DATELINE: Cross Pollination of 2 Shows
Son of Hynek.
MUFON’s son of BLUE BOOK.
Leave it to History Channel to follow up the best episode in Shatner’s paranormal series with the worst episode, this about UFOs.
Once again we have History shilling its own various series, this time providing a boost for the next in line series,Unidentified, yet another variation on confirming the existence of flying saucers, or tick tacks as they are now called.
Shatner no longer seems quite as mobile, and he is all done up in his black leather suitjacket, but sits for the entire show. Well, it is understandable.
What’s inexcusable is to have him sit there and provide sound bites from the other hit series, Ancient Aliens. And, make no mistake, the experts of that show make a litany of appeances here, like Nick Pope, Richard Dolan, and the ubiquitous Giorgio. You throw in Erich van Daniken, and they are all spouting words they already spouted on the other series.
This cross-pollination continues, but there are some newer bits, like an examination of the 1953 UFO crash (these aliens seem to be bad drivers). It outdoes AATIP’s hosts when Shatner smiles when he talks about visitors from “where no one has gone before.”
One interesting detail is that the son of Project Blue Book chief, Dr. J. Allan Hynek’s son is now in charge of MUFON, the private investigative society of UFOs, and he appears here as one of the experts. We learn on the Unidentified show that he may be a bigwig spy.
Yes, they even force Shatner to use that old chestnut expression from Ancient Aliens several times: he refers to “ancient alien theorists.” Whoever they are.
We did encounter the expression “superulminal velocity,” which was a new one for us. That must be warp speed.
DATELINE: Horrible Ending
Start of Eruption,White Island.
This one-hour news documentary from New Zealand is not a metaphor for anything social or political. It is a real examination of a horrid tragedy in December of 2019: on White Island, one of the rare active volcanoes in the New Zealand area, erupted suddenly with tourists on the rim of the crater.
It’s a once in a lifetime chance to see a volcano blow its top up close. It’s one-time because you will not survive the experience. The news film is called Trapped in a Volcano.
White Island supports a cottage industry of interested viewers. You can reach there by boat from nearby islands, or by helicopter service (several companies flew regularly a few people willing to pay a large fee), and the Royal Carribbean ocean liners went by and sent out dinghy-loads of passengers. Yes, thousands have gone there and lived to tell.
Not much warning or fear accompanied the visits by business tours even though the volcano is the entire island and erupted a mere three years ago. It has constant venting and ground is covered in yellow sulfur rocks, Steam is generally 200 or 300 degrees along the paths up the rocky terrain.
Famous news pictures showed a flow of dust and smoke billowing off the island and chasing a boat of tourists who departed ten minutes before the volcano blew. Another boatload was on the shore and was caught.
Going back, they saw a few struggling people covered in gray dust. Helicopters dispatched to do a rescue and found one copter smashed, all occupants who had landed were dead. Tour guides were dead. Nearly two dozen victims.
A lawyer representing families on the cruise ship were not told how bad it was by authorities on ship. Nor were they warned about the dangers of such a visit to White Island. Their lawyer said that was the cruise ship responsibility.
We would argue that before going there, we’d do our homework, and seeing live venting is not a good sign. Ballistic rocks fly out of the crater at 100 miles per SECOND. You cannot escape if the volcano decides to claim you.
Call it folly or vanity. Call it rich people’s privilege. We stand by the old-fashioned, unsympathetic term. It was plain stupid to go to White Island.
DATELINE: Another Gem in Series
Cursed “Crying Boy” Painting!
A third installment of the Shatner series UnXplained came to us with a plethora of examples about cursed people, places, and things. Yes, they are nouns of a bad sort.
Shatner will never be upstaged by such shenanigans, and he is constantly looking over his shoulder as he hosts this marvelous series with another fascinating episode.
The smorgasbord of tales for the week include some stories well-known, and a few surprises.
First, there is Round Lake in New Jersey, a man-made reservoir that inundated a town back in the 1960s. It seems some of the late residents may be causing dozens of men to drown in the cold waters. A few intrepid realists suggest it is careless fishing or boating that causes the deaths. Shatner has an arched eyebrow, which is telling.
The most famous story of the night concerns the Hope Diamond, a cursed Indian jewel that glows red, not blue, when ultra-violet light is put on it. Blood red? No wonder Evalyn McLean kept it for nearly 40 years, despite family members dropping like flies.
Our favorite unknown tale concerned “The Crying Boy,” one of dozens of paintings by some Oscar Wildean Italian artist. These oils are covered in flame retardant for good reason: the houses in which they are hung in England tend to burn to the ground. Pass on the picture next time you see one in the flea market.
Shatner seems to snicker at the numerical curses of 13 and 27. It seems the Friday 13, 1307, could be the cause of the cursed day: Jacques DeMolay, Catholic hero or heretic, was burned at the stake and cursed his killers and the day of the week. It has lingered 700 years.
As far as 27 is concerned, it’s a club of dead rock stars. There is a litany of musical icons who died at age 27, including Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, et al. You can forgive old Shatner, at 90, not taking this one too seriously.
It all leads to his standard hilarious closing as he discusses charms to ward off curses at the end. It’s another must-see installment of the show.
Willie Maugham was one of the most successful of writers in the 20thcentury. He wrote one short story, “Rain,” that made him over one million dollars in the 1920s. You could say he was the rich man’s Truman Capote.
A short documentary gathers together some rare photos and film clips of his high-living. It’s called Revealing Mr. Maugham. But it is mostly apologetic for his transgressions and motive to write for money.
Maugham suffered from a stammer that made him less media attractive—but like Capote, he wrote about the gossip he heard, transforming the mud in novels. He was no great writer, like many contemporaries (James Joyce, Virginia Woolf or even Noel Coward) but he made big bucks and commanded movie versions (The Razor’s Edge).
Being secretly gay, he never played out or up his personality like Capote. Yet, he was notorious in his world travels to seek gay pleasure spots around the world. His “secretary” was actually his lover and procurer.
Maugham learned about human nature at medical school where he studied with Dr. Bell, the model for Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. And, his understanding of sexuality was scientific and ahead of its time.
He was scarred by his brother Harry’s suicide over a homosexual scandal—and it may have sent Maugham into the closet for the rest of his life.
His companion Gerald Haxton helped him create Cap Ferrat, the idyllic “Fairyland,” that Edna St. Vincent Millay declared one visit. Her insight is not in the film. Nor does the film tell us of the monkey gland injections to maintain his masculine vigor in old age to host boys, boys, boys.
The documentary tries hard to give Maugham literary chops, but he was interested only in fame and money, whether as a playwright or as a story writer. Yes, he wrote spy stories before LeCarre and Greene, and he was an actual spy for the British government.
Yet, he became in senility a rather unpleasant, vindictive and manipulated old fool of his new “secretary,” who managed to steal everything through poisoning Maugham’s old mind.
The documentary shows how one can outlive his own standards.
DATELINE: Unidentified: America’s UFOs
The use of triangle shaped craft by some entity seems to have gained traction on the series Unidentified: America’s UFO Investigations.
In the second episode of the second season, AATIP’s Luis Elizondo and Chris Mellen tackle the issue of mysterious black triangles now dominating the UFO scene.
For decades we have heard of saucers, then orbs, then tick-tacks. Now we find that the predominant military sightings are of silent, slow-moving craft of varying sizes, some as big as football fields. They are usually cloaked from radar. We can only note that most triangular shaped ships are designed by terrestrials here on earth.
Why would extra-terrestrials simply change their design in the past few decades? It’s illogical, if not unlikely. Of course, those saucers were crashing all over earth for decades. Perhaps the space creatures have smartened up and are designing safer space crafts.
Once again, notably, the witnesses are all highly reliable and credible military men who have retired and are now willing to come forward. It gives this show far more believability than so many others.
Mellen’s troubling conclusions are that, if unknown visitors are inspecting American territory, there is a big problem of national security and motives.
In the 1980s a massive sighting occurred over the Hudson Valley, not far from New York City. No one can fathom the legal and moral decision of the government to fly experimental craft over a populated area. It leads to a frightful conclusion: they are not US airships.
It is ultimately a distressing conclusion that these triangular ships could be like Cortes landing among the Aztecs. They had no idea how dangerous and deadly to their civilization this interloper would become.
DATELINE: Odd Sex Life of a Queen
Off with her reader’s head.
If you rely on the trailer for Farewell, My Queen,a French historical drama about the week the Bastille was attacked and started the French Revolution, you will think you are looking at some kind of Lesbian revisionist history.
Before rolling your eyes, you should give this film a view.
Of course, some believe the real Marie Antoinette was bisexual, and others think she was accused of this in an effort to try to denigrate her character. It was, after all, considered a moral leprosy to be gay a hundred years ago.
In fact, if you stick around for this film, you will be hooked into an intriguing study of the people who worked at Versailles, the underlings and minor functionaries, who received word their lives and livelihood were now in jeopardy with a list of beheadings of those associated with the monarchs.
By staying outside the riots and beheadings, this drama shows how people in the court were horrified and terrified of their own fates. Those who worked in person with Marie Antoinette are the truly endangered. One such girl is her librarian reader, a plain-looking young girl who finds herself devoted to the Queen to her ever-lasting detriment.
The depiction of a strata not usually seen is fascinating, but shows too how deadly it could be merely to be a servant of the King and Queen. Marie Antoinette’s haughty love interest is a woman of great beauty—and the ultimate order of the Queen to her reader is to be bait to help the royal mistress escape France.
You may find yourself riveted to mad decisions of Louis and Marie Antoinette to endanger themselves by refusing to flee when they had the chance. Others desert Versailles, and some commit suicide rather than be sent to sure death by the mobs. If you are intrigued by side stories of history, this film will be fully satisfying. In subtitles that caused us to miss the Austrian accent on the French-speaking Queen (Diane Kruger).
DATELINE: 21 Years Later!
Hard as it is to believe, this July is now 21 years since the death of the prince to the Kennedy legacy. His demise in a plane crash completely shut down a direct line to the mythic Camelot of his father. The documentary is called JFK, Jr: the Final Year.
Of course, this is not an objective biography, but it is the result of research and memories of a teaching assistant who mentored young John at Brown University. He has access to people who have heretofore not spoken about the tragic, premature death of the hope of a family and political dynasty.
Kennedy died in 1999, and his mother in 1994. In that way, they never made it to the 21stcentury. Around the same time his mother died, his closest friend, first cousin Anthony Radziwell, son of his mother’s sister, contracted cancer and followed Kennedy in death too. Kennedy’s life was filled with personal loss, and yet he blew up at the press rarely—and may have been planning for a political career in the upcoming decade.
He had a parade of movie star girlfriends and was often called the sexiest man alive, which he accepted as part of his legacy, but he was also considered not too bright, failing the bar exam at least once. Yet, he surrounded himself with some bright people to start George, the magazine.
He was enough of an entertainer to know that the mix of politics and show biz was the future. He failed to cover the Clinton sex scandal and impeachment because it was too close to his own father’s behavior, and he begged the media to give him privacy. He made dumb decisions frequently. Bill Clinton is a major contributor to this film.
In those ways he was the Democrat version of Trump: not terribly bright. And he took risks with threats to his person all around him in New York City. His mother, during her life, mistrusted the Secret Service, and he eschewed protections.
As Dr. Steven Gillon’s film reveals, in mid-1999, his life was falling part in many ways, but he had the future still in mind. He was writing his cousin’s eulogy, but sickly Radziwill ended up giving a eulogy for John before he died two weeks later. It is another tale of hope dashed.
DATELINE: Best Series on TV?
William Shatner is in wry form again as the series UnXplained actually tackles another unusual subject with some interesting insights. This time the show’s topic deals with how several individuals have made up for a lack of one sense (blindness, deaf, etc.,)with enhanced other senses.
This is more than someone learning to rely on what’s left when Nature has denied them the full range of sensory perception. The handful of interview subjects are not your usual subjects—and that gives the series yet another fresh approach.
A blind man who lost both eyes as a child to cancer make clicking noises, a form of sonar, to locate objects around him—and can makes a drawing or map accurately as to what is in his world when he walks around or ride a bicycle. It’s called echolocation, and some may disparage it as luck, he clearly has a new sensory approach that is nothing short of paranormal.
Another example, from the deaf world, is called synesthesia or synesthetes, people who may not hear noise or sound, but experience colors, and strange noise, to make up for their lacking. It is amazing to think that sound has color to define it.
Old-hand experts from our usual History Channel shows, Dr. Michael Dennin and Dr. Travis Taylor, are around again to discuss the physics of cross-connected senses. And, it is ground-breaking when it comes to these show topics.
Another victim of lack of senses, who feels no pain, explains the dangers of daily life when there is no pain sensitivity, which is called a genetic malfunction. He also explains he has so many injuries since childhood that it is now a blessing to be pain-free. To have it restored would mean he would not function at all.
Another premature infant named Eric Paravicini given oxygen in abundance to survive turns into a musical maven who at age 5 had memorized thousands of songs and now can play the piano like a virtuoso. The drawback and price for these “talents” is that forms of autism deny a full and satisfying existence.
Shatner is clearly in awe of this episode’s subjects—and we have to admit this was a startling and fresh approach, again putting UnXplained at the top of the heap of History series.
DATELINE: Mystery Liaisons
Beehive hair and sex.
If you want your history to be salacious and lurid, this film called JFK’S Women seems to be a candidate, but in reality, this one-hour documentary is fairly staid, but blunt. Though there were many women who caught the attention of JFK from his youth until his death, this film puts focus on five disturbing choices he made.
The source material is highly legitimate and interesting observers and researchers, including notorious Bobby Baker, author Anthony Summers, and prosecutor G. Robert Blakely. You have a well-known, reliable group of insiders with information.
Many women from Hollywood are simply never raised—probably because today they are not known or are basically forgotten (Gene Tierney is a case in point), and the only Hollywood tie is the ever-repeated Marilyn connection. Yet, she comes later in his life—and her delusion was that she had hoped to have a post-movie career as the wife of a president. It was never going to happen.
The first notorious affair was with a Danish-born woman named Inga Avard, a friend of Adolph Hitler no less, and a German spy in America, preying on a young and oversexed officer named Kennedy. Only transferring him to the South Pacific could end this catastrophe—but the mold of bad connections was set. She later married movie star Tim McCoy.
JFK was apparently not so bright in bed—and had a propensity to be a sexual danger nut. He became emboldened by the risky nature of his liaisons. In the 1950s, the shift came toward communist agents who canoodled with a Massachusetts senator. Kennedy had flings with woman under Soviet control, and another under China communist control. He seemed oblivious and defies logic.
However, J. Edgar Hoover was not pleased by the Kennedy lifestyle—and kept track of all these problems. It worsened when mobster Sam Giancana joined the 1960 campaign to drum up votes—and provide Kennedy with a White House interloper by the name of Judith Campbell.
Brother Bobby as AG ran afoul of Hoover and Giancana with his control over bubbling scandals. He would deport these women and threaten journalists. It was the last of the agents, Ellen Rometsh who was in mid-1963 the one who could have brought JFK down—if not for an assassin’s bullet.
JFK claimed she gave the best oral sex he ever had in or out of the White House.
If any question emerged from the investigatory film, it is JFK’s motives to be so dense, and then angry when caught. It will forever remain inexplicable how he could be prisoner of his own sex drive. He’s not the only man in history condemned by his libido. The film turns out to be quite a stew.
DATELINE: Minor Director
Ozzie Directed His Troupe.
While on a TV bender, we saw that an old series from the early 1950s was showing on the classic sit-com channel: it was called Here Come the Nelsons, or The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. We could not recall if we saw it originally (doubtful) or in some rerun return years later.
What a curio it was back then. It featured a rich Hollywood family (the Nelsons) as themselves, imitating a middle-class suburban TV version of themselves in some kind of antiseptic style.
They were pleasant and dealt only with blemish-less problems. They seemed so real that people thought the set was actually their home. What an innocent age that was!
Ozzie Nelson wrote, directed, produced and starred in these shows. He was no Orson Welles, but he gave America a kind of template of sit-com heaven. He wrote the shows with his brother Don, and Ozzie himself played some kind of retired gentleman. He had no job, but lived well and was always home to chat with his two sons. We presumed he was himself, a retired band-leader living off his royalties.
We were struck at how small he was: truly! He was short and small-boned, almost like a child. It was something we had never noticed over the years.
It was the forerunner of Leave It to Beaver, but far more successful and lasted many more years. The episode we saw was about the two young brothers wanting separate rooms in their tiny little suburban home. Their parents seemed to eschew that in real life their palace likely had a dozen bedrooms.
Harriet, the mother, is ubiquitous in an apron, but she never does housework—and we kept wondering where her black maid was (Louise Beavers anyone?). Every show seemed to be the servants’ day off. Only the nosy neighbor, Don DeFore, showed up not playing himself.
The sons were charming and pleasant too, and Ricky would grow up to be rival of Elvis on a weekly TV show! For a season or two they did a radio version each week, live, separate from the filmed series. David tried his hand at playing movie villains in subsequent years, but ended up being an executive producer.
This was either delusion or illusion at its worst or best. They came across as so real that it defied all Hollywood backdrops.
Ozzie Nelson directed, created, and oversaw, this production for decades: he was the master of a disrespected art form, the family sit-com, but he turned out his miniature artwork faithfully and tirelessly. We should give him some credit.
DATELINE: Second Season UFO Investigations
You could surely knock us over with the return of this series. Now in a second season, Unidentified: Inside America’s UFO Investigations was certainly one of the interesting miniseries History provided last year. It featured two prominent former government officials: Chris Mellen, a defense minister and Luis Elizondo who ran the Pentagon UFO program that released actual UFO footage to great excitement.
We did not expect to see it again.
Luis Elizondo was in charge of the notorious AATIP program at the Pentagon.
The first show of the new season entails “UFOs in Combat,” though it only tackles living witnesses of the past fifty years, we know that orbs in World War II were inexplicable and thought to be Nazi weapons.
Now both men who are key hosts of this series have left the government to seek fame and fortune as informants of the UFO phenomenon. They are likely the most interesting, if not trustworthy, of experts these kind of shows present.
Elizondo interviews decorated American soldiers from wars of the past 50 years, going back to 1966 Vietnam. Here, in case after case, they witness these “tick-tacks” an allusion to the shape of the object. They are elongated or circular like an orb.
One expert calls them part of the 21stcentury technology or “angels” that are decoy devices around aircraft to deflect missile attacks. But this technology does not extend back 20 years, where it has been witnessed.
Another expert essentially questioned the mental stress of these patriots and claimed they were suffering from lack of sleep, fear, and other factors. The show’s hosts reject this out of hand.
The series seems to be covering the same ground as in the first season, but it is cracking open new testimony and information.
DATELINE: Rally ‘Round the Flag?
If you follow the weather in New England, you only have to wait a minute to discover Trump just had his rainfall checked.
A big rally in Manchester, New Hampshire, at an airport hangar was postponed for Saturday because Tropical Storm Fay wanted to intrude. The White House chose to back down from getting their supporters all wet.
The problem is that Fay will have been long gone by the time of the rally. So, what is really going on here? It may be actually that the crowd was going to be so small, lessened by raindrops falling on their head, that the campaign decided to bail out.
The image of Air Force One surrounded by 50 people just didn’t cut the mustard of big rallies.
The hangar where no UFOs are stored was a small venue for Trump, but the visual would show crowds pouring out into the tarmack. Alas, if there is no drizzle of crowd noise, Trump will be stuck with another bad optic effect: he’s losing support.
He thought at one point he could muster the racism of New Hampshire into an eked-out victory in November, but polls now show he is trailing badly to Sleepy Joe, the man whose pillow talk soothes the country.
The White House no longer gives crowd expectation size, having been burned in Tulsa where the few supporters now all have coronavirus. It seems they were willing to hand out masks in New Hampshire, but no one likes to be sick—and supporting Trump has now become a symptom of being so sick you belong in a psycho ward.
We also would point out that the supporters of Confederacy, Robert E. Lee, and the night they drove old Dixie down, are few and far between in Yankee New Hampshire where living free is only slightly more popular than to die.
DATELINE: Great Escapes Explained!
For History Channel to bring back a series with such alacrity, you know it is a big winner. So, we are not surprised that William Shatner has returned for another batch of UnXplained.
His delivery is deadpan, hambone, hilarious. He has found another career at age 90—as robust as ever. His latest show opened with a look at “Greatest Escapes,” and the underlying notion is that some supernatural or paranormal power may be at work. Perhaps.
The first vignette put focus on Houdini and his inexplicable escapes from sure death under water. There is no explanation as he took it to his grave, only noting his “brain” was the “key.” Though Conan Doyle, of Sherlock fame, thought it was some supernatural psychic ability, Houdini dismissed that. Shatner raises the issue again.
Another anecdote is about a man who escaped a submarine 200 feet under the Mediterranean in a primitive pressure suit in 1941. No believed him until the wreck was found 50 years later with all the tangible evidence proved him right. And, there is the report of a Cuban escapee from Havana in 1969 who hid in a jet wheel well for nine hours, going into suspended animation, frozen.
All of these incidents are beyond science: and your usual History Channel expert, Dr. Travis Taylor, shows up again and again to tell us how this defies physics.
These relatively unknown, but documented cases, are always the backbone of the series, and they are handled with marvelous re-enactments, or archival footage.
Perhaps the most two fascinating episodes of the paranormal invoke the story of one of four survivors of the Twin Towers on 911. He was pushed to choose the only stairway unblocked to walk down 84 flights. Brian Clark is interviewed and explains how he has no idea who pushed him in the right direction.
And a little-known Alcatraz escape story involves Native American legends about positive spirits on the Rock leading the only 3 escapees to succeed in their plan. It seems gulls only land when the omens are good. And that was when the prisoners made their swim. Who knows?
Shatner is back, and that is all that matters.
DATELINE: Interesting Take on Great Briton!
Cox as Churchill.
Every actor appears to want to sink his acting chops into one of the most melodramatic and imperious roles you can face. Heavy, middle-aged men are particularly apt to apply their skills to the role of Winston Churchill.
It is something off the track in 2017 with Brian Cox in the title role: Churchill.At least one critical judge called it a “hit job.” We are not prepared to go that far, but this is a meddlesome, troublesome, cantankerous version of Churchill in the hours before D-Day. It is not his finest hour.
There is no doubt he was opposed to the timing and the action as planned by others. This film attributes his motive to the catastrophe often linked to his name: Gallipoli where thousands died needlessly. Here, Winston becomes a first-level pain for everyone with his opposition to the landing on Normandy. He feels it is history repeating itself, and he does whatever petty temper tantrums to prevent this.
In this version, Churchill tries to pray and ends up ordering God, much to no result. Cox emotes, confabs, and blusters through every scene with smoking cigar and scotch in hand. He throws more than a few dinner plates off the table in arguments with Clem (his wife as played by Miranda Richardson).
No one can control him, and he is diminishing as leader and hero by the moment, not the same man who led the country through the Blitz. And, the country would soon turn him out of office as if it knew all these behind-the-scenes actions that seem fanciful and imagined.
Not Eisenhower, not Montgomery, not his wife, can make him listen. It takes a visit from the King, half-stuttering, to remind him his duty is not to fight or make military strategy. He is a mere symbol.
Though some purists and devotees of Churchill may take umbrage, toward the end of his term in the War, he was growing more marginalized and ultimately dismissed by voters. Director Jonathan Teplitzky takes a chance tacking an icon in an unfavorable light.
This film is an emotional upheaval, perhaps inaccurate but perhaps not. Cox chews the scenery and the role often puts Churchill alone, a small figure, in big landscapes and big halls with nary a security guard. There is no mistaking the message.
Absolutely interesting take on Winston.