Retro Television Reviews: The Love Boat 1.3 “Ex Plus Y / Golden Agers / Graham and Kelly”


Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Wednesdays, I will be reviewing the original Love Boat, which aired on ABC from 1977 to 1986!  The series can be streamed on Paramount Plus!

Love!  Was it exciting and new this week?

Episode 1.3 “Ex Plus Y / Golden Agers / Graham and Kelly”

(Directed by  Adam Rafkin and Stuart Margolin, originally aired on October 8th, 1977)

The third episode of The Love Boat is all about age differences, growing together, and growing apart.

For instance, it’s love at first sight when Julie spots Jim Wright (Charles Frank).  I mean, hey, his name is even “Mr. Wright!”  And it turns out that, even though he looks like he’s 40, Mr. Wright is actually only 30!  And he likes Julie too!  The problem, however, is that Jim has been hired to serve as a tour guide for a group of elderly tourists.  And those tourists (led by Edward Andrews) simply will not leave Mr. Wright alone!  Every time Mr. Wright tries to spend some time alone with Julie, the old people show up.  Obviously, the show means for us to sympathize with Julie and Jim but I think I’m actually on the side of the old people as far as this is concerned.  I mean, they didn’t pay money so that Jim could have a vacation.  They paid Jim to be their tour guide and, unless he’s going to refund their money, that’s what he needs to concentrate on.  He and Julie can fall in love once Jim is off the clock.

While Julie pursues Jim, 12 year-olds Kelly (Kristy McNichol) and Graham (a very young Scott Baio) pursue their own romance.  Or actually, it’s Kelly who pursues the romance.  Graham likes Kelly but he’s also immature and not sure how to talk to girls so he always ends up doing or saying something silly or stupid whenever he and Kelly are on the verge of having a “real” moment.  On the one hand, this was actually a fairly realistic storyline, at least by Love Boat standards.  On the other hand, Baio and McNichol looked so much alike that any scene featuring the two of them was like that picture of the two Spider-Men pointing at each other.  Graham also ended up with a very convoluted backstory to explain why he was traveling with a British grandmother (played by Hermoine Baddeley) despite being a kid from Brooklyn.  It was one of those overly complicated and distracting things that could have been solved by simply not casting a British stage actress as Baio’s grandmother or not casting a very American actor as Baddeley’s grandson.

Finally, Robert Reed and Loretta Swit played a divorced couple who found themselves on the same cruise.  At first, they dreaded seeing each other but then, eventually, they agreed that they still had feelings for each other.  Surprisingly enough, the story did not end with Reed and Swit getting back together.  Instead, they just grew as people and were now ready to let go of the bitterness that was holding them back in their new relationships.  That was actually a pretty good story and I appreciated the realistic resolution.  However, before making peace with his ex-wife, Robert Reed came across as being so angry and so bitter that it was actually kind of scary to watch.  It turns out that the Love Boat has skeet shooting.  If you don’t think the sight of Robert “Mr. Brady” Reed with a rifle wouldn’t be terrifying, this episode is here to prove you wrong!

I have to give this episode a mixed review.  Two of the stories worked better than I was expecting but this episode suffered from the miscasting of some of the passengers.  Still, the ship and the ocean looked as lovely as ever and really, that’s the important thing.

Spring Breakdown: Love In A Goldfish Bowl (dir by Jack Sher)


The 1961 film, Love in a Goldfish Bowl, tells the story of two college students.

Gordon Slide (Tommy Sands) and Blythe Holloway (Toby Michaels) are best friends.  Their relationship is strictly platonic, though everyone at the college assumes that they’re more than just friends.  Gordon and Blythe both share the common bond of coming from broken but wealthy families and they both want to do something more with their lives than just following the rules.  Blythe is a good student, the daughter of a senator.  Gordon is styles himself as being a cynic, or at least what was considered to be a cynic by the standards of 1961.  (James Dean would have probably called him a phony.)  The school’s headmaster (John McGiver) suspects that 1) Gordon and Blythe are more than just friends and 2) that Gordon is a bad influence on Blythe.  He even orders them to stop seeing each other, which I guess is something that headmasters could get away with in 1961.

Still, it’s going to take more than some stuffy authority figure to keep Gordon and Blythe for enjoying their Spring Break!  Especially when Gordon’s mother happens to own a beach house, which would be the perfect place for the two of them to hang out.  Despite knowing that each of their parent probably wouldn’t approve of them spending the break together, Gordon and Blythe decide to do just that.  Blythe even gets permission for her father, albeit by duplicitous means.  (Gordon imitates the headmaster on the phone.  Wow, that wild and crazy Gordon.)

At first, the beach house seems like the perfect place for Gordon and Blythe to unwind.  But when they meet Giuseppe La Barba (Fabian Forte), things start to change.  A member of the Coast Guard, Giuseppe plots to steal Blythe away from Gordon, with his schemes causing Gordon and Blythe to reconsider their feelings for each other.

Considering that this film is 60 years old, it’s perhaps not surprising that Love In A Goldfish Bowl often feels like it’s a rusty time capsule that someone buried in the sand on a California beach.  Everything from the intrusive headmaster to the scandal of divorce to the domestic routine that both Gordon and Blythe naturally slip into as soon as they arrive at the beach house makes this film feel almost as if it comes from another planet.  While the film is critical of adults who don’t understand what it’s like to be young and idealistic, it also ultimately ends with the suggestion that the adults might not be so clueless themselves.  It’s a bit of a wishy-washy approach to what little conflict the film has to offer up.

My point here is that Love In A Goldfish Bowl is an amazingly innocent little film, the type of Spring Break movie that would cause even your grandma to say, “Those kids really need to loosen up and live a little.”  Usually, I kind of like time capsule films like this, just because I’m a history nerd and I’m always interested in seeing how people used to live and communicate.  Unfortunately, Love In A Goldfish Bowl is a remarkably slow 88 minutes and neither Tommy Sands nor Toby Michaels have enough chemistry to be interesting as friends, let alone as a chaste couple waiting for their wedding night.  Fabian has a little bit more screen presence than Tommy Sands but overall, this is a pretty bland affair.

Ultimately, this film is mostly interesting as an example of what beach movies were like before AIP reinvented the genre with the Frankie and Annette beach party films.  Thank goodness people finally learned how to celebrate being young and on the beach.

The Seniors (1978, directed by Rod Amateau)


Four college seniors (including one played by Dennis Quaid) are upset at the prospect of graduating, having to get real job, and losing Sylvia (Priscilla Barnes), the mute nymphomaniac who lives in their house with them and does all the cleaning and cooking.  They decide that the best way to avoid getting a real job is by setting up a fake company called Phantom Research.  They apply for and get a grant to study female sexuality, which essentially means that they pay the girls on campus to have sex with them.  Before you can say Risky Business (which was actually released years after this film), they expand their operations, get involved with some crooked businessmen, and nearly lose their lives.  It’s a comedy.

The Seniors is one of those films that used to come on television frequently when I was a kid.  I remember watching it when I was 12 and enjoying it, mostly because I was a stupid kid and I was at that age where any film about sex seemed clever and hilarious.  I recently rewatched it and discovered that there was only one funny bit and that was about a nerdy research assistant named Arnold (Rocky Flintermann) who helps out the seniors in return for them setting him up with Sylvia.  Throughout the film, the formerly virginal Arnold gets laid so often that he loses the ability to walk and then he dies.  Ha ha.  The rest of the film is just dumb.  The problem is that the film wants to be a raunchy, Animal House-style comedy but it was written by Stanley Shapiro (who previously wrote Doris Day comedies) and directed by Rod Amateau, who had previously directed several episodes of Gilligan’s Island.  Their style is all wrong for the material.

The film’s opening credits announce that it stars, among others, Ryan O’Neal, Clint Eastwood, and Charles Bronson.  A cartoon professor then walks out and announces that, “All of these big stars!  None of them are in this film!”  That’s too bad.  I would have liked to have seen some of those stars in this movie.  I think Eastwood would have told the seniors to get jobs and stop exploiting Sylvia.  Bronson would have blown away the entire operation but Ryan O’Neal probably would have been cool with it all.

O’Neal, Eastwood, and Bronson are not in the film.  Dennis Quaid is, though he probably doesn’t brag about.  Edward Andrews and Ian Wolfe both have minor roles as corrupt businessmen who help fund Phantom Research.  Alan Reed, the voice of Fred Flinstone, plays a professor.  This was his last performance before his death.

Horror on TV: Thriller 1.31 “A Good Imagination” (dir by John Brahm)


In tonight’s episode of the Boris Karloff-hosted anthology series, Thriller, Edward Andrews plays a bookseller who discovers that his wife has numerous lovers.  Fortunately, he has a collection of books that is just full of good ways to take care of the competition!

This episode was written by Robert Bloch and was based on his short story.

Enjoy the little tribute to the power of literature!

 

Happy Birthday Elvis!: THE TROUBLE WITH GIRLS (MGM 1969)


cracked rear viewer

twg1

Elvis Aron Presley was born on this date in 1935. The King of Rock’N’Roll got the older generation “All Shook Up” when he burst on the national scene in 1956 with hits like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Hound Dog”. He also made his first film that year, the Western LOVE ME TENDER, and was an immediate box office sensation. His following three films, LOVING YOU, JAILHOUSE ROCK , and KING CREOLE, were well done, but after his stint in the Army, and the success of 1961’s BLUE HAWAII, Presley’s 60’s movies followed a strict formula, thanks to manager Col. Tom Parker, with interchangeable titles like KISSIN’ COUSINS, HARUM SCARUM, and DOUBLE TROUBLE.

By the late 60’s, things had changed. The Beatles  were top of the pops, the psychedelic revolution was in full effect, and Elvis hadn’t had a hit record in a few years. The movies were still profitable, but lacked energy. Presley’s 1968…

View original post 697 more words

Cleaning Out the DVR Pt 9: Film Noir Festival Redux


cracked rear viewer

prev

Welcome back to the decadently dark world of film noir, where crime, corruption, lust, and murder await. Let’s step out of the light and deep into the shadows with these five fateful tales:

redux1

PITFALL (United Artists 1948, D: Andre DeToth) Dick Powell is an insurance man who feels he’s stuck in a rut, living in safe suburbia with his wife and kid (Jane Wyatt, Jimmy Hunt). Then he meets hot model Lizabeth Scott on a case and falls into a web of lies, deceit, and ultimately murder. Raymond Burr  costars as a creepy PI who has designs on Scott himself. A good cast in a good (not great) drama with a disappointing ending. Fun Fact: The part of Scott’s embezzler boyfriend is played by one Byron Barr, who is not the Byron Barr that later changed his name to Gig Young.  

redux2

THE BRIBE (MGM 1949, D:Robert Z. Leonard) Despite an…

View original post 759 more words

Horror on TV: Twilight Zone 5.14 “You Drive”


TheTwilightZoneLogo

In this episode of The Twilight Zone, Ollie Pope (Edward Andrews) kills a boy in a hit-and-run accident. Ollie tries to cover up the crime and frame an innocent man. His car, however, has a different idea.

This episode originally aired on January 3rd, 1964.

Shattered Politics #21: Kisses For My President (dir by Curtis Bernhardt)


Kisses_for_My_President_-_1964_-_Poster

If there’s anyone who deserves to be the subject of a big budget biopic, it’s Victoria C. Woodhull.  Back in the 19th century, at a time when women were not even allowed to vote, Victoria C. Woodhull was not only the first woman to ever work as a stockbroker but also the first to ever found her own newspaper.  A fierce advocate for women’s right and free love, Victoria Woodhull was also the first woman to ever run for President.  She was nominated in 1872 by the Equal Rights Party and, for the crime of trying to cast a vote for herself, she spent election day in jail.

Since that day, many more women have run for President but none have been elected.  Since 1984, two women have received major party nominations for vice president but neither came close to being elected.  Since 1964, Margaret Chase Smith, Shirley Chisholm, Patsy Mink, Ellen McCormack, Patricia Schroeder, Elizabeth Dole, Carol Mosely-Braun, Michele Bachman, and Hillary Rodham Clinton have all campaigned for the presidential nomination of one of the two major political parties but none of them have been nominated.

I do believe that a woman will be elected President within my lifetime.  In fact, it could even happen in 2016.  But until then, the only place where you can find a female President is on TV and in the movies.

Take, for instance, today’s final entry in Shattered Politics, the 1964 film Kisses For My President.  This may very well have been the very first movie to feature a woman as President.  Needless to say, in 1964, this idea was considered so outrageous that it had to be played for laughs.

Kisses For My President starts with an image of hundreds of women chanting “We want Leslie!”  We get a shot of Fred MacMurray looking out over the crowd.  The next scene, the new President is being sworn in.  We start with a close-up of the chief justice reciting the oath of office to “Leslie Harrison McCloud.”  The camera pans over to Fred MacMurray, listening intently.  However, just when 1964 audiences were expecting MacMurray to swear to uphold the constitution, the camera pans yet again, over to …. Polly Bergen!

“OH MY GOD!” audiences in 1964 gasped, “LESLIE McCLOUD IS A WOMAN!”

That’s right.  Polly Bergen is playing President Leslie McCloud and Fred MacMurray is playing her husband, Thad.  As the film makes apparent in its opening scenes, Thad is not quite sure what his role is supposed to be.  He has an office in the White House but it’s just so … feminine!  And it’s full of painting of previous first ladies who were all ladies!  And, at one point, Thad even imagines a picture of himself wearing a lady’s hat!

Oh my God!

Now, to be fair to the movie, Polly Bergen does get a few scenes where she shows herself to be a strong President.  There’s a great scene where she coolly dismisses a condescending senator (Edward Andrews) who suggests that, as a woman, Leslie might not be up to the task of standing up to America’s enemies.  It’s a brief scene but it’s a good one.

But, ultimately, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that Kisses For My President, a film about the first female President, is mostly interested in how Thad handles being “first gentleman.”  It’s a film that imagines a historic moment for women and then focuses on what it would mean for one man.

How 1964!

On the one hand, Kisses For My President is a dated comedy that runs way too long and tries to get too much mileage out of one joke (i.e., Fred MacMurray looking confused).  However, the film also features a great performance from Eli Wallach.  Playing a strutting dictator named Vasquez, Wallach is a lot of fun and the scenes where MacMurray shows him around Washington are the best in the film.  I also appreciated the fact that the President’s daughter reacts to the restrictions of living in the White House by dating a guy that she knows her parents will hate, largely because I would have done the same thing in her situation.

I’m a little bit torn on the ending of Kisses For My President.  (Should I spoil it?  No, I don’t think I will.)  On the one hand, it’s outrageously sexist and seems to suggests that Leslie — despite being a strong President during the few times we actually get to see her doing the job — should have been content to just be a wife and mother.  On the other hand, it’s one of those endings that would seem to perfectly capture the dominant culture of the time when the film was made.  So, it has some worth from a historical point of view.

When last I checked, Kisses For My President is currently available for free on YouTube. The film is interesting as a historical document if nothing else.

 

Shattered Politics #17: Advise & Consent (dir by Otto Preminger)


Advise-&-Consent-(1)

In case you hadn’t heard, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer has recently announced that she’s retiring in 2016.  For the first time in decades, there’s going to be an open senate seat in California.  There’s been a lot of speculation about who might run for the seat and, for the most part, it’s all been the usual political suspects.  The state’s attorney general is running.  A few congresspeople might run.  Token billionaire Tom Steyer is thinking of getting into the race.

What disappoints me is that, as of right now, it doesn’t look like any celebrities are planning on running.  You know what would have made the Golden Globes perfect?  If George Clooney had announced his candidacy while accepting his Cecil B. DeMille award.  (At the very least, it might have given Amal something to smile about, as opposed to just sitting there with a condescending smirk on her face.  Seriously, what’s up with that?)  But even beyond George Clooney, there’s all sorts of celebrities who could run.  Charlie Sheen lives in California, after all.  Jeff Bridges might not be able to run in Montana but what about California?

I was discussing this with a friend of mine who suggested that Betty White should run because who could vote against Betty White?  Speaking for myself, I could easily vote against Betty White but I do think there would be something appropriate about Betty White serving in the U.S. Senate.  After all, in 1962, she played a senator in Otto Preminger’s political epic, Advice & Consent.

White played Sen. Bessie Adams of Kansas and was only given a few minutes of screen time.  She’s one of many performers to show up in Advise & Consent‘s version of the U.S. Senate.

For instance, Walter Pidgeon plays Sen. Bob Munson, who is the Senate majority leader and, as a result, the closest thing that this sprawling film has to a central character.  His job is to make sure the President’s agenda is pushed through Congress.

And then there’s Peter Lawford, as Sen. Lafe Smith, who always has a different girl leaving his hotel room.  When Advise & Consent was made, Lawford was President Kennedy’s brother-in-law.  Interestingly enough, one of Kennedy’s former girlfriends — actress Gene Tierney — shows up in the film as well, playing Bob Munson’s lover.

George Grizzard plays Sen. Fred Van Ackerman, who is about as evil as you would expect someone named Fred Van Ackerman to be.  Grizzard gives one of the better performances in the film, which just goes to prove that it’s more fun to play an evil character than a good one.

Don Murray is Sen. Brigham Anderson, a senator who is being blackmailed by Van Ackerman’s lackeys.  Despite being happily married to Mabel (Inga Swenson), Anderson is leading a secret life as a gay man.  The scene where Anderson steps into a gay bar may seem incredibly tame today but it was reportedly very controversial back in 1962.

And finally, there’s Sen. Seabright Cooley.  You may be able to guess, just from his overly prosaic name, that Cooley is meant to be a southerner.  That, of course, means that he wears a white suit, is constantly fanning himself, and speaks in lengthy metaphors.  Sen. Cooley is played by Charles Laughton, who overacts to such a degree that I’m surprised that there was any oxygen left over for anyone else.

All of these senators have been tasked with deciding whether or not Robert Leffingwell (Henry Fonda) will be the next secretary of state.  Fonda, not surprisingly, is the epitome of urbane liberalness in the role of Leffingwell.  However, Leffingwell has a secret.  Back in the 1930s, Leffingwell was a communist.  When Sen. Cooley introduces a witness (Burgess Meredith) who can confirm this fact, Leffingwell offers to withdraw as the nominee.  However, the President (Franchot Tone) refuses to allow Leffingwell to do so.  Instead, with the help of Van Ackerman, he tries to pressure Anderson into supporting Leffingwell’s nomination.

This, of course, leads to melodrama and tragedy.

As far as literary adaptations directed by Otto Preminger are concerned, Advise & Consent is better than Hurry Sundown while being nowhere to close to being as good as Anatomy of a Murder.  It’s a film that is occasionally entertaining, often draggy, and, if just because of all the different acting styles to be found in the cast, always interesting to watch.

And, for what it’s worth, Betty White makes for a convincing senator.  So, perhaps the people of California should watch Advise & Consent before voting for Tom Steyer…

Shattered Politics #11: The Phenix City Story (dir by Phil Karlson)


PhenixCityPoster

If A Man Called Peter was the epitome of a stereotypical 1950s film, The Phenix City Story is the exact opposite.  Like A Man Called Peter, The Phenix City Story was released in 1955.  And like A Man Called Peter, The Phenix City Story is based on a true story.  However, beyond that, A Man Called Peter and The Phenix City Story might as well have been taking place on different planets.

And, in many ways, they were.  The Phenix City Story not only takes place in Phenix City, Alabama but it was filmed there as well and featured a few actual citizens in the cast.  Not only was The Phenix City Story telling a true story but the story was being told by some of the same people who actually lived through it.  That makes The Phenix City Story brutally realistic, with brutal being the key word.

And, just in case we have any doubt about the film’s authenticity, it actually opens with a 15 minute documentary in which Clete Roberts (who was an actual news reporter) interviews several citizens of the town.  All of them, speaking in thick Alabama accents and nervously eyeing the camera, assure us that what we are about to see is true.  Quite a few of them also tells us that they still live in fear of losing their lives as a result of everything that happened.

What’s amazing is that, once the actual film does get started, it manages to live up to all of that build up.  The Phenix City Story is a shocking film that remains powerful even 60 years after it was initially released.

As the film opens, we’re informed that Phenix City, Alabama is home to some of the most dangerous and violent criminals in the state.  From his club, crime boss Rhett Tanner (Edward Andrews) runs a shadowy organization that not only controls Phenix City but the entire state of Alabama as well.  The police ignore his crimes.  The majority of the town’s citizens are too scared to stand up to him.  When a returning veteran of the Korean War, John Patterson (Richard Kiley), tries to stand up to Tanner, the result is even more violence.  A young black girl is kidnapped and murdered, her body tossed on John’s front lawn as a warning.  John’s best friend is killed but Tanner uses his influence to have the death ruled accidental.

Finally, John and a group of other reformers convince John’s father — Albert Patterson (John McIntire) — to run for Attorney General.  Albert runs on a reform platform and exposes both the corruption of Phenix City and how Tanner’s power extends through the rest of the state as well.  When Albert wins the Democratic primary, he’s gunned down in the street and it’s up to John to avenge his death…

To say that The Phenix City Story is intense would be an understatement.  As directed by Phil Karlson, there’s not a single frame of The Phenix City Story that’s not full of menace and danger.  The stark black-and-white cinematography is full of shadows and the camera moves almost frantically from scene to scene, occasionally catching glimpses of dark figures committing acts of violence and cars speeding away from who knows what outage.  It’s a dark film but, ultimately, it’s also a hopeful one.  It suggests that evil will triumph when good men do nothing but that sometimes you can depend on good men — like Albert and John Patterson — to actually step up.

The Phenix City Story shows up on TCM occasionally and you should keep an eye out for it.  It’s one of the best B-movies ever made.