Monthly Archives: March 2017

 

Barney Fife in a haunted-house movie – who wouldn’t hand over their last (and only) bullet to see that?

OK, maybe you wouldn’t. But I have a great deal of affection for The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, the 1966 Don Knotts vehicle that might have been the first motion picture I saw all by myself, unfettered by parents or older siblings, in an honest-to-goodness movie house.

I recently re-watched Mr. Chicken, and I am happy to report that I still find it enjoyable. Silly and featherweight, sure, but fun. Is it remotely scary? Not unless you’re about the same age I was when I first saw it 50 years ago. But it’s suitably creepy in that old-dark-house mode that Hollywood does so well.

 

 A Barney and Otis reunion

 

The plot:

Luther Heggs (Knotts) is a lowly typesetter at the Rachel (Kansas) Courier Express. Luther dreams of becoming a big-time journalist and of winning the prettiest girl in town, Alma (Joan Staley). Unfortunately for Luther, he is Luther: timid, bumbling, tongue-tied and inept. But opportunity knocks when Luther is tasked with spending the night in the Simmons Mansion, or “murder house,” to commemorate the 20th anniversary of a murder-suicide that might or might not be unsolved.

 

The “murder house”

 

What I Like:

1.  Nostalgia, if you were a 1960s kid. The jazzy opening theme reminds me of early James Bond soundtracks. The spooky mansion is straight out of The Munsters (reportedly, some of the same Universal Studios sets were used in both Munsters and Mr. Chicken). The locale is a small town in the Midwest; I was raised in a small town in the Midwest.

 

Reta Shaw demonstrates small-town flirtation with Dick Sargent

 

2.  The Don Knotts in this film is the Don Knotts we knew from The Andy Griffith Show. I was never a fan of Knotts’s other famous TV character, Mr. Furley from Three’s Company. Mr. Furley was too lascivious. I preferred naive Barney Fife. Regardless, very few actors did fear and false bravado as well as Knotts.

 

Don Knotts does his thing

 

3.  The plot is your basic haunted-house story, nothing you haven’t already seen with Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis, or Bob Hope. But the screenplay is peppered with delightfully quirky throwaway scenes: The elevator that won’t stay put. The picnic speech. The oddball townie who, out of nowhere and seemingly everywhere, keeps hollering “Attaboy Luther!”

 

 The intrepid reporter

 

4.  That organ music.

 

The infamous organ

 

5.  Joan Staley. Who is Joan Staley? This is Joan Staley (NSFW).

 

Alma matters to Luther

 

6.  And finally, for anyone who appreciates vintage 1960s cinema and sitcoms, this movie features the finest collection of comic actors from that era – although if you blink you might miss some of them. Take a look at the rogues gallery of familiar faces who appear in Mr. Chicken in the sidebar at the end of this review.  Grade: B+

 

 Our hero

 

Director: Alan Rafkin  Cast: Don Knotts, Joan Staley, Liam Redmond, Dick Sargent, Skip Homeier, Reta Shaw, Lurene Tuttle, Philip Ober, Harry Hickox, Charles Lane  Release: 1966

 

 

Watch the Trailer (click here)

 

Remember These Faces?

 

.                    

                             Hal Smith                               Reta Shaw                           Dick Sargent

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                             Burt Mustin                           Lurene Tuttle                       Eddie Quillan

.                    

                            Charles Lane                         Harry Hines                         Ellen Corby

.                       

                            Herbie Faye                            Jesslyn Fax                        James Millhollin

 

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grouchyeditor.com Ghost

 See below

 

*****

 

Quote of the week, courtesy of some political wag on Fox News:

 

 

grouchyeditor.com Wimpy

“I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.”

 

 

Words of wisdom, indeed. The speaker on Fox – I didn’t catch his name – was of course quoting J. Wellington Wimpy, pictured above, who is immortalized in Popeye.

 

If you are unfamiliar with J. Wellington Wimpy, just know that in any civilized culture it is important that some prominent names be passed down from one generation to the next. For your edification, here is a clip of the burger-loving icon.

 

*****

 

grouchyeditor.com Ghost 

Hollywood has lost its way with its alarming lack of nudity in recent horror movies. Horror fans used to be assured that, even if the movie sucked, which was most of the time, at least there would be a gratuitous shower scene. Or two.

 

The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, 50 years old but still a lot of fun, played on television the other day. We did a search for leading lady Joan Staley (above with co-star Don Knotts) and discovered that she was Playboy’s Playmate of the Month in November 1958:

 

.                    grouchyeditor.com Joan Staley                 grouchyeditor.com Joan Staley

 

.                    grouchyeditor.com Joan Staley               grouchyeditor.com Joan Staley

(Click on pictures for larger views) 

 

And so even in 1966, Hollywood horror-makers knew that cheesecake was key.

 

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Shadow of Truth

grouchyeditor.com Shadow

 

Shadow of Truth is a crime documentary in the mode of Making a Murderer, but I thought it was even more disturbing than Netflix’s 2015 miniseries. Both series suggest that an innocent man is incarcerated for a murder he didn’t commit. But in Murderer the mystery revolves around an apparently commonplace sex-crime, whereas in this Israeli series, the killer of a high school girl was, possibly, motivated by a bizarre, gruesome compulsion. One complaint:  Four episodes are not enough to do justice to such a convoluted case. Release: 2016  Grade: B+

 

**

 

Lights Out

grouchyeditor.com Lights Out

 

A Malevolent Something named “Diana” terrorizes a single mother and her two kids in this James Wan-related horror flick (he produced). Diana only appears to her victims when the lights are off, and director David Sandberg makes good use of our primal fear of the dark and the fact that what we don’t see is often scarier than what we do. Too bad Sandberg’s treatment of our other sense, hearing, is much less sensitive. To me, it’s cheating when every scare-shot is accompanied by a DEAFENING SOUNDTRACKRelease: 2016  Grade: C+

 

**

 

Train to Busan

grouchyeditor.com Train to Busan

 

I guess it’s a cultural thing, but Korean movies are often unintentionally humorous to my American eyes. The South Korean actors don’t just cry; they wail hysterically. They don’t just shout; they scream at the top of their lungs. It comes off like a clinic on how to overact.

On the other hand, it’s refreshing to find a snark-free, sarcasm-free story — like time traveling back to 1950s Hollywood for wholesome, goofy fun but with modern special effects. Busan is non-stop entertaining, with heroes who are clearly good and villains who do all but wear black hats when passengers on a high-speed train do battle with zombies. It’s a lot of fun. Just try not to chuckle too much at the acting.  Release: 2016  Grade: B+

 

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grouchyeditor.com Ryan

 

I have trouble balancing my checkbook, so I’m not going to pretend to understand the intricacies of “Trumpcare” or the national budget. However … does Paul Ryan think it’s a virtue to embrace every negative stereotype about Republicans?

Dump on Medicaid and Meals on Wheels so that the rich can get richer? Sheesh ….

 

*****

 

First-World Problem:

 

I’m currently watching about six weekly TV series. My watch list includes Big Little Lies, Billions, Feud, and American Crime. All four shows air within a two-hour block on Sunday nights.

Yes, I have a DVR, but still, can’t something move to Tuesdays or Thursdays?

 

grouchyeditor.com Creek

 Schitt’s Creek

 

Speaking of TV shows, here’s a nice review of that Pluto of sitcoms (it gets no respect), Schitt’s Creek. And while you’re on Decider, if you dig Showtime’s Billions than you will probably enjoy this guy, a mysterious Wall Street-type calling himself “Comfortably Smug” who grades the show’s realism. I have no clue if Smug’s evaluations are accurate or bullshit, but if it’s bullshit, it’s amusing bullshit.

 

*****

 

Apparently there was a controversial report earlier this week on MSNBC:

 

grouchyeditor.com Chuckle

 

*****

 

Well … Survivor is back:

 

grouchyeditor.com Survivor

 

*****

 

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”

 

Dude who said that obviously didn’t have a blog.

 

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Feud on FX

 

I’m tired of reading about the harrowing challenges faced by older actresses fighting age discrimination in Hollywood. I just can’t bring myself to think, “Poor, poor Meryl Streep” — or Patricia Arquette, or Chloe Grace Moretz, or whoever.

So it’s a relief to report that I am thoroughly enjoying two new series starring women “of a certain age”:  FX’s Feud, and HBO’s Big Little Lies, with Jessica Lange (67), Susan Sarandon (70), Reese Witherspoon (40), Laura Dern (50), and Nicole Kidman (49). These broads can all still bring it.

 

Jessica Lange as Joan Crawford and Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis in Feud 

 

Shailene Woodley, Reese Witherspoon, and Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies

 

Come to think of it, the other weekly series I’m currently watching also feature older actresses: Schitt$ Creek (Catherine O’Hara, 63) and Billions (Maggie Siff, 42).

So I am doing my part to support the grueling, soul-sucking crusade against age discrimination waged by Hollywood’s female stars. Somebody needs to give me a medal. Or a blowjob.

 

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Most slasher-flick producers figure that if they can convince a few actresses to take their clothes off on camera, and then toss in a bucket of blood, the job is done. Not so with Girl House, a better-than-average slash-‘em-up that – gasp! – does not insult the intelligence.

That doesn’t mean that the actresses in Girl House keep their clothes on, or that there are no buckets of blood. It does mean that you won’t be bored between stripteases.

 

The Story:

In a prologue, two pre-teen girls chase a boy through the woods. They catch him and then, as naughty girls are wont to do … they pull down his shorts. They then proceed to trick the poor schlub into showing them his penis:

 

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 “We wanna see what’s down there,” says mean girl Camren Bicondova

 

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“That’s it? Looks like an acorn!”

 

As we all know, this is how serial killers are born.

 

 

Fast forward to the present, and we meet college student Kylie (above), a nice girl who needs money. In her desperation, Kylie does what most college students who need money do: She goes to work at McDonald’s.

Just kidding. She takes a job at the titular “Girl House,” a wired-up mansion in which half a dozen hotties are spied on, 24 hours a day, by thousands of horny Internet viewers.

 

 

The house is supposedly secure, but the girls’ guardians don’t reckon with a certain young man whose rage against females has festered since he once had his pants pulled down by two naughty girls. Someone’s going to pay for that.

 

 

One by one the Web-cam girls get picked off, but not before most of them fulfill the obligations of movies like this by stripping down to their birthday suits. As a bonus for the viewer, the actresses in Girl House don’t seem like future porn stars; they’re exploited, sure, but … see “Casting Call” sidebar below.

 

 

Girl House plays better than it sounds. The characters all have at least the semblance of personality, the production values are decent, and the pace is snappy. It’s no Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Halloween – but it does have more T&A.   Grade: B-

 

 

Directors: Jon Knautz, Trevor Matthews  Cast: Ali Cobrin, Adam DiMarco, Slaine, Alyson Bath, Elysia Rotaru, Chasty Ballesteros, Nicole Arianna Fox, Alexis Kendra (Peters), Camren Bicondova, Baylee Wall   Release: 2014

 

 

Watch the Trailer (click here)

 

 

 

**

 

Casting Call:

 

 

How do you cast the girls for a movie like Girl House? We’re guessing the casting director caught some of the performances below. (Click on thumbnails for a larger view.)

 

Ali Cobrin (“Kylie”)

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Ali Cobrin’s good side and, uh, other side in American Reunion (2012)

 

**

 

Chasty Ballesteros (“Janet”)

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Chasty Ballesteros gets butt-pumped in Showtime’s Ray Donovan (2013); enjoys crotch play and displays her rear in the 2013 Cinemax series The Girl’s Guide to Depravity

 

**

 

Alyson Bath (“Devon”)

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Alyson Bath, sometimes billed as Shirleyann Mason, gave it (and the audience) her all in the 2009 Cinemax series Lingerie

 

**

 

Nicole Arianna Fox (“Mia”)

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Model Nicole Fox strips for a photo shoot in Redlands (2014)

 

**

 

Alexis Kendra (“Business Woman”)

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Also known as Alexis Peters, Alexis Kendra went topless in Hatchet II (2010); in Goddess of Love (2015) she got bolder, including the ass shot and the full-frontal above. At top, she contemplates life while seated on a toilet.

 

**

 

Elysia Rotaru (“Heather”)

.                       

Elysia Rotaru puts the girls in Girl House

 

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by Evelyn Waugh

grouchyeditor.com Brideshead

 

There’s no question that Evelyn Waugh was a gifted writer. You could open Brideshead Revisited to page 51, or to page 352, have no clue about the plot or context, and still enjoy Waugh’s prose. The man was smooth and entertaining.

On the downside, I was a bit disappointed by Brideshead’s plot, in which a Nick Carraway-like narrator is befriended by a family of wealthy Catholics in 1920s England. The most interesting family member, alcoholic man-child Sebastian, is the focus of much of the story until he is abruptly dropped about two-thirds into the novel. The other family members are just mildly intriguing. Also, Waugh’s themes of religion and the vanishing British aristocracy are somewhat dated. But if you simply enjoy good writing, here you go.

 

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grouchyeditor.com Oscars

 

ABC was embarrassed when Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel introduced a tour-bus full of sex offenders and Trump supporters to Hollywood’s liberal elite (above).

 

No word on whether the sex offenders and Trump supporters accepted ABC’s apology.

 

*****

 

Can we please ban this phrase from headlines?

 

“[Fill in the blank] Sparks Twitter Outrage”

 

That’s too easy for lazy journalists.

These days, a chipped toenail can “spark Twitter outrage.”

 

*****

 

I’m noticing an odd trend with movie titles, in which instructions are barked at the audience, as in Don’t Breathe and Get Out.

 

.                          grouchyeditor.com Don't Breathe    grouchyeditor.com Get Out

 

I expect that soon we’ll see something like this:

 

grouchyeditor.com Cage

 

*****

 

What can happen when you are bored

 

  • I watched The Tonight Show on Friday and Jimmy Fallon mentioned musician Herb Alpert.
  • Alpert brought to mind Sergio Mendes and Brasil ‘66. 
  • I found Brasil ‘66 videos on YouTube.
  • I read about Brasil ‘66 on Wikipedia.
  • I learned that one of the singers, Karen Philipp, lives near me in Minnesota.
  • I Googled her name and found this Playboy layout:

 

.                          grouchyeditor.com Karen Philipp    grouchyeditor.com Karen Philipp

 

Aren’t you glad I was bored?

 

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