Thursday, March 31, 2011

Paula Prentiss & Richard Benjamin in He & She (1967)

Obscurity factor: 5

Paula (Prentiss) and Dick (Benjamin) are a young married couple living in a cozy apartment in New York. Paula is a social worker and Dick is a cartoonist. His comic book has been turned into a television series and his superhero is played by very vain, hammy actor, Oscar North (Jack Cassidy). They also have a crazy building super and a crazy firefighter neighbor (Kenneth Mars) who visits them by walking across a plank suspended between their two windows. As with all situation comedies, this troupe of characters came together to make a little magic each week. This situation comedy is said to be the forerunner of the style of comedy featured on iconic 70's sitcoms like Mary Tyler Moore, though it was a bit before its time. It was canceled after only one season. That's a shame, really, because it's a very cute show. Below is the first installment of the episode titled The Phantom of 84th Street.

He & She isn't on DVD, though several full episodes have been uploaded to YouTube. You can however find a DVD set on

Obscurity factor: 5 (somewhat iconic and remembered by hard core TV fans, mostly unknown otherwise, available on YouTube)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Teresa Graves in Get Christie Love! (1974)

Obscurity factor: 2

Teresa Graves, known for her irreverent comedy stylings on the huge hit Laugh In, is the star of this made-for-TV movie about police detective Christie Love. Inspired by the blaxploitation films of the early 70's Christie attempts to get her hands on a crime boss's secret ledger and break up a drug ring. In the process she gets to display her athleticism with karate chops and chase scenes and display her enviable physique in a variety of sexy outfits. When she nabs a bad guy she exclaims "you're under arrest, sugah!"This is not, of course, a great film, but it is a fun example of 70's television and is notable as being the first opportunity for a black woman to star in what would become a 1 hour cop drama. 

This film is somewhat notorious. It was a popular series at the time, but has since been forgotten by most. Those who remember it, however, do so fondly. It was released on DVD a few years back. The print is rather dark and it's obvious that it was released cheaply - the extras are all about DVD technology, not the film or series. The entire film is uploaded to YouTube by crazydigitalmovies3 and can be watched above.

Obscurity factor: 2 (on DVD and YouTube, somewhat iconic to a hard core group of fans)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Rosalind Russell & Alec Guinness in A Majority of One (1961)

Obscurity factor: 7

My friend Ranse reminded me of this film last night. Rosalind Russell plays Bertha Jacoby, a Jewish widow living in Brooklyn. When her son-in-law receives a post as a diplomat in Japan she joins them to live with her daughter in Tokyo. On the ship she meets business man Koichi Asano (Guinness). Both of them lost loved ones in the Japanese/American conflict in WWII and there is friction between them because of it. However they eventually strike up an unlikely romance, but the cultural differences between them must be surmounted and that seems like a tall order.

This charming film has a warm message of understanding and forgiveness. Russell makes a quirky, delightful Jewish mother and what could have been an uncomfortable performance by a lesser actor a is low key and respectful one with Guinness as the Japanese business man.

This is recently available on DVD. The trailer is above, posted to YouTube by skipjacktuner. The poster is available from

Obscurity factor: 7 (available on DVD, not well remembered, though it does have a small, devoted following)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor in The Driver's Seat (1974)

One of Brini's friends on Facebook reminded me of this film after seeing the post about yesterday's film X, Y & Zee. In this movie she plays Lise, a disturbed, middle aged woman who takes a vacation to Rome in search of a man. Not just any man, mind you, but a man who will help her achieve a goal. Along the way she meets an unusual cast of characters and gets tied up in a political assassination.
It's a dark film, and one that is little known today. It's also known as Identikit, the title it was released under in Europe. The splintered style of film making is well suited to the schizophrenic subject matter. Look for Ian Bannen, Mona Washburn and a cameo by Andy Warhol. It's available on DVD, and the entire film is available to watch on YouTube, though the uploader has disabled embedding. You can see it in this playlist: The poster above is available on

Obscurity factor: 9 (available on DVD and YouTube, largely forgotten)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Caine in X, Y & Zee (1972)

Obscurity factor: 9

The loss of Liz Taylor this past week reminded me of how fascinating she was. This film is a great example of how she could lift even mediocre material and make it exciting. Zee (Taylor) and Robert (Caine) have had a tempestuous marriage and enjoy their sparring as much as their love making. When Robert meets Stella (Susannah York) he finds a different kind of relationship with her, one without the extravagant highs and lows of his relationship with Zee. She isn't to be cast away like an old shoe, however and does her best to hold on to her man. The story is a familiar one, but it's told with great style and an exciting, scenery chewing performance by Ms. Taylor.

The sets and costumes (Stella is a fashion designer and Robert is an architect) are just magnificently 70's. Look for Margaret Leighton as a boozy, mod hostess with an outrageous sense of fashion.

This film is available on DVD as a print to order title. It's also available on VHS. You can see the television spot for it above, uploaded to YouTube by braniki1. The poster is available from

Obscurity factor: 9 (largely forgotten title, available on print to order DVD)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Judy Garland & Robert Goulet in Gay Purr-ee (1963)

This will be the third in Brini's Obscurity Factory screening series for Monday, March 28th. It's really an obscure classic. Judy Garland plays Mewsette, a simple French country cat who happens to be very beautiful. She yearns for the sophistication of Paris and decides to make her way there, much to the chagrin to her virile boyfriend Jaune Tom (Goulet). When he finds out she's left, he and his sidekick Robsepierre (Red Buttons) set out to find her. They aren't in time to save her from the clutches of Meowrice and his evil band of alley cats who want to sell Mewsette off to the highest bidder as a mail order bride.

Featured in the film is a charming original score by E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen. The animation was spearheaded by the Chuck Jones team. Look for a beautiful sequence of paintings done in the style of famous artists featuring Mewsette. Also look... or listen rather for Hermione Gingold, Morey Amsterdam and Mel Blanc in the cast.

This film is rarely screened anymore, though it is available on DVD. It can also be watched (albeit with commentary by a Disney fan) on YouTube, but you're better off coming to the screening on Monday if you're in New York. The trailer can be seen above, uploaded to YouTube by TheManThatGetAway. The poster above can be bought at

Obscurity factor: 5 (fondly remembered by many from their childhood, available on DVD, rarely screened)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Peter Ustinov & Maggie Smith in Hot Millions (1968)

Obscurity factor: 6

Marcus Pendleton (Ustinov) has just been granted his freedom from prison, and after completing the warden's tax return, he steps out into the cool English afternoon. The warden gives him a warning that with the growing ubiquity of computers, the crime of embezzlement will all but die out, so he really should go straight. So what does Mr. Pendleton do? He impersonates computer expert Caesar Smith and gets a job in the London office of a major American corporation. Learning the ins and outs of their computer system, he's able to devise a scheme to skim a million pounds off the corporation. Along the way he meets Patty Terwilliger (Smith) - a girl who doesn't do anything particularly well, and demonstrates that with a series of disastrous jobs, including as Caesar's secretary. She and Caesar form a bond.

This film has been on my list to cover for this blog since I started it, but I was never able to watch it. Luckily it came up on TCM on Tuesday morning at 6, so I DVRd it. It's a really delightful film, with some lovely acting by Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith. Also look for Karl Malden and Bob Newhart in the cast, and listen for a sensational score by Laurie Johnson. It's also notable for including rare footage of the Beatles Apple boutique, which was only open in London for a short time.

Though there's no full length streaming video of this online, you can find it on DVD. I was surprised that Netflix didn't carry it. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by stsgirlie.The poster above is available from

Obscurity factor: 6 (on DVD, rarely screened, no available to watch online)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Carol Channing in The Carol Channing Show (1966)

So often when I run across pilots of sitcoms from the 60's that didn't make it I'm disappointed. It seems like such a raw deal that we didn't get to see what The Decorator would have been like as a full series. The year after Bette Davis filmed that, Carol Channing put a pilot together too. In it we follow small town Carol as she figures out how to break into show business and make her way in New York. It was produced by Desi Arnaz after his split with Lucy and is featured as a bonus on The Mothers In Law DVD. While it's not a brilliant concept, it beautifully showcases Carol in all her darling quirkiness, though I'm not sure how suited to situation comedy she was. It also features Richard Deacon and Jane Dulo as the couple who take a destitute (but remarkably well dressed) Carol in. The theme song is just wonderful and its no wonder - it was written by Jerry Herman.

This is only available in full on The Mothers In Law series DVD as a bonus feature. The opening sequence is above, uploaded to Photobucket by PhiladelphiaSon.

Obscurity factor: 10 (never aired, never screened, only available as a DVD extra)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Harry Belafonte in The World, the Flesh and the Devil (1959)

Obscurity factor: 3

The cold war brought about all sorts of apocalyptic explorations, but few of them had the visual impact of this film. Ralph Burton (Harry Belafonte) emerges from being trapped in a mine for several days to find the world devoid of people. He makes his way to New York City but encounters no one. He claims an apartment and makes a lonely home there until he discovers another survivor - a girl. As their friendship develops, Ralph starts to become uneasy about the difference in their races. Matters are further complicated when another survivor - a white man - finds his way to New York.

This film has some of the most disconcerting footage of New York I've ever seen. The deserted streets with evidence of the chaos that preceded is at once majestic and ominous. The films attempts to delve into the touchy subject of race is thought provoking, but leaves many questions unanswered. In addition to Harry Belafonte look for Inger Stevens and Mel Ferrar in the cast.

This has just been released on DVD as of January of this year. It was a much anticipated release by many who remembered the film and had trouble finding it. It's occasionally aired on TCM. The trailer for it is above, uploaded to YouTube by conelrad6401240. The poster above is available at

Obscurity factor: 3 (Recently released on DVD, little remembered film except by hard core fan base)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Demi Moore & Jeff Daniels in The Butcher's Wife (1991)

Obscurity factor: 3

Marina (Demi Moore) has a knack for second sight. She's able to see exactly what everyone else needs. As with many psychics, however, she has trouble seeing her own path clearly. When New York butcher Leo (George Dzundza) washes up on the shore of her North Carolina island home she recognizes him from dreams she's had and believes that he's her soulmate. Who is he to argue? Demi Moore just proposed marriage! He brings her home and they begin life together in the cozy, New York neighborhood he lives and works in. Marina, however, continues to use her second sight to help the lives of the neighborhood residents, which disturbs Leo and psychologist, Alex Tremor (Jeff Daniels). Will Marina's influence on the neighbors and her inability to see what's right for her threaten to destroy the little world of the neighborhood?

This charming film has a delightfully mystical quality to it. It's also such a lovely portrayal of the nature of New York neighborhoods to become close knit communities. It's a bit disconcerting to see Demi Moore as a blond, but that can be forgiven for the honest performance she gives. Also in the cast are Mary Steenburgen (singing, quite well, actually), Frances McDormand, Margaret Colin, Christopher Durang and female impersonator, Charles Pierce.

The film is available on DVD and can also be seen in full you YouTube. The link to the first installment is above, uploaded by filmfreak420. The poster above is available from

Obscurity factor: 3 (fairly recent production, available on DVD and YouTube, not a huge hit when released and not well remembered)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mia Farrow & Natasha Richardson in Widow's Peak (1994)

Katherine O'Hare (no relation to Bunny) is a simple woman who has found her way into the tightly knit society that lives on the hill in a small Irish town. She has been taken under the wing of Mrs. Doyle-Counihan (Joan Plowright). The hill has been informally reserved for widows, and when a new, young, racy American widow comes to join the ladies on Widow's Peak, Katherine takes an instant and irrational dislike to her. The people in the town don't know quite what to do about that, as the dislike turns to open hostility and physical violence. Will harm befall one of the women, so brutally pitted against one another?

This taut, well crafted little film is not what you expect when you sit down to watch it, and it's full of unexpected twists and turns as it plays out its story.

The film is fairly recent, and available on DVD. The trailer is up on YouTube and can be seen above, thanks to an upload by Gabben92. The poster above is available from

Obscurity factor: 3 (still fairly recent, available on DVD)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Valerie Bertinelli & Barry Bostwick in I'll Take Manhattan 1986

Obscurity factor: 5

All my friends know I love cheese (see Milineum). So when my friend Carol gave me a copy of this miniseries on DVD I was ecstatic. This was one of those shows that was appointment TV for me when it was first run on CBS back in the 80's (don't judge, I was in high school). It's based on a Judith Krantz novel and has all the over-the-top drama and glamor you would expect. It's an epic tale of the Ambervilles and the publishing empire that Zachery (Barry Bostwick), the elder Amberville brother builds up. He is helped and hindered by a cast of familiar faces - his younger brother, Cutter (I know, right?) played by Perry King, his wife (Francesca Annis) blind son (Timothy Daly),  and supportive mistress and editor (Jane Kaczmarek). But the real focus of the story is his fiery daughter Maxi, played by Valerie Bertinelli. She's an irresponsible playgirl with all the money she could ever need and an unerring ability to get anything she wants. And what she wants is Jack Scalia, playing art director Rocco Cipriani. She's aided by her best friend India, played by a very young Julianne Moore. This is a long series! 4 installments of what were, with commercials, 2 hour movies, comes to 357 minutes. If you like to indulge in a banquet of gorgonzola then its worth it.

This is, I'm glad to say, available on DVD. It can also be found on YouTube in it's entirety, which is saying a lot. there are 35 installments of it, all uploaded by LBColby. The first installment is above.

Obscurity factor: 5 (available on DVD and YouTube, very much a piece of its times, and forgotten by all except those who love TV movies and miniseries)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Devil and Daniel Mouse (1978)

Obscurity factor: 9

This animated short is a cartoon adaptation of the familiar story of The Devil and Daniel Webster. When mice Daniel and Jan are fired from their latest music gig they're pretty down on their luck. As they walk home, lamenting the fact that they have no job, no money and no prospects, Daniel promises Jan to get them some food. He leaves her sitting in the woods while he goes to hock his guitar. Meanwhile, Jan is approached by a serpent, who introduces himself as B. L. Zebubb. B.L. and his wiley weasel of an assistant offer to make Jan a star if she'll sign with them. She resists at first, but is eventually taken in. Fame and fortune follow, but on the night of her greatest success, according to her contract, she must surrender her soul. Can Daniel save her? What makes this version of the story interesting is the setting in which it was produced. It's very much a piece of its time, with some groovy music and slick 70's style. The rendering of the devil is really wonderful. He oozes evil and shifts from hideous shape to hideous shape gracefully at will.

This short film (27 minutes) is available as a DVD extra on the 2 disc collector's edition of Rock and Rule, which it inspired. It's also available as a stand alone VHS tape and a companion kid's book. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube as well, thanks to bbahalt. The first installment is above.

Obscurity factor: 9 (not available as a stand alone DVD, largely forgotten, available on YouTube)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Murder Can Hurt You (1980)

Obscurity factor: 10

Keeping in the vein of all-star casts in wacky comedies we have this Aaron Spelling TV movie from 1980. It's cartoonish, poorly written and simplistically silly, but for fans of 70's television none of that matters. This caper film relies on knowledge of the popular cop shows of the 1970's and benefits from knowledge of the ubiquitous actors of the era. They're all here - Colombo (Burt Young), Kojak (Gavin MacCleod), Police Woman (Connie Stevens), McCloud (Buck Owens), Starsky (Jamie Farr) and Hutch (John Byner), Ironsides (Victor Buono), Beretta (Tony Danza) - with just a tweak to the names for the sake of parody. The story revolves (dizzily) around The Man in White, who has decided to do in all the dectectives, for reasons of his own. He does his level best and they start meeting bizarre and preposterous ends. But none of that really matters. The only reason to watch this is to see actors you're familiar with broadly lampoon characters you're also familiar with in stereotypical cop show circumstances that are amplified for comedy - it's a self-referential  70's TV fest. If that's not your thing, then you'll want to skip this one. Look for Marty Allen and Jimmie Walker also populating the cast.

No surprise that this one isn't available on DVD. It can be watched on YouTube in its entirety, however, thanks to dalekenbuck.

Obscurity factor: 10

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Scavenger Hunt (1979)

Obscurity factor: 7

The runaway success of It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World led Hollywood to several copycat ventures. There was a Remington Steele episode, a movie with everyone looking for something under a big "K" somewhere (that's one of those lost films that I remember from my youth but can't find - all those lost films will become a post some day) and this film from 1979. Milton Parker (Vincent Price) has died and left a huge fortune. His will decrees that it will be given in its entirety to the winning team of a scavenger hunt he has set up. The teams include his greedy sister (Cloris Leachman), her son (Richard Masur) and her lawyer (Richard Benjamin), the old man's servants (Roddy McDowell, Clevon Little, James Coco and Stephanie Faracy), his nephews (Dirk Benedict and Willie Aames), his son in law Henry Motley (Tony Randall) and his kids and a cab driver (Richard Mulligan) who helped him out once, who is eventually joined by Scatman Crothers. As the teams head out to pillage San Diego for the items on the list they wreak all sorts of havoc on population and countryside, encountering a slew of familiar faces such as Ruth Gordon, Meatloaf, Arnold Schwarzenegger in cameo roles.
One of my favorite moments features Liz Torres (Julie, the photography studio owner on Phyllis) playing a psychic from which one of the teams needs a crystal ball. Before they can even knock, she opens the door and knows in minute detail what they want and why they want it. It's a brilliantly written little moment. Also look for Robert Morley as the lawyer and executor of the estate.

Though the film has yet to be released on DVD, it can be found on VHS. It's also uploaded to YouTube in its entirety, thanks to dalekenbuck. The poster above is available from

Obscurity factor: 7 (available on VHS and YouTube, not on DVD, buried by the sands of time)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bing Crosby and Blythe Danner in Dr. Cook's Garden (1971)

Obscurity factor: 9

Thanks to frequent commenter propagatrix I saw this cunning little film last night. It was a TV movie back in 1971, but before that it was a notorious Broadway flop (running only 8 performances) by Ira Levin, author of such creepy fare as Rosemary's Baby and The Stepford Wives. The play starred Burl Ives, the film features Bing Crosby as the kind, benevolent doctor of the title. His young protege returns from his residency for a much needed rest in his old New England home town. While staying with the doctor it strikes him that the town has the most idyllic residents - only the good, kind, healthy members of the population seem to survive. As he casually examines his records he begins to wonder if Dr. Cook might be responsible.

This film is a prime example of great casting. Bing Crosby strikes just the right notes of respectability and charm as the doctor with a dark secret, he turns in a very solid performance, as do the rest of the cast, including Frank Converse as the young protege and Blythe Danner as Dr. Cook's nurse and receptionist. Look for veteran Barnard Hughes as the town constable and Dr. Cook's gardener.

This film is not on DVD, though you can see it on YouTube in its entirety, thanks to cmcb09. The first installment is above. You can also find copies on

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, TV movie, largely forgotten, available on YouTube and

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rex Harrison & Dharmendra in Raders of the Sacred Stone (1978)

Obscurity factor: 8

This 1970's Bollywood film is all about adventure. S. S. Kumar (Dharmendra) is a petty thief who cons his way into the estate of Sir John Locksley (Rex Harrison) who is hosting a house party. Little does Kumar know that the guests are all master criminals and Sir John, who is dying, is picking a successor to the title of greatest criminal mind by tempting them to steal the fabulous Shalimar diamond from him.
This film has a very James Bond quality, with our hero moving heaven and earth to succeed at his game, and of course there's a girl at stake as well. Look for American actors John Saxon and Sylvia Miles as rival jewel thieves. It's a fun watch, and worth a look.
This film is available on DVD and can be seen on YouTube, however the upload has no subtitles. The first installment is posted above and begins with a fun dance number that you don't need to speak Hindi to understand. The soundtrack was released and is still known in the Indian music scene.

Obscurity factor: 8 (known in its native India, relatively unknown in the states, on DVD)

Monday, March 14, 2011

David Nivin & Kim Hunter in A Matter of Life and Death

Obscurity factor: -2

Yesterdays film dealt with the afterlife during the period of the Second World War, so I thought this one, which has a similar basis would make a good follow up post.  Squadron leader Peter David Carter (David Niven) is about to bail out of his doomed plane without a parachute. He's resigned to his fate and his last communication is with the American girl manning the radio at the air base in England. Imagine his surprise when he awakens, washed up on the beach. He believes he's in heaven, but is disabused of that belief by a naked boy on the beach. The boy points out a cyclist pedaling home. Peter chases her down and finds that it's June, the American girl from the previous night. Meanwhile, up in heaven they're missing him. By the time they've located him on earth, he's fallen in love with June. He refuses to return with the Conductor and argues that, due to extenuating circumstances he should be allowed to remain on earth for a normal lifespan. He's granted a trial to prove his case.

This is the first film I've posted with a negative obscurity factor rating. It's not largely known to the general public, but has been named the second greatest British film ever made (by the magazine, Total Film in 2004) and is well known to film buffs. It is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen. The cinematography is breathtaking and the sequences in heaven are rendered on a scale so vast and majestic you would think that the set designer had inside knowledge. Interestingly, the earth bound sequences are shot in Technicolor, while the heavenly sequences are in black and white. The cast is quite impressive as well, including in addition to Mr. Niven and Ms. Hunter, Raymond Massey and Richard Attenborough.
This film is available on DVD (though it's out of print and a bit pricey) and on YouTube. I've included the first installment above, uploaded by littleiceage. I suggest you do yourself a favor and either watch it on a large TV in a dark room or preferably look for it at a revival house. It's worth the effort to see this beautiful film on the big screen. The poster above is available at

Obscurity factor: -2 (Available on DVD, well known among critics and film buffs, relatively unknown among the general public)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

John Garfield & Paul Henried in Between Two Worlds (1944)

Obscurity factor: 6

When a couple (Paul Henried and Eleanor Parker) who have just committed suicide together find themselves on a steamship with other passengers, only they are able to surmise the truth - that they're in a modern day purgatory, sailing to their own judgment day. The assembled lot, all killed in an air raid, is diverse - a business man, a reporter (John Garfield), an actress, a wealthy couple, a sailor and others are alone on the ship with only one porter and believe they're sailing from England to New York.

This film is based on a play of the same name and still retains some of its wordiness, but is a compelling portrait of the then prevailing idea of the afterlife. In addition to Mr. Garfield and Mr. Henried, look for Sidney Greenstreet, George Coulouris and Edmund Gwenn.
This film is recently available on DVD, thanks to TCM. It can be seen there occasionally as well. The trailer is on YouTube and can be seen above, uploaded by Passthejointplease. The poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 6 (little remembered WWII film, available on DVD)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (1979)

Obscurity factor: 2

Before there was the big budget, live action version of the classic C. S. Lewis tale there was this animated television special. The familiar story was told by the talented Bill Melendez, the force behind the Peanuts specials and the Children's Television Workshop, producers of Sesame Street. If you were a fan of the book, for a long time, this was the only telling of it available, so many people saw, and enjoyed it. The story of Peter, Edmund, Susan and Lucy passing through a wardrobe and entering a strange land has a prominent place in our culture, and this production served as the introduction of it to a good portion of the population.
This version is available on DVD, though is currently not in print. Copies can still be found on Amazon, though. You can also find it on YouTube. The first installment of it is above, uploaded by nwl23.

Obscurity factor: 2 (remembered by many, though overshadowed by the subsequent film, on DVD, available on YouTube)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Homebodies (1974)

Obscurity factor: 8

This is a curious little film that reflects the spirit of rebellion that was prevalent at the time it was made. The residents of an old building in an unnamed city are about to be evicted to make way for a shiny new sky scraper with luxury rentals. They've watched as the residents of the whole block are relocated without care or compassion and are grimly determined not to let it happen to them. Meanwhile, the construction site of the first building in the complex starts having fatal accidents that result in work stoppages. Are the residents of the tenement waging war on their evictors?

This film is one part social commentary and one part horror film. The murderous impulses of these octogenarians are at once comical and repulsive and the graphic depiction of the gruesome acts, while minimal is effective. The deeper, melancholy message about how we dispose of our aged is also on full display. Look for Ruth McDevitt and Ian Wolf as the super and his wife.
This film is not yet available on DVD, though you can find it over at You can also watch it in full on YouTube. The first installment of it is above, uploaded by dalekenbuck. I forget who brought this one to my attention. Whoever you are, thank you...

Obscurity factor: 8 (not available on DVD, known to horror buffs, available on YouTube)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bette Davis in Stranded (1957)

Here, thanks to BDeyes81, is another lost Bette Davis gem from the anthology series Telephone Time. Bette plays a school teacher who must protect 5 children in a blizzard that cuts them off from civilization. It's nice to see her patient, kind, competent characterization of a teacher. These lost gems are so much fun to rediscover. The ending is a bit abrupt - I surmise that there was a tag that has been left off - but it's worth a look even so.
This is one of those productions that's extremely hard to find. You might be able to track it down in a collection of episodes of the series, but it would be difficult to locate. Thanks again to BDeyes81, it's above, for your viewing pleasure.

Obscurity factor: 10 (only available on YouTube).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Yves Montand in Z (1969)

Obscurity factor: 3

When it comes to political thrillers, few are as effective as Z. When a popular opposition leader (Montand) is assassinated, the investigating magistrate uncovers evidence of the guilt of high level government officials. As they attempt to cover up their involvement, witnesses and people close to the assassinated leader are beaten, bullied and intimidated. This French language film, directed by Costa-Gavras, is based on actual events that took place in the early sixties in his native Greece and will have you on the edge of your seat, but will leave you feeling angry and wrung out.

It was very well received, winning an Oscar for best foreign language picture and stirring up a lot of controversy where ever it was shown. At the time of its release, Greece was still under the rule of a Military Junta, which was supported by the US Government. The film was banned in Greece and Herbert Hoover made a statement claiming that anyone who would see it was not a true American. The left leaning point of view of the film made it the perfect target for the anti-communists.
The film is available on DVD, and has a high profile among film buffs and fans of political thrillers, however, it's profile is low with the general public in the US, as is the case with most foreign language films. If you're a fan of political thrillers, it's a must-see. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by rialtomedia. The poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 3 (available on DVD, well known to film buffs, largely unknown to the general population)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Goldbloom & Peter Falk in Vibes (1988)

Obscurity factor: 4

This film really is a forgotten gem. It's one part romantic comedy, one part adventure and one part mystical exploration. Sylvia Pickle (Lauper) and Nick Deezy (Goldbloom) are psychic, but that's the only thing they have in common - Sylvia is a flamboyant hairdresser with a penchant for picking the wrong men, while Nick is the curator at a natural history museum. They meet while taking part in a psychic study and take an immediate dislike to each other. When they're thrown together on a trip to Ecuador by shyster Harry Buscafusco (Falk), on the pretense of rescuing his fictional son, they try and put their differences behind them. When the real reason for the trip is revealed to them, they find themselves in danger, with only their powers to help.

I remember watching this frequently on TV in the early 90's. This film has a lot going for it. Cyndi Lauper does a very nice job tackling both the comedy and the more dramatic aspects of the character, while Jeff Goldbloom makes an unlikely, but very charming action/adventure hero. All of it adds up to a delightful, warm film that's worth a second look.

Vibes was released on DVD in 2009. Prior to that it was only available on VHS. It can also be seen on YouTube in its entirety, thanks to an upload by winterw00d. Part one is above. The poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 4 (rarely screened on TV, available on DVD, somewhat forgotten)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Cliff Robertson, Genevieve Bujold & John Lithgow in Obsession (1976)

Obscurity factor: 6

Hitchcock was, reportedly, furious when this film was released. It does bear a striking resemblance to Vertigo, but there are unique twists and turns that make it quite different, and, ultimately a great deal more shocking. Michael Courtland (Cliff Robertson) is a New Orleans businessman preparing for a big project. He and his wife Elizabeth (Genevieve Bujold) are hosting a party to celebrate it. After the party Elizabeth and their daughter are kidnapped and held for ransom. In a botched attempt to get them back they're lost in an automobile accident. Jump ahead 15 years and Michael hasn't gotten over the loss. He's built an enormous monument to his family on the highly prized plot of land he and his partner (John Lithgow) were planning to build a development on and still lives alone (save for a housekeeper that's been in the family for years) in the big house he shared with his wife and daughter. A business venture offers an opportunity to go to Rome, and his partner convinces him to go. While there he meets Sandra (also Bujold), who is the spitting image of his dead wife. He becomes completely obsessed with the young girl, but surprises await him when he brings her home to New Orleans.
This stylish thriller, directed by Brian De Palma, has all the twists and turns you'd expect in an homage to Hitchcock and is beautifully shot on location in New Orleans and Rome by Vilmos Zsigmond.

Obsession was released on DVD in 2001, but is currently out of print, so it's a bit pricey at Amazon. You can, however watch it as an On Demand title there. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by liuczek. The poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 6 (available on DVD, known to De Palma buffs)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Cloris Leachman & Nick Nolte in Death Sentance 1974

Obscurity factor: 8

Susan Davies (Leachman) is delighted to have been selected to serve on the jury of murder suspect John Healy (Nolte), even though it interferes with her plans for a vacation with her husband (Lawrence Luckinbill). As the trial progresses she becomes more and more convinced of Healy's innocence, but an alternate theory of the crime begins to seep into her consciousness - a theory that at first seems so preposterous that she rejects it out of hand. But over time, the evidence for her theory starts to mount and seems to prove that her husband is the culprit. This Aaron Spelling production was one of those ubiquitous movies of the week that were run on all the networks back in the 70's, and while it's not a great film, it is an enjoyable little thriller. It's wonderful to see Cloris Leachman in a role so different from the comedies that made her famous, and also delightful to see Nick Nolte in a small role, so fresh and full of promise. Look for TV veterans William Shallert and Alan Oppenheimer as the attorneys in the case.
This film was released on DVD, spuriously touting Nick Nolte as the star back in 1999 and it can still be found on Amazon for pennies. If you're not expecting it to be a Nolte vehicle, it can be quite watchable. It's also available on YouTube in one big file. The post is above, uploaded by filmisnow.

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

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Didi Conn & Alan Sues in Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure (1977)

When Marcella is given a glamorous French doll as a birthday gift, she puts Raggedy Ann (Didi Conn) in charge of her safety. This responsibility weighs heavy on Raggedy Ann's shoulders, and when Babette is kidnapped by The Captain (a pirate freshly released from his snow globe prison) she feels she must venture out into the world to rescue her. She's accompanied by Raggedy Andy, who is determined to protect her. They meet many friends and foes on their journey to save Babette, including the camel with the wrinkly knees, a gelatinous blob who wants to eat Raggedy Ann's candy heart and the Loonie Knight (Alan Sues) who is procuring victims of practical jokes for King Koo Koo, who is tiny until he laughs at people, then parts of him expand.

This film is one of the strangest, most subversive children's movies ever made. The double entendre is thick and obvious throughout the film, with strange sexual and drug innuendo mixed with happy-go-lucky children's fare. Considering that it was produced by Bobbs-Merrill, which was a division of Corporate giant ITT, it's even more odd. It's worth a watch, if only to marvel at how much they got away with.

The film has yet to be released on DVD, though there are VHS copies floating around out there. It's also uploaded in full to YouTube by TheThiefArchive. The upload is from a restored 35mm print and is in wide screen format and very clear and colorful. The poster above is available from

Obscurity factor: 7 (hard to find, though has something of a cult reputation. Not on DVD, available on YouTube)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Burt Lancaster in The Swimmer (1968)

Obscurity factor: 1

On a beautiful, mid-summer day Ned Merrill (Lancaster) emerges from the woods, wearing nothing but swimming trunks, at the home of the Westerhazys. He's given a warm reception and offered a drink. As he sits there talking, he realizes that, thanks to a string of swimming pools that stretch across the county, he can swim the 8 miles back to his home. He's very pleased with this idea, and leaves the Westerhazys to attempt to do just that. As he goes from house to house, he encounters friends and parties and an increasing sense of something gone awry in his life. His memory fails him as he hears hints of his misfortunes and what began as innocent fun becomes an obligation that Ned can't abandon.

This film, based on a short story by John Cheever, is a surreal journey from youth and innocence to disillusioned middle age. It explores how we get our identities from social status, wealth and relationships. Once you see this film, it's difficult to forget because of the strong emotions it brings up. There are lots of cameo performances to look for - Kim Hunter, Joan Rivers, Marge Champion and John Cheever himself as a party guest.

The Swimmer was released on DVD in 2003, but is pricey on Amazon. They do have it available to watch instantly, however. The trailer for it is above, uploaded to YouTube by CyanArea. The poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 1 (well known among film buffs, available on DVD, not high in general awareness)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Eve Arden & Kaye Ballard in The Mothers-In-Law (1967 - 1969)

Obscurity factor: 7

I don't usually cover series television on this blog, but I'm currently wading through the complete series of The Mothers-In-Law on DVD and thought I'd write it up.

Eve Hubbard (Eve Arden) and Kaye Buell (Kaye Ballard) are neighbors and the mothers of Jerry and Suzi, who are married. Their relationship is sort of a love/hate one. Kaye and her husband Roger (Roger C. Carmel in season 1 and Richard Deacon in season 2) are easy going and earthy, while Eve and her husband Herbert (Herbert Rudley) are more formal. They have one thing in common though - they love to meddle in their children's lives, which is easy, because the kids live in a converted garage apartment behind the Hubbard's house.
Photo courtesy:

This series has the distinction of having been produced by Desi Arnaz and having been written by the primary writers for I Love Lucy - Bob Caroll Jr. and Madeline Pugh Davis. It has a lot of the same zany qualities and plot points of the more famous fore-bearer, and though much of the more outlandish moments don't hold up that well, there's still a lot to enjoy.
Above is an edited down minisode of the show featuring a fun little show-within-a-show. The entire series is available on a DVD collection that was released last summer. The series has faded into obscurity, though is still remembered by a cadre of hard core fans.

Obscurity factor: 7 (available on DVD, largely forgotten, never screened on TV)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall & Gloria Grahame in The Cobweb (1955)

Obscurity factor: 2

This film is a wonderful psychological study of the lives of the patients and doctors and their families at a prestigious psychiatric clinic. The trouble centers around a new set of drapes for the library. Three solutions are put forward by three different parties, and due to a communication breakdown of monumental proportions the conflict leads to near tragedy. Vincente Minnelli and the cast do an excellent job of making that breakdown in communication seem to naturally stem from the flawed characters of the principal players. The subject matter of neuroses is sensitively handled, and what could have been cartoonish and unbelievable comes off as genuine and heart wrenching.

This film has something of a cult following, and is notable also for its soundtrack, which is composed in twelve tones and is quite striking. The cast is also stellar. In addition to Widmark, Bacall and Grahame look for Lillian Gish, Charles Boyer, Oscar Levant (in his last film role) a young Susan Strasberg, Mabel Albertson and the great Fay Wray in a small part as Charles Boyer's wife.
This film was just released on DVD in January of this year. It's currently out of stock at Amazon, but should be somewhat easy to find in the future. It's not available on YouTube. The trailer above is from TCM. The poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 2 (well known among film buffs, available on DVD)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Mitzi Gaynor in Razzle Dazzle, The Special Years (2008)

Obscurity factor (3)

This special, which came out a few years ago, is a comprehensive overview of the 8 television specials Mitzi made between 1968 and 1978. She and her team really knew how to make good variety television. the numbers showcased in this special are spectacular in their execution and concept, and just delightful in their production values, which seem so far removed from today's style. The special was produced for public television and includes interviews with Mitzi and many of the members of her team, including the legendary costume designer, Bob Mackie. Additionally, the bonus features include 8 full length numbers from the specials and a long conversation with Mackie, showcasing the glamorous costumes he designed for her.
Though this was released recently on DVD, it's now out of print. Copies can be found fairly easily on Amazon and elsewhere, though they are a bit pricey. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by scamardo. You can find a few of the original specials on DVD at

Obscurity factor: 3 (recently released, available on DVD, somewhat hard to find)