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    • Scanners on Criterion Blu-ray

    • Criterion's impressive Videodrome disc includes a clip from a 1982 TV talk show featuring a gathering of four then-hot young horror film directors: John Carpenter, John Landis, Mick Garris and David Cronenberg. Of the four only Cronenberg appears eager to discuss and analyze screen horror; he alone seems fascinated by the genre. Of course, we realized long before that the Canadian director was a wild card maverick. From Shivers (They Came from Within) forward, each won wide distribution, probably due to a highly commercial "ick" factor.

      Cronenberg attracted quality collaborators despite being tagged as a maker of 'gynecological horror'. Shivers brought Barbara Steele back to the screen at a time when many fans thought she had retired. The Brood had Oliver Reed and Samantha Eggar. Even the relatively primitive Shivers has a meaningful premise, intelligently worked out; Cronenberg's pictures are disturbing because of their unblinking attitude to the fact of our alienation from our own physical bodies. Most of us are repelled by our bodily functions, as we're culturally trained to think of ourselves as spiritual beings made in God's image. Gothic horror often touched upon the idea that we have a bestial quality that needs to be repressed. Cronenberg motivates his horrors with out-of-control (or purposely perverse) science. In one show, an artificially created organ behaves like a venereal disease. Another 'custom appendage' turns its owner into a sexual vampire. An experiment that externalizes psychological traumas causes a woman to give birth to monstrous creatures that carry out her subconscious desires. None of these ideas fall within the boundaries of common Good Taste.

      1981's Scanners became Cronenberg's breakout hit. He successfully translates science fiction ideas about mental telepathy to the screen and does a fairly good job integrating them into a thriller about competing psychic supermen. Brian De Palma had scored a massive commercial hit with Carrie, a movie about a telepathic teen defending herself against bullies. His flashy but disorganized follow-up The Fury added little to the concept. Scanners starts from the basics and adheres closely to its own interior logic. It's genuinely scary, and not just an exercise for ostentatious gore.

      Initial viewers of Scanners often got no farther than its biggest, genuinely shocking scene, a masterful bit of Guignol beautifully teased in trailers and TV spots: this is the movie where a guy's head explodes.

      The story concerns shady experiments conducted in modern research companies. The ConSec Corporation has for years been nurturing a new breed of telepaths. Called 'scanners', they were originally created by Ephemerol, a drug given to pregnant women. Having lost contact with most of the scanners it has identified, ConSec has reason to believe that a competing entity is rounding them up for unknown, nefarious purposes. Dr. Paul Ruth (Patrick McGoohan) has a big problem with Darryl Revok (Michael Ironside) a crazed scanner who has gone renegade, and is assassinating all the scanners he can find. With his psychic skills Revok easily penetrates ConSec security and kills the company's staff scanner researcher (Louis Del Grande). Dr. Ruth has the derelict scanner Cameron Vale (Stephen Lack) kidnapped and brought to ConSec for his own safety. The homeless Vale is helped to control his 'talent' and clear his mind of unwanted telepathic chaos from normal people. Ruth then sends his disciple out to seek out Darryl Revok and put an end to his murderous interference. Dodging Revok's killer squads, Vale joins up with fellow threatened scanner Kim Obrist (Jennifer O'Neill). But the opposition always seems to be waiting in ambush. Could there be some kind of double agent back at ConSec, acting on Revok's behalf?

      The time-tested paranoid conspiracy thriller format provides Scanners with action and mayhem, enough to satisfy fans and fill out an exploitative trailer. What's amazing is that writer-director Cronenberg doesn't compromise his fairly cerebral story concept. The Fury disintegrated into a series of ever-sillier telepathic attacks and stylish set-pieces. A decade before that, George Pal's awkward The Power was a premature attempt at a similar story that lost itself in plot detours and confusing 'surreal' imagery. Cronenberg's flow of exciting ideas is never interrupted, and his nods to surrealism are more direct. In one scene, a critical discussion takes place inside a giant artwork of a human head.

      The movie features a truly disturbing characterization in Darryl Revok, an incredibly dangerous guy capable of 'fogging men's minds' and imposing his will on their actions. As played by the arresting actor Michael Ironside (Starship Troopers), Revok is scary, plain and simple. He responded to ConSec's early scanner training by attempting to bore a hole through his skull with an electric drill. Revok effortlessly hijacks ConSec's demo presentation by mentally hiding his scanning talent. He seizes mental control of his host, and so strongly bombards the man's nervous system that his brain explodes.

      Cronenberg then runs wild with his central idea, brilliantly incorporating ideas from classic science fiction. When we learn that Revok's conspiracy seeks to breed a new race of scanners, we may well imagine a plague of telepathic children similar to those of Village of the Damned. The world could be conquered overnight by a drug-altered new race of men, a thought that echoes back to H.G. Wells' original novel Food of the Gods.

      "Better Living Through Drugs" was the optimistic slogan that too often turned the general population into a testing ground for modern day mad scientists. The parallel of Cronenberg's fictitious "Ephemerol" to the tragic real-life drug Thalidomide is just the kind of taste-challenged content that leads Scanners into Dangerous Idea territory. Most sci-fi / action thrillers soon abandon whatever ideas they might have in favor of chase scenes and random gunfire. Scanners instead leaps onto a new level of conceptual menace. Waiting in a doctor's office, Kim Obrist suddenly realizes that she's being scanned by an expectant mother's unborn fetus. The fear of the future is the fear of change, of progress, the fear that technology will make us obsolete. Marvelously rich in ideas, Cronenberg's fairly modest production is a core title in filmed science fiction.

      The young director makes sure to give his already devoted horror fans what they've come for. Dick Smith's special makeup work delivers jarring, grotesque images that really grab one by the stomach. The detonation of Louis Del Grande's head breaks all the rules by going 'full visceral' -- no smoke or cutaways intrude to 'tastefully' hide anything. Michael Ironside's powerhouse acting adds immensely to the final showdown, as Revok practically turns his flesh inside out to concentrate on obliterating Cameron Vale, mind and body. Retreating into a Buddha-like trance, Vale's strategy appears to be a passive-aggressive surrender followed by a telepathic sneak attack. Cronenberg has shrewdly front-loaded his film with its strongest shock scene, which keeps his audience hanging in nervous suspense for the rest of the picture.

      Scanners shows the director relying on good casting. Fan favorite Patrick McGoohan lends his heavyweight presence to the script's complex exposition about telepathy and ConSec. Michael Ironside is a disturbing new star as the genuinely frightening Revok. Pretty Jennifer O'Neal has an unexpectedly small role but carries her end well, especially in that scene in doctor's office. New York artist Stephen Lack fronts a good look as the lost soul learning about his own powers while playing the role of psychic detective. Unfortunately, too many of Lack's most important line deliveries are just not good. A genre effort like Scanners can skate over many flaws, but Lack's performance always stands out.

      Criterion's Dual-Format Blu-ray + DVD of Scanners gives this sci-fi shocker a new lease on life. It and The Brood were previously released on mediocre DVDs by MGM. This new HD transfer works wonders with cinematographer Mark Irwin's slick cinematography, and flatters the expressive designs of art director Carol Spier. Howard Shore's menacing music track gets a boost as well.

      The new disc has a wealth of desirable, illuminating extras. The substantial featurette The Scanners Way is a making-of piece with plenty of input from the actors and extra attention given to the film's special effects. Mental Saboteur is an interview with the riveting Michael Ironside, who is just as forceful when speaking to a docu camera. Ironside's comments and anecdotes pull us into his spell, which is only broken when he implies that his character was based on watching a real telekinetic person in action. The interview piece The Ephemerol Diaries presents Stephen Lack as an intelligent, engaged artist who met director Cronenberg in the New York art scene. Lack remembers the film with great affection.

      Beyond approving the dark and rich film transfer, Cronenberg's input is limited to an extended interview on Canadian TV's The Bob MacLean Show. After only a few seconds listening to the director, one realizes that he's the real deal, a well-adjusted serious artist with the smarts to express himself and survive in the commercial film market.

      Another disc highlight is the inclusion of David Cronenberg's first feature, Stereo. Structured like a research report, the 1969 film is the work of an art student making the most of limited resources. Freaky things are happening at a place called The Canadian Academy for Erotic Inquiry. The jargon-laden tech talk in the voiceover (the film's only audio) lets us know that eight volunteer subjects have undergone 'pattern brain surgery' to turn them into functioning telepaths. The film is an hour of thick pseudo-scientific ramblings, but writer Cronenberg's ideas are way, way ahead of the curve. We learn that a telepathic bond must have an emotional component, which is where the sexual element enters. The investigators choose one test subject to mentally dominate the others, in the hopes of establishing a functioning telepathic commune. Some of the 'submissive' telepaths erect fake "schizo-phonetic partitions" to prevent a takeover of their personal identities. Others agree to have their speech centers in their brains removed to make telepathy their only outlet for communication.

      Cronenberg's visuals are vague representations of test subjects interacting. They're often little more than a background for the intense narration, a strategy that reminds us of the experimental German sci-fi 'anti-movie' Der große verhau. Yet Cronenberg manages some arresting images. A boy caresses a biology mannequin while a few feet away his topless and blindfolded girlfriend 'experiences' his pleasure by brainwaves alone. Test subjects carry ordinary baby pacifiers... to perhaps focus their erotic thoughts? The pacifier is visually compared to the "Ankh" symbol, and at one point we see a rebellious subject cutting a pacifier into pieces. When finally covered by Variety in 1984, the reviewer "Cart." acknowledged that Stereo was virtually unwatchable, yet instantly recognizable as the work of a talent with great promise.

      Seeing Stereo gives us more reasons why David Cronenberg had so little in common with his horror-director contemporaries. Lost in his grisly domain of 'body politics', Cronenberg was definitely operating on his own plane of awareness, somewhere over the conceptual horizon.

      A trailer and some radio spots are included. Criterion's insert booklet contains an essay by noted commentator and author Kim Newman. The disc's arresting cover art is by Connor Willumsen.

      By Glenn Erickson

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  1. New Books

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    • Elizabeth and Michael

    • By Donald Bogle

      One of the country's leading authorities on popular entertainment presents an eye-opening and unique biography of two larger-than-life legends--Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson--and their unlikely yet enduring friendship.

      From the moment Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Jackson met, they were hooked on each other. He peered into her violet eyes and was transfixed; she, in turn, was dazzled by his talent, intrigued by his sweet-tempered childlike personality, and moved by the stories she had already heard about his troubled early life. Soon a deep friendship blossomed, unexpectedly unlike anything either had ever experienced. Through thick and thin, through their various emotional upheavals, through the peaks and valleys of their careers, through their personal traumas and heartaches, through the unending health issues and extreme physical pain that each experienced, and through the glare of the often merciless public spotlight, their bond held them together, and their love for each other endured.


      Donald Bogle skillfully recreates the moving narrative of Taylor and Jackson's experiences together and their intense emotional connection, without shying away from the controversies that swirled around them. Through interviews with friends and acquaintances of the two stars, as well as anonymous but credible sources, Elizabeth and Michael emerges as a tender, intimate look at this famous "odd couple" and a treasure to their millions of fans.

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    • Robert Wagner's I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES: Memories of Hollywood's Legendary Actresses

    • By Robert Wagner and Scott Eyman

      In a career that has spanned over sixty years, Robert Wagner has witnessed the twilight of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the rise of television, becoming a beloved star in both film and TV. During this time, he became acquainted, both professionally and socially, with many of the greatest female screen personalities of all time. I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES: Memories of Hollywood's Legendary Actresses (On-sale: 11/15/16) by Robert Wagner, with co-author Scott Eyman, provides an intimate and revealing account of the charisma of these women on film, why they became stars, and how their specific emotional and dramatic chemistries affected the choices they made both as actresses and as women.

      I LOVED HER IN THE MOVIES offers a privileged look behind the scenes at some of the most well-known women in show business. Among Wagner's subjects are Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Marilyn Monroe, Gloria Swanson, Norma Shearer, Loretta Young, Joan Blondell, Irene Dunne, Rosalind Russell, Dorothy Lamour, Debra Paget, Jean Peters, Linda Darnell, Betty Hutton, Raquel Welch, Glenn Close, and the two actresses whom he ultimately married, Natalie Wood and Jill St. John. In addition to offering perceptive commentary on these women, Wagner examines topics like the strange alchemy of the camera--how it can transform the attractive into the stunning, and vice-versa--and how the introduction of color brought a new erotic charge to movies--one that enabled these actresses to become aggressively sexual beings in a way that that black and white films had only hinted at.


      Robert Wagner is the star of such films as A Kiss Before Dying, The Longest Day, The Pink Panther, and most recently, the Austin Powers franchise. On television, he starred in It Takes a Thief (with Fred Astaire), Switch (with Eddie Albert and Sharon Gless), and Hart to Hart (with Stefanie Powers). He has recently appeared on Two and a Half Men and NCIS. He is married to actress Jill St. John.

      Scott Eyman is the author of eleven books about the movies, including Lion of Hollywood: The Life of Louis B. Mayer (which the Wall Street Journal called one of the five best books ever written about Hollywood), Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille, and more recently, John Wayne: The Life and Legend.

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    • King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue

    • King of Jazz: Paul Whiteman's Technicolor Revue tells the story of the making, release, and restoration of Universal's 1930 Technicolor extravaganza King of Jazz. Authors James Layton and David Pierce have uncovered original artwork, studio production files, behind-the-scenes photographs, personal papers, unpublished interviews, and a host of other previously unseen documentation. The book offers a richly illustrated narrative with broader context on the film's diverse musical and theatrical influences. The story concludes with an in-depth look at the challenges Universal overcame in restoring the film in 2016. Additionally, the book's appendix provides a comprehensive guide to all of the film's performers, music, alternate versions, and deleted scenes.

      King of Jazz was one of the most ambitious films ever to emerge from Hollywood. Just as movie musicals were being invented in 1929, Universal Pictures brought together Paul Whiteman, leader of the country's top dance orchestra; John Murray Anderson, director of spectacular Broadway revues; a top ensemble of dancers and singers; early Technicolor; and a near unlimited budget. The film's highlights include a dazzling interpretation of George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," which Whiteman had introduced to the public in 1924; Walter Lantz's "A Fable in Jazz," the first cartoon in Technicolor; and Anderson's grand finale "The Melting Pot of Music," a visualization of popular music's many influences and styles. The film is not only a unique document of Anderson's theatrical vision and Whiteman's band at its peak, but also of several of America's leading performers of the late 1920s, including Bing Crosby in his first screen appearance, and the Russell Markert Dancers, who would soon become Radio City Music Hall's famous Rockettes.


      James Layton is Manager of the Museum of Modern Art's Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Center. Prior to this he worked at George Eastman House in Rochester, NY, where he curated two gallery exhibitions and the website Technicolor 100. Layton has also acted as Cataloguer and Workflow Coordinator at the East Anglian Film Archive in Norwich, UK, and is co-author of the Image Permanence Institute's informational poster Knowing and Protecting Motion Picture Film (2009).

      David Pierce is an independent film historian and archivist. He was formerly the Head of Preservation and Curator of the National Film and Television Archive at the British Film Institute. His articles have appeared in numerous journals, and his report on the survival of American silent feature films was published by the Library of Congress in 2013. He founded the Media History Digital Library, providing free online access to millions of pages of motion picture magazines and books.

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    • THE ESSENTIALS: 52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter

    • By Jeremy Arnold
      Forward by Robert Osborne

      Since its inception on Turner Classic Movies in 2001, The Essentials has become the ultimate for movie lovers to expand their knowledge of must-see cinema and discover or revisit landmark films that have had a lasting impact on audiences everywhere.

      Based on the hit series, THE ESSENTIALS by Jeremy Arnold showcases 52 must-see movies from the silent era to modern times. Readers can enjoy one film per week, like on the show, for a year of great viewing, or indulge in a movie-watching binge-fest. Each film is profiled with entertaining discourse on why it's an Essential, and running commentary is provided by TCM's Robert Osborne and Essentials guest hosts past and present: Sally Field, Drew Barrymore, Alec Baldwin, Rose McGowan, Carrie Fisher, Molly Haskell, Peter Bogdanovich, Sydney Pollack, and Rob Reiner.

      Featuring full-color and black-and-white photography of the greatest stars in movie history throughout, THE ESSENTIALS is the ultimate curated guide to 52 films that define the meaning of the word "classic."


      Jeremy Arnold, a writer and film historian, is the author of Lawrence of Arabia: The 50th Anniversary, a coffee-table book companion to that film's Blu-ray release. In addition to his work for numerous film trade publications, he has written over five hundred programming articles for the Turner Classic Movies website and contributed audio commentaries and historical essays to the DVD and Blu-ray releases of classic films.

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  1. DVD Reviews

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    • Dick Dinman Salutes Air Hero Jimmy Stewart!

    • DICK DINMAN SALUTES WW2 AIR HERO JIMMY STEWART: The dual releases of Olive Films stunning Blu-ray incarnation of the James Stewart air power classic STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND as well as author Robert Matzen's awe inspiring book MISSION: JIMMY STEWART AND THE FIGHT FOR EUROPE, which for the first time ever reveals the truth about Stewart's dangerous bombing missions over Germany, give producer/host Dick Dinman ample motivation to salute the spectacular military career of screen icon Stewart and Dick is joined by returning guest Robert Matzen as they marvel at the courage, skill and fortitude of this certifiable American hero.

      The opening DICK'S PICKS segment salutes Olive Films and their latest Blu-ray releases of not only STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND but Orson Welles' MACBETH (two versions!), HOUDINI, THE PRIVATE AFFAIRS OF BEL AMI, VILLA RIDES. ONE OF OUR AIRCRAFT IS MISSING and two new 4k releases of THE QUIET MAN and JOHNNY GUITAR (first time in original widescreen format on home video!).

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & Eddie Muller Salute Ultra-Rare Noir Classics!

    • DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER SALUTE ULTRA-RARE NOIR CLASSICS: Producer/host Dick Dinman and Film Noir Foundation's Czar of Noir Eddie Muller wax poetic about the first-rate Blu-ray releases of three rarely seen film noir gems: Flicker Alley's dark and deadly duo of two heretofore thought virtually lost noir thrillers TOO LATE FOR TEARS and WOMAN ON THE RUN and KL Studio Classics 99 RIVER STREET about which Dick and Eddie have a rare major disagreement regarding the validity of what some consider the most memorable two scenes in the film.

      PLUS: A preview of KL Studio Classics upcoming noir Blu-ray release CRY OF THE CITY.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & Kathleen Hughes Return to 3-D "Outer Space!"

    • DICK DINMAN & KATHLEEN HUGHES RETURN TO 3-D "OUTER SPACE": Kathleen Hughes, whose breakout appearance in Universal-International's first 3-D blockbuster inspired the media to dub her the "first feminine sensation created by 3-D" rejoins producer/host Dick Dinman to salute Universal Pictures Home Entertainment's wonderfully immersive 3-D Blu-ray release of IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE (immaculately restored by the 3-D Archive) and shares priceless memories about her career from her very first film ROAD HOUSE (just released on Blu-ray by Kino's KL Studio Classics) to her time as a contract star at Universal and 3-D Archive's Robert Furmanek chats about the challenges inherent in restoring this certifiable sci-fi classic to its current eye-poppingly spectacular 3-D grandeur.
      PLUS: OPENING "DICK PICKS" SEGMENT SALUTES UNIVERSAL'S "THE MARX BROTHERS SILVER SCREEN BLU-RAY COLLECTION." AND A PREVIEW OF THE UPCOMING KINO RELEASE OF THE 3-D ARCHIVE'S "THOSE REDHEADS FROM SEATTLE".

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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    • Dick Dinman & Eddie Muller's Bogart Bonanza!

    • DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER'S BOGART BONANZA (PART ONE): Producer/host Dick Dinman welcomes back distinguished Film Noir Foundation head honcho Eddie Muller as both dedicated Humphrey Bogart fans rejoice about the fact that no less than four revered Bogart classics have hit the streets recently on Blu-ray. In this first of two shows Dick and Eddie trade thoughts about the amazing cult favorite IN A LONELY PLACE (Eddie's single favorite film!) which has been released by the Criterion Collection in typically outstanding Criterion fashion and no slouch in the Blu-ray visual perfection department is the Warner Archive's release of Bogart and Bacall's most unusual thriller DARK PASSAGE which reunites them in a tale of so many unexpected twists and turns that fortunate viewers will be on the edge of their seats.

      DICK DINMAN & EDDIE MULLER'S BOGART BONANZA (PART TWO): On this second Bogart Bonanza show acclaimed Czar of Noir Eddie Muller and producer/host Dick Dinman marvel at the omnipresent degree of authenticity displayed in the rare Bogart newspaper drama DEADLINE U.S.A. which has just hit the streets (with a sublime Eddie Muller commentary) on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino's KL Studio Classics and rabid fans who've been pleading for the Blu-ray release of TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (which is Bogart and Bacall's first and most scorchingly incendiary pairing) can now revel in the white hot perfection of this latest exemplary Warner Archive release.

      The award-winning DICK DINMAN'S DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR is the only show devoted to Golden Age Movie Classics as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray. Your producer/host Dick Dinman includes a generous selection of classic scenes, classic film music and one-on-one interviews with stars, producers, and directors. To hear these as well as other DVD CLASSICS CORNER ON THE AIR shows please go to www.dvdclassicscorner.com or www.dvdclassicscorner.net.

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  1. Press Release

Alan Ladd: The 1940s Collection DVD
$35.95
was $44.95
The Ghost and Mrs. Muir DVD
$10.47
was $14.98
Hard-boiled detective Sam Spade gets caught up in the murderous...
$14.96
was $19.98
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  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca
  •  
  • Wednesday, March 20, 2011

  • Removed: 10:00pm Springfield Rifle
    12:00pm Casablanca
    Added: 1:00pm Virginia City
    12:15pm Casablanca