Thursday, January 31, 2008


Fire up the Internet, listen to some conversations around these days and understand that the Super Bowl game is coming up. This is number XLII and it is being played in Arizona on Sunday, February 3rd. I won't be there -- I have never seen a Super Bowl game. Part of the reason is I learned over the years from friends that the big game is always anticlimactic and a disappointment. I have watched a few regular football games in the last few years but this only convinces me it cannot hold a toast to a good ice hockey game. The sport itself is laboured, drawn out, over 'ruled', and for North Americans only. (Ice hockey is played in more places around the world than is North American football.)

Having said all that, I will make a prediction. I worry about Tom Brady's foot so I imagine that the New York Giants will win the big one by a score of 31 to 27.

Poor Patriots...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


While visiting an old friend of mine yesterday, the subject of the new Battlestar Galactica show was brought up. He then lent me a few DVDs. A couple of years ago I rented the original miniseries with another friend: We both were bored stiff but managed to knock it off. The conversation was quick after the screening... it was bad. Maybe the series is better. Maybe this. Maybe that. Even the original was better. And at least it was a grande scaled (budgeted) show, albeit poorly written, and was watchable for that quality alone.

Ten minutes ago I finished watching a regular episode of the reimagined BG. It is a darn shame the producers did not just imagine making it and leave it at that. What makes this argument more interesting, if not exciting, for me is the fan base this show enjoys -- well, the three or four million veiwers that is claimed by ratings services. (Jeez, a show would be cancelled yesteryear when it averaged a paltry ten million. There were more variables than that, but you get the idea.)

Where do I start? For starters this version of the BG name feels very cheap to me. This is not the indicator of quality, but given that recent advances in technology have minimized visual effects and post production costs, I am amazed at how there are no apparent onscreen gains here. Maybe the show is working with less money than I would have thought. Anyway, I am the first to admit that a show done for pennies can still attract my admiration and attention; if it is done well, and the scripts are good.

(I clicked on the 'time remaining' menu on my DVD player: Only 15 minutes gone?! Thirty minutes to go?! No!)

What is it with those ridiculous snap-zooms in the effects shots? And what is it with that shaky camera in the live action scenes? This would make sense if a very long lens was on the camera to go with analogous content, but no, the camera appears to have a normal focal length lens on and the operator just likes shaking. (The crew might not even know what I am talking about, so it's a non issue. The fanzies should take up a collection and buy a tripod for the Cattlestar production team.)

The cast is uniformly bad. Everyone is pretentious and exhibits that wankfest acting style: Look at me act! The music scoring is Synsonic Drum heaven, the production design is poor as are the effects shots, over and above the issue of SnappyCam. CG shots are often accused of looking like something "done on my computer" but this effects crew has succeeded in making CG spaceships look like Dinky Toys. I never imagined I would see that happen.
(I clicked on the 'time remaining' menu on my DVD player: Still 12:26 to go?! This is going to be the longest 12:26 ever!)
It is hard for me to gauge the quality of scripting in the series, but this episode could not convince me it has acheived any level above paint-by-numbers. I have heard that themes of this and that have been dealt with in different episodes. My smark would go something like this, "and it's not as though that has been done before!"

After minutes of reflection I cannot think of anything I like about the show -- well, it got made and sold; and that always gets my admiration.

There is no way I am watching more episodes of this abortion. As my friend Larry would say, I can never get those hours back.

I was going to search for a nice photo to attach above... but even that is not worth my time.
... I can never get those five minutes back.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


As per my plans, I watched tonight's episode of jPod. And here is my admission: It's good. Just when I thought that three hours was more than enough of my time to devote to the program, I found that hour number four was what jPod needed to find itself. Finding is one thing but becoming outstanding is another. Everything seemed to click tonight; there were some laugh out loud moments, good characterizations, and impressive filmmaking. This one helmed by director Tim Southam.

This show is ripe for directing talents such as the Wellington brothers -- Peter and David. But please, please, no Jerry Ciccoritti.

Now I have an excuse to watch and not take care of business. As I suffer from TV-ADD (Television Attention Deficit Disorder) there is a good chance I will hardly watch any more jPod. It's a shame. People should bookmark this series.

If it stays as consistent as tonight's episode then jPod is on its way.

The CBC needs this one.

Monday, January 28, 2008


Tonight I watched on TVO, D-Day to Berlin. This is a British documentary series made in 2004 about the trials and tribulations of the Allies advance on Nazi Germany to end the war. This installment was the last one in the three-part series; its name, "The Dream that Died". It was about the final push towards Berlin and the implications for the Nazis and the Allies (especially between the Russians and the West).

It was all very well done and I recommend to anyone who has even a remote interest in this important part of history (which shaped the world for decades).

I pulled this description off the TVO website (

With archive footage and computer generated imagery taking us directly onto the battlefields of France, Holland and Germany, we meet British, American and German soldiers who recount their experiences of over 50 years ago. Their bravery and determination made the final push on Europe the defining drama of the Second World War.

They forgot to mention the outstanding re-enactments done for this series. The so-called re-enactment is often done for television docs -- most are rather elemental, but the ones done for D-Day to Berlin were a highlight. (They could not have been cheap to do.)

Talking of re-enactments: Tomorrow, I am going to re-enact my sitting down and watching the CBC series jPod last Tuesday. Hopefully, I will not have to re-enact my ambivalence toward the show.

This all happens at 9 p.m.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


TVO (TVOntario) played the classic 1954 British war film The Dam Busters again last night. It seems that every time they play it I sit myself down to watch a film I have seen many times. Last night, or very earlier this morning, rather, I actually did not watch. Part of this reason is that a few days ago I heard that a new remastered version was released to selected cinemas and DVD in Britain (back in September of last year). Maybe this new print was struck off the original negative as opposed to a projection print; which is what the source probably was for the version that has been around for years. (Or maybe it was an dupe negative of a lower quality; see bottom of posting for answer.)

I await its North American release.

Someone has edited a nice video where they integrated the visuals of The Dam Busters with the audio track from Star Wars (the original). The title is, no surprise, Dam Wars. I have been well aware at the influence that the war film had on George Lucas and his Death Star attack scene; with 633 Squadron (1964) as another big influence. But I was amazed at how well this integration worked.

Trivia time: Gilbert Taylor, the British cameraman who shot Star Wars, was the visual effects cinematographer on The Dam Busters. Also, Stuart Freeborn did makeup work on both films. Small world... Universe.

My father flew on Lancasters (the featured bomber in The Dam Busters) during WW2 and he liked the first Star Wars film -- he would have gotten a kick out of this short.

Check out Dam Wars...

There is also a clip of the first Dam attack from The Dam Busters...

Here is how this war film was restored (the answer to my above question)...

Saturday, January 26, 2008


Canada had a thriving film production outfit operating out of Ottawa: Its name was Crawley Films and it was run by a man by the name of Frank "Budge" Crawley. They made everything from feature films to instructional shorts.

My dad understood my wanting to get into the film industry, so one day he said, "you should go and work for Crawley Films".

They were known to the average Canadian, I realized at that moment; even my own father knew who they were. I was about to write up a little piece on Crawley Films but I can just as easily link to this excellent article...

Friday, January 25, 2008


Yesterday I posted a note about a young musician, based in France, who rocked a great version of the Papillon theme music and then posted it to Youtube. While on Youtube I came across a clip on a 'restored' segment for the 1966 film, The Blue Max. Jerry Goldsmith scored both these films.

This particular sequence was scored for from beginning to end but what happened in post production -- and this is not unusual -- was the producers decided to mix the music out in the middle and bring it back again at the end. (This could be because they felt there was already too much going on in the audio since it was a battle scene with cannons firing, troops charging, and aircraft flying over the battlefield as charges burst about.) It might have been the right decision in a filmmaking perspective but, as this clip shows, the whole shebang together definitely rates an A +.

What else is interesting is how violent this battle scene is. When The Blue Max is shown on television, this entire scene is often cut out. I remember critics going on about how violent Saving Private Ryan was when it was released (as though they had never seen anything like it before). It was clear most of these critics had not seen The Blue Max and especially this clip.

If I am correct, this cue (or cues) was performed by the full 12o piece orchestra employed for the scoring; and it was recorded at Shepperton Studios -- the same Shepperton stage where the Beatles initially attempted to record what ended up being the album Let It Be.

Watching this clip reminds some that "they don't make 'em like this anymore"...

Thursday, January 24, 2008


Something alerted me to a new video posted on Youtube: It is a performance, by one "slash90", of composer Jerry Goldsmith's gorgeous theme to the 1973 movie, Papillon. As it turns out, this file was put up just yesterday.

This kid is good. His version of the fabulous music is spot on electric guitar.

This only makes me wish I had stuck with guitar lessons...


Jim, a friend of mine, is a Plan 9 From Outer Space fan. He has the DVD which has not only the movie itself but the two hour documentary, Flying Saucers Over Hollywood which is about -- if you have not already guessed it -- the making of Ed Wood's magnum opus.

What is interesting about my Plan 9 fan friend is the fact he is only 23 years old. So much for the classic film being for us old fogies; although it was made years before even I was born. We dig this movie on equal terms. There is so much to talk about, including the fact that Plan 9 From Outer Space is hardly "the worst movie ever made". I told Jim about Larry Buchanan's magnum opus, Zontar The Thing From Venus. Not only did I assure him that Zontar is much worse than Plan 9, but just to reassure myself I watched it again the other night.

It is much, much worse. I told Jim this yesterday, but he still wants to see it (or perhaps wants to see it even more now).

Jim has been warned.

One of the big mysteries or big myths, rather, of Plan 9 is that the flying saucers were automobile hubcaps. This is false. Let me set that one straight. They are in fact a commercially available model kit first released by the Lindberg Company in 1952. The kit was called "Flying Saucer". Three of these kits were assembled (with some minor changes) for the movie and painted silver.

I am familiar with the kit as it was re-released by Lindberg Line in or about 1978.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Enough is enough. I watched the third installment of jPod last night on the CBC. The show is really directionless; that is the reality. It's not my cup of tea. It's time for me to find something else to do on Tuesday nights between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. That is read a book; or have a good ol' Canadian Quickie (which leaves a good 55 minutes).

Time to plan ahead.

Maybe, in a few months time I will try jPod again. Maybe by that point it will have had a recharge.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I noted that a friend called a couple of nights ago to tell me how much he was impressed with the new monster mash flick, Cloverfield. Well, I got an e-mail from another buddy who said exactly the same thing about the movie. (As in no variation.)

As I have not yet seen this film, and since it is important to me to spread the word, I must use my movie-going-mates to speak on behalf of the money-grubbing picture, Cloverfield.

This was an e-mail but I will consider it another guest blog from Larry Smight (no relation). Reprinted with kind permission from the author...

Fantastic film. No scientists explaining what the monster is, where it came from or how to stop it. No talking heads at the Pentagon debating their next move against the creature. It's all street-level, what an average person would be able to piece together as it's happening scenario. And it's fantastic. Best monster movie since Alien. Once you buy the conceit that the dude would keep the camera running while basically running for his life, it's one thrill after another. And all following a perfect, logical plot. I know digital technology has come a long way, but still hard to conceive that this only cost $30 million to make. Proof that judicious use of effects can elicit big scares. This film is definitely less-is-more school of filmmaking, but when there are big reveals, my god, do they seem big and exciting.

Larry Smight (no relation)

Monday, January 21, 2008


My old friend John called me from beautiful British Columbia, last evening, to wish me a happy new year; to ask me if I've seen Cloverfield; and how things are going in my life (or what there is of it). There was more to our 'catching up' conversation than that, but you get the idea. And, of course, this information is important to your own existence. (Insert picture here of the plate of delicious bacon and eggs I had this morning for breakfast.)

As we are both Ed Wood fans, the subject came up. We cannot have a full blown conversation and not broach the subject of the infamous filmmaker. Plan 9 From Outer Space and Bride of the Monster, for starters, warrant regular cogitation.

John explained why Cloverfield, to him at least, works superlatively. Within its own logic and what the filmmakers clearly set out to do, the film is perfect. The sound is awesome and the camera shaky. His girlfriend had to leave during the screening as she could not take the jerking image any longer, but John survived the "visceral experience".

I will see Cloverfield at the Bloor Cinema when it hits the reps.

My friend asked me if I had seen the so-called "Phantom Edit". (This is a re-edit job done by a guy in the States to the worse than awful Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. Remember that one... from 1999?) I had heard of the project as it made the news, but I never bothered to track down a copy or even search on the Net for one. John is not a Star Wars fan but he is very impressed with this re-cut since he is an editor himself. I will seek this one out. Calling all Star Wars fans. "Beep, beep, beep... beep."


Something else I learned from John is that there is a production company called Asylum that makes feature length movies to mimic the Hollywood versions before they even come out. Yes, Snakes on a Train was released on home video before Snakes on a Plane made it to movie theatres. This company has the process down to an art form, having release some fifty or so examples.

I told John that I too had thought of doing the same thing with Cloverfield. My version, which I almost put into production upon first hearing the news of the J.J. Abrams film, was titled Mayfield. Some dopey kid with a baseball cap and a rather portly and apple-eating friend defend his small town, U.S.A., against a giant monster. (McCarthyism? Communism?)

In life we sometimes miss opportunities.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

ALLAN MELVIN (1922 - 2008)

Allan Melvin was one of those actors who's face you knew or were familiar with (at least for anyone born before 1980) but would probably produce no name for you. He was in many a television program from the 1960s onward.

I remember him from my favourite television program of all time, All in the Family, as Archie's next door neighbour and occasional friend, Barney Hefner:

ARCHIE BUNKER (off-screen): Hey, Hefner... your dog doo-dooed on my lawn again.

Melvin was in a memorable episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show, playing an old army buddy of Rob Petrie's but who was now suspected of being a diamond thief.

And of course he was known as Sam, the love interest of the Brady's housekeeper Alice (Ann B. Davis), in the awful series The Brady Bunch (1969 - 1974).

I remember him in an episode of Lost in Space, titled "West of Mars". (Just how do I know the episode name? No, I did not have to look on the Internet Movie Database.) Melvin was in another installment of this crappola show, but I cannot remember the title.

This busy actor also did a lot of voice work for various animated programs, including The Flintstones.

The fact is, Melvin was everywhere on television: Even as a child I seemed to know his name. Something, some show, must have linked his face and name for me.

On camera, Allan Melvin was one of those actors that had what you would call a "great face". Full of character.

Actor Allan Melvin died of cancer on Thursday, January 17th, 2008.

Saturday, January 19, 2008


I caught the "Coach's Corner" segment of the CBC's broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada tonight. Don Cherry, the host of the Coach, and his trusty straight man sidekick, Ron MacLean, are just about the biggest draw of HNIC on any Saturday night during the hockey season. Cherry is quite the character and slightly eccentric dresser.

The only real problem I have with him is he really liked, and promotes, fighting in ice hockey. So there I am watching earlier tonight listening to Cherry go on about some player he has "been watching since he was fifteen years old". Then, our opinionated pal changes the subject by going on about some great fight... "this is a great fight". The technical crew rolls tape and we the audience have the pleasure of watching two lunatics duke it out on the ice. (As a side note, I'm wondering what the coloured markings are on the ice. I asked out loud, "Why are these needed for fighting?")

Mr. Cherry wraps up his segment on tonight's broadcast by paying tribute -- and I knew this was coming when I saw him go all teary eyed -- to one of Canada's fallen soldiers. I have no problem with this; if Cherry wants to do a spot (and he has before) on one of this great country's troops who have died in Afghanistan, then that is his prerogative. Admittedly, Cherry, who is very patriotic, does this duty very well.

It's just a darn shame that, at the end of the day (read: strategically), our brave men and women in Afghanistan -- who are there under Toady's orders -- are accomplishing absolutely nothing.


(Just making things worse.)

Friday, January 18, 2008


There is some talk already about the new Hollywood monster movie, Cloverfield, being a very profitable movie. It cost just over $30 million to make. (A certain Toronto movie critic called it a "big budget" film. Typical Toronto Entertainment Writer comment.)

Studios would rather make a film that costs a small sum of money to mount rather than betting the farm on another, even if there are star names attached. If Cloverfield were to make $200 million at the box office (of which about $100 makes its way back to the producing studio... the "rentals" portion) then that would be major "profitability". A (relatively) small outlay and big return. Of course, The Blair Witch Project was the marker for profitability. Even with polishing money it came in at about $350,000 before release. It went on to gross $140 million domestically.

That is a big return.

Time for me to stop sitting at my favourite craps table. And start thinking big.

I am a big Godzilla fan; this will all but ensure that I see the beast. (Whatever it looks like.)

It would be nice to see the monster clean-up at the box office.

As Archie Bunker once said, while he watched The Frog That Ate Tokyo on television one night, "Go froggie, go!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008


The CBC has been promoting their new lineup of shows on a regular basis. Even if you were to only tune in the CBC National News (with Peter Mansbridge), the best of Canada's coast-to-coast news hours, then you have surely seen ads for jPod, MVP, The Border, and Sophie.

I have sampled jPod (which is only two episodes in to its run) and have found it to be wanting... needing... something. MVP is out of the question: It looks like pure trash; not that there is anything wrong with any grade of trash, necessarily. The Border comes across as pumped up, unnecessarily. They are trying to make a Federal case out of something which is pretty mundane for the most part. Besides, how many international or critical incidents are there at the Canada-U.S. border in any given week? I'm sure a lot does go on that we do not hear about, but this all borders on an excuse to tap into our '9/11 paranoia'. We'll see how far this paranoia takes this teddy bear.

Last night I watched the new half-hour series, Sophie. The Corp bills this as a "fresh new comedy". Give me a break. Even before I saw it I understood it as typical television network parlance. Sophie is at the same point, developmentally wise, as jPod -- that is two episodes into its life.

It was not bad. Natalie Brown, Sophie herself, was quite good. The cast looked to be comfortable in their respective roles; as though they have been doing this for a while. This is all a good sign. Maybe something will come out of this show. The plot, while unremarkable and nothing even this comatose television watcher has not seen before, moved in a confident manner. As a matter of fact, Sophie, the show, comes across to me as an updated version of Love, American Style (1969 - 1974).

The word 'confident' is important here. That is how Sophie reads. This program is produced in Montreal -- that might have an awful lot to do with it. They are removed from the phony, pompous, arrogant, and not particularly talented breed which populate much of the Toronto television scene.

This might have an awful lot to do with it...

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


"I'll probably end up watching the entire bloody series while I try to figure whether I like this show or not. (...or until CBC cancels it, whichever comes first)."

-- Reader Greg Woods commenting to posting, NEWS FLASH MAN, regarding jPod.

I concur. There is no evident identity. About twenty minutes in to the episode last night I realized what it was jPod reminded me of... a TV scaled version of the 1963 Stanley Kramer feature film, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. The difference is these characters don't seem to know what they are looking for, and with less than comedic results.

Some material was very self conscious. Watching Alan Thicke auditioning for the part of Hermann Goering for a film was particularly painful to watch. And was weird for weird's sake. (Or wired for wired's sake.)

It is early in this series' run, but what jPod is missing right now is a Dick Shawn. That man could really pull off this sort of sensibility.

My hope is the CBC reworks jPod a little to let it find its legs. Through the very nature of regular series production, fine tuning is done over a course of episodes but the producers might have to look at a hip replacement before long.

The only risk in that is it could turn into another Material World fiasco. The CBC does not want to repeat that scenario.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Tonight at 9 p.m., the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is televising the second episode of their new hour long series jPod. I am drawn to watch.

What is happening to me? I am planning to watch a series on a regular basis.

I am not hu-man.

I am ro-man!

Monday, January 14, 2008


Saw this news item on '' this morning...

I have long been a fan of ocean liners, and as such would loved to have been in Lower Manhattan (NYC) yesterday to observe Cunard's big three docked together: The Queen Victoria, Queen Mary 2, and the forty year old magnificent Queen Elizabeth 2.

When I was in Portsmouth, England, a few years ago I was standing with a pack of tourists one sunny afternoon looking across the water. I heard a voice; "it's the QE 2!" There she was, miles in the distance, sliding towards the Isle of Wight. Coming out of Southampton, no doubt.

There is something about big machines that automatically makes them cinematic. Among the finest examples are the ocean liners. A certain film was released to boffo box office ten years ago. It was about the ill-fated RMS Titanic. It was really the love story what captivated audiences, but the ship itself had something to do with it... and its role in a different time.

James Cameron's Titanic is not the best film made about the famed ship -- in my opinion that goes to 1958's A Night To Remember, hands down -- but it is certainly the most recent example of a movie featuring an ocean liner to such a degree.

Another example of a big passenger ship is Irwin Allen's 1972 production of The Poseidon Adventure. Still another, and a good film itself, is The Last Voyage (1960)... starring Robert Stack (there's that guy again). The film's producers rented the decommissioned SS Ile de France, of the French Line, and gave it a controlled sinking -- featured in the final reel of the film. It is freaky seeing Stack, Dorothy Malone, and some other souls step into the sea from the bow of the slowly submersing vessel.

I love the ocean and love ocean liners, but I don't know if I would have agreed to that stunt...

Of course I would have!

Sunday, January 13, 2008


My knapsack is my E.V.A. pack... stands for Extra Vehicular Activity. In it at any given time is a book that I have out on loan from the Toronto Public Library. The one I am carrying around at the moment is The Great One - The Life and Legend of Jackie Gleason. Yes, I know, I wrote about this on my posting of December 17th, THE GREAT ONE, and had to renew the book and extend the deadline just so I could finish her up.

I do not know what took so long for me to finish the book. Once I did make a concerted effort to read The Great One, it proved to be one of those "page turners". As Gleason worked in the so-called Golden Age of Television there was much information of interest to this enthusiast. There is no need for a book review here other than relating the fact that the book is a sobering treatise on a talented but cursedly unhappy man.

Gleason had fame, but it wasn't good enough. As a reader you are convinced, by sheer repetition in the stories told of the man, stories told over years, decades, the Great One was just not happy. I had much the same feeling about Lucille Ball when I read the outstanding biography, Desilu: The Story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz . These comedic talents did not seem to share in many pleasures in life. Perhaps it would be best explained as a quest to find happiness that never really came. The two were forever miserable... well, almost forever.

That is the impression this reader took away from the above books. Maybe the endless quest for any semblance of regular happiness was in itself doomed from the start; as they, Gleason and Ball, were natural and very animated comedians. And purely suited for entertaining the masses through the technology of television in its most exploratory and experimental days. But where do you go from there? More than likely down hill. Back in the days when Gleason and Ball would capture audience sizes that would put today's 'hits' to shame (where 15 million viewers makes a show a hit now; years ago that all but ensured a show would get cancelled) and you could not top that. You just looked down at the long playground slide -- like the one in the 1964 feature movie, The Longships (starring Richard Widmark); the one which consists of a blade... more than slide.

Page after page I thought "just what is your beeping problem?... Mr. Gleason and Ms. Ball".

The other strong and sobering truth about those who explode onto the scene with the attached line, often perpetrated by the press and overly eager press agents, "an overnight success!", is that in actuality they were artists who had been long learning the ropes; plying their trades; earning their dues, until...

Everything came together for them. They had in fact "worked a lifetime" before making it big. Perhaps everything after was some sort of compensation.

Payback time. Of sorts.

All those years of neuroses churning, circulating, and tumbling like a lottery ball, exploded when fame and complimenting wealth eventually reared their ugly heads -- allowing indulgence.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


I should have done some heavier thinking before filing that ELECTRONIC SHORTS posting. Was surfing the web and something reminded me of a show I had forgotten in that list; then another...

Caribe (1975)... A cop show starring Stacey Keach, Jr. Exotic locations and cops.

Most Wanted (1976)... I'm sure I did not miss too many episodes of this vehicle for Robert Stack. Was that guy without work, ever? Most didn't want this show and it was cancelled before finishing out the season.

The careful reader might notice that I can't come up with any examples after 1981. My television watching slowed down about that time. (I was tired of being had.)

In the year 1985 I did give Steven Spielberg's anthology series Amazing Stories a chance. That same year/week I also started watching the first of a few episodes of the new Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and the new The Twilight Zone series. These were all anthology series -- the networks gave this format a chance again, but the regular public wanted their "shows" to have continuing characters to care about. Still does. (Call it predictability. Comfort. Familiarity.)


In relation to my blog posting FOR WADSWORTH, I thought I would check out Youtube to see what Space: 1999 videos there were. There are quite a lot and a few detailing the different openings; first and second season including alternative themes. I was aware that different versions were written and recorded; as a matter of fact, composer Derek Wadsworth recorded three of them with a fourth demonstrated to the show's producers on a piano (his own favourite, at the time, but has since admitted he prefers the one ultimately used).

I am forever fascinated with the creative process. That includes searching for just the right piece of music to identify a television series. And here's to searching:

The Space: 1999 second season titles that were ultimately used for the show...

An alternative second season theme...

And a second alternative second season theme. This is a different approach; it strikes me as what we viewers would have heard had the show been produced in the States. There is that L.A. sound which was very much "in" back in the mid '70s (and as one commenter stated on Youtube, the visuals would have been cut differently had this theme been the final choice)...

Here is Barry Gray's classic theme for Space: 1999's first season. When you were a kid, those "this episode" cuts were great stuff. In this particular episode's case they did not hint at how boring it would be. I do remember that Margaret Leighton was in "this episode"...

I could not resist: Make sure to check this one out (but make sure you watch the Barry Gray file above first if you are not familiar with the show). Effing funny!...

Friday, January 11, 2008


I am a big fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club.... when they lose; which is much of the time.

Imagine my happiness, today, when I saw the headline in the Toronto Sun's sports page which read, "Crowning Insult - Leafs again put on another pitiful display as they fall to the lowly Kings". The story's writer, a guy by the name of Lance Hornby, caught my attention in the fourth paragraph when he said:

In addition to Earthquake, Towering Inferno and every other disaster movie set here, you can add film of last night's 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

But the big laugh came from me mere seconds later when I read this:

Andrew Raycroft was burned for four goals in the first period, his defence pushed around like ragdolls. As for coach Paul Maurice changing lines, re-uniting Mats Sundin, Nik Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky had all the effect of re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

For me to laugh out loud (and with such force) when I am by myself, it must be funny. Being a Titanic nut makes this even funnier.

I should add that the Toronto Maple Leafs organization is staffed from top to bottom with incompetents. (In all fairness, the Leafs are one of the most profitable team sports franchises in the world. I am really speaking of making a winning team. The Leafs have not won a 'Stanley Cup' -- the National Hockey League's ultimate prize -- since 1967! And in the years since, they have come relatively close only a couple of times. This organization does not care about the fans, and every year they prove it by raising the gate ticket prices. The cynics say the fans are really the ones to blame as they "keep on paying". If a major film studio could get such dedicated fans they could release a lot of bad movies on a regular basis, and their fans would keep on lining up at the movie theatres.)

Some guy in Toronto is offering to buy the Leafs from Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the current owners of the team. I understand that some people are excited at the prospect.

One small correction to Hornby's article: The Towering Inferno is set in San Francisco, not Los Angeles. Whatever... Hornby is an entertaining Sports writer.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


My own blog post from yesterday reminded me of all the shows I watched as a kid or teenager which ultimately went nowhere... cancelled after a few episodes or just one season.

These are:

The Interns (1970)... I would watch this on the Sony portable upstairs and enjoy it; even though some of the subject matter was quite adult. Maybe this is why I was upstairs watching it on the Sony b&w instead of the Zenith colour tube downstairs. As I remember it, Interns had a great opening title sequence. That Broderick Crawford. Along with Sandy Smith, Mike Farrell, Stephen Brooks, and Christopher Stone.

Planet of the Apes (1974)... The family, well some of us, watched this tv series based on the successful feature films. This series was not successful, partly due to its great cost, less than stellar ratings (after a while), and inflexible format (although it was, the producers just did not try to flex it). This show was huge in Great Britain.

Lucas Tanner (1974)... My memory is watching this upstairs by myself on the Sony portable; although the subject matter was definitely more agreeable than that of The Interns. It was a show about a school teacher (David Hartman) and his trials and tribulations with his students. I liked this one.

Gemini Man (1976)... Ben Murphy played some dude who had the power of controlled invisibility for about fifteen minutes. Hey, like me in high school math class!

The Fantastic Journey (1977)... A group of people end up in the Bermuda Triangle where they meet some strange goings on and some strange dudes. A fun journey, but not for enough people.

Darkroom (1981)... James Coburn was the host of this superior thriller/horror show of the anthology kind. The flexible segment lengths within a typical episode allowed the running time to fit the story being told. There were some true standouts in this baby.

With the exception of Apes, I have not seen these in years.

And what is it about me becoming attached to shows which do not survive? Or is it that I jinx them? Here's a thought; I should start becoming attached to the new Battlestar Galactica, and Torchwood.

I did not mention Hello, Larry as it went into a second season. That fact saved me from admitting I watched it every week.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


As a child of the 1960s and 1970s I watched some cool television fare; although this television does not fare well today. (I could not resist.) Good Times, Night Gallery, The Six Million Dollar Man, Gilligan's Island, The Rookies, Emergency, Lost in Space, Star Trek, and Space: 1999 were some of the shows which I would sit down for. (I cannot get over how well I've turned out considering I was constantly subjected to the acid rain intrinsic with some of the above.)

As I got older I discovered All in the Family (brilliant show), The Outer Limits, and a few others. In my teenage years I sat down long enough to catch some newly released, and superior, series such as The White Shadow and Lou Grant.

(Sorry, no Battlestar Galactica. I watched some episodes when it ran but knew it wasn't clicking. Although, it is still better than the narcissistic and plethoric "re-imagining".)

Easily one of the worst of the above was Space: 1999. It premiered in September of 1975; a time where I was easily old enough to know what worked and what did not -- over and above the subjective question. This British import was, in its first season (the second season was different, and I will get to in a moment), turgid, overly metaphysical and consistently so, often boring, and after many episodes, absolutely inconsequential. In a nutshell, perfect stuff to make you blow away all the time you think you have when you are of such a young age as I was.

Space: 1999 was known at the time for its pretty and (at times) elaborate visual effects work. The first season was scored by series creator Gerry Anderson's frequent collaborator, Barry Gray. This composer was consistently producing quality theme tunes and background music for Anderson's children's programs such as Supercar, Thunderbirds, and Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons.

Those kiddie shows -- which many adults watched too -- were frequently fun even when serious, with some episodes played as comedies. This ingredient allowed composer Gray to write some disparate music: Dark, upbeat, romantic, and contemporary. When some episodes bypassed having an original score, no matter. There was always something to track in to hit the notes for whatever installment. (I should mention that I think his Thunderbirds theme is one of the best television signature pieces of all time. Barry Gray was a compositional talent.)

With Space: 1999, Gray was commissioned to score just five episodes. These more or less required the same sort of timbre or colour in the music, banking a fairly narrow reservoir of dramatic options. The episodes in question required gloomy music for the most part. This fact hurt the show... seriously (in my humble opinion).

Darkness pervaded the prairie.

It is pretty clear that what happened was no fault of Barry Gray's. He was, after all, a hired composer, as are all film composers. They write music to match an image on a screen. They are told what episodes to write music for; it is a commissioned capacity.

After the first season of Space: 1999 wrapped up, just about everybody who cared came up with a litany of what was wrong with the series. I won't go into a historical analysis of what went on other than to say that veteran American television producer Fred Freiberger (yes, that Freiberger of 3rd season Star Trek fame) was hired by the Brits to help make the show more friendly to the all important U.S. audience.

Command Centre was Command Center. (We Canadians spell in the British style, so we would also take into account the same export considerations.)

Changes were made, and some for the better (I am one of those who thinks the second season is a slight improvement on the 1st), one perhaps was most severe: The music.

When I sat down in front of the CBC for the much anticipated new stab-at-the-cat season of Space in September of 1976, I was taken aback by the total change in the opening titles department; mainly, the musical theme. What a difference. I immediately liked it. It was more rock and roll and jazz than symphonic... but it worked.

And in an episode to episode respect, it really did work. Derek Wadsworth, this creator of the new sound, provided what was really needed more than anything else for this miserable thing... Fun music.

(Wadsworth was for all intents and purposes, a rock and roller and jazz guy. He arranged music for the Rolling Stones, amongst others.)

The show's initiating concept was shite, which was the truth admitted by some all along; by those brave and realistic souls. (The moon blasting out of Earth's orbit? That is the concept behind the show? Ridiculous.)

Rock/Pop/Jazz styled music worked in outer space. Not that the mentioned types are needed to mark substandard television, it's just that they seemed to fit Space: 1999's second season so aptly.

Derek Wadsworth and Space: 1999 was a happy accident. He did not make the show a good one, but did get rid of those overcast skies.

Space just needed a little rock and roll and jazz.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Tonight, I managed to sit down and watch the premiere of the CBC's new series jPod. It is only the first episode -- it ended 35 minutes ago as I write this -- so there is not much room to evaluate the series.

The first part was predictably bumpy but that goes with the territory. And like many television series, it is self conscious and trying a wee bit too hard to succeed... or leave a mark.

(There is time. The CBC must support this series, within reason, and that includes promotions.)

There were too many ingredients in tonight's episode for one series to carry successfully. Perhaps the producers are throwing all the nuts into the bowl to start and will sift through in weeks to come, leaving only the tastier variety.

I say cashews!

I will try and watch jPod on a regular basis.

Monday, January 7, 2008


A friend of mine was telling me about a series of regular altercations she has had with another woman in recent weeks. She likes this other woman ("hat" is how she described her to me) but there is not a lot of communication outside of the perfunctory hellos when they do share the same flight plan.

On one occasion, my friend was minding her own business filing a book back on the shelf in the school library when suddenly an arm gently passed by her face. This arm was attached to the other woman. There was an exchange of smiles but that was it. No further colloquy.

As a movie fan, I was able to pull out a cinematic example of the above -- one for the edification of my floating friend. The example I downloaded from the memory bank was the wonderful 'museum' scene from Brian De Palma's 1980 minor classic thriller, Dressed to Kill.

The museum sequence is not only a demonstration of fine acting, directing, and music scoring (superb scoring I should specify), but required viewing for those who have been experiencing cat-and-mouse dynamics with a desired carbon based unit.

I told my friend to rent the movie, but it dawned on me after some thought, that I should just see if the scene is on good ol' YouTube...

It is...

Lisa now wants to see the whole film.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is promoting their new show, jPod, with vigour. I saw a large print ad for it in a newspaper the other day; plus there are a lot of adverts on CBC television.

Not since I was in my early twenties have I anticipated any television show, but this one does intrigue me. Not only is it based on the 2006 book, jPod, by Douglas Coupland, but the tv promotions do forge some basic interest from me.

I read a review in last week's Eye Weekly. The reviewer said that while the first episode is stiff (very common in opening installments), jPod gets its legs in subsequent stories.

This is not something we have never heard before, but I just might give it a chance.

Besides, tv has not been the same for me ever since Lucas Tanner went off the air.

jPod premieres on the CBC on Tuesday, January 8th at 9 p.m.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


Here is a question: Did the CBC's scheduling department read Larry's or my own review of Torchwood and decide to program this show at the last minute as some sort of retribution?

I think they are out to show how much faith they have in the infamous hour-long telefantasy series. Just to prove it they are slotting it in two times; tomorrow (Sunday, January 6th) at 8pm and 9pm.

... that is two hours of Torchwood in total.

If you want to see what the fuss is all about -- and I do mean fuss -- and you have not seen the beast in any way, shape, or form, then here is your chance. Two separate story lines to better judge.

You are welcome to tell Larry and me that we are far out in our opinions on this one.

(I promise this won't become the Torchwood blog.)

The big news...

A good online TV guide (the culprit here)...

Friday, January 4, 2008


This past Wednesday, guest blogger Larry wrote a list of things which make no sense to him about the British Telefantasy show, Torchwood. I too wrote something in the same vein, earlier.

(I found this picture to the right: I think it's a behind the scenes look at actor John Barrowman studying the script.)

I spent too much time at the computer today, so it was only reasonable that I shut 'er off for a while and coincide this with the CBC's screening of Torchwood at 9 p.m.

Those of you who know me can only laugh at my lack of priorities.

Tonight's episode (hey, sounds like a Quinn Martin Production!), "Combat".

It is getting late; I am getting tired; and I have no desire to add too much to what Larry said the other day. If Larry watched tonight, then he probably thought the same odd thing in one pivotal scene...

Jack carries a gun as he walks through an empty warehouse looking for some incongruity when he suddenly hears a sound. He relaxes the gun for a moment while he pulls out a... flashlight! Wow, that organization -- Torchwood -- is woefully underfunded. You mean they cannot afford nightvision goggles or some similar apparatus? Besides, from a production standpoint, this would give the visual effects people a chance to do some kewl point-of-view infrared type graphics.

This show is overflowing with needless visual effects, so why stop here?

And Larry is right when he asks what some of these people do, exactly.

Just what exactly is this show trying to accomplish?

Thursday, January 3, 2008


I don't believe in New Years Resolutions as such, but there are a list of things I must address before we get too far into the year of our LORD... 2008! (My dad warned me about this.)

For a few weeks now, I have been meaning to start building a website for a film industry friend of mine. Admittedly, I have a little too much on my plate right now. Time management I am pretty good at but there comes a point where some peas have to be brushed off the plate. And I love peas.

I talk or reference the CBC a bit too much... made the mistake late last night of watching a few minutes of The Hour. George Stroumboulopoulos really does have to be replaced. I have commented about this before. The show itself is a fine idea but The Corp must fine tune. Fine tune, please.

Thanks to all the folk who have commented on my THE PREQUELIZER posting from a few days ago. Earlier I mentioned that if you want to see divisiveness, just talk about film criticism. Now I modify that to include criticism about the Star Wars prequel films.

Passion is in fashion. And when you knock down Episodes 1 - 3, you get a perpetual motion machine happening.

Those so-called prequel films should be put to good use: All elements from the infamous three -- that includes original films, tapes, audio recordings, and so on -- should be bundled up and dropped into a shipping harbour to serve as a sort of blockship.

I knew there was a good use for that junk. Saves dumping it in landfill... although that is just as efficient.

... and I just dig that Eddie Wood dialogue! (The difference is Plan 9 From Outer Space is a very watchable film. It's a good thing Lucas did not know about "solarbonite". Imagine.)

I'm just kiddin' around. Good for you if you derive pleasure from The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revekldnglga.....

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


I have decided to allow (ooh, that is so nice of you, Barry) certain people to guest blog. This is the first; a very opinionated piece by my dear and talented writer friend, Larry (see attached photo). He has written a passionate diatribe on the British science fiction television series titled Torchwood.

Larry has elected to use my last name for purposes of guest blogging... maintains a continuity, for sure.

Be sure to check out my review of Torchwood from last October 29th, in case you haven't already. Hope you enjoy both.

Barry Smight


1. Doesn’t even live up to the stated premise of its introduction: “arming humanity against the future”. Haven’t seem them give humanity anything resembling weapons yet. Hell, they barely use them themselves, relying on pistols and fisticuffs.

2. In “Ghost Machine”, Gwen chases a guy for ages, through streets, up alleys, over fences, and through backyards. When she finally corners him, he asks for mercy and says he has asthma. The kind that lets you run like an Olympic athlete, apparently.

3. In the “Cyberwoman” episode, the gang release a pterodactyl to stop the Cyberwoman. They scarper, leaving the two to fight. When they return, there’s no sign of the pterodactyl. Guess it must have put itself back in its cage, eh? Good boy, Pterry!

4. “Countryside”: First we’re told the killings were being done by townsfolk mutated by energy seeping through a crack in the dimensional Rift (near Cardiff, never fully explained). At the end of the episode one of the town’s killers says he did it because it “makes him happy.” Which is it? And, if there’s no mutation going on, how the hell do the killers/cannibals run so fast and have super strength? Asthma? And if they do it because they like it, why only once every 10 years? Lots of self-control, these cannibals?

5. Torchwood is supposed to be a top secret organization of the highest level. Yet whenever they show up at sites to investigate anything, the police give them wide berth and don’t ask for I.D. of any sort. And the street cops Gwen used to work with know of her involvement. You don’t need an alien Shoddy-Writing-Detector to see how poorly thought-through this is.

6. Separate from the government? Waitaminnit...! Didn’t we see the PM in the first Doctor Who Christmas special give Torchwood a direct order to shoot down a retreating alien ship, which they followed to the letter? And if they’re separate from government, who foots the bills? Oh, right! That may have been Torchwood I or Torchwood II, neither of which are explained. Come to think of it, the function/purpose of Torchwood III (the current team) is never really explained either. Something about arming humanity…

7. Owen fucks everybody. Everybody wants to fuck Owen. We get it. Yawn. Wait, so why is he using the alien Fuck-Me device in episode one to get the girl at the bar to fuck him…?

8. In the episode “They Keep Killing Suzie”, the team is locked in their own base without power. Somehow they think to use the ISBN from a book of poetry found in Suzie’s locker as password to restart the power. And it works! WTF?! And the ISBN they use isn’t even from the book they have, it’s from a copy being read to them by policewoman who at the other end of a phone line. What if wasn’t the same edition? The puzzle logic here is puzzling, but it damn well ain’t logical. File under Housebroken Pterodactyl. Also: no manual override of any sort to get out of the base? Absolutely no way they’d construct any base that way. As a dramatic device, it’s a great comedic device.

9. Captain Jack cannot die. So what’s to care about, then? Why do they always make it appear as if he’s in danger? Are you that stupid, Viewer, that you say to yourself “oh dear, Captain Jack might be about to get killed”? If you are that dim, have I got a show for you. It’s called Torchwood.

10. In one episode, Captain Jack teaches Gwen to shoot. She’s got a pistol in her hand. He warns her not to shoot at the ceiling, because it will bring the base down. Had this been some alien super-destructor gun, it might have been a funny moment. Instead, it’s an ordinary pistol. Go on, Gwen: let’s see you collapse an fortified, underground state of the art base (one that doesn’t have manual override doors) with a pistol. I dare you. Torchwood tries so hard to be cool and cover all the bases (sex, violence, evil aliens, time travel, resurrection, zombies, etc.) that it doesn’t do anything well. An entire season has gone by and I have no idea what three of the five characters actually do in Torchwood. And don’t get me started on the camera stutter technique they use whenever there is a static shot of HQ.

Torchwood is a mess. Right up there with 24 as an example of someone’s idea of “cool” trumping good storytelling. Season two will have to make do without me watching, I’m afraid.

Until next time,

Larry Smight (no relation)