Movie Man: Hollywood romance, space-age monster
This week, we’ve got a big book about classic Hollywood and a great DVD about a not-so-great movie:
“Errol & Olivia: Ego and Obsession in Golden Era Hollywood” by Robert Matzen (Good Knight Books, $39.95) In this lavish coffee-table book, movie historian Matzen charts the careers of Hollywood legends Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, both together and separately, paying special attention to the eight movies their co-starred in.
Though the hook of the book is how far their relationship really went, “Errol & Olivia” works best as a look at how the studios really worked in those days. Even major stars like Flynn and de Havilland were treated like any other employees, moved from set to set and film to film at the boss’s whim. Sure, they were well-paid, but as anecdotes from the making of “The Adventures of Robin Hood” and other classics show, they weren’t always well-treated.
“Errol & Olivia” is quickie tell-all. It’s a big, beautiful book, full of photos from both in front of and behind the camera. There are dozens of sidebar articles about the stars and their world, covering such topics as Errol Flynn’s impressive love life and Olivia de Havilland’s lifelong feud with her sister, Joan Fontaine. (Believe it or not, they’re both still alive.) If you’re a fan of classic Hollywood, this book deserves a spot on your shelf. Just make sure you save a big spot.
“Monster A-Go Go” (1965) First things first: “Monster A-Go Go” is a terrible movie. But it’s a fascinating one — and it makes a great DVD. Filmed when the space race was all the rage, the movie tried to tell the story of a capsule that returned to Earth minus its astronaut. But, doomed by a nonexistent budget and post-production meddling, “Monster A-Go Go” only managed to tell the story of a very cheap movie.
But when a movie is this low-budget and this personal (it was director Bill Rebane’s dream project), it almost becomes a kind of folk art. You could spend days pondering all the questions “Monster A-Go Go” raises: Why, for instance, is there so much footage of couples dancing the twist? Why are there so many shots of helicopters? Why does the action suddenly switch from grassy fields to Chicago’s Lower Wacker Drive? And, most of all, why do all the actors seem to be in a trance?
Like I said, “Monster A-Go Go” makes a fun DVD, and one of the reasons is it manages to answer some of those perplexing questions. Director Rebane, it turns out, made short films about dance crazes, and two of them are included here. Also included is an interview with Rebane along with a commentary track. As if that weren’t enough, the DVD also comes with a 24-page reprint of an issue of “Scary Monsters” magazine, examining “Monster A-Go Go” in excruciating (but fascinating) detail. Heck, the “Gone with the Wind” DVD didn’t include this much background info. But that’s how it should be. After all “Monster A-Go Go” is much, much stranger.
Contact Will Pfeifer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/movie man.
Make room in your collection
Some DVDs out Tuesday:
“Toy Story 3”: Possibly the best movie of 2010 gets a deluxe release on DVD and Blu-ray. Be sure to have a box of tissues ready, because that ending has the power to turn any grown-up into a sobbing mass of tears.
“The Pacific”: If you were a fan of HBO’s “Band of Brothers,” you need to watch this follow-up series, which shifts the focus to the war against the Japanese.
“The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series”: Arguably the best sitcom of the 1990s — that’s right, I said it — aired on HBO, and it finally gets a complete release on this massive boxed set.
“Beverly Hills 90210: The Complete Series”: Or, you could buy this complete series. On second thought, why bother. Just stick with “The Larry Sanders Show.” Trust me on this.
“The Wiz”: This strange — and strangely entertaining — 1978 version of “The Wizard of Oz” stars Diana Ross, Nipsey Russell, Lena Horne, Richard Pryor and, yes, Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow.
“Winnebago Man”: Jack Rebney swore his way through a Winnebago sales video years ago and became an Internet sensation. This documentary charts the popularity of that clip and tracks down the man himself.
Good Charlotte, “Cardiology”: Despite the title, this is not a CD of workout music. Of course, there’s no reason you can’t use it for that purpose.
Mariah Carey, “Merry Christmas II”: Do you see what Mariah did there? She hid the fact that this is a sequel by using the Roman numeral II as “to.” Clever, clever.
Huey Lewis & the News, “Soulsville”: Apparently, even Huey Lewis is cashing in on the 25th anniversary of “Back to the Future.”
Weezer, “Death to False Metal”: Didn’t Weezer just release a CD a couple of weeks ago? Oops, yes they did. This is a collection of unreleased tracks. If you need a Weezer fix, you can buy this…
Weezer, “Pinkerton: Deluxe Edition”: Or pick up this one instead. It’s a two-disc version of their (admittedly pretty great) second album.
Black Dub, “Black Dub”: Original title of the week No. 1
Afrocubism, “Afrocubism”: Original title of the week No. 2. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a tie!
Various Artists, “The 25th Anniversary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concerts”: I don’t know who this “Various Artists” band is, but I’m surprised they landed a spot in the hall of fame. Heck, I’ve never even heard of them!
— Will Pfeifer
Sources: thedigitalbits.com, tophitsonline.com