TONITE: James @ 15 Or 16


BY DAN BUSKIRK FILM CRITIC A follow-up to last August’s Carny/Girl on the Run double bill, tonight’s Andrew’s Video Vault is back in the sawdust and greasepaint for another double feature.  First up is the rarely-seen 1981 film Side Show, produced for television by kids show pioneers Sid and Marty Krofft (of H.R. Pufnstuf fame.) Sid Krofft’s fascinating career began as a puppeteer for the Ringling Brothers circus, so the film has an air of autobiography in its nostalgia. The young puppeteer of the film is played by Lance Kerwin [PICTURED, ABOVE], who at the time of the filming had just finished starring in the 70s coming-of-age cult classic James at 16, and Side Show has all the earmarks of being a potential series for the actor. Kerwin’s aching sensitivity is contrasted by the worldly demeanor of the sideshow denizens, including “little people” Jerry Maren (a former Munchkin) and Patty Maloney (the robot Twiki from the 70s Buck Rogers series) and “the World’s Tallest Woman” Sandra Allen (whose only other credit is for Fellini’s Casanova). Krofft even wanted to call the film Freaks but NBC’s “Standards and Practices” wouldn’t have it and squelched some of the producer’s more radical ideas. Still, it is surprisingly frank stuff for a network film, with the older sideshow women and a overly-friendly male sword-swallower all making a horny play for the virginal Kerwin. Things turn mushy in the second half as Kerwin becomes psychoanalyst to all the carnival workers, making them all feel better about themselves, but the final act turns pretty gruesome, with director William Conrad delivering one particularly horrifying murder. Despite the film’s “family show” trimmings, Side Show must have been too dark and morbid to pick up as a regular series, but it is the more seedy elements that still titillate today and give this film its oddball power.

Also on the bill is Wagons Roll At Night, a vivid example of the sturdy entertainment churned out by Warner Brothers studios in the 1940s. Starring Humphrey Bogart the same year he made the classic The Maltese Falcon, the film presents Bogart as the hard-bitten owner of a small traveling circus, the kind of guy who keeps a pickpocket on staff to retrieve all the money he gives in pay-outs.. When the circus’ drunken lion tamer allows one of the fiercest big cats to get loose, small town shop owner Eddie Albert (of Green Acres fame) shows natural ability in taming the beast. Bogart hires him on the spot and things go well until he starts romancing Bogart’s innocent kid sister. All the classic Warner Brothers elements are here, with its cast of working class characters, its lean storytelling and its tragically flawed hero. Things unfold much as you would expect, and if the film is not particularly exceptional it is a tribute to the high quality maintained by Warner Brothers in these golden years. Between the two films, it will be a guaranteed three-ring circus of lion maulings, trapeze accidents, and snake girl come-ons; bring your own popcorn and prepare to be amazed.

TONIGHT! ANDREW’S VIDEO VAULT @ The Rotunda 4014 Walnut Street, 8PM Free! Phawker film critic Dan Buskirk will be guest-hosting tonight’s program


SOUL ASYLUM: Heavy Medley

Was performed live at the Whisky A-Go-Go on June 24, 1988. Its title is a reference to the ’70s TV series James at 15 (subsequently known as James at 16). The following songs are played in this medley (listed in order performed):
The Cross – Prince
For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield
I’m Waiting For My Man – The Velvet Underground
Birth, School, Work, Death – The Godfathers
Damaged Goods – Gang of Four
Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry
Free For All – Ted Nugent
I Don’t Believe You Want To Get Up And Dance (Oops, Upside Your Head) – The Gap Band
Body Slam – Bootsy Collins
Stayin’ Alive – Bee Gees
Wishing Well – Terence Trent D’Arby
Get Down Tonight – KC & The Sunshine Band
Peaceful Easy Feeling – The Eagles