Friday, June 29, 2012

(today's zomby) Zomby *IS* Lindsay Lohan in "The Parrot Trap"

By far, my greatest challenge in creating this cartoon was establishing an even somewhat plausible horizon line from the artwork in the original Ziggy. Here's the unaltered cartoon, as it appeared in newspapers today:

And here's my attempt to graph the "equator" of this cartoon:

I have no idea how rooms work in Ziggy's universe. Apparently, space is warped quite badly. I mean, just check out the line going through the parrot's head. What the hell, Zig?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

(today's zomby) Get it? Huh? Do ya? Huh?

You guessed right! This was a clandestine reference to that lovable alien ALF and his penchant for eating cats. Remember ALF and what innocent, carefree times we had with him?

Yeah, that was all a lie. When the camera wasn't rolling, Gordon Shumway was profane and racist, mocking people with Tourette's Syndrome and making extremely inappropriate advances to teen-aged cast mate Andrea Elson. (Warning: NSFW language ahead. And it's all coming from ALF!)

Yeah, Elson's obvious discomfort makes this especially cringe-worthy. I think we all need to go pray now.

P.S. - I think this is one of the many cartoons which works better if Ziggy/Zomby is removed entirely. Here, see for yourself..

Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Manos: The Hands of Fate" restored to its full glory!

Notice a difference? Two views of Diane Mahree in Manos: The Hands of Fate
A Manos poster

One of the most exciting restoration campaigns in film today is the project currently underway to refurbish Hal Warren's 1966 cult horror classic Manos: The Hands of Fate, often hailed as one of the worst films ever made, to its full glory.  Manos, of course, was featured on a memorable episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 back in 1993 and has been legendary among film fans and devotees of the bizarre ever since. When I recently heard of this restoration project, I was skeptical. After all, Manos was probably one of the worst-looking films I had ever seen -- grainy, washed-out, almost unwatchable at times. Over the years, the film had slipped into the public domain, so the print used on MST3K and on countless bargain basement DVDs ever since was a very low-quality transfer. What could you possibly do with Manos, I thought?

Well, one visit to the project's web site, Manos in HD, changed my mind. Compare the following two images, both from the scene in which Maggie (Diane Mahnee) slaps Torgo (John Reynolds) after the latter makes a clumsy pass. The difference, I think you will agree, is astonishing. Not only is the picture brighter and clearer, but you can actually see more of the room! This is excellent work and deserves our support. Why not make a donation today?

A still from the restored Manos with John Reynolds and Diane Mahree

That same moment in the public domain print of Manos

And don't forget that the original, unrestored Manos is returning to theaters nationwide on August 16, 2012 with commentary by the Rifftrax crew -- Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, all veterans of MST3K.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

(today's zomby) And this incredible clip of Tiny Tim!

Why does the cat look happy and Zomby look worried?

I'm not sure I get this one.

I think the implication is that Zomby transmitted his... uh, zombie-ism to the cat in a wildly inappropriate way. I don't really like to think about it. You know what I'd rather think about? THIS!

A young Tiny Tim
That's right! It's one of the Twentieth Century's greatest all-around entertainers!

Tiny Tim (a.k.a. Herbert Khaury) performed the song "Earth Angel" with his all-girl backing band, the Enchanted Forest, on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1970. This was Ed's second to last year on the air, and it is clear from watching a clip of the show that the host was going out in that old proverbial blaze of glory. Imagine something this bizarre going out to millions of living rooms on Sunday night across the nation. Ed's behavior at the end of it is priceless. He forcibly takes the mike away from Tim like a humorless high school principal and inquires, "When you were down there, you didn't hurt yourself?" Notice how gentle and shy Tim is when he assures Old Stoneface that he's fine. What a marked difference from the wildly emotional performer we'd just seen a few moments earlier!

Tim made one final appearance The Ed Sullivan Show after this, but the greatest talent showcase television has ever known -- or will ever know -- disappeared for good on May 30, 1971 after 1,054 episodes. Ed himself died three years later at the age of 73. Tim, who claimed to know literally thousands of tunes and considered himself a traditional "song-plugger," soldiered on until 1996 when he collapsed during a performance for a women's church group in Minnesota and never regained consciousness. He was 64.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blank Like Me: The Invisible Man Looks Back

"This'll kill ya. We're workin' up a Beatle medley for the act."

Well, naturally, the act has evolved over the years. For business reasons, mainly. I mean, you've gotta change with the times or the crowds go elsewhere. And in a town like Vegas, there's plenty of elsewhere for them to go.

So I've been adding new gimmicks to the act, new twists, new cast members. When I started at the Sahara, it was just me. That was enough for 'em in the beginning. Hell, half the act was Q&A with the audience. Now we've got, what, forty people in the cast -- dancers, backup singers, et cetera. Not to mention the pyrotechnics, the lighting. It's quite a production now. A circus. And all of this costs money. I should know that better than anyone, since it comes outta my bottom line. But my manager, Doug, keeps giving me the old "spend money to make money" routine.

Where is Doug, anyway? He's never around when I need him. I'm the Invisible Man, and he's the Invisible Manager. Heh. Probably off snorting more of my money up that big schnoz of his. Don't print that.

Listen, while you're up, pour me a drink, will ya? Scotch and soda. Thanks. Woah, easy! Easy! I gotta show to do in 20 minutes. There you go. You can take your hand away. I got it. No, really. I got it. Thanks again, kid.

Eating and drinking has been a part of my act since the beginning. It still gets 'em -- watchin' the food float in the air and then magically disappear. It's very simple, but very effective. Through trial and error, we've found that brightly-colored stuff tends to "read" best from the audience's perspective. You'll see me onstage, drinking what looks like blue Kool-Aid or somethin'. Lemme tell ya, that used to be vodka with food coloring. But I was a younger man then, and eventually my doc told me I had to cool it or my liver was going to file for divorce, citing spousal abuse.

So now it's just water. Heh. Killjoy. I guess it was for the best. I used to get pretty hammered onstage back then, but now, what with all the added fireworks, I gotta stay relatively sober. I usually have a quick belt before the show, but it's just one. I could really get hurt up there, y'know? One false move and KABLAMMO!

Anyway, where were we? Oh, yeah, the beginning. It's 1970 now, so that was, let's see here, fifteen years ago. Fifteen years! Jesus Christmas! When I started, there was nothing on the Strip like it. I was the first of the old time movie monsters to come to Vegas, and I emphasize the F-I-R-S-T. Now, ya got Dracula doing three shows a night at the Torquemada. Godzilla's packin' 'em in at the Sunspot. Even the Creature from the Black Lagoon has put together some kinda act at the, uh... at the...


That's right! The Cucaracha Club. Poor Creach, playin' a dive like that. No wonder he drinks like the fish he is. Don't print that either. Nice guy once you get to know him, though I'm not sure what his "act" consists of. He's like Esther Williams. Wet, he's a star. Dry, he ain't much. Maybe he brings a tank with him onstage. I dunno. I haven't made time to catch his act. Maybe I should.

But, anyway, getting back to my point. There are a lot of monsters in town these days. Frankie, Wolfie, Drac, they're ALL here 'cause that's where the dinero is! And those bastards you can see! I gotta convince some dumb tourist from Bumblefuck, Iowa that he should spend his dime and his time on me instead of them. Hence the lighting and the effects and the songs. You know, I still do an hour a day of vocal training and an hour a day of dance rehearsal. Still! At my age yet! That's in addition to the million and one other things I gotta do during the course of a day.

Right now -- this'll kill ya -- we're workin' up a Beatle medley for the act. Get this. We open with "Nowhere Man" then segue into "I'm Looking Through You" and finish with "You Won't See Me." Nah, it ain't ready yet. We gotta have costumes -- at least the gals do. I, of course, do the whole show au natural, except maybe for a top hat and tap shoes. And if you think that didn't take some gettin' used to... Brother, you don't know from stage fright until you've appeared in front of a packed house with your invisible dong flapping in the breeze. Sorry, I don't mean to be so vulgar. Don't mind me, kid. That formula's done screwy things to my brain.

Totie Fields almost crushed him.
Anyhow, for a new number like the Beatle thing, we gotta have costumes, choreography, the whole schmear. The whole thing is storyboarded. Plus we gotta secure the rights to the songs. Doug handles that shit, thank the Lord. Or at least he would if he'd keep the spoon outta his nose for five seconds.

No, no. I bust Doug's chops, but he's a good guy. Saved my life once. Totie Fields almost sat on me one night at the Trocadero, but Doug knew where I was and tackled her to the ground. He was like a Secret Service agent. I tell ya, if Doug had been in Dallas with JFK in '63... well, who knows? The whole world might've been different.

Retire? Me? With three ex-wives and six semi-visible kids to support? No, sir, it'll be a long time before this Invisible Man fades from view.

Well, you know what I mean.

(today's zomby) ZOMBY VS. FRANKENSTEIN... and it's not nearly as exciting as you think.

But just so you won't feel cheated, here's some real Frankenstein action!

(from l to right) Jackson Beck; Peter Fernandez

Two of the all-time greats in the voiceover business were Jackson Beck (1912-2004) and Peter Fernandez (1927-2010). Beck you probably know as the voice of Bluto in dozens and dozens of Popeye cartoons from the 1940s to the 1960s, but he had lots of other voice gigs, too, from Woody Allen's Take the Money and Run to the 1980s G.I. Joe cartoons and innumerable Little Caesar's pizza commercials. And Fernandez? Well, out of his many credits, you probably know him best as the title character on Speed Racer. Both Beck and Fernandez had diverse and varied careers which spanned decades, and in the year or Our Lord 1970 A.D., they teamed up to record an audio version of Frankenstein. Beck narrates, while Fernandez plays the tragic doctor. It's a fascinating little curio, and if you have half an hour to spare, it's well worth your time. Enjoy...