Posted on April 7th, 2014 No comments
He was Santa in Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town (1970). He was only six when he acted in his first movie, “Not To Be Trusted” (1926). He had already become a star, making over three dozen Mickey McGuire shorts before his 15th birthday. Then came the Andy Hardy films, and his pairing with the lovely Judy Garland. He became the #1 box office draw in the US before age 20, and held that honor from 1939 to 1941.
Born in Brooklyn, NY on September 23, 1920, Mickey hit the stage not long after his first birthday, appearing with his parents in vaudeville shows. From there he catapulted to stardom, winning a special Academy Award in 1939 for “bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth, and . . . setting a high standard of ability and achievement.”
Most of us remember watching Mickey Rooney in reruns on Saturday afternoons. Some of us remember him from Dinsey’s “Pete’s Dragon” (1977), or from the dozens of TV show and movie appearances he made throughout the past 60 years, including The Golden Girls, Murder She Wrote, The Return of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer, It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, and his own TV series “Mickey” (1964-65). More recent roles include Babe: Pig in the City (1998), The Muppets, and one of his best ever, in my opinion, as Gus in Night at the Museum (2006).
According to Mickey Rooney’s IMDB page, he was still working, with three projects currently in filming or pre.production. That’s not bad for a 93 year-old.
There aren’t many actors who can claim nine decades of work, and nearly eight of stardom. Mickey was a one of a kind, and we’re lucky to have had him in our lives for so long. A true part of American film history, Mickey Rooney will always be remembered as one of the top stars of the 20th and 21st centuries, and one of the last from the first golden era of film and television to remain with us.
Break a leg Mickey!
-Chris Pinto, for Tiki Lounge Talk
Posted on January 6th, 2014 2 comments
still packs a couple of punches that will make you gasp.
Set in early ’50s Kentport (basically Los Angeles), The Big Heat shows us a glimpse into the lives of brutal gangsters, women of questionable morals, straight cops, crooked cops, politicians on the payroll and cold-blooded murderers.
The Big Heat is a classic noir film directed by Fritz Lang, with award-winning actor Glenn Ford at the helm. As detective Sgt. Dave Bannion, he uncovers a network of criminals and crooked cops running the city, getting away with anything they want for a buck. But he steps to close to the action, and his life crumbles in the fallout.
Shot in gritty black and white with those shadows and effects that make a good noir movie great, The Big Heat is one of the most impactful, realistic thrillers of the era. Ford does a fantastic job of keeping his character low key yet intense. He’s serious…all business, because his work is serious, as are the consequences of his well-intended actions.
I don’t like to give anything away in my posts, but without spoiling I can say this: If you remember hearing about an old movie where someone gets a pot of boiling hot coffee thrown in their face, this is it. That should give you an idea of how far this movie goes, blowing away our current perception of 1950s censors’ standards.
The Big Heat also features a young Lee Marvin in a role that suits him well, but that you might find in opposition to what he is usually known for. It also features Gloria Grahame (know for her role as Ado Annie in Oklahoma) as the sarcastic, alcoholic and fed-up gangster girlfriend.
Dinner & Drinks: There’s a scene where Bannion and his wife share a gargantuan steak. Seriously, I don’t think they make cows that big anymore. If you can find one, go for it. Highballs and Martinis are appropriate for this cocktail-era moving picture.
My Take: The first time I tried to watch this movie I couldn’t get into it. Granted, I was distracted while trying to watch it, but my issue was that I was expecting a bullet-riddled B-movie with a lot of action. I was wrong; The Big Heat is an intelligent movie, well written and very well acted. The pace builds as the action intensifies. It’s important that you regard this movie on par with The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity or The Lost Weekend.
Posted on October 15th, 2013 No comments
There are some vintage horror movies that are so obviously a “must see” that it seems silly to write about them on a retro blounge, but I will make an exception for The Exorcist. Why? Because it’s THAT GOOD, and if you haven’t seen it, you…well, you must see it.
(Don’t worry…No spoilers, just some references to the things you’ve already seen in pop culture even if you’ve never seen the movie.)
What: The Exorcist is a psychological horror movie centered around a young girl who becomes possessed by a demon. A priest – one who has recently questioned his faith, is asked to help the girl. At first he believes her outbursts and episodes are psychotic. Then he sees her head twist all the way around and it’s full steam ahead from their.
That’s the story in a nutshell, but not the reason to watch this flick. Reasons to watch it include the fact that it was the first mainstream horror movie to realistically show a child possessed by a demon, cursing, convulsing, spewing green vomit in the face of a priest. Where most horror movies of the time (or before) relied on monsters, ghosts, or murderers for effect, this movie took an entirely realistic approach to horror, capitalizing on an evil you never really even see (as it is manifested in the girl). Remember, movie-goers in 1973 weren’t used to much cursing, blood or psychological horror. They were used to Hammer films with Christopher Lee as Dracula (although great, not on the same level as this) and had just recently been exposed to Night of the Living Dead, which was shot in black and white. Now audiences were seeing a child turn into a demon, in full color, cursing like the devil himself, acting out in horrific ways (I don’t want to give them away) with brutality and absolute…well, horror. To this day, this movie remains one of the most difficult to watch because of its realism.
Why: Where as movies like The Woman in Black are creepy, Paranormal Activity is jump-out-of-your-skin scary, and House of 1000 Corpses is grossly bloody and nerve-shredding, The Exorcist is all of those combined. The cinematography is impeccable, creating an atmosphere of mental anguish and unease that sucks you in and keeps you there. The acting is, of course, incredible, and some of the reactions were real – including the reaction by Father Karras when he gets pelted in the face with vomit (it was supposed to hit his chest!). The movie is a masterpiece of suspense and horror, period.
Beyond that, it’s hailed as one of (and often the) best movies of all time. Adjusted for inflation, it is Warner Bros’ highest grossing movie of all time.
My Take: I’ve seen this move at least two dozen times. I first saw it when I was around 12, edited for TV, and even with the cursing and the more explicit scenes cut it still left a last impression. When I saw it uncut as a teenager, I found myself twinging during the scene with the girl and the cross (won’t spoil it here) and still do today. The “version you’ve never seen” that was re-released a few years ago adds a few scenes that make the movie even sicker.
Food and Booze: I usually give recommendations for dinner with your movie, but for this one, forget it. You won’t be able to keep anything down. If anything, have some pea soup.
Warning: Clip is R rated.
-Tiki Chris P. reporting from the screaming room – I mean the screening room – at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar
Posted on October 8th, 2013 2 comments
Ok, that’s a bold statement and of course, a matter of this cat’s opinion. But if you want some truly spooky, scary, screw-with-your-head for weeks horror movies, here are 10 of the best from the pre-Slasher flick era.
Let’s start off by not including some of the obvious: The original Dracula, Frankenstein, The Werewolf, The Blob, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. These (and many others like them) are in a class by themselves, and would fill up the top 10 list easily. This list is for some of the not-so-obvious selections that are sure to please.
10. Mad House, Vincent Price, 1975 – Filmed in the 60′s Hammer style, this film is great on two levels: It’s a maniac killer horror flick, and it’s making fun of the genre without you even knowing it. It’s not a comedy…but the in jokes are a’plenty. For instance: Using elaborate, Victorian candelabras in a house that obviously has electricity; Peter Cushing showing up at a costume party as Dracula; and Price basically playing “himself” in the role of the actor who plays Dr. Death. A real treat.
9. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (The original, 1974) – Low-budget horror at its best. Truly scary, because the low budget made it look so real. From the over-exposed film to the dark shots inside the house, this film cinematically gets under your skin and into your head. There is very little blood, yet you feel as though you are the one being chased and ripped to shreds with a chainsaw. The creepiness of the characters is realistic and absurd at the same time…qualities that are lost on higher-budget, slickly made films that rely on special effects and lots of blood. By the way…some of the stuff looks so real, because it is real…the low budget didn’t allow for the producers to rent plastic bones, so they used real ones. Yep. Look it up.
8. The Haunting (the original, 1963) Shot in black and white for that old, Noir style to show through, this film is possibly one of the greatest ghost stories ever put on film. Simple tactics like unintelligible voices in the night and mysterious visions of face in the wall will seep into your nightmares and make your skin crawl. Line that delivers the biggest chill: “If you’re over there…who’s hand was I holding??”
7. The Exorcist (the first one, 1973) – I had considered leaving this off the list and grouping it with Dracula, et al; but knowing that younger generations have not been exposed to this 2-hour torture session made me change my mind. The Exorcist has been hailed as one of, if not the best horror movie of time, a ground-breaking movie in both its raw horror and special effects. And for good reason: Imagine yourself in 1973, in a time when curse words weren’t allowed on ANY TV, and most horror films were still being made in the same 1950′s and 60′s classic format. Here comes a movie that shows a little girl possessed by the devil, cursing, screaming sexually-explicit comments to a priest, spewing green vomit and stabbing herself with a crucifix in…well, just see the movie. It’s shocking even today, and what’s more, it’s well written and very well acted. The movie has a great rhythm too, where the horror scenes ebb and flow perfectly to keep you surprised and in suspense.
6. The Others, 2001 (Nichole Kidman) – A newer movie, yes, but certainly made in the classic style of ghost movies. Perfect lighting and creepy characters add to the atmosphere of this flick. Kidman’s acting is perfect for the role, and the movie keeps you guessing until the last few minutes. It is obvious that the director was inspired by the number one movie on this list, as he has borrowed some elements and ambiance from that flick, down to a very near…but somewhat reversed seance (you’ll have to watch both movies to know what I’m talking about).
5. Night of the Living Dead (the original, 1968) Another that may have made the “In its own category” list, but I decided to add it here because there have been so many remakes and sequels. The newer versions may be bloodier and have better effects, but for pure creepy factor (from both the dead and the living), the original is the one. Shot in black and white, it somehow seems more real than the color versions. Add to that, this movie was shot during the height of the civil rights struggle, and has a black man as the lead character, interacting with a young white girl, and older white man, and of course, zombies. The interactions and the courage of the man are classic.
4. The House on Haunted Hill, 1959 (Vincent Price) – I should probably list all Vincent Price movies as “must see”, but I’m sticking to 10 here. This is one of the creepiest horror movies ever, and just when you think it’s turned into something corny and poorly made, it comes back at you with a fantastic twist. Black and white and cool all over.
3. The Uninvited, 1944 – The scariest and saddest classic haunted house/ghost story, on par with number one on this list. To have a truly scary movie, you need a truly spooky haunted house (how about a gothic mansion on the English coast?) and a sad, depressing story for the ghost (I won’t give that away). Add to it great acting, cool effects and a tall cliff, and you’ve got a winner.
2. The Shining, Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, 1980 – Stanley Kubrick’s mind-screwing masterpiece. When you watch this movie for the first time, you think, “wow, that was scary, and a little confusing. I wonder what … meant,” and you go about your business. Days, months, even years later your nightmares are filled with bloody twins and REDRUM and you go back and watch the movie over and over to find out just what it is that makes it so incredibly haunting, mystifying, and downright terrifying. Well, I won’t give it away here. You’ll have to learn for yourself. Suffice to say, Kubrick knew exactly what he was doing, spent over a year editing the movie himself, and snuck in zillions of little bits in the sets, dialog and soundtrack that are made to totally screw with your head. For me, it meant 25 years of watching the movie over and over again, slow mo, fast forward, until I started catching some of the things that make it so surreal. Googling the movie reveals that hundreds of others have done the same thing, and have gone as far as publishing books on it. Crazy stuff. Watch the movie first, if you’ve never seen it, then look it up online. Your mind will by fully blown.
1. The Changeling, George C. Scott, 1980 – The other nine movies in this list can go in any order, but for me and millions of other, The Changeling is the quintessential ghost story. Like The Exorcist, the plot centers around a young child – one who has been dead for over 70 years, and haunts his old home in Seattle, WA. A Gothic style house with many secrets, strange banging every morning at exactly six a.m., visions in the tub and the absolutely creepiest, scariest, rip your heart out and your mind to shreds spirit voice ever recorded on tape set up a ghost story like no other. The iconic scene where the red ball bounces down the stairs has been copied or hailed to in a dozen other films. The seance scene is so freaky, so real, that it inspired two generations of film makers and ghost hunters. In fact, it is this seance scene that is nearly duplicated (although not quite) in The Others. The film also features Scott’s wife, Trish Van Devere, conjuring chemistry which adds to the realism. This was also one of Melvin Douglass’ last films.
Well kids, that’s the list. Plenty of time to watch them all before Halloween. As a bonus, I’ll rattle off a list of must sees in addition to the ten.
Mark of the DevilChristine
House of Wax
Plan 9 from Outer Space
Friday The 13th
The Haunting of Hill House
House of 1000 Corpses
My Bloody Valentine
Bucket of Blood
Any Dracula movie with Christopher Lee
The Vampire Lovers
The Woman in Black
-Boo, from Tiki Chris!
Posted on August 12th, 2013 2 comments
It was 25 years ago to the day (August 12) that “Tucker” debuted on the silver screen. I remember seeing that movie with my father, in the theater…we were both huge antique car fans and the mystique of the Tucker wasn’t lost on us. Two hours later we were driving home in his vintage Buick Electra 225, discussing what American cars would have been like if Tucker had succeeded with his dream. Our conclusion: Detroit iron would be 10 to 20 years ahead of its time from 1948 on.
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
Executive Producer George Lucas
Starring Jeff Bridges, Joan Allen, Martin Landua, Christian Slater, and the 1948 Tucker Torpedo
The Movie: This flick was based on the true-life engineer Preston Tucker, who had a dream to start a new, technologically advanced auto company. Using designs he had been perfecting since before WW2, he managed to secure funding to start the Tucker Automobile Company. 50 Tucker Torpedos were built (plus the prototype), but the company was doomed to failure (you’ll have to watch the movie to learn why).
The Car: As much a character in the film as any of the actors, the 1948 Tucker Torpedo was stylistically and technologically way ahead of its time. The low-slung vehicle utilized a flat airplane, rear-mounted six cylinder engine, giving it a sleeker look than most late ’40s cars, and came standard with safety features like a padded dashboard and seat belts (stuff that wouldn’t be found on most conventional cars until a decade later). It even sported a “Cyclops eye” center headlight that turned with the front wheels. Kookie.
Before this flick hit the screen, Tuckers were rare but still could be bought for around $40k if you could find an owner who wanted to part with it. After the movie, the price shot up to beyond $400k. Today, millionaires use them as toys to trade back and forth with their millionaire friends, usually in the $1.5 Mil range. Jerks.
My Take: The movie itself is very cool, with a great 40s vibe throughout. Unfortunately 1980′s audiences weren’t “hip” to anything vintage, and unless it had a DX-7 doing the soundtrack, got panned. The movie originally grossed a few mil less than it cost, labeling it a flop. But don’t let that deter you from digging this thoroughly enjoyable flick.
Dinner & Drinks: I’m thinking Iron City Beer and burgers for this one. Real workin’ man’s food.
-Tiki Chris P. reporting from the screening room at Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar, Fort Liquordale, FL