Friday, April 12, 2013

Clyde’s Movie Palace: So Proudly We Hail (1943)




Directed by Mark Sandrich
Written by Allan Scott
Musical Score by Miklos Rozsa



I'm not sure how many women have heard the story about Warner Brothers President Jeff Robinov stating in 2007 that they will be making no more films with women leads because two such films, The Brave One with Jodie Foster and The Invasion with Nicole Kidman had both lost money along with Emma Robert's Nancy Drew, a movie that I wrote about HERE in which I cited the reasons for its failure.  

Robinov later said he didn't really mean it. Of course, all the  movies he mentioned also had male leads and the ones that didn't were aimed strictly at thirteen and fourteen year old's. In other words, mature adult female leads need not apply. So in today's climate when sexism and misogyny have become the norm, I'm not buying Robinov's backtrack.  And although I’m no Gloria Allred fan, she had the perfect response:  So when movies with male leads fail at the box office, does that mean Warner's will stop making movies with men?

Frankly, with attitudes such as that of Robinov and as long as similar attitudes prevail in Hollywood, one can understand why it’s so difficult for women to sometimes get a role they can really sink their teeth into. 

In the 1940’s, one has to then  wonder how a film like So Proudly We Hail ever made it into the theaters. It stars not just one mature female lead, it boasts three of the best ever in Claudette Colbert, Paulette Goddard, and Veronica Lake.  But maybe that’s it.  If you’re going to give a dance, you have to bring the triple threat.

Getting these gals together couldn’t have been easy.  Big stars have egos, and sometimes those egos can get in the way.  I’ve heard and read different stories in regards to whether or not they got along.  Some say that Claudette and Paulette feuded, and in this clip by Robert Osborne, Lake indicated none of them could get along with  Colbert but co-star George Reeves said that it was actually Lake who caused all the problems on the set.  George was a man though so women will probably retort, “what did he know?”  What I find amazing is that 70 years later, people still gossip about what may or may not have happened in 1943.


How often have we forgotten the role that women played in World War II? Sometimes we have to be reminded that it just wasn't the men in the trenches. I know it must have been a shock to moviegoers of the 40’s to see these three woman disembarking from a plane looking anything but Hollywood type glamorous in the opening. It is obvious that they had all been to hell and back, a point emphasized even more so when Lt. Janet "Davey" Davidson (Claudette Colbert) is removed from the aircraft on a stretcher. She is awake, but she is unresponsive  to any kind of stimulus.  Later, as the women gather together on the ship which will transport them back to the United States, they tell their story which begins at the exact day they shipped out for the land of fun and folic known as Hawaii.



So Proudly We Hail is the story of Marine Nurses who are sent to the Bataan Peninsula to help with the wounded during the initial days of World War II. The head nurse is Lieutenant Janet “Davey” Davidson.   She’s the boss, but only up to the point where somebody comes along who outranks her.  If you know anything about the armed forces, that happens a lot.  There’s always one person with one more star or one more stripe than you.  You can only beat that wrap by being elected president, but then you have no stripes and no stars and may not even know the difference between a rifle butt and a rifle barrel.  . 

Under her tutelage are Lt. Joan O'Doul (Goddard) and Lt. Rosemary Larson (Britton).  O’ Doul is man crazy,  She is engaged to two guys at the same time, both of them in the military, both of whom have come to kiss her goodbye, thus creating a problem that requires Davey’s help so that Joan can squirm away without causing any bad feelings.  Fighting the Japanese is difficult enough without fights breaking out among each other over some dame. 

Rosemary is leaving home for the first time and is being seen off by her parents who ask Davey to make sure that their daughter gets back home safely.  And since Hawaii seems to be such a nice provincial  place to visit, it’s a promise Davey readily assents to.

 

The destination of the nurses is suppose to be Pearl Harbor, but in the middle of their voyage, the Japanese poop on everybody’s party and as we all know launch a sneak attack.  So instead of Pearl Harbor, their ship is left wandering kind of aimlessly on the open sea, accompanied by a convoy until they can get new orders.  As we all know though, things were pretty much a mess directly after December 7th, so it could take a while for everybody to get their shit together and get on the same page.

Unfortunately, the accompanying convoy is torpedoed by a sub, and although most of the crew is killed, some do manage to survive.  One of these is injured Lieutenant Medical Technician John Summers (Reeves) who although bedridden, refuses to let any of the nurses bathe him.  Davy steps in and shows him who the boss really is, and never has love blossomed so quickly with so little soap.  

Having escaped the carnage uninjured is Lt. Olivia D'Arcy (Lake) who is placed under Davy’s command and comes aboard with a major chip on her shoulder. She hates camaraderie, and wants to be left alone to do her job.  She doesn’t want advice and she doesn’t want friendship.

Also on board is a former collegiate football player that goes by the name of "Kansas" (Tufts) and he develops an instant attraction to boy crazy Rosemary.  Kansas is an ex-football jock who acquired the name Weepy Willocheck in college because he became a super human grid iron star only after getting mad and shedding a few tears.  He is also a klutz, pretty much a doofus, and is kind of funny.  He has a habit of saying things that eventually seem to come true:  I never catch a cold, I never get sunburned, I never get wounded, and I never get killed. 


Eventually, after a big fight with Davy and the rest of the girls, Olivia breaks down to tell us what her problem is.  Hint:  It isn’t hemorrhoids. 

The boy that Olivia was going to get married to was slaughtered during the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Her only goal now is not to heal the sick at all, but to kill Japs.  Lots and lots of Japs.  Her words, not mine.  Watch the video for confirmation.


Shortly after that the nursing corps is ordered to Bataan where Captain "Ma" McGregor (Mary Servoss) is in charge of the medical personnel.  Once there, Davy and the gang find out how bad the situation really is. There is never enough doctor or nurses. Medical equipment and medicine is in short supply or non existent. Sleep or rest comes only when one is exhausted and can go on no further. They are constantly being bombarded by the Japanese, and the war seems to be lost before it has even begun.  It is up to Ma to make sure the girls do their nurse thing without any distractions.  That means it is also her duty to put the kibosh on the ever blossoming romance between Davey and John.  The nurses are there to attend the wounded, not to be out wooing and screwing.

Ma also has a son who is in the Philippines fighting.  From the little information provided, I guess they are descendents from a family with a long history of military service.  It’s an honorable profession if there ever was one I guess, but one can’t help but feel that at times it’s a dead end job. 
 
Joan is assigned to take care of the Filipino children while unbeknownst to Davy and the others, Olivia volunteers to take care of the Japanese wounded to extract her single minded revenge. 

Rosemary assists a Filipino surgeon, Dr. Jose Bardia (Ted Becht), who speaks endlessly of the tragedy and consequences of war while he patches men, women, and children up only to see them killed again. While delivering a breach birth from a woman who will die soon Dr. Bardia lectures as if he is still at the university, and already has learned about the uselessness and the heartbreak of war:

You must forgive me if I talk while I'm operating. I'm so used to lecturing my students. Sometimes I thank my stars for my scientific education. A baby to be born, breach delivery, only three out of five live. Live for what? Don't people die fast enough without destroying each other? Is life too long? No, we mustn't ask that. I wonder how scientific those heaps out on the battlefield feel. Guns, machines, so much rubbish. What was it in my student days? Chemically a man is worth 97 cents. Probably $1.05. What with the shortage of parts and monopoly now, the dead have risen in value. Two for $1.98 on dollar day. This little fellow we're about to introduce to the world tonight, what for him? I don't know. They forgot to teach me about spirit somewhere. Ninety seven cents worth of body but a priceless spirit. May he be born to live in freedom."
It is small details like that which can lift a movie such as this from being just run of the mill.  But I am wondering if we were worth 97 cents in the early forties, how much are we worth now when adjusted for inflation?   I guess I’ll look that up.   Before long, Rosemary becomes his second set of hands and they are inseparable. 

When not taking care of the medical needs of the children, Joan entertains the children with wondrous tails about the heroic deeds of Superman until one of the children asks if Superman is so good, why isn't he here helping them. Joan's reply, "He just landed with the marines, his name is Kansas." (On a side note:  the irony here is  that George Reeves who plays John Summers would go on to play Superman on TV.)
As the Japanese close in, the nurses are forced to evacuate the wounded in the hospitals from one base to the next. And evacuation is not always easy, as some will sacrifice, some will die, and a few will live on with lives that will forever be altered.

At one stopping point there is no hospital. It is nothing more than a jungle where the patients are kept hidden as much as possible even though there are between five and eight thousand patients. Malaria and dysentery became common among the patients and those attending them.  This film was released in 1943, in the middle of the war.  Do not expect any kind words in regards to the Japanese.  They were our enemy at the time, and So Proudly We Hail makes doubly sure that they are painted  with the strokes of the broad brush of wickedness, even down to calling a pet monkey Tojo because “he looks just like him.”  Him being Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.  And no, I won’t condemn a film for displaying what were U.S. sentiments at the time.
 

When the bombing attacks do come, director Mark Sandrich and his special effects crew do an outstanding job of making them as realistic as any I've seen in films from that era. They are intense which is why the film was nominated for an Academy Award for it's special effects.  Writer Allan Scott's Oscar nominated script is also much better than what one usually finds in some of the by the numbers war films of the forties. But I did began to get annoyed with Walter Abel’s chaplain, whose preachiness got to be a bit way too much at the time.  They are more like rambling political speeches instead of prayer.  He was better and funnier playing Fred Astaire’s agent in Holiday Inn.  Here, he is just downbeat, downcast, and dour.  Bring on Father Mulcahy.

 


The romance between Davy and John is sometimes dwelled on more than it should be and threatens to derail the film but only occasionally. Reeves is good here, and so is Colbert.  I just wish every one of their scenes together didn’t have to be played as if they were totally star struck.  But what can I say except that if War is Hell, Love on the Battlefield is a bittersweet catastrophe.


But writer Scott manages to balance things out by having the type of non-romantic romance between Kansas and Joan become more of a battle of wits with Goddard always having the upper hand over the love struck and hapless Kansas in a role Tufts was probably born to play.  Although judging from the men running today's studios and what they DECIDE women want to see, they would probably make it ALL about the romance and the war and sacrifice would be an afterthought.  What I found most amazing is that Scott was not only able to insert Dr. Bardia 's clearly anti war speech into film, but also has Davey lamenting about our own failures as a country:

"Why isn't there any quinine? Why isn't there any food? Why isn't there any supplies? Why are we waiting here like rats in a cage waiting for the man to come and pour scalding water over us?

Why was nothing done? Why? I'll tell you why, it's our own fault. Because we believed WE WERE the world. That the United States was the whole wide world.

Those outlandish places, Bataan, Corregidor, and Mindanao. They're not American Names. They're just American graveyards."
But there is plenty of rah rah patriotic cheerleading as well as to why it’s necessary to fight, and why we have to die which generally ends with the observation that we didn’t start this war but we sure as hell were going to finish it.  Those kind of proclamations kind of went hand in hand with every war movie released during the early and mid forties.

Stir in Miklos Rozsa's emotion laden memorable score and Charles Lang's topnotch black and white cinematography which will make it seem as if the bombs are exploding in your face as they fall.  Rozsa did stellar work for MGM for years, including greats such as Ben-Hur, Julius Caesar, Quo-Vadis, and The Asphalt Jungle.  Lang has a list of credits a mile long and was one of the greats directors of photography.  I wonder if any of today’s young audiences could actually appreciate what people like Rozsa and Lang brought to the art of film making.   Many of his films are on my list of favorites. But let's be real here.

This is Colbert, Goddard's, and Lake's film and they are magnificent in it. To be able to see these three greats working together would be enough to make this film worth renting or purchasing, but they put everything they have into these roles and it shows in every single scene. They didn't just show up to get screen time and a paycheck. They go from being just being nurses to becoming every bit as tough and gritty as any man ever thought of being during war. And in two unforgettable scenes that by themselves make this film unforgettable, Veronica Lake almost steals the film out from under her costars.

 
It was Paulette Goddard who received a best actress in a supporting role nomination.  Certainly deserved, as her and Tuft’s scenes together are a joy to watch, and Joan is easily the most entertaining character on board.  Without her, the film would be way too downbeat and dour to even contemplate.  And me being the nosy reviewer that I am went back to check on the Oscars given out that year for best actress.  It seems one beatified nun trumps three WWII nurses as Jennifer Jones took home the prize for Song of Bernadette.  It’s been way too many years since I’ve seen that film, so I’m not going to pass judgment.  At least not today.

And although one certainly can’t argue against the fact that Casablanca deservedly won Best Picture, this film certainly should have at least been nominated over such forgettable fare as The Human Comedy and For Whom The Bell Tolls.  But it’s kind of tough to rehash 70 year old Oscar history.

The men aren’t too shabby either.  Sonny Tufts, in his film debut, won a nomination for Best Supporting Actor and does a stellar job bringing the character of Kansas to life.  Unfortunately, it was the beginning of a long downward slide for him.  From the IMDB:

An old college football injury had disqualified him for military duty, and so, with many of Hollywood's younger leading men serving overseas in World War II, this tall, blond, blue-eyed actor became something of a star, if only by default. But by the turn of the decade he had found his name in print on account of his off-screen activities. In 1949 he had been found drunk on a Hollywood sidewalk. In 1950 he was sued by two women for allegedly biting each of them in the thigh. In 1951 his wife had him jailed for drunkenness. The name Sonny Tufts itself became a joke. Thereafter he made few films, but could be found in occasional guest appearances on inconsequential TV shows. He died of pneumonia at age 58.
  

Poor George Reeves.  He’s actually very good in this film as the romantic lead.  Unfortunately, beyond that he never really gets a chance to stretch his acting legs.  At least not here.  He has a long list of credits to his name, but roles like that of John Stephens have been largely forgotten as he was typecast forever as being Superman in the hit TV show of the 50’s.  And whether or not he was murdered or committed suicide, is way beyond my expertise on the subject.  I was all of six years old when that event occurred.  If he did hate having been typecast as the Man of Steel, it’s kind of unfortunate that it is forever inscribed on his tomb marker

It doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman though. So Proudly We Hail is the kind of film that every person regardless of sex should see and is certainly the kind of film that they should be making even today featuring what women are really capable of. It's amazing that a film of this quality seldom gets any notice, even when they trot out every war movie ever made for Memorial Day Weekend. No, it may not have John Wayne battling it out on the front lines, but it has so much more to offer in so many ways and you know when a film has that I have no choice but to give it my grade which would be an A.

So Proudly We Hail is available on DVD rental from Netflix or to purchase from Universal Home Video. Use the provided links if you so desire.  Here’s a word of caution.  Don’t think these films will be available forever.  It’s getting harder and harder to find some of the classics on Netflix, and in many cases on Amazon.  Just keep that in mind.

The film also appears from time to time on Turner Classic Movies so check the listings on their web site.  Recently, it was introduced in a showing on TCM by Cher on 4/12/2013, so maybe we’ll have a second go round of that eventually.  Great choice by her for this movie and the one following it, Since You Went Away.

And before I forget, adjusted for inflation, the cost of the human body is now worth $14.92 cents.  Isn’t life grand? 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Clyde’s Movie Palace: Ride the Wild Surf (1964)

 



Starring
Fabian as Jody Wallis
Shelley Fabares as BrieMatthews
Peter Brown as Chase Colton
Barbara Eden as Augie Poole
Tab Hunter as Steamer Lane
Susan Hart as Lily Kilua
James Mitchum as Eskimo
John Anthony Hayes as Frank Decker
Roger Davis as Charlie
Catherine McLeod as Mrs. Kilua

The Gospel According to Clyde

In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth. But the earth wasn’t much of a place because there wasn’t any water. As far as the eye could see there was nothing but dirt, sand, some crab grass, and maybe a few ears of corn up there around the North American Continent.

So then God made the oceans and the seas and saw that it was good. And he made some fihies.  But after a while, God grew tired of watching the fishies do nothing but swim around all day and all night.  And besides, it was hell trying to clean a fish tank that big.    So to add a little atmosphere,  he made the surf and the waves and saw that it was good.  And for a long time God was happy.

But soon, God became bored once again. You can only watch the waves hitting the shore for so long before you begin saying to yourself, “If you’ve seen one wave, you’ve seen them all.”

So in his infinite wisdom God made the surf board and placed it on the shores of Malibu and Waimea. But amen I say unto you, the surfboard was lonely on the shore with nothing to do. Not to mention that it did nothing but lay around all day.  So again, in all of his graciousness, God made the surfer man, who did praise unto God and did thus climb aboard the surfboard and rode the surf mightily from sea to shining sea and God saw that it was good.

On the last day, God rewarded man by bestowing upon him the bikini. But upon seeing that the bikini looked a bit silly on Surfer Man, who had no boobs,  God created woman and slid her inside of the bikini  instead of Surfer Man. And when God saw what he had done, he knew that it was very very very damn good. And so did the surfer man. And he did praise God mightily and even lit a candle.



We all have our guilty film pleasures. These are the movies that you may have watched at one time or another that have for the most part been trashed by the critics and/or public, or movies that should not be viewed with any relevance if you consider yourself a real film connoisseur. You know, a snob.  They are not films you would normally bring up in a public forum, or brag about in too many private conversations either.

It’s not the fact that you watched these cinematic exercises that make them a guilty pleasures. It’s the fact that you have probably wallowed in them several times over the years.

I have quite a few movies like this that I generally don’t own up to  as being favorites. But I have decided to cleanse my soul, not only by admitting that I have actually seen Ride The Wild Surf, but that I relish the time spent watching it and will probably watch it many times before it’s time to go to movie heaven where St. Peter will scornfully cast me aside for daring to advocate for you to partake in this epic tale of fun in the Hawaiian Sun. 


Now don’t get me wrong. Most Surfer  Movies that starred Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, and the dumbest group of over age 25 to 30 year olds pretending to be teenagers ever to hit the big screen are painful film experiences.  But things were a bit different in the sixties when these films, strictly a product of their time, caught a wave into the local neighborhood cinema. 

We had TV’s, but there were only about three channels one could view for entertainment.  There were no video games, no Iphones or Ipods, no DVD’s, no home computers, and no satellite dish or cable.  How did we ever survive?  Oh, it wasn’t all that bad.  If you think we had it rough let me tell you about this guy named Lincoln and his log cabin.

We had other options though.  You could put some 45’s on the record player and twist the night away.  You could even get the 60’s equivalent of an Ipod, a portable one speaker a.m. transistor radio bringing you the top forty hits through either your two inch speaker or an earphone.  No, that’s not a typo.  It was one single earpiece with very shitty sound.  You wanted stereo sound?  You had better have the big bucks and it went in your living room, not in your car.  The car generally had a better speaker but the a.m. sound still was shit. 

Other than that, you could head downtown to the theater and catch a movie.  If you were lucky enough to have wheels, you might even catch a double feature at the drive-in, or you might go there and not watch the movie at all. What?  You mean you still haven’t seen Grease?

Most young guys like myself went to films like Beach Party and Beach Blanket Bingo simply to ogle at the female flesh shoved inside some rather flimsy material. Except for Annette. 

Her bathing suit was always very chaste and so was she which probably made her seem hotter than she was.  Although by her last beach movie, I’m told she did finally dip herself into a real honest to goodness bikini.  I guess when Uncle Walt wasn’t looking. 

But Annette was the girl you were going to marry, so it was okay that she was as chaste as Doris Day in a movie with Rock Hudson.   You didn’t want her to be just another stray bimbo on the beach with a name like Sugar Cane.  She had nice cute little names like Dee-dee.   

As to why any teenage girls went to these movies, you may have to ask one of them because I don’t really know and have never asked although I have my suspicions.  Those swim trunks were always kind of tight. 


Even at the age of thirteen and fourteen I knew these films were idiotic and was bored with anything that happened plot wise when the music quit and the jiggling stopped.  Eric Von Zipper (Harvey Lembeck) the worst motorcycle gang leader in history, would then show up for some dysfunctional slapstick while the girls and guys took a break to replenish their suntan lotion supply.  I personally wanted to kick Zip and his whole motorcyle gang of nincimpoops off a cliff, preferably above the Grand Canyon.  I wanted to yell at the screen, “Just show us some more wiggily butts and bouncy boobs!. “  

Yeah, you know.  Teenage boy talk.  Except we didn’t really put it quite that nicely.  I just can’t bring myself to say ass and tits now that I’ve  grown up and am a responsible adult.


But nothing is etched in stone and there are in fact a couple of these surfing type movies that I actually enjoyed. Well, technically, you can’t really call the two that I like Beach Movies because neither actually fit the criteria even if they were directed at that particular audience. Of those two movies, the one that serves our purposes for this review is Ride the Wild Surf.

The reason Ride the Wild Surf was a cut above the norm is because instead of third grade level comedy capers, it decided it wanted to go in an opposite direction. The producers, directors, the writers, and powers above decided to take the genre and turn it upside down by featuring a bunch of people who could act (somewhat), several romances that didn’t rely on anyone being kidnapped by a klutzy motorcycle gang, and instead of third grade comedy you get fourth grade dramedy.  Hey, an improvement is an improvement so don’t be so judgmental.

Ride the Wild Surf also has a lot of something else. It has a whole bunch of surfing in it which is something that the Beach Party movies never had very much of.  In those films, the participants spent about 90 percent of their time on the beach. Which is why they probably haf titles like Beach Blanket Bingo and How to Stuff a Wild Bikini instead of Surferboard Parchesi or How to Wax a Wild Surfboard. 

In this film, sometimes you get the real kind of surfing, but about half the time you get the phony kind of surfing which takes place in front of a huge green screen with waves being projected onto the background.  The rule is, if it’s a close up of a member of our all star cast, they are on the studio back lot.  If you watched the video at the top, you really don’t need me to explain that to you.  If you didn’t watch, why not?  It wasn’t easy putting that thing together.  Have a little respect.  Just kidding.

Put on your thinking caps and try to keep up as I give you the plot synopsis. Three surfers, Jody (Fabian), Chase (Peter Brown), and Steamer (Tab Hunter), travel to Hawaii to surf the really big waves there that you can’t seem to find on the shores of California. Sort of the last big thrill before they move on with their sad and wretched lives. And of course, it doesn’t take long for our three heroes to get connected with their love interests.

Steamer meets his gal pal  when she shows up on a beach riding a horse. He finds out later that her name is Lily Kalua (Susan Hart) and that she lives on a farm with her mother (Catherine McLeod) who absolutely hates surfers. She hates them because her husband decided to get on his surfboard and catch a wave down to Borneo. When you meet Mrs. Kalua, you’ll understand why.

Speaking of the luau, during the party Chase watches as Augie Poole (Barbara Eden) does hand to hand combat with one of the guys. She loses that match but then goads Chase into a match after he calls her a girl nut. Since Augie is a black belt she quickly pins Chase and demands that Chase say Uncle. Chase, being the stuffed shirt that he is, says nothing and shows us what a sore loser he is. Later, Augie tracks him down and apologizes for having the audacity to lick him in a fair fight. Well, this was the sixties and women hadn’t even burned their first bra yet so please make allowances. What we find out though is that Augie is an adventurous fun loving gal, and Chase is just an old stick in the mud wanting to do nothing but spoil her fun.


As for Jody, his gal is Brie Matthews (Shelley Fabares whose other career consisted of playing Mary Stone on the Donna Reed Show, Francine Webster on One Day at a Time, and Christine Armstong on Coach). They get hooked up when Jody volunteers to take her to Augie who is with Chase since Augie and Brie are best friends. Jody’s big hangup is phonies. He hates phonies and since Jody thinks everyone is a phony to some extent, I guess he hates everybody.

Later, Brie tries to convince Jody that he shouldn’t have dropped out of college and that he could go back and make it if he really really tries. It is then that Jody decides to go for the King of the Surf title which will get his name on a Surfboard by Phil and some cash to obtain his PHD in the many uses of surfboard wax.

To do so, he must be the last surfer surfing at Waimea and outlast the previous year’s winner, Eskimo. (James Mitchum, one of the begotten sons of Robert) But before that can happen, Jody faces a couple of problems. He accidentally tries to take another surfer’s nose off with his surfboard and that surfer is now out for revenge. To add to his misery, poor old Jody suffers a wipe out, and instead of wanting to conquer the waves some thirty feet high, he becomes Mr. Chicken. Plus, he still has to deal with his “Everybody’s a phony” psychosis.  What can I say?  Life’s a beach I guess.

And that pretty much sums it up. In the middle of all of this high concept drama we get a lot of surfing as the guys surf this beach and that beach while they wait for the waves at Waimea to come up. At one point you might get confused thinking they are at the same beach on the same day but they are not. I figured this out by listening more closely to the narrator, and by noticing that Brie and Augie’s bathing suits kept changing colors as they sat in the sand ogling their surfer guys whom they have fallen madly in love with in just the short span of 24 hours or less.



As for real surfing, obviously it is done by stunt doubles but what makes these scenes a huge cut above what you generally see in these types of films is that there was a real effort made to show us some pretty good surfing. And, they even made sure each and every real life surfer was wearing the exact same bathing suits as the stars did. And just so they didn’t get messed up on which suit was worn by who and on what day, both stars and stunt doubles wear the same bathing suits throughout the film. Of course, it could be that since the only thing these guys do is surf, and that holding a job might be a strange concept for them, they could only afford the one pair of trunks.


But either way you go you will like the surfing scenes and if not you can admire the beefcake if you are a truly red blooded American gal (or any gal from anywhere), or even if you’re just another guy if that’s your preference. 

If you are a guy (Or even a gal if that’s your bag.  We are all inclusive here.) you can stare at Barbara Eden’s navel that she was never allowed to expose during five seasons of I Dream of Jeannie but would uncover her belly button in all it’s glory all fifteen years later. Anyway, in my opinion a two piece flowered bathing suit trumps harem outfit any old day of the week. And there’s something about Shelley Fabares’s very very bleached blonde hair that always has me debating as to whether she should have gone with that color for the rest of her career or not. Who knows, if she had she could possibly have been the next Marilyn....nah, just kidding.


And where else do you get authentic surfer local color such as a big fat guy named Phil chewing on a cigar while he waxes surfboards and gives out truly authentic surfing commentary and advise?  Heck, this movie is worth tuning into just to see Surfboards by Phil in action.


I think the thing about Ride the Wild Surf is that when you put it up against crap like Bikini Beach, Muscle Beach Party, Beach Blanket Bingo, or even How to Stuff a Wild Bikini, it comes off looking like a much better film than it probably is.

Although the various romantic entanglements are no more compelling than a day time soap opera, the actors involved manage to do a pretty good job working with very little.

Many of these young thespians went on to further their career in some fashion or another. Fabian had some nice guest star roles in films like North to Alaska, Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation, The Longest Day and Five Weeks in a Balloon, a film in which Barbara Eden was also along for the ride.

Fabares also made a couple of films with Elvis, and played Brian Piccolo's wife Joy in the much acclaimed TV movie Brian’s Song. Eden did the film version of Harper Vally PTA which was based on Jeannie Riley’s hit song, but her most memorable film role for me was playing the sexually suppressed but hotter than a firecracker Angela Benedict in 7 Faces of Dr. Lao.  This after having made an impression as  “playing hard to get” but very hot nurse Laura Rogers in The New Interns.   After playing Jeannie though, it was pretty much a wrap for Eden’s theatrical film career but she did do a beehive full of TV weepers. 

Tab Hunter has had some decent film roles over the years including a pretty good one as a baseball player in Damn Yankees and made a comeback in the John Waters film Polyester

James Mitchum, who inherited his father’s looks but apparently not much else, did make many films after this one, but none that really made an impact.  He kept company with Mickey Rooney and Hugh O’Brian in a film called Ambush Bay that I just ordered from Amazon out of curiosity.  Yes, that actually happens sometimes when I’m writing one of these reviews.  But Town Without Pity, a movie I have seen several times, comes along with it so that gave me a nudge.

If there is a weakest link in this ensemble, Susan Hart takes home the honors. She pretty much seems to sleepwalk through the movie with two expressions: glum and glummer. And we will not forgive her for taking up so much screen time doing that crappy dance at the luau in which a case of arthritis seems to have descended into her hips.  She went on to appear in the Dr. Goldfoot & The Bikini Machine, which only proves one thing:  Quit while you’re behind. 

Except she didn’t.  Ms. Hart was smarter than all of us.  She married the producer and president of American International Pictures and teen film maker connoisseur, James H. Nicholson, thus coming out better than just about anybody else involved in this film. 

Peter Brown would later star in the hit TV series, Laredo.  But he didn’t stop there.  There’s not too many TV shows before 2005 that he didn’t make at least one guest appearance.  In 2006, he did a western called Hell to Pay, and that’s the last of his credits on the IMDB so your guess is as good as mine as to what he’s been doing since.


Now I know that despite what I say here, you’re not about to rush out and rent or buy this film although you may find it a nice addition to your DVD library as a historical reference.  Maybe your kid can even take it to school for show and tell.

Or you may just want to slip it into your Netflix queue out of curiosity since it does give you a chance to see a lot of future TV stars, and film co-stars as they were at the beginning of their careers. Then again, maybe the reason I like the film and watch it is because that I have this fantasy that in one of my viewings, Augie’s big rocket will somehow magically fly after all, and we’ll get to see it in all it’s glory instead of what really happens thanks to shmuck face Chase. And no, I’m not going to tell you what I’m talking about.

So all in all, not a terrible way to go. You might even find yourself humming along to the catchy end title theme song by Jan & Dean  What, you haven’t watched the top video yet?  Note, that’s not Jan and Dean’s original recording.  I had to use a later version with just Dean and some unknown.  This I was informed of on YouTube so take it with a grain of salt.  I’m just shocked the thing is still there although the usual pock of dipshits did make a copyright claim and added a commercial.   But if I were to grade Ride the Wild Surf film on Clyde’s sixties surfing movie curve, then I would have no choice but to give it my grade of B-.  Until next time, Be Here, Aloha.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Repeat! We have a winner in The Consumerist’s Worst Company in the U.S. It’s EA! Again!

I’m glad EA made the finals, but I think Bank of America should have taken the award.  Or maybe not.  That’s just logic talking.  Emotionally, I simply hate the fuck out of EA and I’m glad they are the winner.  EA is the epitome of American Corporations who just don’t give a rats ass about consumers.

They have done their best to destroy any enjoyment one could get out of gaming with their crappy half assed half finished over-priced games, their DRM always on connection schemes, their overpriced micro-transactions some of which include paying for game items plastered with advertising so they get paid twice, and their total lack of customer service.  Those last two words are not even in the EA vocabulary.

And the
response last week of chief operating officer Pete Moore trying to blame EA’s performance on homohpobia is as disgusting as it gets.  When you start using the gay community as a shield because your company sucks big time, your just as bad as any Republican because you’re a hypocrite.

I can find nobody, and neither did The Consumerist, offering any evidence that people voted because they hated homosexual.  Simply put, practically everybody hates EA and their disgusting lies such as the continual falsehood regarding the DRM of Sim City.  The people who run this company are totally clueless, and the stockholders should be pissed off about it.  But apparently they are as stupid as those they hire to run this fiasco.  Or maybe they love losing money.

The Consumerist:

Make no mistake: Video games are big business. A company like EA — and Activision, Ubisoft, Nintendo, and Sony, etc. — merits just as much scrutiny as any other business that plays a leading role in a multibillion-dollar industry. It’s only a fractured, antiquated public perception that video games are somehow frivolous holdovers from childhood that allows gamers to be abused and taken advantage of by the very people who supply them the games they play.

“Until EA stops sucking the blood out of games in order to make uninspiring sequels, or at least until they begin caring about how much gamers hate their lack of respect for our money and intelligence, this is going to continue,” writes Penny Arcade’s Kuchera. “We don’t hate them because we’re homophobes, we hate them because they destroy companies we love. We hate them because they release poor games. We hate them because they claim our hate doesn’t matter as long as we give them our money.”

Instead of deflecting, we ask the higher-ups at EA to reflect on the following question:

When we live in an era marked by massive oil spills, faulty foreclosures by bad banks, and rampant consolidation in the airline and telecom industry, what does it say about EA’s business practices that so many people have — for the second year in a row — come out to hand it the title of Worst Company In America?


Something that is totally overlooked and seldom mentioned is that if EA is such a great company, why have they shown more losing quarters over the years than profitable ones?   And this is by a large margin.

For the quarter ended Dec. 31, EA posted a net loss of $45 million, or 15 cents a share, compared with a loss of $205 million, or 62 cents a share, a year earlier. Sales declined to $922 million from $1.06 billion.

When items such as deferred revenue and stock-based compensation are factored in, the company said it earned 57 cents per share on $1.2 billion in sales, compared with earnings of 99 cents per share on $1.65 billion in sales in the year-earlier period. The results were mostly in line with analysts' average expectation of 56 cents per share on revenue of $1.28 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.


How can any company rake in that much cash and still stay in the minus column.  Better yet, how do they stay in business?

But this response may be the best one I’ve read to date regarding EA. 
From Penny Arcade:

SimCity not only requires an Internet connection, a decision that has led to no end of technical problems, but we can no longer create huge cities. We can’t save our game, experiment with the design, and then reload. It’s not a sandbox anymore, and the playful nature of past games in the series has been replaced by a game that forces us to play a certain way.

The gutless reaction to these issues is just as large of a problem, and after I was personally blown off by Origin PR for daring to ask about whether customers can get a refund for their non-working game, I can understand the frustration on the part of gamers trying to fight for their money back. If their official PR is comfortable giving the finger to the press and refusing to comment on refunds, I can’t imagine how customers are treated.

You know my thoughts on Real Racing 3, a game made by the remnants of two other developers EA ate up before laying off their staff and smashing them together. The company’s reaction to the vocal dismay at the microtransaction model is, once again, that they’re making money so they don’t care if you don’t like it.

EA may have the reputation of being a company run by empty suits, but blowing off the hatred of gamers due to the “market” having spoken shows just how well deserved that reputation has become. It seems that no EA executive can even pretend to care about the massive backlash the company is facing from gamers who feel ripped off.


I’m sure they sell a lot of their big guns such as Madden (overpriced, hardly changes, you’re spending $60 every year just for new rosters) or The Sims 3 (They’ve lost a lot of customers, me included, with exorbitant micro-transactions in their Sims 3 Store while skimping on content in their stuff packs and expansion packs.  Each expansion pack brings new problems to the games functions with no fixes) but nobody is buying the rest of their crap because EA does not give a damn about the customer or the quality of their product.   

And As long as you have greedy clueless executives like Pete Moore blowing smoke up the ass of, well any two bit air headed reporter in listening distance,  and trying to use the flimsiest cover to hide behind in a feeble minded attempt to explain away winning an award such as this, then EA will always be a company that belongs in the shitter.  I hope sooner or later, they get the royal flush.

And despite Moore’s creed of statistics about customers doing this and that, most of which they are forced into in order to play shitty EA Games, nothing will change the fact that most people on this earth believe that EA has been a festering infection on the gaming industry.  Congratulations, to Mr. Moore and EA for their award. They deserve it.

Crossposted at Corporateownedusa.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Annette Funicello passes away at age 70

From Hollywood Reporter:

Annette Funicello, a Disney Mouseketeer on TV's The Mickey Mouse Club who went on to fame by co-starring in several beach movies with Frankie Avalon in the 1960s, has died. She was 70.

Funicello, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987 and became a spokeswoman for treatment of the disease, died Monday at Mercy Southwest Hospital in Bakersfield, the Walt Disney Co. announced.

Although single-names were not in vogue at the time, her popularity was so wide and her personality so familiar that she was “Annette.” No last name needed.

The quintessence of innocence, mixed with dark good looks and beguiling charm, she was a male ideal and a female role model. Wholesome in the best sense, Funicello was drive-ins, sock hops, beach parties and malted milks -- the personification of an innocent era.

I grew up with Annette having been around during her Mouse Club years, the Disney Films, and the Beach Party movies. I had always hoped to write about some of her films, and will still do so I'm sure. Annette (you seldom used her last name. She was always Annette to us.) was one of the great icons of the 50's and 60's, and her long struggle with M.S. is finally over. I'll have more to say about Annette later.

Frankie Avalon who was her lifelong friend and starred with her in the Bikini Beach movies was interviewed by TMZ.

Frankie Avalon on Annette Funicello's Death: I'm Devastated - Watch More Celebrity Videos or Subscribe

Opening scenes of Beach Blanket Bingo, with Annette, Frankie Avalone, and a cast of many.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Roger Ebert 1942 - 2013

I have been a fan of film criticism ever since I checked out Rex Reed’s book, Big Screen, Little Screen, from the local Library years ago.   It was entertainingly irreverent and sarcastic, but the idea that someone could make a living watching movies and TV shows then writing about it had never crossed my mind.    English Teachers, Literature Teachers, and even one Psychology Teacher, often told me I had a knack for story telling.  I just needed to be more polished.    

In my junior year,  I was told by a guidance counselor that the creative writing class wasn’t for someone like me, and my dreams of putting pen to paper and coming up with any kind of worthy prose that someone would actually want to read were squashed. And no, this particular misguided counselor had no way of knowing whether I had any real talent buried inside of my over active imagination that could be harnessed and projected out through my magic typing fingers.  

In case you’re wondering what she meant by “someone like me,”  see any John Hughes movie that takes place in, near, or during high school for reference.  Yes, teachers can sometimes be as shitty as the students.   

Fast forward to the mid seventies.  Roger Ebert & Gene Siskel, rival critics from the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune respectively begin appearing in a monthly show on the local Chicago PBS station, WTTW.  The program becomes popular enough that it moves to a bi-weekly format, and is aired on PBS Stations around the country.  By 1979, it was appearing weekly on stations all over the United States and quickly became the highest rated entertainment show in the history of PBS.

I was lucky enough to discover the show early on, when it always ended with Spot the Wonder Dog making an appearance for the Dog of the Week segment.  I became an instant fan of both critics.  And the dog as well.  But I always preferred Ebert.  He seemed more like the average guy you would go see a film with, and then argue it’s merits or lack of over a brew at the local tavern.  For some reason, when I enjoyed a film that the two critics loved, I felt as if my opinion was validated.  But if there was a film I liked that they panned, I didn’t feel as if my reasoning was any less valuable than theirs.  But I did watch, listen, and learn as to why Gene and especially Roger, offered the criticisms that they did.  And what I learned was that there was many more different layers in the process of movie making then I had realized.

 

It was no longer whether I just liked the movie or not.  It was now, what did I like about it?  The acting?  The Cinematography?  The Costume Design?  The Craftsmanship of a Director choreographing the film so that all of these elements combined in perfect harmony?  On the opposite end of the equation, were the actors giving it their best effort to overcome the crappy dialogue of a miserable screen play?  What decisions did the director make that were just bad choices all the way around?  Is the score pleasing to the ear and does it enhance the film?   Or did you just want to mute the damn thing?  Or is everybody going through the motions just to make a quick buck.

Yet, I never had a chance to actually read an Ebert or Siskel written review until the late nineties, when the internet finally began to unfurl itself to the masses.  We didn’t get the Chicago Newspapers delivered to the town that I lived in.  It was Ebert whose reviews I read for the most part probably because he took to the internet like a duck takes to water.

And what you saw on TV was pretty much what you read in print, with the caveat that the written reviews were more in depth, but could often be just as sarcastic, funny, witty, or totally serious in their absolute praise.  It became a weekly ritual to find Ebert’s reviews on Friday before heading to the theater.  A bad review didn’t necessarily keep me away from many films, but a good review could often convince me to view a film I might not have bothered with.

When Siskel passed away,
Richard Roeper took over for him.  I like Roeper, but I had spent so many years with Roger and Gene, that it just wasn’t the same.  And when Ebert became ill and had to leave the program, my interest in it waned.  But I still went to Roger’s web page, hoping he would be back writing about the latest film offerings. 



Eventually he did return.  And in the process having lost his voice, Roger adapted new ways to communicate with his millions of fans through his blog, through his constant twitter presence, and through his many books.   And whether it was a result of having to deal with his many illnesses or not, he seemed to become closer and more accessible to his millions of fans on the internet and off.  

But when it came to what was on the screen, Ebert believed in the purity of cinema.  He often wrote about some of the new film technologies he didn’t particularly care for.  I don’t think he ever came to terms with the 3D process.  He viewed it as gimmicky, and there were less than a handful of films that he thought made proper use of the technique.  These included Avatar, and the recent Life of Pi. 

Ebert hated the conversion of celluloid to digital projection in the theaters.  But I think he finally grew to accept that it was the future and there was no stopping it.  Or maybe he was simply lamenting the fact that the day would come when the world of cinema he knew so well and had loved his entire life would no longer exist at all in the manner he and so many of us had become accustomed to.

It was in 2003 that my old urge to write resurfaced after lying dormant for over thirty years.   I had read many “reviews” on the IMDB, and decided I could do that as well.  My initial offerings weren’t more than a couple of paragraphs, three at the most.  (And I’m sure there are those who wish they still were)  When I mention those early reviews, I often refer to them as a P.O.S.  That’s because for the most part they are.  But at the urging of a few people I had met on the Titanic message boards, I began to expand my horizons.  I did my best to improve.  As you can tell, it’s constantly a work in progress.

Not long after that, politics got in the way.  I was on the old AOL, and 2004 being an election year, I decided I could no longer stand the George W. Bush admiration society campaign of misinformation any longer.  So movie reviews gave way to politics, and in November of that year, I was designated as the Democratic Blog Page of the Month out of thousands.  There was, a Republican Counterpart.  In the end, it may have been an award that had little meaning for anyone but myself.  But I can’t tell you the joy and surprise I felt for just having been acknowledged for the first time.

Eventually I would get back to the movies.  And I enjoyed doing it so much I started a separate movie review blog.  Clyde’s Stuff was generally used for other entertainment features and politics.  A strange mix if there ever was one.  And except for my writings concerning American Idol in 2005 and 2006 which set my blog aflame, my reviews of movies old and new attracted the most traffic.

I think what I also learned from Roger Ebert was to not only  be myself,  but to do my utmost to be entertaining while being as informative as I could.  Say what you think, but don’t act like some know it all talking down to others.  You have to love what you are doing when it comes to writing.  Chances are you won’t make a dime.  You do it for the enjoyment of it, and if someone happens by and likes what you’ve done or responds to it, then that’s just icing on the cake.

Roger loved the movies, and loved to write.   I do as well.  I  followed him for over thirty years, and in his last blog entry, I had a very uneasy feeling about how things were really going.  During the entire period of his illness, Ebert always tried to put the best face on what at times must have seemed like insurmountable obstacles while experiencing excruciating pain.  And last Thursday, when I came home from work and logged onto The Huffington Post, the news couldn’t have been more any worse.  Ebert, had passed away.  I felt like I had lost a best friend.  I was devastated.  I don’t think there has been the death of any celebrity that had affected me as much as this one did.

There weren’t too many days that I spent on the internet that I didn’t check to see if Roger had a new column, or some new reviews.  Or if he tweeted something he found particularly compelling on the chance that you might be interested in it as well.  Chances were pretty good that you would be.  I always was.  There was something comforting for me about just knowing Roger was there and that anything he had to say would be infinitely more worthwhile than the thousands of words I’ve typed out in this entire blog.

I had commented on his blog several times.  The last time was in one of his most widely responded to essays asking his audience what was the movie that they really hated, hated, hated.   I offered up Norbit, a movie I examined in depth on this blog, and went so far as to use a brief passage from that article in my response.  But other than that, I made no real attempt to ever contact him in person.  Now I wish I had.  Now it is too late.

I’m not sure what I would have written.  Maybe just writing and letting him know how much admiration I had for him not only as a writer, but his importance to me as a person because he believed in the philosophy that it was more important to do your best to make others happy.  From a political standpoint and a humanitarian standpoint, we were on the exact same page.  And he never tried to hide it, often writing lengthy essays such as this recent passage on climate change and this one written in January on gun legislation where he had a sense of hope, and then this later one, where his outlook had turned bleak.  I understand this as well.  Having written about politics off and on for the past nine years, I’m not sure that too much has really changed for the better in this country.  And most days, I swear I’ll never write another word.  But the hypocrisy in the never ending selfish philosophy of much of the world boils inside you until you have to let it out regardless of how frustrating it may be in the end.  Just as I sense Roger’s frustration when writing about a young girl who died needlessly in Harsh Park.

There are some people who hated Roger Ebert.  They hated him because he dared to give a thumbs down to some inconsequential piece of film tripe that they may have revered.  To them, it didn’t matter why.  But this is the same type of narrow minded earthlings who hated Roger politically, because he was often derisive of their inability to grasp the simple equation that their fellow man’s well being should be given the highest priority, and not lining the pockets of Corporate USA.  It is their loss, for they’ll never really understand nor did they experience all that he had to give.  

Monday, April 8th, will be Roger’s Memorial service.  It is open to the public on a first come basis.  And that’s a good thing.  Because for Ebert, other than the movies themself and the love of his life, Chaz, it was his millions of followers that meant more to him than anything.  But he wouldn’t want tears.  He had lived life to the fullest, and relished every minute of it.  He had given all he had to give.  He would want us to continue to do so as well.

He loved his fans every bit as much as we loved him.  As far as I’m concerned, the balcony will never close.  Goodbye, Roger.  We’ll miss you.