Friday, February 12, 2016

The Blockbuster

I’m reading a book at the moment about the recycling of language for the modern world, eg how the words “web” and “log” come together to create the world “blog”.  As well as much more convoluted origins of the word “tablet” which I  might blog about from my tablet at some other time.
Googling the words ‘blockbuster definition’ we get  “something of great power or size in particular a film or a book especially if it is of great commercial success.”
Indeed, to me it also means a  drain cleaner, a Ronseal  type of drain cleaner i.e., it does what it says on the tin. 
And it was a whole chain of video rental shops as you recall….

We also had a TV quiz for kids called Blockbuster where two teenagers played one (?) in an attempt  to make their way across a board by moving from letter to letter. It was compered by Bob Holness and gave rise to one of the best accidental catch phrases of all time;  ‘Can I have a p please Bob.’  Weirdly,  a DJ called Stuart Maconie,  a man who likes  giving out random untrue factoids just to see if they catch on, once said that Bob Holness, the erstwhile presenter of Blockbuster, played the saxophone on Gerry Rafferty’s  Baker Street. And many people still believe that. 

From Wikipedia

"Holness was the subject of an urban myth, claimed to have been initiated in the 1980s by broadcaster Stuart Maconie who, writing for the New Musical Express in a section called 'Believe It Or Not', said that Holness had played the saxophone riff on Gerry Rafferty's 1978 song, "Baker Street".

But back to Blockbusters….
According to the book, New Words For Old by Caroline Taggart, the block in blockbuster is the North American type of block as a way of measuring distance.  And this meaning of the word has been around since the late 1700s with bust being an alternative to break.  So during the second World War blockbuster meant a bomb capable of taking out the whole block. The word blockbuster then developed  to mean something more positive, something  so terrific that  it will  sweep away all previous ideas. By that definition,  it would be ground breaking, and you can clearly see the link of thought and language there. The blockbuster was an aerial bomb, weighing about  6 tonnes.


Blockbuster was also the name of the number one hit  by The Sweet.  Their  lead singer was this rather attractive young man, the blond one!


and he was the brother of this man…..
And that is true, not a factoid! Sadly alcohol played  a part in the demise of both the brothers.

Another meaning the book mentions, is the one that refers to the American Real estate  practice of selling a house to a black family in a white area and causing some kind of collapse of house prices in the area. Well I think that’s what  it meant. A practice that  went on in the fifties and early sixties and I’m sure it happens no more.

By the fifties the word Blockbuster was already being used  as common parlance for films with a huge budget and/or  huge production costs.  It  was never applied as a reference to the quality of the script. Or the acting.  To me,  when I hear the word Blockbuster as applied to a film, I think  of the Towering Inferno.  With the film  Jaws, the blockbuster nearly became a genre all by itself- fast paced, exciting and involved the audience. People went back to see them again and again just to be safely scared. The release of these films was generally timed to coincide with July 4th, and with a huge marketing budget behind them; the summer blockbuster.
                                                    we are going to need a bigger budget!

Before Jaws, according to Wikipedia.  Films  were known as blockbusters just because of the money they made. Films such as Quo Vadis, The Ten Commandments, Gone With the Wind, The Sound Of Music and Ben-Hur were the first blockbusters.
So although Blockbuster was used to describe a  film of huge commercial success, the word has evolved again  to mean a high budget production  which may well carry the future or failure of the studio. So some films can be a disaster at the box office but still be a blockbuster, Last Action Hero is one sited by two sources. And that has led to the word being applied to film in a slightly derogatory way – the "blockbuster mentality" . I think authors know all about that! The advertising budget that can go behind a book to hype it into the charts.
And like books there are the low budget films that  break through to become high earners. Napoleon Dynamite is a favourite in our house, the teenage boys roll around the floor laughing and they  do the ‘dance’.
The blockbuster novel , as well as its huge marketing budget tends to be of a specific genre. One person’s rise from poverty to wealth, with some sex in it, and some class conflict. Too much sex in it and it becomes a bonkbuster (as much loved by fans of Jilly Cooper.)
So my fellow MIE ers, I think we are missing a trick here. Let’s write the blockbuster.  We shall put  any old rubbish in it. What about a young girl born in the back streets of Glasgow  where she spends her days gutting mackerel, she stows away on the Titanic (?) and gets picked up by a steamer going to South Africa. Our heroine then gets partially eaten by a  ( Stan? Michael?) and has plastic surgery in that hospital in New York ( Annamaria?).  She then sues the crocodile, hyena ( Jeff?) but the surgery  turns her into a supermodel and she becomes world famous before going on a retreat to Japan ( Susan) where she learns to become a ninja spy type and goes back to kill her old boss who forced her to gut the mackerel.  

Well, I think it need a bit of polishing…..

Caro Ramsay  12th Feb 2016


  1. You forgot the part where her old boss took her virginity on the bloody, slimy mackerel-gutting work table, and of course, we all know what you mean when you say she was "picked up" by a steamer, I'll bet he was hot, hot, HOT! I don't even want to THINK about the image of her being 'eaten' by Stan or Michael, let's just NOT go there. But the plastic surgery has all kinds of possibilities, although the only really believable part is where you call Jeff a crocodile and a hyena, although I think that's a little harsh, even if he was a lawyer. As for going back to her old boss her gutted her like a mackerel... that's just an analogy, right?

    But what's the title? "Fifty Pounds of Fish Story"???

    1. What about The Scales Of Justice' for a title. The story is fine, perfectly believable except for the bit where somebody who looks like a cross between Mickey Rooney and the Renfrew Ferry ends up looking like Kendall Jenner. But that's a very picky editorial point. Nine out of ten.

    2. All I can say--with pride--is "What a croc."

  2. Chapters 16-24 of UNHOLY MACKEREL--the New York interlude:
    While recuperating from plastic surgery, La Belle Michelle meets a Wall Street hedge fund billionaire who has undergone a similar operation in the hopes of improving his toad-like appearance. If she will be his, he promises to bankroll a new Broadway musical in which she will star. The play is about the adventures of an English bodyguard and Norwegian policeman. Soon, La Belle Michelle starts two-timing the toad with a handsome lawyer who has been brought in to draw up her and the toad's prenuptial agreement. The consultants for the project--Zoe and Jorn--soon realise that both La Belle Michelle's lawyer and her toad-like boyfriend would rather see the girl dead than see her in the arms of the other. With their help, she escapes to Paris and her career as a supermodel.

  3. Crackin Caboodles Crimewriters! Ok, at first I read it as a hedgehog billionaire - prickly plotlines batman! Does our heroine get to sing in this one? The Bodyguard? Is it a musical?
    I can smell success. And mackerel.
    I think Broadway needs a fish based musical!

  4. I think Michael did the eating!

  5. Honestly, all a city girl was asking for was a wee bit of help from her fellow bloggers from SA with her wildlife near death encounter on the Savannah and ....well.....what can I say.
    Or is your plot line that she encounters a cannibal ? Change of genre but a worthwhile suggestion.......:)

  6. I think I'll have to read this blockbuster before they turn it into a movie. I'm getting a better idea of what "creative genius" actually means. At least there are no zombies. So far.

  7. Late to the party but is Taggart a goner?

  8. No Zombies? Who do you think REALLY was doing the eating in Africa?

  9. I think Taggart was eaten by a hyena, Cara. Or was it a crocodile?

    This sounds like it has legs, Caro, or fins...

  10. Hi Cara, Mark McManus passed away in 1994 but the show 'Taggart' kept going for many years with James McPherson and then Alex Norton playing the lead. It's James who does the audio version of my books. They have now axed Taggart, just after it became the longest running detective series in the world.

  11. OK, I think I have the plot for the blockbuster. The storyline for the heroine is as outlined previously. But the detective gets eaten by the crocodile/hyena, is killed, comes back as a zombie/ vampire who instructs his young nephew to solve the case. The nephew was dismissed from the police force for being a wizard, he has round glasses and has a scar on his forehead... Yip, i think that just might do it!

  12. You've nailed it Caro. That has got to be a best seller. Actually, I can't wait to read it!