POW! Classic Film Stars Reimagined as Comic Book Heroes

BATAs Hollywood maps out a future almost entirely reliant on superhero movies – the soft opening of Marvel’s ANT-MAN notwithstanding – it’s important to remember that comic books were not always on Hollywood’s A-list.

In their first live-action screen incarnations in the 1940s, superstars like Batman and Superman were relegated to low-budget, Saturday morning adventure serials produced by Columbia Pictures and marketed primarily to children. The often unintentionally hilarious cliffhangers found our heroes battling low-rent, contemporary bad guys – Batman fights a Japanese scientist played by J. Carroll Naish in yellowface in his 1943 debut – and, while they’re fun to watch ironically today, they bear little resemblance to what was to come.

It took the ratings success of ABC’s twice-weekly TV series to bring the Caped Crusader back to movie screens (courtesy of 20th Century Fox) in BATMAN (1966), but that was more campy comedy than action-adventure. And after George Reeves’ Adventures of Superman defined the character for a generation of TV viewers (first during its 1952-58 run, then in two decades of syndicated reruns), Richard Donner’s SUPERMAN (1978) finally brought the last son of Kypton to feature films (from Warner Bros., corporate cousin of DC comics since 1989).

But what if that wasn’t the case? What if superheroes had been as integral to classic film as they are to today’s movies?

BATMAN_byJoePhillipsJoe Phillips has an idea of what that might have looked like. The San Diego-based artist, a veteran of comic book titles like Wonder Woman and Superboy, has drawn a series of stunningly gorgeous posters recasting Studio Era stars as comic book icons. He calls the work Silver Screen Heroes, and it’s the stuff classic Hollywood dreams are made of.

“I am a huge classic film fan,” Phillips told me via Facebook message. “It certainly influenced my work and how I craft stories with pictures.”

Imagine Cary Grant as Batman, Gregory Peck as Superman, James Cagney as the Hulk, Buster Crabbe as Aquaman, Marilyn Monroe as Power Girl, Clark Gable as Iron Man, and Humphrey Bogart as Hellboy. The mind reels. Then thrown in a rogues’ gallery of villains, including Katharine Hepburn as a whip-wielding Catwoman, Yul Brynner as Lex Luthor, Danny Kaye as the Joker, and Shirley MacLaine as wise-cracking Harley Quinn.

While all of this is unfortunately entirely fictional, Phillips does a great job of retro casting, matching frequent co-stars in era-appropriate vehicles. Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland co-star in TEEN TITANS, the most action-packed 1930s musical MGM never made. Real-life husband and wife William Powell and Carole Lombard team up in a spooky, sexy Pre-Code production of DOCTOR STRANGE. And Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman join forces for a Eisenhower era WONDER WOMAN – quite a departure from their 1958 co-starring vehicle CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF.

I’ll admit to losing patience with the ponderous, violent epics that superhero movies have become, particularly in the DC universe. But imagine Cary Grant vs. Gregory Peck in BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN with a cameo by Elizabeth Taylor? Somebody please invent a time machine.

Phillips is offering limited edition 11×17″ signed prints of the Silver Screen Heroes series for sale. Only 10 of each are available. Visit his eBay page for more info. And a big hat tip to Andrew Wheeler of Comics Alliance, where I first learned of this project. 


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It’s a Wonderful Podcast

CLARThis week marks the third anniversary of Cinematically Insane, and nobody is more surprised than I am – except maybe my accountant, who advised me to stop working for free years ago.

Not all advice is meant to be heeded, of course, even if it’s for the best. But here’s a suggestion I think any classic film fan will appreciate: subscribe to the Attaboy Clarence podcast.

Named for the final line spoken by Jimmy Stewart in Frank Capra’s IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, this audio celebration of 1930s and ’40s movies and radio shows launched last January and has delivered a Jack Benny-esque 39 episodes so far. Every week or so, host Adam Roche (a Brit who works as a chef by day) chats enthusiastically – and often hilariously – about his recent film discoveries, most of which are the sort of rarities or genre classics I love. Films are often shared on the show’s website, where you can watch them for free (there’s that word again).

Attaboy+Clarence+Podcast+ArtworkEach episode also includes one or two vintage radio shows, often related to films discussed. For example, this week’s installment is a salute to James Cagney, and after a discussion of LADY KILLER (1933), GREAT GUY (1936) and THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE (1941), Adam plays a 1948 episode of Suspense featuring Cagney. It’s all great stuff, made even more enjoyable by the host’s dry British wit and his tendency to milk unintentionally hilarious classic radio commercials for comedy.

The show frequently makes me chuckle out loud, and one episode reduced me to tears of laughter on the subway late at night (whereupon my car-mates slowly moved away from me as if I were a pungent homeless man). It’s also extraordinarily well-produced, which is always a nice surprise in the world of non-professional podcasting.

New+ArtworkAs if that wasn’t enough, Roche has recently launched a second podcast series called The Secret History of Hollywood, which is also very much worth your time. These episodes focus on a single era, topic or classic Hollywood figure and can run for multiple hours (perfect for long car rides, unexpected incarcerations, or boring work days). The Secret History has focused on Universal horror movies, Pre-Code films, Sherlock Holmes, and Disney and an on-going series on Alfred Hitchcock has already passed the ten-hour mark (with more to come). Unlike the often raucous Clarence, the spin-off is a more sober affair, unfolding in a narrative non-fiction style that’s as engaging and well-researched as any written history of the era I’ve read.

And best of all, you can jump into either show from the current episode without feeling like to have to listen to all you’ve missed (though you’ll probably want to).

So let me amend my above advice and suggest you subscribe to two podcasts: Attaboy Clarence and The Secret History of HollywoodAnd let’s hope that Adam doesn’t take my accountant’s advice any time soon.


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Screening Report: THE KILLERS (1946) at the HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

sherlockThere are many things I like to do outside; watching movies isn’t one of them. Especially in New York City. Especially in the summer.

The popularity of outdoor screenings has always baffled me: humidity; bugs; no seats; imperfect projection; ambient noise/light; shady bathrooms (if any); and throngs of annoying people chatting with annoying friends about their annoying lives during the film. Any one of these would be a deal breaker; together they’re like a conspiracy by people I don’t like to ruin something I do.

Technically precise presentation of a film is an art form, and that sort of thing is becoming rare today, even in movie theaters. So why would I choose to see a film in the one place that’s worse than a contemporary multiplex?

Because of a dame. 

“Somebody on Facebook said they’re showing an old film noir in the park tonight,” my girlfriend said last Monday. “You wanna go?”

Much as I love Maggie, she doesn’t share my mania for old movies. So anytime she suggests we watch one together, it’s a game-changer. Plus, thanks to TCM’s Summer of Darkness series, I’ve watched more film noir in the last month than in the previous 540 (give or take). Peeking over my shoulder, avoiding dark alleys, and being prepared for random violence is part of my daily life as a New Yorker, so what better reason to rescind my No Outdoor Screenings policy than to see one of the most iconic noirs on a big screen in the middle of the Big Apple?

lancaster6So, with my emotional baggage – and my own personal femme fatale – in tow, I attended a screening of Robert Siodmak’s THE KILLERS in Manhattan’s Bryant Park last week. The 1946 film was the second of ten screenings to be presented by HBO in the park this summer – and yes, despite the fact that I’ve lived in New York City since 1992, this is the first time I’ve gone to the Bryant Park Summer Film Festival in its 23 years of existence.

Because when I don’t like something, I don’t like something.

The show is advertised as beginning at dusk, so we arrived shortly before 9 p.m and found the football field-sized Bryant Park green patch-worked to capacity with blankets and towels. While chairs aren’t allowed on the green, there were plenty of them scattered along the perimeter on three sides along with small, round, folding tables and a few fixed benches.

After a bag check by a staffer who copped a half-hearted feel of just one of the dozens of pockets in my backpack, we grabbed a bench corner and sat down. (I guess I don’t look suspicious enough, which is definitely something I need to work on if I want to build my noir bona fides.)

First impression: the crowd was delightfully diverse, with New Yorkers of all ages and ethnicities caring enough about a black-and-white film to show up, and show up early. This was a nice change from the typical repertory cinema crowd, which is almost entirely white, middle-aged or older, and flying solo (and yes, I’m usually all of the above).

Like with the Old Movie Weirdos who bring all manner of outside edibles to rep screenings, food is a key component of the outdoor film experience. But unlike the rep crowd, the park audience didn’t crinkle their plastic bags throughout the film, nor did they stink up the joint with homemade liverwurst sandwiches they’d been carrying in their pockets. Pizza was a popular choice at Bryant Park, perhaps because a single item will serve a group without the need for cutlery or Biblical miracles. Wine also flowed copiously, furthering the Scriptural vibe.

The sun finally dipped behind the Time Square skyscrapers and the show began with a series of trailers for upcoming theatrical releases, including one for PIXELS, a Columbia film. This was a welcome surprise, considering that sponsor HBO is a corporate cousin of Warner Bros. Then the lights were dimmed and a cheer rose from the assemblage as Bugs Bunny appeared on screen.

Screen Shot 2015-07-10 at 7.04.08 PMHere’s a tip: if you’re trying to win me over, show me a Bugs Bunny cartoon, particularly LITTLE RED RIDING RABBIT, a 1946 short from director Friz Freleng. This was one of my favorite Looney Tunes (actually, Merrie Melodies) shorts when I was a kid, and I can still quote it verbatim. There’s nothing better than watching Bugs Bunny entertain a crowd of thousands of people of all ages, and as I watched kids around me laughing at the same jokes that cracked me up 40 years ago, I felt warmth in that frozen chamber that used to house my heart.

And then I snapped out of it.

“But why are there kids at a 1946 film noir?” I asked my girlfriend.

“Because it’s a nice night,” Maggie answered. “And it’s free.”

“Well, they probably won’t like it,” I complained.

“Be quiet, Grampa. The movie is starting.”

And then the film began, preceded by the circa 1983 HBO intro that still gets me excited 3o-plus years later. As the title characters (Charles McGraw and William Conrad) enter a small town diner searching for The Swede (Burt Lancaster), police cars sped down Sixth Avenue, sirens squealing. The crowd laughed in unison, as New York City played an unplanned role in the film and the audience’s experience of it.

GGGThe deliberate pacing of THE KILLERS and the back-and-forth flashback structure makes it not the best choice for a venue with a built-in distraction factor. And there was a certain amount of attrition among the attendees, especially those with kids, as we approached 11 p.m. on a week night. But, the vast majority of the audience stayed in place and was remarkably attentive throughout the film’s 97-minute running time. I guess it doesn’t hurt when you have Lancaster and Ava Gardner on screen to hold your attention.

People were also surprisingly well-behaved, considering that attendance was pretty much open to anyone. The park’s tree-lined borders did a good job of blocking ambient light, and the projected image on the screen looked remarkably sharp and appropriately shadowy. (I’m not sure of screening format, but it wasn’t 35 mm.) Sound was crisp as well, with the dialogue (and Miklos Rozsa’s rousing score) as audible near the back of the greeen as it was in the front.

Look, I’m not going to jog down the streets of New York City like George Bailey proclaiming my love for outdoor movies. I’m always going to choose the comfortable theater, with the expensive projector and a toilet that’s not housed in a plastic box. But anything that gets new eyes on classic film is okay in my book.

After the film, as Maggie and I were headed toward the subway, I noticed a tween and and his father chatting.

“…and CHINATOWN is playing in August, so we should definitely see that,” the kid said, as they headed west on 40th Street.

Maybe that kid was the rare pre-teen classic film fan. Or maybe he, and a few others, learned on that summer night that old movies aren’t just for Old Movie Weirdos.

The HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival continues on Monday, July 13 with I’M NO ANGEL (1933) starring Mae West and Cary Grant. For more information, visit the website


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The Netflix Classics Massacre of 2015

mara_Corday-screamsUpdated 7/6/15

The comings and goings on Netflix Instant have become headline news for every site on the Internet, with monthly additions and subtractions reported with near-Kardashian fervor.

But as Americans dim their digital devices and hit the beaches and barbecues this holiday weekend, the world’s most popular streaming service is making some changes nobody is talking about. On Sunday July 5, Netflix is quietly purging more than 200 movies, TV shows and documentaries from its library without warning or explanation. No genre or era is immune from these expirations, with classic films (as always) taking the hardest hit. Even Netflix’s usually secure collection of Pre-1930 titles is facing the ax, with 19 silent movies reportedly disappearing Sunday at midnight (local time – Netflix rolls their expirations out across the time zones).

“It’s a massacre,” said David Speranza of What’s On Netflix Now, a curated blog that tracks what’s notable on the streaming service. “The (previous) big purges were always noted by the media, but this one has been done off-schedule so no one notices.”

Netflix typically doesn’t announce impending deletions (which usually have to do with licensing expirations), so Speranza does his own research and relies on reporting from eagle-eyed readers. Speranza’s site first reported this news on Friday, and updates continue to flow in in the comments.

“Netflix is increasingly stingy about sharing this info, but this is unprecedented, because it’s being done so sneakily,” he added via direct message. “They’ve been dropping more and more titles without any notice at all.”

Poster_-_Quiet_Man,_The_01Admittedly, many of the films disappearing in this purge are obscure and unlikely to be missed by many. But these expirations are in addition to the hundreds of titles that left the service at the end of the June, including THE QUIET MAN (1952), THE APARTMENT (1960), THE GRADUATE (1967), THE ODD COUPLE (1968), PATTON (1970) and TAXI DRIVER (1976). While high profile older films like these routinely cycle in and out, it’s the niche titles that are increasingly being shown the door.

That’s bad news for fans of any retro content, but classic TV lovers have reason to be be concerned by a spate of recent deletions.

As Netflix directs financial resources toward in-house productions like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Bloodline, Grace and Frankie, and Marvel Comics spin-offs it can control in all the markets it serves, classic TV reruns licensed on a territory-by-territory basis are increasingly becoming an endangered species.

In June the streamer axed all episodes of the original Mission: Impossible (1966-1972) and the first ten seasons of Hawaii Five-O (1968-1979), along with Knight Rider (1982-1985), the ABC mini-series The Winds of War (1983), Beauty and the Beast (1987-1989), Amazing Stories (1985-1986), Wings (1990-1996), Young Indiana Jones (1992-1993), and Melrose Place (1992-1998).

And the bloodletting continues this month with Dragnet (1967-1970) and Miami Vice (1984-1988) nabbing their last perps on July 14 and Leave it to Beaver (1957-1962), ADAM-12 (1968-1975), Quincy M.E. (1976-1983, and Magnum P.I. (1980-1988) streaming off into the sunset on July 29. All told, that’s nearly 2,000 episodes of classic TV that will disappear from Netflix Instant in just four weeks.

The good news is that many of these shows are still available via Amazon Instant, iTunes and other VOD services, but you’ll have to pay to own them, per-episode or per-season. And that’s increasingly the digital business model for all but the best-known classic films and shows. As daily Netflix viewership threatens to exceed that of broadcast TV,  rights holders are increasingly fighting back by diverting content they control to branded subscription portals like CBS All Access, which now streams Mission ImpossibleHawaii Five-0, Beauty and the BeastMelrose Place, and Wings. (Note that while the latter two didn’t originally air on CBS, they were produced by corporate cousin Paramount and are now controlled by CBS Television Distribution.)

Ironically, as streaming transforms the TV business, the classic films and reruns that were once inexpensive fodder for programmers may end up costing fans more than they bargained for.


July 5 pre-2000 GOINGs (Note: updated 7/6/15 with additional expirations (titles w/out links). 

ORPHANS1920s (Silent) – 17
Fantômas II: Juve vs. Fantômas (1913)
Fantômas III: The Murderous Corpse (1913)
Fantômas IV: Fantômas vs. Fantômas (1914)
Fantômas V: The False Magistrate (1914)
Cabiria (1914)
The Doll (1919)
Harakiri (1919)
Anna Boleyn (1920)
Sumurun (1920)
Orphans of the Storm (1921)
The Wildcat (1921)
Warning Shadows (1923)
The Hands of Orlac (1924)
Strike (1925)
The Beloved Rogue (1927)
Tempest (1928)
A Throw of Dice (1929)

1930s – 4
Earth (1930, Silent)
The Struggle (1931)
Happiness (1935, Silent)
Rhodes of Africa (1936)

1940s – 6 
Charley’s Big Hearted Aunt (1940)
I Thank You (1941)
Allotment Wives (1945)
Fashion Model (1945)
My Brother’s Keeper (1948)
Once a Jolly Swagman (1949)

1950s – 23 
Prelude to Fame (1950)
So Young, So Bad (1950)
The Rocking Horse Winner (1950)
Meet Me Tonight (1952)
Egypt by Three (1953)
The Large Rope (1953)
Canyon Crossroads (1955)
Simba (1955)
The Boss (1956)
Checkpoint (1956)
Emergency Hospital (1956)
Flight to Hong Kong (1956)
Three Bad Sisters (1956)
Dangerous Exile (1957)
Hell Bound (1957)
Just My Luck (1957)
Monkey on My Back (1957)
Machete (1958)
The Mugger (1958)
Violent Playground (1958)
Counterplot (1959)
The Last Mile (1959)
Pier 5, Havana (1959)

awfuldrorlof1960s – 28 
Cage of Evil (1960)
The Music Box Kid (1960)
September Storm (1960)
Vice Raid (1960)
The Cat Burglar (1961)
The Clown and the Kid (1961)
A Cold Wind in August (1961)
Flame in the Streets (1961)
Mary Had a Little (1961)
All Night Long (1962)
The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)
The Sadistic Baron von Klaus (1962)
Incident in an Alley (1962)
Bitter Harvest (1963)
The Ceremony (1963)
Escape from Hell Island (1963)
It’s All Happening (1963)
It’s All Over Town (1963)
That Kind of Girl (1963)
Day of the Nightmare (Don’t Scream, Doris Mays) (1965)
Primitive London (1965)
Knives of the Avenger (1966)
David Holzman’s Diary (1967)
Dr. Orlof’s Monster (1967)
Killers Three (1968)
The Mini-Skirt Mob (1968)
It Rains in My Village (1968)
Confessions of Tom Harris (1969)

1970s – 21 
Gentlemen in White Vests (1970)
Hatchet for the Honeymoon (1970)
Leo the Last (1970)
Love 600 (Stehaufmadchen; Jill in the Box) (1970)
Die Screaming, Marianne (1971)
Burke and Hare (1972)
Face Off (Winter Comes Early) (1972)
Crimson (1973)
The Diamond Hunters (1975)
Flying Devils (1975)
Someone I Touched (1975)
Deadly Hero (1975)
The Belle of Amherst (1976)
Brotherhood of Death (1976)
Crime and Passion (1976)
Million Dollar Rip-Off (1976)
Cracking Up (1977)
Mad Bull (1977)
Terraces (1977)
The Getting of Wisdom (1978)
On the Yard (1978)

WELLES1980s – 27 
The Club (1980)
For the Love of It (1980)
Joe Dancer: The Big Black Pill (1981)
Joe Dancer: The Big Trade (1981)
Joe Dancer: The Monkey Mission (1981)
Leave ‘Em Laughing (1981)
Maya (1982)
The American Snitch (1983)
Camera Afrique (1983)
Chinese Boxes (1984)
A Matter of Sex (1984)
Where is Parsifal? (1984)
Condor (1986)
The Eleventh Commandment (1986)
Revolt (1986)
I Love New York (1987)
Keys to Freedom (1988)
The Family Album (1988)
Goodbye, Supermom (1988)
In Dangerous Company (1988)
The Last of England (1988)
Never on Tuesday (1988)
Cold Feet (1989)
Lady in a Corner (1989)
Lost in New York (1989)
Marked for Murder (1989)
Ministry of Vengeance (1989)

1990s – 30
The Day We Met (1990)
Dead Sleep (1990)
Assassin of the Tsar (1991)
Shoot (1991)
Almost Blue (1992)
A Demon in My View (1991)
Intimate Stranger (1991)
Carry on Columbus (1992)
Hammer Down (1992)
Primary Motive (1992)
Rain Without Thunder (1992)
Those Secrets (1992)
And God Spoke (1993)
The Nostradamus Kid (1993)
Dead Beat (1994)
…At First Sight (Two Guys Talkin’ About Girls) (1995)
Destination Vegas (1995)
Hourglass (1996)
Nobody’s Business (1996)
Where Truth Lies (1996)
Cupid (1997)
Flipping (1997)
Honeymoon (1997)
The Roe’s Room (1997)
Frogs for Snakes (1998)
Pete’s Meteor (1998)
After the Rain (1999)
Beautiful People (1999)
The Fumbleheads (1999)

There are also more than 60 post-2000 expirations including episodes of the Ken Burns documentaries Jazz (2001), The National Parks (2009) and The Dust Bowl (2012), as well as other PBS content. For the complete list visit What’s on Netflix Now. This story was updated July 5 with clarifying information. For some background on how Netflix decides what stays and what goes, read this

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San Diego Movie House Launches 24-Hour Noir-A-Thon Fundraising Campaign

THISSFilm noir usually spins tales of extreme behavior in the service of vice. Today in San Diego, two film buffs will push themselves to the limit to use the genre for something virtuous.

Beginning at the noirish hour of 3:00 a.m.(PT), Miguel Rodriguez and Beth Accomando will lock themselves inside the movie theater they co-founded and jointly program for a 24-hour Noir-A-Thon fundraiser. Rodriguez (an educator and podcaster) and Accomando (a KPBS Arts reporter) will watch all 14 films in Turner Classic Movies’ day-long Summer of Darkness series on the big screen at the Film Geeks at the Digital Gym Cinema, and cinephiles from across the country are invited to pledge their support to the indie movie house with cold, hard cash (or jack, as they say in noir) via the campaign’s Indiegogo page.

TCM has pledged to match every donation dollar-for-dollar, up to the $5,000 campaign goal. Plus, everyone who donates any amount during the 24 hour noir binge will receive an exclusive TCM Summer of Darkness button. 

The-File-on-Thelma-Jordon“Classic films are a big part of what we program at the theater, so having TCM’s support in this is an honor,” Rodriguez told me via email. “The funds will go toward supporting our mission to provide a home for independent, fringe, educational, and arthouse cinema, and to provide an exhibition center for creators and filmmakers from around the globe.”

Rodriguez and Accomando will live tweet their marathon – “the only time we’ll ever pull out our phones in the theater,” Rodriguez promises – and supporters can check in on them on YouTube, where they’ll be posting thoughts on the films. Locals are also invited to join in the fun at the Cinema beginning at 10 a.m., with free beer and pizza for all at 9 p.m. as they approach the home stretch.

“We’re not leaving until it’s over,” Rodriguez said. “Unless one of us gets bumped off.”

To join me in supporting the Film Geeks at the Digital Gym Cinema visit their Indiegogo page. For a complete TCM Summer of Darkness programming schedule, click here


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Where You Can Watch The Dukes Of Hazzard – And Why You Should

hiNothing makes me want to do something more than somebody telling me I can’t. And apparently I’m not alone in that sentiment.

After my reporting of TV Land’s cancellation of The Dukes of Hazzard Tuesday kicked off a national media frenzy a day later, the suddenly-controversial TV series has jumped to the top of the Amazon sales charts. DVDs of the 1979-85 CBS series now occupy the six top slots on the DVD Best Sellers list, with a collection of two reunion movies charting at number 12.

For fans who disagree with TV Land’s decision to pull the show – and, based on the traffic this site has gotten in the last few days, there’s a lot of them – this is great news. Now for the bad news: season 1 and season 4 are already out of stock, and you’ll have to wait as long as two weeks for the e-tailer to ship the other five.

Perhaps sensing an opportunity, Amazon is streaming the 1979 Dukes pilot episode free of charge. You’ll have to endure some commercials in return for a free lunch at the Boar’s Nest, but the episode is uncut and in its original 4:3 aspect ratio (unlike the remastered, widescreen versions TV Land had been airing).

BossIn fact, Amazon streams all seven seasons of the series, but unlike the thousands of TV shows and movies included with their $99 Prime membership annual fee, a visit to Georgia’s fictional Hazzard County is gonna cost you a little something extra. Digital copies of individual episodes are priced at $1.99, or you can buy a full season for $19.99 (most of which goes to Boss Hogg, I assume).

Now let’s run the numbers.

Collecting the complete series of The Dukes of Hazzard on DVD (which will require paying a mark-up to a third party seller for the first season) will cost you at least $215 (plus shipping). Buying the series electronically from Amazon nets out at about $140.

Best of all, you can watch the episodes on your TV using an easy-to-set-up Internet streaming player. (I’d recommend a Roku, which is the most transformative piece of consumer electronics I’ve ever owned.) The shows are commercial-free and you can watch them whenever and wherever you want, using Amazon’s apps for your iOS or Android tablets and phones.

As a 10-year-old in 1979, the automotive slapstick of cousins Bo, Luke, and Daisy, their Uncle Jessie, and chief antagonist Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane was a weekly ritual for me. Is the show silly? You bet. Intentionally so. Is it racist? I watched it for years and that thought never occurred to me. It still doesn’t, and I’m about as liberal as they come. But as I’ve learned over the years, affection for classic TV and film can make strange political bedfellows.

This country needs to engage in a serious national dialogue about race, but that conversation has very little to do with The Dukes of Hazzard. I respect the perspectives of those who take issue with use of the Confederate flag in any context, but I’d encourage folks to revisit The Dukes of Hazzard before they dismiss it as a racist relic. There’s a line the narrator (country music legend Waylon Jennings) says in the pilot episode that I think sums up seven years of storytelling:

The Duke family was in the whiskey business 50 years before the Declaration of Independence. They fought everybody from the British to the Confederacy to the U.S. government to stay in it.

It’s that rebellious spirit that appealed to me a kid, and still resonates for many audience members today. Focusing only on the roof of a car misses the forrest for the trees and it demeans a vital issue with a nonsensical sidebar.

But perhaps more importantly, this sort of revisionist censorship runs the risk of having a chilling effect on access to all classic film and television. Because anything that’s old is going to include portrayals and perspectives that may be problematic to contemporary sensibilities. Instead of burying beloved classics on the Internet or in museums, let’s watch and learn from them.

The fight to save classic film and TV has begun, and that fight may just have started in Hazzard County.


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TV Land Pulls “The Dukes of Hazzard”

firstBo and Luke Duke may be “makin’ their way the only way they know how.” But that’s just a little bit more than TV Land will allow.

The Viacom-owned cable network quietly removed The Dukes of Hazzard from their programming schedule yesterday in the wake of recent controversy regarding the show’s extensive use of the Confederate flag. The 1979-85 series had been airing twice daily at 4:36 p.m. and 5:38 p.m. (ET) and, according to listings at TV Guide.com, was scheduled to continue in that slot. The classic Western Bonanza will now air in its place.

A TV Land spokesperson confirmed via email that the series has been removed from the schedule, but offered no further comment.

Thirty years after the CBS hit rode off into the Georgia sunset, The Dukes made headlines once again last week when Warner Bros. (which produced the series and still retains the rights) announced they would no longer license the show’s Confederate flag-emblazoned 1969 Dodge Charger (known as The General Lee). An on-line petition has since been launched by fans, arguing the series “was about family values, fighting corruption, helping friends, neighbors and even strangers… no matter what color they were.” Ben Jones (who played Cooter) also posted a defense of the series (and the flag) on Facebook.

Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 1.14.23 PMTV Land, which began life in 1996 as a destination for retro reruns, has been seeking recently to shed its classic TV identity. The channel announced a rebranding on June 23, seeking to “overhaul of the network’s brand identity to complement a slate of new, original programming.” TV Land made its first foray into originals with the Golden Girls-esque sitcom Hot in Cleveland in 2010, but broke through this year with Younger, a comedy-drama about a forty-something (Sutton Foster) posing as a Millennial.The Darren Starr-produced series broke ratings records for the channel and attracted a more youthful demographic, including a 180% gain among women 18-34 in primetime.

Country Music Television (CMT) had also been airing The Dukes of Hazzard recently, but a quick check of their website indicates no scheduled broadcasts. CMT is also owned by Viacom.

There’s no word on whether or not The Dukes of Hazzard will return to TV, but all 145 episodes remain available on DVD and for VOD streaming on Amazon Instant for $19.99 per season.

Where you Can Watch The Dukes of Hazzard – And Why You Should

Hat tip to TV Classics ‘R Us and the Classic TV Shows Facebook page, which first reported this news. 


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