Monday, January 23, 2012

Imogene Coca in It's About Time (1966)

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 14, 2012

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

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

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

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

Friday, January 13, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, January 9, 2012

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Richard Williams' The Little Island (1958)

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

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

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

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Dean Stockwell & Stefanie Powers in Paper Man (1971)

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

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

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Stephanie Zimbalist & Patty Duke in The Babysitter (1980)

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

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

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

Monday, January 2, 2012

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

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

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

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