Walk on Water: Mossad at Work

DATELINE: Multi-Lingual Approach to Nazis

walk on water

We must admit that intelligent gay movies are far and few between, but this one is a treasure. Put aside young coming out stories; this one is about a dangerous Mossad agent/killer who must track down a Nazi war criminal in his dotage and kill him.

Walk on Water is another Israeli film that finds drama and suspense in characters on the periphery of the gay world. You don’t normally find such cerebral films in the American gay movie canon.

Along the way, the deadly intelligence agent must deal with the gay grandson of the Nazi. The film moves in two parts between a visit to Israel by the German heir to the Nazi mantle, and a trip to Berlin by the agent to trap his prey.

The ultimate issue is whether people are responsible for the sins of their fathers (or grandfathers). The firebrand Israeli agent begins to have doubts, and the young German descendant is equally appalled by the skinheads around him.

Throw the gay angle into the mix, and you have another element of the crypto-Nazi doctrine and the Zionist advocate that is exposed from both sides: after all, the concentration camps killed both Jews and homosexuals.

The Israeli agent is working under the stress and post-trauma of having a license to kill—and then finding his wife a victim of suicide over his lifestyle. He finds himself in an emotional roller-coaster with a German brother and sister.

If you want a movie with an intelligent premise, this certainly is up there—above and beyond anything that might be called a gay movie, with a major character in a heroic role. This is a gay-theme wrapped in an enigma within a mystery.

 

 

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Black Camel: Chuck Chan in 1931!

DATELINE: Lost Gem

actor legends

 Lugosi with Oland.

One of the first of the Warner Oland Charlie Chan movies is a beautifully restored print from 1931. It has other surprises too. It was filmed on location in Charlie Chan’s home base of Honolulu and uses the scenery to great effect. It is cryptically called The Black Camel.

Fresh off the horror of the year, Dracula, you have two cast members in fine fettle:  Dwight Frye and Bela Lugosi. They play a respective butler and a questionable psychic, all too willing to help Chan.

Lugosi and Frye were scheduled to make James Whale’s Frankenstein after this picture, but when Whale saw this, he thought Bela Lugosi would be too scary for the monster. The part went to Karloff instead.

The film does not hide some white tourist prejudice, compounded because the detective is both Chinese and a policeman. And, the cast of extras includes many Hawaiians.

The dark metaphor of the Black Camel has something to do with kneeling Death coming a-calling. It is one of many little aphorisms that Charlie Chan spouts dryly.

Instead of an irritating older son, this film features an inept young assistant to Chan. We do see Charlie’s family at a large dinner table in one scene, but the cheap sets and low budget formula would come in the next few films.

Warner Oland is masterful, as always, and it is quite a mangled English that we hear from both Oland and Lugosi in their conversations, that are quite witty and delightful.

There are a half-dozen quite credible suspects, and they are indeed all gathered in the drawing room (and dining room) for the big reveal.

This wonderful early mystery is a surprise and delight on every level.

 

 

 

Three Identical Strangers

DATELINE: Triplets Separated at Birth

3some Reunited for a time.

Oh, a feel-good human-interest documentary? It’s called ironically Three Identical Strangers.

Not so fast. This movie is a roller-coaster that takes you to

emotional heights and depths you may not expect. It may be the most powerful film we have reviewed in quite some time: disturbing, funny, horrifying, exposing some unethical natures in our world.

Three gorgeous 19-year old men discover they are triplets separated at birth by a ruthless agency and uncaring birth mother. Eddy, Bobby, and David, are charming, but the little princes are about to face adversity.

Their tale of discovery is delightful and fun as they become 1980s media darlings, showing up on every talk venue of the era. They had found each other and nothing else mattered.

Their adoptive parents were distressed that the boys had been cruelly separated by the Wise Jewish Adoption Agency. But, the group stone-walled them and celebrated holding them at bay.

At first the boys did not care much, too overwhelmed in finding each other. Yet, as time passed, they began to see some horror in the mysterious separation.

About half through the film, you too will be shaken by the ruthless human experimentation: deliberately separating children who were twins or triplets for the egotistical study of a notable New York psychiatrist.

Even today, surviving members of the business shrug it off in an infuriating manner. Playing like Nazis with the lives of children did not bother them at all. It is revolting.

As for the boys, growing up to learn they were lab rats, may have done even more damage. The journalist who discovers the ugly secret cannot compel powerful forces to reveal why they did this nasty experiment—ripping apart children from their closest relatives.

The ultimate tragedy that befalls the triplets undercuts the happy-go-lucky age of discovery that had in 1981. What ultimately transpires will stun you.

This is powerful story-telling about crypto-Nazis in America.

 

 

Dominic Dunne: Party On

DATELINE: Murder Will Out Gossip

 DD Character Assassin’s Best Friend

His friends always called him Nic, not Dom. And, he was the biggest social climber in Hollywood for a time, and then he was the biggest crime writer in America.

Dominic Dunne: After the Party is an Australian documentary from ten years ago that is making its waves now on streaming video.

Dunne fully cooperated, and he shows no mercy to himself and his youthful flaws. His son, actor Griffin Dunne is first to join the chorus of critical bric-a-bracs.

Not truly a journalist, he was not even a writer until age 50 when he started writing novels about social climbing society types, like the Two Mrs. Glenvilles. Only later, after his daughter’s murder in Hollywood, does he change his metier and go after the bad guys: the rich and pampered who think they were above the law.

Among his famous cases: O.J., the Menendez Brothers, and Phil Spector. He is merciless about their guilt and their unpleasantness. He makes big-time enemies, like Robert Kennedy, Jr.

He knew them all in the 1950s, joining in some monumental parties with names that are unforgettable. Then, he produced a bunch of movies, like gay groundbreaker Boys in the Band and plastic surgery breaker Ash Wednesday with Elizabeth Taylor.

He was married to an heiress for a time, but he never admits much beyond this as his sexploits are concerned. Only in later years, he admits he is celibate and carefree.

Like many social butterflies, he seemed to miss the point that these fests with big names were hollow and as much for their name-dropping as anything else. He is still not above or below the idea of dropping names or embellishing his luxuries. His son disdains this quality, but he is right about his father.

A compelling picture of a Hollywood groupie who found a passport to the inner world, this documentary is gossip on a high-level, high-octane whirlwind.

 

 

 

 

 

Geriatric Death Wish

DATELINE: Don’t Call Him Dirty Harry!

what's it all about, Alfie?  Dirty Alfie?

When you take a premise to the British producers, you will have something better than the original American version.

So, when someone floated the idea of a British vigilante going after bad guys that the police cannot catch, you end up with Harry Brown, outdoing Charles Bronson or Bruce Willis in Death Wish.

This thriller is about an octogenarian who takes on teenage hoodlums single-handedly. Now, there are a raft of British movie stars who could come out of retirement to play such a role (Sean Connery, Albert Finney, Tom Courtney, etc.). However, this one is delightful because the man of the gun is a version of Dirty Harry, Michael Caine.

As far as the teenage bad guys, they seem motiveless and simply evil for their own pleasure, which could likely be true enough.

Michael Caine is driven to draw on his heroic soldier roots from Belfast’s conflicts. He notes that the enemy in that British conflict actually stood for something they believed in. These drug-infested youth are just nasty for their own sake.

You throw in some highly inept British police that are typified by Emily Mortimer as an all-business detective, and you have the need for an aging hero to try to chase kids down the mean streets.

Caine’s righteous anger simmers and you believe this retired gentleman can draw upon something from his past when he goes rogue. We need to see a tough guy without mercy who is 80.

Obviously, the world of movies and the old stars still has a draw—and the aging boomer generation still loves its Alfie and 60s spy. We know what it’s all about: showing that age has not slowed down heroic feelings.

Scanning the Great Pyramid

DATELINE: Don’t Scan Zowie Hotass!

 Zowie Hotass

Here’s a documentary that you won’t see on Ancient Aliens.

Scanning the Pyramids is actually a misnomer about Khufu’s Great Pyramid. Oh, they do a quick test on the bent pyramid, but the real focus is on the extraordinary discoveries they make. This is a joint expedition with scientists from France, Japan, and Egypt.

Using new technology, they want to break ground without moving a stone. Yep, they can look inside the pyramid with something called muon scans. These little items come cascading in from space in a straight line, meaning they can photograph them on plates.

This new x-ray system should tell scientists whether there are more chambers inside the Great Pyramid.

The more sensation-seeking fans of ancient astronauts and genius architects in ancient Egypt will not be happy. Indeed, our favorite media hog and Egyptian Antiquities Queen of the Nile, Zahi Hawass, aka Zowie Hotass, shows up with an entourage, sputtering his disdain for science over Egyptology.

Nothing receives a green light in his dark vision. He thinks small pebbles may be inside the new pyramid void.

Unfortunately, Hawass Hotass is a political kingpin or is that pharaoh-pinhead? He is the stamp of approval scientists must face down.

He is, shall we say, skeptical of the findings, or even of the methodology.

The Japanese physicist who pioneers muongraphics looks like a teenager, which doesn’t help. However, all three countries confirm their findings that about 2/3 up the north side, where you see a pyramid notch, there may be another great chamber. It takes two years for this research to reach fruition, but it is worth it.

No one knows what may be inside the newly discovered great void, or even what shape it takes, but it is the first major discovery in 1000 years at the Great Pyramid. It is compelling evidence and fascinating science, unless you happen to believe in the Flat Earth like Hawass.

Leonardo: the Mystery of the Lost Portrait

DATELINE: More Da Vinci Uncoded

Leo Mess Portrait

An Italian production, but with American voice-overs to make it more palatable to English-speaking audiences, the latest Leonardo documentary puts a focus on a newly discovered “Lost Portrait.”

Indeed, the quest by the art historian is to put the interesting self-portrait through its paces. It looks, at first, too good to be 500 years old. Only when a restorer took off the varnish and repairs, it began to show its age: cracks and scratches over the face.

We think someone tried to scratch Da Vinci’s eyes out in a cat fight.

Experts are lined up from Salerno to Naples to Madrid, each specialist offering some different angles. Facial recognition experts try to determine if all extant self-portraits (and one portrait by a Da Vinci friend) are the same person.

This latest discovery is the Lucan Leonardo, thought for a long time to be a picture of Galileo.

Still, was the wood-based picture really done by Leonardo?

He looks about 50 and one test proved the feather in his cap was added in the 19th century: wrong kind of paint. However, the rest seemed authentic to 1500 or so.

This film features some unusual and unique techniques never done previously:  police detectives actually find thumb prints on the paint and match them to fingerprints on Leonardo’s manuscript codexes.

Forensic artists use all self-portraits to create 3-D versions of his head, and forensic handwriting experts decipher the backwards words in Latin on the obverse of the painting.

There’s something odd about the eyes, but…this one is worth your time.

The Man Who Murdered Sherlock?

 DATELINE:  Well, Attempted Murder…

 Watson, We Have a Problem Watson, We Have a Problem!

 

Well, you have a trollish documentary here: The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes turns out to be a misnomer, if not a distortion of logic. It’s elementary to point out this is a headline grabber, not a fact.

Actually, the man attempted murder—and had regrets about it. That man is, as everyone knows, the author Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a doctor in the vein of Watson.

This presentation tries to make a mountain out of a molehill of money. If Doyle chose not to ultimately murder his creation, the fictional detective, the motive was cash. Doyle was offered more moolah than Moriarty had in his crime network.

The film tries to do a hatchet psychology profile on the author, suggesting he had deep-rooted emotional problems: and he took it out on his punching bag, Sherlock.

We all have heard that Dr. Joseph Bell was the model for Sherlock—that medical professor that Doyle studied with. However, this film hints there was a second model for Sherlock, far more nefarious.

It sounds like they film producers can’t tell Moriarty from Mycroft. Dr. Bryan Waller was the other role model: an arrogant and brilliant man who called himself a “Consulting Pathologist.”  Now you’re cooking.

 

Waller was not someone Doyle liked. It seems he was Doyle’s mother’s lover! Yikes. No wonder she loved Sherlock and was dismayed when Conan Doyle killed him off in 1891.

Waller and Mother Doyle were neighbors on his estate where he set her up in a cottage. Now this is the kind of sleazy detail we love to report. TMZ clearly fell down on the job of reporting this.

However, the false charges against the author seem trumped up at best. There never was murder, only mysterious death that was explained years later when Sherlock showed up to collect his royalties.

Of the spate of Holmes documentaries, this one still managed to bemuse us and hold us rapt, no matter what its shortcomings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Aaron Hernandez Back in the News

DATELINE: Out, Out, Damned Spot!

A1 steak

While Tom Brady and the New England Patriots pulled another game out of the hopper in the last second, the news was not all good. The Boston Globe featured an interview with another gay lover of the late Aaron Hernandez.

Yes, the paramours of alleged and former murdering tight end of the Patriots are coming out of the woodwork. Had he not been indicted for multiple murders, Aaron Hernandez might have been on the receiving end of Tom Brady’s passes this past night, instead of Gronk and Julian Edelman.

Instead, we are treated to more salacious details of his affair with his high school sweetheart, the quarterback of the Bristol, Connecticut, football team. Aaron had a thing for QBs, which explains his trips to California to train with Tom Brady years ago.

Of course, nowadays, Tom has no memory of the name Hernandez and never breathes it in polite company or even to the media.

Several years ago, during the trials of Hernandez, we were a lone voice in the wilderness, pointing out that the police covered up the gay angle to the crimes—believing it did not serve the public to hear it.

And, of course, the prosecutors declined to go into the gay motive in the murders because they thought the public would never find an NFL player capable of being homoerotic behavior, let alone homicidal behavior.

If you want to read the dirt, unvarnished and uncovered, go to the either the print or ebook entitled The Strange Case of Aaron Hernandez, available on Amazon.

 

 

Hope Diamond: 45 Carats & Down-graded

 DATELINE: Hopeless but Not Serious

Your Best Friend? Cold Ice!

The Smithsonian Channel ought to give us some interesting stuff to view. We anticipated that the Mystery of the Hope Diamond might be that bauble of historical documentaries. Instead, they try to debunk their own information.

Ostentatious beyond all blue diamonds, yet still mysteriously cut down after it was stolen in 1792, the Hope Diamond remains a big draw.  And that is despite its legendary curse.

Blue diamonds are considered the least happy for those who want a date with carbon facets. This one, purportedly, served as the eye of an Hindu goddess unceremoniously snatched by a thief.

Yes, like King Tut’s tomb, the Hope Diamond gives its owners a run for their lives, and their money. It cost Marie Antoinette her head as she so admired it.

There are gaps in its history—long disappearances—as we do not know who cut the diamond down to its present 45-carat size. It once weighed in at 70 big carats.

And we can’t say that fool who pared it down was toast soon thereafter. We presume so, based on this pedestrian documentary astutely narrated by Kim Basinger.

Of all the intriguing details that pop out of this 46-minute featurette, it is that in the 1960s, scientists discovered that ultra-violet light has a weird effect on the diamond:  causing it to glow in the dark like a red ember.

Size does not fit all curses: speculators think size makes the red shine last longer than most diamonds sitting in the dark after basking in ultra-violet light. Who knows when it comes to cursed stones?

The curse may take longer than six months to hit the owner, but when it does, look out. It’s a tough nut for sure, about the size of a cheap walnut.

Right now, the crown jewel of diamonds is housed in a bullet-proof and bomb-proof case at the Smithsonian, donated there by Harry Winston because you can’t get a good price for the damn thing on the market.

The Hope Diamond is named after a greedy banker named  Hope, not Bob, one of its cursed 19th century holders. It now is on display and has as many visitors as Mona Lisa every year. Look, but don’t own up to it.

The film falls on its own lightweight when it tries to prove the curse of the diamond is fake news. Their expert insists only old people (already apparently facing death) have expired upon owning it. This undercuts their own information about the young family members who were collateral deaths from ties to the diamond.

This diamond is nobody’s best friend.

Every Picture’s Untold Story, Part Two

DATELINE: Twice-Told Lizards

Mrs. Arnolfini, not pregnant No Expectations?

Waldemar Janusczark returns for a second round of nasty interpretations of great works of art. The series is the veddy British Every Picture Tells a Story. He isn’t off much in his comments. After all, it’s art and open to criticism from a legitimate authority. He does it with aplomb and humor, if not deadpan accuracy.

Among the targets this time around are Da Vinci and Caravaggio, as well as Jan Van Eyke.

First up on the hit list is Caravaggio, known for his violent depictions of effeminate boys, mostly commissioned works for wealthy and gay bishops.

Caravaggio liked to use rough trade types from the streets of Rome in his religious depictions, and he also enjoyed using a younger version of himself as Bacchus, that god of dissipation and licentiousness.

So, Waldemar goes after Boy Bitten by Lizard. It may be one of the rare occasions when pontification about the symbol of the middle finger is at the heart of art.

Later, he tackles Da Vinci with a hatchet. There is no love for the great master as Waldemar notes how Mona Lisa is a marketing icon and a plump housewife whose critical appreciation is overwrought.

He also takes on The Marriage of Arnolfini, ridiculing anyone who says Mrs. Arnolfini is not pregnant in the picture. He goes even a step beyond to suggest that she is the victim of death in childbirth and that the portrait is posthumous, done as homage by her husband.

You cannot go wrong by hearing these takes on great art, and it will make you the center of attention at parties when you reveal what you have learned.

 

 

Every Picture Tells: Fascinating Doc

DATELINE: Picture This, Part One

 Mr. & Mrs. Mr. & Mrs. Andrews

Art critic Waldemar Januszczak  makes great paintings accessible and stresses how they endure.

From its galloping opening credits, you know this is not Kenneth Clark pontificating. It is art with a large dollop of droll and snide insight. The host begins with a barrage of witty puns.

The mini-series covers a couple of disks with four major paintings and painters on each. Waldemar knows enough to start off the series with his aplomb dropping wit applied to Thomas Gainsborough.

You might think he’d do “Blue Boy,” but instead he goes for an unfinished masterpiece called “Mr. & Mrs. Andrews.”  He savages them totally in about 25 minutes.

In the host’s estimation, Gainsborough did not like Mrs. Andrews much—and the family cancelled the picture before it was finished. He wanted to show the hard-hearted Mrs. Andrews throttling a pheasant her husband just shot on their massive estate.

Gainsborough insights abound from the critic. He notes how the painter’s father was into satin manufacturing—and his artist son always makes his subjects wear the most gorgeous clothes.

As for the subject of portraiture, he did not favor it. The first episode is lively and wonderful. Succeeding pieces on Rembrandt, Giorgioni, and Boticelli, are less amusing, though he provides many startling facts.

You will find that Rembrandt enjoyed the lessons of dissecting human bodies, and Venus on the half-shell is more than an appetizer.

You can’t turn away from great art, or great education, and we look forward to what he has to say about Da Vinci and Caravaggio in the subsequent episodes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fabergé: a World Unto Itself

DATELINE: Walking on Egg Shells

easter egg

If you want to see one of the most sumptuous and stunning documentaries made, take a peek at Fabergé: A Life of Its Own.

We are seldom prepared for art for art’s sake nowadays. However, the makers of this little film show as much love for beauty as did the original Imperial Russian craftsmen who made the notable eggs for the Tsar.

We haven’t seen such colors since MGM’s heyday of technicolor masterpieces, and the strains of Russian music from Stravinsky, Rimsky-Korsakoff, and Tchaikovsky, are more than suitable to the images of the Easter eggs made for the Tsarina and Dowager from the 1880s to 1914.

The obtuseness of the suffering of the people led to a Revolution that ended the dynasty of Nicholas and Alexandra but began an Easter egg hunt that is worth a cool $30m each.

Each egg (about five to ten inches tall) contained a surprise inside: usually a miniature bouquet of jewel encrusted flowers, tiny family portraits, or a model ship. We’ve heard of ships in a bottle, but never saw one in an egg.

Only 50 Imperial eggs were made–and finding them is more difficult than finding the Easter Bunny.

One of the last eggs was made to resemble and ice-encrusted ball with spring flowers within. Stunning.

Carl Fabergé luckily escaped the Revolution’s executions, but the Tsar did not. Fleeing royalty later sold their jewels for food and refuge. Only with the American marketers did the name of the great artist-jeweler become associated with Brut cologne for men, or even bug killer spray.

The Fabergé name is today being restored to dignity and jewelry.

You cannot miss the staggering aesthetics of this film, narrated by Samuel West. It is as rich as a pastry tray of goodies.

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.

 

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.