Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My Humble "Contributions" to IMDb

I'm of an age that I grew up before the online revolution of the past couple of decades.  Kids growing up now have no idea that there was a time when they couldn't go online and find the answers to their questions (and homework problems) with a few mouse clicks.  I suppose this might give me a greater appreciation for this incredible convenience that I couldn't have imagined when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s.  It really is a different world and I don't want to get too deep into whether it's a good or bad thing.

But I will say that I don't know what I'd do without a handful of websites that I have come to really depend on for information that I need for my blog writing or to simply answer a nagging question that's running around in my head.  I don't really do a lot of true "surfing", but do end up at relevant websites outside of my little circle of preferred internet sites when they come up in search results.

The first and most important source of information for me on pretty much anything in the world from song lyrics to answers to those unanswerable children's questions from The Little Monster is definitely Google.  When I first heard of Google I didn't know what to think of it, but now I can't imagine living without it.  It's been absolutely invaluable for me.  I know that Google is now an online empire that includes e-mail (G-Mail), social networking and gobbling up smaller websites and companies, but it will always be a dependable search engine first and foremost to me.  I also know that there are other search engines out there that I could try out to see which one fits my needs best--but Google has always answered my questions reliably.  If it ain't broke, why fix it?

Wikipedia has also been an important source of information mining for me.  Unlike Google I never actually go to Wikipedia for information.  It just so happens that almost anytime I make an inquiry on Google a Wikipedia link is always at or near the top of the results.  I do realize that Wikipedia is made up of content from users so I always remember to take information I find there with a grain of salt and try to do further research to confirm what I find there (take note of that students of the 21st century who get their info from Wikipedia).  As a race we humans tend to believe what we hear or read.  It's very easy to read something in Wikipedia and automatically take it for fact.  Unlike back in the days when people actually had to open an encyclopedia (in paper format, not online) to look up reliable, well-researched information, people really need to stifle their instinct to believe it simply because we read it (and that includes myself as well).

I also find a lot of information in video form on YouTube.  YouTube is a great place to waste many hours of the day watching all kinds of meaningless "stuff" about various topics.  It seems like you can find almost anything on YouTube if you look hard enough and I've been amazed to find some very specialized and unexpected things there--like old clips from the Boston-area television stations I grew up watching in the days before cable and VCRs were ubiquitous.

I use a few other sites regularly (Yahoo! Mail, eBay, Facebook, Netflix...), but there's really only one more site that I regularly consult when trying to find information for blogs (or other things).  That site is the Internet Movie Database, or more simply and familiarly IMDb.  All these sites have provided me with valuable information that I wouldn't really have had any way to find twenty years ago or so.  While Wikipedia, "The free encyclopedia that anyone can edit", is of questionable reliability in many cases, IMDb tends to be a bit more authoritative when it comes to information about movies, television and the people who are behind both.  But it is possible to submit new or revised information to the site when you think something is missing or incorrect.  I can only imagine the constant flood of information they receive from people who "just know" that something found on IMDb is wrong because they remember it differently.  IMDb will accept edits and then research them themselves before adding the new or revised information to the site.  I don't know how their fact-checking process works, but feel pretty confident that it's reliable.

I had a friend who swore that something on IMDb was incorrect.  He remembered seeing a TV movie in the early 1980s that IMDb said was aired in 1978.  This was someone who was very knowledgeable about pop culture.  He was determined to contact IMDb to correct the information, but died before he was able to do so.  I looked up TV listings on microfilm for the date IMDb said the movie aired and it did indeed appear where it should have been.  Probably about a year later or so I was looking for something else in the listings and stumbled upon an early 1980s repeat of the movie.  It turned out that my friend was correct about when he saw the movie--he simply didn't realize that it was a repeat and not the premiere of the film.

I can't say that I've found many instances of misleading or incorrect information at IMDb (or at least not that I was aware of anyway).  Still, it would be nice to be able to submit some information to them---to sort of try to repay them just a bit for all the help they've given to me over the past few years.  I did submit two very small and rather inconsequential bits of information for two IMDb entries, and they were both adopted into their respective pages.  Despite how small these changes are I'm just a little proud to say that I made a contribution to the site (however small and unimportant they may be in the grand scheme of things).  All in the name of accuracy I suppose.

The first one concerned the movie "Oliver's Story" (1978), which was the much less famous follow-up to the classic "Love Story" (1970) that starred Ryan O'neal.  It seems like an odd film for me to have some connection to or reference to, but it just so happens that part of the movie was filmed in my teeny, tiny little hometown of Uxbridge, Massachusetts!  As a matter of fact, one of my sisters was even an extra in it.  I saw the movie quite a few years back on a VHS tape borrowed from the library I worked at.  That ancient and not-so-in-demand tape went out of circulation a while back and now the movie is somewhat hard to find.  Well, I decided one day to read about my hometown's little contribution to celluloid history at IMDb and was disappointed to not see it listed among the filming locations (which included Cambridge, MA and Hong Kong, China).  I decided to submit the fact that Uxbridge was also a filming location, but didn't really have any corroborating evidence to offer.  I never heard back from IMDb, but when you check out the page for "Oliver's Story" now you will see that Uxbridge, MA is included as a filming location!

My second, and to date only, other contribution to IMDb is in relation to the Vincent Price movie "The Last Man on Earth" (1964).  This one's a bit more up my alley, so to speak.  I've liked this movie for some time and was happy to see that it was going to be part of the 2011 edition of the Drive-In Super Monster-Rama show in Pennsylvania.  I was lucky enough to be able to attend both the 2010 and 2011 Drive-In Super Monster-Rama shows.

The pristine print of "The Last Man on Earth" screened at the show was a great thing to see, but also a bit of a mystery.  When the movie started it appeared to be pretty normal, but then the title came up and instead of reading THE LAST MAN ON EARTH it said THE DAMNED WALK AT MIDNIGHT.  This came as a surprise to most of the people I talked to at the show, including the man behind it all, who had rented the film.

I have no idea exactly where or when the movie was given the title "The Damned Walk at Midnight", but it was right up there on the screen so I knew it HAD happened at some point in time.  The IMDb page for "The Last Man on Earth" had a number of alternate (AKA) titles listed, but no mention of "The Damned Walk at Midnight".  I'm sure this title is familiar with some film fans and scholars somewhere, but it seemed to be a bit of a mystery.  I submitted the alternate title to IMDB with my photograph of the movie screen as evidence.

Once again I never actually heard back from IMDb, but I just checked the page for the film again and "The Damned Walk at Midnight" is now listed as an alternate title!  Check toward the bottom of the list.

This is a lot of writing about two admittedly very minor bits of information that most people will never even see, but it's all I've got on the subject.  It's one small step for mankind, but one giant leap for Monster Dad!

1 comment:

  1. Wow. As the author of Richard Matheson on Screen, I LITERALLY wrote the book about his cinematic oeuvre, but was never aware of that alternate title. Thank you, Monster Dad! It may have changed, but years ago, when I tried to correct some (rare) misinformation on IMDb, the process was so burdensome that I finally gave up. And, as generally reliable as they are, I see they’re still promulgating one of the most pervasive pieces of Internet falsehood, i.e., that Matheson had an unbilled role as a senator in The Godfather Part II. I asked Richard about this personally, and he confirmed that it was false, yet one still sees it everywhere online.