Saturday, January 07, 2006
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (Added 10/28) Tales of Terror (Added 10/28) Thing, The '51 (Added 10/28) Tales From the Crypt: Demon Knight (Added 10/28) Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, The (Added 10/28) Bride of Frankenstein (Added 10/28) Creature Walks Among Us, The (Added 10/28) Dracula (Added 10/28) Hellraiser: Bloodline (Added 10/28) Hellraiser: Inferno (Added 10/28) Revenge of the Creature, The (Added 10/28) Frankenstein (Added 10/28) Son of Frankenstein (Added 10/28) Frankenstein Meets The Wolfman (Added 10/28) House of Dracula (Added 10/28) House of Frankenstein (Added 10/28) Wolf Man, The (Added 10/28) Dead Heat (Added 10/28) Godzilla (Added 10/28) Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth (Added 10/28) House (Added 10/28) House II: The Second Story (Added 10/28) It’s Alive (Added 10/28) It Lives Again (Added 10/28) It’s Alive 3: Island of the Alive (Added 10/28) Golden Voyage of Sinbad, The (Added 10/28) Blob, The '58 (Added 10/28) Wishmaster 4: The Prophecy Fulfilled (Added 10/28) Jaws 3 (Added 10/28) Jaws 4: The Revenge (Added 10/28) Day of the Dead (Added 10/28) Grudge, The (Added 10/28) Poltergeist 3 (Added 10/28) Wishmaster 3: Beyond The Gates of Hell (Added 10/28) Body Snatchers (Added 10/28) Child’s Play (Added 10/28) Cyclops, The (Added 10/28) Fright Night (Added 10/28) Jaws (Added 10/28) Them! (Added 10/28) Jaws 2 (Added 10/28) Blob, The '88 (Added 10/28) Cujo (Added 10/28) Ghoul, The (Added 10/28) Return of the Living Dead Part 3 (Added 10/28) Creep (Added 10/28) Orca (Added 10/28) Candyman (Added 10/28) Friday the 13th Part 3 (Added 10/28) Scream, Blacula, Scream (Added 10/28) Psycho 3 (Added 10/28) Lost Boys, The (Added 10/28) Rage: Carrie 2, The (Added 10/28) Seventh Sign, The (Added 10/28) Wolfen (Added 10/28) Child’s Play 2 (Added 10/28)
A second wave of added titles: Abbott and Costello Meet Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (added 12/15/05) Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (added 12/15/05) Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (added 12/15/05) Alien Nation (added 12/15/05) Amityville 3D (added 12/15/05) Amazing Transparent Man (added 12/15/05) Friday the 13th-Pt. 2 (12/20/05) Return of the Living Dead-Pt. 2 (12/20/05) Wolf Creek (12/20/05) Frogs (12/21/05) Funhouse (12/21/05) Ghost of Frankenstein (12/21/05) Ghost of Dragstrip Hollow (12/21/05) Giant Gila Monster (12/21/05) Gorilla At Large (12/21/05) Graveyard Shift (12/21/05) Halloween 2 (12/21/05) Grizzly (12/21/05) Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte (12/21/05) Army of Darkness (12/22/05) Attack of the Puppet People (12/22/05) Birds, The (12/22/05) (12/22/05) Black Cat, The (12/22/05) Black Friday (12/22/05) Brides of Dracula (12/22/05) Cat People (12/27/05) Colossus Forbin Project (12/27/05) Darkman 2 (12/27/05) Deadly Mantis (12/27/05) Dolls (12/27/05) Dracula's Daughter (12/27/05) Dr. Cyclops (12/27/05) Evil of Frankenstein, The (12/27/05) Fantastic Voyage (12/27/05) Fly, The (12/27/05) Horrors of the Black Museum (12/27/05) I Walked With a Zombie (12/27/05) I Married a Monster From Outer Space (12/27/05) Incredible Shrinking Man, The (12/27/05) Invisible Ray, The (12/27/05) Invisible Man Returns, The (12/27/05) Island of Terror (12/28/05) Kiss of Evil aka Kiss of the Vampire (12/28/05) Leech Woman (12/28/05) Leopard Man (12/28/05) Magic (12/28/05) Man in the Attic (12/28/05) Metalstorm (12/28/05) Mole People (12/28/05) Monolith Monsters (12/28/05) Monster On the Campus (12/28/05) Motel Hell (12/28/05) Murders in the Rue Morgue (12/28/05) Nomads (12/28/05) Phantom of the Opera '62 (12/28/05) Abominable Snowman of the Himalayas, The (12/28/05) Tobor, the Great (12/28/05) Tarantula (12/28/05) Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (12/28/05) Werewolf of London (12/28/05)
Forgive me for not retyping all that in our standard caps, but it was too much work. You get the idea.
In response to this roster, I have to say that the additional titles are very welcome indeed -- it's a treat any time new titles crop up on Monsters HD -- but for me, considering that I already own many of these titles on disc, the stepped-up (every 10 minutes) VOOM/Monsters HD watermarks would still be a deal-breaker for me as a viewer. And certainly, it goes without saying, as a home recorder.
Any station that believes that they are not providing entertainment to be recorded and enjoyed at home, in this day and age especially, is living in a fool's paradise. One watermark per movie should be enough to brand a broadcast against being bootlegged. Twice per movie, once an hour, is pushing it but grudgingly acceptable. Once every ten minutes is offensively excessive. It's like paying someone to do you a favor and have them ask you every ten minutes, "Did you like that favor I did for you? I did that favor for you! I did! Don't forget!" Never mind that we know. Never mind that we paid for it. And we are paying for these broadcasts, don't forget, and the product we are buying to enjoy without commercial interruption are effectively being ruined for us by all this overzealous ID-ing, which amounts to commercial interruption. Indeed, on this scale, it amounts to harassment.
And what if a few people in the viewing audience do try to sell DVD-Rs of these titles on eBay? If some people did this, they might sell a few copies. That's hardly reason to punish the majority who are paying to view this material in good faith. And the fact remains that the majority of the titles listed above are already available on DVD, so what would be the point of trying to sell DVD-R copies online?
Furthermore, to be force-fed thse bugs in such a manner is a shoddy "thank you" to those of us who have loyally stuck with Dish Network, solely to hang onto their VOOM channels, which have added little or no new HD programming since they acquired these channels. I would be surprised if anyone watched Rave HD other than new subscribers, their musical programming is so severely limited. LATER... WITH JOOLS HOLLAND is on every week in the UK, but Rave HD seems to own the rights to air only four or five segments.
Other hope-inducing Dish TV/VOOM news: Two other VOOM HD channels, Guy TV and The Majestic, are no more. They have been replaced by Kung Fu HD and Film Festival HD, with both newly recristened channels now playing daily loops of three films per day rather than the previous two. Also, in February 2006, Dish TV will be adding five more VOOM channels to their current lineup -- Family Room HD, Gameplay HD, Treasure HD, World Cinema HD, and WorldSport HD -- as well as HD locals, Universal HD, and ESPN 2 HD.
If we can just apply some vox populi pressure to get Dish Network to reduce the frequency of those on-screen VOOM bugs, all of this could be good and welcome news.
As you know, I have been an ardent advocate for this channel since I began receiving it a year ago. I went through the trouble of changing from VOOM to Dish Network just to keep it. But if these are the conditions under which I'll have to watch Monsters HD in the future, I'd rather not continue to pay for it. It makes their programming worthless for recording, and too irritating to watch.
I've written to the powers that be at Monsters HD to unburden a most disappointed heart, and unless they can give me some good reason why I shouldn't, I fully intend to cancel my VOOM subscription next week and maybe go back to Time Warner.
More to come.
Friday, January 06, 2006
This pretty thing is the cover of a 1964 digest-sized fanzine -- HORRORS OF THE SCREEN -- published out of Brooklyn, New York by one Alexander Soma. I've been in love with this impressionistic cover drawing of Steven Ritch (as he appeared in THE WEREWOLF, 1956) since I first saw it reproduced in the pages of, I think, a survey of fan press ventures in FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, probably 40 years ago. Today I finally succeeded in laying hands on a copy of this long-coveted relic and learned that the name of the artist responsible was Charles Johnson.
1964 was a long time ago, of course, and HORRORS OF THE SCREEN (or HOTS for short, as it called itself) has since faded into obscurity from an only slightly more prominent level of obscurity. I don't know how many copies were published, but the scarcity of HOTS has been an unfortunate obstacle in terms of Alexander Soma and company being properly remembered and acknowledged for what they brought to the field of horror movie fan publishing. In brief, HOTS appears to have been the earliest fanzine to insist on the need for more serious writing and reportage about the genre -- something attempted previously only by Calvin T. Beck's one-shot enterprise of 1959 , THE JOURNAL OF FRANKENSTEIN.
In "The Monster Philosophy," the editorial of HOTS #3, the genesis of Soma's brainchild is explained: "In 1961, FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND was for the most part a 'phun-filled' monsterzine aimed at the younger set, with little regard for the serious horror-phantasy addict. This was also true of the few 'fanzines' [note the quotes! it was an uncommon term!] available then! Alex Soma gathered several friends in the New York area and discussed the idea of publishing a completely serious fanzine. Thus the first 'crude' issue of HOTS was born."
I have also obtained the first "Collector's Edition" issue of HOTS (pictured here), published in the Spring of 1962, which describes itself as an "experimental" issue and welcomes fine-tuning suggestions from its readers. Though ambitious, it is a bit of a mess, with a cut-and-paste interior look and lots of typographic errors. "Please excuse the price of HORRORS," the publisher/editor pleads on the first page, "due to printing costs, mailing, and limited circulation we are forced to charge fifty cents." A sentence like this brings the artifact into sharper perspective. HOTS #1 was truly a homemade venture, literally typed onto paper and pasted onto boards with photographs from a variety of sources. In those days, when mimeography and ditto-press ruled, for a fanzine to include photographs at all was a big deal. HOTS was actually lithographed, and the first issue had a laminated cover.
In the Spring of 1962, the debut issue of Beck's CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN had only just appeared (in February), and the first issue of the influential French digest MIDI-MINUIT FANTASTIQUE was just around the corner, coming out in May/June 1962. So a journal devoted to the serious discussion of horror cinema was extremely novel at the time, in any language. That said, the first issue of HOTS is hardly for intellectuals only; it's pretty basic from a contemporary viewpoint. The contents cover four articles: an overview of silent horror films 1885 - 1927, a biographical sketch of Vincent Price, a short and superficial survey of recent "macabre fiction" (illustrated with the same portrait of Christopher Lee -- in black-and-white, sans overlays -- that soonafter graced the cover of CASTLE OF FRANKENSTEIN's second issue in full color), and an 18-page illustrated story synopsis of Hammer's THE CURSE OF FRANKENSTEIN.
As is noted in HOTS #3, this synopsis article appears to have inspired FAMOUS MONSTERS to follow their example by undertaking their own long-running series of "filmbooks" (which began in earnest circa 1963, around the time of their popular BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN filmbook), making this otherwise unexceptional piece rather a seminal moment in this particular sphere of publishing. Nearly all the photos reproduced inside the debut issue are familiar to us today, though Soma's editorial describes some as "never before published." There is one signed photo of Lon Chaney (Sr.) that I don't remember seeing before.
I don't have the second issue, which sported a not-very-accomplished drawing of Christopher Lee as Dracula on the cover, but compared to the first, the third issue represents something of a quantum leap. Here Alexander Soma is listed only as publisher, with John Eyman recruited as editor. The first issue's typos are a thing of the past, and the interior features a number of different typefaces or fonts, with some articles even presented via the miracle of reverse type (white on black). Very attractive. The unsigned articles (likely by Soma) in #1 here advance to a number of different contributors, including articles on Bela Lugosi and Peter Cushing written by their then-fan club presidents William C. Obbaggy and Annette Florance. (The Cushing Filmography ends with 1962's NIGHT CREATURES!) Short reviews or looks at such films as THE FLY, THE MAN WHO COULD CHEAT DEATH, THE BIRDS and THE INNOCENTS fill out the issue, but most interesting of all is Edwin Schallert's surprisingly detailed study of how John Fulton created the special effects in James Whale's THE INVISIBLE MAN, probably explained in print for the first time and presented with fascinating procedural illustrations. It's a piece that many fanzines would be proud to publish (or reprint) today.
One of the biggest surprises of HOTS #3 is its letters page, which starts off with a letter from Christopher Lee himself (the likes of which I never saw in the pages of FM or CoF!) and a very sharply observed and thoughtful communiqué about adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe in the cinema from none other than Joe Dante, Jr., of 68 Crestview Drive in Parsippany, NJ!
Looking back at this third issue of HOTS, one feels the stage has been set for something truly wonderful to follow -- but, for whatever reason, it didn't happen. Number 3 was the final issue of HORRORS OF THE SCREEN. I can't find any further information on Alexander Soma or John Eyman, so I have no idea if they couldn't afford to continue, if it was simply too early to make an idea like this succeed, or if the two of them were packed off to Viet Nam. (If anyone within range of this blog knows more, please tell me.) But their pioneering efforts surely inspired other fan publishers to follow their example, and thus we had Fred Clarke's CINEFANTASTIQUE (preceded by his and Dave Keil's GARDEN GHOULS GAZETTE), Gary Svehla's GORE CREATURES (later MIDNIGHT MARQUEE), and countless others who loved FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND but felt the urge to move beyond it.
I'm just seeing these two issues for the first time today, so I could not honestly claim that HORRORS OF THE SCREEN was an influence on me and what I've done with VIDEO WATCHDOG... and yet, in its pages, I can see what must have inspired the people whose work did inspire me. Examining these 40 year-old fanzines has left me feeling more deeply in touch with the world in which I make my living. And I'm grateful.
Tuesday, January 03, 2006
Over recent evenings, Donna and I have been spending at least an hour a night watching the Walt Disney Treasures' THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB set, devoted to the show's first week of broadcasts in October 1955. Between these episodes, another that's included in the Walt Disney Treasures SPIN AND MARTY set, and episodes from Universal's LEAVE IT TO BEAVER - THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON, our household -- which traditionally leans toward the Sixties-centric -- has ventured farther back into the 1950s.
For me, these early hour-long episodes of THE MICKEY MOUSE CLUB took a little getting used to, because they predate my own memories of the program. In fact, they predate me! But, by the time we ran out of shows to watch, Donna and I were both feeling fairly hooked. We want more, right away, but I have no idea when the next batch of WDT metal-boxed limited editions are due, or if a second volume is scheduled to be included.
Some world-weary souls might argue that the MMC was as popular as it was because there were only three channels in those days, but I would argue that its popularity was rooted in a spirit that's still there to be enjoyed by those with an open heart. It's a thoroughly engaging production where everything is done in the spirit of creativity, responsibility and constructive encouragement; it's post-war, but a product of the spirit that won the war -- firm, idealistic, and ready to pitch in and make the most of the today and tomorrow of the Baby Boomer generation.
There's an interesting daily feature called "What I Want to Be" that features future GREEN ACRES star Alvy Moore guiding two children through tours of the jobs they aspire to hold one day, as an airline pilot and airline hostess. (The little girl, Pat Morrow, grew up to act on ABC-TV's PEYTON PLACE as Rita, the girlfriend and wife of Christopher Connolly's character, Norman Harrington.) Unfortunately, this segment lasted ten episodes, so we are given only the first half of the entire saga in this initial box set. (Moore also makes a mistake by saying "See you tomorrow!" at the end of the Friday segment, because there were no weekend episodes.) It was an unfortunate bit of strategy that Walt Disney Video chose to issue the show "by the week"; it required a more complete box set -- the first month of broadcasts, at least.
Childhood is always kept in perspective on the show, but so is the idea that the world can be a child's oyster, that it's a wonderful and varied place where all their dreams can come true. The daily change of setting within the program -- "Fun with Music Day", "Guest Star Day", "Anything Can Happen Day", "Circus Day" and "Talent Roundup Day" -- is like a mini-world tour in itself, mixing the regular opportunities for creative expression with opportunities for spontaneity and surprise. The Mickey Mouse Newsreels focus on everyday occurrences and may seem quaint today, but they also helped children to see their own activities as special and may have inspired them to raise the bar for themselves in untold personal ways. We see kids having fun, even raising a little... er, heck, but it's never outside the lines of the law or even propriety. If it's sometimes hokey, at least it's never snide or cynical or some other 21st Century alternative. Most of all, the show is just plain healthy and inspiring, due in no small part to the participation of host and resident songwriter, Jimmie Dodd.
A fellow Cincinnatian and veteran of the THREE MESQUITEERS B-Westerns, Dodd looks like Lampwick from PINOCCHIO... but, like a select breed of folks who made it through the Great Depression, he embodies the very soul of optimism and community. His songs lend sparkle to each episode, their words full of heart and wisdom and wordplay, and his closing remarks (apparently improvised on a set theme) are warmly advisory without conveying any hint of pushiness. He can even quote Scripture without it seeming an inappropriate intrusion into a secular entertainment -- and, in a supplementary profile of Dodd, the Mouseketeers remember him exactly this way, as a devout Christian who allowed people to have their own spiritual "space" and never intruded upon them with his own beliefs. He's the show's lightning conductor and his centrality brings out the very best in all the Mouseketeers who, in these earliest episodes, included not only Annette Funicello but future RIFLEMAN co-star Johnny Crawford (who demonstrates the art of fencing with his older brother Bobby on "Talent Roundup Day"). The first week of shows also gives us a surprise encounter with a surprise Mouseketeer, future DONNA REED SHOW co-star Paul Petersen, who is involved in some heavy-duty acrobatics on "Circus Day" -- but was, I hear, booted out of Mouseketeer camp early on for unruly behavior.
A week or so ago, I added some rhubarbs to another blog's reprimanding of Leonard Maltin's endorsement of some less-than-complete-or-ideal WALT DISNEY TREASURES releases, so let me assert here, once again, that he's the ideal host for these releases, no doubt about it. He does an outstanding job of interviewing a select group of veteran Mouseketeers and also SPIN AND MARTY stars Tim Considine and David Stollery on those respective sets, and he's even named an honorary Mouseketeer.
Initially, I wished that the MMC set had offered personal updates on all the Mouseketeers, but there are places online where you find out about all that -- and, after Googling up tales of the later, unfortunate misadventures of members like Darlene Gillespie (of CORKY AND THE WHITE SHADOW fame), who performs with such enthusiasm here, I can better understand the company's decision to leave well enough alone. Some viewers may wonder why Karen Pendleton, the raspy-voiced pixie Mouseketeer best remembered in tandem with mite-sized drummer Cubby O'Brien, is shown moving about in a wheelchair; WIKIPEDIA reports that she was involved in a car accident in 1983 that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Watching these shows, you do become interested in all this raw talent and what ultimately became of it.
The next batch of MICKEY MOUSE CLUB shows can't reach my doorstep too soon. Till then, I guess it's back to my Jess Franco DVDs...
Monday, January 02, 2006
Well, yes and no.
The fact is, today our VIDEO WATCHDOG website (www.videowatchdog.com) launched a special Updates blog as part of our page devoted to my forthcoming book, MARIO BAVA - ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK. Just go to the main page, click on the Bava book link in the left-hand column (you may need to slide the guide bar down to find it), and click on the "Click Here for Updates" link under the book cover. That will take you right to the Update blog, where I'll be posting occasional reports on where the book's progress presently stands.
So why not try it now? I'll meet you over there and fill you in on the rest!
Yesterday I decided to warm up to the new edition by sitting down with both versions and doing a cover-to-cover, side-by-side comparison. Before I get to my findings, I should tell you what the publisher's press release had to say about the new edition. It reports that the new edition is 272 pages, which adds 48 pages to the previous one. Other points of attraction include:
• Never-before published pages from McCay’s private animation production notebook revealing the filmmaker’s ideas for timing and visualizations in "Gertie the Dinosaur" (1914), "Lusitania," and "Flip’s Circus" (c. 1921).
• Rare concept art by McCay for a second film starring Gertie the Dinosaur.
• New documentation of McCay’s early career, including the Wonderland and Eden Musée in Detroit, where he sold his first cartoons.
• McCay’s professional relationship and longtime personal friendship with cartoonist Apthorp "Ap" Adams, one of his two assistants on the monumental animated epic "The Sinking of the Lusitania" (1918).
• Full-page reproduction of a 1907 New York Herald showcasing eight top comic strip cartoonists and illustrators including McCay, and their art.
• A complete Winsor McCay Chronology, and extensive additions to the Notes and Bibliography sections.
• Many rarely seen photos and drawings from private collections.
• A new cover, book design and page layout.
What I discovered myself is not always flattering to the new edition, but to go through the two editions simultaneously told me much more than an ordinary sit-down perusal of the new book would have done. One thing that is immediately evident is that, despite the added page count, the new edition is thinner and slighter in stature than the Abbeville incarnation. Upon opening the book, I noticed that the Abrams book is printed on much thinner paper with a slight degree of "see-through" not found in the Abbeville, which subsequently has the richer and more durable feel. The Abrams also opens wider to expose its sewn signatures, while the Abbeville is more sturdily bound. I frankly prefer the cover of the Abbeville edition, which highlights the artist and his creations rather than Abrams' wallpapery detail of one of the "Little Nemo" strips.
The illustrations are comparable in the two editions, but with some interesting distinctions. More than once, a single vintage photo in the Abbeville appears in the Abrams with another similar photo taken during the same session, giving these rare glimpses of McCay's documentary past the fleeting illusion of cinematic reality. Whereas the Abbeville edition was unable to offer color on every page, the Abrams edition does; even when it presents art in black-and-white, it uses color to offer variety of tones, lending enhancing sepia tones to B&W photos and creamier background shades to line art. I was also fascinated to see that almost all of the photos and source art is presented by Abrams with its outer borders intact; both were cropped to present only the art in the Abbeville edition. Therefore, we can now see the tattered outer edges of a gorgeous "Gertie the Dinosaur" poster, and the handwritten notations and surrounding pictures of those photos which reside in McCay family albums. I find this additional textural information fascinating; it demonstrates that our perception of what is important in such documentation has become more exacting since 1987. Context is now regarded as potentially revelatory as content; looking at the same illustration rendered both ways, I found that it really is preferable to see the whole object, warts and all. These "warts" may harbor hidden truths. For example, there is a surviving film cel from McCay's "The Sinking of the Lusitania" that is printed in the two books two different ways. It's flipped the wrong way around in the Abbeville, but presented correctly in the Abrams, as is proved by the newly exposed notation "End" written below the picture line on the uncropped document!
The Abrams book does add quite a bit of newly discovered illustration -- such as the aforementioned Gertie sketches, showing her attempting to cross the Brooklyn Bridge with disastrous results under the sweet heading "She Meant No Harm" -- but sometimes the shared illustrations are larger or more favorably rendered in the earlier edition. Some "Little Nemo in Slumberland" Sunday strips, in particular, are wrecked in the Abrams version by being presented in the book sideways... what fun to turn a large book sideways!... ostensibly to permit a larger rendering, but it also causes the panel midway down to get creased and sunken in the depths of the spine. Of the two books, I must say that the Abrams edition, despite its many other advantages, is not as well designed or laid-out as the Abbeville.
I noticed in the revised edition several instances of additional and amended text, bringing Canemaker's research fully up-to-date. The instances range from newly uncovered information (like correspondence relating to the ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA's acknowledgement of McCay as the father of film animation) to the fine-tuning of nuance. The 1987 John Canemaker pondered whether McCay might have been divining his own imminent death when he placed a death's head in his final editorial drawing, completed three days before his fatal aneurysm, as a personification of the narcotics threat. "Probably not consciously," he hedged, not really knowing but liking the conceit. But the 2005 John Canemaker, perhaps more of a realist or simply more cautious about making such pronouncements, weighs the same evidence and decides, "Probably not."
I love this book, and after comparing the two versions, I've decided that I have to keep them both. If you can only afford one, the Abrams edition -- despite some presentational lapses in judgment -- is clearly the one that represents the subject and its author most accurately. And this Amazon link offers the book at significant savings off the cover price.