RIP Stan Freberg, the Godfather of Modern Media Satire

Stan Freberg

Stan Freberg

by  Legendary Lew

At the risk of having TUGM seem morbid by reporting the third celebrity death in as many days, this is one that just can’t be ignored.

Stan Freberg, who died at age 88, was a comic force whose influence is immeasurable.  Decades before Saturday Night Live and SCTV, Freberg took aim at pop cultural institutions like radio, television, rock & roll and advertising.  His penchant for great comic writing, along with legendary voice actors helping out like Daws Butler and June Foray, lead to some of the most memorable comedy discs ever recorded. One such classic is “John and Marsha,” a soap opera with John and Marsha speaking only each other’s names with varying emotions:

The record that change comedy recordings forever was “St. George and the Dragonet,” a Number One smash in 1953.  Not only was it a narrative comic record–as opposed to a musical one–but it satirized a popular TV show, “Dragnet.”  Daws Butler voiced the knave, June Foray voiced the maiden and future TV director Hy Averback (“F Troop”) was the announcer. Here’s the classic 45 given an animated treatment:

Despite a string of great comedy records, Freberg will probably be most known for his incredible work on commercials. Using the same satirical bent, Freberg went after old TV shows and Hollywood musicals at a time when commercials seemed too stuffy and serious. In the case of Sunsweet pitted prunes, he even poked fun at one of the product’s supposed drawbacks with his friend, the legendary Ray Bradbury showing up on a large screen. Only Freberg could have thought of this:

Here are two other masterful commercials from the great mind of Freberg. Ann Miller for Heinz Great American Soups and Jeno’s Pizza Rolls.

There’ll never be another like him.

RIP James Best, Actor on “The Dukes of Hazzard” and Cult Favorite, “The Killer Shrews”

The late James Best, more than just Roscoe

The late James Best, more than just Roscoe

by Legendary Lew

James Best, the actor most known for playing the hapless Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on “The Dukes of Hazzard” TV show, died at the age of 88.

Despite his playing a southern hick in one of the most pointless TV series ever to exist, Best was actually pretty influential outside the set as a well-respected acting teacher, especially of motion picture acting techniques. He ran a Hollywood school of this type of acting, supposedly the first of its kind, in the 1970s and ran it for 25 years, working with such people as Teri Garr, Burt Reynolds and Quentin Tarantino.

But the most fun watching James Best was as the lead in the ubiquitously found public domain horror film, “The Killer Shrews,” which co-starred legendary Hollywood director Sidney Lumet’s father, the Yiddish theater great Baruch Lumet and also “Gunsmoke” regular/horror film director Ken Curtis.  You know that movie–the one with fur pasted on the tails and snouts of dogs to make them look like gigantic rodents?  Haven’t seen it? Well, here it is. Enjoy:

R.I.P. Cult Character Actor Tom Towles (1950-2015)

headshot_300dpi

by Ty Pi ~ @-[->

Tom Towles was an American actor who was born and raised in Chicago, IL.  He passed away on April 5th, 2015.

He was a former U.S. Marine turned cult figure in the independent film scene with what is arguably his most iconic role as Otis Toole in the controversial John McNaughton classic, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.

McNaughton initially auditioned Towles for the role of Henry before asking him to play Otis.  Towles had a background in improvisational comedy, which he used in playing the darkly comic character.  His performance is instantly memorable and has become, in my opinion, a contender for one of the scariest performances captured on film.  In the scene featured below, Otis and Henry are buying a color TV in the rear garage of a pawn shop.  It is in this sequence where we see how casual Otis is in conversation, how quick he is to commit horrible atrocities, and even going as far as to take pleasure with a child-like glee.  (Warning: The scene is disturbing and NSFW.)

Other credits include Miami Vice (2006), the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead, and frequent collaborations with Rob Zombie with titles like House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects, Halloween, and the faux trailer Werewolf Women of the SS.

Sneak Preview of Chicago’s Newest and Wildest Art Space, Deadly Prey Gallery, Tonight

Deadly Prey Galleryby Legendary Lew

It’s rare that I can approach someone to ask, “May I film your soft opening?” and receive an enthusiastic, “Yes!”

But in this case, I’m talking about Brian Chankin, one of Chicago true treasures of the indie scene. For years, he’s been running Odd Obsession Movies, one of the greatest independent video stores anywhere (catch my 2013 interview with him here).

Now he and his sister, Heidi Anne Chankin, are just about to “soft open” (the

20 Clowns by Marieke McClendon

20 Clowns by Marieke McClendon

grand opening is later this month) the Deadly Prey Gallery, a new art space in Noble Square, with the art show “Real Cool Gen X Mid-Life Crisis” featuring works by Derek Erdman & Marieke McClendon.  The event on Friday, April 3 from 7pm to 11pm at 1433 W Chicago Ave.  As the gallery’s Facebook event page states:

The show doesn’t have a theme that the title may suggest, though there will be a nod of recognition that people of Generation X are now growing old and some of the things that were once charming aren’t aging very well. Time’s inevitable hands are slowly choking the youth out of a large group of people who declared that they’d never grow old. Alas, there will also be paintings of cats & food.

It’s a one-night deal, so I guess you can consider this a sort of pop-up art event with genuine talent attached to it. Bring your cash,  as the Reggae and African tunes will help loosen your wallets.

Elvia Carreon by Derek Erdman

Elvia Carreon by Derek Erdman

Brian and Heidi will also have a selection of Ghanian movie and business poster art from their collection. If you’ve not seen any of these insanely wild  illustrations, you are definitely missing out.

TyPi and I will be along for the event and will gather up some video to present as part of TUGM’s Noble Square video series on YouTube. Go check out that page for more vids of our adventures there.

 

Mediatrocities #17: Interview with John Rangel, director of “Remember Our Days”

by Ty Pi ~ @-[->

ROD Primary Image Final COPYLegendary Lew interviews filmmaker John Rangel (The Girls on Liberty Street) in the latest episode of “Mediatrocities.”  Topics include the projection of stereotypes in Hollywood cinema, independent film, and Rangel’s upcoming film Remember Our Days.  This film is currently seeking crowd-funding via Seed&Spark.  Click on this link to visit the page and contribute to the project.

This episode is NSFW

Mediatrocities Morsel: Director John Rangel on Hollywood’s Fantastical Working Class Characters

Legendary Lew (l) and director John Rangel

Legendary Lew (l) and director John Rangel

by Legendary Lew

TUGM will soon have a complete podcast of my interview with filmmaker John Rangel, director of The Girls on Liberty Street. He’s raising funds for a new independent feature called Remember Our Days set to be filmed in Aurora, IL. In this snippet from the interview, John and I discuss why it is that Hollywood characters can live way beyond their means and why audiences passively allow this ruse.

As with all Mediatrocities podcasts, this audio exchange is NSFW.

Head on over to Seed and Spark and support John’s quest for a workable budget. There’s 11 days left, so please spread the word! Support indie cinema!

“Zebra Killer” Who Inspired One of the Most Racist Exploitation Movies Ever Made Dies

zebrakillerby Legendary Lew

J.C.X. Simon, one of the men convicted of murder in San Francisco’s infamous “Zebra Killer” crimes of the 1970’s, was found dead in his prison cell. The cause of death is unknown pending an autopsy.  Along with Larry Green, Manuel Moore and Jessie Lee Cooks, Simon contributed in killing random victims between 1973 and 1976.

The sensation of this crime meant that, of course, low-budget exploitation filmmakers with moneybags in their eyes took notice. Enter William Girdler, director of such amazing 70s films as Sheba, BabyAbby and The Manitou.  While the murder cases were still open, Girdler went to work filling grindhouse movie seats with one of the most outrageous urban crime dramas ever made.

Known primarily as The Zebra Killer (although it’s also been released under the titles The Get-Man and Combat Cops), this movie starred Girdler regular James Pickett as an insane killer committing his crimes in blackface!

This causes confusion with the police, who have a tough time determining the race of the perp, even though it’s quite apparent the killer looks like he just walked off a minstrel show. To make matters worse, the black cop leading this investigation, Lt. Frank Savage (played by Austin Stoker), really should be investigated by internal affairs. He gets drunk on duty, has suspects written up on false charges and spends his time on the clock knocking back a few at the bar or at home doing a horizontal wiggle with his old lady.  In an attempt to make Savage look like a badass, Girdler succeeds in only making him bad, thus making the movie more racist than was probably intended.

Still, this is a film that’s worth watching as a mid-70’s action curio. It’s really too bad that Girdler died in a helicopter accident at age 44,  a victim of the wild and woolly era of 1970’s Filipino exploitation moviemaking. He held the promise of creating even more unbelievable grindhouse fare.

Here’s the trailer for the movie under the title Combat Cops. Notice how the race factor of the film is deemphasized in favor of ballistics: