Comedian Dana Gould, who might actually be the world’s most fervent Planet of the Apes fan, often says that the appeal of the first movie lay in the fact that it featured “Moses dressed like Tarzan running from King Kong dressed like Fonzie.”
In the run-up to the final episode of Mad Men, AMC generated these self-congratulatory videos in which prominent people gush about how awesome the show is. Gould took advantage of his segment, linked at the bottom of this post, to point out that Mad Men had included the historically accurate touch of Don Draper reading a copy of The Ape in “The Flood,” an episode from Season 6 in which Don takes his son Bobby to see the sci-fi classic (a new movie in the narrative, of course).
Don Draper enjoys The Ape in Season 6 of Mad Men
Yes, it does appear that 20th Century Fox went the extra mile and had fake newspapers called The Ape and Future News printed up. Given the headline on the Future News one, it’s likely that that one was intended to promote Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, which came out in 1972. The idea of a newspaper called Future News (and billing itself as “The Future’s Picture Newspaper”) is pretty hilarious in itself. You know how we all live in the future from the perspective of our ancestors, so we do that all the time too, right? The date on that one is “Monday, May 22, 1992,” which is consistent with the plot of Conquest, which starts out in 1991, but that day was actually a Friday, and most memorable to some people as the final night of Johnny Carson’s tenure as host of The Tonight Show.
Solving the tangled chronology of the Planet of the Apes—even just the first five movies—would take the combined brainpower of MIT, and something similar goes for trying to suss out the details of these promotional newspapers, about which there isn’t very much information online.
In 1983 Dennis Hopper went to Rice University in Houston, Texas ostensibly to screen his latest film Out Of The Blue. But little known to anyone, other than Hopper and a handful of his buddies, he had another agenda entirely. While he did indeed screen his movie, Hopper had actually come to Houston to blow himself up.
After screening Out Of The Blue, Hopper arranged to have the audience driven by a fleet of school buses to a racetrack on the outskirts of Houston, the Big H Speedway. Hopper and the buses arrived at the speedway just as the races were ending and a voice was announcing over the public address system “stick around folks and watch a famous Hollywood film personality perform the Russian Dynamite Death Chair Act. That’s right, folks, he’ll sit in a chair with six sticks of dynamite and light the fuse.”
Was famous Hollywood personality Dennis Hopper about to go out with a bang?
Hopper apparently learned this stunt when he was a kid after seeing it performed in a traveling roadshow. If you place the dynamite pointing outwards the explosion creates a vacuum in the middle and the person performing the stunt is, if all goes according to plan, unharmed.
After bullshitting for awhile with the crowd and his friends, a drunk and stoned Hopper climbed into the “death chair’ and lit the dynamite.
A Rice News correspondent described the scene:
Dennis Hopper, at one with the shock wave, was thrown headlong in a halo of fire. For a single, timeless instant he looked like Wile E. Coyote, frazzled and splayed by his own petard. Then billowing smoke hid the scene. We all rushed forward, past the police, into the expanding cloud of smoke, excited, apprehensive, and no less expectant than we had been before the explosion. Were we looking for Hopper or pieces we could take home as souvenirs? Later Hopper would say blowing himself up was one of the craziest things he has ever done, and that it was weeks before he could hear again. At the moment, though, none of that mattered. He had been through the thunder, the light, and the heat, and he was still in one piece. And when Dennis Hopper staggered out of that cloud of smoke his eyes were glazed with the thrill of victory and spinout.
In this video footage shot by filmmaker Brian Huberman, we see Hopper in all his intoxicated glory before and after his death defying stunt.
At the peak of his fame and influence, from 1964 to 1966, Andy Warhol created somewhere around 500 (the number 472 popped up in my research, as seen below) so-called “screen tests.” Every screen test was a single close-up take of an individual in front of the camera lasting a little shy of three minutes—the idea was that Warhol would run them at two-thirds speed, which resulted in movies about four minutes long each. The short movies that resulted had a consistency of aesthetic feel and featured a wide variety of people, who can be roughly classified into three groups: Factory mainstays, famous people, and un-famous people. Warhol said that he did screen tests for anyone who possessed “star potential.”
As Geralyn Huxley, curator of film and video at the Andy Warhol Museum, wryly points out, “none of them appear to have been used for the purpose of actually testing or auditioning prospective actors.” Some notable people who consented to undergo the Warhol screen test treatment are John Ashbery, Marcel Duchamp, Cass Elliott, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan, Yoko Ono, Salvador Dalí, Donovan, and Susan Sontag.
The track titles on the album are very redolent of the Factory as well as the general VU scene: “Silver Factory Theme,” “Teenage Lightning (And Lonely Highways),” “Incandescent Innocent,” and “Knives From Bavaria.” In addition to much original Luna-esque music of the gorgeous and dreamy variety, the album featured covers of Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Keep It With Mine” and VU’s “I’m Not a Young Man Anymore.”
In 2012 LuxeCrush asked Dean and Britta about the project:
LuxeCrush: How did this “13 Most Beautiful…” project, pairing your music with Andy Warhol stills, come about? I love the interdisciplinary film/music idea!
Wareham: We were approached by Ben Harrison at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; he described the hundreds of films that the Museum had access to (Warhol made 472 Screen Tests) and asked could we pick thirteen of them and create soundtracks to perform live on stage.
LuxeCrush: What is your favorite Warhol art work, moment or saying? And did either of you ever get to meet Andy?
Wareham: Neither of us ever met Andy. But I love watching him answering interview questions. Where most artists are trained to give long-winded theoretical explanations of why they paint a particular way, he would just say “because it’s easy.” Warhol never ceases to amaze me. We are used to seeing the same famous images again and again (Marilyn, Coke Bottles, soup cans, etc.), but there is so much more, from his early drawings for department stores to his late paintings, paintings for children, TV shows, films. He had a way of turning things upside down.
Lots of lovely and stirring videos of Dean & Britta scoring the screen tests after the jump…...
Okay it’s been nearly 40 years since I heard The Ramones debut album for the first time and that means I’m fucking old. But I ain’t dead. In fact, I’m feeling pretty damned good. And part of the reason I feel so damned good is I’ve been on a steady diet of rock and roll since I was a itty bitty boy. Rock and roll has been the one constant in my life that has given me something that others might call a religion. From the moment I first heard “Alley Oop” by The Hollywood Argyles when I was nine years old (sitting in a tree with a radio in my lap), I was hooked.
I’ve always been a seeker, looking for meaning in life, searching for answers to the essential questions of what are we doing here and where are we going? I’ve read everything from Jung to Chogyam Trungpa to Kerouac and Crowley in my yearning for clarity and spiritual fulfillment. Aside from a few reveries and insights fueled by psychotropics or the momentary flash of cosmic consciousness you get in those special moments when something suddenly opens up your brain - maybe it’s the way a shard of prismatic light bounces off your rear view mirror or a fleet of perfectly white clouds rolling above New Mexico - my “religious” experiences have been seldom and unpredictable. But one thing, other than fucking, that consistently pulls me into the moment where bliss and contentment co-mingle is listening to rock and roll music. It’s the closest thing I have to an artistic calling or spiritual practice and when the music hits me in the right place at the right time it can be divine. And it seems that loud, fast, and hook-filled works best. The music doesn’t need to be about anything spiritual, lofty or significant. It just needs to grab me by the balls and heart, rattle my cage, and move me.
There was a barren period in my rock and roll life in the early ‘70s. Not much I wanted to listen to. I mostly bought blues and jazz albums and later reggae. Then in 1976 I heard The Damned’s “New Rose” and shortly after that I got my hands on The Ramones’ self-titled first album. These were momentous events in my life that drove me back into arms of rock and roll. Talking Heads, Blondie, Mink DeVille, Pere Ubu, Patti Smith, The Clash and Television were the second wave of musical salvation to land on my turntable that changed my life. Punk, or whatever you want to call it, defibrillated my rock and roll heart and inspired me to start my own band. And I wasn’t alone.
In this fine documentary directed by Don Letts (who knows a thing or two about punk rock) a bunch of aging punkers talk about the roots of the punk scene and their love of the music they make. There’s not much new here but it’s good to see Steve Jones, Pete Shelley, Howard Devoto, Siouxsie Sioux, Captain Sensible, Mick Jones Jones,David Johansen, Jello Biafra, Wayne Kramer, Thurston Moore, Legs McNeil and Tommy Ramone, among many others, wax poetic about the music explosion that was detonated in the mid-70s. It’s amazing how many survived. And deeply saddening that since this film was made in 2005 we’re down to zero original Ramones.
“Punk is not mohawks and safety pins. It’s an attitude and a spirit, with a lineage and tradition.” Don Letts.
Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse is known for their quirky public service announcements instructing people to not talk or use cell phones during movie screenings. Here’s a new one that I think stands out. George Miller who directed the Mad Max films, including the masterful Mad Max Fury Road, and actor Hugh Keays-Byrne (the Toecutter from the first Mad Max and Immortan Joe in the new one) make it quite clear that they’ll be no talking or texting during the screening of their film.
Turn off your cellphone and shut your face, or you might look into the night sky and see the swift hand of vengeance descending upon you. And you wouldn’t like that, would you?
Do yourself a fucking favor and pretend to care.”
Do yourself a fucking favor and go see Mad Max: Fury Road. It opens tonight and it will absolutely blow your mind!
Michael O’Donoghue, AKA Mr. Mike, the demented head writer and performer from the “original cast” era of Saturday Night Live (back when it was simply known as Saturday Night) was the man who made comedy dangerous. His writing was feral, sharp, blasphemous, morbid, sardonic and taboo-breaking. It was O’Donoghue seated in a chair reading a newspaper who viewers first saw in the very first cold-opening of that long-running show. He was often seen on SNL doing imitations of famous showbiz personalities (nice-guy talk show host Mike Douglas, singer Tony Orlando) after they’d had six-inch metal spikes shoved into their eyes, and telling his creepy “Least Loved Bedtime Tales” (Sample title: “The Little Train That Died”).
Before SNL, O’Donoghue had a celebrated tenure at National Lampoon, where he co-wrote (with Tony Hendra) the classic Radio Dinner comedy album and published things like “The Vietnamese Baby Book” and “The Churchill Wit,” a portion from which is quoted below:
Churchill was known to drain a glass or two and, after one particularly convivial evening, he chanced to encounter Miss Bessie Braddock, a Socialist member of the House of Commons, who, upon seeing his condition, said, “Winston, you’re drunk.” Mustering all his dignity, Churchill drew himself up to his full height, cocked an eyebrow and rejoined, “Shove it up your ass, you ugly cunt.”
When the noted playwright George Bernard Shaw sent him two tickets to the opening night of his new play with a note that read: “Bring a friend, if you have one,” Churchill, not to be outdone, promptly wired back: “You and your play can go fuck yourselves.”
At an elegant dinner party, Lady Astor once leaned across the table to remark, “If you were my husband, Winston, I’d poison your coffee.”
“And if you were my wife, I’d beat the shit out of you,” came Churchill’s unhesitating retort.
You get the idea. I recall falling out of my chair laughing, when I first read this. In my defense, I was probably ten or eleven years old.
Mr. Mike and “friend”
In 1979 O’Donoghue directed Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video (the title, logo and theme music—even the overall loose format—was meant to conjure up Prosperi and Jacopetti’s notorious Mondo Cane documentary). It was originally made for NBC to air as a “special” during one of Saturday Night‘s hiatuses, but when the network brass actually saw it they blanched and shelved it. Eventually it was licensed by New Line Cinema, who transferred it to 35mm film and added some “Mr. Bill” segments to pad out the running time for theatrical release of “the TV show you can’t see on TV!”
Admittedly, after hearing about this legendary film and wanting to see it for years, I saw Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video when it was released on VHS in the 80s and aside from a few very good laughs, I was generally pretty disappointed. Comedy often ages poorly, but in actual fact, I don’t really think Mr. Mike’s Mondo Video was all that funny to begin with. It’s interesting because of what it is and who is involved (Tom Schiller, O’Donoghue’s writing partner Mitch Glazer, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman, Bill Murray, Don “Father Guido Sarducci” Novello, Gilda Radner, Carrie Fisher, Root Boy Slim, Margot Kidder, Teri Garr, Paul Shaffer, Debbie Harry). It’s an odd curio with some odd stuff in it (Dan Aykroyd probing his (actual) webbed toes with a screwdriver and declaring “I am proud to say that I am an actual genetic mutant”; an appearance by Klaus Nomi; Sid Vicious performing “My Way”; Jo Jo the Human Hot Plate, etc.) but it’s just not… that funny for the most part.
Nevertheless, take a gander at certainly one of the strangest things ever produced with the intention/assumption that a TV network would air it and try to imagine what NBC’s execs were thinking when they watched this for the first time.
Artist Kristan Horton knows Dr. Strangelove well. I mean really well, much, much better than you do: he’s watched it hundreds of times, the natural outcome of a situation that arose when a VHS cassette of Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece was the only content he could play on his TV set over a period lasting more than two years.
Horton, who is from Canada, says that this created a relationship to the movie he had to respond to, somewhat like when “Star Wars fans ... log hundreds of viewings and go on to make Storm Trooper outfits for themselves in their living rooms.”
Several years ago Horton decided to make an art project by re-creating hundreds of stills from the movie using ordinary objects you might find in your home. The project is called Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove and was shown at Jessica Bradley Art + Projects and Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery.
Horton had wanted to re-create the movie via animation, but eventually realized that the stills from Dr. Strangelovehad a special power and allowed for sober comparison of the original and the imitation:
The project began with an intention to animate [by creating] an animated film. But it was the still that attracted me. The comparison was the exciting part. We can take as much time as we like in making the comparison. Time is on our side, not whizzing by at 24 frames per second.
The project has roughly 200 images, of which we show a small sample here. You can buy the book of Dr. Strangelove Dr. Strangelove and study all of the images at your leisure.
(Click on each image to see a larger view—these are gorgeous, and you’re going to want a closer look.)
The website’s now defunct, but sometime in 2006 some brilliant person going by the name “Bubblegum Fink” concocted these fake (yes, fake) trading cards celebrating and promoting the memorable cult movie of 1973 known as The Wicker Man.
With The Wicker Man, there’s no way there ever could’ve or should’ve been a series like this. I can’t imagine any kid running out to buy several packs of Wicker Man cards and filling their cheeks with the gum as they shout “I got the Lord Summerisle I’ve been needing!” But that’s why I think it’s great. I love the Wicker Man, and as an adult, I’d happily slap down my cash for the cards if they existed.
True enough—there’s no way a nudity-filled escapade about a mad pagan cult would have qualified for the Topps treatment. There’s even a wrapper, with the old Topps logo lovingly included as well:
Having said that, you really have to admire the Bubblegum Fink’s workmanship. These cards are really perfect re-creations, easily close enough to the real thing to fool me, and the 1970s as a decade were just insane enough that when someone says, “Oh look at these Wicker Man trading cards!” you don’t shut it down as impossible right away—it takes a moment or two before the perfect absurdity of it becomes clear.
The almost random selection of images, the occasional foray into “behind the scenes” when an actor’s name is mentioned, the beautifully stilted captions, which remind me of nothing so much as DVD chapter titles….. just a job well done.
Here’s something I thought I’d never see: Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny singing a duet of Neil Young’s “Helpless” at The Cutting Room in New York. This all went down last night. Apparently Duchovny just released his first solo album titled Hell Or Highwater. You learn something new every day, I guess. I haven’t researched the reviews, or heard it, so I can’t tell you if it’s any good or not. BUT that’s beside the point, IT’S DANA SCULLY AND FOX MULDER SINGING A NEIL YOUNG SONG!
And as every X-Files fan knows by now, the show is going to return to FOX as a six-episode event series which is set to premiere on Sunday, January 24, 2016. All is good in the world.
On Kliph Nesteroff’s essential website Classic Television Showbiz, you can find lengthy, fascinating interviews with many, many figures from the distant past of the worlds of comedy and TV—“distant past” here refers to, ohhh, before Laugh-In, say. Nesteroff’s focus is frequently the Las Vegas of the 1940s through the 1960s, which is a very, very different environment for standup comedy than, say, the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Hollywood in 2015 (the main difference is the high influence of the mob—then, not now).
The other day Nesteroff posted the third part of an interview he conducted a few years back with Peter Marshall, best known to many as the host of Hollywood Squares from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s. It turns out that in the late 1960s Marshall had a partnership of sorts with actor Dick Gautier, best known as Hymie the robot from Get Smart. Together they penned a screenplay about marijuana use, with the title Maryjane, and the actor who was picked to bring it to the big screen was none other than Fabian, singer of several hits in 1959 (“Turn Me Loose,” “Tiger,” “This Friendly World,” “Come On and Get Me,” etc.) who also epitomized the manufactured pop star that acts like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones would banish from the charts—for a time, anyway. The movie isn’t very good, but everyone involved with the movie seem to agree that it did well, made money.
The director of Maryjane was Maury Dexter, also directed The Day Mars Invaded Earth, Surf Party, and The Mini-Skirt Mob. He wrote in his book Highway to Hollywood: The Hard Way, which is available as a PDF.
The first show that I did for AIP was Maryjane, a script about teens smoking marijuana. There was nothing salacious or offensive about it, but it did have some provocative scenes that showed the results of overindulging and the risks taken when someone needs “a fix.” The picture starred Fabian and Diane McBain. The film did very well at the box office, although, it was far from a big hit. I used the Doheny Mansion in Beverly Hills for some scenes. The stark beauty of the estate set against the ramblings of a young “user” was, I thought, quite effective. Maryjane was shot entirely in the Hollywood area—using mostly “live” or real sets.
Here’s some sample dialogue from a teacher’s conference, with a representative of the law to set them straight on the severity of the problem.
Faculty Member A: Marijuana is not dope. Faculty Member B: Well, that may be, but their eyes get funny and they act weird and crazy! Faculty Member A: Oh, they may seem giddy, they may appear excessively relaxed.... Faculty Member C: Sort of like they’re drunk? Faculty Member A: Yes, yes, in a way…. Faculty Member C: Then what’s wrong with it? Jack Webb type: Well, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it! It spreads. Like cancer. First it’s marijuana, then it’s LSD & STP, then it’s heroin & cocaine. Faculty Member C: You’re saying that marijuana leads to the hard stuff? Jack Webb-type: The big-time scientists say no. But statistics show that every hard-core addict started with marijuana. Look: Can I tell you something? We picked up three kids for possession of marijuana, and do you know how old they were? Twelve and thirteen and flying high!