Mummy Dearest

DATELINE:   Tut-Tut!

Mummy Dearest Karloff!

Of the Quartet of Classic Horror from the early 1930s, the fourth entry in the series is often relegated to the bottom tier. The Mummy follows the legendary Frankenstein, Dracula, and Invisible Man. But he is no also-ran.

Unfortunately for him, we learn in the first few minutes of the 1933 film that the mummy is actually a misnomer. He is not mummified at all, having been buried alive.

So much for false advertising.

Beyond that, we have a whale of a movie—not James Whale: the director was famous cinematographer Karl Freund in his first directing effort.

As star Lita Johann said, he was a nasty guy—to her. Exotic star Lita was married later to John Houseman (Professor Kingsfield to you). Whatever he did to her during their 23-days of filming, she is marvelous as the reincarnation of a Pharaoh’s daughter.

As for Karloff, what can you say? He is so tall in his scenes, we think he was wearing lifts under his rakish robes. He looks like a bag of fragile bones, as the mummy-come-to-life.  His face is dustier and has more riles than a Moon crater as he plays Im-Ho-Tep (not to be confused with IHOP).

The biggest special effect is Karloff’s eyes, which is impressive indeed.

Scenes of a second unit, or stock footage, of Egypt, surely gives us a sense of the pre-Howard Carter King Tut world. And, audiences in the 1930s knew what a mummy’s curse was, which is played to the hilt.

The climactic scene is when the Mummy relates his unfortunate murder by the Pharaoh’s men. Juicy and grotesque horror!

As a love story, this is thriller covers 3700 years and incantations about the dead, which transcend undying love.

What a treat.

 

 

Spin Dry Man

DATELINE: Smarty Pants

spin dry

If you want a movie that gives a disservice, try The Spinning Man. This is one of those intellectual mystery movies, which is to say, you won’t have clever a plot, only an overwrought one.

The movie has all the ingredients for an excellent film, so what went wrong? The movie deals with a prickly, pompous, persnickety, philandering professor of philosophy who is suspected of a murder by a persistent police detective. Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled plots too.

Stars are Pierce Brosnan and Guy Pearce. We presumed Pearce was the cop and Pierce was the suspect. How wrong we were to fall into the plot hole. That’s a great start.

However, we’ve known our share of philosophy professors at small private colleges—and none has been as obtuse and arrogant as Guy Pearce’s Dr. Birch. He antagonizes the police needlessly when they question him about a missing female student whom he may or may not have known.

Pearce is snide, even to his long-suffering wife (Minnie Driver) who also begins to think he not only sleeps with an array of beautiful nubile young students but may be responsible for something dastardly.

Pierce Brosnan’s detective is an intellectual equal to the professor, and he may be put off by the abject hostility. Okay, we know some professors see police as enemies. And, personal flaws render some police detectives to a parochial beat.

We then are thrust into one of those philosophical conundrums like you found with Guy Pearce in Chris Nolan’s film about memory. Lightning does not strike twice.

The audience is hung out to dry when solutions seem to come tumbling out. We were left a tad irritated more than intrigued, which is never good.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Decree, Ripper, & Sherlock Holmes

DATELINE: Solid Sherlock Entry!

Mason & Plummer

Back in 1979, another tandem of Sherlock and Dr. Watson came in the form of Christopher Plummer and James Mason. You certainly could not find a better pedigree. The film is Murder by Decree, one of the lesser entries in the Holmes movies.

The film deserves a better fate than to be forgotten.

Director Bob Clark (of Porky’s and Christmas Story) surrounded them with a stellar cast of actors (Anthony Quayle, John Gielgud, Susan Clark, David Hemmings) and some bad set-up minatures of London.

You can expect superior performances—and the Holmes/Watson team is highly watchable, though we took umbrage with Holmes wearing his deerstalker hat in London and showing tears after interviewing a woman in a mad house.

The idea of Holmes chasing after Jack the Ripper is always a staple notion of Victorian crime, though it is not part of the original Conan Doyle canon. Indeed, it seems as if someone decided to plunk down Holmes in the middle of a serious murder conspiracy theory of 1979.

The idea that the Ripper was a member of the royal family has been floated in various situations, but never played for a fictional interpretation with these results.

Blame seems aimed at the usual suspects of conspiracy theory. The culprits here are, once again, freemasons of the 33rd degree who now seem to be covering up the Ripper (other tales make them complicit in UFOs and the Kennedy assassination). With all the top government officials involved, we wondered where Mycroft might be.

In this incarnation, the Ripper plot goes right to Queen Victoria and her Prime Minister. This story seems to support the notion that the monarchy of England deserves to be dismissed. Of course, it is too radical even for Americans.

The politics of religion dominates the story as Catholics and Jews are also made part of the investigation, albeit as victims of prejudice and hate.

 

Alas, Poor Yorick and Poor Shakespeare

DATELINE:  Heads, You Lose!

cursed

Shakespeare’s Tomb is a marvelous documentary that deals with the case of the headless Bard of Avon.

Back in the 18th and 19th century, they were graverobbers who wanted the heads of famous people and in Yorick fashion, they took the skulls from older graves. Phrenologists were also collectors who were interested in having a genius skull in their study. You could so easily read the bumps in the cranium.

You may be surprised to learn that Shakespeare put a curse on his own grave, which is located in the holy Trinity Church in Avon—not the more protected Westminster Abbey.

You may also be surprised to learn that Shakespeare put a curse on his own grave, which is located in the holy Trinity Church in Avon, as if he had an inkling that someone would want his head on a silver tray.

One of the most fascinating documentaries in a long time takes the opportunity of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death to examine his strange burial—and possible vandalism of his resting place in the late 1790s.

It may well be they took the graverobbers took a wrong turn, and grasped the head of Ann Hathaway, in a shroud only three feet deep, next to Shakespeare.

For unknown reasons, this purloined skull was dumped at another church where it has rested without a body in a charnel spot.

Forensic experts studied the discovery and concluded that it belonged to a woman. The documentary makes little of that wrong head, but she was the right age to be Shakespeare’s late wife who is buried next to him next to him in a shallow grave.

Apparently, Holy Trinity Church tried to cover up the problem by putting a new stone over Shakespeare’s dug  up grave and not telling anyone. Ground penetrating radar allows the film crew to examine Shakespeare’s grave without opening it.

Good detective work and charming hosts of the show make this little hour-long documentary is brilliant and worthy of your attention.

 

Odd Couple 2, Bittersweet Reunion

DATELINE: Original Stars, 30 Years Later

grumpy old odd couple

Grumpiness as a Joy to Behold!

The two men who single-handedly created a movie/TV franchise of Neil Simon’s comedy classic stageplay, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, returned twenty years ago, aged in the wood, to reprise their roles as Oscar and Felix.

We discovered Odd Couple 2 to cheer us so many years later.

We confess to having missed this event when it happened, and we were surprised to find it available now on streaming format. It is, however, a sad and bittersweet experience to behold. The two great stars keep their chemistry, but age has sapped them of vitality. It is like watching Laurel and Hardy in their final film.

Time is never kind.

Oscar and Felix have been separated for nearly twenty years, though they made the original film in the late 1960s, and the sequel is 30 years later. They are brought together by the marriage of Felix’s daughter to Oscar’s son.

Jokes about slobs and neatniks have been replaced with a series of old age jabs and dollops of humor.

More than ever these grumpy old men (Lemmon & Matthau) epitomize Oscar and Felix, as if the aging process has turned them into fine wine.

The storyline is filled with pratfalls and lowbrow situations as the two men battle each other’s foibles in the California desert, trying to make it to a wedding.

Though the situation is forced, you must see past that and simply enjoy the actors as they return to their beloved characters, not missing a beat, not letting age and time distract their timing and their experience.

 

 

 

Tab Departs

DATELINE:  Our Loss

Untitled Tab & Divine!

Bashing Tab Hunter was a media entertainment form since he first came to Hollywood in the early 1950s as a pretty boy.  Most critics held the opinion he must be a vapid blond male equivalent of Marilyn.

Yet, Tab stuck around for decades, playing everything from beach boys when he was too old for that, to athletes, soldiers, and assorted heroes. He dressed up whatever story he acted in.

Now at 86, looking 60, he suddenly and unexpectedly expired on us. It comes when he was about to oversee a new movie docudrama of his life. Well-known gay actor Zachary Quinto has decided to produce a movie about Tab and his torrid, secret affair with Anthony Perkins in the 1950s and 1960s. The new movie is to be based on Tab’s autobiography of a few years ago, entitled Tab Hunter Confidential.

Yes, that Damn Yankee killer met the Psycho Bates off screen for a closeted love affair.

We always enjoyed Tab and look forward to this new movie of his life. However, we can also turn back to five films today’s young film aficionados may not know or appreciate.

One of his early successes, or weird films, was Track of the Cat, directed by Wildman William Wellman. He played callow younger brother to dangerous Robert Mitchum in a movie that played on Technicolor downgraded to black clothes on a white snowfall.

Not long after he appeared with John Wayne and Lana Turner in The Sea Chase in 1955. Audiences loathed a film in which Duke Wayne played a German naval officer. Looking perfect as the Aryan in the cast, he managed to come off as a good actor next to Wayne’s deplorable performance.

Tab came into his own as the young version of Joe Hardy, who makes a deal with the devil to beat the Damn Yankees in baseball for one season. He was stunning and the boy that Lola wanted. The director mistreated him and almost sabotaged his performance.

Soon, Tab wanted to prove his worth and did a film called They Came to Cordura. He was the villain, opposite Gary Cooper and Rita Hayworth. It was a shocking turn of events—but not well received by Hollywood which would soon return him to surfing movies and light comedy.

His rediscovery in the 1980s cast him in wild comedies like Polyester and Lust in the Dust, a parody Western, both films in which his romantic interest was zaftig Divine, cross-dressing delight.

Not Tab’s full oeuvre, it is enough to give you a sense of his career.

Endeavour 5.3, No Silver Lining Found

DATELINE:  Darker Yet

Morse 5.3

Since the previous episode took off on Agatha Christie’s Mirror Cracked, it seems inevitable that in this week’s Endeavour, Morse should be a variation on Miss Marple’s 4:50 from Paddington.

We are delighted to have even a pale copy of Agatha Christie for delectation on PBS. However, things are becoming decidedly grisly and downright tawdry in terms of murder in an episode called “Passenger.”

Something unpleasant is happening, but even from the vantage of history, we aren’t sure what is happening to these characters any more than they know. We have seen snippets of past seasons, a discarded opera album, signed to Morse from a killer of the past.

Others in small parts of Morse’s life are moving on with their lives, as is Thursday’s daughter and the blonde officer who now is interested in the newest, young detective.

Only in one short scene is the cast of good guys together in the police station, questioning the extremes of modern murder.

With this episode ending with a soft radio report about the death of Robert Kennedy in June of 1968, we have a layer of despondency raining on the unsavory crimes. The murders themselves seem improbable with hyperbole, yet the reality of the era was moving toward a new level of lawless horror to end the 1960s with the Manson-LoBianca killings looming ahead.

Morse is unable to find any silver lining as he grows more isolated.

The roof of standard, expected behavior among police also is collapsing, even to the degree that staid Chief Constable (Anton Lesser) meets an appalling breach of police etiquette that leaves him sputtering. The world is too much with Endeavour.

 

Perfectly Human Diet, Not a Fad

Perfect Diet, Not a Fad

diet

Though we have been taken with recent scientific study of human health through diet, we were unprepared for the superbly thorough documentary by C.J. Hunt.

A media journalist who suffered from debilitating heart conditions at a young age, the director and writer of this expert examination of paleodietic information may be dropping the final word on fad diets.

In short, the film is a history of diets after a 19th century fat man decided he needed to find out why he was morbidly obese (5’5” and 300 pounds). Blame it on the Industrial Revolution.

It appears that changes in the human diet began fairly recently in the epoch of evolution. One scientist uses the football field analogy to great impact. Homo Erectus was at the end of the field and working one’s way up to today, you find that in the inch before the goal, we humans began to eat grains.

Hmm. Meat eating appears to have, by all agreement, caused brainpower. That caveman diet of bone marrow and sweetbread was far removed from Wheaties.

It seems the modern diet is shrinking the brain pan. You can hardly call a return to paleo-eating as the latest fad. Blame your misinformed government on telling you to avoid fats and eat more carbs.

Nearly every health-conscious scientist agrees that vegetarianism is too exclusive. You need only avoid sugar, carbs, processed food, and salt. Nobody under 2 needs a glass of milk every day. We are victims of economic diet plans—marketing for money-makers.

A walk through the supermarket with a dietary scientist and doctor is an argument against browsing.

C.J. Hunt has provided one of the most illuminating and intriguing of insights into health and food. He puts politics, religion, and nutrition, on the list of hopeless argument. He already knows he is preaching to an empty choir.

 

 

 

 

 

The Business of an American Home

 DATELINE:  Wright House, Wrong Address

American home

Let’s face it: the city of Kankakee, Illinois, needs all the help its Chamber of Commerce can provide.

Enter director/writer Thomas Desch.  He has put together a fascinating centerpiece for reviving the city: its greatest single tourist and artistic point is the house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed at the turn of the 20th century.

An American Home has an unwieldy and ridiculous subtitle Frank Lloyd Wright’s B. Harley Bradley House, but don’t be daunted. You have here architectural history and how it is personally tied to the fates of real people who try to live and work within a building’s architecture.

Wright was a genius and his first example of the Prairie Home was in Illinois where the well-to-do young Bradley’s commissioned a house, stable, and accompanying residence for their family. Perhaps some places are benighted and cursed.

As amazing and beautiful as the house was—and now is again—it had a hard journey over 100 years. And, so did the cursed owners.

With its stunning stained glass, lead-lined windows, largely sold at auction, and its furniture and tables bought for exorbitant prices by celebs like Barbra Streisand over the years, the Wright house has been decimated.

The owners have variously committed suicide and been kidnapped and murdered (one during renovation of the structure).

Yet,generous patrons have thrown millions of bucks into refurbishing the Yesteryear Restaurant of 50 years (bankrupt in the 1980s) and fallen into disrepair, to save it from demolishing.

Its stable was an afterthought that was saved only by large protests. You may be shocked to learn 20% of Frank Lloyd Wright’s designs have been destroyed.

So, we have no issue with the Kankakee people who are proud of the most impressive building and home of their city. Interesting history and biography.

 

 

 

Devilish Fun with Sooke

 DATELINE:  Porno, not Inferno

 sooke Sooke, not Cooke

How the Devil Got His Horns is hosted by a new media sensation from England named Alastair Sooke.

He is an expert is ancient art and classic art work. If you are expecting Alistair Cooke, you will discover the new generation is decidedly Alastair Sooke. And, the differences go way beyond white hair of Alistair Cooke to the lithe Sooke.

This young art critic has all the smarts and sexy appeal too.

Looking like an Oxford undergraduate, but the smartest kid in the class, the expressive expert from England is made for social media. He is ambiguous enough in sexual terms as to make you wonder about that wedding ring.

Sooke travels around Florence, Venice, and museums, wearing sandals. When he stops to explain an early depiction of Jesus on a church mural, he happens to be wearing the same sandals as JC. No coincidence we suspect.

He explains  how the Devil, Lucifer, originally was a blue angel on the left hand of God, before his precipitous fall. He is described as a bureaucrat in heaven, which explains his rebellion.

Lucifer’s initial beauty downgrades to ugliness over the years, as you need corruption to supervision corruption. Sooke raises the issue that Lucifer’s transformation was far more an aesthetic decision of poets and artists rather than Church leaders.

Sooke also revels in showing us the most depraved depictions of hell fire and suffering. As he tells us, it’s more porno than Inferno in the art world for the Medieval viewers.

If you want a blue angel for your guide, there is none better than Alastair Sooke.

Art & Neon

DATELINE:  Hitch Loved Neon

 Neon Novak Novak in Neon!

An Australian film, Neon may seem like a subject hardly worthy of excitement. When some of the interviewees talk about the colored gas lights, you begin to think they need to get a life.

Neon, of course, defines American business, urban life, and a change in American perspective. Once you realize that the invention and adoption of neon lights in American business altered the landscape of the nation, you begin to recognize how special it is.

Not surprisingly, once again Nikola Tesla enters the picture as one of the prime inventors of neon light, but he never patented it, nor made a nickel off the product. Patent fights centered over a Frenchman who produced lights first stunning Paris.

Though the United States featured several World Fairs with cities of lights in the 19th century, the notion of neon changed the life of urban America when it seemed to debut and spread over Broadway and Manhattan in the 1920s.

Neon’s bright and jazzy colors and motion brought forth a new nocturnal culture. And, it was immediately picked up as a motif in movies, first in musicals and as a flashy jazz parallel. Only later did it turn dark with film noir—and then color noir.

Neon captivated movies. Indeed, Hitchcock loved to use neon—in his great movies like Psycho (that alluring Bates Motel) and as the garish green ghost of Kim Novak in Vertigo.

Las Vegas is where the light-scale went bonkers in the years after World War II. Nothing could compare to the garish, commercial call. Yet, the images of flashing logos became landmarks, not just sales gimmicks.

The film presents an array of magnificent shots of glowing neon signs and streets across the world.

Only when neon began its inevitable fade to black did artists and museums realize it needed preservation. As an expensive means of communication, it now seems to be finding homes in art refugee centers. However, mammoth chunks of 90 feet of neon is not conducive to indoor display.

The film turns elegiac when neon starts to lose the battle with time and timeliness. At least a movie like this will allow future viewers to see what magnificence it truly inspired.

 

 

Rapscallion Rasputin

DATELINE: Yousapoof

img_3185

Murder At the Tsar’s Court appears to be a Russian documentary made by French producers with English voice-over translations from the experts. Included among the experts is Rasputin’s great granddaughter. She passes along the revelation that he was no saint.

It is refreshing to have a pro-Rasputin documentary. The Russian experts are intent on debunking many of the myths and historical inaccuracies surrounding the murdered spiritual leader.

The new revisionist Russian history seems intent on proving Tsar’s wife should be above suspicion. According to this film, Empress Alexandra was a conservative moral woman who only wanted what was best for her son. He inherited haemophilia from her.

Rasputin had a talent to clot blood. For the rest of the world he curdled blood.And all the Russian noble women who surrounded the rapscallion were groupies living erotic fantasies.

Enter a group of gay aristocrats wanting to save Mother Russia. Led by Prince Yousapoof, a feminine and rich young man married to czar’s niece, these conspirators told a pack of lies about what really happened. You may be left wondering why Rasputin would attend a gay party where he was murdered  after being tortured. These were not his typical Party boys.

When the body was found in a local river with a bullet hole  in his forehead execution style, Tsar Nicholas covered up the crime, lest the unwashed public learn that ignoble nobles killed one of the most popular religious serfs.

This line of propaganda is not far from the old Communist line.

There is no word about the most notorious legend: That the victim was castrated with his member put in a pickle jar.  Whoever owns that item bought a pig in a poke .

Endeavour 5.2: Lowering the Hammer Horror!

  DATELINE: At the Movies

cartouche          

If this episode of Endeavour sounds a bit like Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Cracked, with Miss Marple, you are on the Hollywood money. A movie crew has come to Oxford to film a cheap horror flick.

Mayhem on the movie set is to be expected.

Think Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing, and you have a horror movie film star named Emil Valdemar (David Sumpter channeling Boris Karloff and Christopher Lee), making a sequel to his cursed Mummy movie coming to the old revival house, The Roxy at Oxford, to be honored and do a bit of publicity.

Then, the killings begin.

Cleverly interposing two stories, the murder story and personal life of Fred Thursday (Roger Allam), we find the lot of a police detective work crosses paths with movie-making egos.

The “Cartouche” centers on a missing Egyptian scarab   and a visiting museum archaeologist from Cairo. Another plot crossover is the growing racist hatred of Muslim immigrants at Oxford. The chief constable derides those who want to make “Britain great again.”

The World War II generation, still in charge of the world in 1968, must come to grips with its own war-time post traumas.

Mummy curses just add to the burden with the usual gaggle of suspects and red herrings.

The World War II generation, still in charge of the world in 1968, must come to grips with its own war-time post traumas.

Mummy curses just add to the burden with the usual gaggle of suspects and red herrings.

Effectively using a glorious old movie house as the scenes of the crime, the episode uses its regulars effectively– coroner Dr. Max DeBryn (James Bradshaw) and DS Strange (Sean Rigby) and the Chief (Anton Lesser).

The usually antisocial Endeavour (Shaun Evans) must come to grips with a future without a family—and what end it may mean.

Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, & Gisele Bundchen Star!

 DATELINE: Bad Bad Bundchen

 bad bad bundchen.jpeg

Mrs. Tom Brady Did It!

Hail a Taxi in a New York minute! This is a must-see movie classic.

Well, okay, it isn’t exactly Citizen Kane.

However, the 2004 movie called Taxi impresses in so many ways. First, its cast includes Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, and Giselle Bundchen. Unlikely and perfect casting?

Yes, the future Mrs. #TomBrady is in her movie debut with third billing. There is not even a hint of “Introducing….” She is the star. Having a billion bucks can do that.

She is top of the game as the villain, a tall model-type bank robber, heading a gang of shoot’em up women. What? You were expecting Anna Magnani in Open City? It’s enough to convince us that, if she teamed up with Tom Brady, for a movie career, we’d have another Burton and Taylor, or at least a potential Laurel and Hardy.

The movie is about a New York cabbie with a penchant for speeding (Queen Latifah in her patented sassy tough girl role) and an inept New York copper (Jimmy Fallon with a run-off at the mouth speed).

Luc Besson directs and writes this stuff to guarantee there is plenty of car-crashing action. He is the Fellini of the urban circus movie. Yeah, we give this one 8 and a Half.

If you expect to see Downton Abbey, you took a wrong turn at Antonioni’s Blow Up. Gisele rivals Vanessa Redgrave here.

We mainly stayed agog during the entire film because it is fifteen years old, and the three principal stars look exactly the same today. They have not aged one whit. #Latifah, #Fallon, and #Bundchen just stepped out of The Time Machine.

Who among us can make that claim? You might start to wonder where the Fountain of Youth is located in Central Park. Is it Tom Brady’s avocado ice cream that tells us the proof is in the pudding?

Yes, the cute strawberry blonde playing Jimmy Fallon’s mother is that Viva Las Vegas girl and Elvis co-star, Ann-Margaret. Talk about ageless

This movie is a Manhattan cake-walk.

Killing Jimmy Hoffa: a Profit-able Enterprise

DATELINE:  #Hoffa Conspiracy

Young James Young James (not Jesse)!

Al Profit (a You-Tube personality named Alan Bradley) directs this muckraking report and also appears, billed as historian. However, he presents himself he manages to give a provocative look at the life, death, and influence of union boss Jimmy Hoffa.

We presume that the brash Profit sees himself as the Francis Ford Coppola of crime documentaries.

His film on Hoffa indicates there beats the heart of a really serious filmmaker under the bravado of a con man, #AlProfit. Alas, for Bradley, the need to make a living, shaking his booty and hawking T-shirts, transcends his movie making skills.

Putting aside his groupie-inducing personality, Profit’s film suggests that Hoffa hated Robert Kennedy and was instrumental in the murder of John F. Kennedy to remove Robert as a smug snobby nemesis. There is no suggestion that Hoffa could have orchestrated RFK’s killing.

Hoffa had ties to the mob certainly: including Sam Giancana, Santo Trafficante and Carlos Marcello, notorious peripheral conspiracy figures in the Kennedy Assassinations. Hoffa was also tied into Robert Maheu (notorious #HowardHughes chief aide) and the CIA.

On top of that, Hoffa was indeed pardoned by Richard #Nixon, presuming that the union leader promised to be an FBI informant against the Mob.

James Hoffa was scheduled to appear in 1975 before the Church Committee on Assassinations when he disappeared, and two other mobsters were murdered shortly before telling what they knew about political killings.

Hoffa was associated with Jack Ruby, and Sam Giancana may have ties to Oswald.

Add this one to the raft of theories with disturbing credibility.