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THERE are a lot of people who will go on and on and on about the amazing theme songs of ’80s and ’90s cartoons. While they have a point (who can resist the Willie Fogg theme or indeed, M.A.S.K. and Thundercats?), they pale in comparison to those cartoons brave enough to get a full orchestra on the go.
From the birth of music and animations, right up to the ’60s, studios – notably those brilliant people at Warner Brothers and Disney – created some of the most brain-popping and often side-splitting moments of music ever committed to a TV or cinema screen.
While Disney were the kings of the big, soaraway song or killer ditty, Looney Tunes were the undisputed champs of chaotic, inventive and playful classical and jazz.
Between them, both camps created so much iconic music that it defies belief. However, much of it is sorely, sorely undervalued. So here, let us praise the dazzling and daft songs that will forever light up your life.
Let us begin with the beginning. From the opening bottlenecked guitar to the galloping brass, the opening credits of any Merry Melody or Looney Tunes cartoon, this piece of music is immediate sunshine. Vitamins for your soul. Let’s not forget Mel Blanc’s contribution with his machine gun, rat-a-tat Porky Pig stutter of “that’s all folks!” for the outro music too.
The Wonderful Fotoplayer
As chaotic as the music itself is the instruments invented to keep up with old animations. Watch one of these brilliantly bizarre contraptions being played and imagine the scene it dictates.
For the nerds among you, here’s a breakdown of the Fotoplayer. Yes. We all want one now.
It is easy to ignore the complexity and deftness of the music behind a cartoon, because you’re too busy laughing at someone’s teeth shattering in the mouth after they’ve been hit full in the face with a frying pan, or you’re rolling around laughing an anvil turning someone’s body into a concertina. However, at the 2013 Proms, everyone got to see how furiously busy the musicians had to be to keep up with the score. Better yet, as this video shows, the much forgotten percussion section really gets to shine. Observe as they throw plated into a bin and chase each other off-stage. Absolutely incredible.
We all know that classic music is an absolute drag for the most part. However, Looney Tunes can make anything funny. Often, they would take a tedious opera and turn it inside out. Here, Bugs Bunny conducts and, wonderfully, all hell breaks loose.
Raymond Scott was a composer and experimental electronic music pioneer and his work ‘Powerhouse’ was a favourite of the animated short. You can read up on Scott’s genius here. Or, if you prefer, you can watch the video below, which shows off the use of the iconic ‘Powerhouse’, which you inevitably didn’t know the name of until now. You can here the music on its own, here.
No-one can write about music in cartoons without including the outstanding Cat Concerto featuring Tom & Jerry. Watch Tom play the right notes below.
The Sherman Brothers aren’t household names, but their tunes are. They wrote a fantastic amount of songs that we could all sing. Working for Disney, they wrote ‘A Spoonful Of Sugar’, the music from Bedknobs and Broomsticks’, ‘Lets Go Fly A Kite’, the Winnie The Pooh song and, the incredibly memorable ‘I Wanna Be Like You’. And more.
More recently, Danny Elfman’s theme for The Simpsons recalls those glorious golden days of animation. He got a full orchestra and created something grand, silly and complex and filled it with witty asides (the car horn and such), giving us perhaps the most memorable theme tune of a generation. Just perfect.
There are few shows that are as entwined with music, more than the Pink Panther. One look at the title character and your entire brain is flooded with Henry Mancini’s hip jazz. As the Pink Panther didn’t talk (well, he did, but the less said about that the better), the music became his language. The way he put a skip in his walk. The way he tried to style out calamitous accidents. The way he came out of that spin dryer looking like candyfloss. Everything is ticked with the beat of some of the most perfect music any TV show could hope for.
Feel free to add your own favourites in the comments. Everyone loves cartoon music!
ROBERT Ashley (1930-2014). The composer was 83.
Kyle Gann, who recently wrote a biography said of the Michigan-born composer, who in 1958 created the Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music , a pointer to his eperiments with audio synthesis.
“Bob was one of the most amazing composers of the 20th century, and the greatest genius of 20th-century opera. I don’t know how long it’s going to take the world to recognize that.”
Thanks to the internet, the past never goes away. You can hear some of Ashley’s work in full.
In 1997, he spoke to Furious:
PSF: How did you decide to make your works as all being operas?
In 1975, there were no operas in America. I was interested in opera and it seemed to me that the only possible theatre for contemporary opera would be television. So I started working towards a kind of television kind of opera. I started designed the work so that it would be usable on television. I think it’s still true.
PSF: How did you see television as an ideal medium for operas?
It’s contemporary. It’s new. Many more people watch television than go to opera houses. There aren’t any opera houses in the United States. The possibilities for contemporary opera are very small. I thought when I started, it looked more promising (to work with television). Now, in the last few years, television has become much more conversative. But I still think there’s going to be a marriage of television and some form of opera. It might not happen in my lifetime but I still think it’s inevitable. The whole idea of the opera house is so dated anyway. It’s such a nineteenth century idea. Because of that probably, there aren’t any to speak of (maybe 3 or 4). It doesn’t really allow the idea of opera to really grow. I thought if I could get television interested in opera, it would make a kind of new thing that would allow composers to build a whole new repertoire.
It was more promising fifteen or twenty years ago than it is now. The first opera I did, Music With Its Roots in Ether (1976), has been broadcasted a lot. The next one I did, Perfect Lives (1980), was produced by Channel 4 in Great Britian and was shown there for two years and then throughout Europe but only parts of it have been broadcast in the United States. Now in ’97, television is so conserative that it doesn’t look promising. But I think it’ll change back. I think it’ inevitable that there has to be some new genre in television. Television goes through these periods of incorporating new things. First there was live comedy then there were soap operas then there was news and now there’s a lot of television about sports. We went through a period of MTV with pop music videos too. Television always needs new materials and it’s just a matter of time until there’s the right audience for new work that’s not just pop music. When that happens, it’ll be a very good time for composers to do serious big, narrative pieces.
PSF: Why do think there has been resistance to this kind of idea in American television?
Because they’re stupid I guess. Opera on television in Europe is very important. If you think about it in the broadest sense: a lot of the dramas made in India with music are practically operas. They’re not sung but they have a very big appeal. I don’t know why American television people are so stupid but at the moment, they just seem to have some sort of a block. They just do what they do and they do it for a certain number of years. Then it wears out and they try something else. It’s just a matter of time I think.
Brian Robison, of Cornell University, has posted on YouTube 4 American Composers, directed by Peter Greenaway in New York in 1985.
Compared to Meredith Monk and Robert Ashley, John Cage and Philip Glass are household names, yet their relative fame frequently turns on the persistence of misconceptions. All too often, even scholars who might be expected to know better portray Cage as either charlatan or nihilist. Critics in the 1980s tagged Glass’s music as “classical music for people who don’t like classical music,” suggesting his shrewd exploitation of the yuppie market. Director Peter Greenaway and producer Revel Guest weave representative musical excerpts with interviews to present the personalities more accurately, and, in so doing, establishes a broader context for listening. Perhaps the most striking revelation of these documentaries is that such notorious iconoclasts are so soft-spoken in person (compared to the shy, halting Ashley, the loquacious Monk seems downright assertive).
Ashley’s TV opera Perfect Lives was reviewed by Frieze:
As living and breathing musicology in practice, Perfect Lives explores how storytelling creates music and – tangentially – how American social models grew in tandem with musical forms from Europe and Africa. Built into the very structures of how it was written and is performed – there is no definitive score, only the libretto, some diacritic and harmonic indications, and a set of intricate time signatures to follow – Perfect Lives is about the sociability of music. Ashley realized Perfect Lives over a period of years with a number of close collaborators. (‘I only work with geniuses,’ he says. ‘In the end it pays off.’5) In a documentary made by Peter Greenaway in 1983, as part of his ‘Four American Composers’ series, Ashley said he wanted to ‘allow the performers to make musical statements as unpremeditated as speech itself’.
Ashley spoke with Alex Waterman:
What distinguishes traditional opera from any other form of narrative—like religious dramas, for example—is that most operas have a political landscape. This is especially true in Italian and German opera. You get a version of a landscape that has political meaning. I thought about that when contemplating the architecture of the opera house and how it makes those landscapes possible. Of course, that architecture is not available to me, nor would I want it to be. But the landscape has to be there however the opera is presented.
In the best of circumstances, the architecture and the music–for the people—match. But what’s happened in the last 50 to 100 years is that the music has outgrown the architecture. The instruments are old, the ideas are old—everything’s so old; it’s boring, you know? There is no architecture to deal with what we’re talking about here. I thought, There’s got to be one. And it occurred to me that our architecture might be the imaginary space behind the surface of the television screen. In other words, when you watch TV, you see whatever you see, but behind that there’s an imaginary space and maybe that’s the place for the music of our time.
It’s interesting how you can manipulate landscapes with television so that they have meaning. It’s different from having a person singing here, in my living room, which is something of a landscape. If you go outside of the personality of this room, the landscape is all of a sudden dramatically political—it’s a visual demonstration of how things work for everybody. That’s what opera is about. You’re trying to put the story in an appropriate place so that when you see it you say, Oh, that’s what the story is about!…
The landscape in Perfect Lives starts as big as possible, in The Park, and it’s described quite precisely in political terms. And then it goes to The Supermarket, which is not totally indoors. Then you get the ride through the landscape with the lovers eloping and the bank robbers driving to Indiana in The Bank episode, where you are dealing with mixed outdoors and indoors. Next, you enter the most close-range landscape, in The Bar with Rodney and Buddy talking. Then you move out again to a bigger space in The Living Room, which has more imaginary space. At the beginning of that episode, the characters talk about the Sheriff’s Wife as if she were on the South Pole and the Earth were revolving around her.
It is relentless. And mesmeric.
I.The Park (Privacy Rules)
II. The Supermarket (Famous People)
III. The Bank (Victimless Crime)
IV. The Bar (Differences)
V. The Living Room (The Solutions)
VI. The Church (After the Fact)
VII. The Backyard (T’Be Continued)
7. The Backyard
MAD Magazine is an American institution. It’s been going since 1952 and is still funny, but it’s given the world more than just gags…
THE FREEDOM TO TAKE THE PISS
In 1961, a group of composers including Irving Berlin (writer of White Christmas) tried to sue MAD following a series of parody songs they’d published, to be sung to the tunes of the originals. The case ended up in the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in MAD’s favour – they basically ruled that it was clear these songs were jokes, that they weren’t intended to be mistaken for the originals, and that they weren’t damaging. This was seen as a landmark case in terms of making parodies legit, and is still regularly cited in courts.
ULTRAVIOLENCE WITH A SUBTEXT
Antonio Prohias’s Spy Vs Spy strip was a wordless ongoing saga of a black-clad spy and a white-clad spy trapping, bombing, shooting and blowing each other up in contrived-but-amazing ways using good old-fashioned big round bombs with “BOMB” written on them. As well as needless violence, though, it’s an allegory of the Cold War, the thirty-year period of general global tenseness that led to the revolution in Prohias’s native Cuba. So it’s well clever, innit, with its explosions. Prohias died in 1998, but the strip continues in airbrush-and-stencil form by Peter Kuper, still bearing the credit “By Prohias” in spy-esque Morse Code every time.
A GAP-TOOTHED CHAMPION
The grinning, gap-toothed idiot on nearly every cover of MAD, Alfred E Neuman has become a beloved American icon despite rarely if ever showing up in the magazine itself – his appearances are limited to the cover and a quote on the contents page. On the covers, though, he’s been everyone from King Kong to Justin Bieber to Jabba The Hutt to the baby from the Nevermind album. He and his catchphrase (“What, me worry?”) have still become enormous – Jimi Hendrix introduced his Woodstock set with “What, me worry?”. Barack Obama, arguably the most powerful individual in the world, once described himself as having “the politics of [former Presidential candidate] Alfred E Smith and the ears of Alfred E Neuman”.
NEW FERSCHLUGGINER WORDS
You know that impossible-to-colour-in optical illusion of a trident that might be a bident? MAD named it – it’s called a poiuyt (which is a very satisfying word to type). They also enjoyed popularising obscure German or Yiddish words, like potrzebie, veeblefetzer and furshlugginer, which became ingrained enough in American culture to recently pop up in Boardwalk Empire.
One of the trademark features of any issue of MAD is Al Jaffee’s Fold-In, an image on the inside back cover that starts off as one thing and, by folding a section of the page into another, reveals a hidden message – like the one Marge’s cellmate has tattooed on her back when she goes to prison in The Simpsons. They’re ridiculously clever, and the now 91-year-old Jaffee does them with no help from Photoshop or computers at all, preferring to paint on a stiff wooden board and only seeing the folded-in image when he’s sent the magazine. Try making one. You can’t. It’s just too HARD.
MARGINS BETTER THAN WHAT THEY SURROUNDED
Most magazines feature loads of dead space in the margins. At MAD they decided to make them a bit more interesting, by getting Sergio Aragones (owner of a badass moustache and known as the fastest cartoonist in the world) to doodle in them. He’s been doing this since 1963, only missing one issue when the Post Office lost his mail.
THE BEST PUBLISHER EVER
MAD founder Bill Gaines was the son of Max Gaines, who had been instrumental in the success of Action Comics in the 1930s before setting up his own company, Educational Comics (EC). After Max’s death, Bill took over and started publishing first romance, then horror comics. These comics – including Tales From The Crypt and Weird Science – were really successful but led to the Comics Code Authority, essentially a censorship board. Gaines responded by transforming the two-year-old MAD from a comic into a magazine. When MAD became successful, Gaines became known for his eccentricities and simultaneous cheapness and generosity. Every year he would take the whole staff on an overseas trip – one year, he found out MAD had one subscriber in Haiti, whose subscription was about to run out, so he took the whole staff to visit him and persuade him to renew it. He also once paid twice the market value of really low-grade paper because he felt MAD shouldn’t be printed on nice stock. Until his death in 1992, he was greeted by staff members with a cheery “Fuck you, Bill”.
A BUNCH OF SHORT-LIVED IMITATORS
A lot of pretenders to MAD’s throne stepped up over the years, of varying degrees of quality. Cracked (which survives as the genuinely excellent Cracked.com) was an unabashed poor-man’s version of it that nonetheless lasted forty years, while Crazy, Sick, Flip, Whack, Nuts (not that one), Wild, Riot, Bughouse, Eh, Unsane, Get Lost and Panic all bit the dust pretty quick.
THE WORST MOVIE EVER
After the success of the amazing 1978 film Animal House, produced in association with the magazine National Lampoon, MAD became attached to a similar college-set film called Up The Academy, starring former Bond girl (and later wife of Ringo Starr) Barbara Bach. It was by all accounts a complete dog-egg, leading MAD to disown it, and Bill Gaines to pay $30,000 to remove MAD’s name from it and offer handwritten apologies and refunds to anyone who’d sat through it.
THE USUAL GANG OF IDIOTS
Before the switch to magazine format, founding editor Harvey Kurtzman created the majority of the magazine, but after the switch, freelancers known as “the usual gang of idiots” came in and made the magazine their own. Regular readers of MAD learned to look out for certain names on features – if Dick DeBartolo had written a Mort Drucker-illustrated film spoof, you knew it was going to be good. One of their strangest but best-loved contributors was Don Martin, known for his incredibly unusual way of drawing feet and ridiculous sound effects – like Wonder Woman undoing her bra being soundtracked with “Snap ploobadoof”. Both loved and hated was Dave Berg’s The Lighter Side Of…, a long-running, severely inoffensive feature which featured probably the worst-dressed characters ever drawn.
BIG, BIG ART NAMES
As well as influencing a ton of big names (there’d be no Daniel Clowes without MAD, Robert Crumb cites it as a huge influence, and Alan Moore has claimed that MAD’s Superduperman spoof was a direct influence on Watchmen) some properly big deals have passed through the doors of MAD. Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman, of Maus fame, was a regular contributor, Drew Struzan and Frank Frazetta both did covers, and one issue a few years ago contained contributions from no less than ten Pulitzer-winning cartoonists. Plus “Weird Al” Yankovic once wrote for them.
A BETTER VIZ
Viz editor Graham Dury, creator of the Fat Slags, tells us “MAD magazine had a massive influence on me when I was little. The two blokes on earth I would most like to get stuck in a lift with are Don Martin and Sergio Aragones, so long as they had a big stack of paper and some pens with them. I loved the way everybody Martin drew had that fantastic self-confident strut and shoes that flopped over at the end. And Aragones’s scribblings were probably the best bit of the magazine. They showed that the editors really cared about it and wanted to just pack it with stuff. But I doubt I’ll end up in a lift with either of them. Well certainly not Don Martin anyway, as he’s dead. If any of your readers see Sergio Aragones getting into a dodgy looking lift, could they let me know?”
Much in the same way that Nirvana only really felt like they’d made it when they got a call from “Weird Al” Yankovic, being spoofed in MAD is kind of like a badge of honour. MAD’s letters page regularly features notes from celebrities proudly holding up magazines taking the piss out of them. When asked about big moments in his career, Slash from Guns N’Roses said “The magazine cover that has meant the most to me was probably when I appeared in MAD magazine, as a caricature of Alfred E. Neuman. That was when I felt I’d arrived.”
AMERICA IN A NUTSHELL
If there was an alien race out there that had only ever been exposed to MAD, they’d have a pretty decent grasp of modern American history. You can trace wars, leaders, politics and technology through it, as well as the history of entertainment, from issue #4’s Superduperman to last issue’s Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus cover. MAD’s first cover after 9/11 nearly didn’t happen – the initial cover story was on the New York Marathon, and showed corpse-laden NY streets. They wisely decided to pull it, and replaced it with an image that was simultaneously funny, respectful, patriotic and… excuse us, there must be dust in here.
Comics in the 50s didn’t encourage people to question anything – everything was more about being pleasant and not rocking the boat. MAD came along and started picking holes in the American Dream, suggesting the products Americans were buying were crap, their leaders were clueless and that the people were being treated like dicks. These days everyone’s a cynical bastard, but MAD invented it.
THERE is just something inherently creepy about a doll coming to life. I think it falls into the same category as clowns, kids and the elderly. Because they are supposed to be so benign or innocent, it becomes all the more warped and vulgar when they take a bloodthirsty bent.
The devil doll trope didn’t start with Chucky. In fact, you could go back centuries via fairy tales and the golem mythology. In terms of cinema, you could start with The Devil Doll (1936) or Dead of Night (1946). However, we’ll concentrate on films from the 1970s and adjacent decades.
So, here are the top demonic doll movie moments from the 1960s through the 80s. If there’s any egregious omissions, please fill me in, and let’s make this list grow!
15. CHILD’S PLAY (1988)
Woefully cheesy, this film just doesn’t do anything for me. However, I recognize it’s earned its place on the list of evil dolls, so here’s Chucky. Moving right along….
ALAN Pardew’s ‘head pushing’ antics raised heckles in some quarters and smiles in others.
Whether it deserves to butt into our arbitrary Ten Great Football Headbutts list is for you to decide. Judge for yourselves, dear readers…
1994: Duncan Ferguson on John McStay
Rangers’ 4-0 victory over Raith Rovers was overshadowed by Big Dunc’s sticking the heid on McStay. The referee didn’t see it, but the police did, and he was eventually convicted of assault.
IN 1977, the entire planet was foaming at the mouth for anything Star Wars. The frenzy continued for several years with piles of Star Wars products flooding the stores daily. It seemed all you needed to do was bear a passing resemblance to the film or utter the words “star” and/or “wars” and your product would sell like hotcakes.
RECENT rumours about Space Jam II (purportedly to star Le Bron James…) serve as a good reminder that the science fiction cinema and the game of basketball are inextricably linked.
Well, not really.
But sci-fi and basketball at least have something of a common history.
THE decision by eBay to discontinue its trade in Holocaust memorabilia brought to an end a particularly offensive and peculiar episode in the annals of collections and souvenir-hunting.
And while it is undoubtedly one of the most despicable examples, there is no shortage of tasteless, gauche and tacky souvenirs out there, if you know here to look…
(Warning: one picture below portrays a lynching. It is shocking.)
BETWEEN January 1968 to Spring 1971, Ralph Ginzburg (October 28, 1929 – July 6, 2006) published Avant Garde magazine.
Before that he had achieved fame and notoriety with Eros, a magazine for the sexually curious. He had previously published 100 Years of Lynchings, The Housewife’s Handbook on Selective Promiscuity and…
His 1958 book An Unhurried View of Erotica, a collection of risque material plucked from many of the world’s leading libraries, sold more than 125,000 copies in hardback and over 200,000 in print.
ANORAK’s history of controversial children’s books: sex, drugs, sambo’s gay lover and anti-authoritarianism in the classroom.
The Little Red Schoolbook
In 1971 the proprietor of Stage 1 publishers was found guilty of having in his possession obscene books for publication for gain. Richard Handyside was fined £25 on each summons and ordered to pay £110 costs.
The obscene publications were copies of The Little Red Schoolbook written by two Danish schoolteachers, Søren Hansen and Jesper Jensen – and then rewritten by a group of British adults and schoolchildren, including a young Hilary Benn. It urged young readers to question authority and challenge social conventions, and described adults as ‘paper tigers’. Pupils were encouraged to disrupt lessons that they found boring.
The book was widely regarded as an invitation to anarchy, and it was banned in Italy and France. An abridged version was eventually passed for publication in the UK, but it had by this time achieved considerable notoriety. Ironically, the main area of contention was not the political message, but the section giving basic sex education and advice – particularly concerning masturbation – most of which would be on the school curriculum these days. This was of course the convenient pretext chosen the DPP in order to suppress a book that they regarded as socially subversive.
An extraordinary documentary can be heard here.
Enid Blyton is by no means the only venerable authoress to find her books falling out of favour as popular opinion changes over the decades, as Richmal Crompton will have known only too well.
She remains the most high-profile example, however, thanks to her ‘Gollywog’ series, which related the adventures of Golly, Woggy and Nigger, who liked nothing better than to stride along, in Blyton’s own words, ‘arm-in-arm, singing merrily their favourite song – which, as you may guess, was “Ten Little Nigger Boys”.’ These books are not currently available in most children’s libraries
More famous are her Noddy books, in which they feature once again. In one particularly pointed incident, Noddy is attacked by golliwogs, who steal his car and leave him stranded.
Luckily the Toyland police were very efficient, and always at hand.
Not all gollies are bad, though. In Golly Town we find a Mr Golly, who is one of Noddy’s best friends. He owns Toyland’s garage, looks after Noddy’s car, and is an all-round bloody good bloke, as this picture proves…
The Tale of Little Black Sambo
Another former staple of junior school libraries that fell out of favour (though it remains popular in Japan). In 1996, Fred Marcellino produced a set of new pictures, renamed the characters, and republished it under the title The Story of Little Babaji.
One could be charitable and say that Hergé’s most controversial Tintin adventure merely represented the condescending views of Belgian (and British) society at the time.
Post-war, they seemed anachronistic and offensive, portraying as they did a nation of stupid, lazy, infantile savages in need of a clever white master. The book quickly fell out of favour (and out of print).
The Brave Cowboy
A similar trick was pulled with Joan Walsh Anglund’s charming best-seller, in which scary ‘Indians’ were removed and replaced by white bankrobbers and other ne’er-do-wells.
Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin
This otherwise unremarkable tale relates the everyday life of five-year-old Jenn, who lives with her dad and his boyfriend.
In 1986 it was reported that the book was in the library of a school run by the Labour-controlled Inner London Education Authority, and this was a major factor in the Tory government passing Section 28 of the Local Government Act, which prohibited the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality. The full, bizarre story can be found here…
And Tango Makes Three
This modern-day ‘Jenny’, based on a true story about two ‘gay’ penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo has the distinction of having had the most had the most ban requests in the USA in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2010. In 2009 it came second.
‘It’s regrettable that some parents believe reading a true story about two male penguins hatching an egg will damage their children’s moral development,’ said co-author Justin Richardson. ‘They are entitled to express their beliefs, but not to inflict them on others.’
I VERY happily grew up with Sir Roger Moore in the role of Ian Fleming’s James Bond, and thus maintain a deep well of affection and nostalgia for his seven films…even if some Bond fans do not
Moore’s epoch as Agent 007 isn’t usually considered the most creatively fertile time in the franchise’s history, in part because the Bond films of the day pursued “hot” movie trends instead of initiating them, as had been the case in the 1960s.
To wit, the Bond movies of the Moore era attempted to jump on the bandwagon of Blaxploitation cinema (Live and Let Die ), martial arts/Kung-Fu films (The Man with the Golden Gun ), and even the Star Wars craze (Moonraker ).
Despite the fact that Bond films of this time period seem desperate to pinpoint some – any — pop culture relevance, the Roger Moore efforts nonetheless boast some surprising character moments that could have been ripped straight from the novels…and Fleming’s literary descriptions of the character.
For instance, at least two films of the Roger Moore era (The Spy Who Loved Me and For Your Eyes Only) make explicit mention of the character’s tragic history — namely his dead wife, Tracy — a background that the last Connery film, Diamonds are Forever (1971) totally ignored.
Although it is undeniable that some James Bond films of the Roger Moore indeed tread heavily into unfortunate slapstick comedy (see: the pigeon doing a double-take at a gondola-turned-hovercraft in Moonraker), the actor’s finest moments in the famous role arrive not when he is called upon to play scenes broadly or cheekily, but rather when he is tasked with expressing Bond’s humanity.
Some of these “human” moments are small, even throwaway ones, but each one reminds the audience that 007 is not just a superhuman quipster in a white-dinner jacket. He’s still a man who bleeds, sweats, and struggles.
In chronological order then, here are five character moments from the James Bond Era of Roger Moore:
From The Spy Who Loved Me (1977): Bond talks to agent Triple XXX (Barbara Bach) about the fact that he murdered her lover.
The Spy Who Loved Me sees British and Russian intelligence join up to solve the mystery of several missing nuclear submarines. Britain’s finest, Bond, and Russia’s – XXX — join forces, and trace the missing subs back to a man named Stromberg (Curt Jurgen).
In a scene set in Sardinia, where Stromberg is headquartered, XXX confronts Bond about the fact that he may have murdered her lover three weeks earlier, on an unconnected assignment.
Bond turns away from XXX (and the audience), before he answers her accusation. Finally, he tells her that it’s hard to know who you kill when you’re racing on skis at 40 miles an hour…but yes, he did kill her lover. At this point, she informs Bond that after their mission is done, she will murder him.
This scene reminds the audience both of the constant danger in Bond’s profession, and its emotional toll upon him. Moore doesn’t rush the scene, or play it lightly. Instead, he takes his time with Bond’s response, giving us time to wonder how Bond will answer. It’s a balancing act for 007, because if he tells XXX the truth, their mission together will be imperiled. But he also feels he owes her the truth…so he gives it to her.
Bond’s sense of duty and moral code is on display in this scene, and Moore gets that aspect of the character absolutely right.
The longer that Bond is in the business of killing people, the more bodies will pile up, and the more angry spouses or family members he will be forced to confront. From this scene, we understand very clearly how Bond’s profession separates him from other people, even from other people in the spy business.
From Moonraker (1979): A rattled Bond — nearly pulped in a sabotage training centrifuge — pushes away Dr. Holly Goodhead (Loise Chiles) as she tries to help him.
This is an almost throwaway moment, but it occurs early in the 1979 film. Bond is visiting the complex of industrialist Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), and Drax has secretly ordered that “some harm” come to him on a tour of the facility.
Dr. Holly Goodhead – secretly a CIA agent — convinces Bond to try out a training centrifuge, but then steps away, unwittingly leaving the villainous henchman Chang (Toshira Suga) to sabotage the machinery, and nearly kill Bond.
An apologetic Goodhead returns after Bond has disabled the deadly machine, and worriedly asks 007 what happened.
Instead of answering, he staggers out of the centrifuge, pushes her aside roughly, and is clearly pissed.
He doesn’t want to talk.
He doesn’t want to relate.
He’s angry, and this moment reveals that Moore’s Bond isn’t always suave or slick, or on the make. This is one of the few times in the Moore films that we see Bond genuinely ruffled, and knocked off-kilter.
In this moment, audiences see a hurt and angry Bond, one who momentarily rejects civility and who hasn’t yet restored his façade of charm.
It’s a telling — if brief — moment for the character. The ever-present mask of composure falls away.
From Moonraker (1979): Bond saves 100,000 people from nerve gas…without quipping.
At the end of Moonraker, Bond and Goodhead board a space shuttle, Moonraker 5, and attempt to destroy three globes in Earth orbit.
If these globes re-enter the atmosphere, they’ll spew toxic nerve gas across whole continents. Bond destroys two without breaking a sweat, but can’t draw a bead on the third and final canister. He must switch to “manual” control to target it when things get rough.
Meanwhile, both the globe and the shuttle are making bumpy re-entry…
Now, on first blush, this moment might seem like a retread of Star Wars’ finale, with Luke Skywalker switching to manual control to lob two proton torpedoes into the Death Star vent.
But — wholly unexpectedly — this moment proves to the most suspenseful and tense of the entire film, which too often trends towards slapstick humor.
Moore has been accused of playing the 007 character “lightly,” but here he plays the character as hyper-focused and severe. Bond often carries the weight of the world on his shoulders, but he has never undertaken that task as literally as he does in Moonraker (1979), with whole populations imperiled. He has one shot to save the world, so he better make the most of it…
There are no quips, no smiles, and no trademark charm.
Instead, we get an extreme close-up of a tense man in action. Just lots of sweat and those piercing, laser-sharp blue eyes…
From For Your Eyes Only (1981): James Bond kicks a car off a cliff
For Your Eyes Only is far and away Roger Moore’s best Bond film, a grounded, action-packed follow-up to the outer space extravaganza of Moonraker. The film features many great action scenes, particularly the final mountain climbing set-piece, which endures as another masterpiece of escalating suspense.
But in terms of character moments, Moore gets a great one in this movie.
Near the end of For Your Eyes Only, he fights a merciless assassin, Locque (Michael Gothard). Locque has been killing agents and Bond’s allies throughout the whole film, and now Bond finally has him cornered, his car perched on the edge of a rocky cliff.
In his car, Locque panics at his precarious predicament, but things get worse when Bond approaches, and tosses him a keepsake: the “Dove” pin Locque left behind at several crime scenes.
Bond returns the pin to Locque….and then kicks the fucker’s car off the cliff.
Again, there’s nothing light or jokey about this moment. Bond is judge, jury and executioner, and he dispatches Locque with blunt, brutal finality. There are times for compassion and times for humor…and this isn’t one of them. Instead, Bond wordlessly metes out justice. He does so in one fluid movement.
This is the very moment, perhaps, when many Bond fans realized how ill-served Roger Moore had been by some of the Bond scripts. He was capable of being as tough, but rarely had the opportunity to flex that muscle. He shows here that he can capture Bond’s grace, and killer instinct…with perfect economy.
From Octopussy (1983): Bond explains to Octopussy (Maud Adams) how he treated her father.
In Octopussy, Bond travels to India and meets the mysterious smuggler called Octopussy on her private island. She asks him a question about an old case, and there’s every chance their meeting could go fatally wrong. Specifically, Octopussy asks if Bond remembers Major Dexter Smythe.
Bond does remember.
Turns out he was a British agent turned thief who Bond was tasked with bringing into custody. But instead of merely arresting the criminal, Bond gave the man twelve hours to get his affairs in order. Rather than be publicly disgraced, the major took his own life.
Octopussy is his daughter, and she is grateful that Bond gave Smythe time to consider his fate, and avoid public disgrace for his family.
Once more, we are confronted with Bond’s code of ethics. He may be licensed to kill and serve Her Majesty’s Secret Service but he’s not a monster, and when he goes into the field, he interprets orders, rather than simply obeying them. As I wrote above, there are times for compassion, and this story reveals such a time.
Again, Moore is particularly good in this scene because Bond is in a bind. Lie to avoid consequences? Or tell the truth and face them?
He picks the latter, and earns Octopussy’s respect for his honesty (as well as historical behavior). The message is that this Bond is a man of honor.
These days, the Bond films are serious, emotional affairs about a wounded warrior, and that’s all to the good. It’s easy to look back at the Bond films of the 1970s and decry them as being silly or inconsequential by comparison.
Many aspects of the films do fit that bill, but Sir Roger Moore was the 007 for my generation, and — in moments like the ones I enumerated above – I’m glad he was on the job.
IT’S the job of advertising to capitalize on human insecurities, primarily focusing on easy targets surrounding our desire to fit in and look good. This is the Achilles ‘Heel of our psyche, chinks in the armor of rational thinking. If an advertiser attacks these zones, it’s an assured victory – especially in the world of beauty and fitness products.
“You know why she’s wearing the sweatshirt, don’t you.”
I HESITATED using the word “worst” since many of these are novelty songs, which are intentionally strange or humorous rather than attempting to be a genuinely serious musical composition. However, that doesn’t erase the fact that they, like all the songs in this list, are simply unlistenable, intolerable, and unbearable. These songs are so bad you will be tempted to escape and click your “back” button. But I encourage you to see it through – press on, and see what sort of stuff you’re made of.
BARACK Obama makes reading the autocue look pretty easy. After all, reading and aloud is something you learn to do when you’re a toddler. If you can make a living out of it, more power to you. But you are at the mercy of technology and grammar. A misplaced comma can lead to difficulties, as we will see in these examples:
Dana was murdered – she’s off tonight
And you know what you are – all of you:
Especially you, sicko:
And here’s how you do it:
SOBS and moans filled the air from Plymouth to Plymouth Rock, from York to New York, from Wales to New South Wales, from Surrey to Salford. Even a few people in the city of Manchester could be heard above the general laughter. So many questions were raised by Manchester United’s performance in Greece this week that we’ll restrict ourselves to just one. Is it the reds’ worst defeat of the modern era?
Here are 11 others that give it a run for its money…
December 1972: Crystal Palace 5-0 Manchester United
Don Rogers ‘did a Pele’; United did something unpleasant in their shorts. But it was Palace themselves who were relegated, and the Red Devils lived to be relegated another day.
April 1974: Manchester United 0-1 Manchester City
That day came at the next available opportunity: the following season, to be precise. Contrary to popular myth, former United legend Denis Law’s back-heeled goal for City didn’t actually send United down –other results meant they would have been relegated anyway. But it became an enduring emblem of the club’s post-Busby demise. United fans invaded the pitch – another symbol of the Red Army at the time.
May 1976: Manchester United 0-1 Southampton
The late Bobby Stokes caused a major FA Cup upset – and won a car – by scoring the Wembley winner for second division Saints, thus depriving United of their first serious silverware of the Seventies.
September 1989: Manchester City 5-1 Manchester United
Chants of ‘Ferguson out’ at the match are often attributed to cheeky City fans, on the grounds that United’s supporters had all left the stadium by then…
The Maine Road Massacre was one of a series of results in the early stages of the season that led the United faithful to lose patience with their as yet unsuccessful manager Alex Ferguson, and prompted the infamous ‘tara’ banner.
September 1990: Liverpool 4-0 Manchester United
Liverpool were reigning champions when they crushed United at Anfield in this early season fixture, and looked likely to continue their dominance. United, by contrast, looked as far from being champions as ever. As it turned out, Liverpool didn’t win the league and haven’t done so since. United, on the other hand, were just three years away from a period of unprecedented success.
January 1992: Manchester United
New Year’s Day brought a result which suggested that United’s 26-year wait for the championship would continue for another season. And so it proved, as Leeds United overhauled their lead in the final season of the old First Division. The Premier League began later that year, and over the next two decades United would make the competition their own.
November 1994: Barcelona 4-0 Manchester United
Group A of the Champions League turned into a nightmare as Romario and Stoichkov tormented United. Keeper Gary Walsh, who remembers being unrecognised by United fans on a coach at the airport afterwards. The result had significant consequences, as United were ultimately eliminated after finishing in third place on goal difference.
May 2002: Manchester United 0-1 Arsenal
Arsenal clinch the title at Old Trafford with a goal by Silvain Wiltord (remember him?) back in the days when Arsène Wenger didn’t regard fourth place as a trophy.
March 2009 Manchester United 1-4 Liverpool
Losing to their hated rivals is as bad as it gets for United, but this defeat in the run-in proved to be just a blip, and Fergie’s boys went on to clinch their 18th title – thereby finally equaling Liverpool’s tally.
May 2011: Barcelona 3-1 Manchester United
The score-line is convincing, yet it doesn’t convey the gulf in class between the two sides on this warm evening at the magnificent new Wembley stadium. Barcelona dominated this Champions League final, and established themselves as the undisputed kings of Europe.
October 2011: Manchester United 1-6 Manchester City
The ‘noisy neighbours’ put United firmly n their place with this stunning display at Old Trafford, and the goals tasted extra sweet when they went on to pip them to the title on goal difference in the last seconds of the season. And here are the reactions of a man from the south of England and one from Manchester…
FAR be it from me to stifle creativity – an author should be able to title their work as he or she likes. However, there is a limit to my tolerance. Sometimes, the title is so terrible that it simply must go; creativity be damned. Here’s a handful of vintage reads which suffer from just such an affliction.
12 Chinks and Woman by James Hadley Chase (1941)
I understand people weren’t as sensitive to racial issues back then, but this is ridiculous. The novel’s title was later changed to The Doll’s Bad News; a wise move, but you can’t undo this level of epic racism. This from the author who gave us these other great titles: The Marijuana Mob (1950), There’s a Hippie on the Highway (1970) and Goldfish Have No Hiding Place (1974).
TO UGANDA, where the local Red Pepper newspaper leads with:
“EXPOSED! Uganda’s Top 300 Honos Names”
Congratulations to those who made the list, and commiserations to those who did not, could be premature because Uganda is a beacon of intolerance and bigotry. The paper adds:
“In salutation to the new law, today we unleash Uganda’s top homos and their sympathisers.”
IN the 1950s and 1960s, Mead Johnson’s Metrecal promised to get you into shape. What that shape was, we people of the future can only guess at – and we guess it was a human form jackknifed over a toilet.
Mead Johnson spotted Sustagen, a composite blend of mix of skimmed milk powder, soybean flour, vitamins, minerals, corn oil, minerals and vitamins spooned into hospital patients not up to eating solids. Pressing ‘Go’ on the random-name-generating computer, produced Metrecal, the weight-reducing miracle. It looked like baby powder. It tasted like baby sick. But – buy – it sure cured your appetite.
Take a drink and get slim. But do stick to the 900 calories of Metrecal a day.
This advert for the vile goop is from 1965:
The keen-to-be-slim could chow down on Metrecal milkshakes, Metrecal cookies, Metrecal clam chowder (New England style) and Metrecal tuna and noodles. Remember, so long as you kept to 900 calories a day, you’d be thinning. And nothing was better at building the new you than the liquid lunches, dinners and breakfasts.
HERE are a few vintage phallic instances (either real or inferred) which have gained a bit of notoriety over the years. Read on – your inner idiot will thank you.
1. THE RIFLEMAN’S LOG
This Rifleman comic book has experienced a certain degree of notoriety for what can only be described as a horrifically uncomfortable cover. How is it possible that the subtext went unnoticed before printing? Looking through old magazines, comic books, etc. it’s easy to stumble onto accidental phallic imagery. Perhaps it’s because they weren’t as jaded as we are these days, always finding the tawdry in the innocent. Or maybe published adverts and illustrations generally weren’t as polished, edited and re-edited as they are today. Who knows? Yet, the phallic nature of this one seems so extreme, it couldn’t possibly have been missed by even the most obtrusively naive,… right?
2. THREEPIO’S UNIT
This Star Wars trading card has also received some well-earned notoriety. It appears that C-3PO is sporting a golden metallic erection of impressive proportions. The robot was supposed to be a “protocol droid”, but this picture has one wondering if C-3PO had other useful functions not fit for a family movie. According to the official Star Wars site:
It appears that the extra appendage is not the work of an artist, but rather a trick of timing and light…. At the exact instant the photo was snapped, a piece fell off the Threepio costume and just happened to line up in such a way as to suggest a bawdy image.
According to Snopes, whether this was intentional or not remains undetermined.
3. SEARS CATALOG PROTRUSION
This unfortunate event occurred in the 1975 Sears Fall/Winter catalog. Extending below the boxer shorts emerges what appears to be a glimpse of this model’s manhood. A lot of squinting, enlarging, and Photoshop exploration has occurred over the years trying to get this mysterious object into focus. Can it truly be what we think it is? Or is it simply a smudge? We may never really know.
This phallic incident even inspired a novelty song “The Man on Page 602” by Zoot Fenster, released not long after the catalog was published.
“The picture’s got me out of sorts, because I don’t understand,
Are they advertising boxer shorts, or are they trying to sell the man?”
4. THREE’S COMPANY SCROTAL EXPOSURE
God knows, shorts certainly lived up to their name in the 1970s. So, you can hardly fault John Ritter for what took place in episode 161 of Three’s Company. In this now infamous sitcom episode, he takes a seat on a bed and in the process reveals portions of his junk for the camera. If you blink you miss it, and it’s not exactly in high definition either…. But, make no mistake, Ritter’s naughty bits are definitely there. The incident yielded one of my favorite quotes of all time. When asked by The New York Observer whether they should edit the scene for future broadcasts, Ritter responded:
“I’ve requested that Nickelodeon air both versions, edited and unedited, because sometimes you feel like a nut, and sometimes you don’t.”
5. POPSICLE OF SHAME
I present to you this highly troubling Evel Knievel Popsicle ad. It hasn’t garnered any notoriety yet, but it’s high time it did. Spread the word.
RECENTLY, you may have seen the terrible depiction of Kurt Cobain in statue form, in Aberdeen (the American one, not the Scottish one). The statue, below, features Cobain looking like a wino busker, crying.
Actually crying. Because Kurt was so sensitive. Maaaaaaaan.
Of course, most people’s memories of Kurt where a little more fun and energetic, rather than the maudlin monstrosity that is roundly being mocked by the whole internet.
Of course, Kurt Cobain isn’t the only famous person to get a statue of themselves. Crucially, he’s not the only famous person to have a UTTERLY DREADFUL statue cluttering up the world.
Benny Hill wanted his women to be more naive than he was, women who would look up to him. He also said it was fellatio he wanted, or masturbation. “But Bob, I get a thrill when they’re kneeling there, between my knees and they’re looking up at me. And I want them to call me Mr Hill, not Benny. ‘Is that all right for you , Mr Hill?’ That’s lovely, that is, I really like that,” I asked him why and he said, “well, it’s respectful.” – Bob Monkhouse (from Mark Lewisohn’s Benny Hill biography – ‘Funny, Peculiar’).
ON the morning of 19th April 1992, which was Easter Sunday morning that year, and just two hours after he had been speaking to a television producer about the possibility of yet another come-back, 75 year-old Frankie Howerd collapsed and died of heart failure.
Benny Hill, who was seven years younger than Howerd, was quoted in the press as being “very upset” and was reported as saying, “We were great, great friends”. Indeed they had been friends but he hadn’t given a quote about his fellow comedian, he hadn’t been asked for one – he couldn’t have been – because he was already dead.
A PRIME reason for heavy metal’s success is that it is a culture unto itself. Fads come and go, but a culture has staying power. It comes with its own dress code, etiquette and idolatry. A small but important part of that culture is the album cover – the visual representation of the music, the heart of the heavy metal universe. If you’re a metal band, it’s imperative you get this facet right. So, let’s tour through some metal covers from the 1980s, a time when heavy metal was king, and learn from their successes and failures.
LESSON 1: THE 6 REQUIREMENTS
IN 1976, David Bowie was at Victoria station. A rockstar catching a train might be an extraordinary event, but something else caught the eye of the NME. Bowie was now working as the Thin White Duke.
ON this day in photos: February 23, 1945: US raises flag raised over Iwo Jima.
Joe Rosenthal took the wonderful picture as the U.S. Marines of the 28th Regiment, 5th Division, raised the American flag atop Mt. Suribachi.
This picture won the Pulitzer Prize in 1945.