Electric Shadow

Screen Time #37: Peter Weller in "Duke Ellington's Funeral"

This is a new addition to the "personal favorite episode" collection. Within minutes of the episode's posting, I got a guy compaining that we didn't warn about spoilers for The Iliad and The Odyssey.

As always, full shownote links can be found on the episode page. Below is a watching/reading/listening list of watch/read/listen-able things discussed in this week's show. This post is usually for general reference, but I actually think using the below as a binge playlist makes for a really solid Memorial Day Shut-In Weekend.

Peter Weller: PhD, and responsible for some out of a thousand faces


Engineering an Empire
Disc: $35 Collector's Edition DVD (all episodes, plus extras)
Buy SD: $1.99 (each) iTunes (only #2-13)

One of the best things to come out of The History Channel this past decade, Weller hosts these episodes and is doing much more than just reading a script. My hypothesis is that the appeal of getting into otherwise hard-to-enter tombs and archaeological sites were as much of the appeal to him as the trip abroad and the paycheck. Here's a clip from part of the episode on Egypt, which should start just as Weller makes his first appearance in the series.

There are cheaper $25-ish versions of DVD sets, but neither one contains the whole series, most notably the Rome and Egypt specials that kicked it off in original broadcast. The Collector's Edition linked above is the whole magilla. It's bizarre that the whole series minus the outstanding lead-off special Rome is on iTunes.


The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
$15 hardcover

This is the book that loads of people reference but don't actually read. Available in iBooks and Kindle too, but I recommend killing a tree on this one.


The Order (2003)
Disc: $13 Blu-ray, $6 DVD
Buy HD: $15 iTunes
Buy SD: $10 iTunesAmazon
Rent HD: $4 iTunes
Rent SD: $3 AmazoniTunes

I've indicated what I consider the best value above, whether you're looking to buy or rent this one. Brian Helgeland has a magnificent talent for making thrillers, and I know him best from his working on stories with a man up against something larger than himself. This movie got dumped like yesterday's news by its distributor, so no one really got a chance to see it until it hit DVD.


Screen Time Episodes 17 & 24: "The New Radio Theatre" & "Queen of Gotham"

These two things total around three hours of talking with legendary voice director Andrea Romano, with whom Weller worked on The Dark Knight Returns Parts 1 & 2. If you specifically want Weller-related talk, start with #24, which is all about Romano's two decades directing Batman shows and movies.

She tells stories from throughout her life, training, and career that she hasn't told elsewhere. Among the most interesting and profound tales is her memory of George O'Hanlon's last day in the recording booth. You probably know O'Hanlon better as the voice of George Jetson.


The Dark Knight Returns: Part 1
Disc: $21 Blu-ray
Buy HD: $20 iTunes
Buy SD: $15 iTunesAmazon
Rent HD: $5 iTunes
Rent SD: $4 AmazoniTunes

The Dark Knight Returns: Part 2
Disc: $20 Blu-ray
Buy HD: $20 iTunes
Buy SD: $15 iTunesAmazon
Rent HD: $5 iTunes
Rent SD: $4 AmazoniTunes 

I didn't bother listing the DVDs above, since they're $4 cheaper than Blu-ray either way (and a waste of money). It'd be nice to see the whole thing cut together as one movie on one disc.


House M.D. Season 8, Episode 20 "Post Mortem"
Buy HD: $3 iTunes, Amazon
Buy SD: $2 iTunes, Amazon
Disc: $30 Season 8 Blu-ray

Don't get too excited, Weller is only in about 30 seconds of this episode, but he directed it. It turns out that this is the second-to-last episode of the whole series, but still works perfectly well on its own. The Holmes/Watson dynamic is in full effect with House/Wilson in this "bucket list" episode that's also a conventional episode of the show...as conventional as it ever was.


Fringe Season 2, Episode 18 "White Tulip"
Buy HD: $3 iTunesAmazon
Buy SD: $2 iTunesAmazon
Disc: $22 Season 2 Blu-ray

This is required watching before you even start listening to this episode, as I warn before we dig in with Peter. He walks through the entire plot, from inciting incident to denouement, and with good reason. If you're an Amazon Prime member, you can watch this for free on their service. I'm not sure if this season of the show is currently on Netflix or not.


The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
$10 Blu-ray
Rent (HD): $4 iTunes
Rent (SD): $3 iTunesAmazon

"Klaatu barada niktu", y'all. This movie set the stage for a half century of sci-fi cinema afterward, including a trend of making censors twitch. Joseph Breen, then head meddler at the MPAA, made them insert dialogue to clarify that Gort's Christ-like abilities were not, in fact, Christ-like or unlimited in nature.


Screamers (1995)
Disc: $10 triple-feature DVD (includes Thirteenth Floor and Solo)
Buy HD: $15 iTunes
Buy SD: $8 iTunesAmazon 

I found out that the single-movie version of the DVD is out of print, and it's going for way too much used. On top of that, you can't rent it from iTunes, Amazon, or anyone (as of this writing). The movie is based on Phillip K. Dick's short story "Second Variety", and finds Weller leading a crew defending an outpost against machines that were originally designed to protect human life. It was written by the great Dan O'Bannon, who first started working on the script in 1981.


Annie Hall

The shot across from the bridge, which Peter mentions in our conversation.


Nancy Allen and Peter Weller in Robocop

Robocop (1987)
Disc: $25 "trilogy" Blu-ray set
Rent SD: $3 iTunes, Amazon
Buy SD: $15 Amazon 

Time to get political for a moment. Note that the above purchase options are all essentially dogshit. To own the movie in HD, you're forced to buy the sequel (which is all right) and a fancy coaster with the words "Robocop 3" stamped on it. You cannot rent the movie in HD, but you could previously. This is all thanks to the remake coming out next year. They're pulling the original movie from active easy access in addition to yanking away the ability to do repertory screenings of the original.

Important to note for collectors and cinephiles: the commentary on the out of print Criterion Collection DVD features the same participants as subsequent MGM DVDs and the Blu-ray, but they are totally different tracks.

A vintage behind-the-scenes interview:

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984)
Disc: $20 DVD
Buy HD: $15 iTunes
Buy SD: $10 iTunes
Rent HD: $4 iTunes
Rent SD: $3 iTunes, Amazon 

Weller asked me if I knew what this movie was about, and I'm glad I was honest. When I was a kid, I didn't care that it's about seven bits of something but no one thing at once. I didn't even notice. The lead character is a neurosurgeon, rock star, physicist, and a pile of other things. He's a quantum renaissance man. This movie turns 30 next year, and there's still very little like it out there.

The DVD has a bunch of special features that fans will love, and there's no way to know how long it'll stay in print. You'll get radically better picture quality from the iTunes version. There's no way to know if or when we'll see a Blu-ray, let alone one that looks as good as it can (and should).

Remember, no matter where you go...

Here's the full Film Society of Lincoln Center intro and Q&A with Kevin Smith, Weller, and John Lithgow:

Start listening to jazz. Pick one of the following and dig in.

Miles Davis
Duke Ellington
Clark Terry
Johnny Hodges
Ben Webster
Count Basie
Sarah Vaughn
Ella Fitzgerald

Here are a few clips to look at:

Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington

Clark Terry Master Class

Johnny Hodges

Ben Webster and Oscar Peterson

Count Basie

Sarah Vaughn

Ella Fitzgerald


Duke Ellington's (actual) Funeral