Wednesday, December 27, 2006



I made out like a bandit this Christmas from my wife, my friends and family. Among my gifts were some cool DVDs. Here’s some notes on a few of them.

I received “Bettie Page: Dark Angel” from a friend and them used some Xmas gift money to buy “The Notorious Bettie Page.” Yes, I do like Page pin-ups and her story has long fascinated me as it’s one of those odd instances in which what was once underground popular culture becomes mainstream. Her story is also one of those relatively rare examples in which a very disposable kind of pop culture (pin-ups) actually finds new audiences despite changes in what people view as beautiful and/or erotic.

There’s a hand-full of women whose images seem to transcend fashion and Betty Page is one of those people.

The thing that struck me about both films is the obvious affection all of the filmmakers have for their subject. Betty is a likable, open person in each production.

“Bettie Page: Dark Angel” is a low-budget “Readers Digest” version of Page’s life and career produced and directed by Nico B, the guy whose Cult Epics company has been selling DVDs of Page’s Irving Klaw films. Taken on its own terms, it’s not bad once you realize the focus of the film is to re-create the Klaw bondage films. I’m not sure just why anyone would want to do that, but Nico B. did with obvious respect and affection.

Paige Richards makes a fine Page, but doesn’t have the material to work with that Gretchen Mol has in “The Notorious Betty Page.”

I had caught the second film up at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, Vermont earlier this year and loved it. Director Mary Harron achieved a fantastic look with her approach of filming the New York scenes in black and white and the Miami scenes in deeply saturated color. The result is a film that visually transports the viewer back to the 1950s.

As a biography, Harron seemed to follow Page’s story fairly closely and chose to end it with Page’s religious re-awakening in the late 1950s. As detailed in her interview in Playboy several years back, Page confirmed her years following her heyday as ones filled with coping with mental illness, failed marriages and poverty.

Page has been able to capitalize off her 1950s work and apparently was pleased with this movie. Much of the success comes from the performance of Mol as Page. Mol is able to look like Page much of the time and brings out that innocent, fun-loving attitude that Page always seemed to convey in her pin-up work.

The extras on “The Notorious Betty Page” include a “making off” featurette and a clip of a Klaw film in color with Page disrobing. She is obviously receiving directions from someone off camera and clearly not taking any of it seriously.

In a completely different direction, I was given a great double feature of classic bad Mexican cinema: “The K. Gordon Murray Collection: Doctor of Doom and Wrestling Women Vs. The Aztec Mummy.” Now how could you go wrong with these wrestling horror films?

I never saw a single K. Gordon Murray film as a kid, but I vividly remember seeing television commercials for his kiddie matinee films and thanked God my parents didn’t want me to see any of them. Imported from Germany and Mexico, these fairy tale-based films looked dreadfully cheap even to a nine-year-old kid.

These two films are truly a slice of a popular culture so foreign to American sensibilities that they seem a bit surreal. Yet for their time and place of origin they were acceptable pop culture that pleased many people.

And that for me is the bait. I love seeing something that other people view as entertaining.

©2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A great film from Germany, a must-own set for any serious film fan, celebrity interviews and a double feature starring George Reeves are all in this week's DVD column.

The Kebab Connection

This charming romantic comedy from Germany is part "Romeo and Juliet," part kung fu action picture and part culture clash. Does it work? Absolutely!

Denis Moschitto plays Ibo, a Turkish immigrant who dreams of producing the first German kung fu movie. When the commercial for his uncle's fast food restaurant turns out to be a hit, Ibo thinks he's on his way, but then he discovers his German girlfriend Titzi (Nora Tschirner) is pregnant.

Suddenly he's on the outs with this father and when he hesitates about proposing to Titzi, he's minus a girlfriend.

Ibo must prove himself to her, to his father and to the producer who is considering his film. His path is made more difficult thanks to the local Turkish/German mafia, a rival Greek restaurateur and his sexy daughter, and an encounter with ouzo.

The film is in German with English subtitles and may not be at the local Blockbuster, but hunt it down. It's a great little movie.

For more information log onto www.lifesizeentertainment.com

The Premiere Frank Capra Collection

This five movie set of some of director Frank Capra's best work needs to sit on any serious film buff's shelf. Capra, like John Ford, Orson Welles and Erich Von Stroheim, was a director whose films carry a distinctive tone and social context.

Unlike Welles and Von Stroheim, whose style and technique sometimes did not always endear themselves to either studio execs or the public, Capra was like Ford in understanding how he could use the system to tell stories that had meaning for both him and the audience.

The phrase "Capra-corn" was coined to describe Capra's sometimes sentimental, but also very human approach to his subject material, and that's unfortunate as it colors his films as being naive. Capra's films, while often ending on very high notes, present that faith has to be tested and many of his films convey some very dark moments.

This collection includes "American Madness," "It happened One night," "Mr. Deed Goes to Town," "You Can't take it With You," and "Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington," as well as a feature-length documentary made in 1997 and a book on Capra.

What treats are in this collection: the great romantic comedy of "It Happened One night," and the triumph of the average man in "Mr. Deeds and "Mr. Smith." What might surprise some viewers is "American Madness," an earlier more obscure Capra film that is both social commentary and crime drama.

Go out and buy this set for the movie lover on your list.

Log onto www.sonypictures.com

Inside The Actor's Studio

I must admit certain envy for James Lipton and his show "Inside The Actor's Studio," as I would love to have a similar program myself. The difference between the two of us is I would like to present interviews with character actors and supporting players rather than the megastars that is standard for his show.

My own experience has been those performers bring a far more grounded view of show business. The folks featured in this set of four interviews (Clint Eastwood, Barbra Streisand, Paul Newman and Robert Redford) are performers at the top of the Hollywood "A" list.

And perhaps that's part of the problem I have with Lipton. While he has his hundreds of blue cards (which he reveals during an introduction that he writes himself) and that he doesn't engage in the practice of "pre-interviewing" his guests, he always comes across as a star-struck guy.

While some of his questions are probing, he frequently doesn't go for the subject material that might make his guest a little uncomfortable. For instance with Clint Eastwood, he didn't ask about Eastwood's habit of establishing relationships with leading ladies and how this can affect his films. Nor did he talk to Eastwood about being a poster boy for the right wing and whether or not he was comfortable with such a description.

Granted, I guess, I wouldn't want to poison the well after all if you're hard on one of these folks, others might not want to come.

So if you're a fan of the show and don't share my reservations, this is something you might want for your collection.

For more information, log onto www.shoutfactory.com

George Reeves Double feature: Thunder in the Pines, Jungle Goddess

This new collection the folks at VCI Entertainment is essentially designed to cash in on the renewed interest in George Reeves due to the movie "Hollywoodland" and also to be an unabashed valentine to the actor best known for playing Superman in the 1950s television series.

Reeves was indeed an actor with looks and talent whose promising career at major studios was derailed by his service during World War II. He was never able to regain his position at the big studios and wound up performing in low-budget affairs such as these two films.

Of the two, "Thunder in the Pines" is actually a lot of fun in the cheesy B-movie tradition. Reeves and co-star Ralph Byrd play "fighting pals," who are lumberman hankering to get rich. They are also in love with the same girl, which complicates the plot quite a bit. Both stars seem to be having a good time with the material and, in turn, so did I.

The second film, which also co-stars Byrd, is a different matter. "Jungle Goddess" is your standard "find the white girl marooned in the jungle that is now queen of a tribe" plot that about three million or so B- movies had. Reeves looks slightly uncomfortable at times and undoubtedly was revealing his feelings for this lackluster project.

The extras include a variety of fan produced little films and essays that illustrate just how many people still love the actor who died in 1957.

If you're a B-movie fan, the scorecard is 50 percent for this collection. I'd still buy it with that ranking!

For more information, log onto www.vcient.com

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, December 17, 2006



It's nearly Christmas and these two items stir up some pleasant memories.

I was never one of the kids in love with Santa, not was I a scoffer. I suppose I was a Santa agnostic. I would sit on his lap and tell him what I wanted just in case, but I didn't buy the whole yarn.

I think it was the chimney aspect. We didn't have one and I was told he came through the window in our house. That sounded just a bit too common for the jolly old elf.

Well, the year a real telegram delivery person knocked on the door and gave us this telegram from Santa I was impressed. It didn't occur to me at the time that my parents had sent it. I saw it as some sort of proof that Santa was out there somewhere. If nothing else it caused me to question my agnostic position!

The other photo is from the Christmas season of 1983. I was in the middle of my five-year tenure as a talk show host on WREB in Holyoke, Mass. The Chamber of Commerce asked me if I would be the official city Santa at the tree lighting and I said yes. They supplied a great suit and brought me to the City Hall in a horse drawn sleigh (with wheels...good thinking as there was little snow at the time).

The acid test was that my wife Mary had brough our young nephew Andrew to the event to see Santa. I was sweating under the suit as the kid was a believer and I didn't want him to pull down my beard and see it was his uncle.

He didn't. He told Mary that he had seen the "real" Santa. He's now 29 and I don't know if he remembers this event, but I do.

©2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Everyone wants to label you: liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. There are some issues that go beyond any party lines, though and the following is a small example of the kind of mindset that plagues The Bay State.The only things these new regulations will accomplish is to drive businesses out of the state and put a lot of dough into the hands of the elevator industry.


If you own a building with a freight elevator, are you aware of the state's movement to enforce up-grades that could cost businesses anywhere between $25,000 to $100,000?

Did you know the state is considering having everyone who operates a freight elevator obtain an annual license and be sent to a training session on the safe use of elevators?

Well, if you don't get the newsletter of Associated Businesses of Massachusetts, then you might not have heard of the changes the state's Board of Elevator Regulators have in mind.

Kathy Anderson, who is head of economic development for the city of Holyoke, did read about these proposed changes, and headed up a Holyoke contingent to testify at a recent hearing in Boston about them.

Anderson spoke about the impact at a meeting of Mayor Michael Sullivan's Industrial Development Advisory Committee last week.

For a city such as Holyoke, the proposed regulations would force the replacement of existing older elevators elevators, by the way, that have been certified as safe by the state in annual inspections.

Besides the cost of the actual replacement of these elevators, businesses would have to absorb the costs associated with the shutting down of an elevator for an estimated four to six weeks.

If a business relies on the elevator as part of its manufacturing process, the costs skyrocket.

Anderson said the state board is considering establishing a state license at $25 a person annually for every employee who pushes the up or down button, as well as attendance at a state elevator school slated to be on the of the former Fort Devens.

Elevator school? What kind of tax and spend boondoggle would that be? This is a prime example of governmental abuse, pure and simple.

Although nothing yet has been decided, unless there is a widespread outcry from the state's manufacturing sector, these changes could take place. The impact could easily be another reason for businesses to leave the state.

We don't need to give employers more reasons to leave Massachusetts. We give them enough reasons with healthcare issues, non-competitive unemployment insurance, expensive land costs and high taxes.

If Governor-elect Deval Patrick is sincere about business development and I'm sure he is he needs to call in the Board of Elevator Regulators and slap some sense into them.

Making sure industrial elevators are safe is important. Making businesses pay for unnecessary changes is stupid.

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, December 08, 2006

Milton the Monster is coming to DVD

This series was produced by Hal Seeger, the former Fleischer office boy who grew up to be a prolific animation producer himself. My late friend and mentor Myron Waldman was associated with Seeger as an animator and director on several of Seeger's projects (including the pilot for a revived "Out of the Inkwell" with Max Fleischer's last on-screen role).

Shout Factory is releasing the series and here's what they sent me on it:

"In the fall of 1964, primetime television was invaded by two clans of monsters who were definitely more funny than scary, 'The Munsters' and 'The Addams Family.' The rabid success of these programs led to the popular animated favorite The Milton The Monster Show. Airing on ABC from 1965-1968, The Milton The Monster Show was full of offbeat characters such as Milton The Monster, Abercrombie The Zombie, Dr. Goo Fee, Stuffy Durma, Flukey Luke and of course Fearless Fly, the insect superhero who was the hit of the series. At long last, The Milton The Monster Show - The Complete Series is now available for the first time, thrilling nostalgia fans everywhere!

Special Features:
✹ Hal Seeger Home Movies: Milton & Fearless Fly At The N.Y.C. Toy Fair
✹ Sheriff For A Day - A Live-Action Short Starring Flukey Luke
✹ Test Footage For The Live-Action Short Sheriff For A Day
✹ Bonus Cartoon: Wilbur The Wanted

Preorder date: 2/23/2007
Street date: 3/20/2007
Feature running time: +/- 9 1/2 hours
SLP: $34.98


©2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, December 03, 2006





A little blast from the past...these are the movie ads from the Springfield (Ma) Morning Union from Oct. 9, 1937.

Springfield is my home town...not that I was born here, but that it was the community where I spent my first three years of school. It has always felt like home even though after Springfield I lived in Montgomery, AL, Rantoul, IL, Hadley, MA, Greenville, CA, Oroville, CA, Kadena AFB, Okinawa, and then Granby, MA.

My wife and I have lived in Springfield for over 25 years and while it has plenty of problems, it is a great medium sized city.

Anyway, we have two multi-plex theaters in town after years of having not a single open theater. I'm old enought o have been around when there were still downtown movie theaters and neighborhood second-run theaters, but the multi-plexes today are in outlaying shopping centers.The idea of the movie theater as part of vibrant downtown entertainment scene has become more and more rare as the older downtown theaters are single-screens. Single screen theaters are a very risky economic model in the exhibition business today. Theater owners play a game of hoping to have a couple of good films that will make up for having some dogs on the week's bill.

One screen with a bad film means big trouble.

These ads show a little of what it was like to be a movie fan in the 1930s in a city of the size of Springfield (probably then about 160,000 people). There was a lot going on.

The exhibition business has changed so much. There's no flair, no showmanship, and little excitement outside of the film itself.

I think I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon watching old movies. It's too bad it couldn't be in a grand theater!

©2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, December 02, 2006

An import from Japan, some holiday gift suggestions and a new animated release are featured in this week’s DVD column.

Over the Hedge

From 1992 to 1998 I edited and co-published two nationally distributed magazines on animation. The medium is one which I’ve loved all of my life, but recent years I’ve had to forced myself to watch the new crop of animated
features.

Why? So many of them are terribly formulaic: “funny” animals with the voices of television and movie stars in a story in which there are songs, sentiment and some lame underdog winning story.

I didn’t have high hopes for “Over the Hedge,” although my brother-in-law Rich extolled its virtues to me. When a copy found its way into my mailbox, I watched it and was pleasantly surprised.

The computer animated film concerns a group of woodland animals that awaken from their winter snooze only to find there is now a tall hedge that divides their territory. On the other side of the hedge is a new sub-division – a puzzling development to the animals until a fast-talking raccoon arrives. RJ the raccoon (Bruce Willis) explains to them the humans who have moved in can provide more food that the now-gone forest ever did.

Verne the turtle (Garry Shandling), the nominal leader of the group, is a skeptic, but successful excursions to the garbage cans of the new suburban homes soon convinces the other animals of RJ’s claims.

There is an ulterior motive to RJ’s tutelage, though: he must collect certain human food items he stole from Vincent, a bear who has developed an obsession with potato chips.

There is a lot of solid slapstick in the film, especially after Dwayne the exterminator is introduced, and a great conclusion featuring the hyperactive squirrel Hammy.

The film also scores points that it is not a musical.

My only beef is the use of celebrity voices, a persistent trend in the industry. Although this film is not as bad as most in which the television and movie stars are cast for their own voices, I know there are many talented voice actors working in the industry you would have done better than Wanda Sykes as the skunk, Shandling as Verne and Willis as RJ.

All in all, “Over the Hedge” is a fun film worth seeing again.

Beavis and Butthead: The Mike Judge Collection
Get Smart: The Complete Series

As I recently wrote, I received a preview disc for the “Get Smart: the Complete Series” and was quite excited about the approach the producers had taken in not only presenting the series itself, but in the extras.

When the final edition of the set came to me I was impressed. There are many extras including a “Get Smart” reunion, footage of the late Don Adams’ 75th birthday party and a feature on Barbara Feldon.

Although nostalgia might be speaking, I still find this spy spoof enjoyable.

I also still laugh out loud at the antics of Beavis and Butthead that are featured in “The Mike Judge Collection.” What Paramount Home Entertainment has done is to gather the three previously released volumes of Beavis and Butthead and the feature film “Beavis and Butthead Do America” in a nifty boxed set.

Still among the strongest aspects of the B&B shows were the sequences in which Judge (who supplied the voices of both characters) hilariously ripped apart pretentious music videos that were staples on MTV.

Although the trend started with the VCR, the technical abilities of DVDs allow people to program their own video entertainment in ways that weren’t possible until just a few years ago. Sets such as this two allow people to junk what is on broadcast and cable television to create their own evenings of entertainment.

The Great Yokai War

Anyone who is a fan of either the “Harry Potter” or “The Lord of the Rings” films should see this import from Japan. It is a great addition to the epic fantasy adventure genre – only it’s only 124 minutes!

Ten year-old Tadashi (Hiroyuki Miyasako) doesn’t have a very good life. His parents are divorced and he is living with his mother and grandfather in a small fishing village. A puny kid, Tadashi is bothered by bullies, but his life takes a strange turn when he is chosen to be the “Kirin Rider” during an annual village festival.

Tadashi might think being the Kirin Rider amounts to receiving a special towel and a box of beans. He doesn’t know the Kirin Rider is someone who will fight for good, and what he doesn’t realize is that he will be needed. There is an evil spirit, Yomotsumno, who is capturing the yokai – the eternal Japanese spirits of the natural world – and turning them into
mechanical monsters to destroy humanity.

Tadashi must find the courage within himself to fight Yomotsumno and his creations and save the world.

Director Takashi Miike keeps the story and the action moving at a fast clip. Mixing more traditional special effects and makeup with computer generated imagery; the film is a visual treat.

Don’t let the language barrier keep you away – there is both an English soundtrack and subtitles. This is a great film for any fantasy or adventure fans.

©2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs.

Friday, December 01, 2006


I enjoy speaking to comics who come through our area and recently interviewed two: Sommore and Ralphie May.

Ralphie will be appearing at the Comedy Connection at Chicopee's famous He Ke Lau on Dec. 9. He was a friendly, thoughtful and humble guy to talk with.

Ralphie rose to national prominence when he was a member of the first "Last Comic Standing" reality show on NBC. He's a big dude who also appeared on "Celebrity Fit Club" where he dropped some 27 pounds and weigned out at about 420 pounds.

One of the salesmen at work was talking with me about him and wanted to know why I didn't ask him about his weight, especially in light of seeing a photo of May's slender and attractive wife on the Web. Since May doesn't do a "fat" act I didn't see any need to bring up that subject.

I don't ask someone's age unless that fact is an important part of the story.

And as a fat guy myself, I congratulate him in making his weight a non-issue.

Here's Ralphie. Sommore is coming.


For Ralphie May, it didn’t matter that he didn’t win the first season of “Last Comic Standing.” He told Reminder Publications his loss only made his fans “more vehement.”

“They’ve stuck with me for 17 years,” he said.

May, who has become well know through his appearances on “Last Comic Standing,” “The Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn, “Jimmy Kimmell Live” and “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” will be appearing at the Comedy Connection at the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee for the second time on Dec. 9.

“I’ll be on the set of ‘South Pacific,’” May say referring to the Polynesian themed show room.

May has recently released his second CD “Girth of the Nation,” which is also the subject of a special for Comedy Central.

May started his career in comedy at age 17 and recalled how he had to have his mother bring him to some of his appearances because he was too young to be in a bar by himself.

“It was an adventure,” he said.

He said that it has taken him 14 years to make a living as a comic and the relatives who told him he should have gone to college aren’t telling him that anymore.

At 17, he won a talent show that gave him a chance to open for the late Sam Kinison.

“He was a heck of a guy,” May recalled. “He was very nice to me and showed me there are no boundaries [in comedy].

May is concerned about boundaries and freedom of speech.

“I slam everybody,” he said. “I have a major problem with political correctness.”

May is concerned about the fallout from the highly publicized incident concerning the language used by actor Michael Richards in a stand-up performance.

“He’s our Janet Jackson, “ he said, referring to the controversy over Jackson’s Superbowl half-time performance that resulted in a Federal Communication Commissions crackdown on broadcasting standards.

Richards, he emphasized, is not a stand-up comedian, but rather “a crazy homeless man with money.”

He also was critical of the Rev. Jesse Jackson becoming involved in the Richards issue, but has been silent on the slow re-building of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the erosion of voting rights of African-Americans.

He said that some people might believe that comedy “can’t offend anyone, but comedy has always been about offending someone.”

May said that like other stand-ups comics he wouldn’t mind doing a situation comedy, but that it would have to “really good, like ‘Everybody Loves Raymond,’ or ‘Seinfeld,’ or ‘The Honeymooners.’”

He said he and his wife, fellow comic Lahna Turner, had considered starring in a reality show about their lives on the road. Besides “Last Comic Standing,” May has appeared on another reality show, “Celebrity Fit Club.”

He said ultimately he and his wife rejected the ideas because every couple that has had such a show has broken up and that he doesn’t want to lose his wife “because she married me when I was fatter, broke and not famous at all.”

“I’m extremely lucky,” he added.

Sommore was also a pleasure to interview. She is nothing like her on-stage persona and instead is queit and thoughtful.

Sommore never thought she could do stand-up comedy despite her love for it. Twelve years after she read a book on the subject and tried out on stage, she has appeared as one of the "Queens of Comedy," been called "a force to be reckoned with in the new millennium" by Oprah Winfrey and won the Richard Pryor Comic of the Year Award.

She will be appearing at the Comedy Connection at the Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee for one show at 7 p.m. on Nov. 25.

Speaking to Reminder Publications, Sommore said that after some initial efforts during open mic nights, she received her real training as comic as the emcee for a male strip revue. She recalled with a laugh that she had to appear before "300 women who weren't interested in anything I said."

Week after week though, she would try out material and include it in her 20-minute set until people started coming early just to see her.

She said her comedy is based on observation.

"I listen, I watch everything," she said.

And Joan Rivers and her aggressive say-anything style of comedy inspired her.

Unlike Rivers, whose stand-up included some severe self-deprecation, Sommore said that women comics who are attractive "have a fine line to walk."

The wrong choice of outfit could inspire remarks from male members of an audience that could make the female members a little upset, she said.

"I point out my flaws first," she said.

Women comics today still fight a battle about whether or not they are as funny as male comedians. Sommore recalled how she and other women would be introduced at open mic nights with an admonition that the audiences should go easy on them.

That's one reason she, Adele Givens, Laura Hayes and Mo'Nique toured as "the Queens of Comedy" in 2001 she wanted to show that women comics are the equals of men.

Sommore said she appreciates both working live on stage performing stand-up and acting in a sit-com or movie. She's appeared on "The Hughleys" and "The Parkers" and in the movies "Soul Plane" and "Friday After Next."

She'd like to have a television comedy of her own and shot a pilot that wasn't successful. She added that she draws inspiration from the fact that Dave Chappelle had 13 pilots before having success with his Comedy Central show.

She said the challenge is to find a format to present "my voice, my true voice."

"It's not easy to do," she added.

She said it's frustrating as a comedian who writes her own material to perform a script that is supposedly funny, but isn't.

She also noted that with success on television could come with a big paycheck that can be accompanied with a loss of creative freedom.

"Me, I'll take the money," she said with a hearty laugh.

Sommore is known for a hold-no-prisoners humor and said she "makes a distinct choice about the style I'm going to do.

"I curse to make a point, to enhance a joke," she said and added that she hosted an entire season of BET's "Comic View" show without using any questionable language.

What she likes to present is "the real raw truth."

"Sometimes we need a little severity," she said. "Life isn't all peaches and cream."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Continuing my weekly peek at my stills collection, here's a great staged shot from the comedy horror film "The Comedy of Terrors."

Seen here are Peter Lorre at the organ, Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone standing behind him.

Needless to say there isn't a point in this nifty little comedy in which all of these characters are getting along! Throughout the film, Price is bullying Lorre, wanting to kill Karloff and almost succeeding in killing Rathbone.

The film is out on a double feature DVD with another Amerian International Pictures horror comedy "The Raven." Although I have plenty of affection for "The Raven," it is no where near as successful a film as "Comedy."

Roger Corman, who directed "Raven," was not as good a director as Jacques Tourneur was with comedy.

It's interesting to note through some contractual feature "Rhubarb the Cat" actually gets billing before Rathbone. That cat is good, but not that good.

***
If you're a Kevin Smith fan, head over to your local Best Buy for a special edition of Clerks II only that company has: a Mooby happy meal box that contains the film, plus a Mooby visor, name tag and drink cup. It's pretty damn cool.

Yes, I'm a fan boy: proud and geeky.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I like to thank all of the folks who have so far participated in the little food drive we’ve conducted at the newspaper (s) for which I’m managing editor. The drive is still on and if you’re in western Massachusetts, you can bring in a donation and receive two tickets to Big Time Wrestling’s show at the Castle of Knights in Chicopee on Dec. 1.

To encourage donations I gave away copies of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” and apparently the idea of getting the film was a good incentive, as there were not too many copies when I received the phone call.

You see, I had requested a screener of the film to review in my DVD column. Paramount surprised me by sending a box of 100 copies with no explanation. I just thought it was a special promotion and I dreamed up a way to make good use of the copies.

Fast-forward over two weeks later and I received a phone call from the company that sends out the DVDs to reviewers. It seems they wanted the copies back. I said I would send back what I had, but most were used as in our food drive.

I asked what was the big deal as DVDs are not expensive to reproduce and I was told these were special copies. In fact, the reason I had to send them back is that they were copies promised to Gore himself.

Somehow my address sticker was placed on the package instead of the former vice president’s.

So all of you who have a copy, now have a story to go with it.

So if by chance due to clipping service or Internet search the Veep reads this column, I want him to know his copies helped people in western Massachusetts feels a little more secure this holiday season.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Despite the fact that Thanksgiving is merely the speed bump on the commercial highway to Christmas, I’m old fashioned enough to want to count some of my blessings.

The fact is that underneath the cynical sarcastic shell of many of us who work in the media (an occupational hazard) beats the heart of a sentimental softie.

Hey I’m the animation historian who has never seen “Bambi” for fear of blubbering my way through it.

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is my wife still actually wants to be with me after almost 28 years of marriage.

I’m thankful for our family and our friends.

I’m thankful I’m still employed. Many people in my industry aren’t these days.

I’m thankful to have had the opportunities that have presented themselves in my twisted career.

I’m thankful I have Friday off and have a pile of new DVDs to watch and I don’t have to go close to a store!

©2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs.

Monday, November 20, 2006


A two-disc visit with a film director, a preview of a collected
television series and five films starring the great Boris Karloff are in this week’s DVD column.


An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder

With just six low-budget cult films under his belt, one wouldn’t think
that director and writer Kevin Smith would be the celebrity he is, but Smith
has definitely entered the select club of film directors whose celebrity
transcend just being a film maker.

Like Cecil B. DeMille and Alfred Hitchcock, Smith has become a
personality. Perhaps the only other contemporary director who achieved this
kind of name recognition is John Waters.

Smith has had a regular segment on “The Tonight Show,” has popped up as
an actor in other productions, has appeared on several episodes of “Dinner
for Five,” written comic books, and has made a habit of appearing for
question and answer sessions on college campuses and other venues.

In 2002, some of these college appearances were shot for the
direct-to-DVD release “An Evening with Kevin Smith.” Four years later the
sequel, “An Evening with Kevin Smith 2: Evening Harder,” is being released
at the end of this month to coincide with the DVD release of “Clerks II.”

If you’re not a fan of Smith’s movies (“Clerks,” “Chasing Amy,” and
“Dogma,” for instance), then pass by this two-disc collection. If you think
you’re going to see something that resembles “Inside the Actor’s Studio”
with earnest conversations about the art of filmmaking you would be sorely
disappointed.

Instead these two appearances (one shot in Toronto and the other in
London before “Clerks II” went into production) are raucous meandering
conversations between Smith and fans of his work. They ask questions that
range from typical fan boy geek inquiries into the fictional universe Smith
has created to issues quite more personal.

And Smith doesn’t shy from any of it. In fact he seems to revel in the
opportunity to reveal things most people wouldn’t about his marriage and
career.

Smith’s subject matter is not only dicey, but his language is definitely
NC-17. Just like Smith’s movies, this isn’t a production for kids to watch.
As a Smith fan, I enjoyed the over three hours of Smith’s unrehearsed
repartee with his audiences, but I know this isn’t for everybody.

For more information, log onto www.sonypictures.com

Get Smart
I received a preview disc the other day on the up-coming release of the
classic television spy parody Get Smart on DVD. Time/Life is releasing the
show in two forms: the complete first season with 30 episodes of two hours
of bonus features and a collection of all five seasons – 138 episodes on 25
discs with over nine hours of bonus material.

That’s a lot of “Get Smart,” but if you’re a fan, this is good news.

“Get Smart” was a satire of “the Man from Uncle” and other mid-1960s spy
shows and movies. Starring the late Don Adams, Maxwell Smart was a bungling secret agent who ultimately succeeded either through luck, the help of his fellow agent 99 (played by Barbara Feldon) or occasionally through his own
skill.

Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, “Get Smart” was full of puns,
witty send-ups of the spy genre and plenty of gadgets – my favorite was the
“Cone of Silence” in which people couldn’t hear themselves speak!

The preview disc had a sampling on what is in the two collections,
including the show’s pilot; the Emmy-winning episode “Ship of Spies;” and a
segment from “The Bill Dana Show” featuring the origins of Don Adams’s
character.

“Get Smart” was a favorite of mine while growing up and I still laughed
at Smart’s ineptitude. I think the shows hold up pretty well.

For more information, go to www.getsmartondeve.com.

The Boris Karloff Collection
I will readily admit I will watch anything with Boris Karloff. I’ve been
that way for years and even subjected my poor parents to taking me to “The
Ghost in the Invisible Bikini” back in 1966 – one of Karloff’s decidedly
lesser productions.

My fascination with classic horror films is what drove my interest in
film. For me Karloff remains the consummate character star – an actor who
clearly enjoyed changing his look and screen persona for every role.

So I have to be very objective about this three-disc set with five of
Karloff’s film as I enjoyed every one of them despite the fact this is not
the prime Karloff material.

Films such as “Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Black Cat,” or “The Mummy”
are not on this set. Instead the DVD producers present “Night Key,” “Tower
of London, “The Climax,” “The Strange Door,” and “The Black Castle.”

“Night Key” is an enjoyable B-movie with Karloff playing an elderly
inventor of a revolutionary security system. “The Climax” was Karloff’s
first color production and is basically a re-make of “The Phantom of the
Opera” with Karloff as a doctor obsessed with an opera singer. “The Strange
Door” and “The Black Castle” are both costume dramas with a horrific
undertone. Karloff plays a supporting role in each film.

The best film of the lot is “Tower of London” a sweeping re-telling of
the story of King Edward the Fourth of England whose overthrow is plotted by
his brother. With Basil Rathbone and Vincent Price – one of Price’s first movies – in the cast, this is a fun film.

Karloff is the evil executioner Mord, one of his most striking roles.

While not the best grouping of films, “The Boris Karloff Collection” is a must-have for fans such as me and, maybe, you.

For more information, log onto www.universalstudioshomeentertainment.com.

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. My words alone.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


I have a quandary: I want to blog more but my job and other activities have to come first. So I've decided to load some images onto the blog for, hopefully, the entertainment of my readers.

So once a week, at least, I'm going to load up a still from my collection.

One of the greatest benefit of the digital revolution is the neat CD press kits we're sent by the studios. One of the worst things about the digital revolution is the neat CD press kits we're sent by the studios. While they are convenient, I'm enough of a Luddite to miss having physical movie stills.

Is any one going to collect these CDs (well I have some!)

Today's image is from the classic Marx Brothers movie Monkey Business. Groucho is joined by the beautiful Thelma Todd, a woman who should have become a great star but instead is best known for her murder by director Roland West.

One reason I love this still is the fact one can see so clearly that Groucho's moustache was painted one! It's a marvelous theatrical conceit that couldn't be done today.

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. Who is going to take offense at this?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Classic and contemporary television series as well as a double bill of forgotten crime films are in this week's DVD column.

Police Squad: The Complete Series

Leslie Nielsen had been a solid dramatic actors his entire career when he was included in the cast of a low-budget comedy titled "Airplane." That film not only changed the face of film comedy, but also gave Nielsen a whole new lease on his career.

Since then, the silver-haired actor has been known for his comedic roles in many films, including the "Naked Gun" series, also the product of the creative team behind "Airplane."

Before the "Naked Gun" movies, though, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams tried their hand at television with a hilarious parody of 1980s crime dramas called "Police Squad." These half-hour shows were part "Dragnet," and part all of those crime shows produced by Quinn Martin that were divided into acts and had an epilogue.

Dense with both jokes and sight gags, the show only lasted six episodes, and, as Nielsen describes in one of the disc's extras, it was the show's density that caused it to lose viewers.

The show demands your attention or you will miss something and apparently in 1982 that approach didn't make for popular television.

If you're a fan of Zucker, Zucker and Abrahams, this is must-have for your collection.

For more info, log onto www.paramount.com/homeentertainment.



CSI: Crime Scene Investigation The Complete Sixth Season

I enjoy the original "CSI" series (the New York version is tolerable, but I can't watch the pretentious Miami version) and this collection shows that after six years there is still some life and originality in the series.

After all, just how many ways can a person be killed? Wouldn't they be running out by now?

Apparently not. Although the number of ways a person can be killed may be limited, the circumstances seem be endless.

What has become the strength of the series is not the almost R-rated gore of the show although I'm sure that attracts some viewers but its evolution from a procedural cop drama to one in which we care about the characters.

So here we have Warrick (Gary Douran) getting married because his jobs teaches him that life can be fleeting and Nick (George Eads) going the extra distance for a little girl who everyone thinks is dead because of his own near-death experience.

While the sex and violence can get a little oppressive in some episodes -- this is not a series suitable for children -- the show can also be a tearjerker as well.

And I love watching show such as this one on DVD with no commercial interruptions!

For more info, log onto www.paramount.com/homeentertainment.



Forgotten Noir: Volume

The folks at VCI Entertainment have put together another good double feature of crime dramas from the lat 1940s and early 1950s.

Make no mistake. These are not big-budget classics. These are the kind of films found in neighborhood theaters or drive-ins. Both share a theme of showing the under-belly of what was then considered peaceful and prosperous post-World War II America.

First up is a nifty little film titled "Loan Shark" starring George Raft as an ex-con who just wants to go straight. Getting a job at a tire factory, his new boss wants him to go undercover to discover who is the loan shark prettying on his staff. Raft doesn't want to do it until the hoods kill his brother-in-law.

Raft played tough guys his entire career and never showed the versatility of actors such as James Cagney, Edward G. Robinson or Humphrey Bogart. He is effective though in this film as the guy who is willing to risk his life to find out who is at the top of the racket.

Filmed in a real tire factory, the film has a realistic quality that adds to its appeal.

"Arson Inc." is much more of a procedural crime drama with an actor playing the head of the Los Angeles Fire Department telling the audience the story of a young fire fighter (played by Robert Lowery) who goes undercover to smash an arson and insurance fraud ring.

Although its stock footage that contains shots of fire equipment that goes back to the 1920s doesn't help the film, generally the movies proceed at a steady clip telling its story. With just 63 minutes, there isn't much padding!

Lowery was a working class actor who never achieved great stardom but appeared in over 70 feature films in either starring or supporting roles. He is up to the task here or being charming in one scene and tough in another.

I'm a sucker for these kind of films and if you're the type to stay up late to see something on Turner Classic Movies you've never heard of before, you just might like this double-bill as well.

For more information, log onto www.vcient.com

©2006 Gordon Michael Dobbs. Standard disclaimer apples.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Our own local film festival is coming up with some interesting entries this year. Here's a piece I did on it. I think the festival has finally come into its own after many years of thrashing about searching for some sort of identity. It's not Sundance....thank God !

NORTHAMPTON While the Sundance Film Festival may get a lion's share of the attention from the media and Hollywood, David Leo, the director of the Northampton Independent Film Festival (NIFF), said the local festival is sticking to its "core values" of being committed to establishing a northeast center for the exploration, examination, and celebration of independent filmmaking.

"Our motto is 'Films for Independent Minds,'" Leo told Reminder Publications. "My personal vision is the festival is as diverse and accepting as the culture of Northampton."

And this year is no exception, as the festival, which runs from Nov. 8 through 12, will feature a wide variety of 130 films, a number of which were produced in New England.

NIFF "gives local and regional filmmakers a local audience and to compete with film made all around the world and country," Leo said.

Among the local films that will be screened are two shorts by Longmeadow filmmaker Scott Kittredge and "Cathedral Pines," a supernatural thriller produced by starring WRNX radio personality Donnie Morehouse.

The festival includes both films for children under the age of 12 and films from the "Best of the Boston Underground." There are also documentaries that "bring to life injustices," Leo added.

Leo sees the festival "take a higher place on the indie film stage, but I don't want to see it as commercial as others."

Screenings will be at the Academy of Music, Smith College, and the Pleasant Street Theater.

NIFF will begin with a reception Nov. 8 at 5:30 p.m. at the Northampton Center for the Arts featuring some of this year's filmmakers. The film that will open the festival will be Vermont director Jay Craven's "Disappearances" at 7:30 p.m. at the Academy of Music.

"Disappearances" is based on the novel by Howard Frank Mosher, and stars Kris Kristofferson, Academy Award-nominee Genevieve Bujold, and Charlie McDermott in a story set in Prohibition-era Vermont.

NIFF's Saturday night lineup includes director Claudia Myers' romantic comedy "Kettle of Fish" at 7 p.m. in the Academy of Music. The film stars Matthew Modine as a lifelong bachelor who confronts his intimacy issues by subletting his apartment to a fetching biologist (Gina Gershon), and then is forced to move back in as her roommate. Producers Laura Bernieri (Next Stop Wonderland), Michael Mailer, and Christy Scott Cashman (who has a starring role in the film) will attend the screening and take questions from the audience.

On Nov. 9, "Cathedral Pines" will be seen at the Academy of Music at 7 p.m. Kittredge's two shorts, "Snacks" and "Terminal Conversation," included in a program of local and regional shorts on Nov. 12 at 3:15 p.m. On Nov. 11 at 7 p.m., The Norman Rockwell Code highlights a slate of comedy shorts. Set in Stockbridge's Norman Rockwell museum, the spoof of "The Da Vinci Code" was recently selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress' official film collection.

Western Massachusetts musician Roger Salloom is the subject of "So Glad I Made It: The Saga of Roger Salloom, America's Bets Unknown Songwriter," a documentary on his life and career that will be shown on Nov. 10 at 6:30 p.m., Smith College's Stoddard Hall. Salloom will perform following the screening.

Rock and rollers The Unband are also the subjects of a documentary, "WE LIKE TO DRINK: We Like to Play Rock and Roll," showing Nov. 11 at 9 p.m. in Smith College's Stoddard Hall. Following the movie, The Unband will perform live at The Elevens in a special event sponsored by The Valley Advocate.

For Saturday and Sunday mornings, NIFF has partnered with the Coalition for Quality Children's Media/Kids First! to offer children's matinees each morning at 10:30 a.m. Tickets for the matinees will be $4 for children 12 and under.

NIFF has partnered with the Veterans Education Project and the Northampton Office of Veterans Services to present two films in honor of Veterans' Day weekend. On Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., the Pleasant Street Theater will show the critically acclaimed film " The Ground Truth." Patricia Foulkrod's documentary tells the story of patriotic young Americans who heeded the call to serve in Iraq, and offers an unflinching look at the war's physical and emotional impact on the soldiers.

Also on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. at the Academy of Music, filmmaker Daniel Lohaus will appear at a screening of his film "When I Came Home," which chronicles the stories of homeless veterans from Vietnam to Iraq.

Audiences will have the chance to get inside the independent filmmaking process with several panels discussions. On Nov. 11, "From Script to Screen" and "Producers Panel" will feature writers who have sold to the industry and producers who have made independent films discussing how to get an independent film made. On Nov. 12, award-winning filmmaker Larry Hott of Hott Productions/Florentine Films will present "Anatomy of a Documentary." Hott has received an Emmy Award, two Academy Award nominations, and a George Foster Peabody Award. All panels are free.

Tickets for individual screenings and all festival passes will be sold at the Academy of Music box office and all venues during the festival before each screening. Advance general admission tickets will be available starting Nov. 1 at the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce and the Academy of Music Box Office.

Tickets are $8 for general admission and $7 for students and seniors, except for opening night ($10). WGBY Public Television members receive a $2 discount off individual tickets, and $15 off all festival passes. For more information, including a complete festival schedule, visit www.niff.org.

©2006 by G. Michael Dobbs. These words are mine alone.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Backstage at the show

Here's a recent story I wrote concerning our governor's race. Now many times I want to actually tell me people the literal truth of what happened, but I can't for fear that people would say I wasn't "objective."

So I thought I could tell the folks who read this blog the kind of things that can go on in a political story.

I arrived 20 minutes early and found one of the advance men setting up a portable lectern and speaker system. He said the candidate would be on time and things would start promptly at one p.m. I had time to go to the bank and returned in 15 minutes. I was the only member of the local press present. There was no candidate. A reporter from the daily paper came at 1 p.m. identified himself and was told the candidate would be forth-coming. He sat down near-by and read a paper and muched on a donut. It made me wish for a donut!

I was chatting with a local state representative and two of the three (!) supporters who had turned up.

It wasn't until 1:20 p.m. when a television reporter arrived that things started getting busy. Once Mr. TV had set up his camera, the candidate's aides made a cell phone call and the candidate stepped out of a car that had been parked on the corner. He was there for the entire time. He oculd have spoken with us and we could have been on our way.

But no. Like nearly all politicians, he waits for TV.

Some day, I'm just going to walk and tell the pol (whoever he or she is) to walk until their hat floats if they feel that have to make me waste MY time so they can get their 90 seconds on the local newscast.

Anyway, the story was a political distraction from real issues in the campaign.


SPRINGFIELD – Reed Hillman, the Republican candidate for lieutenant
governor, slammed Democrat Deval Patrick on Patrick’s stand to allow
illegal aliens to obtain Massachusetts driver’s licenses.

Hillman said that if allowed, Massachusetts would become “a magnet” for
illegal aliens from across the country.

Libby DeVecchi, a spokesperson for the Patrick campaign, told Reminder
Publications that Patrick expressed a personal opinion about granting
illegal aliens a license as a means of documenting them. It is not an
official position of the campaign.

Hillman was joined at a 1 p.m. appearance at the Federal Courthouse by
three supporters and State Representative Mary Rogeness (R-Longmeadow).

Rogeness said that every year a bill is filed in the Legislature to
allow licenses to be issued to illegal aliens and it has never been passed.
She said that keeping the existing statues intact is “critical.”

If Patrick is elected, Hillman said, “No doubt a bad idea will become
instant reality.”
With illegal aliens holding driver’s licenses there would be greater
insurance fraud and abuse, Hillman said. He envisioned a situation in which
illegal aliens could become involved in accidents, come back with a new
name, obtain a new license and drive without repercussion
.
He noted that a driver’s license is a “passport” to jobs, welfare
benefits and moving across the Mexican and Canadian borders.

According to the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, currently an
applicant “must produce at least four documents to apply for a permit,
license, or ID. These documents will be used to confirm your identity, date
of birth, Massachusetts residence, and signature. Three identification
documents must be from the List of Acceptable Forms of Identification and
must be satisfactory to the Registrar. At least one of the three
identification documents must be from the list of Primary Documents. The
fourth required document is your Social Security Card or your current US or
non-US Passport.”

The required documents include: Social Security Card or a current US or
non-US Passport; a document proving your date of birth; a document proving
you are a resident of Massachusetts; and a pre-existing document containing
your signature.

“Kerry Healey and Reed Hillman are once again trying to change the
subject from the current Romney/Healey administration’s failed record of
cracking down on state contractors who hire undocumented immigrants. Their
administration has failed to enforce state law. The Romney Healey
administration’s failed record also includes the Big Dig mess, property
taxes and fees going up by hundreds of millions of dollars and fewer cops on
the street,” DeVecchi said.

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. Blame me.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Two very different forms of comedy are in this week’s DVD column.

Nacho Libre

From the 1920s through the 1960s, many comedians working in films
routinely developed personas they carried from role to role and character to
character. In the last 25 years, though, we’ve seen comics such as Steve
Martin, Jim Carrey and Robin Williams who might have signature bits of
business they use in their films, but not a re-occurring character.

Adam Sadler has reversed this with his aggressive man-boy character and
Jack Black is another who has established a character he brings from film to
film.

Black has risen from being a supporting actor in films such “High
Fidelity” and “Orange County,” to a star in films such as “School of Rock”
and “Shallow Hal.” His roles tend toward aggressive blowhards with a manic
quality.

“Nacho Libre” marks a toning-down of his comic persona. Perhaps it was
the influence of director Jared Hess – known for his break-out film
“Napoleon Dynamite” – but Black’s character of Ignacio is one of his most
calm yet.

Ignacio is a cook at a Mexican monastery who is obsessed with being a
masked wrestler. He is torn between his love of the children at the
orphanage the monastery operates and his need to fulfill his destiny as the
best wrestler in Mexico.

Complicating matters is the arrival of Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la
Reguera) to the orphanage who becomes both an inspiration and an forbidden
love for Ignacio.

Ignacio’s somewhat unwilling tag team member is Esqueleto, a tall thin
young street person who doesn’t share Ignacio’s vision, but does like the
money even losing brings him.

Ignacio wants to earn money to buy the children better food and, despite
his obsession, he is really the first sweet character Black has played.
That’s what makes this film different. Despite the wrestling plot line,
there is actually a gentleness about the story. The result is this film
doesn’t have as many belly laughs as some of Black’s previous films, but it
might stand out a bit more as something decidedly different.

I liked the film a great deal, but then I’m a sucker for anything
dealing with Mexican wrestling.

For more information, log onto www.paramount
entertainment.com/homeentertainment.

Wonder Showzen: Season Two

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I popped in a disc from this two disc
set of the MTV 2 comedy series and I have to say that I was genuinely
surprised, amused and appalled at what I saw.

Imagine “Sesame Street” on angel dust and you might have a glimmer of
what this show is like. It’s not only a parody of the beloved children’s
show that features puppets involved with drugs and violence, it’s also a
show with a reality edge. There are regular sequences in which kids go out
on the street with un-scripted “man on the street” bits that are totally
outrageous.

My favorite reality sequence, I’m ashamed to admit, had a group of men
as part of a focus group in which they watched a calculatedly offensive
parody of “Hee Haw.” None of the these guys thought the show was in poor
taste. Their humiliation was increased when they were brought back months
later and shown how they were deceived on a national television show.

Some of the sequences are fairly funny and inventive, while others
pretty much horrified me.

This is very dark, cynical stuff and it most definitely not for
children.

For more information, go to
www.paramountentertainment.com/homeentertainment.
Two very different forms of comedy are in this week’s DVD column.

Nacho Libre

From the 1920s through the 1960s, many comedians working in films
routinely developed personas they carried from role to role and character to
character. In the last 25 years, though, we’ve seen comics such as Steve
Martin, Jim Carrey and Robin Williams who might have signature bits of
business they use in their films, but not a re-occurring character.

Adam Sadler has reversed this with his aggressive man-boy character and
Jack Black is another who has established a character he brings from film to
film.

Black has risen from being a supporting actor in films such “High
Fidelity” and “Orange County,” to a star in films such as “School of Rock”
and “Shallow Hal.” His roles tend toward aggressive blowhards with a manic
quality.

“Nacho Libre” marks a toning-down of his comic persona. Perhaps it was
the influence of director Jared Hess – known for his break-out film
“Napoleon Dynamite” – but Black’s character of Ignacio is one of his most
calm yet.

Ignacio is a cook at a Mexican monastery who is obsessed with being a
masked wrestler. He is torn between his love of the children at the
orphanage the monastery operates and his need to fulfill his destiny as the
best wrestler in Mexico.

Complicating matters is the arrival of Sister Encarnacion (Ana de la
Reguera) to the orphanage who becomes both an inspiration and an forbidden
love for Ignacio.

Ignacio’s somewhat unwilling tag team member is Esqueleto, a tall thin
young street person who doesn’t share Ignacio’s vision, but does like the
money even losing brings him.

Ignacio wants to earn money to buy the children better food and, despite
his obsession, he is really the first sweet character Black has played.
That’s what makes this film different. Despite the wrestling plot line,
there is actually a gentleness about the story. The result is this film
doesn’t have as many belly laughs as some of Black’s previous films, but it
might stand out a bit more as something decidedly different.

I liked the film a great deal, but then I’m a sucker for anything
dealing with Mexican wrestling.

For more information, log onto www.paramount
entertainment.com/homeentertainment.

Wonder Showzen: Season Two

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I popped in a disc from this two disc
set of the MTV 2 comedy series and I have to say that I was genuinely
surprised, amused and appalled at what I saw.

Imagine “Sesame Street” on angel dust and you might have a glimmer of
what this show is like. It’s not only a parody of the beloved children’s
show that features puppets involved with drugs and violence, it’s also a
show with a reality edge. There are regular sequences in which kids go out
on the street with un-scripted “man on the street” bits that are totally
outrageous.

My favorite reality sequence, I’m ashamed to admit, had a group of men
as part of a focus group in which they watched a calculatedly offensive
parody of “Hee Haw.” None of the these guys thought the show was in poor
taste. Their humiliation was increased when they were brought back months
later and shown how they were deceived on a national television show.

Some of the sequences are fairly funny and inventive, while others
pretty much horrified me.

This is very dark, cynical stuff and it most definitely not for
children.

For more information, go to
www.paramountentertainment.com/homeentertainment.

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. These words are mine alone.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The governor's race here in Massachusetts is heating up with daily press events and a slew of negative ads. What's a voter to do if he or she is undecided? That was my point of the following piece. Unfortunately, politics is a religion. Either you have the faith or you don't and too many people feel that to question their own status quo could result in finding out they are wrong.

And people hate to be wrong.

Hey what do I know? I voted for Mitt Romney thinking a political outsider who was an expert in job growth would be good for the state. Guess what? I was wrong.

That didn't hurt a bit.


The war of words in the gubernatorial race is getting more intense and three of the candidates seem to be trying to one-up each other.

Let me share with you excerpts from press releases I've received.

First, let me say I received several e-mails a day from the campaigns of Kerry Healey and Deval Patrick. Interestingly, I've never received anything from Grace Ross or Christy Mihos.

Here are two, both dated Oct. 4:

"Democratic Candidate for Governor Deval Patrick today was joined by public safety and law enforcement officials from across the Commonwealth who gathered to express their support for the Patrick/Murray ticket. The officials, part of a growing group of police officers and other law enforcement officials, praised Patrick's public safety plan, and pledged to work with him to fight crime and violence in Massachusetts...

"'Our response to crime must above all be firm. I see 1,000 new officers on the streets to restore community patrol ranks. Because prevention is the best and cheapest form of public protection, I will also implement proven prevention strategies, working together with youth workers, parents, civic leaders, schools and churches. We need to be tough on crime, and smart about crime, too,'" said Patrick...

"In the last 18 months, Patrick has received endorsements from several Massachusetts law enforcement and public safety officials and groups, including former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, Suffolk County Sheriff Andrea Cabral, Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley, several sheriffs and district attorneys as well as the International Brotherhood of Police Officers and the International Brotherhood of Corrections Officers."

Okay, now here is the one I received from the Healey-Hillman campaign:

"Kerry Healey and Reed Hillman are the team Massachusetts can trust to be tough on crime and protect families, the State Police Association of Massachusetts and a broad coalition of law enforcement officials said today in endorsing the gubernatorial ticket.

"John Coflesky, president of State Police Association of Massachusetts, said Healey has been a leader and a champion of laws that crack down on sex offenders, drunk drivers and gangs, making Massachusetts' streets safer. Healey's leadership on Melanie's Law and tougher sex offender laws is evidence that she has what it takes to hold the Legislature accountable and pass tough anti-crime legislation.

"'Kerry Healey has refused to accept half-measures and Band-Aids, and pushed the Legislature until they got the bills right,' Coflesky said...

"Healey recently signed a new law mandating sex offenders be registered before being released from prison and extending the statute of limitations for prosecuting child rapists. Last week, she and running mate Reed Hillman called for dangerous Level 2 offenders to have their identities posted on the Internet, as is the current law for Level 3 offenders.

"Hillman spent 25 years with the State Police, with his final three years as Superintendent.

"Kerry Healey and Reed Hillman's extensive background in public safety and their priorities moving forward stand in stark contrast to Deval Patrick, who has been called 'soft on crime' by Attorney General Tom Reilly. Patrick supports restricting the content of criminal history reports available to employers and wants to give driver's licenses to illegal aliens."

Now who is the best when it comes to supporting public safety and fighting crime? Patrick has been a prosecutor with the Department of Justice, but also a defense attorney. He's being endorsed by Democrats and groups traditionally aligned with Democrats. There are few surprises there.

Healey has had expertise as a researcher on crime and Hillman was a State Trooper for 25 years. The endorsement from the State Police Association is as obvious as those supporting Patrick.

So on this issue who do you choose? That's the challenge. Voters must cut through the rhetoric to look at substance and try to discern the truth that works for them.

©2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. My words alone.

Monday, October 16, 2006





The western Massachusetts crew is back from its triumph at the 2007 Rock and Shock Convention at the DCU Centre in Worcester, MA.

(First photo: myself and Amberly Ashe; second: The Rock and Shock Glowing Screen table crew of Jeff Allard, Matt House, Marty Langford, Darren Langford, Scott Kittredge, and Karl Konopka; third, Steve Bissette being interviewed; and last another shot of Amberly, what the hell!)

I say “triumph” because Marty Langford & Company sold a bunch of “Magdalena’s Brain” and the Western Mass Horror Show DVDs; I sold three-quarters of my “I Hate People” wristbands: and Amberly Ash managed, through handing out free candy to passersby, to sell quite a number of the horror film in which she appears, House of Carnage.

Honorary western Mass. resident (I can hear him snort now!) Steve Bissette also made a tidy sum on Sunday when he joined us. Steve is of course, the legendary cartoonist (“Swamp Thing,” “1963,” “Tyrant”), publisher (“Taboo”) writer (contributor to many books and magazines who now is a teacher at the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT.

This was Steve’s first convention appearance in many years and people were gob smacked to see him behind a table once more.

Now Rock and Shock is an interesting concept in that it’s a horror film convention and a heavy metal rock show. We all went to it last year and were impressed enough we wanted to try to do something at it this year.

Steve and I worked a table at Chiller Con in New Jersey for years and this show is about one-tenth the size of that one. The advantage, though, is Rock and Shock is not as over-powering and as crowded as Chiller.

There were a number of guests selling autographs at $20 a pop and while I think it’s fine for actors to make money directly off their own fame, it’s sad that you simply can’t go up to them to say how much you admire their work without the awkward silence when they expect to sell you a photo.

Some of the my fondest memories of Chiller revolve around the guest stars coming around the tables and talking to you since at that time the Chiller staff mixed the guest and dealers together.

It all changed at Chiller the year that someone who shall remain unnamed convinced Mary Oromo and Barbara Steele that they were big stars that should charge people for their autograph even if it was on an item owned by the fan.

Working a show like Rock and Shock can be fun, but it’s also tiring. To get the folks to stop your table, you need to engage them in some way. Our technique was straightforward: say hello and try to establish eye contact. Of course this didn’t work so well with the guys wearing some sort of horror make-up and determined to stay in character.

Well, at Rock and Shock, film makers Marty Langford, Warren Amerman, Scott Kittredge, Jeff Allard, and Karl Konopka got to mix with other independent film makers, which was a plus at this show. Attendees were impressed with what these guys have done and rightly so.

I got the satisfaction of having accurately judged the audience and created a product that moved off the table at the right price point.

Media Blasters interviewed Steve for an extra on an up-coming DVD. His reward? A tee shirt!

And we all got a charge out of Amberly offering candy to guys walking by and then quickly convincing them to buy her film and an autographed photo.

Would we do it next year? It’s tempting to say “yes,” but I think we’d all want bring something new to the show and that’s the rub.


© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. My private life has nothing to do with my professional one, so understand these words are my own alone.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Two great, but very different, documentaries and some classic television are in this week's DVD picks.

SCTV: Best of the Early Years
Before the great comedy show "SCTV" was a 90-minute weekly network show, it was a half-hour syndicated offering. This new three DVD set collects 15 of the very best episodes of the shows first broadcast between 1978 and 1980.

"SCTV" poked fun at television in a way that has seldom been matched. Despite many topical references, these shows are still very timely and funny today.

In these programs, the "SCTV" cast members developed their characters such as SCTV station owner Guy Caballero who uses a wheelchair to gain respect; station manager Edith Prickley; incompetent newsman Earl Camembert; horror show host Count Floyd; and ├╝ber Canadians Doug and Bob McKenzie.

There's some very funny stuff here including the wonderful episode in which Woody Allen (played by Rick Moranis) tries to make a movie with his idol Bob Hope (impersonated perfectly by Dave Thomas). There's also another dead-on Moranis impersonation when he becomes Dick Cavett interviewing schlock comic and "SCTV" regular Bobby Bittman played with a crass appeal by Eugene Levy.

In some of the shows, John Candy and Catherine O' Hara are missing and were replaced with Robin Duke and Tony Rosato. These shows are a little weaker than those with Candy and O'Hara, but generally they are still more entertaining than much of what passes for comedy on network television today.

There's a great extra in the collection that is a vintage Canadian news story on the popularity of the McKenzies.

For more information, log onto www.shoutfactory.com.

Off to War: from Rural Arkansas to Iraq
If you missed this 10-part documentary series when it was first broadcast last year on the Discovery Times Channel, you now have the opportunity to catch it on DVD. The entire series plus extras will be available Oct. 17.

Two brothers, Brent and Craig Renaud, embedded themselves with the Arkansas National Guard between 2003 and 2005. They followed 57 men from one small town in Arkansas as they prepared to go to Iraq, their experiences in the war zone and their lives after their tour of duty.

The filmmakers clearly were not only interested in how the war affected the Guardsmen, but how it affected their families. An over-riding concern is how many of the Guardsmen would be able to make money once they return, as their jobs might not be waiting for them.

This is very compelling viewing. It poses many of the questions people have about the purpose and legitimacy of the war from the perspective of these citizen soldiers.

It's not easy viewing, either. The unit sustains casualties and fatalities and we see how these men react. We see how the families must cope with a wounded family member and how the nightly news reports fill them with dread.

It's also troubling to see soldiers fighting a war who don't understand what the war is all about or why they are fighting it.
This is television at its finest. You have to watch this series.

For more information, log onto www.kino.com.

Tales of the Rat Fink
Documentary director Ron Mann has fashioned a thoroughly original look at an American original: Ed "Big Daddy" Roth.

"Big Daddy" who?

If you don't remember the custom cars and crazy cartoon characters by Ed Roth in the 1960s, then you should know this is a man who changed American popular culture in some very big ways.

Roth was an artist, a mechanic, an iconoclast and a savvy businessman. A man who barely made it through high school, Roth was part of the hot rod culture of the 1950s. Out of that time, when he was building hot rods and designing custom paint jobs, Roth developed the first tee-shirt with a design to be worn just by itself. That's right, Roth is the guy who invented the style of tee-shirts that have become part of the modern American lifestyle.

He also was the first car designer to use fiberglass as the material to push custom cars from hot rods made from Detroit cars to works of moving art.

His character of Rat Fink - a reaction to Mickey Mouse - helped people embrace weirdness as a positive rather than negative social norm. Roth was a classic outsider who changed the mainstream of American culture. He helped make it possible for other outsiders to do the same thing.

Mann tells Roth's story in an unconventional but entertaining way. He includes few film clips - the standard documentary element - and instead uses animated photos of Roth that accompany a narration track by John Goodman who plays Roth. Goodman is a Roth fanatic who met the man and does a great job with the vocal performance.

Mann also has cars "tell" Roth's story and employs the talents of people such as ZZ Top member Billy Gibbons, artist Robert Williams, Beach Boy Brian Wilson, Jay Leno and Ann-Margaret to play the succession of custom automobiles.

Funny, nostalgic and educational, "Tales of the Rat Fink" is a great salute to a one of a kind man.

For more information, log onto www.shoutfactory.com.

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. My words alone.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

First, the big news...the Inkwell Productions "I Hate People" wristbands have arrived. They will be making their debut at the Rock and Shock Convention in Worcester, MA this weekend, but you can order one from me for just $4 ($3 plus a dollar postage). E-mail me for ordering details. Comes in two sizes: large and extra large.

The following post is my story on the recent gubernatorial debate here. If you're a non-Massachusetts resident, I'm sure this wil be fairly boring, but for in state readers, I hope it will be an alternative to the debate coverage from the other local press.



SPRINGFIELD - Some debates are like boxing matches with two opponents trying to take each other out.

Others resemble the elimination wrestling bouts in which participants gang up on each other until two are standing in the ring.

The western Massachusetts gubernatorial debate on Oct. 3 at American International College was definitely more of a wrestling match with the four candidates squaring off at each other.

Lt. Governor Kerry Healey, the Republican candidate, and Democratic candidate Deval Patrick were clearly interested in engaging each other in the issues. Standing in their way, literally and figuratively, was independent Christy Mihos who was taking pot shots at Healey every chance he could get.

And although Green-Rainbow Party candidate Grace Ross might have been initially discounted as too far to the left to be taken seriously as a candidate, she showed an ability to talk about issues aimed at both the middle class and voters who are middle road.

***
Patrick began his time in Springfield with an afternoon press conference at which he and his running mate Mayor Tim Murray of Worcester received the endorsements of Mayors Rick Sullivan of Westfield, John Barrett of North Adams, Michael Sullivan of Holyoke, Charles Ryan of Springfield, James Ruberto of Pittsfield, Mary Clare Higgins of Northampton, Christine Forgey of Greenfield, Michael Tautznik of Easthampton and Michael Bissonette of Chicopee.

Patrick also received the blessing of Congressman Richard Neal and, perhaps more significantly, the endorsement of the Springfield Patrolman's Union. The local has traditionally backed Republican candidates for the corner office and when asked why the change this year Union President Tom Scanlon replied with a smile, "We've finally smartened up."

Patrick said that unlike one of his opponents - Healey - he is not a "criminal theorist." He said that he headed at the Department of Justice under President Bill Clinton, the largest criminal investigation in the history of the department prior to the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

He pledged to put 1,000 new police officers on the streets of the Commonwealth if elected and to use resources to help prevent crime as well.

Patrick's stand on crime was both a subject of the debate and of the days following the debate with news stories breaking that Patrick had written letters in support of a convicted rapist who he thought may not have received a fair trial.

The Healey campaign also brought to light a Florida trial in which Patrick successfully argued to reduce police killer Carl Ray Songer's death sentence to life in prison.

In a statement released on Thursday by the Healey campaign former Florida prosecutor Tom Hogan wrote, "Every voter in Massachusetts needs to know and understand the facts of this case, and the devastating effect it had on Trooper Smith's family and our community. Massachusetts needs to know these are the types of cases Deval Patrick agreed to take as a private attorney.

"In my career, I prosecuted numerous capital murder cases. No one deserved the death penalty more than Carl Ray Songer. Unfortunately, Mr. Patrick came in and worked to get his sentence reduced, on a technicality."

The Patrick campaign was also questioning Healey and running mate Reed Hillman's past in law and order issues.

In an Oct. 4 statement, the Patrick campaign wrote, "It is the height of politics-as-usual that the Healey/Hillman campaign is criticizing Deval Patrick today, when their Lt. Governor candidate Reed Hillman's record includes contacting the parole board on behalf of James W. Mitchell, a 'buddy,' who was accused of assaulting a police officer and other crimes; when Kerry Healey skipped more than half of the meetings of the Criminal History Systems Board during her two year appointment there; and when the Romney/Healey Administration has vetoed support for the sex offender registry and their record on crime and public safety is one of cuts in public safety initiatives and rising crime and violence."

***
Public safety was a concern with some of the demonstrators outside of the Sprague Cultural Center on the AIC campus. About 200 people carrying signs for their Sprague Cultural Center on the AIC campus. About 200 people carrying signs for their candidates were gathered and one group had signs that were more provocative than most alluding to Healey as "soft on crime."

The protesters were from the Massachusetts Corrections Officers Federated Union. The union's president, Steve Kenneway, explained the 5,000 member union wants voters to know the Romney-Healey administration has taken steps which have "endangered officers" in the Commonwealth's correctional facilities.

***
Although there are more debates scheduled this was the only one for western Massachusetts. Produced by WGBY, moderator Jim Madigan policed the debate's time limits to the best of his abilities, but it was clear that candidates were willing to stretch the rules.

Healey asked the first question to her opponents on whether or not they would go with the will of the voters and roll back the state income tax to five percent.

"Is your will more important than the will of the people," she asked.

Mihos said he would support a rollback, but any governor would need the support of the Legislature, something he said Healey has not sought.

Patrick said he would rather reduce property tax and fees.

Ross said that people in Massachusetts have talked about "no new taxes for 16 years and we're drowning in no new taxes."
She said she would work for a new formula for the state income tax so the lower economic groups would pay only their fair share.

Healey declared that no one had answered her question, a statement that might have been technically true - no one did address whether or not their will was more important than the will of the voter - but was disingenuous. All of the candidates had stated their goals for revamping the state income tax.

Mihos asked a question about all of the candidates crashing a closed door meeting on health care. Ross said with a smile, 'We're going," but Mihos's questions was clearly aimed at Healey and the transparency of a Healey administration.

"Answer me," he asked Healey. "You didn't answer me."

Looking at Patrick, Mihos said, "He'd go to the opening of a letter."

Finally, a slightly exasperated Healey said, "I'm not with you."

Patrick, taking on a parental role, said, "All right, you two."

Within the first few minutes of the debate the pattern of relationship had been struck, Mihos, who briefly discussed how he had been removed from the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the board of the University of Massachusetts by Acting Governor Jane Swift as part of political payback, seemingly was in this race to be a spoiler.

He seemed fixed on a course on challenging Healey when political wisdom would have called on his challenging the status quo represented by both Healey and Patrick.

With the release of his television commercial in which officials place their heads in a difficult place to reach to avoid answering questions about Big Dig cost over-runs, one wonders if Mihos simply wants to be the monkey wrench tossed into the machine of this election.

Mihos, who in his concluding statement said with a broad smile, "It has been a pretty good debate," did get to specifics at several points during the hour-long forum.

When Patrick asked what three specific steps each candidate would take to rebuild the state's economy, Mihos said he would put a cap on property taxes; increase local aide to communities from 28 percent of the state budget to 40 percent; and eliminate any busing fee for Massachusetts school children.

Ross said that bringing in big corporations to develop jobs was a failed policy and she said she would increase the state minimum wage; develop a single payer healthcare and put more money into local infrastructure to " take the weight off of the taxpayer and small businesses."

Healey said she would lower taxes, reform the permitting procedures businesses face and change the state's automobile insurance system.

Patrick asked her why she and Governor Mitt Romney haven't already accomplished these goals, especially streamlining the permitting process. For Healey, this was an example of the double edged sword of having a record. She is both running on her record as the junior partner of the administration, while at the same time distancing herself enough to be seen as someone out of Romney's shadow.

Patrick said that he would be a governor who wouldn't go around the nation making Massachusetts the butt of his jokes as Romney has during his undeclared run for the Republican presidential nomination.

***
With the debate in Springfield questions on local affairs were raised including the future of the Finance Control Board (FCB) set in place by Romney and the Legislature to take over much of the governing of the financially strapped city of Springfield.

Patrick said that, while the FCB has been helpful in managing the city of its crisis, he would speak to local officials about the Board's future to ensure Springfield could stand on its own.

"I want to be an active participant" in the city's recovery, he said.
Healey credited the FCB for the city's ability to recover from a $40 million deficit and work toward a balanced budget. She thought the reforms the FCB instituted - putting the city's pension fund and health insurance plan into the systems run by the state and instituting merit pay for teachers - could be implemented around the state.

Mihos would "take the Board out as soon as possible." He thinks annual outside audits would prevent another financial collapse from happening again.

Ross said she didn't know the Romney administration supported democracy as they had "removed most of Springfield's." She said she would look for "realistic" plans to help the city.

"Springfield has brilliance that's not being tapped," she said.

***
The clumping of reporters around the candidates after the debate always is an interesting barometer of their popularity. The reporters seeking a post-debate quote mobbed Healey and Patrick, while Mihos attracted substantially less interest.

Ross seemed to care less about the ritual. She left the stage and went about the audience greeting supporters and talking with people.

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. My words alone. Blame no one else.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I posted the draft of the first chapter of my Fleischer book over on Made of Pen and Ink. Check it out! Chapter Two should come aboard some time this week.

Hey, I'll be joining my pal Marty Langford (Magadelina's Brain) at his table at the Rock and Shock Convention in Worcester, MA, Oct. 14 and 15. Marty will be selling his and other independent movies and I will have a new product firmly aimed at the disenfranchised....a black silicone wristband that reads I HATE PEOPLE.

Yes it's a wristband for the rest of us! Inkwell Productions is back in business with something no one needs but I hope a lot of people will want!

Big bad Steve Bissette will be making an super duper rare convention appearance by joining us on Sunday. He'll have goodies to sell and sign as well. If you are a Bissette fan this may be your only chance to see Steve at a convention for years to come! It's hard to pry him out of his Vermont mountain compound! We had to use a crowbar!

We may have a couple of other guests at the table as well, but they have yet to be confirmed. Our spot will be the place to be. I will be handing out complimentary Squirrel Nut Zippers as long as they last.

Google Rock and Shock and get the latest details.

© 2006 Gordon Michael Dobbs. Boy, I hope I haven't offended any one!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

"Head Trauma," the new film from producer, director and writer Lance Weiler, was released on DVD on Sept. 26 and Weiler has avoided the sophomore curse.

Weiler and Stefan Avalos made history in 1998 when the pair produced "The Last Broadcast," the first motion picture that was shot digitally and then transmitted by satellite to theaters which used a digital projector to present the film.

What made the pair's accomplishment all so much more impressive is they did it as independents working far outside of the studio system.

While other filmmakers have tried to obscure this milestone, Weiler and Stefan made movie history. They also made a good movie, the premise of which was stolen by the producers of "The Blair Witch Project."

"The Last Broadcast" is being re-released on DVD in a new edition packed with extras on Sept. 26 as well.

Weiler is now back with his second film, which is a taut psychological thriller. Undoubtedly one of the savviest independents making films today, Weiler has been touring the nation with a theatrical release of "Head Trauma" prior to the home video release to build up a buzz among critics and fans.

He recently appeared at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, Vermont, with the film.

***
"Head Trauma" tells the story of George Walker, a homeless man who returns to his grandmother's house after a lengthy absence. Walker hopes to fix up the now condemned house - his grandmother has been dead for five years - and turn his life around.

It's not easy as there is a neighbor who wants the house demolished and Walker has no real resources to do the work that needs to be done.

What's worse though are the dreams he is having about a figure in a parka who clearly wants him out of the house. Walker increasingly is having problems distinguishing whether or not the hooded figure is actually real.

Anyone who has waken from a sound sleep wondering if what they experienced was just a dream will identify with Walker's situation.

The film is well directed and keeps viewers off-balance, as any good thriller should. Josh Cramer's editing and Sam Levy's photography matches the tone of the story perfectly.

Shot in an actual condemned house in Scranton, Penn., the film transcends many other current horror and thriller films by actually being about something - a man's redemption. Vince Mola as Walker is quite good in conveying the desperation of a man who yearns to be "normal" but has problems that prevent him from doing so.

Although Weiler could have added the elements that have become standard in the horror and thriller genres - sex and explicit violence - he avoids them. He opts for a clever story and a solid lead performance instead to carry the film.

"Head Trauma" shows what the potential is for independent films. In an era when bloated Hollywood films can fail to deliver the story-telling goods, Weiler proves again you don't need $50 million to make an enjoyable film.

***
Weiler shot "Head Trauma" on a 90-day schedule that was stretched over much of 2004. The complete production budget for the film was $126,000 - peanuts by Hollywood standards.

The film's story was inspired by a very bad car accident that Weiler had 12 years ago. His car was struck head-on by a garbage truck and Weiler spent five days in intensive care. He had very lucid dreams that he couldn't tell if they were real or not.

After spending two and half years and $1 million developing a television show for FOX only to have a new executive regime kill it, Weiler said he wanted to work on something over which he had complete control.

Based in Pennsylvania, Weiler asked city officials in Scranton if they could help him find an abandoned house that would be the centerpiece of the film. Since the city has lost 75,000 people with the closing of nearby coalmines, Weiler had many houses from which to choose.

"They were incredibly disturbing and disgusting," he said. He noted that the house he chose made the crew uncomfortable and few wanted to work in the house by themselves.

Weiler joked that working on the film "felt like head trauma."

True independent film makers - unlike those whose projects are backed by major studio boutique labels - have to "wear 15 hats," he said.

"Film making is problem solving. You're always trying to find creative ways to solve problems," he said.

For more information, log onto www.hereticfilms.com.

© 2006 by Gordon Michael Dobbs. These are my words alone.