KUNG FAUX (2003) – Created and crafted by Mic Neumann, this half-hour comedy series was basically a hip hop version of old movies and television shows that overdubbed non-comedies with comedic dialogue, music and sound effects. In Kung Faux‘s case it featured re-edited and highly stylized martial arts films from the 1970s overdubbed with contemporary music and a hip hop comedic sensibility.
Though Kung Faux brands this treatment as “dubtitling” as a nod to dubbed and subtitled dialogue, the approach debuted on vintage television shows like Fractured Flickers (1963), in which celebrities would dub improvised comedic dialogue over old silent movies.
The theatrical release What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), Woody Allen’s overdubbing of a Japanese spy movie to make it a battle over an egg salad recipe, is still the best known of these ventures. Not even serials were exempt from such treatment, with my favorite example being Firesign Theater’s production Hot Shorts (1984) featuring items like Sperm Bank Bandits in which the comedy team inserted comical dialogue over old serials like Canadian Mounties vs Atomic Invaders. Continue reading
MOONBASE 3 (1973) – This BBC attempt at realistic, “no aliens or monsters” science fiction is a mixed bag, but I think it deserves a much bigger audience. Among the elements in the show’s favor is the fact that only 6 fifty-minute episodes were made, so it makes viewers a little more willing to forgive the program’s faults.
Moonbase 3 is a sci-fi drama about the multinational European crew of the title lunar outpost. Other Moonbases are run by the United States, the Soviet Union, China and, oddly for the time, Brazil. The scientists, astronauts and administrative staff of the European Moonbase are fly-budgeted Davids up against superpower Goliaths.
Created by Barry Letts and Terrance Dicks of Doctor Who fame, Moonbase 3 is sort of like Doomwatch crossed with The Sandbaggers. However, Moonbase 3 keeps its science even closer to reality than Doomwatch did, so it can be a bit dry. Well, okay, VERY dry, but that’s a nice antidote to non-stop explosions, ray-guns blasting and other Space Opera cliches.
As for the show’s similarities to The Sandbaggers, there is bureaucratic in-fighting aplenty, unexpected deaths and an emphasis on dialogue over action. And, like both of those other programs, Moonbase 3‘s characters have to deal with perpetually tight budgets limiting the success of their missions. Continue reading
Here at Balladeer’s Blog I’ve long found Midnight’s Edge to be the most accurate site when it comes to entertainment news. I would put Clownfish TV in second place. As for Midnight’s Edge, not only do they carefully label what has already been proven and what is merely word from sources, but over the past few years they have been the only entertainment site I’ve seen that winds up being ACCURATE, especially in the long run, after all the facts have come out.
Best of all, Andre, the boss at Midnight’s Edge, isn’t from the U.S. so he never takes a shrill, partisan approach. He has no dog in our fight.
You can subscribe to Midnight’s Edge here, but if you want a taste of their style watch the video below:
THE RIVALS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES (1971-1973) – The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes was not just a collection of stories by mystery writers who were contemporaries of Arthur Conan Doyle but also a television series which adapted such mysteries. Just as Holmes’ tales were set during the Victorian and Edwardian Eras so, too, were the stories of these detectives. The series lasted two seasons of 13 episodes each and presented the best non-Holmes London-by-Gaslight Detectives.
Episode One: A MESSAGE FROM THE DEEP SEA (September 20th, 1971)
Detective: Doctor John Evelyn Thorndyke, created by R Austin Freeman. The first Doctor Thorndyke story was published in 1907.
Review: In my opinion this is the best episode of Season One. Thorndyke, like Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, was miles ahead of the contemporary police in terms of Crime Scene Investigation. In both the Holmes AND Thorndyke mysteries there is a quasi-science fiction feel as those great fictional detectives use scientific methods disdained at the time but which are now commonplace in the solving of crimes.
The episode introduces us to Dr John Evelyn Thorndyke (John Neville), a forensic physician/ Police Surgeon of the era, as he is teaching a classroom of students. (Kind of a Quincy opening feel.) He is assisted by Dr Jervis (James Cossins), Thorndyke’s version of Dr Watson.
A former student of Thorndyke’s shows up requesting his former teacher’s help in his first big murder case as an Assistant Police Surgeon. Our star and his man Jervis accompany their former student to a brothel on Harrow Street, where a prostitute has been murdered in her bed by having her throat slashed. Continue reading
THE AMERICAN GIRLS – If you’ve ever wondered what Charlie’s Angels might have been like if it had tried doing slightly (very slightly) more serious stories, The American Girls is your answer. Priscilla Barnes in her pre-Three’s Company days co-starred with Debra Clinger in her post-Clinger Sisters days in this series about two sexy female reporters for a television news program.
The American Girls lasted just 6 episodes, from September 23rd, 1978 to November 11th of that year, with 5 remaining episodes going unaired. The actual idea for the series wasn’t bad and I’m surprised the premise wasn’t recycled at some point in the 80s or 90s.
Barnes played Rebecca Tomkins and Clinger portrayed Amy Waddell, two field journalists for The American Report, a fictional 60 Minutes or 20/20 style television news magazine. They traveled the country in a van which served as a mobile studio with plenty of up to date equipment. David Spielberg played their producer Francis X Casey, making him a combination Charlie AND Bosley for the show. Continue reading
Director Shinya Tsukamoto hails from Japan and is noted for his surreal, nightmarish excursions into the darker side of transformative industrial technology … especially any technology that impacts the human anatomy.
Tsukamoto’s noteworthy films include:
Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989) – From the early shots of a man removing one of his own bones and replacing it with a piece of metal viewers knew this was a work of true genius. Tetsuo becomes more and more relevant by the year, especially with the advent of nanotechnology and its potentially invasive effect on the human mind and body. Continue reading
KID GLOVES (1951) – This joyously tasteless program from the early years of television featured children AGE THREE TO TWELVE beating each other’s brains out in boxing matches. No, I’m not joking.
In a slight concession (NOT “concussion”) to the tender ages of the combatants the matches were limited to just three rounds of 30 seconds each. Still plenty of time for head and facial injuries plus the loss of teeth. Continue reading
Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at several controversial pieces of entertainment too edgy for the mainstream.
… BUT NAMES WILL NEVER HURT ME (2016) – Is it real? If it is, is it MEANT to be as funny as it is? Left-wingers and right-wingers try to shame into silence the contestants on a game show. This is done by calling them “racists” if they are pro-freedom of expression and “baby-killers” if they are pro-choice on abortion. Real or fake, this game show is sure to offend almost everybody. Continue reading
With the flood of unimaginative new television programs, especially on various cable channels, I’m often surprised that some of the most entertaining shows in history don’t have their very own following of people who know waaaaay too much about them.
As always here at Balladeer’s Blog I like to shine the spotlight on everything that is unjustly overlooked. Feel free to start holding conventions devoted to, and launching flame wars about, these six criminally neglected television programs.
6. CAPTAIN Z-RO – (1951-1960) Over a full decade before Great Britain’s ultimate cult show, Doctor Who, hit the airwaves this American show featured the titular Captain traveling in time and space with various sidekicks, including Jet, the young man pictured with Captain Z-Ro in the photo to the left.
In addition to adventures that saw the Captain dealing with a robot run amok in San Francisco and with a potentially fatal meteor collision, his “experiments in time and space” (the show’s oft-repeated tag line) found him helping out some of the exact same historical figures that Great Britain’s Time Lord from Gallifrey would go on to encounter, like Marco Polo, William the Conqueror and the Aztecs. As an added bonus Captain Z-Ro solved the mystery of the Great Pyramid itself! Continue reading
I have been getting a lot of readers asking me to review some of the more recent releases from major studios. Balladeer’s Blog regulars know that I tend to focus on incredibly obscure items or hilariously bad movies from decades ago.
Since a lot has already been written about the following several films I won’t bother with one of my in-depth looks. These will be more general takes on the movies.
SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY – Thankfully someone FINALLY addressed the elephant in the room of the Star Wars universe: the origin of Han Solo’s last name.
That’s right, in a cinematic setting which features multiple characters sporting the unusual surname Skywalker, Disney decided that the world needed a back-story for the last name “Solo.”
I sure as hell didn’t PAY to see this movie so you can insert your own joke about “not even getting my money’s worth” here. For the most part this was a waste of time because it made Han Solo a bit too goody-goody. Continue reading