Monday, February 28, 2011

Black History Month: Voyage of The Yes (1973)

Network: CBS
Original Air Date: January 16th, 1973

I had no idea that when I picked up my copy of the Voyage of the Yes that I was going to be watching a movie with two of my favorite studly funny guys who are in this month’s poll. I knew Mike Evans, most famous for playing Lionel Jefferson #1 on The Jeffersons was in it, but lo and behold, was that Scoey Mitchell I just laid my eyes on? Yes, it is. Scoey’s part is small but very important to this story about how complex and simple real friendship is.

Mike Evans is Orlando B. Parker. He’s from the Chicago slums but does his best to keep away from the nastier elements of his hood. Unfortunately, his uncle named Pretty (Scoey Mitchell) is doing his best to drag Orlando down to his level. During an argument, Orlando accidentally kills Pretty – and it ain’t pretty… I know, I’ve got a million of ‘em… and he goes on the run.

Pretty is about become less Pretty very soon!

Desi Arnez Jr. is Cal Maxwell. He’s the rich Beverly Hills type kid with a badass convertible and a sweet little boat. He is going off to college in the fall and wants to spend the end of his break sailing to Hawaii but his parents (played by the wonderful Beverly Garland and Skip Homeier) insist he bring someone. But Cal is a solitary kind of guy.

Luckily, Cal runs into Orlando, and asks him to go on his trip. No one knows much about Orlando, and they are especially unaware of the murder charges awaiting him if the law ever catches up to him. Essentially, Orlando is a really good guy, but this accident makes him do a lot of stupid things when he’s out at sea with Cal. It’s obvious he wants to punish himself, but because he’s young and a little immature, he ends up becoming a hazard to both himself and his shipmate. They wind up stranded because of his self-destructive behavior, and without gas, food and water, time is running out fast. It is here, which is the bulk of the film, we watch two men work together and form an intensely deep relationship that surpasses color and background.

Studs of the high seas!

Voyage of the Yes is one of the most quietly profound movies I have seen in a long time. It was originally intended to be a pilot and I think it would have made a compelling series, as we watched these men travel to various ports. As it stands, this film is a character study that embraces our many differences and commonalities. And like any good human drama, we get a decent shark attack as well! What was so interesting about the whole set up was that it is reminiscent of another shark-irific TV movie aptly titled Shark Kill, which came out three years later in 1976. In that film we’ve got a white and a Hispanic fighting the odds of nature and learning to understand each other along the way. The only difference was the pair in Shark Kill weren't even afforded the luxury of a boat, they were just floating around the ocean! The theme of man against shark was of course never better than in Jaws, but both Shark Kill and Voyage of the Yes do remarkable jobs getting inside their characters (granted, the shark scene in Voyage is only a small part of the film, albeit significant). These are small but effective films and something I wish we'd see more of today.

The quiet before the storm

Mike Evans is the standout. Taking Evans and Desi Jr. out of their comedic elements was a bold move, and the payoff is grand. Evans portrayal of Orlando is sensitive and heartfelt. It’s a little harder to like Cal at the beginning because he’s so remote, but that’s the point. Throughout their journey, Cal opens up and becomes a much more rounded character while Orlando comes to terms with what he’s done. This film makes great use of the Simon and Garfunkel song El Condor Pasa and the poignant and haunting ending has stuck with me for days.

I can’t say enough good things about this movie, but I’ll leave it simply at see this movie! It’s available through Amazon (DVD and Download) and it’s affordable too!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I'm a Stream Warrior

I spent some more time at the Kindtrauma castle this weekend and I helped out on their Stream Warriors section, which is where you go to find all the cool crap that you can watch online. Today it's all about small screen treats, so please pop on by and check it out. I also added one of my own kindertraumas to make it all salacious and stuff! OK, maybe not salicious... let's try hilarious. And a big thanks to my favorite guys, Unkle Lancifer and Aunt John for not only asking me to participate, but for also doing a flippin' fantastic job with the layout. They make me look all good!


Also, I too have something similar here called Must See Streaming TV, but without any real regularity to it, so it's not as cool. However, if you are ever looking for a little TV movie goodness, it can be a one stop shop (although a lot of it isn't streaming anymore, which is, like, totally lame).

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy Birthday John LLewellyn Moxey!!!

My favorite TV movie director turned 86 years young today! YAY! I have loved this man for as long as I can remember. While he directed films in different genres, it was his thriller and horror films that allowed him to showcase his deft skills at generating copious amounts of suspense! I'll just link to his IMDb page because it's ridiculously long (and amazing), but I will say the world would not be the same without The Night Stalker, Home for the Holidays, The House that Would Not Die or Smash-Up on Interstate 5, or Where Have all the People Gone, or... or... there's just too many!

Turns out Panic in Echo Park is currently playing in its entirety on YouTube! This drama is not quite as good as his horror films, but it is a lot of fun and Dorian Harewood puts in a marvelous performance! Enjoy!

And Happy Birthday Mr. Moxey... Here's to 86 more!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Happy Birthday Christopher George!

The guys at Kindertrauma are celebrating Mr. George's Birthday today with an awesome Funhouse dedicated to the swarthy stud himself! They asked me to co-host, but truth be told, those guys did all the grunt work... I am just there to add some TV love. Their Funhouse links to an article I wrote on Chris back in the day. So stop on by the castle and see how many George movies you can name!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Black History Month: Isabel Sanford (1917 - 2004)

We all know who Isabel Sanford was. Well, we all know her as an actress whose portrayal of Weezy Jefferson helped to anchor the buffoonery of her on-screen hubby George on the long running sitcom The Jeffersons. But Isabel was also a trailblazer.

The 70s was a progressive time for black actors on television. Shows like Good Times, Sanford and Son, What’s Happening, and The Jeffersons showcased various facets of life and captured the black experience through humor. The Jeffersons was particularly groundbreaking because it featured a racist black man (although George certainly softened with time). It seemed the likely direction to take, since it was a spin-off of All in the Family. In fact, Weezy was the Jefferson to make an appearance on Family (which may explain why she received top billing through the entire run of the spin-off), and once they brought George into the mix, it was surefire hilarity. The Jeffersons ran for eleven glorious seasons and received many accolades and a few Emmys in the process, including one win for Isabel in 1981. In fact, she became the first black woman to win an Emmy for Best Actress.

Watch Isabel accept her Emmy:

Isabel was born in 1917 in New York City. She was the only child out of seven to survive past infancy and under the reasonably protective advice of her mother, she didn’t overtly pursue show business, although she longed for it at a young age. Instead she snuck out to night clubs and after she married and had three kids, she continued to work towards her dream, joining the American Negro Theater in the 40s. When she divorced in 1960s, she took her three kids on a bus and travelled clear across the country to fully recognize her desire to act. Her film debut was in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in 1967. She was 50 years old.

She captured Norman Lear’s attention and he cast her on All in the Family. The rest as they say in TV land, is sitcom history.

Isabel was actually 20 years older than her co-star Sherman Hemsley, but there could not have been a more perfect fit. Her supreme comic timing connected with audiences immediately. She became the (loving) voice of reason whenever her ignorant husband lost his mind, which was often! There was a real chemistry between the two and they would end up appearing together on everything from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to Old Navy commercials.

Isabel being funny on Hollywood Squares

One of the most prominent themes of The Jeffersons was that the family became affluent and lived in an expensive high rise apartment. Weezy’s transformation from pragmatic housewife to the sophisticated but caring councilor of the HELP Center, was one of the most natural makeovers seen on television. Originally uncomfortable with her new found status, Weezy found a way to grow into a classical elegance while still remaining true to her Harlem roots.

Isabel Sanford was indeed a great role model for black women in show business. She has been so influential that Emerson College in Boston honored Isabel with an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters in 1985. Isabel sets an example for all women, especially for those of us who worry that we’ve passed our prime, because she proved to us that the second act of life could be just the beginning.

Read more about Isabel Sanford here

And visit her site here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Links to Cool Stuff... My Stuff!

Just in time for Valentine's Day, here is an article I wrote about the fine ass guys who inhabit Valentine Bluffs in the original My Bloody Valentine. I call it Blue Collar Machismo and I mean it! Actually, we did a fun retrospective over at Retro Slashers and a bunch of the writers took at look at all things My Bloody Valentine. Enjoy!

I also have a new review for a horror movie called The Echo Game at Fangirltastic. It's a really good movie due out on DVD soon (although no date has been verified yet), so try to catch it when it gets released. It's worth it.

And last, but certainly not least, I helped out with an article on The Visitor at Kindertrauma. I was so honored they asked, and so pleased to help spread the word on this overly ambitious and ridiculously convoluted and entertaining sci-fi/horror thing-a-mah-bob.

I have at least one more profile to go up for Black History Month and I was hoping to do two reviews and one more profile, but as we can see, time passes by quickly! I will definitely get up the profile and at least one movie review, even if it's the last thing I do. And really, if the last thing I do is write a review of a beloved TV movie, than it was worth it!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Black History Month: 70s Sitcom Stud Poll!

Sitcoms featuring black actors were a mainstay in our household when I was growing up. I had a crush on each and every one of these guys at some point in those formative years, so I thought I'd make a poll to celebrate the hotness of the decade!

Whether John Amos was on The Mary Tyler Moore Show or Good Times, he was machismo on a stick! I really adored his relationship with Florida (Esther Rolle) on Good Times and loved how even in the worst conditions, they always found something to laugh at. John just turned 71 in December and he's still as handsome as they come!

I actually began crushing on Clifton in the 80s when he starred on Amen with Sherman Hemsley. I always liked his positive, upbeat nature and thought he looked pretty amazing in a three piece suit! I only recently discovered his 70s sitcom, That's My Momma, but let me tell you, I am hooked. He's hilarious and looks oh-so-good in bell bottoms!

Although I liked both Lionel's on The Jeffersons, Mike Evans was always the most handsome and charismatic, making my heart pitter patter whenever he graced the screen. Mike sadly passed away in 2006 at 57 years old. It wasn't until he died that I found out he was one of the co-creators of Good Times. Apparently those were tumultuous years for him and is probably at least partially behind the reason he dropped out of show business. But I will be forever grateful to the contribution he made on The Jeffersons... and to those beautiful brown eyes!

Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs was always my favorite Sweathog on Welcome Back, Kotter. Whenever he'd say, "Mr Kot-tee-air," I always giggled. I admit it. He had amazing comic timing, and the fact that he was also in Cooley High only strengthened my crush. Eat your heart out, John Travolta!

Ted Lange was so adorable as Isaac Washington on Love Boat and while his subtle and extremely likable presence made it the show to watch on Saturday nights, his turn as Junior on That's My Momma is truly something to report! "Who-weee!" That man is hot... and he's still looking good!

I really know Scoey through his many hilarious appearances on Match Game, but he also starred in a TV adaptation of Barefoot in the Park. It was a short lived series and as it turns out, extremely hard to find, and that's too bad, because the more of Scoey to go around, the better!

I'm kind of fudging with Greg Morris, because he really didn't do much in the world of television comedy in the 70s, aside from showing up on random episodes of shows like Sanford and Son and Love Boat, but he was also one of those fabulous guests on Match Game and he was so completely hilarious and likable (and gorgeous), that I wanted to include him on this list. I have to admit, my love for Greg has to be one of the longest running crushes in my life. He passed away in 1996 and I still think of him often. He was truly one of the most wonderful men ever to grace the small screen.

Hey, hey, hey! Haywood Nelson is absolutely adorable. Dwayne's character on What's Happening embodied all the things in a sitcom man I like. He was shy but funny and had the world's sweetest smile. He still does in fact. Based loosely on Cooley High, What's Happening was a great show about being a teenager in the 70s. It had some of the best physical comedy of the era and Dwayne just sweetened the pot with that smile. **Swoon**

I'm not sure which is hotter, Tim Reid as Venus Flytrap on WKRP in Cincinatti or his wardrobe on the show. I always loved Venus' laid back persona. WKRP could be hilarious, but it could also be deeply moving and one of my favorite episodes is when we find out Venus was a deserter from the Viet Nam war. He tells a harrowing story and if they had cast someone less talented than Tim it would have not have been nearly as effective. What can I say, sensitive studs rule!

Like Greg Morris, I have been in love with Demond Wilson for about as long as I can remember. Not only was Sanford and Son a great show, but Lamont seriously made me giggle as a little girl. Shoot, he still does. There's something so cool about him, even when he's really put out by his pop. Also, I used to dream that I'd live near him and his hot neighbor, Julio. Mmmmmm, I am sure I would have imploded!

This poll runs to the end of the month. Please vote for your fave man, or let me know if I missed someone!

Update (2/11/11) - Yikes! How could I have missed Ron Glass? His wardrobe and smile (and mustache!) were to die for. I still want to find a copy of Blood on the Badge, which was the novel his alter ego wrote on Barney Miller. Please forgive me Ron, because truly you are unforgettable. And thank you Propagatrix for righting my wrongs!

By the by, I cannot add Ron's name because the poll cannot be edited, if you want to give Ron a vote, just leave a comment and I'll add it to the mix! Thanks!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Black History Month: Denise Nicholas

Actress turned author Denise Nicholas is probably best known to TV lovers as Liz McKintyre on Room 222 (1969 - 1974) or as Harriet DeLong on In the Heat of the Night (1989 - 1995). Other fans will recognize her as Michelle from Blackula (1972) or as Beth Foster in Let’s Do it Again (1975). I know Denise for her role in the obscure TV film Five Desperate Women (1971).

Women is one of those movies that clung to me like a childhood nightmare, with only snippets of memory filtering through my head. I had forgotten most of the story and even the actors as I got older, but I remembered loving the movie. When I was finally able to rewatch it again, approximately two decades later, I was a little disappointed in the campiness of it all. However, I was also struck by Denise’s character, Joy. The five women in question have all gathered for an informal college reunion on a remote island. The only other two people around are the hunky Robert Conrad and the dashing but odd Bradford Dilman. The other women are played by Joan Hackett, Stefanie Powers, Anjanette Comer and Julie Sommars. While they all had secrets, Joy’s was that she was a high class call girl and not all that upset about it! The whole make-up of her character could easily be construed as demeaning, simply because she was a college graduate who chose hooking over a "real" job (seriously, tell me that isn't hard work!), but Denise rose above the character limitations and triumphed in this light stalk and slash flick as as the Final Girl. Well, technically she’s not the only survivor, but she is the only one who manages to keep her wits about her.

Things get serious in Five Desperate Women

When Denise first started acting in the 60s, she was a member of the Moses’ Free Southern Theater and she travelled to many rural places so blacks could experience live theater. Then she joined the Negro Ensemble Company before she worked in television. She was also heavily involved in the civil rights movement and her 2005 novel Freshwater Road is partially based on her experiences with the movement.

Things get really serious in Five Desperate Women!

In the 80s when she was on In the Heat of the Night her character married Carol O’Connor’s and they became one of the few interracial couples in the history of television, garnering some controversy. During the series run, she also wrote six scripts and in the late 90s she returned to school in a graduate writing program at the University of California where writing became her main passion. She last appeared on film in 2004 in Proud which also featured Ossie Davies. In an interview, Denise said this about writing: "I'm happier now, because this is my baby. It uses me, all of me. It doesn't diminish any part of me, mind, body, soul."

However, she hasn’t totally abandoned us. You can catch her on Way Black When airing this Wednesday, February 2nd at 10pm!

It’s no wonder that Denise could make a typically throwaway character in Women so memorable. This talented actress always added a touch of class, confidence, and most importantly, depth to her surroundings.

You can read an interview with Carol O'Connor and Denise Nicholas about their interracial marriage storyline on In The Heat of the Night here.

More stills from Five Desperate Women