Category: Humor

“The Wizard of Oz” (1925) / Z-View

The Wizard of Oz (1925)

Director: Larry Semon

Screenplay:  Larry Semon, L. Frank Baum Jr. based on The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Starring:  Larry Semon, Dorothy Dwan, Frank Alexander, Charles Murray, Josef Swickerd, Oliver Hardy, Mary Carr and Spencer Bell.

Tagline: The Thrilling Comedy Cyclone! The Wonderful Land of Oz! The Den of Man Eating Lions! The Famous Scarecrow and Tin Man! The Startling Airplane Rescue! The 100 Foot Leap for Life! All combined in the greatest screen novelty ever made.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The movie begins with a toymaker reading The Wizard of Oz to his granddaughter…

Dorothy (Dwan) is a just-turned 18 year old who was left on Auntie Em’s (Carr) doorstep as a baby.  In reality, Dorothy is the rightful heir to the throne in the land of Oz.  When a tornado deposits Dorothy, and three farmhands in Oz, the evil Prime Minister Kruel (Swickerd) realizes that the true ruler has returned.

Kruel sends his soldiers to do away with Dorothy and crew.  To escape, one of the farmhands disguises himself as a scarecrow, another a tin woodsman and later the third ends up in a lion suit.  Will Dorothy survive and be crowned queen?  Will Prime Minister Kruel and Lady Vishuss be deposed?  (Psst!  It’s a kid’s book, so what do you think?)

Larry Semon was a popular comedian of the day.  Semon wrote, produced and starred in this version of The Wizard of Oz.  The Scarecrow gets most film time and he’s played by, you guessed it, Larry Semon.  Semon had a love for big budgets and tons sight gags. The Wizard of Oz has both.  We get a lot of visual gags, and the ending even features Semon climbing and swinging between towers while being shot at with a canon, a leap to a rope ladder from a passing plane and more.

A young pre-Laurel & Hardy, Oliver Hardy appears in the film playing the farmhand who becomes the Tin Man.  Spencer Bell (an African-American actor) is billed a G. Howe Black and appears in a few scenes that even at that time were thought as demeaning as his billing.

The Wizard of Oz (1925) earns a 3 of 5 star rating.

“The Horn Blows at Midnight” (1945) / Z-View

The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945)

Director:  Raoul Walsh

Screenplay:  Sam Hellman, James V. Kern based on an idea by Aubrey Wisberg

Starring:  Jack Benny, Alexis Smith, Dolores Moran, John Alexander, Margaret Dumont, Robert Blake and Mike Mazurki

Tagline: Benny’s from Heaven and the laughs are out of this world!!!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Athanael (Benny), plays third trumpet in the orchestra of a live late night radio show.  During a commercial break, Athanael falls asleep.  And dreams…

Athanael dreams he’s an angel trumpet player in heaven’s orchestra.  He’s given the job to go to Earth and signal it’s destruction by blowing his trumpet at midnight.  A woman who wants to commit suicide and two fallen angels are determined to stop Athanael from blowing his horn.  Will Athanel sound his trumpet and destroy the earth?  Will he fail and become a fallen angel?  Do we really care since this is all a dream?

And that is one of the problems with The Horn Blows at Midnight.  It’s all a dream.  Whatever happens doesn’t matter.

It. Is. A. Dream.

There are some humorous moments when Athanael and several cast members are hanging off a building or when Athanael ends up in and clinging to a gigantic cup of coffee (again high up on a building).

I’m a Jack Benny fan and love his standup comedy and  television show.  Benny joked for years about how bad The Horn Blows at Midnight is.  After seeing it, I realize Benny wasn’t joking..

The Horn Blows at Midnight rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Bullet Train” – Two TV Teasers!

Here are two tv spots for Bullet Train!

Director: David Leitch
Screenwriter: Zak Olkewicz
Cast: Brad Pitt , Joey King , Aaron Taylor-Johnson , Brian Tyree Henry, Andrew Koji, Hiroyuki Sanada , Michael Shannon, Bad Bunny, Zazie Beetz, Logan Lerman , Karen Fukuhara, Masi Oka , and Sandra Bullock
Distributor: Columbia Pictures ( Sony Pictures Releasing )
US Theatrical Release Date: August 5, 2022

“Fatty’s Plucky Pup” (1915) / Z-View

Fatty’s Plucky Pup (1915)

Director:  Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle

Screenplay:

Starring:  Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Fatty’s girlfriend is kidnapped and it’s up to Fatty, his dog and the Keystone Cops to save her.  Thank goodness for the dog!

Fatty’s best moments: when he slowly realizes he’s set his bed on fire (and how he deals with it), hanging up his mother’s clean wash, dealing with dog catchers and getting revenge on amusement park con men.  There’s a lot of other stuff in between, but once it comes down to saving his girlfriend, Fatty’s dog becomes the star!

Fatty’s Plucky Pup rates 3 of 5 stars.

“Fatty’s New Role” (1915) / Z-View

Fatty’s New Role (1915)

Director:  Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle

Screenplay:

Starring:  Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Fatty (Arbuckle) is a hobo who gets thrown out of a bar for trying to mooch some hooch.  Some of the regulars at the bar decide to play a joke on the bar’s owner and they convince him that Fatty is a mad bomber who will be back to blow up the bar.  What sounds like a potentially great set-up falls short of greatness.

Fatty’s New Role rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Fatty’s Chance Acquaintance” (1915) / Z-View

Fatty’s Chance Acquaintance (1915)

Director:  Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle

Screenplay:  Mack Sennet

Starring:  Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Fatty (Arbuckle) and his wife meet another couple while walking in the park.  They strike up a conversation not realizing that the man they just met is a thief… until he steals Fatty’s wife’s purse!  Then it is the usual hijinks with the thief on the run from a cop and Fatty using his cane to get at the other woman’s purse.

I’m a Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle fan.  Fatty Chance Acquaintance earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Fatty Joins the Force” (1913) / Z-View

Fatty Joins the Force (1913)

Director:  George Nichols

Screenplay:  Mack Sennett

Starring:  Roscoe ‘Fatty’ Arbuckle

Tagline:  None

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Fatty (Arbuckle) is walking in the park with his girlfriend (who has a thing for policemen), when a little girl falls into a pond, Fatty’s girlfriend pushes him in to rescue the child.  The little girl turns out to be the Police Commissioner’s daughter.  The Commissioner is so appreciative, he makes Fatty a police officer.

Once Fatty is on the force, let the good times roll!  Fatty attempts to break up a fight and gets the worst of it.  While catching his breath afterwards, four boys pelt him with food and Fatty gets a pie in the face.  When Fatty strips down to his underclothes and goes into the pond to wash up, the boys cut up Fatty’s clothes.  Fatty comes out and dresses in his cut up duds. When two ladies see Fatty in his strange outfit hiding in the bushes, they think a mad man is loose!  Meanwhile, Fatty’s police coat is found floating in the pond.  His squad thinks he drowned… until two policemen bring in the captured mad man aka Fatty!  Fatty is put behind bars while his girlfriend is consoled by the police chief.

All this take place in 12 minutes with Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle as the star.  That earns Fatty Joins the Force 4 of 5 stars.

“The Man from Toronto” Starring Kevin Hart & Woody Harrelson – the Trailer is Here! 

The Man from Toronto trailer is here.  Kevin Hart mistaken for the world’s deadliest assassin!  Deal me in.

A case of mistaken identity arises after a screw-up sales consultant and the world’s deadliest assassin—known only as The Man from Toronto— run into each other at a holiday rental. Kevin Hart and Woody Harrelson star in this action packed comedy only on Netflix 6/24.

“Dr. Phibes Rises Again” (1972) / Z-View

Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)

Director:  Robert Fuest

Screenplay:  Robert Fuest, Robert Blees based on characters created by James Whiton and William Goldstein

Starring:  Vincent Price, Robert Quarry, Valli Kemp, Milton Reid, Peter Cushing, Terry-Thomas, Caroline Munro and Gary Owens

Tagline: He lives!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Three years after the events in The Abominable Dr. Phibes, the moon and planets literally align to bring Dr. Phibes (Price) back from his self-imposed suspended animation.  According to an ancient papyrus that Phibes locked away, there is a secret location in Egypt that contains the River of Life.  This river has special powers that will bring Phibes’ wife back from the dead and provide them with eternal life.

Phibes learns that Darius Biederbeck (Quarry) has stolen the papyrus, so Phibes recruits his mute assistant Vulnavia to help him get it back.  They will kill anyone who gets in their way.  And so they do.  The strange murders get the police involved.  Phibes and Bierderbeck race to Egypt to find the River of Life, with the police in hot pursuit.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again isn’t quite as strange as The Abominable Dr. Phibes, but it’s close.  If you liked the original, you should enjoy this follow-up.  I was disappointed that Darrus Biederbeck’s manservant, Cheng (Reid) was killed so soon, but at least he got to go out in an amusing way.  Dr. Phibes Rises Again is one of those movies where you don’t question what you’re seeing and just go with the flow like you’re on the River of Life.

Dr. Phibes Rises Again rates 2 of 5 stars.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971) / Z-View

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)

Director:  Robert Fuest

Screenplay:  James Whiton, William Goldstein

Starring:  Vincent Price, Joseph Cotton, Virginia North and Terry-Thomas

Tagline: Dr. Phibes has great vibes!

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Dr. Anton Phibes (Price) is out for revenge.  When Phibes learned his wife was in a terrible auto accident, he jumped in his car and raced to get to her.  Sadly, Phibes was also involved in a wreck.  Meanwhile, Dr. Phibes’ wife died on the operating table.

Four years later, disfigured due to his accident, Dr. Phibes is ready to extract his revenge on the doctors who failed to save his wife.  Phibes plots to kill each based on one of the Ten Plagues of Egypt.  After the third doctor is murdered, the police figure out Dr. Phibes is the killer.  Always a step behind the insane Dr. Phibes, the police continue to search for clues as the bodies pile up.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes is supposed to be a dark comedy, but there aren’t any real laughs.  Dr. Phibes often kills his victims using elaborate Rube Goldbergesque contraptions.  In between murders he spends time dancing with his mute assistant with music provided by his large wind-up animatrons.  The advertising for Dr. Phibes – “Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Ugly” – “Dr. Phibes has great vibes” – indicates they weren’t sure how to sell the film to the public.  Once you’ve seen the film, that is understandable.

The Abominable Dr. Phibes isn’t a great film or a bad film.  It’s a strange film.  For that reason The Abominable Dr. Phibes rates 2 of 5 stars.

“Vengeance” Written, Directed and Starring B.J. Novak – The Trailer is Here!

I like the look of the Vengeance trailer.  This is one to keep an eye on.

VENGEANCE, the directorial debut from writer and star B.J. Novak (“The Office”), is a darkly comic thriller about Ben Manalowitz, a journalist and podcaster who travels from New York City to West Texas to investigate the death of a girl he was hooking up with.

With an ensemble cast that includes Issa Rae, Ashton Kutcher, Boyd Holbrook, J. Smith-Cameron, and Dove Cameron.

“The Takedown” (2022) / Z-View

The Takedown (2022)

Director:  Louis Leterrier

Screenplay:  Stéphane Kazandjian

Starring:  Omar Sy and Laurent Lafitte 

Tagline: Two Cops. One Case. No Clue.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

Ousmane Diakhité (Sy) and François Monge (Lafitte) are two cops who years ago worked together.  Their careers took different paths, but a case has brought them together again.  Half a body was found on a train!  Although they have different methods,  Diakhité and Monge are going to have to make things work to solve the case!

The Takedown is full of bad jokes and forced humor.  I tried to make it through the movie.  When they chased a suspect into a bumper car rink, and the suspect jumped in a bumper car to make his getaway, I thought this cannot get any worse.  Then one of the cops used his police ID to commandeer a bumper car and give chase.  If this is your kind of humor, you’ll like The Takedown better than me.  Look at the photo below, if that makes you laugh, then add a couple of stars to my rating to get yours.  As for me, The Takedown gets 1 of 5 stars.

“The Winchesters” – The Extended Trailer for the “Supernatural” Prequel is Here!

Today we have an extended trailer for The Winchesters, the prequel series to Supernatural.  Although I wasn’t a fan of the original series, the humor is drawing me in for prequel.  “Stop Helping!”

About The Winchesters:
Before Sam and Dean, there was John and Mary. Told from the perspective of narrator Dean Winchester, this is the epic, untold love story of how John met Mary, and how they put it all on the line to not only save their love, but the entire world.

Murder in Greasepaint: A Rock Cobbler Case by Whiskey Leavins / Z-View


Murder in Greasepaint: A Rock Cobbler Case by Whiskey Leavins

Trade Paperback: 242 pages
Publisher: Independently published (March 30, 2022)

First sentences…

“STOP IT! We’re not clowning around here. Just put it down, why don’t you?”  I used my best cop voice.

The Overview:  Beware of Spoilers…

The first thing you notice with Murder in Greasepaint is another very cool painted cover by Rafael Andres.  Andres also did the cover to Leavins’ first book, The Devil’s Own Piss.  I’m happy to see this partnership continue.

Rock Cobbler is a detective with the Santa Lacrimosa PD.  An apparent suicide at the local clown college, gets Cobbler’s number called.  What looks to be an open and shut case turns out to be murder.  Rob Sofritas aka Mr. Rubadubdub was tortured, stabbed and then thrown from his dorm window.

Sofritas was well-liked and had a bright future in clowning.  Did jealousy lead to Sofritas’ murder?   He also came from money.  Blackmail gone wrong? Then there’s the nasty rumor about Sofritas’ affiliation with a clown faction and their legendary fights to gain control of an artifact that supposedly gives power to those who posses it. Did Softitas have the item?

With so many leads, Cobbler seeks the assistance of Professor Wiggles aka Corine D’Ambrosia.  From their first encounter, Cobbler finds himself attracted to her.  She’s beautiful, smart and also a suspect.  D’Ambrosia may have nothing to do with the murder, or she may be setting Cobbler up for a fatal pratfall.  One thing’s for sure, clowning ain’t no joke.

Hat’s off to Whiskey Leavins for finding the perfect balance of suspense and humor.  While we meet many colorful characters, they’re believable because of the way Leavins presents them.  The situations are humorous and sometimes silly, but we never lose sight that the danger is real.  I was especially impressed with the exchanges between Cobber and D’Ambrosia.  They reminded me of the flirting patter we’d get in an old Bogart/Bacall film.  Also kudos to Leavins for bringing back three characters from The Devil’s Own Piss.

Whiskey Leavins has another winner.  This is his second novel in a row that has earned my top rating.  I hope he goes for a trifecta.    Murder in Greasepaint earns 5 of 5 stars.

Rating:

Murder in Greasepaint Trade Paperback

Murder in Greasepaint Kindle