Sunday, November 29, 2009


On January 26th, 2010, home video distributor 'Scorpion Releasing/Code Red' is releasing one of my favourite movies, 1973's horror dandy, Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls, to DVD. It is, however, not just a dump-to-disc effort. While the DVD will not be the Blu-ray kind, Doctor Death was transferred to HD from the original camera negatives. (All of the 'elements' were in the possession of MGM.)

Actor John Considine, who plays the titular character, recorded a commentary track and an on-camera interview.

All technical matters, of course, but ones which will allow what is, to me, a superior example of a film which plays horror and comedy successfully in the same breath -- or dying breath -- to shine through. Oh, I won't forget mentioning the terrific score by Richard LaSalle... the superior audio of the upcoming DVD will, no doubt, help the music blossom.

(Trivia: Doctor Death: Seeker of Souls was directed by Eddie Saeta, who was an assistant director on a few of the old Three Stooges shorts -- which helps explain the cameo by Moe Howard; it was shot by Kent Wakeford, who worked for director Martin Scorcese on Mean Streets and Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore; composer LaSalle also worked on Alice, writing its instrumental music; film editor Tony DiMarco cut episodes of the original The Outer Limits television series.)

Time to start throwing my pennies into the jar -- the one holding the heart.


As reported by the Toronto Star (a real newspaper in Toronto) the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team has a psychologist...

... good, now she can get them mentally prepared for the fact that they will be missing the playoffs this year. (So that will make it, what, five years in a row?)


Further to a commenter's point to my previous posting (UNDERGROUND SUICIDES), here is a veiled attack on the TTC (Toronto Transit Commission) by the bastion of intelligent journalism, the Toronto Sun...

... they are allowed to have an opinion, but I doubt the Toronto Sun editorial board has any interest in the TTC.

Friday, November 27, 2009


People deciding to end their lives by jumping into the path of an oncoming subway train happens a lot more than some might think. While understandably it makes perfect sense not to continually publicize the fact every time this happens, you would think that the data would be readily available. Apparently not according to this bit in today's issue of the Toronto Sun...

... It is no surprise that I see the humour in every story; in this case one which reminds me of that episode of All in the Family where Archie Bunker arrives home late because someone decided to end their life by jumping in front of a New York subway train. (This was not the plot of the episode.)

Archie signs off on the whole subject by adding: "Why couldn't he have waited? Why did he have to pick the rush hour?"

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


In the spring of 1977 -- April to be exact -- I visited Toronto with a friend. Our mission, which we did accept, was to tour OECA (Ontario Educational Communications Authority; now TVOntario).

My friend and I took a break and visited a shop downtown which happened to have a magazine rack, loaded with a good spread of material. One particular magazine caught my eye as on the front was a full-sized photo from Star Wars, a movie that I had just heard of a few weeks before. I bought it.

On the bus ride home I scanned this sweet new magazine; specifically, issue 7 of 'Starlog'. In addition to a run-down on Star Wars were bits and bites on various other science fiction and fantasy movies, one of which was an interesting-sounding film, shot here in Canada, by the name of Alien Encounter. I can still picture the picture affixed to the blurb: Tiiu Leek and Christopher Lee. "Christopher Lee?" The text said something about Encounter being a throwback to 50s sci-fi flicks, but with the advantage of colour photography.

A few months later, Starship Invasions, its new name, was released to a theatre near you. Considering that Star Wars hit the screens a few months earlier and had set the bar for what is expected from "space movies", Starship was fun, with some impressive visual effects. I really dug the effect of a flying saucer crashing at high speed into the First Canadian Place tower (now BMO).

A few weeks after this a friend threw down a copy of Cinema Canada Magazine onto the table where I was seated, specifically opened at the page where Starship Invasions had been reviewed. I reviewed the article and thought it was an honest summation.

Well, dear readers, for those of you who care, for your reading enjoyment above is a photocopy I made years ago of the story in question. (I found it while looking for work-related stuff a couple of weeks ago. Cripes, I have a veritable Library of Congress here at home; looks like the attic at that establishment.)

* By the way, the budget figure of one million dollars as itemized in the review is incorrect. (In addition, Douglas Trumbull supervised the visual effects for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, not Star Wars. The reviewer meant John Dykstra.) Someone who worked as a higher-up on Starship Invasions told me that it cost just under two million to produce. Someone else told me that one pet name used by the crew during production was "Alien Turkey". On that note, Happy Thanksgiving to our dear neighbours to the south.


Speaking of propaganda (see SOBERING QUOTE 2, below), here is an interesting piece by Globe and Mail columnist Jeffrey Simpson...

... he is right. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (*) is about as transparent as they come.

Yes propaganda is everywhere, including this column, but some is more dangerous that others. Ahhh, yes, if only I could be described as "dangerous"... to sanity perhaps.

Did you hear about those two Canadian Conservative MPs who recently made mean comments about women and the unemployed? There's that word again: Transparency.

* Fine, upstanding member of the Conservative Party of Canada.

(Caption for Stephen Harper/Cat photo above: "I'll bet you the cat's a lot smarter, and has a lot more class. In addition, the cat does not claim to be anything else than what it is... a cat.")

Post script: While doing a quick proof of the above I noticed that the cat looks pissed-off. Is it thinking "get your hands off me, creep"? Or is it just classier, showing its annoyance with us honestly, without a plastered-on phony smile?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Every few months I do a little blog maintenance: Came across this posting of mine from June 27th...

... maybe I am gifted. No? Which begs the question, why do I never play the lotteries?

How 'bout those Maple Leafs, eh? (Not difficult to predict... lottery numbers might be harder.)

I think I saw Leaf forward Jason Blake in a Second Cup (coffee shop) a few weeks ago, and I considered buying him a large double-double. It was, after all, game day.


"The essence of propaganda consists of winning people over to an idea so sincerely, so vitally, that in the end they succumb to it utterly and can never escape from it."

- Joseph Goebbels

* No one ever said Goebbels was stupid. Just watch Fox News!


"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe that they are free."

- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

* A searing thruth for our world today. If not, watch Fox News!

Monday, November 23, 2009


After posting the previous entry below, I noticed on my account counter that this would be "number 666". The number of this beast.

Cue the song "Ave Satani":

"sanguis bibimus
corpus edimus,
all right
Barry Smight... "

Yes, from 1976's insta-classic, The Omen.


An hour ago I took a break and watched a documentary on TVO by the name of Battlefield Mysteries: Siege of Malta. Hosted by the respected Canadian military historian Norm Christie, the hour-long program covered the Axis (German) aerial bombardment of the island of Malta during WW2. It is quite the story.

My problem with the program was the poor use of historical/archive footage. It looked to me as though no researchers were involved -- at least none worth anything. Case study: A British pilot interviewed recently on the airstrip used by the Allies in Malta talks of the German aircraft flying over the island. At one point he says, "then the (Junkers) 88s came in". We, the viewers, are treated to a Heinkel 111, a very different aircraft. At another point in the show the voice-over speaks of Hawker Hurricanes (fighter planes) having to defend the island in the early days. What do we see?... a Spitfire. This gets confusing to the observant viewer, especially when the Spitfires finally do get called to the island defences. The viewer must think, "isn't that a Hurricane?".

Absolutely inept. The producing company -- here in Toronto, big surprise -- is called Breakthrough Entertainment. The real breakthrough would be them doing their jobs properly.

Mr. Woods, I need a shipment of your patented "Doorknob Repellent". As I leave this town I am going to go crazy, spraying every small-potatoes 'production company'.

(Illustration above: Junkers 88 armed with 4 x 250 kg "Doorknob Repellent" bombs.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Tomorrow evening (Sunday), the venerable CBS news magazine program 60 Minutes is doing a story on James Cameron and his upcoming film, Avatar.

Decided, I did, to read up on James Cameron and pulled this off the 'quotes' section on his IMDB (Internet Movie Database) entry...

On Star Wars: "As much as I love Star Wars (1977) and as much as it's really revolutionized the imaging business, it went off the rails in the sense that science fiction, historically, was a science fiction of ideas. It was thematic fiction. It stopped being that and became pure eye candy and pure entertainment. And I miss that."


As mentioned in my previous posting (WATCHING MOVIES) I started watching director Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow but turned it off in order to go back to work.

I finished the flick last night and felt like something was missing.

While I was very impressed with the production design, and the visual effects, there was little left. More style than content -- it's not as though the source material is weak: In this case Washington Irving's story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. As what happens when I see a movie drawn from a well known or highly regarded work, and the magic gets lost in the translation to film, I'm just prompted to go back to the source. Very often I would rather read than watch a movie, anyway. (Yes, I too am a visual person.)

After seeing the 1998 film What Dreams May Come, this very thing happened, besides having a tangible reaction to star Robin Williams' cloying performance: "Time to go back to Richard Matheson's original story."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I have been very busy lately due to the fact I am trying to drum up more work. A friend of mine slipped me a small stack of DVDs, drawn from his rather voluminous library.

Somehow I have managed to knock off the following:

The Thing (1982)
Good. Had never seen it before. Love the original version -- titled specifically The Thing From Another World.

The Fog (1980)
Like The Thing above, another John Carpenter film. I did see this when it came out... like it then, liked it again.

Escape From New York (1981)
Saw this one about twenty years ago. For some reason did not enjoy it as much then as I did last night. Fun movie. Again, directed by that J. Carpenter guy.

Sleepy Hollow (1999)
Directed by Tim Burton, who is hit and miss for me, as are most directors, but who's visual style I like very much. I watched the first 70 minutes then realized I really had to get back to work...

... to be continued.

I have seen some recent releases -- I'll post about them a few years from now. Time must pass.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


I did not realize that the new V series has been on for a couple of weeks. And I did not even realize it was a continuing series; thought it was a remake of the old miniseries(s).

Well, then. We will be treated to at least 13 episodes of V, the new series -- of course until the show's ratings are below what's expected; the network gets peeved, drops it like a hot potato before the entire complement of 13 stories is actually aired; then releases it to DVD, with the "unaired episodes included!"; the geeks buy and proclaim it the greatest sci-fi series ever... that was never given a chance, but falls nowhere short of brilliant. "Yeah, but you have to it watch from the very beginning."

The Prisoner reboot (but miniseries in that case) started last Sunday evening, and wraps up tonight. It's getting mixed reviews (I will see it as a friend told me yesterday that he has been recording so he can watch it later).

Which leads to: Will V stand for Vapid? Vacuous? Vantastic? Or veddy good?

I won't bother watching the new V as I watched a bit of the original series (1984-1985) and wrote, with a friend, who was almost as much a know-it-all as moi, a snarky diatribe for the school newspaper. Won a Pulitzer, if I remember correctly. No... did get positive notices, though.

GD, that show was bad!

(The above photo is not exactly provocative; more silly.)

Monday, November 16, 2009


This is pleasantly weird: About an hour ago I was reading a blurb on tomorrow's (Tuesday) release of JJ Abrams Star Trek feature on DVD. Something made me think of the alternate, and longer, version of the original series' second pilot episode "Where No Man Has Gone Before"; and wondered if it would ever be released on DVD or Blu-ray.

Took a break five minutes ago and went to '' and saw this...

Earlier in the year I saw a very bad print of the first five minutes of the alternative "Where No Man Has Gone Before": In a word... eerie. Captain Kirk's opening voice-over is much longer, and it plays as we see a slow pull-out from our galaxy. Alexander Courage's score adds much to the effect with its electronic and acoustical mix.

This episode was cut down to fit into a regular one-hour time slot once it did its job of selling NBC on Star Trek as a series. As a pilot -- another one after "The Cage" -- it has some differences to the series that came from it. If you care, "fascinating".

Sunday, November 15, 2009


There are days, believe it or not, when I wish I had "cable". Tonight is one of those times. AMC, or "American Movie Classics", is showing their take on the classic (and limited) 1967 television series The Prisoner; a favourite of mine. I watched an episode a few weeks ago and needed no prodding to renew my love for that series.

Interesting note: The U.S. version takes place in the desert, and not the idyllic seaside locale of the original. Yes, the balloons are back, better known as "Rovers", especially by those souls who try to make a run for it. Somehow the desert is not as provocative a setting. After all, it's... just a desert.

Of course, I will save my verdict for when I do manage to see the new Prisoner. The 'west' is so paranoid today that this re-imagining is already valid and worthy. Americans, especially, feel like they have lost many of their freedoms 'guaranteed by the Constitution'. Freedom: In name only, perhaps. (It would be interesting to hear what my American readers have to say about this last point. Things are not much better here in Canada -- every so often we hear horror stories about how our government, or the RCMP, were eavesdropping, or even, gasp, conducting "experiments" on us.)

Monday, November 9, 2009


Several years ago I began to compile a VHS tape of my favourite opening movie title sequences. My methodology generally consisted of grabbing a movie "off air" and redubbing it to a final VHS at my place of employment. Not for a moment did it become an important project but I did manage to assemble a few over the course of a couple of years. With Youtube, for instance, there is no longer any need to do this. The time expended is immense when you do it the old way; now just key in a given movie's title into the search window and viola... I mean, voila. (Accent missing.)

Having said that, I have never seen Howard Hawk's 1970 picture Rio Lobo (starring John Wayne and a pre-executive Sherry Lansing).

Here is Rio Lobo's opening title seqence scored by my favourite film composer, Jerry Goldsmith (he never ceases to amaze me, even five years after his passing)...

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I saw an advert for the upcoming DVD release of JJ Abrams' Star Trek. (While I enjoyed the film I will not buy the disc.) Did a quick check and came across this wonderful website...

... geeks unite.

I find that Brits are better and more interested in putting together 'making-of' or 'nuts and bolts' sites on their favourite television programs. In North America we, for some reason, are just interested in dressing up as a 'tie-in freak' with little interest in how our faves are made; and who the people are who make them.

Now, if only somebody would do a site like that for All in the Family...


It is time for me to completely switch over to the laptop computer I bought last December. The reason why the 'old' machine is still sitting of my table is because it has Adobe Illustrator loaded onto it and freelance required, until now, its continued operation.

In comparison to my new computer, the desktop is a bit of a beast although powerful enough in its own right. My old employer sold it to me after my inquiry regarding an unused unit -- one of about five built for the company to be used for dedicated DVD authoring -- sat for at least two months on a shelf, waiting to be swung into action.

Well, as fate would have it, and too typical of business matters, a big contract to do a ream of DVDs for a distributor fell through and we did not need so many. I acquired a machine that had 512 megs of RAM (a huge leap up from my previous computer) and a memory of 1.7 gigs.

She served me well, conspiring with me to produce many graphic projects, video capture jobs, and tons of word processing. Having done a litany of work left me with many folders and files (typical, of course). This was part of the bottleneck to switching over to the laptop (of 3 gigs of RAM and 2 gigs of memory). Like many, I did not give priority to transferring those files over...

It's nice having a freed-up table.

By the way, my 'new' lover is an HP (Hewlett Packard). I absolutely love her. (Hint: She's great in the sack.) If I were a celebrity I would volunteer to be a pitchman for them. (Why is it when I walk into a cafe I see a sea of HP laptops? That company must be doing something right.)

Sunday, November 1, 2009


There is an anthology series from the early 1960s called Thriller. Hosted by Boris Karloff, the horror program lived a short two years; 1960-62. From what I have read, author Steven King was and still is a big fan, putting the series as his favourite, just ahead of The Outer Limits.

Thriller was before my time but I was aware of its existence, finally getting to see one solitary episode when CHCH "TV Eleven" ran one solitary episode back in the late 1970s. (As I remembered that John Ireland guest starred in the one I saw I was able to track down, courtesy of the IMDB, its title: "Papa Benjamin".)

Author Gerry Gerani, in his excellent book "Fantastic Television", wrote that Thriller had an identity crisis its first season; it did not know if it wanted to be a crime-based thriller, or a horror.. er. Composer Pete Rugolo had written a jazzy theme (which was his style) tune and this worked against the serious tone the producers were striving for.

In its second year, 'horror' was the main thing.

Thriller enjoyed a reputable directing team including Ida Lupino, John Newland, Arthur Hiller, and Ted Post -- all guiding no small line-up of acting talent.

The good news...

... I noticed there are sample clips on Youtube. (No surprise.)