Saturday, December 31, 2011

Jason Bateman in It's Your Move (1984)

This sitcom is from the creators of Married... With Children and has the same cynical quality as that hit show. Matthew Burton (Bateman) is the conniving son of a single mother (Caren Kaye). His schemes are either designed to net him quick cash or to manipulate the people around him to do things his way. When unemployed writer, Norman Lamb (David Garrison) moves into the apartment next door and takes a shine to his mom, Matt tries every trick he can think of to get rid of him. Unfortunately for Matt, Norman is no fool and sees through Matt's schemes. The two have a contentious sparring relationship behind the back of Matt's mom throughout the entire series.

This sleeper hit never got the opportunity to succeed largely because of it's time slot opposite Dynasty. Look for an infamous two part episode about a rock band that Matt makes up out of thin air called The Dregs of Humanity. There has yet to be a commercial release DVD of this, however, much of the series is available on YouTube. Above is part one of the pilot, which has been uploaded by uwec95.

Obscurity factor: 7 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, has small, but devoted base of cult fans)

Friday, December 30, 2011

Jack Lemmon & Virna Lisi in How to Murder Your Wife (1965)

This film owes a lot to Hugh Hefner, who's brand of bachelorhood was much envied and widely copied in the swinging sixties. Stanley Ford (Lemmon) is one of those blissful bachelors. He's a comic strip creator and wealthy New Yorker. His life is extremely ordered, thanks to his man servent, Charles (Terry Thomas). And his comic strip character, Bash lives life in much the same way his creator does. Ford attends the bachelor party for one of his friends and drinks a bit too much, only to awake the next morning, married to the blond bombshell who emerged from the cake at the party. Mrs. Ford (Virna Lisi) is shapely, beautiful, sensuous and doesn't speak a word of english! Suddenly Stanley's world is turned upside down - Charles leaves him, his home is redecorated and his social calendar is rearranged, his in-laws descend upon him and he finds himself unable to sustain the marriage of his character Bash. When plans to do away with Bash's wife are confused for plans to do away with his real life wife, she disappears, leaving him to defend himself in a criminal trial. Will she turn up before he ends up in jail?
Though rather silly at times, and decidedly misogynistic, this film is a fun time capsule of 60's attitudes about marriage and the battle of the sexes. Look for Claire Trevor, Mary Wicks and Jack Albertson in the cast as well.

This film is available on DVD, and can also be watched instantly on Amazon. Above is the opening sequence with Terry Thomas giving you a tour of Ford's gracious lifestyle. It was uploaded to YouTube by ttfellowship.

Obscurity factor: 4 (known to Lemmon fans, on DVD and streaming, not widely known)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dan Dailey in The Governor & JJ (1969)

Venerable song and dance man Dan Dailey starred in this sitcom about the conservative governor of a midwestern state and his free-thinking daughter Jennifer Jo, aka J.J. (Julie Sommers). Plots usually centered around the disagreements father and daughter had about the issues of the day. Guest stars included Jack Cassidy, Carroll O'Connor and Bud Cort.

This series lasted for two seasons, but was ultimately replaced by All in the Family. It's not available in a commercial release DVD, but unofficial copies can be found. Above is a clip from the show, uploaded to YouTube by Hardtofindvideos2.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, can be difficult to locate, not well remembered)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

William Shatner & Yvette Mimieux in Disaster on the Coastliner (1979)

The glut of disaster movies in the 70's included a second tier of television films. In this one, a deranged computer programmer (Paul L. Smith) distraught at the loss of his wife and child, reprograms a rail system's computer to put two trains on a collision course, endangering the lives of the passengers. Will they be able to circumvent disaster? Along for the ride is charming grifter, Stuart Peters (Shatner) and an unhappy Paula Harvey (Mimieux). At home base, trying to solve the problem are Al Mitchell (Lloyd Bridges), Estes Hill (Raymond Burr) and Roy Snyder (E. G. Marshall). Though a fromage fest, this film has a lot of entertainment to offer. If you're a fan of bloated, second tier star spectacles, give it a try.

Though not available on DVD, you can find this film in full on YouTube. It's above in full, uploaded by TheGialloGrindhouse.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, largely forgotten except for a small cadre of fans)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

John Cusack & Daphne Zuniga in The Sure Thing (1985)

College freshman, Walter Gibson (a very young Cusack) is having trouble finding girls at his new, eastern, Ivy League school. His attempts at seduction all fall flat. Meanwhile, Alison Bradbury (Zuniga) is having difficulty assimilating into college life. She's got the studying part down pat, but she hasn't been able to let go and live. When the two come together it's like oil and water. So when Walter's friend Lance (Thomas Edwards) invites him out to LA to meet a Sure Thing (Nicolette Sheridan) he jumps at the chance. He's less than pleased, however, when he finds that his ride-share includes Alison. On their journey across the country they're stranded, endure poverty and discover more about themselves - and each other. This, of course leads to love.
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Rob Reiner has created something of a hybrid with this film. It has some elements of animal comedies like Animal House (1978), but they've been integrated into a very sweet traditional romantic comedy. The narrative is beautifully framed with scenes featuring Viveca Lindfors as Walter and Alison's English teacher. Look for a young Tim Robbins as an annoying member of the ride share.

You can find this film on DVD and on YouTube. It scores low on the Obscurity Factory scale, though still has overtones of obscurity probably because of it's quirky nature and unusual tone. It's not as prominent as films with similar subject matter from the era like the Porky's franchise. Above is part one, uploaded to YouTube by ilgizar93nur.

Obscurity factor: 2 (remembered, but rarely discussed and only occasionally screened, on DVD and YouTube)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Carol Burnett, Charles Grodin & Teri Garr in Fresno (1986)

The runaway success of series like Dallas and Dynasty inspired this miniseries spoof in the mid 80's. Starring Carol Burnett as Charlotte Kensington, the matriarch of a rasin dynasty in the city of the same name, the show follows the lives of the Kensingtons and their arch rival, Tyler Cane (Dabney Coleman) as they struggle for ascendency in the business of rasins. The intrigue and drama involve Charlotte's mercenary son Cane Kensington (Grodin) and his bitter wife Talon (Garr) as well as a perpetually shirtless ranch hand named Torch (Gregory Harrison). Will the failing Kensington empire survive or will Tyler Cane succeed in trouncing them?

This miniseries walked a very fine line between parody and sincerity, and consequently was misunderstood by certain segments of the viewing public less attuned to irony. It was met with mixed reactions that lead network executives to present the encore airing with a rather unfortunate laugh track. The shows have never been released on DVD commercially, but can be found in unofficial versions. Above are a few clips from the series, including the opening credits, uploaded to YouTube by AztecaTheater.

Obscurity factor: 5 (has cult status among a small group of fans, forgotten by most, not on DVD, hard to find)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Alistair Sim & Michael Redgrave in A Christmas Carol (1971)

This animated version of the Dickens classic, executive produced by Chuck Jones, has a lot going for it. Though short (it's only about 25 minutes), it's considered by some to be the most faithful telling of the story on film. The animation is extremely lush and imaginatively conceived, with startling imagery and compelling transitions. Lastly, it features a reprise of Sim's portrayal of the miser, Scrooge, as well as Michael Hordern's performance as Marley's ghost from the 1951 live action version of the story. I highly recommend this dark and sometimes ponderous version of the tale. Listen for Michael Redgrave's narration as well.

It's somewhat curious that this production has yet to make it to DVD. It has a very interesting history. It was so well received that it was given a theatrical release shortly after it aired on television, for which it was produced. This release made it eligible for Oscar nomination, which it won in the category of best animated short film. This so rankled members of the Academy that it caused rules to be changed about productions appearing on television. Though not on DVD, it is available on VHS. The price is dear, however, hovering around $75. It can be seen in full on Google Videos, and on YouTube, where the resolution is better, but it's broken up into three parts. Part one is above, uploaded by TheThiefArchive.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, available on VHS and YouTube, largely forgotten)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Norman Luboff Choir in The Night Before Christmas (1968)

This dramatization of the writing of the famous poem by Clement Clark Moore tells the story of the Moore family and the oldest daughter who asks Papa for a storybook about Santa Claus. While he's out of town on business she gets very sick with pneumonia. He's unable to find a book about St. Nick, so he writes the story to help his daughter get well. The poem is set to music and sung by the Norman Luboff Choir

This is another one of those specials that has become somewhat forgotten over time. It's rarely, if ever aired now, and there has never been a commercial DVD released of it. It can be found on iOffer.com and seen on YouTube, however. Part one is above, uploaded by cb82fan.

Obscurity factor

Friday, December 23, 2011

Jim Backus in Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus (1974)

This holiday special is based on the true story of a girl who wrote to the editor of The New York Sun asking if there was really a Santa Claus. The response has become iconic "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." Directed by Bill Melendez, the force behind the Peanuts specials, this half hour special has the same quality and also features the voices of real children. Though the story takes place in 1897, it's full of 1970's multicultural imagery. Listen for the voice of Jim Backus as the narrator and Santa Claus and for little Jimmy Osmond singing the closing theme.

Unlike Melendez's Peanuts specials, this one has fallen into obscurity. It can be seen in full on YouTube, but there has been only a VHS release - no DVD yet. Part one is above, uploaded by pressmin.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, largely forgotten)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Michael Learned & John Housman A Christmas Without Snow (1980)

This movie about second chances and starting over tells the story of Zoe Jensen (Learned), a recent divorcee who moves to San Francisco to begin again. She looks for work and tries to settle in. To make new friends she joins a choir. As they prepare for their Christmas concert the choirmaster, Ephraim Adams (Housman) drives them mercilessly. Will they find common ground or will the emotional toll drive the choir apart? Also look for James Cromwell and Valerie Curtin.

This TV film has been released on DVD and can be seen in full on YouTube. the entire film is above, uploaded by LuckyStrike502.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not well remembered, on DVD and YouTube)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Harrison Ford & Bea Arthur in The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Long, long ago, in a galaxie far, far away, stars of the 1970's gathered together to make this legendary holiday special. It was aired once and then shut away in the vaults forever. Only bootlegs of it exist, because of George Lucas disappointment with the final result. It tells the story of the Wookie holiday, Life Day and Chewbacca's journy home with Han Solo to spend it with his family. Making appearances on the show are Bea Arthur, Harvy Korman (in several roles), Art Carney and Dihanne Carroll, as well as Star Wars veterans, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.

This has never been released on commercial DVD, though you can find unofficial copies of it around. It's also on YouTube in full. Above is part one, uploaded by Hazelwood1styear. Watch it soon! Lucas is notorious for wanting to destroy every copy of this show that he can lay his hands on.

Obscurity factor: 3 (legendary cult status, though rarely seen, not on DVD, available on YouTube)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Bob Hope & Raquel Welch in The Bob Hope Christmas Special (1967)

This time capsule collection of footage from Bob Hope's 1967 USO tours features performances by Raquel Welch, Barbara McNair, Les Brown and his Band of Renown and a bevy of beautiful starlets. It's interesting to note that these shows are what the 1991 Bette Midler film, For The Boys were based on. Watching Hope's monologues gives you a window into the unpopular pro-war point of view of the time and seeing the boys is both heart warming and heart breaking at the same time.

This film is apparently in public domain, but is still available on DVD and can be seen in full on YouTube. The entire production is above, uploaded by thefilmarchive.

Obscurity factor: 8 (available on YouTube and DVD, well remembered in theory but not practice)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Sid Davis's Santa and the Fairy Snow Queen (1951)

This short film from 1951 kicks off our week of holiday posts. Produced and directed by Sid Davis, it's from the "so bad it's good" school of filmmaking and has a school pageant quality to it. The story follows the Fairy Snow Queen who brings Santa's toys to life when he stands her up for a sugar cookie. The amateurish production values and performances are endearing and the quirky quality of the performers give a "Land of the Misfit Toys" feel to the proceedings. I expect it was produced for school assemblies similar to The Winter of the Witch featured earlier on the blog, but without the star power.

This public domain film is available on YouTube thanks to an upload by my friend Michael at XmasFLIX. I don't believe it's even been released on DVD.

Obscurity factor: 10 (Complete oddity, almost totally forgotten, not on DVD)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

James Garner & Bruce Willis in Sunset (1988)

This Blake Edwards film has some interesting aspects to it. It's an action/adventure mystery film featuring a dramatization of two figures that actually existed - cowboy film star Tom Mix (Willis) and lawman Wyatt Earp (Garner). The premise finds Earp coming to Hollywood to consult on a film about his life that's to star Mix. The night he arrives the two of them go to a house of ill repute called the Candy Store, run by a woman named Candy. When Candy turns up dead they take it upon themselves to figure out who did it. Along the way they meet mobsters and find themselves coming up against the Hollywood power elite. Will they solve the crime or will it be the end of the both of them?
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This film marks the second time James Garner played Earp. The first time was in the 1967 film Hour of the Gun. Also featured in the cast are Marial Hemmingway, Malcolm McDowell, Kathleen Quinlan and Dermot Mulroney.

You can find this film on DVD, and it's available to rent on YouTube. Click here for the rental page. Above is the television trailer for it, uploaded to YouTube by seanmc31076.

Obscurity factor: 7 (not well remembered, but available on DVD and online)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sammy Davis Jr., Zsa Zsa Gabor & Hedda Hopper in Alice in Wonderland (1966)

This Hanna Barbera production of Alice in Wonderland (subtitled What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?) is updated to contemporary suburban America. The familiar tale is changed to reflect the times beginning with Alice's (Janet Waldo) journey, which isn't down a rabbit hole, but through a television screen. She meets the requisite assortment of characters including the White Rabbit, Cheshire Cat (Davis Jr.), the Queen of Hearts (Gabor) and the Mad Hatter (Harvey Korman) who, in this version has a wife played by Hedda Hopper. Also featured are Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble (Alan Reed and Mel Blanc) as the Talking Caterpillar.

As far as I can tell, this production of the classic story isn't available on DVD. It can be seen in full on YouTube, however. Above is part one, uploaded by OneDareLand.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, not well remembered)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Burt Reynolds in Dan August (1970)

Yesterday I featured the TV movie, The House on Greenapple Road (1970), which served as the pilot for this series. Playing the lead, Dan August was Christopher George. When the series was cast, they replaced him with up-and-coming tough guy, Burt Reynolds. Each week August would solve a crime in his home town of Santa Luisa, California, frequently encountering people he knew growing up. Also in the cast was Normal Fell. Guest stars included Anne Francis, Ricardo Montalban and Donna Mills.

This series has never made it to DVD, and can be hard to find. The only online video of it I could locate was the opening credits, which are above, uploaded to YouTube by PIMannix.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not on DVD, hard to find, largely forgotten)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Janet Leigh & Julie Harris in The House on Greenapple Road (1970)

Lt. Dan August (Christopher George) is a conscientious detective in his home town of Santa Luisa, California. When Marion Ord (Leigh) disappears, leaving a bloody crime scene behind her, he must find out what happened. His obstacles include an over zealous and publicity hungry county sheriff (Ed Asner) and a less-than-ethical mayor (Walter Pidgeon), hungry for an arrest at any cost. As the case unravels he discovers Ord's checkered past in the small community - it seems that she had affairs with most of the men she knew. The affairs are told in flashback, giving the impression of a lost woman trying to find herself in men. Harris plays Marion's sister-in-law. Look for Christopher George's soon to be wife, Linda Day and yes, that's Jan Brady (Eve Plumb) as little Margaret Ord.

This made for TV film hasn't been released on DVD, though you can find it in full on YouTube. Part one is above, uploaded by TVTERRORLAND.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, on YouTube, largely forgotten)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Robert Forster & Joan Blondell in Banyon (1972)

Set in the 1930's, this detective series that takes its cue from film noir features Robert Forster as Miles Banyon, an LA gumshoe with a nose for trouble. He's a loner - never letting himself get tied down to one dame. His girl friday is just that - they never stick around long enough to become a trap. He gets 'em from the secretarial school down the hall, run by Peggy Revere (Blondell). He'll take your case for a couple of sawbucks a day ($20) and expenses. He has a skirt who wants to clip his wings. Her name is Abby and she's a night club singer, but he's not about to let that happen. When the flatfoots come lookin' for him, they usually send Lieutenant McNiel (Richard Jaeckel). Each week Banyon has to wear out shoe leather looking into a matter for someone. Guest stars included Jose Ferrar, Hermione Gingold, Pat O'Brien and Teri Garr.

This series lasted only 16 episodes, and has never made it to commercial DVD. It's also hard to find online. Above are the opening credits uploaded to YouTube by bretmaverick2004.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not on DVD, hard to find online, largely forgotten)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Jack Palance in Bronk (1975)

Lieutenant Alex Bronkov (Palance), affectionately called "Bronk" is hired by the mayor of Ocean City, CA to clean up the town. He's that curious 1970's mix of tough and tender, a man who gets the job done, but feels the effects of doing it very deeply. He has a handicapped daughter who was injured in an automobile accident that killed his wife, a fondness for cats and smokes a pipe. The sensitive seventies man was a bit of a stretch for Palance, who usually played the heavy, but it's interesting to see him play against type. The show was created by All In The Family star Carroll O'Connor, who also wrote and directed several episodes.

This series lasted 25 episodes and has never been released on DVD. There's very little online video of it available. Above is the opening credits, uploaded to YouTube by bretmaverick2004.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not on DVD, difficult to find, largely forgotten)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Steve Martin, Buck Henry & Teri Garr in The Absent Minded Waiter (1980)

This wacky short was used in Steve Martin's live comedy act. Watch as a couple receives the worst service ever, with the best payoff.

This short was nominated for an Academy Award and was included in a VHS release of Steve Martin's work, but has yet to make it to DVD in any form. It's available on YouTube, uploaded by thewilfs1.

Obscurity factor: 8 (known to Martin fans, but not generally well known otherwise, on YouTube)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dom DeLuise & Suzanne Pleshette in Hot Stuff (1979)

Not to be confused with the Donna Summer song of the same name (released the same year), this wacky comedy from director Dom DeLuise has all the earmarks of a Burt Reynolds/Sally Field comedy - just without Reynolds and Field. Frustrated Miami cops Ernie (DeLuise) Louise (Pleshette) and Doug (Jerry Reed) can't seem to nab the bag guys, so they open up a pawn shop and let it be known that the shop will fence stolen goods. As the crooks pour in to sell their loot, the cops nab them. All does not go as planned, however, and when our heroes are targeted by the mob all bets are off.
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This comedy is all about the gags, which are strung together on a somewhat slim plot line, however, the laughs make up for the implausibility. Also look for Ossie Davis as the Chief.

This film has been released on DVD as part of the Warner Archive collection and was previously released on VHS. It can also be seen in full on YouTube. Part one is above, uploaded by pointbreak2k.

Obscurity factor: 7 (largely forgotten, on DVD & VHS, also on YouTube)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Alan Reed, Mel Blanc & Harvey Korman in The Man Called Flintstone (1966)

The curious similarity between secret agent Rock Slag and Fred Flintstone is uncanny. It's this similarity that lands Fred the job of filling in for Slag when he's injured in Bedrock. His assignment is to stop the terrible Green Goose from destroying the world and that quest takes him to Paris and Rome.
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This full length feature is the first one starring the popular characters and, though silly, has a flashy sixties style to it. Listen for the voice of Harvey Korman as Chief Mountmore. Also featured are voice artists Janet Waldo and Paul Frees.

This is marginally well known to the general public and very well known to fans of The Flintstones and fans of cartoons in general. It's available on DVD and can be watched on Veoh. Above are the opening credits, uploaded to YouTube by alexmystyleno3.

Obscurity factor: 2 (somewhat known to the general public, on DVD and Veoh)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Yvette Mimieux in Three in the Attic (1968)

Yesterdays post featured a film about a young lothario keeping a trio of women in a cellar. It is rumored to have been based on this film about a trio of women keeping a young lothario in an attic. Paxton Quigley (Christopher Jones) has deceived his girlfriends - all three of them. When they discover this they take him captive and alternately please and punish him for his transgressions, while he protests by fasting.
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"Can you be Jewish and psychedelic at the same time?"Jan (Maggie Thret) asks Paxton during their chance meeting in the woods. The dialog in the film pokes fun at the cultural trends of the times and the circumstances landed the film am "Adults Only" status. The clip below was uploaded to YouTube by modcinema.

Though it's never been given a commercial release, you can find DVDs of it online. It's difficult to find online video of it, however. The only one I could find is above.

Obscurity factor: 9 (hard to find, no commercial DVD, barely remembered)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Joan Collins & Larry Hagman in Up In the Cellar (1970)

70's era sexual politics and student unrest are the subjects of this trivial farce. Colin Slade loses his scholarship due to a computer error. When the powers that be, namely the University president Maurice Camber (Hagman) refuse to address the matter, Slade decides to sleep with his wife, daughter and mistress. This complicates Camber's run for the senate and hilarity ensues.
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Though very much of its time, this film has some charming elements to it. Joan Collins has fun with her American accent, Larry Hagman seems to relish playing the villain long before his successful run on Dallas (1978) and though marginally successful, the film led to an appearance for Wes Stern on The Mary Tyler Moor Show, playing a similarly lecherous character in an episode titled "He's All Yours" the same year.

The film is difficult to find. it's not on DVD, but can be found on Modcinema.com. They uploaded the clip above to YouTube.

Obscurity factor: 10 (hard to find, not on DVD, almost completely forgotten)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

James Coburn in The President's Analyst (1967)

Sidney Schafer (Coburn) is a successful analyst living and working in New York. When one of his patients (comedian, Godfrey Cambridge) recruits him for a prestigious assignment he's honored. Who wouldn't be when asked to work for the president of the United States? This plush assignment soon becomes a nightmare when he realizes that his knowledge has put him in danger from foreign powers, corporations, the FBR, CEA and the most insidious agency of all, The Phone Company. He's even beginning to suspect his girlfriend is spying on him, but that's crazy, right?
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This swinging sixties comedy examines some serious issues, including rights of privacy and the protection or dissemination of classified information. It wasn't a box office success, but did fairly well with the critics and has since become a cult classic. Also look for Will Geer, William Daniels and Arte Johnson in the cast.

Above is the trailer for the film, uploaded toYouTube by videowebcaster.

And here is part one of the whole film, uploaded by cinemaeclectica. It's also available on DVD with some restored audio tracks that were left out of the television broadcasts.

Obscurity factor: 4 (occasionally seen on television, on DVD & YouTube, somewhat under the general public's radar)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lauren Bacall & Ruth Gordon in Perfect Gentlemen (1978)

This TV movie brought together the disperate talents of Bacall (in her first TV movie), Gordon, Sandy Dennis and Lisa Pelikan as 4 down on their luck ladies who decide to pull a heist. Will they succeed or get caught and join their husbands in prison? Also in the cast are Dick O'Neill and Robert Alda.

Though it's never been released on DVD commercially, you can find unauthorized copies floating around. Above is a promo for the film, uploaded to YouTube by robatsea2009.

Obscurity factor: 10 (hard to find, not on DVD, not well remembered by most)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Judy Holliday in Full of Life (1956)

In this, Judy Holliday's second to last film, she plays Emily Rocco, wife of Nick, a struggling, first generation Italian American author. Nick has had his first bit of success and has bought a small home in Southern California and now that they're settled Emily has gotten pregnant. When the kitchen floor collapses on them, they find themselves in a bind. Unable to pay for the repairs, they must travel to Sacramento to enlist the help of Nick's immigrant father Salvatore, a stone mason. The stormy relationship between father and son is difficult for Emily to understand and she tries to help them come to terms as they bring Salvatore back with them to help with the floor. Along the way Nick and Emily begin to understand how a bit of the old ways of family and community can make life more meaningful.
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This charming, if sentimental film allows Holliday to exhibit a much more naturalistic style of acting than is usually seen in her performances. It's extremely hard to find. There hasn't been a DVD release of it to date, though a VHS was released in 1998 and can still be found on Amazon - though the price can be dear. There is no online video of it anywhere that I can find. I first saw it on Antenna TV. It's been in rotation there for a few weeks and may air again.

Obscurity factor: 10 (very hard to find, not on DVD or YouTube, on VHS)

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Maureen O'Sullivan & Warren William in Skyscraper Souls (1932)

This pre-code film tells the story of the people who live and work in the world's tallest building - The Seacoast National Bank Building in Manhattan. Taller even than the Empire State Building, it's ruled over by David Dwight (William), the bank president. The building houses businesses of all sorts, from gem merchants to dress companies and has such amenities as a swimming pool in the basement and a palatial penthouse apartment for Mr. Dwight. Dwight is assisted by his loyal secretary, Sarah Dennis (Verree Teasdale) who also happens to be his mistress. His wife (Hedda Hopper, soon to be Hollywood columnist, par excellence) and he live separate lives and she's perfectly content to soak him for dough between trips to Europe. Sarah has employed a new secretary, herself - impressionable Lynn Harding (O'Sullivan), who has caught the eye of bank clerk Tom Shepherd (Norman Foster). Mr. Dwight is not happy with the status quo, however, and he schemes to get full control over the building by creating a bubble in the stock of his bank, and decides to throw off Sarah after he gets a glimpse of Lynn. Will his selfish desires be realized or will he be lose everything?
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Pre-code films are interesting to watch because the looser moral standards, coupled with the early mise-en-scene create a tension we're not used to if we're at all familiar with the classic cinema of the code era. This film doesn't disappoint on that score, featuring near nudity and foul language, not to mention explicit sexual circumstances. It's also interesting to note the elements of the story that touch on the still raw nerve of the crash of 1929, and how those circumstances relate to the financial condition of the country right now. Also featured in the film are Gregory Ratoff, Anita Page and Jean Hersholt.

This film has yet to be released on DVD. It was released on VHS in the late 90's and can still be found on Amazon. It's rather expensive though. It's occasionally screened on TCM and can be watched in full on YouTube. The entire film is above, uploaded by kalifani.

Obscurity factor: 8 (On VHS, hard to find, known to fans of pre-code cinema, not well known otherwise, on YouTube)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Daws Butler & Janet Waldo in The Space Kiddets (1966)

This Hanna Barbera series set in space features a gang of kids who were constantly beset upon by space pirate Captain Skyhook and his evil henchman Static (both Butler). The kids were less distinct, though they did have cute names, including one named, oddly enough, Snoopy. Their dog was called Pupstar. The shows were originally produced as 15 minute stories meant to be interspersed with other content in a half hour time slot.

The clip above is the opening sequence, uploaded by cartoonboy180. One of the more memorable conceits of the show revolved around a treasure map that the Captain wanted from the kids, but was unwilling to do them harm to get. Static on the other hand was more than willing to go that extra mile and was constantly being kept in check by the Captain, as can be seen in the clip below, uploaded by WarnerBrosOnline. The animation style was clever and sophisticated with something of a Chuck Jones quality to it, as evidenced by the quivering spaceship in this clip.

This series has made it to DVD, along with the show that replaced it - Young Samson. It's part of the Warner Archive collection.

Obscurity factor: 9 (on DVD, barely remembered)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Number 96 (1972 & 1980)

One of the most controversial television shows in Australian history was this night time soap opera. It was about the lives of the residents of 96 Lindsay street in Sidney. It was a hot-bed of scandalous activity and inappropriate behavior, with more than enough trysts and intrigue for the sexy seventies. The show ran quite a long time - from 1972 to 1977 - and was something of a national obsession during its run. It has the distinction of including in its story lines the first stable and accepted gay couple on television.

Above are the opening credits for the show, uploaded to YouTube by SilentNumber96. Below, also uploaded by SilentNumber96, is one of the scenes with a gay story line. Remember, this is the mid 1970's.

As with many successful shows from Europe and Australia, this show spawned an American remake. Unlike All in the Family (1971) (based on British series 'Til Death Do Us Part [1965]) and Sanford and Son (1972) (Based on British series Steptoe and Son [1962]), this series didn't fare well. Only 6 episodes were produced and aired from October 1980 to January 1981.

Above is the credit sequence for the American series, embedded in a collection of show openings from 1980 by bobtwcatlanta. Note the similar graphic conceit with the numbers 9 and 6. The original Australian series is available on DVD, but not for region 1 players. The American series has never been released.

Obscurity factor: 5 (well known in Australia, almost completely unknown in America)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Michael J. Fox in Palmerstown USA (1980)

Racial relations in pre-civil rights era America was the inspiration for this series. It focused on two young boys who were the best of friends. One was black, the other was white. Their relationship was fine as long as they were young, but as they aged, the racial divide in America began to drive them apart. Only 11 episodes were produced, so the arc of the story line was never fully realized. The show never found its audience, though people still remember it fondly.

It was produced by Norman Lear. Below is a clip, uploaded by TVLEGENDS, of him discussing the show and speculating on why it wasn't a success.

There's very little available from this show. It was never released on DVD and online video of it is practically non-existant. The top clip is the opening credits, featured in a compilation of credit sequences from 1980 uploaded by bobtwcatlanta.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not well remembered, hard to find)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kim Basinger, Don Johnson & Barbara Hershey in From Here to Eternity (1980)

1980 was the year for remaking films as television series, it seems. Yesterdays post featured a show taken from the 1973 film Westworld and this series, of course, comes from the 1953 classic film of the same name. It follows up on a 1979 three part miniseries that retold the story of the film. The series found the characters dealing with life in Hawaii after the Pearl Harbor attack that brought America into WWII. The cast also included Roy Thinnes and William Devane.

This series lasted only 13 episodes and has never made it to DVD. There are a few clips on YouTube, but not much more. Above is a commercial for the show from a St. Louis affiliate uploaded by ziggyelman.

Obscurity factor: 9 (got big buildup at the time, hardy remembered now, not on DVD)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Connie Sellecca Beyond Westworld (1980)

Westworld (1973) is one of those films I just can't watch. It's extremely creepy and unsettling. It spawned a sequal (Futureworld [1976]) and this television series in 1980. The premise is Simon Quaid (James Wainwright), the scientist who created the robots that ran amok in the previous two films is plotting to take over the world by planting his robots in key positions throughout the planet. John Moore (Jim McMullan), the chief of security for Delos, the firm that created the parks and employed Quaid, is charged with finding the androids and foiling Quaid's evil plot. He's assisted in this quest by Pamela Williams (Sellecca).

This series flashed by very quickly. 5 episodes were produced, but only 3 aired. It's never made it to DVD, and clips, but not full episodes are available on YouTube. Above is a clip from the first episode, which finds the team on a nuclear sub trying to find Quaid's robot among the crew. It was uploaded to YouTube by StatesEdgeFilms.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not well remembered, hard to find, not on DVD)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Joe Don Baker in Eischied (1980)

The 1978 TV Miniseries To Kill a Cop was the inspiration for this cop series which lasted only one season. Joe Don Baker played the title character - an intelligent, compassionate chief of detectives who's southern drawl made him seem out of place in Manhattan. Like Telly Savalas' Kojak and his lollypop, Eischied had a quirk. He kept a cat as a pet and was devoted to it. The story lines were typical of the genre and era and each week he would help his detectives solve the case.

This series was the first to pay its lead actor $1,000,000.00 for his role, and only lasted 13 episodes. It's never made it to DVD and is extremely difficult to find online video of. Above is the only clip I could find, included in a series of show opens from 1980. It was uploaded by bobtwcatlanta.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not on DVD, hard to find online, not well remembered)

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Michelle Pfeiffer & Jimmie Walker in B.A.D. Cats (1980)

"Well, well, if it isn't the B.A.D. Cats." This deathless prose, uttered by Jimmie Walker in the short lived action series of the same name is about as good as it gets. This show is like a parody of cop series television of the era. The premise is that the LAPD has hired two former race car drivers to make up a highly specialized unit called the Burglary Auto Detail Commercial Auto Thefts, or B.A.D. Cats. Officer Donovan (Asher Brauner) and Officer James (Steve Hanks) drive around LA, getting into car chases and apprehending criminals like car thief Walker. They occasionally enlist the help of Officer Jensen (Pheiffer in one of her first featured roles) when they need some jiggle action. This Aaron Spelling show lasted all of 6 episodes in January and February of 1980. While researching it I ran across a review on IMDB that had an anecdote from a real LAPD officer that worked security on the set about how the actors went rogue during lunch one day and started driving around pulling over civilians just for fun. Everything about this show from the ridiculous title to the campy cast just screams parody.

Needless to say, you can't find this on DVD. Above is one of the chase scenes from the series featuring the detectives and Jimmie Walker. It was uploaded to YouTube by Persucecionolvidada.

Obscurity factor: 10 (hard to find, not on DVD, only on YouTube in part, almost completely forgotten)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Dan Hedaya & Jean Kasem in The Tortellis (1987)

This spin-off of Cheers (1982) featured Carla's (Rhea Pearlman) ex-husband Nick (Hedaya) and his new blonde bombshell wife Loretta (Kasem) and the ins and outs of their marriage. The series begins with Loretta leaving Nick and moving to Las Vegas. He follows her in hopes of reconciling and is subsequently followed by his (and Carla's) son and daughter-in-law. They all live with Loretta's sister Charlotte and her husband Mark. The conflict sprung from the culture class between the Tortellis and the Watkins and Nick's selfish, cheating ways. The series never had high ratings and lasted a season. After it was cancelled, Nick and Loretta resumed making occasional appearances on Cheers.

The show has never made it to DVD, but you can find several episodes on YouTube. Above is part one of the pilot, uploaded by 56thAlbanyProd.

Obscurity Factor: 6 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, somewhat remembered because of Cheers)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pat Morita in Ohara (1987)

Coming off the phenomenal success of The Karate Kid (1986), Pat Morita sold this series he helped develop about an unusual police lieutenant who used eastern spiritual methods to solve crimes in Los Angeles. His inscrutable manner and non-violent techniques made for interesting stories and low ratings, though the series did hang on for two seasons, with multiple changes in format. Also featured in the show were Katherine Keener, Madge Sinclair and Robert Clohessy.

This series has never been released on DVD and full episodes are difficult to find. Above is an episode teaser and show open from later in the run uploaded by WREYtube. This one has a holiday theme. I thought it was appropriate, considering we're kicking off the holiday season!

Obscurity factor: 10 (hard to find, not on DVD, not well remembered)

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Lorenzo Music in Garfield's Thanksgiving Special (1989)

In today's culture, Thanksgiving is about two things - giving thanks and eating. This special is mainly concerned with the latter. Garfield goes through several traumas in this special, including the vet and an owner who can't cook. Listen for character actress Pat Caroll as Grandma.

This special is known to Garfield fans and people who were kids in the late 80's. It's available on DVD and can be seen in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by GarfieldSpecials2011. Part one is above.

Obscurity factor: 6 (on DVD, known to Garfield fans, not generally known otherwise)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kim Darby & William Shatner in The People (1972)

So often TV movies are wonderful trash - fun to watch, but campy and without depth. This film is the rare exception. Melodye Amerson (Darby) leaves a complicated life in the city behind to live among an isolated group of people in a rural valley as their school teacher. Upon arrival she finds the children hard to reach and the townspeople closed and uncommunicative. As she tries to make progress with the kids she begins to discover a remarkable truth about the community that sets them apart. Instead of giving in to their fear of her knowledge of their secret, the people find the courage to accept her and grow into their gifts.

This lovely film, produced by Francis Ford Coppola and based on a series of books by Zenna Henderson, has warmth and a gentleness that is uncommon in popular entertainment. Look for a restrained, likable William Shatner as a country doctor. It's available on DVD, though the transfer is very poor quality, according to most of the reviews. It's also above, available in full on YouTube, uploaded by TVTERRORLAND.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD & YouTube, largely forgotten)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Linda Blair in Roller Boogie (1979)

Before there was Xanadu (1980), before there was Dirty Dancing (1987), there was Roller Boogie. Terry Barkley (Blair) is dissatisfied with her home life in Beverly Hills. She spends most of her time on the boardwalk in Venice Beach skating. Her parents and friends don't understand this obsession, which leads to friction at home. While down there she meets Bobby James (Jim Bray), skater extrodinaire, and boy from the wrong side of the tracks, and they start to form a friendship. When the friction at home becomes unbearable, she gets in her Excalibur and runs away. Of course she heads to the beach and parks outside Bobby's apartment. The next morning she engages him to teach her to dance on skates in hopes of winning the big boogie contest at Jammers skating rink. Unbeknownst to the skating community, Jammers is about to be forcibly closed down by a group of mobsters who are developing the area. When Terry and Bobby overhear the plot they set about trying to do something about it.
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This fluffy film is certainly not in the league of Dirty Dancing, or perhaps, even Xanadu, but both those films feature story lines or plot points that appear here first - rich girl meets boy from the wrong side of the tracks who teaches her to dance, and roller skating boy saves landmark and old-timer from decay and death. The film is pure cheese, and is clearly designed to make a fast buck, but it has some interesting links to the future. Dov Charney's American Apparel became obsessed with the film recently and played it in their stores. It's easy to see why. The film looks like the store was the main source for the costumes - short shorts (on both girls and boys), leotards, metallic duffels, tights and skin tight tees abound. Look for Beverly Garland as Terry's mom.

This film has developed something of a cult following and can be found on DVD. The trailer for it is above, uploaded to YouTube by deadenddrivein.

Obscurity factor: 2 (has cult following, available on DVD, somewhat unknown to the uninitiated)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Burt Lancaster & Alain Delon in Scorpio (1973)

Gerald Cross is the very epitome of the CIA. He's tough, shrewd and dangerous. He's also marked for elimination. Jean Laurier - aka Scorpio - is Cross' friend and associate. Cross has trained him to be as ruthless and efficient as he is. Scorpio's next assignment is to eliminate Cross. It's not going to be easy, and both men know it. Cross is on the run and will be difficult to find. When they finally meet it will be a battle to the death. Who will prevail?
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This classy spy thriller benefits greatly from two wonderful performances by the leads. Delon is subtle and he's developed a multi-dimensional character that holds your interest. Lancaster is a master at this kind of role. He's oblique, but fascinating and, as was his habit, did all his own stunts at age 59. The film is very taut, and has some really compelling moments. Listen for a masterful score by Jerry Fielding and look for a scene where Lancaster disguises himself in blackface.

This film is available on DVD. It's not as well known as other spy thrillers of the era, but is definitely worth seeing. Above is the trailer, uploaded to YouTube by Annie7676.

Obscurity factor: 6 (Known to Lancaster fans, on DVD, largely unknown to the general public)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Marlon Brando & Sophia Loren in A Countess from Hong Kong (1967)

This charming and gentle, if strange film was Charlie Chaplin's last directorial effort. Natascha (Loren) is exiled Russian royalty - a countess - working as a dance hall girl in Hong Kong. She's part of an underclass of people such as herself who have no identity papers and therefore cannot leave. They have no prospects and very little future. Enter Ogden Mears (Brando), heir to a petroleum fortune. He's just been appointed ambassador to Saudi Arabia and has arrived in Hong Kong on business. He's traveling by ocean liner and is met by a friend of the family who bring with him three of the royal underclass, including Natascha. After a drunken night on the town Ogden and his entourage depart for home, only to discover that Natascha has stowed away in Ogden's closet. She appeals to his better instincts, but when that doesn't work, she blackmails him let her stay. Of course, the close quarters of a stateroom lead to love, and complications. Will Ogden throw away his career for Natascha?
MoviePoster.com
There's a strange quality to this film. It's shot through with Chaplin's charm and sophisticated physical comedy, most deftly performed by Sidney Cargill as a dotty butler, but Brando as Mears strikes an odd note. His comedic style is a bit heavy handed, in a part more suited to Cary Grant (who had retired from films a year earlier, and also had a stormy relationship with Loren). Not only did Chaplin direct, he also scored the entire film and cast his son, Sidney Chaplin, as Mear's associate. Look for Tippi Hedren as Ogden's wife and Margaret Rutherford in a cameo as a passenger.

This film is available on DVD and can be seen in full on YouTube. Part one is above, uploaded by Longoaiphong.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not well known, available on DVD & YouTube)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Destination Earth (1956)

This little promotional film comes from a time when the oil and gas industry wasn't on one side of a huge political divide. The chasm that has opened up in this country wasn't even a crack in 1956 when this was produced. On Mars, an unpleasant dictatorship is the form of government, and the problems facing the Martian populace include no reliable fuel for powering their civilization and no lubricants for their machinery. What's a dictator to do, but send a fearless adventurer over to the next planet to borrow a cup of information. Down comes Colonel Cosmic to investigate. He lands in the USA, where he learns that the society runs on something called oil, and that the people of the land would be in a sorry state if they didn't have this miracle substance. He also learns that the idea of capitalism - the free market and a government that doesn't meddle in it with a lot of silly regulations - is another important ingredient in the success of this strange land. He returns with this important information and transforms the Martian economy in one day as the inhabitants go about prospecting for oil and setting up businesses.

This strange piece of mid-century propaganda is in the public domain and is consequently readily available in a number of places. It can be seen above, thanks to an upload to YouTube by shaggylocks.

Obscurity factor: 9 (readily available in several places, but almost totally unknown, not on DVD)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Bruce Boxleitner in Bring 'Em Back Alive (1982)

Before he was The Scarecrow in Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983) Bruce Boxleitner played real life game hunter Frank Buck in this adventure series designed to capitalize on the success of Radars of the Lost Ark. Buck was a sensation in the early 20th century as a big game trapper and conservationist who wrote the book this series, and a film in 1932 was named after. Set in 1930's Malaya, the real-life history of Buck has been embellished to make him a matinee idol who defeats bad guys in each hour long episode.

The series has never made it to DVD. You can find full episodes on YouTube, however. Above is the second episode to air - The Seven Keys to Singapore, uploaded by MrDougwarner69.

Obscurity factor: 8 (rarely heard from since it first aired, not on DVD, available on YouTube)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Steve Guttenberg in No Soap, Radio (1982)

This week I'm reminded that Steve Guttenberg was in some strange shows. The other day I posted his 1979 sitcom Billy, which found him exploring his fantasies in a decidedly Walter Mitty fashion. This series from 3 years later, which also featured funny lady Edie McClurg and Laugh In veteren Gary Owens, found him running a seedy Atlantic City hotel. The plot of the series was continually being interrupted with sketch comedy of a Monty Python style in the most creative ways. The sketches were interwoven with the action at the hotel, but were completely unrelated to it. The series was a summer replacement and there were only 5 episodes made. Below is one of the sketches from the show, uploaded to YouTube by SufferingFoolsMusic.

This series is fondly remembered by the few who saw it in first run. It was subsequently aired in Britain, where it was better received. It's never rated a DVD release. You can, however, find many of the sketches on YouTube.

Obscurity factor: 10 (almost totally forgotten, hard to find complete episodes, segments available on YouTube, not on DVD)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Darren McGavin & Marsha Hunt in A Word to the Wives (1955)

The post war housing boom lead to a suburbia populated with ranch houses which were first thought of as unbearably cookie cutter, inspiring the song Little Boxes. They have since become popular again with people who have a yen for mid-century design. With so many new homes on the market, the developers had to be smart about selling them. Frequently they produced films like these to entice buyers. This film was made with women in mind - wives in particular. Jane and her friend Alice (Hunt) conspire to convince Jane's husband George (McGavin) to pony up for a new kitchen by leaving him alone in the old one for a weekend.

This can be seen on YouTube, thanks to an upload by shaggylocks. It's in the public domain so it's fairly easy to locate online. It's almost completely unknown, however.

Obscurity factor: 9 (available on YouTube and elsewhere, almost completely unknown)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Steve Guttenburg in Billy (1979)

This series, which has a close cousin in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), Billy Fisher works as a mortician's assistant but dreams of glory. He's so immersed in his fantasy world that his family rationalizes his odd behavior as best they can. He has a staunch supporter in his mother (Peggy Pope), though. Viewers were treated to big budget enactments of his imaginings, including jousting, parades and celebrity guests. The series didn't run for long. It was cancelled after the 7th episode.

There is no DVD collection available commercially and episodes can be hard to come by. Above is a compilation of show opens from '79 and this one is included in it (as is Vega$ [1978]- yesterday's feature on the blog).

Obscurity factor: 10 (hard to find, not on DVD or YouTube in full, not well remembered)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Robert Urich in Vega$ (1978)

This Aaron Spelling drama series never reached the heights of Charlie's Angels (1976) or The Love Boat (1977), but it had it's admirers. Robert Urich plays detective Dan Tanna, a tough, determined gumshoe with a heart as soft as a pillow. He wheeled around the gambling city in a '57 T-bird and protected his clients from the more mercenary elements in town. Look for Greg Morris of Mission Impossible (1966) as the cop with a chip on his shoulder.

This series has made its way to DVD, and can be found pretty easily. Above is a network promo for the show, uploaded to YouTube by robatsea2009.

Obscurity factor: 4 (on DVD, still somewhat remembered, but unknown by many)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

David Naughton in Makin' In (1979)

The disco craze of the late 1970's was the subject for this sit-com. Set in Passaic, New Jersey, it told the story of Billy Manucci (Naughton), a disco dancing, ice cream parlor jockey who wanted to be Tony Manero (of Saturday Night Fever [1978]). Billy lives with his Italian American family and spends all his nights at the local disco, Inferno.

This series lasted only 9 episodes. The opening credits are above, uploaded by robatsea2009. Though the show wasn't a hit, the theme song was, and went on to reach number 5 on the pop charts. It's below, uploaded by videokeking2009.

The series has never made it to DVD and episodes can be hard to find. Naughton is mostly remembered for his Dr. Pepper commercials. He went on to work with Pam Dawber in My Sister Sam (1986)

Obscurity factor: 10 (not on DVD or YouTube, vaguely remembered, hard to find)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lorenzo Music in Carlton Your Doorman (1980)

Inspired by the Mrs. Columbo (1979) post the other day, Leighton did a little research into spin-offs and found this ultra-rare special. It was created by and featured Lorenzo Music in his role as Rhoda's besotted doorman, Carlton, now in a new position as a doorman in a seedy hotel.
Image: Toonarific
The show is extremely hard to find. I've only been able to locate one source for it. Toonarific.com has copies available, though the price is quite steep - $100. Above and below are a few screen grabs from it.
Image: Toonarific
This extremely rare special, produced by MTM productions has never made it to a commercial DVD release. It's not available for viewing online that I can find. The factor number should really be 11 or 12 for this one.

Obscurity factor: 10 (extremely rare and hard to find, not on DVD or YouTube, no online video available)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Martin Short in The Associates (1979)

In this, the first starring vehicle for Martin Short, we meet a group of young lawyers just out of law school and starting their careers at the venerable law firm of Bass and Marshall. Among them is Tucker Kerwin (Short), an earnest young man always interested in doing the right thing. He's surrounded by a cast of characters that include do-gooders, sybarites, blue bloods and the beautiful and manipulative Sara James (Shelly Smith). Stealing many scenes is Emerson Marshall (Wilfrid Hyde-White) the senior partner who is going just a bit dotty. From all accounts, this series was just as charming as Taxi (1978), with which it shares creators. Look for Joe Regalbuto of Murphy Brown (1988) fame as a junior partner.

This series was cancelled after 9 episodes, though 13 were made. It's not available on DVD and only the opening credits are on YouTube. They're above, uploaded by carpalton.

Obscurity factor: 10 (hard to find, largely forgotten, not on DVD or YouTube in full)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Kate Mulgrew in Mrs. Columbo (1979)

Before she was Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager (1995) Kate Mulgrew played Lt. Columbo's crime solving, reporter wife in this ill conceived NBC series. It lasted for only one season, much to the pleasure of Peter Falk and Columbo creators Richard Levinson and William Link. Mulgrew played Kate Columbo, who used her investigative reporter skills to solve mysteries. Columbo himself never made an appearance in the show, but in the credit sequence below, uploaded by PIMannix you'll see his car and his dog.

The series did not do well in the ratings and was heavily tinkered with during its short run. It was retitled twice, first to Kate, The Detective, and finally to Kate Loves a Mystery. The updated credit sequence featured a new theme song and all evidence of Columbo was erased - the character was renamed Kate Callahan. Below is that new credit sequence, uploaded by robatsea2009.

Needless to say, this series has never made it to DVD, though one episode of it was included as a bonus feature in the DVD releases of the Columbo series for seasons 3, 4 and 5.

Obscurity factor: 9 (hard to find, only on DVD as bonus features, credits on YouTube)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Melba Moore & Lou Jacobi in Melba (1986)

I went to a benefit for TRU (Theater Resources Unlimited) this weekend and Melba Moore performed - beautifully, I might add. It brought to mind this show, which had the unfortunate luck to premier on the night of the shuttle disaster. It garnered record settingly low ratings and was pulled off the air immediatly, only to be rebroadcast in August of the same year, also to phenomenally low ratings. Melba played Melba Patterson, a divorced, single mother who ran the Manhattan Visitor's Center in New York where she worked with Jack (Jacobi). She, her mother, Rose (Barbara Meek) and her best friend Susan (Gracie Harrison) cared for her daughter Tracy. There was an Imitation of Life (1959) thing going on, in that Rose had taken care of Susan as a live-in housekeeper when she and Melba were children.

There were only six episodes of this show made and they're very hard to find. Only the opening credits are available on YouTube, buried in the same credit collection that I featured yesterday for Foley Square, uploaded by bobtwcatlanta.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not well remembered, very hard to find)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Margaret Colin, Hector Elizondo & Michael Lembeck in Foley Square (1985)

Obscurity factor: 10

Before Murphy Brown became a big hit for Diane English she produced this quirky sitcom about an assistant DA in New York City. Alex Harrigan (Colin) is a dedicated professional who has some issues with her love life (sound familiar, Murphy Brown fans?). She works for DA Jessie Steinberg (Elizondo) who is a task master and she's having an on-again, off-again affair with her neighbor, school teacher Peter Newman (Lembeck). The series was short lived (14 episodes) and was paired with another series about a strong female in the work force - Mary, which was written up earlier on the blog. Neither series performed as expected and both were cancelled in their first year. They were programmed against the ΓΌber popular Touched by an Angel.

The series has never made it to DVD and only the opening credits can be found on YouTube, buried in a compilation of opening credits from other shows from the same year. They're above, uploaded by bobtwcatlanta.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not well remembered, hard to find, not on DVD)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Jill Clayburgh, Michael Douglas & Charles Grodin in It's My Turn (1980)

Kate (Clayburgh) plays it safe - she has all her life. She's a mathematics professor in Chicago, lives with a nice man (Grodin) and doesn't tempt fate. When a job interview and the wedding of her widowed father sends her to New York she finds herself presented with a choice that promises to rock the boat. That choice comes in the form of Ben (Douglas), a former ball player, married and the complete antithesis of everything Kate has tried to do with her life. Will she cut loose and go with her gut just once, and if she does, how will that decision effect her future?
MoviePosterShop.com
This film has some charming performances in it, and displays some sly wit. The title song was a big hit for Diana Ross, reaching number 9 on the charts. Look for Beverly Garland and Dianne Weist in small roles.

Though it's never been available on DVD, you can find this title to rent on YouTube. A VHS release was made and tapes can still be found. Above is the television trailer for it, uploaded to YouTube by robatsea2009.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not on DVD, available to rent on YouTube, not well remembered)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Casey Kasem in The Cattanooga Cats (1969)

Obscurity factor: 8

Anyone who loves 60's and early 70's bubblegum music should know about the Cattanooga Cats. This  series followed the animated antics of the similarly named band as they traveled around singing their upbeat music. The series was made up of segments with the Cats, short musical interludes, something like music videos and segments featuring three other sets of characters - Around the World in 79 Days, It's the Wolf! (featuring Paul Lynde as Mildew) and Motormouse and Autocat. Originally an hour long, Saturday morning show, it was shortened to a half our in its second year and was cancelled in 1971. Casey Kasem, noted radio DJ voiced one of the cats in the speaking portion of the show. He didn't contribute his voice in the songs, however.

The Cats have developed something of a cult following, though the actual episodes can be hard to find. Many of the musical interludes can be found on YouTube. Above are the opening credits, uploaded by cartooncoon.

Obscurity factor: 8 (enjoys a small cult following, not on DVD, available on YouTube)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Polly Holiday in Flo (1980)

The ever lovable Florence Jean "kiss my grits" Castleberry departed Phoenix, Arizona and Mel's Diner in the spring of 1980 and landed in her home town of Fort Worth, or Cowtown, as she called it. There, she bought a run down old road house and proceeded to make a life for herself. That life lasted two seasons and included her mother (Sudie Bond) and her uptight sister (Lucy Lee Flippin) and a whole lotta wacky goings on. This Alice (1976) spinoff had a lot going for it in its first season. It lost it's favorable air time in its second season and plummeted in the ratings. 

The series has never been released on DVD and can be hard to find. Above is the series debut promo and opening credits, uploaded to YouTube by seanmc31076.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, not well remembered, can be hard to find)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Margaret Colin & Frances McDormand in Leg Work (1987)

Claire McCarron (Colin) has quit her job in the DA's office to open a detective agency. It's rough going, and she's frequently without funds, but somehow it all comes together. Her friend Willie (McDormond), who still works for the DA and her brother Fred (Patrick James Clarke) who is a police lieutenant provide moral support and information when necessary as she navigates the back alleys of New York digging up the truth for her clients.

This show was one of those ratings victims. It was programmed poorly, against successful Saturday night show, The Golden Girls and only lasted 6 episodes, though 10 were created. Above are the opening credits for the show, uploaded to YouTube by jpwrites. Full episodes are available on YouTube as well, but the uploader has disabled embedding. The pilot can be seen here: http://youtu.be/uQ9pERxgL6Y.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not well remembered, not on DVD, available on YouTube)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Anne Baxter & Sean Young in Jane Austen in Manhattan (1980)

Once again, Anne Baxter finds herself in a drama about what goes on behind the scenes in the theater. This early Merchant Ivory production is about the personalities and politics of the business and art of theater. The separate camps are the denizens of the "legitimate" uptown theater of Broadway and opera and the avant guard, downtown style of experimental theater that gained a foothold in the 1950's and by this the time of production in 1980 had become a force to reckon with on the New York scene. The warring factions are two former lovers - Lilliana Zorska (Baxter), an established acting teacher in the traditional style and Pierre (Robert Powell), a former pupil of hers and the Svengali of an experimental SoHo theater workshop. Caught in the fray are a young married couple - Ariadne (Young) and Victor (Kurt Johnson). He's gotten a role in a Broadway musical and she's become enmeshed in the touchy-feely world of Pierre's troupe. What sets off the fireworks is the right to produce a hitherto unknown play written by a 12 year old Jane Austen and the grant money to fund it.
Image: Google Images
Though this film seeks to lay bare the process of creating two different styles of theater and the temperaments involved in each, it has a tendency to come off as a bit pretentious and at times tedious. There is truth, however, in the contentious nature of the warring camps. Art is such a subjective endeavor, that it can bring about self doubt, which, in turn can lead to deeply held convictions and personal attachment. Look for Sean Young in her first screen role.

This film is available on DVD as part of the Merchant and Ivory Collection. Above is a clip, uploaded to YouTube by TheGreekoid. The clip features the first meeting of Ariadne and Pierre.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD, known to Merchant Ivory fans, largely unknown otherwise)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Sophia Loren & Vittorio Gassman in Ghosts Italian Style (1969)

Now that Halloween is over, I thought this film would be a fitting one to feature - not because it's scary, but because it's misnamed. There's very little supernatural phenomena in this film, it's really a bedroom farce with Maria (Loren) being pursued by two men - her husband, Pasquale (Gassman) and a rich suitor (Mario Adorf) who wants her to get a divorce and marry him. The young couple, who are having financial problems, move into a villa that seems too good to be true - it's vast, with many rooms and classical detailing, but run down and it's rumored to be haunted. The only ghost haunting this house is Maria's suitor who sneaks around and is caught by Pasquale, who assumes he's the ghost.
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There are oh, so many misunderstandings and a good deal of Italian scenery chewing. Speaking of scenery, it's quite nice, both feminine and masculine - Loren is in beautiful form and both Gassman and Adorf are quite delectable. Margaret Lee plays Sayonara, a singer/prostitute who rents one of the rooms in the villa, and she is quite the character, wearing some pretty outlandish outfits. Look for an outrageous cameo by Italian film legend Marcello Mastroianni at the end of the film.

This film has yet to make it to DVD. It can be found on television occasionally and the trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by OurManInHavana.

Obscurity factor: 10 (largely unknown, not on DVD or YouTube)

Monday, October 31, 2011

Paul Lynde, Florence Henderson & Kiss in The Paul Lynde Halloween Special (1976)

When it comes to wacky, you can't do much better than Paul Lynde. And he really out did himself in 1976 with this television special. It's one of those shows you just have to see to believe. The plot, if you can call it that, finds Paul on Halloween night with his maid (Margaret Hamilton) contemplating the holiday and how much it irks him. He discovers on this, of all nights, that his maid is actually a witch when she takes him to her sister's (Witchiepoo from H.R. Pufnstuf) castle. He promises to keep quiet about it if they grant him three wishes. This leads to sketches of Paul as a trucker, and a sheik. The last wish takes them to a disco, where Paul meets the band Kiss.

This series is wrong on so many levels, but reaches the heights of wrongness in the clip above featuring the whole cast (which also includes Roz "Pinky Tuscadero" Kelly, Betty White, Tim Conway, Billy Barty and Donny and Marie Osmond) dancing to Disco Baby (to the tune of Disco Lady). The clip was uploaded by frenchjr25. The special is now available on DVD and I highly recommend it for the wonderful train wreck it is.

Obscurity factor: 6 (on DVD, known in some circles as a camp classic, largely unknown by the general public)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bette Davis & Rosanna Arquette in The Dark Secret of Harvest Home (1978)

When Nick and Beth Constantine (David Ackroyd and Joanna Miles) stumble upon the charming town of Cornwall Coombe, CT, they think they've discovered the perfect haven for themselves and their daughter Kate (Arquette). They're told the house they've fallen in love with isn't for sale, but several weeks later they get a call from a couple they met in town who tell them that the owner would like to meet them. When they meet Widow Fortune (Davis) she warmly welcomes them to the town and makes them an offer on the house they can't refuse. The Constantines pull up stakes in New York and settle in the charming town to start anew. All is idyllic until Nick starts to feel uneasy about some aspects of the traditions and history of the town. It's people have eschewed modern methods and stick to farming styles practiced since ancient times. There's some tension between residents interested in change and the majority of the townsfolk who stick to "the way." As the family experiences the quaint festivals surrounding the growing season Nick's uneasiness deepens. Is something sinister going on in Cornwall Coombe?

This television film was actually a two part mini-series, based on the book Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon. It's never been released on DVD or VHS in a complete version, though you can find an edited version on both formats that leaves out much of the plot. It's also available in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by TVTERRORLAND. The sound is low and there are a few jumpy cuts here and there, but you get the full story with all the subplots.

Obscurity factor: 8 (no full versions available on any media, on YouTube, not well remembered)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Valerie Harper & Ruth Gordon in Don't Go To Sleep (1982)

Laura and Phillip (Harper and Dennis Weaver) have just lost their oldest daughter Jennifer (Kristin Cumming) in a terrible automobile accident. In an attempt to pick up the pieces of their lives they move from Los Angeles to a small town north of the city with their two other children Mary and Kevin and Laura's mother, Bernice (Gordon). The first day in their new house proves unsettling to Mary who begins to hear voices calling her name. After the family has retired, Mary is heard screaming. Upon bursting into her room her parents discover her bed engulfed in flames. She's rescued, but is understandably shaken. As the story develops, the voices Mary hears begin to take on the physical form of her sister Jennifer. Jennifer is seeking revenge for her death, which she blames on the family. One by one, they're picked off in strange accidents. Is Mary having a psychotic break and acting out her feelings about Jennifer, or  is it really her and will she claim the entire family before she can be stopped?

This supernatural thriller has a bleak, eerie quality to it that's heightened by its utterly ordinary setting in a typical suburban home. It's interesting to see Dennis Weaver playing a flawed dad after his signature role of McCloud. This television film has never been released on DVD. It did get a VHS release 9 years after it was made and tapes can still be found. It's also available in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by Kreechum. The entire film is above.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, largely forgotten)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Ruth Gordon & Patty Duke in Look Whats Happened to Rosemary's Baby (1976)

The elaborate machinations of the coven to control and influence the life of Satan's child is the subject of this sequel to the 1968 film. It's divided into three parts, the first takes place when Adrian (Phillip Boyer) is 8 years old. His mother (Patty Duke) absconds with him, trying to save him from the influence of the coven. Part two  takes place 20 years later when Adrian (Stephen McHattie) is a young man and part three continues after a traumatic incident in Adrian's life that leaves him with amnesia. The story is a bit muddled, but the suspense is maintained. Look for Tina Louise, Broderick Crawford, Donna Mills and Ray Milland in roles and look for Ruth Gordon reprising her role as Minnie.

This television film has never been commercially released on DVD. It can be found in full on YouTube, however, thanks to an upload by 70sHorrorRealm.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, largely forgotten)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Robert Foxworth, Stefanie Powers & Elke Sommer in The Astral Factor (1976)

Roger Sands (Frank Ashmore) hates his mother so much... He was put away for murdering her and after a spree as a strangler of celebrity women six years ago. In the intervening time he's studied up on psychic phenomena for which he has quite a talent; he's learned to make himself invisible. He uses this skill to escape from the locked ward he's been kept in and goes about the LA basin wreaking havoc on the witnesses who put him away. On the case is Lt. Charles Barrett (Foxworth, looking very foxy) and Detective Holt (Mark Slade) a newbie detective Lt. Barrett takes much pleasure in breaking down. They have quite a time tracking Sands down because of the invisible thing, eventually witnessing a killing right before their eyes. As the witnesses are picked off one by one, can Barrett and Holt stop Sands before he kills Chris (Elke Sommer)?

This film is one of the wackiest I've featured this month. It's chock full of cliches, questionable acting, bad special effects and general camp - in short, it's wonderful! Barrett is from the Starsky and Hutch mold of detectives - blustery, sarcastic and quirky. He's shacked up with Candy (Powers) who refers to herself in the third person, calls Barrett "teddybear" and sees him off to the murder investigations with a cheery "have fun!" It has a very TV movie vibe to it, which is only mitigated by the nudity of both Foxworth and Powers in a scene where they're awakened by Det. Holt. If you're a fan of movies that are so bad they're good, then this is for you. It's, oddly enough, available on DVD under this title and it's alternate title (Invisible Strangler) in two separate releases. It's also available in full on YouTube thanks to an upload by FlixUniverseMovies2.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD & YouTube, largely forgotten)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

David Hartman & Jane Wyatt in You'll Never See Me Again (1973)

Architect Ned Bliss (Hartman) and his new wife, Vicki (Jess Walton) have just had a fight. She sets out to go home to mother, telling him he'll never see her again, but never arrives. Ned makes calls and does some investigating, getting more and more frantic as time passes and no word is heard. He decides to drive up to her parent's, whom he's never met, to see if he can find a trace of her along the way. Upon arrival he's greeted by her step father (Ralph Meeker) and her mother (Wyatt) who question him about her actions before leaving, intimating that he had something to do with her disappearance. Upon arriving home he's greeted with a police warrant and the news that someone has called in a report of suspected foul play involving Ned. Will he find his wife before he can be arrested for her murder?

This taut thriller is nicely constructed. Hartman does a great job as the frantic husband and the plot has some interesting twists and turns in it. Look for character actors Ned Wertimer and George Murdock in small roles. It's not available on DVD, but is up on YouTube, thanks to an upload by TVTERRORLAND. The entire film is above.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, largely forgotten)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Paul Williams & William Finley in Phantom of the Paradise (1974)

Obscurity factor: 2

This rock and roll opus by director Brian De Palma has garnered a cult following, but still remains somewhat obscure to the general public. It tells the story of naive composer Winslow Leach (Finley) and his destruction and ultimate redemption at the hands of maniacal music mogul Swan (Williams). It's told in an epic style with references to many film and literature classics from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) to Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.
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The film is a comment on the excesses of the music industry of the 70's and is filled with grotesque imagery and outlandish scenes of hedonism. Under the spectacle, however, are some incisive insights into greed, desire and the dark side of love. Listen for Rod Serling's voice in the opening sequence of the film.

This film has something of a cult following, though it's somewhat unknown to people not versed in De Palma's work and rock and roll cinema. It's available on DVD and BlueRay and can be seen in full on YouTube. Part one is above, uploaded by bvseediermedia19.

Obscurity factor: 2 (known to many cult fans, available on DVD & YouTube, unknown to the uninitiated)

Monday, October 24, 2011

Joan Collins & Judy Geeson in Fear in the Night (1972)

Yesterday's Joan Collins film, I Don't Want to be Born, brought this little thriller, also featuring Collins and also from Hammer productions, to mind. Peggy Heller has recently been married and is about to go live with her husband at the boy's school he teaches at. Not only is she a newly wed, she's also recovering from a nervous breakdown, so when she's attacked in her bathroom by a mysterious man who has a prosthetic arm, nobody believes her. She puts it behind her and sets her mind on her new life in the country, but finds that her attacker has followed her to the school. Again, she is not believed - by her husband (Ralph Bates), the head master (Michael Carmichael) or his wife (Collins). Will she be able to convince someone before she winds up dead?
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This film is a bit of a departure for Hammer studios. It's less of a horror film and more of a thriller. It's still chock full of frights, though with no gore to speak of.

A DVD release of this film was produced, though it's now out of print and can be a trifle pricy. It's available in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by 70sHorrorRealm. Part one is above.

Obscurity factor: 7 (on DVD, available on YouTube, largely forgotten except for Hammer fans)