Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas 2014 DVD Marathon.

A relatively recent “tradition” of mine is the Christmas DVD Marathon, where I pull out various items related to the Christmas season for festive consumption.  It is not a true “marathon”, in that I don’t watch these things consecutively in a flurry (…or, as they now say, a “Binge”) – I’d NEVER have the time for that – but (as I’ve become so fond of saying) “steal time” to do so over the week leading up to Christmas Day. 

Things tend to rotate into the mix as I discover (or rediscover) them, but there have always been two constants, dating back to the days of VHS tapes. 

Our Christmas 2014 DVD Marathon consisted of:  

THE FLINTSTONES:  "Christmas Flintstone" (The original from 1964) is one of the two constants, and begins the process every year!  This is the “Fred Saves Christmas” tale that was such a wonder to “single-digit-age-me”, well before everyone and his or her brother began “Saving Christmas”.  Indeed, I figure if I hang around long enough, even *I* will get a shot at “Saving Christmas”.  You can start thanking me now, as a token of your advance appreciation.

"Christmas Flintstone" can be found on the DVD set: The Flintstones The Complete Fifth Season.  

I always look up the companion comic book from Gold Key Comics, to double the fun. 

Also, in the animated version, isn't Hal Smith the BEST voice of Santa Claus ever?!  

Actually, this year,  "Christmas Flintstone" kicked-off a (you guessed it)Saving Christmas Trilogy”, with the two entries that follow… 

Oh, Mama! I'm part of a TRILOGY... whatever that is! 
JOHNNY BRAVO: "Twas the Night" (narrated by the great Adam West) from that great first season of JOHNNY BRAVO.  Mistaking Santa for a prowler, thick-headed but muscular Johnny disables St. Nick, and must finish his rounds.  A perfect Hanna-Barbera counterpoint to "Christmas Flintstone", with Johnny ineptly distributing presents to virtually EVERYONE who had appeared as ancillary or guest-starring characters in the series to that point – including SCOOBY-DOO! 

Say, anyone see a future “Johnny Bravo” issue of SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP?   

"Twas the Night"  is on Cartoon Network Hall of Fame: Johnny Bravo Season One. 

FAMILY GUY: "Road to the North Pole" Brian and Stewie ACTUALLY DO save Christmas, but not before they completely and utterly screw it up.  Perhaps the most dystopian version of the Christmas legend ever, but with an uncharacteristic (certainly for Family Guy) happy and practical ending!  

"We're no longer Santa!", says Stewie to Brian, "This has become a HOME INVASION!"

"Road to the North Pole"  is part of Family Guy Volume Ten. 

Oddly, this trilogy comes together in that The Flintstones was Hanna-Barbera's greatest success, Johnny Bravo was part of its "last gasp", and some of Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane's earliest work was on Johnny Bravo!  Imagine that!  

BEWITCHED:  “A Vision of Sugar Plums" Samantha instills the Christmas spirit in a very cynical little boy (played by future LOST IN SPACE star Billy Mumy) by having him meet Santa.  Wonderful stuff, with Santa nicely portrayed by actor Cecil Kellaway.   

In minor roles, we also see Gerry Johnson (the “new” voice for Betty Rubble, who also appears in "Christmas Flintstone") and future co-star of BEWITCHED’s “competing series” I DREAM OF JEANNIE Bill Daly.

I have “A Vision of Sugar Plums" as part of the BEWITCHED Complete Series Set, but it would also be available in the BEWITCHED Season One collection. 

LOST IN SPACE:  "The Toymaker", the other of my two Christmas Constants.  Explicitly mentions Christmas – and occurs at Christmas time. This charming tale of Will and John Robinson, Doctor Smith, and the Robot trapped in a fourth-dimensional toymaker’s shop manages to conjure up the feeling of the season, without directly dealing with the holiday itself. 

Then again, might that "toy" in the upper right be more than meets the eye?  Naaah!  ...Or, maybe so? 

Character actor Walter Burke is perfect as the eccentric, yet charmingly paranoid and distrustful (if you can ACTUALLY BE “charmingly paranoid and distrustful”) titular Toymaker “Mr. O.M”.  

This is the second entry in LIS’s “Celestial Department Store Trilogy” and, thus, also features the wonderful character actor Fritz Feld, as the officious, German-accented alien functionary “Zumdish”.  Great fun, and sci-fi the way they’ll never do it again! 

That's MISTER Zumdish, to you!  >POP!<

"The Toymaker" is part of Lost In Space Season Two, Volume Two. 

JUSTICE LEAGUE ANIMATED:  "Comfort and Joy", written by the great Paul Dini.  Three separate tales of Green Lantern and Hawkgirl, Superman and Martian Manhunter, and Flash and The Ultra-Humanite. The latter two being the most effective as Christmas tales. 

As a near-lifelong DC Comics fan, this has become a Neo-Christmas-Classic for me!  The Flash and Martian Manhunter stories have actually caused me to choke up!  A must see, certainly for any comic book fan! 

"Comfort and Joy" can be found in the DVD set Justice League Season Two.

Finally, there was I LOVE LUCY: “Drafted, a typical series comedic misunderstanding plot, where Lucy and Ethel think Ricky and Fred are going into the Army, while Ricky and Fred think that Lucy and Ethel are pregnant - Ethel, pregnant?!  But, there was one special moment at the end of the episode where they do a Christmas bit that was excised from syndicated broadcasts and restored to the DVD.

Here's the FOUR of us! 

The four are all dressed in Santa outfits and dance in a line around the Christmas tree… only to be momentarily and miraculously joined by the REAL SANTA CLAUS (played by Vernon Dent of THREE STOOGES fame), who then abruptly disappears, leaving the Ricardos and the Mertzes in a state of uneasy Christmas cheer! 
WAIT!  Who's THAT in the middle?  
...Or, COULD it?  
This is a magnificent bit that is well worth the price of the DVD set, just to experience!  As with BEWITCHED, I have this as part of the I LOVE LUCY Complete Series package, though it surely is part of the I LOVE LUCY Season One collections as well.

And, that’s my Christmas 2014 DVD Marathon!  Merry Christmas – and any other holiday you may (or may not) celebrate!  And, please tell us about your own such marathons or viewing pleasures!  
Merry Marathoning! 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas 1964 and 2014!

This simple but elegant cover by Tony Strobl fronts a particularly beloved comic book that I was reading fifty years ago at this time!  

This was the second issue of DONALD DUCK that I would receive by mail subscription.  And what a thrill it was to receive it in mid-to-late November, 1964.  

Never mind the fact that it was "mechanically folded in half" (and, thus, permanently creased down its middle to this day), with a brown paper sleeve around its middle, and the comic sticking out of both ends simply begging to be damaged by the United States Postal Service.  

None of that mattered because we cared not about "condition" in 1964, we just READ 'em and ENJOYED 'em!  And, besides, that brown paper sleeve had MY name and address on it, making the comic just that much more "special" to my single-digit year-old eyes!  

It's still special to me today, and I think I'll take THAT VERY SAME COPY out and read it again, and get that same feeling a (Gulp!) half-century later!  

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you from Joe, Esther, and a fifty-year old issue of DONALD DUCK, at TIAH Blog!  

Monday, December 22, 2014

Derek the Halls!

I don't know about you but, whenever I think of the holidays,  I always think of Derek Jeter!

His timely hits, great defensive play, and festive clubhouse leadership just scream "Merry Christmas to One and All"!  

Sleigh-bellscaroling, and The Captain!  That's the spirit! 

And, in that very spirit, the YES Network (the television home of the New York Yankees) has seen fit to promote (wait for it...) A Christmas Day Derek Jeter Marathon for December 25, 2014!  

You've done the "Twelve Days of Christmas", now try "Twelve Hours of The Captain"!  

The details are below: 

12:00 PM
Derek Jeter: Salute 2 The Captain
Derek Jeter special
2:00 PM
Jeter's 3,000th hit: Tampa Bay @ Yankees 7/9/11
Yankees Classics
5:00 PM
Yankees Access: Derek Jeter
New York Yankees behind-the-scenes series
5:30 PM
Derek Jeter's Final Home Game (9/25/14)
Yankees Classics
9:30 PM
Moments of Glory: Derek Jeter
No description available at this time
10:00 PM
Derek Jeter: Salute 2 The Captain
Derek Jeter special

All times listed are Eastern Time (ET.)

I know there are plenty of Holiday TV Marathons out there to choose from but, oddly, this particularly unusual one seems compelling enough to drop in on, even if for only a short time - and the notion of seeing baseball on Christmas Day!

All I can say to Derek Jeter and the YES Network is... Merry Christmas... and, er... "Bravo"!  

"Oh, Mama!  If I could only be like Derek Jeter!"  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fifty Year Voyage: 1966 Chronicles “Monster from the Inferno”

The 1964-1965 television season marks the fiftieth anniversary of Irwin Allen’s classic sci-fi TV series VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and we continue that celebration with a VOYAGE installment of an old project of mine – “The 1966 Chronicles”.

Before there was a TIAH Blog, there was “The 1966 Chronicles”. 

1966 was, and always will be, my absolute favorite year for pop culture.  And this is reflected in “The 1966 Chronicles”, but with an interesting twist.  “The 1966 Chronicles” was a series of TV episode commentaries, but written AS IF I WERE IN 1966, seeing these shows for the FIRST TIME, with the only the knowledge of prior seasons – and with ever so much the hint of an anomalous “glimpse of the future to come”.

Maybe you watched an old TV like this in 1966!  I wish I watched it with her!
So, if you were hanging out with me, or reading my writings on THE DAY AFTER THE SHOW ORIGINALLY AIRED, this is more or less what you’d get.  

The commentaries that made up “The 1966 Chronicles” were limited to those TV series that aired in Fall 1966, that were released on DVD at the time (prior to mid-2008), and were in my DVD collection.  That way I ACTUALLY DID watch the episode, and then commented on it. 

Thus, there were no reviews of BATMAN '66 and THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (not yet released), or BEWITCHED (didn't have it then, have it now). 

There were 22 installments in all, before I moved on to Blogging, and they are all eligible to become Blog posts, if you desire. 
So, let's go with the Fall 1966 premiere episode of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, Monster from the Inferno” - which, coincidentally, just aired on ME-TV Saturday evening / Sunday Morning, November 30, 2014, OVER FIFTY YEARS after the series premiered! (How about that!)

VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA: “Monster from the Inferno”  (Airdate: 09/18/66)

FantasticThe closer we get, the more these readings resemble human brain waves!”

So declares Admiral Harriman Nelson, to open the third season of what, after an outstanding second year, has become my favorite prime time TV series of 1966. 

 And what a delight it was to see that establishing shot of the Submarine Seaview gliding through the depths toward the eager Sunday evening viewers of ABC TV.  Yes, Richard Basehart as Admiral Nelson and David Hedison as Captain Lee Crane, two of television’s most unflinching heroes, are back for another year of underwater science fiction thrills.  

By now, the rest of the crew are practically old friends – Lt. Cmdr. Chip Morton, crewmen Kowalski and Patterson, and returning after an absence of the latter part of last season is the character of CPO Francis Sharkey!  Sharkey was last seen recovering from having been badly busted-up in the mid-second season episode “The Sky’s on Fire” many months ago but, happily, appears fit for duty again! 

Sharkey's back (Left) and so is Doc (Right). 

Something's Out There!  
And, just in time too… as the “Monster” from the title is a big, boulder-sized, disembodied BRAIN, fallen to Earth from outer space and radiating waves from the ocean floor that have caused a “thousand mile communications blackout”, which Nelson’s crew and “special guest visiting scientist” Lindsay (actor Arthur Hill) have come to investigate.  

The Brain makes First Contact.

Lindsay quickly falls under the influence of the creature, after having received a massive shock from it in the show’s teaser.  The Brain communicates with its newfound thrall, slowly at first before building in both Earth/English vocabulary and overblown intensity.  “In the water… I entered your mind… I speak to you alone…” 

Its telepathically transmitted dialogue is an odd mix of both spooky and hammy – delivered in the familiar voice of the LOST IN SPACE Robot, by the Robot’s voice actor Dick Tufeld!  Yes, really… Will Robinson!  

The Brain is taken aboard and stored in the ship’s lab specimen tank.  In short order, it also enslaves Crane, “takes over” the Seaview by interfacing with its computer banks, and energizes itself by drawing power from the sub’s nuclear reactor.  

As it becomes more powerful, it also becomes increasingly arrogant, spewing such over-the-top gems as: “In time, there shall be others like me – and then man will live to serve us – and only to serve us!”  And, of course, the expected:  “I grow in power all the timeFEEL MY POWER!” 

The Brain ultimately kills a rebelling Lindsay.  Nelson frees Crane from its influence, and overloads it with energy by pulling the dampening rods from the reactor.  Our lobed friend hardly goes quietly.  

I will not be defeatedWe were created to ruleNo living creature in the universe has ever stood in our wayThe galaxies have bowed their heads to usThere cannot… There MUST NOT be defeat!”  And, while we wonder if there are any “Anger Management Clinics for Huge Cosmic Brains” in outer space, Nelson ejects the creature back into the depths of the sea – where its over-energized form explodes into oblivion! 

As Nelson and Crane reflect on the episode’s events, sans their usual episode-ending coffee, we viewers do the same, having just witnessed a rollicking good adventure, chock full of the type of fun and excitement that is the hallmark of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA!  

How good it is to have it back, as part of this wonderful year for television science fiction and adventure!  More fathoms of fun to come next week – with a werewolf on board!

If you dare, there are previous installments of “The 1966 Chronicles” on this Blog for you to explore:  

The Fall 1966 premiere of LOST IN SPACE.

The Fall 1966 premiere of STAR TREK.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

“Introducing Daffy Duck”

That's exactly what I was doing on Thursday evening, December 11, 2014 - introducing Daffy Duck.   

I've mentioned the "Horror and Sci-Fi Film Appreciation Society", hosted by Keith Crocker, that I attend on Thursday nights.  We watch actual film prints or DVD versions of related films, introduced by Keith, and later commented upon by the members. This past week we wrapped up a "dinosaur-centric" series that had featured the following:  

"Unknown Island" (1948)

"The Land Unknown" (1957)

And the ultra-classic "King Kong" (1933), which prominently featured dinosaurs.  

With the final entry in the series to be "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster" (1971),  I suggested -- and Keith was open to including -- an all-time favorite short cartoon of mine, "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur" (1939).

So, I brought my DVD copy of "Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur", and introduced the cartoon as follows:  

“Daffy Duck and the Dinosaur” (1939) 

This is a very early effort by the great cartoon director Chuck Jones, who will later guide Daffy through some of his best and most well-known cartoons. 

The Duck Season / Rabbit Season Trilogy, “Duck Dodgers in the 24 th and a Half Century” with Porky Pig as his eager young space cadet, and “Duck Amuck” where Daffy is at the mercy of an unseen animator who controls every facet of Daffy’s existence.    

It’s also an early outing for DAFFY too.  It is the SIXTH of about 130 Daffy Duck theatrical appearances (counting his own cartoons and those that were part of the Bugs Bunny series) and is a very different Daffy than the one you may be used to. 

He's still in a prototypical design, has a higher-pitched and more frenetic voice, and is pursued by a prissy caveman hunter and his dinosaur.  The caveman is voiced like Jack Benny - but is not drawn to resemble him.    It also has one of my most favorite endings in all of cartoons.    

Mel Blanc, as he always has, voices Daffy -- and an actor named Jack Lescoulie does the Jack Benny caveman. 

You will enjoy this one!   

And, enjoy it they did.  Unanimously.  And, I daresay, more so than "Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster".  (...Maybe if Raymond Burr was on hand, it might have helped things!) 

The expected "good time was had by all", except Daffy, the Dinosaur, and the Jack Benny Caveman - who [SPOILER ALERT] all end up dead! 

"Ya know, maybe that wasn't such a HOT IDEA, after all!" 

"Good Night, folks!"