Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How to Have a Moneymaking Garage Sale Starring Phyllis Diller (RIP)

As a comedian who launched her career at "a certain age," Phyllis Diller never had a shot at the A-list. At least Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Jennifer Jones, Lana Turner, etc. had distinguished heights they could fall from into the horrorshows and drugsploitation to which they were relegated in their advanced years. Such Z-grade fare dominates Diller's IMDb entry. No Mildred Pierces or All About Eves here. Instead, The Fat Spy, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!, Eight on the Lam, Did You Hear the One About the Traveling Saleslady?, films so uniquely awful they seemed designed solely to keep her employed. But when even those opportunities dwindled, there were yet lower depths to plumb. Hence the 1987 infotainment classic How to Have a Moneymaking Garage Sale Starring Phyllis Diller which you can see in its entirety here. If I had guilty pleasures, the fact that I've seen this thing about, oh, 30 times would top the list.
With nary of shot/reverse shot to distract your attention, this 23-minute extravaganza cedes nearly every second to Diller as she walks you through the dos and don'ts of turning your trash into cash. Naturally, it comes equipped with a plethora of corny jokes including a few gems ("When I write my [garage sale] ad, I think of the many scripts I've been offered. Then I write my ad anyway."). And in case you forget to laugh, many of the one-liners are signposted with even cornier whistles and wah-wahs. But Diller delights most in her sheer commitment to this project. With the help of cue cards, she attacks it as if it were, er, Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number!
Most of what she lays down is common sense rendering the entire affair delightfully pointless. For instance, if you're selling a blouse spray painted by a top designer (say, Birgitta of Beverly Hills), then make sure you display the label prominently.
But I did learn some things about pricing. For clothing, Diller figures 1/10 of what she paid is fair. This dress cost $100 new so she's pricing it at $10.
Records she figures at 50 or 75 cents including this one, Pavarotti Salutes Madonna.
For appliances, she asks 1/5 of what it sells for in stores today such as this fine broken lamp.
Some of the advice is inane. Who but Ned Flanders would collect sales tax at a garage sale? But she handles the various garage sale types (The Dollar Guy, The Helpful Neighbor, The Hardliner, etc.) with verve and high humor. The Nitpicker is a flat-out jerk. He complains about how the finish on a TV for sale doesn't really go with his furniture. But instead of telling him "tough crunchies, dude," she reasons with him and gets the $100 she's asking. (For that thing? In dude's defense, that seems way too pricey even back then.)
My favorite customer is a meek fellow for whom line reading must have been a sweat-inducing endeavor. Dig if you will the boom mic at the center catching his 15 seconds.
More than any individual moment, though, what baffles most is that the thing even exists. Who commissioned this and why did Diller agree to become involved? It was produced by Dave Bell Associates, whose filmography is an odd mixture of short subjects and feature films, and copyrighted by J2 Communications. Anyone?

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Sunday, August 05, 2012

Dominic Angerame terminated

A few days ago, I wrote that Dominic Angerame had retired from Canyon Cinema because that is what Canyon's press release stated here. According to Angerame, however, he was unceremoniously terminated. I won't say more because Angerame will release a statement soon. But I will retain the original post with a link here.

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Saturday, August 04, 2012

Female on the Beach (Joseph Pevney, 1955)

Last month saw the redonkulously belated DVD release of Joan Crawford's greatest film, Female on the Beach (Joseph Pevney, 1955), a title which (correct me if I'm wrong) was never released on VHS and has been floating around in copies taped off AMC (I taped my first of many copies off 1980s cable...WOR perhaps?). As far as I know, you can buy it only as part of TCM's Women in Danger: 1950s Thrillers box set along with three other films I've never seen. But, oh Tina, is it ever worth it!

I've already waxed geeky about Female on the Beach here so I'll just say that the DVD looks absolutely gorgeous! So much detail finally lets itself known. I've seen the film about, oh, 75 times and I've never noticed that Queenie Sorenson (Natalie Schafer aka Gilligan Island's Mrs. Howell) has a doggie in her handbag. Look!
The disc has no subtitles/close captioning which is always a shame (does Joan really say "The great god of the senses sparkling on the beach"?). But it contains some nifty bonus features such as behind-the-scenes photos and wardrobe and makeup stills. The latter point to the possibility of deleted scenes. Notice how this test is for a scene in which Joan's character, Lynn Markham, "meets Gomez."
But she doesn't meet Gomez in this scene or in any other. In fact, Gomez appears only in a photograph on beach stud Drummond "Drummy" Hall's (Jeff Chandler, out of drag) boat. Perhaps there's a meeting scene in Universal's vaults? Go get it, TCM!

And here would be a good place to put out a call for any information on the screenwriter, Robert Hill. Not sure if he or co-writer Richard Alan Simmons was responsible for Female on the Beach's eternal zingers ("How do you like your coffee?" "Alone."). But I find Hill's career fascinating. He had some sort of partnership with producer Albert Zugsmith and went on to script even trashier flicks such as Sex Kittens Go to College, The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, Russ Meyer's Fanny Hill, and Confessions of an Opium Eater, the best drug film ever made. But his IMDb entry stops at 1967. What happened to him?

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