Thursday, April 30, 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015: Z is for Robert Z'Dar!

I was shocked and saddened to hear of the recent passing of Robert Z’Dar – so he took over the last post in this April 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge.

Robert Z’Dar first showed up on my pop culture radar screen when he played the title role in Maniac Cop. Z’Dar was the hulking Matt Cordell – a police officer betrayed by his fellow officers and killed – but now back from the grave for revenge. 

After that, I started to notice his unique name whenever it popped up in the credits of another genre movie – and I watched him in several of those, including The Night Stalker (1987), Cherry 2000, and Tango and Cash.

He returned for two more Maniac Cop sequels in 1990 and 1993 and both of them were pretty good too.
I reviewed some of his movies back in my old review newsletter M5 – and it was a mix of his then-newest movies and some of his older flicks. I noticed back then that he had some physical issues that were manifesting visibly across his career. Apparently Z’Dar suffered from a genetic disorder called "cherubism" that kept the bones in his lower facial structure growing - and his jawline was visibly larger throughout his career. According to everyone who met him or worked with him his medical issues did not affect his interactions with them – they all say he was wonderful to be around.

Sadly, during a convention appearance in Florida at the end of March, Robert Z’Dar suffered a massive cardiac arrest and died shortly thereafter. You should check out some Robert Z'Dar shows when you can in his memory.

After that sad post, I do want to turn to a happier note - today is my birthday! Huzzah! As I have for the previous four years, I'm ending this whole April 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge with a couple of video clips to celebrate my natal day.

From the excellent movie The Man from Hong Kong:

And since I'm totally in a 007 mood with Spectre coming in about 200 days - here's the teaser trailer to Licence to Kill (1989)...

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With Some Birthday Cake, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015: Y is for Michelle Yeoh!

Michelle Yeoh was born in 1963 in Ipoh, Malaysia. As a young girl she studied ballet and seemed to be headed for a career in dance, but a spinal injury ended her dance career. She continued to study choreography.

In 1983, she won the Miss Malaysia beauty pageant, then went on to represent Malaysia at the Queen of the Pacific 1983 beauty pageant which she also won. This moved her on to the 1983 Miss World pageant, which she did not win.

She next appeared in a television commercial with Jackie Chan - foreshadowing events to come - and this brought her to the attention of a fledgling Hong Kong film production company, D-and-B Films - who cast her in the Sammo Hung directed Owl vs Bobbo (1984), and followed it with roles for Yeoh in Yes, Madam (1985); Twinkle Twinkle Lucky Stars (1985) ; In the Line of Duty (1986); Magnificent Warriors (1987); and Easy Money (1987). After these films - in which D-and-B Films had Yeo credited as Michelle Khan - Yeoh married D-and-B honcho Dickson Poon and retired from acting.

Here she is in the trailer for Magnificent Warriors - check out her moves!

When Yeoh and Poon divorced in 1992, Yeoh returned to acting. She teamed with Jackie Chan in 1992 for the incredibly popular Police Story 3: Super Cop (released here as Supercop in 1996) - with both doing an amazing amount of stunt work for the film - and followed it with 6 (!) movies in 1993, then continued making two or three movies a year through the 1990's. Yeoh also ditched the Khan name and moved back to her own moniker.

Here's some of her fights and action from Supercop:

She first came on to my radar in a big way when she was hired as the Bond girl for Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997. I thought she was marvelous as Wai Lin - a Chinese secret agent initially reluctant to team up with Pierce Brosnan's James Bond - and the movie is my favorite of Brosnan's four 007 outings.

Here's the trailer for Tomorrow Never Dies - with some choice Yeoh moments along the way...

Her second film after TND propelled Michelle Yeoh much higher in her fame - Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. While not anything particularly special in terms of Hong Kong action cinema - it really caught on with audiences worldwide - earning massive amounts of money and several nominations and awards, including a BAFTA for Best Actress for Michelle Yeoh!

Michelle Yeoh has continued to act in the 21st century, though more in dramas and fewer action films - but who knows what else she might get up to before age slows her down completely? Definitely check out some of her 80's and 90's movies - action junkies will find a very satisfying fix in Michelle Yeoh!

Until next post - the last for this A-Z Challenge - you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015: X is for Francis X. Bushman!

I became a film buff at a pretty early age - and as a very young man I was even watching silent movies when they would be shown on my local PBS station on the weekends. So it's possible I first encountered Francis X. Bushman watching some of those old flicks. If it wasn't there, it was one of two other shows he worked on - both of which I'll get to in a moment.

Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ  (1925)

Francis X. Bushman - the X stood for Xavier - was born in Baltimore, Maryland January 10, 1883. That officially makes him the oldest person profiled in these 26 posts. He got started in film in 1911 - appearing in dozens of shorts before making his first feature appearance in 1913. All through the silent period he was called The King of the Movies, and was hugely popular. He lost that title - King of the Movies - to Clark Gable eventually - but it's still inscribed on Mr. Bushman's headstone.

Looking dashing in a tuxedo.

He transitioned into sound easily - and continued working - though more sporadically from that point forward. He moved into television appearances in the 1950's - and keep in mind he would have been 67 in 1950 - so when others his age headed into retirement, he kept working.

Staying in shape old school.

In 1957 he played Moses for producer Irwin Allen in the big flop The Story of Mankind. Four years later - he played another guy leading his people to safety - in outer space - in The Phantom Planet. As a nod to his earlier role - his character was called Sesom. (Spell it backwards...)

Ben-Hur - ready to roll.

So, I might have first seen Francis X. Bushman in that movie on the Late Show one night. If not there - then almost certainly on a rerun of Batman - his last or next to last appearance in his long career - as Mr. Van Jones - a silent film aficionado plagued by The Riddler in the two parter "The Riddler's False Notion/Death in Slow Motion."

As Sesom in The Phantom Planet (1961).

Francis X. Bushman racked up more than 200 credits in his 55 year career - but most of them are no longer available to us as so many silent films are lost. Still, he can certainly be seen in The Phantom Planet, which is considered to be in the public domain and is therefore available on scads of cheapie DVDs - and on Batman, which is now available on disc and streaming video.

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Monday, April 27, 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015: W is for William Shatner!

I first had some awareness of the force of nature known as William Shatner half watching some Star Trek reruns after school as a youngster. But it was seeing Star Trek-The Motion Picture on the Big Screen that really gave me my first good experience watching him onscreen. 

Captain James T. Kirk - TV - 1960's

I was never a big TJ Hooker or Rescue 911 fan at the time – but I saw every Star Trek movie as they came out and I eventually rented about 2/3 of the original 79 episodes of Classic Star Trek on VHS over the years.  I also more recently watched his entire run on TV's Boston Legal - which netted Bill more than one Emmy award. 

Captain James T. Kirk - Movies - 1980's

I enjoyed his performances, but I knew he was kinda big and over the top even as a young man – and I was as puzzled as the rest of the world at oddities like his performance of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” on a science fiction awards presentation.

I wasn’t thrilled when he agreed to be a part of killing Captain Kirk off in the seventh Star Trek movie – the one introducing the Next Generation cast to the Big Screen – especially after seeing what a lackluster death scene it was. (And weirdly – that death scene was a reshoot – the original death had been even worse.)

T.J. Hooker

William Shatner is also listed as the author of several books – I say it that way because it is widely believed he has written none of them – letting others ghost write them, sometimes credited as co-writer, sometimes not. I have no idea what he contributed to the authorship of the books in question – but I have enjoyed several of them.

William Shatner - Horseman

The thing that I really like about William Shatner – here’s a guy who seemed to take himself deathly seriously back in the day – then – one day – in the last few years – much like Leslie Neilsen – Shatner discovered the joys of taking the piss out of himself – and was ready willing and able to poke fun at his image and his style anywhere and anytime. Movies like Free Enterprise and Showtime showcase this new side of Shatner well – but there are other examples as well. 

William Shatner - Priceline Negotiator from their long running series of commercials

These days I watch for anything new he’s up to – and that’s a busy watch because William Shatner is endlessly fascinated with our world and technology and is constantly trying new things and ventures. I was also thrilled to briefly meet the man and get a picture with him at a convention appearance – on his 83rd birthday.

Check out some William Shatner when you can – because he’s the Shat!

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015: V is for Jim Varney!

Wow, now here's a pop culture phenomenon for you. Jim Varney started shooting local and regional TV commercials as lovable dimwit Ernest P. Worrell in 1980. With each spot - for products as diverse as milk, car dealerships, and banks - featuring his neverending annoyance of unseen neighbor Vern, Ernest's  popularity and fame grew across the decade until he was a national commercial spokesman in commercials for Coke products like Mello Yello.  This is where I first encountered him - and I liked him - he was hilarious in those commercials.

Ernest P. Worrell

It naturally developed from there to take the character to home video - and in the mid 80's there were comedy tapes like Hey Vern! It's My Family Album, which let the talented Varney indulge his penchant for crazy characters by telling Vern about some notable ancestors in the Worrell family. Of course they also released a compendium of several dozen of the Ernest TV commercials as The Ernest Film Festival and a Volume 2 of same. 

Auntie Nelda

Then, in 1986, the production company behind Ernest made an honest-to-goodness feature film starring Varney with the wonderful title Dr. Otto and the Riddle of the Gloom Beam. It turned out to be a completely off the wall comedy adventure with Varney essaying the title role, a would-be Bond villain named Dr. Otto von Schnick-Ick-Ick. There is a brief appearance by Ernest in the movie as well. 

Dr. Otto von Schnick-Ick-Ick 

In 1987, with the Ernest character now a definitely known presence in pop culture, and a money maker as well, someone decided there needed to be an actual theatrically released Ernest movie. I'm not sure what went on behind the scenes in the development of the script - but it appears that early on it was decided to jettison Vern completely and just let Ernest go about his business in a very family friendly way - highly appropriate for a character seen exclusively thus far in G rated antics hawking products on television or in those inoffensive videos - well, except for Dr. Otto, which actually has some darker moments, but I'm not sure very many people saw that one...so....

Jed Clampett - The Beverly Hillbillies

After Ernest Goes to Camp a whole movie franchise built up around Varney – although nearly all of the movies after the first went direct to video. In the end Varney did something like a dozen Ernest movies – as well as appearing in other films like The Beverly Hillbillies and Snowboard Academy – and providing the voice of Slinky Dog in the first two Toy Story movies. Although the movies are lowbrow and aimed mostly at kids – Ernest is a marvelous character and Varney played him wonderfully. I wish he could have shown more of his talents in other roles – something that did frustrate him at times – but I’m glad we have Ernest – and Dr. Otto – to enjoy. Check out some Jim Varney next chance you get!

As the bad guy in 3 Ninjas: High Noon at Mega Mountain

Until next post you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Friday, April 24, 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015: U is for Ursula Andress!

t is the 21st post in the April 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge - and I think the time has come to bring out a little of the Eye Candy we like to spotlight around here. And, why not make it a Bond Girl. In fact, let's make it the First Bond Girl...

And here's the famous scene now - Ursula Andress as Honey Ryder - emerging from sea in Dr. No.

That is not Ursula Andress's voice - talking or singing. She was dubbed for the whole movie, as Cubby Broccoli thought she sounded like "a Dutch comic." 

Regardles of whose voice box she was using in the movie - she was a gorgeous specimen of womanhood - and started a fine tradition of lovely ladies appearing as the female leads in the James Bond movie series.

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015: T is for Tawny Moyer!

I know exactly when Tawny Moyer showed up on my pop culture radar - I was sitting in a movie theater in Marion, Illinois in 1981- watching Halloween II. 

There are several lovely ladies in the movie - starting with Jamie Lee Curtis - and including Gloria Gifford, Pamela Susan Shoop, and Ana Alicia - but it's Tawny Moyer - all fresh faced girl-next-door in her starched white uniform playing Nurse Jill - who really caught my eye that day.

Spoiler Alert - Nurse Jill does not make it to the end of the movie.

In the years since I have corresponded with Ms. Moyer - who sent me an 8X10 for my Wall of Fame - and it has since had more ink added to it to make it even more special....

I have seen Ms. Moyer in several 80's TV shows - but it will always be Nurse Jill who sends me over the moon - thanks for the memories, Ms. Moyer!

Hold me at gunpoint - it's still Jill for me, Tawny Moyer!

Until next post, you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A-Z Challenge 2015: S is for Samantha Fox!

I first encountered London born Samantha Fox - as probably most people in America did - when her pop song "Touch Me (I Want to Be Dirty)" hit the charts. It was followed not long after by "Naughty Girls Need Love Too."

Well, for a red blooded teenage boy - these songs - and the gorgeous lady who sang them - was just what the doctor ordered.

She was cute and curvaceous - and unafraid to dress accordingly. In fact, she became famous because her parents submitted lingerie photos of her to a contest - and she came in 2nd out of 20,000 entrants. This led to her appearance as one of the notorious "Page 3" girls in the Sun tabloid in England. She was eventually voted the most popular Page 3 girl ever. She then moved into pop music.

My very favorite of her songs was actually a cover of one of Dusty Springfield's hits - "I Only Want to Be with You."

And let's just pop that video right on in here...

In recent years Samantha Fox has come out as gay, and is in a civil union with her manager Myra Stratton. I wish her every happiness, but I'm kind of glad I only found this out recently - teen me would have been devastated!

I'm still a fan of the lady and her music - check out some Samantha Fox when you get the opportunity!

In recent times - still lovely.

Until next post - you Can Poke Me With A Fork, Cause I Am Outta Here!