Monday, January 23, 2012

Film Review: BRING ME THE HEAD OF DOBIE GILLIS (1988)

 



"Why the Hell isn't THIS on DVD yet?" -- Number 73






BRING ME THE HEAD OF DOBIE GILLIS (1988 CBS-TV/Twentieth Century Fox) Starring Dwayne Hickman, Bob Denver, Sheila James Kuehl, Connie Stevens, Scott Grimes, William Schallert, Tricia Leigh Fisher, Kathleen Freeman, Steve Franken.  Directed by Stanley Z. Cherry.


Hickman returns as the titular character from the 1959-1963 sitcom.  Now married to Kuehl (as Zelda) and running the Gillis Grocery and Pharmacy, he no longer pines for a creamy, dreamy girl. Instead, newly widowed and wealthy Stevens (taking over for Tuesday Weld as Thalia) wants him---and wants him badly enough to single-handedly solve the town’s considerable economic woes if he’ll reciprocate. When Stevens is rebuffed, she puts a $50,000 bounty on his head, hence the title.


If that isn’t enough to send a man back in front of the town park’s statue of THE THINKER again, there’s the return of good buddy Denver (successful enough to have his own chauffeur) and the romantic entanglements of son Grimes. Grimes is truly a chip off the old block: chasing a blonde beauty while brainy Fisher, the daughter of wealthy banker Franken (Dobie-Do’s high school nemesis Chatsworth) chases him.  Sound familiar?


The major strength of BRING ME THE HEAD OF DOBIE GILLIS is its faithfulness to the source material.  After James Komack's thoroughly misguided 1977 attempt to revive the series, this second reunion benefited from greater creative control by Hickman (at the time semi-retired from acting as a CBS production executive).  Denver, James, Franken and Schallert all returned, and while first choice Rod Amateau was not approved by Fox, director Cherry helmed multiple episodes of GILLIS (and GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, with Denver).

The REAL "Bobby D".  Take that, DeNiro!
As a result, the distinctive and familiar style of the 1959-1963 series returned intact.  Hickman breaking the fourth wall, the malapropisms and bongos from Denver, the short clipped scenes...all here, along with the never ending battle over the cash register, handed down from father (Frank Faylen had passed away) to son.  The plot itself is even lifted from the fourth season episode "A Little Murder Between Friends", which was Weld's swan song on DOBIE.


Weld was the lone living cast member (unless you count Warren Beatty) not to return, and while Stevens does a decent job, she isn't Tuesday.  BRING ME THE HEAD OF DOBIE GILLIS also suffers from the feeling of being padded at 100 minutes, a common problem for all sitcoms with half-hour stories stretched out to feature length.  Denver's hippy-dippy song is dopey fun, but Grimes' was already dated when the film aired and the proceedings get mighty silly during the final reel, even by the original series' often surrealistic standards.  Speaking of Grimes, how did Dobie and Zelda produce a red-haired child?  I know, I'm nitpicking.


As a one-shot reunion, this one is an agreeable time-passer.  There was talk of reviving GILLIS on a weekly basis when the reunion aired in February 1988, but no revival came to pass, and BRING ME THE HEAD ended up being the show's final word.  Probably just as well.  After seeing Dobie as the quintessential romantic for 147 episodes in his youth, it would have been a little disheartening to see him lecturing son Grimes to "go for the money" on a weekly basis in his middle age.  Plus a full-time revival clearly would have focused on the teenagers in the youth-obsessed prime time of its era.
   

So....why isn't this on DVD yet?

Probably the same thing keeping THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS itself off DVD: the Max Shulman estate and Fox haven't been able to come to terms.  As is always the case in these situations, the fans are the losers.

Why it should be on DVD:

Okay, so BRING ME THE HEAD OF DOBIE GILLIS isn't any great shakes as a standalone movie and is overlong at 100 minutes.  It's still a reasonably enjoyable visit with old friends, and if RETURN TO THE BATCAVE (the 2003 BATMAN reunion) can be released as a standalone while issues with the original series get sorted, why not DOBIE?


THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS itself in full season sets is a far better candidate for a DVD release.  Since I brought that up, this reunion movie would be a perfect bonus feature for a season set.  THE PATTY DUKE SHOW's third and final season included a similar add-on, with 1999's STILL ROCKIN' IN BROOKLYN HEIGHTS reunion telefilm included in the set.

Fox, surviving Shulmans.....get this resolved already!  We DOBIE fans are getting tired of worn out VHS tapes and YouTube searches.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Film Review: WILD ON THE BEACH (1965)





"Why the Hell isn't THIS on DVD yet?" -- Number 72






WILD ON THE BEACH (1965 Twentieth Century Fox) Starring Sherry Jackson, Frankie Randall, Booth Colman, Sonny and Cher, Gayle Caldwell, Russ Bender, Jackie Miller, Cindy Malone, The Astronauts. Directed by Maury Dexter. 


California college student Jackson is left a beach house in her late uncle's will and intends to transform it into a boardinghouse for girls. Her motivation is twofold: to alleviate a campus housing shortage and help finance her tuition.  Arriving to claim her inheritance, she learns that squatter's rights have already been asserted by Randall, who insists that Jackson's uncle gave him permission to turn it into lodging for the unnamed college's young men.  None-too-alert Dean Colman ends up giving them both a permit, which ignites a battle of the sexes over the pad (since a co-ed living arrangement won't cut it with the bluenoses).  While Jackson and Randall bicker their way to a mutual attraction, hip oldster Bender tries to woo the ladies by promising recording stardom and lots of swingin' musical acts play for the kids.


Randall and Jackson are cast as the ersatz Frankie and Annette in Dexter's second and last knockoff of A.I.P's BEACH PARTY series. Lovely Jackson, who began acting when she was seven, is appealing and assured in front of the camera.  Randall, a musician by trade (he would make only one more film) isn't, which doesn't help the tired slapstick humor during Colman's house inspection or the sterile courtship scenes with Jackson.

Russ Bender SINGS! Crazy, man, crazy!

Dexter (SURF PARTY) again filmed in black and white, rare for a genre that usually relied on bright sunshine and bikinis.  Usually, that is--not here.  WILD ON THE BEACH might not be the absolute worst of the decade's BEACH variations, but it is almost certainly the cheapest.    Forget about surfboards and bikinis. Unpopulated two-second establishing shots contain the only sands we see until after the one hour mark of this 77 minute quickie, and even then Jackson and Randall are fully clothed as they walk the seaside.


So, no skin (though Malone, playing herself, does look good in her turtleneck), no volleyball and even less sex than, say, BEACH BLANKET BINGO.  While veteran ace Bender gives it the old college try, there's also lesser character actors overall than Paul Lynde or Morey Amsterdam.  Is there anything here to keep the target audience from feeling ripped off?  If there is, it's gotta be the music, highlighted by the screen debut of a future Best Actress winner.

Mary Ann and Gilligan...I mean, Sonny and Cher

You read that right, WILD ON THE BEACH boasts the first screen appearance of Sonny and Cher, but only to sing "It's Gonna Rain" from LOOK AT US, their first LP.  They're backed by The Astronauts, who return from Dexter's SURF PARTY and get to perform four of their own songs, the best of which is "Little Speedy Gonzalez".  Malone sings one song, Randall performs two, and even Bender surprisingly gets in on the act with the fun "Yellow Haired Woman".  Take out the songs and the film would be about forty minutes, tops.



So.....why isn't this on DVD yet?

Despite the historical interest generated by seeing eighteen year old Cher making her big screen bow, WILD ON THE BEACH is cheap, forgettable and the title is blatantly misleading--there's no real wildness and barely a beach.  For genre completists only. 

Cher at 18
Why it should be on DVD:

I can't really make a compelling case for watching it more than once, but fans of The Astronauts will at least get to see a lot more of them here than in SURF PARTY. 

Cindy Malone, one more time!
WILD ON THE BEACH occasionally airs on Fox Movie Channel.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Ringing in the New Year at Rupert Pupkin Speaks!


Happy 2012 to all of my readers new and old!

Just in case the Mayans are right and I won't get a chance to do it again next year, I have accepted Rupert Pupkin's gracious offer to guest post my favorite older films seen for the first time in 2011.  Last year I provided a list only, without further explanation, but this year I have provided short reviews of a dozen goodies ranging from 1935 to 2010 and from Israel to the African continent to Australia and ending up on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami.  Please check out my musings here:

http://rupertpupkinspeaks.blogspot.com/2012/01/hal-horns-favorite-older-films-seen-1st.html

And while you're at Mr. Pupkin's excellent blogspot, please note that many reviewers shared similar lists with him, including Ned Merrill, Josh Johnson, Lars Nilsen, and B.T.S. Junkie.  Most likely more will be sharing their lists in the coming days.

Happy reading!  And have no fear, Why the Hell isn't THIS on DVD yet? will be back with a new entry very soon.