Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Doogie MD

DOOGIE HOWSER, M.D. (Season 4)

Neil Patrick Harris / Max Casella / Belinda Montgomery / Lawrence Pressman / Mitchell Anderson / Kathryn Layng / Lisa Dean Ryan / Lucy Boryer / Markus Redmond / James B. Sikking  Mitchell Anderson  /  Theme by  Mike Post  /  Created by  Stephen Bochco & David E. Kelley

——————

With the success of  ‘The Big Bang Theory‘, the geek has somehow stepped out of the shadows and almost taken on a sort of ironical cool. Popular culture radiates towards oddball characters, and they don’t come much stranger than Doogie Howser, with his 50’s alien genius forehead, and stoic, monotone computer delivery. Neil Patrick Harris as Doogie Howser projected an almost Magyver-like geeky-cool, as a kid prodigy who is forever struggling with one foot in the adult world, while  the other hesitatingly tries to understand his teenage contemporaries. The Doogie persona managed to make an indelible impact on the cultural consciousness, despite being axed by it’s network  after only 4 Seasons (a drop in the ocean next to other far less competent shows that sailed through on a wing and a prayer). Child prodigies seem to have cropped up left, right and centre since Doogie Howser shut up shop, from the Tv comedy geekery of ‘Big Bang’, to comic book child superheroes like ‘Kick-ass‘ and the X-Men kids taking to the big screen. Wrapped up in the mutated genius character, Neil Patrick Harris himself has carried the character of Doogie around ever since, appearing in each and every subsequent role as a sort of aged version of the smart kid in the sneakers. His appearance as the genius, ‘head-hunted from high-school’  in ‘Starship Troopers‘ being the clearest ‘what Doogie did next’ addendum.

Starship Troopers

A genius idea about a genius kid who was so smart he got fast-tracked through High School and became a Doctor by the age of 16. Oddly billed as a comedy-drama, Doogie Howser was never shy in bringing serious issues to a younger, perhaps unsuspecting audience, serving up snappy half-hour takes on such tricky subjects as racism, gang culture, Aids and Homophobia, while  rather uniquely blending them with a liberal dollop of teen angst. The format is now a familiar one, thanks to the Show’s creative force, Stephen Bochco, that of an exploration of a serious topic through sympathetic characters, who go on a journey of conscience within the episode, and then tell us what they’ve learnt at the close… a sort of entertaining, warm hearted essay. In this case we have the  last word given by Howser  in the form of his journal entry, either spoken or scrolling across the screen for us to read.  A form that ‘Sex and the City‘ used to clever effect, to structure the episode around it’s literary, narrative origins. This sense of the the ‘narrative’ as a device within the show itself crops up from time to time in other ways, most notably with Doogie’s best friend ‘Vinnie Delpino‘ (Max Casella, who recently appeared alongside Brad Pitt in ‘Killing them Softly‘), who as Howser’s grounding contact with kids his own age, extends the documentary style by repeatedly filming within the scenes with a video camera,  ubiquitously delivering Scorsese type lines… ‘Hey! That camera is my life‘!’

Doogie MD - Titles

The Stephen Bochco magic spawned both Hill Street Blues and LA LAW for the mature audience, but managed to cut as much sway with the younger viewers via Doogie Howser. Later seasons, most notably Season four ran into the all too typical pattern of taking jaunts into surreal dream states to perhaps make up for a lack of plot ideas.. a structure that later American hits like Ally McBeal would make a more fundamental part of their main concept (perhaps even more effectively used in the French film ‘Amelie‘, which clearly took inspiration in part from McBeal’s flair for the surreal moment). Doogie need not feel too upset with his four Season run though.. since, let’s face it, he couldn’t stay a teen Doctor forever, so the Show had an inbuilt flatline,  that would eventually collide with it’s star’s advancing maturity. Re-watching Doogie Howser is a delight that I hadn’t quite expected. Like greeting an old geeky, childhood friend, who thanks to good judgement, has retained his youthful vigour for life, and didn’t get any taller.

STILLS & PROMOS

Doogie MD - Stills 1   Neil Patrick Harris  Doogie Howser - Promos

doogie03   Doogie Howser - Cast - S3

————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

Doogie Howser Season 4 will be released by

Revelation Films – 28th Jan. 2013

Advertisements

Holocaust - James Woods & Meryl Streep

HOLOCAUST

‘The Story of the Family Weiss’

Meryl Streep / Marius Goring / Joseph Bottoms / Michael Moriarty / Sam Wanamaker / David Warner / James Woods / Tovah Feldshuh / Fritz Weaver /  Written by Gerald Green  /  Music by Morton Gould  /  Dir. Marvin J. Chomsky

How exactly do you make the holocaust into popular entertainment? It’s ever been a hard enough task in the cinema, but American Television has always been hampered by it’s reliance on keeping sponsors happy, and balancing the stocks & shares. To a certain extent this is less of an issue today, with the presence of so many small filmmaking companies willing to invest and convince the larger networks to risk the avant guard.. at least for occasional jaunts into the experimental. Back in 1978 the announcement that a 9hr miniseries about the holocaust was to be played out weekly as a piece of evening entertainment was greeted by shocks and advance criticism. As it turned out the series was rather well made, with a respectable cast, and a not especially exploitative tone. There were the typical criticisms which abound with historical wartime dramas, with nit-picking about inaccuracies of uniform designs, the poetic license taken with time scale.. the shuffling of real life figures with the fictitious protagonists of the story.. but, the principal problem that ‘Holocaust’ ran into was with the subject matter itself, which even in a faultless production, would nevertheless be seen as trivializing the horrors of the Nazi Final Solution for increased viewing figures.

Holocaust poster

‘Holocaust’s director, Marvin J. Chomsky was quite used to controversy, having only the previous year released a similar style of mini-series ‘Roots’, about the horrors and indignities of the American Slave Trade. ‘Roots’ itself caused much discussion and discomfort among the press and it’s audience, but somehow having a largely black cast in lead roles was seen as a progressive and important advance in television, so any problems with the actual piece itself were deemed of less importance. ‘Holocaust’ coming almost immediately off of the back of ‘Roots’ perhaps seemed to the critics as if the production team had just looking around for another tragedy to exploit. Perhaps if Chomsky had made a series of dramas specifically about WWII, then he would have just been seen as having a particular interest or point to make.. but, switching from Slavery to the holocaust aroused suspicions. Any attempt to release accounts of such sensitive subjects are prone to attack on the grounds of exploitation. There was even some criticism around American publications of The Diary of Anne Frank, which were accused of profiteering, in their bid to increase the Gentile audience for the book by tagging on a preface with a wider appeal, to increase sales with all religious  persuasions. 

Meryl Streep

Hollywood itself has tried on numerous occasions to treat the subject respectfully, with ‘Sophie’s Choice’ and ‘Shindler’s List’ being perhaps the most notable successes. That’s not to say that the results are always as safe and acceptable in the Hollywood. ‘The Day the Clown cried’, made by comedian / auteur Jerry Lewis in 1972 caused such abject horror and disbelief with it’s preview audience, that the film was immediately canned and has never seen the light of day since. Circus clowns and concentration camps clearly do not mix well. In an article from Spy magazine Harry Shearer, having seen a rough-cut of the film wrote: ‘With most of these kinds of things, you find that the anticipation, or the concept, is better than the thing itself. But seeing this film was really awe-inspiring, in that you are rarely in the presence of a perfect object. This was a perfect object. This movie is so drastically wrong, its pathos and its comedy are so wildly misplaced, that you could not, in your fantasy of what it might be like, improve on what it really is. “Oh, my God!” – that’s all you can say.’

The Day the Clown Cried (1972) Jerry on-set

Meryl Streep shines as a key focal point in the whole drama, even if she is not present in every scene, it is to her that we radiate, since she has such a magnetic appeal on film. This is though, what we might call the proto-Meryl, since she only had two minor roles under her belt at the time, we experience the development of the now all too familiar impassioned expressions, and wan internal looks, which are soon to propel her to great heights post ‘Holocaust’, with such films as ‘The Deer Hunter’ (1978), ‘French Lieutenant’s Woman’ (1981) and of course  the remarkable ‘Sophie’s Choice’ (1982).  For James Woods too, ‘Holocaust’ was an early role, with comparatively minor film parts up until that time, it took a few years until his screen persona would truly emerge with notable films ‘Videodrome’ (1983), ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ (1984) .. ‘Cop’ (1988). It’s interesting to see the reversal in the Hollywood star system, where rather than stars turning to television after a successful film career has waned,  the new Hollywood breed were starting out in Tv, with hopes of a stepping stone to a career in the Movies.. George Clooney, Denzel Washington and Bruce Willis to name but a few.

Holocaust - Meryl Streep

To play off against the sympathetic performances of Streep & Woods, we have the ever exceptional David Warner, who relishes every nasty nuance of his role as an unflappable Nazi officer. These parts always seem to suit Warner down to the ground, and over the years have helped to establish a particularly British aspect to the traditional Hollywood badguy, that never seems to quite alter or lose popularity in the villain stakes. A far cry from his 60’s New Wave beginnings in films like ‘Morgan: A suitable Case for Treatment’.. mind you, even as Morgan, Warner had a certain maniacal glee about him, so perhaps the screen villainy was bound to emerge.  Michael Moriarty gives his best cold indifferent face to proceedings, and Ian Holm adds some acting class, as a creepy Heinrich Himmler.. but it’s not really the acting, nor the plot itself that excels, but rather the shocking truth of the subject matter. Yes, ‘Holocaust’ was released by a popular Tv network, and yes it sought some increased viewing figures  through it’s choice of taboo subjects.. but thank heavens it did, since without their pushing of the boundaries and attempts at thought provoking television, we would never have had such modern masterful series as ‘Twin Peaks’‘The Sopranos’, ‘Deadwood’, and ‘Boardwalk Empire’. Aside from the boost to the medium itself, surely any discussion of such a terrible and important time in human history is worthwhile, if it ultimately educates and goes the smallest step towards stopping any repetition of such despicable events.

 

.

.

—————————————————–

POSTER ART

Poster Art

————————————————————————————————————-

 ‘HOLOCAUST’ will be released along with ‘WALLENBERG: A Hero’s Story’

in a  special double set by Revelation Films to coincide with

International Holocaust Remembrance Day  on 27th of January 2013

 

 

CHICAGO HOPE – Season 3

CHICAGO HOPE

-SEASON 3-

So, we’re back at Chicago Hope for the 3rd Season, after that dramatic attack business with Dr.Dennis Hancock during last Season’s finale.  He’s okay.. unless you think wincing in pain whilst being prodded and poked by a bunch of inadequate, dopey looking interns can be considered safe and sound? The Hospital Trust is crumbing after a  semi-corporate take over .. Dr. Kate has been clapped in irons after running off with her daughter, and  Dr. Aaron thinks someone is having sex on his office couch.. yes, business as usual.. Dr. Dr. Dr. etc.  Although we have lost a key player, since Mandy Patinkin jumped ship last season.. although he sort of kept one toe in the door, by popping in on occasion for a cameo or three..  and besides, somehow the cast manage to keep up the pace despite being short staffed. 

Creator and writer David E. Kelley certainly knows his stuff when it comes to weaving TV Hospital and Legal drama series into gold, with such iconic offerings as ‘LA.Law‘, ‘Ally McBeal‘, ‘Doogie Howser M.D.‘, and more recently ‘Boston Legal‘.  The mid-nineties Chicago Hope series is set in an Illinois charity hospital, and manages to combine both medical and legal matters, by installing  an in-house cut-throat lawyer played with aplomb by the excellent Peter MacNicol ( ‘Sophie’s Choice‘ and later to appear as the remarkable ‘Biscuit’, in Kelley’s Ally McBeal), in the earlier Seasons, and introducing the corporate suit Ron Silver (‘Blue Steel’) later on.  So we have a difficult partnership of opposing natures, that of the caring (though affluent) professionals struggling to maintain idealism within the  cold, money-orientated system, whilst an instrument of that very system (MacNicol) fights fire with fire, ultimately making the doctors reliant upon the very backhanded tactics that represent everything they despise about the System. This unholy alliance characterizes much of Kelley’s work, with the legal dramas internalizing the battle between the desire to help, and the seductions of monetary reward, of what is best for the client, and what feeds the Firm that allows the Pro-bono work to exist in the first place.

The general mood of Season 3 is one of recrimination and self doubt, as most of the characters get the rug pulled out from under them in both their careers and private lives. There’s a collective sense of unease throughout, as the very foundations of the Hospital Trust shake and threaten to fall into private hands, with blame shifting left right and centre.  No one is happy in their work or in their play, and by god if they are..well.. we sure as hell know they won’t be for long! Since happy, resolved characters go out the back door, so it’s in everybody’s best interests to radiate a general angst at all times (Adam Arkin being the archetypal King of midlife angst in every role he get’s his teeth into). From the outset this Season we experience Chicago Hope a’new through the eyes of it’s latest generation of interns – “This hospital’s changed..’ mutters one shiny new cast member.. “I hear it’s  haemorrhaging  red ink…”, counters another young’n.  Sounds like the perfect breeding ground for good TV drama, and at the same time an uncomfortable reflection of the fragile National Health Service..

SEASON THREE EPISODES:

Ep.1: Out of Africa  /  Ep.2: Back to the Future  /  Ep.3: Papa’s got a brand new bag  /  Ep.4: Liver let die  /  Ep.5: Liar, liar  /  Ep.6: Higher Powers  /  Ep.7:  A Time to Kill  /  Ep.8:  A Day in the Life  /  Ep.9:  Divided Loyalty  /  Ep.10:  V-Fibbing  /  Ep.11:  Mummy Dearest  /  Ep.12:  Split Decisions  /  Ep.13:  Verdicts  /  Ep.14:  The Day of the Rope  /  Ep.15:  Take my Wife, please.  /  Ep.16: Missed Conception  /  Ep.17:  Mother, may I?  /  Ep.18:  Growing Pains  /  Ep.19:  The Son also Rises  /  Ep.20:  Second Chances  /  Ep.21:  Positive ID’s  /  Ep.22:  Leggo my Ego  /  Ep.23:  Colonel of Truth  /  Ep.24:  Lamb to the Slaughter  /  Ep.25: Love on the Rocks  /  Ep.26: Hope against Hope ~

    

      

  

———————————————————————————————–

Chicago Hope : Season 3

Released on DVD by Revelation Films  on  05/11/12

~~~~~

IF YOU LIKE THIS, THEN YOU’LL LOVE.. 

– E.R.  /  St.Elsewhere  /  Monroe  /  Green Wing  /  Bringing out the Dead (1999) –

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE 

-Season Four  &  TFTDS: The Movie-

‘Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality..
but.. there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is 
just as real, but not as brightly lit… a DARKSIDE.’

Halloween is nearly upon us once more, and with it comes the undying (or is that undead?) necessity for some creepy horror fodder to chill and tickle our collective need for the darkside. A recent newspaper printed the rather dubious findings of a study into the body chemistry of fears, declaring that the body burns off the equivalent calories of one chocolate bar  during a decent Horror film scare session. So it’s official, Horror films are good for you.. at least up until the point that your nerves shred, or your heart stops. At least you’ll leave a nice slim corpse. Well,  it is Halloween.. this sort of dialogue is to be expected, isn’t it?  Now where was I? Tales From The Darkside.. the final Season. Four Seasons was a rather short run for a popular show, but at least it had the good fortune to out with a bang. The bang in question was the rather wonderful Tales From The Darkside Movie, that popped up 2yrs after the 4th Season wrapped, and offered up a plethora of fine guest stars, including Debbie (Blondie) Harry, Julianne Moore, Christian Slater, Rae Dawn Chong and the wonderful Steve Buscemi.

Back in 1982 George A Romero released the now iconic movie ‘Creepshow’, featuring five dark, twisted tales of the macabre that sought to capture the life and vitality of the 50′s American Horror comic. These five tales adhered to the now familiar tradition of storytelling and imagery that began with such writers as H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Alan Poe, becoming collectively known as ‘The American Gothic’.  Soon after followed a Tv incarnation called ‘Tales from the Darkside‘, which toned down the blood and gore, focusing more on atmosphere and paranoia. A more conventional version of this shorter shock storytelling already existed in the 50′s, parallel with the comic genre.  ’The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Outer Limits’ and ‘Night Gallery’, knocked out weekly high quality drama vignettes throughout the late 50′s and 60′s.. but it took the Comic Book to bring together the two very different mediums of Gothic short literature and popular Tv.  These pulp anthology stories released for a short time by EC comics, presented short illustrated tales that could be treated as storyboards for Cinema, combining the literary Gothic tradition, with the lurid excesses of Grindhouse cinema.. indeed both comics and cinema borrowed from each other in equal fashion throughout the period, as they continue to do today. Romero had often expressed a childhood fascination for the Vault of Horror comics released by EC Comics, so it was perhaps inevitable that he would work on a homage in some shape or form.

EPISODE GUIDE TO REVELATION FILMS’ SEASON FOUR RELEASE :

4TH SEASON –  EPISODES:  Beetles / Mary, Mary  /  The Spirit Photographer  /  The Moth  /  No Strings  /  The Grave Robber  /  The Yattering and Jack  /  Seymour Lame  /  Sorry, right number  /  Payment Overdue  /  Love hungry  / The Deal  /  The Apprentice  /  The Cutty Black Sow  /  Do not open this box  /  The family reunion  /  Going Native  /  Hush  /  Barter  /  Basher Malone  – Plus previously unseen episodes –  Akhbar’s daughter  &  Attic Suite  – 

Guest Writers:   Stephen King (The Shining, Shawshank Redemption)  / Clive Barker (Hellraiser)  /  Robert Bloch (Psycho)  / Michael McDowell  (Beetlejuice) ..

Guest Stars:  Deborah Harry (of Blondie), Divine (Hairspray), Bradley Whitefield (West Wing), Polly Draper (Thirtysomething), Allen Garfield  (Chicago Hope). Directors include Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs), Allen Coulter (The Sopranos, Sex & the City) and Tom Savini (Night of the Living Dead, From Dusk Till Dawn)..

Special Guest Director:  Jodie Foster

~

THE MOVIE – Tales:

The Witch (wrap-around)  /  Lot 249  /  Cat from Hell  /  Lover’s vow – 

~

Season 4 showed a decided improvement in both quality and chills, so it seems rather curious that it got axed so swiftly. The success of  the Movie should at the very least have spawned a sequel or two, as it’s rival ‘Tales from the Crypt’ managed.. but sadly the door to the Darkside was firmly closed and locked.. just as things were starting to get interesting. There is something to be said for getting out while the going’s good, though.. and T.F.T.D.S has maintained an eerie presence in the general psyche, that perhaps a longer run might have diminished. Thankfully the release of these collected Seasons of TV gold allow the door to creak open again, for us to peer nervously inside.. go on.. go inside.. you know you love a good scare!

~

~

~

 “The Darkside is always there waiting for us to enter..

waiting to enter us. Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight..”

————————————————————————————————————

Tales From The Darkside : Season 4

Released on DVD by Revelation Films  on  15/10/12

~~~~~

IF YOU LIKE THIS, THEN YOU’LL LOVE.. 

Dead of Night (1945)  /  Deadtime stories (1986)  /  Tales from the Crypt (1972)  / The Hand (1981)  /  Tales from the Crypt  -Tv- (1989-1996)   /  Tales of the Unexpected (1979-1988)  /  Night Gallery (1969-1973)  /  The Twilight Zone (1959-1964..1985-1989..2002-2003)  /  The Outer Limits (1963-1965.. 1995-2002)   /  People shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)

LA LAW: SEASON 3

LA LAW – Season Three

Corbin Bernsen, Jill Eikenberry, Alan Rachins, Michael Tucker, Richard Dysart, Blair Underwood, Larry Drake, Susan Ruttan, Susan Dey, Jimmy Smits, Harry Hamlin, Michele Greene  / Created by  Steven Bochco & Terry Louise Fisher

Justice with an attitude

With the recent mini-resurgence of  the Legal Tv genre, thanks to such hard hitting and creative UK TV shows as period drama ‘Garrow’s Law’, and British city suited ‘Silk’, the release of Season 3 of LA Law is certainly in good company. Since the show closed it’s offices back in 1994, ‘Judge Judy’ too has kept her gavel and ‘Justice with an attitude’ in healthy viewing figures.  Beyond fiction, legal matters have been the staple of the news channels with back to back real-life dramas that mirror, compliment or downright parody anything that TV can conjure up in it’s wildest dreams.  The Michael Jackson trial stretched on and on with a succession of suited attorneys and Jackson himself attending in his pyjamas and slippers..  The Levison Inquiry made for every bit as tense a tale of comical twists and turns as any Hollywood comedy, complete with attempted pie-in-the-face for it’s arch villain  Rupert Murdoch.. televised and eaten up by an unquenchable public brought up on Tom Cruise yelling ‘I want the truth!’, in ‘A Few Good Men’, and Grace Van Owen putting her career on the line for what is right and good in the world, in LA Law. Okay, after the interim between our last helping of LA Law there’s been a pronounced roughing up of the American drama series thanks to ‘The Sopranos’, and ‘Deadwood’.. leaving the 80’s Law polished and cuddly in comparison.. but it still has teeth to grind, and a bold sentiment for what is good and honest at heart. 

Each week, the law firm of ‘McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney & Kuzak’ serve up the now familiar menu of  professionals balancing  the pursuit of wealth, with personal moralistic crusades. Dealing with such contentious matters as abortion, racism, sexual discrimination and the tobacco industry. We all like a good dramatic courtroom battle, and  have our central Lawyer archetypes clearly defined as existing somewhere between the savvy-cool, jazz playing  Jimmy Stewart in Otto Preminger’s ‘Anatomy of a Murder’, and the selfless, all American idealist Gregory Peck in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, but there’s something  quite refreshing to the palette in having the full range courtroom styles and motivations presented before us. We have playboy, ‘take ‘em for every penny’ divorce specialist Arnie Becker (Corbin Bernson).. fighters for honour and justice : Mark Hamlin (Perseus from ‘Clash of the Titans’) and Grace Van Owen, played by the exceedingly attractive Susan Dey (‘Partridge Family’, and the full gamut of iconic Tv shows, from ‘Hawaii-five-O’ and ‘Pettrocelli’ to ‘The Streets of San Francisco’).. green newbies Abby Perkins (Michele Greene), and Jonathan Rollins (Blair Underwood), out to prove their worth and make partner.. Victor Sifuentes (Jimmy Smits) fighting the working man’s corner, whilst carrying a fiscal chip on his shoulder, and trying to remain ‘street’ in a $1000 suit.. all conflicting and complementing each other in equal measure.

Watching Season three again after almost two decades is a snug, warm TV experience, akin  to putting up your feet with a hot mug of tea and your favourite packet of biscuits. Few drama shows that stretched to multiple seasons quite hold up beyond the 2nd series after a few decades have trundled past the track (St.Elsewhere and ER being notable exceptions), but LA LAW somehow doesn’t lose it’s warm, fuzzy appeal. Grace stills looks exceedingly attractive.. Michael Kuzak still irritates (poor sod, he’s just such a bloody do-gooder, and way too handsome.. let him fight it out with the Calibos in Clash of the Titans).. Roxanne & Benny still make us agitated when put-upon.. and Abby STILL needs to grow a backbone and get an LA hairdoo.  Admittedly Ann & Stuart Markowitz and their fertility storyline makes me both queasy and bored to tears.. but it did the first time around, and it’s almost pleasant to have those feelings all over again. They’re family, these people.. and we forgive them their shortcomings, even love ’em all the more for their frailties. 

SEASON THREE – EPISODES: 

Hey, Lick me Over/ The Son also Rises / Romancing the Drone / Sperminator / 

The Princess and the Pea / Dummy Dearest / To Live and Diet in LA / 

I’m in the Nude for Love / Victor Victorious / The Plane Mutiny / Izzy Ackerman,

or is he Not? / The Accidental Jurist / Barstow Bound / Leave it to Geezer / 

The Unbearable Lightness of Boring / His Suit is Hirsute / America the Beautiful / 

Urine Trouble Now/ Consumed Innocent

*

PROMOTIONAL IMAGES

~ Season 3 of LA Law is now available on DVD from Revelation Films ~

TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE

(1983-1988)

‘Man lives in the sunlit world of what he believes to be reality..
but.. there is, unseen by most, an underworld, a place that is
just as real, but not as brightly lit… a DARKSIDE.’

In 1982 George A Romero released the now iconic movie ‘Creepshow’, featuring five dark, twisted tales of the macabre that sought to capture the life and vitality of the 50’s American Horror comic. These five tales adhered to the now familiar tradition of storytelling and imagery that began with such writers as H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Alan Poe, becoming collectively known as ‘The American Gothic’.  Soon after followed a Tv incarnation called ‘Tales from the Darkside‘, which toned down the blood and gore, focusing more on atmosphere and paranoia. A more conventional version of this shorter shock storytelling already existed in the 50’s, parallel with the comic genre.  ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Outer Limits’ and ‘Night Gallery’, knocked out weekly high quality drama vignettes throughout the late 50’s and 60’s.. but it took the Comic Book to bring together the two very different mediums of Gothic short literature and popular Tv.  These pulp anthology stories released for a short time by EC comics, presented short illustrated tales that could be treated as storyboards for Cinema, combining the literary Gothic tradition, with the lurid excesses of Grindhouse cinema.. indeed both comics and cinema borrowed from each other in equal fashion throughout the period, as they continue to do today. Romero had often expressed a childhood fascination for the Vault of Horror comics released by EC Comics, so it was perhaps inevitable that he would work on a homage in some shape or form.

Romero is most famous of course for his near single handed creation of the Zombie genre (a tip of the hat to ‘I am Legend’ author Richard Matheson), but it is in his taste for the bizarre and the dark cultural cynicism that we identify his influence on Creepshow, and it’s Tv successor ‘Tales from the Darkside’. With Darkside, Romero opted to lose the direct comic book framework that Creepshow used as it’s linking device between stories (which given the one story per episode structure, was an inevitable change), and unlike it’s chief rival ‘Tales from the Crypt’, it also did without a host. Instead the unifying ident for each episode was the deeply disconcerting title sequence which spoke a little mantra about a dark underworld, that exists as a flip side to our brightly lit, so-called reality, delivered in a sort of half-dead, disembodied Rod Serling voice.

The obvious comparison to make is with HBO’s Tales from the Crypt, a rival and critically more successful series that ran parallel to Darkside throughout the 1980’s. Both series were spawned from the selfsame EC Comic parent, but whereas Crypt relied upon it’s shock endings and twisted sense of humour, Darkside took it’s time to weave a different breed of sinister and thought provoking tale. Try playing a little guessing game among the early star appearances, and to count the plethora of cine-references and plot derivatives. There’s was a genuinely uneasy tone about this series, as each episode layed out before us a comparatively mundane scenario, which slowly distorted, shifted focus, then abruptly ‘cracked from side to side’.. finishing on the more than slightly disturbing voice over, with it’s admonishing ‘Until next time.. try to enjoy the daylight.’

The four seasons, clocking up 92 episodes, and an impressive movie in 1990 (featuring a charming wrap-around story with Debbie Harry), two years after the final closing season.  At the time ‘Darkside’ was an oddity in both tone and late-night scheduling, intensified by it’s simplistic production, and subdued performances..  somehow the passage of time has managed to increase this strange character. The few cobwebs that hang about the edges are merely evidence of it’s Gothic overtones, so give the darkside an explore.. but perhaps keep a candle burning.

‘The dark side is always there, waiting for us to enter, waiting to enter us.

Until next time, try to enjoy the daylight.’

~~

        

            

~

————————————————————————————————————

~ Tales From The Darkside : Season 3

Released on DVD by Revelation Films  on  04/06/12 ~

~~~~~

IF YOU LIKE THIS, THEN YOU MAY ALSO LIKE:  

Dead of Night (1945)  /  Deadtime stories (1986)  /  Tales from the Crypt (1972)  / The Hand (1981)  /  Tales from the Crypt  -Tv- (1989-1996)   /  Tales of the Unexpected (1979-1988)  /  Night Gallery (1969-1973)  /  The Twilight Zone (1959-1964..1985-1989..2002-2003)  /  The Outer Limits (1963-1965.. 1995-2002)   /  People shouldn’t Play with Dead Things (1973)

LA LAW

Corbin Bernsen, Jill Eikenberry, Alan Rachins, Michael Tucker, Richard Dysart, Blair Underwood, Larry Drake, Susan Ruttan, Susan Dey, Jimmy Smits, Harry Hamlin, Michele Greene  / Created by  Steven Bochco & Terry Louise Fisher

‘There’s money there, I just have to figure out a way to shake the tree..’

With it’s new release onto DVD for 2012, that familiar ‘thunk’ of expensive car-trunk at the beginning of each LA LAW  episode proves something of an emotional experience. It’s not just the reappearance of old proxy-friends that stirs the soul, nor the intoxicating warm glow of  the Californian sun (bottled, packaged and sold to audiences in distant rainy lands).. but rather the transportation back to the attractive, colourful excesses of 1980’s TV. Pre-mobile phones, pre-internet, pre-jittery, war correspondent style camerawork..  pre-global recession.. pre-stark reality. We’ve grown used to that sharper, cynical edge to our TV dramas, but there is still a great appeal to the glossier side of the street presented in primary paint-box hues.  Something of a guilty pleasure in climbing the shiny skyscraper towers of LA, to spend an hour with the chosen suited, and immaculately hair styled few. The grimier realities of life are kept at arm’s length, down below on the city streets, and appear only as grist for the legal mill, and as moral dilemma for the occupants of neatly carpeted courtrooms, and Miami Vice style law firms. 

 Each week, the law firm of ‘McKenzie, Brackman, Chaney & Kuzak’ serve up the now familiar menu of  professionals balancing  the pursuit of wealth, with personal moralistic crusades. Dealing with such contentious matters as abortion, racism, sexual discrimination and the tobacco industry. We all like a good dramatic courtroom battle, and  have our central Lawyer archetypes clearly defined as existing somewhere between the savvy-cool, jazz playing  Jimmy Stewart in Otto Preminger’s ‘Anatomy of a Murder’, and the selfless, all American idealist Gregory Peck in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, but there’s something  quite refreshing to the palette in having the full range courtroom styles and motivations presented before us. We have playboy, ‘take ’em for every penny’ divorce specialist Arnie Becker (Corbin Bernson).. fighters for honour and justice : Mark Hamlin (Perseus from ‘Clash of the Titans’) and Grace Van Owen, played by the exceedingly attractive Susan Dey (‘Partridge Family’, and the full gamut of iconic Tv shows, from ‘Hawaii-five-O’ and ‘Pettrocelli’ to ‘The Streets of San Francisco’).. green newbies Abby Perkins (Michele Greene), and Jonathan Rollins (Blair Underwood), out to prove their worth and make partner.. Victor Sifuentes (Jimmy Smits) fighting the working man’s corner, whilst carrying a fiscal chip on his shoulder, and trying to remain ‘street’ in a $1000 suit.. all conflicting and complementing each other in equal measure.

There exists a curious dichotomy in regards to the law-keeper in fiction. Society itself having something of an awkward relationship with it’s Policemen, Lawyers and Judges, whereby any individual who is given the power to affect other’s lives, will naturally come under some form of distrust or social criticism, but Cinema & Tv tend to play both sides of the fence with equal fervor. When we have a central protagonist who holds a position within the law, they become a champion for the rights of man, and stretch their jurisdiction to the limit in search of the elusive truth. Lawyers become detectives, and battle the system as much as any individual foe. These characters tend to operate alone, from cheap offices downtown, or hold their personal mission in higher regard than their own lives. 70’s Tv lawyer ‘Petrochelli’ exemplifies this,  fighting for the rights of others, whilst unable to construct the very walls of his own home. ‘Ironside’ bound to a wheelchair, but standing tall against the lawbreakers. 

“Does Magna Carta mean nothing to you? Did she die in vain?!”

Memorably in cinema we have Al Pacino fighting to keep his very mind in ‘..And Justice for All’,  and the great Charles Laughton risking ill health to pursue justice to the bitter end, in ‘Witness for the Prosecution’ ( protected from his own exhaustive determination by the wonderful Elsa Lanchester). Conversely, comedy belittles the Lawyer (please seek out Hancock’s parody of ‘Twelve Angry Men’), and general dramas that have brushes with the law, hold the lawyer up for suspicion and ultimate reprisal. LA Law gathers together every lawyer type imaginable, and presents them all under the same roof for observation. Curiously this law firm setting is a rare choice for Tv series, despite the more than ample scope for drama. The only other example that comes to mind is Ally McBeal, which in many ways is the 90’s daughter of it’s 80’s ancestor, and travels as much into psychoanalysis self-inspection than the usual legal investigation. 

By presenting it’s characters from a collective, LA Law manages to give us a fully rounded perspective on the business of defending and prosecuting, with a wide range of styles and personal motivations.  Co-creator Steven Bochco penned many of the staples of 70’s & 80’s Tv drama, including  episodes of such heavyweights as Ironside, Columbo, Hill Street Blues and NYPD Blue..  whilst fellow team-mate  Terry Louise Fisher, brought us ‘Hooperman’ and that great clarion call for female lead roles ‘Cagney & Lacey’. All of these elements are present in LA Law, and rather suitably these two co-creators fell out during the production of Season 2, and.. you guessed it.. took each other to court. I wonder if they represented themselves before the Judge? 

……………………………………………………………………………..

~ LA LAW Season 2 will be released by Revelation Films on the 23rd April, 2012 ~

PRODUCTION IMAGES

         

         

         

    

~~

~~

~~

~~

~~

~