"Gitcher stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!"
With those words Astronaut George Taylor made known to the future ape world he'd been transported to that at least one human was capable of speech. And life would never be the same for him....or them. Or me.
The scene above is, of course, from the 1968 landmark sci-fi film The Planet of the Apes, starring Charlton Heston (as Taylor), Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Linda Harrison, and Maurice Evans.
Last weekend, superstar actor Charlton Heston died at the age of 84. As of his passing, only Linda Harrison remains of that stellar line-up.
Although Heston's career spanned decades from 1941's Peer Gynt to -- with some irony -- an uncredited cameo in Tim Burton's remake of Apes -- and a few small parts after that, my favorite Heston movies of all time fall squarely in a 7-year period between 1968 and 1975: The Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, Earthquake, and Airport 1975. OF COURSE, two exceptions I would be remiss not to mention are his roles in the "big religious pictures", 1956's The Ten Commandments and 1959's Ben Hur (the latter of which won him an Academy Award). While those amazing and immense productions defined Heston as a historical character actor for most of the movie-going population, I always thought his larger-than-life presence equally served the later science-fiction films he was in the weight and authority they deserved and only he could bring them.
"Soylent Green is People...it's Peeeooooppplllleeeeeeee!"
1973's Soylent Green re-united Heston with who would've been his co-star on Apes, Edward G. Robinson. (Originally cast as Dr. Zaius, Edward G. couldn't stand the monkey make-up. The role then went to the very capable Maurice Evans.) In a world plagued by over-population and hunger, Heston is cast as an everyman looking for the origins of the only plentiful foodstuff provided by the government. Hunted down to silence him, Heston stays one step ahead of his adversaries until he ultimately discovers the morbid formula for the once-delectable snack!
All Shook Up Back when star-studded disaster movies were all the rage, Charlton Heston made his mark saving survivors of Earthquake, 1974's "event" movie which featured SENSURROUND that simulated the low-rumbling quakes in your local theater! (I felt these myself when I attended the movie upon its initial release.)
"Read me the Altimeter..." And of course, Airport 1975, Heston saved the passengers of a jumbo jet that had been damaged in mid-air by a collision with a small private plane, by being lowered into the now-open cockpit by helicopter(!!). Taking over the controls from the embattled stewardess (Karen Black), Heston is able to navigate the crippled liner through dangerous mountains to safety. (It is this movie and its predecessor Airport that provided endless fodder for spoof movies like Airplane and the like that came later.)
No obit of Charlton Heston is going to overlook his high-profile championing of gun ownership rights. While this is noteworthy in that it was obviously a cause he passionately supported (as do I), I'm only really interested enough to gloss over it for this piece, as I don't want to get too buried in politics in this memorial.
To best summarize my memory of Charlton Heston the actor, I'd like to quote, in part, Pauline Kael's review of Planet of the Apes from the February 17th, 1968 New Yorker, that put it perfectly: Charlton Heston as the hero. I don't think the movie could have been so forceful or so funny with anyone else. Physically, Heston, with his perfect, lean-hipped, powerful body, is a god-like hero; built for strength, he's an archetype of what makes Americans win. He doesn't play a nice guy; he's harsh and hostile, self-centered and hot-tempered. Yet we don't hate him, because he's so magnetically strong; he represents American power.
Ain't it the truth? It's a madhouse. A MAAAAAAAAADHOUSE!!!!!!!
The Closing of Tampa's Unique Video
Long-time readers might remember for a good while last year the message board featured several forums and dozens of posts related to Tampa's only cult video store, Frank Granda, Jr's, Unique Video and the enthusiastic fandom it seemed to generate. This was followed up by CULT-O-WEEN, the Andy Lalino/Frank Granda staged event where several of us from Crazed Fanboy gathered at the store to talk fandom, watch videos and hopefully meet other fans. We had a great time, and while it wasn't exactly standing-room only, it did mark our first meeting with PCR comic artist John Miller. Later, Frank bought a large ad banner we placed on the CF homepage, and at the same time, arranged for a CF Fan Club Card discount to any and all who applied. I didn't hear from Frank for while (nor Andy, but that's another matter), but I certainly thought things were rosey. I didn't know it until just the past few days that our sincere efforts were apparently too little and too late. Acting on little more than rumor, I asked Lisa Ciurro (FANGRRL) to please do some investigating. She was able to contact Frank and the news wasn't good.
April 1st, 2008, Unique Video closed its doors for business after 21 years. Although the phone answering machine still picks up (presumably until the current phone billing period runs out), it's an old message having to do with going DVD-only. I can't drive by the store myself, but I imagine the videos and shelf racks are gone by now.
In Frank's email response to Lisa's inquiry, a response I characterize as sad, bitter and disappointed, Frank related several reasons for his decision to close the store. Customer traffic had fallen off to near zero. Our joint promotion (along with any others) had evidently gone nowhere. But his second career as a Miami-based radio talk show host and theatrical actor had taken off and he felt more appreciated there than here. And as what I perceive to be the last straw, the landlord in Tampa had raised the rent for the tiny store to astronomical proportions. Great economic times we live in. Frank decided it simply wasn't worth it anymore.
Most of all, Frank seems to feel disappointed and almost betrayed by the supposed Tampa cult-film fan community. I agreed with Lisa not to discuss publicly the play-by-play at the root of his angst (some other time, perhaps), but suffice it to say he feels there's more talk than action here and that his future is brighter in Miami.
There will be no going-out-of-business sale of old cult videos so don't ask. Frank is keeping them for now, but will likely piece them out on eBay.....unless he opens another store, he said (but I'm not holding my breath it'll be anywhere close to Tampa, if it happens).
I sincerely wish Frank Granda, Jr. the best of luck with his new endeavors in Miami, and sorry to hear things worked out the way they did (we are in a sh*tty economy). Maybe, in time, Frank, you can have another go at it.
Introducing "Sports Talk"
As long-time readers know, I ask just about everyone in my orbit at one time or another to take a stab at becoming a PCR writer, at least people who I think can handle it. I dunno, I guess it helps me form a more solid sense of community and family. And, of course, while I've had some terrific successes with that, experience has shown that sometimes that works and sometimes it doesn't. Doesn't stop me from wanting to try new things.
And as you all also know, I've never been really strong on sports chat (mainly being that I'm not really a sports fan myself), but from time to time have entertained the idea of supporting a sports column here. It's pop culture and certainly has fandom. We've had some fairly brazen attempts in the past: Chris Woods' wrestling article a few months back, and if we go waaaaay back, my former work partner George Streets (aka "G-Money") threw in some thoughts on pro basketball. These were all worthy, but predictably short-lived pieces. (I'm not ignoring Mike Smith's excellent sports sections in his weekly Rant, you know -- but he's got enough on his plate.)
Despite the unpredictability of who one encounters on the graveyard shift, I've been lucky the last couple years to be scheduled with some interesting work partners. One of them, Christopher Munger, has been working with me only a few months, but I saw possibilities in him (always on the lookout that I am, haha). He and I began to discuss a regular sports column.
So....the first edition of "Sports Talk" appears in this week's issue of PCR as a Guest Editorial, for one, to let Chris get his feet wet on what it takes to do this and what to expect as far as reactions, and two, to give me time to format a header/banner to go at the pagetop to his column.
I hope you like Sports Talk. Let me know. (And I know you will, haha.)