A Disney Halloween Case

74909767_2422378818090111_414359057235705856_n

Back in 1982, The Wonderful World of Disney aired a Halloween special comprised of animated clips from some of their spookiest works. With about a 60 minute run-time, Disney’s Halloween Treat was hosted by Hal Douglas, an unseen narrator, with a few appearances from a talking foam pumpkin. 

  • Hal Douglas is known for narrating thousands of movie trailers. You’ve heard his voice so many times, and this performance is incredible.
  • One year later, Disney premiered a newer version of the special, this time 90 minutes long. It omitted parts from the original special, but included pieces from a 1977 special called, “Disney’s Greatest Villains” 
    • This version excluded a clip from Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and the skeletons in the beginning were green instead of orange. 
  • Some versions also include an opening with Michael Eisner, the then chair-man of Walt Disney Studios. This opening was most likely added for the VHS release of the special. 
  • Throughout the 1980’s and early 90’s, Disney ran this special on its channel every Halloween season. A Disney Halloween was released on VHS in 1985, though the original Disney’s Halloween Treat was never officially released (of course, Robin has a version taped off TV).

Segments of the Special

In this episode we talk about both specials. We cover clips from both, where they are from, and what we love about them. 

So buckle up! It’s gonna be a REAL treat 😉 

Part 1

  • The opening sequence
    • As we said before, the original special, “Disney’s Halloween Treat,” came out in 1982. It opens with clips from Disney cartoons, most prominently “The Skeleton Dance” (1929)
      • The Skeleton Dance was a “Silly Symphony.” Silly Symphonies were animated short films set to music, that Disney released over a 10 year period. The Skeleton Dance is one of the most popular, along with “The Three Little Pigs” 
      • In this version, the skeletons have been colored orange. In the original short they were black and white. 
    • The theme song for this special was written specifically for it! The music was by John Debney, a well-known film composer. Debney wrote the music for Hocus Pocus, which we talked about earlier this month! 
      • The lyrics were written by Galen R Brandt 
    • In A Disney Halloween, the skeletons are green, and this is how we could tell which special we were watching from the beginning.

Part 2

  • Night on Bald Mountain 
    • The narrator (Hal Douglas) wastes no time leading us into the first clip, a piece from Fantasia (1940). This image is very familiar to many, as the horrifying Chernabog ascends from the mountain to summon his minions. 
    • This piece of classical music was written by Mussorgsky, and this is one of the most famous animations from Fantasia 

Part 3

  • In A Disney Halloween, we get a clip from “The Sword in the Stone” (1963) with an emphasis on Mad Madam Mim. This particular scene features the wizard duel and the death of Mim.
  • Mim was voiced by Martha Wentworth, who also voiced the nanny in 101 Dalmatians (1961). This was her last acting credit. 

Part 4

  • The Old Mill 1937
    • Another silly symphony, this short is anything but silly. 
  • This clip comes from a 9 minute short about various animals: such as owls, mice, and bats that move into an old windmill.  Nearby the songs of frogs, crickets, and fireflies can be heard. The climax comes when a storm puts in peril all the creatures in and around the mill.
    • The beautiful thing is that even though the creatures do not speak you feel for them though the music and their actions.
    • This is one of the saddest and most touching pieces in the special.

Part 5

  • Mickey Mouse 
    • Pluto’s Sweater (1949)
      • We get a very short clip from this short film, but the transition is pretty seamless!
    • Mickey’s Parrot 1938
      • This clip comes from a 7 minute short where an escaped parrot comes into Mickey’s home just as he learns that the dangerous convict Machine-Gun Butch has shot his way out of jail. Thinking that the parrot is Butch, Mickey and Pluto cautiously try to find him.
  • Donald Duck
    • Donald Duck and the Gorilla 1944
      • This clip comes from a 7 minute short about Ajax, the killer gorilla who has escaped from the zoo! Donald Duck and his three nephews prank each other, making them think that Ajax is in their house. 
      • There’s a twist, when the real Ajax appears and tries to attack Donald! 

Part 6

  • Heffalumps and Woozils 
    • Next, we get a segment on nightmares! This clip is another part added to the new special, taken from “The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh” (1977).
    • In the film, Winnie the Pooh goes to sleep on a stormy night and dreams of the infamous Heffalumps and Woozils! Evil creatures out to steal his honey (or whatever else he wants).

Part 7

  • Pluto’s Judgement Day

    • This part is very interesting! For this section, animators cut three different Pluto adventures together to create one cohesive story. Those stories are: 
      • Puss Cafe 1950
      • Cat Nap Pluto 1948
      • Judgement Day 1935 (notice the 15 year difference between two of the shorts) 

Part 8

  • This segment is a wonderful piece, that really adds to the creepy atmosphere of the special. It comes from another Wonderful World of Disney episode called, “The Great Cat Family”! It came out in 1956. 
  • This part educates the audience on the beginning of superstitions, and also uses some imagery from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, which Disney cut from the second version of this special. 

Part 9 

  • To continue the theme of cats, we have a clip from “Lady and the Tramp” (1955)
    • Here we have Si and Am, the trouble-making cats from the film. The song was originally sung by Peggy Lee. 
    • The song is widely considered problematic,and in the 2019 version, this song will be “rewritten” and performed by Janelle Monáe

Part 10

  • The next segment of “A Disney Halloween” was taken from yet another Wonderful World of Disney episode called “Disney’s Greatest Villains” from 1977
    • This was an updated special following another version called, “Our Unsung Villains” in 1956.
    • It featured Hans Conried as The Magic Mirror. Conried had died when this segment was added to A Disney Halloween, but the footage was used anyway. 
    • Conried was a prolific actor whose voice was used in the animated “Hobbit” (1977), as the Grinch in “Halloween is Grinch Night,” but he was also the voice of Captain Hook in Disney’s Peter Pan.
  • Disney’s Greatest Villains 1977
    • Peter Pan (1953) – Hook
      • This scene with Captain Hook was included in the original Disney’s Halloween Treat, and is the first clip introduced by The Magic Mirror.
      • It shows the defeat of  Hook.
    • The Aristocasts (1970) – Edgar
      • Shows when Edgar drops the kittens while he is being chased by the dogs Lafayette and Napoleon.
    • Mickey and the Beanstalk – The Giant
      • This piece is from “Fun and Fancy Free” (1947)
    • The Jungle Book (1967) – Kaa
      • Voiced by the talented Sterling Halloway 
      • Kaa is interrupted during his hypnosis of Mowgli by Shere Khan.
    • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) – The Evil Queen
      • In Disney’s Halloween Treat, we get a full look at the evil queen, from her transformation to the moment she poisons Snow White. We also see her meet her doom at the edge of a cliff! 
    • Sleeping Beauty (1959) – Maleficent 
      • We get to see Maleficent in all her glory!
  • After Maleficent, the magic mirror briefly mentions:
    • Cinderella – Lady Tremaine 
    • 101 Dalmatians (1961)- Cruella De Vil
      • In Disney’s Halloween Treat, Cruella gets the full treatment, with a clip from the movie showing her ultimate defeat.
    • Alice in Wonderland (1951) – The Queen of Hearts
    • The Rescuers (1977)
      • At the time of “Disney’s Greatest Villains,” Medusa was the newest villain in Disney’s catalog. For this reason, this is the final villain featured by the magic mirror before he says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m getting out of here!” 

Part 11

  • The narrator uses the mirror’s disappearance to bring us into “Lonesome Ghosts” (1937)
    • This short film was originally released 3 days after Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
    • It features four bored ghosts that play pranks on Mickey, Donald, and Goofy. In this episode, the trio are ghost exterminators from AJAX, the fictional Disney company equivalent to ACME in the Looney Toon Universe.
    • Features Clarence Nash as Donald, Pinto Colvig as Goofy, and Walt Disney as Mickey Mouse.

Part 12

  • Trick or Treat (1952)
    • The final piece of “A Disney Halloween” is a piece from “Trick Or Treat” in 1952.
    • This short features the wonderful June Foray as “Witch Hazel” and an uncredited appearance by Thurl Ravenscroft as the Jack-O-Lantern!
    • Clarence Nash is the voice of Donald and his three nephews.
    • The music was written by Paul J Smith! A well-known Disney Composer (Snow White, Pinocchio, Cinderella).

Part 13 

  • Ichabod Crane and Mr Toad
    • In the original Disney’s Halloween Treat, it ended with a clip from “Ichabod and Mr. Toad” (1949).
      • This film covered two stories: The Wind and the Willows, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving.
    • In this clip, we see the thrilling end of Ichabod Crane. It starts with an edited version of the ghost story scene, narrated and sung by Bing Crosby. It then cuts to Ichabod cautiously riding home in the dark before being attacked by the Headless Horseman. It ends just as the story does, with the image of a shattered pumpkin on the bridge of souls. 

This is how the original special ended, and it’s how we will end our Halloween special as well! Happy Halloween, everyone! 

See you tomorrow. Maybe.

The Watcher in the Case

Woods Patreon

We’re in week three of our Disney Halloween series! This week we’re talking about the 1980 film “The Watcher in the Woods.” This is a supernatural, sci-fi thriller set in England. 

The story preys on two classic fears: The Woods, and being watched. I know it sounds silly when you think of that and the title of the movie, but it’s true. There are a lot of supernatural ties to the woods. It’s a place where many feel close to nature, but it’s also a place that holds terrifying tales of people losing their way and never being seen again. 

 

When we’re in the woods, we feel small. The trees tower over us, and the foliage blinds us from seeing long distances. Even if we venture in alone, we know we are surrounded by so many unseen animals and insects. So, the belief that there are mythical beasts or wandering spirits in the woods has been around for centuries. This is why the woods are a great place to tell scary stories. Even when we sit around the campfire, we’re not safe. We can be seen, but we can’t see beyond the flames. 

 

The other fear is being watched by an unknown person or thing. This is also known as scopophobia. We use the threat of observance to trick children into behaving; we tell them that Santa or his elves are watching every move they make. None of us like to feel that we are being watched, and it gives us a strange and creepy feeling, much like most of this film. 

 

Movie Beginnings:

  • Near the end of the 70’s moviegoers seemed to want more mature content.  Disney decided that they wanted to begin dipping into this latest craze. They began with The Black Hole (a sci-fi space adventure) and then proceeded with The Watcher in the Woods. Both of these films were meant to be PG in order to attract the audience to their new direction.  The Watchers producer Tom Leetch had told the head of the studio Ron Miller that “This could be our Exorcist.”  
  • It is based on a book by Florence Engel Randall which was turned into a screenplay by Brian Clemens.  Later though, Disney decided Clemen’s version delved too much into darkness and so they had revisions done by Harry Spalding, Rosemary Anne Sisson, and Gerry Day.
    • There are small differences, like Jan finds exes in mirrors instead of triangles
      • The presence in the woods reaches out to Jan’s father and shows him why its trapped
      • Instead of using Karen’s friends, it’s Mrs. Aylwood, Jan, and Ellie that have to complete a “triad of power” to bring Karen back
    •   The biggest difference is that the book ends before the seance with the girls heading into the woods. There is a cliff-hanger that doesn’t get resolved. 

 

Plot:

  • An American family moves to the British countryside with their two daughters Jan and Ellie. The family encounters Mrs. Aylwood, an old woman plagued by the mysterious disappearance of her daughter Karen 30 years ago. Jan and Ellie start to notice strange happenings in the house. Ellie hears whispers and music that she assumes comes from Jan, while Jan keeps seeing the image of a young girl trapped in mirrors. 
  • Jan learns that Karen disappeared during an eclipse, and that one is about to happen again. She tracks down everyone who might know what happened the night of her disappearance and demands answers. 
  • When Ellie becomes possessed by The Watcher, an unseen entity that has been communicating through her, Jan plans to hold a seance and bring Karen back. 

 

Starring:

  • Bette Davis as Mrs. Aylwood the mother of missing Karen
    • A very famous leading lady among those in Hollywood
    • One of her most famous roles being 1962’s drama What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
    • The release of this movie was to be set with Bette Davis’s 50th anniversary in the motion picture business which rushed the production of the films ending. 
      • This was her 85th feature film
    • She had expressed interest in playing a young Mrs. Aylwood and the present day Mrs. Aylwood.  John Hough therefore shot the scenes with her wearing makeup but afterward he privately told Davis that the scenes just didn’t work because nobody would believe she was in her forties.  She reportedly then looked him in the eye and told him “You’re goddamned right.”
  • Lynn-Holly Johnson as Jan Curtis 
    • The part was announced publicly to originally be portrayed by Diane Lane but ended up being Lynn-Holly 
    • She rose to fame by her figure skating in the mid 70’s which led to her first movie Ice Castles where she plays a partially blind skater who is trying to make it to the Olympics.  
  • Kyle Richards as Ellie Curtis
    • She was a young child star that had a recurring role in Little House on the Prairie
    • She now is known for her tv personality on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills since 2010.
  • Carroll Baker as mother Helen Curtis
    • The now retired actress who had roles that ranged from innocent to bold which allowed her to be classified as a pin-up and a serious actress.
  • David McCallum as father Paul Curtis
    • Known now as Ducky from NCIS
  • Ian Bannen as Karen’s friend John Keller
  • Richard Pasco as Karen’s friend Tom Colley
  • Frances Cuka as Karen’s friend Mary Fleming
  • Benedict Taylor as Jan’s love interest Mike Fleming 

 

Making of the Movie:

  • Directed by John Hough and Vincent McEveety, The Watcher in the Woods was filmed at Pinewood Studios in England
  • After it’s premier in New York in 1980, it was pulled from theatres after 10 days because of the overwhelmingly negative reviews 
    • When Disney pulled the film from theatres, they replaced it with Mary Poppins and re-shot the final scenes
    • In the original version, the film shows a physical depiction of the Watcher, a horrifying monster that wraps itself around Jan and transports her to a different dimension 
      • Audiences hated the apparently unfinished graphics and practical effect of the watcher
      • The original ending was also confusing, making the story more clunky and hard to explain. We find that the watcher is an alien that suspended Karen in time and space when it was accidentally transported to our world in its place
        • In this version we also get an explanation of the Watcher, a creature from another dimension that “turns people into negative images”
      • In the new version, we don’t see any of this. The watcher appears as a beam of light. Jan disappears, and then reappears with Karen. The scene ends there with no explanation and we don’t see the reunification of Karen and her mother. 
  • The film also had an alternate beginning, with a girl playing with a doll in the woods. The watcher scares the girl, causing her to drop the doll and run away. There’s a burst of light that catches the doll on fire and the titles play over the melting doll’s face
    • An executive at Disney refused to allow the original beginning to be released on the DVD because it wasn’t in line with Disney’s brand
  • Many of the filming locations were used in “The Haunting” based on the book by Shirley Jackson. You might know this story, as it was adapted for a Netflix show as “The Haunting of Hill House” 
  • The movie was re-made in 2017 for Lifetime. It was directed by Melissa Joan Hart and Angelica Huston played the role of Mrs. Aylwood

Sources:

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/26186974/globegazette/

https://www.newspapers.com/clip/26187061/the_los_angeles_times/

https://web.archive.org/web/20091027052528/http://geocities.com/ditcin4/watchermystery.html

https://www.retrojunk.com/article/show/243/the-watcher-in-the-woods

The Case of Green Gables

In 1985, the Canadian network CBC aired a two part mini series about a feisty red-headed orphan with an over active imagination. Her name was Anne (spelled with an E) and she lived in the fictional town of Avonlea, in a house with green gables.

The series (or movie as it is also referred to) was based on the novel series Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Although there have been many adaptations of the classic story (Anne with an E for example), this version from 1985  is considered by many to be the best.

Hangout with us as we discuss how the series came to be, our favorite moments, and why the world fell in love with Anne Shirley.

 

  • The mini series first premiered on December 1st, 1985 on CBC
    • CBC is a Canadian English-language network owned by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation
  • The story is based on the children’s book Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
    • The book was first published in 1908, and the series is set around the same time
    • The story is set in Avonlea, a small town on Prince Edward Island in Canada; Although Avonlea is fictional, it is based on the real town Cavendish
    • Montgomery based the story on her own life as an orphan child that was brought up by her strict grandparents
      • The story begins when Anne, a talkative orphan girl with a wild imagination, gets mistakenly adopted by an elderly brother and sister on Prince Edward Island
        • This actually happened to Montgomery’s cousins, who sent for a boy and ended up with a girl
        • Montgomery insisted that the only similarities were that the orphan had red hair and that her cousins kept the child
      • As a child, she visited relatives who lived in a house with green gables, a house that still stands today and that people can visit
        • Hundreds of thousands of people have visited the house which is a historical Canadian landmark
        • A Washington Post article quoted Kyle McKinnon, a park operations manager there, in saying, “People are continually entranced by the story of a young girl who screwed up absolutely everything, but it all worked out.”
  • The Mini Series
    • The series starred Megan Follows as Anne, who beat out 3000 girls for the lead role; Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla, and Richard Farnsworth as Matthew
      • Megan Follows is still acting today, most recently in a show called October Faction that is in pre-production
        • She was 16 years old when she was cast as 12-year-old Anne
        • “My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.”

      • Richard Farnsworth was a well-respected character actor (and Oscar nominated) that started his career as a stuntman on movies like Gone With the Wind
        • His last film credit was in 1999 in The Straight Story which was a Walt Disney film
      • Tony Award-winning Colleen Dewhurst played Marilla for the rest of her career in Anne of Avonlea and Avonlea before passing away in 1991; Although Farnsworth’s character of Matthew died before Marilla, Dewhurst passed away before Farnsworth
    • Katherine Hepburn was approached to play Marilla, but when she declined, she recommended her great niece Schuyler Grant for the role of Anne. Grant auditioned for the role, and they cast her as Diana, Anne’s best friend.
    • Jonathan Crombie also plays Gilbert Blythe, Anne’s love interest
      • He was cast in the role after a director discovered him in a school play
      • He was the voice of animated character Benjamin Bear
      • He passed away at the age of 48
    • Patricia Hamilton who plays Rachel Lynde is still alive
      • She played Rachel in the animated series and in a 2008 TV movie
  • Favorite quotes
    • I never wanted a boy. I only wanted you from the first day. Don’t ever change. I love my little girl. I’m so proud of my little girl.
    • That’s the one good thing about me. I never do the same wrong thing twice.
    • “It ain’t interfering to have an opinion”
    • And as for Christian virtue: making a little wine for a refreshment is far less sinful than meddling in other people’s affairs!
  • Thoughts on the story
    • “Young women are so often taught to make boys feel comfortable even when they’re being total assholes. And Anne just…doesn’t do that”
    • Anne is a great role model for young girls. She teaches to never sacrifice intelligence, and brings out the best in everyone by simply being herself.

Sources:

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0088727/

https://www.anneofgreengables.com/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/kidspost/anne-of-green-gables-comes-to-life-in-canada/2018/08/27/9d2eff42-a0a3-11e8-8e87-c869fe70a721_story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/tv/1986/02/16/colleen-dewhurst-anne-of-green-gables/a9b99b0d-eb80-41ea-b1e1-c835fcbab0de/

The Case of Summer Movies

It’s officially summer! It’s the season of cook-outs, family reunions, patriotic holidays, and childhood nostalgia. This week, we each chose a movie we watch every summer and talked about why it’s a quintessential summer movie.

65716003_500629220743724_1674956598839083008_n

Adam started off the episode with the 1980 classic Caddyshack!

Synopsis

  • Although the main plot seems to slip as the film goes on, Caddyshack initially follows Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), a teen caddy at the high-end Bushwood Country Club. Eager for money to pay for college, Noonan attempts to gain votes for a college scholarship reserved for caddies by volunteering to caddy for a prominent club member Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). As the stressful Caddy Day golf tournament approaches, Noonan seeks advice from wealthy golf guru Ty Webb (Chevy Chase). Meanwhile, Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) arrives and starts to flaunt his money and causes big trouble for the club owner.

Fun Facts

  • This was Harold Ramis’ directorial debut and is considered to be an accidental hit by those who made it
  • Referred to as “Animal House on a Golf Course,” Caddyshack is an over the top comedy about the Bushwood Country Club
  • The movie was originally going to be more about Michael O’Keefe’s character Danny Noonan and his fellow caddies. However, throughout a ridiculously difficult shoot it turned into an adult comedy with no significant plot.
    • Gopher was added last minute to create some kind of plot that would tie scenes together.
  • According to actors and crew there were parties almost every night that would rival those of rock stars. The cast of Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, and Bill Murray didn’t make things any easier either. They were constantly goofing around and ended up ad-libbing a large amount of the movie.
    • Examples of this include:
      • Cinderella story
      • Party scene
      • Ugliest hat
    • Dangerfield thought he was doing terribly during scenes, as no one was breaking character to laugh. Being a stand up comedian, he was used to laughs

Favorite Moments

  • “Doodie” Pool scene with Jaws theme
  • Destroying the yacht
  • Carl Spackler the grounds keeper, blowing up the course and winning the game for Al.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Marci brought us back to camp with Heavy Weights (1995)

Synopsis 

  • Gerry Garner comes home from the last day of school (The True beginning to summer!) He is surprised to find that his parents have decided to send him to camp named Camp Hope. Not just any camp though- in Gerry’s words a “Fat Camp”. When he arrives all the campers soon find out that this year will not be the same as years past.  The owners have gone bankrupt and sold the camp to Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller) who is a fitness junkie.
  • Screenplay written and produced by Judd Apatow
    • Known now for Superbad, Anchorman, and Knocked Up

Thoughts

  • Marci believes the former Chipmunks kid was a real entrepreneur. He takes away the kids candy by snitching on them but then proceeds to charge them to sneak candy into a tree trunk in the woods.
  • Who would not want to jump on an awesome air filled bag named “The Blob” into the water?
  • The dance scene was perfect- just as it seemed to be everywhere- girls on one side, guys on the other.
  • One of the funniest lines is when Tony tells Josh (Shaun Weiss from Mighty Ducks) to promptly get off the scale when he is weighed on camera during the second weigh in.
  • Even though this movie has mixed reviews because it seems to have mixed messages we have loved it for many reasons.  One of the main messages Marci takes is that you should take control of your own lives.

Fun Facts

  • The original camp owners were played by Ben Stiller’s parents: Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.
  • The boy that played Gerry (Aaron Schwartz) ended up breaking his arm during the food fight scene and had to be taken to the hospital.  In order to continue shooting the crew covered his stand-in’s face with chocolate syrup.
  • This was basically the beginning of Ben Stiller’s Dodgeball character
    • Since Heavyweights did not fare well at the box office he thought nobody had seen it and borrowed mannerisms and things from the Tony Perkis character.  He then uses them for his character White Goodman in Dodgeball.
  • Ben Stiller did not hang out with the kids during filming which may have helped to contribute to his villainous nature in the movie.
  • 20 Mile Hike
    • The story that Tony tells the boys during this hike is actually a mixture of the myths of Icarus and Sisyphus. Sisyphus was a Greek king who tricked the gods. When he died the gods created a hell for him where he was forced to push a boulder up a hill forever.  Every time just before he reaches the top of the hill the boulder rolls back down and he has to start over. Icarus was a young man who attempted to escape an island with his father, Daedalus.  They made wings out of feathers and wax. Even though his father warned him not to, Icarus flew too close to the sun, his wings melted and he perished upon the fall down.

Quotes

  • “Don’t put Twinkies on your pizza”- Roy (Kenan Thompson) telling Pat Finley what they learned after the big party

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Robin finished up the episode with Field of Dreams (1989)

  • Robin started hers off with an excerpt from the poem, “Green Fields of the Mind” by A Bartlett Giamatti
    • “[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops.”
  • She also quoted an article about poetry in baseball
    • In a Thought.Co article by Bob Holdman and Margery Synder, they say, “Baseball is the most literary of sports, bursting with metaphor, image, and rhythm.” Baseball is considered to be America’s official pastime, though its popularity has dwindled in recent years. This sport has a rich history filled with nostalgia, an activity played in backyards and on small town fields among family and friends for at least 150 years
  • Shoe-less Joe
    • It’s not a surprise, then that Field of Dreams was a success. Initially the film was to be named the same as the book by W.P. Kinsella, “Shoeless Joe,” but the producers were afraid that audiences would be confused as to what it was about. Kinsella was fine with the change because his original title for the book was “The Dream Field”
  • Synopsis

    • Ray, a farmer in Iowa hears a voice one night as he tends to his fields of corn. “If you build it, he will come.” When Ray is confused, the voice seems to give him a vision of a baseball field. Taunted by fellow farmers and other townspeople, Ray mows down his corn and builds a baseball field. He believes that the ghost of his father’s hero, Shoeless Joe Jackson, will appear. Sure enough, Jackson does appear. Soon, the rest of the 1919 White Sox appear in Ray’s field, only visible to him and his family.
    • Ray believes he built the field so that others could fulfill their baseball dreams, but he finds there’s something there for him too.
  • The Black Sox Scandal 

    • Now, to understand why these particular players appear on the field, you should know a little about The Black Sox Scandal of 1919
        • Back in 1919, baseball players were not paid as well as they are today. Many of them found it difficult to sustain a living off of being a player. The Chicago White Sox first baseman conspired with some gamblers and agreed to throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds for $100,000.00. After the Sox lost the first few games, gamblers weren’t paying out the amounts promised and so they called off the fix and decided to win the series once and for all. However, the gamblers threatened their families and the White Sox lost the World Series to the Reds.
        • When authorities started investigating the series, the players (including Shoeless Joe) confessed to taking the money
          • Shoeless Joe had only taken 5k from his teammates
        • Because of the suspicious disappearance of evidence, the players walked away free from the court. But, the commissioner of baseball did not let them off so easily. All eight players were banned from baseball for the rest of their lives, including Buck Weaver who dropped out of the fix before it started and Shoeless Joe who batted just as well during the series as he had all season. Shoeless Joe also claimed he was an unwilling participant and tried to tip off the owner of the fix.
        • Shoeless Joe was a hero to many children and the scandal brought about the famous cry, “Say it ain’t so, Joe!”
  • Fun Facts

    • In Field of Dreams, Ray visits a reclusive author named Terence Mann. In the novel, the author was JD Salinger. Kinsella purposely used the name Kinsella for the title character because Salinger had also written pieces with characters of that name. The purpose was for it to seem that one of his own characters had come to knock on his door and take him to a baseball game.
      • James Earl Jones took the part of Mann after his wife was mesmerized by the famous “people will come, Ray” speech
      • No one outside of the cast and crew knows for certain who’s voice is used as THE voice, though the common belief is that it was Ray Liotta who played Shoeless Joe
    •  Moonlight Graham, a player that Ray travels to Minnesota in order to find, was an actual person. Graham did in fact only play one game before moving to Minnesota and becoming a doctor. Kinsella, the author, found his stats in a book and decided to use them for the story
      • The movie is the final film for Burt Lancaster, the actor who played Graham
    • Field of Dreams was never number one at the box office, it competed with: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade; Batman; Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; Dead Poet’s Society; and Weekend at Bernie’s
    • Roger Ebert gave it four stars: “The ghost of Shoeless Joe does not come back to save the world. He simply wants to answer that wounded cry that has become a baseball legend: “Say it ain’t so, Joe!” And the answer is, it ain’t.”

If you like our show, please consider supporting our Patreon! https://www.patreon.com/blackcasediaries

Until July 31st, you can nominate us for a Podcast Award under TV/Film! https://www.podcastawards.com/app/signup

Happy Fourth of July from all of us here at The Black Case Diaries!

The Case of the 80s Dance Flick

It’s the final episode of June Tunes and we decided to focus on dance movies of the 1980s! You’ll notice, however, that we also included Saturday Night Fever in this episode even though it came out in 1977. We felt like we couldn’t talk about dance films without at least mentioning the iconic movie that essentially created a genre of film.

This episode is more relaxed than our previous music episodes, as we share our thoughts on a small list of famous dance movies! We thought this might be a fun way to close out the month of June.

65181376_500605703813759_6109083760102211584_n

Saturday Night Fever

  • This movie blended film and music in such a successful way, it inspired many movies to come
    • This film showed movie studios that they could more effectively capitalize on popular music of the time and paved the way for dance movies of the next 10 years
  • It shot John Travolta to superstardom in 1977, one year before Grease, although he had previously appeared on “Welcome Back, Kotter”
  • The soundtrack was filled with BeeGees songs, and it became unclear whether the movie was fueling the popularity of the music, or the other way around
    • The movie marks the rise and fall of Disco music, as it kept Disco in the spotlight for a few more years
  • The BeeGees wrote the songs for the movie AFTER the movie was shot, meaning all the dance scenes were shot with characters dancing to other music like Stevie Wonder and Boz Scaggs
    • They repurposed “Stayin’ Alive” which was just a demo at the time of filming, so it’s the only song that John Travolta was moving to while filming
  • Tony (John Travolta) is a paint store clerk who wants to break out of his everyday life
    • Dancing at the club helps him face the harsh realities of his life like his dead-end job and squabbling parents
  • The movie is based on the article: Tribal Rites of the new Saturday Night, which was a fabricated story by Nik Cohn
    • The article was meant to chronicle the disco dance scene, which Cohn was unfamiliar with, so he wrote a mostly fictional account on which the movie is based

Flashdance (1983)

  • “What a Feeling” by Irene Cara won an Oscar for best music/original score
    • It also hit #1 in the US for 6 weeks
    • In June the soundtrack released and stayed #1 for 2 weeks interrupting Michael Jackson’s Thriller which would come back to #1 only to be dethroned later by the Footloose album
    • In September, Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” also took #1
  • Based loosely around the life of real life welder and exotic dancer, Maureen Mauder, Paramount had her sign away the rights to her life story
  • The now famous off the shoulder big sweatshirt look was purely accidental because Jennifer Beals could not fit her head through her highschool sweatshirt. She decided to cut the collar off and wear it to the audition.  They liked it and added it to the movie
  •  It took 4 dancers for the iconic final dance scene by Alex Owens. One of the dancers was actually a man. Richard “Crazy Legs” Colón.  The famous leap was done by gymnast Sharon Shapiro
  • This was one of the first films that didn’t fit into the “musical”category because it did not center on the songs.  With MTV it became easier to bring pop songs into films. This led to the popular movies of Footloose and Dirty Dancing.

Footloose (1984)

  • Follows Ren, a boy from Chicago who moves to a rural town, where dancing to modern music is forbidden
  • This story is loosely based on true events!
    • In 1980, high school juniors in Elmore City, Oklahoma appealed to the town leaders and requested that a city-wide ban on dancing be lifted so they could hold a prom. When the decision to overturn the ban came to a 2-2 vote, the tie-breaking decision came from the school board president who reportedly said, “Let ’em dance.”
  • Tom Cruise and Rob Lowe were both slated to play the lead, but Cruise was tied up with another project, while Lowe sustained an injury and was unable to play the role.
  •  Melanie Griffith, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rosanna Arquette, Meg Tilly, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Heather Locklear, Meg Ryan, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jodie Foster, Phoebe Cates, Tatum O’Neal, Bridget Fonda, Lori Loughlin, Diane Lane and Brooke Shields were all considered for the role of Ariel
  • The movie also stars John Lithgow with an appearance from Sarah Jessica Parker
  • The soundtrack dethroned Michael Jackson’s Thriller album with titles such as: “Footloose,” “Sussudio,” “Let’s Hear it for the Boy,” and “I need a Hero”
    • Seriously, the soundtrack ROCKS

Girls Just Want to Have Fun (1985)

  • Came out in 1985 and inspired by the Cindy Lauper song of the same name
    • The story follows a young Army brat played by Sarah Jessica Parker who dreams of dancing on her favorite TV show. With a help of Helen Hunt, she attempts to win a spot on the show
  • The actual song isn’t used in the movie, a cover is used instead because of licensing restrictions
  • The movie starred Sarah Jessica Parker, Lee Montgomery, Morgan Woodward, Jonathan Silverman, Shannen Doherty, and Helen Hunt.
  • Parker was in Footloose one year earlier, though in this film she has the starring role

Dirty Dancing (1987) 

  • It stars Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze and takes place in the early 1960s
  • It is based in part on Elenor Bergstein’s childhood; She was a screenwriter for the project
    • She wrote a script for another film in 1980, and when an erotic dance scene was cut from the film, she was inspired to write this story with heavy influences from her childhood as a Doctor’s daughter that vacationed in the Catskills
    • For a choreographer, she chose Kenny Ortega!
    • For casting, she insisted on actors that could also dance
  • The scene where the couple are dancing and crawling on the floor wasn’t intended to be in the movie, it was a warm-up that the director loved so much that he put it in the film
  • The trees at the lake were spray-painted green for the scenes that took place in the woods and at the lake because the scenes were shot in the fall
  • In an interview with AFI, Swayze explained why he thought Dirty Dancing endured for so long. “It’s got so much heart, to me,” he said. “It’s not about the sensuality; it’s really about people trying to find themselves, this young dance instructor feeling like he’s nothing but a product, and this young girl trying to find out who she is in a society of restrictions when she has such an amazing take on things.”

Hairspray (1988)

  • This John Waters classic starred Rikki Lake as Tracy Turnblad, a “pleasantly plump” teenager who dreams of dancing on The Corny Collins Show in 1960s Baltimore
    • The movie had many other famous names like Jerry Stiller, Divine, and Sony Bono
    • The movie also uses segregation as a main plot point, as Tracy attempts to bring about an era of change by integrating The Corny Collins show. It highlights the harsh reality of the civil rights era while maintaining a goofy tone
  • The popularity of this movie spawned the stage musical of the same name that was then later re-made into a film in 2007
  • John Waters’ success with Hairspray paved the way for him to make “Crybaby” in 1990, starring Johnny Depp

Breakin’ (1984)

  • Also known as “Breakdance” in the UK and “Break Street ‘84” in other regions, this was a very popular movie of the mid-1980s! With more of a focus on break-dancing than plot, this is a fun dance movie that showcases incredibly talented dancers
  • Set in the hip hop club Radio-Tron in MacArthur Park, LA
    • The club is where many of the dancers spend time and have dance battles
    • This is where the main character Kelly meets Ozone and Turbo, the trio are the main characters of the films
  • Menahem Golan of Cannon Films was inspired to create this film after his daughter saw a breakdancer in California
  • By the end of its run, the film grossed $38,682,707 in the domestic box office

Breakin’ 2 Electric Boogaloo (1984)

  • This sequel to “Breakin'” focused even more on dancing, with extended dance sequences as the main focal part of the film
  • It follows the same trio as they try to save the local community center that serves children and teaches them dance and other art
  • We suggest that when you watch this film, try not to get too caught up in the plot, as the dancing is the real show!