Ask 411 Movies for 09.17.12: Heads Will Roll!
Posted by Leonard Hayhurst on 09.17.2012
Why did Game of Thrones get in trouble for using a George W. Bush head? Why are Saturday Night Live clips hard to find on the internet? All this and more covered this week in Ask 411 Movies!
As mentioned in the last column, I spent the previous weekend at the Monster Rama at the Riverside Drive-In in Vandergrift, Pa. A big tip of the top hat to the fun staff there who kept us fed and laughing. My friend Ron Adams of Creepy Classics set up as a vendor. Makeup and special effect guru Tom Savini and Doug Bradley, best known as Pinhead from Hellraiser, were there. They weren't making a celebrity appearance or anything, they just showed up. Bradley was wearing a cookie monster T-shirt. Now, if he had the Pinhead makeup on too with the shirt it would have been classic.
What Leonard Watched Recently
Without anything else really out, I went and saw The Cold Light of Day. I think it only got a theatrical release and not shipped direct to DVD, because producers thought some people would want to see star Henry Cavill before The Man of Steel came out. Cavill knows his way around an action sequence, but he wasn't give much else to showcase his talent in this very pedestrian, paint by numbers action thriller.
The next time in the column I have to explain what a MacGuffin is, I'll use this movie as a prime example. Cavill's family is kidnapped by the Mossad, because his CIA agent dad, played by a sleepwalking Bruce Willis, stole a briefcase from them. A deliciously evil Sigourney Weaver is now looking to sell the contents of the case to the highest bidder. As Colm Meaney basically says in not so many words in a surprise cameo when Cavill asks what's in the case, "you want to know what's in the briefcase? Fuck you, that's what's in the briefcase."
Obscure Television Series of the Week
Title: O.K. Crackerby!
Run Dates: Sept. 16, 1965 to Jan. 6, 1966
Cast: Burl Ives as O.K. Crackerby, Hal Buckley as St. John Quincy, Brian Corcoran as O.K. Jr., Brooke Adams as Cynthia Crackerby, Joel Davison as Hobart Crackerby, Laraine Stephens as Susan Wentworth, Dick Foran as Slim and John Indrisano as The Chauffer
Premise: This short lived series was created by "TV Guide" critic Cleveland Armory and playwright Abe Burrows. O.K. Crackerby was the richest man in the world, but the rough and tumble Oklahoman was not accepted in polite society. He didn't want his children snubbed the way he had, so Harvard graduate St. John was hired as a tutor to the kids. St. John and O.K would often butt heads, but would then come together to one up the high society snobs.
Ask 411 Movies Remembers
Actor Lance LeGault, 75, died Sept. 10 in Los Angeles. LeGault started his career as a stunt double for Elvis Presley in four films and he even played tambourine in Presley's landmark 1968 comeback special. LeGault often played stern military colonels such as in Stripes and the television shows The A-Team and Magnum P.I. Other movies included Coma, The Gambler, Iron Eagle, Shadow Force, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation and Home on the Range. Below, LeGault and his distinctive voice in the pilot of Werewolf.
On Our Last Episode...
Time to clean up a couple things from the last column.
Paul asked about a change in morality on basic cable from the late 1980s and early 1990s to today. He mentioned nudity being shown on USA Up All Night movies. A few readers mentioned in the comments not remembering any nudity in the films and neither do I. I didn't address the issue, because it's not what the question was about. Looking online it seems that R-rated nudity was edited out of the movies shown on the series. The same readers also mentioned Silk Stalkings as a prime example of old school edgy cable programming. Enjoy the intro below.
The series ran from 1991 to 1999. It was created by Stephen J. Cannell and was originally part of "Crimetime After Primetime" on CBS. Reruns were shown on the USA Network and it switched to USA full time in 1993 when the run ended on CBS. Rob Estes and Mitzi Kapture played detectives investigating crimes of passion among the rich and affluent of Palm Beach, Fla. In 1995, they both left the show and were replaced by Nick Kokotakis and Tyler Layton. They proved unpopular with fans and were replaced after a half season by Chris Potter and Janet Gunn, who were a divorced couple still police partners.
Telthorst had a theory on why seasons of cable shows were split up, the subject of another question last week.
Regarding seasons being split up:
The reason Breaking Bad did this (and I assume the other examples) is contracts. Most contracts for cable shows include bumps for each actor when a new season comes about. By calling it "Season Five Part 1" and "Season Five Part 2", they can skirt their legal obligation to hand out large raises to actors, writers, etc...
Contracts are usually x amount of pay for each episode shot, not per season. Bonuses can be worked in for certain bench marks; like episodes shot, ratings reached, etc. AMC announced that Breaking Bad would return for a 16 episode fifth and final season before it was released the season would be broken up into two eight episode chunks, one segment to air in the summer of 2012 and the second segment to air in the summer of 2013. So, I would say it has nothing to do with avoiding any contract bumps, but trying to stretch out one of its biggest hits over two years instead of one for promotional and advertising considerations.
NeverAcquiesce wrote in the comments last week about how Game of Thrones had an incident recently where they got in trouble for using a head of former President George W. Bush. This was in response to a question by Paul in Canada about sitting world leaders likenesses being used in television and movies. Bush isn't sitting, so it doesn't count for the question.
Creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss made mention of the Bush head being used on the DVD commentary for season one. They pointed out a severed head with long hair and covered with mud was Bush's head. They said it wasn't any slight against the former president or a political statement, it was just a prop head that was handy. No one noticed it until the DVD came out and then several people complained. Official apologies from the creators and HBO were issued and HBO said any further DVD releases of the episode would not feature the head.
Q: One of the best sketches is edited out of SNL on Netflix: Kelsey Grammar's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" sadly I cannot find a video of this clip anywhere. I wanted to show it to my wife because we were having a discussion which the "leagues" vs "fathoms" units of measurement came up. Any help?
A: NBC Universal is very tight with their material, particularly with Saturday Night Live. The only clips you can easily fine on video sharing sights like YouTube are the ones purposely released by NBC Universal. NBC Universal is just very concerned about their copyrighted material being out there for free and their very good about monitoring it.
There are a bunch of clips and episodes available on the official SNL website, including some from the Kelsey Grammer episode, but not the sketch you're looking for. Below is the "I Am a Man" sketch from the same episode. This is a link to a transcript of the 20,000 leagues skit.
Q: Leonard, Long time fan of your column, but it's been a couple of years since I've last had a question. Here's a few I'm hoping you can answer. Thanks! The Danimal
1. Is it known what the 1st American movie was to feature nudity? How about television also? Was there ever nudity allowed or to appear on tv before there were cable tv stations?
2. What was the 1st American film to be re-made/re-booted or re-imagined?
3. This might be an opinion answer more than a factual, but I've noticed on DVD sets of some tv shows that as the seasons progress the commentary tracks get lamer. Usually in the 1st 4-5 seasons there's always main stars of the show doing commentaries, but after 5 seasons or more it's mostly writers, producers & the guy who held a light up during the episode doing commentary. Are the stars mostly required to do these tracks as part of their contracts or by their own choice? Any personal choices of yours for good commentary tracks on tv or movie dvds?
A: According to Wikipedia and IMDB, the first mainstream American movie to feature nudity was Inspiration in 1915. Audrey Munson played an artist's model mostly seen from the rear and side. Annette Kellerman was shot nude from the front in the 1916 film Daughter of the Gods, but her long hair covered the naughty bits.
In television, the Public Broadcasting System was the first to display nudity on television nationally in some documentaries and films. The first direct example of nudity in a production made specifically for PBS was the adaptation of the off-Broadway play Steambath in 1973 featuring Valerie Perrine totally nude showering off. Perrine can be seen with towels around her neck and bottom toward the end of the below clip.
It probably makes sense that the movie most critics deem the first narrative feature ever made, The Great Train Robbery, was also the first to be remade. The original came out in 1903 and the remake was in 1904. The first film parody could also be attributed here as in 1905, The Little Train Robbery with an all child cast was produced.
As DVD commentaries become more common it is written into contracts that actors have to participate in them, just as its written in that they have to do certain publicity. In general, sales of DVD box sets of television shows go down per season as most fans are keen on owning the earlier seasons as opposed to the later ones, particularly with older programs. So, I would say it's a mix of not being able to get the major players to do the later seasons and DVD distributors not wanting to pay for the major names for later seasons because of diminishing returns.
My favorite commentaries are those done in character as a lark, such as Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest for This is Spinal Tap. The most surreal is Bruce Campbell as the supposed real Elvis Presley commenting on Bruce Campbell playing him in the movie Bubba Ho-Tep. Another unusual one is for Blood Simple where the Coen Brothers wrote a fake commentary for an actor to read pretending to be a film historian imparting a bunch of misinformation, like certain scenes being written for cameos by Gene Kelly and Rosemary Clooney. Director Adam McKay also relates a bunch of misinformation in his commentary track for Talladega Nights, like Walker and Texas Ranger being robots and his original cut being 9 ½ hours long.
Q: Greetings once again, old friend!
My contribution this week is part question, part observation. I've noticed that in the past ten years or so, premium cable channels (and to a lesser extent, basic cable like USA, FX, etc.) have drifted away from the fare that I used to love about them in favor of big budget/mainstream Hollywood movies. I remember growing up where both HBO and Showtime would debut new action/karate B-movies once a week, or on Cinemax you could catch such cinematic wonders as Beach Babes From Beyond or The Bikini Car Wash Company. Even local channels and basic cable like USA, FX, WGN have drifted from B movie fare. Movies like The Wraith and Fraternity Vacation use to air frequently on channels like that all the time, but now you see more well-known movies being aired. I doubt it's a cost issue, as certainly airing something like Armageddon at 2am almost certainly costs more than Ski School 2 does. Outside of the occasional rare showings on something like the Encore channels or Epix (where I've been graced with such awesomeness as Airborne, The Wraith, The Video Dead, and 976-EVIL 2), it's almost as if the era of the B movie is dead on television, and though there are plenty of ways to locate those movies if you REALLY want to see them, they're not all readily available on DVD and the tapes are long out of print. Am I the only one who misses this stuff and would take Cynthia Rothrock or Don "The Dragon" Wilson kicking some ass over a rerun of The Wedding Planner?
Sorry for the rant, but if there's anyone to bring this up to and discuss it with, it's you and your faithful readers. Hope all is well!
A: I think this ties somewhat into what we were talking about last week with cable networks curtailing some more risque material since the 1980s and 1990s, when movies you mentioned were also prominent. It has to do with advertisers wanting more premium material and some parents objecting to racier programs and movies. You can say this isn't a problem with premium channels such as HBO and Showtime, but, as we've also recently talked about, their goal is to sell subscriptions to the channel. It's probably logical to assume that more people would be more interested in being able to see top Hollywood movies than B- and C-grade genre flicks. Cable networks are also producing more original material, which decreases their reliance on old movies and television shows to fill time.
I think that basic and premium cable has grown up since the early days when they made their mark airing the obscure, the unusual and catering to a certain niche market and going against what you could find on the regular networks. Now there isn't much difference between cable channels and regular networks. Again, the expansion of the home market has hurt some too. As you mention, there is a multitude of ways that those who want to watch old television shows and movies can find them. While there are a few channels out there still devoted to showing old television programs, there don't seem to be a lot of B-movie devoted channels out there. I think some executives might be surprised to see how well such a channel would do as 1980s and 1990s nostalgia is becoming big as the kids from that era enter their 30s and 40s.
Just for you, buddy, a clip from The Bikini Carwash Company. You probably don't want to watch this at work, but, damn, it'll make you're day go better.
"The entire crew of the Nautilus - all 20,000 leagues of them - searched for Captain Nemo for over 20,000 leagues and nights. 20,000 leagues later, they still hadn't found a trace of Captain Nemo, the man they called.. Ol' 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea!"