Of Brown Marie, Yellow Marie, And Pickaninny (Or, Of Racism In The Toy Wife)

I don’t think I can let Black History Month go by without mentioning 1938’s The Toy Wife.

Primarily the movie is the story of Frou Frou (played by Luise Rainer), a woman found to be so guilty of a frivolous nature, so childlike in her approach to life, that she must suffer the wrath of The Motion Picture Production Code (aka the Hays Code or Hollywood Code). But I think any woman or thinking man who watched the film will see that others are not only guilty of perpetuating her frivolous nature, but of exploiting it as well — especially those who claim to love her.

In many ways, Frou Frou, the character, reminds me much of Norma Jean Baker, or at least the creation of Marilyn Monroe… A woman literally and figuratively corseted by the studios to be “feminine charms personified,” who was then resented and mistreated by the very persons who had shaped her. (Any feminists reading here likely can feel the echoes of such things in their own lives.)

Jaynie’s done a great job in her review of the movie, so I’ll leave it at that and get onto the other thing to note about this film: the racial issues.

Heck, slavery and racism are so prominent in this film that it’s used as proof of Frou Frou’s poor frivolous and immature state.

Her inability to manage her household and slaves leaves her poor husband dealing with bickering slaves; leaving us to conclude that Frou Frou is so childish, she cannot even manage the childish Negros.

Sure, The Toy Wife is a period piece set during the Civil War on a plantation — with all that implies. But unlike Gone With The Wind, The Toy Wife shocks with insights into the treatment of slaves.

We see the traditionally accepted sanitized version of supposed mutual devotion and affection between master and slaves, both on individual bases and and in groups — such as when the mistress of the household stand on the magnificent steps of her plantation mansion and leads the slaves in prayer.

We see Frou Frou slap her slave, something which tells as much about the immediate situation straining their close relationship (you know how women are so willing to slap one another’s face when we get peeved *snort*) as it depicts slave relations.

But we also see and hear family slaves threatened with whippings and being sold, the rather nonchalant pronouncement of such things by white folks punctuates their manipulation and mastery of human beings — exposing the very same frivolous, spoiled, childlike assumptive behavior that Frou Frou is charged with.

But perhaps most shocking is the story of Frou Frou’s devoted personal slave. Played by Theresa Harris (more here), this slave hasn’t any name — they just call her “Pic” (or “Pick”) short for pickaninny.

We discover this supposedly amusing fact when Frou Frou returns home after years away, being schooled abroad. One by one the female slaves identify themselves — including both Maries who individualize themselves as “Brown Marie” and “Yellow Marie.” You will see and hear it in this YouTube clip (at roughly 37 seconds) but Pic’s story, which should immediately follow once the young woman is spotted beneath the stairs, has been (curiously and infuriatingly) omitted.

So while The Toy Wife offers a sad story of womanhood, it also offers an historical slice of southern pie that’s hard to swallow.

But you should watch it. It’s a wonderful film, capturing so many moments of truth… Even if a lot of them are ugly and painful.

You Could Have Hundreds Of These Cards & Still Not Be Playing With A Full Deck

I’m completely smitten with these 1916 M.J. Moriarty Playing Cards featuring the leading ladies and gents of the silent silver screen.

I found them when I found my buddy Cliff Aliperti (who deals in vintage movie collectibles, especially movie cards and other ephemera) in chat and asked him if he had a photo or scan of something featuring Florence LaBadie for a silent film article I was writing. When he sent me two options, I, the too easily smitten, replied, “Damn you, those cards are cool!”

“Which ones? The playing cards or the pink borders?” Cliff types back.

“Both, actually,” I reply. “I like the playing cards a lot — but I’m a girl and pink scrolls are sexy too.”

He sends me links to more — purely to torture me, I am sure.

And while I’m looking them over, he tells me more about these old playing cards. “But the fun is there’s different cards in some decks … I’ve seen over 100 different cards. Ruth Roland, on one of the Aces, there are actually 4 different poses for the single card. But some of the variations are totally different stars — like one deck shows Norma and Constance Talmadge together, another has them on 2 separate cards.”

At this point, all I could say was, “Dude, stop messing with my head! It’s not nice to do that to obsessives.”

Like Cliff, you know I am obsessive with stuff; so y’all know I was half begging him to stop, half in love with the idea of hunting down all the variations.

I mean Charlie Chaplin as the Joker? Awesome!

Plus these cards feature silent film stars I’ve never even heard of — oh, the glory of the hours of research!

You can get more details and see all the cards in the gallery at Cliff’s site; and you can buy cards from him in his store, Move Cards For Sale, and in his eBay listings.

Oh, Those Von Dewitz Characters

Because I become obsessed with research, especially when so little is readily available…

In doing some additional research for a piece on silent film star Valda Valkyrien

I found juicy tidbits on her first husband, Baron Hrolf von Dewitz.

From The New York Times on September 7, 1919:

Special to The New York Times
GREENWHICH, Conn., Sept. 6.– A man calling himself Baron Hrolf J. O. E. Dewitz of New York, a moving picture director, and a girl who said she was A. M. Thaisn de Malmey, a moving picture actress, and daughter of Joseph W. de Malmey and Catherine Thomas de Malmey, were married today by Justice Albert S. Mead in his office. They came up by train from New York, and the bride changed from a traveling dress into a gorgeous pink creation for the ceremony and back again afterward into her traveling costume. Dewitz gave his age as 40, and said he was born in Denmark, and Miss de Melmey gave hers as 21, and said she was born in Spain and was a cousin of the late Empress Elizabeth of Austria. They said they had never been married before. They left for New York, saying they would leave New York Sunday morning for the Pacific Coast.

The so-called “Baron” Dewitz, in spire of his statements to the Greenwich Justice, has been married before, not only once, but several times, and his erstwhile wives are on record as divorcing him. Records show that on May 17, 1908, he was married to Nina Pastorelli, a toe dancer with “The Dancing Daisies.” On April 4, 1911 he married Mrs. Katheryn de Montford, an actress, who obtained a divorce from him on Jan. 18, 1912. His third venture was with Miss Freed, whose stage name was Mlle. Valkyrien, another dancer, who as Mrs. Adele Freed von Dewitz also got a divorce, the interloculory decree having been signed on Feb. 13, 1919, by Justice Albert F. Seeger at White Plains. She was then in the movies, and the decree gave her the two-year-old son of the pair.

At the time he married Miss Freed, otherwise Mlle. Valkyrien, the “Baron” sent out cards announcing that their residence would be at the Plaza after Sept. 1, 1914, but at the time the cards were issued he and his bride were living at 560 West End Avenue with a Miss Bessie M. Clay.

So far, I’ve not found anything substantive about the earlier Baronesses von Dewitz (and you know I’ll keep looking — The Dancing Daisies?! Oh. My. Gawd.).

But I did then find a lengthy wedding notice, also in The New York Times, dated June 23, 1914. (I’m so going to interject along the way for this one.)

Cards bearing the imprint of a jewelry house and the baronial crest of a noble Danish family were sent through the mails yesterday to well-known New Yorkers, saying that:

Lo Lieutenant Baron Hrolf von Dewitz,
et Mademoiselle
Valkyrien Freed de Copenhaque
ont l’honneur de vous
announcer leur mariage en date du
quatorze Mai, a L’eglise
Evangelicale-Lutherienne de Saint Mathieu
a Jersey City

Don’t you just love “Jersey” tacked on the end of all that French — and when, for that matter, did Valkyrien become French?

A second card states, also in French, that the Baron and Baroness would be at home at the Hotel Plaza after Sept. 1.

Baron von Dewitz, whose marriage on May 14 in Jersey City is thus announced, is the same Baron who on April 4, 1911, married Mrs. Kathryn de Montford, an actress, at Stamford, Conn., and who, several years previously was reported married to Nina Pastorelli, a toe dancer. Although the alleged marriage with Miss Pastorelli was extensively published in the newspapers, it was shown later that the wedding did not take place.

The matter of being shown that the marriage to Miss Pastorelli did not take place is A) not as reported later, and #2, not really shown at all.

In his most recent matrimonial venture Baron Dewitz again went to the stage for a wife, for Mlle. Valkyrien Freed is a dancer and a member of the ballet of the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. Furthermore she is about to embark upon a professional career in this country despite her title, and at a dinner tonight at the home of Miss Jeannette L. Gilder, the writer, her stage future is to be talked over by her husband, Miss Gilder, who, through taking the management of another dancer has become an enthusiastic impresario, and the Baroness herself.

Please note the Baron’s involvement in his wife’s career; there is more flavor to savor later.

Although the wedding announcement cards say that the Baron and Baroness will be at home at the Plaza after Sept. 1, they are at present living at the home of Miss Bessie M. Clay, at 560 West End Avenue. It was explained last night by Baron Dewitz that this was because he and his bride wished to live in seclusion for a while, and at the same time it gave the Baroness an opportunity to practice her toe dancing.

The Miss Bessie M. Clay mentioned is likely the then President of The New York Institute of Music, located on West End Ave.; more on her, and why they would live with her, is here.

The marriage of Baron Dewitz and the toe dancer, who is not yet 19 years of age and who is a young woman of remarkable beauty, ends all the chances the Baron had of coming into a great estate and another title, he said last night. In fact, he is likey to be cut off by his relatives altogether for not returning to Copenhagen and marrying into a royal family.

“This wedding with Miss Freed,” said the Baron last night, “was a real romance. Two years ago when I was at home I met her and we fell in love. I returned to this country and we wrote each other frequently, but my family, and hers, too, put so many obstacles in our path that we gradually stopped writing. Last month we decided to marry after all, and so she came to this country. I met her at the boar and took her to the home of a married sister in Jersey, and a week later we were quietly married.

Put a pin in that “met two years ago” part — there will be some math.

“We are going to Newport in a short while, and she may give some exhibition dances there. I have been approached with offers to to upon the stage, but I am told that in this country a man who goes on the stage is not likely to be taken seriously in business affairs afterward. In my country I could go on the stage as a lark and nothing would be thought of it.

Remember when I asked you to note the Baron’s involvement with his latest wife’s performance career? Well, it sure seems to me that the Baron von Dewitz desperately wants a stage career himself. He’s willing to give up his title and wealth for it. And remember that first (though more recent) article wherein he calls himself “a moving picture director” — I guess that line’s a winner.

“The report that I have been married several times is all a mistake. I knew Miss Pastorelli when I was here some years ago and was seen about with her frequently. Some months after I had left this country I was surprised to get some old newspaper clippings saying that Miss Pastorelli and I were married. It was so long after the time that the stories had been published that I did nothing at all about it. I was divorced from Mrs. de Montford about a year and a half ago.”

But remember, the later clipping states that “records show” his marriage to Pastorelli on May 17, 1908. “Records,” not “reports.”

And remember, you have a pin in the number two, right? Do the math with his statement that he “was divorced from Mrs. de Montford about a year and a half ago.” Erm.

Baron Dewitz, who writes for the magazines, was a Danish naval officer who was one of the first to take up aeroplanes as war machines, and for some time was interested in perfecting air warship which he wished to sell to European Governments. He said last night that the cost of the enterprise was so heavy that he finally dropped it.

Baron Dewitz apparently did write, including a book titled War’s New Weapons.

At least that much is true.

*About Miss Bessie M. Clay and The New York Institute of Music: A bit from The New York Times, October 22, 1905:

An interesting feature of this college is what is known as the “Home Department.” As more and more girls have been coming from places far from New York to study music, there has been a growing demand for their proper accommodation in the city. Accordingly it is now possible to obtain not only musical instruction at the institute, but rooms, board, and chaperonage can be secured. But the care of the visitor does not stop here. Informal teas and receptions will be arranged to which persons prominent in the musical and artistic world will be invited. There are classes in dancing and fencing, and there is also a bowling alley and gymnasium. In other words, a student from the West can secure here many of the advantages and pleasures she would find at a college like Wellesley or Vassar.

I believe this 1906 issue of Music Trade Review is also on Miss Bessie Clay (said to be the niece of Major Clay of Sherman, Clay & Co.) and her marriage to Truman A. Glaser.

However likely this seems to be the same Bessie Clay, I cannot account for the continued reference to her as “Miss Bessie” past 1906.

And that brings us to the end of today’s (last night’s) obsession. Until I find out more — or you add to the story with what you know.

Once again, I’d like to declare my deep abiding love of The New York Times for making their archives available.

We Had Joy, We Had Fun, We had Seasons In The Sun…

I’ve been listening a lot to the cable music stations — most recently to the 70’s station. Tonight, Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks came on and I found myself singing along as I had in my childhood:

We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun
‘Til the cops came along and shot us in our buns.

At this point hubby (10 years my junior, remember, and so perhaps not even born at the time I was singing along to the AM radio), turns around and calls me an affectionate slur for a mental handicap.

“Come on,” I laugh, “I was like 10 years old when this song came out.”

And I continue to sing along with the song — growing happier and louder with each opportunity to sing my childhood recollections of the verse. I was seriously clapping with glee by the end of the song. Perverse? Maybe. But it was thrilling to relive my 10 year actions and enthusiasm.

Blaming my age might seem like a weak defense, but honestly, little kid weirdness can often be attributed to very real — and very grown-up — things.

Streaking was a big thing then (at least pop culture reference wise; I never knew anyone then who had done so) and as kids, uncomfortable with the notion of naked adults, we made jokes about it. Continually.

And the song, Seasons In The Sun, was terribly depressing; it reeked of death. Another thing kids would be terribly uncomfortable with.

So we dealt with our anxieties via the mutilation (further mutilation?) of the song.

Come to think of it, so many 70’s songs were about death…

There was Wildfire and Brandy, of course (the latter of which may not have explicitly about death, but certainly there was loss). Helen Reddy’s Angie Baby used to scare the crap out of me (that swirling noise made me dizzy and is somehow mythologically tied to my experience with the floor dropping in Disney’s Haunted Mansion) — second only to Eleanor Rigby, which, with the popularity of Wings, was played far too often as far as I was concerned. (Wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door?! I’m old enough to understand the lyrics better now, but that only creeps me out more.)

However, in terms of raw exploitation and manipulation of emotion, there were even worse offenders.

Like Rocky (“Rocky I’ve never had a baby before, don’t know if I can do it…”) by Austin Roberts. In my mind, Rocky was from the made for TV movie, Sunshine, which was based on the real life story of Jacquelyn Marie “Lyn” Helton, a young woman who while dying journaled for her young daughter so that she’d remember her (unbearably more than ironic if this post is to be believed).

I recently discovered that Rocky was not from that film when we found the record at a thrift shoppe (and yes, I snatched it up). I don’t think I ever saw the Sunshine movie, or the television series which followed…

But maybe I did. In my mind, it was all twisted up with my Sunshine Family dolls. Dolls who suffered greatly, despite their cheerful happy hippy faces. One parent often died… Of course, it could have been worse for the children after I read Flowers In The Attic (the baby boy obviously would have been named Cory).

All of this is so depressing.

The only way to really cleanse from this is to sing along with Seasons In The Sun — my way. Go ahead and try it, you’ll understand why we sang it this way as kids.

We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun
‘Til the cops came along and shot us in our buns.

Excuse Me, May I Show A Movie On Your Antique Purse?

antique-metal-mandalian-mesh-bagOn Saturday I got my first real antique purses — and, as usual, I’m obsessing over researching what I can about them. Today I’m going to inform you about the fascinating things I learned about antique metal mesh bags by Mandalian Manufacturing Company.

First a bit of history.

Armor mesh bags by Mandalian are as sought after as those by Whiting & Davis. Though, admittedly, metal mesh and chain had been used for quite some time, Whiting is often credited for having developed the technique for the first mesh bags in 1892. He then partnered with Davis in 1896 and when the mesh machine was invented in 1909, Whiting & Davis acquired the patent. This not only affected the cottage industry of women who hand soldered the up to 100,000 links per bag, but limited big business. However, companies keep trying because the metal mesh bags were only becoming more popular.

One of these was Sahatiel Gabrabed Mandalian, an Indian immigrant * who was focused on quality more than quantity. This is noted in A) the remaining purses themselves; B) the quantity of advertising (Whiting & Davis papered the world promoting their larger production runs, while Mandalians’ ads and inventory were much fewer in number)’ and C) the number of patents Mandalian held — with quite a few in metal mesh and enamel application, as well as jewelry and other accessories.

One of the ways Mandalian separated his mesh bags was with the invention of applying crushed fish scale to the mesh, creating a ‘pearlized mesh’ the company promoted early on, as this vintage tag shows, Color-Vision-Bag, Trade Mark, Process patent Pending

mandalian-color-vision-bag-tag

However, the name most of these vintage bags sold under was Lustro-Pearl, exhibited here by this Mandalian mesh purse with original box and tag.

mandalian-lustro-pearl-mesh-purse-with-box-and-tag

But fashion accessories weren’t the only things Mandalian envisioned — for his Lustro-Pearl, or his mesh metal. In the May 19, 1931, issue of Exhibitors Forum (page 6), this news:

“Lustro-Pearl” New Metal Type Screen

A new type metal mesh projection screen, known as “Lustro-Pearl,” has been placed on the market by Mandalian Manufacturing Co., of North Attleboro, Mass.

The advanced features claimed for this new screen includes: A surface treated with the purest of known chemicals, entirely free from gloss, eliminating all distortion to ordinary types.

Highest reflection factor known to reputable light testing laboratories, effecting a considerable saving of electric current.

Constructed so as to distribute sound very clearly and uniformly throughout the entire theatre.

Can be washed with hot water and soft brush without injury to its surface.

Affords clear view of any picture from any angle of observation, eliminating eye strain or discomfort to patrons.

Surface may be sprayed periodically for many years, and for this purpose, the company plans to loan for a period of ten years a complete up-to-date spraying outfit with each screen purchased, and furnish chemical solutions from time to time for resurfacing this type of screen.

Its high reflective qualities bring out objects in a manner which might be termed the nearest approach to three dimensional pictures, the company claims.

RKO Proctor’s 58th Street, New York, is among the first houses to install this new type of screen.

(This patent, #1,890,819, was issued December 13, 1932.)

But eventually even the better made and more stylized mesh bags by Mandalian couldn’t compete with Whiting & Davis who, by 1944, added Mandalian Mfg. Co. to their list of competitors they’d bought out. Sahatiel G. Mandalian would pass away just five years later.

I could find no record of whether or not that included the film projection screens — or if that business had folded long before 1944. Any info is appreciated!

*
UPDTATE: Per comments, Sahatiel was not Indian but an Armenian immigrant born in Constantinople, Turkey.

Let’s Talk Disney Princesses

About 15 years ago, I sent a letter to Disney (on behalf of my Disney stock-owning and Disney-loving daughter) demanding that they diversify their stock of Disney characters and stories.

Among other things, I suggested they make stories about adventurous mice, a la The Rescuers, who either didn’t all sound like white folk or who helped more than white children — both maybe. And I said they ought to include princesses of color in their films — and that maybe these princess didn’t have to be exclusively limited to exotic locations, like Princess Jasmine.

disney-princessesSince this letter of mine, there has been Pocahontas & Mulan, each’s ethnicity presented as exotic and distant via the pageantry of location and historical period as Jasmine. But now there’s the first black Disney princess, Princess Tiana in The Princess & The Frog.

(I know this sounds like one of those new Windows 7 commercials — but If I had any affect on The Mouse, it took 15 years to get past the corporate layers of white defenses.)

Tony Award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose is the voice of Princess Tiana and she’s excited, telling People magazine, “This feels amazing. Not only is [Tiana] the first black princess, she’s the first American princess. So, the scope and the significance is larger than people even realize.”

Apparently Rose is so excited that she’s forgotten that Pocahontas was a Native American. While the ‘princess’ title may be debatable and the treatment of Native Americans is deplorable, is Pocahontas’ status as American really questioned?

If your daughter is a Disney princess fan — and you meet the other requirements — maybe you’d like to be on The Tyra Show:

Does your little girl love Disney princesses? Is she eagerly anticipating the arrival of the first black Disney princess, Princess Tiana? Have you always wanted to take your daughter to Disney World but have never had the means? Do you have an emotional story to share?

Emmy Award Winning Talk Show is looking for deserving moms and daughters who love Disney Princesses! Daughters should be ages 7-11. Must be available Tuesday, November 17 and the following Thursday to Friday.

My kids are all past Disney princess, but my niece isn’t (and my nephew is half charmed by them, half held hostage by his older sister’s demands). But even if there weren’t Disney kids in my clan, I’d still be glad to see an African American Disney princess. Because fairy tails may not come true, but believing in the magic of them is so much easier to do when folks look and sound more like you; not to mention what this does to those with delusions of white superiority.

Of Monday Movie Memes & Media Use

This week’s Monday Movie Meme is Deep Impact: Movies That Have Changed Your Life:

Our blogging buddy Cardiogirl wanted to know if we had ever covered movies that changed our lives or our world view.

Fundamentally, I don’t believe movies — or any media, for that matter — makes people do anything. I don’t think films have changed my life. Or yours. Enhanced your life, sure; if you’re lucky (and smart), movies have provoked thought; but primarily, because people mostly choose what they watch and therefore their selections are based on notions previously held, films confirm what you & I already know or believe.

Seeing that in pixel-ized print makes me rethink why I bother writing then… Rather depressing. So I take another look at the challenge. “What movies had such an impact that they caused a change in our behavior, beliefs, or exposed us to a new passion?”

Ah, that last one — that’s the ticket! Movies and media can expose us to new passions. They can, if we are open to learning, educate us and inspire us to find out more about something we were ignorant of before — and that may include facts or plights presented in such a way that they open our eyes to a new position or point of view.

deadly-deception-videoIn that sense, Debra Chasnoff‘s documentary, Deadly Deception: General Electric, Nuclear Weapons, and Our Environment, opened my eyes and I changed my behaviors; to this day, I won’t buy anything made by GE. Not even a light bulb.

And if I’m forced to buy a GE product because it’s the only option on the shelf, I rant about babies born without skulls.

And then there was Mississippi Burning. That film had a profound impact on me spiritually. (Please note that this is not a review of the film, nor a commentary on it’s historical accuracy or depictions of reality; just about my personal epiphany.)

Prior to renting the film (shortly after it’s home video release) I had known of the events it was based on, namely the real-life murders of three civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney; as I said, we are drawn mainly to those things we know &/or already believe in, so I was drawn to a film about civil rights, equality, and humanity (and its converse). But after inserting the tape, once seeing the date on the screen, “June 21, 1964,” in white letters on a black screen, I was shocked. That date was news to me.

I know I didn’t know that exact date because I would have remembered it; it’s my birthday.

mississippi-burning-dvdThe fact that I was being born while those men were murdered shocked me; the next few minutes of the movie blurred (don’t worry, I rewound it and starting the film over) as I checked in with my spirit, my soul… And then, in a moment of crystal clarity, I knew.

I knew that my profound pain and connection with civil rights issues wasn’t just because I was a nice person or something. It was more than that.. Deeper. It was due to the fact that I could not join my house of flesh on this plane while those souls suffered their way out of it and not be touched by it.

You can call me crazy for such thinking; many do. And you’d be correct to hold me accountable for such thoughts, not those who made the film. Because I still argue that these films didn’t change me; I changed me.

Yes, the facts opened my eyes — because my mind was open to being informed — and I took action (or belief) because my values (and sensitivities) dictate I must. And so I have to take as much — or more — responsibility for my actions than I’m willing to give to media creators for their efforts.

If all of this seems contradictory, or like I’m splitting hairs, it’s because I think we need to draw these lines for ourselves.

I am thankful my college professor showed us Deadly Deception; and I feel blessed to have learned a fact that somehow clarifies spiritual holdings in Mississippi Burning. I admire all involved in those projects greatly (and those sentiments are equal to the feelings of mourning sickness both projects inspire). But if I hand over the responsibility for my actions to anyone, I run big risks. So do you.

We run the risk of expecting people to plop things in front of us, rather than owning our responsibility to be seekers.

We run the risk of relaxing our personal accountability for our own actions, placing blame & credit alike on others for what we ourselves do or fail to do.

So splitting these hairs isn’t cosmetic or even a matter of semantics; it’s about ownership of our actions, beliefs, and passions. This distinction between ‘media which moves us’ and the actions we opt to make is incredibly important.

‘They’ can bombard & pressure us all they’d like, to buy shoes, kill people, vote for candidate A, believe the religious rhetoric of god B, drink beer, mutilate ourselves in efforts to be ‘beautiful’; but we make the choices. We must accept our personal accountability for those choices.

We consume media, and we are what we eat; but in this case, we need to know that we digest in order to properly digest it. And to digest it, we must be diligent in our seeking and consumption of media; as equally open to ideas and points of view that counter our own as we are critically thinking about what we see/hear/read.

Great films, or crappy ones, great books or crappy video games, do not make us do things. We do.

New Vintage Reviews Carnival, 7th Edition

Welcome to the seventh edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where we review “old stuff” — from the classics to the forgotten — that is likely new to someone…

Films:

Jaynie discusses Spencer Tracy as a father on film in Father’s Little Dividend over at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Yours Truly reviews The Adventures of Ford Fairlane over at Kitschy Kitschy Coo.

Cliff Aliperti posted Peter Lorre stars in MGM’s Mad Love (1935) over at The Examiner.

Jaynie of Here’s Looking Like You, Kid has a review of The Goddess. (I love this film!)

Cliff Aliperti on Warren William in Arsene Lupin Returns over at Warren-William.com. (Can you tell he’s a Warren William fan?)

Books:

Kerrie reviews Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? by the Queen of the Golden Age of Mysteries, Agatha Christie, at Mysteries in Paradise.

Yours Truly reviews Mary Stewart’s Airs Above The Ground here at Kitsch Slapped.

At The Viewspaper, Surbhi Bhatia reviews the classic Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier.

Alessia (of Relationship Underarm Stick) takes a quick look at the vintage fortune-telling book, Fortune-Telling by Cards — and you can find excerpts here.

Mee reviews Breakfast at Tiffany’s: A Short Novel and Three Stories, by Truman Capote, at Books of Mee.

At Collectors’ Quest, I review Magnificent Obsessions.

Surbhi Bhatia, of The Viewspaper, reviews Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

Monte Cook reviews the three original Dungeons & Dragons books at The Escapist.

Games:

In A Board Game Fit For a Suffragette, Thursday Bram reviews Pank-A-Squith, a suffrage-themed board game posted at Science of Board Games.

Yours Truly reviews the Dark Shadows‘ game, Barnabas Collins, here at Kitsch Slapped.

Etc.

Cindi Albright‘s What’s in your Vintage Cookie Jars? (at Muggsey & Mae Vintage Collectibles) is an unusual review of cookie jars.

At VintageMeld.com, Cliff Aliperti reviews the 300 Piece Uruguayan Movie Card Set.

Honorable Mentions:

My old live-Twitter account of Night of the Lepus at Kitschy Kitschy Coo might fit your Halloween mood…

Hyde and Seek doesn’t review games so much as present a visual museum of vintage Australian games, but it’s cool to see!

There’s also some “old books” in the 29th edition of the Book Review Blog Carnival I hosted — so check ’em out!

If you’d like your review to be in the next edition, please submit it (or one you’ve read) to the next edition of the blog carnival using the carnival submission form. (If you’d like to host the carnival at you blog, just let me know!)

Cowgirl Bandits My A**

A quick tip of my hat to Eliza at Bust Magazine‘s blog for pointing out what a hideous idea it is to make a a new younger version of the film classic Thelma and Louise. The train wreck, set to star Leighton Meester and Amber Heard, is titled Cowgirl Bandits — a title which certainly seems to sum up the producer’s ignorance of just what is truly at the core of this film.

Adding to the inappropriateness Eliza expressed, it is, in my estimation, not simply a bad idea due to the celebs involved (for I don’t view either as an actress anywhere near the likes of either Susan Sarandon or Geena Davis), nor is it a lament that classics ought to be left the hell alone (Did we learn nothing from the remake of The Women?!); no, the horror of this cinemacide goes far deeper.

What is sexy about this film (and I mean that in both the physical arousal definition of the word “sexy” and the intellectual turn-on implications of the colloquial usage) is the very thing they are undoing by attempting a “younger” version. A younger version of the film requires the characters be too young to believably have the character of the film characters.

At 20-ish, you don’t have years, decades, of boredom and abuse in a marriage — and if you even have to ask how a relationship can be both boring and abusive, then you are the “too young” I speak of — so how can you be courageous enough to walk out of it, Thelma? Courage, after all, is measured by the ability to confront a situation aware of the risks, pain, intimidation.  (And how young would Brad Pitt’s character have to be– 12?! Or in this hip young version, would she hook-up with an old dude, of say 40? A Brad Pitt role reprisal?)

At 20-ish, you don’t have years of hiding out, sheltering yourself as you live in the quiet silence of a pretense that keeps you at arm’s length from any respite, a deer perpetually in the headlights, exhausted from swallowing the injustice as you remain on guard for the next attack. So how then, can you react as you do, Louise? Without your years of suffering, how can there be a sympathetic policeman?

thelma-and-louiseWith this pitiful remake, there’s no significant backstory for these characters because — and I know this will offend you young pups — because 20-somethings haven’t lived long enough to have such a history, a history that they have both taken part in the creation of and struggled with for years.

Thelma & Louise wasn’t about some willy-nilly drive into the vague liberation of third-wave feminism partying and screwing the way to a poetic fireball of justice; it wasn’t a movie about women willing to die in the name of feminism. Thelma & Louise was far more complicated — sad and infuriating — because Thelma & Louise were fully developed characters with backstories. And they had to be older to do that.

New Vintage Reviews Carnival, 6th Edition

Welcome to the sixth edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where we review “old stuff” — from the classics to the forgotten — that is likely new to someone…

This month’s edition is chock-full of films — so I hope you have your popcorn and Jujubes ready!

Films:

Rupert Alistair presents Black Narcissus: Technicolor Masterpiece posted at Classic Movies Digest.

Jaynie presents Lessons In Vertigo (Hitchcock’s Vertigo, That Is!) posted at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Raquelle presents Wild River (1960) @ the Harvard Film Archive and the Walking Ethnic Stereotype posted at Out Of The Past.

Surbhi Bhatia presents FILM REVIEW: RED PSALM (Még kér a nép, 1972) posted at The Viewspaper.

Rupert Alistair presents Fury (1936): Fritz Lang Comes to America posted at Classic Movies Digest.

Surbhi Bhatia presents Onibaba: 1964 directed by Kaneto Shindo posted at The Viewspaper.

Jaynie presents Ready To Get Manhandled? posted at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Travel:

Jeet presents Trip to Shivaganga posted at Discover Karnataka, saying, “Shivaganga is a nice adventurous destination near Bangalore city of the Indian state of Karnaraka. It has very old temples for history buffs and can be a training site for new trekkers.”

Games & Toys:

Yours Truly presents Cheap Thrills Thursday: Can He-Man Still Thrill The Uninitiated? here at Kitsch Slapped.

Yours Truly presents Are You Game To Try Tiltin’ Milton? posted at Collectors’ Quest.

Music:

Clark Bjorke presents Billie Holiday: My Man posted at Clark’s Picks.

Books:

Azrael Brown presents Lover Boy posted at Double-Breasted Dust-Jacket.

Jason Ward presents Ringworld by Larry Niven posted at The Word of Ward.

Yours Truly presents My Summer of ‘79 (A Review of Summer of ’42) posted here at Kitsch Slapped.

Surbhi Bhatia presents Simone de Beauvoir’s ‘The Second Sex’ posted at The Viewspaper.

Jason Ward presents Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev posted at The Word of Ward.

Rebecca presents 35th Bookworms Carnival: Really Old Classics posted at Rebecca Reads.

Honorable Mention:

The Dean presents The Big & Little of Collecting Western Publishing Co. posted at Collectors’ Quest.

If you’d like your review to be in the next edition, please submit it (or one you’ve read) to the next edition of the blog carnival using the carnival submission form.

Desperately Seeking 80’s Madonna Fashions?

UPDATE 10/18/2014: I’ve a pair of the black Desperately Seeking Susan boots for sale in my Etsy shop!

Speaking of 1980’s-Desperately-Seeking-Susan Madonna & boots

desparately_seeking_susan_boots

Fans of the film Desperately Seeking Susan will remember that the whole hullabaloo started when Susan (Madonna), trades in her fabulous jacket for a pair of boots spotted in the window at Love Saves The Day (the old, original location, not the new one in New Hope, PA) — and then Roberta (Rosanna Arquette) buys the jacket, gets hit on the head and, trying to discover who she is, uses the key in the jacket’s pocket to open the Pandora’s-box-of-a-port-authority locker, setting off a romantic comedy of mistaken identity. An entirely awesome film. Seriously. Just try not to enjoy Desperately Seeking Susan.

With the 80s fashion comeback, blah-blah-blah, how would you like to be so hip & retro it hurts and have these boots? (Frankly, back in the day, I wouldn’t have been caught dead in them — too copy-cat, even though I was dressed as scandalously; but now those boots are kitsch-a-licious — now with added irony!)

madonna-wearing-the-boots

Bakers – Leeds owned the license to copy the boots designed by the film’s Costume Design Assistant, Alison Lances, but Town & Country knocked-off a netting with sequins over vinyl version. Frankly, it would be hard to tell the difference, right?

bakers-leeds-ad-for-desperately-seeking-susan-boots

But good luck finding either of them — if & when you do, be prepared to pay several times the original $49. Yup, even for pleather.

However, crafty girls could likely figure out how to adopt this vintage hairpin lace crochet pattern to make the netted boot overlay and add sequins, right? (Click this larger image from MadonnaUnderground.nl to guide you.)

boots-bakers-leeds-box

If rhinestones & shiny bling aren’t exactly your thing, you can opt for more punk studs — no, not men with attitude; boots with stud decorations, dears. Alyssa Zukas AKA Two Sting Jane does — and she even shares how! (If that link doesn’t always work — and it is wonky, giving 404s, try the DIY link and scroll; it’s worth it!)

And, because what are shoes without the right handbag, why not make a purse version of the iconic skull suitcase.

desperately-seeking-susan-skull-suitcase

However, if you never ever would have traded costume designer Santo Loquasto’s jacket for those boots…

desperately-seeking-susan-pyramid-eye-jacket

Well, copies of those jackets were licensed and made “retail available,” just like the boots, and advertised on MTV.

despereately-seeking-susan-jacket-ad

Made by Identity, Inc. &/or Creative Embroidery Corp. (I say “and/or” because both were marketed by Targeted Communications, Inc., so they could have been the same company.), the jackets have a hefty priceif & when you can find them.

creative-ebroidery-label

If you can sew or at least embroider, you can add the pyramid & eye, like that on a dollar bill, and the phrase “Novus Ordo Seclorum” to a jacket — just like Awsumgal did — sure, it’s a doll’s jacket; but it’s the same steps, just a different scale.

So get crafty and create your own fashion homage to the 1980’s that you so desperately seek. Aidan Quinn sold separately.

New Film Explores Sex Offender Status

A December 8, 2009 DVD release date has been set for the new dramatic film Warning!!! Pedophile Released, starring Kai Lanette, Sean Cain, Shane Ryan and Molly Wryn.

warning_pedophile_panic_film_poster

Synopsis
An 18-year old boy is accused of molesting a 12-year old girl. They call each other “soul mates” and claim they never more than kissed. He’s put away for 6 years and she waits for him but in the meantime is beaten, gang-raped, impregnated and thrown out onto the streets only to eventually turn to a life of drugs, theft and prostitution. Did society make things better for her by putting this “sex offender“ behind bars? And when he’s released can they ever go back to how things once were? This is the story of true love.

DVD details
110 minutes, color and black & white, ntsc, 16×9, not rated, 2009 production

Trailers for the film can be found here:

http://vimeo.com/4961420
http://vimeo.com/5646592
http://vimeo.com/5586389

Questions? Contact Alter Ego Cinema at alteregocinema@yahoo.com for more information.

wpr-official-poster

New Vintage Reviews #5

new-vintage-reviews-carnival_bigReuse, recycle — rejoice!

Welcome to the fifth edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where we review “old stuff” that is likely new to someone… And (most of the time) it still has great entertainment value!

Please submit your blog articles to the next edition of the blog carnival using the carnival submission form.

Games:

At Collectors’ Quest, Collin David posted Batman Vs. Video Games: Part Two.

I review Q*Bert, the board game, here at Kitsch Slapped.

Film:

Cliff Aliperti reviews Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps over at NY Classic Movies Examiner.

Aero Vintage reviews the documentary Black Jack’s Last Mission.

Here at Kitsch Slapped, I wrote about Bathing Beauty (and the joys of TCM).

Jaynie, of Here’s Looking Like You, Kid, says if you love shoes, you’ll love in The Lady Eve.

Travel:

At Kota Medan Guide, there’s information about & photos of Tjong A Fie Mansion.

Books:

Sarah Sammis reviews Over Sea, Under Stone from The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper over at Puss Reboots: A Book Review a Day.

Aero Vintage reviews Fly A Big Tin Bird.

Honorable Mention:

If you love vintage games, check out Slashdot’s review of Vintage Games: An Inside Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time.

I give some tips on being thrifty and looking for antique, vintage & used irons at your local thrift shop.

Cheap Thrills Thursday: The Joys Of TCM, Bathing Beauty Edition

I’m not about to go all mathy on yer arse, but in a world of streaming video, on-demand downloadable rentals, home delivery rentals (even without fees!) TCM, part of basic cable, which is bundled with my cable internet connection, is one of the greatest cheap thrills I can get.

Films shown uninterrupted and commercial free, save for a few sponsored reminders to things you probably want anyway (like the TCM Now Playing Guide) — it’s the way TV ought to be. (And here is where I will insert my continual plea that TV return to its original format of corporate sponsored programs, with mentions at the top & bottom of the hour, as opposed to junky ads & product placements — which, in the case of the former, only distract & cause me to leave the room and, in the latter, go unnoticed by me anyway.)

Anyway, TCM is an incredible value.

robert-osborne-bobbleheadAlong with Robert Osborne and, now, Ben Mankiewicz‘s informative tidbits, you get to watch films you adore and see films you’ve never seen — including those that aren’t available anywhere else & those that you’ve avoided before because of crappy trailers & promotions that made you think they were crap. Now, thanks to TCM, you can watch them and either fall in love or be glad you didn’t waste money on a rental, download, or whathaveyou.

All of this brings me to the case in point: Last night’s viewing of Bathing Beauty.

As a kid, I’d never seen the Esther Williams films — but I saw the various parodies & heard the not-so-flattering commentary about the kitsch of synchronized swimming and pageantry of the old dated swimming movies. Ditto my kids, who aren’t interested in humoring me enough to let me rent one for movie night. But thanks to TCM, I got to watch Bathing Beauty last night.

The film is as sweet & simple as you’d expect a film from the 1940’s to be; romance and humor, with Red Skelton a complete joy as the young man willing to do anything — even be the only (tortured for demerits, forced to crossdress) male at an all girl’s school — to get his beloved back.

Unexpected were the lengthy scenes of musical performances from Harry James and his orchestra, Xavier Cugat, & others in traditional, glamorous nightclub settings; vicarious home front war living for those who couldn’t afford evenings out.

Now I loves me some Cugat, but the pee-my-pants-with-delight moment was a scene early on in the film, when the campus girls force (by flattery & girlie whining) one of the music instructors to play some forbidden music…

Here Ethel Smith plays the organ — note the lavish visual of her dainty feet, in pretty pumps, skimming along the peddles (Foot fetishists, beware! I’m not responsible for what this does to you!)

After that warm up, Smith consents to show the kiddies — ooops! I mean the girls — more of her chops on the electric organ, playing her theme song Tico Tico.

Ahh, a fantastic orgasmic ode to the organ — and fashion (love her ensemble!). But if that’s not incentive enough to watch Bathing Beauty &/or TCM, how about Skelton as a ballerina?

Seriously, all of this is so fantastic, I was nearly exhausted by the time we go to the results of all the cumulative efforts — the big swimming pageant. Which was as over-the-top as the parody legends proclaimed. Oh well, I have to leave you with something to look forward to.

The Fear Filled Prophecy For The Monday Move Meme

This week’s Monday Movie Meme topic is “fear.” I don’t particularly enjoy being scared; life is scary & fragile enough, thanks. Nor do I find any entertainment value in repeated bodily harm & numerous deaths — no many how many forms the gore takes. So I obviously do not watch many horror or slasher films. But I have managed to see some though — like I was there (with my mom) to see the original Halloween (1978) and I think I saw at least one more part in the classic horror series… Mom needn’t worry that I’d be up late with nightmares because, gross as the films were, they were rather forgettable to me.

But then I saw Prophecy (1979). Nothing, I mean nothing, had scared me as profoundly as that film.

prophecy-the-monster-movieProphecy is about a burned-out inner city doctor (Rob, played by Robert Foxworth) who is given the chance to escape to the country (Maine wilderness) for some meaningful (70’s hot issue) environmental science by investigating a dispute between a paper mill and the local Main Indians. He takes along his classically trained musician wife (Maggie, played by Talia Shire) — because there’s an important personal (and another political 70’s) sub-plot involving the couple: the embittered doc doesn’t want to bring another life into this horrible world, and she’s not only knocked-up, but isn’t so keen on (what I recall to be) another abortion.

When they arrive in Maine, it’s pulped into your head that a crisis is at hand at the paper mill. It’s the environment vs. progress, land vs. capitalism, with the lumberjacks on one side and the Indians on the other. In fabulous retro kitsch film style, Armand Assante plays the young Native American activist, angrily defending the old world traditions with modern gangsta style; gotta love the irony of a film trying to make points about the wisdom of native cultures using an Irish-Italian actor to play a Native American.

The idealogical & political war has been going on for quite some time now, but things are coming to a head. People are missing and the lumberjacks are certain it’s the Indians who, upset that the paper mill is damaging the land, have taken or harmed the people in the name of politics. But something else is going on… Something just below the surface… And we are shown that literally when a duck, floating atop the water, is gulped as dinner by a fish below…

Long creepy story short, the menace is a native alright; but it’s not exactly human.

The Indian legend has it that the creature is Kataden, there to save them, their land, their way of life — but really, it’s a bear that, due to the paper mill’s dirty pool (poisoning the water pools) has mutated into some sort of hideous & huge bear-pig.

prophecy-movie-horror-monster-kataden

As I too vividly recall, the Native American lore says that the legendary Kataden is a being which embodies “every other living creature” — something scientifically paralleled in a Darwinian theory of fetal development when Kataden’s drowned cubs are found by the doctor who supposes these babies are the results of the paper mill’s mercury poisoning. This made everything all the more “plausible” & frightening to my then 15 year old mind.

Like most horror films, the cast of characters is slow to catch on to the real problem, giving way to lots of violence — violence which serves to bloodily & bodily illustrate all the issues at hand.

Along with the paper mill vs. Indian clash, you have the clash of ways and beliefs between the younger Indians & the older Indians, the corrupt and ignorant/innocent paper mill persons, and the “exploration” of modern life via the personal issues of a modern couple. She’s emotional & artsy (feminine) and he’s all hard(ened) science (masculine), which echoes the other film’s value laden battle themes (nature vs.money, faith vs. pragmatics, traditions vs. modernization, the gift of life vs. quality of life).

The dangers of each are literally & graphically presented in such scenes as one of Kataden’s babies trying to suckle from Maggie’s nipple, the attack on innocence represented as a child in a sleeping bag, and the elderly Indian leader meeting his maker as he smilingly goes to meet his savior, Kataden.

And then there’s the matter of her pregnancy… Will the doc bring a child into this world? Does he have a choice? How much does he resent her — enough to not save her as his masculine protective duties dictate? Has she eaten too much of the mercury poisoned fish? Will the monster bites she’s suffered be a problem? Dogs & cats Bear-pigs & men living together; mass hysteria.

At the end of the film, life is affirmed: nature & femininity wins, overcoming corporate masculine greed with a show of traditional human survival instincts rooted in love. But at the end another creepy creature is seen, suggesting a sequel…

Did we learn the right things? Will the thing grow up, then rise up to teach us something new? Only it’s 1979; the 80’s are on the horizon, our backs are turned on the lessons learned, and no sequel has yet to come.

But I’m unable to forget it all — or the images in my head.

Yes, Prophecy is blunt heavy film — heavy on the cliches, ham-handed in using horror to punching them like a fist to your face to make the point — but it was also effective in scaring the crap out of me & placing issues heavily in my heart.

I’m not sure if “adult me” would be so moved. I did catch parts of it on late night television one night, but I wasn’t prepared to sit & give it it’s proper attention (it was on while I worked to meet a deadline) and it was so edited for content that I felt ripped-off. But I’d really like to see it again and see if it holds any of that old (black & terrifying) magic. It must hold something if I retain it so vividly 30 years later.

Click the pic & watch a clip!

For info, images, quotes, opinions, etc. on this film see BadMovies.org & Kindertrauma.

“Just a moment, Janet. We don’t want to interfere with their celebration.” Or Do We?

rocky-horror-picture-show-a-tribute-sends-universal-studios-hollywoodssm-all-new-halloween-horror-nights-through-the-time-warp-againThe entire Halloween Horror Nights event at Universal Studios Hollywood has been re-designed for 2009 — including a Rocky Horror Picture Show tribute which begins a 16-night run on October 2nd.

Universal Studios Hollywood will present the Rocky Horror Picture Show: A Tribute, featuring Dr. Frank-N-Furter, Riff, Magenta, & the gang, at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights event per an agreement between the theme park and Twentieth Century Fox’s Licensing & Merchandising Division.

Howard Nelson, Vice President Worldwide Promotion for Fox Licensing:

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is more than a film, it’s become a cultural touchstone in American entertainment and this new attraction is yet another testament to its strength. This tribute extends our relationship with Universal Studios Hollywood, which continues to do a great job translating our properties for live audiences.

The new Halloween Horror Nights will also feature four all-new mazes (including, per agreement among Universal Studios Theme Parks, Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures, a “live” maze experience based on the Saw film franchise), a new “Terror Tram” backlot studio experience as well as terrifying new “Scare Zones.” You can keep up with more news & announcements about Halloween Horror Nights’ official Twitter account.

New Vintage Reviews Carnival, Third Edition

new-vintage-reviews-carnival_bigReuse, recycle — rejoice! Welcome to the third edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where we review “old stuff” that is likely new to someone… We hopes that it inspires you to dust off the things in your closet, mom’s basement, grandma’s attic etc. and put them to use again.

Games:

In The $1.99 Career Change?, I review Parker Brother’s Careers game, here at Kitsch Slapped.

In Vintage Game Nerd Alert: Bottoms-Up, I review the vintage Bottoms-Up game by E. S. Lowe at Collectors’ Quest.

In Let’s Play Shutbox, I review the classic Shut The Box game, here at Kitsch Slapped.

At Cal’s Board Game Musings, Calvin Daniels reviews Harry’s Grand Slam Baseball.

Books:

Kerrie presents Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Mr. Quin at Mysteries in Paradise.

At Sharing Experiences, Andy Hayes presents Life Imitates Art: Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged.

Films:

In Monday Movie Meme: Trauma In Your Drama?, Jaynie Van Roe reviews Easy Rider at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

In The Ugly Dachshund Is A Beautiful Great Dane, I review The Ugly Dachshund at Collectors’ Quest.

Classic Kitschy Travel Destinations:

In the Retro Museum of Awesome, Dave reviews the Retro Arcade Museum (at NYCResistor).

At Retro Road Map, ModBetty reviews the Trailer Park Lounge.

Honorable Mention:

Jim Murdoch presents The Truth About Lies: The Sonnets posted at The Truth About Lies. — a new (2008) novel on a very old subject.

That’s it for this month!

Please submit your blog articles to the next edition of new vintage reviews using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts (maybe you’ll be one?!) can be found on our blog carnival index page. For more info, read this!

Ah, The Sights & Sounds Of 80’s Flicks

The Monday Movie Meme is I love The 80’s; here are some of my quick thoughts on my favorite 80’s films…

Desperately Seeking Susan — I was dressing like slutty Madonna; but like Rosanna Arquette’s Roberta Glass, I wanted more of Madonna’s life (as Susan, anyway). I recently watched the movie again, and felt the same stirrings now. Still a cheap, fun thrill!

The Lost Boys — Still an excellent film. A great blend of adventure comedy with enough chills & thrills to make you grip your boyfriend’s arm. Of course, Jami Gertz & Jason Patric gave you chills & thrills of a different sort (and maybe that lead to different sort of grips between you & your boyfriend… I’m not judging you if it did.)

I wore out my cassette version of the soundtrack; had to get it on CD.

Pretty In Pink — Molly totally chose the wrong guy. How can anyone turn down The Duckman?! His performance of Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness, & the rich kid was forgotten. Yes, I know that song was lip-synced; but I melted. (Jon Cryer, as Duckie, did sing Love in the film though.)

James Spader was in the film too — as the rich jerk you loved to hate. Too pretty for me to like him then, it was too easy to lump Spader into the group of vain guys who thought they were better than me.

james_spader_molly_ringwald_pretty_in_pink

But…

Along came Secretary & then Boston Legal, and I completely, utterly fell in love with Spader. He’s on my list of “people I’m allowed to ‘do’ if I ever have the opportunity.”

I may have to write more about my love affair with James Spader later.

The Breakfast Club — This time Molly Ringwald got the guy right; but somehow, I knew that once she drove off with her (movie) dad, she’d forget all about Judd Nelson…

I wouldn’t.

Judd was never hotter. (I know because I kept waiting for him to appear so hot again. :sigh: I still wait.)

But to me, the ultimate 80’s flick is Valley Girl. If I couldn’t be brave enough to live life as Madonna’s Susan, well, I’d get me Nicolas Cage, the dangerous yet misunderstood “bad boy” who’d love me, even if I would have uttered “gag me with a spoon” — which, trust me, we only said to mock those we felt were lame enough to say that… I don’t think anyone ever said that outside of a movie or a cliché.

Actually most of the movie is cliché. But it’s the height of cliché! It’s full of romantic cheese done with an incomparable stylistic edge set to Modern English’s I Melt With You, yet (and loads of other greats on a kick-ass soundtrack).

David Carradine’s Death In My Husband’s Newsfeeds, It’s Not Just For Breakfast Anymore

Hubby was reading to me from his newsfeeds about the latest news on David Carradine’s death, saying, “Rumours Carradine died attempting auto-erotic asphyxiation–”

I interrupt with a righteous, “Go old guy!”

Hubby, ignoring me (as most interrupted husbands are wont to do), continued to read, “– where victims achieve heightened sexual pleasure by restricting their air supply – are backed up by a quote a Bangkok police officer gave to British newspaper The Sun… urm.”

My response? “Well anyone who talks to The Sun can be trusted; it says so in the Bible.”

“Oh!” Pause. “Oh, no…”

“What?” I ask.

“Well, this one says, ‘Did David Carradine die as the result of a sex game? (with photo gallery)’ — but I don’t think it’s that sort of gallery.”

“That would be creepy-cool. Like, ‘Here’s Carradine getting blue…bluer… bluer yet…'”

This is when hubby has to make a choice: laugh at/with me, or leave the room. He laughs.

And I know it’s grim & rude to laugh at all of this; but remember, we aren’t laughing at Carradine’s death — we’re laughing at the coverage of it.

And it’s not like any of us didn’t already make the jokes about Carradine dying from Pai Mei’s Five-Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique.

five-pointed-palm-exploding-heart-technique

New Vintage Reviews Carnival, Second Edition

new-vintage-reviews-carnival_bigWelcome to the second edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival, where we review “old stuff” that is likely new to someone… In the hopes that it inspires you to dust off the things in the closet, basement, attic etc. and put them to use. (Maybe even head to the thrift store rather than the mall?)

Reuse, recycle — rejoice!

Books & Reading:

The Dean presents Old Time Modern Priscilla posted at Collectors’ Quest.

Sarah Sammis presents Don Quixote: Sancho’s Big Score posted at Puss Reboots: A Book Review a Day, saying, “Don Quixote was my first series of reviews that use pop culture to review the book. I posted the final one in the series which has links to the previous posts.”

Azrael Brown presents Book vs Film: Immortality Inc / Freejack posted at The Double-Breasted Dust Jacket.

Films:

Jaynie presents The Knack (And How To Get It) In Romance & Fashion posted at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

I present Does Sparkle Shine? here at Kitsch-Slapped.

Games:

Collin presents Vintage Board Gaming : Mr. Know-It-All posted at Collectors’ Quest.

I present Bingo, Anyone? (a word of caution — and hope! — about old Bingo games) posted at Collectors’ Quest.

Audio:

Collin presents Tag Sale Finds : Sounds of Terror LP posted at Collectors’ Quest.

Collin presents Tag Sale Finds : Armand Schaubroeck Steals posted at Collectors’ Quest.

Things To Do & See:

Sheila Scarborough presents Classic kid movies in classic theaters – yay! posted at Family Travel Guide, saying, “Why the Austin, Texas Paramount Theater rocks my household with its annual summer Film Series of classic movies.”

NAOMI presents Laurel and Hardy Statue Unveiled in Ulverston posted at Diary From England.

Honorable Mentions:

Kyle Boyd-Robertson presents “The Rialto” or “If That Old Theater Could Talk” posted at his TEN blog — it’s a nostalgic post about old movie theaters (with plenty of comments & photos!) Maybe it will inspire you to visit &/or support your old downtown theatres this summer?

Sam presents Famous Baseball Players and Their Teams posted at Surfer Sam and Friends — it’s certainly interesting to note this time of year. (Maybe it will inspire kids to collect & learn as well as play!)

I present What A Collection Can Do: A Love Of Vintage Inspires Designer Of Hot Trendy Fashions posted at Collector’s Quest — to inspire you to take a look at “old clothes” as “a pile of fabric possibilities!”

This concludes this second edition. Please submit your blog articles to the next edition of new vintage reviews using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts (maybe you’ll be one?!) can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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Does Sparkle Shine?

I’d never heard of the movie Sparkle. Maybe because in 1976 I was a white tween, getting my fill of film angst from The Bad News Bears (gawd I knew just what Jackie Earle Haley’s Kelly Leak wanted — and what Tatum O’Neal’s Amanda Whurlizer couldn’t give him!); I don’t know. But the list of names which accompanied the title on the cable’s info screen was intriguing…

sparkle-1976-movie-posterPhilip M. Thomas (later Philip Michael Thomas, the pretty one of Miami Vice fame), Irene Cara (Fame), Lonette McKee (a beauty whose career credits include The Cotton Club, The Women of Brewster Place & Jungle Fever), Mary Alice (an actress I don’t think has ever been given proper attention or credit — save for, perhaps, at Stinky Lulu’s), Dorian Harewood (a man who has been in so much it’s ridiculous!), & Beatrice Winde (a great character actress you’ll recognize on the spot).

So, even if Sparkle was a retro train wreck of a film — especially if it was a retro train wreck of a film — I had to watch!

Sparkle (1976) is approximately a twenty year old film which takes place approximately twenty years earlier, in 1958. Got it? Good.

The movie tracks the lives of three young sisters — biological sisters — from Harlem: Sister (Lonette McKee), Delores (Dwan Smith), and Sparkle (Irene Cara).

The eldest, is Sister, “the prettiest girl in Harlem.” And she knows it. She’s gonna be trouble for single mom, Effie (Mary Alice) — something Effie’s friend & Harlem busy body, Mrs. Waters (Beatrice Winde) is only too happy to warn the matriarch about. When we meet Sister, she’s being courted by the handsome but fast & criminal-element-attached Levi (Dorian Harewood).

Sparkle, the quintessential good girl, adores her older sister. Sparkle is 15 and never been kissed — until Stix (Philip Michael Thomas) steals a few while she’s getting the laundry off the roof.

The middle daughter is Delores, a good looking young woman whose beauty & strength are over-shadowed by the chips on her shoulder. Yes, that’s “chips” plural. Because Delores isn’t just the morality preaching (annoying) middle child who feels duty bound to correct both her older sister (commenting about Sister’s straightening her hair to look like Marilyn Monroe) and her younger sister (threatening to be a tattle tale about Sparkle’s kiss on the roof). No, Delores also has a sassy mouth she uses to lip off to mom with regarding mom’s work as a maid.

Delores: We’re old enough to iron for ourselves. You ain’t our maid.

Effie: I always iron clothes for the ones that I love.

Delores: I suppose you love them crackers that you work for?

Effie: You watch your mouth. Now, go get your homework before I give you a sign in a place you won’t forget.

So, you’ve got three very different siblings.

Yet they come together, at Stix’s urging, to form a singing group — first with Stix and Levi , as The Farts Hearts. (Hey, the MC made that corny slip; I’m just quoting it! The MC also had other stale jkes, such as, “You all heard about the Cookie sisters? Lorna Doone and Nuthin’ Doone!”)

The Hearts are a hit, especially with Sister’s sexual enticing of the audience, but then, because sex sells, Stix promotes the sisters as an all female group, Sister & The Sisters.

sister-and-the-sisters-perform-in-sparkleUnfortunately, as the singing trio begins to become popular, Sister catches the eye of Levi’s gangster boss, Satin (Tony King). No good can come of this…

Just as momma warns, Satin drags Sister into the gutter with him. Not just sexually (which wouldn’t exactly be a shock for Sister, or a film which has 15 year old Sparkle messing around with Stix), but she’s beaten by him — and hooked on drugs too. Classic lines (no drug pun intended) include Delores’ concerned & accusatory, “What else has he been pushing into you besides his fist?” and Sister’s pleading, “Can’t you see? Sister can’t fly on only one wing…”

The montages of Sister’s fall are told rather beautifully; even if the story seems clichéd, the telling of her downward spiral while the trio performs Something He can Feel is rather artsy.

In fact, at this point, I’m wondering why the film isn’t called Sister; where the hell is the Sparkle story?

Even poor old Delores has a better plot, a more fully developed character. For, upset with Sister’s weak victim status, Delores gives up her virginity to another of Satin’s cohorts in order to find out about Satin’s plans — which she promptly calls in to the police. But it all goes horribly wrong when the police shoot, then imprison, Levi — who Satin has sent in his place.

Distraught, Delores packs to leave home, where she is caught and engaged in a confrontational conversation with Effie:

Effie: Well, whatever troubles you got here are going right with you and that suitcase.

Delores: You don’t understand, Mama. Like, there’s education like there never was before. Mama, we don’t have to slaves to the white establishment anymore.

We don’t have to live off what the white man throws our way. Thanking him for his chicken-shit pay and chicken-shit jobs. We don’t have to run around shining his shoes and driving his cars and cleaning his floors and being his ma – …

Effie: Go on, now, say it. Being their maid. Hmm?

Delores: Yeah, Mama. Being their maid.

Mama, I seen you, ever since I was a little kid, getting up in the middle of the night to take the subway to ride for two hours to go to their house, to do their cooking and to do their ironing and do their cleaning and wash the shit out of their toilet. And for what, Mama? For WHAT?

Delores may leave with the final word, but you just know, wherever Delores lands, that her failure to save Sister plus get Levi in trouble, will be in that suitcase just as Effie said… And she’ll have the added baggage of knowing that her self-righteous and lame justification were tissue-thin too.

I’m not entirely sure the film should have ended right there… There is, after all, Sparkle’s story to consider. Delores’ leaving & Sister’s poor condition combine to leave Stix’s group unable to perform, so he too bails. He offers Sparkle the chance to leave with him, but she’s “the only one left who cares for Sister,” so she stays.

Montages of Sparkle enabling Sister, culminating in Sparkle’s singing at Sister’s funeral.

After the service, Stix, who of course is back in town, visits Sparkle — and this is probably the finest acting I’ve seen from Irene Cara. I’d quote from this scene, but it would read horribly — for it’s not the words or writing, it’s all Cara’s acting, her voice and body.

Perhaps this is where the film should have ended. Like some bleak film noir. But instead, Sparkle opts to plunge full-steam-ahead down the predictable path of fame & romance.

irene-cara-and-philip-michael-thomas-in-sparkle-1976

Now the film isn’t just a chick flick cliché, but 80’s kitsch too.

The guy wins the girl, with his help (via borrowing money over matzah ball soup with the man Effie works for) the girl cuts a record resulting in fame and a performance at Carnegie Hall (wearing 80’s fashions & singing an 80’s song), and the boy miraculously impresses a mob boss (the soup contains more than matzah balls!) by refusing to participate in a shakedown — managing to show up during the very 80’s Carnegie Hall performance, with none the wiser (including a mystified audience who wonders just how that all happened).

cara-as-sparkle-at-carnegie-hall

It’s this shoddy rush ending which leaves the kitsch taste in your mouth. One that prompts Jae-Ha Kim, at Amazon.com, to say that Sparkle has “somewhat of a cult following among fans that enjoy a good cry along with their kitsch.”

So, does Sparkle shine?

Like rhinestones. It may not be as satisfying as the real thing, but it has great charm — as long as you don’t inspect it too closely.

PS Another thing to note about Sparkle is the film’s music. While all the actors were considered good enough to sing the film’s scores by legendary Curtis Mayfield, the film never had a proper film soundtrack album — instead, Mayfield produced Aretha Franklin singing over the existing music tracks.

New Vintage Reviews Carnival, First Edition

new-vintage-reviews-carnival_bigWelcome to the premier edition of the New Vintage Reviews Carnival.

Games:

jason presents 4 Reasons Why I Will Never Forget Alex the Kid posted at frieeend!. “Talking about the 1986 SEGA Master System game Alex Kidd in Miracle World.”

Collin presents Vintage Board Gaming : The Game of Life posted at Collectors’ Quest.

At Collectors’ Quest I review (with the help of my daughter) What Shall I Be? The Exciting Game of Career Girls, © 1976.

Also at CQ, my son and I review NFL All-Pro Football, an official National Football League game, made by Ideal, 1967.

And my family reviews the 1976 board game, Happy Days, “Fonzie’s Real Cool Game By Parker Brothers.”

Films:

Jaynie Van Roe presents Safe In Hell posted at Here’s Looking Like You, Kid.

Raquelle presents Harper (1966) posted at Out of the Past ~ A Classic Film Blog.

Books:

Jennifer Wohletz reviews Vazkor, Son of Vazkor by Tanith Lee.

Also, my review of The Homicidal Virgin, a Mike Shayne Mystery, by Brett Halliday.

Collin presents Judging More Sci-Fi Books By Their Covers at Collectors’ Quest.

Classic Books:

switch2life presents Book Review: “Comedy of Errors” posted at Book Reviews.

Classic Travels:

AdmirableIndia.com presents Trip to Tawang: Part 2: Cherrapunji posted at AdmirableIndia.com.

Honorable Mentions:

This isn’t really a review — but it’s so clever, I had to include it! Wendy Piersall presents Recycled Crafts: Microwave Dinner Tray to Flower Pillbox Hat posted at Craft Jr.

And hubby’s review of Herbert’s Freaks, by Gregory Gibson, while not technically a review of a vintage book, is about Diane Arbus photos and ephemera from Hubert’s, a ‘freak show’ museum in New York during the ’50s and ’60s.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of new vintage reviews using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts (maybe you’ll be one?!) can be found on our blog carnival index page.

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The Baldknobbers (It Ain’t No April Fool’s Joke!)

Flipping through a box of ephemera at an antique mall, I spotted the word “Baldknobbers” in big red letters — who wouldn’t pull that up for a closer inspection?!

In my hands I now held a souvenir book for The Baldknobbers Hillbilly Jamboree Show, “a tradition in Ozark Mountain Country”– the 25th Anniversary Edition.

baldknobbers-souvenir-book-cover

That was a bit disappointing… I mean with a name like “The Baldknobbers” I had expected something far more pervy. But it turns out that The Baldknobbers Jamboree attraction was Branson’s first country music and comedy show — and are largely credited for the “music scene” (tourist trap) that Branson now is. Apparently the group started back in 1959 when brothers Bill, Jim, Lyle and Bob Mabe began entertaining visitors in downtown Branson on the Taneycomo lakefront. (One can only imagine that this consisted of odd performances and very little money put into hats?)

baldknobbers-1959

I could remain disappointed that there’s not enough smut-factor, that the group still exists — that I don’t have something incredibly exotic and rare. But my souvenir program dates to 1984 (which is older than some of you reading here) and it has 11 Baldknobber autographs, including from founders who have passed away. And, it has photos of the “Baldknobber Wheels”, aka old touring buses used by the group — so awesome, I must have that first one!

baldknobber-wheels

(Truthfully, it’s those images which made me pay the $5 & rush home to show my Mom — one lady who enjoys kitschy vehicles and “baldknobbers” as much as I do.)

While that’s cool & all, the interesting thing is the very thing which drew me to the old souvenir booklet: the name Baldknobber.

It turns out that the Mabe brothers took the name from an Old Ozarks vigilante group the Bald Knobbers, who called themselves that because they held their meetings on a treeless hilltop or “bald knob”. Those original Bald Knobbers have a long & complicated history, beginning as, according to Wikipedia, “a group of non-racially motivated vigilantes in the southern part of the state of Missouri.”

original-bald-knobber-hood-mask

Non-racially motivated? I cannot look at the Bald Knobbers’ traditional hoods with horns — on dark fabric with light markings for facial features, no less (Gerry Darnell says they wore horned black pillowcases with the eye and nose holes rimmed in orange) — and not see anything other than the horror of blackface. I’m wondering who can?

But apparently the group was borne of the post-Civil War lawless southwest, a vigilante response to murder and other crime that, horrible enough prior to and during the war, went unheeded & grew after the Civil War as fugitives sought refuge in the remote and inaccessible Ozarks region.

The purpose of the old Bald Knobbers was to “correct the lawlessness”, but eventually they became not only increasingly violent, but using their power for greedy and selfish purposes, including killing Anti-Bald Knobbers and those who spoke negatively about the Bald Knobbers — finally becoming home grown terrorists.

While the Bald Knobbers may not have originally been racially motivated, some argue that the group did not dissolve in 1889, but merely went underground after the lynching of John Wesley Bright in 1892 and then members &/or believers became associated/perverted/twisted into the KKK family clan.

All of this certainly takes a funny phrase and makes it anything but funny.

The “full circle” moment for this collector was discovering that I’ve had my hands on this story of the original vigilante Bald Knobbers for quite some time. In some box or other (which I can’t really dig in right now, due to the flood situation here in Fargo), I’ve got at least one copy of Harold Bell Wright’s Shepherd of the Hills, which I’m told covers the Bald Knobbers and this period of United States history:

In 1907, Harold Bell Wright published the novel Shepherd of the Hills which tells about the Ozark area and its’ settlers such as the Ross family. Mr. Wright was afflicted with tuberculosis (consumption) and stayed with the Ross’ while he waited for the White River to recede enough to be crossed. Mr. Wright was a young man seeking his health. He stopped among the hill folks and found peace. He explored Marvel Cave and was amazed with its beauty. He visited each summer for seven years collecting notes about real life events of the people of the area. He stayed in a tent near the Shepherd of The Hills homestead. The experience moved him to set a story-part fact, part legend, part dream. The novel gained popularity quickly and attracted many tourist to see the area he wrote about. The Shepherd of The Hills novel has become a widely read book and had over a dozen television productions and eight movies made from it.

This is a still from the 1919 movie based on the book:

film-still-of-bald-knobbers-in-1919-film-the-shepherd-of-the-hills

The bottom line is that I now have two reasons to go to Branson: to see The Baldkknobbers (with my mom, so we can steal some vintage Baldknobber wheels) and to see the cabin that Harold Bell Wright stayed in. I had no reason or desire to go before.

cabin-which-inspired-harold-bell-wrights-book

So, to re-cap, I paid $5 for a retro souvenir booklet worth so much more: it made me laugh out loud, discover a fascinating history story — one which leads to a book I likely already own (another excuse to read!), and now have a reason to travel to Branson. I call that a good score.

Down With Love: Retro Movie Film Review (Squared)

If you dare to modernize the classic Doris Day and Rock Hudson sex comedies, as Down With Love does, you’d better do a pretty damn fine job of it. Today’s audience is a bit different from the audience of the 50’s & 60’s ~ we’d like to say we are more sophisticated, but really, we are more smuttified.

In a jaded world like ours, if you expect us to believe in silly games where identities are hidden with a mere accent or hairstyle change, or, more difficult yet, believe in the concept of love, well, you are going to have to suspend our beliefs with pretty little distractions, or better yet, overt sexual content.

This movie begins with plenty of retro fluff, from the old Twentieth Century Fox logo & the kitschy opening credits, & continues with wonderful set decoration & fabulous fashions. (Lots of that retro girlie pink!)

And the soundtrack is full of greats such as Xavier Cugat & Count Basie.

So far, so good, for the pretty little distractions. Now how does it deliver on the sex games?

No longer are movie goers (or renters) titillated by the old standard coy dialogues used in classics like Pillow Talk. Nope, we want, we crave something a little more direct nowadays.

Down With Love hears our world-weary, sex-bleary cries, & delivers a clever phone scene of it’s own — complete with corny dialogue, mind you, but filled with delightful eye-candy as well. As the couple talks, the split screen shows sexual entendres that surpass the coy dialogue & engages the viewer. (It’s twice as fun when you try to imagine Doris & Rock!)

Combining frolicking fun with the fantastic fashions of the times — without the fake film morality (as if no one was having sex in the 50s & 60s!). This is the way we modern girls prefer to remember the past. (Groan free, not moan free lol)

Enter the plot, which raises the question “Can women have it all, as men do?” — without beating you over the head with it.

Renee Zellweger plays novelist Barbra Novak, who has written the ‘feminist’ best-seller Down With Love, encouraging women to stand up for themselves in the boardroom & to have sex a la carte, and in general, be in charge of relationships, not prey to them. Ewan McGregor plays Catcher Block, general play-boy & rogue, who is the love interest in this game of chase. David Hyde Pierce plays Catcher’s magazine editor, and Sarah Paulson is Barbra’s book editor, and naturally, they have their own chase going on.

But who is chased, who is caught, it is all worth the viewing, and I won’t ruin it here for you.

Get a copy, and lie on the couch, and become enchanted with the past, as charming as we’d like to think it was.

PS For those adored the movie, take a weird trip to see it acted out with Barbies!

My Pajamas Made Him Kill Me (Or, In Which I Review A Film I Haven’t Seen)

Most would say it’s not fair to review a movie you haven’t seen — and normally I’d agree. It’s an ethics thing. But sometimes you hear about a movie (based on the opinions of those who have seen the film), and you just have to say something…

This is especially true when the movie is based on a true story.

In this case, the film is based on a crime — but the real crime here is not (just) that the makers of the film have sensationalized and exploited a murder, but have missed the very points which make the story moving and important.

The film is The Pyjama Girl Case (1977), and it’s based on the real life story of the unidentified charred remains of a woman discovered in Australia in 1934.

Let’s begin with the reviews…

Stanley Runk “Runkdapunk” says:

On the books this film is a giallo, but it is only in the most basic sense. Yeah it’s a murder mystery, it deals with sexual themes and it’s Italian. That’s where all comparissons end though. No rampaging killer with gloves and a hat/hood and no real body count to speak of other than the Pyjama girl herself. Sure there are a few more deaths, but not until the end of the film.

J. B. Hoyos says:

“The Pyjama Girl Case” disappointed me for several reasons. First, and foremost, it is not a true Italian giallo. Absent is the typical black-gloved serial killer. Only two people are murdered. Second, this movie doesn’t contain any major shocks or plot twists. The plot is very linear. Third, there is only one attractive woman and that is actress Dalila Di Lazzaro who later went on to act in Dario Argento’s superb “Phenomena,” which is definitely an Italian giallo.

(Oh, and “Runkdapunk” also says that Dalila Di Lazzaro is “yummy except for the armpit hair” — just in case you wanted to know.)

And those are the people who gave it three stars at Amazon; there are worse reviews with less stars.

Now I don’t know what a “giallo” is, let alone an Italian one, but that’s neither here nor there because I’m not going to judge this film by whatever standards either may have. And I’m not going to even discuss if a movie can have enough killing (I’m totally one girl who doesn’t go in for body-count flicks). But I do have a lot to say.

Again, this movie is based on a true story. The real-life “Pyjama Girl” was a brutally murdered unknown woman, whose battered and partially burnt body was found dumped roadside in Albury, New South Wales on September 1, 1934. Normally I find the phrase “brutally murdered” to be redundant or excessive — nearly an expletive to induce horror — but the details, according to Australian Screen, make it pretty clear that one can easily use the extra word:

The victim’s head was wrapped in a bloody towel and her body was pushed headfirst into a hessian bag. The body had then been set alight. A post-mortem revealed that she had been shot below the right eye, but the cause of death was probably eight blows to her face.

“Brutal murder” no longer seems to be just for shock-value, does it?

Anyway, as her identity was not known, the woman was dubbed the “Pyjama Girl” because she was found wearing pieces of pyjama fabric.

After coroner’s inquest failed to establish the identity of the woman, artists’ sketches and a forensic facial reconstruction were created to represent what the victim may have looked like, with the images shown around the world, in hopes that someone would identify her.

And her body was preserved in order to be put on display and shown to hundreds of people. Yes, hundreds of people paraded past her post-mortem. For ten years.

Her death was naturally shocking, but her death became a mystery which fascinated the nation and, for some, became an obsession. To the extent that in 1939 an entertainment “newsreel” was made to be shown in cinemas before feature films (and, in some cases, was, like other newsreels, shown continuously).

Again, a quote from the Australian Screen (where you can catch clips):

The Pyjama Girl Murder Case newsreel, produced in 1939 after the coronial inquest, is considered to be Australia’s first true crime film. Filmmakers Rupert Kathner and Alma Brooks defied a ban by the New South Wales Police Commissioner, William MacKay, on newsreel coverage of the case and even tried to break into Sydney University to film the body. The use of adverbs such as ‘stealthily’ and emotive phrases such as ‘fiend in human form’, as well as the re-creations of various episodes of the case, indicate the ways in which the filmmakers sought to sensationalise the case.

In 1944, ten years after her body was found, a man was convicted not of her murder, but of manslaughter. Rat-bastard Antonio Agostini confessed to the police commissioner that he had “accidentally shot” his wife, Linda Agostini, “during an argument.”

Just how unlikely it is that Linda was Pyjama Girl (Linda Agostini had brown eyes; Pyjama Girl’s eyes were blue), is as astonishing as a husband who confesses to murdering his wife but only gets 6 years — and serves less then 3. And this is stuff that Richard Evans tells in his book, The Pyjama Girl Mystery (also available via Amazon).

But what we end up with now, are two dead women — both of which were likely killed by men they knew. (The odds say it’s true; and who else has access to a woman in her pajamas?)

Author Evans’ investigation into this case is far more fascinating than the story told in that 1977 movie — but that’s not even my main (or only) point.

Apparently in 2004, Australia’s ABC’s Rewind program ran a story on the Pyjama Girl mystery and, along with an extremely interesting interview with Evans, they presented this fascinating bit of cultural commentary:

MICHAEL CATHCART: In the 1930s, pyjamas were exotic, the sort of thing worn by young flappers. These so-called ‘new women’ dressed in skimpy clothes, they smoked, they drank, they partied and they laughed at convention. The straitlaced moral guardians of the day held up the Pyjama Girl as an example, a warning of what happens to young women who go astray.

CALEB WILLIAMS, CURATOR, JUSTICE AND POLICE MUSEUM: It was a wonderful trope for the newsmen of the day to play with. The idea of, you know, this wonderful, gorgeous, sexy woman abandoned bashed in a ditch in a pair of exotic silk pyjamas – it was sort of media heaven, basically.

In case you missed it, let me highlight the most offensive part here: The straitlaced moral guardians of the day held the Pyjama Girl up as a warning of what happens to young women who go astray. Why did they think the young woman had “gone astray”? Because she wore pajamas.

Pajamas.

Pajamas were, at the time, the “exotic” sort of thing worn by young flappers. And flappers were amoral women. Women who, apparently, deserve to be beaten, shot, burned and left dead in a ditch.

That’s a whole lot of conclusion jumping and victim blaming.

Just like the crap said about Linda Agostini.

Wikipedia (a site I trust about as much as I do the investigation into the Pyjama Girl case), says that Linda was a “penniless glamour girl” who “worked at a picture theatre in the city and lived in a boarding house on Darlinghurst Road in Kings Cross where all accounts tell she ‘entertained’ more than her fair share of young, attractive men. Platt was a heavy drinker and a flighty Jazz Age party-goer who had difficulty adjusting to stability.” Lovely. Who writes and edits at Wiki? Tony Agostini’s family?

Wiki does not reference those particular sentiments (for they sure aren’t facts), but none of the sites referenced says such things. One of the sites referenced, Australian Dictionary of Biography, says the following:

Tony and Linda were a popular couple. He was 5 ft 7 ins (170 cm) tall, trim and dark haired; she was only five feet (153 cm) tall, attractive and well liked. Yet, according to Tony, their relationship was not an easy one.

Linda sometimes left him for long periods and drank too much which shamed him within the Italian community. In 1933 the couple moved to Carlton, Melbourne, where he worked on the newspaper, Il Giornale Italiano, and she took a job at Ferrari’s hairdressing salon in the Manchester Unity Building. Agostini later claimed that there were frequent altercations. During one quarrel in bed, Linda was fatally shot with a pistol which Tony alleged she had held.

“They were well liked,” but… Tony says “their relationship was not an easy one,” Tony says there were “frequent altercations,” Tony says they argued in bed and she had a pistol. *snort*

Tony says it was an accident — but the bitch had it coming.

Who is here to speak for Linda? (And couldn’t I argue that with an ass-hat like Tony for a husband, I’d take off and drink too. Only I wouldn’t return to where he lives — by my choice, not his hand.) But let’s all blame the victims.

Linda’s treatment is like Pyjama Girl’s: Unfair and unwarranted crap which absolves their murderers from any responsibility. Which makes me really, really upset. The kind of upset that renders me unable to even swear properly.

How can anyone ven suggest that a woman was somehow responsible for her own murder because of the PJs she wore or drinking?

That Pyjama Girl’s death & “murder case” was reduced to media hype, social agendas, sloppy & corrupt police work — and just plain political no matter how you cut it — is a story which deserves to be told. If only because it may be the only way this woman (and Linda Agostini and other victims) can be honored. And because it just might be of value in teaching people what matters.

And that isn’t a woman’s pajamas. Or her short skirt. Or the number of drinks she’s had, who she knows, where she goes. She’s human and her life was taken — and likely by someone she trusted.

So, just how ridiculous does that not-giallo-enough film made in 1977 seem now? Like some chick’s armpit hair, it just doesn’t matter. Other than it was an insignificant waste of time.

And yeah, I could be all wet because, as I readily admit, I didn’t see this 1977 film. But then “Runkdapunk” says, “The disc has a half hour documentary about the actual Pyjama girl murder case which is actually more interesting than the film.” So I rest my case.

Now if only poor “Pyjama Girl” could only rest in peace.

Friday the 13th Contest Is A Killer Heh Heh

Collectors’ Quest and Mezco have teamed-up for a thrilling Friday the 13th Contest.

Up for grabs:

The Jason 3.75 inch Toy Fair 2009 Limited Edition Produced exclusively for the 2009 New York Toy Fair, he comes with his trademark machete and removable Glow In The Dark mask.

Cinema Of Fear Friday the 13th 2009 Remake 7in Figure The legendary slasher of Camp Crystal Lake strikes again in the all new Friday the 13th film. The Jason Voorhees figure is crafted with incredible detail, full articulation, & comes with an array of weapons used in the film.

I can’t win because I’m a staff writer — but there’s no reason why you can’t win! Here’s how to enter the random drawing:

1. Sign up to collectorsquest.com to receive one entry in the drawing. (And be sure to make me your buddy — I’m Poptart.)

2. Upload a collection and you will receive 5 entries. Present CQ members must upload a new collection for entry.

3. Drawing will be held on March 14th and winner announced thereafter.

Good luck!

Memories Of Messy Marvin

Among the Messy Marvin ads, I found this cup:

Perhaps the Messy Marvin cup brings back memories for you. Heaven knows I was too mature to drink from a Messy Marvin cup (but wapatui from a dorm garbage can was fine). I do remember the print ads and commercials; they were everywhere.

Hi, my name’s Messy Marvin.

I got that name because no matter how hard I tried, my room and my clothes were always messy. But then one day, Mom brought home thick, rich, yummy Hershey’s Syrup in the no mess squeeze bottle. And before I knew it, I was making the best chocolate milk I’d ever had. But I wasn’t making a mess. It’s fun, too. I just pull the cap and squeeze. Nothing drips, nothing spills.

Now Mom’s happy and so am I.

My room and my clothes are still a mess, but at least there’s hope.

Look for a quick shot of a very young Tracey Gold in the second commercial in this video collection:

This ad campaign pretty much rendered any kid — even a ‘college kid’ — a Messy Marvin to anyone older; thanks, Hershey’s.

And yes, the child actor who played Messy Marvin was the same kid who played Ralphie in A Christmas StoryPeter Billingsley. Which makes the Ovaltine decoder ring storyline ironic.

Apparently Billingsley too felt some disappointment with the ring; it’s not one of the film’s props that he saved. According to SFGate’s The Poop interview, Billingsley kept the BB gun, the bunny suit and the slate board.

I wonder if he kept any Messy Marvin mementos?

Let’s Date Like My Sister Eileen?

I made issue #14 of the Feminist Carnival of Sexual Freedom and Autonomy (yea me!), which reminds me that I should give you an update on that media and relationships survey I’m participating in

The survey is based on your TV and movie viewing habits of the past week, which means you’re reporting on your holiday season habits. Personally, my sitting-on-my-butt and watching television &/or films time has been very limited by holiday stuff — but also because TV programing has sucked the past month. This means I’ve watched mainly The History Channel and NatGeo (which, unless you categorize this watching as “news” puts your viewing in the “other” category on this survey) and it has had, upon reflection, little to do with my relationship values — other than to find great pleasure in the fact that my partner also likes geek TV.

I’ve also snuck in the occasional TCM (and other old film) viewing. This has been secretive alone-at-night-while-working movie watching — but not because it’s some naughty or guilty pleasure to watch a “chick flick”. Writing, being a solitary pursuit most enjoyed by night owls, lends itself to complete remote control domination when one is well, you know, screwing around and not working. However, my point is, that the movies I’ve watched (including The Pleasure Seekers, My Sister Eileen, and Sabrina) were retro films, if not all Classic Films with capital C & F, and as such it’s damn near impossible for a feminist to watch those films and not giggle, smirk, or groan at the sexist roles and actions. They are entertainment (served with an equally entertaining side dish of snark that I am unable to turn off) not some map for relationship bliss.

If they were, then I guess my first tip in getting a date would be to go out drinking with your sister & two fellas, walk drunkenly to a gazebo, and have the four of you burst into song, dance, and imaginary instrument playing a la My Sister Eileen. But then, you’ll also end up with some other guy… Which involves some lying, lots more song and dance, the Brazilian Navy, and lots more…

My point is, if I (and any other intelligent sentient being) can realize that musicals are fantasies, why would anyone expect to find tips on relationships & romance in such films?

Oh, and I also watched Elf; and that didn’t make me think that I might have missed an opportunity to mate a real elf and get myself closer to Santa’s Nice List.

So, over all, my feelings regarding media and relationships have neither changed nor become more enlightened by this survey process. While there’s still weeks to go (and I am interested in what may come from the experience), I’m still amazed that there are people out there — that I’m sharing this same world with — who honest to gawd, still base their real world relationship expectations upon images in film and television.

May gawd help us all.