MCN Columnists
Gary Dretzka

By Gary Dretzka

The DVD Wrapup

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis: The Complete Series
It isn’t a name that means much, anymore, but, for teenage boys coming of age at the dawn of the 1960s, Thalia Menninger was the girl against whom all others were measured. Although Tuesday Weld’s gold-digging blond only appeared in 16 of the 148 episodes of “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” Thalia haunts the memories of graying Baby Boomers. This is especially true of those men who, after their bodies went to seed, “settled” for the plain, brainy and exceedingly persistent Zelda Gilroys of the world. Indeed, Thalia might very well have served as the model for George Lucas’ elusive “Blonde in T-Bird,” in “American Graffiti.” I doubt that many women of a certain age still crush over the eternally love-struck Dobie, who was immortalized by Dwayne Hickman. Those who do, however, will be pleased to learn of Shout!Factory’s brilliant complete-run DVD compilation and vintage features. (Warren Beatty played one of Dobie’s nemeses, if that’s any consolation.) Max Shulman’s short-story compilation, “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis,” enjoys the distinction of having been adapted for the both the large and small screen in the 1950s, with the author (“The Tender Trap,” “Rally ‘Round the Flag, Boys!”) doing the honors as scriptwriter. The 1953 musical comedy, “The Affairs of Dobie Gillis,” starred Bobby Van, Debbie Reynolds and Bob Fosse, among other familiar faces. The CBS series would be much more a product of its times, however, in that Shulman understood how anxious America’s teenagers had become to break out of the molds created for them by society and Hollywood.

Even if the characters in “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis” weren’t rebels without a cause or juvenile delinquents, they much preferred the company of kids their own age and putting fun above achievement. Moreover, as Hickman argues, “it was the first character-driven sitcom that looked on life from the teenager’s point-of-view.” The same couldn’t be said of “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet,” “Father Knows Best” and “The Donna Reed Show.” (Such shows as “Glee” and “Gossip Girl” are as concerned with the problems of being an adult in the contemporary world as those relating to being a modern teenager.) Besides popularizing the filler word, “like,” Maynard G. Krebs represented a new breed of American teenager. As so wonderfully played by Bob Denver, Maynard was a free-thinker with a passion for jazz and the writings of the Beats, who, by definition, weren’t beatniks at all. If we remember him for playing the fool, it was in the Shakespearean sense of the word. As devoted to Dobie as he was, there was a bit of the Sancho Panza in Maynard, as well. As annoying as Zelda (Sheila James Kuehl) could be in her pursuit of her impossible dream, Dobie, she was portrayed with affection and never completely ruled out as his inevitable partner in life. Maynard and Zelda pulled Dobie’s butt out of the fire more often than he scored with the ladies.

As far as I can tell, this is the first time the entire series has been collected and Shout!Factory has spared no expense to make it as attractive as possible to those who’ve been waiting decades for it to arrive. Among the goodies are a fresh13-minute interview with Hickman; the restored 30-minute pilot version of “Caper at the Bijou,” featuring Dwayne Hickman’s pitch to the network executives at the end; a five-minute clip of the “Coke Time” special” from 1960, with Denver, Pat Boone and Edd “Kookie” Byrnes; a six-minute color skit from “The Dinah Shore Chevy show”; three episodes of “Love that Bob,” featuring Hickman; an episode of “The Stu Irwin Show,” from 1954, with Kuehl and Hickman. The final disc also has a DVD-Rom feature containing PDF files of three “Dobie” scripts and the shooting script of the “Zelda” spinoff attempt. (Despite the character’s popularity, the spinoff series was blackballed by studios and/or advertisers over rumors of the actor’s lesbianism. In 1994, Kuehl would become the first openly gay person elected to the California Legislature.) – Gary Dretzka

The Girl
Although most of the undocumented workers attempting to cross the Rio Grande into Texas would give their left arm to trade lives with Ashley (Abbie Cornish), many of them would find themselves just as bad off as they were before leaving home. The protagonist of “The Girl” does have a job at a supermarket in southern Texas, but hasn’t had a raise or promotion in years. If she’s making more than minimum-wage, Ashley would be among the fortunate few. Even after losing her child to Social Services, Ashley is subject to surprise visits from case workers looking for booze or drugs. She lives in a modified trailer, where she dreams of someday adding some swings or a jungle gym, if only for appearances sake. Having met the child’s foster family, we aren’t particularly sympathetic to her quest. To get wealthier, faster, Ashley decides to follow her father’s lead by transporting immigrants from Mexico to Austin and San Antonio. The truck traffic over the bridge at Nuevo Laredo is so heavy that only one in a hundred vehicles is checked, or so says Daddy Dearest (Will Patton), never thinking that she might attempt such a dangerous crime. Decreasing the odds in her favor are her inexperience, naiveté and lack of a semi. Naturally, on her first venture, Ashley screws things up so badly that lives are put in jeopardy almost immediately. Not owning an 18-wheeler in which to hide the refugees on the trip over the bridge, she must convince a group of especially desperate men and women into meeting her on the American side of the river, sans coyote or inner-tubes.

This makes them sitting ducks for the Border Patrol’s helicopter and capriciousness of the currents. When Ashley is made aware of the enormity of her carelessness, her empathy with the poor refugees prevents her from shaking off the tragedy as the cost of doing business, as her father advises her to do. It’s at this point in “The Girl” that something quite remarkable happens. In an interview included in the bonus material, writer/director David Riker (“The City”) says that he wanted to “turn the myth of the border upside-down.” To find redemption for her sin, Ashley is determined to reunite a young Mexican girl with her mother or return her to the Oaxacan village she hadn’t wanted to leave in the first place. Unlike the lucky few immigrants who find their hopes realized in the Promised Land, Ashley discovers the route to salvation by going the other direction. It’s a wondrous journey. No one should be surprised by the terrific performances turned in by Cornish and Patton. What’s more remarkable are the ones Riker coaxes from everyone around them, especially the Mexican cast members and newcomer Maritza Santiago Hernandez. (If she were American, Maritza would have her own Disney Channel show, by now.) He’s also able to capture the hope, despair and ambivalence of the immigrants and coyotes who gather at the border towns each night in advance of the next rush to freedom. Among the bonus features is a film that describes the casting and location process. (The scenes shot in Oaxaca capture a lot more than just the spectacular landscape.) – Gary Dretzka

Inescapable: Blu-ray
Ruba Nadda’s grueling political thriller, “Inescapable,” reminds me of two other Canadian exports set roughly in the same region: Denis Villeneuve’s “Incendies” and Atom Egoyan’s “Ararat.” All three of the filmmakers describe what happens when an outsider travels to the Mideast to ask questions whose answers were locked in a box years earlier. Egoyan revists the Armenian genocide in “Ararat,” while “Incendies” is set on both sides of Lebanon’s political divide. Of the three highly personal films, only “Inescapable” had a fighting chance of commercial success. In it, a Syrian ex-pat living secretly in Canada is forced to return to his homeland when his daughter is kidnapped for reasons that are kept intentionally murky. The movie is set in pre-war Damascus, where 17 different police agencies collect information about Syrians, some of whom may actually be harboring something subversive. By returning to the country he once served in some official capacity, Adib (Alexander Siddig) not only is risking his own life, but also the lives of the old friends he asks for support and assistance. Among them is his former lover, Fatima (Marisa Tomei), who Adib left behind in Damascus without so much as a fare-thee-well, and a former comrade, Sayid (Oded Fehr), now a top officer in the one of the many police agencies. By asking them for help, Adib isn’t simply calling in IOUs that don’t exist. No one in Syria owes him a nickel and, simply by making contact, he puts their lives in danger. This time, however, Adib can’t pretend he’s doing them a favor by keeping them in the dark.

The daughter, Muna (Jay Anstey), claims only to have traveled to Syria to discover her father’s roots. The script allows for other possibilities, as well: after having an affair with a diplomat, she became an Israeli spy; joined a revolutionary group that, in league with her father, wants to topple the government; is a hapless tourist, who snapped a photograph at exactly the wrong time; is blackmailing a high-ranking government official, with whom she had an affair; or simply is an overly inquisitive and naively trusting daughter, attempting to fill in the blanks left from her father’s lies. In Syria, the police don’t require an excuse before arresting someone of interest to them. In any case, Mona’s being held by someone who’s willing to kill to get the information he thinks she’s holding. Although everything we’ve learned about the Syria in the last few months would seem to justify the high level of paranoia at play in “Inescapable,” it would be a mistake to read too much about the insurgency into the movie. The people we meet here have mostly benefitted from the regime’s tight grip.

Don’t take this as a knock against “Inescapable,” but Nadda’s film has more in common with “Taken” and “Taken 2” than “Incendies” or “Ararat.” After family members are kidnapped, the protagonists are required to deploy skills mastered as part of a quasi-military organization and approach former allies, whose personal safety is then put at great risk. Unrelenting action drives all three stories and, while Siddig isn’t as much a physical force as Liam Neeson, he holds his own pretty well. What’s far-fetched in the “Taken” series, though, is less far-fetched in “Inescapable.” Indeed, some critics seemed anxious to judge it as if it were a documentary. It could have been set in any one of a dozen Middle East countries and probably been just as convincing. As it is, I wouldn’t have guessed that the movie was shot in South Africa and not Tangiers, the Toronto of Africa. It looked every bit that realistic. The actors seemed to be fully invested in their characters and enthusiastic about the story. It arrives with commentary, a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes and a festival Q&A. – Gary Dretzka

Into the White: Blu-ray
The events described in Petter Naess’ humanistic World War II drama, “Into the White,” actually occurred, in April 1940, about two weeks after the German army invaded Norway. Primarily, Hitler wanted to secure Norway for its access to ice-free harbors and to control the availability of iron ore and other Scandinavian mineral deposits. British and French troops had pretty much the same idea, even if they were at a strategic disadvantage to the Germans. “In the White” opens with the downing of two enemy fighter planes over the snow-covered mountains of Norway. After enduring their first bout with the elements, the survivors find refuge in an abandoned cabin, which has an operable stove and a few beds and skis, but not much else. Even though this truly is a life-and-death situation for both parties and the unarmed Brits seem relatively harmless, the three German airmen push their advantage by declaring them to be POWs. They draw borders over which the “captured” Brits are forbidden to cross and delegate duties that include dishwashing, wood-gathering and tearing up newspapers for toilet papers. All five of the airman get along pretty well, considering how early it is in the war effort and how thick the smell of macho patriotism is in their air. After a while, the Brits get control of the gun and the roles are reversed. Eventually, equilibrium was established and the men’s primary mission would be survival. “Into the White” contains enough humor to keep things from getting more artificially tense than they could have become. An injury suffered in the crash landing of the German plane dials up the intensity for a while, but, by then, we know that a Norwegian rescue unit is racing to see what is going on in their beloved mountains. Now, the question becomes, to which side the survivors will be delivered. Even if “Into the White” doesn’t break much new ice, it has the advantage of being based on an actual event and pilots with real names. It also looks pretty good in Blu-ray. – Gary Dretzka

Tai Chi Hero: Blu-ray
Some of you may already have caught “Tai Chi Zero,” originally intended to be the first half of Stephen Fung’s outrageous martial-arts epic, with “Tai Chi Hero.” (A third entry, “Tai Chi Summit,” reportedly is in the works, but in the early stages of pre-production.) It tells the story of Yang Luchan (Yuan Xiaochao), one of the disciplines’ greatest teachers, from childhood to his later triumphs against British imperialists and the warlords hiding behind their terrifying death-dealing machines. As a boy, Yang (a.k.a., the Freak) was sent to Chen Village to learn a powerful form of Tai Chai known only to its residents. No outsider has been allowed to study with the master – thus, preserving its mystery – and much of “Tai Chi Hero” focuses on Yang’s willingness to protect the village, even in the face of the elders’ reluctance to share the wisdom. Suffice it to say, teacher and student find a way to get around the protocol. In the sequel, the British railroad builders led by Duke Fleming (Peter Stormare) are still intent on cutting through the gorge in which Chen Village is situated. The so-called “steampunk” element is advanced by even more 19th Century weaponry than was seen in the original and an airplane created by the master’s black-sheep son. “Tai Chi Hero” is every bit as nuts as “Tai Chi Zero” and the fighting scenes are just as remarkable. The less one worries about such things as consistency, logic and character development, the more likely it is that fans will enjoy themselves and want to see the triquel. The Blu-ray adds a lengthy behind-the-scenes featurette. – Gary Dretzka

Tower Block: Blu-ray
In the movies, as in real life, there’s almost nothing scarier than a sniper whose deadly accuracy is established from the first shot. Images of Sarajevo residents attempting to go from Point A to Point B, often unsuccessfully, brought people around the world into the horror and hatred that made the Bosnian War different from other 20th Century conflicts. The terrible passions that prompted such carnage were dramatized in HBO’s “Shot Through the Heart.” It told the story of two lifelong friends, who became sharpshooters on opposite sides of the front lines. The sniper scene in “Full Metal Jacket” remains as frightening today as it did upon the movie’s release in 1987. The first chillingly effective sniper movie I can recall seeing is Jules Feiffer and Alan Arkin’s inky black comedy, “Little Murders,” which was set primarily in a living room filled with neurotic New Yorkers during a crime wave. The latest, of course, is the Tom Cruise vehicle, “Jack Reacher.” Deer in northern Wisconsin are more aware of the potential for danger than the characters in movies whose antagonists are left largely anonymous through the first couple of reels. Maybe, that’s scariest thing.

In the extremely effective, if economically made UK thriller, “Tower Block,” viewers are as blindsided by the violence as the residents of a soon-to-be-demolished apartment building in East London. As the movie opens, we follow a young man as he feverishly attempts to find refuge in the upper floors of the building. He’s being chased by some thugs, who may be working for the managers of the property. When he gets to the upper floors of the building, where the last holdouts are living, only a single resident comes to the aid of the soon-to-be-dead youth. Months later, a sniper from another building begins picking off the stragglers with unbelievable accuracy. Whoever’s doing the shooting – remember that the sniper in Kubrick’s film is a woman – is patient enough to wait for a curtain to open or a mirror to reflect the face and location of a resident. It’s easy to assume that building management has grown tired of waiting and is ready for the final solution. The resident find shelter in a hallway, but it would open them up to attack by the thugs. The tension builds as escape routes are exhausted and the arrival of police is delayed. If the answer to the mystery comes pretty much out of nowhere, it does have a certain strange logic to it. Apart from faces I recognized from some BBCAmerica imports, no one in the cast and crew stood out to me. That probably means that the budget for “Tower Block” was miniscule, as well. If so, the producers got a lot bang for their bucks. – Gary Dretzka

6 Souls: Blu-ray
It isn’t often that a thriller or any other movie starring Julianne Moore, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Frances Conroy arrives on DVD/Blu-ray more than three years after its initial theatrical release — in Japan and Ireland – and five years after production began. My guess is that the producers and distributors knew they had a $22-million turkey on their hands and wanted to cut their losses by making as few prints as possible and sending them around the world, one by one. After a very limited release here, it’s finally found a home on VOD and DVD. Normally, such circumstances would indicate that a movie is so bad, no one wanted to pay the freight necessary to promote brand-name talent properly. Frankly, though, “6 Souls” isn’t any worse than dozens of others undercooked supernatural thrillers that have come my way in the last few years. It’s certainly far from unwatchable. Moore plays the recently widowed Dr. Cara Harding, a forensics psychiatrist who believes that science can explain all the mysteries in life. Her mental-health-practitioner father (Jeffrey DeMunn) isn’t so sure. When she dismisses the theory of multiple-personality disorder, dad suggests that she interview one of his patients, who has a half-dozen of them. Not all share the same physical disabilities and some even appear to have been victims of murder. David (Rhys Meyers) is a pretty scary dude in his own right, and each new personality is crazier than the previous one. Moreover, her investigation takes her deep into the hills, where some in-bred creeps somehow managed to imbed themselves in David’s memory bank. For all its faults, Mans Marlind and Bjorn Stein’s movie looks pretty good. Moore’s loyal fans might even feel an obligation toward sampling it. – Gary Dretzka

Blood for Irina
In his first venture into feature films, Fangoria editor Chris Alexander puts his money where his mouth usually is. It isn’t every day, after all, that a film critic and genre buff answers the challenge posed by all recipients of negative reviews, “If you’re so smart, how come you haven’t made your own movie?” Well, here it is. Admittedly influenced by such extreme artists as Werner Herzog, Jean Rollin and Jesus Franco, the existential and occasionally Impressionistic “Blood for Irina” describes what it might be like for a female vampire, who, after a century in the game, is ready to curl into a fetal position and die. Not only is the thrill of bloodlust gone, but, so, too, is her ability to be satisfied by the main course, alone. In this way, Irina (Shauna Henry) isn’t all that different than the broken-down, pink-haired whore she passes by on her nightly hunts. There’s certainly nothing sensually pleasing in the kills or the life she lives in a ramshackle motel on the shores of Lake Ontario. Alexander’s film doesn’t give us much of an opportunity to see below the surface of Irina’s current angst. She’s old, tired and ready to die … that’s it. As director, writer, editor, producer, cinematographer and composer, Alexander probably was so in love with his own vision that he forgot to add background and a reason for us to care about a predatory beast, no matter how pretty she is. That said, though, “Blood for Irina” looks and feels as chilly as a late fall day in Toronto and the ambient music nearly makes up for the absence of dialogue. As first features go, Alexander’s picture passes the test of convincing viewers to sit through the whole movie, without falling asleep or bemoaning the gods who allowed such a picture to exist. The Blu-ray adds some making-of material, including bits in which Irina was given words to say. – Gary Dretzka

The House I Live In
Constitution USA With Peter Sagal
Considering that our last three presidents have all admitted “experimenting,” at least, with marijuana and, perhaps, harder drugs, it borders on the insane that people who’ve imbibed or dealt the same substances are rotting in America’s overcrowded prisons. Indeed, the legalization and decriminalization of marijuana in some states almost demands that government official re-assess the sentences handed those men and women, boys and girls convicted of non-violent, drug-related crimes. If nothing else, such a campaign would serve to help deflate the problem of overcrowded prisons and the criminal-college aspect of incarceration. Instead, our current attorney general wastes money and manpower on the persecution of marijuana growers and suppliers, even in states where it’s been legalized. Eugene Jarecki’s powerful documentary, “The House I Live In,” argues several logical points about the failure of this country’s vastly expensive and remarkably unsuccessful 45-year-old War on Drugs. Without denying the necessity for the jailing of traffickers of hard drugs and punishing their predatory ways, Jarecki argues that the War on Drugs has actually turned into a war on young people of color without other means of financial support or access to savvy legal representation. Moreover, Jarecki points out that three-strike laws and mandatory sentencing provisions, while politically attractive, have kept prisons clogged for decades. Moreover, unions representing prison guards, alongside lobbyists for privately built facilities, have successfully argued against policies that would reduce the prison population.

If that sounds too much like liberal boilerplate, consider that Jarecki goes out of his way here to find advocates within the law-enforcement, political and judicial communities, as well as interviewing prisoners whose Original Sin was being born into a family in which the father would be incarcerated or simply split, before the hard work of parenting began. The filmmaker further argues that, because felons aren’t allowed to vote, the sentencing laws have basically disenfranchised an entire generation of young, mostly black men (a.k.a., Democrats). “The House I Live In” won the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at the 2012 Sundance festival. People who go into the film with an open mind should find the points made here to be reasonable and more thoroughly researched than half the crap that slides through Congress. Taxpayers, especially, are likely to find something in the presentation to get their blood boiling.

The PBS documentary mini-series, “Constitution USA With Peter Sagal,” could hardly be more relevant, as it goes into depth on issues that not only have split the nation, but also our judicial system. Supreme Court Justice Anton Scalia may think he knows exactly what the founding fathers had in mind when creating the Constitution, but he’s only guessing when it comes to such explosive issues as abortion, same-sex marriage, private possession of assault rifles and mandatory sentences. The visionaries who framed our Constitution weren’t put on the same pedestal of the Pope, whose dictates come directly from God and, therefore, are infallible, even if the absolutists put them there. The Bill of Rights offers proof that the men who dictated the document didn’t think they were beyond reproach. Host and narrator Peter Sagal (“Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me”) takes us on a somewhat disorderly tour of the United States on the back of his Harley-Davidson motorcycle to places where the decisions made by the federal judiciary aren’t at all abstract or theoretical. There are real consequences to those decisions and Sagal wonders if the Constitution still works and, if not, what can be done to fix it. Arguments are made on both sides of every issue and the experts interviewed aren’t limited to academics, politicians and other windbags. The mini-series is broken up into four separate parts: “States vs. Uncle Sam,” “We the People,” “Think You Know Your Rights?” and “A New Constitution.” Sagal’s inquisitive nature and open-minded approach contribute mightily to the show’s appeal. – Gary Dretzka

Burn: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit
Blowing Fuses Left & Right: The Legendary Detroit Rock Interviews
Not all horror movies are set in haunted houses, castles, cemeteries and shopping malls being assaulted by zombies. Some arrive in the form of documentaries shot in the streets of our greatest cities. Such is the case of “Burn: One Year on the Front Lines of the Battle to Save Detroit.” It follows the crew of Engine Company 50, one of the busiest firehouses in the country, as it simultaneously battles Detroit’s epidemic of fires and a budget that would be considered stingy, if the city weren’t already on the brink of bankruptcy. That the Motor City is in such terrible economic shape is hardly news. Neither are scenes of the post-apocalyptic urban landscape and desperation of residents seeking jobs. What comes as a bit of a surprise here is learning how little money actually trickled down to Detroit after the automotive industry was bailed out by the geniuses on Wall Street and in Washington. Of all the departments to be squeezed in a money crisis, it only seems logical that a city’s fire department would be among the last to be savaged. In Detroit, however, the dangers already faced by firefighters have been compounded by an inability to repair or purchase new equipment, keep water flowing to hydrants and replacing firefighters who retire or go on disability. Even if the city could replace lost personnel, salaries of $30,000 and non-existent raises are considered sufficiently low to allow some firefighters to collect food stamps.

Still, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the men (no women) we meet at EC50 continue to perform their tasks with diligence and no small amount of enthusiasm. When the incoming commissioner makes the logical decision to refrain from battling fires in abandoned and derelict buildings, the firefighters immediately come up with a half-dozen reasons why this might not work in Detroit, including the fact that these buildings often are the only refuge homeless people can find. Besides the commissioner, the filmmakers put a tight focus on an about-to-retire veteran, a young firefighter paralyzed from the waist down after the collapse of a wall and a newly promoted chief. The cameras frequently bounce between raging infernos, the firehouse, funerals, civic activities and off-duty life at home. Denis Leary, who played a firefighter in “Rescue Me,” is listed among the executive producers of “Burn.” It has been shown at festivals, VOD outlets and now on DVD/Blu-ray. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Leary Firefighters Foundation. And, BTW, since the documentary debuted at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, the financial situation in Detroit has devolved even further, from dire to impossible.

Among the things Detroit has in abundance, apparently, are musical memories. Hardly a month goes by without a documentary being released about the Glory Years, when Motown ruled, punk rock was being conceived, blue-eyed soul prospered and musicians could supplement their incomes on the assembly lines. “Blowing Fuses Left & Right: The Legendary Detroit Rock Interviews” is a compilation of interviews conducted by Gil Margulis in 1988 with the Stooges’ guitarist Ron Asheton, and the MC5’s Rob Tyner and Dennis Thompson. At the time, Margulis was a New Jersey high-school student obsessed with the explosive pre-punk sounds of Detroit rock in the 1960s. The complete interview sessions, which Margulis believed to be lost, are available here for the first time. They’re interesting both for their historical value and rare, far-reaching discussions with Asheton and Tyner, both of whom have died in the interim. A companion edition of the documentary adds interviews with such Detroit luminaries as MC5 manager John Sinclair, the Rationals’ Scott Morgan and Grande Ballroom owner Russ Gibb. – Gary Dretzka

From the Head
Some movies cry out for the addition of Smell-O-Vision or AromaRama to their high-tech menus. Others don’t. Writer/director/star George Griffith’s semi-autobiographical “From the Head” definitely is in the latter category. Indeed, the 2D experience often borders on the unwatchable. That’s not because the film is without artistic merit or is poorly made, just that a men’s room in a Times Square “gentlemen’s club” is the last place anyone would care to spend more than five minutes … on- or off-screen. It is, however, a location extremely familiar to Griffith, who worked in several different such places before turning to other creative pursuits. It explains the nearly prehistoric look of the patrons, some of whom could remember buying their wardrobes at Robert Hall, which went out of business in 1977. Because of his predilection for spectator shoes, the attendant has been accorded the nickname, “Shoes,” by patrons and the strippers who drop in when the toilet in their bathroom is clogged or a client is spending too much time on the pot. Shoes doesn’t play the role of father-confessor very often, if only because no one sticks around long enough for more than a couple of minutes of therapy. He’s better at administering tips to gentleman about how to avoid detection by jealous wives, for which he’s compensated in tips. He also does favors for the strippers, who wish that all of their customers washed their hands after visiting the facilities. If the idea of finding an attendant in a washroom sounds foreign — let alone tipping for soap, towel and cologne — you’re not alone. There’s nothing more awkward than using the facilities and only having some small change to offer the pleasant fellow who turns on the water, hands you a towel and offers some cologne or candy. “From the Head” takes place on the three-year anniversary of his stint at the club, so it’s logical that something auspicious would happen to Shoes during the course of the night. The movie is surprisingly interesting, if not exactly entertaining. The conceit probably would play better on stage, though, and the smaller the better. For a first movie, though, it ain’t bad. – Gary Dretzka

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2 Responses to “The DVD Wrapup”

  1. Bill Baldwin, Jr. says:

    Do you think there is any hope of finally resolving whatever licensing issues still remain so that The Dinah Shore Chevy Show might finally gets its long overdue recognition on DVD?

    Fifty-six years ago this coming Sunday, I was lucky enough to be a 13-year old drummer in a Dixieland band on the Dec. 29, 1957 Dinah Shore Chevy Show broadcast live to the east coast from what was then NBC’s brand new Burbank facility. Thanks to perhaps the first 4 inch color videotape machines at NBC, I got to see the show three hours later that Sunday evening at home.

    Given the extraordinary quality of Dinah’s seven fabulous Chevy Show seasons, why I haven’t been able to see my little moment a second time via VHS then DVD years ago is an outrage. Ask anyone who was around to see it and I’ll bet most would agree with me, that The Dinah Shore Chevy Show was flat out the very best musical variety show in the history of television. That the various ownership factions haven’t taken care of things long ago is not only bad business, but a disgrace with regard to the memory of a fabulous performer who deserves much better.

    Dinah Shore was the real deal, funny, charming and a terrific singer who easily attracted the very best singers of the day from Sinatra to Ella as her guests each week. The incredible Dinah Shore Orchestra was another reason everybody who was anybody wanted to hang with her. The Dinah Shore orchestra had the “baddest” cats in town because the star of the show wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s time two or three new generations of viewers got to see and hear the quality for themselves.

    Bill Baldwin, Jr.
    Los Angeles

  2. Gary Dretzka says:

    Hey, it’s taken even longer to get the Kovacs/Adams stuff out. I don’t know who holds the rights, but I would guess that someone at Shout!Factory does. Or, they might have been destroyed like the early Carson shows. Adams had to save the Kovacs collection from being dumped in the East River at last minute. There’s a lot of amazing stuff at broadcast museum in Beverly Hills and New York. It’s easily accessible to public.


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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon