Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Casting a 60's THUNDERBIRDS movie...

   Yes, it's a completely pointless exercise to imagine the production of a movie that was never produced. Let me start off by admitting to just that. While the teleseries Thunderbirds spawned two feature films (THUNDERBIRDS ARE GO, and THUNDERBIRD 6), a live-action version of the property wouldn't happen until decades later (and the less said about that mess, the better).

   Recently, I finally saw the 1966 spy epic KISS THE GIRLS AND MAKE THEM DIE, which starred Mike Connors as a secret agent out to uncover the mystery behind a millionaire's bevy of beautiful women. Said mystery holds the world in the balance, as you might well imagine.

   In the film, Dorothy Provine and Terry-Thomas essentially play Lady Penelope and Parker of Thunderbirds fame, complete with gadget-laden Rolls Royce! That made me notice that star Connors would have made a good Scott Tracy in a live-action Thunderbirds movie, and that got my brain cells to leaping....

   Thunderbirds was Gerry Anderson's most beloved and visible series to be filmed in Supermarionation. Being an hour show as opposed to half hour like his other "puppet" shows, the characters were much more developed than we usually saw. Casting them with period actors would be very easy. So....

SCOTT TRACY: Now, as weird as it would be to have that character minus Shane Rimmer's voice, I've already noted that Mike Connors would make for a pretty good live-action Scott.

VIRGIL TRACY: While watching CODE NAME "JAGUAR" I was struck by how perfect a Virgil Ray Danton would have made. Not only does he favor the puppet, but sports a similar deep voice.

JEFF TRACY: The patriarch of the Tracy family was based upon Bonanza's Lorne Greene, so that casting choice would have been obvious.

ALAN TRACY: For the youngest Tracy, I'm thinking 60's heartthrob Fabian. 

GORDON TRACY: For the aquanaut pilot of Thunderbird 4, I thought of one of my favorites: Richard Jaeckel.

JOHN TRACY: Nick Adams.

LADY PENELOPE: As noted, Dorothy Provine (although her English accent was questionable).


PARKER: Terry-Thomas didn't look exactly like the character, but after seeing the film I did, he would have handled the part neatly.


TIN-TIN: I thought of exotic TV actress Wende Wagner for Alan's girlfriend.

BRAINS: I suppose Wally Cox would have been the obvious choice.... 

KYRANO: James Hong in old-age make-up.

The HOOD: I think he was based on Torin Thatcher to begin with, so...

Now that's just beautiful

Monday, March 3, 2014

Video Cheese: IT'S IN THE BAG (1945)

Note: this piece is edited from a review which originally appeared at www.jabootu.net, and has been re-printed here by the kind permission of Mr. Ken Begg.

IT'S IN THE BAG (1945)
In short: “A flea circus owner inherits a fortune, with complications.”

In full:
   Jack Benny and Fred Allen were, in reality, good friends who toiled together in Vaudeville. Each went on to become among the Nation’s top comics in radio, where their characters engaged in a long-running feud. Allen would make a dig at Benny on his Ipana show on Wednesday, and Benny would retaliate on his Sunday JELL-O program by getting steamed and fire a volley of insults at Allen, who would continue the feud the following Wednesday.

Jack and Fred as they really were...
    Ultimately, although their battle was in jest, Benny can claim victory. By his numerous television appearances, and remaining in public view well into the last great era of celebrity (what you might call the Dean Martin/Johnny Carson era, Jack remains the more fondly remembered of the two. That’s not to say Fred Allen is obscure or anything, but Benny boasts a much larger fanbase these days.

   That fact is reflected in that, even though It’s in the Bag is a Fred Allen movie in which Jack Benny has but a brief cameo, the box cover for my Republic Home Video release rather inaccurately implies that the film will feature both comedians working as a team. In fact, on the front cover, Benny is given top billing!
   Yet the story actually revolves around Allen, the skinflint owner of a two-bit flea circus on the Midway, and struggling head of a rather kooky family. His young son is a self-taught genius with a photographic memory who offers psychological advice, his wife dreams of better things, and their sexy daughter is seeing (but not committing to) the son of a high-stepping society fop, who is at loggerheads with Allen, as neither feels the offspring of the other is good enough to be an in-law.

   Allen suddenly finds himself heir to a fortune when a relative is gunned down after a meeting with his lawyer (a young John Carradine – and they made him up to look older, which struck me as ironic, given how much older John would look a decade later. Seeing his young face prematurely aged is a weird sensation, to say the least).

   This puts him in good standing with those who previously wouldn’t have given him the time of day, and the family immediately moves into a posh apartment in the nice part of town. Allen at once begins spending money like water. Unfortunately, when the inheritance is in evidence, the fortune is composed of nothing but a set of antique chairs.

   With the bills piling up, he sells the chairs before discovering that several thousand dollars have been hidden in a secret compartment inside one of the chairs. The rest of the film follows Allen as he tracks down each chair and checks it for the money. This brings him across a number of oddball characters, including Jack Benny, who plays himself.

   Naturally, comedy works best when you don’t know the gags headed your way, so I’ll avoid detailing the rest of the show. I will note a fairly spectacular parade of guest stars who drop by. Not only is Jack Benny in a large, and quite hysterical, scene, but we also get to spend a few minutes with the likes of Rudy Vallee, Don Ameche, Victor Moore, William Bendix, and Jerry Colonna!

    The film is basically a long, live-action cartoon. Much like a Tex Avery short, the show isn’t a story so much as a series of rapid-fire gags. We even start with Allen hosting the main credits, and running down everybody involved in the production!

   One humorous section involves an attempt by Allen and his wife to watch a movie playing at a local theater, a horror piece called “Zombie in the Attic”! It’s obvious the film was shot before television came along to thin out the herds of movie patrons, as our heroes find it impossible to find a seat in the mammoth building. Indignant, Allen goes to see the manager, and discovers no one running the place really knows what’s going on, but, he finds one of his inherited chairs in evidence….

   What can I really say about the picture? Hysterical fun! Find a copy for yourself! (Sorry the review is so short, but really I wouldn't dare spoil anything else!)

 [Editor Ken: The basic story behind this film was taken from a satirical Soviet novel written in 1928, and also served as the basis of Mel Brook's second movie, The Twelve Chairs.]