Saturday, March 25, 2023

The X-Files: "Home"

It seems quite likely that The X-Files was the most popular science fiction series of the Nineties. What is more, it still maintains a huge following world-wide.  For those unfamiliar with the show, The X-Files stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson as FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, who are assigned to investigate the "X-files," unsolved cases that cannot be easily explained and often involve the paranormal. Fans of The X-Files generally come in two types. There are those fans who prefer the show's "mythology episodes," episodes which deal with a continuing storyline on The X-Files involving a government conspiracy to conceal the existence of extraterrestrial life. And then there are those fans who prefer The X-Files' "monster of the week" episodes, self-contained episodes that focus on non-reoccurring monsters, paranormal phenomena, or villains. I always fell into the latter category of "monster of the week" fan, not particularly caring for the mythology episodes. Picking a favourite monster of the week episode is difficult for me as there are so many great ones. That said, the most frightening episode of The X-Files for me may well be "Home."

"Home" is the second episode of the fourth season of The X-Files, and debuted on October 11 1996 on Fox. "Home" takes place in the fictional, small Pennsylvania town of the same name. Mulder and Scully are sent to the small town after a group of kids playing baseball discover the corpse of a severely deformed infant. A conversation with the local sheriff, Andy Taylor (Tucker Smallwood) leads them to the Peacock brothers, who can best be described as mutant hillbillies living well off the grid. There's much more to the episode than that, but the less one knows going into "Home" the better.

"Home" marked the triumphant return of writers Glen Morgan and James Wong to The X-Files. Messrs. Morgan and Wong had worked on The X-Files during its first three seasons before departing to produce their own television show Space: Above and Beyond. After Space: Above and Beyond had been cancelled, they returned to The X-Files. For their first script following their return to the show, they decided to write something that would not only be ambitious, but that would push the envelope for what was allowed on television at the time.

Inspiration for "Home" came from diverse sources. One was the 1992 documentary Brother's Keeper, which dealt with an alleged murder that occurred in a small farming community near Utica, New York and the Ward brothers, four brothers who lived on a dilapidated farm that had been passed down through their family for generations. Another bit of inspiration came from My Autobiography by Charlie Chaplin, in which he told how he stayed in a miner's tenement home in Wales and was introduced to a legless man who slept in the kitchen cupboard. Two well known movies also served as inspiration for "Home": The Texas Chaninsaw Massacre (1974) and The Hills Have Eyes (1977). Yet another source of inspiration came from, of all things, The Andy Griffith Show. Not only is Home, Pennsylvania's sheriff named "Andy Taylor," but the show contains references to Mayberry, the setting of The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D.

"Home" proved controversial before it even began filming. The producers of The X-Files worried that with "Home" the show may have gone too far. Tucker Smallwood, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor, was genuinely shocked by the episode's violence. The episode's director, Kim Manners, wanted to use Johnny Mathis's song "Wonderful Wonderful" in the episode, but Mr. Mathis was so appalled after reading the script that he refused to let them use the song. Fortunately, they found a Johnny Mathis soundalike who recorded a cover version for the episode. Kim Manners was the one fan of the script. The director called it "as classic a horror script I'm ever going to see."

"Home" was shot in Surrey, British Columbia, which is hardly a small town, having a population of over 500,000. Fortunately, Surrey has several buildings of the type often seen in small American (and Canadian, for that matter) towns and they were able to shoot the episode at different angles to give the illusion of a town no bigger than, well, Mayberry, North Carolina.

The Fox Network was obviously concerned about "Home." It was the only X-Files episode to carry a TV-MA rating upon its first broadcast. It was also the first X-Files episode to ever bear a viewer discretion warning because of its violent content. While "Home" received positive reviews from critics and did very well in the Nielsen ratings, it would be the only episode of The X-Files that Fox never reran. "Home" would not be seen again until FX began showing repeats of The X-Files in 1997.

In many ways it is understandable why "Home" is considered the scariest episode of The X-Files. Its opening scene, in which the Peacock brothers bury the aforementioned deformed baby, is particularly horrifying, Later in the episode there is a good deal of violence that was unusual for most episodes of the series. Even so, The X-Files had featured episodes that were violent both before and after "Home." What makes "Home" more disturbing than other X-Files episodes is that it might well hit a little too close to, well, home for many. "Home" does not deal with the paranormal or supernatural. The Peacocks are not the products of radiation nor government experiments, nor are they aliens or demons. Instead they are the products of both a highly dysfunctional family and, quite apparently, inbreeding.Unlike the flukeman of "The Host" or Tooms in "Squeeze," the Peacocks could actually exist.

Beyond the fact that the Peacocks could actually exist, "Home" is made all the more disturbing in that it takes aim at traditional American family values. The Peacocks are a nuclear family devoted to their familial traditions and what they view as their family honour. At the same time they are violent, backward, and hostile to outsiders, so much so that their behaviour would be considered dysfunctional by any decent human being. The Peacocks stand in contrast to the small town of Home, with its congenial Sheriff Taylor and the local kids who play baseball there. Although both are products of rural America, Home is the opposite of the Peacock brothers. Home welcomes outsiders and embraces traditional American family values in ways the Peacocks could not conceive. To make a television comparison, the Peacocks are a much more violent, even more dysfunctional Twin Peaks, while Home is Mayberry.

Speaking of Mayberry, one of the things that might make "Home" all the more terrifying is that it references the archetypal small town, Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. Its sheriff is named Andy Taylor and his deputy is even named Barney (although his last name is Paster rather than Fife). "Home" is also one of the few times a popular song was used in an episode. What is more, "Wonderful Wonderful" is used in a scene whose ultraviolence contrasts with the upbeat nature of the song. Yet another pop culture reference may be the name of the Peacock family themselves. Although I cannot verify it, there are those who claim that the name "Peacock" was chosen as a slight against rival network NBC, with whom Fox has been engaged in a feud for some time.

I won't say that "Home" is the best episode of The X-Files. I won't even say it is my absolute favourite, as I never can make up my mind with regards to which episode of The X-Files I like best. That having been said, I can say it is the episode that frightened me the most. It scared me when it first aired and, even today, after repeated viewings it still disturbs me. I have to agree with director Kim Manners, it's as classic a horror episode as anyone is going to see.

Friday, March 24, 2023

The 9th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon is Here

The 9th Annual Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon is here. This blogathon is a bit bittersweet for me, as it is the first one in which my pal Patricia Nolan-Hall, known to her friends as Paddy Lee, will not be taking part. Paddy was known for her blog Caftan Woman and took part in every single Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon. Sadly, she died on March 7 of last year. Regardless, I have been looking forward to this year's blogathon and I am eager to read everyone's entries.

For those of you who are participating in the blogathon, I ask that you link to this page. I will be updating this page with links to the various blog posts that are part of this blogathon throughout the weekend. If you want a graphic for your post, I have several on the announcement page here.

Without further ado, here are this year's posts.

By Rich Watson: "Casey Kasem’s Vocal Talents Helped Make Scooby-Doo a Star of Saturday Morning"

Realweedgiemidget Reviews: "TV… Falcon Crest (1981-90), In His Father’s House, Se 1 Ep 1"

Hamlette's Soliloquy: "'Inmate 78' (The Magnificent Seven, Season 1, Ep8)(1998)"

Make Mine Film Noir: "Moonlighting: 'The Dream Sequence Always Rings Twice' Episode (October 15, 1985)"

Taking Up Room: "A Tale of Sentinels and Fire"

Films From Beyond the Time Barrier: "William Shatner's Early Exploration of the Unknown: 'The Grim Reaper'"

The Flapper Dame: "Full House: Dr. Dare Rides Again"

Smoke in the Library: "Favorite TV Show Episode Blogathon: I Spy: 'Home to Judgement'"

Mike's Movie Room: "Naked City: "A Case Study of Two Savages (First Broadcast on February 7, 1962)"

Dubsism: "Sports Analogies Hidden In Classic Movies – Volume 142: The Rockford Files – 'Heartaches of a Fool'"

Whimsically Classic "TV Show Episode Blogathon- The Golden Girls, “\'Grab That Dough'”

Liberal England: "Softly, Softly: Task Force and the history of police on television"

Watching Forever: "Why the scary ‘Little Girl Lost’ from The Twilight Zone remains a favorite TV episode"

The Stop Button: The Flash (1990)

Box Office Poisons: A Classic Movies Blog:
"Don't Just Stand There, Do Something!' - That Girl (Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon)"

A Shroud of Thoughts
: "The X-Files: 'Home'"

Silver Scenes: "The Saint: 'The Miracle Tea Party'"

Cinematic Scribblings: "The Avengers: 'The Hour That Never Was' (1965)"

18 Cinema Lane: "Sally Watches…Touched by an Angel (The Trilogy)!"

Cinematic Catharsis: "TV Tangent - Kolchak: The Night Stalker"

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Turner Classics Movies Celebrates Warner Bros.' 100th Anniversary in April

On April 4 2023 Warner Bros. turns 100 years old. Turner Classic Movies will be celebrating the studio's 100th anniversary for the entire month of April. Every single movie airing during the month was either produced or distributed by Warner Bros. What is more, TCM will not only be showing Warner Bros.' best known feature films, but a wide variety of silent movies, animated shorts, live-action shorts, documentaries, and interstitials.

As part of the celebration, TCM will be showing restorations of 10 films. These films will also be available on HBO Max. Below are the ten films, with the times they are showing (all times are Central).

Monday, April 3 12:15 AM One Way Passage (1932) – a Blu-ray HD Remaster
Monday, April 3 4:45 PM Helen of Troy (1956) – a Blu-ray HD Remaster
Monday, April 3 7:00 PM Safe in Hell (1931) – a Blu-ray HD Remaster introduced by filmmaker Alexander Payne
Friday, April 7, 9:00 PM Storm Warning (1951) – a Blu-ray HD Remaster introduced by Martin Scorsese
Sunday, April 9, 10:15 PM A Lion is in the Streets (1953) – a Blu-ray HD Remaster introduced by Daphne Dentz and Robyn Sklaren from the Warner Bros. Discovery Library
Tuesday, April 11 11:15 PM The Strawberry Blonde (1941) – a Blu-ray HD Remaster introduced by Wes Anderson
Friday, April 14, 7:00PM The Land of the Pharaohs (1955) – a Blu-ray HD Remaster introduced by Martin Scorsese
Monday, April 17, 7:00 PM Rio Bravo (1959) – a 4k restoration introduced by filmmaker Martin Scorsese
Friday, April 21, 9:00 PM Rachel, Rachel (1968) – a Blu-ray HD Remaster introduced by filmmaker and actor Ethan Hawke
Wednesday, April 26, 7:00 PM East of Eden (1955) – a 4k restoration introduced by filmmakers Wes Anderson and Joanna Hogg

The movies during Turner Classic Movies' celebration of Warner Bros.' 100th anniversary are scheduled according to theme. Among the themes are The Early Years; Warner Joins a Gang (Warner Bros. was known for its gangster movies, after all); Produced by Hammer, Distributed by Warner (yes, that's right, we get Hammer films outside of October);  and The Superhero Era Begins (DC Comics has been a sister company of Warner Bros. since 1969) as well as themes centred on Warner Bros.' contract players (Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, et. al.). In addition to the classic feature films and short subjects, TCM will be showing original documentaries next month, including Cinema Finds Its Voice (2023) and  Jack L. Warner: The Last Mogul (1993). As might be expected, classic Warner Bros. cartoons are being shown throughout the month. Over all, it looks to be a great month for Warner Bros. fans.

I have to admit that I am disappointed that TCM isn't showing Stand and Deliver (1988) next month. It was produced by American Playhouse, but has been distributed by Warner Bros. since its original release. I am also disappointed that some of Warner Bros.' greatest movies are rather awkwardly scheduled. The Letter (1940) late, late at night (or early, early in the morning, if you prefer)?  King's Row (1940) early Saturday morning? These movies really should be in primetime, in my humble opinion.

Here are my picks of what to watch next month. I am including the classic Warner Bros. cartoons, although TCM did not provide the exact time they will air. All times are Central.

Saturday, April 1:
11:00 AM The Dawn Patrol (1930)
11:30 AM Vitaphone Shorts: "Gus Arnheim and His Cocoanut Grove Orchestra"(1927), "Baby Rose Marie: The Child Wonder" (1929), "Lambchops" (1929)

Sunday, April 2:
12:15 AM The Jazz Singer (1927)
5:30 AM Little Caesar (1931)
1:00 PM High Sierra (1941)
3:00 PM Key Largo (1948)
"Racketeer Rabbit" (1943) following Key Largo
7:00 PM The Public Enemy (1933)
"The Scarlet Pumpernickel" (1950), following The Public Enemy

Monday, April 3:
7:45 AM The Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936)
"Big House Bunny" (1950), before Safe in Hell at 7:00 PM

Tuesday, April 4:
4:15 PM Smart Blonde (1937)
7:00 PM 42nd Street (1933)
9:00 PM Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
10:45 PM Footlight Parade (1933)

Wednesday, April 5:
5:00 PM Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935)
7:00 PM The Sea Wolf (1940)

Thursday, April 6:
7:30 AM Our Miss Brooks (1957)
"Rabbit Hood" (1949), right before The Adventures of Robin Hood
7:00 PM The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
9:00 PM Life with Father (1947)

Friday, April 7:
1:15 AM The Letter (1940)
1:00 PM The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
4:30 PM The Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
"What's Opera, Doc?" (1957), before They Won't Forget (1937)
7:00 PM They Won't Forget (1937)

Saturday, April 8:
7:30 AM King's Row (1940)
3:00 PM The Summer of '42 (1971)
7:00 PM Casablanca (1942)

Sunday, April 9:
8:00 AM Sergeant York (1941)
7:00 PM A Star is Born (1954)

Monday, April 10:
12:15 PM The Curse of Frankenstein (1957)
1:45 PM Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed (1970)
"Hair Raising Hare" (1946), in between Hammer movies
3:30 PM Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1969)
5:15 PM Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970)
7:00 PM The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948)

Tuesday, April 11:
9:15 AM Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)
5:00 PM The Great Lie (1941)
7:00 PM Now, Voyager (1942)
9:15 PM Dark Victory (1939)
11:15 AM The Strawberry Blonde (1941)

Wednesday, April 12:
5:15 AM Nora Prentiss (1947)
10:15 AM They Made Me a Criminal (1939)
7:00 PM White Heat (1951)
9:30 PM Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

Thursday, April 13:
1:45 AM The Sea Hawk (1940)
8:45 AM They Drive by Night (1940)
9:15 PM Sergeant Rutledge (1960)

Friday, April 14:
4:30 PM A Face in the Crowd (1957)
9:00 PM Mister Roberts (1955)
11:15 PM Dial M for Murder (1954)

Saturday, April 15:
1:15 AM House of Wax (1954)
4:30 AM Doctor X (1932)
6:00 AM The Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933)
8:00 AM Them! (1954)
10:00 AM The Bad Seed (1956)
2:30 PM What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)
7:00 PM My Fair Lady (1964)
10:00 PM The Music Man (1962)

Sunday, April 16:
12:00 PM Bullitt (1968)
9:30 PM Cool Hand Luke (1967)
11:45 PM The Wild Bunch (1969)

Monday, April 17:
11:30 AM Ocean's 11 (1960)
4:15 PM Robin and the 17 Hoods (1964)
7:00 PM Rio Bravo (1959)
9:30 PM The Big Sleep (1944)

Tuesday, April 18:
12:00 AM Strangers on a Train (1951)
9:45 AM Two Guys from Milwaukee (1946)
3:00 PM Johnny Belinda (1948)
"The Last Hungry Cat" (1961), right before Stage Fright (1950)
5:00 PM Stage Fright (1950)
"Duck Amuck" (1953), after Stage Fright
7:00 PM Mildred Pierce (1945)
11:00 PM To Have and Have Not (1944)

Wednesday, April 19:
7:00 PM Black Legion (1937)
9:00 PM The Maltese Falcon (1941)
12:00 PM Tab Hunter Confidential (2015)

Thursday, April 20:
"Rabbit Seasoning" (1952), before Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
7:00 PM Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore (1974)
9:00 PM Mean Streets (1973)
11:15 PM Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Friday, April 21:
2:30 AM A Clockwork Orange (1971)
7:00 PM Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Saturday, April 22:
3:00 AM Start the Revolution Without Me (1970)
4:45 AM Captain Blood (1935)
7:00 AM The Adventures of Don Juan (1948)
11 :00 AM The Great Race (1965)
5:00 PM Time After Time (1979)
"What’s Up, Doc? (1950), before All the President's Men (1976)
7:00 PM All the President’s Men (1976)
9:30 PM The Exorcist (1973)

Sunday, April 23:
10:30 AM A Warm December (1973)
"Duck Dodgers in the 24 ½th Century" (1953), before Superman (1980)
7:00 PM Superman (1980)
9:30 PM Batman (1989)

Monday, April 24:

 3:15 PM It’s Alive (1974)
 5:00 PM The Omega Man (1971)
"One Froggy Evening" (1955), right before The Colour Purple (1985)
7:00 PM The Colour Purple (1985)

Tuesday, April 25:
12:00 PM Caged (1950)
2:00 PM Baby Doll (1956)
9:00 PM Calamity Jane (1953)

Wednesday, April 26:
10:45 AM Up Periscope (1959)
7:00 PM East of Eden (1955)
9:15 PM Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
11:15 PM Giant (1956)

Thursday, April 27:
"Feed the Kitty" (1952), before Spencer's Mountain (1963) at 2:30 PM
10:00 PM Unforgiven (1992)

Friday, April 28:
2:30 PM The Song Remains the Same (1976)
5:00 PM Jimi Hendrix (1973)
"Long-Haired Hare" (1940), before Woodstock (1970)
7:00 PM Woodstock: The Director’s Cut (1970)
11:00 PM Super Fly (1972)

Saturday, April 29:
2:30 AM Cleopatra Jones (1973)
7:00 AM The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945)
8:30 AM The Man Who Came to Dinner (1941)
10:30 AM No Time for Sergeants (1958)
12:45 PM Auntie Mame (1958)
2:15 PM What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
5:00 PM The In-Laws (1979)
7:00 PM Local Hero (1983)
9:00 PM Crossing Delaney (1988)

Sunday, April 30:
1:00 PM The Right Stuff (1983)
"Rabbit of Seville" (1950), before Malcolm X (1992)
7:00 PM Malcolm X (1992)

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Godspeed Lance Reddick

Lance Reddick, who played Cedric Daniels on  The Wire and Charon in the John Wick movies, among many other roles, died on March 17 2023 at at the age of 60.

Lance Reddick was born on June 7 1962 in Baltimore. He attended Friends School of Baltimore and as a teenager attended the Peabody Preparatory Institute, studying music. He studied music at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester in New York and graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree. While in college he began acting with the thought that it could help his musical career. He attended the Yale School of Drama.

Lance Reddick made his television debut in an episode of New York Undercover. He made his film debut in Great Expectations in 1998. In the Nineties he guest starred on such shows as Swift Justice, The Nanny, Hallmark Hall of Fame, The West Wing, and The Corner. It was in 2000 that he began playing Detective John Basil on the HBO television series Oz. He also appeared in the recurring role of Assistant ME Taylor on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Lance Reddick appeared in the movies The Siege (1998) and I Dreamed of Africa (2000).

In the Naughts Mr. Reddick began a long run as Cedric Daniels on The Wire. The character went from being a police lieutenant to a police major to a police colonel to deputy commissioner for operations in the course of the series. He also played Matthew Abaddon on Lost and Phillip Broyles on Fringe late in the decade. He guest starred on the shows 100 Centre Street, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Numb3rs, and Svetlana. He appeared in the movies Don't Say a Word (2001), Bridget (2002), Brother to Brother (2004), Dirty Work (2006), Tennessee (2008), The Way of War (2009), and Jonah Hex (2010).

In the Teens Lance Reddick continued to appear as Philip Broyles on Fringe. He played DCI Jeffrey Tetazoo on the TV series Intelligence, Chief Irvin Irving on Bosch, and Christian DeVille on Corporate. He guest starred on the shows It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Comedy Bang! Bang!, Wanda Sykes Presents Herlarious, Wilfrid, The Blacklist, Key and Peele, Castle, Mary + Jane, and American Horror Story.He did a good deal of voice work, playing Sam Wilson/The Falcon on the animated series The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Cutler on Tron: Uprising, Ra's al Ghul on Beware The Batman, Lunaris on DuckTales, and the Captain on Castlevania. He was also a guest voice on Rick and Morty. It was in 2014 that he first played Charon, the concierge of the Continental in John Wick. He reprised in the role in John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017) and John Wick: Chapter 3--Parabellum (2019). He also appeared in the movies Won't Back Down (2012), White House Down (2013), Oldboy (2013), The Guest (2014), Faults (2014), Search Party (2014), Little Woods (2018), Canal Street (2018), The Domestics (2018), Monster Party (2018), Angel Has Fallen (2019), Business Ethics (2019), Faith Ba$ed (2020), and Sylvie's Love (2020).

In the Twenties Lance Reddick continued to appear as Chief Irving on the TV show Bosch. He was a regular on the TV series Resident Evil. He was a regular on the animated series Farzar, Vindicators 2, Paradise PD, and The Legend of Vox Machina. He guest starred on the show Young Sheldon. He will appear as Charon for one last time in John Wick: Chapter 4, set to be released this Friday, March 24 2023.

Lance Reddick also provided voices for a wide variety of video games.

Lance Reddick was gifted with a sonorous voice and his screen presence was palpable. He was also extremely versatile, playing a wide variety of  roles. He played Cedric Daniels on The Wire, the ambitious, but honest police officer with an eye on a career in politics. He was also Johnny Basil, a police officer who went undercover at Oswald State Correctional Facility. In contrast to Cedric Daniels, Johnny Basil eventually succumbed to the dark side. In contrast to both of these roles is Charon, the efficient, faithful, and brave concierge of the Continental in the John Wick movies. On Fringe Lance Reddick not only played Phillip Broyles, but also Phillip Broyles's doppelganger in a parallel universe. During his career he played everything from police officers to military officials to medical doctors. Lance Reddick was an extremely talented actor capable of playing a wide variety of roles. He always gave good performances.

Monday, March 20, 2023

"Spring Break" by Cheap Trick

Today is the first day of spring. It is only one of two times of year, along with fall, when the weather is actually pleasant in Missouri. Winter can be cold, and summer is a hot, muggy hellscape here (definitely my least favourite time of year). In fact, the only reason spring isn't my favourite season is because Halloween is in the fall. Anyway, in celebration of spring, here is one of my favourite songs, "Spring Break" by Cheap Trick from the 1983 movie of the same name.