Arthur & George, Another Sherlock Team

DATELINE:  Redoubtable Arthur!

Arthur Clunes as Doyle.

Julian Barnes, the noteworthy novelist, wrote his story about Arthur Conan Doyle and his real-life attempt to solve a crime about an Indian solicitor in England who was falsely convicted of animal mutilation, mainly because of racial hatred and class prejudice.

Arthur & George is a strange misleading title for a story in which Dr. Doyle showed his deductive reasoning to illustrate who really were the brains behind Sherlock. If you don’t know ahead of time, the title might lead to some bad book judging from the cover alone. Of course, that was Julian Barnes’ motive.

Julian Barnes in his original novel did not let on who the two men were until the story was well underway. That is completely lost in the movie version, which plays on the connection between Doyle and Holmes.

There has been in recent years a spate of this biographical tales dramatized about the author/spiritualist/doctor.

The BBC drama has all the top-notch production values and impressive acting you might expect of Masterpiece Theatre. The film is three parts of 45 minutes, probably could have been a one-shot film.

Martin Clunes is all you would ask for in a Conan Doyle figure, which contrasts greatly with the Watson figure of Charles Edwards—as Woody, Doyle’s servant.

Indeed, Edwards played Doyle a decade earlier and was miscast, especially against the grand Ian Richardson as Dr. Joseph Bell, his mentor and medical professor in the series Murder Rooms.

Also in this miniseries is Art Malik, the last of the stars of the granddaddy of epic series, the Jewel in the Crown. He plays a minister from India who is the object of prejudice and small-minded hate in a rural English shire. His victim son is George (Arsher Ali), a myopic limping solicitor.

These semi-true stories fit perfectly into the Holmes canon. And, Clunes as Doyle/Holmes features all the brilliant logic and bombast of his literary figure. This Doyle is more active and physical than Holmes, but he fits the tale perfectly.

 

 

 

 

 

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From Blue Book to Green Balls of Fire

DATELINE:  Episode 6 of 10

sexy MalarkeySexy Malarkey.

Well, we’re back for nuclear tic-tac-toe with aliens and UFOs. This incident is based on truth that is out there, all you X-file fans. Is it our imagination, or is actor Mike Malarkey growing more attractive with each show? He is compelling as a foil to Aiden Gillen’s professor.

Indeed, in one scene, Hynek seems to break into some Hangar 18 where he has been given keys by Men in Black.  There you will find all kinds of vaults, files, and deposit boxes filled with UFO goodies. Is this based on truth, or other space shot documentaries?

In the meantime, in a subplot in a small corner of the universe, a beautiful Russian agent is trying to build a lesbian tie-in with Hynek’s wife. Is this based on truth too?

Green balls of light, purported meteors from a 1948 incident, were considered Soviet technology by some, and the government used a cover story of meteors to fool the public, yet again. The less fictionalized truth is delivered to us at the show’s coda showing that the real participants were not Hynek and Quinn, but two other, earlier researchers.

There is some fake Secretary of Something again in this episode, at loggerheads with the military, perhaps meant to be a version of Truman’s Secretary of Defense who leaped or was thrown from a secure hospital to his death (that may be a future episode).

He is co-opting Hynek (Aiden Gillen) from the generals and his partner, the ever-arrogant Captain Quinn (Michael Malarkey, too tough, chewing broken glass in most scenes).

If anything, the puzzling relationship of Hynek and Quinn continues to be at the heart of series: their hostility and mistrust of each other seems to be leading somewhere. Or, it could be just hanging there forever.

This episode’s Twilight Zone parallel featured a town of mannequins, weirdly using real people in pose and true mannequins in other scenes. Why?  Just to give us a chill, probably. It was not germane to the plot.

 

 

 

 

Oak Island: Paper Chase #13

DATELINE: Parchment & Pigment

Dem bones Human Bonehead?

No, Professor Kingsfield is not lecturing this week, but the “Paper Chase” is definitely on as the 13th episode of season six.

Instead of Kingsfield, here is another dry academic, Randall Sullivan who has written a tie-in book about Oak Island the highly rated, History channel, cable series. He is allowed to shill his research on the show and is praised to high heaven for the Laginas.

No one claims the Laginas are silent partners, but pushing the book is lucrative (out of stock on Amazon), and published by Atlantic Press, no slouches.

Cheapskate Sullivan brings two copies of the book to the crew at Oak Island, letting partner Craig Tester sit there with egg on his face.

As for the findings of the week, big news includes a cement wall in Smith’s Cove, another piece of a dead man’s bone (likely one of Captain Kidd’s dead men not telling tales) from the bore hole, and parchment with red pigment on it. If Shakespeare’s original manuscripts are down there, they are soggy remnants of treasure.

On the positive side, 95-year old Dan Blankenship makes an appearance—and Alex Lagina has been reduced to chauffeuring author Sullivan around.

When Dan Henskee finds the bone fragment, credit is given to Jack Begley instead. Oh, well, being old is not always a good thing for original searchers like Henskee.

We still await carbon dating (suggested by Dan Blankenship) on parchment, wood from Smith’s Cove and other expert analysis of tokens and iron arrow shafts. Francis Bacon seems to be emerging as the culprit, over Templars. With a record number of episodes ordered for the season, we probably can wait a few more weeks for results.

 

 

 

 

Old Dark House Mates & Inmates

DATELINE: Over-rated Classic

empty house Ate for Dinner .

Your first reaction to this chestnut of horror comedy is shock at the jaw-dropping cast.

Boris Karloff, Charles Laughton, Melvyn Douglas, Raymond Massey, Gloria Stuart, and Ernest Thesiger!  You have a round-robin of possible villains and victims. The problem is that they are given nothing significant to perform. Even Karloff uses makeup to look menacing, but his dumb waiter is left hanging.

Yeah, it was a dark and stormy night, but that ain’t enough.

James Whale gathered quite a retinue of talent and gave them an empty script in a drafty house.

Billed as an atmospheric thriller comedy, that’s about all this J.B. Priestly story is. With a marvelous cast, and Whale’s shadows and tricks, like a fun house mirror, the plot is ridiculous, throwing a bunch of ingrates caught in a bad torrential rain into a private household as if it’s a flea-bag hotel. T’aint funny.

Here they find their hosts eccentric (well, Horace Femm is Ernest Thesiger, which says it all) and his odd-ball bully sister.

Charles Laughter as Sir William shows up too with a show biz girlfriend, and he is given little to do. Melvyn Douglas is his trademark self, complete with pipe, and Boris Karloff still is given no dialogue yet again in one of his movies. He just looks menacing as Morgan, the scar-faced butler.

We wanted so much for this film to give us a thrill and become a marvel, but we found it disappointing to the ultimate degree—and in no way does it hold up to the other horror tales of the Universal series. This alleged classic is a let-down from the get-go.

 

Gay Men in the Promised Land of Israel

DATELINE: Zoolander Lives!

lucasMichael Lucas!

This strange documentary might as well have been produced by the Chamber of Commerce of Tel Aviv. It is a love letter to the glittery gay nightlife for Jewish men.

Undressing Israel: Gay Men in the Promised Land features notable director Eytan Fox among a litany of handsome young men, no one even remotely gray-haired. There are no old gay guys.

However, there is a big problem with this film—and that’s your host and director, Michael Lucas. If you wanted a duplicate of Zoolander, he’s your man. He defies being taken seriously when he puts on his pout and interviews young gay men with flirtatious zeal.

We know that objective journalism is as dead as a cold fish, but this narrator seems to revel in being part of the gay pride of Jewish men.

If you were to go by this documentary, there are no alcohol problems, no drug problems, no elderly gays, no promiscuity and no such thing as HIV. It is a fantasy documentary—which undercuts nearly all of its buoyant optimism.

Michael Lucas in his publicity photos wears a skull on a necklace, but in this film, he wears the Star of David. He is a Russian-born American, who uses every opportunity to find the United States is second-rate compared to Israel. He never mentions the appalling gay repression of his birth country, Russia.

If this film has some intriguing elements, foremost is how well all the Israeli men speak English and their precise vocabularies, in what is clearly a second language for them. It goes without saying they are all beautiful men.

 

 

 

 

 

ABC Murders Agatha Christie

 DATELINE:  New Version of Classic Tale

old Poirot

Amazon Studio has produced a 2019 remake of the ABC Murders by the foremost crime novelist. Alas, this version of the classic story is libel against the author and defamation against Hercule Poirot.

Go back to watch last century’s episode with David Suchet.

This time we have John Malkovich with shaved head and imperial beard. This is not as offensive as the handlebar mustache of Kenneth Branagh recently in Murder on the Orient Express. It is, however, the victim of Just for Men:  yeah, Hercule colors it, sometimes.

This mystery is in three parts that grow increasingly distant from the Christie canon. You may well ask who is meant to be audience for such a tale:  it offends the millions of diehard fans who know what to expect, and it misleads new younger fans from what Christie is all about.

There is no humor, no clever twists, no plot maneuvers. here. By the third episode, you may well drift away. Worse yet, this is an aging Poirot in 1933 who has no Inspector Japp, no Miss Lemon, and no Captain Hastings, to help him.

Indeed, he must deal with a new Scotland Yard detective who is unsympathetic and hostile. Disrespect of a senior who was once glorified for his achievements may be an interesting idea, but not here.

The cast features Eamon Farren who has impressed us in previous roles as a most peculiar bad guy. Here, he is either suffering a brain tumor, or has played NFL football. It’s the 21st century—and you know what excuses murder nowadays.

We had no idea that there was so much kinky-dinky stuff in Agatha Christie, and neither did she.

Also aboard is Rupert Grint, though he has aged worse than Malkovich’s Poirot.

This Poirot is not fastidious, prissy, or clever. One character notes that he walks like he has sore feet, though we never see that foible.

What a disappointment, or do we mean travesty of the original story?

Invisible Wells Classic

DATELINE: Whale of a Film

Rains

When James Whale chose to do his next amusing gothic horror, it turned out to be H.G. Wells’ story about a mad scientist who becomes invisible. It has now become a trite metaphor, but this is the original—and therein hangs some fascination. The Invisible Man came out in 1933.

To play a man who won’t be seen for most of the film, Whale chose Claude Rains whose voice manages to carry his performance. And Jack Pierce’s makeup is the notion of a wig, fake nose, dark glasses, and a bandaged mummy wrap to hide the lack of face.

Rains would go on to become one of the most familiar of second-banana stars—stealing movies like Casablanca in every scene they gave him.

For a film made in the early 1930s, the delightful special effects of invisibility set a standard that today still cannot be achieved. There is something in the primitive, expressionistic style that gives the unwrapping of Rains to scare the locals with such hilarious and horrific power.

As Dr. Jack Griffin, Rains gives a couple of classic homicidal maniac speeches about murdering people for the good of science, while his lovely girlfriend Gloria Stuart (of Titanic fame about 60 years later) frets about. Whale nixed Rains as Dr. Praetorius in the Bride of Frankenstein because of on-set difficulties between them.

Henry Travers is the dutiful sober-sided scientist. Best known as Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, he is less befuddled here. As the loud, half-crazed tavern owner, there is Una O’Connor, shrieking whenever there is a chance.

We also saw Oscar-winner Walter Brennan in one of his earliest roles as the man with the bicycle. He does a wonderful low-brow Brit accent. Also there is John Carradine, father of Keith and David, as a minor character on the telephone.

Alas, Whale was saddled with many American actors whose regionalisms are completely out of place in a small English town. The village boys are decidedly American in tone.

Whales frequently films shorty Rains from the knees looking upward, giving him a frightful height, and the sets are spectacular and sumptuous, a sign that the budgets had improved for the director of Frankenstein.

 

Whatever its shortcomings, this remains an impressive achievement in cinema history.

 

 

Swan Dive on Trump

DATELINE: Wile E. Coyote with Orange Hair?

Pelosi Bronx cheer.jpeg Pelosi’s Bronx Cheer?

When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi applauded President Trump on finishing his epic State of the Union with 82 minutes of cram-packed disinformation, she added something to the lexicon of American culture.

We used to have the Bronx Cheer, a rather crude and effective means of making its recipient know how low he has fallen.

You cannot smell a Bronx Cheer, only hear it. You cannot smell a Pelosi clapback, but its visual image will resonate on Twitter and social media forever.

Now, when you want to skewer a blowhard, you point the middle fingers in your pointed hands and make little slaps like a jaw opening and closing on a fool on the hill’s neck.

Among hundreds of political observers—and Trump himself—and countless viewers and re-watching viewers, Mrs. Pelosi stuck it to Trump who had to stand there and take it. His mendacious speechifying was over. Now he had to look like the man with egg on his face or yellow feathers in his mouth. However, the canary just ate him.

Speaker Pelosi looked like Tweety Pie, sitting in the gilded cage, and about to tell us that, indeed, she saw “a Putty Tat.” Yes, indeed, like Sylvester, Mr. Trump just was given his quota of suffering succotash.

If she had been the Road Runner, she would have stuck out her tongue and beeped at him before dashing off and leaving the man and his moment conjoined forever as the biggest damned fool in history.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and the priceless expression of the Speaker is visible, and only the back of a head of fake hair comes from the Trump vantage.

If you believe in emblematic moments, you know that Marshall McLuhan is laughing somewhere in the universe.

The Captains of Star Trek

DATELINE: No Vanity from Shatner!

man in box

When first we saw that William Shatner had produced, written, and directed a movie documentary about the five captains of the Star Trek franchise, we suspected vanity. He calls it The Captains, putting himself into a stew with the others.

How wrong we were about the ego of Captain Kirk’s acting creator. Shatner’s touching and delightful film shows what an erudite, generous, kind man he is. Each conversation with one of his successors in the Star Trek world is careful and insightful.

He talks to Scott Bakula, Sir Patrick Stewart, Kate Mulgrew, Avery Brooks, and Chris Pine.  He genuinely likes these actors and respects their opinions.

Also around are those who were part of the franchise like Jonathan Frakes (The Next Generation) and even his old friend Christopher Plummer (from The Undiscovered Country, Star Trek VI). Shatner understudied Plummer in Henry V on stage at the beginning of their careers! 

Obvious questions were on Shatner’s mind in a personal way, and he turned it around to find out if playing a Star Fleet captain had an impact on the personal life of the actors. It deals with divorce to mortality. Of course, it is big.

Shatner notes how he might have been embarrassed to leave serious classic acting to do Star Trek, and how often he was denigrated for his work. Yet, talking to the other stars, he becomes more aware of why playing a leader required an attitude.

In the meantime, he shows humor and expresses insight into his own career. There are even clips of him, as a blond in the mid-1950s playing Billy Budd on Canadian TV.

He learns that every star suffered 16-hour work days on the series and movies, and that it had a devastating toll on their personal lives and children.

Yet, this is not a downbeat story: Shatner has come to revel in his role as Captain Kirk, not always something he could claim. Each actor he speaks with shares personal feelings that elicit a growth in Shatner on the screen.

What a marvelous little film, even if you may not have seen some of the Star Trek oeuvre, there is much to savor here.

 

 

Andy Warhol at the Super Bowl, 2019

 DATELINE: Great Art Restoration!

Warhol & Whopper

Warhol Takes on Whopper.

We know that iconic artist Andy Warhol enjoyed pop culture, and perhaps he’d be intrigued with the Super Bowl antics every year.

He might be as surprised as we were to find him in a commercial, a highly expensive proposition, endorsing Burger King.

You might think the little scene was filmed by Andy himself at his Factory, but it was merely an appearance he made in 1984 for another director. Here is Andy in 2019, thirty years after he died, now on the big stage of Super Bowl party night.

At first we thought it was a body double—something Warhol was fond of using. He looked thin, but in good shape, making it a little difficult to discern when this was made. He had done all kinds of things—like a Love Boat episode and a cameo in an Elizabeth Taylor movie back in the 1970s.

This filmed scene was after the Studio 54 craze, and he sits quietly, well-dressed as always, his messy wig appropriately placed, and crinkling, opens a bag for Burger King.

We heard he was disappointed to find it was not going to be a Big Mac, but he was always game for product accessibility.

Perhaps the most curious part of his eating the burger, as that is the total action, is that he lifts the top of the bun off the sandwich as if he will pour some of the Heinz ketchup on it. Instead, he has difficulty pouring it onto the wrapper.

Like a cookie in coffee, he dunks the burger in the tomato paste which he even painted in one of his inspired moments.

Though the commercial was only a few seconds, the actual film was a tad longer. It showed him discarding the top of the burger and folding it over for another swipe at the Heinz. All his actions are fastidious. It’s on Youtube for those interested.

We hope his estate and museum was well-paid for this appearance. We doubt he would have been a Patriot fan. In all likelihood, only a fraction of viewers even understood the identity of the slight man in the burger commercial.

Danny Amendola on MVP Julian Edelman

 DATELINE: Demon & Pythiass

Danny & Julie Danny with Jules.

One of the guests to watch the Patriots win yet again another Super Bowl, number VI out of LIII, was a man who chose to leave the team to sign a contract with rival Miami before this season.

Aspiring model and wide receiver for the Dolphins, Danny Amendola, was there as a close friend to videographer and now Super MVP Julian Edelman and supporter of his former teammate.When asked one of the more personally interesting questions as he arrived in Atlanta, he said he did not like Edelman’s beard. “It’s smelly,” he told reporters on the fly.

If any man has been up close to the challenge of finding food particles in Julian’s fur-based face, it is the always adorable Danny.

No man is closer to Edelman and as familiar with his workout partner’s habits, Amendola starred in many of Edelman’s videos and antics. Amendola surely knows the intricacies of Julie’s bushy follicles.

He, like the rest of us, may be perplexed at the ugliness of his facial hair—and how he now waxes and wanes his entire body below the neck.

If Edleman likes to take fur off his buff bod, you may wonder why he leaves the au naturel look on his chinny-chin-chin. He surely has bone structure as sharp as Tom Brady, even without Botox, which leads us to note that our most blockbuster blog is the one in which we discussed the “work” Brady has done to maintain his youthful looks.

It’s important when you plan to play a game in the public eye until decrepitude and the Grim Reaper darken your door to stay youthful.

As for Danny, who had his own oddball hopes of becoming a supermodel, he can only second-guess whether he regrets his decision to leave the big stage of the Julie and Tom show, Super Bowl perennials, to play with the fishes in Miami.

 

Hello, Carol Channing! Goodbye, Dolly!

DATELINE: Showy Biz

Cleopatra, Dolly, Becket  Cleopatra, Dolly, Becket.

Larger than Life is the subtitle of a look at the life of the grand star, Carol Channing.  Having recently died, we were drawn to this streaming video of her life; she was active at 90 and participated in sharing memories and activities when this documentary was made.

Channing seems to have been born big. Like a generation of vaudeville to TV stars, she had a personality that overwhelmed everything—and she was so kind and generous that she became a titan of beloved show biz.

From her days at Bennington College in the 1930s, she was no dumb blonde, but played one on stage constantly. Judy Holliday owed her persona to Carol who was a hit on stage and TV, but never in movies.

It seems the big screen could not contain her. It is reminiscent of Jimmy Durante, who also was too big for the film roles.

She knew everyone—and literally everyone who was someone came backstage to meet her in Hello Dolly—from Al Pacino to Elizabeth Taylor (pictured with Richard Burton).

She was a mimic, a raconteur, and comedian. She could sing “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” with originality because she made the song famous on stage in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes—but the movie was always with someone else (Streisand, Monroe, etc.).

As a walking hyperbole, she was subject to female impersonation by drag queens. Once, with Rich Little, she was approached by a man who marveled at the best impersonation of Channing he had ever seen. He asked what he did in real life: never one to miss a beat, Carol said: “I’m a truck driver from Toledo, Ohio.”

Her first movie costar was Clint Eastwood! It was his first movie too, and they had a love scene which they rehearsed endlessly but was so bad that it ended up on the editing room floor.

This amazing documentary is filled with show biz nuggets and stunning old TV and stage clips. She missed one half of one stage performance in her entire life. Astounding lady.

Project Blue Book Takes on Twilight Zone

DATELINE: Off We Go…

Gremlin on Wing

Dr. Hynek sees a Gremlin on the plane’s wing!

With the fourth episode, this series has gone into full paranoia mode. All stops are cleared—and even crop circles (not really well-known until a few decades ago) are part of the secret American space program under German operatives brought to the country from Nazi Germany.

It’s Project Blue Book quickly making a long drive off that short bridge.

“Operation Paperclip” is, accordingly, a disturbing neo-Nazi military space program led by the treacherous Werner Von Braun. This may be the most critical depiction ever given of the scientist who once worked for Hitler and then for NASA.

We begin to note some weird parallels to classic Twilight Zone episodes on Project Blue Book. This fits clearly into the metamorphosis from muted thriller to outright nut-cake presentation.

Yes, this series has been developing on several fronts, and it has hooked skeptics who thought Allen Hynek was a government hack, more of the problem than the solution, in history.

Hynek is receiving the hagiographic treatment: yes, in a few short weeks he has become the saint of UFOs and patron poster boy for those who have found the government a giant monolithic stone wall, long before Trump.

As for Mike Malarkey’s hostile Captain Quinn, he takes on Von Braun and the German transplants with a less than welcoming immigrant bouquet.

Government bribes, human experimentation, and massive black budget coverups with Russian spies everywhere, especially following Hynek’s wife (are they the men in black hats?) comes out in this latest episode.

The strain on credulity may not bend much more after this showing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whose Favorite Wife?

 DATELINE: Cary Grant & Reel History

twototango Cary & Randy.

Let’s dig into the vault of RKO movies from 1940 and pull out a plum. Yep, it’s Cary Grant and Irene Dunne in My Favorite Wife, directed by Garson Kanin.

We presume this was quite the sophisticated, if not racy, comedy of its era. And, it does have a few eyebrow lifting moments!

Grant is a Harvard lawyer whose wife was presumed drowned on a voyage to a South Sea island. He is about to remarry when she shows up with more wackiness than you’d usually find in an I Love Lucy episode.

It’s all rather slow for the first half of the movie. Actually it only comes to life when Grant discovers that his wife (known as Eve) spent seven years alone on an island with her Adam. It turns out that Adam is acrobatic hunk Randolph Scott.

Rumors about the two stars were in high fettle even back in those days—and the interplay between them is priceless. If you like in-jokes, this one lets everyone in on it. A passerby finds Grant ogling Randy and mopping his brow in distress when a middle-aged woman asks him if that is Johnny Tarzan Weissmuller.

Grant notes he wishes he were.

Once again Cary is caught modeling women’s clothing by a psychiatrist with a knowing smile. It’s all a great misunderstanding, of course. It’s Enoch Arden by ways of Shakespeare and writer Leo McCarey.

As sophisticated comedy, this has more subtext than anyone ever suspected. It may not be a great Grant film, but it belongs in the canon, but the powder puff is never quite dry as screwball comedy or comedy of manners.

Oak Island, 11th Episode & 11th Hour

DATELINE: Something’s Happening (we think).

alex front & center Alex, Poised for a Hostile Take Over!

Racing to the end of another and sixth season, The Curse of Oak Island takes time to call in a woman excavator who worked with the ROC equipment last year. Indeed, the Lagina brothers note that it has been a year since they actually dug in the shaft where the Money Pit is likely to be.

It’s a year since they found those two pieces of human bone! If that isn’t slow, we will put our money on the Hare racing against the Tortoise. They admit their hunt has been for “information” this season.

College professors may rejoice over this revelation. Others may not be so thrilled.

The show features Gary Drayton only for a few minutes this week, but he finds part of a lead bracelet that seems a companion piece to the lead Templar Cross he found last season.

Alex Lagina, looking more buff than usual, is once again driving miles to interview middle-aged women at museums in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. He does learn that the latest inscription may be a rune from the Vikings. However, even he as the brightest light in the Oak Island sky, throws cold water on the paralells. He is almost ready to steal the show from his father and uncle.

Still, he actually and half-heartedly digs in Smith’s Cove with Uncle Rick. More bizarre wood structures are under the mud: made for no discernible purpose, they are new discoveries and quite fascinating.

There are growing hints that this year’s big money throwaway will not show returns till next season. But, now we seem to have found evidence of Vikings and Ancient Romans on Oak Island, pre-dating the Knights Templar. It was apparently quite a tourist attraction in its ancient days.