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Tuesday, Apr 9, 2013
With another DVD box set release, it's time to countdown out Top 10 Non-Theater Moments in Mystery Science Theater 3000's history...

The bad movies. That’s all anyone ever wants to talk about. Manos. Mitchell. The audacity of taking on a pseudo classic like This Island Earth. The creative constitution it must have required to endure the aesthetic horrors of Time of the Apes, The Castle of Fu Mancho, or Attack of the the Eye Creatures. But there remains so much more to Mystery Science Theater 3000 than Arch Hall Jr., Coleman Francis, and Merritt Stone. As a matter of fact, one of the first things critics latched onto where the sensational skits, in between bits that often commented directly on the film being shown. Yet there were also times when the material was merely “inspired” by the work being presented, said muse mutated into wit that transpired the sloppy celluloid circumstances. It’s these boffo blackouts that deserve reconsideration and concentration. SE&L, confirmed MiSTies, will highlight 10 of the best forays into funny stuff the Satellite of Love and its occupants ever attempted.


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Friday, Dec 7, 2012
First kill all the critics?

PopMatters reviewed the first half of Season 7 of Perry Mason here. This set closes the season with the last 15 episodes, aired from January to May 1964. As legal beagle Perry Mason (Raymond Burr) defends various suckers from charges of murder, the quest for fresh twists leads to a couple of episodes that dispose of the courtroom proceedings early in the show as a kind of appetizer to the main action. The best of these is “The Case of the Nervous Neighbor”, about an old lady who doesn’t remember that she killed her husband! That one has a rare dramatic role for ventriloquist Paul Winchell.


Writer Jonathan Latimer, who dominated the first half of the season, is here responsible only for “The Case of the Frightened Fisherman”, in which he manages once again to introduce an animal character. However, the season’s most notable twist is the absence of trusty secretary Della Street (Barbara Hale) from a string of episodes. Instead we’re treated to surprise appearances by the bug-eyed receptionist Gertie (Connie Cezon), a figure often referenced but rarely seen. Contrariwise, Ray Collins (as Lt. Tragg) continues to be billed but is never seen at all in this batch.


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Friday, Oct 19, 2012
How TV's best show gets even better...

How does the best show on TV get better? By delving more deeply into subjectivity: the dreams, nightmares and even acid trips of its characters. Season Five of Mad Men gets more expressionist as it explores the anxieties of the men and women of American advertising in 1966. The more closely you’ve followed the series, the more each episode is like a psychic depth charge emitting time-released surges of pure pleasure as it lingers in the brain. One source of pleasure is the paradox of how the saddest show on TV can be so funny. It’s always reminded me of a New Yorker story that somehow got turned into a weekly series.

These beautifully crafted hours have always been superb at drawing thematic parallels between the various subjects of its narrative cross-cutting; for example, examine the episode that touches on the Richard Speck murders and how it reverberates through the consciousness of various female characters, ending on the wildly incorrect Crystals’ song “He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss)”. That one’s called “Mystery Date” after the nostalgia-inducing commercial for that girl’s game. Then there’s the startling episode that untwines its three arcs to present them consecutively, a choice mixing clarity with disorientation in a manner that echoes one characters’ LSD experience.

The 13 episodes come with multiple audio commentaries by various combinations of actors, writers, directors and other creative contributors, and the addict will find them all convivial excuses to watch each show several times. Other bonuses look at cultural elements, like a piece on Truman Capote’s legendary Black and White Ball of November 1966; alas, that doesn’t play a part in any of the episodes.


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Tuesday, Sep 25, 2012
As Queen of '70s television, she was also Her Majesty of the Movie Spoof. Here are 10 great examples of Carol Burnett's lampoon brilliance.

She got her start as the “funny dame” on the old Gary Moore variety show. She had major success on Broadway in Once Upon a Mattress. Befriended by Julie Andrews and Lucille Ball, she rose rapidly, soon seeing herself cast in sitcoms and touring the talk show circuit. But it wasn’t until 1967 that Carol Burnett became a true household name. Surrounding herself with a cast that included Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Lyle Waggoner, and Vicki Lawrence, the groundbreaking sketch comedy show lasted 11 years on CBS, garnering 23 Emmy Awards and a permanent place in the memory banks of millions of devoted fans. Few can forget her perky personality, the moments of misguided “laughter,” or characters such as Mrs. Wiggins, Eunice and the rest of her firebrand family, or the kind hearted cleaning lady. Today, she is a comic legend. Then, she was major league must-see TV.


With Time Life offering a new mammoth 22-disc, 50-episode collection handpicked by Burnett herself, perhaps it’s time to go back and pick the best moments from this memorable broadcast bonanza. Of course, in order to do that, we have to narrow the scope quite a bit—and what better way to do that than via the format we love to celebrate: film. Indeed, the Carol Burnett Show excelled at taking on the standard Tinseltown titles and turning them into memorable spoofs and lampoons. Along with Mel Brooks, and the amiable Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker group, no other entity did such a great job with such a tricky subject. While there are dozens of other entries to consider, here are the choices we’ve made. Looking over this collection of the 10 Best Movie Spoofs from The Carol Burnett Show, it’s clear while the star has had such a long career. She’s the First Lady of Laughter.


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Friday, Apr 20, 2012
In some ways, he was much more than Barnabas Collins. In many ways, that's all he was.

Okay, so his connection to cinema is specious at best. He starred in the first motion picture adaptation of the classic late ‘60s horror soap, and supposedly has a cameo in the new Tim Burton reboot. He appeared in a single TV movie, and Oliver Stone’s first full length feature (the schlocky Seizure). After that, nothing. No long running role on a nightly drama. No standing sitcom part as the quirky next door neighbor. Aside from personal appearances and stage work, Jonathan Frid was famous for one thing and one thing only - Dan Curtis’ insanely addictive Dark Shadows. As Barnabas Collins, the time-hopping vampire cursed with both a lust for blood and a romantic’s heart, he became an instant household icon. But beyond his supernatural stardom, there remained the typical actor’s tale.


Frid was born in Canada. He served in the military and graduated from McMaster University. He then attended The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, and received a Masters Degree in directing from Yale. While a student, he won a role in a play by William Snyder, and he would up spending the next three decades in the theater. Hoping to parlay his performances into a bit more financial gain (he planned on becoming an acting coach), Frid prepared to move to Hollywood. As luck would have it, his agent called informing him of the role on Shadows. Needless to say, he stayed put in NYC and, within weeks, became the talk of daytime television.


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