Friday, January 27, 2006

I get a lot of e-mail at my job as the managing editor for a group of weekly newspapers and my regular readers know that I like to share some of it from time to time. Here’s something I thought was of interest to the blog world as well.

The Press is Good, But Not Good Enough
By Lee Hamilton

These have been bracing times for those of us who believe that an energetic press is key to the health of American democracy. Matters of great importance to this country – the proper extent and reach of presidential power; how money and lobbying affect policy-making on Capitol Hill; the conduct of the war in Iraq – have been getting a thorough workout in the media over the past year.

So this might seem like an odd time to take the press to task for its shortcomings. Yet that is precisely what is in order at the moment.

An energetic press corps sits at the heart of a free society and is essential to the proper functioning of Congress. It helps set the national agenda. It enables people to be heard. It provides a forum for the arguments, discussions and debates that comprise the marketplace of ideas. It acts as a watchdog and makes it possible for the American people to hold those in power accountable.

Yet all too often, journalists and their editors fall short of their responsibilities. Many journalists in Washington rely too heavily on official sources for their information, and believe “cultivating” those sources to be more important than risking offending them. They follow the pack, rather than pursue stories that no one else has covered.

Too often, they try for a spurious “balance” or yield to the tyranny of “evenhandedness,” making two sides of an issue appear even, when in fact they are not. It is most worrisome that investigative reporting is going out of style, and that the press has let slip its oversight role – its responsibility to look into every nook and cranny of government, and shed light on the doings of officialdom.

Perhaps the Washington press corps is getting its legs under it now. I hope so. I want the press to be skeptical, professional, independent, and self-disciplined. I want it to act on the belief that good, accurate, straightforward reporting is the best antidote to cant, complacency, incompetence and dishonesty within the halls of government. Because if the press doesn’t fulfill its role in our democracy, who will?

Lee Hamilton is Director of the Center on Congress at Indiana University. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives for 34 years

I agree with Mr. Hamilton, but what he fails to mention are the commercial pressures that taint and shape what we see, hear and read.

When asked whether or not I think “the media” is liberal or conservative, my response has long been “neither.” When I think of “the media” I don’t think of the reporters on the street (they do have opinions), but rather the owners – largely corporate – whose financial expectations and political agendas have a major impact on news coverage.

The political agenda of those corporations is one of self-preservation and that goal does not always tie into an easily described ideology.

You can control the outcome of events by controlling the choices one has to reach that outcome. Cut the news budgets in the name of profit and you will make an impact on content.

The press is only as “energetic” as its owners allow them to be.

More and more of the national news we are offered is “easy.” It’s gleaned from press releases and news conferences with sometimes too little investigation behind it. This is not the result of having poor reporters or editors, but news budgets that restrict the ability of those people to do their jobs.

And more and more of the lines between what are entertainment, news and punditry are blurring. For example, Bill O’Reilly likes to cast himself as a reporter, rather than a commentator, and too many people chose to believe him.

On the local level, people can pick up the phone and call folks such as myself to ask questions about coverage, but on the national level we’re stuck. Do you think that GE really cares what we thought of The Today Show’s coverage of the study determining which kind of fabric makes a woman’s backside appear larger?

Is that newsworthy enough to be on the top-ranked national morning television show?

Thursday, January 26, 2006

John Melendez is the second member of the Howard Stern cast I've interviewed (voice actor Billy West is the other). I'm not a big fan of Stern's radio show, although his television series he did in 1990 or so from WOR was a very guilty pleasure.

I think Stern has an element of genius about him in recognizing that presenting material that would appeal to 13 year-old bots who just learned to masterbate would ensure him a permanent audience of adult men.

In any event, here's what I wrote about the Artist Formerly Known as Stuttering John.

John Melendez has a list of his greatest hits, but none of them involve music.

The Howard Stern alumni, who spent much of his 15 years with the "King of All Media" ambushing celebrities with outrageous questions, recalled how Raquel Welch punched him in the nose and how Sharon Stone's bodyguard "laid him out."
Joan Rivers insulted his looks, but Melendez thought she was funny.

These days, though, Melendez doesn't have to worry about dodging punches. As the announcer on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Melendez gets to act in comedy sketches and go on the street as a correspondent.

Now he is touring as a stand-up comic. Melendez, formerly known as "Stuttering John," Modi (frequent guest on The Howard Stern Show) and Ross the Intern (currently on The Tonight Show) all perform at The Comedy Connection Hu Ke Lau in Chicopee on January 28 at two shows.

Melendez appeared at the Chicopee comedy club about three years ago and said, "It's great."

He has been performing comedy for the last four years, something he has wanted to do since he was a child watching The Carol Burnett Show and Saturday Night Live.

Yet what held him back was being "terrified of getting on stage and bombing."

That fear abated when Melendez realized his gig with Howard Stern required considerable courage and that he "had the nerves to ask a celebrity about bowel movements."

He has been writing jokes for years and has "always wanted to do [stand up comedy.]"

Through therapy, Melendez has overcome his stutter and had to prove to NBC executives that he could do the announcing chores on The Tonight Show without a hitch. He was first offered a job as a correspondent on the show after he had completed his appearance in the reality show I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here. He recalled lying on his cot and fantasizing about being on The Tonight Show.

Much to his amazement, when he returned from the show, there was an offer for him. He had to turn it down as he was "getting crap from Stern about being gone too long."

A second offer was also turned down, but Melendez accepted the third and last offer.

"It was time for me to go," he said. "There were no hard feelings. It was the right move to make."

He said that being on The Tonight Show is the "complete opposite of the show I was on before."

Melendez had started with Stern as an intern and spent 15 years on the show. He said he enjoyed doing the hit and run interviews of celebrities, although there came a point when many of his interview subjects played along with the gag, rather than be insulted.

"It was less interesting," he said.

He recalled disguising himself in order to catch people off guard, but he was still recognized.

Melendez said he had both "good times and bad times" on the Stern show and he was invited to be on the last broadcast before Stern made his move to satellite radio. He didn't attend because of a scheduling problem.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

He's back!

You just can't keep a good publicity seeking fundamentalist Christian minister down! Massachusetts clergyman Tom Crouse had found a new venue and a new wrinkle to his Mr. Heterosexual contest. Read on:


Mechanics Hall is one of the world's finest concert halls. The Hall boasts a celebrity list that includes Thoreau and Dickens, Caruso and Dvorak, Teddy Roosevelt and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Yo Yo Ma and Itzak Perlman, Mel Torme and Ella Fitzgerald
And now the Mr Heterosexual 2006 Contest.

After having the original venue cancel due to the pressure of the homosexual activists, Pastor and Radio Talk Show Host Tom Crouse ,not to be deterred is pleased to announce that the event will be held in the historic Mechanics Hall, a bigger and better venue.

Also Tom is announcing the addition of a new event for the contest, The Best Marriage Proposal, where the married contestants will describe their proposal, and the single contestants will describe the one they will one day eventually give.

Mr Heterosexual has become the talk of the nation as Pastor Tom Crouse has had the nerve to create an event that celebrates Gods Design. He has been threatened with everything from being set on fire, to passing away soon. The radical homosexual activists have called him everything from Osama Bin Laden to Hitler. Why? Because at this event Tom is bringing in a man who once lived the homosexual lifestyle and has been freed through Jesus Christ!

Mr. Heterosexual Contest
Feb 18th
Mechanics Hall
321 Main St
Worcester Ma.
6:00 pm, Door open at 5:30

Tickets available at ticket office
(508) 752-5608
Reserved Seating

Sigh...there is so much real trauma, heartache, and pain in this world that could be addressed by the compassion of religion and yet we have this guy just trying to make a headline.

If two gay people want to marry and enjoy all that marriage has to offer, then why they hell not? With a 50 percent divorce rate among us heteros they couldn't do much worse.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Two British productions and one from Hong Kong are in this week's DVD column.

As faithful readers must realize by now, I love Hong Kong films and was eager to receive a review copy of Thunderbolt, a Jackie Chan movie made in 1995.

Thunderbolt was made during quite a fertile time for the superstar. He made Rumble in the Bronx in 1995 and Police Story Four: First Strike, the following year. While these films received release here for some reason Thunderbolt never made it to the States until now.

I'm not sure why because it is as good a film as Rumble, though it's not in the top tier of Chan's work. However if you enjoy Chan's brand of fight and stunt sequences as well as some outrageous car racing footage, then Thunderbolt will provide an enjoyable evening of entertainment.

The plot revolves around an international criminal and racecar driver who is beat in a street race by Chan's character, who is a mechanic, kung fu master and part-time racer. From there things get a little predictable as The Cougar wants a re-match and kidnaps Chan's two younger sisters to insure it.

There's precious little of Chan's trademark humor in the film, although the silly performance of Thorston Nickel does provide some unintentional laughs.

There are two martial arts set pieces that are stunners. One is set in a garage, while the other is in a Japanese panchinko parlor.

The DVD offers the film in both widescreen and a full screen version - watch the film in widescreen, please - and has subtitles for those of us who like to hear the actual voices of the actor.

Although it's not a Chan masterwork, it's very entertaining.

For more information, log onto

My wife is an avid mystery fan and being Scottish had long ago discovered the work of Ian Rankin. Rankin has written a series of gritty mysteries set in Edinburgh and featuring a police detective named Rebus.

The fact that my wife actually enjoys the filmed adaptations of the books has spoken volumes to me, as she generally does not like to watch a movie based on a book she has read.

I've not read any of Rankin's work, but I found the Rebus films - originally seen on BBC America and now in a new three disc DVD set - involving viewing.

John Hannah stars as Rebus and is best known to American audiences as the idiot comic relief in The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. There is nothing remotely humorous about his character here. Rebus is a deeply flawed guy. Divorced and living alone, he is a serious drinker. As a police officer, he is willing to do almost anything to achieve his goal of solving a crime and arresting a suspect.

Anyone who likes their crime dramas dark and dirty will enjoy these four Rebus movies in this collection.

And yes, you can understand the actors despite their Scottish accents. Occasionally, there is a bit of slang that might be perplexing, but don't let that stop you from enjoying these mysteries.

There is a documentary on the making of the films that gives people a little background on Rankin, his books and these films.
For more information, log onto

At Last The 1948 Show

If you're a Monty Python fan, then you will probably love see At Last The 1948 Show. If you're not, then this fairly obscure 1967 British television series might seem a bit perplexing.

The 1948 Show is one of two British television series that introduced members of Monty Python before that show was conceived. It stars John Cleese and Graham Chapman from Python along with Marty Feldmen and Tim Brooke-Taylor.

This collection has five of the half -hour shows. Like Python, they are a string of sketches that are connected by segments featuring an actress named Aimi MacDonald whose shtick was to think that the show was all about her.

Shot in black and white, the visuals are at as sharp as I would have liked, but the soundtracks are fine. The shows themselves are quite funny and it's a hoot to see Marty Feldmen who remains one of the best but least appreciated British comics from the period.

For more information go to

Monday, January 23, 2006

This is long, but fun stuff for horror movie fans. Vote early and vote often! Please note that my buddy Steve Bissette is nominated in the Best DVD Extra category for his contribution to the Danger Diabolik DVD.

I love knowing famous people.

Hello cultists.  Here is the official ballot for the Fourth Annual
Rondo Hatton Classic Horror awards, recognizing the best in monster
research, creativity and genre appreciation.

These awards are by fans, for fans. So please take a look at the ballot
and let the nominees below know how much we appreciate their work by

Here's how to vote:

-- All voting is by email. Simply send an email with your picks to me
(David Colton), at by Feb. 18, 2006.

-- Voting will end at midnight, Feb. 18. Winners will be announced the
following night (Sunday, Feb. 19), at the Classic Horror Film Board or

-- Write-ins are accepted. Please note we discourage any organized
voting efforts, such as multiple blind votes.

-- Every email must include your name to help prevent organized voting

-- All votes are kept strictly confidential. No email addresses or any
personal information will ever be shared with anyone.

-- Winners will receive Rondo statuettes sculpted by Kerry Gammill
(, and cast by Tim M. Lindsey (

TO VOTE: E-mail your selections from the ballot below to David Colton

A tip: Some people simply type their selections into an open email;
others cut and paste each winner. The simplest way is to cut and paste
the entire ballot and add check-marks or put winners in bold.

Another tip: The ballot is much easier to read at the Rondo website -- -- but whichever ballot you use, thank you for
participating. Every pro and fan below will really appreciate it!

And now, here is the official ballot, honoring work in 2005:


1. Best Genre Movie of 2005

-- Batman Begins
-- Brothers Grimm
-- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
-- Chronicles of Narnia: The Wardrobe, the Witch and the Lion
-- Corpse Bride
-- Cursed
-- Devil's Rejects
-- Exorcism of Emily Rose
-- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
-- High Tension
-- House of Wax
-- King Kong
-- Land of the Dead
-- Saw 2
-- Serenity
-- Sin City
-- Star Wars III Revenge of the Sith
-- War of the Worlds (Spielberg)
-- Or write in another choice:

2. Best TV Presentation of 2005

-- Animal Planet: 'King Kong.' 12/11/05. Documentary on the misty
origins of Kong and other gorillas.

-- Battlestar Galactica: '33.' SciFi Channel, 1/14/05. Fleet must jump
into hyperspace every 33 minutes to avoid Cylon attack.

-- Carnivale: 'Lincoln Highway.' HBO, 3.6.05. Mystic forces choose
sides as the troubled troupe arrives in Wyoming.

-- Enterprise: 'In a Mirror, Darkly' UPN, (two parts, 4/22 and
4/29/05). Echoing the alternate world of original Star Trek, a warlike
Enterprise crew battles to dominate space.

-- The 4400: 'Life Interrupted.' USA, 7/17/05. Tom is thrown into a
parallel universe where no one has heard of the returnees.

-- 'I'm King Kong: The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper.' TCM, 11/22/05.
Documentary on the man behind the giant ape.

-- Lost: 'The Other 48 Days.' ABC, 11/16/05. Rapid-fire vignettes trace
the harrowing tale of a new set of survivors.

-- Masters of Horror: 'Homecoming.' Showtime, 12/2/05. Slain U.S.
soldiers from Iraq rise from their coffins to confront those who sent
them to war. Joe Dante directed.

-- Masters of Horror: 'Dreams in the Witch-House.' Showtime, 11/4/05.
Stuart Gordon adapts H.P. Lovecraft's chiller about forbidden books and

-- 'Midnight Movies: From the Margin to the Mainstream.' Encore,
8/5/05. Documentary looks at cult films that sparked the midnight movie
craze of the 70s.

-- 'Watch the Skies.' TCM, 7/5/05. Documentary examines how 1950s
science fiction films reflected nervous times.

-- Or write in another choice:

3. Best Classic Horror DVD

-- Adventures of Superman Season One
-- Bela Lugosi Collection (Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Black Cat,
The Raven, Invisible Ray, Black Friday)
-- Cat and the Canary (1927)
-- Danger: Diabolik
-- Defa Science Fiction Collection
-- Hammer Horror Collection (Brides of Dracula, Curse of the Werewolf,
Evil of Frankenstein, five more)
-- Hitchcock Season One
-- The Innocents
-- King Kong (1933) set, including Son Of Kong, Mighty Joe Young
-- Man With Nine Lives (Karloff)
-- The Mysterians and Matango (Attack of the Mushroom People)
-- Quatermass (BBC shows)
-- Twilight Zone Vols. 2-5
-- Val Lewton Collection (Cat People, Walked with a Zombie, etc.)
-- War of the Worlds (1953)
-- Or write in another choice:

4. Best Restoration of a Classic Film

-- THE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE (1970): Complete in U.S. for first
time, mastered from original negative.
-- CAT AND THE CANARY (1927) Cleaner print; slightly different take of
the necklace-snatching.
-- FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR: Widescreen and first 10 minutes
restored in English.
-- KING KONG (1933) Film restored from best available elements;
censored scenes no longer dark.
-- UGETSU: Dazzling print of classic Japanese ghost story.
-- WIZARD OF OZ: Million-dollar digital Technicolor restoration.
-- Or write in another choice:

5. Best DVD Extra

-- CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST: Includes version without animal cruelty.
-- DANGER: DIABOLIK: Featurette, "Diabolik from Fumetti to Film' by
Steve Bissette.
-- FLESH EATERS: Missing footage uncovered.
-- FRANKENSTEIN'S BLOODY TERROR: Paul Naschy interview (with English
-- KING KONG (1933) Peter Jackson's crew uses stop-motion to recreate
the lost spider scene.
-- MUNSTERS SECOND SEASON: Documentary, 'First Family of Fright.'
-- MYSTERIANS: Includes original storyboards.
-- RAY HARRYHAUSEN: THE EARLY YEARS. Completed 'Tortoise and the Hare,'
unfinished since 1952.
-- STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT: Tribute to composer Jerry Goldsmith.
-- VAL LEWTON COLLECTION: Documentary, 'Shadows in the Dark: The Val
Lewton Legacy.'
--Or write in another choice:

6. Best DVD Commentary (New category)

-- Rudy Behlmer: Chang (Cooper/Schoedsack film)
-- Bob Burns, Joe Dante and Bill Warren: 1953 War of the Worlds.
-- David Cronenberg: The Fly (1986)
-- Ray Harryhausen, Terry Moore, Ken Ralston: Mighty Joe Young (1949)
-- Steve Haberman: Seventh Victim; The Body Snatcher (with Robert Wise)
-- John Philip Law, Tim Lucas: Danger: Diabolik
-- Gregory Mank: Cat People, Curse of the Cat People
-- Kim Newman, Steve Jones: I Walked with a Zombie
-- Tom Weaver: Bedlam

7. Best Independent Production on DVD

-- CALL OF CTHULHU: A new silent film in the style of the 1920s,
produced by the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

-- DEADLY SPAWN: Deluxe edition of 22-year-old independent includes

and Lee, this reissued documentary includes complete home movies from
set of Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

-- HILARIOUS HOUSE OF FRIGHTENSTEIN. Four episodes of 1970s Canadian
horror variety spoof, narrated by Vincent Price.

-- MONSTER KID HOME MOVIES. Collection of 30 nostalgic 8mm films made
when fans were young. Filmmakers include Bob Burns, Frank Dietz, Kerry
Gammill, Bob Tinnell, Tom Weaver, Joe Busam and Richard Olsen.

-- RAY HARRYHAUSEN: THE EARLY YEARS. Compiles his short Puppetoons,
test reels and projects.

-- SILVER SCREAM: A musical sendup of King Kong, the Exorcist, Psycho
and more.

-- ZACHERLEY ARCHIVES: Rare TV shows from the 1950s; the DVD version
includes hours of extras, including Zach going through his 'stuff.'

-- Or write in another choice:

8. Best Book of 2005

-- The Astounding B-Monster, by Marty Baumann. Collects best of this
very influential website.

-- Beasts in the Cellar: The Exploitation Film Career of Tony Tenser,
by John Hamilton. Looks at the influence of English horror producer.

-- Beating the Devil: The Making of Night of the Demon, by Tony
Earnshaw. Examines the true story behind the different versions of
Curse of the Demon.

-- Crystal Lake Memories: The Complete History of Friday the 13th, by
Peter M. Bracke. Every film and Jason examined in depth.

-- Earth vs. The Sci-Fi Filmmakers, by Tom Weaver. Latest collection of
interviews includes Donnie Dunagan, Peter Graves and more.

-- The Films of Fay Wray, by Roy Kinnard and Tony Crnkovich. The first
scream queen's filmography was more than horror.

-- Icons of Grief: Val Lewton's Home Front Pictures, by Alexander
Nemerov. How his horror films in the 40s mirrored the isolation and
fear of a society at war.

-- Italian Horror, by Jim Harper. An A to Z look at the great wave of
Italian horror from 1979 to 1994.

-- Italian Horror Film Directors, by Louis Paul. A knowledgeable look
at Argento, Bava, Fulci and many more.

-- Kenneth Strickfaden, Dr. Frankenstein's Electrician, by Harry
Goldman. An eye-opening look at a true electrical wizard behind the
machines in the lab.

-- King Kong Cometh, edited by Paul A. Woods. Collection of Kong
essays, production documents and rare photos.

-- Living Dangerously: The Adventures of Merian C. Cooper, by Mark
Cotta Vaz. Surprising details about the man behind Kong and Cinerama.

-- The Lost One: A Life of Peter Lorre, by Stephen D. Youngkin. The
definitive biography of one of horror's most haunting figures.

-- Minds of Fear: 30 Cult Classics of the Modern Horror Film, by Calum
Waddell. Critiques and interviews analyze key films of recent decades.

-- Or write in another choice:

9. Best Magazine

-- Chiller Theatre
-- Cinema Retro
-- Cult Movies
-- Fangoria
-- Filmfax
-- G-FAN
-- Little Shoppe of Horrors
-- Midnight Marquee
-- Monster Bash
-- Monsters from the Vault
-- Phantom of the Movies VideoScope
-- Psychotronic
-- Rue Morgue
-- Shock Cinema
-- Scarlet Street
-- Scary Monsters
-- Starlog
-- Van Helsing's Journal
-- Video Watchdog
-- Or write in another choice:

10. Best Magazine Article of 2005 (PLEASE PICK TWO)

-- "Lord of the Blind Dead: The Lost Interview with Armano Ossorio,''
by Trevor Barley and Chris Alexander. RUE MORGUE #49.

-- "They Did Science! Dr. Paul Armstrong's Handy Guide to 50s Sci Fi
Heroes,'' by Larry Blamire, VIDEO WATCHDOG #120. Light-hearted look at
the actors who fought the monsters.

-- "Good News! Good News! The Making of the Mysterians,'' by Peter H.
Brothers, G-FAN #73. Includes rare production documents and photos.

-- "Our Skull Island Odyssey,'' by Bob Burns as told to Tom Weaver,
STARLOG #343. Recounting Bob's trip to New Zealand where he showed off
the original Kong armature, met Peter Jackson and ended up in the

-- "Universal's Other Monsters: A Legacy Written in Gauze, Claws and
Tana Leaves,'' by Bill Cooke, VIDEO WATCHDOG #118. Examines
film-by-film the Universal 'Legacy' collections.

-- "A Long Lost Lugosi Dracula Found'' by Frank J. Dello Stritto,
documents a performance of 'Dracula' in Vermont from the 50s. CULT

-- "The Magic of Menzies,'' by Vincent DiFate, FILMFAX #105-106. The
genius behind Things to Come and Thief of Bagdad and Invaders from

-- "Crimes Against Continuity: 35 Monstrous Mistakes (or at least some
irritating inconsistencies), as seen in Frankenstein,'' by Wray Ellis,
FILMFAX #106. How did that third shovel get there? And other mysteries.

-- "Memories of Janet Ann,'' by Dominic Florentino, SCARY MONSTERS #53.
Meeting a monster icon, Janet Ann Gallow from Ghost of Frankenstein, at
the Monster Bash.

-- "Edward and Obie: Reassessing the Partnership Between Two Dinosaur
Men,'' by William Fogg, FILMFAX #105. Revelatory look at the sometimes
strained relations between Willis O'Brien and the Ed Nassour during the
Beast of Hollow Mountain.

-- "Recollections of Simone,'' by Roy Frumkes, SCARLET STREET #54.
Comprehensive interview with iconic star of Cat People.

-- "The Complete Guide to 100 Alternative Horror Films,'' by Rod
Gudino, Chris Alexander and Jovanka Vuckovic, RUE MORGUE #50. From
classics to moderns, films you might have missed.

-- "The Ray Harryhausen UFO Effect: Earth vs. the Flying Saucers,'' by
Jack Hagerty. FILMFAX #105. Detailed look behind the classic invasion.

-- "The Making of Captain Clegg (aka Night Creatures),'' by Bruce G.
Hallenbeck, LITTLE SHOPPE OF HORRORS #17. On the set with Cushing and
others behind the Hammer classic.

-- "The Ferociously Compelling Barbara Steele in Nightmare Castle,'' by
David J. Hogan, MIDNIGHT MARQUEE #73/74. Shows how a minor film is
deeper than we might think.

-- "Don't Open the Coffin: A Baby Boomer's Adventure in the Land of
Dark Shadows,'' by Rod Labbe, SCARY MONSTERS #55. An extensive look
back at the horror soap, including numerous sidebars and cast

-- "24 Monsters Per Second: The DVD Voyage of Ray Harryhausen,'' by
Charlie Largent, VIDEO WATCHDOG #115. Detailed look at how Harryhausen
has fared on DVD.

-- "Shades of Renfield: Ten Buzzing Performances,'' by Tim Lucas, VIDEO
WATCHDOG #121. The author of The Book of Renfield reveals his favorite

-- "The Mystery of Lionel Atwill: An Interview with the Son of the Late
Great Horror Star,'' by Greg Mank, MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT #20. First
interview with Anthony Atwill about his father, growing up in
Hollywood, and the legacy of horror.

-- "Monstrous Musicals,'' by Alvin H. Marill, SCARLET STREET #53.
Unique survey of musical versions of the classic monsters, both famous
and obscure.

-- "Algol," by Henry Nicollela, VAN HELSING'S JOURNAL #6. Analyzes the
forgotten German silent fiction film.

-- "The Panther Women of the Island of Lost Souls,'' by Gary Don
Rhodes, MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT #20. Reveals the orchestration behind a
nationwide search for an actress to play the savage love interest

-- "Triffids on the March: from John Wyndham to the BBC,'' by David J.
Schow, VIDEO WATCHDOG #120. Everything you need to know about the
murderous walking plants.

-- "Frank Strayer: Poverty Row's Dark Director,'' by Kenny Strong,
MIDNIGHT MARQUEE #73/74. The man behind some of Hollywood's least
regarded films.

-- "The Horrific Cinema Heritage of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Part 2,''
by Tom Triman. JOURNAL OF FRANKENSTEIN #7. From film to radio and
television, Hyde in all his transformations.

-- "War Correspondent," Bill Warren interviews David Koepp,
screenwriter of War of the Worlds. STARLOG #336. Explains how much of
the Spielberg film derived from Wells' novel.

-- "Justice -- Lost in Space?,'' by Tom Weaver, MONSTERS FROM THE VAULT
#20. Traces Ib Melchior's battle with Irwin Allen over who came up with
the real Space Family Robinson.

-- "Character King Brad Dourif: From Cuckoo's Nest to Seed of Chucky,''
by Scott Voisin, VIDEOSCOPE #55 Career-spanning interview, including

-- Or write in another choice:

Remember to vote for two articles from the list above. One will win.

11. Best Magazine Cover of 2005 (You can find images of the covers at

-- Chiller Theatre #23
by Daniel Horne

-- Filmfax #105
by Harley Brown

-- Little Shoppe of Horrors #17
by Steve Karchin

-- Monster Bash #4
by Lorraine Bush

-- Midnight Marquee #73/74
by Sue Svehla

-- Monsters from the Vault #20
by Joe Schovitz

-- Rue Morgue #50
by Bob Tyrell

-- Scarlet Street #54
by Ted A. Bohus and Tom Amorosi

-- Scary Monsters #56
by Terry Beatty

-- Videoscope #53
by Kevin Hein

-- Video Watchdog #115
by Charlie Largent

-- Video Watchdog #120
by Charlie Largent

12. Best Website

-- Astounding B-Monster
-- A Tribute to Lon Chaney Jr. Yahoo Group
-- Brideofhouseofuniversal Yahoo Group
-- Creature from the Black Lagoon Yahoo Group
-- Creepy Classics
-- Dr. Gangrene's Chiller Cinema
-- DVD Drive-In
-- DVD Maniacs
-- DVD Savant
-- Eccentric-cinema
-- George 'E-Gor' Chastain's MonsterMad lab
-- Groovy Age of Horror
-- Horror-Wood Webzine
-- Latarnia: Fantastique International
-- Lugosiphilia Yahoo Group
-- Masters of Horror
-- Mobius Home Video Forum
-- Monster-Maniacs Forum
-- Professor Griffin's Midnight Shadow Show
-- Scarlet Street
-- Secret Fun Spot
-- Solar Guard Academy
-- Universal Monster Army Yahoo Group
-- Universal Steve
-- Video Watchblog
-- Or write in another choice:

13. Best Convention of 2005

-- CHILLER (Meadowlands)
-- FANEX (Baltimore)
-- G-FEST (Chicago)
-- HORROR-FIND (Baltimore)
-- MONSTER BASH (Butler, Pa.)
-- MONSTER-MANIA (Cherry Hill, N.J.)
-- SCREAMFEST (Ft. Lauderdale)
-- WONDERFEST (Louisville)
-- Or write in another choice:

14. Best Fan Event of 2005

-- Annual Blob panic reenactment of moviegoers fleeing, held at actual
theater where movie was filmed in Phoenixville, Pa. (Blobfest)

-- Dr. Gangrene's Chiller Theater Live! at WonderFest includes a
surprise -- and historic -- visit from Bob Burns dressed again in his
Tracey the Gorilla suit.

-- Frankenswine Trilogy by Brian Nichols and his fabulous Ghoul Girls
(who look suspiciously like his daughters!), is screened at the Monster

-- Godzilla: Final Wars is screened to more than a thousand fans at

-- Standing ovation for first-ever Nightmare on Elm Street cast
reunion, at Monster-Mania 4.

-- 30th Anniversary Presentation of Rocky Horror Picture Show, at the
Hollywood Bowl, the largest gathering ever to see the film.

-- Dan Roebuck revives the Spook Show, bringing Doctor Shocker and his
Hilarious Halloween Spooktacular to a theater in Glendale, Calif.

-- Dead Elvi joined by Bobby Boris Pickett and Zacherley for 'Monster
Mash' at Chiller Convention.

-- First cut of Terror in the Tropics is screened to fans at Fanex 18
in Baltimore.

15. Best CD of 2005

-- ATLANTIS THE LOST CONTINENT/THE POWER, original soundtracks, Film
Score Monthly
-- MARIO BAVA Original Soundtrack Anthology Vol. 1 and 2.
-- CAPRICORN ONE (Jerry Goldsmith), original soundtrack, Intrada
-- THE CREEPING CRUDS: The Incredibly Strange People Who Stopped Living
And Became the Creeping Cruds. Horror rock from Nashville, includes Dr.
Gangrene intro.
-- ELECTRIC FRANKENSTEIN, Burn Bright, Burn Fast, TKO Records. Horror
rock, cover by Gogos.
-- THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (Dimitri Tiomkin), Film Score Monthly
-- THE TIME MACHINE (Russell Garcia), Film Score Monthly
-- Or write in another choice:

16. Best Horror Comic of 2005

-- Bigfoot by Steve Niles, Rob Zombie, Richard Corben (IDW)
-- The Black Forest #2 by Bob Tinnell, Todd Livingston and Neil Vokes.
-- Constantine: All His Engines, by Mike Carey (Vertigo)
-- The Faceless (A Terry Sharp Story) by Tinell and Adrian Salmon.
-- Frankenstein Now and Forever by Alex Baladi (Translation of Franch
graphic novel)
-- The Goon: Fancy Pants, by Eric Powell (Dark Horse)
-- The Man With the Screaming Brain, by Bruce Campbell (Dark Horse)
-- Phantom Jack by Mike San Giacomo
-- Spike: Old Times, by Peter David and Fernando Goni (IDW)
-- 30 Days of Night: Bloodsucker Tales (IDW)
-- The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard.

17. Best Model or Collectible

-- Classic TV Munsters (Mego)
-- Dollar Tree monster toys
-- Godzilla Christmas Ornament (Carlton Cards)
-- Metaluna Mutant (Sideshow)
-- Tingler (Ultratumba)
-- 'Tooned Up' Munster figures (Electric Tiki)
-- Universal Monsters village sets/figures (Hawthorne)
-- Wolf Man (1/4 scale, Sideshow)
-- Or write in another choice:

18. Count Alucard's Controversy of the Year

-- Borrowed words! British magazine THE DARK SIDE found to have printed
numerous DVD reviews lifted from online websites.

-- We're pixelated! New multi-movie DVDs, such as the Bela Lugosi and
Hammer collection, freeze up on some DVD players.

-- No billing! Boris Karloff's name does not appear on cover of
Universal's 'The Bela Lugosi Collection' even though he stars or
co-stars in four of the five films.

-- Going bats! National Film Museum's 'restored' VAMPIRE BAT, shown on
TCM, is found to contain inserts from another movie.

-- Dueling stuntmen! Who really doubled for the Monster in FRANKENSTEIN
MEETS THE WOLF MAN? Gil Perkins? Eddie Parker? Or both?

-- Or write in another choice:

19. Best DVD Company of 2005

-- Alpha Video: Great cover art for poverties and independents
-- Blue Underground: Euro horror.
-- Criterion: Still a class act.
-- Kino: Keeping silents alive.
-- MGM: What will follow Midnight Movies?
-- RetroMedia: Unexpected delights.
-- Universal: Repackaging the classics.
-- VCI: Targets classics and obscure serials.
-- Warner Bros: Brought us Kong, box sets.
-- Or write in another choice here:

20. Classic Most in Need of DVD Release

-- Chandu the Magician (Lowe/Lugosi)
-- Charlie Chan (Fox series)
-- Doctor X
-- Hangover Square
-- Incredible Shrinking Man
-- Inner Sanctum series (Chaney)
-- Island of Lost Souls
-- Judex
-- Jungle Woman trilogy
-- The Lodger
-- Mad Love
-- Man-Made Monster
-- Mark of the Vampire
-- Mask of Fu Manchu
-- Monolith Monsters
-- Murders in the Zoo
-- Secret of the Blue Room
-- Tarantula
-- Tarzan (RKO series)
-- Or write in another choice:

21. Writer of the Year

Who did the best work in 2005 to advance the state of classic horror
research. Write-ins only.


Who deserves to be named 'Monster Kid of the Year' for efforts beyond
the call of duty to build a better world of gods and monsters? (Past
winners: Arnold Kunert, who got Ray Harryhausen his star on Hollywood
Walk of Fame, and Larry Blamire, the mad scientist behind Lost Skeleton
of Cadavra).


Who are the all-time 'Monster Kids' who should be this year's inductees
into the Monster Kid Hall of fame?
Already inducted are: Bob and Kathy Burns, Forrest J Ackerman and James
Warren, Zacherley and Vampira, Ray Harryhausen, Ray Bradbury, Alex and
Richard Gordon, William K. Everson and Rick Baker.

And that's it!!!

Simply email your choices to David Colton before
Saturday night at midnight, Feb. 17.

All votes require a name -- to avoid voting campaigns -- but are kept
strictly anonymous.

And anyone who sends along a street address will get an 'I Voted' Rondo
pin as an appreciation. Absolutely free.

Thanks again for being part of the Fourth Annual Rondo Hatton Classic
Horror Awards. Find out all about the Rondos -- including lists of past
winners -- at

Or, as Rondo once explained, 'She screamed.'

Saturday, January 21, 2006

I met a fellow film critic at a Chamber of Commerce event this week and during the course of the discussion he mentioned that I liked “crap” movies. He said it with a smile on his face and I know he didn’t mean to be insulting but it got me thinking.

I’m in between two close friends when it comes to film appreciation. My buddy Steve uses the word “great” to describe damn near everything. My buddy Mark hates practically everything.

Both of them will dispute my characterizations, I’m sure. Sorry guys! I love you!

The bottom line is that at age 51 I know there are a lot of films I’d like to see, many articles I’d like to write and dozens of filmmakers I’d love to interview. They are not all “mainstream,” though, and perhaps in a lot of people’s eyes they would be “crap.”

My tastes in film run counter to conventional wisdom. For instance, I’d rather watch an afternoon of obscure silent cartoons than to be made to see the last few Disney animated features. I don’t care if I’m “supposed” to see something. If the film isn’t of interest to me, then the hell with it.

A long time ago I got over the expectation that as a film guy I was supposed to be open minded enough to sit through stuff the big city critics had dubbed as “art.” I was opened-minded to suffer through three inexplicable turds: Santa Sangre, Twin Peaks Come Fire With Me and Faust.

Make that four: The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover.

Never again.

Still, I consider myself an adventurous guy film-wise. Little known Hong Kong movie? I’m there. Low budget independent? I’ll try it. Poverty Row B-Western? Definitely! Silent movie that hasn’t been seen in 70 years? Oh, yeah!

Here is a short list of films that I have seen that I never want to see again no matter how artistically correct they are:

Gone With the Wind (I’ll watch the scene with Tom Tyler again, though)


Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Lost in Translation

Anything by Ingmar Bergman (except The Seventh Seal)

Dogville (I have it 90 minutes when I saw it at Sundance and then walked out)

Here are some films that I’m suppose to see but I won’t:

Brokeback Mountain (no gay-bashing here, I just don’t want to sit through a depressing picture about people who can’t be themselves)



Damn near any glossy “classic” MGM made in the 1940s

Here are films I’ll watch over and over:

Keaton’s Sherlock Junior (hell any of Keaton’s silents)


Damn near anything by Von Stroheim

The Adventures of Captain Marvel

The Big Lebowski

The Last Outlaw

Citizen Kane

Touch of Evil

Brides of Dracula

Richard Gordon/Radley Metzger’s The Cat and The Canary

Peking Opera Blues

Dinosaur Island

Footlight Parade

Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son in Law

The Bride of Frankenstein

Chinese Ghost Story

Jackie Chan’s Police Story series

Damn near any documentary by Ken Burns

Are there nuggets of fool’s gold in my pan? Sure. I can’t defend Rudy Ray Moore or Fred Olen Ray, except to say I find some fo their films very entertaining.

Crap or not I know what I like.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Politics is almost as fun as show business to cover. There are a lot of the same values there: illusion, importance of form over content, etc.

Of course so far I can't recall anyone in show business who has started a war.

The best thing about political reporting is the punditry. There are multitudes of talking heads who drone on and on in a growing number of venues with their interpretation of facts and predictions.

Factual reporting is great. Analysis is just gas three-quarters of the time.

But I like this website as it handicaps the candidates like a horse race.

Here is what they have to say about our empty suit and a haircut governor Mitt Romney who dropped from second to fourth place:

"It's easy to be a front runner when you're not really running yet. But with his recent announcement that he's definitely a one-termer in Massachussetts, the speculation can end. He's in, kids, and now the real fun begins. Can the dashing governor and Olympic hero withstand the bright spotlight on his record, religion and his reportedly mixmash positions on abortion? If so, expect to see him run well into the final stretch."

Mitt is a lousy governor who clearly used the position as a stepping stone to the national arena. He's a rich, fairly glib, good-looking guy with not a frickin' clue what the working person faces here in this state. I've been at press conferences and events covering him and he has never truly impressed me. I only voted for him because I didn't want the hack running for the other party to get in.

The number one Republican right now? Senator George Allen. The number one Dem? Hillary Clinton.

Boy I hope these guys are just gasbags and not Kreskin!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Bothered by illegal domestic spying? A tax code so complex that it requires a PhD. to understand? Tired that you can't have all the guns and drugs you want?

Well sign up now for the... Free State Project.

Yup, those wacky Libertarians have a new idea to turn one state into a Libertarian haven. The release I received follows:

The Free State Project Seeks THE FIRST 1000

The Free State Project announced today the launch of The First 1000
program, a program designed to speed the migration of liberty lovers
to the state of New Hampshire.

The Free State Project, begun in 2001 as the brainchild of Dr. Jason
Sorens, is committed to getting 20,000 individuals to agree to move
to New Hampshire where they will work to bring about a society in
which government's maximum role is protecting life, liberty,
and property. There are almost 7,000 signers to that commitment.

Already, over 100 individuals have moved to New Hampshire as part of
their commitment to the Free State Project. But signers are not
obligated to move until 20,000 have signed up. Now, the Free State
Project is challenging its participants and other freedom oriented
individuals to move to New Hamsphire sooner.

"We want to create a beacon for liberty in New
Hampshire," said Varrin Swearingen, FSP director and Vice
President. "Those of us who have already moved have seen what a
difference just a few people can make. We want to see for ourselves,
and show the rest of the world, what 1,000 can do."

Ian Bernard, an FSP participant, long time supporter, and host of
the Free Talk Live radio program ( is
promoting the challenge. Ian challenges 999 other freedom oriented
individuals to commit to a move to the Free State by the end of 2008.
The pledge terminates at the end of this year.

While the Free State Project has no official agenda other than
encouraging libertarian activists to move to New Hampshire,
participants are expected to work toward reducing government in the
areas they care most about. Some examples of issues being championed
by individual activists include fighting the exploitation of eminent
domain by private interests, decriminalizing marijuana possession,
and increasing educational freedom.

For more information about this, see

This is an interesting approach to politics. If we can't convince the electorate of the validity of our viewpoints, we will pick someplace to over-run.

The only thing missing is a call for Libertarians of child-bearing age so the right-thinking population could be increased in future generations. And Libertarians could begin adopting kids as well to keep swelling the Libertarian masses.

Republicans could target a "liberal" state such as Massachusetts to do the same thing. Democrats could flood a state like Utah.

It could be good for the economy. Lots of people moving around the country, buying homes, investing in their new communities.

Maybe the Libertarians are on to something.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

This has been a trying week at work and I've neglected my blogging duties once again. However I've collected some interesting items which will be posted throughout this week.

Here's the first. Would you like to cover the Iraqi War? I received the following late last week:


The Marines are looking for a few good--REPORTERS. 1st Battalion 25th
Marines of New England is extending an invitation to all media for an
opportunity to witness first-hand what it takes to be a member of this
elite fighting force! Learn about the 25th Marines and track their
activities during their year deployment in Iraq. Two possible options to
embed with 1/25...

Option 1: Stateside - Attend Mojave Viper, counter insurgency training, in
Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Training is scheduled in mid Feb. (specific dates to be announced soon).
You can embed with 1/25 during their rigorous pre-deployment training in
the desert of California near Palm Springs. Mojave Viper provides Marines
realistic training in preparation for their tour in IRAQ.

No special equipment necessary for this trip. Media can chose length of
stay up to three weeks from units' arrival. Reporters are responsible for
all travel expenses.

Option 2: Join 1/25 in Iraq - Embed with the unit in Fallujah.
Reporters are welcome to join the New England based unit beginning in
April 2006. Reporters are required to fund all travel expenses to/from
Baghdad. All meals and local travel provided at no cost once there. Iraq
bound reporters will be provided with a list of required protective
equipment necessary for this trip.

If you are interested in a personal view of the Marine mission either in
Twentynine Palms, Calif. or Fallujah, Iraq, please complete the basic
request form below and send to your local public affairs representative
listed below.

* Brief bio, including any previous embed experience
* Sample of articles published as an embedded journalist (if
* Date requested to begin embed (29 Palms: Feb-Mar or Iraq: April-Oct)
* Date requested to terminate embed
* Statement of intent (what you would like to cover while embedded
with 1/25)
* For Baghdad bound journalists, you will also be required to provide
your weight, number and
weight of all bags, SSN and blood type (this is for military travel
arrangements and cargo planning).

Please direct questions regarding guidelines and ground rules to your
local public affairs representative below.

Lastly, if you are not able to deploy with the unit but still want to keep
in contact with the Marines and their activities, contact your local
public affairs office below.

Gunnery Sergeant Pete Walz
Public Affairs Chief
1st Battalion 25th Marines
Ft. Devens Reserve Forces Training Area
Ayer, MA 01434

Now if I was 25 or so and single, I would probably consider applying. There is something about seeing a historic event up close that is very seductive despite the very real danger you would be facing along with the troops.

Two of my reporters want to cover the desert training. One would apply for the overseas duty if her personal situation would allow her.

I'm asking the publisher if he would pay for their air fare and if he agrees they will be sending in their applications.

Massachusetts has sent many of its residents over to Iraq and our newspapers have carried two series of reports filed by area folks who are there. Some people might wonder why a group of community weeklies would want to cover something like the Iraqi War when usually our role is to cover more "down home news."

The fact is this war is "down home." Any time the president decides to risk the lives of American service men and women, that is indeed a LOCAL story. It's important for people to realize that this war, like others, is fought by people with whom we have a connection: friends, son, daughters, students, co-workers.

Perhaps its my childhood as the son of a career military officer manifesting itself, but that's why I'm always inclined to run articles about the people involved in this conflict. I don't what this war to become an abstraction.

And I'm afraid that for many it has always been an abstraction. But for the people who follow the news each day to see what is happening or wait for that call or e-mail, this war is part of their day to day lives.

Monday, January 09, 2006

From 1982 to 1987 I was a talk show host on a now defunct radio station here in western Massachusetts. The station – WREB– was the one of the first all-talk stations in this market.

I lucked onto the evening drive slot from 3 to 7 p.m. Since it was a dawn to dusk station, I also had to do a half-hour, then hour-long newscast at noon in order to justify a full-time paycheck. When the morning man was on vacation or when his assistance wasn't there I had to come in at 5 a.m. to do that shift as well.

Despite the crazy hours and the low pay ($5 an hour), it was one of the best jobs I've ever had. From childhood I always had wanted to be on radio and I was able to be a journalist and a ham all of the same time.

And since I was the house liberal during the reign of Ronald Reagan, I received the most creative hate mail. I realized that it didn't matter how much money I raised for charity or how fair I was in covering politics or social issues, as long as I wore the "liberal" tag, I was the enemy to some of my listeners.

And as long as I disagreed with them on one key issue – such as abortion, women's rights or the saintliness of Ronald Reagan – than I was not to be trusted.

I have to say that I yearn to be on the radio again in a regular capacity as the fly-by-your-ass approach we had at the station to the format was invigorating. We had no call screener and no producer. You kept one finger on the delay button and you hoped for the best.

Despite over 20 years, I don't think anything has changed in the attitude of many of the listeners of talk radio. I know that many of my readers of the papers I edit simply peg me for being a "liberal" – which is the same as being a Godless, socialist pedophile – and don't even try to engage in a discussion without name-calling and using some sort of talking points they heard O'Reilly or Limbaugh tell them to use.

People want to use intellectual short-hand all the time to put others into neat little boxes, possibly the least democratic thing a true patriot can do. I do have friends – and readers– who disagree with me and I enjoy discussing ideas with them.

What so many people forget is the purpose of the O'Reilly show on both radio and television is to present something to lure an audience to it so advertisements can be experienced. FOX might have an ideological commitment to a particular political stance, but if advertisers felt that FOX wasn't reaching the folks it should, there probably would be some surprising changes.

People have got to get past all of the distractions – lies by talk show hosts, puffery by pr flacks, "news" from the networks that really isn't news, entertainment and gossip slop and the frickin' labels – if they really want to solve any problems in this country.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

I recently purchased Richard Fleischer’s book Out of the Inkwell: Max Fleischer and the Animation Revolution.

In a way it was an act of courage to do so. After researching Max and his studio for many years and never able to secure a publishing contract – near misses don’t count – I was afraid this book would permanently sink any chances for my work to be released.

Over the years, I realized that without Richard’s help, I could never write a comprehensive biography. Readers of my blog might remember the posting that detailed my relationship and arrangement with Richard and my efforts to get a publishing contract.

Instead it became clear that what I needed to do was to write about Max, his employees, their cartoons and their considerable legacy. It could not be just a book about Max.

So with this in mind I paid my $18 or so to Amazon and received Richard’s book.
In hindsight I really never had any reason to be worried that his book would trump mine.

Or mine his.

Despite a very misleading title Richard’s book is a compact memoir, a love letter to a man he clearly idolized.

I expected much much more, especially with that title. I thought Richard would analyze what made the Fleischer cartoons so special that 60 and 70 years after their release they are still finding audiences and influencing today’s animators. There is little of this kind of material in the book.

What the book focuses on is telling Max’s life story with particular emphasis in earlier chapters on the relationships between Max, his wife Essie, and their two children Ruth and Richard.

Another emphasis is on Max’s business arrangements and although Richard doesn’t come out and say it, it’s clear that Max was not a great businessperson.

The strongest point of Richard’s book (besides recounting incidents from his childhood of Fleischer family life) is his detailing of Paramount’s take-over of the Fleischer studio. These chapters are quite shocking in their account of the naked power exercised by Paramount over Max and Dave Fleischer.

Despite it many strengths, the book leaves a number of questions unanswered and make statements of fact that I question.

Richard does not ever explain just what corporate arrangement there was between Max and Dave and why the other brothers were left out of any ownership of the studio. Lou, Joe and Charles were just employees.

Dave played such a key role in the studio’s history and yet Richard does not recount what happened to Dave in his later life. He lived quite a few years past Max and Richard writes of his fondness for his uncle, but there is no follow-through.

Richard relates the success of Max’s Theory of Relativity feature and implies that his father was the producer and creative force behind the film. The four-reel documentary was actually produced by Edwin Miles Fadiman. Max is credited as the “arranger” of the “popular version.

According the the trade paper Moving Picture World, Max was hired by Fadiman to edit some 18,000 feet of footage produced on the theory in Germany and provide animation. Variety panned the movie, but it did do business at key theaters such as the venerable Rialto in New York City.

Richard maintains that Max created Betty Boop. Not only does this statement is controversial in itself – I’ve never interviewed anyone who has said – but it brings ups and does not address the division of labor at the studio.

It’s clear that Max was more actively involved in the production of the silent cartoons because he was actually part of them on screen. Once sound came in, the general consensus is that max and Dave had an agreement: Dave was in charge of production while Max managed the business end.

Ruth Kneitel (Max’s daughter) showed me a script for a proposed cartoon on mermaids that was covered in notes written in red pencil made by her father. There was no date, but the test drawings that went with the script clearly were from the late 1930s or early 40s in sophistication.

So I have never discounted that Max was thinking about the cartoons he produced. However every animator I’ve spoken with has said they all reported to Dave and never mentioned Max in that creative capacity.

Jack Mercer said that he considered Dave and Lou Fleischer his direct boss, but that Max was like the “godfather,” and you would go to him if you had a problem.

Richard makes a reference to Max’s attempt to streamline production through the invention of a new pencil that would eliminate the inking step. Richard acknowledges that the system wasn’t reliable and wasn’t used, but then he writes that his father almost invented Xeroxing! Max’s invention was nothing like the Xerox machine, which eventually was used successfully to eliminate inking.

Edith Vernick is listed as one of the studio’s pioneer women animators. Vernick was given a chance but could not keep up with the pace and really shouldn’t be put in the same classification as Lillian Friedman.

Richard writes that the attack on Pearl Harbor was responsible for the failure of Mr. Bug Goes to Town at the box office. Variety’s trade review was in its Dec. 10, 1941 edition and noted that Paramount “already has a sweeping publicity campaign. Mr. Bug was supposed to be a Christmas release, so how come Time didn’t review the film until Feb. 23, 1942? Was it pulled from the Christmas schedule and then later re-released?

These are my main concerns about this book. I thank Richard Fleischer for the insights he provided into his father’s life and these are the book’s strongest points.

Friday, January 06, 2006

I received a nice surprise this week when I logged onto Tom Devine's website.
Despite our political differences, I really like reading his opinions. He's a savvy observer of both the local and national political scene. Check out his journal
A few random thoughts have been going through my mind this week.

Have you ever noticed how many television sitcoms and commercials of late team up an over-weight slob with a good looking woman and want us to believe that they are husband and wife? If ever someone wanted proof that men run the television industry, this is it. You would never see a good-looking guy playing a loving husband to an heavy-set slovenly woman.

Of course some people would argue having most male sitcom characters as knuckle-dragging idiots offsets this beauty bias. I don’t buy that for a moment.

I haven’t heard from the Holland pastor who was staging his “Mr. Heterosexual Contest” since the Sturbridge hotel that was going to host the event booted him out. Perhaps someone did interpret the event as gay-bashing.

Just when I thought manufacturers had run out of plastic trophy animals in which to install audio playback systems do I spy the most grotesque example of this sub-genre of gifts: a talking and singing deer head.
When I saw it I wondered how many people actually would put that up on their wall and display it proudly.
Can you imagine the confusion among the workers who made this thing in whatever Asian country lucky enough to win the contract? What the hell do they think of us? They’re making 98 cents an hour to try to feed themselves and we’re buying plastic talking deer heads.

One of our local TV stations have been doing a lot of man on the street reaction stories to national or international events. It's a cheap way to fill time but as a editor I know that's it not very interesting to audiences

That's why I think the reporters make it a habit to find the most inarticulate trailer trash to put on the air. I've seen some beauties recently.

I think a better technique would be to go to a neighborhood tavern and speak to the folks at the bar. If they're half in the bag, you might get a little amusement value out of the exercise!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I'm still working on my book and wanted to write something "original" for the blog, but I realized that even stuff from my archives is original to all but two or three of you!

We had a publication with the unfortunate name of "The Journal/Bravo," a merging of two very different publications. it was supposed to be an alternative paper but my publisher was concerned about the family friendliness of it and so we couldn't do what I knew had to be done in order to attract the right demographic.

Young people want something of their own and they generally want something with enough of an edge to disturb their parent's generation just a bit.

I couldn't really give them that, but I tried to sneak in as much pop culture material as I could. The following is one of those pieces.

From 2004

Is Lloyd Kaufman feeding me a line? He tells me that if I hold the DVD of Toxic Avenger IV: Citizen Toxie up to a light I can see the image of Jesus on one disc of the two disc set and Satan on the other.

He must be smiling on the other end of this telephone interview.

The patter is typical Kaufman, who is a movie director who has taken lessons on promoting himself from masters such as William Castle and Alfred Hitchcock and ratcheted up the hype to meet these jaded times.

You haven't heard of Kaufman and his company Troma Entertainment? Well, the studio's flagship franchise. The Toxic Avenger, just made the top 50 cult films of all times list published recently by Entertainment Weekly. In fact, Toxic Avenger - or "Toxie" as he is affectionately known - has not only appeared in four films but has been the star of an animated television show and several comic book series as well.

Besides heading the independent company with his partner Michael Herz, Kaufman has directed a number of the key Troma releases and has written two books on the tribulations of independent filmmaking. In the grand tradition of the classic Hollywood studios Kaufman and Herz have established a highly recognizable style. Warner Brothers was known for its films "torn from the headlines," while Paramount's films boasted an European elegance and MGM had "more stars than there are in heaven."

Troma has brought gratuitous violence, gore and sex to levels that are almost surreal. In fact, Troma's films have captured the attention of mainstream critics because of their no-survivors satire that is in the tradition of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal." In fact some film writers have stated that without Troma paving the way bad taste and mainstream comedies such as Something About Mary may never have been made.

Troma titles include films such as The Class of Nuke 'Em High, Fat Guy Goes Nutzoid, Sgt. Kabukiman N.Y.P.D., and Terror Firmer. Its latest film, which is now being produced, is Tales from the Crapper.

There's no doubt about it that Troma is not for everyone, but Troma fans are highly dedicated to the company. The studio's website ( features a gallery of photos from fans who've pledged their loyalty with a tattoo of the Toxic Avenger. When was the last time you've heard of someone putting Julia Roberts or Harrison Ford on their forearm?
The company's most recent film, Citizen Toxie - now out in a double disc DVD edition crammed with extras - boasts of scenes with such over-the-top material this writer barely can start describing it in a family publication. The plot revolves around our hero The Toxic Avenger, the hero of Tromaville, who finds himself transported into an evil dimension. The hero of that dimension, the Noxious Offender, is now in Tromaville killing at will and turning the town into his own criminal municipality.

Where else than in a Troma film could the hero be a former health club janitor who thanks to being dropped into a vat of toxic waste has been transformed into a superhero? In what other movie could porn star Ron Jeremy be cast as the mayor of a town or the late Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf play God?

And this DVD version is unrated. You've been warned.

If nothing else, the film takes the "what if" story formula so popular in many of the today's mainstream films and shows it for the lazy storytelling device that it is.

Troma is celebrating its 30th year in business, something of which Kaufman is proud, especially considering that there are few other independent companies around with that kind of staying power.

It has been an interesting journey for the Yale student majoring in Chinese Studies, who decided after graduation to pursue a career in film. Kaufman told The Journal/Bravo that rather than going to film school, he decided to "attach" himself to a director and learn by doing.

As an aside, Kaufman said that the pleasure and pain of film making fit right into the Taoist philosophy he had studied.

In his case, Kaufman's instructor and mentor was John E. Avildsen, the director of such films as Rocky, Joe, and Slow Dancing in the Big City. Kaufman began work with Avildsen on Joe, a low budget politically charged film produced in 1970 that starred Peter Boyle. Boyle played a working class conservative who reacted violently to the social changes of the Vietnam War era.

Kaufman said that on his first day as a production assistant he realized that "this guy [Avildsen] is talented. I worked for free on that movie in order to learn."

The film was a surprise hit and Kaufman continued his association with Avildsen with his next film, Cry Uncle, a detective comedy, which earned an X rating for its sexual content.

Kaufman said that on that film he "jumped a few rungs" up the career ladder from production assistant because he helped raised money for the production.

Kaufman and his Yale friend Michael Herz had formed a partnership that slowly but surely began producing their own films while working on other productions. For instance, the Troma Team - as Kaufman calls his crew - shot the exteriors in Philadelphia for Rocky and he recalled zipping around the city in eight days making sure his non-union crew wasn't spotted by union representatives.

At a Los Angeles screening of Rocky, Kaufman said, "union guys were trying to remember when they shot that footage."
Another acclaimed director used Kaufman's services on the art house classic My Dinner with André. Actor André Gregory was so impressed with the economical shooting of a comedy titled Waitress Kaufman and Herz made that the late director Louis Malle hired Kaufman as his production manager for that shoot.

Although Kaufman worked on a mainstream film such as Saturday Night Fever - he scouted the New York locations for the film - he is not a Hollywood type of guy and has a lot to say about establishment filmmaking.

Guerrilla movie making seems to the basis for the Troma style. Kaufman said that Troma tries "to have total freedom" and that the company is "anti-elite."

Kaufman believes in the idea that "the purpose of art is to reflect the spirit of the artist.

"Troma has a loyal fan base. Some people may hate or love our films but they never forget them," he added.

Kaufman dismisses many mainstream Hollywood films as "baby food," and said that Troma's success shows that people want "half pepperoni on their cultural pizza."

The indifference expressed by corporate media conglomerates over Troma products hasn't helped the company. Kaufman explained that Blockbuster Video would not stock Troma films even in R-rated cuts. He charged that attitudes such as this one have "totally marginalized independents."

Kaufman believes there has been "a conscious effort to economically blacklist" the studio.

He said that The New York Times refused to run a review of one his books despite the advocacy of the Times' own film critic Janet Maslin.

Kaufman's style is blantantly New York, and his promotion of Troma is definitely of the "in your face" variety.

Warner Brothers may have its signature water tower on its Hollywood lot, but Troma's 9th Avenue building in Manhattan has the Toxic Avenger painted on its exterior.

Kaufman's two books detail his adventures in filmmaking, and have encouraged people to become filmmakers, themselves. In fact, the most recent book, Make Your Own Damn Movie, takes people step by step through the process from financing to distribution.

In the book's press release, Kaufman said, "I want to give young filmmakers a step-by-step guide to making low-budget independent movies so that they can use what works for us and learn from our mistakes...although in Tromaville, we don't call them mistakes. They're impromptu script deviations."

Troma films have relied on free labor provided by people who are seeking an education or simply a break into the industry. On the Troma website right now are notices calling for interns and volunteers to help further the Troma cause.
That's right, you may only be a mouse click away from schlepping coffee or holding a light for a Troma film crew or appearing at a comic book store as Toxie.

Although he is definitely a showman, Kaufman doesn't take himself very seriously. The second disc of the Citizen Toxie DVD has a feature-length "making of" documentary which I found just as - if not more amusing - than the film itself. The documentary shows Kaufman directing the film and many of the cast and crew complaining about him.

Kaufman doesn't mind though. He said nice things about his crew on the movie's audio commentary and explains their criticism as "the truth as they see it."

For him the documentary is "a window into what it's really like to make an independent movie."

Like his movies or not, one has to give the devil his due. In this era of media giants, Kaufman and Troma Entertainment keep getting away with thumbing their nose at the big boys.

And, by the way, you can't see Jesus or Satan on the Citizen Toxie discs.

Kaufman made me look.

After this ran I was in NYC and delivered copies to Kaufman at the Troma headquarters. He was walking around the office in some sort of running shorts and was gracious and courtly to me but was clearly pre-occupied – probably with his latest production. Or something like that.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I'm going through the Richard Fleischer memoir of his father Max and annotating it page by page for a review that will appear here this week.

In the meantime I'm posting another story from the archives that might be of interest.

Today I was going through some files and happened upon a piece I wrote (and never got paid for) for a magazine distributed to strip clubs. It's much more about low-budget film making than anything else, certainly than the T & A biz.

I love interviewing people about film making and Leslie Glass was happy to speak with me in between her sets as a featured dancer at a local club.

Glass, the subject of the piece, died a very untimely death of cancer in 2000. She was fun to talk with and had much more going on in her life than just being in the fringes of show business.

The long dark hair. The finely shaped features. The creamy complexion. Acclaimed Penthouse model Leslie Glass has got what she describes as "the Anne Rice look"

"Don't you think I'd make a good vampire?" she asks with a laugh.

Well, at least Leslie makes a fine vampire vixen from Venus. Leslie stars with Michelle Bauer, Theresa Lynn, and J.J. North in the Ted Bohus horror spoof Vampire Vixens from Venus which is now available on home video.

"I really wanted to get into acting," explains Leslie on why she made her acting debut in the low-budget romp.
The tall brunette model who has graced the cover and interior pages of the acclaimed men's magazine many times, and has been in several of the Penthouse videos, has long harbored an interest in acting. She hadn't acted on her ambitions until Bohus' production company called Penthouse looking for talent.

"They called Penthouse, and told them they needed some models with good bodies," recalled Leslie, who fits that casting call as any reader of the magazine certainly would agree.

Don't ever make the mistake of thinking that Leslie is just another centerfold star and would-be "scream queen." Leslie is bright, articulate, and uses her much of her earnings for the passion of her life of helping animals.

Leslie has founded a non-profit center in her native Baltimore, MD to care and treat strayed and abused dogs and cats. This center is the dream of her lifetime, as over the years she had helped 600 animals get the medical treatment and the homes they need. Still under construction, the [name] center will open this year, and will feature the world's second cancer treatment center for dogs and cats. Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione has helped by allowing Leslie to use the trademarked "Penthouse Pets" name in her fundraising "Pets for Pets" campaign.

Get into a conversation with Leslie, and it's easy to understand why Penthouse has often asked her to represent the magazine in various public appearances around the world. Besides being a knock-out, she's a smart and savvy spokesperson. Her recent promotional trips have included Russia and Hong Kong. So popular is Leslie that she holds the title 1994 International Pet of the Year. But, does she ever have problems with people who think of a centerfold model as a "bimbo?"

"Sure, but if you talk with me for any more than a minute, you'd know I'm not a bimbo," Leslie says emphatically.

Describing Leslie as goal-oriented is something of an understatement. She has worked hard to achieve her fame at Penthouse, and to reach her personal goal of building her animal shelter and clinic. There is a new world for her to conquer, though, and that is acting.

Although she's had plenty of experience in front of a camera with her appearances in Penthouse videos, Leslie realized she needed more experience, and gladly accepted the role in Vampire Vixens from Venus.

The film was shot in two weeks in July 1994, and features Leslie as one of the three title characters. Leslie admits she had some doubts about the movie during production.

"I thought it was cheesy," she says candidly. "But when I saw the film I was pretty impressed. The special effects were great, and it's was really comical."

The film does feature several topless scenes, and although Leslie has appeared nude in print and on video before, she'd rather do roles in which nudity is not included.

Leslie, Theresa Lynn, and J.J. North star as the titular vampire vixens. Their mission on Earth is to extract the liquid part of human bodies, and to do that they transform themselves from their hideous natural state to forms more pleasing to horny men. Once a guy is interested, they waste little time strapping a helmet to his head extracting his precious body fluids and leaving him resembling a pitted prune.

As they leave a trail of dried remains around New Jersey, the police begin to investigate under the barely competent leadership of one Detective Lieutenant Oakenshield, played by Peter Grimes. His efforts to get to the bottom of the mysterious deaths is sidetracked by a not-so-chance meeting with a lovely woman played by scream queen favorite Michelle Bauer who just happens to be the ugliest Venusian of them all.

The emphasis on comedy rather that t-and-a or gore is refreshing to see in a low-budget genre film, and that's what director, writer and special effects artist Ted Bohus had in mind. Bohus, who has made a name for himself with films such as The Regenerated Man and The Deadly Spawn, wanted to do something "light" instead of horrific, and wrote the script for the science fiction comedy.

Bohus is a big fan of Michelle Bauer and he was impressed with Theresa Lynn, and J.J. North. For the last alien, Bohus had decided on actress Stacey Warfel, but she had an untimely motorcycle accident which sent him looking for a replacement.

After sending out casting notices, Leslie auditioned for the part, and Bohus knew he had his fourth alien. "She was very enthusiastic, looked great, and carried some weight with her title of 1994 International Pet of the Year," he recalls.

Although she lacked acting experience, she did impress Bohus in front of the camera. "She came prepared," Bohus says. "With a low budget film, actors have to come prepared and know their lines."

The production of the film went smoothly, according to Bohus, except for a scheduling mix-up which prevented Leslie from being on the set the night the opening scene was shot. This scene introduces the three aliens who transform themselves into beautiful women. Without Leslie there, the scene couldn't work, and on a low-budget film, time is most definitely money.

"I went through the roof," Bohus admits. " I told everyone to leave me alone for a while and I thought of a way to work this out." Bohus' solution? The transformation device for the third alien isn't working correctly. When Leslie was able to join the production, Bohus shot a scene in which the vixens manage to get the device to transform one ugly Venusian into the beautiful Leslie.

Bohus was impressed enough with the newcomer that he would certainly consider Leslie for another role.
For the time being, Leslie is taking her new acting career one day at a time, and is very grounded about her future.

"I've got to start at the bottom, and work my way to where I want to go," she states. Yet, Leslie is going to tackle acting the same way she has worked in modeling...on her own terms.

By living in Baltimore, she believes she "misses a lot of roles," but yet she doesn't want to live in Los Angeles.
"I don't want to get caught up in the politics of it all," she explains, alluding to the competitive pressures of getting a role. "I know a lot of the women out there are clawing each other on the way to the top."

How does she evaluate herself in her first acting job? "I was impressed with myself," she says with a laugh. "I memorized everything in the script."

Hard work doesn't bother Leslie, nor does paying her dues, and this writer is willing to bet Vampire Vixens from Venus is the start of her new career.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

I received my gas bill the other day. For just 19 days, it was just over $300. Thanks to a variety of conditions, our gas company has raised its winter rates considerably over last year.

Now my wife and I are not spendthrifts. There is insulation in the attics, plastic on key windows, heavy curtains over nearly every window and we keep the thermostat set at 62 degrees when we are here during the day at 58 degrees at night and when we are at work.

We tend to stay in our den, naturally the warmest room in the house and heat it with a small electric space heater when we need it.

When we are in the den we turn down the thermostat even more. We are doing what we cannot to waste fuel and money.

Energy, not terrorism, is the most important issue facing this nation and it’s the one that no one really wants to address. The future economic development of this nation depends on affordable, renewable, clean forms of energy.

Coming up with the different technologies is right in line with the great American traditions of invention and investment. This is the New Frontier.

Republicans don’t want to touch it and neither do Democrats. It’s too hot for any conservative or liberal because it goes to the root problem in this country: the overwhelming influence of large corporations.

When it comes to the two major political parties, there are fewer and fewer differences these days. Oh yes, we still have the window dressing of the “cultural wars.”

If there was ever a greater waste of concern then I haven’t heard about it. The right wing propagandists such as Limbaugh and O’Reilly only want to use such issues as gay marriage and whether or not to say “Merry Christmas” because they are easy topics. They don’t dare touch the tough ones.

And while some liberal pundits do address issues other than the typical talking points, too many of them waste too much time on engaging the conservatives. The conflict makes for great show business.

And please don’t start me on the “war on terror.” Capturing and punishing those responsible for 9/11 should be the priority. I don’t ever think that was the priority.

Both Democrats and Republicans should hang their head in shame.

All of the billions that have been poured into the Department of Homeland Security have had minimal results. The response to Hurricane Katrina showed that. Through our negligence we have show the world we are not much better than a third world nation in addressing a national emergency.

And since these many of these national commentators are employed by large corporations or rely on advertising from them, they’re not apt to use as much time as they do yakking about abortion, for instance, than uncovering truly significant problems.

Our electric company is raising its rates for businesses as much as 50 percent. Small family-owned businesses will be directly affected. How much of this increase they can absorb is of paramount concern. Will it result in higher prices or lay-offs?

These are the tough issues that few in elected office want to touch.

I talk to politicians on the local level every week in western Massachusetts. I also cover statewide issues. And I’ve met very few people with real ideals, real ideas and real courage.

But to quote the late Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy and he is us!” Our willingness to sop up all of the mental slop offered us by the mainstream press as “news” and as “issues,” has prevented us from really looking at what’s important.

It’s time to wake up.