Movies Till Dawn: Character Actor Spotting in ’70s Crime Movies

738329206598The Laughing Policeman” (1973, Kino Lorber) A gunman opens fire on a San Francisco transit bus, killing everyone aboard, including an undercover cop (Dave Costello) working an unsolved murder case involving a businessman (Albert Paulsen) accused of dispatching his wife. The cop’s partner (Walter Matthau) – who has become obsessed with solving the businessman case – is given the grim task of sorting through the background of each victim to find any connection that could lead to the killer, which leads to some unsavory people and places on the fringes of the Bay Area; helping him sort through the mess is detective Bruce Dern, whose charm-based approach to police work clashes with Matthau’s by-the-books determination. Stuart Rosenberg (“Cool Hand Luke”) directed this adaptation of the crime novel by Swedish authors Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo with an eye towards grimy realism and a solid balance of strong violence (a nod to the then-recent “Dirty Harry”) and methodical police investigation. And if the motive for the murders leans on outdated stereotypes, the team-up of Matthau and Dern – both playing against their ’70s-era screen personas (funny/cranky and crazy) – is polished enough to get past those rough patches; they’re well abetted by such all-pro players as the great Anthony Zerbe (angry lieutenant), Louis Gossett, Jr. (cool detective) and Joanna Cassidy (cagey nurse). Character actor devotees will revel in the familiar faces dotting the supporting cast, including Val Avery, Paul Koslo (as a very creepy dealer), Gregory Sierra, Cathy Lee Crosby, Frances Lee McCain, Mario Gallo (who gets his head shoved in a urinal), Clifton James, Matt Clark and fist-faced Louis Guss. Kino’s Blu-ray includes appreciative and informative commentary by “Cinema Retro” editor Lee Pfeiffer and historians Eddy Friedfeld and Paul Scrabo, as well as a lively chat with Koslo, who discusses his career playing bad guys and working with Matthau and Dern; the original trailer, as well as previews for several of Kino ’70s cop titles, including the great Matthau starrer “The Taking of Pelham One Two Three,” “Busting” and “Report to the Commissioner,” round out the fine disc.

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watt’s picture of the week – friday, december 2, 2016


you think this pelican in my pedro town this morning was telling me “you mean, let me understand this … cuz I … maybe it’s me, maybe I’m a little fucked up maybe. I’m funny how, I mean funny, like I’m a clown? I amuse you. I make you laugh? I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? whattya you mean funny? funny how? how am I funny?” or what? maybe not but maybe…

photo by mike watt

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BD Review: The T.A.M.I. Show/ The Big T.N.T. Show

There’s no more natural double feature in the history of concert films than the pairing of these two beauties from 1964-65. The T.A.M.I. Show and The Big T.N.T. Show both follow the same format – get a huge number of popular groups and singers onto one LA stage for one massive live show, get a bunch of screaming teens to cream their jeans in front of the stage, and roll tape. The resulting films brought rock and roll to movie houses around the country, at a time when it wasn’t easy to see James Brown or Ike and Tina on television. Both of these films hold some of the best footage ever captured in that era, the solo singers backed by LA’s Wrecking Crew of studio musicians, everyone recorded and mixed beautifully; music on the latter film is produced by Phil Spector.

Much of the T.A.M.I. Show’s reputation rests on one set, a heart-stopping performance by James Brown. And yes, if you’ve never seen it, you simply must, as it is one of the most scorching pieces of concert footage ever shot. But it comes close to the end of an astounding series of sets that would have made this film a keeper even if Brown hadn’t shown up. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ group dancing take of “Micky’s Monkey” is a thing of pure joy, as is the powerhouse version of “Dance Dance Dance” by the Beach Boys. The Stones already have their patented loose-tight groove on stage, and what do you know, Keith Richards used to do dance moves when he was young! Chuck Berry is, more than anything, a good sport for inexplicably having his part of the show awkwardly intermingled with Gerry and the Pacemakers’, but even if the juxtaposition makes no sense, the music is happening, and the Pacemakers are much more lively here than on their records. Marvin Gaye, Lesley Gore and the Supremes are spot on, the height of cool professionalism, and the Barbarians provide a shot of garage-rock angst. And then there’s Brown, coming in and basically just killing everybody from the moment he glides onto the stage on one foot. Jan and Dean make affable hosts, and the attendant teenagers scream their heads off. It’s a gas, and belongs on your shelf.

This edition from Shout! Factory adds the first complete home video release of its obvious sequel, The Big T.N.T. Show, shot toward the end of 1965 by an almost entirely different production team. The lineup is similarly star-studded, but it’s not quite the bang-bang shoot-em-up that the T.A.M.I. Show was. In place of Jan & Dean, the host is actor David McCallum, who conducts the house band through a corny instrumental arrangement of “Satisfaction” that I’m told was a number-one hit – hey man, it was the sixties. And the emergence of folk rock as a major concern means a good deal of screen time given to acts more prone to quiet, lovely poetry than zazzed-up rock and roll. Continue reading

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Wrangling Balloons in the Hollywood Christmas Parade

Forward march!

Forward march!

Filled with celebrities, balloons and dozens of marching bands, the Hollywood Christmas Parade is one of the biggest Christmas parades in America.  2016 marked the 85th observation of this Southern California holiday tradition.

The Hollywood Hotel is among the many groups that partner with the parade to wrangle the balloons as the parade proceeds through the streets of Hollywood.  This year, they extended a special offer to their guests to join the parade team as a balloon wrangler.

I was invited to join the Hollywood Hotel balloon team to get a behind-the-scenes look at the parade.  Here’s a recollection of that experience!

3:24 PM – Arriving at the Hotel

An efficient check-in gets me up to the room quickly.  The bed looks totally comfy and plush.  I ponder a nap and wish I could stay longer but I need to get to the parade HQ to meet up with the hotel’s balloon team.

Arriving at the Hotel.

Arriving at the Hotel.

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CD Review: Doyle Bramhall II – Rich Man

doylebramhallii_richman-940x940Doyle Bramhall II – Rich Man

When I first started playing guitar, everyone knew who Eddie Van Halen was. Then I heard Randy Rhoads from Ozzy’s Blizzard of Oz. Nobody spoke of Randy and I thought, “Damn, I must really suck because this guy is phenomenal,” and the rest is history.

I have the same love and admiration for Doyle Bramhall II and have since his 2008 release Welcome. So outspoken to daft ears, he’s been sidefill guitar for Eric Clapton and Gary Clark Jr, and written for Sheryl Crow, Elton John and Greg Allman.

I don’t understand how a musician that can make me cry about something that happened a decade ago can’t crossover into the mainstream. His playing and voice are so transcendent. You talk about an underdog. I suggest this weekend you take your loved one out on the town and afterwards make love to Rich Man. You better have more speeds then “stop and go” because you never know what kind of breakfast you might wake up to, playing the record again, and again, and again. I promise!

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Review: Valora Finish Electric Angels Tour in Harrison Ohio

The last night of the Electric Angels tour was held Sunday Nov. 20 at The Blue Note in Harrison, Ohio. Four local acts from Cincinnati and Dayton supported touring nationals Nashville’s The Nearly Deads and L.A.’s Valora gracing the stage as the evening showcased a spotlight on the ladies. All bands were female led, some having more than one in the group. The bill was diversified with singers, screamers and yellers. From punk, to rock, to retro, to pop, all unleashed their siren call, one way or another.

The Electric Angels Tour kicked off October 28 in Sioux City, Iowa for L.A. based headliners Valora who last trekked the states in 2011, kicking off the electricity with co-headliners the Nearly Deads for the 13 date cross country trip. The Blue Note stage got the last stop and the lucky 13 spot, with the tour hitting South Dakota, Illinois and Minneapolis before a few stops in Indiana and the Buckeye State.

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85th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade on Sunday!

HCP VT 22This year’s 85th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade will follow in the fine tradition of all the previous Hollywood Christmas Parades with an evening celebrating Christmas with noteworthy celebrities and stellar entertainment honoring Hollywood traditions with great family fun! If you care to check out my article from last year, Celebrating The 84th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade: What Did That Look Like!, you’ll see the parade is a big deal and my write up is a fun reflective moment with an extensive photo gallery to enjoy. This year Olivia Newton-John will serve at this year’s Grand Marshal of all the Hollywood Christmas Parade festivities. There will be a host of musicians and entertainers, including Cyndi LauperKenny GWAR, Eric Benét, Scotty McCreeryThe Empty Hearts: a super group with All Star members from Blondie, The Cars, Chesterfield Kings and The Romantics, Julia Ara and the Band Of Merrymakers featuring Mark McGrath and Lisa Loeb. In addition to the musical performances there will be magician Tommy Wind of The CW’s hit primetime television series,Masters of Illusion,” performing A Holiday Magic Spectacular with Toy Soldiers, Elves and a Holiday Doll. Besides, Parade Grand Marshal Olivia Newton-John, other Former Parade Grand Marshals include, Larry King, Louis Gossett Jr. and Robert Wagner, who will attend to receive certificates of recognition from The City of Los Angeles for their career accomplishments. So it’s a big night!

There will be 80 plus celebrities and VIPs attending, 17 Award-Winning Bands From Around The Country, 22 Larger Than Life Inflatable Character Balloons, 6 Equestrian Units, 56 Characters and Novelties, that include 44 Movie Picture Cars supplied by Nate Trumans’ Star Center, 3 Live Performances during the Parade, and 5 floats. Olivia Newton-John will be performing “Xanadu,” and will be covering the Indigo Girls’  “There’s Still My Joy”. Cyndi Lauper will be singing “Hard Candy Christmas”. Kenny G will play “Let It Snow”, WAR will be performing “Low Rider” and “Why Can’t We Be Friends”. The Empty Hearts will be singing “It’s Christmas Time”. The Band Of Merrymakers featuring Mark McGrath and Lisa Loeb will be singing “A Very Merry Medley,” and “Must Be Christmas”. This is a package of fun that will delight the kids and engage adults for one sparkly Christmas celebration to be remembered!

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watt’s picture of the week – thursday, november 24, 2016


you think this gull by the pilot station here in my pedro town earlier today was saying “happy tday” special just for you? believe it – just look at those feathers!

photo by mike watt

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AFI Tribute to Annette Bening and Premiere of “20th Century Woman”

Annette Bening

Annette Bening

The AFI Film festival’sTribute to Annette Bening” revolved around the gala premiere of20th Century Woman” at Mann’s Chinese Theater on Wednesday, November 16th.

Prior to the film, Annette Bening came onstage and briefly chatted about her life. Annette revealed that it was her high school teachers’ introduction to theater (especially anything written by Shakespeare), and live Broadway shows that inspired her to become an actress. Annette Bening who is an extremely talented actress, also discussed the omportance of having a balanced life with her devoted husband and loving children.

Cleverly directed by Mike Mills, best known for his independent films “Thumbsucker” (2005) and “Beginners” (2010), has an amazing cast feauturing Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Lucas Jade Zumann, Alison Elliot, Thea Gill and Vitaly A Lebeau.

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Movies Till Dawn: More Digital Comfort Food (Postprandial Holiday Fare Edition)

The Late Show” (1977, Warner Archives Collection) When aging private eye Art Carney’s partner (Howard Duff) turns up on his doorstep with a bu61-zvs5ccl-_sl1000_llet in his chest, he decides to take up the shamus business again – despite his bad heart, hearing aid and hernia – and settle the score with the killer; his investigation dovetails with a missing person case (missing cat, really) for neurotic but well-meaning Lily Tomlin, who becomes Carney’s unexpected partner for a bona fide mystery involving stolen goods, shady fences and a few more dead bodies. Robert Altman produced this sweetly skewed comedy for writer/director Robert Benton, whose Oscar-nominated script swirls ’40s noir and his producer’s penchant for introspective study on societal fringe dwellers into a tart and somewhat bittersweet highball; as with Altman’s own effort in this regard – “The Long Goodbye” (“Late Show” was, in fact, initially envisioned as a companion piece to Altman’s take on the Raymond Chandler novel) the result should be satisfying to followers on both sides of the fence, fueled by the breezy interplay between the two leads, who have rarely been better. They’re well supported by some ace character actors – Eugene Roche, Bill Macy, John Considine, all now mostly unknown to viewers under 40 – and Joanna Cassidy in full femme fatale mode. Warner Archive’s DVD ports over the extras from the 2005 WB home video release, which are comprised of the theatrical trailer and an odd but amusing clip of Tomlin plugging the movie on Dinah Shore’s afternoon talk show, with the Doobie Brothers (!) filling out the other seats.

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