Friday, June 22, 2007

The strangest map you'll ever navigate: the "Deviant Desires" guide to fetishes

In line with this week's episode, which is a vintage show from 1999 that surveys the Internet with a focus on the very interesting and shall we say unusual twin obessions of the "furry" lifestyle and "plush love." This brought me in mind of one of the more unusual URLs I have sent around to friends in the past few years, the wonderful guide to unusual fetishes found on Katharine Gates' wonderful website Deviant Desires. Her "road map" to fetishes appears at the URL below. (If you can't find it at the URL, click on the image above to read it more clearly.) I did notice that one or two stray items are missing, but the ones she has included — specific suckers like "bug bites," "sun burn," and the glorious "clown shoes" — more than make up. Also, I should note that she was interviewed on the legendary Midnight Blue some years back and was asked bluntly by host Al Goldstein what the "strangest" fetish she'd encountered was. Since she didn't want to be derogatory about her field of study, she simply noted the one that surprised her the most: men who could only have an orgasm when a balloon was popping. She did not specify how many men have this fetish (and if it does indeed relate to the plate-smashing one on her chart; for that matter, do these balloon gentlemen get raging hard-ons every time they hear gunshots?). Many items on here are head-scratchers, but they are glorious ones. Minutes of research, and bemused laughter, should ensue. The road map of fetishes

Two one-of-a-kind comedians on YouTube (rare stuff!)

I want to direct your attention to the absolute finest items that show up on YouTube, and couldn't do any better than clips of the following two gentlemen.

Allan Sherman is one of the all-time kings of the novelty song, from his Jewish tales of woe and the 'burbs, to his punnish wonders and his rather somber-sounding novelty love tunes. (Was there ever a more sympathetic singer of silly ditties?) Some generous soul has been putting clips of "My Son, the Folk Singer" up on YouTube
It's hard to choose a favorite, but this lovely monologue is a good introduction

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and this sad wistful number (yeah, you might say weird, especially since the kid seems a little freaked out).

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And moving from a king of the novelty tune to "A Most Immaculately Hip Aristcrat," we must truly before the hep cat and all-knowing seer of vids who has shared with us this moment of splendor:

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Make sure to also check out the Lord before he was truly 100% in his linguistic prime (not very funny, but unbelievably rare!):
Club Seven appearance from 1949
and his unfuckingbelieveable appearance on Groucho's You Bet Your Life
Possibly the strangest inclusion? A "Beany and Cecil" cartoon that the Lord did a vocal bit for (as a groovy wild man), that features references to Mort Sahl and Lenny Bruce!!!

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Thanks to Rich Brown, for pointing the way to these gems.

"Roller Girl": a definite Funhouse favorite! (Anna, 1967) (from the old Funhouse blog)

Exuberance is the only word for it. Anna Karina, bored at home, lamenting her dismal romantic condition, dancing around in a hastily assumed outfit, declaring herself “the Lolita of comics,” the “Rollergirl!” This ye-ye-meets-garage-beat gem could only have sprung from the mind of Serge Gainsbourg, and it stands as one of many highlights in his score for the dazzling pop-art musical Anna, which aired as the first French color telefilm back in 1967 (and what color it is!). The “Anna” in question is Miss Karina, who is the elusive subject of a rich playboy’s obsession — only he (New Wave stalwart Jean-Claude Brialy) is too dim to realize she works right in his own photography studio…. I was quite proud to present the U.S. TV premiere of clips from this mind-warping delight on Media Funhouse a few years back, and I’m equally proud to present the Internet debut of subtitled clips from this unjustly neglected bit of pure Sixties joy. Clips from the film do appear on YouTube in the original French, but I was lucky enough to acquire a subtitled copy of the film, so those who do not understand French can follow along with Serge’s wonderfully dippy pop lyrics. Other songs from the film display his songwriting skills to more refined effect, but this little number is perhaps his most rockin’ ye-ye tune, interpreted by a goddess of the New Wave, Ms. Anna Karina. Best known for her transcendent appearances in the films of Godard, she was split from Uncle Jean by the time this film appeared (she looks radiant here, but director Pierre Koralnick couldn’t match the evenly-lit, god-does-she-look-beautiful close-ups of her onetime husband/genius). Anna is instantly loved by those who see it, but it’s been barely seen on these shores — to date, no American distributor has ever acquired it, and I know of no theatrical screenings in the U.S. All the more reason to spread the word — this is a musical I never, ever seem to grow tired of.

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Ann-Margret in one of our favorite mind-bending moments: The Swinger (from the old Funhouse blog)

One of the items I received the most comments about in the first few years of the Funhouse access show was my presentation of this lovely sequence from George Sidney’s insanely over-the-top Ann-Margret vehicle The Swinger (1966). In this scene, Annie serves as a “human paintbrush” – years before she rolled in the mud, chocolate and beans in Tommy. The reason she does it in the plot is to freak out Hefneresque publisher Tony Franciosa, but we all know the real reason it showed up in the film was that: a.) Ann was a wild woman, the very model of every swingin’ go-go babe who came after her in the 1960s (that goes for you, Nancy S.), and director Sidney appears to have had a massive infatuation with his absolutely gorgeous young three-time star (their other collaborations were Bye Bye Birdie, where Annie sings to the camera, and Viva Las Vegas, where she sings to Elvis, but winds up looking straight at lucky us all the time). The scene became the subject of a Playboy photo layout — which studied Ann’s body a bit more than even Sidney could’ve — and was copied endlessly in the years that followed. It’s the closest that mainstream Hollywood came to the excesses of Russ Meyer, before they invited Russ himself into the asylum. The film has yet to hit DVD, so you’ll have to wait for it to roll around again on TCM (it’s not one of their primary studios, so figure it will surface on an A-M birthday celebration). What else can I say but “enjoy!”

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Deceased Artiste Jean-Claude Brialy: Scenes from "Anna" (1967)

Brialy was an incredibly busy actor who could be represented by any number of his excellent performances. He worked with Uncle Jean (Godard) from the very first films, was a cornerstone of the French New Wave himself, and kept working right up until the end. He started out as a boyish leading man, and became a chubbier character person by the 1980s and '90s, but was always a familiar presence in French exports.

One of the things I've been most proud to give a "U.S. TV debut" to on the show is the lamentably undistributed perfect Sixties musical Anna. A 1967 TV movie that premiered at Christmastime in France, the film is just indelible, a perfect mixture of the mod and the wistful (for the former, think the films of William Klein; the latter, Umbrellas of Cherbourg). Brialy plays the dumb playboy who never recognizes that the girl of his dreams works right in his office (those damned specs of hers!). The songs are by the one and only Serge Gainsbourg, and they are totally unforgettable.

Here is one of Brialy's two solo numbers. He was not a good singer, but he growls out this terrific paean of despair pretty well. "Boomerang":

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Here, he listens to Gainsbourg impart a philosophical lesson in the form of a pop song. "Un Poison Violent, C'est L'Amour":

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And an utterly gorgeous duet between Brialy and Anna, the very haunting "Ne Dis Rien." This stuff is too good to remain hidden:

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Lars Von Trier sings, dances, breaks chops as always

Went to see Lars Von Trier’s latest act of provocation the other night. The Boss of It All is his first blatant comedy and, like his last few features, it lays bare the machinations of its own plot while piling nasty jokes (this time it’s the Icelandics who are cursing out the Danes) and actually following a classic comedy pattern — only to then fully fuck with it, come the the film’s end. It is a fully entertaining film and yet has an abrasive surface, with off-kilter compositions being the order of the day. I had read about the process he used to film it some months back (in which he replaced the decisions of a cinematographer with that of a computer — what appears to have been a very loopy computer). By the time I saw the picture I had forgotten what I had read, however, and just wound up enjoying how he seemed to be slicing the montage up in ribbons while placing the camera deliberately at inappropriate angles to the action; it is actually better, therefore, to not beware of the technological specifics of what he did when you see the film, it’s better to digest its plot and characters, and find out about all that after you’ve left the theater.

One of the key features of the film is its openly abusive stands towards pretentious actors (Lars has a very attraction/repulsion to theory and theoreticians over the years, and this is simply the latest manifestation). The premise has a wimpy corporate head hiring an actor to play “the boss of it all,” a character whom he has created for his staff in order to anonymously run the corporation himself (but blame all negative decisions on this mysterious “boss”). Trier’s own occasional presence on camera — he’s seen here in reflections on windows, revealing himself to be the real “boss of it all” — brought me in mind of his musical performances, which have been blissfully gathered on that repository of all insanity, YouTube. Herewith I offer for your consideration, three things I was delighted to discover — and would no doubt never have seen if not for YT (unless Trier were to suddenly die and a museum does a comprehensive retro, including the odd shards).

Lars in the “music video” for his amazing supernatural miniseries The Kingdom (my airing of scenes from the latter nearly got the Funhouse thrown off the air years and years ago, but that’s a story for another time and place….).

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And the bloopers for that amazing musical number (process is all in Trier-world!). Learn this dance, memorize it, perform it at parties!!!!
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And, finally, the thing that made me lose my freakin’ mind: Lars sings “You’re a Lady,” a very mawkish ballad that rang bells, but I couldn’t for the life of me remember where I’d heard it before. Well, if you check the composers of the song, you’ll find the name “Tony Orlando” on the publishing credit. The idea of one of my current favorite arthouse directors singing a tune written and originally warbled by one of my all-time fave lounge-act wildmen (and variety show host extraordinaire) is too beautiful to resist. For those who haven’t seen the film The Idiots (Lars only purebred Dogma creation), I should note that the film concerns a group of normal wiseasses who pretend to be retarded in order to shock those they meet, a “social experiment” and, natch, “act of provocation” to outrage everyone they meet.

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Dueling Hustons -- NEW upload of Funhouse interview clip

There are so many clips from my Funhouse interviews that I’d like to get digitized and post online, but this one seemed ready for the picking — and not just because the other clip that I posted on YouTube featuring these guests (talking about, natch, 2001: A Space Odyssey) is one of the most viewed Funhouse clips on YouTube (it’s somewhere in the number 4 or 5 range, behind Jane Birkin, Tura Satana, and Russ Meyer). I thought this was an odd impromptu bit of the interview that turned out terrifically, as both gentlemen knew John Huston and respected him greatly, so why shouldn’t they lapse into his incredibly memorable voice?

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One of the strangest failed pilots in history: Shatner, West, Cassavetes, Cotten don swords and sandals for "Alexander the Great"

Another clip from this wonderment, presented way, way back on the Funhouse.

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William Shatner *and* Adam West? Yes, it really happened...

...and when else but in the Sixties? (They could encounter each other nowadays, but who would care?)

Here's my original blog entry:

That’s right, it’s two of our childhood heroes acting opposite each other in a program that has been forgotten by all but the most diehard fanatics: a failed pilot for a projected series about Alexander the Great (!) that united for the first and only time William Shatner and Adam West. Shatner is Alex, and Adam West is his aide-de-camp Cleander. The film was shot in 1965, right before Shatner donned the mantle of James Tiberius Kirk and West put on the bat-cowl for the first time. It didn’t air until 1968, when it was dumped on a children’s series called “Off to See the Wizard,” which I believe aired on Sunday nights. The Shatner-West pairing is the first thing that makes Alexander a “great” find (had to), but there are several other reasons to be intrigued by this somewhat dubious historical epic: it was directed by hardcore noir director Phil Karlson (who was deep into the Matt Helm films around this time), written by Robert Pirosh (A Day at the Races, I Married a Witch, Hell is for Heroes), and has a supporting cast of character actors that includes Simon Oakland (Psycho, Kolchak), Ziva Rodann (Macumba Love, Batman’s “Queen Nefertiti”), and Cliff Osmond (Kiss Me Stupid). And if you’ve read this far, you deserve to find out the identities of the “Special Guest Stars”: Joseph Cotten and John Cassavetes! (Yes, Johnny C. must’ve needed money to finish Faces, and if he could work with Ronald Reagan, he could certainly work with Shatner and West).

I presented clips from Alexander the Great in the first year of the Funhouse (early ’94), and haven’t shown it at any point since. In that time, I have not come across a better copy anywhere (and that takes in a lot of trips around the bootleg tables at fan-cons), so I do apologize for the sometimes wavery image and the washed-out sound. I should also thank our friend M. Faust for getting this rarity to me, and I delight in sharin’ it with you.

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Rare Mickey Spillane clip (from the old blog)

A very cool clip from the Funhouse archives. The Mick appearing on a latter-day Dick Cavett show (circa 1987). The other guests are Robert Parker (mustached gent), Evan Hunter (aka Ed McBain, checked jacket), and (no kidding) a nun who was writing decently selling mysteries at the time. Spillane is in top form, telling the tale of the immortal last line from Vengeance is Mine (he never i.d.s the book), talking about what Mike Hammer looked like, proudly reading his worst reviews, and giving credit where credit was due: plugging one of his favorite writers, the much-neglected Frederick Brown.

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Adrienne Shelly tribute (from old blog)

When performers die before their time, their work is forever altered: the manner of their death — be it suicide, an illness or, in this sad case, murder — forever colors the spectator’s view of them. Such is the case with the utterly adorable indie actress Adrienne Shelly, who first came onto the landscape in Hal Hartley’s terrific The Unbelievable Truth (Hartley’s work has always been a matter of taste; I have been a firm fan since the beginning, through some rather interesting and not-as-interesting permutations and experiments).

Shelly, who very easily could be described as the shorter, cuter Rosanna Arquette, played characters for Hartley that sailed on through life but were damaged, vulnerable girls trying to get control of their crappy little Long Island existence. According to her obits, Shelly was born Adrienne Levine in Queens, NY (where in Queens, though? ask we former denizens of that benighted borough). She graduated from the first two Hartley features (Trust qualifying as Hartley’s most perfect, gorgeously strange work) into appearances in a number of higher-profile indie or off-Hollywood features — somewhere in my collection of weirdness I have a preview copy of the insanely shrill Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, in which somehow Shelly was still sympathetic and cute, although the movie never, ever calmed the fuck down.

She turned to directing with Sudden Manhattan, made a second feature starring Ally Sheedy (I’ll Take You There), and had just finished a film called Waitress starring the former Felicity, Keri Russell, and Andy Griffith (you don’t get any more mainstream than scoring ol’ Anj to be in your film). I haven’t seen any of the films she directed, but respect the fact, as it was noted on one NYC-centric film blog, that she stayed here, and didn’t journey out to the Coast to play in wretched straight-to-vids and assume the kooky parts that ordinarily are given to actresses of her type (attractive but not glam-attractive). Her last performance released to date is in the Bukowski pic Factotum.

In any case, her film work as an actress is now altered by her sad, premature death at 40. The fact that her story went from a sort of NYC oddity tale (“indie actress hangs self”) to a murder case that made the cover of yesterday’s N.Y. Daily News is a sad reminder that the only way to make it into prominence for many talented folks is to be involved in, or be on the receiving end of, a crime.

As a small tribute to the lady, I include two bits from Hal Hartley’s odd and charming little short Opera No. 1 in which Adrienne plays a roller-skating angel (alongside Parker Posey) who bewitches James Urbaniak (the onscreen performers are lip-synching their songs). These bits frame the opening sequence and the bit that gives the film Trust (1990) its title.

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When Alfred Hitchcock met... James Brown?

An unlikely meeting of immortals, posted on the occasion of Mike Douglas's death. Here's my obit on the old Funhouse blog:

What better way to recover from a cold/fever bug that floored me for the majority of last week than by digging up the most obscure footage I had in the “vault” to celebrate the passing of the great afternoon talk show host of the 1960s and ’70s, Mike Douglas? Mike was one of those people who drifted into the talk-show world by way of the big-band scene, as did Merv Griffin: Mike was a singer for Kay Kyser’s Kollege of Musical Knowledge (no word on any feuds between Mike and the greatest-named singer of all time, Ish Kabibble). He kept right on singing as he became the friend to all homemakers during the period from 1961-82 — his “Men in My Little Girl’s Life” ain’t as catchy as “Daddy, Don’t You Walk So Fast,” and he sure seemed square when you stacked him up against the king of maudlin family-tunes of that time, Bobby Goldsboro, but he was a helluva lot more convincing playing the charming dad than Art Linkletter (now, we won’t comment on that simpering voice he did for the daughter in the song — I don’t wanna be snotty, the guy’s dead, fer chrissakes!).

In the mid-90s, select reruns of the Douglas show started being featured on VH-1 in the “Archives” series that also included music-themed episodes of Dick Cavett and David Frost. The Douglas shows were immediately jarring because of the really bizarre juxtapositions of guests. The recent Dick Cavett box sets released on DVD have shown how his bookers also indulged in some very weird pairings (the legendary Janis and Raquel show, or Janis and Gloria Swanson, or how about that Stevie Wonder/Elsa Lanchester/Alain Delon/Tex Ritter colloquy?). Cavett, however, somehow pulled a coherent conversation out of these really insane meetings of people from different disciplines. Mike just, sorta, had ’em, well… sit around and act really serious like they were saying something important. Or joke about how the tough the Business is. Or remark how it’s great to be nice and charity is a good thing. No profound, big-time thoughts on the Douglas show.

The legendary week of John Lennon/Yoko Ono-cohosted programs from ’72 — which got released on VHS, and never have seen the light of day on DVD — showed what happened when you had really timely, important issues being presented on Douglas. Need I refer you to the glorious episode when Bobby Seale presents a very sober-minded and serious discussion of the Panther Party’s good works in bringing food to inner-city children. His segment (featuring extremely rare 8mm footage of the foodbanks the Panthers ran) is followed by an appareance (Mike’s bookers at work here) the Ace Trucking Company, who perform the immortal “Ahhhhhhhh, you doesn’t hasta call me Johnson!!! You can call me Ray, you can call me Jay….” (I can do the whole thing, stop me now, someone.)

Granted, the show was 90 minutes long and on five days a week, so the guests had to be stacked up like cordwood, and very often they had nothing whatsoever in common with the week-long “cohost.” VH1 actually presented two of the more absurd four-way encounters: the first is the appearance of scruffy young Tom Waits, still in the process of refining his world-weary beatjazz nighthawk-at-the-diner character; Tom’s fellow guests were Glenda Jackson (whatever did happen to her? Come back to film, “Stevie”!), a very motherly Marvin Hamlisch, and a properly sprightly Arte Johnson. The second is the clip above, which features a daytime talkshow appearance by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Hitch has nominally come on to promote what might be his worst American film Topaz, and gets to shake hands with the three guests who are already on the panel: bestselling poet and songwriter Rod McKuen (“Seasons in the Sun,” Listen to the Warm), Joan Rivers (when she was a mousy housewife comedian you could look at without wincing), and the One and Only James Brown. Yes, the two legends from completely different disciplines were on the same stage, just because the bookers decided that was the best day to get ’em both on the air. (One pairing that made a bit more sense that was shown on VH1 and has since gone into SEVERE limbo — what’s going on with the DVD folks??? — included Muhammed Ali and Sly Stone, who didn’t exactly like each other.)
The VH1 host of “Archives,” John Fugelsang, went on to mock Brown for getting the name of Psycho wrong, and calling it "Homicidal." How many people think that the Godfather of Soul was referring to the Hitchcockian William Castle 1961 chiller of the same name?

My own memories of the Douglas show are comforting ones of checking it out when homework wasn’t an issue, and there was nothing better on the other channels (as a kid, you’re really only attracted by the guest rosters on these afternoon talk shows). The show got none of my youthful enthusiasm, as did the better “4:30 Movie” entries, but for his 21 years of doling out placid, homespun entertainment (and yes, for having oddball moments like the one where Totie Fields outed Gene Simmons as Jewish [available on YouTube]), you hadda love this somewhat overripe “boy singer” with the imposing looking hair.

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One of my favorite commercials, EVER (psychedelia from the old blog)

See the light, man!

I have literally hours and hours of vintage commercials on tape, but I decided that this little item should be the one I first preserve in this format [the original blog], as it presents the groovy psychedelia that permeated some corners of 1970s TV (particularly anything aimed at kids or even teens, who you’d think might’ve moved on by that time), a sort of leftover from the rupture that was the Sixties. This commercial aired in the mid-1970s (or so says the narrator of this commerial-comp, the dubiously-named David Leisure) and it engrained itself into my childhood consciousness. It obviously is modeled on the Peter Max artwork that was literally every-freakin’-where during the early ’70s (up to and including the NYC phone books, which all featured covers by PM — anybody remember those?). My animation and psychedelia-minded chums would of course want me to note that Max was popularizing the super-psych style of art masterminded by Heinz Edelmann who developed the designs for Yellow Submarine. I still hold this to be my personal fave ’70s ad (the visuals are what burnt into my brain, but that catchy song has never left it either), but did discover that another intrepid collector produced an earlier Seven-Up “trip” commercial, and deposited it on the all-inclusive (until the hammer comes down) YouTube:
Click here.

I of course ain’t endorsin’ 7-Up by putting this up, that goes without saying. I’d also note in closing that the Elvis-impersonator voice of course preceded the King’s kick-off, so we can mark this up to the era (all through the 1960s and ’70s) where celebrity impersonations were used all the time in TV ads.

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Obscure psychedelia, scored by Syd and the Floyd (the number 1 most-viewed post on the old Funhouse blog)

In reviewing the material I’ve got on a certain Deceased Artiste, namely Roger Barrett (aka Syd the Madcap), I found this short film on a Floyd compilation tape. It’s called San Francisco, and was made in 1968 by Anthony Stern (the assistant director on Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London (1967). The soundtrack is composed of an alternate take of “Interstellar Overdrive” from the band’s first album, Piper at the Gates of Dawn. I’m pretty sure viewing this on a computer could induce either a mind-roasting trip or pure insanity. The images are pure history, but the film is primarily a sensual assault. I’ve opted to upload the last third or so of the pic, when things settle down to a very nice little get-together. The girl who moves around topless of course makes this clip a no-no on our fave little clip-commune, Settle back, and enjoy the ride.

There were some fascinating comments that were made about this clip on YouTube, with one or two folks claiming the take of the song used was in fact after Syd left the band, but then other folks would respond with the exact session date, at which Syd was indeed in attendance.

The version below is missing the naked hippie chick. If I find a place to freely upload the uncensored version, it will appear again! In the meantime, a little mindwarp is better than no mindwarp at all....

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Cassavetes remembered (old Funhouse blog)

We paid homage on the program to the great American indie innovator very early on, with a phone interview I conducted with Gena Rowlands and Seymour Cassel. Here are two of my favorite clips representing his work. The first is from Minnie and Moskowitz, and it is indeed a touching declaration of love:

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This is a clip from the documentary I'm Almost Not Crazy about the making of Love Streams, which finds Cassavetes giving a very eloquent description of modern American audiences.

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Rare Jerry Lewis clips uploaded to YouTube (old Funhouse blog)

Super-rare Jerry Lewis material, from the wonderous French TV documentary Bonjour, Monsieur Lewis:

An early telethon clip from the 1960s:

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Comments on the Jer from the late Marty Feldman and Martin Scorsese (a very juked-up Martin Scorsese, ah, we loved him so....):

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And a little egomaniacal outburst from "the Total Filmmaker":

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And, on the telethon, wavelength, former Chabad M.C. Jan Murray hosts the obscure, fast-paced NYC game show Dollar a Second back in the 1950s.

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Ted V. Mikels faves (from the old Funhouse blog, "incredibly strange" clips!)

Ted V. Mikels has made odd and unique no-budget movies, but few are hard to find as his curiously patriotic melodrama/comedy about polygamy, Alex Joseph and His Wives (1976). I can’t find a way to explain the music-video Ted included in the film for the song “Thanks, America!”

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And if you're looking for a more extreme form of exploitation from Ted, here it is. Undeniably the strangest and most persistent of Mikels’ movies, this is a torture-fest — in which the director himself is kicked and pummeled by a room full of black women. The original title Apartheid Slave Women’s Justice has been altered to Female Slaves’ Revenge, but under any title this 1999 shot-on-video feature is a stunner. I was proud to offer the U.S. TV premiere of Apartheid with the compilation of clips included here back in ’99, and I’m pretty certain the Funhouse has been the one and only program (and now the one and only blog) brave enough to tackle the creative imaginings of the one and only Ted.

I can barely summon up the words to describe this feature, so I’ll simply reproduce what I wrote about it in an article on Ted, that was occasioned by the opening of the Drew Barrymore Charlie’s Angels, and can be found here.

The latest manifestation of Ted’s femme-mania is a wild outing titled Apartheid Slave Women’s Justice. Shot on videotape, the feature is a race-relations allegory about a kangaroo court of black South African women who capture and try their former “master,” played by Mikels. The women deliver wildly melodramatic speeches as they kick the hell out of Ted, frequently stepping on him in high heels; the kicks are accompanied by a rather amusing videogame-like “doink! doink!” sound that seems to grow on one as the video progresses. The proceedings are sporadically interrupted by exterior shots of African dancers, a rainswept street, and unexplained scenes of black people eating—and then it’s back to Ted’s beating and more speeches.

Mikels insists that he has always worked clean, not wanting to leave his family with “a legacy of distaste”; thus, even movies with wonderfully lurid titles like Blood Orgy of the She Devils are essentially G-rated. Apartheid doesn’t depart too much from this philosophy—except for the fact that a good deal of the time the proceedings resemble a trample-fetish video. However, in an era when Hollywood entertainment— Charlie’s Angels included—is remarkably predictable, Mikels’ work still comes as a cold slap in the face. Apartheid’s oddly discordant tone, jarring juxtapositions, and the fact it features long stretches of a cult moviemaker laying on what is presumably the floor of his own house being kicked (“doink! doink!”) by actresses who also worked in his crew, make it a highly recommended item that’s worthy of cult adoration and academic study (and possible Freudian analysis) in “Incredibly Strange” pop culture classes of the future. Take that, Aaron Spelling…

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The movie is currently available on Ted's site.If you visit, tell ’im the Funhouse sent ya.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Jesus Get Nailed: blooper from Spanish TV (a viewer fave from the old Funhouse blog)

I featured this remarkable little bit of footage on the show some years back on our annual Easter blasphemy-fest, and felt it would be the perfect inaugural clip for the “crazy xtians” feature of this blog. This is a segment, the first prize winner in fact (!), from the show Camara Infraganti. The show is one of the million copies of Candid Camera that has existed since that initial program showed how much fun it is to watch people being made fools of. The guy being humiliated here is an actor playing Christ in a local passion play in Guadalajara. As is the custom on the Funhouse, I include this twice in succession, just so you can digest the event. The “funniest home videos” concept always encourages us to laugh at people being hurt (with appropriately juvenile special effects), but it’s rare that they allow us to mock a guy dressed up as the Son of God. It’s a special moment, and I felt it deserved to be shared.

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Deceased Artiste Ron Carey (from the old blog)

The minute I heard that “Officer Levitt” from Barney Miller had died, I knew I had to put up this simply perfect clip from Ernie Pintoff’s Dynamite Chicken. It is especially appropriate as Carey’s obits noted that at one point he considered the priesthood as a vocation. I have loved the piece for years; it’s not particularly laugh-out-loud funny, it’s just a superb evocation of dancing from Hollywood’s Golden Age and on the steps of St. Pat’s, at that.

For those who have never heard of it, a word about Dynamite Chicken. It’s a film I turn to time and again on the show, since it contains some exquisitely emblematic 1960s footage (scenes and special material from Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Tuli Kupferberg, Leonard Cohen, Paul Krassner, Al Goldstein), as well as containing truly “raw” early clips of great comedians like the Ace Trucking Company, the wonderful Marshall Efron, the late St. Michael O’Donoghue, and the completely irreplaceable Richard Pryor. Ron’s segment is a delightful dance number he does to the song “God Loves Rock and Roll” by Lionel Goldbart. I looked up Mr. Goldbart to write this entry, and found out that he was a poet and antiwar activist who seemingly didn’t have much of a lengthy musical career, but has become renowned for being a big winner on Jeopardy (and he also has a kick-ass prescription for changing the Gregorian calendar; now if someone could only cut this “daylight savings time” shit, we’d all be much better off). The scene itself is priceless – they must’ve filmed it PLENTY early in the morning to have Fifth Avenue that empty of traffic. Carey’s Jimmy Cagney moves and Fred Astaire pauses are top-notch; plus any intelligent or imaginative spoof of the clergy always has me amused.

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"Bye Bye Monkey": A Funhouse favorite (from the old blog)

Regular viewers of the Funhouse in Manhattan will be aware of my abiding love for the work of over-the-top Italian filmmaker Marco Ferreri. Best known for his film La Grande Bouffe (1973), in which a quartet of sophisticated, haute bourgeois gentlemen decide to eat (and screw, and fart) themselves to death, Ferreri made films about obsession — although he denied this in our exclusive interview with him a short while before his death. In any case, Ferreri’s filmography is littered with major stars doing strange, embarrassing things in the midst of allegorical storylines in which they become obsessed with some object or concept.

In the case of the masterwork of strangeness I’ve decided to inaugurate our “foreign fare” clips with, Bye Bye Monkey stars the always game Gerard Depardieu. Here Gerard becomes obsessed with his adopted “son,” a chimp that his friend Marcello (yes, that Marcello) has discovered near the body of a giant dead ape (Marco got a Kong from his pal Dino). The dead ape’s body is located right near where the World Trade Center used to stand, so the central clip I’m excerpting is an eerie moment in which a prescient lullabye is sung by the always-aged actress Geraldine Fitzgerald. I follow this with the exchange that became an early favorite on the show: Gerard’s revelation that his chimp pal has been consumed by the eternal inhabitants of our fair city. His tormentor/boss is played by the inimitable James Coco, he of Calucci’s Department and The Dumplings fame (there’s nothing sweeter than a failed sitcom to jog the memory, is there?). We will sample further works by Il Maestro Marco in the weeks to come, but now let’s help Gerard bid farewell to his monkey pal.

One postscript: To add to the eerie atmosphere surrounding this strange, surreal film (an allegory about --would you believe it -- feminism), I have to note that I have a still Ferreri autographed when I interviewed him. It’s a shot of him demonstrating the grand gesture (arms outstreched) that Depardieu performs in the clip above. The photo contains Ferreri, the giant “dead” monkey, and the sandy area beneath them -- with the late, lamented Twin Towers just out of the frame. For some whimsical reason, Signore Ferreri decided to sign the picture with the sentence “Il Posto Non Existe (This place isn’t here).” He was as inscrutable as his films -- and, since I had him write it with the only implement I had, a ballpoint pen, his pronouncement is slowly disappearing....

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Friday, June 1, 2007

Robert Altman tribute (from the old Funhouse blog), with clip

Here is the Deceased Artiste tribute that ran on the old Funhouse blog.

Exit One Giant: Deceased Artiste Robert Altman

I can’t really remember the exact moment that I became a hardcore cultist for Robert Altman’s work. The nearest I can place it was a screening at either the Carnegie Hall Cinema or the aptly named Mini Cinema (I went to see these pictures over and over again — pre-video days, you understand) of Three Women, a film that was as revelatory to me as Breathless when I was a budding cinephile. Over the years that followed, I checked out his “back catalogue” and found that I liked even the films the critics drubbed and the public stayed away from in droves (except for Beyond Therapy, which I still find a pretty bitter pill to swallow). There are the peaks (and they aren’t just in the 1970s — Short Cuts is one of his strongest-ever works and it was made in 1994) and there are indeed valleys (exemplified for me not by the films that everyone disliked, like Quintet or Popeye, but the films where he would do a “follow-up” ensemble piece after a hit — witness A Wedding and H.E.A.L.T.H., or Ready to Wear, which works almost on a scene-by-scene basis). Overall, though, the world Altman created will be plumbed through for a long, long time to come.

He will of course be best remembered as being a senior-ranking member of the “maverick” school of the 1970s, the post-Easy Rider/pre-Star Wars group of filmmakers who made singularly brilliant, challenging films under the Hollywood studio system. The thing I valued about his career as it proceeded was that, unlike the other members of that group, he never chose to make mainstream Hollywood pictures (read: thought Leonardo DiCaprio could act), or gave up the ghost and stopped making films (Coppola), or simply disappeared into the woodwork (Rafelson). Altman kept making movies, kept coming up with projects, kept producing superior culture and entertainment (extended to theater and opera), even when he had most certainly lost his cachet in Hollywood. His reinvention as the director of theatrical films in the early 1980s was nothing short of extraordinary, and his one-off projects, titles like Vincent and Theo, were the kinds of things some minor arthouse directors could’ve constructed an entire career around. He was, and will remain, a major American artist, whose reputation I believe will grow and grow. More than likely the boring and shortsighted “the Seventies films are best” viewpoint will continue for a while to come, but as happened with John Cassavetes, I can’t help but think that the force of his vision — particularly the imaginative, consistent nature of it, especially in odder projects such as the “dream films” (Images, Quintet and the unbelievably perfect Three Women) — will secure his reputation as quite possibly the seminal American director of the latter part of the 20th century. When stacked up against his peers — even the ones who did produce undisputed masterpieces — Altman still seems to me to be one of the most consistently brilliant and uncompromising film artists this country has ever produced, despite his own frequent self-deprecating claims in interviews that he simply let the actors construct the films.

I encountered the gentleman all of three times, the first two times in “signing” circumstances where I got his autograph, extended compliments, and asked a very arcane trivia question (namely, would we ever see an official release of his early short films and his fucking amazingly-Sixties Scopitone?). The third time around was this past Halloween, at the Museum of Television and Radio, where he spoke about A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor. I approached and did the “pitch,” inquiring about whether or not he’d be available to do an interview. I had done the publicity mill for the theatrical release of Prairie and had been turned down flat, even for the usual 6-8 minutes in the room trying to get the person to not spit out the same canned answers. I was glad I did the pitch, even though his demeanor didn’t indicate that he wanted to ever be interviewed again. He had done what was perhaps his most in-depth talk with a British journalist, which resulted in the book, Altman on Altman, but had seemed somewhat evasive or merely charming and sometimes maddeningly imprecise in the answers he supplied in the American TV and DVD interviews I’d seen him give in the years since his “comeback” with The Player (the reasons the above-mentioned book works so well: he gave excellent print interviews, and the interviewer in this case was British; an untoward amount of artists seem to give better interviews to journalists from countries that are not their own). The evening at MTR was a special one (quite possibly Altman’s last public appearance) that I provided an account of for the Video Business blog run by my friend/editor Laurence Lerman; the link for that piece is here.

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The clip above comes from a very rare TV talk show, a 1981 edition of the show Signature produced for CBS arts cable (and yes, the show does look like SCTV’s “Extreme Close Up” talk show parody). The interview was done at the point he has broken with Hollywood and is entering his “theatrical” phase, and is quite interesting as result, since this as a period he was definitely not going to be appearing on commercial television (that said, outside of Cavett, Costas, and Charlie Rose, when the hell was he ever invited onto TV interview shows?). I will continue to argue about “Why Altman Matters” — to steal a page from Pete Hamill and many other journalists who’ve answered that question about other artists — on the Funhouse in the weeks and definitely the months to come.

The magical Mr. Nelson De La Rosa!!! (with clips)

I need to explain to those who haven't seen the Funhouse that "el hombre mas pequeno del mundo," Nelson de la Rosa, was a sort of good-luck talisman, an icon in the Funhouse, and has been for some years now. I've celebrated him several times on the show, with rare footage like that seen in the clips below. I was very proud to post these clips to YouTube some months back, and in early 2007 saw their click-rate go up to an insane level. The main one reached 60,000 hits before it was taken down (but not because there was anything wrong with *it*, it was simply that I had reached the "three strikes" level for other clips I had put up under the same account. Well, I'm proud to say that the clips are back up there again, and so I reproduce some of my text from the original Funhouse blog obit:

Regular viewers of the Funhouse will know of my longtime devotion to the career of the all-around entertainer who was Nelson De La Rosa. Nelson died last week at the young age of 38, and left behind a very strange little career in show business.
Most folks discovered him through the vehicle of the utterly berserk Island of Dr. Moreau (in which he was Marlon’s little “experiment” and piano-playing partner; the famous moment in which big Marl and little Nelson dueted inspired the character of “mini-me” in the Austin Powers movies). I was lucky enough to have already encountered Nelson through Sensacionalisimo, the utterly perfect Venezuelan variety program that ran in NYC late night on Sundays on one of the Spanish channels. The episodes we saw in the mid-90s were already a few years old by the time we were seeing them, but the show had it all, in the true manner of Ed Sullivan, The Hollywood Palace, and other classic variety shows: hot sexy dancing; magic acts (that didn’t always work); real Latin pop sensations (including two of my all-time favorites, Alejandra Guzman and a then teenaged Thalia); once-popular Anglo stars slumming down in South America; kid-in-peril stunt acts (always a fave); novelty theme shows (in which masked and bikinied women oil-wrestled); a hypnotist’s whose subjects seemed to be not completely under; and NELSON.
Yes, Nelson was a guest who returned more than once to that show (which originally had been called Sabado Sensacional in its native country; not to be confused with its later iteration, Super Sabado Sensacional). He was measured, showed his passport, was matched up with a tiny lady (who didn’t seem altogether healthy), did some “big/little” comedy with super-suave host, and danced — yes, he danced like a motherfucker. The little man would start out slow, perhaps to a great dance tune like the Dominican tune known to Net-heads as “Mahow Mahow” thanks to Nelson's Net "posse." The actual spelling is “majao” and the artist who sang the song that Nelson immortalized is Benny Sadel (that one clip has floated around the Net far more than Nelson’s other, insanely impressive dance numbers — you just know it’s because of those sexy pelvic thrusts the little man came up with; what you see below is the clearest copy available, I’m proud to say). He did his Michael Jackson impression, moonwalking in a fright wig to “Thriller” (you can’t tell me that Mike looks any more normal than Nelson did lampooning him, one glove and all). He came back to the program to show his full-size baby (who is now 9 years old, incidentally) and generally worked his charm every time his 28” frame came into view (yes, he was 71.5 centimeters, roughly all of 2’4”).
Nelson later shot into prominence when he became the “good luck charm” of the Boston Red Sox during their 2004 season. I haven’t followed baseball since the mid-’70s, but with Pedro Martinez befriending Nelson, pics of the magic little man started appearing on the sports pages of the newspapers, and I paid attention. The team wound up winning the World Series for the first time in what, 86 freaking YEARS, and you “gotta believe” (as another team had it years ago) that it was Nelson who turned the trick for the “cursed” Beantown team. Later on, Pedro Martinez came to New York and made fun of Nelson by having another little person as his NYC “good luck charm.” The guy has dubbed Martinez a “punk-ass bitch” for this stunt, and I can’t say I disagree.
Nelson’s obit noted that he had been performing in a circus and that his body may be donated to a museum. The former is not that surprising (one hopes he was the main attraction, fer chrissake), but the latter is a disturbing note: to think that Nelson’s relatives (his five siblings, wife) might allow the notion of a taxidermied Nelson even to be bandied about indicates how they viewed him. I have paid tribute to Nelson several times on the Funhouse (the clips above are the first installment of a Nelson “mega-mix”) and though it seems like I’ve been mocking him from the get-go, I’ve always been impressed by the little man — as my father remarked when seeing him execute several perfect one-armed push-ups, “I can’t do that anymore, can you?” (of course, he had a little less to push up, but we won’t start quibbling here). Nelson was a magical little entertainer who certainly had the capacity to startle when first viewed (as in Moreau; I can only imagine what his MIA Ratman horror movie must be like). He also couldn’t help but bring a smile to your face. And when he got that booty shakin’, watch the fuck out! I don’t think he’ll be forgotten anytime soon in the Funhouse. And to ensure that, I’ve got two more blog posts comin’ up after this one, featuring the “special” Nelson moments I’ve preserved off of Spanish TV that were featured on the Funhouse.

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Not as essential, but still fun: Nelson in his only music video, "Coolo" by the band Ilya Kuryaki.

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Tamara Dobson and Mickey Hargitay clips (from the old Funhouse blog)

I am in the process of putting the clips from the old Funhouse blog up on YouTube. These two entries were two of our most popular for obvious reasons — the first for its beefcake/cheesecake combination:

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and the second for its camp dialogue, and knife-wielding catfight:

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