Tag Archives: joe e. ross

The Love Bug (1968)

This morning, we sat down to watch The Love Bug and had a complete ball. The only problem with this movie, to hear Daniel tell it, is that somehow there’s not enough racing and weird magic Volkswagen business. This is the sort of very silly complaint that only a five year-old can make. If there’s a legitimate complaint at all to be leveled at the first film in the famous and successful Herbie franchise, it’s that it’s got some very dated hippie business, and some very, very dated “inscrutable Chinese” business. Otherwise, it’s a very funny and very solid little film.

One thing I really enjoy about revisiting older Disney films is how downright brilliantly they’re cast. As the heroes: Dean Jones, Buddy Hackett, and Michele Lee. They are fantastic; they make every click and clack of the plot appear completely effortless. As the villain: David Tomlinson, whom we enjoyed a couple of months ago in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, here playing a snob luxury auto salesman, who has a sideline racing a downright beautiful 1962 Apollo.

But the real stars of the film are Herbie, and all the unbelievably talented drivers. Awesomely, they get their own screen of credits at the beginning of the movie. Some of the perfectly-timed zips, zigs, and zags in between each other’s cars had me wincing. Much of the close-ups are rear-screen projection of course, but all of the live stunts and what we now call practical effects are still amazing. The climax of the film involves Herbie coming in first and third place in the big race. Just imagine how that looked; providing a visual would spoil a remarkable gag and a great special effect sequence.

Backing up these leads is another really impressive bunch of supporting players. Joe E. Ross is here, playing a police detective, and he doesn’t say “Ooh! Ooh!” Gary Owens is here, playing a radio announcer, because that’s just perfect. There’s even a guy who’s the racing association president, greeting all the drivers to the big race. “Spot the non-actor,” I said to Marie. Turns out he was Andy Granatelli, the former CEO of the motor oil company STP. You get the feeling the movie’s got a lot more Easter eggs than just that for gearheads and racing fans.

In the days before home video, it was common to see paperback novelizations of films and TV series. I tracked down a copy of this one years ago because of a legendary bit of writing. The book is one of dozens by a guy with the remarkable name of Mel Cebulash, and, rather than actually coming up with a description of what Buddy Hackett’s character should look like, he wrote the following:

Instead of going into the firehouse, Jim walked around to the courtyard. There he found Tennessee, welding another piece of metal onto a growing pile of junk. Tennessee, who looked and talked like Buddy Hackett, regarded his sculptured pile of parts from wrecked autos as a work of art.

It’s actually kind of aggravating to have this really good movie that so many people worked incredibly hard to make – seriously, the cinematography is just downright beautiful throughout, with gorgeous location filming around San Francisco, and simply looks far better than a silly kids’ film needs to look – and when it came time to merchandise the movie through Scholastic Book Services, somebody just hacked that out, but you know, that really is kind of funny.

Daniel’s favorite part of the movie, or so he claims, was the final slapstick gag, in which Thorndyke and his former lead henchman, demoted by his business’s new owner to a simple mechanic, spray each other with motor oil. I don’t believe that. I told him that Disney made four of these movies and asked whether he’d like to watch another in a couple of weeks. He said yes, of course.

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Batman 3.16 – The Funny Feline Felonies

In the previous installment, I mentioned how they made a trio of three-part(ish) stories in the final season of Batman. So far, there I have not noticed any continuity blunders like the props in the Egghead episodes to suggest that the producers might have run these in the wrong order, but I could be wrong. It’s possible that they intended to introduce Eartha Kitt here, driving a very ridiculous car, and “kidnapping” the paroled Joker, or they intended to introduce her in episode 14. Either way seems to work.

Two huge missed opportunities occur to me: the last time Cesar Romero got to sink his teeth in a really good script was the previous season’s “Pop Goes the Joker” two-parter, where, among other things, he got to really demonstrate a complete contempt for Bruce Wayne. Here, Wayne is the chairman of the parole board – now hang on a minute, he captures all the criminals and he decides whether they’re fit to rejoin society?! – and he gets to wish the Joker well and see him off in a new suit and a crisp new $10 bill, but since Romero is playing the Joker as pretending he’s gone straight and owes his freedom to Wayne, he doesn’t get to sneer at him. That’s a darn shame; that menacing contempt was a real highlight of that story.

Another is that there isn’t any kind of deathtrap this week, which, in a completely surprising development, annoyed my son! Considering how often he’s become annoyed or upset at the traps, I’m frankly shocked that he’d rather have seen another one than seen the baddies waiting outside in the bushes. According to my very badly beat-up copy of Joel Eisner’s Official Batman Batbook, a cliffhanger trap was planned and cut. It doesn’t say whether it was filmed, or if it was cut from the script.

A couple of interesting cameo walk-ons in this episode: Dick Kallman, a pop star who starred in a single season sitcom called Hank on NBC in 1965, plays a pop star hitmaker, and Joe E. Ross has about three lines as his agent. One of those lines, naturally, starts with “Ooh, ooh!”

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The Ghost Busters 1.11 – Jekyll & Hyde – Together, for the First Time!

Daniel got the biggest laugh in weeks when Dr. Jekyll, invisible, steals Spencer’s hat. The crew were barely trying. The string is visible from space, in every shot. It didn’t matter. If you’re four, the sight of that hat dancing around the set is a work of pure comedy genius.

If you’re older than four, the main draw of Ghost Busters, of course, is the chemistry between Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch, who are just so incredibly entertaining and silly together. But the secondary draw must be the guest stars, and the incredibly clever and unexpected casting choices. Joe E. Ross, who plays Hyde as a caveman, is a fairly inspired choice, since he had actually played a caveman in Sherwood Schwartz’s poorly-regarded sitcom flop It’s About Time eight years previously… although it’s not all that likely that any of The Ghost Busters‘ young audience would be expected to know that. I wondered how many times in the episode Ross would make his “Oooh! Oooh!” noise. Three.

But the really stunning surprise is Severn Darden playing Dr. Jekyll. He really did have an incredibly varied and full career, with all sorts of roles in comedies and dramas, but he is probably best remembered as one of the original Second City players; in fact he appears to have been only one of three to bridge the gap between the mid-1950s Compass Players, which featured Stiller and Meara, and Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and the first Second City group in 1959. He and Ross seem to have a lot of fun clashing their personalities – Jekyll erudite and snobby, Hyde thoughtless and stupid – and while the material is certainly no challenge to either actor, it looks as though they had fun.

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