The 1937 British period film about Queen Elizabeth and her relationships, especially to Philip of Spain, is pristine and beautifully remastered here. Fire Over England is one of many depictions of British royalty under fire, and it always shows them to high dudgeon. They have only one variation on noblesse oblige.
The beauty does not end there: it is the first pairing of Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier. Her ability to run around Flora Robson’s court in long dresses likely convinced many she was Scarlett O’Hara, but it is Olivier who prances around, sword-fighting and jumping from high places, doing an Errol Flynn imitation.
In fact, if this had been an American film, it would have been Olivia DeHavilland running around Bette Davis’s queen.
However, this little film may be dull around the edges but makes up for it with a cast that stuns: not only is Flora Robson one of the most apt portrayals of Elizabeth, but she is matched with Raymond Massey showing that his Philip of Spain and Lincoln of Illinois may be more cerebral and sharper than anyone else ever played them.
You can almost forgive the cheesy miniatures and low-budget special effects, limited by the technology of the era.
You also have an early James Mason in an opening scene with Vivien Leigh. Right from the get-go, Mason can play it arrogant and villainous with youth. Then, as if for good measure, Robert Newton shows up—no, not as Francis Drake or any pirate, but in form before he went totally off the deep end.
In a nutshell, swashbuckler Laurence Olivier is sent on a suicide mission by Queen Flora Robson over the objections of Lady in Waiting Vivien Leigh to impersonate evil James Mason at the court of King Raymond Massey and his minion Robert Newton. So, no matter how mundane the script, you know you have fireworks.
Any old-fashioned film-fan will be in his element.
History Channel has taken a half-dozen series and documentaries about various volcanoes in history and geography and woven them into a new series, bottled in a shiny new package.
Yes, you may have a sense of déjà vu about some parts of this series. It may depend on how much of a volcano freak you are: if you have followed these shows for 20 years, you may have a sense of familiarity with scientists and filmed segments.
The two-hour opener on “Fire and Fury” actually looks at four big volcano stories: Yellowstone, the Hawaiian Islands, Krakatoa, and Vesuivius. If you look at these four, you know fairly much the key info on volcanoes. One of the tip-offs of the show is that each volcano has its own experts—and never the twain shall meet.
That is an indication that these scientists worked on one segment for their own series in the past.
Yet, the stories are compelling about the dangers, and the inexorable nature of magma and explosions from deep within the Earth.
If there is any commonality in narration, it’s the the youngest scientists are rather cute, like Jacob Lowenstern or Mike Poland, two experts who are totally engaging. Lowenstern is strictly for Yellowstone, and Poland is strictly related to Hawaii.
The most devastating stories are Krakatoa, with its loudest explosion ever heard on Earth and its 3000-mile wide destruction that was Biblical, leaving 36,000 dead in one fierce eruption. Fifty years later, the damn thing started to build up again, and is called “Son of Krakatoa” by locals.
The most impending doom is for Vesuvius where millions of people live nearby, figuring the place is dormant because it has not erupted since World War II. Yet, Vesuvius has erupted 30 times since the Pompeii event. And, often there are many feet of soot and ash to clear away.
It’s all rather unnerving with hints of nuclear winter and inevitable destruction. Just what you need in a pandemic.
DATELINE: Night at the Opera
Shaun Evans, not Groucho.
To kick off the seventh season of egghead murder mystery, Endeavour once again turns to star hotshot, Shaun Evans, to direct the first episode of Endeavour.
He is even better the second time around: with aplomb when it comes to set-ups, color, and the new modern police office settings. He seems to have wasted time filming in Venice for a few scenes that could have been faked without much notice in a studio. Producers even created an opera for the clueless.
The series has grown darker, starting with Endeavour’s heavy narrative opening about the comedy and tragedy he is about to face. Even his boss, Thursday, is now fed up with grisly killings and his humor is turning sour while Morse goes on vacation to Venice.
The episode is over-wroughtly titled “Oracle” when “Psychic” would have done well.
It’s 1970 now, and a waitress at the New Year’s bash is killed walking home from work. It is the heavy-handed start of women’s equal rights—and it is played historically nasty. Most men of the era saw it as a fad and did not take it seriously. If you use this show as history, you see something far more sinister.
Crime goes on, even at Oxford’s new fangled psychic research center where remote viewing experiments are in their infancy.
The red herrings, as usual, pile up in this show, which now have caught Roger Allam’s Thursday short-tempered.
Endeavour (Evans) remains the kiss of death, or so we suspect, as he succumbs to an operatic affair in Venice that is over before vacation ends.
There are a few intrigues that may trip you up: an old former classmate, a millionaire bon vivant seems gay and has an interest in Endeavour, and who could blame him? However, it is the petty jealousy of fellow detective Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) that is most amusing.
Psychic research is given a once-over effectively here and respectfully. If you don’t have it, you can’t fake it—and the ending is going to be a surprise for most.
The series is now in serial form, not self-contained mystery. The three-parts will meld into one.
DATELINE: Under the Earth
Brain Waves/underground acoustics?
Put Jules Verne’s Journey aside, UnXplained is taking Shatner to the center of the Earth. In the series volatile up and down quality, this episode is a gem.
This show looked at the phenomenon of underground habitations, both natural—and man-made. The first stop in Turkey uncovers a labyrinth of rooms, a city actually, that could house 20,000 people. Conservative estimates suggest it is 1000 years old, but some say it is closer to 12,000 years. Who built this before the Pyramids, and why?
If you think we don’t have the technology today to accomplish this, you haven’t heard about the multi-layers of Area 51 or the cavernous living areas of Cheyenne Mountain, both military zones.
The experts (physicists from Ancient Aliens like Drs. Travis Taylor and Mike Dennin) will tell you about a secret high-speed rail-subway system running clear across the United States.
If there is a nuclear winter, or a new ice age, the elite will be saved. The rest of us may not fare so well.
The show also visited a necropolis, an acoustic marvel in Malta where voices are enhanced, or seeming come out of the crypts of the dead. It almost sounds like Gregorian chanting from the netherworld. Actual recordings are played on this episode.
Shatner does mention Jules Verne toward the end, and his mid-19thcentury novel that may not be as fictional as some claimed. He even had a crystal world under the Earth, which has recently been discovered as real.
These giant crystals are hundreds of feet long from centuries of growth, and weigh tons. Humans cannot spend more than 15 minutes in their habitat because of heat and high humidity. You will be cooked alive.
The crystals are containers for microbes from outer space, not earthly, and they have been in suspended animation for 50,000 years inside the crystals. Uh-oh.
Subterranean worlds may be part of the “hollow Earth” syndrome, which has been dismissed by experts both as a fact here on our planet—and even the Moon.
This UnXplained was truly worth the title.
DATELINE: Defending the Indefensible?
Birdbrains of a Feather?
When Trump believes your crime is fake, you are golden.
Some people are dumb as rocks and never learn a thing about their bad behavior. Donald Trump is a twilight zone case in point. He has doubled-down on his defense of Ghislaine Maxwell, crony and accomplice of Jeffrey Epstein.
Trump has pulled out all the stops this time, giving her the shield of his own regular defenses against crimes and misdemeanors: it’s a hoax of the fake news media.
Talking to an Axios reporter one-on-one, Trump went beyond his usual good wishes for criminals in jail—and questioned the charges (convicted in Epstein’s case takes away the ‘alleged’ term).
Trump has always been vocabulary-challenged and never sees the subtle difference between conviction and accusation. It’s all part of the same smear to him.
When the reporter raised sex trafficking among the charges, Trump was quick to pull the trigger: “Well, first of all,” Trump said, “I don’t know that.” The reporter tried to speak:“She has. She’s been arrested for that.”
Trump “implied that his well-wishes for Maxwell are due to the suspicion surrounding Epstein’s death, and the fact that she now finds herself in a similar situation.”
Trump then went beyond the pale: he questioned the suicide of Jeffrey Epstein, wondering who might be responsible for his murder. Well, Mr. President, fool that you are, YOU SIR are in charge of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. It happened on YOUR watch during YOUR ADMINISTRATION.
Then came more horrific verbiage by the Commander in Chief of Idiots: “Her friend, or boyfriend, was either killed or committed suicide in jail. She’s now in jail,” Trump said. “Yeah, I wish her well. I’d wish you well. I’d wish a lot of people well. Good luck. Let them prove somebody was guilty.”
If you support statuatory rape, then Trump is your man. He went on to the shock of sex crime victims everywhere: “…such a big deal,” Trump continued. “But all it is, is her boyfriend died. He died in jail. Was he killed? Was it suicide? I do. I wish her well.”
He has a hard time saying the name, “Epstein.”
Here is your moral, silent majority: your president on sex crime, apparently nothing to punish. After all, Trump’s AG, William Barr, is son of one of Jeffrey Epstein’s friends and enablers, and one of Trump’s former cabinet members let Epstein serve a dormitory sentence for rape (let out during the daytime).
Yes, folks, vote for child molesting under the Trump umbrella. He likely will pardon Ghislaine if she isn’t murdered by one of his minions.
DATELINE: Unidentified Breaks Mold!
Chinese Base in S.A.
What the hell is going on? China has a paramilitary spy network in Argentina?
The next episode of Identified. called itself “Planetary Threat,” and it was a tad different than the previous season and earlier in the second season..
The series put its focus outside the United States military, or so it appeared at first. The show sent host and former Pentagon AATIP point-man, Luis Elizondo, to Peru and Argentina.
More experts insist that the US has secret technology hiding under the guise of UFOs. They even claim groups like MUFON are government covers for spying.
He remained in contact with military people, but this seemed a great departure of the routine of the early episodes that tended to repeat itself with different pilots in different places being in contact with tick-tack UFOs.
Elizondo finds the military in South American countries are far more open—and they see global problems. From top to bottom, military regimes in Peru and Argentina and Uruguay will talk quite bluntly. Yet, Elizondo also goes out to Patagonia to talk to simple residents about their experiences.
You might ask what gives? Yet, it soon becomes apparent when Elizondo discovers China has a secret surveillance system built in the most remote area of Argentina, allegedly for their Moon mission. Elizondo is suspicious. This could be a means to survey the United States.
Then, the bombshells fall: it seems the US encouraged and supported UFO programs in South America, where information can be kept quiet and away from media. It also means that data is shared with American Pentagon people. It is a clever move to hide information.
Most interesting too, Elizondo is asked point-blank if he believed in the reality of UFOs, and to a bit of a surprise, he hemmed and hawed, refusing to give an answer. Finally, he claimed he wanted to maintain objectivity.
Curiouser and curiouser.
DATELINE: Musical Farce
Mythic Comic Competition: Zero & Phil Silvers
Notable composer and writer Stephen Sondheim has always been of two worlds: his high-falutin’ musicals, and his low-brow musicals. He started out writingTopperfor TV about ghosts in a sit-com—and he wound up as one of the most celebrated of American Broadway composers of A Little Night Music and Sunday in the Park with George.
We prefer low-brow this time.
We took a look again, years later, of his 1966 low-brow story: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Those who saw it on Broadway are a dying breed, thank heavens, because they always complained the stage version was longer, contained better songs, and was a work of genius.
The movie was directed by Richard Lester in a style that won converts after A Hard Day’s Night.His frenetic pace and visual burlesque moments are right out of slapstick in ancient Rome.
However, the film is monumental because Zero Mostel recreated his stage performance. Well, it is not exactly a performance. Mostel chews up scenery and mugs in such a way that defies anything resembling acting. This is a happening. It is beyond, way beyond, perhaps the Twilight Zone goes to the Forum. He is matched by Sgt. Bilko, Phil Silvers in an equally stunning screen travesty.
They are marvelous and will certainly dismiss anyone thinking this could have occurred on Broadway. Throw in Jack Gilford and Patricia Jessel as the shrew harridan of all-time, and Michael Herndon’s seminal browbeat husband grows all the more impressive.
The four stars dance along the aqueduct. Buster Keaton only shows up for cameos and the surprise ending.
The leering sexuality is of another age, but that is burlesque, friends.
If ever Broadway musicals were to be staged with perfect segues between action and music, this film accomplishes it.
We recalled it was a show and a half, but it has lost nothing and gained mythic proportions. If you have never seen it, you must stream it now. A comedy tonight indeed.
DATELINE: Cold Beauty
When a New Zealand photographer named Anthony Powell decided to document life on Antarctica, he knew he had to go for one full year in order to show what is there and to experience the stunning dangers of life at the bottom of the Earth.
It is called A Year on Ice.
Anarctica is amazing in many ways of natural beauty, but the 5000 people who live there from 30 different countries are likely to be as weird as the location.
It takes a special schizoid personality to deal with close quarters in shoddy little ice towns like McMurdo. If you have a short-temper, you may be in big trouble. These people seem to have given up family and civilization for adventure, but many return after the short summer. It is those 700 who remain for the long, dark winter who are truly strange people.
We see childish games, memory issues from living in a world upside down (June and July have no sunlight). Your sun usually travels horizontally across the horizon. It does not rise. They lose ability to judge, but forge bonds you might never expect.
Spectacular sights greet them. It is silent there when the wind does not blow. We mean soundless. You can speak in a whisper and sound like you’re shouting. The plains of volcanic rock stretch endlessly. Most places are like Mars, and most places have never had a human imprint or footprint.
In darkness you have waves of green drapes in the sky: the aurora borealis is staggering and endless, bringing some visitors to tears. They cannot help animals in distress—for that breaks the prime directive to leave the place pristine. All trash and human remnants are shipped out.
We found the lack of discussion about medical treatment to be alarming. For six months you are trapped, and there seem to be no provisions for medical emergencies—which would preclude anyone with a health issue from going there.
Antarctica is something to behold—from the safe distance of a documentary like this one.
DATELINE: Nuclear Clearance
Nowhere in particular.
Malmstrom AFB in Nowehresville.
The series that consults only military sources, retired witnesses to UFOs, has a remarkable credibility. As hosted by two former government officials, you have a rudimentary sign of “official” interest.
Trying to engage senators and other elected people still seems almost impossible. They go to Washington, D.C., and suggest that high ups are not interested (Trump dismisses UFOs in one short comment).
They also consult with former Sen. Harry Reid, now ill with cancer, but a spearhead of investigation with AATIP a decade ago.
What we have here is” UFOs and Nukes”. But, the show is alarmist by saying it is UFOs versus Nukes. Is there a spy operation? A monitoring by some unknown force? The notion of UFOs seems fairly certain: ridicule aside, they are unknown flying objects. That does not mean little green men.
However, as one military expert said: they don’t obey the laws of physics, so you cannot expect them to follow the laws of politics.
There seems to be more danger from their ability to observe secret missile bases like Malmstrom in Montana. There, UFOs apparently shut down missile silos. If they can shut down your nuclear missile system, there is a problem, Houston.
And, they are also seen often around nuclear power plants on the Canadian border near Maine.
The show worries about all this, fearing something ominous. And, they ask, rather frightfully, who will be held accountable for botching this?
With more and more former military men willing to go public, this series becomes more important in the quest to determine what is going on in the universe, or right here in the U.S.
DATELINE: Cross Pollination of 2 Shows
Son of Hynek.
MUFON’s son of BLUE BOOK.
Leave it to History Channel to follow up the best episode in Shatner’s paranormal series with the worst episode, this about UFOs.
Once again we have History shilling its own various series, this time providing a boost for the next in line series,Unidentified, yet another variation on confirming the existence of flying saucers, or tick tacks as they are now called.
Shatner no longer seems quite as mobile, and he is all done up in his black leather suitjacket, but sits for the entire show. Well, it is understandable.
What’s inexcusable is to have him sit there and provide sound bites from the other hit series, Ancient Aliens. And, make no mistake, the experts of that show make a litany of appeances here, like Nick Pope, Richard Dolan, and the ubiquitous Giorgio. You throw in Erich van Daniken, and they are all spouting words they already spouted on the other series.
This cross-pollination continues, but there are some newer bits, like an examination of the 1953 UFO crash (these aliens seem to be bad drivers). It outdoes AATIP’s hosts when Shatner smiles when he talks about visitors from “where no one has gone before.”
One interesting detail is that the son of Project Blue Book chief, Dr. J. Allan Hynek’s son is now in charge of MUFON, the private investigative society of UFOs, and he appears here as one of the experts. We learn on the Unidentified show that he may be a bigwig spy.
Yes, they even force Shatner to use that old chestnut expression from Ancient Aliens several times: he refers to “ancient alien theorists.” Whoever they are.
We did encounter the expression “superulminal velocity,” which was a new one for us. That must be warp speed.
DATELINE: Just Call Al ‘Fonzie’
The Ultimate Al Capone.
Forget those performances by Robert Di Niro, Rod Steiger, Paul Muni, or a half dozen other actors who played the version of Scarface. This version of Capone is filled with hungry alligators and chilling dreams of slaughter under his rubric.
Add Hardy’s blithering performance as a seminal Al Capone to the canon. Traditional crime movie fans will hate this unpleasant bio-drama.
Tom Hardy plays the addled, diseased, paranoid, syphilitic Capone living in Florida under FBI surveillance in 1948.
It’s hard to believe he was only 48 when he died after being released from Alcatraz in physical and mental decline. This film features Hardy with bloodshot eyes, barely verbal, hallucinating, deluded, and incontinent. No wonder fans of crime movies and Capone as kingpin hate this movie.
This is your anti-Capone mobster: a fallen slob who hears re-enactments of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre every time he turns on a radio. He can barely shuffle around his Florida estate and the feds believe he is faking it at the end.
The story of Capone’s vault being empty comes out of this storyline: that Al, called Fonzo, hid ten million bucks and forgot where he put it. Agents of Hoover were eavesdropping to hear if he revealed where it was, as they never believed he was mad as a hatter from syphilis.
Kyle MacLachlan is around as a FBI-hired doctor to try to wheedle info out of him between his final strokes. Matt Dillon is not holding up well as a fantasy figure from Al’s past. Dillon is looking his age and is nearly unrecognizable nowadays from his youthful self.
How much of this is true? We can never know what delusions and nightmares Capone suffered at the end of his life, or if the stories of his family around him were accurate.
This is quite a performance by Tom Hardy, but you are looking at a fantasy world Chicago mob figure in utter decline. It is fascinating to behold.
DATELINE: Horrible Ending
Start of Eruption,White Island.
This one-hour news documentary from New Zealand is not a metaphor for anything social or political. It is a real examination of a horrid tragedy in December of 2019: on White Island, one of the rare active volcanoes in the New Zealand area, erupted suddenly with tourists on the rim of the crater.
It’s a once in a lifetime chance to see a volcano blow its top up close. It’s one-time because you will not survive the experience. The news film is called Trapped in a Volcano.
White Island supports a cottage industry of interested viewers. You can reach there by boat from nearby islands, or by helicopter service (several companies flew regularly a few people willing to pay a large fee), and the Royal Carribbean ocean liners went by and sent out dinghy-loads of passengers. Yes, thousands have gone there and lived to tell.
Not much warning or fear accompanied the visits by business tours even though the volcano is the entire island and erupted a mere three years ago. It has constant venting and ground is covered in yellow sulfur rocks, Steam is generally 200 or 300 degrees along the paths up the rocky terrain.
Famous news pictures showed a flow of dust and smoke billowing off the island and chasing a boat of tourists who departed ten minutes before the volcano blew. Another boatload was on the shore and was caught.
Going back, they saw a few struggling people covered in gray dust. Helicopters dispatched to do a rescue and found one copter smashed, all occupants who had landed were dead. Tour guides were dead. Nearly two dozen victims.
A lawyer representing families on the cruise ship were not told how bad it was by authorities on ship. Nor were they warned about the dangers of such a visit to White Island. Their lawyer said that was the cruise ship responsibility.
We would argue that before going there, we’d do our homework, and seeing live venting is not a good sign. Ballistic rocks fly out of the crater at 100 miles per SECOND. You cannot escape if the volcano decides to claim you.
Call it folly or vanity. Call it rich people’s privilege. We stand by the old-fashioned, unsympathetic term. It was plain stupid to go to White Island.
DATELINE: Pinocchio & OJ
If you think Trump Republican senators are fair and without prejudice, we submit for your consideration: two examples of racism from Senators Lindsay Graham and David Perdue.
The two senators claim their offensive ads were created without their knowledge or approval. That alone should be enough for voters to dismiss these two nitwits for incompetence.
Perdue went after his Jewish opponent with a media image that distorted him in an anti-Semitic vein, and Graham went after his black opponent in similar fashion.
The trickery is subtle: image enhancement or distortion.
They gave the Jewish opponent a long nose (considered a stereotypic feature) and they made the black candidate look darker and more foreboding.
You can count on the fact that these ad agencies do not create images lightly: they are paid well to meet demographic ideas to win votes. It is a million-dollar operation.
If you think these candidates did not see the images beforehand, you are an idiot.
Now, we could note that the long nose on Perdue’s opponent may be reminiscent of Pinocchio, and calling politicians liars is no surprise, but the image is coupled with money references and another Jewish senator’s image (Chuck Schumer of New York). Not exactly innocent.
As for Graham’s nasty racist baiting, he resorts to the old-fashioned trick we haven’t seen since Time magazine did it years ago: you may not recall how they darkened the skin of O.J. Simpson to make him appear more sinister.
Well, folks, the trick is back, and Jamie Harrison’s photo is blacker than a racist heart, and he is leering over the shoulder of a distressed white woman! Yikes, indeed.
Trump Republican senators are Nazis in these two cases we have uncovered, but likely in many others too.
DATELINE: Demons & Dr. Stella
Dr. Stella Immanuel.
Before you can say that it proves he isn’t misogynist, you should look more deeply at the female pediatrician that holds a license for medicine—and is now the expert Trump most trusts.
It seems that Dr. Stella Immanuel is going along with the hare-brained ideas of Trump. That’s enough for him. You know, he likes women if they are insane or child molesters. Just ask Ghislaine Maxwell, buddy and crony of Jeffrey Epstein.
When pressed at a news conference about her claims that there is a secret cure for COVID-19 and not to wear masks, Trump said he knew nothing about her personally, but she is an important voice.
He then walked away from the media, refusing to answer any more questions. It sounded a great deal like his support for Ghislaine, a woman he met hundreds of times, but of whom he knew nothing about her crimes.
In case you missed it, Dr. Immanuel has been re-tweeted by the Tweeter Bird in Chief without much concern for her other medical ideas. That’s demon sperm you must avoid. The incubus is among us.
Quackery is not merely consigned to the White House. Dr. Immanuel believes that warts are caused by dreams of having sex with the devil or demons.
More to the point, Trump’s expert on cornonavirus thinks that space aliens are directly responsible for many of the ills that are besetting humans. All this from a man who appeared on Ancient Aliens and Unidentified to dismiss the idea of UFOs invading our world.
There appears to be a disconnect in Trump’s world. Well, there is a disconnect in Trump’s brain. So, we should not be surprised that the stable genius is having stability problems.
Next time you hear a voice crying out, “Stella! Stella!,” it will not be Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire, but a president in an Election named Catastrophe.