The Beachcomber

beachcomber

The Beachcomber (1938), AKA Vessel of Wrath

Under Comedy, on Roku’s “PubDHub” channel, I found The Beachcomber, starring Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester, real life husband and wife.  Lanchester is most widely known from The Bride of Frankenstein and the most famous monster role of Laughton’s career was The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939).  Curious to see their work together, I took a seat with this oldie but goodie.  Or, at least, oldie but not baddie.  It is based on Somerset Maugham’s short story, The Vessel of Wrath.

Those who grew up moving their TV antenna to get better reception will understand my willingness to watch the soft, fuzzy edges of this old video copy.   But the big, beautiful eyes of Elsa Lanchester, as Martha Jones, keep us riveted to her.  Both actors keep this island picture afloat, but their characters aren’t very appealing.  She’s a busy body Christian missionary who deplores strong drink and he’s a beach bum and a selfish drunk to boot.  The couple’s acting and scenes together are the highlight of this one.

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To its credit, Beachcombers uses the island’s indigenous people as actors as well, using their native language in multiple scenes.  As was the way with many stories and movies of its time, its stance on colonialism and its oblivious disrespect for the native people is evident, though Laughton’s character, Ginger Ted, does challenge some of those assumptions, however modestly and hypocritically.

At its climax though is a harrowing showdown over vaccinations.  The clashing cultures and religious practices of the missionaries and the traditional beliefs of the islanders come to a head on a frightful night in the jungle.  Moody lighting, deep shadows, and ratcheting tension supply fans of classic horror films a taste of that flavor, but this is finally more of a screwball comedy with some lessons tossed in.

The film moves along and ends as you might expect but both characters, under their creators’ capable portrayals, become more likable.  He bends her ways slightly and she does the same to his.  One of Laughton’s best lines, delivered almost under his breath, “One more peep out of you, my girl, and I’ll spank you, ‘til you can’t sit down,” leaves Miss Jones wide-eyed but silent. All this leads to an expectedly satisfying ending.

I later found a copy of this movie on YouTube of about the same quality but one that has subtitles provided by the Closed Caption Media.  Subtitles may be slightly visually obtrusive but helpful, as the sound is also a bit muddy.  The Beachcombers is worth watching for fans of the actors, and it receives three stars in Maltin’s Classic Film Guide.

What to Watch – NHK Grand Sumo

Tochinoshin
Tochinoshin grapples opponent.

When in doubt, re-scan!  Antenna television viewers in the L.A. area may want to re-scan their set for updates.  Recently, the Decades TV Network, which was at 2-2, moved to channel 54-2, KAZA-TV.

Channel 2-2 now is listed as KCBS-SD.  Its schedule includes titles such as: “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”; “Medium”; “Cold Case”; “The Closer”, and similar fare.  This isn’t exactly what I’m after, but I’m sure it will be popular with a large audience.

Decades is worth tracking down on 54-2.  When the urbane and witty Dick Cavett is interviewing a powerhouse of entertainment or politics on one of his old shows, it’s often, at that moment, the best thing on TV.  Decades also broadcasts vintage sitcoms and “The Best of the Ed Sullivan Show”, which is also often the best thing on!  Their name comes from their timeline retro news program, “Through the Decades”, that established the Decades Network.

Another station I find myself tuned to is NHK – World, on channel 28-3.  NHK is Japan’s public TV broadcasting corporation and is publicly owned.  NHK has the most beautiful and serene television productions on air.  They’re intelligently written and finely photographed and edited programs.  Narrators’ voices are soothing and their pacing is relaxed as each show is educational and interesting.  Programs such as: “Dining with the Chef”; “Cycle Around Japan”; “Haiku Masters”; “imagine-nation”, are among my favorites.  And if I happen to flip by NHK when Carley Gomez is giving her weather report on “NHK Newsline”, I’m transfixed.  But it’s the Grand Sumo that has intrigued me and grown on me over time.

“Grand Sumo Highlights” (and “Previews”) quickly brings the viewer up to speed with brief descriptions and gets into the action right away.  Two competitors are shown in close-ups with their names below and their battle begins.  Each takes only handful of moments and it’s on to the next.  These are captivating to the new-comer and the devoted, with ancient rituals enacted and a regimented, ceremonial performance enlivening the competitions. The programs close with the quick “Sumo-pedia”, which teaches beginning Sumo viewers  the basics of the rituals, history, and action of the honorable art of Sumo wrestling.

Live coverage of the Grand Sumo September Tournament broadcasts on Sept. 9th and 16th, from 17:10 JST.  Learn the wrestlers!  Vote for your favorite! https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/tv/sumo/

Classic Movies on Free TV!

Cable cutters!  Missing your good, old classic movies?  Do not despair; free classic movies are on the air.

If you’re like me, you love not paying for cable TV or satellite anymore, but kind of miss Turner Classic Movies.  There are several options on broadcast television and more elsewhere.

On local Los Angeles 28-1, “KCET Must See Movies” comes on Fridays at 9 pm with an encore presentation on Saturday afternoons at 4:00 pm.  That the show is hosted is a nice touch in keeping with TV history, and Pete Hammond does a fine job.  I just caught the end of Alfred Hitchcock’s classic, “Suspicion,” and recently re-watched “The Thin Man.”

Pete-Hammond-Headshot

Movies! TV Network, in the L.A. area, is on 13-3 and regularly shows MGM properties.  Of particular interest is their Sunday night series called Sunday Night Noir.  Two sometimes classic and occasionally lesser known film noirs are shared back-to-back starting at 5 pm Pacific time.  “Dangerous Crossing” was a recent and entertaining showing.

Light TV  is a quasi-recent addition to the line-up in the L.A. area and it broadcasts family-oriented fare.  Their website uses the words “good” and “wholesome” to describe their content.  At this time I noticed that “Inspector Clouseau” with the wonderful Alan Arkin was just wrapping up.  I recently watched the timely “12 Angry Men” on Light TV and appreciated having it available (for free).  You can find many good movies and TV shows on Light.

Don’t forget your local library!  We’re lucky here to have several to choose from and we visit semi-regularly to pick up books and DVDs.  “My Man Godfrey” and “The Kennel Murder Case” were rented a couple of weeks ago to continue my wife’s William Powell theme.  We’re thankful for the easily accessible collection at our library!  Check ’em out!

L.A. Antenna TV Users Re-scan June 19th

Using an antenna for TV reception in the southern California area?  Re-scan your TV to properly align with PBS channels 50-1 and 50-2.  For more information look here.

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Remember, the fine TV station FNX, First Nation Experience, has re-located as of late April to channel 24-2, under PBS station KVCR, part of the Empire Network, Riverside, San Bernardino, California.

FNX plays content related to the native peoples of many lands.  One of my favorite programs is the genuinely funny and thoughtful stop-motion animation called Wapos Bay.  The detail that goes into the animation, backgrounds, and the story-telling itself, is ambitious and completely successful.

 

Mike Vernon Plays Tribute to Link Wray

Listen!

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Mike Vernon will be leading a Link Wray tribute at Viva Rancho Cantina in Burbank on Sunday, June 3rd, from 3:00 to 6:00 pm.  The show’s free, all ages, and the Cantina is a fine place to relax and have food and drinks.

Treasured in the LA music scene is the guitar-led attack of Mike Vernon’s 3 Balls of Fire.  It’s easy to see and hear how Burnin’ Mike Vernon got his nickname.  His playing style is a raw, blazing force of nature that sears your ears with a high-voltage, Hendrix-like moody intensity.  Having played Spanish classical guitar and also jazz, blues, and western music out of Texas, Vernon’s repertoire goes deep and is heard throughout his set.  Surf sound permeates the mix and the whole swirling inferno reminds me a little of the cross-over cowpunk bands of the ‘80s, but there is a more sophisticated approach to the performance and the 3 Balls fire can smolder and glow when the mood and beautiful melody strikes.

Mike Vernon has played alongside legends and their legendary status may have rubbed off on him.  Nokie Edwards of The Ventures, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddie King, and the late Link Wray count among the many big names he’s played with and Sunday’s tribute to Wray is a yearly remembrance of his friend.  More than a baker’s dozen of other friends will join in the 13th annual 13 Guitar Rumble.

Here’s a sample of 3 Balls of Fire playing Link Wray’s “Switchblade.”

3 Balls of Fire Youtube channel

Visit the 3 Balls of Fire website, and you’ll find a link for their side band, The M-Squad.  If there could be anything cooler (or hotter) than 3 Balls, it’s M-Squad.  Basically, the same guys (all kickass, by the way) with possible additional percussion and rhythm section players, The M-Squad plays what they call Crime Jazz.  It’s got that beautiful sixties surf-y sounding guitars and melodies that you’ve heard in TV shows and movies.  Their name comes from a TV show from the late ’50s and, like 3 Balls, they play both covers and original compositions.  Enchanting sounds of spies vs. spaghetti westerns and exotica surf lounge is complemented by bongos, keyboard, and occasional horns among other jazzy accoutrements.  It’s classy and cool in a way that 3 Balls just touches on.

Put both bands on your radar and keep track of Viva Rancho Cantina’s schedule.  Two bands can play simultaneously at Viva Rancho Cantina venue.  Start by seeing the Link Wray tribute this Sunday at 3:00.

Horror Hosts Invade L.A. Airwaves!

20180510_155307Lamia on Horror Hotel, and more

I felt like a kid again, for a little while anyway.  Staying up until midnight to watch an old, black and white horror movie on broadcast TV took me back to my childhood.  I’d seen Bela Lugosi in The Devil Bat many times before, but it was the program’s hostess, Lamia, presenting it on the Horror Hotel show that I really wanted to see.

Continuing in the tradition of those old horror hosts and hostesses — those local TV personalities who would introduce a scary movie on weekend nights — Lamia, Queen of the Dark, ushers us into her realm of classic horror.

Rescan your TV*

A new scan for TV channels brought the Horror Hotel program to my attention.  After scanning, (as recommended be done April 23, 2018), I discovered that Retro-TV is now on channel 63-3 (in the Los Angeles area).  I looked up Retro-TV online and found their schedule and learned about Horror Hotel.  (Retro-TV L.A. schedule, pdf)

As the original vampire, Lamia has been there from the start and she’s seen a lot. (And, at her age, Lamia looks amazing!)  Indeed, it’s the history and stories behind the films that are served up.  Imagine Lamia as the beautiful, fanged, Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies for monsters, and you’ve got it.  She knows her movies inside and out, guts and all, and delivers an onslaught of information and trivia.  (Lamia’s scary mythological history is here.)

Revealed on www.horrorhotel.net is the fact that the brainchild of the Horror Hotel empire is creature feature fan, Ray Szuch.  He got the production rolling with the Int’l Horror Hotel Film Festival and Convention out of northeast Ohio.  His fellow producer, Kristina Michelle, works on a variety of TV productions and also writes and appears as our knowledgeable and tasteful vampiric hostess.

You can watch directly from the Horror Hotel website — Watch the Show!

Three Nights of Horror Hosts!

So, if you’re a fan of the old monster movies, sci-fi, and similar oddities, you can watch them all weekend now on free, broadcast television.

Retro-TV also carries Offbeat Cinema, hosted by a troupe of beatniks and showing a similar slew of kooky, spooky entertainment.

Friday, at midnight (technically the beginning of Saturday morning): Horror Hotel, starring Lamia, Queen of the Dark, on Retro-TV (63-3).

Saturday at 8:00: Svengoolie on Me-TV (56-3); Saturday at 10:00: Offbeat Cinema on Retro-TV (63-3); Saturday, midnight: Horror Hotel on Retro (63-3).  (Horror Hotel will go back to one night a week for a while and should then return to its regular schedule.)

Sunday: Now that Mystery Science Theater 3000 has taken a break, tune in to Retro-TV (63-3) where they show the refined Who Dun It Theatre at 10:00.

I’ll return to the topic of horror movie hosts and post some future entries highlighting the wildest.  A big thank you to Horror Hotel for their inspiration!

*Scan your TV for new channels or locations with help from this guide.

Cheap-os and Cable-cutters, Watch This!

 

ohtvThanks for stopping by!  Welcome to this journal of suggestions for what to watch & check out online, on TV, and around town.  For those who like both classic movies as well as the latest releases viewed at bargain matinees, this is a spot where you can get recommendations on what to watch (inexpensively) in this dizzying age of overload.   Continue reading “Cheap-os and Cable-cutters, Watch This!”