Reel History: Day of the Outlaw

DATELINE: Big Daddy Burl Ives

 

outlaw day Burl Ives center stage

When movies had to compete against 40 weekly Western TV shows, you had to do something special.

Day of the Outlaw immediately hit a nerve: it was black & white when all the TV westerns were the same and movies were all in glorious color. This film put the action out in a real snowstorm in Wyoming, and it also featured a brutal horse caravan through deep snow. Music is minimalist, but effective. The film was lost in the shuffle back then, but is a stunner today.

We felt sorry for the horses who seemed to be suffering in the harsh weather and cold location scenes, including filming in a real snowstorm. However, the actors were out there for real—and looked just as frozen amid the ice-covered tundra. Only Burl Ives looked holly and jolly, riding hard and heavy on his long-tortured horse.

The other draw here was Robert Ryan, one of the most under-rated tough guys the movies ever created—as Blaise the hard-as-nails rancher who goes up against Big Daddy Burl Ives’s gang.

The faces (good guys & bad) are all familiar—from the gang to the beset upon townsfolk. Yes, that was William Schallert in small role.

We particularly were impressed with Ozzie & Harriet’s son, David Nelson. While his brother Ricky was a musical heartthrob, David tried his hand at real acting. He is quite impressive in his two-day beard as one of the bad guys.

The film is slow as a character study, but director Andre DeToth knew how to move his camera and create a grand entrance for Burl Ives, which is marvelous to behold.

Oh, yes, Tina Louise is here as a love interest before her career was shipwrecked on Gilligan’s Island.

This adult Western is uncompromising and ultimately no TV show. It’s worth the watch.

Mother Whistler’s Son

DATELINE: Butterfly on Social Media

Mother Whistler

Whistler’s mother worried about her son. James McNeill Whistler was not your average 19th century artist.

James McNeill Whistler and the Case for Beauty, an unwieldy title, makes an interesting little documentary on his life and work by director Karen Thomas who offers the viewer more than a few surprises.

For openers, though he was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, he spent most of his childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia, where his father worked for the czar!  Whistler was not your average boy in the 1840s. After he tried West Point as a cadet and failed, he moved to France and England, taking up a brush and a pot of paint for the rest of his life.

He was, however, the epitome of an American Oscar Wilde. He cultivated being dandy.

Yes, with a bleached streak of white hair in his massive curly locks, often tied with a red ribbon bow, he predated outrageous art for art’s sake by decades.

He was wild before Oscar.

Witty, snippy, and living the life of a bon vivant ahead of his time by a 100-years, he held Sunday morning salons that were the delight of London. He had collector rivalries with Dante Gabriel Rossetti over blue and white porcelain. And, he painted his mother for instant fame. Whistler would have loved social media.

He was a young man still when the old lady showed up in London, forcing him to clean up his act for a time. If you ever wondered why that mundane painting caused a stir, you likely will learn from this film.

Whistler knew how to stay in the public’s eye and attract the attention of rich patrons. After all, that was the name of the game. He clashed with critics frequently, extolling the virtues of art and the lack of knowledge of critics.

He took famous British art critic John Ruskin to court for libel when he claimed Whistler was overcharging for his art.

Those were the days when civilized men learned the powers of litigation. Whistler was ahead of his time that way too.

Off the Wardenclyffe: Tesla Files 1.3

 DATELINE: Bell Tolls for Tesla

Stapleton Stapleton 

The Tesla Files continued to impress with the latest episode in the series.

Several investigations followed the pattern Tesla took after he returned from Colorado in 1900. At this point he went to the New Yorker Hotel as his new headquarters. An interesting trip three floors below street level revealed a major tunnel system.

The hotel also had its own power source, which likely convinced Tesla that his experiments might be better served by the proximity to a major city. Around this time, he also made a deal with J.P. Morgan that floundered and caused the tycoon to lead a movement to discredit Tesla and his inventions.

It was out on Long Island that he used much of the funding from Morgan before it ran out. Here he built a tower for communications or power, no one knows which, and perhaps too an elaborate tunnel system, over 100 feet below the surface and extending out to the ocean.

The show cannot investigate the shut-down lab because of deadly mold, but they can send in a drone, giving insights into the workplace of Tesla.

Also intriguing is the parallel to the German World War II “Bell,” which might have been a time machine or anti-gravity device. The footprint of Tesla’s tower on Long Island matches exactly the footprint shape of the Nazi experiments in Poland.

Our journalistic investigator, Jayson Stapleton, with tattoos and a down-payment/goatee (known as an imperial in some circles) has become a man quite sure of himself. Having both a goatee and down-payment is sort of like wearing a belt with suspenders.

Who said TV wasn’t educational?

 

 

 

 

 

Re-fighting the Battle of the Sexes

DATELINE: Gay Lib, Not Gay Lob

Bobby & Billie Truly a Doubles Match!

Many viewers may not know the story of Bille Jean King and Bobby Riggs and their ridiculously hyped tennis match of the early 1970s.

The earlier TV movie was called When Billie Beat Bobby. This new version is the Battle of the Sexes, but it’s more of a coming-out story.

Many may not know that an earlier cable movie effectively told the story with all the limitations of small screen propriety. If you wonder about the differences, there was no hint of gayness in Billie or her marriage. She had no bedroom scenes with a female hairdresser.

She did not have a gay best friend (marvelous Alan Cumming as Ted). She did not have a cantankerous relationship with Margaret Court in the first movie who is always holding a baby in the remake.

You did not see Bobby Riggs’ nude layout. You did not see his marital problems, or his hilarious attendance at a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

You had a greater sense that Bobby and Billie were, above all else, “good sports” and actually remained lifelong friends.

The big screen smash has magnificent performances from Emma Stone and Steve Carell, looking more like their real counterparts. Carell is making an industry out of playing peripheral sports characters (Dupont in Foxcatcher). There are some marvelous effects too, bringing Howard Cosell back to life to play himself.

This is a big budget film with a great music score, pictures of celebs of the times, and the Houston Astrodome itself.

We recall the match was a grand joke, only taken seriously by those who’d be willing to buy the Brooklyn Bridge from Bobby Riggs. How could anyone think that old man could beat a young athletic woman?

Well, as we recall, yes, there were men crushed by the defeat. This movie brings it all back to us.

Tom, Giselle, Boris & Natasha!

DATELINE: Met Gala Stun Guns Again

Tom, Giselle, Boris, Natasha

Yes, right after the Kentucky Derby “and they’re off—” comes the notorious Met Gala in New York where the show horses and would-be celebrities fall all over themselves on the red carpet.

Yes, on the heels of the bizarre nature of Westworld’s second season comes Evan Rachel Wood, Kim Karadasian, and Elon Musk, on the red carpet.

Our favorite had to be Tom Brady, erstwhile ageless quarterback and his wife (the billionaire), looking like refugees from 1960s Gilligan’s Island. Indeed, you had to wonder if Jonathan Nolan had produced the glitzy extravaganza as a means to publicize his TV HBO weirdo series.

You can’t tell the androids from the guests.

What Tom Brady has had to do to cause his wife to agree to let him play for two more seasons? You have only to look at his outfit as the twosome cavorted with other Barbie and Ken dolls.

Yes, Tom is wearing nail polish. You can’t see the multi-colored nail polish on his feet. And he looks like he is storing botox in his cheeks. Yet, the rash comments that he and wife look like James Bond villains is a tad off-the-mark.

Tom is not auditioning to play Dr. No, nor Goldfinger. He is acting like a friendly Russian that would charm President Donald Trump, whose hair would have fit right in on the red carpet.

Tom and Giselle came across as Boris and Natasha, those 1960s spies who gave Bullwinkle Gronk and Julian the Flying Squirrel fits.

Halloween comes early. However, we did see Patriots owner Robert Kraft and his young Baby Mama. To our shock, Kraft was NOT wearing his blue collar/white shirt. He did have de rigueur tennis shoes with his tux.

You have to love insanity with money.

 

 

Tesla Files: Missing in Action

DATELINE:  Death Rays & Shocking Details

Tesla & sparks Tesla Enjoys a Good Book!

Brought to you by the producers of Ancient Aliens, History Channel has jumped onto the hot topic of Nikola Tesla, soon to be subject of a docudrama with Nicholas Hoult and Benedict Cumberbatch (Current Wars), and endless stand-alone documentaries.

The series Tesla Files uses a formula near and dear to fans of History adventures: they team up some mesomorphic men who like to go hop-scotching across the globe on quests that would delight your average ten-year old boy.

Indeed, never a girl is seen among the researchers, hangers-on, or production forces. So be it here.

The series starts off with a bang: Tesla claimed to have 80 trunks of research material in storage at the time of his death. The US government catalogued only 30, and the Tesla Museum in Serbia claims to have 60 (nearly everything by their tabulation). Jumping to conclusions, they ask: “Who stole the trunks?”

Indeed, the American researchers are indignant at the cavalier treatment of the Serbian museum director who dismisses them as amateurs and refuses to show them even signatures for verification. It couldn’t be more delightful to deepen their suspicions and mystery.

As you might expect, the Freedom of Information Act has allowed the American government to lie over the years, The researchers believe in a particle beam or death ray invented by Tesla, but serious scholars dismiss it as legend.

One of the highlights of the first episode is the revelation that President Trump’s uncle John Trump was the main investigator at the death of Tesla—and catalogued the files in his safe to reveal there was “nothing of…value.” So much for the purported Death Ray or Particle Beam he claimed to invent.

The show’s hosts want to fall all over themselves to announce that mendacity seems to be a family trait of the Trumps.

Tesla, a naturalized American citizen, was treated as an alien whose property was seized in 1943 by the government; an illegal action.

The series whets enough appetite for cover-ups, crimes against humanity, experimenting with Tesla’s inventions, and top secrets, that future episodes can run on the “electrifying” and “shocking” fumes of the inventor’s life.

You have to love a show that can use the word “electrifying” both literally and figuratively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tom Brady’s Successor

 DATELINE: Patriotic QB Gore

CK The Next Patriot QB?

Failing to find a Baker or a Mayfield at the NFL draft, so long, Baker Mayfield, or Baking Maybe, it looks like the Patriots of New England may be in a “heads, you lose/tails, you lose” situation when it comes to Tom’s follow-up.

It’s beginning to look like a basketball game after the NFL draft, and the Patriots need a sixth man to spell Tom Brady as he reaches into his Social Security years.

To save their 40s old quarterback, the Belichick team may need to sit him halfway through the third quarter of every game, and well into the fourth. Perhaps they merely play him every other game this season.

Or perhaps he sits down when the game is out of hand or in hand. He needs his rest. Keep him hydrated and ready.

In this week’s episode of Grabbing Headlines, Tom Brady himself stated how much he appreciates those who kneel during the National Anthem. His owner Robert Kraft said the same words reportedly to other billionaire owners of NFL teams at a meeting.

If any team is going to tackle the Trump approach, it may be the Patriots. If any team can afford to lose fans who have already given up on football because they hate kneelers (except in church apparently).

The NFL has already lost ten or twenty percent of its racist fans. Good riddance.

Are you listening, Colin Kaepernick?

Perhaps in plan two, the Patriots plan to sign Johnny Manziel of Boy Zeal fame. The playboy QB may take a page out of TB12, or AA, depending on how bad he wants to play football.

The Patriots would swirl in controversy for picking up “bad boys” once again and trying to rehab them to win the Super Bowl. It’s a scenario usually reserved for Hollywood and the Patriots.

 

 

 

 

Westworld 2.2, Better Off Dead?

DATELINE:  Reunion, or Bring Yourself Back Online

Barnes & Simpson

Ben Barnes and Jimmi Simpson

The second episode should have been first. Westworld 2 was better the second time around.

If jumping across timeframes becomes easier with practice, we should have seen this coming first. Flashbacks highlight the episode to before the start of “Westworld” as a land of fantasy for rich players in which the prototype robots party in Contemporary World, our time.

We even see Ben Barnes again, killed by evil William at the end of the first season.

Everyone dead from last season is alive again through the miracle of backstory. We even see the young Anthony Hopkins flash by and hear his voice, warning the real Bernard/Arnold about his creations.

Ed Harris and his young self, Jimmi Simpson, seem far more explanatory this season and especially in this episode. We are even given the multiple level chess game of seeing flashbacks within flashbacks. It’s as if Joe Mankiewicz at his greatest Hollywood style had been reincarnated in android version Jonathan Nolan.

Yes, Westworld returned to the thrilling days of tantalizing its core viewers, as the ultimate tease mystery.

To see Dolores in modern times, given insights by her creators, lends understanding to the revolution of robots in Westworld.

A few stories even briefly cross before future episodes will give fans more insights: Thandie Newton and her beau automaton Rodrigo Sandoro meet the strong-willed Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden.

Will they meet again? Don’t know where, don’t know when.

Jeffrey Wright’s real person (not his later robotic self) figures only in the opening. His future scenes of the previous episode remain inexplicable at this point.

Story arc of the first episode, less interesting, was completely missing this week—and the meat of the sadistic monster hosts dominated the proceedings. We may not fully understand where this is heading, or who will return again, but Nolan and his partner Lisa Joy have produced an intriguing series, season two

Bombshell Shocker: Hedy Lamarr

 DATELINE: Inventor & Movie Star

 Hedy Beauty & Brains

You might as well start with Mel Brooks making a joke of Headley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles. It gave actress Hedy Lamarr notorious fame forever.

She didn’t need it. She needed recognition for being one of the foremost immigrant inventors in American history: giving us frequency hopping, used in wi-fi, Bluetooth, rocket science, and myriad other technology. Move over, Einstein.

Yes, the most beautiful Austrian actress in Hollywood history was a genius. Hedy Lamar found tabloid scandal easier to condemn her life than history to exonerate her achievement.

She paid a dear price in those decades for overstepping the bounds of glamour and wanting intellectual equality. Hedy Lamar had a half-dozen husbands, and probably lovers galore, but one of those men—Howard Hughes—was more intrigued with her brain. He put his raft of scientists at her disposal.

What actress movie star came home from playing Tondelayo in White Cargo and sat down at her chemists’ table to do inventing? She wanted to create a weapon to help in World War II torpedo technology. The US Navy just laughed at her creation. She never made a dime off it.

Hedy was Delilah for Cecil B. DeMille. She was Bob Hope’s foil in My Favorite Spy. How could she be something more? She was fired, replaced by Zsa Zsa Gabor in her last attempt at movie stardom in the 1960s.

The brilliant documentary, Bombshell, may stun you with revelations. It will sadden you about ignored genius and the sensitivity of a mistreated soul.

Hedy Lamarr deserved much, much more, but she was a fighter and would not let the world break her on its yoke of beauty and shallow talents.

This film Bombshell: the Hedy Lamarr Story is heady stuff, one of the most stunning documentaries on Hollywood’s inner secret life of stars.

Trump as Captain Queeg?

 DATELINE:  25th Amendment Mutiny?

 

Queeg Trump Bogart as Trump

If you caught Fox & Friends on this Thursday morning, April 26, you heard the President of the United States call in for a light-hearted conversation.

For over 30 minutes, the hosts humored him until someone told them in their earpieces that he was out of his mind—and shut him down immediately.

Unfortunately for his supportive trio of hosts, the POTUS went slightly off-script. Banter turned into darkly moody ranting.

We haven’t seen such a prolonged, agonizing performance of descent into madness since Humphrey Bogart played Captain Queeg in the notorious scene from Herman Wouk’s The Caine Mutiny, not to be confused with Herman Caine’s run for president.

A paranoid officer, Captain Queeg went on the witness stand to testify against the mutineer officers of his ship. And, he proved their point.

We could not see Trump rolling little steel balls between his fingers, but we certainly heard the deranged rant about the missing strawberries.

Someone stole his favorite dessert from the galley kitchen.

No, wait, that was Queeg.

Trump went on and on about Stormy Daniels, Michael Cohen, and admitted to prosecutors listening what they exactly needed to hear. He gave them a full lunatic confession.

It may not be admissible in court of law because the poor, besotted soul in love with himself was clearly an animal in distress. Impeachment may be another kettle of strawberries.

We wonder how many members of Congress heard this and wondered how soon the Cabinet will mutiny against the mad Queeg in the White House.

Humphrey Bogart won accolades for his searing portrait of a man in the throes of madness. Trump lost more credibility, though his supporters may be as mad as he.

We are slip-sliding on steel ball bearings—and Great America is about to have a greater fall.

Indeed, Trump proved that the strawberries were stolen, and it was not fake news after all.

It was a career-ending performance.

Sketchy Brady & Stormy Weather

DATELINE: Say It Ain’t So, Tom!

While Tom Brady is away in Arabia, playing at Lawrence of Best Buddies, on a charity junket to Qatar, riding camels, the home-front is afire.

It’s not bad enough that Bill Belichick is playing the Gunfighter from Westworld, trying to do a robot kill on Brady, but now Mickey Spillane Avenatti, the nightmare attorney who is giving Trump a nervous breakdown, has set his sights on Tom Brady lookalikes.

It appears that a criminal sketch artist has come up with a picture of the man who threatened Miss Stormy Daniels about revealing too much detail about Mr. Trump’s strumpets.

The last time a sketch artist did in Tom, he started to look like Quasimodo in a bad bell-ringer mode during the Deflategate trials.

Today, of course, he looks like a man whose TB12 method means he never had or needed Botox. The latest picture is supposed to be a young thug from 2011, back when Tom wore his hair askance and before the hair-plugs for men settled in.

It would seem that Tom’s one-time support for President Trump will go a long way to ruining his life now and forever. He is paying a dear price for having a MAGA hat in his locker for one enchanted evening.

Tom is so hated in some circles that concussed football fans think he is capable of approaching a porn star with a threatening glare.

We feel being out of the country at present may be the best strategy for Mr. Brady. He also ought to consider hiring a better public relations agency to handle his press junkets.

Gronk Filming Movie in Atlanta

DATELINE: New England Media Out to Lunch
Tatum, Gronk, Kyrie on the Set.
Boston sports media is in a panic because Rob Gronkowski has not shown up for the voluntary team workouts for the New England Patriots.
According to Boston sports media, this gives credence to the notion the Gronk is thinking about retiring from professional football.
All of the reports are incomplete and suggest he may be holding out for money.
All these reports are incorrect.
Gronk has permission from the team to be on location for the movie. He is willing to risk his voluntary bonus with the Patriots for practicing in order to advance his film career with a major movie role.
Rob Gronkowski is presently in Georgia,  filming a major motion picture called Boss Level. the film stars Mel Gibson, and Naomi Watts. Principal photography has begun, and casting of extras occurred last week. Gronk has an important role in the  film.
The story concerns a retired special ops soldier who must relive the last day of his life, sort of like Groundhog Day Meets The Terminator.

Titanic Anniversary & Ominous Day

DATELINE:  Ghosts on Mill Circle

Richard Frazar White and his father, Percival, aboard the Titanic.

 

Each year on this date, we visit the grave of Richard Frazar White who died on the Titanic. His father was with him, but his body was never recovered. It is the 106th year since the ship sank into the cold Atlantic.

Richard lived here at Mill Circle. His family owned our home and, in all likelihood, he spent some time here. The caretaker had an apartment in what is now the library. We have hung Richard’s portrait there and placed it near a model of the Titanic.

This year, unlike others, began ominously. A large crash against the picture window overlooking a patio caused some concern. We found a robin, dazed, breathing hard, that after half-an-hour staggered away. We could not see the second bird, dead, that had also crashed into the window.

This is not a commonplace event.

You see our house is haunted by the spirit of Richard White. Oh, yes, psychics have come here to tell us.

We went out to buy flowers for a gravesite visit, but never made it. The car’s systems went a little crazy: the wiper warning light went on, as did the steering wheel light, and the oil light, and the brake light. Perhaps we should not go to the cemetery this year. Was it a sign? A message?

Our Haitian health aide was alarmed enough to suggest we light a white candle and fill a clear glass with cold, cold water to be placed near the table where the birds came at the window.

Following instructions, we found that somehow after an hour the candle had been blown out: perhaps some never felt draft from some odd corner of the house.

Our Haitian friend mentioned that there was one Haitian on the Titanic who also died on this date so many years ago. He was an engineer, the only person of color among the passengers, Joseph Philippe Lemercier Laroche.

This information also rattled us a bit more.

So, we wait before removing the dead bird, starting the car again, or anticipating another bird crash into the window.

It’s just another day at our haunted house.

Dr. William Russo has written Tales of a Titanic Family about the background story to the two victims of the White family. It is available on amazon.com in paperback and ebook format.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Shape of Water-Logged

DATELINE:  Oscar Goes Glug Glug!

glug glug  Missing the Black Lagoon

Who would have envisioned Creature from the Black Lagoon winning Best Picture of 1954 for director Jack Arnold?  Yet, the wet creature won for its director in the Shape of Water in 2018. How the world has changed into a monster mash.

Guillermo del Toro may be too full of bull with his latest movie. His Gill Man takes place on the heels of the original Creature tale, circa 1960, and likely is meant to be a homage sequel. A real sequel followed in 1955.

This amphibian man is called a ‘god’ more than once, in case you don’t understand the ending.

The film is subtly anti-American, with its sympathetic Soviet spy as one of the few likeable characters.

Of course, you have Octavia Spencer in a key role, which always elevates a movie to a higher standing. Michael Shannon has apparently cornered the market on despicable villains who are sexist, racist, and anti-disabilities. And, we always perk up when Nick Searcy (from Justified) makes an appearance.

As for the Creature, swimmingly played in a wet suit by Doug Jones, we are treated to a Fred and Ginger dance number in one dream sequence. Indeed, the film is rife with clips of old movies—from Betty Grable to the Story of Ruth.

Yes, you will find Bob Denver as Maynard and Mr. Ed as the Talking Horse in a couple of clips. No wonder this struck a nerve with aging Boomers.

Alas, the overdrawn sex scenes seemed superfluous and almost tacky to the point of meanly excluding a younger audience.

The film wants to play off the King Kong-style romance between monster and damsel, but the paws of Del Toro are around the heroine’s throat all too often.

Meant to move us with its horror fantasy, we were simply antsy.

 

Should You Watch The Falling Man?

DATELINE: Disturbing 9-11 Documentary

Falling Man

Many documentaries have come and gone about the horrific nightmare known as 9/11. Many we have simply skipped, avoided, refused to see, owing to its never-ending pain, its exhausting memory of a terrible day.

We deeply regret we chose to watch The Falling Man movie for reasons entirely personal. We cannot undo our decision, much as we may want.

Another in a long-line of disaster documentaries, this film drives home the horror: it is about one photo that shocked the world—and was censored from our consciousness for years thereafter.

The image of a man diving out of the 106th floor of Windows on the World restaurant made people angry like everything else on that day. Media chose not to show it for years thereafter.

This reverential movie, for those who can tolerate it, remains completely dedicated to the single horrific iconography, its emblematic importance, and an attempt to identify the individual who jumped (one of many).

We learn the New York City coroner’s office refuses to use that designation, “jumper.” In their eyes, people falling out of the World Trade Center were blow out by impact, were pushed, or fell by accident.

This movie will show you the image of the head-first dive, of one man frozen in time, half-way down the side of the WTC. It will show the image what seems 100 times in the course of an hour, and even uncover five or six other images of his descent, and even a close-up video version, showing his white shirt ripped away by the wind speed to reveal a yellow T-shirt.

Why? Well, they do finally have families whose relative likely was in the picture agree to look at the image—and one Latino family realizes to great relief that it is not their father, Norbert, a pastry chef, after all their heart-ache for more than a decade. They had never had the stomach to identify the man in the image until this movie. They realize it is someone else.

We will not show you that image in this blog, but it is available on the Internet.

The film discovers the likely identity of the jumper—and rationalizes that the entire film is meant, like a tomb for the Unknown Soldier, to represent all of a nation’s pain.

Like a proverbial train wreck, you cannot stop looking. The entire nightmare image will be ingrained on your brain forever.

You should think long and hard before watching this film. We cannot tell you not to watch.

We admire anyone who had the guts to jump.

We lost a former favorite student from our college teaching career on that fateful day. Peter Fry was likely up in the top-floor restaurant that morning having breakfast, and hearing about the conditions he suffered, even if he did not jump, is something we can never ‘un-see’ in our mind.

This open wound will never heal for those who lived through that hideous disaster. For the rest of the world, it is now simply history.