Sunday, December 9, 2012

Self-destruction: Doctor Who "Image of the Fendahl: Part Four" (19 November 1977)

The 4th Doctor (Tom Baker) gets the gun (at 5:07) in Doctor Who "Image of the Fendahl: Part Four", November 1977, written by Chris Boucher, directed by George Spenton-Foster. Another example of the casual and capricious presence of death that characterised the original Doctor Who (an attitude that's generally incompatible with the "everyone gets a character arc" frenzy of the modern reboot and most modern narratives).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Singin on TV: Dink's Song/Fare Thee Well in Daniel Boone, "Ken-Tuck-E" (24 Sep 1964).

Daniel Boone (Fess Parker) sings a little of "Dink's Song"/"Fare Thee Well" to appease Rebecca Boone (Patricia Blair) in Daniel Boone episode "Ken-Tuck-E" (24 Sep 1964), directed by George Marshall, written by Borden Chase.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Singin' on TV: The Ames Brothers, "Noah's Ark" in State Trooper "The Dancing Dowager" (29 Dec 1957)

Rod Cameron as Lt. Rod Blake (undercover at the Tropicana) lets The Ames Brothers fill some time singing "Noah's Ark" in State Trooper episode "The Dancing Dowager", 29 Dec 1957.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rasslin on film: "Son of Ali Baba" (1952) Kurt Neumann

A couple of unidentified wrestlers in Kurt Neumann's Son of Ali Baba (1952) demonstrate the benefits of modern TV time limits.

Not to be confused with Ali Baba or Ali (Son of Ali Baba) Baba Jr...

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Singin' on TV: Gunsmoke, "Hack Prine" (12 May 1956)

"My daddy came west to Kansas,
to make his home in Kansas,
but all he made was his own grave,
when he crossed the path of Killer Dave."

Chester (Dennis Weaver) fits in some singin' in Gunsmoke episode "Hack Prine" (12 May 1956), CBS, written by John Meston, directed by Charles Marquis Warren, and guest starring Leo Gordon.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rasslin in the Media: The Rock on The Newsroom episode 7, "5/1" (5 August 2012).

Rasslin in the Media: The Rock gets a mention on The Newsroom episode 7, "5/1" (5 August 2012). Written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Joshua Marston. (Two scenes joined in the clip.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Violence: The Lawless Years, "The Nick Joseph Story", 16 April 1959.

Curley Costillie (Peter Miller) and Tom Dirks (Jan Merlin) dish out some violence, including a broken bottle to camera, for Nick Joseph (Vic Morrow) in The Lawless Years, "The Nick Joseph Story", 16 April 1959.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Storytelling in the Squared Circle: WWE RAW, 10 September 2012.

Wade Keller: "It is so sad to me that when real life health emergencies like last night's on Raw with Jerry Lawler, because WWE has reenacted the scene the night Owen Hart died so many times to sell storylines, that people don't know when it's real or not real, even when Cole stresses that "this is not part of tonight's entertainment." WWE should have never reenacted the distressed look on the faces of announcers that resembled the night Owen died to get across worked storylines, because the emails I'm getting asking "if this is real" would be less likely to be happening.

Once Jim Ross and Jerry Lawler delivered the sad, tragic news of the death of Owen Hart, WWE should have committed to never having the camera point at the announcers at ringside as they solemnly talked about a wrestler being hurt in an angle. It always left a bad taste in my mouth, and I've been critical of it every time it's happened in the last 12 years. It seemed like they were cashing in on the emotions of the night Owen Hart died, and almost trying to blur the line of reality and fiction to make Owen's death feel less real.

Pro wrestling should be able to draw without going so far with an angle that announcers need to delver somber news in a tone that resembles an announcement of someone dying."

Wade Keller, PWTorch:

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Remembering Lon Chaney; The Untouchables, "The Big Squeeze", 18 Feb 1960.

Lon Chaney or Mr Johnson gone crazy? A brief reference to Lon Chaney Sr. in The Untouchables, "The Big Squeeze", 18 Feb 1960.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Tough Talk 101: Arrest and Trial, "Call it a Lifetime", 15 September 1963.

"During the course of the trial I was accused of conducting the defense as though I had suspended all the rules of the game. I admit it. Because there are no rules in this game. Wherever there's a law that says a defendant may be gassed or shot or hanged or electrocuted the stake is no longer a silver cup, we're playing for a human life. That's too big a prize to lose."

John Egan (Chuck Connors) in Arrest and Trial, "Call it a Lifetime", 15 September 1963.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Poetry on Film: Tyrone Power in 'The Razor's Edge' and John Keats' 'The day is gone, and all its sweets are gone!'

Tyrone Power reads from John Keats' "The day is gone, and all its sweets are gone!" in The Razor's Edge (1946) Edmund Goulding.

John Keats, "The day is gone, and all its sweets are gone!"
from Poetry Foundation.

The day is gone, and all its sweets are gone!
Sweet voice, sweet lips, soft hand, and softer breast,
Warm breath, light whisper, tender semi-tone,
Bright eyes, accomplish’d shape, and lang’rous waist!
Faded the flower and all its budded charms,
Faded the sight of beauty from my eyes,
Faded the shape of beauty from my arms,
Faded the voice, warmth, whiteness, paradise –
Vanish’d unseasonably at shut of eve,
When the dusk holiday – or holinight
Of fragrant-curtain’d love begins to weave
The woof of darkness thick, for hid delight,
But, as I’ve read love’s missal through to-day,
He’ll let me sleep, seeing I fast and pray.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Plain Talk: Emily Nussbaum on Aaron Sorkin and 'The Newsroom'

"Sorkin is often presented as one of the auteurs of modern television, an innovator and an original voice. But he’s more logically placed in a school of showrunners who favor patterspeak, point-counterpoint, and dialogue-driven tributes to the era of screwball romance. Some of this banter is intelligent; just as often, however, it’s artificial intelligence, predicated on the notion that more words equals smarter. Besides Sorkin, these creators include Shonda Rhimes (whose Washington melodrama, “Scandal,” employs cast members from “The West Wing”); Amy Sherman-Palladino, of “The Gilmore Girls” (and the appealing new “Bunheads”); and David E. Kelley, who created “Ally McBeal” and “Boston Legal.” Sorkin is supposed to be on a different level from his peers: longer words, worldlier topics. And many viewers clearly buy into this idea: years after Sorkin’s terrible, fascinating “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” was cancelled, I still occasionally run into someone who insists that Americans were just too stupid to get it.

...Sorkin’s shows are the type that people who never watch TV are always claiming are better than anything else on TV. The shows’ air of defiant intellectual superiority is rarely backed up by what’s inside—all those Wagnerian rants, fingers poked in chests, palms slammed on desks, and so on. In fact, “The Newsroom” treats the audience as though we were extremely stupid."

Emily Nussbaum, "Broken News: The Artificial Intelligence of "The Newsroom"", The New Yorker, 25 June 2012.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Plain Talk: A.O. Scott on Superhero Movies

"A critic who voices skepticism about a comic book movie — or any other expensive, large-scale, boy-targeted entertainment — is likely to be called out for snobbery or priggishness, to be accused of clinging to snobbish, irrelevant standards and trying to spoil everyone else’s fun.

What the defensive fans fail or refuse to grasp is that they have won the argument. Far from being an underdog genre defended by a scrappy band of cultural renegades, the superhero spectacle represents a staggering concentration of commercial, corporate power.... comic book fans need to feel perpetually beleaguered and disenfranchised, marginalized by phantom elites who want to confiscate their hard-won pleasures. And this resentment — which I have a feeling I’m provoking more of here — finds its way into the stories themselves, expressed either as glowering self-pity or bullying machismo."

A.O. Scott in discussion with Manohla Dargis, "Super-Dreams of an Alternate World Order: ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ and the Modern Comic Book Movies", The New York Times, 27 June 2012.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Tough Talk 101: The Untouchables, "One Armed Bandits" (4 February 1960)

"You know, for some reason, I don't know why, I thought there was something more to you. Well, there isn't. You're just like every other hoodlum in those files other there. All they want out of life is a hundred-dollar suit and a roll of bills in their pocket. You give any one of them something longer than a menu to read and they'd be lost. Talk to them about god, or country, friendship, love, family, they don't even know what you're talking about. All they've got are their guns. No heart, no guts, just guns. If they had anything else, anything, they'd know that whatever you get from that roll of bills in your pocket you give twenty times as much back, right down to your soul. Did you ever have a family, Frank? A wife, child? Maybe that's what it takes to have a soul? Or maybe you haven't got a soul, maybe you never had one."

Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) lets Frank Odine (Harry Guardino) have it in The Untouchables, "One Armed Bandits" (4 February 1960).

Retro Remote #28: No Contract for Old Men: 5 'Old Folks' in Pop Culture That Are 5Xs Tougher Than You

Retro Remote #28: No Contract for Old Men: Five "Old Folks" in Pop Culture That are 5Xs Tougher Than You - PopMatters, 1 June 2012.

An old-folks follow-up to last column's "Go Play in Traffic" kid-list, that makes me seem like an old curmudgeon. Only half of which is true.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Anxiety of Influence: Cheerleader Melissa

"Some more of those bully tactics that Cheerleader Melissa is known for -- known for the Air Raid Crash, a maneuver that she in many ways borrowed from Mariko Yoshida after that series of matches against her. And she also utilises the Kudo Driver, a trademark maneuver of Megumi Kudo -- the Cop Killer, known to fans of Homicide. She has only been able to hit that once on a competitor here in Shimmer competition, and that was Diaizee Haze in the main event of volume 7, and it earned Cheerleader Melissa that main event victory".

Dave Prazak on commentary lays out some lineage in Cheerleader Melissa vs "Dark Angel" Sarah Stock, Shimmer volume 11, Shimmer Championship Tournament Night One, 1 June 2007. Available from

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Violence: Douglas Fairbanks shoots furrier with arrow, New York 1922.

"Shot With An Arrow in Fifth Avenue", New York Times, 4 October 1922:

"Standing near an open window in his furrier's shop on the fourth floor of 557 Fifth Avenue ... Abraham Seligman felt a sudden, sharp sting in his chest. A steel-tipped arrow, twenty-six inches long, had winged its way silently through the window, pierced his coat and vest and buried its point in the chest wall.... Atop a building under construction nearby they [detectives] found another arrow, but workmen could not tell whence it had come. Assured by Seligman that he had not been concerned in a recent furriers' strike and that he had no enemies who might seek to slay him -- novel-wise -- with curare-poisoned arrows, the detectives finally put the incident down as a prank of a boy with a good bow and a lusty arm."

"Doug Fairbanks Calls on Man Hurt by Arrow", New York Times, 5 October 1922:

"The mystery surrounding the source of the arrow which sped across Madison Avenue roofs and struck Abraham Seligman ... cleared somewhat yesterday, when Douglas Fairbanks called at the Seligman home ... and explained that he and several other persons had been "fooling with a bow and some arrows" on the roof of the Hotel Ritz-Carlton on Tuesday.

...When his attention was called to a photograph of Fairbanks holding a bow and arrow, Lieutenant John Fraser of the East Fifty-first Street Station started an investigation. Fairbanks, however, was ahead of him. He had read of Mr. Seligman's wound in the morning newspapers and hastened to the Seligman home with his attorney, Dennis F. O'Brien. When Detective Andrews reached the Seligman home the actor had left, and the furrier said he had no complaint to make".

Douglas Fairbanks, with good bow and lusty arm, on the cover of Picture Show, 1 March 1924.

Allan Dwan tells a version of this story in Peter Bogdanovich's Who The Devil Made It?

Violence: Douglas Fairbanks as d'Artagnan in A Modern Musketeer (1917) Allan Dwan.

Douglas Fairbanks as d'Artagnan attacks with boiling water and hat in "A Modern Musketeer" (1917), directed by Allan Dwan.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Poetry on TV: John Gillespie Magee, Jr.'s "High Flight", Television sign-off.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.'s "High Flight" used as 1960s late-night television sign-off. (Watch it on YouTube in colour here.)

"High Flight":

"Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air....

Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
And, while with silent lifting mind I have trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
- Put out my hand, and touched the face of God."

A personal review by a viewer at the invaluable Internet Archive:

"Subject: Almost brought me to tears

When I was young but old enough to stay up late, I used to stay up late just to see and hear this clip when a local TV station went off the air. I did this many nights until I had memorized the poem. There was no Internet then and I had no other way to find the text of this poem then. Seeing and hearing this clip after over 40 years almost brought me to tears. It was, and is, my favorite poem and I quote it to myself often. This poem inspired me to an interest in flying and the space program. Unfortunately, I never did...and regret it even now when I hear this again. Thanks."

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Poetry on TV: Taxi, "Art Work" (4 March 1980) and Rudyard Kipling's "If".

Reverend Jim (Christopher Lloyd) recites (somehow) Rudyard Kipling's "If--" in Taxi, "Art Work", 4 March 1980, written by Glen and Les Charles, and directed by James Burrows.

Rudyard Kipling, "If--" (1895):

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!"

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Poetry on TV: The Untouchables, 'The St. Louis Story', 28 January 1960.

"They also serve who only stand and wait."

Eliot Ness (Robert Stack) gives Agent Cam Allison (Anthony George) a refresher in Milton in The Untouchables, 'The St. Louis Story', 28 January 1960, written by Joseph Petracca, directed by Howard W. Koch.

"On His Blindness", John Milton, c1655:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg'd with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
"Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?"
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: "God doth not need
Either man's work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait."

Friday, May 18, 2012

Plain Talk: Peter Bogdanovich and David Bordwell

"If the scripts are constructed well and the casts are good ... there is no reason why many pictures should take so long to make. I kept reminding myself ... that most films of the teens, twenties, thirties, forties and fifties were made quickly and efficiently: Ford shot The Informer in fifteen days; Allan Dwan did many of his pictures in a couple of weeks; Edgar Ulmer rarely had more than six days for a feature. The ongoing attenuation of schedules and bloating of budgets has generally been a result of directorial inexperience or incompetence. Or the insane overpayment of stars. But given 40 million dollars, it seems to me that anybody could make a picture."

Peter Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made It, 1997, p. 30.

"Now, it seems, the exhibitors are so scared of missing the next blockbuster that the filmmakers can dictate terms. It’s remarkable that these men [James Cameron, George Lucas, Peter Jackson...] can do something neither Griffith nor DeMille nor Disney nor any other powerful Hollywood filmmaker of the classic years dared do. They keep asking that the fundamental technology of cinema be changed so we can all watch a couple of their movies for a month or two every few years.

...if these guys are so passionately committed to quality, why don’t they make better movies?"

David Bordwell, "It's good to be the King of the World", 22 April 2012:

(David Bordwell picture by Andy Manis for the New York Times:

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Plain Talk: Kevin Brownlow

Kevin Brownlow:

"As soon as scholars discovered cinema as an "academic" subject, they imposed their own private language upon it. Perhaps because the motion picture is, in reality, a cheap entertainment, they have set out to make it more "respectable" with language borrowed from different areas of study, like psychoanalysis. It's heartbreaking. I have been approached by many students who have been so put off by this that they have left cinema studies. Why do we need to learn another language in order to study something that has its own universal language? Teaching is supposed to mean communication, not alienation. Academics were so busy with theory that they let the first and second generation of filmmakers die without getting any information from them. Had they got the facts, the theorizing might have been based upon a solid foundation. As it is, it has nothing to do with filmmaking. Filmmakers can't understand it—but perhaps that's the point. If we could understand, it would be revealed as gossamer."

Kevin Brownlow, interviewed in John C. Tibbetts James M. Welsh, "Life to Those Shadows: Kevin Brownlow Talks About a Career in Films." Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 14.1 (Fall 1999), pp. 79-95.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Violence: The Untouchables, 'The Noise of Death', 14 January 1960.

A perfect truck nosedive and an explosion of boxes in The Untouchables, 'The Noise of Death', 14 January 1960. Was this shot for The Untouchables or footage from somewhere else?

Dying Words: The Fugitive, 'The Garden House', 14 January 1964.

"Harlan thought I was you. That's a blow to my ego, mistaking me for you ... Good little Annie, always the good one. That's why you had everything"

"Carol, don't die. Don't die."

"I will if I want to."

Carol Willard (Pippa Scott) does as she pleases in The Fugitive, 'The Garden House', 14 January 1964, directed by Ida Lupino and written by Sheldon Stark. David Janssen, Peggy McCay and a creepy doll look on.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Mea Culpa: critical transgressions

"In between all the posing and TV drama posturing, there is one story that offers a hint of human depth..." (from Joss Whedon's 'Avengers' Reaches Apex of Averageness, True Believers at PopMatters).

"TV drama posturing"? Is that really a lazy summoning of television drama to indicate sub-par quality? What dope wrote that?

Uh... I did.

That dopey statement was a quick bit of draft shorthand that slipped into the final version without being properly contextualised or fleshed-out. It definitely wasn't supposed to suggest what it seems to suggest (that television is inherently a low quality medium), but that's how it ended up in the final piece. Rushed submissions are no excuse in the online age, so I thoroughly deserve any kicking I receive.

Hopefully my column of more that two years -- Retro Remote, devoted to highlighting the importance and value of television episodes through history -- shows that I don't necessarily mean all the dopey things I say.

"I'm all too familiar with my misguided words." (The I.T. Crowd, "Jen the Fredo", season 4 episode 1, 2010).

(No apologies for the review's snarky tone, though!)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Violence: The Equalizer, 'Breakpoint', 19 February 1986.

Robert McCall (Edward Woodward) gets to the point in The Equalizer, 'Breakpoint', 19 February 1986.