Sunday, February 28, 2010

Michael Gough

Michael Gough, 93, is a man everyone has seen, either on film or television. He’s probably one of the most successful character actors out there. His name is in over 171 credits! Now, you’re probably thinking, “Alex, please, he’s just one of those actors you’ve become fixated on.” Sort of true, but then again, I’ve known this actor’s filmography for years and he still amazes me. So let’s get his most famous works out of the way (to prove I’m right about the above statement) and then move to his prolific but little known works. 

For Americans, most people would identify him as Alfred, Bruce Wayne’s trusted butler in the original Batman film franchise. Starting his role in 1989 in Tim Burton’s “Batman” he became the best “Alfred” in my opinion. Michael Caine has nothing on this man. Even after Burton left the franchise, Gough stayed until the dreaded “Batman and Robin.” He would work again with Burton when Burton asked him to play a character in “Sleepy Hollow” (1999), effectively pulling Gough out of a very short retirement. Gough then lent his voice in “Corpse Bride” (2005) and will be seen/heard in “Alice in Wonderland,” coming out next week. I have a feeling Burton likes Gough, too.

Now here’s where else I’ve seen him and come to love his other works. I am a huge fan of Hammer Horror Films, a British film production company that released B-level horror movies that have become classics. After seeing his almost grandfatherly performance as Alfred, it was a shock to see him as a villain! It was like a breath of fresh air to see such class and elegance in a villain. I first watched him in “Horror of Dracula” (1958), as a very young, haughty English aristocrat. I loved watching him act opposite Christopher Lee who played the dreaded Count Dracula. Lee towered over Gough, but Gough’s character never let on that it bothered him. He played another aristocrat villain, a Lord, in “The Phantom of the Opera” (1962) staring Herbert Lom. If you want to see a very trippy version of "Phantom" this is the movie for you! To be fair, it is the farthest from Leroux's story as imaginatively possible. I still liked it but then again I do have odd taste. [I can go on with about 20 other "Phantom" movies, but I'll leave that for another day.]

 Now I was looking up old “Doctor Who” episodes, trying to find downloads or clips on YouTube, when I spied his name in a list of Doctor Who Villains. I’ve been on a Doctor Who spree, watching anything I can get my hands on before I fall asleep at night (practically the only time when I can watch my cult stuff). I love watching the classic shows of the 60s. Gough played the “Toymaker” a villain of the First Doctor (William Hartnell)! I know this is my age showing through, being amazed that he was in the very first seasons of Doctor Who in 1966. Gough then appears in several parts of “Arc of Infinity” with the Fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) in 1983 as a Timelord, Councilor Hedin. From a frightening looking toy maker to a Timelord, this guy knew how to choose his roles well. 

What I’ve written about is only a very, very small part of his impressive resume. I have never seen a bad performance by this man. I’m a bit amazed he’s not more well-known. I know it is because he is a character actor, always in the background, delivering a good performance, and silently stepping away from the fame of “superstars.” He's shown he could act with the best having many roles with screen legends like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Johnny Depp, George C. Scott, and many others. 

What's not to like about a guy who has been in films with names like "Satan's Slave," "Horror Hospital," and "The Corpse?" [You can bet I'll be looking for those films now.] 

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Kids these days...

I don't know why stuff like this surprises me still. The other day a friend posted that a guy, 18, didn't know who David Bowie was. Ok, I could kind of see this happening if you're not really into music. Even then, it's still hard to forgive. It's almost as bad as someone saying they don't know who Queen is. That is certainly unforgivable. Instances like this make me really sad. What kind of culture are these kids learning? They are missing out on so much! It's not like I'm asking him to know who Django Reinhardt is. [Which if you know who that is, I love you.]

This is not even the worst instance of ignorance, willing or born, that I've encountered. I have had people ask me if London was a wonderful country. Well, it's a beautiful city, I replied, wondering if they were kidding. They weren't. Now, I feel for some kids like this. You know because of their situations that they never had the chance and its heart-breaking. Most people like this are pretty quick learners and will try to better themselves. I love people like that. People who have that drive to learn and experience any and everything are people dear to my soul. I've also met the opposite, punk-ass kids who are so damned snotty and stupid, there is no hope. I had a kid tell me he didn't need to know geography because he was never travelling outside California so screw it. He couldn't tell me where Arizona was... It's funny because he looked at me as if I was the dumbass. What the hell kind of attitude is this? What kind of life must they lead? It's absolutely appalling!

What kind of World is shaping with these types of youth? There's no ambition. Bit frightening in my opinion especially if they are suppose to be our "future." Good joke to whoever coined that phrase.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Geek in Me.

"I really love your geekedness. Makes me feel not so odd in my geekedness." -A Good Friend on Twitter

Today I was bored. Like, sitting at the table with nothing to do, gazing out the window, not even anything to tempt me, bored. No book caught my eye. No show could drag me in [though I still need to catch up on "Being Human"]. I couldn't go outside because it was "too cold" and people were worried I'd get sick all over again. I've been sick since last week with a really bad infection, but am on the mend. It really did kick me in the head... and shoved it through a compactor. I casually mention going for a walk, maybe a run, and was told not to. When I stop sounding like a car back-firing, I guess. Gee, I wish there was a social network where I can bitch and complain about being sick and bored...

Anyway, films have always been a good filler. Hell, they usually are the first things I go find when I'm bored. I still have about 50+ films on dvd that I need to watch or re-watch since I watched them in the middle of the night or very early morning. I have a lot of catching up to do. Did I catch up on them today? No, sir! Having the youngest home means having duels over the telly. Then indecision to chose a movie gave way into frustration and so I settled for a crime novel. Read 45 chapters (457 pages) of good detective work and was happy.

After the novel though... Peter O'Toole has always fascinated me due to the company he kept when he was a young man. Oh, he's a good actor, also, but to be the "drinking mate" of such others like the late Richard Burton and Richard Harris? His life is fascinating. There's a casset tape out there in this vast world. It's priceless if it exists. No one knows how many copies there are, if there are copies, and whether the person who made the tape still has it. You see, this tape has a conversation between the aforementioned three men above. They are reportedly talking and having a grand 'ol time. Now here's why the tape is so intriguing and frankly, charming. It's a fraud. None of the aforementioned men are there, none were recorded. One man did all three voices to such utter perfection that when one listened to it, you couldn't tell the difference!
Who was the man you ask?

Well, he's a nobody really. He just won an Oscar for a 15 minute performance of a cannibalistic serial killer that has no equal to this day. If you still don't have any clue on who it is, and God help you, man, if I meet you,
it is the one, the only, Anthony Hopkins. He is not known for mimicry at all as far as I can tell with other movie fans. He's astounding! He's done restoration work for the film, "Spartacus" imitating Laurence Olivier's voice in the missing audio tracks! Am I such a geek to think that all of this and the tape is just outstanding or at the very least interesting?

I can go on tangents on the other's now, but its after midnight and I need my beauty sleep; badly if what the mirror tells me is true. If you're wondering what brought on the sudden barrage of information: this 174 minute film on YouTube (link to Part 1 of 18) which O'Toole stars and the news that Jason Isaacs and David Tennant are going to be in the same film!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The New Beverly

If you don't have a Twitter or don't follow me, go read this link HERE and then continue reading this.

The New Beverly, for those of you who have not had the pleasure, is a small theater in LA, located off of Beverly in Hancock Park. To the causal observer, it may look like a little run-down theater from the 1970s. To a film-nut, it's paradise. The New Bev is nothing like an Edward's or an AMC. Outside, you see the grand marquee letting you know what film or films are playing that night. There's only one box-office where you get your ticket before entering the building. The first thing that hits you when you walk in is the concession stand, or another patron who's squeezed into the area (happens to me a lot). Then you walk into the theater. There is only one theater, not 18, 21 or 30. Quantity does not mean quality. There are maybe a hundred seats or so.

What I love most about this theater is the ability to see the old films I hold dear. Just recently I saw a double-feature of Dracula (1931) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935). There are no other theaters around here that would do the same thing. It's refreshing.

I was happy when I heard Tarantino bought the New Bev. There are only two other people I could think of that would be proper owners of such an establishment. I can't wait to see what kind of programs he's going to introduce and the foreign films he'll show. Knowing an inkling of his tastes, that shit is going to be tight!