Sunday, August 31, 2014

Here’s what we thought you should know

An e-mail that I received from my saddle pal Toby at 50 Westerns from the 50s last night (he’s also got another blog of interest—more on this in a sec) prompted me to sit down and compose this post, because there are some blogathons around the corner that I thought fellow classic movie/nostalgia bloggers might be interested in…and I always like to give these good people a shout-out when possible.

Our U-Verse system currently doesn’t carry the digital network offering GetTV—which is rapidly making a name for itself as an oasis for folks who treasure old movies but who either can’t afford or avoid on principle ponying up the extra simolians for The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™.  (GetTV is very similar to MOVIES!...which AT&T U-Verse doesn’t carry, either.  Swine…) The channel is able to draw deep from the extensive film library owned by Sony Home Entertainment, and though there is an Atlanta affiliate that carries the network (WUVG) it’s one of those stations you have to pick up with an antenna.  (Ask your folks what that is, kids.)

Anyway, GetTV—for reasons known only to them—is offering a tribute to the late Mickey Rooney in September…first with a marathon this Labor Day, and then with showings of the Mick’s movies on Thursday nights all month.  Now…keep in mind that since Tee Cee Em pretty much owns the majority of Rooney’s cinematic contributions lock, stock and barrel, the GetTV offerings are going to be along the lines of Sound Off (1952) and Everything’s Ducky (1961)…and I wouldn’t wish films like that on my worst enemy.

Okay, I promised to be positive about this and I see I’ve backslid a bit.  GetTV has partnered with Aurora at Once Upon a Screen, Kellie at Outspoken & Freckled and Paula at Paula’s Cinema Club to honor Mr. R on what would have been his 94th natal anniversary with The GetTV Mickey Rooney Blogathon in September.  (Again, I don’t pretend to understand what motivates these kids…but I don’t blame them—rather a society that tells its youth that the answers are on the MTV video games.)  It’s no secret here at Thrilling Days of Yesteryear that I consider Mickey Rooney to be the celluloid equivalent of prickly heat, but if you’re curious to participate, skate on over to either of those three blogs and present the proper credentials at the window.

Over at Silent-ology (with an assist from Fritzi at Movies Silently), Lea will host The World War I in Classic Film Blogathon, an experiment that’s just what it sounds like—focusing on movies that deal with “The Great War” and optimistically hoping that it will be a learning experience as well.  (Crazy, I know.)  I kind of came to this one late and so most of the features I would have written about had already been snapped up so I decided to sit this one out and just be in the sidelines, rolling bandages.  But if you’re interested…then off with you, my lads and lassies.  (The WWI in Classic Film Blogathon takes place on September 6 and 7.)

On to October!  Kristina at Speakeasy raps the podium for attention with this earth-shattering announcement:

“Sorry to break it to you, but the Hollywood movies you love owe a lot to Canada…”

You do realize your ‘Canadian bacon’ is ham, right?  But it's Sunday and nice out, so I’ll take your word for it…anyhoo, Kristina and Ruth at Silver Screenings will co-host The O Canada Blogathon from October 4-9, focusing on films and movie people with roots in The Great White North.  TDOY has already RSVP’d for this event, and will offer up as its modest contribution an essay on the Technicolor noir Niagara (1953).  Plenty of movies and movies stars up for grabs, though—so if you’re interested click on this linky and sign up.

The last blogathon announcement involves the Toby I mentioned in the opening paragraph, who when not a-ropin’ and a-ridin’ at 50 Westerns chats up non-oaters from the 50s, 60s and 70s at his new blog, The Hannibal 8.  As a blog warming—because he cannot afford pizza and beer once we've volunteered to help move his stuff—Toby is going to host The Jack Webb Blogathon at his new digs from October 17-19.  Any and all things Webb will be the focus of the ‘thon, from his seminal police procedural Dragnet to his cinematic output to any of his other radio/TV offerings like Pat Novak for Hire or Adam-12.  I’ve informed Toby that TDOY is so up for this, and I’ve chosen as my text a look at the film that laid the groundwork for Dragnet, 1948’s He Walked by Night.  I know people like Our Lady of Great Caftan would love to get involved in this, and the rest of you should follow suit as well.

One of the perks of participating in the Classic Television Blog Association’s Summer of Classic TV Blogathon in June was that because it was in partnership with the channel responsible for transforming the once-proud TVLand into one of those bar dames who’ll sing a torch song for the price of a Jell-O shot—I am referring, of course, to the magnificence that is MeTV—public relations rep Melissa Kennedy was nice enough to send all the participating bloggers some swag in the form of a MeTV T-shirt.  But the nicest surprise was, since I was going to give the shirt to mi madre (as you know, most of my clothes come from Tents by Omar), Melissa threw in a MeTV ball cap as well.  So many, many thanks to her.

Melissa also sent me an e-mail announcing the new offerings on MeTV beginning tomorrow (September 1—Central and Mountain individuals click here); sadly, we have one of those U-Verses that refuses to carry the digital substation of WSB-TV that features MeTV (I have spoken on the Twitter machine with AT&T subscribers from other localities, and they tell me they do receive it on their system) so I will miss out on the premieres of programs like CHiPs and Saved by the Bell.  (Yes, that is sarcasm—I’m sorry, Melissa…but this is how TVLand started its decline.)  The curious thing is that MeTV will also introduce The Andy Griffith Show to its programming ranks…but (this is your big but) due to contractual reasons, MeTV can’t air TAGS in every city—so some cities will get in its place…wait for it

…yes, The Not-Andy Griffith Show, Mayberry R.F.D.  When our Charter first introduced MeTV to its lineup I remember that we were treated to an extra half-hour of The Dick Van Dyke Show on weekday nights because those same contractual reasons kept the network from showing its regularly scheduled offering, Cheers, in Atlanta.  (Not that this is a bad thing, for those people who know how much I worship the Van Dyke show.)  Despite the fact that WATL shows TAGS reruns at 7:30pm weeknightly, WSB-DT (our MeTV affiliate) will be running TAGS at 8 and 8:30pm.  So WSB viewers will be spared lesser Mayberry; I would have bet differently (and lost a substantial amount of money).  Many thanks to TDOY cub reporter Tom Stillabower for giving me the heads-up on the TAGS/RFD situation.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Shuns of August

I managed to write only four posts this month (well, this one will make five) and if I could come up with another synonym for “pathetic” off the top of my head I’d use it.  I really do apologize for not spending more time with the blog, and in the tradition of last minute movie redemption—where the dad realizes he’s been a real tool and pledges to square it with his wife and kids—I have lain awake thinking of ways to make things right.

Beginning in September, I will get back to Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s regular schedule of Doris Day(s) and Serial Saturdays.  I’m as fed up with my excuses as you are, and so on September 6th I’ll pick up Government Agents vs. Phantom Legion again (I’m even auditioning what chapter play to tackle next once I finish Gubmint…and it looks as if it will be another Republic), with an installment of America’s Favorite Vanilla Sixties Sitcom following on Monday.  I have no one to blame for the delays but myself; I spent this past week winnowing down the many, many feature films that I recorded on the U-Verse Total Home DVR For Life©, so that kept me pretty preoccupied…and while I didn’t watch everything that I transferred to physical media (blank DVDs) I saw enough to initiate some essays here on the blog.

Because that’s what I’m really hoping to get back doing here at TDOY; I miss watching movies for the sheer fun of it—it sometimes feels like I’m just sitting down with a film because of a blogathon commitment, and that’s something I plan to cut back on as well.  The blogathons, I mean.  When I pored over the various DVDs in the dusty TDOY archives for the purposes of hawking some on eBay (in order that my mother didn’t have to go up to people in the street and ask “New in town, sailor?”) I really tried to be restrictively selective in what I was going to keep and what was going up on the auction block.  The film noirs were going to stay (a no-brainer), as well as the silent and sound comedies (also no-duh) and vintage horror films (the Universal stuff)…and the occasional cult classic and sentimental fave (don’t fret—I hung onto Fast Food).  So if anyone’s planning to hold a blogathon in which I’m not able to shoehorn in one of those styles/genres…then the extent of my participation is simply going to have to be a promotional announcement.  Other than that, I’m your guy.

Now the other bit of bad news.  I’ve wrestled with this for the past several days, and I’ve decided to retire “Coming Distractions.”  I gave serious consideration to hanging it up about a year ago and demurred because it was so darn popular…but I’m not going to lie to you: it’s a time-consuming process cobbling it together, and when you find yourself playing Microsoft Solitaire instead of putting your nose to the grindstone to get it done…well, that was a sign that maybe I needed to give Distractions a gold watch and let it fill out the paperwork for its pension.  There are plenty of classic movie blogs capable of stepping into the breach (you'll find them listed among the CMBA blogs in the blogroll) and they can accomplish the monthly feat of keeping you informed without nearly as much snark.

Fret not that mentions of The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ will disappear from the blog…because 1) Rick Brooks is eyeing that Batman: The Complete Series Blu-ray set, and 2) I’ve got enough material that I recorded off of Tee Cee Em in the past for five blogs.  (Not that I’d ever post anything on them…but it’s the thought that counts…)  I’m planning on digging through the TDOY archives to either revisit or premiere movies in an effort to participate more in Sweet Freedom’s Overlooked Films feature on Tuesdays, and I also need to jumpstart Adventures in Blu-ray, which debuted to positive fanfare before stomping off and slamming the bedroom door behind it sulk.  I’ve been kind of a crazy Blu-ray buying spree of late (well…not too crazy) and I hope to have some Adventures candidates lined up shortly.

So that’s the State of the Blog for August…profuse apologies for the continued neglect, and I’ll see you after the Labor Day weekend.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Why are these men smiling?

Well, it’s very simple…they've just learned that with the bummer of a week movie and television fans have been experiencing—not only the tragic death of Robin Williams and the passing of a film icon, Lauren Bacall, but the demise of Ed Nelson and Arlene Martel—Shout! Factory has announced that all 143 episodes of a TV sitcom classic, The Phil Silvers Show, will be released to DVD on November 4th.

I mentioned briefly on the blog back in May that a Region 2 version of this release was in the works for September, and after that announcement I heard scuttlebutt from both Rick Brooks and Stephen Bowie that there would be a Region 1 version, too.  From what I have gleaned on the Book of Face, each set will have its own distinctive collection of bonuses and extras, which will kind of suck if you’re into that thing.  Me, I’m just happy to have all of Bilko on DVD—after The Dick Van Dyke Show (which I recently purchased in its entirety on Blu-ray) it’s my favorite situation comedy of all time.

Speaking of just being happy to have a show on DVD (okay, that segueway needs a little work), has announced that Timeless Factory Video is re-issuing M Squad: The Complete Series, which the Timeless people gifted us with in 2008.  If you already own this collection, there’s not a whole lot on here that’ll be new to you (the re-release does have a cheaper SRP, though)—I thought there might be a chance that Timeless would improve on the video quality of the previous release but it’s essentially same wine, different bottle.  There will be a bonus disc of Lee Marvin’s guest appearances on The Virginian, Checkmate and Wagon Train (plus an episode of Lee Marvin Presents Lawbreaker, which Timeless brought to disc in March of last year) to go along with the reduced pricing.

Once again, I apologize for the fallow fields on the blog of late: I just finished up a project that was not only rewarding financially but just a heck of a lot of fun to do…and no sooner had I completed that when I was offered a follow-up.  (I feel kind of bad choosing these tasks over entertaining the TDOY faithful…but in my defense, they are rather large checks.)  I have some staggering good news to pass along, however: after many months of dragging my feet, I finally found the initiative to hook the old Toshiba DVD recorder up to the AT&T U-Verse Total DVR-for-Life® in order to copy some of the flicks I’ve grabbed off The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ and after a few trials-and-errors, took a victory lap when I got the various apparatuses (apparati?) to work.  So I’ll be able to whittle down the substantial amount of movies I’ve saved, and have some reviews of movies to offer up in the bargain.  More to follow soon!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The British Invaders Blogathon: Went the Day Well? (1942)

This essay is Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s contribution to The British Invaders Blogathon, currently underway from August 1-3 at A Shroud of Thoughts and spotlighting the best in classic films that originated on the other side of the pond.  For a list of participating blogs and the movies/topics discussed, click here.

There’s very little doubt as to the outcome of the events in Went the Day Well? (1942)—Charlie Sims (Mervyn Johns), the verger at the local church, explains in the first three minutes of the movie that the famed “Battle of Bramley End” came out all right in the wash.  We then flashback to a Whitsun weekend in the sleepy little English hamlet—Whitsun being the English designation for Pentecost—where there wasn’t much going on save for a platoon of British soldiers who have arrived in Bramley under the supervision of Major Hammond (Basil Sydney).  Hammond makes arrangements to billet his men, with the inhabitants most welcoming of their temporary guests.

Still...there’s something a bit unsettling about the presence of Hammond and his men.  Nora Ashton (Valerie Taylor), the vicar’s daughter, finds it curious that when the back of a telegram was used to mark down scores in a card game that took place among several soldiers—the figures were jotted down in the “Continental” manner, with elongated fives and strokes through the sevens.  Nora’s suspicions are further aroused when young George Truscott (Harry Fowler) finds a chocolate bar among Hammond’s personal effects.  An Austrian chocolate bar.

Nora takes her concerns to the village squire, Oliver Wilsford (Leslie Banks)…but today is just not her lucky day.  Wilsford is a fifth columnist, working with Hammond—whose real identity is Kommandant Orlter, and who’s on hand as the leader of a vanguard of an invasion of Britain.  Oriter and his men quickly establish their authority in the blink of an eye (by killing the Reverend Ashton, Nora’s father, when he attempts to signal outside help by ringing the church bell) and inform the stunned populace that no one is leaving Bramley…and any attempts to contact anyone outside the village will be dealt with most severely.  (Nazis.  I hate these guys.)

Went the Day Well? is a mixture of WW2 propaganda, comic nightmare and subversive surrealism that was produced at the renowned Ealing Studios, a name we usually associate with such classic comedies like Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949) and The Lavender Hill Mob (1951).   The source for the script (written by John Dighton, Angus MacPhail and Diana Morgan) was a short story written by Graham (The Third Man) Greene; in “The Lieutenant Died Last,” published in the U.S. in 1940, a poacher single-handedly stymies a Nazi attempt to invade a rural English village.  Dighton, MacPhail and Morgan considerably expanded the scope of Graham’s tale, though they did feature the poacher (played by Edward Rigby) as a minor character.

Despite the spoiler warning at the beginning of the movie, Went the Day Well? is a model of cinematic suspense; sure, we know the villagers eventually get the word out concerning their plight, but director Alberto Cavalcanti makes us squirm in true Hitchcockian fashion.  (Cavalcanti would later go on to helm the most famous segment of the 1945 British horror anthology Dead of Night—the one with Sir Michael Redgrave and that freaking ventriloquist dummy—and the underrated 1947 noir They Made Me a Fugitive.)  Two Land Army girls, Peggy Fry (Elizabeth Allan) and Ivy Dawking (Thora Hird), manage to scrawl a message of help onto an egg that is placed in a box with other hen fruit and handed off to a boy delivering newspapers by bicycle.  The paperboy is sideswiped by a car on its way to Bramley, and the eggs wind up smashed.  This sets up the next attempt: the driver of the car is a woman named Maud Chapman (Hilda Bayley), who’s there to pay her dowager cousin Mrs. Fraser (Marie Lohr) a visit.  Fraser manages to smuggle a note to her cuz in the pocket of her jacket, but Maud uses the paper to steady a rattling window on the passenger side of her automobile.  (The paper later becomes dislodged and is devoured in the backseat by Maud’s dog.)

The film often juxtaposes moments of black comedy and jarring, disturbing violence—the most memorable sequence involves the town’s postmistress (Muriel George), who also moonlights as Bramley’s phone operator.  Held hostage in her home by one of the German soldiers, she springs into action by throwing pepper into the Nazi’s eyes and dispatches him to the Great Beyond with the help of an axe.  She then tries to ring for help but her call is ignored by a gossipy phone operator from a neighboring town…and by the time chatty Gertrude returns to the desperate woman she’s met the business end of a German bayonet.

Released in December of 1942, Went the Day Well? premiered a few months after the similar The Next of Kin (also produced by Ealing, and featuring Well? players Johns, Sydney, Hird and Johnnie Scofield)—both movies were made not necessarily to scare the British public, but to highlight the possible dangers of a Nazi invasion.  Most scholars are in agreement that by the time of the movie’s release, that scenario was highly unlikely.  Still, the movie continues to exert its influence; the 1971 feature film version of the hit Britcom Dad’s Army (as well as a couple of episodes of the series) covers similar ground as well as the 1972 novel The Eagle Has Landed, which was brought to the big screen in 1977.  The mention of “the Home Guard” in the film kind of made me smile because I couldn’t help but think of what Dad’s Army fans call “The Magnificent Seven”…though I would be remiss in pointing out that what happens to the Guard in Went the Day Well? is far more savage than any of the shenanigans that befell Captain Mainwaring and Company.

Went the Day Well? eventually reached U.S. shores in June of 1944, retitled 48 Hours…because most American audiences were not familiar with the famous quotation by John Maxwell Edmonds that was borrowed for the title of the movie.  (“Went the day well?/We died and never knew/But, well or ill/Freedom, we died for you”)  It’s been off the radar screens of most classic film buffs—but according to TCM oracle Robert Osborne, it was one of the surprise hits of the TCM Film Festival in 2011…and recently premiered on The Greatest Cable Channel Known to Mankind™ in April of this year.  Bobby Osbo and guest programmer Glenn Taranto noted that with the exception of Leslie Banks (subversively cast as the treacherous Wilsford in light of his heroics in 1935’s Sanders of the River) and Mervyn Johns (Glynis’ pop; he’s also in Dead of Night) most of the British thesps will be unfamiliar to us Yanks; but I recognized Dame Thora, or course, as well as Patricia Hayes (as the postmistress’ assistant) and David Farrar (Black Narcissus).  (James Donald and Dad’s Army’s Private Godfrey, Arnold Ridley, also appear in bit parts.)

No, I first became acquainted with Went the Day Well? when I read about it as one of the entries in Halliwell’s Hundred; released to Region 2 DVD in November of 2006, I procured myself a copy (though the movie was re-released in 2011 to take advantage of its 2010 restoration—this is the version Tee Cee Em showed in April) and have been a champion of the movie ever since.  It’s unquestionably one of the finest war films I’ve ever watched, a masterful blend of comedy and suspense…and the next time it makes the rounds again on Turner Classic Movies, I suggest you make an appointment to see it.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Jeff Goldblum Blogathon: Between the Lines (1977)

This essay is Thrilling Days of Yesteryear’s entry in the Goldblumathon, currently underway at Cinematic Catharsis from August 1-3, and spotlighting the films of one of our most treasured modern-day character thesps. Jeff Goldblum.  Participating blogs and the topics under discussion can be found here.

In 1975, screenwriter Joan Micklin Silver directed her first feature—an independent film based on an 1896 novel by writer Abraham Cahan entitled Yekl: A Tale of the New York Ghetto.  The book, which detailed the experiences of a newly-arrived-to-these-shores Jewish woman at the turn of the century, had special resonance for Silver, whose own family were Russian immigrants much like the characters in the novel.  No studio would finance what eventually was brought to the screen as Hester Street (the consensus was that it was “a lovely film, but for a Jewish audience”), so Silver’s husband Raphael raised $400,000 to shoot the movie under the auspices of their company, Midwest Film Productions.  Hester Street would wind up grossing $5 million in the U.S., and not only nabbed lead actress Carol Kane a Best Actress Oscar nomination but garnered Silver a Writers Guild nomination for best screenplay.  (It was also placed on the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2011.)

Despite the success of Hester Street, the Silvers still couldn’t get any studio to back their next project, a 1977 comedy-drama entitled Between the Lines.  So the couple were once again forced to fend for themselves.  Lines tells several stories behind the scenes of a fictional Boston alternative newspaper, The Back Bay Mainline, inspired by screenwriter Fred Barron’s earlier experiences at both the real-life The Boston Phoenix and The Real Paper.  (Director Silver had also worked at one time for The Village Voice—though that publication is considerably more upscale than the paper in the movie.)  It’s a timeworn movie cliché, I know—but Lines is one of those “best movies you’ve never seen”; an engaging vehicle that mixes solid acting with first-rate scripting, and spotlights an impressive cast of folks who would go on to bigger and better things.

A character in Lines describes The Back Bay Mainline—which began life as a “radical underground” rag before changing with the times to reflect on the counterculture—as a “way station”; it’s staffed by people on their way up and on their way down.  Belonging to the former group is Michael (Stephen Collins), a frustrated novelist who’s been accused by at least one Mainline staffer of sponging off his girlfriend Laura (Gwen Welles) while he waits for a publisher to buy his book.  (Laura not only writes for the paper, she works a second job so that the two of them can keep body and soul together.)  Michael eventually gets an advance from a company who’s going to publish his book, and he expects Laura to go with him to New York.  She, however, would rather stay in Boston, where her job and friends are.

Harry Lucas (John Heard) is one of the paper’s veterans; a talented investigative reporter, he sadly lacks Michael’s determination to better himself by also writing a book, and his on-again-off-again relationship with girlfriend Abbie (Lindsay Crouse) is sailing troubled waters.  Abbie, the paper’s photographer, is fiercely independent (and damn good at her job), refusing to settle for a life where Harry writes and she “bakes bread” all day; she demonstrates this individuality in one scene where Harry is interviewing a dancer (Marilu Henner) in a strip club.  Abbie develops an instant journalistic rapport with the woman known as “Danielle,” something Harry (who’s writing an investigative piece) clearly resents.

Other staffers on the paper include David Entwhistle (Bruno Kirby), in charge of the Mainline’s personal ads but harboring a burning desire to be a reporter.  He gets a tip from music columnist Max Arloft (Jeff Goldblum) that a gentleman running for city council, Kevin “The Duck” Austin (Guy Boyd), is actually the man behind a major record bootlegging operation in town—and David risks being worked over by a pair of Austin’s goombahs to get the story.  Tipster Max is one of the paper’s most colorful personages; he’s always broke and cadging loans from the other employees including receptionist-typist Lynn (Jill Eikenberry), who functions as the surrogate mother of the group.

Lynn will turn out to be the most principled member of the Mainline staff.  There are rampant rumors that the paper’s publisher, Stuart Wheeler (Richard Cox), is planning to sell the Mainline to a rival publisher named Roy Walsh (Lane Smith), who specializes in buying up alternatives and transforming them into more mainstream publications.  In an early scene in the film set at a local restaurant, several of the paper’s employees discuss this possibility and vow to quit should it come to pass.  But when Walsh does get his hands on the paper, Lynn is the only employee who resigns in protest after Walsh orders editor Frank (Jon Korkes) to fire Harry for insubordination.  (In a marvelous scene, Walsh apologizes to her for not knowing her name while he’s asking her to perform some mundane task, and she tells him: “You don’t have to learn my name…because I quit.”)

One of my favorite scenes in Between the Lines features a little impromptu dancing from Lindsay Crouse (L), Gwen Welles (M) and Jill Eikenberry (R).
Though the period fashions of Between the Lines will no doubt induce a few giggles from those curious to check out the movie, the feature itself doesn’t seem at all dated: its themes of corporate rapaciousness in the journalism business and whether or not to compromise one’s idealism (“selling out” or “cashing in”?) will still resonate with audiences today.  For a low-budget independent film, Lines sports some powerhouse acting talent.  Stephen Collins is best known as the star of the long-running TV series 7th Heaven, and Lindsay Crouse would go on to appear in the likes of The Verdict, Places in the Heart and House of Games.  Jill Eikenberry was a cast member on the hit TV series L.A. Law while John Heard would star in such movies as The Milagro Beanfield War, Big and The Pelican Brief (he also worked in director Silver’s first studio feature, Chilly Scenes of Winter [1979—later retitled Head Over Heels]).

But what about the man of the hour—the focus of this here blogathon?  Goldblum’s Max Arloft is a charming scoundrel, constantly hitting on women (one of the movie’s highlights has him lecturing on “Whither Rock ‘n’ Roll?” to a group of female college students dutifully jotting down his every nonsensical utterance) and complaining about his $75-a-week salary (he’s forced to sell review copies of albums he’s received to a used record store for extra cash, a point he brings up in his negotiations for a raise with the Mainline’s publisher).  Max is Lines’ comic relief; in one scene, the newspaper’s office is invaded by a self-described performance artist (Raymond J. Barry, in his film debut) who begins wrecking the joint in an attempt to get attention…and Arloft joins in, punching holes in the office walls and ripping the shirt off the paper’s asshole advertising manager (Lewis J. Stadlen). 

Stanley exposed.
And yet—Max has a serious and even heroic side; realizing that David’s life may be in danger after tipping him off to “The Duck’s” activities, he races with Harry and Abbie to where David is supposed to meet the bootlegger just in time to see his friend receive a serious ass-kicking.  An enraged Max rips off the antenna from his car and starts brandishing it in a threatening manner in front of Austin’s goons as Abbie and Harry assist the injured David.  (Goldblum’s invective toward the henchies is a riot, along the lines of “pernicious ill-shits.”)

In his reference book Guide for the Film Fanatic, Danny Peary describes Between the Lines as “one of those films that I wish would never end.”  He astutely points out how most of the well-written characters of the film are flesh-and-blood human beings; they might act nobly in one instance and dickishly in the next, just like the people we know in real life.  Max is a great Goldblum character, and Jeff’s performance is in some ways a blueprint for the jaded journalist he later plays in The Big Chill (1983), Michael Gold.  Before the end of the movie, Goldblum’s Max encounters Harry and Abbie in a bar and Harry asks him what his plans are.  “Write a book,” he replies.  “About the loss of innocence…alienation…corruption…“  (He’s kidding, by the way.)  The Chill leitmotif of faded idealism is quite prevalent in Lines, as several of the characters reflect on the fun and good times that they had while working on the Mainline in the past…and how the takeover by the Robert Murdoch-like Walsh (character great Lane Smith’s Walsh is a douchebag without peer—quite a departure from his future role as editor Perry White on TV’s The Adventures of Lois & Clark) will bring an end to all that.

The gentleman who chats with Collins in an early scene—and then later buys drinks for Goldblum at the end of the film—is writer-humorist Doug Kenney, co-founder of the National Lampoon…who left this world for a better one at the age of 33 in a bizarre falling-off-a-cliff incident that still remains murky today.  (Kenney is the guy who plays “Stork” in National Lampoon’s Animal House—“Well, what are we s’posed to do, you moron?”)
Other future stars in Lines include the aforementioned Marilu Henner (who gets to shake her moneymaker as stripper Danielle), Joe Morton and Robert Constanzo (as one of Austin’s henchmen), and the ubiquitous Michael J. Pollard appears as “The Hawker,” seen in the opening credits handing out papers to passersby and people in cars (there’s an interesting scene where Pollard’s character is shown to be crashing at the paper’s offices in his off-hours, sleeping under a pinball machine and using several issues of the Mainline as a pillow).  Southside Johnny (Lyon) and the Asbury Jukes appear as themselves (decked out in leisure suits from Polyester R Us) and are prominently featured on the soundtrack (I Don’t Want to Go Home, Sweeter Than Honey).  Check out a great Jeff Goldblum performance in Between the Lines, available on manufactured-on-demand (MOD) DVD from MGM/UA.