Friday, August 27, 2010

I'm Into Games

The (almost) complete demise of GSN – The Game Show Network – as a place at which to view classic game shows has been a real pain for me. When the channel started, they showed almost round the clock broadcasts of classic episodes of such shows as Match Game, The Price is Right (the old ones – with a dark-haired Bob Barker!), Hollywood Squares (with Paul Lynde), Tattletales, $25,000 Pyramid, To Tell the Truth and many, many more. Sadly for me, I didn’t have the station at that time! I was a cable subscriber and didn’t get the channel until I moved to my house and ordered satellite.

Almost simultaneously, GSN began introducing new game shows of their own and started phasing out all the classic shows. You might still catch Let’s Make a Deal, Blockbusters, Match Game or Family Feud on a weekend morning, but in order to see To Tell the Truth, What’s My Line?, I’ve Got a Secret, Password or a number of other old shows, you would have to record them because they were shown either during weekdays or, in most cases, broadcast overnight at some ungodly hour.

Now, the station is almost completely devoid of classic shows and is a wasteland of shitty original programming and rebroadcasts of recent game shows (some of which were successful like Deal or No Deal and some of which that didn’t make it such as 1 vs 100.) Having already watched TVLand enact a long, slow slide into oblivion, it has been hard for me to watch GSN do the same thing. I guess either there is no market for old game shows (which, to me, are almost always endlessly amusing, enthralling and interesting) or else they just believe that there isn’t one.

I like just about any old show (and there have been some real oddballs along the way), but my favorites are always the ones with celebrity panelists. The old classics like What’s My Line? and To Tell the Truth were, especially in the case of the former, so classy and elegant. However, even later fare such as Liar’s Club (which had a panel of four stars trying to convince contestants of the true purpose of some unusual item, only one of whom had the real answer) retained a tacky charm. Club used to give me access to one of my guilty pleasures, the smarmy, ultra-slick, tan comic actor Dick Gautier. (Look... You either like him or you don't!)

The long-running What's My Line? has devout following to this day. One reason is because each episode had a special feature at the end in which the panel would be blindfolded and were made to quiz a major star personality in order to obtain his or her identity. Often, the stars would disguise their voices to try to stump the panel. Practically anybody who was anybody appeared in this segment including some of the top stars EVER. Miss Joan Crawford appeared several times, but so did many major celebrities. Even an up and coming singer/actress named Barbra Streisand was selected to be a mystery guest. (Come to think of it, there probably aren't a great deal of living celebs who can say they were a mystery guest on WML. Most of them are dead now!)

Another aspect of the show that charmed (and continues to charm) a lot of fans was the friendly, slightly sassy, elegant and, above all, charming presence of regular panelist Arlene Francis. Miss Francis was with the show for practically all of its considerable run and could always be counted upon for winking good humor. She wore a distinctive heart-shaped diamond necklace (a first anniversary present from her husband Martin Gabel) that became legendary and took on a life of its own. Rare was the day that she didn't have it on on the air. She even wore it many years later when she was a panelist on the far more racy and loose Match Game. In 1988, a street thug snatched it from her neck, thus robbing her (and the world) of one of TV's most recognizable pieces of jewelry.

Seeing stars on game shows allows the viewer to witness someone they may only know from the movies or TV act solely as themselves (or at least as close as possible given the fact that even in this format a performer is likely to be putting on some sort of face.) The candid, unabashed moments that spring up can really endear a celebrity to the public (or occasionally turn the viewer off.)

I especially like to see stars I am only familiar with from their screen work on a show fighting to win money for their contestant. Someone like Barbara Rush or Joan Fontaine (both on Password) would genuinely strive to do her best and would be disappointed in herself if she failed. Mary Ann Mobley, on To Tell the Truth (both the 1980 edition and particularly the 1990 edition hosted by Gordon Elliott and Alex Trebek) was drop-dead glamorous, but when it came to getting to the bottom of who was the real person out of the three choices, she was like a prosecuting attorney (in a way that I nonetheless found captivating, I must say.) That 1990 version of Truth, by the way, featured a steep staircase that panelists had to descend. The always regal Miss Kitty Carlisle (who appeared on every incarnation of the show) had to navigate it in high heels and long gowns, usually with the help of a fellow panelist (in this shot, Chris Lemmon, Jack's son.)
Hollywood Squares was another outlet for seeing stars off the cuff. I adored Paul Lynde and his zingers were funny, but unexpected hilarity also came from people like the young Burt Reynolds, freed from the shackles of his action hero TV and movie persona. Vincent Price, known in later years for his campy horror films, also proved to be quite a witty person, his totally unique voice offering great spins on the one-liners. The series also allowed viewers to glimpse some of H-Town's most beautiful and glamorous women such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Elke Sommer and Barbara Bain, among many others. Match Game, especially in its earliest seasons when regulars Brett Somers, Charles Nelson Reilly and Richard Dawson were in place and trading barbs with each other, was a terrific show, rife with double entendre and suggestiveness. When the format was revived years later, it suffered from the lack of social restraint. Since you could now write “Penis,” “Vagina” “Balls” and God knows what else on your card, there wasn’t a lot of room left for cleverness! Host Gene Rayburn was, to my child's eyes and ears, the king of lasciviousness, though watching him now he was actually quite erudite, well-read and tasteful. Match Game P.M. was a particular favorite of mine because the half hour was a self-contained game (unlike the daytime version in which games would stretch from episode to episode) and the caliber of stars tended to be a little brighter or at least a bit more unusual. Brett and Charles (who tended to wear some bizarre, deliberately ugly concoction) always sat next to one another, nit-picking each other endlessly and hysterically while Richard leaned on a Paul Lynde imitation for many of his laughs.
Regular readers of this blog (both of them! lol) know of my fascination with opening credits that show the stars’ faces and either display or announce their names. Match Game had one of the best methods for introducing the panel. A spinning, mod-looking square would spin around and reveal, in turn, the six celebrities as none other than the great Johnny Olson said their name aloud. You can imagine my delight in watching these old shows when the spinning frame would reveal Michael Landon, Joan Collins, Tab Hunter, Mary Wickes, Ethel Merman(!) and occasionally a new performer who would later become far more famous, such as Jamie Lee Curtis. One of my earliest "daddy" type crushes, CHiPs' Robert Pine, also appeared on the show occasionally in its later years. If his charming grin looks familiar, it may be because his cute son Chris Pine is now a popular actor thanks to the recent Star Trek redux.
As a kid, I used to daydream about my family being on Family Feud and would work out which five of us would be on it and in which order. Now that I’m older and my old time celebrity obsession is in full swing, I love to watch Feud eps that feature TV and movie stars playing for charity. The combinations of stars who are brought together can be quite staggering. It can also be eye-opening to see some folks who have been away from the limelight for a time and who may not have held up particularly well!

All-Star editions of Family Feud would bring together casts of shows that were either cult favorites (like The Brady Bunch) or then hits (like Eight is Enough.) There would also be groupings from Dallas, The Love Boat and other popular series. Stars enjoyed posing in offbeat ways while being revealed in the customary inset room filled with "antique" furniture and lamps. The Dallas gang lifted Larry Hagman into the air while The Love Boat men all pretended that they were flashing lone female Lauren Tewes. There would also be theme programs that bordered on the surreal (to hell with that. They WERE surreal!) Take, for example, the Heroes vs Villains episodes that put together combinations like Leonard Frey, Joan Collins, Beatrice Straight, Susan Lucci and Norman Fell as a team of villains! Some of the heroes included Marla Gibbs, Lynn Redgrave and Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas(!)

Then there was the week that brought performers who had been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This concept gave us teams that included a shockingly weathered, rail-thin Rory Calhoun and a less-than sturdy looking Dorothy Lamour! These veterans were playing alongside other folks such as Keenan Wynn, Cesar Romero, Gloria de Haven, Jayne Meadows and a still-lovely and elegant Arlene Dahl.
Tattletales was barely even a game, really. More a chance for three showbiz couples to answer questions about one another in order to win a little money for their respective sections of the studio audience. This show was unique in that it offered the public a chance to meet the spouses of the celebrities. Yes, there were quite a few celebrity couples, but often there were comedians or actors who brought their non-celeb wives to play. In the whirlwind, anything goes world of Hollywood, reruns of this show could probably be quite cringe inducing since marriages tend to have a brief shelf life there. (Take once happy, then not, Chuck Woolery and Jo Ann Pflug. I worshipped him, by the way and thought he was beautiful.) It wasn’t a requirement for the guests to be married. One infamous pairing had Dick Sergeant and “his lady” Fannie Flagg! Other times, closely connected costars from a series would appear, sometimes from daytime soaps. Due to the nature of the questions, though, it usually paid for the pair to be pretty familiar with one another.

The show was hosted by Bert Convy, he of the unbelievably thick Chia-Hair. I always enjoyed Bert and thought he was charming, attractive and good at being a host (certainly better than when he was an actor!) He hosted Tattletales, Super Password and Win, Lose or Draw among others. The odd thing is, in Peter Marshall’s autobiography (he being the longtime host of Hollywood Squares), he stated that there were only two people in the game show community that he didn’t like: Dan Rowan (of Rowan & Martin) and Bert Convy. He didn’t feel the need to state why although both men are deceased now. That remark has always confounded me and made me wonder what in the hell was up.

GSN used to sometimes run obscure shows like Double Dare, Body Language and the oddity Now You See It, which lined six (always horrifyingly dressed) contestants on a set of stairs as a wacky theme played. Half the fun is in seeing what people wore then and how they wore their hair! I just love taking in these vintage programs and always hope that someday they will dig them all back out or that a new channel will start to run them. (GSN II??)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Lady and the Tramps

Miss Olivia de Havilland dealt 1964 audiences a one-two punch with this film, followed swiftly by Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte, altering her career significantly from the predominantly tasteful and refined roles she had played up to that time. Posters for the film warned (and lured?) viewers ahead of time for the drama that was in store. Here she plays a smothering, nauseatingly erudite and cultured woman who, after a hip operation, has to rely on an in-house elevator to get her from one floor to the other of her home that is chock full of antiques and assorted bric-a-brac.

Her son (William Swan), a closeted homosexual, leaves ostensibly for the Fourth of July weekend and inadvertently upsets the power in their house, causing de Havilland to become trapped between floors in her "cage". Jeff Corey, a somewhat helpless wino, responds to her emergency alarm when no one else does, but he proceeds to rip off her toaster and some other things, including wine. He enlists flouncy Ann Sothern, a small-time prostitute and con-woman, to help him loot the place, but, unfortunately, he draws the attention of three local hoods who decide to take over for themselves.

James Caan (in his first significant screen role), a tough, resentment-filled punk, Jennifer Billingsley, his pot-smoking girlfriend, and Rafael Campos, their dim-witted, tag-along pal, make up this set of rebels without pause. These six characters battle it out amongst themselves until they're either freed, apprehended or dead.

The film opens with some faux (but effective) Saul Bass-ish credits, illustrating the cold, careless world that waits outside de Havilland's gilded home. (Ironically, Sothern's name appears on the grate of a vintage automobile, presaging her voice-over work on the legendary debacle My Mother the Car a year later!) A plethora of activity is going on all around as people prepare for a hot holiday weekend and within this melee, various cruelties go on, seemingly unnoticed. A little girl runs her roller skates over the bare leg of an unconscious hobo until it bleeds. A dog lies dead in the street as people pass by. The score is handled in a brassy, deliberately discordant way (that I find a tad overwhelming) by Paul Glass.

The entire film is more an exercise in (heavy-handed) allegory than a plausible storyline with de Havilland experiencing severe distress while everything around her goes on normally. The contrivance of her plight and the lack of plausibility in the story are thankfully overcome by the intensity and the arresting nature of the situation.
The opening sequences between de Havilland and her son are hilariously bad but it only takes twelve minutes for her to wind up a dozen feet off her marble floor, unable to escape, and from then on, the plot manages to keep a fairly firm grip on the audience. Even then, she creates unintentional laughter as she recites idiotic poetry, fiddles with a hand-held radio and mutters inane comments to herself while grasping the rails of her elevator doors. (And don't miss the scene beforehand where she, literally, glares domineeringly at her air conditioning unit, demanding that it kick back on after faltering briefly! And it does!)

I all but worship Ms. D., especially now as she at 94 years of age remains a razor-sharp, beautiful and endlessly classy LEGEND of Hollywood film. That doesn’t alter the fact that in several instances in this movie, I wanted to shake her silly and tell her to get with it. She talks to people in her house as if they are there to help long after such a thing could be possible, she drops things from the elevator carelessly and wastes the battery power of her inside emergency light. And whenever Caan burps at her (which is three times and each one is a ridiculously tiny baby burp), she overreacts as if he vomited in her face. Still, despite some ridiculous overacting and high-minded mouthing, de Havilland comes through, as the picture progresses, as a gritty, surprisingly resourceful heroine to root for. She wins the audience over with her self-realizations and her determination. She might have had a stuntwoman for some of the more significant feats, but there are plenty of moments where she is in there fighting, being pulled and shoved around and generally being mistreated! I don’t know when I have ever seen her in such a physically grueling part. You can bet your ass Joan Fontaine watched this one with relish, probably over and over!

This whole aspect speaks to one of my (and Alfred Hitchcock’s!) obsessions, which is the gradual tearing down of something that is at first put together beautifully. For example, Olivia begins the film neatly coiffed, made up and dressed in a flowing chiffon dressing gown with a bow at the neck. As the film progresses, she is systematically picked apart and ravaged. This same thing happens to Eva Marie Saint in North by Northwest and Tippi Hedren in The Birds (and practically every woman in a 1970s disaster flick.)

De Havilland’s part, by the way, was first offered to Joan Crawford, still hot off her What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? success, but she didn’t want to play another tormented invalid so soon after Jane. She held out until Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte where she could play an elegant bitch, but we all know that that didn’t work out and she was swiftly replaced with who else but Olivia de Havilland!

Caan is a hunky (and very hairy-he’s practically carpeted!) thug with a very dangerous edge. He’s handsome, but very angular, and with rigid, boxy shoulders. He allegedly modeled his performance here after Marlon Brando’s Stanley Kowalski, but Stanley never wore sandals and Hawaiian shirts! It's fascinating to watch de Havilland and him, two very different performers, interact - he at the very start of his career and she coming close to the end of hers. He is clearly embracing a Method type of approach (which is the only thing that can explain the way he wears his white shirt in the second half!) while she is all technique.

Billingsley, offered the same introductory billing that Jimmy gets, does not present a very captivating portrayal here and her career was decidedly dismal compared to Caan's. Of course, it’s a dippy, annoying part and she’s deliberately styled to look horrendous, with one eye blackened, probably from one of Caan’s fists during a less than romantic moment. This type of character permeated film and TV during the 60s, a sort of loose, disheveled, aimless, careless trollop.

Campos is effectively offbeat as the Sal Mineo-esque third wheel. When the trio decides to horn in on the action at de Havilland’s house, Caan and Billingsley wear stockings on their heads to avoid being seen (they also put one on Sothern after they force her to help them) and that's a creepy enough look, but Campos wears a knitted ski mask that is genuinely frightening! Like most of the performers in the movie, he overacts with abandon, but he’s also convincingly unhinged and dangerous.

Corey (an almost legendary acting teacher apart from his own performance work) hams it up a great deal and sports some alarmingly heavy eye makeup, but does a decent job. In spite of the fact that he plays a wandering, addled, uncaring vagrant, he manages to drum up a little sympathy for his character. Adding much flavor and fun to the film is porky, but still very pretty, Sothern. Eschewing virtually all of her pride and vanity, especially in her initial scene, she plays a sloth-like, self-effacing slut with almost no compunctions, yet she somehow is able to come across sympathetically at times as well! I’ve always been fascinated by Sothern’s eyes and they remain stunning here. (One user at, however, said that the slovenly, disheveled, pudgy Sothern looks like Suzanne Pleshette in this film. That very well may have been the final thing to do Miss Pleshette in if she read it!) Interestingly, she is awarded fairly prominent billing on the movie’s lobby cards, the only other credited performer aside from Miss Olivia.
The moments between de Havilland and son Swan have to be seen to be believed. They mushily peck each other on the cheek and he calls her “darling.” She frets over his health and his nutrition. God only knows who this “Peggy and Paul” are that he is trotting off to spend time with (allegedly.) Like Corey and even Caan, Swan has been given rather heavy eye makeup that reads so strongly onscreen it’s a wonder no one thought to knock it off a little (maybe the makers felt it was right for his rather swishy character.) The kicker is how he is the one who carelessly, if accidentally, causes all of her plight, but if you pay attention, it seems he pays pretty dearly for his transgression.

Based on a now-obscure book by Robert Durand, I would be interested to know how much more about the characters is revealed in the novel. I’m wondering if things were toned down much or left out of the screen treatment even though as it stands this was quite an eye-opening sort of film for 1964. Maybe I’ll obtain a copy sometime if I ever get done trying to read From Here to Eternity (in a few years!)

Occasionally written off as sleaze or camp, the film definitely has its moments of both, but it also serves as a reminder that not all bad things happen at night or far away. Sometimes death and crime are happening right next door in broad daylight. Also, it was prophetic, it seems. Not too long before it opened, Kitty Genovese was murdered near her apartment entrance while quite a few neighbors watched or heard and did nothing. (It must be said that in this movie, though, the level of disinterest and callousness from people borders on the absurd.)

Its influence can clearly be seen in many subsequent films including A Clockwork Orange and Death Wish. The memorable ending is a real eye-opener even now in this seen-it-all age. Oddly, after her double-duty horror outings, Olivia de Havilland wouldn’t be seen again in a movie until 1969’s The Adventurers. Subsequent appearances would become more and more infrequent (she did, in fact, only four more features beyond that before retiring altogether in 1988.) Caan, on the other hand, swiftly moved into films directed by such names as Sam Peckinpah, Howard Hawks, Robert Altman and Francis Ford Coppola, the latter director, of course, really putting him on the map when he reused him in the spectacular hit, The Godfather.

Billingsley only made seven more films, most of them on the cheap and/or exploitive side, though she stayed busy on television through the 60s and 70s. By the end of the 70s, however, her screen career was over. Campos fared better, remaining in demand on TV and in films until his untimely death at age 49 from cancer. Corey enjoyed a long career in front of the camera and as an influential teacher. He died in 2002 following a debilitating fall at age 88, but had worked on TV as recently as two years before. Sothern appeared in quite a few more things, good and bad, but happily ended her very lengthy career with an Oscar nod for her work in The Whales of August. Click on her name to the right for a more in-depth look at her.

This is a mean movie without anyone to really like much, though thankfully we do finally get to warm to its leading lady. There are campy elements to it, to be sure, but it contains a sense of nastiness and menace that manages to stay with the viewer even after we’ve laughed at the bad qualities. It picks at our fears of home invasion and unwarranted violent crime against us. (It makes us want to avoid hip replacements, lest we become trapped in an elevator!) The first time I saw it, I expected to giggle at it continuously, but the tough, committed performances caused me to sit up and take notice.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

That Dern Bruce!

1975 brought us The Hindenburg, about the destruction of a famous dirigible. 1976 brought us Two Minute Warning, about panic and death at a championship football game. 1977 brought us John Frankenheimer’s Black Sunday, a thriller about a plot to use the Goodyear blimp to blow up the Super Bowl! Having been based on a 1975 Thomas Harris bestseller, it was not a rip-off or deliberate mish-mash of the previous two films, however. Harris conceived the idea for his story in the wake of the 1972 Munich Olympics terrorist incident. He even cited the same real group, Black September, as the bad guys in this fictional story!

Released when disaster movie fever had swept the nation’s cinemas, it does indeed include a finale along those lines, but the bulk of the film is a violence-tinged procedural concerning the elaborate planning of the event along with a cat and mouse game between the chief terrorist and an Israeli intelligence agent.

As the agent, Robert Shaw gives a cool, determined performance. During a raid on one of Black September’s compounds, he and his team wipe out most of the members there. However, he comes upon a female, showering and seemingly petrified by his presence. He hesitates, they lock eyes, and ultimately he decides to leave without harming her. Sadly for him and for many others, the female is Marthe Keller, one of the key strategists behind plans to kill thousands of people at the next Super Bowl! (Incidentally, lobby cards depicted this moment between the two, showing Keller nude to her torso, covering herself, while Shaw is in the frame. In the actual film, they do not share a frame and only her face and shoulders is ever shown! False advertising that probably disappointed a lot of straight guys!) He has just inadvertently made a deadly and fateful date in which their eyes will lock once again (towards the end of the film, natch!)
Following Shaw’s assault on the compound, he recovers a tape recording that Keller has done, announcing responsibility for a major terrorist act that is clearly being planned at the moment, but has yet to occur. Shaw must scramble to find out what is about to happen and attempt to thwart it. This leads to several scenes of investigation, gunplay, chasing and murder.
Keller’s ace in the hole is a professional pilot (Bruce Dern) who is regularly subcontracted to fly the Goodyear blimp. An ex-POW with severe emotional distress and barely suppressed hatred for the United States, he has planned to attach thousands of nails, embedded in plastic explosive, to the bottom of the blimp and plow into the Orange Bowl on the big day (a day, in fact, that The President is also scheduled to be in attendance!) Keller uses her considerable physical charms to help control and, in a way, mother, Dern who is always on the verge of a breakdown.
One memorable sequence has Dern and Keller testing out their explosive device at an old barn in the desert. The resultant scattering of thousands of bits of shrapnel into the barn’s wall gives an indication of the damage the pair can do to people in the stands on Super Bowl Sunday where 82,500 fans are due to be assembled. The daylight coming into the barn through the pinholes creates a memorable bit of imagery (and the film’s cinematographer John Alonzo had been Oscar-nominated for Chinatown a couple of years prior to this.)

Aiding Shaw in his pursuit of Keller and Dern are FBI agent Fritz Weaver and Shaw’s fellow agent Steven Keats. At one point, after an explosion, Shaw is hospitalized and the resourceful Keller masquerades as a nun/nurse in order to get to him and take him out before he has a chance to stop her from putting her plans into motion. The get-up gives her a real Angel of Death quality.
There wouldn’t be a movie if the plan didn’t slip into action and when that occurs (after a pretty lengthy setup in which, honestly, a few things ought to have been trimmed a little) the movie shifts into high gear. Dern and Keller mow down anything and anyone in their way with Shaw and Weaver hot on their tail. As the blimp plods along determinedly towards the stadium, John Williams’ score (an unusual one for him that has a Jerry Goldsmith-like flavor) ominously helps build suspense.
The climax finally arrives and it is a mixed bag. The editing does its best to cover up some questionable special effects (see-through people at one point and obvious pieces of a blimp rather than the entire thing) and the extras (trucked in from United Way) are sometimes less than convincing in their terror. On the flip side, there is a pretty decent stretch of time in which a melee ensues and every effort is made to stretch the suspense as far as it can go.

As for the extras, which were enlisted in return for a short film about their organization directed by Frankenheimer and narrated by Shaw, I have a question. Was it asking too much for them not to show up at an alleged Super Bowl looking as if they were cleaning out the garage?! One lady has her hair in curlers, for Chrissake! (Do yourself a favor and click to enlarge this photo.) Many times, the “frightened” people can be seen laughing during all the frenetic running around. People have no point to where they are running. (If a dirigible came over the wall and was headed to the field, would you run onto the field?!)
Someone apparently instructed the extras to point at the (imaginary, to them) sight of the blimp coming into the stadium, but perhaps they forgot to mention that along with that, there should be some concern or even fear! Too many people have a bemused or even happy reaction to the invasion. There are also some idiotic maneuvers among the panicked fans. Check out this shot (towards the right of the picture) in which one of the players has a fan by the leg!

One thing that helped lend an all-important air of authenticity to the film was the clearance that Frankenheimer received to use a) the real Goodyear blimp (provided no one was shown being killed by it directly), b) real football teams such as the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers and c) the name (and authentic footage from) The Super Bowl. Two Minute Warning had to resort to fake teams and a “championship” game, giving the film a bit of a handicap in the verisimilitude department. Shaw is shown in one sequence darting furiously through the real Super Bowl crowd.

One thing that Frankenheimer tried to do to increase the reality, but which backfired ridiculously, was in trying to suggest that the real President, Jimmie Carter, was in the stands instead of just using a generic gentleman instead. He hired an atrociously ludicrous “lookalike” to make fleetingly glimpsed appearances through the bodies of Secret Servicemen. This is one time when it might have been better to suspend disbelief and simply supply a nonspecific Commander in Chief!

The National Anthem is sung, just as it was in real life at the Super Bowl in question, by blind entertainer Tom Sullivan and the large choral group Up With People. It’s an annoying arrangement annoyingly sung. No harm to Sullivan, but I do not like when singers mispronounce words in a song out of either habit or laziness. For example, when he should be singing the word “perilous” as pare-ih-luss, he sings it pare-uh-liss. He sang here and in the same year’s Airport ’77 and that’s plenty for me! As for Up With People, I’m afraid I’m not down with them either.

Since both The Hindenburg and Two Minute Warning came first, some folks wondered if some of the impact of Black Sunday might be diminished somewhat, especially since Warning concerned death and dismay during a football game. Frankenheimer angrily dismissed any such claims, once cutting a Q & A short when an audience member merely asked the question. In his defense, Sunday is a far more intelligent and multidimensional thriller than Warning, with a cast that is arguably more believable and serious. However, for sheer movie-going fun (even if it isn’t always for the right reasons), Warning wins.

Sadly, Robert Shaw, who had been enjoying a career upsurge following Jaws in 1975, would be dead of a heart attack in 1978. He left behind a staggering ten children, one of whom was adopted. Bruce Dern, who gives an entertainingly neurotic performance here, only had a few more leading roles in him, though he has enjoyed a fifty year career and continues to work to this day. just two years after this, he scored an Oscar nod for his work in Coming Home as another troubled vet. He is, of course, the father of Laura Dern from his marriage to actress Diane Ladd.

Swiss actress Keller had trained as a ballet dancer in her youth and indeed demonstrated graceful movement in this film. Also a costar in Dustin Hoffman’s Marathon Man and Al Pacino’s Bobby Deerfield (resulting in a relationship between them for a time), she primarily worked in European productions. She did, however, come to Broadway in 2001 for a stage version of Judgment at Nuremberg in which she played the Marlene Dietrich part and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Featured Actress.

Frankenheimer, who had directed several notable films including Birdman of Alcatraz, The Manchurian Candidate and The Train, was severely disappointed by this movie’s lack of performance at the box office. He developed a drinking problem and unleashed the major turd The Prophecy on the world along with a few other duds. He also directed the wholly disastrous 1996 version of The Island of Dr. Moreau, in which Marlon Brando was insufferably indulgent and conflict with Val Kilmer was palpable. He had a hit with Ronin, starring Robert De Niro before dying of a stroke in 2002.

With this, I have covered just about every 1970s disaster film except for the elusive City on Fire, a craptacular 1979 Canadian tax shelter production starring Barry Newman, Susan Clark, Shelley Winters, Leslie Nielsen, James Franciscus, Henry Fonda and Ava Gardner! It’s the sole one I don’t have on video in any format. Who knows if it will ever see the light of day again.

Also, incidentally, today is my birthday! Presents for Poseidon may be left outside the gates of The Underworld where they will later be categorized and sorted through (and, naturally, I’ll only be able to keep the one I like best and the rest will be given “to the poor children who don’t have anything.” LOL) Despite the fact that I probably come off as a fussy, crusty old coot most of the time, this is actually only my 43rd birthday! (I say only…. Where did it all go?!) Thanks for reading and I’ll surface again soon with another post.