Kendra Steiner Editions (Bill Shute)

July 27, 2022

STRICTLY IN THE GROOVE (1942), starring Shemp Howard and Ozzie Nelson

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:43 am

Films like STRICTLY IN THE GROOVE are the reason I continue to seek out and collect obscure b-movies. This is a wonderful combination of comedy (Shemp Howard, Leon Errol, Tim Ryan) and swing music from Ozzie Nelson and his band. Most of the musical numbers are up-tempo and full of exciting solos, and remind us what was so appealing about swing music to the young people of that day. In fact, the film is initially set in a college where the students (led by Ozzie and his friend Bob, played by Richard Davies, who is really the protagonist of the film) talk in outrageous swing jive language and ignore their studies to play music and dance. Davies is a charming and witty leading man– he’s probably best remembered for the Ritz Brothers’s disappointing HI YA CHUM and The Andrews Sisters’s vehicle PRIVATE BUCKEROO. Ozzie Nelson has a warm and engaging screen presence and reminds me of the young Buster Crabbe. The legendary Franklin Pangborn is priceless as the fussy manager of the resort where Bob is assistant manager and that the college crew turn into a swing oasis. If you want pure entertainment with no time wasted on non-essentials, STRICTLY IN THE GROOVE delivers the goods. Don’t miss it!!!

Bill Shute, originally published elsewhere online in 2004

July 20, 2022

THREE BLONDES IN HIS LIFE (1961), starring Jock Mahoney

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:39 am

 Like a pulp detective novel come to life on-screen!

Just watched this again after about five years, and I’m still struck by the wonderful hard-boiled ambiance of the film, which perfectly captures the male-fantasy element of detective fiction. As a reader of things like Mike Shayne crime novels, I think that THREE BLONDES IN HIS LIFE captures the alcohol-soaked, blonde-loving, tough-guy feel of the typical Shayne novel better than any of the movies that featured the Shayne character. Jock Mahoney, always a reliable leading man with great physical charisma and macho attitude, is perfect as an insurance detective out to crack the case of a phony robbery staged to hide a jewel theft, a case that eventually involves murder. A former agent for Mahoney’s company has gone missing and is implicated in the crime, and this agent had three blondes in his life. Soon, they are involved in Mahoney’s life. I love the way that when Mahoney walks into a room to visit one of these women and question her, he first is offered a drink (he’s a bourbon drinker), and then the woman either comes on to him, or puts up a shrewish front as a cover for the fact that she really WANTS to come on to him! The film is rather low-budget, but is shot very imaginatively. I commented to my wife as we watched this that it had the technical feel of a 50s syndicated TV crime show, with small but efficiently shot sets, but had excellent location photography also which helped create a nice atmospheric Los Angeles feel to it. It’s also lot like a TV crime show. Imagine my surprise when I checked the IMDb credits and saw that director Leon Chooluck’s only directing credit other than this is the HIGHWAY PATROL TV series! Chooluck has a long string of credits as production manager on a number of interesting b-movies, many of which I’ve loved, and he obviously learned how to organize an efficient production. Another interesting aspect of the film is that the production company, Cinema Associates, was a group of four people, one of whom was the legendary Haskell Wexler, of MEDIUM COOL fame. THREE BLONDES IN HIS LIFE captures the ambiance of a paperback-original detective novel better than most similar films I’ve ever seen. It features a strong, cool leading man in Jock Mahoney, and it deserves to be much better known. Check it out.

Bill Shute, originally published elsewhere online in 2005

July 11, 2022

July 2022 poetry update–new book NEUTRAL coming in January 2023!

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:09 am

I hope you all have been enjoying the weekly Wednesday posts, mostly older pieces of mine that appeared in various magazines and online platforms over the last 25 years but which are now being presented to a new and different audience. At one time I was considering compiling a book of my older pieces, mixing the reviews with the “faux-memoir” pieces inspired by comic books or films/music–some of you may remember the title of that projected book, NERO’S MOTHER MEETS THE PHANTOM GUNSLINGER–and there was a good amount of support for that project (in some cases, from people who would never read one of my poetry books!), but I decided to provide that material for free online along with many other reviews which I would not have included in the book. For instance, the Dick Powell “Richard Diamond” review that ran a week or two ago was a good piece but not something I’d ever include in a book. Thanks to those who were championing a book of reviews for years (I’m thinking of you, Greg Woods!)–it’s nice to be wanted.

However, I do want to alert you to my poetry publications of the recent months and other forthcoming projects. The actual creation of the poetic works–along with the editing/formatting/etc. which is inextricably mixed into the process of a piece’s coming-into-being–is what is essential to me, and the self-promotion often gets lost in the shuffle of daily responsibilities. The way I look at it, there will always be time to re-package and promote the “back catalogue” of poetry, but the creative juices won’t flow as well five years from now as they do today–just as they don’t flow as well today as they did five years ago. That’s just part of the process of getting older. Also, the responsibilities on my job keep getting ramped up each year, taking more of my time outside regular work hours than they did the previous year. Fortunately, I will be retiring in the Summer of 2023, and much of the time I spend earning a paycheck can be spent on literary pursuits–finally getting more time to spend in those variorum editions of Wordsworth, the complete editions of William Dean Howells and Washington Irving, the complete poems volumes of Larry Eigner and Philip Whalen and a dozen others, the Yale editions of the previously unpublished works of Gertrude Stein, and so forth (I have worked my way through John Galsworthy’s complete FORSYTE SAGA in the last 12 months, for which I pat myself on the back, and which has made me a finer and richer human being!). Books I presently dip into and find intellectual nourishment in I will be able to devour more fully and ponder and learn from. When I left my full-time graduate studies in 1985 to get married, have a family, and work multiple jobs to support not just me in some furnished room but a spouse and children, I put behind being a full-time literary person. Except on vacations, it’s always been a part-time thing, though thankfully for the last 18-20 years or so, I have produced a steady stream of poetry, from TWELVE GATES TO THE CITY on. Priority one has always been for me THE CREATION OF WORKS THAT I WOULD WANT TO READ BUT WHICH DON’T EXIST OTHERWISE, AND THUS I HAVE TO CREATE THEM. As much as I love the works of the poets I grew up reading and who exerted such a huge influence on my development–Paul Blackburn, Ted Berrigan, Edward Dorn, WC Williams, Diane Wakoski, Charles Reznikoff, John Ashbery, Clark Coolidge, Robert Creeley, Larry Eigner–no individual work of theirs seemed definitive or seemed to provide what I was hungering for, so I had to create the works which I myself wanted to read. I took the ball handed to me by Blackburn or Berrigan and ran with it further downfield toward that goal line that few of us mortals will ever reach–we just, if we are lucky, get to carry the ball a few more years from where the previous generation left off. So there is my own view of what I am doing in poetry. Also, as a lover of both music and painting and other art forms of which I am not a practitioner, I am able to use the aesthetics of those media in my poetry, allowing me to take elements from a John Cage or a Cy Twombly and transpose them into the world of poetry.

So….after that grandiose intro, what is on offer? what has been happening?

During my visit to Vicksburg, Mississippi, in June 2021, I began work on a new book-length poem, titled NEUTRAL, and got a lot accomplished during the two weeks in Mississippi and Louisiana, but I was not satisfied with the end result, and felt that I needed to create a work that was both more expansive and more minimal, under the spell of Frank Samperi’s poetry and Jürg Frey’s music. I also wanted to explore more dimensions of the diptych concept used in my last few books such as COMPLEMENTARY ANGLES and TWO SELF-PORTRAITS (AFTER MURILLO). Those works had been inspired by Wordsworth’s and Robert Lowell’s re-writing of their own works, and the two (or in the case of Wordsworth, often four of five!) different versions of one “work.” In the case of NEUTRAL, I felt inspired by Andy Warhol’s diptychs where one of the panels was essentially monochromatic (or should I say infinite subtle variations on monochrome), while also paying homage to the format of the early home-printed KSE poetry chapbooks, though with the added advantage of using some of the left-facing pages for counterpoint, a kind of Greek chorus reflecting on the right-hand flow. Thus, I continued work (whenever my job responsibilities gave me time) on NEUTRAL in late 2021 and early 2022, composing many new stanzas and incorporating them into the overall mosaic, now running 100+ pages. A draft of the full work was finished during my June 2022 writing vacation in central Louisiana, and upon returning to San Antonio, I spent a week or two on close editing, reading aloud, formatting etc. That work is now ready for publication (see cover above) and is scheduled to appear in softcover in January 2023 as KSE #420. It is both an extension of the form/structure of COMPLEMENTARY ANGLES and TWO SELF-PORTRAITS (AFTER MURILLO) and a trek into refreshingly new territory for me.

Again, NEUTRAL will be available in paperback from KSE in January 2023. I’ll of course alert you all when it is available for order.

I’ve begun work on a new long-form work with the completion of NEUTRAL. I would hope to have a draft of that one (tentatively titled STATIC STRUT) finished by the Summer of 2023, at which time my life-schedule will change a bit because Mary Anne and I will be retiring.

——————

Work has also begun on another long-term project, a hardcover edition of the SATORI IN NATCHEZ collection, originally published in 2018, containing seven pieces written in Natchez, Mississippi, in the Summer of 2017. For some reason (perhaps Jack Kerouac fans are picking up on the title’s reference to SATORI IN PARIS and giving the book a try?) that book has attracted the attention of a number of people who are not regular readers of mine, and I’ve rec’d communications out of the blue from strangers about it, which has inspired the creation of a “remixed” (as they say in the world of music reissues) hardcover version of SATORI with new cover art. No words will be changed, but each open-field page of text will be freshly re-aligned as the clusters of poetic energy return to the page after a gap of four years–one can’t expect each line/each stanza to sit in the same seat in the classroom upon re-visiting the campus after a few years–they will sit where they feel comfortable on that particular day. I’ve started this re-composing these pieces, page-by-page, and hope to have a draft of that done some time in the Fall of 2022.

Speaking of hardcover reprints of earlier works, my most recent book release is still available, LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES (KSE #419), which reprints the three long-form 2020-2021 poems composed during the Covid-19 Lockdown, TOMORROW WON’T BRING THE RAIN, COMPLEMENTARY ANGLES, and TWO SELF-PORTRAITS (AFTER MURILLO), in an attractive hardcover edition with striking original cover art by Wyatt Doyle of New Texture fame (his latest book, a collab with visual artist Jimmy Angelina, BE ITALIAN, is highly recommended…and was the subject of an exciting episode of the late Gilbert Gottfried’s podcast). It costs less than getting the three paperback volumes separately and contains EXACTLY the same content (no “remixing” here). If you are in the US, you can order it here: https://amzn.to/3NnTSxO

If you are outside the US, just go to the local Amazon platform in your country and enter LOCKDOWN CORRESPONDENCES, BILL SHUTE, into the Books section of the search engine, and you should be able to find it, published locally and with only local postage, which will save you money.

All of my KSE poetry books since 2016 are available here, at the Amazon Bill Shute Author Page: https://amzn.to/2XRNgjl

If you have a few extra dollars during this rocky economic period, why not try a few of them….

A physical copy of a poetry book is a friend who will always be there for you (indeed…my original copies of Paul Blackburn’s THE JOURNALS and IN.ON.OR ABOUT THE PREMISES, John Ashbery’s THE TENNIS COURT OATH, and Frank Samperi’s QUADRIFARIUM, all acquired in used racks 45+ years ago, still reside within 50 feet of where I am typing this post and still travel with me across the Midwest/Southwest/South/Texas … and still inspire me and remain fresh), and if the power goes down and the internet/cellular phone grid dies, all you need is the sunlight or a battery powered flashlight and your poetry books will be there for you, simultaneously taking your imagination on a journey, refining and expanding your sense of aesthetics, and (in the case of my own productions) shining a light on daily life experience from unexpected angles.

Wishing all of you reading this an enjoyable and productive rest of 2022. Be sure to check-in weekly here at the KSE blog for new posts.

July 6, 2022

Dean Martin is MR. RICCO (1975)

Filed under: Uncategorized — kendrasteinereditions @ 1:07 am

MR. RICCO was Dean Martin’s final starring role (he had only guest star roles after this) in a feature film, and it came and went very quickly. I remember it appearing out of the blue and seeing a newspaper ad for it, but by the time I was able to arrange seeing it, it had vanished from all screens in the Denver area, and I don’t remember it re-appearing later on the bottom of the bill at any local drive-ins. At most, it was out for a week in January 1975.

Of course, Dean Martin would not be the first name one would think of as the star of an urban crime film, which is essentially what this is, although Martin is an attorney, not a cop. You need a jittery, edgy presence, which is why Sinatra could do that kind of cop role well in his later years. Director Paul Bogart had previously directed CANCEL MY RESERVATION, the 1972 swan song of Bob Hope, which did get a theatrical release but seemed to be a network Movie Of The Week within months, so maybe some studio official thought he had a proven track record with past-their-prime household names. The big difference between that and Mr. Ricco is that in the Hope film, Bob was just doing the same old routine and running it into the ground. In Mr. Ricco, Martin is definitely playing against type–there’s no boozing or womanizing or double-entendre dialogue. Martin is playing a real character and not just a variation on his persona. The character is awkward, lonely, suffering from the health problems that come with age, and has a vulnerability that is moving. Of course, Martin had done diverse dramatic roles successfully a number of times before (THE YOUNG LIONS, for instance, with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift) in the post-Martin and Lewis era, but with the success of his weekly TV variety show, where the Dino persona–with a drink in one hand and a scantily-clad blonde on the other arm–was branded permanently into the consciousness of the average American, it was hard to think of him as anything else. This film came after his variety show went off the air but before he took the same boozy persona and brought it to a long series of celebrity roast TV specials, which are still being played on cable TV and sold on DVD today. The 70’s was a Golden Age of urban crime films, and even John Wayne made two of them in the 1974-75 period, MC Q and BRANNIGAN. The makers of this film wisely did not make Martin a cop–he doesn’t seem to have the energy for that–instead, they put him into the world of police and criminals as an attorney, and a burned-out, second-string attorney.

MR. RICCO looks and plays a lot like a TV movie (in fact, Martin’s daughter Deana refers to it as a TV show “that did not last very long” in her book about her father, so even she had it confused with a TV movie!), though with a bit more violence and darker, moodier photography than one would find on TV. Much of the plot revolves around Black characters (with Martin as a kind of outsider to their world) and a Black militant played by Thalmus Rasulala (well-remembered from COOL BREEZE and BLACULA), and the cast also includes Denise Nicholas (from ROOM 222) and the young Philip Michael Thomas, pre-MIAMI VICE. In Nick Tosches’ book on Dean Martin, Rasulala is quoted as describing Martin as detached and somewhat out of it during the film’s shoot, keeping to himself and being polite but not really connecting with the cast. If you were not a Martin fan, you could say he was phoning it in. He was also in the midst of a painful divorce, but he was always the professional and he always made it look effortless. If you decide to watch the film a second time but forget about the “plot” and concentrate entirely on Martin’s performance and characterization, tuning everything else out, as I once did, you’ll probably rate the film much higher and find a lot to contemplate.

The plot introduces many different and interesting elements in its 98 minutes, never really going all the way with or developing any of them but dropping them here and there, which oddly works here since that’s probably how the average police investigation or the average week in someone’s life would seem while you were living it, but the “whodunit” climax is an outrageous cheat and makes me wonder if this project was just finished (maybe I should say “finished off”) because it was contracted and a job needed to be done. I can’t imagine anyone involved in the production thinking that a film with such a ludicrous resolution could ever get a good review. MGM/UA’s dumping of the film onto the market with little fanfare or promotion would also lead one to that conclusion–it was a product that had a contractual obligation to be released, and they released it….and quickly moved on.

San Francisco is always a good setting for a crime film, and the locations are fresh and unfamiliar. The supporting cast, those mentioned above plus Eugene Roche (for years known by all as the dishwasher character selling Ajax Dishwashing Detergent, but also a man with a long string of stage credits, and memorable appearances in everything from SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE to ALL IN THE FAMILY) as the burned-out cop that Martin’s Mr. Ricco tangles with, all do a great job (no doubt thinking it was a good break to get cast in an MGM film starring Dean Martin!). And Dean Martin, although looking tired and detached, creates an interesting character, and those qualities actually help make Ricco seem real. Martin plays him as if he’s not starring in a movie but maybe forced to do jury duty, and having to do it during a week when he’d hoped to be doing something else, yet somehow that approach fits.

Fans of Dean Martin or of lesser-known 70’s urban crime films will want to check this out, and except for the ending, you should find your 98 minutes to be well spent. It’s no classic, but just imagine it as a pilot for an entry in the NBC MYSTERY MOVIE anthology series, except with Dean Martin. I would have watched such a show religiously back in the day. Dean Martin certainly finished off his days of film stardom in a much more classy and successful way with MR. RICCO than Bob Hope did with CANCEL MY RESERVATION, although that’s not much of a compliment.

Bill Shute (originally published online in 2018)

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