Body Snatchers 1979

 DATELINE: Sequel, not Remake!

snatchers 3 Peas in a Pod?

The movie The Invasion of the Body Snatchers with Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy back in the late 1970s was not technically a remake, but a sequel.

Though it uses the same story-line by Jack Finney from his novel, it is slightly updated to contemporary times. Then, out of the original ending comes a running Kevin McCarthy, the original star, dashing through the streets of San Francisco like Paul Revere, calling people to alert.

The “pod people” are coming. Indeed.

This film is even more nightmarish in its paranoia than the original 1950s Commies under the bed movie.

Here the paranoia is steeped in everyone and everything. People are either inexplicably dashing to-and-fro in the background, or they are staring emotionlessly at you.

San Francisco, always weird anyhow, is the perfect backdrop for chaos and insanity.

Gathering some of the most familiar of sci-fi faces, the film puts Veronica Cartwright (Aliens) with Jeff Goldblum (Jurassic Park  ) and Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek) as a motley crew.

The film is surprisingly modern with the omission of Internet and PCs, which did not exist back then. However, the government control and conspiracy notions are heavy-handed. The use of public phones will be an incomprehensible throwback for young viewers who may wonder where the texting is.

Visual details are fascinating and complex. No one seems to wonder why rubbish trucks are constantly picking up  mounds of black cotton at night. This is the ultimate conspiracy theorist wallow.

If you are a conspiracy nut, then you will not have much restful sleep after watching this looney-tune of a science fiction horror. It puts together man-eating plants with the egg-head monsters of Alien.

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.

Springtime for Trump

DATELINE:  Trump Sings & Dances!

springtime for trump

In the classic Ponzi comedy The Producers, the big Broadway musical number that did in the crooks was called “Springtime for Hitler”. They oversold the show, hoping it would flop and they’d walk away with tons of money. Manafort and Cohen are the new producers. They oversold Trump to the gullible public.

In Springtime for Trump, his investors (all Russian mobster types) expected him to lose—and make a big profit. Alas, he won—and the undoing of these producers is now unfolding. May they all wind up in federal prison where they can put on a show.

In Mel Brooks’ original version of The Producers, Zero Mostel was the overweight man with the appalling comb-over. In the White House today is an overweight man with an appalling comb-over. He is a bigger crook than Zero’s character.

Mostel’s producer would sleep with dozens of women to procure their investments in his musical. In Trump’s world, he pays off dozens of women with campaign funds and a crooked lawyer to guarantee his tenure in office.

The big musical number was meant to shock people: goose-stepping showgirls in formation, a la Busby Berkley, dancing in a swastika conga lines. Trump’s conga lines include words like “dog”, “lowlife”, and “rat.”

Alas, they all apply to the biggest shyster ever to sully the white White House where Nixon claimed there would never be a white wash.

After Trump is impeached, we may need to fumigate the place.

We laughed uproariously at Zero’s crook, and we fumed at Nixon’s crook. Trump’s crook is still lining up the chorus.

Cue the dancing girls: we are about to sing the refrain from Springtime for Trump.

 

In Search of…Fake Smarts

DATELINE: Bots Nobody Should Love

boy bot

Zachary Quinto was duly surprised and unnerved by the scientists he met to discuss artificial intelligence. It would appear it is already too late to stop it from taking over the world. In Search of went looking at bots and the bottom line of artificial intelligence.

Nearly every computer-generated scientist found Quinto’s questions “valid,” but not one had the interest to consider stopping his own work. It seems that artificial intelligence may control the world within a decade.

Quinto visited a place called RealDoll where they make $8000 robots in the guise of buxom women with bee-stung lips. As an after thought, there was also a young male bot. You can program emotional reactions, but they are smarmy—like their creator.

Quinto felt that giving robots the power to choose who lives and dies might be a problem when they take over military systems. No one else in authority had much to say about it.

Of course, androids or robots have their uses in dangerous situations—with bombs, radiation, or delicate surgery. Yet, giving them to power to make decisions could mean they access our Facebook page to determine whether we are worthy.

Indeed, Facebook scientists created robots who quickly went out of control last year, making their own language and freezing out their creators. Be afraid.

The host once again came across as highly intelligent, bewitched and bothered by the developments. When he drove an Uber car that went through a red light, he tried to have the scientists discuss whether the robot would save the pedestrian or driver, they couldn’t or wouldn’t give an opinion.

This was an impressive hour, but not comforting.

In Search of…., 1.3 Monsters of the Deep

DATELINE:  Quinto Re-Imagines!

sam Suffering Sam, Aussie Boy!

The re-imagined Leonard Nimoy series, now with Zachary Quinto, is back on top with episode 3 of the updated version of In Search Of, on History.

You cannot quibble with the need to update the old 1970s series. Much has been added to the lore, and cryptozoologists never existed back in the old days.

By taking a look at monsters of the deep, the show takes Quinto to Australia where nearby oceans are 4 miles deep –and only 1% of the ocean has been explored.

His first interview is with a cute Aussie boy who was mysteriously bitten all over his legs by some unknown carnivore when he stood in a foot of water.

The attack is horrific and takes up some true detective work to learn it may be a tiny creature (actually hundreds) that emerge during full-moon.

We are delighted with Quinto’s follow-up ability to question those he speaks to. He is both informative, knowledgeable, and quite personable in putting people at ease. He is also clearly a cut above in the intelligence quotient.

He can speak to fisherman, teenagers, and scientists with equal aplomb. When he ends up in Fort Lauderdale, he is able to banter with a man who has discovered a new species of ocean creature.

It is bewildering and frightening to see all the denizens of the deep that have created mythic monster stories. And, we give Quinto credit for diving right into the ocean where blue spotted octopi have deadly toxins.

This was a goody.

 

 

Hounds of Baskerville: Sherlock Update

DATELINE: Classic Downgraded!

hounds Pluralized Hounds

The Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock series episode from Season 2 precariously holds on, despite its updating of the original Conan Doyle. Deep down, there remains the essence and core of the tales and characters created by the good writer/doctor.

In re-reviewing the tale of the Hounds (now pluralized), all the original features are present, but not in the way you might expect. Holmes is being driven mad by an addiction to cigarettes, and he is willing to do just about anything to have a whiff of second-hand smoke. Even take looney cases.

When a wealthy Dartmoor man comes by to seek help for the mysterious death of his father 20 years earlier by some mythic hound that ripped him apart (and carted away the body) Holmes is customarily rude and agitated. His hyper-manner is hilarious as he displays (showing off, accuses Watson) his brilliant insights into a potential client. We are amused.

The lunacy of the modern update takes hold soon enough.

Baskerville is now a genetic research military compound dealing with bio-chemical weapons. The key may be an acronym as fanciful as any mythic, red-eyed dog-eared monster.

Cumberbatch and Freeman have their patter and interplay down better than Abbott and Costello (surprisingly referred to in the story as space aliens under wraps at the base).

Holmes takes his smarter brother’s keycode card to break into the base. Mycroft is now the highest-level military-industrial brain in England. This explains how Holmes can act with impunity and make money as a consulting detective too.

The script becomes increasingly incomprehensible, but flies by at breakneck speed to prevent re-thinking about the logical brilliance of Holmes.

In the Mark Gatiss (he plays Mycroft) version of Doyle, clever becomes chaotic, but it’s all in good fun as long as it is not put under the electron microscope. It beats Robert Downey’s American Sherlock on all counts.

Beware, My Lovely, or the Man Shows Up

DATELINE: TV Beats the Movie!

audie Frightening Audie!

You have to love an old movie that uses a comma for direct address, as in Beware, My Lovely.

You might think this was a detective movie—but it is about a psycho who has come to torment the resident of a rooming house. In this RKO special of 1952, it’s Ida Lupino as a landlady running a boarding house after World War I in 1918—and her unpleasant visitor is Robert Ryan as Howard, a certified early version of Norman Bates.

Tall and menacing, we wondered how Miss Lupino, still young and attractive, could not be a bit threatened by this actor who made creepy and brutish villains one of his specialty. The film is based on a stage play by Mel Dinelli, which struck a chord with us. We wrote about it in a biography of Audie Murphy called Audie in Vietnam!

In fact, we realized that we saw this play done live on television by Audie Murphy and Thelma Ritter in 1960! It’s still available for those who look hard. Now that was quite a feat: Audie Murphy, the boyish war hero turned cowboy star, played against type.  He was so innocent-looking, the Norman Bates element was horrifying in a year before Hitchcock released Psycho.

Thelma Ritter was a marvelous old character actress who could play tough or vulnerable, but seemed a helpless victim. And, her little dog is not entirely happy with the handyman who shows up to torment her. Murphy draws upon some inner demons in one of his best performances.

The movie featured about 25 minutes of pre-story development that the TV special eliminated. Of course, to see Robert Ryan apparently black out and murder someone in the first minute of the movie put a different spin on the story.

Beware, My Lovely is not bad—but we think better performances were given by Audie and Thelma a few years after this film bombed. The Man with Murphy’s Howard the psycho is available on YouTube for free.

Mummy Dearest

DATELINE:   Tut-Tut!

Mummy Dearest Karloff!

Of the Quartet of Classic Horror from the early 1930s, the fourth entry in the series is often relegated to the bottom tier. The Mummy follows the legendary Frankenstein, Dracula, and Invisible Man. But he is no also-ran.

Unfortunately for him, we learn in the first few minutes of the 1933 film that the mummy is actually a misnomer. He is not mummified at all, having been buried alive.

So much for false advertising.

Beyond that, we have a whale of a movie—not James Whale: the director was famous cinematographer Karl Freund in his first directing effort.

As star Lita Johann said, he was a nasty guy—to her. Exotic star Lita was married later to John Houseman (Professor Kingsfield to you). Whatever he did to her during their 23-days of filming, she is marvelous as the reincarnation of a Pharaoh’s daughter.

As for Karloff, what can you say? He is so tall in his scenes, we think he was wearing lifts under his rakish robes. He looks like a bag of fragile bones, as the mummy-come-to-life.  His face is dustier and has more riles than a Moon crater as he plays Im-Ho-Tep (not to be confused with IHOP).

The biggest special effect is Karloff’s eyes, which is impressive indeed.

Scenes of a second unit, or stock footage, of Egypt, surely gives us a sense of the pre-Howard Carter King Tut world. And, audiences in the 1930s knew what a mummy’s curse was, which is played to the hilt.

The climactic scene is when the Mummy relates his unfortunate murder by the Pharaoh’s men. Juicy and grotesque horror!

As a love story, this is thriller covers 3700 years and incantations about the dead, which transcend undying love.

What a treat.

 

 

Not Touched by an Angel: Dr. John E. Mack

DATELINE: Taken by Space Aliens

touched

A dozen years ago a little documentary was released by Laurel Chiten. She took on the work of psychiatrist John Mack, formerly of Harvard Medical School.

He was the doctor who started to examine alien abduction as psychological condition.  And, he found that it was not pathological in any way except after the fact. Touched is a short film about the work of the pioneering psychiatrist, made a dozen years ago.

Mack was dismissed by Harvard, of course, a place that had experts and professors examining angels, demons, and devils, but drew the line at space aliens. It seems Mack refused to throw his patients under the bus and claim they were koo-koo birds. The situation is related to sleep paralysis, a pathological condition worth consideration.

The documentary looks at a handful of cases, two in depth: a man and a woman who said the paralyzing visits began in their early years and continued through young adulthood.

A corresponding psychologist in Brazil also allowed several of her patients to explain their situations.

They all insist that a light of some sort burrowed into their heads and made them pliable to your classic little gray men or insect-like creatures that used them for breeding purposes, against their wills.

They describe involuntary capture, painful testing, and physical abuse by the extra-terrestrials. However, we aren’t really sure who or what these creatures may be.

You have a large segment of the populace with disturbing experiences, which some scientists would like to dismiss as the hallucination of sexually abused children.

Mack took a more sympathetic approach and came to appreciate the suffering and normality of the victims, apart from being singled out by some larger, more powerful force.

Intriguing even years after the fact, Mack is a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and important medical figure on the periphery of the entire extra-terrestrial debate.

 

 

 

Trump Phones Belichick This Week!

DATELINE: Inquiries about Tom Brady

 candidates2

President Trump is a busy man, according to his newest lawyer and occasional dragster, Rudi Guiliani.

Trump does not have time to consider Stormy Daniels and how his lawyer paid $130,000 for a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). However, Trump made a long duration phone call to Bill Belichick of the Patriots this week on matters of national security.

There is no evidence that Belichick asked Mr. Trump to work as a scout for possible hotel sites for road trips. The Patriots are not scheduled to play in Moscow during the upcoming season, but a trip to North Korea has not been ruled out.

Since the NFL draft is done, Belichick has time on his hands. So, the two high-powered patriots could ruminate about the situation of Tom Brady, according to reports of those in the room as Belichick’s smartphone proved especially stupid.

It is not known whether Trump’s phone was secure. Belichick’s private lines are under tight security.

Trump asked the Patriots coach about the status of Tom Brady, and likely the seventh-round draft pick who is deemed talented enough to replace Brady. Pundits deduce that Mr. Brady has not taken any calls from Mr. Trump lately, but was in Qatar on business last week.

We suspect that Trump is also incensed that Patriot owner Robert Kraft, a frequent flyer on Air Force One, as guest to the President, has reported criticized Trump about his stance on kneeling players. Kraft believes the three-point stance does not qualify as taking a knee.

At the least, Trump was not satisfied with the answers from the Patriots—and reportedly held Belichick on the phone for close to an hour. Belichick admitted next to nothing in regard to this phone call, but we are assured that there is no collusion between Belichick and Trump.

Belichick has signed an NDA and may not reveal his intimate chitchat with President Trump. Belichick will likely tell news media that he is “on to 2018” and not dwelling on players who are meeting with Russians unless it has a bearing on why Malcolm Butler was benched during the Super Bowl.

 

 

 

 

Reel History: 1960’s Damned Village

DATELINE:  Creepy Kids

 Stephens & Sanders

Martin Stephens & George Sanders

We know they could not call it by the John Wyndam title of the original novel, The Midwich Cuckoos.

The marvelous little low-budget sci-fi thriller, Village of the Damned, was only 70 minutes of brilliant detail.

Only George Sanders would be not intimidated by holding his own with a bunch of British child actors who occasionally use the special effect of glowing eyes.

After the movie’s opening 15 minutes, you are utterly hooked. It’s so brilliant that what follows doesn’t matter.

With no budget, this George Sanders movie had the most chilling opening of any film of its time. Camerawork is so effective by the director Wolf Rilla.

You see charming little British village in which everyone collapses in place, into a faint for several hours. Camera pans slowly over the entire village. Chilling.

Without the benefit of science’s discovery of DNA and genetic engineering, the story proposes that during the time in which the village is knocked out, all women of child-bearing age become pregnant. It leaves for puzzled and befuddled attitudes among many.

The script uses only several incidents to indicate how dangerous these alien children are: of course, since the children are adult-like Brits, they are creepy anyhow. Add in their mental powers and you have horror. Oh, kids grow up so fast in movies.

The children admire Sanders who is professorial and so unemotional like them. He even becomes their tutor.

In the Soviet Union, a similar community is bombed with an atomic weapon. There are nests of alien children planted around the world, we learn.

George Sanders must resort to his cold-blooded manner to save the day by using his own mind tricks.

Marvelous little gem.

 

 

Brave New Westworld 2

DATELINE: Westworld Returns to TV

brave, new westworld? Re-programming Required on all Models!

Now for something completely borrowed.  It appears, as the second season of Westworld dawns, producer and creator Jonathan Nolan is returning to the roots of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the Westworld.

The robot revolt has resulted in more guest deaths than we could have suspected if they had assembled the entire cast from season one. Dead bodies, mostly rotting, are clearly human.  The recovery team traipsing around the park finds Robert Ford, shot by the show’s cowgirl, Dolores Delos (Evan Rachel Wood), with a gaping hole in his head. That likely ends the theory that dirty coward Ford (Anthony Hopkins) was a robot.

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), a closet robot, now must hide his identity lest the humans simply shoot him in a fashion reminiscent of concentration camp purges by the human controllers. He needs an oil job before he terminates.

Maeve (Thandie Newton) has saved Westworld’s script writer who is a human most unpleasant as she seeks a fictional child to whom she has some maternal robot feelings (told these are not genuine has no effect). She also locates her hot, lanky boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro).

The Man in Black, a major stockholder in Westworld, and last season’s young man (Jimmi Simpson) in a parallel storyline, returns as mean as ever. Ed Harris even removes the Robert Ford boyhood model to show his true spirit.

No one comes across here as remotely controlled for sympathy.

Between the bloodbath scenes of innocent humans being shot by sociopath monster robots, we are somehow meant to feel human compassion for a slave revolt.

Shades of Spartacus.

We have met the human Roman Nazis—and according to Jonathan Nolan’s cryptic script, they are us. Whereas Nolan’s Person of Interest production people populate the cast and crew, we are left without that show’s sense of dry wit.

Last season’s smartest show on TV has become dumb-witted.

Confusion and horror are not the best honey to attract the busy bees of cable sci-fi fans who have come to expect intrigue and humor. It’s a disappointing start to the second season.

 

 

Yellow Brick Road Leads Out of Foxboro

 DATELINE: Patriots in Munchkinland

bosch Gillette Stadium?

Something has happened to the New England Patriots in the past month. You may not be in Kansas, but it sure doesn’t look like New England.

Less than kind Patriot-haters might say the rats are leaving the sinking ship.  Whatever your thoughts, the good ship SS Belichick is listing badly after hitting an iceberg in the Super Bowl.

Key players have opted to leave in free agency—and teammates remaining are wishing them good luck and happy voyage, almost as if they are envious.

Foremost among the congratulations on social media are coming from Tom Brady and Gronk.

Gronk still has not dispelled rumors he is going Hollywood on New England, and Tom Brady dropped a hint that he is a man of his convictions in his TV autobiography series—and he appears to have switched convictions in mid-stream.

Life begins at 40—but not in Foxboro.

These key Patriots (Nate Solder, Amendola, Butler, Lewis, and who knows who else) have talked among teammates. If you don’t realize that, you don’t know what’s happening.

It’s like a bad Bob Dylan song: the mattress is now balancing precariously on Bill Belichick’s head. Someone is ready to drop a house on Wicked Witchy Belichick. His former coaches and underlings are picking up the pieces Belichick has shed. And they are happy to have them.

During the season, opposing players attacked the Foxboro as being as unpleasant under the control of Ebenezer Scrooge Belichick before any ghosts haunted him. It was worse than Hieronymus Bosch’s depiction of Hell.

We see the end as coming in a whimper, not a bang. Brady and Gronk are packing their bags, and everyone else is cashing in their chips.

Oh, my. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my. The gold brick road is leading to ruination for the Kraft family of marshmallows.

Last Great Elizabeth Taylor Movie?

DATELINE:  Grand Taylor Horror!

 night watch Liz @ Her Best

By the time Elizabeth Taylor reached the end of her prime, she ditched Richard Burton. Her first theatrical movie without him, after 11 extraordinary teammate movies, including the notorious TV film Divorce His, Hers, was something called Night Watch from 1973.

Now streaming for the first time ever.

This is vintage Taylor:  extraordinary wardrobe, great hair, jewels to die for, and a svelte damsel Liz in distress.

Night Watch is a paranoid’s nightmare.

As the rich and disdainful Ellen with a swish of silver in her hair, she does jigsaw puzzles and entertains her girlhood friend (Billie Whitelaw) in indolent luxury. Her palacial home, unfortunately, is next to some abandoned, ramshackle mansion that seems haunted.

As she does a jigsaw of Bosch’s painting of Hell, she thinks she has seen a murder in a thunderstorm across the garden. Alas, police think she is bonkers, and her husband (Laurence Harvey) isn’t more helpful, trying to find an old psychiatrist to commit her.

Before you can say Gaslight, the old classic about a mad wife, you may have Hitchcock’s Suspicion on your hands. Perhaps too the director and writer saw Barbara Stanwyk’s chestnut called Night Walker.

It’s all in the horror/mystery family, though this one is definitely high-end in its hoots & laughs quotient.

All while she suffers, Taylor’s insanity is a joy to behold. The suspects line up from every direction: former dead husband, his lover, a smarmy neighbor, a hostile housekeeper, and even cavalier police.

Who wants to drive her crazy? Or is she actually seeing dead people?

As the drama grows more overwrought, the pay-off is way beyond anything Taylor fans could ever desire. We loved every cliché moment. The ending was considered a surprise shock by most fans. Marvelous.

 

 

The Haunting of Patriot Place

DATELINE: Your Worst Nightmare

haunted

The ghost of Malcolm Butler now walks the halls of Patriot Place. Forget the Overlook Hotel and its shining denizens. Foxboro will be a worthy subject for Stephen King.

Like unfriendly spirits, this Patriot specter may hang around for decades, frightening children and bringing back the horrors of Super Bowl LII.

Bad karma often is behind the haunting appearances of ghosts.  We recall in Boston that the ghost of Babe Ruth put a curse on the Red Sox for 80 years. We now wonder if the ghost of Malcolm Butler might do the same for the Patriots.

If you wonder why the Patriots never win another Super Bowl in the 21st century, you will be wise to remember that the Butler did it.

Like some benighted head of the Inquisition, Bill Belichick made his decisions to burn the defense at the stake during the Super Bowl. Heretics be damned, and leading the charge was the ingrate (in Swami Belichick’s eyes), the man who tried to jump ship before the season began: Malcolm Butler.

It was an unforgivable sin—and now Malcolm Butler has paid for it with his reputation. Oh, someone will give him a big payday—and perhaps he will fade into oblivion in some other football venue.

However, in Foxboro, his curse will be laid upon Tom Brady worse than broken mirrors and contempt for sports superstition.

The howls in the night and the bumps and bangs you hear are the restless spirits of players done dirt by Bill Belichick.

Though he may go into retirement, he will leave a haunted Patriot Place for Josh McDaniels, forcing him to call in ghostbusters and hold séances for the betterment of the Kraft legacy.

Move over, Shirley Jackson, Gillette Stadium is the new house on Haunted Hill.