Sunday, February 27, 2011
Columbia's Waterfront Haul --- Part One
Watching a grown-up picture and staying up late to do it was shared ritual for lots of us growing up, On The Waterfront early for me among those to be regarded seriously as opposed to monsters and mayhem sleep was forfeited to look at. Now it seems backlash has rooted among online thinkers. They're backing off On The Waterfront as settled paragon and asking selves if this is more an object to be admired than enjoyed. I came away from a recent look (after ten years' break) with similar mixed emotion --- so how much do we change between viewings of a familiar show? Darryl Zanuck counseled Kazan and Schulberg to avoid too much soap boxing over social themes during Waterfront's early development at Fox. I believe that the evil of the waterfront situation should be the background ... and that the personal story must predominate. They'd halfway take his advise. Would OTW have been plainer film noir coming from 20th? Now it strikes me as more political than issue oriented pics Zanuck supervised to completion. What's more noirish is bitter tea so many drank for being eased off this Waterfront, cash and proper credit lost despite time/effort expended on a Best Picture (1954) winner's behalf. Elia Kazan argues his side compellingly in a 90's memoir, but others told a different story. Truth of success having many fathers got much confirmation on Waterfront's road to revered status.
I enjoy On The Waterfront for its on-location atmosphere and slice of gritty urban life. No wonder city folk went nuts for it (21 weeks at New York's Astor Theatre). You'd not top Kazan for knowing how to get most out of locations. Neither was he far wrong calling Marlon Brando's the best performance movies tendered to that time, but was this actor's appeal so different from, say, Gary Cooper starting out? Both dealt quiet intensity and clicked best being diffident during love scenes. Difference was Cooper and golden-agers building on this toward stardom uninterrupted 'till death or retirement. Brando got ideal casting of a Waterfront and much misstepping from there. Could studio affiliation and careful grooming have yielded three On The Waterfronts for every Desiree instead of the other way around Brando experienced for being free-lance and choosing own projects? Here was Hollywood's most valued property in 1954, a name to guarantee any project going forward, and his psychiatrist is calling shots. Studios wanted Brando so much as to put up with anything. There'd been a walkout on Fox's The Egyptian for which he'd ultimately be forgiven, and Waterfront producer Sam Spiegel spent weeks on bended knee getting Brando to sign for what won him a Best Actor statue. Certainly it was this star people came to see in On The Waterfront. They'd wait for him to do another as good for years after, then give up by a 60's decline. Surprising it must have been by 1972 and The Godfather to realize only eighteen years had passed since Waterfront.
I'm just twisted enough to like Johnny Friendly best of anyone in Waterfront. Certainly Lee Cobb generates most fun with his performance. With that gaggle of method hoods eager to get in words edgewise (does Fred Gwynne ever say anything?), Johnny strikes me as an A-list Leo Gorcey beset with dumb and dumber retinue. And how does he manage such willy-nilly killing in what appears a pretty insular neighborhood where body count around docks would surely be remarked upon if not more vigorously investigated? I kept waiting for somebody in the loading hole to yell, Hey, did'ja see Johnny Friendly nod just before they dropped all these crates on the dead guy? That would have interrupted Father Karl Malden's looong speech, during which I feared for that body ripening in such airless and cast-crowded space. Brando's Terry Malloy says he never figured on a pal getting tossed off the roof in Waterfront's opener, but letting go the victim's pigeon suggested to me awareness if not compliance. There's a briefest glimpse of presumed Mr. Big who pulls Johnny's strings --- we know he's chief heavy for fact there's a television in his living room. Ever presume to rewrite a classic while you're watching? I imagined a different third act for Waterfront, one where Terry drags Johnny Friendly to the crime committee after a sound thrashing. As it stands, a coat-and-tie Brando meekly testifying goes against expectation of score-settling I'd have preferred. Wouldn't informant Terry have digested easier with a little vigilante seasoning?
Could be that's something else Zanuck would have fixed. He was piqued when Schulberg wrote in The New York Times of a studio executive (unnamed but clearly DFZ) more dedicated to widescreen horse operas than films about real people. Kazan seized high roads as well. He could afford to after Waterfront broke big. Studio "ostriches" were an industry's bane, he said to Variety in December 1954: They continue to stick their heads in the sand and make the same movies their fathers made before them. Here was a director fed up with just plain nonsense themes, speaking mind freely now that industry doors opened widest to him. Both Kazan and Schulberg would gloat over success of a gamble that almost every major studio rejected at one time or another, but would Hollywood remember high-handed talk when later A Face In The Crowd came a cropper? I do admire Kazan admittting how roguish producer Sam Spiegel manipulated him throughout On The Waterfront. "S.P. Eagle" as he was then known gives impression of one who'd duck out of hotels without paying the tab, as I'm sure he often did. What comfort it must have been for artists dealing with outright con-men if not borderline criminals, but weren't likes of Spiegel a reality Kazan and Schulberg had known all their professional lives?
Thursday, February 24, 2011
The Rat Pack and Ocean's 11 --- Part Two
The caper itself was so outlandish as to discourage imitation. That much was probably agreed upon going in. Robbing Las Vegas in 1960 would have been another name for suicide. Not for a moment does this plan seem a serious one, Ocean's 11 tempering the Pack's lunatic notion with comedy and what amounts to a town's own Surgeon General's warning: Never, ever try this for real. That undercuts suspense, of course. We don't sense a Mafia's heavy hand toward protecting its own, but surely membership issued Frank a Do Not list prior to shooting. You Wouldn't Call It a Gang, said Warner ads. Well, no you wouldn't, except maybe Our Gang for childish means by which this heist is executed. Did rival Mob families ever consider a for-real knock over of Vegas casinos? Surely if they did, Ocean's 11 would be no model for planning. Guess the town was sewn up too tight for anyone to ponder such a thing. In probably the film's best exchange, Dean Martin points up futility of O11's scheme and the group's lack of fitness to carry off same, this rare occasion of DM reading Ocean's dialogue with something like conviction. Was he speaking more to futility of having made this movie? (at one point during filming, Dino asked Frank if he might finally look at a script)
There were cameos to pass dull parts easier. Red Skelton did a funny to Frank's deadpan reaction and was off within a minute, same with Shirley MacLaine and what looks like an ad-libbed drunk scene opposite Dean. More effective were drop-ins by faded names tossed a day's work for reasons lost to time. I'd guess George Raft and Hoot Gibson were greeting at some lounge/casino in town. Both had filled such position at one time or other. Raft was not long back from shaking hands at Cuban tables before lights went out there. He lends gravitas to a post-robbery boardroom scene that's reasonably close, I suppose, to what might have gone on among Mafia chieftains should a real Vegas raid have taken place. Was gang-connected Raft too close to actuality of casino ownership for comfort? Guess Mobsters figured George for a late show relic too far past prime to suggest true crime, not unlike his back to the 20's racketeer in Some Like It Hot. Hoot was something else, a face dating to when Vegas was all sand. Who knows ... maybe he'd chased indians across that desert once. Anyway, he was there for viewers ancient enough to recognize him, up to and including Frank and Dino ... both may have sat in as boys on Hooter's silent shoot-em-ups. I'd love knowing just whose idea it was to give him a break on Ocean's 11.
The guy what steals Ocean's 11 is Caesar Romero. He pretty much takes charge of the third act. Did Frank and company know or care about this Joker's heist? A group of five to whom I ran Ocean's 11 last week all agreed it was Romero's show from the robbery's finish on in. 1960 observers thought so too. Several polls place him in supporting Oscar nominee contention for Ocean's 11, observed Variety in December of that year. Caesar himself got out a trade ad to spread word of critic's approval (above). For my money, he's the cool cat in this show --- suave, unflappable and making most of scenes via commitment several times that of blasé Rat Packers. One scene Sinatra would undoubtedly have ordered reshot, had he noticed, shows CR entering a room and towering over the diminutive star. Did Romero get his lion's share of Ocean's 11 for showing up to work as opposed to oft-truant principal players? My viewing group came away from Ocean's 11 wishing he'd framed the caper ... maybe in that event it would have come off successfully.
Some reshooting might have helped. Peter Lawford prevailed upon Warners to fill in obvious holes, but they attended more to splashy premiere plans than squaring away a better movie. Power-less player Lawford would go along to get along, a sad fate for anyone in Sinatra's razzmatazz orbit. To his credit, though, Frank kicked in on selling side of O11, attending a June New York meet with director Lewis Milestone and WB execs to round out plans for an August grand open in Vegas. Sinatra liked the pic well enough to private preview it for John and Jackie Kennedy at his Palm Springs home. Spencer Tracy was also there ... wonder if Spence gave Frank an honest answer when asked how he liked the show. World Premiering at LV's Fremont Theatre was sure enough a blowout. Streets jammed, a parade up the Strip, celebrities near outnumbering civilians. Some of revels would turn up on Jack Parr's vid show later. A "summit meet" at the Sands preceding the open reunited the Pack and fired up WB's Steve Trilling to propose filming the act to send out as a follow-up concert feature. But where could it be shown?, asked Army Archerd: The boys rehearsed the material in the locker room, an indication of the tenor of the entertainment offered by the jolly boy's club.
Lewis Milestone was ringside for the Sands party and premiering that followed. He'd afterward go on a twelve-city US tour to promote Ocean's 11. Whatever this director earned over a long career was doubtless dwarfed by percentage payday realized here. He'd later speak well of the film and Sinatra to historians. 1960 showmen in for less loot felt Warners was working a caper of its own, as even neighborhood sub-runs were being hit up for 50% of receipts, a distributor grab in excess of Paramount's 35% demand for the same summer's Psycho. Erstwhile co-producer Peter Lawford, rich off those terms, shopped a biopic around on champ jockey Johnny Longden he'd worked on for several seasons, but ... no takers. His Thin Man TV series had wrapped and expulsion from the Pack would come later, thanks to contretemps with Frank that were in no way Peter's fault. The Chairman himself looked back on Ocean's 11 as a "fun" movie and little more. He'd live long enough to see Rat Pack (a term he always despised) high-life celebrated anew by hipsters not yet born when the pic played new. Just the fact it moved up Warners' Blu-Ray release schedule makes clear O11's continuing hold on fans wishing its ring-a-ding world could live again as their own.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
The Rat Pack Does Vegas --- Part One
I want to go back to 1960 and shake Frank Sinatra for not applying himself more to Ocean's 11. Same goes for Rat associates, save perhaps Peter Lawford, who spent five years bringing O11 to fruition and made honest effort toward better outcome than what $3.1 million finally bought. Most was Warners' negative cost, dollars they knew would come back, and did, to swinging tune of $8.1 million, participants calling that a fine day's work and the heck with posterity's verdict. Did a goldbricking Pack really think so little of movies as to fritter away promise of this one? Dean tried on The Young Lions as Frank had with Golden Arm, and both applied selves to Some Came Running. Had they lost respect on this occasion for playing something close to lives they actually led? Ocean's 11 could have been a crackerjack thriller with song and novel background like movies seldom saw. Real commitment first time out might have been impetus for a Rat Pack series we'd respect more than spoiling cheese O11 and successors amounted to. But where's use of crying for lost opportunity fifty years out? Irony's jest is a remade Ocean's 11 for 2001 breeding (so far) two sequels, proof of standards since '60 lower even than Sinatra and Company's when they sluffed through the original.
My family drove by Vegas on a motor trip west in 1962. I remember glittering signs outside, less the casinos within where my first game of chance was played upon a slot machine near the entrance. Pity I couldn't appreciate Sin City at its summit for being aged eight, but I do recall wondering why indoors kind of shrunk from massive neon canopies without. Surely a movie about all that would be fun, though. Peter Lawford thought so on receipt of a heist yarn he'd bought five years ahead of Ocean's 11. Modest prospects saw it farmed to TV director Gilbert Kay for a 1956 follow-up to his feature bow, Three Bad Sisters, indie Matador Productions going forward with this actioner not unlike then-recent Five Against The House. Somehow that fizzled and Ocean's 11 came across Sinatra's bar counter, his interest, of course, making it a go. Lawford would stay on as co-star and now junior producer, their company called Dorchester. Casting announcements began flying, seemingly all of Hollywood wanting in on Frank's party. Dean Martin was set, then temporarily out for scheduling conflicts, Jack Lemmon slated to replace him in December 1958. By March of '59, they wanted Sugar Ray Robinson for what ultimately was the Sammy Davis part. Sinatra and Lawford sought Robert Wagner as well, but Fox wouldn't loan him. Neither could Steve McQueen get a leave from Wanted --- Dead Or Alive, the latter announced along with Tony Curtis as late as October 1959. Frank wanted cast-mates he'd worked with, thus an invite to A Hole In The Head's Edward G. Robinson, who proved unavailable. By time casting firmed up in January 1960 (as late as 1/8, Robert Culp was being floated for a "key role"), the caravan was set to winter in at Vegas for casino locations.
Writers addressing the Rat Pack sometimes get a little ring-a-ding dingy themselves, so I'll try avoiding hep talk and propagating tired myths. One posits Lewis Milestone as a broken-down director thrown an O11 bone for submission to Frank's authority and willingness to take crumbs Dorchester/Warners handed him. What I found was Milestone in for a percentage of Ocean's 11 along with FS, Lawford, and Dino. They named him producer as well. Someone has to be around the store all the time, said the veteran helmsman, and so long as chips were partly his, why not Milestone? Lawford was confident enough in the project to take all of his compensation on the backend. Ocean's 11 filmed mostly on days after all-nighters the cast pulled. Drinking, performing, then steam bathing it off for fitful hours' work did not make for focused performing. A finished Ocean's 11 would reflect many calls Sinatra missed. How else to account for so much of tiresome Akim Tamiroff and somnolent Joey Bishop? Also livening Vegas those months was Columbia's Pepe company. Headquartering as well at the Sand's Hotel, they were separable from O11's crew only by different colored baseball caps issued respectively. On-camera overlap saw Dean Martin and Sammy Davis in Pepe cameos shot concurrently with work on Ocean's 11.
Vegas and the Pack were riding crests that winter. Jack Kennedy checked in to see the boys perform and consolidate show biz support for his presidential bid. What was happening live naturally seemed more important than nonsense recorded on film. To think that for awhile, Sinatra intended to direct Ocean's 11. He did at least want it to look good, insisting that Warners shoot in Panavision, the company's first using that wide format. Lewis Milestone put a good face on Vegas when he told Army Archerd they'd overshot the location's budget by a mere $1,000. Latter-day viewers are surprised by modesty of O11 casino and hotel settings, figuring upon temples not unlike what's built over ruins of a Vegas strip gone decades now. Fact of matter is these were humble, at least by comparison, being stopovers for 50/60's travelers who didn't expect grandiosity we're conditioned for. Ocean's 11 is in part a sad revisit to ways of debauched life passed and an entertaining Olympus whose deities filled lounges nightly --- just a look at marquees in the film makes you realize anew those days ain't never coming back.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Red-Hot Flynn In Hell-Hot Havana!
Friend at school had lived in Cuba right up to the Revolution. His family's escape was by same skin of teeth others managed. Till then, he collected (at age six) revolution trading cards distributed through neighborhoods by Castro rebels. John also told me his mother appeared as an extra in opening scenes of The Big Boodle and met Errol Flynn. Some years later, we checked a print I'd gotten and there she was. Now Netflix has it streaming. I'd not call The Big Boodle noir for reluctance to besmirch the genre. It's more like screen translation of trashy men's novels and mags that proliferated in the fifties, minus down-and-dirtier violence/sex these trafficked in. Just the fact BB was shot entirely on Cuban soil amidst backdrop of underworld takeover prior to Castro's ultimate takeover makes this crime meller must viewing. Soldiers of fortune were pouring into 50's Havana sure as Coop and company took Mexico in Vera Cruz, only these were of real-life sort and most Mob originated. Gambling was the Mecca that drew them. Forget heat-parched Vegas --- this was sun-and-fun south of Miami with rule books tossed by kindred spirit Fulgencio Batista, his Cuban presidency an off-on again status recently cauterized by rigged elections and alliance with notorious Meyer Lansky, latter the inspiration for Lee Strasberg's character in The Godfather --- Part Two. By 1956 and Flynn's touching down to make The Big Boodle, Havana was one wide-open town.
"The Monte Carlo of the Caribbean" saw hotels retro-fitted to casino modernity, with Lansky's ironically a straightest deal around. He wanted pro gamblers who'd appreciate on-the-level cards and spend accordingly. Meyer expanded the old Nacional Hotel and began construction on dream site The Havana Riviera, cradle of crime serving appetite of honest (if misguided) tourism. Into this perfumed sinkhole came moviemakers lured by hands-off government and off-duty pleasures Caligula himself might have blanched over. Havana Blossoms Into Top Show Biz Spot South of U.S., cheered Variety in February, 1956, which just showed how readily said Biz could be corrupted. Those with eyes and less conscience knew this was a Mafia stronghold, yet the trade applauded Cuba's political stability (¡Ay, Caramba!), tighter control of labor, and new, encouraging laws. Among these was tax exemption for new industries, bent on this occasion to include indie gold-seeker Lewis F. Blumberg, son of Universal top dog Nate and producing on his own for a first time. The Big Boodle would be adapted from a quarter paperback by Robert Sylvester, the yarn based on real-life smuggling of Cuban currency out of a previous regime's coffers. Everyday occurrence was this, it seemed, except now it was Batista looting government safes.
Enter Errol Flynn, a Hollywood star "at liberty" you might say, though busy withal doing British-lensed TV anthologies he had to vacate on receipt of Blumberg's Havana invite. The deal was solid enough. United Artists had agreed to distribute The Big Boodle, and maybe front seed money besides, as Blumberg's was a name (albeit one flying on borrowed wings) good for opening doors if not wallets. Hollywood's second generation was already staking Cuba for cheap locations, Sam Goldwyn Jr. just repaired south with Vic Mature to do The Sharkfighters. I'm trying to imagine shock a crew felt upon first sighting of Errol. He'd sunk fathoms since quitting stateside work. A would-be comeback at Universal, Istanbul, was completed, but so far unseen, when The Big Boodle began shooting. Flynn's Blackjack dealer is on the trail of funny money and plates from which same derives, a set-up without juice to pass 84 minute litmus other than tiringly, but who among its innervated company would have recognized the gem of a time capsule they were filling? Havana settings would be emphasized, Flynn crossing streets and plazas at leisure, engaging co-players at luxury poolside, and so on. Background included an alleged bordello, for which only the "reception area" was utilized for shooting, according to Variety, plus a wind-up showdown at historic Morro Castle. Flynn learned BJ dealing at the Nacional ... they offered him a job should movies crap out, and based on recent evidence, might only have been half-kidding.
Critics would laud Errol's debauched authority as a down-and-outer scraping for bucks, the press abuzz over creditors vying with ex-wives for whatever poundage of Flynn flesh was left. He scored a pyrrhic victory in Rome against the cartel fleecing a William Tell venture that wouldn't see completion ... but where was good in a $340,000 judgment by all accounts uncollectable? EF got busy dictating memoirs on a portable recorder, non-inflammable tape, we assume, chuckled Army Archerd. Errol was always news even if his movies weren't, being game enough to boost The Big Boodle, this having most to do with twenty-five percent ownership of the negative. Such were vagaries of Cuban commerce that saw this guest paid in rum, cigars, and sugar for appearances on Havana TV. Island nightlife was Flynn's ideal of bacchanalian revelry, morn-after effect captured mercilessly by Lee Garmes' camera. Director of The Big Boodle was former Orson Welles compatriot Richard Wilson, who knew well enough what good pictures looked like, even if this wouldn't be one of them. Lukey (as he was called) Blumberg took pride in having finished Boodle for just over $600K, he and Errol already conjuring their next partnered venture, to be shot in New York (didn't happen).
The Big Boodle was readied for early 1957 dates. Ads and art (as above) gave in to pulpy and girl-focused as befitted indifferent outcome of the project. Dame-Baited Double-Crosses were promised and Errol Flynn of fifteen years before might have delivered. You'd think so based on cruelly-timed avalanching of Warner oldies via television. Was this what Flynn had come to in so short a time? Everything is right for filming again in the US, said trade described "expatriate" EF to Variety scribes: Contractual involvements, inferior technical facilities and abnormal financial problems overweigh the advantages of colorful locales and the actual story sites in overseas production, he'd add, no doubt reflecting on now completed The Big Boodle. Flynn would return to Cuba, inadvisably, less to make movies than to dive head (and what was left of reputation) first into that country's revolution-fueled downfall. The Big Boodle struggled toward 5,368 domestic bookings, most of these as second-billed of combos. US rentals were a fallow $214,057, with foreign $350K more. Together they failed to meet Boodle's negative cost. Lewis F. Blumberg would not produce another feature. Flynn's last few might have taken him in direction of character starring, but fate and bad habits caught up too soon for promise to be realized.
Thursday, February 17, 2011
A Little Star Trek Still Goes a Long Way
Greenbriar would seem no fit place for Star Trek-king, but a past weekend's view of Paramount's recent (2009) reboot sent memory warping back to series' start and more follow-ups than even I imagined were out there. Merciful heavens --- how many programs and movies were spun off that blueprint? The newest Star Trek was fun as expected from trailers and clips. They actually went back to beginnings here --- none of Captain Picard, Deep Space Nines, or alien crew members with off-putting facial appliance. Way-back stories for Kirk and Spock get in parent loss obligatory to all hero backgrounds, super or otherwise. Pace is fast and by numbers. Thank providence there is humor too often withheld from self-serious Treks of yore. Not that I've seen many ... but how to avoid this franchise coming of age from mid-sixties on? Hard to believe it all originated forty-five years ago. I read NBC wanted ST off schedules after a weak first season, and that Lucille Ball single-handedly forced a renewal. Now there's reason sufficient for Trekkers to love Lucy, assuming the tale's true. Which reminds me to bow humbly before fact-checker fans I'd invite to correct gaffes detected here. I admit knowing little beyond random Trek interfacing through youth and briefer sightings since. With such easy access from this phenomenon's start, why didn't I become a lifelong ST devotee?
Maybe it was fast fade I felt the series did after a promising first season. Don't know how those would play after all this time, but certain episodes linger for having impressed this twelve-year-old in 1966. Trouble came with Season Two's opener and Spock flipping out during a Vulcan visit (would his planet have been called "Vulca"?). I switched off that September 1967 night and didn't come back. I guess one reason TV programs never grabbed me was radical change too often imposed between one season and a next, seldom ones for the better. Still, I had friends sustained week to week by Star Trek. One was nearly killed rushing home (for a third season episode) when his bicycle made contact with an enemy vessel from the planet Oldsmobile. Fans bereft over cancellation of Star Trek were sated by afternoon syndication that, among other things, knocked my beloved Wild, Wild West reruns off Channel 12, fanning further indifference, if not resentment, toward Starship enterprising. The lure persisted somehow, though. Trek loyalist Bob Craft of sophomore English brought in a list received from Gene Roddenberry's office, ST's producer peddling refuse off his cancelled series --- props you could mail at minimal cost, 35mm frames mounted as slides --- a bric-a-brac mosaic otherwise bound for dumpsters at Paramount. I actually ordered some of the film strips. Last inspection of these revealed Eastman color turned red as a fox tail, yet I'd imagine some collector out there in Trek-land would regard these still a valued find.
The massive hit of Star Wars put ST back in business, this time at theatres (Star Trek --- The Motion Picture a foreboding 1979 title). Robert Wise directed as though it were Lawrence Of Arabia. They stripped cheesy velour shirts in favor of uniforms nobody liked (a neat thing about 2009's revisit ... the old TV fashions are back). I'd treasure ST---TMP as life's only occasion (so far) of falling asleep in a crowded theatre. Further Star Trek motion pictures were skipped, except for a pretty good one where Enterprisers travelled back in time to Earth in order to save whales or some such and preserve the world to come --- did I get that right? William Shatner bit fan hands that fed him in what I'd still call a nasty sketch Saturday Night Live hipsters concocted for his guest hosting there in 1986. Get a Life! was a kick to fan-boy shins they didn't necessarily have coming ... wonder if Shatner regretted it since. Leonard Nimoy took higher roads and waxed philosophical over Spockamania, reward being invitation to the 2009 party, his performance notable and most welcome among a mostly neophyte cast. Reminds me ... I knew a guy who once chaired the Walter "Chekov" Koenig Fan Club ... that's all, just thought I'd mention it.
Star Trek for Paramount has been a geyser spewing forth money. Is a street there named after Gene Roddenberry? Should be. I'm too tired to look for how many movies and series they spun off Star Trek. Must have been hundreds. The recent one had reverence for the franchise's history. All the old characters were back minus ones I cared less about (Picard and company again). Nimoy/Spock is introduced as though he were God's voice and co-players were receiving the tablets. Somewhere I read that Shatner was aggrieved over being left off guest rolls. Guess that's what he gets for wearing a clown nose for so long. My friend Norman Stuart, onetime book and video reviewer for the old Movie Collector's World, proposes that Shatner's Captain Kirk was a knowing send-up of pulp heroics that pre-dated Airplane! spoofers Leslie Neilson and kin. Maybe it's time we reassessed droll comedy that's been Bill's schtick-in-trade right from beginnings. It'll be interesting to see how Paramount builds on this latest of ST incarnations. Do these youngsters have a decade or more in their Trek kits? Surely fans have, though I'm wondering as to numbers still committed. With ability to enter one's own video gamed Star Trek and fight Klingons close-up, where's attraction of seeing it done on a flat movie screen? (or even a 3-D one?)