Monday, 27 June 2011

2000 MALIBU ROAD: 'HONEY BUNNY'




If you’re a soap opera fan like I am and over 35, you probably remember this short-lived prime time TV series starring Lisa Hartman Black, Jennifer Beals and Drew Barrymore. It was produced by the king of chic sleaze Aaron Spelling and featured other well-known faces of the small and big screens. Some are not with us anymore, as time and tragedy strike even the people of La La land. But it was a great cast for a great soap that should have had a longer run. So what happened to it that it had to end so abruptly after a mere six episodes? Well, as a close friend of mine used to say, read on, my friend, just read on.


From what I gather, high production costs were the sole blame for the sudden cancellation of 2000 MALIBU ROAD. It is as simple as that. Oh yeah, and probably the decline of the sudsy dramas as well. If you recall, before MELROSE PLACE made it big, ‘80s primetime soaps were definitely on the down slide, thanks mostly to the overstaying power of TV hits like DYNASTY, DALLAS, KNOTS LANDING, FALXON CREST. Left and right people were bombarded with soaps. As much as you tried, you just couldn’t get away from them. So much so that when the ‘90s arrived, viewers got so fed up with the lives of the rich and famous they were more than ready to tune out. That is, until this little two-hour drama pointed its face in late summer of 1992 and changed the face of TV for good. Well… at least in my head.


I was living by myself at the time, having paid my dues as a broke dude who just couldn’t afford his own place. Having been working full time for awhile, I was finally able to enjoy my independence to the fullest. Which I have been doing ever since, thank you very much. Not exactly true, come to think of it. I do not live by myself anymore. I share my life and condo in hip Plateau Mont-Royal with someone now. It has been going on for quite some time, and I’m really proud of that. But back to our topic at hand. It was on a Sunday night that I came face to face with the premiere of 2000 MALIBU ROAD. By chance, since I was not planning on watching TV that evening. I probably had seen the promos of this movie event on CBS (which was really the one hour pilot plus the second episode) but didn’t make anything of them, since I too was getting pretty tired of seeing soaps predominate our screens, especially those of the short-run kind. Remember, I had been right then and there when the powers that be pulled the plugs on shows like FLAMINGO ROAD, PAPER DOLLS, BARE ESSENCE, THE COLBYS, EMERALD POINT N.A.S., and, frankly, I just couldn’t handle one more premature death.
 

Well, that’s what I thought. Little did I know I was going to fall madly in love with this soap opera take of the movie industry, the call girl ring, the double personality disorder, and best of all, the witchcraft practice. At last, here was a fresh take of a tiresome trend, one that had big potential of reviving the evening soaps and I couldn’t be happier. Moreover, when I found out that 2000 MALIBU ROAD would continue on for another four episodes, that I wouldn’t have to wait for it to come back at an undetermined time like so many other DOA soaps, I was even more in frothy heaven.


As you can imagine I was riveted to my TV set every Wednesdays, following the misadventures of these beach house roommates (hence the title address) who bathed in murders, spells, casting couches... For those who haven’t got a clue, 2000 MALIBU ROAD centered around four young ladies of diverse occupations (a lawyer, a would-be actress, a would-be agent/manager, an ex-call girl) who faced the melodramatic world by being strong independent women and also by sticking together when the goings got tough, which was even more of a treat since it meant seeing them interact with one another. Of course, every little details of their personal lives were scrutinized for our benefits, and each episode left you with the need to know more. Until it stopped for good after its first initial run. And to make matters even worse, it stopped on mega-cliffhangers that never came to be resolved. Talk about being had… again.


As mentioned, a lot of big names took part in this series, names like Joel Schumacher (who directed five of the six episodes), FALCON CREST Robert Foxworth, MASH Sally Kellerman. But my favorite one, apart from super hot Michael T. Weiss, was little known Tuesday Knight. Some of you may remember her as Kristen in the then-popular A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 4: THE DREAM MASTER or as now founder of Tuesday's Hip Vintage, a jewelry line. But to me she will always be Joy, the feisty agent slash plump witch of 2000 MALIBU ROAD with the honey bunny catchphrase stuck to her lips. She had a way of making everything seem so much fun and exciting. In fact I will even go further and say that her character was sort of a pioneer to what will later be known as supernatural soap opera vixens.
 

Back then, I would have given anything to see it back on TV. I couldn’t imagine the folks behind the Aaron Spelling name leaving us panting like that, especially since the show was doing particularly well in the ratings (the series premiere, #2 in the Nielsen’s ratings). At least give us a two-hour finale movie to seal the multi-story lines, I thought. But it was not meant to be. 2000 MALIBU ROAD had closed its doors definitely. Though Spelling had claimed otherwise, Lisa Hartman Black believes it was more of a problematic timeslot that ended the series as it was about to go head to head with another new and very promising Spelling soap, Melrose Place, on another network. Whatever the reason, office politics did kill 2000 MALIBU ROAD and for that I will always feel regretful… and grateful, for, who knows what it may have turned out to be had the series been renewed. I don’t know about you, guys, but I sure wouldn’t have wanted to have another PASSIONS in my hands.


As far as I can tell, there is no plan to launch 2000 MALIBU ROAD in the DVD market. Perhaps eventually it’ll see the light of day, but I doubt it. Let’s cross our fingers that it will, though. You never know.






 
Until next post—Martin
 

 



Monday, 20 June 2011

FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2: MY FIRST





Aside from the many glittery, not to mention very sleazy, films I dissect with love every week, I also have the strongest view regarding horror movies. I fancy every type of horror but mostly the slasher genre. It all started with a little film called FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 which I saw at the young age of 15 in a darkened movie theater in the spring of 1981. Yes, the film was rated R, meaning no one under 17 was allowed, but I had managed to sneak in, to the delight of my best friend at the time who also desperately wanted to see the flick (with whom I also went to see X-rated movies sporadically, but that’s a whole different topic in itself). Suffice to say, my life as a horror enthusiast really began that faithful day.
 


Now, I sure as heck don’t need to recapitulate the film since the entire world knows all about Jason and the fate of the many camp counselors who have crossed his path. The only thing I’m going to say about the plot of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is that, although very cliched even back then, it was all new to this teenager innocent eyes. Indeed, for the first time there I was, thanks to the keen direction of Steve Miner, at camp Crystal Lake with an axe murderer at my heels (because even then I could put myself in the characters’ shoes) and I was digging it like you wouldn’t believe. And not any axe murderer, mind you, but the one that would later become the baddest of them all, Jason Voorhees. Remember, it took another sequel for him to don the hockey-mask and become the anti-hero he is known to be today. So in this one, he was just a one-eyed burlap sack wearer Mongoloid who was avenging his cuckoo mom for her untimely death by offing the same people who had killed him.


What?!! Come again?!!! The same people who had killed him?! In a way, yes. Think about it: Pamela Voorhees was slaughtering camp counselors in the original film because years ago some other counselors had not taken proper care of her sick child who had accidentally drowned in the lake (in other words they were having sex while the kid was going under). After slicing and dicing horny teenagers, she ended up being beheaded herself by the strongest and purest teen of them all, Alice. Then, five years later, supposedly dead Jason takes over his mom’s workload (for part 2) by first, killing our sweet Alice who, frankly, was still lost in wonderland after the brutal attacks, then by continuing the bloody rampage just for the vengeance sake of it; a mother and son behavioral pattern passed on from one generation to the next.


After spending an hour and a half enjoying some gruesome killings while being scared out of my wits, I desperately wanted to check out the original movie on which this sequel was based, but remember, DVD players were nonexistent in those days, as were VHS recorders. Well, not exactly; we, the population, knew of them but barely could afford one since a single machine cost around 700 to 1000 dollars in Canadian money. But a streak of luck came my way during the summer of that same year. I was hired at Canada Post as a letter handler (putting envelopes into the right zip code box) and made enough money to purchase a Beta VCR system, the black sheep answer to the VHS player. Naturally, I was ecstatic as you can be, as well as being the neighborhood star for owning the first video cassette deck. Needless to say, I was not alone when I rented and watched the original FRIDAY THE 13TH. But sadly, as my friends could still attest, I came away rather disappointed by the Sean S. Cunningham film. To me, it didn’t hold a candle to the kick ass sequel.


Of course, that was way before FRIDAY THE 13TH began to grow on me, years before I came to put it up there with the best of them. You could say that maturity has something to do with it, as well as my love for anything grade-B of the late ‘70s early ‘80s. But back then I did think the pacing and the acting were a little off compared to its sequel. And to tell you the truth, I still think the same today. But I also know that however amateurish it appears to be sometimes, the overall effect is quite impressive. Because, yes, with all its apparent faux pas, FRIDAY THE 13TH still manages to sparkle due to its effective on-screen dread and overall special FX. And, because of those, every year like clockwork I pop in my DVD disc and enjoy the film for what it is and not for what it should be.


Like I said in an earlier post regarding one cinematic production, they sure don’t make them like that anymore, and it’s a shame. Oh, many have tried, but no one achieved the apogee of success and likability as Cunningham did with FRIDAY THE 13TH. And even if FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 2 is a lot better in the look, acting and pacing departments, both films are major influences in what would later be known as the heydays of the slasher genre, a genre that will forever stay dear to my heart, as it made me what I am today; and for that I will eternally be grateful. So here’s to you, Mr. Cunningham and Mr. Miner for introducing me to the Voorhees clan and their sickening ways.






Until next post—Martin



 
 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

TILLY BAGSHAWE AND HER 'DO NOT DISTURB' SIGN





DO NOT DISTURB by Tilly Bagshawe starts out with a juicy family feud of who will own the family business, and does not simmer down for the next 500 plus pages. Indeed, Honor, the central character of this riveting frothy saga, wants to prove to the world, but mostly to her estranged Alzheimer-ravaged dad, that she does have what it takes to run the family hotel. Many will try blocking her way—a that includes a hot Latino entrepreneur who also yearns to become more than meets the eye—and she will suffer greatly because of it. But trust Tilly Bagshawe to shake all things up into a page-turner frenzy where all is not always what it seems.

You could say that Ms Bagshawe has been around the literary block for quite sometime now, ever since the publication of her first novel, ADORED, in 2005. Her main trait had always been the life of the rich and famous, and with good reasons: her books have been selling like hot cakes all over the globe. FAME is her latest baby, and from the looks of it, she isn’t about to veer in another direction, and I applaud her for that. Year after year, I wait eagerly for another Bagshawe book to arrive. I may not always indulge in it right away (since there are so many books to read and so little time) but when I do, like with this DO NOT DISTURB title here, I always count my blessings for having discovered her and her talent. Had it not been for Tilly Bagshawe, or for the likes of her at least, life in fiction land would sure look a little less… gleeful.
 
Yes, I’m fully aware that Tilly’s body of work does not always agree with everyone, especially with those who consider "bonkbusters" or anything that frivolous in print, a waste of time; and to them I say, you don’t know what you’re missing. Because novels like DO NOT DISTURB are indeed time-wasters with the sole purpose of focusing on the beautiful people and their wicked ways, but if one dares to dig just a little deeper, one will clearly see that this form of entertainment has some big rewarding benefits. Because getting involved with a Tilly Bagshawe book can easily take you on the same campy high level as some of the best grade-B (or grade-B-like) cult classic films out there. Yup. In fact, you could even say that Ms Bagshawe and all of her colleague authors are to print what Russ Meyer and, say, that Tarantino fellow are to cinema.
 
Of course, as in any cult movies, DO NOT DISTURB certainly has its share of weaknesses, like tending to over rely on easy-breezy plot twists and sexual situations when all could be simply avoided by a little push of the imagination. On the other hand, rare do they happen exactly as expected, so there. And as a whole DO NOT DISTURB—just like the rest of Tilly’s work—is always narratively strong and fast-paced. And to be quite honest, when one succeeds at creating such fun, lovable characters in a setting that is so glamorous and dazzling as Ms Bagshawe does with DO NOT DISTURB, the rest is nothing compared to the fun you’ll have reading this escapist, exploitative romp. So eat your heart out "bonkbuster" haters, and let’s raise our glasses (champagne, no doubt) to the latest hit girl of chic sleaze. Long lives her reign.



DO NOT DISTURB is available in print or digital wherever books are sold.

 
 


Until next post—Martin
 
 
UK mm pb edition

Sunday, 12 June 2011

ALAN RYAN AND 'THE KILL'





I don’t know squat about horror author Alan Peter Ryan except for the fact that he recently passed away from pancreatic cancer. Still, this saddens me. Probably because like most of you, I’m very sensitive to people suffering. I mean, yes, I dig horror on screen and in books, but when it comes to real life, I’m a true softie. The other reason this gets to me is probably because I also feel a connection with the author, owning four of his published novels. Whatever the case may be, his untimely death shook me a little and made me want to pick up one of his titles to read right away. I chose his 1982 THE KILL from Tor Books. It’s all about the woods, country life, an this evil presence that roams the area.
 
 
I was already aware of THE KILL, having seen it as a new release way back when. I remember having been attracted by the cover art which reminded me of John Saul’s. Not just by coincidence, I’m sure. My guess is that the publishers were hoping to lure the same wide audience to purchase this book. Wrong move, if you ask me. THE KILL is nothing like the work of John Saul, except that both authors have the same clear line attitude when building up a story; Mr. Ryan even more so with his direct approach and unwordy stance.
 
 
THE KILL is about a young unmarried couple from New York who decide that the simple life is the way to go. So they pack up their bags and move to a fictitious rural town not far away called Deacons Kill where they hope to settle in permanently and make new friends. Which they do but at a price. You see, something strange is going on at Deacons Kill. People seem to disappear without a trace or just drop dead for no reason at all, and the sheriff, aware of the whole situation, barely lifts a finger to do something about it. That is, until the newly arrived couple gets mixed up in the mess.
 
 
There is a lot more going on in this novel, like how the couple ended up in Deacon Kills in the first place, and who the heck is responsible for the two brutal killings taking place before the high-energized climax. We get to meet a lot of folks in THE KILL, some even from another time. All are relatively well-drawn despite limited characterization. The two main protagonists are the most defined of the bunch. But nearly all have a realistic flair to them which moves the story at a swell pace. The only true downside to THE KILL would be the lack of any real gritty action sequences. It takes a while before some blood does start heading our way. You could blame this on the author’s atmospheric handling which works aplenty but sort of runs out of steam before the big finale. Still, THE KILL is worth your time, especially if you like your horror quiet. All you need is a little patience and a new way of looking at things. Follow these simple rules and I promise you, you’ll have another new author to root for—despite his unfortunate passing.
 
 
 
THE KILL is now available at Necon E-Books.
 
 
 
 
 
Until next post—Martin
 

Reissued Edition from Necon


 

Thursday, 9 June 2011

MIXED BAG: PIA ZADORA




For all of those Pia Zadora fans out there, here’s an in-depth interview Paul Freeman from Pop Culture Classics did with her very recently. In it she dishes--among other things--about  THE LONELY LADY and what made her want to star in it. Here’s a snippet of what she reveals:


"When I used to do interviews and they asked about ‘Lonely Lady’ I’d say, ‘Well, it was not released. It escaped. It should not have escaped, but unfortunately, now that it’s there, we have to deal with it.’ It could have been, not a great movie, but a decent statement about a woman who is struggling to become something in Hollywood. But it just went off in the wrong direction, with the wrong director and the wrong writer. And so it became a camp, cult classic, which is kind of interesting. It’s kind of fun that it went in that direction. What the heck? As long as it made someone laugh and made people happy, what the heck?"



You can read the rest by simply clicking here.


 


Until next post—Martin



Monday, 6 June 2011

DECEPTIONS (1985)


 
Actress Stefanie Powers was really busy in the mid-‘80s, having completed not one, not two, but three miniseries between 1984 and 1985. One of which was the TV adaptation of Judith Michael’s best-seller DECEPTIONS. Indeed, aside from co-starring in the then-very popular HART TO HART on ABC, Miss Powers went on to star in this tale of twin sisters, one rich, one middle class (married with kids), who foolishly change places for one week. Of course their little scheme ends up spelling double trouble as one of them (BIG SPOILERS AHEAD) gets murdered and the other one is left with… DECEPTIONS (Yes, you could say I’m channeling its then TV promo).
 
 
This miniseries came just after the hype surrounding LACE. So it’s easy to imagine that the bigwigs at NBC had high hopes for DECEPTIONS. It was a two-parter, filled with glamorous locations, beautiful people (among them the recluse Gina Lollobrigida making a special appearance), and a tight-woven plot that had its share of suspense. SCRUPLES alum Barry Bostwick even co-starred, playing the dissatisfied hubby professor who wants to save his failing marriage, unbeknownst to the fact that rich Powers has now overtaken her sister’s place. On the other side of the continent, suave Fabio Testi (!) is head over heals in love with rich Powers who—surprise!—is really middle-class Powers (following me?). Both sisters are having a ball fooling everyone, but a little more so middle class Powers who’s liberatingly strutting her derrière with Testi (!) and friends to the rhythm of I'M SO EXCITED by the Pointer Sisters on a yacht on the Mediterranean just before (AGAIN, BIG SPOILERS AHEAD) the boat explodes into million pieces. Kaboom!


That, in a nutshell, is the first part of DECEPTIONS. I remember vividly getting caught up into the skim of things and anticipating on what was to happen next. I had never heard of the novel before so to me, everything was new and unblemished. Like LACE's Shirley Conran, here was an author (or should I say authors, since it’s a husband and wife team behind the Judith Michael name) who, despite the seen there done that theme of the book, had managed to churn out a complete involving story. Oh, how I wanted DECEPTIONS to be a huge hit. It certainly deserved it. And I figured we needed more of the same since it was so damn fun losing ourselves into the lives of the rich and famous. Heck, hadn’t-president Reagan confirmed this many times over during his eight year reign?


(MAJOR SPOILERS SO ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK) The second part is all about discovering who is behind the murder. Because, yes, dear readers, middle class Powers disguised as rich Powers has not been targeted for nothing. Someone was out to get her and we discover who it is. In parallel, rich Powers admits being who she really is to professor Bostwick, who frankly does not care since he now has his mojo back (only in movies, people, only in movies). All this is shown in a melodramatic but highly effective direction by the double handle of Robert Chenault and Melville Shavelson (a lot of pairings for this miniseries, huh).


Now, is DECEPTIONS in the same league as LACE? To that I say: no way, Jose. But it does have enough class and determination to hail it as one of the better miniseries adapted onscreen. One major thing was missing, though: ratings. Yes, as much fun DECEPTIONS was, the overall TV share for both nights was well… a deception. It barely managed to get half the ratings of LACE, which is not bad in itself but still a major disappointment in TV revenues. And probably because of that alone, whatever plans there were to adapt other Judith Michael books (and there are many to choose from) have been shelved to never ever land.



The DVD release of DECEPTIONS has yet to materialize (both in USA and Canada). But you can easily get a copy if you’re really in a bind. All you need is a little imagination. But since miniseries from the ‘80s are in high demand nowadays it wouldn’t surprise me to see it finally in accolades with the rest of the DVD bunch.



 

Until next post—Martin