Origins of Lone Ranger, Tonto, & Silver

DATELINE: Hi-ho, Hi-yo!

tonto  Jay Silverheels

When you tie together the first 3 episodes of the 1949 TV show The Lone Ranger, you have an early TV movie. Indeed, some years ago, the producers edited these extraordinary moments into a short film. Sometimes it is called Enter the Lone Ranger, or Origin of the Lone Ranger.

The latest edit is called The Lone Ranger Story, answering all your questions, according to the narrator.

You have to guess which one of the six Texas Rangers is, in fact, the one who survives a terrorist attack by a Manson-style gang. You never see his face until he dons the mask. He cannot put on the mask until his face heals.

On top of that, he will presume to be dead, making an empty grave for himself. He is a ghostly vision of revenge against lawlessness. He rises from the dead after three days in a near coma.

His faithful companion, Tonto, bleaches his hat white as a symbol of his new identity. He cuts a mask from the vest of the Ranger’s dead brother.

You see him crawling to a spring to save himself, but only when his childhood friend Tonto appears is the Ranger likely to survive to another day. As the narrator states: “He was a fabulous individual.” He was indeed a walking fable.

In case you forgot, the Masked Man is rich: he owns a silver mine—and takes his payment from that. He also casts silver bullets: another symbol of justice, never to be used on another person. He will hand them out like calling cards. He wears Tonto’s ring around his neck.

And, to finish the silver motif, he finds a white stallion of great indomitable spirit with whom he bonds. Hi-yo, my goodness!

The film is old, simplistic, and utterly charming with the exciting William Tell Overture as a musical background. Clayton Moore’s baritone is authoritative, and Jay Silverheels is the ultimate in noble savage. The horse ain’t bad neither.

What a treat from the thrilling days of yesteryear. The Lone Ranger rides again. Oh, you, Kemo Sabe.

Coke & Pepsi: 100 Years of Marketing War

DATELINE: Bottoms Up!

cola

Well, it’s not exactly the War of the Roses. You might be surprised at the back and forth of the fates and fights of the two soda pop giants. A documentary entitled Coke and Pepsi: the Marketing Battle of the Century offers to eliminate your six-pack with caloric intake.

It seems like much ado, full of sound and fury but signifies billions of dollars and millions of lives over the empty bottles, cans, and soda fountain glasses.

Many factoids emerge from their origins in the time after the United States Civil War. Coca-Cola arose in the 1880s out of battle scarred Georgia, and a few years later in South Carolina, you had the birth of the purer Pepsi. Coke was originally laced with cocaine, long-since discontinued. Both were overly laced with sugar.

Both started small:  like six ounces in a bottle, not like today’s mega-drinks that are three times the size and deadly to the human diet and nearly a diabetic shock in one swallow.

In the 1930s, Pepsi made great strides by selling itself at half the price of Coke. It became the drink of poor people and disadvantaged Americans and reinvented itself as the drink of the elite.

The Colas are as political as you might expect. They created marketing: red and blue ribbons of their banners. Santa Claus drank Coke. And, Coke was the patriotic American thirst-quencher. It was a staple of World War II and had to be discontinued in the Third Reich (where Coca-Cola became Fanta for the duration).

TV appeals and musical ditties permeated the 1950s: you are who you chose to drink with. When Joan Crawford became Pepsi’s spokesperson, Bette Davis drank Coke.

Nixon drank Pepsi and tried to force it down the Russian throats. But Coke went for the Red Chinese market.

When health fanatics became their enemy in the 21st century, the colas teamed up against the political forces of the health industry and the diet Puritans.

Which tasted better? Which one shot itself in the foot and became a classic? Which one is more akin to rot your gut? This documentary may be for you if you want to learn the answers.

 

 

Vikings Unearthed: Real, not Reel, Story

DATELINE: Takes One to Know One

  snow  Dandy Dan Snow Job!

Though we tried to watch the soap opera series on History about Vikings, we were drawn to something that provided the real story.  If you want the dirt, digging through the literal and figurative dirt, try Vikings Unearthed, a genuine documentary on the Norse.

A two-hour special on use of satellite technology and old-fashioned archaeological digging provides a thorough look at the life of the Norse who ravaged Europe in myth and actually were a culture of savage machismo. They went east to Asia as well as west to North America. You’ll love their silver rings and amulets, as well as forged swords.

Perhaps it helps to have as your on-the-ground researcher and scientist, a handsome Brit Viking named Dan Snow. He is lithe, Thor-like, and taller than anyone else in the show. Indeed, they seem to surround him with other men who look like pygmies or children next to his Conan the Barbarian style.

Yes, those Northumberland monks were treated badly by the Vikes. Our Viking host is a tad more civilized.

Dan Snow, our personal choice for Viking of the Year, is often paired with adoring nerdy men who can only marvel when he takes up an axe to work on a Viking boat replica, or when he listens to the description of a scientist who shows him Viking fecal matter to explain their medical problems.

You have to enjoy scientists who marvel that a satellite 400 miles over Earth can take photos in infrared to find sod brick Viking longhouses that are buried a foot below the ground and invisible to the naked eye.

Without leaving monumental buildings, so they say, the Vikings simply came, saw, and did not conquer the New World.

The upshot is to prove that the Vikings went all over present-day Canada and United States near New England and the Great Lakes.

Why would anyone doubt these prototypical macho men went wherever they damn well chose?

Westworld 2.9 Penultimate Bullet-in

DATELINE: Heads Rolling

simpson Jimmi Simpson, Android?

We are rapidly coming to a climax, or anti-climax, or post-climax of  season 2. Since HBO has ordered a Westworld third season (coming not soon to your cable stream), we know that cliffhanging will be fashionable next week as we try to discern which of our favorite hosts and guests will be around.

As we move to the all-cast shoot-out beyond the pale riders, this next to end-it-all episode features Ford on the Brain.

Yes, everyone from host to guest has Anthony Hopkins telling them what to do. Forget that he’s dead since last season. Is it any wonder that half the cast puts a bullet into their skulls to stop that computer chip from functioning?

You can’t tell who’s mad and who’s a robot as we come crashing toward the end of the season. Actually all the robots are loony. Then, again, so are the crypto-Nazi humans.

You can rest on the fact that no one is ever ever really dead in a Jonathan Nolan flashback series.

We did enjoy seeing Jimmi Simpson and Ben Barnes together briefly again. We did not enjoy watching Ed Harris, or some immortal coil of him, unable to tell whether people are real or robotic, including himself.

When did he shuffle off that mortal coil?

If we wanted to spoil everything for next week’s extravaganza, we’d find ourselves unable to do so: it looked like everyone in the cast was back and in fine fettle. Of course, that could be a flashback, flashforward, or prequel to the old movies.

Perhaps the most telling moment in the current 2,9 show was to find Ed Harris (Sweet William) and his program card stashed in a copy of Slaughterhouse Five, the old space/time continuum novel by Kurt Vonnegut.

When we have time during the week, we may peruse it to learn how the season will end next week. So it goes.

 

 

 

Experience’s Billy the Kid

DATELINE: Westworld for Real

when billy

When PBS tackles Billy the Kid (a moniker if ever there was), you have something tantamount to Fox News covering Donald Trump. Yes, Americans have a thing for serial killers and serial idiots.

You probably can find a gulf of differences between Trump and Bonney, but they are under the skin self-styled self-important American icons. One was rich and one was poor, but both saw themselves as Robin Hood. They took what they wanted.

For the second season premiere of American Experience, the show decided to do a one-hour special on the Kid. This is a distinct disadvantage in a visual age when there is but one recognized photo of Billy. We see it ad nauseum.

Don’t look for clips from your favorite Billy movie because this is a real history documentary. They eschew Audie Murphy, Emilio Estevez, and Robert Taylor, all of whom epitomized what the experts talk about in movies made a generation or two ago.

And, the show trots out the usual so-called experts on the West, all of whom now see Billy as a kindred spirit to the mistreated Mexicans and Navaho. Yes, he is a civil rights champion.

Billy picked up Spanish language quickly. He had a good ear, but the rest of his face was wanting. However, these experts show us the face of an ugly adolescent and call him “handsome.” You know you are not in Kansas, but in Lincoln County.

The episode also sets the Range War as a version of the War of the Roses: you have Irish immigrants versus British aristocrats with a hired army of mercenaries, including Billy fighting against his own Irish roots.

The legend escaped, but the boy was gunned down in a notorious bedroom shooting. No one mentions whether he was sleeping with a girlfriend, or boyfriend. He was a cop killer with bad press. Like Trump, he decided what law enforcement he approved and called his media following biased.

The short bio dismisses much in an effort to stay on target. Their target was out of range before this so-called documentary started.

Dr. William Russo is author of the historical fiction, When Billy the Kid Met Ben Hur, which examines the Kid’s relationship to Governor Lew Wallace.

 

 

 

 

Beyond JFK and Inside Fake Docudrama

DATELINE: Streaming Availability

beyond

Okay, yeah, we admit it.

We skipped the film Beyond JFK back in 1992 because it seemed to be nothing more than a shill and marketing tool for Oliver Stone’s new movie, JFK.  We cannot say we were wrong. We can say we’re glad we watched the 90-minute film now.

Indeed, the documentary is still billed as a nonfiction version of the Stone film. Hunh?

If you want to believe that, you first must push through the interviews with actors like Kevin Costner (Garrison) or Ed Asner (Guy Bannister) or Walter Matthau (Russell Long) or Gary Oldman (Oswald). Whatever do they know about the assassination?

Of course, Oliver Stone Himself treats his script like Stone Tablets from the mount.

You would be surprised to learn that there are plenty of interesting, seldom seen interviews with the real people who were part of that notorious day in 1963.

Jim Garrison gives a deathbed interview, filmed literally on his deathbed, looking quite ill. Marina Oswald talks about her husband in retrospect, and Lyndon Johnson’s mistress for many years gives her insights.

Those moments are startling and genuine reason to watch this concoction of theory and history. Tom Wicker puts it to you early on: who should you trust—the journalists of history or the Hollywood version? Ike Pappas of CBS News narrates, and he too was there.

In an age of fake news, we are not exactly ready to dismiss movie insights because it’s transitory film. The documentary raises the same points of the movie but does it better.

Dated as it is, nearly 26 years later, you can still guffaw at those who think the issue will be solved in 5 days once the secret reports are released. Well, Trump released many—and nothing was solved.

The documentary keeps referring to a linkage between Oswald, Ruby, Clay Shaw, Dave Ferrie, Perry Russo, J. Edgar Hoover, etc., but never states what it is. Well, we know what it is: for some or all of their lives, they were gay. That point may be totally irrelevant, or merely the social glue to explain American politics.

Keeping that detail secret remains both illuminating and damning.

 

Dr. William Russo wrote Booth & Oswald, examining their educational training as it related to their future role as assassins. Available on Amazon.com.

Not Touched by an Angel: Dr. John E. Mack

DATELINE: Taken by Space Aliens

touched

A dozen years ago a little documentary was released by Laurel Chiten. She took on the work of psychiatrist John Mack, formerly of Harvard Medical School.

He was the doctor who started to examine alien abduction as psychological condition.  And, he found that it was not pathological in any way except after the fact. Touched is a short film about the work of the pioneering psychiatrist, made a dozen years ago.

Mack was dismissed by Harvard, of course, a place that had experts and professors examining angels, demons, and devils, but drew the line at space aliens. It seems Mack refused to throw his patients under the bus and claim they were koo-koo birds. The situation is related to sleep paralysis, a pathological condition worth consideration.

The documentary looks at a handful of cases, two in depth: a man and a woman who said the paralyzing visits began in their early years and continued through young adulthood.

A corresponding psychologist in Brazil also allowed several of her patients to explain their situations.

They all insist that a light of some sort burrowed into their heads and made them pliable to your classic little gray men or insect-like creatures that used them for breeding purposes, against their wills.

They describe involuntary capture, painful testing, and physical abuse by the extra-terrestrials. However, we aren’t really sure who or what these creatures may be.

You have a large segment of the populace with disturbing experiences, which some scientists would like to dismiss as the hallucination of sexually abused children.

Mack took a more sympathetic approach and came to appreciate the suffering and normality of the victims, apart from being singled out by some larger, more powerful force.

Intriguing even years after the fact, Mack is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and important medical figure on the periphery of the entire extra-terrestrial debate.

 

 

 

Did Peddler’s Murder in 1820s Spark Supernatural Events?

DATELINE:  New Book on Historical Murder

 millmurderkindlecover

Murder at Mill Circle is a shocking tale of a haunted neighborhood.

Crime, passion, murder, and literary celebrities like Henry David Thoreau, provide a backdrop to the deaths and cursed lives of residents in a small New England neighborhood during early 19th century and the mineral spring at the epicenter of trouble. 

This is a book that could not be written twenty years ago, nor even ten years ago. The proliferation of family histories online from sites like Ancestry.com and Find-a-Grave have allowed researchers the luxury of looking at sources across the country instantly.

Instead of traveling to murky library dungeons, all the work can be painstakingly completed in the comfort of one’s home office.

Granted, there is difficulty in solving a 200-year old murder when the name of the victim is unknown, the date of the killing is not established, and the witnesses are all dead. Fortunately, the murder occurred across the street from our charming home. Our former, dead neighbors left their names on census forms and deeds. We found them easily enough.

If there is anything shocking in old records, it is discovering who died when. The juxtaposition of names is often revealing. So, too, is learning who hightailed it out of town around the time of the murder in the 1820s.

You may find it interesting to learn that Mill Circle was kind of a Peyton Place, not far from New Hampshire’s border—and had a bit of Harper Valley thrown in.

Peddlers were the 19th century social media. When one of them gave you a bad review, the gossip could do in your hotel, tavern, or mineral spring instantly. The peddlers were not unionized, but they did socialize at every wayside inn they found along New England roads.

We admit we were surprised at what we found as we moved toward offering a theory on who-done-it. We have put together the history of Mill Circle’s residents, houses, mineral spring, and social network. It provided us with a likely theory of who was murdered, why, and by whom.

Now available on amazon.com in paperback and in e-book format for smart readers.

 

Biography and history.

Another in a series of books about Mill Circle at Winchendon Springs by Dr. William Russo, resident.

The Nightmare Alleged Documentary

DATELINE:  Nod off Elm Street

nightmare

We find the subject of sleep paralysis fascinating, having experienced it as a small child. The experience was so frightful that we recall every minor detail and our fear.

So, of course, a documentary on the topic would be illuminating and helpful. This is not the film for that. The Nightmare from 2015 is a snooze-fest.

No wit, no snide comments, no satiric barbs, could help us review this atrocity. Anything that makes it remotely interesting is a disservice on our part.

Rather than give bad reviews to films, we usually ignore a movie and move on to other, more interesting efforts. However, this particular film is probably the worst one we have encountered in many years. We cannot allow it to pass without notice.

The filmmaker uses no experts. He cites no authorities, and he puts together a cheap horror movie on the fly, pretending to be something more. He may be good enough to pull this off.

With a minor sample size of eight individuals, none of whom appears remotely professional, intelligent, and only recently drug-free, he allows them to mumble on and on about the sleep paralysis they suffered.

They strike us as rejects from a casting call for Friends. It looks like millennial night at karaoke. If you want your audience to empathize, make sure they do not deviate from the narrow profile for your demographic appeal. What a bunch of losers.

Intersperse these accounts with cheap theatrical shadow figures and worse animation to indicate neurological turmoil.

You won’t believe a word of these “actors” giving an audition for the director who knows what a profitable movie looks like.

Terrible. A disservice to the subject.

Unsolved History: Reel History & Massacres

 DATELINE:  Crockett & Crispus

Massacre Boston Massacre

The old muckraker TV documentary series used highest technology to examine traditional history stories. For three seasons it provided some gems of research, original and incisive.

In the first season, Unsolved History tackled two major icons of American history:  Davy Crockett and Crispus Attucks on separate shows. You could not go against political correctness more than to try to tarnish the reputations of these legends.

Crockett died at the Alamo, and Attucks was killed in the Boston Massacre. One fought to the end, and one led the American Revolution. Unsolved History said, “Not so fast.”

Each contributed to building the American character of hero. And, Unsolved History questioned the notion that Crockett did not fight to the end but was executed like a criminal by General Santa Ana. Attucks, a former slave, did not lead the unarmed protestors against the British and was not the first man killed in the American Revolution, but a background figure.

The controversies, as always, were always hosted by resident historian Daniel A. Martinez, on the spot, glossing the facts.

Testing a Mexican officer’s manuscript as witness to the end of the Alamo and using satellite imagery to verify the Mexican army’s route to the Alamo, you had an interesting use of science.

In Boston, they re-created the acoustic noise of gunfire in a riot with studio sound systems and fired replica British muskets at melons to determine bullet damage. Paul Revere’s famous print is quite inaccurate.

In both cases, you had an unpopular notion that the Mexicans and British were not completely the bad guys but acted as people under duress.

Host Martinez goes a long way to suggest the heroes are not lessened by determining a different angle to their stories. And, it is fascinating business to see how science changes the past.

 

 

 

 

Westworld 2.8 Ghostly Nation

 DATELINE: Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

IMG_3076-1

If you’re not in Oz, and not in Delos’s Westworld 2, you must be in Ford’s Ghost Nation where you live in some kind of digital memory bank.

We’re heading down the homestretch of conundrum, east of chaos and southwest of confusion. Our GPS coordinates on the series are sending us down one-way streets that are closed to thru-traffic.

Those Indians in black and white war-paint may seem like a throwback to old TV westerns. In fact, we are in one old Western in particular. Welcome to the Lone Ranger.

Hiyo, Silver horse, running through the dreams of the Noble Savage, Tonto, or in this case, Ake.

Yes, we re-live Tonto saving the Lone Ranger at least three times in this episode. He saves Ben Barnes, left for dead in the desert last season. He saves Ed Harris, left for dead like the last ranger, this season. And he may even save Thandie Newton.

Two of the scenes are right out of the original production of the Lone Ranger-Tonto playbook. Our last surviving member of his tribe comes across a massacre and makes a ghost who walks for revenge.

It seems the Noble Savage is another bad robot, spreading his discontent, looking for a door to escape being an automaton. A touchstone with one key backstory motivates them to a better world.

And, now it seems that Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has been all for it. We are moving toward truth, as all the characters seem to be realizing. We stand in awe of Jonathan Nolan pulling this three-ring circus together in the final episodes of the season.

 

 

A Grand Barn Opens Its Doors for a Day!

DATELINE: Mill Circle’s Treat

 Great Barn

For the first time in many years, the Great Barn of Mill Circle was opened to the public.

And, crowds came out for a “barn sale,” of many items collected over the past four decades by the previous two owners.

old homestead  Barn Sale!inside

Of all the curios, we were able to purchase a replica signage of the Old Homestead Tavern that graced Mill Circle from 1820 to 1827 when the stage depot and inn that catered to peddlers went into folklore as a haunted house. The original draw was a mineral spring called immodestly, “The Virtuous Spring.”

The house is long gone, but its companion barn still stands, impressive. Many visitors were extremely curious about its age and history. We were able to tell a few that we had written the barn’s history a few years ago. The book is available to those interested on Amazon under the modest title The Great Barn of Mill Circle.

A new book is forthcoming that details the barn’s role in the infamous murder of a peddler on the Fourth of July in 1826. It is called, not surprisingly, Murder at Mill Circle.

Those who came on this lovely June day were able to buy antiques, bric-a-brac and assorted junk, as suited their tastes, but they were not able to do a full tour of the barn. Its back section was shut. Its tack room closed to viewers who could not see inside. The stairs up to the loft and stable-boy’s apartment was blocked. A view directly up to the cupola was closed to audiences.

And yet, the visitors were awestruck by the architecture and solid construction that has weathered two centuries as the focal point of Mill Circle.

We think a murder victim was hidden in the cellar in 1826—and though his bones have escaped detection, we think the early graveyard of the neighborhood is in the rear. We’d need ground-penetrating radar to be sure if it is a cemetery of a few long-forgotten residents—and one murdered peddler.

And we want to share our extraordinary experience today with you.

70 Years After Roswell

DATELINE: Happy Anniversary, Aliens70 years later Major Coverup of What Exactly?

You might shrug this off as just another rehash documentary, with the usual gaggle of conspiracy theorists. Nick Redfern is most notable of the experts here.

Yes, it may be low key and low budget, but the film is straight-forward and wants to cover aspects of the notorious UFO crash that started the phenomenon that has grown into Ancient Aliens and extra-terrestrials as a cottage industry.

A fresh look with basic honesty is always refreshing, and you will have it here.

And, still we found it illuminating despite being shown that all-so-familiar newspaper headlines about the flying disc recovered by the military that was retracted within a day.

The documentary analysis takes each chunk of the story in hand. A few explanations may surprise: not the tales of witnesses being threatened, but that some of the early participants, including one military officer, started the Roswell UFO Museum.

Of all the startling bits, we were most bowled over by the fact that the producers were not allowed to fly over the crash site with a drone by the military. Seventy years later, they don’t want you to see a 30-foot gash in the ground.

The other eye-opener was the notion that the government actually had disabled “volunteers” on a craft that crashed, and they wanted to hide the human guinea pig concept.

Also, people became ill in Lincoln County shortly after the crash, which was considered cholera, but might have been radiation poison.

The 45-minute film is worth every moment of your attention.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ll Be Hanged Hangman

DATELINE:  Pacino & Shahi

 Hangman stars

Al Pacino is at an age when Robert DeNiro plays comedy roles, but Pacino is still looking at detective action thrillers.

He is a bit long in the tooth, and we worry when he falls down that he may break a hip. He looks great actually.

In Hangman, he has chosen the role of a detective who retired a year ago (at 77) and is back on special assignment with his young partner (Karl Urban) when a serial killer calls out their badge numbers.

There is some initial interest in seeing this movie because of the cast, and Sarah Shahi (Person of Interest) as the young, tough woman captain of the force in some small city.

For some reason inexplicable to anyone, Pacino plays his detective with an Andy Griffith, aw shucks, Mayberry accent. He’s the only one with such a speech impediment among the New York actors.

If that were not weird enough, the serial killer wants to play Hangman, literally, hanging his victims with a letter carved into their bodies.

Well, if koo-koo descends into ridiculous, we do not find it sublime. We’ve had our fill of brilliantly smart serial killers. We are challenged to stay with this film, mainly because of the actors.

The plot does not thicken: it curdles. We discover both detectives have a personal connection to victims, but this does not disqualify them from the case.

And, to make matters worse, there is a Lois Lane type tagging along to all the crime scenes. When told not to obstruct justice, she enters the case and compounds trouble. Call her the plot hole.

It’s enough to throw in the noose and call it a hang dog day afternoon. Just terrible, and what a waste of talented actors.

Wait for Your Laugh: Irrepressible Rose Marie

 DATELINE: Second Bananas are Tops

 irrepressible

A major star before Shirley Temple was born, Rose Marie’s last act was the receive the lifetime Shirley Temple Award in 2017. Waiting for Your Laugh is her testimonial, made with her cooperation shortly before she died in 2017.

Never a beauty, but always a beaut. As a child, Rose Marie counted among her friends and supporters, gangsters like Al Capone and Bugsy Siegel.  Capone told her to call him “Uncle Al.”

She helped Bugsy build a resort entertainment venue that happened to be Las Vegas. She was the first headline and didn’t think twice to tell Siegel her paycheck was short $11.

He apologized and paid up.

She worked with them all—from Jimmy Durante to Milton Berle. Among her friends were Jerry Lewis and Johnny Carson, whom she called “angels.” They all treated her like a daughter and she liked all of them.

She learned how to do standup comedy to enhance her singing career. And, when TV demanded, she became a character actress on shows like Gunsmoke. Though she performed movies and Broadway, nightclubs were her secret passion. She played everywhere in America.

When TV comedy needed her, she did the Dick Van Dyke Show when no one knew who he was. She did a dozen years on Hollywood Squares, and made dozens of guest shots as cranky old bossy women. Her coworkers like Morey Amsterdam and Peter Marshall adored her.

In a time when old singers were forgotten, she organized Rosemary Clooney, Margaret Whiting, and Helen O’Connell, into a lucrative concert series.

Rose Marie lived 90 years, a staple of entertainment for multiple generations and only passed away last year.

In her love life, there was the greatest tragedy, having found the ideal man, Bobby Guy, a trumpeter from Kay Keyser and Bing Crosby bands, but who died too young—stealing her only personal love besides work.

This compelling documentary cannot be stopped. It unfolds and hypnotizes like Rose Marie herself.