Wednesday, December 31, 2008


The talented and fun Canadian music group The Barenaked Ladies have done a cover of Delores Claman's classic hockey theme for TSN (The Sports Network)...

Too bad the CBC gave Claman's beautiful baby up for adoption. Some might remember that the Ceeb held a contest with a 100,000 dollar prize to any Canadian citizen who could come up with a replacement tune. Well, things did not go according to plan: Thousands of demos were sent into the network but the one picked in the end -- all as part of a televised spiel -- was lame. As a matter of fact, the final five themes picked by judges were, with one exception, all weak. I am all for empowering regular folk with a contest but with all the submissions (15,000 ?) "these are the final picks?"

Something is going on there. Why does the CBC do (almost) everything wrong? And why was Bob Rock the producer of the final five and their respective recordings? You need a classical dude in there, not a rocker. My pick would have been Michael Conway Baker.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Here is filmmaker Bert I. Gordon's imdb (Internet Movie Database) listing...

I had forgotten that he made the 1962 fantasy film The Magic Sword. It is a fun one starring good ol' Basil Rathbone and a young Gary Lockwood.

Unlike his contemporary, Jack Arnold, it does not appear that Gordon ventured into television.

Monday, December 29, 2008


Grade Z filmmaker Bert I. Gordon was one of many filmmakers who were part of my childhood years. His films Village of the Giants and Earth vs the Spider were part of director Frank Darabont’s too -- it’s obvious if you’ve seen his latest flick The Mist (the B&W version/option). While infused with a requisite modern sensibility -- a take on influential fare from a guy like Gordon -- there is a no-holds-barred “this is the kinda shit I remember as a kid” drive. The Mist is low budget (although not micro budget as in what Gordon would have worked with) film and this was a smart choice from an artistic, never mind business, standpoint. Darabont knows all too well what many studio affiliated directors do not; working with minimal resources makes you work for artistic effects; a hunting and pecking that bears fruit from being kicked in the pants throughout your rather limited shooting schedule, and not from having so much money and time that dramatic potency is often circumvented and displaced by a lack of palpable impetus.

The Mist does have its thespian moments of opportunity, but what drives The Mist is what drove the kind of flicks that Bert I. Gordon made: Balls and All.

I freely admit that I have never been a Steven King fan; have never been able to get through one of his books (I have tried) but am aware his novella was the springboard for this film. Apparently King approves of Darabont‘s take. So do I.

The basic plot? People are cooped up in a grocery store and held there by various thingies: Lotsa bug thingies of various proportions but unified voracity. It is a matter of survival for the occupants -- against the immediate threat and a growing internal sect of Christian fundamentalist weirdos. Which is scarier? This is a question pondered by the stars of the show… one which makes them toss aside the dice and use logic.

Darabont directs and makes film here with a sure hand; as a kid in a candy store. (Some red Smarties, a few green, but lots of black ones.) He loves his bug movies and he reminds viewers like me -- as if I needed to be reminded.

The only weakness, at least for me, is the ending. All I thought during that pivotal last reel moment was, “No, come on, there’s going to be an ‘African Queen’ shot here. The camera will pull back to reveal… “

I guess the characters don’t or didn’t watch enough movies.

Make no mistake, I do like downer endings. And I much prefer The Mist over the director’s grossly overrated The Shawshank Redemption.

Post Script: There are two direct don’t-have-to-reach-for connections for me in The Mist. The first was that zinger Outer Limits episode titled “The Zanti Misfits” where ant-like alien creatures threaten a town and military outpost. There is a big battle. The other example is a Lost In Space episode where the Jupiter 2 (the Robinson family’s flying saucer home) is shrouded in an alien mist. As the white fog ‘rolls’ down the main viewport, a creature’s claw hangs down from above, dangling against the perspex. Professor John Robinson (dad) ties a rope around his waist and gives the other end to son Will before venturing forth. (The other family members have been disappearing one by one until just dad and son are left.)

(My guess is Frank Darabont is more than familiar with the above.)

Did Bert I. Gordon ever direct any TV? I know that Tarantula director Jack Arnold did (Gilligan’s Island).


One day after a long and arduous day at high school, my one friend and I retreated back to his house to "goof around". (We used to do that back in those days.) We grabbed some beer from friend's fridge (it was his dad's) and slipped down to that abode of the young person: The Rec Room. No sooner had we stepped into the presidential palace when my buddy yelled out, "cripes (not the actual word), my dumb sister keeps playing her cheap K-Tel records on my turntable. I keep telling her not to do that... it ruins the stylus". He went on to explain -- after I calmed him down with one of his dad's beers -- that K-Tel used cheap vinyl to press their LPs. (This technical point was mentioned in the TV documentary from the other night.)

Do any readers have a K-Tel story 2-Tel?

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Back in 1981, one huge selling vinyl record (and cassette!) was “Hooked on Classics”, a K-Tel compilation of classical pieces of music accompanied by a continuous drum beat. The record was so successful that -- you guessed it -- follow up albums were done. Conductor Louis Clark put the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra through the paces to record an album of great accessibility for many folk.

This release happened when I was in high school. Not long before K-Tel‘s brilliant move, this little cynic said to friends something like ‘if you were to put a rock beat to classical music, only then would the average person listen‘.

Too bad I could not claim royalties.

I do not claim to have any kind of ESP; that is why I never buy lottery tickets. Certainly not the ones where I have to come up with numbers -- between 1 and 49 -- six different times. Ahhh… seventy two! Ummm… zero!


Two nights ago (Saturday) the CTV (Canadian Television) network ran an instalment of their public affairs/news program W5 about K-Tel, the famed mail order and distribution company from the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s. Remember them? They marketed such things as the Patty Stacker, The Record Selector, fill-in-the-blank chart buster song compilation album, and pieces of other plastic and vinyl.

As described in the documentary -- featuring a voice over by SCTV alumnus Dave Thomas -- K-Tel made buckets of money. (They actually had $35 million in the bank in the early ‘80s. Can you imagine? That figure is cash, not just “what they are worth”, and translates to about $100 mill in today’s currency. How many companies today can withdraw one hundred mill-bills from their bank accounts?)

My point is -- you knew it was about time -- there was a specific segment on the ‘voice of K-Tel’, a Mr. Robert Washington. His somewhat bellicose beltings were much of the appeal of that company’s almost round-the-clock television commercials. “Star Power!” As the program went into talking about the famous voice-overs I suddenly remembered that Dave Thomas did wonderful imitations of Washington on a few SCTV skits… as “Harvey K-Tel“. After my mental memory trip, sure enough, the documentary and Thomas’s narration took us back to an SCTV ‘commercial’ with the man himself yelling out something about all the useless K-Tel, Popeil, and Ronco products sitting around your house and how to dispose of them by way of the “Crusher“. I was in stitches. Next was a clip from Saturday Night Live with Dan Aykroyd doing that show’s take on the whole thing. I did not laugh. What a difference.


During my morning cruise through the Internet news, I came across this...

I'm pretty obsessed by dates and anniversaries but this one I had forgotten. (Surprising considering I have a copy of "Genesis - The Story of Apollo 8" on my bookshelf; parked right beside Alan Watson's "The Germans". The irony of this book filing order is that certain Germans were instrumental in helping the U.S. achieve its rocketry goals.) Perhaps I am denying not only the aging process but its very existence.

To this little tyke of 1968, astronauts Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, and William Anders were heroes.

Friday, December 26, 2008


Further to my previous post regarding the end of the Video Home System (VHS), I should mention a specific issue of Greg Woods' magazine ESR (The Eclectic Screening Room) which features various contributing writers' perspectives and memories of the rise and fall of the format.

ESR's "VHS R.I.P." issue can be ordered here...


How many years has it been now that we have been hearing that VHS is finally dead? I came across a generally accurate article on the venerable home video recording system. Contrary to what the author of the piece says, the Video Home System format was very spectacular: When the capability of grabbing things off-air and renting/buying actual movies was introduced our movie-going and tv-watchin' lives we forever changed. Also, DVD took six years to finally eclipse VHS -- this the writer is quite correct about but he is speaking of sales, as in amount of money -- but DVDs were almost always a lot more expensive than the tape competitor. When you look at actual unit sales, it took even longer for this eclipse to happen.

Do not, for a moment, think I am some kind of Luddite -- you should see the sweet piece of technology I am using this very moment to hammer in this rambling text -- but I am always amused by propaganda, however mild.

By the way, Blu-ray is not selling at levels hoped or predicted. Nobody is sure why...

The link...,0,5852342.story

Wednesday, December 24, 2008


The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) is playing The Philadelphia Story as I write this. As the opening credits kicked up I was reminded how wonderful a film composer Franz Waxman (Wachsmann) was -- my favourite of the 'golden age' composers. Along with Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith, Waxman proved that composing music for film could be a serious art form; a different kind of music, to be sure, but with its own occasional flashes of greatness. The marriage of image and music is something that has long held a fascination for me.

Example: Jerry Goldsmith's superb bit of scoring in Blake Edward's 1971 western, Wild Rovers... Ryan O'Neal does somersaults in the snow as he tames a horse. All joyous and lyrical. Wonderful!


Trust Vanity Fair magazine to do a superlative story on the very un-superlative 1978 television special The Star Wars Holiday Special. Creator George Lucas has stated that he would love to take a phaser, I mean, hammer to every existing copy of the legendary... special.

There is a nasty and unsubstantiated rumour that legendary filmmaker Edward D. Wood (of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame) was one of the directors. This is possible as Wood still had a few months life force left in him when the show was produced. I doubt it, however, as Wood was known to produce some outstanding works; and you could never accuse him of making a boring film.
(I watched the SW special a few months ago: Is it really that bad? If you've seen a lot of product, like I have, your scale is set so low that even this television incident places with the bulk of them.)


As the man said, "oh my". It has been a past few months of one Internet issue after another. While I have had the full capability of filing reports from my place of employment I never felt very comfortable doing that; even on my breaks. (My work provides for little break time. Hi Greg.)

To all my faithful readers (you would be surprised how many there are) who have wondered what the dickens is going on, I am back and hopefully as good as ever; if not better than ever...

... this feels good!