Saturday, March 22, 2014

Something fishy about that ichthyologist

This morning I was watching one of the later Charlie Chan movies -- made by the bargain-basement (to put it kindly) Monogram Pictures and starring Sidney Toler -- when something caught my eye.

One scene takes place aboard a ship where a murder has been committed. One of the suspects, a middle-aged and cranky ichthyologist, is sitting in a deck chair, reading a book about his specialty.

When it came to designing a cover for the book that the fish scientist was reading (yes, you guessed right -- I didn't want to have to type out that word again), the Monogram prop department spared no expense.

The cover for the book, at least on my iPad, seems to be made from a paper grocery bag. (My mom used to make covers like that for my grammar-school books.)

On the cover, in block letters, is the title of the book, in its entirety:


I suppose I should give the prop folks the benefit of the doubt -- perhaps a longer title was planned, but the Magic Marker ran out of ink, the prop department didn't have any more of those pens, and there was no money in the budget to buy more.

(Which reminds me of how, at my former workplace many years ago, if your pen ran out of ink, you could get a new one from the woman who was in charge of the supplies -- if you returned the one that had just stopped working.)

Speaking of Charlie Chan (ah, I'm a clever lad when it comes to transitions, am I not?), a few years ago TCM released a DVD set of four of the Chan Monogram movies at a list price of about $40.

Even now, I'm surprised that the media -- or at least the entertainment media -- missed what I think is a big story.

For as far as I can tell, this is the first time in entertainment history that the cost of a DVD set has far exceeded the movies' combined budgets.

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