Pop Culture Ephemera
- The Baby (1973) (Directed by Ted Post): “I don’t mind telling you, Mrs. Wadsworth, I made a special effort to get this assignment.” – Ann. I had been familiar with the movie poster but had no idea what a strange journey this film would be. Director Ted Post gave us Hang ‘Em High (1968) and Beneath The Planet of the Apes (1970). This same year he did Magnum Force (1973) he did this offbeat (to put it kindly film). “Baby” is 21 and lives an infantile life with his mother and two sisters. Ann is a social worker who develops an unhealthy obsession with investigating this abnormal situation. For the first hour, it’s an uncomfortable, odd take on modern parenting. The last 30 minutes it becomes a thriller with horror elements thrown in. I didn’t hate it, but there’s no doubt why this isn’t shown on television or popular on the horror sites. It’s hard to nail down what Ted Post was trying to accomplish here; this was never going to be a mainstream film. It’s also hard to deny that the man knows how to tell an interesting story.
- Midnight Mass – “Book VII: Revelation” (S.1 E.7) (NETFLIX) (2021): “And I am all of it. I am everything. I am all. I am that I am.” – Erin. The finale of the series probably felt a long time coming for many people. It might only have been seven episodes but it was a slow build. Director Mike Flanagan doesn’t rely on the jump scares and builds his universe through dialog as much as anything. The series has been filled with sermons and long monologues so this isn’t exactly the “revelation” of the title. It is “revelation” like the Bible book meaning “unveiling”. There are all the elements of fire and death. The series is tied up nicely and just before it ends we get a long monologue from Erin (Kate Siegel), the spiritual leader of our hero team. She talks about death in a peaceful way that is juxtaposed against the chaos and destruction happening on the island. Mike Flannagan has a vision and design to his works that makes me feel that they could all be taking place in the same world. How far are we here from Doctor Sleep (2019)? Not far. This show might have tested the patience of those not wanting to hear five-minute breakdowns of books of the Bible but it won’t deter me from watching more of his amazing work.
- Carly Simon – “Not a Day Goes By” (1981) (from Torch): “But you’re still somehow part of my life / And you won’t go away.” – Sondheim. The 1981 musical Merrily We Roll Along written by Stephen Sondheim had a breakout tune in “Not a Day Goes By.” Stephen allowed Carly Simon one of the first privileges of releasing the song. Her voice serves to highlight the longing and missed opportunities of the lyrics. Much like his “Send in the Clowns”, this song about reflecting on life choices work the best with simple piano and vocal.
- Stagecoach (1939) (Directed by John Ford): “I guess you can’t break out of prison and into society in the same week.” – Ringo Kid. Ford was 20 years into directing and 13 years away from his last Western. He was already on a second generation of core actors like John Carradine, Andy Devine, and George Bancroft. Along comes John Wayne (out of focus he rides into the scene as the Ringo Kid), who would fill a role that Harry Carey had in his silent films, a moral compass in a flawed character. Ford and Wayne and Monument Valley were all meant for each other. This film changes so much for the world of film. The Western had been in a decade of decline. This turned around the fate of the genre. None of the heroes are what we would call typical. They are escaped criminals, prostitutes, and drunk doctors. Ford moves the film along at a brisk pace. We are introduced to the characters and in the stagecoach before 15 minutes of the film has passed. The cuts are quick and the angles are low. Each character gets their own story; there are no throwaway roles here. This film launched Ford and Wayne into a level of stardom neither would imagine. It’s still a marvel to watch a master at work.
- Stagecoach (1986) (Directed by Ted Post): “No, ma’am. I win by any means.” – Ike Plummer. Made for CBS television and directed by Ted Post, this remake suffers at just about every turn. The year 1985 gave us the debut of a country supergroup called The Highwaymen. Ted Post was assigned this group (mostly because they helped fund the film) for the remake of the John Ford and John Wayne classic. Willie Nelson (Doc Holliday, changed from a more generic Doc in the original), Johnny Cash (as the sheriff), Waylon Jennings (as the John Carradine gambler character) and Kris Kristofferson (as Wayne’s Ringo the Kid) fill the main roles. The plot is faithful to a fault in dialog, action, and plot in some areas and changed to a fault to give more screen time to the country stars. Making these four true heroes doesn’t feel like a move by the director. Ted Post showed through his previous work with Clint Eastwood that his heroes can be anti-heroes much like Ford is comfortable with in his version. By 1986, there needed to be clear “good guys” and these four stars fit the bill. It’s quickly forgettable despite such respectable pedigree. Too bad that even the theme song is cringeworthy.
Best of the Rest
- It’s amazing how so many of Sondheim’s songs take on such different characteristics in different environments. Carly Simon brings a certain sad longing to the song with just a piano. Bernadette Peters is performing it for Sondheim’s 80th birthday and with the orchestra behind her it’s both emotional and feels all of a Broadway classic.
- Burger King has been on a run for a decade of more clever ads than McDonald’s or Wendy’s. This one from France about what the football players are really saying is simple but effective.
- Coming to Paramount+ and Showtime, November 10 & 12 respectively, is the new Nathan Fielder project (The Rehearsal). Nathan and Emma Stone star in The Curse as a married couple who do a fixer upper show called Flipanthropy. It’s hard to get a complete read on the show from the teaser but with a title like The Curse, I’d expect some creepy, horror elements. And lots and lots of uncomfortable situations that Fielder has perfected. I’m quite excited.
Sunday Morning Tuneage Flashback
- On the Sunday Morning Tuneage of 4/27/2008, just coming off a morning-to-night, four games of baseball for the boys with a few more games on Sunday. April was/is usually the one most reliable months for nice weather in Texas. My #69 Favorite Film of All-Time was The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966). That’s probably not high enough. I might put this and the other films of the No Name Trilogy all in the Top 50 these days. I wondered why Till Death (FOX) was still on and was excited for new episodes of The Office (NBC) and Don’t Forget The Lyrics (FOX). There was a special on HBO that I’m more excited about today than I was just curious about then.
- Ringo Starr: Off the Record (w/Dave Stewart) (HBO) (2008): I don’t remember if Dave Stewart did any other episodes of this on HBO interview show. It would be a shame if he didn’t. This is wonderfully balanced show. There’s a bit of biography, recollections, and Ringo on drums talking about some of his famous riffs. Dave is great at prompting and getting out of the way. Ringo tell his stories. Can’t believe I have missed this gem for the past 17 years.
1973 in Review
- October – The Tomb Of Dracula #13 (Marvel). Cover art by Gil Kane. Pencils by Gene Colan. Written by Marv Wolfman. Dracula is killed off which is a weird concept since he’s a vampire and this is his book that will continue on. Blade’s origin is revealed, which makes this an important link to the Modern Marvel Universe.
- October 6 – Formula One driver Francois Cevert is killed in a qualifying round at Watkins Glen, New York. As a result, his teammate Jackie Stewart, a three-time champion in eight years, would retire after the event.
- October – TV Guide features Telly Savalas who is making waves with his new show, Kojak (CBS) starting this week.
What the Hell Did I Put in My Mouth?
Werther’s Original: Caramel Popcorn
These have been out one or two years but only available in the Fall season. I’m a big fan of caramel corn and kettle corn (popcorn cousins, if you will). I can’t believe I have missed out on these until this year. I love Werther’s caramels and this lives up to the reputation. Could it have been a bit more salty? That would have made it a one session snack instead of what turned into a two sessions snack. Get them while you can.
Scoops Ahoy: U.S.S. Butterscotch
In the Summer of 2019, this flavor arrived at Baskin Robbins for a month run. Now available at Walmart, this is my favorite of the Stranger Things tie-ins so far. The caramel flavor tastes like my favorite Werther’s caramels. The butterscotch isn’t overwhelming and the thin chocolate pieces offset any of the sweetness so that the creamy flavor is at the forefront. Definitely a winner and you don’t have to go to the Starcourt Mall to get it.
Monster Cereal: Monster Mash Remix
In addition to Carmella Creeper, there’s another new Monster Cereal on the shelves this year. While all of the monsters are on the cover, this remix is almost a redux of the previous Monster Mash release. This appears to be just Boo Berry and Carmella Creeper mixed together. It creates a more generic fruit flavor but actually improves on the basic Carmella flavor. I’m going to add some Frankenberry to it and see what happens. Thumbs down to teasing us with Yummy Mummy and Fruit Brute on the cover but not in the cereal.
“Not a day goes by
Not a single day
But you’re somewhere a part of my life
And it looks like you’ll stay” – Stephen Sondheim