Sherlock v. Conan Doyle: Battle Royale

DATELINE: Who Hates Sherlock Holmes? The Author

doyle

If ever there was a legendary love/hate relationship, it was between Sherlock Holmes and the man who was his spiritual father and creator, Arthur Conan Doyle.

In a French documentary called Sherlock Holmes Against Conan Doyle, we have a battle on the order of a duel with the Napoleon of Crime and the Actors Who Took Him On.

Meant to be a money-making enterprise and a throwaway for a couple of stories, Holmes turned into Doyle’s Frankenstein Monster.

A marvelous and entertaining documentary gives us a blow-by-blow description of Doyle’s losing war with his temperamental genius/consulting detective.

You know who will win this fight. Holmes has survived with hundreds of movies and TV shows, depicted by a variety of actors with waspy disdain—from Rathbone to Jeremy Brett, to the modern versions like Cumberbatch. Thankfully, we never see Robert Downey in the role.

The little hour is chock full of clips of these Sherlocks making annotations on Conan Doyle, a man of some adventure and style himself. Often thought as a Watson type, Doyle was actually more of a Professor Challenger sort.

Killing Holmes was frowned upon even by Doyle’s mother, and money is the great resurrection device. After ten years, Doyle was forced to bring him back from the dead.

Based on an old professor who used to wow the med students with his erudition, Holmes was a clever creation who was enhanced by his narrative fellow, long-suffering and frequent punching bag named Dr. John H. Watson.

If you want to see fleeting glimpses of many classic Holmes portrayals, and rare clips of Doyle, you may enjoy the time, though it covers familiar territory.

 

Children of Giant: Mexican POV in Marfa

DATELINE: Unavoidable James Dean Strikes Again

Children of Giant Children of Giant!

If you know anything about our Hollywood history books on the story behind making movies, you know that we would be hot on the trail of George Stevens’ 1955 classic epic Giant. 

Made On location in Marfa, Texas, with Elizabeth Taylor as an early feminist in 1920s Texas, and Rock Hudson as the laconic cowpoke who owned Reata, a cattle ranch, you are overwhelmed with James Dean who stood out on the landscape,

However much the director wants to make this a movie about the Mexican discrimination in Texas, James Dean is there to steal the movie. He dominates everything in the fascinating film called Children of Giant.

Actor Earl Holliman is still around to give his perspective, and Jane Withers appears to have declined to participate.

Director Stevens’s son, notable Hollywood producer George Stevens, Jr., offers many insights. They say little about Dean.

It was the film James Dean died making. It was a Western that showed the yellow rose of Texas was a yellow streak of Jim Crow laws against Mexicans. The children loved him, and they saw him as someone special and caring.

Today Marfa’s racism almost seems quaint, next to the horrors being inflicted on Mexicans under Trump.

New York historical novelist Edna Ferber was spot on depicting wild cat billionaire Glenn McCarthy (aka Jett Rink in the movie and book). James Dean’s makeup and style mimics McCarthy in his late middle-age.

Dean is remembered fondly by the Mexican children and adults whom he befriended in Marfa, Texas. Indeed, if you are looking for stories about Dean’s public urination in front of town onlookers, or even the tale of Dean going after director Stevens in a fight over his performance, you will find only slight nods in that direction.

Yet, as a social history document about a social history movie, you could not find a more spot-on documentary. It features townsfolk giving their insights and sharing their unusual photos.

It is nirvana for a movie maven who delights in the behind-the-scenes activity. This little PBS documentary packs a wallop and a message from the children of Marfa in 1955. Unfortunately, James Dean is still the big draw. George Stevens and Edna Ferber could not avoid him then or now.

 Dr. William Russo wrote The Next James Dean, which is available as an ebook and print work on Amazon.

 

Tripping Again with Coogan & Brydon

 DATELINE: Another Sequel, not Deja Vu

 tripping

No, you didn’t read this movie review last week here.

What more can you ask?  Beautiful scenery, lovely music, and witty conversation. Yes, those two British actors (one with 2 Oscar nominations) are back to delight us.

We have skipped the second trip to Italy for now and cut to the chase with Trip to Spain. These two marvelous performers can hit the road and still hit their marks. This is another followup to their British series, The Trip, condensed and made into a feature film. No, it’s not a mid-life crisis movie, despite what the New York Times claims.

They seem to make the films every three or four years, which is just about right. They are reality-based, as the stars play themselves, notable thespians and comedians on a journalistic journey for the New York Times as food critics, or culture commentators.

With each stop at a breathtaking locale, Steve Coogan foams at the mouth with his erudite knowledge. Heaven help you if you know more or have enough. Rob Brydon can match him every mile, and that makes them chemically compatible.

Each morsel is back-lit with some of the funniest conversations this side of reality. Coogan notes how sorry he feels for anyone who thinks this stuff is not scripted and fully ad-libbed. It’s likely a circle within a square is outlined and the two drop in their witticisms.

However, the impressions make all the difference over the meals. When they argue over who does the best Mick Jagger impression as he plays Hamlet, you have moments that will knock fans of Noel Coward into the aisle.

Coogan remains prickly, but Brydon manages to break him up several times this trip, which may not have been planned.

If Coogan reminds us of ourselves, then we have had a bittersweet lesson. Sheer delight awaits the viewer.

 

 

 

In Search of …Atlantis & Quinto

DATELINE: First Season Success

atlantis 

The grande finale of the Zachary Quinto series that has impressed us each step of the season is billed as a two-parter but is really merely an extended two-hour episode.

Sending Quinto off on the quest puts him squarely in the Mediterranean Sea. The stopovers include Greece, Crete, North Africa, Sardinia, and all spots that might be an island—or not.

We start, as per usual, with doomsday sayers and crack-pot experts, but Zak finds some level-headed researchers to set the course.

Once again the actor has a great adventure or two, diving into open sea when he really is not a fan of it. He climbs into old, dank tombs too. He is a gamer in the search, and we believe him that he really has an interest in these notions.

Atlantis is not an island, but an empire. There are 51 points of discovery that Plato offered researchers—and matching up spots to the clues is the name of the game.

Quinto learns along the way that the Atlantans may be the progenitors of Rh negative blood types. These folks have a bunch of characteristics, but he is most intrigued by the pointy ear theory (his only reference to Spock in the new series).

He is clearly fascinated.  And he is willing to learn he too has Rh negative blood, possibly an Atlantan. It is a good way to make the host and producer of the show truly a meaningful part of the formula.

Ancient ruins, recently excavated, indicate that meteors, floods, tsunamis, or other natural disasters could have buried Atlantis. It need not be under the sea, but under tons of earth.

For that reason, Atlantis might be a landlocked place, with rivers circling it, as in Morocco.

If you want to end the first season on a high note, the History show is the perfect coda—and likely will cause fans to demand another season with Zak.

 

 

 

Trump’s Deadly Numbers Game

DATELINE: Serial Tweeter?

 glow in dark pee pot

President Bone Spurs Trump, Liar Emeritus, and ace wriggler out of any blame, now contends that 2975 people did not die in Puerto Rico from two hurricane rescue missions his Administration completely mismanaged.

Let them drink those bottled waters sitting on pallets, never distributed to thirsty Americans.

In his prevaricating way, T-Rump contends that Democrats (not even the fake media this time) have inflated the death figures to make him look bad.

He doesn’t need anyone to make him look bad. He does it all by himself.

If his Mad Hatter attitude strikes you as appalling, you number among the 60% of the country who disapprove of this horse’s rear end sitting on his rear end in the White House.

He rises up only to golf and charge taxpayers with the cartload of Secret Service who must follow him hole to hole to the tune of $300,000.

The minority of racists and white supremacists who believe the island of Puerto Rico is a foreign country, not an American territory inhabited by American citizens, support Trump’s new math calculations.

In fact, when you boil it down in history, with the anniversary of terror attack on 9/11 only a few days past, you have 2996 Americans killed by two planes driven off course by terrorists. Mr. Bone Spurs, the artful draft dodger, falls merely 20 fewer dead among his derelict presidency with twin hurricanes he ignored.

Trump has killed 2975 Americans in two hurricanes that he allowed to fester without assisting the suffering.

There is something delusional about a cretin sitting in power. More reasonable people now await the day that lends itself to men with nets in white coats coming to the White House to cart him off.

Throw him some bottled water on the way out. It cannot come soon enough.

 

 

The Trip (of Light Fantastic)

DATELINE: Boon Companions

trip 2.jpeg

Gourmet Wit & Impersonations on the menu!

We don’t know how we missed this film or its sequels. We are delighted to say we have found them now: epicurean wit and breathtaking scenery.

Two minor actors for reasons unclear are assigned to sample fancy restaurants in northern England. You may well ask if there any fancy restaurants in far-off south of Scotland. You may well ask yourself why two actors would be hired as journalists, not even TV journalists.

Yet, this light fare is sweet enough and fluffy around the edges. Steve Coogan is often insufferable and hardly worthy of spending five days in a long car ride. Rob Brydon is more pleasant and funnier. We do vote that Steve’s Michael Caine impersonation is better.

They have an edgy friendship, Platonic as Steve claims, but Coogan is known for his gay-themed movies like Philomena and Ideal Home. Here, he plays himself: as a womanizing aging actor.

There are some hilarious moments in a largely improvised script. One wonders why Brydon would be willing to go along after being told that just about everyone else said, no, thanks.

After an hour with Coogan, we understand why everyone from ex-wives to children and girlfriends are loathe to go anywhere with him. Alexander Pope’s wit likely rendered him unpleasant too. Groucho’s did.

They eat delectable meals and seem to have no appreciation for the hard work that goes into their menu trivia.

They sing-along during boring rides in the countryside, and they stop off in famous literary haunts. Their witty impersonations of notable and not-so-notable British stars (Michael Caine, Sean Connery, yes; Michael Sheen, no) are lively and funny.

Ultimately, Brydon admits that Coogan was exactly what he expected during their trip, and Coogan turns down a chance to star in an American TV series about a British pathologist.

How much is reality? How much is fake? Well, they made a few sequels—and we will sign up to go along with them.

Coogan insists it is not reality at all. It is the epitome of entertainment.

 

Code-breaker: Rebel Genius

DATELINE:  Einstein of Computers   

 real Turing

Alan Turing, age 14.

The inspiration for the movie with Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, entitled The Imitation Game, was a small British documentary called Codebreaker back in 2011.

The term “codebreaker” refers to two distinct segments of Turing’s life. He was a war hero who invented computers in the early 1940s and broke the German Nazi secret code.

Later in his life, he broke the social morays of staid British sexuality with his gay lifestyle.

Some dim-bulbs on IMdB have criticized the film for forcing them to endure his terrible, tragic second half of life, that included sex scandal, arrest, and chemical castration by the government he worked assiduously to save.

The film is also strengthened by the performers who re-enact Turing and his psychiatrist, Franz Greenbaum. With many moments of fraught faces, we have a definitive portrait of anguish.

Ed Stoppard and Henry Goodman give masterful performances. They regard each other perfectly as patient and doctor, later as friends. Goodman’s paternal father figure looks with pain upon Stoppard’s victim of cruel treatment.

Their looks make the re-enacting of Greenbaum’s medical journals quite compelling.

The film is fleshed out with interviews from Greenbaum’s now elderly daughters who knew Turing and his coworkers in breaking the Nazi code.

What you have here is a powerful indictment of how governments abuse and use people ruthlessly. In many ways this documentary is far more fascinating than the tale of the man who invented computers in the Imitation Game.

Three. Two, One, Blasted Off Your Screen

DATELINE: Billy Wilder Classic

Cagney & grapefruit

Cagney reprises grapefruit scene.

Topical political humor has a short shelf life, and you have only to see a few clips from Saturday Night Live to understand how quickly controversial becomes outdated.

When a major film tries it, as did Billy Wilder in 1962, only a few morsels remain fresh.

Yet, to take in One, Two, Three, the Cold War comedy, is less satisfying than say, Dr. Strangelove, which maintains its relevance.

When Wilder’s outlandish satire was released, East Berlin put up a horrifying wall that changed history—and it was virtually ignored in the movie, except by a voice=over addition shortly before the film was released.

What survives in a favorite comedy is the manic performances.

James Cagney plays the head of Berlin’s Coca-Cola division, unhealthy capitalism at its best, and he is marvelous to behold. He grows more intense with each passing scene, stealing anything he make merry.

Others in the cast are less successful—but seem now perfectly placed in their roles:  game show actress Arlene Francis didn’t forget her line was snide off-put wife. She is surprising effective, though the German jokes are thick.

Pamela Tiffin as the sex kitten from Atlanta is decorative, but she faded fast, unlike Ann-Margaret who might have run with the role. And, as her East German Commie boyfriend, Horst Buchholz sends out a post-James Dean vibe that shows how misused he was.

Leon Askin as the Russian commissar is delightful, and Lilo Pulver dances on tabletops in the Grand Hotel with lesbian couples while a hapless band plays and sings,  “Yes We Have No Bananas,” in German.

The music of the intense and insane “Sabre Dance” is stirring to the break-neck pace of screwball comedy, already a dinosaur in Hollywood.

Cagney’s version of My Fair Laddie turns a Commie lout into Austo-Hungarian royalty during the hilarious second-half of the film.  Cagney hated working with Horst and quit movies for years after. His best line to Buchholz who wants to lead a revolt of workers is: “Put your pants on, Spartacus.”

You shouldn’t miss it but brush up on your Cold War etiquette before tuning on the stream.

In Search of….Mind Control

DATELINE:  Voodoo to Implants?

 candidate 1962 Manchurian Candidate & Mother!

In the latest encounter with the new History series, In Search of host Zachary Quinto seems nearly to lose his mind in this episode by joining in more experiments. He is zapped with ultra-sound waves to protect his mind from being undone by the kind of experimental sonic attacks that hit American embassy personnel in Cuba.

The quick overview of the history of mind control can go from primitive brain operations to brain-washing to the less elaborate forms of voodoo. Torture today to bend a mind is far more psychological and psychiatric.

The goal is the same: to make mental slaves.

Experts seem to indicate yet again that only the weak-minded can be vulnerable to attack. Yet, the show also proves that media manipulation is like a mass hypnotic suggestion. You cannot defend against sound waves that are unheard but can give you a concussion, latent headaches, and disable the victim.

Appalling as it may be, the United States CIA engaged in human experiments from 1953 with their MK Ultra program that zapped many unwilling and unknowing citizens. Heaven help us from our patriotic friends.

Sonic weapons once were thought to be the mental dreams of paranoid schizophrenics. Today you don’t know who can be trusted. Without naming Putin, the show hints that Russia is in the sound race to destroy enemies.

If someone can slip an implant into your head whilst you sleep or are out cold, you may become the proverbial zombie.

In Search of….once again hits us with a disturbing hint of a dark future.

 

 

 

The Lost Career of Richard Cromwell

 DATELINE: Baby Face Curse

Cromwell holding clock 

Cromwell Holding Clock in Tom Brown of Culver!

Baby-faced Richard Cromwell was a shoo-in to play the panty-waist Baby-Face Morgan for a poverty-row movie production. He was always professional on the set.

Cromwell’s character is the unlikely son of Machine Gun Morgan, notorious crime boss in the syndicate. With all the FBI overwhelmed with World War II Nazis and saboteurs at home, the mob needs a front man and fall guy. Cromwell’s looks bring disparaging remarks and innuendo as he is propped up as a fake mob boss.

In case you hadn’t caught on, this was meant to be a comedy, featuring dumb blonde secretaries and mugs who are morons.

Cromwell’s career was already in the toilet, owing to the closed shop from the studios. After the pinnacle years of the 1930s when Cromwell appeared with Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, and other stars, he was in rapid descent.

He married Angela Lansbury when he was 35 and looked like a teenager at the altar. Their marriage lasted only a few months and later rumors came forth that he was gay.

Cromwell remained on the periphery of Hollywood, having many friends in the industry. When he tried to make a comeback at age 50 in 1960, he became ill and did not survive, replaced in the movie.

In Baby Face Morgan, he is referred to as a kid when he was 33. A few years later, the same fate of looking young befell Audie Murphy for his entire career.

Cromwell’s movie is only passable to watch with flat yokel humor. It’s one of the forgotten tragedies.

 

 

 

President Bone Spurs Marches to a Different Drummer

 

 

 

DATELINE: Peach of an Impeach

Dumb America Trump Supporter

Draft-dodging lowlife Donald Trump has relented to pressure from veterans across America  and has lowered the flag to honor Sen. John McCain.

We are resisting a call for a Pied Piper to lead the blind King Rat out of the swamp. We’ll settle for Michael Avenatti and a carving knife to cut off his tail.

After thumbing his nose at a six-term senator and five-year POW who was tortured for service in the United States Navy, the man with bone spurs in his head finally gave up his vindictive and petty action.

The White House has re-lowered the flag. Nothing can ever be as low as the lowlife who lives there this term.

There was, naturally, no apology with his proclamation, only a small proviso that he too honors Sen. McCain’s service. If you believe that, he will sell you slaves in s—hole Haiti.

Has the last straw finally been breached on this man whose mania now defies hiding? As a veteran, this blogger has never been more incensed. As a lifelong Republican, we can only marvel at the gutless Congress that cannot stand up to mental midgetry.

Hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to racism, sexism, and anti-military fervor. The man who wants a military parade to cost $100 million is not able to apologize for insulting a hero of the military. If we recall, he attacked the Gold Star parents of a soldier at his convention for their religious backgrounds.

We have reached a watershed, not a Watergate.

You cannot whitewash the White House when a blackguard lives there.

In Search of …Sinkholes

DATELINE: Pedestrian Hazard

Quintoinpit

One of the most mundane of topics for this series so far turns out to be one of the most terrifying, This may be due to the fact that a sinkhole opening up under your feet is far more likely than being abducted by an alien, falling into a time slip, or crossing paths with a sea monster.

Quinto’s series frightens us with the information that 25% of the earth we live on—land—is subject to sinkholes.

In case you don’t know, Florida and Missouri are the sinkhole capitals of America. Land o’Lakes, Florida, and their Chamber of Commerce may be a bit upset at this publicity. Your land may slip out from under you.

The many horrifying stories (one man opened the door to his brother’s bedroom—and he was gone, swallowed up) pile up. Sinkholes happen faster than the time to react. You may be falling and buried before you know what is happening. And forget rescue.

Historical sinkholes were thought to be the Devil’s handiwork, owing to their unpredictability. And, even with science of the 21st century, you may only have a slightly more expectation than being hit with an earthquake.

The sinkhole is smaller and more personal. You fall 300 or 400 feet down and the hole may open up to a football field size. A ton of debris will fall atop you.

Porous limestone is the culprit. One golf course found its waterhole turn into a sinkhole overnight.

The owner began excavating it to see what was below: and after 3 years, it looks like a mini-Grand Canyon. He takes Zachary Quinto down into the abyss and chasm. It is not safe.

A cautious producer pulls them out, but it’s not publicity stunt. A week later a pickup truck driving in the spot went down, almost killing the driver.

Once again, the series is a goldmine of information and suspense. You may not expect a mundane topic to provide you with a nightmare, but sinkholes are not to be searched for, or trifled with.

 

 

National Enquirer, Catching and Killing Bad News!

 DATELINE:  Laughing Pecker?

Laughing Cavalier Cavalier Enquirer?

Pick a peck of David Pecker.

Not since J. Edgar Hoover have we heard of “secret files.”

Well, they’re baaack!

David Pecker picked a peck of pickled poodle politicians. The peck of Pecker picks were pols who parlayed their hidden scandals into political careers, like Duncan Hunter (R) California, and Chris Collins (R) New York, your typical corrupt Congressmen now indicted and refusing the resign.

It appears that the owner of American Media, the National Enquirer dirt rag, and friend to Donald Trump, has a safe filled with signed “catch and kill” contracts. Mostly they are used to pay poor Pecker ploys and protect Trump loyalists.

Yes, the Laughing Peckerhead collects salacious stories and kills them by paying big bucks to whistleblowers—who cannot then publish their truth anywhere. It is how he protected Donald Trump from hookers, payoffs, illegitimate baby-momma stories, and heaven knows what other Russian mob ties.

Recently, Special Prosecutor Robert Meuller picked on Pecker for immunity for his pretty poison pens.

Now we learn that the spineless, gutless Congress may be filled with people blackmailed by Mr. Peckerhead who has dirt to keep them quiet. Yes, he catches and kills a scandalous tale and then turns around and sleazily demands obedience to him, not the United States Constitution.

It sounds like he has taken a page out of Putin’s compromising videotape series of Moscow nights with potty pee players.

Hoover was said to have files of recordings, depositions, and other evidence of wrong-doing at the FBI for decades, insuring his power.

If you have a whistle to blow, Pecker protects by paying to kill the catch and then turns around and demands a favor—like support Donald Trump (or be ruined by his private stash of stories).

Now we learn that David Pecker has picked a peck of peccadilloes out of the pockets of pusillanimous politicians.

Giancana: Recognizing Truth & Disbelieving Sam(e)

DATELINE: Unimpeachable Crime

sam Sam Testifies to Congressional Hearing!

Mobster Sam Giancana’s great nephew wrote and produced a documentary on the notorious and contradictory mob leader. It is fascinating and entitled: Momo, the Sam Giancana Story. If you wondered about an inspiration for The Godfather, here it is.

Giancana’s daughters oversaw the production and participated in giving personal details about their father.

What came out of the life of a Chicago mobster, one of the successors to Al Capone, is a dapper and dangerous figure who wanted to be a globe-trotting figure of celebrity. He hobnobbed with the likes of Frank Sinatra and was boon companion to Phyllis McGuire of the famous singing sisters.

He had tentacles everywhere but managed to keep his life compartmentalized. He was a kindly family man—and to his associates he was a bad-tempered businessman.

Reconciling the elements reaches a state of improbability that turns viewers into cartoon version of “Believe or Not!”

Giancana made deals with Joe Kennedy to make his son president. He made deals with the CIA to murder Fidel Castro for taking away the mob’s Cuban casinos. He made deals to run Las Vegas—and he was a man who liked to control influence over powerful people. He shared mistresses Judith Exner Campell and Marilyn Monroe in order to gain an advantage.

He had close ties to Jack Ruby, a mob nightclub owner in Dallas, who often did business for Giancana. One of Lee Harvey Oswald’s brothers was hooked into the New Orleans mob.

The stretch or reach of Giancana may be disturbing beyond having turned Oswald into a patsy and hired Chicago killers to murder John Kennedy, hired J.D. Tippitt to kill Oswald, and then had it all go awry.

On the verge of talking to a U.S. Senate committee in 1975, his flamboyant mob boss attitude perturbed more than a few in the criminal element who ordered him assassinated in his own home. His flashy style did him in.

With corruption so total and human nature so contradictory, the life of Momo Sam Giancana takes on a sense of reality that may have you shake your head in recognition and in disbelief.

 

 

 

 

Two Hitlers for the Price of One

DATELINE: Ancestry.DNA

Son & Hitler?.jpeg Son & Father?

Because we keep our Adolf Hitler dollops in one-hour documentary chunks, we are lumping two films into one review for your edification.

Hitler of the Andes and Hitler’s Secret Son share the bizarre fascination with the worst mass murdering dictator of the Reich. Both seem to deal with highly unlikely scenarios that have more than a little credibility.

Did Hitler live and survive the end of World War II, escaping to the Argentine to live in lavish seclusion? And did the man father a son in France during the first World War? The documentaries give us a resounding “yes!” for an answer.

The recent History series on Hunting Hitler has traced the path of this earlier documentary. However, it seems so unlikely that Hitler would subject himself to the claustrophobic suffering of a U-boat trip across the Atlantic. We prefer Bob Baer’s theory that the U-boats were gas stations along the route of seaplanes that landed, refueled, and gave Hitler a more comfortable ride.

If he made to the rural lands of Argentina, he would find Germanic friends and the lap of luxury. In the second film, we deal with the modern crisis brought on by DNA tracking.

In France, you need a court order for paternity DNA—and 40 years ago, a benighted man learned from his dying mother that he was Hitler’s son. In the 1970s Jean-Marie Lorret was another with 15-minutes of fame and celebrity.

His children, Hitler’s grandkids, alive today, have genetic testing to confirm or deny the connection that few people would want to publicize.

Indeed, some American-born Hitler relations have deliberately sworn to not having children to end the line once and for all time.

It is a horror story to put oneself in the shoes of learning that your father really is the worst human being in modern history. It makes for hypnotic and fascinating viewing, and the results are both a surprise and a cruel fate.