I’d be hard pressed to commit to one all time favorite episode of Star Trek (The Original Series). But any list of the Top 5, maybe Top 3, is going to include The Doomsday Machine — which debuted 50 years ago today, October 20, 1967.

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From The Doomsday Machine, Star Trek, l to r: DeForest Kelley as Dr. Leonard McCoy; William Windom as Commodore Matt Decker; William Shatner as Capt. James T. Kirk. The episode debuted 50 years ago tonight, October 20, 1967. Written by Norman Spinard, Directed by Marc Daniels, Created by Gene Roddenberry.

 

This episode has everything that makes Star Trek great — drama, action, humor, and humanity. Oh, the humanity. William Windom’s performance as the doomed Commodore Matt Decker is a knockout. All of the interplay between Decker and the Enterprise crew is memorable — and the Enterprise crew are all at the top of their game. None better than the the tense scene on the Bridge of the Enterprise with command of the ship going back and forth between Spock and Decker while Kirk and Scotty work to get the crippled U.S.S. Constellation back in fighting shape.

Kirk in the green shirt with the insignia at the waist was always a tip off to me of a great episode. At least that’s how it’s lodged in my memory. I just remember as a ten year old kid when an episode started and Kirk was in the green shirt, this is going to be good.

This was a good one. It still is. So, tonight — on the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of The Doomsday Machine — my fourteen year old son and I will sit down to watch the episode together. And watching any Star Trek episode with Sam puts the experience at the top of my list.

By the way, I can’t say how much I love this episode without mentioning Marc Daniels who directed The Doomsday Machine and fourteen other memorable episodes in the original series. He can be forgiven for Spock’s Brain when some of his other assignments include: The Naked Time (Fantastic!); I, Mudd (Hilarious! Green shirt); Mirror, Mirror (Mind blowing! Green shirt); The Changeling (Inspired other episodes and the first movie.); and, Space Seed (Khan! Or, Khhhhhhhaaaaaannnnn!)

 

Here’s the Memory Alpha page for The Doomsday Machine.

 

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I’m not sure why LOGAN LUCKY failed to launch this weekend. Bob Lefsetz has some ideas. But Tracy and I saw it Friday night and loved it. Funny, sweet, and cynical. What’s not to love?

It’s possible that in this politically charged atmosphere the trailer for LOGAN LUCKY came off as a Rorschach test for both Trump Supporters and Trump Opposers — and it signaled to each group that this was the antithesis of what they wanted to see. Unfortunate, because in reality this is just a couple of hours of solid, popcorn movie magic with nary a politically reference.

A few years ago I was pitching a “Redneck Ocean’s 11” around Hollywood. It never failed to get a laugh and attracted some good talent for a while. But then we lost our key element and enthusiasm waned. I would love to have gotten that movie made but lucky for us Steven Soderbergh saw fit to make his own Redneck heist picture.

Peter Bogdanovich devoted 74 pages to Jerry Lewis in his 2004 book, Who The Hell’s In It? (The follow up to 1997’s Who The Devil Made It?) Bogdanovich had a long association with Jerry Lewis beginning with an interview Bogdanovich did with Lewis for Esquire back in the early 60s.

Two things stand out to me today from that chapter on Jerry Lewis – both brought to mind by the news of Lewis’s passing at the age of 91.

The first is a comment Jerry Lewis made at the height of his power and success as a solo writer/director/actor/producer. The young interviewer noticed that the seasoned star always carried a thousand dollars in hundred-dollar-bills (this was in 1960s dollars) and that he loved to shop. Lewis: “I discovered a few years ago that I can’t buy what I really want, so I buy everything else.”

1104_053185_fn153f2-jerry-lewis.jpgJerry Lewis invented “video assist” – the system that allows for instant review of a take on a movie set. It was a cumbersome system cobbled together by mounting a video camera next to the film camera and setting up monitors around the set. All this was extraordinary and not immediately embraced by the Industry. Today, it’s standard operating procedure. And Lewis is universally credited with the concept and execution of the early innovation.

In light of Lewis’s technical prowess and innovativeness (by 60s & 70s standards), I was struck by this poignant comment when, in the spring of 2000, Bogdanovich pointed out that Lewis was still using an electric typewriter.

Lewis: “Hey, I wrote THE NUTTY PROFESSOR (1963) on that thing. I’ve got this terrible loyalty to equipment…because I love progress but I hate change.”

Over a life that spanned 91 years and a career that spanned nearly as long – his parents were itinerant actors and stage performers – Jerry Lewis saw and contributed to a lot of progress and change.

The Summer of ’77

August 16, 2017 — Leave a comment

The Summer of ’77 started with a bang: STAR WARS

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It ended with a thud when news broke over the radio at Echo Valley’s neighborhood pool: Elvis Presley, dead at the age of 42.

In between we saw SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT, read with morbid interest about the Son of Sam as he terrified New York City, and sang Cold as Ice in our cars along with Foreigner.

But I’ll never forget the late afternoon of August 16, 1977. A couple of my friends and I were swimming when the DJ broke into whatever song was playing and made the announcement of the news coming out of Memphis. The half dozen of us at the pool all looked at each other, what did he just say? According to the AP crowds were gathering outside of Graceland. The DJ promised to keep us informed and then he played an Elvis record — even though it’d been a while since Elvis had been a staple of Top 40 Radio.

No social media, no round the clock cable news, no smart phone notifications. Just Elvis songs playing over the radio for the rest of the night and people making their way to the pool to share the moment, talk about the songs, swap some stories, and get in another swim.

Much will be said in the coming days about Martin Landau’s talent and career. It will all be deserved. He was a remarkable actor. Whether you consider actor an art or a craft, he was a master. And he was passionate about it until the end. If you haven’t heard his interview on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast earlier this year, find it now. It’s incredible.

When I started pulling at the thread of what my favorite performance of his might be, the thought was torn open and a dozen titles spilled out before I knew it. His Lugosi in ED WOOD will be talked about — and it should be. Amazing. I never tire of it. CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS — one of the great performances of all time in what is probably in the Top 5 of Woody Allen’s movies. He smolders and menaces in NORTH BY NORTHWEST — leaving little doubt that his character is both loyal to and in love with his boss, Mr. Vandamm.

I love those and a baker’s dozen more that I could rattle off here. But there are a couple of performances a little off the beaten path that I’ll always remember fondly. His work on TV (Mission Impossible, Space 1999) never felt like he was slumming. He became whatever part he played. I loved his turn as twin brothers — both villains — in an episode of Columbo. And I still get a little emotional thinking about what he brought to TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM. It was another well deserved nominated performance.

 

Here’s The Hollywood Reporter’s announcement that Mr. Landau has died.

IndyDay.jpgSee if your favorite patriotic movie made it onto EW’s list.

Thanks and well done to whoever put together this mash up of all the phone messages from the opening credits of the first Season of The Rockford Files. The show — a favorite of mine then and now – debuted on NBC 42 years ago today.