“The Omen, 1976”

“Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666.”

The Omen, 1976 (Gregory Peck), 20th Century Fox

I remember a funny story Richard Donner told while being interviewed by The Movie Channel upon the broadcast of The Omen. He said he planned for the final shot of Damien at his father’s funeral to have a simple fade-out on the boy observing all the powerful politicians in attendance and then the credits would roll. Instead, the kid (Harvey Stephens) turns and looks at the camera and smiles. The moment sent a chill up the director’s spine so he kept it in the movie. It was just one of those happy accidents film directors are sometimes gifted. On it’s own merits, The Omen is more often than not, schlocky. The embarrassing and unnecessary 2006 remake starring Julia Stiles, Liev Schreiber, and Mia Farrow is even more so; substituting this version’s beautiful photography and deliberate pacing for over-saturation, jump scares, and terrible performances.

Please don’t smile!

Gregory Peck (who allegedly turned down a salary in exchange for box office percentage points) plays American diplomat Robert Thorn. His wife (Lee Remick) gives birth but the baby dies (or so he is told) so he arranges to adopt a child in it’s place rather than upset his wife. Soon after he is transferred to the United Kingdom and Damien grows. On the occasion of Damien’s birthday, his nanny kills herself after locking eyes with an evil-looking dog. Well, that’s peculiar. Thorn is visited by a creepy priest who insists Damien is the son of Satan, the Antichrist. This freaks out Peck, as it would freak out me, my wife, and everyone around us if we were given this information. If I were the priest, I would’ve started off with a series of urgent letters, each becoming more and more ridiculous until I had to finally meet the guy. Peck, being a rotten cheat politician assumes he’s being blackmailed. I think God would look poorly on blackmail.

Meanwhile groovy photographer David Warner has been tailing Peck and Damien. He snaps a photo of the priest as he is escorted off the ground and sees a strange “photoshop” in the picture after he develops it. Apparently, the priest is going to be impaled shortly. His camera must be evil! The Thorns hire creepy new governess Billie Whitelaw to replace the lady who killed herself. Billie has unearthly powers over the evil devil-dog and wields an amazing amount of control over young Damien. The Thorns want to take Damien to church, but Billie advises against it. On the way to church, Damien flips out and suddenly gets a temperature. That’s not a good sign, is it? Nor is the evil devil-dog who constantly guards Damien’s bedroom door and growls at everyone but Billie, who defies the Thorns at every turn. Mom takes Damien to the zoo and he scares the giraffes and makes the baboons go nuts. The movie goes along like this as a series of episodes until Warner enters the picture with his Twilight Zone camera.

Damnit! Stop smiling!

Poor Lee Remick! Already on the verge of a nervous breakdown, she becomes pregnant, falls from a high ceiling (with Damien’s help), miscarries, and is then pushed out of a hospital window, where she mercifully dies. It’s interesting how much ill fortune can befall a family who just wanted to have a kid! I mean, good Lord! This big budget spectacle is over-the-top in it’s depictions of violence. Warner isn’t spared either. You might say he loses his head! Thank you! I’m here all week! Donner directs Dvaid Seltzer’s original script with tongue planted firmly in cheek. In fact, you could re-cut this movie as a comedy and lose nary a narrative beat. Even scenes of tragedy are somewhat raucous and could be played for laughs. Still, The Omen is a lot of fun. Due to his experience as a television director, and with only three feature films to his credit, Donner (beginning with The Omen) would become a premier director-producer for Hollywood in ’80s and ’90s with films such as Superman, The Goonies, Ladyhawke, and the Lethal Weapon franchise.

Next up – more wolf stuff!

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.

MBA – Michael Landon & Don Knotts!

Season 1 Episode 1

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In our PILOT episode of MBA we review :

The Donny & Marie Show With Michael Landon, Don Knotts and Billy Barty as guests!

This show first aired on 4/30/76 and this is a rundown of what is in this nearly 40 year old gem!

  • Opening song “Keep The Customer Satisfied”
  • Monsters skit (Monster Mash)
  • D&M Medley “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”, “Honky Cat”, “You’re Nobody Till Somebody Loves You” & “Boogie Man”
  • Marie sings “Weeping Willow”
  • Osmond brothers sing “Utah”
  • Donny gets thrown into a huge pie
  • Happy Birthday USA finale – remember it WAS 1976!

A special thank you to Dave Evans for not only the support but for providing a remarkable collection of Osmond classics to the public!

Visit his YouTube channel NOW!
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwNDcqHGpP3gXtHoPxM3lIw

“King Kong, 1976”

“He was the terror, the mystery of their lives, and the magic.  A year from now that’ll be an island full of burned-out drunks.  When we took Kong, we kidnapped their god.”

King Kong, 1976 (Jeff Bridges), Paramount Pictures

Once upon a time, movies were made for fun. There was the promise of riches, of course, but technicians took an interest in telling stories, entertaining the masses, and weighing the benefits of big box office grosses and shelf life. There was no room for philosophy or a filmmaker’s personal responsibility. When Jaws brought the fervor and potential of explosive summer movie box office openings to a fever pitch, producers scrambled like mad to make big movies for wide release. The system is still in place today, but with nowhere near as much zeal or child-like enthusiasm as it once had. It’s become a more cynical market for big budget genre movies.

With Kong: Skull Island now making the rounds in theaters, there have been at least 18 incarnations of the “creature who touches Heaven,” and there will be more for sure. We saw the movie last week, and while I was grateful the writers and producers made an all-out monster movie this time around, I was dismayed at the lack of creative enterprise. This was by-the-numbers computerized filmmaking, and so much thought was put into Kong’s appearance that very little effort was left to write a compelling story or develop interesting characterizations, but I don’t want to write about Kong: Skull Island. I call this column Vintage Cable Box for a reason.

Dreamy scientist Jeff Bridges stows away aboard greedy industrialist Charles Grodin’s merchant tanker as it sets a course for an uncharted island obscured by a mysterious fog bank somewhere in the North Pacific. Along the way, they receive a distress call from a sunken yacht and pick up aspiring actress Dwan (delicious Jessica Lange), and it isn’t long before the two most attractive people in the entire cast become attracted to one another. They pierce the white veil of fog surrounding the island and make for shore on an expedition for oil (an interesting narrative choice considering the gas shortage of the time).

The explorers run afoul of unpleasant natives who demand blondie Dwan in exchange for six of their own women so she can be used for a strange marriage ritual. They refuse and set off a light-show with guns to scare off the natives. Later that night, they abduct Dwan, drape her in gowns and offer her up to our titular primate. At times, their courtship is quite endearing. Kong is initially furious with her because of her stubborn streak, but he grows to like (and then, admittedly inexplicably) love her. For Dwan’s part, she spends most of her time with Kong in fear, either of his temper, or the other various creatures and dangerous situations on the island. She ultimately develops an affection for the enormous ape. Rick Baker (in the ape suit) and Carlo Rambaldi (responsible for the expressive mechanical makeup effects) create an incredible character in Kong that we feel for, and ultimately pity.

After tests indicate the petroleum isn’t ready for drilling, Grodin doubles down and captures Kong to save his job by making the big guy part of an advertising campaign akin to the Esso “Put a Tiger in Your Tank” promotion.  He takes Kong to New York, and of course, the ape goes … well … ape.  Kong takes Dwan to the top of the World Trade Center and is killed by helicopters.  The movie does a great job of negotiating the terror of the beast with the ethical quandry of removing him from his habitat without the proselytizing quasi-bestial leanings of Peter Jackson’s overblown (and unnecessarily epic) 2005 remake, or Merian C. Cooper’s rambling, unintentionally funny ode to the “white male reality.”  This movie is the “Goldilocks” of all the King Kong movies, for me.  It’s just right.

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.

Wonderbug (1976)

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Made in the waning days of the Krofft empire, Wonderbug still stands out as a quite entertaining little diversion. With each episode running at around 10+ minutes, and functioning as basically a Human cartoon, Wonderbug is the story of thee teenagers in their late 20’s who discover a magic horn that they attach to a rotted out old dune buggy, which, when honked, turns it into the magical, red, sometimes full size, sometimes plastic toy, sometimes hand puppet, Schlepcar! As stated before, the episodes are short, so they rarely outstay their welcome, despite the general silliness of the premise.

So, join Mark and David as they get nostalgic about all things Krofft, and delve deep into the lost (as in Land of the) classic from the 70’s, Wonderbug!

 

1976 Donnie & Marie New Years Eve Special

Season 2 – Episode 9
The 1976 Donnie and Marie Osmond New Years’ Eve Special

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Mark and Chris discuss the incredible 1976 Donnie and Marie Osmond New Years’ Eve ABC Special!

The Osmond’s Christmas Special (1976) – VHS Rewind! Episode 16

VHS Rewind!

Season 2 – Episode 4
The Osmonds Christmas Special (1976)

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Christopher Hasler:  VHS Rewind continues bringing on the Xmas cheer as we visit with the Osmond family circa 1976 and The Osmond Family Christmas Special. The gang’s all here including Donny and Marie and the other, less talented Osmond brothers (after spending an hour watching this show we still cant remember all of their names), even Mom and Dad Osmond join in the festivities (Mom Osmond even plays saxophone!). As an extra special present, the Osmond brood is joined by Andy Williams (of course) and the always incredible Paul Lynde. Join VHS Rewind for christmas carols, lame comedy bits, wacky fashion sense, bad comb-overs, and even a cheesy mustache, all in the inimitable Osmond family style..

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