Wednesday, 18 March 2020

‘SCRUPLES’, INTERRUPTED



I got upset the other day over something people would certainly call trivial. The cover of my precious SCRUPLES tore itself off almost completely during one of my re-readings. I’m afraid to open the novel now. It’s the 1978 mass market paperback Warner Books edition, the one with the inside front cover featuring the blurbs; and on the inside back cover, the full-colored image of the author. You can say I’m all inconsolable about this. I’ve always tried taking good care of the novel, never bending it too much, always using a book cover to keep it neat and clean. But I guess time rendered it fragile and in the end it just gave up. I would gladly show it to you but I’m afraid it will tear off completely if I scan it. So here’s a scan of a beat up paperback Spanish edition of SCRUPLES instead. Sure, I could always use Scotch Tape to strengthen the cover but it’s not the same as it being undamaged, is it? 

So the next best thing is to find myself another mint copy. Easier said than done, I quickly realized. With the disappearance of local used book stores and the hard-to-find tag attached to the book it is almost impossible to find it unless I pay big bucks online which I refuse to do. I did pick up a copy recently but without the inside back cover and author photo. It is not the same, I agree, but it is far better than owning nothing. That is until I get my hands on a real replacement.  

Then again, maybe I won’t. Maybe it’s the book’s way of telling me that we must part, it and I, for I did blast it a little while ago, mainly for its homophobic content which I more or less retracted later on in another post. Nonetheless karma did find a way to reach me. Still, I refuse to give any credence to that. I adore SCRUPLES too much despite its obvious flaws. So I’ll hold on to my hopes of being reacquainted with it. When will that be exactly? I have no clue yet. But mark my words, it will happen, or my middle name isn’t trash guru after all.






Until next post—Martin 
  



Sunday, 23 February 2020

‘LACE II’, THE MINISERIES, REVISITED



Having seen the miniseries LACE numerous of times since its original airing in 1984 on ABC I decided not too long ago to re-watch its sequel which aired a year or so later on the same network and towards which I was not that kind on this blog in 2013. But like I always say, only crazy people don’t change their minds—and I should know, for I’ve been working in that environment for 32-some years (buy me a drink and I’ll tell you all about it). So I am proud to say that I am now a fervent LACE II fan. Why the change of heart? Simple. They just don’t make them like that anymore. In fact, they have stopped making them like that decades ago. But when they did, rare were they as grand as this one. 

As in the original, the production team went all out for LACE II. No expense was spared. Thailand, UK, Spain, France, US. You just couldn’t get enough of these beautiful locations. And the plot. Let’s talk about the plot. Yes, I concur, it wasn’t as captivating as the original LACE but it did end up having its own merits, lots of them I might add—particularly in the way director William Hale and screenwriter Elliot Baker delivered the goods. Their overall modus operandi reminded us enough of the original LACE while also adding another layer of originality to an already intriguing story. Indeed, who hadn’t wanted to know the identity of Lili’s father? I certainly did, and I guess the producers thought so as well. So my hat is off to them for trying yet again to mix sins and glamour to a highly attractive cast of characters and aim for ratings gold. 

But as we all know by now (especially those of you who have read my former post on this much-publicized sequel) LACE II wasn’t a big ratings success as LACE had been. It received only half the audience of its predecessor. We could blame this on a lot of things: a less punchy premise, new faces replacing those of the first LACE (most noticeably Deborah Raffin as Judy), a much too long subplot involving a rebellion in Asia... But on the other hand, for those same reasons mainly, LACE II did turn out to be better than expected. At least we got something different. Well, almost different. Omit the witch hunt plot involving the three possible dads, some flashbacks involving schoolgirl Judy, Maxine and Pagan, and the emotional grand finale where Lili meets her real father, it’s almost like watching a totally different miniseries. OK, maybe not, but what is left is still quite impressive, especially how things got to be resolved. It wasn’t all wrapped up in a bow as expected. That, plus the Harlequin-like romance between Judy and her abductor, not to mention Lili doing her thing with the hunky astronaut...  All in all, good times, as would say Jerry Blake from TV’s STRANGERS WITH CANDY.  

Yes, LACE II may not have been quite as addictive as LACE but the folks behind the sequel did try their hardest to make it look just as good, which is an achievement per se. Besides, when one reaches a point in his life where he’d rather take things for what they are and not for what they’re supposed to be I’d say, lo and behold, I really had a ball with this sequel after all.






Until next post—Martin  


Wednesday, 29 January 2020

FEMALE ON THE BEACH (1955)



Confession time: Universal’s FEMALE ON THE BEACH directed by Joseph Pevney and starring the ever so intense Joan Crawford had been sitting on my shelf unwatched for years—FOR YEARS. And people call me call a trash guru. Unforgivable, if you ask me. But seriously, the main reason for this faux pas has been that I own so many titles—whether they are movies, miniseries, TV shows or books—that I hardly know where to look or, more importantly, when to focus on them. Well, now seems like a good idea for this 1955 black and white film also starring then-hottie Jeff Chandler. I took a look at it over the Holidays and indeed found it quite endearing in a so bad it’s so good manner.


Crawford plays a middle-aged rich widow who moves into a beach house owned by her late husband. Cynical to the core but always dressed to the nines, she has no time for romantic liaisons, or so she thinks. In comes gigolo neighbour Chandler for whom she eventually falls deeply. What a girl to do? Well, drink heavily when he doesn’t call, for once. Then when he does show up, drop everything (except your heels to walk on the beach) just so to be near him, which of course may lead to a proposal of marriage if you play your cards right. 


As if all this wasn’t crazy enough, Crawford also ends up discovering in the house a hidden diary in which a former tenant’s description of her romantic attachments to Chandler led her to her death from the balcony. Was she pushed? Was it accidental? I bet it wasn’t. But more importantly, will Crawford be next and still look stunning? 

As mentioned in other posts, a lot more is going on in this campy little number but I always chose to keep zilch as much as I can so anyone interested in catching the film can happily simmer in the swing of things—and this one does not disappoint, trust me. From the many mood swings of our star heroine to the crazy turn of events, to the amazing shot of our gigolo running into the ocean in a slightly girlish way, I’d say that FEMALE ON THE BEACH is indeed unintentionally funny. And thank heaven for that, for I wouldn’t have it in any other way. Sadly, this pure cinematic bonbon was to be Crawford’s last glamorous film. What followed before the actress made it big again with Baby Jane was a slew of desperate housewives vehicles that are tamer in the looks department but no less cuckoo. I’m talking about QUEEN BEE, AUTUMN LEAVES, THE STORY OF ESTHER COSTELLO. You should check them out as you should FEMALE ON THE BEACH. It has been a while since TCM aired this gem. I hope they put it on their schedule very soon.




Until next post—Martin 

Thursday, 9 January 2020

THE WOMEN OF ‘THE LOVE MACHINE’ (1971)




Last evening my hubby and I decided to re-visit a fave film of mine, one that I have not watched for a very long time but reviewed on this blog in 2012. It was none other than the 1971 screen adaptation of Jacqueline Susann’s mega bestseller THE LOVE MACHINE, directed by the guy who brought us The 42nd Academy Awards the year prior, Jack Haley Jr. I have no clue as to why executive producer and Susann’s other half Irving Mansfield have opted for this man, but Haley sure made everything look bright and groovy, never a bad thing in my opinion when it comes to early ‘70s showbiz over-the-top dramas. 








The first thing I remembered while watching the film is how happy a kid I had been the first time I had set eyes on it. I was around 10 I believe and I had just spotted one of The Price is Right original beauties Anitra Ford. She was in the fashion TV montage, broadcasted through the living room of the Judith Austin character, wife of the head of the IBC network who eventually makes and breaks Robin Stone’s career. But I’m ahead of myself. Let’s get back to stunning Anitra Ford for a second. I was a major Price is Right fan at the time and was simply astounded catching her in the film. I stayed glued to the screen in the hopes of seeing her again but to no avail. But it barely mattered, for by then I was already caught up into the whole cinematic debauchery. 

For those who have yet to see it, THE LOVE MACHINE focuses on Robin Stone, a TV reporter who sleeps his way to the top. Of course no female character emerges unscathed on his fast and sexy journey to get there. One person who learns this the hard way is sweet but dim-witted top model Amanda. By the time she realizes her predicament she has already been used and abused by him (a hard slap on the face). And that’s where it gets tricky, folks. Had the role been given to a better actress her pivotal downward spiral scene would have been something to watch. As is with then-newcomer Jody Wexler at the reins, she barely makes waves. Oh make no mistake Wexler is still fun to watch but she can hardly hold a candle to the other seasoned performers sharing the screen. It’s no surprise that THE LOVE MACHINE ended up being her only film. She passed away in 2013 at the young age of 68, according to IMDB.  

In the novel, the character of Maggie, another one of Stone’s conquests, is fully developed. In the film, however, she has three scenes. In the first one we learn that Maggie (Sharon Farrell) has already been used by Stone when she admits to have ‘auditioned’ for him for a project from which she is now being axed (reminiscent of Neely O’Hara’s abrupt exit from a Broadway musical in VALLEY OF THE DOLLS). She seems angrier for having been denied the role than for having used the casting couch to better her career. It is further confirmed when Stone chance meets her at the infamous party scene brawl at the end of the film. There she claims to having finally ‘landed’ a few roles, which makes Stone very proud. Later on, when Stone is in need of a pick me up after losing everything she offers him a lift (in other words, her help) in her expensive red-colored Jaguar, which definitely shows a somewhat lucrative career on her part. What kind of a career, that we are never sure. Stone still chooses to reject her offer. One thing we are positive though is that there clearly is a kinship between the two characters, one that will probably never come to fruition. I don’t recall if they end up an item in the book. I’ll have to check it out and come back to you.  

One female character who ends up not being on Robin Stone’s sexual radar is ‘celebrity fucker’ Ethel Evans who also works at the network. Her reaction to his cold rejection after making a pass at him? ‘You don’t know what you’re missing, buster’. Of all the women in the film Ethel is the trashiest and, strangely enough, the most likable. She knows what she is and makes no apology for it. When plain comedian du jour Christie Lane (the effective Shecky Green) makes an honest woman out of her Ethel finally feels vindicated, a stepping stone from her wild, wild ways.  She may not have landed prince charming but is very much satisfied with her newfound posh life. Besides, now that she is with child and still manages to wear the pants in the family what more could she ever want? Actress Maureen Arthur is perfect in the role. Her facial reaction to everything her clumsy husband does or says is pure comedic timing gold. We can’t see anybody else playing Ethel. Kudos to the great Miss Arthur who, BTW, is still alive and kicking as we speak. 

That leaves Judith Austin (Dyan Cannon), who, if you remember, is the powerful wife of IBC network owner Greg Austin. Clearly you wouldn’t want to mess with her, but Robin Stone does, big time. When he ends up shunning her Judith sees red. So she vindictively sets his bedroom on fire while Stone is in the shower with two other ladies. Later on while being ignored by Stone at that infamous lavish party held by famed gay photographer Jerry Nelson (played to perfection by David Hemmings) she discovers a misplaced self-inscribed bracelet belonging to Jerry but given by close friend Stone. Believing that the rumor mill is true, that Stone swings both ways, she is hell-bent on destroying his career. What follows is the zaniest cat and mouse chase in film history as Stone tries his hardest to retrieve the piece of evidence that will ruin him. He eventually does get it back just before the cops and the press show up but he still ends up losing everything in the end. What a guy to do next? Moving on, as singer Dionne Warwick so melodiously sings during the end credits. Indeed, the film makes you think that you have not seen the last of him and we certainly believe it, for he is Robin Stone after all, THE LOVE MACHINE.






Until next post—Martin