Confessions of a TV Addict #2: A Fan’s Appreciation of Adam West


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Adam West, who died June 9th at age 88, will never be ranked among the world’s greatest thespians. He was no Brando or Olivier, no DeNiro or Pacino. His early career wasn’t very distinguished: one of Robert Taylor’s young charges in the final season of THE DETECTIVES, Paul Mantee’s doomed fellow astronaut in 1964’s ROBINSON CRUSOE ON MARS, the bumbling romantic lead in The Three Stooges’ THE OUTLAWS IS COMING (1965). Were it not for one role, no one would be mourning his loss today. But that one role, as millionaire Bruce Wayne aka BATMAN, captured the imagination of an entire nation, and remains the hero of an entire generation.

It’s hard to describe to anyone who wasn’t a kid in 1966 just what BATMAN meant to us. The series was a comic book come to life, before comics became “dark and brooding” little psychodramas for fanboys. Comic Books were OUR medium…

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Special Memorial Day Edition: THE FIGHTING SULLIVANS (20th Century-Fox 1944)


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War is hell, not only on the participants, but on those left home waiting for word on their loved ones, dreading the inevitable. THE FIGHTING SULLIVANS is based on the true story of five brothers who served and died together as shipmates, and their family. It’s a story of patriotism, of grief and loss, and its penultimate moment will rip your heart out. Finally, it’s an American story.

The Sullivans are a proud, close-knit Irish Catholic family living in Waterloo, Iowa. Patriarch Tom (played by Thomas Mitchell ) is a loyal railroad man whose five sons (George, Frank, Joe, Matt, and Al) climb the water tower every day to wave goodbye as the train pulls out. Mother Alleta (Selena Royale) keeps the family fires burning, with the help of daughter Gen. The scrappy brothers are a pint-sized version of the Dead End Kids, getting into mischief like a Donnybrook with neighborhood kids on little…

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RIP in Blues Heaven, J. Geils


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Appropriately, I was just leaving Fenway Park in Boston with my friends when we heard the news that guitarist J. Geils had died. The J. Geils Band were legendary here in Massachusetts, a gritty, down-to-earth blues rock band who had a string of hits in the 70’s, then reemerged again in the 80’s at the height of MTV’s heyday. The band, fronted by charismatic lead singer Peter Wolf and propelled by the bluesy harmonic licks of Magic Dick, released their first album in 1970, and hit the road to tour the country incessantly. They became known as one of the hardest working (and hardest rocking) bands in America, and hit it big on FM radio with their 1972 LP “LIVE! FULL HOUSE”, featuring the single “Lookin’ for a Love”:

The first time I caught them was in ’73, touring in support of their album “BLOODSHOT”, with the hit “Give It to Me”…

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RIP, Ya Hockey Puck: Don Rickles on Film and Television


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“Mr. Warmth”, the great Don Rickles, died yesterday at age 90. He was outrageous, rude, definitely non-PC, and hysterically funny. Rickles threw his verbal brickbats at everybody regardless of race, creed, national origin, or political persuasion, and it was all in good-spirited fun. There will never be another stand-up comic quite like Don Rickles, especially in today’s “safe space” world, and it’s a pity, because if we can’t all laugh at ourselves, if we can’t take a joke, then it’s time to pack it in.

Something I didn’t know about Don Rickles is he didn’t start out to be “The Merchant of Venom”. He intended to become a serious actor, studying at the prestigious American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan. Frustrated with his lack of acting jobs, Don began doing stand-up as a way to gain exposure. When he was heckled by some audience members, he heckled ’em right back…

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Rest in Peace, Tomas Milian


I have some sad news to report.  The great Tomas Milian, an actor beloved by fans of Italian cinema everywhere, has died.  He was 84.

Perhaps because of the type of films that he made, Milian was never the household name that he deserved to be.  In the United States, his death is not even trending on twitter.  #ThickThighTwitter, which is essentially a bunch of people bodyshaming anyone who happens to be slim, is trending.  Tomas Milian is not.

And it’s a shame because Tomas Milian was one of the best.  He may have been beloved by fans of Italian cinema but Milian was truly an international actor.  He was born in Cuba, the son of a general who committed suicide after being jailed.  Milian left Cuba after his father’s death.  He moved to New York City, was a member of the Actor’s Studio, and became naturalized citizen in 1969.

Milian’s acting career took off when he started making movies in Italy.  He appeared in everything from spy movies to spaghetti westerns to horror films to 1970s police dramas.  Whenever I see one of the many films that Milian made in the 60s and 70s, I’m struck by his intensity.  Milian was one of those power actors who often seems like he might leap off the screen at any moment.  He played driven and often haunted men.  Along with an undeniable charisma, Milian radiated danger.

Of the many Westerns he made, The Big Gundown may be his best known.  Here’s Milian with co-star Lee Van Cleef:

My personal favorite of his spaghetti westerns?  The surreal Django Kill:

For me, Tomas Milian was at his most menacing in Lucio Fulci’s underrated (and not for the faint-of-heart) Four Of The Apocalypse:

Four of the Apocalypse was not the only film on which Milian would work with Fulci.  He also played the hero in Fucli’s classic giallo, Don’t Torture a Duckling:

In the 70s, Tomas Milian appeared in several Poliziotteschi, Italian cop films that were largely designed to rip off the success of gritty cop films like The French Connection and Serpico.  Milian was always the ideal rebel cop, though he could play a dangerous criminal just as easily.  Check him out in The Cop In Blue Jeans, perhaps parodying Al Pacino in Serpico:

The films weren’t always good but Milian always commanded the screen.  It’s hard to think of any other actor who was always so much consistently better than the material he had to work with.

With the decline of the Italian film industry, Thomas Milian relocated his career to the United States.  In his later years, he was a character actor who frequently appeared as corrupt military men and politicians.  His best known performance from this time may be his quietly sinister turn in Steven Soderbergh’s Oscar-winning Traffic:

Earlier today, Tomas Milian died of a stoke in Miami.  Rest in peace.

 

 

Hail! Hail! Rock’n’Roll: RIP Chuck Berry


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“Johnny B. Goode”. “Roll Over, Beethoven”. “Sweet Little Sixteen”. “Rock and Roll Music”. The most iconic songs of the Golden Age of Rock’N’Roll belonged to one man, Chuck Berry. When I got home this evening and heard the news he passed away at the age of 90, I knew I’d have to preempt my regularly scheduled post and pay tribute. Because without Chuck Berry, there’s no Beatles, no Rolling Stones, no Beach Boys, no rock and roll as we know it. He was that influential on 20th century music, and the uncrowned King of Rock and Roll.

Sure, Elvis was bigger, but it was Chuck Berry who wrote the soundtrack for a generation of kids listening to their radios searching for relief from the blandness of 50’s commercial pop. He spoke their language, the language of teenage lust, hot rods, high schools hops, all set to a rocking back beat. Berry was…

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Say Goodbye to Hollywood: RIP Robert Osborne of TCM


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“Hi, I’m Robert Osborne”.

Those four words, delivered in a smooth-as-honey voice, were delivered to classic films lovers watching TCM for over twenty years. Now that voice has been silenced, as fans learned today of Osborne’s death at the age of 84. He had been off our screens since early 2016 due to an undisclosed ailment, and we all eagerly hoped and prayed for his return. Alas, it’s not to be.

Robert Osborne wanted to be an actor when he first arrived in Hollywood in the 1950’s. He signed a contract with Desilu Studios, and soon began a close, lifelong friendship with superstar Lucille Ball. Osborne had small roles in episodic TV, and a couple of films (but I’d be hard-pressed to pick him out in SPARTACUS or PSYCHO), but his acting career went nowhere. Ball suggested he put his journalism degree from the University of Washington to good use, along…

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