Mill Creek 50 Movie Collection: Mad Scientist Theater

One of Mill Creek’s inexpensive movie collections

Seriously long-term readers of this blog might remember Mill Creek Entertainment. I mentioned these folks way back in 2010 as a source of classic public domain movies after White Springs TV went off the air. At the time, the Internet Archive’s movie collection was still skimpy, and broadband internet was less common, so a lot more people could watch a Mill Creek DVD than download a movie.

A few months ago, Mill Creek flipped that paradigm on its head by releasing a series of movie packs on its Watch Mill Creek online platform. For less than $5, about a quarter of the price of the DVD equivalent, you can buy 50 online movies in one of several flavors: Crime Wave, Cowboy Legends, Icons of Comedy, Mad Scientist Theater (pictured), and many more. Once purchased, that owned content is available through a Roku app and most web browsers to watch as often as you want.

The online movie packs don’t match up with any particular old Mill Creek DVD collection, but the titles are very familiar. Most of these are available at the Internet Archive, but Mill Creek’s better user interface might be worth a few dollars for the convenience of calling up one of your favorites on demand. And their email specials, such as this Mad Scientist pack for a dollar at Halloween or a special free Thanksgiving sampler, are another reason to sign up.

There’s also a smattering of non-public domain available for purchase, such as It’s Ernest (the Jim Varney TV show), Archie’s Weird Mysteries, and Liberty’s Kids, but when it comes to Mill Creek, I’m looking for the quantity entertainment of 50-movie packs. These flicks might not be worth much, but they might be worth their asking price and even a little more.

 

 

Classic CBS logoAs I was watching the Broncos lose at home again yesterday afternoon, there was an occasional crawl at the top of the screen telling the world that Dish customers should call Dish and complain that they might lose CBS. Or something like that – the game was hard to watch. I rolled my eyes inwardly and thought, here we go again.

The first CBS-Dish fight from over 10 years ago was the impetus for me to install a good Yagi-style over-the-air antenna on the roof. Not only did that let me bypass that dispute, it opened up the world of digital subchannels. I’ve since upgraded to a less pointy version with even better reception, but that’s only part of the reason I just don’t care this time.

When Dish sent out its nigh-annual rate increase around the beginning of this year, for the first time it broke out Broadcast TV as its own $10 charge. “Cool!” I thought, and called in to get the satellite-delivered locals turned off. That wasn’t how it worked; with my typical package of channels, that separate broadcast component was still mandatory.

Which was why I was surprised to get a postcard from Dish a couple of months ago offering to save me that $10/month if I picked up locals via an OTA antenna. They even offered to send out an installer. I called again, and this time the satellite-delivered locals went away and $10 stayed in my pocket. I no longer have PrimeTime Anytime, and my Hopper doesn’t record OTA all that well, but I’ve got a Tablo in place for my OTA DVR. I’m saving money and getting the pleasure of thumbing my nose at CBS’s tactics.

That’s the part that bugs me most. CBS already has enormous leverage in retransmission consent talks, and for the network to bug all viewers just to reach some Dish customers to increase that leverage, I think that’s a jerk move. As long as its stations continue to have an obligation to freely serve the public airwaves, then that’s how I’ll watch my CBS.

 

I was reminded today why I often find it hard to write anything on Fridays. That seems to be the day of the week when all the bad news comes out.

Ben Munson at FierceCable wrote about reactions to the FCC’s vote yesterday to relax media ownership rules to make it easier for broadcasters to own newspapers in their markets, and to own multiple TV stations. Supporters thought it was a gift to broadcast groups such as Sinclair, and opponents thought it was a gift to Sinclair Broadcasting.

Brian Heater at TechCrunch rounded up the evidence that the FCC will vote to kill Net Neutrality next month. There’s another case where on a Monday I might have exhorted you to call your legislators to fight to keep equal treatment for all bits, but on Friday I just see a future where Comcast charges extra for OTT services it doesn’t own.

And there’s news, also from Munson, that Sinclair is going full speed ahead on ATSC 3.0 just hours after the FCC voted to allow the broadcast standard. According to a Reuters story, Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said the new technology would force consumers to buy new televisions. “The FCC calls this approach market driven. That’s right — because we will all be forced into the market for new television sets or devices.” On the other hand, Sinclair calls it “the Holy Grail” because it will tells them who is watching and where, so there are privacy concerns.

There must be some good news in the middle of all this. Maybe I’ll find it on Monday.

Close-up of the side of a dish motor showing angle marks

This close-up of my old motor mounted to the dish pole showed me how to mount my new motor.

Hey, all you free-to-air satellite viewers who hopefully frequent FTAList! I remembered today that I forgot to tell you what I did last month. My FTA system stopped working, but I was able to fix it.

It started months ago. Once in awhile, when I would tell my receiver to tell my motor to point my dish to a new satellite, it would go there, then continue on just a teeny bit too far. The channels on that bird simply wouldn’t be visible until I told the motor to switch to another satellite then switch back to the one I wanted in the first place. I shrugged and figured my 1.2-meter Ku-band dish had just shifted on its mount somehow.

The glitches came more frequently. Finally last month, the motor just refused to turn in response to most commands. That STAB HH 120 motor is one of the few that can drive my large dish, and I’d had it for years, much longer than I’ve kept any one receiver. To isolate the problem, I swapped out a different receiver, different quad-shield coax cables, and bypassed the DiSEqC switch. As you can guess by the photo, nothing else helped; it was the motor that had gone bad.

I remember the work it took to set up and point that motor when I first installed it, so I went looking for an exact replacement. I wound up at Ricks Satellite, home to the best wild feed forum that I know of, and Rick had just what I was looking for. I bought it, Rick shipped it, and two days later I installed it to match the photos I had taken of the old motor. In less time than it’s taken me to type this note, my motorized dish was ready for action without any repointing or tweaking.

So take this as a reminder, if you happen to have a motorized FTA system, that pieces of it will go bad over time. When that piece is the motor, a few photos and an exact replacement can save hours of set up time. For once, I got it right!

 

Ben Munson at FierceCable disagrees with my assessment of the new Philo OTT service. “Since all the programmers involved in the Philo launch are also strategic investors, the service also provides them with some degree of distribution ownership … There doesn’t seem to be any reason Philo won’t have a material impact for all involved.” I’ve been wrong before.

Brian Fung writes in The Washington Post that ATSC 3.0 is just another facet of the FCC’s broadcast TV changes that benefit media consolidation at the expense of localism. It’s really quite depressing.

And Troy Dreier at Streaming Media magazine has the right response to the typical newspaper hand-wringing about using OTT services to replace cable TV. The future of video has begun, and “we can all enjoy a variety of niche services that … we can now select from. Did I say select? No, apparently we’re forced to subscribe … to all of them.” Exactly! So many of those articles rebuild a matching set of pay-TV channels using streaming services, then complain that they’re about as expensive. Which is the opposite of the point of OTT – the ability to pick and choose which channels to buy. It’s not a la carte, but it’s the closest we’ve got for now.