Encore For Paula

September 6th, 2022 by Max Allan Collins

Last Thursday (Sept. 1) I appeared on the Paula Sands Live at KWQC TV in Davenport. Paula’s hour-long Monday-thru-Friday show is extremely high-rated in the Quad Cities market, and she herself – also the nightly news anchor – is celebrating an astonishing forty years at the station. (I accuse her regularly of having an aging portrait in the attic.) This was my first TV shot post-Covid lockdown, and it felt like coming home.

Paula Sands and M.A.C.

As some of you may recall, Paula Sands Live (or a satirized version thereof) appeared with Paula as herself in my movie Mommy’s Day. She was a major character in the film and did a terrific job. Also in that film was Gary Sandy, co-starring with Patty McCormack of course; Gary’s upcoming appearance in Encore for Murder as Mike Hammer on September 17 at the Muscatine High School Theater grows out of my friendship with him when he shot his scenes right here in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1996.

Gary is generously donating his time, reprising his performance as Hammer in the radio-style play Encore for Murder (we originally presented it several years back in Owensboro, Kentucky, and later at Clearwater, Florida), in this one-night-only benefit for the Muscatine Art Center.

Here’s the info, in case you missed it, for those of you close enough to this area (or crazed enough to drive or fly here).

We had our second table read via phone with Gary and the full cast on the evening of the day I appeared on Paula Sands Live. It went very well and the production is really coming together. The cast assembled by co-director Karen Cooney is excellent, and we have Chad Bishop (himself a filmmaker among his many talents) as the foley artist, which is a big, entertaining part of the play, as old-fashioned radio sound effects (and some newfangled computer effects) are generated right on stage.

We are planning to shoot footage at several rehearsals and the performance itself for use in the expansion of my 1999 Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer documentary, which is part of what I’m planning for the ongoing 75th anniversary of Mike Hammer celebration. We already have a video distributor lined up (which will include streaming).

And speaking of Mommy’s Day, my filmmaking partner Phil Dingeldein and I are remastering Mommy and its sequel for another Blu-Ray release. We have vastly improved visuals and will return to the original 4:3 format as intended. For those of you who have bought the movies before, well, uh…thanks! But we are just trying to get the best versions out there so that we can appeal to more streaming services and make the physical media as doggone good as we can.

Mommy Before and After upscale/deinterlace.

And speaking of physical media….

So, all of you film and TV fans, remember when we were told that physical media – that journey from Betamax and VHS to laser disc and DVD, and more recently Blu-Ray to 4K discs – would soon be a thing of the past. Would die a much deserved death, because after all everything we could ever want to see will be permanently available in the “cloud.” It’ll all be out there, childishly simple to access, thanks to the wonder of (drum roll please) streaming services.

This is where you are free to either (a), laugh derisively, (b), laugh maniacally, (c), swear and pound a fist on a table or desk, (d), sit morosely staring into space, or (e), find a quiet corner to sit in and weep. (“All of the above” doesn’t seem a practical option, but attempt if you wish.)

After all, we now know several things about this Brave New Streaming World. Well, first it sucks. Sucks money from each of us and just plain sucks. But admittedly it offers a lot of options, if mostly taking the old So Many Channels and Nothing Is On paradigm to ridiculous heights/lows. But all of these streaming services offer their selection options for a limited time. Sometimes, as with HBO Max, they break promises to subscribers like a popular girl in junior high in 1960 (but I am not bitter).

Yes, movies and TV shows are out there somewhere in the ether, just not where you can access them.

Meanwhile, Blu-ray and 4K chug somewhat expensively along, and break the backs (or anyway banks) of film and TV buffs trying to build their non-cyber library. And yet what a wonderful thing a non-cyber library is. For me, my collection of DVDs, Blu-Rays and 4Ks are (nearly) as important to me as the thousands of books I’ve accumulated in my lifetime.

Now I am not against Kindle and Nook and other methods of reading books on little monitor screens. Some people even read books on their phones, probably the same troubled souls who watch 4K movies on those tiny screens, unless they are carrying large flat screens in their pockets and purses in the pursuit of making their lives seem even more absurd.

I am tolerant of Kindle especially because I have made much more money in recent years from e-books than from what I like to call real books. God bless people for utilizing that tool. And I am obviously berating the streaming services even as I seek to sell my wares to them. But here is a wonderful irony – several of the generations younger than mine (actually, that’s more than several) prefer to buy, read and collect physical books. Kindle use is much, much more predominant among older people, the kind of people still wondering when those flying cars are going to get here.

Listen, Kindle has its place. If I were in a big city commuting, I would be using the one that is gathering dust somewhere in this house (it was given to me by the Thomas & Mercer folks). But I like media in physical object form. I like to hold a book in my hands. I like to study a book’s cover (not the covers of most recent books, which are by and large cold and hideous beyond belief) and delight at how it reflects the book at hand (or bitch about how it doesn’t). I even like the smell of books. And I like the way DVDs and Blu-Rays and 4Ks have pictorial jackets and can be lined up on shelves like books with spines and everything. I am resolutely old-fashioned in that regard, and delighted that so many people younger than me are reading books not on glowing screens.

But glowing screens played an interesting role in all this. Yes, it’s annoying that people have their faces in their phones, and it will serve them right in thirty years when their radioactive noses fall off and they have to go searching for them in the dark (the detached noses will glow, so will be easy to find, don’t worry).

But it was Harry Potter, thanks to the now reviled J.K. Rowling, and the much criticized cell phone that taught several generations to read again. They read those Potter books, actual physical books, and on their phones they read (“read” both past and present tense here) e-mails and texts, and they write them, too. Like people used to write letters.

When I hear people of my generation say, “These kids don’t read today,” I think: that’s what old people were saying when I was a kid; and statistically more old people are reading on Kindles rather than actual books, so what are they talking about?

I find the return to vinyl interesting if odd, since I have loved CDs for their lacks of skips and crackles for decades now. But the CD is old-school physical media that truly is dying, because downloadable music is more closely infinite than the very not infinite “availability” of film and TV from the streamers. Downloadable music is the enemy because it has people creating their own play lists and the art of the album is damaged and maybe dying (you know, like most of Sinatra’s Capitol catalogue and Rubber Soul and Pet Sounds and My Aim Is True and the first Vanilla Fudge album and Weezer’s green album).

So it’s a mixed bag, and it will not sort itself out (if it does) while I am still here.

My son Nate – who is selling a lot more books with his Jo Jo translations than I could ever dream of – has a wonderful idea that I hope he carries through on. He wants to write a blog where each week or maybe day he plucks a random disc from my endless DVD and Blu-Ray collection and watches (and then reviews) it. These will be things he did not watch with me while I was on the planet. I will now walk across the room to a bookcase of Blu-rays, and a spinner of DVDs, and pluck five things at eyes-closed random.

Here are Nate’s first five columns. He will discuss:

The Bowery Boys Volume Four (okay, I cheated on this one); The Halliday Brand (a western directed by Gun Crazy’s Joseph Lewis; An Angel for Satan (with Barbara Steele); Haunt from Scott Beck & Bryan Woods (the Quad Cities boys who made good with A Quiet Place, and unlike the Bowery Boys a genuine chance selection); and Ernest Scared Stupid.

Man would I like to read that column.

M.A.C. with JoJo's Bizarre Adventure shelves at BAM!
THAT’S MY BOY! Translator Nate Collins’ shelves of Jo Jo’s Bizarre Adventure at the Davenport BAM!
* * *

Here’s a nice write-up on the upcoming Encore for Murder.

Ms. Tree is on this cool list from Punk Noir (great name); but there’s an inaccurate suggestion that I’ve written more than just the one Ms. Tree prose novel for Hard Case Crime.

Finally, this Wealth of Geeks essay discusses the merits of ignoring canon in films from a book (or comic book) series, and uses Mike Hammer to demonstrate. Good piece.


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6 Responses to “Encore For Paula”

  1. Jeremy C. Plemmons says:

    You always give fans some great information. Mr. Collins I enjoy your books
    so much. Thank you for sharing your talent with us mere mortals.

  2. Mark Thuente says:

    I think that I qualify as old (I’m 59) and I prefer actual physical books (especially yours). I suffer from the collector gene. I collect books, music, movies, comic books, baseball cards etc. I love these things that I can hold. I’m two stacks of old newspapers away from being a hoarder. However, I do like my Kindle too. First, it’s easier to read while exercising on a treadmill. Second (and more importantly) it’s allowed me to buy books from authors like, Dan Marlowe, Frank Kane, Richard Prather and Day Keene at the low low price of $2.99/$3.99 instead of the $10+ cost that they would be on internet sites. Real books are best, but the Kindle is occasionally useful.

  3. Raymond Cuthbert says:

    It seems that Punk Noir is either ignorant or conflating when they say “Max Allan Collins’ take on the Mike Hammer school of PI fiction, well before he landed the gig as Mickey Spillane’s posthumous collaborator. Ms. Tree has been solving cases and doling out rough justice in comics (and in paperback novels through Hard Case Crime) since 1982.” Your take on “the Mike Hammer school of PI fiction” goes well beyond MS. TREE “in paperback novels through Hard Case Crime” BUT as you say there’s only the ONE Ms. Tree paperback effort from HCC. I don’t need to tell you any of this I’m just figuring how they made their mistake…

  4. Henry Kujawa says:

    I almost saw Gary Sandy live on stage once. My Dad saw an ad in the paper for a stage revival of “Arsenic And Old Lace” in Philadelphia. He wanted to go, because Jean Stapleton was in it. I saw the ad and realized it had both Gary Sandy (WKRP) and Jonathan Frid (DARK SHADOWS)!! But when he called the theatre, he found it was SOLD OUT. It was the last night. I wanted to CLOBBER him. It was so typically “him”.

    I’m thrilled to hear you’re planning to record the performance. I’ve long said I feel EVERY play should be recorded at least ONCE, for posterity, so when it’s no longer running, people can see it. I don’t believe anyone ever did this with Sandy Duncan’s version of “PETER PAN”. I wish they had.

    I personally believe the prediction that physical media is “dead” is B***S***. I’ve been buying one DVD/Blu-Ray/box set per week lately, and so many of them are brand-new high-res scans / restorations of very old movies that now look BETTER than they ever did in my lifetime, plus have tons of “extras”, like audio commentaries (which I’ve really gotten hooked on lately), documentaries and interviews. To me, it’s so much BETTER than all those tons of movie magazines I used to buy for decades. Easier to store / access / etc.

    As for music CDs… YESTERDAY, I ordered one from Bandcamp of a favorite instro band of mine in Zurich Switzerland. As it turns out, it was the only one of 4 they had listed they were selling CDs of. They also have it available as a vinyl LP –but apart from wear-and-tear / surface noise / whathaveyou, I currently DON’T have a turntable and really need to get one, if only to access the HUGE amount of music in my collection I still don’t have on CD. I can also “stream” the album from their website– BUT I PREFER TO WAIT until it arrives from overseas!!! In FACT, I could have recorded the songs off the website FOR FREE!!!!– but dammit, I WANT those guys to get some money for their incredible efforts and talent.

    I’ve been creating my own custom comps, first on cassette, then on CD, for decades. I also love to design CD box art to go with them, but at the moment, I don’t have a printer. (I also need a new CD-writer drive. You do what you can…)

  5. Mike Doran says:

    Hello Again to The Collins Store (reopening for business this month)!

    Gearing up to order all the New Stuff – in book form!

    Hoping that you might be up for a limited road trip – at least as far as Forest Park, some weekend afternoon, maybe …

    But if not – at least take care and stay in touch!

    This is for Henry Kuzawa:
    I remember that Arsenic & Old Lace tour – it came to Chicago’s Shubert Theatre (as it was then known) – and I saw it in person!
    Except –
    – Gary Sandy fell ill and missed the Chicago engagement.
    James Macarthur filled in as Mortimer; did OK, as I recall …
    The rest of the National Tour company was there, though: Jean Stapleton and Marion Ross as the aunts, Jonathan Frid as Jonathan, and Larry Storch as Dr. Einstein (Lorre all the way!).
    My memory fails to recall who played Elaine the leading lady; I think it was an actress of at least Macarthur’s level.
    Also I think that at least a few local celebrities showed up in the second curtain call (after all these years, I can’t be sure …).
    I haven’t attended much live theater (my bad – I plead that it’s usually too expensive for me), but this show I thoroughly enjoyed.
    So that’s the story, and I welcome the excuse to share it here.

    Who knows – maybe someone might decide to do a live network telecast of Arsenic & Old Lace sometime soon (it’s about due, I’d guess …).

    Anyway, Max, Barb, Nate, Abby, Sam, Lucy, and whatever animals have joined the clan …
    … Keep up the good thoughts – and keep putting out the good books!

  6. John Judge says:

    I’ll certainly agree on how all major plays should certainly be recorded with the original cast. You’ve mentioned Anthony Newley here before and when I saw “Roar of the Greasepaint, Smell of the Crowd” (I believe it was that one) on TCM but with a different actor in the lead i found it very irritating. I would love to see that or “Stop the World, I Want To Get Off” with Newley.
    Regarding the people who gave up their dvd players and should have known better, I’ll include my niece. Her nephew’s wive recently gave birth to a daughter that they named after my mother, whom he never knew. There is a video I burned onto a dvd of her and other family members in a 1988 Mother’s Day afternoon, but she has no way to watch it.
    Meanwhile I was certainly glad then I still have tons of dvds when the cable has gone out a couple times over the last month and I could just switch on the player and watch dvds. Lately, I’ve been alternating between bootleg sets of The Thin Man with Peter Lawford and Richard Diamond, Private Detective where I learned you hardly ever saw Mary Tyler Moore’s legs in the 10 episodes where she played “Sam” the message service lady.