Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wednesday’s sticky note

I’ve got a “Coming Distractions” post in the works that will highlight some of the goodies headed our way in January 2013 on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™…but until that’s done, I thought I’d bring a few odds and ends to your attention.

Ben Model e-mailed all the backers for his “Accidentally Preserved” Kickstarter pledge drive yesterday to let them know…that the project has been 102% funded!  (Golf clap) As of this post, $4,165 has been raised (the goal was $3,600) so if you were able to drop a few shekels into Ben’s tambourine—good on ya.  But if you haven’t contributed yet, you can still do so—there’s six days left in the drive and every little bit helps; excess fundage will go towards future AP projects, don’t ya know.

My BBFF Stacia almost made me choke on a cream-cheese-and-jelly bagel this morning when she gave me a shout-out regarding the Dick Tracy: The Complete Serials Collection giveaway currently underway here at TDOY.  (By the way—the response to this has been tremendous: this post has the details on how to enter.)  Here’s the part of her post that made me break out in giggles:

Meanwhile, at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, Ivan is asking readers to help decide which serial he’s going to do next for Serial Saturdays! See, he is a normal human being, which is why in the time it’s taken me to finish Phantom Creeps, he’s done three serials, maybe four, plus wallpapered the hallway and dug up a few old stumps in the back yard. Braggart.

In my defense, part of the reason why this is so is because I have abandoned all serious pursuits of cinema, preferring to spend my copious free time watching reruns of The Underdog Show.  (I wish I could say I was making that up…but it’s true.)  Stacia’s the serious film scholar in the family, and I offer into evidence Exhibit A, a well-done piece on one of my favorite oaters, 3:10 to Yuma (1957).  (It’s compared with the 2007 remake—which I have not seen and don’t plan to make room for anytime in the future.)  Other exercises in fine Stacia film writing that might interest the TDOY faithful include her takes on Quatermass and the Pit (1967), Greetings (1968) and The Green Slime (1968).  (Okay, maybe I should have excised that last one.)

There’s a couple of upcoming classic TV-on-DVD releases that might be of interest to readers of the blog, beginning with a definite date for the Wagon Train: Season 6 set I mentioned in passing here.  Wagon Train: The Complete Sixth Season will be available for purchase on March 5, 2013…and the eighth and final series of the hardy western perennial will be out sometime in the summer of that same year.  If you’re curious as to why Timeless Factory Video seems to be skipping a season, it’s because the seventh season has already been released to disc as Wagon Train: The Complete Color Season in 2008.

Timeless Factory Video has also announced that another oater from the television of yesteryear will be released to stores on February 19th: it’s The Restless Gun: The Complete Series, an 8-DVD set (priced at $59.97 SRP) containing all seventy-seven episodes of the western series starring John Payne that ran on NBC-TV from 1957 to 1959.  (The TSOD blurb doesn’t mention this information, but I suspect that the show’s Schlitz Playhouse of Stars pilot will also be included, seeing as how it was present and accounted for on a previously released “Best of” 3-disc collection in 2007.)  I mentioned this show in a write-up I did on Timeless’ The Classic TV Western Collection in December of last year, and having enjoyed the episode of Gun that was included (“Cheyenne Express”) was kinda sorta hoping they’d tackle a complete series set.  (Fans of the show know that the program was loosely based on the short-lived but excellent old-time radio drama starring James Stewart, The Six Shooter.)

On a final Timeless Factory note…TSOD has a snapshot of the cover art for the box set The Loretta Young Show – The Best of the Complete Series: 100th Birthday Edition here.  (The set is scheduled for release on February 12.)

One final TV-on-DVD note: Image Entertainment is announcing the February 19th release of a 5-disc collection of Naked City shows entitled Naked City – Fan Favorites.  This shouldn’t be confused with the Madacy release due out on January 8 (Best of Naked City), even though there is duplication with eighteen of the episodes on both sets.  But the Fan Favorites collection will contain two episodes from the series’ first season (1958-59), when it ran thirty minutes: “Line of Duty” (10/14/58) and “Lady Bug, Lady Bug” (12/9/58).  To my knowledge, none of the thirty-nine half-hour installments from City’s freshman season have been released to disc…so the conundrum is: will I be willing to shell out the necessary drachmas just to get two half-hour episodes?  Well, the set is priced at $24.98 SRP…so this will indeed be a weighty decision.

Oh…one more thing…I got a nice Christmas card from the True Classics crew (Brandie, Carrie, Nikki, Sarah and Shlomo…no, wait—I think that last one’s a typo) in the mail today.  Many, many thanks for the wonderful sentiment—the ‘rents and I are most appreciative, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share it with the rest of the TDOY readership:

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mayberry Mondays #66: “Mike’s Project” (12/14/70, prod. no. 0312)

Well, after a temporary hiatus of one week where I conducted an experiment to see what it would feel like to be The Laziest Human Alive, Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s own Mayberry Mondays returns with a vengeance…and an interesting episode of R.F.D. entitled “Mike’s Project.”  It’s not a particularly funny installment (those are few and far between), but it does offer up some fascinating revelations regarding the learning skills of the son of poor-but-honest-dirt-farmer-turned-town-council-head Sam Jones (Ken Berry), affectionately known here at TDOY as Mike the Idiot Boy (Buddy Foster).  There will also be some disturbing disclosures about the father of Mike’s loyal lisping sidekick, Harold Henderson (as played by child pugilist Richard “Fishface” Steele).  Yes, we finally learn Harold’s last name in this one…and sadly, that’s more information than we needed.

The episode opens with an establishing shot of Mayberry Elementary School, and inside the building, the future minds of tomorrow are being molded by Miss Pringle, a schoolteacher played by OTR veteran Alice Backes.  This is Alice’s second appearance on the show; she previously played a schoolteacher (only her last name was “Fawcett”) in “Goober’s New Gas Station.”  Miss Pringle, we can only guess, is new to the education biz in that she has invited a “distinguished” guest speaker to lecture before her students…and that speaker is pedantic county clerk Howard Sprague (Jack Dodson).  (This is why I have speculated that Miss Pringle is a new teacher…an assumption that will later prove to be incorrect.)  Howard, a member of the school board—and pretty much every other freakin’ committee in that burg—is here to speak to the soon-to-be nodding-off heads about Mayberry Elementary’s “Open House.”

HOWARD: It’s always a pleasure to get out into the classroom and meet the new students…I…I can remember what a thrill it was when a member of the board came to my class…if he talked long enough, we always got out of spelling or something…

The kids politely titter at this, but the expression on Miss Pringle’s face would seem to suggest “Mmmmm…bomb-o!”

HOWARD: Well…as Miss Pringle indicated, I’m here to emphasize…just…how important the projects are that you’ll be making for display at next week’s Open House…

With Howard’s statement, we learn that one of Miss Pringle’s charges has apparently not been paying attention in class.  “We have to make projects?” hisses Harold at Mike.

“Sure we do,” responds Mike to his ADHD chum.  “All about the Wild West.  Where were you?”

Mike’s last comment earns him a rebuke from Miss Pringle in the form of a pencil tapping and a sharply worded “Children…”  Then Howard continues the love affair with his own voice.

HOWARD: The…uh…American West was a very significant part of our culture…and the reason we encourage the making of these projects is because…we learn from the research we do and we learn when we build things from our hands…what you’ll be making in the next few days will…stay with your for the rest of your lives…

Not satisfied that the classroom is now in a deep sleep, Howard begins to drone on about how he made a replica of the Great Pyramid when he was but a mere tad.  “Four thousand, two hundred and eighty-three sugar cubes,” he beams proudly.  This prompts a funny reaction from Miss Pringle, who’s probably realized that that…is a lot of acid.  “Well,” Howard continues, bringing it on home, “all I can say, boys and girls, is do your best.  The eyes of Mayberry will be upon you.”  (“All the live long days…”)

As Miss Pringle politely applauds Howard’s spiel, she is careful to mention to the class that “there will be no prizes given…however—a little blue ribbon will be given for the best entry.”  (Way to motivate, teach!)  She thanks Howard, and as she’s rushing him out of the classroom Howard stops:  “By the way…if the class would like to see it, I still have my pyramid.”  It’s positively astonishing that Howard has remained a bachelor all these years.

A scene dissolve finds Howard and Sam walking down Mayberry’s main thoroughfare, with Howard heading back to his office for another riveting day of government busywork.

HOWARD: …then you should have seen their little faces light up when I told them about my pyramid…

Every episode…one laugh-out-loud moment (and this one gets extra points for the sexual innuendo).  As Sam and Howard reach the outside entrance to the county clerk office, a man with a camera steps out and greets the two of them.  (I only hope he doesn’t want to take a picture of Howard’s pyramid.)

HOWARD: Gonna be taking some pictures, huh?
BRIAN: Oh, you better believe it!  At the Open House!  You know what that kid of mine is building?  A real western fort!
HOWARD: Harold’s building a whole fort?
BRIAN: Not only building it…but researching it, designing it—the whole ball of wax!

As you’ve no doubt gleaned from this conversation, the guy with the camera (and cigar) is Brian Henderson, father of little Harold.  The above screen capture is from a later scene in the show; I used it so you could get a better look at the actor, William “Bill” Mims.  Mims was an all-purpose utility player whose regular TV gigs were pretty few; he turned up in a few installments of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp as a newspaper editor named Dameron, and also had brief semi-regular stints on shows like The Long Hot Summer, The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction.  I seem to remember Mims best for a lot of show-ups on TV westerns (he guested several times on Lawman), notably Wagon Train, Tales of Wells Fargo, Cheyenne, Have Gun – Will Travel and The Virginian.  (My learned colleague Dr. Tobias O’Brien remembers that Mims played the Governor of California in the classic Wild Wild West episode, “The Night the Wizard Shook the Earth.”)  Among Bill’s feature film appearances: Sanctuary, Wild in the Country, The Children’s Hour, Lonely are the Brave and the ever-popular The Day Mars Invaded Earth.  Mims passed away in 1991.

BRIAN: It oughta knock their eyes out!  Sam…isn’t Mike gonna enter a project?
SAM: Ah…yeah…yeah…sure…
BRIAN: Ah…what he’s making?
SAM (awkward pause): Oh…ah…oh, he’s…uh…it’s a…it’s a… (He mumbles some word)
BRIAN: I beg your pardon?
SAM: What?
BRIAN: I mean…I didn’t understand you…uh…what did you say Mike was making?
SAM: Uh…a teepee… (He looks embarrassed)
BRIAN (laughing): Teepee, huh?  Well, you know…to build a fort…well, that takes a lot of ingenuity…well, that’s Harold…takes after his old man…you know what I mean?
SAM: Yeah…I know what you mean…

I believe the word Sam is ransacking his vocabulary for is “wanker.”  Well, Brian has other people to annoy, and so he takes his leave of Howard and Sam.  So before we continue on, let us examine the mystery of this…Brian Henderson.  If this…Brian Henderson is Harold’s father…then who is this guy?

This actor, James McCallion, played Harold’s pop in the first season R.F.D. episode “The Camper.”  If we apply the rules established by the aforementioned Dr. O’Brien on his blog, we clearly have a problem here.  I have two theories on this—the first is that shortly after the events in “The Camper,” Mr. Henderson suffered major disfiguration in an industrial accident and required intensive plastic surgery…which is why he looks so radically different now.  But although “Camper” only features Henderson briefly, his demeanor is not that of the Henderson in this episode: brash and obnoxious.  (Unless that accident produced a personality change as well.)

So my second theory is that the Mr. Henderson featured in “The Camper” is actually Harold’s step dad.  Originally it made more sense for him to be the real dad since he appeared first, but as the “Project” dad tells Sam and Howard, Harold “takes after his old man.”  And having witnessed Harold in several installments of R.F.D., it’s patently obvious that the kid can be a real unlikable buttmunch.  So I hereby declare the Brian Henderson of “Project” to be the one and only true dad of Harold.  (Besides, in “Camper” he’s identified only as “Father.”)

But enough of this folderol.  The scene shifts to outside stately Jones Manor, where Sam is trying to repair his truck, ably assisted by village idiot Goober Pyle (George Lindsey).  Mike the Idiot Boy emerges from the house, carrying a homemade teepee.

GOOBER: Hey, Mike—whatcha got there?
MIKE: My teepee for the Open House…I thought I’d let ‘er sit out here to dry…
SAM: Yeah…well…put it right there…
(Goober moves some tools off the top of a barrel next to the truck, and Mike puts the teepee down on top of it)
SAM: Wow!  (He chuckles)
MIKE: Well?  Whaddya think of it?
SAM: Oh…gee…that’s…that’s really nice, Mike!  That’s really nice…he made that all by himself, Goob—isn’t that something?
GOOBER (without enthusiasm): Yeah…it sure is…
(Sam gets ready to say something to Goober, and then spots Harold in the distance)
SAM: Oh…there’s Harold!  Hi, Harold!
MIKE: Hi, Harold!
(As Mike walks over to greet his friend, Sam turns back to Goober for a stare down)
SAM: You could have hurt his feelings
GOOBER: Well, I didn’t mean to…
SAM: Well…
GOOBER: Well…I guess it’ll be all right when he’s got it finished maybe…
SAM: He is finished…

Yes, I did snicker at the implications of this.  (“It’s not going to get any better, Goob…”)

GOOBER: You’re kiddin’!  (Sam gives him a look) Aww…I see…then you step in and put it into shape…
SAM (shaking his head): No…
GOOBER: Well…then you…rework it a little...
SAM (still in the negative): No!
GOOBER: Then you’re not gonna help the boy at all?
SAM: Of course not!  This is Mike’s project!  He’s got to…rise or fall on his own!
GOOBER (gulping): What’d the boy do?
SAM: Whaddya mean, what’d the boy do?
GOOBER: Well he musta done something pretty bad to get you this mad at him…
SAM: I’m not mad at him!
GOOBER: Well, you must be or you wouldn’t let him go to Open House with a piece of junk like this!

There’s a lot of irony in this next exchange, seeing as how Goober, Mayberry’s resident Manchild, is lecturing Sam on his parenting skills.

SAM: It’s not a piece of junk!  Where did you learn about teepees, anyway?
GOOBER: Well, in comic books—that’s where!  And I’ll tell you one thing—you wouldn’t catch Tonto squattin’ around a thing like this…do you know what happens to kids whose daddies don’t help ‘em out?  Well, they turn rotten…they go to California and play gi-tars!
SAM: Well, I don’t reason that…look—I want Mike to learn to be self-reliant…now, by not helping him with this teepee, I’ll be helping him…ten years from now!
GOOBER: Well, if he’s still makin’ teepees ten years from now…he’s in trouble

And the over/under says he probably will.  Finally Goober gives up.  “Okay…okay,” he says to Sam.  “If you want him to take this in and get laughed out of school…”  As Goober heads for his own truck, he stops and gives Mike a reassuring pat on his shoulder.

“So long, Mike.  I’m sorry,” observes Goober sadly.  (As are we all.)  Mike then brings Harold over to show off his project, and you would think that after the events in “Mike’s Birthday Party”—where Harold turns up his nose at a bunch of cheap party prizes purchased to celebrate Idiot Boy’s natal anniversary—he would know not to expect Harold to be too impressed with his handiwork.

HAROLD: Is that the whole thing?
MIKE: Uh-huh…
HAROLD: Sure is little
MIKE: Nobody said it had to be big
HAROLD: You should see my fort!  It’s gonna be a lot bigger than that!

I just wanted to take a quick second to point out that Harold’s hair is starting to get a little shaggy.  Wise up, you little hippie—this is Mayberry, not Haight-Asbury.

MIKE: Forts are supposed to be a lot bigger than teepees…
HAROLD: It’s gonna have a flagpole!  And a real gate that opens and everything!

“And a cannon that fires, knocking down a guard turret!”

MIKE: Gee…that must be hard to make…
HAROLD: Of course it is!  But my pa says I got a knack with tools

Or he could have meant that his kid is a tool.  But Harold has tipped his hand here, and Sam is all ready to call bullsh*t…

SAM: Uh…is your pa…helping you, Harold?
HAROLD: Uh uh… (Pause) Well, he says I’m practically doing it all by myself…
SAM: I see…
HAROLD: Wait till you see my fort!  It’s gonna be one-sixteenth scale!
SAM: You’re making it to scale?
MIKE: What’s that mean?
HAROLD: Well…it means… (Pause) My pa explained it to me…but I forgot

And with that, Harold has more work to do on his fort, utilizing his mad skillz with tools.  But he offers the same words of consolation as Goober: “Don’t worry about the teepee, Mike—they’re not giving prizes away anyway.”  Man…when two characters with lower SATs than your son start dissing his schoolwork, you know you’ve hit rock bottom.

MIKE: Pa…what do you really think of it?
SAM: Uh…it’s…it’s very nice, Mike…really…
MIKE: Well…what would you think of it if I were just a plain kid?  Instead of someone you love?

“I’d say I hope you get special supervision in shop class.”  Okay, Sam really doesn’t say that…but in a scene shift, we find him perusing the Pulitzer Prize-winning Mayberry Gazette as his cousin Alice (Alice Ghostley), chief cook and bottle washer at Jones Farms, sits at the dining room table in the background, snapping beans.

ALICE: Emily Jackson says there’s a light in Harold’s father’s garage every evening…
SAM: Mm-hmm…

“Emily Jackson has best put that telescope away or she’s gonna get a visit from Deputy Sheriff Pyle…”

ALICE: That’s where he has his workbench, you know…
SAM (a bit steamed): Alice, I don’t care where he has his workbench!  If Harold’s father is helping him, that’s his business!  He’s Harold’s father…I’m Mike’s father, and my concern is for Mike
ALICE: Uh-huh…
SAM (after a pause while he rattles his newspaper): I mean…my concern is for his character…not whether his…teepee is better than some…dumb fort
ALICE (nodding): Uh-huh…
SAM: If Harold’s father wants to set that kind of example, it’s up to him—he can build the whole fort, for all I care!

Alice continues to nod dutifully, but it’s as if Aunt Bee never went back to West Virginia—Alice has planted a seed of doubt in Sam’s mind (and that’s probably the only thing that’s growing on that alleged farm) and so Sam gets up from the couch to announce he’s going for a walk.  “He lives on Spruce Street,” Alice reminds Sam as he grabs his jacket.

“I know where he lives…I’m just going to take a little walk,” Sam replies.  And as sitcom would have it, he ends up at the Spruce Street residence of the Hendersons…where we find father Brian and son Harold working hard on their one-sixteenth scale fort.

BRIAN: There we go…
HAROLD: Pop…shouldn’t I be doing that?
BRIAN: Whuh…what are you talking about?  You’re doing the important stuff!
BRIAN: Well, sure!  You put the glue on, didn’t ya?

“And that glue isn’t going to sniff itself, you know!”

HAROLD: Well…yeah….
BRIAN: Well, if it wasn’t for the glue the whole thing would fall apart!

Outside the secret laboratory where Project One-Sixteenth Scale is being conducted, Sam begins to stealthily make his way toward the garage.  He stands outside the door, as if getting ready to eavesdrop…and then he pauses as if to reconsider how childish this all is.  But then he hears the unmistakable sound of a power drill, and knows in his very heart of hearts that Brian Henderson, Esq. would not allow a kid like Harold access to power tools unless he had suddenly become insane, so it’s only his proper duty to investigate.  He enters…the workbench room:

HAROLD: Oh—hi, Mr. Jones!
SAM: Hello, Harold…Brian…
(Brian turns off the drill and then hides it behind his back)
BRIAN: Hi…hi, Sam…what…what can I do for you?
SAM: Oh…uh…nothing…I was just…looking by, and…er…walking by…I thought I’d stop in and say hello…gee…this…must be your project…huh, Harold?  Looks great!
HAROLD: Thanks!
SAM: You…uh… (He sneaks a look at what’s behind Brian’s back) You’re not helping him…are you, Brian?
BRIAN: Well…no…no no no…I was just supervising…I…I…I got the…uh…drill down for him, that’s all…
SAM: Uh-huh…
BRIAN (placing the drill on the bench): Here you are, son…
HAROLD: Gee, Pa…you told me never to touch your power tools!
BRIAN: That’s right!  (He pulls the drill away) Never touch the power tools…you can…you can use the hand drill later on…

Though you would think that a man who hangs out with idiot friends on a weekly basis might himself become an idiot over time…Sam has managed to avoid that trap.  He’s not buying any of this.

HAROLD: Look, Mr. Jones!  (He moves a piece of the fort) The gate really works!
SAM: Say…that’s…that’s something, all right…looks like a real…professional job!
BRIAN: Thank you very much!  (Correcting himself) I mean…well…I…I’m very proud when anybody compliments my…my son’s talents!
HAROLD: I’ll bet it’ll be the best project at the Open House!
BRIAN: Harold, I…I’ve told you a hundred times—it’s not important who has the best project…the important thing is that you did your best…isn’t that right, Sam?
SAM: Oh, yeah…right…right…
HAROLD: I put on all the glue!
BRIAN: Yes…and…and everything else, too!

Well, Sam has grown weary of watching Brian uncomfortably tell fib after fib that he’s not helping his idiot son with his school project…and so he takes his leave in order to return home and help his idiot son with his school project.

MIKE: Whatcha doin’, Pa?
SAM: Oh, I’m just…looking at your teepee…
MIKE: It hasn’t fallen down since I stuffed it full of paper!

“I like cheese!”

SAM: Uh…you know something, Mike?  One thing that I’ve learned in life…is that your first effort…isn’t always your best effort…now I bet you by now…you’ve got a whole bunch of ideas…on how you could have made that even better, huh?
MIKE: Uh-uh…I’m just glad it’s finished!
SAM: Uh…well, yeah…but…uh…I’ll bet if we put our heads together—we can even improve it!
MIKE: We?  I thought I was supposed to use my own ideas…?
SAM: Uh…yeah…yeah…well, I did say that…but there’s nothing wrong with a father and son talking over a project—is there?
MIKE: Yeah…but we’d probably think of something I couldn’t make…
SAM: I could show you how
MIKE: I thought I was supposed to build it myself…?
SAM: Well, yeah…yeah…I-I-I said that, too…uh…but…there’s certainly nothing wrong with a father showing his son how to use tools—is there?
MIKE: No…but you said…
SAM: I know what I said!

Sam’s hypocritical parenting takes a quick commercial break…and when the episode returns, the reconstruction of an authentic Hekawi teepee has started.  Mike is holding the poles of the dwelling while Sam is tying them together, and when Mike asks whether or not he should be the one doing that Sam starts to channel his inner Brian Henderson.  “You’re doing all the hard work, Mike…holding the poles and everything.”  Sam then tells his son that they’re going to knock off for dinner, and when Mike leaves he is replaced by Goober, an idiot.

GOOBER: Well…what have we got here?
SAM: It’s…uh…Mike’s teepee…
GOOBER: Mike’s teepee?  Boy, it sure has grown—whaddya been feedin’ it?  (He playfully smacks Sam on the arm)
SAM (chuckling): Well, uh…he started it all over again…you know, the boy wasn’t quite satisfied…
GOOBER: Well…that boy sure is doin’ better work this time…
SAM: I’m just…giving him a few pointers, that’s all…
GOOBER: Good!  Hey—you know whatcha oughta do now?  Jazz it up!  Stick a totem pole in front and…and a birch bark canoe, and a lake right over there
SAM: No…
GOOBER: You can fake it with a mirror!  It’ll look just like the shores of Gitche Gumee…
SAM: Will you hold it a minute, Hiawatha?

Sam continues to lie to himself that he’s not doing the project for Mike—he’s only “guiding” him.  Goober remains unconvinced, and tells his pal that he just came by to install a “flutter valve” on Sam’s truck, so Sam tells him to get to work.  Goob leaves, and then rushes back in with a wood log that “will be perfect when you carve your totem pole!”  Sam again protests, but when Goober goes back outside Sam stands the log up near the teepee…and decides that it’s not such a bad idea.

A scene dissolve finds Mike yelling for Harold over at Harold’s house, where he invites his smarmy friend out to play some ball.

HAROLD: I thought you had to work on your teepee!
MIKE: Well, the new one’s almost finished…wait until you see it…it’s ten times as good as the first one…
BRIAN: Oh…you’re making another teepee, Mike?
MIKE: Yeah!
BRIAN: Sam’s helping you…?
MIKE: Uh-uh…Pa says I’m practically doing it all by myself!

Annnnnd that’s Brian’s cue to mosey on over to Jones Farms to spy on Project Teepee.  Sam is embarrassed at being caught painting Native American signs on the outside, particularly when Mike is allegedly doing the work…but that’s not what has Brian’s undies in a bunch.  He’s scornful of “Mike’s” efforts, saying “A teepee is a teepee—what can you do with it?”

SAM: Now, wait a minute, Brian…wait a minute…these are all authentic Indian signs here…you know…authentic…I resear…M-Mike researched those himself…that’s sunshine…and that’s rain…and that’s a snake!
BRIAN: Now, Sam…don’t get upset!  I’m not saying your boy doesn’t have talent!  But you know…kids develop at different rates…Mike will come along…

As you can imagine, I laughed long and hard at that little pearl o’wisdom.  “This teepee is a whole lot better than that dumb fort!” Sam says angrily.

Brian is livid.  “Dumb fort?!!  You obviously haven’t seen it since the night you came sneaking around my garage!  You know what Harold’s got in there now?  He has got twinkling lights in…in the barracks!  It looks just like real firelight!  And a real well with real water!”  (“And if you look real close…there’s the headquarters of O’Rourke Enterprises!”)

The jig is up: Sam’s not buying that Harold is smart enough to install electrical lights in his project, and Brian has already witnessed the paint brush Sam is hiding behind his back.  “I’ll see you at the Open House!” bellows Brian as he exits Sam’s workplace.  As he gets on his bicycle and starts to pedal off, he warns Alice to watch what she says: “Sam’s off his feed!”

Sam comes charging out of the shed, so mad he can hardly spit.  “Do you know what he did?  Do you know what he did?” he badgers Alice.

Alice has no idea what the hell is going on.  “What?  What?”

“He put twinkle lights in his barracks!”  Sam then decides he needs to step up his project game.  “I’m going to the lumberyard!”

It’s the night of Open House at Mayberry Elementary.  Miss Pringle is complimenting a piece of Native American pottery designed by a student, who boasts that she made the colors all by herself by using ground mustard seeds for the yellows, “and my sister’s eye shadow” for the blues.  (Yes, I chuckled at this.)  “That’s very resourceful, Susan,” Pringle tells the young girl…who is played in this episode by former child actress Patti Cohoon-Friedman.  This is Cohoon-Friedman’s second appearance on the show—the first was in the aforementioned “Mike’s Birthday Party,” in which her character’s name was “Cheryl.”  But here’s the freaky part…

she’s wearing the same dress as the earlier episode.  Either the continuity girl went out for a smoke, or Susan/Cheryl is associated with one of Mayberry’s poorer families, adding a note of melancholy to this dreadful episode.  In another part of the room, a nondescript man (Bob Beban) chats with Howard, declaring “Say, these kids have come up with some pretty impressive projects.”

“Yeah, they sure have,” drones Howard.  “You know, I remember when I was a kid I made a replica of the Great Pyramid—out of sugar cubes!”  The man Howard is boring to tears then gets a break because he’s just spotted Harold and Brian bringing in their replica of Fort Courage

Harold and his father set the fort down on several tables, and Miss Pringle is gushing with praise:

ALICE: My goodness, Harold!  That’s certainly impressive!
HAROLD: Wait’ll I plug it in!
BRIAN: No…I…I’ll plug it in, Harold!  (He runs over to the other side and grabs the plug, then makes for the outlet)
PRINGLE: Isn’t that beautiful!  (With a sardonic smile) You must have put in quite a lot of time, Harold…
BRIAN: Well…h-h-he sure did!  The kid’s got a real knack for tools!

And speaking of tools—here’s Jones pere and fils, with their simple sculpture entitled “Big Ass Teepee.”

Goober and Mike are helping Sam haul this monstrosity in, and Goob cracks: “Sam, put it next to that little log cabin over there…”  (He is, of course, referring to Fort Henderson.)

HOWARD: You mean that…Mike…you…you made that?
MIKE: Well…kinda…
BRIAN (sotto voce, to Sam): You mean to tell me that Mike made that all by himself?
SAM: Just as much as Harold made yours…I mean, his
GOOBER: Turn it on, Mike…
MIKE: Well…maybe we shouldn’t
GOOBER: Of course you should!  (To the crowd) You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Goober goes over to the teepee and, reaching inside, activates this little handy-dandy feature:

I’d like to be able to say that the teepee then catches fire and no one in that schoolroom makes it out alive because there’s a mad panic for the fire doors.  But as always…we simply aren’t that lucky.  As the puffs of smoke continue, an infuriated Brian storms off as Sam displays his best sh*t-eating grin.

These two actors aren’t mentioned in the credits at the always reliable IMDb—the man is played by the aforementioned Bob Beban (the guy who was trying to get away from Howard), and the only credit he has at the site is an appearance in a 1951 Republic film, The Wild Blue Yonder.  I’ve not seen the film (though I am curious to check it out; with a cast including Wendell “Hic!” Corey, Phil Harris, Walter Brennan, Ruth Donnelly, Richard Erdman and Ken Berry’s F Troop co-star Forrest Tucker it certainly sounds worth a watch) so I can’t confirm it’s the same actor.  The actress playing the woman is Ann Raymond…who has no other credits at the database.

WOMAN: What do you think of that?
MAN: All I want to know is…who’s the contractor?
WOMAN: It certainly outshines Debbie’s headdress…
MAN: Yeah…and Billy’s tom-tom just went down the tubes…

And as for the impoverished little girl known as Susan?  “I stayed up all night making my pottery,” she says sadly.  Hey…that’s what happens when you wait until the last minute, angel drawers.  (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

MIKE: Pa…?
SAM: Yeah, Mike?
MIKE: Can we go home now?  I think I’m getting a stomachache
SAM: But they’re about to award the blue ribbon, Mike…
MIKE: I think that’s why I’m getting the stomachache…

The penny has dropped for Sam.  He now realizes that he succumbed to a silly game of one-upsmanship with the loathsome Brian, so he walks over to Miss Pringle to confess his project sins.  But she blows him off, telling him she’s about to announce the winner of the best project blue ribbon…

PRINGLE: Everybody…can I have your attention?  Parents?  Children?  (She raps her clipboard with her pencil as the kids and their folks fall into line like obedient sheep.)  Thank you…ladies and gentlemen…I’m sure we’re all pleased with the projects we’ve seen on display here today for our Open House…and I think all of our children deserve a round of applause… (Applause)  And now it’s time for the Grand Award…

Look at Harold’s dad.  “It’s in the bag, my boy!”

PRINGLE: As you know, the judging was based on the children’s imagination, ingenuity and execution…the grand prize…this blue ribbon…goes to Susan McBain, for her homemade Indian pottery!

Mike, decent kid that he is (if incredibly stupid), starts clapping the loudest as a surprised Susan goes up to collect her blue ribbon.  (But really, folks…couldn’t someone have passed a hat around and took up a collection for that poor girl?)  Harold is clapping for her, too…until his father tells him: “Knock it off!”  (That little mook is going to get the beating of his life when he gets home.)  Miss Pringle tells everyone to get a sugar high on the punch and cookies, then walks back over to Sam.

PRINGLE: Uh…what was it now, Mr. Jones?
SAM: Uh…oh…it…it…uh…really isn’t important now, but…maybe I’d better explain…you see…Mike’s project…
PRINGLE: Mr. Jones…I understand…I’ve been teaching for a long time, and…well, every father goes overboard at least once
SAM: Oh?
PRINGLE: Mm-hmm…but I will say this for you…when you go bad—you go all the way!

“It’s too bad they don’t give blue ribbons for that, huh?” Sam asks, as this lame episode comes to an end, with Susan stuffing her pockets with as many cookies as she can carry for her hungry siblings.

I had planned to cut the coda short on this one but there’s an interesting development in that even though we bade fare-thee-well to town curmudgeon Elmo Halpert (Vince Barnett) in last week’s “The Bicycle Club,” he makes an appearance (sort of) in this episode—a cameo in which he’s apparently on the other end of a phone conversation Sam is having as Alice putters in the kitchen.  “Another joker,” mutters Sam to Alice as he covers up the mouthpiece with his hand.  “Elmo wants to know if he can borrow the teepee to go camping.”  He ends his call by saying “Ugh to you, too, Elmo.”

SAM: Oh, boy…I’m really getting razzed…
ALICE: Oh, well…they’ll forget all about it as soon as someone else makes a boo-boo…
SAM: Oh…thanks a lot!  You’ll recall I had a lot of encouragement from a certain cousin of mine…

Chew on that, Esmeralda!  As Sam turns to exit the kitchen, Alice asks him if he’s seen that mirror that was hanging on her closet door.

SAM: Hmm…yeah…yeah…I’ll have to get you another one…
ALICE: You mean you took it?
SAM: Don’t tell me you didn’t recognize Lake Gitche Gumee?

Mayberry’s bakery doyenne Millie Swanson (Arlene Golonka) and the town’s fix-it savant, Emmett Clark (Paul Hartman) were sorely missed this week (well, for some of us anyway) but because Cousin Alice was on hand to offer up her kitchenly wisdom that means that Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s patented Alice-o-Meter™ moves up a notch to five appearances for actress Ghostley in the sitcom’s final season.  Next week on Mayberry Mondays—it’s an episode that at one time was voted the best of all the R.F.D. shenanigans by the nameless minions at  (It’s actually got a few laughs—though I don’t think I’d choose it as the funniest.)  The guest star is a person who’s no stranger to Mayberry though they’re working under a pseudonym…so please join me for all the fun on “Howard, the Dream Spinner.”

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Our next serial presentation…and a fabulous prize!

In two weeks, I’ll feature the penultimate and last chapters (one per week) of Adventures of Sir Galahad on Serial Saturdays…and then it will be time to pick another chapter play at which to poke merciless fun.  I’ve narrowed it down to three candidates.

Nominee #1 is a fifteen-chapter serial from Columbia entitled Jungle Raiders (1945)…but I need to give you the pros and cons on this one.  The major con is that Eddie Quillan, whom I loathed and despised as the painfully unfunny comedy relief Chuck Kelly in Jungle Queen (oddly enough, released the same year), is in this one as the painfully unfunny comedy relief Joe Riley.  The misery that was Jungle Queen was compounded by Qullan’s presence, and that serial was only thirteen chapters—I’d have to put up with him for two extra installments.

Also, despite its title, Jungle Raiders features very little jungle.  Ed Hulse, Facebook friend and editor of Blood ‘n’ Thunder, says that because the title was probably pre-sold before the script was actually written; its shooting location ended up in the decidedly non-tropical environs of Lone Pine’s Alabama Hills.  (Because of the rapidity of the shooting schedules for most serials, Ed suggests that might be why they assigned this one to director Lesley Selander—Selander was at the helm of a couple dozen Hopalong Cassidy westerns and knew the territory better than anyone.)

The major plus for Jungle Raiders is its cast.  Kane Richmond plays the hero in this one, and my pal Laughing Gravy of In the Balcony fame says it’s “a rare three-babe serial: one good, one bad, and one totally rotten.”  (“The worse they are, the more beautiful, and the totally rotten one dresses like Dorothy Lamour.”)  One of the women is TDOY fave Veda Ann Borg, who, according to serials scholar Hans J. Wollstein, commits an impressive act of grand larceny by stealing most of the proceedings.  (Veda’s villainous boyfriend in this one is played by Charles King, currently being featured in Galahad as comic relief Sir Bors.)  Budd Buster, aka “Jungle Jack” from Jungle Queen is also in the cast, as well as Janet Shaw, Carol Hughes, Jack Ingram and I. Stanford Jolley.  (But despite the presence of those thesps, this may end up being a tough slog.)

Our second nominee is an unusual serial from 1944: The Desert Hawk, a chapter play that I mistakenly forgot to mention when I talked about the scarcity of swashbuckling serials throughout cinematic history in the first chapter of Galahad.  Gilbert Roland—an unlikely candidate to star in a cliffhanger, though he stepped in when Columbia western star James Ellison was injured in an accident during production—plays a dual role in twin brothers Kasim and Hassan.  Hassan is the evil brother who deposes Kasim and usurps his throne, prompting Kas to disguise himself as the titular character to try and retrieve his birthright.

I’m leaning toward this one because author Daniel J. Neyer gives it high marks in “Dissed and Dismissed: Ten Underrated Serials”—which is a chapter in Ed’s book Blood ‘n’ Thunder’s Cliffhanger Classics, a compilation of previous articles from that magazine.  Neyer names two serials on his list that I’ve already covered here on the blog, G-Men Never Forget and The Green Hornet, plus an additional seven entries that are sometimes short-shrifted by cliffhanger fans.  (To be honest, the entire Cliffhanger Classics book is worth both a purchase and your time; I scored a copy of it during a “water sale” at Ed’s a few months ago.)

Also appearing in Hawk are usual suspects Jolley, Ben Welden (in a change-of-pace role from his usual dese-dem-dose gangsters), Kenneth MacDonald, Frank Lackteen and Egon Brecher.  And if that doesn’t sway you…Charles Middleton’s in this one, too.  (The leading lady is Argentine actress Mona Maris.)

The third and last candidate is Don Winslow of the Navy (1942)—a serial that I actually wrote about at the ol’ Salon Blog neighborhood, though I didn’t do a weekly chapter-by-chapter write-up.  Hermitage Hill Media, a first-rate company that releases first-rate versions of serials (they recently put out on disc the surviving six chapters of the 1933 “lost” chapter play Clancy of the Mounted), has a very nice print of Winslow for sale…and it was a definite improvement over my old copy, where the only way I could tell the good guys from the bad guys was that the heroes were wearing Navy whites.

Based on the popular comic strip by Frank V. Martinek (which also had a brief run on radio as well), Don Winslow has a reputation among a few serial fans as being a really good Universal entry; you’ve also got on hand Anne Nagel and Wade Boteler from Green Hornet, as well as Don Terry, Walter Sande, John Litel, Claire Dodd and Kurt Klatch as the villainous Scorpion.  If I do go with this one, it means that I can also schedule the sequel—Don Winslow of the Coast Guard—for a future Serial Saturdays berth.

So here’s the way I’ll do it—in the upper right of the blog is a poll where you can vote on which serial you’d like to see me tackle next.  In the case of a tie…well, I haven’t thought quite far ahead yet, but I’m sure I’ll come up with something.  In the meantime—BBFF Stacia is still kickin’ it with The Phantom Creeps over at She Blogged by Night, and James Vance has just wrapped up the Republic classic cliffhanger Dick Tracy Returns at Shadow Cabaret.  (James was very nice to acknowledge TDOY as his inspiration for tackling Returns in the post for the last chapter…and if I’ve played any small role in corrupting a new generation with snarky serial commentary, I only hope the presiding judge will grant me clemency.)

Speaking of Dick Tracy Returns (oh, I can’t believe how smooth these segueways go)—here is an important announcement!

VCI Entertainment has just released a brand-spanking-new two-disc edition of the first Dick Tracy serial (which first hit theater screens in 1937), which the company has spiffied up considerably for its 75th anniversary.  The chapter play, which is in the public domain (you can probably start watching it on YouTube right now but then you’ll miss the big announcement…and there may be a test on this material), is very hard to find in a really good print but VCI has obtained a first-rate transfer…and just released the new edition of the production this week.

But VCI has also previously released the three sequels in the Republic Tracy franchise: the aforementioned Dick Tracy Returns, followed by Dick Tracy’s G-Men and Dick Tracy vs. Crime Inc.  Serial fans engage in lively debates as to which is the best (well, there's not much argument that the first one is probably the weakest)…but they’re all in agreement that all four serials provide unbeatable entertainment for cliffhanger crazies.  VCI has made available in tandem with the Dick Tracy 75th Anniversary Edition a box set, Dick Tracy: The Complete Serial Collection, containing all four serials: a total of sixty thrill-a-minute chapters on eight discs.

The good folks at VCI were nice enough to send me a copy of this honkin’ big box set…which I would be privileged and pleased to pass along to some lucky member of the TDOY faithful.  (Or even not-so-faithful, as long as you live in the U.S. or Canada.)  All you have to do is send me an e-mail at with “Dick Tracy Giveaway” in the subject header, and make sure you do so before 11:59pm EST next Sunday (December 2).  Monday morning (Dec. 3), I’ll draw a lucky winner via and get that person’s prize out to them tuit suite.  If you want to include your snail-mail address in your entry to facilitate quicker delivery, that’s okay-fine…if you’d rather wait until your name has been officially picked (should you win), that's copacetic with me, too.  At a value of $39.99, this is a sensationally cool prize, cartooners—not only do you get all four Dick Tracy serials but there’s also some nifty extras…including the classic Command Performance radio broadcast from February 15, 1945 (“Dick Tracy in B-Flat”) and an episode from the 50s TV series.  But you cannot win if you do not enter.  (Believe me…I have tried, and it does not work.)  So get your entries in (one per household, please) for a chance to get a gift that will fit perfectly on your DVD shelf…or if you’re giving it as a Christmas gift, someone else’s shelf.  Enter today!