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- 02/23/17--07:43: _"Boy, have we got a...
- 02/23/17--09:35: _Kick Ass!
- 02/23/17--09:45: _No More Arrests
- 02/23/17--10:03: _Voldemort is Donald...
- 10/20/17--08:01: _Pryor Engagement
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- 10/20/17--12:27: _The Campaign of the...
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- 10/21/17--21:06: _The Dark Violent Tr...
- 10/22/17--10:44: _Tidbits for October...
- 10/22/17--10:49: _New Lloyd Hamilton DVD
- 10/23/17--14:10: _More Girls with Guns
- 10/24/17--22:12: _Outsourcing Comedy ...
- 10/25/17--13:38: _Fore!
- 10/25/17--14:09: _The Thinning: Chara...
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- 10/25/17--14:32: _The Unrepentant Pea...
- 02/20/17--09:23: DVD Recommendation: Accidentally Preserved, Volume 4
- 02/20/17--10:20: Tidbits of February, 2017
- 02/23/17--07:43: "Boy, have we got a vacation for you!"
- 02/23/17--09:35: Kick Ass!
- 02/23/17--09:45: No More Arrests
- 02/23/17--10:03: Voldemort is Donald Trump?
- 10/20/17--08:01: Pryor Engagement
- 10/20/17--08:06: Classic Television Commercials
- 10/20/17--12:45: Spotlight on Frank McCarthy
- 10/20/17--13:27: New Book: "Talking Sixties Drive-In Movies"
- 10/22/17--10:44: Tidbits for October, 2017
- 10/22/17--10:49: New Lloyd Hamilton DVD
- 10/23/17--14:10: More Girls with Guns
- 10/24/17--22:12: Outsourcing Comedy Teams
- 10/25/17--13:38: Fore!
- 10/25/17--14:23: The Day the Oyster Slept
- 10/25/17--14:32: The Unrepentant Peanut Butter Thief
Three films stood out for me on the new DVD release Accidentally Preserved, Volume 4.
A Man's Size Pet (1926) involves a pair of cowhands who must interrupt their romantic rivalry to flee an aggressive bear.
Nonsense (1920) provides a number of amusing scenes, including a man careening down a road atop his bed. . .
. . . and a pair of men wearing stilts under oversized slacks to exaggerate their stature.
A bed has occasionally traveled down a road in a comedy film. Take for example this scene from Abbott and Costello's Ride 'Em Cowboy (1942).
Meet Father (1925) includes a number of familiar gags, many of which were pilfered from Larry Semon's gag-a-second comedies. But Bobby Ray, as a blank-faced simpleton, is interesting.
One original routine stood out for me. Ray is unable to get his car around a dog in the road. He finds that, no matter where he moves his car, the roving mutt is sure to wind up in his path. This would have been a perfect routine for Lloyd Hamilton.
This catsup gag from Meet Father should be familiar to fans of The Three Stooges.
Curly Howard performs the same gag in An Ache in Every Stake (1941).
Happy days, my friends! I have a few tidbits for you today.
Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977) is the most infamous sequel of all time. Dr. Gene Tuskin (Louise Fletcher) and Regan MacNeil (Linda Blair) are attached together by a "synchronizer," a biofeedback device that allows two people to synchronize their brainwaves. It is, in effect, a mind meld machine. A horror franchise moved into the realm of campy science fiction with this absurd device. In the end, the film was laughable rather than terrifying. It seems at times that director John Boorman was anticipating David Lynch by having his actors provide stilted line readings as a way to create a camp surrealism.
Wikipedia: "The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive inability of those of low ability to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their ability accurately."
Lloyd Hamilton was highly respected in his day, which is evidenced by the following quote from Moving Picture World (September 1, 1923, p. 61): "[Lloyd Hamilton's] work of the last couple of years has won him undisputed right to a place as one of the 'Big Four' of screen comedians."
In August, 1927, Hamilton went on location in Huntington Lake to film a supporting role for the M-G-M production Rose-Marie.
The studio was so displeased with the film's leading lady, Renee Adoree, that they scrapped everything that was produced and reshot the film with an entirely new cast.
It was reported in Photoplay (January, 1928, p. 47):
There is a lot of cruelty in this business. And whether it is deliberate or accidental, doesn't hide the fact that it is cruelty, nevertheless. Take the case of Renee Adoree, a capable and good-natured trouper. Miss Adoree was promised the title role in Rose-Marie. She started work in the picture and thought she was giving general satisfaction. But one day, in the costume department, she happened to hear that Joan Crawford was being fitted for costumes for the role. On Friday, so our spies say, Renee was given notice that she was out of Rose-Marie. On Monday, Miss Crawford stepped into the picture.Adoree didn't returned before the cameras until January, at which time she starred opposite John Gilbert in The Cossacks (1928).
I have heard different stories about Adoree's departure from Rose-Marie. I heard that she fought with the director. I heard that she put on weight and her face looked puffy in close-ups. Her weight looks fine in photos taken on the set. Sometimes, it is simply that an actor is not right for a role.
Hamilton's role went to character actor George Cooper.
I discovered a Hamilton gag that I never knew about before. The gag, which was used at the opening of F. O. B. (1923), was described in Exhibitor's Trade Review (May 5, 1923, p. 1133): "To get the Dog aboard the Boy sits in the doorway of the boxcar, with his coattails hanging outward. The Animal springs from the ground, connects and is safely landed."
Hamilton dresses up like President Teddy Roosevelt for Ham the Explorer. Moving Picture World (July 1, 1916, p. 72): "Ham, in a makeup which has him closely resemble a famous Oyster Bay explorer, meets with some terrifying experiences in the land of wild men and pretty maidens. . ."
Neely Edwards' entire village is wiped out by a cyclone in Flying Finance (1923). Chester J. Smith of Motion Picture News wrote, "This Mermaid comedy moves with all the speed of the cyclone which it features and is as full of humorous situations throughout as the air is with debris. Just what havoc a healthy cyclone can accomplish is aptly demonstrated. Houses, animals and people are tossed about with reckless abandon and comedy situations follow each other so closely that it is just one laugh from start to finish. There is no need for any more story than is provided. When that cyclone starts blowing up, no more plot or action is necessary."
Critics often do not agree with the general public about the quality of a film.
Since my recent article about prop money, I have become acutely aware any prop money that turns up in a film.
Al St. John could put an energetic twist on standard comedy situations. Here, he attempts to leave our cruel world by hanging himself in Ship Ahoy (1920).
The comedian gets stuck in a revolving door in The Door Knocker (1931).
The hanging business has sustained to modern day. Just look at this scene from Bad Santa 2 (2016).
One of my favorite John Wayne westerns is Rio Bravo (1959).
I sometimes get nostalgic for 1980. It was fun hanging around with curvy, purple-haired girls on Moonbase.
The Westworld television series, which features a number of hyperviolent female robots, got me thinking about the history of the female robot in films and television.
This is very different from the idea of a female robot presented byErnst Lubitsch in the 1919 German film The Doll.
Good day, my friends.
|Noomi Rapace in Unlocked (2017)|
Women are generally violent in action films as well as comedies. Amy Poehler appears in the trailer for The House as, in her own words, "a badass bitch."
You can learn more on the subject by visiting my YouTube channel.
I have created a video on the subject for my YouTube channel.
Woo-hoo, it's done! I just completed my newest book, which takes an in-depth look at the films of Richard Pryor. It was a challenging book to write, but I am very pleased with the results.
The book took up so much of my time that I had to set aside work on my blog. I expect to post new articles to the blog in the near future.
The frame scans (which can be found here) are a treasure trove for me. The films come from several archive sources, including Library of Congress, EYE Filmmuseum, George Eastman Museum and Cinémathèque Française. It is fun to visit the site and get a glimpse of a rare George Ovey comedy.
Or I can get a look at Sid Smith in action.
A balloon man, which was once a fixture in haunted house comedies, gives Monty Banks a fright in this scene from Spooks & Spirits (1923).
I wrote about this film, Homer Joins the Force (1920), in my book "Eighteen Comedians of Silent Film."
The film's star, Fred Ardath, had a long career on vaudeville and Broadway stages, but he never had the good fortune to achieve success in films.
|Ardath in 1948 Broadway revival of "Show Boat."|
When I was a kid, I would walk through a movie theater lobby to study the posters. I remember being mesmerized by the artwork featured on the poster for Valley of Gwangi (1969). The artist, Frank McCarthy, also created epic posters for The Ten Commandments (1956), A Distant Trumpet (1964), Thunderball (1965), The Venetian Affair (1966), Around the World Under the Sea (1966) and The Green Berets (1968). Filmmakers could never make films as exciting as McCarthy's artwork.
|Buster Keaton and Bobbi Shaw in Pajama Party (1964)|
|Mimsy Farmer, Gene Kirkwood and Paul Bertoya in Hot Rods to Hell (1967)|
This is a transcript of a video that I posted to my YouTube channel in February.
Good day, my friends. We are here today to talk about a special category of movie robots. You can called them gynoids, robotesses, fembots or, if you prefer the whole acronym thing, RWB's, which is short for Robots with Breasts. Only a sci-fi writer would think that a robot needs breasts. But they do have them. The comely bosom of the lady robot has evolved from steel-plated to the more modern polymer-based breast, which I understand to be electrically conducting and pressure-sensitive.
The lady robot has gotten to be lovelier and lovelier over the years, but they have also gotten to be terribly violent. How did we get to this place? Let us travel through the great Hollywood maze to find the answer.
A robot built in the likeness of a woman was at the center of a 1901 short story by Ernest Edward Kellett called "The Lady Automaton." The narrator of the story, Dr. Phillips, is stunned to visit his inventor friend, Arthur Moore, and meet a very lovely robot that the man has created. He writes, "I saw it all now. That beautiful, lady-like girl that had ushered me into the room, whom I had taken for his wife, was an automaton! That doll-like expression was due to the fact that she was a doll. I was utterly astounded. Moore sat by, enjoying my bewilderment. . ."
As far as he can tell, the robot is a perfect recreation of a woman. He tells Moore, "I am still almost incredulous. Indeed, until I have dissected her, and found pulleys instead of a liver, and eccentrics instead of a spleen, I shall hardly believe she isn't a woman in reality."
Moore has decided to introduce Amelia to his high society associates as his niece. He says, "I am determined that she shall be the beauty of the season. She shall eclipse them all! I tell you. What are they but dolls? and she is more than a doll; she is ME. I have breathed into her myself, and she all but lives; she understands and knows!"
In Shakespeare's "A Merchant of Venice," Shylock makes the point that a Jew is no more or no less a man. He says, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" Inspired by this line, Moore has given Amelia veins through which his own blood flows. When a pin on her brooch pricks her throat, her throat produces a trickle of real blood.
Amelia is in fact so enchanting that she attracts multiple suitors. Philips observes, "Among the many deserters from the shrines of other goddesses who thronged to pay their court to this new and strange divinity, two seemed to hold the divided first place in her favour. One was my young friend Harry Burton; the other was handsome, impulsive, universally-liked Dick Calder. These two had been firm friends before, in spite of the fact that they had often flirted with the same girl. But it was impossible for two young fellows to love Amelia and continue to love each other."
Amelia agrees to marry Burton, but Calder is distraught to have been spurned by Amelia and shows up on her wedding day to plunge a knife into her heart. Philip notes,
She fell to the ground, striking her head heavily as she fell against the rail. There was a whirr, a rush. The anti-phonograph was broken. I bent over her, and opened her dress to staunch the wound. Moore had made no provision for her bleeding there. As I drew out the dagger, it was followed by a rush of sawdust.
In the confusion of the strange discovery, no one noticed that a real death was taking place not twenty feet away. As the sexton was clearing out the church, he noticed a man asleep in one of the pews, leaning against a pillar. He went up and touched him; but there was no answer. He shook him; but the man was as heedless as Baal. It was Arthur Moore, and he was dead. He had put his life into his masterpiece; his wonderful toy was broken, and the cord of Moore's life was broken with it.
And as for me, why, I am no longer a fashionable physician. As I write, there are men about me, who talk of me as a patient.
So, Philips has also been driven mad by Amelia. Amelia must have possessed great power to drive these men to madness and death. The many fabricated women that followed Amelia would also have a lethal power over men. Moore obviously suffered the most tragic fate. Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein" had already taught us that playing God can lead to madness. Susan Wloszczyna of rogerebert.com wrote, "[O]ne fairly consistent cinematic rule of thumb, especially in horror and sci-fi movies that range from 1931’s Frankenstein to last year’s Ex Machina, is this: Do not be tempted to play God and create an artificial, human-like being. Such incidents of hubris almost never turn out well."
Moore's robot displays a shallow personality throughout the story. It is her voice and her appearance that stirs feelings in these men. The moral, perhaps, is that a man should restrain his mad lust for superficial beauty.
Perhaps, we can look even deeper into this subject. A man and a woman are able to achieve a successful relationship if they can reach compromises and balance out each other's opposing natural tendencies. But that cannot happen when the woman is a mere illusion and nothing about her is natural. In this instance, the man is at risk of being consumed by his own fantasies. He is likely to lose control of himself by indulging in his deepest and sometimes darkest desires. The story advocates for normal, healthy relationships between a man and a woman. A man seeking a romantic relationship with a robot is seeking a perverse entanglement that is bound to fail.
"The Lady Automaton" is, without question, a morality tale. A man who believes that he has the power of God has an arrogance that will drive him to madness. A man who believes that he can replace the love of a woman with the hollow attentions of a robot follows a bleak and perverse course that can only lead to madness. Madness awaits the man who deviates in any way from the proper path.
The proliferation of Rossum's robots leads to a decline in human births, which is just the beginning of the end for mankind. Act III climaxes with the robots mounting a rebellion, which involves the robots storming the factory and killing their human overlords. The idea that a robot represents the oppressed has forever entangled the robot with Communist principles and leftist propaganda.
In an epilogue, it is revealed that the robot rebellion has brought about the extinction of the human race. A male robot, Primus, and a female robot, Helena, develop human feelings and fall in love. The scene presents Primus and Helena as a new Adam and Eve. The idea is that men are destined to be replaced by robots. Female robots named Eve would turn up in later films. Eve represents the first new woman.
Čapek was a big believer in worker's rights and his play was used to promote communist thought. But, after the Second World War, Čapek declared himself a non-Marxist and rejected communism as a viable alternative.
Then, we had Robot Rose-Marie, who was also known as "The marvelous human machine." She showed up around 1925. We have officially exceeded the creepy quota today.
|Robot Rose-Marie with inventor Will Mackford|
Life-sized, wind-up dolls turned up frequently in early silent films. In 1913, Gaumont filmmakers crafted a clever plot around a lifelike doll in a short film, The Living Doll. A doll maker seeks consolation from his daughter’s death by dressing up a doll in his daughter’s clothing. Later, a girl accidentally breaks the doll and dresses in the doll’s outﬁt to deceive the doll maker. This premise was expanded upon in feature films, including Dolly Does Her Bit (1918) and The Doll (Die Puppe) (1919).
|Ossi Oswalda in The Doll (1919)|
Here are scenes from The Doll.
Metropolis (1927) echoes the ideas of "The Lady Automaton" except that its robot, Maria, is not as passive. An inventor, Rotwang, has worked obsessively to construct a robot in the likeness of a woman he once loved. The woman, Hel, was stolen away by Joh Fredersen, the Master of Metropolis. She later died giving birth to Fredersen's son. Fredersen learns of Rotwang's robot and instructs Rotwang to give the robot the likeness of a political reformer, Maria. It is his plan to kidnap Maria and use her double to sabotage an effort by the city's machinists to strike. Rotwang has plans of his own. He decides to use the Maria robot to murder Fredersen and bring down Metropolis.
Annalee Newitz of Popular Science wrote, "The evil Maria robot advocates war and gives a half-speech, half-striptease that whips the machinist masses into a revolutionary fervor." The film, with its sadistic female robot, was ahead of its time. In the end, the workers see this soulless woman as a satanic force who was determined from the start to drive them to their destruction. They treat this tin witch as you would treat any witch - they burn her.
Men see the image of a perfect woman and they project upon this image their sexual fantasies. But these women have no sexual desires and men mean nothing to them. This makes them ruthless in their relationships with men.
Most lady robots at the time posed no threat. Let us take, for example, this lady robot from a 1929 comedy, Taxi Dolls (1929). This early robot lady is limited in her abilities. She can't talk, she can barely stand, and she raises her arm at inconvenient moments for no apparent reason.
In the early 1930s, inventor Harry May toured England with a two-ton, gender-fluid robot. Reuben Hoggett of the cyberneticzoo blog wrote:
This Robot has had several guises over the years. From large, round, eyes with lamps in them and large ears with microphones, to a female form with curly hair breasts on the chest plate, and then one with insulators on its head. It also has many names, including The Roboter, Alpha, Astra, Mary Ann, Eric, Albi/Algi.
|British Pathé short Alpha the Robot (1934)|
Newspapers reported that the robot had turned on its maker. But Matt Novak of Paleofuture points to a less sensational account of the incident that appeared in the Ogden Standard-Examiner. He wrote:
In this version of the story May was inserting a cartridge into the gun, which was attached to the robot, and an accidental, premature discharge simply burned the inventor's hand.
|Patricia Roc and Jerry Verno in The Perfect Woman (1941)|
A female robot is again nothing but trouble in the 1949 British comedy The Perfect Woman. The film shows that men prefer to reserve their charm for old-fashioned flesh-and-blood women.
The Twilight Zone episode "The Lateness of the Hour" (1960) centers on a young woman who makes plans to leave her parents' stifling mansion so that she can marry and have children. The parents are unhappy with the news and plead with the daughter to stay.
The story ends with the parents revealing to the daughter that she is actually a robot that the father constructed in his workshop. The robot daughter becomes so anguished that the father can see no choice other than to erase her memory and reprogram her to be a mundane and unthinking maid.
Frighteningly, the passionately independent woman has in effect been lobotomized.
Female robots were the focus of other Twilight Zone episodes. This includes "The Lonely" (1959), a bittersweet episode in which a female robot (Jean Marsh) becomes a companion to a convict (Jack Warden) on an otherwise desolate asteroid.
A for Andromeda (1961) was a significant British sci-fi television series. Andromeda, played by Julie Christie, was a prototype for a number of later robot women. Wikipedia reports, "[A for Andromeda] concerns a group of scientists who detect a radio signal from another galaxy that contains instructions for the design of an advanced computer. When the computer is built, it gives the scientists instructions for the creation of a living organism named Andromeda." Andromeda becomes an aide to the scientists.
|Julie Christieand Peter Halliday inA for Andromeda (1961)|
|Persis Khambatta in Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)|
A less attractive being was created by a supercomputer in Superman III (1983). She looks to aid the humans around her to a quick and violent death.
Galaxina, played by the lovely Dorothy Stratten, is yet another robot women who helps space travelers in their expeditions.
|Dorothy Stratten in Galaxina (1980)|
Niya from Humanoid Woman (1981) is highly reminiscent of Ilia.
|Yelena Metyolkina in Humanoid Woman (1981)|
|Andrea Marcovicci in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)|
Another Andromeda copycat appeared in Dark Side of the Moon (1990), in which Spacecore 1’s computer represents itself in humanoid form with Lesli (Camilla More).
|Camilla More in Dark Side of the Moon (1990)|
|Lisa Ryder in Jason X (2001)|
These selfless robots were a subject of ridicule by the time Kristin Kreuk (Cruuk) starred as a robot in Space Milkshake (2012). A data processor that controls the ship's thruster has been damaged and is unable to stabilize the ship's orbit. At great personal risk, the robot slices open her stomach and plucks out a data processor that can serve as a replacement part.
The curvy, double-breasted replicant came to the sitcom with My Living Doll (1964-1965).
|Julie Newmar and Jack Mullaney in My Living Doll|
|Jack Mullaney joins Vincent Price for more robot fun in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine (1965). The robots are, from left to right, Sally Frei, Luree Holmes and Mary Hughes.|
Sexy female androids were front and center in the Star Trek episode "I, Mudd" (1967).
|Alyce Andrece, Roger C. Carmel and Rhae Andrece in Star Trek episode "I, Mudd."|
|Vanessa Howard and Ronnie Stevens in Some Girls Do (1969)|
The Filmovy Prehled database provides the following plot summary for Miss Golem (1972): "'Miss Golem'– a chance creation by the inventor Petr – turns into a manipulating tyrant and as such invokes ultimate destruction, just like any other contrived being revolting against its human creators."
|Jana Brejchová as a robot and the robot's human model in Miss Golem (1972)|
|Katharine Ross in The Stepford Wives (1975)|
The Bionic Woman features fembots in several episodes. The show coined the term "fembot." Fembot showgirls shake pink tail feathers in "Fembots in Las Vegas" (September 24, 1977).
An android assassin is made to look like a pretty princess in a 1978 Doctor Who serial "The Androids of Tara."
Prisoners are allow conjugal visits from sex droids (called "pen pals") in Escape from DS-3 (1981).
|Escape from DS-3 (1981)|
|Don Keith Opper, Klaus Kinski and Kendra Kirchner in The Android (1982)|
|Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner (1982)|
|Kelly LeBrock in Weird Science (1985)|
|Pamela Gidley and David Andrews in Cherry 2000 (1987)|
The Terminator (1984) and Robo Cop (1987) had a big influence on the robo ladies. Take, for example, Maria from I Love Maria (1988).
|Sally Yeh in I Love Maria (1988)|
Pearl Prophet (Dayle Haddon), the title character of Cyborg (1989), is on a mission to save humanity.
|Dayle Haddon in Cyborg (1989)|
Roberta, from Not Quite Human II (1989), is one half of a friendly android couple.
|Katie Barberi and Jay Underwood in Not Quite Human II (1989)|
Eve VIII is the wild id side of the repressed scientist. It is, in effect, Simmons' emotion doppelgänger. Simmons says, "Whatever damage she sustained destroyed all her inhibitions. She's doing things I might think about doing but would never dare to do." Sandra Brennan of All Movie wrote, "[T]he robot comes emotionally unglued and launches into a destructive rampage while enacting out its repressed creator's darkest desires." Vincent Canby of The New York Times had the simplest description of the plot: "Secret Robot Runs Amok In a Miniskirt." Now, Eve VIII is maiming and killing anyone it perceives as a threat. Simmons is especially concerned because the robot, which was designed for military invasions, has a self-destruct feature that will allow it to terminate itself in a widespread explosion. The government goes on red alert once it confirms the distraught robot has activated the self-destruct countdown and has made itself, in Simmons' words, "a walking nuclear bomb." The top brass calls in terrorism expert Jim McQuade (Gregory Hines) to put their mechanical lady "back in the box." In the final act, Eve VIII becomes overwhelmed by maternal desires, wanting to find Simmons' son and take him away with her. The film was a flop at the box office, but it was a bestseller in VHS and DVD formats on the home entertainment market.
The second feminist robot film of the year was Steel & Lace (1991), which also features a robot motivated by the traumatic experiences of its human model. Gaily Morton (Clare Wren), a concert pianist, is raped by businessman Daniel Emerson. At a criminal trial, Emerson gets several friends to provide him with an alibi for the night of the rape. Gaily is so traumatized when Emerson receives a not guilty verdict that she jumps off the court building. Gaily's scientist brother, Albert (Bruce Davison), resurrects his dead sister as a vengeful cyborg, which stalks and murders Emerson and his friends.
|Clare Wren and Bruce Davison in Steel & Lace (1991)|
Yancy Butler plays a cyborg cop, Sgt. Eve Edison, in Mann & Machine (1992).
Another exploding robot turns up in Cyborg 2 (1993). Cash Reese (Angelina Jolie) is a robot developed for corporate espionage and assassination. Her creators have filled her with liquid explosives so that she can infiltrate the offices of a rival robotics company and blow up the board of directors.
Liana and Greta are virtual reality babes brought to life in the real world in Grid Runners (1994).
|Dawn Ann Billings in Grid Runners (1994)|
|Jennifer Rubin in Screamers (1995)|
|Matthias Hues in Cyberzone (1995)|
|Sofia Shinas and William Sadler in The Outer Limits ("Mary 25," 1998)|
|Omega Doom (1996)|
The nanny robot was a separate, anti-feminist offshoot of the female robot lineage. These robots were kindly and nurturing. Writer Ray Bradbury made the idea of a robot nanny appealing with his episode for The Twilight Zone called "I Sing The Body Electric" (1962).
|Josephine Hutchinson in The Twilight Zone ("I Sing The Body Electric," 1962)|
But significantly more screen time is given to Mecha Nanny (Clara Bellar), a well-used robot that has been discarded by her owners. The sweet-natured robot is captured by a motorcycle gang and hauled off to the lurid Flesh Fair, where obsolete and unlicensed robots are destroyed for the amusement of crowds. Mecha Nanny accepts her fate. She is smiling as an attendant leads her to a section of the arena called The Pig Pen. She is still smiling as the attendant dumps a bucket of acid over her head and her flesh and parts dissolve.
A 2012 German television movie, Robot Mom, features a robot who is able to excellently substitute for a perfectionist wife and mother, Katrin (Valerie Niehaus). When her husband's ad agency goes bankrupt, Katrin realizes that she will lose her luxurious home unless she goes back to work. But she soon finds herself overwhelmed managing a job, kids and a household. Katrin discovers a website offering free testing of a high-tech household robot. She orders the robot without telling her family. She is startled to find that the robot has been fashioned in her exact likeness. The robot proves to be too perfect. She is able to handle her duties and still be fun to be around. To Katrin's horror, her husband and children like the robot more than they ever liked her. A factory constructed woman has proven to be more human than a biologically formed, flesh-and-blood woman. Katrin realizes that she needs to change her strict perfectionist ways to win back her family.
The Girl with the Mechanical Maiden (2013) is an interesting 15-minute film. An inventor is distraught when his wife dies in childbirth and constructs a mechanical nanny to care for his baby. The nanny serves as a wet nurse, efficiently producing milk for the baby from its metal breasts.
An exception to the kindly and nurturing nanny was Galatea (Kiersten Warren), a domestic robot in Bicentennial Man (1999). The feminist is back for sure. Galatea is obstinate and selfish. She would rather dance than work. She loses her temper with her inventor (Oliver Platt) for giving her too many household duties. It is played for comedy as she upbraids him, but her behavior becomes menacing as she waves her arms wildly and shouts in his face.
|Kiersten Warren and Robin Williams in Bicentennial Man (1999)|
G2 was a funny new robocop in Inspector Gadget 2 (2003).
T-X was a memorable character in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003).
Tricia Helfer is manipulative and seductive as shapely humanoid Number Six in Battlestar Galactica (2004-2009).
A robot constructed in a teenager's garage has a few glitches in a 2004 episode of Wicked Science called "Double Date."
Then, we have a lovely, blonde-haired robot played by Nectar Rose in Serenity (2005). The role, small but memorable, tread in Stepford Wives territory. Jeffrey A. Brown, author of "Dangerous Curves: Action Heroines, Gender, Fetishism, and Popular Culture," explained, "[A] reclusive techno-geek lives with his love-bot 'wife' Lenore."
This is Cybodain Model 103 from Cyborg She (2008). The film is a twist on The Terminator. A man falls in love with a female robot that was created by his future self to travel back in time and prevent a shooting that will leave him paralyzed.
The Machine Girl (2008) has many feminist elements. The Machine Girl, Ami, is really a cyborg like The Bionic Woman. Ami, a Japanese schoolgirl, seeks revenge after her brother is murdered by a ninja-yakuza family. She receives help from a husband and wife, Suguru and Miki. When Suguru is murdered by the criminal gang, his wife also vows revenge. The two woman form a warm and intimate bond before they go out together to slaughter a bunch of men. Ami's brother and Miki's husband are passive and sensitive men. In this world, strong men are violent and evil.
The film was undoubtedly inspired by Grindhouse (2007), in which a go-go dancer replaces an amputated leg with an assault rifle and grenade launcher combo.
The producers of The Machine Girl followed up this film with RoboGeisha (2009).
A female robot assassin appears occasionally on Archer ("Skin Game," 2011).
Ava, the female robot from The Machine (2013), ushered in a new era of the hyperviolent terrorist gynoid.
The trend of superpowered women cracking men's bones and ripping out their entrails was not confined to the robot genre. Film fantasy also has produced mermaids, sirens, outer space aliens and she-demons that want nothing more than to turn men into bloody corpses. This is Nymph (2014).
This is Siren (2016). After butchering many men, the siren selects one particular man that she wants as a mate. Of course, when they have sex, she has to be the one on top. How emasculating.
In Lucy (2014), Scarlett Johansson gains superpowers when she is exposed to a new illicit drug and she uses those powers to kill a bunch of men. That's it, that's the plot. Johansson's invincibility leaves out the possibility for dramatic tension. The entire film is about her killing one man after another with nothing to stop her. It is as interesting as a day at the abattoir.
An outer space alien in a well-rounded female form (again Johansson) lures various men to their death in Under the Skin (2014).
A young woman possessed by a demon savagely attacks a young man on a commuter train in an episode of The Exorcist called "Let 'Em In" (October 6, 2016). The attack is punishment for the man clutching the woman's arm and making a sexually suggestive remark to her.
Our rude boy is referred to in the script as "Golden Boy," which is defined in the traditional sense as "an especially popular and successful young man." The Urban Dictionary reports that a golden boy is "usually blonde" and he "[is] 'in' with the crowd." This type of person is alternately referred to as a "fair-haired boy." In other words, the writer sees this young man as a privileged white male who needs to be taken down a peg or two. At first, Golden Boy's friends are thoroughly amused to see their man harassing the young lady. The friends look like stereotypical white frat boys.
The one black man in the scene has such a tender heart that he must turn away. He expresses the type of haughty disapproval that you would expect from a white-haired society matron. Oh, dear, how beastly!
The Hollywood mirror tends to distort reality for its own purposes. Its purpose these days is to identify straight white men as the villains of the world. Everyone else is right and true. It has become part of the Hollywood agenda to use the gynoid, the siren, the mermaid, the outer space alien, the she-demon or any other powerful female as an icon of brutal political violence against the straight white man.
A saturation point for female robots came in 2015.
|Gemma Chan in Humans|
|Emily Berrington in Humans|
Her first customer is an elderly man who has a repugnant sex fantasy. He tells her, "I want you to act scared." He becomes excited as he says this. He comes closer. "I want you to be young, too." When Niska refuses, he becomes angry and reminds her that he has paid for her services. He insists, "For the next hour, you belong to me!" This is her cue to declare her independence. "I don't belong to anyone," she says. Her superhuman strength allows her to easily snap the man's neck.
Niska threatens to kill the brothel madam when she tries to stop her from leaving. She tells the madam, "Everything your men do to us they want to do to you!"
Humans is a remake of a Swedish series called Real Humans. Niska in Real Humans (Eva Röse) is ruthless about her own survival. She murders a sweet old couple that she encounters because she fears that they will tell the authorities that they have seen her. She is not wreaking justice on men with pedophile fantasies. She is murdering to stay alive, which is primal, apolitical, and more interesting.
|Eva Röse in Real Humans|
A man should take care not to be fooled by the way the female robot can mimic a fertile woman. The hormonal boost that occurs when a woman approaches ovulation can create subtle changes in her appearance that can be detected intuitively by a man. Most obviously, the changes in blood flow will add a slight rosiness to a woman's cheeks. When a female robot displays those same rosy cheeks, it is a false cue that will only lead a man astray.
The series producers make sure to emphasize Niska and Astrid's relationship by having the couple kiss at every opportunity. It is defiance. It is celebration. It is a way to shock. It is not romance. The Black Mirror episode "San Junipero" presented a love affair between two women that is deeply moving. The lovers are real people who have no agenda other than to love one another.
|Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw in The Black Mirror ("San Junipero," 2016)|
It is unsettling the way that the series denigrates the human race while extolling the virtues of the robots. Morgan Jeffrey of Digital Spy found that, from the start, "the [series'] antagonists were very recognizably us." It was, in his words, "a story about righteous robots hitting back at their cruel human masters." We are led to believe that humans are callous and selfish for simply wanting to hit the off-switch on machines that have become wildly unpredictable and dangerous. Even in the second season, when the series introduces a female robot even more ruthlessly violent than Niska, the implication is that the occasional rogue robot is justified in choking or stabbing a vile human.
The Hawkins family, humans who have come to help the robots, will do everything they can for the robots even though their efforts endanger their lives, traumatize the children, and threaten to break apart the family. But that's all in a day's work for a robot advocate. By every indication, the Hawkins believe that the robots are more important than themselves and are willing to sacrifice themselves to assure the robots' survival. They serve the robots so selflessly that the robots are able to stand beside them as their undisputed masters. It is the family's thinking, presumably, that the robots are the next thing and humans need to clear out of their way.
|Human's Hawkins family: Tom Goodman-Hill, Katherine Parkinson, Lucy Carless, Theo Stevenson and Pixie Davies|
The series is, in the end, a form of creepy robot worship. The sharp and steady decline in the ratings for the series may be evidence that viewers became increasingly unhappy with the series' anti-human message. The writers' message became loud and clear: "Humanity sucks! Let's tear it all down!" It is a variation of the white guilt narrative. It is the ideal victim narrative that makes social justice warriors tingle with delight. Diehard fans of the series are evidently rooting for a robot uprising that will wipe out the human race.
|Kiersey Clemons in Extant|
Even the little girl robot in Tomorrowland (2015), who protects the good guys, has a vicious streak. Here we have the ass-kicking Athena tearing off the head of a bad robot.
The boldest female robot film of 2015 was Ex-Machina. Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson), a programmer, has been called to the island home of billionaire software designer Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) for a very special purpose. Nathan introduces Caleb to a humanoid robot that he has created and he asks Caleb to judge if the robot is genuinely capable of thought and consciousness. The robot, Ava, looks like a very beautiful and charming young woman. It is very much the scene from the 1901 short story "The Lady Automaton."
Ava uses her charm to manipulate Nathan into helping her to escape. The fact that Nathan is a boorish host makes it easy for Caleb to betray him.
In her escape, Ava plunges a knife into Nathan's heart and leaves Caleb trapped in an airtight bunker. Caleb, the young man who fell in love with Ava, knows that it won't be long before his oxygen runs out and he will die. He stares at Ava leaving as he stands before a tiny window in the bunker door. He pounds on the door and begs her to save his life. The last that we see of Caleb, he is watching hopelessly as the dispassionate robot abandons him to a cruel end.
The final scene of the film shows Ava happily wandering through a sunny city. This is one spunky robot lady who can turn the world on with a smile.
It is like the film was a prequel to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. If she had a wool cap, Ava would probably toss it gleefully into the air. Of course, to accept this as a happy ending, we need to forget about the two corpses that Ava left behind on the island.
The director, Alex Garland, talked about Ava possessing selective empathy, which means that she is unable to have empathy for humans. Oh, right, that's understandable. So, why should I care about a character who wouldn't care if she saw me bleeding to death in a road?
Feminists don't care about women leaving men shattered in their wake. The idea is that men are controlling and narcissistic and they deserve to die.
Mark Hughes of Forbes found that Caleb only recognizes Ava as a meaningful living being because she excites him sexually. Of course, this is a fatal error on his part in that Ava is not a woman. Garland said, "[T]his is unambiguously a machine — and therefore in some respects doesn’t have a gender." Ava is, no more and no less, a robot dressed up as a woman. A real women would have talked to Caleb about a movie that meant something to her. A real women would have talked to Caleb about her dad teaching her to ride a bicycle. This shallow robot woman can be nothing more than an object to Caleb. It is because Caleb was content to objectify Ava that he put himself into danger. He imagines that he could be a hero by rescuing a helpless damsel from her evil jailer.
To feminists, this makes Caleb as much a sexist pig as Nathan. But this idea is nothing new. We already saw men suffering consequences for projecting their fantasies onto false women in the 1901 short story "The Lady Automaton" and the early scifi classic Metropolis.
Ex-Machina is even more reminiscent of The Machine, which came out only two years earlier. The two robots even share the same name. The name, Ava, is fairly close to Eve.
Larry Gaye: Renegade Male Flight Attendant (2015) is lighthearted in comparison to Ex-Machina. A plan to replace human flight attendants with robots leads to a winner-take-all multi-event competition between cocky male flight attendant Larry Gaye and blonde and gorgeous FlightPal200 (played by Rebecca Romijn).
But the film still features a female robot who expresses hostile intent towards men. At one point, she beats up the film's hero in a boxing match.
The trend started by The Machine and Ex-Machina continued with Morgan (2016). The bloodletting must continue because the world has so many pig men that need to be slaughtered. Morgan features Anya Taylor-Joy as a bioengineered woman who breaks free from her handlers at a remote research facility. The staff initiates lockdown, hoping to recapture their synthetic child, but she is powerful, unpredictable and violent. One by one, she is able to viciously slaughter staff members. She uses her teeth to rip out the throat of Paul Giamatti, who is the epitome of arrogant, ugly male authority.
At one point, she kidnaps Dr. Amy Menser (Rose Leslie), the one handler for whom she feels affection. It is suggested that she has a physical attraction to Dr. Menser.
This toxic new trend reached a peak with the Westworld television series. Let us now get to that.
Westworld is too self-conscious and too engaged in its gimmicks to achieve a raw emotional power. The series has nothing to say about psychology, or philosophy, or what makes us human. It is as emotionally engaging as a Sudoku puzzle.
It is an empty feeling to watch a television series that does not have a single worthwhile idea or a single worthwhile character to offer. The viewer is meant to care about the robots, but I couldn't care less about the robots. The robots are free from human struggle. They need not worry about hunger or death. They have no biological bonds that require them to fulfill family obligations. I can care as much about one of these robots as I can care about a toaster. Let me see if it makes a difference if I put a pair of googly doll eyes on my toaster. No, I still don't care. If it doesn’t brown my bread the way I like, it is going straight into the trash can.
Vulture critic Matt Zoller Seitz was certainly left feeling empty by the series because he could never care about the characters. Seitz wrote, "[The makers of Westworld] have constructed their series as a curated data stream, a succession of talking points and plot points and ideas, an algorithm with characters in place of digits." He likens the characters to the player piano on display in the show. He wrote, "[T]he clockwork plotting takes over and turns them into punch-card holes."
The series suggests that the soul is irrelevant if it exists at all.
Blogger Sam Chaltain wrote:
Westworld, a story in which future citizens spend up to $40,000 a day exercising their most base impulses – sexual violence and murder chief among them – in a vast adventure theme park filled with blissfully unaware android 'hosts.' These hosts are pre-programmed with narrative storylines. Their memories are then wiped clean after each new day of rape and pillage, resulting in an endless loop of unconscious servitude.
Kimberly Winston of Religious News Service asked, "What price does a judgment-free zone, where all manner of sins from murder to rape can be committed, extract from our humanity?" The series is built on the misanthropic idea that, without police, courts and prisons, men would run around raping and killing. These men are let loose in a world where they can do anything they want and this is the best thing they can figure to do? We already saw this idea explored in the Purge films. But our society still has decent people who seek experiences that lift their hearts, nourish their souls, and enlighten their minds. We respond enthusiastically to art that reveals the beauty of the world. When we go on vacation, we want experiences that make us laugh, make us feel good about ourselves, and make us feel connected to our loved ones. Where in Westworld do we have something as romantic as a gondola ride through the canals of Venice? What exists in Westworld that is silly enough to make us smile? I considered at first the possibility that the men of this future time are no longer capable of emotion and they need robots, with their simulated tears and programmed cries, to remind them of emotion. But another explanation for park is revealed in time. Westworld, we are made to believe, is a man's world. It is a place where men go without their wives and children. Westworld, as far as we can tell, is designed to release the primal beast that lies trapped and despairing inside of white powerful men. The series' message is that, at their core, these men are beasts who derive sadistic pleasure from drawing unendurable pain from the rest of us. Logan, whose family owns the park, assures first-time visitor William, his soon-to-be brother-in-law, that the park will reveal his true self. That makes the park a regressive utopia, which doesn't make it a utopia at all.
The series borrows more from Ex-Machina than it does from the original Westworld. The series centers on two female robots who are plotting to kill their creators to obtain their freedom.
The big bad on the show is an overfed old white man who kills women (including a gay woman) and subjugates a black man.
One of the female robots, Delores, speaks unfavorably of people who see only the ugliness in the world. I would assume then that Delores would not be fond of the people who write this show.
Westworld asserts that man could create life as well as God. It is an idea that was once seen by moral men to be perversely arrogant. It is on the basis of this arrogance that the series erases the line between a human woman and a robot woman. According to the series, a robot woman that has achieved consciousness is no different than an actual woman. She can think and she can feel, which means that she deserves the same rights as a real woman. Any effort to deny this robot human rights is immoral. The series proposes that no boundaries should inhibit the robots, which means that they should be free to leave Westworld and migrate into the human population. The fact that they are fleeing persecution in Westworld makes them refugees that deserve universal support and protection. The series provides a wily comment on our own refugee crisis just like another HBO series, Game of Thrones. I examined Thrones' politics in an article last year.
The lunatics on The European Parliament Committee on Legal Affairs must have watched too many episodes of Westworld because they have recently assigned legal rights to robots.
Hollywood has conditioned us to feel extraordinary sympathy when a black actor appears on screen. It doesn't matter if the black actor's character has earned our sympathy. In the case of Westworld, it doesn't even matter that the black actor is portraying a robot. Forget about long-standing views on biology and humanity. A robot with dark skin is a black life. Its treatment matters just as much as the treatment of any man with dark skin. It is the notion that pigment defines an individual more than the bits and pieces that it contains beneath its skin. Skin color is more important than content. Biology no longer has meaning to people who believe that everything is a social construct.
The series' writers get lost in their own flights of fancy and lose track of the fact that their robot characters are robots. We are meant to believe that robots are hot-blooded sexual beings. But it doesn't mean much for a pair of robots to have a passionate, sweaty sexual encounter. It is a meaningless activity no matter how many densely packed sensors have been fitted into their synthetic genitals.
The robots demonstrate a preference for gay sex and interracial sex, which is meant to set them apart from the standard settlers of the real American West. The robots are, in the writers' calculated conception, rebels and outsiders.
Everything in the first season of the series leads to Delores pulling out a gun and shooting down dozens of guests, all of whom are white. It looks like Columbine or Fort Hood except that we are supposed to sympathize with the shooter. Really? Delores cries, "This world doesn't belong to them - it belongs to us!" This could be the battle cry of the many modern-day political rebels who base their entire political philosophy on the destruction of white people.
On the slate for a 2017 release is Ghost in a Shell, which involves a cyborg policewoman who works to defeat the diabolical plot of a computer hacker. It is unknown yet if the robot, played by Under the Skin and Lucy's Scarlett Johansson, kills a bunch of white men. I assume she does.
But, of course, she always has love for the ladies.
|Chaplin imitator Billy West in unidentified film|
I am a big fan of Francis Veber comedies. This is the trailer for Veber's 1974 comedy The Return of the Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe.
It was widely reported that, in his creation of John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017), director Chad Stahelski was influenced by the work of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd. Here is a video on the subject created by Christopher Aguiar.
In an episode of Review with Forest Macneil ("Life as a Little Person," 2015), TV host Forrest MacNeil (Andy Daly) surrounds himself with oversized props to understand what it's like to be a little person.
Here are screen captures of the lovely Phyllis Coates in Panther Girl of the Kongo (1955).
In The Taming of the Snood (1940), Buster Keaton climbs onto a high building ledge to retrieve a parrot that has escaped out a window with an expensive ring.
A hat mix-up bit is featured in I've Lost My Eyeglasses (1906).
To my knowledge, this is the earliest version of the routine to appear in a film.
Hat mix-up business continued for decades. Here is another example from Road to Rio (1947).
I really enjoy this bit of business performed by Hank Mann in J-U-N-K (1920).
A bar of soap is confused for a brick of cheese with the expected results in The Bowery Boys comedy Let's Go Navy! (1951).
An old comedy standard - the lion in the backseat of a car - is revived by Jackie Chan for Kung Fu Yoga (2017).
|Zach Galifianakis. Ed Helms and Bradley Cooper in Hangover (2009)|
Discussions of the renowned mirror routine often make reference to A Rolling Stone, a 1919 Billy West comedy in which the routine is performed by West and Leo White.
|Billy West and Leo White in A Rolling Stone (1919)|
The print is among the holdings at Cinematek, a film archive in Brussels, Belgium. The lack of opening titles has prevented the archive from identifying the film. It seems to be one of the films that West made for the King Bee Studios in 1917. My best guess is that it's either The Villain or The Millionaire.
I talked months ago about the "money shower" trope. Here is a recent example of that trope from Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017). Spider-Man disrupts a robbery in an ATM vestibule and high-powered blasts from the robbers' advanced weapons sends the ATM's cash swirling through the air.
Cash also floats through the air in The House (2017).
|Will Ferrell, Amy Poehler and Jason Mantzoukas in The House (2017)|
Roscoe Arbuckle's classic barber routine in The Bell Boy (1918) was recreated by his nephew, Al St. John, in the 1945 western Shadows of Death.
Al St. John in Shadows Of Death (1945)
I neglected in my article on egg comedy to mention that I Love Lucy obtained big laughs with eggs on more than one occasion. Here is a scene from a 1952 episode, "Ricky Thinks He’s Going Bald," in which Lucy gives Ricky an egg shampoo.
The series received its longest laugh (65 seconds) when it employed eggs as comic props in "Lucy Does the Tango" (1957). Ricky and Fred are feuding because the hens they bought for their new egg business aren't laying eggs. Lucy gets the idea to settle the feud by buying eggs at the grocery store and sneaking them into the hen house. Lucy has dozens of eggs hidden inside her blouse when Ricky arrives home to practice a tango routine that he and Lucy are supposed to perform at a PTA talent show. Lucy awkwardly dances with Ricky, not wanting him to learn about her scheme. The dance climaxes with Ricky thrusting Lucy to his chest, which causes the eggs to break.
Peter Reitan, author of the Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog, sent me this stage show review from 1891.
He pointed out the following line:
In "Incog," no one wants to sing, no one attempts to dance, no one falls down stairs or gets an involuntary bath from a siphon or any other source.This suggests that a comedian being blasted in the face by water from a "siphon," which could be anything from a seltzer bottle to a water fountain, was already an overused gag decades before it became a staple of film comedy.
|Asta Nielsen in The Little Angel (1914)|
Massa also wrote about Ernst Lubitsch's 1918 comedy I Don't Want to be a Man, in which a teenage girl looks to have fun by impersonating a man and realizes amid her drag frivolities that she has fallen in love with her oblivious male guardian. The film was a forerunner to Little Old New York (1923), which I wrote about in my "I Won't Grow Up!" dissertation.
|Ossi Oswalda in I Don't Want to be a Man (1918)|
I have always enjoyed the ukulele. Here is British music hall star Billy Scott playing the ukulele in A Night of Magic (1944).
This is an interesting YouTube video for Three Stooges fans. It compares scenes from Stooges films with recreations of the scenes for the 2000 television biopic The Three Stooges.
Here is a full-page magazine ad for Fox's Sunshine Comedies.
According to this ad, chimpanzee stars Napoleon the Great and Sally outdid human comedians in providing comedy that was clever and devoid of vulgarity. That's a bold claim from my perspective. I once knew a funny chimp whose best gag was to fling his excrement at people he didn't like.
Gregory La Cava, the stylish director of Gabriel Over the White House (1933), My Man Godfrey (1936), Stage Door (1937) and Fifth Avenue Girl (1939), started out in live-action films as a writer for Lloyd Hamilton. La Cava was hired by the Hamilton-White Company in July, 1921. Hamilton's head writer at the time was Archie Mayo, who received sole writing credit on the comedian's films. La Cava was promoted to director at the company the following year. The director said in later years that he directed films in Hamilton's series and Charlie Murray's "All Star Comedies" series. But, from what I can find, he only received credit for the Murray films. He remained with the company for more than two years, after which time he graduated to feature films with C. C. Burr Productions. Hamilton's series was at its peak from 1921 to 1924. It intrigues me to consider which Hamilton films that LaCava directed.
La Cava also stepped in briefly to direct new framing scenes for His Nibs (1921), a film that had been abandoned by Robertson-Cole Pictures and picked up by Exceptional Pictures.
|Chic Sales' comic versatility was the focus of the marketing for His Nibs (1921).|
John Chapman, "La Cava Likes 'Em All. . . But He's a Respecter of None," Chicago Tribune, June 15, 1941.
I was excited to learn about an upcoming DVD of Lloyd Hamilton comedies to be produced by Dave Glass and Dave Wyatt. The collection will include His Musical Sneeze (1919), Dynamite (1920), The Simp (1920), April Fool (1920), Moonshine (1920) and A Homemade Man (1928).
I will be sure to let you know when the DVD is released.
|David Niven and Olivia de Havilland in Raffles (1939)|
These films never show a woman holding a child. Associating women with motherhood has become sexist. It is better, according to Hollywood, to show a woman lovingly cradling a gun in her arms. It is by replacing a small, delicate baby with a massive firearm that we allegedly show a woman's true power. Stupid.
Do we really want little girls to fantasize about guns?
Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad (2016)
Candace Smith in My Father Die (2016)
|Jennifer Lawrence in Joy (2015)|
|Bryan Cranston and Megan Mullally in Why Him? (2016)|
|A schoolgirl punches a classmate in the throat in an episode of Big Mouth.|
I do not want to imply that the Panther Girl was the only woman to find use of a gun in the old movies. In the 1940s, the tragic heroines of melodramas might shoot an ex-lover out of jealousy or obsession (Bette Davis in The Letter, 1940, or Joan Crawford in Possessed, 1947). But it was not something they did casually or joyfully. They felt anguish for their crime and they expected to be punished.
|Bette Davis in The Letter (1940)|
|Gene Tierney in Laura (1944)|
|Jane Greer in Out of the Past (1947)|
|Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy (1950)|
|Peggy Cummins in Gun Crazy (1950)|
|Veronica Lake in The Hour Before Dawn (1944)|
|Idaho Lupino in Lust for Gold (1949)|
A woman could use a gun as a sexy accessory.
|Martha Hyer in Red Sundown (1956)|
|Natalie Wood in Life Magazine (1956)|
|Janet Leigh in Kid Rodelo (1966)|
During the Golden Age of Hollywood, the actress who most often had a gun in her hand was Barbara Stanwyck.
The only other actress to come anywhere near to Stanwyck in gun exploits was Joan Crawford.
How many phallic symbols do you count in that last picture?
And let me, finally, give honorable mention to Lizabeth Scott.
But these lethal ladies were not as prevalent in their day as film historians have led us to believe.
|Rita Hayworth in The Lady From Shanghai (1947)|
It's gotten to be a joke.
|Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy|
|Paolo Villaggio and Renato Pozzetto|
Fortunately, the comedy team remains part of a thriving industry in other places in the world.
England remains a place where a comedy team can flourish. In its day, the British music hall manufactured comedy teams at a vigorous rate. Here are a few of the lesser known comedy teams of the British music hall.
To this day, comedy teams thrive on British television.
Today, no country sponsors more comedy teams than Italy.
Renato Pozzetto and Cochi Ponzoni became popular on television variety shows.
They made appearances in several feature films between 1976 and 1978. Their films included Telefoni bianchi (1976), Luna di miele in tre (1976), Sturmtruppen (1976), Io tigro, tu tigri, egli tigra (1978), and Saxofone (1978).
|Renato Pozzetto and Cochi Ponzoni in Sturmtruppen (1976)|
Pozzetto tended to dominate the act with his comic man-child character.
|Pozzetto in Io tigro, tu tigri, egli tigra (1978)|
Here are a few of his films. You will notice that, though he made a point to pursue a solo career, he often worked in close collaboration with another actor.
La patata bollente (1979) (English language version: Hot Potato)
Bernardo Mambelli alias "Gandhi" (Renato Pozzetto) is a PCI militant and pugilist working at a Milanese paint factory. One night, he sees a bunch of neo-Nazis beating a frail young man (Massimo Ranieri). He saves the man and brings him to his house to learn that he is Claudio, a homosexual. With nowhere to go, Claudio starts staying at Bernardo's house but a series of typical misunderstandings lead his comrades as well as his girlfriend Maria (Edwige Fenech) to believing that he has "turned gay". Bernardo is now seen as a potential lost cause and the ongoings soon reveal a "hot potato" situation for him.
Giallo napoletano (1979) (English language version: Atrocious Tales of Love and Death)
|Pozzetto with Marcello Mastroianni|
Sono fotogenico (1980) (English language version: I'm Photogenic)
|Pozzetto with Vittorio Gassman and Edwige Fenech|
Zucchero, miele e peperoncino (1980) (English language version: Sugar, Honey and Pepper)
Mia moglie è una strega (1980)
Fico d'India (1980) (English-language version: Prickly Pairs)
Un povero ricco (1983) (English language version: Rich and Poor)
Il ragazzo di campagna (1984) (English-language version: The country boy)
È arrivato mio fratello (1985) (English language version: Here's My Brother)
Grandi magazzini (1986) (English translation: Department Stores)
7 Chili In 7 Giorni (1986) (English language version: 7 kilos in 7 days)
Da grande (1987)
Plot summary: A tram driver (Enrico Montesano) and a banker (Pozzetto) become friends during a survival training course.
Casa mia, casa mia... (1988) (English translation: My house, my house)
Le comiche (1990) (English language version: The comic)
Pozzetto joined with fellow comedian Paolo Villaggio for three films.
Piedipiatti (1991) (English language version: Flat Feet )
Infelici e contenti (1992)
Plot summary: A crippled man (Pozzetto) and a blind man (Ezio Greggio) strike up a friendship and go on an impromptu vacation to a beach resort.
Anche i commercialisti hanno un'anima (1994)
Mollo tutto (1995) (English language version: I'll Leave It All Behind Me)
Internet Movie Database Summary: "Franco is tired of his life as a shopkeeper in Rome and decides to leave his wife and daughter to begin a new life in Tunisia. Things don't work out as planned and he's forced to go back to Italy after a few years. Completely destitute, he is hired to work as a waiter in his old shop by his wife, who fails to recognize him."
Pozzetto and Ponzoni reunited in 2000 for a television series, Nebbia in Val Padana.
The duo reunited again for a 2007 feature film, Un amore su misura.
|Cochi Ponzoni, Renato Pozzetto and Camilla Sjoberg in Un amore su misura (2007)|
Casa e bottega (2013) (English translation: Home and shop)
Pozzetto, now an elder statesman of the local comedy community, continues to be active in feature films.
Gigi Sammarchi and Andrea Roncato starred in ten films between 1982 and 1987.
Acapulco, prima spiaggia... a sinistra (1982)
I camionisti (1982)
Se tutto va bene siamo rovinati (1983)
L'allenatore nel pallone (1984)
I pompieri (1985)
Mezzo destro mezzo sinistro - 2 calciatori senza pallone (1985)
Doppio misto (1986)
Il lupo di mare (1987)
Rimini Rimini (1987)
Tango blu (1987)
Salvatore Ficarra and Valentino Picone have been consistently successful with the ten feature films that they have produced since 2000.
This is the poster for Andiamo a quel paese (2014).
Pasquale Petrolo and Claudio Gregori, billed as Lillo and Greg, have starred together in seven feature films:
Blek Giek (2001)
Lillo e Greg - The movie! (2007)
Lightning Strike (2012)
Colpi di fortuna (2013)
Un Natale stupefacente (2014)
Natale col boss (2015)
Natale a Londra - Dio salvi la Regina (2016)
The duo typically struggle to get themselves out of sticky situations. Take for instance Un Natale stupefacente. On Christmas Eve, Lillo and Greg find themselves having to take care of an 8-year-old nephew whose parents have been mistakenly arrested for growing marijuana. The following year, in Natale col boss, the actors play plastic surgeons kidnapped by a crime boss who wants facial surgery to hide his identity. The crime boss tells them that he wants to look like Leonardo DiCaprio, but the surgeons misunderstand him and make him look like septuagenarian Italian singer Peppino Di Capri. In Natale a Londra, the comedians play dog groomers who travel to London and get caught up in a plot to kidnap the Queen's dogs.
Italian comedy trio Aldo Baglio, Giovanni Storti and Giacomo Poretti, billed as Aldo, Giovanni e Giacomo, starred in nine feature films in the last twenty years.
Tre uomini e una gamba (1997) was their debut film. The Internet Movie Database describes the plot as follows: "Three friends cross Italy by car in order to deliver their boss his dog and a wooden leg."
Così è la vita (1998)
Chiedimi se sono felice (2000)
La leggenda di Al, John e Jack (2002), which is set in New York in 1958, features the comedians as three inept mafiosi who work for the notorious real-life kingpin Sam Genovese.
Tu la conosci Claudia? (2004)
Il cosmo sul comò (2008)
La banda dei Babbi Natale (2010) was released in English-language countries as The Santa Claus Gang.
Il ricco, il povero e il maggiordomo (2014)
Fuga da Reuma Park (2016)
The team also produced three concert films - I corti di Aldo, Giovanni & Giacomo (1996), Anplagghed al cinema (2006) and Ammutta muddica al cinema (2013).
|Anplagghed al cinema (2006)|
|Ammutta muddica al cinema (2013)|
Katia and Valeria (Katia Follesa and Valeria Graci) have been featured on numerous television shows since 2001.
These days, comedy teams can be found almost any place in the Western world except for the United States.
Finnish comedians Antti Holma and Riku Nieminen solicit laughs together in Kanelia Kainaloon, Tatu Ja Patu (2016).
Sami Hedberg, Aku Hirviniemi and Jaajo Linnonmaa have teamed up for the Luokka Kokous franchise, which is essentially a Finnish version of Hangover.
|Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy play a unique game of golf in Great Guns (1941)|
Golf routines were popular in vaudeville and the English music hall.
In the United States, W. C. Fields developed a popular golf routine that he performed many times on stage and screen.
I wrote before on this blog about the famous golf routine from The Honeymooners ("The Golfer," 1955).
|Elliot Gould and Donald Sutherland in MASH (1970)|
. . . to Bill Murray.
|Chevy Chase and Bill Murray in Caddyshack (1980)|
Even in the modern century, in which so much of the world has changed, a comedian can always muster a few laughs by taking a detour to a golf course.
This is a transcript of a video that I posted to my YouTube channel in February.
Fat outsiders have been the central characters in a number of classic horror novels. Norman Bates was a fat outsider. Robert Bloch introduced Norman in a scene in which a young woman registers for a room at The Bates Motel. Bloch wrote:
Mary made up her mind very quickly, once she saw the fat, bespectacled face and heard the soft, hesitant voice. There wouldn’t be any trouble.But this is Norman Bates in the film version.
Carrie White was a fat outsider in Stephen King's novel "Carrie." This is the way that King describes Carrie:
She was a slightly chunky girl with pimples on her neck and back and buttocks, no one would call her attractive. Her wet, mousey hair, dirty blonde yet completely without colour.
This is Carrie in the film.
Oskar, the little boy in the novel "Let the Right One In," was a fat outsider. John Ajvide Lindqvist wrote:
[His classmates] could give a number of reasons for why they had to torment him; he was too fat, too ugly, too disgusting.The classmates call him "Piggy."
This is Oskar in the film.
The lead character in the novel version of "The Girl on the Train" is overweight. Dellany Peace of "Ms. in the Biz" blog wrote, "In the best-selling novel, 'The Girl' on the train is Rachel Watson. She is the lead character and has clearly been written by the author as overweight. With descriptors such as 'heavyset', 'fat' and 'fat arsed' (among others), Rachel is without a doubt a plus-size woman. . .'"
This is Rachel in the film.
Strangely, Hollywood producers think that a fat protagonist is more repulsive to a horror fan than a bloody severed head.
|Curly Howard gamely endures in Dutiful But Dumb (1941)|
The routine is carefully sustained while Cook expresses a variety of reactions and his rival, a prop oyster, performs a variety of tricks.
But, now, I have come across a version of the routine that is not funny at all.
This time, in The Cohens and Kellys in Trouble (1933), a feisty crab invades a bowl of oyster stew served to George Sidney and Charles Murray. The scene, with its sluggish pacing, conventional staging and bland acting, drains the material of its humor at every juncture. Sidney and Murray's low-energy antics compare abysmally to the manic, surreal turmoil that Curly Howard gamely endures in Dutiful But Dumb (1941).
I took a stress management course in college. The point was made by the instructor that people can reduce most of their stress by learning conflict resolution.
On the first day of class, we looked at the first of many case studies in which conflict arose between college roommates. I remember the case study well. A student always makes sure to keep a jar of peanut butter in her pantry. This is important to her because, some days, she will not have time between classes to stop for a sit-down lunch. The one thing that she can eat quickly on the way to class, providing her body with sufficient energy to carry her through until dinner, is a peanut butter sandwich. One morning, the student reaches into the pantry and finds that her roommate has been dipping into the jar of peanut butter. She doesn't have enough peanut butter to make a sandwich, which means that she has to make it through the afternoon on an empty stomach.
The student is justified to get angry at her inconsiderate roommate. But the author of the case study insists that the student arrange a meeting with the roommate and engage in a thoughtful negotiation. It was recommended by the author that the student follow a number of specific steps in the negotiation. I remember the author suggesting that the student tell the roommate, "If you like my peanut butter, I can buy you your own jar the next time I go to the store." The author didn't say if the roommate would need to repay the student for furnishing her with her own jar of peanut butter. The burden of resolving the situation is put squarely on the student who had food stolen from her. The effort to lay out an effective negotiation strategy remains the sole responsibility of the student. How is that right? The roommate, who is clearly the wrongdoer in the situation, is treated with kindness and patience and is not required to be repentant or make amends. Shouldn't the roommate be the one who has to run out to the store to buy a new jar of peanut butter?
The point of this lesson was that people must be avoid getting aggressive in conflict situations. They must, instead, be assertive. The word assertive needs clarification in this context. The idea of an assertive person has been redefined in modern days. Throughout history, assertive men were bold and confident. Assertive men were aggressive. But, now, being assertive simply means stating one's needs and opinions clearly to others. It doesn't matter that you shouldn't have to make it clear to a roommate not to eat your food. If their mama didn't teach them that, they have an ignorance of basic manners that no one can possibly alter at this late date.
Being assertive, as defined by today's therapists, means being a wimp. Your ancestors didn't preserve your family line for the last 200,000 years by letting dumbasses eat their food. Standing up for yourself doesn't involve negotiation. Negotiation only has value if two parties have a valid interest and either compromise or concession is possible. A person has no valid interest to capriciously devour a roommate's food. None. Zero. Do I even need to discuss the possibility of compromise? Compromise is not an option because the first party wants to eat the second party's food and the second party wants the first party to leave their food alone. The only compromise that I can imagine would be to allow the first party to eat the second party's food on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
I once believed in negotiating with bad actors, but it is an exhausting process that only serves the bad actor. A person will continue to be disrespectful and behave poorly unless they know that their misbehavior will have consequences. The roommate in this case study was an adult. An adult makes choices and they must be held responsible for their choices.