Walnut GroveCast Ep.4 – Meet me at the Fair

Episode 4 – Meet me at the Fair


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Mark and Christopher discuss the wonderful Meet me at the Fair episode which originally aired Wednesday Nov 28, 1977. It is Season 4 Episode 11

The Ingalls and Oleson families are spending the day at a county fair, and there is plenty of fun and excitement in store for everyone. While sparks fly between Mary and a smooth-talking balloonist, Caroline and Harriet face off in a pie-baking contest, and Charles and Nels enter a gritty competition of their own. As for Laura, she wastes all her spending money in a surprising way, and Carrie faces serious danger when Laura fails to supervise her.

Kingdom of Spiders (1977)

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With this week’s episode, VHS Rewind is correcting a major faux pas: we have never before tackled any of the output of one of the shining stars of our youth: Mr. Captain Kirk/T.J Hooker himself, William Shatner.
The Shat was always around while we were growing up in the 1970s/1980s, not just because of STAR TREK and, later, T.J. HOOKER but because Shat was everywhere on TV: BARBARY COAST was another show he did which we watched because, well, Captain Kirk was on it; guest spots on every show we watched as kids: SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN; BARNABY JONES; HAWAII 5-O; IRONSIDE, KUNG FU; and guest spots on every tv show we didn’t watch as kids (PIONEER WOMAN, anyone? POLICE SURGEON??).
Then there were some incredible TV movies like HORROR AT 37,000 FEET, DISASTER ON THE COASTLINER and the classic PRAY FOR THE WILDCATS (with that once of a lifetime cast of Andy Griffith (playing the dangerous psychotic for a change) + Shat + Robert Reed + Marjoe Gortner (!!) + Angie Dickinson & Lorraine Gary.
Folks may forget that Shat’s theatrical features include more than the STAR TREK motion pictures: THE DEVIL’S RAIN; THE KIDNAPPING OF THE PRESIDENT; VISITING HOURS; AIRPLANE II: THE SEQUEL and, the subject our episode, KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS.
KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS is part of the subgenre of films we love: the nature-runs-amok-and-strikes-back genre which includes DAYS OF THE ANIMALS (all animals attack); FROGS (frogs attack); NIGHT OF THE LEPUS (giant bunnies attck); SSSSSSS (sssssnakessss attack); PHASE IV (little ants attack): EMPIRE OF THE ANTS (giant ants attack); a few movies about bees attacking; SQUIRM (somehow, worms attack); and yes, you know JAWS, JAWS 2 etc. In this one, we get to see spiders attack.
If the Shat seems to be dialing his Shatner-ness back somewhat (this isn’t the Shatner of STAR TREK V), remember that the Shat remains a singular actor and he gives us a lot to talk about. Shat certainly has a way with the ladies in this flick – part Donald Trump, part Pepe Le Peu, all creepy, sleazy sexual predator.
We hope you take a listen to this week’s episode so you can hear our thoughts about KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS and where, in the pantheon of spider flicks this one falls: is it as good as 1955’s TARANTULA? No but that 1955 flick is a personal, nostalgic favorite. Is KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS as unintentionally funny as 1975’s THE GIANT SPIDER INVASION? No, alas. Does KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS feature incredible rock-n-roll songs like 1958’s EARTH VS THE SPIDER. No, but there are plenty of songs in KINGDOM OF THE SPIDERS and we play every damn one of ‘em on the show because they are amazing.

 

“It is Better to be Feared Than Loved”

[Editor’s note –  Do women have to be beautiful and sweet? Is that required?]

I have heard many theories about how men and women relate to each other. It goes back to grade school. See, if you were a girl, and there was a particular young man who liked you, he would treat you very badly. Basically, it’s the masculine push-pull dynamic, wherein the male of the species behaves as though he finds the female unappealing so that he would never risk the observations and judgements of others that he has feelings, a heart, a soul, and a pair of decent lungs. With girls, I have no clue. When I was a kid, girls never showed interest, or maybe it wasn’t such a biological priority that they cared.

I didn’t intend to go off on a tangent about gender-based behavioral concepts. I was just thinking about how much I hate Amy Schumer, and I think it’s safe to assume I’m not hiding an undeniable attraction to her. I seriously find her repulsive. There’s absolutely nothing about her I would consider attractive in any sense of the word. In fact, I feel I am being punished with her presence on my television, the most recent manifestation being a terrible and disturbing Old Navy commercial making the rounds. You can view that son-of-a-bitch right here. I’ve included some screencaps to “highlight” her brand of antic levity.

The predator marks her prey.

It must be laundry day because our favorite comedienne is in sweats. She runs into her ex-boyfriend at a copy store.  She rushes up to him, hugs him and then smells him. Really, Amy? Ex-boyfriend Luke has gotten over her, taken a beautiful wife, and had two gorgeous children, all dressed impeccably (as Amy notes). They seem like the perfect family. Luke’s comely wife advises Amy to shop at Old Navy (a low-end Monty Ward knock-off that gained prominence in the late ’90s selling inferior-quality clothing at high prices) for all the best prices, yadda-yadda-yadda – why is Amy here? Does she haunt copy stores so she can get into uncomfortable conversations with ex-boyfriends and their wives (or husbands, for that matter – I can imagine a few of them jumping to the other team)?

The predator smells her prey.

As Luke’s fetching wife espouses the virtues of Old Navy’s inexplicable appeal, Amy glares at her with the burning psychotic hatred of a thousand suns. It’s obvious to me this commercial is really about Amy’s maladroit manner, her ease at creepy gazing, and her willful obsession with making other people incredibly uncomfortable. Her bipolar changes of mood (are they bipolar?) are not enough for clueless ex-boyfriend Luke to quietly move his good-looking family away from her. Maybe Luke will think about it later and clutch his wife in tearful, fearful embrace. We’ll never know. This commercial is not about Luke or his family. It’s about Amy. It has to be about Amy. Everything has to be about Amy. or else we’re all fired. Got it? Good. [Editor’s note: Shouldn’t it be about selling Old Navy?]

If I understand the idea put forth by the advertisement, it’s that we’re all beautiful and twisted little monsters (not Lady Gaga fans, but the real thing) who were spurned for much more beautiful, slightly less frightening examples of modern humanity. Our ex-boyfriends (and girlfriends) all found better mates to run their lives, perhaps take them shopping and wear cute scarves and hats, I don’t know. I’m just grasping at straws here, but if it came down to Amy Schumer or my wife, I’d still pick my wife in a cold minute. She can glare psychotically with the best of them (I call it the “Linda Blair”) but she doesn’t make me want to wet myself, or even regret my life choices.

The prey wets his pants.

Unfortunately, we have to discuss the superficialities. Luke is an obvious and easy “10”. Amy? Not so much. She’s a “2” on a bad day and a “3” with makeup and proper dress. There’s nothing beautiful or sweet about her face, her demeanor, or her personality. The sweats make her look fat, which is probably the look she and the producers of this piece were shooting for, though they would never admit it (this is not the kind of person you want selling your clothes). My condensed point? How did Amy ever wind up in the same universe as “dreamy” Luke?  Did she get him really drunk one night? Again, we’ll never know.  I like to subscribe to the Gregory House theory of coupling: tens marry tens, twos marry twos; there might be a little wiggle room if money or kids are involved.

As I also begin to understand it, we’re examining the cutting-edge borders of humor, an undeserved sense of antipathy (and apathy) in modern celebrity, and Amy Schumer’s shtick of mean-spirited, alpha-feminist psychosis. It’s even more disturbing that Schumer and/or her cohorts find these exchanges and doctrine funny. Schumer knows no need to express herself in such an unattractive (and unconvincing) manner. The more she tries to construct herself in the mold of modern feminism, the more she separates herself from the women who truly struggle in this world without the constant need for self-empowerment, bold pronouncement, or the harsh judgmental rhetoric (from their peers) of their personal life choices.

“Never Say Never Again, 1983”

“Never again.”

Never Say Never Again, 1983 (Sean Connery), Warner Bros.

James Bond is not a character that exists for any particular generation; though different generations will banter back-and-forth about which actor gave the strongest performance as Great Britain’s most famous Military Intelligence operative. It’s like Coke and Pepsi. Dick York and Dick Sargent? Original or Extra Crispy? David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar? Sean Connery or Roger Moore? As a matter of fact, in Ian Fleming’s original concept for the character, he envisioned someone who bore his own resemblance. A bit of wish fulfillment, perhaps? 1983 was an unusual year for our favorite secret agent in that we had two movies, Octopussy and Never Say Never Again, made by different production companies and starring Moore and Connery. Ultimately, as box receipts indicate, there was very little difference in their respective appeal. Octopussy earned $183 million worldwide, compared to Never Say Never Again’s paltry $160 million*.

Essentially a remake of Thunderball, but updated to accommodate Connery’s advanced years, Never Say Never Again came about because Kevin McClory (one of Thunderball’s writers) retained the rights to the film after a dispute with fellow writers Jack Whittingham and creator Ian Fleming. This left Thunderball as the only existing Bond property to not be owned outright by Fleming or “Cubby” Broccoli’s Eon Productions. Bond is compelled by his employers to spend time in physical rehabilitations after failing a wargame simulation. While there, and after bedding down one of his nurses, he spies (he can’t help it) a masochistic therapist, Fatima Blush (Barbara Carrera) dispensing a little more than medicine to a US Air Force pilot (Gavan O’Herlihy), whom she is using to circumvent the President’s security clearance in order to obtain two nuclear warheads, which SPECTRE will use to wreak havoc with NATO. Bond tracks the warheads to the Bahamas, where he runs afoul of oddball villain Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer) while romancing Largo’s lover, Domino (Kim Basinger), who also happens to be O’Herlihy’s sister.

Bond beds Blush, who then betrays him to sharks while scuba diving. Thankfully, sharks don’t know how to open doors in underwater ships. Largo is a little nutty. He challenges Bond to a unusual, but interesting looking three-dimensional video game that utlizes nuclear missile to neutralize their targets. The loser donates proceeds to a children’s charity. Bond always seems to get the upper hand in these games, and he cleans Largo out. Largo captures Bond (and Domino) after Bond tells her the truth about what happened to her brother. He locks Bond in a North African dungeon and ties Domino to a post to sell her to Arabs on horseback. Like I said, he’s a little nutty. Bond escapes his binds with a laser-shooting wristwatch (how come they never frisk him?) and rescues Domino, who avenges her brother’s death (with a well-aimed harpoon) before Largo can arm his warheads.

It’s a fairly simple story, complicated by numerous distraction; those being the women in the film, who serve as impediments (if you choose to designate them as such) to Bond’s goals. Kershner (as he did with The Empire Strikes Back) emphasizes performances over action set-pieces, but his camera always finds interesting places to shoot. Connery’s Bond is more menacing, predatory, and pragmatic than Moore’s civilized charm and manners. The Blofeld character (popularized by Donald Pleasance and Telly Savalas, and more recently Christoph Waltz) is minimalized here, but played very well in this movie by Max Von Sydow. The real villains in this piece are Brandauer and Carrera. Brandauer is a curiousity. He plays his scenes with a child-like glee, keeping everybody around subtly off-balance. He looks like he’s always on the verge of snapping.

Now we come to the inevitable comparisons. Watching both movies (Octopussy and Never Say Never Again) with my wife, she told me she preferred the Connery movie, because the story was more contained, less expansive, and less tedious than Octopussy. I disagree. While expertly photographed and edited, this is a less cultured Bond, and there seem to be fewer locations and less color than Octopussy. Indeed, the movie is even shot, edited, and paced like one of Connery’s early Bond efforts. When I tune into a James Bond film, I expect exotic locations, beautiful women, and great action sequences, and while Never Say Never Again definitely delivers those elements, it doesn’t deliver enough of them. It’s as if the producers expected only to secure Connery’s involvement and not much else, but it is interesting to speculate (based on this movie) how the Bond series would’ve continued with Connery playing the character. That being said, I’m glad Connery retired when he did. Where Moore was a bit stuffy, Connery is smug and (somewhat) unlikeable, regardless of how many creepily young women he beds in this movie. Also, the film feels naked without the signature (and trademarked) John Barry theme music and credit sequence.

* sarcasm

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

A Very Brady Christmas (1988)

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The new episode of VHS Rewind is a veritable Xmas gift waiting to be unwrapped by our listeners. Just in time for the holidays, VHS Rewind! takes a snowy sleigh ride through the holiday classic A VERY BRADY CHRISTMAS (link below, email us if it dies). Leave it to the older, wiser (and, in the case of Cindy Brady, the surprisingly very hot) Brady Bunch to teach us all about the true meaning of Christmas and family. And, as an added special bow on the Xmas wrapping, VHS Rewind has invited some very special elves to join the ride and spread the holiday cheer during the episode: David Lawler (of MISADVENTURES IN BLISSVILLE podcast), Geno Cuddy (of Geno in Evening), Chris Cooling from ForgottenTV and David B Andersen from the dark corners of his mind. We ho-ho-hope you will sit by the fireplace, roast some chestnuts and take a listen to this very special holiday episode. And then give us a kiss under the mistletoe. God bless us all, everyone.

 

“Where the Buffalo Roam, 1980”

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“This is a party, not a safari!”

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Where the Buffalo Roam, 1980 (Bill Murray), MCA/Universal

“He was … known for his lifelong use of alcohol and illegal drugs, his love of firearms, and his iconoclastic contempt for authoritarianism. He remarked: ‘I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.'”

I figured in this review of the notorious 1980 folly, the unprescribed medley of moments in the life of celebrated writer, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Where the Buffalo Roam, I would adopt the persona of celebrated writer, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. As long as the persona does not irritate, dear reader. Fishing cap? Check! Extra-long cigarette holder? Check! Hawaiian t-shirt? Check!  In a phrase, he was celebrated for being celebrated.

His memories exist as a wild anecdote, only partially rendered impotent by the gross complications of a film director who has lost his personal sense of humor, and instead relented and choked from insatiable gasps of Bill Murray’s star power. He lives in a swanky cabin in Colorado. His fax machine belches, demands tasty portions of words, with which he is not ready to part. Instead he shoots the infernal machine, and sicks his Doberman on the tasty testicles of his Nixon effigy. He looks at a picture of his beloved hippy attorney, Carl Lazlo (Peter Boyle) and remembers those times, some ten years back in San Francisco. Lazlo is an idealist. He defends the weak. Helps the helpless! He’s God’s own prototype! To weird to live. To rare to die. I know. I stole those words directly from the real Thompson, but I can’t help it. The man was such a brilliant fuck-face, it’s hard to imagine anyone (even Master Johnny Depp) portraying him in any meaningful way.

Lazlo spends a lot of his time defending young idiots on marijuana possession counts.  I understand his reasoning.  These are victimless crimes, but in trendy San Francisco, end-of-the-decade, with colleagues seducing him to the dark side; rich clients and cushy digs, Lazlo doesn’t care.  In these all-important character scenes, we become convinced we’re watching the story of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s lawyer (which is probably interesting enough to work on it’s own) instead of a story about the celebrated icon.  Lazlo is demoralized watching his clients sentenced to hard time in prison for what would amount to (in my view) petty misdemeanors, but such are the breaks in the world of the old and powerful.  He flips out when a particularly young client gets five years in jail for possession of one joint.  He’s held in contempt, while Thompson sits on a deadline and makes his editor (Bruno Kirby) pray for Lazlo’s swift release (and also for all the people of the world).

We move forward a few years as Thompson is covering the Super Bowl.  I don’t think he has any interest in covering sports, but he runs up a huge expense account at the hotel where he is staying (including Crab Louie and sixteen grapefruit).  He trashes the hotel room, dresses the staff in football equipment. and causes a ton of havoc on his floor.  The next morning, Lazlo (wearing a Nixon mask) catches up with him.  He stopped being an attorney full-time, and now cavorts with the younger set.  Thomspon ditches his assignment to become Lazlo’s traveling companion.  I wonder if, in these later scenes, Lazlo isn’t simply a figment of Thompson’s potent and overactive imagination.  Lazlo tells him he’s been “reborn”, running guns for paramilitary types out of Mexico.  Whatever floats your boat, Lazlo.  He wants Thompson to write a story about the “struggle.”  The movie is a push-pull of idealism and gluttony that never kicks into gear, mostly because I think those so-called revolutionaries of the time could never get their shit together in a worthwhile way.

The movie is a mess, editorially, with no flow except for episodic moments in which Murray crosses paths with Boyle’s Lazlo.  For his part, Boyle is extraordinary, but he acts in a vacuum.  Murray’s Thompson is a baroque caricature.  While obviously devoted to playing this part (with some guidance from the real Thompson), he comes over as an inebriated middle-child with autism, hiding a feverish addiction to alcohol and other various substances.  Despite good production locales and photography, Where the Buffalo Roam does no favors for the time period, and the social and the political unrest it attempts to show us.  I often wonder if this is the beginning or the end of self-destructive behavior, as Thompson’s exploits become bigger and more dangerous with each scene change.

Later releases of the movie remove key bits of music, due to rights issues, and replace them with “sound-alike” tracks, which make the whole thing even more unbearable to watch.  In retrospect, I had the same issues watching Terry Gilliam’s similar Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, however that movie improves on subsequent viewings, but Dr. Hunter S. Thompson’s legacy has been tarnished by his God-given desire to numb himself in any way he could.  In a way, Thompson was his own prototype.  Too rare to live, but always ready to die.

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It still hasn’t gotten weird enough for me.

“No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun — for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your age. Relax — This won’t hurt.”

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month.  Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.