Sunday, August 17, 2014

R.I.P. Arlene Martel.

At TIAH Blog, we mourn the passing of actress Arlene Martel, on August 12, 2014, at the age of 78.

Arlene Martel has had the distinction of being featured in TWO of the all-time greatest works of science fiction presented on television. 

She was, of course, best known for the role of T’Pring in the ultra-classic STAR TREK episode “Amok Time” (1967), which took full advantage of her exotic beauty.  I can’t count the number of times, over the years, that I’ve seen “Amok Time”.  It’s one of those things you can never see too often, and is about as close to perfection – in terms of story, acting / casting, and music score – as TV sci-fi ever got.

Arlene Martel was no small part of the success of “Amok Time”.  Her unexpected “Challenge” is surprise enough, but her final scene with Spock, when she ultimately explains her startling and unanticipated actions in that unsettlingly cool demeanor, is both brilliant and unforgettable!

Somewhat lesser known than “Amok Time”, though it shouldn’t be, is “Demon with a Glass Hand”, a 1964 episode of THE OUTER LIMITS written by the great Harlan Ellison, which paired Arlene Martel with future I SPY hero Robert Culp. 

Together, “Amok Time” and “Demon with a Glass Hand” are two of the best sci-fi productions to emerge from what was a great era for televised science fiction and fantasy – and Arlene Martel can lay claim to both. 

In addition, she may have only had one line (“Room for one more, Honey!”), as the “Nightmare Nurse” / Flight Attendant in TWILIGHT ZONE’S “Twenty-Two” (1961, also featuring Jonathan Harris of LOST IN SPACE), but it was a darned memorable one! 
Creepy, Honey!
"I have chosen my Champion..."

"...My Champion is Special Guest Star Jonathan Harris!"

"I?  No!  No!  It Can't Be!  Oh, dear!  I'm allergic to fighting Vulcans to the death!  And, my BACK is quite the disaster area today!  SAVE ME!"

Lest we neglect other genres, let’s note another personal favorite Arlene Martel appearance in HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL “The Princess and the Gunfighter” (1961) where, as you might guess from the title, Paladin is hired by the ministers of a foreign land to bring back their “runaway princess”, who has escaped into the expanse of the American West.  

Richard Boone, as Paladin, and Arlene Martel, as “The Princess", find a nice level of chemistry for what becomes an enjoyable "two-person show". 

And, though it was a very small role, here's Arlene Martel on BEWITCHED as witch "Malvina" in "How Not to Lose Your Head to Henry VIII" (1971). 

Sure makes you witch... I mean WISH, we could have seen more of "Malvina" in other episodes! 

Ms.  Martel's vast list of credits can be found HERE at IMDB.

You'll find more credits than you think, because, early on, she billed herself as "Arline Sax"  - as seen below in HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL, with THE OUTER LIMITS looking to be her first credit as "Arlene Martel". 

Click to Enlarge.

Rest in Peace, Arlene Martel... and thank you for all the great moments! 


Thursday, August 14, 2014

R.I.P. Lauren Bacall

Iconic Golden Age Hollywood actress Lauren Bacall passed away on August 12, 2014, at age 89. 

At the age of 19 (!), she was cast opposite Humphrey Bogart in 1944's "To Have and Have Not", and she (and we) never looked back. 

A string of Bogart and Bacall pictures followed, not to mention one of the most legendary of Hollywood marriages.  

The best of those pictures can be found in this DVD set, which I fully recommend. 

Bogie and Bacall the Signature Collection.

In it, you'll find the aforementioned "To Have and Have Not", "The Big Sleep" -- and two personal favorite pictures of mine... THIS ONE and THIS ONE

Ms. Bacall and Bogart also "appeared together" in certain animated productions, like "Slick Hare" (1947) directed by Friz Freleng, where the couple shared screen time with Bugs Bunny.  

Yowp was kind enough to run this "Bugsy and Bacall" illustration under his Tralfaz subsidiary -- and for borrowing it, I offer him this dual plug in return.  

Bacall and Bogart also were magnificently satirized in "Bacall to Arms" (1946) directed by an uncredited Bob Clampett. 

Check out the cameo by PORKY PIG, as a theatre goer!
And check out these great caricatures!  (Click to enlarge!)

Perhaps not so oddly, given her "appearances" in animation, Lauren Bacall's last completed role would be to ACTUALLY perform a voice on a 2014 episode of FAMILY GUY! 

From one animated couple to another!

The incredible list of Lauren Bacall's credits can be found HERE at IMDB

Rest In Peace, Lauren Bacall!  

Sunday, August 10, 2014

“The Roman Holidays” and “Help!... It’s the Hair Bear Bunch” – Not Loooong DVD Reviews, but Some Initial Observations – Part One “Taking a Holliday”!

In 2013, The Warner Archive Collection released “Complete Series” sets for the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning TV series THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS (1972) and HELP!... IT’S THE HAIR BEAR BUNCH (1971). 
As stated in the comment thread of THIS POST, despite being a lifelong fan of classic-era (‘50s and ‘60s) Hanna-Barbera cartoons, I’d managed to miss both series, most likely due to a general disenchantment with the “State of SatAM”; post 1970.   

In response to a huge sale at Amazon… I ordered ROMAN HOLIDAYS to see how much it actually paralleled THE FLINTSTONES,  and HAIR BEAR BUNCH as sort of Daws Butler’s “last hurrah” in voicing wise-guy animal characters.”

I went on to say:  I’ve never seen ROMAN HOLIDAYS, and have only gotten the slightest taste of HAIR BEAR BUNCH from Boomerang. I don’t hold particularly high hopes for either, but this week’s sale prices on both will go a long way toward mitigating that.”

And, so, with my “not particularly high hopes" at the ready, I received my copies of  THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS and HELP!... IT’S THE HAIR BEAR BUNCH this past Saturday (August 09, 2014) and watched the first three episodes of each series – for the FIRST TIME and I’m sorta surprised to tell you… they’re not really bad at all! 

Read all about it!  CLICK to ENLARGE!

I described Daws Butler’s voicing of “Hair Bear” as his “last hurrah in voicing wise-guy animal characters.”  Apparently, the period of 1971-1972 (and not much beyond that, alas) was Hanna-Barbera’s “last hurrah” at creating the type of humor show they had originally become famous for.   

Soon thereafter, they would inundate us with the many “Teen Mystery Solver” clone series that followed in the wake of SCOOBY-DOO WHERE ARE YOU, simply awful series like RICHIE RICH, repeated miscastings of their own classic characters like Yogi Bear , and the 90 minute to two-hour Mega Shows that smooshed different series together in gigantic, ill-conceived mega-programming blocks.  Oh, and of course, the many incarnations and imitators of SMURFS and SUPER FRIENDS!   …Oh, the pain! 

Oh, the pain!  Oh, the seventies! ...And eighties, even!
An aside, those Hanna-Barbera “Teen Mystery Solver” clone series became so plentiful that a magnificent parody episode of the situation (“Mystery Solvers Club State Finals”) was done by the 2010 series SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY INCORPORATED, which featured the casts of many of those clone shows and their pets and mascots! 

THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS, and its 63 AD setting, was one of several concepts that eventually gave way to pre-history during the development of what would become THE FLINTSTONES.  Instead of a “Mah-dern Stone Age Fam-mil-lee”, we have a “Modern Roman Empire Age Family”.  Although it took twelve years after THE FLINTSTONES to finally surface, THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS eventually came to TV, albeit for Saturday Morning, rather than prime time. 

Contemporary conveniences, instead of reflecting Stone Age sensibilities, were of ancient Roman origins.  Chariots for cars, wrist hour-glasses instead of watches, and American football games in the Roman Coliseum between the “Trojans” and the “Vikings”. 

Though, like THE FLINTSTONES, taxis and busses were also “shells powered by the driver’s and passengers’ feet”, and animals were sometimes used as machines.  

Oh, and names of persons and things ended in the Roman suffix “us”, as opposed to “rock” or “stone”. 

In its cast of characters, however, THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS was more like THE JETSONS than THE FLINTSTONES.  A well-meaning, put-upon father “Gus” (short for “Augustus”) voiced by WACKY RACES narrator Dave Willock (who also appeared in the ‘50s sci-fi film “It Came from Outer Space” and the James Cagney classic “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, to name two on my DVD shelf), and his loyal wife “Laurie” (does that sound Roman to you?), and, in a reversal of Judy and Elroy Jetson, a teenaged son and sarcastic-tongued young daughter. 

There’s also the expected mean and blustery little man, though it’s not “The Boss” like Mr. Spacely, it’s the landlord “Mr. Evictus” surprisingly well-voiced by comic actor (and, according to family lore, my very distant cousin, whom I’d never met) Dom De Luise.    

The cast is rounded out by an “Astro-like” pet lion named “Brutus”, who doesn’t actually “talk” but makes whatever sounds he can in Daws Butler’s “Snagglepuss voice”! 
"Not much for looks, but that VOICE will take him a long way!"
Two things initially strike me about THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS:
ONE:  It does not look like a Hanna-Barbera production, in that it fails to reflect the “traditional” H-B design sense of Ed Benedict and Dick Bickenback, or that of the chief designer of the time Iwao Takamoto.   If anything, THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS comes across as an odd melding of Iwao Takamoto and the Jay Ward Studio – with Ward as the more dominant influence.  

Gus Holiday and Jay Ward's Aesop... You decide!
Characters look more as if they stepped out of Ward’s “Fractured Fairy Tales” or “Aesop and Son” than any previous Hanna-Barbera series.   Particularly Brutus the Lion, who looks nothing like any H-B lion (and there were LOTS OF ‘EM) I’d seen before.  Human characters have FIVE FINGERS, instead of the usual four. 

"Say, I DO look like a Jay Ward character... I mean ROAR!"
But, classic 1960s H-B underscores from Hoyt Curtin and Ted Nichols are used throughout the series.  I note this only because these scores (that appeared in all series from THE FLINTSTONES thru SPACE KIDETTES) ...

A (cave) Man and his (Hoyt Curtin) Music!


Yeah, it’s the kind of thing only a real H-B geek would notice!  So what?
Adding to the familiar H-B ambiance are incidental character voices by Daws Butler, Don Messick, and John Stephenson. 

"Is he talking about US, Boo-Boo?"
TWO: THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS appears to have been written, less as a then-typical SatAM cartoon and more as a prime-time animated sitcom series, as were THE FLINTSTONES and THE JETSONS!  At least that’s what I saw in those first few episodes!  

Credited writers included William Raynor and Myles Wilder of such iconic comedy series as McHALE’S NAVY, GOMER PYLE, and GET SMART, and Barry E. Blitzer, previously of THE FLINTSTONES, THE JETSONS, TOP CAT and its inspiration THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW, as well as the aforementioned McHALE’S NAVY and GOMER PYLE! 


I think we’ll have CAESAR SALAD tonight.” 

Might as well be PATRIOTIC!” 

It’s little script gems like that, from the third episode, that set THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS apart from the rest of its contemporary fare.  And, what a breath of fresh air that quality of writing must have been to the Saturday Morning animated ghetto of 1972!  (…Not to mention 1975, 1978, 1980, or 1984!) Alas, only 13 episodes were produced.  SatAM series, back then, were particularly short run.  

The three episodes of THE ROMAN HOLIDAYS viewed to date were far more enjoyable than I expected.  No, it’s not THE FLINTSTONES at their best, not even close… but, as a series I had low expectations for, it was quite good!  Let’s see where it goes from here! 

I’ll be back with Part Two on HELP!... IT’S THE HAIR BEAR BUNCH soon!