William Faulkner on film, Sam Sniderman passes away
It’s Monday Sept. 24th and in less than a week it’ll be October. We’ve already cleared the first day of fall, the days are getting shorter & colder, and sweater lovers are indiscreetly celebrating the end of hot weather and delighted their drawers of sweaters will get use, given these admirers actually like winter.
The only aspect of winter I care for is the sense of being inside a warm house, watching the snow fall through a window, and knowing I’m safely removed from the chilly air (although technically it snows when the humidity goes up to enable the evil white stuff to tumble down from the sky).
Point: I’ll miss summer. We had sunlight, warmth, no need to wear boots, and there was no need to use the Philips light box (look it up). Perhaps the sole bonus if winter is the annual German chocolate & holiday candies hit at Xmas time (which will include the fast consumption of dominosteine, the most perfect candy ever invented. Says me).
October will see a slightly different publication schedule at KQEK.com in lieu of the time needed to work on my short film’s post-production, so most likely reviews will be assembled for bi-weekly uploads. In between will be some details & sample footage of the short, which is being shot over a few weeks during scheduled all-night sessions because of work schedules and the general disruption of normal sleep from being awake for almost 24 hours. I can’t rush the process because the last thing I want to do is drop a vintage Canon lens or two.
I’ll provide further details on the film’s content in October, as well as some images & footage of the cameras because they are rather unique; not rare, or using some ancient video format consisting of horse hair and electrified peanut brittle, but unusual. And ideally, perhaps I can add some information on the gear so there’s some educational content to the whole endeavor.
Just reported today is the passing of local hero (and to an extent, national hero) Sam Sniderman, founder of Sam the Recordman, The place to buy records on Boxing Day because the entire contents of the massive store were on sale: 30% off imports, and 20% off domestics.
My seasonal haul record was 30+ LPs, and while Sniderman is being celebrated by fans for supporting newcomers like the Guess Who, Anne Murray, etc., he was also a very savvy businessman. Imports were double the price of their U.S. retail, and sometimes old copies of titles that ought to have been reduced were being sold as current ‘imports.’ They had almost everything, but the prices were sometimes nuts. The strategy was to wait until Dec. 26, line up at 9am with friends, and as soon as the doorman let you in, RUN.
(The alternative was to use the side door on Charles St. which reportedly was sneakable, and allowed access into the building. I never tried it out of fear of being arrested as some invader, but a friend almost convinced me one frigid morning when the lineup was huge.)
Sam’s was a local establishment that had satellite mall shops with even higher pricing, and the biggest annoyance was you couldn’t call them; they did not list their phone # in the book, which meant you had to go down and see if they carried you want list. This was apparently unique to Toronto, because I was shocked to find Sam’s listed in the Ottawa directory, with numbers to every outlet. Those who knew the Toronto numbers had an advantage, but most didn’t.
Sam’s also carried titles on video at high markups, and as mentioned, when they became dead stock, not all were reduced for final sale. I specifically remember the Criterion The Game, which sat on a delete rack for years at $126. It never went down, and we had to wait until Sept. of 2012 to finally see & hear what Criterion had packed on that set via DVD & Blu-ray. (It comes out this week, and the review will be up next week.)
My best memories was simply wandering down the cramped aisles, flipping through bins, and being in awe of the stock. They had an enormous selection of videos & music, and during their peak years it was Heaven. My laserdisc collection in 1991 would never have begin without their Boxing Day sale. My first buys were Superman, Tango & Cash, Predator, Cleopatra, and something I’ve forgotten. That’s nostalgia, guilty pleasure crap, violent & bombastic sci-fi, a culty epic, and who knows what else.
A friend used to work they and told me of the old 78s that were packed above the shelves. One day they decided they needed space and were planning on junking the old LPs, so he made an offer, and walked out with boxes of mint 78s, which he eventually sold off to collectors. The point he made: the place was filled with recordings long forgotten. I found a sealed (mono) copy of the One-Eyed Jacks soundtrack. Bought it Boxing Day. A week later, another copy was there for $26. They actually had more of them, still sealed since 1960. That’s just crazy.
Also recall going up to the nosebleed level where they had deletes, and being amused by the tacky Blaxploitation covers which sold for under $5, not knowing decades later I’d be seeking out the same titles for a lot more. I actually passed on Shaft’s Big Score! What the hell was I thinking?
Sam’s store died because, as some reports filed during its demise declared, they over-expanded into mall territories with unprofitable shops. They failed to keep up with music trends and became redundant for new music as other venues carried the latest artists. And perhaps a sense of complacency in thinking that being the biggest and best known was enough to sustain a business for which there was no desire to change.
It’s conjecture and theory and pure opinion, but it is unfortunate the small strip on Yonge that once held Sam’s, A&As, Peter Dunne’s Vinyl Museum, and later HMV and Towers withered into banality as one folded, the other died and was replaced by a rival, another folded, and the last one pulled out of Canada because even tourists weren’t willing to pay double for domestic releases.
For several generations of buyers, Sam’s will remain the ultimate music mecca that will be missed. It’s home base on Yonge Street consisted of several buildings absorbed into one, and maybe my best memory, or emotion, is wandering into the classical section, flipping through composers, and finding actual recordings of film music. It existed, and people actually released the stuff.
I snapped up every Tony Thomas produced LP they had and gave myself a small education of forgotten & neglected composers. I also discovered a few films because of those purchases, so the $15+ per LP wasn’t too big a sacrifice (even if most were bought on my dad’s Master Card. Ahem).
Sam’s still exists on film, because TV series, TV movies, and feature films made use of the main location. During the 1990s Edward Woodward and a young Elizabeth Hurley were in a pair of TV movies, and one of them began with a street chase that starts as 2nd unit location footage in New York City, and suddenly flips to the inside of Sam the Record Man. It’s either The Shamrock Conspiracy (1995) or Harrison: Cry of the City (1996). Look for the right one and you’ll have a good chuckle.
Uploaded are two adaptations of William Faulkner stories directed by Martin Ritt (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold) co-starring Joanne Woodward, written by the great team of Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr., and featuring music by Alex North.
The Long, Hot Summer [M] (1958) was released by Fox on DVD and is in need of a proper HD release. To offset that omission, fans ought to check out Twilight Time’s new Blu-ray of The Sound and the Fury [M] (1959), a very strange film that doesn’t quite work but has a unique aura. It also has Yul Brynner with hair, Joanne Woodward playing a character 10 years her junior, and a superb Alex North score that booms in both its HD mix and as an isolated score.
Coming next: Anchor Bay delivers the complete Battle Royale series on Blu – the first film (and arguably among the greatest made in the last 20 years) + the shockingly awful sequel – and a review of The Hunger Games.