It’s time for another look at (relatively) recent Blu-Rays and DVDs aimed at the hardcore movie lover — though more casual viewers looking for something beyond Hollywood’s latest mass-market offerings are certainly allowed to kibitz at the Corner as well. Today’s selections are from Hollywood, off-Hollywood, England, and France and were made mostly in the 1930s or the 1970s, though we will be looking at one from 1998 — only yesterday!
We all know about the various superheroes that have found their way from the pages of DC and Marvel Comics into the world of live-action television series, including Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, the Flash, Spider-Man, the Hulk, and the like. The ones who often get short shrift, however, are the ones that have been created specifically for the small screen.
Remember Captain Nice? Mr. Terrific? Nightman? M.A.N.T.I.S.?
No…? Then you take my point: the costumed crusaders that originated from existing source material are the ones which have tended to remain in the public consciousness.
There is an exception to this rule, however, and we’re pretty sure the reason he hasn’t been forgotten is that, in addition to possessing the powers of flight, super strength, invisibility, and many others, he’s also the only made-for-TV hero who had a theme song that many of us still remember almost 30 years down the line:
Thank you, Joey Scarbury…but, also, thank you, Stephen J. Cannell, creator of “The Greatest American Hero,” for coming up with such an awesome concept for a series.
Ralph Hinkley (William Katt), a high school teacher, takes his class on a field trip and, after leaving them temporarily to go in search of aid for their van’s flat tire, encounters a UFO. Also present: FBI Agent Bill Maxwell (Robert Culp), who just happened to be in the neighborhood, as it were. The aliens present Ralph with a red suit and cape, inform him that wearing it will provide him with superhuman abilities, and tell him that he and Bill must work together to save the world. Sounds great…except that, while walking back to civilization, Ralph loses the instructions, leaving him uncertain as to exactly how the suit works. Cue 3 seasons and 44 episodes of superhero shenanigans, anchored by Culp’s delightfully grouchy performance and made even more watchable by the gorgeous Connie Sellecca, who plays Ralph’s girlfriend (and eventual wife), Pam.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Didn’t they already release this set awhile back?” Indeed, they did, but that was back when Anchor Bay held the rights to the series. Since then, the rights to most of Stephen J. Cannell’s series have come to Mill Creek…and if you focus really, really hard on the awesomely low price of this set, it may help offset the depression you experience when you learn that the bonus material from the previous Anchor Bay sets stayed with Anchor Bay. The only thing you’ll get here is a 20-minute interview with Cannell. It’s something, but when compared to the inclusions on the previous sets, it sure ain’t much. Still, if you really, really wanted “The Greatest American Hero: The Complete Series,” you would’ve bought it back when it first came out. Since you apparently only kind of wanted it, though, this is the perfect chance to snap it up at a ridiculously reasonable price.
The only real drawback: you’ll never, ever get the theme song out of your head.
On Sunday, April 25th, TV Land will be airing its annual celebration of classic television known as the TV Land Awards. Our man Bob Westal was walking the red carpet for us, star-spotting and chatting with the occasional celebrity passerby, but as I’m ensconced here in Virginia, I have to make do with phoners. It was hardly settling, however, to have the opportunity to chat with an iconic figure of ’70s and ’80 s television like Ted Lange. Although he’s arguably best known for his role as bartender Isaac Washington on “The Love Boat,” it’s far from the only item on his resume, so I made sure to brush up on his list of credits on IMDb before getting on the phone with him. This proved to be a wise move, as it resulted in stories of a Shakespearean production and tales of working on “Wattstax,” “Friday Foster,” “Record City,” “Mr. T and Tina,” and, yes, “That’s My Mama,” too. But, of course, there was still plenty of “Love Boat” banter as well, since it was that very show which led Lange to attend the TV Land Awards and reunite with his former crewmates…sorry, I meant castmates.
Come aboard as we set sail for…
Ted Lange: Hi, Will!
Bullz-Eye: Hey, Ted, how’s it going?
TL: Good! How are you doing?
BE: I’m doing well. It’s a pleasure to talk with you.
TL: What city are you in?
BE: I’m in Norfolk, Virginia. Where are you? Somewhere on the east coast, I guess, given how early it is.
TL:West coast, actually!
BE: Wow, then it’s really, really early there. Are you in California?
TL: Yessir. Los Angeles, California, city of the angels! (Laughs)
BE: Well, one of our writers here at Bullz-Eye was actually at the TV Land Awards the other night…
TL: Oh, really?
BE: He did the red carpet thing, and then he headed into the bloggers’ room, so he wasn’t in there with the action, per se, but he said it was a good time.
TL: It was a good time. It was a lot of fun.
BE: So was the entire cast there for the reunion?
TL: Well, Gavin MacLeod (Captain Stubing) had a back operation – he hurt himself, hurt a couple of his discs – so he wasn’t able to be there. We really missed him, because, you know, he’s the anchor of the show as the captain. So I called him up and talked to him to see how he was doing, and he was a little weak, but he was recuperating well. But everybody else was there, and they all brought their kids. Fred Grandy (Gopher) brought his daughter, I brought my son…it was a lot of fun.
BE: I was talking to Bob, our man who was there, and he was quite pleased that he’d gotten to talk to Bernie Kopell (Doc) on the carpet. So do you guys keep in touch aside from these occasional public reunions?
TL: Oh, yeah, absolutely. We’re friends. The great thing about the show was that we made friendships, you know? We were acting buddies and everything, but off-camera…I mean, I learned how to play tennis on Bernie’s tennis court. I wasn’t really into tennis ‘til I met Bernie. He’s been a good pal, and Fred I see all the time whenever I’m out on the east coast, and Tewes…we’re all friends, and that was the wonderful ancillary benefit of the show: that we made some really lasting friendships.
BE: So how did you first come onto “The Love Boat”? Obviously, you were pretty well established on television already, thanks to “That’s My Mama.”
TL: Yeah, actually, I did two series. I did “That’s My Mama,” and I did another series called “Mr. T and Tina,” with Pat Morita. The network was aware of me, and they had done a pilot and…they had used the guy who played the postman on “That’s My Mama,” Teddy Wilson, on the first “Love Boat” pilot, and they didn’t like the chemistry of the crew, so when they did the second pilot, they kind of threw everybody out that wasn’t working and brought in some new guys…and they stuck with the “That’s My Mama” cast by bringing me in to play the bartender. (Laughs) So I was very fortunate!
BE: Had you worked with Aaron Spelling before “Love Boat”?
TL: No, I hadn’t, actually. Jimmy Komack was the producer of “Mr. T and Tina,” and he sat me down and said, “You’re going to go work for Aaron Spelling, so let me just tell you that he’s really a great guy.” And, of course, he was correct.
A ton has happened since my last of these posts and I’m sure I’m missing plenty, but here are just a few of the interesting things going on in the movie world as this rather loony week finally ends.
* Bryan Singer will be producing, not directing, the next “X-Men” prequel. He’ll be directing “Jack, the Giant Killer” instead. And another Mike Fleming story, an exclusive this time: “Paranormal Activity 2” has a director. He’s Tod Williams, best known for “The Door in the Floor.” Sounds to me like Paramount is keeping things modest, wisely.
* The very ill Dennis Hopper got his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame today. Amy Kaufman has video of the ceremony which included Hopper rather gently chiding the paparazzi for an incident which caused him to fall. The video itself ends with photographers yelling “Viggo!” and “Jack!”
* Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” with Russell Crowe as Robin will be opening Cannes this year. The plot description put me somewhat in mind of the angle the great director Richard Lester and writer James Goldman took on the legend in a film I’m quite partial to, “Robin and Marian,” which starred Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn.
He had his biggest success on television with Bill Cosby on “I Spy,” historic in its way as the first inter-racial buddy adventure program on TV or, for that matter, in any medium and the tongue-in-cheek superhero comedy, “The Greatest American Hero.” Nevertheless, Mr. Culp, who died unexpectedly today from a fall at age 79, also made a notable mark on films.
Costarring with his colleague and friend Cosby, he directed an attempt to translate their TV fame into movies with 1972’s “Hickey and Boggs.” The film, which was written by a young Walter Hill, tried to go in vastly different, far grittier and grimmer direction than the TV show and failed at the box office. Recently, however, it’s been rediscovered by some cinephiles and crime film fans.
Still, a few year before that Culp appeared in one of the real cultural break-out movies of the 1960s, “Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.” For better or worse, it helped popularized, or perhaps merely capitalized, on the idea of “swinging” and “free love” among the older, married set. I haven’t seen this one either and I have no excuse other than somewhat mixed-feelings about most of writer-director Paul Mazursky’s other movies. However, in her heartfelt farewell to Culp, Cinematical’s Monika Bartyzel was kind enough to provide the lengthy, terrific clip below. This scene with Natalie Wood really shows Culp’s way with both serious and light material as he experiences a pretty broad swath of emotions in a scene that starts out as something close to straight drama and gradually eases into some pretty delightful comedy. Now, I want to see this.