Throwback Thursday – Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1990)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

This post first ran here back in Dec 2013


Here’s The Earliest Known Appearance of Sherlock Holmes On Film – Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900)

As we approach the return of the world’s greatest detective in one of his latest incarnations – the BBC’s Sherlock, which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson – it seems perhaps appropriate to take a look at his earliest film appearance, 1900’s Sherlock Holmes Baffled.

shb2This 30 second short was originally produced for penny arcade machines known as Mutoscopes, which were patented by Herman Casler in 1894 and marketed by the American Mutoscope Company. This particular film was produced by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company in 1900, though its copyright was not actually registered until 1903.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the Mutoscope was atually developed as a competitor to Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope.The device can be seen in the picture at the right. The idea was that the viewer would drop their coin into a slot on the machine which would then turn on an internal light and by turning a small crank and looking into the viewfinder, the viewer could watch the associated film. In a way, it’s perhaps a bit misleading to call this a film per se, since it was not designed to be projected on a screen and actually consisted of individual image frames printed onto flexible cards attached to a circular core which revolved with the turn of a user-operated hand crank, however, since it was originally shot on film at a frame rate of 30 frames per second, the designation still stands. (Perhaps in cases like this, the more accurate term would simply be “motion picture”.)

As far as the actual film itself, according to Wikipedia, the director and cinematographer of Sherlock Holmes Baffled was Arthur W. Marvin (May 1859 – 18 January 1911), a staff cameraman for Biograph. The identities of the actors portraying Holmes and his adversary are unknown, and the film was assumed to be lost for many years, until it was rediscovered in 1968 as a paper print in the Library of Congress by Michael Pointer, a historian of Sherlock Holmes films. Again, quoting Wikipedia

Because motion pictures were not covered by copyright laws until 1912, paper prints were submitted by studios wishing to register their works. These were made using light-sensitive paper of the same width and length as the film itself, and developed as though a still photograph. Both the Edison Company and the Biograph Company submitted entire motion pictures as paper prints, and it is in this form that most of them survive. The film has subsequently been transferred to 16 mm film in the Library of Congress collection.

shb1Obviously, due to its short running time, there is no actual development of either of the characters involved, and the film really seems to only exist for the purpose of showing early bits of camera trickery, especially the disappearance/reappearance of Holmes’ adversary. As far as the identification of the central character as Holmes, well, that basically comes from the film’s copyright title card and its marketing.

Nonetheless, the film does have a certain distinction in being the first identified film portrayal of the character and by extension, also the first detective film.

Anyway, here it is, the world’s first taste of Sherlock Holmes as a film character.

(BTW, I need to give a special shout out here to Fritzi over at Movies, Silently for initially bringing this wonderful short film to my attention. If you’re at all a fan of the silent film era you should definitely be checking out her terrific blog as she has an obvious love for the genre and is consistently posting a lot of great content there. So, thanks, Fritzi, for all you do.)

Happy Throwback Thanksgiving! – Thanksgiving With Jack

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

Here’s a special Thanksgiving edition of Throwback Thursday, And I hope that all of you, whether traveling or at home with your family or wherever the day might find you, are safe and happy.


Old Time Radio Thursdays – #020: Jack Benny Celebrates Thanksgiving

The short intro: For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, Old Time Radio is the phrase generally used to refer to the time when radio was (mostly) live, and was full of a variety of different shows, as opposed to simply being a means for record labels to use robots to promote the top records of the day. Old Time Radio Thursdays is my chance to explore some of those old radio shows, their connections (both old and new) to movies, and hopefully to encourage some of the rest of you to take a look at a probably unfamiliar source of entertainment that I truly love. If you want more info on OTR, and some examples of the variety of shows that were made, be sure to check out this introductory post.

Last week we started our Thanksgiving celebration with a sampler from various shows as they celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday, and we’ll pick that back up next week, but I thought this week we’d actually take a look at how one long-running comedy show featured the holiday throughout the years.

The Jack Benny Program has long been one of my favorite Old Time Radio comedy shows, and obviously, considering how long the show ran, I am not alone in that feeling. Since the setup of the show was that it basically chronicled the stars lives as they went through them, it was only natural that each year there would be a show featuring how the gang celebrated the holidays. So, here’s a look at how they did that over time.

Next week? Even more Old Time Radio shows to be thankful for.

Until next time, Happy Listening!

Throwback Thursday – Holy Ghost People (1967)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

This post first ran on the Treasure Chest back on Feb 24, 2011.


Holy Ghost People – This Spirit Does More Than Just Walk

Hiya kiddies! So this week we move from the fun of the old dark house mystery The Ghost Walks to a completely different kind of spirit with a completely different effect on people, and also a completely different kind of film.

Holy Ghost People is a documentary film released in 1967 which not only chronicles a Pentacostal Christian service taking place in Scrabble Creek, West Virginia, but also includes interviews with many of the participants within the service. Throughout the film we see the participants engaged not only in prayers, preaching, and singing, but also in activities such as speaking in tongues, healing through the laying of hands, and snake handling.

Beginning with a descriptive narration as we drive into town, which serves as set-up to what we are about to see, director Peter Adair soon steps back and lets his subject begin to speak for themselves. We never see the director himself on film, nor do we hear him directly ask his subjects any questions, as he seems satisfied simply to let them tell their own stories. Even when we move to the service, Adair seems content to simply let his cameras roll, never interrupting the service nor adding any additional narration. This is not to suggest that the presence of the cameras and the film makers is completely unobtrusive. Mention is made at various times of their presence, especially as the service begins, and there are certainly moments when the subjects cannot help but be aware that they are being filmed, and there are certainly timesxand shots that make the viewer question whether certain actions and reactions are not being done because the participants know that the cameras have turned to them. For the most part, however, especially as the service continues into its more outre moments and the congregation seems to become more and more swept up in the fervor of the moment, Adair seems willing to trust not only his subjects, but his audience, allowing any judgments on his part to be made only through scene selection and editing and leaving the final verdict on what actually is or is not happening to the viewer.

Fortunately for us, this rather fascinating documentary has fallen into the public domain, and I have embedded the first part of it for you below. The other parts can also be found on YouTube or the entire film can be see as a whole or downloaded for free at the Internet Archive (click here for the link). As far as I can tell, the film has yet to receive a proper release on DVD.

Ok, so here we go with the skinny:
Title: Holy Ghost People
Release Date: 1967
Running Time: 53 min.
Black and White
Directed by: Peter Adair
Produced by: Blair Boyd
Released by: Thistle Films

Until next time, Happy Treasure Hunting,
-Professor Damian

Throwback Thursday – The Incredible Two-Headed Transplant (1971)

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

This post first ran on the Treasure Chest back on April 6, 2010.


Tuesday Terrors – The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant (1971)

2ht1Y’know, in baseball, a double is a good thing. Depending on which side you’re on, a double play can also be a very good thing. Best of all, though, especially for the fans, is a double-header. Unfotunately, I don’t think anyone in today’s flick is going to be trying out for the majors anytime soon. Which means in this case a double header is simply double trouble.

In The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant, Bruce Dern (yes, really, that Bruce Dern) plays a doctor who is obsessed with the concept of transplanting heads. Why? Well, from what yer Ol’ Professor can tell it’s because Dern’s Dr. Girard just swallowed a whole bottle of why-the-hell-not pills. He’s already been kicked out of the hospital he worked at, and has set up a lab in the basement of his house where he’s continuing his experiments with his assistant Igor… umm, I mean Max. This, of course, thrills the doctor’s wife Linda (Pat Priest, who really shouldn’t be so freaked out by all of this after all those years living with the Munsters) to no end, since it explains the stench wafting upstairs that has not only killed all the roaches in the house but also made the bacon smell funny. (Ok, there’s really nothing about cockroaches or bacon in the movie, but really it makes as much sense as anything you will find there.)

2ht2Meanwhile, we also meet Dr. Girard’s caretaker, Andrew Norton and his son Danny. Now Danny is not a small boy, but unfortunately he does have a very small brain. According to his father he was trapped by a mine cave-in when he was a child and his brain was starved for oxygen long enough to leave him in a very retarded state. From the looks of him, nowadays Danny could probably have just pushed the boulders aside, but then…

Anyway, also meanwhile, we meet serial rapist-murderer Manuel “Mama” Cass, who escapes from the mental institution to which he had been confined. Stealing a car, Cass winds up ending his freedom joyride at Dr. Girard’s house. Unfortunately, the doctor is out (well, actually he’s physically down in his lab, but trust me, he’s pretty far out) as is Max, which leaves Linda to confront the madman alone. Finally both the doctor and the caretaker hear her screams and rush to her aid, but Cass kills Andrew and leaves the doctor tied up, making his escape with Linda. When Danny finally comes in, he freaks out at the sight of his dead father, neglecting to release the doctor. Finally Max returns and frees Dr. Girard and they go hunting for the killer and his hostage. Catching up with them, Girard shoots Cass in the back, but doesn’t quite kill him.

Hmm… ok, so now we’ve got a nearly dead serial killer, a practically brain dead hulk of a man-boy, and a doctor who is working on building creatures with two heads. Anyone want to guess where we’re gonna go next?

How about to the trailer?

And now, the Skinny:
Title: The Incredible 2 Headed Transplant
Release Date: 1971
Running Time: 87min
Color
Starring: Bruce Dern, Pat Priest
Directed by: Anthony M. Lanza
Produced by: John Lawrence, Volodymyr Kowal, Nicholas Wowchuk, Alvin L. Fast, Arthur N. Gilbert
Distributed by: American International Pictures

 

Throwback Thursday – The House on Haunted Hill

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

This post first ran on the Treasure Chest back on Feb 16, 2010.


Tuesday Terrors – House on Haunted Hill (1959) – starring Vincent Price

hhh1“The ghosts are moving tonight. Restless. Hungry.”

Doors that open and close themselves! Guests arriving in a funeral procession lead by a hearse! A falling Chandelier! Blood dripping from the ceiling! A witch that appears and disappears! 7 people already murdered! Detached Heads! Party favors that turn out to be loaded guns delivered in coffins! An organ that plays itself! The floating head of Elisha Cook Jr.! Ghosts! Dead bodies that disappear and reappear! Thunderstorms! Secret passages! Ropes that wrap themselves around the damsel’s feet! A wine vat filled with acid! A floating skeleton! And an elegant host (played by the ever-charming Vincent Price) who may be trying to kill his wife (who may, in turn, be trying to kill him)! It’s obvious that producer and director William Castle was trying to throw everything into the pot on this one.

In 1959, William Castle had made a number of b-grade pictures for various studios, but he was just beginninng to emerge as the king of the gimmick picture. His legacy today is as the man who, while he may not have invented the style, certainly perfected it and used it to bring amazing attention to his pictures. Some of Castle’s gimmicks included insuring movie goers in case they died of fright during a showing of Macabre; “Percepto”, in which audience members watching The Tingler, already encouraged to scream because the titular monster had gotten loose in the theater, recieved mild electric jolts from wires attatched to their seats; Illusion-o, which gave brave audience members a chance to see 13 Ghosts while those who were too fearful didn’t have to; and the “Fright Break” in Homicidal which gave audience members a chance to leave the theater and get a full refund before the climax if they were willing to sign a certificate of cowardicee In the midst of this came House on Haunted Hill which, through the magic of “Emergo” had a skeleton come out of the movie and float over the heads of the audience. (Don’t ruin the surprise by telling your friends, but it was actually an inflatable glow-in-the-dark skeleton that was pulled through the theater on a set of wires.)

hhh2In the film, Vincent Price plays Fredric Loren, a millionaire who is hosting a party for his fourth wife. Instead of inviting their friends, however, he has invited five guests who represent different layers of society. He has offered each of them $10,000 if they will spend the whole night in the House on Haunted hill, a house with a history of killings and hauntings. However, soon after they arrive, spooky things begin happening including all of the events listed above. Adding to the intrigue is the relationship between Loren and his wife, neither of whom like the other very much and they both have good reasons for wanting the other dead. The guests soon find that they are completely locked in the house, and there is no way out until the caretakers return in the morning. The haunted house may soon become their tomb and by morning may well have seven new ghostly residents!

Yes, the film is cheesy and some of the efffects are obviously lacking, but for a good low budget scare that is definitely highlighted by the presence of Mr. Price, you can definitely find worse ways to pass an hour and fifteen minutes. And it’s certainly more fun than the perhaps technically more proficient but heartless 1999 remake.

Preview time! Here’s the Trailer:

And here’s the skinny:

Title: House on Haunted Hill
Release Date: 1959
Running Time: 75 min
Black and White
Starring: Vincent Price
Director: William Castle
Producers: William Castle, Robb White
Distributed by: Allied Artists

House on Haunted Hill is available for viewing or download here.

Throwback Thursday – The Brain The Wouldn’t Die

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

This post first ran on the Treasure Chest back on March 2, 2010.

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Tuesday Terrors – The Brain That Wouldn’t Die (1962) starring Jason Evers

brain1Whatever you do, DON’T open the closet. I mean it. Forget the head over there on the table. Ignore its babbling. Forget the beakers and other instruments that are there to engage in experiments meant to prolong life or give it back to the dead. The dead bodies upstairs? Don’t worry about them. Just don’t open that closet door!

Ok, reminiscing time again. A few years back, yer ol’ Professor was spending Thanksgiving evening with his two then-younger-teen children, watching some retro-TV. Apparently one of the local stations had given up on trying to compete with the parades and football and decided to run a day of programming from the 50’s and 60’s that would have been seen on the channel. Surprisingly, to close out the day, they pulled out what is apparently one of the very few existing clips of local horror host Dr. Lucifer who presented shock Theater from 1958 to 1967. (For more info on Dr. Lucifer please see this site.)

Y’know, there’s just something different about watching a film like this late at night, with the lights off, having been invited into the film by the sometimes sonorous, sometimes dissonant (depending on the temperament and character of the particular host) tones of a local host who would often give you some background on the film, who would sometimes give you some critique of the actors and the movie itself, who would sometimes simply ridicule the advertisers. There was a connection that would be made, and even though quite often everyone, from the host to the people behind the cameras to the viewing audience knew that the show wasn’t really that good, we were still drawn in, co-conspirators with the host, and we would watch until the bitter end, if only to see how he (or she) would wrap up the evening’s proceedings. There was many a Saturday night when I was a child that simply couldn’t end until I was bid by MY host, Sir Cecil Creape, “Goodnight. Sleep Tight. And don’t let the beddy-bugs bite”.

luciferAnyway, there was a little bit of that same magic in the air that particular thanksgiving night. Starting about 10:30, the dulcet tones of Dr. Lucifer emanated from the television as he invited us to share with him a film called The Brain that Wouldn’t Die! With a title like that, how could we be for anything but an hour and a half of cheesy fun?

And cheesy fun is exactly what we got from this flick. It wasn’t long at all before my son and I were completely wrapped up in the plight of Jason Evers‘ Dr Bill Cortner. Dr. Bill, you see, is frustrated, because he knows that he has developed new techniques and serums that can save and extend lives. But he’s being held down by the medical establishment, represented specifically by his father, also a surgeon, who thinks that Dr. Bill is irresponsible and too far ahead of his time. Soon, however, he is going to have a chance to prove just how well his techniques work.

On their way to the remote cabin in the woods where Dr. Bill does his research, he and his fiancee, Jan Compton, are caught in a fiery car accident. Dr. Bill walks away mostly unscathed, but Jan is nowhere near so lucky. Snatching up her disembodied head from the fiery wreck, Dr. Bill carries it to his lab where he injects it with various fluids, hooks it up to electrodes, and sets it upright in a pan full of chemicals on his workbench that somehow restore life and thought to the bodiless head.

Now all Dr. Bill has to do is find a body to reattach the head to. Of course, not any body will do. Janet was quite the looker when she had something more than a pair of eyes and a smile to look at, and Dr. Bill decides that only the perfect body will do. This is where the movie truly begins to show its seamy exploitation roots, as the good doctor decides the best place to find a suitable candidate is a “dance” club. Apparently he is quite a charmer, for he soon finds himself backstage, where instead of kicking him out, the dancers are soon catfighting over him. When that doesn’t work out, he decides to go visit a former patient of his who is now working as a nude photography model. Of course, this being the early sixties, these scenes are handled with a kind of edgy discreteness, more tease than true titillation.

From there the film just seems to slide more and more into a kind of delirious insanity. I haven’t even discussed Jan’s seeming new psychic abilities. Nor Dr. Bill’s vengeful deformed assistant. Nor the thing in the closet. Ah, yes, now we come back to the thing in the closet. You see, Jan is not the first person upon whom Dr. Bill has tried his new techniques, and locked in a closet in the laboratory basement, fed only scraps and aching to kill, is a creature that is apparently an amalgam of all of those failed experiments. And once Jan starts using her newly expanded mind powers to convince the creature to escape, well, you know it can’t be a good thing.

Ok, enough of me talking, let’s take a look at the trailer, shall we?

And here’s the skinny:
Title: The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
Release Date: 1962
Running Time: 82 min
Black and White
Starring: Jason Evers, Virginia Leath
Directed by: Joseph Green
Produced by: Rex Carlton, Mort Landberg
Distribution Company: American International Pictures

The Brain That Wouldn’t Die is available for free to watch or download here.

 

Throwback Thursday – Police Squad

Between this blog and my previous one, Professor Damian’s Public Domain Treasure Chest, I’ve been writing about movies for quite a while now. Because of that, there are a lot of posts that have simply gotten lost to the mists of time. So, I figured I’d use the idea of “Throwback Thursday” to spotlight some of those older posts, re-presenting them pretty much exactly as they first appeared except for updating links where necessary or possible, and doing just a bit of re-formatting to help them fit better into the style of this blog. Hope you enjoy these looks back. 

One quick note about today’s post: In the original, I credited the playlist to a certain YouTube user, but that has since been taken down. Fortunately, since the episodes are still readily available, I was able to recreate the playlist, and that is what I have embedded below.

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Too Smart For Television? – Police Squad (1982)

ps1Police Squad! was cancelled because the viewer had to watch it in order to appreciate it.”

Supposedly that’s the reason given by then ABC Entertainment president Tony Thomopoulos in 1982 for the cancellation of the TV show Police Squad! (yes, the exclamation point is part of the show’s official name) after the network aired only six episodes of the show.

Created by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker, the team behind the movie Airplane!, and starring Leslie Nielsen who had found a new rather surprising second life as a comedy star in that movie, the television show was a loving tribute to and parody of the great cop shows of the past.

ps2I recently took the time to rewatch all six episodes with my soon-to-be-14-year-old daughter, (well, it was a re-watch for me, and of course a first time viewing for her), and though Thomopoulos’s statement may seem a little ridiculous at first, there is quite a bit of truth behind what he says. Like its predecessor movie (and let me take just a moment right here to say that if you haven’t ever seen Airplane! you really should), it is not a show that rewards multi-tasking. So many of the jokes are sight gags or visual puns, that if you’re not giving the show your full attention, then you’re going to simply miss a lot of them.

Of course, some might say that that might be even more of a problem now, when so many people “watch” television while texting or spending time on the internet or doing so many other things, that to get people to pay attention enough to what is happening literally every second the show is on may seem impossible. However, there is also a flip side to that. Because of today’s technology, when it’s so much easier to pause or go back to catch some of the small “what did he say?” or “did I really see that?” moments, viewers who are willing to invest the time and attention into these episodes will find themselves amply rewarded in ways that viewers who originally watched these episodes on television may simply not have been able to.
ps3At the same time, I will say this: while there is a part of me that will always be sad that we didn’t get more episodes of the series, there is also a part that fears that had it gone on much longer it may very well have overstayed its welcome. Though I do think that the sixth and final episode is one of its strongest, at the same time, I can easily see some of the recurring gags becoming a bit stale had it gone for more than say thirteen or so. There is such a thing as going to the same well too often, and this may be one of those cases where it’s better that a show die a bit before its time and live as something that will be missed and considered cancelled too soon than to have gone on and on to the point that its reputation became “well, the first season was good, but…”

One other caveat I feel I should include about this show. It is definitely a product of its time, and there are a number of jokes that simply won’t make sense to younger viewers because they make reference to cultural phenomenon or include guest stars in cameos that those born after a certain period of time simply won’t be familiar with. But then, that’s another of the advantages to having things like Google and Wikipedia available. So that when Dr. Joyce Brothers shows up, there’s at least a chance for today’s viewers to figure out why it’s funny.

ps4Oh, and as for the daughter’s reaction to it? Well, lets just say that there were many times during the course of viewing these episodes where her constant refrain was “I hate this show!”. Which, as we all know is teenager-speak for “I don’t want to admit how much I’m loving this, even though it’s keeping me from Instagramming and all of the other stuff that I could be doing on my phone because I’m having to pay attention to it.”

Hmmm… perhaps Tony Thomopoulos was right after all.

(Want to judge the series for yourself? Here’s a playlist containing all six episodes that should allow you to run them back to back. Though I do recommend taking them in smaller doses – perhaps two or three at a time – simply to avoid burnout.)

(One last note – yes, I am aware that I left out any mention of the subsequent Naked Gun movies, but the truth is, I was never as big a fan of them as I was the television series. Again, I suspect it may simply be a case where the argument could be made that this is a case where “less is more”, because it always seemed to me that they were having to work very hard to stretch the format for a lull-length feature film.)

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Hope you enjoyed this blast from the past.