Friday, July 26, 2019


Check out my "Friday Flicks" column, online at Phoenix Magazine, this week featuring my reviews of Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Hollywood...

 ...and of the unsettling German horror film Luz, playing this weekend at Filmbar...

Your Humble Narrator really mooned it up last weekend, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11; The Wife made me a present of this boss new shirt...

...and my film historian pal Richard put on a fantastic lunar-themed movie night, starting with an 1898 Georges Melies short, The Astronomer's Dream, in which a rapacious moon descends and devours the Astronomer's telescope, among other things... well as Excursion to the Moon, Segundo de Chomon's 1908 Pathe rip-off of the Melies Trip to the Moon...

...and 1935's lovely Fleischer cartoon Dancing on the Moon, in which newlyweds of various species take a pleasure cruise to the satellite...

...for just a dollar per couple (a tomcat gets separated from his new bride, alas). He also showed us a silent Hal Roach short, A Moony Mariner, with Billy Dooley pressed into service as an astronaut.

Then for the feature, we got Richard Cunha's hilarious 1958 saga Missile to the Moon (or Invasion de la Luna, as it's called in this Spanish-language lobby card)...

...featuring fabulous moon-maidens, as well as a terrifying giant spider...

...and rather Gumby-like rock men...

Ah, but I didn't stop there. No, on my own last weekend I watched a British double feature; first the likably inane 1969 lunar noir from Hammer, Moon Zero Two...

...and then the 1970 dinosaurs-and-caveman epic When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth...

...which is, after all, also a Moon movie; it's supposedly about the birth of the Moon.

So, here's my last moon-oriented posting (for a while):

Out on Blu-ray this month is Space: 1999, the two-season British TV series from 1975, produced by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson of Thunderbirds. The premise is that a terrible explosion in the title year has blasted the Moon out of Earth orbit and sent it sailing through space like a futuristic Flying Dutchman. The roughly three hundred inhabitants, led by Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and Barry Morse, encounter strange alien worlds, always hoping they might be able to colonize one, always disappointed.

Released during lean times for sci-fi geekspost-Star Trek, pre-Star WarsSpace: 1999 was eagerly anticipated. Revisiting the show now, my memory of it from back then was confirmed: It's dreadful. The production was first-rate, with near-state-of-the-art special effects for the time, cool spaceships and sets and costumes and attractive series regulars. The guest stars were big-name Brits, from Ian McShane to Brian Blessed to Leo McKern to Margaret Leighton to Billie Whitelaw to Roy Dotrice to Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee, if you please, to name just a few. But the earnest humorlessness of the atmosphere was oppressive, and to say the pacing was glacial is to insult the promptness of glaciers.

In the second season, a sexy shape-shifting alien played by Catherine Schell was added, as were some attempts at jocular humor, and this obvious play at dumbing-down was somehow just embarrassing. But Space: 1999 did have one splendid feature, albeit in its first season only: The opening title sequence. There would be a blaring fanfare of bombastic music, and then a fast-cut montage of scenes from the episode to follow. If only the shows themselves could have captured some of the excitement of those openings.

Friday, July 19, 2019


The weekend of July 20 marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. I decided to celebrate by writing, directing and acting in a one-hour radio play, Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon (drawing on both Verne's 1865 FTETTM and its 1870 sequel Round the Moon). It's scheduled to air at 7 p.m. (Phoenix time) Saturday, July 20, and again at 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, on Sun Sounds of Arizona; you can listen in at

Check out my Phoenix Magazine online article about the production.

Here I am in great-director mode during the recording:

 And here's a better angle on me:


This was a passion project for me. I was seven years old that week in 1969 when the Eagle, the lunar module of Apollo 11, touched down in the Sea of Tranquility, and I remember it, and the weeks and months leading up to it, with a vividness matched by only a few of my other early childhood memories.

I remember the gathering of relatives at our rural house, and one of my cousins saying, quite gratuitously, “There’s his foot comin’ down,” as we watched Neil Armstrong, in fuzzy black-and-white, take his legendary one small step. Looking back, it seems like a corny, Norman Rockwell scene, but I also remember going outside shortly thereafter, into the cool, clear Pennsylvania night, and looking up at the moon, as if I’d see the guys waving down at me from above.

One of my sisters, however, has these memories beat; she remembers watching the landing at the Newport Folk Festival, on a TV placed on the stage where both the audience and the performers could keep an eye on it!

The feverish excitement that arose during the early years of the Apollo program turned countless people into space geeks, and I was certainly one of the most insufferable of them, wearying teachers, family members and even friends my own age with space chatter to the exclusion of almost everything else (now I'm doing it again, at the age of  57!). As it happened, the mother of one of my brothers-in-law worked for a NASA contractor in D.C., so she had a connection; shortly after the safe return of the astronauts she somehow arranged for me to be sent an Apollo 11 press kit, complete with glossy prints of the iconic photos taken by Armstrong on that first lunar excursion. I still have them.

Several years ago I had my moon pics appraised when Antiques Roadshow came to the Valley, and was told that they’re fairly common, having been sent to thousands of schoolteachers at the time, and only worth about $20 as a collector’s item. You can well imagine, however, that in second grade I felt like I had been entrusted with high-level government documents, and they made me the undisputed King of Show-and-Tell.

Anyway, Happy Moon Landing Day tomorrow everybody, and may the spirit of America one day soon be devoted again to doing things "In Peace, For All Mankind."

Oh, by the way, check out my review, on Phoenix Magazine online, of Lulu Wang's The Farewell, starring Awkwafina... of the better movies I've seen so far this year.

Friday, July 12, 2019


Check out my "Friday Flicks" column, on Phoenix Magazine online, featuring reviews of the sweet indie Miss Arizona...

...and of  Nick Broomfield's Leonard Cohen documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love...

RIP to the magnificent Rip Torn, somehow both chameleon and virile star persona, passed on at 88. Out of everything from King of Kings to You're a Big Boy Now to The Cincinnati Kid to The Man Who Fell to Earth to Cross Creek to City Heat and much more, some of Torn's most memorable performances are, for me, in otherwise misfired movies: His blustery senator in The Seduction of Joe Tynan ("I'm readin' from my pad..."); his loathsome, macho psychotic kidnapper in 1982's A Stranger is Watching; his good-naturedly full-of-it old salt in the lightweight 1985 John Candy comedy Summer Rental; his corrupt yet curiously likable Texan villain in 1987's Nadine.

My favorite Torn character of all, though, was Bob Diamond, the ebullient defender of Albert Brooks in the afterlife in 1991's Defending Your Life. Of his absence during one of the hero's hearings, Bob later apologetically explains that he was "trapped near the inner circle of fault." I hope that's not true for Torn now, and I hope I have somebody like Bob defending me.

I never met Rip Torn, alas, but I did once briefly meet Walter B. Russell Jr., the Korean War hero and Georgia State Representative that Torn played in 1959's Pork Chop Hill. That should count for something.

Monday, July 8, 2019


Hope everybody had a great 4th of July weekend. The three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies by the Arizona Diamondbacks this past weekend put me a good mood, baseball-wise.

In that same midsummer spirit, check out my "Four Corners" column, in the July issue of Phoenix Magazine...

...this month exploring the culinary options at four corners of Chase Field.

Thursday, July 4, 2019