Thursday, August 31, 2006

i'm not beaten, and i'm not quittin'

Glenn Ford passed away yesterday at the age of 90.
I remember the first time I saw a Glenn Ford film. Blackboard Jungle was playing as the afternoon movie one Saturday when I was a kid. Happy Days was just then a very popular show and I heard the familiar... "One, two, three o'clock, four o'clock rock" song piping through the TV. I stopped to watch. And I didn't like it. I really didn't like Glenn Ford, but I wasn't sure why.
Then the film Superman came along. I was still a kid so I didn't know anything about Marlon Brando, much less Glenn Ford. This was Jor-El I was looking at on the big screen. Then I saw Jonathan Kent, Superman's adopted father. He looked familiar. He looked trustworthy and honest. This was Superman's "Pa" - this is how I imagined him to be from reading the comic books and watching the cartoons. Whoever he was, I knew he was a good actor. He was Jonathan Kent! I liked him, even though I couldn't place where I had seen him before. It wasn't until years later when I became a little older and more "cine-aware" that I realized who Glenn Ford (and Brando) was. I decided to give him another chance.

I'm glad I did. I "rediscovered" Blackboard Jungle, and found that sometimes films become better with age, not because they have gotten older, but because the viewer gets older, and hopefully more mature. They get better, because we understand them better. We relate to more mature themes better as we get older. And I think we understand some of the unspoken aspect of films- background, history, unspoken exchanges and glances. It "works" for us, where it didn't when we were younger.

Then I discovered Glenn Ford in Westerns. The Desperados, The Violent Men, 3:10 to Yuma, Jubal... he was excellent. Later on, I was able to appreciate and enjoy Ransom!, Gilda, and recently Plunder of the Sun. Thankfully, I was able to rediscover a great actor- one whose work I have come to admire and respect. I don't think he has ever gained the respect that many actors who hit the pantheon of "cult" status receive. He was a genuine movie star, and a fine actor. He was certainly a much better actor than some who have (undeservedly) that same following. It's a shame, because he deserves it. I know many a classic film fan (and Superman fans) who are saddened by his passing. I know I am. You can read more about the news of his passing here and his career here.
Glenn Ford, 1916-2006. Thanks for the memories.

Also- animation fans- another sad note. Veteran and respected animating legend, Ed Benedict passed away earlier this week. Don't recognize the name? Oh, but you would recognize the work. If you have every seen classic Hanna Barbara television shows Ruff and Reddy, Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, and The Flintstones- you've seen his work. He worked with another animation legend Tex Avery for many years. He was the lead designer on several Droopy shorts and one of my all time favorite Tex Avery shorts, The First Bad Man. I cannot possible do him justice, but Amid over at Cartoon Brew (where else?) has a wonderful write up about his career and links to other articles. Boy, this is not the way to end August, is it?

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

There's one thing I know for sure, son. And that is, You are here for a reason. I don't know what it is, exactly, but I do know this much: it's not to score touchdowns.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


There will be no roundup today.
There will be no Shelf post.
Today there will be a tribute to a friend, a member of the family.

This is for an Airman who is now in the wide blue yonder, and always in our hearts.
One of the truest patriots I knew, and one of the best examples of what a man should be.

This is for you, Airman- may you continue to soar...
We love you

Links to two broadcasts in your honor:

Live Broadcast of The Bob Hope Show on D-Day June 6, 1944- especially listen to the airman singing "Off We Go, into the Wild Blue Yonder." (link to

Finally: John Wayne's reading of "America, Why I Love Her" (Thanks- link to

I never forget a face, but in your case I'll make an exception
Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.
"I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there's purpose and worth to each and every life." Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

do I laugh now, or wait 'til it gets funny?

Sure, insurance is a tough racket. You just try and collect on the premium after you've killed, er... I mean after a loved one has passed. Trust me, it's murder. Of course, starting a new relationship at the same time just makes things worse. But, I digress... or do I? Either way, this can only mean one thing- Double Indemnity comes out this week! If you haven't yet guessed what our Top Shelf Pick of the Week is this week, well- just keep reading. You'll get it kid.

Top Shelf Pick of the Week!
Double Indemnity
This is a DVD release for which classic film fans have been waiting. Previously available on VHS and an earlier shoddy DVD, Universal has give the film it's two disc "Legacy" treatment. The film is definitely a classic, but does the release live up to the hype. Universal's home entertainment wing is very difficult to understand. On the one hand they really did their classic monster films right with great "Legacy" releases (I recently watched the Creature Legacy release. Fantastic.), as well as a couple of other great films, like the recent release of To Kill A Mockingbird. On the other hand, you get the "flipper" treatment for Abbott and Costello and other film properties with no extras. I can't really complain about the A&C releases, because now I own a large collection of A & C films for very cheap. However, I have to be very careful that the discs don't get scratched. Universal shows it can play with the big boys of DVD like Criterion and Warner Brothers, if they wanted to. However, they just don't seem to really want to all that often.
Fortunately, this isn't necessarily the case with Double Indemnity. The film is great. If your only experience with Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck is The Absent Minded Professor or The Big Valley, you are in for a treat. MacMurray is smooth talking insurance salesman Walter Neff. When he goes to renew a policy for a Mr. Dietrichson, he meets Mr. Dietrichson's wife Phyllis instead. The two begin an illicit affair. Eventually they cook up a scheme to knock off Phyllis' husband and collect on the insurance money. However there are some problems. One is in the form of insurance investigator, Barton Keyes (played by Edward G. Robinson) who smells a rat. The other is the nagging feeling that Phyllis isn't exactly new to all this. Oh, she's a bad girl. A very bad girl. Walter has been played and how. The dialogue is deliciously cheesy at times and brilliant in the way only director Billy Wilder can be. The film itself is a great print.
Let's take a look at the extras for a moment. Robert Osbourne hosts an introduction to the film. The first disc also includes two audio commentaries, one with film historian Richard Schickel, and the other with film historians Lem Dobbs and Nick Redman. There is also a documentary included about the film entitled Shadows of Suspense. The second disc only really contains the 1973 remade for television film starring Richard Crenna. Universal you could've stopped with the first disc and everything would've been fine. Or you could have taken a page from Warners and perhaps added some other featurettes and shorts and even a cartoon or two. Realistically, the film could've had a much better "Legacy" treatment, but the first disc is very much worth it. The second disc seems to be a stretch to make it a two disc treatment. Nonetheless, the price is right, and so is the film, therefore it is definitely a Shelf must and a Top Shelf Pick. Do yourself a favor and go out and pick up a copy today.

Other classic releases:
State of the Union:
Here is the other example of what I'm talking about in terms of Universal DVDs. State of the Union is the only film Frank Capra made for MGM, yet the rights ended up in the hands of Capra's Liberty Films, who licensed the TV distribution rights to MCA. Now the DVD is being distributed by Universal. Now, maybe it's because this wasn't originally a Universal release, I don't know; but this is a bare bones release. That's OK, because it's an excellent film and it's great that it's finally on DVD. Spencer Tracy stars as Grant Matthews, an idealist businessman who is "estranged" from his wife, Mary, played by Katherine Hepburn. Grant's new love interest is a newspaper owner Kay Thorndyke (Angela Lansbury, who talks him into running for President. It isn't long before the party machine get to Grant and manipulates his every appearance and move, in order to package him for the race. Eventually the manipulators convince Matthews to reunite with Mary for appearance's sake. Mary agrees, because despite their situation she still believes in her husband and loves him. Mary begins to see what the party men are doing to her husband and sees how manipulative Thorndyke is (she knows the nature of their relationship). Then she sees Grant begin to compromise his own values to win. Mary confronts Grant and encourages him to face what he's done and throw off the influence of the party machine. The film was originally a Broadway play, and the film was originally to star Gary Cooper and Claudette Colbert. Cooper backed out and Tracy was signed. Then Colbert and Capra had a bit of a falling out and she was dropped. Tracy recommended Hepburn to replace her, as he was rehearsing with her already. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. And viola- you have a Capra-Tracy-Hepburn picture! Whew. Still, this little gem of a film was worth at least a featurette on the making of, as it has a very interesting route to the big screen.

This Island Earth
Yet another Universal DVD release today, and to complete the odd spectrum of titles that Universal puts out: it is This Island Earth. Yes, that sci-fi film you saw on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Yes, they ridiculed it mercilessly. And yes, it is a classic. More than that, it is pop culture iconography. This Island Earth is pretty cheesy when you compare it to sci-fi films today with CGI, special effects, and big budgets. Back when TIE was released, this was drive-in fare. Sci-Fi films then often operated with smaller budgets and special effects that are par for the time. Yet the script was well written for the genre and it's images and sequences have become a part of the overall movie culture. Don't dismiss it. TIE has a legion of fans, but it's true that it's not for everyone. But it is worth checking out.

Radioland Murders and The Wizard
I love old time radio, and I really enjoy good films and television about the production of radio back in the day. An example of one of the best was the AMC (back when AMC was the mac daddy) original series, Remember WENN. Radioland Murders isn't as good as that show, but it is funny and entertaining. I think the atmosphere and characters are so well done, that it makes up for a fairly transparent plot. George Lucas is the executive producer and writer of the film. Does that hook you yet? Again this is fun entertainment, not Citizen Kane, but that doesn't mean it isn't a good film. It is. Starring one-time sitcom star Brian Benben and the lovely Mary Stuart Masterson, Radioland Murders is throwback to the screwball comedy whodunit, and it's done very well with a little tongue in cheek. The supporting cast is fantastic: Jeffrey Tambor, Ned Beatty, Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd, and Larry Miller just to name a few. Look for cameos of real life radio stars like George Burns and Rosemary Clooney. Great fun!
The Wizard is one of those movies, that if you saw it as a kid, and was a member of it's intended audience, you have probably stopped reading this by now. You have probably linked over to BN or Amazon to order it. This film is very sentimental to the Nintendo generation, as it is really a film that connected with kids that game. And yet, it really isn't a film about gaming, as much as it is about friendship, siblings, family, and journeys. Gaming is just the vehicle. The film stars Fred Savage as Corey Woods, a kid whose family is being torn apart by divorce. His brother, Jimmy, who has some severe emotional problems is about to be institutionalized. Before the pair are ripped apart, Corey decides to take his brother and run away from home, or what is left of it. Eventually Corey realizes that Jimmy has a gift for playing video games, a "wizard" at it so to speak. He and Jimmy and their friend Jenny head out to enter Jimmy into a Video Game tournament. This is a warm family film, and is known for it's marketing success for Nintendo (like they needed it). The film showcased Nintendo's Power Glove controller and unleashed Super Mario Brothers 3 on the gaming world.

TV on DVD:
A Bit of Fry and Laurie Season One, Season Two
Blue Thunder: The Complete Series
If you are a fan of House, you owe it to yourself to check out A Bit of Fry and Laurie. Long before he portrayed the cranky doctor, Hugh Laurie and his partner Stephan Fry were a dynamic comic duo with their own BBC comedy sketch show. They also appeared together in the hallowed and Shelf favorite BlackAdder series. Check it out...seasons one and two are available.
Blue Thunder was a pretty good show spinoff of the original Roy Schider movie of the same name. It features a very pre-SNL Dana Carvey as the pilot's sidekick and football stars Bubba Smith and Dick Butkus as ground support. I watch the series and remember enoying it very much. Good action and lots of ariel combat. Good stuff.

Who's Who in Animated Cartoons by Jeff Lenburg
This is an excellent book featuring a fairly comprehensive look at around 300 first class animators around the world. Featuring many full color photos and animation stills, this wonderful book was published to coincide with the 100th anniversary celebration of the very first American animated cartoon, Humorous Phases of Funny Faces, which was released on April 16, 1906. That's right, 100 years of animated features. The sad thing is that we aren't celebrating it more. Do your part- buy the book, pass on the knowledge to the next generation. Show them the animated shorts and features. And do me a favor, ignore the Tom and Jerry bruhaha. It's pretty damn sad that we can't grow up as a culture and keep from chopping up classic animation, because a parent can't do her own job. If you don't know what I'm talking about you can read about it here, and then go and read Amid's great take at Cartoon Brew.

Madden NFL 07: Various platforms
It's a sure sign that Football is nigh- the releases of NCAA Football and Madden. It won't be long before colleges will tramp out the bands and the cheerleaders and the players, and the tailgating will ensue. Pre-season NFL games are already showing up on television. So, for most football fanatics they have already played through a season or two on NCAA Football 07 and they are getting their hands on Madden 07 this week. If you are a gamer, you know the drill. Madden has been around a very long time, and each year it gets tweaked a little more. The big complaint is that very little tweaking happens as the years go by. Still Madden is the NFL grandpappy for video games and many gamers still get their Madden on. Early word has it that the Xbox version (it's last Madden) is superior to the Xbox 360 version. Go figure. EA's other football franchise, NCAA Football has really surpassed Madden as the must have football title in recent years. Weekend correspondent Baravelli usually does game reviews for The Shelf, so perhaps we'll have a Football roundup one weekend here in the next couple of weeks.

Shelf Picks for Turner Classic Movies
Football may be fast approaching, but it is still "A Summer Under the Stars" at TCM. Each day is festival of movies featuring a different movie star. We’d pick ‘em all of course (with a few exceptions), but we just want to hit the highlights… and maybe point out a few you haven’t seen in a while.

August 23rd, Van Johnson: The White Cliffs Of Dover (1944), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944), Two Girls And A Sailor (1944), and Brigadoon (1954).

August 24th, Ann Sothern: Cry Havoc (1943), The Blue Gardenia (1953), Brother Orchid (1940), and Panama Hattie (1942).

August 25th, James Stewart: (An all day marathon in our opinion – but here’s some you shouldn’t miss… or at least TiVo) After The Thin Man (1936), The Shop Around The Corner (1940), The Far Country (1955), Night Passage (1957), The Naked Spur (1953), and Shenandoah (1965).

August 26th, Cary Grant: (Same as above- but if you can only see a few, here are some can’t miss picks) Monkey Business (1952), The Bachelor And The Bobby-Soxer (1947), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), Gunga Din (1939), North By Northwest (1959), and Suspicion (1941).

August 27th, John Wayne: (I’d say it again, but then I’d be repeating myself) Stagecoach (1939), Sands of Iwo Jima (1949), The Longest Day (1962), Hondo (1954), and Rio Grande (1950).

August 28th, Hedy Lamarr: Come Live With Me (1941), Tortilla Flat (1942), The Conspirators (1944), and My Favorite Spy (1951).

Well, that's all for today folks- just remember, check your insurance policies and watch your back. You never know when a nasty fall might happen.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Reckon we got us a bit of a round up to do today. What say ya'll saddle up and ride on over to take a look at the good stuff. Think there will be somethin' that'll interest you. Hang on to your hat, cause here we go....

Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
The James Stewart Signature Collection.
I'll admit right up front that I am a big James Stewart fan. Wolf is also. This is the set that hits the spot- a bullseye as it were. You see, we have quite a few Stewart westerns, big hits, and comedies out on DVD already. What we need are not double dips or repackaged DVD sets. What we need are more great Stewart films for the old home movie collection. These films are along the lines of good to excellent and they show a good more breadth of Stewart's range in his post-WWII career. The Naked Spur is the third western that Stewart did with director Anthony Mann. Also starring Janet Leigh and Robert Ryan, The Naked Spur features Stewart as a bounty hunter with two questionable associates trying to bring in bad guy Robert Ryan, who is accompanied by girlfriend Janet Leigh. The FBI Story is a straight forward film about the career of an FBI agent from the beginnings of the agency up to the 1950s. A bit glossy, but enjoyable nonetheless. The Spirit of St.Louis is the story of Charles Lindbergh and his historical Transatlantic flight. (John over at Greenbriar Picture Shows has a great article about that film.) Other films include The Stratton Story, The Cheyanne Social Club, and Firecreek. This is a great set that is a welcome addition to any film buff's fan.

Other great sets:
The Ronald Reagan Signature Collection
I am very glad to see Knute Rockne: All American out on DVD. Pat O'Brien deserves his own Signature set, quite frankly. Anyway... other excellent films in this collection: Kings Row, The Winning Team, The Hasty Hart, and Storm Warning. Don't dismiss the ol' gipper. He was an excellent actor, maybe of limited range, but he could still carry an excellent film.

Hong Kong Phooey and Magilla Gorilla

Being a kid in the 70s and early 80s on Saturday mornings usually one thing: overdosing on sugary cereal and cartoons. One of the most prolific among the purveyors of the animated goods was Hanna-Barabara. The sheer amount of recognizable charaters they created is legendary. Luckily if you are old enough that you could name most of them, HB has the sets for you... er, your kids, I mean. Right. Fanrific!

Other good DVDs out this week:
Apocoalypse Now: The Complete Dossier: Yet another DVD. Still this has to be everything they could put in a set. Right? Right?!

The Clark Gable Collection: Fox brings us three excellent Gable films. Call of the Wild, The Tall Men, and Soldier of Fortune are included.

The Jeffersons: The Complete Fifth Season
Remington Steele: Seasons Four and Five
Hogan's Heroes: The Complete Fourth Season

Indian Yell by: Michael Blake

Blake, the author of Dances with Wolves, brings us an interesting look at the battles in the American West of the late 1800s, between Native American tribes and the American Military. The focus is on twelve particularly significant battles, and Blake looks at them with a perspective of Native Americans as 19th century insurgents. In fact, the book is subtitled The Heart of the American Insurgency. I am not entirely comfortable with squeezing in historical events through the sieve of a modern day thesis, but I am willing to give this a go because the subject matter is worthwhile. Just go through with a juandiced eye.

Foreplay: X
Jazz music has so many subgenres that it is hard to really keep up. Most jazz enthusiasts know the differences, and although they have particular favorites, most kinds hit the CD player every now and again. Foreplay is a group comprised of four jazz artists with separate, successful careers who come together to create great music. Soft, pop jazz with traditional flavor.

Television: (check local listings for times)

Random stuff:
Big Brother 7: It's the half-way point and some really good players have been shown the door. Hard to believe, but King Kaysar is gone. Will continues to run circles around the rest of them. At least the competitions aren't all about giving luxuries. Some have been taken away.
Also: Reno 911, Psyche, and...
Feasting on Asphalt. Alton and crew have made it to Mexican Hat, UT. In Saturday's final episode, they wing their way to LA, but Alton gets a minor injury along the way. If you've missed the previous episodes, don't worry- a marathon will be on prior to the last episode. And I'm sure there will be a DVD soon.

Turner Classic Movies:
Shelf picks for TCM

It's still a Summer Under the Stars, so each night has a different movie star's films. Here are our picks for each night. (We'd probably pick most of the lineup anyway, but we want to hit the highlights!)

Aug. 15th, Richard Dix: The Whistler (1944), Cimarron (1931) , and The Arizonian (1935) .

Aug. 16th, Joseph Cotten: Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles: The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice (1952) , F for Fake (1973) , and The Third Man (1949).

Aug. 17th, Carole Lombard: My Man Godfrey (1936), Fools For Scandal (1938), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941), and To Be or Not to Be (1942) .

Aug. 18th, Bela Lugosi: White Zombie (1932) , Mark Of The Vampire (1935), Ghosts on the Loose (1943), Abbott And Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948), and Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932).

Aug. 19th, Audrey Hepburn: The Children's Hour (1961), Charade (1963), Funny Face (1957) , My Fair Lady (1964), and Wait Until Dark (1967).

Aug. 20th, Lee Marvin: Bad Day At Black Rock (1955), The Professionals (1966), Seven Men From Now (1956), The Dirty Dozen (1967), and Point Blank (1967).

Aug. 21st, David Niven: The Prisoner Of Zenda (1937), The Charge Of The Light Brigade (1936), The Dawn Patrol (1938), Soldiers Three (1951), and The Bishop's Wife (1947).

Well, pardner that's the end of the trail. Reckon it'll be beans and some beef tonight afore we bed down. Tell Cookie to keep the fire warm and we'll be on the trail again soon. 'Til then...

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Choosin' a way to die? What's the difference? Choosin' a way to live - that's the hard part.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

promises to keep...

It is a phrase that became almost universal after 9/11, then glib and now, cliche. "(If X or not X), then the terrorist win." For example: If we stop living our lives, then the terrorists win."
One thing is for certain, the terrorists have a goal, an end result in mind. If you believe that they just want us out of the middle east and to leave them alone, you are a complete idiot. Sorry, that was a bit harsh... you are an utter moron. They want war with us, they want to spread their rule around the globe. It is in their believe system, and it is something they do not take lightly. If you walk away from this post understanding only one thing, then let it be this: this is a struggle over our freedom, religions, and way of life more than politics and border disputes.
I have been thinking alot about this idea, of what the fighting is about, and reading the various posts and essays out there on the web. I have been ruminating and processing things, and really thinking about them. As is so often the case, many of our fellow bloggers and many commentators have said, in better ways than I, many of the ideas and conclusions I have drawn. It may take me a while to sit down and write or say what I want to say, and that may annoy some that I know. I have a nasty habit of listening, reading and internalizing the information before I speak. I don't know, maybe it's the historian in me.

So, I want to step back for a second, from all of the bickering, politicking, and finger pointing that seems to be going on. I want to step back and look at the big picture. We used to do that quite a bit here in America... look at the big picture. Maybe we have gotten away from that. It is easy to do in this 21st century. Unfortunately, we let all the trappings of life and the fear of what's happening to prevent us from looking at things on a larger scale. I hope you will indulge me. I want to talk about this, but I want to point you to just a few of the articles and posts I've read to not only illustrate some of what I am talking about, but also to make sure credit is given to authors and bloggers where credit is due.
In light of the news about the break up of a major terrorist attack by British and Pakistani authorities, we should all be grateful that the fight to keep people safe from terror is continuing to be waged. Nothing disturbs me more than to see people, because of their own narrow mindedness and petty politics and power trips, to discredit the hard work of the people of our country and our allies to keep us safe. To be a Kosidiot and claim that all of this was a set-up or not real, is to truly be one with the tin foil hat crew. Many have noted the pettiness of our own liberal extremists and their narrow vision: Stop the ACLU and Right Wing News have some examples of their comments.

These are people locked in a narrow field of view. Everything, in short, is about them. What they, and others like them, don't realize is that this is not about them or George Bush, or Blair, or Bin Ladin or Sadam Hussein. It is bigger than any of them. It is about promises. The promises of freedom. The war against terror and fear is a war to preserve freedom. Not just for ourselves but those who desire freedom around the world. The extremists and others support a global view where there is no border, and yet they believe that everything we do is about borders. The jihaddist don't fight for borders. Michelle Malkin has written quite a bit about this, showing how this is not a war about borders or land. Victor Davis Hanson has also written a great article about this as well. They fight to impose their twisted view on the rest of the world. Their aim is to spread their way of life and their rule on everyone. Call me a caveman or what you will... if you can't see it, I call you blind and pathetic.

Jihaddists don't fight with guns and bombs and missiles, so much as they fight with dead bodies. Whether it's using them for propaganda or to build up a body count. Destruction and weapons are not their weapon of choice, they are just instruments. Their weapons of choice is death and they wield it without discretion. (Sand Monkey has written something very eloquent about the sanctity of the dead.)
And yet many of our own people, and those of our allies prefer to have their head in the sand and scream and piss and moan about perceived injustices that we inflict by waging war against jihaddist. They believe the jihaddist have a point, and that it is time for the West to just roll over and accept this. They live in a state of "lemmingrad", as Melanie Phillips as termed it. More over, for them freedom is not for everyone. Moral relativism, screwed up logic, and messed up "rules" (as VDH calls them) rule the way we fight. I don't even think they know what we are fighting for... maybe may of us have forgotten. We need to be united in our efforts and in our cause. I think we can disagree and argue about how to go about achieving a goal. However we need to agree on the goal, decide on a plan, and go forward with firmness of direction, patience, and determination to win and see it through the end. If we give up on any of those... if we continue to be divided amongst ourselves, if we give in to weakness-- we might as well through in the towel. I refuse to do so. There are promises to keep.

Many years ago, as we begun to fight on a world stage, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt outlined what we were fighting for, outlined in a speech to Congress. The speech, which has come to be know as The Four Freedoms, cited four freedoms, the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. We should recognize that we continue to fight for those freedoms, and others, today. I think perhaps that is what we are missing. Realizing what we are fighting for and that these freedoms are promises. Promises to our children that we will continue to strive to improve the world and spread the freedom to live and thrive and carry on that promise. The unwritten promise of the Constitution: FREEDOM. We have to be united in keeping that promise to our children; the promise that tyranny and terror will not prevail. That children of all faiths will be allowed to worship according to the dictates of their conscience, and free from the tyranny of extremists who wish to stamp out all religion or who wish to force all to conform to their own extreme view of a belief. The promise that we will fight against those who oppress, those who do not allow them to speak their opinion or to speak without fear of persecution. These are the promises that we must keep. This is what we must fight for, both abroad and here at home. The military, law enforcement, and government agencies and allies fight for us. We need to do, as our grandparents did during WWII, what we can to fight for them and not make the fight in vein.

Let's keep the promise. Let's defeat those who fight to defeat freedom and the extremists, both abroad and at home. Let's remember what we are fighting for. Let's give our children a future rich with freedom.
I want to close with some words from FDR's speech and wish you would read the whole speech and reflect on his words:

"...I suppose that every realist knows that the democratic way of life is at this moment being directly assailed in every part of the world --assailed either by arms or by secret spreading of poisionous propaganda by those who seek to destroy unity and promote discord in nations that are still at peace.

...In times like these it is immature-- and, incidentally, untrue-- for anybody to brag that an unprepared America, single-handed and with one hand tied behind its back, can hold off the whole world. No realistic American can expect from a dictator's peace international generosity, or return of true independence, or world disarmament, or freedom of expression, or freedom of religion-- or even good business. Such a peace would bring no security for us or for our neighbors. Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

...As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone. Those who man our defenses and those behind them who build our defenses must have the stamina and the courage which come from unashakeable belief in the manner of life which they are defending. The mighty action that we are calling for cannot be based on a disregard of all the things worth fighting for. The nation takes great satisfaction and much strength from the things which have been done to make its people conscious of their individual stake in the preservation of democratic life in America. Those things have toughened the fiber of our people, have renewed their faith and strengthened their devotion to the institutions we make ready to protect.

...In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression --everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way-- everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants --everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor --anywhere in the wold. That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called "new order" of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb. To that new order we oppose the greater conception --the moral order. A good society is able to face schemes of world domination and foreign revolutions alike without fear. Since the beginning of our American history we have been engaged in change, in a perpetual, peaceful revolution, a revolution which goes on steadily, quietly, adjusting itself to changing conditions without the concentration camp or the quicklime in the ditch. The world order which we seek is the cooperation of free countries, working together in a friendly, civilized society.
This nation has placed its destiny in the hands, heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women, and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights and keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose. To that high concept there can be no end save victory."

While we may not agree with all of the words or policies of FDR, I believe he was an American President who fought to protect his people and to keep the promises of freedom to the children of his country. These are wise words.
Can we be united in purpose? If we can be, there really can be no end save victory.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

I want to fight!

Friday, August 11, 2006

a light in the dark...

I would be stupid and remiss if I didn't acknowledge that there is some boneheaded, scary, dangerous stuff going on all around us today. More on that in a later post tomorrow...
However, at times like these we struggle for some sunshine. A sense of normalcy and optimism that will help us to press on. To go forward in faith, if you will. So you will forgive us if we deviate a little from the world and discuss some great and happy news in classic films and animation. A ray of sunshine, so to speak, in an otherwise dreary world.

First off some great news, via Jerry Beck over at Cartoon Brew:

The Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 4 will hit the shelves November 14th. Jerry has a list of the bonus features that you can expect and he recommeds going to for a complete list of all 60 uncut shorts that will be included in the set. Highlights for me include the Bugs shorts and a whole disc of Frank Tashlin shorts! The third disc will be Speedy Gonzales cartoons, which I admit have never been my absolute favorites, but better than most anything else today. The last disc's theme will be Cats, featuring some one-off cartoons and some other minor feline characters, like Claude. What I'm really looking forward to his all of the extras, especially the commentaries featuring Frank Tashlin, June Foray, Jerry Beck, Michael Barrier, Chuck Jones, and Stan Freberg. Obviously some folks had been recorded or interviewed prior to their demise, but I for one greatly appreciate all of the effort but into this series by all the folks at Warner Home Video, the historians (like Jerry), restorers, computer gurus, commentators, behind the scenes folks and all others! Thanks! It's going on the Shelf!

Also animation fans will no doubt be excited to learn that a 2 disc special edition loaded with features of Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas will be released on November 21nd. We're talking the Chuck Jones classic, not the Jim Carrey film.

Next up some classic film box sets release news:
Motion Picture Masterpieces Collection & the Astaire and Rogers Collection Vol. 2

Fans have been eagerly awating the films in these sets. The Motion Picture Masterpieces Collection will drop October 10 and contain the films: Marie Antoinette, David Copperfield, Pride and Prejudice, A Tale of Two Cities, and Treasure Island(1934). Many shorts and some vintage cartoons are included as extras. Volume 2 of the Astaire and Rogers collection debuts a week later on October 17th. Films include Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Carefree, and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. All of these five films plus the films of the first volume will also be available in one set; The Astaire and Rogers Ultimate Colletor's Edition.

The Humphrey Bogart Signature Collection Vol.2 and
The Henry Fonda Signature Collection:

The Signature Collection series has been a boon for classic film fans. Yet sometimes you get a dvd you might already own from another set or previous purchase. If you don't, then you're in luck and can make a great addition to your classic film library. The Bogie set features the eagerly anticipated 3 disc Special Edition of The Maltese Falcon, Across the Pacific, Action in the North Atlantic, All Through the Night, and Passage to Marseille. Warner's Night at the movies, shorts and featurettes abound. The Fonda set includes the films Advise and Consent, Battle of the Bulge, Mister Roberts, and The Wrong Man. All of the Fonda films were previously available and have been repackaged for this set. Mister Roberts is perhaps the oldest of the set and most in need of the keepsake packaging. The Fonda collection is set for Sept. 19th and Bogie set for October 3rd

Also on the box set front, Warners has announced three new Signature Collection Sets:

The Gary Cooper Signature Collection featuring: 2 disc special edition of Sergeant York and the films The Fountainhead. The Wreak of the Mary Deare, Springfield Rifle, and Dallas

The Marlon Brando Signature Collection featuring: 2 disc special edition of Mutiny on the Bounty and the films Julius Caesar, The Formula, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and Teahouse of the August Moon.

The Paul Newman Signature Collection featuring: The Drowning Pool, Harper, The Left-Handed Gun, The Mackintosh Man, Pocket Money, Somebody Up There Likes Me, and The Young Philadelphians.

The Cooper and Brando sets will be released Nov. 7th and the Newman set on Nov. 14th.

Other classic films to look forward to:

Film Noir fans rejoice in the Universal Legacy series 2 disc special edition release of Double Indemnity. Look for it on August 22nd.
Frank Capra fans look forward to the release of State of the Union. This film starring Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn will hit stores August 22nd as well. A 2 disc special edition of It's a Wonderful Life is slated to be released in the fall.

Lastly, a 50th Anniversary special edition of Forbidden Planet will hit the shelves on Novemeber 14th. It will be available in two editions: a 2 disc Special Edition and an Ultimate Collector's Edition which will feature the 2 disc, lobby cards, reprints of press kits, postcards and a figurine of Robby the Robot.

I hope that will provide a little brightness in your day, classic film and animation fans. We can all change the world in our own little way, so why don't we change it for the better. Make someone else's day a little brighter as well. Til next time...

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

Do I laugh now, or wait 'til it gets funny?

Monday, August 07, 2006

it's the shelf show!

Eagle-eyed Shelfers will notice that the last two weeks have been scanty here on The Shelf. While we have been keeping up with the media roundup, it appears that we haven't had much else to say. Au contraire, mon frere! We have been hard at work on a new project for your enjoyment and we now present to you The Shelf Podcast! Here is what we hope will be at least a monthly installment of The Shelf Show with Wolf and myself. We may also drop in solo podcast installments from time to time, but we look forward to having full episodes of the show uploaded here every month for you, the discerning Shelfer! Just click on the links below to download or listen to the show. The first episode has been broken into two separate files for easier consumption.

In this episode of The Shelf Podcast:
  • We look at the results of our James Bond poll
  • Wolf and I divulge our Top 5 Bond films
  • We review the recent John Ford/John Wayne Box Set
  • We do a DVD roundup overview for the month of August
  • and much more...

Just clink on the links next to ol' whatshisname to listen to the show! Or right click to download

The Shelf Podcast, Ep.1, Part 1

The Shelf Podcast, Ep.1, Part 2

Please remember this is just the first episode and forgive any imperfections and technical difficulties as we perfect our performance and our technology. Also please let us know what you think about the show. Sound off in the comments section or email us at

No media roundup this week as the podcast covers most of what we would have included. But the media roundup will be back next week: same Shelf station, same Shelf time.

We'll be back later in the week. Pass the word about the podcast and... enjoy the show!

Just a few quick links to some interesting posts in and around the Shelf Community:

Bob Hope knows Democrats when he sees 'em.: Libertas.
How Movie Theaters waged the entertainment "wars" with early TV: Greenbriar.
Christian is looking for a few (many) good sci-fi books and fantasy books: Cinerati.
Mid-week free for all- is the Shelf there?: Stop the Aclu.
Many cultural elitists might have problems with some of the preambles to the constitutions of our states. I say too bad. So does Maggie's Farm.
Finally, Mary Worth has a stalker? Get real: Curmudgeon.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

World domination. The same old dream. Our asylums are full of people who think they're Naploeon. Or God.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

those were the days...

Sure- you've heard it before; "Back in my day..." or "In the good old days...". We don't pretend to such nonsense here at the Shelf. ALL days were both good and bad. Hey, we grew up in the 70s-80s time period. No amount of celebrities will ever convince me that bell bottoms and disco were cool. I don't care if they are on VH1. All it is, is a nostalgic longing for childhood; where things were fun and easy. Or so we think, now that responsibility and the world have us weighed down. Who wouldn't trade that for an hour of drinking Orange Hi-C out of a large can and watching reruns of the Six Million Dollar Man. Lesse- Lee Majors and Sasquatch or financial reports that are due tomorrow? Hmmm. That's a toughie!
What we need is someone who can look back at the good stuff of childhood with a certain amount of fondness, but a healthy dose of cynical disdain for the bad stuff we just choose to gloss over. But who...I know- Jean Shephard! And that's how we are going to kick off this week's media roundup. So hang on to your Radio Flyers and homemade fishbowl space helmets, we're about to take off.


Top Shelf Pick of the Week:
My Summer Story (AKA: It Runs in the Family)
Back in 1994, Bob Clark and Jean Shepherd released this sequel to the wildly popular A Christmas Story. Ten years before, A Christmas Story had a decent run in the theater, but it really found it's legs on cable television and home video. It had become a television holiday ritual, and a beloved movie for many. Although director Bob Clark had a sequel planned, it took A Christmas Story's rise in popularity to make it happen. Thus we have It Runs in the Family. Wait...what? Yeah, that was the title when it hit the theater, but when it hit the home video market the name changed to My Summer Story. The marketing geniuses were trying to tie it into the predecessor and have it ride it's very long coattails. But don't hold that against it- after all, the script was again co-written by Jean Shepherd and Bob Clark and Bob Clark was directing again and Shep was back as narrator. Oh, yeah- they used the same house as the Parker home, although they had to fix it up some to bring back to usable condition- but the original house is still there. That's good. The cast was different however, with the exception of Tedde Moore who was the only one from the previous cast to reprise her role; namely that of Ralphie's teacher, Miss Shields. As much as we love Peter Billingsly as Ralph, ten years makes a big difference when you are talking about (no longer) child actors. If you've seen Peter lately, you know that he really still looks the same... just as an adult. But you can't have a 23 year old Ralph hanging around with a bunch of ten year olds talking about tops and neighborhood bullies. That's just not right.
So we get a new cast, and some very good actors I might add, to bring us the Parker family. This time around Charles Grodin plays the "old man" and Mary Steenburgen as Ralph's mom. Kieran Culkin is Ralph and Kieran's real life brother, Christian plays Ralph's brother, Randy. The Parkers are up to some similar family shenanigans during the summer. The stories that comprise the plot are all based on more of Shep's short stories of his childhood. You need to give the film a chance- it is warm and entertaining, and it's great hearing Shep again (although if you go over to Shelf Community member Mass Backwards at Flick Lives, you can hear a lot of Shep! By the way here is a online deposit if you will, of the press kit of A Summer Story, courtesy of Flick Lives.) Think of this film as not so much a sequel, but as another Jean Shepherd movie. That's the way they filmed it. If you've read Shep's stuff or are a fan- you'll enjoy the film. By the way, a company called The Red Rider Leg Lamp Company has purchased the house in Cleveland where the movies were filmed and is restoring it to be A Christmas Story Museum. Here's the link if you are interested... or if you just want to purchase an "Italian Made" leg lamp.

Mr. Moto Collection, Volume One
I must confess, I knew very little about these films. I was aware of them, and knew Peter Lorre had made them and who the character was. However, in curiosity and out of an appreciation for Mr. Lorre's body of work, I researched Mr. Moto and found them to be an item of interest for my Shelf list. Plus John over at Greenbriar Picture Shows gives the set his seal of approval, and that's good enough for me. If you want to find out more, John has a great post about Peter Lorre and the series at Greenbriar. In the meantime, do as I intend to do: check it out. The four films about the Japanese detective in the set include: Mr. Moto Takes a Chance, Mysterious Mr. Moto, Thank You Mr. Moto and Think Fast Mr. Moto. Various features about Peter Lorre and the various directors are included.

Olivier's Shakespeare
Lawrence Olivier was a consumate actor...a legend. Everyone knows that Olivier's performances in Shakespeare's plays are equally legendary. But let's be honest, how many of you have actually seen any of them? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? Ahem...anyway, my point is that these are films that should be seen. Maybe you aren't exactly a Shakespeare buff. It doesn't matter, Shakespeare's work and Olivier's work here are a part of theater and film heritage... and if you are a cinema buff you need to take a chance and view these films. Criterion is a company that does DVD right, and they make sure that the heritage of cinema is not lost. The film's are Henry V, Hamlet, and Richard III; although for my money Henry V is the best of the bunch. The film starts on stage, but as the drama goes on the film gradually leaves the stage and takes place among a more real set and finally the hills of England. From the theater to ""reality" if you will. One of the best versions on film of duplicating in a cinematic way a theater goer's willing suspension of belief. If you dig this, may I suggest that you then move on to Orson Welles and his Shakespearian films, particularly Othello- a Shelf favorite.


James Madison and the Struggle for the Bill of Rights by Richard Labunski.

Few people today appreciate the role of James Madison in the founding of our country. Perhaps it is due in part to the modern bent and fad of academics to gloss over the founding fathers or ignore them altogther in favor of more social history. Perhaps it is because in popular history, he is overshadowed by more larger than life personalities like Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, or Hamilton. Either way, it is a real shame, for the man who became our fourth President deserves to be studied and understood as much for his presidency, but much more for his contributions to our Constitution. It is Madison, who along with Jay and Hamilton who wrote "the Federalist Papers" - letters published in various newspapers defending the ideas and the workings of the Constitution. It was Madison who researched and studied for years, ideas that would comprise the so-called Virginia Plan, which became one of the basis for the Constitution. It was Madison who pushed and fought and worked behind the scenes for the drafting of the Constitution... it is his notes of the Constitutional Convention that provide us with the best picture of what ensued during those hot summer months. Perhaps even more crucial (than perhaps we realize) is Madison's role in the ratification in Virginia. Beset by political foes lead by Patrick Henry, Madison fought for the ratification and to win a political seat to Congress with a promise to push through the Bill of Rights as the first order of business. Labunski's book examines that fight.

Television: (check local listings for times)

The Usual Suspects for this week
Big Brother 7, Reno 911, and Feasting on Asphalt (The Saturday show was great by the way- Alton was 'cycling through my neck of the woods and ended up at several places where I had been.)

Shelf Picks for Turner Classic Movies:

This month's theme is Summer under the Stars and each night features the performances of a different actor. We pick and highlight some great flicks for each night on this weeks list. It's not that we don't recommed the rest (Humphrey Bogart's day could be an all day marathon as far as we're concerned), but some films we've recently picked or highlighted, so we're not trying to make that many repeats in a short time frame. Our picks for each star on their night follows:

August 1st, Star: Angela Lansbury
Private Screenings: Angela Lansbury (2006), The Manchurian Candidate (1962), and The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

August 2nd, Star: Groucho Marx-
aw, heck just have yourself an all day Marx Marathon:
The Cocoanuts (1929), The Big Store (1941), Go West (1940), At The Circus (1939), Room Service (1938), A Night at the Opera (1935), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932), Duck Soup (1933) and A Day At The Races (1937)

August 3rd, Star: Susan Heyward-
Tulsa (1949), I Married A Witch (1942), and The Fighting Seabees (1944)

August 4th, Star: Gregory Peck-
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962), How the West Was Won (1962), The Big Country (1958), Cape Fear (1962), and A Conversation with Gregory Peck (1999).

August 5th, Star: Humphrey Bogart-
The Petrified Forest (1936), Angels With Dirty Faces (1938), To Have And Have Not (1944), The Big Sleep (1946), The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948), and All Through The Night (1942).

August 6th, Star: Robert Duvall-
The Godfather (1972) and The Godfather II (1974) (where's MASH or True Grit? Or Open Range if we're going to be all "modern classics" about it?)

August 7th, Star: Burt Lancaster-
The Devil's Disciple (1959), From Here To Eternity (1953), Valdez Is Coming (1971), Lawman (1971), and Vengeance Valley (1951)

Well, that's all for today Shelfers. We'll leave you to your Slurpee and shady tree and Archie comics. That's right, we see you. Don't worry we won't tell if you won't; just stay cool.

Oh, I know it's a penny here and a penny there, but look at me. I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty.

The Old Man was having the time of his life being miserable. It was what he did best.


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