#SatMat Live Tweet movie for Sat., Feb. 6: EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (1977)


Joan Collins plays a real-estate hustler who drags tourists to the outskirts of Florida to sell them swamp land in the mistaken belief that it’s soon to be a major community resort. Doesn’t a woman like that deserve to be overtaken by mutated ants, even if she is Joan Collins? Maybe because she’s Joan Collins??


The movie’s credits make much of the fact that its story is based on a novel by H.G. Wells, though I doubt that Wells had much to say about either real-estate scams or radioactive waste. But don’t worry, it’s a standard ’70s disaster movie (writ small due to the lack of funding from a major studio). We get the requisite exposition from one-dimensional characters before they get turned into so much ant fodder. And as for Joan…well, the “Dynasty” pilot script must have looked like manna from heaven after starring in this mess!

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So bring your calamine lotion, and get ready to rock with the #SatMat crowd at Twitter.com this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EST!




The following is my entry in the O Canada Blogathon, being hosted Feb. 1-5, 2016 by the blogs Speakeasy and Silver Screenings. Click on the above banner, and read blog entries related to Canadian personalities and subject matter that have contributed to cinema!


There’s no way you can describe the vibe of “SCTV” (TV series, 1977-84) to anyone who wasn’t in on it to start with. It’s like trying to describe how you felt when you saw the original cast of “Saturday Night Live.”

However, for the pop-culture-history-impaired, “SCTV” was set at an imaginary TV station that allowed for wacko “local” characters as well as dead-on parodies of any major film or TV show you’ve ever seen. Since the show was produced in Canada, Canadian TV decided they needed two minutes of Canadian content each week. Thus were born Bob and Doug MacKenzie (Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas), two toque-wearing siblings who blathered on about the virtues of beer and back bacon.


“Bob and Doug Mackenzie” were like “SNL’s” “Wayne’s World” in the early 1990’s. The first time I saw them, I completely did not get them. After that, I couldn’t wait for their next appearance.


All that is by way of saying that Strange Brew is about as funny a movie version of the Mackenzie Bros. sketches as you could ask for. The movie begins predictably (and hilariously) with Bob and Doug trying and failing miserably to move their “Great White North” TV segment into feature films. (The moment where Doug does the “movie theme” kills me every time.)

From there, the movie goes on to a half-baked plot about the brothers uncovering espionage at the local brewery (run by Paul Dooley and Ingmar Bergman veteran Max von Sydow, neither of whom seems to have any idea how they got into this movie). Basically, it plays like a Cheech & Chong movie for the 1980’s, with beer taking the place of illicit drugs.


That said, it manages to come up with a fair number of laughs, as when the Mackenzies take brief digs at Star Wars, or when their dog “Hosehead” unexpectedly saves the day at movie’s end.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Mackenzie milieu, the DVD of the movie will help you out. It has an old “SCTV” Mackenzie sketch, as well as a brief but funny animated version of the brothers.


Great comedy can never be properly explained to the uninitiated. On that basis, Strange Brew is a classic.

Buster Blogathon UPDATE! (A Prize Drawing…And More!)

From the always adorable Lea Stans, about her upcoming Buster Keaton Blogathon.


Only ten days until the Second Annual Buster Keaton Blogathon!! Are you getting as excited as I am?!

Although NO ONE’S as excited as Buster clearly is in this photo!

I’m doubly excited about what I’m about to share right now. You might remember that in my original announcement post I mentioned a drawing for all the blogathon participants. Well, I’ve got the details for you–and how!

The drawing (conducted by me by putting names into my handy ’20s style flapper hat!) will be on Feb. 9. The winner will receive a $25 voucher to the online store Buster Stuff, courtesy of the International Buster Keaton Society–a.k.a. the Damfinos. The Damfinos been working to “foster and perpetuate appreciation and understanding of the life, career and films of comedian/filmmaker” for over twenty years now. Their Buster Stuff offers (good) books, t-shirts, mugs, magnets, jewelry–even replicas of that famous porkpie…

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#SatMat Live Tweet movie for Sat., Jan. 30: REEFER MADNESS: THE MOVIE MUSICAL (2005)


Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical is a heady, sweaty mix of The Rocky Horror Picture ShowLittle Shop of Horrors, and Monty Python that should be eagerly devoured by fans of outrageous black comedy and be energetically avoided by everyone else.

As you might or might not know, Reefer Madness began life as a 1936 propaganda movie, telling an eerie tale about the evils of marijuana that was entirely based on nonfactual theories — chief among them that marijuana would lead its users to immorality, insanity, and jazz piano. This musical version is an obvious take-off on the original, with a cast that has a ball with the concept, including “Veronica Mars'” Kristen Bell, “SNL” vet Ana Gasteyer, and Alan Manning playing a smug narrator with perfect pitch. 

Be forewarned that this is comedy at its blackest. The gore gets laid on a little thick, there’s a blasphemous musical number (shades of Monty Python’s “Christmas in Heaven”) that won’t do liberals any favors, and the finale tries for social commentary after one-and-three-fourth-hours of campy fun. But in the end, this version gives a hilarious nose-thumbing to those who are all too willing to let jingoists do their thinking for them. It’s an absolute hoot.

Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical is rated TV-MA-LSV for brief nudity, sexual situations, and stylized violence and gore. Join us at #SatMat (if you dare!) for our Live Tweet of the movie, this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EST at Twitter.com.



INSIDE DEEP THROAT (2005) – A riveting documentary about the famous porn film


(WARNING: As befits its subject matter, this review contains some possibly offensive wording. It is not intended to be titillating, merely a frank discussion of a very frank movie.)

I never saw the famous porn movie Deep Throat. When it was first released, I was way too young to get into an X-rated movie. And now that I’d be quite able to get into a theater showing such a movie, I can see far more graphic sex than that on the Internet.

However, the documentary Inside Deep Throat is a fascinating account, not only of that movie, but of the era in which it was released. While the movie, its “creators,” and its stars (Linda Lovelace and Harry Reems) are the movie’s primary focus, lurking in the background are the extreme-right politicians of the time — including everyone’s favorite whipping boy, President Richard Nixon, who commissioned a scientific study on pornography and its effects on the nation, then brushed the study under the rug when it told him the exact opposite of what he wanted to hear. It was in that repressed climate that Deep Throat made its mark.

The most profitable movie of all time (made for $25,000 and grossing over $600 million to date), Deep Throat is the story of a woman (cutely billed, “Linda Lovelace as ‘Herself’”) who finds that the reason she cannot climax during sex is that her clitoris located in her throat. As I’ve said, I’ve never seen the movie per se, but the documentary provides generous clips from the film — and based on its meager plot and its high-school-nerd attempts at comedy, it seems fair to say that if you’ve seen Deep Throat in this documentary, you’ve seen the movie.

Based on the movie’s premise, which is a blatant male fantasy (gee, I can shove this down her throat and we’ll both be satisfied!), the story begins and ends with the men behind the scenes. Chief among them is the movie’s director, Gerard Damiano, who seems an affable enough man on the basis of his interviews here. He really does seem as though he was out to have fun and to break down a few taboos in the process.

A far more sinister figure, though shown only in still photos, is Chuck Traynor, who apparently lured Linda Lovelace out of her middle-class existence and into graphic sex porn before she knew what hit her. Serving as her unofficial pimp, Traynor never let Lovelace out of his sight during and, for a while, long after the movie was made.

The movie came out and immediately hit pay dirt, helped along by a New York Times review that “legitimized” the movie and made it okay for “regular” people (not to mention celebs such as Johnny Carson and Jack Nicholson) — not just the “raincoat brigade” — to attend an X-rated movie. Unfortunately, the movie was basically financed by the Mob, who went to every theater where the movie played to collect “fifty percent of the gross — or else.”

The movie’s stars, so eager to please others on-screen, ended up suffering the most from the movie. Thanks to the hounding of the Nixon Administration, Reems nearly had to serve five years in prison just for starring in the movie. Although his conviction was overturned, the same Hollywood hotshots who came to his defense when he was a First Amendment icon forgot all about him once he was acquitted, and his movie career went straight downhill after that. The movie tells us he is now a Christian and a real-estate salesman.

Then there’s Linda Lovelace. Her public persona was wiped clean and revised so many times, it’s hard to know what to think of her. In Deep Throat and in interviews given at the time, Lovelace seems like a happy, healthy, sexually unrepressed young woman. Then in the 1980’s, she went public with her stories about the manipulative Traynor and the contention that she was essentially “raped” for the sake of the movie. Then, when she stopped receiving publicity as a feminist/survivor, she eventually turned back to porn again, trying to sell herself in porn magazines. She died in 2002 from injuries sustained in a car crash.

Inside Deep Throat is never less than absorbing, but the lesson it intends to teach isn’t quite as notable as the lesson it really teaches. The doc’s ostensible reason for being is to promote the First Amendment and the idea that, even if we are personally offended by a movie, we mustn’t take Gestapo tactics to shut the movie down. That’s certainly a valid argument.

But what the movie finally shows us is that nobody involved with the movie had a positive outcome (except, of course, the mobsters who cleaned up on the production). Deep Throat’s director never made any money from it or any other movie he did. The owners of the theaters that played the movie were elbowed out of the way by the mobsters. Inside Deep Throat is reminiscent of another dark documentary, Capturing the Friedmans, in that its protagonists, while certainly not guilty of the crimes of which they’re accused of the movie, seem to have been tainted by life as being guilty of something.

Inside Deep Throat is rated NC-17 for frank sexual dialogue, and much nudity and sexuality.

YOU OUGHT TO BE IN PICTURES (1940) – Daffy Duck tries to end Porky Pig’s movie career


The following is my entry in the Backstage Blogathon, being hosted Jan. 15-18, 2016 by the lovely bloggers Fritzi at Movies Silently and Janet at Sister Celluloid. Click on the above banner, and read bloggers’ critiques of movies that purport to go “behind the scenes” in the performing arts!


(WARNING: Major spoilers abound!)

Those who follow such things (and we know you’re out there) tend to think of “early” Daffy Duck as merely wacky, supplanted in later years by the self-centered, egocentric, and neurotic version of Daffy Duck. But only three years after Daffy’s film debut, we can see the genesis of Daffy’s self-serving side in the cartoon You Ought to Be in Pictures.

The cartoon establishes its setting as the office of Looney Tunes cartoon producer Leon Schlesinger. An animator is sitting at his desk, completing a drawing of Porky, when someone yells, “Lunch!”, and the entire cartoon staff (including now-legendary directors Chuck Jones and Bob Clampett) rush out the door along with Porky’s animator.

As it happens, Daffy is occupying a photo frame that is hung just above the desk where Porky “sits.” Out of nowhere, Daffy gives Porky a sales pitch about an acting-job opening as Bette Davis’ leading man that pays $3,000 a week (and whenever Daffy mentions the job again, the salary triples in size). Daffy tells Porky that he’s a cinch for the job and that he should get out of his contract with Leon Schlesinger. Porky eventually caves to Daffy’s request, but he knows it’s not right.

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A very entertaining scene occurs between Porky and the real-life Schlesinger, who cheerily acquiesces to Porky’s wishes and tears up his contact. As Porky hesitantly leaves the office, Schlesinger looks at the camera, winks, and tells us, “He’ll be back.”

Porky heads for the feature-film division of the Warner Bros. studio but encounters nothing but trouble, first squaring off against a security guard (played by Looney Tunes story man Michael Maltese) and then fouling up the filming of an elaborate ballet number (animator Gerry Chiniquy plays the film’s director). Soon enough, Porky realizes he’s in over his head and rushes through traffic (!! — how big is this studio, anyway?) to try to get his old job back.

Porky returns to Schlesinger’s office just in time to hear Daffy tell Schlesinger that the studio is better off without Porky and that he, Daffy, is the far superior actor. Porky politely enters the office, quietly pulls Daffy aside, and then gives him a major off-screen beating. When Porky humbles himself before Schlesinger, Schlesinger tells him he didn’t really tear up Porky’s contact and laughingly tells him to get back to work.

The final scene shows the two cartoon “stars” in their original positions — Porky on the animator’s table, and Daffy in a frame but now covered with bandages. Daffy’s beating at the hands of Porky hasn’t discouraged him, though — Daffy tries again to talk Porky out of his cartoon job, until Porky lobs a tomato at him.

You Ought to Be in Pictures is an obvious precursor to both the animation/live-action movie mixes that eventually culminated in 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and the backstage bloodlust between Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in All About Eve. And while this cartoon isn’t nearly as elaborate as either of those feature films, it gets the job done admirably. The “crosses” between the human and cartoon worlds are handled seamlessly, and the cartoon really does give you the feeling that Daffy was truly a prima donna, overstepping his supporting-actor boundaries long before he got paired with Bugs Bunny.

Co-hosting a #BNoirDetour double feature for 1/17: THE FACE BEHIND THE MASK and THE SCAR


The lovely Salome at BNoirDetour has once again pulled a “Mike Douglas” and is generously allowing me to co-host her Sunday-night Live Tweet as a double feature. So we’re showing a couple of films-noir that have to do with the fracturing of famous faces.

First at 9:00 p.m. EST, Salome brings us The Face Behind the Mask (1941), starring Peter Lorre and Evelyn Keyes. Salome will probably write about this movie on her own blog, so I don’t want to give too much away myself. Suffice to say, Peter Lorre really gets burned in this movie, in more ways than one.

Then at 10:20 p.m. EST, I rudely push Salome aside so that I can present The Scar (1948). It stars Paul Henreid as a gangster on the run who hightails it to a small town, where he discovers that he bears a striking resemblance to the town’s psychoanalyst. The only feature he’s lacking to make the resemblance complete is a facial scar borne by the psychoanalyst. Hmm, one scar = new identity…This isn’t going to end well for at least one person.

So put your noir face on this Sunday, and join us at Twitter.com for a great double feature. Be sure to use the hashtag #BNoirDetour to comment on the movies while they’re playing.

Brags About Blogs


I subscribe to more than a few blogs. You probably do, too. But even though you probably read every single blog to which you subscribe, are there a few that you sorta-extra look forward to?

Well, me, too. So I thought I’d mention them here and now in case you’re looking for something fresh to read. If I subscribe to your blog and don’t mention it here, please don’t take it personally — I’m glad to read you and look forward to you as well. But the blogs I’m about to mention have just a little extra fairy dust sprinkled on them, which might make them worth your while as well. (And I’ll bet a lot of my readers don’t put me at the top of their blog reading lists, either.)

Anyway, here are some extra-special blogs you might want to seek out. Click on each blog’s name to link to it.

By Ken Levine. Levine is a former TV and movie writer with some pretty heavy-duty credits to his name (“M*A*S*H,” “Cheers,” “Frasier”). He is also is a former radio DJ and L.A. sports announcer. Just those subjects give him some generous anecdotes to write about. He also shares his opinions on movies and TV shows, the show-biz industry, and life in general, and he does it as entertainingly as he wrote for television. I just love his stuff.

News from ME. Mark Evanier is another show-biz gadly with a little of everything to his credit. He wrote for “Welcome Back, Kotter” and other ’70s TV shows, including Hanna-Barbera cartoons, and now does the syndicated TV version of the “Garfield” comic strip. Like Ken Levine, Evanier has tons of fascinating show-biz stories and opinions to share.

Travalanche. Written by “Trav S.D.,” who covers classic movies, TV shows, and (forgive me, Trav) a lot of offbeat New York stage stuff that I’ll never see because I live in Florida. (He had a hand in the recent NYC revival of I’ll Say She Is, the Broadway revue that catapulted The Marx Brothers to fame.) It’s all presented in a very lively, loving style, and it probably doesn’t hurt that he has much of the same tastes in pop culture as I do.

Tralfaz and YowpThese blogs are written by the same person (who doesn’t go by his real name, so why post it here?) and are devoted to classic cartoons — respectively, theatrical and Hanna-Barbera. He posts a lot of fascinating animation history and drawings, and I never would have guessed that Huckleberry Hound and Yogi Bear cartoons were worthy of such scholarly attention until this blogger made it so.

Silent-ology and Movies Silently. I used to be quite full of myself for knowing so much more about silent movies than the film buffs with whom I conversed. Compared to what these two bloggers know, my knowledge of silent film could be lodged comfortably on the head of a pin. Silent-ology is written by Lea Stans, a woman in her mid-twenties, and Movies Silently by Fritzi Kramer. I mention Lea’s age only because I’ve read silent-film authors who aren’t as comprehensive as Lea is, and Fritzi is similarly encyclopedic. And their writing is anything but dry — their love of the silent era shines through in everything they post.

BNoirDetour. Written by Salome, this blog is devoted exclusively to film noir, and as a film professor, Salome knows her stuff. She also hosts a “Live Tweet” on Twitter.com every Sunday night at 9 p.m. EST in which she presents a noir movie for Twitter members to enjoy and comment on. I regard her as my noir Roger Ebert.

Hope this gives you a starting point for something new to read this weekend!