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Tag Archives: Leif Garrett

Weekly Mishmash: January 10-16

album_leifgarrettLeif Garrett – The Leif Garrett Collection. I thought it might be kitschy and fun to make this 12-track collection my last download for the month at eMusic. Listening to it from start to finish, it’s pretty apparent that Leif was only put on this earth to look dreamy on album covers and posters (preferably in skintight jeans) — but some of it bears further exploration. His biggest hit “I Was Made for Dancin'” still sounds goofy yet incredibly potent, an artifact of the time when disco and rock could mix without a blink. There are a few goodies in his later, lesser-known stuff — “Memorize Your Number,” a Knackish power pop gem from 1979, the breezy California soft rock number “You Had to Go and Change On Me,” and the ’50s flavored “Runaway Rita” (his last charting single from late ’81). The rest is bubblegum dreck, but the little girls understand.
The Hospital (1971). Bleak, savagely funny satirical drama set in a beleaguered hospital run by a suicidal administrator (George C. Scott). This was directed by Arthur Hiller and written by Paddy Chayefsky in a startlingly contemporary manner that would foreshadow Chayefsky’s own Network from a few years later. The dialogue is whip-smart and expertly played by a great cast that includes Scott, Diana Rigg, and a host of actors that would later become better known in a variety of later TV shows. Although many elements are strained and dated (the protesters, for example), I was surprised at how timely and enjoyable this was. And, yes, I can totally imagine today’s hospitals being run this incompetently.
book_leopoldloebFor the Thrill Of It: Leopold, Loeb, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz Age Chicago by Simon Baatz. Frustrating, absorbing at times account of the “trial of the century” for Richard Loeb and Nathan Leopold Jr., affluent 1920s college students who brutally murdered an 11 year-old boy as an exercise for their own demented enjoyment. Baatz’s approach is incredibly detailed and comprehensive, which works well on the sections dealing with the crime itself, and what happened later on with the two men after they were sentenced to lifelong jail terms. He does tend to get too detailed, however, and it seriously hobbles the book when Baatz decides we need to know the complete backstories of the two attorneys (I skipped those chapters). The account of Leopold and Loeb’s trial, with page after page of medical experts debating the boys’ sanity, was mind-bendingly dull. The good parts of this book were very well done, however, adding much needed perspective to a crime that was fictionalized in movies such as Alfred Hitchock’s Rope and Tom Kalin’s Swoon.
The Lucy Show: The Official First Season. An interesting watch, since all I’d known of Lucille Ball’s first venture after I Love Lucy were the later color seasons in which her daffy Lucy Carmichael character works at a bank under Gale Gordon as the imperious Mr. Mooney. This first season was a different animal altogether, and not just for the crisp black and white photography. Lucy plays a widow raising two children under the same roof with her best friend Vivian Bagley (Vivian Vance, of course), a divorcée with her own boy. Ball throws herself into the role with aplomb, and she has excellent chemistry with Vance (who seems to relish playing a sexier, less matronly character than Ethel Mertz). The domestic setting provides a lot of good situations; I just wish it worked a bit better. The kids are shrill and don’t really add anything to the show, and many of the plots are so Lucy-centric that it makes one realize that she worked best in an ensemble. Finally, the writing is just so stupid and silly with one preposterous situation after another. Despite its faults, it was fun watching this DVD set with a host of nifty extras (such as the credits sequence with commercial insert below). Bring on season two and Mr. Mooney!

Man Hunt (1941). Interesting, somewhat ridiculous WWII propaganda film directed by Fritz Lang. Given the cast and director, I was expecting more than the hokey dramatics presented in this yarn with Walter Pidgeon portraying an Englishman who nearly assassinates Hitler. The film begins as a relatively low-key affair when Pidgeon is chased across Europe by Nazi official George Sanders and his verminlike minion (John Carradine). Then things turn bizarre with the appearance of Joan Bennett as a poor Londonite sporting the worst cockney accent ever committed to film (trust me, it’s dinner theater My Fair Lady production awful). The gullible Bennett falls for Pidgeon, a point that is hammered home by Alfred Newman’s overly obvious musical score. I won’t spoil the rest, but things unspool in a way that makes this more an interesting, hokey beyond belief curio than the lost classic that many fans insist it is.
Moon (2009) and Clonus (1979). Two low budget sci-fi indies which took on cloning as its subject, coincidentally seen in the same week here at chez scrubbles. It goes without saying that Moon is the better of the two, although Clonus has its own interest once you get past the kitschy ’70s trappings. The former concerns an astronaut (Sam Rockwell) who is the sole operator of a mining colony on the dark side of the moon. Readying to complete his three year mission, he is shocked to find a visitor who looks like his exact double. This film does wonders with a small budget, impressively creating a world with one set and several expertly done miniatures. I also liked how they filmed Rockwell playing against himself, which makes up for the implausible story (one guy running an entire moon colony?) and an imposing robot ripped off of 2001. Not an earth shattering film, but thought provoking nonetheless. I’d previously seen Clonus as a Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, but watching it without the riffing reveals it to be an interesting story brought down by a miniscule budget. I will say this — it kept our attention. The DVD’s added interview with director Robert Fiveson had one anecdote which revealed something I hadn’t noticed in the movie.: he had instructed the actors playing the lobotomized clones to blink a beat longer than usual. It’s a subtle touch that adds a lot to their ’70s blow-dried creepiness.
The Silent Partner (1978). Overlooked crime thriller starring Elliot Gould as a mild-mannered teller who gets into trouble when he secretly absconds with part of a fortune missed by a psychotic bank robber (Christopher Plummer). This was kind of a cool story, well-played with a few scenes of shocking violence which called to mind Dressed to Kill. I enjoyed Susannah York as Gould’s sensible co-worker and love interest, which made up for the weirdly dubbed Céline Lomez as the other woman in his life. This was made in Canada, which has its own strange appeal, but the best part was that much of the film was shot in a brand new shopping mall. These scenes were a gas, and they totally reminded me of the local mall I once knew and loved that also opened around 1978 (yes, I’m a weirdo who loves it when a Swensen’s ice cream parlor pops up in the background of a movie). Add in unknown John Candy doing a non-comedic role and you have something that is worth a peek for the curious.