Wednesday, June 29, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 273

The Date: June 29

The Movie: Vertigo (1958)

What Is It?: Fear-addled Jimmy Stewart is made to believe that Kim Novak has been possessed by the ghost of a woman named Carlotta Valdes. This proves a ruse, but it allows Hitchcock to indulge in a sort of California-Gothic sensibility. Stewart’s acrophobic episodes (his vertigo doesn’t seem as acute, but I guess Acrophobia isn’t a very catchy movie title) are made horrific with Hitchcock’s distorted camera effects. His psychedelic nightmare is like something from one of Roger Corman’s Poe pictures and Bernard Herrmann’s score is disorienting and romantic.

Why Today?: On this day in 1911, Bernard Herrmann is born.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 272

The Date: June 28
The Movie: Double Indemnity (1944)
What Is It?: Your noir education resides in Nowheresville until you see what may be the genre’s quintessential film. You’ve got your femme fatale, your dupe duped into committing a heinous crime for her, the cuckold, the steaminess, violence, and B&W shadow play. Billy Wilder brings his masterful style, Barbara Stanwyck electrifies, and Fred MacMurray once again raises a confounding question: how did this dude get cast as the dad from “My Three Sons”?
Why Today?: Today is Insurance Awareness Day.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Psychobabble’s Twelve Greatest Rarities and Reconstructions (a slight detour in the Great Albums Series…)

In a perfect world, all the great music that great artists have recorded would end up on The Great Albums. I’m sure I do not need to tell you that this world is far from perfect, and I’m also sure you’re aware that a lot of great music was not released in its own time. Perhaps its creators misjudged its quality and decided to leave it in the vaults. Perhaps its creators intended it to be part of a greater concept, and when that concept evaporated, some great songs went out with the bathwater. Perhaps its creators were riddled with self-doubts and believed naysayers who didn’t understand the vision behind the work. Perhaps the music consisted of demos never intended for public consumption or the band broke up before they got a chance to put out the great music they’d created.

Here at the Psychobabble Preservation Society, I believe that this great music should not be punished for failing to see release when it was it made, and I believe that Psychobabble’s Great Albums series should not be punished with its absence. After all, much of it eventually saw release, even if that release was absurdly belated. So what follows is an unusual detour in The Great Albums. The albums may be reconstructions of ones that were supposed to be released but weren’t or they may be compilations of unreleased songs spanning different eras (occasionally peppered with a few tunes that managed to slip out on B-sides or flop A-sides). However, they all contain some music as essential as anything the artists properly released, regardless of whether or not the artists even wanted these rarities and reconstructions to be released.

(Note: I usually try to assemble the albums in this series according to how I personally rate them—from least great to most great—but I decided that chronological order makes more sense for this atypical installment).

1. The Great Lost Kinks Album by The Kinks (1973)

As the sixties came to an end, rarities compilations began emerging with greater frequency. Some, such as The Turtles’ Wooden Head, commemorated bands that ended with the decade. Some, such as The Byrds’ Preflyte, looked back on the beginnings of bands that had changed so much that they might as well have become different ones. The Great Lost Kinks Album was a different story: a contractual obligation archive sweep consisting of songs its chief creator would have preferred to leave in the archives. As these collections go, Great Lost is one of the messier ones because not everything on it had been lost. “I’m Not Like Everyone Else” was the B-side of a smash single, “Plastic Man” had been released as a moderately successful A-side, and “The Way Love Used to Be” had appeared on an LP just two years earlier. The greatness of this stuff is another matter. Favoring outtakes from The Kinks greatest LP, The Village Green Preservation Society (I’m sorry…did I say The Kinks’ greatest LP? I meant the greatest LP) and the aborted solo album Dave Davies’ made with the help of his day-job coworkers, The Great Lost Kinks Album is packed with absolutely wonderful songs that definitely deserved to heard. “Pictures in the Sand”, “Mister Songbird”, “Groovy Movies”, “This Man He Weeps Tonight” (which had already been on the B-side of the flop “Shangri-La” single), and “Pictures in the Sand” are rollicking, joyful tunes, as marvelously written and rendered as anything Ray and Dave Davies were writing in the late sixties. “’Til Death Us Do Part” (written for the feature version of the UK TV series that inspired the US’s “All in the Family”), “Rosemary Rose”, “Lavender Hill”, and “There Is No Life without Love” find the Davies brothers in more sighful mode, while “Misty Water” rollicks and sighs in equal proportion, making for what may be the most enchanting track on the collection. One man who most definitely was not enchanted by The Great Lost Kinks Album was Ray Davies, and he successfully forced Reprise Records to discontinue the disc after a mere two years on record shop shelves, sadly forcing some great music back to rarity status for decades. Fortunately, everything on The Great Lost Kinks Album can now be obtained on various deluxe editions and box sets, though the original compilation remains out of print and will likely stay that way.

2. Odds & Sods by The Who (1974)

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 271

The Date: June 27
The Movie: Reservoir Dogs (1992)
What Is It?: All of the self-consciously clever postmodern gobbledygook that has cluttered every crime picture made during the past two decades was completely fresh in Reservoir Dogs. The image of a group of cold-blooded hoods sitting around the breakfast table and discussing Madonna lyrics was truly original and really funny. While it’s tough to still quote Pulp Fiction without sounding like a doofus, Reservoir Dogs hasn’t been totally appropriated and crushed under the clumsy wing tip of pop culture. It remains fresh when you see it today; Mr. Orange is just as tragic, Mr. Pink is just as hilariously neurotic, Mr. White is just as conflicted and complex, and Mr. Blonde is just as psychotic… and there’s still no way to watch this movie without getting chills as soon as Steeler’s Wheel comes on K-Billy's "Super Sounds of the Seventies" radio show.
Why Today?: Today is Sunglasses Day.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 270

The Date: June 26
The Movie: Hairspray (1988)
What Is It?: John Waters sacrifices the shocks and scatology to go mainstream, and lo and behold, the master of ironic schlock makes a sincerely lovely film with a message of equality, empowerment, and dancing. Ricki Lake becomes the star of a teen dance show and Divine shuns the clown makeup and cha-cha heels to play her schlumpy mom with subtlety. Proof that the King of Filth is just a big, old softy.
Why Today?: Today is Beautician’s Day.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 269

The Date: June 25

The Movie: The Complete Beatles (1982)

What Is It?: The first Beatles documentary of any significance managed to boil the band’s hefty history down to two hours. Narration by Malcolm McDowell is an extra cool touch. I always suspected that Patrick Montgomery based his film on The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash. My favorite moment is the copy of Revolver that starts spinning as “Tomorrow Never Knows” plays… trippy special effects, man! Sadly, McCartney bought The Complete Beatles and pulled it off the market so it wouldn’t compete with the Anthology, though you can still find it on YouTube.

Why Today?: Today is Global Beatles Day.

Friday, June 24, 2016

366 Days at the Drive-In: Day 268

The Date: June 24

The Movie: I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)

What Is It?: Robert Zemeckis's ode to Beatlemania is as weighty as an unused Kleenex, but it's sweet, fun froth, and Nancy Allen's molestation of Paul's Hofner after she and her Beatlemaniac buddies break into the Fabs' hotel room is bizarrely erotic.

Why Today?: I wish I could say today is "National Make Out with a Bass Guitar Day," but it is not. However, on this day in 1950, Nancy Allen is born. That's pretty good too!
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