Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Robert Wagner & Eddie Albert in Switch (1975)

Obscurity factor: 6

In 1975, Robert Wagner teamed up with Eddie Albert for a series quite similar to yesterday's post (It Takes a Thief). He played Pete Ryan, a former con man recruited by retired law man Frank "Mac" MacBride (Albert). Each week they would devise some elaborate sting operation, aided by their able and attractive secretary Maggie Philbin (Sharon Gless) and a cast of other regulars, that would trap some bad guy. The action was deft and exciting and the tone was irreverent.

The show had many fun guest stars including Wayne Newton, Lorenzo Lamas, Dionne Warwick, Jaclyn Smith and in the clip below, Jim Bailey playing a gender illusionist who assists in one of the stings.

The series was on for three seasons and is yet to be available on DVD, though you can find copies on iOffer.com.

Obscurity factor: 6 (not on DVD, hard to find online, remembered by some because of comparatively long run)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Robert Wagner in It Takes a Theif (1968)

This is the first in a series of posts about Robert Wagner. I had hoped to feature Pearl, the 1978 miniseries about Pearl Harbor in honor of Memorial Day, but there's very little video of it online and none that can be embedded.  So, instead we'll take a look at this 1968 series. In it, Wagner plays Alexander Mundy, a master cat burglar who, when caught is offered a job stealing for a shady government espionage agency. Mundy travels the world with his handler (Malachi Throne, later Ed Binns) pulling off daring jobs and getting into exciting scrapes. Later in the series we meet Mundy's father (Fred Astair) who is also a master thief. The show has a great stylish quality to it and reeks of sophistication.

The title derives (as does that of Alfred Hitchcock's 1955 film) from the English proverb "it takes a thief to catch a thief." Look for great old Hollywood guest stars including Paul Henried and Ida Lupino. This series has yet to be released on DVD, There is quite a bit of online video available, however. The pilot episode is on YouTube, the first installment is above, uploaded by roderickplatinum86.

Obscurity factor: 5 (not on DVD, known to Wagner fans and 60's hipsters, largely forgotten, otherwise)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

David Steinberg, Martin Short & John Candy in The David Steinberg Show (1972)

Obscurity factor: 9

Long before Gary Shandling did it, David Steinberg exploited the "show within a show" format for his eponymously named The David Steinberg Show. Set in and around the studios of the show in Toronto, Canada, you would see David and his guests on stage with an audience, back stage and across the street at the Hello Deli. Each week would bring a new guest and a new circumstance to exploit for comedic purposes. Guests included such wide ranging personalities as Ethel Merman, Mason Reece, Scatman Crothers, Marcia Wallace, Ruth Buzzi and almost the entire cast of Maud - Adrienne Barbeau, Bill Macy and Conrad Bain.

Series regulars included Bill - "ya doesn't have to call me Johnson" - Saluga and soon to be SCTV luminaries Martin Short, John Candy, Andrea Martin, Dave Thomas, and Joe Flaherty who is the patient in the above psychiatrist skit - one of Steinberg's signature bits (uploaded to YouTube by steinbergshow). While not earth shattering, this summer replacement show from '72 turned regular series in '76 is fun to watch and a great 70's time capsule sampling of pop culture. It's available on DVD and there is a "best of" compilation to be watched on demand at Netflix, however from the reviews, it seems like they left out most of the good stuff.

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

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Liza Minnelli & Mickey Rooney in Journey Back to Oz (1971)

Obscurity factor: 6

This official sequel to The Wizard of Oz (1939) has many casting connections to the original. Liza Minnelli plays Dorothy, reprising her mother's role. Margaret Hamilton is also in the film, but plays Aunt Em, rather than the Wicked Witch. Mickey Rooney - another tie to Judy Garland - plays the Scarecrow. Also in the cast are Milton Berle (Cowardly Lion), Paul Lynde (Pumpkinhead), Danny Thomas (The Tin Man) and Ethel Merman (as Mombi, cousin of the Wicked Witch). The story is roughly based on Baum's second book - The Marvelous Land of Oz and finds Dorothy delivered to Oz again by a cyclone. Once there she attempts to reach the Emerald City where the Scarecrow now reigns as king. Mombi, however has it in for her because of what she did to her cousin and tries to thwart her progress. Along the way she meets Pumpkinhead, who was conjured up by Mombi, but has since gone AWOL. Of course Mombi throws every obstacle she can think of in Dorothy's way - green elephants, murderous trees, confining furniture - can Dorothy and her allies thwart her evil plans?

This film was first released on Britain in 1971, then in the US in 1974. One can only imagine Minnelli's feelings about reprising a role that was so identified with her mother so soon after she had passed away. The Wizard is conspicuously absent from this story, however in the TV release in 1976, segments were introduced by The Wizard played in live action by Bill Cosby. Listen for Mel Blanc as Mombi's crow.

This film is available on DVD though is out of print, and can be difficult to find. It's also available on YouTube in its entirety, thanks to an upload by darthranerful. The poster above is available at MoviePosterShop.com.

Obscurity factor: 6 (on DVD & YouTube, remembered by small cadre of fans)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Olivia deHavilland & James Caan in Lady in a Cage (1964)

To round out this week of "Grand Dame Guignol" films we turn to Olivia deHavilland. My friend Matt Maranian suggested this one. Mrs. Cornelia Hilyard (deHavilland) is a wealthy widow who has some temporary ambulatory problems because of recent hip surgery. Because of this she has an elevator in her home. After seeing her son off on a long weekend vacation she finds herself trapped in the elevator due to a power failure. She's alone in the house with no one expected home until the following Tuesday. In her calls for help, she attracts the attention of an derelict who enters the house, ignores her predicament and steals from her. He fences her belongings and brings his friend Sadie, a prostitute back with him to take more, but they are followed by a trio of psychopathic hoodlums lead by Randall Simpson O'Connell (Caan) who proceed to terrorize her beyond her wildest nightmares.

The bleak and hopeless tone of this film is a bit off-putting. The impression of humanity that it presents is one of complete and total selfishness and disregard for life, so it must be taken with a grain of salt. It's notable in that this is James Caan's first credited big screen role. Also in the film are Ann Southern and Scatman Crothers. This film is available on DVD, though is out of print. It can also be seen in full on YouTube, though the uploader has disabled embedding. Click this link to watch it.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD, but largely forgotten)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Shelly Winters in Whoever Slew Auntie Roo (1971)

Obscurity factor: 7

With the last two posts (What's the Matter with Helen and Whatever Happened to Aunt Alice) could you doubt that this one was next? Rosie Forrest lives in a big mansion not far from an orphanage. She's something of a benefactress to the orphans, inviting 10 of the best behaved to a Christmas party every year. Unfortunately, she's also a bit off her rocker, keeping and "caring for" the mummified corpse of her daughter in a crib in the attic. When two of the more lively children from the orphanage sneak into the party, Auntie Roo is struck by how closely the girl resembles her dearly departed daughter. She kidnaps her and her mischievous brother become suspicious. When he, too gets kidnapped by Rosie, they begin to discover the depth of Auntie Roo's dementia.
This film was directed by Curtis Harrington, at the request of Winters because of the rapport they had on What's The Matter with Helen. Look for Ralph Richardson playing a faux psychic.

This film is available on DVD in a double feature collection with What Ever Happened to Helen. It can also be seen in full on YouTube, but the uploader has disabled embedding. Click this link to watch. The trailer is above, uploaded by cassandracollins. The poster above is available from MoviePosterShop.com.

Obscurity factor: 7 (available on DVD and YouTube, largely unknown outside of cult circles)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Geraldine Page & Ruth Gordon in What Ever Happened to Aunt Alice (1969)

Obscurity factor: 8

Claire Marrable (Page) is a bitter, self important widow, who's husband left her penniless. Claire is resourceful, however, and moves to Arizona. To live the life she's accustomed to she hires housekeepers, swindles them out of their money, kills them, then buries them beneath pine trees in her yard. Her latest companion is different, however. Mrs. Dimmock (Gordon) is feisty, unlike her predecessors, and doesn't let Mrs. Marrable intimidate her. She's also not what she seems. Alice Dimmock was the former employer of Mrs. Marrable's last housekeeper (Mildred Dunnock), and she's suspicious of her sudden disappearance.

This film is the last in a trilogy of similar films produced by Robert Aldrich that began with What Ever Happened to Baby Jane. It's fun to see such talented actresses fence with each other. Geraldine Page creates a fun portrait of evil and Ruth Gordon is restrained and effective. The production values are high, with great costumes and locations, and the man-scenery is good with Robert Fuller playing an initially shadowy figure. Look for Jerry the Dentist (Peter Bonerz) from the Bob Newhart show in a small role at the beginning.

This film was released on DVD, though is out of print now. It can be seen in its entirety on YouTube, thanks to an upload by 60sHorrorRealm. The poster above is available at MoviePosterShop.com.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Debbie Reynolds & Shelly Winters in What's The Matter with Helen (1971)

Obscurity factor: 7

In the grand tradition of Baby Jane we have this star turn shocker about the mothers of two thrill kill killers. Adelle (Reynolds) and Helen (Winters) are shamed and disgraced by the murder their sons committed, so they pick up and leave Iowa for Hollywood where they open a dancing school for children. All is not well, however. They've been targeted by their son's victim's former boyfriend who has sworn to make them pay for their sons' act. Several odd men start showing up in their lives in Hollywood. Could one of them be their tormentor? Meanwhile Adelle has struck up a romance with one of her student's father, and Helen is acting strangely.

The production values of this film are particularly good with well rendered details in the sets and costumes that were nominated for an Academy Award. Look for Agnes Moorehead's cameo as an evangelist.

This film has been released on DVD as a double bill with another shocker - Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? It's also available in full on YouTube, though the uploader has disabled embedding. You can see it here. The trailer above is uploaded by punkymom76.

Obscurity factor: 7 (has a cult following, available on DVD, largely unknown to the general public)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meredith Baxter & David Birney in Bridget Loves Bernie (1972)

Obscurity factor: 9

I've been getting lots of good suggestions for posts from friends lately. This one comes from my new friend Damon. Bridget (Baxter) is from a wealthy Irish Catholic family while Bernie (Birney)  is Jewish, with parents who own a delicatessen. When the two fall in love, they must surmount the seemingly insurmountable obstacle of their disparate backgrounds and faiths. What could have been a hum-drum, ordinary sit-com is made charming and entertaining by the talented cast, which includes Audra Lindly, David Doyle, Bibi Osterwald, Harold J. Stone and Ned Glass and writer/creator Bernard Slade.

This series has the distinction of launching not only the marriage of the two lead characters, but the two lead actors a well - Meredith Baxter became Meredith Baxter Birney soon after the show was canceled. It's not available on DVD, but several episodes are available on Daily Motion and YouTube. Above is part one of the pilot.

Obscurity factor 9 (not on DVD, remembered only as the show that paired Baxter and Birney)

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Hermione Gingold in Winter of the Witch (1969)

Obscurity factor: 8

Thanks to Lee Kay from Chicago for bringing this one to my attention. Little Nicky and his mother (Anna Strasburg) leave the big city for a new home in the country. They buy one that is rumored to be haunted and upon moving in meet the witch that haunts the place (Hermione Gingold). They relegate her to the attic while they try and make the home pleasant. She becomes depressed and one day Nicky tries to cheer her up. He discovers she used to cook for the other witches that lived in the house, so he asks her to cook for them. She makes blueberry pancakes, but not just ordinary blueberry pancakes - these pancakes make people happy. When Nicky's mother tastes them, she decides to open a pancake parlor.

This film, which was narrated by Burgess Meridith, was recently written up in the NY Times. It has developed the kind of cult following that has made it a legend. It was made by Parent's Magazine and distributed through schools, to be shown at assemblies and when rain kept the children in during recess. It was lost to the sands of time until the internet came along. Hundreds of people were finally vindicated in their memories of this odd little film that none of their friends remembered. Here's a link to the New York Times article.

Obscurity factor: 8 (almost completely forgotten until it was featured in the times, available on DVD)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land (1959)

Obscurity factor: 3

This film chronicles the adventures of Donald Duck in the magical land of mathematics. While there he learns about the golden rectangle, pentagrams, circles and spheres and how these and other basic shapes make up the world around us and can be used in games and other pursuits. I first saw this film, as did many others in an elementary school assembly, and enjoyed it immensely - it was a much more fun way of learning mathematics.

I'm not sure if obscure is the word for it, as much as unseen. It's available on DVD and many people know and remember the film, but it's rarely seen today (unless they're still showing it in schools!). Above is part one of 3, uploaded to YouTube by pookzta.

Obscurity factor: 3 (well known, but rarely, if ever screened today, available on DVD)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shirley MacLaine in Shirley's World (1971)

Obscurity factor: 9

Who knew Shirley MacLaine had a television series in the 70's? Well, I'm sure some of you did, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that out. She plays Shirley Logan, a photo journalist who travels the globe to come up with great images for World Illustrated magazine. Each week Shirley travels to some exotic locale (locations were genuine and they shot all over Europe and Asia) and gets involved in some world event, from jewel thefts to the circus. The series only lasted one season and is a bit uneven, but is worth a look, if only for her vibrant personality.

The clip above is the promo for the show which ran on ABC, uploaded to YouTube by JetSetTelevision. Below is the credit sequence uploaded by Witheredgoogie.

This series is fairly recently available on DVD, though the release was in the UK, so it only plays on region free DVD players. No full episodes are available online that I can find.

Obscurity factor: 9 (available on DVD in UK, otherwise rarely seen or remembered)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Celeste Holm in Nancy (1970)

Obscurity factor: 10

With all the fervor over Tricia Nixon's White House wedding, NBC took a chance on this little series. Nancy Smith (Renne Jarrett) is the daughter of the president. She falls in love with a veterinarian from Iowa and their courtship and wedding happens under the watchful eye of the public, the secret service and her guardian (Holm). This series was produced by Sydney Sheldon, coming off the phenomenal hit that was I Dream of Jeannie. It failed to catch on, mostly because it was somewhat overly sentimental and cutesy, but is notable for Celeste Holm's wisecracking.

There were 17 episodes created and needless to say, they haven't been released on DVD. The NBC promo above was uploaded to YouTube by JetSetTelevision.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not on DVD, no complete episodes on the internet, largely forgotten)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lee Grant in Fay (1975)

Fay Stewart has just divorced her husband, Jack and gone out on her own. She has a new job and has begun dating. This sea change has created some turbulence in her life with her daughter and herself as well. Being 40-something and starting over is never easy, doing it in the sexy seventies is a real challenge.

This short-lived series for NBC was smart, funny, and canceled after only 10 episodes were made, which is a shame, because there were so few examples of strong, funny women over 40 on TV back then. Below is a promo for the series which will give you the gist of what it was all about.

This hasn't been released on DVD, and there's very little online video of it available. It was somewhat notorious because of Grant's rant on The Tonight Show after the show was canceled. The video above was uploaded to YouTube by MattTheSaiyan.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not on DVD, hard to find, relatively unknown)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Michael Callan in The Occasional Wife (1966)

Obscurity factor: 10

Peter Christopher (Callan) is frustrated with his lack of progress at work - he seems to be hitting a glass ceiling. When he discusses it with his boss he learns that only married men are promoted, so he hits on an idea - why not enlist the help of his friend Greta (Patricia Harty) to pretend to be his wife? The premise is a bit creaky, but the show has some fun moments and really reflects the swing singles culture that existed back in the 60's. In the clip of the episode below (part one of 3), look for Jack Riley (Mr. Carlin from The Bob Newhart Show) as a rival executive.

This series lasted only 1 season and hasn't been released on DVD. There is some footage available on YouTube - this episode was uploaded by 2nicks.

Obscurity factor: 10 (not available on DVD, one episode and some random footage on YouTube, largely forgotten)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Errol Flynn & Bette Davis in The Sisters (1938)

Obscurity factor: 7

This film has a great history. It's the first pairing of Bette Davis and Errol Flynn, who would, more notably make Elizabeth and Essex several years later. It's also directed by Anatole Litvak who had an affair with Bette and was married to Miriam Hopkins, with whom Bette worked several times and also with whom she shared an enormous animosity - mostly likely because of that affair. Bette plays Louise, the most sensible of three sisters (the other two were Anita Louise and Jane Bryan) living in Montana at the turn of the century. She's sensible at least until she marries sports writer Frank Medlin. He has high hopes for a career as a novelist and sweeps her off her feet and to San Francisco.  He's not exactly the most promising young man, however and times are tough for the young couple. After she takes a job to support the two of them, Frank runs away on a freighter to the South China Seas. The night he leaves is the night of the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Louise is left to piece together her life in the ruins of that California town without Frank. Will they be reunited?

Also in the cast are Beulah Bondi, Henry Travers and Donald Crisp. It has an epic quality with an earthquake scene rivaling the better known San Francisco (1936) with Clark Gable, Spencer Tracey and Jeanette McDonald.

This film isn't available on DVD yet, but a VHS was released in 1998 and can still be found on Amazon. I caught it on TCM, so it's occasionally aired. The trailer above was uploaded to YouTube by skipjacktuner.

Obscurity factor: 7 (known to Flynn & Davis fans, but otherwise obscure, not on DVD)

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Lucille Ball & George Sanders in Lured (1947)

Obscurity factor: 5

This film has a strange quality. Primarily because of the strange pairing of stars and director (Douglas Sirk). Sandra Carpenter (Ball) is an American stranded in London after the show she was in folded. She's supporting herself as a dance hall girl. When a friend from the dance hall disappears, she is drafted by the police to help solve the crime. They've been getting strange poems that precede the disappearance of girls who have answered ads in the personal columns for some time now, and want to use Sandra as a lure to flush out the killer. Concurrently she meets Robert Flemming, a night club owner who becomes fascinated with her. They fall in love, but he is also a prime suspect. Will they find the killer before he finds Sandra?

There is lots to enjoy in Lured - Lucy is restrained, but delightful as the damsel in distress - though she's not as distressed as you might think. She can, and does take care of herself. In the process of hunting for the killer, she goes through many ordeals as a result of answering ads in the personals. Look for a particularly stylish segment with Boris Karloff. It's interesting to see her in an early Sirk film because their careers went off in two completely different directions after this.

This film is available on DVD and can be viewed in its entirety on YouTube, thanks to an upload by IveGotSplainin2Do. The poster above is available at MoviePosterShop.com.

Obscurity factor: 5 (Known to Ball and Sirk fans, available on DVD, largely unknown to the general public)

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jonathan Katz in Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist (1995)

Obscurity factor: 3

This successful series for Comedy Central featured Katz as the go-to shrink for the stand up comedian set. His wry, deadpan style was the perfect match for the varied comedy styles of his guests/patients. Each week featured one or two different comedians who told their troubles to the doctor while he listened patiently, occasionally interjecting words of support or comments on the absurd circumstances. Regulars on the show included his son Ben (H. Jon Benjamin) and Laura, the receptionist (Laura Silverman).
While this series is still fairly fresh in the minds of the viewing public, it has started to acquire the luster of obscurity. The last production year was 2002 and hasn't had much air play since. It's available on DVD, and lots of segments can be seen on YouTube. Best of all, new segments are still being made! The one above features Sarah Silverman.

Obscurity factor: 3 (on DVD, still fresh in viewer's minds, can be seen online)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Paul Lynde in The Paul Lynde Show (1970)

Obscurity factor: 10

Coming off the enormous hit Bewitched William Asher produced this sitcom for Paul Lynde, who, of course, had the recurring role of Uncle Arthur on the aforementioned program. Paul played Paul Simms, the conservative father of two daughters, one recently married to a genius who has trouble functioning in the real world. This upper middle class take off on All in the Family made Lynde's character a lawyer and his daughter a college graduate.

The show features Paul Lynde's signature style of comedy and has strange ironic elements in it that make it more off the wall than most vintage sitcoms - most notably the casting of Paul as a conservative family man. Look for Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara in later episodes as Paul's inlaws.

This show is not available commercially on DVD, though I have seen listings for it on iOffer.com. Several episodes can be watched on YouTube. The one above is the first installment of the pilot, uploaded by OldWorldTelevision.

Obscurity factor: 10 (Known to Lynde fans but not many others, not on DVD, available on YouTube and iOffer)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Rita Rudner in The Rita Rudner Show (1990)

Obscurity factor: 9

Rita Rudner's comedy has always appealed to me, so when this show appeared on cable TV I made sure to watch. It was produced for the BBC and has since become very obscure. There were only 6 episodes, as is the case for much British programming. The show featured skits, stand up and even some musical numbers - Rita having a background as a dancer. The clip below features one of the many guest stars - Jennifer Saunders from a time when Ab Fab was just a glimmer in her eye. The editing is a bit rudimentary, but the comedy is deft.

This series is not available on DVD. You can find several clips of it on YouTube. The clip above was uploaded by PhillipaRM.

Obscurity factor: 9

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sharon Gless in The Trials of Rosie O'Neal (1990)

Obscurity factor: 9

After the phenomenal success of Cagney & Lacey, Sharon Gless was in a good position to pick her projects. She chose this 1 hour dramatic series about a Los Angeles lawyer. Rosie works in the public defender's office and is working through her feelings about her divorce from another lawyer. Each episode begins with her weekly appointment with a psychologist (producer and soon to be husband Barney Rosenzweig). Each week she would tackle a problem in her personal or professional life that would make you feel as well as think.
 Photo, courtesy Darkchilde at Bookmice.net
The series lasted only two seasons, and hasn't been released on DVD, but had some high profile guest stars, including Robert Wagner and Tyne Dailey (pictured above) who played a high school rival of Rosie's. The episode is available on YouTube, though embedding has been disabled. Click the link to view part one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A478eMzntOY&feature=related

Obscurity factor: 9 (not on DVD, two episodes available on YouTube, series available on iOffer.com)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Peter Falk, Madeline Kahn & Eileen Brennan in The Cheap Detective (1978)

Obscurity factor: 7

Hot off the success of Murder By Death, Neil Simon and Robert Moore put this little film together. It extrapolates on the Humphrey Bogart style character that Peter Falk played in the film and pairs him with a bevy of saucy ladies from femme fatales to girls Friday. The film is a parody of the best of the genre, including Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Chinatown and even A Streetcar Named Desire.

The production values are very high, it's beautifully shot in smoky rooms with dramatic lighting and the costumes and sets are nicely rendered. They provide the setting for some deftly handled, if at times silly comedy. Also look for Ann Margaret, Stockard Channing, Sid Caesar, Marsha Mason, James Coco, Phil Silvers, Fernando Lamas and John Housman.

In the clip above, Eileen Brennan plays a remarkably funny lounge singer, uploaded to YouTube by SueSnell. The film is available on DVD. The poster above is available from MoviePosterShop.com.

Obscurity factor: 7 (available on DVD, has cult following, but isn't as well known as Murder by Death)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Valentina Cortese & John Saxon in The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963)

Obscurity factor: 6

Keeping with the "woman in danger" thriller theme from yesterday we find Nora (Leticia Roman) visiting Rome to care for a sick aunt. After her aunt dies she is invited to stay in the home of a new acquaintance, Laura (Valentina Cortese) while she's away on vacation. She witnesses a murder, but is told that it must have been a hallucination because the crime had been committed 10 years earlier - part of a grisly series of murders by a serial killer dubbed the Alphabet Killer. As she tries to make sense of it all she begins to suspect she may be the next victim. The only one she can turn to for help is a young doctor (John Saxon), but can she trust him?

Poster source: Wikipedia

This film is part of the Italian Giallo film movement and was directed by Mario Bava. It's very moody and atmospheric and while the story takes some suspension of disbelief to swallow, it has a very stylish quality to it that makes it interesting.

This film, which was renamed The Evil Eye for the American market is available on DVD and can be seen in its entirety on YouTube. Part one is above, uploaded by monster4josh.

Obscurity factor: 6 (available on DVD & YouTube, known to Gaillo fans, largely unknown to the general public)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Faye Dunaway in Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

Obscurity factor: 3

This film is really more notorious than obscure, but many people haven't seen it, so I thought I'd include it. Laura Mars is a successful fashion photographer in the mold of Helmut Newton. Her images combine the gloss of fashion with violent imagery. When the people she works with start turning up dead, brutally murdered, the police become interested in her work because her fashion photos closely resemble their unpublished crime scene images. As the case develops a strange things starts to happen - Laura begins to have visions of the crimes as seen through the killer's eyes.

This film, which was produced by Jon Peters, while he was still dating Barbra Streisand, is very stylish in both acting style and presentation - so much so that it gets in the way of the story at times. The visuals are really remarkable and worth the price of admission and Faye Dunaway gives a very studied and self consciously serious performance that can be fun to watch. Streisand turned down the role, but ended up recording the theme for the film.

Look for this film on DVD. Above is a featurette filmed during the making of Eyes that is fun to watch, and gives you an idea of what to expect. It was uploaded to YouTube by CyanArea. The poster above is available from MoviePosterShop.com.

Obscurity factor: 3 (Available on DVD, has cult following)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Paul Lynde & Mel Blanc in Where's Huddles (1970)

Obscurity factor: 8

The world of professional football was the setting for this summer replacement series with some similarities to The Flintstones - it had a prime time slot and featured the voice of Wilma Flintstone (Jean Vander Pyl) as Marge, Ed's wife. Best friends Ed Huddles (Cliff Norton) and Bubba McCoy (Blanc) were members of the Rhinos professional football team and lived next door to each other. On the other side of Ed's house lived Claude Pertwee (Lynde), who was always doing his best to throw a wrench into the works of whatever plans were on the table for Ed and Bubba that particular day. Though the character Lynde plays is a not-so-subtle jab at gay men, the series still has some fun moments in it. In the episode below, he's apoplectic about the boys plan to install a pool in Ed's back yard.

Though this series didn't have much of a life after the 10 weeks it played on CBS in the summer of 1970, it did spawn a comic book that ran for 3 issues and can occasionally be seen on the cartoon cable channels. A few episodes are available on YouTube. The one above - The Swimming Hole - was uploaded by patricktoons. The series is not available on DVD.

Obscurity factor: 8 (largely forgotten, not on DVD, on YouTube and occasionally aired on TV)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Lynda Carter & Loni Anderson in Partners in Crime (1984)

Obscurity factor: 8

Yesterday we featured the 1982 crime series, Matt Houston. Today I thought we'd carry the thought through to the female version, sort of. This series was only on for one season, but was worth noting for the paring of the two stars - both still very popular from their recent hit shows (Wonder Woman and WKRP). When private eye Raymond Caufield is killed, his two ex wives Carol (Carter), a photographer and Sydney (Anderson) a con woman and bassist find out that he's left them everything he owned, including his agency. Both of them are struggling to get by, so they decide to try and make a go of it as detectives, with mixed, but entertaining results. Look for veteran character actor Eileen Heckart as Raymond's mother.

This series isn't available on DVD, but you can watch a few episodes on YouTube. The first installment of the pilot is above, uploaded to YouTube by Edster73. Seeing Loni Anderson playing an upright bass is worth watching for.

Obscurity factor: 8 (not on DVD, relatively unknown, available on YouTube)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lee Horsley in Matt Houston (1982)

Obscurity factor: 6

Detective shows was a big television staple in the 80's. Hart to Hart, Spencer for Hire, Cagney & Lacy... And before Texas so strongly represented one side of the political divide (or at least before I was aware of it) Matt Houston combined elements of all of them. Matt was a fabulously wealthy Texas oil man who spent most of his time in Los Angeles playing at being a private detective - and he played hard at it! His glamorous sidekick (Pamela Hensley) was always there to fill in the necessary information about a case. The action was dramatic - breaking windows, falling cars, running across roofs - and the stories were easy to digest with plot lines you could follow while you made yourself a snack in the radar range. Lee Horsley was quite the show piece, in that mustachioed way that was so popular in the 70's and 80's, and Pamela Hensley was something of a siren herself, and eerily similar to Barbara Stock who played her counterpart on Spencer for Hire. When she show first premiered the opening credits gave a hint to the slightly quirky humor to be found in the series, as you can see in the video below.

The series ran for 3 seasons (I was a devoted viewer as a kid). I was pleased to see that the first of those seasons has been released on DVD. The opening credits above were uploaded to YouTube by bretmaverick2004.

Obscurity factor: 6 (Available on DVD, remembered by some, largely lost to the sands of time)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Irving Rapper Directs The Christine Jorgensen Story (1970)

Obscurity factor: 7

1970 was quite the year for transgendered films. Yesterday's Dinah East reminded me of this biopic about the first transsexual, Christine Jorgensen (John Hansen). It chronicles her life and transition from male to female at a time when sexual roles were highly stereotyped in society. Add to that the fact that this procedure had never been done before and you have a sensation in the making. Jorgensen became a very unwilling subject of media attention and the butt of countless jokes, but her bravery in living out her destiny paved the way for many people to follow.

What's most remarkable to me about this film is that it was directed by Irving Rapper, who directed Now Voyager with Bette Davis. The subject is handled sensitively and the acting is good. The production values are mediocre and the marketing campaign was exploitative. It's worth a look though, as another early attempt at understanding alternative lifestyles.

Trailer provided by Video Detective
This film has yet to be released on DVD, though you can get a copy at iOffer.com and it can be watched in full on Netflix streaming. The trailer is above, uploaded to Video Detective. The poster above is available from MoviePosterShop.com.

Obscurity factor: 7 (not on DVD, available on Netflix, has cult following)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jeremy Stockwell & Ultra Violet in Dinah East (1970)

Obscurity factor: 9

For years, there was a rumor floating around Hollywood that Mae West was actually a man. In 1970, writer/director Gene Nash turned that rumor into the fictional account of film star Dinah East (Stockwell). She was a popular star in the 1950's, wealthy, successful and when she dies in an automobile accident, it's discovered that she was actually a man. The story of how she came to be who she was is told in flash backs, juxtaposed with the scandal caused by the posthumous discovery.

This film has a rumor associated with it that Mae West sued to have it removed from distribution. I believe that rumor was dispelled, but it certainly created some buzz. It's not a great film by any standards, but it is a remarkably sensitive portrait of a man living as a woman at a time when that sort of thing made you a pariah. There is lots of nudity in the film - both male and female, which gives it an exploitative quality, earning it an X rating, but there's some meat on the sensationalist bones as well.

This film is available on DVD in two separate releases. The trailer above is uploaded to YouTube by VictoriaWarrior.

Obscurity factor: 9 (available on DVD, mostly unknown except by a handful of cult followers)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Loretta Young in Christine's Children (1962)

Obscurity factor: 7

Many people remember Loretta Young's anthology series from the 1950's. It ran for almost 10 years and was very popular. In the early 1960's she starred in another series called Christine's Children. Instead of being an anthology, it was a sit-com with elements of a drama.  Christine Massey is a widowed writer with seven children. She plies her trade with a woman's magazine published by Paul Belzer who also becomes her romantic interest on the show. Each episode really focuses on the life of the children and the ins and outs of growing up. There are two boys - twins played by Dirk and Dack Rambo and 5 younger girls.

Loretta Young's signature was her appearance at the beginning and end of each episode with a quote to frame the story. Her entrance in an exquisite couture creation was what many fans looked for, and this series was the pinnacle of that gesture, with gorgeous Hollywood Regency doors, through which Ms. Young entered in chiffon, lace or faille.

The series is recently available on DVD and the quality is very good, having been remastered from Ms. Young's original media. There is no video of it available online what-so-ever, that I can find.

Obscurity factor: 7 (on DVD, not as well known has the original series)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Raquel Welch in Raquel! (1970)

When it comes to outrageous representations of the zodiac, no one can beat Raquel Welch in her 1970 television special (unless it's Anthony Newley, but that's another story). Raquel! is one of those strange, pre-MTV specials that's full of what we now call music videos with Raquel singing and dancing in some of the most gravity defying outfits. Her special guests are Bob Hope, Tom Jones and John Wayne - all in all it's a very strange show.

Here's a small sample of it. Raquel sings The Age of Aquarius in the desert with dancers in some of the most amazing costumes. It's uploaded to YouTube by jmannen77. This special is available on DVD.

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