CineSavant Column

Saturday April 7, 2018


I received six notes all at once from people telling me that Red Planet Mars is indeed out on DVD, on a disc they say ‘looks like an old TV broadcast.’ My information is that the disc they point to is unauthorized, and in the hope of a proper release, I try my best to not promote gray-market product. MGM has original elements of the 1953 United Artists release in excellent condition.

On a lighter note, I just got in Kino’s upcoming report on what they’re releasing in May. The list heralds the brand-new The Misadventures of Biffle & Shooster!, the retro comedy duo from the 1930s lovingly perpetrated recreated by Michael Schlesinger, starring Will Ryan and Nick Santa Maria. All the corny jokes are in place (believe me) in five separate short subjects, plus a generous selection of extras. A Trailer is up at YouHooTube.

Actually, the disc debut of the ‘wacky, cornball’ Biffle & Shooster short subjects reminds me of a true story, if you have the time.

Back in college around 1975, my friends were intrigued by a serial killer then prowling Los Angeles, the Skid Row Slasher. The newspapers gave him big coverage, playing up the full grisly details about victims found with their throats ‘slashed from ear to ear.’ No strangers to sick humor, we were all amused by the sleazy alarmist headlines — me, Robert S. Birchard, Randall William Cook, Steve Nielson and Douglas Haise. I can still remember Bob Birchard’s face, grinning at the day’s big newspaper headline, which was more suited to 1932 and The Front Page. Doug Haise proposed a student film, a takeoff on old comedy teams much like Biffle & Shooster. Only he decided that his pair of comics would be slap-happy Skid Row winos: one short, one skinny, both stupid. Doug’s proposed title was the snappy, ‘STINKY AND PETE MEET THE SLASHER.’ Since Randy Cook was always sketching on a big pad. He mocked up a great fake photo of an imagined Stinky and Pete lit from below, recoiling from some unseen terror. It got a big laugh.

One Saturday night at Haise’s in Santa Monica we all stayed so late that we just slept over, sleeping wherever. Randy rose early and saw the newspaper, which had another big Skid Row Slasher headline, plus a police artist’s drawing of the suspect: IS THIS THE SLASHER? Before anybody was up, Randy used his pencil to alter the drawing to look like Doug Haise. The effect was really good, at least at first glance. The Slasher was now a dead ringer for our host. When Doug woke up Randy put on a good act of casually handing him the front page. Doug’s sleepy double-take was unforgettable. He could just see himself being arrested as soon as he showed his face on the street.

Yes, I know that your super college memories took place in Paris with international celebrities, or at that total eclipse in Nova Scotia. But this one just made me smile. They were all great guys, and Birchard is much missed.

Thanks for reading. There are 8 million unnecessary personal episodes in The Naked CineSavant Journal; hope this one was worth it — Glenn Erickson