Posts Tagged ‘Angela Lansbury’

The Muppet Show Season 6 Pt. 3

May 13, 2021

S06E07 Angela Lansbury

Dame Angela Lansbury was born in Central London in 1925 and luckily for all of us, she decided to move to the United States to escape the Blitz during World War II. She studied theater in New York City before she trekked across country to Hollywood in the early 1940s. As a young woman, she got a deal with MGM and acted in 13 films. She received Oscar nominations for Gaslight and The Picture of Dorian Gray and received a Golden Globe while still in her twenties. She kept working in film but it was theater that finally made her a star when she landed the leading role in Mame. From there she dove into musicals both on stage and on screen and started to become more of a household name. She received even more widespread fame for playing famed crime solver Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote. After that ended, she went back to live theater where she is currently still working.

Lansbury would be perfect for the Muppet Show. She had tons of experience working in pretty much any medium and genre. She did stuff for kids like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, darker fare like Gaslight and Sweney Todd, and anything in between. She had already worked with animation and special effects so puppetry would not have been a problem. Her versatility has helped to keep her career fresh. She would have been working on Broadway at that point but having her on would have been great promotion for Sweeney Todd which was big at the time.

Cold Open: As Lansbury is checking in with Pops, Hilda shows up and says that nice ladies have to stick together.

Guest Arc: Lansbury tries to prove she’s not just a nice lady. She shows that she can be mean if she wants to and bullies the Muppets.

“By the Sea” (Sondheim) with Fozzy
“Bosom Buddies” (Jerry Herman) with Miss Piggy
“Little Yellow Bird” (Murphy/Hargreaves) with a little yellow bird puppet

S06E08 Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks is definitely one of the all-time kings of American comedy. He got his start in the 1950s as a comedy writer for Sid Caesar’s Show of Shows, a trial by fire similar to more modern shows like Saturday Night Live. It obviously allowed him to train his comedy and writing chops. He continued to work with Caesar until the 1960s where he got his first celebrity when he and Carl Reiner created the 2000-year-old man routine where Reiner would interview Brooks as he played a man who had been alive for thousands of years. The routine was a hit on The Steve Allen Show. He had a brush with writing for Broadway and then he co-created the hit television show Get Smart. The success of that show helped vault him into a career writing and directing (and sometimes starring in) his own movies. His name became known for parody and satire and goofy yet smart humor. Films like The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and more became huge cult classics and innovated comedy movies.

Brooks would have been a solid choice for The Muppet Show because he never once took himself seriously. As a writer and a guy who came from a live television background, he has always been comfortable with rolling with the punches. Brooks was happy to adlib and goof around with his friends and just about anybody. At this point, he had already worked with several people who were guests on the show in the first five seasons.

Cold Open: Scooter comes to give the warning but stays to try and pitch an idea.

Guest Arc: The Muppets think that Brooks is there as a big shot producer but he is really there as a performer. They keep pitching things to a flabbergasted and confused Brooks.

Guest Acts:
“If You Love Me Baby, Tell Me Loud” (Brooks) with Sweetums and Electric Mayhem
Pitch Meeting: Crazy Harry, Lew Zealand, and Gonzo
“Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst” (Brooks) with Rowlf at the piano

S06E09 Scatman Crothers

The man who would become Scatman Crothers started his musical career when he was still a teenager. He was a self-educated musician and eventually took the moniker of Scatman for the obvious reason that he used a lot of scat singing in his act. He moved from Ohio to Los Angeles and his career picked up. He did USO tours with Bob Hope. Starting n the 1970s, his career as an actor picked up because he had roles in Hello Dolly, The Great White Hope, The Aristocats, The Shining, Silver Streak, and more. He eventually moved into voice acting and became the voice of Hong Kong Phooey and Meadowlark Lemon of the Globetrotters. He guested on tons of popular television shows and gained legend by being everywhere for a while.

He would have been perfect for the Muppet Show because he had nearly bottomless levels of charisma. Energy just seemed to pour out of the Scatman and he had great acting and musical talent. When somebody is a consummate performer, it is easy to imagine them in almost any scenario.

Cold Open: Pops and Scatman are greeting each other enthusiastically when they have a run in with JP Grosse.

Guest Arc: JP Grosse, the owner of the Muppet Theater, shows up wanting to raise ticket prices. Kermit enlists Scatman to show him the errors of his ways.

“Ain’t She Sweet” (Ager/Yellen) With Miss Piggy
“Blue-eyed Sally” With the Electric Mayhem
“The Best Things in Life Are Free” (Gordon McRae) with Kermit

Company of Wolves (1984)

October 20, 2017

95 minutes – Rated R for some gore, body horror, near constant dread and surprising sexual undertones.

Dreams can be very frightening. At least, the ones that I remember are usually very scary to me. I still remember very clearly several dreams I had when I was little where I was chased. One of them was a dream where I was lost in the woods and I came upon a civilization of purple-skinned people stuck in some sort of pre-colonial lifestyle. I stumbled upon the fact they ate humans and, of course, they chased me through the woods. I also clearly remember a dream where I was running from some sort of unseen monster but it was close behind. Along the way, I gathered up my mother and we ran to a barn. We climbed but the monster was so close behind and we went to zip line away but mom fell behind. Of course, I had a dream where I was attacked by a swarm of bees again and I woke up still feeling their stings all over my body in the form of a tingling sensation. The point is: dreams are so scary because our brain tricks us into thinking they are real. We believe so hard that it is hard to swim out of that alternate reality without completely jettisoning it, quickly forgetting what was bothering us.

There are also predators out there in the real world. I am sure you may have noticed but I identify deeply with the wolf but I know what I am. I am not a predator. I gravitate toward the image of the wolf because of my family history and for its positive traits of loyalty. However, I know that the wolf is also a creature that kills. If you work on a farm or camp out in the woods, a wolf is not a friendly, natural image. It is a danger that you must defend yourself against. In the city where I grew up, the worst you would encounter would be a mean dog or an aggressive rat. So when I went camping as a kid, I was terrified because I only had stories of wild predators. In the city, we had different predators we were warned about. Human predators. Stranger danger was something shouted from the rooftops by parents but I was an indoor kid for the most part so I never really feared getting snatched off the streets. When I got older and walked freely around Fells Point, I started to get a little more wary but the worst was somebody asking me if I had any cigarettes. Still, I knew that things could happen at any point.

The first thing that was clear while watching this movie was that this movie would have suffered greatly if the effects budget had been lower. Right off the bat there is a great mix of puppetry and live animals that immediately caught my eye. The puppetry was really unsettling but that was clearly intended. The lighting was really good. I have designed lighting for horror before and the light and shadow can really make or break a good story. The movie made really good use of shadow in particular. It gave the movie more of a Grimm’s fairytale feel. As we all know, those original tales are dark and full of thinly veiled, brutal lessons so shadow really suits this adaptation of Little Red Riding Hood. Beyond that, the visual effects and camera tricks were absolutely brilliant and mind-bending. The makeup effects were really great as well, including really good fake blood. All of it added up to some really dark body horror that was literally like something out of a nightmare.

Speaking of nightmares, the movie does such a good job of creating a world out of dream imagery. The world of the dream seems to have internal logic but, like Wonderland or The Labyrinth, things can come out of left field to change the story. There is a constant level of dread under every single scene so even the non-scary scenes had me a little worried. There are not a lot of jump scares, there is more psychological horror which seems to be a running theme this week. One of the themes is female sexuality and the fear of male sexuality and also the justified fear of the abuse of women by men. It reminded me of a fear that I did not have while I was growing up since I was a boy who did not have to worry so much about being mistreated in that way. This movie awoke a vicarious worry for women that I have thought about more in recent years. And yet, I know there are things that I cannot possibly protect the women in my life (and beyond) from. The movie did a good job of stirring up those societal fears in addition to fears of more literal wolves.

Overall, I thought this was a very good and chilling movie. While it was definitely not a traditional horror movie, it had a lot of horror elements mixed with fantasy elements. It definitely filled me with a feeling of horror at times. Its dreamlike, disjointed nature kept me guessing as to what might happen next even though I have read and seen so many other versions of Little Red Riding Hood. There was so much subtext in this movie that I felt like I was watching two movies at once at times.


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