Movies ‘Till Dawn: Your Early Morning Sunday Programming

12 am – Jodorowsky’s DuneDocumentary

91KRqAzzB0L._SL1500_(2014, Sony Pictures Classics) Fascinating documentary about filmmaker/mystic/madman Alejandro Jodorowsky’s quest to bring the epic science fiction novel Dune to the screen in the mid-1970s. Jodorowsky, whose c.v. includes the lysergic fantasy-Western El Topo (1970), which launched the midnight movie phenomenon, as well as The Holy Mountain (1971) and Santa Sangre (1987), saw Dune as a means of elevating human consciousness to a superhuman state, and assembled an incredible team of talent to accomplish this task: French comic artist Moebius, H.R. Giger, Pink Floyd and Magma were a few of the players behind the scenes, while Salvador Dali, Orson Welles, Mick Jagger and David Carradine were seduced into taking on-screen roles. Unfortunately, Jodorowsky’s final, hallucinogenic-cum-spiritual vision for the film, which he saw as possibly running for more than 20 hours, frightened away American studios. whose money was necessary to complete the film. As the film reveals, said entities also added insult to injury by later borrowing elements for Jodorowsky’s visual concepts for Star Wars, Alien and many other big-budget science fiction epics. Director Frank Pavich needs little else to sell his picture beyond training his camera on the octogenarian Jodorowsky, who still burns with supernatural energy and passion for his lost project. And while the film is ultimately about a legendary lost movie – the screen equivalent of SmileJodorowsky’s Dune has a happy ending, one that should give a dose of hope to any struggling artist. The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes, mostly featuring lengthy monologues by Jodorowsky on the nature of creativity and the perils of finance.

1:30am – The DuPont Show with June Allyson: “The Silent Panic” – Drama/Suspense

91+Qx1agqHL._SL1500_(1960, Shout! Factory) Harpo Marx gives a rare dramatic performance as a deaf-mute who witnesses a gangland murder in this episode from DuPont’s weekly anthology series. A few surprisingly gritty elements – Ernest Truex’s garrulous night watchman, who befriends Harpo, takes some licks from the hoods on Harpo’s trail – and Harpo’s subtle turn (in a role that might’ve hinged on heavy sentimentality) make this a very watchable half-hour. Harpo’s adopted son, composer Bill Marx, also turns up in a brief cameo. “The Silent Panic” is included on Shout! Factory’s swell three-disc Marx Brothers TV Collection, which compiles clips, commercials and full episodes of Groucho, Chico and Harpo’s small-screen, post-movie careers.

2am Bang! Bang! You’re Dead Comedy

bang-bang-youre-dead-bd(1966, Olive Films) Featherweight but fun spy spoof with Tony Randall as a hapless American businessman whose holiday in Marrakesh lands him in hot water with foreign femme fatale Senta Berger and criminal boss Herbert Lom. One of about a hundred or so espionage movies released in the wake of the James Bond series, Bang! Bang! is an agreeable diversion, leisurely directed by Don Sharp – a veteran of both Hammer Films and The Avengers – and kept afloat by Randall’s baffled routine and an amusing coterie of Continental supporting players, including Klaus Kinski, Terry-Thomas, Margaret Lee and Wilfred Hyde-White. The film’s prolific producer, Harry Alan Towers (who also wrote the script as Peter Welbeck), would later tap Kinski, Lee and Margaret Rohm (glimpsed briefly in the picture’s opening) for several of his more grown-up projects for director Jess Franco, including Venus in Furs (1969).

3:35 am– Search for the GodsAction/Science Fiction

61VIXHOZgfL._SL1500_(1975, Warner Archives) This bizarre ABC TV Movie of the Week trades heavily in the ancient astronaut mythology of Erich von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods, which found considerable favor in pop culture circles during the 1970s. Stephen McHattie is a soulful hitchhiker who comes to possess a mystical artifact, allegedly part of a larger medallion of extraterrestrial origin. A mysterious and menacing Englishman (Albert Paulsen) with vague world domination plans also wants the item, and dispatches Raymond St. Jacques and an army of hoods to track it down, spurring McHattie to team up with a post-Disney, pre-Elvis/Snake Plissken Kurt Russell and search for the other parts of the medallion. Russell’s beer guzzling, throughout untrustworthy sidekick is the high point of this proposed pilot, giving a much-needed gas face to its blend of proto-New Age spirituality, global Big Brother conspiracies and astral projection. He deserved his own series.

5 am – Marine Boy: “The Gill Men” Anime/Science Fiction

(1966, Warner Archives) More hallucinatory adventures featuring the early anime hero 61Cc8OeqN7L._SL1500_Marine Boy, this time pitted against the “wacky” Dr. Beelzebub Diablo and his plan to transform humans into water-breathing creatures. His reasoning is particularly prescient – concern about the rising temperature of the planet, which could cause global flooding – but Marine Boy and his Ocean Patrol pals take umbrage at his decision to make comic relief Piper into a gill man, and unleash their usual volley of destruction to thwart the doctor. This episode, taken from the series’ third and final season, is a textbook example of Marine Boy’s oddball charms, with bizarre imagery like the doctor’s advance guard – underwater gorillas! – and the gill men themselves, who take a remarkably laissez-faire attitude to their fates, despite having been kidnapped and experimented upon against their will. All 26 episodes of the third and final season of Marine Boy are included in this three-disc set.

5:30 am: Southern Comfort – Action/Thriller

913QWkVYraL._SL1500_(1981, Shout! Factory) Much has been made about Walter Hill’s swamp shootout as a metaphor for the Vietnam War – Hill and members of the cast debate that very notion in the supplemental features on this Blu-ray/DVD combo presentation – but it works best as a bayou variation on The Lost Patrol, pitting a platoon of National Guardsmen on maneuvers against mistrustful Cajuns determined to fend off the unwanted intruders. Hill provides a number of suspenseful set pieces for stars Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine, as philosophically opposing members of the squad, to navigate, and more than a few deliver some genuinely shocking moments that underscore the fear and panic on both sides of the conflict. The leads are well supported by a host of great character actors, including Fred Ward, Peter Coyote, and Brion James, and the slide guitar-driven score by Ry Cooder is one of his most memorable. The Shout! Factory disc set offers the aforementioned making-of doc, as well as the theatrical trailer.

About Paul Gaita

Paul Gaita lives in Sherman Oaks, California with his lovely wife and daughter. He has written for The Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Variety and The Fix, among many other publications, and was a home video reviewer for Amazon.com from 1998 to 2014. He has interviewed countless entertainment figures from both the A and Z lists, but his favorites remain Elmore Leonard, Ray Bradbury and George Newall, who created both Schoolhouse Rock and the Hai Karate aftershave commercials. He once shared a Thanksgiving dinner with celebrity astrologer Joyce Jillson, and regrettably, still owes the late character actor Charles Napier a dollar.
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