Monday, February 20, 2017

MOVIE OF THE WEEK BLOGATHON "Shadow on the Land"

In 1968, the creator of I Dream of Jeannie predicted what may yet occur in 2017...
...with a tv-movie that aired on network only once, yet had an enormous impact on those who saw it!
In 2016, as in 1968...
We were engaged in an unpopular military action that spawned an ongoing protest movement!
Race relations were cratering!
The economy was doing well, but individuals thought, because they weren't personally doing well, the whole economy was collapsing!
The current President (a Democrat) was not on the ballot for the Presidental election!
With an less than popular Democratic candidate, a Republican who promised "law and order" and to "protect America from potential invaders" won the White House!
Sidney Sheldon, creator/producer of lightweight escapist entertainment like I Dream of Jeannie, Hart to Hart, and The Patty Duke Show, looked at what was going on around him and took a chance.
Screen Gems gave him carte blanche, probably expecting something in a similar vein.
He greenlighted a story by Nedrick Young, who had scripted The Defiant Ones (1958) and the screenplay adaptation of Inherit the Wind (1960).
Sheldon then selected an experenced, versatile director, Richard C Sarafian, with credits ranging from Dr Kildare to Batman!

The cast used both established pros like John Forsythe (against type as the villainous General Bruce, the Leader's trusted military commander) and Jackie Cooper (as the heroic, but doomed, Lt Col Davis), as well as up-and-comers like Gene Hackman and Carol Lynley in supporting roles.
(Trivia Note: one of the supporting characters, Lt Allen, is played by Jonathan Lippe/Jonathan Goldsmith, known today as "the Most Interesting Man in the World" in Dos Equis beer commercials!)
The protaganist, rebel leader Major McCloud, was played by Marc Strange in his only leading role.

The tv-movie, using concepts from both Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here and George Orwell's 1984, portrayed a near-future America where the President declared a national emergency and imposed martial law...but the undefined "emergency" never ended, and martial law quickly mutated into fascist repression!
But the Society of Man, an organized resistance group with people placed within the government, fights back as best it can against the overwheming military and technological might of the fascists.
Left open-ended, the movie practically begs to be continued as a mini-series, if not an ongoing series!

Airing on ABC during the Christmas season (December 4, 1968), it failed to garner decent ratings, and the potential series died quietly.

(Trivia Note: Kenneth Johnson proposed a similar concept called Storm Warnings to NBC in the early 1980s.
They turned it down, and Johnson, following in the steps of Rod Serling and Gene Roddenberry, revamped the concept with science fiction elements, making the fascists into reptilian aliens, and sold the concept as V, which ran as two mini-series and a brief ongoing series in the 80s and a two-season reboot in 2009-10.)

Never available on VHS, DVD or BluRay, the only way to see it is right here.
I'd say "enjoy, but, it's really more frightening than enjoyable...
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Friday, December 16, 2016

Captain's Theatre THE GREEN HORNET "Freeway to Death"

It's not often someone can take on the captain of the USS Enterprise...and win!
The Green Hornet can!
OK, technically, he's not the captain of the Enterprise here, but Jeffrey Hunter was the first man to sit in the captain's chair during the first Star Trek pilot episode, "The Cage".
When NBC said, "close, but not quite", and ordered a second pilot, Hunter turned down the option to return, preferring to do a pilot for Batman producer William Dozier called Journey into Fear based on a novel by Eric Ambler, previously done as a feature film in the 1940s starring Orson Welles!
Ironically, it was in competition for an NBC schedule slot against, among other shows, a second Star Trek pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" with William Shatner as the new captain of the Enterprise!
Trek sold. Journey didn't.
Hunter began doing tv guest-star roles, and when offered, took the guest-villain gig on Dozier's Green Hornet series, playing construction magnate Emmett Crown, who's also secretly financing an insurance company which offers "protection" to businesses!
Daily Sentinel reporter Mike Axford is investigating the matter and is told by his boss, Britt Reid, to work with The Green Hornet to expose the still-unknown head of the "insurance" company! Axford intends to do exactly that, and capture The Hornet, as well!
It's cross and double-cross as plans are made and plans go awry, resulting in kool fight scenes, Crown being exposed and captured, and The Hornet and Kato escaping the law again!
SideNotes:
More location shooting, this time at an active construction site outside LA, where Britt Reid is almost "accidentally" killed and, later, The Hornet and Kato face several of Crown's bulldozers trying to crush the Black Beauty.
Since the car's rockets are ineffective against the heavy metal blades of the bulldozers, The Hornet and Kato use the previously-unseen Hornet Mortar (located in the same rear trunk compartment where the flying Hornet Scanner is kept), to loft explosive shells over the blades and disable the dozers' treads (and probably kill the drivers)! The Hornet Mortar is never seen or mentioned again!
From December 16, 1966..."Freeway to Death".
Next Week:
The Green Hornet dabbles in politics!
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Friday, December 9, 2016

Captain's Theatre THE GREEN HORNET "Secret of the Sally Bell"

The only person who knows where a shipment of illegal drugs is hidden on a salvaged freighter is accidentally rendered comatose before he can tell The Green Hornet and Kato.
They take him to a nearby hospital for treatment, but, after they leave, the man's associates kidnap him...and the attending doctor.
Now our dynamic duo have to a) rescue the doctor, b) keep the comatose guy alive, and c) stop the criminals from acquiring the drugs.
It's cross and double-cross as The Hornet allies himself with the crooks to accomplish his own goals.
But the gangsters have no intention of keeping their side of the deal, either...
Side notes:
For the first time, we see the Black Beauty operated by remote control, including maneuvering and firing it's front-mounted rockets at a sniper trying to kill The Hornet and Kato.
One of the running gags on both Batman and The Green Hornet was showing characters on one series watching the other series on tv! In this ep, the crooks are watching Batman when it's interrupted by a news bulletin about The Green Hornet leaving a wounded man (their drug contact) at a hospital.
More location shooting, this time at a commercial Los Angeles shipyard seen in a number of films and tv series, most notably Escape from the Planet of the Apes.
The show indavertantly poses a question...where is the Green Hornet's unnamed city?
The "Sally Bell" is described as wrecked by a typhoon, and towed to port!
Typhoons only occur in the Pacific Ocean, so the Hornet's city must be on the West Coast, right!
Except, in comics or the radio show, it was described as being one of several midwestern cities; usually Detriot (where the show's home station, WXYZ was located) or Chicago!
And the idea of a character running around in an overcoat in a town where "winter" is usually in the 70-degree range is...odd to say the least!

From December 9th, 1966..."The Secret of the Sally Bell".
Next Week:
The Green Hornet meets the first captain of the USS Enterprise!
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Friday, December 2, 2016

Captain's Theatre THE GREEN HORNET "Deadline for Death"

A series of wealthy home break-ins has one thing in common...all the victims had recently been profiled by Daily Sentinel reporter Mike Axford!
Has he used his interviews to case the homes?
When Axford is arrested at the site of the latest break-in, The Green Hornet and Kato must uncover evidence to free the hapless newshound.
SideNotes:
The Green Hornet has his first solo fight scene...which he loses! (To be fair, it is against three guys.) When he and Kato catch up to the three crooks in the finale, guess who wins?
When the Hornet is trapped, Kato grabs the Hornet Sting he dropped and blasts the door open. When Van Williams saw how Bruce Lee elegantly-flicked the Sting open in the dailies, he decided to adopt the mannerism himself for the remainder of the series!
Seeking info, The Hornet questions a stolen-goods fence named Tubbs, indicating that he's been allowing the fence to continue operating as long as he served The Hornet when needed. A nice touch, adding credibility to the crimefighter's cover as a criminal.
Later, there's a scene at Reid's home where the duo, in costume, but without masks or hats, review evidence. This happens several times in the series. (You never saw Batman and Robin partially in costume)
More location shooting, this time at a small local airport and aircraft hanger also used in several Batman episodes.
Much more day-for-night photography.
Originally airing December 2, 1966..."Deadline for Death".

Next Week:
The Green Hornet gets involved in drug-running!
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