The Official Newsletter of The Imaginative Cinema Society
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May 2007  #101



ICS makes the Newspaper!
Read all about it.





Tasty Tidbits and Leftovers



See what’s happening!
Put this up on the Fridge!

Editor-Betsy Childs 
Staff Writers- Regina Vallerani, 
Mike Laird, Sam DiBlasi
John Ward, Joe Plempel, 
Dava Sentz, Jim Childs


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The Imaginative Cinema Society celebrated its 100th meeting. John Ward presented the results of the ICS Top 100 Genre Movies Poll. All members received hard copies of the Top 100 Movies, as well as copies of the Master List of all nominated movies.
Many of the movies listed were discussed by the members and it was amusing to see who had what on their list and where the movies they listed ended up. Lists were compared and shared. There was also a discussion on the qualities of what is a great movie and how to determine this atribute. 

Five movies in the top ten that hadn’t already been screened were offered as selections. Club members voted to watch ALIEN.
ALIEN is a 1979 science fiction / horror film directed by Ridley Scott. The film's title refers to the main antagonist, a highly aggressive extraterrestrial which threatens the crew of the spaceship Nostromo after hatching from the body of one of the humans. Of the seven main crew members, the film stars Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, Tom Skerritt as Captain Dallas and Ian Holm as Ash. This launched Weavers career.
The film proved itself unconventional (by Hollywood standards) within the action genre by featuring a strong heroine. While the Alien itself (referred to in spin-offs as a xenomorph) proved a popular aspect of the film, the story of Ellen Ripley provided the connecting thread of the series.

In the wake of the VT massacre, there was a discussion at the meeting about the violence that seems prevalent in today’s media and popular culture. Members were asked to talk about whether the movie violence was becoming too much into the mainstream of our lives and desensitizing it. 
The discussion brought up some very interesting points of view and it was lively and thoughtful. One point and the most united amongst the members was that violence has been in the films almost since day one and it is not the fault of films but the twists of a personality that takes the information and bends it to how they want to view things. 

The same night as the Geppi’s field trip, the ICS Board sponsored the club’s first “Quick Trip.” Nine club members got together at the AMC White Marsh Theater to see GRINDHOUSE. More trips will be coming, so check your emails for more notice of one to occur.  The news will not be in an ICS Files and it will not be phoned, an email will be sent to you 24 hour prior to the event.

The Shore Leave Convention returns in July, and the club has been offered a free table outside the dealers’ room. This would be used to publicize the club – NOT to sell stuff.

Dave Henderson informed the club about upcoming “road improvement” plans on Belair Road that might require members to find alternate routes to the meeting.

Don’t forget – this coming Saturday May 26th is the ICS 2nd Annual Memorial Day Picnic.
 This year there is a special treat – any members interested in extra fun, are invited to meet at 3 P.M. for miniature golf – the new course outside the church.  Come see if John Ward can putt that hole in one thru the volcano or if Steve Vaught really can use a blue ball with a yellow club. 
The picnic will start at 4 P.M. with Hot Dogs, Burgers, Veggie Burgers, chips, drinks and all the extras a picnic needs. Come and enjoy the fun - it was a blast last year!

Congrats to Mr. Willard! On a personal note, club president Dave Willard told the club about the possibility that he might get an adjunct professorship to teach a course on silent film at McDaniel College in Westminster.

And so does the ICS! Dave Willard discussed an overall drop in members since last year. We need to discuss ways to publicize the club and draw new members.

Dave Willard will be doing a presentation on Pre-code Movies for us on May 26th.  Movies and what they held for the audiences before the coding of R, G, PG and the like.

The late night time slot in May is set aside for social time.  There will be NO late movie.  However, if you have a film you’d like to show in June, be prepared to present it to the club because we will be voting for the June late night feature.

Our next meeting will be held on Saturday May 26th at 5:30 P.M. at the church hall behind the Perry Hall Presbyterian Church located at 8848 BelAir Road.  Take Baltimore Beltway exit 32 north on Belair Road.  Turn left onto Joppa Road. Immediately past the miniature golf course turn left into the parking lot.  If you miss it there are ample turn-around opportunities.  If you get stuck, call 443-570-6455.  That's Dave Willard’s cell phone.  He'll talk you in. 

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE PICNIC STARTS AT 4 with Miniature Golf fun starting at 3pm

May 26 ICS Cookout5/26 Memorial Day Picnic, Pre-code Movies 
June 30 (*) Exploitation Cinema (NC-17)
July 28 World of Fantasy
August 25 (*) 
September 30
October 27 (*)  Greg Mank Returns
  Halloween Potluck Dinner
November 17 
December 29 (*)  Yankee Swap

(*) denotes Late Night Feature

   The following members have paid their dues.  If you are missing from this list, please contact Andrew.

Rick Arnold   Betsy Childs   Jim Childs
Vince DiLeonardi  Sam DiBlasi   Heather Fleming
Tim Fleming   James Gernert   Dave Henderson
Norman Jones   Andrew Kent   Mike Laird
Jeanne Matcovich  Barry Murphy   Tom Noll 
Skip Phillips   Joe Plempel   Norman Prentiss 
Justin Proveaux  Tom Proveaux   Robin Richards 
Gary Roberson  Lisa Schilling   Mike Schilling 
Brian Slanger   Richard Smith   Courtney Spies 
Jack Tydings   Regina Vallerani  Teeka Vallerani 
Beth Vaught   Steve Vaught   Neil Wagenfer 
John Ward   John Ward (son)  John Weber 
Dave Willard   Charlie Wittig

May 25th STAR WARS 30th Anniversary

The film wasn't supposed to do what it did—nothing was supposed to do that. Movies were meant to stay on the screen, flat and large and colorful, gathering you up into their sweep of story and releasing you back into your life at the other end. But this movie just misbehaved. STAR WARS invaded the theaters, infected the viewers and came off the screen and into our lives. A lot of people were affected deeply by it, requiring talismans and artifacts – wait, I meant action figures and DVD’s.

Where were you on May 25th 1977?  This was one of the high points of Science Fiction movie history.  The opening day for Star Wars, a movie that has been said to change a genre. 

I was 16 and saw it in Easton MD at a small main street theater that still had a stage and a piano from the days of old. My friend Cindy and I went, watched and were in awe. I had been reading science fiction for years, but to see it come to life. That was amazing. I can remember spending the summer watching that movie. With that type of theater we could sit thru the two shows a day and not get hassled. In fact, after a week the guy at the ticket booth wouldn't even charge us, he just let us in for free. He said he felt guilty charging us. We had fun doing some costuming and also taking photos of the film. In 1977 we didn’t have video camera or anything other than my old Pentax 35mm camera.  So we sat in the theater, me taking the pic and my friend trying to cough when I nudged her to hide the loud, echoing ‘click’ when I snapped a shot.  The pictures actually came out pretty good and I have a great shot of Luke looking over the desert at the twin suns.  I still have those pictures and negatives somewhere. 

So I did contribute to the millions made by Star Wars.  The opening day totaled $254,309 from just 32 theaters. By the end of its first theatrical run, Star Wars was the most successful film in North American history with a gross in excess of $ 290 million. Lucas' made a smart move, but only he knew it at the time. 

When Lucas negotiated his deal with Fox to make Star Wars, the studio was shocked to learn that the hot director was not asking for a lot of money.  Instead, Lucas wanted control. He wanted to have the right to the final cut of the film, 40% of the net box-office gross, all rights to future sequels and ownership of all the merchandising rights associated with Star Wars. Merchandising rights. At the time, science fiction films were not very profitable. Hence, Fox thought they were ripping Lucas off. Sequel and merchandise rights to science fiction films were worthless at the time. In the end, this deal would eventually make Lucas a billionaire and cost Fox an untold fortune in lost revenues. Yep, Lucas got the rights to sell action figures, and ships and tee shirts and bean bag chairs and oh my god, a good chunk of the stuff in my office right now. 

30 years later and I still am out looking for the elusive Luke Skywalker figure in his floppy hat, binocs and boyish grin.  May the Force be With You Always!

tv news/movie newstv news/movie newstv news/movie news
Battlestar Galactica star Katee Sackhoff said that she will play the original cyborg in NBC's Bionic Woman SF series. "I play Sarah Corvus," Sackhoff "She's the original bionic woman. The first bionic woman. She doesn't let anyone forget it. And she's kind of gone off the reservation. She's a little crazy." 
Sackhoff, who plays fighter jock Starbuck in Battlestar, will star in The Bionic Woman opposite Michelle Ryan, who plays Jamie Sommers. Sackhoff revealed that her character will have two bionic arms, "both legs, two eyes, one ear, part of my chest." The show is a reimagining of the original 1970s series, which starred Lindsay Wagner as Jamie Sommers. Sackhoff said that her character would be part of the series as well. 
Sackhoff added: "My biggest fear was that Sarah Corvus was going to turn out like Starbuck. But she didn't. She turned out a little like Number Six [laughs]. She's the femme fatale. She's dangerous. She's sexy. She knows it, and she uses it. She walks with a purpose, and Starbuck really doesn't. It's ... two different sides of the coin, but both misunderstood." 

Emmy-winning writer-producer Kevin Falls, creator of NBC's newly picked-up time-travel series Journeyman, has signed a new two-year overall deal with the show's producer, 20th Century Fox TV.
Falls will focus on Journeyman, on which he will serve as executive producer and show runner. Also reported was that NBC had picked up Journeyman for the fall. 
Journeyman is described as an epic fantasy starring Kevin McKidd (HBO's Rome) as a man who travels back in time to fix the lives of people in trouble.  (um…Scott Bakula did that back in the 90’s- Quantum Leap anyone?)

Michael Crichton's classic SF novel The Andromeda Strain will infect television in a new original miniseries for A&E, to be executive-produced by filmmaking brothers Tony and Ridley Scott. Director-cinematographer Mikael Solomon will direct from a script by Robert Schenkkan (The Quiet American), about an alien germ that comes to Earth and threatens to cause a deadly plague. 
The miniseries is set to go into production this summer. David Zucker and Tom Thayer are also executive-producing. 
Andromeda was initially billed as a four-hour event, but could run up to six hours. 
Ridley Scott (director of Blade Runner) will be taking the lead on the project, which is based on Crichton's first book. It was previously adapted as a feature film directed by Robert Wise in 1971.

Seth Green and Matthew Senreich, creators of Cartoon Network's Robot Chicken, will develop Robot Chicken: Star Wars, a 30-minute stop-motion animation special directed by Green. The special spoofs key scenes and characters from the Star Wars universe, including creator George Lucas, who will voice the animated version of himself. The special was made in collaboration with Lucasfilm. 
Robot Chicken: Star Wars will also feature Mark Hamill as the voice of Luke Skywalker in one sketch, as well as a voice cast that includes Conan O'Brien, Seth MacFarlane, Robert Smigel, Malcolm McDowell, Hulk Hogan, James Van Der Beek, Donald Faison, Abraham Benrubi, Breckin Meyer and Joey Fatone. The special will premiere at 10 p.m. June 17 on Adult Swim. Yes, I have my Tivo already set for this.

Dutch producer John De Mol is reviving famed British horror studio Hammer Film Productions, which built its name on a string of movies released in the 1950s and 1960s under the Hammer House of Horror label. 
The private equity firm Cyrte Investments, led by de Mol, has acquired the rights to Hammer's library, home of roughly 300 titles featuring the likes of Count Dracula, Frankenstein and the Mummy, as well as the popular Quatermass franchise. 
Hammer studio hasn't done any production to speak of since the mid-1980s. The plan is to produce two to three horror movies or thrillers a year. 

Barry Sonnenfeld is in negotiations to direct the supernatural action-adventurer The Box for 20th Century Fox. 
Evan Spiliotopoulos is writing the screenplay, which serves up a contemporary take on the myth of Pandora's box. 
Box centers on a college graduate with an uncertain future, who is tricked into opening the mythical box, unwittingly unleashing the evils trapped within. He then must team with Pandora to save the world from destruction. 
Box returns Sonnenfeld to the genres that put him on the map, with such movies as The Addams Family and Men in Black. 

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson said that director Peter Segal has spoken with him about playing Captain Marvel in the upcoming comic-book movie Shazam! 
"Yeah, he did," Johnson said. "Listen, John August is writing the script, and he's a tremendous writer, and I'll just wait for the script to come in. But I'd love to work with Pete again and certainly would want to work with John August. So there's a strong possibility." 
Would Johnson put on Marvel's signature yellow-and-red tights? "Well, knowing Pete, he'd update it and make it fresh," Johnson said. "But that's his question. He's very excited about the project and talks about it passionately. Pete also understands the importance of getting that right; he's a big comic-book fan." 
The comic-book series focuses on Billy Batson, a teenager who becomes the superhero known as Captain Marvel when he utters the magic word "Shazam!" The name is an acronym for six gods and heroes of the ancient world, as well as their attributes: the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury. 

Producers of the upcoming Day of the Dead remake said that the walking dead will be far more gruesome, and in some cases sexier, than in previous zombie movies. James Glenn Dudelson and Ana Clavell just returned from Bulgaria, where the majority of Day of the Dead was being filmed under director Steve Miner. 
"Steve has a good sense of how to do this, and it's going to be frightening," Dudelson said. "There's also a very creative young screenwriter attached, and we were happy to work with him." 
Screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick, who wrote Final Destination, adapted George Romero's zombie story, about survivors trapped in a military storage facility after a virus has turned much of the world's population into zombies. 
"The zombies are naturally scarier, and filming in Bulgaria was good because we could get plenty of people to play zombies, but of course they didn't speak English," Dudelson said. "But the women are beautiful, so many of our zombies will be much more sexy than we may be used to seeing. It's really frigging good." 
Clavell, who said she has a passion for zombies, added: "There are a lot of body parts and brain tissue in this. It's very good special effects. I like voodoo zombies, historical zombies, all sorts of zombies. It's a fascinating concept for a horror film. I have studied actual accounts of zombies and have quite a few books on them." 

Ernest Dickerson (Tales from the Crypt: Demon Knight) is set to direct The Un-Dead, a new chapter to the canon of Bram Stoker's Dracula that has been endorsed by the author's family. The film will be based on a novel written by Stoker's great-grandnephew, Dacre Stoker, and Ian Holt. Holt adapted the book for the screen. Production will begin in Eastern Europe late in the year. 
The plot picks up 25 years after the original story, which was first made into a film in 1931. The Stoker endorsement is a formality, since the original book is in the public domain. 
Plans are in the works to republish the original, unedited version of Stoker's Dracula, which was trimmed down before its first publication. Some of the excised plot was incorporated into the sequel book, and will be used as plot in the new film. New characters include Jack the Ripper and the infamous Madame Bathory.

MEMBERS JUST LIKE US – ICS Members answer ‘5 in a Row’
There will be a brief, one page 5 question interview each month with and ICS member.  This month, Gary Roberson is participating.


Betsy: Growing up, what movie do you think started you on the road to being a fan?

Gary: THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL got me hooked on science fiction, but the film that "changed my life" and turned me into a hardcore movie fan / memorabilia collector and future ICS member was GOLDFINGER (1964), which actually opened up here in the States in 1965 when I was 10 going on 11. It turned me from a casual moviegoer into a fanatical one!
Betsy: What do you like most about acquiring collectibles - the actual thrill of getting them or the displaying them or having a complete set?
Gary: A little of each, actually. I think the finding of the odd collectible, the "thrill of the hunt" for that elusive item not generally available here - like the Japanese 24 Jack Bauer Action Figure, or the British AVENGERS John Steed & Emma Peel Action Figure Set and the British HAMMER Film’s Christopher Lee as DRACULA Action Figure - is the most fun. I could never be a completist because I don't have the patience or the drive for that. I just get what I like, and if something that's part of a set doesn't have the quality I appreciate - like the Sideshow BUFFY THE VAMPIRE Darla Action Figure is a big disappointment to me - then I skip it.

Betsy: DC or Marvel and why? 
Gary: Hard question. If we're talking Silver Age - 1960's & 1970's - definitely DC. Marvel & DC both had excellent artists working back then, but I think DC writers had the edge. After that, the companies evened out for me, but I believe DC takes more chances. (i.e., the Vertigo titles and such) with their characters, and has actually "grown up" as a company. As for the movies, with the exception of BATMAN BEGINS, Marvel is leading the race in their character adaptations. DC better wake up!

Betsy: If you could pick one superpower...what would it be?  

Gary: Definitely Flash's power of super speed and endurance. I could get all the mundane things of life out of the way in no time flat, zoom over to Tokyo to get all those cool Godzilla toys at the source and get down to the ICS meetings in mere seconds!

Betsy: And the last question, what is your favorite horror movie and why?

Gary: My favorite horror movie is Hitchcock's THE BIRDS (1963). It's a masterpiece of moviemaking and not just my favorite horror movie, but also one of my top 10 favorite movies of all time. Hitchcock takes one of nature's least threatening creatures' (at least to man) and slowly and artfully turns them into a horrifying menace so by the end of the film you’re on the edge of your seat. This movie terrified me when I saw it at the drive-in at age 9, and it's held up with repeated viewings. I don't bandy the word genius around much, but I feel in the world of filmmaking, Hitchcock was definitely one, and THE BIRDS was his finest film.

Thank you Gary, stay tuned, next month, another member, another five questions.


May 18th      SHREK THE THIRD 
Shrek, back again in quite a pickle.  King Shrek? He is a reluctant would-be king and needs to find a suitable replacement or he'll be royally screwed for the rest of his days. It’s sequel number three….this ones fun! 

June 1st      RISE: BLOOD HUNTER
Cast: Lucy Liu, Michael Chiklis, Carla Gugino, James D’Arcy
An underground cult, dead teens and a reporter waking in the morgue. Alive but dead.  Then we meet Detective Rawlins is sick with rage and grief, his only daughter another victim of the cult. He joins forces with the reporter, and they will stop at nothing until they’ve exacted revenge. 

June 8th       HOSTEL Part II
Cast: Lauren German, Heather Matarazzo, Bijou Phillips, Jay Hernandez
Three young American girls in Rome are invited by a beautiful model from one of their art classes to join her for a weekend. And thus the horror begins.

June 8th       OCEANS THIRTEEN
Cast: George Clooney, Ellen Barkin, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt, Andy Garcia 
Ocean and his crew decide to hurt the man who hurt their friend. By doing the one thing they do well together.  Stealing lots and lots of his money from him.  
Cast: Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Micheal Chiklis, Julian McMahon
The enigmatic, intergalactic herald, the Silver Surfer, comes to Earth to prepare it for destruction. As he races around the globe wreaking havoc, Reed, Sue, Johnny and Ben must unravel the mystery of the Silver Surfer and confront the surprising return of their mortal enemy, Dr. Doom, before all hope is lost.

Ginger Diamond's Tasty Tidbits and Leftovers
By Ginger Diamond

So, I was looking through my Dead People's file the other day (what, you don't have one?), and wondered what some of our favorite defunct actors thought about being typecast during their careers.  
I mean, not everybody embraced their best known character, Lil' Buddy, and also enjoyed appearing at boat shows for the rest of their life, like Bob Denver - or did they?  Al Lewis, who reveled in his notoriety as Grandpa on "The Munsters", hosted a left-wing radio talk show, ran a restaurant called "Granpa's" on Bleeker Street, and also made a run for mayor of New York City, getting 52,000 votes. "Why would I mind?"' he said. "It pays my mortgage."  
Peter Cushing started his career on stage in 1935, and made many well known films as well as television shows in the 50's, yet, he became best remembered for his horror films. "I don't have any regrets", Cushing said. "Things like Frankenstein and Dracula were such big successes, and they obviously led to a lot of sequels."  Desmond Llewelyn, James Bond's gadget guru Q in seventeen 007 films, attended book signings, even though, "In real life I'm allergic to gadgets. They just don't work for me, not even those plastic cards for hotel room doors."  
A favorite, John Agar ended up having a name that was synonymous with a slew of B science fiction movies (Tarantula, The Mole People), and worked the convention circuit in his later years. "Even though they were not considered top of the line, for those people that like sci-fi, I guess they were fun. My whole feeling about working as an actor is if I give any enjoyment. I'm doing my job, and that's what counts."   Red Buttons (Poseidon Adventure, They Shoot Horses, Don't They?)  told an interviewer once, "I'm a little guy and that's what I play all the time - a little guy and his troubles."  
Robert Mitchum (Cape Fear, Night of the Hunter) said of his Hollywood beginnings, "For a while it looked like I was going to be stuck in westerns. I figured I could make 6 a year for 60 years and retire. I decided I didn't want it. So I started blinking my eyes every time a gun went off in the scenes. That got me out of westerns."  
Olympic medalist Johnny Weissmuller,  dove into the role of Tarzan for 18 films. "I went to the back lot at MGM, they gave me a G-string, and said, 'Can you climb a tree? Can you pick up that girl?'  I could do all that, and I did all my own swinging because I had been a YMCA champion on the rings."   
Ray Walston, "My Favorite Martian", said he auditioned and accepted the role for the money. But just after four episodes he recalled, "I thought,  ' What am I doing here?  I'm running around with two pieces of wire coming out of my head. I must be crazy.' " 
  And finally, Clayton Moore as the 'Lone Ranger', who continued to appear in costume in personal appearances for decades after the show's heyday, even fighting, and eventually winning a court battle over his right to wear the mask. "Once I got the Lone Ranger role, I didn't want any other.  I like playing the good guy.  As a child I wanted to be either a cowboy or a policeman.  As the Lone Ranger I got to be both. The Lone Ranger is a great character, a great American. Playing him made me a better person. I'll wear that white hat the rest of my life."   And so he did.  
Hi-yo, Silver!  Stick a fork in me - I'm done, GD

farewellsfarewellsfarewells Good bye farewellsfarewellsfarewells

Gordon Scott, an actor known for his portrayal of jungle superman Tarzan in six films and later roles in gladiator movies, has died at age 80. Scott had spent the last five years living with friends Roger and Betty Thomas in Baltimore (if only we’d known).
An unknown hotel lifeguard in the early 1950s, Scott managed to beat out 200 other would-be Tarzans from around the world. He was awarded a seven-year contract by producer Sol Lesser and became the 11th Tarzan replacing Lex Barker. After his first film, TARZAN'S HIDDEN JUNGLE, Scott married co-star Vera Miles. The couple divorced four years later. He next made TARZAN AND THE LOST SAFARI (1957), TARZAN'S FIGHT FOR LIFE (1958), TARZAN AND THE TRAPPERS (1958), TARZAN'S GREATEST ADVENTURE (1959), with co-stars Sean Connery and Anthony Quayle, and TARZAN THE MAGNIFICENT (1960).
In 1960 he moved to Italy and stared in such sword and sandal epics as DUEL OF THE TITANS, BATTLE OF THE GLADIATORS, HERO OF ROME, HERCULES VS THE SEA MONSTER and 2 Goliath movies.

Nicholas Worth, an imposing character actor who often played the darkest of villains in such B movies as DON'T ANSWER THE PHONE has died. 
He was born Sept. 4, 1937, in St. Louis, Miss., to parents who owned a furniture store. At 8, Worth decided to become an actor. He debuted in FOR PETE'S SAKE and appeared in almost 90 films and television productions. He was in CITY HEAT, ARMED AND DANGEROUS, ACTION JACKSON, THE NAKED GUN: FROM THE FILES OF POLICE SQUAD!, FIST OF HONOR and EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY . He also was in such time honored ICS favorites as SCREAM BLACKULA SCREAM, TERMINAL MAN, COMA, SWAMP THING, DARKMAN, HOLOGRAM MAN, TIMELOCK, BLOOD DOLLS, STARFORCE and EMPEROR: BATTLE FOR DUNE. He was 69. 

Curtis Harrington, a onetime experimental filmmaker who earned a reputation in the 1960s and '70s as a master of the macabre has died at age 80.
Originally known for his short, experimental films in the 1940s and early '50s, Harrington was working as an associate producer for producer Jerry Wald at 20th Century Fox when he took time off in 1960 to direct his first feature film, NIGHT TIDE.  Other of his films included VOYAGE TO THE PREHISTORIC PLANET, QUEEN OF BLOOD, WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH HELEN, THE KILLING KIND and RUBY.

Tom Poston, on television since the 1950s, when he was an Emmy Award-winning regular on THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW but who may be best remembered as the bumbling handyman on the popular situation comedy NEWHART, has died at age 85. He was the husband of actress Suzanne Pleshette .
Though he was most noted for his career in television he also appeared in such big screen productions as SOLDIER IN THE RAIN, COLD TURKEY, THE HAPPY HOOKER, RABBIT TEST, CARBON COPY, KRIPPENDORF’S TRIBE and CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS.


(reprint from a previous Last Ward of Nov 2004)

I am a child of television.
 I guess life would be a lot simpler if that statement were not true, but alas, ‘tis not the case.  I am an aging baby boomer, one of the first generation to grow up with television, one of the first to grow old with the boob tube.  One of the first to nurse at the glass teat.  One of the first to succumb to the brain-numbing waves of the idiot box.
 I know my parents never had it like this.  Their childhoods had no television; instead, they had books, imaginations, and occasionally, the radio.  My mother didn’t have a TV until she married my father and moved out of her parents’ house.  Her parents were TV-free until my grandfather’s congregation bought them a big, clunky Philco as a Christmas present.  (Remember my grandfather?  The nice old Presbyterian minister who took me to my first R-rated movie?  Yeah, that’s the guy.)
 My earliest memories of television are a little hazy, which makes perfect sense when you think about it, because in the olden days B.C. (Before Cable), the television was pretty hazy, too.  Everything for me was black-and-white.  Nobody in the neighborhood had a color TV; those fancy things were for rich people.  I remember my father fiddling with the rabbit ears until he was satisfied that the picture was just the way he wanted it – until my younger brother would come barreling into the room, bumping my dad’s arm, sending the “just right” picture into the ether, and driving my dad into a serious frenzy.
 But when the picture was clear…oh, boy.
 Back then there were exactly three channels on our TV, because there were only three networks.  Life was a lot simpler.  In Blairsville, PA in the early ‘60s, Channel 2 out of Pittsburgh (KDKA, by the way – the first station in the country to air regular radio broadcasts in the ‘30s) carried CBS shows, Channel 4 (also out of Pittsburgh) carried ABC, and piddly little Channel 6 out of Johnstown carried NBC.  I remember the CBS eye.  I remember the NBC peacock sprouting its colorful black-and-white feathers.  ABC didn’t have any snazzy logos like that, but at least they had Batman.  More on him in a minute.
 Early memories?  I can remember watching Captain Kangaroo, with the “Tom Terrific” cartoons.  I remember watching Timmy and Lassie every Sunday night when my grandparents would visit after dinner.  And of course, there was Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.  Those were the only two evening shows I was allowed to watch at the age of 5 or 6.  The thing about Disney was that it always…always ended the show with a commercial for a new, hot Disney movie.  It was the only time I ever saw movie ads on TV back then.
 Bonanza was another popular show around our house.  My mother used to be really into jigsaw puzzles, and I still remember a gigantic 1,500-piece puzzle of the Cartwrights riding on horseback taking up a quarter of our living room for several weeks – the amount of time it took Mom to finish the dang thing.  My all-time favorite Bonanza episode is still the first one I remember: a Christmas show in which Hoss was buffaloed by a bunch of midgets into believing that leprechauns existed.
 Sure, there were plenty of genre shows at the time, but I wasn’t old enough (or smart enough) to watch them.  I mean, what could a 6-year-old possibly glean from The Outer Limits?  No, what I remember most about genre TV in the early ‘60s was that The Flintstones and Jonny Quest were on in prime time.  How cool was that?  Cool enough to send me running to Best Buy when Jonny Quest’s complete prime time run came out on DVD last spring.  These were strong ABC staples, as I recall, right up there with Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which I discovered years before I realized there was an earlier film version.  VTTBOTS became something of a monster-of-the-week for me, which as it turned out, didn’t really thrill the show’s true fans.  But it made a wide-eyed 7-year-old sit up and take notice.
 Voyage creator Irwin Allen was a hot property; CBS lured him away to put out a kind of “Swiss Family Robinson in Space.”  What I liked about Lost in Space wasn’t the robot; it wasn’t the nutty monsters, and it certainly wasn’t the god-awful costume design.  No, what I liked about the show was its sneaky way of starting the next episode a week early by tacking on a 2-minute “cliffhanger.”  It worked nearly every time.
 ABC was big in our family; my mother was a Peyton Place junkie, calling her friends all the time about the previous night’s episode, etc, etc.  But ABC also had cool stuff like the back-to-back Green Hornet and Time Tunnel.   My dad and I watched those together.  In hindsight, I wished I’d paid more attention to Hornet, because I didn’t know how big the martial artist who played Kato would become.  (If you don’t know whom I’m talking about…well, are you ever reading the wrong newsletter.)  I just thought The Green Hornet was a cheap Batman knock-off.
 Which brings me around to one of my two favorite shows of the ‘60s, the other being the original Star Trek, which I’ve discussed in this space before.  (Notice how I insist on sneaking in the word original?)  Batman was an eye-opening experience to a generation who just started out being weaned on The Flintstones, Underdog, and other Saturday morning sundries.  This was a live action cartoon, folks!  I had only recently started reading superhero comics, and here I had one in the flesh, twice a week – same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
 Batman was “it” for me.  I loved the villains, I loved the action, I sort of loved the gorgeous molls (although I didn’t really know why at the time), I loved the outrageous sound effects, I loved the corny dialogue (“Holy Popsicle, Batman!”), I loved that it had the best cliffhangers running.  It was one of those shows I knew instinctively was in color, despite our black-and-white set, because it just seemed to pop out at you.  Every guy in my 3rd-grade class watched the show.  When my Pop-Pop ran the BATMAN feature film at his theater, I got all my buddies in for free and was treated like royalty for a week.
 But I discovered that all good things eventually come to an end.  By its third season, Batman had gone to 3 nights a week; the villains were laughable, some not even in costume; Yvonne Craig was brought in to sex things up as Batgirl; and worst of all, they started doing away with the cliffhangers.  Batman actually ran single-episode stories.  I actually gave up on the show before it was mercifully cancelled.  Now I can look back at those shows and see them for the campfests they were, and I wonder what I saw in them.  
 ABC still had its hooks in me.  In the family, actually.  After my folks split and we moved away, I started watching my younger brothers on nights when my mother worked late, because she couldn’t afford to pay a babysitter.  (No sweat, folks…I was 13 by this point and knew how to dial 911.)  I was an ABC junkie on Friday nights, running the distance from The Brady Bunch to The Partridge Family to Room 222 to The Odd Couple to Love American Style.  I actually held out for Love American Style at 10 because it was the closest thing to televised smut I could find.  (Hey, I was 13.  What do you think was going through my mind, anyway?  Whether or not Felix and Oscar would ever agree on anything?)
 It was around this time that my mother started letting me stay up as late as I wanted on Friday and Saturday nights to watch the late show.  In western Pennsylvania in the early ‘70s, that meant Chiller Theatre on Channel 11 out of Pittsburgh.  Chiller Theatre was hosted by a guy named Bill Cardille, affectionately nicknamed “Chilly Billy.”  He was the station’s go-to guy for most studio hosting jobs, like Bowling for Dollars and Superstar Wrestling.  But his true claim to fame was as the host of Chiller Theatre.
 This guy had horror chops.  He had a cameo in George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead as a TV interviewer out in the field, and his daughter Lori Cardille played the heroine in Romero’s second sequel, Day of the Dead.  Cardille ran two horror movies or sci-fi movies back-to-back after the late news on Saturday nights, with the help of his laboratory assistants.  I forget the hunchback’s name, but the statuesque redhead was named Terminal Stare.  (No, really.)  The movies were usually uncut, because no one at the station really paid attention, and none of us were complaining, that’s for sure.  I was a bleary-eyed mess most Sunday mornings before church, but it was worth it.
 What genre delights were to be had in my teen years?  Well, there was Kolchak the Night Stalker, for a short but memorable run.  There was Night Gallery, which I never missed.  There was Planet of the Apes.  There was Dark Shadows in the daytime.  Wait a minute…I think I’m getting out of order here…I used to come home from elementary school to watch Barnabas!
 I think the point here is that I’ve watched so much television in my lifetime that I can no longer keep the memories in any kind of chronological order – a shameful admission, but true.  Other primetime “must-sees” of the period included M*A*S*H, All in the Family, Happy Days, The Six Million Dollar Man, and even Rich Man Poor Man, the first TV miniseries.
 Then came college, and my tastes changed again. TV was harder to come by in the dorms.  We didn’t have one in our rooms, and the sole TV in the viewing room downstairs was constantly being watched.  Your best bet was to hope that the guy already sitting in the room wanted to watch the same shows you did.
 That wasn’t hard with a show like WKRP in Cincinnati.  This was a very underrated sitcom, with one of the funniest ensemble casts on TV.  I still have my two favorite episodes copied on VHS: the softball game against a rival radio station, and the legendary Thanksgiving episode, in which station manager Carlson attempts a publicity stunt by dropping live turkeys from a helicopter (“As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly.”)  Yes, WKRP was a funny show, but it still found time to flex its dramatic muscles; its episode devoted to the infamous Who Concert tragedy was a highlight.
 On into the ‘80s, and genre TV product had pretty much fallen below my radar.  I wasn’t interested in junk like Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, or the soon-to-be-revived Star Trek franchise.  My viewing habits were about to change again, in a way that exists to this day.  Hill Street Blues was the show most responsible for this change.  It was a gritty cop thriller, a wonderful ensemble show, and a wealth of sizzling stories and interesting characters.  It set the stage for the archetype of hour-long dramas I embraced:  strong acting, stories that continue from one week to the next, and endings that didn’t always show that the good guys won.  St. Elsewhere followed Hill Street, and rapidly became my show of choice.  It was quirkier, with great acting (Denzel Washington’s breakthrough), and it wasn’t afraid to take risks.  I still recall the dream sequence with ZZ Top in the operating room.
 At this point, I should also confess that I went for nighttime soaps, too:  Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Knots Landing… the list was nearly endless.  I stayed with Dallas longer than the others, for reasons that escape me.  The Ewings were bigger than life, and so were their stories.  I think it was my weakness for nighttime soaps that kept me from ever teasing other folks who went for daytime soaps; one word from me, and I would have been branded a hypocrite for sure.
 There was one other hour-long drama that I thought never really got the recognition it deserved:  Wiseguy.    I used to go over to my wife’s apartment when we were dating and watch Wiseguy on Wednesday nights.  I stayed awake, drawn in by the show’s powerhouse guest actors (Kevin Spacey, Ray Sharkey, even Jerry Lewis) and its storylines that worked out over 7- and 8-week arcs.  Terri often fell asleep.
 I have to confess that most of the shows I’ve grown to love over the past dozen years or so have two things in common:  they’re all hour-long dramas, and they’re all on after my wife has gone to bed.  Let me tell you, that’s a dangerous time.  There’s no one around to keep me from falling asleep in the easy chair while I’m watching one of my favorite shows, no matter how exciting it is.  Let’s face it, if I’m tired, I’m not long for conscious thought.  One minute I’m watching Dennis Franz bulldoze a murder suspect, the next I’m waking up with a stiff neck at two in the morning, a thin line of drool hanging from my bottom lip.  That’s not a pretty sight.  It’s also not one with which I’d care to end this column.
 Instead, it’s nice to run down that roll call of shows I mentioned as being my favorites over the past dozen years or so.  Not many genre picks in the bunch; I’ve never been much for shows like Babylon 5 or Farscape or Buffy or even Smallville.  They’re all quality shows, but I’ve always found it hard to jump into a show after it’s already found its footing.  I like to be there from the beginning.
 That’s why the shows I remember with the greatest fondness are the ones I’ve stayed with the longest:  NYPD Blue, L.A. Law, Law and Order, E.R., Chicago Hope, The X-Files, The West Wing, 24, and now Lost, the latest entry in the hit parade.  I never miss an episode.
 Life is like that, in a way.
 No one ever wants to miss an episode.


May 18th      SHREK THE THIRD  

May 25th  May the Force Be With You!  STAR WARS 30th Anniversary

MAY  26th    An ICS Afternoon – Miniature Golf at 3 pm, 

June 1st      RISE: BLOOD HUNTER

June 8th       HOSTEL Part II
June 8th       OCEANS THIRTEEN 


May 26 ICS Memorial Day Picnic, Pre-code Movies 
June 30 (*) Exploitation Cinema (NC-17)
July 28 World of Fantasy
August 25 (*)  Hey, please, someone tell me what’s up here?
September 30  And here!
October 27 (*)  Greg Mank Returns
  Halloween Potluck Dinner
November 17  
December 29 (*)  Yankee Swap
(*) denotes Late Night Feature