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Playing with heresy


Back in the days of laserdisc, I once did an experiment where I grabbed and integrated all of the deleted scenes from a bonus disc to reconstruct a film’s first cut – just to see how the damn thing played, compared to the final theatrical edit.

The results were interesting, but the ‘restoration’ confirmed the footage was wisely chopped out / repositioned because too many things were ‘off.’ It was more than a pacing issue; conflicts didn’t have clean and logical ascensions, there were redundancies, and the running time felt a lot longer. The director was right the first time, and he wisely never went back to attempt a second version that suited his mindset, 10 years later.

Movie fans often get samplings on DVD of how a scene or a finale were originally written, shot, edited, but radically changed because the end result just didn’t work.

Joy Ride (2001), for example, contains a lengthy series of alternate scenes for the first edit that really didn’t work, and mandated substantial reshoots. The Butterfly Effect (2004) has an alternate ending that is spectacularly terrible (although the more satisfying ending used in the final edit still didn’t help an already awful film).

The new Blu-ray edition of Alien 3 (1992) contains two versions of the film, but the new restoration isn’t a definitive version, but an impression of the film’s agreed-upon design prior to firings and rewrites and reshoots. (Amazingly, the production changes didn’t create a mess in the end, but they left a lot of fans puzzled by peculiar footage seen only on pre-release trailers.)

The Exorcist (1973) is a different animal because it was never wrong nor imperfect. The version released in theatres was a smash hit, so logically one has to ask why anyone would be compelled to mess with it?

The so called ‘director’s cut’ created in 2000 by William Friedkin is a compromise made to settle the ongoing whining by writer William Peter Blatty, who not only wrote the novel & script, but produced the film, giving him clout and influence to keep pushing for a reinstatement of deleted scenes he felt were vital to the story and characters.

Warner Home Video’s new 2-disc Blu-ray release basically gathers everything from the 1998 and 2000 special edition DVDs, but with fat uncompressed sound, and a gorgeous transfer that retains the grain inherent to the film’s docu-drama styled cinematography.

The BR review [M] addresses the aesthetics of the two versions, and I’ve also uploaded a review of the film’s two soundtrack albums [M] – the original 1973 platter, and the expanded gold CD that sported an additional 14 mins. from Lalo Schifrin’s score prior to the recording session being halted by a furious director.

The BR, much like Fox’ Alien Anthology set that beholds Alien, gives viewers the choice of watching either the original theatrical cut, or the ‘director’s cut,’ so choice (on disc) is still there, but in the years since the respective new versions debuted, prints of the theatrical cuts have quietly disappeared.

They may have disintegrated, or there may never have been many surviving prints out there, but it is disturbing that whenever either film does the rounds in rep cinemas and cinematheques, the original versions – the ones that made the most money and impressed audiences and critics alike – aren’t shown, and that’s… not… right… because it smacks of revisionism that’s just a hair away from George Lucas’ obsession in fixing flaws… that just… aren’t there.








Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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Bye-bye, Shirley & Irvin


Leslie Nielsen, the Canadian-born actor who found an unexpected career boost after his deadpan comedic delivery in Airplane! (1980) died yesterday at the age of 84 due to complications from pneumonia.

Best-known for the immortal quip “And don’t call me Shirley,” Nielsen’s career began in live TV before making his big screen debut as a hungry reporter in the potent kidnapping thriller Ransom! in 1956. That same year, Nielsen nabbed the co-starring role of spaceship captain Adams in Forbidden Planet, and appeared in a handful of light films before returning to TV, where he remained almost exclusively for 20+ years, acting in series like Peyton Place (1965) or one-shot roles in a string of series (including the obligatory appearance in Canada’s blasted Littlest Hobo).

The odd film roles included westerns and dramas, not to mention Canadian tax shelter ‘gems’ such as City on Fire (1979) and Prom Night (1980), and yet during his  ‘serious’ career phase he’s best remember as the captain of the luxury liner Poseidon, even though he’s dead less than a half hour into The Poseidon Adventure (1972).

That’s probably a reflection of his reliable, staid persona, something the makers of Airplane! sensed could be milked in the airplane disaster spoof that goosed the actor’s career, which yielded the short-lived cult series Police Squad! (1982) and the three Naked Gun spin-off films (1988-1994). One of his last serious roles was as a dead john who causes Barbara Streisand to fight for her freedom in the underrated Nuts (1987).

Nielsen’s final career phase encompassed voice work, TV, stage, and generally bad comedies (Mr. Magoo actually emits the stench of rotten potatoes from DVD players and TV sets), but if the waves of international reports reveal anything, his bumbling Det. Frank Drebin and plane doctor Dr. ‘Shirley’ Rumack were universally beloved. He wasn’t a great actor, but reliable, and often quite funny.

Also newly dead is 87 year old director Irvin Kirshner, whose career also began in TV and yielded a surprisingly short film output, often consisting of high-profile sequels and remakes.

Deliberate or not, he went from the dud S*P*Y*S (1974) to The Return of a Man Called Horse (1976), and The Empire Strikes Back (1980), the best of the Star Wars films. That plum box office hit yielded the James Bond film Never Say Never Again in 1983 (a remake of 1965’s Thunderball), and the brilliantly loud and violent Robocop 2 (1990), after which directed an episode of Steven Spielberg’s dud series Seaquest DSV in 1993 before formally retiring.

His most critically acclaimed films are probably his first: The Luck of Ginger Coffey (1964), based on Brian Moore’s novel, and The Flim Flam Man (1967) with George C. Scott as a snake oil salesman.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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New & Imminent Soundtrack Releases


Here's the long-delayed tally of current and upcoming soundtracks on planet Earth. Tthis may be the longest list ever, because of the fall / Xmas releases vying for your attention.

I've added a few new labels - Counterpoint, Edition Filmmusik, Kind of Blue, and 2M1 Records - and I'll have an interview with George Fox, co-founder of 2M1 Records shortly, as well as soundtrack producer / Kritzerland bigwig Bruce Kimmel, plus a review of Warner Home Video's The Exorcist Blu-ray.

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The Soundtrack List (updated, as of Thurs. Nov. 25/2010):

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Beat Records (Italy)

Quella villa accanto al cimitero / The House by the Cemetery (Walter Rizzati)

Ragazza tutta nuda assassinate nel parco + L’occhio del ragno (Carlo Savina) --- early Nov.

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BSX Records (USA)

Bounty, The (Vangelis) --- re-recording, Nov., 2000 copies

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Chandos Records (UK)

Film and TV Music of Christopher Gunning

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Chris’ Soundtrack Corner (Germany)

Bruce Lee: The Big Boss (Peter Thomas) --- Nov.

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Colosseum (Germany)

Drei (Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil, Gabriel Mounsey)

Human Resources Manager, The (Cyril Morin)

Kommenden Tage, Die (Christophe M. Kaiser, Julian Maas) --- Nov.

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Counterpoint (USA)

Sunset Boulevard (Franz Waxman) --- 2CDs, Nov.

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DigitMovies (Italy)

Delitto d’amore (Carlo Rustichelli)

Ho incontrato un’ombra (Romolo Grano)

Il giustiziere sfida la citta (Franco Micalizzi)

Kapo (Carlo Rustichelli)

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Disney (USA)

Tron Legacy (Daft Punk) --- Dec. 7

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Edition Filmmusik (Germany)

Film Music Edition 13: Ulrike Haage

Film Music Edition 14: Yati E. Durant

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Film Score Monthly (FSM) (USA)

5000 Fingers of Dr. T, The (Frederick Hollander) – 3 CDs

Hawaii Five-O (Morton Stevens)

Kung Fu (Jim Helms) + Man in the Wilderness (Johnny Harris)

North Dallas Forty (John Scott)

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GDM (Italy)

Agente Logan Missione Ypotron / Operation Y (Nico Fidenco) --- Nov.

Come imparai ad amare le donne (Ennio Morricone)

Di tresette ce n’e’ uno tutti gli altri son nessuno / The Crazy Bunch (Alessandro Alessandroni)

Oceano / The Wind Blows Free (Ennio Morricone)

Trio infernal, Le / The Infernal Trio (Ennio Morricone) – Nov.

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Harkit Records (UK)

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Stu Phillips) --- vinyl

Follow Me (John Barry) --- vinyl

Green Hornet, The (Billy May) --- 60 mins. CD, coming soon

Lady in Cement (Hugo Montenegro) --- vinyl

Modesty Blaise (John Dankworth) --- vinyl

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Intermezzo Media / Mask Records (Italy)

Bandidos / You Die… But I Live (Egisto Macchi) --- mid-Nov

Buone notizie / Good News (Ennio Morricone) --- coming soon

Nel buio del terrore / The Great Swindle (Carlo Savina) --- mid-Nov.

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Intrada (USA)

Black Sea Raid (Terry Plumeri) --- 1000 copies

First Blood (Jerry Goldsmith) --- 2CDs, 1000 copies

Gator (Charles Bernstein) --- 1200 copies

Glory & Honor (Bruce Broughton) --- 1200 copies

Patton (Jerry Goldsmith) --- 2CDs

Raisin in the Sun, A + Requiem for a Heavyweight (Laurence Rosenthal) --- 1500 copies

WarGames (Arthur B. Rubinstein) --- 2500 copies

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Königskinder Music (Germany)

Konferenz Der Tiere / Animals United (David Newman) --- Coming soon

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Kind of Blue (Switzerland)

Ennio Morricone: The Bossa Nova & Somba Soundtracks --- Dec.

Ennio Morricone: Quentin Tarantino Movies --- Dec.

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Kritzerland Records (USA)

Bridge Too Far, A (John Addison) --- 1000 copies

Bukowsical! (Gary Stockdale) --- 2CDs, 1000 copies

Carrie (Pino Donaggio) --- 1200 copies

Dead of Winter (Richard Einhorn) --- 1000 copies

Elmer Gantry (Andre Previn) --- 1000 copies

Sadismo (Les Baxter) --- 1000 copies

Stu Phillips, 3 Scores: A Time to Every Purpose + The Name of the Game is… Kill + The Meal --- 1000 copies

Whisperers, The (John Barry) + Equus (Richard Rodney Bennett) --- ltd. 1000 copies, late Nov.

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Lakeshore Records (USA)

Birds Can’t Fly, The (Paul Hepker, Mark Killian)

Fair Game (John Powell)

Faster (Clint Mansell, various) --- Nov. 23

Legacy (Mark Killian)

Megamind (Hans Zimmer, Lorne Balfe)

Welcome to the Rileys (Marc Streitenfeld)

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La-La Land Records (USA)

Alien Resurrection (John Frizzell) – 2CDs, 3500 copies

Haunted Honeymoon (John Morris) --- ltd. 1200 copies

Haunted Summer (Christopher Young) --- ltd. 1200 copies

Human Target (Bear McCreary) --- 3CDs, ltd. 2000 copies

Mirrors 2 (Frederik Wiedmann)

Unstoppable (Harry Gregson-Williams) --- Nov. 23

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Legend Records (Italy)

Gesu’ di Nazareth / Jesus of Nazareth (Maurice Jarre) --- expanded, Nov.

Tempesta, La / The tempest (Piero Piccioni) --- ltd. 1500 copies, Nov.

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MovieScore Media (Sweden)

Amalia (Nuno Malo) --- Nov. 30

Happy Now (Dario Marianelli) --- Nov. 30

I Capture the Castle (Dario Marianelli) --- ltd. 1000 copies

In a Better World (Johan Sonderqvist)

Jellysmoke / Unknown Soldier (Peter Calandra) --- ltd. 500 copies

Klimt (Jorge Arriagada) --- ltd. 500 copies

Once Fallen (Jeff Beal)

Rocket Post, The (Nigel Clarke, Michael Csanyi-Willis) --- ltd. 1000 copies

Skinwalkers (Andrew Lockington) --- ltd. 1000 copies

Trigger Man + The Roost (Jeff Grace) --- ltd. 500 copies

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Nonsuch (USA)

True Grit (Carter Burwell) --- Dec. 21

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Perseverance Records (USA)

Puppet Master (John Massari, Peter Bernstein, Richard Band) --- 5CDs, Nov.

Rain Man (Hans Zimmer) --- ltd. 2000

Red Sonja (Ennio Morricone) – ltd. 2000 copies

Unforgettable (Christopher Young) --- ltd. 1200 copies --- coming soon

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Saimel (Spain)

Angeli senza paradise (Angelo Francesco Lavagnino) --- mid-Dec.

Heroes (Arnau Batalier) --- mid-Dec.

Pa negre – pan negro (Jose Manuel Pagan) --- mid-Dec.

Ragazzo che sorride, Il (Carlo Rustichelli) --- mid-Dec.

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Silva Screen (USA / UK)

100 Greatest American TV Themes (various) --- 4CDs, Nov

100 Greatest Musicals (various) --- 6CDs, Nov

100 Greatest Western Themes (various) --- 6 CDs

Classic Greek Film Music (various) --- Oct. 16

Doctor Who: Series 4 – The Specials (Murray Gold) – 2CDs

Doctor Who: Series 5 (Murray Gold)

Next Three Days, The (Danny Elfman) --- mid-Dec.

Tamara Drew (Alexandre Desplat)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Brad Fiedel)

Town, The (Harry Gregson-Williams)

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Sony (USA)

Black Swan (Clint Mansell) --- Nov. 30

Chronicles of Narnia, The (David Arnold) --- Dec. 7

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Sumthing Else (USA)

Deadrising 2 (Oleska Lozowchuk) --- 2CDs

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2M1 Records (Canada/USA)

Frozen (Andy Garfield) --- ltd. 500 copies, Dec.

Hatchet 1 & 2 (Andy Garfield) --- ltd. 500 copies, Dec.

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Universal France

Cinema de Maurice Jarre, Le --- 4CDs, coming soon

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Varese Sarabande (USA)

Family Plot (John Williams) --- Varese CD Club, 5000 copies

Get Low (Jan P. Kaczmarek) --- Dec. 7

Gulliver’s Travels (Henry Jackman) --- Dec. 21

Cinema de Maurice Jarre, Le --- 4CDs, coming soon

Home Movies (Pino Donaggio) --- Varese CD Club, 1000 copies

Karate Kid, The (Bill Conti) --- Varese CD Club, 2000 copies

Little Fockers (Stephen Trask) --- Dec. 21

Skyline (Matthew Margeson)

Taps (Maurice Jarre) --- Varese CD Club, 1200 copies

Tourist, The (James Newton Howard) --- Dec. 21

20th Century-Fox: 75 Years of Great Film Music (various) --- 3CDs, Dec. 7

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Verita Note (Japan)

Finalmente… Le mille e una notte (Carlo Savina) --- coming soon

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Warner Music (USA)

The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversay Box --- 16CDs, 1000 copies, Dec.

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Water Tower Music (Warner Bros.) (USA)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (Alexandre Desplat)

Legend of the Guadians (Winifred Phillips) --- videogame

Supernatural: Seasons 1-5 (Christopher Lennertz, Jay Gruska)

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This handy-dandy list was compiled from various sources, including catalogue announcements at Screen Archives Entertainment, Soundtrackcollector.com, Chris’ Soundtrack Corner, and Intrada.

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Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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Eros I: Bum-bums, & alternative cultural titillations

Please note: hyperlinked film titles are for reviews on the Main site; a hyperlinked "(M)" denotes review at KQEK.com Mobile




"Eros" is the buzz-word, or the veiled nomenclature, for things smutty-but-artistic, and it was likely conceived so adults could discuss dirty things without actually feeling guilty.

For example, a conversation could take place on a bus, and if one maintained an ongoing use of 'veiling' terminology, one could discuss the dirtiest act imaginable, and only those-in-the-know would know what you knew, while everyone else was safely potected by an invisible sheet of textual pureness (Catholic guilt?), knowing nothing.

During the seventies, the puritanical streak in American films more or less meant erotica appeared as an ingredient in exploitation films, softcore, and hardcore.

In Canada, Quebec more or less represented the country's risque output which fizzled out by the mid- seventies, although one could include France-Canada co-productions, and maybe the odd tax shelter film. Note: Circle of Two does not count.

In Italy, erotica appeared in a fairly broad range of soft, hard, sexploitation, eurosleaze, and comedic films, but in Japan, the restriction against showing pickles, beavers, and any activity between the lower naughty bits would've yielded films whose core eroticism was neutered, so the alternative was to riff European sub-genre streams like naughty teachers, naughty students, naughty prostitutes, and a few storylines and perspectives that weren't exactly politically correct.

Impulse Pictures have been releasing rare erotic films for the past few years - the wacky German Schoolgirl Report series, Swedish meatball classics like Anita (1973)  - and their latest cultural foray is the Roman Porn series, begun by Japanese studio Nikkatsu to get adult posteriors back into theater seats.




Kick-starting the DVD wave is The Nikkatsu Roman Porn Trailer Collection (M), featuring 38 trailers of naughtiness, plus a bonus feature. (The first titles in Impulse's new wave of feature-length classics will be Female Teacher: Dirty Afternoon, and Debauchery.)

Leaping back to Italy, the sex comedies of the seventies live on via the (geuinely) inimitable persona of Tinto Brass, and wonders behold, Tinto has gone digital!

His first HD film (via Cult Epics) is Monamour (M), made in 2005, and looking far more filmic than the indie horror shocker The Rig (M), made in 2010, and reviewed this past weekend.




How is it that Brass, the king of the posterior, emperor of the round rumpty-dumpty, spiritual leader of unfettered nethers, and iconoclast of the bountiful bum-bum can make an inventive movie experience that betters the efforts of younger, hungrier emerging filmmakers schooled in the latest gear?

Because he's a filmmaker [who succumbed to the erotic bug during London's Swinging Sixties], a veteran of Italy's New Wave [who went rogue], and a striking editor whose concept of montage is rooted in the rule-breaking techniques of Godard, if not the abstract and impressionistic brilliance of editor Franco Arcalli (with whom he worked on Deadly Sweet).

Eros is fun, silly, provocative, and really, really educational. The reviews support these facts with irrefutable evidence, and as we've learned today, Eros has artistry.

Ahem.








Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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The fruits of imagination

This past Saturday I uploaded a pair of reviews for low budget horror productions with the shared simple goal of wanting to scare audiences, except only one really succeeded.


Adam Green’s Frozen (Anchor Bay) is based around a simple hook: 3 friends trapped in a chairlift for what could be a week at a closed down ski resort, with personal issues, nasty winter elements, and wild things rapidly reducing their chances of survival.


Peter Atencio’s The Rig (Anchor Bay) is essentially Alien on an oil rig, which is more or less what Sean S. Cunningham tried in Deepstar Six (1989), and George P. Cosmatos mimicked in Leviathan (1989) with a creature more reminiscent of the The Thing (1982), absorbing its prey into a walking genetic soup of faces and arms.

Frozen’s location was simple – a chair, 50 feet above ground – whereas Atencio had an entire oil rig at his disposal, but the use of imagination, storytelling, and film technique is vastly different. Green used light, shadows, sounds, good writing and a great trio of actors to make a tense shocker, but Atencio seemed more content to make a product designed to fill rental shelves and online catalogues in an age when being original is what makes films, as rental product tend to look and sound utterly generic.

When reviewing films, it’s sometimes funny how there’s less need to blather about why a film like Frozen (M) is good, but more thought is required to explain why The Rig (M) is a terrible missed opportunity.








Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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Introducing… KQEK.com Mobile

In 2006, KQEK.com debuted with a mix of content from my writings for Told You So Productions, as an archive for print material written for the glossy journal Music from the Movies, plus new & regular content that included interviews and reviews that have boosted the site’s content to more than a 1000 reviews.

The next step is to go mobile, because far too many people are using smart phones to browse the internet, and I’ve personally heard a few devices emit electronic screams of pain when they attempted to load the Main Site, due to its significant graphic content.

(The irony, however, is that while 4 years ago the Main site loaded slow on computers, it now loads fast because I made a point in using as little Java as possible, and zero Flash – two monsters that have becoming the biggest processor drain around.)

In any event, the Zippy Mobile Edition is live, and will load on gizmos without fear of screams or little tiny digital tears from data overload.

The emphasis is on text, and I’ve ported over every single interview, plus book reviews and links to the scanned and archived Music from the Movies material.

Film reviews (BR, DVD) starting from Oct. 1 are also present, and I’ll have the equivalent in soundtrack reviews up by the end of Friday. (In fact, a handful of new CD reviews will be up this evening.) The tally of isolated scores on DVD and Laserdisc will be fully loaded by Sunday, and over time older film and soundtrack reviews from the archives will be added, boosting the Mobile site's content significantly.

I’d suggest for now you visit the About page for more info, and be patient with any bugs. (I’ve swatted them out of existence, but I’m sure there’s one or two still hiding between html links and page breaks.)

Just added: soundtrack reviews for John Scott’s Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes [M], and Miles Goodman’s Dunston checks in [M] (both from La-La Land). Note:  the “[M]” signifies a direct link to the Mobile review.

Just heard and to be reviewed in an upcoming Rue Morgue issue:  John Frizzell's Alien Resurrection, which sounds wonderful in La-La Land’s new 2-disc set.

Thanks for your patience, as setting up a new site is a great big time-hog, but I think it was worth it. Hopefully you’ll find the portable content fun during long, boring subway or bus rides, or when annoying family members blather after Sunday dinner and the kids are playing ‘the wall is a rubber surface from which I can bounce’ game that never ends well for anyone.










Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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The Oscar-winning class of Francis Ford Coppola


This past Saturday Francis Ford Coppola was awarded the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for his producing endeavours, which often gave cinematographers, sound designers, editors, and writers the chance to prove their mettle in feature length films.

Coppola graduated from the Roger Corman school of moviemaking during the sixties, first establishing his name as a screenwriter (Patton) before directing and producing through his fledgeling company, American Zoetrope.

Among his early underlings was George Lucas, whose student work was impressive enough that Coppola eventually helped the burgeoning filmmaker upgrade from USC grad to feature film director, plus a theatrical release agreement with Warner Bros.

Lucas’ debut was THX 1138 in 1971, and while the director soon eked out a career with American Graffiti (1973) and Star Wars (1977), it took a fatherly brother figure to give the young filmmaker the chance to make his movie, free from studios interferance.

Although Lucas remained an independent force, he nevertheless created films – as director and producer – with broad commercial appeal while Coppola stuck with the creative rebel persona... and lived it, sometimes making historic blockbusters such as the first two Godfather films, but never settling for studio assignments unless it was a matter of survival and hard economics (i.e. The Rainmaker, and that thing called Jack).

Coppola and Lucas, though, where part of a large talent pool that included cinematographer Carroll Ballard, editor Robert Dalva, sound designer Walter Murch, cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, writer Willard Hyuck, writer/director John Milius, and writer/producers Matthew Robbins & Hal Barwood.

Historically, if one adds Martin Scorsese, Paul Scharder and Steven Spielberg to the group, it's a significant wave of talent from a roughly singular generation that influenced the kind of films consumed by international audiences, as well as the way films are marketed and sold today.

Lucas was pivotal in the merchandising of toys and sundry paraphernalia via Star Wars, but THX predates his commercial ambitions; it's a film made by an idealistic connoisseur of selective aspects of pop culture and modern art (specifically, experimental film). Co-writer Walter Murch also created the post of Sound Designer by creating a vivid sonic world few sound editors and mixers had done on prior films.

Murch's knack and obsessiveness for finding the right sound effect and working with woven sounds began here, and influenced the way movies are heard today.

It's arguably due to his odd taste for ambient sounds that 5.1 audio mixes exist, if not an entire industry devoted to creating an immersive aural experience in film, TV, and video games.

Warner Home Video's Blu-ray of THX features a snappy image, rich uncompressed sound, and the extras from the 2004 special edition DVD that sported Lucas' revisionist Director's Cut. The review addresses these aspects, but hey! relax, it's not a 7500 word monster like Poltergeist.

Ahem.




Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Part II


Although KINO’s DVD and Blu-ray contain an hour-long documentary on the history of restoring Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to its near-original running time, TCM aired a separate doc this past Sunday, specifically dealing with the discovery of the rare footage in Argentina, and the historians’ efforts to get the Germans to believe they had something of incredible importance.

Metropolis Refound / Metropolis refundada (2010) feels like a treasure hunt wrapped in suspense, drama, tragedy, and humour, and while not currently available on home video, it’s worth catching on TCM because the filmmakers also delve into Argentina’s own challenges in finding and preserving the country’s film heritage.

Sometimes a treasure hunt comes up physically empty, as was the case with the unfinished Third Reich revisionist drama Life Goes On / Das Leben Geht Weiter (1945). The absurd stories and weird dramatic peaks  surrounding the making of this film were beautifully captured in a 2002 documentary.

The discovery of the Argentinian copy undoubtedly spawns speculation of what other previously lost footage or films may exist in vaults, with the top Most Wanted including Lon Chaney’s London after Midnight (1927), Orson Welles’ uncut The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), and Eric von Stroheims complete Greed (1924) & The Honeymoon (1928).

More recently, 75 films from the teens and twenties were discovered in a New Zealand film vault, among which is an early John Ford film Upstream, from 1927.
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Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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Blu-ray and DVD News


Before we get into some title highlights, veteran producer Dino De Laurentiis died Nov. 11 at the age of 91, De Laurentiis was a prolific producer who specialized in high-profile films with an international appeal. His early productions include Roberto Rosselini's Europa '51 (1952), the Paramount production of Tolstoy's War and Peace (1956), Frederico Fellini's La Strada (1954), Barbarella (1968), Mario Bava's sublime Danger: Diabolik (1968), Tinto Brass' Attraction / Nerosubianco (1969), The Valachi Papers (1972), and Michael Winner's raw Death Wish (1974).

Around the time of Flash Gordon (1980), De Laurentiis was better known for cranking out Stephen King adaptations (Cat's Eye, Silver Bullet, Maximum Overdrive), bad sequels (Amityville II: The Possession, Amityville 3-D), the Shogun cash-in Tai-Pan (1986), big budget remakes (King Kong, Hurricane), and the hysterical Jaws knock-off, Orca (1977).

De Laurentiis also produced the occasional A-level production, such as Ragtime (1981) and the nobel but dreadful Serpent's Egg (1977) with Ingmar Bergman, but he was a savvy businessman who knew how to exploit a hot property. Years after Michael Mann's Manhunter (1986), De Laurentiis held onto his contractual rights and successfully produced the unnecessary remake Red Dragon (2002).

In his autiobiography, director Richard Fleischer said he would never work again for De Laurentiis after prolonged payment issues connected to the otherwise laudable Barabbas (1961), but the director eventually came back and made a string of films for De Laurentiis, each of variable quality, such as the beautifully sleazy Mandingo (1975), and the cheap and laughable Conan the Destroyer (1984). The producer's company, DEG, was set up in the eighties but went belly-up in 1989, and among the worst affected was William Friedkin's Rampage - made in 1987, eventually released in Europe, but unreleased in North America until 1992 via Miramax (who've since forgotten the film after its token theatrical and VHS release).

A controversial figure, De Laurentiis' output as producer and executive producer featured an incredible mix of directors, some of whom he gave chances to reach international audiences, a badly needed job, or a dreadful waste of time. Jonathan Mostow was among his last finds, and the result was the superbly crafted Breakdown (1997). He also gave Michael Cimino several chances to rebuild his career via Year of the Dragon (1985) and Desperate Hours (1990), brought Russian war film maestro Sergei Bondarchuk to Hollywood (well, sort of) for the underrated Waterloo (1970), and while some in Hollywood have colourful opinions of De Laurentiis, he was awarded an Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 2001 by the Oscar folks for his undeniable impact of making movies for an international market. It was, however, quite amusing to see the faces of the actors and directors in the audience, of which some probably gave their own Oscar caliber performances for looking very delighted in front of a few billion movie fans.

On to notable releases:

Although scheduled to street this coming Tuesday, KINO's Blu-ray edition of the 2010 Metropolis restoration has been pushed to Nov. 23 due pressing & manufacturing issues, although the DVD will still be on shelves Nov. 16.

KINO has also announced the Douglas Fairbanks classic The Black Pirate (1926) will make its BR debut Dec. 7, with the same extras as the DVD, plus additional outtakes, and a new Lee Erwin organ score. I'm assuming this will be a new HD transfer in which the 2-strip Technicolor photography will sparkle in brilliant salmon and turquoise.

The Digital Bits posted a series of upcoming BR and DVD titles, and among the more interesting is Warner Home Video's plans to release The Right Stuff, Philip Kaufman's 1983 adaptantion of Tom Wolfe's best-seller, on BR in 2011. Wouldn't it be great if their efforts in searching for publicity and production ephemera leads to the discovery of the recording session tapes for Bill Conti's Oscar-winning score? Hmm?

I don't know who Shout! Factory is, but they must be armed with the biggest scissors capable of cutting though the thickest wad of legal rights, and have the finest team of diplomatic but persistent entertainment lawyers, because they've put out two sets of the 1966 TV series Peyton Place (how about some more?), The T.A.M.I. Show (1964), Tales of the Gold Monkey (1982) , Max Headroom(1987), and now Dark Skies - one of three series NBC billed as their Saturday Night Thrilogy in 1966, alongside The Pretender and Profiler. It's a neat little sci-fi show that deserved another season but for reasons of ratings and NBC's larger ownership stake in the other shows, it got axed in spite of good reviews. A CD of the fine music was released by Perseverance Records, and it seems the dreams of the show's producers is coming through on Jan. 18, 2011.

Now, how about Live Shot, the underrated, acidic satire of local news gathering that UPN aired for half a season during its network debut? 13 episodes were broadcast, and then it disappeared because UPN wasn't very bright. (They also killed Nowhere Man.). Anyone at Shout! Factory reading this paragraph?








Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Part I


oday begins the exclusive engagement of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis at the TIFF Bell Lighbox. Restored to over 2 hours in 2001, more missing footage recently appeared in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in the form of a 16mm reduction copy struck from a surviving 35mm nitrate print that once existed in a private collection and was donated to a government archive in the late sixties.

Now running 147 mins., fans and newbies can experience the film’s elaborate structure and subplots which were heavily altered after the film’s initial premiere in 1927. The transitions between crisp 35mm material, the 2001 material, and the 16mm blow-ups aren’t as fearsome as expected, particularly when one sees samples of the un-restored 16mm footage in a recent doc, Metropolis Refound.

It’s actually a testament to the brilliance of the restorers and the digital software used by the Murnau Institute that the worst artifacts and flaws were softened. The 16mm footage is slightly cropped – a flaw due to the smaller format and space requirement for an optical sound track on the side – but the changeover to the 16mm sources is less severe when the cuts occur between intertitles (consisting of white text on solid black background).

The new footage in the first third of the film mostly consists of missing shots and scene extensions that UFA probably removed after the premiere for reasons of pacing and (perceived) redundancy, whereas the remaning two-thirds are augmented by whole montages and scenes.

The most important additions for the 2010 edition include:

- The giant bust that scientist Rotwang keeps of his late lover whom city bigwig Joh Fredersen eventually married and spawned son Gustav. (The scene illustrates the rivalry between the two older men, and explains why Rotwang used the opportunity to build a robot to destroy Joh, Gustav, and the entire city.)

- Bureaucrat Josaphat also benefits from the added screen time with a whole subplot in which he agrees to help an undercover Gustav find a way to mediate a solution between the brutalized workers and his hard-line father, only to have the plans foiled by a slender henchman named the Thin Man.

- And more footage of the flooding of the workers' underground city at the end, including additional footage of children, and masses of vengeful workers swarming through streets as the good Maria shepherds their kids to the safety of a cathedral.

Still missing is a key scene where Joh overhears Rotwang telling the kidnapped Maria of his plans to destroy all of Metropolis, and the fight between the two men that gives Maria the chance to flee and rescue the kids.

All of the above material is particularly important if you’ve seen the film in one form or another, be it the ‘public domain’ editions of varying lengths, playback speeds and differing scores; the popular 1984 version where composer/producer Giorgio Moroder attempted to reconstruct the film’s original story structure with new music using popular rock groups and his own original score; or the 2001 restoration that was, until now, the most complete reconstruction of Lang’s cut, featuring a new recording of Gottfried Huppertz’ original 1927 orchestral score.

While Metropolis is a work of art, a visionary film that blends melodrama, sci-fi, socialist themes, stylish production design, bold special effects, raw sexual power, pulp mystery, corporate espionage, and unforgettable images of a future megacity, one can see why the film was cut down by UFA and foreign distributors wanting to modify the film for their native audiences.

They perpetrators were wrong, but  in UFA’s case, it most expensive production made by a brutally autocratic director during a terrible recession in Germany where money had lost its value, and the studio wanted a finished product from which they could recoup some needed (international) cash.

UFA’s trimming – if one assumes the 16mm footage represents their deletions – was for time issues, but it wasn’t wholly reckless and didn’t render the film incoherent. One can sense undercooked characters and wisps of missing subplots, but the film still contained Lang’s superb blend of melodrama, exotica, his obsession with mob behaviour, stark depiction of class struggles, and characters placed in dangerous traps and puzzle-room situations reminiscent of his pulp classic Spies / Spione (1928) and Testament of Dr. Mabuse  / Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse (1933).

It is odd, however, that UFA’s editors felt the slow opening third should be left alone, but the grand finale – basically the money sequence typical of a disaster film – was heavily cut down - either for visual redundancy, or to hasten the heroes’ arrival to the church steps where the hand of a hallowed mediator (Gustav) fixes the disconnect between workers and autocrats. It's  a hopeful resolution coming from a director who worked his crews and actors mercilessly, and ultimately had to readjust his own behaviour and dictatorial style and demands on studios in order to maintain a career in Hollywood during WWII.

The Huppertz score is what’s married to the 2001 and 2010 restorations, but when the film was slated for a Canadian premiere this year at Montreal’s Fantasia International Film Festival, a new score was commissioned, composed by Gabriel Thibaudeau, resident composer, conductor and pianist at the Cinematheque Quebecoise.

This past Tuesday and Wednesday, Metropolis was screened with a live performance (and the Toronto premiere) of Thibaudeau’s score with his orchestra. Unlike  Huppertz’ grand orchestral approach, Thibaudeau’s score is really intriguing because his focus is less on scope.

Using two chamber orchestras, Thibaudeau used a string quartet and keyboard to represent the rich upper class who control Metropolis and can engage is exotic leisure activities, and a brass quartet and organ for the underground workers who toil through marathon shifts.

The score is based around a 6-note theme which is cleverly worked into a love theme for Gustav and Maria (and quite reflective of the romanticism found in Lang’s work, notably Destiny), as well as a pseudo-flapper jazz variation for the nightclub where the robot Maria does her provocative dance, making nattily attired men drool like wolves.

There are minimalist musical figures, some striking aural effects of chords gliding between quartets, and the orchestra's percussionist uses kettle drums, chimes, and a standard drum kit to connects the two ‘classes’ of music, as well as underscore several tense montages – notably Rotwang chasing Maria through the catacombs to a dead end prior to her abduction.

Perhaps the only stage where the modernist material – dubbed “soundpainting” - is a bit heavy is around that 40 min. mark when the film’s measured pacing emphasizes the introduction of characters, conflicts, and subplots that are put into play.

Once the plotting shifts into full gear, Lang’s structure intercuts various story strands that converge in the 'disaster finale' involving raging mobs, the two Marias, and workers literally dancing ring-around-the-rosie after Metropolis' mechanical heart has been blown to bits.

Thibaudeau’s animated conducting reflects the classic tradition of live film music being in a state of flux: the performances sometimes veer into improv, and theme variations recur with subtle changes to remind an audience of what conflicts or emotions are in progress.

After the performance, Thibaudeau engaged in a brief audience Q&A, from which I’ve extracted a few highlights:

Audience: Tell us a little bit on who you came to write this score?

Thibaudeau: This score was commissioned by the Fantasia Film Festival in Montreal. I received the commission in March, I received the film by mid-May, and so I had to write the score for the premiere of July 28.

By that time, I did 9 concerts in Italy, one week of touring in France, I moved, and I wrote the music for a play, so I must admit that tonight is my first break... so I’m quite happy to finish with you!

Audience: How many times have you seen the movie?

Thibaudeau: Well, many times. In fact [I’ve been] the pianist of La Cinematheque Quebecoise in Montreal for almost 25 years, so Metropolis was one of the first ones that I played on… Must be about 100 times... You have to imagine every day I was maybe looking at one part of the film, but [repeating and repeating] for hours and hours….

Audience: Will the score be available commercially, or can it only be heard through a performance?

Thibaudeau: Actually, performances, because there is already an original score that was written [for the film in 1927], and of course this is the score which is now available with the DVD. Who knows? Maybe here will be an alternate 'TIFF' track, but I’m quite sure that the people of the Murnau Stiftung will say ‘Nein, nein, nein, nein! Das is nicht richtig!’

Audience: How much were you influenced by the original score?

Thibaudeau: Not much… The [musical language] is really different. The original score is really a post-Wagnerian score with a huge symphony orchestra. [My approach] is really contemporary music, which has nothing to do with the Wagnerian era.

Audience: You mentioned Bach and his counterpoint styles were a major influence, but your music is certainly removed from the Baroque style, so could you tell people about some of your modern influences?

Thibaudeau: I really do enjoy Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Ravel also, and there is this really great composer called Valentin Silvestrov who is from the Ukraine.








Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
0

Suburban Tales II: Poltergeist (1982)

Just uploaded (finally) is my review essay on Steven Spielberg’s production of Poltergeist, the supernatural-ghost-story-horror-thriller released around June of 1982 to audiences probably wondering what kind of film lay beyond the arresting ad campaign that showed a little girl touching a big TV screen in a very dark living room.



The poster was in black & white, had very few words (“They’re here”), and didn’t feature the inflated head of whatever big name star heading the cast. The movie was actually marketed creatively, and somehow we’ve ruined the advances in graphic poster design and campaign art that began around the fifties when proponents and pioneers such as Saul Bass gave us a graphic representation of a film using a visual hook and/or tag line.


Had Alien (1979) been made today, Fox would never have used Ridley Scott’s brilliant trailer of a pulsing beat-cracking eggshell montage, nor the corresponding poster of an egg ready to sprout an evil green miasma, nor the tagline “In space no one can hear you scream.”




In 2010, the campaign for Poltergeist would probably show the star’s head looking afraid near a TV set, and ghosts swirling around the frightened little body of a child, whereas the home video campaign would just have the star’s big head – because apparently that’s all people care about. (‘Craig T. Nelson looks awfully stern around those ghosts. Looks like a must-see/can’t miss renter.’)

Director Tobe Hooper wanted unknowns because a star would’ve mucked up the plan to get audiences bonding with an Average American Family: two yuppie parents (one a confirmed pothead in Reagan “Say No to Drugs” era), their two daughters, a son, a dog, a dead bird named Tweety, and fish who would likely die soon from overfeeding.

The film made the news as the summer’s must-see shocker, and also started to raise questions about what exactly constitutes a PG film, since Poltergeist had at least one very gory sequence that somehow snuck past the MPAA censors. (Lore has it that the film’s shock sequences ran longer and gorier purposely to force the MPAA weasels to compromise on allowing some gore – a ploy Alfred Hitchcock successfully used by larding Psycho with provocative language guaranteed to force a compromise.)

I missed Poltergeist in theatres for reasons I just don’t know; I’ve no memory of the fuss that magnetically drew audiences into theatres, but my friend went, and by the time I started listening more attentively, it was too late. Luckily there was VHS, and when Poltergeist made it to home video, we watched on what else – the Poltergeist TV.


This is where I have to pause, because if you want to read the lengthy essay that tackles the film’s structure, characters, directorial authorship headache, home video versions, lack of new special features, transfer, and more importantly, its position as the best representation of Spielberg’s idyllic suburban lifestyle, you should read the piece which runs a bit more than the average review. Warner Home Video’s released a great Blu-ray edition in terms of transfer, sound, and presentation, but it still falls short of the extras fans have wanted for decades. (And yes, I address the lack of custom extras, since 2012 marks the film’s 30th anniversary, and there’s still time to assemble a great special edition before some people respire into the netherworld of upper suburbia. Ahem.)


Lastly, I’ve also added a review of the long-forgotten TV movie that followed in Poltergeist’s wake: Don’t Go to Sleep, which had child star Oliver Robins again playing a kid whose life is threatened by a malevolent spirit. If you remember some TV movie you saw as a kid in where a rolling pizza cutter is travelling towards Valerie Harper, this is the one.

Now let’s love on to an anecdotal tribute to the best TV ever made: that 27” Sony.

My affection for the film has actually wavered over the years for a few easy reasons: when the movie was new, it was great; after subsequently seeing several Spielberg films set in the suburbs, it seemed clichéd, and one got tired of seeing actors looking at bright blue lights in ridiculous maw-gaping wonderment.

Spielberg’s short-lived TV series Amazing Stories was awful, and that soured my interest in the producer/director’s wave of family-friendly Amblin’ productions. I was also a bit older than the key kiddie demographic, so it all seemed trite.

I watched the film on laserdisc, letterbox for the first time, and the reaction was more positive, but a bit ‘meh’ towards the movie as a whole: looks and sounds were awesome, but the story and sentimentality were creaky.

Then maybe 15 years passed and for some reason this thing looked good. Actually, really good. And it’s not necessarily due to nostalgia, because I wasn’t fond of the eighties during the eighties and still ain’t (sort of).
I doubt it’s exactly nostalgia, but more of a shock at how well the film represents a chunk of eighties childhoods, because that was what the ‘burbs were like, circa 1982.

It’s still an ideal (read the film essay), but that lifestyle is what many families were adopting as both working parents had enough income to move out of their starter homes and upgrading to bigger houses with larger lawns, double-car driveways and garages, and new jobs in recently expanded suburbs that were a year ago farmer’s markets or grassy nothing.

This certainly was the norm in North York around 1970-1971 when nothing farmland existed beside Finch Avenue, Victoria Park Avenue, and Woodbine Avenue (which was soon flipped farther east because old Woodbine became the 404 highway. I used to ride my bike on the bumpy side of the trough where the new highway was being erected a stone’s throw from the new Fairview Mall.)

That corner pocket of what became Finch/Victoria Park was Poltergeist’s enclave of Cuesta Verde. It was (still is) a hilly suburban subdivision developed on what used to be a farm, and was rumored to be an old Indian burial ground. No idea where that last tidbit came from, but that’s what I remember hearing at an early age.

When we moved into the neighbourhood, the driveways hadn’t been paved, there was no park across the street, and the backyard was a great big dirt mound that would eventually get dredged to erect the next street. Beyond that street was the field that sloped towards what became the 404, and the field had a lone path cut by people heading out to the new North York Seneca College campus.

I once rode down the path excitedly until I realized I was flanked by tall dry grass beholding bugs that could sting. I had to peddle backwards because there was no room for a U-turn without irritating the insectoids and being killed before dinner.

About maybe 10 years later my best friend moved out and into the latest Cuesta Verde in Thornlea, and like the movie version, could only be accessed by car. Her father was the first person I knew who owned something called a Video Cassette Recorder, and this thing could record movies off TV for free, and you could keep them and watch them ad nausea. His device was a top-loader Betamax, and I think he got it around 1978 or 1979, and had the Jerrold cable box whose rows of push buttons generated TV stations beyond the 12 we got on my parents’ 1968 black & white Admiral set.

When her family moved to Thornlea, the new house clearly needed new gear, and my first visit was magical because there were these two great big beautiful Sony TVs. The main floor living room where my friend’s mom played Mahjong (my friend pronounced it with an extended “Maaaaaaa-jong” delay) had maybe a 14” of tubage, but the basement was the media room, and there sat a 27” Sony. It was big and beautiful, paneled in wood, and in typical suburban behaviour, even as an ex-neighbour, I wanted one, even though I was maybe 12.

Back on my old street, I had two neighbours who shared the same sloping driveway for their semi-detached homes. Both had Volkswagens. When one bought an Audi, the other eventually did the same and bought an Audi. When the next upgrade was a Mercedes 380 sedan, the other stopped, because that exceeded his economic status. End of the Do-Like-the-Jones Olympics.

When the neighbour in the house to the other side got a new TV, it was that big Sony, and when my dad heard that Ira has one, and Albert now had grabbed one on sale, my dad had to have one – even though we had just upgraded maybe a year earlier to a 14” RCA colour tube set + RCA top-loading VCR (which died a year into its extended warrantee, and was promptly replaced by a JVC front-loader – which still lives).

We hopped down to Mann’s (the stereo & TV emporium owned & operated by Ron Mann’s dad) and had to make a serious choice: that same Sony, knocked down from $2,000 to $1,500; or the model up, knocked down from $2,500 to $2,000.

$500 in, what, 1985 was a lot of money, so we (sorry, my dad) went for the first model, since the tubes were the same size, and had shared features.

Now, you can imagine the goofiness of socially moving between three households and seeing the same TV set. At Xmas and Easter dinners at Albert’s, there was the Sony. At movie weekends at Ira’s, there was the Sony, and at home in our own crude but wood-paneled leisure room, there was the Sony. This was part of the suburban ideal: you and your neighbours shared roughly the same toys, and it was a sign of progress, not greed, jealousy, or materialistic insanity.

(Oh stop it. Let me go on.)

The Sony represented a key ingredient that was rampant in Poltergeist and the Spielbergian suburban ideal: people had the income to be current with the latest leisure gear and appliances that made life comfortable. Two cars, a leisure room that itself was a nascent form of the home theatre, a washer + dryer, dishwasher, and big rooms where each child could play in privacy until mom’s last call for dinner was genuine.

Through objects, jokes, and set décor, the neighbourhood dramatized in Poltergeist’s Cuesta Verde existed in California, Toronto, and everywhere else, and that’s one of the reasons burbanites probably have some affection for Spielberg’s films: they were a snapshot of the good life you could enjoy if you had working parents, a parent with a well-paying gig, or a mortgage (or vivid imagination spawned by childish envy).
It’s an ideal rooted in materialism, and most people are materialistic to some degree; it’s one’s economic situation and how it impacts one’s psychology, ego, latent mania for toys that determine whether one cherishes stuff, or stays sensible and saves hard-earned money instead of spending like a goofball- er, good consumer.

The Freeling family’s life in a neighbourhood still in transition is no different than any family who snagged their first home, moved in, and had to contend with roaring bulldozers, paving machines, and pounding sounds in the daytime as the next street down was erected.

This isn’t the same as moving into a new condo; the suburban home experience – semi-detached or fully – is unique, and in all honesty, I cherish my memories living in a car-centric development because my life in the ‘burbs wasn’t the Durham County experience. There were hydro towers nearby – but a good 10 mins. by car, so we were safe from Fried Brain Syndrome.

There were Tupperware parties on my street, craft sales in basements (I still have a rice-filled frog named Mary), my mother did batik and our plants were in hand-made clay pots that were often suspended in macramé holders created by Albert’s wife, BBQs between neighbours, and the odd invite to a cottage (the Audi-Mercedes neighbours had cottages).

The was the odd break-in, but there were no dead bodies under the foundation because at least in Toronto, homes in the seventies & onwards were built with basements, so they’d have found dead people and done something about it before continuing with the sewers and secret government stuff.

We didn’t have an evil Teague who developed the rolling streets of semi-detached homes; instead we had incompetent wiring by a major company that we smacked with a lawsuit (you do NOT connect aluminum wires to copper-rated sockets), baseboard heating that dried out your throat and overheated to dangerous levels. rotten windows the cheap builders installed that were breezy in winter and warped in summer, and a driveway built on clay that warped from the weight of parked cars.

Paradise. You know.

I saw Poltergeist on the Poltergeist TV, and I didn’t get the irony until years later when it hit me (why then?) that I had the Poltergeist TV. And my parents’ house may have resided on hallowed land. And the house had weird electrical oddities. And people’s voices sometimes fuzzed though the stereo and TV speakers when the power was off. And I almost got brained by my mother’s torpedo-tipped clay pot holder that for 10+ years was otherwise safely suspended from the ceiling until one day it decided it wanted freedom, seconds after I passed under it.

When I moved out of the house, the TV (which I affectionately dubbed Carol Anne) came with me, and she remained the main set until I upgraded to a freakin’ huge 36” JVC tube in 1999 for $1,600. Then Carol went into the bedroom.

I rented a disintegrating house for about 8 years that resembled the Fight Club House on rainy days (the ceiling actually collapsed once) and had Buffalo Bill’s basement from Silence of the Lambs (all unfinished, half-assed carpentry, and ducts lined with spiders I nicknamed Bruce because of their size and ability to procreate like rabbits).

In the dying house, Carol Anne was the TV that sat in the bedroom, and there was one night where I had a dream-within-a-dream: every time I closed my eyes I’d hear this incredible pounding, like a giant fist smacking the house from maybe the upper bedroom corner. (The force sounded so profound that the hits resonated from several places.)

Carol Anne was also integral to the finale of an unfinished short film of mine because the tube was so big and easy to photograph. That Sony model was indestructible, and every time it seemed to be on the verge of death, it snapped out of it.

Old neighbour Albert eventually replaced his tube because it died, and it cost $800+ about 20-25 years ago, but the Sony set lived on.

Mine started to get a bit greenish until I moved out of a condo (magnetics from a steel support beam?), then it developed diagonal lines on the upper part of the tube display (which sort of stopped), and once in a while the contrast would blow out, emphasizing whites and greens on separate occasions. The oscillator would also squeal if the TV needed a nap.

Most of the time Carol Anne was fine, and there’s something to be said of a CRT tube made around 1984 that was rock solid for its first 20 years. Someone posted this message in a forum, titled “Why won’t my 20 year old tube TV die?”

Quote:

“We have a 20 year old Sony Trinitron 27” Tube TV in our living room and till this day, it just won’t die.”


It won’t die because they made them that good. The JVC that replaced the Sony is circa 1999, but the model is a good 6 years older than that, and it rated high on a consumers report because of its low maintenance issues.

Manufacturers don’t make singular TV models for 5-10 years; they get replaced by newer machines months later, and people upgrade a lot more often than in the past because there’s poor coordination between the various hardware manufacturers, the software makers, and the computer industry that’s now indistinguishable from the TV industry.

If I could, I’d actually tell you Carol Anne’s model number, but the manual and TV are in deep storage.
It’s so old, it’s off the Google radar.

Vintage Trinitron searches yield XBR and WEGA models. Type “Sony Poltergeist TV” and you get pictures of the poster and CD covers, but no model specs. The closest relative kinda looks like Carol Anne, but it’s not her, and not as old.

Right now the TV’s got boxes of my mother’s (prolific production of) homemade pottery, surrounded by boxes of videotapes, IKEA shelves, and records, but I know that if Carol Anne was rolled out, and her solid wood cabinet was dusted off, her tube Windexed clean, and the remote was refitted with batteries, she would make that familiar “Boomph!’ sound, and as the static snaked through the electrical architecture, a picture would appear from the blankness. The colours would be nice, the detail solid, and the sound in Sony’s faux simulated stereo clean and clear.

I have no intention of turning her into an aquarium. When she’s freed from storage, she’ll be a museum piece in the home, more better than a Poltergeist poster or cast picture signed by every actor.

Sony designed her with care, to the point that if you went on vacation, there was a master power switch under the contrast and colour adjustment knobs that disconnected the set from the AC feed for safety.

Who does that?

Naturally, like all antiques, Carol Anne would have to be plugged in for a day to warm up the circuit boards so she wouldn’t blow up, but think about it: a 31 year old TV model that probably still lives in spite of being stored in an inert locker. I’m pretty sure that if you turn the TV to channel 12 and let the white noise play for a while, you might hear TV People.

I just don’t want to think about the robust egg sacks of little baby Bruces under her cabinet, but if she’s a real Poltergeist TV, the Bruces are what’s been protecting her from vermin.

Madness?

Probably.

But that’s my Poltergeist story.









Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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Suburban Tales I: Durham County


The wonderful world of the suburbs has gone through several subjective optics since the fifties, even though one could argue suburban life was present in the Little Rascals shorts of the thirties: the kids lived outside of the downtown core, had vast fields and newly developed areas to play around, not to mention older farms from where they could commandeer unused shacks and oddities to create a clubhouse and a new car.

There were also the Blondie films of the thirties and forties, which focused on the trials of Dagwood Bumstead’s life as married man, supporting his family with lots of humorous ups and downs.

It wasn’t until the fifties when the burgeoning culture of nuclear families in starter homes found further idyllic reflections on TV, both in TV series like Leave It To Beaver (1957-1963), as well as commercials where housewives in housework suits or flowing dresses vacuumed in style and felt proud to have shiny new streamlined appliances.

The commercial imagery was sexist to the core, but it represented an ideal: perfect homes, streets, driveways, lawns, gardens, and great neighbours with whom one could BBQ on weekends and knock back a few beers (when drinking on screen was no longer taboo in networks’ Standards & Practices rulebooks.

Suburban life is a very, very broad subject which some might hard to believe. It’s loathed by townies because it’s out in the middle of nowhere - or as friends David & Mike would call it, ‘a far away yonder’ known colloquially as Bumblefuck, because you haphazardly bumbled into some insular pocket that begged the question: ‘Why the hell would anyone want to live here? And how the hell do we get outta here?!?!?!’

Green fascists hate the ‘burbs because it’s based around a car culture that goes against the more logical city/small town scheme of work/shops/homes being within 5-10 mins. walking distance, and being walkable.

You could bike in the ‘burbs (as I did to spend $1 on 4 specific snacks my mother never bought: chocolate bar + gum + chips + more chocolate), but depending on the development scheme, you probably required a car to get anything, as was dramatized in the Steven Spielberg’s eighties suburban fantasies E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Poltergeist (1982).

(I’ll have reviews of the three Poltergeist films later this week, since Warner Home Video recently released the first film on Blu-ray.)

Burbanites (of which I was one, and still am, due to a quirk of genetics, if not a warped spirituality) tend to be split along black and white lines: they either hated the experience and fled, or they retain a fondness for the environment that to them wasn’t evil at all, and remains a great place to raise families and/or retire with a big yard for roasting meat, fish and sausages. My memories are really, really good, but I’ll save that blather for the Poltergeist column.

The suburbs have never gotten their due in film and TV because the people who live there are portrayed as buffoons (The ‘Burbs), slapstick morons (Neighbors), or catty bitches (Desperate Housewives). In Viva (2007), set in the sleazy psychedelic late sixties/early seventies, the perfect lifestyle masks sexually repressed characters who sometimes delve into some swapping and ‘escorting’ – a bit of experimentation while Money Earning Husband is away for the day or out of town on ‘business.’

None of the clichés or off-beat portraits are wrong; they just represent a satirical poke at the ‘burbs where the characters never feel real.

Perhaps that’s what made the first season of Durham County such a striking shocker. It’s set in a suburb outside of Toronto, and the incipient malaise from past demons, potential health risks, and dysfunctional families are kept shuttered behind immaculately maintained monster homes / snout mansions – the ugly, ersatz chic budget estates that pepper areas outside of the older suburbs (which during the fifties and sixties included modest 2-level homes and bungalows, and in the seventies largely consisted of semi-detailed homes with big yards).

Durham may not represent the weirdness of my suburban childhood, but it’s plausible because the characters are utterly ordinary. A burnt out cop, a cancer mom, unhappy children, an ex-teen hockey star, and yoga mom. The dramatic events are compressed and the unraveling of repressed rage unfurls like a tight soap opera, but the unhappiness of the Sweeney family is more believable than the Klopeks of The ‘Burbs (much as I like them), or the stupid characters that deserve far worse fates in Disturbia (2007).
         
Season 3 of Durham County is already underway – it debuted Oct. 25 on HBO Canada – but prior Seasons 1 and 2 are readily available in Canada as a 2-pack from Anchor Bay Entertainment Canada / Muse International). (Well Go USA has released Season 1 in the U.S., and Season 2 streets Nov. 23rd.)

For the first part of this peek at the ‘burbs, we have interviews with series writer/producer Janis Lundman, writer/producer/director Adrienne Mitchell, and Seasons 2 and 3 composer Peter Chapman.
        






Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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Christopher Young Talks Psycho


No, no, no. Esteemed composer Christopher Young hasn’t experienced a psychotic snap. He talks about Psycho. No idea where you got such a silly idea.

The final slice of Rue Morgue’s 3-part Q&A with composers well-versed in the nuances of horror film scoring is up & running, and it’s the transcript of my discussion with Young based around 3 questions.
What I love about Young is that he’s a film music fan, an educator, a passionate artist, and gracious about his own work. If I had to be stuck on an island and could only choose music by 5 composers, my picks would 99.9%  be Young, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, Oliver Nelson, and Hugo Friedhofer.

Which Young scores I’d take is a different matter, but they would have to include his horror work, as well as Jennifer 8, Copycat, and Hider in the House, because they’re marinated in pure melancholy. (Hider is a gem, and I don’t’ want to see the film because my own mind has conjured a drama more vivid than the cinematic tale of Gary Busey playing a sleazy Bad Ronald.)

Also of note is a post-Halloween treat (thanks, Pete!) originally spotted by io8.com, where you too can listen to a special mix of themes from John Carpenter films. The hour-long program was created by former Carpenter ‘associate’ and co-composer Alan Howarth for Resident Advisor.

I’ll have a list of sampled films in the next blog. The downloadable file is worth checking out for music written when Carpenter’s film output was far more creative and fun than his weak TV (Pro Life) and rare film work of late.

Lastly, Tadlow Music, who brought us crisp digital re-recordings of the full scores to Mikos Rozsa’s El Cid (later reissued via Silva Screen), and more recently Maurice Jarre’s Lawrence of Arabia, have announced their 2-CD set for Basil Poledouris’ Conan the Barbarian. The label has posted a YouTube video of a snippet from the recording session to tease us before the set is released, uhm, today!         




Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
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More TV Music, Please


Back in late August, Film Score Monthly released a 5-disc set of music from a diverse group of TV series, spanning 1962-1976, although most really fall between 1969-1976, which is perfectly fine because there’s a lot of great music that hasn’t been heard in probably 40+ years.

Johnny (John) Williams, Leonard Rosenman, and George Duning have whole scores from their sixties work, and within the jazz idiom (as well as some fusion writing) there’s music by Dave Grusin, Don Ellis, and John Parker, plus lengthy suites of music by Gil Melle, whose jazz orchestra score for The Organization (1971) was recently released by Intrada.

Grusin’s music for Assignment: Vienna is fabulous, and I’ve never heard of John Parker before, but his music, based around Grusin’s series theme, is equally strong. There’s also Jerry Fielding in a lighter state of mind, and Lalo Schifrin’s music from Gene Roddenberry’s Earth II pilot which ran forever on syndicated TV stations because it had stars you kind of remember from something but whose names always evaded you.
The big gem for myself is Don Ellis’s music from The Deadly Tower, a 1975 TV movie starring Kurt Russell which is actually out on DVD, but only via the Warner Archives branch (read: rather pricey, U.S.-only, on-demand DVD-R).

I know FSM will have a follow-up set when the right combo of material falls into place, but the quality of this music ought to be a signal to other labels that a lot of really good TV music remains unreleased.
Since we’re still talking jazz, the world would be a better place if the scores for Starsky & Hutch appeared on CD. Lalo Schifrin’s title theme is all-tension, and the composer also contributed a number of scores before other luminaries took over, including Tom Scott, J.J. Johnson, and Shorty Rogers.
And since we’re still on the topic of jazz in TV, here’s an impossible request for anyone with similar sensibilities: Private Eye, the 1987 stillborn series created by former Starsky & Hutch writer/Miami Vice creator Anthony Yerkovich.

Pilot movie and series theme: Joe Jackson and a big jazz band.

Series episodes: Shorty Rogers.

And wouldn’t it be grand if Universal, who finally released The Six Million Dollar Man on DVD (albeit via an exclusive Time Life deal that ends in October of 2011), allowed someone like, oh, Intrada to release a big fat delicious set of music?

Why, you ask? Because the series theme and signature themes were composed by Oliver Nelson, a massively talented arranger, composer, producer, and superb soprano sax player in his own right.

If you’ve never heard of Nelson, Google his name, because he was associated with some of the finest musicians on the planet in jazz. Check out a few sound samples, because he was brilliant, and one could always tell when he was the arranger of an album, be it Stanley Turrentine’s Blue Note work, or Gato Barbieri’s score for The Last Tango in Paris.
  
I know some soundtrack label producer just noticed a light bulb glowing above their head…





Mark R. Hasan, Editor
KQEK.com
 
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