Monday, December 9, 2019

Merry Hatey Christmas

You can decide for yourself whom you believe after watching yet another uptight, histrionical, serious yet silly, and anything but bipartisan impeachment inquiry hearing. But I know this: Santa ain't stopping in Washington, D.C. this Christmas. He doesn't need to. Everybody has plenty of HATE under the tree.

This isn't about whether the inquiry is legitimate. It is. We as a nation cannot shrug off the allegations against the guy in the Oval Office, not if we want oaths of office to mean what they say. Those folks in the two houses swear they will uphold and defend the Constitution and the law. If we are now in the business of attacking people for doing what they swore they would do, then forget draining the swamp; let's just have a crowned head of state and end all this. I sincerely believe a lot of people really want a king when they elect a president anyway.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went ballistic on a reporter who asked if she HATED the president. Mind you, this came from a reporter who has pushed her buttons before with provocative questions, and it was a question designed to yank her chain. "I don't HATE anyone," she said. "I pray for the President all the time." Again, I'll leave it to you whether you believe that because I'm not in the mood to debate to asphyxiation. Your servant is trying to enjoy the Christmas season in spite of everything people are doing to louse it up.

It doesn't matter whether Nancy Pelosi HATES anybody, not as long as a multitude of people out there can do the HATING for her, either on the left or the right. Worse, they take pleasure in it. Christmas has come early as they seethe and snark and divide to conquer. A serious, legitimate Constitutional crisis now has extra added emotion and anger on top of what is already a divisive and disheartening state of affairs, all of it starting four years ago.

We shouldn't be acting like this at any point in the year, much less Christmastime. This unfolding narrative should play out like a funeral in our hearts and minds, not like Friday Night RAW. We should be drawing closer to people we love. We should shine as lights in this world rather than embracing the dark. We should strive to make new friends instead of treating our circle of influence like a gigantic Facebook page, unfriending and blocking and telling people to deport themselves.

Sadly, we have people who love HATE. They embrace it because it works. It gets what they want. It gets people elected. It gets rid of people they don't want to deal with. It strengthens in all the wrong ways for all the wrong reasons, but hey, as long as the goal is achieved, who cares how the ball got in the net?

Don't HATE all over the place and tell me you love this country. HATE didn't build it. We had Pilgrims and Puritans who loved the LORD and each other so much some of them were willing to try a form of socialism. That didn't work out, but live and learn. We had Quakers who stood against slavery and built that city of Brotherly Love (along with Action News and great cheesesteaks), Philadelphia. When our patriots were successful against incredible odds, they didn't christen our new nation with the blood of any Tory they could find. Love is not vengeful.

Every year after the holidays, we find ourselves in the post-noel blues. After this rotten predicament in Washington is over, we'll be in the same funk. Now what? Was the HATE worth it? Did it fit? You know, you can't take it back after Christmas.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Francis' Favorites: #1 - The Blues Brothers



Here we are at the top -- the film I consider the most influential on my life, as well as my favorite. The Blues Brothers is mishmash of music and mayhem, with some of the most memorable movie action sequences thrown alongside a cavalcade of classic rhythm and blues.

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Like so many great films, it's hard to fathom how this film got made, given the totality of what it does. Besides its two title stars, it gets the legendary James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and Cab Calloway. It also features John Candy and Carrie Fisher (in her most memorable non-Star Wars role). It features some wild, over-the-top car chases. And it trashes a mall.



I could devote an entire blog post to the difficulty and danger of this one sequence, which added millions of dollars to the film's budget. (The film's total cost ended up around $30 million.) The mall torn up was an actual mall, the former Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois, which had been closed for about a year when the producers needed it. They were able to get many of the original tenants to come back and redecorate the storefronts, and they borrowed cars from a local dealer to fill the lots. Under the deals they worked out, they only had to pay for the things they broke.

The number of cars trashed in this movie is a testament to innovation and grindstone work. The production ran a 24-hour body shop to repair prop cars that were used over and over again, having been picked up cheaply in the first place.



If you love rhythm and blues, you'll love this picture. But my favorite number is an unforgettable rendition of Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man."



I know people who can quote just about every line in this film. I'm one of them. I also met another while working at Six Flags Over Mid-America. Many people call this a classic cult film. I can't say that about a film that made more than $100 million at the box office despite production difficulties, budget overruns, and racism that kept this film from playing in wide release in the south. It's a film I never get tired of seeing. For me, it doesn't have any throwaway scenes -- except for the extended cut that came out on DVD with bonus material, proving some things on the cutting room floor belong there.

And it's my #1 favorite movie.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Francis' Favorites: #2 - Ghostbusters (1984)



Seeing Ghostbusters was not my idea, nor was it my Mom's idea. That came from kid brother Michael, who was just itching to see it, and we were along for the ride. The Royal Father wasn't there; he was off on some business trip that nicely took him to a nice resort in the Ozarks without the rest of the family.

A look at the films
that have left a mark on my life.

I'm now counting down the
films that left the biggest marks.
"I hope you're taking me to a good movie," the Queen Mother said in 1984 as we went to one our favorite movie houses in the Kansas City area: The Blue Ridge Cinema (now defunct and vanished into movie history).

What we didn't understand yet was that we were about to see one of the funniest movies of the decade, a movie that would leave a tremendous cultural landmark and propel the red circle-and-slash international "no" symbol to new popularity. Dad didn't know what he was missing -- yet.

But Ghostbusters did even more than that. It perfected the sci-fi action comedy. Men In Black, Guardians of the Galaxy, and to some degree, Iron Man all have the power of the proton packs in their DNA. You could be both highbrow and lowbrow with special effects added in.



I ended up seeing this film at least three times in theaters. The second time was with Dad, when he finally got back from that so-called business trip and we filled him in on what we saw.



I couldn't wait for this movie to make it to home video. Some relatives bought it, and we made a copy for ourselves (in a time when everybody who had multiple VCR's was doing that). I watched it while it copied, and then I rewound it and watched it all over again.



Halloween of 1984 had me dressing up as a Ghostbuster, complete with a toy machine gun and an emergency light flashing in a backpack wedged into a cardboard box for my proton pack, uniformed with my Dad's old Kansas National Guard attire.

My brother and I also got those famous "no ghosts" logo t-shirts. I wish I had held onto mine. I'm still looking for another one.

In the meantime, Ghostbusters is #2 on my list of favorites.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Francis' Favorites: #3 - Any Which Way You Can



I was in the first or second grade when this film came out in 1980, and kids in my class who had seen it were saying, "You know when they were trying to kill Clint Eastwood? The money was manureing in all the cars!"

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That's something Roger Ebert picked up on right away in his review, which called this film a free-association exercise of several different elements. Not that I care; I like it that way. As Ebert notes, it still has charm to it, and I will tell you that's because it's a goofy drive-in flick, disparate elements and all. It's the kind of movie you can easily see yourself watching on a Saturday night sitting under the stars.

Let's leave the form and talk about the content. I love this film because it has some hardcore bare-knuckle fights, including this one in a bar:



This film, like many Clint Eastwood films, makes heavy use of what has become a trademark of any Clint Eastwood fight scene: a lot of shots of him punching into the camera and also from his perspective, something also found in this film's predecessor, Every Which Way But Loose.



I didn't care for Every Which Way.... I thought it was too serious to be a comedy, and too heavy in places to be fun. The sequel, just as the trailer promises, is faster and funnier. And we get a huge fight scene at the end which winds all over the town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I imagine people still visit and remember all the places they saw during that climatic fight scene.

Of course, Clyde steals the show.



Because of the the action, all the fun and all of it watchable over and over again, Any Which Way You Can ended up as number three on my list of favorites.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Francis' Favorites: #4 - Tootsie



When my parents took my brother and your servant to see Tootsie in 1982, I went in thinking it was going to be one of those romantic comedies that the adults would get and kids my age would not. (The term "chick-flick" had not yet been invented.) Happily for me, I was dead wrong. I not only got it, I laughed out loud at Dustin Hoffman dressing up as a woman to get work on a TV soap opera and doing it so seamlessly and convincingly.

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I'm now counting down the
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Tootsie is one of those films where I remember whole chunks of dialogue from memorable scenes, like this one played between Hoffman's character, Michael Dorsey, and his cantankerous agent, George Fields, played by Sydney Pollack -- who also directed. Dorsey has just learned a role he was up for on a Broadway show has been taken by someone else, and he wants answers from his agent.



I love that line: "Who told you that, the agent fairy?"

Of course, Michael gets the role and then he has to break the news to George. And here they have another classic exchange in New York City's famous Russian Tea Room, the place where entertainment power brokers and stars go to wine and dine and make deals, all while being served by people in lovely blouses.



And I can remember times when I don't know what I want to wear to a historic ball, and I remember this scene in front of the closet.



The American Film Institute lists this film as one of the greatest screen comedies of all time, and I don't disagree. What's ironic is that Sydney Pollack had never directed a comedy before this one. Yet he created a classic that holds up so well over time, and it even spun off a smash Broadway musical. Tootsie is a movie I can watch over and over again and still laugh, and for that reason, it's in my top five favorites.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Francis' Favorites: #5 - Ray



I remember seeing Ray on a Friday night after work, a late show at the Foothills Loew's here in Tucson. I remember how deep, emotional and musical it was, and how Jamie Foxx (who would win an Oscar for his performance) disappeared into the role of Ray Charles so completely. As I pointed out in my original 2004 review, the film deserved better treatment from the beginning, having taken years to get made because of financing difficulties.

A look at the films
that have left a mark on my life.

I'm now counting down the
films that left the biggest marks.
But when it did get made, and with Charles' blessing and cooperation, it turned out to be a highly musical, highly watchable breeze through this legend's life and times. It didn't gloss over the warts: his drug use and his womanizing. I also enjoyed -- even if the Arizona Daily Star reviewer didn't -- listening in on Charles' business savvy which had him owning his own master recordings and controlling his sound, mastering the piano and overcoming blindness. That control enabled him to glide effortlessly into country from soul and R&B. The only thing that wore on me was the film's surrealistic flashbacks to the death of Charles' brother as they were growing up in Georgia.

As the late, great Roger Ebert pointed out, Ray would be watchable alone for just the music and how Jaime Foxx nails Ray Charles' mannerisms and voice, even though he's mouthing Charles' original recordings on the soundtrack. It's so much more than that, however, and it's an inspirational film for me because of its soulful journey -- on more than one level.



At one point in the film, Charles says: "When I walk out that door, I walk out alone in the dark."

Your servant has felt that darkness, more times than I would like to remember. Perhaps that's why Ray has ended up on my list of five favorites.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Alive... It's ALIVE!



I love 1974's Young Frankenstein because it's not just a very funny movie -- it's also a very enlightened parody of a classic monster movie, even using some of the same props as the original. Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder starting working on this movie together as they were finishing up Blazing Saddles, and between the two of them, they came up with scenes and dialogue that is impossible to forget.

A look at the films
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"That's Frank-un-STEEN."

"Walk this way."

"Elevate me."
"Here? Now?"



And a stylish production number...



But let's admit it. You can't wait to whinny every time her name comes up...



Monday, June 24, 2019

Push The Button, Max



A favorite film of the Royal Father, the Royal Grandfather and Dear Auntie is this 1965 epic comedy, The Great Race, directed by the great Blake Edwards. In the tradition of great films, this one nearly didn't get made.

A look at the films
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The script called for shooting on three different continents, dozens of classic turn-of-the-20th-century cars, hundreds of period costumes (by the great Edith Head, no less), a huge bar fight, the biggest pie fight ever filmed, and an automobile race connecting all of it. It's not hard to see why a studio would pass on it, but United Artists took it only to pass it to Warner Brothers when costs spiraled beyond the original $6 million budget.

A large amount of cash went into that pie fight. Let's take a closer look at it.



Still, with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Natalie Wood attached to the picture, it had to be a surefire hit, right?





Despite all that money, all those stars, all those cars, and all those pies, The Great Race was a great disappointment -- even though it grossed double its negative cost of $12 million. Audiences found everything just too over the done, including the length: the film clocks in at 2 hours and 40 minutes.

When I was in the sixth grade, our teachers showed this movie at a rewards assembly. I had seen it at least twice before then, and I was the only one generally interested in it. All those other kids probably would have preferred Footloose.

About 15 years later, I had Tony Curtis on a 5:00 newscast I produced, live in the studio. I was stuck in the control room while our anchor got to ask him questions about his storied career. I never got to meet him or shake his hand... much less ask him about The Great Race, all those pies, and all those cars.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Beware The Flying Cannon



A couple of weeks ago, I was watching a standoff unfold in Los Angeles on live TV, and the news helicopters had the perfect vantage point to spot a suspect who had fired shots at the cops, lit a house on fire, and thrown fireworks out the window of another home.

A look at the films
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"Where's Blue Thunder when you need it?" I said.

In 1983, Blue Thunder was the coolest chopper movie I couldn't see due to its R rating. I later sneaked a look at it on cable. Not only could it blast the heck out of everything, it could see through walls, pick up the slightest whisper, stare down at you from 1,000 feet and get information on anything and anybody through its computer terminal -- years before Google and smartphones.



About a year later, a sanitized version of the movie (which still borrowed a lot of shots from the film) became an ABC series, starring -- among others -- Dick Butkus, Bubba Smith... and a then-unknown Dana Carvey in a serious role.



TV Guide said that the similarly-themed series Airwolf flew circles around this show. But I still give my vote to the Blue for all the cool AV gear.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Eastbound And Down



When Burt Reynolds passed away last year, I immediately knew I wanted to run a clip from Smokey And The Bandit in my newscasts, particularly the one showing Sally Field's runaway bride character tossing a bag into Bandit's Trans Am after he pulled over and said, "I don't want to get married."

A look at the films
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"Great, that makes two of us," Field replied before asking Bandit to unzip the back of her dress and adding, "Does this thing move?"

"Oh yeah," Bandit replied before speeding off.

I couldn't find that clip, but I did find one that I thought summed up Reynold's prolific film career.



I saw a documentary on this picture where Reynolds read the script and thought it was awful. But he still agreed to do it, and he had a lot of fun doing it. For Reynolds, it really wasn't so much about the money or the glory as much as it was the fun, and Reynolds seemed to have more fun making movies and TV shows (Evening Shade among them) than anybody I knew in Hollywood.

It's not just Reynolds who makes this picture work. Jerry Reed is unforgettable as the good-ol-boy trucker who can't hit the road without his basset hound friend Fred. But it's Jackie Gleason's bigoted, dimwitted sheriff Buford T. Justice who steals the picture.



I didn't get the full breadth of his foul-mouthed tirades until I saw the unedited picture instead of the version that aired on NBC which substituted "Scum Bum" in place of a more colorful term.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Men In Tights And The Ladies Who Love Them



We recently lost the great Franco Zeffirelli, whose colorful and lusty 1968 version of Romeo And Juliet is what I think of every time somebody quotes from this play. I saw it complete for the first time in high school, although it was an ABC Sunday Night Movie version which removed about 30 seconds of Romeo's bare buttocks, and one second of Juliet's bare breasts.

A look at the films
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My English teacher explained before pressing the play button on the ancient U-Matic VTR (what schools were using years before VHS took root) that you could tell who the Capulets were because they were "the real flashy dressers." She added, "Yes, the men do wear leotards."

Yes, in a way. They're wearing Renaissance-era Italian hose, multicolored tights with prominent codpieces.

"Hey, you gotta protect the goods," a colleague remarked when I explained how the movie aimed for historic accuracy in the crotch. But I don't think protection was the goal as much as showing things off.

And you know, any time there's a beautiful ball scene, I'm on it.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Puff And Stuff



Days before a Scottish dance in Flagstaff, I caught the end of Brigadoon on cable's TCM. Needless to say, I've never been more stoked to wear a kilt ever since.
A look at the films
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And above all things, I wanted to get a Highland shirt with extra puffy sleeves. And as the clip below shows, it wasn't enough for me to pine for merely that. I had to have some in different colors.




So now, I have extra-puffy shirts in white, blue, green, grey and brown. I'll get around to red, eventually.





Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Oh, If I Could Lift Your Burdens, My Lady!



You knew somewhere in this series I would have to talk about a historical movie or two. Here you are. The Duchess is a beautifully-adorned movie that shows how rotten 18th Century life could be when it came to power, privilege and marriage. When I reviewed this film in 2009 after seeing it on DVD, I lamented the burdens of the title character played so well by Keira Knightley and how she could take so much sludge surrounded by so much beauty. My friend Lady Elizabeth reminded your servant that ladies of the time married mainly for security, not love. True, but still unfair and sad.

A look at the films
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A fellow re-enactor put it to me this way: "Isn't it great we can grocery-shop the 18th Century?" For us here and now, yes. For them, they had no choice.

But shop, your servant will. I find it so ironic and hypocritical that gentlemen bowed to their ladies in this period while treating them like property. When I bow in my historical exploits, I mean it -- especially on the ballroom floor. And fortunately, this film has some beautiful dancing:



And here's another look at the dancing in this behind-the-scenes feature:




Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Don't Call Me Shirley



Airplane! is one of those surrealistic comedies that takes a few moments for you to understand the very first time you see it, because it's a non-stop barrage of jokes akin to a TV sitcom or a sketch on the Carol Burnett Show. But once you figure out the formula, you sit back and enjoy the ride.

A look at the films
that have left a mark on my life.
I first saw Airplane on HBO when cable came into our home in 1981. For a PG-movie, it flirted with some very risque humor, in clips I can't show you on a blog that is determined not to make it into anybody's family-safe filters.

One of those scenes involves a very brief scene of a topless woman passing side-to-side through the frame. I remember seeing this with Grandma Lawson, who deadpanned, "That woman needs to put a bra on."

And who can forget Barbara Billingsley, Beaver Cleaver's mom, speaking jive?

Monday, June 17, 2019

"Ladies Are Unwell -- Gentlemen Vomit"



My Favorite Year ended up as one of my favorite movies the first time I saw it on HBO. It's a sidesplitting tribute to Hollywood's golden age and classic 1950's TV comedy. It's the kind of film Mel Brooks could've made -- and he did. He produced it, and although he didn't direct it, it's modeled after his time as a writer on Your Show Of Shows, with King Kaiser (Joseph Bologna) standing in for Sid Caesar, and the Errol Flynn-esque Alan Swan (Peter O'Toole) as a boozy guest star under the watch of young writer Benjy Stone (Mark Linn-Baker, before Perfect Strangers).

A look at the films
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The film works so well because it breezes through so much of its material. Its characters are both funny and likable. The gags are fast and furious. The whole film feels like it could have been an extended version of Your Show OF Shows.



And it's not just the dialogue that's funny, as in this scene where a union boss confronts King Kaiser about the mobster parody sketch on his show.



I can still hear the Royal Father laughing his tail off when he heard the car horns.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Twisting The Screen Away



Twister is the only movie I recall getting a PG-13 rating for "intense depiction of very bad weather." And boy, is it intense, right from the prologue showing what it's like to go through a tornado warning at night. I remember having to go into the basement several times as a child when we heard the sirens blow in the Kansas City area.

A look at the films
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If I was excited watching severe weather coverage on TV, watching this movie changed all that. So did nearly getting hit by a twister on I-70 while driving through central Missouri.

I don't think I would ever want to chase a tornado on my own, not without some trained meteorologists in the car with me who knew what they were doing. I seriously considered taking a chase vacation a few years ago, before YouTube and live streaming made it easier to just peek in from the safety of home. What the movie doesn't show you is that bust chasing days can be as common as a thrill ride with a funnel in your rearview mirror.

Once you've seen the live coverage over the net, Twister starts looking more than a little hokey, especially with scenes like this.



I've seen roofs tossed around in news footage. Cows? Never.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Not For The Kids



I wanted to see Beverly Hills Cop as soon as it came out in the Christmas movie season of 1984. I thought it would be a scream. My parents thought otherwise, given the "R" rating.

A look at the films
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The closest I got to seeing it in theaters was on a Boy Scout trip to Omaha in January 1985. In addition to staying in a gym for the weekend at an Air Force base, with all the basketball we could play, we took a few side excursions -- mainly to the mess hall. We also decided to go see a flick. The base cinema was showing Supergirl, a dog of a film, so we went into town and found the nearest multiplex. While the guys who were 17 or over, or close enough, saw Eddie Murphy, I had to settle for seeing Jeff Bridges in Starman.

That "R" rating was mostly for nudity and probably some language, as Murphy and company checked out a strip club. If it had been for just violence, the Royal Father probably would have given me a pass. I also wanted to see what Murphy's Axel Foley did to the tailpipe of a car.



And it had action, a lot of it, including this over-the-top sequence that led off the movie:



I eventually would see this on cable more than a few years later. The wait was worth it.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Shall We Play A Game?



Next to Tron, the geek movie I liked to play over and over again on the VCR was 1983's WarGames, starring Matthew Broderick as a hacker who accidentally nearly starts World War III while trying to find software from a game company. Real-life hackers quickly dismissed this film, and NORAD reassured people it couldn't happen because their machines weren't tied to phone lines in the pre-home-internet cyberworld.

A look at the films
that have left a mark on my life.
That didn't stop amateur computer hobbyists from deciding they wanted to try a little online breaking and entering. (I wasn't one of them.) Now we had a new category of crime that the law hadn't caught up with. In the earliest days of illegal online computer use, the authorities could do little more than charge somebody with wire fraud, something might not cover things like, say, launching a Titan missile out of a silo in Nebraska.



Many hackers, as I knew them, were just tourists: people who got in, looked around, maybe played a little with the system, and then logged out without leaving any trace. I know this because I was a tourist on a computer bulletin board system devoted to hacking: The K.C. Hack Shack. But under an alias, I saw a lot more than hacking. Many people were there to illegally pass codes for long-distance telephone systems which, unlike today, were not unlimited and not free. Many people also engaged in something called "carding:" stealing credit card information and using it to fraudulently order things (usually computer gear), which would then usually be sent to an abandoned home to be picked up later. "Phreaking" was also common: hacking your way around AT&T's phone network to get free long distance, conference calls, and who knew what else. Occasionally, I'd hear about somebody changing grades, just like in the movie:



That computer Matthew Broderick is using is a tricked-up IMSAI 8080, a 1970's-era machine that originally didn't come with either a monitor or keyboard, so it was already obsolete by the time WarGames was released. However, it looked bulky and nerdy enough to fit the character of a hard-core hacker, so the choice made sense. What you don't see the star doing is actually booting this system up -- something complicated by the fact that the keyboard needed a bootloader!

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Geek Free Or Die



Tron is one of my favourite nerd movies. You'll see another later in this series, but I liked it when it came out in 1982 because it wasn't afraid to be geeky in terms of a story arc where an operating system is portrayed as an evil overlord enslaving programs -- perhaps a premonitious dig at Windows?

A look at the films
that have left a mark on my life.
It also innovated in a lot of other gloriously geeky ways. Several sequences were rendered with graphics from a supercomputer, making the film one of the first to extensively make use of CGI. Other sequences had to be painstakingly laid out using optical mattes and backlit animation, a process that means a lot of passes through a film printer with a high potential for error.

But when it worked, it worked.



A warning to parents: don't let your kids drive a Recognizer.



Disney made this film as it was trying to segue into more adult-oriented entertainment, away from those wacky myriad movies starring Dean Jones. Their first attempt, The Black Hole showed promise, but turned out to be a dud. Tron performed substantially better, begetting a sequel in 2010.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Inside Story



Nothing will have you talking like Raquel Welch being attacked by antibodies. And this film has a lot to talk about, with so many special effects and sets resembling arteries and veins and capillaries. I first saw this film complete on WGN in the 1980's, after the Royal Father taped it. I would watch it again and again and again because I was fascinated with so much of it, especially the matte (bluescreen) techniques that put a miniature submarine inside a human body.

A look at the films
that have left a mark on my life.
The film follows the adventure of a surgical team aboard a submarine shrunk down to "about the size of a microbe" and injected into the body of a scientist left comatose by a blood clot from a failed assassination attempt. That scientist holds a powerful secret the Soviets want -- or at least want kept secret.

Brother Michael hadn't seen a frame of this film when he finally got around to watching it, and he was wowed by the antibody attack. I thought they looked more like seaweed than antibodies, but who cared?

One innovative touch: the title sequence, which is not accompanied by music -- just a rhythmic score of sound effects.



An interesting sidebar to this movie is that renowned sci-fi writer Issac Asimov penned the novelization at the urging of Bantam Books. Asimov wasn't thrilled with the screenplay, and he found it was full of plot holes. But with his clout, he was able to do the book his own way, fixing the problems in the process. Because of production issues on the film and Asimov's quick pace -- churning out the draft in less than two months -- the book hit stores before the movie did.