Invaders local, and from way out there!

As we say goodbye (and good riddance) to January – cold, grey, blacchy and consistently the most ideal month for migraines – we present reviews of things invasive, lethal and gooey, although none in this week’s wave are related to anything viral or body-snatching.

That reference is, of course, tied to Warner’s stinky remake of Jack Finney’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which ensured rewrites, reshoots, re-edits, and the addition of what else, a car chase when the first edit didn’t please the producers. We’ll have a review of Invasion next week, but for now, here are some genuinely entertaining efforts.

On the DVD front, we have a review of Chris Gorak’s Right At Your Door, a creepy tale of an already fractured couple affected by a dirty bomb blast in Los Angeles. Gorak’s directorial debut features an impressive production design for such a low budget film, and the lack of a specific antagonist means this tale of modern paranoia will age extremely well as things on the planet get nuttier and weirder. Released by Maple (Canada) and Lionsgate (U.S.A.), it’s a solid DVD release that once again features another arresting poster campaign that’s become a signature of Lionsgate’s smart publicity department.

Also of note from Maple is Joshua (2007), a smart thriller about a young boy who conceives and executes the vicious downfall of his family when he gets jealous of all the hugs and kisses being poured on his new shiny happy baby sister. It’s been compared to the Omen, but George Ratliff’s film deals with a kind of primordial evil that kicks in when the self-preservation urge goes into overdrive. Maple’s loaded DVD features the same contents as the U.S. disc released by Fox, and deserves a look amid the usual crop of blah thrillers and lame remakes.

We’ll have a review of Anchor Bay and Starz Home Entertainment’s The Girl Next Door shortly, which will probably be regarded as one of the toughest dramas to sit through in recent years. (It’s billed as a horror flick, but this careful adaptation of Jack Ketchum’s best-selling novel is a terrifying depiction of child abuse.)

In the soundtrack department, we’ve reviews of two new titles from MovieScore Media and Film Music Downloads, Michael Wandmacher’s The Killing Floor (2007), and The Killing of John Lennon, with the latter marking a rare return to feature film by standout composer Martin Kiszko.

And from Monstrous Movie Music comes the first of two original score recordings. MMM have deservedly earned a high reputation for the faithful, full-blooded re-recordings of classic monster music, and both The Blob and The Intruder (1962) mark the label’s first original score releases.

We’ll have a review of Herman Stein’s Intruder shortly, but we thought in keeping with this week’s theme we should start with The Blob (and other creepy sounds). Filled with the usual fat & detailed liner notes, the CD contains the complete Blob score by Ralph Carmichael (including his unused main title music and some outtakes), plus a real treat for fans of trash cinema: stock music cues from the Valentino Productions Music Library.

A lot of fine mood music was composed for music libraries, much of it used for TV and feature film productions that couldn’t or didn’t want an original score, and among the composers represented on this disc are Roger Roger, Mario Nascimbene, and Angelo F. Lavagnino. Roger’s music is of note because many of the selected horror/suspense mood cues make up a good portion of the score fitted for Joseph Green’s nutbar gore film, The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. Sometimes haunting, jazzy, or just plain weird, the music is presented unedited in clean mono, and is another reason this limited CD is a must-have for horror and soundtrack fans.

Lastly, we’ve also got an interview with Tim Ferrante, the producer and bigwig of new soundtrack label Elysee Productions. The label’s debut release, The Mad Doctor of Blood Island, features Tito Arevalo’s complete score to this exploitation classic with John Ashley, and may well be the first widely available commercial release of film music by a Philippines composer. Similarly packed with detailed liner notes, we’ll have a review of the CD soon (my Rue Morgue review has to run first), but those interested in how this rare gem came to CD should read our interview with Ferrante, a producer and fan of many unsung composers who made their mark writing great music for classically sleazy drive-in fodder.

One of the composers highlighted in the Q&A is Joe Greene, a veteran jazzman who scored three of Albert Zugsmith's exploitation films, including On Her Bed of Roses (aka Psychedelic Sexualis). The film was apparently released on VHS by Something Weird Video and is LONG overdue for a DVD release, just like Greene's score deserves a CD release. The original soundtrack LP came out on the short-lived Mira label in 1966. I used to see the album cover in used LP bins for years, and it was worth taking a chance on this odd little album. Because it remains unavailable on CD, we've also added a review of the 12" platter.


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It's all a matter of timing

After a long, LONG absence on home video in North America, Samuel Bronston’s El Cid finally makes its debut here on DVD. Although directed by Anthony Mann, there’s no doubt Bronston’s name should top the credit list, as this was his baby right from the beginning, and is directly tied to his success as an independent producer until he over-extended himself by several million during the making of The Fall of the Roman Empire and Circus World, causing his main financier to pull the plug on future cash flows.

The Bronston empire, as it was cheekily called, quickly fell apart, and both a once powerful producer and very wealthy financier (Pierre Dupont III) were kaput, never to recover from the disastrous expenditures that began when Roman Empire almost rivaled Fox’ messy Cleopatra (1963).

Previously available as single disc DVDs in Europe and Asia, El Cid is slated for a January 29th 2-disc release in the U.S. from genius productions / The Weinstein Company, under the Miriam Collection imprint (named after the Weinsteins’ mumsy).

We’ve uploaded a fat review of the film that goes through the extras in detail, largely because collectors familiar with the 1996 Criterion laserdisc will want to know what’s been left off the DVD (these things matter… to a point), and whether the new extras stand up as fitting and informative tributes to this great film or fall terribly short, and gloss-over some controversial aspects of Bronston’s meteoric producing career.

Those without the Criterion laserdisc - the last one produced by the label before entering the DVD realm – will find some of the differences intriguing (or maybe just minor and petty). Because the review is long and windy, we’ve inserted colour-shifting breaks between specific subjects so as to render the blathering less stressful.

Our review is also larded with links to some related info at other sites, and over the next few months we’ll upload film reviews derived from other Bronston films available in Europe, starting with The Fall of the Roman Empire, which coincidentally, will be the next Bronston title coming from Miriam (sometime in April, I believe).

Canadians wanting El Cid on the same release date as Americans will have to order the DVD via Amazon.com or other online retailers, as the film’s domestic distributor, Alliance-Atlantis [A-A], has a street date of February 26th, most likely to get the bilingual and logo-friendly packaging done in time.

Amazon.ca still lists the street date as January 29th, but if the fuss over Fay Grimm reappears (the DVD was imported by retailers just as the film was hitting cinema screens in Canada), Canadian retailers might be asked by A-A to kindly wait for the domestic edition, since they do have Canadian rights, and probably won’t want to lose a month’s potential sales to the better lead time in the U.S.

The domestic release will be cheaper (about $2-3 less than the U.S. price), but this title certainly raises the issue of whether a distributor should do its damned best to make parity with a U.S. street date. El Cid is not Die Hard 4 (Live Free or Die Hard), but if TV viewers have shown us anything, it’s that there exists something called 'reasonable wait', and TV viewers do not like it when they have to wait unreasonably for their episodic fix.

We’ll delve into that trend at the end of the month when we upload Everything Doc Martin, since the situation with British TV shows trickling down to the North American market has its own share of problems, but basically one can hypothesize that a good chunk of TV viewers also love classic movies, and long wait times aren’t very pleasing when it involves a favourite TV show or movie.

In 2007, Warner Bros. bungled the release of several boxed sets in Canada when they repeatedly missed street dates or things were delayed by a month, forcing many fans to import the titles from the U.S., and motivated local merchants to import product when they knew fans would not wait long before making that powerful Amazon.com click.

One to two weeks seems to be the limit for hardcore fans, and if merchants have to import (as they had to with Warner’s John Wayne-John Ford box), by the time local product reaches shelves, they’re sometimes deadwood, and that might happen if El Cid is a sign of what happens when parity can’t be met.

Whatever the reasons, it’s in the interest of distributors who need an edge within the smaller Canadian market to not fall behind, because four weeks will mean more copies will be imported than expected, resulting in more returns when the late-coming local version fails to sell as expected, and El Cid is just too good to suffer that fate on a local level.

In any event, please check out our El Cid review HERE, and watch out for more related reviews via this blog.

So… now that one of Martin Scorsese’s beloved films is finally out on DVD in Region 1-land, can someone please get cracking on another of his favs, Duel in the Sun? Yes, it's out on a bare bones MGM disc, but this icon of excess deserves the multi-disc special edition treatment. (The roadshow version put out by Anchor Bay years ago is long out of print, and MGM's disc, while a cleaner transfer, is just another blah budget edition that doesn't do David O. Selznick's film, and ego, proper justice.)


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Official Nominations for the 4th Annual International Film Music Critics Association Awards

In addition to composers nominated by the murky Golden Globes people (watch Vikram Jayanti’s 2003 documentary for the group’s bizarre makeup) and the cliquish Oscars, the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) offers a broader scope of categories and composers, giving film music fans a bigger picture of music being composed for films, TV shows, and videogames.

Below is the official press release, with nominees and more info on the organization:


January 18, 2008. The International Film Music Critics Association announces their 2007 nominees for excellence in scoring for film and other visual media.

Alexandre Desplat leads the nominations with seven, including two for Best Score of 2007: Ang Lee’s romance drama LUST, CAUTION, and the fantasy adventure THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Dario Marianelli, who recently won the Golden Globe for Best Score for ATONEMENT, is nominated for four awards for the Joe Wright-directed World War II drama. Tied with Marianelli with four nominations is Michael Giacchino, who is up for Best Score for the animated film RATATOUILLE, as well as for his nomination in the newly-formed Best Original Score for a Video Game or Interactive Media category for his MEDAL OF HONOR: AIRBORNE score.

Other composers with multiple nominations include John Debney (2), David Shire (2), newcomer Fernando Velázquez (2), Christopher Young (2) Aaron Zigman (2) and Hans Zimmer (2).

Since the focus of the group is international, many films that received nominations have yet to be released in the United States, including Philippe Rombi’s score for François Ozon’s English language film ANGEL; legendary composer Ennio Morricone’s score for Simona Izzo’s romantic comedy TUTTE LE DONNE DELLA MIA VITA (ALL THE WOMEN IN MY LIFE); Joe Hisaishi’s score for the Korean television series TAE WANG SA SHIN GI (THE STORY OF THE GREAT KING AND THE FOUR GODS), and Jane Antonia Cornish’s score for Danish director Nikolaj Arcel’s DE FORTABTE SJÆLES Ø (ISLAND OF LOST SOULS), for which she received a Breakthrough Composer nomination.

The winners will be announced on Friday, 15 February 2008


2007 Award Nominations


* ATONEMENT, music by Dario Marianelli
* THE GOLDEN COMPASS, music by Alexandre Desplat
* LUST, CAUTION, music by Alexandre Desplat
* RATATOUILLE, music by Michael Giacchino
* ZODIAC, music by David Shire




* JANE ANTONIA CORNISH for De Fortabte Sjæles Ø (Island of Lost Souls)
* ILAN ESHKERI for Stardust
* JONNY GREENWOOD for There Will Be Blood
* FERNANDO VELÁZQUEZ for El Orfanato (The Orphanage)
* CHRISTOPHER WONG for Journey to the Fall


* ANGEL, music by Philippe Rombi
* ATONEMENT, music by Dario Marianelli
* EASTERN PROMISES, music by Howard Shore
* THE KITE RUNNER, music by Alberto Iglesias
* LUST, CAUTION, music by Alexandre Desplat


* ENCHANTED, music by Alan Menken
* EVAN ALMIGHTY, music by John Debney
* HOT FUZZ, music by David Arnold
* REIGN OVER ME, music by Rolfe Kent


* THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, music by John Powell
* GHOST RIDER, music by Christopher Young
* LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, music by Marco Beltrami
* SPIDER-MAN 3, music by Christopher Young


* BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA, music by Aaron Zigman
* THE GOLDEN COMPASS, music by Alexandre Desplat
* MR. MAGORIUM’S WONDER EMPORIUM, music by Alexandre Desplat and Aaron Zigman
* STARDUST, music by Ilan Eshkeri
* SUNSHINE, music by John Murphy and Underworld


* EL ORFANATO (THE ORPHANAGE), music by Fernando Velázquez
* FLOOD, music by Debbie Wiseman
* I KNOW WHO KILLED ME, music by Joel McNeely
* SLEUTH, music by Patrick Doyle
* ZODIAC, music by David Shire


* BEE MOVIE, music by Rupert Gregson-Williams
* BEOWULF, music by Alan Silvestri
* GEDO SENKI (TALES FROM EARTHSEA), music by Tamiya Terajima
* MEET THE ROBINSONS, music by Danny Elfman
* RATATOUILLE, music by Michael Giacchino


* DARFUR NOW, music by Graeme Revell
* EARTH, music by George Fenton
* IN THE SHADOW OF THE MOON, music by Philip Sheppard
* LA PLANÈTE BLANCHE, music by Bruno Coulais
* LE PREMIER CRI, music by Armand Amar


* BATTLESTAR GALACTICA [SEASON 3], music by Bear McCreary
* DOCTOR WHO [SEASON 3], music by Murray Gold
* LOST [SEASON 3], music by Michael Giacchino
* TIN MAN, music by Simon Boswell


* BIOSHOCK, music by Garry Schyman
* CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE, music by Stephen Barton and Harry Gregson-Williams
* LAIR, music by John Debney
* MEDAL OF HONOR: AIRBORNE, music by Michael Giacchino
* WARHAWK, music by Christopher Lennertz


* ALIEN, music by Jerry Goldsmith - Douglass Fake, Michael Matessino and Nick Redman (producers)
* GODZILLA, music by David Arnold - Ford A. Thaxton and David Arnold (producers)
* THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING, music by Howard Shore - Howard Shore, Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Paul Broucek (producers)
* THE PRIVATE LIFE OF SHERLOCK HOLMES, music by Miklós Rózsa - James Fitzpatrick (producer)
* THE WIND AND THE LION, music by Jerry Goldsmith - Douglass Fake and Lukas Kendall (producers)


* AMAZING STORIES: ANTHOLOGY 3, Douglass Fake (producer)
* THE KARATE KID BOX SET, Robert Townson and Bill Conti (producers)


* INTRADA, Douglass Fake
* LA-LA LAND RECORDS, M.V. Gerhard and Matt Verboys
* MOVIESCORE MEDIA, Mikael Carlsson
* VARÈSE SARABANDE, Robert Townson


* "Elegy for Dunkirk" from ATONEMENT, music by Dario Marianelli
* "Graysmith Obsessed" from ZODIAC, music by David Shire
* "Last Shift" from LIONS FOR LAMBS, music by Mark Isham
* "Up Is Down" from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END, music by Hans Zimmer
* "Wong Chia Chi’s Theme" from LUST, CAUTION, music by Alexandre Desplat


The International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) is an association of online, print and radio journalists who specialize in writing about original film and television music. The IFMCA Awards are the only awards given to composers by film music journalists.

The IFMCA was originally formed in the late 1990s as the Film Music Critics Jury by editor and journalist Mikael Carlsson, a contributor to filmmusicradio.com and filmmusicweekly.com, and the owner of the Swedish film music label MovieScore Media. Since its inception, the IFMCA has grown to comprise 43 members from countries as diverse as Australia, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. The IFMCA presented its first awards in 2004.

The IFMCA strongly feels that a film score’s strength lies in the combined impact of two important elements: the effectiveness, appropriateness and emotional impact of the score in the context of the film for which it was written; and the technical and intellectual merit of the composition when heard as a standalone listening experience. As such, the membership votes for the best scores of each year with these two criteria in mind, and strives to recognize scores which excel in both these areas. As an international organization, the IFMCA also makes conscious efforts to celebrate the best film music, not just from mainstream Hollywood productions, but world-wide, wherever it may originate.

Previous winners of the IFMCA Score of the Year Award include James Newton Howard’s LADY IN THE WATER in 2006, John Williams’ MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA in 2005 and Michael Giacchino’s THE INCREDIBLES in 2004.

For more information about the International Film Music Critics Association, please visit http://www.filmmusiccritics.org/ or contact press@filmmusiccritics.org.

Meanwhile, on the European front…

A lot of attention tends to fall on American releases, whereas some superb work in Europe either takes a while to arrive here, or has to be imported by specialty labels.

On the DVD front, there’s Francis Veber’s hysterical French comedy The Dinner Game / Le diner de cons (1998) which the writer/director adapted from his own play, carrying over actor Jacques Villeret from the stage to the screen as ‘the world class’ idiot (the titular 'con') who torments an arrogant publisher by breezy moments of accomplished stupidity.

For a while out of print in Canada, the film returns via Maple on an anamorphic DVD, with English subtitles accompanying the original French dub track. (The box art is all-French, but the DVD does include English subs.)

Also of note is Black Night / Nuit noire by Belgian director Olivier Smolders. Released by Cult Epics, this is the director’s feature film debut, and fans of his short films will relish this surreal, sometimes Lynch-like tale of a reserved entomologist who’s bug fixation is extended to a strange woman who refuses to leave his apartment.

Shot in lovely HD, the film looks and sounds great, and features multiple story threads that may be part hallucination, repressed childhood memories, or part of an inverted reality. Smolders’ short film Adoration (1987) was featured in the anthology DVD Cinema of Death, also from Cult Epics, and in a 10-film anthology of Smolders’ early work, Spiritual Exercises, of which a review will appear shortly, alongside a detailed review of Free Cinema, a massive 3-disc anthology from Facets gathering rare British short films by some legendary filmmakers.

On the soundtrack front, we’ve uploaded a batch of Italian and Swedish releases available from various online shops.

From Italy’s DigitMovies comes two Ennio Morricone scores: Uomini E Uomini No / Men Or Not Men (1980), and the suspenseful Milano Odia: La polizia non puo’ sparare / Almost Human (1974). Both contain previously unreleased tracks.

And from Sweden’s Fin de Siecle Media comes Pino Donaggio’s second film score, the dynamic Corruzione al palazzo di giustizia (1975), and a pair of expanded /premiere CDs of two Franco Micalizzi scores: Hold-Up, instantanea di una rapina / Hold Up (1974), and the little-seen Adolescenza perversa / Adolescence pervertie (1974).

The above releases are fine examples of labels bringing out rare and obscure scores on beautifully mastered CDs, and it’s worth checking out their respective websites for some great Italian film scores.


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A return to the Zone

The good thing about the post-Xmas period is having a bit of time to go back and cover titles warranting more detailed reviews (or long and windy examinations, depending on one’s reactions to this prosiage).

Case in point: Twilight Zone: The Movie [TZTM]. Made in 1983 and among the few productions related to Rod Serling’s original series not available on DVD, Warner Bros. did the only thing they could with this hot potato – release it quietly, and without any extras beyond a teaser trailer.

It’s been 24 years since the film’s production ground to a halt when a helicopter was offset by an unexpectedly large pyrotechnics charge, causing it to tumble onto actor Vic Morrow and two children during a night shoot for a sequence originally being filmed for John Landis’ segment of the four-part anthology film. The sick irony is how Landis’ segment still flowed without the missing sequence, making the deaths of the actors all the more pointless.

With a lengthy court case, legal wrangling, and bad karma coming from the tragedy, it’s unsurprising there’s no useful extras on the disc. TZTM was among the most requested films by series fans for a DVD release (a few smart-asses posted noxious hopes about the inclusion of the helicopter footage as a special feature), so at the very least, it’s good the film is presented in a crisp anamorphic transfer with a decent Dolby 5.1 mix.

When the film was announced in the early eighties, it came at a time when I was thoroughly hooked on the show, which was being aired on Toronto’s CityTV (Channel 79 back then) on weekends in hour-long blocks; with a VCR, it was easy to archive the entire 5-year run within a few months, as each of the 30 and 60 min. episodes were shown in chorological order – edited slightly for syndication, but nowhere as badly when new transfers from 35mm prints replaced the worn 16mm prints.

(This was around the time when syndication firms applied an evil time-compression device named The Lexicon to squash the running time of their product that was already chopped down to accommodate more commercial space. The actors ‘voices were somewhat equalized to offset the speed-up of classic TV shows, but one could tell something was very wrong in the way they walked across a room, or the way smoke from a cigarette wafted unnaturally fast. At its worst, the technology was heavily applied by Turner on their monotonously programmed Super Station, which crunched rare TV movies – including a few directed by Steven Spielberg - into over-cranked comedies.)

The Written Zone

The early eighties was in fact an amazing time to drown oneself in Everything Twilight Zone, and I did so with vigor. Besides the TV airings of the show (minus the handful of episodes clipped from the syndication package), in 1982 Marc Scott Zicree published his superb series guide, The Twilight Zone Companion (which came as a bonus with the first pressing of Image Entertainment’s Definite Twilight Zone Season 1 DVD box); there were 5 LPs of original score recordings from the TV series from Varese Sarabande (later culled into a wan pair of best-of CDs before Japan’s SLC label released the quintet with additional music, followed by Silva Screen’s definitive boxed set); a one-time airing of three syndication-MIA episodes in a TV special; and the books and short stories from which the series writers crafted some amazing episodes.

From Rod Serling’s end, his published work never wholly disappeared, and it was easy to find originals and reprints of the three volumes from Bantam Books that contained Serling’s own short stories adapted from his teleplays: Stories from The Twilight Zone, New Stories from The Twilight Zone, and More Stories from the Twilight Zone. There was also a pair of books from Tempo which collected most of the tales originally published in hardback; and Serling’s long association with Bantam that resulted in reprints of older works – including novelizations (I think) of some classic teleplays, and a few anthology books, including Night Gallery, which contained the three stories that were used as the basis for the 1969 TV movie which kick-started Steven Spielberg’s professional directorial career, and spawned the odd-ball 1970-1973 TV series.

The writing of series contributor Charles Beaumont also appeared under the Bantam brand via several anthologies, and during the eighties the late author’s colleagues badgered the publisher to follow through with a planned anthology, Best of Beaumont, which was announced and then delayed until the thick paperback was given a discrete publication. (At least that’s the reason I was told about the book’s delay, as I recall seeing an ad for the anthology and waited what seemed like a few years before I found it one day on the bottom shelf at an old WH Smith shop across from the Eaton’s Center.)

Unlike Beaumont, whose work had fallen out of print soon after his untimely death, the short stories of co-contributor Richard Matheson tended to stay in print partly because the still-prolific author had written several genre classics – such as the novels I Am Legend, and The Incredible Shrinking Man – and myriad short stories which were reprinted over many years. The easiest to find at the time were the three Shock volumes, reprinted in the eighties by Berkley Books.

Part of this digression from film to TV to books is to give some detail of the materials that were happily available at the time when the way to find neat stuff wasn’t on Amazon but in the many used book shops that populated a stretch of Queen Street in Toronto that’s since been heavily gentrified by trendy shops in what slowly became a high-rent strip in the city.

Queen Street had his chunk of two blocks where one could find many amazing books dirt cheap, and a few collector shops that were squeezed out after several years of residing in eeny-weeny locations.

My luck struck gold when a friend referred me to Passages Books, once located in the back-end room of the building opposite of CityTV’s Queen Street headquarters, right on the south west corner. The owner (I think Brian was his name) had a list of clients, and he had enough people randomly dropping off old books that he could actually fulfill wish lists, so within a short handful of years I did in fact gather a fair chunk of collections from which the Twilight Zone’s writers adapted teleplays.

That led to discovering the show’s writers, checking out their prior work, and getting a feel for the style and genre of fantasy, sci-fi and horror writing that was popular at the time, and discovering a few gems along the way.

The favourite remains Beaumont’s The Intruder, a great novel dealing with a racist agitator who travels the deep South to stir up trouble. Brian once had a very fine copy of a first edition hardback, but I was lucky to get my hands on a paperback edition. The book, long forgotten, is one of Beaumont’s best works, and was made into a great movie by Roger Corman in 1962. Also titled The Intruder (and later re-titled as I Hate Your Guts), it starred a very young & dashing William Shatner, and was the director’s only real attempt to make a message film, which he still regards as one of his best works, and pegs as the only film he made that ever lost money during its run.


I never got into the spin-off Twilight Zone magazine – the subscription rate was above my budget and I just wanted the works of the show’s original writers – but the eighties was a great period to find a lot of material and appreciate the wealth of imagination that went into writing so many episodes during the show’s five-year run.

Serling wrote most of the scripts and tweaked many others when he was a heavily hands-on creator/show runner during the show’s first two years, and the brutal schedule and tasks undoubtedly aged him, particularly when the show and its Emmy Award-winning episodes made him a hot property for the second time in his career.

The first wave of accolades came during his years in live TV, writing benchmarks in TV drama: Patterns, Requiem for a Heavyweight, and The Comedian. Each of these were later repackaged in 1981 as part of a KCET/Sonny Fox Productions PBS series, The Golden Age of Television, and included some wonderful interviews with surviving actors & directors, and intros that placed each teleplay in its historical context. The series was later rebroadcast in the nineties on Canada’s Bravo, but sadly remains unavailable on DVD, although some of Serling’s teleplays have appeared on public domain DVDs, some of which we’ll review very soon.

When you’re hot, you gotta take advantage of the opportunities, and that’s what Serling did, having known lean years in the past. In 1963, Serling gave an interview to Gamma magazine, where he addressed his tough writing life. The interview appeared in the first issue of the short-lived mag, and can be read HERE.

Among his feature film scripts were Seven Days in May (remade rather clumsily in 1994 as The Enemy Within) and Planet of the Apes (with co-credited writer Michael Wilson), and although his post-Twilight Zone shows include Night Gallery (available on DVD) and a few short-lived series, none had the cultural impact of his classic ‘Zone.

Warner Bros. therefore knew they had a hot property with TZTM, and so did the producers of the 1985-1989 TV series, which attempted to capture the magic of the original show in spite of dwindling production budgets, lots of disappointing episodes, and some truly bad special effects. The limitations of the original series gave the show a B-movie feel, but maybe due to the addition of colour and primordial computer effects, it kinda looked cheap.

I never caught the 2002-2003 series because, having experienced the boredom of the first effort to update the original show’s concept, remake some episodes, and try out some new ones, I figured it was all pointless.

Time is also precious when there’s an obscene amount of material currently available – new to DVD, extant releases, new productions, and rare stuff recorded on vintage VHS tapes when a T-120 cost $20 a tape (or up tp $35 in 1983!) – and apparently the new series was targeted for a younger set, a major shift from Serling’s concept which maintained intelligent scripts, and attracted viewers of different ages, and varying brain power.

The Nostalgia

Everyone has a favourite episode, and that’s one of the key elements the 1983 film exploited. John Landis’ prologue played with extant nostalgia, punctuated by a cheap shock one would expect from the writer/director of An American Werewolf in London. That goofy jab bled into the main titles, and it was a thrilling experience to see elements of a beloved show – Rene Garriguenc’s main theme, Serling’s famous verbal intro that every fan knows by heart (seasons 1 + two) – thrown against a theatre screen in wide Panavision, plus a superb sound mix.

Jerry Goldsmith’s score was one of his best, and as was typical at the time, most soundtracks were not given domestic releases in Canada. The 5 LPs of original series music from Varese were imports, and so was Warner Bros.’ platter of the film score.

It took pestering and a quick dip into Detroit to snap up the film score, whereas the TV scores were carried by a Toronto chain called Cheapies, a company (according to several ex-employees I knew) that was designed to lose money and be some perfect tax write-off, except they had the misfortune of hiring an amazing buyer who knew a rich & diverse selection priced very sweet was the key to success, which ran contrary to the chain’s secret credo. (What happened to Cheapies is another story worthy of a detailed blog about greed, stupidity, and corporate suicide.)

To this day, the soundtrack album has yet to receive a North American CD release, but it was released in Germany and Japan. No big surprise there, but we've got a review of the album HERE.

Once again, Passages Books came to the rescue when I discovered studios sent out things called Press Kits (new buzz-word then), and Brian had one for TZTM, and while the kit made no mention of the tragedy (an obvious omission, although among the film’s four segments, apparently just two stills were provided for Landis’), it was an instant time capsule of a studio’s attempt to ignite a new franchise that stumbled badly.

In addition to stills, included in the kit were bios of actors Dan Aykroyd and Richard Brooks; directors Joe Dante, John Landis, George Miller, and Steven Spielberg; executive producer Frank Marshall; composer Jerry Goldsmith; and writers Rod Serling and Richard Matheson.

The film did get a home video release in the eighties, but it disappeared from the radar and took a long time – 24 years – to reappear, happily on a clean DVD release.

As our review of the disc and several fan sites attest, there’s a lot of material that could’ve been placed on this basic, bare bones disc without directly drawing attention to the tragedy, so it’s yet another fumble that robs fans of some ephemeral goodies, and doesn’t do anything to attract new fans to Serling’s timeless concept of creating bright entertainment, with the occasional moral play woven into a teleplay’s fabric.


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