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

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

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

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

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

“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

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

© 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

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

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

©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

©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.