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Gary F. Taylor "GFT" RSS Feed (Biloxi, MS USA)
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Aloha Scooby-Doo!
Aloha Scooby-Doo!
DVD
Price: $2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Surf's Up For Scooby-Doo!, June 23, 2016
This review is from: Aloha Scooby-Doo! (Amazon Video)
Released in 2005, ALOHA SCOOBY-DOO is the eighth in the “feature length” Scooby-Doo cartoon series created specifically for the homemarket.

In this adventure, Daphne has won an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii for the gang. Their paradise turns sour when popular surfing resort Hanahuna is suddenly attacked by the demonic minions of the “Wiki-Tiki,” an island spirt that seems to have taken offense at a surfing contest that has been recently opened to “mainlander” contestants. Scooby-Doo features often bring up ecological issues, and this one may be the most obvious: suspicions fall on a mayor and a real estate agent who seem to be working in tandem to pave paradise and put up, if not a parking lot, at least a time-share type condo. But how would the very people who are trying to sell out the town of Hanahuna benefit from frightening prospective buyers away?

Scooby-Doo mysteries aren’t on the same level as an Agatha Christie novel, but they usually make a better showing than ALOHA SCOOBY-DOO, in which the culprits become very obvious about mid-way through the story. That aside, however, it’s all good fun with a song performed by Don Ho and a characters voiced by Teri Garr and Adam West. ALOHA SCOOBY-DOO may not be the best of the Scooby-Doo features—it isn’t quite as imaginative as the best of the best—but it’s still entertaining. Recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer


When Worlds Collide
When Worlds Collide
Offered by Macmillan
Price: $7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Pulp Fiction, Sci-Fi, and the End of the World 1930s Style, June 18, 2016
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First published as a magazine serial and then as a novel, WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE was one of the great science-fiction novels of the 1930s—and it cast a remarkable shadow, one that includes such films as the 1971 CITY BENEATH THE SEA, 1979 METEOR, and 1998 DEEP IMPACT and ARMEGEDDON, among many, many others. The novel itself was filmed with Academy Award-winning special effects in 1951.

I first met the novel in the early 1970s, when I was barely a teenager. It and its sequel, AFTER WORLDS COLLIDE, fascinated me, and I re-read them many times. Flash-forward some forty years: I was surprised to find it available for Kindle. On a whim I ordered it, and as I have discovered, some memories are best left in the past.

WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE tells the story of two planets, a smaller one orbiting a much larger one, that gradually move into our solar system. Named for the scientist who discovered them, Bronson Alpha, the larger planet, is on a collision course with earth; Bronson Beta, the smaller planet, may be pulled away from Alpha during the collision and take earth’s place around the sun. A noted scientist, Cole Henderson, decides to build an aircraft-like rocket that will carry a hundred or so men and women to Bronson Beta in hope of saving at least a remnant of mankind from absolute destruction.

So far so good, but co-authors Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer weren’t known as “pulp” authors for no reason. Many critics have described the narrative as “florid”—and so it is, at least in the book’s more readable passage. More significantly, the book is stodgy and preachy, determined to explain what it can explain in exhausting detail and to ignore what it can’t explain completely. And the characters and their interactions and various adventures were tiresome stereotypes even in 1933: there is the stressed-to-the-breaking-point scientist, his beautiful and intelligent daughter, the virile stockbroker, the virile airplane pilot, the virile poet, and so on.

One of the book’s odder aspects is that is very firmly set in the 1930s, and the result is sometimes jaw dropping in terms of sexism and racism. Women may be smart, but they are fundamentally unstable, and while the people involved are of various nationalities, there is only one Asian and no blacks at all. In one particularly astonishing passage, we learn that when the end of the world was announced, Germany went fascist “and killed a few Jews.” Indeed.

The passage of time has rendered WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE more than a little uphill, and although the book offers a number of interesting ideas and now and then even turns a memorable phrase, this is really a novel best left to hardcore science fiction fans and those who enjoy genuine pulp fiction. Recommended to them.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer


You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown
You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown
Price: $7.48
48 used & new from $4.90

2.0 out of 5 stars Some Things Are Better Left Alone, June 17, 2016
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Broadway musicals are subject to fads. If an actor receives acclaim for performing a violin solo, the next show will have tap dancing violinists and the show after that will feature nude violinists seated on swings over the audience. Producers often think that Bigger is Always Better, and if a particular sound style was popular last year, it will be even more so this year.

Such was the fate visited upon YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN. The original opened off-Broadway with a single piano for accompaniment and simple sets reflective of the popular newspaper comic strip. With its mixture of innocence, wisdom, and unexpected pathos, it was a great success, running over one thousand five hundred performances in New York and enjoying numerous American tours. When these began to wind down, the show went on to considerable success in regional, educational, and community theatre.

Then came the 1999 Broadway production. Director Michael Mayer revised the script, deleting one character and adding the role of Sally, Charlie Brown’s sister, who was not in the original. Andrew Lippa revised the existing score, adding funky bass lines and a wailing saxophone and various light jazz and even gospel inflections; he also added a couple of new songs, including “Beethoven Day” (Schroeder and company) and “My New Philosophy” (Sally and Schroeder.) Jerry Mitchell created elaborate choreography, transforming the delicate “My Blanket and Me” from a charming and intimate dance solo to a special effects show-stopper, and the simple sets were discarded in favor of elaborate constructions by David Gallo.

Critics and audiences liked certain performers, but almost everyone agreed the revised material and the over-the-top production did not suit the material. Kristen Chenoweth and Roger Bart won Tony awards for their performances as Sally and Snoopy, but this very expensive show crashed and burned with the aplomb of the Hindenburg coming into Lakehurst, New Jersey. It closed after less than one hundred fifty performances, a very, very short run when one considers the expectations attached to the project.

The cast recording gives one a very clear idea of the problem. Everyone sounds like they’ve recently escaped from a road show of RENT. The men generally sing in the style of Adam Pascal, and B.D. Wong offers a surprisingly thick-headed interpretation of Linus that doesn’t really the suit the role. Chenoweth gives a delightful performance of “My New Philosophy,” but the song actually runs against Sally’s character and is stylistically removed from every other piece of music in the play, and instead of comic crabbiness, Ilana Levine gives us a remarkably abrasive Lucy, with the song “Schroeder” a case in point. No, the songs aren’t bad, and yes, they are well performed for what they are. Trouble is, they sound like they belong to three entirely different shows, and they all miss the combination of simplicity, naivety, and eloquence that made the original such a success.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 21, 2016 7:59 PM PDT


Lady Audley's Secret [with Biographical Introduction]
Lady Audley's Secret [with Biographical Introduction]
Price: $0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Victorian Shocker, June 10, 2016
Vaguely based on the notorious Constance Kent scandal, which involved a child’s body thrown into an outhouse pit, Mary Elizabeth Branddon’s 1863 LADY AUDLEY’S SECRET is among the most memorable works in the “sensation novel” genre. Like most literary trends, the genre is a bit difficult to define, for it combines a number of pre-existing genres. In a general sense, these novels (which include Wilkie Collins’ THE WOMAN IN WHITE and Charles Dickens’ THE MYSTERY OF ERWIN DROOD), provide a mix of romance and realism, themes of social insecurity, and a focus on criminals and crimes. In some ways they anticipate the modern murder mystery, and the word “sensation” is used in the sense of scandalous.

The story tells of a marriage between the kindly, middle-aged Sir Michael Audley and the very young and very beautiful Lucy Grant, a pairing that has caused much comment, for Lucy is a governess of uncertain social antecedents. Sir Michael’s nephew, Robert Audley, is great friends with a man named George Tallboys, who is recently returned from Australia to learn his wife Helen and their child are dead. George’s discovery drives him to the brink of madness and he suddenly disappears—or has he? There seems to be some sort of mysterious connection between his disappearance and the new Lady Audley, who maintains locked rooms, has made every effort to avoid meeting George, and who now seems to redouble her efforts to prevent anyone—especially the curious Robert Audley—from learning anything of her past.

LADY AUDLEY’S SECRET would be Branson’s most popular work and it would have considerable influence over later novels. Even so, Branson is no Wilkie Collins, no Charles Dickens, and while the book is a fun and easy read, it is very melodramatic, very broadly written, and Lady Audley’s secret becomes more and more obvious with every page. On the whole, this is a novel people tend to read only when it is assigned for a class in Victorian literature. I think many people would enjoy it, but we have become so sophisticated about detective stories and mystery novels that I also think many people will find it a little ho-hum. Recommended, but primarily so for those interested in the development of the English novel.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Jack Rupert, a good friend


Footsteps In The Dark
Footsteps In The Dark
DVD ~ Errol Flynn
Price: $17.18
24 used & new from $13.18

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mildly Amusing, May 29, 2016
This review is from: Footsteps In The Dark (DVD)
The 1941 FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK is based on two 1937 plays: Katzenzungen KATZENZUNGEN (also known as FOOTSTEPS IN THE DARK) by Ladislas Fodor and BLONDIE WHITE by Bernard Merivale and Jeffrey Dell. Several stars were floated as possibles, including Joan Blondell, Claude Rains, and Edward G. Robinson, but as time passed the project was influenced by the on-going success of THE THIN MAN movies and the movie fell to Errol Flynn, who wanted a change from all those costume pictures, and Brenda Marshall. The resulting movie was a flyweight mystery with lots of screwball comedy thrown in.

The plot is convoluted. Francis Warren (Flynn) is a wealthy financial advisor who has taken to writing mystery novels under the penname F.X. Pettijohn—novels that draw upon his wife’s social circle for inspiration. He is suddenly drawn into a real-life murder case when he is blackmailed by a diamond dealer, and he teases the police into allowing him to work with them on the case, and he becomes involved with burlesque star Blondie White (Lee Patrick) as a result. Wife Rita (Brenda Marshall) suspects he is having an affair, and before too long Francis’ murder investigation is complicated by his mother-in-law (Lucille Watson), who hires a private detective to get the goods on his misbehavior. The supporting cast also includes such notables as Alan Hale, William Frawley, Ralph Bellamy, and Turhan Bey.

The movie sounds more fun than it actually is. The production is workman-like, but the script seems perfunctory, and Flynn and Marshall lack the spark that made William Powell and Myrna Loy such a smash in THE THIN MAN movies. The movie is chiefly memorable for the turns by Lee Patrick and Lucille Watson. Patrick had a long career playing character parts that ranged from Effie in THE MALTESE FALCON to Mrs. Upson in AUNTIE MAME. The script doesn’t give her much, but she gets everything out of it there is to be had. Lucille Watson was also a noted character actress, perhaps best remembered for her appearances in THE WOMEN and WATCH ON THE RHINE, and her mixture of ditheriness and crispness is always a delight. They are both lots of fun, but even so the film never really develops any energy or surprise. It’s not a bad little movie, but don’t go out of your way.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Jack Rupert


City Beneath The Sea
City Beneath The Sea
DVD ~ Stuart Whitman
Price: $17.99
21 used & new from $11.51

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Lot of Fun, May 28, 2016
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This review is from: City Beneath The Sea (DVD)
CITY BENEATH THE SEA is a 1971 made-for-television movie. I was ten years old and I watched it on a black and white television. I did not see it again, but the movie stayed with me: the man who could breathe underwater, the nuclear energy matter surrounded by gold, the looming planetoid on its collision course with earth. And most particularly the city itself, Pacifica, encased in glass like a kaleidoscope pattern. A few days ago I discovered it was available on DVD and I ordered it.

CITY is a made-on-demand DVD, a format about which I am not terribly enthusiastic. I was greatly perturbed when the intro, a promotion for Warner Brothers Archives, was “sticky.” Once I got past that and to the main menu, however, the DVD played without a glitch. Most made-for-television movies of this era were not highly prized and therefore are not usually well preserved; surprisingly, this one looks good, sounds good, and I didn’t notice anything greatly amiss.

The story is sci-fi clichés and hokum. The movie is set in 2053. Michael Matthews (Stuart Whitman) is recalled to military service by the President of the United States: there is a top secret issue involving Pacifica, the city beneath the sea that Matthews helped to build. Matthews is not eager to return, for he was accused of deliberately causing the death of a colleague and city co-founder. He is particularly blamed for this by the man’s wife Lia (Rosemary Forsyth) and Commander Patterson (Robert Colbert.) As the movie progresses, Matthews must deal with their dislike—and more particularly shipments of gold and nuclear matter being sent to Pacifica from Fort Knox in order to protect them from a series of earthquakes. But no sooner are these materials at Pacifica than scientists discover the cause of the earthquakes: a planetoid is on a collision course with earth, and yes, you guessed it. It’s headed smack dab to Pacifica.

The movie was produced, co-written, and directed by Irwin Allen, who was best known in the 1960s for the television series VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA and LOST IN SPACE. Allen was somewhat notoriously cheap, known for using stock footage and for recycling props, costumes, and sets—and he does precisely that with CITY, borrowing footage from his series LAND OF THE GIANTS and making use of models originally created for VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. Even so, the overall look of the film is surprisingly attractive, and in many ways it is a time capsule of its era. The art direction even makes use of the time’s color combinations of harvest gold, avocado green, burnt orange, and chocolate brown. The costumes are also of their time. The men wear jumpsuits, or attire that looks suspiciously like pajamas, or groovy duds including vests and bellbottoms. The women, even those who are military officers, parade around in long sleeves, mini-skirts, and high heels. Everything about the movie screams 1971.

The script does not give the cast a lot to work with, but they range from expert to adequate. Whitman is always good, and both Burr DeBenning and Susana Miranda are memorable (and physically stunning) in supporting roles. If you blink you’ll miss cameos by Joseph Cotton and Sugar Ray Robinson. But the real prize goes to Robert Wagner, who brings an entertaining sleazy smugness to the role of Matthew’s treacherous brother.
So. Is CITY BENEATH THE SEA going to win any awards? No. But I will say this. I’ve often returned to movies I saw as a child, and I am usually disappointed when I see them through mature eyes. But that wasn’t the case with CITY BENEATH THE SEA. It is exactly as I recalled it. It’s a LOT of fun!

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Jack Rupert


Summer and Smoke.
Summer and Smoke.
by Tennessee Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.20
68 used & new from $1.89

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Name of the Angel is Eternity, May 24, 2016
This review is from: Summer and Smoke. (Paperback)
Tennessee Williams’ SUMMER AND SMOKE is performed in two acts. The cast requires eight men and six women (extras are possible) and an elaborate, somewhat surrealistic stage set that shows three locales simultaneously: a doctor’s office, a minister’s drawing room, and the park’s life size statue of an angel at a fountain. Although it was not a complete failure when it debuted in 1948, SUMMER AND SMOKE was originally thought of as a minor play—until 1952, when it was memorably revived off-Broadway with Geraldine Page as its leading lady. Over time, many critics have come to regard it as among Williams’ finest works.

Set at the turn of the 20th Century in small-town Mississippi, SUMMER AND SMOKE is a delicately sketched love story played out against a set that specifies a brilliantly blue sky with the angel statue dominate above all. Alma is the daughter of a strict minister and his neurotic wife; John is the son of the widowed doctor who lives next door. Alma has loved John since childhood, but he returns from medical school wild and reckless, drinking, gambling, whoring, and frequenting a disreputable casino on the outskirts of town. He is intrigued by Alma, but she is too nervous and too determinedly proper to allow him any carnal liberties.

As the play progresses, Alma and John undergo a role reversal. A tragedy forces John to mature, and he comes to prize the spirituality and delicacy Alma represents. Persistent loneliness and disappointment force Alma to admit that she has need for physical love. But too much time has passed, too many things have occurred for the two to come together. The play ends in remarkable pathos.

It is interesting to compare Alma with Blanche from A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE; in many respects both are the same woman at different points in life, Alma beginning the sexual slide that will end in Blanche’s insanity. Although the play became well-regarded during his lifetime, Williams was never entirely satisfied with it, and in the 1970s he re-wrote it as ECCENTRICITIES OF A NIGHTINGALE. Where SUMMER AND SMOKE emphasizes Alma’s tragedy, ECCENTRICITIES re-writes John and emphasizes his tragedy. I personally do not rank SUMMER AND SMOKE with such Williams plays as THE GLASS MENAGERIE, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, and CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, but it’s very fine nonetheless. Recommended.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Jack Rupert


Scooby Doo: Abracadabra-Doo
Scooby Doo: Abracadabra-Doo
DVD ~ Frank Welker
Price: $7.89
57 used & new from $0.50

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Move Over, Harry Potter: Scooby-Doo Kicks It, May 18, 2016
This review is from: Scooby Doo: Abracadabra-Doo (DVD)
Released in 2010, SCOOBY-DOO! ABRACADABRA-DOO is the fourteenth in the “feature length” Scooby-Doo cartoon series created specifically for the homemarket, and it is easily among the best.

The Scooby-Doo features are often at their best when they poke fun at popular entertainment, and ABRACADABRA riffs on the Harry Potter movies with a touch of RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK thrown in for good measure. On this go-round, Velma’s mother sends the gang to the Whirlen Merlin Magic Academy: Velma’s sister Madelyn is a student, and the school is being plagued by a monstrous griffith! Thrown in a diabolical GPS, a lion, a slinky magician’s assistant, a banshee, and a housekeeper named Mrs. Rumblebuns, and the result is unexpectedly creepy and surprisingly witty fun.

Casey Kasem voiced Shaggy from the character’s creation to the feature SCOOBY-DOO! AND THE SAMURAI SWORD in 2009, when he retired due to failing health (he died in 2014.) Matthew Lillard, who played Shaggy in the live action movies, steps seamlessly into the role, and the writers give several entertaining twists to the time-honored characters and formulas. No one would accuse the series of being high art, but it is generally well-animated and well designed. The youngest of the regular viewing crowd may be perturbed by some of the ghostly surprises in this title, so parents may want to do a preview, but even so, SCOOBY-DOO! ABRACADABRA-DOO is a kick-it title, lots of fun for old and new fans alike.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Jack Rupert


Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint
Danny Dunn and the Anti-Gravity Paint
Price: $3.03

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable Nostalgia, May 17, 2016
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Originally published in 1956, DANNY DUNN AND THE ANTI-GRAVITY PAINT is the first in a series of fifteen children’s novels by Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams. The background for all the novels is the same: widowed Mrs. Dunn is housekeeper for the rather eccentric Professor Euclid Bullfinch, a scientist at Midston University. Her son Danny wants to become a scientist when he grows up, and he and friends Joe and Irene frequently become entangled in science-oriented adventures, often to the professor’s amusement.

In this particular novel, Professor Bullfinch uses Danny’s discovery of an anti-gravity paint to build a spaceship—but when Danny and his friend Joe (Irene doesn’t appear in the first two books) sneak on board, Danny accidentally launches the ship with Professor Bullfinch, Dr. Grimes, Joe and himself on board, and everyone struggles to find a way home.

The Danny Dunn series has dated in terms of science, and I doubt they will be of much interest to contemporary children—but nostalgia has its charms. I enjoyed reading the books when I was nine or ten, and I’m enjoying re-visiting them forty years later. They make me smile. Sad to say, the Kindle version does not include the illustrations.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Jack Rupert


Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
Come Back to the 5 and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean
by Ed Graczyk
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.95
64 used & new from $5.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars In the Gap Between Past and Future, May 14, 2016
COME BACK TO THE 5 & DIME JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN opened on Broadway in 1982, was savaged by critics, and it closed after a short run. A later film production with the same cast was marginally more successful. But while both play and film will never be critical darlings, the show has proven a favorite in regional, university, and community theatre. It requires an elaborate but single unit set, significant lighting skill, and a cast of eight women and one man. It is performed in two acts.

Back in 1955 a group of Texas high school friends formed a James Dean fan club that exploded into melodrama: club leader Mona, who worked as an extra in the movie Giant, claimed that her son was fathered by James Dean. Now it is 1975, and she plans a reunion for the old gang at the fading five and dime in their tiny home town. Only a few show up—and the arrival of mysterious woman, who seems to know about their darkest secrets, jolts them into a series of unhappy revelations and realizations.

The script has a somewhat “Tennessee Williams” quality, but although the sense of poignancy is there, writer Ed Graczyk lacks Williams’ ability to make a highly artificial construct seem plausible, and the play will require a sharp director, cast, and designers to carry it off. Most productions I have seen have considerable difficulty in effectively staging the way in which the play’s action shifts between 1955 and 1975. All of this said, 5 & DIME is an unexpectedly strong script, enjoyable to read—and, if you can find it in a first rate production—entertaining to watch.

GFT, Amazon Reviewer
In Memory of Jack Rupert


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