Thursday, December 24, 2009

A video for Christmas Eve featuring one of my favorite holiday novelty songs.

Great work Doug Compton!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Here is the column I wrote in this week's 'paper. I usually have a real conflict about the holidays and family as well as the gap between what you would like to experience and what is the reality of your situation. As I've grown older this gap is more and more apparent. I'm not a Grinch, but the holidays simply to amplify problems.

Part of this feeling came from the 14 years when certain family members elected not to speak with us. I'm very glad that we actually have a friendship with some of these people. Our lives are richer because of it.

Back in the 1980s, I worked as the afternoon talk show host on the late and lamented WREB in Holyoke. One of my colleagues was a veteran newsman named Richard Lavigne.

Lavigne was one of those local legends in the Valley and inevitably listeners who met me would ask, “What is Richard Lavigne really like?”

My response was usually along the lines of “Do you watch ‘WKRP in Cincinnati’? Do you know the ‘Les Nessman’ character?’’

Lavigne was know for his daily half-hour “newscast,” which was really an often rambling combination of items he had gathered from his own sources and the clattering AP teletype as well as his opinions.

An aside: I miss the sound of the teletype in the background of a newsroom as well as the feel of pounding the American-made metal keys of a manual typewriter.

Sometimes Lavigne’s broadcast ran long, something bound to irritate Jonathan Evans, whose afternoon show started at 1 p.m. There was a switch installed in the main broadcast studio that allowed us to turn him off if need be. I think we used it once or twice.

To say that Lavigne wasn’t much an upbeat fellow would be an understatement. He was single, at the top end of middle age and had poor health. He always could be counted to see the dark side of a shiny cloud and I’ll never forget his annual Christmas salutation.

Lavigne would tell people to “have the best Christmas your circumstances will allow.”

I was usually fairly appalled that he just couldn’t say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or some other socially acceptable greeting.

I, of course, was a bit green – I turned 30 in 1984 – and now that I’m a beat-up, rumpled vet I can see a little of his reason. We put so much emphasis on having a “perfect” holiday. The situations of our lives are supposed to magically be in suspension as we have a day or two of celebration.

At least that’s what we would like to see.

But a two-day Christmas holiday has a hard time fixing the sibling who won’t talk to you, curing the chronic health condition, returning the loved one who is overseas fighting a war, completing a successful job search, asking co-workers who won’t even say “good morning” to you to show a little humanity or satisfying a landlord who wants his back rent.

We place so much hope on having that ideal holiday that anything short of perfection seems to be a disaster, an event that adds to our misery rather than alleviates it.

Although I do see the best of humanity at this time of year – the people who donate to others and perform acts of kindness – that gap between how things are and how things should be can be brutal.

Perhaps Lavigne was asking people to assess their situation and make the best of it rather than set the stage for unfulfilled expectations. I’m sure he was speaking from his own situation.

At this point in history with so many people in the midst of dire events I can only pray they are able to hold back the grim reality of their lives for a moment and relax in the sense of hope the season can bring. I do believe we have the capacity making our lives better.

So to our readers, Merry Christmas and have the best one you possibly can.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A new sheriff – or hangman – comes to town

If you read The Republican or browse MassLive you probably noticed that Larry McDermott, the publisher of the daily for the last ten years, is retiring and being replaced with George Arwady, the publisher of the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger – another Newhouse ‘paper.

Arwady made newspaper industry news in 2008 by basically telling one of the unions at that ‘paper if the members didn’t accept certain concessions, he was prepared to shut down New Jersey’s largest newspaper.

Concessions were made.

In October, Arwady sent out a memo, according to “Editor & Publisher,” looking for voluntary buyouts in order to reduce the ‘paper’s staff.

He wrote, “We are working on the budget for 2010, and it is clear that we must reduce our staff significantly to offset the continuing steep decline in revenue. My best estimate is that the full-time workforce must be reduced by at least 50 people.”

The Star-Ledger had already undergone significant cuts.

What has happened with many publications nationwide is that with decreasing ad revenues due to changes in how chain stores advertise, publishers have sought economies in cutting human beings, especially those involved in creating content. The premise is that readers will always pick up their daily paper out of loyalty and habit. Local content can be replaced by other kinds of stories.

With the decrease in content, more and more readers elected to find their local news elsewhere. Circulation slipped and advertising was lost. With less revenue, came more cuts.

That’s the cycle that many daily newspapers have for the past decade. I’ve often wondered if anyone at the Republican worried about the long-term effects when the ‘paper lost the considerable advertising dollars from Steiger’s? I believe that was the trigger of the ‘paper’s decline.

So now media watchers wonder what Arwady is going to do. Cut more staff? Drop the Saturday and Monday editions? Adopt the tabloid format for all the weekday editions? Cut back the coverage area?

As I’ve said before, I’m not particularly a fan of The Republican as an institution. The ‘paper has many fine reporters and photographers who do good work, some of whom I view as friends and valued colleagues. I don’t believe this region would be well served from an economic development point of view if it did not have a daily ‘paper.

I think though that considerable damage has been done to the reputation of the ‘paper and its value to readers and one wonders if Arwady has been sent to fix it or to bury it.

© 2009 Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mae Murray (right) prepares for her dreaded wedding night in "The Merry Widow," Von Stroheim's successful silent adaptation of the popular operetta. One of my favorite stills from my collection.

My vacation book report or what I finished up while trying to fight a cold.

Warning: The following post is for hardcore film fans, fan boys and other people willing to pick a nit with me.

Ever heard of director of actor Erich Von Stroheim? For the casual movie fan, Stroheim’s best known role of the butler Max in “Sunset Boulevard,” a role that Stroheim did care too much about.

Can’t blame him – the role of a washed up silent film director was a little too close to his own reality. Acclaimed for his successful films in the 1920s that presented stories of humanity showing all of our warts, Stroheim’s career was seriously impaired by a series of film projects that became known for going over budget and testing the limits of conventional Hollywood thinking.

The best well known of these was his adaptation of Frank Norris’ book “McTeague” into the film, “Greed.” His edit clocked in at about eight hours and reports by those who saw that version all concur it was a masterpiece. Stroheim wanted to break it into two four-hour blocks with a dinner break in the middle.

The current cut of “Greed,” and the only one available runs under two hours.

Stroheim made his living – after several other films – as an actor for other directors. He was seen by some as a tragic figure, a victim of the system and by others as man with self-inflicted wounds. His films remain fascinating and he as a man and artist is still almost complete contradiction.

I’ve been a Stroheim fan for years and was happy to find the most recent biography of the man by film historian Arthur Lennig. Now in the interest of full disclosure, I’m not a big fan of Lennig as he wrote some unnecessary criticism of my friend the late Alex Gordon in his biography of Bela Lugosi. But I found his Stroheim book in a used bookstore, so I knew my purchase wouldn’t pay him a nickel. I bought it and read it.

Lenning’s scholarship is quite good and he has done much of his homework to present as complete a picture as possible of Stroheim’s films and his life.

However, I amazed that he didn’t include what happened to Stroheim’s third wife Valerie, his mistress Denise Vernac or his two sons?

A biography tells a story of one person’s life, but there are other characters and they deserve an element of closure.

In fact, considering how long Lennig worked on this book and his detailed description of what he did to gather his information that he didn’t attempt to interview any of these key people was surprising to me.

Now I know first hand how difficult it is to get interviews with people who know the subject matter is going to be painful. Dave and Lou Fleischer both each politely turned me down for an interview for my book on the Fleischer studio. Perhaps Lennig tried and was rebuffed.

Interestingly enough, Valerie did do an interview for a 1979 documentary on her husband and her comments used on camera were not unfavorable, despite the fact he cheated on her for about 20 years.

But I was amazed Lennig didn’t see the human drama in the story of the two sons, each of who had successful careers in the film industry. How’s that for irony? Erich Von Stroheim Jr. acted and became a busy assistant director before his death from cancer in 1968. The last film on which he worked was “Medium Cool.”

Josef Von Stroheim was an Emmy-winning sound editor, who died in 2002.

Now here are two men who were working in the 1950s when their father was still alive. What did they think of him? What did he think of them? Did they have any relationship? What was it like being saddled with the name of “Erich Von Stroheim Junior” and working in the film industry?

Although there is much to compliment Lennig for in his book, he missed the boat on what the late Paul Harvey used to call “the rest of the story.”

Here's an even pickier nit:

Lennig implies that “Queen Kelly” – the aborted collaboration between Von Stroheim and Gloria Swanson about a convent girl inheriting a whorehouse and becoming the queen of the madams! – was Joseph Kennedy’s sole effort as a film producer. Not true. The patriarch of the Kennedy family, while not bust cheating on his wife with Swanson, owned FBO studios and played a key role in the creation of RKO.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, December 04, 2009

This is my problem. I actually enjoy the variety offered by my job. It almost compensates for the downsides. Here are two pieces from this week:

Behind Ken Burns’ new documentary “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” is a message.

Burns said in a press conference before his speech at the Springfield Public Forums on Dec. 1 that he wants families “to understand this valuable sense of ownership of the parks and that they would act with their feet and take their families there and do what so many of us who have visited the parks have, [gathered] not just memories of spectacular places, but memories of spectacular places experienced with the people closest to us.”

Burns is perhaps the most honored documentary filmmaker in cinema history. His famed production of “The Civil War” was honored with more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Producer of the Year Award from the Producer’s Guild, a People’s Choice Award, a Peabody Award, a duPont-Columbia Award, a D.W. Griffith Award and the $50,000 Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others.

Burns, a 1975 graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, received an Academy Award nomination for his 1981 film “The Brooklyn Bridge.”

The new documentary series aired on PBS explores the history of how the parks came to be and is more than just a travelogue or tips on how to visit the parks, Burns later said.

He admitted that picking a favorite park is difficult as they are “so beautiful, they’re like your children – you can’t chose one.”
He told the near capacity audience at Symphony Hall that filming the sequence on Yosemite Park awakened a long-forgotten memory of his father taking him, at age six, to visit Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

Burns stressed the unique place in history the American system of national parks have. “For the first time in human history large tracts of land were set aside not for kings or noblemen or the very rich but for everyone,” he said.

“It’s an utterly democratic idea,” he added.

The parks are facing many threats, Burns said, from budgetary problems, including an estimated $8 billion in deferred maintenance. Climate change is also a real concern, especially at Glacier National Park in Montana where the glaciers are disappearing “at a terrifying rate.”

Apathy is the biggest threat to the park system according to Burns, who while he was in production on the series, met many people who assumed the parks had always been part of the country and would always be part of the country. The parks system was formalized in 1916 by legislation signed by President Woodrow Wilson that created the National Parks Service with the charge to maintain and protect the then 40 national parks and monuments.

Burns said that in all of his films he addresses the division between Americans but seeks to “figure out a way to speak to all sides.”

Burns has not been tempted to follow in fellow documentary filmmaker Michael Moore’s footsteps by producing a movie with a readily apparent point of view.

“I wish to engage everybody,” he said.

While he readily admitted to having points of view that are easy to see in his own films, he said of Moore’s documentaries, “I don’t believe his films make any converts.”

While he said that Moore was talented and funny, he couldn’t share Moore’s approach.

“I just think it’s important to me to speak to as many people as possible,” he explained.

There has been a proliferation of documentary filmmakers, and Burns did acknowledge the success of his production of “The Civil War” “had a kind of dramatic sea change coming as it did at the real explosion of cable [television].”

“All of a sudden there were all of these channels and what you needed to fill them with wasn’t expensive drama but so-called reality,” he continued.

Burns was quick to add with a laugh that shows featuring people choosing their mate or eating bugs wasn’t “reality” to him.

The digital revolution in film making technology has also contributed to the increase in documentaries, but Burns noted, “you can put a camera in everyone’s hands, but that doesn’t make them a filmmaker.”

“You have to figure out how to tell a story,” he added.

Burns is currently working on six projects all in various stages of production. His new films will include a sequel to his popular “Baseball” series, “The 10th Inning;” a production covering the 1989 Central Park jogger rape and attempted murder case; a biography on Theodore Roosevelt and his cousin Franklin Roosevelt; and a history of the Vietnam War.

And here's the other:

SPRINGFIELD – Ox Baker spent his adult life as a wrestler audiences loved to hate, but there was a fair amount of respect, if not affection when Baker made an appearance at the recent Big Time Wrestling Show in Chicopee.

Selling autographed pictures and copies of his cookbook, Baker was certainly friendly with fans. That might be temporary, though, as the old Ox Baker – the man who used to wear a T-shirt that read, “I like to hurt people.” – may be back.

Baker will be making a special appearance as the manager of Bruiser Costa in a mixed-gender tag team match that will be the main event for “Old School Professional Wrestling.” The show will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 12 at the Knights of Columbus, 2071 Page Blvd.

Promoter Richard Blake is a local and longtime wrestling fan who remembers the sport before the advent of national television shows and the World Wrestling Entertainment.

“We do the real stuff,” Blake told Reminder Publications. “We’re not a soap opera.”

Blake said his shows are family oriented. “You’re not embarrassed to bring your kids,” he added. “We do it the way when you used to sit on your dad’s lap and watch TV.”

Blake started thinking about running his own wrestling promotion in 2006 and 2007 when he scouted the area for potential talent. He said he knew then he wanted to get rid of “all of the soap opera, glitz and sex.”

His show on Dec. 12 will feature seven matches and an appearance by former WWE star Antonio Thomas.

His first show was in 2008 and he’s happy with the reception from the fans. He believes each show is getting better, while still remaining “old school.”

Blake added there is no one more old school than Baker, who wrestled around the country before the start of national broadcasts and was known to be ruthless in the ring.

His infamy gave him the opening to appear in two movies, “The Big Brawl” with Jackie Chan and “Escape from New York” with Kurt Russell. On the DVD commentary for “Escape to New York,” Russell revealed that Baker didn’t hold his punches much during a climactic fight between the two men.

Baker confirmed that he was a “little mad” about being paired up with a “punk kid” in his first movie and took some of his frustration out on the star.

Although in his seventies, Baker still cuts an opposing figure at six feet five inches in height. Seeing this reporter’s microphone, he launched into a rant about how he was bringing a “secret weapon” to the match to assure Costa’s victory.

“Are you going to be there?” he asked this reporter while putting him in a modified headlock. I assured him I would be.

“You better not be lying to these people,” Baker replied. I said I wouldn’t.

Tickets will be available at the door. For more information, log on to

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, November 30, 2009

It was a busy week last week with the holidays and it's time to get back on track with this little quiz: "How Republican are you?"

There are some conservatives who are hoping the Republican National Committee will adopt the following litmus test to purge the party of candidates who aren’t Republican enough.

Here are the standards candidates must meet and the goal is for everyone to have a score of 80 percent compliance:

• We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;

• We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run healthcare;

• We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;

• We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;

• We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;

• We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;

• We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;

• We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;

• We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and

• We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

If you’re a Republican, how did you score? By the way, didn’t the last Republican president and Congress grow the government? What is the Republican-approved solution to the health insurance crisis? Do Republicans support the labor movement at all? The government doesn’t fund abortions already, right? How do we deal with illegal aliens?
I’m just asking.

© 2009 by GordonMichael Dobbs

Monday, November 23, 2009

Questionable Content Department Part Three

I get literally hundreds of e-mail every week at my job being the managing editor of four great metropolitan weeklies. I glance through them several times a day and trash the spam as soon as I recognize it as being what it is.

Recently The Boss installed a new e-mail server and lo and behold my spam multiplied in my in box. Suddenly I had even more messages in Chinese or Russian as well as the usual ads for mortgages, ink cartridges and unclaimed bank accounts and tax returns.

Lovely. Reading my e-mail is like wading through a muddy stream.

But lately the Viagra salesmen have been getting poetic in the subject lines and I couldn't help but start collecting them. Here's a day's worth of the best:

love battery discharge
courage of your weenie
escape rod's alleviation
prevent premature eruptions
ideal for bed marathon
realize all night ambitions
eliminate rod's flaccidity
endless joy of humping
your male pounder won't fail
potion for perfect bouncing
for humping mania
muse for amorous deeds
become her drillosaur

I really like the :courage of your weenie" and become her drillosaur the best.

What's in your in-box?

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Questionable Content Department Part Two

My brother Patrick is a dedicated bike rider and he has determined that I should ride a motorcycle as well. I must admit that I have wanted to ride a bike for years, but have been talked out of it several times by people who have more common sense.

My brother's desires to hit the open road on two wheels have overcome any finger-wagging and he has been a happy cyclist for over a year.

His eldest son Matthew was the first to get a bike and while Patrick's cycle is desigened for older guys to sit up-right, Matthew's bike is designed for the rider to lay down on it and hang onto to it for dear life.

As it has been establishd many times in the past: I am old.

On our recent quick trip to Virginia both wanted me to get on their bikes. The plan was to teach me how to ride a bike while I was there. The rainy weather and roads with wet leaves prevented that accident from happening.

So I got up on both bikes for a photo opp. Here I am straddling Matthew's Fastasssumbichi. After feeling the vibration from Patrick's bike, which he had running, I can only say I'm glad Matthew's wasn't running.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Questionable Content Department:

I don't post photos of myself or my family up very often figuring that not too many people would care. I'm not like another local blogger who constantly put shots of himself up on his blog.

However I like this one:

I'm on the left and my brother is on the right. We're at this year's Big E with the booty of our junk food treasure search: frozen bananas. Before some wags decide there should be a caption to this photo, allow me to to paraphrase Freud, "Sometimes a frozen banana is just a frozen banana."

I would like to point out that mine does have nuts.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My wife and I, as well as Lucky the Wonder Bichon, were in Virginia last week visiting my mom and as usual I visited Whiting's Old Paper, part of an antique mall in Mechanicsville.

I've found some great stuff there over the years and at reasonable prices, but I was thrilled to find this there:

Now normally I don't look at old movie magazines, but for some reason I did and was amazed at this page:

What the heck was Tom Tyler doing at a party with the likes of Charlie Chaplin? Like any other industry, the movie business ceretainly had its levels. People such as Jack Oakie and Richard Barthelmess weren't huge stars in 1935, but their careers drew far more mainstream attention than someone like Tyler who slaved away in very low budget Westerns from independent producers.

Although in 1935, Tyler did work in two movies at RKO, his output since the beginning of the talkies had been with the producers whose films mostly got play in smaller often rural theaters or as Saturday matinees in more urban markets.

Looking at the comteporary press, one assumes that a guy like Tyler largely flew underneath the radar of the media. In fact the folks that made B program films, serials and cartoons – with the exception of Disney – all seemed classified as not very interesting.

The only two B-western stars who broke out into the bigger media scene were Gene Autry and Roy Rogers and undoubtedly that is because both guys were singers as well as action stars.

That's why I was floored by this photo spread. How did he get an invite to such an affair? I was equally surprised when I accidentally saw a Hedda Hopper gossip short on TCM from the 1940s with Tyler at some night club partying with Desi Arnez!

Another interesting part of the life of the cowboy star who wanted to be an actor.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Before the right winger pundits twist his words, here is what the president said today in its totality:

Remarks of President Barack Obama – As Prepared for Delivery
Memorial Service at Fort Hood
November 10, 2009

We come together filled with sorrow for the thirteen Americans that we have lost; with gratitude for the lives that they led; and with a determination to honor them through the work we carry on.

This is a time of war. And yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great American community. It is this fact that makes the tragedy even more painful and even more incomprehensible.

For those families who have lost a loved one, no words can fill the void that has been left. We knew these men and women as soldiers and caregivers. You knew them as mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; sisters and brothers.

But here is what you must also know: your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life’s work is our security, and the freedom that we too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – that is their legacy.

Neither this country – nor the values that we were founded upon – could exist without men and women like these thirteen Americans. And that is why we must pay tribute to their stories.

Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cahill had served in the National Guard and worked as a physician’s assistant for decades. A husband and father of three, he was so committed to his patients that on the day he died, he was back at work just weeks after having a heart attack.

Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo spoke little English when he came to America as a teenager. But he put himself through college, earned a PhD, and was helping combat units cope with the stress of deployment. He is survived by his wife, sons and step-daughters.

Staff Sergeant Justin DeCrow joined the Army right after high school, married his high school sweetheart, and had served as a light wheeled mechanic and Satellite Communications Operator. He was known as an optimist, a mentor, and a loving husband and father.

After retiring from the Army as a Major, John Gaffaney cared for society’s most vulnerable during two decades as a psychiatric nurse. He spent three years trying to return to active duty in this time of war, and he was preparing to deploy to Iraq as a Captain. He leaves behind a wife and son.

Specialist Frederick Greene was a Tennessean who wanted to join the Army for a long time, and did so in 2008 with the support of his family. As a combat engineer he was a natural leader, and he is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Specialist Jason Hunt was also recently married, with three children to care for. He joined the Army after high school. He did a tour in Iraq, and it was there that he re-enlisted for six more years on his 21st birthday so that he could continue to serve.

Staff Sergeant Amy Krueger was an athlete in high school, joined the Army shortly after 9/11, and had since returned home to speak to students about her experience. When her mother told her she couldn’t take on Osama bin Laden by herself, Amy replied: “Watch me.”

Private First Class Aaron Nemelka was an Eagle Scout who just recently signed up to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the service – diffuse bombs – so that he could help save lives. He was proudly carrying on a tradition of military service that runs deep within his family.

Private First Class Michael Pearson loved his family and loved his music, and his goal was to be a music teacher. He excelled at playing the guitar, and could create songs on the spot and show others how to play. He joined the military a year ago, and was preparing for his first deployment.

Captain Russell Seager worked as a nurse for the VA, helping veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. He had great respect for the military, and signed up to serve so that he could help soldiers cope with the stress of combat and return to civilian life. He leaves behind a wife and son.

Private Francheska Velez, the daughter of a father from Colombia and a Puerto Rican mother, had recently served in Korea and in Iraq, and was pursuing a career in the Army. When she was killed, she was pregnant with her first child, and was excited about becoming a mother.

Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman was the daughter and granddaughter of Army veterans. She was a single mother who put herself through college and graduate school, and served as a nurse practitioner while raising her two daughters. She also left behind a loving husband.

Private First Class Kham Xiong came to America from Thailand as a small child. He was a husband and father who followed his brother into the military because his family had a strong history of service. He was preparing for his first deployment to Afghanistan.

These men and women came from all parts of the country. Some had long careers in the military. Some had signed up to serve in the shadow of 9/11. Some had known intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some cared for those did. Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity and the decency of those who serve, and that is how they will be remembered.

That same spirit is embodied in the community here at Fort Hood, and in the many wounded who are still recovering. In those terrible minutes during the attack, soldiers made makeshift tourniquets out of their clothes. They braved gunfire to reach the wounded, and ferried them to safety in the backs of cars and a pick-up truck.

One young soldier, Amber Bahr, was so intent on helping others that she did not realize for some time that she, herself, had been shot in the back. Two police officers – Mark Todd and Kim Munley – saved countless lives by risking their own. One medic – Francisco de la Serna – treated both Officer Munley and the gunman who shot her.

It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know – no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice – in this world, and the next.

These are trying times for our country. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis. In Iraq, we are working to bring a war to a successful end, as there are still those who would deny the Iraqi people the future that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much for.

As we face these challenges, the stories of those at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon. Theirs are tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call – the call to serve their comrades, their communities, and their country. In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility. In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.

We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm’s way.

We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.

We are a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln’s words, and always pray to be on the side of God.

We are a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today. We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality. That is who we are as a people.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It is a chance to pause, and to pay tribute – for students to learn of the struggles that preceded them; for families to honor the service of parents and grandparents; for citizens to reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made in pursuit of a more perfect union.

For history is filled with heroes. You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Vietnam; a sister who served in the Gulf. But as we honor the many generations who have served, I think all of us – every single American – must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who have come before.

We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.

This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in a time of certain danger. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places. They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains. They have extended the opportunity of self-government to peoples that have suffered tyranny and war. They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and stations – all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life.

In today’s wars, there is not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops’ success – no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed. But the measure of their impact is no less great – in a world of threats that no know borders, it will be marked in the safety of our cities and towns, and the security and opportunity that is extended abroad. And it will serve as testimony to the character of those who serve, and the example that you set for America and for the world.

Here, at Fort Hood, we pay tribute to thirteen men and women who were not able to escape the horror of war, even in the comfort of home. Later today, at Fort Lewis, one community will gather to remember so many in one Stryker Brigade who have fallen in Afghanistan.

Long after they are laid to rest – when the fighting has finished, and our nation has endured; when today’s servicemen and women are veterans, and their children have grown – it will be said of this generation that they believed under the most trying of tests; that they persevered not just when it was easy, but when it was hard; and that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.

So we say goodbye to those who now belong to eternity. We press ahead in pursuit of the peace that guided their service. May God bless the memory of those we lost. And may God bless the United States of America.

Monday, November 09, 2009

From the archives

While digging around my clippings I found this one:

I met Pauline Comanor when she was appearing at Hampshire Mall in Hadley, MA. I explained who I was and what I was working on and she agreed to an interview.

She also insisted on borrowing my copy of Leslie Cabarga's book on Max Fleischer, which she never returned.

She was convinced that her creation of Chunky Monkey was going to be her ticket to fame and fortune. I frankly felt a little sorry for her. She had worked her whole life as a traveling lightening artist and was now in her senior years. her biggest claim to fame was her connection to the Fleischer Studio, but she had never worked on any of the cartoons.

Ironically, Lillian Friedman, the female animator at the studios didn't get this kind of publicity. Perhaps she didn't want it. There's an element of freak show novelty to it that might have been unappealing to a true pioneer.

Although some people have said that Edith Vernick was the first woman animator at the studio, Myron Waldman told me that Vernick received a tryout on the "Fresh Vegetable Mystery," but couldn't keep up with the pace the animators had to work.

When I interviewed Vernick in 1977 I don't recall her mentioning her work as an artist. I have to check the tape.

© 2009 Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

It's Election Day today and I'll be working a split shift – here today at the 'paper for most of the day, then spending time at home for a few hours before venturing out for the evening's work.

I'll be "tweeting" through the night – gawd I hate that phrase – so check my "tweets" – I hate that one too.

I was ninth person to vote at my polling place and the polls had just opened. It may be a good turn-out.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A nice little creepy film perfect for tonight courtesy of Richard Gordon – Devil Doll

Day 31

Happy halloween!

Well, the end of the month has been marked by getting a cold – which has knocked me for a loop – and additional stress at work. I have to say I've enjoyed my blogging experiment even though I did miss a few days. Considering my works schedule I didn't think I did too badly.

I was going to post my interviews with Geroge Romero and Larry Cohen but after an hour going through my clippings I just couldn't find either. Damn. I hope I have those interviews on cassette instead of reel to reel. I'll check that box next.

I did find some stories from the 1970s and '80s that might be of interest and will be featured here on this blog in the future.

My wife and I are preparing for an evening of hiding as we no longer hand out candy in our 'hood due to the fact that people over the age of 21 come out to beg for treats. So we hole up in the den and keep all of the lights in the rest of the house off. Generally we have no problems.

I've got a stack of recent horror films to watch. I think I'll start on them now.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, October 30, 2009

Day 30

Bill Gaines, the publisher of MAD and the fabled EC comics was a pretty nice guy to me. I interviewed him twice while I was in college and each time this multi-millionaire eccentric took time to answer questions. Later when I was at the "Westfield Evening News" I spoke to him again about the movie fiasco of "Up the Academy."

I was never a big fan of the the EC horror stuff that I saw in reprints, but loved the science fiction and, of course, MAD. I had the goal of writing for MAD and, taking the advice of "Writers Digest," I wrote a parody piece in the style of a MAD regular.

I told Gaines what I had done and he sat me down with Jerry DeFuccio who read it. Silence. For five minutes. The longest five minutes of my life to that date. He looked up to me and said "This is funny, but ..." he explained I needed to bring my own style to the magazine.

I published the interview in my fanzine and Gaines wrote me a nice note. So here is interview as it appeared in my 'zine in 1974. The artwork is done by Mike Moyle, a fellow member of the UMass Science Fiction Society and artist.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Day 28

My list of favorites

Everyone has a list of favorites songs, baseball players, books, scrapbooking stores (Kim are you still reading this?) and movies. When people ask me what is my favorite single film of all time, I don't have an answer. How could I narrow down thousand of choices to just one movie?

But in the spirit of this blogging effort, here goes some of my favorite horror films. Now these are movies I have watched and will continue to watch repeatedly. These are films I will pass down to my nephew Douglas. These are movies that I want played in the background of my memorial service. Hell, they could be my memorial service – "Mike's last words were 'Enjoy the show.'"

Bride of Frankenstein
and Son of Frankenstein
The Black Room
The Black Cat
The Raven
The Island of Lost Souls
King Kong
The Most Dangerous Game
White Zombie
Supernatural (hard to see, but worth it)
Murders in the Zoo
The Cat People
The Body Snatchers
The Wolf Man
The Monster and the Girl
The Mummy's Hands
Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein
Captive Wild Woman (yes in the same list as Bride of Frankenstein – I make no sense!)
Haunted Stranger
Fiend without a Face
The Cat and the Canary (Dick Gordon's version)
Horror of Dracula
Taste the Blood of Dracula
Brides of Dracula
Kiss of the Vampire
The Revenge of Frankenstein
Frankenstein Must be Destroyed
Scream of Fear
The Tingler
13 Ghosts
Homicidal ( so sick, so twisted)
The Doctor Phibes movies
The Raven (1963)
The Comedy of Terrors (much better than The Raven)
The Masque of the Red Death
Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-in-law (just the birth scene at the beginning is worth watching)
The Evil Dead Trilogy
Shaun of the Dead
Dog Soldiers
Blair Witch Project
The Kingdom ( yeah it's a TV show, but I saw it in a movie theater)
Mr. Vampire
Encounters of a Spooky Kind
Planet Terror (but not Deathproof)
Not on DVD yet, but I'm buying it: Zombieland

As you can tell, I'm not much into gore. I don't mind some moistness, but I've never been a gorehound. I like the roller coaster ride of a good horror film and the battle between good and evil.

I appreciate "Night of the Living Dead," but I can't say it is a favorite. It is a good film, though. I've never sat through the first "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movie although I watched all of the second. As I recall, it made little sense. Italian zombie or cannibal movies are not my thing. I don't understand their appeal. I don't like the latest rash of torture porn movies. I don't want to understand how they could be entertaining to people – "Yup, I love that scene where they melted her eyeball" is a phrase I heard at Rock and Shock.

Call me a wuss or worse. I don't care. I know what I like. I'm sure I've missed some titles.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Day 27

Drive in memories I never had

When I was first in love with horror films, I naturally wanted to see them. The difficulty was, until I could drive, getting my parents to take me to some triple feature was out of the question.

They had taken us to drive-ins when my brother and I were kids. The routine included taking a bath, getting into our pjs and having the back seat of the car – probably the 1955 Buick that was as big as a studio apartment – made up as bed. I distinctly rember my father wanting to cut out of George Pal's production of "Tom Thumb" as soon as he thought we were asleep.

I wasn't, just yet and heard him.

In high school I was so fascinated by these drive-in films, I actually started a scrapbook of ads and other clippings. I would look at some of these ads and wonder "just what the hell is is movie, anyway?"

The odd little low budget things looked so, well, exotic: "The Vengeance of She" with a buxom blonde snapping a whip; "War of the Gargantuas" – just what were those monsters anyway?; "Green Slime" with the dumbest looking monster ever; and "Guess what happend to Count Dracula?" with co-feature "Phantom Fiend."

Would I ever see any of these?

I did go see the second "Dark Shadows" movie at a drive-in to please my younger brother but I know we didn't stay out all night.

Being a farm boy and having to get up and do things precluded enjoying the dawn to dusk show.

When I was in college, my girlfriend's father would have slit my throat or whipped me – he actually had a bullwhip – if I had brought her to a drive-in. She was very nice, but wasn't at all interested in horror films. I went to plenty of movies, but if they were horror, she didn't come.

And no drive-ins.

Well, now decades later I can enjoy these films on DVD. And guess what "Guess What Happened to Count Dracula?" from Something Weird Video. The only trouble is that stress and fatigue prevents me from staying up all night for that triple feature.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day 26

Famous horror folk I've met

I've been very lucky as a horror film fan as I've been able to meet people over the years whose work I've admired.

Today with the whole autograph circuit at horror, nostalgia and pop culture events around the country, meeting the actors, actresses and other creators of horror and fantasy cinema is relatively easy: go the show and have a wad of cash for autographs.

It wasn't like this back in the day.

The first strictly horror cons that I can remember were two put on by James Warren in New York in the mid-1970s. I went to both and the first was pretty lame. Warren had promised appearances by people such as Vincent Price and Fay Way, but none turned up. Instead we had Forry Ackerman, makeup man Verne Langdon and producer and film buff Sam Sherman. Peter Lorre's daughter came to just check things out and Warren had a guest name tag slapped on her to beef up the star power.

The next year, though, Warren had Michael Carreras of Hammer Studios and Peter Cushing. The convention was presented at the Hotel Commodore, the august old train station hotel that was above Grand Central Station and I saw a familiar figure in the lobby. It was Peter Cushing. I mustered up my nerve and said, "Welcome to New York, Mr. Cushing."

He seemed genuinely pleased to be greeted and spoke with me a while asking me here I lived and how far I had come. Later he gave a great talk and signed autographs AT NO CHARGE for everyone who stood in line. He was a gentleman and a class act.

My friend Dick Gordon, who made "Island of Terror" starring Cushing, said Cushing had a personality similar to Boris Karloff's: a laid-back hard working gentleman.

My next encounter was in 1983 when Vincent Price came to UMass to perform a one-man show/lecture, "The Villain Still Pursues Me." May and I were comped as media with front row seats and the evening was amazing. Price later signed autographs for small group of people. I stood in line, but my wife, who is a little self conscious around most celebrities, declined to meet him.

The next day my fellow writer Stan Wiater and I participated in a press conference with Price. We asked most of the questions and I've yet to see a dime off my par tof the interview despite Stan having sold it to Fangoria and that it appeared in a book of his. I should probably post the interview just to establish my copyright!

Price was down-to-earth and frank. He was everything a fan such as myself would want him to be: funny and urbane. He was Vincent Price, dammit!

I was at some Fangoria Convention in New York, I think in the 1980s when I got to see Christopher Lee. He was speaking and taking questions from a large group of fans and I managed to ask him one myself. I was determined not to ask him the usual stuff about Hammer, so my question went along these lines: You've acted in a film directed by Billy Wilder and several by Jess Franco – can you talk about the way different directors work?

Lee actually looked happy at getting such a question but he gave a more diplomatic answer than what I have liked to have heard. I wanted some dirt!

I used to be a member of the Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy Fan Club. At one dinner, a member supplied the speaker and i was able to find out ahead of time so Steve Bissette could come with me.

The guest was the Cool Ghoul himself Zacherley one of the granddaddies of horror hosts. Zach gave a great talk including a delightfully tawdry anecdote about how he caught the crabs from wrestlers who had changed in the shared dressing room of WOR.

Perhaps the best "horror" event took place one night at the Cinefest in Syracuse, NY. In my 20 or so years of going to this orgy of old movies, my wife has only gone one, but at least she picked a good year. This year, not only was my friend Richard Gordon there ( producer of "Fiend Without a Face, "Haunted Strangler" and many other movies) but two of his directors were in attendance – Radley Metzger (who directed "the Cat and Canary") and Norman J. Warren ( who helmed "Inseminoid/Horror Planet").

The five of us went to dinner – Dick's brother Alex, another film producer, was stuck with another obligation – and we had a ball. The guys certainly made my wife feel at ease and the evening took on the air of a roast with the directors ganging up on Dick and Dick firing back. It was great.

Although I've bought autographs as well just to have a chance to say hello to someone, none of those experiences come close to matching to any of these.
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Day 25

Our story so far: our blogger has tried his best to blog on horror-related topics every day this month. He's missed a few days, but yet he soldiers on.

Being a film and comics fan living in Granby, Massachusetts in the 1960s and '70s was not an easy life. Although my friends in high school didn't ridicule me for my interests – which were fairly exotic for that time and place – no one was on my wave-length.

The simple act of communicating with people with similar interests was probably the inspiration for "Inertron," which I started while I was in high school.

When I bought my first fanzines, "Gore Creatures" – now known as "Midnight Marquee" – and "Photon" I was thrilled. And in the depths of my ignorance, I thought, "i can do this too."

My dad was working as a teacher and he had bought a spirit duplicating printer – the standard quick printer for the 1960s to run off tests, etc. So I thought I'm a step ahead because I have a printer.

And my mom volunteered to type up the 'zine on her Hermes script typewriter. Later I would do a bunch of the typing as well. My parents were very supportive enough though they both wondered just why I had such odd interests.

My first issue featured a silk-screen cover – which I did myself with dad's help – and the spirit-duplicated interior pages produced in my junior year of high school. The trick, as I quickly learned, was the interior pages had to be quickly dry before I ran them through the machine again for the printing of the next page and some times that was a huge pain in the ass.

I soon started thinking about improving the production by investing in off-set printing and realized that making a fanzine was truly a labor of love – there was never a dime profit.

It didn't matter.

My first celebrity interview was with Buster Crabbe, a very gracious man. Pieces with William Gaines and James Pierce – star of "Tarzan and the Golden Lion, now on DVD – came later.

What I liked though was working with other fan writers: Kevin Shinnick, Joe Keppler, Jim Doherty, John Antosiewicz, Ed Learner, Steve Bashaw as well as artist Mike Moyle and especially Allan Koszowski.
My brother Patrick contributed art work as well.

I liked the feel that I was building something, making something. This was undoubtedly genetic as my dad was a second generation furniture-maker. I was supposed to be the third generation, but it didn't take.

I produced only six issues of my 'zine. The print run never went over 100 copies. It was a lot of work, but I loved every moment.

The hope was that other fanzines would mention your work. That was the marketing in the pre-Internet days. I managed to get a free classified ad in an issue of Famous Monsters of Filmland, which helped raise my circulation a bit.

By the time I was out of college, the crush of dealing with this next chapter of my life made producing a fanzine just impossible. I did a quick little newsletter and sent it out to my subscribers. I thought at the time I might be able to do something like that, but I couldn't.

(Yes, my artist friends that was my effort as a cartoonist as well!)

I look at copies of my 'zine and part of me winces. It was so crude and so naive. But then another part of me remembers just how much fun it was and how it played a key role in developing the person I am today.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Day 24

Here are reviews of two recent horror films released on DVD. If you've not seen "Zombieland" so far, go today! It's a funny, very human and occasionally scary film

Fear[s] of the Dark

This French animated feature bring to the screen several short films based on the work on some well known graphic artists and, largely, the film is capable of being truly eerie if not disturbing.

Its problem is one of structure. One of the stories, based on the work of French cartoonist Blutch, loses much of its impact by being broken up into chapters. The other short films are separated by an inane and pretentious bridging segment in which an animated shape arbitrarily changes form while a woman drones on about what frightens her.

The segments are quite well done with the look and animation style changing with the story. American artist Charles Burns contributes a creepy vignette concerning love, revenge and very large insects. Marie Caillous and Romain Slocombe's tale of Japanese ghosts is very disturbing as is the story of a child confronting an unknown beast by Lorenzo Mattotti and Jerry Kramsky.

I really liked a story told in pantomime and in stark black and white of a man who breaks into an abandoned home to stay warm and enters a world he could not have expected. This work by Michel Pirus and Richard McGuire end the film on an artistic high note.

Animation fans who want something adult and involving should add this film to their Netflix list.

Blood: The Last Vampire

I always find it interesting when an animated property is adapted to live action and when live action films or television shows are made into cartoons, because seldom is the translation very successful.

This new action/horror film by director Chris Nahon is based on the successful anime series "Blood+." That animated series is a long and intricate story -- 50 episodes -- of a schoolgirl named Saya who has to awoken to the fact that she is really a very old vampire who develops into a hunter of demonic creatures for a secret organization.

Nahon and writer Chris Chow opt to provide viewers very little background and stage the movie around the climax of Saya facing the most powerful demon. The result is a stylish action film that plays out like a video game -- plenty of eye candy but with annoying holes in the story.

The action sequences staged by Cory Yuen -- one of the best stunt coordinators working today -- are pretty thrilling and Korean actress Gianna has the right degree of intensity for the lead role. I was happy to see the demons depicted on screen in old-fashioned stop motion animation, instead of computer animation. The process gives the monsters a weight and character often lacking in low budget CGI.

If you're looking for a mindless action film, "Blood: The Last Vampire" is not a bad choice. If you want to see an epic anime and more developed story, hunt down "Blood+."

© 2009 by G. Michael Dobbs

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Day 22 – It's my granddaughter's birthday!

I have seldom tried to interview someone in the autograph room at a convention because those folks are there to sell stuff, do a little meet and greet and keep that line moving. I couldn't help wanting to speak with John Landis, though, as he has made some of my favorite films and is one of the new generation of directors who came from an appreciation of film.

In the 1930s and '40s directors often came from the theater or they worked their way up through the ranks. However there are now many directors who started as fans. Spielberg, Joe Dante, Sam Raimi and John Landis are all "movie guys" and they have brought a new sensibility to film.

Landis came across exactly as I've seen him in other interviews: funny, opinionated and pragmatic. It was a treat speaking with him.

WORCESTER – In the celebrity autograph area of the annual Rock and Shock horror film convention, there is a collection of the usual suspects – actors who have made their mark in horror, science fiction and fantasy films.

Sid Haig, the character actor who has a new career thanks to “House of 1,000 Corpses” and “The Devil’s Rejects” is in one corner and Malcolm McDowell, the star of many films including “A Clockwork Orange,” is busy greeting fans as well.

There is one person who seems out of place in this group, John Landis, a director whose films have earned hundreds of millions of dollars. The man who brought “Animal House, “The Blues Brothers,” “Trading Places” “An American Werewolf in London” and “Coming to America,” among many other films to the screen, just doesn’t seem to be in the same league with the guy who portrayed Jason in the last remake of “Friday the 13th.”

But Landis seemed to enjoy the interaction with fans and with his neighbor at the next table, Jason Mewes, best known for his appearances in Kevin Smith movies as “Jay.” Mewes had covered the paper blanketing the top of his table with graffiti and has left a message for Landis at his table that reminded the director he should cast Mewes in all of his movies.

Before anyone thinks that Landis, whose last theatrical releases were “Susan’s Plan” and “Blues Brothers 2000” in 1998 is some sort of has-been, it should be noted the director has been busy in the last several years with television work as well as making two acclaimed feature-length documentaries, “Slasher,” about a salesman who specializes in liquidating car inventories and “Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project.”

He also directed two installments in the popular “Masters of Horror” series on Showtime, experiences he said he enjoyed.

He is also going to begin shooting a new feature film based on the notorious Burke and Hare. When one fan asked him about the project, he replied in a loud, but friendly, voice, “It’s Burke and Hare. Look it up! Google it.”

For the uninformed, Burke and Hare were grave robbers who supplied medical students in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century with corpses. When there weren’t fresh dead bodies available, they made their own.

After consenting to an interview with Reminder Publications between signings for fans, Landis said the film is being produced at the venerable Ealing Studios in Great Britain and will star Simon Peg and David Tennant. He said the film would be “a romantic comedy with all 16 murders intact.”

Speaking with Landis is like getting a crash course in the realities of the film industry. When I ask about his ability to move a project forward because of his track record, he interrupted with “a track record means nothing.”

“But your films have made millions of dollars,” I said.

“It doesn’t mean anything. You’re being rational,” Landis said with a smile.

“So Hollywood isn’t rational,” I said.

“It never was,” Landis replied. “The movie business has changed like newspapers and television because everything is now corporate. It’s corporate in a way that’s truly bizarre. If you look at the product coming out of Hollywood in the last two years you’ll see it’s made for the lowest common denominator. It’s depressing.”

Landis began his directing career in 1973 with “Schlock,” a low budget horror comedy. With the advent of digital technology, Landis believes the production of films is easier today, but the distribution side of the business is in “chaos.”
“The platforms are changing, but it will all settle down,” he said.

With changes in corporate ownership in Hollywood, how difficult is it for established directors to receive a deal?

“It’s very difficult for everybody, for everybody,” he said. “Stephen Spielberg, Tony Scott Michael Mann, Robert Zemeckis [can get deals]. There are very few people the studios will hire. They’d much rather hire hacks. They’d much rather hire people with no opinions.”

Landis disputed the importance of having a good script as the basis for a good movie.

“Here’s what I tell people. It gets me in trouble. It’s not the story. People misunderstand that. A good story is a good story. It’s like jokes – it’s not the joke, it’s how the joke is told. The best example I can think of are westerns or samurai movies where there’ll be 25 movies with the exact same story, but in the hands of John Ford or Kurosawa or Preston Sturgis or Robert Aldrich – so many directors do it differently. It’s a fascinating thing. It something the studios, the conventional management, doesn’t understand. It’s not about high concept. It’s only about execution.”

And the budget of a film plays less of a role than most people think.

“The idea that budget affects the filmmaking process comes out of ignorance. You often hear critics say they spent too much, they spent too little. They don’t know what it cost. The truth is the cost of a film has nothing to do with the quality of the film,” Landis asserted.

“The cost of a film has nothing to do with the quality of a film just like genre has nothing to do with the quality of a film. I’ve made huge moves and I’ve made little moves. I‘ve made big budget movies and low budget movies and the director’s job is exactly the same – put the camera there and you guys do this,” he added.

Just like actors, Landis has been typecast as a director of comedies.

“Producers are much more comfortable offering me comedies because I’ve made a lot of money with comedies than with other genres. I mean, I love westerns, musicals. I love everything. It’s easier for me to get the money for a comedy than it would be for a serious drama,” he said.

Landis added that there are “many” projects he has in the back of his mind.

One of those he is currently trying to launch is a movie on the life of publisher William M. Gaines, the man who is best known for bringing MAD magazine into the world.

Since he has worked with both fiction and documentary films, does Landis have a preference?

“I’m a filmmaker. I like making movies. I don’t care what they are,” he said.

He learned from “The Slasher” that pre-conceived ideas about a documentary subject could be easily changed due to the reality a director is shooting.

“In some ways the documentary is more experimental,” he said.

He said he enjoys appearing at horror film conventions such as this one, although this is only his fourth or fifth time. He believes it’s a way for performers to make some additional money from their work, since studios make so much, and he enjoys meeting the fans.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day 21

Our story so far:our blogger is attempting to post everyday in October about horror films. He's missed two days due to fatugue and schedule. He is a bad blogger.

Why I'm showing my nephew Williams Castle films for Halloween:

1. They won't get me in trouble with his mother. There aren't any objectionable images or hanky panky (granted I'm not showing him "Homicidal" just yet – he's only 10.)

2. They have some nice little shocks.

3. They have a sense of winking at the audience. The Castle films don't take themselves seriously.

4. They have gimmicks. In today's value-added world with no attention span audiences, they seem almost contemporary.

5. He'll get to see his first Vincent Price film. Soon enough he'll graduate to Peter Cushing and Boris Karloff.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day 19
Back from Rock and Shock

We had a great time even though Mark was probably the only one to make money, thanks to his fine skills as an artist. He was creating caricatures of people as zombies and literally drew all day Saturday and Sunday. He had barely time to walk around.

While some of my DVDs sold, I still carried home quite a number of them – so guess what EVERYONE is getting for Christmas?!

So here is the first posting from the show with some random pics:

There were a surprising number of crafts at the show including this cool skill themed quilt.

Marty was selling his Western Mass. horror DVD and the preview from "Angel's Blade" caught many people's eyes.

I wanted this model very badly, but not badly enough to shell out the dough.

At the next booth over: buuuuuuuzzzzzzzzz buuuuuuuuuuuzzzzzzz all Saturday.

Fine art from

More to come tomorrow.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Friday, October 16, 2009

Day 16

A short post for today as I'm preparing with my friends to head over to Rock and Shock. I'll will be Tweeting through the show, so you can read those posts here and on my Facebook page.

And I'll be posting photos and video later on.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Day 15

A shameless come-on

See a real live movie producer! Witness an actual artist draw right before your eyes! Buy something from an author who will only have ONE copy of his book on animation, but plenty of other stuff!

It's only at Rock and Shock 2009! Presented in amazing Get-cool-stuff-and-meet cool-people-scope!

Okay, the Rock and Shock 2009 show is just hours away now and Mark, Marty and I will be in booth 52 listed under Inkwell Productions.

Although we all hope to turn a buck or two in our favor, we also just want to embrace our horror geekiness and hope some of you would like to as well.

That's why we hope to see you there. If you're someone one of of us knows, that great. If you're someone who reads this blog and lives within driving distance, then here is an extra little bonus.

Come up to me and say, "Dude, I read your blog, man" in your best Jeffrey Lebowski voice and you will receive a small free gift. Nothing spectacular, but a little added value.

So come to the DCU Center in Worcester Friday night or Saturday and Sunday and witness the madness that is the finest horror film/heavy metal in Western and Central Massachusetts. What the heck – all of Massachusetts and Connecticut, too. Well, saying that I should include the rest of New England.

©2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day 14

Boy am I tired. I don't sleep very well. I tend to think about work a lot and will often write leads to stories while trying to fall asleep.

We just got back from taking our granddaughter to dinner and speaking with our daughter. We were told that we couldn't adopt her – based on how she entered this country – when she was our foster daughter and frankly that hasn't stopped us from having a parent/daughter relationship with her.

When she came to live with us at age 15 after living in years in refugee camps, we soon discovered the great cultural gap that separated one Baby Boomer American, one Baby Boomer Scots woman and one Vietnamese teenager.

A few things helped. She loved, for reasons that were never really clear, "Married With Children." She seriously dug Al and Peg, despite the fact the humor was based a foreign culture.

Through her we became introduced to Hong Kong movies which certainly changed my film appreciation.

Best of all, she loved horror films.

My wife had a night job along with her day gig and when she went off to work, Chau and I would watch horror movies. She would sit next to me on the couch and have a blanket, which she drew up close to her eyes. it was there to protect her.

We watched "Aliens" and "Predator" back to back and she had such a bad dream she shattered the jade bracelet she wore. I was blamed for that.

She watched the first "Evil Dead" movie ( that was probably a bad move on my part) and one of the "Basketcase" sequels that earned me a bit of scorn from my better half.

We still talk about making a movie date to see something scary as she still likes horror films, but with a baby and a teenager in the house her time is limited.

I do think back to those times going through a video store with her, picking something that clearly filled her with a delicious dread and hurrying home to watch it with her trusty blanket.

Too bad my eldest granddaughter doesn't like horror movies.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day 13

A reminder: Our blogger is attempting to post every day in October something about horror in films and popular culture.

What do you do when you get the story wrong? You work to get the story right.

Back in the mid 1990s when I co-owned and edited "Animato! The Animation Fan's Magazine," I wrote about Fleischer Studio alumni Joe Oriolo who made a name for himself in the 1960s when he secured the rights to Felix the Cat and produced the popular cartoon series for television. He also made a series that I watched as a kid and pretty much hated, "The Mighty Hercules."

I can still sing part of the Hercules theme song from memory though.

By the way, the Oriolo family still has the rights to Felix.

When I interviewed him in the 1970s, Joe pretty much took credit for the creation of the most enduring "horror" figure in animation, Casper the Friendly Ghost. He mentioned writer Seymour Reit, but only as a collaborator.

Well, Reit was the creator of Casper and he brought the error to my attention. I interviewed him in New York over lunch at a very nice restaurant and he insisted on picking up the tab. He was a charming guy who was amazingly philosophical about having sold off his rights to the character for only $200. I was happy to write a follow-up story.

Click on the two photos and read his story. It's a cautionary tale about creators and their creations.

And here's a Casper short – co-driected by my friend Myron Waldman.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day 12

Bela, Bela, Bela

Of all the classic horror stars, Bela Lugosi still fascinates people in ways that mystifies me. There was one documentary I saw about him that concluded with the "fact" that Bela's movie memorabilia sold for more higher prices that items from films featuring Boris Karloff – therefore concluding that Bela's legacy is greater than Karloff's.

Perhaps Bela's stuff does cost more and I suppose a cruise through eBay might bolster this claim, but that doesn't mean he was a better actor or appeared in superior movies.

Lugosi was a trained actor and a veteran of the stage but, in my opinion, he never seemed to really be able to communicate in English as effectively as other immigrant actors of his time, such as Peter Lorre, for instance. Looking at his career choices he seemed dead set at being the leading man, unlike Karloff who sought supporting roles in non-horror films through his career.

At his best, Lugosi seemed to truly inhabit his characters with a gusto that other screen monsters seldom mustered. Many actors attempted to give their villains some elements of sympathy or characteristics that made them more three-dimensional.

Not Bela. His guys were bad and twisted to the bone.

I think his fans didn't want three dimensions. They wanted some very foreign guy whose voice and manners hinted at sinister things they dare not imagine.

While "Dracula," the film role that both made him and broke him all at the same time, is a must-see for any serious horror fan, I think "White Zombie" may be his best starring role while his Ygor in "Son of Frankenstein" was his best character role.

"White Zombie," was a independent production made by the Halpern brothers in 1932. Lugosi is "Murder Legendre" the zombie master on a Caribbean island who is asked by a man who falls in love with a pretty young thing (played by silent film star Madge Bellamy) to turn her into a zombie so she would only love him.

Even for 1932, the film has a creaky look and feel to it, which actually seems to work in its favor. It seems to be more of a fairy tale than a horror film in some regards.

The zombies themselves are not the brain-eating ghouls we all know and love, but shambling robots used as free labor on the sugar plantations.

Here's a re-issue trailer for the film.

If you want to buy the very best DVD of this public domain film go to the Roan Group site and buy their version.
© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 11

Here are some Karloff stills from my collection. What I liked about Karloff (and Price and Cushing) is they were actors who could be the lead in a film or take on a character role with equal grace.

Karloff was essentially a character actor before he hit it big with "Frankenstein" in 1931. Although he was busy through the 1920s, he was always a supporting player who drove a trucks between jobs to support himself. He was in his forties when fame and success came to him.

Here's a clip from "Smart Money" in 1931 with Karloff the character actor in a scene with Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney.

"The Public Defender" was a 1931 crime drama with Karloff playing the role of "the Professor." There's Boris on the far left of the scene. If you want to see Karloff in one of his best supporting roles from the early 1930s, check out "Five Star Final," one of my favorite newspaper dramas, the next time it's on TCM.

Although director John Ford became primarily known as a Western director, he was in the 1920s and 1930s simply a director with experience in a variety of dramas. "The Lost Patrol" (1934) was a good one with Boris as Sanders, a British soldier, who under the stress of being lost in the desert. allows his religious fanaticism to take hold of his common sense. That's Victor McLaglen and Wallace Ford with Karloff.

"The Raven" (1963) isn't as funny a horror comedy as "The Comedy of Terrors." It's pretty silly, but it does give viewers the chance of seeing Karloff with Price and Peter Lorre sending themselves up a bit.

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Day 10

Our story so far: our hero is attempting to blog about horror related subjects each day of the month of October, but he has already missed Day 8 (see reasons below). He hopes the readers forgive his human frailty.

I'm a Karloff guy.

In horror film circles many people form a relationship with a horror star. It's like liking blondes or brunettes, the Yankees or the Red Sox.

For me I love Boris Karloff. Next up in my affections comes an even match between Peter Cushing and Vincent Price. Christopher Lee and Bela Lugosi are also enjoyable, but these three are my top preferences. I will watch them in almost anything.

And yes, I also like the oiliness of Lionel Atwill and the clumsy ham-fisted charm of Lon Chaney Jr.

I know that Karloff was the first horror actor I came to know and I appreciated the fact at an early age that I could enjoy him in a number of other films. Lee and Lugosi were both typecast because of their look (Lee) and accent (Lugosi).

Now nothing gets horror geeks more riled up than a Karloff fan inferring in some way that Boris was the better actor than Bela.

The first time I met my friend Richard Gordon and his late brother Alex – gentlemen, film producers and horror fans – a ex-buddy of mine and a Lugosi fan tried to corner them with the "who was better" question. Both men knew Lugosi personally and Richard produced two films with Karloff and was a friend.

I remember Alex – a supreme diplomat – crafting a conciliatory answer. I was embarrassed by the question – gawd, what a fan boy!

The Gordon Brothers always had nice things to say about both men and both were quite annoyed with the depiction of Lugosi in Tim Burton's film "Ed Wood." Lugosi was always an old world gentlemen who would have never called Karloff a "cocksucker," they insisted. I have no reason to doubt them.

The fact that Richard maintained that Karloff was apparently a down-to-earth guy with a work ethic that that literally kept him busy to his death justified my fan devotion to him. A working class horror star, indeed!

I'll post some rare Karloff images this week and to start with here's one with Boris in drag. My wife's reaction: that's pretty scary!

© 2009 by Gordon Michael Dobbs