Archive for July, 2012

Norm Alden reported dead

July 31, 2012

Norm Alden reported dead

Norm(an) Alden had a searing intensity and seriously rugged features…as though his chin could break an iceberg, and his gaze could burn a hole in it.

While he often played macho types, it wasn’t all about his looks…he did quite a bit of voicework as well.

He did a lot of Westerns, but his geek credits are solid. They include:

  • The Nutty Professor (the Jerry Lewis original)
  • The Sword in the Stone (the Disney version…as Sir Kay)
  • My Favorite Martian
  • Honey West
  • Batman (the Adam West series…he was one of the Joker’s henchmen)
  • Mission:Impossible
  • Ben (the sequel to Willard with the Michael Jackson theme song)
  • Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Afraid to Ask (the Woody Allen movie)
  • Kung Fu
  • Super Friends (he voiced Aquaman)
  • Planet of the Apes (the TV series)
  • Electra Woman and Dyna Girl (he was a regular as Professor Frank Heflin)
  • Samurai (TV movie with an earthquake generator)
  • Fantasy Island
  • The Greatest American Hero
  • The A-Team
  • Back to the Future
  • Transformers: The Movie (the 1986 movie…as both Kranix and Arblus)
  • Sledge Hammer!
  • Small Wonder
  • They Live
  • Roller Blade Warriors: Take by Force
  • Ed Wood
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
  • Rugrats
  • K-Pax

Even though it may not qualify, I can’t leave out his regular role as Coach Fedders on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.

Good-bye, Norm Alden…the world is more complacent without you.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Are aliens funnier on TV?

July 29, 2012

Are aliens funnier on TV?

While all of the American box office is challenged this week by the Olympics, but The Watch is probably going to be seen as under performing, especially with the star power.

That got me thinking about other comedies with aliens…and I was struck by how a few big-screen disappointments came to mind. However, I next started thinking about successful TV comedies with aliens.

I’m not talking about the content, specifically, but about the box office/ratings…and yes, the pop cultural impact.

Under-performing alien comedy movies included:

  • Martians Go Home (with Randy Quaid)
  • Visit to a Small Planet (with Jerry Lewis)
  • Spaced Invaders (Disney pic with incompetent aliens landing on Halloween)
  • Coneheads (we’re talking about the movie, which grossed about $20m in the USA)

Successful alien comedy TV series? You could probably pick at least one for every decade:

  • My Favorite Martian
  • Mork and Mindy
  • ALF
  • 3rd Rock from the Sun

Certainly, these aren’t absolute laws…if you classify Men in Black as a comedy, that’s clearly an exceptional success, and Far Out Space Nuts (which, like every geek series ever has its fans), only lasted a season (and is probably out of mind for the vast majority of people).

Still, it seems to me that the odds of succeeding with a big screen alien comedy are much smaller than the odds of succeeding with a small screen one.

If that’s the case, would there be a reason?

I think an alien comedy is typically going to work by contrasting the alien with the “real world”. A television series, even a goofy sitcom, becomes so familiar, it seem more real to us than a movie. TV series let the writers do a lot of small bits over time…movies have to have a few “high value events”.

Does that bode well for the Dan Fogelman series, The Neighbors, debuting this fall?

Well, trends aren’t guarantees…but having aliens may help The Neighbors make it to that second season.

What do you think? Are aliens funnier on TV?

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

“I meant my work to be given to…”

July 25, 2012

“I meant my work to be given to the world, to be used for the common good. But they wouldn’t have it. They wouldn’t believe me…they laughed! All right: I’ll keep it to myself, I’ll use it for myself…and I’ll use it for my own ends.”
— Dr. Laurience (played by Boris Karloff)
The Man Who Changed His Mind
screenplay by L. Du Garde Peach, Sidney Gilliat, John L. Balderston

I’ve been working, from time to time, on a book of quotations for many years.  I call it, “The Mind Boggles”, from one of my favorite quotations.  I do source quotations a bit differently from a lot of people.  In the case of a work of a fiction, I consider that the character said the line…not the author.  As a bit of an author myself (in a minor way), I can tell you…my characters definitely say things that I would never say.  These are all quotations that I’ve collected myself: I’ve read the book, seen the TV episode, and so on.

Hope you enjoy them!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Sherman Helmsley reported dead

July 24, 2012

Sherman Helmsley reported dead

When Sherman Helmsley was on TV, you knew just what you were going to get…and that was fine with his fans.

Like Humphrey Bogart or John Wayne, or other movie stars, Helmsley was a TV star.

He really came to fame as Archie Bunker’s foil, George Jefferson, on Norman Lear’s classic All in the Family.

The character made such an impact that The Jeffersons was spun-off…and ended up being on the air longer (11 seasons) than All in the Family (not counting Archie Bunker’s Place).

Helmsley would even repeat the character in other series (including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Family Guy)

In terms of geek credits, the first one that comes to mind for me is Dinosaurs, a Jim Henson live action series (you might remember, “I’m the baby, gotta love me!”). As he often would, Helmsley played the boss.

He also played the supervillain, The Toyman, in Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman.

Other geek credits:

  • The Incredible Hulk (the Bill Bixby series)
  • Love at First Bite (George Hamilton Dracula parody)
  • Fantasy Island
  • Alice in Wonderland (TV movie with Anthony Newley and Red Buttons)
  • The Twilight Zone (1980s version)
  • Ghost Fever (rare big screen appearance…a comedy where the director used the nom-de-screen Alan Smithee to not be associated with it)
  • What a Dummy (living ventriloquist dummy sitcom)
  • Townsend Television (the Wizard of Oz)
  • The Secret World of Alex Mack
  • The Magic School Bus
  • Casper: A Spirited Beginning (video prequel)
  • Up, Up, and Away (Helmsley played the super-powered Steel Condor)
  • Mr. Ed (he voiced the titular horse in this attempted 2004 reboot)

He was also a frequent guest as himself on shows, including starring in the reality show, The Surreal Life.

Good-bye, Sherman Helmsley…we’ll miss your perfect portrayal of a pompous, self-important egotist…who really loved his wife and family.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

My take on…Monsters in the Movies by John Landis

July 22, 2012

My take on…Monsters in the Movies by John Landis

Monsters in the Movies
100 Years of Cinematic Nightmares
by John Landis
published by DK

“My criteria for inclusion of a particular monster is simple: the illustrations in this volume are there because I think they are cool.”
–John Landis
writing in Monsters in the Movies

John Landis has the geek cred to be asked to write this coffee table book. No question, An American Werewolf in London is an important movie. Landis’ Michael Jackson video, Thriller, has been hugely influential.

I remember seeing John Landis and Rick Baker at a convention somewhere, showing Schlock, which I did enjoy (and have watched more than once). As I recall, Baker’s business card read, “Rick Baker, Monster Maker”.

Geek cred, though, doesn’t automatically make you a great writer of non-fiction. This is definitely the work of a fan, not a film historian.

Movies are described as “boring” (Surrogates), “uninteresting” (Silence of the Lamb sequels), and we are told that Mal Arnold “redefines ‘bad acting'” (Blood Feast).

What gets included seems to follow fuzzy rules. The book appears to be intended to be about the movies (it’s in the title), but a few pictures from TV shows sneak in (a zombie from The Walking Dead, for example).  However, where one might expect to see a picture from TV, it may not be there. There is a photo essay on the Cyclops, for one…but if pictures from TV are allowed, why no Lost in Space Cyclops?

Landis also gets to interview some geek greats, including John Carpenter and Ray Harryhausen. However, as an interviewer, Landis seems to have a rigid agenda for what should be answered, and doesn’t seem to follow the interviewee into the unexpected when the opportunity presents itself. It’s as if John Landis wants to enter the answers into a database, rather than have a more general discussion.

The pictures do include nudity and gore that would not be safe for work, and the interviews include obscenities (including the “F word”).

Spoilers happen some times, and at other times, seem to be withheld.

All of that said, the pictures are magnificent. It’s fun to read a fan sharing enthusiasm, and a broad awareness of the subject.

The book is somewhat loosely organized into sections:

  • Vampires
  • Werewolves
  • Mad Scientists
  • Zombies
  • Ghosts
  • Mummies
  • Myths, Legends, & Fairy Tales
  • Dragons & Dinosaurs
  • Monstrous Apes
  • Nature’s Revenge
  • Atomic Mutations
  • The Devil’s Work
  • Space Monsters
  • Monstrous Machines
  • Human Monsters
  • Monster Makers (real people, like Willis O’Brien and Dick Smith)

Each section has an introductory essay, and then those wonderful photographs with captions by the author.

I enjoyed reading this book, and I think most fans will. I do recommend it…just sit back and enjoy it and don’t expect it to bring you an in-depth analysis of the topic.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Emmys 2012: American Horror Story doms the noms

July 19, 2012

Emmys 2012: American Horror Story doms the noms

The nominations for the Primetime Emmys are out, and the thing that is jumping out to me is the number of nominations for American Horror Story.

Clearly, it wasn’t hurt by FX putting it into the miniseries (or made for TV movie) category. You might immediately think that means fewer competitors, but it also can mean more money and/or bigger stars than is typical for a network.

Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk can be justifiably proud this morning. This series was certainly not mainstream, and although the Emmys are more likely to nominate the cutting edge than the Oscars, it is impressive to see it dominating the nominations (“dom the noms”).

I’m also impressed with Denis O’Hare being nominated for True Blood (as Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Made for TV Movie). Submitting a series now in its fifth season as a “miniseries” seems to be an effective strategy, if a loose use of the term.

Steven Moffat’s Sherlock was also recognized (Moffat was one of the creators…I think he’s one of the most interesting screenwriters out there).

Congratulations also to Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory) for repeat nominations.

I also want to single out Mayim Bialik for her nom for The Big Bang Theory. This marks her first Emmy nomination (although she was nominated for Young Artist awards for Blossom).

Geeky noms (I’m going to include some of the competitors):

  • Outstanding Comedy Series: The Big Bang Theory (Girls, 30 Rock, Modern Family, Veep)
  • Outstanding Drama Series: Game of Thrones (Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey)
  • Outstanding Miniseries or Made for TV Movie: American Horror Story, Sherlock (competitors include Hatfields & McCoys, Game Change)
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series: Jim Parsons for The Big Bang Theory (Alec Baldwin, Louis C.K.)
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series; Michael C. Hall for Dexter (Bryan Cranston, Jon Hamm, Steve Buscemi)
  • Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Made for TV Movie: Benedict Cumberbatch for Sherlock (Kevin Costner & Bill Paxton for Hatfields & McCoys, Woody Harrelson, Clive Own, Idris Elba)
  • Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Made for TV Movie: Connie Britton for American Horror Story (Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series: Bill Hader for Saturday Night Live (everybody on Modern Family 😉 , Max Greenfield for New Girl)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series: Peter Dinklage for Game of Thrones (Aaron Paul & Giancarlo Esposito for Breaking Bad, Jim Carter & Brendan Coyle for Downton Abbey)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Made for TV Movie: Martin Freeman for Sherlock, Denis O’Hare for True Blood (Tom Berenger, Ed Harris)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series: Mayim Bialik for The Big Bang Theory, Kristen Wiig for Saturday Night Live (Sofia Vergara  & Julie Bowen for Modern Family, Kathryn Joosten)
  • Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Made for TV Movie; Jessica Lange & Frances Conroy for American Horror Story (Mare Winningham, Judy Davis)

You can see the complete list at IMDb:

http://www.imdb.com/emmys/nominations

Congratulations again to all the nominees!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

“Don’t know? You’re supposed to be…”

July 17, 2012

“Don’t know? You’re supposed to be a psychic, right?

“Boy, you see me sawing some bony tramp in half? You think I’m a magician? I may be able to read thoughts and sense energies in a room, but I can’t just pull facts out of thin air.”

Missouri Mosely (Loretta Devine) responding to Dean Winchester (Jensen
Ackles)
Home episode of Supernatural
screenplay by Eric Kripke

I’ve been working, from time to time, on a book of quotations for many years.  I call it, “The Mind Boggles”, from one of my favorite quotations.  I do source quotations a bit differently from a lot of people.  In the case of a work of a fiction, I consider that the character said the line…not the author.  As a bit of an author myself (in a minor way), I can tell you…my characters definitely say things that I would never say.  These are all quotations that I’ve collected myself: I’ve read the book, seen the TV episode, and so on.

Hope you enjoy them!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

Live Story: June Foray

July 13, 2012

Live Story: June Foray

The Live Story series celebrates living people. We want them to know that they are appreciated.

“And now here’s something you’ll really like…”
–Rocket J. (“Rocky the Flying”) Squirrel (voice by June Foray)

As a voice artist, you don’t get paid for making funny voices…you get paid for making voices funny.

It takes someone who can act, who can get a desired emotional response out of an audience, to be successful. June Foray, who started doing voicework nearly seven decades ago, is a great example of that.

Take, for instance, Rocky and His Friends (Rocky & Bullwinkle). June Foray was pitch perfect as the plucky flying squirrel. We believed in his enthusiasm, and his friendship with Bullwinkle the Moose. Of course, we worried when Natasha Fatale (and Boris Badenov) plotted to “get squirrel”…and Natasha was also voiced by June! That wasn’t enough…Nell Fenwick, the love interest for Dudley Do-right, was brought to life by June Foray. She was also the Marjorie Main-esque Fairy Godmother in Fractured Fairy Tales, and many other voices.

That’s just one show!

From Disney (Ma Beagle on Duck Tales, Grandmother Fa), to Warner Brothers (Tweety and Sylvester’s owner Granny, Witch Hazel), to Hanna-Barbera (Jokey Smurf), many studios have used June’s talents.

While she’s often heart warming, she was a lot more chilling as the voice of Talking Tina in the classic Twilight Zone episode, Living Doll.

She’s also unmistakable dubbing the voice of “Sport” in the very last episode of that series, “The Bewitchin’ Pool”.

As to adaptations, she’s been Dorothy Gale from the Wizard of Oz…and Spider-Man’s Aunt May.

While her autobiography is called Did You Grow Up With Me, Too?, I think, perhaps more importantly, her performances have helped many of us keep our childlike joy as adults.

June Foray, thank you for all that you have done.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle

Ernest Borgnine reported dead

July 8, 2012

Ernest Borgnine reported dead

Ernest Borgnine was bursting at the seams with life.

Even though he was 95, I can’t think of a time I’d seen him recently when he didn’t seem to leap out of the screen with enthusiasm.

In fact, I remember him being interviewed on a news program in the past few years. The host asked him what his secret was for looking so much younger than he was. At first, Borgnine deferred, but then leaned in and whispered it. The mike picked it up clearly, and we all heard it. Let’s just say that, even into his nineties, Ernest Borgnine was the master of his domain.

Ernest Borgnine could play a big lovable lunk, or a cruel sadist. There was always something about him that said blue collar. He won a Best Actor Oscar in 1955 for playing Marty, a butcher. In the popular McHale’s Navy series, he was the leader of a PT crew, mischievously doing the right thing…without regard to upper class protocol.

His geek-friendly roles were many:

  • He appeared twice on Captain Video
  • He was a stand out as the lecherous boss in Willard
  • He joined Ben Gazzara and Walter Pidgeon in The Neptune Factor
  • He was the leader of a group of Satanists in The Devil’s Rain (which also featured William Shatner, Eddie Albert, Ida Lupino…and John Travolta)
  • In the Future Cop TV series, he had Michael Shannon as a robot partner
  • He starred in a TV movie version of John G. Fuller’s (Incident at Exeter, The Interrupted Journey) book, The Ghost of Flight 401
  • He was in Disney’s big budget movie The Black Hole
  • He was in Super Fuzz
  • For geeks, his role as Cabbie in John Carpenter’s Escape from New York is one of his best
  • Others will think of him first as the mechanic Dominic in the Airwolf series
  • He was a lion in an all-star version of Alice in Wonderland on TV (including Martha Raye, Donald O’Connor, and Sammy Davis, Jr.)
  • He was on the Highway to Heaven (and later, Touched by an Angel)
  • Brandon Lee was sent on a Laser Mission to rescue Ernest Borgnine as a professor
  • He was Grandfather in Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders
  • He started a successful voice work phase with All Dogs Go to Heaven 2 (as Carface…a role he would repeat in the series)
  • He did a voice on Pinky and the Brain
  • In Gattaca, there were genetically engineered superpeople…Ernest Borgnine costarred with Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Jude Law
  • He had a cameo in the Tom Arnold/Tim Curry version of McHale’s Navy in 1997
  • Hearkening back his work in The Dirty Dozen, he was a rogue action figure in Joe Dante’s Small Soldiers
  • He appeared in the Bigfoot comedy, Strange Wilderness (with Steve Zahn and Justin Long)
  • He was Big Jim in The Wishing Well
  • In 2010, he was in the straight-up science fiction movie, Enemy Mind
  • Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, and Helen Mirren starred in RED…and Ernest Borgnine kept the records
  • Millions of kids know him as superhero Mermaid Man (reuniting him with his McHale’s Navy co-star, Tim Conway, as Barnacle Boy) on SpongeBob SquarePants

Despite his undeniable mainstream success (From Here to Eternity, Bad Day at Black Rock), his geek contributions are truly significant.

Good-bye, Ernest Borgnine…the world is a little more pompous without you.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.

“You know, I’ve heard a rumor that there’s…”

July 6, 2012

“You know, I’ve heard a rumor that there’s an army of walking dead on this island…is there any truth to that?”
–Tom Harris (played by William Joyce)
I Eat Your Skin
screenplay by Del Tenney

I’ve been working, from time to time, on a book of quotations for many years.  I call it, “The Mind Boggles”, from one of my favorite quotations.  I do source quotations a bit differently from a lot of people.  In the case of a work of a fiction, I consider that the character said the line…not the author.  As a bit of an author myself (in a minor way), I can tell you…my characters definitely say things that I would never say.  These are all quotations that I’ve collected myself: I’ve read the book, seen the TV episode, and so on.

Hope you enjoy them!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle.


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