Thursday, January 31, 2019

Secret Life of Pets 2 Trailers

I love the way Illumination has been advertising Secret Life of Pets 2. They are having different trailers focusing around different characters and since the characters were the best thing about the first movie. The new trailer is my favorite, which is no surprise since Gidget is my favorite character from the series. The last joke in this trailer is one I find laugh out loud funny.

Below are the other previews so far.

The Max Trailer

The Snowball trailer.

The Chole trailer

The Daisy trailer.

The movie will be released on June 7th.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Movie Review: Serenity

Movie's Movie Grade: F

Review: What the heck did I just watch? I never thought I would start a review like that but what the heck did I just watch? This movie is a bizarre. confused, unpleasant and unbelievable mess.

There is no better word to describe this movie than unpleasant. This may seem like a good thing for a thriller and it can be when done right. However nothing is done right here. This movie lacks the depth and complexity it so obviously looks for as well as any feeling of real suspense. All that is left after this is unpleasantness. Between the disgusting dialogue from the father in law, the unlikableness of the characters and sex scenes that are more uncomfortable than sexy this movie can get hard to watch. Not helping is that when the film is not unpleasant it is down right boring. Now I like slow paced movies because often the slow pace can enhance our connection with the characters or environment. This is not the case here. The characters are so unlikable and uninteresting that I could not care about them and the environment is downright dull. Often slow paced movies can feel like you are spending time with the characters, but in this case I don't want to spend time with the characters. The movie just drags along like this for most of its length causing no audience connection besides boredom and disgust. This is until the plot twist comes up.

When the plot twist comes up the film is no longer dull (though it is still unpleasant), but now instead of being boringly bad, the film is instead so bad it caused much unintentional laughter on my part. I could not believe what I was hearing or seeing when I got to this part of the movie. I did not see this twist coming at all. However that is not because the twist is good. It is instead because the twist is so bizarre, out of nowhere and terrible that there would have no reason to expect this. I will admit it is daring but daring does not always mean good. This was a risk that honestly would have been better not taken (or at least handled better than it was here). Some of what we saw before actually no longer makes sense or brings even more unpleasant thoughts to my head. This movie treats this plot twist like it is something incredibly thought provoking and clever. However it simply isn't, but instead just feels weird, unpleasant and unintentionally funny. Still I can't help but wish the rest of the movie was like the film became after this plot twist. Sure it is horrible, but it is a special kind of horrible that provides some entertainment value in how bad it is. Unfortunately the majority of the movie is just alternating between dull and unpleasant, and the enjoyably bad part lasts for a short time.

The only reason to watch this movie is to laugh at how crazily bad it gets towards the end. Still if you are one of those who enjoys laughing at crazily bad movies, you still have to sit through the rest of this movie to get there and that can be a really big chore. So I would recommend skipping this anyways.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Monday, January 28, 2019

Movie Review: The Kid Who Would Be King

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: A delightful fun adventure movie for the whole family.

This movie provides us with just what we want to see from this type of movie and does it well. In other words this is a movie of pure and complete wish fulfillment. How many of us haven't as a kid dreamed of doing what Alexander (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) does here. We all wish we could be a hero saving the day in an incredible way. That we could not only stop our bullies (Tom Taylor, Rhianna Donnis) from picking on us, but show them that we have much power within us, thereby winning their respect and admiration. What makes this elements all work so well is that outside Alex is like so many of us were at his age. A nerd, a weakling and an outsider. The idea that the good qualities within him and not outward strength manage to make him a hero is something that inspires and speaks to us. Adding to this is just how likable the character is, how real his family situation feels and how talented the young actor playing him is. Speaking of such I was happy to see the talented child actors actually get first billing here, with how great they all were in there roles they certainty deserve it.

The story itself is simply but effectively told. There is no access weight or anything to bog down screen time. This keeps the movie moving at a brisk and highly entertaining pace. The movie never drags and never loses our attention.

If I had to point to the main problem with this movie, I would have to say we have a rather weak villain. Actress Rebecca Ferguson does a good job in the role, but that can't save that the character is boring and not as big of a threat as she should be. There is also that the action scenes while impressive are lacking in suspense or doubt.

This movie holds no pretentions about being anything groundbreaking, and that is honestly part of its charm. This is a simple story, simply told, that is simply good entertainment.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Roy Rogers: A Western Star is Born

The following is an article from the Motion Picture Herald, dated August 24, 1943 and titled A Man, A Horse and a Campaign.

"This is a story of how a star was made. Its is the story of a campaign which added to the integrity of motion picture exploitation and the publicity of the advertising principals and methods of a toothpaste manufacturer.

"The star is Republic's Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger, and this is how it happened.

"Gene Autry top box office western star and for two years high up in the charmed circle of Hollywood's ten biggest money makers, was U.S. Army Bound. Time was short. Republic and its customers wanted a successor in an hurry. So driven by necessity, the studio decided upon a record-breaking apportion for the buildup of the man they hoped to crown 'King of the Cowboys.'

"Promotion Went into High With Rodeo Appearance"By October 25, 1942, nine months ago, the Rogers' promotional campaign was in high gear. On that date he appeared in New York's Madison square garden, at the World's Championship Rodeo. Roy took only the proverbial bull by the horns, leaving the rough stuff for the professional cowboys out for cash prizes, but he got top billing and during his New York visit appeared on Fred Allen's radio program, was photographed at Randolph Field and exchanged with Mayor LaGuardia a pair of silver spurs for the key to the city.

"In the whirlwind campaign that followed, the name of the man who was to be Gene Autry's successor became known to public and exhibitors alike. Autry's rise to fame was slow but steady, but Roy Rogers' name was shot across the cinema horizon like a fighter plane heading for his target.

"Through national magazines, newspapers, rural weeklies, billboards and the airwaves, the campaign has deluged the American public with volumes of Roy Rogers material.

"By topping press and radio publicity and advertising with personal appearances of their Western star, Republic has seen to it that few are the Americans who have neither seen nor heard of Rogers. As a result, exhibitors not only have found themselves with a name to substitute for Gene Autry, but are also finding that their Western-fan patrons are more concerned with who is heading the cast then with the title.

"Engaged in Six-Week Tour of American Army Camps"Leaving New York in October of last year, Rogers appeared with the rodeo in Boston and Buffalo. From Buffalo, he went to Toledo, to participate in the Community Chest Drive. Then followed a six week tour of Army camps, with 136 performances in 20 days. Roy ended that phase of his campaign in Las Vegas, where he was named Grand Marshall of the Helldorado celebration, and where he checked into his hotel astride his horse Trigger who holding a pencil in his mouth signed the register with an X as the cameras clicked.

"When time allowed he took to the road, making personal appearances from coast to coast, calling on children at orphanages in Washington and Texas, performing for soldiers at camps, USO Canteens, Stage Door Canteens and participating in War Bond drives.

"His personal appearances hit a climax two weeks ago when he appeared at the Oriental Theatre in Chicago in conjunction with the first run of his 'Song of Texas.' Even the studio has lost count of the number of his personal appearances.

"In conjunction with the Rogers' tours, Republic has plastered billboards from coast to coast with advertisements of their cowboy star, reading: 'Roy Rogers - King of the Cowboys - 'Trigger' - Smartest Horse in the Movies - Appearing in Republic Pictures - Satisfying America's Demand for Western Romance!' Republic points out that the display concerns Roy and Trigger only, all without reference to the title of any picture.

"There followed in the wake of this combined exploitation and advertising a great flood of publicity in fan and general magazines, daily newspapers and weeklies. Photographs of Rogers, usually in the company of Trigger, appeared in display windows, pamphlets and all types of periodicals. Roy astride Trigger rearing up on his hind legs, decorated the Life Magazine's July 12th issue with a featured story inside.          

"In exploitation, all chapters of the Junior Rodeo fans of America, a national organization, are kept informed by Republic where and when Roy Rogers films are showing and in many cases are feeding their local chapters with the same service.

"Past and Present Cowboy Kings Unique Stunt
"There are two albums of Roy Rogers Cowboy Songs, published in cooperation with Republic. The company is prepared to provide exhibitors with the sheet music albums at reduced prices for promotional prize contests or tieups with music stores.

"One exhibitor worked out his own exploitation idea. The Skouras Victory theatre in Bayside, N.Y., booked William S. Hart's 'Tumbleweed,' ran it with 'Idaho,' staring Roy Rogers, and advertised the program as 'King of the Cowboys, Past and Present.'

"The first known Western star was Max Aronson, former vaudeville actor, who, as Broncho Billy Anderson, directed, produced and stared in screenplays written by Max Aronson, turning out one a week for 376 weeks. In the season just ended, Roy Rogers starred in eight big-budget (Some $350,000 per picture) films for Republic, with eight more big-budget pictures scheduled for the new season.

"Republic executives have emphasized that through consistent use of trade paper advertising, the exhibitor has been kept abreast of the national campaign, conceived and supervised by Charles Reed Jones, Republic's director of advertising and publicity.

"Report 100 Per Cent Rise on Rogers Films
"At their recent sales meetings Republic officials announced that film rental grosses on current releases had reached a new high surpassing all expectations, and that the gross receipts on the Roy Rogers big-budget films were 100 per cent above last year.

"James R. Grainger, Republic president has attributed the 100 per cent rise in receipts on Rogers' films to the increased production budgets, and the advertising and exploitation campaign on the films. Ad no small percentage of the expenditure went into the personal promotion of Roy Rogers, 'King of Cowboys.'"

Now for our music selection for today. This clip is from the 35th episode (the 6th episode of the 2nd season) of the TV show Hee Haw (1969-1997), which premiered on October, 20, 1970. Also guest staring on this episode was Roy's wife, singing partner, and often film costar Dale Evans and Doug Kershaw. Roy was a popular guest star on this show appearing in 4 episodes in season 2 alone. The song Roy is performing in the script is a Merle Haggard cover, The Fighting Side of Me. This patriotic song was written by Merle. It was released as a single in December 1969, and then was the title track for his 1970 live album.



Here is Merle performing the song.

   Happy Trails to you until we meet again.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Saturday, January 26, 2019

The Three Stooges in "You Nazty Spy" (1940)

Running Time: 18 minutes. Release Date: January 19, 1940. Shooting Dates: 12/6/39 - 12/9/39. Production Number: 472. Working Title: Oh You Nazty Spy. Director: Jules White. Writers: Clyde Bruckman and Felix Alder. Photography: Harry Davis. Editor: Arthur Seid. Cast: The Three Stooges (Moe, Larry, Curly), Dick Curtis, Don Beddoe, Richard Fiske, Florine Dickenson, Little Billy, John Tyrell, Joe Murphy, Lorna Grey, Bert Young.

Hello again knuckleheads and lamebrains. Today we are going to look at what both Moe and Jules White (the director of this short and head of Columbia's shorts department) considered their favorite stooge short, You Natzy Spy.  Larry considered this one of his favorites as well.

While later in the 1940's making fun of Hitler would become a main ingredient of American slapstick comedies, that was not so in 1940. At this time the U.S.A. had not entered World War 2. Though Charlie Chaplin began production on The Great Dictator (1940) before this Stooge film began production, You Nazty Spy was released earlier. This makes this film the first American screen comedy to extensively parody Hitler.

The title of this short comes from a line of dialogue delivered by Moe, where the words "Nasty spy" are used. As was common practice during the making of these Stooge films, the title was created after the script was written.

As this picture begins we see three ammunitions manufactures talking. There is peace in the kingdom of Moronica, and business is down. With this they decide to hire a dictator to disrupt the peace. They pick out Moe Hailstone. Moe agrees as long as he can work with Curly Gallstone and Larry Pebble. They agree and the three go out so Moe can make his first speech. The crowd is so easily led that they do what ever each sign Larry holds up says. After seeing Curly reading a book Moe decides to burn all the books all except for Curly's little red book which Moe keep for himself. Mattie Herring a spy comes in pretending to read the boy's fortunes. The boys look over a map and decide how they will divide up the surrounding countries. The boys then have a "peace" conference, where they declare their plans to rule over everything. This leads to a huge slapstick fight. However a revolt is led against the boys. In their escape, the boys end up in a lion's den and are eaten by lions.

This is an excellent short on every level. The film injects much more witty satire than most Three Stooges shorts and this satire is very funny. However this satire does not take away from the typical Three Stooges humor. There is plenty of that here and it is just as funny as ever. I especially love Moe and Curly after dancing, deciding to "sit the next one out" and play pattycake, as well as the big slapstick fight at the "peace" conference. The jokes come fast and furious and the laughs never let up. I also love the crazy map where each country has a punny name. A similar map would be used in the later stooges short, Malice in the Palace (1949) and it would be just as funny there. Both shorts showed they knew how funny this map was since they give us time to read all the names.  

The ending of the film was changed from script to screen. In the script after the lions ate the trio, they would be given dialogue. The first lion would say "Ach! Dot taste awful." The second lion would answer "Yah! I got indigestion!" The third would say "Me too! Phooey!" This is not how the finished film ends though instead the film ends with one lion burping. To be honest the ending we got was a funnier one. Added to the script was the gag where Larry gets a golf ball in the mouth.

During the scene in which Moe makes himself look like Hitler, the result is uncanny. Curly's impression of Mussolini is equally good.

While the rest of the jokes hold up extremely well today, there is one joke that is undoubtedly uncomfortable. This is a brief joke that mentions a concentration camp. It should be noted that when this film was made the full horror of such camps was not known to most people. This makes the joke more offensive today than it was in 1940. The Great Dictator similarly had a scene with a very tame looking concertation camp, that equally feels wrong today. With how hilarious both You Nazty Spy and The Great Dictator are it is easy to overlook these scenes and enjoy both films for how great they really are.

This became the only stooge short to get a direct sequel, this was I'll Never Hail Again (1941). For those of you keeping score there are twelve slaps and three eye pokes in this film.

The following is an article in Showman's Trade Review (dated January 3, 1942).

"Tieing in with the current 'V for Victory Campaign' campaign, Manager John Alterman, Jr. of the Dal Sac Theatre, Dallas staged a 'Big V Short Show' recently.

"Though all the regular publicity channels - program, newspaper, handbills, lobby and marquee advertising, etc. - he plugged the collection of timely short reels.

"Subjects booked for the occasion included 'Recruiting Daze,' color cartoon; "Fighting 69 1/2th,' Merrie Melody; 'Home Guard,' color cartoon; 'You Nazty Spy,' Three Stooges comedy, and 'Drafted at the Depot,' Edgar Kennedy comedy."

The following is an exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald (dated March 14, 1941)

"Oh You Nazty Spy: Three Stooges - Columbia couldn't do better. This picture is a scream from start to finish. These stooges can't be beat. - C.S. Caporal, Bison Theatre, Oklahoma City, Okla. General and Neighborhood Patronage."
The following are exhibitors reviews from the Motion Picture Herald (dated May 25, 1940)

"Oh You Nazty Spy: Three Stooges - A satirical comedy on Hitler that was a knockout. The best stooge comedy to date. Running Time 19 minutes. -A. J. Inks, Crystal Theater, Ligonier, Ind. Small town patronage."

"Oh You Nazty Spy: Three Stooges - Here is a very clever satire on dictators which would be good in itself. Add to that the three Stooges and you have plenty of slapstick and action. It went over very well. I still get a point I didn't get before every once in a while when I start thinking about it. - W. Varick Nevins, III, Alfred Co-op Theater, Alfred N.Y. Small college town and rural patronage."
-Michael J. Ruhland

Resources UsedThe Three Stooges: An Illustrated History by Michael Fleming.

The Three Stooges Scrapbook by Jeff Lenburg, Greg Lenburg and Joan Howard Murer

The Three Stooges: Book of Scripts by Joan Howard Maurer

Cartoons For Saturday Morning #1

Happy Saturday morning, my friends. Of course with it being Saturday morning, you know what that means it is time to watch cartoons. That is why each Saturday morning I am going to share some classic cartoons with you.

First up is a cartoon from the kings of Saturday Morning themselves, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera. This cartoon stars Peter Potamus and his sidekick So-So. As was common in the Hanna-Barbera television cartoons of the 1950's and 60's, our main character's voice was based off of a popular actor. Peter's voice (provided by Daws Butler) voice was based off the comedic actor Joe E. Brown (best remembered for his role in Some Like It Hot (1959)). The Hanna-Barbera character Lippy the Lion had pretty much the same voice. Also like most of the Hanna-Barbera TV shows of this era, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera are credited with the direction of this cartoon. This show premiered in 1964 and that is the year this episode comes from, enjoy.

Though many of us today associate Looney Tunes with characters like Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck, the first staring Looney Tune character was Bosko, a little black boy who shared much in common with Mickey Mouse. This character was created by Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising, who were former Disney animators and later major directors for MGM's cartoon output. When they left in 1933, they would take the rights of this character with them, which led Warner Brothers to have to create new characters. This is the very first Looney Tunes cartoon ever, Sinkin' in the Bathtub (1930). The credited animator of this film is Friz Freleng (credited as Isadore Freleng), who would later become one of series' main directors as well as the creator of Porky Pig, Yosemite Sam, Sylvester and (not for Looney Tunes) Pink Panther.  

For a more modern Looney Tunes take, I was personally quite a fan of The Looney Tunes Show (2011-2014). Here is one of my favorite songs from that show.

Next up is a classic Terry Toons cartoon staring my favorite Terry Toons characters, Heckle and Jeckle. Here is Blue Plate Symphony (1954). This cartoon was directed by Connie Rasinski who had been directing for the studio since 1937.

 Last but not least is a classic Mickey Mouse cartoon, Mickey's Gala Premiere (1933). This cartoon features Mickey Mouse having his new cartoon premiere at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre. Showing up are all sorts of Hollywood stars of the era. Those who love old movies like I do will have tons of fun trying to pick out all the old stars.

The following are some exhibitors reviews for Mickey's Gala Premiere.

Motion Picture Herald, December 9, 1933. Mickey’s Gala Premiere: Mickey Mouse – The best to date. Shows all the stars in review and just watch the patrons pick them out. Disney’s cartoonist certainly stepped out in this one. Book it without hesitation. Running time, seven minutes. – William A. Crute, Victoria Theatre, Vancouver, BC. Neighborhood Patronage.”
Motion Picture Herald, March 10, 1934
Mickey’s Gala Premiere: Mickey Mouse – This cartoon is better than the average. Be sure to play it. Running time, 9 minutes. – A.H. Edwards, Orpheum Theatre, Orwigsburg, PA, Small Town and Rural patronage.”
Motion Picture Herald, April 7, 1934
Mickey’s Gala Premiere: Mickey Mouse – One of the best cartoons of the year. Plenty of laughs and will appeal to both young and old. Plenty of good caricatures of practically all of the screen actors and actresses. One of the best shorts I have seen in the past year. – J.J. Medford, Orpheum Theatre, Oxford, N. C., General Patronage.”
Motion Picture Herald, August 19, 1933
Mickey’s Gala Premiere: Mickey Mouse – In our opinion the best Mickey Mouse of them all and that is going some. – Charles Niles, Niles Theatre, Anamosa, Iowa. General Patronage.”

The following is from an article in The Film Daily (dated June 23, 1934).
“It seems that in dear ole England the audiences very seldom applaud a feature pix, let alone a short but at a theater in Huddersfeild they showed Walt Disney’s ‘Mickey’s Gala Premiere’ and blimey if the bally customers didn’t cheer and whistle and stomp their hooves for several minutes. The main feature had started the management had to stop the reel and rerun Mickey Mouse.”

Stay tooned next Saturday morning for more cartoon treasures.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Friday, January 25, 2019

And the Blue Ribbon Goes to "The Absent Minded Professor"

The following is a 1961 article from Box Office Magazine written by Velma West Sykes and titled "'The Absent Minded Professor' Wins May Blue Ribbon Award."

"National Screen Council Members chose Disney's 'The Absent Minded Professor ' for the May Boxoffice Blue Ribbon Award. This honors it as the most outstanding picture in the current release which is also good entertainment for the whole family. The rollicking comedy about a professor so absent minded he misses his own wedding several times, but comes up with the invention of 'flubber' which enables him to fly his own Model-T stars Fred MacMurray in the title role with costars Keenan Wynn, Nancy Olson and Tommy Kirk. The wacky story is helped by the unusual animation embellishments and the romantic angles finally come to a happy conclusion.

"The picture has already chalked up a fantastic 268 per cent of average business in first run reports from key city situations. The Boxoffice reviewer say it this way in the February 27 issue: 'Walt Disney follows up his blockbusting 'The Shaggy Dog' of 1959 with another modest-budget black-and-white live action comedy which bids fair to break records in 1961. All the popular ingredients are present; Fred MacMurray is again starred this time as a zany scientist who invents a rubbery substance he calls 'flubber', the screenplay by Bill "Shaggy' Walsh, based on a story by Samuel Taylor, is another fantasy in a small town setting and Robert Stevenson has directed in a broad Mack Sennett-like fashion which will have audiences howling as MacMurray's 'flubber' has people and an old flivver bouncing sky high.'

"Some Comments on Ballots
"NBC members commented in this fashion on their ballots.

"Delightfully wacky fantasy engenders considerable hilarity, especially in a truly remarkable basketball game. - Mrs. Harold E. Kerwin, Greater New Bedford (Mass.) Better Films Council... Probably one of the funniest pictures to come along in many and a day. It should be one of the big grossers of the year. - John P. Recher, Allied of Maryland, Baltimore.

"'The Absent Minded Professor' is the grandest bit of comedy-fantasy in years and the perect escape entertainment for all. - Clyde D. Moore, Columbia Dispatch … A winner from the first bounce. - Herb Kelly, Miami News... Fun for all the family. - Jay Monsen, Radio, KSUB, Cedar City, Utah.

"No problem of choice here - 'The Absent Minded Professor' is one of the most delightful films ever produced. - Mrs. W. Hayden Miller, San Antonio Motion Picture Board … In the best slapstick tradition and more for the entire family than some Disney films. - Ray Oviatt, Toledo Blade.

"He Was 'Flubbergasted'"Fun for the entire family. I was 'Flubbergasted.' - Art Preston, Teacher, Portland, Me … Science slapstick that is especially amusing in this science silly age. - Wayne Allen, Springfield (Ill.) Journal Register … Pass the flubber and we'll all have lighter spirits. - Alan Brannigan, Newmark News.

"In public acceptance 'The Absent Minded Professor' has no close contender. - C.F. Motley, Video Theaters Inc., Oklahoma City.

"Fun for all and doing fine business here. - Christina Gilliam, Atlanta Censor … This one I love. I even saw it twice a record previous held only by 'Gone With the Wind.' - Paul Hochuli, Houston Press.

"Great for both adults and Children Disney's formula for entertainment seems to be keyed to what the public wants. - A.B. Covey, Alabama Theatres Ass'n, Montgomery"


I agree with the assessment of this article. If you want good-hearted family entrainment, it is hard to do better than The Absent Minded Professor. I personally am a huge fan of the live action Disney movies of the 1950's, 60's and 70's and this movie perfectly shows why and it is no wonder. You have one of Disney's finest live action directors, Robert Stevenson (Mary Poppins, Darby O Gill and the Little People, Kidnapped, In Search of Castaways, Johnny Tremain, Old Yeller, The Love Bug, That Darn Cat!, The Gnome Mobile, Bedknobs and Broomsticks) and features Disney regulars Fred MacMurry, Tommy Kirk and Ed Wynn. Sure it is predictable and formulaic, but it is way to much fun to harp on that. It definitely outshines its 1997 remake, Flubber. So you if you are a Disney fan and haven't seen this, waste no time watch it now.

The Absent Minded Professor was also the very first Disney feature to get a sequel, 1963's Son of Flubber. Unlike today when all popular Disney movies get sequels back then Disney features rarely got them and this speaks to the success of this movie. That film would have the same cast and same director. Though it would not achieve the same heights as this first movie, it was delightful in its own way.

-Michael J. Ruhland


Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Harold Lloyd and Tipper

The following is an article from Screenland magazine dated January, 1928. It was written by Rosa Reilly and titled "Why People Love Harold Lloyd."

"There is no dramatic story in Harold Lloyd. No more than there is in a nine year old child. For all great comedians are children. They don't grow up like other folk.

"There is absolutely no story in Harold Lloyd at all. Here is a man who loves his wife. And naturally that sounds like any male's dramatic knell - so far as story telling purposes go. Here is not only a man who loves his wife but is also a devoted father. And considers his home his family and his dogs more appealing than all the Cleopatras and Helens of Troy on earth. Here is a man who earns tremendous sums of money. And yet - so far as I know - he has been able to keep himself free from all sorry scandals and sordid engagements. He is just a perfectly normal, hard working, none-too-handsome comedian. But he has the country in his pocket. And because he is one of the most popular men in the world - he can do anything. Why only the other day, New York stood still and let Harold Lloyd take a picture on one of the busiest streets of the city - Park Row. And nobody was angry. Millionares in their foreign made cars halted willingly while the country comedian shot some scenes for his next picture - scenes using an old horse car - the method of transportation which was quite in the mode in the mustached nineties. Silk legged stenographers, hollow chested clerks and round shouldered bookkeepers all willingly crowded away from the sidewalks, breathlessly awaiting Harold's appearance. All the time realizing that they would be docked one hour from their day's pay for even a few minutes of lateness. And a big Irish cop went around with a grin on his face like somebody had given him a couple bottles of potheen. And the sole reason for this grin was that he could tell his children that evening that he had been looking after Harold Lloyd.

"And the tough East Side Kids. What a problem they presented to Harold's director. 'They'll cut into our scenes and ruin everything' he said.

"'No they won't' the great clown answered. 'Those kids will be alright you wait and see.' And of course they were. Instead of causing trouble, they organized themselves quietly and quickly into gangs and policed the whole street. They were as efficient and orderly as any drilled squad - and a hundred times as thrilled. People just couldn't seem to do enough for Harold Lloyd.

"'Perhaps' said Harold 'people are kind to me because I am supposed to be funny.' Undoubtedly that is true. The world owes Harold Lloyd an immeasurable gift because he has brought them the rarest gift in the world - laughter. Not just raucous side-splitting custard pie laughter. But laughter that is soft. Laughter that has tears not too far behind it. And that is what is called genius.

"Last June and July Screenland ran a contest. Harold Lloyd needed a dig for his new comedy. And he offered three hundred dollars - a hundred dollars a week for three weeks - to the boy or girl who would send in the photograph of the best comedy dog.

"Photographs came in by the thousands. It seemed as if every kid in the country had sent in a snapshot. Every boy and every girl was 'just sure' that 'Rover' or 'King' or 'Laddy' was the one dog in all the world Harold could use.

"But none of them suited Harold. He needed a dog with a funny face or sad eyes. Or with a sad face and funny eyes.

"And then one day just as Harold had become discouraged thinking he would never find the dog he needed, he opened a letter and there stood 'Tipper' an impish wired haired terrier, belonging to little Charlie Heck of Chicago.

"According to the terms of the contract, Harold Lloyd sat himself right down and sent Charlie Heck a letter, telling him that 'Tipper' had won a prize and enclosing three hundred dollars.

"And Charlie almost died with joy. His pretty mother was happy too. And his father - who is a famous dental surgeon who looks like Babe Ruth - was as proud as if it had been his dog who was selected. Gaiety laid over that Chicago household as softly as rare old lace sits upon the shoulders of a fair women. But this gaiety wasn't felt by Tipper. For suddenly with no reason at all - since there wasn't a full moon or illness in the family - suddenly Tipper raised his short blunt muzzle towards the sky and whimpered a long terrible wail. A wail that sounded like a lean, wild wolf on the still, white night... There was no question about it. Tipper knew he was about to be separated from his beloved little master.    

"All over the neighborhood, Charlie took the letter from Harold Lloyd and showed it to all the other boys. And how they envied him. Every afternoon when the day was finished, the lads would flock over to Charlie's big house.

"'Who will feed and water Tipper on the train?' a boy asked.

"For the first time a worried looked chased the smile off Charlie's face. For Charlie always feed and watered Tipper himself. And he never forgot. Nor had he needed to be reminded. For the first time Charlie realized he that he was going to be separated from his little pal. And grief stood in his eyes. But only for a second. For the dog was not going to a stranger - but to his idol, Harold Lloyd.

"' I don't know who will look after Tipper' Charlie said slowly 'but he'll be all right. Harold wouldn't do anything that isn't all right.'

"Out in Hollywood, Harold Lloyd's comedy was developing slowly. Incident after incident arouse to check its tempo. Finally the stage had been reached where everything had to be 'shot through' fast. And in the midst of all the worry and detail, nobody had had time to send for and train Charlie Heck's dog for his part in the picture.

"One day Joe Reddy, Harold's friend and assistant came into Harold's office and said 'It looks like we just can't use that contest dog. We haven't got time to train it. We'll have to use one of the studio dogs.'

"'But I can't disappoint that kid, Joe' Harold answered 'I just can't'

"'I know boss' and Joe looked thoughtful. Because Joe had a son too. Born on Christmas day. And Joe feels kids disappointments like all real fathers do. 'I'll tell you what we'll do. Let's use one of the studio's dogs for this picture and then we can use Charlie Heck's in the next one, when we're not so darn rushed.'

"The comedian nodded his head but he wasn't satisfied.

"Meantime in Chicago, as the weeks went by and no call came from Tipper, Charlie Heck's smile grew dimmer and dimmer. Always he had a brave, bright smile. But suddenly he found he couldn't smile anymore. Of course he had his three hundred dollars. And it had been put in the bank to help pay for his first year of college. Charlie had always wanted to go first into Culver and then to West Point. But he couldn't smile because Harold Lloyd was his idol. And Harold hadn't done what he said he would.

"One day when Charlie Heck came home from school, his mother stood in the door waving a letter. But Tipper was no where to be seen. And Tipper was always the first one to greet Charlie.

"'Is it from Hollywood, Mama' Charlie yelled as he ran up the steps.

"'You open it Mama, I'm sure Harold sent from my dog. But you open it Mama.' and Charlie smiled a timid smile.

"But his mother held the envelope out to him. 'You open it. It'll be more fun.'

"The boy opened the flap and started to read. But suddenly, stout fellow that he is, his smile faded and tears fell down his cheeks.

"'A change in plans' he read 'has made it impossible for me to use Tipper for the moment...' There was more. But Charlie didn't care. He let the letter slide on the floor and put his rough head against his mother's shoulder.

"But then something warm muzzled up against Charlie's knee. And there was Tipper with his ball in his mouth, pleading for Charlie to come and play. And Tipper smiled. For Tipper knew...

"Then Harold came to New York and took a spacious apartment on 5th Avenue, so that his little daughter and his wife might have plenty of sun and air. And one day my editor said to me 'You go up to Harold Lloyd's apartment and get him to tell you about the picture he's making.'

"As I walked through the long hall leading towards the comedian's drawing room, I could see through the open doorway, little Gloria going on three sitting on the floor. And Mildred Davis by the window reading. It was a lovely room.

"'Yes I am. And our editor is most anxious to hear about your next picture. What will it be called?'

"'It hasn't been named yet. Say I'm terribly sorry about that dog.'

"'What dog?'

"'Why that one that I was going to use in my picture - Tipper.'

"'Yes' I said ingratiatingly 'When will your next film be released?'
"But Harold was silent and then spoke musingly: 'It certainty was too bad about that dog. I can't get that kid off my mind.'
"'Well you sent him three hundred dollars.'
"'That doesn't make up for a kid's disappointment.'
"'Say you wait here a moment. I'll be right back.' and out he dashed leaving me to coddle my thumbs.
"A long ten minutes went by And then he came back. And was most charming and polite.

"'Did you get what you wanted' genial Joe Reddy asked as I came out.

"'No I didn't all I heard about was Charlie Heck's dog.

"'To tell you the truth, Harold has been worried ever since he had to turn the kid's dog down.

"'But just now he came out and fixed everything up. With all the things on his mind - getting this new film finished, the kid's disappointment seems more important. So he had me send a telegraph just now to Charlie Heck that on his way back to Hollywood, he will stop by Chicago and see Tripper. And they'll have a party together. And get some pictures taken. And then next year, when his work is not so rushed, he'll have Charlie and Tripper and Charlie's mother come to California. And Tipper will have a real screen test.'

"'Yes? But how about my story, my editor won't like it at all when I come back without anything.'

"'Oh forget it, stories come and stories go - but a boy's heartache - that might go on forever unless -'

"So I went out and closed the door softly for I realized that behind me in that drawing room I had left something priceless and beautiful...

"When Harold Lloyd stepped off the Broadway Limited in Chicago that bright sunny morning in October, Charlie Heck remembered how to smile. And he couldn't have smiled any wider than if King Arthur himself, with the Knights of the Round Table all attending him, instead of Harold Lloyd - the Herald of Laughter.

"And with Harold came his wife, his daughter and Joe Reddy and his secretaries and maids and valets. And last - but not least - Harold's new great Dane, Illo Von Der Rhone, one of the finest specimens in the world.

"And never was a boy as thrilled as that boy Charlie Heck, as he stood at the steps with his pretty mother and big father. But before anyone had a chance to say anything Baby Gloria walked right up to Charlie and gave him a big fat hug. Than Harold took them all for a ride through Grant park. And then he and the boy got out of the car and stood for a while near the lake and talked. And what they said nobody will ever know. Because even Because even Charlie's mother respected the greatest moment of her son's life. And left his boy alone with his idol.

"And now Charlie has his own brave bright smile again. The kind of smile that only comes when a boy's beliefs are untarnished. And when a boy's heart - like the knight of Sir Galahad's - is pure.

"That's one reason why People like Harold Lloyd."

The movie which this article was talking about the making of was clearly Speedy (1928), Harold's last silent film. The studio dog, they ended up using was named King Tut. The director of the film (mentioned in this article) was Ted Wilde. It is interesting that this article make reference of Babe Ruth considering that Babe Ruth would actually be in Speedy.

As an added bonus here is a classic Harold Lloyd short, from 1919 called From Hand to Mouth.

-Michael J. Ruhland



Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Movie Review: On the Basis of Sex

Michael's Movie Grade: D

Review: Surprisingly bland and forgettable biopic of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

This movie has one of my pet peeves in these type of movies. This is that the character feel bland, underdeveloped and never completely real. This is certainty a major problem when these characters are real people. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is anything but bland and boring in real life, so it feels sad that she had to be made such for this movie. The supporting characters are even more bland. Ruth's daughter Jane is a prime example of this. Cailee Spaeny does a good job playing her, but there seems to be no other purpose for her to be in this movie than to deliver some lines that may inspire her mother. I don't know much about Jane Ginsburg as a person, but her in real life surely can't be as lacking in personality as she is portrayed here. This movie is also as cliché and safe as a biopic can get. This movie feel so familiar that at times, I almost forgot I hadn't seen this movie before. The film simply does what so many other biopics have done better, offering nothing new or original to the formula. This can create a long two hours. The movie certainly feels long and seeing so many clichés back to back simply gets tiring. The attempts at humor are not much better. Only one joke in this movie got a laugh out of me and that was more of a chuckle. All the other jokes feel very flat.      

This movie isn't all bad though. The final speech during the climax is excellent and Felicity Jones does a great job delivering it. The film has other occasional bits of good smart dialogue, but unfortunately this is drowned out by the fact that most of the dialogue is cliché and dull.  

It is sad this movie couldn't have been better. The real life story is a fascinating one and should have been given a more interesting treatment. Unfortunately the film is simply lifeless.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Director: Mimi Leder.
Writer: Daniel Stiepleman.
Producers: Robert W. Cort, Betsy Danbury, Jonathan King, Erin F. Larsen, Karen Loop, Carlen Palau.
Cinematographer: Mychael Danna.
Cinematographer: Michael Grady.
Main Cast: Felicity Jones, Armie Hammer, Cailee Spaney, Justin Theroux.  

Monday, January 21, 2019

Movie Review: They Shall Not Grow Old

Michael's Movie Grade: A+

Review: It is a cliché to say a movie is like history come to life. However that is the best way to describe this film. This movie is so close and intimate that by the end we feel we know these people. Of course we can never fully know or understand what these young men went through, but this movie gives a clearer vision than any other World War One documentary I've seen.

For those who don't know what this movie is, director Peter Jackson and his crew took 100 year old footage of World War One and restored and colorized it. The result is incredible. I am normally not a fan of colorization, but what Jackson and his crew accomplished here is incredible. I do not believe this should be applied to all silent movies or even most, but the result works perfectly for this film. The way it is filmed is so close and intimate that it feels like it could have been filmed yesterday. Even more incredible is this film's use of audio. Since the original filming of World War 1 was silent naturally there was no audio. This film does add sound effects and bits of dialogue. However the real treat is the narration. Most filmmakers would have used modern narration from historians here, but this film does so much better. The point of this film is not to give a history lesson. The point of this film is to let you spend time with the men who fought and as such the narration used is actually from real archival interviews for the 1960's. So what we are hearing is the actual men who fought telling us about what we are seeing on screen. The effect is incredible. It feels like we are watching this footage along with the real men and that we get to relive these memories with them. Because of this the movie ends up feeling like no other war documentary I've ever watched.

I will state this movie has its R rating for a reason. Many of the images are downright gruesome. Still despite this the movie shows the men making the best out of their situations. They were surround by horrors, but they did not lose their sense of humor. As well as seeing them suffer through the horrors of war, we see them laugh, smile and joke around with each other. There is something absolutely beautiful in this. It shows that beauty and joy can still be found in the worst of places. Again we see the gruesome side of war very strongly in this movie, but that makes these light moments have a stronger sense of depth and power than anything a fictional Hollywood film can dream up.

It is too often today, that history is viewed as just empty words in a textbook we read in school. This is not true. As this movie shows history is as real as the lives we are living now. History was full of human beings who were well human. History is something intimate and personal. This movie shows that perfectly, and I can see someone who doesn't think they have an interest in history becoming fascinated with World War One after watching this movie. This is a movie I think everybody should see. This movie would be perfect to show in a high school or college history class to let the students see for themselves just how real what they are studying is.

I must also say that this movie has made me appreciate veterans and those who have died in war, even more. These people are truly amazing and how they make it through something like what these men went through is something I'll never understand. If you are reading this and have served or are serving, thank you for everything you do, you are incredible.

-Michael J. Ruhland              

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Movie Review: Stan and Ollie

Michael's Movie Grade: A

Review: A sweet and charming film that will no doubt delight every Laurel and Hardy fan out there.

There are many beautiful movies about romantic relationships out there, but too few beautiful movies about close friendships. Stan and Ollie captures the latter perfectly though. This is a movie about close friends who have been together too long to exist apart from each other. While the duo's classic movies are filled with silly slapstick humor, underneath that is always an unbreakable bond between the Stan and Ollie characters that add so much to the charm of those films. This movie shows that a similar bond truly existed among the actors themselves. Like their on screen characters they fought and got mad at each other, but underneath all of it they deeply cared about each other, sharing a friendship that nothing could break. While this film definitely shows that the two offscreen where different from the two onscreen, we can see clearly that both the characters and the men shared this bond. Because of this the underlying sweetness of that made the old Laurel and Hardy films so great also make this movie great.

John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan can not get enough praise for how well they played Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy here. As a lifelong fan of Laurel and Hardy films, I thought it would be impossible for any actors to capture the men as perfectly as they do here. They are many times during this movie in which you forget you are watching a movie about Laurel and Hardy and think that you are actually watching Laurel and Hardy. This is especially true of the times when they recreate scenes from Way Out West (1937), County Hospital (1932) and Zenobia (1939). These are near perfect recreations and the closest anyone will ever come to recapturing the magic of those classic films. They have even the subtlest gestures down pat. Even when they perform sketches that Stan and Babe (as people called Oliver Hardy in real life) never actually filmed you can feel the closest thing to the pure magic of Laurel and Hardy outside of the old films.

The supporting cast is also great here. I love Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda as Stan and Babe's wives. They were fantastic and added a lot of great enjoyment and humor to this film as well.

It would have been so easy for a movie about two men growing old to be depressing. However this film avoids that trap very well. This is because along with the sadness there is the warmth of the two men and the passion clearly felt for the films subject matter. It can clearly be felt that this movie was made by people who love Laurel and Hardy as much as I do, and this passion and joy can be felt though the whole movie.

I may have to say though this movie is aimed towards fans of Laurel and Hardy. While this was perfect for me and was a huge part of why I love the movie, it may not work for everybody. I suggest if you haven't watched the classic Laurel and Hardy films, I suggest you watch at least one of their classic films before seeing this, it will make the experience all the better. This is not to say you won't enjoy it if you aren't familiar with the classic films, but only that you'd be missing out on quite a bit. I suggest Way Out West (1937), because it is not only a great movie, but quite a bit of this film references it.

I love everything about this movie and if you are a Laurel and Hardy fan as I am, I say you should watch this as soon as possible.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

Friday, January 18, 2019

The Great Felix the Cat or What Makes a Good Cartoon

During the silent film era the popularity of Felix the Cat was incredible. There had never been an animated character before Felix that reached anywhere near his popularity. He was not only one of the most famous cartoon characters of the 1920's but one of the most famous movie stars as popular as any of his live action counterparts. During the 1920's animation was still something that amazed audiences and lead many to ask "how do they move?"

With this in mind here is an article from Screenland Magazine in 1922 written by Ernest Mass.

"The entire secret to successful cartooning for the screen lies in that painstaking mathematical problem known as timing. No one in this field today exemplifies this fundamental principal with more expertise than Mr. Pat Sullivan, creator of the famous Felix the Cat series. For Felix is undeniably the nuttiest, dippiest, craziest cat that ever lived on screen or off.

"The animation in these feline extravaganzas is conceded to be perfect. Mr. Sullivan has elevated the raising of an arm, the turning of a head and the movement of the body to a fine art. The Felix walk is a classic and the acrobatics of Felix's tail are incomparable.

"And speaking of this caudal appendage that curls itself question marks and does all matter of inconceivable things, brings us to another consideration that from the standpoint of the audience is absolutely of first importance.

"Above everything else an animated cartoon must be humorous - must be full of laughs. Every foot must be funny. An audience seems to expect more from a four-hundred-foot cartoon than it does of the ordinary two-reel hokum that passes for a regular comedy, which can get by on the strength of just a few mildly amusing scenes.

"And let those who may think that the job of an animating cartoonist is a bed of roses consider that it takes in the neighborhood of three thousand drawings to complete one of these subjects. Imagine the amount of labor in turning out anywhere from one hundred fifty to two hundred drawings a day.

"But it is all part of the game, says Mr. Sullivan, who predicts the day when the animated cartoon will run upwards of twenty thousand drawings - when it will be not only an added feature of the program but the main feature and drawing card of the program     

"More and more are showman beginning to realize the peculiar box office value of this entertainment.

"Mr. Sullivan is present engaged on several new animating methods. The exact nature of these novelties must of course remain secret for the present, but it is safe to assert that once they are revealed there will be many to attest to the originality of these inventions by immediately proceeding  to imitate them."

Below is a Felix the Cat cartoon, from around the time when this article was written.


I am not fully sure what exact new animating methods the article was referring to but there is no doubt that in future Felix cartoons, his design was more appealing and the character animation showed the innerworkings of Felix's mind even better.

-Michael J. Ruhland

Thursday, January 17, 2019

New Laurel and Hardy Comic Books on the Way

The great comedy duo of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy will be returning in the form of comic book characters. These new comics will be released by American Mythology Comics, which has also made comic books featuring The Three Stooges, Pink Panther, Casper the Friendly Ghost, Rocky and Bullwinkle and Underdog. The series will be written by S.A. Check and Jordon Gershowitz and will have art by Jorge Pacheco (Looney Tunes and Scooby Doo comic books). American Mythology will both create new material with Laurel and Hardy as well as reprint some of the duo's previous comic book appearances dating back to 1949. This will include material previously published by Dell Comics, Gold Key Comics and DC Comics. The first issue of the new series of Laurel and Hardy comics will be released this April. Below is the cover of this first issue. Notice how the design of Stan and Ollie highly resemble that of the Hanna-Barbera and Larry Harmon animated Laurel and Hardy tv series of the 1960's.


As mentioned earlier this was hardly the first appearance of Laurel and Hardy in comic books. Their previous comic book career include comics from various different companies with the earliest examples being in 1949 and the latest being in 1987. It is great to see this tradition continue as well as letting the timeless Stan and Ollie characters live on. For an overview of the comic book careers of these two characters I recommend clicking here. I can't wait to see Stan get Ollie into more nice messes and hopefully you can't either.

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Treasures From Disney Vault on TCM 3/25/19

Good news fellow Disney lovers, on March 25th, Turner Classic Movies will be doing another installment of Treasures From the Disney Vault. This features another excellent selection of live action feature films and cartoon shorts that should delight every Disney fan. Again it will be hosted by film historian and critic (and huge influence on me) Leonard Maltin. This selection revolves around the theme of animals.

We start off with a charming Silly Symphonies cartoon, Elmer Elephant (1936) directed by the one and only Wilfred Jackson. Next up comes one of Disney's finest feature length nature documentaries The African Lion (1955). We then go to the very first Disney feature on which Walt Disney did not work on (though he did greenlight the idea before passing), a delightful little movie called Charlie the Lonesome Cougar (1967). Next up comes a fun little live action short, Yellowstone Cubs (1963). After this comes a masterful Silly Symphonies cartoon, The Country Cousin (1936), also directed by Wilfred Jackson. A highlight of that cartoon is Art Babbitt's incredible animation of a drunk mouse. After this comes one of my favorite Disney movies of the 1970's a delightfully low key family western called The Wild Country (1970). This is followed by three post Walt features from the studio, Cheetah (1989), Benji the Hunted (1987) and The Bears and I (1974).

All this starts at 5pm Western, 8 pm Eastern. Hope you are looking forward to it like I am. 

-Michael J. Ruhland

"Spider-Man Far From Home" Trailer

Two days ago the first trailer from Spider-Man Far From Home came out. If you have not seen it yet here it is.

In this film Peter Parker (Tom Holland) goes to Europe for his summer vacation. However the trip turns out not to be as much a vacation as he thought, when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) recruits him. Appearing in this movie will be the long time Spiderman villain Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhall), making his big screen debut.

The movie will be directed by Jon Watts who directed Spider-Man Homecoming. The writers will be Chis McKenna and Erik Sommers, both of whom were previously writers on Spider-Man Homecoming and Antman and Wasp for Marvel.

-Michael J. Ruhland  

The Three Stooges in "Violent is the Word For Curly" (1938)

Running Time: 18 minutes. Release Date: July 2, 1938. Shooting Dates: 3/14/38 - 3/17/38. Production Number: 423. Director: Charley Chase. Writers: Al Gielber and Elwood Ullman. Photography: Lucien Ballard. Editor: Arthur Seid. Associate Producers: Charley Chase and Hugh McCollum. Editor: Arthur Seid. Cast: The Three Stooges (Moe, Larry, Curly), Gladys Gale, Marjorie Dean, Bud Jamison, Eddie Fetherstone, John T. Murry, Pat Gleason.

Hello all you numbskulls and lamebrains, it's time to look at one of the great Three Stooges shorts, Violent is the Word for Curly.

The title of this short is a play on Valiant is the Word For Carrie, which was a 1935 book by Barry Benefield and a major movie in 1936. The play on the title however is just that. Violent is the Word for Curly does not resemble Valiant is the Word for Carrie in any way. This was just a punny title that tickled somebody's funny bone and wound up as the title of a film.

This movie was directed a comedy legend, Charley Chase. Chase had previously worked at Hal Roach Studios where as an actor he starred in one of the funniest series of two reel comedies ever during both the silent and early talkie era. He was no stranger to directing though. Before his own staring series he directed some fantastic silent short comedies for Roach and he would direct some of his own sound comedies. In 1937 Chase would move to Columbia. Here he would continue to star in his own series of shorts, but he also would direct some of Columbia's own Three Stooges and Andy Clyde films. Not shockingly his directorial efforts for these series were fantastic. His other stooge films included Tassels in the Air (1938), Mutts to You (1938), Flat Foot Stooges (1938) and Saved by the Belle (1939). This is a great lineup as any Stooge fan will tell you. He could have directed more, but sadly he passed away in 1940 at the age of 46 due to a heart attack.

What this short is probably best remembered for today is the song Swinging the Alphabet. The idea to use this song came from Charley Chase. Charley's maid knew the song and taught it to each to Charley's children. The song actually dated back to 1875. The Stooges would later rerecord the song (under the title The Alphabet Song) on their 1959 children's album The Nonsense Songbook (this time with Curly Joe DeRita as the third stooge). You can compare both versions by watching the below YouTube videos.

As this film starts we see Mildew College, an all female college. The students are interested in sports (especially basketball), but Mrs. Catsby doesn't want sports. Some dialogue mentions that three professors will be visiting to teach and fund the school. We then see the Stooges, they just got new jobs as gas station attendants. There first customers are the three professors mentioned earlier. Through much slapstick humor the Stooges make this a very trying trip for the professors. Curly puts gas in the radiator. Moe not realizing what Curly has done lights a match to see if Curly put water in there. The results are explosive. The boys hop in an ice cream truck (that they threw the professors' suitcases into) to make an escape. Curly freezes in the back and Moe and Larry thaw him out. In the process the boys get their clothes all wet. They put on the professors' clothes. Mrs. Catsby mistakes them for the real professors. When asked to give a speech Larry doesn't understand a student's questions. Moe quickly remedies this by beginning a performance of Swinging the Alphabet. Later the real professors come by to expose the Stooges.  To create a distraction the boys teach basketball (which under the Stooges takes on the rules of football) to the students. However the real professors make a basketball filled with explosives. Mrs. Catsby tells the boys she will give the school an athletic fund if they can get the real professors back. They throw the basketball over a hedge and it immediately blows the professors right on screen.

This is simply a fantastic short on all levels. From the gas station scenes to the final joke, this film never lets up on laughs. There is not a single joke that misses and many are laugh out loud funny. The song number is fantastic. It is often overlooked that music played a big part in what makes The Three Stooges great. They have very nice voices and could deliver a song fantastically. This is why they would have quite a good career making records in the late 1950's and 60's. This is one of the boys' best musical performances.

Abbott and Costello would later star in a feature film entitled Here Come the Coeds (1945). That film would also take place at an all female college and feature basketball as one of its comedic highlights.

For those of you keeping score at home there are 22 slaps in this film. Clips of this film were used in the complation feature, Stop! Look! and Laugh (1960).

The following is a review from The Film Daily (dated September 23, 1938).

"The Three Stooges are hired help at a filling station and when the three new professors journeying to a near by girls college stop for gas, the boys service them so thoroughly that everything is wrecked. The Stooges escape with the professors' luggage and rig themselves out in their college gowns. Impersonating the missing professors, they take the entire student faculty and college cuties for a merry whirl, replacing the regular studies with swing and athletics. The Stooges are a merry and boisterous trio filled with the joy of life and will no doubt convey their bubbling enthusiasm to the audiences that will witness their lunatic antics. In the cast are Marjorie Dean, Eddie Fetherson, Gladys Gale. Directed by Charley Chase. The original story filled with clever wit and bizarre imaginative touches is the work of Al Giebler, a chap who has a brilliant future ahead of him. If he lives to stand the strain."      

The following is a review from Boxoffice (dated September 10, 1938)

"There is another word for Curly as a comedian and it isn't violent. That probally goes for the comedy too. But if your customers go for the slam-bang type of comedy these fellows knock out they won't be disappointed in this. All the violent motions and grunts that pass for gags are included. This time the boys are mistaken for college professors who are expected at an institute for higher learning. They cause considerable damage in their customary manner until the real profs show up."

The following is an exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald (Dated July 29, 1939).

"Violent is the Word For Curly: Three Stooges - Excellent for our farm lads. - Harold Rankin, Plaza Theatre, Tilbury, Ontario, Canada, General Patronage."

The following is an exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald (Dated January 14, 1939).

"Violent is the Word for Curly: Three Stooges - A comedy that went over with a bang with our weekend audience. Very good. Running Time 18 Minutes - A.J. Inks, Crystal Theatre, Ligoneir, Ind. Small Town Patronage."

The following is an exhibitors review from the Motion Picture Herald (Dated June 29, 1940)

 "Violent is the Word for Curly: Three Stooges - Played this a second time, as Columbia had no others we had not played. Audience liked it very much. Played in the right place, you cannot beat these Stooge Comedies. -C.. L. Niles, Niles Theater, Anamosa, Iowa. General patronage."

-Michael J. Ruhland 

Resources UsedThe Three Stooges Scrapbook by Jeff Lenburg, Joan Howard Maurer and Greg Lenburg.
From Amalgamated Morons to American Icons: The Three Stooges An Illustrated History by Michael Fleming.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Movie Review: Free Solo

Michael's Movie Grade: A-

Review: Fantastically gripping documentary that looks mind-blowing when seen in Imax.

 I have been to Yosemite many times and have looked upon the beautiful El Captain. The very idea that anyone would want to climb this seems insane to me and that someone would want to climb it without a rope is even more incomprehensible. To even think about someone doing this brings a question immediately to my mind. What is going through that person's mind? While this is something, I will never completely know, this movie offers great insight. Alex is a truly fascinating human being and the perfect person to make a documentary like this about. The reason for this is that one gets a feeling that Alex cannot possibly pretend to be something else. He is completely honest and natural without a single note of falseness. With this it doesn't take long until we feel like we know him. With this we understand much better why he would want to do this more than we would pretty much any other rock climber.

Also fantastic in this movie is his girlfriend Sanni. She is also so open and honest when talking to the camera. She truly loves Alex and is terrified of the very idea of him dying. This brings up a question that I would have never thought about. What would it be like to have the person doing something like this as someone you love. How hard would it be to deal with the fact that he is drawn to something so incredibly dangerous, where a single tiny mistake can kill him. Sanni has trouble dealing with this. She both knows that she can't hold him back and couldn't live with herself if she did. She pours her heart out when talking to the camera and this pure emotion can easily be felt. There are times when you just want to climb through the screen and give her a comforting hug.

The climax in this film defies description. It is so unbelievably suspenseful. I had to turn my eyes away many times. It does not matter if you know what will happen, the pure scale of what is being done, has a huge effect on you. I found myself closing my eyes and hoping and praying that he would be okay many times. Maybe it is because we are so used to CGI taking out so much of the danger when we watch movies, but the reality is startling. The effect (especially when viewed in Imax) is incredible and so unlike any movie in recent memory. The suspense is often unbearable. Of course adding to this though is the absolute visual beauty of Yosemite (after all that is why I've been there so many times). While the rest of the film is really good, this climax easily takes the film to a whole new level and has to be seen to be believed.

-Michael J. Ruhland    

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Movie Review: The Upside

Michael's Movie Grade: B

Review: I have to swim against what the majority of critics are saying about this movie. I for one really enjoyed it. Is it as good The Intouchables (in case you didn't know this is a remake of that movie)? No. However this does not mean it is not a good movie on its own terms.

If I could only use one word to say what is good about this movie, I would use charming. It is true the story is predictable and often cliché. There is little here, even those who haven't seen The Intouchables haven't seen before and it is easy to know what will happen next. However this movie successeds very well, because it is so charming. The leads of this movie are perfect. Kevin Hart gets to play a less over the top role here, and he turns in one of the best performances of his career, so far. He not only hits the comedy notes perfectly, but also the dramatic notes. He can play a serious scene with a powerful and quiet subtlety that is really amazing. Hart proves here he is not only a comedian, but a darn good actor. After this I would actually watch him in a completely serious role, something I'd never thought I'd say. He still gets to show off his comedic skills and has some really funny moments here. Bryan Cranston is also perfect in his role. He as well gets to show off both his comedic and dramatic skills here. He brings such charm and charisma to this role, that one can't help but enjoy. His comic scenes involve him using droll sarcasm in the way only he can. His delivery of the comedic lines is simply fantastic. He also brings the pure emotion needed for the role. You can feel the inner pain he is going through just by looking at him. The two actors also have excellent chemistry together. While the story is cliché and nothing new, that doesn't mean it can't be effective. This movie tells its story pure and simply, creating a swiftly moving 123 minutes. Not a single scene ever drags. The emotional scenes work quite well and the humor can be laugh at loud funny. More than that this is a feel good movie that actually makes you feel good.

Again yes we have seen this before, but if we are going to see it again this movie does quite a good job.

-Michael J. Ruhland