Friday, April 24, 2015

Escape Of The Birdmen-Made For TV Movie-Ep. 3


After the vote Harry makes it clear that there can’t be any other escape attempts. Col. Crawford makes it clear to Harry “you get out your way, I’ll get out mine”. Col. Crawford wants to try tunneling in the castle chapel. It’s decided that before a full scale glider is built a model will be built. This way any modifications can be made before the full scale glider is built. Flaherty volunteers to build the “dodo” as he calls it. He works night and day on the model, and in just a matter of days its ready for its one and only flight.13. glider betting pool

The Germans discover that Flaherty is building a model glider, but don’t think anything about it. They even get a bit a chuckle out of the name “Das Dodo”. Sparrow sets up a glider flight pool where fellow prisoners bet on how far the model will fly. The currency is not money, but cigarettes. One cigarette for every foot of flight bet. When the doors to Flaherty's workshop open he marches proudly to the castle wall, holding the model gently in his hands. He walks up the stairs to the spot where he will let it go. Commandant Schiller watches the proceedings with interest. Flaherty dusts off the model, adjusts the tail flaps, and gives it a small kiss before chucking it past the castle walls. To everyone's amazement it soars up, and begins to orbit the castle courtyard. Suddenly the wing strut where wing joins the fuselage breaks. The wing snaps off, and the model plummets to ground just inside the courtyard. Sparrow pays off cigarettes to the winners while Col. Crawford starts telling others “I told you so”.

That evening after dinner the escape committee convenes to try and determine what went wrong. Col. Crawford tries to convince others that the idea will simply not work. Fitz will have none of his bluster. He maintains the model showed where the weak spots are, and that’s all a model is supposed to do. Crawford wants to know why the needed modifications will work. Fitz responds “I’m an engineer. Its my job to make sure they work”. Crawford is

14. its my job to make things work

Its my job to make sure they work

unimpressed and walks out. His actions speak volumes and Tanker submits that the construction of the actual glider would go more smoothly and quicker if he was with the rest of them.

Commandant Schiller notices the change in behavior and strongly suspects that there is a plan to escape. He’s also noticed that Harry is now the officer with the most clout, taking the place of Col. Crawford. He’s also noticed a change in the prisoners which is unsettling: they’re smiling. And from his experience prisoners who smile also plan to escape. Not at all happy at he 

17. no more smiling

There won’t be anymore smiling !

orders Harry to his office. Harry arrives not having a clue why he’s been summoned. Commandant Schiller offers Harry a drink as he’s having one. Harry politely declines the offer. When Harry rejects the commandants offer of civility the commandant gets right to the point. He tells Harry what he’s noticed and what it usually means. To prevent an escape the commandant increases the number of roll calls, and that a prisoner will be selected at random to spend an undetermined amount of time in solitary confinement. If no one tells him what he wants to know he will make things more uncomfortable. Most of all he wants an end to the smiling. Harry feels like he’s just been called to the principals office. After he is dismissed he informs everyone working on the glider.

That night work begins on building a false wall, a wall which will conceal their work from the guards. It’s erected with greater ease than was first thought. Bed slats make up the skeleton of the glider. Tools are fashioned out of what’s available, and when that’s not an option they’re stolen from the plumber who is a frequent visitor to the castle. When an adjustment is made to the wing strut design, Fitz tells Harry. They now need threaded pipe, and only Sparrow can get it. The plumber is replacing the pipes in the prisoners bathroom, and Sparrow becomes friends with the plumber. Soon he is assisting the plumber, but when some pipe mysteriously vanishes the apprenticeship abruptly ends. Tanker cuts the pipe to the proper length using a hacksaw.

Schiller calls an unscheduled roll call, and all the men working on the glider drop what they’re doing, and scramble into the courtyard. Almost everybody is there. Guards are sent to locate and bring the missing prisoner. Col. Morgan Crawford comes running with a green towel wrapped around his waist. Most of the prisoners laugh. Harry doesn’t. When Harry confronts Crawford Crawford says “You gotta stay clean”. When Schiller goes back inside Harry holds up Crawford's hands and says “Try getting the brush closer to your skin”.

18 Crawford is digging

Schiller increases the pressure and now there is a roll call every hour, night and day. Work slows to a snails pace. The men working on the glider can hardly get any work done because of the constant interruptions. Harry notices his friends starting to snap at each other and realizes that something must be done. Work on the glider has reached a point where no one has the option of making a mistake.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Escape of the Birdmen–Made For TV Movie-Ep. 2


With the death of Donnelly the cast is as follows:

903. Chuck Connors   Chuck Connors (The Rifleman, Roots, The Omega Man, Airplane II) plays Col. Morgan Crawford. As the senior officer he is in charge of the escape committee. He talks big, but is more than ready to quit trying to escape and ride out the remainder of the war sitting on his brains. When he’s cleaning up Donnelly (the day Donnelly was released from solitary) he goes out of his way to discourage any and all future escape attempts. Only when other members of the cast protest does he relent.

904. Tom Skeritt-Fitz    Tom Skerritt (War Hunt, Laramie, The Real McCoys, Alien, My Favorite Martian, The Time Tunnel, Pickett Fences, Top Gun) plays Orville Fitzgerald. “Fitz”, as he is known, is an aeronautical engineer and the resident bookworm. When he meets Harry for the first time he openly confesses to having read each book in the camps library at least twice. The prisoners of Bechstadt Castle have nothing to do. Their only occupation is trying to escape.

905. Don Knight - Focus   Don Knight (Combat, Munster Go Home !, The Time Tunnel, Hogan’s Heroes, Swamp Thing) plays “Focus” Flaherty, a quiet Irishman, who is more than content to fly kites. But he’s not above causing his captors more than a few headaches by unleashing his mischievous side. He’s the quiet fellow you’ve got to be on the look out for. Because of his quiet demeanor Don has played more ruthless types than other type of character.

907 Max Baer Jr -Tanker   Max Baer Jr. who plays “Tanker”is perhaps best known as Jethro Bodine. Yet that acting role almost killed his career. The Beverly Hillbillies ran from 1962 to 1971. During that run Max Baer appeared elsewhere only twice, on on Vacation Playhouse in 1963 and in the 1967 Roger Corman film called A Time For Killing. Aside from those two appearances The Birdmen aka Escape of the Birdmen is his first appearance that is not related in any way to the role he performed for nine years.

907a. Greg Mullavey-Sparrow   Greg Mullavey played “Sparrow”. Greg is perhaps better known for small screen appearances. He has appeared on Gomer Pyle: USMC, The Fugitive, The Rat Patrol, Adam-12, Ironside, It Takes A Thief, Hart to Hart as well as 142 other roles. In Escape of The Birdmen he your local scrounger and hustler. He wants to get out, but if can make a buck at the same time that would be even better.

908. Paul Koslo -Davies   Paul Koslo is the only German born member of the entire cast. He plays a character named “Davies” who was blinded in an earlier, British led attempt to get Brevick out of German held Norway, and to Britain or the United States. He started doing films in 1966 called Little White Crimes. He capitalized on his youthful appearance by appearing in the films Vanishing Point and The Omega Man. His television work covers The Incredible Hulk, The A-Team, Matlock, The Fall Guy, and MacGyver.


The movie, taken as a whole, is mildly entertaining, but at the same time understandably forgettable. The entire film is a vehicle for Doug McClure. You know he going to do something pseudo-heroic, but you haven’t got a clue until about forty-five minutes into the film. And that’s when this film takes off. Usually I give a film about ten minutes to “grab me” or interest me. If it doesn’t do so in the allotted time I usually change the channel, or stop watching the TV altogether. This isn’t a film that “grabs you”. It’s a film made up of moments. One sequence makes you want to watch the film until the next “moment” or sequence.

After the death of Donnelly everybody is pretty depressed, and nobody wants to do a damn thing. The “moment” that alerts you that something is going to happen is when Harry drags a weary Olav Valda out of bed to take a look at

10. Swiss Alps

Olav and Harry stare at the Swiss Alps

the Swiss Alps. Early in the film Olav made a comment to Harry that he would like to know what’s going on where his well being is concerned. To fulfill that request Harry tells Olav all about the plan to build a glider. The following day he tells everybody else since he’s going to need everybody's cooperation.

11. not to thrilled at the idea

Everyone seems to like the idea, everyone except Col. Morgan Crawford (Chuck Connors). He thinks the idea is too fantastic. He doesn't have any concrete objections to it outside of the fact that he didn’t think of it. The others, Sparrow, Flaherty, and Tanker all agree that it would increase morale even it doesn’t work. Plus it will give everyone something to do. Fitz has  16. the plan

come up with a plan for the glider. He calls the scheme “too fantastic not to try it”. Even with his ringing endorsement Morgan is against the plan. A vote is taken. Harry has planted the seeds of success. Even though Morgan is against it, Tanker and Flaherty vote for the plan.

12. all in favor

Tanker and Flaherty vote for the plan

Friday, April 17, 2015

Escape Of The Birdmen–Made for TV movie-Ep.1

 

This film is an odd one. Odd primarily because of its title. The DVD cover says “Colditz The Escape of the Birdmen”, yet the film is called simply “The Birdmen”. And I’m pretty sure that when I first saw this film back in 1971 (that’s forty-four years ago) the TV guide called it “The Birdmen Of Beckstadt”.

Charles Aidman The story is fictional, but based on fact. I just wish they would have taken more care with a) the film and b) the transfer to DVD. At the very beginning of the film there are a series of clips that Charles Aidman narrates. Those clips coupled with his narration don’t make a great deal of sense when compared to the rest of the story. Its almost like the DVD started out to be one story, and was changed to a completely different story somewhere in the manufacturing process. The narration does meet up with what's on screen, but ninety percent of the narration could be jettisoned.

I don’t recall the film looking this bad on the tube, but I wasn’t looking for the faults. I was looking at the film. If the film was made in Technicolor that could account for the grubby look of the film. Its dull and in need of some restoration. Colors are muddy and on the DVD if you freeze a frame the sharpness is almost totally gone. Having said that if you remember this was made for TV it is possible that a number of steps in making a good film were skipped. The film allegedly got a theatrical release, but it was only shown in the USA. Canada and Europe got left out. I used the word “allegedly” on purpose. I only found one source that mentioned this. It was not confirmed by any other source.

I spent most of yesterday (the 6th) making most of the screen captures, and I feel I must apologize for them. The quality of the source material was pretty poor, so naturally the screen captures will be somewhat the same. I’m usually able to provide better screen captures, but not with this film.


900. Richard Basehart      The film takes place in a NAZI POW camp located in castle Bechstadt. It’s run by Commandant Schiller which is played by Richard Basehart (Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea series, Knight Rider, Titanic (1953)). His German accent is pretty bad. At times he sounds more French. He’s not your atypical German Commandant. He’s been retired from the war by an injury inflicted by the enemy. But he does have a mean streak in him. Prisoners who smile too much usually indicate something’s afoot. And he can make life pretty miserable for everybody until somebody breaks and tells him about all about it. But the  man is a closet anglophile. He drinks scotch and reads the classics.

901. Harry Cook Doug McClure (The Virginian, Backtrack !, Maverick (1994), The Land That Time Forgot, The Twilight Zone) plays OSS officer Harry Cook who is tasked by the President Of The United States to get a Norwegian scientist out of Germany and to the USA.

902. Olav Valda   Rene Auberjonois got his start in acting from a former neighbor by the name of John Houseman. Rene taught at Juilliard with Houseman. He acquired his acting “chops” in the early sixties when he appeared in uncredited roles in the films “Lilith” and “Petulia”. He was the first Father Mulchahy on the series M*A*S*H –a role he eventually turned down, appeared on McMillan & Wife, and achieved international fame as a regular on the series Benson. He has done every kind of acting there is. He portrayed a shape shifter on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and has lent his voice to The Little Mermaid, Batman: The Animated Series, and Ben 10: Omniverse.


The story begins with Harry Cook (McClure) meeting up with Halden Brevik (Auberjonois) in a prison camp. Brevik is a physicist on the run from the NAZIs. When we first meet him he has a beard and seventies length hair.1. Halden Brevik Harry meets Halden for the first time in a POW camp. The POW camp they are in is bombed to bits by the RAF during a night time bombing raid. While escaping from the Germans his appearance is altered so that it matches his new identity – that of flying officer Olav Valda. Caught while trying to escape they are sent to Bechstadt – a rather dull, grim castle where the guards almost match the inmates in number. The very day they arrive there is an escape attempt which results in the death of 2 persons (they are never named) and the imprisonment of a third. The escape committee, headed by Col. Morgan Crawford (Chuck Connors), is a their wits end. They have tried everything. But when Crawford and Harry confer Harry points out “If you’d tried everything you’d be home by now”.

The first half of the film depicts various prisoners slowly going stir crazy. One prisoner by the name of Donnelly is already slightly unhinged. He is the survivor of the escape attempt Harry and Olav blundered into. When 906. Donnelly    Donnelly (the lone survivor from the aforementioned escape) is released from solitary, and he is obsessed with getting out. Donnelly takes the plumbers truck and repeated rams it against the castle gates. Sentries shoot the truck and eventually the driver. A bullet nicks the gas tank and the truck explodes in flames. Donnelly is blown clear of the truck. He’s very dead, but in the film his body changes positions several times. His death is the third death in the first thirty-six minutes, and the last.

Monday, April 13, 2015

You Never Can Tell


1. Title               

"Oh Goldie, these are humans we're dealing with.
You can't just tell them the truth and expect them to believe it."

This is one film that truly deserves the title of bizarre. There have been off beat, comedic, screwball films, but only this one really deserves the adjective bizarre to describe it. I first saw this film half a life time ago. And it hasn’t aged a bit. It’s still refreshing and funny. This is one film time has been kind to.


King is a German Shepard. And his 103 year old eccentric owner has just died. Not having any relatives he leaves his 6 million dollar fortune to King. Fortune hunters, yahoos with get rich schemes come out the woodwork. Kings human trustee, Ellen Hathaway, has seen so many people since King became rich she’s ready to move to a deserted island in the Pacific. But an “old army buddy” of Kings come to say hello. Enter Perry Collins, a man who seems to want nothing, but has an ulterior motive. The day he leaves on a business trip King dies under mysterious circumstances.

When an animal dies he/she/it has to stop in Beastatory. Its not heaven, nor is it purgatory. It’s a way station for the recently departed. When King arrives he makes a very unusual request of the King of Beastatory. He wants to go back to Earth to find his killer. The King grants this very unusual request, but King will go back as a humanimal  (human-animal). To make sure King obeys the rules a race horse that goes by the name of Golden Harvest is to accompany him back to Earth. King goes back to earth, but this time he will take human form, and his name will be Rex Shepard. Golden Harvest will be human as well, and act as his confidential secretary. Her name will be Goldie.61X6uEl-SDL__SY606_

I’m not going to tell you anymore about the film because I really want you to see it. The screen capture above is the cover of the DVD, so you know what to look for if you want to buy it.

Some things you might recognize

If you got a kick out of Harvey I think you’ll get a kick out of You Never Can Tell. I recently did a blog on Harvey and these are things I noticed but I couldn’t find any documentation. A number of exterior shots (Chumleys Rest) seem to have been re-shot in this film. Floor patterns inside Chumleys Rest seem to reused in the foyer and front hall area of the Lindsay estate. In the last ten minutes of the film when Rex Shepard and Goldie go to see Max the guard house is the same as the guard house at Chumleys Rest. Watch Harvey and You Never Can Tell back to back if you can. You might see something similar as well.

I did a fair amount of research on this film. Unfortunately a script for this film is currently unavailable. Sites as AFI.COM were frequented as were TCM.COM and IMDB.COM. Laura's Miscellaneous Musings (http://laurasmiscmusings.blogspot.ca/) as well as other sites carried some the same observations I had. The ending felt rushed. After Rex is released by the police it seems to be one gag after another with little meaningful dialog. After the film passes the one hour mark everything is just too rushed.

Quite a number of user reviews wondered about the identity of the person who voiced the King of Beastatory Here’s is my guess. I think it was done by Roy E. Glenn. Here’s my reasoning. In the film Guess Who Is Coming To Dinner (1967) John Prentices Sr. loses his temper when he is talking with his son. The tone of his voice and the timbre of the King and Roy E. Glenn are very similar…at least to this former musician. And if you have both DVDs watch them back to back if you can, and if you think I’m right let me know via the web site.

8. booted out of the chair                       Dick Powell

                      King                                                            Dick “King” Powell

23. Perry Collins - Charles Drake                            Peggy Dow

             Charles Drake                                                        Peggy Dow

32. talking about the good old days                16. dog catcher

   Joyce “Goldie Harvest” Holden                       Watching out for the dog catcher

One Last thing…Almost

You just might see somebody that looks familiar. You might even know where you’ve seen this person. If you’re lucky you might even name a film this persons been in.

26. jailhouse gorilla

Take this charming fellow. You might say “I know I seen this guy before…but I just can’t remember”. I’ll put you out of your pain. This is Henry Kulky. He doesn’t have any real credits except “Gorilla/Wrester/Prisoner”. I knew I had seen this mug before. If you watched the Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea TV show he played CPO Curly Jones in season 1.

Ok…Now the trivia

Dogs…sounds easy doesn’t it. Well it isn’t. Dick Powell was trained to portray a dog by Bert Granville. Bert portrayed a number of different animals in vaudeville and radio.

Technical Stuff

It’s a full screen presentation. If you’re looking for the numerical value of the aspect ratio its 1.33:1. I really wish this film had been re-mastered. The sound is Dolby 2.0 Mono. In other words it looks and sounds like it did in the theaters. Some scenes were a bit too dark, while tears, dirt, and other assorted crud were immortalized in the transfer to DVD. For a title that so many like, love and adore you would have thought that Universal would have spruced it up a bit. There are no commentaries, no trailers, no sub-titles. Only the film.

Coming Soon…

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I wrote this blog a couple of days before I went into hospital. I finally had that microlarynoscopy. It will take a biopsy of some tissue from my vocal cords which has proven bothersome, and could be cancerous. Today is the 13th, and I find out if I have cancer on the 21st. So if the next installment of The Old Movie House is delayed it’s because the news wasn’t as hoped for.

                                                                                      Tom