“Blade Runner, 1982”

“Quite an experience to live in fear, isn’t it? That’s what it is to be a slave.”

Blade Runner, 1982 (Harrison Ford), The Ladd Company

I knew I had to end my Vintage Cable Box series with, what I regard to be, one of the greatest movies ever made. Nothing can prepare you for Blade Runner after a couple of years of the standard cable television fare. Occasionally, you had the big-budget spectacles, fine examples of genre film-making, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick, but Blade Runner was unique. I only vaguely remembered trailers and teasers running on broadcast television. I never saw a preview at the movies, nor did I even see the movie in theaters. Ridley Scott had made a name for himself as a first-notch filmmaker with The Duellists and Alien after paying his dues in production design and advertising. The script and story treatments for Blade Runner floated around for a couple of years while Scott was preparing an adaptation of Dune. The Dune project fell through (and would eventually be helmed by David Lynch), and Scott was eager to start working on Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

The year is 2019, and the place is Los Angeles. Our world in 2019 is a dystopian nightmare. Constant sheets of acid rain have destroyed the already-dilapidated metropolis and most humans have taken to life in “off-world colonies” (“The chance to begin again in a golden land of opportunity,” the advertisements proclaim). Replicants, initially considered a form of android but then ret-conned in 2017’s Blade Runner 2049 as “manufactured humans” have become a dangerous liability when confronted with their slave status and the built-in obsolescence of a four year life span. In an effort to control these replicants, developer Eldon Tyrell (Joe Turkel) implants memories in them, but this backfires when they inevitably crave life more than the humans who built them. Errant replicant Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) leads a bunch of them to jump ship and return to Earth to meet their maker. Enter Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a replicant killer more commonly known as a “Blade Runner.”

Deckard is tasked with interviewing a beautiful woman, Tyrell’s assistant, named Rachael (Sean Young) who may or may not be a replicant. It seems Tyrell’s task is to either deceive authorities as to the identity of his replicants, or perhaps make his replicants believe they are human. It takes a while for Deckard to come to the conclusion that Rachael doesn’t know she’s a replicant. She saves his life when another replicant, the sub-intelligent Leon (Brion James) tries to kill him. He takes her back to his apartment and promises to keep her secret. Tyrell tells him she has no shut-off date; that she is, in effect, unique. Deckard retires the remaining replicants, but Batty proves to be a challenge. He taunts Deckard and leads him on a merry chase through the Bradbury Building. While Deckard is intent on finishing the job, Batty is fighting for his life, even as he knows his time is limited. Batty is incensed that Deckard has mercilessly killed his friends, and he tortures him for it. Ultimately, he spares Deckard’s life and perhaps Deckard has re-discovered his humanity.

Blade Runner was unfairly maligned by critics upon release in 1982, but over the years, the movie has attained an enormous cult following, culminating in the release of Blade Runner 2049 last year. In 1992, a “director’s cut” was released which removed the original film’s narration (considered by Scott to be tedious) and introduced a scene where Deckard dreams of a unicorn, making the reveal at the end of the movie (Deckard discovers a small origami unicorn in his hallway) ambiguous about Deckard’s humanity. Personally, I do not believe Deckard to be a replicant because, for me, it would make the ending of the movie and Batty’s sacrifice less meaningful. I would rather Deckard learn the lesson of his humanity, rather than believe him to be an amnesiac android. Blade Runner 2049 continues along this line of reasoning; perhaps what we value as humans is our capacity for understanding the gift of memory, and when our memories are manufactured, we will retain less of that value. Everything about this movie is perfect.

That about wraps it up for Vintage Cable Box. Again, I want to thank my readers. It’s been so much fun going back and revisiting and re-living these movies and that crazy time period, that time-line of what I saw and experienced and how it shaped me. Blade Runner just might be the most influential movie of the last 40 years, and it played constantly on cable television back in those days. Blade Runner 2049 manages to successfully evoke all of the best qualities about the original movie (and even improve upon certain aspects), which surprises me. Before I sign off, I have to thank a few people. Mark Jeacoma hosted these articles on his VHS Rewind! page. Andrew La Ganke suggested some great movies and found me a couple of hard-to-find titles. Geno Cuddy suggested Metropolis and provided a copy of the movie for me. Tony Verruso from the Vintage HBO Guides on Facebook was a staunch ally in dark times. Thanks for reading.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.


Monkees vs. Macheen: “Some Like It Lukewarm”

Girls, Girls, Girls!

The “Some Like it Lukewarm” story is set up with a sign for the “KXIW-TV Rockathon Contest, $500 First Prize.” I’m so happy that, since this is one of the last few episodes, it’s about their struggles to make it as a band. Mike, Micky, and Davy are in line at the station with other bands, waiting to sign up. Peter is absent for some reason. Mike gives Davy and Micky a pep talk: Since they desperately need the money, the best thing to do is to act like they don’t need it. Got that? Davy tests out the suave, casual attitude, claiming “We don’t need it.” This confuses Micky, who wigs out because of course they do. The director (James Frawley) must have given Peter’s lines to Micky for that scene.

The Master of Ceremonies was played by real-life Philadelphia D.J., Jerry Blavat, who is still going strong today. The Monkees approach him and presumptuously request the prize money. Of course Blavat treats them like they’re crazy, so they sing for him, going into a doo-wop bit. Mike performs an excellent D.J. patter routine, possibly an imitation of Blavat himself. When they demand the money again, Blavat informs them that the contest is for mixed groups only: without a girl in the group they can’t even compete. He leaves shouting about how he digs “Girls, girls, girls!” Micky helpfully explains for our benefit that one of them is going to have to be “a chick.”

“Some Like it Lukewarm” was a tribute to the 1959 film, Some Like it Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Jack Lemmon, and Tony Curtis. In the film, Lemmon and Curtis play two broke 1920’s musicians, who are in trouble with the mob because they witnessed a gangster execution, and so they pose as women and join an all female band. Sounds like a Monkees plot to me. The BFI lists it as one of the films you should see before age 14 [Why that specific age? – Editor’s Question], and it is considered one of the best films of all time. “Some Like it Lukewarm, “ which debuted March 4, 1968, was written by Joel Kane, who also wrote for The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis and Wild, Wild West, and Stanley Z. Cherry who worked on Gilligan’s Island and The Addams Family.

Back at the pad, the Monkees choose which lucky guy will become a lucky girl. The editors treat us to a montage of the Monkees impersonating women: Micky as Mrs. Arcadia in “The Chaperone,” Mike as Princess Gwen in “Fairy Tale,” Peter as the mom from “Monkees vs. Machine,” and Davy as Little Red Riding Hood also from “Fairy Tale.” I think the only episode they left out was “Dance, Monkee, Dance” where they pretended to be female dance students. In my recap for “The Chaperone” I talked a little bit about comedies that have men dress as women. You can read about that here. Mike, Micky, and Peter all nominate Davy to play the girl. Reluctant, he backs himself into the closet and comes out with a mop on his head that looks like a long wig. To Davy’s disbelief, a janitor approaches and tries to pick him up.

Back at their pad, Davy stands behind one of those old-fashioned dressing screens and questions how they’re going to turn him into a woman. Micky explains that a woman is a “rag, a bone, and a hank of hair.” I tried to find out about this rag, bone, and hair nonsense; it seems that it’s from a poem called “The Vampire” by Rudyard Kipling (1897).

“A FOOL there was and he made his prayer
(Even as you and I!)
To a rag and a bone and a hank of hair
(We called her the woman who did not care)
But the fool he called her his lady fair—
(Even as you and I!)”

First, they hand Davy a scarf (rag). Then, they hand him an actual bone. He looks at the camera and says “Woo!” Was that supposed to be suggestive? I think it was. Last, they hand him a wig (hank of hair). Davy comes out in the wig and dress and asks how he looks. Micky: “Kind of like a raggy, hairy bone.” Davy complains that he doesn’t know what to do with the bone (fill in your own dirty joke here), and that he doesn’t know how to act like a woman.

Peter pulls out a book, How to Act Like a Feminine Female in Three Easy Lessons. This episode is so weird. I can only imagine why Peter has that book. It would be hilarious if this was the overdue library book from “The Picture Frame.”

He reads off the lessons. Lesson One: “All feminine females must learn to walk with small delicate steps.” Davy walks around with this feet tied together and falls. Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. The notion that women have to walk and act a certain way is absurdly funny, even 50 years later. What I’m getting at (and maybe the show was too) is that when men are trying imitate women they seem to choose the superficial, exaggerated characteristics. For a comedy that would be the obvious choice.

Lesson Two: “When a feminine female walks from north to south her hips must move from east to west. A small loud bell in each direction will help to teach this technique.” Davy tries this out, with pots and pans tied to his hips, feet still tied with a small rope. Mike gives directions to Micky who shouts them to Davy. “Faster. Slower. East. West.” Davy spins around in circles. Some of us females have never had these lessons. My husband tells me I walk like Redd Foxx, the Sanford and Son years.

Lesson Three: “The feminine female must glide like a swan when she walks with her head high, erect and motionless. The best way to teach this is to place a book on top the head.” Mike and Micky place an enormous book, perhaps The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, on Davy’s head. He sinks into the ground. From the floor he asks, “Isn’t this fun?” Well, it is for me, Davy.

The Monkees return to the television station to show Blavat that they have a girl in the group. Davy tries to leave but the other three hold him back. Blavat checks “her” out and tells them they are now officially entered in the Rockathon contest. All the above happened in the first five minutes. We’ve gone entire episodes where far less happened. Blavat tells Davy he’s cute, which makes Davy all growly. Micky reminds him, “Money, money. Anything for money.” That does seem to be the name of the game.

Back at their pad, Davy expresses doubts about their plan. Cut to a parallel all-girl band in a similar dilemma. They’ve dressed one of their female members in a suit of armor (that we’ve seen in other episodes) and goatee/mustache. Daphne pulls off her facial hair and frets that they’re bound to find out she’s not a boy. I would have loved a scene where they taught Daphne to walk like a Masculine Male. Hey Daphne, can you walk like you’ve got a pair?

Cut to the contest. Blavat introduces the girl band as the Westminster Abbeys. They play a sped up version of “Last Train to Clarksville.” To make them sound like very tiny girls I guess. Also the “boy” is the lead singer, so shouldn’t they be trying to hide his/her ‘girly’ voice since he’s supposed to be a dude?

The Monkees admire the band musically and visually. The drummer is the lovely Valerie Kairys. They show a clip of the Monkees playing “Clarksville” back in the old days, sped up to match the tempo. Davy accuses the one in the beard of being a bit “effeminate.” I feel like the reveal of the “boy” in the band should have come after we see them play. It would have been obvious, sure, but funnier to have the Monkees seeing them first on stage at the same time the audience does. Then they could reveal Daphne removing her facial hair.

As they leave the stage, Blavat introduces the members as Harmony, Melody, Cacophony, and William the Conqueror. Clever reference alert: Westminster Abbey is a Gothic abbey church in England where all the monarchs had their coronations, starting with William the Conqueror in 1066. The band did well; scoring a 98.6, which is the top rating on the applause meter/thermometer that Blavat is using to judge the contest.

The Monkees force Davy on stage; Blavat ogles “her” some more. They do a half-assed job of lip-synching “The Door into Summer” (Chip Douglas, Bill Martin) while Micky, Mike, and Peter physically keep Davy from fleeing the stage. This is most ridiculous for Micky because he’s supposed to be behind the drums. The Monkees also score a 98.6 on the applause meter, putting them in a first place tie with The Westminster Abbeys. Blavat announces that both bands will have to come back tomorrow for a tie-breaking “battle of the sounds.”

Once they get home, Davy immediately wants to remove this disguise, but the others are worried someone from the show might stop by. Right on cue, Blavat knocks on the door. He has a big bouquet of flowers and wants to see “Miss” Jones. The other three hide, so I guess this is only supposed to be her address. He keeps calling himself, “The Geator with the Heater” and “The Boss with the Hot Sauce,” real life nicknames that he used when he hosted a dance/variety television show called The Discophonic Scene. In the context of him chasing “Miss Jones” however, the nicknames sound absolutely lecherous.

Blavat comes in and declares his love for Davy and sexually harasses him with the promise that if “she plays her cards right” the Monkees could win the contest. Blavat pursues Davy, forcing him to back away nervously. Davy says he’ll have to think about it; Blavat gives him until tomorrow. Watching this in the days after the big Weinstein scandal is a surreal experience. I have to hand it to Jerry Blavat for fearlessly playing this sleazy part, especially since they used his real name.

When Blavat leaves, Peter, Micky and Mike tease Davy. Peter says all he has to do is go out with him, and they’re a cinch to win. Mike says if Davy lets Blavat kiss him, he might own a television station. They’re kidding of course, but Davy’s rightfully pissed, “One more remark like that, and I’ll hit you with me purse.”

Later, Davy declines to go out to eat with the others and asks them to bring back a tuna fish sandwich. Cut to the Westminster Abbeys having the same conversation with Daphne: If she has to go out as a boy, she won’t go. Cross-cut of Davy and Daphne going stir crazy. They each decide to go to “Some Little Out of the Way Place That Nobody Goes.” Thanks to this sight gag, this turns out to be a literal location:

Davy sneaks in, wearing a huge coat and sunglasses and asks for a secluded booth. The waiter can help him, “I have a booth which is so secluded, that last week three of our best waiters disappeared while trying to find it.” He takes Davy to a booth that’s already occupied by Daphne. Davy apologizes, and they both take off their sunglasses and immediately fall in love.

Daphne was played by Deana Martin, daughter of singer, actor, and Rat-Packer, Dean Martin. According to IMDB trivia, Deana got the opportunity to play Davy Jones’ love interest after Davy escorted her to her brother Dino’s 16th birthday party. There’s a nice article here where Deana Martin talks about her friendship with Davy.

They are in the middle of making vows of love to each other when Mike, Micky, and Peter noisily enter the restaurant. Okay, I guess they got pulled over by the cops for having long hair, otherwise Davy wouldn’t have arrived first. I assume Davy took the bus since they must have had the Monkeemobile. Yeah, it moves the plot along, but it isn’t logical. Also, for some reason Davy was carrying his girl boots in a large bag with him, because he panics when he hears the other Monkees, and as he leaves, he drops one of the boots. Daphne picks it up, “Wait my darling, you forgot your… high heels?” How very reverse-Cinderella. Davy goes home and hides under his covers just in time for the others to come home and give him his sandwich. Davy realizes he’s lost a shoe.

The next day at the contest backstage area, Davy sees Blavat coming and dives into Daphne’s dressing room to avoid him. Since he’s dressed as a girl, Daphne doesn’t recognize him at first. When she sees he only has one shoe, she realizes she has the other one, and Davy’s game is up. Davy takes off the wig and admits he’s been fooling everyone. He explains that he didn’t tell her because a girl as nice as her wouldn’t go for someone that wasn’t honest. She outs herself as William the Conqueror by holding up the little mustache and goatee. They admit they did this for the same reason: to enter the contest. Davy feels it was terribly wrong.

After all the different cons the Monkees perpetuated over the course of the previous 55 episodes, I sort of wonder why he feels guilty now. On the other hand, most of the time when they dressed up and assumed other identities they were trying to help some innocent person or foil some villain. Here, the con was strictly about winning money.

Cut to Davy having presumably just confessed to Blavat, who must be so embarrassed. Blavat yells at him for deceiving him and disqualifies him because the contest called for mixed groups. Davy tells him that’s what they are, and both groups perform “She Hangs Out” (Jeff Barry) all together. Unfortunately, this relegates the girls to go-go dancers on the sides of the stage. Really, they couldn’t let a couple of them have instruments? Let’s assume they won and split the $500 between both bands.

Next is a segment with Davy Jones hanging out with Charlie Smalls (1943-1987). This was supposedly a sample of the “variety show” style the Monkees wanted, where they would chat with musical guests after the comedy. Charlie plays the piano while Davy explains that they’re writing songs together. Davy asks why he (Davy) doesn’t have soul. Charlie says he has to explain rhythmically. “Your soul would emanate on the accented beats one and three. Where my soul emanates on the accented beats two and four.” He uses the Beatles as an example, claiming they play “hard and funky” on one and three. They demonstrate with some clapping. I don’t know if I buy this scientifically, but they end with a positive message, “Everybody’s got soul.” They sing more of the song “Girl Named Love,” which appeared on the album, The Birds The Bees & The Monkees.

Sharon Cintron, 1963 Playmate of the Month, is listed as “Maxine” in the end credits, but the band girls were named Harmony, Melody, and Cacophony in the dialogue.

Overall, I really enjoyed this episode. Unlike the previous few, there were many hilarious moments and funny lines. The plot moved along and tied up neatly with charming performances from Davy Jones and Deana Martin. This was admittedly a Davy-centric episode. One of the complaints I’ve read about The Monkees was that too many of the plots revolved around Davy’s love life. Since I’m almost at the end of the series, I decided to take a count (yes, I went full-on nerdy with a spreadsheet) and see how many episodes used this plot device (these choices were my opinion; there were some episodes with female characters, but the plot didn’t revolve around them) and decided that there were eleven (18%) out of the 58. That’s not so bad. However, I would also double-count this particular episode as one that is about their struggles as a band (six episodes or 12%). There were far too few of those for my taste.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.

“The Buddy System, 1984”

“You’ve gained seven pounds. If you want to put something in your mouth, try a gun.”

The Buddy System, 1984 (Richard Dreyfuss), 20th Century Fox

Okay, what the Hell is going on here? Why can’t Dreyfuss and Sarandon make it work? There’s no direct hostility (at least later on), but there is anxiety between two people, man and woman, in their late ’20s, early ’30s (ostensibly, and I’m just guessing, based on the dialogue) who miraculously have sex and then decide to be good friends. Even though they know the ins-and-outs (and the sexual organs) of each other. I surmise The Buddy System isn’t so much about the Dreyfuss/Sarandon conundrum as it is about poor little Wil Wheaton. Wil is the wayward, dejected, lonely child of stenographer Susan Sarandon (herself a single mom living with her own possessive mom, All in the Family’s Jean Stapleton) who strikes up a friendship with Richard Dreyfuss’ school security guard. It seems Sarandon and her kid have been scamming the school, by pretending to live in the designated school district and using a fake mailing address. Dreyfuss is about to bust them. I didn’t know this was such a problem; we’re talking about educating children, for crying out loud.

Shut up, Wil!

Dreyfuss takes a liking to the kid and promises not to spill the beans. Even though Sarandon is incensed by Wil’s attempts to pair up her and Dreyfuss, the kid still hangs out with him. It turns out Dreyfuss is a gifted inventor, but his real passion is writing. He encourages and inspires Wil to read, which surprises Sarandon, and it’s obvious Dreyfuss is a good influence on the kid, unlike Wil’s real Dad, who, in his words, “took a powder” after he knocked up his Mom. He hasn’t quite gotten the hang of his most recent novel, so he plunges into his work as an inventor. He finds an investor for his portable dog-washing contraption. His flighty on-again, off-again girlfriend (Nancy Allen) dumps him, but then (like a true emotional vampire) looks him up when she’s low on blood. Sarandon, Dreyfuss, and Wheaton make for an interesting family unit, and it works for a while as an assexual husband/wife heteronormative dynamic. Sorry about the use of the word “heteronormative” – but that’s all I could come up with for the Dreyfuss/Sarandon conundrum.

Unfortunately when Nancy Allen shows up again for another oil change, Dreyfuss makes himself scarce, and Sarandon has to go back to the life to which she has become accustomed: clinging neediness from Jean Stapleton (whom I had always imagined spoke like Edith Bunker in her civilian life). Her mother is a bit of an emotional leech in her own right. Her mother needs Sarandon to be dependent on her, so she can be dependent upon her daughter and grandson. Without Sarandon, she has no purpose, or believes she has no purpose. She consistently fills Sarandon with dread, making her afraid to be her own person, to embrace independence. Sarandon takes a stenography test, gets a promotion, and moves out of the house. She and Wil take up residence in a nice, but small apartment with a backyard. This is one of the few movies I’ve seen where taking an apartment is a step-up. I like that. Apartments are cozy, more secure, less expensive to maintain, and the heating/electricity bills are considerably lower. It makes sense.

The Buddy System seem to be wish fulfillment on the part of Wil Wheaton. He just wants a family. A mom and a dad. The movie played constantly on cable television between 1984 and 1986. I mean it had to have been on every day. I had a very similar upbringing to young Wil. Lonely, strange (precocious is the word my wife used to describe him) and yes, there are pitfalls to having only your single mother for a parent. He desperately wants a dad, and he thinks Dreyfuss fits the bill perfectly. Looking at it again courtesy of a Key Video VHS tape, the movie still resonates with me. Sarandon seems to be in a perpetual state of confusion, whereas Dreyfuss is some kind of a frustrated genius. They have their own personalized antagonists in Nancy Allen and Jean Stapleton; characters designed to keep them stagnant or fearful of either enjoyment or fulfillment. When they reunite at film’s conclusion, you’re still not sure they can make it work as lovers, but Wil Wheaton’s smile when he sees them together does give you hope.

The Buddy System was an extremely difficult movie to find. At the time I was looking for it, I couldn’t even find scenes online. I did manage to procure the Key Video VHS tape from a collector. Curiously, you have a movie starring Richard Dreyfuss and Susan Sarandon (two Academy Award winners) with Jean Stapleton (three-time Emmy Award winner) that received only a perfunctory VHS/Beta release, not available on Laserdisc, DVD, or Blu Ray. I knew when I started Vintage Cable Box, I had to take another look at this movie and I’m glad I did. In a way, it represents closure for me as I wrap up this series next week with a classic movie I’m sure you’ll all remember.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

“The Lady In Red, 1979”

“I have two arms. Two legs. And I know all the words to ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas’.”

The Lady In Red, 1979 (Pamela Sue Martin), New World Pictures

You have a simple farm girl in Polly Franklin (Pamela Sue Martin) singing show-tunes while she’s getting the eggs for transit into town. She stops and does a soft-shoe for the assembled horses and chickens. Her no-nonsense father rants and raves about hell and damnation. While in town, she witnesses a bank robbery. The robbers (one of them, Mary Woronov, playing a moll) take Polly for a short ride as they elude the cops. After a talk with a newspaper man, she discovers she was in the clutches of the Dillinger gang. Some time later, she heads to Chicago and sets about working in textile sweatshops for sleazy Dick Miller (a staple in Roger Corman movies). Miller exploits the workers (this must’ve been before Unions) and Polly leads a revolt. She gets a job as a dance hall girl – 10 cents a dance!

Working her way up in the food chain, she becomes a decent prostitute pulling in good money. The Johns really go for that innocent naive thing, and Sue Martin plays every scene with the youthful zeal that made her extremely popular as Nancy Drew in The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, which ran on the ABC Television Network from 1977 to 1979. It was rumored she left the show because of this movie, but the dates don’t quite line up, and most official explanations cite “creative differences” as the main reason for her departure. She hits the sheets with a mysterious hit man named Turk (Robert Forster), which gives her the idea to spend more time sidling up to the Mob. Polly’s an angler, and much sharper than most women who resort to worse measures to get through the days in the incredibly corrupt cesspool of Chicago in the Prohibition era.

She spends some time in jail where she has to deal with monstrous matron Nancy (Porky’s “Tallywhacker Inspector”) Parsons. The movie is a kaleidoscope of genre and exploitation films; gangland, prostitution, women-in-prison movies. The violence is truly graphic and bloody. In fact, this is one of the more violent movies I’ve seen, and it seems to have made that way on purpose. The Lady in Red is not a movie you’re going to find in a multiplex. More likely, the drive-in circuit. It’s more a tent-pole show, moving from town to town and making money. Sandwiched between all of Polly’s hi-jinks is her love affair with famed gangster John H. Dillinger (Robert Conrad). They make a cute couple, but Conrad isn’t in the movie enough, nor do I think he was intended to be. This is the girl’s story, not his. He’s a mystery to Polly. He never tells her who he is, but everybody else seems to figure it out. The movie is based on a footnote in crime history. Imagine seeing the bloody aftermath of the notorious shootout. Dillinger, riddled with bullet and a woman in a red dress at his side as he dies. This was John Sayles’ central premise when he was mandated by Corman to write the movie.  Who is this girl?

Louise Fletcher’s duplicitious Anna Sage (working through a lot of early childhood pain, I gather) drops the dime to Hoover’s FBI task force on Polly’s relationship with Dillinger. The Feds move in at the Biograph Theater where Dillinger and the little lady take in a movie. Sage “makes” Dillinger and the Feds plug him full of lead and leave him a bloody mess in front of the marquee. This isn’t how the story actually unfolds from what I’ve read. In reality, shots were fired upon his exit, and Dillinger gave chase through a side alley and was shot in the back, severing his spinal cord. In the movie, a crowd of amused spectators dabs napkins and handkerchiefs into his blood. The Press has it all wrong, concocting a narrative that she was the woman who betrayed him. She orchestrates a little payback, and in the process takes up Dillinger’s bank-robbing work. Director Lewis Teague shot the movie in 20 days with a budget of under a half a million dollars. He would go on to direct Alligator, Cujo, Cat’s Eye, and the Romancing the Stone sequel, The Jewel of the Nile.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.

Monkees vs. Macheen: “Monkees Mind Their Manor”

“The Episode I Don’t Really Remember…”

The episode begins, to my delight, with the Monkees rehearsing at their pad. Peter and Davy play a tune called “Iranian Tango” for Micky and Mike. Yes, they’re really playing that. That little bit of music was included on the Monkees bootleg LP, Monkeeshines, along with other vocal bits from the show, such as “Different Drum” and “Greensleeves” from this very episode. It also included “All the Kings Horses” and the fast version of “I Wanna Be Free.” I’m just happy that the episode starts off with a nod to the premise of them as musicians. Thank you, Mr. Thorkelson.

Oh yeah, this episode of The Monkees was directed by one of their own, Peter Tork, credited as Peter H. Thorkelson (his birth name). IMDB trivia tells me this was part of a “deal” worked out by Raybert with Peter and Micky, who both got to direct episodes because they weren’t allowed to direct themselves in Head. I can’t find any other source to back that up however, so make of it what you will. It’s interesting to note that this is the only thing Peter Tork ever directed. He has one other credit as a “second unit or assistant director” on a television short called “Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes at the Asbury Park Convention Center.” Micky, who also directed an episode in the second season, went on to do quite a bit more directing. I’m just guessing that, in contrast to Micky Dolenz, directing didn’t appeal to Mr. Thorkelson.

The episode plot launches with a knock on the door. Davy goes bouncing across the pad to answer it, stopping to acknowledge the camera. The visitor is a very British gentleman, Mr. Friar (Laurie Main), who’s been looking for Davy “up and down the beach.” Mr. Friar needs Davy to return to England. Davy refuses, so Mr. Friar faints. As you do. They carry him over to the sofa and Friar infuriates Micky by saying “Thank you, miss.” More jokes about their long hair making them look like girls to the older set. Those jokes seem so quaint now, but I guess you can project them onto anything that the kids do today that adults don’t get.

Apparently some dusty Lord Kibee has croaked and left Davy his estate. Davy needs to be present for the reading of the will. Davy keeps refusing to go with him and Friar keeps fainting. Between collapses, he manages to explain that if the estate goes to Kibee’s nephew, Lance the Sot, he’ll sell it to a developer, and all the villagers will lose their houses. Davy’s surprised that Kibee would leave the estate to him because he was just a “stable boy.” Cut-away of Davy dressed as a kid with short pants and a lollipop. Though Tork didn’t exactly distinguish himself as a director, I do like that he utilized the elements of the show that worked, such as breaking the fourth wall with Davy’s look to the camera and the fantasy cutaway with Davy as little boy.

As the Monkees pack Davy for his trip, Davy comes up with an idea of how the other three can come with him without buying airline tickets that they can’t afford. They arrive at the London airport where the Customs Man asks if he has any fruits or exotic animals etc. No, but he does have three large mummies. Customs Man asks him to open the cases. The three Monkees are inside the sarcophagi, with half-assed mummy bandages around only their head and necks. Customs man says they aren’t the best looking mummies he’s ever seen. Come on Customs Man, I think they’re pretty cute. Davy outs the Customs Man as Jack Williams, the Property Man. “Look sweetie, I might be Jack Williams the property man to you, but to 20 million teenagers, I’m the Customs Man.”

That settled, Friar and Davy head back to Kibee manor. They approach the entrance where the incredibly near-sighted butler (Reginald Gardiner) shakes hands with the tree as he greets Davy and invites him in. Referring to Friar, he tells Davy he’ll have to leave his dog outside. Finally, he recognizes Friar but still calls him “Fido.” Funny, but lowbrow humor.

Inside the manor parlor, there’s the first shot of Lance the Sot, standing by the fireplace with a drink in his hand and looking surly. As Davy, Friar, and the Butler enter, they see an impatient Bernard Fox. Friar introduces him as the executor of the will, Sir Twiggly Toppin Middle Bottom. They seem to be attempting a similar effect to the name “Robroy Fingerhead” from “Monkees a la Mode.” Whatever you want to call him, he’ll always be Dr. Bombay from Bewitched to me. “Calling Dr. Bombay, calling Dr. Bombay. Emergency, come right away.”

Twiggly is very officious as he reads the will. “I, Sir Malcolm Kibee, being of sound body and mind.” Lance snickers at this, causing Friar and Davy to get the giggles. Twiggly keeps trying to get through the phrase as the others guffaw, and a laugh track joins in. This ends up being a funny bit because of Bernard Fox’s irritated reactions, which have to be seen. Kibee has left the manor to Davy Jones, providing he stays in residence for five years. If he doesn’t want to stay, the villagers can buy the land for 50,000 pounds. Lance pours drinks out of his sleeve, very similar to the drunken housekeeper in “The Chaperone,” who had the purse full of booze etc. She was British too, not coincidentally I’m sure. The Monkees never met a cliché they couldn’t turn into a sight gag.

Just then, Ric Klein, David Price, and David Pearl bring in the “mummies.” David Pearl delights me by pulling off a British accent, “To where do you want the lamps, governor?” The drop off their load and tip their hats in unison, as they leave. Kudos to Mr. Thorkelson for that cute bit.

Twiggly carries on with the reading. If the villagers can’t raise the money, and Davy doesn’t want to stay, then the manor goes to Lance Kibee, “The Sot.” Really, it says that in the will. Lance looks offended. He collapses and Twiggly leads him out by holding a flask of booze in front of him. The plot is a re-written version of “Monkee See, Monkee Die” in which the Monkees go to the will reading for some old nut, and Davy’s love interest will only inherit the mansion if she spends the night in the creepy place where greedy folks are trying to kill her. That was a funnier episode. Oh, and this is also similar to “Success Story” in which Davy might have to abandon the others for some familial or childhood obligation. Coslough Johnson wrote “Monkees Mind Their Manor” clearly without worrying about originality. Peter Tork mentioned in the DVD commentary that this was one of the older scripts rejected from the first season. It shows. I guess when he was choosing what to direct there were slim pickins’.

Outside, Twiggly and Lance get into a white car. According to the Imdb, this is an MGB Coupe Roadster, owned by production assistant Marilyn Schlossberg. They flopped the frame in editing to put the driver’s side on the left, proper for England. Lance is confused all the same “Somebody’s stolen the steering wheel.” Thankfully, there was no way in hell Twiggly would have let him drive. They discuss their deal: Lance sells the property, and Twiggly gets a large commission.

Back inside, Davy frees Mike, Micky, and Peter from the sarcophagi. Friar introduces his daughter Mary to Davy, the “new lord of the manor.” He introduces the others by their sign, Pisces (Micky), Aquarius (Peter), and Capricorn (Mike). Cute reference to the album. It would have been nice if Thorkelson had lined them up in that order, but they do raise their hands when their “sign” is called. Mary, who has shorter hair than they do, says “Oh, a sister act.” They look deeply insulted. The Monkees mock Lance as a “stiff.” Mary says they shouldn’t make fun of a drunkard. She explains that everyone was getting bombed during the war; he just never stopped. I guess I should have gotten the hint right here about how this story would end, but I didn’t.

The nearsighted butler arrives to show the Monkees to their room. He grabs the suit of armor instead of Davy. Don’t make fun of a drunkard kids, but making fun of a visual handicap is A-okay! The Butler tells them to follow him. Peter helpfully defines this as, “you mean go where you go.” The Butler bumps into the couch and crashes into both sides of the doorframe, and all the other actors in the scene do the same in a line behind him, accompanied by the tune “Three Blind Mice.” This is probably a very funny sight gag if you’re about five years old or so. Even I smile a little.

The Monkees sit in their room and complain of boredom. Mary enters and Davy asks her what the young people do for excitement. Answer? They move to the big city. She mentions that last year the biggest excitement was a mole in the lawn. Cut in of that scene of Reptilicus yet again; giant lizard and my vote for 6th Monkee. (After James Frawley, of course.) Twiggly marches right in to give Davy the contract to inherit the estate. True to character, Mike grabs it from him. Twiggly tells them if they’re bored, they can always leave the village for the villagers. Mary restates the plot point that the villagers don’t have that kind of money, and if Davy leaves, they’ll lose their homes. Friar enters just in time to pass out. As with “Don’t Look A Gift Horse” with the fainting old lady, I have to assume fainting was considered hilarious in the 1960s.

Mary and the Monkees fret about their dilemma. Davy states the two options: They’ve got to talk Lance out of selling the estate (this gets a big smile from Mary) or they’ve got to raise the money for the villagers. Mike comes up with an idea:

Cut to the miraculously tossed together fair. Micky and Peter collect admissions fees, but it seems they are nowhere close to the amount needed. Small wonder as it looks like there’s all of 50 people at this fair. Friar approaches and says they’ll make the money betting on the “Grand Championship” The winner of three contests, jousting, dueling, and mace and chain. Friar tells Davy that as the lord of the manor, he has to compete. Davy faints; I curse at my computer. Friar makes a wager with Twiggly on the Grand Championship, agreeing on “monumental” as the final bet. Twiggly tells Friar he’s a jousting champion and then cracks me up as he tangos off-screen with a young lady. Don’t know if I should credit that to Thorkelson or Fox, but it was funny.

Mike gets Davy ready for jousting in one of the suits of armor from “Fairy Tale.” Twiggly picks up two lances and orders Davy, “choose your Lance.” Davy grabs Lance Kibee, “I’ll choose this one here.” Twiggly starts poking at Lance until Lance commands him to stop. Twiggly concedes the contest to Davy, “you won by a pun.” [That’s cute. – Editor’s Note]

For the duel, Mike and Peter prepare Davy in his boxing outfit from “Monkees in the Ring,” despite the fact that it’s a fencing duel. You can see the faded “Dynamite Davy Jones” label on Davy’s robe. They forget Davy has some dueling experience from “Prince and the Pauper” and “Royal Flush.” So this ain’t his first rodeo. (“The Monkees at the Rodeo.” That should have been an episode.) Davy takes the saber in his boxing glove. Twiggly and Davy’s duel turns into a waltz; there’s a cut in of an old movie clip with people waltzing in 19th century costume. Twiggly disarms Davy and wins the contest. The crowd, which includes Valerie Kairys, boos Twiggly. Lance mishears this as “booze!” I don’t enjoy this drunken humor any more than I did with the hotel guest in “Monkees in Manhattan.” I don’t know if it’s just too dated or they didn’t do it right. Maybe pot humor is the new drunk humor.

Twiggly declares the next contest is mace and chain. The blind Butler approaches with his deaf father (William Benedict), who corrects Twiggly that the fair attendees get to choose the contest, according to the traditional rules. (And he is apparently old enough to know.) The Butler suggests to the crowd that they choose a singing contest, and they cheer. I guess they don’t want to see Davy maced and chained. Well, we’ve already seen him chained in “Too Many Girls,” and that didn’t turn out so well for him.

In an aside with Lance, Twiggly complains that he can’t sing. Lance lays it out for him that if he doesn’t, there will be no wager, no money, and no commission. Bernard Fox turns to the camera and sings (pretty well too!) “In the bloom of the night….” He gets another big laugh from me.

Cut to Micky announcing the Troubadour-ing contest, in his best radio/TV announcer voice. Twiggly sings “Greensleeves” off-key and flat, and he messes up the words. Micky cuts him off. An onscreen caption appears for those who wish to vote for him, “In the sticks call Hayseed 7-4000.” Wow, The Monkees even parodied future television shows like American Idol. How prescient. Davy goes next and nails it, though with the help of a pre-recorded track, complete with over-dubbing echo effect and a string arrangement. Micky declares Davy the winner. This episode is pretty much all Davy, all the time. The rest are merely supporting players.

Friar and the Butler count the money; they’ve only made 10,000 pounds even with the wager. They are 40,000 pounds short. Kind of makes the contest anti-climatic. They relieve Davy of his obligation to stay however. Out of nowhere, timid Mary turns to Lance and dresses him down: he’s a jellyfish, mean, rotten, and evil etc. Being insulted apparently turns him on, because he suddenly takes off her glasses and declares his love. She feels the same and they start making out. Lance announces that he’s canceling the sale and will stay with his wife-to-be. I have to admit, when I first saw this episode, I didn’t see that one coming. Yet, this is one of the many episodes that ended with a couple united, others being “Monkees Marooned,” “Hillbilly Honeymoon,” and “Wild Monkees.”

Mike does some sort of closing wrap-up, interrupted by Peter who wants to give a Christmas message about “love and peace.” This irritates Mike, who points out that the episode airs in February. (Although it was shot in early December.) This is followed by the performance clip of “Star Collector” (Goffin/King) previously used at the end of “Hitting the High Seas.”

When I thought back over the episodes, this is not one that I remembered clearly. There are no memorable lines, no witty dialogue. It mixes in with too many others as I mentioned above. It’s sort of like, if I were talking about “Monkees Mind Their Manor” to other Monkees fans, I would say “Do you remember the episode where there was a reading of a will and the Monkees had to stay in a mansion (“Monkee See, Monkee Die”) and there was a lot of fainting (“Don’t Look a Gift Horse”) and lawn contest of some kind (“One Man Shy”) and Davy almost had to leave the Monkees behind (“Success Story”).” It runs together with other better episodes without standing out in any way. It’s only notable because it was directed by Peter H. Thorkelson. Also, Bernard Fox, may he rest in peace, was one funny man.

*Note that the Imdb has incorrectly credited the wrong Jack Good as the actor in this episode.

by Bronwyn Knox

Every couple of weeks, “Monkees vs. Macheen” examines the crazy, spirited, Ben Franks-type world of the Pre-Fab Four: David Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork alias The Monkees.


David and David discuss Blade Runner 2049 and the original Blade Runner starring Harrison Ford.

Produced by DAVID LAWLER

WATCHED by Alex Saltz

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© Frequent Wire, David Lawler and David B. Anderson copyright 2018 for all original vocal and audio content featuring David Anderson, David Lawler and selected guests each episode. This podcast, “David & David & Gene & Roger: A Siskel & Ebert Podcast” is not affiliated with Tribune Entertainment, the PBS Television Network, the estates of Roger Ebert and/or Gene Siskel, Warner Bros., Tandem Productions, The Blade Runner Partnership, Alcon Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Bud Yorkin Productions, Sean Young, and Columbia Pictures. Any and all images, audio clips, and dialogue extracts are the property of their respective copyright owners. This blog and podcast was created for criticism, research, and is completely nonprofit, and should be considered Fair Use as stated in the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. section 107. It is not an official product, and it should not be sold nor bought; this is intended for private use, and any public broadcast is not recommended. All television, film, and music clips appear under Fair Use as well.

“Rollover, 1981”

“You’re gonna need a partner.”

Rollover, 1981 (Jane Fonda), Orion

With 1981’s Rollover, I gather I’m watching a movie about people who are obsessed with money. It’s never been my bag, but I’m willing to go along for the ride. Clean-shaven Kris Kristofferson (fresh from shooting the Harvard prologue in Heaven’s Gate) is a banking bag-man, meaning he is retained by banking institutions to solve their problems. I always though he looked evil without the beard. With the value of the dollar plummeting, Hume Cronyn orchestrates buy-outs, and some pointed comments are made about the distribution of wealth. Jane Fonda’s husband is killed, and she becomes the de-facto head of his conglomerate, a “petrochemical” concern.

This is a classic Alan Pakula formula involving people in expensive suits with looks of concern on their faces. Kristofferson is a work-horse. He pours over the books of a large New York bank sniffing out anomalies. He could’ve been a detective. He discovers Fonda’s company is in enormous debt, but rather than allow herself to be bought out, she wants to invest. This role is no stretch for Ms. Fonda, reunited with her Klute director, Pakula. Here, she plays a former actress married into finance; something she would actually do in a few short years. Kristofferson gives her tips on how to solidify her status as CEO. They play a crazy game of flirtation.

Fonda is surrounded by corporate sharks looking to rip her company to pieces. Kristofferson has a special interest in her for obvious reasons (Jane’s a dish in this movie), but their mutual chemistry seems to be based in a lust for transactions. Of course this wouldn’t be a Pakula film without a decent helping of paranoia. All of the principal parties are being watched. Then the movie haphazardly thrusts us into a romance that removes us from the main story. Jane needs a half a million dollars, so Kristofferson arranges meetings with rich Arabs to get financing. It turns out, everybody’s in hock to the Arabs. The Arabs (wisely, in my opinion) make her put up her own stock as collateral. If her company fails, she loses everything. Fonda doesn’t like being dependent on other people’s money (you go, girl!) to keep her interests afloat.

We get back to the love story, and the relationship thrives as a partnership with benefits, until Jane begins to suspect Kristofferson is playing both sides. The only problem (for me) is that all this banking talk is very dry, and we find we need the love story to grease the story. It seems some interested third parties are screwing with her deal, and these parties might’ve been involved in her husband’s murder. The Arab money is not coming through, and the bank brokering the deal is in danger of defaulting, as are all banks in this movie. While emptying out her husband’s cigar box, she finds a micro-cassette which implicates her husband in a scheme to bail out the banks with money from overseas. This is a real Scooby Doo mystery!

A whole bunch of money is going into one specific account. Fonda has a “deep throat” encounter with a paranoid gentleman in a parking lot (another Pakula device, and not as sexy as it sounds). This source also tells her to follow the money, as in All the President’s Men. Apparently, Fonda’s husband was aware of low-interest “loans” designed to keep the banks solvent, not unlike the recent real estate crisis. The rich exist to keep themselves rich, but frankly, we didn’t need the movie to tell us that. Rollover is a big, boring letdown considering all of the talented people involved.

Sourced from the original 1982 Warner Bros “clamshell” VHS release. The box sports a distinctive white plastic clamshell-design case, different from the standard black. The front cover design is a promotional photograph of Kristofferson and Fonda.  There is a tiny “behind the scenes” picture on the back of the box with Pakula directing Fonda and Kristofferson.  At the end of the tape, there are brief video trailers for Sharky’s Machine, Personal Best, and Body Heat. Rollover was released on DVD as part of the Warner Archive Collection. “A doomsday thriller of high-finance intrigue.” “Rollover is a realistic, provocative drama of the ultimate financial catastrophe – and the elite group of men and women whose wealth and influence control the economic empire that controls our destiny.” The aforementioned “catastrophe” occurs in the final moments of the movie, and the audience is not given sufficient warning, at least not enough for us to care.

Our first cable box was a non-descript metal contraption with a rotary dial and unlimited potential (with no brand name – weird). We flipped it on, and the first thing we noticed was that the reception was crystal-clear; no ghosting, no snow, no fuzzy images. We had the premium package: HBO, Cinemax, The Movie Channel, MTV, Nickelodeon, CNN, The Disney Channel, and the local network affiliates. About $25-$30 a month. Each week (and sometimes twice a week!), “Vintage Cable Box” explores the wonderful world of premium Cable TV of the early eighties.