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Thursday, January 31, 2013


The Watch List For 1/31/13

BAD BOY (1925) --- Among rollicking anecdotes Leo McCarey told was the time he fell down an elevator shaft and broke both legs. Fun, huh? Humor was different then. Roughhouse came natural to a tougher breed for whom broke limbs was the breaks, and to be expected, so no wonder slapstick came sudden and sometimes cruel. Not that Charley Chase's were at Larry Semon level of carnage, but he and McCarey knew well, and bonded on realization, that life dealt jokers far more often than a pat hand, and the best comedy (like theirs) needed to reflect this. How much should we credit McCarey with quality of Chase comedy? Some among auteurism's membership would give it all to the future potentate of screwball. They'd score up McCarey for Laurel and Hardy's success as well. I'll say it was 75% Chase at point of Bad Boy (the second starring two-reeler he did), and acknowledge that for learning/improving all the time, McCarey's percentage would increase as did progress of the series. Maybe by teaming time of L&H, he was the guiding genius, and it was Laurel who learned from LMc toward flourishing of a Stan/Babe partnership.


I do know McCarey credited Chase with teaching him everything he knew, this a gracious hindsight from well after Charley had passed on. Maybe it's enough that McCarey was a more than promising newcomer and Chase had mature enough appreciation of talent to let the younger man find his level so everyone could benefit. What's obvious is advantage to Bad Boy of an added reel, Charley Chase a comedian who needed relax time to set up his character and situation. The mama's boy and timid suitor was a good start, and worked so long as Charley had appearance of youth. 20's audiences liked laughing at any antithesis of go-getting that served as model for men, the halting and frequently embarrassed Chase persona a blueprint CC would keep, with minor variation, for the rest of a career. Bad Boy set a standard for Chases to come, and it was high. Most of his with McCarey were at least as good, the larger part surviving thanks to Pathe-released shorts being sold on 16mm to home collectors.


THE PEARL OF DEATH (1944) --- I'll go on a limb and venture that The Pearl Of Death, along with The Lodger, was the scariest movie released in 1944. Censorship was stringent upon horrors, but mysteries could and did get away with content I'd call horrific. The monster here is Rondo Hatton's Creeper, built up throughout as a fiend given to back-breaking his victims. Hatton's real-life acromegaly made for a frightful, if afflicted, face emerging from shadows to final reel confront Sherlock Holmes. I don't know any Universal fiends at the time so engaged as this Creeper, who'd be back as the company's horror brand wore down, but never so effectively as his first appearance here. The Pearl Of Death goes familiar Holmesian route of the detective's rush effort to gather related objects that will explain murders and unmask the culprit. Pearl relates too with Uni horrors via use of Evelyn Ankers as disguise-prone henchwoman to master-minding Miles Mander. Holmes at Universal never struck me as B level, each and all entries handsomely produced and solid set-decorated. Lost count years ago as to number of Pearl views, but there'll be many more thanks to Blu-Ray boxing of the fourteen title series.


 
LET'S DO IT AGAIN (1953) --- Broadway composer Ray Milland spends a feature's length wooing back wife Jane Wyman before their divorce becomes final. Done at Columbia where musicals weren't generally a patch on even what Warners released, all studios save Metro having cut back spending for such. Someone by this time had decided that Wyman should sing (and often), our endurance depending on individual taste, or lack of, for this performer (Let's Do It Again like a continuation of her character from Just For You). Competing with Milland for Wyman's hand are Tom Helmore and Aldo Ray, both sans notable aptitude for music or farcing, but game withal and offbeat assets to Let's Do It Again, itself approaching the cliff from which old-style musicals would plunge once rock and roll arrived to shake/rattle the genre. I watched mainly because TCM ran a gorgeous transfer from Columbia. Writer Richard Matheson later said he got his idea for The Incredible Shrinking Man from a Ray Milland-Tom Helmore hat switch gag here, one instance of a mediocre film inspiring a classic one.


ME AND MY GAL (1932) --- Much humor of a men's smoker sort as cop Spencer Tracy bird-dogs sassy waitress Joan Bennett, their battle of will/wits enlivening a Fox programmer fortunately directed by Raoul Walsh, him being primary reason for modern interest in the pic. Watch co-stars here, then in Father Of The Bride, and know how radically their images, and the biz itself, would change over less than two decades. Gal's another precode where amusement lamps switch on and off --- on when Tracy/Bennett parry, distinctly off where a tiresome drunk on fringes overstays his less-than welcome. Walsh's humor was a type that would depart as movies got more genteel, thus occasional head-scratch as to what made his funny-bone vibrate (obviously lots of the drunk indulged here). Me and My Gal is a privileged glimpse of 1932 time passed for a dime's admission, and orchids to TCM for dredging it up.




Tuesday, January 29, 2013


The Watch List For 1/29/13

HOW MOTION PICTURES BECAME THE MOVIES (2013) --- Sometimes, a single hour comes along where you really learn something. Such was case for me yesterday when I online-tuned into historian David Bordwell's presentation on How Motion Pictures Became The Movies (HERE, or HERE). You'll know Bordwell from much and marvelous film scholarship, plus the splendid site he hosts which has been on Greenbriar's link list from beginnings. His is a seventy minute power point review of how pics developed during crucial years between 1908 and 1920, with emphasis on artistic choices and changes that emerged in feature filmmaking during that period (Bordwell's words). I was fascinated by ways editing got used by American producers to vault ahead of Euro rivals, and how techniques introduced a century ago remain with us today. Bordwell proposes Cinemascope in early incarnation as encore stage for tableau framing popular in the teens and before, with example shots from well-known How To Marry A Millionaire, Island In The Sun (above image), etc. Bordwell is a good speaker who explains everything clearly and in a manner easy to grasp. My attention never drifted from the captivating story he told. The many illustration/examples spike our involvement: no dry lecture this, as Bordwell moves deftly along his topics and keeps interest lively. There's also promise of more such videos, for which I'll eager-wait and certainly watch when Bordwell posts them. For meanwhile, How Motion Pictures Became The Movies gets highest Greenbriar recommendation.


SONG OF THE GRINGO (1936) --- I've been a fan of Tex Ritter's music, but till now hadn't watched his westerns beyond excerpt sampling, so am here to belatedly say that Tex is The Man. Who knew his speaking voice was as powerful an instrument as his singing? Ritter had a Texas drawl that's poetry to these listening ears, and I go considerably for his offbeat way with song. Producer Ed Finney led off a Ritter series with Gringo, so it's myriad talents of Tex spotlighted throughout. Always nice when your cowboys, even singing ones, look and talk the part. Among Ritter's recital is Rye Whiskey, which Tex immortalized over and again for a long career ahead. Grand National released Song Of The Gringo during a flush year when they also briefly hooked James Cagney for a pair of outlaw vehicles he did to spite Warner bosses. Song Of The Gringo was a TCM one-shot, so guess I'll have to go looking for Tex at DVD hideouts.


DIZZY DISHES (1930) --- A rough and rowdy Max Fleischer Talkertoon, featuring his canine find, Bimbo, but memorable more for introducing a nascent Betty Boop, here with dog ears and too wide a head. Richard Fleischer, son of Max, and his biographer, said that animator Grim Natwick waited until Dad's death to claim creator credit for Betty, this under heading of success having many fathers. Is there proof of who invented BB? The beanery where Bimbo toils has a floor show like roughhewn ones in Paramount's Applause from the previous year. Everyone talks post-dub (no regard to sync) and guttural. Fleischer drawings had a way of getting right in your face: that plus harsh voice makes them seem almost threatening. Max's crew worked right off Broadway and spent nights carousing vaudeville and drink joints. They went not for refinery and preferred humor crude. As long as that kept up, they could go proud even in the face of Disney dominance. It was when MF began imitating WD that decline set in.


THE NIGHT CRY (1926) --- Rin-Tin-Tin accused of sheep murder --- must find real culprit! The dog series was Warner's sustenance during a silent and initial talking era. Done cheaply, but aimed to please, these routinely set forest fires at the boxoffice, it arguable that Rinty was a best asset WB had. The Night Cry's a sort that never got respect and isn't likely to, being work of craftsmen who for a most part never gained critic/cultist stature (other than writing Darryl Zanuck, whose apprenticeship these were). Rinty was, truth to say, a better and more subtle actor than many who mimed through a talk-less period. Magic he managed just with soulful eyes might put Garbo and Gish to shame. Quiet scenes were succulent hambone to Rinty --- he did them beautifully --- action too was his métier as RTT scraps forcefully with rival dogs and a wicked condor that Grapevine's DVD enhanced with screeching sound FX whenever it swooped. Human players count for little, so John Harron and June Marlowe mostly react to the dog, who reacts (better) to them. There was a bucket of Rin-Tin-Tins, many sadly missing now.


MIDNIGHT CLUB (1933) --- Scotland Yard's Sir Guy Standing out to nab Clive Brook and his jewel-thieving mob, its number swelled by horning-in Yank George Raft. Precode amenities abound: Raft strip-searches Helen Vinson for diamonds concealed, one crook gets off scot-free, and it's implied that ringleader Brook will make good a promised escape. What's so irresistible as a nightclub setting circa early 30's? Paramount deco-dresses theirs to elegant nines, and no matter absurdity of plot. Midnight Club stays a merry pace to 64 minutes such froth can sustain. Getting established Raft flips car keys instead of a coin, underplays to a point of being absent from the room. Has anyone noticed what big ears he had? Raft's the Dumbo Clark Gable was kidded for being. Lead man Brook saw humor of Midnight Club and plays to it. He'd be better known and liked if more of these Paramounts were in circulation. Seen on a surprisingly nice booted DVD.




Saturday, January 26, 2013


Tough Battlefield For A Farewell To Arms --- Part One

Used to be that A Farewell To Arms couldn't be seen complete. Prints were gelded and dim besides. I didn't even want to watch what UHF channels broadcast in the 70's after the Paramount 1932 version went apparent PD. What brought this to recent attention? A TCM view of Warners' called-by-some remake, Force Of Arms, which it isn't, but close enough being so for WB to hedge bets (and forestall Hemingway legal challenge) by owning the Farewell property, which they'd later barter to Selznick for his '57 re-do. Confused yet? Might be my addled prose, or fact that 1932's A Farewell To Arms walked through fire toward at-last recovered completeness in first a 2004 Image DVD, then Blu-Ray splendor more recently from Kino. That rescue was serendipity made possible by a Selznick-saved print of the original before it was Code-cut in 1938 (DOS saved everything), just another reason why we should revere him. What I'm about here and in Part Two is back-track through Farewell's thicket from '32 to happy High-Def place it today occupies.


A Farewell To Arms had been considered a classic right from start, being one of Paramount's (few) hits in an otherwise depleted 1932. Old man Depression couldn't stop director Frank Borgaze's romantic steer of Gary Cooper-Helen Hayes into moviegoer memories; they'd treasure time spent with the pair and ask for repeat engagements, accommodated so long as exchanges had stock. Forward to May 1938: Product is industry-wide low (a bereft summer was looming) and majors look to revival of past hits to fill scheduling. Dracula and Frankenstein come back to unexpected crowds. Even Valentino's two Sheik silents return to satisfaction of a talkie public's curiosity. Paramount had clicked with recent encore of The Virginian, a Gary Cooper (very) oldie folks still talked about; that was good for what Variety called a "found" $170K. Could A Farewell To Arms, even better regarded, go a more profitable distance?


What stoked potential was Helen Hayes wowing legit-goers as Victoria Regina, the play just off a sock Broadway run and now touring as new Farewell prints were prepped. These first had to go before PCA authority for a '38 Seal of Approval, censor-speak for Farewell's head upon a butcher's block. How deep was the chop? Well, enough to ruin what Borgaze and crew had effected in 1932, and that had only come after intense wrangling with so-called precode authority (headed then by easier-going Jason Joy). Still, A Farewell To Arms had cache and maybe renewed relevance now that a world seemed newly bent toward war. Variety headlined on 5/31/38 that AFTA Will Be Given Same Bally As (A) New Film, which meant heavy exploitation, local press previews, the works. Toward getting back coin spent, Para set a straight 20% of receipts as toll for theatres playing their (200 new prints) revival.


What would hopefully help too was "Queen Of The American Stage" Helen Hayes pitching in with a boost, Para publicity chief Terry DeLapp dispatched to Frisco where she'd preview, Variety said, a slightly deleted print ... to see if, in her opinion, the expurgations ordered by the Hays office were in any way objectionable. Maybe Helen's memory of the original was cloudy, or she just decided to play ball ... either way, a trade ad ran her endorsement: "A Farewell To Arms Is The Finest Thing I Have Ever Done." The trade a week later pointed out humorous aspect of Victoria Regina having its LA run in direct opposition to A Farewell To Arms a block away. Helen Hayes was competing with herself! Film house booking is not expected to cut into her legit performance take, assured a columnist, and how true those words turned out to be, as Farewell's comeback went disastrously with a brutal $1,500 in the till for its first two days. Were visiting Shriners in front of the theatre and crowding street corners responsible? --- or was it fact that patrons are just not interested in viewing a reissue that has previously been thoroughly milked in the nabe subsequent runs.


Paramount forged ahead, engaging in ticklish negotiation with the Italian government for permission to release A Farewell To Arms in that fascist stronghold. "Satisfactory agreement" was reached in September, the country's spokesman issuing  a statement that Fascists do not believe reflections on Italy or scenes distasteful to Rome were intentional. Variety's 1938 year-end biz summary ID'ed a "Death Knell" for reissues: While the revival of old films in some cases registered modest profits for their makers, the "take" was trivial when compared with the customer resentment that developed in some sections of the country. So back into storage went A Farewell To Arms, never to be reissued by Paramount again ... but vault-bound to stay? Not hardly.




Thursday, January 24, 2013


The Watch List For 1/24/13

ANGELS WITH DIRTY FACES (1938) --- Simply the summit of gangster melodramas at WB. This was what Cagney got as gift for returning there after his Grand National misadventure. Angels would be remembered as well, or better, than Public Enemy, Rocky's walk to the chair a masterstroke of did he or didn't he (turn yellow). Jim and Pat O' Brien had worked together before, never so effectively as here. JC got one look at how Warners dressed their backlot tenement and had to admit there was no place like (his studio) home. I've read how Dead End Kids teased/picked on Humphrey Bogart, but that Cagney jerked knots in them, which may prove that Jim was the tougher Warner guy. Considering their respective upbrings, there's little doubt of JC being more streetwise, and it's known he didn't take Bogie's bad-act too seriously.


I love Angels' street scene: it's slummy, but somehow you're home there. Did girls lovely and benign as Ann Sheridan live in such places? I could do with six or a dozen suits like ones Jim wears here. Background music at the El Toro sounds great. Wish it were CD pressed. Don't any of the Dead End Kids have parents? I showed Angels to a GF once and she was alarmed by aggressor way Cagney fired a pistol. He brandished firearms similar to florid hand gesturing of precode beginning (the wife had warned him about overdoing that after seeing Hard To Handle). In fact, Jim did every physical thing in a style unlike others, reason, he might have argued, for getting big bucks. It wasn't known then that terms for Cagney returning to Warners included percentage share of rentals. Had others on WB straight-wage list found out, there might have been mutiny. How valuable was he? More so, I'd guess, than anyone who worked at the firm until Bogart broke out, and by then, Cagney was gone of his own accord. Angels With Dirty Faces is likeliest the one that set JC upon icon status. He got several critic awards for Best Performance that year, even though the Academy gave theirs to Spencer Tracy.


Directing Mike Curtiz gets full value from Angel set-ups, each abetted by quick-time edits that move 97 minutes like half that. This may-be my favorite 30's movie that isn't comic or horrific. The Dead End Kids are in check and register as distinct personalities. I'd guess this was where moulds were firmed for decades-ahead work on East Sides, Boweries: sites and labels to come. Humbled star George Bancroft and up-and-coming Bogart supply sinister backdrop. Would Father Jerry have gone as hard on Rocky had he realized the latter twice saved his life? That first occasion on railroad tracks would have clinched a lifetime pass from me: I'd not clamp down on Rocky from that point no matter what he did. Frankie Burke playing Sullivan-as-kid has uncanny resemblance to Cagney. Was he coached by his model? JC's powerful last scene is solely done with voice, plus hands clutching at a radiator. For impact that has, you'd imagine in hindsight seeing Cagney writhe head-to-feet, and there's the measure of his great performance.


CHINA GIRL (1942) --- Originally tabbed as a bigger picture to star Tyrone Power, China Girl came off Fox assembly a less stable "A," but well-written (Ben Hecht) and visually a beaut (that emphasized by 20th's On-Demand DVD). China Girl is romantic fantasy of pre-war, soldier-of-fortune George Montgomery unwilling to commit until met by half-caste Gene Tierney (the story was Darryl Zanuck's, scripting by Hecht). Nippon opposition is alternately labeled "lice" and "monkeys," a Chinese village populace machine-gunned for an opener atrocity to get points straightaway across. Fox approximates oriental setting as we'd imagine, or prefer it, China Girl at times like a bigger budget Mr. Moto. Hotel interiors, dining area, and bar were splendidly realized in LA's Bradbury Building, atmospheric site where D.O.A. and scores of noirs would later play out. Characters like Montgomery's reflect America's reluctance to enter the conflict, so it has to get personal for him to arm up (how long would the US have waited if not for Pearl Harbor?). Lynn Bari, called Queen Of Fox B's, commends herself well as agent for the Japs who switches loyalty in GM's favor. Directing Henry Hathaway likely took this purely as assignment, but what skill and panache with action he brings.


THE GIGOLO RACKET (1931) --- Helen Morgan put been-there feel into torch singing that made up for lack of voice range, so startling is comparison with Gogi Grant, who'd put over with dynamic force the HM catalogue as vocal stand-in for Ann Blyth in 1957's bio-pic, The Helen Morgan Story. The Gigolo Racket was a Vitaphone two-reeler said to be Morgan's only appearance at less than feature-length. She's matronly at age thirty --- what a hard road this woman traveled. You could wish for twenty minutes of concertizing rather than two songs and the rest contrivance of star Helen going along with manager John Hamilton's scheme to pair her with a gigolo for publicity purposes. Morgan was deep in the sauce by 30's juncture, but had presence and tragic grandeur lent by years at speakeasy perf'ing and selling out Broadway in a legendary Showboat turn as Julie LaVerne. Helen might have been a great character actress in films given better circumstance, this based on wow work in Applause and the 1936 Showboat. She and stage colleague Jeanne Eagels were somewhat alike for dynamic, though limited, screen appearing, then premature lights out. The Gigolo Racket is another gem off Warner Archives' newest Vitaphone shorts DVD set.




Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Book Choice --- When Hollywood Came To Town

The best books interact with other media: they'll send you in search of movies referenced within, thus doubling joy of the read. Such a Pied Piper, newly updated from original 2010 publication, is James D'Arc's When Hollywood Came To Town: A History Of Moviemaking In Utah, which near-resolves me to fly out there and visit glorious settings for so many pics I'd call favorites. Visit? We might all do to retire there. It's not just Monument Valley they boast: the state is fairly honeycombed with breathtaking sites to film, all of which D'Arc covers with a painterly pen and illustrations for wow onlooking. Picture-makers didn't just show up to shoot: it needed push on part of Utah residents (really entrepreneurs) to get Hollywood off its provincial dime and go where vistas could be captured as no place else.

What enhances most is D'Arc himself being an accomplished film historian. He's curator of Brigham Young University's Motion Picture Archive and lends the book a wealth of insider knowledge and fruit of many interviews conducted with those who made movie magic on Utah location. And the images? I was jaw-dropped by many gone beyond rare. Having read for years of tent cities John Ford built for his Monument Valley crews, who'd of thought a color photo would turn up of said accommodations for The Searchers --- yet here it is. D'Arc covers multiple regions and gives each a chapter. I picked one to start, Kane County, and acquainted myself with background and history before repairing to view of travel folder westerns shot there, 20th Fox's Western Union and Universal-International's Red Canyon. Both are fortunately accessible on HD, Western Union from Vudu and Red Canyon off Retroplex, quality a best it could be. What better way to make D'Arc's Utah Hollywood come to my town?

According to the book, Kane County seat Kanab and surrounding ground were primarily site for Western Union and Red Canyon, most striking points being the red-tinted Vermilion Cliffs and Johnson Canyon, which later became Zion National Park. Said setting had been used for several budget westerns that were first to utilize Kane-Kanab, but further development, plus traversable roads, were needed in order to lure big-budget filmmakers. A first of these was director Fritz Lang's crew for Western Union, which added punch of Technicolor to show places not captured as such on film before. Same old rocks and trees back home wouldn't do for high-ticket picture folk who wanted their westerns to capture sights unique. Western Union has just that and a good Zane Grey story besides. Knowing where and under what conditions it was filmed makes the watching that much more of a pleasure, and author D'Arc supplies much in the way of behind-scenes lore.


Red Canyon is among horse stories popular in the 40's, having clicked since silents when Rex wonder-steeded for Hal Roach. Now with 40's addition of Technicolor, equine subjects enjoyed second coming, and all the majors drank from a winning trough. Red Canyon was Universal's and a vehicle for ingénue Ann Blyth and promising newcomer Howard Duff, a radio vet whose face, if not voice, was fresh. Coming to Kane-Kanab did wonders for backdrop: this was among loveliest-shot westerns the decade offered. Crimson cliffs for which Vermilion was noted had values not altogether of this earth. Bob Lippert, given more budget for his Rocketship X-M, might have been well advised to shoot his Mars-scape here, so red planet evocative is Vermilion. I'll be pulling more to watch as peruse continues through When Hollywood Came To Town --- many more notable films were shot in Utah than I'd realized --- and what reading satisfaction it is to have such splendid coverage of them all between two covers.




Saturday, January 19, 2013


GPS and DC5 Are Having A Wild Weekend

British invaders were many and varied from the late 50's through the sixties. Horror/sci-fi, rock shows, and James Bond actually outnumbered US pics I saw at the Liberty during latter-half 1965. Of musicals, A Hard Day's Night and Help! were obviously most popular from over there, but there was also Ferry Cross The Mersey and Having A Wild Weekend, both having had choppier crossing, and least exposure since. Ferry showcased Gerry and The Pacemakers, Liverpool boys handled too by Beatles brain-trust Brian Epstein. The Liberty 7/65 doubled Ferry Cross The Mersey with similarly Brit-lensed Tomb Of Ligeia, the latter being what I wanted more to see. Strenuous argument ensued that afternoon with a neighbor boy over which of the combo would be longer remembered. I ventured Ligeia, but in view of Drew's age and size advantage, did not belabor the point. Forty-eight years and Ferry Cross The Mersey's virtual disappearance would seem to have corroborated me, but would Drew still recall the debate?


Having A Wild Weekend has lately returned, thanks to Warner Archive DVD release. Here was The Dave Clark Five's bid for ticket-selling beyond US-performing at concerts and on TV (they practically lived on Ed Sullivan's show). A Hard Day's Night had hit for the Beatles --- could Warners do as much with Having A Wild Weekend? The DC5 were called a nearest rival to Liverpool's foursome, having been frequent on Top-40 charts. They matched outfits after Beatle fashion and did a July Shindig for ABC just ahead of Weekend's open. Plan was for the boys to live-tour and theatre-appear to thump WB's release of 400 prints, saturation play to hopefully begin and wrap before schools got going for the Fall. Having A Wild Weekend was UK-titled Catch Us If You Can, but stateside marketing needed a livelier label; both were hit-bound tunes in any case from Epic's soundtrack, set for tandem release with the film.


Warner's campaign was keyed to abandon and fun-for-all that was A Hard Day's Night, their trailer looking like virtual replay of UA's success, but this Weekend was not altogether celebratory. Creatively in charge Dave Clark tendered instead a bleak-at-times dig at commercial interests soiling music expression and youth's integrity (one ad exec has what seems a Peeping Tom obsession with Barbara Ferris' ingénue); add to that an ending the charitable might call bittersweet. Clearly this Weekend would have a Monday hangover. Could bookings outpace disappointed word-of-mouth? Songs, good ones, were there, but only on the soundtrack: we don't see the boys perform. Here too was Dave to more-or-less exclusion of his mates, sensible maybe for his coming closest to lead man looks, jokingly called "saturnine" in HAWW. London was DC5's base, theirs an upbeat tempo rocking past the Beatles' slowing one.


Opener gag has the Five cribbing in an abandoned church with pipe organ wake-up; I expected earlier Children Of The Damned residents to serve notice of eviction. HAWW is at times dingy and kitchen sink-ish, that pleasing by modern measure, but didn't '65 Yanks prefer pristine and swinging London? Dave and a runaway ad-model girlfriend taste austerity still in '65 effect, driving their Jaguar past a disabled WWII tank without comment. There's also unsettling encounter with crypto-hippies who ask for "weed" and "horse," their manner and number sufficient to imply ritual kill or cannibal impulse, admittedly less clear a threat in pre-Manson 1965. As eventual hitch-hikers, Dave and companion are given transport by an edgy couple with possible designs on both (Were they kinks?, asks one of the Five later). Wonder what domestic teens made of this. Disaffected "Guy," well past estrangement from his wife, displays a stash of vintage projectors and hung one-sheets (including Bogart in The Big Shot) that previews perhaps how many of us collectors would end up. The group then convenes to a party where revelers dress as past film stars Jean Harlow, The Marx Bros., Karloff's Frankenstein. A blackface celebrant stirs neither comment nor censure, possibly a last time we'd see such an image on screen without arousing one or the other.


Variety gave Weekend a round kick, bad recording and slurred speech basis for their pan (it was hard enough understanding these Brits without their technicians mucking things up!). Concert incidents got DC5 unwelcome trade press, which referred to their fan base as "the lollipop market." A July 5 Phoenix gig became Variety's idea of a "melee" thanks to a panicked local DJ who grabbed Dave Clark's mike and demanded the show be stopped "to protect the kids." DC5 manager Rick Picone put it all down as S.O.P. "when we play the provinces," noting no doubt a 13,000 seat coliseum with only 3,000 filled, tickets sold at $4.50 tops. A Paterson, NJ dust-up on August 21 was more serious, DC5 local theatre-appearing to boost Having A Wild Weekend when Picone and one other entourage member got into a rumble with cops. According to the latter, Picone and private guard assist were hitting kids when they got too close to the band. Defense argued that police were trying to block fan access to the Five, and "worked over" Picone's man. DC5 hopped a next Transatlantic in the wake of what Variety called an "imbroglio."


The Liberty got Having A Wild Weekend for two days, September 30-October 1, 1965. Our Starlight Drive-In had played Ferry Cross The Mersey over a brisk autumn weekend just passed. Col. Forehand amended his newspaper ad to read Having A Wonderful Weekend: would the original title have invited controversy? I didn't bother going because Help! was on the way for a following Liberty week, and we figured the Beatles for a safer entertainment bet. Warners may have blamed Help! for routing their own British invasion, the Mop-Top's second UA feature scooping US gravy within weeks of Having A Wild Weekend. Domestic rentals for Weekend stalled at $511K, but still there was $100K in profit thanks to the pic's low negative cost: $282,000. Warners owned their import, but didn't include Weekend among non-theatrical rents in WB Film Gallery catalogues I checked. Was The Dave Clark Five, having disbanded in 1970, too "out" to attract a campus picturegoing "in" crowd? Having A Wild Weekend did turn up by the mid-seventies in a WB syndicated-for-TV package with 27 bunkmates the likes of My Blood Runs Cold and Two On A Guillotine. Warner Archives' DVD is a nicely rendered 1.85 and highly recommended to both DC5 fans and curiosity seekers after 60's Brit pix.
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