Monday, March 18, 2013

Mask of the Blue Falcon review...

I'm fresh off the chair after having just watched the DVD release of Scooby-Doo: Mask of the Blue Falcon. The movie is good for the kind of movie it has a lot of visual appeal and high octane action much in the same way the rest of the direct-to-DVD Scooby projects have had over the last 15+ years. This movie isn't necessarily what I was assuming it would be back in late 2012 when I initially heard of it's upcoming release. I originally thought that the movie would bring back the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt and have the duo team up with Scooby and company to solve a mystery of some sort. Instead, the movie is about Shaggy and Scooby's obsession with Blue Falcon and Dynomutt...throughout the majority of the movie Scooby is wearing a Dynomutt costume while Shaggy wears a blue shirt with the letter F on it as an honor to his super hero idol. As always, my reviews feature several spoilers so for those who hadn't seen the movie and do not want to know how things turn out you shouldn't read the remaining of the commentary.

The movie's opening sequence is great. It's patterned after the live action Batman series of the '60s. The action of the movie centers around a comic book convention in California. The event is known more officially as 'Comic Con' but for humor the convention has an outlandish name. Since the movie is set inside a venue housing a comic book convention it makes full use of cartoon characters from a number of classic Hanna-Barbera cartoons. Not only are there posters all over the walls promoting classic programs such as The Mighty Mightor and Hong Kong Phooey but in typical conventioneer behavior we see fans and enthusiasts showing up in costume as their favorite cartoon characters. Blink and you'll probably miss a dozen characters parading across the screen inside the convention center. I spotted an assortment of fans dressed as Zan and Jayna from the Super Friends; I saw a really quick shot of a fan dressed as Apache Chief and Samurai, both from the Super Friends. There's also some screen shots of people dressed as Space Ghost, Coil Man from The Impossibles, and then there are more posters. As mentioned, Scooby and Shaggy dress up as Dynomutt and Blue Falcon. Along for the ride is, of course, the rest of the gang: Fred, Daphne, and Velma. News surfaces that there will be a brand new, ultra-modern depiction of the Blue Falcon and Dynomutt. Fred and Daphne can't wait to see this...Shaggy and Scooby prefer the traditional characterizations while Velma's basically non-interested in the goings-on until she senses a mystery on the horizon when the villainous Mr. Hyde shows up and unleashes his uncontrollable anger on the city. This 'mystery' turns out to, on the surface, tie in with the upcoming movie of Blue Falcon.

As is the case with the Scooby television series, there are several red herring characters who are designed to appear to have a motive for being the villain but turn out innocent. This red herring treatment is given to a couple who are all too eager to receive publicity for the upcoming movie. Meanwhile, Scooby and Shaggy meet the original Blue Falcon at an autograph table. The actor, Owen Garrison, is bitter over the movie's producers overlooking him and forbidding him to wear the Blue Falcon costume during public appearances. The more dedicated of fans will immediately recognize that the name, Owen Garrison, is a reference to the original voice actor of Blue Falcon, Gary Owens. In addition to Owen Garrison we also get to meet a character named Joe Rabble who states that he's a friend of Owen's and an autograph signing partner.

Throughout the movie Garrison is often caught in embarrassing situations as his anger overtakes him and he unleashes his jealousy and annoyance over the 'new' Blue Falcon and the financial turmoil he's gone through due to television channels dropping reruns of the original cartoon in the lead-up to the newer Blue Falcon. Dynomutt, in reality, doesn't have much of an impact as far as screen time in the movie...he's seen in updated 'clips' of the original series where Frank Welker (the voice of Dynomutt) and Jeff Bennett (the voice of Owen Garrison/Blue Falcon) recreate dialogue lifted from the original Dynomutt series. While the Hyde monster unleashes his anger all over the city it becomes apparent that Owen Garrison must be the villain since he's the only person with enough motive to want to see the new Blue Falcon film burn in flames. While all of this was happening, security guard Mr. Becker gets involved and shuts down the comic book convention. Shaggy and Scooby later find themselves on the run of a river of green slime that's raging out of control all over the city. Later, the green slime was revealed to be harmless and nothing more than pistachio flavored foam.

Popping in and out of the movie is the Mayor...drawn almost exactly as he was in the Dynomutt series.

Mr. Becker's physical appearance, with a voice patterned after Paul Lynde, is what you might call a combination of Sylvester Sneekley/The Hooded Claw from The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, Mr. Pertwee from Where's Huddles, and Mr. Peevely from The Hair Bear Bunch all rolled into one. Paul Lynde gave voice to the first two characters while John Stephenson used his Joe Flynn impression for Mr. Peevely. Scooby and Shaggy grow disillusioned when they become a laughing stock on 'Scoob Tube'. A nameless spectator had taped their encounter with the 'green slime' and uploaded it onto the internet. The climax of the movie begins at a baseball stadium. It is here where a now giant Mr. Hyde shows up and goes on a rampage. Eventually the giant Hyde monster is defeated, revealed to be a monster robot, and much to the dismay of Shaggy and Scooby, inside the Hyde monster is none other than Owen Garrison!! Well, the mystery is solved now, yes? Not exactly! Fred, Daphne, and Velma conclude that Owen couldn't be the Hyde monster because of it being too obvious. Mr. Hyde shows up once more...and this time the original Blue Falcon and Dynomutt arrive in their Falcon Car. Blue Falcon gives Hyde an upper cut...knocking him out. Velma does the honors and rips off the real Mr. Hyde's mask to reveal it to be...Joe Rabble! Remember him? He secretly hated Owen and was bitter over his own failed business exploits in his younger days. As he was being hauled away he delivered the traditional line nearly all villains stated in the franchise.

As a side note, Owen Garrison's voice, to my ears at least, is patterned after Adam West instead of Gary Owens. The Blue Falcon, after all, was a parody of Batman...and this movie opens with a visual reference to the iconic fight scenes in the '60s television show. It's something to wonder about.

I give The Mask of the Blue Falcon a great rating. There are so many in-jokes and references to the original series and to Saturday morning television and comic books, in general, from the '70s that it's sure to go over the heads of those not too familiar with classic cartoons. A helium balloon of '60s cartoon character, Frankenstein Jr., features prominently in one of the movie's action scenes. Also to look for is a hilarious sequence where Fred, Daphne, and Velma dress as members of The Herculoids.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Jack Greene: 1930-2013

Country music legend Jack Greene passed away on March 14th at the age of 83 from complications of Alzheimer's Disease.

While not much of an expert on all things Jack Greene I enjoyed hearing the songs that he made famous. I became aware of Jack Greene at some point in the early 1990's when looking through an issue of the out of print Country Music Magazine. Within this magazine they'd have advertisements for cassette's and LP's of a lot of artists from the '50s and '60s that I wasn't familiar with up until that point...and Jack Greene was one of those artists. I was a teenager in the 1990's and was nowhere near as familiar with country music's history as I am now. As the '90s went on I stumbled upon WSM radio's frequency while searching the AM dial...I'd known of the station for awhile due to the publicity it got on TNN during their airing of The Grand Ole Opry segment on Saturday evenings. For me, finding WSM radio by accident, it was like finding a long last I was hearing the actual Grand Ole Opry on the radio instead of seeing the half hour segment that TNN aired. I had never thought to seek out WSM's frequency simply because I live several states away from Tennessee and in my mind there was no way I could be able to hear that station.

Anyway, while listening to the Opry that night and in many, many more Saturday nights to come I learned rather quickly that the televised portion of the Opry that I'd been watching for several years was much different in tone and delivery than what the radio audiences and those who attended the show in person heard. It was an Opry radio broadcast on one of those Saturday nights in the mid 1990's that I heard Jack Greene perform "Statue of a Fool" and "There Goes My Everything". He, like a lot of other Opry members of considerable membership longevity, were rarely shown on the nationally televised portion on TNN but you could hear them consistently on the radio broadcast. Jack also hosted half hour segments of the show and would often have Jeannie Seely on his portion of the show. This would often reverse later in the night...Jeannie would host a 30 minute segment and have Jack Greene appear.

1967 was the year of Jack Greene in country music. This was the year that he won multiple awards at the first ever CMA gala: Male Vocalist of the Year, Album of the Year for There Goes My Everything, and Single of the Year for "There Goes My Everything". The song's writer, Dallas Frazier, won for Song of the Year.

A common practice for a general audience is to assume that Jack Greene was a 'one hit wonder' given the enormous popularity of "There Goes My Everything" and how it dominated country radio and the country music awards in 1967. Jack, in truth, had a total of five #1 hits with five more reaching the Top-10 for an overall total of ten Top-10 singles. Also, he sent 13 singles into the country Top-40...9 of those singles would climb into the, in truth, Jack had more hits than "There Goes My Everything" but in hindsight it happened to be his biggest single as it stayed at #1 for seven weeks!

He had a healthy string of Top-40 singles beginning late in 1966 and running uninterrupted through 1974. So, when you factor in all of Jack's major hit singles occurred within an 8 year time span, it puts into perspective of just how popular he truly was. I have a theory as to why he didn't have as many Top-10 singles as he could have had and it has to do with music industry politics and the various changes that were taking place in country music right at the time he hit it big in 1967...but there's no denying that for the next 6 years he was one of the biggest singers in country music and the statistics speak for themselves.

After 1974 he had just two singles manage to climb above #50 on the country singles chart...both of these singles arrived in 1980 with one of them climbing into the Top-30 and it's my assumption that the unexpected Top-30 success of the single was treated more or less as a fluke and perhaps as a response against the Urban Cowboy trend because it was during this era that 1950's and 1960's recording artists who hadn't been in the Top-10 for quite awhile were experiencing airplay revivals. Eddy Arnold reached the Top-10 in the early '80s, a full decade after having his last Top-10 singles in 1969. Hank Snow had a couple of singles reach the country Top-40 during the same 1979/1980 era. Snow's previous Top-10 had been the surprise #1 "Hello Love" in 1974. Hank Thompson was another artist in 1979/1980 that had not had a Top-40 single for several years (going back to 1974) but suddenly he found himself on the Top-40 country singles chart twice during that '79/'80 time frame.

Jack Greene remained a vital part of the Grand Ole Opry, having joined in 1967, and lasting through his retirement in 2011 some 44 years later.

Jack Greene's Top-10 singles are as follows:

1966: There Goes My Everything - hit #1 the last week of 1966 and remained at the top for six more weeks through January the following year.
1967: All The Time - hit #1
1967: What Locks the Door - Top 5
1968: You Are My Treasure - hit #1
1968: Love Takes Care of Me - Top 5
1969: Until My Dreams Come True - hit #1 for 2 weeks
1969: Statue of a Fool - hit #1
1969: Back in the Arms of Love - Top 5
1970: Wish I Didn't Have to Miss You (with Jeannie Seeley) - Top 5

**Between 1970 and 1973 Jack placed 7 singles in the country Top-20 before returning to the Top-10 a final time.**

1973: I Need Somebody Bad - Top 5 Canada