I have been a fan of his for ages. I find his acting is mesmerizing, ranging from the science fiction romance of Time After Time to the dramatic intensity of an escape from fascist Germany in Voyage of the Damned. He has collaborated with such celebrated directors as Stanley Kubrick for the horrors of a futuristic society in A Clockwork Orange and Lindsay Anderson for a dramatic critique of modern society in the Mick Travis films. His diverse work in continuing series include the comedy Pearl as well as Mozart in the Jungle.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet him at several conventions. At the last one when I sat down next to him, he commented, “You again? You’re at all of these.” I had him sign Never Apologize, a dvd of his one man show about Lindsay Anderson. When he asked me if I had watched it, I luckily replied that I had and recalled the final scene. I suppose I satisfied his curiosity, otherwise he warned he might have to quiz me on it.
I am not a tremendous music buff. In fact, most musicians I am a fan of I have come to from interests in other mediums. I became a Beatles fan after being mesmerized by the Malcolm McDowell narrated 1982 bio pic, The Compleat Beatles. My enthusiasm for David Bowie began after hearing several film themes, such as the one for 1982’s horror film Cat People which starred Malcolm McDowell. Notice a reoccurring theme here?
And then there’s The Monkees.
The tale of The Monkess has been told numerous times. A notice was placed to recruit four multi-talented young men to portray band members. The zany exploits of the fictional band were covered in a a TV series that ran from 1966 to 1968. Then with music from the show released as the series ran, the group performed concerts. At first The Monkees’ songs were written by noted songwriters such as Neil Diamond and Carole King while professional musicians were used to craft the music. Eventually seeds of revolution were planted (it was the 60’s) and the four members of the band wanted to fashion their own music.
Each Monkee had a personality style all his own (some say linked to/inspired by the Beatles). Micky Dolenz was the drummer who was a friendly funny fellow. Davy Jones was the charming heartthrob who incidentally was the reason for Bowie abandoning his birth name of David Jones. Peter Tork played the naive one. Michael Nesmith was the intellectual and famous for wearing a wool hat during the series. He was my personal favorite. He would go on to create Elephant Parts in which one could foresee upcoming media trends such as MTV. Nesmith would continue with his music career, notably with The First National Band as well as reuniting with The Monkees. At one point all The Monkees took part in various reunions, including a TV special.
Showing my age, in my music collection only The Monkees and David Bowie span from vinyl to CDs. Recently while attempting to get my things in order (perhaps a hopeless task) I discovered a working audio tape player. Of late, I have been listening to ancient audio tapes. Last night I selected The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees. Released in 1968 I believe, the album boasts few songs known from the TV series (such as Valleri) and a greater experimental nod from the group. One such number is Zor and Zam a simple and direct tale of war called for by the monarchs of a distant land who get no response from its citizens. The song’s anti-war sentiment seems obvious. The song and album is a favorite of mine, even though it found little mainstream success. Headquarters seems one of the group’s major successes with the melancholy Shades of Grey, Zilch (perhaps one of the first rap performances?), Micky Dolenz’s powerfully sung Randy Scouse Git, and Michael Nesmith’s simple yet directly hummable You Told Me. The 1967 album is an impressive accomplishment of the group.
Alas today only half of The Monkees remain, Davy Jones and Peter Tork have died. Luckily I managed to see them both perform. Jones did so at a Pennsylvania convention I was at and seemed very pleased amongst his fans even though there was a dismal turn out. I got to see Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues perform at a Maryland club. Considering the band name, it’s no surprise that of the many song styles featured in the set, the blues dominated. Afterwards when I got an album and his autograph, I misspoke the title of a TV series he had guested in. I think I said Queen of Kings instead of the King of Queens. Thus we both had a laugh.
I recently returned to Parsippany New Jersey for the convention of every type of celebrity – Chiller. I had missed both of last year’s Chillers due to health problems. I was moving a bit slower this time and depending at times on my handy third leg (cane), but as a whole it was quite a fun excursion, getting away to see some familiar faces – both in the way of old acquaintances and celebrities.
I met a favorite actor, Peter Scolari, best known for his TV work such as Bosom Buddies and Newhart. I remember him in a memorable episode from The New Twilight Zone in which he played a person who claimed fake visions/memories from a past life but whose regressive abilities proved true. I mentioned the show to which Scolari replied, “Oh yeah, I forgot that.” A New Twilight Zone pic for next con? For a picture together behind his table, he told me to carefully take my time. I sauntered next to him using my cane.
Other favorite celebrities encountered there included Jennifer O’Niell of Scanners fame and Candy Clark. Clark appeared in two favorite films. The Man Who Fell to Earth with David Bowie and Blue Thunder with Malcolm McDowell.
January is an important month concerning David Bowie.
On January 8th 1947 he was born. On January 10th 2016 he died. In between there was a lot of great art, some stunningly cool acting performances, and quite a few superb albums from the chameleon-like rock star.
I haven’t seen all of his films, but at the top of my list include The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hunger. The first film was directed by Nicholas Roeg and starred Bowie as the title alien who comes to Earth in search of water. He’s seduced by society’s offerings, such as television, which finds Bowie seated in front of myriad screens and finally shouting aloud, “Get out of my mind.” In The Hunger from director Tony Scott, Bowie plays a vampire type involved with fellow supernatural creature, Catherine Deneuve. Alas, her mates are not necessarily long lived and after Bowie’s demise, she has her eyes on Susan Sarandon.
Of course David Bowie was involved in a number of films for which he was responsible for music and/or title songs. Cool World falls into this category, and I find the song far more memorable and inspired then the film, which stars Gabriel Byrne plus boasts a plethora of animation. Cat People is a blood filled remake of a black and white psychological horror picture. The intense performance by Malcolm McDowell is as memorable as Bowie’s title tune which features favorite phrase of mine ‘putting out fire with gasoline.’
But Bowie is best known for his musical output. He became famous for donning the guise of maverick intergalactic rocker Ziggy Stardust. That famous album was fully titled The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It was but the first of many characters Bowie would create and portray throughout his long and influential career. It was also but a part of Bowie’s fascination and creation of science fiction tableaus.
Another can be seen with Outside. While it is not one of Bowie’s more famous albums, it is my favorite. Taking place in a mysterious future time when murder can be seen as an artistic expression crime, the songs can be dark and enigmatic. But then so can its creator. Overall, I find the album quite memorable and engaging.
With winter about to take hold here in Maryland U.S.A., I can’t help but think how nice it would be to have someone to cuddle with. Of course when I reflect upon my dating history I realize that might not be a good idea. As detailed in the dating section of my upcoming book, Stranger Thoughts, I have survived multiple dating hazards including fire.
Once in my youth I naively bought a ring for a girl to illustrate our going steady. It didn’t last and being uneducated in the art of dating I inquired as to the ring’s return at our break up, to which she replied that she was keeping the ring. Therefore the terms were that she’d keep the ring and I’d keep my sanity. She got the better part of the deal.
Once when talking with a friend, she proved she knew me quite well. When I told her the woman I went out with said something I found worthy of bringing the date to an end. “What did she do?” was surprisingly asked knowing I had weathered a number of crazy dating incidents. I replied we were talking about films. That was all that needed said. My friend replied, “She didn’t like Malcolm McDowell.” I nodded. After all, how could I go on after that? A woman to date comes and goes, while an acting legend is eternal.
Each October the signs are there. Longer nights. Cool breezes. Crazy costumes. Screen screams.
With the approach of Halloween, October is the perfect time for a story crafted chill. In ye olde days they were created and shared by a roaring fire. Now the flickering screen of the cinema, TV, or computer can create a suitable setting for a fright.
I have always been a film fan, and of late in particular of horror movies. There are some great horror movies for this time of year.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is a silent black and white film from 1920 Germany which tells the tale of a somnambulist’s reign of murderous terror in a small town. The film was re-edited before release to change the story into a tale more favored by the government.
Nosferatu is a 1922 German silent film based on Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The film was made without the permission of the Stoker estate, thus the name changes. Count Orlock is the central vampire character and is a hideous creature far more resembling the vampire of folklore than cinema’s more modern interpretations of the blood hungry monsters.
Of course the definitive screen version of Dracula materialized in the form of Bela Lugosi. It was the first in a string of black and white horror films from Universal productions. Clad in cape and tails, Dracula departed Transylvania by boat. In Great Britain he sought a good real estate deal and discovered a lost love.
Like Dracula, Frankenstein would be reincarnated multiple times on screen. The most cherished version would be from 1931 starring Boris Karloff. Interestingly, Universal first wanted its horror heart throb Bela Lugosi as the monster, but after he turned the part down Karloff was cast. Director James Whale enriches the atmosphere of dark graveyards and eerie laboratories while Karloff brings a sympathetic pathos to the monster. Karloff and Lugosi would team up for several fright fests, most notably The Black Cat which takes little save its name from the work of Edgar Allan Poe.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show was brought to life from a stage play like its feature character Dr. Frank N Furter brings his ideal creation to life. The film’s crazed story features musical numbers and outrageous characters in a plot combining elements of horror, fantasy, and science fiction.
While all the previous films make fine viewing this holiday, there are several films whose odd occurrences transpire on Halloween. They include Arsenic and Old Lace which tells of the eccentric Brewster family, whose strange aunts see fit to make the final arrangements for elderly gentlemen. The Man with a Cloak from 1951 is an old fashioned Hollywood mystery with Joseph Cotten out to aid Leslie Caron achieve an inheritance from the greedy clutches of Barbara Stanwyck. The revelation of Cotten’s character’s true identity is certainly fitting for Halloween. And of course there is the supernatural terror spun by the film that takes its name from this holiday as Michael Myers spreads bloody havoc in his home town. Director John Carpenter’s 1978 original created suspense on a low budget while the remake from Rob Zombie in 2007 focused more on Myers embrace of bloody horror. The original starred Donald Pleasence as Dr Loomis out to cure or stop Myers, while Malcolm McDowell took over the role in 2007.
Michael Myers was not the only wicked character stalking cinemas. While horror characters always enthralled audiences via extreme appearances or inhuman abilities, it seems that in the 80’s supernatural horror characters became icons as they helmed their own film franchises. Freddy Krueger was a dream menace in The Nightmare on Elm Street films. Horror and eroticism entwined in Hellraiser from star writer Clive Barker featuring vicious Cenobites led by Doug Bradley as Pinhead. And of course there was Jason who hunted young camp goers in the Friday the 13th films.
June 13th is the birthday of actor Malcolm McDowell.
The intense British actor is a favorite of mine, I’ve been lucky enough to meet him at several conventions and add his autograph to my collection. At the first con I saw him at I think he had but four photos (A Clockwork Orange, Star Trek Generations and Halloween) and at his latest appearance he had several tables with a multitude of pics from his illustrious career. Plus he’s had appropriate clothing items as well as DVDs of his films for sale at his table. I got a DVD of the classic O Lucky Man! from him – my favorite Malcolm McDowell movie.
In O Lucky Man! McDowell plays a young coffee salesman eager to get ahead in the world. His ambition takes him across Great Britain. He comes into contact with politicians, mad scientists, soldiers, musicians and more. The musicians are led by Alan Price of The Animals fame, who provides a memorable soundtrack. A female with an intense relationship with money he encounters is played by Helen Mirren. The film is directed by noted British director Lindsay Anderson. Anderson also directed McDowell as Mick Travis in the tale of boarding school rebellion if…. and the odd Britannia Hospital. Malcolm McDowell starred in a charming one man show that paid tribute to Lindsay Anderson and shed some light on their collaborations entitled Never Apologize.
There are many other notable Malcolm McDowell movies. A Clockwork Orange is Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece of the Anthony Burgess novel concerning violence, society, and the truth of one’s own nature with McDowell as the somehow appealing Alex although far from a classical hero. Time After Time does allow McDowell the chance to play a hero. McDowell plays H. G. Wells whose fashioned time machine is used to pursue Jack the Ripper from London to San Francisco. McDowell’s old theater chum David Warner portrays the villainous Jack while Mary Steenbergen stars as Wells’ love interest and would eventually for a time become McDowell’s wife.
McDowell would be futuristic baddies in Tank Girl and Star Trek Generations – the latter in which he’d terminate iconic Federation Captain Kirk. He would portray a Russian serial killer/cannibal in Evilenko, a film McDowell says is a favorite he’s proud of.
Most recently McDowell has portrayed the eccentric maestro Thomas on the Amazon streaming series Mozart in the Jungle. The show ran for four seasons and was a fun mix of humor with drama. It told the tale of a young oboist trying to find her place in the New York orchestra and the crazy characters she encountered.
Spend some time with the work of Malcolm McDowell. You’re sure to have some fun.