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The Unexpected (1952)
For the Time A Good Thriller Theater
It is very difficult to describe the true effect of this particular television program. It is far better to understand that one had to be curled up on a sofa, legs tucked under you, with a bag of potato chips or popcorn and a soft drink nearby.
One has to also envisage that the room lights were incandescent, and the heavy baroque furniture and lamp shades (very few had ceiling lights back then) cast shadows over the room.
The show opens with the faces of terribly frightening people looking out at you from a black & white television screen, with an image nowhere as clear as the one we have become used to today.
Now the announcer's voice intones the opening of the show: "What are these people waiting for? They are all waiting for....the... Unexpected!"
No, the 30 minute mini dramas on average never lived up in intensity to the famous opening, but from time to time they came across with one or two that stuck with you..right into your bedtime dreams. Like someone being buried alive, or a vindictive spouse coming back from the grave, or someone on the edge of going to the electric chair for a crime they did not commit.
The show was presented in a 30 minute time frame (with the occasional commercial) and it had to be done reasonably well. No, they weren't as yet up to the quality of the as yet to come - Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but for the time and audience, for the most part, they were entertaining.
Still, . all in all, considering the crap offered to us on cable or satellite television today ... it was not bad!
Girl of the Night (1960)
Flash Back: A Film Ahead of its Time
It took me a moment or so before I could remember this film - and then it came to me. At the time this film came out, I was 20 years old and living in a hotel on 44th Street, just off Broadway in New York City. Right around the corner, playing in a movie theater (located just below the then famous "Camels" smoking man display) was this film.
Outside they had hooked up a series of telephones near the lobby entrance, so that you could talk (pre-recorded) to a "Call Girl." The voice you heard was that of actress Anne Francis as the film's central character.
At the time I thought it was quite hokey and, at first, didn't spend my scarce funds on the film. But some days later a friend treated me to the film, and I was quite surprised and very impressed.
This was a damn good film for its time. The theme was hardly ever touched upon in films in those days. In fact, in most, at best hinted at briefly in the dialog.
This film, however, was well scripted and laid the subject bare with well written dialog. In my opinion, had it been produced some two or so decades later, Ms. Francic would have been deservedly nominated for an Academy Award.
Secret File, U.S.A. (1955)
Something is Wrong Here!!!
With no disrespect meant to the first commentator, something is definitely wrong here! First of all, I remember this show as being quite intriguing when I was age 14, which would have been in 1954.
In New York City where I lived, the show usually came on about 8:00 pm, right after the news which we watched on CBS with Douglas Edwards. After it was over, we switched to another network to see this show.
Secondly, I remember the show as having 'more' than 4 episodes and, thirdly, I remember the show having changed time venues in relationship to its scripts.
Why am I so certain of this? Because I remember the Major going behind enemy lines in Nazi Germany, being led by an undercover German citizen. And while they are traveling on foot toward their destination, at a roadblock, a staff car containing Adolph Hitler stops for a moment, and the major actually reaches for a hidden gun. His German companion then stops him and says, "No, even I cannot allow that!"
Just to check myself and recollection, I called an old childhood friend in Pennsylvania who is now a TV producer. He was also incredibly fond of this show: which he had to watch in my home in and as his parents couldn't afford a TV set.
His recollection is the same as mine. He too remembers the show's time venue changing mid run. And he too remembers more than 4 episodes. However, being that he is in the business, he comments that it is highly unlikely that any production company would have made only 4 shows, as it would be expensively foolish - even at that time.
He points out that even the studio that made the "Rocky Jones Space Ranger" TV series in 1954, produced 39 episodes before abandoning the project in the same year.
That said, I personally think the earlier episodes that dealt with the end of WW ll were better! And they must be out there somewhere.
The Liquidator (1965)
One of the Funniest Cold War Fare from the 1960's
One reviewer here wrote that this film was a poor excursion for the lead actor, Rod Taylor. I do honestly believe it to be one of his best comedy outings in his career. True, the film does lag a bit about two thirds of the way through, but its premise is solid.
One simply has to regard the film in the light of the the times it represents; which is the social environment of the late 1940's to the mid 1970's when the Cold War eventually ended. And one has to have some sense of how the Cold War era was, in itself, an exercise in the futility of bringing a major war to an end on a slow boil.
Therefore, I regard such claims as it not being humorous, or a lame attempt at such, being the inability of someone too young to have experienced the times.
Keep in mind that my generation (born in 1939) participated in 'take-cover' drills in our elementary classrooms, as serious protection from a nuclear bomb blast.
When given the signal, we kids were instructed to dive under our classroom desks, and to cover our heads with our hands until the all clear was given.
In reality, if the bomb was indeed dropped anywhere nearby, all 'take -cover would have accomplished was to yield - all gone! Yes, it was taken seriously by just about everyone.
Knowing this, it is easily understood why actual spy agencies on our side, and behind the Iron Curtain countries actually generated such extremes as history reveals of this era - as serious exercises.
Knowing this, simply sit back, relax your serious muscles, expose your humor muscles and enjoy this delightful film in the vein it was intended.
We Have A Mentally Disturbed Generation Of Film Goers!
First of all, even with a scant few trivial character actions that were a tad bit questionable, this film is absolutely - EXCELLENT! How can I say that? Well my wife and I usually get through our bag of popcorn within the first quarter of a film. This time, however, when the film ended we had almost a half bag left - uneaten.
No, it wasn't disgust from anything depicted in the film, it was simply that the film grabbed our attention and virtually never let go.
Now, who am I? Well, I am a scientist and my wife is a British midwife. Yes, we are computer competent and that may be a key element. We are also in our sixties - that may also be another key element.
However, it is my opinion that most of the reviews written here (with the bare exception of the first one), were written by a generation that doesn't really know what terror is. They have been raised by so much simulated on screen violence and fake blood, that virtually nothing scares them anymore.
However again, as a technical consultant, I have traveled to over 30 countries and worked in some brutal and godforsaken areas and witnessed incredible brutality.
Trust me people, there are very scary things and situation in the real world and this film reveals, quite brilliantly, the rapid evolution of one of them within our own society.
For those of you who were not a "bit" frightened, what the hell film did you view?
Pretty Boy Floyd (1960)
Don't Look For Facts - Just Gunplay
This film was typical of the B-Movie fare of the late 1950's and early 1960's, spurred by the 1959 TV release of "The Untouchables."
The 1960 film, "The Rise and Fall of Jack Legs Diamond", and the 1961 film "Portrait of a Mobster" were better examples of how these films should and could be made well. B-movies, yes; but there's B and then there's - B made well.
The actor who portrays Pretty Boy Floyd, John Ericsons, was slated for better things, and the studios did try. He was indeed a good journeyman actor but, for some reason, simply did not have the matinée idol gene in him.
There is nothing spectacular going on in this film, but it does move and its easy watching. Its only only standout highlight worth mentioning is a, all too brief but great performance by the late "Munsters" actor, Al Lewis: look for it.
The Monolith Monsters (1957)
Excellent Film Except For.....!
I ask you, how is it possible for people to frantically run around in the desert, and somehow manage to keep their perfectly coiffed hairstyles? Why don't they have sweat stains on their light colored clothing? Why don't they get visibly dirty? And most of all, this is the very first Science Fiction film where the heroes and local authorities face an imminent threat that could go from local to national, and they never even consider contacting the federal government, or calling in the military.
Other than those few sticking points, the film was, overall, well acted, well written and well shot. And the special effects were above standard. In fact, scientifically, it even made sense on many points.
The Magic Cottage (1949)
The Magic Cottage
Broadcast on the Dumont Television Network between 1949-1952, and almost forgotten by TV historians, what a wonderful early children's television show this was. For certain, no family killers or Columbine shooters were ever launched by the fare on this marvelous broadcast.
The host of the show was a cute and demure lady named, Pat Meikel, who looked somewhat like a schoolteacher. I'd love to know more about her, but there is little vintage television data on her or, surprisingly, her little gem of a show. The general concept of the show was so delightfully simple.
Miekle would skillfully draw in charcoal on an easel a character of her own invention (like the Good Witch Hazel, and the Spanish cavalier Juan Two Three), and then by uttering the same magic words each time - a-roo ba-roo, she'd summon them up. And through the early special effects available at the time, crude though they may have been by today's standards, they'd magically appear portrayed by real actors.
There were also many original teaching songs about morals, caring for the safety of others and racial prejudice which, unfortunately. I am longer able to remember the words to. But neither my much younger brother or me, both avid viewers of the show, ever forgot the impact of their meaning.
Where ever you are, Ms. Miekle, Bravo! You did a heck of a job and were the best and cleanest of inspirations for so many young minds of the time. Hopefully, we made you proud too.
The Hunter (1952)
Early Television's Best Cold War Adventure Show
Call it what you like, Red baiting, Communist fearing mania or whatever (maybe a little bit of Mc Cartheyism),who cares. The show, however, under the glib acting talents of star Barry Nelson was very watchable and, most times, quite enjoyable - for the time.
Nelson portrayed wealthy man about town (then referred to as a playboy), Bart Adams, a carefree, booze loving womanizer who had a secret side. Adams was a freelance Communist hunter - hence the show's title, "The Hunter."
Through some sort of secret network (never fully explained in the series) he was able to ferret out agents for the Russian government working inside the U.S.A. And at times, the cheaply made show had Adams working, clandestinely, inside a Communist country.
Like with the Leslie Charteris character, Simon Templer (The Saint), Adams character had a signal tune that was whistled in the beginning credits of the show and after his triumphant success - even though you never saw him at the end - which was meant to state that he'd escaped his enemies.
That tune was "Are you sleeping, are you sleeping, brother John, brother John...." - followed by what was then referred to as a 'wolf whistle.' In its third season, for whatever reasons, Barry Nelson was either dropped from the show or left it voluntarily. He was replaced by actor Keith Larson and the show lost something vital. It ended at the beginning of that third season.
Tom Corbett, Space Cadet (1950)
What a Fantastic Space Travel Adventure Show!
Long before the advent of Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock, there was "Tom Corbett Space Cadet." And the camaraderie's of fiction characters that we came to know and adsorb so well in "Star Trek" in 1966, was successfully captured here first in the early 1950's.
Tom Corbett (Frankie Thomas), the wise cracking Roger (Jan Merlin) and the Venusian, Astro (??) . I didn't know of a single kid on my block or in my grade school who didn't use the character Roger's famous term - "Aw go blast your jets!" It was a great show for its time and, in many ways, ahead of its time.
Long live the crew of the Polaris!
The Sound Of Shattering of Innocence In A Gentler Time
During lunch-hour from my first full-time job in 1959 at the age of 19, I happened by a sidewalk newsstand in New York City, and spied the shocking front page headline of the New York Post: SUPERMAN - TV IDOL A SUICIDE.
Yes, for all intents I was at that time an adult, but the child in me was still buried not too far below my still developing adult personality: and that child was shocked. How could this be? After the reality of it sunk in, the tears flowed freely and unashamedly from me and a lot of people on the street at that time.
It is difficult for the younger generation of today to understand, why a grown man would cry over the death of a person he never knew personally, who in turn portrayed a person who never existed, and I don't fault them for that.
My generation grew up in a kinder, gentler time when we encouraged children to expand their horizons through their imaginations. And in that world where only the very young seem to be able to frolic without tripping over their sanity, there was in residence a very real character - to us: Superman.
By chance and a lot of luck, "The Adventures of Superman" came to TV in 1953 with a cast of incredibly good and capable character actors, all aiming professionally for better things, but stuck there by destiny. And there on that small black and white TV screen, they gave us their absolute best and made a legend come to life.
This very well made film has perfectly cast not only the actors, but the times as well in a well balanced portrayal of an unfortunate event, the mysterious death of the star of Superman, George Reeves. Was it really suicide or murder? We may never know for sure.
If there is any fault in the film was the very limited, deadpan portrayal of Phyllis Coates, the first actress to play Lois Lane in the series. To this day, her Lois Lane charactorization is one to be envied and copied.
This actress was never deadpan on or off the set, and she acted each scene as though she was auditioning for a bigger part - which she may well have been.
This is not a perfect film about what really happened that night, but then again, since we don't have all the pieces, this is, indeed, well made supposition. It really couldn't be better.
Atom Squad (1953)
What Went Wrong On Live TV Was As Interesting As The Plots
As a budding Scientist (actually became a chemist) I watched this show faithfully. The plots were banal but it was what went wrong that caught your eye.
I remember one episode when this "mad scientist' was about to launch a bad weather rocket against New York City (where else),and as the prop rocket filled with magnesium sparklers lifted - most likely by rope pulley,the rope broke and this thing fell back down the chute to the studio floor. And here was this poor actor trying to give his best 'mad-man' dialog and suppressing a smile as this prop fizzled on the studio floor.
One Serious Omission from A Rather Good Series
I remember Darren McGavern speaking some decades later on two talk shows about this series. The series was based on the riverboat freight transport system that operated in the New Orleans and Lousiana area during the late 1800's.
Mc Gavern stated on at least two occasions that there was great disharmony among the writers and producers because, he said, the network and the sponsors didn't want any Black people in the show.
Rightly so, McGavern thought this restriction stupid, since at that time in that area depicted in the series, the majority of the laborers on the docks and piers were Black and Creole.
Then again, it was the late 50's to early 60's and such was the policy of the networks.
A Departure for American Television Westerns of the Late 1950's
This show's character was a major departure for standard western characterizations of the late 1950's. And the individual solely responsible for that swing in characterization was the series star, Robert Culp.
Culp played the show's lead character, Texas Ranger Hobey Gillman, as a hip, cool dude; somewhat reminiscent of the then running top rated detective series, Peter Gunn.
Culp gave the character a cool walk 'hip-diddy' walk, and spoke his lines as though he'd taken his responses off the top of his head and, basically, without any thought whatsoever before doing so. He was even cool when someone had the drop on him, or when he outdrew the bad guy. He was just plain 'cool'.
Robert Culp sharpened this image during his tenure in his first television starring role and vehicle. He then deftly transferred it, intact, to the character Kelly Robinson in the 1965 TV espionage hit, "I Spy."
In that top rated series in which he starred with acting newcomer Bill Cosby, to this day, many fans of the show felt that it was Culp's acting demeanor that gave the show it's real appeal.
Unfortunately, Cosby's being the first Black in a television series in a lead role, stole the show from him. Cosby became the viewer draw.
Culp was initially hired to be the 'lead' star in the series, but in the last three years of its run, Cosby was the everyone talked about even though, clearly, he was not the veteran or polished actor Cosby was.
In the final two years, Cosby was even paid more for his participation than Culp was, which did not come out until some ten or more years after the series ended.
Regardless, the series was a good one for its time, even though now quite dated to a younger generation who know little of and care less about the 'Cold War' period of history.
This Show Was In It's Opening
I was 15 at the time this show came began it's short televised run. At that time, the television air waves were heading toward becoming wall to wall westerns. In fact, this was he year "Gunsmoke" made its debut. This show however was not in that league.
In fact, it wasn't even in the Gene Autry/ Roy Rogers league. What it did have going for it was a veteran B western actor, Douglas Kennedy, who had never been a lead star - even in a B western. He was simply a reasonably good background character actor. And the only reason I can fathom a studio choosing him for this series role (which had some potential)was that he had to have come cheap.
Yet despite these obvious failings,in its beginning,the show drew a great deal of attention. For in the opening, Kennedy as the star character, leaps onto the screen wearing two guns, drew both guns, fired four shot toward the screen, and while doing this, he flipped the other gun into the air.
He then tosses the gun he's shooting from his left hand to the now empty right, while deftly catching the other gun in his left hand, all the while continuing to fire. When he's through firing, he twirls both guns and holsters them neatly.
Every cowboy oriented kid in the TV audience and some adults too) tuned in regularly to see this feat of gunman-ship, or gun acrobatics if you wish. It was really cool. But the producers never followed it up with a decent script for a decent show to follow this highly successful opening act. The show died in its second season - even though Steve Donavan Western Marshall comic books were already on the newsstand and doing reasonably well.
Talk about snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Go figure.
A Lost America In It's Purest Form
This program ran from 1950 to 1955. Most of its run was done in a 15 minute format, which was perfect for the subject matter at the time; not quite soap opera, yet not quite true dramatic fare. Indeed, it was something else at a time when television was really very new and still finding its way.
I lived in New York City at the time it debuted and was 10 years old. Like any other kid, I got out of school at 3 O'Clock and was home in time for other 15 minute fare produced for kids: "The Gabby Hayes Show", "Atom Squad" and the like. But the really good stuff (like "Tom Corbett Space Cadet" and "The Wild Bill Hickock Show") did not come on until 5:30 PM. And to boot, we only had 4 channels at our disposal.
So what was a kid with this incredibly hypnotic,new fangled gadget, TV, to do? Watch something else. So in time, I began to watch "Hawkins Falls."
First of all, this program, broadcast in the grainy black & white of the time, was (I realize today) a "true" depiction of mid 40's to early 50's suburban life in White American communities. And it was far more realistic than "Ozzie & Harriet", "Leave It to Beaver" or "The Donna Reed Show" would ever be.
More important, it was well acted by real looking character actors. And since it was live early television, the prop errors,dialog slips, missed cues and lines enhanced the 'its's happening now' effect.
The show began to grow on me and, believe it or not, in time, not only did I come to like it, but I developed and early pubescent crush on one of the main characters, Lorna, who was old enough to be my mother.
This was not an easy burden to carry in my neighborhood, because I was a young Black kid living in a Black area of New York City, called Harlem. And such thoughts were not openly spoken of in either the White or Black communities (even though I did grow up to marry a member of the White race).
So I kept my passion as secret from my friends as I did the fact that I was watching such a television show.
Nevertheless, in my adult life and memory, I know how good a show it was, and I only wish the people of today could view it and judge for themselves an America of their grandparents, long gone.
Unfortunately, there are not even any Kinescope copies of the show remaining. Too bad! A valuable piece of television history gone forever.
Top Secret (1954)
You Simply Had To Have Lived In The Times
They don't have shows like this anymore, and that's quite sad. For they went the way the short story would in the following 20 years.
It should also be pointed out, that the description given is in error. This was not a 30 minute show, it was a 15 minute show; virtually the last of it's type in the mid 1950's.
Like many early television shows of the time it was meant to attract, equally, adolescents as well as adults. For instance, very few people other than avid fans of the early 50's television series, "The Adventures of Superman", know the show was originally conceived as an adult program. "Top Secret" fell into this category.
In retrospect, it was a show just perfect for individuals (like myself) now referred to, by the younger generation, as "geeks." It was not heavy on science, even though science was it's backdrop. But the series did revolve around what was then, in concept, an early Univac computer; though the term computer was not as yet used. And that's how it's opening narrative introduced the show:
"This is the automatic mass integer calculator known to it's friends as AMIC. It can solve a complex mathematical problem in 30 seconds, that would take 100 mathematicians, working continuously around the clock 30 years..." And then of course, they introduced the crew.
Each episode dealt with an adventure set to the theme of a technically driven threat to humanity, or a social crisis solved by scientific application and. of course, the critical resource of AMIC. When it came on in the afternoons after school, I was glued to the TV set.
There were four regulars in the series but, ironically, the two mentioned by the IMDb are also the only ones I remember. In any case, having those two alone was, indeed, quite impressive.
Paul Stewart was a well known and respected supporting actor in film noir of the 1940's, whose career was ebbing a bit at the time. And Gena Rowlands was in the very early phase of what would be a budding film and television career.
At the time of the series, I was a 15 year old Science freak just entering high school. I did go on to become a Scientist. And I think, quite possibly, shows like this little almost forgotten gem from early television, had something to do with that well chosen life's path.
A Remarkable Human Rendering of the Scientist As A Human"
There is very little more that I can add to the kudos for this film, other than utter praise. I can understand and I know. You see, I am one of these people, a Scientist.
We as a breed are seldom understood and, more often than not, badly served by cinema image. This film of the quiet, patient, dedicated love between two people, one of whom is a Scientist, is a milestone.
Might I add that I have always felt that Matthew Broderick is a fantastic actor, especially in roles that require an average looking, quiet introspective character. He is perfect for this cinematic vehicle, and equal to the talents of a Tom Hanks any day. I was also impressed that he produced, directed and shared writing credits on this film project.
Strangers in the City (1962)
A Quiet Little Film Of Compelling Power
I saw this film for the first time, on television in New York City, back in 1964. I was so moved by the experience, that I kept watch for it in a rerun theater (before VCR's), so that I could view it without the edits for television.
Finally, two years later, I found it showing in an art theater in Greenwich Village. That was the last time I did see this humble masterpiece. And after 37 years, the images of this little film still resonate within my psyche.
It was the simply told, well acted story of a Puerto Rican family who emigrate from their homeland, to New York City, in search of a better life. In their innocence, what they obtain is a run-down ghetto apartment where they are outnumbered by the roaches and rats. And where, one by one, starting with the father, then the teenage daughter, then the son and finally the mother, they are swallowed up in the smoldering melting pot that was late 50's to early 60's New York City.
Each one is, at some point in their earnest quest to survive, humiliated, debased (both socially and sexually) and, finally, for two of them, led to death as the only salvation from the nightmare they have found themselves trapped in.
It is a moving film that every American should see, at least once, to gain a broader understanding of the Hispanic experience in America; long before the coming of the likes and fame of Jenifer Lopez could be achieved.
Trust me, you will be moved and you won't forget the experience.
On the Beach (1959)
As a Scientist and film lover, I have never accepted the basic idea of this film. Though well acted, the idea that several thousand reasonably intelligent people would put themselves to sleep, permanently, to avoid deadly radiation just doesn't make sense.
Clearly, there had to be options. And this is the reason why good authors, like author Neville Shute, should consult Scientist before coming up with such a preposterous story line.
Even if such a war had been fought with Cobalt warheads, there would still be option
Acting= 10 Story line= 0
The Girl Hunters (1963)
This Film Has Its Moments - Too Few!
This film starring Mickey Spillane as his hero creation, Mike Hammer, does indeed have its moments. The problem is, if we splice those moments together and remove the rest, the film runs, at best, 20-22 minutes; maybe 25 if you add the opening credits. As such, this would made a great 30 minute 1950's television episode.
Spillane does a credible job of personifying his character, Mike Hammer. The key reason being, Hammer was crafted as a reflection of Spillane. Therefore, Spillane had only to play himself which, after a lifetime of practice, was not difficult.
Then we have to ask, what's wrong with this film? And the answer is, everything that comes between its 25 minutes of glory, as mentioned earlier. In essence, there simply is no film to speak of.
The truth of the matter is that, Spillane, should have been content with the chance to portray his character on screen for the first time -as he thought "Mike Hammer" should be portrayed - period. After all, for years he'd complained that he didn't like the previous screen portrayals (with particular venom reserved for Biff Elliot's performance in "I the Jury" in the mid 50's). But being a writer himself, he wasn't content, and interfered with the film's experienced screen writing staff. The net result was not good.
Spillane tried to paint in a specific background for the film, that included real bits of his life. The end product was right for a book, but not for a screenplay of a, supposed, action drama.
For instance, he insisted on including his close confidant and friend columnist Hy Gardner. Gardner's scene is long and boring, because Gardner himself is boring. If he wanted Gardner included, he should have allowed an experienced character actor to portray him, vigorously, via a good script.
One of Spillane's favorite bistros was one of New York's best German restaurants, located on 44th Street in Manhattan. The film spends a lot of dead time showing him walking to that location, and having protracted conversations with the other character actors in the darkened restaurant. The conversations are long and, for the most part, pointless. I'm certain however, for the publicity, the management was quite happy.
This film serves two purposes:(1) it does indeed show how the character of Mike Hammer should be portrayed to be true to the Spillane books.
(2) It shows how not to make a - almost "Film Noir" - detective film.
My suggestion, see Ralph Meeker as Mike Hammer in "Kiss Me Deadly". Now that's a detective film and that's "Film Noir".
Two Weeks Notice (2002)
Perfect Training Film On How To Not Make A Movie
This film is really bad. I understand that the star, Sandra Bullock, was its producer. No matter, it still stinks.
This film has the look and feel (not to mention sound) of a classroom project of a first year film student. In fact, it has all the earmarks of a first year film student who will not likely prosper in the industry.
If I had to describe the film in the shortest terms possible, I would state that Sandra Bullock acts off Hugh Grants British accent. The work is strained and far too long. It would have been better suited to being presented as an hour long television episode - with commercials. What a waste of time, film and the talents of two otherwise talented actors.
Mister Peepers (1952)
A Great Real People Show
Back in 1952, I was only 12 years old, and television was in it's infancy. In New York City, we had a bare four channels available, and with the exception of the "Late, Late Show" which showed movies, and the pioneering "Jerry Lester Show" which was the raw beginnings of the late night variety format, television for the most part went off at 10:00 PM and did not come on again until 7:00AM the next day. But in between those hours, seven days a week, there was great "experimentation". The Mister Peepers" show was one of those experiments that worked.
Unlike the almost perfect characters that were to come in the "Ozzie and Harriet Show" and the "Leave It to Beaver Show" in the mid to late 1950's, this show dealt with the inner anxieties and insecurity the common person deals with in a not too perfect, everyday world world. And the late, great Wally Cox was the perfect actor to epitomize the 'everyday real person'. In fact, he was magnificent at the part and within the role itself. Unfortunately, it was role that would typecast him for the rest of his acting career.
In fact, it wasn't that Cox looked like a soft spoken, shy milquetoast sort of person (horn-rimmed eyeglasses and all), he was that person. And he was aptly able to, realistically, portray a 'real person' who, despite this inability to rise above his ordinary appearance and manner, managed to meet life's constant challenges and to succeed.
The main character, Mr. Peepers, was a high school science teacher who took pride in his profession. He genuinely cared for others more than for himself, and was able to instill pride and the quest for achievement in his students, while gaining their respect. And at the end of the series, he manages to marry the girl of his dreams.
No, this was not a 'goody-two' shoes sort of show. The comedy was always there, and it was done at a slow enough pace that we had time to understand its true meaning. For when Mr. Peepers was embarrassed, so were we the viewer. But when he triumphed, be it ever so mildly or ungamly, we cheered as much for ourselves as for the character; for in many ways, Mr. Peepers was representative of the majority of us.
This was an excellent show that, unfortunately, is almost all gone now. The crude Kinescope recordings of this series, like many others produced at the dawn of television, have either been lost or destroyed. Too bad. There is much today's television audience could learn from this past comedic-dramatic gem. The series was proof positive that, when well done, pathos and comedy can go hand in hand.
Next Stop, Greenwich Village (1976)
A FILM TRIBUTE TO A VERY SPECIAL PLACE AND TIME
During June of 1954 in New York City, I graduated junior high school and, to celebrate the event, joined three of my classmates on a forbidden sojourn to the city's famous Greenwich Village. Exiting the subway station at Christopher street, we were amazed at the apparent ordinariness of this place we'd heard so much about from older adolescents and adults.
In fact, at first glance, nothing extraordinary seemed to be happening there, with the sole exception of more White people being present than four Black teenagers from Harlem were were accustomed to seeing.
For you see, this was the mid 1950's, Dr. Martin Luthor King Jr. had as yet to lead any freedom marches, Southern schools were as yet to be integrated, and in many Southern states Black people were lynched on Saturday nights as town entertainment. But three hours later, we knew that everything we'd heard about Greenwich Village was true and more. For this was a place far ahead of it's time.
In the Greenwich Village of the 1950's, racial integration had been in place for well over two decades. But far more important, forbidden talk of sexual liberation, interracial sex, homosexuality, along with political, artistic and literary freedom at all levels were openly discussed, flouted and displayed for all to see; performed to a background mixture of new age Jazz, early Rock and Roll and Folk Music. Virtually nothing was excluded from the social or musical menu this incredible place had to offer.
I can't speak for the rest of my friends on that day, but I immediately fell in love with the place and remained so, until it's untimely demise at the hands of the high rise-high priced real estate industry toward the mid 1970's. By then, the people who had made the place justifiably famous and notorious for what it was, could no longer afford to live there. So the Village remained,in name only, as it is today: a mere shadow of what it used to be.
Joyfully, director Paul Mazursky has managed to capture on film, a moving snapshot of the social life and time of a remarkable neighborhood, in what was probably the last fifteen to twenty years of it's legitimate life. And I do remember it so well. The rent parties for starving (sometimes talented) artists, the ubiquitous book shops, the coffee houses featuring impromptu poetry readings, the fashion statements (or blatant lack thereof), the mixing and making of all sorts of colorful characters who, even in their farcical attempts to parody themselves, were more alive and real then those who would put them down. This was the Greenwich Village of the 1950's and of legend.
This magical place was for me and many others (as was for the director who produced this film as an ode to his time there), our first real awakening and taste of adult life. And far more important, a fortuitous preparation for the new social order that was, in time, to come.
The place, as it was, is truly deserving of this wonderful little gem of a film.
Bowery Bombshell (1946)
One Of The Better "Bowery Boys" Flicks
When I was a kid back in the 1940's, a "Bowery Boys" film was one of the most anticipated "Saturday Mornings at the Movies" draws. And incredibly, the films attracted both adults and the pre-teen set almost equally. Upon examination, I would suspect the explanation for this bi-level attraction was the group's ability to know their cinematic level. And not only did they manage to maintained this level through a slew of inexpensive, quickly made films, but also excelled within the films limited sphere. In essence, they were unique on the cheap.
This group, starting out in the late 30's film, "Dead End", progressed to the "Eastside Kids" by the mid 40's, finally settling in as the "Bowery Boys" during the mid to late 1950's. At about that time, their comic style succumbed to the rapidly changing demands of the comedy scene on all levels and the "Boys" simply ran out of steam.
If however, you've ever wondered what made them so popular in the first place, pop some popcorn, empty your mind of any serious thought and sit back and enjoy this excellent entry for nothing more than it is. Trust me, you'll enjoy it.