Gronk Goes to the Movies

 DATELINE: Goodbye, NFL! Hello, Hollywood!

Gronk

New England’s loss is the world of movies’ gain.

We may be one of the few football Patriots fans who is happy that Rob Gronkowski has made the decision to leave the NFL for a new career in films.

As a star of the gridiron, breaking all kinds of records over nine seasons, Gronk has spent nearly all available time working his screen image. He has appeared in a handful of small-budget movies and many television commercials.

His face, pliable and likeable, has become a brand unto itself. He has hobnobbed with stars and calls himself “One-Take Gronk,” meaning he only makes one take to print for the final roll of film. The film illiterate Boston sports media have no idea about his movie career, or abilities in that regard.

We are happy because the next time Gronk is tackled by five monsters, he will not hurt his back or break a leg bone. Right before they tackle him, the director will yell, “Cut!” and his body double will step in to take the blows.

Gronk is a movie natural. We expect to see him in a new Mel Gibson action movie as the season of football starts. Put away the cleats. He is taking on movie weapons for his next big run.

With his huge physical presence, he will find a happy set of movie parts in the big genres of the 21st century: either sophomoric comedy, or cartoon superhero epics. He can play a lummox hero or a hard-nosed villain with aplomb. See Ted.

He has sold his Boston properties and his next home likely will be poolside in Beverly Hills: like so many young people, he will have had his youthful years in Boston, but will begin his career and important life work elsewhere.

For years Gronky has graced our blogs with his antics. He will continue to do so—but now as a film personality. He won’t be playing Hamlet, but he will be entertaining.

Oh, we expect that some enterprising producer will team up Tom Brady and Gronk again in some sports film. Didn’t Babe Ruth charmingly play himself in Pride of the Yankees?  Didn’t Muhammed Ali play himself in several films? Gronk will always be himself in every movie role.

 

Terminator: Not a Dead End

DATELINE: More Arnold Around Corner!

Arnold No Spring Chicken, He’s Back in 2019!

If they ever make a musical version, it will feature the tune, “the Cyborg Couldn’t Say NO.”  The first Terminator movie is now 35 years old, and it’s holding up well enough that Arnold is returning this year to reprise his role in a new 2019 movie, reunited with his waitress target, Sarah (Linda Hamilton).

In the original, Ahhnold was catapulted to fame beyond his wildest hopes. In a monosyllabic role that gave him a range up to 3 monosyllables, he simply snarled his way through James Cameron script as the bad robot.

Interestingly, Michael Biehn had second billing. He was one of those good-looking cookie-cutter actors of the 1980s. He belongs in a new movie, but where is he now?

The film starts with a bang: beautiful naked men come raining down out of lightning bolts. It was dishy to see Arnold naked, though he later claimed it was not he. What a pity. He is young and quite attractive here.

As for the 35-year old movie: it features phone books, phone booths, and wide-open gun shops where you can pick up assault rifles of your choice.

There are no PCs, let alone GPS.

Police in Los Angeles are dumbfounded, if not struck dumb, when a woman named Sarah Connor is repeatedly murdered. Well, every Sarah in the book. They missed the unlisted ones.

It seems the cyborgs from the future (like all AI to follow) believe it’s time to rid the world of that problem: human beings. The future in this movie is 2029, and we better start counting our blessings.

The movie features a shoot-out in a disco nightclub, which is quite contemporary, and it features too an office massacre when the Terminator goes into a police station and kills 20 to 30 policemen.

Of all the distinctive qualities, it most resembles a film made a decade earlier called Westworld, wherein the cyborg goes on a rampage, is burned to a cast- iron skeleton and still keeps going.

It also features a female hero survivor in the person of the director’s ex-wife, Linda Hamilton.

 

 

 

 

World War II Gold: Second Episode

DATELINE: Have Drone, Will Travel!

have drone, will travel

Money is no object when a trillion bucks worth of glorious stuff is reportedly hidden in caverns beneath a thick jungle. Only modern technology can save you from the “needle in a haystack,” end of good intentions.

This week on Lost Gold of World War II, we learn that the Japanese depositors of stolen loot used various tricks to booby-trap their cache. We heard about the sarin gas bottles last week, and this week we hear how they have made flood tunnels that will drown the gold seekers. Shades of Oak Island!

And, yes, other treasure hunters met their ignominious ends through this means.

Our American heroes are not so dumb. They have found a shaft dug only 20 years earlier, but hubris leads them to think there is a concrete cap inside that leads to a subway system. Wrong.

Their ability to maneuver through the Luzon jungles is impossible except for Lidar, which arrives from a drone that does a fly-over. As the expert drones on, he claims this is digital napalm: jungle leaves will disappear on the computer, revealing roads and caves.

Bingo Minerva, the researcher back in the States, confirms much of this. Yes, Bingo Minerva may be the smartest one not to go on this treasure hunt.

He does not face unrelenting humidity, insects, and booby traps.

Facial markers are the key under the leafy canopy. They must find a large gorilla head carved into rock under a waterfall. We wouldn’t make this up, and it is why we remain intrigued.

Finding petroglyphs (like a gorilla face behind a waterfall) is historical, but these treasure hunters attribute them to Japanese soldiers.  These war-mongers are members of the Golden Lily — part of a Niponese version of the Knights Templar, complete with symbolic codes and secret rituals.

We are eager for more to come.

 

Robert Kraft Puts Your Tax $ to Work!

DATELINE: Exoneration T. Cornpone

Kraft & Hernandez Expunged & Exonerated?

You can tell that Robert Kraft epitomizes the New England Patriots, the team he owns.

Like killer tight end Aaron Hernandez, he must love trials. He has now demanded a jury trial in Florida on his prostitution solicitation misdemeanor.

Wow! We will have over-priced lawyers, dramatic effect, riveting testimony, hilarious moral dilemmas, and all before a jury!

You only have to ask Hernandez how that turned out. Well, you would have to use a Ouija board because Hernandez killed himself shortly after acquittal for double murder. Kraft likely will survive his ordeal of exoneration.

This is surely a week to choose the exoneration path, especially if you have money, celebrity, and chutzpah. Donald Trump and Jussie Smollett found themselves exonerated within days of each other for high crimes and misdemeanors.

Why should Kraft be any different? He has chosen the route to force the jurisdiction in Palm Beach to spend the taxpayers’ money on a media circus. It’s brilliant because billionaire Kraft has unlimited funds to spend, and the state of Florida will be strapped. And, their lawyers will hardly shine before the Kraft Dream Team of legal minds.

We can see the prosecutors deciding to save money by throwing up their hands, throwing in the incriminating tape of a handy sex act, and washing their hands in the mode of Pontius Pilate.

We see Kraft’s lawyers cashing their paychecks for a million, and they may manage to have Kraft’s money refunded for that bad massage.

There will be no NFL crucifixion of Mr. Kraft. Like Jussie, he fully expects to have his reputation expunged. If only Hernandez has stuck around long enough to see exoneration and expunging are synonyms in American justice.

They go hand-in-hand-job with being rich and famous.

 

It’s Not Heavy Metal, It’s My Brother!

DATELINE: Leaden Episode

Skowronek Skowronek Saves Day!

Good grief, is this really episode 18? Summer in Nova Scotia only lasts twelve weeks.

A friend reported that every time she tunes in to the show, she thinks it’s an episode she already saw. Every week they find a coin and dig a hole, not always in that order. The Laginas always wear the same clothes, and it’s like looking at a rerun.

With summer’s end, it rains and pours more.

In case your sense of déjà vu is slipping, Robert Clotworthy will hastily repeat what he just said two minutes earlier.

This episode was three-quarters of disappointment as another hole in the ground turned out not to be the entrance to a vault of gold, or much else. Big timbers of oak and some leather teased the hunters. They have moved on because time is running out for the season.

It came down once again to Gary Drayton, called in at the last segment to perform his magic. Through some divination, he went to lot 21 which once was owned by one of the original finders of the money pit. There, he waved his metal detector and came up with a plum.

There, in two pieces, was a long strand of lead. He instantly deduced it was a match to the lead cross he found last season on the other side of the island. He also found a second piece, broken off, but fitting exactly to form a square hole. It is a duplicate of the cross.

How can he do this stuff?

They immediately called in Tobias Skowronek from Germany on the Skype. The metallurgist who looks like a minor also confirmed this lead was a duplicate from the Templar Knight mining operation in France. Stunning.

It saved the episode from wasteful time lost.

 

 

Stolen Treasure in the Philippines!

DATELINE:  Sleeping Trillion Bucks

lost gold

More gold and art treasures hidden by a rapacious Japanese general? Yes, and this time it’s somewhere on an island in the Philippines where nutcases go hand-in-hand with gold-diggers. We did not see any Laginas associated with this History channel’s latest example of a series bit by the Goldbug.

The first episode is called “Death on the Mountain.”

The optimists at History Channel are calling this Season 1. Or, perhaps they are pessimists who expect multiple season frustrations. In any case, the betting is that we will have hit the mother-lode of ratings. So, gold in the logo is running downhill like lava.

General Yamashita of the Emperor’s army buried all kinds of goodies with booby traps that only American experts can discover and disarm. Well, if that isn’t hubris, then what motivates the diggers on Oak Island?

Ostensibly, there is a trillion dollars in modern terms of loot. In the first episode, they do find a tunnel and poison gas bottles ready to crack open with a feather’s touch. Previous treasure hunters unwittingly set these off and died.

The Lost Gold of World War II  has only been missing for 75 years or so, unlike the Oak Island treasure that clocks in at 200+ years. Yet, there is clear evidence that the Luzon treasure is priceless.

The hunters of loot are Americans of different generations and races, but lifelong seekers who seem to know about something most Americans never heard of. They insist Roosevelt, Truman, and Churchill, all knew about it, as does the CIA.

They locate a “witness” named Grandpa, for the obvious reason he is ancient. He is the parallel to the late Dan Blankenship of Oak Island: Grandpa is a witness who saw the activity as a boy in the 1940s. He points to dangerous expanse that might take ten seasons to traverse, which is great if the series is a hit.

We are indeed in the territory of one proverbial needle in a haystack. The island has nearly 200 reported treasure sites.

Old film clips are nicely colorized, and there is much history here to learn, and that makes this program at least worth additional attention.

Action is fairly fast-paced initially, with modern equipment and technology enhancing the search: the cast also has a researcher at Stanford, finding old maps and matching to satellite views of the terrain.

This series looks like a goodie! We are hooked already.

 

 

 

Clinging to the Titanic!

 DATELINE: More Paranormal Events!

With the 107th anniversary of the horrid sinking of the great ship Titanic, we have found our house more active in terms of spirit noise and incidents.

For those who have followed these adventures in books like Tales of a Titanic Family and Chess-Mate from Titanic, as well as Ghosts of Mill Circle, you know that Winchendon Springs is an unusual hot spot when it comes to the famous luxury liner.

Two residents were born and lived here, owned the houses around the mineral spring that once flowed here. Percival and Richard White, father and son, were booked on the Titanic in first-class D deck. Both perished.

Only 21-year old son Richard’s body was found and his mother buried him nearby.

Without knowing at first Richard’s connection to this house, we bought it in 2013. And, immediately it became apparent we were not alone. Many psychics visited the house and reported that Richard had followed me here. He may have led me here and influenced my purchase.

He has told psychics he feels safe here in this house as my guest.

My own obsession with Titanic, inadvertent at first, has grown upon learning Richard White is here, as my guest.

The Silent Scream may be a vehicle for his expression to me. Every day the little deflated blow-up doll shrivels and re-inflates on its own. Placed next to a model of Titanic under Richard’s portrait, it falls to the floor every night.

This past weekend was different.

The video camera alarm sent me a signal that there was movement in the library where these artifacts are kept. Upon going in there in the morning, the little doll was not on the floor, as the photographs show.

He was dangling precariously from the bow of the Titanic. It was said by witnesses that Richard was among those who jumped off the ship.

This particular sign has never before occurred. It is startling to see.

When I taped the situation for showing others, I heard nothing. However, when I played it back, there was a remote sound like the ringing of a cell phone in the distance. It is inexplicable.

The Silent Scream by Edvard Munch was painted during Richard’s lifetime and somewhat famous as an expressionistic cry unheard. A neighbor took a photo of the main house in the 1940s and in the window was the odd shape of the silent Screamer.

The doll I bought in 1990 for a college writing class for inspiration has stayed in my office at the college for years, and lately in my home. Since moving here, it regularly deflates and blows up by itself.

Once, I picked the deflated item off the floor when it had fallen—and it began to inflate in my hands: one of the creepiest manifestations in a house full of them over the past five years.

That is: until this latest event.

History of Time Travel: More or Less

DATELINE: Time, Relatively Speaking!

time bottled   At least in theory!

We admit to having a soft-spot for those mockumentaries that can fool us with their close imitation of traditional documentary form.

When you enjoy a steady diet of history through re-enactors, you certainly can grow complacent.

We tip our cap to Ricky Kennedy, director and creative force behind History of Time Travel, an ingenious little film that manages to weave a connection between reality, history, and outright fiction. He does it seamlessly and with a flourish of subtlety.

The historical overview is utterly perfect, but the focus on one “scientist” and his sons with an obsession for tripping up with a time machine takes on a large focus. Yet, that too is a sharp decision for pop appeal.

Not only are the conventions of movie-making and re-enacting spoofed, so are the so-called experts who seem both vapid and convincing: he cites professors from Harvard, Yale, and MIT, and throws in a couple of fake best-selling authors to spout their insider knowledge.

Interviews are interspersed with “home movies” from the 1940s. Oh, the technology existed, and that does ring truthful, but a few glitches in costumes and set will tip off the anachronistic lark to careful viewers.

We half-expected Dr. Strangelove to show up on the MIT faculty, and we are always receptive to a setting of Cambridge, Mass., our ancestral home.

People who like to find continuity goofs receive their come-uppance at the hands of this director. Without selling the store, we would advise any time travel theorist to pay attention to moveable props. We enjoyed the coffee mugs and backdrops: the doctor’s coffee pot is an amusing target.

Short and pithy, this 2014 film would be on the highlight reel of any proud film writer and director.

Trump’s Army of Murderers

 DATELINE: Tin Soldiers in Trump’s Hit Squad

another trump supporterAnthony Comello, Trump Voter

How many hate-filled killers support Trump?

When the latest cold-blooded alleged murderer, Anthony Comello, showed up in court, he had written Trump slogans on his hand to wave at the media.

Yes, another gun-toting killer supports Trump. Fans of the President will say he only killed a mobster. Some of Trump’s friends are serial killers, and others are mass murderers. Nice company.

He was fond of wearing MAGA hats, said one police source. Sen. Lindsay Graham will likely say he agrees with the killer.

Like his counterpart in New Zealand this week, the killer of 50 Muslims supported Trump and used the same language as Trump to justify his dastardly deed: he was rebuffing “invaders.”

How many killers have worn Trump hats? Nearly every one of these lowlifes in the past two years. They find comfort and solace in the heart and mind of Donald Trump.

We think of that Florida school shooter, Nicholas Cruz, who put a MAGA hat on the urn of his dead mother as she was sent to her crypt; she was one who hated Trump. Her murderer son had the last word to belittle and defame his own mother. Now, there’s a real Trump lover.

There was recently admitted bomber Cesar Sayoc crying out his eyes that he wanted to blow up people for Trump (not).

Whether they are shooting at you from a high rise in Las Vegas, or in a nightclub in Florida, or a mosque in Christchurch, you can count on the fact that your killer and murderer will likely count himself among those who find Donald Trump the man of the hour.

Trump supporters are urging people to buy more AR 15s in case they are banned. They are preparing to go to the White House for a shootout if impeachment dares to rear its head.

They will start shooting media stars. How many lists of famed CNN TV personalities have found their names scrawled in the demented scribbles of killers and potential mass murderers? We are now at the point of having lost count.

You can count on the fact that Trump will tweet his pathetic and uncomfortable “prayers” to your survivors. It’s like the guy who lit the twigs to burn Joan of Arc making the sign of the cross as he sent her to flames and death.

 

In the meantime, Trump continues to character assassinate the late John McCain, literally and figuratively.

Next time a MAGA hat crosses your path on the street, you better duck and seek cover. Your name is on the bullet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fire in the Sky, Pants on Fire

 DATELINE:  Liar, Liar?

Sweeney in Slime  Sweeney in the Slime!

The 1993 movie version of the second-most famous alien abduction story (after Betty and Barney Hill) is certainly intriguing, whether it’s true or not. Fire in the Sky is no wet blanket sending up smoke signals in the UFO sweepstakes.

A group of young men, redneck loggers out in the woods of Arizona in 1975, encounter something mysterious and glowing. One of them seems to be “killed” by a ray—and the others flee. Later, the town suspects they have murdered their friend Travis Walton.

If the UFO segment were not played out in the final minutes of the film as flashback and Post-Trauma Syndrome, you would have a compelling tale of “witch hunt,” as the young men are hounded by media, tormented by police, and maligned as murderers by the community.

Robert Patrick, as the leader of the young loggers, gives a remarkable and nuanced performance as a befuddled man proclaiming his innocence.

On the other side of the equation is James Garner!

Yes, that big star is Detective Watters! He plays again a wry, cynical police detective. If you wanted a tale to have a certain gravitas, Garner’s appearance is perfect. He is the ultimate skeptic about UFO abduction and is the voice that the entire episode is a fraud.

The film has it both ways.

D.B. Sweeney, a boyish leading man of the ‘80s and ‘90s, nowadays mostly a voice-over man, was a handsome and sympathetic victim. His traumatic flashbacks are fairly disgusting and frightful.

Rednecks around him are all rather insensitive to his immediate troubles, calling on UFO experts before an ambulance when Travis returns after five days missing.

The real Travis Walton has since disparaged the movie’s sensational UFO sequence: yet, that is just a small element of a fascinating character study.

The kidnapping sequence resembles being taken by large insects and put into slimy cells for later digestion. And, the tests done to Travis are fairly horrific.

As Garner’s detective points out, he finds a National Enquirer magazine in the truck after the disappearance, with a headline about alien kidnapping.  Yet, he never truly debunks the story told by the young men, including Craig Sheffer as the problematic Dallis.

This film may surprise you by being at odds with the usual sci-fi films of this ilk; this is extremely well-done, whether you buy into the premise or not.

Edith Wharton: Harmonic Pretense

DATELINE: America’s Great Woman Writer

edith & dogs

Wharton also Wrote about Ghostly Dogs!

Like Henry James, one of the great American writers is a person who lived too long in foreign places.

Edith Wharton is presented in a documentary called The Sense of Harmony, which presents in somewhat disjointed form, her odd life. She was from the New York self-ordained aristocracy, socializing with a world alien from the real America of the 19th century. She is certainly at the polar opposite of Calamity Jane.

Wharton crossed the Atlantic on steamship 66 times in her life. Though she never gave up her American citizenship, and her greatest fictions were set in the United States, she lived mostly abroad in France.

You likely know her from the stories made into movies over decades:  Ethan Frome, Age of Innocence, The Old Maid, House of Mirth, all presenting scandal under the veneer of well-appointed homes.

Indeed, she began writing with an architect about interior design of houses. Though her novels sold and made money, she really had no need of it—except to live the way she wanted.

There was only a hint of scandal in her own life, though she often wrote about its corrosive secrets. She divorced and had one affair with a protégé of Henry James.

She also was the first woman to go to the front at Verdun in World War I and write about it. France considered her a war hero for tireless volunteering to help refugees and children.

Wharton famously has a haunted mansion in Lenox, Massachusetts, where she spent surprisingly little time. Perhaps ghosts frightened her, though she wrote many short stories about the paranormal. Her most famous tale, “Roman Fever,” again focused on upper-crust society.

She loved a good tale, well-told, and was planning a short story on a horror anecdote about the Titanic she had learned, but never actually finished. You might be driven to check out her less well-known tales from watching this documentary.

 

 

 

 

Bright Star, Muse to Amuse Keats

DATELINE: Campion as Keats Champion

Whishaw as Keats Ill-tailored poet.

Ben Whishaw is John Keats in this sumptuous movie by Jane Campion. If you want a sense of what living in 1818 was like, this film will provide it—from drafty houses to ill-fitting clothes.

Director Jane Campion ended her feature-length movie association with this effort called Bright Star. She felt there was no room in movie universe nowadays for real literary films with the domination of cartoon heroes stealing all box-office receipts.

Keats is a Romantic poet, but that does not mean he should be presented as a Hallmark cable channel character. Romance is a 19th century philosophy, not a sentimental love story.

Campion illustrates the quaint conceits of another era when bohemian poets hit the wall of standard social norms.

This is a costume drama where the costumes are shabby because there really was no haute fashion when poet John Keats was putting ink to paper—with grubby ink-stained fingers.

Though Abbie Cornish is delightful as the “bright star,” in Keats’ life, she is maddeningly and alternately feminist and fading flower. It makes the movie almost guaranteed to please nobody. This film likely impressed Madonna enough to give Cornish the lead in her film of the romance of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor in W./E. the following year.

Campion, as director, is an artist true to herself, like Keats, and she walks a fine line with her saucy seamstress as muse.

After playing Sebastian in Brideshead, Ben Whishaw had cornered the market on sensitive/effete men for a few years, and his Keats may be poetic, but we don’t have a sense of his “consumptive” doom within a few years. It may be a shock to those who don’t know the biographic facts. Marriage is not within his power because of debt, not illness.

This may seem a frivolous love story on some levels, but director Campion has eschewed directing films ever since—to our great detriment as followers of intelligent character study.

 

 

 

 

False Clues and False Positives on Oak Island

DATELINE: Post-Dan Blankenship

muddy mass of leather

Muddy Mass of Leather Deep Underground!

For three seconds before this episode began, you had a quick notation:  “In Memory of Daniel Blankenship, 1923-2019.”

There was hardly time to do much more at this point, with Dan having passed on two days earlier. We presume that in a few weeks there shall be a full-blown biography of his extraordinary efforts for half a century to find the treasure on Oak Island.

We know that old film clips and photos document much of his work from the 1970s, and much more is likely available to illustrate his intriguing life.

This too is the longest season of episodes on record: and they are digging well past summer—and the nasty, rainy, windy weather shows up in the hunter wardrobes. It is cold off the North Atlantic.

Perhaps the biggest revelation is to see how Smith’s Cove is flat and clear of all items as they bring in lidar to find anything underneath. The coffer dam is on borrowed time, and they must excavate soon.

The scientist did note an extremely large object was buried there, under what would be the sea and possible man-made drainage systems to flood the caves of the island.

Gary Drayton again showed his insights and acumen by locating a Spanish silver coin, likely minted in the 1700s.

The dredging also showed frightening promise: another bone fragment, perhaps human, chains, and large chunks of leather. It leads some to speculate that the slaves who worked the site were chained and left to die there.

Also coming up were enormous flat, human-hewn oak timbers that Drayton noted he had seen from old galleons of yore. Dismantled wood used to make a floor or roof to a chamber?

All in all, with a few weeks left in the season, we suspect that answers again will be withheld until next season.

Can it be on the 17th episode of the sixth season, we have Revelations 17:6? “The woman was drunk with the blood of saints when John saw her.”

Pour a tall one before Rick Lagina sees you.

Eulogy for Dan Blankenship

DATELINE: An Era of Treasure Hunting Passes Away!

95-years Dan.

Can the center hold?  For Oak Island enthusiasts, the answer has shaken the earth of the small Nova Scotian island. The heart and soul of the Curse of Oak Island has gone. He was 95 and lived a life of a treasure hunting adventurer.

As Emily Dickinson once said, “Because I would not stop for death, he kindly stopped for me.”

Dan Blankenship showed up now and then at age 95 on the sixth season of the hit series, still unwrapping up this season, and he was always the delight to behold. He was sharp, in seemingly amazing shape for his age, and offered perspective with gentle insights.

Yet, that was merely one surprising element of a man who was physically powerful, as old film clips show. He dug bore holes the old-fashioned way. He chased the demons of Oak Island for the glorious discovery of romantic lost treasure.

Now and then the Lagina Brothers consulted him, trotted over to show him some progress on the hunt for gold on the island where he called home. He would even drive up in a golf cart to observe the progress fifty years after he worked the area.

The season now airing on History was filmed this past summer, and Dan survived another harsh Nova Scotia winter, but he will not be present to see another spring and a seventh season.

He died on a day when Jack the Ripper’s DNA seemed to indicate the solution to that long -standing century-long mystery. He died on a day when NASA released photos of an asteroid that might hit Earth in fifty years when none of us oldsters will see the event.

Dan Blankenship did not miss finding the treasure. His spirit was the treasure, the optimistic and grand character of the human heart. Fans of the show shall miss him but he was a century of the best of mankind to grace the series, the hopes of finding a pot of gold, and enjoying life.

How the series will honor him is not yet clear, but already he gave the series and history its integrity.

Unforgettable Vikings

DATELINE: Frolic in the Fjord

Viking Liking Sons of a Black Ram!

What a cast! Liking a Viking!

Forget the new-fangled cable TV series. Go back to the 1958 movie with Kirk Douglas as the Viking raider. If you have never heard the Mario Nascimbene theme, you are in for a treat—as it will stay in your head forever as the theme of Viking warriors.

If you have never seen The Vikings, prepare yourself.

This movie featured an all-star cast in bravura, over-the-top performances. Kirk Douglas and his costar Tony Curtis would return in Spartacus two years later and essentially play the same roles: Brothers under the tunic.

Here, Ernest Borgnine is the rapacious and fierce Viking king and father to Kirk (and to Tony, though no one in the movie ever learns this bit of dizzying plot complication). We are even more amused to learn that Borgnine was actually younger than the man who played his son!

Fresh off his Oscar for Marty, Ernie Borgnine is preparing to play McHale for his TV series by jumping off longboats. He calls Tony Curtis the son of a black ram, without realizing he was self-incriminating.

Throw in juicy actors like Frank Thring as an evil English king usurper (one in a line of magnificent villains—from Pontius Pilate in Ben Hur and King Herod in King of Kings). There is stalwart James Donald as the traitor to England and friend to the Vikings, and Alexander Knox as the suffering priest, with Edric Connor as Tony Curtis’s best friend.

Everyone shines. Director Richard Fleisher manages Viking chaos deftly.

Kirk Douglas plays nearly the entire film with one eye yanked out by a falcon (he wears a white contact lens).  It makes him even more frightful and plays the contrast to good Tony Curtis (whose wife Janet Leigh is the young woman every Viking wants.

This is one of those delicious fun movies you cannot believe they cannot make anymore. When the principals tried to do Spartacus, it became more message and less fun.

Every scene is exquisite in its outrageous melodrama, including amputations, eye-gouges, and a jump into a wolf pack to be chewed up. You can’t beat this stuff with special effects or computer-generated fakery.

With pure Hollywood magic, you have a truly atmospheric tale of 1000 years ago—filmed in magnificent fjords and drafty castles. The dangerous sword-fight atop the castle ramparts at the end will give you vertigo.

We lost track of how many times we heard that Nascimbene tune in various motifs. You will never forget it.