On the lookout for Dick Shawn movies

Jul 22 2012 - 7:18am


Dick Shawn played lifeguard Sylvester Marcus in the 1963 comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”
Dick Shawn played lifeguard Sylvester Marcus in the 1963 comedy “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

Q: I am looking for two movies with Dick Shawn. One starred John Astin as a bad guy and Shawn as a singing cowboy. It might be called "Evil Roy Slade." The second starred Shawn and another guy as astronauts stranded on either the moon or Mars. I cannot remember the title.

A: Dick Shawn, well remembered as Lorenzo St. DuBois in the original movie version of "The Producers," had a varied stage and screen career until his death in 1987. The TV-movie "Evil Roy Slade" indeed starred John Astin, with Shawn as singing Marshal Bing Bell. According to Lee Goldberg's book "Unsold Television Pilots 1955 Through 1988," Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson long tried to launch a series with Astin as Slade; there was a pilot, also co-starring Shawn, called "Sheriff Who" in 1967 and two hourlong pilots put together as "Evil Roy Slade" in 1972. It remains a cult fave. It has been released on DVD and Blu-ray, including in a two-pack with "Brothers O'Toole," another Astin comedy; if your local retailer cannot get it, I have seen it at online vendors including Amazon.com and Deepdiscount.com.

As for the astronaut movie, you may be remembering "Way ... Way Out," a 1966 film with Jerry Lewis and Connie Stevens as well as Shawn. It involves Russian and American bases on the moon, with Lewis and Stevens as an American couple and Shawn as one of the Russians. While I did not find an authorized American DVD release of it, Amazon.com does offer it for sale and rent as a video download.


Q: Why is it impossible to rent or buy "The Turning Point" with Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine?

A: As I said when answering a previous question about the movie, it's not impossible to find. It's just very expensive when you do. "The Turning Point," which also featured Mikhail Baryshnikov, was an authorized American release on DVD in 2005. But new copies have not been made in some time, so demand from fans of the movie has driven up the price of the old ones when sold on Amazon.com or other sites. (An unused copy on Amazon.com can cost you more than $150, while used ones start at about $50.) The movie is available on Netflix's streaming-video service. Fox Movie Channel has apparently shown it in the past, although I did not see any upcoming listing. And you may want to see if your local library has it in stock.

I do not know the specific reason why this movie is not a current DVD release. When a film or TV show is not available, it could be something as simple as a lack of demand, but that would not appear to be the case here. More likely is some issue involving rights -- whether it's about owning the film as a whole, the lack of agreement with a specific actor, or something like music ownership. As I have mentioned before, music issues have more than once kept a production off video (or led to its being issued with different music, a creative travesty).

Q: Where could I find a TV show with Aidan Quinn as a priest addicted to painkillers? I think the woman who played Nurse Ratched was also in it.


A: That would be "The Book of Daniel," which originally aired on NBC for a few weeks in 2006. Quinn played Daniel Webster, an Episcopal priest whose problems included popping pills, but who had direct conversations with Jesus (played by Garret Dillahunt). The cast also included Dylan Baker, Alison Pill and Ellen Burstyn, the Oscar-winning actress whom you may have confused with Louise Fletcher, who played Ratched in "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

Coming from writer-producer Jack Kenny ("Warehouse 13"), "Book of Daniel" was a very good show, but one cut short by complaints from some groups, low ratings and NBC's lack of faith in it. The eight episodes that were produced can be found on DVD; if your local retailer cannot get it, I have seen it for sale through online vendors Amazon.com and Moviesunlimited.com.

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