Friday, May 30, 2008


I just got home from work, fired up the computer, and just received the news that Hollywood composer and orchestrator Alexander "Sandy" Courage passed away. A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece to post up but kept putting it on hold for some reason... I must have known something.

Courage was one of the truly great people to work in 'the biz'. So often we hear the term genius or great talent thrown about when referring to Hollywood types, but any such superlative term readily (and actually) applies to this man. He is known, even if not by name, for his famous Star Trek theme, and especially the 'Enterprise fanfare' -- those eight notes combined in a magically memorable sequence. However, Alexander Courage did so much more and had, in fact, been working for years before that "just another job" came along.

I will make a point to fine-tune my Alexander Courage article and put it up.

The news from the Los Angeles Times...,0,5756996.story

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Greg Woods' ESR Screening Room is back. Info is on his website at or blog at
Hope to see a lot of movie fans there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


The above link is regarding how much business Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull did over the weekend.

You cannot escape the box office scores. They are in our faces every Monday morning -- or even Sunday afternoon! Trouble is abound, however, as the average citizen does not know how to read these numbers and is almost always impressed. (This is no fault of theirs as studios do not want anyone to know how to read these scores.)

When you see that Bob's Shirt makes a "whopping" 80 million dollars over its opening weekend, that amount is not profit for the producing studios. Only about 40 percent of that big 80 actually makes it back to them -- this is the "rentals" portion. The theatre, or "exhibitor", and the distributor keep the rest. What we have now is approximately 35 million back in actual profits. Bob's Shirt cost 150 million to make (the "negative" cost), and 100 million was laid out for release prints and advertising (paid for by the distributor, which wants its money back), adding up to 250 million dollars. This so-called hit has made only 35 million, or so; 35 to be applied against the 250. (Interest accrued on the outstanding 250 million is also factored in as money-to-be-recovered.)

We all know that it's all down hill from here. Movies traditionally drop 30 percent, and often much more, in their second weekend of release. You don't have to be a mathematician to figure out that getting that 250-plus back is not an easy battle; a battle which most films ultimately lose.

Yes, movies can go on to make a lot of money on home video but, again, big costs are incurred in promoting "on DVD, next week!". It's now a whole new battle.

On Monday morning of this week, newspapers reported that Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has already made its money back (as of Sunday night).

Well, no it has not...

(The Motion Picture Association of America [MPAA] claims that about 70% of all films released lose money.)

SYDNEY POLLACK (1934 - 2008)

If you have not seen any Sydney Pollack films, which might not be the case since he directed quite a few popular ones, at the very least, check out They Shoot Horses, Don't They?. Pollack, the director, and Gig Young, the actor, are at the top of their respective forms.

In my teenage years, I was familiar with Pollack simply because he was the film director with the glasses and the big hair. And he was the prodigious maker of many popular films, back in the 70s.

The obit...

Monday, May 26, 2008


Yesterday (Sunday) my friend and fellow writer Greg Woods hosted a get together for contributing writers for his self published alternative film magazine "The Eclectic Screening Room". I am very familiar with the magazine -- it is superior stuff -- but knew most of the writers by name only. ESR contributors present included Dion Conflict, David Faris, Gordon Phinn, and Jonathan Culp.

Did I feel like a geek yesterday? Yes. We had a good series of conversations about the wide and wonderful world of cinema, with a strong focus (almost exclusively so) on alternative or obscure films. After a few volleys of information put forth, one realizes that someone has a copy of a film everyone else is looking for. A trade show, it was. Some promises were made to provide copies of this and that.

I felt good as I was able to tell the table that I have in fact seen Barry J. Gillis's horror feature film, Things. And that it is one of the worst films I have ever seen.

Many thanks again to Greg for hosting a fun event... and most importantly, for picking up the tab for all the food and beer consumed.

I told him afterwards that we must do this at least once a month...

Sunday, May 25, 2008


I sat down to watch the NHL game last night -- between the Red Wings and Penguins -- and quickly realized I turned the tube on a few minutes too early. Some quick research revealed that the game was not a 7:30 start but a 8pm one; just like the old days.

Since the big CRT was nice and warm I did not want to shut it off then fire it back up 30 minutes later, so I tuned to TVOntario. What I joined "in progress" was a National Geographic documentary on rats. A couple of people recounted their rat encounter stories: They stood in their respective spaces or habitats and talked of how they were in fact cohabiting with a certain species of rodent. As per the usual spiel today in television docs, there were little recreations showing the inter species dance.

All I was thinking while watching this interesting piece of television was, "get a cat!"

"Why am I hearing the same song and dance all the time?", I thought. "Get a cat... a real, mean cat!"

My cat, Vermin, hates rats with a passion. And in typical kitty fashion she has a special way of telling me this. (I have lots of pillow cases in the closet.)

DICK MARTIN (1922 - 2008)

Rowan & Martin's Laugh In was a weekly staple on my television back in 1970/71. I would watch that on CTV and The FBI right after. This groundbreaking comedy series is my strongest memory of comedian Dick Martin; back in the day when he was still teamed up with Dan Rowan (as he had been since 1952).

I watched Laugh In again in the summer of 1983 when CHEX Peterborough reran the series. Even then, just twelve years after I watched it on a regular basis, the show which one captured me now looked very dated. A lot had changed during that decade.

Maybe it is time to revisit Rowan & Martin's Laugh In.



Eric Margolis is one of those guys who speaks the truth (says things some folk do not want to hear). Of course, he is a human being and is not exempt from having a good ol' fashion opinion, but the good news is he carries an educated one. The man has been around: He has hung out with dudes that "Washington" wishes it could make disappear, and he has seen active combat. Margolis is hardly a scribe who sits in his favourite coffee shop and pontificates so.

The bad news is, certain folk hate this. They, least of all, want to hear certain truths. On this theme, Margolis recounted this neat little truth...

If the Second World War must be dredged up, a more appropriate reference would be Nazi Hermann Goering's famous formula for fascism: "All you have to do is to tell them (the people) they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

Eric Margolis...

Saturday, May 24, 2008


The finals for the Stanley Cup start tonight between the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins. It should be a good series.

As the season is almost over, it is time for some of us -- who think we know so much -- to list our ways to improve the National Hockey League game.

In no particular order is my list:

* Put goalie equipment back to its original dimensions -- like 10 inch wide goal pads, for instance. Watch a game from just 15 or 20 years ago and see how much better the goalies look. (Don't even think about making the net bigger.)
* Get rid of those ridiculous markings behind the net. Let the goal tenders play the puck again back there.
* Lose the shoot-out. This is hockey, not football (soccer).
* Let games end in ties if that is what the state of affairs is at the end of 60 minutes of play.
* Get rid of the penalties awarded to those unfortunate players who are just trying to clear the puck from their zone in a panic but end up unwittingly flying it over the glass... garnering a sometimes devastating infraction.
* Stop the fighting. You wanna raise your fists, you gonna go outta the game!
* And last but not least, make the ice surface bigger; 200 by 85 feet is too small, and has been since about 1970!
* Oh, I forgot: Eject league commissioner Gary Bettman. (He is a disease in the NHL.)

Enjoy the finals of the world's greatest team sport.

(Photo above: The great Tony Esposito in net for the Chicago Blackhawks.)


All a "B-movie" is, or was, is a film that played on the bottom part of a double bill; back in the days where you got a pile of projected material when you went out to the movies. You got a newsreel, cartoons, a chapter of a 'serial', a B movie, and an A-picture.

Many films called B-movies are in fact, not... and never were. However, we now associate certain tropes and ropes with the kind. (B-movies were shot on low budgets, and often by using the sets left over from their A cousins.)

After all, Jaws (1975) would have been a B-movie at one time. (As New York Times film critic Vincent Canby said, "What is Jaws but a big-budget Roger Corman film?" Technically speaking, Corman's movies were not B as he made them specifically as 'drive-in' fare; eventually these movies would be made knowing they would be bundled into a double bill.) The joke is that yesterday's B-movies are now the A-movies. And somewhere down the line, the spirit and fun has been all but wrung out.


I am the official supplier of "b/z movie" product to my friend Jim... Jim of 23; of movie sponge; of open mind; student of The Bard (Shakespeare, not me). He has gone through titles such as Robot Monster, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, Journey to the Far Side of the Sun, Starship Invasions, The Wild Angels, and The Brain That Wouldn't Die.

Over a coffee, yesterday, Jim said he just knocked off Brain...

BARRY: So, what did you think?

JIM: Fann-tass-tic!

You are so wise and open-minded, and at such a young age. Good boy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

JACK DUFFY (1926 - 2008)

Like my friend who was doing a Space: 1999 festival just before he heard that actor Barry Morse had passed away, I was reading up on Party Game last evening only to wake up to the news that Canadian actor/comedian "Captain" Jack Duffy had died at Toronto General Hospital last night.

For many Canadians, Duffy was known by way of a little game show by the name of Party Game. This game of charades was produced at CHCH television out of Hamilton, Ontario. It was as simple as you could get: Two couches and four gamers. "Captain" Jack, as he was known -- and identified as such by Party Game's host, Bill Walker -- was a regular. He might have been in every episode of the long running show which was produced between 1970 and 1980 (and ran and ran).

Don't think (Canadians) that Jack Duffy was someone who never made it outside of this country. As a matter of fact, he was a regular on The Perry Como Show from 1961 to 1963. An alcoholic, Duffy was forced to leave Perry Como after the bottle all but wiped him out.

He is one of those Canadian personalities who was known to a kid like me. And, yes, I watched Party Game quite a bit.

Monday, May 19, 2008


Quinn Martin's 1960s super-cool sci-fi paranoia television series, The Invaders, is coming to DVD next Tuesday (May 27th). It was released overseas some time ago, but is only now landing here in North America.

The Invaders has one of the all time great opening narrations for a television series:

"The Invaders, alien beings from a dying planet. Their destination: the Earth. Their purpose: to make it their world. David Vincent has seen them. For him, it began one lost night on a lonely country road, looking for a shortcut that he never found. It began with a closed deserted diner, and a man too long without sleep to continue his journey. It began with the landing of a craft from another galaxy. Now David Vincent knows that the Invaders are here, that they have taken human form. Somehow he must convince a disbelieving world that the nightmare has already begun."

In motion...

Sunday, May 18, 2008


Earlier today, I was watching an old NHL ice hockey game on the NHL-N channel with my brother. This particular game was from April 3rd, 1971 and featured the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins. The game was a blowout in the end (the Leafs lose in history too; they are consistent). I'm sure I saw this contest when it first aired.

What struck me about the game, however, was a special morsel-like moment. Toronto scored a goal. A pulse before the puck traveled past Bruins goaltender Eddie Johnson, team mate Bobby Orr fell to the ice right in front of the goal crease. Orr did not get up right away; he sat on this butt as Maple Leaf Norm Ullman hunched over him. The famous Leaf player looked like he was asking Orr if he was okay. This went on for a few seconds. The legendary Bruins defence man then nodded and appeared to say "I'm okay". He then flipped his hockey stick lightly against Ullman's shin pads.

I turned to my brother, after witnessing this, and said, "what a gentleman player... you sure don't see that anymore".

(Hockey commentator, and Bruins/Orr coach, Don Cherry thinks Bobby Orr is the greatest NHL'er of all time. My brother and I would agree.)

Saturday, May 17, 2008


Samuel Fuller made his 1980 film The Big Red One for a fairly small amount of cash. This allowed him, or made him, concentrate on his characters. There is a lot of characterization in this one, especially for veteran actor Lee Marvin. (Take that, Hollywood today: You can take your CGI and flush it down a very real toilet.)

I understand the original release was all but ignored by the public. This might have something to do with the ad campaign, which I remember as being low key -- a kind of existentialist film was what we would see should we have plopped our money down at the box office.

Last night I watched the 2004 "reconstruction". This is a 162 minute version, expanding on the truncated 116 minute original. Roger Ebert said it best when he wrote "the often dubious directors' cuts". What we are talking about with The Big Red One is not a director's cut, per se, as Mr. Fuller died in 1997 but it can reek of "too much" at times.

Whatever its name, this cut left me a little cold. I could not lose myself in the film, although the best part is the last twenty or so minutes, The Big Red One finds its legs here.

Film critic Richard Schickel supervised the reconstruction. He does a runnng commentary on the DVD -- I will listen, watch anew, and keep an open mind.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Jonathan Demme's 1977 fun-flick Citizen's Band is on tomorrow night (Saturday, May 17th) on TVO's "Saturday Night at the Movies". The announced start time is 10 pm.

As Mogwai Gizmo once said, "fun!"


Thursday, May 15, 2008

JOHN PHILLIP LAW (1937 - 2008)

John Phillip Law became known to me through the 1968 cult classic, Barbarella. He was really the male eye candy version of Jane Fonda, with his wings and very little else. Law also played Sinbad the man, or sailor, in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad. He was good as the famed ship's captain even if the film was a little lacking (compared with the franchise high points).

Like many actors, John Phillip Law worked in episodic television in between feature film gigs, thereby keeping busy over the years. He was one of those actors who went to Europe, not to appear in American films shot on location there, but indigenous product (as Barbarella was); ultimately working in countries such as Italy, Germany, and Spain. While some end up overseas when their careers are more or less over in the States, Law journeyed back and forth throughout his career.

I just can't get over how much better he looks wearing little more than wings... than I do.

The news...


I'm taking a break from my work; decided to check out The headline in the 'Breaking News' box just made my day:

Fall TV Watch
The networks are announcing their fall schedules this week.

This exciting and highly anticipated news is overpowering. Just how can I go back to my work?!

This is how: "Click."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


There is a joke that goes something like, 'you can't have a best Canadian film as it is an oxymoron'.

Only self-loathing Canadians (some Canadians are) say things like that. For the sake of streamlining my argument, I am going to count English-speaking cinema only. Besides, it ain't fair; on average, Quebec movies are way ahead of their Anglo cousins -- so my first pick would be Don Shebib's 1969 super flick, Goin' Down the Road.

Hold on a moment: Goin' Down the Road is not the best Canadian movie ever made. The best Canadian movie ever made is Starship Invasions.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I get into a foul mood sometimes; it does not help that I consume way too much coffee before I write.

Keep in mind that my initials are "B.S." And my middle name is Frank...

Monday, May 12, 2008


The Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club is in the midst of reorganising the organisation. They have already let coach Paul Maurice go. (He was the least of their problems.) What they have to do, and I am not alone is feeling this way, is break the entire outfit down (fire everybody from top to bottom), rebuild (with new names, not related past or present) and start fresh.

Unfortunately, as thinking members of the Leafs Nation know all too well, this is not going to happen. Being who they are and, more importantly, what they represent, the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to frak it up.

They can't do anything right!

Sunday, May 11, 2008


Even though I am old enough to have remembered the infamous 1969 concert love-in, Woodstock, two things conspired against me: I was living in Europe at the time and I would have been turned away a the gate had I sought admission. I was a little kid although -- as I recently discovered when I came across some photos taken of me back then -- I looked good in my beads, straw hat, and dyed shirt. An opportunity missed, it was.

A friend lent me his DVD of Woodstock, the documentary. It's every bit as good as I remember -- even more so due to my advancing age, and the nostalgia which kicks in more and more with each passing year. (Everybody looks so young!)

If I had not gone into blogging as a career, my expertise would undoubtedly be one of social scientist. Outside of the richness of pop music acts, Woodstock is a stamp of the time: Embossed, nailed, and bronzed. While I don't claim to a be a documentarian or archivist of popular music, I do... "reach".

From my admitted distance to pop or rock music, I can still see that the state of affairs today is... well... pretty abysmal.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


A certain friend of mine, and a very creative one at that, has not produced a certain blog. My nature is such that I support people's creative endeavours; even those I do not know. Life without creativity of some kind is not living.

I really wish this friend of mine would "Get Christie Love!".


I know this is late notice -- maybe a couple of people will tune in here -- but I wanted to announce that TVO's Saturday night staple, "Saturday Night at the Movies", is playing some terrific pics: Tonight.

First up, at 8 pm, is Vittorio De Sica's 1948 classic The Bicycle Thief, and at 10:40 is Woody Allen's 1979 masterpiece, Manhattan. Two beautiful movies, back-to-back. TVO caps it off with the 1976's sleeper hit, The Omen. In my books, this horror classic is no less entertaining than The Bicycle Thief or Manhattan... it is beautiful in its own way (and showcases why Jerry Goldsmith is considered by many to be the greatest film composer of all time).


I watched the first two periods of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers match-up last night in NHL action. The Penguins will probably take the series if not the Stanley Cup (that beautiful trophy), but the Flyers cannot be ruled out altogether. They displayed moments of that "let's get 'em" prowess they all too readily subjected my beloved Montreal Canadiens (Les Habitants) to, effectively eliminating them.
The Flyers deserved to beat the Habs. And they might be ready to show the hockey world a few more surprises.

Having said all that, the Canadiens are a very young team. Management must keep the party pack together as much as possible. These guys will be a formidable force in the next few years. Casey Price is a great goalie -- and one of twenty years of age -- and he has greatness ahead. (Ice hockey goal keepers tend to peak in their late twenties to early thirties.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Hilary Clinton did not have the night she hoped in the Indiana and, especially, North Carolina primaries. The big news is she vows to go to the end. Ms. Clinton is reminding me of Warner Brothers cartoon character Wyle E. Coyote.


I have been learning some new art software, recently, at the expense of maintaining my blog. Thank you all for reading on a regular or semi-regular basis. One friend of mine, Chris, told me recently he reads 'Barry' on his lunch break.

Yes, Chris, you need a little Barry Smight to help those tuna sandwiches go down. I've been known to bring them back up, too -- so be careful.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


As much as I would love to see a woman in the White House, I don't want to see Hilary Clinton there.

Barack Obama is the one for U.S. president... I hope. (Look at that guy; presidential perfection.)


It was nice and sunny yesterday. I decided to relax in the sun on my deck. As what normally happens is I take a book with me and a few minutes after planting my fat rear end down on the cot, I come-to with the book on my chest, its UV-coated cover taking in some UV rays.

Today, however, I managed to review somewhat, my book on grammar (which I will discuss in a series of coming postings).

After reading for a while I happened to notice the effects of the winter: A cracked clay planter. (A nice photo will be attached once the uploader function works on my camera again.)

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Sports television efficiently wipes out hours of the day. (So too does regular tv watching but sports is a special animal.) I find that I'm scheduling my workload around specific NHL hockey games. They are exciting this year and I find myself strangely drawn toward them.

I remember seeing a documentary or news magazine program on "the tube" a few years ago -- it might have been ABC's 20/20 program. Camera crews recorded blokes who were addicted to NFL football games. Their Sunday afternoons, in effect, consisted of sitting in front of the box and not moving (other than locomotion-ing to the ice box or bathroom). There was one sequence where a father and husband was neither a father and husband, just by ignoring his wife and kid. This guy's little boy just wanted to "play truck" with his dear old dad. Daddy was a jerk.

Can you imagine being so wrapped up in a sporting event that nothing else, or no one else, matters? It happens all over.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


I am not a big "tv" person, and am not necessarily proud of this other than the fact that all this free (freed up) time allows me to pursue other... pursuits. However, I do like to know what is going to be on in any given week. The Globe and Mail newspaper has a good tv guide. (It used to be in the Saturday paper, like most are, but they got smart and put it in the Friday edition. I'm happy since I'm such a cheap bastard, and putting the guide in a $1.25 paper, rather than the $2.75 Saturday one, makes economic sense.)

When I want listings past midnight, or just need more information, I tap into the excellent online tv guide, Once there you can key in your postal or zip code, if you happen to know what it is, and viola!

Just for fun, key in the postal or zip code to some other place: A city, town village where you are curious as to what someone there might be watching on Thursday nights at nine. Want to know what's playing tonight in Tillsonburg, Ontario? And what stations they get? Well! Type in "N4G 3S3", for example. Your cousin lives in Marshalltown, Iowa, and you want to know why he always says he can't visit you for some reason? Maybe he's watching television. Type in "50158"!

There is your answer.


Recently, an old friend of mine went on a short trip with his wife to Philadelphia. Fine. He came back and e-mailed me some pictures from his all-too-brief stay in the "city of Brotherly Love".

Most of the photos were of interest to me, including his visit to a American Civil War reenactment; one aspect of the trip was not photographed...

John paid a visit to a paid-off U.S. warship -- one by the name of U.S.S. Olympia. This ship originates from smack-dab-in-the-middle of my favourite period in warship development.

I am envious... (and, of course, am quite capable of journeying myself to Philadelphia!). My friend's visit was done with great haste as he and his wife had to get to the airport. I had to pull the attached picture off the Net.

The goods...