doing a comedy, worried that he might well fall on his face. He was concerned whether he could play a "Cary Grant role." He finally accepted the part  of Brad Allen, on the condition that his friend Nick Adams receive a role as well.  It was director Michael Gordon who eventually persuaded Hudson to take the role, with some advice on playing comedy, "No matter how absurd the situations may appear to the viewer, to the people involved, it's a matter of life and death." Surprisingly, Rock Hudson thought Doris Day would be a cool blonde, a woman " warm as a December night on an ice floe." He was very pleasantly surprised to find Doris Day was warm and very friendly. In fact, the two got along so well that they developed nicknames for each other: Hudson called Day, "Eunice" and Doris called Hudson "Ernie." It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Pillow Talk benefited from a stellar cast aside from Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Tony Randall had already starred in what could be considered a predecessor to the Sixties sex comedies, Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter, and a Sixties sex comedy of his own, The Mating Game (released only a few months prior to Pillow Talk). He appeared in the sort of role played by Gig Young in two previous Doris Day comedies, Young at Heart and Teacher's Pet--that of the rival for the girl's heart . Not only would he appear in all three movies Rock Hudson and Doris Day made together, but he would appear in yet other sex comedies as well. Veteran character actress Thelma Ritter appeared as Jan's sardonic housekeeper who always had a hangover.

While the cast and crew of Pillow Talk got along well, the movie did experience some problems during shooting. In a scene in which Rock Hudson was supposed to pull Doris Day out of bed by grabbing her by the ankles and pulling her off the bed, he forgot to let go of her ankles. The result was that Day landed onto the floor hard. Day took it all in stride, grinning at him and asking, "Would you please let go of my ankles?" The scene in which Hudson had to carry Day through the apartment lobby and into the street also entailed some problems. Hudson had problems with his back, so a harness had to be devised which allowed him to carry Day without much difficulty. In scene where Tony Randall's character was to be punched by restaurant customers, Randall was simply supposed to act as if he was hit hard and slide down the booth in which he had been sitting as if unconscious. Instead the actor really did hit him, so hard that he actually knocked Randall out! The shot turned out so well that it was used in the final cut of the film. Julia Meade, who played Brad's girlfriend Marie, did a live commercial each week on The Ed Sullivan Show in New York City. As a result, every Saturday she flew to New York, returning after the show aired on Sunday night.

Amazingly enough,  even though Pillow Talk starred two of the biggest box office draws of the time, producer Ross Hunter had problems convincing cinema managers to book the movie. The big movie chains felt that sophisticated comedies were no longer fashionable. After all, this was the era of big budget spectacles and war movies. Finally, Hunter convinced Sol Schwartz, owner of the Palace Theatre in New York to get Pillow Talk for a two week run. The movie proved to be a huge hit there. In no time Pillow Talk was very much in demand from cinema owners.

Pillow Talk debuted on October 6, 1959 in New York City, then went nationwide the next day, on October 7. Over all the film received sterling reviews from critics. It would be the number one movie for very nearly two months. In the end it would be the seventh highest grossing film of 1959. It was nominated for no less than five Oscars and won the Academy Award for Best Writing, Story and Screenplay - Written Directly for the Screen.

Naturally, Pillow Talk would have a huge impact on the movies of the Sixties. Pillow Talk was not the first Sixties sex comedy. The cycle towards Sixties sex comedies had begun in 1958 with Teacher's Pet and there were a few other sex comedies which had preceded it. That having been said, the phenomenal success of Pillow Talk guaranteed that the cycle would continue for many years to come. From 1958 to 1968 approximately there would be around forty different sex comedies. As might be expected, Pillow Talk had a huge impact on Doris Day's career. From 1959 to 1966 Doris Day would rank in the annual exhibitors' poll of the top ten box office stars, more than any other actress besides Betty Grable since the poll had begun in 1932. For three years, from 1962 to 1965, she was the top box office star in the poll. To this day, according to the annual Quigley Publishing poll's All-Time Number One Stars list, Doris Day remains the top female star in terms of box office. Doris Day and Rock Hudson would ultimately make three more movies together (Lover Come Back and Send Me No Flowers). Doris Day herself would make several more sex comedies, to the point that it is now the genre of film for which she is best known.

I am not certain how old I was when I first saw Pillow Talk. I know that it was very much a part of my childhood. Of course, at the time many of the jokes went well over my head. It is perhaps for that reason that as an adult I developed a newfound appreciation of the movie. In fact, it is one of those films that seems to improve with each viewing, as I seem to find something new in it each time. While I enjoyed it a good deal as a child, as an adult it would become one of my favourite films of all time.

Pillow Talk did not start the cycle towards Sixties sex comedies, but its success guaranteed that the genre would continue for years to come. Its influence would extend to the sex comedies which succeeded it in the Sixties, as well as tributes to the genre such as Down With Love. For both Doris Day and Rock Hudson it perhaps remains their best known movie. It was the sophisticated comedy which found success in an age of big budget spectacles, a racy comedy in an era of conservatism. Quite simply, Pillow Talk could be one of the most influential film comedies of all time.

Monday, October 5, 2009

The 40th Anniversary of Monty Python's Flying Circus

(Warning: Monty Python's Flying Circus at times dealt with subject matter that some might find objectionable.If you are sensitive about such things, then proceed at your own risk. If you are a child, then please move onto a more suitable site....).

Tonight it will have been 40 years since the TV show Monty Python's Flying Circus debuted. It was a comedy show like no other before it and like no other since. Its brand of humour was so unique that the term Pythonesque had to be invented just to describe it.

While Monty Python's Flying Circus was starkly original when it debuted on Sunday night, 5 October, 1969, there had been a few forerunners to the show. Its style was influenced to some degree by the humour of Spike Milligan, veteran of The Goon Show. Milligan's series Q, which debuted in March 1969,  possessed a similar style of surreal, freeform humour, to the point that the Pythons worried that their show (which was in development at the time) might be too similar. It was also preceded by television programmes featuring members of the Python troupe itself. Do Not Adjust Your Set was an ITV children's show which featured Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin, and still later animation by Terry Gilliam. It aired from 1967 to 1969. At Last the 1948 Show was a satirical show which was made for ITV in 1967. It featured John Cleese and Graham Chapman. It was also preceded by the radio shows The Goon Show and Round the Home, which was the creation of comedian and writer Barry Took. It was in many ways the radio equivalent to Monty Python's Flying Circus.

It was Barry Took who would be largely responsible forMonty Python's Flying Circus coming into being. He suggested to the BBC a new comedy series that would team writers Michael Palin and Terry Jones, alongside Graham Chapman and John Cleese. Many names were considered before Monty Python's Flying Circus was settled upon. Among those names were Owl-Stretching Time, Bun, Whackett, Buzzard, Stubble and Boot, A Toad Elevating Moment, A Toad Elevating Moment, A Horse, a Bucket and a Spoon, and It's.... It was Michael Mills, BBC's Head of Comedy, that insisted that the title must have the word circus in it, as the show's troupe was referred to as a "circus" by BBC employees. It was then that such names as Baron Von Took's Flying Circus (after another remark from Mills regarding Barry Took) and Gwen Dibley's Flying Circus were considered. Monty Python's Flying Circus was finally chosen, as "Monty Python" sounded like the name of a bad theatrical agent.

When Monty Python's Flying Circus debuted, it was not quite like any comedy show before it. Not only was the show done in a freeform style marked by equal parts sarcasm and satire, but it was often blatantly absurdist.  Examples of the show's absurdist bent were the sketches "Spam (featuring a restaurant which serves nothing but spam, resulting in complaints from customers and a Greek chorus of Vikings singing of "spam"),"  "The Ministry of Silly Walks" (in which a British government agency develops silly walks)," and "The Spanish Inquisition (in which three members of the Spanish Inquisition consistently interrupt other sketches with the words "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!").  Monty Python's Flying Circus was also known for its satire, often spoofing two things in the same sketch, as in "Sam Peckinpah's Salad Days (which portrays the British musical Salad Days as directed by Peckinpah)," "The Piranha Brothers (parodying both documentary news programmes and the British underworld)," and "The Lumberjack Song (parodying lumberjacks, the RCMP, and letters from outraged viewers)." In between the sketches was Terry Gilliam's often surreal animation. The humour was also often intellectual tone.

That Monty Python's Flying Circus was intellectual in bent should not be surprising, as the Monty Python troupe was all very educated. Terry Jones and Michael Palin had attended Oxford. John Cleese and Eric Idle had attended Cambridge. Terry Gilliam had attended Occidental College in Los Angeles. Contrary to popular belief, the Pythons were not all English. The troupe was composed of four Englishmen (Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, and Michael Palin), and one American (Terry Gilliam). Carol Cleveland, the woman who most frequently performed on the show, had been born in England, but was raised in Philadelphia.

In its first seasons Monty Python's Flying Circus was not subject to much in the way of censorship. The BBC simply requested that the Pythons do whatever they liked, as long as it was within the bounds of the law. Given the content of the show, however, it was inevitable that more conservative groups would start voicing their taste for the series. As a result, the BBC began to watch the Pythons more closely. They tried to cut certain words from sketches, including bugger and masturbation. A sketch called "Wee-Wee Wine Tasting (in which wine sampled was actually urine) was censored after both John Cleese  (who disliked scatological humour on the show) and BBC objected. The sketch "Travel Agent," in which Eric Idle played a man with a speech impediment where by he pronounced his "Cs" as "Bs" was also cut. At least two references to cancer were cut, one during a Terry Gilliam animation and another during the sketch "Conquistador Coffee Campaign." Other sketches were cut after they had aired. The sketch "Political Choreographer," which featured John Cleese, as a Conservative Party spokesman, is coached by Eric Idle, as a choreographer, in dancing. The sketch was long feared lost until a tape from a Buffalo, New York TV station was found containing it. An animation of "Satan" that aired "Cartoon Religion" and "How Not To Be Seen" was cut and was feared missing until a 16 mm film print of it was found.

Aside from censorship, Monty Python's Flying Circus also had to suffer through very poor scheduling for much of its run. In its first season it aired at 11:00 PM on Sunday, where it was sometimes pre-empted by local programming. For its second season it aired at 10:15 PM on Tuesday. For its third season it was scheduled at the same time, but on Thursday. It was not until its fourth season that it received a decent time slot, 9 PM on Thursday night. From the beginning the BBC had been very uncomfortable about the show, to the point that it was placed in bad time slots. Amazingly, the viewership for the show continued to grow throughout its run despite poor scheduling.

Monty Python's Flying Circus would run four seasons, ending primarily because it was running out of steam. John Cleese left at the end of the third season. His departure was due in part to his weariness in dealing with partner Graham Chapman's alcoholism and in part to his thought that the show's scripts had declined in quality. Without John Cleese, the Pythons went onto do a fourth season (the only one which featured Terry Gilliam on screen), although it would only be six episodes long. The last original episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus aired on 5 December, 1974.

Of course, Monty Python's Flying Circus would eventually make it to North America. In 1970 sketches from the series aired in Canada on the CBC. It was in 1974 that Dallas PBS station KERA first aired the show. It later appeared on New York PBS station WNET that same year. By 1975 around 131 different American stations were airing Monty Python's Flying Circus. It was that same year that the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) aired episodes of the show in an edited form on their umbrella series Wide World of Entertainment. The Pythons themselves objected, but ABC refused to stop airing the episodes in edited form. As a result the Pythons sued ABC. First the court admitted that their creative rights had been violated, but refused to prohibit ABC from continuing to air edited versions of the episodes. On appeal the Pythons gained control over all broadcasts of the series in the United States from that time forward.

Monty Python would eventually move into other media. In 1970 the troupe released the album Monty Python's Flying Circus, which included such sketches as "Nudge, Nudge" and "The Lumberjack Song." It would be followed by several more albums. Of course, Monty Python's biggest impact would be on film. In 1971 the movie And Now For Something Complete Different was released, compiling several sketches from the show. It would be followed by the movies Monty Python and the Holy Grail in 1975, Monty Python's Life of Brian in 1979, Monty Python Live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1982, and Monty Python's Meaning of Life in 1983. Between 1974 and 1980 Monty Python appeared on stage in shows that used many of the sketches form the TV series. There have also been books and even games.

After the series had ended, the Pythons would go onto their own successful solo careers. Graham Chapman guest starred on several American television shows, and wrote and appeared in the movie Yellowbeard. John Cleese created and starred in the classic sitcom Fawlty Towers, guest starred on several shows on both sides of the Pond, and wrote in starred in such films as A Fish Called Wanda. After co-directing the Monty Python film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Terry Gilliam went onto direct such films as Brazil, The Fisher King, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and others. Eric Idle created another sketch show, Rutland Weekend Television, the mockumentary All You Need is Cash (featuring The Rutles, a parody of The Beatles, which had originated on Rutland Weekend Television), and has appeared in several different films and TV shows. After co-directing Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Terry Jones went onto direct the films Monty Python's Life of Brian, Monty Python's Meaning of Life, Erik the Viking, and The Wind in the Willows. He has also written books on medieval history and appeared in various shows and movies. Michael Palin went onto work on the series Ripping Yarns, and has appeared in the films The Missionary (which he also wrote), Time Bandits, Brazil, A Fish Called Wanda, and All You Need is Cash.

Aside from the movies, records, and stage shows which would be spun off from the series, Monty Python's Flying Circus would have an enormous impact on pop culture. Indeed, the term Pythonesque was coined to describe humour similar to that of Monty Python. In the world of computing, Guido van Rossum's Python programming language is named for the comedy troupe. The use of the word "spam" for junk email is drawn from the sketch "Spam," in reference to the Vikings in the restaurant drowning everything out with their song about Spam. A previously unknown species of giant snake dating to the Miocene Era was given the taxonomic name  Montypythonoides riversleighensis by the palaeontologist who had discovered it. Both the comic strip Monty and its lead character, created by Jim Meddick, are named for Monty Python. Sketches from Monty Python's Flying Circus are referenced to this day. Monty Python's legacy to pop culture is even greater when one includes the films that the troupe made. Monty Python and the Holy Grail may be one of the most quoted films of all time. 

In 2000 the British Film Institute included Monty Python's Flying Circus in the "100 Greatest British Television Programmes," where it ranked fifth. Time included it in its "100 Best TV Shows of All Time" in 2007. If not the most famous British series in the world, it would definitely rank in the top five. After forty years it continues to have an impact on pop culture. In the end, it may be the most famous sketch comedy show of all time.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Some Music For Geeks

I've been under the weather this weekend with a cold, so I don't feel up to a full fledged blog post. I thought then I would leave you with some videos, this time with special appeal to geeks. There was a time when the only bands around that made an effort to appeal to geekdom were Blue Oyster Cult and Hawkwind. Later there would be Monster Magnet and The Consortium of Genius. Another band can be added to this list now, The She Creatures. The She Creatures are a power pop/garage rock/psychedelic band whose inspiration seems to come equally from the music of the Sixties and bad science fiction movies. They apparently come from Venus, by way of Bristol. Anyway, here is their song "Sexy Robot." Special thanks to Jeff Diel for posting this to Facebook!

By the way, if you liked this, you might want to check out their official website. Among other songs, they have a great remake of Paul Revere and the Raiders' "Hungry."

Of course, many geeks and even non-geeks play MMOs (that's short for "massively multiplayer online game"--Everquest is an example). The phenomenon has become so prevalent that it has even inspired an online sitcom, The Guild, which follows a group of MMO players. Created by actress and writer Felicia Day, it may well be one of the best sitcoms in the past few years. Shortly before the debut of its third season, the cast created a parody music video entitled "Do You Wanna Date My Avatar." Felicia Day took her inspiration for the song from Eighties dance songs. For the video, Jed Whedon (brother to Joss Whedon) also drew upon the dance videos of the era (it sort of reminds of Stacey Q.'s "Two of Hearts). Special thanks to Marina for posting this to Row Three quite some time back.

Finally, for those of you who are old timers like me, here is "Master of the Universe" by Hawkwind, complete with trippy visuals...

Good night and good luck, everyone!