Seriously, you can put a Santa cap on anything and make it fun. Granted, these were fun already, but let me offer the below as two examples.
And have a great holiday, everyone!
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
Sunday, December 22, 2013
Must See Streaming TV: An American Christmas Carol (1979)
I love Henry Winkler. Truly. Arthur Fonzarelli is one of the most lovable and enduring characters from my childhood. And I’m always pleasantly amused when someone busts out with an “Ayyye!” And that happens more often than you'd think! Of course, we loved Fonzie because of Winkler’s wonderful performance that held just the right amounts of machismo, over the top humor, with a little pathos thrown in to keep us on our toes.
|A newspaper promo for An American Christmas Carol|
A few years ago, I was in a class that concentrated on film adaptations. I chose to make a presentation on A Christmas Carol because it gave me an excuse to re-watch A Muppet Christmas Carol, and because I had never actually read the book. I had to watch quite a few Carol movies and enjoyed them all. The story resonates to some extent with just about every era, because as much as we want to wax nostalgic about the past, there is always some kind of struggle with inequality and indifference. Dickens’ reminds us time and again that we should always remember that compassion is free, so give it away, dammit! OK, he doesn’t get all extreme on the reader or anything, but indeed, it is a great story that teaches us that good will isn't just a thrift store.
As for Winkler, I’ve read some across-the-board reactions to his performance. Many felt that the odd old age makeup hampered his abilities to fully flex his actor muscles. With regards to the outlandish makeup, I have to agree. Thirty years later, and Hollywood still hasn't gotten old people makeup right, so imagine what audiences were thinking in 1979! Otherwise, I feel Winkler does a good job as the older Slade, and I enjoyed that vigorous step he gets from the joy of taking from the underprivileged because it is turned into a sprightly bounce after he develops a compassionate outlook on life. Joy to the world!
It would seem Winkler felt that giving Slade a spring in his step was all part of the process. In an interview, the actor said the filmmakers wanted to put weights on his feet as a way to keep him slow moving. But, Winkler said, “I realized that the elderly want to be younger and so I took off the weights immediately after the first day of shooting and made him more spry.” Winkler also confessed that he spent a total of 96 hours in the makeup chair during the seven-week shoot! In the end, the actor was very happy with the results, although he was initially hesitant to take on the role because he felt the media was set on pigeonholing him as The Fonz. However, the consummate Winkler decided his career was all about risks. This has obviously paid off, and while An American Christmas Carol is not a perfect film, it does hit the holiday spot and is definitely worth a watch.
You can either buy An American Christmas Carol on DVD or you can watch it on Amazon Instant Video!
You can read more about An American Christmas Carol at Christmas TV History!
And if you want more holiday cheer check out:
Petticoat Junction: A Cannonball Christmas
Nestor, The Long Eared Donkey (written as a guest blogger on Christmas TV History)
The Gathering (written by guest blogger Joanna Wilson from Christmas TV History)
A Mouse, A Mystery and Me
Terror on the 40th Floor
Bernard and the Genie
Thursday, December 19, 2013
Must See Streaming TV of the Week: The World's Oldest Living Bridesmaid (1990)
Original Air Date: September 20th, 1990
Life is funny sometimes. Back in my golden days, when I worked at a video store and the word VHS didn’t elicit the response, “Whoa, retro,” I couldn’t be bothered with romance movies. I was just discovering the fascinating world of cult films. And, while I still linger in that ether of all things dark and macabre, I also find that I like some things to be frilly and pink. Who knew, right? I’m not sure when the love bug hit me, but cupid’s arrow must have found its way to my heart during a viewing of something on Lifetime. It’s speculation now, all I can say is that I now hope every film seals itself with a kiss (romantic kiss or kiss of death, of course!). Still, while I possess no compunction towards the sentimental, I have also never really taken a shine to the big screen world of champagne wishes and caviar dreams. I’ll take the small screen schmaltz any day! And I say that without a hint of hipster irony, so please take that into consideration while I gush over The World’s Oldest Living Bridesmaid.
|Apparently my gushing makes Donna uncomfortable|
|Is this a wooing Woe? Certainly not.|
The scenario was a little too fastidious to say it was handled in any way that reflected realism, but the issues were very well handled and believable. Brenda does not want kids, and is old enough to know she made the right decision, but while Alex says he’s fine with that, he still has a few more years to change his mind. Don’t get me wrong, Bridesmaid is not weighed down by real-life problems. This is a romantic comedy, and it has a few stellar moments of farce, most notably delivered by Art Hindle, who plays Roger, Brenda’s “Perfect Man.” He is debonair and gorgeous, and about as interesting as a wet noodle. Granted, wet noodles are yummy and so is Art, so we’ve killed two birds with that platitude. Roger is perfectly vapid, and Hindle is absolutely wonderful in the part!
|Enough about me, honey. What do you think of my hair?|
I was really excited to find The World’s Oldest Bridesmaid has been added to the Amazon Instant Video queue. It came in quite handy during finals week!
|Promotional Still for The World's Oldest Living Bridesmaid|
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Live Tweetin' for the Holidays!
Oh my gosh, where did November go? I can't believe how long I've been away from my beloved blog. The good news is that I'm only a few weeks away from graduation (finally) and will have a little more free time. Of course, I'll need to find a job and plan for grad school, but after the last few years of college and moving and more college and more moving, I think I'm up to the task.
But enough about me. What do you think of my hair?
Anyway, despite all the craziness that occurs around the last few weeks of school, I have been able to keep up my tweet-alongs with Me-TV's Made for TV Movie Fridays, and I'm having lots of fun. The brain break is much needed. So, because I can't make the Friday movie on December 6th (more on that in a sec), and because my favorite channel is not airing a TV movie this Friday, Joanna from Christmas TV History and I are joining forces for a different kind of Me-TV live-tweet party on the 29th.
There will be no turkey here, no siree. This Friday, we're going to be watching some very special holiday episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show (10 PM EST) and Twilight Zone (11 PM EST). So, all you need to do is stop by twitter, and "follow" @madefortvmayhem and @TisTheSeasonTV and get your Christmas started a little early (early by my watch, I've been seeing holiday decorations at the store for awhile now! Geesh).
Also, I made a date with the Italian progressive rock band Goblin for the night of December 6th. I tried to get them to move the concert, but they had other commitments. So lame, right? I'm so sad I'm missing this particular Me-TV Made for TV Movie because they are airing the 1973 TVM A Dream for Christmas. However, Joanna will be stepping in, and she's simply the most perfect person to handle this job, since she's, like, the Christmas TV expert. True story.
Tuesday, October 29, 2013
Movies About Ghouls Spookatcular!
Hey everyone, I just took part in the Movies About Girls Halloween Spooktacular! Hosted by MAG regular, Kent Shelton, this offers good times galore! I throw in a couple of scary TV movie recommendations, and some of the other MAGcasters reminisce about Bit-o-Honey!
You can listen to the podcast here. Also, this is not for the faint of heart, expect cursing and other objectionable material. OK, probably just some cursing.
Oh, and enjoy!
Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Hammer House of Horror: The House that Bled to Death (1980)
This post is part of the Hammer Halloween Blogathon hosted by the Classic Film & TV Café. Click here to view the complete blogathon schedule.
Original Air Date: October 11th, 1980
Hammer is synonymous with horror. Ain’t no two ways about it! Sure they got their feet wet in 1934 with the comedy The Public Life of Henry the Ninth, but that only goes to show what a long and incredible history Hammer Films has enjoyed. They found their true mojo in horror films and produced their most memorable content in the 1960s and 70s. Great actors, tight bodices and gothic chills ensured that their output would be loved then and loved now. But like all good things, Hammer theatrical films came to an end in 1976 after their release of To the Devil a Daughter. And like all incredible things, as of late they’ve enjoyed a bit of resurgence.
Woman in Black, anyone?
In between Daughter and Woman (now there's a metaphorical transition), Hammer Films produced two television series, Hammer House of Horror (1980) and Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense (1984). I am most familiar with the latter production because the Mystery and Suspense episodes were feature length and some ran in America in the 90s under the moniker Fox Mystery Theater. However, unbeknownst to me, I was actually somewhat familiar with House of Horror, because many of the episodes found their way onto VHS under the heading of Thriller Video, and they featured bumpers hosted by none other than Elvira.
I worked at a video store in the early 1990s and the Thriller Videos were fairly popular rentals, probably because of Elvira and the short running lengths of the films (what’s to lose, right). I did not rent them at the time because I was Miss Dark and Mysterious (I am Amanda By Night you know), and I spent most of my time renting crazy flicks like Make Them Die Slowly (and regretting it!). As an aside, Thriller Video also released Slowly, but Elvira didn’t want to be associated with it, so she was excused from hosting duties on that video. I can’t say I blame her. But I digress… I remember that I was a bit obsessed with the Thriller Video box for Carpathian Eagle because it looked so deliciously groovy. Regrettably, I still have not seen it, but now I know I married my husband for a reason. He has several of these videos and we’ve been digging them out of our boxes of VHS (of which we have many).
He actually had just stumbled across his copy of The House that Bled to Death when I asked to be a part of this blogathon. It was all kinds of kismet and stuff. I was really excited to finally sit down with one of these Hammer TV episodes to see what all the fuss was about.
OK, OK, fuss may be a bit of an overstatement. Both series have always garnered mixed reviews and even the fabulous tome A History of Horrors: The Rise and Fall of the House of Hammer said this of both shows:
The premier incarnation of Hammer House thrashed about in the treacherous waters of an ITV network slot that seemed to come and go with an unnerving suddenness. With its faddish affection for punning titles, the series veered between a committee concept of classic Hammer Horror – Guardian of the Abyss, Children of the Full Moon – and a hodgepodge of derivative shockers that ere more akin to reject episodes from an Amicus portmanteau production – Silent Scream, A Visitor From the Grave (from a script by John Elder), Rude Awakening. Two of them were genuinely frightening; the rest were frightful. Style and content were overhauled during shooting when it was realized that a problem would arise with the American networks over the explicit nudity and the less-than-explicit gore, and the watering down that resulted diluted the second batch of shows to such an extent that they became indistinguishable from any other TV Mystery Movie of the Week.
Wait, did I just see a diss on the Movie of the Week? Tsk, tsk.
Granted, with the exception of the current batch of basic and pay cable programming, which has the ease of lax FCC rules, television will always play second fiddle to theatrical releases with regards to sex and violence. Don’t get me wrong, I dig both, but I also love being creeped out, and sometimes it’s OK to fade out before a love scene. It’s worth noting that some of the most popular American horror films at the moment are ghost stories that actually avoid excessive violence and are practically absent of sexy sex (you can read about how TV movies influenced Insidious here), so maybe it’s time to reassess the Hammer shows?
Despite some critical disdain, The Hammer House of Horror episode The House That Bled to Death has attained a cult status, thanks to the infamous party scene featuring a pipe that spews blood (thinking back, this may have been the inspiration for the blood shower scene in This House Possessed). Although toned down for the small screen, the scene is still quite bloody and definitely disturbed. And the story itself is pretty dark stuff. In short, I loved it.
The premise is simple and sweet: A charming young family moves into a ramshackle house with a morbid history. The last tenant took a small sword to his wife and did away with her but good. Now it seems the ghosts of the past are still lingering around the Peters family, slowly driving them insane. After a dead cat, randomly freaky appearances of knitting needles, body parts in the fridge and the aforementioned bloody, er, birthday party, a convoluted but clever twist occurs and, on top of that, one more twist brings the film to a close.
It’s almost impossible to say anything else about this movie since it would seem everything is either haunted house – which has already been discussed – or a twist, which should not be discussed so you can either be pleased or miffed by the end results. Although I thought the twist was interesting and unique it did not make the film for me. What works best about The House That Bled to Death is the buildup, which is done rather well, and left me wanting more.
Honestly, that's the sign of good TV. The House that Bled to Death would have been pretty fantastic at a TV movie running length. The dilapidated house and all of its contents have the makings for a creepy good time!
As of this writing, the mister has located our copy of Carpathian Eagle, so guess what’s just hit the top of my To Watch pile?
A couple of years ago I reviewed the Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense episode titled Mark of the Devil with the scrumptious Dirk Benedict. You can read my review here.
Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Vega$ Pilot airing on Me-TV!
If you ever visit this blog, you can probably guess hearing that my favorite network Me-TV is airing the Vega$ pilot TV movie this week just about shot me through the roof (and back)! Not only do I love retro TV and Robert Urich, but Vegas is where I grew up and I have many fond memories of the stories from my excited friends who would catch Dan Tana roaming around our hood. Urich was a legend in our town. We loved him. I'm sure we still do. I know I do!
Anyway, I'll be live-tweeting the momentous event this Friday at 8 PM EST. Again, you can find me @madefortvmayhem.
|Does it get more awesome than this?|
|Pensive machismo. **swoon**|
Friday, October 11, 2013
Update Part Deux
Criminy, this semester has really taken me away from all the fun stuff! If I was the Incredible Hulk, I'd start turning green and throwing chairs. Alas, I'm just a undergrad student trying to finish up her last semester. Not as dramatic, but it's all I've got to work with, guys!
I've managed to keep the facebook page hopping. If you aren't over there yet, please stop by because we're doing a Halloween Countdown and looking back at the list I made in 2010. I'm also posting old Halloweeen-centric TV Guide ads when I come across them, TV spots and other retro-tastic small screen treats. I also might have one or two reviews popping up here soon, but for now the life of the party is on facebook.
Oh, and twitter. I'm still live-tweeting along with Me-TV Network's Friday Night Movie of the Week. A couple of people have even stopped by to say hi, making my party of one a bit more fun! Thank you!
|You won't like me when I can't blog|
TV Confidential has done a great job paying tribute to some of the best people who made the best television. They have a couple of podcasts I strongly suggest you check out:
I think you all know how much I adore and admire William Link, the co-creator behind Columbo and one of the greatest talents the entertainment world ever saw. I was so excited to see he did this interview and then followed it up with this one.
Rita Lakin is an amazing television writer who worked on everything from Peyton Place to The Rookies to Flamingo Road to Dynasty. She's also a novelist and an overall fascinating woman. Check out her website for more info.
The above podcasts cost 99 cents, and are worth every penny. You can also listen to a gaggle of TV Confidential's other podcasts for free as well. Sample, taste and indulge!
|No, no, no. Not when Michael Douglas calls. Just Michael.|
And finally, I read that Remington Steele is getting a new life as a half-hour comedy on NBC. This series will be a sequel to the original hour long drama/comedy/romance series and it will revolve around Laura and Remmy's daughter! Craziness.
Friday, September 27, 2013
|Me after mid-terms|
Luckily, there are lots of outlets to share your TV movie love. Here are some links to the awesomeness that is upon us:
Cinefile, which is a totally cool video store in Los Angeles, is hosting what they call Made for TV Mondays. They are screening some of the best, weirdest and most memorable made for TV films of all time. And it's free! Check out their Facebook page and join the party!
Also, Exhumed Films and Cinedelphia have teamed up for an incredible made for TV movie festival from October 9th - 13th! I so wished I lived closer to Philly. Their lineup is absolutely drool worthy. If you go to Tele-Terror Fest 2013 you simply have to report back. Please, let me live through you!
And thank you Cinema du Meep for sending the Tele-Terror info my way!
And finally, I was super duper happy to see that the great Marc Edward Heuck, the man behind the incredible The Projector Has Been Drinking picked me for a blogger honor called The Sunshine Award. I am supposed to fill out a questionnaire and spread the blog love, but I haven't had one second to sit down and finish my post, so I just want to send you over to the Projector for the time being. Good times will be had.
Hopefully things will calm down soon and I can post something meatier for you retro TV nuts. For now, just stop by my life tweets or come by the facebook page. See you soon!
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Scream Factory Getting Into TV Terrors!
I was ridiculously excited when I saw the news yesterday that Scream Factory is releasing The Initiation of Sarah and Are You in the House Alone on a DVD two pack!
This is some kind of awesome double feature, and just in time for Christmas! I'll just re-post what they said on the facebook page, and I expect to see everyone with a copy by the end of the year!
From Scream Factory: Scream Factory "TV TERRORS" are coming to your tube soon! Two made-for-TV horror films (both from 1978) will be coming to DVD for the first time at a low-price on 12/10.
THE INITIATION OF SARAH - Starring Key Lenz (House), Morgan Fairchild (The Seduction), Shelly Winters (The Poseidon Adventure), Morgan Brittany (Dallas), Robert Hays (Airplane!) and Tisa Farrow (Zombie).
ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? - Starring Kathleen Beller (Dynasty), Blythe Danner (Meet the Parents), Ellen Travolta (Human Experiments) and Dennis Quaid (Jaws 3-D)
As we mentioned earlier when we announced this release at Comic Con, made-for-TV films typically have had a history of not selling well (aside from some notable exceptions out there that have huge fan bases) so we are testing the waters here to see what happens. If this performs well, we would love to tap into some other great televised favorites and bring to you a "Volume 2" in the future.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
Haunted by Her Past (aka Secret Passions, 1987)
Original Air Date: October 5th, 1987
I’m not really sure what rock I was hiding under in 1987, but by all indications, I should have not only seen Haunted by Her Past but I also should have written about it eons ago, as it combines two of my favorite things – the TV movie and the soap actor. The film unites the incredible raven forces of Susan Lucci and Finola Hughes in a ghost story that is more melodramatic than scary but I can’t complain because I enjoyed the movie so much!
Lucci is prim and proper Karen Beckett. As a surprise, her gorgeous husband Eric (John James from Dynasty, and also my 1980s bedroom wall!) whisks her along with their two best friends Rita and Charles Kamen (Marcia Strassman and Robin Thomas) away to the quaint town of Unionville, a place that seems stuck in a time from long ago. They stumble upon a charming inn where people dress in period costumes (!), and Karen is drawn to the one room that has no electricity or any other modern means, which really sets the tone for the type of nerdy historic romance she is seeking. And boy, does it seem like she has romance on the brain, because this mousey young lady lets down her hair – and her inhibitions – at the inn of love. Unfortunately, the gothically designed mirror in their room is also the ghostly prison of a very angry young barmaid named Megan (Finola Hughes) who murdered her lover, only to be hung for her indiscretions, after she gives birth to the dead man's baby. All these years later, and she still hates men, and makes Eric her next target.
Haunted by Her Past generated a lot of buzz when it originally aired in 1987 (see ads below), mostly because of the hot soap opera cast.
In an interview to promote Haunted, Lucci indicated that the film was not simply a ghost story, and commented, “The movie’s been described as a ‘silky, sensuous, contemporary ghost story.’ I feel that’s an appropriate description. The story is really about a woman coming to terms with her own sexuality, and that ghost story is a metaphor. It’s about how it affects her life and her husband, whom she’s madly in love with.”
The supernatural triangle of man-hating ghost, mousey woman and hunky guy creates a lot of tension, and Megan is determined create a wedge between Karen and Eric. But to do this, she encourages Karen to confront her own unknown past, which Megan plays a big part in, and which maybe should have stayed a secret!
Originally, Lucci was supposed to play both Karen and Megan but she said the short shooting schedule didn’t permit her to take on more work. She felt it was for the best and said, “It was much better for me to be able to play against another actress.” I’m a big Finola Hughes fan anyway, but she is a delight in Haunted. Spunky and somewhat scary, she makes the most of her part as a jilted woman who sees her eternal role as a man-killer as wild and just. Lucci is great at working the sex factor but is also good playing up her nerdy side as well. The gorgeous and wonderful Marcia Strassman is wasted in a nothing role, but John James makes up for any of the film’s lack with pure bronze machismo! Yes, I have a crush on him. Oh yeah, and there's gratuitous Page Fletcher (The Hitchhiker) action as well!
This TVM could easily have been adapted from a Harlequin novel. It’s bodice ripping – TV movie style – and the utilization of some of the most popular actors from the 80s soap genre gave Haunted enough of a push to land it at #20 in the Nielsen’s for the week. I seriously wish I was one of the lucky 14.8 million who got to see this when it originally aired in 1987.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
Crowhaven Farm (1970)
Original Air Date: November 24th, 1970
The 1970s were all about duking it out with the devil.
We saw it on the big screen with films like The Exorcist and The Omen, making it inevitable that this battle would find its way onto the small screen. The big films often offered extremely nuanced responses to a cultural anxiety towards the unknown as wars raged and divorce rates rose. However, even if the the small screen offerings had any political undertones, they tended to seem more interested in grabbing viewers with salacious titles, familiar actors and a less visceral visual reaction to their theatrical counterparts. Movies like The Devil’s Daughter, Satan’s School for Girls and The Possessed wanted to give us the ultimate battle of good vs. evil, and sometimes the bad guy even won. Crowhaven Farm substitutes the devil for a coven of witches, but it was probably one of the first to arrive during this bustle of supernatural small screen treats, and, while not my favorite flick, it’s still a lot of fun.
Maggie and Ben Porter (Hope Lange and Paul Burke) inherit Crowhaven Farm, which is an idyllic estate located in Massachusetts. Although Maggie has never seen the farm she is haunted by visions of a past with the house. Still, despite the weird feelings the place gives her, Crowhaven seems like the perfect place for the Porters to work out their marital issues which concern problems with conceiving a child. A young orphan named Jennifer (Cindy Eilbacher) appears soon after and it would seem the Porters are on their way to becoming parents... Only Jennifer really just wants to be Daddy’s little girl – if you know what I mean (yikes). Maggie is finally able to become pregnant but by the time she figures out what is happening, it may be too late to save herself, her husband or her baby.
Confession: I am always mixing up Crowhaven Farm with Dark Secret of Harvest Home, because it's been years since I'd seen either film and, don't quote me, but I remember that they had similar stories (and please, really don't quote me because the more I read about Harvest the more it looks like it's not all that similar to Crowhaven! I'm disappointed in myself for not remembering either movie better). So, I decided it was time to sit down and give them both a spin. Despite that being the best plan ever, I've only gotten to Crowhaven Farm. Well, not that unfortunate, because it's quite enjoyable.
Crowhaven Farm is a small screen classic, fondly remembered by pretty much anyone who caught it during its original run. All these years later, and the film still holds water, even to relative newbies like myself, thanks to the outstanding cast (I think we all know I loves me a little Lloyd Bochner now and again). And props to the young, wide-eyed Cindy Eilbacher for putting in a particularly disturbed performance as the creepy little girl. While Ben might be oblivious to Jennifer's lusty stares, the audience is given a front row seat to every unpleasant and sinister glance she throws at him. **shivers**
The film unfolds nicely, if also predictably, because some of the foreshadowing hits you over the head with a frickin' mallet. An aside: It’s so funny how TV movies can be such an intimate experience (coming straight into your living room), but the films often take the more obvious approach to storytelling. I have no complaints though because the warm tones, eerie atmosphere, and unnerving Jennifer make Crowhaven Farm both comforting in its familiarity and also deliciously haunting despite dropping some large hints to the audience.
Crowhaven Farm is on DVD! Got get it! Now!
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