Welcome back to BCB After Dark: the late-night hangout for night owls, early-risers, new parents and Cubs fans abroad. It’s a busy week for me here at BCB, but it’s good to see that you’re taking a break with us tonight. Please come in from the cold. Let us take your hat and coat. There’s a nice table still available not too far from the fire. Relax and enjoy your own beverage.
BCB After Dark is the place for you to talk baseball, music, movies, or anything else you need to get off your chest, as long as it is within the rules of the site. The late-nighters are encouraged to get the party started, but everyone else is invited to join in as you wake up the next morning and into the afternoon.
Before we were so rudely interrupted by the change in the commenting system last week, we had a good discussion about the Cubs efforts to land Japanese outfielder Seiya Suzuki. A large majority of 71 percent of you thought that it was a good idea, with only ten percent of you thinking the Cubs should avoid the NPB slugger. But as to whether the Cubs would actually sign him, only 16 percent of you thought that they would. The most likely team to sign Suzuki, in your voting, were the Giants with 30 percent. The Mariners were close behind in second place with 28 percent of the vote. For what it’s worth, it’s been reported that the Mariners and the Giants are seen as the favorites in the industry to sign Suzuki.
Here’s the part where I talk about jazz and movies. Feel free to skip ahead to the baseball question at the end. You won’t hurt my feelings.
I decided to pick a clip from the great saxophonist Lester Young tonight. Why? Because I felt like some Lester Young. Do you have a problem with that? I thought not.
This clip is from “Jazz Party,” a show that aired on public television in New York City in the late-1950s. It was the continuation of a show that originally aired on the DuMont Network, and so picking this video is a tribute to the way that the comments in the earlier After Darks were “DuMont-ed” last week. (If you don’t know, the DuMont Network was a television network in the late-1940s and early-to-mid-1950s that competed with CBS, NBC and ABC. It went out of business in 1956 and in the early 1970s, someone got tired of paying to store all the old tapes of their shows and dumped them all into the East River.)
So this recording is from 1958, just one year before Young’s untimely death at the age of 49. Soon thereafter, Charles Mingus would write “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” in tribute to Young, which has become a jazz standard. The title of that song is a reference to Young’s habit of always wearing a pork pie hat, although in this clip, Young is hatless. It looks like his pianist, Willie Smith, is wearing a pork pie hat instead.
I’m a little busy around here this week, so I’m going to try to keep the movie talk to a minimum this week. But I did want to share at least one film with you so tonight, we have the 1932 pre-code horror film Doctor X.
Doctor X is remembered for several things, none of which were the plot. That’s a good thing because the plot is pretty ridiculous. The first is that it was directed by Michael Curtiz. Curtiz is not as well-known these days as some other Golden Age of Hollywood directors, although his oeuvre is as strong as anyone’s. For one, he would go on to direct Casablanca, which may be the most-beloved film of all-time. He also directed such classics as Captain Blood, The Adventures of Robin Hood, Mildred Pierce, Yankee Doodle Dandy, White Christmas, We’re No Angels and the Elvis Presley picture Kid Creole. From that diverse collection of films, I think you can see why Curtiz doesn’t have a bigger reputation. He didn’t limit himself to one genre, nor did he have any particular style that he stuck with throughout his films. Instead, Curtiz was the quintessential “studio system” director. When he had a good script, he filmed it so that it would sparkle. When he had a good actor, he made them look great. If Michael Curtiz were a baseball player, he’d be the catcher behind the plate who always made his pitchers better. Curtiz only won one Oscar for Best Director in his career (for Casablanca, naturally) although he also won another one for Best Short Film.
The second reason Doctor X is remembered is that it was shot in the short-lived two-color Technicolor process. In fact, it was the second-to-last film shot this way with only Curtiz’s other horror film, Mysteries of the Wax Museum, coming later. Two-color Technicolor was an early attempt at making color films. Instead of the blue, red and green filters that the later three-color Technicolor film would use, two-color Technicolor only had red and green filters.
This two-color process made everything look, well, weird, unreal and not very life-like. Everyone’s skin had an odd green or red tint to it, as did the walls and the scenery. Audiences didn’t like this process very much for that very reason and it quickly died out. But I’d say in a horror film like this one, it was a bit of a bonus. If you’re unfamiliar with what the two-color technicolor process looked like, be sure to watch the clip below. I think it adds to the charm of a film that doesn’t take itself very seriously. (In fact, more of Doctor X is a comedy and a romance than a horror picture.)
A third reason this film is remembered is the makeup work by Hollywood cosmetics legend Max Factor. Factor was well-known in 1932 for making the stars look beautiful, but in this film (as well as Mysteries of the Wax Museum), he got to show that he could do prosthetics and horror makeup as well.
Finally, this film is remembered for the cast of Lionel Atwill, Lee Tracy and Fay Wray. The English actor Atwill had a nice career doing horror pictures and this one was his first talkie. Tracy had a career that lasted into the 1960s, playing mostly fast-talking and wisecracking newspapermen, lawyers or salesmen. He plays a wisecracking newspaperman here.
But above all, this film is where the original “scream queen,” Fay Wray, got her first on-screen horror scream. Being a “scream queen” has become a thing among horror fans, and all the ones that followed owe a debt of gratitude to the path that Wray paved. Film historians have noted that there were actresses famous in the silent picture era for their on-screen screams, but Wray was really the first one who was famous for a scream that audiences could hear.
The purpose of Doctor X was to be as tawdry as possible to get audiences into the theaters in the middle of the Great Depression. The plot revolves around a serial killer known as “The Moon Killer” because he only killed during a full moon. The killer also cannibalized his victims, because of course he did.
The police call in Doctor Xavier (Lionel Atwill), the head of a local medical institute, for help on the case, but that’s just a pretext. In fact, the police have noted that the victims were all cut up by a scalpel used only used at this particular institute. Additionally, all the killings were in their neighborhood.
So Doctor Xavier introduces all the scientists working under him at the institute, and all of them have lurid areas of expertise that make them suspects. One is an expert on the influence that the moon has on criminal minds. One specializes in sexual perversions. Another is a cannibalism expert, of course. A fourth one is just mean.
In order to save the reputation of the institute, Doctor X convinces the police to give him 48 hours to find out which of his fellow scientists is a serial killer. That way, he’ll be saved the negative publicity. (As if an institute that researches cannibalism and sexual perversion is worried about their reputation—or that the police would care.)
Lee Tracy plays Lee Taylor, a reporter who gets wind of the connection between the killings and the institute and is told to get the story or lose his job. Much of the film is dedicated to Lee getting into comic situations. He always shakes a hand with a hand buzzer. He’s scared, Scooby-Doo style, by backing into a skeleton. He wakes up in a morgue with a tag on his toe. In order to keep the scandalous-quotient of the film as high as possible, when Lee has to make a phone call, the nearest public pay phone is inside a brothel. First off, who knew that brothels had pay phones and second, how did Lee know that brothels had pay phones?
Fay Wray plays Doctor Xavier’s daughter Joanne, who is trying to protect her father’s reputation, but also finds herself involved in a romance with Lee.
Doctor X is a horribly silly movie, but it’s a silly movie with real charm. The performances of Atwill and the institute’s scientists are predictably over-the-top, but that fits in nicely with unreal images provided by the two-color Technicolor. Much of the film revolves around Tracy playing the Scooby gang’s role of sneaking around a scary mansion and getting comically scared. Other parts deal with the romance between Tracy and Wray’s characters.
The end of the film is more straightforward horror, and Factor’s makeup does a lot of the work here. Sure, it’s nothing compared to the makeup jobs you see in modern horror films, but it’s pretty darn good for the era and the weird two-color Technicolor process even makes it a little bit creepy.
So if you want a short, goofy old-time horror picture that will probably make you roll your eyes more than scream, you could do worse than Doctor X.
Here are the first few minutes of Doctor X where Lee finds out about the killings and makes a phone call from a brothel. I think this clip gives a good sense of what the two-color Technicolor process is all about.
Welcome back to those of you who skip the jazz and movies.
There is not really much to talk about in baseball at the moment other than the Hall of Fame and the lockout. I almost thought of asking you “Can you name the three Cubs players since 1900 whose last names being with the letter “I”?” That’s a game I play with myself when I can’t get to sleep—try to name one Cub player for each letter of the alphabet. (Except X. There has never been an AL or NL or Federal League ballplayer whose last name began with the letter X. There was one Negro Leagues player, which I guess counts now. But he obviously didn’t play for the Cubs.)
So to avoid talking about Cooperstown or labor negotiations, I thought I’d ask you how optimistic you are about the future. That’s something I’m deep into right now as I write about the minor leagues, but there’s a lot more to it than that, as you certainly know.
For decades, the plea of Cubs fans was “Just one before I die.” Well, the Cubs got one World Series title in 2016. Now the plea is “Just two before I die.”
Although I admit that there is some snark going on in that second statement, I’m going to ask you how confident are you that the Cubs will make that come true. At least in a sense. I’m not going to ask you how long you think you’re going to live. Instead, tonight’s question is “How confident are you that the Cubs will win another World Series title by 2029?”
I don’t think any of us are confident the Cubs will win it all in 2022 and 2023 looks unlikely as well. But if you think the Cubs have the human, financial and physical infrastructure to build a champion like they did from 2012 to 2016 again, then you should be pretty confident that they can win again before the end of the decade. We all know things can go wrong—the Dodgers made the playoffs 11 times from 2004 to 2019 and didn’t win a World Series title until 2020. The Yankees have made the playoffs nine times since they last won the World Series in 2009 and they haven’t even made the World Series in that time. The playoffs are a crap shoot. We all know that. But if you think the Cubs are going to have several rolls of the dice this decade, then there’s a good chance they’re gonna win.
So on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being “no chance” and 5 being “It’s gonna happen,” how likely are the Cubs to get that second World Series title by 2029?
How likely is it that the Cubs will win the World Series by 2029?
This poll is closed
1 (no chance)
5 (It’s gonna happen!)
And by all means, discuss your answer in the comments.
Thank you again so much for stopping by. I hope we’ve made your evening a little better. Please tip your waitstaff. If you need a cab or an Uber, let us know and we’ll call one for you. Get home safely. And stop by again tomorrow for another edition of BCB After Dark.