Author Archives: Film Music Central

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I'm a 30 year old musicologist and blogger and I've had a lifelong obsession with film music, cartoon music, just about any kind of music!

The Twilight Zone S3 E5: A Game of Pool

“A Game of Pool” is an episode of The Twilight Zone that has become one of my favorites. I admit I ignored it at first, mostly because I wasn’t interested in an episode that centers around the game of pool. But once I checked the episode out, and then watched it several times, I realized it’s a particularly good entry in the series and one that I needed to write about.

The thing with “A Game of Pool” is that its premise is a little difficult to figure out at first. On the surface, this episode appears to be a clear-cut case of “be careful what you wish for.” Pool shark Jesse Cardiff (Jack Klugman), tired of continually being compared to the late legendary pool player ‘Fats’ Brown (Jonathan Winters), makes the mistake of saying he’d give anything to play one game with Brown to prove who is the best. This being the Twilight Zone, Brown appears to accept the challenge.

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So in a sense this is “be careful what you wish for” but it’s also something more. As the episode plays on and Jesse eventually agrees to a game with Brown, it becomes obvious pretty quickly that something else is in play. While the episode acknowledges that there’s nothing wrong with becoming the best at something, it does remind the audience that this shouldn’t be done at the expense of having a life outside of that something. Jesse openly acknowledges that his entire life has revolved around pool for years, to a disturbing degree:

Do you know how many hours, how many years I’ve put of myself into this game? How many nights I slept on that table right there? Yea, I did that. I made a deal with the owner so I could practice after the place closed. I haven’t been to the movies in years, I haven’t dated a girl, read a book, because it would take time away from the game.

Jesse is so obsessed with being the best at pool that he’s literally withdrawn from life. If they were to remake this episode today, they’d probably replace pool with video games, because to hear Jesse talk reminds me of stories of gamers who shut themselves in for days at a time, relentlessly playing a game to hone their skills. It’s frightening to think about: he’s spent all this time working to perfect his skills at pool, even Fats Brown didn’t go that far, and he tells Jesse as much, but the pool shark doesn’t listen.

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And that’s the other thing about “A Game of Pool.” If you listen to Fats Brown’s dialogue closely, it’s clear that there’s a lot more to the stakes than what he’s telling. Given the stakes of the game seem to include Jesse “dying” if he loses, Fats tries several times to get Jesse to lose the game, right down to the last shot actually. But once he sees Jesse really won’t listen, he gives up and lets fate take its course. As with all Twilight Zone episodes, this one has its own doozy of a twist. When Fats said the pool game would be a matter of “life and death” he wasn’t speaking literally. Because Jesse won the game, he will now live forever (after death), until someone else can beat him the way he did Fats. If he’d lost, he would’ve “died” in the sense that he wouldn’t be a legend and would simply pass on once his life ended.

I suppose Jesse Cardiff’s fate isn’t the worse thing that’s ever happened to a character in The Twilight Zone. After all, Fats Brown was beat eventually, one would assume someone would beat Jesse in time also. But the way Jesse talked at the end about never letting anyone take the title of “being the best” away from him, I suspect it will be a long time before Jesse is allowed to “rest.”

Let me know what you think about “A Game of Pool” in the comments below and have a great day!

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The Twilight Zone S3 E 9: Deaths-Head Revisited

I’ve wanted to write about this particular episode of The Twilight Zone for a long time, but I hesitated because I was thinking about the right way to do it. Finally I decided to just dive in and have at it.

So here we are with Deaths-Head Revisited, one of the most powerful episodes of The Twilight Zone ever created in my opinion, not least because it deals with the aftermath of an event that was very much in living memory at the time: the Holocaust. The episode is set in Dachau (both the town and concentration camp of the same name), and sees Gunther Lutze (Oscar Beregi Jr.), a former SS officer once in charge of the camp, returning to visit its ruins and gloat over past memories. But of course, this being the Twilight Zone, Lutze is far from alone, and it’s long past time he received punishment for the crimes he committed.

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I said before that this is one of the series’ most powerful episodes and I meant it. Even Rod Serling’s introduction has a touch more bite in it than usual. Of all the despicable characters that have populated this show, Lutze is surely the worst. From the moment he enters the camp (at least until he meets a certain someone), the unrepentant Nazi is clearly in his element, strutting around as if tens of thousands of people didn’t die on the ground he’s walking on.  Every time I see this episode, I have to think that this is what Hell looked like for everyone responsible for the Holocaust.

And how Lutze’s punishment plays out is just…so fitting it’s hard to describe. The presence of their former tormentor is enough to rouse the ghosts of the dead and serve Lutze up with more than a taste of his own medicine. It would be frightening, actually, if the person at the center of it all weren’t absolutely deserving of everything he got. I should note that Oscar Beregi Jr. is absolutely brilliant in this episode, just oozing arrogance and a firm denial that he is at fault for anything.

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The biggest clue that something unnatural is going on comes the moment Lutze meets Becker (Joseph Schildkraut), a former prisoner at the camp. That Lutze doesn’t notice the following issues shows just how unrepentant and clueless he really is. First, Becker is still wearing his camp uniform, even though 17 years have passed since the war ended and there would be no logical reason for him to keep it on. Second, and more importantly, Becker hasn’t changed or aged a day since Lutze saw him last. It isn’t until nearly the end of the episode that Lutze remembers a very important truth: he killed Becker right as the war was ending, and he’s been talking to a ghost the entire time. That Lutze could ever forget that he killed the person he’s been talking to is just mind-blowing and indicative of how evil he is.

On a final note, while it might seem strange that the ghosts don’t kill Lutze, what happens instead is just as bad, if not worse. In his new condition, Lutze can’t do anything, he can’t enjoy life, he can’t talk, he certainly can’t run and hide. All he can do is be strapped to a bed in a hospital, pumped so full of sedatives he’s practically comatose. And that’s just what happens in this life, there’s so much more hinted to come once he enters the afterlife.

Everyone should see Deaths-Head Revisited at least once. It’s powerful, it’s intense, and its message is just as important today as it was then. Let me know what you think of the episode in the comments below and have a great day.

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My Thoughts on: The Mandalorian, Season 1 (2019)

As much as I love Star Wars, I will admit to being slightly dubious when I first heard about The Mandalorian, a show that is exclusive to Disney+. It’s not that I didn’t doubt the casting or talent behind the production, I was just more interested in learning if there would be any new productions featuring Ahsoka. Any doubts I did have quickly vanished once Disney+ arrived. One season in, The Mandalorian is a brilliant addition to the Star Wars universe, albeit one that’s currently left me with more questions than answers.

Let’s start with a few background details. First there’s the timing of this show: in the grand scheme of things, The Mandalorian is set 5 years post-Return of the Jedi. So the Emperor is dead, Vader is dead, there’s no Death Star, and nominally the New Republic is in charge of the galaxy. In truth though, taking out the Empire has left a power vacuum in large chunks of the galaxy, leaving many to scramble to get by as well as they can, which is where the titular Mandalorian comes in. He’s a bounty hunter, a good one too. But his bounty hunting lifestyle is turned upside down when he accepts one particular job.

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By the time the first episode was over, I was completely hooked on this show. The Mandalorian feels like Star Wars in a way that’s hard for me to put into words. From the gritty details, to the many, MANY hidden Easter eggs throughout the season, everything in this season just fits into the existing mythos. That being said, there are a few things this season left me thinking about, the first of which is baby Yoda.

I wish a camera could’ve recorded the look on my face when baby Yoda was first revealed (yes, I know that isn’t actually Yoda, but the name is cute). Of all the things I thought the asset could be…this wasn’t it. This is one of the details I have so many questions about: where did he come from? What is his name? What did the Client want with him? Was baby Yoda originally a youngling at the Temple? (hey, he’s 50 years old, that last one is technically possible) I’m hoping that at least some of these questions are addressed in season 2, because I need answers!

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Another major question, and one that I suspect will be answered next month: what the frack happened on Mandalore? Better question, what happened to Mandalore? I ask this question for several reasons. The first is that the Mandalorians are revealed to be few in number and in hiding, something that was not true the last time we saw any Mandalorians. The fact that the Darksaber is in the hands of an Imperial Moff (more on that in a moment) means that something really bad happened. Keep in mind, the last time we saw the Darksaber, it was about a year before the Battle of Yavin and it had been given to Bo-Katan Kryze by Sabine Wren. The latter was going to unite Mandalore against the Empire, a plan that obviously failed spectacularly. I’m hoping that the upcoming last season of The Clone Wars will give some insight into part of what happened to Mandalore, or at least lay the foundations for it.

Another thing, holy crap the Darksaber has made its live-action debut and I still can’t quite believe it. For those who might not know, the Darksaber is a legendary lightsaber made by a Mandalorian Jedi named Tarre Vizsla thousands of years ago during the Old Republic. Unlike traditional lightsabers, the Darksaber has a black blade, one shaped to look like a sword. The Darksaber eventually became associated with the rule of Mandalore itself, with would-be leaders challenging for the right to wield the blade and rule the planet. It cannot be overstated how important the Darksaber is to any surviving Mandalorians. Once it gets out that Moff Gideon has the Darksaber….oh heads will roll in an attempt to get it back.

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And speaking of Moff Gideon…who is he? How did he get his hands on the Darksaber?? And am I the only one who noticed that his armor bears a distinct resemblance to Vader’s? I’m secretly hoping Gideon gets introduced in the last season of The Clone Wars, because I need to learn more about this character as soon as possible.

Hopefully all of these ramblings demonstrate that I really, really liked The Mandalorian and I’m really excited for season 2 when it arrives this fall.

Let me know what you think about The Mandalorian in the comments below and have a great day!

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TV Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

While I started the Tarzan films somewhat out of order, I did eventually make my way to Tarzan the Ape Man, the first Tarzan film starring Johnny Weissmuller all the way back in 1932. The film looks at how Tarzan and Jane first met, and establishes that the titular character lives way up high on an escarpment deep in Africa, a place filled with treasures that many from the outside world would crave if only they could get to them. Like an elephant graveyard loaded to the brim with ivory…

Now believe it or not, but I actually didn’t like this film as much as some of the others, particularly Tarzan and His Mate. Don’t get me wrong, Tarzan the Ape Man is a good film, and any film series has to start somewhere. But I think the fact that Tarzan and Jane’s relationship isn’t an established thing really bothered me while watching this film. Also, while Weissmuller’s Tarzan generally doesn’t talk very much, he speaks even less in this film. It’s just awkward, for me, to go from the later films back to the first one, where most of the things I’m used to seeing (Tarzan and Jane’s treehouse, Boy, Tarzan and Jane’s relationship) simply aren’t there.

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That being said, Tarzan the Ape Man does a good job of setting up the basic template that the rest of the Weissmuller films follow. One circumstance or another leads to a group reaching Tarzan’s escarpment, the group meets Tarzan, adventures of various kinds ensue, and the bad guys are suitably punished. It’s not a bad setup for a plot, and it does serve as a good opening for Tarzan’s adventures. Although if you’re hoping for an onscreen explanation of how Tarzan got to the top of the escarpment, then you’re in for a disappointment because it isn’t brought up. For all we know, this version of Tarzan is also secretly Lord Greystoke, but as it’s never brought up it doesn’t really matter where he came from either.

Also, I really like Jane’s introduction in this film. You can tell from her very first appearance that this is not the typical woman, in fact she’s just right for someone like Tarzan. If anyone else had gone into the jungle, the story just wouldn’t have worked out. So Jane is bold, adventurous (and she knows how to use a gun!), and willing to take chances the average woman wouldn’t.

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All told, you will like Tarzan the Ape Man. As far as origin stories for Tarzan and Jane, it does a good job of setting up the scenario. Neil Hamilton and C. Aubrey Smith do a good job of rounding out the main cast as Harry Holt and James Parker (Jane’s father) respectively. In fact Hamilton reprises his role in Tarzan and His Mate. Just be sure to watch this film first before you see the others.

Let me know what you think about Tarzan the Ape Man in the comments below and have a good night!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: A Christmas Carol (1984)

Earlier, during the holidays, I sat down and watched the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol, with George C. Scott starring as Ebenezer Scrooge. As near as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve ever seen this particular version of the story, which is by far the most complete version of “A Christmas Carol” that I’ve seen to date. For context, I should mention that the version I’m most familiar with are Mickey’s Christmas Carol and The Muppet Christmas Carol, both of which are good but they also leave out quite a bit of material as I’ve now discovered.

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A Christmas Carol includes sequences and details I never knew about before, including Ebenezer’s beloved sister Fan, and the fact that her untimely death is why Scrooge isn’t particularly fond of his nephew Fred (most versions I’ve seen omit that detail). And then when Scrooge is spending time with the Ghost of Christmas Present, I never knew he visited his nephew Fred’s home and watched them play games. All of these details have really expanded the story for me and made me love it that much more. This film also, in my opinion, has the scariest incarnation of The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come that I’ve seen in a long time. To be sure, I haven’t seen a version yet that doesn’t have a scary version of this character, but this one is particularly dark.

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I also really enjoy George C. Scott’s interpretation of Ebenezer Scrooge. I know many famous actors have taken on the role, and given that I only know Scott best for his work in Patton, I wasn’t sure how he would do playing Scrooge. But after watching this film, I found myself really enjoying his performance. Scott’s version of Scrooge is particularly cold and nasty in the beginning, and even after being visited by the first two Ghosts, Scrooge doesn’t seem particularly close to being redeemed. It’s only after being visited by the terrifying Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (who can only communicate with terrifying metallic shrieks), that Scrooge finally sees the error of his ways.

If you’re looking for a version of “A Christmas Carol” that is particularly faithful to the original story, then you can’t go wrong by watching this one. Let me know what you think about it in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

The next Tarzan film I decided to see is Tarzan Escapes from 1936. Like Tarzan and His Mate, this film once again sees outside forces attempting to return Jane to civilization, this time in the form of her cousins Eric and Rita. These two mean well, but their actions sure do cause a lot of grief for Jane and Tarzan, especially when a certain revelation is made at the end of the film (but I’ll get to that in a little bit).

Tarzan Escapes has two primary conflicts: one centers on whether or not Jane will return to civilization to sign some financial papers that will help her cousins, and the other involves Captain Fry, a big game hunter who has nefarious designs on Tarzan. The latter plays out as exactly the way you think it will (Tarzan does get caught but it doesn’t last for long and revenge is exacted). The big heart wrenching element in this film comes when Jane has to explain to Tarzan why she needs to go away for a few months to help her cousins. The only part of it that Tarzan understands is that Jane is going away, and it clearly breaks his heart. It’s enough to make me want to cry, even though I’ve rewatched the scene several times by now. Weissmuller’s Tarzan is so in love with Jane, even a temporary separation feels like the end of the world.

But what really bugs me about all of this, as I mentioned earlier, is that none of it had to happen. You see, early in the film Eric and Rita make it plain that Jane needs to come with them to provide her signature on some documents. However, once the status quo has been restored, it comes out that Eric and Rita were lying through their teeth: Jane never needed to come with them, she could’ve just signed a paper in the jungle and that would’ve been that. Maybe I’m overthinking it, but this revelation makes me more than a little angry on Jane and Tarzan’s behalf. Essentially, Tarzan’s heart was ripped out and stomped on (when he thought Jane was leaving) for no reason.

And I can’t leave a review of Tarzan Escapes without talking about Captain Fry, or more specifically what happens to him at the end of the story. After racing to safety through a treacherous swamp, Tarzan turns and forces Fry to go back the way they just came. He doesn’t say much, but he doesn’t have to, after everything that’s happened, it’s clear that Tarzan consider’s Fry’s actions to be unforgivable and nobody, not even Jane, can convince him otherwise. It’s a spine-chilling moment and a reminder that Tarzan is not one to mess with, for any reason.

Tarzan Escapes is another enjoyable entry in the series of Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, and one that everyone should see if they get the chance.

Let me know what you think about Tarzan Escapes in the comments below and have a happy New Year!!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

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My Thoughts on: Tarzan and His Mate (1934)

Some time ago I was very excited to finally get my hands on the first six Tarzan films starring Johnny Weissmuller. Having never seen any of these films before (but having heard about them since I was little), I decided to start with Tarzan and His Mate, the second Tarzan film starring Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan as Tarzan and Jane respectively. This is a direct sequel to Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), as it sees the return not only of Harry Holt (Neil Hamilton) as Jane’s would-be suitor, but also the return of the elephant graveyard that was being sought in the previous film. Like most, if not all of the Tarzan films I’ve seen to date, the plot is familiar: someone wants to plunder the treasures of Tarzan’s jungle and Tarzan does everything in his power to stop it while complications inevitably ensue.

As I’ve quickly discovered with these films, Tarzan and His Mate is pure adventure of the best kind. Even at its darkest point, it never feels like Tarzan or Jane are in serious danger, because even when they are you just can’t believe that anything bad is going to happen to them (mostly because Tarzan is bound to swing in to the rescue).

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One thing that delighted me about Tarzan and His Mate was learning that Jane had her own unique “Tarzan yell.” Of course I knew about Weissmuller’s yell, it’s been the template for all Tarzan yells for over 50 years (with The Legend of Tarzan admittedly being an exception), but I had no idea that Jane (and later Boy) had their own unique yells.

Johnny Weissmuller is, for obvious reasons, one of my favorite parts of this movie. While he’s nothing like his animated counterpart, and definitely not much like his literary predecessor (in terms of vocabulary), I have no trouble believing that Weissmuller is Tarzan. He just fits the role so well.

It was also really cool seeing Neil Hamilton star in something other than Batman. For years all I knew the actor for was his work as Commissioner Gordon in the Batman television series and I really liked his work in this film and the previous installment.

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Also, you can really tell that Tarzan and His Mate is a pre-Code film. Not only is Jane’s costume extremely revealing (there’s little left to the imagination), there’s also an underwater sequence where Jane (played by a body double) is completely naked! My eyes popped out when I saw that scene for the first time. I mean, I knew pre-Code films took risks like that, but I didn’t know they did that! I’m really glad the copy I have restored that scene, because I read that it was cut out of the film for the longest time.

If you want to start watching the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan films, I highly recommend starting with Tarzan and His Mate. Let me know what you think about this film in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

My Thoughts on: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932)

My Thoughts on: Tarzan Escapes (1936)

Film Reviews

Become a Patron of the blog at patreon.com/musicgamer460

Check out the YouTube channel (and consider hitting the subscribe button)

Don’t forget to like Film Music Central on Facebook