Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Film Review: The Unknown

Knowing 'The Unknown'
Private Blog Entry(Lon Flamey-Film Critic)
silent movie w/ Lon Chaney

RE: 1927 Tod Browning film. I was informed before ever watching my first Tod Browning film that, "he's pretty Freaky." There's good freaky, there's bad freaky... And this film was. Here are some thoughts I'd jotted from that time:

As a viewer who has never particularly liked silent films (edit: up to a finite time in my development), I must say that this one was utterly interesting, even uncomfortably entertaining. A problem with silent film, for myself who relies on sound sensitivity 'reading', has always been ... there's no audible dialogue! "No kidding", one may immediately respond. But because there is no actual talking, the actors often over-act by providing ridiculous, even grotesque (when they are not trying to) facial expressions. This done, obviously, in an effort to portray as much as possible sans voices, with the only dialogue appearing in script on the screen, creating an almost out of body experience. And that, only intermittently and fairly briefly ... likely to keep the movie-goers 'with' the characters and action on the screen as much as possible. Too much dissociation with the film could lead some viewers astray. Or, at least, that may have been the early film industry's, and young Hollywood's, attitude towards their audiences. An attitude much as it is today, namely that viewers are too stupid to follow closely the action on screen.

At any rate, grotesquerie, in this and other silent films, is a pronounced additive in this, what has become, particular 'genre'. It should be pointed out, given the nature of this director's work (bizarre circus and carnival settings, and all the attendant oddities associated with such places), certainly this film was going to be weird. And Lon Chaney, I have to say, is forsooth creepy in his contortions, but even more so, again, in his facial expressions, visage-contortions. That talent cannot be overstated. And -Joan Crawford- is one who did not ever afterward, as her scrimpy-doff character is secreted over by Chaney's Alonzo the Armless knife-thrower.

The musical score(?), it did seem, could have done more to work the atmosphere of the film. I'm not sure where the musical numbers (if #s and not shards, they be) for our specific viewing came from, if it was original or a later addition, but this is a central element of silent films that, if done properly, could to some degree mitigate the need for actors to make their expressions so very outlandish (eyes popping from their sockets & etc..) in order to convey what are really quite simple emotions. This area has always constituted the great divide between silent films and my ability to fully invest in them. Oh, he is spoiled, you will say-- but, oh, maybe I am so! I will reply.

Having said that, this director is someone whose work I have definitely come to see more of as an illustration of one artist's ability to turn said 'genre-tic' into fantastic works due to the nature of his projects. Perhaps a conversion has taken place, perhaps not, but freakishness provides a relentlessly spooky trip. More so than what went on in this film, you will find particularly intriguing further info concerning another of Browning's works called 'Freaks' [not provided here, sorry].

It is not surprising, if one gives it a moment, that this was not originally received well by critics upon completion, and for some time, since those were the days of supposed intolerance and insensitivity. There is a touch of surprise that some of the films, like this one, were even bankrolled by studios as they were cutting over the edge for their day. Today such a film would be on the market immediately. So much for our own sense of 'superior' values; but why is this? We have lost a more, grounded, even (for lack of a better word right off) dirtier, certainly grittier Life-- which was lived much more in the fashion of struggle/hardship 'back then,' unlike now-of-days when we take our very existence so much more for granted. Our Health, something that is a God-given right, our non-freakishness a par for the course shot {thru no small thanks of cosmetic/corrective surgeries}.

Nonetheless, I am sure that by using real carnival folks, Browning was doing nothing more than bringing to real life that which he has tried to recreate using artificial actors. And it should not seem strange that he would make films such as this, considering that from a rather young age he spent his early working and living life with circus' and carnivals. To him, such folk no doubt seemed perfectly natural, even if he recognized the differences between these circus folk and the 'regular folk' who attended carnivals. And thereby developed his own kind of creepy circus freak genre, because he knew he could, at the least, sell it to the ever curious public. Rather, that he could sell most of it, at least that which the studios and censors would allow.
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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Burger Chef Fun Village


Current mood:thoughtful

Burger Chef. The name conjures magical memories of childhood lost. 

And their pioneering Fun Meals, paving the way for Mickey D's copycat Happy Meals, were a thing of wonder. At one time, in fact, BC was 2nd only to Ronald's empire in size per # of operable franchises.

Alas, no more, The Chef is just an echo in the nostalgia chambers of the minds of countless children turned adults. But who can forget the Fun Meals (though, I must say, I've long felt the rather lavish attention paid to those fun-filled 'toy boxes' may have led to BC's downfall)?
Why, their Fun Meals had seemingly everything, from punch out masks and creatures, to flimsy playable 45 records (as an aside, it was BC which held the Star Wars restaurant merchandising contract when the original movie came out in '77, complete with posters and glasses), and, of course, the Fun Village.
I had near entirely forgotten of this novelty, but reconnected by the simple find of this Burger Chef Reliquary (at the bottom you can find my own fanboy comment, I just couldn't help it - heh). Boy-howdy! Admittedly, I was a bit old for toys by then, but as a life-long collector I could never resist. To be sure, career-wise, I was not a party to any industry insider evaluations of the Fun devices---just rather more of a fan. Yet, I had done enough chowing down to know what filled me! It was always a great pleasure, &-- ooohh, the goodies!
But herein is the cautionary tale. And I can hear: 'Ahh, you're always throwing out cautionary tales', you are saying. Yes, it is so. But it is the nature of the beast to draw attention to those areas which require redress. And this beast is known as wisdom....experience....and a life's lessons learned. And imparted generously, in a gesture of goodwill!
Now, having done so, I'm off to eBay to see if I may not find some items for sale which will allow me to revisit my long lost Fun Village.

P.S. - In case you are disinclined to follow the above link, here is a copy of my silly, spur of the moment comment:

Aha! Thank you so much, R.T. (and Todd & Margaret, as well). This is an absolutely wonderful reliquary. I'd been wondering for some time what the name of the Burger Chef 'town' was. So, Fun Village, it is! Splendid. Of course... Wish I'd kept mine. Wasn't there a haunted house, as one of the properties of the village? Perhaps a pirate ship, as well? So, what great memories this conjures...
Posted by: [on MySpace] | May 31, 2009 at 12:30 AM

P.P.S. - Here is my own rendition of what the Burger Chef looked like, doodled back in the day:

4:16 PM
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Sunday, May 17, 2009

When Dum-Dums Ruled My World

At times, such as this one, and randomly, I like to bring in old reminiscences & salutations from people I've known. Some I don't even like, some I do, but I'll give them their say. This was from way back (yea, oh yea, speak that sugar-land truth, my man!):

"Current mood:nostalgic


I was still but a wee kernel of a tot when Dum-Dum Pops came to
rule my world. Loved them -- just loved them! In fact, back
then, we winkies would receive them as hard-earned treats during our
local library summer reading contest (contests, it must be
mentioned, which were not fairly judged due to some unscrupulous
imps amongst my peers who falsely inflated the quantity of books
that they had really read. I was ever in favor of book
reports to verify actual results, but the librarians did not agree
with my suggestion, much to my consternation).

Later, of course, I was lured
somewhat from the straight and narrow of Dum-Dum worship by the
Tootsie Pop. At first I delighted in the egghead Mr. Owl and his
quest to solve the insoluble riddle, "How many licks does it
take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" But
as time passed, I became more and more annoyed by the smarmy
certainty of the answer, "The world may never know."

they knew something, all right! And what's more, I knew they knew.
The only question which remained to be answered was, did they know I
knew? Well, I came to solve the riddle for myself, and the answer?
None!!! Not if you immediately bite right through to the center.
And so, after that brief flirtation I went back to my
Dum-Dums, and was a happy Li'l Camper once more. I bring this
hopscotch down memory lane up only for my own sentimental reasons,
as I was recently going through some old scrapbooks and came across
a copy of a fan missive I had sent to the Dum-Dum company (as I knew
them, then):

'Luv me some dum-dums! Always have, they are king

of candy. Keep this country dum with ur pops!'-Fez Kumon

Fez Kumon, I signed it. What a giggle! Even then, and already into my
career, I had begun to make my much-beloved, since then,
persona a calling card, the ability of which has aided me greatly to this day.
Unfortunately, I have been unable to find any reply that the company
may have sent me in response to that missive, which is odd because I
have ever been an inveterate pack rat and cataloguer. Oh well, more
for another day..."

Afterword: ..but who was Fez Kumon? Fez came from a long line of Sages of the Druse faith in what was then known as the Levant: now- Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Palestine...he came in the early years of the 20th century to the United States with many other immigrants from that part of the world, mostly Christians at that time. And, like any immigrant, he was tested by the vices of this new society; but while others went for slow women or fast booze, his vice of choice was candy-->Professionally, as he mentioned briefly, he was to become a moderately successful motivational speaker with a special emphasis on the efficacy of mirror balls in backyard bird baths to the constitution of the elderly. He had a high turnover rate amongst his customers: fans & followers.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Flight of the (blank(?)

Guess Who? Not, the band,

On the run? running--
oR, come sail away!
the Concord? -- yeah, no...
tHe Condor?
Extinction... solution?
take The Last Train, too..
Oh, hell, yes,
This guy just can't give it a rest :(>

So, next it was:

Monday, in cold January, of 2009,

Napster fell, already, almost inconceivable it went as long as it did,
remember, wemeem? umeem, we all scream for imeem=
once MySpace rolled them into 1, it was only a matter of...

about a girl:


                 {vbut not like thisv}
Antique VD poster
...and she was like, 'you don't need that'...

For more widgets please visit www.yourminis.com