#SatMat Live Tweet movie for Sat., Apr. 30: THEM! (1954)

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After two weeks’ hiatus from #SatMat, I am tanned, rested, and ready to show another B-movie gem. This week, the gem is Them!

Atomic testing seems to have done for 1950’s movies that the Nazis did for 1940’s flicks: Provide the most convenient, generic villain you could ask for. Just plug it into any plot hole, and voila — instant drama! In this instance, atomic bombs set off the in the New Mexico desert appear to have turned ants into genetically mutated monsters. (When you think about the Southwestern desert, are ants the first thing that come to mind? Wouldn’t giant snakes or scorpions have been more likely?)

As if the premise weren’t delicious enough, the casting is to die for. James Whitmore is the first actor to appear on-screen, as a cop who sets the movie’s entire plot in motion. James Arness, as a fair but firm FBI agent, was seen by John Wayne in this movie, which led to Wayne helping to cast Arness in TV’s long-running Western “Gunsmoke.” Add Edmund Gwenn (Santa Claus himself from Miracle on 34th Street) as an avuncular entomologist, and you’ve just died and gone to B-Movie Heaven!

So join us on Twitter.com this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EDT, and bring plenty of snacks…but don’t leave a lot of sugar lying around!

 

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#SatMat Live Tweet movie for Sat., Apr. 9: EVIL ROY SLADE (1972)

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There are plenty of theatrical movies that have attained cult status, but many TV-movies have. This is one of them. Evil Roy Slade stars “The Addams Family’s” John Astin as the title character, a typical low-down Western villain who makes an honest (so to speak) effort to change his way after a run-in with a cute local schoolmarm (Pamela Austin).

It’s not quite up in Blazing Saddles comedy territory (it was broadcast about a year before Mel Brooks’ mock-oater), but it’s not for lack of trying. It was written by TV wunderkind Garry Marshall while he was still doing the TV version of “The Odd Couple” (and a couple of years before he hit it big with “Happy Days”), and it carries some “Odd Couple” personnel with it (director Jerry Paris, co-writer Jerry Belson, and Garry’s sister Penny in a small role), so it certainly has its comedy chops. And John Astin going whole hog on anything is a good enough reason for me to watch a comedy.

In keeping with the Western theme, I will preface the movie with a vintage Popeye cartoon, Blow Me Down! (1933) in which Popeye enters a small Mexican town where Bluto is holding forth as local bandito. So saddle up, partner, and join us at #SatMat for a lively Live Tweet on Twitter.com this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EDT.

#SatMat Live Tweet movie for Sat., Apr. 2: DRAGNET 1966

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Saturday happens to be the birthday of famously stone-faced actor Jack Webb (1920-1982). There’s no way I could let the occasion slip by without riffing on his TV paean to virtuous L.A. cops, “Dragnet.”

“Dragnet,” of course, began life in the 1950’s, but my heart belongs to the 1960’s TV revival, in which Webb, as Sgt. Joe Friday, takes on the flower-power hippie generation and gives it what-for. Beside Webb, standing tall (in a manner of speaking), was the ever-admirable Harry Morgan as Friday’s partner Bill Gannon.

The TV-movie I’m Tweeting is unofficially known as Dragnet 1966. It was the feature-length pilot for the revival version of “Dragnet,” although this pilot itself wasn’t actually broadcast until 1969. (Got that?)

I haven’t seen the movie but have read that its story is based on an infamous L.A. murder case. But do you care? If it’s anything like the story, Friday straight-leggedly walks through the scene, gets the latest info on the case, and delivers a piercing zinger punctuated by a musical sting before going onto the next scene. That was always the campy fun of the show for me.

So show us your badge to get in, and then be with us for #SatMat this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. EDT prompt. Don’t make us have to get rough.

 

Thoughts & Top 5 Riffs for #SatMat’s Live Tweet of Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday

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I wanted to like Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday, the recent Netflix sequel to the 1980’s adventures of Pee-Wee Herman. I really did. And I will say a couple of positive things about the movie at the outset.

First off, Paul Reubens (who created and plays Pee-Wee, co-produced the movie, and co-wrote the script) looks astonishingly splendid. I’ve no doubt that a generous amount of whiteface was applied to Reubens in order to resurrect Pee-Wee, but if all it took to make me look 30 years younger was a little extra makeup, I’d be Max Factoring it all over the place.

Second, though this is obviously not a theatrical film, if it was, it would probably get a G rating, and that’s nothing to sniff at. In a movie era where cynicism and nihilism seem the order of the day (Hey, let’s watch two iconic superheroes beat the crap out of each other!), it really is nice to see a movie pull off such a blatantly sunny attitude without a wink of the eye.

With all of that said, I ended up having the same problem with this movie as I had with PW’s initial outing, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985). The new movie’s opening half-hour is a joy to behold, as it explores Pee-Wee’s lyrical small town of Fairville and establishes its modus operandi.

The trouble begins when the plot calls for Pee-Wee to head off on a cross-country adventure, as happened in the 1985 movie. I’m not calling rip-off, but I’m saying that — just as in the first movie — as soon the film leaves its own, wonderfully established wonderland, it gets very random and episodic. There are a few laugh bull’s-eyes along the way, but far too more misses, at least for me.

Anyway, here are the top 5 riffs for #SatMat‘s March 26 Live Tweet of the movie, the first one regarding Pee-Wee’s E.T.-like fantasy that opens the movie:

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And, just to show you that #SatMat‘s followers aren’t nearly as cynical as their host…

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#SatMat Live Tweet double feature for Sat. & Sun., Mar. 26 & 27: PEE-WEE’S BIG HOLIDAY (2016) and MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRIAN (1979)

This weekend for my #SatMat Live Tweet, I’m doing two movies that don’t get me salivating with anticipation, but I feel I must cave to the zeitgeist.

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First off, at my usual Saturday time slot of 4:30 p.m. EDT, I am hosting Pee-Wee’s Big Holiday. I gave Pee-Wee’s feature filmography a chance 30 years ago, when a friend insisted upon showing Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure to me. At first, I thought I might actually be on to something, as I chortled mightily at the movie’s first 10 minutes. But after that, it got way too disjointed for my taste.

From all accounts, this three-decades-too-late follow-up follows a similar pattern, so I was prepared to ignore it entirely, but it has gotten surprisingly rave reviews. The icing on the cake was a glowing critique from my blogger-friend Salome at BNoirDetour.

So this Saturday, I am throwing the movie out there for whomever wants to bite. If I end up really and truly liking it, I will eat crow and write an appropriately nice review of it the day after at this blog. If you don’t hear from me on Sunday, you have only Salome to blame.

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Speaking of Salome, she is generously giving up most of her usual Sunday-night Live Tweet time slot so that I can present Monty Python’s Life of Brian at 9 p.m. EDT.

I must confess that, as much as I have revered the British comedy team of Monty Python for the past four decades, this is not my favorite film of theirs. In its native home of Britain, it’s one of the most acclaimed comedies of all time. But, like Pee-Wee’s initial feature film, I find it a bit disjointed, full of plot points that spring up and wither like so much crabgrass. (Click here to read my complete review of the movie at this blog.)

But there’s nothing Monty Python ever did as a team effort that’s completely without merit, and this movie certainly has its share of hearty laughs. And heaven knows, I can’t resist the irreverence of playing it online at the far end of Easter Sunday.

So I hope you’ll join the #SatMat group for one or both of these wacko comedies at Twitter.com this weekend. And happy Easter!

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