Wednesday, December 22, 2010

POP REVIEW: Home for the Holidays (TV 1972)

I've got your present for you. It's a pitchfork!! In your back!!!
The four Morgan sisters reunite, after nine years, as they visit their ailing father.  There is the youngest, Christine (played by a young Sally Fields, fresh off her run as The Flying Nun), an naive innocent college girl, who still depends on her big sisters; Jo (Jill Haworth) the feisty socialite, Fred (Jessica Walter, who was killer in Play Misty for Me, just a year earlier) along with her bottles of vodka, and Alex (Eleanor Parker) the older, mother-hen spinster.
Don't look at him, whatever you do

They've been summoned to their childhood ranch estate by their father (the ever enjoyable Walter Brennan), who is convinced that his new wife (the creepy Julie Harris) is trying to poison him.  Her first husband died under mysterious circumstances, and now the sisters are worried that she is targeting their father's money.  To make matters more difficult, there is a terrible December thunderstorm a-brewing.  Trapped in their secluded childhood home, the sisters keep an eye open for their suspicious stepmother, and open some scabbed over wounds from their own dysfunctional past.
Killer Graphic Tee

Oh... and let's not forget the maniacal killer, dressed in a yellow rain slicker and boots, and red rubber gloves, carrying a pitchfork!

Produced by the dream team of Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, this TV Movie is already a must see. But then you throw in John Llewellyn Moxey -- the best TV Movie of the Week director ever(!), well, then you just have a hit on your hands.

Oh yeah, Michael Myers.  I got your number.

I can still remember the first time I watched this Yuletide creeper.  It's probably the first slasher flick I ever watched.  Sadly, though, in the pantheon on modern horror, there is no mention of this small screen gem.  Halloween has already been established as the original slasher flick, and has been widely credited for setting the standards and motifs.  Horror buffs will also look back a couple years previous to Black Christmas, and credit that film for establishing the guidelines for all others.  But, no one ever talks about Home for the Holidays.  Clearly, HFTH is well set in the Made for Television vein, with the old fashioned "ladies in distress" theme, and Gothic thriller overtones.  It doesn't compare to the youthful. angsty and lusty predecessors, with their shocks and sex.  But, check out the killer donned in the slasher style garb!

If we all know one thing about slasher flicks, it's that the killer is always masked, his/her identity hidden from the viewer.  HFTH has that motif down pat, and it predates Halloween by a half dozen years (Black Christmas by two years).

Actually, this argument is somewhat of a moot point, seeing that the Italian Giallo pictures had killers running around in rain slickers and gloves long before Spelling and Goldberg decided to make this film

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Best of TV That I Watched in 2010

I don't watch a crud load of TV, meself.  I'm way too picky (and, yes, uppity), and don't just veg on "whatever's on."  I also don't like to get into a bunch of shows that have endless mythology and loads of twists and secrets to uncover throughout 5 seasons.  I guess it's because I come from the old school 70s TV world, where the show's adventure of the week wrapped itself up at the end of the hour.  Sure, they have their ongoing quests -- Land of the Giants crew had to get the hell outa Giant Land; The crew of the Star Trek needed to get home;  Starsky had an insatiable journey to date and fall for every Mob boss' daughter -- but these goals weren't the main focus of every episode... Or, any, if that!!  What was of utmost importance was telling a great tale in that one hour each week.

I do get into some of the serialized shows, if'n they're well written, and the great characters arcs are worth the wait (or weight) of the story arcs. And, especially, if you get a beginning/middle/and end form each episode.  These TV shows with season long story arcs are also a lot more tolerable when their seasons run is 6 to 13 episodes.

There were a number of shows that I didn't get to watch, that I wish I did get to watch -- but, that's what NetFlix is for.  Then, there were shows that I didn't care to watch, no matter who said it was brilliant or wonderful.  But, this list is a list of the shows I did care to watch, and thought were absolutely wondrous.

    • I put these two together, because they have similar themes and equally moving writing. 
    • So so so wrong and politically incorrect.  I'll often laugh, and then look around to make sure I've not been seen.
  • 9.)  JUSTIFIED
    • Timothy Olyphant is part Dirty Harry grit, part John Wayne swagger.
    • An insanely filthy little bugger of a comedy.  Picture the boys from Porkys in a British prep school.
  • 7.)  DR.WHO
    • I have never been a big Dr. Who viewer, but for some reason, I decided to watch this latest incarnation of the series... and I love it!
    • Ray Ramano takes his Ray Barone character and moves him to a dramedy.  Thank God that Andre Braugher is back on TV!!
  • 5.)  MY LIFE AS LIZ
    • I haven't watched anything worth while on MTV since Austin Stories, but followed the buzz to this winner of a show.  Part John Hughes smartness, part My So Called Life angst.
  • 4.)  SKINS (BBC)
    • The show lost a little flare after the original cast moved on, but there is still the solid, unapologetic writing.
    • One of the best sitcoms since Roseanne. I haven't laughed this hard at a sitcom in a long time.
  • 2.)  LOUIE
    • I didn't much care for Louis C.K.s (yes the title spelling "ie" not "is") HBO show, but it did demonstrate Louis' irreverence.  This new FX show is plain killer.  Risky, vulgar, bombastic, thoughtful, and full of genuine pathos.  Oh yeah... and hysterical.
  • 1.)  MAD MEN
    • Hands down, my favorite show on television for the past few years.  It gives wide berth to serialized plot cliches.  The characters are the most unique, unpredictable, and solid of any show going.  The acting, writing, and directing is just brilliant.

As I said before, this list is culled from the shows I watch.  There are programs like Breaking Bad, Dexter, or Boardwalk Empire that are tops on other critic's list that I just have not gotten to see.  And then there are other list toppers that I just don't get, like Lost (yaaaawn),  Pretty Little Liars (seriously -- it made several lists!!), and Friday Night Lights ( I've only watched one episode of this supposed touching family drama, that of which portrayed the rape of a young student with copious and gratuitous close ups of the female victims flesh and curves. Way to demonstrate the pain and humility of rape -- with a li'l old fashioned T&A!!)

And, then some shows just fell short.  Sorry Modern Family.  Sorry Big Bang Theory.  Sorry Amazing Race and Survivor...

As a side note, I'd like to beg the networks (cable included) -- please let Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick create more programs for television.  They are sorely missed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Don't Be Afraid of the TV!

What were you watching this week, 37 years ago?

Like a step into the Time Machine, I can tell you exactly what I was doing 37 years ago this week. I happened upon a bunch of old TV Guides at a household sale I was helping out with. Amongst the many issues, which spanned the decades of the 60s through to present day, I found one dated Oct. 6-12, 1973, and took a look see to find if I could recall what I watched on the tube that particular week. I almost spit out my Fruity Pebbles when I came across the listings for Wednesday night, October 10.
And that's exactly what this 11 year old kid was doing that very night.  It would become one of my all time favorite TV Movies.  What a blast.

Then, a flip of a couple pages brought me to Friday night, Oct. 12.  This is the the treat that was in store for a creepy little kid, who was looking for more Halloween season treats:
Surprisingly, the write up doesn't mention that this little monster flick was produced and directed by Dark Shadows creator Dan Curtis.  Jack Palance seems an unlikely candidate for the role of the Casanova of all monsters, but I don't know that I even recognized him back then.  I may have seen him in some westerns or something, but hell, it didn't matter.  The guy was absolutely creepy (but not as creepy as the 1968 version of Dr. Jekkyl & Mr. Hyde, also directed by Curtis).

I think maybe I'll put my DVDs of these movies in the Time Machine and experence them all over again.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Get On Board: The Double Deckers!

Best Clubhouse Ever!!
I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- One of the coolest shows ever.

I got my early Christmas present -- a DVD package from Second Sight in the UK, with 17 fantastic episodes of The Double Deckers.  Not only have I been enjoying this blast from my childhood cathode ray past, but my two little girls are digging it just as much (although my youngest thinks Doughnuts and Brains are ridiculously silly).

The Double Deckers originally aired in the UK in 1971, and then enjoyed a syndicated run in the US for several years after.  This show was a fantastic mix of comedy and adventure, featuring a group of children who do a bit of detective work, a bunch of singing, and find themselves knee deep in hilarious hi-jinx.  Most memorable for me was the fuly loaded double decker London bus clubhouse.

Not visible from the London street, the kids had to enter with a secret password and a combination, which would set of a Rube Goldberg-like series of contraptions that would unlock the secret door in the wooden fence facade. Then, once inside, the bus held a cache of cool rooms and high-tech trinkets.  Man, did I ever wanna live in that bus!!

I'm always on the lookout for DVDs like this, because I really enjoy sharing the kind of entertainment I enjoyed as a kid with my kids. Not only out of nostalgia, but really for the wholesome, good humored fun. There's not a whole lot on the TV these days that doesn't depict kids as egomaniacal whiners, and tech-needy twits, or parents as soooo-cool and trendy hipster wannabes, and who can be just as sexy as their kids (oy!).  It's either that or the so-wholesome-it-shrinks-my-teeth Barney episodes, or the redundently-challenged (but admittedly cool) monsters of  Yo Gabba Gabba.

Besides, the title song is so catchy!  My oldest is even teaching it to her kindergarten friends!!

Friday, September 03, 2010

Dear Santa -- Get Me the Double Deckers!!

Just learned that The Double Deckers is on DVD in the UK. Lets hope it makes it across the pond to the US!!

Check it out at Second Sight.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

bad ronald is watching!

Go check out the new blog by PopCereal -- Bad Ronald.  He watching..... movies.

He's a pretty creepy guy, and he likes to watch... horror movies.  He reviews them, too.  As well as comics, TV, paperbacks.  Anything horror.  Catch up on the latest horror news, while your there.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

happy earth day!

Keep America Beautiful or Make an Indian Cry

And Please, Give a Hoot!

Make America Sparkle City!

Friday, March 05, 2010

who cares about summer!

One of the finest times of the year for little Mr. Miller was, undoubtedly, the Fall Season of television. I could barely contain my joy whenever that Fall Preview issue of TV Guide was awaiting me in our mailbox. And the impending end of summer never seemed so horrible when it meant that all three Major Networks would soon be airing their Fall Preview Shows.

The Fall Preview seems to be a lost art these days, what with the new show seasons being scattered out along September through November. And with new shows debuting in mid-winter, spring, and even summer!

Mr. Miller here would sit there in front of the tube, with a pad and pencil clutched in my hungry fist, waiting to scribble down the names of the shows and the night and times they'd be airing. Then I'd go to my room and plan out my schedule for the upcoming months.

1971 was a pretty good TV season for ABC. They aired new seasons of The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Bewitched, Monday Night Football, The Courtship of Eddie's Father and Love, American Style. They debuted Longstreet, Getting Along, Owen Marshall, Shirley's World and The Man and the City.

There's also a really great promo in the preview show for the ABC Evening News, complete with some wild psychedelic 70s graphics.

It may be a far fetched claim to many ears, but with only 3 Networks airing original programs, there was easily more good quality, fun stuff to watch back then, on any given night, than there is with 200+ channels today. And you can take that to your Mickey Mouse Gumball Bank.

stan the man

Good news for all you Silver Age comic freaks... our man Stan is back!


Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, February 27, 2010

good eats!

Having gone Manly Gaga over the Double Deckers on my last post, Mr. Miller realized that I had jumbled my memories of that show with another show that was on at the same time?

After going through all the youtube videos of Double Deckers, I realized -- hey! wasn't this an awful lot like Mulligan Stew?

Well... yes... and no. They were both shot on film -- yes. And they both had a gang of kids -- yes. And they had a lot of action take place in somewhat urban locales -- yes. But, only Double Deckers had goofy, wild, kid adventures, and Mulligan Stew was more like a glorified segment of Sesame Street or Zoom!, with lessons and music.

Compare with the links from Mr. Miller's previous blog entry...

Both shows were highly entertaining, and full of great kid-friendly action. Mr. Miller really wished they had shows like this these days for his mini-Mr. Millers to enjoy.

Meanwhile, they can watch these links...

Friday, February 19, 2010

come on board

Holy chimollies!! This one took me by surprise. I haven't even thought of this show in decades, but instantly remembered it all once the moment I clicked play and the junk yard doors opened up to reveal the kids dancing in front of their awesome double decker bus.

HERE COME THE DOUBLE DECKERS originally aired in Great Britain, but then was picked up by ABC for their Saturday Morning lineup. I was just fascinated with the show I guess because I dug the idea of being a kid who has a double decker bus for his hangout.

The logline from IMDB reads: The adventures of a gang of seven kids whose clubhouse is an abandoned double decker bus in a London junkyard. Usually involves a bit of singing, a bit of dancing and general fun times.

There's a call for the show to be rereleased for Saturday Morning fans at the fan page for HERE COME THE DOUBLE DECKERS.

There are also episodes of the Brit kid comedy on youtube (God bless 'em). Start your Saturday Morning off with "The Pop Singer."

A bit o' trivia... the show features Peter Firth as one of the kids. Not the biggest name in the world to be dropping, but he did make a splash in several prominent films and productions.

Now, enjoy part 2 of "The Pop Singer":

Saturday, February 06, 2010

where's the leg warmers at!

I’ll tell you this much, Mr. Miller enjoyed the chance to once again watch a PYT prancing around in clinging high waist jeans, a plaid blouse and rockin’ a feathered Farrah hair-do. It brought me back to my days (the 70s, that is).

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some leg warmers and a pair of lady workboots, too, but no luck this time.

Can't be too picky...

80s fashion isn’t the only retro-action going on in Dark Sky’s much anticipated THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL. Writer/director Ti West (previous of the THE ROOST) not only modeled his film after the pre-HALLOWEEN/FRIDAY THE 13TH era of 70s horror, but he also physically placed the story in the early 1980s, before the modern age of communications – you know, back when you used to have to let the phone ring a dozen times before anyone would answer. No cell phones, no Internet, no texts messaging, and barely even an answering machine could be had. What’s a girl to do when she’s stranded in a creepy old house out in the middle of nowhere? Why, snoop around, from room to room, until you find trouble!

After committing to renting an apartment she can’t afford, Samantha (played by relative newcomer Jocelin Donahue) finds a babysitting job posted on a job board outside her dorm. When she arrives at the creepy old house on the outskirts of town, she questions her good luck. Her paranoia is fueled once she meets the people inside: the insanely tall and quiet Mr. Ulman (played by the insanely tall and quiet Tom Noonan – the original Hannibal Lector from MANHUNTER), and his wife (cult icon Mary Waronov). It isn’t enough that they’ve lured Samantha out there under false pretenses – it’s not a baby she’s being asked to sit for, but an elderly mother locked away upstairs – or that the well-weathered Mrs. Ulman tries to seduce her, but there have been reports on the radio of weird goings on around the area. But none of that is cause for concern after Samantha is offered a couple hundred bucks for the job. Bad idea!

Up to this point West keeps the pacing admirably old school. He expresses his appreciation for Polanski’s genre films, and he’s attempted to model his own after ROSEMARY’S BABY and REPULSION. But the pacing of those tap more into the inner turmoil of the characters, whereas HOUSE rather adeptly reflects the pacing of many of the other suspense flicks from the era. Films like PLAY MISTY FOR ME , or TV movies like BAD RONALD and THE SCREAMING WOMAN that would offset the approaching nastiness by grounding the first act in real world minutia, instead of pouring on the gloomy foreshadowing .

It gets fairly tedious in the middle act. The characters, though well played, never develop beyond their archetypes, and, let’s face it, the fear of murderous cults and Satanic slayings may have added to the audiences unease back in the days of the Manson Family and Son of Sam, but it doesn’t really work up much but nostalgic spookiness for todays audience. Fear not horror fans (and gore fans, you get the payoff you deserve in thecrazy, bloody climax.

It’s a treat to see a film that isn’t afraid to be just plain creepy. There’s none of the not-so-clever twists or any over analysis of stuff that doesn’t need analyzing. THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL is great late-night viewing, just like you used to enjoy.

And check out the great 70s style zooms and freeze frames in the HOUSE trailer! This flick is sure to be a treat for all fans of retro horror.

PopCereal's Fan Box

PopCereal on Facebook