Dangerous Primates: Monsterous!

DATELINE: Not Man.

BigChimp

When we saw the title, our thought; the most dangerous primates are members of the Monsterquest  investigation team.

You might think the most dangerous primate on Earth is humans, but actually there are many chimpanzees here in captivity as pets. Their insane tantrums are well-documented, andMonsterquestexamines the problem of these dangerous creatures who can grow to the size of an adult male.

They can be quite unpleasant and unruly, ripping people apart ruthlessly in a fit of anger. Monsterquest  gruesomely documents this in the latest episode.

Horrific photos, seen by us for the first time, of a victim in Connecticut showed the poor woman who survived with a face transplant, no hands, and blind, from the attack.

Half the states in the US allow chimpanzees as pets. And, Florida, of course, has had over 70 sightings of wild roving chimps in the swamps. Speculation centers on released or escaped primates. Once again, Florida is the place where nature is allowed to run wild and old folks are in constant danger. Not crocs, chimps. Dr. Hogan Sherrow seems knowledgeable enough, but he’s left back in the swamps.

One chimp escaped in California, and his owners were frantic to find him as they had raised him since he was a baby: speculation was that he could not survive in the wilds because he was 42 years old.

There is not much evidence during the Monsterquest investigation, though they find just about every other wild animal in Florida. Abruptly, they switch to the Pacific and Vancouver Island where there are reports of extremely large primates. They sound exactly like Bigfoot.

Clever enough,Monsterquest experts describe the Bigfoot and never uses the word for the remainder of the show, but we felt more than a little miffed that this has evolved, yet again, into another Bigfoot episode.

You hae the usual reports of smell, hostility to campers, and the odd footprint. Yup, this is Bigfoot territory. A promising episode turns out to be old hat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Leave the Driving to Hitch….

DATELINE:  Hitchcock’s Breakdown

 Trapped in his car!

“Breakdown” brought Joseph Cotten back together with his old friend Alfred Hitchcock for a half-hour television episode that would send chills down the spine of anyone thinking of driving down to Florida alone. It was supposed to be the first episode of the new TV series Alfred Hitchcock Presents…but was held back.

Once again, Hitchcock played with his words. His breakdown could be a fancy sports car in disrepair, or a man in mental exhaustion. In the case of the show, it could be a word for all seasons.

A ruthless business tycoon (Cotten) fires people over the telephone without remorse and is shocked when one accountant begins to cry piteously. Contempt is his best reaction, finding such weakness to be beneath his attention.

Yet, when a bulldozer working with a chain gang hits his car, he is left paralyzed behind the wheel, looking to the world like a dead man. The steering wheel has crushed his chest, or so concludes every witness.

Not one takes his pulse, so convinced are they of his demise. Thus begins his voice-over thoughts as he is robbed, stripped, has his identity taken, but is able to tap his finger to alert the world of his living carcass.

It is to no avail as the shroud is put over him, and he is left in a morgue. Hitchcock pulled out all the stops of fear on this one—from dying, from being buried alive, to fear of loneliness in its ultimate form.

Augurs and omens dominate the first few moments, perhaps giving a clue or two about the fate and character of Cotton’s heartless protagonist.

Cotten must act without benefit of any movement, tic, or facial acknowledgement. He is up to the task, a monumental endeavor for an actor to act dead for a half-hour TV show.

 

 

 

 

 

Albert Speer Finally Exposed

DATELINE: Out for a Walk.

So many of these so-called Nazi documentaries are secretly honoring the monsters of World War II.  With reluctance, we tuned into the last episode of The Last Secrets of the Third Reich.

This mini-series is not apology for Nazis and it rightfully exposes the evil banality and shenanigans of Himmler, Rommel, and Speer, a nasty Nazi trio.

This hour-long insight into Hitler’s architect and “best friend’, surrogate son, took Albert Speer apart, piece by piece. He was the only high-ranking Nazi not to be condemned to death at Nuremburg trials. He spent 20 years in comfort in prison at Spandau, and then made millions with his apologetic autobiography.

He was a clever man who manipulated people his entire life, from Hitler to judges, down to history. He never admitted his guilt in the Holocaust though he went to Auschwitz and used slave labor on his projects to prolong the war.

He also had a secret collection of stolen art-work that he hid for decades and sold at auction in 1981. He must have known he’d escape into old age.

From being Hitler’s likely successor to being a patrician German version of the “good Nazi,”  Speer spoke English like a Hollywood casting agent’s dream of a Nazi out of Stalag 17. He was reprehensible for being even more of a hypocrite and role model for Germans who didn’t know there were Nazis in their government.

Herr Professor Speer, as he was known among Nazis, owned about 30 fine artworks worth millions, and he also sold his personal sketches by Hitler. He made himself rich in retirement on the lies and dubious morality of being a contrite Nazi.

Speer spent the last free years of his life, doing a batch of interviews and rehabbing his reputation. Many bought his act, but this bio film does not let him off the hook. He was a revolting faker.

With clips of the stolen art collection, rare interviews and horrifying photos of Hitler and Speer cavorting as friends, this is one Nazi documentary that must be seen to be believed.

 

 

 

 

 

Caricature King

DATELINE:  The Line King

Hitch by Hirsch: we couldn’t find Nina.

 Al Hirschfeld likely hated being considered an artist who was a cartoon caricaturist. He was much more, and only in recent years after a 70-year career is he receiving his due.

Hirschfeld is the titled The Line King  in this fascinating and surprising documentary. It divides his life and career into decades from the start of the 20thcentury. He lived well past 90 and was active until the end.

Hia works are notable for the gimmick “Nina” name of his daughter that need to be located—and in multitudes, counted. It was another device that seemed to lessen his artistic reputation, though it is a clever indication of how bright his mind always was.

He started out sculpting and doing watercolors, but those did not sell. He worked in early movie studios, under Selznick and Mayer, sketching all the great comedians. He knew them all, too, including Chaplin who rescued him from poverty when he was in Bali without funds.

The Line King learned about people daily, and his wisdom emanates in every segment that relies on interviews he gave.

What a brilliant man—and many stars, like Katharine Hepburn, bought his works and offer glowing testimonials to his insight.

He never tried to be cruel. When he did his most nasty version of David Merrick, the Broadway producer bought the original and put it on his annual Christmas card.

Hirschfeld did all his work in his little office sitting in a barber’s chair, his idea of comfort, and worked seven days a week. He never had a contract with the New York Times until his last years—and he was more important to Broadway and film than the critics.

If you wanted a seminal insight into every great performer and his work, you need only consult a Hirschfeld sketch. Absolutely brilliant and the film is too.

 

Apt Pupil Outruns Mentor

DATELINE: Crypto Nazis in Suburbia

Bryan Singer, director of Apt Pupil,first ran into hot water, not because of the subject matter that indicated Nazi youth were living in American suburbs, but because he filmed teenage boys in the high school shower after gym class.

This 1998 film should not be forgotten for more important reasons.

High crimes differ in every culture. Singer’s point made Stephen King’s novella more horrific than the original story where the FBI could identify your garden variety mass killer with a profile. In this film version an All-American boy on a bicycle discovers the old man in his neighborhood is no innocent immigrant, but a fugitive Nazi killer from Auschwitz.

It was an era when immigrants were welcomed into the United States at the border, no matter how dubious their credentials. After all, safe haven is often de rigueur for evil-doers.

Instead of turning the reprobate into authorities, the kid wants to be tutored in the fine art of Nazi supremacy. It was a wild idea twenty years ago, but today with neo and crypto Nazi supporters all over the landscape, we might discover this budding monster wins some sympathy. How many shooters in recent years were teenagers with MAGA caps?

Performances make this essential two-character drama into something special. Ian McKellan plays an older Nazi and Brad Refro is the innocent-looking teen. The sophistication of Refro’s work makes his early death a far greater loss to acting. Each star is brilliant as we watch their subtle sexually charged father-son jamboree.

At one point, Refro as Todd buys a Nazi uniform for his pal to see him march around. McKellan dryly announces, “I see I have been promoted.”

The revelation that Refro’s youth may be worse than the Master comes at different points for some audience members. You could think that the kid is a victim of a powerful influence, but his treatment of his high school teacher Mr. French who discovers the ugly secret is far more stinging than the headlines of today’s child abuse cases.

Who can you trust in this world? Everyone uses a façade to shield their hideous criminal intentsions.

Up to the ending, McKellan’s Nazi thinks he can outsmart the American Nazi, but the freedom of choice in the United States makes for a far more dangerous brand of Fascism, as we now know from Trump’s campaign for a second term.

This is a chilling look at Nazis, homegrown and imported.

Hurricanes of the Apocalypse

DATELINE: Raindrops on Your Head! 

 1938

This series on unpleasant natural phenomena now adds big wind and rain to the mix of devastation. Apocalypse Earth is offering no relief from the Weather Channel.

If you want to see the most disappointing of the Apocalypse Earth specials, welcome to hurricane city. It’s nowheresville done up big.

As one of the longer entries in the series, we thought we might receive slightly more indepth scenes of rushing water than News at 11. Don’t count on it.

Human folly is the theme of this episode:  experts told that the New Orleans levee system can withstand a category 3 hurricane seemed to think that it would hold up against a Category 5. Hunh? We learn the system of water dispersal in the city actually encourages storm surge right into the downtown area. What?

If you want a catalog of follies, here is the episode you have been waiting for:  since the 1990s Florida has had a boom of population from the Midwest, people who never experienced a bad hurricane and had no idea what might happen.

As per usual in a crisis, you have drunken young men having a party. Some stand out in the 150mph wind to test their mettle, and some die. Par for the course, as we have learned in a pandemic.

A meteorologist in a cinder block house never thought he’d lose his roof. The show is rife with bad decisions, and there are names of infamy like Katrina and Andrew.  We learn the obvious: Florida is the most likely hit by hurricane state.

Hurricanes are the most predictable of major disasters, but that doesn’t mean much when complacency and apathy are the hallmarks of an uneducated public.

One of the storm chasers is a callow youth when we realize he was interviewed in 2005. We do not see his viewpoint recently, and again this is a pastiche show of long-ago footage, including interviews.

One of the most interesting segments was on the great hurricane of 1938 that hit New England. Color newsreel helps to bring it to life, and there is also evidence shown of the hurricane of 1893 that devastated Far Rockaway, New York.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jack Benny & Marilyn

DATELINE:  An Innocent Age

Back in 1953 for the first show of his second season, Jack Benny garnered the biggest name and biggest star of the year:  Marilyn Monroe. It was called the Jack Benny Program.

As all the set-ups in the Benny program were at the expense of Jack’s delicate ego, he took the barrage of raps and insults with his usual aplomb.

You might be ready for some outdated racial profiling when Rochester showed up: Eddie Anderson always played Jack’s valet who goes with him everywhere and calls him “Boss.” Here they go to Hawaii, and we find Jack lugging all the luggage with no Rochester.

Jack sits on the dock, ready to leave, while flower leis are given to all the departing guests for their generosity, kindness, and friendship. Alas, even a dog gets a lei, but not Jack. Finally a delicatessen owner shows up and gives him a lei of chicken livers. He is warned to be careful of the seagulls.

We learn too that Jack is carrying Rochester’s luggage because he was late for the ship.

When Benny falls asleep on deck, he dreams about the star he saw that night in a ship’s nightly movie: Gentlemen Prefer Blondes megastar, Marilyn Monroe.   And, in one of her designer gowns, she drops into the barcalounger recliner next to Jack in his dreams.

She professes her love for him despite their age difference. She points out she is 25 and he is 39, but in 25 years she will be 50, and he will still be 39. She is enchanted by his big blue eyes.

It was Monroe’s first TV appearance as a guest star (we don’t count her TV commercials, satirized in All About Eve).  She is lovely and charming, and so is Jack.

You simply don’t have that kind of weekly series surprise, even with cable nowadays. It was a gentle treat of a bygone era, and a lovely little escape from today.

 

Social Skills Bite the Dust

DATELINE: Curmudgeon’s Perspective

Role Model: Heidi’s Grandfather

Leave it to the New York Times to write up a report that one hideous side-effect of the coronavirus is that social skills are biting the dust.

Yes, apparently people are not using their social skills and are losing the edge in dealing with other people in a variety of ways. They are cranky, depressed, short-tempered, and in fact are becoming Heidi’s grandfather, that old isolated reprobate who hated kids. The new paranoia mistrusts everyone.

As an old curmudgeon who has been bilious for years, this is amusing to no end.

Meeting new people has never been high on this writer’s list, but apparently many in society thrive on socializing. We can offer a few tidbits of advice to those who are snappy at stay-at-home children and grandparents: try to use good manners.

It’s a concept in short supply in the new century and has been endangered for decades. Intolerant, impatient, people have shrugged off etiquette in the 21stcentury like toilet paper they cannot find in proper quantities.

Your good manners may be more important than toilet paper or hand sanitizer.

According to expert psychologists, this is a biological problem because the species is a social animal. We think that rats trapped on Antarctica might also turn on each other. Psychologists have learned these lessons from studying hermits, like this author, and from isolated people in various self-imposed quarantine.

The world had better learn how to deal with fewer social skills if you plan to fly to Mars and live in an enclosed environment with a few colleagues for years on end.

We may, in fact, be preparing for the next stage of anti-civilization: when we are schizoid, alone with our thoughts, and must come to grips with philosophy concepts you avoided in college classes and Phil 101.

 

 

 

Monster Quest Returns

DATELINE: Favorite Back After Hiatus

“Serpentine Creatures,”  is the new special from the old classic series Monsterquest  that concluded its four-year run a few seasons ago. You can’t keep a good monster down, unless he is hiding under water.

Since Loch Ness has been done to death and debunk, the show moves on to other copycat sea creatures that have become landlocked in lakes since the dawn of prehistory.

We always liked the old series that took a serious attempt to uncover the stories behind some outlandish reports. And, now it has returned for a limited time on History Channel. Catch it for a mesmerizing few shows.

To investigate newer phenomena, the show does a ping-pong between the two coasts of Canada, ignorning Nessie and Champie entirely. We are given relatively new information about Ogopogo in British Columbia and Cressie in Newfoundland.

The theory espoused by more reputable scientists, not those who call themselves crypto-scientists, is that these are giant eels about twenty or thirty feet in length—and still ferocious.

Ogopogo is highly active with a half-dozen sightings every year still—and the show’s producers think their best chance to catch something is here. At least one expert wants to extract a tissue sample for DNA. Good luck, there.

Perhaps the best expert is author Arlene Gaal who has written three books on the subject and sounds down-to-earth and reputable.

The Monsterquest teams seem highly inept. They know what they are supposed to do, but helicopters do not arrive when called—and divers mysteriously go silent in the deep. Perhaps it is part of fake suspense for the audience, but the real result is sheer contempt for the half-baked efforts.

Oh, nothing is found—but they promise to return because you know there is a creature hiding there in the underwater caves and sinkholes. And, yes, we will likely return to watch again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

UFOs: The Secret History

DATELINE: (well, not so secret)

Be Still, My Earth.

Though it is billed as having new information, it really has only a new and amusing perspective.  The film is irreverent in many ways, through use of movie clips and the laconic narration of its clever director.

We are happy to report that, unlike many cheapskate directors who save money by doing their own voice-overs, this director is actually a fairly good voice and speaks with intelligence and drama. David Cherniak directs with aplomb. He also led the film for the recent look at Bob Lazar in late middle age, revisited. Don’t hold it against him.

UFOs: The Secret History  is indeed a history, but with few secrets. It does have a plethora of marvelous clips from classic sci-fi films as part of its narrative.

His hilarious insights that are new include the notorious “pelican” theory that Kenneth Arnold in 1947 actually saw pelicans flying in formation at 1700 mph and called them saucers.

Yes, a scientist tells us this with a straight face.

When it comes to more serious matters, director David Cherniak still chooses photos that are unusual, not ones you’d see on Ancient Aliens. He does give us a a fresh take on Orson Welles, Roswell, Project Grudge, and the usual litany of UFO incidents that brought us to a wholesale government coverup.

He also plays on the notion that seeing UFOs was psychological, part of the J. Allen Hynek approach, which was code for saying the viewer of such events had a psychological problem. Even Hynek was turned into a buffoon over “swamp gas.” Well, yes, being called a nutcase is distressing.

One turning point is hardly secret: abductions of Betty and Barney Hill of New Hampshire, the template for lost time and sexual abuse by space creatures.  There is no secret about the Travis Walton case, but it grabbed worldwide attention, as did the appearance of elderly Jesse Marcel who was at the Roswell crash in 1947, blowing the whistle.

If there is a secret here, that may be the hybridization plan of aliens to take over the Earth in subtle fashion by genetics. Oh, that secret…

 

 

 

 

 

Unidentified Finale, Part 2

DATELINE: Biting Audience Hand

 Elizondo

The series may smell its own doom and climbs out of the box in which it has placed itself for two seasons:  instead of video footage of UFOs, the show switched to alien abduction stories.

Lou Elizondo calls abduction of Americans an “act of war,” and an attempt to regain audience support. Like John Casey on World War 2 Gold, Lou Elizondo may be pushing out his costars. He takes the reins completely in the final two shows of the season.

The victims of close encounters are all, of course, former military non-coms who have retired and now are willing to speak their stories. Nearly all are serving at nuclear facilities when they had their bad meetings and missing time.

At least one witness adds a new wrinkle: that the UFO was gaseous with no sharp edges and had changing colors. The witness was left with odd burns from the encounter, but military tests are never shared with him.

These vets often mention black-outs and sleep paralysis.

Host Elizondo talks to one expert, Dr. Susan Clancy, who completely shreds and debunks all these witness experiences as “false memory.” Elizondo readily accepts this.

She insists that the belief of these memories is important for validation for an individual whose life is devoid of meaning. She also takes a shot at Dr. John Mack of Harvard who came to accept abduction as real.

In a last-ditch effort to throw a sop to the fans who usually are faithful to these kind of shows, Elizondo claims there are real physical effects to these witnesses. It may be too little too late.

Elizondo notes that there are six billion earth-like planets in the galaxy and may have “brothers and sisters” of the human race. The final few minutes become a desperate plea to continue the investigations, but History channel may more than likely pull the plug on this series.

UFO Cover Up on Unidentified

DATELINE: Mellon as Head of Ops

We’re not sure who’s covering up what and if you think you will have clarification on this series, Unidentified, which delineates military investigators and UFO cases, you will find yourself going down (or up) another rabbit hole.

Our intrepid hosts, insiders at the Pentagon, who are tied into the Navy release of actual pilot video of mystery craft in the sky, will not exactly give you the answer you want.

This series may have just realized it is poisoning its own audience with listening to UFO drivel (or alternative theories) it never believed to begin with: the experts cited continued to say that all UFO stuff is disinformation put out over their secret programs, including drones that now shoot out of submarines and return to their source under water. It explains submerged craft or USOs.

The military apologists also contend that the radar is now filled with technical ghosts, phantoms that appear on screen but are not real to hide the real aircraft.

And the AF is playing mind games with the US Navy, taking their information after eating them up with experimental encounters with mystery UFO-but really US top secret aircraft.

If the technology is far superior to anything belonging to the US government (as host Skip to My Lu Elizondo contends), we are in big trouble. The is now on the defensive or is that offensive, attacking the government who feeds it for hiding more videos.  Information at the Pentagon is now routinely confiscated by Air Force honchos, riding roughshod over other military branches.

So the series is fighting back to retain its unhappy UFO audience who are fervent believers. The hosts now claim that is is impossible that Area 51 is a base of fake UFO operations and saucers that are of this Earth, not so galaxy far far away.

We’ll see if this response is too little too late to save the series from becoming a coverup in itself.

Doubles and Fakers on UnXplained

 DATELINE:  Local Connection!

 Imposter, Not Tony Curtis.

Here is another fascinating subject, not usually covered in any depth by the spate of paranormal, mystery investigators. These are stories about near criminal impersonation.

The UnXplained came across with another winning episode.

If the show were worth its weight in truth, it had to deal with the most famous impostor and faker in my resident town:  yes, Ferdinand Demara stayed here a while in the 1950s, pretending to be a elementary school teacher with fake credentials. A neighbor was actually in his class that year—and she laughed he was no Tony Curtis (the movie star who played Demara in The Great Impostor).

This faker and poseurpretended to be a Canadian doctor and performed surgery during the Korean War. Yes, he operated on suffering wounded soldiers!  Caught, he was still deemed a hero for saving them. He went on to act out his fantasies as a Trappist monk, a lawyer, a college professor, and other stolen identities.

Demara’s life was always pretending, but did not much evil other than deception. He died a fat faker of 350 pounds, not pretending to be a health nut.

However, subsequent figures that Shatner’s show uncovered were increasingly sociopathic and homicidal. A French fake in the 1990s took over Hollywood as an investor and party-thrower, friend to stars. He was stealing their money and allegedly wanted to produce movies. He claimed to be Sophia Loren’s son.

Then, there was Clark Rockefeller, a German low-brow who went by several identities—and he was no Rockefeller. He was, it seems, a murderer with a yard with at least one victim—and another still missing.

These were the worst: the women were a brain damaged Polish peasant who convinced herself she was Czarina Anastasia. They made movies and plays about her fakery. And, given a short shrift was Billy Tipton, famous jazz pianist, who was found to be a woman upon his death.

This was another fascinating show, featuring rare clips, interesting insights, and the underplayed narration of William Shatner who knows something about playing roles.

Author, Author: Go Away!

DATELINE: Unwanted Gifts

 Latest Affront to Gifting.

A friend kindly scoffed at me for a bad habit.

He claimed how I had a tendency to give away gifts to people who did not necessarily want them. He was referring to my bad habit to bestow a copy of one of my books to people who have been nice to me.

I usually inscribe them with thanks for some generic kindness. It is, I am told, not appreciated because I have given people something that they cannot repay or reciprocate.

Well, okay. I realize that not everyone can write a book and return a copy to me in standoff fashion. However, I thought that providing a free, gratis copy of a personal creation would qualify as an act of generosity, not as a slap with my velvet glove.

However, my friend argues that it is not that at all: it is a brazen show of ego.

Well, you can knock me over with a dust-jacket. I would never have thought that giving a personal gift would be construed as an act of selfishness. In fact, I always thought the creative process was something to be shared.

Alas, if you share it with those who have no appreciation, no interest, or no good manners, the writer of a book may well deserve to have the gift accepted without thanks or acknowledgement.

I often note that I give away my book as a token of my gratitude and not as homework assignment. I will not quiz the recipient on the book’s message or contents. If I did, we know the result would be a failing grade. We’ve seen enough of that in the nation’s body politic.

As a resolution, I have now promised my old friend that I will be more circumspect in sharing my books. Never give a page away that is not requested, or at least has some kind of interest expressed by another. It means I will save money on copies and postage.

It is an age when reading is a chore, not a pleasure, and the disrespected writer is a prophet without honor in any country.

 

Dr. William Russo is too prolific for his own good, and he has written many movie history books and biographies.

 

 

Endeavour’s Seventh: Crime Goes On!

DATELINE: Night at the Opera

 Shaun Evans, not Groucho.

To kick off the seventh season of egghead murder mystery, Endeavour once again turns to star hotshot, Shaun Evans, to direct the first episode of Endeavour.

He is even better the second time around: with aplomb when it comes to set-ups, color, and the new modern police office settings. He seems to have wasted time filming in Venice for a few scenes that could have been faked without much notice in a studio. Producers even created an opera for the clueless.

The series has grown darker, starting with Endeavour’s heavy narrative opening about the comedy and tragedy he is about to face. Even his boss, Thursday, is now fed up with grisly killings and his humor is turning sour while Morse goes on vacation to Venice.

The episode is over-wroughtly titled “Oracle” when “Psychic” would have done well.

It’s 1970 now, and a waitress at the New Year’s bash is killed walking home from work. It is the heavy-handed start of women’s equal rights—and it is played historically nasty. Most men of the era saw it as a fad and did not take it seriously. If you use this show as history, you see something far more sinister.

Crime goes on, even at Oxford’s new fangled psychic research center where remote viewing experiments are in their infancy.

The red herrings, as usual, pile up in this show, which now have caught Roger Allam’s Thursday short-tempered.

Endeavour (Evans) remains the kiss of death, or so we suspect, as he succumbs to an operatic affair in Venice that is over before vacation ends.

There are a few intrigues that may trip you up: an old former classmate, a millionaire bon vivant seems gay and has an interest in Endeavour, and who could blame him? However, it is the petty jealousy of fellow detective Jim Strange (Sean Rigby) that is most amusing.

Psychic research is given a once-over effectively here and respectfully. If you don’t have it, you can’t fake it—and the ending is going to be a surprise for most.

The series is now in serial form, not self-contained mystery. The three-parts will meld into one.