Best Swing Dance Sequence Ever

A dance sequence with some absolutely astonishing Lindy Hopping, from Hellzapoppin’ (Universal, 1941).  Things really get rolling at about 2:40 min. into the clip.

No seriously, this totally kicks ass.  Ya gotta see it.

If the Intermets aren’t failing me, the dance troupe are the Harlem Congaroo Dancers (aka Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers).  Featured in the routine, in order, are:

  • William Downes (overalls) and Frances “Mickey” Jones (maid)
  • Norma Miller and Billy Ricker (chef’s hat)
  • Al Minns (white coat, black pants) and Willa Mae Ricker
  • Ann Johnson (maid) and Frankie Manning (overalls)

Read some more about Hellzapoppin’s “plot,” and check out some vintage poster art and blog-grabs.

I watched Hellzapoppin’ on DVD a couple years ago, stumbling across it one night at Scarecrow.  (Forrest J Ackerman always used to refer to it in Famous Monsters of Filmland.)   It’s like Airplane! meets low-budget 1930s movie musical.  There’s some really pretty out-there stuff in it.  If you Google it, you’ll find some grey-market DVD-Rs floating around.

Thanatopsis (Ed Emshwiller, 1962)

Thanatopsis (1962)

Becky Arnold and Mac Emshwiller
in a film by Ed Emshwiller

Sound design by Ed Emshwiller?

A powerful film that must be almost overwhelming when shown nice and big with a good sound system. And dig how early it is; anticipating industrial music and film/video by about 30-35 years.

More Ed Emshwiller

Screening Room with Ed Emshwiller (1975)  77 min.
Directed by Robert Gardner
Link offers video downloads for sale or rent

Ed Emshwiller appeared on [the weekly Boston TV program] Screening Room in July 1975 to screen and discuss the films Chrysalis, George Dumpson’s Place, Carol Emshwiller, Thanatopsis, Film With Three Dancers, Scape Mates, and Crossings and Meetings.

…Ed Emshwiller started out as an abstract expressionist painter and an award-winning science fiction illustrator before becoming a major figure in avant-garde cinema and the experimental film movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Eventually a highly respected video artist and dean at the School of Film/Video at the California Institute of the Arts, Emshwiller was always looking for ways to push the boundaries of film and video. He was a pioneer of computer-generated video and combining technology with art. Many of his films, including Relativity, Totem, Film with Three Dancers, and Thanatopsis received screenings and awards at New York, Cannes and other major film festivals worldwide.

…Screening Room was a 1970s Boston television series that for almost ten years offered independent filmmakers a chance to show and discuss their work on a commercial (ABC-TV) affiliate station. The series was developed and hosted by filmmaker Robert Gardner…who was Chairman of the Department of Visual and Environmental Studies and Director of the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard for many years.

This unique program dealt even-handedly with animation, documentary, and experimental film, welcoming such artists as Jan Lenica, John and Faith Hubley, Emile DeAntonio, Jean Rouch, Ricky Leacock, Jonas Mekas, Bruce Baillie, Yvonne Rainer and Michael Snow. Frequently, guests such as Octavio Paz, Stanley Cavell, and Rudolph Arnheim appeared as well.

Nearly 100 programs were produced during the years Screening Room was broadcast. Recently, The Museum of TV and Radio in New York City offered to copy the two-inch master tapes that had been given to the Film Study Center.

A still from 'Screening Room with Ed Emshwiller' (1975)

Jr. Star Trek (1969)

Jr. Star Trek (1969)
Produced and Directed by Peter Emshwiller


Peter Emshwiller: Capt. Kirk
Lee Lowenstein: Spock
Mark Hyams: Dr. McCoy
Dave Erits: Henry
Mark Harris: Sulu (and stunts)
John Bergison: Scotty
All: Aliens

Via YouTube, posted by the filmmaker.

Made by 10-year-old Peter and his friends using the 16mm sound camera of his dad — filmmaker, pioneering computer animator and video artist (videography) Hugo-winning science fiction illustrator and educator, Ed Emshwiller.  Peter’s mother is science fiction author Carol Emshwiller.

Jr. Star Trek won WNET’s “Young People’s Filmmaking Contest,” was shown on national television, and is still shown at Star Trek conventions.

Tour of Forrest J Ackerman’s Ackermansion, 1986 on Pasadena Cable TV

Via YouTube:

“[In the] Summer of 1986 my old friend and then student Luis Pelayo and I ventured to the home of horror icon Forrest J Ackerman to shoot some footage to go with the appearance of 4SJ on Air Talk, a long running Pasadena City College radio program that we had recently developed as a live cable TV program.

“The program was entirely student produced under the auspices of a class taught by myself and Sharon Stephens.

“…Here are some surviving clips of the interview and the ‘tour’ of his home cum museum.”


Another tour:

A Visit to the Ackermansion — Home video from 1998
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Sun Ra: “Calling Planet Earth”

Calling Planet Earth (1986)

Video short by Bill Sebastian. Made at Mission Control, Boston.  13 min.

“Visuals performed by Bill Sebastian on the Outerspace Visual Communicator.”

Music by Sun Ra and his Arkestra:  Ra-keyb, voc; Al Evans-tp; Fred Adams-tp; Tyrone Hill-tb; Marshall Allen-as; John Gilmore-ts; Danny Ray Thompson-bs; Eloe Omoe-bcl; James Jacson-bsn, perc; Bruce Edwards-eg; John Brown-d; June Tyson-voc. Dance, gesture, and Virtual Reality: Michael Ray, Barday, Eddie Thomas (Thomas Thaddeus), Atakatune.

Al Jazeera on the Death of Malachi Ritscher

On January 13, 2008, Al Jazeera’s english-language station aired a story about my late friend Malachi Ritscher. As I posted here about at the time, he died on the morning November 3, 2006 when he set himself on fire next to the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, before a statue named “The Flame of the Millennium”. He left a handmade sign that read “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” On his web site, before he killed himself, he posted last testaments that said he was immolating himself to protest the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. Except for a handful of fleeting stories, US press coverage was essentially non-existent. Coverage in Europe was slightly more extensive, but equally fleeting. Malachi videotaped his self immolation but his family, understandably, has not released the tape and they have stated they never will. Further information about Malachi’s suicide and its impact can be found at the link above.

The Al Jazeera story was aired as part of their series People and Power, described as an investigative program “which looks at the use and abuse of power.” This particular episode was titled “The North Front Line.”

Streaming video of the segment has been posted on YouTube. I am also posting it here. Many thanks to  Eric Leonardson for bringing this to my attention.

Burnt Weeny Sandwich – The Movie

Burnt Weeny Sandwich
April 30, 1969 KQED TV, San Francisco, CA
18 min. B&W and color. Originally on 16mm.

Screen captures from the film 'Burnt Weeny Sandwich'

Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

Aired on KQED TV in 1969, the Dilexi Series represents a pioneering effort to present works created by artists specifically for broadcast. The 12-part weekly series was conceived and commissioned by the Dilexi Foundation, an off-shoot of the influential San Francisco art gallery founded by James Newman. Newman, who operated the Dilexi Gallery from 1958 until 1970, saw this innovative series as an opportunity to extend the influence of the contemporary arts far beyond the closeted environment of the commercial gallery.

Formal agreement was reached with KQED in 1968 with the station’s own John Coney designated as series producer. No restrictions, regarding length, form or content, were imposed upon the works, except for Newman’s stipulation that they be aired weekly within the same time-slot. Upon their completion, the 12 works were broadcast during the spring and summer of 1969.

Of the 12 artists invited to participate in the Dilexi Series, ten of them completed new works, and two, Andy Warhol and Frank Zappa, submitted extant works. The tapes and films are far-reaching in their approaches to the medium and the circumstance of the broadcast series. Some of the artists chose to intervene in the relationship of broadcaster and audience by broaching the subject of communications. (…)

Burnt Weeny Sandwich is another rarity. Created by Frank Zappa, the film, in one form or another, found its way into a larger work, Uncle Meat. Something of a high-speed home movie, Burnt Weeny Sandwich features the original Mothers of Invention, along with Captain Beefheart. This is one of the works that exists only within the Dilexi Series.

Once broadcast, the Dilexi Series was stored on the original 2″ videotape masters, a now archaic video format. Some masters were transferred to a contemporary format in 1982 and presented at the S.F. Video Festival. Through the generosity of KQED, the last of the Dilexi Series was just transferred to an exhibition format. This marks the first time in 22 years that all the Dilexi tapes are available. (…)

More info at:

The Music:

  • 00:00 “Uncle Meat: Main Title Theme” (1:26-1:55) from Uncle Meat
  • 00:34 Unidentified Percussion Piece
  • 01:27 “Theme From Burnt Weeny Sandwich” from Burnt Weeny Sandwich
  • 05:47 “A Pound For A Brown (On The Bus)” from Uncle Meat
  • 07:15 “Snork”
  • 07:22 “Dog Breath, In The Year Of The Plague” from Uncle Meat
  • 11:20 Unidentified Percussion & Snorks Piece
  • 11:44 “Prelude To King Kong” from Uncle Meat
  • 15:22 “God Bless America” from Uncle Meat
  • 16:01 “The Dog Breath Variations” from Uncle Meat

More Things to Thank John Coney For:

(King Kong-sized hat tip to Hell’s Donut House.)

Zeppelins vs. Pterodactyls!

Courtesy of Mike (with the famous airship fetish) comes an immensely entertaining post from John Coulthart’s Feuilleton blog (which is via Boingboing via Jess Nevins via Airminded via The Fortean Times and via Gargoyle’s Landing) about Zeppelins vs. Pterodactyls already — a proposed (but never made) Hammer Films production intended to horn in on the success of British rival Amicus Productions’ rather shabby but popular summer popcorn muncher, The Land That Time Forgot (1975). John’s post includes this obviously very preliminary comp of a demo poster:

Very early proposal poster for the abortive Hammer Films production, 'Zeppelins vs. Pterodactyls'.

In the above piece, there’s a pointer to this YouTube piece that reimagines Zeppelins vs. Pterodactyls as a Republic movie serial from 1936.

That video was created by EvilDayJob, who published it on July 30, 2007. He says:

Actually it’s a mashup I made from old serials and a few feature movies, all public domain.
Dick Tracy (1937)
Ace Drummond (1936)
The Lost World (1925)
Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet (1965)
Three Musketeers (1933)
The Hurricane Express
Shadow of Chinatown
The Phantom Creeps
Undersea Kingdom (1936)
Thief of Baghdad (1978 TV movie)
Newsreels: Akron Disaster (1933), Giant Dirigible Sets Record (1936), Zeppelin Explodes (1937 Hindenberg)

The main theme song is taken from Captain Scarface (1953) which is supposed to be public domain, so I hope the music is too.

See if you can spot John Wayne firing a machine gun from a biplane and later bailing out of a burning ship. Sitting behind him in the biplane is Noah Beery, who played James Garner’s father on Rockford Files.

The song with which Ace Drummond (John “Dusty” King) delights his fellow passengers is “Give Me A Ship and A Song” by Kay Kellogg.

For extra credit, find the two Wilhelm screams, one actor who wasn’t even born until 1939, and explain to me why that kid exclaims “Mammy” as he listens to the song. Was that what Cartman would have exclaimed back in the day instead of “sweet”?

A few other inside jokes:
1. Nat Levine really did produce a string of serials in that era.
2. “Potrzebie” is a Polish word that was repeated in Mad magazine for some reason.
3. The recap title card says they’re attacked by a “Muranian” Flying Wing. Murania is the name of the underground kingdom in The Phantom Empire.
4. “The Fur Pirates” is the third chapter of Dick Tracy (1937).

Captain Midnight Commands: Catch the Wave

Ah yes, I remember it well!

“During a broadcast of the Dr. Who episode Horror of Fang Rock on WTTW Chicago Channel 11, on Sunday November 22nd, 1987, at around 11:15pm, a Video “Pirate” wearing a Max Headroom mask broke into the signal and transmitted one of the weirdest, unauthorized things ever to hit the Chicago airwaves.

Earlier in the evening on the same day, during the Nine O’Clock News on Channel 9 (yes, a completely different channel [in fact, WGN, owned by The Tribune]) the Max Headroom Pirate also broke in — although it was for a much shorter time and there was no audio.

Needless to say, Dan Roan (the sports reporter) was a bit flustered.

And no, he [the pirate broadcaster(s)] was never caught.”

Further details can be read from the archived Dec. 20, 1987 issue of the e-zine, Tolmes News Service. (Man, I kinda miss e-zines. Don’t you?) There’s also a Wikipedia entry about the Max Headroom pirating incident, according to which there “has not been a broadcast intrusion incident of this kind in America since.” Darn. There’s also a write-up at the aptly-named Damn Interesting site.

Ginormous thanks to my ol’ fellow Chicago expat buddy Hell’s Donut House for bringing this to my attention.

Here’s a partial attempted transcript of the lo-fi, electronically-distorted audio from the person who posted this to YouTube:

“He’s a freaky nerd!”

“This guy’s better than Chuck Swirsky.” [another WGN sportscaster at the time]

“Oh Jesus!”

“Catch the wave…” [reference to a Coke commercial at the time of which Max Headroom was a spokesperson]

“Your love is fading…”

“I stole CBS.”

“Oh, I just made a giant masterpiece printed all over the greatest world newspaper nerds.” [??]

“My brother [mother?] is wearing the other one.”

“It’s dirty…”

“They’re coming to get me…”

Also courtesy of YouTube, here is the CBS network news story about the incident, broadcast the following day (contrary to the added title on the clip, which is incorrect).