Tuesday, August 21, 2007

IF.... and NIGHTMARE USA... and My Dish Problem Resolved

My review of Lindsay Anderson's IF...., featured in the current issue of SIGHT & SOUND, is now posted at their website.

Yesterday, Amazon.com delivered to me a fresh, firm copy of Stephen Thrower's new FAB Press book NIGHTMARE U.S.A. I haven't had time to do much more than page through it with great interest, but it certainly looks like one of the most important genre film book releases of the year. I was most excited to discover that it contains a full chapter on MESSIAH OF EVIL (1975), based on interviews with writer-director Willard Huyck, writer Gloria Katz, and the film's editor. I've always been fascinated by this movie and have daydreamed about presenting something like this chapter as a feature in VW someday, but that never happened -- so I'm pleased that someone of Steve's calibre has done the job in our stead. For some reason, I was able to order this book from Amazon last week for $50 or so, but as of now, they seem to have no more sale copies in stock and there's only one "used or new" Amazon store offering it for over $70.

Also, to follow up on an earlier posting, my Dish Network problems have been successfully resolved. We exchanged our VIP 211 MPEG-4 receiver with Dish's 611 DVR, which cleared up the problem with having with hard-matted gray bars cropping all the widescreen programming we were trying to record. The 611 not only gives me the option of storing up to 25 hours of HD programming on its hard drive, but there's an output on the back that allows me to outport a downcoverted signal to our DVD recorder. This is exactly what I needed. You see, the VIP 211 has no downconversion capability. So, for the record, if you're making the leap to MPEG-4 and are interested in recording SD DVD-Rs from your HD channels, my advice would be to stay away from the VIP 211 and go directly for the 611.

Also, I am loving the ability to record HD movies and other programming directly to the 611's hard drive for later viewing at my convenience, rather than having to prepare two sets of timers every time I want to see something that's not on at a convenient time -- and having to miss out on the HD quality I'm paying for as a result. In the past week alone, I've added to my hard drive HD recordings of PLANET OF THE VAMPIRES (my first Bava HD!), ISLAND OF TERROR and GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH -- none of which are available on HD or Blu-ray disc, or likely to be at any time in the near future. Unfortunately, hard drive space is limited (and so is my viewing time), so there's a limit to how much I can save and for how long -- but this introduction to collecting movies in my receiver, though only for the short term, is already changing the way I think about recording and giving me thoughts about where all this technology could and should proceed from here.

I'm coming around to the idea that HD's real future is not HD and Blu-ray discs, but as a cable or satellite conveyance system only, that may ultimately help to wean us away from needing to own every film we like, or may need for future reference, for fear that it may never turn up again. What cable and satellite companies need to start working on is wiping the slate clean of all these wasteful channels that sell their souls nightly to Paid Programming and setting up motion picture and television data banks that we can rely upon to do our collecting for us, and pipe down to us what we want to see, when we want to see it, in HD or SD as the case may be. As it us, people are spending hundreds of dollars per month on DVDs and DVD sets and running out of room in the process. I don't know about you, but I would gladly redirect my monthly DVD allowance toward a monthly subscription to one or more such data banks -- as long as I could rely on them to maintain operation and to provide me with the special interest material I want to see. Of course, such a fantasy would require the hiring of management who truly know and love movies in order to become a successful reality, which is something that Hollywood has never seemed too able or interested in managing -- but with Dish Network and other providers offering in excess of 900 channels, it would be nice to see them used for a higher purpose than selling Girls Go Wild videos and male member enhancement medications.

Monday, August 20, 2007


What better way to celebrate a happy ending to the Bava book auction, and to start a new week, than to make an important announcement about Anchor Bay Entertainment's forthcoming October release of Mario Bava's ERIK THE CONQUEROR [Gli invasori, 1961]?

In addition to my own feature-length audio commentary, I provided to the disc's producers a special bonus: a 28-minute excerpt from my 1989 telephone interview with Cameron Mitchell! This material focuses specifically on ERIK and Cameron's warm feelings about Bava himself, whom he described to me as "one of my favorite people on the planet."

I didn't know whether producer Perry Martin would want to use the interview as a separate audio feature, or if he might want to shuffle my commentary and the interview together, but he tells me he's done a little of both. The bulk of the interview will be included as a separate audio option, but those parts that specifically discuss certain scenes in the picture will be mixed in with my commentary. I'm looking forward to seeing and hearing the final results, and I'm delighted that Cameron's personal comments about Bava's best swashbuckler are being preserved for posterity on what promises to be a fantastic release.

The ten of you who won the limited edition CD of my Vincent Price and Cameron Mitchell interviews in the Bava book auction, never fear -- the ERIK DVD will contain only one-third (roughly) of the interview that you'll own in its entirety -- with his further discussions on BLOOD AND BLACK LACE, KNIVES OF THE AVENGER and MINNESOTA CLAY.

It's been a long and exciting night, and Donna and I want to thank everyone who participated in our auction and helped to make it such a grand success. I'm tired, but before I hit the sack for some overdue shut-eye, I want to send out Happy Birthday (or Buon' compleanno) greetings to Alice & Ellen Kessler -- the graceful female leads of ERIK THE CONQUEROR -- who are turning 71 today, and to Bava composer Stelvio Cipriani (BAY OF BLOOD, BARON BLOOD, RABID DOGS), who is celebrating his 70th. And finally, according to the IMDb, I was a year early in wishing a Happy Centenary to Lurene Tuttle last year, who actually turns the big 100 this very day. (What do I know? I watched a PERRY MASON episode last night and was tickled to find Lurene Tuttle starring in it... but when the credits rolled, she turned out to be Josephine Hutchinson!)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Ultimate Bava Book Auction Ending Soon!

Just a quick reminder to everyone that our Ultimate Bava Book Auction on eBay reaches its exciting conclusion in less than a day!

Here, in the east coast time zone, the final bids will be locked down Monday morning at 7:39:02 am. On the west coast, the auction ends Monday morning at 4:39:02 am, pacific time.

We apologize for timing the auction's end at such an awkward hour for most people. We hadn't sold anything on eBay in many years, and never anything on quite this scale in terms of page design. It was important for us to post the auction no later than Monday morning, to ensure that the winners' names and addresses would be in hand before the books arrive this week. If you're going to bed early, remember to bid your highest before retiring... or set your alarms to be there for the finish.

Thanks to the many numbers of people who are watching and participating in this historic auction! And good luck!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Centenaries, Centenaries! They Pleasure Me!

Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in old age, for that is how you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friends, drier skin and creakier bones and varicose veins will affect you in the future -- if you are lucky.

You are interested in the unknown... the mysterious. The unexplainable. That is why you visit this blog each day. And now, for the first time, I am bringing to you, the full story (well, the short version) of what happened on that fateful day -- August 18, 1907. I am bringing you all the evidence, based only on the secret testimony of the marcelled-hair soul who was launched that day on a life of prophecy and prediction. My friends, I cannot keep this a secret any longer. Let us call a spade a spade. Let us praise those who have entertained us. My friends, can your heart stand the shocking fact of The Amazing Criswell's centenary?

For years, he told us the almost unbelievable, related the unreal and showed it to be more than a fact. He might never have believed that such a day would come, but yes, friends, the gentleman born Jeron Criswell Konig, better known as The Amazing Criswell, narrator of Ed Wood's PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE, was born 100 years ago today.

All of us on this earth know that there is a time to live, and that there is a time to die. Yet death is always a shock to those left behind. It is even more of a shock when Death, the Proud Brother, comes suddenly without warning -- as it did for brother Criswell, on October 4, 1982. Who could have predicted it?

But, fortunately for us, Criswell has become one of the Threshold People, people who are dead but who continue to entertain us from the Beyond. Some sooth-sayers claim that because he took his rest in a coffin in life, Criswell now spends his death in a proper bed. Could this be the reason for his longeivity? Who among us can say? Who are we going to ask -- Jeanne Dixon?

My friend, you have now read this blog, based on sworn testimony. Happy 100th birthday, Cris. And as for the rest of you... Can you prove that it didn't happen?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Dick Miller to Receive Lifetime Achievement Award

And it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.

Dick Miller -- one of the most beloved and iconic character actors of the past half-century, known particularly for his many roles in Roger Corman and Joe Dante pictures -- will receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 43rd annual Cinecon, the world’s oldest film festival devoted exclusively to classic motion pictures. The award will be presented by Joe Dante at the gala awards banquet on Sunday, Sept. 2nd at the Renaissance Hotel in Hollywood.

Also receiving awards will be three other actors with significant genre credits: John Saxon, Piper Laurie (an actress who's always had a place in my heart for once marrying a film critic -- Joe Morgenstern of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL) and, of course of course, the time machinist's best friend, Alan Young.

Although you may want to attend just for the banquet, anyone who knows enough about movies to know and revere the name of Dick Miller is strongly encouraged to register for the full conference as well. Over two dozen extremely rare features will be screened -- all but one in 35mm, as well as nearly a dozen shorts (including three chapters of the 1941 Columbia serial THE IRON CLAW). If you love old movies of any stripe, you won’t want to be anywhere else Labor Day weekend.
For more information, click here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Ultimate Bava Book Auction is Here!

Actually, it's on eBay -- but, believe me, it's worth the trip. Click right here and check out the wealth of production materials and rarities Donna and I have assembled for the 10 lucky winners -- in addition to the first 10 signed and only numbered copies of MARIO BAVA ALL THE COLORS OF THE DARK!

What could we possible offer in an "Ultimate Bava Book Auction"? Well, let me put it this way...

You've been pining to hear my never-released KILL, BABY... KILL! commentary? Here's your chance!

You've always wanted to eavesdrop on interviews with the likes of Vincent Price and Cameron Mitchell? Here's your chance!

You've thought of how nice it might be to have some actual manuscript pages from this historic effort? To see how I changed things before they went to press? Here's your chance!

You think 12 pounds and 1128 pages is awfully unwieldy and wish you could own a second copy that could be conveniently slipped into your laptop or jeans pocket? Here's your chance!

And you know what? That's still not even the half of it.

Go to the auction page now (why are you still here?) and check out the full details. Donna and I have worked very hard to make this auction as attractive and exciting and generous as possible. Our goal is to honor this once-in-a-lifetime publishing event by knocking your socks off not once, but twice -- first with the auction, and then with the book itself, which should start shipping shortly after the auction ends!

And remember... If you've already pre-ordered the Bava book, no problem -- you can still participate in the bidding. If you win the auction and have already pre-ordered, we'll gladly refund the price you paid for the book on request! (Some people may want to keep that second copy anyway, since they got it for less than half the cover price, so you'll have to speak up.)


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Orson Bean's New Book

I've written here in the past about my admiration for this gentleman to my left. Actor, author, raconteur, cutting-edge educator (he and his second wife once founded an arts-oriented school where kids were graded for self-expression), stand-up comedian and game show panelist, Orson Bean -- I feel -- has lived an exemplary life. His two works of autobiography, ME AND THE ORGONE and TOO MUCH IS NOT ENOUGH, are amazingly brave and candid works of self-exploration that encompass such matters as his experience in Reichian therapy, the founding of his school, an LSD trip, being stalked by a Satanic cult in Australia, and the failure of his second marriage following a visit to Sandstone (a free sex community) and later experimentation in open matrimony. I should note that the failure of Bean's second marriage was not a failure of the bond between husband and wife; I'm told that Carolyn Bean is still very much a part of Orson's current life with third wife, actress Ally Mills. They all spent last Thanksgiving together.

While visiting Mark Evanier's blog last night, I was surprised and pleased to learn that Orson has written a novel -- his first -- a novella, actually, as the whole thing amounts to less than 125 pages. Originally called MIKEY, it's apparently about spirituality as experienced by people outside of, or alienated by, the Church. Initially, Orson's agent couldn't place the book because Christian publishers found the book too candid (it reportedly includes some profanity and allusions to sexual activity or human sexuality) and mainstream publishers found it too... spiritual. With great largesse, Orson opted to give the book away free online for a short time... until Barricade Press, a publisher in Fort Lee, New Jersey, came forward to express interest in publishing a more polished draft. Now retitled MAIL FOR MIKEY, the book is set to be published in early October 2008.

I haven't read it yet, but I'm betting it's as interesting and as embracing of life and its mysteries as anything else Orson Bean has written.

Scorsese on Antonioni

Just linking to a terrific NEW YORK TIMES memoir by Martin Scorsese of how the films of Michelangelo Antonioni impacted his life.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New Books from Bryan Senn and Steve Bissette

Now available from McFarland and Company is A YEAR OF FEAR: A DAY-BY-DAY GUIDE TO 366 HORROR FILMS by Bryan Senn ($35 softcover, 560 pp), a hefty trade paperback generously illustrated with 218 B&W photos and ad mats. It's formatted around a very clever idea: go through the calendar year, find historical events for each day and then find a horror film relatable to each event.

For example, the movie for May 21 is THE MAZE (1953), because it was on that day in 1977 that the longest leap by a frog (33 feet, 5 ½ inches) was recorded. On November 11, the date of the first fatal train wreck in the US (in 1833) is DR. TERROR'S HOUSE OF HORRORS (1965). September 16's selection is WHITE ZOMBIE (1932), because on that day in 1915 Haiti became a US protectorate. And the movie for November 5, Guy Fawkes Day? No, not V FOR VENDETTA (2006); it's Antonio Margheriti's THE LONG HAIR OF DEATH (1964), which itself features the burning of an effigy. It's a rare movie fan who could resist at least thumbing through this book looking for the movie assigned to their birthday. (Lucky me: I get MARS NEEDS WOMEN for my birthday viewing.)

What would have likely become an instant White Elephant item if produced as an actual calendar (I know -- I've published a horror film calendar!) becomes a compellingly browsable book (and not limited to use over a single year, either). Best-known for his excellent 1930s horror reference GOLDEN HORRORS, Senn's entries for each film are smart, literate and interesting, and often leavened with quotes from various published sources related to the films. In case you have any doubt that Tom Weaver is the most valuable researcher classic horror films have ever had, just flip through this book at random; Tom's name appears on so many pages, crediting the sources for quotes and background information, he probably deserved co-author credit. Not all the data came from Weaver; there are also citations for works by David J. Skal, Mark A. Miller, Richard Bojarski, Robert Tinnell, David Del Valle, Dennis Fischer, Alan Upchurch, Bob Madison, Tom Johnson and Deborah Del Vecchio, as well as other articles from the pages of FANGORIA, FILMFAX and SCARY MONSTERS. (Me, I'm not so fortunate -- a few Mario Bava films are included herein, and the entries for BLACK SUNDAY [December 29, Barbara Steele's birthday] and BLACK SABBATH [March 7, the day the telephone was patented by Alexander Graham Bell] -- tap into my reseach and use at least one quote I obtained from Lamberto Bava, but other scribes are cited as the go-to people for Bava info. Oh, well.)

Senn's YEAR OF FEAR isn't exclusively horror, incidentally. There are several entries for science fiction films (WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, QUEEN OF OUTER SPACE) and the odd marginal title like RASPUTIN AND THE EMPRESS. I could find only one silent film included: 1923's THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, an odd inclusion when you realize that NOSFERATU and PHANTOM OF THE OPERA aren't represented and a later version of HUNCHBACK (Charles Laughton's) is. Nevertheless, A YEAR IN FEAR is commendable for providing a welcome structured curriculum for studying a well-considered cross-section of genre fare ranging from the early sound classics (like DRACULA, 1931) to contemporary releases (like DOG SOLDIERS, 2002). And you just might learn some fun things about history in the process.

In other book news, Black Coat Press will soon begin publishing in book form the collected video review columns of VW's own (occasional) Stephen R. Bissette. BLUR is the umbrella title for these volumes, and because our man Steve is nothing if not loquacious, the first volume will cover June 1999 through March 2000. Literate, informative, well worth reading, and well worth having. The very cool front-back cover design, seen above (and incorporating Steve's inimitable graphic stylings), is the work of Jon-Mikel Gates.

Read more about BLUR over on the official SRB blog MYRANT.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Lucas on Lanza on Russell

Donna and I recently had the pleasure of meeting Jason Gargano, the entertainment editor of Cincinnati's popular free paper CITY BEAT. During our conversation, Jason asked me if I'd be interested in reviewing something for him, and proceeded to produce from somewhere in his car a copy of Joseph Lanza's new book PHALLIC FRENZY: KEN RUSSELL AND HIS FILMS. I pride myself on having read every book about Russell's work, so I agreed... and now that review (my first for CITY BEAT) is in print. For those of you who don't live locally and can't pick up the paper around town, here's a link to my review.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Dysfunction Cured!

My review of Bret Wood's PSYCHOPATHIA SEXUALIS (Kino on Video) for the August SIGHT & SOUND is now up and functional over at their website.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

More Bava in Time for Halloween

It's being announced elsewhere, so I might as well join the bandwagon and report that Anchor Bay's MARIO BAVA COLLECTION VOLUME 2 will be released on October 23. The titles included in this set are: BARON BLOOD, LISA AND THE DEVIL and HOUSE OF EXORCISM, ROY COLT & WINCHESTER JACK, FOUR TIMES THAT NIGHT, BAY OF BLOOD, and 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON. The audio commentaries I recorded are for LISA AND THE DEVIL, BAY OF BLOOD, and BARON BLOOD -- and I recorded them in that order, for those who may be interested in auditing them sequentially and hearing my voice disintegrate in slow motion. The Alfredo Leone/Elke Sommer commentary recorded for Image Entertainment's HOUSE OF EXORCISM release will be ported over for that title.

ERIK THE CONQUEROR (which will be the complete original export version, not the AIP reduction) will be released separately at the same time, also with a commentary by me, which I'll be recording before the end of this week. The closing shot and end card of the film (curiously missing from the German DVD release) has been restored, which should make this gorgeous-looking release of even greater interest to collectors.

Finally, I mentioned here recently that I managed to record the first three commentaries in a single marathon session last Thursday night. Someone on one of the horror discussion boards has suggested that my expeditious work somehow speaks poorly of me and makes the set's extras as a whole seem less attractive, because -- they presume -- the commentaries have got to be a reckless mess. I resent this because, first of all, I don't do careless work and certainly wouldn't boast about doing careless work; I only mentioned the marathon session because I felt so pleased to have succeeded in my aims against the odds and the clock. It was an achievement. Secondly, I didn't set the deadlines for these commentaries, but as a professional, I agreed to live up to them. I refused to let the quality of my work suffer due to time constraints and, if it somehow did suffer despite my best efforts, I wouldn't have released it. As I write this, it remains for those three recordings to be edited and synched to the movies, so I don't know yet myself how everything is going to turn out -- but I think even the raw tracks were on par with other commentaries I've done.

PS: I wanted very much to record an audio commentary for 5 DOLLS FOR AN AUGUST MOON but time simply didn't allow it.

Calling All Bloggers

Lee Marvin in his classic role as Slob in Edward Dein's SHACK OUT ON 101.

Over at Movie Morlocks, VW's own Richard Harland Smith is calling for an August 29 Blog-A-Thon for Lee Marvin to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the actor's death.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ladislas Starewitch at 125

I don't know that any festivals or retrospectives have been organized anywhere around the world to commemorate this anniversary, but the great Polish-born animator Ladislas Starewitch was born 125 years ago today.
A worsening problem with any commemoration of Starewitch is the correct spelling of his name, as there are several. I am using, not altogether comfortably, the spelling used on and in a book about the great man recently published in France. His IMDb page spells his name "Wladyslaw Starewicz," which is how the surname has always looked correct to me, though the given name looks a little wonky. I've seen "Wladislas" too. It's a terrible problem for an artist to have, given how difficult it already is simply to see his work.
Starewitch was born in Poland and made his first short film (LUCANUS CERVUS, about stag beetles) in Lithuania in 1910. It was meant to be a naturalistic study, but Starewitch discovered that the heat of his lighting equipment made the beetles sluggish and resistant to action, so he incorporated what were then known as trick-photographic techniques (read: stop-motion) to get them to do what he wanted. When his family relocated to Russia in 1912, he continued along this line. Over the next eight years, he continued to make animated shorts but he also made some live action shorts as well, all of a fantastic nature. Included in the Ruscico DVD of the wonderful Russian horror film THE VIY (1967), for example, is a Starewitch short called THE PORTRAIT, which remains superbly frightening and is the earliest known film to pull the proscenium trick that later made THE RING so hair-raising. Among the several Starewitch films I'd love to see, I'm most curious about a few other live action pictures he made: RUSLAN AND LUDMILLA (1915), ON THE WARSAW HIGHWAY (1916), and CAGLIOSTRO (1920). In 1920, he and his clan fled Russia to Paris, France, where he picked up his work without dropping a stitch.


In the current issue of SIGHT & SOUND, various contributors from around the world were asked to name and write a bit about an obscure film they felt deserved to be better-known. I chose Starewitch's only feature-length achievement, LA ROMAN DE RENARD (1930), known in some territories as THE TALE OF THE FOX. If not for some unforeseen technical delays and distribution problems, it would have become what it was intended to be (and, I think, really is): the world's first stop-motion animated feature with sound. Based on a fable by Goethe, it tells the story of a crafty fox, always up to mischief and talking his way out of trouble, who dares to thwart the ruling of the King that animals should not prey on one another because Love must rule the land. Not only is the script clever and the character design impeccable (in S&S I said that it looked only a step or two away from taxidermy), but the animation -- executed by Starewitch and his daughter Irena over an 18-month period -- remains the most believably fluid and antic until the introduction of CGI, especially in its incredible interpolations of blurred movement.

Starewitch serenaded by the canine hero of his beloved 1934 short, "The Mascot."

Unfortunately, very little of Starewitch's mind-boggling work is available on DVD. LA ROMAN DE RENARD and a collection of short films were issued a couple of years ago as Region 2 discs in France, and these are already hard to find. While watching one of the shorts in one of these collections, LE RAT DE VILLE ET LE RAT DES CHAMPS ("The Town Rat and the Country Rat," 1927), I was amazed to discover listed in the credits as a backgrounds artist Josef Natanson, who went on to become an important matte painter in Italian films during the 1960s. The earliest screen credit for Natanson I had been able to find was for the backgrounds he painted for the classic dance sequence in Powell and Pressburger's THE RED SHOES (1948), but this one credit elucidates a 20-year gap in this important career about which we know nothing.

Here in America, Starewitch fans have had to make due with Milestone/Image Entertainment's compilation THE CAMERAMAN'S REVENGE AND OTHER FANTASTIC TALES, which includes his best-known short, "The Mascot," a 1934 short originally titled "F├ętiche." (It's also available as a $2.99 video download here.) This remarkable story of a puppy who struggles against natural and supernatural odds to fetch an orange to bring to a sick little girl is also known to some people as "The Devil's Ball," mostly due to a lengthy and untitled excerpt that used to run frequently on the USA Network show NIGHT FLIGHT back in the 1980s. That's where I first discovered the work of Starewitch and, all these years later, I'm still eager to find more.

A few of his animated shorts can be found at YouTube, and here's a link to a fine website that will serve as a more in-depth introduction to this brilliant filmmaker and his great works. Happy birthday, Maestro!

Stepping Out with Stephen Forsyth

In case you've ever wondered what became of Stephen Forsyth, the star of Mario Bava's HATCHET FOR THE HONEYMOON ("My name is John Harrington -- I'm a paranoiac"), he decided he didn't like the roles he was being offered and quit acting circa 1970. Then he returned to his native Canada, where he dedicated himself to a new career in music. I knew about this because he told me so when I interviewed him for the Bava book, but I could never get him to tell me anything too specific about his last 30 years in music. He said that he composed music mostly to accompany performance art, but that was about it.

Now up on YouTube are a pair of fascinating videos from the musical career of Stephen Forsyth. The first, dating from the 1980s, is a rock video called "Step Out of Love" and it actually features Stephen. The song (which he wrote and recorded) is catchy, the choreography is very impressive (I don't think I've ever seen Iggy Pop quite this animated in a video), and he remains very photogenic. By Googling around, I found out that this piece was part of a live Twyla Tharp dance retrospective held in New York in August 1990, reviewed by THE NEW YORK TIMES here.

"Step Out of Love": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThuU5lpqGSQ

And then for something completely different. The second video, dating from the 1990s, is an avant garde piece for piano and dance:

"Helios": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHyuq5EK8l0

The work showcased in these two videos seems poles apart, representing opposite musical disciplines, yet both are very well accomplished. The second piece, "Helios," shows Stephen to be at home in atonal classicism, while "Step Out of Love" presents him as a fine pop tunesmith, vocalist, and (most surprising to me) dancer. And, unlike many other MTV acts of the period that look dated and silly now, Stephen's pop video remains convincing -- it looks like hard work played out with panache -- and the editing still feels contemporary.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Surprise Surprise

Many thanks to Kim August for alerting me to the fact that Amazon.com already has pages up for the paperback and hardcover editions of my VIDEODROME book, which is listed there as a November 2007 release.

A very spiffy cover, too. I can still vividly remember where I was standing in the room when this very scene was shot. I can even remember standing in the same approximate area when Michael Lennick and Lee Wilson got the idea to film a strip of television static in 16mm and project it onto this stretchy, veiny material from Rick Baker's EFX Inc. and dissolve it out to create one of the movie's most memorable images.

Seeing the format that Millipede Press' "Studies in the Horror Film" series is going to take also excites the imagination about what further entries in the series there might be. An exciting development in publishing, to be sure.

Last night, I joined the elite group of people (Roger Corman may be the only other person able to make this claim) who have recorded three full solo DVD audio commentaries in a single day -- a single night actually, as this took place roughly between midnight and 5:30 am. These commentaries are for the second round of Mario Bava releases coming later this year from Anchor Bay, and the recordings are now out the door and flying west. My voice was close to shot after the third one, but I can tell you this much: wine helps.

I promised to pamper myself today by goofing off and imbibing soothing liquids (to restore my throat, you understand), but it's turned into a work day, after all, though a pleasurable one. I started compiling my personal mailing list for the Bava book, which gave me the opportunity to call and e-mail a bunch of the book's interviewees in search of their current addresses. I got to speak on the phone with Brett Halsey and John Steiner, I left a message for Daliah Lavi, e-mailed other old acquaintences and got e-mailed back, but it seems I may have inadvertently lost touch with Richard Harrison. (If anyone within the reach of this blog knows where to find him, please let me know.) Everyone seems happy for me, excited to know the book is on the way. After all this time, it's really happening...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Your Faithful Blogger on the VIDEODROME set

One of the many things we've been doing this week is getting some last minute additional images together for my "Studies in the Horror Film" book on David Cronenberg's VIDEODROME, which is being published by Millipede Press. I thought I would share a few of these shots with you, partly to stir up interest and partly because I'm not altogether certain these particular ones will make the cut; it's not a book about me, after all. If they do appear in the book, they'll look a lot better, because I didn't do anything much to restore these. I'll leaving that task to the many-handed team at Millipede.

Anyway, this was me twenty-five years ago. Dig those Italian frame eyeglasses. This particular Author's Photo, which finds me simultaneously posed by and broadcast on the fabled Flesh TV, was taken by the show's video effects supervisor Michael Lennick.

Here I am on the actual "Videodrome" set, interviewing assistant director John Board -- a wonderful fellow, knowledgeable, funny, authoritative, keeps a set on its toes. This is one of the few shots that finds me looking color-coordinated with my surroundings. It wasn't really in Pittsburgh, but in Toronto. Photo by Donna Lucas.

That's me with a chunk of Barry Convex's cancer in my hand. Polyvinylchloride, I think it was. Photo by my good friend Robert Uth, who asked me to look queasy.

And, last but not necessarily least, here I am in Rick Baker's EFX workshop holding a foam latex casting of Rick's own hand, which was later used to fill Barry Convex's right sleeve during his animatronic death scene. Another photo by Robert Uth.
My VIDEODROME book will be coming out sometime later this year or early next, I'm told. Needless to say, I'll be sure to let you know when it's available.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"The Passenger" Moves On

Michelangelo Antonioni has vanished from this island Earth at age 94. His disappearance took place the same day as that of Ingmar Bergman, whose death was noted by many a blogger with terms like "Endgame" and "Checkmate." Bergman once staged a memorable chess game with Death, of course, in THE SEVENTH SEAL -- one of the few films whose every image is invested with such power and inevitability that they seem to preexist the film itself, like carvings in ancient wood or stone -- but it was Antonioni who was truly the chessmaster, one of cinema's rare geometric thinkers, possibly its first and without question its most definitive.

This is a very busy week for me, a prelude to a very busy month in fact, and I can't spare the time to write about Antonioni and his glorious work as fully as I'd like. BLOW UP and L'AVVENTURA have always been personal favorites, and when Criterion released L'ECLISSE a few years ago, it immediately vaulted past them into my Top 10: I watched it three times in three days, and then began writing an infatuated short story about the spell it cast, which work and time (again) conspired to prevent me from finishing. Once this present pile of work is out of the way, I would like very much to go back to it and complete it in tribute to this outstanding artist. Last year, "THE PASSENGER" (another of those curious films with titles in quotes, like "DON'T LOOK NOW" and "THESE ARE THE DAMNED") was finally released on DVD, a magnificent film about life, identity, and mortality.

Antonioni's films were often criticized for being too nihilistic, but I don't see them as nihilistic as much as conscious and accepting of the human condition. Just because they are cerebral doesn't mean they are without spirit. "THE PASSENGER" is actually the ideal film to watch if you seek the comfort of knowing that only what Antonioni was, as a man, is dead. What he is and always was, as energy, survives -- I believe the film subtly expressive of this philosophy, that this world is no one's final destination, that we are all merely passengers, our present identity in quotation marks (as well as question marks). Needless to say, his films remain with us as his representatives.

Today, I send a loving genuflection halfway around the world today to one of my favorite filmmakers, Eric Rohmer -- who recently turned 87 -- in the hopes that he can keep his name out of the headlines for awhile.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Requiem for a Heavyweight Broadcaster

Tom Snyder as he appeared in a bit part in "A Friend in Need," a 1961 episode of THE RIFLEMAN. He had two lines.

I was very sorry to read about Tom Snyder's death yesterday at the age of 71, from leukemia. As a constant viewer of his NBC late-night talk show TOMORROW WITH TOM SNYDER (1975-81) and a frequent viewer of his post-Letterman series on CBS, THE LATE LATE SHOW WITH TOM SNYDER (1995-98), I feel as though I shared a big part of my life with him, but that's not exactly true. He shared a big part of his life with me and anyone else thoughtful enough to tune in. Few television hosts were as forthcoming about themselves as Tom Snyder. He would talk "Mother Snyder" when it was her birthday or if she wasn't feeling well, about the joys and woes of raising a teenage daughter, about his problems with the networks, and he would even make on-air references to his experiences with smoking pot or about the times when he tuned into SCREW editor Al Goldstein's public access porn show.
Talk about a box of chocolates. With TOMORROW and Tom Snyder, you never knew what you were going to get. The theme music he chose for the program was probably a clue to the real Tom: Barry White's "Love Theme" -- romantic schmaltzy disco music that was equal parts cheesy and classy. Tom could either be very cool, a complete jerk, and most winningly, he could often be seen vulnerably and forthcomingly trying to navigate a through-line between the two. On the evening that Barry White himself appeared on the show, it was like the Pope had deigned to give him audience. And Snyder gave him the serious attentive interview that I doubt ROLLING STONE ever did.

"Got it. It's not a band, it's a company. It's not a concert, it's a gig." "Humour me..." "Not for long."

Cutting-edge guests didn't necessarily guarantee a cutting-edge interview; his legendary sit-down with John Lydon and Keith Levene of Public Image Limited is a classic example of "failure to communicate," and I can also well remember a joint appearance by James Brown and football great Jim Brown, who apparently showed up at the studio one evening unannounced, requesting airtime on TOMORROW to discuss solutions to the problems facing black youth... in which it quickly transpired that the two JBs really had nothing to offer except that more young black people should look up to role models like them. It turned out to be a fairly bare-faced, smug-assed ego stroke that left Tom so baffled that he spent the next on-air segment scratching his head over why the interview hadn't worked. Very candid, very brave -- and it momentarily turned galling television into great television.

I've written here before about what TOMORROW's great interviews with Sterling Hayden meant to me. But I can also remember seeing a round-table discussion between Snyder and various Russ Meyer stars, including Uschi Digart, to this day the only interview I've ever seen with her. She came across as very smart and business-savvy. I'll never forget Snyder's incredulous comment "So what you're actually saying is that, on a Meyer set, there's no actual..." (he fumbled for a word) "... balling?" His choice of word somehow rooted his question at once and forever in the 1970s. Tom often had trouble with finding the right word for that particular act on national television. On another occasion, he started a show by telling an off-color joke after warning viewers that he couldn't use the word that made that joke so funny. He proceeded to tell it, and to the audible amusement of the stagehands, he sat flustered at his inability to say what he wanted to say. Then he said, "You know, the irony is that I can't say the word, but I can spell it backwards as much as I want. KCUF! KCUF! KCUF!" I've often wondered if he got his wrist slapped over that, the next day. His lusty laugh had an appreciation of the ribald. Another case in point is Grace Slick's first appearance on THE LATE LATE SHOW, when she referred to the crux of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal with the phrase "polishing a knob." Snyder smiled at the former psychedelic rock goddess with an ever-widening Cheshire grin before saying, "You know... I like you."
Which brings us to another of Tom's great TOMORROW moments, and perhaps the one that most crystallizes his value as a broadcaster. There was a night when he interviewed actress Liv Ullmann, I believe on the occasion of the release of Ingmar Bergman's SCENES FROM A MARRIAGE. (Yes, I've heard about Bergman's passing, but that will have to be another topic for another time.) Throughout the interview, there blossomed something very strange in the communication between interviewer and interviewee that was as quizzical as it was compelling to watch. They seemed to be flirting with one another but, then again, they weren't. The next night, Tom opened the show by confessing that, during the previous night's interview with Ms. Ullmann, he had felt a powerful erotic pull that, he was convinced, was being reciprocated and teased on the air. The interview, from his perspective, had been great foreplay. After the show, a production associate alerted him that Ms. Ullmann and her entourage were going to the elevators to leave, and he literally ran after her. Catching the actress just as the doors were closing, he took her aside and explained that he was under the impression that they'd shared what is now known as "a moment." Ullmann then very politely and tactfully thanked him for his flattering interest but said that he must have misinterpreted something in her manner.
He certainly didn't have to discuss such a personal story on the air, but stories like this helped to turn both of Tom Snyder's shows into something conspicuously more than a nightly talk show; they were, in a sense, personality-driven serials in which the interviews were central yet also incidental. There's an element of that in LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN, but in that setting, it's show-biz served with an unhealthy dollop of irony. With Snyder, you always got the reality of Tom Snyder at that moment -- good, bad, smart, stupid, curious, clueless, but ceaselessly watchable -- and his passing drops a precious digit from the ranks of a most endangered species.
Tonight, let's all raise a Colortini in his honor and watch the happy memories as they fly through the air.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New SIGHT & SOUND, More Dish on DishNet

The August 2007 issue of SIGHT & SOUND is now on newsstands (or should be), which means that a free selection of material therein is now available for your perusal on their website. Among the attractions is my NoZone column on Bret Wood's directorial debut PSYCHOPATHIA SEXUALIS (Kino on Video) -- at least it claims to be there. Perhaps I caught the page still under construction, but as I type this, the link isn't connecting to the review. Maybe it will work for you by the time you read this. If not, keep trying. Better yet, buy the magazine.

To update you on my continuing Dish Network saga: Yesterday we had a Dish technician and his apprentice come to the house for a look at the set-up. To make a long story short, it seems the most likely cure for our recording ailment would be to swap out the VIP 211 with their DVR 622. Not only does this unit offer 160 hours of hard drive storage for HD content (not quite recording for posterity, but close), but the rear panel offers video outputs in both MPEG-4 and MPEG-2. We can run the MPEG-4 to our monitor and the MPEG-2 to our recorder, which would be giving it the same input that we had when there were no problems. In theory, it should work and my fingers are crossed.

The more MPEG-4 programming I see, the more impressed I am. I was checking out the Family Room HD shows two nights ago, before turning in, and was knocked out by the sumptuous video quality of... of all things, FLIPPER. Not the Universal theatrical remake of some years ago, but the original 1964 teleseries; it was like looking through a well-cleaned window at 1964. I never cared for the show particularly, but I was so impressed with the presentation that I stuck with it through the remainder of the episode in progress and an entire second episode. It was reformatted to 16:9 of course, but the show was filmed in such a way that the cropping was never very apparent. It was followed by THUNDERBIRDS, which I've always enjoyed, and it looked beautiful too, though the cropping here was more obvious. Even programming I'm more familiar with, like Rudy Maxa's SMART TRAVELS, looks significantly improved in MPEG-4, with purer, deeper blacks and heightened textures. And a World Cinema HD promo for Kieslowski's BLUE was astonishing in its clarity.

It seems to me, after having made the leap to HD DVD and Blu-ray now for some months, that the companies responsible for cherry-picking titles for release haven't made much of a leap with me. I'm not losing interest in HD per se, but I do find my interest in the HD disc formats slowly eroding. With the exception of CASINO ROYALE and CORPSE BRIDE, easily my two favorite HD/Blu-ray experiences, it's all been about upgrading so far, as far as my own viewing is concerned. The difference is usually appreciable, but very often it isn't exciting -- and, by "exciting," I mean the feeling I got when I first saw STARSHIP TROOPERS in SuperBit.

As I say, it's a matter of poor selection; I'd rather have DRAGONSLAYER than REIGN OF FIRE. Right now, there are only 10-20 titles on the market that I would care to watch more than once -- everything else is the 21st century equivalent of that early videocassette eyesore, FLASHDANCE. Broadcast HD, on the other hand, is infinitely more far-ranging and adventurous than the current selection on HD and Blu-ray discs. I saw 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY in HD on HDNET one year ago, and wrote about it here; we're still waiting for the HD disc. That's why I tend to suspect, at this stage anyway, that broadcast HD may well become the surprise victor in this latest "format war," rather than either of its high profile combatants. Of the three options, it's the one with the most obvious imagination, and therefore the one with the most probable future.

HD is also at its best when it can take you by surprise. When you buy a film on HD or Blu-Ray disc, especially with the current crop of pickings, you sort of know in advance what you'll be getting. Broadcast HD offers you the opportunity to browse/surf through unexpected possibilities and have your breath unexpectedly taken away. Maybe even by FLIPPER.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

An Artful Penetration of THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS

Akira (Tamijo Kawaji) checks the beating heart of Yuki (Yuko Chishiro) after assaulting her in THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS.

KYONETSU NO KISETSU (1960), originally released in America under the exploitative title THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS, was the directorial debut of the Malaysia-born Koreyoshi Kurahara (1927-2002). I'm not entirely sure what I was expecting; this Nikkatsu production was distributed here in the States by Radley Metzger's Audubon Productions, usually an avatar of good taste though their ad campaigns could be sensationalistically exploitative, but it's certainly more than I was expecting.

Shown on the Dish Network/VOOM channel World Cinema HD with its Japanese title subtitled as THE WARPED ONES (which, to my senses, suggests a comedy), the film turns out to be an important rediscovery on many fronts. It is directed by Kurahara with a freewheeling, gleefully hedonistic verve that reminded me of nothing less than Joseph H. Lewis' GUN CRAZY, with Yoshio Mamiya's B&W scope cinematography alternating between the carefully composed and the recklessly hand-held. It's also a story of young adult delinquency that has some conscious ties to earlier Western works like GUN CRAZY, REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and Godard's BREATHLESS but these pale in contrast to how much the film anticipates Stanley Kubrick's A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. Scored by Toshiro Mayuzumi (STREET OF SHAME, WHEN A WOMAN ASCENDS THE STAIRS, THE INSECT WOMAN), it is also -- perhaps above all -- one of the great jazz films, and possibly the best illustration the cinema has ever given us of the jazz buff. It's the only film I've ever seen that makes jazz seem scarier than the darkest heavy metal, that makes jazz seem dangerous.

Akira, Masaru and Fumiko make plans for their stolen car.

It's the story of two petty thieves, jazz-loving Akira (Tamio Kawaji) and Masaru (Eiji Go), who use their hooker friend Fumiko (Noriko Matsumoto) to separate various horny tourists from their wallets. Caught in the act and arrested at a Tokyo jazz bar, Akira and Masuru find an opportunity for revenge soon after their release from jail, assaulting the arresting officer and abducting his girlfriend Yuki (Yuko Chishiro). They take her to a secluded nearby beach, where Akira rapes Yuki within an inch of her life while Masuru and Fumiko become better acquainted in the surf. As the episodic story continues, the three principals are shown living together, with Masaru determining to join a local yakuza gang, against Akira's leering advice. Akira is also tracked down by Yuki, who informs him that she is pregnant with his child.

Akira disrupts a contemporary art exhibition.

Akira, played by Kawaji with the face-rubbing mannerisms of Brando and the tortured swagger of James Dean, is a more extreme character than was seen in most Western cinema up to this time. He steals cars and motorbikes without shame, eats like a pig, drinks incessantly, and greets every woman he meets with "Wanna get laid?" He's not at all likeable, but he is fascinating -- especially when he's in the grip of something he understands, like a cathartic jazz solo. The film seems to acknowledge and ponder this dichotomy with a pair of complementary scenes; in one, a drunken Akira disrupts an art gallery exhibition, smearing his hands over valuable paintings, turning displayed abstract works upside down, and replacing the phony, lite jazz being played on a jukebox with the Real Thing.

Akira is treated like an art exhibition.

In a later scene, Akira goes to taunt Yuki at her cottage, where he finds her entertaining a group of local artists. Akira does everything he can to alienate these people, whom he regards as the flesh-and-blood equivalent of contemptible lite jazz, but they turn the tables on him and treat him as a remarkable art object in his own right, analyzing and approving his contempt for society to his face, and bidding against one another to obtain him as a model. Much as the exhibit sequence looks forward to Alex's (Malcolm McDowell's) invasive assaults on various Pop and Op Art domiciles in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, this sequence of artists deconstructing Akira seems to anticipate Alex's deconstruction by his admiring, cynical government. It should be noted that Akira sleeps next to... no, not an engaving of Beethoven's stony face... a framed copy of Ornette Coleman's THE SHAPE OF JAZZ TO COME. Even the jazz club where Akira broods between petty crimes foreshadows the Korova Milk Bar: the walls painted black and festishized with portraits of the great jazz masters, their names painted in delirious white strokes like the Milk Bar's adverts of Vellocet and Drencrom. Kubrick simply had to have seen it.

Yuki awaits the humiliation of her boyfriend at the hands of Fumiko.

In an unexpected turn of events, the pregnant Yuki prevails upon Fumiko for her help. Since her pregnancy became known to her boyfriend, their relationship has not been the same; he acts superior to her and treats her as someone tainted. So she pleads with Fumiko to seduce him, to destroy his pride as hers has been destroyed, so that they might rediscover their love for one another on levelled ground.

I won't go into the ironic finale, but the 75m film certainly builds to an evil boil and sustains its mood extremely well. I don't know if Quentin Tarantino is familiar with this movie -- which is apparently available in some form from Something Weird Video, probably the dubbed Audubon version (World Cinema HD showed the film in Japanese with subtitles that pulled no punches in the strong language department) -- but these characters seemed to me very much like antecedents of his most hellbent characters, and the whole feel of the film a convincing annex of his universe.

Under whatever title, Kurahara's film is much too important to be so obscure. The same goes for another Audubon import, Tinto Brass's NEROSUBIANCO, which Radley Metzger retitled THE ARTFUL PENETRATION OF BARBARA. (Yes, Virginia -- theaters actually used to show movies with titles like THE ARTFUL PENETRATION OF BARBARA and THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS, though they won't admit to this in your History class.)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Retitlings on World Cinema HD

The World Cinema HD airing of THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS, which I mentioned yesterday, came off with some interesting variations. Dish Network listed the film on their menu under this highly exploitative title, but all of World Cinema HD's on-air promos gave the title in Japanese -- KYONETSU NO KISETSU -- in a bid to make it sound more respectable, I suppose. When the film began and its title appeared onscreen, it was subtitled as "THE WARPED ONES." It was preceded by a Janus Films logo, so it seems there is every chance that a Criterion DVD may someday be in the offing. (Ah, but under which title?)

Follow-up to my Dish Network woes: I was able to record an acceptable (1.78:1) copy of THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS this evening because it was shown in 2.35:1. It's still cropped, but a fast zoom-through didn't show any cropped subtitles or horribly damaged compositions. But most of what is being shown on Dish's HD channels is 1.78 or 1.85:1 to begin with, which my DVD-Recorder is receiving as a cropped 1.33:1 picture.

Donna and I have been troubleshooting today, and it seems that the real problem is inherent in my Panasonic DVD-Recorder, which -- like any other DVD-R currently on the market, that I know of -- is equipped to record MPEG-2 signals, not MPEG-4. It records MPEG-4, but it can't receive a full-blown widescreen signal; it crops the picture. If I use my TV controls to widen the picture, it only widens the cropped portion of the picture. My recorder also can't differentiate between an MPEG-4 picture that is squeezed or letterboxed or zoomed-in; it reads all of this incoming source as the same thing.

This means that -- if you have the same DVD-Recorder as me (a Panasonic DMR-E85H) -- this could well become your problem too, should you upgrade to MPEG-4. These MPEG-4 receivers are the new kid on the block, HD-wise, but it seems they're incompatible with current DVD-R technology, at least as I know it. Now I'm wondering if Radio Shack carries some kind of conduit that can dumb-down MPEG-4 to MPEG-2 purely for recording purposes. What are the chances that such a thing exists?

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back with Dish Network

Last week, we made an appointment for Dish Network to come out to the house and hook us up with a new receiver so that we could have an additional 15 or so HD channels. The Dish guy came to the house within the agreed-upon PM hours, announced that he didn't have a 40-foot ladder (necessary to reach the roof of our house), so he set up another appointment for our upgrade on the following Monday -- today.

Today, another Dish guy arrives... well before the 12-5:00 agreed-upon time. "You're early," I tell him, sleepily. "Yes, I am early," he replies sullenly, obviously refusing to take any guff from the customer. He's got a ladder on the truck but he says he has no intention of using it; I have everything I need for the upgrade already up there, and there's nothing to add on or take down. He doesn't know what the previous installer was thinking. He also can't figure out how he was able to arrange a follow-up visit with a phone call. After replacing my old Dish receiver (an MPEG-2 receiver installed in 2005) with a VIP 211 receiver (MPEG-4), he checks out the picture, tunes to an SD channel and tells me that I should never watch my TV with the gray bars displayed -- I should always watch the picture on these standard channels stretched like Silly Putty. When I begin to object, he cuts me off and says, "You can watch it any way you want, I'm just tellin' ya." Fine. Fine.

After the installer drives away to his next early appearance, Donna and I begin checking all the connections. To make a long and unhappy story short: The MPEG-4 receiver gives us a noticeably more beautiful HD picture... but.

I have always been able to record from my Dish Network receiver to my Panasonic DVD-Recorder. It didn't give me HD recordings, of course, but it recorded the programming shown on HD channels in a handsomely letterboxed format that I could then zoom-up to a most acceptable simulacra of HD. With my hours, time-shifting is often essential, and we use the DVD-Recorder a lot for that reason in particular. However... when hooked up identically to the MPEG-4 receiver, I don't get letterboxing. Even when I dumb the picture down to 480 or 720 and reconfigure the framing to 4:3x2 and get a letterboxed image on my monitor, the signal that the receiver is sending into my recorder is fully uncompressed with the left and side of the frame blocked by my gray bars. I can sit there pumping the Format button on my Dish remote, changing the screen configuration from Zoom to Partial Zoom to Gray Bars to Normal, and the onscreen image being sent into my DVD-Recorder is as unchanging as the expression on the Lincoln Memorial.

We've tried everything and don't know what to do. To make matters worse, Dish's World Cinema HD channel is showing THE WEIRD LOVEMAKERS tomorrow evening, something I would dearly love to record. (I've been fascinated by this 1960s Japanese import since I first saw its trailer as part of Something Weird's first TWISTED SEX compilation.) If we keep the MPEG-4 connected, we'll get a recording, but it will be cropped. If we hook-up our MPEG-2 receiver, which we haven't sent back yet, we won't get the World Cinema channel at all, because it's accessible only to subscribers of what they call "the HD3 package."

So now we have to figure out what we're going to do. We still have an MPEG-2 HD hook-up in our basement, but I really don't want to turn the basement into the headquarters of my DVD-R recording. Part of me suspects that the MPEG-4 was created to be used solely with Dish Network's DVR, which can store quite a bit of HD broadcast information on its hard drive but, if you ask me, isn't quite the same as burning that information to a disc. I don't need to record in HD at the moment, but I do need to continue recording my HD programming in SD. Dish Network is sending someone to the house on Wednesday, supposedly between 12:00 and 5:00, to assess the situation. I fully expect the visit to be for nothing, though I would like very much to be able to report otherwise here on Thursday.

I know that this blog is read by many different kinds of film buffs. If there's anyone out there with insight into this particular problem, and perhaps a solution, I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Preview of VIDEO WATCHDOG #133

Our next issue is now at the printer. To whet your appetite, our customary four-page preview is now posted in the "Coming Soon" department of www.videowatchdog.com -- absolutely free! -- along with a near-complete list of contents. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 22, 2007


For those interested in witnessing important moments in television history unfold in real time, tonight's broadcast of WHAT'S MY LINE? on Game Show Network (3:00 am eastern) should be the first episode shown in the wake of panelist Dorothy Killgallen's death. Last weekend, GSN showed Killgallen's final WML broadcast, with mystery guest Joey Heatherton. Let's hope GSN handles tonight's broadcast more responsibly than last week's, which was ruined by a misplaced commercial interruption that omitted the majority of the second guest's appearance.