Space Children: Jack Arnold Classic

DATELINE:  1958 Gem

brothersPlaying brothers: Johnny Crawford & Michel Ray

One of the great under-appreciated directors of the 1950s is largely forgotten now, Jack Arnold. Among his best known films are Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, The Incredible Shrinking Man and No Name on the Bullet. He transcended genre.

In 1958 he tried another science fiction flick that didn’t quite win the cult following of his earlier movies. That was his interesting examination of a space alien that puts mind control on kids in The Space Children.

Mind you: this was way before sweet E.T. and monstrous Children of the Damned took over the minds of juveniles.

It helped that Arnold was fearless with child actors. He simply found the best and let them play it. In this case he used Johnny Crawford, before the Rifleman, and Michel Ray, before Lawrence of Arabia. As brothers, they are as good as the Hardy Boys.

He also cast some of the well-known character actors of the era:  Raymond Bailey (of Beverly Hillbillies), Jackie Coogan (of Addams Family), and Russell Johnson (of Gilligan’s Island), as his adult problems for the kids.

Michel Ray is particularly effective with eyes that seem to presage Nick Hoult 60 years later. It’s Ray who has the ray-beam power to paralyze adults, through his alien host.

These kids are children of rocket scientists—and their mission is to sabotage their fathers’ prototype Star Wars missile program. Yes, this movie is a tad ahead of its time.

The film is subtle and not given over to the histrionics we have come to expect from puerile space movies.

Perhaps the title misled audiences: this was clearly a movie for adults to ponder, not to titillate the popcorn set.

This lost gem can be streamed on your viewing device and clocks in at 68 minutes: it’s a dreamy entertainment.

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Unsolved History: Death of Marilyn 1962

DATELINE: Carted Away

carted away

So long, Norma Jean

The old Discovery series holds up as a marvel of scientific accuracy. Take, for instance, their 2003 look at the strange circumstances surrounding the death of legendary actress Marilyn Monroe.

As the third episode of the second season, it may be worth your streaming download to put to bed all those conspiracy theories that she was murdered for threatening the Kennedy brothers (President and Attorney General) that she would reveal secrets about UFOs.

The episode brings together a witness from the original autopsy, a pharmacologist, and a forensic psychiatrist. It also pulls together a brilliant re-enactment and actual photo evidence.

Since the location of her death, a modest cottage in Los Angeles is now a parking lot, they build the room in which she saw her last minutes of life.

Using old mimeographed photos, as the originals are gone, they decorated the room to a minute detail: it was a stark, non-glamorous location filled with clutter. It had no decorations or artwork to express personality. It was the ultimate banal chamber of a drug addict without concern for the world.

Marilyn eschewed her usual sleeping pills and took just about all of Nembutal that she had purchased the day before.

Her body could have been re-arranged, or moved, but the series proved she locked the door—and went about her grim task.

One researcher insists that she was given drugs through an enema to kill her—but the show proved that the drugs would dissolve in her system within 20 minutes, time enough to put her out before death descended within an hour or so.

Occasionally one must view one of these historically and scientifically accurate episodes to sweep away the hysteria and legend.

In under one hour, History Unsolved resolves plenty.

Free e-books

DATELINE:  Is there really a free lunch?

Starting Wednesday on most titles.

Apparently in the world of Ossurworld.  On Amazon.com, this week for the first time you can find a few of Ossurworld’s favorite movie review books available for free. The offer lasts for a few days. Grab’em while they’re hot.

The Menu:

Is It Real? or Just Another Movie

realkindlecover

Movies to See or Not to See

kindlecovermovies.

Movies in the Stream

kindlecoverMoviesStream

Mal Tempo

Malkindlecover

When Jack the Ripper Met Ben Hur

jackcover

 

 

Lost City & Lost Spirit, Zed Renamed Z

DATELINE:  No Bomba Here

 Zed

An old-fashioned epic journey was once the purview of great films and studios. Think David Lean or John Huston. To tackle a grand mystery, the disappearance of an explorer and his son in the 1920s seems to be the stuff of legendary movies.

Lost cities and their discovery also play in the ballpark of great historical drama.

Yet, something may have become lost in translation when it comes to The Lost City of Z.

Without a doubt, many facets of the Percival Fawcett saga are well-produced, well-acted, and directed with an old-style elan by James Gray.

So, where did the audience become lost? Nowadays, your viewership is weaned on cartoonish plot-holes with noisy special effects, but this film resists the urge for going that way. It paid the price with quality unappreciated. This is not your father’s Indiana Jones.

The film is an adventure in the classic Royal Geographic Society tradition, perhaps better suited to a miniseries from BBC.

Fawcett’s most significant discovery was that the RGS was filled with racial prejudice against ancient tribal societies in 1910. Imagine that! Prejudice that South American natives might not produce a classic civilization thousands of years ago!

Brad Pitt originally planned to play the obsessed British explorer, but wiser heads moved on to Charlie Hunnam, who certainly has come a long way since the days of the British Queer as Folk cast. He is quite perfect in the role, even aging with subtlety from 1906 to the 1926 when Fawcett ostensibly disappeared in the jungle.

Perhaps the understated, stiff upper-lip manner is truly anachronistic and misunderstood, leaving audiences cold.

The best part of the film for us was the role of Robert Pattinson, lately taking secondary co-star parts, sidekick to the hero. He is a delight.

Here he may come across as the next Gabby Hayes, or Ralph Bellamy, but Pattinson’s transition from cute vampire to character actor may have just given his career a new, untold longevity.

By the wayside, snippets of familiar classical music are tossed around like rose petals, which may be the truly greatest criticism we can muster.

 

Unwell in a Kafka World: A Cure for Wellness

DATELINE:  Not exactly Obamacare

Dane DeHaan

You have to admit that actor Dane DeHaan usually chooses the most peculiar films and roles available to young stars.

In this movie, A Cure for Wellness, he manages to look rather unwell, doughy, and pooped out. That surely goes against the grain of buff, health-addicted, superheroes among his generation of leading men.

Director Gore Verbinski’s Kafkaesque tale is creepy enough for horror, surreality, and German expressionism, rolled into one hyper-barbaric chamber for eels.

A young executive of a billion-dollar corporation is sent to retrieve its CEO from this strange Swiss clinic where clients go to take “the waters,” a cure for what ails you. It’s either that or go to jail for white-collar crime.

Like clockwork, DeHaan’s Lockhart arrives at a Swiss mountaintop roach motel where people check in, but never apparently check out.  Instead, they are put through a health regimen worthy of Tom Brady’s personal trainer.

Jason Isaacs as Volmer runs the place like the reincarnation of a mad Teutonic baron two centuries ago. He will kill you with kindness.

The cure is worse than the illness—but DeHaan seems more than willing to stick around. We’d be suspicious the moment they kept insisting you drink the water. And, alas, your cell phone won’t work in this altitude.

The hydrotherapy seems a bit on the extreme side, but sado-masochism never had it so healthy.

The atmosphere is suitably Germanic, if not germ-free. We are told that Adolph Hitler was at the spa location, Castle Hohenzollern, for a cure during World War I. How fitting, indeed. It makes Last Year at Marienbad a pleasant stroll.

The film is not for dummies, and one of the attendants is reading a Thomas Mann novel about a health spa where people are convinced they need treatment, whether true or not.

If there is a drawback to this movie, it can be found in the length of the film. We have grown unaccustomed to movies pushing two & a half hours, which is a sure sign they are considered “important” by the makers. There is apparently no cure for this.

Nikola Tesla: More than Meets the Eye

DATELINE:  Under Appreciated Genius

Tesla & sparks

PBS produced a documentary on the mysterious genius born in 1856 whose inventions seem to include Star Wars Defense Initiative and particle beam death rays.

Its title is Tesla: Master of Lightning, and he used electrical currents to win a war with Edison, light up a World’s Fair, and made himself glow in the dark.

We may never know the whole story as Tesla’s notebooks disappeared when he died in 1943. Were they stolen by Nazi spies? Russians? The FBI?

A recent little book by Ralph T. O’Neal III came to our attention in which Tesla’s stolen secrets are the McGuffin of an extra-governmental conspiracy in something called Shadow War: MJ-12 Versus the Vatican.

MJ12kindlecover

The final segment of the PBS film seems to hint at futuristic, Jules Verne technology created by Nikola Tesla.

The man came out of nowhere, Croatia in 1884, and immediately became enemies with Thomas Edison, J. Pierpoint Morgan, and Guillermo Marconi. That’s quite a climb to infamy when a poor immigrant hobnobs with the greats of the 19th century a few years after arriving in New York.

Trump would not have let Tesla into the country if he tried to enter today.

The documentary and the life of Tesla almost seems like science fiction—but it is tragedy and enigma wrapped in a bit of showmanship by the great inventor.

Most today know the name Tesla as a progressive car. He was much more than that, and you may owe it to yourself to learn about a man who eschewed fortune and lost his fame.

M-J 12 Versus The Vatican, Book Review of Shadow War

DATELINE:  Old-fashioned Murder Meets Sci-Fi

MJ12kindlecover

A new writer has entered the scene with a work of fiction about the growing belief that there is a shadow war occurring with secret government technology.

This new book by Ralph T. O’Neal, III, contends that the Vatican is at loggerheads with the top-secret extra-governmental agency called MJ-12, a body that knows something about space aliens they refuse to tell the public. They may know as much as ICE may know about regular aliens in America. This may be Trump’s world of espionage, technology, and shadow warfare.

Mt. Graham Observatory in Arizona is the central location of the tale about two agents, one from NSA and another from FBI, who find themselves embroiled in an old-fashioned murder mystery two miles high.

With altitude sickness complicating the shenanigans of MJ-12 holding a secret meeting with the Vatican about their infra-red telescope and its discoveries, you have personal motives of characters undermining the technology.

Without giving too much away in the plot, the books uses something called “FotoFootnotes” that take the story to a level not quite seen in graphic novels. You have consistent images and explanations of the estoterica of the storyline.

Throw in the endangered red squirrels of Arizona and a bizarre transgender genius named Bel Esprit, and you have all the makings of an Agatha Christie-style tale.

The story is quick-moving and often dotted with humorous asides, but it will take the reader to an enjoyable, thrilling reading experience.

 

Here We UFO Again!

 DATELINE: Tofu Turkey Award Winner

tofu turkey

UFO Conspiracy: the Hunt for the Truth is another History Channel extravaganza. If you thought they were finished with beating dead horses, hi-yo, Silver, again.

Round up the usual suspects.

Yes, all the people interviewed look familiar. That’s because they do a round-robin of UFO appearances on any and every show available. These are the experts. If you appear on TV often enough, lacking any credential, you will be billed as an expert.

It’s been a long, long time since we gave out our Tofu Turkey Award: but here it is!

If the re-enactments seem familiar, you have already seen them on UFO Files, Hanger 51, Ancient Aliens, or the sundry off-shoots, and some other series too. Why not pass the footage off as documentarian? If you see it often enough, it may start to look like newsreel film.

They show us the fake alien autopsy stuff for good measure. We can hear Trump calling this “fake news” and saying he saw it on CNN.

Yes, they cover Roswell with nothing new to say. They say Secretary of Defense James Forrestal was murdered for wanting to broadcast the truth, and those pesky men in black are robotic intimidators. Oh, have you been there too?

We have been more impressed with low-budget specials about the topic.

We aren’t sure if the History Channel is making history out of whole cloth or reporting its seamless weave.

This special is about two-hours in length—which passes for highly detailed in the age of attention deficit.

After watching well-produced episodes of Ancient Aliens, we feel like we are being fed the leftovers. It’s all glossy and sugary sweet, but the calories are killing our cholesterol.

This documentary’s not comprehensive, but mentions some familiar names like Hynek, Kecksburg, and Blue Book, and notes that military tries to intimidate witnesses with those notorious men in black, going after civilians and soldiers.

The preponderance of examples seems to come out of the 1960s in the second half of the show. By then, only the most novice UFO follower will be still with them.

MacBird Outdid Trump as Caesar 45 years ago

 Julius Trump?

DATELINE:  Shakespeare in Absentia

We have seen many updated versions of Shakespeare over the years. Indeed, we enjoy seeing the Bard transported to new locations and timeframes. It often electrifies the message that has become stale to modern audiences.

We have seen Shakespeare set in Nazi Germany (Richard III), in the world of bikers (Coriolanus), in the world of independent film students (Hamlet), a corporate boardroom (Othello), and now we find a stage production of Julius Caesar in American politics.

The Shakespeare in the Park production makes Caesar a lookalike Donald Trump who hath grown ambitious. He has that chock of blond hair weave and an overlong red tie. He also has a bloated ego.

The man who would be emperor is assassinated by senators with knives, just like 2000 years ago. How much progress we have made in politics?

This version has created a firestorm, causing corporate sponsors to try to stifle artistic expression by withdrawing support. It’s a tempest in a teapot.

We think back to the Vietnam War days—and back then we must have been less sensitive because Macbeth was presented on stage in the form of MacBird.

That little ditty suggested that Lyndon Johnson had been behind the assassination of John Kennedy. In this cruel satire, without the Shakespearean tongue, the Scottish thane Macbird and his wife, Lady Bird, are party to a ruthless series of killings to rise to the top of the nation. Was Lyndon not born of woman?

We recall amusement about seeing a dumb tasteless play that presented President Johnson portrayed for conspiracy theorists  as Macbeth, but it did not quite engender the furor that President Trump has exemplified in a Caesar mode.

Satirizing politics of the moment has become a dangerous business. Just ask Alec Baldwin or Kathy Griffin who claim they are subject to social anger on social media.

So, too, Julius Caesar has created a debate—not about politics, but about art. To be or not, we’ll wait for the movie version.

Becket’s Unspeakable Love Story

Becket Cavorting Adults

DATELINE: Burton & O’Toole in Epical Struggle

In 1964 came the extraordinary event of a literate play turned into an epic movie. This was the Hollywood version of Murder in the Cathedral.  The more mundane play version by Jean Anhouilh was called simply Becket.  Its Broadway incarnation was a legend with Laurence Olivier and Anthony Quinn playing the leads, and exchanging roles every other night.

So, the movie version had big shoes to fill. Director Peter Glenville went out and arranged for the two biggest stars of the decade to go head-to-head:  Welsh Richard Burton, fresh off Cleopatra’s couch, and Irish Peter O’Toole, fresh off an Arabian oasis.

Everyone expected fireworks, but the two stars actually liked each other.

The movie shows it. O’Toole’s Henry II is utterly hysterical, and funny too. Burton’s Thomas Beckett is somber and sly. You will first be shocked at how young they are: the dissipation would set in, like dry rot, over the next decade.

They enjoyed their roles because, as O’Toole said at the time, in two blockbuster movies he was allowed a love interest of camels (Lawrence of Arabia) and Burton (Becket). And Burton was allowed only Elizabeth Taylor as his love interest. So, it was a natural affair between the actors.

Love interest indeed!

The docudrama goes grandiose in damp castles and Sherwood Forest, as Henry and Becket are like smitten boyfriends. That was the historical take—as no one could really figure how the Norman king and the Saxon aide-de-camp could be so entwined.

In a series of long capes, O’Toole is flashy and a hoot—and Burton’s character becomes more ethical and somber. Henry made Becket the recipient of many gifts: deaconship, chancellor, and Archbishop of Canterbury, to win his affection. Alas, it never worked the way Henry wanted, as Becket began to oppose his schemes.

Henry threw a fit in which he basically said he was surrounded by idiots, and the smartest man in the kingdom was opposed to him.

Well, the Knights took that to mean they had to relieve their king of a strange affection. As normal heterosexuals, they figured, you kill the one he loves. It’s a British tradition.

Of course, it all backfires. Henry II did penance with flagellation—and made Becket a saint, literally, by church canon. It makes for a rousing adventure and fascinating intellectual thriller.

 

 

Return to O.J. Unnecessary

DATELINE:  Guilty Even If Found Not Guilty

Rick Investigator Rick Levasseur

Before there was Aaron Hernandez shooting up the serial killer sports figure, there was O.J. Simpson who slaughtered his way into fame after doing light comedy in movies and heavy sports in youth.

Now O.J. is back with several examinations of his alleged crimes. One is enough for us. The 6-part miniseries documentary/crime expose is called Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence.  Yes, some people think the jury was right.

During the course of an overwrought investigation, it became clear no one wanted to re-open this case. We were astounded that Nicole Simpson’s sister and Ron Goldman’s father stood for additional tormenting interviews. Were they paid for their time?

It was rumored way back at the time of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and waiter Ron Goldman that the real killer was O.J.’s son. Yes, the story was a kind of Mildred Pierce in which the parent is willing to take the blame for the crimes of their child.

As hard as it is to picture O.J. Simpson as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest mode, he seems tailor-made to save his troubled son, or more likely to throw him away. On the other hand, theorist William Dean was hell-bent on finding the “true” culprit whom he labeled Jason Simpson, O.J.’s son.

With glossy production values, the miniseries documentary features Martin Sheen as narrator. Chief honcho William Dean selects two matinee idol types, right out of central casting as forensic psychologist (Kris Mohandie) and former police sergeant (Rick Levasseur) as his leg men. They couldn’t be cuter if you cast real actors.

Bill Dean has been enterprising for years: he took possession of Jason Simpson’s diaries and hunting knife out of a storage locker. It sparked his manhunt attitude like something out of Hugo’s Les Miserables.  He is a dogged Javert.

Showing up to provide insights include Dr. Henry Lee and Detective Tom Lange from the original case. They give both sides of inept police work. No one from the prosecutor’s office would bother with this investigation.

The two boy-toy crime busters try to reach reclusive Jason Simpson, and he is stalked by private detectives hired for the series, showing only a rather sad, downtrodden, and unhappy man, but is he a murderer?

Ultimately Jason Simpson’s time-card from his job at the time of the murder would prove to be the investigation’s high-point. Yet, we ended up nearly as disgusted by the rehash as all the surviving original people.

Was any of this necessary?

 

Acknowledging the Unacknowledged

DATELINE:    World’s Biggest Secret?

unacknowledged

When you make an audacious claim that you are about to acknowledge the greatest secret in history, you better have a good one. Asking the audience to suspend belief on whether your movie is truthful may be too much to ask, or asking for trouble.

Unacknowledged: An Expose of the World’s Greatest Secret, a production from an arm of the lobby run by Dr. Steven Greer, takes a big bite out of the American pie.

We have not flinched in the task of looking at dubious documentaries that bring ridicule from a wide group of the population when it comes to an alien presence on Earth. The biggest budget, most powerful of all these documentaries, came out in 2017, flying in the face of the dangers of having government black ops who may wipe them out for the revelations. Yes, there’s an annual black hole of billions of dollars going into the budget of black ops, with no control from the U.S. Congress. It is scary.

So far, the government has benignly ignored the most shocking, by its own boast, of all UFO conspiracy movies.

We can recall Harry Lime in The Third Man claiming he would think nothing of removing a few “dots” of people from his mighty and lofty perch for a profit. It would seem Dr. Steven Greer has found that attitude prevalent among a shadow government that runs the black ops side of the United States.

This intelligent and well-produced documentary features some horrific images of the 20th and 21st century that are not usually shown on TV. If the plan is to shock us into fear, they are doing a good job. It seems, according to this theory, “they” will erase you if you try to stop them.

The enemy is not space aliens if this film theory is correct, but a consortium of the military-industrial complex that does not want to lose its grip on profit from world order. Werner Von Braun warned on his deathbed that they would use an alien attack, convincingly staged, to keep control of the world by enlisting the public’s support.

Greer enlists an array of impressive people, out of the closet, to state the ancient astronauts are out there, waiting to help us combat those who’d destroy the planet for profit. It’s like putting a cherry on a mud pie.

You may also wonder why Dr. Greer has not been assassinated for leading the call for citizen outreach to the five or six extraterrestrial civilizations that are visiting Earth regularly. He believes the governments have been co-opted, if not corrupted, and presidents are mere pawns of fake news.

Clearly this well-financed movie documentary indicates that the true believers are striking back at the empire of billionaires with their own money.

This may be the ultimate movie about truth, justice, and the American Way. Heaven help us, but if we are waiting for a visitor from a strange planet with super powers to rescue society, it’s already too late.

Twin Peaks, Trump Plains, & Celtics Lows

DATELINE:  LeBron James as Laura Palmer, Trump as D.B. Cooper

glowing orb

Chicken or egg? We can’t figure out if the Trump Administration has prepared us for the new series Twin Peaks, or whether Twin Peaks has prepared us for the continuing weirdness of the Trump presidency.

When we see President Trump putting his hands on a glowing orb, we know there is a conspiracy of billionaires to control the world. Of course, it is merely a futuristic ribbon-cutting scene from the most recent Star Wars movie. Either that, or it is opening a gateway to an alternate universe, like the plots of Twin Peaks.

By the same token, we feel as if watching the Cleveland Cavaliers with the Boston Celtics is like knitting by Madame Defarge while royalty is having their heads chopped off.

On Twin Peaks, agent DB Cooper has returned to the northwest after disappearing for 25 years. That David Lynch has such a sense of humor.  So far, McLachlan has not rubbed any glowing orbs, but has kissed dead Laura Palmer (Cheryl Lee).

On the Celtics, little Cousin IT (Isaiah Thomas) and AB (Avery Bradley) are from the same neck of the woods in Washington state which happens to be the setting for Twin Peaks. It could explain a lot about how the Celtics are playing like Laura Palmer’s body wrapped in plastic.

Even stranger, we were amazed to see Kyle McLachlan and Sheryl Lee looking just like they stepped out of a 1990s TV show.  It becomes even more amazing when David Lynch has to inject a phrase at the end of every episode of the show that the episode is dedicated to the memory of one of the cast members who is now dead. We mean really really dead dead, like the log lady Catherine Coulson and the FBI agent played by Miguel Ferrer.

As for the dead Celtics, they are merely playing in an alternate universe, sort of like Twin Peaks 25 years later. If there is a glowing orb in the NBA, they better start rubbing it now. Lebron is no Laura Palmer.

Long Forgotten Executive Action

DATELINE:  Believe It or Don’t

 action

One of the most unusual of the early theoretical movies on the Kennedy Assassination was called Executive Action from 1973, a mere ten years after the event.

Already big questions had sparked big movie stars like Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and Will Geer, as well as John Anderson (often chosen to play Abe Lincoln in movies and TV) as billionaire conspirators who want the President dead.

They select a patsy who is some kind of covert double agent. His name is Oswald.

Though the film claims to be somewhat fictional, it quotes Lydon Johnson at the movie start as saying he believed that John Kennedy was killed by an unknown group. This movie, made with the participation of early assassination doubter Mark Lane, is fairly courageous and breath-taking, even after five decades.

We must also express surprise at the stars who chose to play the men who want President Kennedy dead.

The film is no cheap, low-budget affair. It is well produced and directed by David Miller who made some interesting movies in the 1950s and was written by Dalton Trumbo, the famous blacklisted writer.

This returned Grandpa Walton to the bad guy roles that made him famous early in his roles, and Will Geer is notably sinister. This was also Robert Ryan’s final film.

The angles, once thought to be outrageous, have become more acceptable in recent research. The film may not be a genuine biopic or docudrama in the sense of trying to achieve 100% truth, but this may be closer than anyone thought back in the 1970s.

More than a curio, this film is downright compelling to watch.

Shot Down by History Channel

DATELINE:  Disinvited and Unvisited

Not faked

Just two weeks after airing the first episodes of their series JFK Declassified, the reprehensible History channel has pulled the show. It’s the ultimate political shell game.

That essentially means it has gone into hiatus limbo.

Though the show was mercilessly criticized for a variety of reasons, not the least was dubious history, and most often cited as having the most egomaniacal host, Bob Baer, the show has gone, disappeared like the gunman on the grassy knoll.

Okay, okay, we were in that chorus of boohoo despisers of the fake news that the CIA is feeding us fifty years after the death of the murdered president.

Yet, there is something unseemly about the way this has been handled.

History has killed the show leaving four unaired episodes. When they will appear may be as certain as the trajectory of a magic bullet.

They could show up in a month, or a year. Or never.

Leave to History to shaft their viewers. A few may have enjoyed seeing another theory, no matter how half-baked or made to order to exonerate the CIA.  Now, they will not have any satisfaction.

Perhaps it is better to be infuriated and disappointed than to have nothing. It is an appalling mistreatment of the audience and viewers of that cable lightweight, History.

Single handedly they have gone for broke on destroying anything legitimately resembling documentary.

If you want to know who killed Cock Robin, or even JFK, you might look to the people who have killed history for a profit. They run the History channel.