Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ryan O'Neil in So Fine 1981

Obscurity factor: 6

Next in our little Ryan O'Neal festival is this 1981 comedy. Bobby Fine is an egg head professor, the son of garment manufacturer Jack (Jack Warden). Jack's business is going down the tubes, and so is Jack if he can't come up with the money to pay loan shark Eddie (Richard Kiel) back. To further complicate matters, Bobby is having an affair with Eddie's wife, Lira (Mariangela Melato) - not something you do to a 7 foot tall man. One morning after being trapped under Lira's bed Bobby escapes the house, but isn't able to retrieve his clothes, so he wears a sweater and jeans belonging to Lira. On the way to his father's office he rips the ass in them and stuffs the holes with plastic. When he finally gets to the office a new fashion fad is born - So Fine jeans with windows in the back. Needless to say the public goes mad for this new fangled fashion fad, but will Bobby and Jack be able to stay alive long enough to enjoy the success?

This wacky comedy was written and produced by Andrew Bergman, who lent his writing talent to Blazing Saddles, among other kooky films. Look for Fred Gwynne in a small role, and a riotous scene in during an unfortunate production of Othello. Unfortunately we don't get to see Ryan O'Neal's backside in the jeans for near long enough.

This film was recently released on DVD by the Warner Archive as a print-on-demand title. Above is the So Fine commercial and montage of the jeans success featuring Anita Morris, who was making a big splash on Broadway in Nine at the time. It was uploaded to YouTube by TheViewMonster.

Obscurity factor: 6 (Remembered for its gimmick, newly available on DVD, largely forgotten otherwise)

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Ryan O'Neal & Omar Sharif in Green Ice (1981)

Ryan O'Neal has been in his share of obscure films. I'm featuring a few of them this week. This one slipped under the radar in 1981. In a strikingly similar scenario to yesterdays film (The Thief Who Came to Dinner) Joseph Wiley (O'Neal) is an electronics expert who travels to Mexico to get over a divorce and meets a sultry beauty, Holbrook (Anne Archer). They embark on a career of purloinery. This time the loot is limited to emeralds owned by underworld kingpin Meno Argenti (Sharif) who has killed Holbrook's sister, despite wanting Holbrook to marry him.
Though this film didn't do well critically, there is some fun to be had in it. The opening scene depicts the murder mentioned above and is quite disconcerting, which contrasts with the lighter quality to the rest of the film. Sharif is suitably despicable and Archer is beguiling. Look for John Larroquette in an early role and opening credits done by Maurice Binder of James Bond fame.

This film is available on DVD, but is out of print and copies are expensive. It can also be watched on Amazon on demand. Above is the scene where our protagonists use balloons in their bid for the emeralds featuring Maria - Midnight at the Oasis - Muldaur singing "Floating", uploaded to YouTube by RudyHerak.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD, but hard to find, also available online on Amazon, largely forgotten)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Ryan O'Neal & Jacquline Bisset in The Theif who Came to Dinner (1973)

Obscurity factor: 7

This stylish caper film owes a lot to The Thomas Crown Affair. Webster (O'Neal) is bored with his job as a computer programmer in the bustling metropolis of Houston, Texas. He decides to quit and become a jewel thief - The Chess Burgler - he leaves chess pieces and a note with a chess move at each of his jobs. His first caper is the Henderling home, where he secures not only jewelry and cash, but some incriminating documents, which he uses to blackmail Henderling (Charles Cioffi) into introducing him into society. At a party Henderling gives he meets Laura (Bisset), with whom he begins a relationship. She becomes his accomplice, helping him by throwing parties to get people out of their homes, providing alibis for him and helping him plan and execute his capers. The wrench in the works is Dave (Warren Oates), a pensive insurance investigator who suspects Webster, but can't prove that he's the theif. Dave dogs Webster's tail, tries to set him up and even enlists the help of a chess expert (Austin Pendleton) to publicly challenge him to a game, which is played out in a newspaper. As the stakes get bigger, will Webster have the nerve to continue with Dave there waiting for his first misstep?

This film has a light charm that is missing from most films today. The performances by all the cast members are especially good, but the highlight - as in Thomas Crown, is the relationship between O'Neal and Oates, who does a terrific, subtle turn as the insurance agent. Ned Beatty as the fence and Jill Clayburgh as O'Neal's ex wife also turn in stellar performances. Look for a wacky costume ball scene with Houston's elite dressed up in space costumes.

This film has yet to make it to DVD. It's available on VHS and you can watch it in full on above. The score by Henry Mancini is also available.

Obscurity factor: 7 (not on DVD, available to watch online, not well known, but loved by most who remember it)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Jean-Louis Trintignant, Roy Scheider & Ann Margaret in The Outside Man (1972)

Obscurity factor: 8

This is a good example of the neo-noir genre. French hit man Lucien Bellon (Trintignant) arrives in Los Angeles to do a job. He checks into the Beverly Hills Hilton then takes his gun and his money and heads over to the palatial home of mobster, Victor Kovacs and kills him. Upon returning to his hotel he finds he's been checked out and all his belongings have been taken, including his passport - he's essentially stranded. As he goes to try and do something about it he's shot at in the parking lot. What follows is a game of cat and mouse played between him and another hit man (Roy Scheider) on his tail that leads him through the seediest parts of 1970's LA and throws him together with Georgia Engel (of Mary Tyler Moore fame) and Ann Margaret. As he unravels the puzzle he finds himself in he begins to be able to turn the tables on his pursuers.

This film has some strange contradictions. It's neo-noir, action film and psychological study all rolled into one. Somehow the sum is greater than the parts, and the film works. It's fun to see Los Angeles in the 1970's and the suspense is well maintained through out the film. Look for Angie Dickenson, Alex Rocco and John Hillerman in small roles.

While not available on DVD, this film can be found on VHS. I saw it the other night on the uber-strange American Life TV network where I also saw Bunny O'Hare. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by SorryHaters.

Obscurity factor: 8 (largely unknown now, not on DVD, known to some 70's film buffs)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Jack Weston, F. Murray Abraham & Rita Moreno in The Ritz (1976)

Obscurity factor: 2

Today is pride day here in New York, and the last day of gay themed films here on the blog. I thought we'd go out with a bang. Gaetano Proclo (Weston) is running from his maniac mobster brother-in-law (Jerry Stiller) who wants to kill him. He ends up at The Ritz, a gay bath house, and in his naivete doesn't realize where he is. He starts to meet some of the other patrons and it begins to dawn on him. His first impulse is to just lock himself in his room and get some sleep, but it's too late for that. He has a chubby chaser (Paul B. Price) after him and the hilariously bad performer, Googie Gomez (Rita Moreno) from the basement nightclub thinks he's a big Broadway producer. On top of that, Michael Brick (an adorable Treat Williams) the detective his brother-in-law has hired has tracked him down and is searching the club for him - shirtless. The only person that can help is outrageous bathhouse queen Chris (F. Murray Abraham).

This film was based on a successful Broadway play by Terrance McNally Shot in London on a shoestring, it's become something of a gay classic and is extremely funny. Look for Kay Ballard as Jack Weston's wife.

The Ritz is recently available on DVD, and thank God, because it's a really funny film. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by OurManInHavana.

Obscurity factor: 2 (recently revived on Broadway, known well in the theater & gay communities, on DVD, somewhat unknown by the general public)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wayland Flowers & Madame in Madame in Manhattan (1984)

Obscurity factor: 8

I looked and looked for a gay themed cartoon to post today but couldn't find one (that was suitable for the whole family, anyway). So I decided to post the next best thing. This 1984 production was released as a home video and is primarily Madame's nightclub act with some ancillary footage. For those of you who know Madame from her television appearances, this will be a little shocking. She's very raunchy, in a truly delightful way. You'll hear Madame sing a bit and tell some very funny stories and you'll meet several of Madame's friends, including Shirley, Madame's Yiddish dresser and Crazy Mary, who is really indescribable - someone you have to see to believe. Also making cameo appearances are Henny Youngman and Alice Ghostly.

Madame in Manhattan was originally produced for VHS and copies can still be found. You can also find DVD rips of it on sights like A good portion of it has been uploaded to YouTube, though there are segments missing.  Part one is above, uploaded by pvpentertainment2010.

Obscurity factor: 8 (largely forgotten, can be found on VHS and DVD rips, available on YouTube)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Jim Carrey & William McNamara in Doing Time on Maple Drive (1992)

Obscurity factor: 2

Next in our series of gay themed content (in honor of Pride week here in New York) we have this television film from the early 90's. The Carter family seems to have it all - a successful business, three beautiful children who are seem fulfilled. When they get together for the homecoming of the youngest son Matt (McNamara) the cracks in the perfect facade begin to show. We learn that Tim (Carrey) is an alchoholic, Karen is pregnant and contemplating an abortion rather than bringing a child into the maelstrom of their family and Matt, who has brought his fiance home with him has a car accident shortly afterwards, which is revealed to be a suicide attempt to avoid telling his family that he's gay and his fiance has left him because of it.

This is an early attempt to deal sympathetically with the pain of a homophobic family and it does so in a sensitive, well crafted way. In addition, Carrey's subtle dramatic performance shows his range in relation to the comedy he's become known for. This film has some notoriety for Jim Carrey's performance, which was early in his career. It's also known for the gay story line, rare in television in those days. It's available on DVD and can be seen in its entirety on YouTube, thanks to an upload by yySh0e.

Update: the full film was taken down from YouTube. I've replaced it with a scene with Jim Carrey.

Obscurity factor: 2 (known to Carrey fans and in the gay community, available on DVD)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Michael Greer, Larry Casey and Kevin Coughlin in The Gay Deceivers (1969)

Obscurity factor: 6

You may have noticed that the films I've been featuring this week all have a gay theme. It's gay pride week here in New York, so I thought I'd focus on gay themed movies. This was one of the first films to deal with the gay. Danny Devlin and Elliot Crane are trying to avoid the draft. They decide the best way to do that is to pretend to be gay, but as the recruiter begins to follow them around, things snowball out of control. They move to a gay neighborhood and swear off girls in hopes of convincing the army they're telling the truth, but their personal lives begin to take the hit.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Arye Gross & Louise Fletcher in Big Eden (2000)

Henry Hart (Gross) is a successful artist living in New York. On the eve of his latest show he receives word that his grandfather - his only living relative - is in the hospital back in his home town in Montana. Much to the consternation of his agent and friend Mary Margaret (Veanne Cox) he leaves to be with him. Upon arriving home he is immersed in old emotions about his best friend and high school crush Dean Stewart (Tim DeKay) and new entanglements with Pike (Eric Schweig), the native American store owner who has a crush on him.

One of the most delightful aspects of Big Eden is the total lack of homophobia in the residents of the town, despite Henry's internalized homophobia. Each and every one of them completely accept the same-sex attraction between the central characters as natural, and they do everything they can to help it come out right with understanding and compassion. In stark contrast to yesterday's post, it's such a breath of fresh air to see a vision of a world where being gay is a non-issue.

This film was recently released, so it can be easily found on DVD. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by FrameLine.

Obscurity factor: 3 (known and loved in the gay community, largely unknown to the general public, available on DVD)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ryan O'Neal & John Hurt in Partners (1982)

Benson (O'Neal) has a new partner. His name is Kerwin (Hurt), and he's not what Benson is used to - Kerwin is gay and they've been assigned an unusual case. They're to solve a series of murders in the gay community in LA by setting themselves up as members of it. This film walks a fine line of trying to be sensitive to the newly visible gay community and milking it for comedy - frequently the comedy wins out. Benson is given a ridiculous car and wardrobe to match, obviously playing on the stereotypes straight America had of gay men in 1982. Though much of the film is strained and uncomfortable to watch, there are some fun moments - particularly Benson's modeling session for a gay mag.

This film was not well received by the gay community and was eviscerated by the critics when it was released. If you've never seen it, it's worth a watch as a time capsule of where we were in our attitudes toward gay men in 1982. It's also an interesting study of the objectification of the male form, and how uncomfortable it made, and still makes some men. 

Partners was released on DVD in '08. There's very little video of it online, however. Above is the scene where Benson gets his new car. It's uploaded by Tudorhead.

Obscurity factor: 5 (available on DVD, remembered, if not fondly by many)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Redd Foxx & Pearl Bailey in Norman, Is That You? 1974

Obscurity factor: 7

Dry cleaner Ben Chambers (Foxx) isn't having a good day. His wife Beatrice (Bailey) has left him for his brother and he's come all the way from Phoenix to LA on the bus to commiserate with his son Norman. When he arrives he's shocked to find out that Norman has lavender drapes, a water bed and is shacked up with a man.

Norman, Is That You is one of the first films to address the subject of homosexuality in a positive light. While some of the characters reactions to being gay are prejudiced, the overall message of the film is that it's okay. It was based on a play of the same name (the family was Jewish instead of African American) which flopped on Broadway but found success in regional theater. The film was produced by George Schlatter, the force behind Laugh In. Look for Wayland Flowers and Madame in their first film role.

This film has yet to be released on DVD. A VHS was put out in the late 90's and can still be found on Amazon. You can also find some footage of the film on YouTube, including a great segment of Wayland Flowers and Madame performing in a club.

Obscurity factor: 7 (known in some circles, not on DVD, available on VHS)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Richard Burton & Lee Remick in The Medusa Touch (1978)

Obscurity factor: 7

Author, John Morlar (Burton) has a peculiar gift. He can induce calamity and disaster at will. Perhaps that's why someone bludgeoned him to within inches of death. By all accounts he should have died but he's kept alive on machines in a hospital where his brain scans are remarkably active. Inspector Brunel (Lino Ventura) leaves no stone unturned in his search for Morlar's assailant. His search eventually leads him to Dr. Zonfeld (Remick) who gives him accounts of their sessions to try and help Brunel find leads. It's through her that we learn, in flashback, of Morlar's gruesome past.
My thanks to Oliver Hazen for suggesting this title. It has a dark outlook that's heightened considerably by taut performances by the leads. The quality of the acting covers up some inconsistencies in the plot, such as why a psychiatrist is counseling her patient on the circumstances and not the motives of the past. All in all, it's a good thriller with some fun disaster sequences and edge-of-your-seat tension.

It's available on DVD, though only in a format playable on region 2 players. You can also watch it in full at The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by hideseek124.

Obscurity factor: 7 (known better in Great Britain than the US, on DVD, available on line)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Mel Blanc & Pat Woodell in Bunny & Claude (1968)

Obscurity factor: 9

This animated short was inspired by the success of Bonnie and Clyde (1967). In it, we meet Bunny and Claude, two outlaw rabbits who rob carrot patches. They're pursued by the sheriff who can never seem to get the upper hand. Their catch phrase was "we rob carrot patches," a parody of the films "we rob banks."

Bunny and Claude appeared in two shorts, the above eponymous title and The Great Carrot-Train Robbery, below.

These animated shorts are hard to find. Because shorts are always sold as compilations on DVD, it's hard to tell if they've been released. You can, however, watch both on YouTube, thanks to uploads by jgbennie.

Obscurity factor: 9 (largely forgotten, unclear whether they're on DVD, available on YouTube)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Craig Russell & Hollis McLaren in Outrageous (1977)

Liza Conners has had enough of the hospital. She entered voluntarily so she can leave when she likes, and she likes... right now! She doesn't want to go back to her parents place, so she goes to her friend Robin's apartment. Robin is a hairdresser and drag performer, and he takes Liza in. As the film progresses they come to depend on each other more and more. Liza encourages Robin to pursue his calling, while Robin helps Liza cope with the world with humor and a light touch.

This film really struck a chord with the gay community and has remained a favorite of a small cadre of fans. Craig Russell has a very interesting history. He worked as an assistant to Mae West and went on to have a nice career as a performer, doing this film and a sequel to it - Too Outrageous (1987), as well as club dates and guest appearances on television. Look for Helen Shaver in a small part as well.

The fans of this film know it well, though the general public isn't really aware of it. It's available on DVD. A promotional trailer for the DVD is above, uploaded to YouTube by DigitalClassics.

Obscurity factor: 6 (known to fans, otherwise largely unknown, on DVD)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Catherine Deneuve & Gene Kelly in Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967)

This film has many parallels to its better known cousin, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - it's directed by Jacques Demy, stars Catherine Deneuve, and has a spectacular score by Michel LeGrand and a candy colored palate that's a treat for the eyes. It differs from Cherbourg in tone, with a brighter, more optimistic outlook. Real life sisters Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac play twins living a provincial life in Rochefort, a small seaside town in France. They long for the excitement and opportunities of Paris. The plot is a bit vague, but it has to do with synchronicity, love and desire.

Gene Kelly's part in the film is also a bit vague, but he looks great in his pastel wardrobe and his dancing is, as always, tip-top. There's also a strange reference to a serial killer and whether he might be one of the characters, which seems odd to an American audience, but makes more sense in the oeuvre of European cinema.

This film is available on DVD and has a bit of a profile among film buffs and Deneuve fans. It's largely unknown to the American public, however. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by BritishFilmInstitute.

Obscurity factor: 4 (known to film buffs, on DVD, largely unknown by the general public)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Doris Day in the Doris Day Show (1968)

Obscurity factor: 7

Starting in 1968, Doris Day had her own sitcom. She played Doris Martin, a widow with two boys living on a farm with her uncle Buck. The series revolved around her family and their place in the community. Little did we know when it started that this series would radically change and by the end of the fifth year she would be living in San Francisco as a single career girl with no kids. This change was brought on by the upheaval in the culture and television industry during the late sixties and early seventies.

Though the series is a bit uneven, there is lots of fun to be had in it, with great guest stars and regulars, exuberant, if sometimes silly plot lines and sensational production values - several seasons features fashion show episodes with long segments of Doris wearing great, over-the-top outfits from the era. The clip above, uploaded to YouTube by MovieJoe79 was put together by MPI Video to showcase the DVD of the second season. It features Doris and her co-worker (Rose Marie) looking for an apartment for her. They find one above a restaurant owned by Kaye Ballard and Bernie Kopell. Also appearing in the series were Maclean Stevenson, Denver Pyle, Jackie Joseph and Billy DeWolfe. This show did well, if not spectacularly in the ratings, but unlike other shows from the time, never really found a life in syndication. It remained virtually unseen after its initial run until its recent release on DVD. It's worth a look and can be rented on Netflix and bought on Amazon.

Obscurity factor: 7 (known of, but largely unseen since its first airings, on DVD now)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Gregory Peck & Sophia Loren in Arabesque (1966)

Obscurity factor: -3

David Pollock (Peck) is a professor at Oxford, specializing in Egyptology, specifically, hieroglyphics. He's approached by the prime minister of a middle eastern country and asked to accept a forthcoming invitation from a shady businessman to study a hieroglyph. Little does he know the intrigue that awaits him when that simple job leads to threats on his life, all sorts of unsavory characters and a beguiling, but treacherous spy, Yasmine Azir (Loren). Will he be able to decipher the hieroglyph, and if he does, will he be able to stay alive?

This film is a tour de force for director Stanley Donen. The visuals are unparalleled, if a trifle gimicky. Look for sensational camera angles, creative use of mirrors, chandeliers, camera lenses and fish tanks. Also look for gorgeous costumes for Loren by Dior and an incredible scene where the villain delivers veiled threats while plying Yasmine with beautiful shoes. The music is just right and by Henry Mancini.

This film is a dubious fit for this blog. It's well known by film buffs and was singled out as an example of Loren's work by the AFI. It's not as well known as Donen's other 60's thriller Charade, however, and there is a large swath of the population that has yet to discover it, so I decided it was worthy of inclusion. It's been released on DVD, but is out of print, and a bit hard to find - there are only 3 copies available on Amazon right now.

Obscurity factor: -3 (on DVD, though hard to find, known to film buffs, critically acclaimed)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Barbra Streisand & Gene Hackman in All Night Long (1981)

Obscurity factor: 7

Yesterdays post about For Pete's Sake got me thinking about another obscure Streisand film. Nothing is going right for George Dupler (Hackman). He's been demoted at work for losing his temper, his marriage has hit an iceberg, his son (Dennis Quaid) is stepping out with an older woman (Streisand) with a jealous husband and when George meets her, she takes a liking to him. This story of mid-life crisis has an off-beat charm to it and reminds you not to take life too seriously.

The film originally had a low budget and Hackman was the only name attached. When Streisand came on the scene, it acquired a higher profile. Though it wasn't considered a success at the box office, it did have its champions among critics, including Pauline Kael. The casting of Streisand in the role of a ditzy sex pot was rather brilliant. A more classically beautiful woman would have deprived the role of the quirky edge. She gives a clever and unexpected performance as a talentless singer/songwriter. Also look for Diane Lane as Hackman's long suffering wife.

Though available on DVD, it could be described as Striesand's lost film. It's not well remembered and doesn't immediately come to mind when her films are mentioned. There isn't much online video of it available. The TV trailer for it is above, uploaded to YouTube by robatsea2009.

Obscurity factor: 7 (on DVD, known mostly to hard core Streisand fans)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Barbra Streisand & Michael Sarrazin in For Pete's Sake (1974)

Obscurity factor: 3

After the success of What's Up Doc Streisand made this zany comedy about a young married couple struggling to make ends meet. When an opportunity comes along to invest in the commodities market - pork bellies to be specific - Henry (Streisand) does her best to find someone to loan her the money to take advantage of it. She's unsuccessful on all fronts except the neighborhood loan shark. When the deal takes longer to come through than expected she must try and pay off the note by working for a variety of shady characters, with hilarious results.
This film has some great moments and pokes fun at all sorts of subjects from in-laws to race relations. One particularly funny exchange involves an afro-American cleaning lady (Vivian Bonnell) that works for Henry. It turns racial stereotypes and the militant 70's civil rights movement on their ears.

This film is on TCM as I write this. It's also available on DVD and can be rented on YouTube. It has something of a high profile for an obscure film because of Streisand's involvement. The trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by lewylewel.

Obscurity factor: 3 (known to Streisand fans, available on DVD, not well known to the general public)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Paul Lynde & Mel Blanc in The Perils of Penelope Pitstop (1969)

Obscurity factor: 5

Penelope Pitstop (Janet Waldo) is a fabulously wealthy heiress and race car driver. Her estate is administered by Sylvester Sneekly (Lynde) who, unbeknownst to her is also her arch nemesis The Hooded Claw. Each episode features Penelope being targeted by Sneekly with a series of dastardly traps and torments. Riding to her rescue are the Ant Hill Gang, a septet of pint sized gangster types and their heroic car, Chugaboom.

This animated series, based on the silent film series, The Perils of Pauline, was produced by Hanna/Barbara and lasted one season. There are 17 episodes. Above is part one of Jungle Jeopardy, in which we find Penelope at Sneekly's mercy on a tropical island. It's been uploaded by nayeem03. The complete series is available on DVD and several other episodes are also available on YouTube.

Obscurity factor: 5 (known to H.B. fans and animation buffs, otherwise largely forgotten, on DVD)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Lynn & Vanessa Redgrave in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1991)

Obscurity factor: 8

This early 90's remake of Baby Jane was done for ABC. The familiar plot is updated to 1991 with video stores and drag queens, but presents the same themes. The interpretations of Jane and Blanche are softer, more gentle, but animosity still shines through. Look for John Glover as a hopeless sycophant.

This version of the film is hard to find. There was a DVD release back in 2007, but it's out of print, and copies are quite expensive now. You can find some scenes on to YouTube. The video store scene is above, uploaded to YouTube by Grinnygog1975.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD but hard to find, partially available on YouTube)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Maggie Smith, Rowan Atkinson & Patrick Swayze in Keeping Mum (2005)

I don't usually include films this recent on this blog, but this one is a charmer. It's a black comedy about a family that lives in a small village in England and their new housekeeper, Grace (Smith). The father is an absent minded preacher (Atkinson) who's a bit out of touch, the kids have problems of their own - Peter the youngest is bullied in school, while Holly lets her teenage libido run a bit wild. The vicar's wife, Gloria (Kristen Scott Thomas) has been neglected and is contemplating an affair with the new American golf instructor in town (Swayze). They hire a new housekeeper who goes about setting things right by eliminating the people causing the problems.

There's a decided charm about this British film. The devilish glee with which Maggie Smith does away with her adversaries is delightful, and the plot twists are fun to see unfold.

This film was released recently enough to have a DVD release built into the marketing plan. It's more of a future obscurity factor candidate because it's still somewhat fresh in people's memory, but this blog is as much for posterity as it is for now, so I decided to include it. The trailer above is uploaded to YouTube by YarcoTV.

Obscurity factor: 4 (recently released, on DVD, doesn't have a high profile)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Ginger Rogers, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon & Van Johnson in Weekend at the Waldorf (1945)

Obscurity factor: 7

The plot of this film may seem familiar. It's a war time remake of Grand Hotel. It follows the fortunes of a bored film star (Rogers), exhausted war correspondent (Pidgeon), ambitious stenographer (Turner) and a wounded air force captain (Johnson) as they spend their weekend at the glamorous Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York. Of course romance is in the air and before long the leads are paired off. Will the star lose her boredom in love? Will the stenographer forsake her career for the man she loves? Will the captain survive the only operation that can save his life? Only time will tell.

This film, though long, at 2 hours and 10 minutes, has a charming wartime feel to it, despite the fact that it was released a month after the war was over. Also in the cast are Xavier Cugat, Robert Benchley, Leon Ames and the irrepressible Keenan Wynn. It's interesting to note the differences between this and Grand Hotel - those differences are really indicative of the differences between the eras both films were made in.

Weekend at the Waldorf was a very successful film in its day - finishing 11th at the box office the year it was released. It has faded into obscurity since then, overshadowed by it's more successful forebarer, Grand Hotel. It's recently been released on print-on-demand DVD and the trailer is above, uploaded to YouTube by skipjacktuner.

Obscurity factor: 7 (popular in its day, largely unknown today, available on DVD)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shirley Maclaine in Shirley MacLaine at the Lido (1979)

After posting Shirley's World my friend Michael Stever put me on to this over-the-top special. It was produced for the then fledgling HBO and features Shirley MacLaine as the headlining talent at the Lido nightclub in Paris. Joining her are Tom Jones and Charles Aznavour and the spectacular Lido dancers. They go through numerous routines featuring feathers, sequins, enormous head dresses, high kicks and bare breasts, as well as dramatic readings, disco and mime. It's great to see Shirley kick up her heels and the ensemble numbers are beautifully staged.

This special has yet to be released on DVD, however you can find it in full (almost - part 4 is missing) on YouTube, thanks to an upload by roderickplatinum86, and on

Obscurity factor: 10 (not on DVD, available on YouTube, almost completely forgotten)

Monday, June 6, 2011

James Caan, Marsha Mason & Valerie Harper in Chapter Two (1979)

Obscurity factor: 8

Successful author George Schneider (Caan) has recently lost his wife and is having trouble getting back into life. His brother Leo (Joseph Bologna) urges him to go out with other women and fixes him up with actress Jennie MacLaine. While the two hit it off, George has trouble reconciling the relationship with the grief he feels about his wife's passing. Meanwhile Leo has started dating Jennie's friend Faye (Harper). Can the two couples navigate love, loss and dating in the 70's?

This is one of Neil Simon's lesser known films, and there's some charm to be had from it. Marsha Mason is charming as the slightly neurotic actress and though James Caan is a bit wooden, his natural charisma comes through. Harper and Bologna are delightful as the second leads. 

This film is not yet available on DVD, though there is a VHS release of it out. It can also be seen in full on YouTube, though the uploader has disabled embedding, so you'll have to click this link to see it. A television commercial for the film is above, uploaded to YouTube by robatsee2009. The poster above is from Romanian site

Obscurity factor: 8 (not on DVD, not one of Simon's better known films, available on YouTube)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bette Davis in Payment on Demand (1951)

Obscurity factor: 8

Joyce and David Ramsey (Davis and Barry Sullivan) are married with two daughters almost grown. To Joyce's great surprise and dismay, one night David comes home and asks for a divorce. The story of their marriage is told in beautifully conceived and filmed flashbacks, while the story of their divorce unfolds in the present. Joyce is a scheming society climber with no sense of loyalty to friends or business associates. The flashbacks show her development and hint at contrition.

This film takes an unflinching look at divorce and some of the reasons for it, and though some aspects of the film are dated, most notably the notion that a divorced woman has no future, the subject matter is handled with honesty and tact. Look for a spicy performance as an established society matron by Jane Cowl.

This film has recently emerged from the shadows and can now be found on DVD, thanks to Warner's Archive collection. It was just aired on TCM last night where I saw it for the first time. The trailer above is from the TCM website and the poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 8 (available on DVD, occasionally screened on TCM, known as Bette's forgotten film)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Orson Welles in Rikki Tikki Tavi (1975)

Obscurity factor: 4

In this Rudyard Kipling story from The Jungle Books we meet Rikki, a mongoose displaced by a flood. He is delivered by the flood waters to the garden of an English family who take him in, dry him off and feed him. Rikki decides to stay with the family and while exploring the grounds learns that the garden is inhabited by cobras. He knows that a battle for ascendancy is inevitable. Will he be able to protect the family and himself from the deadly snakes bite?

This short film was adapted and produced by the legendary Chuck Jones and is a favorite of many who saw it as children and generally considered a good adaptation of the Kipling story. It's narrated by Orson Welles, who also plays several parts. It's available on DVD and can be seen in full on YouTube - part one is above, uploaded by cb82fan.

Obscurity factor: 4 (known to Jones fans, available on DVD, remembered fondly by those who have seen it)

Friday, June 3, 2011

Robert Wagner & Hope Lange in I Am the Cheese (1983)

Adam Farmer (Robert MacNaughton) is on a journey to visit his father in the hospital. As he rides his bicycle through the New England countryside he reflects on what has happened in his life up to this point, remembering strange incongruities in his background and curious inconsistancies in what his parents (Hope Lange and Don Murray) have told him. He also flashes back to interviews with his psychiatrist, Dr. Brint (Wagner). As we start to piece together Adam's life we begin to see something is horribly wrong.

This feature, based on the best selling book by Robert Cormier, was produced by David Lange, Hope Lange's brother. It has the distinction of featuring real life couple Hope Lange and Don Murray as husband and wife characters. Look for Cynthia Nixon as Adam's girlfriend. The film is available on DVD and can be watched in its entirety on YouTube. The first installment is above, uploaded by Rygar89.

Obscurity factor: 7 (available on DVD & YouTube, known to a generation who read the book in school, but otherwise mostly forgotten)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Robert Wagner & Kate Jackson in Death at Love House (1976)

Obscurity factor: 8

Joel and Donna Gregory (Wagner & Jackson) are researching deceased Hollywood star, Lorna Love. In order to more fully immerse themselves in her aura they stay at her former home. While there, Joel becomes obsessed with her almost to the point of madness. In trying to free her husband from the spell of the long dead star Donna uncovers some disturbing facts about her. Can she save her husband?

This made for TV movie was Aaron Spelling's opportunity to dip his toe into the horror/thriller genre. Look for Joan Blondell as Marcella. It was released on DVD in 2003 and is now out of print. Copies can still be found, however. It's also available in full on YouTube, thanks to an upload by SeeOfSound - the entire film is in one installment above.

Obscurity factor: 8 (on DVD & YouTube, known to Wagner & Jackson fans, largely forgotten otherwise)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Robert Wagner & Richard Basehart in City Beneath The Sea (1971)

Obscurity factor: 6

It's 2053 and the earth is experiencing a rash of earthquakes. To protect the country's wealth the president (Richard Basehart) recalls the former commander of Pacifica, a fabulous submerged city to help direct the transfer of gold as well as a new, highly radioactive element from Fort Knox. There's dirty work a foot, however, when the commander's brother (Wagner) plots to steal the newly transferred loot. Add to that the fact that an asteroid is on a collision course with earth, due to hit close to Pacifica and you have a four star action plot.

This film (though cheesy by today's standards) has a great sci-fi vibe, thanks to director/producer Irwin Allen. Fans of Allen's previous series will recognize lots of props, actors and music from those productions. This TV film - a failed episodic series pilot - was recently released on DVD by the Warner Archives collection. Above is the trailer, uploaded to YouTube by GeneAvenir.

Obscurity factor: 6 (on DVD, known to Allen fans, otherwise forgotten)