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Film & Television Series

When You Wish Upon a ‘Saur: TOMY’s Dino Goodies

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“The Good Dinosaur” Arlo, the young hero of Disney/Pixar’s newest collaboration.

Kid Dino-Mite…
Between the rush of excitement and that Japanese language course you took to help dissect the nuances of the recent Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer, you might have missed The Walt Disney Company sliding another film in under your noses. The Pixar collaboration titled The Good Dinosaur has been brewing in the background for some time. Now, with the kinks worked out of its bones, it will hit theaters, on November 25, 2015, as a sweet Thanksgiving dessert for your youngsters.

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The Shadow of Your Smile: Criterion’s “Vampyr” Box

criterion, criterion blog-a-thon, vampyr, carl theodor dreyer

The 2008 “Vampyr” Criterion Box Set. Loaded with historical goodies.

SkeletonPete Says…
Though I normally end a post with the “SkeletonPete Says” section I think it appropriate to preface this particular blog entry with some introduction to its genesis.

This piece is only one small part of the Criterion Blog-A-Thon that officially began yesterday. The Criterion Collection is noted for its restoration of aging film elements, and attention to detail in its bonus features, often producing what most consider definitive DVD and BluRay releases.

Thanks and kudos to Aaron (Criterion Blues) Ruth (Silver Screenings) and Kristina (Speakeasy) who created and are administering this massive, 200 plus post, Blog-a-geddon. It is unlikely I would have endeavored to revisit Vampyr or Carl Theodor Dreyer’s ethos had it not been for the impetus of this online event. Film buffs who trawl the Criterion Blog-A-Thon should have enough to read until December 2020. Please send the blog posts you like some social media (#CriterionBlogathon) and comment love, and follow the ones that you think will float your boat in the long run.
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Krampus, Your Style: Santa’s Henchman Grabs the Spotlight

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I’d OBEY if I were you! “Contemporary Krampus” runs a campaign of terror. Art: Copyright Stannis Abdulo

Getting Kramped in Here…
Hey, whaddaya call a group of shepherds in Brooklyn? …Ewes guys. Ok – umm, how ‘bout a ram wearing galoshes? …A goat in Totes. “Hey Pete,” you say, “who’s got your goat?” In a word… Krampus, and it ain’t no joke. The nordic/germanic folk character acts as the malevolent sidekick to Ol’ Saint Nicholas and is more than happy to beat the bejesus outta ya with a batch of birch branches.

A likely remnant of the old world veneration of the Great God Pan, American audiences may be largely unaware of Krampus. The admonishment to “be good” lest you find a lump of coal in your stocking appears to be the closest kids in the US get to the dark-side of yule tide. That will soon be remedied as Santa’s satanic enforcer gets his due this coming holiday season. Yep, things get heavier than a little coal as the real nightmare before Christmas is the focus of an upcoming film and a brand new book.
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Game of Moans: Morbid Anatomy Museum to Screen Adventure Classic

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Count Zaroff’s trophy room reveals his preferred prey in 1932’s “The Most Dangerous Game.”

Better Run Through the Jungle…
On Tuesday September 1, 2015 at 8pm The Morbid Anatomy Museum (MAM), one of Brooklyn’s most unique spaces, will present a screening of RKO – Radio Pictures’ The Most Dangerous Game. “Movie Mike” will project a 16mm print of the classic 1930’s jungle adventure with its lurid pre-Hayes Code themes of violence, sex and extreme (pre-Predator) big game hunting. Grab tickets here.

The film has an interesting production backstory that just happens to intersect with one of my favorite obsessions, RKO’s 1933 film King Kong and its debt to the art of 19th Century illustrator Gustave Doré.

Thanks to museum director Joanna Ebenstein I get to shed some light on those connections via an illustrated guest blog on the Morbid Anatomy website. This link will take you there.
morbid anatomy museumMourning Becomes Eclectic…
The Morbid Anatomy Museum and Research Library is a cabinet of curiosities focused on the parallel evolutions of the occult and medical sciences, with lots of side trips that include anthropomorphic taxidermy, gothic tropes, and religious reliquaries. Check out the museum’s calendar for future events including MAM’s Common Shade lecture series, presented in conjunction with the Green-Wood Cemetery Historic Fund, which has yielded two exceptional installments thus far.

No Bikini Atoll: My Beach Party Blogathon 2015 Post

Ghostinvisiblebikini

(Editor’s Note: Oowee, got in just under the wire with this one. Thanks to Ruth of Silver Screenings and Kristina of Speakeasy for a neat excuse to write about one of my all-time guiltiest pleasures.)

Oh man, it’s literally the eleventh hour for posting a review Speakeasy/Silver Screenings’ 2015 Beach Party Blogathon, so here goes…

The Ghostess with the Mostest…
Released in April of 1966, on the tail end of American International Pictures’ (AIP) beach party film chronology, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (GitIB) stands as my favorite in the series.

What makes GitIB so much fun is its kitchen sink nature. It feels like there was a tacit acknowledgement that the “endless summer” of the surfin’ 60’s might actually be waning after all and a pull out all the stops attempt to buoy this baby was required. It shares a “more is better” affinity with the latter Universal Pictures monster rallies of House of Frankenstein and House of Dracula.

beach party films, beach party blogathon, ghost in the invisible bikini

Cecily (Susan Hart) hips her “Hiram Baby” (Boris Karloff) to his new existence.

Too Much Monkey Business…
Couched in the – even then – hackneyed trappings of the “Old Dark House,” The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini could pass for a live Scooby Doo episode. It also greatly resembles the previous generation’s Kay Kyser vehicle You’ll Find Out, (1940) even sharing Boris Karloff as a cast member. The one twist in the script is that the villains have no idea they are being thwarted by real ghosts. Those ghosts are portrayed by Susan Hart, as Cecily, the titular see-thru character, and Karloff as former carnival owner Hiram Stokely, her surprised to find himself deceased beau.
beach party films, beach party blogathon, ghost in the invisible bikini

Gorilla My Dreams: Mighty Monstro in classic carrying the heroine mode.

Poe Knows…
The rest of the large GitIB cast is run through a series of the oldest story and sight gags in theatrical history. There’s an inheritance at stake, a multitude of revolving walls, secret passages and falling chandeliers, portraits that watch you, an escaped carnival gorilla, damsel in distress on a buzz saw, a grand guignol waxworks, and a string of Mack Sennet style chases. Fans of Roger Corman‘s Edgar Allan Poe films can have a heyday perusing this movie’s mis en scene. To my eye Stokley’s chamber of horrors was also the set of many an AIP EAP romp. Can anyone help out with specifics here?

Original series leads Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello are replaced by another post-Disney kid, Tommy Kirk, and Deborah Walley in the hero and heroine roles. Beach film stalwart Harvey Lembeck, does mega slapstick throughout, returning for his last ride as motorcycle gang leader Eric Von Zipper.

Other cast members are a convergence of old and new Hollywood of the mid-1960’s. It’s an aspect the film shares with the contemporaneous Batman TV series, which premiered on ABC TV a few months earlier. Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Patsy Kelly, Jesse Young, and even Francis X. Bushman appear alongside the bevy of beach kids, with Rat Pack scion Nancy Sinatra and Claudia Martin representing a changing of the guard.

beach party films, beach party blogathon, ghost in the invisible bikini

Nancy Sinatra sings “Geronimo” backed by the Bobby Fuller Four.

Teardrop City…
Sinatra offers a catchy pop tune “Geronimo,” backed by The Bobby Fuller Four. Fuller can be seen gyrating wildly through the instrumental “Swing A-Ma Thing” wielding an awesome Vox white teardrop guitar. The group serves as “house band” throughout the film. All songs are credited to series regulars Guy Hemric and Jerry Styner. The Les Baxter soundtrack is augmented by drip-drop reverb laden sound effects.
beach party films, beach party blogathon, ghost in the invisible bikini

Susan Hart, as the transparent title character, boogies through the end credits with the AIP teen troupe

SkeletonPete Says…
Historically Ghost in the Invisible Bikini represents a last innocent romp prior to the LSD exploitation and sensationalism of films like Riot On Sunset Strip, Pysch-Out and The Trip. Those films in turn presaged studio system killers like Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider. Think of the cultural gap between The Monkees’ September 1966 pilot episode and their cinematic swansong Head and you’ll get my point.

I love the film because it incapsulates my late pre-teens with remembrances of the aforementioned Batman and Monkees TV series, The Munsters, Aurora plastic model monster kits, Famous Monsters of Filmland and Monster World magazines, Top 40 from a transistor radio speaker, The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” on the AM airwaves, and begging my pop to take me to see Karloff in AIP’s Lovecraft adaptation Die Monster, Die.