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Saturday, December 31, 2011

In Memoriam - 2011

I'm never quite satisfied with any of the "in memoriam" lists, so I've decided to start my own. So these are the notable people we lost in 2011 whose time on this planet left some impression, big or small, on me. Of course, like all the other lists, it doesn't include everybody, so feel free to remark on anyone you'll miss in the comments.

Pete Postlethwaite, actor
February 7, 1946 - January 2, 2011







Anne Francis, actor
September 16, 1930 - January 2, 2011






Gerry Rafferty, singer-songwriter
April 16-1947 - January 4, 2011

Peter Yates, film director
July 24, 1929 - January 9, 2011

Susannah York, actor
January 9, 1939 - January 15, 2011

Charlie Callas, comedian / actor
December 20, 1924 - January 27, 2011


John Barry, film composer
November 3, 1933 - January 30, 2011

Bill Justice, animator
February 9, 1914 - February 10, 2011

Kenneth Mars, actor
April 4, 1935 - February 12, 2011






Dwayne McDuffie, comic book writer / animator
Febru
ary 20, 1962 - February 21, 2011







Nicholas Courtney, actor
December 16, 1929 - February 22, 2011







Michael Gough, actor
Novembe
r 23, 1916 - March 17, 2011





Elizabeth Taylor, actor
February 27, 1932 - March 23, 2011

Sidney Lumet, film director
June 25, 1924 - April 9, 2011


Arthur Marx, writer
July 21, 1921 - April 14, 2011

Elisabeth Sladen, actor
February 1, 1946 - April 19, 2011








Jackie Cooper, actor
September 15, 1922 - May 3, 2011









Arthur Laurents, stage and screen writer / stage director
July 14, 1917 - May 5, 2011


Dolores Fuller, actor / songwriter
March 10, 1923 - May 9, 2011

Jeff Conaway, actor
October 5, 1950 - May 27, 2011

Wally Boag, performer
September 13, 1920 - June 3, 2011


James Arness, actor
May 26, 1923
- June 3, 2011

Roy Skelton, actor
July 20, 1931 - June 8, 2011


Clarence Clemons, musician
January 11, 1942 - June 18, 2011

Fred Steiner, film and television composer
February 24, 1923 - June 23, 2011


Peter Falk, actor
September 16, 192
7 - June 23, 2011







Gene Colan, comic book artist
September 1, 1926 - June 23,
2011

Würzel, musician

October 23, 1949 - July 9, 2011


Sherwood Schwartz, television producer
November 14, 1916 - July 12, 2011






Tom Aldredge, actor
February 28, 1928 - J
uly 22, 2011







John Howard Davies, television producer
March 9, 1939 - August 22, 2011


Charles S. Dubin, television director
February 1, 1919 -
September 5, 2011

Cliff Robertson, actor
September 9, 1923 - September 10, 2011


Tom Wilson, cartoonist
August 1, 1931 - Septem
ber 16, 2011

Earl Kress, animation writer
August 22, 1951 - September 19, 2011


Charles Napier, actor
April 12, 1936 -
October 5, 2011







Steve Jobs, businessman / inventor
February 24, 1955 - October 5, 2011


Leonard Stone, actor
November 3, 1923 - November 2, 2011


Sid Melton, actor
May 22, 1917- November 2, 2011


Bil Keane, cartoonist
October 5, 1922 - November 8, 2011


John Neville, actor
May 2, 1925 - N
ovember 19, 2011






Ken Russell, film director
July 3, 1927
- November 27, 2011









Alan Sues, actor
March 7, 1926 - December 1, 2011


Jerry Robinson, comic book artist
January 1, 1922 - December 7, 2011


Harry Morgan, actor
April 1
0, 1915 - December 7, 2011










Bert Schneider, film and television producer
May 5, 1933 - December 12, 2011


Joe Simon, comic book writer
October 11, 1913
- December 14, 2011







Eduardo Barreto, comic book artist
1954 - December 15, 2011


Nicol Williamson, actor
September
14, 1936 - December 16, 2011

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Study in Classic Horror- BLACK FRIDAY (1940)


Yes, I confess. I watched this on Black Friday. I couldn’t resist, but I think it’s a much better way to spend the day after Thanksgiving than braving the stores.

Yet again, this is a film that gets lumped in with the many horror films to star Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, but in this case it’s more of a crime thriller with some Jekyll-and-Hyde-type science-fiction elements. In fact, even though those giants of the horror genre get top billing, the standout performance is really that of Stanley Ridges.

Karloff plays Dr. Ernest Sovac, who, when his friend Professor George Kingsley (Ridges), receives a deadly brain injury in an accident, saves his life by transplanting part of the brain of gangster Red Cannon, another victim in the accident, into Kingsley’s skull. Sovac’s intentions are good initially, but when he learns that Red had a hidden fortune, greed sets in, and he begins tampering with Kingsley’s mind to bring the Cannon personality to the forefront, hoping he can learn the whereabouts of the missing loot.

Karloff turns in another good performance, as a much more subdued and benign mad scientist than we’ve been seeing. Lugosi’s role, I’m afraid, is little more than a glorified cameo, and here’s where things get a little odd behind the scenes. Apparently, Karloff was originally tapped to play Kingsley and Cannon, while Lugosi would have played Dr. Sovac. Rumor has it that Karloff didn’t feel he was up to the duality of the role, so he took on Sovac and Lugosi ended up in the much smaller part of Eric Marnay, the second in command of Cannon’s gang. In comes Ridges who plays the duality so completely I admit it took some time for me to realize the two very different personalities were not played by separate actors. Costume and make-up helped accent the difference, but a lot of the credit goes to Ridges’ vocal work and the way he carried himself physically. This could have ended up a entirely different film had the original casting remained intact. I have to wonder about if the rumor is true about Karloff’s decision. I’ve seen him play quite a diverse range of characters, yet similarly in Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Karloff plays only Jekyll while another actor plays Hyde. Ridges holds his own with Karloff quite well. Perhaps if he’d lived longer he would have achieved notoriety on par with that of his costars.

One other interesting thing that went on behind the scenes: in what was probably a publicity stunt, Bela Lugosi supposedly underwent hypnosis for a scene in which he appears to suffocate. This may have been a ploy to make up for the fact that his role was so small despite his billing. You can see how it was used to promote the film in the trailer from my last entry.

Overall, I enjoyed it, though the brain transplant plot device did severely challenged my suspension of disbelief, but as such pseudo-science is common in these movies, it was easy to forgive.

This week’s supporting features:

Goofy in Tennis Racquet (1944)

The Our Gang short Readin’ and Writin’ (1932)

I’m taking a break for the holidays. I should be back on track by mid-January, returning with:

Revenge of the Creature (1955) starring John Agar, Lori Nelson, Ricou Browning, and Tom Hennesy