Tuesday, October 24, 2006

THE HORN SECTION SALUTES: Forrest Tucker (1919-1986)

It was twenty years ago today, October 25, 1986, that the entire nation mourned a tragic event: Forrest Tucker (left), the greatest actor who ever lived, passed away from lung cancer at the young age of 67.

Tuck's full obituary from the Los Angeles Times can be viewed here. Of interest: Milton Berle is quoted, but the article makes no mention of their legendary "contest" to determine, once and for all, Hollywood's most, er, gifted actor.

Taking Fort Courage to Reno in April 1967
I've previously reviewed some of Tuck's work here: a two-parter on F Troop: The Complete First Season on DVD, as well as two of his hidden treasures still, for some strange reason, unavailable on DVD (why the Hell not???): the quintessential 1980's action/cheese classic THUNDER RUN and one of his finest character roles, co-starring with fellow Western legends Lee Van Cleef and Warren Oates in the ultraviolent, yet sadly neglected BARQUERO (pictured at the top, with John Davis Chandler).

HELLFIRE (1949) with Jim "Jock Ewing"Davis
There's more hidden Tuck Classics to come here at The Horn Section, but I should take time to recommend some of his films that are available on DVD: SANDS OF IWO JIMA (1949) and CHISUM (1970) which feature Tuck going toe-to-toe with John Wayne;

THE ABOMINABLE SNOWMAN (1957) in which he and Peter Cushing lead an expedition searching for the legendary title creature;

THE CRAWLING EYE (1958), perhaps his most fondly remembered 1950's sci-fi flick (he was an icon in the genre across the pond);

AUNTIE MAME (1958), as Beauregard Burnside, the role that finally made everyone stand up and take notice of his comedic talents; and the fun, melodramatic drive-in sleeper THE WILD McCULLOCHS (1975), Max Baer Jr.'s follow-up to MACON COUNTY LINE in which Tuck shows his dramatic chops as the two-fisted Jock Ewing-esque patriarch of a wealthy Texas family. This film is also noted for a ten minute brawl between Tuck and Baer that inspires dozens of wagers, much collateral damage, and a little old lady imploring Tuck to "kick him in the balls, Mac".

Always underrated during his career, Forrest Tucker wasn't a "one hit wonder" who picked up an Oscar that had people scratching their heads (a la Broderick Crawford) nor did he receive one of those late-in-life Oscar nominations that was largely a lifetime achievement award (a la Jack Palance, James Coburn). He was, however, one of the original recipients of the Golden Boot award in 1983 for his contributions to the western genre.

Starring in CALIFORNIA PASSAGE (1950)
He may not have won an Oscar, an Emmy or a Tony, but Forrest Tucker simply gave one excellent performance after another for 46 years.  Whether he was on stage (did you know he played Professor Harold Hill in THE MUSIC MAN an astounding 2,038 times?), on television, or especially on screen in one of his more than one hundred feature films, Tuck could be counted on to deliver the goods.

Tuck, with Eva Bartok in BREAK IN THE CIRCLE (1957)

R. I. P, Forrest Meredith Tucker.  More reviews forthcoming!

with Allison Hayes (yowza!) in COUNTERPLOT (1959)

Thursday, October 19, 2006

CD Review: BLOWFLY - Blowfly's Punk Rock Party (2006)


BLOWFLY - Blowfly's Punk Rock Party (Alternative Tentacles Records - Virus 367)(2006) Produced by Tom Bowker

No one was more thrilled than yours truly when word came last year that the legendary Blowfly (a.k.a. Clarence Reid) had formed a new band with manager/drummer/producer Uncle Tom Bowker. Not only would Papa Fly be releasing his first CD since 1999's Blowfly Does XXX-Mas, but he would also be hitting concert stages across the country for the first time in over a decade.

Blowfly didn't disappoint in the live shows I saw in Dallas and Fort Worth over the winter, but I will admit that I was a bit apprehensive when I heard he would be following up his Fahrenheit 69 comeback record with...a punk rock album. True, Blowfly has hit many genres in his 35+ year career: he's given us soulful ballads like "Cum of a Lifetime", a Louis Armstrong pastiche with "Gimme That Old 69", and an entire album of 1950's standards gone 'Fly ("Blue Balls", "Your Precious Cunt"). But he was better known as the original dirty rapper ("To Fuck The Boss" from 1977, "Rap Dirty" from the 1960's!), and, perhaps even better, as the very dirty R&B parodist ("Swearin' to God" became "Spread Your Cheeks"(!), "First Time Ever you Sucked my Dick" needs no explanation). To me, best of all were his R&B originals ("Girl Let me Cum in Your Mouth", "Who Did I Eat Last Night?"). It all sounded fantastic, and hilarious, like a filthy version of Weird Al Yankovic with about a thousand times more talent--and rightfully so, for under his own name Reid wrote hits for K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Gwen MacRae, Betty Wright, and himself--he charted under his own name with "Funky Party" and "Nobody But You Babe", among others.

But a punk rock record? Although "You've Got Your Dick on Backwards" and the heavy, rockish update of "Your Precious Cunt" on 2005's Fahrenheit 69 hinted at this direction, I will admit I was skeptical as to how this would work.

So, how does it work? Smashingly! Blowfly's Punk Rock Party, with a 19 new songs plus 6 alternate versions, recreates the old party feel of his 20-25 track 1970's LP's like Oldies But Goodies and Blowfly At the Movies and is, in fact, his best overall record since the 1983 classic Fresh Juice (which included "Too Fat to Fuck", "The Vampire that Ate Miami" and the song I consider Blowfly's Stairway to Heaven, "That's What Your Pussy's Made For").

The band (which includes Reid, Bowker, guitarist Forrest Gimp and bassist Kunta Whytaye) pulls off punk with conviction and is tight after all the roadwork. After taking a record to fully find his songwriting groove again, Papa Fly's lyrics are filthier than ever this time out. He almost offended me a time or two, and that's damn near impossible. Wisely, Blowfly and Co. chose mostly mid-tempo punk classics to parody, so it's easier to clearly hear and understand these warped lyrics (if you can over your own laughter).

Highlights include: Blowfly does The Clash with "Should I Fuck This Big Fat Ho", in which 'Fly weighs the pros and cons of the situation ("She was too fat to fuck at nine/But now it's two and she looks fine"); "R. Kelly in Cambodia" in which Jello Biafra himself joins the fun; a wickedly funny Iggy Pop takeoff in which Blowfly tweaks the First Family again, "I Want to Fuck Your Dog"(!); the Blowfly original "Scumbag Fucker" (any explanation needed?); and the inevitable Ramones parody, "I Wanna Be Fellated" ("20, 20, 20 dollars a blow").

A few of the parodies may seem a little too obvious: "Whip It" becomes "Suck It", "Dancing with Myself" becomes "Playing with Myself", but don't fret over that; on this record, the next "Oh my God!" hand-over-mouth moment and/or belly laugh is never too far away.

Perhaps most shocking of all: Blowfly includes 6 "radio friendly edits" at the end of the CD (bonus tracks, 20 through 25). Blowfly cleaning up his act a little? Now that's a funny thought!

*** out of 4: As is the case with many comebacks, the second record is better than the first. This is a CD that longtime Blowfly fans will love immediately, and with the harder edged rock sound, is also accessible to a whole new Blowfly audience. After hearing this one, I can safely say Papa Fly still has plenty of gas in the tank (and rubbers in his wallet, hopefully :).

Check out Blowfly's website, from which this CD and many other classics (my other personal recommendations for the uninitiated: Disco and Blowfly's Party) are available: