Music Video Of The Day: American Girl by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers (1980, directed by ????)

“I wrote that in a little apartment I had in Encino. It was right next to the freeway and the cars sometimes sounded like waves from the ocean, which is why there’s the line about the waves crashing on the beach. The words just came tumbling out very quickly – and it was the start of writing about people who are longing for something else in life, something better than they have.”

— Tom Petty on American Girl

Because it’s the 4th of July, I wanted to share the music video for Tom Petty’s American Girl but it turns out that there never was an official video for American Girl.  The song came out before the launch of MTV and, strangely enough, it was never as big a hit in the United States than it was in the UK.

I was, however, able to find footage of Tom Petty performing the song on FridaysFridays was a rip-off of Saturday Night Live.  It aired live with a regular ensemble and it also featured a weekly musical guest.  The only real difference between it and SNL was that Fridays aired on …. you guessed it, Friday night.  It never escaped the shadow of Saturday Night Live, though it did receive some attention when guest host Andy Kaufman got into an on-air brawl with Michael Richards.  (Apparently, it was a staged fight though, as was often the case with Kaufman, few people realized it.)  Today, Fridays is best known for featuring several performers — Richards, Larry David, Bruce Mahler, and others — who were later appeared on Seinfeld.

This performance above is from the June 6th, 1980 episode of Fridays.  Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performed Shadow of a Doubt and American Girl on the episode.  According to Wikipedia, that episode also featured sketches with names like “Johannes the Friday’s Parakeet Needs Marijuana Seeds” and “Prostitution Debate with Pastor Babbitt.”

American Girl, incidentally, was originally recorded on July 4th, 1976.  Today is its 44th birthday.


Some Kind of Hero (1982, directed by Michael Pressman)

Eddie Keller (Richard Pryor) is a member of the U.S. Army, serving in Vietnam when he gets captured by the VC and spends the next few years in a POW camp.  During that time, he befriends another POW named Vinnie (Ray Sharkey).  Though the quick-witted Eddie is often able to outsmart his captors and their attempts to turn him into a propaganda tool, he finally snaps when he’s told that Vinnie will be allowed to die unless Eddie signs a “confession” in which he renounces both America and the war.  Hoping to save his friend’s life, Eddie signs the paper.

After 5 long years in the camp, Eddie finally returns to America.  He’s given a momentary hero’s welcome and then he is quickly forgotten about.  After all, everyone wants to move on from Vietnam and Eddie, by his very existence, is a reminder of the war.  However, Eddie can’t move on.  His wife (Lynne Moody) left him for another man while he was missing.  His mother (Olivia Cole) suffered a stroke and is now in a nursing home.  Worst of all, because Eddie signed that confession, the army considers him to be a traitor and is refusing to release his backpay.

What can Eddie do?  How about a rob a bank and then run off with Toni (Margot Kidder), a hooker with a heart of gold?

Like a lot of Richard Pryor’s starring vehicles, Some Kind of Hero is an uneven film.  Pryor was a skilled dramatic actor but he was best known as a comedian and, in most of his starring roles, there was always a conflict between his serious instincts and the demand that all of his films be funny.  Some Kind of Hero starts out strong with Pryor in Vietnam.  The scenes with Pyror and Sharkey in the POW camp are strong.  (In the novel on which the film was based, Eddie and Vinnie were lovers.  In the film, they’re just friends.)  Though there are funny moments during the first half of the film, the humor arises naturally out of the situation.  During the first half of the film, Pryor may make you laugh but he also makes sure that you never forget that he’s on joking to maintain his sanity.  But once Eddie returns to the U.S., Some Kind of Hero awkwardly turns into a heist film and the comedy goes from being darkly humorous to being broadly slaptstick.  Eddie, who could survive being a prisoner of war and who could usually outsmart the VC, is suddenly transformed into a naive klutz.  Richard Pyror does his best but the two halves of the film never seem to belong together.

Unfortunately, Hollywood never really figured out what to do with Richard Pryor as an actor.  Some Kind of Hero at least shows that Richard Pryor could be a strong dramatic actor.  Unfortunately, the film doesn’t really live up to his talents.

4 Shots From 4 Films: Special Michele Soavi Edition

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 that we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films lets the visuals do the talking!

Today, we wish a joyous 63rd birthday to Italian filmmaker Michele Soavi!

Soavi, of course, started his career as an actor.  You can find him in Lucio Fulci’s City of the Living Dead and Lamberto Bava’s A Blade In The Dark and Demons.  Reportedly, he came close to playing the role that was eventually played by Giovanni Lombardo Radice in The House On The Edge of the Park.  Soavi, however, eventually moved behind the camera.  He was an assistant director on both Dario Argento’s Tenebrae and Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen and The Brothers Grimm.

He also, of course, directed four of the greatest Italian horror films of all time, Stage Fright, The Church, The Sect, and Dellamorte Dellamore.  Though a family tragedy temporarily put his career as a director on hold, Soavi has since returned to directing.

In honor of Michele Soavi and his birthday, here are….

4 Shots From 4 Films

Stage Fright (1987, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Church (1989, dir by Michele Soavi)

The Sect (1991, dir by Michele Soavi)

Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, dir by Michele Soavi)

Independence Days Of The Past

Though it was celebrated long before that, the 4th of July has been an official holiday since 1941.  In honor of the Fourth’s long history, here are some vintage photographs from Independence Days of the past.  As you can see, you don’t always need fireworks to celebrate America’s birthday:













I hope everyone has a good 4th of July!  Usually, I celebrate Independence Day by taking a lot of blurry photographs of the fireworks exploding in the sky above me and then posting them to twitter.  I won’t be doing that this year but I’ll still find a way to celebrate everything that’s good about my home country.

Music Video of the Day: Last Train to London by Electric Light Orchestra (1979, directed by Mike Mansfield)

John Cleese used to joked that, on the 3rd of July, the UK would celebrate “Dependence Day,” by setting up cardboard cut-outs of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and taunting them with shouts of, “Well, why don’t you go get your freedom, then!?”

Sadly, Dependence Day is not an actual holiday.  Perhaps it should be.  If the UK can celebrate Guy Fawkes Day without being sure whether or not it means to celebrate Fawkes’s plan to blow up Parliament or his death, I certainly think that time can be found to shout rude things at a caricature of John Adams.

Today, in honor of Dependence Day, I picked a music video for a song that has nothing to do with the American revolution but it does mention London and I guess that’s close enough.  This song was actually written because the members of ELO used to spend a lot of time riding the train between from Birmingham to London.



Mainstream Comics Worth Paying Attention To : “Dead Eyes”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Decisively proving that you can’t keep a good bad guy down, writer Gerry Duggan and artist John McCrea’s socially-conscious crime series (yes, that’s a thing) from Image Comics,  Dead Rabbit, returned from a cease-and-desist order filed by a bar of the same name (no, I swear I’m not kidding) under the shiny new moniker of Dead Eyes — and not only did the creators not miss a beat, their book has only gotten better.

It also re-introduced itself in a manner entirely accessible to new readers, laying out the premise quick and easy, just as I will here : infamous Boston-area masked stick-up man from the 1990s is now retired and living the quiet life, but he needs to come out of retirement when his disabled wife gets hit with a mountain of medical bills that her insurance won’t cover. Our guy is still pretty good at what…

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Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (1979, directed by Daniel Haller)

In the year 1987, NASA launches it’s final manned mission.  Captain Buck Rogers (Gil Gerard) is sent into space but, while he’s orbiting the Earth, he and his spacecraft fall victim to a strange space anomaly which leaves him in suspended animation.  On Earth, Buck Rogers is believed to be lost.  500 years pass.  Buck’s ship continues to orbit the Earth while, down below, mankind nearly destroys itself in a nuclear war.  Eventually, Earth is reduced to radioactive rubble and what remains of human civilization lives in the city of New Chicago.  (Old Chicago, meanwhile, has been taken over by mutants.)

Finally, in the 25th century, Buck and his ship are discovered by Draconia, a spaceship that belongs to the intergalactic Draconian Empire.  Buck is brought out of suspended animation and meets the beautiful Draconian Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensely) and her second-in-command, an Earthling named Kane (Henry Silva).  Ardala would obviously like to make Buck her prince but, after being in suspended animation for 500 years, Buck just wants to return to Earth.  The Draconians allow Buck to return home.

Upon landing in New Chicago, Buck discovers that the world is much different now.  Everyone wears skintight uniforms and a little robot named Twiki (voice by Mel Blanc) is the only person willing to be Buck’s friend.  Commander Wilma Deering (Erin Gray) is in charge of defending what’s left of human civilization and she’s immediately suspicious of Buck and his story.  When it turns out that Ardala and Kane implanted Buck with a tracking device, Deering want to execute him.  Can Buck prove his loyalty and also thwart Ardala and Kane’s plot to conquer humanity?

Buck Rogers In The 25th Century was originally a pilot for a Glen Larson-produced televisions series.  (Larson was also responsible for the original Battlestar Galactica, another sci-fi show whose pilot was given a theatrical release.)  Hoping to appeal to the same audiences who made Star Wars a monster hit, Universal spent a little extra money to upgrade the special effects, added a few suggestive scenes to prevent the pilot from getting the dreaded G-rating, and then released it in theaters a few months before the TV show premiered.  That was a good idea because the movie did become a minor hit and the TV series went on to run for two seasons.

As the movie itself, it never feels like anything more than an extended episode of a television series.  Gil Gerard is bland in the lead role and most serious sci-fi fans will probably lose interest as soon as the child-friendly robot shows up.  Buck Rogers may have been made to capitalize on the success of Star Wars but it doesn’t have any of the attention to detail or the careful world-building that went into George Lucas’s original space opera.  On the plus side, though, the Dads who took their kids to matinee showings of this film were probably happy to see Erin Gray and Pamela Hensley prominently featured in the film and Henry Silva is a great villain as always.  As with a lot of the sci-fi films that were released in the immediate wake of Star Wars, Buck Rogers In The 25th Century does have a definite camp appeal.  It’s bad but some people will enjoy it on a nostalgic level.

Probably the most memorable thing about Buck Rogers In the 25th Century was its James Bond-inspired title sequence.  Here it is, in all of its glory:

Mainstream Comics Worth Paying Attention To : “Gideon Falls”

Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

It takes a lot to maintain a compelling mystery over the course of 22 issues, but writer Jeff Lemire, artist Andrea Sorrentino, and colorist Dave Stewart have managed (with some admitted bumps along the way) to do just that in the pages of their Image Comics series Gideon Falls, a mind-bender set in the small town of its name — that isn’t a small town anymore, but that’s another matter.

And there are, in fact, several “other matters” on offer here, with no end to them in sight, although I imagine we must be at least to the halfway point of this thing by now — but I could be wrong about that. It’s been known to happen. And I’ve been wrong about any number of twists and turns in this saga, which is why it’s so damn much fun, in addition to being reasonably creepy and a tour…

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An Offer You Can’t Refuse #16: Love Me or Leave Me (dir by Charles Vidor)

The 1955 film, Love Me or Leave Me, is a biopic about singer Ruth Etting.

Don’t know who Ruth Etting is?  Well, don’t feel too bad.  I didn’t know who she was either, at least not until I watched this movie.  Judging from the trailer that I’ve embedded at the top of this review, she was apparently well-known enough in the 50s for a biopic about her to be a big deal.  Having now watched Love Me or Leave Me and having done some independent research, I know that Ruth Etting was a popular singer in the 20 and 30s and that she was, for a while, married to a gangster named Marty Snyder (played, in the film, by James Cagney).  I also know that, after her marriage to Snyder ended, she married a composer named Johnny Alderman (played by Cameron Mitchell).

I still couldn’t tell you just how closely Love Me or Leave Me actually sticks to the facts of Etting’s life.  I imagine that there was a quite a bit of liberty taken with the truth, if just because the film was made in 1955 and it’s one of those big, glossy productions where all of the sets are ornate and all of the clothes are to die for and all of the dialogue has an edge that’s somehow both tough and sentimental.  It feels less like real life and more like the way that you would imagine life to be.

The film begins in the roaring 20s, with Marty Snyder intervening when Ruth nearly gets fired for kicking an obnoxious admirer.  For Marty, it’s obsession at first sight and, even after Ruth refuses to spend a weekend in Miami with him, Marty continues to help her out in her career.  Marty uses his considerable clout (and the fact that everyone is scared to death of him and his temper) to get Ruth on the radio and then eventually a job with the Ziegfeld Follies.  Despite the fact that Ruth is in love with Johnny and Johnny is in love with her, she ends up marrying Marty because she feels that she owes her entire career to him.  Even after they get married, Marty continues to be obsessively jealous.  It all eventually leads to a shooting, an arrest, and a final song from Doris Day.

It’s very much a film of the 50s.  I imagine that audiences in 1955 thought it made perfect sense that Ruth would feel that she owed it to Marty to marry him despite the fact that she never really asked him to do anything for her.  Seen today, though, Marty comes across as being a stalker and you really want someone to sit Ruth down and have a conversation with her about it and maybe explain concepts like gaslighting and restraining orders to her.

My advise, though, would be to not think too much about it because seriously, the film’s sets are beautiful, the musical numbers are entertainingly excessive, and Doris Day gives a really good performance.  For those who only know her from the romantic comedies that she did with Rock Hudson, Love Me or Leave Me is a revelation.  She’s likable and she’s tough and she sings as if the world depended upon it and watching her in Love Me Or Leave Me, you not only understand why Ruth Etting became a star but also why Doris Day did as well.  James Cagney also gives a good performance as Marty Snyder, bringing all of his swaggering charisma to the role.  As a fan of exploitation films, the most interesting thing about Love Me or Leave Me to me was getting to see Cameron Mitchell play a nice guy for a change.  Mitchell does an okay job with the role, though Johnny is never as interesting a character as Marty.  In the end, it’s an entertaining film, an ornate visual feast that works as long as you don’t think about it too much.

Love Me or Leave Me is an offer that you can’t refuse.

Previous Offers You Can’t (or Can) Refuse:

  1. The Public Enemy
  2. Scarface
  3. The Purple Gang
  4. The Gang That Could’t Shoot Straight
  5. The Happening
  6. King of the Roaring Twenties: The Story of Arnold Rothstein 
  7. The Roaring Twenties
  8. Force of Evil
  9. Rob the Mob
  10. Gambling House
  11. Race Street
  12. Racket Girls
  13. Hoffa
  14. Contraband
  15. Bugsy Malone