Hostile Witness: Not Agatha Christie

DATELINE: Good Intentions Not Well Done

ray Milland, director and star.

Alas, Oscar winner Ray Milland loved movies and he directed several feature films and a dozen TV anthology episodes during the 1950s and 1960s. He was not box-office, except as a character actor—and movies had changed.

So, the Welsh actor returned to England to film his final director effort in 1968 in which he also starred as a barrister whose mental breakdown makes him a prime murder suspect.  It’s a second-rate court-room murder mystery on the lines of Agatha Christie, called Hostile Witness.

Milland is juicy with those eyes and old Hollywood’s courtly gestures. However, the material (a Broadway murder mystery, no less) lets him down. All the actors are superior Brits like Felix Aylmer as the court justice.  Sylvia Syms plays a surprisingly modern career woman working in Milland’s office, removed when Milland arrogantly decides to defend himself in court.

The barrister cracks when his daughter is killed by a hit-and-run driver. It elicits little sympathy from fellow lawyers whom he regularly embarrassed in his court-room victories. His professional colleagues let him stew in his own juices.

The film means to be another Witness for the Prosecution, but even with intelligent actors and directors, they cannot overcome a wild script that uses color-blindness as a red herring and a frame-up as the plot devices.

It just simply isn’t clever enough than to be an overblown film that would soon become a staple of TV made for movies in 1968. It might have made a passable anthology court drama. Within a few years, he gave up all pretense of being a leading man, removed his toupee, and played it as an old reprobate usually.

As it is, with nicely appointed sets, the main action is the second-half in the courtroom with testimony and outrageous and unlikely court etiquette.

We stuck with dapper and aging Ray Milland to see what he tried to do with no budget, no script, and relying on his talents. As he said in an interview, “The problem with being a director is that you also have to eat.” We admire his attempt to make movies no matter what.

Penultimate Gold from Civil War Curse

DATELINE: No Greed Too Low?

teenage captain Capt. Luke

Gold fever means unreasonable behavior. You can certainly see it in the more frantic activities as Curse of Civil War Gold comes roaring into the close of the second season.

Kevin Dykstra has never been one to respect weather, however bad Lake Michigan can get. They reluctantly find Mike Nelson, a young hotshot who is not bothered by freezing water or crashing waves.

We were more amazed that he went down 40 feet in 35-degree water without any gloves in his dry suit. He found it nippy. With the crew out in a small boat being assaulted by waves, Dykstra tells their teenage captain Luke Springstead to hold the boat steady. Easy for him to say. When Dykstra calls him “Captain Luke,” it almost sounds like an insult.

A second lonely dive for Nelson brings them the news that two seasons of shows has insisted will pay off. He has video of gold bars—which is sent to Alex and Marty Lagina, warm and comfortable back at their estate and too smart to go out diving.

Lagina has never been shy about his greed, and he mirrors Dykstra’s attitude that safety and human concern be damned. What’s more they show an uncanny lack of loyalty. The first reaction is to bring in more professional divers—like the notorious point killer, John Chatterton.

On two separate occasions he nearly wiped out the Curse of Oak Island with his negativity. So, Marty Lagina orders them to bring him aboard. Nelson is sent packing out of the room to spare him the humiliation of being fired on camera.

We almost can hear him say in the finale: nope, nope, nope, you dope.

Tune in next time for the second season point killer.

 

X-Files History & Piltdown-Man Fraud

DATELINE:  German View of England’s Finest!

dupes & dopes

Dupes & Dopes with Piltdown Man

You know this miniseries will be confused with the old crypto-investigators series with David Duchovny, but this German import felt no compunction about using the title and adding the word “X-Files History”. This is a German documentary that has only four episodes, and the one we sampled was juicy enough to stand alone.

One of the longest frauds perpetrated was by a gang of British scientists from 1912. Back then, methods were loose and discipline was nearly negligible. You could salt a dig site and no one would be the wiser.

A decade before Howard Carter in Egypt, there was Charles Dawson in England. He was no academic, no researcher, not a scholar, and only made his money through dubious means. He was born middle-class in Hastings.

Like many Brits of the era, he was offended that everyone rival to England was finding archaeolological gold. The United Kingdom was offended by being left in the dust of antiquity.

A couple of patriotic Englishmen may have started a cottage industry to find relics of the past. They, in fact, faked them brilliantly. The most brilliant and dubious was the Missing Link, corroborating Darwin’s theory of Ape Man descendants.

Dawson was a reprobate who lived in a fake castle, artificially aged and with a fantasy dungeon. He climbed the social ladder and married well, but his real hobby was aging bones to look like they were thousands of years old.

His greatest hoax was the find the Missing Link in England, not Africa, or China. As improbable as it seems, he had allies like Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the Lost World the same year Dawson found the Missing Link.

The Dyle fans went bonkers when it was suggested that Sherlock’s creator might have a part in the fraud.

Even if he didn’t conspire with John Bull and the bull crap, Doyle was a prime dupe. He was into everything, including the paranormal. So, it was not a far jump for him to buy into the Piltdown Man and give him credibility.

The ultimate payment for the fraud (which took 40 years to expose) was the chemicals Dawson used to provide an old patina to the bones. The heavy metal fumes killed him and his wife in mid-experiment, like a grotesque Sherlock Holmes story.

Moon Landing for Endeavour

DATELINE: Aging Badly.

aging badly Allam & Evans.

Sixth season, episode 2, takes place at the time of the Apollo Moon landing. So, it is only natural that the murder victim at Oxford is an astrophysicist. Endeavour is more earthbound than the astronauts in July, 1969.

Morse is an exhibits officer who routinely oversteps his bounds. His new superior sees him as a condescending twit, and he may be right. Morse’s friend, Jim Strange, notes that the brilliant detective has not lost his heavy-handed social skills.

This episode is directed by star Shaun Evans.

Thursday (Allam) keeps reminding him that they are part of a bureaucratic system that follows chain-of-command, but Endeavour is the rebel within the system.

While astronauts make giant leaps for mankind on the Moon, back on Earth there are small steps toward crime solving by hard-working detectives.

Perhaps what’s most interesting about the historical inaccuracy of the series is that the days when cops were despised by youth movement types, you have them with more virtue and dedication than Joe Friday ever showed.

As a mystery show, Endeavour always puts together disparate elements into a stew that may be overly complicated. Punch and Judy has now reached marionette TV space shows of 1969, where jealousy and spousal swapping are the hot topics of the day—and motive for murders.

The regulars (Roger Allam, Anton Lesser) and others recognize now how good they had it in the previous five seasons. Now, they are reduced to working under lesser talents while bigger events overwhelm the world.

Though this series is not as elegant or finely tuned as an Agatha Christie story, you may find it convoluted on the side of intellectualism. That’s a rare problem in this age of unusual idiocy in TV shows, detective programs, and characters in general.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s B Sirius! Ancient Aliens Tries!

DATELINE: Another Gemstone from Outer Space

B serious Starry Starry Night!

Doggone it. You guessed it. Ancient Aliens gave us an etymology lesson in word derivation. They brought us through a half-dozen variations on the word “dragon” and then showed its connections to various African tribes that have artifacts that extend back 17,000 years.

Even Japanese royalty has a dragon connection.

The point is that some amphibious creature, half-human and half-aquatic was the traveler from another star system. Linda Moulton Howe throws out that these creatures were here farming for genetic materials:  good grief, does that mean what we think it means?

Sirius is the dog star, and dog is a word that has no historical precedent. The sound of dogon, or drogon, is present as the name of a race of supernatural beings in primitive tribes.

Though you may want to say they all used the word because some creature called himself something that sounded like it, that is not definitive and cannot be called absolute.

Going back 17,000 years ago, the number of voice-related sounds of a group of humans may have traveled to dozens of locations, a cultural memory that is only vaguely related to star systems. However, two African geographic areas seem to have started the trend that went right up to Gaelic or Irish cultural fairy-like creatures.

Ancient Aliens throws in the constant image of reptilians without going into the theory of an entire race of underground space creatures that have intrigued them in past seasons.

Nope, you didn’t hear that connection this go-round. Doggone it. See you later, Alligator People.

We must admit and give credit that there is something decidedly strange that a tribe knew about Sirius B, a small and undiscovered companion star to the larger and brighter Sirius A. The detail known thousands of years ago is stunning and a precursor to what modern science only recently learned.

We have to give Ancient Aliens credit again for raising some truly weird coincidences. They may have created big news that man bites dog, outer space style.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness is a Protective Cup

DATELINE: Chernobyl Goes to Dogs

up on the roof Suicide by Radiation?

Young conscripts sent to the Chernobyl disaster are given crude and useless cups for their scrota. It won’t help. They are not told the truth of the dangers of their mission, though it may not be hard to figure out.

The despondent faces of the young men ordered to commit suicide is quite evident.

Yet, critics of this series noted that the Russians in the series use the wrong type of drinking glass for vodka. Yikes! your world is ending! The type of glassware you select seems a minor consideration.

Episode 4 of Chernobyl reaches an apex of appalling. Cheap and homemade lead cups are tied loosely around the underside of young soldiers as they walk around camp.

Soviet bureaucrats begin to rebel against a mentality of their leaders to hide the notion that the Soviet empire can do anything wrong. It may be the last straw that will lead to the fall of the Communist rule.

One group’s job is to go into deserted and evacuated towns and shoot the stray dogs and cats that are dangerously radioactive. It is part of the mental strain that can break men.

In the meantime, Stellan Skarsgard and Jared Harris want to use lunar robots to push graphite off the roof of the power plant. However, the Soviet leadership will not accept American help (only West German)—and they provide false information to the Germans, who make a rover that cannot withstand radiation.

It leads to the most horrific of all concepts: bio-robots. Men will go into the roof area to sweep up the most radioactive debris. They will likely be dead in a short time, especially figuring on the thin lead aprons and headcovers.

If you fall during the job, you are likely to be dead before the sun sets.

A Russian general gives each man his pay at day’s end and wishes them “good health and long life,” knowing full well that neither will be available after their work.

 

 

Ratings Gold for Civil War Gold Show!

DATELINE: Moneybags Lagina Wins!

in Hackley library In Hackley Library Under His Images!

Somebody up there at History Channel knows how to salt a mine. Tenderfoot types are buying the bullion by the cartload.

The curse of Civil War Gold is the albatross of the Curse of Civil War Gold. It’s too late to change the show’s title, and they’re stuck with it. Kevin Dykstra, the originator, seems more and more bewildered that his pitch has been hijacked and evolves each week into something far afield from his notion of a gold hunt series.

Take the latest episode as the arc of the season nears its end. “Grave Expectations,” throws another ironic title at him. You know he’s out of his element.

Now he leads a team with co-leader Alex Lagina who joins him on the big moments, like meeting a great-grandson of a Michigan man who has gold purportedly from the Jeff Davis arrest. And when the team meets with Marty Moneybags Lagina, the old man had demanded to hold gold in his hand—it is Alex sitting next to him.

As if to add irony to the biting satire of meeting a man who confirms the Confederate Treasury was stolen by Union soldiers and hometown businessmen, the meeting takes place in the Hackley Public Library.

You guessed it: sitting under photos of Charles Hackley, the man Kevin Dykstra maligns at every stage of the series, they meet with a descendant of the conspiracy.

Well, at least, they confirmed this time that the mummy of John Wilkes Booth was a carnival attraction for years—hardly the proper fate of a man in on a plot to steal hundreds of millions of dollars in gold.

And, once again, an attempt to find the escape tunnel Booth used at Garrett’s Farm, is futile and pointless, as they have no permission to excavate to prove anything. An aside throws out the info that unspecified “authorities” have refused to allow Booth’s remains to be exhumed and tested with DNA.

The series has taken on a new life—and will likely be back on History next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Conspire to Kill Ortiz!

DATELINE: Bounty Hunters Come Cheap in DR

ortiz-unleashed Bargain Basement Killers!

The price on David Ortiz’s head was reportedly only $6000 to be divided up by a dozen conspirator killers. Then, the number went up: no, not the bounty, but the number of plotters splitting the ante. The latest count from the Dominican Republic is there are ten co-conspirators. It’s almost like a county fair of killers. A few are still at large.

We are on our way to a baker’s dozen.

Maybe your money goes a lot farther in the Dominican Republic economy. If that cheap lifestyle is driving Americans to move to that crime-ridden country, they are living a cheapskate rich lifestyle.

We thought that assassination of Julius Caesar was a shoddy affair, but 2000 years later the attack on Ortiz is even more carnival-like. Instead of a forum, or even Fenway Park, Ortiz was shot in the back, a la Jesse James, in an outdoor bistro atmosphere.

No motive has been given for the crime. We cringe at the speculation. And none of it enhances Ortiz’s reputation as a moral paragon.

Friends now say that Ortiz counted on the general public to protect him from dangerous gang members or gangsters.

The best laid plans belong to mice, not men. No one could stop the bullet with Big Papi’s name on it.

If you think witness identification is a deterrent to crime, you have only to see killers blithely walk up to the large Ortiz and put the gun at gall bladder height. They did not care who saw them, or if they would be known.

What we have here is the polar opposite of the Aaron Hernandez case.

The motorcycle get-away driver was inept too. He skidded into the crowd, giving a mob the courage to beat him up. He professes to be a Big Papi fan.

Heavens, imagine what might have happened if the motorcycle driver had been a Yankee fan.

We come back to the low-ball price on Ortiz’s head. This was not the work of a head-hunter, but of a world where life is not only cheap, but it is on sale to anyone with a credit card limit under $8000. The killers planned to share the amount at a payoff of $1000 each, but as the number goes up, the slice of the pie drops to crumbs for a murder.

 

 

 

 

Say Ahhh, Chernobyl

DATELINE:  HBO Series, Episode 3

stellan Stellan Skarsgard as Boris.

Episode 3 of the HBO series about the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl continues to depress and to create outrage. Though the Soviet regime handles it with usual ant colony efficiency, there is something horrifying about people being “asked” to commit suicide to save humanity.

One wonders how different it would have been if Three Mile Island were on a par with Chernobyl.

Perhaps there will always be those who will involuntarily volunteer, their bravery is inexplicable. The drab veneer of communist life hardly inspires sacrifice.

Smoking cigarettes for everyday Soviets appears nearly as deadly and commonplace as radiation poisoning.

Jared Harris, son of movie star Richard Harris as the nuclear physicist closest to the crisis, looks like he has already been exposed to some deadly radiation. His growing irritation with non-experts making decisions about life and death may be the biggest surprise in Soviet life.

Challenges openly to Gorbachev in front of the head of KGB is considered fair play as Stellan Skarsgad notes that the scientist is regarded as a harmless fool. Otherwise, he would be in big trouble.

The performers cannot be faulted for presenting dire nausea as the bottom line of their performances as they watch people rot away—and know their own deaths will be delayed, as they have kept a slight distance from the worst.

To say you need to evacuate millions of people from radiation poisoning makes Jared Harris ridiculous and dismissed. The fictional woman played by Emily Watson is arrested by KGB. Coverup is a hard game to play.

Ignorance is bliss, for many think they have superficial burns. Yet, others know there is some kind of death sentence coming instantly after exposure for a short time. One young woman won’t leave her fireman husband, touching and hugging him despite pregnancy and sure devastation to come.

The meltdown is coming—and conscripts of young men, dour and worried, are the front line of defense for the world.

The proximity to doomsday permeates this little miniseries. It is a cautionary tale that helps no one.

 

Endeavour Returns for a Sixth Season

DATELINE:  Wonderland of 60s Crime

'stache Shaun in Sixties Mode!

“Pylon” is the title for a dandy reboot of the great youngish detective Endeavour, transferred out of his element to the world of uniformed cop. PBS has conscripted to show a miniseries of murder again this summer. They are the best of British crime imported to give us a throwback to the Swinging Sixties.

With Morse demoted from Oxford to red brick schoolhouse, you know a mind is a terrible thing to waste. It’s a misuse of genius to have Shakespeare write advertising jingles, but that’s what has happened to the operatic fantatic played by Shaun Evans, now in mustache mode.

He’s not alone: all his kindred spirits are also out of sorts. Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) has been reduced to a secondary role under a twit. No one has been cast in a proper role in the new season, set in summer of 1969.

What have we as issues? Nothing short of a smorgasbord of current trendy crimes:  pornography, child abuse, murder (as always), genetic criminal traits, wrongful death penalty, falsified police evidence, heroin addiction, police brutality, and on and on.

Into this mix, Morse is overstepping his bounds as a cop on the beat in a small backwater, using his skills to uncover clues that range from Lewis Carroll to Black Beauty. Clever smarty-pants Morse does put lesser police detectives to shame—and they pull rank often.

A uniform isn’t paid to think, and the ones paid to think are thoughtless imbeciles.

Oh, the equestrian angle is a throwaway of red herrings. We are glad to find Endeavour back in force on the force.

 

 

 

Ancient Aliens: an Elemental Approach

DATELINE:  Return of Bob Lazar

out there

“Element 115” was once a fantasy of UFO metal worker Bob Lazar, but now it has come true like a Cinderella story.

Giorgio sort of falls by the wayside for this show, and more attention is given to Nick Pope and David Childress as commentators. However, the latest addition to the expert gang is some producer of a Bob Lazar documentary. They clean this guy up, but he is still creepy.

So, Ancient Aliens recycles footage from Bob Lazar’s recent new documentary interview, which featured a raid by FBI/NSA/CIA and other alphabet acronyms. It appears he suggested he had kept a sample of this highly unstable element.

According to Ancient Alien theorists who have been taking the road to the stars for over a decade, this stuff was deliberately given to mankind to help join the member community of space patrols across the galaxy.

The notion is posed that two UFO crashes in 1947 were staged in Russia and the US in order to magnanimously bestow each with another reason to compete.

This allegedly will lead to peaceful exploration of outer space by providing humans with a fuel that alters the time/space continuum.

Ancient Aliens gives the show over to author Mike Bara and Travis Taylor to visit a Hollywood special effects lab and analyze some recent UFO footage released (suspiciously) by the Pentagon. They contend the government is giving us the drip by drip information that we are not alone.

The upshot is that, if the new Element 115 can be made to remain in a shot glass for more than a gulp or two, we can conquer the solar system and beyond.

We’ll drink to that.

Those about to Die: Remain Calm

 DATELINE: What a Life!

emily watson Fictional Emily Watson?

 

The sheer horror of Chernobyl grows as the coverups are uncovered. Minor bureaucrats dispute the severity of nuclear destruction, out of sheer willful self-protection.

By the time this crisis is tossed into Gorbachev’s lap, as the head of the Soviet Union, he is faced with horrible options. As the second episode shows him dealing with giving a death sentence to three workers who must sacrifice their lives to go into a radioactive cavern on fire.

Jared Harris is the physicist who is indignant and ultimately convincing. Emily Watson first appears in this episode as the woman nuclear physicist who best understands what annihilation the world is facing.

Alas, she is a complete fiction as a character, being a composite of a half-dozen female scientists. It is another means of demeaning women while pretending to elevate one to heroic levels. There could never be a half-dozen heroic women.

The evacuation of the city around the burning radioactive power plant is quite impressive, after the authorities learn that the equivalent of millions of X-rays is hitting everyone with a few miles to start.

By seventy-two hours, they could be facing the deaths of 60 million people in the Kiev area.

The grim atmosphere of Russian society is enhanced by its poor living conditions and helpless population. As the opening show indicated, enough lies told will inoculate people to feelings about truth.

There are not enough iodine pills—and there is nowhere to go: the silent and invisible radiation is shooting skyward to come down with the rains.

This is dramatic and horrifying to say the least, and a lesson in how close to self-destruction the human race came in 1986.

Watching this five-part series is not uplifting, or educational. It is simply numbing.

 
 

 

Chernobyl: Name of Infamy

DATELINE: Episode Starts  Off with Bang!

jared harris Jared Harris, Chain-smoking Star

If you had no historical or geographic knowledge of Chernobyl, you might think it was located outside of Liverpool, simply based on the accents of the actors in all the key roles. HBO, not History Channel, has taken on the 30-year old horror of history.

The main character, a scapegoat played by Jared Harris, hangs himself in the opening minutes of the mini-series. It’s a Vertigo moment in a horror story.

If you think that the dour and drab social world of 1986 is strictly limited to the Soviet Union and its failed policies and diminished treatment of the individual, you might be partially right. The onerous opening tones signal the problem with lies.

Hearing enough of them makes you give up on truth. That was true in Chernobyl in 1986 or the White House in 2020.

The HBO series has been hailed for its verisimilitude: every small detail seems apt and metaphorical. It’s only the big details that make one queasy.

The horror of radiation poison and radiation burns are brought to ugly effect while leaders and small-time bureaucrats deny, deny, deny, that there is a melt-down in their future.

We suspect idiocy was never meant to be limited to the Soviet government. Delays and misinformation might be handled as much the same in the United States. Containing the problem was a better solution than saving the public.

The blame game in the Soviet Union in 1986 was even as deadly as Germany in 1944 or under Stalin around the same time.

Episode 1 is hideous for all its creepy mortality whose name no one dares to speak. Only when everyone is throwing up their guts and birds fall from the sky do we realize that lies are only tiny part of a melt-down.

 

 

 

Civil War Gold Turns Booth into a Mason!

DATELINE:  Color Him Unreal?

color him unreal Fake Stanton?

Old wine is seldom put in new bottles. Civil War Gold missed the key point that the mummy of John Wilkes Booth toured in carnivals until the 1930s. Now, maybe there’s gold in his fillings.

If you happen to be the History Channel and their latest attempt to find plots, you start to delve into Wilkes Booth escape myths, conspiracies, to package them into alluring entertainments.

The idea that John Wilkes Booth died in Enid, Oklahoma, in 1903 is not new. Of course, the Curse of Civil War Gold wants to tie in the Masons; Booth was no Mason, and he likely would have not been appreciated by men like Hackley. Booth was more likely assisted by Col. John Mosby and his Rangers to escape the dragnet of Union soldiers at the Garrett Barn in 1865.

However, looking for escape hatches is not a bad idea, and it does lend some intrigue to the series that has gone far afield from its original mission: finding the stolen Confederate treasury that was in partial possession of Jeff Davis.

As a sidebar, more tunnels are being researched by the second-tier team in Muskegon. In fact, there are apparently more tunnels in that Michigan city than in the New York subway system. And, every tunnel between buildings was meant to move gold bullion secretly.

No other possibility is ever considered.

The Curse remains unexplained, but the Civil War Gold never helped John Wilkes Booth or Edwin Stanton. That fact is indisputable, no matter what you hear on the series that has been hijacked by Alex Lagina who coyly never admits he may be a Mason too.

Other, more peculiar theories on Booth may yet be in offing. They are there for the picking, if the show wants to veer a few more degrees off-course.

In many ways, the show is about as off-color as the fake colorized photographs of Stanton.

David Ortiz Questions Persist

DATELINE: Pardon Us!

GOATS

Boston sports media always protect their own. If you have questions, you may not always receive answers. Not even the get well wishes of a former President of the United States can hide bigger puzzlements.

Dark questions haunt the situation surrounding the hit on David Ortiz. Oh, yes, make no mistake: it was a hit that fortunately did not end Big Papi’s game. As he told doctors entering surgery, “I am a good man.” He did not want to die.

So, we wonder why the Red Sox organization decided to fly Ortiz out of the Dominican Republic as soon as possible, even before he stabilized (despite the medical opinion to the contrary).

If you think he was stable, he arrived in Boston to face immediate second surgery. Did someone botch the job in the ER of the DR?

In New York’s Post, you see the words “hit man.” This does not surprise several of his former teammates, who indeed think an assassin’s bullet is not out of the question.

You may well wonder why Ortiz returned often to the DR. Was it to see his family—while leaving his wife and children back in Boston?

You may well wonder why the assassin is tied to drugs and why his companion was a police officer. You may well wonder if the long-ago charge that Ortiz used illegal substances in his baseball career might resurface.

They removed Ortiz from the DR before another attack might finish him off: how easy it is to die in a hospital from complications after being shot up and losing your intestines, spleen, and other organ parts.

Septic poisoning is but a day away.

Big Papi’s agent thinks something odd is going on. Well, when you are spirited out of the hospital before the police can question you, there is an appearance that leaves a dubious feeling.

We can count only on the fact that the Boston media has thrown up another protective shield around David Ortiz.