Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tightrope (TV)

Created by
Clarence Green, Russell Rouse
Starring  Mike Connors
IMDB Entry

In memory of Mike Connors.

It’s funny what impresses you about a TV show when you’re a kid. I remembered Tightrope for one reason:  the place where the hero kept his gun.

The premise was that Nick (Mike Connors) was an undercover cop, going on one job after another to try to stop various criminal schemes.* He was in deep undercover, and sometimes the local police didn’t even know his identity. That was the tightrope:  he had to walk the line between the law and the criminals.  The criminals would kill him if they discovered he was a cop, while the cops often didn’t know he was on their side.

The series was done in hard boiled style. Nick would narrate the adventure as he infiltrated criminal gangs by showing his toughness and sardonic one liners.

The half-hour stories had Nick getting in close with the criminal gang, and then managing to stop their efforts. He was smart and tough.  Much of the tension was the cat and mouse game Nick was forced to play to stop the criminals without being discovered.

This was Connor’s first starring role. He had come up in films in the fifties** and was doing various guest stints up until this time.

The show ran for a year and was cancelled despite good ratings.  It came along in the last years of advertisers sponsoring a show.  CBS wanted to move it; one of the advertisers balked and the show was cancelled.

Oh, and the gun?  Nick kept it in a special holster on the back of his belt. When he was frisked, people would find a shoulder holster (or nothing) and figure that was it.  Nick would then draw his gun when needed. That was very impressive to a ten-year-old me.

Connors continued doing the guest star route until cast as the lead in the 60s series Mannix,*** where he became a TV icon.****

*The type of things that are considered small time today – jewelry robberies, racetrack heists, and so fort.

**Starting out billed as “Touch Connors.”  He had the same agent as Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter.  Conners was born Krekor Ohanan, and picked up “Touch” as a nickname in college.  By the time he made Tightrope, he had ditched “Touch” and was billed as “Michael Connors.”

***Now billed as the familiar “Mike Connors.”

****People don’t remember how the show changed between the first and second season. The first year, he was part of a big, high-tech (for the time) detective firm, but that was all dropped the second year when the show was revamped and he became a classic private eye.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Flushed Away

Directed by
Dick Clement, Sam Fell
Written by Sam Fell and Peter Lord & Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais (story) Dick Clement & Ian La Frenais (screenplay) & Chris Lloyd & Joe Keenan & Will Davies
Starring (voice): Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellan, Jean Reno, Billy Nighy, Andy Serkis, Shane Richie.
IMDB Entry

I have written before of my admiration for Aardman Animations. And Flushed Away is their least impressive film.  But that all relative:  Aardman sets its bar so high that Flushed Away is still better than 90% of the animated films out there.

It’s the story of Roddy St. James (Hugh Jackman), a pet rat who lives in luxury in a fancy apartment*. When the family goes away, he enjoys his freedom until Sid (Shank Richie), a sewer rat, joins them.  Roddy tries to trick Sid into the toilet in order to get rid of him, telling Sid it’s a Jacuzzi.  But Sid knows a toilet when he sees it, and Roddy finds himself flushed into the sewers, where rats and other creatures have an entire city.  In order to try to regain his place, he joins up with Rita Malone (Kate Winslet), who has a boat and is being chased by the Toad (Ian McKellan), who has sinister plans in mind for the rats living in the there.

The broke new ground for the company. They had always done stop motion animation for their films, but the problem of using water required them to switch to CGI.**

The film had generally good reviews, but not the usual glowing ones you Aaraman usually gets.***  The movie made a profit, but the numbers were lower than for Aardman’s previous two films. Dreamworks Animation, which distributed, was doing far better with Shrek and other films.****  At the same time, Aardman didn’t like the corporate interference.  The two companies agreed to part ways.  Aardnan went to Columbia/Sony for its next two films, the classics Arthur Christmas and The Pirates! Band of Misfits.

*Being a cartoon rat, Roddy has a closet full of clothes, one of which is a direct match for the suit worn by Wallace from Aarman’s Wallace and Gromit.

**It’s difficult to get water looking good in stop motion, plus the clay figures of the characters would get quickly ruined.

***Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 72% – good, but Aardman scores are usually in the 90s.

****Flushed Away had Dreamworks’s third-lowest box office numbers – it made money, but not hatfuls of it -- and other Aardman films did not come close to the box office of even minor Dreamworks films like the awful Bee Movie.