Classic Celebrity Commercials

Hi-yo, Pizza Roll!

DATELINE: Olde TV Bad Habit 

Back in 2013 there was another compilation of “hucksters,” from advertisements and commercials on TV in the mid to late 1950s. It seems a bit unfair to call these old stars “hucksters,” as appearing at the end of their series or show (often in character) to sell a product was just a means of enhancing their income.

This delightful collection is a bit tiresome. Who wants to sit through one hour of commercials, even in fun?

A couple of points are particularly distressing. Most of the commercials were done in black and white, and most of them actually run for a full sixty seconds, which is maddening in our attention deficit age.

In particular, Steve Allen takes a Polaroid photo of Lou Costello and we actually wait while Steve talks for sixty seconds for him to show us the newly developed photo.

Yet, the compilation also features some fun moments and images we’ve never seen:  John Wayne sells Christmas Seals on set, and his director really is Wild Bill Wellman!

We were thrilled to hear the William Tell Overture selling some Jeno pizza rolls—and at the end of the commercial, in color no less, Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels show up in costume as the Lone Ranger and Tonto.

One funny bit features a color King Kong climbing off the Empire State building and driving off down the avenue in his king-size car. He puts his little blonde companion in the passenger seat.

Almost as stunning is to see Marilyn Monroe in full throttle, selling gasoline.

A montage of TV western stars of the era each smokes a different cigarette. We almost want to cry out to stop, please!

Leo G. Carroll as Topper smokes too, as do his ghosts, Anne Jeffreys and Robert Sterling as Marian and George Kirby.

We also see James Arness smoking away with Today Show host Jack Lescoulie! We had not seen him in fifty years.

Quite a collection.





Dangerous Hunting Game

 DATELINE: Richard Connell Classic

 Fay Wray Sees Something!

If you are looking for the prequel to 1933’s King Kong,you will have found it with this first major adaption of Richard Connell’s famous (or infamous) story called The Most Dangerous Game.

Right from the opening credits, you will recognize the style and tone of the classic big monkey movie. That’s for a number of reasons: foremost, the producers of the Kong and Son thereof films honed their approach to the topic with this classic.

You have the basic premise of a sea captain taking his ship and passengers out into remote and uncharted waters where lurks an island with mystery. It almost seems like the same prologue to each film.  Officers are concerned with strange locales not on maps.

Instead of Bruce Bennett (or is that Cabot), you have interchangeable leading man Joel MacRae as the resilient young adventurer. When he is washed up on the shores of a strange island, he meets none other than Kong’s leading lady, Fay Wray, who is also stranded there with her brother, played by—you guessed it—the man who gave us the Eighth Wonder of the World—Robert G. Armstrong (not Carl Denham this time, but a ne’er-do-well with the same personality).

They are the guests not of a giant gorilla but of the King of the Island, General Zaroff, (played in slimeball style of the 1930s by Leslie Banks). It seems he has a strange fetish: he likes to hunt big game that is truly dangerous, like people. Back in those pre-Hitler times, he was not a Nazi, crypto-Nazi, or neo-Nazi, but some kind of twisted member of the aristocracy.

With its chase scenes through the jungle, the pounding music, and the production values of Merriam C. Cooper, you have a sense of been-there, done-that, from the next year version of King Kong.

It is a delight to feel the similarity, and you keep wondering where the dinosaurs are.


Numbskull Island for King Kong

DATELINE:  Cast Offs

kong cast

We always grow wary when friends warn us off a movie. We were told it was terrible and to avoid it, but we are always ready for an adventure with Kong: Skull Island.

For the first forty minutes or so, we felt our friends betrayed us. The film was witty, funny, and satirized the 1970s with an icy edge, even showing us a Nixon bobblehead (yes, it is historically accurate). There are some delightful actors playing it for fun initially.

Rife with 70s music, scenes of Vietnam soldiers are sent on a special mission to a mysterious location by Pentagon shill John Goodman.

He hires guide Conrad (Tim Hiddleston) to lead them into the Heart of Darkness. Indeed, repartee between characters is outright delicious. You even have one-note Samuel L. Jackson as the vindictive colonel who has nothing much in his wallet or his head.

When Kong shows up to defend his indigenous natives and John C. Reilly, someone hired a second set of writers to send the film into comic book realm with copious plagiarizing.

You might generously call the fight between Kong and other monsters a tribute to the original film, but we call it blatant lack of originality. If you want to give the film the benefit of doubt, you will be sorry.

Someone decided that Vera Lynn’s marvelous song, “We’ll Meet Again,” used in Dr. Strangelove by Kubrick would be a great way to set up a sequel with a return to see Kong again.

No way.

Harambe Was Not a Man in a Gorilla Suit

DATELINE:  King Kong Shot

Brady in Manhattan

During a weekend that featured Justin Bieber taking a selfie in his undies, while groping himself, and Julian Edelman attending a concert in Boston, yelling out “Free Tom Brady,” we had a retelling of King Kong.

For those unfamiliar with the scenario, we offer a crash course: a giant ape, out of his element, takes an innocent girl to the top of the Empire State Building on a date. He is then shot into bye-bye land by bi-planes.

This weekend in the wilds of Cincinnati, a giant ape was minding his own business in captivity. He had just celebrated his birthday, and he seemed mildly content.

Then, into his world fell a four-year old boy. How this interloper managed to break the barriers to keep him away from untamed apes is anyone’s guess. His mother apparently is like Teflon, no responsibility sticks to her.

The ape was subjected to the wild screams and gyrations of those around his moat, looking down on him. He seemed to hold the child with as much gentility as a large simian hand might form. He seemed to some bystanders to be protective of the child.

He did not act aggressively in any obvious way, though experts insisted later that was merely a ruse. He took the child to a corner, away from the noise and shielded him with his body.

The zookeepers deemed this too dangerous and shot him dead.

As in King Kong’s cautionary tale, the hairy ape cannot win. High-powered weapons are a quick draw. Harambe had no luck on this day.

Twenty years ago a child fell into a gorilla pen and was carried by an ape to the door and given to the handlers. It was considered miraculous. There were no miracles this time.

Harambe is dead, like King Kong, a victim of tragedy.


Godzilla: Overweight and Throwing His Weight Around

Godzilla Mr. Fatstuff



Godzilla is like Norma Desmond. He was always big in movies, but the pictures were too small for his digital footprint.

Now Godzilla has returned from Camp Campy to try to reignite any society he sets foot on. A new Godzilla is about to put his stamp on another generation.

If we see anything new in the big lizard, it is that he is now overfed. For a big reptile that has made spotty appearances in recent years (nearly as few as the Loch Ness creature), Godzilla has put on a ton of weight. A lack of activity has made him paunchy.

He’s been munching on calorie-laden radioactive isotopes. We think he may be on a rampage looking for Jenny Craig.

The Big Guy has taken on Rodan, King Kong, and mechanical Dopplegangers over the years, but his heart belongs to Tokyo. However, for economic reasons, in his past two movies, he’s gone American, lured by big bucks out of the senior monster retirement home.

In his first movie in 1954, hefty Raymond Burr was spliced in to the plot to fill the holes, but the monster was 100% Japanese, angry at those Americans that dropped A-bombs.

Sixty years after his initial run through tiny towns, Godzilla has bigger fish to crush in the Big Apple. But, these messages are secondary to the notion that, like King Kong, you have to make it in New York to be legit.

Godzilla looks fatter and more ponderous than ever. Next to the Empire State Building, all these monsters fail to measure up.

Next time we recommend walking the treadmill, where monsters usually fear to tread.