Six trick-or-treaters came by Rancho Yesteryear yesterday. Which leaves me one up on sister Kat and the ‘rents—they only received five. Admittedly, the group I attended to were all wearing “hoodies” (I jokingly asked if “gangsta” was the in-costume this year) and carrying umbrellas because of the inclement weather, but still…this puts quite a burden on me. After all, someone’s got to finish up all the mini-sized Butterfingers and Baby Ruths I didn’t give out—and that could be a tall order. (Fortunately, I have negotiated a deal with Mom to swap the unused Halloween candy for some left over KFC—“the crack cocaine of fast food”—and she will give the candy to Kat for distribution at work tomorrow. I am nothing if not shrewd.)
Naturally, the time-honored Halloween tradition of watching Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) was observed this year, and I also caught The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Cat People (1942) and the documentary Val Lewton: The Man in the Shadows (2007). I also squeezed in Thursday’s Halloween-themed episode of Community (a show that I am enjoying more and more with each installment) and a rerun of ‘Allo ‘Allo—not to mention TCM’s showing of Murders in the Zoo (1933), which I had not watched since my days at
Ballbuster Blockbuster Video. It’s a speedy and engaging little thriller starring Lionel Atwill as a millionaire sportsman who charitably hunts down animals for a zoo administered by Harry Beresford and daughter Gail Patrick…but is not quite so altruistic when it comes to his wife’s (Kathleen Burke) many lovers. In the opening scene, he sews the lips of one would-be paramour together (I love Atwill’s blasé response when Burke asks what her lover said: “He didn’t say anything”) and later poisons another boyfriend with the venom of a rare African mamba. I’d highly recommend Zoo if you haven’t already seen it, though I will warn you that Charlie Ruggles—and I bow to no one in my respect for Charlie—nearly sinks the film as a comic-relief press agent. I’m sure this was the idea of director A. Edward Sutherland, a journeyman who specialized in comedy films such as It's the Old Army Game (1926; W.C. Fields), Every Day's a Holiday (1937; Mae West) and The Flying Deuces (1939; Laurel & Hardy). I made a valiant attempt to try and watch The Body Snatcher (1945) after Zoo, but I felt extreme drowsiness coming on, so I succumbed to an early bedtime and that extra hour of slumber.
IFC On Demand has been running some interesting entries of late—the one that immediately springs to mind is the six-part documentary on Monty Python that they have generously made available to On Demand customers. I really enjoyed the first installment, which covered the early years of the troupe and featured a generous portion of clips from the likes of At Last the 1948 Show, Do Not Attempt to Adjust Your Set and The Frost Report, as well as musings from Goodies members Tim Brooke-Taylor and Bill Oddie, and Ronnie Corbett. Episode two was a small letdown only because I really don’t give a tinker’s damn what Seth Green’s favorite Python sketch is. I hope the third chapter is an improvement.
I also just finished watching an entertaining documentary entitled I Like Killing Flies (2004), about an eclectic Greenwich Village eatery run by Kenny Shopsin, an eccentric chef and philosopher (“The first duty of everybody in life is to realize that they're a piece of shit…selfish and self centered and not very good.”) who’s forced to vacate his long-standing place and move to new digs up the street. Your enjoyment of this film will depend a lot on your tolerance for Shopsin, who’s the type of person we would call in my neck of the woods “a character,” but in all honesty I don’t know how New Yorkers stay fed if they’re having to deal with these kind of loopy individuals—Shopsin’s like a gregarious Ali "Al" Yeganeh (a.k.a. “The Soup Nazi”). The film was put together by one-time music video director Matt Mahurin, who got the idea to make the movie because he was one of Shopsin’s regulars (as is The Nation’s poet laureate, Calvin Trillin, who also appears in the film). I’ll say this for Kenny—his pancakes look like something for which I’d be willing to risk my admittedly sky-high cholesterol any day of the week.
In closing, let me take a quick moment to direct your attention to Radio Archives, who are offering a brand-new CD set for the beginning of this month: Fibber McGee & Molly: The Lost Episodes, Volume 8. It’s another collection of the broadcasts originally heard over NBC Radio from 1953-1956 (these episodes are from March-May 1955) starring Jim & Marian Jordan as the title couple with Arthur Q. Bryan as “Doc Gamble” and Bill Thompson as “The Old Timer” and “Wallace Wimple.” Many of these shows have not been listened to in nearly fifty years…but the comedy remains as fresh and entertaining as when it was first broadcast. Ten CDs for the low price of $29.95—how can you possibly pass up a deal like this? Grab yourself a set today!