Classic movie site with rare images, original ads, and behind-the-scenes photos, with informative and insightful commentary. We like to have fun with movies!
Archive and Links
Search Index Here

Monday, August 28, 2017

Short Trips Back Are The Sweetest

Can Movies Compete With Music To Move Us?

Here's how quick emotion for the past can be aroused. Last week had an all-Rod Taylor day on TCM. I flipped past and there was The Time Machine, RT embarked upon first trip forward. For fleeting moment came thrust back to my own first awareness of The Time Machine, a 1961 day when my brother brought Dell's comic adapt into the house, its cover featuring Rod Taylor in his magic transport, plus escaping a Morlock. Tie-in mags thrilled me not for drawings inside, but images on the front to draw eyes at the newsstand and entice a dime purchase. These weren't tinted like lobby cards, but the McCoy as in photographic art, full-color and not seen elsewhere. I salted that Dell and have it to this day. Exposure to the movie wouldn't come until 1-9-65 and NBC primetime broadcast. Such moments rush back when I encounter past films so meaningful. There are hundreds to rouse emotion stilled since a last exposure. I didn't stay with The Time Machine over a minute because there wasn't need to. Lingering would have exposed cracks in fragile porcelain, a weak second half, future dwellers so passive that I'd just as soon they be fed to Morlocks, and then lame excuse for menace the Morlocks turned out to be (only The Giant Claw has them beat for non-threatening threat).

The scene I stumbled on was ideal to wring nostalgia's tear. The Victorian setting. Taylor in smoking jacket and awed by his splendid creation. Rich color playing amidst soft-lit interior. And ticking clocks always a most soothing aspect of The Time Machine for me. I'd later know a collector who had tick-tocks all through his house. Like Rod Taylor's George, Mike had a basement too, only his was filled with 16mm film rather than a time transport. I almost expected to find the latter when we went downstairs, so much did the place remind me of The Time Machine. Do stumbles-across a sentimental favorite work better where fleeting? Clip programs have the right idea. Most people, certainly ones outside the passion, will say they love a movie without any intention of watching it again. To do so is investment of time after all, ninety minutes to two or more hours, and it'll not be the same as when first and deepest impression was made. Too many films curl up and die when we go back to them. Especially where they arrived first to childhood or one's romantic youth (Gosh, this doesn't seem as good as when I first saw it).

Music has eternal advantage over movies where return is had to age of wonder. A song transports, holds the trance two and a half minutes, then gently deposits us back to reality, or a next treasured oldie. Listeners zone out for duration of Love Train, or Steely Dan singing Peg, basking in memory. These I mention because they seem a most often played on Sirius channels. I can't drive to Winston and back without hearing both at least once. Imagine toted-up exposure to 70's evergreens over a last forty years. Then compare with number of visits to a beloved movie. I've seen The Thing thirty times at least, The Maltese Falcon, The Mark Of Zorro, Out Of The Past, many others, close to that. That's days ... weeks ... if you multiply the hours, but what of thousands of listens to Barry White and Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, or Gloria Gaynor bookending the Disco Era with Never Can Say Goodbye and I Will Survive. Most times they're just noise in the car, but more often I'm reminded of something nice about the era they represent, tunes taking me there quicker than any movie could.

The oldie market, from what I'm told, is lightly stocked. Most of past songs are gone, as in seldom if ever heard. Retro stations, including Sirius, keep narrow playlists based on careful analysis and focus group review. There are, it seems, a limited number of selections that people are willing to hear again. Having been #1 is no guarantee of latter-day currency. Hits once white hot can be toxic by modern measure --- We Are The World, You Light Up My Life --- these plus oodles more translate to instant dial change, like with me whenever American Pie comes on. Whole decades get discarded too. I mention 70's songs because that's as far back as most commercial stations go anymore, earlier stuff left to private excavation or dedicated channels Sirius keeps as sop to elder subscribers (though online there is wider choice on Super Oldies and Top-Shelf Oldies, among fan-manned others). Seems it is music indeed that rules, with movies eternal runner-up for time-tripping. If I watch whole of The Time Machine again, it'll not yield half what last week's glimpse afforded, 103 minutes too long to hold the spell. I wonder frankly if I could even finish the thing. Best then to have savored the moment and leave it lay, time travel most satisfying when it's brief.


Blogger Michael said...

I didn't expect to see Sirius/XM come up as a topic here, but not surprised. I've noticed the same thing as you, a relatively short playlist for rock channels ensures that you can hear, say, Space Oddity on any road trip before too long, and listening to First Wave I've certainly heard far more Depeche Mode recently than I ever did in skinny tie days of my own.

That said, I've managed to find the corners of Sirius/XM where it's not so repetitive. For vintage rock, Little Steven's Underground Garage tends to play the grittier garage-rock obscure songs of the 50s through 70s. For classic rock, Classic Vinyl and especially Deep Tracks tend to dig deeper into more obscure bands and album cuts-- as I told a local DJ, those two seem to come from an alternate universe in which Stephen Stills is famous for having been in Manassas, not Crosby Stills & Nash.

On the weekends one of them-- I think 70s on 7-- plays old American Top 40 shows with Casey Kasem, giving you a real picture of what was popular in the 70s. I can usually go about 3 "hmm, interesting" cuts before the Carpenters or something I can't stand to hear again comes on. Likewise, I listen to 40s on 4, but sooner or later Vaughan Monroe or Dick Haymes comes on and I scurry away. Finding that sweet spot where more variety isn't obviously more of thankfully forgotten mediocrity isn't easy!

9:24 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

I like the Casey Kasem programs because they include music that was popular then, but forgotten since. Some of these are admittedly bad, but occasionally there will be one that I liked back in its day, but hadn't come across since.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Dave K said...

Lovely post and I'll try not to take umbrage on behalf of so many of us social security aged monster kids when you lump the glow-y eyed morlocks together with the turkey bird marionette from THE GIANT CLAW. The differential between the original emotional impact of specific movies and their actual objective worth is something most of us pop culture freaks think about all the time.

George Pal is a great example of a film maker whose amazing talent was in triggering the viewer's imagination, not necessarily in fulfilling it. A great producer and, honestly, an only so-so director, Pal's staging could be a little wobbly when he helmed his own stuff (would THE TIME MACHINE or DR. LAO wear even better if he had handed them over to Byron Haskin?) Its not the effects that date TM for me so much as how we hang onto Yvette Mimieux doing absolutely nothing for precious minutes while Rod Taylor runs away, handles some sort of action stuff off-camera and then runs back into frame! But Pal invested all of his projects with a unique emotional punch that lingers long after first viewing (even, I'd argue, with junk like ATLANTIS THE LOST CONTINENT.) His playful but ultimately thoughtful approach to time travel is what impressed us way back then. Yeah, it's the terrific wrap-around structure of TIME MACHINE that made it especially memorable (nobody did that as well, although FIRST MEN IN THE MOON came close.)

True story. Just this month my not-particularly-sentimental sister-in-law pulled out the '61 TIME MACHINE for her 7-ish and 11-ish year old grand daughters. These are kids whose favorites are the DESPICABLE ME movies and FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM, so I wasn't expecting an exactly great reception. Had breakfast with them the following Sunday, and the oldie seemed to have gone down surprisingly well. They chatted about the time-lapse decaying morlock and pretty little Weena approvingly. But it was when I asked "Okay... what books would YOU have taken?" that they became really animated and engaged.

As to music, I root around iTunes for stuff like OLDIES ALTERNATIVE and various fifties, sixties and seventies outlets that specialize in the forgotten chart toppers, b-sides and covers. Not as interested in anything that would turn up in a Time Life box set.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Phil Smoot said...

No No No!
The Time Machine is a great movie. Love every minute of it. I was ready to steal his time machine and go get Yvette Mimieux for myself.

10:39 AM  
Blogger Mike Cline said...

"Destroy it, George. Destroy IT before it destroys YOU."

11:22 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Richard Kimble checks in with some music alternatives:

I no longer have Sirius but when I did I was a devoted listener to Little Steven's Underground Garage. My tastes -- in rock and roll anyway -- seem to match LS's almost precisely. I still listen to his weekly syndicated show on terrestrial radio.

There was also a great show on The Loft Channel called 'American Roots Radio' which played everything from bluegrass and country blues to rockabilly and The weird thing is it was hosted by, of all people, Elton John's lyricist Bernie Taupin. I was never a huge Taupin fan and he deserves life in front of the firing squad for the stomach-turning "Candle In The Wind", but 'ARR' was an absolute treasure, the kind of thing you wish they'd teach in schools. Bob Dylan had a similar show, which was pretty good, but Taupin's was much better. Both ended after 100 episodes. I don't know if Sirius still plays them.

11:49 AM  
Blogger b piper said...

The Morlocks scared the hell out of me when I was a kid. And the decision to cast flabby performers in the parts was brilliant. And Weena .... (deep sigh).

12:31 PM  
Blogger Beowulf said...

As your production stills show, the young Rod Taylor was gorgeous! (Ah...Mongo STRAIGHT!)
To see him in his last film is to shake your head sadly. Is there anything that shows the passage and ravages of time more than a long life lived in the movies? The wolf, man.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

I don't know about the Taupin show but it's not hard to find the Dylan show, Theme Time Radio Hour, online. It's a fun mix of oldies and roots music and 50s-60s songs, each show on a slightly quizzical theme ranging from baseball to coffee to various states known for songs (eg Texas). I have them all for putting on the iPod for long trips. The show was scripted, but you can believe it comes pretty close to the kinds of things Dylan would dig out to play himself.

3:06 PM  
Blogger lmshah said...

I never had a problem with THE TIME MACHINE John (nor THE SEVEN FACES OF DR LAO either some to think of it Dave), they were movies that delighted me back then and still do. George Pal may not have been the greatest director in the world, but he produced films of fantasy and flight that managed a little more moral heft and genuine feeling than his more exploitative contemporaries at the time, but stinted none on the entertainment value, and if the camera wanted to linger on Yvette Mimieux for extra seconds, I certainly had no problem with that.

All of Pal's films have unforgettable images and visuals that have stuck with me since childhood, like the wonderful flamboyant design of the time machine itself, or Ann Robinson meeting her first martian face to sort-of-face in WAR OF THE WORLDS, or the goldfish who turns into a sea serpent in LAO. And as I said, Pal was not afraid to inject some social commentary into the mix, something these too-immersed monster kids could use as these sort of films became more violent and mean as the years went on (Come to think of it, I see that morlock/sheep people relationship increasing quite a bit in todays society, certainly on the internet).

And some of the best moments in Pal's films are the little ones, the ending of THE TIME MACHINE has always been one of my most memorable moments from it, when Alan Young realizes that Rod Taylor's story is indeed true and he delivers one of the great punchlines to wrap up a movie. Wouldn't it be nice if we all had all the time in the world, and could travel it in ways other than watching a film, the one true window on our past.


3:30 PM  
Blogger brickadoodle said...

I saw THE TIME MACHINE during its initial release, accompanied by my babysitter, a teenage girl who lived down the street. Her name was "Kay". I remember that she was wearing a ponytail, a pink "poodle" skirt, bobby socks and a pair of brown and white saddle shoes. Her fashion statement was de rigreur for young ladies in the mid-'50s, but was already a little passé by 1960, which was not an uncommon occurrence in a little southern town that ran about five years behind the rest of the world. Back then we were living in our own "time machine" of sorts, and how the theater managed to exhibit such a popular film in advance of its second-run I'll never now, though surely our sudden leap into the future would be shortlived. Anyway, this was fifty-seven years ago and I vividly remember Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux and the Scandinavic albinos that counted Yvette among their tribe, all of them running around, lost in some dystopic wilderness of caverns and primordial jungle, equipped with bubbling mini-volcanoes. But even at my early age, my brain having already become densensitized to monstrous images by the likes of William Castle and Roger Corman, I remained unimpressed by the buck-toothed Morlocks; they seemed slow and stupid, no more frightening than some of the characters I might see roaming the aisles of the movie theater on Saturday afternoons, when equally maloccluded hill folk poured down from the mountains to go to the "pitcher-show".

Kay had previously taken me to see THE SPACE CHILDREN, which bad been far less exciting.

12:29 AM  
Blogger Mikeymort said...

Ah...The Time Machine does evoke memories for me, as my family had a discussion while driving back home about what three books we would have taken back to the future.

You are exactly right about oldies radio. The memories a song brings back are diluted after hearing them hundreds of times. (Do I really need to hear The Eagles "Hotel California" one more time?) Hard to believe, but Debbie Boone's "You Light Up My Life" was the best selling single of the 70's and stayed on the charts for many weeks, yet it is never heard on radio today. A radio programmer once told me that classic ballads were seldom added to oldies
playlists. It's the seldom heard songs however that evoke memories for me.

2:00 AM  
Blogger radiotelefonia said...

On radio and music...

This tango is from the days when my grandmother was a very young child (I also have now the original 1910 recording). It was rescued in 1941 and it have been played over and over, not to mention danced, up until now.

11:41 AM  
Blogger Sean D. said...

My first pro radio job was doing nights on the hometown AM station that ostensibly had an oldies format but ran the gambit from the 50s to the 80s. The time of day usually dictated just how much 50s-60s dominant the playlist would be. In the last few years, that station has definitely shifted into a heavier 70s-80s rotation with just enough 60s to keep it from qualifying as a Classic Hits station.

The cluster I work for now includes a 600-watt non-commercial station that, when the all-Christmas format in the background was threatening my sanity, I talked the owners into letting me flip to traditional oldies. I set the format as 1951 to 1974 with a few pop hits from 1975 to 1977 that compliment the main hits slipped in. Sadly, the station is down at the moment following a major lightning strike. If I can get the powers to be to sign off on streaming the station, I'll try and remember to share the link here. Nothing brightens the afternoon like a transition from Doris Day to some Brian Jones-era Rolling Stones.

10:08 PM  
Blogger DBenson said...

Born in '55.

All manner of Disney stuff, especially live action movies at their most formulaic, take me back. Soundtrack orchestrations all had a certain trumpet-driven perkiness that instantly identified a boomer-era film, TV show or ride.

Likewise certain musical items that were everywhere for a while, like Patty Duke singing "What's, What's, What's, What's On Your Mind", Herman's Hermits, Tiajuana Brass, "Camp Granada", Leroy Anderson orchestral albums, and the five-second pop soundbites in all those K-Tel commercials ("Western Union-nion-nion ..." Still haven't heard that song in its entirety).

The more sturdy a film or piece of music is, the less nostalgic even if -- or perhaps because -- I play it frequently. The associations are less compelling that the piece itself.

I still enjoy the Rathbone Sherlocks from time to time, and sometimes flash back to first encounters on local TV. But the one time a DVD really took my back was when I watched a little thing on the restoration. They showed a faded, fuzzy clip, and instantly I was squinting at an old B&W set really late on a summer night.

12:47 AM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Yours sounds like a good station, Sean. I'm listening right now to "Super Oldies," and they are playing "Lullaby Of The Leaves" by the Ventures. Great stuff. Their selections really vary. Super Oldies is run by Shawn Nagy. It uses old commercials, jingles, and vintage station ID's in addition to the songs.

Donald, my favorite group during the mid-60's was The Tijuana Brass. I was glad to see all their albums finally come out on CD. It actually took kind of a long time for that to happen.

4:27 AM  
Blogger Lionel Braithwaite said...

Most of these oldies stations I don't need anymore (and to be frank, nobody else does either)-I have YouTube for that. I'm trying to buy newer music these days, having already satiated my oldies needs as a child growing up in Toronto in the early '80's, and also having already acquired all of the Beatles's albums (the 2009 remasters, natch) on CD, plus a few other older albums, (Sly & The Family Stones Greatest Hits and Are You Experienced, as well as David Bowie's much maligned Let's Dance.)

Nothing gets me stirring than to see a starlet barefoot, and such is the case with Yvette Mimieux being held by Rod Taylor in that picture posted in this month's post-that's the kind of publicity shot missing these days, and I'm not ashamed to say it!

As for the movie? It's still a classic, especially with the scenes between Taylor and Young as he's about to go off to The Great War, and Taylor and Mimieux later on-nothing can deny this movie its rightful place in history.

10:20 PM  
Blogger mndean said...

Like Lionel, I've abandoned the stations for YouTube. They have interesting mixes and I was stunned once to hear a song which was hardly a hit (Eddie & Ernie, "Hiding In Shadows") and knowing exactly where and when I heard it. It's a strange and often pleasant feeling to be taken back to a time and place like that. Films rarely do that for me.

11:06 AM  
Blogger Tbone Mankini said...

One of the more inexplicable things I do,especially to "youngsters", is being able to dip into a favourite film for a few minutes...ironically for a mass of generations with short attention spans when it comes to movie pacing, the thought of not watching the "whole" movie, that is five explosions,two murders and a sex scene in the first twenty minutes, just baffles them...the analogy with "time machine" pop music is so apt...

5:58 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home
  • December 2005
  • January 2006
  • February 2006
  • March 2006
  • April 2006
  • May 2006
  • June 2006
  • July 2006
  • August 2006
  • September 2006
  • October 2006
  • November 2006
  • December 2006
  • January 2007
  • February 2007
  • March 2007
  • April 2007
  • May 2007
  • June 2007
  • July 2007
  • August 2007
  • September 2007
  • October 2007
  • November 2007
  • December 2007
  • January 2008
  • February 2008
  • March 2008
  • April 2008
  • May 2008
  • June 2008
  • July 2008
  • August 2008
  • September 2008
  • October 2008
  • November 2008
  • December 2008
  • January 2009
  • February 2009
  • March 2009
  • April 2009
  • May 2009
  • June 2009
  • July 2009
  • August 2009
  • September 2009
  • October 2009
  • November 2009
  • December 2009
  • January 2010
  • February 2010
  • March 2010
  • April 2010
  • May 2010
  • June 2010
  • July 2010
  • August 2010
  • September 2010
  • October 2010
  • November 2010
  • December 2010
  • January 2011
  • February 2011
  • March 2011
  • April 2011
  • May 2011
  • June 2011
  • July 2011
  • August 2011
  • September 2011
  • October 2011
  • November 2011
  • December 2011
  • January 2012
  • February 2012
  • March 2012
  • April 2012
  • May 2012
  • June 2012
  • July 2012
  • August 2012
  • September 2012
  • October 2012
  • November 2012
  • December 2012
  • January 2013
  • February 2013
  • March 2013
  • April 2013
  • May 2013
  • June 2013
  • July 2013
  • August 2013
  • September 2013
  • October 2013
  • November 2013
  • December 2013
  • January 2014
  • February 2014
  • March 2014
  • April 2014
  • May 2014
  • June 2014
  • July 2014
  • August 2014
  • September 2014
  • October 2014
  • November 2014
  • December 2014
  • January 2015
  • February 2015
  • March 2015
  • April 2015
  • May 2015
  • June 2015
  • July 2015
  • August 2015
  • September 2015
  • October 2015
  • November 2015
  • December 2015
  • January 2016
  • February 2016
  • March 2016
  • April 2016
  • May 2016
  • June 2016
  • July 2016
  • August 2016
  • September 2016
  • October 2016
  • November 2016
  • December 2016
  • January 2017
  • February 2017
  • March 2017
  • April 2017
  • May 2017
  • June 2017
  • July 2017
  • August 2017
  • September 2017
  • October 2017
  • November 2017
  • December 2017
  • January 2018
  • February 2018
  • March 2018
  • April 2018
  • May 2018
  • June 2018
  • July 2018
  • August 2018
  • September 2018
  • October 2018
  • November 2018
  • December 2018
  • January 2019
  • February 2019
  • March 2019
  • April 2019
  • May 2019
  • June 2019
  • July 2019
  • August 2019
  • September 2019
  • October 2019
  • November 2019
  • December 2019
  • January 2020
  • February 2020
  • March 2020
  • April 2020
  • May 2020
  • June 2020
  • July 2020
  • August 2020
  • September 2020
  • October 2020
  • November 2020
  • December 2020
  • January 2021
  • February 2021
  • March 2021
  • April 2021
  • May 2021
  • June 2021
  • July 2021
  • August 2021
  • September 2021
  • October 2021
  • November 2021
  • December 2021
  • January 2022
  • February 2022
  • March 2022
  • April 2022
  • May 2022
  • June 2022
  • July 2022
  • August 2022
  • September 2022
  • October 2022
  • November 2022
  • December 2022
  • January 2023
  • February 2023
  • March 2023
  • April 2023
  • May 2023
  • June 2023
  • July 2023
  • August 2023
  • September 2023
  • October 2023
  • November 2023
  • December 2023
  • January 2024
  • February 2024
  • March 2024
  • April 2024