Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Hollow Weenie!

Spirits of Halloween two years ago ....

She who is my wife, in the STAR TREK: The Motion Picture costume she sewed for me about 34 years previously.

 Jazra and I as Finn and Jake.  Note that one of these images is the real thing, not us.
Here's the whole kit-n-kaboodle.

Hope your memories of Halloween are happy ones!

PS The heading of this blog post?  That's what the butcher said when he gave me an empty hot-dog casing.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Something Wicked This Way Comes ... But Fun, Yes It's Fun!

 Last week I performed my yearly roller-coaster ride with Ray Bradbury and memories of my heroic Dad.  For this blog post I'm going to assume you are familiar with the novel.  If not, for Heaven's sake, why not?  Please dive into its poetry and fright!

This was my twenty-fifth reading of Something Wicked This Way Comes.  I've got two paperback editions.  One is a 1998 printing which has some typos.  The other is the first paperback printing of 1963.  Its cover is above.

Don't you love the allegorical imagery of this cover?  A semi-rural boy (complete with turned-up jeans and farm boots) stands at a maze entrance.  The maze stands for his future life, and all will be determined by his choices.  The boy is looking at the fire-eating guy on the left panel.

This fellow seems a reference to I Corinthians 11:29.  In the passage Paul talks about people sharing in a Communion Meal (a celebration of unity with each other and God) while still consciously harboring bad feelings and resentment toward somebody else.  These are sneaky hypocritical people, glad-handing you but dishing dirt as soon as you're out of earshot.  It's folks who act like that, Paul warns, who are digging themselves in deeper.  "For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself ..."

On the left-hand panel, that's what this guy looks like, doesn't it?

The card player on the right doesn't look much happier.  He thought it would be fun to risk it all, but by the way he gazes out over his cards, it looks like he's holding a skunk hand.  He has just realized that he's going to lose it all, due to his own recklessness.

Between these two choices is X, the Stranger.  Does he stand for Mr Dark, the proprietor of the Dark Carnival whose maze invites the boy?  Does he stand for the unnatural, early-grown thing that the boy might become if stretched on the devilish merry-go-round?  Or is he, simply, Death -- the natural end of those who deliberately choose to bypass  the natural progressions of life by seeking to become its master?

In front of the cards-playing man, there's a bit of paper in the air.  It's one of the handbills for the show!

 The back of this paperback edition features one version of this handbill.  You know, the one pasted all over town by Mr Dark in the beginning movements of the novel.

Just for fun, I tried to make a copy of the poster.  This is what I came up with.

This wonderful novel makes plain the very basic cliche that while life and the future are an unwritten book filled with danger and scares, facing it with good humor and friendship will allow you to hang on and come through.

See you tomorrow on Halloween.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mariliyn's Invitation

It was always a running gag on The Munsters TV show that the family was so weird and scary that normal people were spooked just by encountering him -- like this mailman.

Of course, maybe the problem is that the grave doesn't have a posted "mailbox regulations release" sticker.


Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Marilyn Munster the Phone Phreak

Some mundane guy invites Marilyn to a Halloween party.  One interesting thing is the unspoken assumption by all that the mail only takes a day or so in transit.  In 1964 I assume they didn't ship your envelope to a "sorting center" fifty or more miles away before routing it back to the house two streets away.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Color Herman and Lily

While there's not much resemblance to Yvonne De Carlo here, you can sort of glean a likeness to Fred Gwynne's face.

See you tomorrow with more pages.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Professor Eisengel's Tomb, Show #3

Professor  Eisengel’s  Tomb

An introductory note …

It was blessed enough to be friends with Mark Barragar, whom I’ve mentioned in previous posts here, and here.

At one point Mark hoped to have his own horror-host show, and I was going to write him some scripts.  Mark wanted his character to be a Cyclopean type -- that is, only one eye (don’t ask me why).  So after a little banter we came up with the name Professor  Eisengel -- get it?  “Single eye”?

These are the opening and scripts I came up with.  Mark liked them, but was never able to convince his bosses at Channel 25 to give him a late-night movie gig. 


{Show 3}
[written completely by Mark Alfred]

            [PROFESSOR EISENGEL and DOCTOR MARK are sitting facing each other in the same setup as P.E. and Professor S. O'Terrick in Show # 2.  In between the two is a little wood-block table.  Atop the table is something -- maybe a cloth bag, maybe a floppy pillow, we don't know.  Maybe it's someone's laundry left on the set.  P.E. and D.M. swivel their chairs slightly toward the camera, and P.E. speaks.

Welcome to Professor Eisengel's Tomb, fiends and woe-wishers -- oops, I mean friends and  well-wishers!  We've got a movie for you tonight that's just full of dialogue, reverse angles, and cross-cutting -- maybe even a flashback or a voiceover!  All kinds of narrative techniques to reward the attentive viewer but confuse the inattentive channel-browser!

But, before we start our motion picture, we're going to treat our viewers to a -- a -- a treat, from the early days of television!

            [As he goes on with this speech, D.M. grows more and more excited and aroused by his subject matter, eyes glazing over and breathing getting heavier.]

The legendary early days of TV, when everything was live, and . . . the excitement and suspense were raw and new, and . . . the creative juices flowed free, and . . . the very  air was dripping with creative thrust, and -- and --

[putting out a hand to calm Dr. Mark]:
Whoa, there -- calm down, Doctor!  Let's not get all in a foam!  [turning to face camera]  Yes, friends, today we have with us in the Tomb one of the giants of early children's television!  But first let's take you on a trip down Memory Lane and let you see a snippet of the show our guest appeared on, "way back when."
            Okay, Melvin -- roll the clip.

            [We FADE TO BLACK and our viewers see the following clip from the early days of TV, completely made from scratch by us for a fictitious kids' show.
            [First, we see a grainy count-down, like what you see at the beginning of a film reel, while the soundtrack has loud pops and scratching noises, like those you hear in the old STAR TREK Blooper reels.  Note that all of this "clip" has scratches on it, and the sound is tinny, and it's all shot in one take with one camera, as they did it in dat ol' so-called Golden Age of TV.
            [We FADE IN on a tiny, postage-stamp-sized set.  Two male adults, played by whomever, are in gangster outfits, complete with pinstripe suits and snap-brim hats.  They're standing with their backs half-turned to the camera, facing a four-foot-tall half-wall, with their hands up.  Atop the wall projects a hand puppet that wears a policeman's hat and is "covering" the pair with the gun he holds.]

[in a voice that sounds like Bugs Bunny doing Edgar G. Robinson]:
All right, Jasper!  I got thuh drop on yuh both now!  Hand over thuh swag!  Yer takin' the Big Fall!

Well, Ralphie, this time yuh got us dead to rights. 
            [in an aside to his partner across from him]:

Psst -- Okay, Georgie, let him have it.

Duh -- okay, Boss.

            [Georgie reaches down with the hand that's closest to the camera (and thus hidden from the puppet) -- brings up a baseball bat that's  been leaning against his leg -- and bonks Ralphie the Puppet with it.  It drops the gun and hangs limply over the edge of the half-wall.]

Unh -- unnnh -- uhh!

Lam it, Georgie!

            [They both run off-camera.  The camera dollies in for a close shot of the pathetic, groaning, twitching puppet.  We need to make sure the camera's shadow gets into the shot (a staple of early TV).  We hold this angle as our enthusiastic announcer dramatically reads his cheesy lines.]

How will Detective Ralphie catch Jasper and Georgie now?  Tune in next week to Detective Ralphie's Crime-Fighting Cavalcade!

            [Semi-dramatic public-domain music swells as "The End" is supered in over Ralphie's convulsing form.  The screen goes black; the scratches that have been visible onscreen and audible on the soundtrack fade out.
            [We FADE IN back to Professor Eisengel and Dr. Mark.  D.M. is wiping away tears.  P.E. sits motionless, mouth open, stunned.  After a few seconds, D.M. gets it together and turns back to the camera.]

Well -- that was greatness.

I can say, the production values sure haven't changed much in twenty years!

And even in that brief clip, the -- umm, the depth of characterization!  The clear delineation of great moral choices!  Well -- in those days, giants truly walked the Earth.

[consulting some notes]:
Umm -- Detective Ralphie’s Crime-Fighting Cavalcade ran for seven seasons in syndication, from 1947 to 1955.  At the height of its popularity, there was a six-month waiting list for tickets to attend its weekly broadcast.  [He holds up a cheap magnifying glass]  This "Detective Ralphie Magnifying Glass" was sent out, free, to any kid who mailed in a box-top from Ralphie's sponsor, Cavity Crunch Cereal.  It's made of Bake-Lite, an early form of plastic, and is now worth up to $63 on the collector's market and on e-Bay.

And we're thrilled -- stunned -- to have with us today a star from Detective Ralphie's Crime-Fighting Cavalcade.  We're going to start our movie now, and on our next break we'll talk with this titan of early children's television.

            [As we begin to FADE TO BLACK, the bag on the table begins to move, and we hear a muffled, high-pitched voice.]

Okay, fellas, let me outta here!  C'mon . . .


            [We FADE IN onto our second COMMERCIAL PARODY.  It has no "live" dialogue, only a voiceover by our friendly announcer.
            [A housewife is standing in her kitchen at the stove.  With one hand she stirs a pot, the other is holding a wireless phone as she jabbers away mindlessly.  After a second she pulls the thing away from her ear and looks at it in disgust.  We see her lips say "What?" as she puts it back to her head.]

Friends, are you tired of that tinny-sounding portable phone?

            [Our scene now changes to a guy sitting in his car in a parking lot.  In one hand he has his car phone.  In the other is a long, accordion-folded car-phone bill unfolding into his lap.  Huge dollar signs are printed on every unfolding page.  He starts thrashing around in a hissy fit.]

Or have you had to take out a second mortgage to pay the bill on your cell phone?

            [The screen splits into two left-and-right halves, each showing a still frame of the two previous shots.  The housewife is on the left, the car guy on the right.  As announcer continues, a big animated "X" crosses out each half as its problem is mentioned by the announcer and as indicated below.]

Modern S. O'Terrick research makes such halfway measures obsolete!  Introducing a communications device so well-designed that snoopers can't even listen in to your private calls ["X" over housewife], unlike portable phones!  And it's so direct that you don't have to worry about those limited calling areas ["X" over car guy] , unlike this fellow's cell phone!

            [The screen goes black, with the word "Introducing . . ." supered in.  A drum roll is heard on the soundtrack.]

Say goodbye to the cellular phone!  And, say hello to . . . the cellulose phone!

            [There's a fanfare and happy public-domain music on the soundtrack.  We CUT TO the same housewife, no portable phone in sight, stirring her soup again.  A paper airplane sails in from off-camera and lands on the counter beside her.  We read it over her shoulder as she unfolds it:  "Hey, hon -- Luv ya!  Bring me a beer, eh?"  We see a smile of servile, man-worshiping love on her face.
            [We CUT TO the car guy.  Now he's in his office, his feet propped up on a full desk, snoozing.]

The ultimate in private, silent communication, the cellulose phone is perfect for those times when ordinary words fail you . . .

            [A paper airplane sails in from off-camera and bonks into the guy's forehead, falling into his lap.  We now look over his shoulder as he opens it to read:  "Wake up, schmuck -- you're FIRED!"
            [We CUT TO a tabletop filled with sheets of paper and variously designed paper airplanes.  As the announcer continues and the ordering info is supered over this shot, paper planes will sail back and forth in front of the camera throughout.]

Best of all, saying it by cellulose phone costs only pennies per message!  So, order your supply of cellulose phones today!  Some assembly required, not for consumers under the age of three.  Call 1-800-426-3862 now!  That's 1-800-IAM-DUMB!  This offer not available in the Eastern or Western Hemisphere, so call now!


            [We FADE IN back to the previous set-up of P.E. and D.M.  The bag on the table is still moving a bit.  P.E. shushes the bag, then turns to camera.]

Welcome back to our special-guest segment.

We're so thrilled to welcome to Professor Eisengel's Tomb a legend of early children's television . . . the star of Detective Ralphie's Crime-Fighting Cavalcade . . . Ralphie himself !

            [P.E. yanks away the bag.  On the block table is the same puppet Ralphie seen in the clip, though without the policeman's hat.
            [NOTE:  We need to gave camera coverage of Ralphie moving and gesticulating as he talks.  He's to be covered as if he’s a really-true character being interviewed.  The close-up angles on Ralphie can be provided by either A) have someone lying on the floor behind who's reaching up through a hole in the table to animate him, or B) simply cut away to a separately "animated" Ralphie and insert these shots into sequence in post-production.]

Ralphie -- should I say "Mr. Ralphie"?  -- Welcome to our program!

[sounding like a snooty George Plimpton]:
Yaas, well, thenk yew.  And thenks for rem-you-ving that perfectly stifling coverment.  I was beginning to hyperventilate.

Ralphie -- is it all right to just call you "Ralphie"?

I've already deposited my appearance fee; I don't care what you call me.  For the record, my legal name is Panniker Coswell.   "Ralphie" was simply my stage moniker.

Well, I -- we're sorry, Mr. Cosworth --

[interrupting to correct P.E.]:
Coswell.  Oh, very well then, call me Ralphie. [He sighs]

[totally oblivious to Ralphie's discomfort]:
I'm looking forward to hearing what must be a wealth of anecdotes about those wild and fertile days of early live TV.

Actually, I -- I've tried to put those disruptive times out of my mind.  Those rude days are long behind me.

            [Angle on stunned P.E. and D.M.]

Yes, I only took that silly role in that barbaric series to finance my true avocation, the truly civilized hobby of collecting rare books.

[trying to remain civil to their guest]:
Oh?  Like Shakespeare First Folios?  First printings of Edgar Allan Poe?

Collecting match-books, that is.  My proudest achievement was completing the entire six-color spread, with cover variations, from the 1957 "Diamonds Route 66" series.

I'm -- I must say, I'm stunned by this turn of events.  Here I had a, a long list of probing, insightful questions concerning various skits performed on the show, writing credits, sponsor restrictions, and -- [steamed, but trying to be civil] you don't want to talk about it?!?!

Oh, no, I didn't say that, I’ll talk about it -- I just don't remember much.  It was just a job.  Like driving a truck.  To finance what is important in life!

Collecting . . . match . . . book . . . covers.

Oh, yes!  My earliest specimen is a 1917 Manhattan Luxor Boarding House.  It's in fine condition, only slight rust around the staple, only two matches gone.  A thrilling example of pre-Crash consumer advertising, using three colors and . . .

            [NOTE:  From about this point on, Ralphie keeps on talking, but his voice fades into the background as P.E. and D.M. close this segment, and the show.  The last thing we should hear as we fade to black should be this ingrate puppet ranting on about matchbook covers.  So for the benefit of those who care, here are the rest of Ralphie's remarks, even though viewers will not be able to really tell what he's saying -- he should be saying something, so here it is.  Again, the rest of these remarks by Ralphie should merely run on in the background under and behind D.M.'s and P.E.'s closing remarks.]

. . . four different typefaces on the front.  It has no interior printed matter; that only arose in the mid-30s as the U.S. Government Printing Office began to commission messages of encouragement.  Inside various matchbooks you might read, "Buck up," or "At least you're free," or "So happy in Hooverville," and so on.
            In fact, this first message, "Buck up," was the source of a famous printing variance that had the bluestockings of Boston up in arms.  Yes, the simple message "Buck up" was somehow misprinted!  Some scholars have suggested that pro-Union agitators had deliberately caused "Buck up" to be misprinted, so as to create a stir and to reinforce their demands for Union strictures in the workplace.  So this argument runs, if the U.S. Government's own printers were unable to set even the simple words "Buck up" into type without messing them up, then surely the rules of the Union were necessary to keep inattentive workers responsible to their potentially vast audience.
            What outraged the prudes of Boston was what they took as a strike against the new and socially prominent fad of using zippers for ladies' shoes and boots.  The old buckle-down boots had been denigrated as articles of clothing for the underclass.  So, when these misprinted matchbooks began to exhort people to "Buckle up," all propriety was offended at this perceived slap at modern fashion.

            [Is this enough yet?]

[talking on top of Ralphie's lines as outlined above]:
I can't believe this, Doctor Mark!  Here we went to all the trouble to track down this guy's agent, and find that clip from 1954, just to hear him rant about matchbook covers, for gosh sakes!

Is it too late to stop payment on his check?  I am so disappointed.

[with a sigh as Ralphie rambles on]:
Well, friends, I'm truly sorry this didn't work out the way we'd planned it.  We'll see you next time, here in the Tomb.  [He looks off-camera]
            Melvin, get this guy outta here!

            [P.E. looks disgustedly at Ralphie raving and D.M. buries his face in his hands in shame as we FADE TO BLACK.]

{BREAK -- THE END of Show #3}

 See you tomorrow, kiddies!
All original content
© by Mark Alfred