Follow That Dream: RIP Tom Petty


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In an era of throbbing disco beats, ponderous prog rock, and angry loud punk,   Tom Petty’s rootsy, guitar-jangling sound was like a breath of fresh air blowing through the late 70’s radio airwaves. Petty was a Southern boy, but didn’t fit the ‘Southern Rock’ mode of the Allman Brothers or Marshall Tucker. Instead, he and his band The Heartbreakers were influenced by the stylings of The Beatles and The Byrds, crafting tight-knit pop tunes for the ages.

The Florida-born Petty was an artsy type of kid, an outsider in a world of machismo. He met his idol Elvis Presley when The King was making the 1961 film FOLLOW THAT DREAM on location, and three years later, when The Beatles appeared on Ed Sullivan, Tom knew what he wanted to do with his life. By age 17, he’d dropped out of high school, and three years later started Mudcrutch, a…

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The Day the Clowns All Cried: RIP Jerry Lewis


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Jerry Lewis is an acquired taste for many. His unique comic persona isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially among the highbrow set (except in France, where for decades he’s been hailed as a genius). He was zany, manic, childlike, and the last of the great slapstick comedians, his career spanning over eighty years. He was a comic, writer, director, actor, singer, businessman, innovator, and philanthropist. Jerry Lewis is a true American icon, and the embodiment of the American  dream.

Joseph Levitch was one of those “born in a trunk” kids referenced in many a classic movie. His father was a vaudevillean, his mom a piano player, and by the time he was five Lewis was appearing with his parents onstage at Catskill Mountain resorts. A high school dropout, Lewis did what was known as a “record act” as a teen, where he’d lipsynch popular tunes of the day with comic results. During…

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Adios, Rhinestone Cowboy: RIP Glen Campbell


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There aren’t many entertainers who can boast of 9 #1 hits, 12 Gold Records, 4 Platinum, 1 Double Platinum, 10 Grammys, a hit television show, and a co-starring role in a John Wayne movie! In fact, there’s only one. Glen Campbell, who died yesterday at age 81 of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease, was more than just an average country music singer. During the tumultuous late 60’s/early 70’s, when protests and riots were common occurences, Campbell’s country/folk/pop songs were a common denominator, enjoyed by hippie freaks and establishment tools alike. Face it, Glen Campbell was The Man!

Born in humble, sleepy little Billstown, Arkansas, Glen took up playing guitar at an early age. His uncle was a musician, and teenage Glen began his show-biz career picking on his radio show. The young man soon formed his own band and toured the South and Southwest extensively. The bright lights/big city of Los Angeles beckoned, and Campbell…

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The Zombie King: RIP George A. Romero


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Way back in 1970, my cousins and I went to a horror double feature at the old Olympia Theater in New Bedford. The main attraction was called EQUINOX , which came highly recommended by Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine.  Quite frankly, it sucked, but the bottom half of that double bill was an obscure black & white films that scared the shit out of us! That movie was George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.

NOTLD (1968)

From the creepy opening in a cemetery (“They’re coming to get you, Barbara”) to the gross-out shots of zombies feasting on human entrails, from the little girl eating her father’s corpse to the tragic final scene when the hero (a black man, no less!) is shot by the cops, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was an edge-of-your-seat nightmare of horror. There were no stars in it, unless you count Bill Cardille, a local…

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Rest in Peace, George Romero


George Romero has died, at the age of 77.

I wrote this in 2015:

When I say “George Romero,” you probably immediately think of zombies.  And why not?  Night of the Living Dead is perhaps the best known zombie film ever made and Dawn of the Dead is perhaps the second best known.  Day of the Dead and Land of the Dead both have their fervent admirers.  Without the work of George Romero, there would be no Walking Dead.  Without the zombie films of George Romero, countless children would have never grown up to become horror filmmakers.  Without George Romero, there would have been no Italian zombie films, which means that I would never have fallen in love with Italian horror and I wouldn’t have been tweeting about it that day in 2010 when Arleigh asked me if I wanted to be a contributor to this website.

Though he had directed commercials and a few industrial films, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead was George Romero’s first feature film.  His first!  I cannot even imagine what it must feel like to totally change the face and history of cinema with your very first feature film.  All modern horror films owe a debt not only to Night of the Living Dead but to all of Romero’s subsequent films as well.

Romero, himself, didn’t necessarily set out to be a horror film director.  As he himself often said, the main reason that he and his associates made Night of the Living Dead was because they knew there was a market for cheap horror films.  He followed up Night of the Living Dead with Touch of Vanilla, a hippie love story that few people saw.  And while Romero eventually did accept that he would be forever known as a horror filmmaker, his films were always concerned with more than just scaring people.  Whether intentional or not, Night of the Living Dead is a powerful allegory about prejudice and mankind’s inability to work together.  (For all the zombies, the film’s scariest scene comes at the end when the African-American Ben is shot by a redneck deputy and casually tossed onto a pile of bodies.)  The Dario Argento-produced Dawn of the Dead was a satire of consumerism while The Crazies suggested that people were already so crazy that it was hardly necessary for a chemical spill to bring out the worst in us.  In Martin, Romero cast a weary eye on organized religion while Land of the Dead was perhaps Romero’s angriest film, taking on the state of post-911 America.  With films like Creepshow and The Dark Half, Romero showed that he was one of the few directors who could successfully adapt the sometimes unwieldy prose of Stephen King to the screen.  It’s a shame that his long-rumored adaptations of The Stand and The Dark Tower turned out to be just that, rumors.

Yes, George Romero was a great horror filmmaker but more than that, he was a great director period.  He never sacrificed his independence, choosing to make some of his best-regarded movies in Philadelphia.  He never compromised his message, offering up visions of the world that continued to grow bleaker and bleaker.  Though he never received the awards that he deserved or, to be honest, the critical acclaim that he was owed, George Romero will be remembered as one of the most important American filmmakers of all time.

George Romero died, of lung cancer, surrounded by his loved ones.  Reportedly, he died listening to The Quiet Man soundtrack.

Rest in peace, George.

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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