Thursday, January 15, 2009

Finally, free from The Village.

Patrick McGoohan
19 March 1928 - 13 January 2009
Actor, Director, Writer, Husband and Father.

To many, Patrick McGoohan was the guy you loved to hate: Longshanks, King Edward I in "Braveheart," the Warden in "Escape from Alcatraz," Richard Devereau in "Silver Streak," or perhaps one of the arrogant villainous characters he played in "Columbo."

In reality, Patrick McGoohan had a long, varied, and impactful career as an actor spanning nearly 50 years, in which he played both villains and heroes. In addition to those titles I mentioned above, other highlights from McGoohan's film career include "A Time to Kill," "The Phantom," Cronenberg's twisted "Scanners," "Mary, Queen of Scots," "Ice Station Zebra," and even 1955's "The Dam Busters," in which he had an uncredited role as a guard.

Patrick McGoohan also had a long and rich television career as an actor and director. There were the unforgettable appearances on "Columbo," but he also starred in several series, including "Rafferty," "Danger Man," and of course, "The Prisoner."

Some consider "The Prisoner" to be the pinnacle of McGoohan's career. If you're not familiar with "The Prisoner," then you've missed out on one of the most unique social commentaries ever made, in addition to a really well written and crafted sci-fi drama that remains one of the greatest legacies of McGoohan's career and of the sixties.

Here's the story in a nutshell: A bond-like spy resigns in anger over an incident that remains unexplained. While packing to escape to some tropical locale on holiday, our secret-agent man is overcome by some noxious gas.

When he awakes, he awakes in a perfect replica of his home. But this version of his house is no longer in London, but in some unknown place - a quaint little community called, The Village.

The Village is a bureaucrat's paradise. Run by Number 2 (a role played by a new special guest each week) The Village is an inescapable prison that is operated by an unknown geo-political force.

An unseen No. 1 orders No. 2 to extract information from our hero, who is known to us only as No. 6. Ultimately, No. 2 is to discover the reason for No. 6 resigning in the fashion that he did. But No. 6 doesn't know who runs The Village and simply won't cooperate. Is it operated by his previous employer or is it run by the "other side?" They want information. They won't get it. Yet with every new episode, No. 2 and his Village cronies devise some new method to derive the information they want. When the new No. 2 fails, he is replaced by another, new No. 2.

This goes on for 17 episodes in all. Many of them are simply great. There are only one or two in the bunch that don't measure up to the overall caliber of the series. No argues that "Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling" is probably the weakest episode, mostly because McGoohan isn't in it. They have another actor stand in for him who supposedly has No.6's intellect transferred into his body. Scheduling conflicts forced the production to come up with this cockamamie scheme to account for McGoohan's absence.

Some of the more memorable bits of the series are the huge underground domes that make up parts of the facility, the white, spinning, spherical chair in No. 2's office, the Rover - a large white sphere that chases down escapees - and The Village itself, which is the real life resort town of Portmeirion, in North Wales.

Two of the guest stars who play No. 2 are Leo McKern and Patrick Cargill, both stars of the Beatles' "Help," one of my all-time favorite movies.

The whole "The Prisoner" series is available on DVD - in 5 sets or one Megaset. You can watch the actual episodes online at

While I may remember Mr. McGoohan mainly for his role in "The Prisoner," it would be unfair to sum up his career in one role. He brought a lot of hours of entertainment to millions as many different characters. There are many who would be envious of his career and his life.

Mr. McGoohan, hopefully, someday, we'll BCNU.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Thank you, Mr. Moxey, wherever you are.

It’s rare that you find a director who is behind more than one or two films that you consider to be your favorites. For me, there are a handful of directors responsible for more than one film in my collection. Terry Gilliam is a personal favorite, having directed four films in my collection: “12 Monkeys,” “Brazil,” “Fisher King,” and “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” (“Time Bandits” is on my wish list.) I own seven of Spielberg’s films: “Duel,” “Raider of the Lost Ark,” “Hook,” “Jaws,” “Schindler’s List,” “Saving Private Ryan,” and “War of the Worlds.” Oh, I also own the Night Gallery pilot of which Spielberg directed one of the segments. I own four of Robert Rodriguez’s films: “Spy Kids (1, 2, and 3),” and “The Adventures of Shark-boy and Lava-girl.” My kids love those movies. Or how about Christopher Nolan’s work, “Batman Begins,” “The Dark Knight,” “Memento,” and “The Prestige,” of which I own three and have a fourth on my wish list.

But how often is it that you own several of a director’s works, admire and wish to own several others of his catalog, and not even know the guys name or realize you liked his work? I discovered such a director this week and am ashamed to have not been aware earlier of this master’s volume of work. Maybe it’s because most of his work was for television?

John Llewellyn Moxey has 92 directorial credits on IMDB dating from 1955 to 1991. Some of those credits are for numerous episodes in a series. So in reality, he has well over 100 director credits. He has directed nearly 20 episodes of “Murder She Wrote,” six episodes of “Magnum P.I.,” 10 episodes of “Mannix,” (one of my all-time favorite series, by the way), seven episodes of “Mission Impossible,” (another favorite), seven episodes of “The Saint,” and one or two episodes for numerous other television series including, “Hawaii Five-O,” “Charlies Angels,” “Jake and the Fatman,” “Matlock,” and “Miami Vice.” There are many others, too many to mention here, but if you are interested, check out his IMDB entry.

I am certain that I’ve seen several of the episodes he’s directed. In fact, I’m collecting the “Mission Impossible” series. But it’s not his serial work that has drawn my admiration. Growing up in the Philadelphia area, we had some great Saturday afternoon movies, many of them old sci-fi movies. I have only recently discovered that several of those great movies – movies I either now own on DVD or am looking to purchase on DVD – are the work of Mr. Moxey.

In 1971, American households were entertained with the ABC Movie of the Week. There were some great movies that came out of this – all discussion for another entry. But one of them was a film called, “The Last Child,” starring Michael Cole of “Mod Squad” fame. This Moxley-directed story is about a fascist America in the near-future where families are limited to one child per household. A young couple is pregnant with their second child – the first having died – and they are on the run from the authorities. “The Last Child” is a great film in the tradition of all great sci-fi chase movies. I am desperate to find this on DVD somewhere.

The following year, Moxey was credited with directing the fantastic television pilot movie, “The Night Stalker.” This remains an all-time classic featuring Darren McGavin as Carl Kolchak, the unrelenting reporter who stumbles across the most bizarre and creepy stories imaginable. The pilot has Kolchak in Las Vegas where he follows the clues to discover a real live vampire preying on the young women of Vegas. I own this on DVD.

Moxey's next directorial milestone was 1973’s Genesis II, a new Gene Roddenberry production about a scientist preserved in suspended animation who awakes in the distant future. There he discovers two warring cultures, each claiming to be the good guy. It’s up to him to discover which side truly holds the hope for Earth’s future, and which hopes to enslave Earth’s remaining inhabitants. I own this on a bootleg DVD and I hope, someday, it will be released professionally.

Another favorite directed by Moxey, that I also own on DVD, is “Where Have All The People Gone?,” a great sci-fi film made in 1974, starring Peter Graves, best known for his role as Jim Phelps on “Mission Impossible.” In this film, a family on a camping trip is protected from a cosmic event while exploring a cave. The unexplained event kills most of humanity, and the family is left to investigate what happened while they try to get home. Along the way are gruesome discoveries, crazed survivors, and ravenous wild dogs. It’s just great!

So, in terms of my level of appreciation for his directorial work, Moxey’s a guy who’s right up there with Spielberg, Gilliam, Rodriguez, and Nolan. I already own three of his films, several of his television episodes, and seek to own more if I can find them. I’m also going to go back and see which of his other films I can find on Netflix, etc. It is very likely that I will discover some other films he’s directed that I will like as much as the one’s I’ve already seen and own, or desire to own.

Before yesterday, I never knew Moxey's name or had any idea that he had directed so many of my all-time favorite films. I’ve had hours of enjoyment watching the product of his work and have never been able to acknowledge him – until now.

Thanks, Mr. Moxey, for your great film work.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Inspired by Facebook

I was on Facebook this morning when I noticed an old friend had written something very interesting on someone's wall. My friends said that he felt he should rename Facebook, "Pastbook," as it had allowed him to re-connect with so many old friends or acquaintances.

That very same friend was the drummer in my first band, my college roommate, my housemate - my very best friend in the whole world. But as it tends to do, life got in the way and before I knew it, 6 or 7 years had gone by since we'd last spoken.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that I hadn't tried to get in touch with him. I had moved to Phoenix, AZ, and he'd moved to a small town in the Poconos. I was busy with a growing career and building a family. He was busy with the things in his life, too, and without intending to, we just lost touch.

Until I signed onto Facebook, that is. Facebook had allowed me to reconnect with my friend from the past.

In general, I think the whole social networking thing is a waste of time. But our company is exploring new ways to leverage social networking as a new revenue channel or mechanism to increase traffic through out existing channels. So, I signed up on Facebook to become aware of what it was offering. I was afraid Facebook would be as convoluted a mess as MySpace is, but to my delight, I found Facebook was a much more elegant and - for lack of a better word - mature experience.

In addition to my "research" though, I've begun connecting with old friends and keeping better tabs on my more current friends. Connecting with those old friends has stirred a lot of memories. I've often threatened to write a book about all the crazy things that have happened in my life and with the stirring that has happened, I am even more encouraged to do so.

But then it occurred to me, I could just start telling all those old stories here, on my blog.
Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Finally arriving.

For some time now, I've been trying to come up with a theme for a blog that will encourage and compel me to write more often. The problem is, my interest in one thing or another waxes and wanes. And once my interest in a particular topic has waned, I find it difficult to return to that blog and write new entries.

At first, I started with a blog that centered around my ideas about certain passages of Scripture in the Bible. And as much as I am intrigued by the Bible, I found myself frustrated when - with one or two exceptions for which I am grateful - my wife and sister seemed to be the only ones reading it. My ideas are legitimate and worthy of discussion, I'm sure, but just because you build a blog, that doesn't mean anyone will come. (Thanks for nothing, Costner.)

Then I started a blog about the little restuarants around my work place where I go for lunch. I thought I'd review their menus, service, etc. After all, I love food and what could be better to write about. Then the economy took a bit of a down-turn. We tightened our belts a bit to pay off some debt and I started packing my lunch. Humph. There goes that idea.

I thought a blog about home repair might be the ticket. I spent all that time working in a home center, going to home and hardware trade shows, selling hardware wholesale, and remodeling two - no, make that three - houses. This is something I know about! But I just don't have the time to dedicate to becoming THE online authority on hardware.

I then created a blog to reach out to Kevin Spacey (yeah, that's right, the actor) and ask him to read a screenplay I'd written for him. Surely, this is the best way to reach him, right? Sigh. My phone still isn't ringing, nor my email inbox a-stuffing.

So I figured, I'm just gonna start a blog and write about whatever I'm in the mood to write about on any given day. No theme, except Bobby's ramblings, rants, ponderings, annoyances, etc. Surely, someone will take interest in that. This is, after all, ME that I'm talking about ;)

Let me anticipate one of your first questions: Why the name, "Big Nasty Brain?" It's an inside joke.

Two years before we were married, I had taken Krista - my then fiance - to meet the clan: my Dad, Stepmother, and my brother and his family. That was no small feat as my brother lived on the Keewenaw penninsula on Michigan's famous Upper Penninsula (UP).

So as to not retrace the path by which we had come entirely, I plotted a return course to Pennsylvania that went through Sault Ste. Marie, MI, across the border into Canada, along the northern shore of the Georgian Bay (part of Lake Huron) and across the Manitoulin Island to the small town of South Baymouth. Once there, the trek continued across the bay on the Chi-CheeMaun ferry to Tobermory, ON. From there, we traveled to Niagara Falls, and back into the U.S. near Buffalo.

In 1995, we were married, and my wife Krista and I honeymooned on Mackinac Island, Michigan. It was a blast, and on our first anniversary, in 1996, we asked some friends, Mike and Laura D., to stay on Mackinac Island and then travel with us to visit some of the great places we'd been to during that first trip to Michigan.

We'd spent 3 or 4 days on Mackinac Island with the D's and decided to head north from there to Whitefish Point and visit the shipwreck museum there. That afternoon, we travelled to Sault Ste. Marie (our joyous day interupted only by a speeding ticket) and we discovered the Lockview restaurant across the street from the Soo Locks. It was a Friday evening and their special was all-you-can-eat whitefish, prepared however you like: broiled, pan fired, batter dipped, or cajun. We've been back many times since.

The Lockview Restaurant
The Lockview Restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie, MI

After an amazing meal, we wandered to our hotel on the Canadian side. Once we were checked in, we decided to play Scrabble before bed. I was tired and feared that I wouldn't play well, but everyone was up for it, so who am I to say no?

Now, I do fancy myself a fairly good Scrabble player. I love word games, like Boggle, etc. But I rarely find an opportunity to use all my letters in a single turn and get a Bingo. So when it does happen, I am rather pleased. That night I was able to spell out 'Podiatry.' Michael looked at it and sounded out, 'Poh-dee-at-ree.' "Hunh?" he asked. I explained what podiatry was - and how it was pronounced- and was awarded a butt-load of points.

Being tired, not of the game, but from the day, I leaned back and sighed, closed my eyes for a moment and ran my fingers through my hair. And that's when someone - I'm pretty sure it was my wisenheimer wife - responded to the word I had played and my subsequent actions with, "Awww, is the big nasty brain tired." All with a perfectly sarcastic and patronizing tone.

After a howl and a good laugh from the others, it instantly became my nickname. Bnb, for short.

So there it is. The story behind the name of this blog. Let's hope this one sticks and I'll actually write something once in a while.