From The 7th King-Sized Cracked Annual
Dated: Sometime in 1973
In Commemoration of Tom Koch, Comedy Writer Extraordinaire
In Issue #93 of Mad Magazine, he co-created the game of 43-Man Squamish. (It has its own Wikipedia page. That's good comedy!)
We present Cracked's version:
A series of reviews and random bits of pop culture ephemera that I'm watching, reading, listening to or whatever.
Wednesday, April 29, 2015
Saturday, April 25, 2015
Torchy Blane.. Playing with Dynamite (1939)
And the Torchy Blane saga ends. Nine movies, three years, a big pile of entertainment. Glenda and Barton are gone. Jane Wyman takes up the mantle of Torchy. Allen Jenkins takes over as Lt. McBride. How do they fare? Surprisingly well. Actually.
It's Reagan calling Wyman on set! (Not really.)
Torchy & Steve
Jane Wyman is lovely. She doesn't have the slightly off-kilter good looks of Glenda. She looks like a beauty queen. (She's also around 13 years younger than Glenda and around 17 years younger than Jenkins.) She does a great job at Torchy. She seems game for anything in the same way that Lola Lane was ready to flop around in the ocean to catch her crook. Jane's Torchy gets into the thick of a prison brawl and goes deep undercover. And she does it with a vivacity and spirit that is very much like the reporter gal characters of the period. Actually, her performance, while charming, is the one thing that distracted me about the film.
Your Grandma's version of Orange is the New Black
Torchy Blane in Panama felt odd. It began strangely with the parade and the bank robbery. It was all buoyed by Lola Lane's slightly off-kilter interpretation of Torchy (cool but weird). Plus, it felt as if the movie was trying rather hard to be different from the films that came before it. Apart from the new angle of Torchy going undercover, Torchy Blane.. Playing with Dynamite, feels like the next Torchy Blane film. But, the regular stars aren't there. Jane Wyman is almost trying too hard to be like Glenda Farrell here. It feels like a remake of a Torchy film with a different lead actress. She's fun to watch but it feels a bit too much like she's mimicking Glenda. That's not a bad thing. It's just something I noticed. Maybe this shouldn't have been a Torchy film? They could have given her her own character and she could have had a great series. (They did, actually, in Private Detective later that year. -Ed.)
There are some individual moments within the film that are interesting. First, as mentioned, the whole film moves quite quickly, which is nice. There's never time to be bored because it's always up to something, especially in the first quarter. Second, the whole film is predicated upon a huge coincidence. Torchy is stopped by a police officer, like in Blondes At Work. This time she ends up in court where she sees Jackie, the moll, getting sent away to the pokey. That sparks her mind to get put in prison. It drives the film, which is good. But, I don't normally notice these big plot coincidences so it may be a bit too obvious. Then, there's the wrestling tangent.
Torchy Blane & Denver Eddie. Two great names that
do not go great together.
This part of the movie almost feels like something that could have wound up in a 1930s version of Pulp Fiction. Gahagan used to be a professional wrestler. He is revealed to be wearing his Champion Wrestling belt under his plainclothes. He becomes a professional wrestler again so he and Steve can remain undercover and not give their game away to the SF police. Suddenly, Gahagan is in the ring fighting an old rival and the film climaxes there. It's a strange tangent that comes out of nowhere but fits into the film. Maybe not perfectly but it fits.
Practicing faces for the final fade out
Torchy Blane... Playing with Dynamite ends the series on a note of hope, as if they felt more were in the future. Torchy doesn't actually do much reporting here. She acts more like a female undercover cop. But, the dynamic between her and Steve is still there (setting aside the age difference) and Gahagan is still goofy. When Our Heroes are assembled in the wrestling arena and get a final moment together... then the picture fades out... I was hoping it wouldn't be the end. Sadly, it is.
It's over! I can't believe it either
Thursday, April 23, 2015
BJ and the Bear S1 E7: The Murphy Contingent
Originally aired April 14, 1979
Directed by: Rod Holcomb
Written by: Frank Lupo & C.R. O'Cristopher (Christopher Crowe?)
B.J.'s Vietnam past comes back to haunt him when the chopper team who rescued him from the POW camp ask him to help break into a gangster's home to steal some already stolen gold! Tonight on... B.J. and the Bear!
That's a pretty good blurb. This is a pretty darn good episode. It's lacking the humor of previous episodes. But, it has B.J. stuck in a moral quandary and using all of his Hero skills to extricate himself from it. And that's worth watching. Bear gets kidnapped again, which may be too soon after the previous episode. This time, however, Bear gets to go crazy and that's cool. Smart hero + nutty chimp = A good evening of entertainment.
A traffic copter makes it personal
It all begins with B.J. being pulled over by hijackers. A helicopter rescues him (with some very nice Evigan stunt work involved) and it is filled with his 'Nam buddies and two ladies who were nurses. This gang runs a home for disabled Vietnam Vets that they are about to be evicted from by a real jerk. The ultimatum: Come up with $122,000 or hit the road. So, Murphy, the (possibly unhinged) leader, cooks up an idea. Steal a single gold bar from a stash that a nasty gangster stole from a vault. And they want to recruit B.J. to fly the copter.
He's a stunt rocker!
B.J. is against it. He should be. Much of the episode revolves around him trying to make a decision about what on Earth he's going do to help his friends, who are ladling on the guilt pretty heavy. Luckily, B.J. knows a very famous local reporter and he did that work for the U.S. Treasury back in the Pilot movie... (remember? I do like continuity.) It will all come together. Plus, B.J. will get some smooches out of it. That's a guarantee.
Bear goes mad!
I enjoy and appreciate the episodes that fill in the backstory of Our Main Guy. B.J. clearly wants to help his pals. He wants to pay them back for saving his life. But, after spending the series avoiding criminality, which he always ends up in close proximity to (not by his own fault, generally), his good friends want him to commit a crime... for a good cause. What can a man and his chimp do?
The jerk has arrived!
The episode is basically his conundrum and then, when the heist gets going, punching goons and car chases with a blonde in short shorts mixed in. Pretty standard B.J. and the Bear then. But, both sides of the scale are balanced so that the viewer is never completely sure where, exactly, B.J. is going to end up. We imagine that it will turn out all right but it keeps us guessing for a bit. Normally, in a TV show like this, the group who are in trouble don't have only one (illegal) recourse open to them: theft. One watches and watches the episode as, gradually, B.J. figures out what to do and conjures up a plan.
They're a fun group
And, in awesome fashion, the plan B.J. comes up with is overelaborate, slightly confusing and works perfectly. I don't know if this is a spoiler but the Vets get ownership of the house and everyone is happy in the end, except for the thugs. One of the best reasons to watch a show like this is that rarely ever does evil triumph even a little bit. Things may look super super dark but Life prevails over the Evil. One of the reasons I love this show. A cover of Elton John's Daniel is not a reason why I love this show. I'm not even sure why it's here but if this show were perfect it could not exist in our imperfect world.
About five seconds away from having to buy a new gate
add a topical element to the already very topical mix of this series, an element that is so obvious one can't imagine why it wasn't here earlier. But, for this episode, The Murphy Contingent, things are good. B.J. wins. Bear throws a tantrum. Life is nice.
Monday, April 20, 2015
Friday, April 17, 2015
Torchy Runs For Mayor (1939)
And Glenda Farrell officially says goodbye to the Torchy Blane series (along with Barton MacLane). It happens in a movie that feels sort of like the last episode for the series. There will be some SPOILERS here so be warned. The story is this: Torchy begins writing a series of stories about a Dr. Dolan who is adversely influencing the Mayor. Torchy gets a lot of heat. The mayor is killed. Dolan takes over. Torchy runs against him.
The Gang's All Here
In this movie, Torchy gets fired from her paper, which seemed like something that would never happen. She jumps from paper to paper trying to get her stories on Dolan published. Gahagan is demoted down to uniformed beat cop. The talk of marriage between Torchy and Steve returns, with a vengeance. And, at the very last moments in the picture, everything seems like it has reached its natural dramatic conclusion in the series. Maybe not the most advantageous ending for Torchy but McBride makes a good living.
Hooray! Torchy has a great hat!
Torchy Runs For Mayor, as a title, is like Friday the 13th Part 8: Jason Takes Manhattan in that it is a little misleading. Jason doesn't actually get to the Big Apple until the last half-hour. Torchy doesn't get nominated for Mayor until 40-ish minutes into this 60 minute film. SPOILER: She wins! The film has her proclaimed as a candidate, then immediately kidnapped by Dolan. She spends the rest of the movie in a daze until the last couple minutes. So, it's not really Torchy campaigning. That's the plot point that gets the final act moving.
As a film, this one isn't as strong as the previous one (Torchy Blane in Chinatown) but it's pretty good, providing one can forget the suspect ending. It moves at a a brisk pace. The mystery angle is dispensed with but as Torchy goes from paper to paper trying to get her story sold, and failing, things begin to become a bit desperate. When she gets kidnapped and stashed in a country cabin, it culminates with a great house-wide brawl with McBride, Gahagan and thugs. Plus, there's a bomb in Steve's car! It's funny, fast-moving good times with lots of great Torchy hats.
Trust me, there is a heck of a brawl going on here
The Torchy Blane movies have been an interesting series. The main cast is always good. Yes, Gahagan may get too dumb on occasion. Plus, it's tough to gauge Steve sometimes. He really seems to love Torchy in some of the films. Then, in others, he seems less interested in her and more interested in yelling. The plots have been hit and miss. The mystery-filled ones have, generally, been more fun to watch than the ones that are standard cops and reporters and crooks. Something about the mystery match-up/ rivalry made them more, kind of, delightful. And, of course, there is Glenda Farrell, who is consistently fantastic even when she's given stuff to do that's not quite right for Torchy.
Glenda, you're cool
Overall.. what? What did you say? There's another one? With Jane Wyman as Torchy? And Allen Jenkins from Sh! The Octopus? Does he play Steve? Huh... This could be the best (or worst) movie ever. Hang on, folks. #9 is on the horizon.
Shh, Jane Wyman is rehearsing...
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
Sunday, April 12, 2015
Torchy Blane in Chinatown (1939)
The seventh film in the Torchy Blane series is my favorite since Adventurous Blonde. It has a fun mystery, a quick pace, lots of Torchy being sassy and William Beaudine at the wheel. It also has a strange attitude towards Torchy that has been persisting for a few films now. And, the romance/ possible wedding of Torchy and Steve seems to be something the series has forgotten about. Oh well.
Torchy just being cool
Glenda Farrell is awesome here, as always. She actually wears a formal dress for an engagement party. She looks great. She slaps Gahagan in the stomach a lot. She argues with McBride. And, she has her life threatened by a piece of paper in a matchbook. Some of Torchy's best lines are in this movie, including one about balconies bringing out the Juliet in her. I'm so glad they got her back in the series.
The actual mystery is a good one here. Several men involved in taking jade treasures from China are threatened by what seems to be a Chinese gang of some sort. They are told they will die at midnight. And, several people do die at midnight in entertaining ways. One man is decapitated in a car crash. I'm not sure that happened often in 1939. The "Oriental" angle is mysterious enough to keep everyone guessing, except Torchy who is always on top of things. I appreciate the return to mystery.
Someone just slapped someone in the gut
But, sadly, the return to mystery doesn't actually involve Torchy and McBride working together. Quite a few scenes in this film are set up this way: Police, including McBride, show up at a house. They talk to people about the killings. Torchy, generally, sneaks in and is derided. But, she's a step ahead of everyone else so she is tolerated. That happens a lot in this movie. By the end, Torchy has ingratiated herself with the people who are being threatened, which is a relief, but it still feels somewhat strange.
I think Dick Tracy lives on this street
The odd part about Torchy Blane in Chinatown is the way they show Torchy solving the mystery. I won't give away who the bad guy is but I will mention, real quick, the way the movie wraps itself up. There is a meeting on a boat way, way out on the water. And Torchy isn't there. McBride isn't there. Gahagan isn't there. It's a guy meeting up with three masked crooks. Then, they are caught and unmasked. That's when the odd thing happens.
Looking good, T.B.!
Torchy proceeds to explain everything that's been going on. How she figured out who these crooks were and the steps she went though. But, they've already been caught... by someone else. It's like a James Bond movie ending with the bad guy being stopped by someone who wasn't James and then Our Hero stepping in and explaining what just happened. It's a good ending, explanation-wise, but it doesn't do much Torchy-wise. It feels like a misstep in a movie that was pretty solid right up to that point.
Gahagan in "Backing Into Hilarity!"
The movie isn't ruined by this ending. It just leaves an odd taste in one's mouth. The way the ending of Blondes At Work did. Our Hero(ine) shouldn't stand by and watch the ending. She should be a part of it. Well, this film brought back the mystery. Maybe Film #8 (the last with Farrell) will rectify the other problems. Maybe?
Poetry and submarines don't mix!
Wednesday, April 8, 2015
B.J. and the Bear S1 E6: Lobo's Revenge
Originally aired on April 7, 1979
Directed by Bruce Bilson
Teleplay by Michael Sloan
Story by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim
(My copy of this episode is super-fuzzy. So, my elongated screenshots are also super-fuzzy. My apologies.)
I love B.J. and the Bear. We all know that. But, it's very rare that the show makes me laugh out loud. It's not quite that kind of comedy for me. It's amusing, certainly, but not big guffaw-funny. However, there is one moment in Lobo's Revenge that made me laugh aloud. Sheriff Lobo's is currently situated in a trailer while the jail is being rebuilt. (See Odyssey of the Shady Truth.) This episode is filled with shenanigans between B.J. and Lobo. The funniest bit involves B.J. hooking the trailer, with Lobo sleeping inside, up to his rig and hauling it out of town. And the moment when Lobo wakes up and sees that he's in the middle of the forest... I laughed. Thank you, everyone involved.
Perkins! That's who!
The 6th episode of the first season sees a return to Orly County. By this time, any attempts at having Sheriff Lobo be a serious character are gone when Perkins dresses as a woman and tries to kidnap Bear. Lobo's plan is: Kidnap Bear. Bring him back to Orly. B.J. will come after his best friend. All charges have been dropped against B.J. but if Our Hero takes a wrong step he's getting put away. Of course, Lobo has other motives here involving overspending on police swag, an audit and robbing a bank. But, that's where it gets complicated. You can learn all that when you watch it yourself.
The episode spends about ten minutes kidnapping Bear and getting B.J. back to Orly. Then, the rest of it is basically B.J., surreptitiously, wrecking havoc on Lobo's world. Including moving the trailer and destroying the jail again... re-using the shot of the wall landing on a police car from the previous Orly episode. And the whole adventure is fun. I was worried that a Bear kidnapping might make things more serious. (See Season 2's Bear Bondage.) But, nope. It's all goofballery of the highest order.
Is Perkins pretending he's dissolving from exposure to toxic waste?
No, you goof! He went through the car wash wrong!
Who's the lovely lady with Brion James?
Evigan and Akins work well off each other. Their moments together are good ones. Lobo is one sneaky guy, though. And Perkins is an idiot. B.J. meets up with a lovely lady who I think was in Shady Truth. (I couldn't quite place her. Maybe she wasn't.) The episode has a nice leisurely pace to it. It doesn't go anywhere exciting and new. Steal Bear. B.J. causes trouble. Bank robbery. Car chase. But, as another episode in the continuing saga of Lobo vs. B.J., it's a worthy entry in the Canon.
Sheriff Perkins. Criminals start running
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