Sunday, December 23, 2012

Danny & Marlo Thomas & Roddy McDowall in Cricket on the Hearth (1967)

When we think of Dickens and Christmas, we naturally think of A Christmas Carol. In truth, Dickens wrote five Christmas stories, including the one that this holiday special was based on. Though this animated story produced by holiday heavyweights Rankin & Bass bears little resemblance to the original novela, it has some charming musical numbers and a sweet story to warm your heart. Bertha (Marlo Thomas), the daughter of toy maker Caleb (Danny Thomas) is in love with handsome Edward. When Edward is lost at sea, Bertha suffers a case of hysterical blindness and the family falls on hard times. Will the luck of their cricket, Crocket (Roddy McDowall) see them through? Also in the cast is veteran character actor Hans Conried, Abby Lane and the Norman Luboff Choir.

This special is available on DVD, and can also be seen on YouTube. Part one is above, uploaded by starwarsmarveldc.

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

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ziggy in Ziggy's Gift (1982)

Christmas specials fall into one of two different categories - classics or obscurities. This one, though of a classic quality is definitely in the second camp. Our intrepid little hero, so familiar to us from the comic pages, has a devil of a time finding his way through the holiday season, though he never loses his faith and good humor. The special was written by Ziggy's creater, Tom Wilson, and features the voice of Perry Botkin Jr., who created the theme music for another Obscurity Factor series - Quark. The charm and warmth of this special make it a joy to watch. Perhaps it didn't catch on because it's set in a rather bleak urban environment. One way or the other, it's definitely worth seeing.

Ziggy's Gift is available on DVD and can be found relatively easily. It's also been uploaded to YouTube in two parts by jiggerfool. Part 1 is above.

Obscurity factor: 8 (available on DVD & YouTube, known and loved by a cult following of fans)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

John Lithgow & Cynthia Nixon in The Manhattan Project (1986)

Paul (Christopher Collet) is a bright boy. He excells in science and math and his curious mind is accompanied by a somewhat devious nature. John Matthewson (Lithgow) is a scientist working on high grade plutonium and trying to make time with Paul's mother. To that end, John invites Paul to visit his lab. Unfortunately, he's underestimated Paul's knowledge and understanding. In a move that's part protest, part prank, Paul and his friend Jenny (Nixon) steal some plutonium and Paul proceeds to make an atomic bomb with it for a science project. Will he win first prize... or even live to compete?
Wikipedia.com
This film by Woody Allen collaborator Marshall Brickman was undoubtedly green lit because of the success of War Games (1983). It features the same archetypes and asks some of the same questions. The characters differ somewhat and have some compelling flaws. Some of the situations are a bit far fetched, but the whole thing holds together as entertainment. It's fun to see Cynthia Nixon as a teenager and look for Robert Sean Leonard in a small role.

This film is available on DVD, but can be hard to find online. Above is the trailer for it from Video Detective.

Obscurity factor: 9 (on DVD, hard to find otherwise, largely forgotten)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

James Caan & Sally Kellerman in Slither (1973)

Car thief, Dick Kanipsia has just gotten out of prison. With no real plans, he drifts, until the possibility of a fortune drops into his lap. This possibility sends him on a strange and unsettling road trip where he meets kooky and slightly psychotic Kitty Kopetzky (Kellerman) and the Fenakas (Peter Boyle & Louise Lasser), a band leader and his wife, also in pursuit of the loot. They join forces and pile into the Fenaka's Airstream trailer, only to be pursued by an ominous black van, which soon multiplies into two. Will our band of intrepid travelers reach their goal before being overtaken by the unidentified evil lurking behind them?
MoviePosterShop.com
This is a very strange film. For starters, the title says nothing about it and is much better suited to the 2006 horror film that shares it, and the circumstances are bizzarre and have a random quality to them that can be confusing. That being said, oddly enough the film holds together well. It's really because of the character portraits created by these talented actors. It's very much a black comedy, with some very funny twists to it. Look for character actors Alex Rocco, Richard B. Shull and Allen Garfield in small but pivotal roles.
 
Slither is available on DVD. Above is the trailer for it from the TCM site. Other scenes from the film can be watched at TCM, but I haven't been able to find the full film available online.

Obscurity factor: 9 (largely forgotten, on DVD, otherwise hard to find)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Jane Fonda & Jeff Bridges in The Morning After (1986)

Alex Sternbergen (Fonda) drinks too much. This fact is made painfully obvious to her when she wakes up next to a bloody corpse and has no memory of how she got there. Did she kill him, or has she been set up? Her blind panic is mitigated by ex cop Turner Kendall (Bridges) who helps her organize her thoughts and get to the bottom the mess. Will she figure it out before it drags her under?
MoviePosterShop.com
This is a great example of an 80's thriller and Fonda does a great job as the booze soaked actress. It's masterfully directed by Sidney Lumet and look for gay character actor James Haake as a drag queen friend of Sternbergen's who helps her out of a jam and Bruce Vilanch in a small role as a bartender.

This film is available on DVD though it's out of print and can be expensive. Luckily it's also available on Amazon Direct at considerably lower prices.

Obscurity factor: 4 (somewhat remembered, on DVD & VOD)

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Peter Lawford & Sammy Davis Jr. in Salt & Pepper (1967)

The sixties saw an explosion of spy themed filmes, all inspired by the success of the 007 franchise. From serious cold war dramas like The Spy Who Came In From the Cold (1965) to ridiculous romps with sexy starlets like Modesty Blaise (1966), the intrigue was thick and heavy. This film is one of the latter type, with Lawford and Davis playing night club owners who are sucked into a seriously stick situation. A girl is found dead in their club and she just happens to be part of a terrorist group, bent on wrecking havoc on the British government. Will the inimitable Salt (Davis) and Pepper (Lawford) be able to intervene in time?
MoviePosterShop.com
This silly film is more of an excuse for the stars to act cool and hip and for the producers to parade an endless collection of sexy sixties babes in front of the camera. The scenes of swinging London are fun to look back on and the film was successful enough to inspire a sequal - One More Time (1970) which has the distinction of having been directed by Jerry Lewis.

This film is available on DVD, as is its sequal. Above is the trailer, uploaded to YouTube by OurManInHavana.

Obscurity factor: 7 (on DVD, known to rat pack fans, dimly remembered otherwise)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gary Burghoff & Ray Buktenica in W*A*L*T*E*R (1984)

This is the second and last of the official spinoffs of M*A*S*H. In it we catch up with Radar, the gentle radio man from the original series. His marriage has failed and he's decided to become a policeman in St. Louis, MO, after being encouraged by his cousin (Buktenica). This comedy is of the "laughter through tears" brand of sitcoms made popular by the foregoing series, featuring the lead character in some gritty circumstances including that failed marriage, the loss of his family farm and a suicide attempt. The lead character's charm apparently wasn't enough to pull the show through, however. It was never picked up, and the pilot ran only once as a special in the eastern and central time zones on July 17th, 1984, being preempted by convention coverage on the west coast.

This is an extremely rare show and without YouTube would be almost impossible to find. It's been uploaded by TheGorzak for your viewing pleasure, however.

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

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Harry Morgan & Jamie Farr in AfterMASH (1983)

The wildly successful series M*A*S*H (1972), surprisingly only fostered two official and one unofficial (Trapper John, MD [1979]) spinoffs. This series is the one that made it. (Look for a post on the other one soon). In AfterMASH, we find Col. Potter returning home after the war and somewhat at loose ends. He eventually finds his way to a VA hospital in Missouri, where he's offered the job of Chief of Staff. The job allows him to gather some familiar faces around him, including Klinger (Farr) and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher). The series chronicles the goings on at General Pershing Veterans Hospital.

Though they make a valiant effort with the show, there's a strange flat quality to the acting. It might be a choice to try and represent the regional affect of the midwestern location, but perhaps that's giving it a bit too much credit. It's worth a look especially if you're fond of the original series from which it sprang.

This has been almost totally forgotten. It's not available on DVD and is only known to hard core fans of the original series and people who watched it at the time. Oddly enough, it was very successful in its original run, but failed miserably when put up against the mega-hit The A-Team in its second season. Select episodes are available on YouTube. Above is the pilot, uploaded by TheGorzak.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not on DVD, known to fans of M*A*S*H, otherwise forgotten)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Art Carney, Ellen Burstyn & Larry Hagman in Harry and Tonto (1974)

Paul Mazursky has had an interesting career. His work was so relevant to cultural trends in the 60's and 70's. That period of his filmmaking is a remarkable time capsule of the era. This film is part of that, but like his best work, also has something to say about people and relationships. Harry (Art Carney) feels out of place as a septuagenerian in a society increasingly focused on the young. Aside from a few old friends, the only real companion he has left is Tonto, his cat. The brutality of the city has dented and tarnished his life, and when his apartment building is slated for demolition, he has a crisis that is temporarily placated by moving in with his son and his family. The discomfort of the living arrangements  drive Harry to a cross country odyssey where he visits friends and family, meets strangers who have gifts for him and learns to shed the identity of a victim and own his power.
MoviePosterShop.com
This film, for which Carney won a best actor Oscar, made quite an impression on the American public at the time, though it has since fallen into relative obscurity. The "road picture" nature of the film allows for a great series of memorable small parts and cameos. Look for Ellen Burstyn as Harry's daughter, Larry Hagman as his younger son, Geraldine Fitzgerald as an old flame, Chief Dan George as a Native American medicine man, Barbara Rhodes as a hooker and a delightful turn by Melanie Mayron as a runaway.

Harry and Tonto is available on DVD. Above is the trailer for the film, uploaded to YouTube by Mazurskyfilm.

Obscurity factor: 7 (somewhat known for it's Oscar winning performance by Carney, otherwise largely forgotten, on DVD)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Elizabeth Montgomery in Johnny Cool (1963)

Kill, kill, kill... The poster for Johnny Cool says it all. When a Sicilian rebel leader (Henry Silva) is ambushed by the police, he's presumed dead. He's really been smuggled to Rome where he's given a new identity by exiled American gangster, Johnny Colini. He becomes Johnny Cool, the epitome of the iron fist in the kid glove. Sent to America to exact revenge on the men who deposed his benefactor, Johnny Cool is merciless. Along the way, he meets, and becomes the obsession of divorced socialite Darien Guiness (Montgomery). She becomes entangled in his plot of revenge and murder and soon regrets it. Will Johnny Cool complete his homicidal plans and emerge alive or will he lose the game?
MoviePosterShop.com
This Rat Pack production has the distinction of being produced by Peter Lawford and features many familiar faces from that illustrious group of stars, including Sammy Davis Jr. as a craps shooter called Educated, and Joey Bishop as a used car dealer. It was directed by William Asher, who cast his wife as Darien (oddly close to Darren, isn't it?) and she gives a performance which will be a revelation to fans who only know her as Samantha Stevens. Look for Jim Backus and cerebral comedian Mort Saul in a pivotal role.

Johnny Cool has been out on DVD less than a year. It's part of the MGM Limited Edition Collection, which is similar to the Warner Archive in that it's printed on demand. It has something of a cult following and clips can be found on YouTube. Above is the trailer, uploaded to YouTube by Soapbxprod.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD, has cult appeal)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty and Stockard Channing in The Fortune (1975)

This delightfully dizzy film was part of a two film package deal Warren Beatty made with Columbia Pictures. The second film was Shampoo (1975). This film was supposed to be the hit of the pair. It had a lot going for it - a wacky, likable script, two very bankable stars, and a sensational director (Mike Nichols), however, when push came to shove, Shampoo walked away the winner.
MoviePosterShop.com
The film tells the story of Frederica Quintessa Biggard (Stockard Channing), an eastern heiress, lured away from home by sexy, but less than swift Nicky Wilson and his equally dimwitted friend Oscar Sullivan. Nicky is married, but loves Frederica... well, he loves her money, actually. Oscar isn't married, and because of the Mann act, which made it illegal to transport a woman across state lines for immoral purposes, Nicky convinces Freddie to marry Oscar, so they can flee to Southern California without risking arrest. Upon arrival, they set up housekeeping in a depressing little hamlet outside LA and Nicky and Oscar start to plot Freddie's demise. There's a wacky, screwball quality to this film and the promotional tag line hits the nail right on the head: "Sexier than the Marx Brothers, Handsomer than Laurel and Hardy, but not as smart as The 3 Stooges." The delightfully clueless quality to the comedy in the film is largely due to Stockard Channing, in her first big screen role.

Though not commercially available on DVD in the USA, copies can be found in the PAL format, which requires a region free DVD player. The whole film is above, uploaded in parts by Beatty001.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not available on DVD in USA, hard to find, available on YouTube)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Roger Moore & Martha Hyer in Crossplot (1969)

This rather silly thriller is saved by a truly gorgeous Roger Moore, a glamorous 60's London setting and some great retro visuals - for the most part. The plot concerns agitators, international intrigue and a nest of spys that suck an ad man (Moore) and a Hungarian beauty (Claudie Lang) into the fray. The action and characters remind one of North by Northwest (1959) and the whole film comes off in hind sight as Moore's audition for James Bond.
MoviePosterShop.com
This is a film to watch if you're fond of swinging London, the Mods, glamorous clothes and settings and you don't mind a somewhat derivative plot and extremely bad process screen sequences. There are a number of scenes that are pure comedy because of the green screen effects. Look for Bernard Lee, "M" from the Bond series, in a small role.

Crossplot is available on DVD and can be watched instantly on Netflix. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by britflix.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not well remembered, available on DVD and Netflix instant)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Lana Turner, Cliff Robertson & Stefanie Powers in Love Has Many Faces (1966)

In this, the last of Lana Turner's super soapers, she plays an heiress, ex pat living in Acapulco with a beautiful trophy husband (Robertson). When we meet her, one of her boy-toys has committed suicide and the police are investigating. The seamier side of the tropical paradise is on full display in this glamorous, if highly overdramatic tome. Hugh O'Brian is the beach's ruling giglio and he hooks Ruth Roman. Meanwhile, Stefanie Powers (looking very strange and pixie-like in perky short hairdos) has come to see about the death of her former fiance, the aforementioned boy-toy.
MoviePosterShop.com
Though not as well known as Lana's other starring vehicles like Imitation of Life (1959) or Madame X (1966), this film is fun to watch for several reasons. It's thick with manufactured drama that can be and is spread on toast on a regular basis. It also has a delightful theme song, sung by the incomparable Nancy Wilson, and Lana Turner's wardrobe, designed by Edith Head has its own, deserved starring role. Look for an absurd climax featuring bull fighters.
This film is available on DVD, and can be rented to watch instantly at Amazon.com. It's hard to find footage online. Above is a clip from the beginning of the film from TCM's website.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD and Amazon.com, not as well remembered as other Lana Turner epics)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Robert Morse, Stefanie Powers & Phil Silvers in The Boatniks (1970)

Disney made a lot of live action, family oriented films in the 60's and 70's. Many of them became quite well know, or are at least somewhat remembered. This is not one of those. The Boatniks is set in Balboa Bay in Southern California - a very popular boating hub where mishaps frequently happen because of the traffic. That chaos is a big part of the plot, which has several sub-plots, including romance between a green harbor master (Morse) and the owner of the local rent-a-boat operation (Powers), and the attempted dash to Mexico by a group of inept jewel thieves (Silvers, Norman Fell and Mickey Shaughnessy).
MoviePosterShop.com
Though not exactly memorable (while watching the film again I had distinct sense memories, though had totally forgotten having seen it as a child) it is a pleasant diversion and it's fun to pick out the popular character actors. Look for Don Ameche as Morse's boss, Wally Cox as a libidinous harbor resident always surrounded by a gaggle of gorgeous girls and Joe E. (Ooh! ooh!) Ross as a hapless boat pilot.

The Boatniks is available on DVD. Above is the trailer for the film, uploaded to YouTube by TheCinemastudio.

Obscurity factor: 9 (on DVD, hard to find online, largely forgotten)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Barry Manilow & Annette O'Toole in Copacabana (1985)

After the phenomenal success of his hit song of the same name, Manilow starred in this television musical dramatizing the story we're all so familiar with. Tony (Manilow) and Lola (O'Toole) are talented performers, hungry for their first break. They meet, fall in love and find their way to the Copacabana, where they ultimately find success. Lola is lured away by the promise of making it big in Havana at the famed Tropicana and is heavily courted by the smarmy Rico (Joseph Bologna). Will Tony win her back? will she escape the clutches of Rico? I think you know the answer...

Though it's no classic, there are some lovely moments to be had, and it picks up as it goes along. If nothing else, it's good campy fun. Look for Estelle Getty as Manilow's mother, and some dreadful age makeup on Annette O'Toole at the beginning and end of the film.

This title is available on DVD, and can be seen in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by nybrian5. The stream is in one big chunk, complete with the original 1980's commercials.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD & YouTube, known to Fanilows, otherwise forgotten)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Terrance Stamp & Robert Vaughn in The Mind of Mr. Soams (1969)

I'd been reluctant to watch this film because it has something of an aura of impending doom. A brain surgeon (Vaughn) revives John Soams (Stamp) who has been in a coma since birth. At the age of 30 he must begin to learn to join the human race. The well meaning, but autocratic head of the institute (Nigel Davenport) takes a clinical approach that makes no allowances for warmth, tenderness and love and understandably, John develops a rebellious nature. When he escapes the institute, he's completely unprepared for the world at large.
MoviePosterShop.com
This was an Amicus production. The British studio was known for its horror films, primarily, and it milks the subject matter for its scare factor, but in this case, the "monster"everyone is afraid of is a 30 year old man with the mind of a child. You can't help but identify with him, and the pain he's going through. Stamp's performance is extremely effecting and seeing this innocent subject to uncaring treatment and indifference can be painful to watch. It's very much a piece of its time, reflecting the pessemistic attitudes about human nature and the world at large.

This film was released on DVD last year and can be seen in full on YouTube. Part one is above, uploaded by feverpitch96.

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

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Apple - George Dunning & Richard Williams (1963)

This British short film was produced in London and has the distinction of being animator, Richard Williams' [The Little Island, (1958) Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)] second project. Williams is an interesting figure. His work is inspired and inspiring, but, like Charles James, the famous couturier, he's found it difficult to complete and let go of projects, most notably his masterpiece, The Thief and the Cobbler, which was seized from his control by the completion bond company two years after it was funded and 24 years after it was begun.

This short is rare and hard to find. It can be seen only online as far as I've been able to surmise. Above is the entire film, uploaded to YouTube by TheThiefArchive.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, difficult to find, on YouTube)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Imogene Coca in It's About Time (1966)

With the success of Gilligan's Island (1964) under his belt, Sherwood Schwartz forged ahead with this closely tied concept. Two astronauts travel around the earth close the speed of light and upon landing, find they've traveled back in time. They're "marooned on the desert island" of the paleolithic era and taken in by caveman, Gronk (Joe E. Ross) and his wife, Shag (later Shad when network censors learned the meaning of the word in the UK) (Coca). Will they get back to the 20th century? Well, yes. They found their way back as soon as the ratings started to flag, and they brought Gronk, Shag(d) and their kids Mlor and Breer with them. The last seven episodes of the series were all about the cave family assimilating into contemporary America, so the series went from Gilligan's Island to The Beverly Hillbillies (1962).

This series has never rated a commercial DVD release, though unofficial copies are available. You can also find complete episodes on YouTube. Above is the promo reel for the show, uploaded to YouTube by RetroGoop.

Obscurity factor: 7 (not on DVD, has small cult following, episodes available on YouTube)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Craig Stevens & David Doyle in Mr. Broadway (1964)

This ultra sophisticated series about a New York publicist has an excellent pedigree - it was written by Garson Kanin (of Born Yesterday fame) co-produced by David Susskind and features music by Dave Brubeck. Each week Mike Bell (Stevens) has another task that involves his high profile clients and the people that surround them. He's assisted in his labors by his able girl friday Toki (Lani Miyazaki). In this clip from the pilot episode, he is asked to look after a friend's 19 year old daughter Emily (Tuesday Weld) who is visiting New York. She turns out to be quite a handful and he must protect her from herself. This series attracted an impressive list of guest stars in its 13 episode run, including Oleg Cassini, Jill St. John, Barbara Feldon, Larry Hagman, Nina Foch, Tina Louise and Liza Minnelli in her first television appearance. Look for a young David Doyle in the clip below as a lackey delivering a message.

This show has never been released on DVD and can be hard to find in its entirety. Above is a clip of the pilot episode, uploaded by Hardtofindvideos2.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not on DVD, difficult to find full episodes. clips on YouTube)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Sterling Holloway in Frank Capra's Hemo The Magnificent (1957)

This is another post suggested by my friend Carol. It's part of a series of films made for television in the 50's and early 60's by the Bell Telephone System. All of them explore different aspects of science for a junior audience. As we explore the wonders of Hemo (Greek for blood), we learn not only about the life giving substance, but also the system that circulates it through the body. Along the way we meet members of the animal kingdom who serve as the audience for Dr. Research (Frank C. Baxter) and Mr. Fiction Writer (Richard Carlson) who explain the ins and outs of circulation and the nature of blood. It's not all sunshine and puppy dogs, however. Hemo isn't at all sure that science is the best discipline to explain him with, and refers to the circulatory system as "just plumbing."Sterling Holloway has a short, uncredited cameo as the projector operator at the beginning of the film. Also listen for the voices of Mel Blanc and June Foray in the animated sequences. If you're at all squeamish about peering inside the human body, then be prepared to look away.

This production and many of the other Bell Telephone science programs are available on DVD. Hemo is paired with one called Unchained Goddess. It's also available in full on YouTube. Part one (of two) is above.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD and YouTube, remembered by some, otherwise largely forgotten)

Friday, January 13, 2012

James Garner & Melina Mercouri in A Man Could Get Killed (1966)

William Beddoes (Garner) is a bank official sent to Lisbon to do a survey. When he's mistaken for the replacement agent for a man who was killed, he steps into a hotbed of espionage, smuggling and assorted underworld characters. He encounters Steve (Tony Franciosa) a young American smuggler masquerading as a Spaniard and Aurora (Mercouri) the former girlfriend of the deceased agent, who has ideas about how to resolve the mess he's fallen into. Meanwhile Steve has been accosted by Amy Franklin (Sandra Dee) a friend from home who's about to blow his cover. Will they figure out where the missing diamonds are before they get bumped off?
MoviePosterShop.com

This caper comedy has a complicated plot that is deftly handled by a charming cast. Mercouri is delightful as usual and Garner is at his befuddled best. Though the romance between Franciosa and Dee is the least likely aspect of a highly unlikely plot, it's still enjoyable to watch. Look for a funny scene where Mercouri is forced to strip.

Though it's not yet been released on DVD, this film can be found in full on YouTube. Above is the entire film, uploaded by 99WhatsUpDoc99.

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

Monday, January 9, 2012

Anthony Perkins & Julie Harris in How Awful About Allan (1970)

Anthony Perkins is very handsome in this well acted, but overwrought thriller from Aaron Spelling. After 8 months in the state hospital, Allan (Perkins) is coming home. He suffers from hysterical blindness after a fire in his home killed his father and disfigured his sister Katherine (Harris). Though his blindness has lessened to the point where he can see vague shapes, he's still unable to manage alone. Katherine and their next door neighbor, Olive (Joan Hackett) take turns helping Allan cope. Unfortunately, Allan isn't coping very well. He's hearing voices, seeing strange figures and is afraid that they're out to get him. Is he cracking up, or is he really in danger?

This production had enough legitimate star power and genuine talent to rate a DVD release. It can be found on Amazon, as well as on YouTube in full. The entire film is above, uploaded by smpr12.

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

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Richard Williams' The Little Island (1958)

This short by legendary animator Richard Williams (Who Framed Roger Rabbit [1988]) examines the nature of man through three symbolic figures alone on a tiny island. The figures represent truth, beauty and goodness and the film wordlessly tells the story of their self absorption, potential and conflict. Williams uses striking graphics and amusing, and at times compelling music to make his points. This was his first film and he is the auteur in the literal sense of the word. He did everything on the film except the music.

Though not available on DVD, it can be found in full on YouTube. Above is part one, uploaded by TheThiefArchive.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, known to film buffs, but otherwise forgotten)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dean Stockwell & Stefanie Powers in Paper Man (1971)

Since computers started taking over tasks from humans in the 1950's we've seen films with varying degrees of the fear of technology as their theme. Examples include the Matrix films as well as comedies like Desk Set (1957). This little thriller can be counted among them. When Joel Fisher (Elliott Street) receives a credit card by mistake and decides to keep it, he and his friends (Powers, Tina Chen and James Stacy) need the help of a graduate student in computer sciences (Stockwell) to help keep the account open. All is going swimmingly until the computer starts to systematically murder them!

This delightful little film was both released in the theaters and on television. It's well crafted and has some extremely creepy moments in it. Look for a beautifully shot scene where the lights are turned out as a girl runs up a corridor. There have been several low budget DVD releases of this film, and you can see it above, uploaded to YouTube by TVTERRORLAND.

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Polly Bergan, Sonny Bono & Farrah Fawcett in Murder on Flight 502 (1975)

I've been featuring a lot of cheese on the blog lately. This film is no exception - in fact, this film is an exemplary specimen of ripe, pungent, aromatic cheese, courtesy of Aaron Spelling. After flight 502 for London takes off from New York, a letter is discovered in the first class lounge warning of murders that will take place during the flight. Only the first class passengers are involved, and they include mystery writer Mona Briarly (Bergan), pop star Jack Marshall (Bono), international thief Paul Barons (Fernando Lamas), Jewish mother Ida Goldman (Molly Picon), bratty teenager Millard Kensington (Danny Bonaduce), Charlie Parkins (Walter Pidgeon) as well as a flight crew including Captain Larkin (Robert Stack) and stewardess Karen White (Fawcett). Who is responsible for the letter and who is or are the targets? As people start to die (in the "yanked from view into a closet" style of murder) we learn that the person who wrote the letter isn't joking. Red herrings abound, are dismissed and then the characters involved in them are relegated to the background. Also look for Brook Adams, Laraine Day, Ralph Bellamy and Hugh O'Brian in the cast.

Due to Farrah Fawcett's involvement in the film, it was released on DVD in the late 90's. Most of the reviews I've read seem to have missed the campier aspects of the film, but it's worth seeing for just those aspects. In addition to DVD, it can be seen in full above, thanks to a YouTube upload by smpr12.

Obscurity factor: 7 (on DVD and YouTube, known to Fawcett fans, otherwise forgotten)

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stephanie Zimbalist & Patty Duke in The Babysitter (1980)

My friend Carol introduced me to this made for TV thriller. It's creepy and has a slow build, but a great pay-off. Joanna Redwine is hired by the dysfunctional Benedicts as a housekeeper. As she settles in to the home she begins to manipulate the family members, encouraging Liz's (Patty Duke) drinking, trying to seduce Jeff (William Shatner) and while daughter Tara (Quinn Cummings) initially loves her, she begins to hate her as she sees how Joanna is using them. All along, next door neighbor Dr. Lindquist (John Housman) is observing Joanna and starts investigating her past. What will he discover, and will it endanger him and the Benedicts?

Though not available on DVD, this HBO production was released on VHS and is still available on Amazon. It can also be seen on YouTube in its entirety. The whole film is above, uploaded by TVTERRORLAND.

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

Monday, January 2, 2012

Henry Fonda and Ava Gardner in City on Fire (1979)

Along the same lines of last week's post about Disaster on the Coastliner (also from 1979), this film is another bloated star epic, though some of the stars are, or had been decidedly first tier. When a refinery worker, upset because he was passed over for a promotion, sets his refinery on fire, he sets off a chain reaction of disaster in a city that's been compromised by graft and shoddy construction standards. Among the people involved are fire chief Risley (Fonda), heiress Diana Brockhurst-Lautrec (Susan Clark), nurse Andrea Harper (Shelly Winters), inebriated television reporter Maggie Grayson (Gardner) and corrupt mayor William Dudley (Leslie Nielsen).
MoviePosterShop.com
Though set in the midwest, this film was shot in Montreal. It's the usual disaster fare, following the lives of certain key people as they are irrevocably changed by the ensuing events. Look for James Franciscus and Barry Newman in the cast as well.

Though not available on DVD, this film can be found on VHS and is available in full on YouTube. Above is the entire film uploaded by TheGialloGrindhouse.

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