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31 October 2014 @ 02:58 pm
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I can't believe I used to think you were cute!
31 October 2014 @ 02:16 pm
beatles (3)

BEATLES RUNDOWN: "Till There Was You" (1963)

This of course was written by Meredith Wilson for the Broadway musical THE MUSIC MAN in 1957. Paul McCartney always had a fondness for show tunes and English music hall songs and other older influences (which John didn't particularly share). I guess a lot of rock fans regard songs like this as corny or sappy, but it's their loss. People should not be afraid of their emotions. It's a lovely melody with a simple concept, that the world is a beautiful place but the narrator never noticed any of that until he started to fall in love. (Actually, Marian the Librarian sang it in THE MUSIC MAN, but we're thinking of the Beatles' version here.)

The band started performing this during their Hamburg days, and the variety of their playlist back then was probably a big part of the appeal. They could go from rock and roll to ballads and novelty songs, keeping away monotony. As a kid, I wondered how many students across America tried to win their teachers over to these Beatles characters (with their outlandish hair and rowdy hits) by playing "Till There Was You." What John came to call "Granny songs" were just that, and nothing wrong with it. Paul brought in many older potential listeners with his contributions from "Till There Was You" to "When I'm Sixty-Four" giving the Beatles a wider audience than a straight diet of rock and roll could have. The Beatles performed this on their first Ed Sullivan show as well as the Royal Variety performance.

And I have a very vague memory (possibly wrong) that it was this song that stirred George Martin's interest in the band. Who knows how history might have been different if the Beatles had gone without Martin? We might be said to owe the Beatles we know to this song.

One nice surprise when listening to this again after all these many years is what a subtle guitar solo George contributes. Subdued and right for the song, as are the bongos by Ringo rather than drums. Not to downplay the guitar work by Paul and John, they're both smooth and appropriate, but I had forgotten George's solo.

I don't even mind Paul singing "sawr," it's become something I would miss if someone had corrected him, like when Linda Ronstadt pronounces "cain't" in her version of "Desperado." Little personal touches.
31 October 2014 @ 02:15 pm

"Waiter, this fish tastes funny."

"That's all right, sir, go ahead and laugh."
31 October 2014 @ 02:12 pm
1 b

Who doesn't love big clunky ol' boots?! Now if we could just get the person on the right to glue on that flat rubber headpiece...
30 October 2014 @ 03:11 pm

Boy! You can just HEAR those arteries slam shut.
30 October 2014 @ 03:01 pm

THE AVENGERS December 11, 1965

Evidently, the TARDIS was back in 12th Century China or at the Fungus Mines of Thanagar when this threat to our planet reared its ugly tendrils.* The Avengers definitely stray into Doctor Who territory as mundane spies and smugglers are momentarily forgotten to tackle a telepathic carnivorous plant from outer space. No, seriously, that's the story. I rather liked "The Man-Eater of Surrey Green." It had overtones of Quatermass, the Triffids and other fondly remembered British science fiction, and it's a neat little chiller in its own right.

Several noted British horticulturists have been disappearing without explanation. In fact, we first see plant expert Laura Berford (rather pretty actress) kiss her finance and then turn all blank-faced and zombielike to stride away and get into a waiting Rolls driven by a sullen-looking chauffeur. Her unsuspecting sweetie is not affected by whatever whacked her out, and the camera closes in on his hearing aid for the episode's title. There you have it, the mystery and a clue in one neat sequence.

Investigating the rash of straying botanists, John Steed offers his accomplice in counter-crime one of the roses he is growing. I like Mrs Peel's sly suspicion that, whenever Steed is nice to her, it's because he's about to draw her into something dangerous. You have to remember that Emma is not an agent working for whatever ambiguous Ministry that employs Steed; she's a "talented amateur" going on these cases because she enjoys the adrenalin rush and the joy of problem-solving. Whatever relationship she has with Steed (and we're never quite sure) is tinged by their odd working set-up.

Digging for information in his usual debonair manner, Steed is obviously getting too close to the truth when he finds a deadly object hidden under the blanket on his car seat. It's lucky he detects it before plopping down, because the cactus (which looks just like a nasty prickly dildo corncob) is in fact poisonous. It's always a good sign when the detective or secret agent starts getting assassination attempts made on him, as it means he's finding out what the bad guys want to keep secret.

Soon enough, our heroes uncover a crashed space capsule that had been in orbit since a year earlier (things went poorly), with its unfortunate occupant just a skeleton. Tangled around the wreckage is a huge mass of spiky vines. It seems the space capsule collided with some sort of alien plant. What are the odds of that, eh? (Emma helpfully remarks that recent photos show areas of vegetation on the Moon. Reading THE FORTEAN TIMES again, Mrs Peel?) A leading horticulturist is called in to see if she can provide any helpful information. This is one of the lovely parade of colorful eccentrics who populate the Avengers Universe. Dr Sheldon is an enthusiastic and excitable old lady with a wonderful bulldog face, all jowls and eyebags. (actress Athene Seyler reminds me a bit of the great Margaret Rutherford.)

Dr Sheldon enlightens the Avengers** that what we are dealing with here is a fast-growing man-eating plant that will likely overrun the Earth in a few weeks. Not only is the plant telepathic but it exerts a powerful mental control over people, making them its slaves and sending them out for fertilizer (Bring me... MULCH!). The only way to resist Vegetus (my pet name for it, I've been reading too much Golden Age pulp) is to wear a hearing aid, which acts as a barrier, so Steed and Emma plug theirs in and set out to do some foliage removal. (This is 1965, remember, so the "deaf aids" are big things that hook around your ear and have a cord going down to a sizeable battery worn in your shirt pocket.)

By now, the alien plant is swarming all over the estate where it has gathered the botanists, covering the building and dragging people off with its tentacle-like creepers to digest. Worst of all, it's ready to germinate and spew forth millions of dandelion-like spores to cover the landscape (eek). Steed and Emma ride to the battle with Dr Sheldon, bringing a large container of herbicide.

But things never go that easily. Inside the building, with all those tendrils snaking around and looking for warm flesh, Emma loses her hearing aid. She becomes a mind-controlled plant slave and Steed must prevent her from dumping the herbicide. It's a duel between the two partners with the fate of the world at stake (not for the first nor last time).

There are a lot of remarkably unsettling scenes showing the zombified servants of the plants carrying out their orders. Inside the building under siege by Vegetus, atmospheric photography creates quite an ominous mood (black and white is so well suited for horror), and the numerous nude female mannequins standing about add a surrealistic touch. All in all, "The Man-Eater of Surrey Green" is an enjoyable combination of suspense and goofiness. I particularly like Steed's blithe remark that the enslaved scientists were "hand-picked" by the plant (har).

Mrs Peel knew Laura Burford (not that well, they were acquaintances), which gives her added motive at first to investigate. During the final battle, Emma finds one of Laura's discarded shoes and realizes the plant has eaten her friend. A brief somber expression crosses Emma's face but there isn't time to dwell on it. One thing I notice is that both Steed and Emma are somewhat detached from humanity; they like people well enough but always remain at a certain distance. Perhaps being all that sophisticated and witty also means not letting your emotional guard down and showing your feelings to plainly.

It's worth noting that, in many of the fight scenes, the lithe and attractive Mrs Peel abruptly transmogrifies into a bulkier broad-shouldered form with straggly hair. Evidently, she's a shape-shifter and this is her battle mode. Okay, yes it's a male stunt double wearing a dreadful wig. As I noticed with the reviews of the 1950s ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, these sudden appearances of stuntmen were not nearly so noticeable on the much small TV screens of those days. And, of course, audiences then just watched and enjoyed without being able to freeze-frame on DVD players and study every second. Steed gets a stunt double, but it's not as noticeable. Now, if they had used a stuntwoman to stand in for Patrick Macnee, we'd have a crossdressing judo-flipping party going on.
*Actually, scriptwriter Robert Banks Stewart later swiped reworked this premise for the DOCTOR WHO episode, "Seeds of Doom." I haven't seen that exploit of our favorite Time Lord yet, but maybe someday...

**Neither John Steed nor Mrs Peel refer to themselves as "The Avengers", nor does anyone within the show. It's the name of the series, not the characters, just as the Doctor from Gallifrey is not actually named "Doctor Who." I'm calling Steed and Emma "The Avengers" here just to break up the repetition of their names.
30 October 2014 @ 02:50 pm

Admittedly, he doesn't make the best first impression.
police gazette

Making the wait for haircuts more bearable in barbershops for generations!

If only the articles in those old men's magazines lived up to the cover blurbs.
29 October 2014 @ 02:49 pm

Honestly, Coulson needs to crack down a little.
29 October 2014 @ 02:16 pm

Good ol' Clarence Crane here invented a candy designed for the hot summer months when chocolate sales dipped AND provided Groucho with a neat visual pun in HORSE FEATHERS.