Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Bogdanovich Challenge: Week Eight


Notorious, released August 15, 1946.

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Starring Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains. 


"For an absolutely unique, no-apologies. no-excuses, first-rate picture, Alfred Hitchcock's 1946 suspense success, NOTORIOUS, is the one. It is a more-modern-than-ever. ambiguous and troubling, love-versus-duty story of the early noir era: a convicted Nazi's innocent daughter (Ingrid Bergman at her most striking), wholly in love with an American spy (Cary Grant) who's divded about her, is forced to marry a renegade Nazi (Claude Rains) who's truly mad about her."
"It is arguably Hitchcock's best film, with a brilliant script (nominated for an Academy Award) that he concocted with the ace Ben Hecht."


Slow, sorta' dull.

I might have to mark these week's entry in the Challenge down as a failure. My familiarity with Hitchcock's work bends more to his later-era work; the darker (Rear Window, Strangers on a Train) and the far more depraved (Psycho, Frenzy). Oh, and The Birds (1963), of course. This one, well, this one I would argue with Bogdanovich is far from the best from The Master of Suspense.

I'm going to have to revisit it sooner rather than later, though. To give it a fair chance to redeem itself in the eyes of a sluggish Trash Man. Yeah, I had difficulty staying awake thanks to an early morning shift at work, which is maybe no fault of the film's. But with only a few hours left in the day, and the week-long window to watch and review the film, I don't have it in me to attempt a re-watch before the deadline's up.

Sorry, Hitch. I'll see you again in Week Fifteen, and hopefully then I'll be a lot less groggy.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Bring On the Bad Guys

Volume II..!

Yeah, I'm back with a second installment of scum and villainy. A day off spent cleaning and organizing my trash meant uncovering a small bin of toys that could easily be overlooked tucked away in the closet. It's a travesty, because some of the bin's inhabitants were purchased for the sole purpose of taking a look at 'em here on the blog. Instead, they wound up tossed aside and nearly forgotten! A fate worse than death! But since we all know that no bad-guy stays down for too long, it's time to give them their moment to shine. To rise from the ashes like a Dark Phoenix.

You better watch out, planet full of broccoli people.

There's no need to rehash my love-letter to everything evil; just a simple reminder that the antagonists appeal to me a lot more than any good guys ever could. Or to put it in even simpler terms: Skeletor > He-Man.

Let's get down and dirty.


Doctor Doom, to be precise, is easily one of the most recognizable characters [villainous or otherwise] in Marvel Comics' stable of characters. Victor Von has spent the last several decades tangling with his accursed foes, The Fantastic Four, and ruling the fictional nation of Latveria with his iron-fists. He rarely deviates from these two tasks, only occasionally clashing with other heroic fools and sometimes attempting to steal the limitless powers of god-like beings. And somehow we never seem to get bored with the guy!

It could be how loquacious the fella is or how he isn't afraid to wear a skirt and a Santa Claus-esque belt or the time he killed his long-lost love and wore her skin as his magic-fueled armor. It could be because we like watching him fail; his plans getting foiled by everyone from "Benjy" Grimm to Squirrel Girl.

Confound that wretched rodent..!

Everybody's got a price and "The Million Dollar Man" Ted DiBiase's was nowhere near the amount you'd expect. Not even close to a million, I paid exactly three bucks for this classic, Hasbro-produced beauty. I know, he looks less like a villain and more like he should be hosting some daytime game-show that would air before The Price is Right.

Unfortunately, the guy just can't hold a candle when it comes to a skinny Drew Carey, even though they've both been inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame.

God, that's depressing.

Tally Hawk..!

I was a huge fan of the SilverHawks cartoon when it originally aired in the late '80s, but never owned any of the toys as a kid. Too distracted by G.I.Joe and Transformers and other odd toy-lines, the action figures were something I knew only from the handful that one of my friends owned. If he had owned Buzz-Saw, the brightly-colored robot you see above, I probably would have begged my mom to rush me off to Bradlees or Ames to pick one up for myself.

Nevermind the delicious shade of green, it's all the jagged gears/saws that cover seventeen percent of his body that really draws me in. He's simultaneously cartoonish and threatening, which is a two-hit combo that I've never been able to resist. It should be no surprise that he's one of the first "vintage" toys that I actively sought out when I decided to get back into collecting trash from my childhood.

The early '90s are best represented by bright colors and eco-terrorism. Here we have two action figures, from two different toy-lines, both involving heroes that want only to protect Mother Earth and all her beautiful creatures. On the right, hailing from the Toxic Crusaders series, released by Playmates in 1991, is the uber-ridiculous Bonehead. His gas-mask-wearing friend in the orange jumpsuit is Weed Killer, one of Arcane's Un-Men, best known as fighting foes of Swamp Thing.

These two could spell trouble for do-gooders and nature-lovers everywhere, but they seem more concerned with mugging for the camera. Bonehead obviously approves, giving a big thumbs-up to his baddie-buddy's awful impression of Bullwinkle J. Moose.

Joey Gladstone, he is not.

One of these things is not like the others...

I feel like, well, if you've visited this blog before, you should already be familiar with the adventures of Blackstar. An intergalactic hero stranded on a sword-and-sorcery world, he's a sorta' predecessor to Filmation's later, and far more successful, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Although, if I'm being completely honest, I don't remember the Blackstar animated series or the action figures at all. I wasn't born yet when the cartoon originally aired, and was only a couple years old when the toys finally started hitting shelves. It's possible I knew someone who owned some, but I don't recall ever seeing anything Blackstar until years later.

My actual introduction to everything John Blackstar was that mean, green, demonic figurine above, sitting on a bookshelf belonging to one of my housemates' back in '02. It was another couple years before I was able to place where it originated from, and several more before I ever owned one myself. Shortly after, I managed to score his blue-ish doppelganger. You see, these "demon" sidekicks came packaged with the villainous figures from the Blackstar toy-line, and were available in multiple colors.

I'll probably spend the rest of my days hunting down an orange one and a pink one.

The grosser looking guy in the middle is named Slobber; he's nearly a decade older, from a completely different line of toys, and actually would have fit in better with Weed Killer and Bonehead. The Trash Bag Bunch was released by Galoob in 1991, and featured a team of heroic warriors known as the Disposers, who attempted to thwart the eco-unfriendly schemes of the Trashors. Everything truly was about the environment and ozone layers and recycling back in 1991, even kids' toys that sorta' resembled Gremlins.

I've been meaning to write about the Trash Bag Bunch in detail; I went so far as to buy a huge lot of loose figures on eBay several months back. It seems, however, that others have already taken a good, long look at the series, and I'm probably better off sparing you my half-assed attempts and just pointing you in their direction. So, here's the insidious Bogleech doing a far better job than I ever could.

Evil comes in many sizes, and despite his miniscule stature, none are as horrific as Squish the Sogmaster. The closest thing to an arch-enemy that Cap'n Crunch has, this robotic nightmare wants nothing more than to spoil your delicious breakfast cereals. All shall tremble at the mere mention of his name! Cower before the might and menace of Squish the Sogmaster..!

Seriously, I love this guy. There are vague, but super-pleasant, memories from my childhood that involve a contest run by Quaker Oats, where the good Cap'n went missing and lovers of his cereal were tasked with finding him. The promotion involved a couple ads in Marvel comic books, featuring Spider-Man battling the Soggies, and also an 800-number you could call when you finally solved the mystery. A pre-recorded message from Cap'n Crunch himself thanked you for saving him from the evil clutches of Squish and his Soggie minions.

This is a thing that I actually took part in as a kid, and I remember huddling around the phone with my older sister and my dad, listening to the Cap'n personally congratulating us on a job well done. How many of you can claim you saved a beloved, nautical-themed cereal mascot?

I bet none.

You've all wasted your lives!

Where as, clearly, since I have time to take pictures of a Gobot and Magmar, leader of the Evil Rock Lords, standing triumphant over a fallen copy of Transformers: The Movie (1986), I am doing something right.

I need to stop lying to myself.

I need to. 


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Bogdanovich Challenge: Week Seven


Adam's Rib, released November 18, 1949.

Directed by George Cukor.

Starring Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Judy Holliday and Tom Ewell.

"Of the nine Tracy-Hepburn vehicles shot during the quarter century between 1942's WOMAN OF THE YEAR (directed by George Stevens) and 1967's GUESS WHO'S COMING TO DINNER (directed by Stanley Kramer), I'd put ADAM'S RIB at the top. The real Manhattan locations certainly help to give it the edge, as does the basic premise--unbeatable in male-female conflict--not to mention Judy Holliday's scene-stealing performance, filmed while she was already wowing Broadway audiences as the lead in Garson Kanin's hit play, BORN YESTERDAY."


Finally, some familiar faces.

I'm no stranger to Hepburn-Tracy joint flicks, having previously seen 1952's Pat and Mike (also directed by George Cukor) and Desk Set (1957). The latter was my first introduction to the pair, having caught it on AMC back when they used to show actual "classic" films without commercial interruptions. This film, Adam's Rib, was their sixth together, and might be my favorite so far. Their on-screen chemistry is undeniable; it's easy to see why they were cast together so frequently and often at odds.

Here they portray a married couple, Adam and Amanda Bonner, rival lawyers whose court-case of a spurned wife who shot her cheating husband explodes into a near-literal battle of the sexes. What starts out as playful courtroom behavior quickly spirals out of control, threatening to tear apart their own seemingly blissful marriage. With neither one willing to back down, it seems that the only way the story can end is with their eventual divorce. Or a possible murder.

Hilarity ensues!

It really is a wonderful and clever film, though it's odd that Bogdanovich would have listed it as essential Valentine's Day viewing material. Sure, there's romance and comic misunderstandings that teeter on the brink of true turmoil, and the occasional dose of slapstick and one absolutely hilarious sight-gag at the beginning of the film. But I have to believe that there are far more suitable romantic comedies from the golden age of Hollywood than this one. Perhaps I'll even find one as a I continue this year-long endeavor.

Oh, and I absolutely adored Judy Holliday as Doris Attinger, the spurned wife. During her time on the witness stand, I was immediately struck with how similar her character's voice and mannerisms were to those of the infamous Bat-rogue, Harley Quinn. I've read other comparisons between Harley and one of Holliday's later roles in the film, Born Yesterday.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Anti-Love Equation

This might surprise some of you, but I am not a sentimental guy. Haven't been in quite a while, so [again with the surprises] Valentine's Day doesn't hold a whole lot of importance to me. I'm not here to spout off some anti-Valentine's rant or declare it another one of Hallmark's "made-up" holidays. Nah, I just popped on real quick to wax nostalgic. So much surprise, right?

The last few weeks, I've been trying to decide what exactly I wanted to post here on the blog for Valentine's Day. I'd originally intended to view and review the "classic" romantic comedy, My Boyfriend's Back (1993). I do, after all, have a VHS-copy that's been sitting on my shelf since last Valentine's Day, when I was still trying to brainstorm and start this whole blog-thing. But with the Bogdanovich Challenge in full-effect, I thought maybe I'd take a break from everything cinematic and try something else.

Then I found out that Miss M had already swiped my other idea. Besides absolutely knocking it out of the park [that's an expression, isn't it?] at her own blog, she's also been contributing regular articles over at Retro-Daze. Her recent posts have taken a look at Valentine's cards past, while sharing tales of broken-hearts and R.L. Stine. It's the highlighting of several vintage Valentine's that stole my thunder, and now I feel like Thor without his hammer. Totally emasculated!

No, not really, but still..! Now I'm just a Trash Man-Come-Lately, digging at the bottom of the bowl for the candy heart with the loveliest phrase to win the hearts of my loyal readers back from the dorkiest gal on the block. It's no easy task, but I still gotta try.

So, here we go, kids. A handful of Valentine's from my youth that may appeal to the retro-nerds in all of us.

Happy Valentine's Day, all.

You're all lookin' fine.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Bogdanovich Challenge: Week Six


White Heat, released September 2, 1949.

Directed by Raoul Walsh.

Starring James Cagney, Virginia Mayo, Margaret Wycherly and Edmond O'Brien.

"WHITE HEAT both revived Warner Brothers' gangster cycle of the Thirties and also ended it conclusively for the golden age, which still had about thirteen years to go. In other words, this is the climax of the gangster genre."


The Bogdanovich Challenge has allowed me the opportunity to view several films I otherwise would have ignored. That's an embarrassing thing to admit, because every single selection has been solid. There's not a single one of the first six movies that I haven't fully enjoyed. Likewise, there are performers, actors who I knew only through reputation or through references or caricatures, that I've only just discovered.

James Cagney is absolutely one of the finest.

His performance here as Cody Jarrett is fantastic. He's a psychotic mama's boy that is always on the verge of a complete and utter breakdown. There are glimpses early on, with his violent outbursts and his lack of concern for the well-being of any other human being besides himself and his mother. The only time he appears to do the right thing, like turning himself in to the authorities, is when he's trying to protect himself from a far worse fate.

And yet.

And yet, you're going to watch White Heat and you're gonna sorta' root for him to get away with every horrible thing that he's done. Sure, you'll be waiting for his eventual meltdown, you'll cringe when his wife, Verna [played by Virginia Mayo], cringes any time Jarrett raises his hand, but there's this little part of you that will cheer when he gets revenge on the goons who betrayed him.

Bogdanovich shared an anecdote in his book; he and Orson Welles viewing the film sometime in the '70s together and booing the undercover cop (Edmond O'Brien) who's wormed his way into Jarrett's gang.

You'll be booing, too.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

From the Toy Vault

One of my old stomping grounds is several towns over, something of a hike to be a regular visit. And since my collecting habits have changed some over the last couple years, it's been a while since I was last there. Where I had an extra day off this past week, though, I spent it traveling about in search of ancient treasures; toys and trading cards and long-lost collectibles that should appeal to mostly no-one!

It looks like show-and-tell time, boys and girls.

Yeah, we're starting big. Or are we?

He may look unfamiliar to some of you, but this here is Merdude, one-time ally of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Once upon a time, I had an incredible collection of TMNT action figures. All the ones from my childhood, plus quite a few lots that I picked up on eBay back in '02/'03. Close to 150 figures, and yet this particular one eluded me. I don't have that old collection anymore; it was sold off a few years back in a moment of weakness. Desperation and a severe lack of money or whatever you want to call it.

Since I've started hitting the thrift shops more frequently, I've managed to piece together a small selection of TMNT figures. It's only about a dozen or so, I don't think I'll ever get to where I was before, but I've made it one of my collecting priorities, or uh, focuses, to try and rebuild. To own all the characters and toys I've always wanted or always wanted back.

Speaking of toys I've always wanted back!

Not entirely unlike Merdude, Dick Tracy was released by Playmates in the early '90s. Tracy's toy-line was short-lived, meant as a tie-in to the motion picture of the same name. I was only eight when the film was released and I was an absolute sucker for its stylized action and ridiculous cast of characters. So, when there were action figures hitting shelves everywhere, I made sure to pester my parents until a couple found their way into my possession. Only two, though; Tracy himself and the not-so-villainous Mumbles.

Since I couldn't keep myself occupied with constant one-on-one struggles between the two toys, I eventually incorporated them into the story-lines that revolved around [surprise!] the Ninja Turtles. It only made sense, what with the similar construction and identical scale.

I have a weakness when it comes to trading cards. Always have. I remember lunch money pocketed for the sole purpose of running to the local convenience store and picking up packs of trading cards. It didn't matter if they were sports-cards, or based on an existing property like Robocop or Jurassic Park. If I could score a couple packs at the end of the week, and have enough left over for some Warheads candy, well, I was a happy, happy camper.

That hasn't changed much, obviously. Whether it's the thrift shop, the flea market or a specialty shop, if I find cheap packs sitting on a shelf, chances are I'm gonna pick up a few. Like these! I had no idea that they even made Hellraiser trading cards, and I've never been particularly fond of Clive Barker's most infamous creation, Pin-Head, but I had to grab some. If you've ever received one of my prize-packs or consolation prizes, you'll know that I usually include some random packs of cards. These will probably find their way into a future giveaway somewhere.

Meanwhile, the Marvel Universe Series II pack's already been opened and added to my collection. There wasn't much need to pick 'em up, since I already have a near-complete set of this series, but I can't resist when I find them out in the wild. You'll probably be seeing more of these in the very near future.

A couple old toys from McDonald's Happy Meals.

These were sitting in some bins near the register, and I didn't notice them until I was already checking out. I paused, asking if I could take a quick glimpse in the bins before I wrapped up, and the guy working the shop told me to take my time. It was probably a mistake, because now I own a Fraggle riding around in a carrot and a cheeseburger that sorta' transforms into a dinosaur.


It wasn't actually a mistake, because while I was originally drawn in by those two ridiculous cheapie-toys, it also meant finding this scaly fella. The Super Naturals was a toy-line released by Tonka in 1987, famous mostly for utilizing state-of-the-art holograms. It was like they were from the future or something, and despite this, I never owned any when I was a kid. If I had to pick one to have, though, it would have been this one, the sinister Snake-Bite. I also have a weakness for snake-themed villains, apparently.

Expect a love-letter to Cobra Commander and King Hiss to celebrate Valentine's Day, I guess.

I guess-sss.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Bogdanovich Challenge: Week Five


Anatomy of a Murder, released July 1, 1959.

Directed by Otto Preminger.

Starring James Stewart, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzara, Eve Arden and George C. Scott. 


"In 1959-- when Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe were red-hot --one of the finest and most important American films was released, did well, won an award or two (like the New York Film Critics' selection of James Stewart as best actor), and then passed from the scene. But it should be required viewing for anyone who cares about true quality in picture-making, America's complicated judicial system, and life's generally ambiguous pathways."


Jimmy Stewart is the "humble country lawyer" who smokes Italian cigars, like Eastwood in a spaghetti-western, and who hangs out with Duke Ellington, playing jazz music on the piano. This walking contradiction has to defend Ben Gazzara, who killed the man that brutally raped his wife. And he has to do it while facing off with the slick, city lawyer portrayed by George C. Scott.

I'm still trying to fully absorb how goddamn brilliant this film really is. Every aspect, from the performances to the cinematography to Ellington's unique score, is mind-blowing. To hear Stewart utter the phrase, "sexual climax" in a film from 1959. Insanity. Yes, a majority of the movie takes place within the confines of the court-room, and it plays out like watching an extended episode of Law & Order, but it's so much more than that. It's easy to see why Bogdanovich speaks so highly of it; why he believes it should be "required viewing".

Oh, and because of the inventive opening title sequence and gorgeous posters by Saul Bass, I mistakenly believed that Hitchcock directed Anatomy of a Murder for years. It wasn't until reading this entry in Bogdanovich's book, and ordering the film on Amazon, that I learned how wrong I was. It's completely unrelated from the Challenge [though inspired by this week's selection], but I'm definitely going to be seeking out director Otto Preminger's earlier film, The Man with the Golden Arm (1955).

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Flea Market Finds: The Master of Viewers

There were a few years where I used to spend every [or nearly every] Sunday morning at my local flea market. Rain or shine, snow or heat or potential zombie apocalypse, it didn't matter. I was there roaming aisle after aisle of used goods and discount health and beauty aids that probably "fell off the truck" instead of being loaded into the nearby Super Walmart. After awhile, I realized that I kept seeing the same old overpriced toys marked as collectibles, and booth after booth of vintage video games. All stuff that's fun to look at every now and then, but not every single week, and definitely not worth paying the prices that were being asked. So, eventually, I started going more and more infrequently, until I'd stopped going altogether.

Today was my first day back since last summer, maybe, and I managed to find a few good deals. With the weather hopefully getting warmer with each passing day, I'll probably start visiting the flea market a little more regularly from here on out. Expect to see this particular feature again in the future, but far from every week.

With that said, let's take a look and see what I scored.

I don't think I've ever talked about my meager View-Master collection in the past.

A couple years back, at the same flea market and from the same vendor, I picked up a pair of vintage View-Masters and a single Huckleberry Hound reel. I think she charged me about ten bucks for the three items. Today's haul, which you can see up above, was a much better bargain. She charged me thirty dollars for seven viewers and a total of 41 reels. Don't worry, for the two of you that are maybe still reading this, I'm gonna take a closer look at each item.

The oldest in the bunch is this fella here. The Model C Viewer, released by Sawyer's, was produced from 1946 to 1956. This model was the first one to utilize a top-feeding slot for the reels; a huge departure from the first two models, which opened and closed in a "clamshell" style and reels were inserted directly into the viewer. Since the Model C was made using bakelite, it's a little heavier than most of the viewers that were released later.

The Model E is actually my favorite style of View-Master. This is my third and probably the one I own in the best condition. Produced from 1956 to 1960, it was the last made using bakelite. It's not as colorful or "fun" as its successors, but it's still a thing of absolute beauty. I love the angles and lines and the bakelite cleans up very, very nicely.

Here's a pair of Model G's in beige. These were long considered the standard style of viewers, and were produced for the longest period, ranging from 1959 to 1977. The viewer in back was the final one that Sawyer's produced, before the company was acquired by GAF in 1966. The two are nearly identical, except for View-Master and the GAF logo printed along the front of the first model. It's the only way I was able to distinguish between the two.

A later Model G, probably from the mid-70s, with the GAF logo in plain sight. I adore the red, white and blue color-scheme. This is my second viewer in this style, and it's probably my next favorite after the Model E. My go-to when I want to zone out in bed and just click through reels.

Ah, the Model L Viewer. This is the type that I grew up with, and it should be comforting in a nostalgic sorta' way, but it's actually my least favorite. Most of the viewers produced these days are straight from Mattel, but you'll find some in this style with Tyco Toys or View-Master International printed on it, instead. I see these out in the wild constantly and usually pass on them, but the vendor was selling all this as a single lot.

The reels were the real deal. Single ones usually sell for a couple bucks on eBay, with sets of three going for upwards of ten to fifteen, depending on their condition and subject matter. The lady selling the lot had an old Sawyer's box filled with forty-one reels, mostly from the '50s and '60s, and nearly all in good condition. A few of my favorites include Quick Draw McGraw, Superman, and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. There's also a Mickey Mouse Jubilee reel that's actually "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" from Fantasia. Very cool.

I mentioned that there were seven viewers included in this lot, but have only shown six up until now. The reason for this is that the final one, seen above, is not considered to be a real View-Master. The Tru-Vue Viewer was owned and made by a company called Tru-Vue Inc., which operated out of Illinois starting in 1931. Sawyer's bought the company in 1952, in order to acquire the Disney licensing rights that the company held. The model seen here, the 502, was the first one produced after Sawyer's took over control of the company.

Oh, and instead of the familiar circular reels of a View-Master, the Tru-Vue Viewers use a film-card; a seven panel sheet that you insert from the top which descends though the device with each click of the advance lever.