A Creepy, Kookie, Spooky Blog?

It’s October, so in the days ahead you will be hearing Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s Monster Mash more times than you care to count! As Halloween approaches, I am reminded of the great Universal Monster Movies of the 1930’s and 1940’s! I’m not sure who did this fantastic artwork, but I think it’s awesome!

Universal Monsters

This blog isn’t about the movie monsters. However, as I thought on them, I thought about a very unique thing that happened on television in the mid-1960’s that has a monster tie-in. Back in 1964, two monster-themed TV shows debuted on TV – coincidentally, they both debuted the same week. One show aired on CBS and the other aired on ABC. The two shows, of course, were The Munsters and The Addams Family.

The Munsters featured a monster family that was loosely based on the Universal Monsters.

The Munsters

Fred Gwynne played Herman Munster (based on Frankenstein), Yvonne De Carlo played Lily (based on the Bride of Frankenstein, Al Lewis played Grandpa Munster (based on Count Dracula), Butch Patrick is Eddie Munster (based on the Wolfman) and Marilyn Munster (played by Pat Priest and Beverly Owen) was the completely normal niece (and freak of the family).

The Addams Family and the characters on the show were based off the cartoon characters of Charles Addams, which appeared in The New Yorker Magazine.

The Addams Family

So how do you describe the Addams Family? The best way I can is to quote the theme song – “They’re creepy & they’re kookie!” John Astin is Gomez Addams. Carolyn Jones is his wife Morticia. Jackie Coogan is hilarious as Uncle Fester. Marie Blake is Grandmama. Ted Cassidy is Lurch, the butler. Lisa Loring and Ken Weatherwax are the Addams children Wednesday and Pugsley.

I remember thinking the exterior shots of their homes really set the mood for what was inside each of them. Both shows had fantastic sets.

The Addams Family Mansion
The Munsters Home

While both shows share a “horror/monster” theme, they were both comedies. Both were funny (I found the Munsters a bit more humorous). Having these crazy families interact with “normal” people led to wonderful comedy situations. What is really great about these shows is watching familiar faces pop up as guest stars. Harvey Korman, Bernie Koppel, Paul Lynde, and so many other stars appeared on these shows.

Both also had awesome theme songs! The Munsters instrumental has an awesome guitar melody. Fall Out Boy sampled the theme song in their hit song “Uma Thurman” recently. The Addams Family theme song is still used to get audiences at sporting events to snap or clap along with it. The great Vic Mizzy composed it!

Both shows began the same week in 1964, but even more coincidental, they both left the airwaves on the same week two years later!

If you want to read some fantastic books on both shows, may I suggest two from my Facebook friend and TV historian, Stephen Cox? Both are available on Amazon …

The Addams Family has had greater success with future incarnations, including blockbuster films. The Munsters had a couple TV reunion shows, and a recent flop on TV (Mockingbird Lane). They both still air in reruns and are still as funny today.

These two shows always seem to show up in the “Ginger or Mary Ann” type debate questions. So I guess I will wrap up by asking – Addams Family or Munsters? Which was your favorite and why??

Favorite Films – The 2010’s

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As I looked back over the last year’s worth of blogs, I was reminded that I had yet to finish a series I started on my favorite films. The premise of the series is to pick a favorite movie (that you have seen) for every year of your life. This series started with 1970 (the year of my birth) and was broken up by decade. I concluded in November with the years 2000-2009. It’s time to finish up this series….

2010

2010

In 2010, my oldest son would have been 8, and my youngest son was 3. Many of the movies I watched were kid movies. Some of them were good enough to rank as my favorite films.

Among the kid films I watched in 2010 were Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightening Thief, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, How to Train Your Dragon, and Toy Story 3. I guess Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 could almost be classified as a kid’s movie, but I know how much adults loved the series, too. As someone who loves time travel movies, I was left a bit disappointed with Hot Tub Time Machine. Date Night with Steve Carell and Tina Fey probably should have been a whole lot funnier, but it wasn’t. Iron Man 2 was a decent sequel. Grown Ups had potential, but was kind of a flop. The King’s Speech was a very good film. I enjoyed it a lot, but the film that stands out as my favorite is Shrek Forever After.

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My kids loved the Shrek movies. I did too. Shrek the Third was really the worst of the series. I really hoped that this final film in the series would be good – and it was! The idea of an altered universe was such a great story line. It was fun to see Fiona as this great warrior and Puss In Boots as a chubby cat. It was a fitting wrap up to a fun series. I am hoping that my daughter will want to watch them with me!

2011

2011

2011 brought me to many more kid movies, including Rango, Rio, Kung Fu Panda II, Cars 2, and the terrible revival of The Muppets. The Harry Potter series wrapped with Part 2 of the Deathly Hallows. Crazy, Stupid Love was more serious than I thought, but wasn’t a bad film. I enjoyed Limitless with Bradley Cooper a lot. Sequels included Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, The Hangover II, Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (which was ok), and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (which I really enjoyed. I thought Robert Downey Jr. was good in these, despite the hate many reviews had for him). Cowboys and Aliens was a waste of time. Horrible Bosses was just ok. Bridesmaids was played up as this huge comedy, and while there were some funny parts, I really think this was more of a drama. I didn’t think it was as good as all the hype. My favorite film of 2011 was Puss In Boots.

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It was neat to see the origins of this character. I am glad he got his own movie. Antonio Banderas is just perfect as the voice of this character! Just like in the Shrek movies, we also see some of the fairy tale characters. Who knew Humpty Dumpty was such a bad guy!? Loved this film!

2012

2012

2012 brought us The Avengers, The Hunger Games, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The kids and I watched Brave (which was a very good film) and Hotel Transylvania. As a fan of the Three Stooges, I was apprehensive about seeing the 2012 movie. It was not great, but kudos to Sean Hayes, Will Sasso, and Chris Diamantopoulos, who all did great as Larry, Curly, and Moe. Seven Psychopaths was actually a very good movie – Christopher Walken is excellent in it! Anthony Hopkins is very good as Alfred Hitchcock in the biography Hitchcock, but it was another biographical film that gets my vote for favorite – Lincoln.

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I know many folks found this film long and boring, but I found it fascinating! I remember the first picture of Daniel Day Lewis as Lincoln – wow! It was amazing! They really made him look like him. I read often about Lincoln’s Assassination (and JFK’s, too). His story is so intriguing to me. The supporting cast was just as good.

2013

2013

2013 had me at the movies with my kids for The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Monsters University, Turbo, and Frozen. Sequels included The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and A Good Day to Die Hard. The Incredible Burt Wonderstone was less than incredible. We’re The Millers was quite a disappointment. Identity Thief was not as funny as everyone said it was. Simon Pegg was in two films I saw in 2013 – The World’s End and Star Trek: Into Darkness. I enjoyed Gangster Squad, but my favorite film was the biography of Jackie Robinson – 42.

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Robinson is played by Chadwick Boseman, who would go on to play James Brown in 2014. As we look back, we know how amazing a player Robinson was, but this film really shows just how difficult it was for him. I really liked this film. Harrison Ford is also good in this movie.

2014

Year-2014

More kid films in 2014 – I watched Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Maleficent, Penguins of Madagascar, and The Lego Movie. I really liked the Lego movie. I found myself laughing out loud a lot. A Million Ways to Die in the West was just ok – Liam Neeson was a good bad guy in it. The Doc Brown cameo is a highlight. The Hobbit trilogy wrapped up with The Battle of the Five Armies. Guardians of the Galaxy was actually better than I thought it would be. Chadwick Boseman nails James Brown in Get On Up! He was perfect! A movie which surprised me was Kingsmen: The Secret Service. I don’t know what I expected it to be, but it was very good. However, for my favorite film, I will pick an oddball comedy – What We Do In The Shadows.

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In the documentary style of TV’s The Office, the movie follows some vampire roommates around as the live their lives as vampires in modern times. I really laughed out loud at the wackiness of this movie. It was so good, they have a TV series based on the film.

2015

2015

Kids movies I watched included Minions (a sort of Despicable Me sequel), Goosebumps, and the Peanuts Movie. A kid movie which was so good it almost made my favorite – the Shaun the Sheep Movie. My kids would watch these cartoons on TV and I found myself laughing as hard as they did at them. I bought them all the DVD’s and we’d watch them together. This full length movie was very well done and is one to take the kids to! Great movie!! Mr. Holmes was a very good film which focuses on the aging Sherlock Holmes (played by Ian McKellen). Jurassic World was yet another sequel to the dinosaur series Jurassic Park. Tom Cruise returns in another IMF movie – mission: Impossible Rogue Nation. My pick for favorite – Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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The saga continues! It was so good to see Harrison Ford back as Han Solo with Carrie Fisher returning as Leia. There were old favorites and new characters to further the story and we learn all about Han and Leia’s son gone bad. It was better than I anticipated, and at times the action was hard to keep up with, but as a Star Wars fan, it was satisfying.

2016

2016

Kid films from this year that I saw included The Angry Birds Movie (which was not very good), Sing (which was full of some great music), Trolls (which I fell asleep watching), Moana (which was good), and Finding Dory (which was better than I thought it would be). Deadpool was pretty funny – but inappropriate to watch with the kids. Star Trek Beyond was a worthy sequel. The favorite pick, though, takes us back to the galaxy far, far away – Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

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What makes this such a great film is the fact that it links up the prequel trilogy to the original trilogy. You see these unknown characters in a battle to get the Death Star plans to Princess Leia. It was really an amazing film. Some people had issues with the CGI characters, but I didn’t. I thought it was awesome!

2017

2017

2017 was a year of sequels – Star Wars had The Last Jedi, Guardians of the Galaxy got a second installment, The Kingsmen had The Golden Circle, and Blade Runner took us to 2049. I sat through The Greatest Showman – a musical which was ok, but nothing I would have picked to see by myself. I’ll go back to kids movies for my pick for favorite – The Lego Batman Movie.

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Admittedly my favorite character from the 2014 Lego Movie, I was glad to see Batman get his own film. Will Arnett is great as the voice of Batman. I liked this one a lot – and I hope it gets a sequel!

2018

2018

As the decade gets closer to wrapping up, I noticed more movies that I wanted to see and didn’t. In 2018, I wanted to see Stan and Ollie and Solo: A Star Wars Story and never saw either. I guess I need to get to the video store. Movies I did see were Deapool 2, The Hate U Give (a very good film based on the book), and Won’t You Be My Neighbor (A fantastic documentary on Mr. Rogers). Bohemian Rhapsody was just amazing! The comparison between the real Live Aid footage and the film footage was so amazing to watch. It was a very good film, and almost my pick. I had to go with The Incredibles 2 as my choice.

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I waited SO long for this sequel. I hoped that it wouldn’t suck and it didn’t. I was glad that it picked up where the first one ended. It focused a bit more on Mrs. Incredible, which was ok because that led to some very funny moments with Mr. Incredible at home with the kids. This could easily be a franchise – it should get more sequels in my opinion.

2019

2019

How sad is it that I only saw one film last year!? Really! ONE movie!!! There were plenty of remakes (all of which I didn’t want to see – Dumbo, Pet Semetary, Aladdin, Lion King)! Sequels I didn’t see – The Lego Movie 2, Toy Story 4, and Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker. I never saw Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Addams Family, Midway, The Joker, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Knives Out, or 1917. One movie I am anxious to see is The Irishman. I read the book and just need three hours to watch it! So what movie did I actually see? Urgh – I am embarrassed to even share it. I wouldn’t call it a favorite. It was ok. It was better than I thought. My kids had to explain half of it to me. But, since it is the only film I saw last year – it has to be the pick, right?? At least until I watch some of the others from 2019…..

The film I saw in 2019 – Pokémon Detective Pikachu.

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See the look on his face? That’s how I feel about only seeing THAT movie!! URGH!

I really need to watch others so I can alter this …

Final Thoughts

Despite the way the decade ended … I had fun looking back through all of the various movies I watched over my lifetime. It helped me realize many movies I have always wanted to see and jot them down. It also served as a reminder of all the bad films I have seen – LOL!

I hope you enjoyed this series of blogs. you may now make fun of me about that last one!

Cheers!

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Favorite Films – The 90’s

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This blog is a continuation of a series I started a week or so ago. Somebody had the idea to post a list was to consist of your favorite films from each year of your life.  So, you start with your birth year and move ahead year by year and list all the films from each year.  A post from the Avocado site came up in my “Reader” list of blogs that had the same principle, but with one exception – you can only pick one movie from each year. My last “movie” blog focused on my favorites from the 1980’s and this one will feature the 1990’s.

As I looked through the films for this decade and was actually surprised.  I thought that the as I moved forward, I’d have less films to talk about.  I was wrong.  Picking one favorite from each year is going to be tough.

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1990 had plenty of sequels, one of which will end up my pick for favorite.  Eddie Murphy was back with Another 48 Hours.  Bruce Willis offered up Die Hard II.  Almost 20 years later, The Corleone family returned in Godfather III.  The second installment of Young Guns was in theaters and Sylvester Stallone returned as Mr. Balboa in Rocky V.  Johnny Depp was Edward Scissorhands, Kevin Costner was Dancing with Wolves, while Sean Connery was underwater with the Hunt for Red October.  Julia Roberts was “hooking” in Pretty Woman, Harrison Ford was Presumed Innocent, and Macaulay Culkin was left Home Alone.  Comedies included Nuns on the Run, Madhouse, and Kindergarten Cop. The film adaption of Stephen King’s Misery will have be forever fearing sledgehammers!

I am going to catch some flack for this not being my favorite of this year.  Goodfellas is a great film!  It is.  “You’re Italian, Keith!  How can Goodfellas NOT be your pick?”  It doesn’t matter.  It’s my list.

My pick for favorite of 1990 is the conclusion of the Back to the Future series – Back to the Future Part III.

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What can I say, I love these characters.  By the end of Part II, I was wondering just how things were going to wrap up.  While the end is a bit contrived and falls a bit flat, everything else I enjoyed.  I enjoyed how in the old west we see the beginnings of the town, the clock tower (which plays such a big role in the first film), and the earlier family members of the characters.  The suspense of getting that train up to 88mph had me on the edge of my seat in the theater.  Loved this trilogy and it remains one of my all time favorites!

1991

In 1991, there were silly comedies (Naked Gun 2 1/2, Hot Shots, Soapdish, and What about Bob?), action films (Robin Hood, Hook, and Thelma and Louise), and thrillers (Backdraft and Silence of the Lambs).

It is hard to pick one favorite for this year.  As someone who has been fascinated with the JFK assassination, I really enjoyed Oliver Stone’s JFK.  I had read so many books about the various conspiracies.  What a stellar cast!   Robin Williams put on an amazing performance in The Fisher King.  I admit, when I rented this film, I expected a comedy.  It was a very powerful story.  See it if you haven’t!  Billy Crystal and Jack Palance are just great together in City Slickers.  “I crap bigger than you” remains a favorite movie quote!

My pick for this year may come as a surprise to those who have read previous blogs.  Why?  Because I have complained so often about Hollywood running out of ideas!  I have bitched about how they are remaking everything!  This is one of those exceptions.  YES – it is a remake of a TV show, but this is also an instance of a good remake. The Addams Family.

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I think what makes this such a good movie is that the cast is true to the characters of the cartoon and the TV show.  Raul Julia is brilliant as Gomez.  Anjelica Huston is spot on as Morticia.  Christopher Lloyd is great as Fester.  Christina Ricci is the perfect Wednesday.  The film is funny and fun.  I wasn’t so keen on the sequel, but this one was a blast (and a film I have to watch every October!).

1992

1992 brought the return of Michael Keaton as Batman in Batman Returns, Whitney Houston was a superstar in The Bodyguard, and who can forget Sharon Stone in basic Instinct?  Honeymoon in Vegas was ok, but had a great soundtrack! Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei are just wonderful together in My Cousin Vinny while Tom Hanks coaches Geena Davis and Madonna in A League of Their Own.  We are also introduced to Wayne Campbell and his friend Garth in the SNL based Wayne’s World.

This almost was my pick for favorite – A Few Good Men.  Such a great story, with a great cast, and powerful performances!  Tom Cruise, Kevin Bacon, Demi Moore, Kevin Pollack, and Jack Nicholson are all superb in this film! My favorite, however, has to go to Disney’s Aladdin.

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Why?  Two words – Robin Williams!  I have heard of the many hours of voice stuff he recorded for this film that was never used.  I can only imagine the wonderful ad-libs he did in the studio!  Friend Like Me is on my iPod and it gives me chills every time I listen to it.

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1993 comedies included Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood: Men In Tights, Wayne’s World II, Loaded Weapon, Groundhog Day, So I Married an Axe Murderer, and Mrs. Doubtfire.  Another comedy that is a must watch (especially for the bloopers at the end) is Grumpy Old Men. Drama/Thrillers included John Grisham’s The Firm, Jurassic Park, and In The Line of Fire.

1993 brought two films that are considered classics that I have never seen.  One of them, I have a reason, the other, I don’t.  Schindler’s List and the Sandlot.  Schindler’s list is one that I will watch – but I have the book and I want to read it first.  The Sandlot I have heard quoted 100 times, I just have never had the chance to sit and watch it.  I will – eventually.

Twice in the same decade, I am picking a remake – a remake of a TV show again.  My pick for 1993 is The Fugitive.

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Harrison Ford does a great job playing Richard Kimball.  I loved the original series.  Tommy Lee Jones is just hilarious in this.  It truly is a great film and one I can watch over and over again.

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Jim Carrey dominated the year with three films – The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, and Dumb and Dumber.  Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks, was a wonderful film!  It had a great soundtrack and it was cool to see how they put his character into scenes from history.  I could watch Jamie Lee Curtis over and over in True Lies.  Dennis Leary is so funny in The Ref.  It is one of those forgotten Holiday movies that I just love.  Another forgotten film from this year is The Shadow.  It is based on the old radio show, which was based on a comic book.  Alec Baldwin stars in it and I thought it was very well done.

My favorite film from the year, hands down, is The Shawshank Redemption.

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Based on a Stephen King short story, it remains one of my favorite films.  Prior to seeing it, I knew King had wrote it.  I had always associated him with horror films, so I never saw it.  I am so glad that I was convinced to watch it.  If you have never seen it – you should!  It is a masterpiece!

1995

1995 comedies featured SNL stars Chris Farley (in Tommy Boy) and Adam Sandler (in Billy Madison).  Mel Gibson starred as William Wallace in Braveheart. Tom Hanks first uttered “Houston, we have a problem” in Apollo 13.  He also starred as Sheriff Woody in the first installment of Toy Story. Robin Williams is stuck in a board game in Jumanji.  There was a remake with a twist – The Brady Bunch Movie.  What made this work, was that the cast is still stuck in the past, while living in the present day.  It wasn’t hilarious, but it worked.

Again, here is a film that you would think should be THE pick for this year.  Casino with Robert Deniro, Sharon Stone, and Joe Pesci.  It truly is a great film, but my pick is The Usual Suspects.

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I remember my grandmother used to watch Perry Mason and guess who the killer was all the time.  Some movies, you can guess the ending, but this one caught me completely off guard.  I never saw it coming.  That is the reason I picked this one.  Watching it the second time, I noticed all the things I missed throughout the first viewing.  It is such s good film.

1996

Comedies from 1996 include Leslie Nielsen in Spy Hard, Adam Sandler in Happy Gilmore, and Jim Carrey as The Cable Guy. Drama/Thrillers included Ghosts of Mississippi, A Time To Kill, and Primal Fear.  Tom Cruise appeared in Mission: Impossible (which I hated, because it was really all about his character while the TV show was more of a team effort).  We first saw that stupid ghost mask in the first Scream movie, and Sean Connery starred in The Rock.

Before naming my pick for 1996, I will mention in passing a movie that was loaded with big name stars, but was just awful – Mars Attacks.  Urgh!

My pick for 1996 is again, a remake.  The Nutty Professor.

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I want to say first of all that I LOVE the Jerry Lewis version of this movie.  It is my all time favorite Jerry film.  When I heard that he gave his blessing to this film, I gave it a chance and I am glad I did. While Jerry’s version takes a nerd and makes him a cool jerk, Eddie’s version takes an overweight, shy man and makes him a thin pompous jerk. Kudos to Eddie Murphy, who plays his entire family!

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My list of 1997 films is a short one.  I’m not sure why.  There were some films that stood out, though.  Two presidential movies this year – Absolute Power with Gene Hackman and Harrison Ford in Air Force One.  Nicolas Cage was a con in Con Air and starred with John Travolta in Face/Off.  Jim Carrey is very funny in Liar Liar and Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith star in the first Men In Black.

Almost nabbing the pick for the year is Mike Myers in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.  It’s a funny and silly spy spoof and while many of the jokes are childish, the character is one that I found very funny.  My pick for the year, however, is Titanic.

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Let me say this – I hated the whole Jack/Rose love story BS in this film!  It doesn’t make it a bad film, I understand why it was done. I think they thought no one would go see the story of the sinking ship without something “new” in it.  At any rate, as someone who has been intrigued by the story of Titanic since I was in elementary school, I was amazed at the details of the ship.  After the film came out they had a magazine that compared the shots from the movie with pictures from the real ship – it was neat to see just how close the set was to the real ship.

I had read the story of the Titanic many times.  We read Walter Lord’s A Night To Remember in high school.  The minute by minute account was so accurate.  When I saw Titanic, I was left speechless.  There were all the people I had read about.  I will never forget watching it and seeing a passenger falls and hit the propeller on their way into the water – wow.  I left the theater in complete silence.  I got in the car and wept.

1998

1998 saw Stephen King’s Apt Pupil come to the big screen, Robin Williams was wonderful as Patch Adams, and Pixar showed us A Bug’s Life.  SNL and SNL actors were prominent in comedies.  Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan starred in A Night at the Roxbury, while Adam Sandler was The Wedding Singer (with Drew Barrymore) and The Waterboy (with Henry Winkler and Jerry Reed).  Norm MacDonald and Artie Lang star in one of my favorite comedies (though many people found it NOT funny) – Dirty Work.  Finally, Antonio Banderas is excellent in The Mask of Zorro with Catherine Zeta Jones!

My pick for 1998 is the powerful D-Day film – Saving Private Ryan.

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This movie is about as real as it gets.  D-Day was a bloodbath.  This is such a powerful movie.  It leaves me in awe every time I see it.

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As we reach the end of the 90’s, there are plenty of great movies in this final year of the decade.  Comedies included the return of Austin Powers in The Spy Who Shagged Me, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,  Big Daddy, Analyze This, and Office Space.  Adventure films included The Mummy, True Crime (the book was better), Sleepy Hollow, and Deep Blue Sea (Love the scene where Samuel L. Jackson gets it!).  For kids (and adults) Woody and Buzz are back in Toy Story 2 and Episode 1 of Star Wars (The Phantom Menace) graced the screen (and left adults wanting to kill Jar Jar Binks!).

My pick for favorite is based on the Stephen King novel – The Green Mile.

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This remains one of my favorite films.  I cry like a baby at the end every time!  What an amazing story!  This is one of those rare instances where I have seen the movie and never read the book.  I am not sure how different the film is from the book, but the book remains on a shelf at home in the “to be read” stack.  Writing about it for this blog has just moved it up to the top of my list to read.

In closing

I have a feeling it will become easier to pick films in the decade ahead.  As I move into the 2000’s, I know for a fact that I have seen less movies.  I got to the point where I didn’t want to go to the movies to pay $10 to see a crappy movie.  It was happening was too often so I started watching less movies.

19 more years to go …. See you next time!

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“Made in 1938”

 

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Introduction

Since I started blogging about a year ago, I have stumbled on some great blogs that focus on old movies, film noir, music, books, and various other things that I find interesting.  Some of these blog sites have hosted Blogathons, and I have participated in a few of them.  A while back, the “Pop Culture Reverie” and “In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood” sites announced their “Made in 1938 Blogathon”.  The only real rule that was that whatever you wrote about had to be something “made” in 1938.  This blog is my contribution to this blogathon. I am posting a day early, but you can read the other participants blogs by clicking:

https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/

or

https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/

At first, I began to look at movies from that year, hoping there would be one of my favorites from that year.  Then, because of the celebrity birthday page I had on Facebook, I wondered if there were any famous people born in ’38 that I might find interesting to write about.  In looking over the list of celebrities, three stood out as having a significant part in my life, so I chose to write about them.  I hope you find this blog interesting and entertaining. What follows is a brief salute to a great impressionist/comedian, a great radio personality, and a great actor.

Rich Little (Born November 26, 1938)

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Rich Little shares the nickname “The Man of a Thousand Voices” with the great Mel Blanc (Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, etc).  While they both have many voices that they do, Mel’s were more original voices and dialects for cartoons, while Rich did impersonations or imitations of real celebrities.  He claims to be able to do about 200 voices, and he has had quite a career “being” other people!  He even eludes to this in the title of his 2014 book “Little by Little:  People I’ve Known and Been…”

I remember when we first got cable TV.  HBO often featured stand up comedy shows and specials.  One of the first specials I ever saw was Rich Little’s A Christmas Carol. I was mesmerized by this guy!  This special was like an awesome dream come true – all these big celebrities playing the different roles of the Dickens classic – except, they were all done by one man, Rich Little.  Can you imagine WC Fields, Jack Benny, Peter Sellers, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Falk (as Columbo), Jimmy Stewart, Richard Nixon, Johnny Carson, Laurel and Hardy, and Groucho Marx all in the same show?!  He made it happen!

As a kid, not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life, and thinking I was funny, I thought maybe I could do what he did.  After watching him often, and listening to him, I began to try out voices on relatives.  I really thought I did an excellent Richard Nixon, but in reality, I was doing a bad impression of Rich Little doing Richard Nixon.   (Later on in my radio career, while on Honey Radio I did create a few generic voices that I used on our morning show, but never anything close to what Rich has mastered!)

I was always excited when there was some new Rich Little Special on HBO, whether it was his stage act or his take on Robin Hood (which is where I first saw him do his Carol Channing, which blew me away).  Every time he did a new celebrity I hadn’t seen him do, I would watch in awe. There was no shortage of people he could do.

One surprising fact that I was unaware of was one of my favorite singers played a big part in his American TV debut.  He was asked by singer Mel Torme’ to audition for the Judy Garland Show in 1964.  He did, made an impression (pun intended) and made his first appearance on American TV on her show.  He stated in an interview that if you watch this appearance, you should watch Judy.  She had never seen him perform before they taped the show and her reactions are very genuine.  He went on to appear on other TV shows like Love on a Rooftop, That Girl, The Flying Nun, and Petticoat Junction in guest roles.  He is probably best known for his appearances on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Kopycats (a show featuring impressionists), and The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts.

Rich is often asked which impressions are his favorites.  He says he has many, but the two that stand out are Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Stewart.  His Reagan is just wonderful and President Reagan loved it too!  He did two albums as Reagan – “The First Family Rides Again” and “Ronald Reagan Slept Here”.  I owned them both, and they are very funny (one of them features a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards)! His Reagan is a great example of how Rich can find something unique about someone and use it in his imitation.  I’ll be honest, I never knew how many times Reagan started a sentence with the word “Well…” until I saw/heard Rich doing it in his act!

Jimmy Stewart was the first celebrity impression he worked on (and it is amazing).  Rich was on the dais of The Dean Martin Roasts when Jimmy was the “Man of the Hour”.  He got to the podium and began to school Jimmy Stewart on how to do Jimmy Stewart!  After Jimmy tries to do all the things Rich is telling him, Rich finally tells him that there is no hope for him and that Jimmy was doing “The Worst Jimmy Stewart” he’d ever heard! Rich even went as far as to have the audience stand up and do Jimmy, to which Rich tells Jimmy that everyone does a better Jimmy Stewart than he did!  Word is this was all ad-libbed and Jimmy, being the amazing guy that he was, went along with it all.

It would be hard for me to pick my favorite Rich Little Impressions, because they are all so good.  Among his best, in my opinion, are Reagan and Stewart (just mentioned), Richard Nixon, Jack Benny, Don Rickles, Raymond Burr, Truman Capote, James Mason, John Wayne, Paul Lynde, and Johnny Carson.  His Carson was so good, he was asked to play him in the movie about the David Letterman/Jay Leno feud called “Late Night”. After seeing Rich do an impression of him, Jack Benny sent him an 18 karat gold money clip  that was engraved; “With Bob Hope doing my walk and you doing my voice, I can be a star and do nothing!”

How good are his impressions?  When David Niven was ill, he actually dubbed in lines for Niven in a couple Pink Panther movies.  He did the same for James Cagney in the 1984 film Terrible Joe Moran and for Gene Kelly in a 1991 Christmas special.  I’m not sure how true it is, but some people say that there was some fierce competition between Rich and Frank Gorshin (The Riddler on TV’s Batman), who was also a good impressionist.  Those sources say that this little rivalry only made Rich work even harder to perfect his voices.

In researching for this blog, I came across a quote from Rich that really made me admire him even more.  He said, “I don’t like it when people imitate someone for political reasons or if they hate somebody.  I’ve never imitated anyone that I’ve really hated.  Usually, it’s people I admire.”

Thanks Rich, for the many laughs you provided throughout my childhood. Sorry about my Nixon impression!

Wolfman Jack (Born January 21, 1938)

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Radio Legend!  What more can I say?!  He was one of the best.  He knew what people wanted and gave it to them.  He was a master at talking to his audience.  He could be making you laugh out loud one minute, and crying  the next.  I never had the chance to hear a live show of his, but I was lucky enough to hear some of his syndicated stuff growing up.  I can tell you this, I can only WISH to be as good and as talented as he was! In my 30 year radio career, I have never come close!

With the creation of the Internet and access to YouTube and other radio websites, some of Wolfman’s radio stuff is available to listen to and enjoy.  I’m no dummy, I know that he must have done a lot of prep for his shows, but everything seemed so spontaneous and ad-libbed!  Maybe it was, I don’t know, but I do know that it was good.  His interactions with listeners were always entertaining.  His random thoughts about peace, love, and brotherhood always hit the nail on the head.  In this world where hatred runs amuck, we could use more people like Wolfman spreading the “love” on the air.

I got into radio because of the guys I listened to growing up (Paul Christy, Jim McKenzie, Richard D., Boogie Brian, Dick Purtan, etc…), and so did Wolfman Jack.  To keep him out of trouble, his parents bought him a radio and he fell in love with R&B music.  He listened to Jocko Henderson from Philadelphia, Dr. Jive from New York, the Moon Dog from Cleveland, Alan Freed (who coined the phrase “Rock and Roll”), and his mentor John Richbourg from Nashville.  He spent a year at The National Academy of Broadcasting and landed a radio gig in Virginia where his on air name was “Daddy Jules”.

Three years later, he took his “Wolfman” character to XERF, a Mexican radio station that broadcast at 250,000 watts (5 times the power of any US radio station), and people listened!  The station pretty much covered most of the US.  The music he played (lots of great R&B) and his vocal stylings started to make news. His popularity grew and there were feature stories about him in Time magazine, Newsweek, and Life magazine.  Newspapers from all over the country all wrote about him, too, wondering, “Who is this guy and where did he come from?!”

In 1972, he became the host of an NBC show called “The Midnight Special” where he co-hosted and interviewed musical guests.  Director George Lucas grew up in North Carolina and was a fan of Wolfman’s show growing up.  In 1973, he cast him in the film “American Graffiti” and made sure that he got a small percentage of the profits from the film.  The success of the film brought Wolfman to New York to do a radio show on WNBC, but the commuting back and forth to do TV and radio became a hassle, so he moved back to California.

Wolfman Jack became the first radio DJ to nationally distribute his radio show.  The show was heard on over 2000 stations nationwide and in 53 countries! Along with his radio work. he continued to do movie work  and appeared on TV shows like The Odd Couple, What’s Happening, Vega$, Wonder Woman, Hollywood Squares, and Married…With Children. He also appeared as himself in the 1974 hit single by The Guess Who entitled “Clap for the Wolfman.”

In 1995, he wrote his autobiography (a must read for people in radio) “Have Mercy:  Confessions of the Original Rock ‘n’ Roll Animal,” which received good reviews in The New York Times and LA Times.  On July 1, 1995, after finishing a broadcast from The Hard Rock Café in Washington DC he boarded a plane and flew home.  He had been away from his family for days promoting his book.  He told his limo driver as they pulled in front of his house that he was happy to finally be home.  He walked inside, hugged his wife, and collapsed after having a massive heart attack.  He was 57 years old.

To close this section of my blog – here are some of my favorite Wolfman quotes:

“We are put on this earth to have a good time.  This makes other people feel good.  And the cycle continues.”

“I know it may sound corny, man, but I like to bring folks joy and I like to have a good time.  I know folks like to be with someone who’s having a good time.  You sure as hell don’t want to be with somebody who’s having a bad day.”

“Love is not a matter of counting the years – it’s making the years count.”

“If you do right.  Everything will come out right.”

And my favorite quote, which I often used (giving him credit, of course) to close my own radio show:

“Remember to keep smiling because a smile is like a light in the window letting people know your heart’s at home”.

Thanks, Wolfman, for being an inspiration to young DJ’s like me, and for being a positive in a world full of negativity!

Christopher Lloyd (Born October 22, 1938)

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When I first saw the trailer for Back to the Future, I was filled with anticipation.  It was everything a 15 year old boy could ask for, action, adventure, and time travel! I’ve always been a fan of time travel stories.  I have a collection of old radio shows that all have time travel as a theme.  What kid didn’t wonder, “What would it be like to see my parents as kids?  What would it be like to go back to the past?”  I had to see this movie!

The Back to the Future trilogy remains one of my favorites (second only to the Godfather).  Looking back now, I can’t imagine anyone but Christopher Lloyd playing Doc Brown.  While there are great characters (and actors) in the film, Lloyd makes it all worth watching!  He’s the epitome of a crazy scientist!  He’s everything you expect one to be!  He’s manic!  He’s constantly moving!  He’s always thinking and processing!  In an interview he said that there were times he was so into the role that he didn’t know exactly what he had done until he saw it on screen!  Believe it or not, he almost passed on the role!!

In an interview I found, he said that when he was initially contacted about playing the role, he had some doubts about it and seriously considered passing on it.  He was in Mexico when his agent called to tell him that the producers wanted to meet with him.  “I was anxious to do a play that I had been offered back east, and I wasn’t sure this was something I wanted to get involved in at that point.”  Luckily, his future wife Carol reminded him that “I always told myself never to turn anything down without at least checking it out.” After the meeting he says he was “ready to put on the wig and hop into the Delorean!”

Doc Brown is probably one of two roles that Christopher Lloyd will forever be identified with.  The other is that of “Reverend” Jim Ignatowski on the TV show Taxi.  That character won him two Emmy Awards!  I have always appreciated when a TV show has a great ensemble cast – Taxi was one of them.  Each character stands out in their own way, and Reverend Jim never ceased to make me laugh!  One of the greatest scenes in this show is when Jim has to take his driver’s test.  Almost all of the gang is there while he is taking it and trying to help him.  If you’ve never seen it – it’s comedy gold! Here is the link:

Christopher is one of those actors who is believable in comedy roles as well as dramatic roles.  I have always felt that is what makes a great actor.  He reminds me a lot of Robin Williams, in that he can play comedy for comedy, play straight for comedic effect, and nail a dramatic role perfectly.  In his first movie role, as a psychiatric patient in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he is brilliant!  It is one amazing performance!

He is one of those actors that has so many memorable roles.  It would be impossible to give space to each one of them.  One movie that sometimes gets over looked is the 1985 comedy Clue.  As Professor Plum, we are treated to Christopher playing straight for comedic effect.  In one of my favorite scenes, the characters are paired off to search areas of the house.  Plum is paired with Mrs. Peacock (played brilliantly by Eileen Brennan) and he looks at her and says, “It’s you and me, honey bunch.”  As strait as he says it, that line cracks me up every time!  What an amazing cast in this film!

As someone who doesn’t care too much for movie remakes, I was pleasantly surprised at the Addams Family films.  I loved Christopher as Uncle Fester.  I always felt like the TV show was more comedy than dark comedy.  The films were closer to the comic strips and I thought Christopher captured that dark comedy and mischievous aspect of the character in his portrayal of Fester. This is probably because he was a fan of the comic strip and claims to have always read the New Yorker Magazine (where the strip was featured in every issue).

Two of Christopher’s roles were so powerful they scared me!  The first being that of Klingon Commander Kluge in the 1984 film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock.  He is just so vicious, and over the top in this film.  One of my favorite scenes is where one of his crew destroys a ship and he yells that he wanted prisoners.  The crew member says it was a lucky shot.  At this, his anger boils over and Kluge kills the crewmember.  After this, he simply says “Animal.”  He really does a great job of showing us how crazy the character is.

The other role that scared me was his role as Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?  As much as I hated him throughout the movie, when he snaps and goes nuts at the end, wow!  When he is run over by the steamroller you are almost happy!  When he melts, you are ecstatic! When an actor makes you hate a character he is playing that much – he’s done it right! He says that people come up to him often and mention how much this character scared them, so I am not alone.  He also says that he loves playing villains, because it’s a “license just to be as bad as the script allows you to be”.

There are many other movies that Christopher has played in that you may be familiar with, like The Dream Team, Dennis the Menace (Switchblade Sam is an awesome villain), and My Favorite Martian.  He has done so much more that I wish I had been able to see.  For example, in 2010, he starred as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman in a Weston House Production. I can only imagine how well he played this iconic role.   In 2008, he played Scrooge in a production of A Christmas Carol with John Goodman and Jane Leeves.  WOW – I would LOVE to see him as Scrooge!!!!  Many have played Scrooge, and played him well…but I know that Christopher’s interpretation would have been off the charts!

He continues to do voice work (my kids loved him as the Hacker on Cyberchase), television, and movies and is very active on social media. If you don’t already, follow him.

Thanks, Christopher for entertaining so many over the years!  You are a treasure!

In Closing

I want to thank the hosts of this blogathon, “Pop Culture Reverie” and “In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood”,  for allowing me to participate.  It was a lot of fun for me to think about these three influential men and their work, and ultimately write about them.  I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.