Tag Archives: Scatman Crothers

The Set of 400: #121 – My Favorite Ghost Bartender

Today! Because there ain’t nothing in Room 237. But you ain’t got no business going in there anyway –

The Shining (1980)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick (x3)

Starring Jack Nicholson (x5), Shelley Duvall (x3), Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers (x4), Barry Nelson, Joe Turkel (x2), Anne Jackson, Tony Burton (x4), Philip Stone, Barry Dennen (x2)

Poor Shelley Duvall.

My least favorite version of this story, Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is nonetheless a triumphant masterpiece of cinematic horror – unnerving, upsetting, bizarre, and fucking gross as hell. It became such an iconic landmark in film history that it weirdly spawned countless interpretive and/or conspiracy-esque theories about its hidden messages – largely chronicled in the terrific documentary Room 237 – and functioned as a key level in the Spielberg adaptation of Ready Player One, wholly replacing the book’s trip through WarGames. It provides countless memorable quotes – “Heeeere’s Johnny!” “I’m not gonna hurt ya. I’m just going to bash your brains in!” “Redrum.” – and unforgettable visuals, like that elevator tidal wave of blood or that guy in the dog suit, whatever that is.

Is it a statement about the environment or something?

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The Set of 400: #182 – My Favorite Projectile Water Fountain

Today! Because I must be crazy to be in a loony bin like this –

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Directed by Milos Forman

Starring Jack Nicholson (x4), Louise Fletcher (x3), Brad Dourif, Will Sampson, Scatman Crothers (x3), Danny DeVito (x5), Vincent Schiavelli (x5), Christopher Lloyd (x4), Michael Berryman, Peter Brocco, Sydney Lassick, Louisa Moritz, Mews Small, William Redfield

I was already well familiar with the movie by the time I read Ken Kesey’s book, which is a very different Cuckoo’s Nest experience, and then later Dale Wasserman’s play – which bears more similarity to the movie, but is sort of a neat hybrid of the two. Kesey famously hated the direction the movie went, because again, that book is wildly different, even as it tells basically the same story, but both are pretty great in their own ways.

The movie, however, does win out in the end, being the absolute cinematic classic that it is. And the whole thing came together as it did by a lot of luck – Kirk Douglas had starred as McMurphy on Broadway in the early ’60s and held the rights, only to age out of the role and pass the producing onto his son Michael, opening the door for Nicholson to come on board. That casting delayed the film, due to other Nicholson projects, which also roundabout-ly caused Lily Tomlin to vacate the Nurse Ratched role, picked up by Louise Fletcher, who subsequently dropped out of the epic pre-production on Robert Altman’s Nashville, in the role that ultimately Lily Tomlin ending up jumping into (Part of the reason Tomlin’s Linnea has deaf children in Nashville is because Louise Fletcher was fluent in sign language, having been born to deaf parents!). I think I have all that right, pulled together through various sources and my muddled memory.

And Lily Tomlin is excellent in Nashville

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The Set of 400: #273 – My Favorite Cabbie Bias

Today! Because I’m using rented bullets for my gun. We’ve all got problems –

The Cheap Detective (1978)

Directed by Robert Moore

Starring Peter Falk, Madeline Kahn, John Houseman, Stockard Channing, James Coco (x2), Eileen Brennan, Dom DeLuise (x3), Louise Fletcher, Marsha Mason, Abe Vigoda, Vic Tayback, David Ogden Stiers, Scatman Crothers (x2), Nicol Williamson, Paul Williams, Phil Silvers, Fernando Lamas, Sid Caesar, Ann-Margret, James Cromwell, Jonathan Banks (x2)

A spiritual sequel to the zany Neil Simon comedy Murder By Death, The Cheap Detective is a more direct parody than its predecessor, taking Peter Falk’s twisted Bogart impression and slamming Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, and The Big Sleep together into one silly 1940’s San Francisco mystery, replete with Nazis, secret identities, Romanians, stolen treasure, and an acronymed pseudo-villain named Vladimir Tserijemiwtz, which works out to Ezra C.V. Mildew Dezire Jr.!

Many members of the large cast appeared in Murder By Death as well, including Coco, Brennan, and Cromwell, but Falk’s is the only character transplanted over more or less intact, even with a different name (Lou Peckinpaugh here, Sam Diamond in Murder). These movies are in the rare group of Neil Simon screenplays that weren’t adapted from his stage plays, which includes The Out-of-Towners, The Goodbye Girl, and Seems Like Old Times. They do, however, have that indefinable Neil Simon-ness about their jokes, which mostly land, even if they can verge into mild racism here and there. Ah, the 1970s!

And some vintage Sid Caesar shtick!

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The Set of 400: #331 – My Favorite Punchable Child Character

Today! Because he’s got a chip on his shoulder the size of the national debt –

Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983)

Directed by Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg

Starring Dan Aykroyd (x2), Albert Brooks (x2), Vic Morrow, John Larroquette (x2), Steven Williams, Scatman Crothers, Selma Diamond, Bill Quinn, Murray Matheson, Kathleen Quinlan, Dick Miller, John Lithgow, Donna Dixon, Burgess Meredith (x3), Abbe Lane, Bill Mumy, Nancy Cartwright, William Schallert, Patricia Barry, Kevin McCarthy, Jeremy Licht, Priscilla Pointer, Martin Garner, Helen Shaw, Charles Hallahan, Doug McGrath

A wildly uneven movie, which is to be expected considering the basis, the highs in Twilight Zone are pretty damn high, while the lows are only mediocre – this is a wall-to-wall watchable movie, even if on paper it seems like it shouldn’t have worked at all. Bringing in the high profile quartet of directors was certainly a good first step – with the only one I tend to skip being Dante’s “It’s a Good Life.” I don’t know, it’s not an episode I particularly enjoy either, so I’m not blaming the way they execute it, I’m just not a huge fan of that asshole kid. It’s pretty meh.

But the other three – pretty solid. The only original story of the group – the Landis directed “Time Out” is a bit heavy-handed, but effectively lead by Vic Morrow (famously killed on the set of this film, requiring a different ending to be concocted). Spielberg’s “Kick the Can” is schmaltzy, but has always been my favorite segment, with its sadly sentimental senior citizens getting one night to be young again. But clearly they saved the stand-out sequence for the finale, as George Miller’s “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” surpasses the episode it’s based on (the best episode they chose to adapt, too) and gets a dynamite performance from Lithgow as the tortured passenger, seeing a monster on the wing of the plane.

Lithgow is largely not doing well

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