Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A missing Song

My current Columbus newspaper project involves the early 70s, and this ad from Feb. 18, 1972 is proof that Disney's notorious Song of the South had a legitimate theatrical release in my lifetime. I think it had another reissue in the 80s but Disney has pulled it from release, and it's never had a legal home video release in the United States.
It's considered by many to racist, and indeed the context for the story (a white kid is told folk stories about the trickster figure Br'er Rabbit by the African-American plantation worker Uncle Remus) does conjure up a"happy slave" atmosphere, even though technically this is set after the Civil War. I've seen a bootleg DVD print, and it's not quite as cringe-worthy as many would claim, though it's also not really a timeless classic, either. James Baskett gives a good performance as Uncle Remus in his only real starring role in a movie, and Hattie McDaniel is fine as usual.

Friday, March 8, 2019

A classier succubus

Below is an ad for Succubus that is much classier than the one I posted yesterday. That one was from a downtown theater, the RKO Palace, that had basically become a grindhouse, showing horror movies, blaxploitation movies, and soft X movies (the arty kind, not out-and-out porn). This ad, from New York City, presents Succubus as a foreign art film, which is what it is. I don't know if this kind of presentation would have sold the movie in Columbus.

Thursday, March 7, 2019


Succubus (1969). I remember this ad vividly from when I was 13. The ad suggests you call the theater to learn "the full meaning" of the title. Instead of calling the theater, I asked my mom what the word meant. She looked it up and said, "Well, I guess it means a female demon, dear!" (There was a little more to it than that, I would discover later.) I was glad to finally see this movie last night on Amazon Prime. It would certainly only be rated R today. Sexy and surreal, but not porn. In fact, the sexiest bit is in the first five minutes. It's kind of downhill from there. [Ad published September 19, 1969]

Monday, March 4, 2019

Farewell Bullitt?

In 1969, 50 years ago, Bullitt was still drawing crowds in Columbus, Ohio. This ad came from a Feb 21st paper and, despite the threat to close in just a week, I believe it stayed on well into March. Ah, those days when movies ran for months in theaters, largely because they would only be at one or two locations, not spread out in many multiplexes like today.

I didn't see this movie until a couple of years ago. Coming so late to the game, I must admit I didn't see much in it, except for the super-duper car chase through the streets of San Francisco. Otherwise, it seemed like a routine tough-cop thriller.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

My bubblegum world

I loved bubblegum music in the late 60s--I was the perfect age for it, at the beginning of my adolescence (I was what would now be called a "tween")--and largely because of the memories I have, I still love to listen to much of the music of that era by the Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Company, Boyce & Hart, The Cowsills, Tommy Roe, etc. To my mind, the first bubblegum music I heard was by the Monkees, but there is some controversy among true bubblegum believers as to whether or not The Monkees count as a true "bubblegum" act.

One of the first bubblegum records I bought was the single of "Chewy, Chewy" by the Ohio Express. Today, this song seems impossibly dirty ("Do it to me, Chewy/Chew me out of my mind") but at the age of 12, it was just catchy as hell and fun to sing along to. It might as well have actually been about chewing bubblegum for all I was concerned.

But what cemented my love of bubblegum was "Bang-Shang-A-Lang" by the Archies. I bought the single in the fall of '68, when I only owned a handful of records, and wore out the grooves. I loved Archie comics, and, though I watched the Archies Saturday morning cartoon show, even then I knew it was a pale version of the comic books (Archie's voice was all wrong, among other things). But the music was, excuse the expression, right on. Unlike "Chewy Chewy," for example, these songs sounded like they could have been written and performed by (very talented) teenagers. I even played the B-side, "Truck Driver," which for a while displaced the A-side as my favorite current song.
Then at Christmas of 1968, I got one of my favorite gifts ever, the Archies album! I don't even remember if I had asked for it, but my mom knew I'd like it, and I did. It was one of the first non-Beatles albums I owned. I can't make a rational case for it as a timeless masterpiece, but it's certainly a high point of bubblegum music. After all these years, it still holds up for me, and Ron Dante will always be the perfect voice of bubblegum, having sung lead on with another big bubblegum hit, "Tracy" by the Cuff Links.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Not the worst Best Picture winner

Any online review or commentary about the 1931 western Cimarron will note that it is the lowest-rated Best Picture winner on IMDb, among those who bother to rate movies on the site by a 10-star ranking (as of today, it has an average of 6 stars). Its critical reputation as a long, slow-moving, poorly acted family saga of the old West is what had kept me from watching it, but on a snowbound afternoon recently, I broke down and gave it a shot. And guess what? It's not nearly as bad or boring as I was fearing. It may not be great, and it may tax the viewing habits of today's movie fans, but classic movie fans should not avoid it.

The above poster, from its premiere run in New York City in January of 1931, makes it look like Gone With the Wind, with Richard Dix starring as Superman, or a Greek god. It couldn't possibly live up to that image, but as a sprawling family story goes, it moves along nicely and has some well done action sequences. Dix's stolid acting style is dated, but Irene Dunne is better, and at just a smidge over 2 hours, it's much less difficult to sit through than today's average superhero flick. (For my money, there are many worse Best Pictures, or at least pictures that did not deserve to win: Oliver!, An American in Paris, Midnight Cowboy, Forrest Gump, Birdman.)

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Rare! Classic! Rated X!

The ad below from the October 10, 1969 Columbus Citizen-Journal features three movies I'd never heard of. 1) Uncle Tom's Cabin was apparently a cut-down English dub of a German movie from 1965 with Herbert Lom as Simon Legree. Kroger Babb, listed in the ad as "presenter," was a producer of exploitation films in the 40s and 50s, his most famous being a sex-ed film called Mom and Dad (he also did a Reefer Madness-type film called Wild Weed).

2) Indian Paint was a 1965 Western with Jay Silverheels (Tonto on TVs The Lone Ranger) and Johnny Crawford who played Chuck Connor's son on The Rifleman, and was also an original Mouseketeer;  3) Best House in London was a British sex farce with a bit of boob and bottom, but rated X mostly, I guess, for the subject matter, prostitution, in particular, the setting-up by the government of a brothel in Victorian England. I love finding these movies that have left little to no pop culture footprint.