The Horror, The Horror

Mark Gatiss, who plays Mycroft to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, surveys the field of horror films, starting from not quite their beginning.

A couple of things came to mind while watching this. Gatiss was, of course, working within a time limit, but for all of the attention he gave to James Whale, there isn’t even a mention of “The Invisible Man.” It also features the now late Gloria Stuart, who Gatiss interviewed regarding “The Old Dark House.” Stuart talks about the difficulty she had working for Whale, but he liked her enough for a return performance.

Boris Karloff was well-known for his distinctive voice, but for his most famous role he only spoke a few words. Gatiss is right to praise the superb “Bride of Frankenstein.” Universal used Franz Waxman’s outstanding score many times over, most notably in the “Flash Gordon” serials with Buster Crabbe.

Up Tempo

April Stevens and her brother Nino Tempo
April Stevens, Nino Tempo

Born two days before Elvis, Nino Tempo looked more like a nightclub performer than a Pop music impresario. But he put his studio experience as a member of the Wrecking Crew to good use, producing some excellent recordings in the Sixties, years after “Deep Purple,” Tempo’s big hit with his not unattractive sister April Stevens. This one in particular I think is a standout.

FM’s static-filled history

I have just purchased a new book called “The Network: The Battle for the Airwaves and the Birth of the Communications Age,” about a subject that interests me greatly. The relationship of the brilliant engineer Edwin Armstrong and David Sarnoff, the CEO of RCA. Sarnoff saw the potential of radio broadcasting that was made possible by Armstrong’s AM circuit wizardry, and used it to build the mighty NBC network. He failed, however, to see the significance of Armstrong’s invention of FM, to the point where the FCC had to force Sarnoff into accepting FM for TV sound.

It’s a classic modern tragedy of an independent inventor being crushed by a giant corporation. Keeping in mind that Sarnoff also rolled over Philo T. Farnsworth, the inventor of all-electronic television, I do not yet know if the book’s author, Scott Woolley, sees Sarnoff as having been completely in the wrong. Based upon a segment on last Friday’s Marketplace, I get the impression that Woolley might favor the view that Armstrong should have accepted reality and given up the fight.