Ancient Aliens: Giant Steps

DATELINE: Oil Lagina & Water Giorgio

 Giant Treasure Island

No mixer and no chaser!

The latest pairing of Giorgio Tsoukalos with a guest star on Ancient Aliens dumps us on Sardinia with Marty Lagina. This is the second time that the Oak Island connection has reached the exalted heights of Ancient Aliens.

We await the favor to be returned. But don’t hold your breath.

You may remember Lagina as the cynical and rich brother who underwrites the Curse of Oak Island, also a History series. This time, he has been inexplicably brought on board for an episode of Ancient Aliens.

Whether Giorgio will show up for a treasure hunt is anyone’s guess on Oak Island.

Marty Lagina is also known as the man for whom all must be proven. He looks askance at most of Giorgio’s wayout theories and dismisses them as “interesting,” though his face seems to shout, “What am I doing here?”

They have come to Sardinia to look for giants. Along the way we hear from Timothy Alberino whose YouTube privileges were revoked this year—and who contends he is victim of a major conspiracy to cover up the alien giant connection.

Who is protecting the Cyclops is not explained.

Even hard-nosed Marty Lagina must admit that the ruins on the isle of Sardinia impress him with their technology and stunning ability to build.

In the final analysis, we have wild conjecture and tie-ins to all the usual suspects. Yet, again, no one mentions that Noah (who built the Ark) was thought also to be a giant who survived the flood that was destined and meant to wipe out all those hybrid aliens who had gone out of control.

You cannot beat the imaginative fascination of this series.

 

 

 

 

 

Portrait of a Fantasy Classic

DATELINE: Robert Nathan’s Portrait of Jennie

Brackman Jennie Brackman Painting Used in Film!

Portrait of Jennie is unusual movie fare by any standard—whether it is today or when it was released in 1949.

Back then, audiences were better educated for sure. The movie starts out with quotes from Euripides and Keats on mortality and the philosophy of death. As if to prove you are not in Kansas, the film uses the stunning music of Debussy’s “Nuages,” with an assist from Dmitri Tiomkin and Bernard Herrmann. Phew!

You don’t have music like this as background audio nowadays!

Unsuccessful painter of landscapes, Eban Adams (Joe Cotten), cannot find a plug nickel for his work in 1934. When he begs art dealers Ethel Barrymore and Cecil Kellaway to buy one of his pictures, they take pity on him. However, the price is to be told there is no love in his work, in critique by a spinster art collector.

When he meets a turn-of-the-century little girl in Central Park, she tells him she will grow up fast to marry him. Lo and behold, when he sees her again, she is older, and then again older. He is enchanted, and forced to do detective work to find her.

The twosome finally conclude that there is some error in the time-space continuum, no mean feat considering when the movie was made. They are not supposed to cross paths, let alone find the love of their lives, of all time.

You know that something is afoot when the screen goes garish green toward the climax.

The actual prop portrait of Jennifer Jones, breathtakingly beautiful, was actually done by Robert Brackman—and kept in the library of producer David O. Selznick, married to Miss Jones at the time.

With another gallery acting job by Joseph Cotten—and an assist from Ethel Barrymore, the old lady with a crush on him, you have an instant classic—and more.

Throw in Lillian Gish and Cecil Kellaway—and the film noir photography of Central Park at night, and we can forgive any logical weirdness in the storyline.

You owe yourself one romantic fantasy in a lifetime. This should be it, and never let drowning in a tsunami stop you from going to Land’s End on Cape Cod.

 

 

Playing Chess with a Ghost from the Titanic

DATELINE:  Haunted Chessboard

game underway

In retrospect of my life, I realize today that Richard Frazar White orchestrated so much for me along my spiritual journey.

Only now do I recognize the strange effects he has arranged:  how did I manage to meet by chance the man who played Richard in a movie?

Yes, there were always Titanic movies that featured a young, heroic figure: in the 1953 version with Barbara Stanwyk and Clifton Webb, there was a young actor rising by the name of Robert Wagner.

He played a version of Richard aboard the doomed ship. We were on a plane out of Burbank, and he plopped down next to me in first-class. I said, “I think I know you.”  He said wearily, “Yes, you probably do.”  We proceeded to down Bloody Marys and find our compatability.

Robert Wagner’s character in the movie Titanic survived, unlike his real counterpart.

Stanwyk & Wagner

Later he asked, “Have we met before?” It was the famous question of my life. Have we met before? How familiar so much was: like it was reincarnation at work. He played Richard in a movie and here he was, a decade before I bought my home in Richard’s backyard.

According to a visit by a group of psychics recently, Richard Frazar White always knew we would end up together in one of the family houses, living next to where he played as a child. I was never quite so sure that I would become the companion to a ghost.

Wagner thought I should have gone to Hollywood as a writer years ago. It was where he thought I was meant to be.

Call it fate, kismet, karma, coincidence, ESP, light-working, or whatever concept you accept.

Instead of Hollywood, I ended up a mile from Richard’s grave in Winchendon Springs. Wagner wound up having his own tragedy on the open sea: his wife Natalie Wood mysteriously fell overboard and drowned. He too is haunted by a watery grave.

Please do not call me Topper or Mrs. Muir, and I do not live in Gull Cottage—but in a house once in the neighborhood of a ghost from the sunken Titanic.

And now, I am his chess partner. Through a recent visit with a group of psychics to my home, Richard let it be known that he wants to play a game of chess with me.

One friend noted that he hasn’t played in over 100 years and has to be a little rusty. Another said, he likely has the angels on his side.

When first I moved here, I set up a chessboard in my library (on the truly haunted side of my house), and there the pieces began to move off their magnetic base erratically. Pawns were tipped over, and a castle and pawn try to share the same square.

I knew of Richard 30 years ago from the plaque in my classroom at Curry College in Milton, Massachusetts, that mentioned his heroism on the Titanic.  I had no idea who he was back then.

The psychics told me that the one ghost I have seen in my home is Richard’s cat. Yes, a spirit cat emerged from the wall behind a bookcase and ran into the kitchen. I followed but found nothing. I learned how this creature belongs to Richard—and observes the household and reports back to the Titanic spirit.

During research for a book on the Titanic, I discovered that Richard and I went to the same high school (Cambridge High & Latin), and we likely both belonged to the high school chess team about 60 years apart.

As a result of the psychics’ recommendation, I set up a chessboard in my home office and put a photo of Richard on the wall above it. An hour later it promptly fell off the wall, hit the chessboard and knocked over ALL the black pieces. Not one white piece was touched. I await his first move; if time is immaterial to the afterlife, he might take quite a while before the game truly is underway!Richard & chess

Dr. Russo has written extensively on the history of Mill Circle, including books entitled MURDER AT MILL CIRCLE, GHOSTS OF MILL CIRCLE, and TALES OF A TITANIC FAMILY. All are available for download or in print at Amazon.

New World Order & Ancient Aliens

DATELINE:  No, Not the TV Series

Marrs Late Great Jim Marrs!

As a special TV documentary made in 2017, this little film directed by Jay Michael Long has nothing to do with the TV series on History. It is indeed titled Ancient Aliens and the New World Order, but don’t be fooled.

This was the last project of Jim Marrs, the conspiracy aficionado whose reach exceeded the number of government plots he seemed privy to. He looks like Santa Claus in a Fedora.

Marrs started out as a Texan in Dallas when Kennedy was killed in 1963, and he parlayed that into a career of books and TV appearances on a plethora of theories about the secret world of powerbrokers.

So, this talking head documentary may have been his last, but he wanted to go out with thunder. He covered a bunch of notions, from dismissing global warming and noting it was solar system warming:  Nibiru’s orbit is heating up every frozen area from Saturn to Mars and around the sun.

He also wanted to trace a bloodline of hybrid aliens who have controlled the Earth since Sumerian culture.

He carefully traced the genes of United States Presidents, down to Obama, as all coming from the same ruling class. He found nearly every president was slightly more than six degrees closer than any other.

His final blast has to do with the banking and financial control of media, information, and manipulation of the minor inhabitants of the planet. He contends there are about 50 corporations that own everything—and they withhold whatever they want to keep people in subjugation. The news is controlled. Your health and diet are controlled.

It is a powder-keg of conspiracy theories. It’s not much on film impact, being mostly Marrs with a few background images, yet you may be entranced if not appalled by his information.

 

 

 

 

 

Borg & McEnroe, Not Exactly Chums

DATELINE: Clash of the KooKoo Birds

great acting

Telling great sports rivalries has become a movie goldmine for Bobby and Billie as well as Bird and Magic. The latest sports film is called Borg Vs. McEnroe.

However, the two most unlikeable figures among elites are the pairing of John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg in 1980. If you don’t remember how it turned out, this movie’s suspense will be enhanced.

Essentially this is the story of two crazed competitors. Yes, we guessed that to compete at a high level you must be touched in the head. Indeed, these two may seem dissimilar, but both were “not quite right in the head,” according to the movie.

The Swede was often called Ice Borg or CyBorg, to indicate he was a robotic and inhuman creature. On the other hand, American John McEnroe comes across as Norman Bates in a McEn-psycho mode.

There really was no relationship between them outside the tennis court. They were not enemies, friends, or even friendly antagonists. They barely acknowledged the other in person.

Instead of showing us, the movie prologue states that the 1980 match changed both men. We never see that. Epilogue cards tell us they became best friends and even served as best man at the other’s wedding. We don’t see any of that.

As for the performances, they are uniformly brilliant. Shia Labeouf is perfect as McEnroe, and Swedish actor Sverrir Gudnasson is equal to the ice borg. They are riveting in the roles, and that makes the film well worth your time and investment.

 

 

In Search of …Zachary Quinto

 DATELINE:   Call him Zak, not Spock.

Zak “I am not Spock.”

Leave it to History Channel to take a clever idea and run with it.

The old Leonard Nimoy series about oddities in the world has been revived. There is new wine in old bottles. In Search of…  is back! Its first episode is called, “Aliens.”

Leonard Nimoy had won fame in the 1970s as Spock on Star Trek, so History went to the next generation: they have beamed up Zachary Quinto, the new Spock of Star Trek, to be narrator of the newly minted series. He will be far more hands-on and in person.

If you recall, Nimoy kept his face out of the old shows: relying on his marvelous voice. This new host will be in the picture.

For the first act of the first season: aliens.

Quinto is the executive producer of the series, which means he likely wanted to do interviews and try out various stunts. In the first show he goes to the top of a satellite dish and later is suspended by wires to parallel floating up into a spaceship.

Great stuff, but what hooked us were the interviews. The first man named Kyle claimed he was abducted by aliens since childhood.

Given a polygraph, he failed: he apologized, but this is not something you see. However, we were not impressed with this inarticulate and ungrammatical person. Why would aliens take him as an example of the human race?

The second person was a chemist with an implant he removed from his foot. He claimed it was made out of a meteorite, but testing was inconclusive. This also made the show a tad different shade of your usual ancient aliens on History Channel.

We’ll be back to see Zak, as he introduced himself to various people.

 

 

 

 

Endeavour 5.5: Quartet

DATELINE:  Bond, Endeavour Bond

Endeavour as Bond Shaun Bond, or Smiley Evans?

The latest episode called “Quartet”, set in 1968, at the height of the James Bond and Spy Who Came in from the Cold, sent Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) into the world of foreign agents and double-crosses with Communists.

It’s not a far jump from an international festival murder at Oxford to the world of mysterious secret agents. A child is collateral damage during spy versus spy, which incenses Endeavour. Call this a kind of Bond meets John LeCarre!

As Inspector Thursday states, they are not “danger men” referring to the series starring Patrick McGoohan back then as a secret agent man. The police are ordered to back off the case, but Morse soon finds himself working undercover too with all those 00 types.

When members of the Special Branch ask to meet Morse and tell him to wear a dinner jacket, he shows up like Bond for a meeting with a couple of weasels that would make George Smiley smile.

The British have always had a spot for traitors and communists in the government and, in the words of one double agent, little people. The ones you don’t notice are the hired assassins.

They even try to garotte Morse, and they hijack murder victims to cover up the covert stuff.

Though there seems to be an unrelated case of domestic abuse going on in the mundane world of Thursday’s precinct, it may all tie in to billionaire perfume makers, East German dentures, and girlfriends who run off to take photos in Vietnam.

This season Endeavour offers two bonus episodes, and this high quality makes us wish they could make many more.

Yes, the series is already down for a sixth and likely final season.

 

Ancient Aliens Returns with Two Hours & Two Heads

DATELINE:  Twilight of the Hosts

Giorgio & Ramy

Giorgio & Ramy, that’s who!

The hiatus of the popular series Ancient Aliens was short-lived.

However, they have put their nuclear option on the table: Giorgio of the hair explosion has now joined forces with Ramy Romany and his Indiana Jones fedora, another new rising star and quasi-Egyptologist on the show.

They are teamed up to go to Cairo for a two-hour tour, a new age version of Gilligan and the Skipper.

This is a power move after thirteen seasons and a midseason hiatus. The two most popular hosts are on the chessboard.

Let’s hope their arc of the alien covenant does not shut down in the Great Pyramid.

Ramy plans to take Giorgio into the bowels of Khufu’s power plant (it’s no longer considered a tomb).

This is one-upsmanship, as Ramy takes great pleasure in escorting Giorgio into the Great Pyramid. How he did this feat is revealed shortly when the great Hawass drags his ass into the picture. He’s a man who never met an Egyptian tomb he did not visit on TV.  It seems Ramy is related to national blowheart Zahi Hawass, and that explains a great deal about the great Hawass and the great Pyramid.

Through judicious editing, we never learn how much Hawass hates the ancient alien theory about builders of the pyramids. He likes to say the native peoples did it.

It’s also amusing to watch the facial expressions of Ramy Romany when he disagrees with some of Giorgio’s more outrageous theories. He never lets a sourpuss pass without notice.

Of course, it all comes to a head with the twin hosts sitting at dusk before the Great Pyramid, with Ramy smoking a waterpipe for great effect. Their profiles and agreeing to disagree is certainly the start of long and beautiful friendship, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Captain Renault ran off with Rick Blaine at the end of Casablanca.

 

 

Hitler’s Hollywood by Any Other Name

DATELINE: Singing in the Reich

Hitler on movie set

If  imitation is a sincere form of flattery, Hitler’s attempt to copy Hollywood movies is indeed a nasty compliment. Hitler’s Hollywood is a horrid misnomer.

During the years 1933 to 1945, there was a thriving movie business under the Nazis in Germany, run by Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of notoriety.

Hitler loved movies—and his studios planned to give him an exact duplicate of the big boffo productions out of Hollywood.

If he couldn’t have Garbo, he had Ingrid Bergman in one movie before she cleared out of the Third Reich for Rick’s Café in Casablanca.

The Germans loved musicals with numbers more extravagant than the Busby Berkley movies. They were overlaid, however, with nasty digs at Jews at every turn in subtle fashion. Then, there were the outright anti-Semitic films.

There were about a 1000 movies made by the German state studio with their own star system: comedy, melodrama, and historic epics, but never science fiction or horror. In fact, the melodrama featured so much fantasy and nightmares to the Aryan heroes that they turned into horror pictures.

The Nazis never knew irony.

If there was a steady theme, it was the glorification of death for the Fatherland. Good Germans dying for their country was a common theme.

As the war proceeded and was undermining morale, the films started to be oriented for female audiences—and in glorious technicolor. But the wild extravagance was panic to keep the home audiences on target.

The version of the Titanic sinking was blamed on the Jewish financiers, and then was banned from showings in Germany itself by Goebbels.

The entire documentary is narrated in creepy fashion by Udo Keir—and is hypnotic, horrifying, and surprising.

Last Call to Titan, All Aboard

 DATELINE:  Earth’s Next Home

 Titan

 It only looks like Mars.

Not to be confused with remembering the Titans. We are now talking about the Titanians, a group of people who will be scientists and adventurers to colonize the Titan Moon of Saturn.

This little documentary, made in France, but is international in flavor—using scientists from the United States and NASA, as well as ESA with experts from England and France.

Last Call to Titan is a riveting little documentary.

From the odd perspective of a narrator telling the story of how Titan was discovered and colonized, we have a different approach to a science documentary. It works on its own strange planetary level.

Leslie Clack is the British narrator who is obviously speaking to us from the perspective of 200 years hence. He is from a place that is far removed from Earth and has its own laws and culture. Those who move to Titan will never be able to return to Earth because the changes to the body by gravity would kill anyone who dared to come back.

Most will be born there and not want to come here.

Titan has an opaque atmosphere, mostly methane, and extremely cold (180 degrees below zero).  Yet, with diving suits, not space suits, people would be able to move around more effortlessly.

The early photos and exploration of Titan by the Cassini-Huygens mission are the real call of this hour-long show. It is a fascinating place with oceans, lakes, rivers, and a coastline worthy of a European spa town.

New propulsion systems are under creation that would cut the trip to Titan to six months. However, you still need to be slightly anti-social to survive the loneliness—and being stuck with a bunch of weirdo scientists as your boon companions.

Last call indeed.

 

 

 

 

Primal Fear & Secondary Plot

 DATELINE: Attorney-Client Privilege

 attorney privilege

In 1996 came another of those lawyer with killer client movies. This one featured Richard Gere as the hotshot attorney, and young Edward Norton as the simpleton altar boy who butchers the archbishop.

Smarmy, with a wink, and an attitude to put the screws to anyone in his way, infamous attorney Richard Gere defends mobsters (Steven Bauer) and anyone else who will cause his picture to adorn the city’s magazines.

Laura Linney is his antagonist in the prosecutor’s office and dismisses him after a one-night stand that “lasted six months.” Her buttons can be pushed, and she pushes back. In light of the Hollywood mistreatment of women, the brazen sexism of the Gere character is a bit too much. However, it fits in with the attitudes he exhibits.

Alfre Woodard is the judge who is not about to let her courtroom become a place where Gere can let loose his vendettas. The corrupt city prosecutors are about as hooked into mob ventures as the church in this cynical movie.

This time the archbishop isn’t diddling the boys, only videotaping their antics with hired girls. What a change of pace!

Norton seems to play the hillbilly boy brought to the big city by the slick priest. However, neuropsychiatrist Frances McDormand isn’t quite convinced during the 60 hours of conversation she holds with the young choir boy.

Gere uses a bag of tricks to acquit the young man of the heinous crime (a word he claims is too fancy for the dumb jury).

The growing twisted jazz score indicates that we are in film noir territory, and come-uppance is around the corner. Movie is well-done and has fine performances, though we feel like we have been there in several similar movies, most notably with Keanu Reeves last year in The Whole Truth and Gary Oldman a few years back in Criminal Law. They had client troubles too.

You could do worse than pay attention here.

Our Sons: Mothers Emeritus

DATELINE:  Reel History

 our sons

Back in 1991 when the AIDS epidemic was a death sentence, a spate of films emerged about the fear, anger, disgust, and regret, of the sickness and end of so many young gay men. The film is called Our Sons.

There was no hope of recovery or of living with control. When one character in this film is asked why he hasn’t been tested, he shrugs: there is nothing to be done one way or the other. It was a death sentence in a year or two. Knowing one’s fate made no difference.

Several brave actors chose to depict the crisis: in this film the sons are lovers, Hugh Grant and Zelkjo Ivanek. Their relationship covers the final weeks of the disease’s ravages.

There are no kisses and it is chaste to the point of being inoffensive. The young men are successful a jazz pianist and an architect, just to give everyone respectability.

The draw is the problem of their mothers, played by Julie Andrews and Ann-Margaret.  Both unhappy with gay sons, Julie Andrews must try to bring Ann-Margaret, a waitress from Arkansas, to San Diego to reconcile with her estranged son.

Two marvelous actresses jab and punch at each other as they try to deal with the plague of the age. Julie Andrews and Ann-Margaret are at the top of their careers here.

Interestingly, Hugh Grant is the son of Andrews (who is English, but Grant plays it with an American accent). Ann-Margaret whose hair is the same color as Andrews wears a blonde wig most of the time.

The film is a snapshot of a time when a generation of talent died without hope, before drug cocktails to prevent instant death. Yet, as an historic artifact, the film is compelling and powerful, even twenty years after it was topical and controversial.

 

 

 

 

 

Vera Cruz: Classic Western Fun

DATELINE: Clash of the Titans

 Coop & Burt

When you cast Burt Lancaster as the villainous rogue cowboy against stalwart Gary Cooper, you have a humdinger. So, it was in 1954 when these two titans clashed in a Technicolor epic called Vera Cruz.

Cooper was fresh off his High Noon Oscar, and Lancaster liked to do an adventure movie between his high-brow efforts (like From Here to Eternity).

It was a rousing Western in which double crosses and triple crosses were the norm. With friendly enemy banter between the two principals, you have a quest to steal a couple of million gold dollars in Mexico in 1869. It is sheer delight every step of the way.

Burt’s gang includes Charles Bronson, Ernest Borgnine, and Jack Elam, which may be one of the foremost gangs of the 1950s. On top of that you had Cesar Romero as the aide-de-camp of the Emperor (George Macready, no less), who is also a rogue like a laughing cavalier.

The film starts with a series of set-up challenges between the stars, and their bonding and chemistry is delightful. Burt flashes all the teeth repeatedly as his tricks, cheats, and banters with Cooper.

The director is no slouch: Robert Aldrich of Baby Jane and Dirty Dozen, managing to orchestrate this rousing shoot’em up and horse chase movie.

Produced by Lancaster, the villain is so charming in his black hat and black leather vest that we may find ourselves rooting for the two actors to do a sequel. Nowadays, it would be standard. How could you waste such talent without a follow-up?

If there was a problem on the set, it was a production decision on whether to kill Burt Lancaster in the movie.

Alas, back then, franchise sequels were not really done.

 

 

 

 

Endeavour 5.4, Colours

DATELINE: Nazis at Oxford

 Jack Bannon

Jack Bannon, as Sam Thursday

With the latest episode of Endeavour entitled “Colours,” referring to racial and military problems, the focus switches to some extent to the adult children of DCI Fred Thursday.  Sam and Joan are definitely problems (Jack Bannon, Sara Vickers) to their by-the-book policeman father.

Sam has been in the military for the past two seasons but returns as a suspect and witness to a murder on a local army base. Jack Bannon returns to the series for a shot and a conflict with Fred (Roger Allam). Daughter Joan has begun to be socially conscious and is arrested at a protest against segregation.

We are in the midst of 1968 where Fred and his wife Win may be entering ballroom dancing contests, but murders seem to be rampant at Oxford. Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) always closely tied to Thursday and his children must remain objective.

Indeed, Chief Bright (Anton Lesser) takes Fred Thursday off the case because of his family connection to the death of a model (whose parents were Nazi sympathizers during World War II).

If all these complications seem to be mounting up, you need only see one suspect who has a photo of Hitler at her wedding in the early 1940s. It ties in neatly with the racial turmoil and prejudice at Oxford in the 1960s.

Characters continue to evolve: as two women in Morse’s life are moving onward to other police colleagues (DCI Strange and Joan & policeman Shelley and DC Fancy). This will certainly leave Morse in the lurch and explains 20 years later his bachelorhood in the original series.

Complex, subtle, and filled with red herrings, the series continues to provide challenging mysteries.

 

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.