Saturday, May 4, 2024

Vanessa Marquez and R2-D2

Happy Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you. Given what today is, I thought I would make a post with a Star Wars theme. My dearest Vanessa Marquez was the biggest Star Wars fan I ever knew, and she had an extensive collection of Star Wars merchandise. Quite naturally, she was then one of the people who contributed to the Kickstarter for the Star Wars fan film Return of Pink Five. She would get a cameo at the end of the film, and she was billed as"Pink Squadron Pilot." As Vanessa's many friends knew, her favourite colour was pink.

Anyway, while Return of Pink Five was filming at Long Beach Comic Con, Vanessa got to interact with R2-D2 (not the actual R2-D2 from the Star Wars movies, but a very convincing replica). If you knew Vanessa Marquez, you also know that her all-time favourite character was R2-D2. In fact,  I used to tease her about R2 being my rival. Here's a short video of Vanessa and her all-time favourite Star Wars character (or as she called him, "my guy").

Friday, May 3, 2024

The Late Great Duane Eddy

Legendary guitarist Duane Eddy died on April 30 2024 at the age of 86. The cause was cancer. He was known for such hits as "Rebel Rouser" and "Peter Gunn."

Duane Eddy was born on April 26 1938 in Corning, New York. He grew up in Phoenix. He started playing guitar by the time he was five years old. It was while he was playing at Arizona radio station KCKY that he met disc jockey Lee Hazlewood. Lee Hazlewood produced Duane Eddy's first single, "I Want Some Lovin'"/"Soda Fountain Girl," which was released locally in Phoenix.

It was in 1958 that Duane Eddy signed with Jamie Records. His first single on the label, "Movin' and Groovin'," reached no. 72 on the Billboard chart. His second single on the label, "Rebel Rouser," proved to be a hit. It reached no. 6 on the Billboard chart. His success with "Rebel Rouser" would be followed by several hit singles, including "Ramrod," "Cannonball," "The Lonely One," "Forty Miles of Bad Road," and "Because They're Young." His albums also did well. His debut album, Have "Twangy" Guitar Will Travel, went to no. 5 on the Billboard album chart. His second album, Especially for You, peaked at no. 18. In the course of his career, Duane Eddy recorded more than 50 albums.

Duane Eddy's stream of hits ceased in 1964 with the British Invasion. Despite this, he continued to release singles and albums throughout the Sixties. He released only a few records in the Seventies, although he produced records for such artists as Phil Everly and Waylon Jennings. He also played guitar on records from P.F. Sloan and Phil Everly. In the Eighties he recorded a new version of "Peter Gunn" with The Art of Noise" that reached no. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100. His first album since the Sixties, Duane Eddy & The Rebels, was released in 1987. His last album, Road Trip, was released in 2011.

Duane Eddy dabbled in acting. He appeared in the movies A Thunder of Drums (1961), The Wild Westerners (1962), Savage Seven (1968), and Kona Coast (1968). He guest starred on two episodes of Have Gun--Will Travel. He also wrote the themes for such movies as  Because They’re Young (1960), Pepe (1960) and Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961)

In 1986 Duane Eddy told the Associated Press, "I had a distinctive sound that people could recognize, and I stuck pretty much with that. I’m not one of the best technical players by any means; I just sell the best." While there are many who disagree with Mr. Eddy about his technical skill as a guitarist, there can be no doubt that he was a great stylist. Duane Eddy created his "twangy" sound by playing lead on the bass strings of his guitar.The sound was further developed by Mr. Eddy and producer Lee Hazlewood (who would later use it on his song "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" by Nancy Sinstra). The "twang" gave Duane Eddy an utterly unique sound that was both highly appealing and highly adaptable. He could use it on a jazz composition such as "Peter Gunn," a traditional song such as "The House of the Rising Sun," or outright rock 'n' roll compositions such as "Rebel Rouser." He would certainly have lasting impact, influencing artists from The Ventures to The Beatles to Jimi Hendrix to John Fogerty.

Thursday, May 2, 2024

The Art of Artifice on TCM Tuesday Nights in May 2024

A scene from Jason and the Argonauts (1964)

Tuesday nights in May on Turner Classic Movies are devoted to the special theme The Art of Artifice, in which TCM celebrates production design, special effects, and the various techniques used to make the fictional worlds of movies seem real to viewers. Over the four Tuesdays of May, Turner Classic Movies will be showing 24 movies that are remarkable for making the unreal seem real.

While period pieces, science fiction movies, and fantasy films might spring to mind when one thinks of production design to create a whole new world, TCM is showing a wide variety of movies on Tuesdays this month. There is everything from Hitchcock's thriller North to Northwest (1959) to the teen comedy Beach Party (1964) to Dr. Seuss's musical fantasy The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953). What is more there are some truly great films being shown this month in addition to the ones I just named. Forbidden Planet (1956), Citizen Kane (1941),  The Red Shoes (1948), and The Thief of Bagdad (1940) number among the movies they are showing. Tuesday, May 28 may be one of the best nights ever in TCM's 30 year history. That night they are showing Jason and the Argonauts (1964), King Kong (1933), Metropolis (1926), and Eraserhead (1977).

Below is the schedule for the Art of Artifice. All times are Central.

Tuesday, May 7:
7:00 PM North by Northwest (1959)
9:30 A Matter of Life and Death (1957)
11:30 PM Forbidden Planet (1956)

Wednesday, May 8:
1:15 AM Citizen Kane (1941)
3:30 AM The Fountainhead (1949)

Tuesday, May 14:
7:00 PM Rancho Notorious (1952)
8:45 PM Beach Party (1964)
10:30 PM Breathless (1983)

Wednesday, May 15:
12:30 AM Two Weeks in Another Town (1962)
2:30 AM Querelle (1982)
4:30 AM The Boy Friend (1971)

Tuesday, May 21:
7:00 PM The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)
8:45 PM The Red Shoes (1948)
11:15 PM Donkey Skin (1970)

Wednesday, May 22:
1:00 AM The Glass Slipper (1955)
2:45 AM Brigadoon (1954)
4:45 AM The Thief of Bagdad (1940)

Tuesday, May 28:
7:00 PM Jason and the Argonauts (1964)
9:00 PM King Kong (1933)
11:00 PM Metropolis (1926)

Wednesday, May 29:
1:45 AM Eraserhead (1977)

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

For the First Time Ever, Blood In Blood Out (1993) is on Streaming

As of today, May 1 2024, Blood In Blood Out (1993) is available for streaming on Hulu. For many movies this would not be big news, but in the case of Blood In Blood Out it marks the first time it is available for streaming. In many ways, it is remarkable that the movie is available for streaming at all given it history. Indeed, many of the film's fans have accused Disney of burying it (Disney owned Hollywood Pictures, under which it was released).

Quite simply, Blood In Blood Out was not released under the best circumstances. The riots in Los Angeles that erupted on late April and early May of 1992 following the acquittal of the police officers who had beaten Rodney King made Disney CEO Michael Eisner concerned that the film could generate bad press for the studio. Its release was then delayed. On February 5 1993, test screenings were held in Rochester, New York, Tucson, Arizona, and Las Vegas, Nevada. A fist fight broke out at the screening in Las Vegas, convinced Michael Eisner that the film could lead to violence, even though no one had been injured in the fight.

Ultimately Blood in Blood Out would be released, but under the less provocative title Bound by Honor. It was released to thirty cities on April 30 1993. Unfortunately, it would prove to be a box office disappointment. Prior to the test screenings in February 1993, Disney had projected Blood In Blood Out to make  $40 million. Instead as Bound by Honor, only made a meagre $4.5 million. It should come as no surprise that it disappeared quickly from theatres.

While Blood In Blood Out  (under the title Bound by Honor), it would find its audience through home video and premium cable channels. The movie was released under the title Blood In Blood Out: Bound by Honor on VHS on January 5 1994. It began airing on such premium channels as Showtime and The Movie Channel in 1995 under that same title. It was on January 13 2000 that Blood In Blood Out was released on DVD. It is because of home video and its airings on various premium cable channels that it developed a cult following particularly among Chicanos. Despite this, it would remain unavailable on streaming services other than unauthorized, poor quality copies popping up on YouTube.

For myself, Blood In Blood Out is significant as it features an early performance by my dearest Vanessa Marquez, who plays the daughter of Montana, the leader of the gang La Onda in the movie.

At any rate, the fact that Blood In Blood Out is now available on streaming is a testament to its fans' tenacity in campaigning on the film's behalf. Although it has long been available on DVD and Blu-ray, it has not been shown on premium channels for years. Being available on Hulu then gives many greatest access to the film than they have had in years.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Agnes Moorehead in Dark Passage (1947)

(This post is part of the Third Agnes Moorehead Blogathon hosted by In the Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood)

There can be no doubt that Agnes Moorehead was one of the greatest character actresses of all time. While she is best known today as Endora on the classic television show Bewitched, throughout her career she played a wide variety of roles. Among her most remarkable roles was that of Madge Rapf in Dark Passage (1947), who was a far cry from Endora.

Dark Passage centres on Vincent Parry, a man falsely accused of killing his wife who escapes from San Quentin. Parry takes refuge with a young woman, Irene Jansen (Lauren Bacall), whose father had also been falsely accused of a crime. Unfortunately, among Irene's friends is Madge Rapf (Agnes Moorehead), a woman that Parry had spurned and who falsely claimed at Parry's trial that his wife had identified him as her killer out of spite. Even once Parry has plastic surgery to change his appearance and begins trying to clear his name, he still faces the danger of being discovered.

For the first hour of Dark Passage, the viewer sees things through Parry's eyes. It is after his plastic surgery that viewers finally get to see what Parry looks like. This technique was not exactly new when used in Dark Passage. It had been used as early as 1927 in Abel Gance's Napoleon and in the first five minutes of the classic Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). It had been used in the previous year for the entirety of Robert Montgomery's Lady in the Lake (1946), in which nearly the whole film is seen through the eyes of its hero, Philip Marlowe.

Dark Passage was based on the novel of the 1946 novel of the same name, Dark Passage by David Goodis. The novel had been serialized in The Saturday Evening Post from July 20 to September 7 1946, and was afterwards published as a book. Among those who had read the book was Humphrey Bogart, who wanted to make a film version of the novel with himself in the lead role.

Dark Passage was the third movie to star Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, but the star attraction in the film is really Agnes Moorehead. The role of Madge Rapf is a sharp break from many of the roles Miss Moorehead played during the Golden Age of Hollywood. Madge Rapf is no dowdy governess or plainly dressed matron. Instead she is a wealthy woman dressed to the nines, making Madge one of Agnes Moorehead's most glamorous roles in her days before she was cast as Endora.

Unfortunately for the film's protagonist, Vincent Parry, Madge is not only glamorous, but venomous as well. Madge is clearly a woman who usually gets what she wants, and can be very vindicative when she doesn't. Indeed, none of the characters in the movie seem to like Madge very much, and some of them appear to outright hate her. In the hands of a  lesser actor, Madge could have easily been a one-note character. In the hands of Agnes Moorehead, she is entirely three-dimensional. Her fear throughout the movie that Vincent Parry will kill her appears genuine. When Madge behaves flirtatiously (something Miss Moorehead rarely got to do in her film career), she simply oozes sex. In the end, Agnes Moorehead makes Madge Rapf one of the great femme fatales in film history.

Agnes Moorhead was capable of playing a wide variety of roles, and she played many throughout her career. That she makes Madge a three-dimensional character with only limited screen time is a remarkable achievement. It certainly stands as one of the best roles of her career.