Archive for August, 2010

Liblogs: What am I missing?

Monday, August 30th, 2010

I’ve done all the scanning I’m planning to do, looking for liblogs (that is, blogs by library people, as opposed to official library blogs). I’ve found 1,277 liblogs, and checked and excluded another 1,308 things that aren’t liblogs.

It’s Your Turn

I know I’m not going to get everything. That became fairly clear when, on checking 83 possibilities from eight blogrolls added while checking mostly-defunct liblogs, I came up with 31 legitimate liblogs…

I also know I’m not going to go through any more iterations.

So: If you know of liblogs I haven’t included, you’re invited to let me know between now and September 15, 2010.

What’s a liblog?

For the purposes of the current project, the most inclusive I’ve done, here are the criteria:

  • The blog must be available on the web without using passwords or special permissions.
  • Most posts in the blog must be in English.
  • There must be at least one post prior to June 1, 2010 (that is, no later than May 31, 2010).
  • The blog should be by a self-identified “library person” or group of people, not explicitly identified as not at all relating to libraries, or somehow related to libraries…but:
  • The blog should not be an “official blog” from a library or a library-related group. (If you’re in doubt, include it.)

Please, Before Submitting Any Candidates…

  • Check this pageLiblogs 2010 (with exclusions) — DRAFT. Use your browser’s Find function to check the name. (The list is in alphabetic order, but it’s idiot alpha order, with a few “A ” entries and a lot of “The ” entries. And, of course, cute punctuation can change sorting.)
  • [Added 8/31/10:] If you see a blog twice, under a current name and an old name, that’s OK: In order to maintain my sanity while checking candidates, I include older names of renamed blogs in the exclusions list, under the “Renamed” category. There are 115 older names in the list as of now.

If You Have Candidates…

  • Add a comment, with the blog name and URL–but give the URL as text, not as a link (omit the http://), and don’t combine the blog name with a link. (Why not? Because, particularly if you have more than one, it will cause Spam Karma 2 to flag it as spam–and with more than 100 spamments today, I’m not sure I’ll be able to sort through all the spam looking for legit posts.)
  • Or send me email, waltcrawford at gmail dot com, using the same rules.

Sending candidates doesn’t guarantee they’ll be included–and since this project won’t involve blog profiles, it may not matter as much. Still, it will almost certainly be the most comprehensive look at English-language liblogs ever done, so it wouldn’t hurt…

Thanks. Now back to the Open Access project (and dealing with a keyed car, and, and, and…)

Postscript, September 16, 2010:

I’ve turned off comments, since it’s now past September 15, 2010.

Between comments here and direct email, and excluding blogs that obviously didn’t fit my criteria, I received 33 candidates. Of those, 25 met the criteria and have been added to the study, bringing the new total to 1,296 liblogs (that includes one more blog, noted in a response to another post, that had one single post some years back…). Six of the candidates are too new, having begun in June, July or August 2010. One is an official blog. And one just doesn’t seem to be there.


A random post about random accumulation

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

For some reason, I woke up in the middle of the night wondering about this:

  • How many CD players do you have in your house/do you own?
  • How many FM radios do you have in your house/do you own?

Those are four questions, not two. Let me add definitions:

  • CD player: Device capable of playing a CDAD “Red Book” audio disc. (Thus includes PC CD drives, DVD drives, Blu-ray drives.)
  • FM radio: Device capable of receiving broadcast FM and making it audible in some form.

The second actually hit me first, because I was thinking “it’s odd that we don’t have a radio in our house”–then, when I did a quick mental inventory, came up with what I *think* is the answer(s): Five in the house, seven that we own.

Huh? Well, there’s a crank-powered emergency radio. That’s one. (That is: It has a hand crank for real emergencies, also a little LED flashlight. We don’t listen to cranks on it, unless you count the Tappit Brothers.) But there’s also a boombox in the garage. That’s two. (And it plays CDs as well.) Oh, but I also got a silly little radio as a premium with a magazine subscription–it’s tiny and tinny, but it works. That’s three.

Four and five? The 8GB Sansa Fuze that I use as an MP3 player these days has a great FM tuner–but then, so does the 2GB Sansa Express that I used to use, even though that one was clumsy to use.

Six and seven, probably obvious (and also constitute CD players two and three): Car radios.

Only noteworthy because I think most folks would regard us as having very little in the way of consumer electronics. One TV (technically, zero TVs at the moment), no iAnythings, a little tiny stereo system…oops, wait:

Make that six and eight. The Denon stereo (with a malfunctioning CD door) also includes an FM tuner. I’d forgotten that, since we never used it. And that’s a fourth CD player, even if it’s barely functional.

This is surprisingly difficult. Now, what about CD players. I think I count eight and ten, of which five are DVD-capable. (TEN optical drives in this low-tech household? Good Gaia!)

Besides the four already mentioned, there are DVD burners in each of our budget notebook computers (#5 and #6, also DVD #1 and #2). I had a neat little $15 CD portable that I used before getting a Sansa (#7). Because we love the Denon’s sound and fixing the door would cost $200, we’re using a cheap Sony DVD player as a CD front-end (try finding a non-DVD CD player that has a track display and costs less than $1,000…), so that’s #8 (and DVD #3). Oh, and the freebie DVD player we got during a Safeway post-remodeling grand opening and have been using as our only DVD player for a couple of years (#9, and DVD #4). And the big luxury–the $129 Blu-ray player we just picked up to go with the TV that will shortly replace our 13-year-old TV (which has been Freecycled to another household, not junked).

That’s us–and this really is a low-tech household…no teenagers, no DVR, no second TV in the bedroom, third in the kitchen, fourth in the…whatever.

How about you? Can you even count the number of optical drives you own? The number of FM tuners? (And now Big Media thinks your cell phone should have a mandatory FM tuner, ‘cuz, you know, otherwise there’s no way for you to listen to the radio…)

No big moral here. Just an oddity: Things do accumulate. Remember when household lasers were rare and expensive devices? Maybe not; most readers may not be that old.

Enough procrastination. Back to the OA project.

The late summer slowdown continues

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Once again, it’s a good thing: Few posts because energy spent on other things. To wit:

The first draft of The Project–that is, “Open Access: What You Need to Know,” an ALA Editions Special Report that will appear in 2011–is complete, and starting today/tomorrow I’ll do the Big Changes: Integrating a fair amount of new material (some of it from “a dozen or so” delicious entries that turn out to be, oog, 88 of them), refining organization, clarifying, aiming toward a second draft that’s probably publishable. That won’t be what I submit to the publisher, but the third (and final) draft should be mostly refinement. (Given that blog posts are “not quite first drafts” and most C&I essays are roughly 1.5th drafts, doing three drafts is unusual for me.)

The Other Project–current working title “The Way We Blog: English-Language Liblogs 2007-2010”–gets a little attention when I’m not working on the book, and got a lot during a few days while letting the first draft sit (complete) before revisiting it. Now up to 1,250 liblogs and another 1,262 excluded candidates. A few (anywhere from 5 to 20) more hours of data gathering to do, before setting it aside until it’s time to start the analysis and writing, probably after C&I resumes and the book is complete.

A couple of changes at home (OK, finally getting an HDTV after discussing it for 2-3 years) have taken up quite a bit of time, and that’s not quite done.

I’m learning a lot along the way in The Other Project, as I expanded it from “liblogs that show up in one of the typical places” to “liblogs the existence of which I can discover.” For example:

  • There’s a large and extremely vigorous group of liblogs almost none of which show up in the typical places (they have their own typical places), namely kidlit and tween/teen/YA lit blogs (I’m only including ones clearly by library people–not all the others). I mean extremely vigorous. I wonder when some of these people sleep…
  • I’d already apologized for an intemperate post a couple of years ago about what program is used by most libloggers. Turns out, I suspect, that the only answer is the usual one: “It depends.” For example, Blogger seems pretty clearly to be the platform of choice for many or most of these book review blogs, even while WordPress is pretty clearly the platform of choice for experienced tech, etc., liblogs. But that’s preliminary.
  • A few blog templates (or individual choices) seem to go out of their way to discourage reading more than either the most recent post or the most recent handful of posts–e.g., blogs with neither archives nor “older post” controls, or blogs that show “older posts” one. post. at. a. time, with no monthly or weekly archive functions. Such is life.
  • Relatively few bloggers are adopting light-text-on-dark templates (although I was astonished to see a highly-touted new WordPress template that’s exactly that)…but there are some, and one or two that use the even worse black-text-on-dark or purple-text-on-black template, or something other that actively resists reading. I usually take the hint.

So there’s an update, such as it is. Now, off to make sense of those 88 items tagged “OA” in delicious. I would have sworn it was only a dozen or so…

Oh, by the way: Lulu’s summer free delivery sale ends either today or tomorrow.

Cites & Insights September/October 2010 available

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

A very special (and very long) Cites & Insights is now available: Volume 10, Issue 10, September/October 2010.

It’s at, if you’re not seeing the links.

The 60-page issue (which, at 1.5MB, may take a little longer than usual to download) is PDF-only and consists of one essay:

But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009

Except for a few paragraphs (most of page 56), this is taken entirely from the book But Still They Blog: The Liblog Landscape 2007-2009, which is still available. Page 56 summarizes what’s not in the issue–a few graphs, one column of quite a few tables, a substantial portion of one text-only chapter…and all 521 liblog profiles.

Pages 57-60 contain an index to liblog names and people’s names within the issue–since it came directly from the Word document used for the book, it was easy to create a new index (the book index uses W0rd’s internal indexing features), and a group of advisers from that august body, the Library Society of the World, encouraged me to include it.

Since the issue includes dozens of tables and a fair number of graphs, and since it would be vastly longer in printed-HTML form, no HTML version is provided.

Does “September/October” mean there won’t be an issue for another two months?

It means this is three times as long as my target size for issues and twice as long as most actual issues. It means there might not be another issue before the November 2010 issue…depending on a whole bunch of other things.

Meanwhile, enjoy. And to the 17 people and libraries who actually purchased the book to date: Thanks. I hope a few others join you. There’s a bunch of good stuff in the book that isn’t in this issue.

Legends of Horror Disc 7

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

The She-Beast (orig. La sorella di Satana), 1966, b&w. Michael Reeves (dir.), Barbara Steele, Kohn Karlsen, Ian Ogilvy, Mel Welles. 1:19.

We start with a drunken guy lurching down a tunnel, picking up an odd semi-book and reading about the death of a witch in 1766—not an innocent this time, but an evil woman who killed children. The townsfolk, led by the priest, grab her, tie her to a dunking chair, pound a stake through her and then repeatedly dunk her in a lake as she curses the entire town—although you’d think the stake would have done the job. The townsfolk seem to be doing some early version of The Wave or some odd form of aerobic dance while this is happening. Meanwhile, a little person and a regal sort watch this from a nearby hillside.

Back to the present, where a handsome young couple of Brits find themselves lost in Transylvania (where the flashback was also set), getting out of their Beetle to check maps. A loutish cop happens by on a bicycle and points them to the nearby town with “lots of hotels,” only one of which is open. They go to this dump of a hotel, where they find the drunken guy (now sober and regal in bearing) swinging on an adult-size swing set and a loutish hotel owner. Since it’s 40 miles to the next town and it’s getting dark, they decide to stay the night—on what turns out to be their honeymoon. Well, the hotel owner is also a voyeur (and, we later find, would-be rapist), and things start getting strange…and somehow, the next morning as they drive off, the car won’t steer properly and they end up in the lake. She’s drowned (presumably), he’s not—and the trucker who saw the accident takes both of them back to the hotel, saying not to call the police because they’ll just cause trouble.

That’s just the beginning. The witch has taken on the spirit of the wife; the regal guy—who turns out to be Count Von Helsing, the Von Helsings having stayed around since offing the vampires so as to deal with other demonic issues—brings her (now in witch form) back to life as part of some convoluted exorcism scheme (she wasn’t properly exorcised the first time around), and she escapes and starts killing descendants of the original villagers. Von Helsing drives a bright yellow Model T (or some other crank-started car), for what that’s worth.

So far, a straightforward horror film…but then it descends into a strange combination of farce, presumed commentary on the incompetence of Communist officials (since this was set in Romania), car chases (with scooters somehow involved), Keystone Kop antics and more. Eventually, things work out, but it’s a truly odd third-rate flick that seems to have started out as horror, run out of plot ideas (or money?) and turned into some strange mélange. In case you’re a Barbara Steele fan: She’s barely even in this movie, only there for perhaps ten minutes total. The print’s not very good, the acting’s no better, and I honestly can’t give this mess more than $0.75.

Manfish, 1956, b&w (this print). W. Lee Wilder (dir.), John Bromfield, Lon Chaney, Jr.=, Victor Jory, Barbara Nichols, Tessa Prendergast. 1:28.

Airplane (propeller-driven) lands at Montego Bay airport. Guy gets off, goes to constabulary, says he’s from Scotland Yard there to pick up a prisoner. The local cop says he can’t have the prisoner and tells a story…which is the picture (although people getting on the airplane show up over the closing credits).

The story: Four guys on a turtle boat (that is, people who grab and sell giant turtles, presumably still legal in 1956), with it becoming clear that the captain is sort of a jackass—gambler, doesn’t pay his crew, about to lose the boat over debt. The name of the boat? Manfish, thus the name of the movie. The two divers discover a skeleton in the water, panic, return to boat. The captain finds the skeleton, takes a bottle and message out of the bony hand. The message is half of a treasure map written in French.

All else evolves from that, and includes an aged Brit living on an out island with his local woman, who turns out to have the other half of the map. The two (plus the boat’s skipper, regularly derided as stupid and ignorant by the captain but clearly the best man of the lot) go hunting for the treasure—and find it, the old guy only staying alive because he’s memorized the map and burnt both halves, and says there’s more (and much bigger) treasure elsewhere.

A big portion of the film has to do with a murder, the long time required to hide the body, and a leaking scuba tank that gives us a Tell Tale Heart scenario (yes, the movie credits say it was based on that and another Poe story, The Gold Bug). Murder eventually does out, and the only character I found at all sympathetic—the skipper—ends up doing the best of anybody.

Here’s the thing: This is a slow-moving, almost languid film, but with lots of scuba diving in coral reefs, climbing over scenic rivers and waterfalls and other scenery. (Never mind the director’s bizarre method of cutting—rapid sweeps from one scene to another.) I thought: “This would be a much better film in color”—still seriously flawed, but at least a decent flick. Then we get to the very last credit: Color by Deluxe. Not in this print it ain’t, and the print’s badly damaged at points as well. Too bad; color scenery (in a really good print) would have helped a lot. As it is, the best thing this has going for it may be Lon Chaney—appearing with that name, although it’s apparently Lon Chaney, Jr.

The Devil Bat, 1940, b&w. Jean Yarbrough (dir.), Bela Lugosi, Suzanne Kaaren, Dave O’Brien, Guy Usher, Yolande Donlan, Donald Kerr. 1:08.

Bela Lugosi as a mad scientist—mad in both the “really upset about something” sense and the slightly-deranged sense: Check. Absurd method of taking revenge on one’s enemies—in this case, by getting them to test a new and fairly pungent after-shave lotion (or perfume), then releasing a humongous bat (made larger by electrical stimulation in a classic mad scientist’s lair) that hates the scent and kills the victims: Check. Generally implausible plot and second-rate acting: Check.

And yet, this one’s not so awful. OK, it’s thoroughly implausible—Lugosi is portrayed as the Beloved Family Doctor who’s also the Brilliant Chemist whose concoctions form the basis for the town’s primary employer, a cosmetics company whose founders paid him $10,000 for the formulas because he didn’t want to be part of the company. (But he frequently speaks as though he’s part of the company, and is still concocting formulas for them.) He feels cheated, so he’s out to slay the two founding families. Enter an out-of-town reporter and his photographer sidekick (nicknamed “One-Shot” and I think he only manages one good shot in the entire movie). Oh, did I mention a beautiful young woman who’s part of a founding family, and who has a nice-looking maid? Do I need to go much further? (The less said about the quality of the special-effects bat, the better.)

Somehow, it works better than most of Lugosi’s mad-scientist, low-budget horrors. I’ll give it $1.25.

The Devil’s Messenger, 1961, b&w. Herbert L. Strock (dir.), Lon Chaney Jr., Karen Kadler, Michael Hinn, Ralph Brown, John Crawford. 1:12.

A curious little trilogy of temptation, framed by the gateway to Hell, with Lon Chaney Jr. as the friendly old gatekeeper (or Satan, maybe) who greets people, looks them up in his big Rolodex, comments on what got them there and sends them through the open door to the fiery pits. Lots of people waiting in line coming down some rocky stairs…

And there’s a young woman, Satanya, who took her own life. The gatekeeper offers her a deal: Make a delivery Back Up Above (which turns out to be three deliveries) and The Tribunal will consider her case—after all, suicide doesn’t hurt a bunch of other people. So she does, and each delivery leads to murder and death. First, there’s a photographer who, when he meets a beautiful woman at a snowy farmhouse where his agent has ordered him to vacation, somehow finds it necessary to kill her…and deals with the ghostly outcomes badly. Second, there’s a frozen woman found in a glacier by Swedish miners and one scientist’s obsession with her. Finally, Satanya goes back to deal with the former lover whose rejection caused her suicide, in a tale that involves crystal balls (always the tool of the devil, don’cha know). Apparently, this is a feature version of three episodes from a Swedish TV series; it’s assembled into a not-too-bad combination (although Chaney doesn’t really do much of anything). The tacked-on ending is, well, a waste of footage.

Unfortunately, the sound’s frequently distorted and the print badly digitized. That makes what might otherwise be a nice little trio of horror tales difficult to watch, and reduces its score to $0.75.

Open Access and Libraries: Any takers?

Monday, August 16th, 2010

I have a request. It’s a simple one.

If you’ve downloaded the free collection of OA-related essays from Cites & Insights, Open Access and Libraries: Essays from Cites & Insights 2001-2009, could you let me know?

Either a comment here or a quick email to waltcrawford at gmail dot com would suffice.

Here’s the thing: Because the PDF is free, it doesn’t show up in Lulu sales records–so I have no way of knowing how many times it’s been downloaded or, indeed, whether it’s ever been downloaded.

One paperback copy has been sold. That’s fine with me–while I find the paperback version enormously convenient, it’s also unindexed, unedited, and has essentially no new content. You’ll notice how strongly I’ve been pushing it: It’s not even featured at the bottom of this blog page.

For that matter, I don’t really know how often the ePub versions at, referred to in various earlier posts, have been downloaded. Prior to mid-May, the draft PDF had 155 downloads and the various ePub trials had been viewed anywhere from 60 to 304 times, but I’ve lost track since then…

Update: I’ve now regained track. Since January 1, the draft PDF has had 155 downloads (clearly, none of them coming after May 15!). The ePub version that’s still available, oal.epub, has been viewed/downloaded 136 times. The rtf-to-epub version was viewed/downloaded 78 times, the pdf-to-epub version 104 times, and the html-to-epub version 304 times. Hmm. Chances are, only oal.epub has been available since mid-May.

This is just curiosity. Not entirely idle curiosity. (No, I’m not thinking of charging for the PDF or raising the book price–and I can’t really lower the book price more than $1 or so, since everything else is production charges for the hefty 513-page paperback.)


Sometimes silence is a good thing

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Why not many posts lately? For the same reason that the September Cites & Insights will be late and probably atypical.

Yes, I know, it’s impossible for a C&I issue to be atypical, since that would imply that there’s such a thing as a typical issue. Humor me here: Go read some C&Is that you’ve missed…

To wit, the Real Project for a Real Publisher is moving right along–I’m 2/3 of the way through the first draft, which isn’t too surprising since I have loads of source material, much of it already in good shape for inclusion. I hope to complete that first draft next week and let it sit for a week or so, before starting the tough road to a polished 2nd draft. (When the first draft is finished, I’ll probably turn to producing something that resembles a September C&I. Maybe.)

But I find that I can’t work on it full time–after a few hours, brain fatigue sets in. So I’m also continuing work on The Whole Liblog Landscape project (I need to come up with a suitable title one of these days, and consider whether I should submit that one to a Proper Publisher…)–harvesting (some) blogrolls (where there’s some reason to believe a fair percentage of links are library-related) and, simultaneously, picking up one new measure that’s easy to get in about 90% of blogs and could work with some other measures to provide some possibly interesting insights…or not.

That and, of course, other stuff–certain things having to do with turning 65 very soon, weekly hikes, planning possible trips (and unplanning some), reading, starting serious looking for a new TV…

One little note for some bloggers


  • You have a liblog (you’re a library person with a blog that’s not an official library blog, or you blog about library matters)
  • You check your usage statistics regularly
  • You look at pageviews
  • You see some 404s…attempts to view pages or archive sections that aren’t there

it may just be me. Not to worry: No harmful intent. And I’m charmed by the range of 404 messages (instead of 404 itself) provided in various WordPress templates…

Back to relative blog silence. Not that this blog has ever been all that prolific…

Aggressive spamments

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Time for another cheap-and-easy post, partly because I’m focusing on my new project (a real book through a real publisher), partly because the number of comments trapped by Spam Karma 2 has gone up a lot in the last few days–60 for the last 24 hours, 53 the previous day, as compared to 20-30 most days–and because some of them are so bizarre.

Take this one:

Why did you remove my post… My post was actually useful unlike most of these comments. Ill post it again. Hi guys, I’ve a brilliant way to make alot of money online making blogs…

There’s more, but that’s enough. Let’s see: It was a comment, not a post. I didn’t remove it; Spam Karma trapped it as spam–properly. Learning punctuation wouldn’t hurt. And your comment is entirely irrelevant to the post. Other than that, well, maybe I just don’t like “useful comments” that disparage other comments. (I now see a different version of this post–lacking the first three sentences–at least four different times over a four-hour period, always from different usernames, always nicely trapped.) Oh, look: The followup comment once more and the earlier version twice more…

Here’s another one, praising Apple’s app store and disparaging Microsoft and the Zune–which, apart from being posted on, um, the wrong blog for MS-haters, was targeted at a post about our photovoltaic system. Relevance, anybody?

There are also the repeated spamments about creating short films on the topic of one of my posts (I’m SO flattered) and wanting my comments. Since two of those are targeted at a post updating the Liblog 2010 project…well, you know, I’m just guessing nobody’s done short films on that project.

There seem to be repeated spamments asking what theme I use for this blog. Assuming spammers actually read the posts, it’s LetterHead 1.0 by Robin Hastings, with significant modifications by yours truly.

Now, back to the writing…

Added Saturday, August 7: Good Gaia! 80, count them, EIGHTY spamments in the last 24 hours…at this rate, I’ll have to give up scanning them for possible errors. (Typically one legitimate comment gets marked as spam every couple of months…when I’m getting real comments at all, that is.)

Solutions looking for problems

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

I waited too long to write this post, so I’ll keep it short, even though the more general problem–see the post title–has happened before and will happen again.

What I wrote down on my infrequently used Little Pad o’ Post Ideas [yes, there is one; yes, it is a little pad–3.25×4.5 inches, lined; no, most posts don’t actually come from the pad] was “Wave & blogs.” I wrote that down after I saw a post, or maybe more than one post, that seemed to be seriously suggesting that Google Wave would be a great thing for blogs.

Seriously. The idea: Your followers could see your post as you write it!

There is a way to send people your raw, unformed thoughts, pretty much as you write them, with no real time for editing (if you’re a typical user, I think). It’s called Twitter.

I honestly don’t want people to read what I’m writing as I’m writing it–and certainly not in an instantaneous manner. I’m not one of those Serious Bloggers who writes a draft, lets it sit for a day or two, comes back to it, thoroughly reviews, then posts it–in about 95% of cases, I’ve spent less than an hour total on a post and almost no time reviewing and editing. (The exceptions are either my movie reviews, posted from Word in groups of four, or a handful of more serious posts that I also write in Word, using the publish-as-blog mechanism in Word2007. I almost never intentionally save a WordPress post as a draft for more than a few minutes.) Even so, I do change drafts–I realized after previewing this post that I’d left out this sentence–and I do want the chance to think for a minute or so before I say something inappropriate or erroneously. Nor, for that matter, can I imagine that any sane person would actually sign up to follow my actions as I’m writing a post…or to do the same for any other blogger. If they did, the word “stalker” would come to mind.

To me, the whole concept of WaveBlogs was a case of looking for a “problem” that Wave could provide a solution for. I thought it was a spectacularly silly notion.

Now, to be sure, the adoption of Wave for its many obvious uses has been so spectacular that…Google’s shutting it down. So if you were wondering whether your library was behind the curve because you didn’t yet have a Wave expert on board, and hadn’t even started any Wave initiatives–well, you’re too late. Such is life when you’re not instantly on top of every new web tool.

Mystery Collection Disc 15

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

The Wrong Road, 1937, b&w. James Cruze (dir.), Richard Cromwell, Helen Mack, Lionel Atwill, Horace McMahon, Marjorie Main. 1:02 [0:53]

An odd little B movie, not without its charms. Open on a young couple dancing in a fancy nightclub and discussing their plans. She graduated from college and found that her father had squandered his fortune (consider the year!), and her only real plan was to become part of Moneyed Society. He graduated assuming he’d get a $10,000/year job (equivalent to more than $145,000 in 2009 dollars) but that disappeared, and now he’s making $25/week as a bank clerk—and is on his way out to make way for the boss’s relative. They’re both Too Good to Work, so they have a solution: He’s going to steal a bunch of the bank’s money, they’ll hide it, they won’t deny the crime, and when they get out of prison—Shazam!

They do this—basically, he just hands her $100,000 in a phony transaction (which, if it really was equal to $1.45 million, wouldn’t have them Set For Life but would be a nice starting point) and neither of them deny the crime. But the insurance investigator counsels them that this won’t work out well—the money’s traceable, so they’d have to sell it to a fence, leaving maybe $40,000, and, oh, by the way, they’re not likely to get two years, they’re likely to get ten. Is $2,000/year per person really worth it—even if he doesn’t capture the money when they get out? (Throughout, this hardnosed investigator—Lionel Atwill—is more of a wise old uncle than anything else.)

But they’re intent on it. And, two years later when they’re initially up for parole, he sees that they get the parole with some fairly stringent conditions (e.g., they can’t get married). Meanwhile, the guy’s cellmate has gotten out and wants some (or all) of the money…and the uncle they’d sent it to (sealed inside a music box) has died bankrupt, with his estate being auctioned off. Oh, and the insurance investigator is still on their trail and still counseling them to give it up.

You can probably guess how it ends; it’s an odd little morality tale. They keep saying “We earned that money,” but, well, the weed of crime bears bitter fruit. In some ways, it’s a pointless little movie, but I found it enjoyable as a trifle. Still, given the length and general lack of plausibility, I can’t give it more than $0.75.

The Naked Kiss, 1964, b&w. Samuel Fuller (dir., also screenplay and producer), Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, Michael Dante, Virginia Grey, Patsy Kelly, Marie Devereux, Karen Conrad. 1:39.

Truly a strange duck. Before the titles, we get a hot sequence where a half-naked woman is thwacking a man with her purse, eventually flooring him (he’s obviously drunk), taking $800 out of his wallet, removing $75, tossing the rest back…and, after getting dressed, checking her makeup and, by the way, putting the wig back on her bald head (he’d ripped it off), leaving.

After the titles, she’s getting off the bus in a town where the police captain deals with thugs by sending them out of town—and spots her as a prostitute, availing himself of her services as a demonstration (then telling her to get out of town, cross the stateline and river to his friend’s bordello, and she’ll be fine). She decides to go straight and turns out to be a wonderful nurse’s assistant at the local pediatric hospital, where she can get the kids on crutches and in wheelchairs to perk up.

That’s just the start. She meets and gets involved with The Man—the scion of the town’s founding family—with only the noblest of motives. To say much more would give the plot away, and it’s a fairly involved one. I’m not sure you’d call the ending happy, but it could be worse. In between, we get a mix of fairly slow, “natural” timing and some slightly odd acting. Oh: It’s also widescreen. On balance, I’ll give it $1.00.

Affair in Monte Carlo, (orig. 24 Hours of a Woman’s Life), 1952, color (b&w on this disc). Victor Saville (dir.), Merle Oberon, Leo Genn, Richard Todd. 1:30 [1:04].

Previously seen in 50 Movie Hollywood Legends and reviewed in the January 2009 Cites & Insights. Clearly the same short, “it says Technicolor on the movie but it’s black-and-white on this print” version. Here’s my review:

Merle Oberon is excellent in this tale of sudden romance and gambling addiction, told mostly as a flashback—but there are two problems. The biggest one is that this seems like “scenes from an affair”—at 1:03, it’s much far too short for its story and has gaps in continuity. Given the fairly slow pacing of the movie, that’s particularly unfortunate. Noting IMDB after rating this, I see that’s what’s happened: The movie should be 90 minutes long, the U.S. version was trimmed to 75 minutes (why?), and this version—apart from losing its color—is down to a mere 64 minutes.

The other—well, the credits list a Technicolor colour consultant, but there’s no color in the movie as presented here. The scenery would be much nicer and the film more convincing in color. It doesn’t have the qualities of great b&w cinematography. (Actually, it looks like desaturated color, which is what it apparently is.) Nice little story, good scenery, some good acting, but ultimately I’m generous at $1.00.

Sinners in Paradise, 1938, b&w. James Whale (dir.), Madge Evans, John Boles, Bruce Cabot, Marion Martin, Gene Lockhart. 1:05 [1:03]

Eight people board a lavish four-propeller seaplane to cross the Pacific Ocean from California to China (with, presumably, a stop in Hawaii). We learn just a bit of their stories early in the flight—with people standing around the cabin (which consists of seats across tables) during takeoff, and no signs that there even are seatbelts—and a bit more as the flight continues.

The plane crashes near an almost-deserted tropical island, hundreds of miles from the mainland. “Almost”: there’s a handsome, perfectly-dressed man in a little (well, not so little—he can comfortably seat all the rest at breakfast) grass shack, with a Chinese companion/servant. He tells the rest they’ll need to make their own way—and although he has a boat, he’s not willing to take them anywhere, even for very large bribes.

That’s the basics. The eight are a quite odd lot: Two weapons dealers, two criminals (one man, one woman), a wealthy industrial heiress, a nurse planning to fly back to China for relief work against her soon-to-be-ex-husband’s wishes, an ex-state-senator, and a 50-year-old woman planning to surprise her son in China. After the resident relents and agrees to take five of them to the mainland (the boat can only hold six), the weapons dealers force the servant to take them instead (killing the “elderly” woman in the process). The rest of the movie, short as it is, deals with the changes wrought by three months of making things work. It’s not all that major, and there’s no real ending, but it’s not bad. $1.00.