“Who Needs It More Than We?”: Rest in Peace, Kenny Baker


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Today, we all learned the sad news that British actor Kenny Baker has passed away.  He was 81 years old and had been ill for a long time, even missing the American premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens because he was too sick to travel.

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Kenny Baker, who stood 3 feet and 8 inches tall, was best known for being the man inside of R2-D2.  When I was a kid, R2-D2 was always one of my favorite characters.  R2 and C-3PO were a wonderful comedy team and I have to admit that I was actually really sad when I first read that Baker and Anthony Daniels did not particularly like each other.

David Rappaport and Kenny Baker in Time Bandits

David Rappaport and Kenny Baker in Time Bandits

As popular as R2-D2 was, it was not the only role that Kenny Baker played.  For many filmgoers, Kenny Baker will always be Fidget, the nicest of the dwarves from Time Bandits.  (Fidget was reportedly based on Michael Palin, who is regularly described as being “the nice one” in Monty Python’s Flying Circus.)  My favorite Kenny Baker role was the character that he played in The Elephant Man.  Though the role may be a minor one, Baker makes an unforgettable impression.  Who can forget the scene where he frees John Merrick from imprisonment or his final words before a hooded Merrick boards the boat the will take him back to England: “Luck, my friend, luck. Who needs it more than we?”

Behind the scenes of The Elephant Man. Kenny Baker is standing in front of the cage.

Behind the scenes of The Elephant Man. Kenny Baker is standing in front of the cage.

RIP, Kenny Baker.

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Lisa Marie Does The Wrong Man (dir by Alfred Hitchcock)


Since today is Alfred Hitchcock’s birthday, I figured why not take a few minutes to recommend one of his films that you may not have seen.  First released in 1956 but still painfully relevant today, The Wrong Man is one of Hitchcock’s best but it’s also one of his most underrated.

The Wrong Man deals with a common Hitchcock theme — i.e., an innocent man has been accused of a crime and, despite all of his efforts, cannot seem to convince anyone of his innocence.  The difference between The Wrong Man and something like Saboteur or Frenzy is that The Wrong Man is based on a true story.

Manny Ballestro (Henry Fonda) is a struggling musician.  He makes $85 a week, playing in a small jazz club.  But even though he may not be rich, he’s happy.  He loves his job.  He loves making music.  Even more importantly, he loves his wife, Rose (Vera Miles).  But Rose needs to have her wisdom teeth removed and it’s going to cost $300.  (As a sign of how much things have changed, I would have been relieved if it had only cost me $300 to get my wisdom teeth taken out.)  Desperate for money, Manny tries to borrow money on his wife’s life insurance plan.  What Manny doesn’t know is that the insurance office has been held up twice by a man who bears a vague resemblance to him.  A clerk calls the police and Manny soon finds himself being taken down to the police station.

Two detectives say that they need Manny’s help but they don’t tell him why.  But Manny knows he’s innocent of any crime and he believes that the police are on his side and he agrees to help.  When they tell him to walk into a liquor store, he does so.  When they take him to a deli, he goes in there as well.  When they demand to know why he was trying to borrow money on his wife’s life insurance, he tells them.  When they ask him about his financial difficulties, he tells them about that as well.  Why shouldn’t he?  He’s innocent and the police are just doing their job, right?  And when the cops finally ask him to copy down a few words that were used in the note that the robber slipped the clerk at the insurance company, Manny does so.  And when they then ask him to take part in a line-up, he does that as well…

And when Manny is arrested and charged with a crime … well, that’s when he finally understands that the system is not on his side.  His wife manages to hire a reputable attorney, Frank O’Connor (Anthony Quayle), to defend him but it quickly becomes obvious that the world has already decided that Manny is guilty.  When Manny and his wife try to track down some people who could provide Manny with an alibi, they discover that two of them are dead and one of them cannot be found.  For once, in a Hitchcock film, it’s not a case of conspiracy.  Instead, it’s just bad luck.

And, through it all, Rose continues to blame herself.  In fact, she is so wracked with guilt that she has a nervous breakdown.

It all leads to an amazingly disheartening courtroom scene.  As quickly becomes obvious, the judge has little interest in what’s happening in his court.  Even worse, the jury is unconcerned with the evidence.  Most of them are just annoyed at the inconvenience and punishing Manny seems like the perfect way to release their own frustrations…

It’s a bleak picture of the American justice system.  Watching The Wrong Man today, it’s tempting to say that the film is just a reflection of society in the 1950s and that things have changed today.  But really, have they?  True, the police may now be required to read someone their rights when they’re arrested.  A suspect can now ask for a lawyer.  We’ve got laws against entrapment and all the rest.  But that doesn’t matter.  We still live in a society where people are still widely presumed to be guilty, even after they’ve been found innocent in a court of law.  We still live in a society where the wrong man can have his life ruined because of one mistake.

The Wrong Man doesn’t get as much attention as some of Hitchcock’s other films.  In many ways, it’s an atypical example of his work.  Hitchcock was notorious for his dark sense of humor and his habit of waving away most plot points as just being mere “macguffins.”  With the exception of two scenes, both of which are meant to depict Manny’s mental state, The Wrong Man is filmed in a documentary style, one that occasionally seems more like Sidney Lumet than Alfred Hitchcock.  There’s next to no humor, nor are there any big or flamboyant twists.  In short, The Wrong Man finds the director of Psycho, Vertigo, and Rear Window at his most sincere.  It takes some getting used to.

But, once you do get used to it, The Wrong Man emerges as a powerful and bleak portrait of two innocent people at the mercy of a soulless system.  It’s a must see so be sure to see it!

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4 Shots From 4 Films: The Lodger, Notorious, The Wrong Man, Frenzy


4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking!

And again, we say, “Happy Birthday, Alfred Hitchcock!”

4 Shots From 4 Films

The Lodger (1927, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

The Lodger (1927, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Notorious (1946, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Notorious (1946, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

The Wrong Man (1956, dir  by Alfred Hitchcock)

The Wrong Man (1956, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Frenzy (1972, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Frenzy (1972, dir by Alfred Hitchcock)

Happy Birthday, Alfred Hitchcock!


Hi, everyone!

Today is the birthday of one of the most influential directors of all time — the one and only Alfred Hitchcock!

In honor of this day, here’s a video that I found on YouTube.  This video, which was put together by Will Erickson so please give all credit to him, claims to feature every single cameo appearance that Hitchcock ever made!

Watch it below:

Music Video of the Day: Breaking The Law by Judas Priest (1980, dir. Julien Temple)


I have a live performance of Judas Priest performing Grinder. At the start, Rob Halford begins by stating that there are “13,000 Heavy Metal Maniacs” in the audience. You would have never in the past and never will in the future find me in such an audience. In fact, I didn’t even get into heavy metal till around the mid-2000s. That being said, it’s a little difficult to be 32 years-old, and to have not heard Breaking The Law as a kid.

You know the deal with Judas Priest by now. They were second wave British Heavy Metal as noticeable by their speed and the absence of the blues in their sound. You all know that Rob Halford is gay, and probably could write a better review of The Submission of Emma Marx (2013) than the one I did. Finally, the date on this implies it was shown for the first time in 1980. Both IMVDb and mvdbase agree on that date. In fact, mvdbase says that it aired in June of 1980. That makes it the first pre-MTV music video I have spotlighted so far.

The music video is so simple that if you go to it on Wikipedia it’s simply a description of the plot as if there is no other content. Well…um…to be fair, there isn’t much other content. Everyone probably knows the story of the origin of Black Sabbath, but I’ll recap. They weren’t necessarily anti-hippie, but where they lived was in stark contrast to the images they saw of them on TV. The group co-opted the title of an Italian anthology horror film and decided to play dark music to scare the hippies.

This Judas Priest music video plays to harsh beginnings as they break into the bank, not to steal money, but to take their gold record for British Steel. That is the album, which includes not only Breaking The Law, but other great songs like Living After Midnight and The Rage. Then Halford holds it to the security camera and screams “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE!” before an explosion is set off, and they are back in the car where they began their one bank crime spree. Like most heavy metal, once you think about it, you realize it isn’t what your knee jerk reaction told you it is about. The music video is about coming from a difficult place. It expresses the difficultly of reaching a place where you have a gold record, but then it is locked away from you in the hands of someone else such as a record company. I’ve always loved that record companies would do such things, and still let the group make such songs as Breaking The Law.

Notice that the group had two guitarists. Having two meant they could do things groups with a single guitar couldn’t do. You can hear this prominently at the beginning of the song The Rage. I’ve included the song below.

If you haven’t seen this music video, then watch it. It’s not really for people that already know and love the music video that I write for, but for those who have never heard it.

Enjoy it, and check out the British Steel album. It’s a helluva a heavy metal album.