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Monday, April 25, 2011













It's Showtime Again!








Countdown begins toward Cinevent and Slapsticon, my two favorite Spring-Summer destinations. Getting there has become half the fun for drives through the Virginias, Ohio --- both shows begin for me on Interstate 77 and each amount to apx. six hours on the road (Cinevent happens in Columbus, while Slapsticon headquarters in Arlington, VA). Driving time's good for meditating on fun I've had at previous Cine/Slaps. Actually, 2010 was my first at Slapsticon. Would that I could go back and attend ones missed! It's great reuniting with folks known primarily by mails, or now, internet. If reaction to movies and crowd cheer in general is any indication, everyone has a blast at Cinevent and Slapsticon. I get a rush just entering the hotel at Columbus --- near every year since 1982. There used to be guys camped in the lobby with 16mm lists. We'd look at those before checking in. There's still a thriving dealer room at Columbus, with more on the sixth floor where Morris Everett's annual poster auction is held. So much happens here that it seems four days pass in as many minutes.








































Slapsticon last year yielded as many films as I've ever watched in a single weekend. I just couldn't pass any of these rarities up. Organizer Richard Roberts and staff book rarest and most recently restored/rediscovered titles. There's little at Slapsticon you'll find on DVD. Truly it's a show for those who think they've seen everything. This year there is treasure long buried that I'm particularly revved for --- War, Italian Style is a late career starring feature for Buster Keaton last sighted at the Liberty in 1966. It'll be a thrill revisiting this one on Slapsticon's big screen, and with an audience. Harold Lloyd's Professor, Beware is scheduled as well. This one was syndicated with pre-48 Paramounts long ago, but never surfaced in close-by tele-markets. Slapsticon 2011 will be my first time viewing it, as will, I suspect, be the case for many attending. Comedians who don't get enough mainstream exposure are served generously at Slapsticon. Lloyd Hamilton, Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Drew, Harry Langdon, assorted Hal Roach all-stars, many more unheralded and richly deserving of play before an appreciative crowd, which Slaps' assuredly is. Best of all here is comfort and quality of hosting Rosslyn Spectrum Theatre, where projected film looks great and acoustics for live music accompaniment is note-perfect. I lasted hours last year on Spectrum seating without fatigue and expect to do so again this July. How many other venues are as hospitable?







































Cinevent has their customary line-up of unique attractions, in addition to lure of the auction and dealer rooms. Steve Haynes really does a splendid job of organizing. This year's program includes a Deanna Durbin, His Butler's Sister, so far unreleased on domestic DVD, and My Gal Sal in IB Technicolor. That one's not available on disc either. A Universal I've long waited to see, Bombay Mail, is scheduled. There's even The Lady and The Monster for horror and Von Stroheim completists. Man In The Dark was an early 3-D feature pretty much unseen since 1953. Many silent features are scheduled, with on-site talent at the piano. Any opportunity to catch pre-talkers with live music is worth seizing. Good as digital is, there's no substituting for performers in the room. Cinevent does a Saturday morning cartoon revue that's especially popular, dependable always for (way) off beaten path animation. A longer list of scheduled films is here. I'll be situated at least part-time at tables where Robert Matzen and Mike Mazzone will be selling a very impressive cache of posters and lobby cards they recently acquired. Readers I've met (and especially ones I haven't) are encouraged to stop by. Maybe this time I'll finally encounter Nitrateville's Mike Gebert after several years of just missing each other.

8 Comments:

Anonymous r.j. said...

John,

For the record, "Professor, Beware" used to play out here all the time on local L.A. television when we were kids, as part of that pre-48 Paramount package.

For many years it was the only Harold Lloyd I had ever seen because, as you know, he was sitting on the ones he owned. I have fond mmemories of "Professor", altho haven't seen it since, especially a scene I remember where he's wrestling William Frawley for clothes (or something) in the back-seat of a limo, because of course we all knew Bill from "Lucy", and a great chase scene at the end, which as I recall compares quite favorably with his best silent stuff. It might be of some added interest that Orson Welles once said he was directing "Horse Eats Hat" on stage in N.Y. at that time, and since they were incorporating silent-film footage in the show, he took the company to the Paramount Theatre one afternoon, so they could study "Professor" which had just opened.

I remain, as ever your "obedient servant",

R.J.

9:36 PM  
Anonymous r.j. said...

As a quick P.S. here, just noticed inclusion of Keaton's last effort (which is about the best description one could charitably give it), called "War Italian Style". That too played on afternoon televsion years ago and I made the huge mistake of watching it, unprepared for what it was. I urge you, and other fans of his, to avoid it. You'll be terribly saddened by the experience.

best, R.J.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Christopher said...

Looking at the film lineup;I remember seeing the same PBS showing of The Extra Girl in the 70s...

12:36 AM  
Blogger G. D. Wilson said...

By all means do not miss Lloyd's PROFESSOR BEWARE--a very under-rated gem in my opinion, with slight shades of Karloff's THE MUMMY plot and William Frawley in a great bit. A super closing gag and a shame it isn't out there on DVD. Next to THE CAT'S PAW it's my favorite Lloyd talkie.

12:51 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

"Maybe this time I'll finally encounter Nitrateville's Mike Gebert after several years of just missing each other."

I was thinking I was going to skip this one because of an extremely packed and car trip heavy summer... but now that I'm being called out by name, I may hafta... if I do, this year for sure, John!

10:58 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Received the following from Slapsticon's Richard M. Roberts via e-mail ...


John,

Tell r.j. that his review of WAR ITALIAN STYLE and others like it are exactly the reason why we're running the film at Slapsticon this year. because so few folk have actually seen it in intervening years since it came out and all we ever hear is "oh, poor, sad, Buster!". Well, actually having seen the film recently, the real fact of the matter is it's not bad at all. You have Buster, in a leading role, playing a Nazi of all things, but doing bits and routines he obviously devised himself, in a nearly silent part. The Italian Comedy team Franco and Ciccio may be an accquired Italian comedy taste, but they are obviously quite honored to be working with Keaton, and at the end of the film pay a tribute to Buster that will bring a mist to the eye of anyone who loves his work, moreso because WAR ITALIAN STYLE was indeed the last film of Buster to hit the theaters. Considering Keaton was the last of the so-called "Kings of Comedy" to actually star in a big-budgeted (it was not a low-budget affair, Franco and Ciccio were very popular comics in their native land), internationally released movie, and due to his continued working in television and films (even things like BEACH BLANKET BINGO, no sad slumming as some depressives like to think, but popular mainstream movies aimed at the younger generations, don;t forget Frankie and Annette were pretty popular in their day)had the largest public recognition of the major comics at the time. Keatons last years were not sad ones, he made more money in those last fifteen years than he ever made working for Joe Schenck, had a happy marriage and was secure that he would be remembered as the great comic he was, adn he did a lot of varied and interesting work, of which more and more seems to turn up as we go along.

We like to do myth busting at Slapsticon, which is why we run things like this and PROFESSOR BEWARE, which I think is actually one of Lloyd's better talkies. Remember how we smashed the baloney circulating about SWINGIN ON A RAINBOW with Harry Langdon a few years ago.


RICHARD

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am currently rubbing a magic lamp (actually I don't know if its magic, but it can't hurt) and wishing there could be a classic movie fest in Phoenix some day. I was lucky to go to Cinecon one year but the husband made such a fuss about being bored in Hollywood, I got to see one short. Yes, one short. Ugh. Glad he is history but I can't get to Hollywood anymore. Where are the teleport machines? :)

2:40 PM  
Anonymous r.j. said...

I realized right after posting that warning comment that all it would have is a reverse psychological-effect on whoever read it. Of course I'm going back over 30-years in my memory on the sole viewing one afternoon after school on a local T.V. station out here on the West Coast, but what I do recall is that there really wasn't much Keaton (the sole reason I wanted to see it of course) and what there was just seemed to reinforce the fact that he was a rather sick old man at that time. I also found his being cast as a Nazi General to be in excruciatingly bad taste. But I do recall the final scene vividly where the two clowns hand him his traditional outfit and he walks off toward the horizon, and that I found very touching.

I realize that Keaton's final-years were very contented ones and you're right, he was making more money than he ever did in his prime. I had the great honor of meeting Eleanor one night, somewhere after some event and we talked briefly. She seemed to take a liking to me, because I just remember her assistant (female) pulling her hand, but she seemed to want to take some extra time with me to talk, which of course was extremely flattering, and I'm very grateful I was able to meet this lady and pay my respects to Buster "in absentia".

R.J.

8:58 PM  

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