Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What Becomes a Legend Most?

Closing out my run of posts on great documentaries was a screening at the Roxie in late July.  For the past few years, Johnny Legend has programmed film series or parts of film series at the Roxie.  Elliot Lavine has used some of his personal collection of videos, DVDs and 16 mm prints for his various noir series.

Speaking of which, Not Necessarily Noir III runs from October 19 to 31 at the Roxie.  The schedule is posted.  I don't know if I influenced Lavine but at his 1980s themed noir series last year, I chatted with him briefly and mentioned how there were two neo-noir films from the 1980s which I loved at the time and hadn't seen for years.  I urged him to screen them.  I won't take credit but will note that both films are being screened during the upcoming series.  The films are Brian DePalma's Body Double (1984) and Jonathan Demme's Something Wild (1986).  Both films star Melanie Griffith before she became something of a joke.  Having seen these films as a teenager, I'm curious how they hold up to my middle-aged sensibilities.

Going back to Legend, he programs some wild stuff befitting his experience as a musician, concert promoter, wrestling manager, Andy Kaufman collaborator (he co-directed My Breakfast with Blassie whose lobbycard graces the men's restroom wall at the Roxie) and if I recall correctly, pornographer.  Legend programmed a multi-day series at the Roxie but I was only able to catch one screening.

The Big T.N.T. Show; directed by Larry Peerce; concert film; (1966)

Legend had many stories of the filming as he was in the audience as a teenage boy.  The filming took two nights and was free to high school students in the Los Angeles area.  He pointed out that Terri Garr was one of the go go dancers.  The film was Phil's Spector's attempt to capitalize on the successful The T.A.M.I. Show (1964) although T.N.T. was not nearly as commercially successful.  I found that surprising because the line-up was quite strong.  Among the performers were Ray Charles, Bo Didley, Joan Baez, Ike & Tina Turner, The Byrds, The Lovin' Spoonful, Donovan, Petula Clark and The Ronettes.  Six weeks after seeing the film, I can still remember the performances of Charles, Didley (with a female guitarist/backup singer), Ike & Tina and Joan Baez (singing a cover of The Righteous Brothers'  You've Lost That Loving Feeling).

There were a few miscues.  Roger Miller, who didn't seem to appeal to the teenagers in the audience, showed up seeming a bit antagonistic.  At one point, he called someone in the audience a hippie. David McCallum (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) looked ridiculous with his exaggerated movements while conducting the house orchestra.  Donovan (apparently pre-Sunshine Superman) brought the show to a screeching halt with an endless sequence of slow, downbeat songs.

I enjoyed the film enough that I bought a DVD of it from Legend in the lobby on my way out.  It looks like he burned the DVD himself and wrote the title with a Sharpie on the disc.  I hope my purchase didn't help facilitate a copyright violation.

The Big T.N.T. Show was a nice sampling of the music of the era.  I was tapping my feet and reciting the lyrics throughout the film.  My only complaint were some damn chatty women in the back of the house who treated the screening as if it were Mystery Science Theater 3000.  They kept commenting with each other about the clothing and hairstyles of the audience in the film.

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