Knives In and Out of Fashion

DATELINE: Old-Fashioned Murder Comedy

Massachusetts mansion.

The comedy murder mystery of the year, of perhaps the decade, is a Charlie Chan rip-off that is as trendy as it is traditional. Knives Out  raises the question of why would anyone have a display of hundreds of knives in his parlor.

We think the set designer deserved an Oscar, or a strait-jacket.

An all-star cast of suspects seem to have as much fun making, perhaps more than those of us watching it. Director Rian Johnson moves his cast to the real star of the movie: a gothic house most suitable for his plot outside of Boston.

The lunacy of the house furnishings is like a Victorian nightmare, hardly something anyone would design, even an Agatha Christie murder mystery writer (Christopher Plummer) who hates movie versions of his books.

The family gathers for his 85thbirthday—including his mother who must be 100 at least. And, the family members and staff are equally troublesome.

The cast even gathers for the reading of the will, which entails just about everyone—except the murder victim.

The best line delivered by Chris Evans is about cornpone Daniel Craig, playng super sleuth Benoit Blanc as “CSI- KFC,”   in shades of Sherlock with Hercole thrown in. But, we keep seeing James Bond slumming.

Director Johnson is utterly cruel with his camera. We have never seen these old stars looking so old. Every crevice, crease, and open pore, is ready for your perusal. Even Daniel Craig looks surprisingly aged in the wood.

The red herrings fly by at an alarming rate, so quickly it’s hard to keep track of the lies and false statements. We suppose Plummer’s nurse may be from Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, or Paraguay, as everyone cites a different locale.

The few scenes around Boston are amusing for those of us who are homebodies—and we snickered when Gary Tanguay, a Boston sports reporter, showed up as a newsguy at another station.

It’s a silly romp and more like what old movies used to be, and those Sherlock/Chan/Poirot stories were more succinct. We suppose there could be a new series for James Bond here if he so chooses.

Close Encounters on Blue Book

DATELINE: Pointless Flash Forward

 Real Hynek On Set of Third Kind

We give the show credit for a sixth episode that is a little different than all the others. Here, Dr. J. Allen Hyneck is all gray-haired, in 1976, 25 years later than the other episodes of the series Project Blue Book.

And, here he is advisor for Steven Spielberg’s classic UFO movie,Close Encounter of the Third Kind—which of course was Hyneck’s rating system. He worked as technical advisor on this film.

So, we have the wizened, older Aiden Gillen talking to a reporter. Of course, this is old school flashforward. Gillen is wearing a white-haired wig, but has not truly aged. And, he will discuss publicly the CIA investigation of the Air Force Blue Book that ended ten years earlier.

What was the point of this? It’s not clear, except that there is a studio set-up and an unsatisfying interview with a journalist, circa 1976.

The CIA and Robertson Panel are clearly operating under some other power—and that is as acceptable to this series and its inconclusive set of “facts.”

The show continues to feature murderous Russian agents who also have fooled Blue Book—and Captain Quinn. Once again, an eccentric with alien connections proves that the koo-koo birds are the ancient alien preferables for abduction and mental telepathy.

 

Shatner on Oak Island: Beam Him Down

DATELINE: UnXplained Star Visits 

 Shatner at Oak Island!

Well, if you travel across the universe and end up with the UnXplained,you will surely make a pit stop to visit with the Lagina Brothers on Oak Island. William Shatner, not slowing down at 90, is there to see what all the commotion is about.  One fan called this appearance “epical.”

He is there to interview each of the key people about what is going on: he is intrigued, but the people in the so-called War Room are in awe of Captain Kirk in their midst.

There will be no revelations, but there are insights into the past of key people like Gary Drayton who is not used to turning over the findings to the Nova Scotia government. He has a history of being a modern pirate: keeping the spoils.

Yet, Shatner is cynical enough to tell them that the metal of the lead cross, apparent Templar, that was dropped not 600 years ago, mined back then.

They show him the swages that likely made the massive structures of 1741 that indicate that no Europeans were not supposed there—but really were.

Shatner tries hard to find the logic of the mystery of Oak Island, but he needs the late Leonard Nimoy’s Spock to give him the explanation. Marty Lagina tries to play the role of the man explaining the UnXplained.

It will be interesting to see how the same interviews come out on the other History Channel show.

Shatner drives at the key question, what is the curse! But he believes that the Shakespearean manuscripts sounds most plausible, hidden by Sir Francis Bacon.

Captain Kirk digs hard at the notions of mythology and magic, and for that we give him much credit as a journalist. He is intrigued by their notion that the latest technology always renews interest in solving the mystery.

Tractor and big equipment operator Billy Gearhardt is quite eloquent in answering. His new found fans will be thrilled that he stands up to Captain Kirk in this cross-pollination of History channel hit shows.

 

 

Blue Maximum for the Blue Max

DATELINE: Chess in the Sky  

 Real Stars Fly High!

We missed this little forgotten gem back in 1966, and today it is just a delicious extravaganza from the over-the-top studio system on its last legs. It is another faux epic but it is as big as the sky.

Clocking in at nearly three hours, The Blue Max was an important war movie for the Vietnam era. It told the story of chivalry in Germany during World War I. There, a common infantryman rises to air corps—and is ambitious enough to rival Von Richtofen.

The film has the benefit of George Peppard as his most unpleasant rogue antihero. However, the picture does not take off for forty minutes. That’s when James Mason and Ursula Andress take to the air as a German general of some sort and his countess wife.

Suddenly the movie comes alive. And Mason and Andress steal every scene they’re in. Elegant, aristocratic, and disdainful, you could not have two more delightful actors to change the pace of a war movie.

When Mason calls Peppard as “common as dirt” and a hero for the masses, you have the new era of movies entering on a biplane that could only shoot down King Kong in the movies.

There are long stretches of dog fights between Peppard and British planes, which are spectacular, but we can’t help but think this is nasty combat and is meant to kill the other pilot, not merely shoot him down. It dampens the undercurrent of a fun war.

A large cast also displays ugly hand-to-hand combat with bayonets, interspersed with Jeremy Kemp and Peppard’s rivalry over their extra-marital interest in Kemp’s auntie Ursula.

Scenes of glorious air flight are contrasted with uninspired ground troop massacres. We know that the chess match between Mason and Andress will result in Peppard having his Blue Max match his blue eyes at any cost, but he will end up the patsy of the villains. It’s worth watching two great film stars (Mason and Andress) in full throttle.

Charlie Chan from 1936

DATELINE: A Cursed Movie?

 Unlikely Swedish Hawaiian

We really don’t see the hubbub over an actor playing ethnic or racial roles if there is dignity and nothing racist in the situation. Apart from taking a key role in the payroll department away from an actor of Chinese Hawaiian extraction, there seems only minimal harm.

In Charlie Chan’s Secret, you have the peak of a respectful Chan movie. He has no comic sidekick son and characters call him “Mr. Chan” out of respect. Fifty years later a black actor playing a detective insisted they “call me Mr. Tibbs.”

Swedish actor Warner Oland is about as far as you can go from being Chinese American. And, that so-called accent is actually a cadence without using certain words. It doesn’t seem offensive, but we are laid back on this movie, turning us into an offensive apologist unfortunately.

You would never make this movie today, but that’s the point. It was made over 80 years ago. And, it has a certain charm in its sociological innocence. Within a few years, the role became a racially offensive joke, which may show the cycles of racism.

Charlie Chan’s Secretfeatures sunken luxury liners, missing persons, a center for psychic research, fake mediums, and assorted red herrings among the rich in San Francisco.

The usual suspects all have reason to kill the heir to the fortune of the Colby family: lawyer, psychic researcher, greedy cousin, all benefit from his death. Comic relief is provided by an overly nervous butler (marvelous Herbert Mundin who died young in a car crash a few years later).

Yet, there were other curses on the movie. Within a few years, the prime suspect actor Arthur Edmund Carewe died by suicide shortly after the movie’s release when he learned of health problems.

And, of course, Warner Oland went on vacation to Sweden and died there of bronchial pneumonia. Several other actors found their careers at dead ends after this picture. It really was the Curse of Charlie’s Secret.

Trump as Movie Critic &/or Norma Desmond

 DATELINE: Old Time Movies!

At a campaign rally this week, Donald Trump showed another facet of his koo-koo bird presidency. He started attacking Hollywood’s Oscar choice of The Parasitefor best picture. It seems he does not care for South Korea’s movie industry.

 

If it had been made in North Korea, he might have been more tolerant. Perhaps he just has an intolerance for parasites, or movies that attack and ridicule rich people.

We firmly believe that Trump never watched The Parasitebecause of its subtitles. We all know that he is a dyslexic reader and has trouble with big words and fast scrolling of verbiage. His own notes are large block letter words that are monosyllabic.

However, he did cite 1950’s Sunset Boulevard as his idea of a great movie. We presume his followers have never seen it, and young people would never watch a black & white movie.

You may not recall the Billy Wilder-Charlie Brackett movie from 1950. It was a dark satire extravaganza about the dissolution of a silent screen siren.

Gloria Swanson took the role that Garbo refused and said the immortal words of Norma Desmond who is accused of once being big in movies: “I am still big. It’s the pictures that got small.”

Trump may well paraphrase the famous line: “I am big. It’s the White House that got small.”

You know that Trump is always ready for his close-up—and in fact, demands it every day. He is about ready to have the police and men in white coats come and take him away, just like poor old Norma Desmond.

 

Ossurworld’s William Russo just published a book on producer Charles Brackett who made Sunset Boulevard. It’s title is TITANIC’S FORGOTTEN MOVIE, available in softcover or ebook for smart readers.

  Double Your Spies

DATELINE: Double or Nothing?

 Gere & Topher!

It only took us a decade to come around to The Double, a Russian spy infiltrates the CIA and/or FBI thriller. This one slipped through the cracks ten years ago, and we wondered why.

Perhaps the stars were box-office poison back then. Today, they look like classic performers, doing Hamlet.

You might be held back because of the smarmy leads: there is Richard Gere, in varying shades of white and gray as he plays himself in 25-year flashbacks as the ubiquitous CIA wrecking crew.

Then, there is the ever-irksome millennial Topher Grace as the research librarian turned field agent for the FBI.

They are forced to team up to find the former Soviet agent called Cassius who led one of the most dangerous murder groups out of Russia back in the 1980s.

You need only watch the trailer for this film, and you have a pretty good idea who the double is and how dangerous he may be. You will be on the road of the Red Herring.

Topher Grace’s analytical agent claims Cassius is not dead, not executed by Gere in his last act before retiring. They disagree, and then we begin to suspect that the double is the agent leading the hunt.

All of this is droll and clever until improbable meets impossible in the grand finale. We still aren’t sure who was supposed to kill whom for what government. Oh, Martin Sheen is along as head of the CIA. So, you can trust him.

As for the rest of these double agents, you sympathize at your own risk. Well, it was diverting.

Summit with Rat Pack

DATELINE: Ocean’s 11 History!

  Frank & Jack!

A bad, inconsequential movie seldom is a watershed of history. So, to find a film that provides a great context for politics, social life, entertainment, and cult of celebrity, you have to stand back and simply be agog at its temerity.

Ocean’s 11, the original 1960 movie, turned out to be seminal and a turning point in mindless fluff having serious impact. The Ocean 11 Story will surprise you.

This gang was called the Summit (and it’s a pinnacle of some lunacy). Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Dean Martin, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr., were denizens of the Las Vegas show world. That was the descendant of vaudeville—taken a turn toward Godfather syndicate crime and gambling.

These entertainers brought thousands to the desert to pack five casinos along a neon strip. They created a world of entertainment unto itself.

And, the mob was beholden. Their pranks, self-deprecating humor, and interjecting in each other’s shows became an act itself. They soon were joining forces: “maybe” someone else would show up and liven up the audience. Tickets were prized.

Sinatra’s mob connections (notably played out in the Puzo tale, Godfather) made him royalty. His friends like Sam Giancanna could guarantee a Hollywood career however he wanted it.

Then, his hostility to Lawford ended when the actor married into the Kennedy family—and JFK ran for President with Franks support. It was the first time a pop star turned his hit song into a campaign rally tune.

Ties between Sinatra, beautiful Hollywood starlets, and a Kennedy president, became legend: Marilyn Monroe was in there too.

A double-edged mob could protect Kennedy—or kill him.

And, the Rat Pack lived it up, never sleeping, making a cheesy movie with the casino help. It was a movie about robbing the casinos—and the mob loved it.

You could have High Hopes and a Kind of Fool as these loose show-stoppers unloaded on screen and off. They moved off second-banana status with Sinatra’s Oscar coming from here and going to Eternity, Martin’s break from Lewis, and a black man on equal footing.

The Summit of talent heckled each other—and brought in tons of money and popularity. They would never do more than one take in their movie—which was merely an extension of their stage shenanigans. They lacked self-discipline, but who needed it?

They made Las Vegas, and they made Kennedy president. They loved the danger of the Mob, and no one dared cross them. It was a golden age of promiscuity and booze.

This hour documentary turns out to be highly significant about how silly inanity could dominate a century.

 

 

Thomas Crown: An Affair Not to Remember?

DATELINE: What Should Have Been?

 Stand-in graveyard?

In 1968, one of the ultra-cool movies that was meant to be an antidote to the growing counter-culture of long-hair and hippies, was Norman Jewison’s stylish caper film. Sexy cool, with dune buggy rides on Crane’s beach in Ipswich and rooftop brunch on a patio in the South End of Boston, this was your ultimate sophistication.

The Thomas Crown Affairwas meant to be a vehicle showing off a Brahmin Bostonian outsmarting a beautiful insurance agent at his hobby of “crime.”

It has all the looks of a film back in the late 1960s when Alfred Hitchcock wanted to drag Grace Kelly out of retirement with the promise of another Cary Grant co-star vehicle. It’sTo Catch a Thief in reverse. However, nothing panned out. The film settles for second-best.

Hitchcock also had Tippi Hedren under contract—and so they could not even bring her on as the beautiful insurance agent. Yet, Faye Dunaway is clearly wearing the designer outfits and living the life of a millionaire investigator meant for Grace or Tippi. She tangles with a guy in a Brooks Brothers suit who pretends to be a millionaire executive, but looks like a motorcyclist in posh dress.

No doubt that Steve McQueen looks dashing, but we never believed for a second that he could play polo or chess. Not only that, the film looks like it was supposed to play out in London, but they had to settle for Boston. McQueen reportedly could not master a Boston accent and gave up half-way through the film.

It’s the ultimate double-cross thriller that Hitch loved to do, but Jewison throws in modern elements like split-screen moments (all pointless) and Noel Harrison (not Rex) sings “Windmills of Your Mind.” It seems even Dusty Springfield turned them down.

The climax of the movie takes place at Cambridge City Cemetery, a stand-in for ritzy and prestigious Mount Auburn Cemetery across the street, no doubt. We were a tad shocked to see filming near my mother’s recent burial site back then, not far from her grandmother.

Some films you may remember for all the wrong reasons.

 

 

 

 

 

Madman & Rebel: Dennis Hopper

DATELINE: Don’t Forget Drunkard!

 He’s Not in this Doc!

Dennis, Our Favorite Menace!

A semi-interesting documentary on James Dean contemporary, Dennis Hopper, whose career went through many incarnations, is allegedly told by his “co-conspirators”! The film on his life is called Along for the Ride. With friends like the intense Hopper selected, he was in for a long run toward Doom.

Hopper underwent many transformations in his life—and it mirrored his career, or vice versa. He started out as an All-American wholesome-looking boy, became a slimy and bushy-bearded druggie and drunkard, and ultimately became a haggard and highly respected character actor. He survived, which is the truly amazing fact.

Like most under-educated people in Hollywood, Hopper was sensitive to his intelligence and self-education. The film ignores his youth and early years—and picks up with his personal assistant in 1970 who owns most of his correspondence and memorabilia. He is the power behind this portrait, which really puts emphasis on his directorial ability in The Last Movie, a big flop. Having made a fortune with Easy Rider,his counter-culture friends and attitudes were given free-reign in the 1970s Hollywood-in-transition.

Hopper was never helped when friends like Satya keep telling him he’s a genius. Inevitably, his Last Moviebecame Waterloo in Peru. Hopper was a colorful show-biz personality, but he was notOrson Welles. The low-lifes and sycophants around him convinced him otherwise.

You won’t have to see The Last Movie to know from this picture that it is an unmitigated disaster. When working on Apocalypse Now, Marlon Brando refused to do any scenes with him. He had told the most powerful Hollywood moguls to go “f” themselves. He was on Ruination Row in a self-constructed prison.

There is a passing nod to his mentor and progenitor, James Dean, but really he was on his own trip far from his rebel youth movies.

Blue Velvet resurrected him. He always felt he was personally difficult, but not professionally so. In the end he made so many movies that any idea that he was blackballed cannot be believed.

Hopper’s right-hand man and behind-the-scenes acolyte does his job to the bitter end.

 

Boston Stars Join Police Lineup in California!

DATELINE: Wine Chaser?

Call it Selfie Destruction?

Julian Edelman is preparing for off-season surgery by jumping on the hood of an expensive car in Beverly Hills. It’s called drunken vandalism.

Only in Beverly Hills is jumping on a MB SLK considered a misdemeanor.

Now arrested for vandalism, he will appear in the airport courthouse next month—that is, if he’s out of the hospital and Bill Belichick’s doghouse.

Tom Brady’s close chum was out celebrating not being in the Super Bowl with a bunch of former Boston stars; Danny Amendola (his usual mate and partner in crime, and the unusual addition of Paul Pierce, notably of the Celtics Past).

One can presume the stars were imbibing beyond the limits of good sense.

It may be that Edelman is planning to jump ship and is checking out the teams on the West Coast (he is originally a Bay butt). If he is on a mission to scout out teams for Brady, they may be going there in tandem. He may be practicing his jump skills by jumping on car hoods.

We presume Pierce is a technical advisor, and Amendola (as always) is a partner in crime and unnatural activities. They have also done Mexico last year on a skateboard tour.

The latest scuttlebutt from the butt buddies of Edelman is that he will have at least 2 surgeries to repair damage from his insane play at age 34. It’s enough to figure that Bill Belichick wouldn’t take him back or give him a plug nicklel for his future.

No wonder Tom is sending him out to test the TB12 market in the Bay area. Unfortunately, Julie has been derailed in Beverly Hills, a far cry from the Raiders  franchise. Josh McDaniels can have Cleveland! Give the Brady Bunch something of Hollywood.

The Peter Pan Syndrome is alive and well in anyone who thinks they can play NFL football beyond a certain age. How low can down-low go?

Boys from Brazil: Where the Nuts Are

DATELINE: Hitler Clones 

 Peck as Mengele!

Back in the day, Ira Levin was one hot writer. He was knocking out Broadway and movie hits with aplomb, and writing novels too. He was entertainment and controversy, wit and delight. Apart from Death Trap, he gave us Boys from Brazil.

One of his least favorite set-pieces was the novel and movie about Josef Mengele. How short-sighted they were back in those days. The main criticism centered on Atticus Finch, the hero of all things American, being done up as a pasty and hideous looking Mengele. Yes, sir, that’s Gregory Peck in the lead role, horrifying.

He is magnificent, but back then he was stung by severe criticism. His performance may be one side of over-the-top , but when you ae playing one of the evilest fiends in history, it’s hard to pull back.

The cast is utterly astounding

Playing the old Jewish Nazi hunter whose efforts have gone past relevance is Laurence Olivier. Even Peck’s Mengele has no respect for the old-timer who warns young and hunky Steve Guttenberg to get out of Paraguay before there is one less nice Jewish boy. In an early role, Guttenberg is a sacrifice to plot, replaced by his clone John Rubinstein.

James Mason, who always accounted for Nazis of varying stripes, plays a Prussian aristocratic Nazi. Every nuance of his performance, especially with Peck, is a subtext of delight. And, you have to stand back in sheer horror at a gala soiree of Nazis in Paraguay in the 1980s.

Throw in a passel of well-known character actors—from Anne Meara and Uta Hagen to John Dehner and Denholm Elliot—and you have a hoot of acting. What other movie features two 70ish stars in a dirty, knock-down fight to death at the climax?

Yes, Ira Levin knew how to entertain and write a film that was 40 years ahead of its time.

What brought the fiercest criticism was the crypto-science of the age: genetic research! The public could not accept Mengele’s theories that he could clone humans—and create a new Master Race leader. How silly they were back then! It would only take 30 years to make the story less crypto.

The boys back in Brazil were hardly your run of the mill Nazi party members: Mengele was after the big fish. He had enough DNA from Hitler to make a bunch of them from now until kingdom come!

Today, that is cutting edge. It’s quite a movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merlin Among the Stars!

DATELINE: Jan Merlin’s Final Book!

Hand-made card drawn by Jan at Kilimanjaro during film Woman & the Hunter.

My dear friend and coauthor Jan Merlin died a few months ago. He lived a long and creative life. That does not lessen the effect of a hard loss, and I have managed to complete something that was brewing for decades.

Jan knew that I kept all his letters, copies of his emails, and took notes on many of our conversations over the course of thirty years. He steadfastly said he did not want a biography in any traditional sense. But, as the years passed, he often gave me a flood of memories about his years on Broadway, in early TV, and later in movies. I have completed a memoir in his own words.

He worked with so many famous—and he was one of them, knew their foibles and secrets. If I learned anything, it was a secret society—and they all kept their privilege sacred. Yet, he provided me with anecdotes with people from stage like Josh Logan, from movies such as Marlon Brando, from literature like Gore Vidal and Truman Capote, from TV like every Western TV star over 15 years (from Chuck Connors to Michael Landon).

So, I have compiled his memories to provide some amazing insights into the profession of acting and the business of movies. It did not take long to do—as I had been adding bits and pieces after each chat or text.

Now, I have for you a record of an era: the star of two TV series, Tom Corbett and Rough Riders,who played mostly the bad guy on TV westerns, committing every dastardly act and finding come-uppance weekly in a variety of ways.

His voice is clear and direct on every page; he never pulled punches, never played the social game, and he felt he damaged his career with projects like The List of Adrian Messengerwith Kirk Douglas, and he felt John Huston misused him. Even today, he is the man under the masks—but Douglas takes credit for the performance (even in an Oscar compilation clip!).

He gave me a title:  We Were All Six Feet Tall,which I have kept with the main focus, Merlin Among the Stars.It is now available on Kindle as an ebook and the paperback will soon be out for his fans and friends.

When I re-read his letters, there was so much I had forgotten—and never followed up. One example was his friendship with noted crypto-scientist Willy Ley who was tech advisor on his show Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.

There are gems from the era—and can only be appreciated by those with a grand sense of the past.

 

 

Link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0831S1RVZ

 

Kremlin Letter: Postage Due

DATELINE: IMF Gone Wrong

  George Sanders Goes Out in Flames! 

In 1970 if you wanted a thinking man’s spy thriller, you went to a film based on John LeCarre, and if you wanted a thriller with twists, you went to Mission: Impossible. If you wanted laughs, you turned to James Bond.

If Huston wanted to do Mission: Impossible,he needed the music. This movie version is rife with sex talk and use of sexual blackmail as part of the work habits of spies.

All these spies are retired and go by weird nicknames or coded identities. No matter.

So, it figures that John Huston would manage to straddle the fence and give us a spy thriller that has all these elements—and the imprimatur of one of the great directors: John Huston.

The Kremlin Letteris sheer, unadulterated  nonsense with twist of logic that defies explanation. Yet, it is glorious in its location settings—and startling cast of giants.

You will see in no particular order: Orson Welles, Max Von Sydow, Raf Vallone, Richard Boone, Dean Jagger, and Patrick O’Neal, and in a career killing performance—George Sanders in drag.

We don’t know if this movie led to Mr. Sanders’ untimely exit in Spain shortly after making this movie. He claimed he was bored. Well, we never saw him offer so much energy than as a piano-playing crossdresser in a gay club.

There is talk about two gay characters hooking up: Welles and Sanders. That would have been worth the price of admission, but the film really devolves into one of those sex-talk double-cross twisters.

What has any of this to do with retrieving a letter that seems worthless (but everyone will kill for it). That’s the old McGuffin of Hitchcock.

And Huston had turned to appearing on camera by then—and again gives himself a role in the picture. No spies come in from the cold, and everyone has a license to kill.

We knew this was going to be a treat from the opening credits. Huston still had the juice in those days—and could deliver a real movie in a world of nouveau auteurs.

 

 

 

To Be Taken by Takei

DATELINE: Across Culture and Sexual Stereotypes

George pulls an Errol Flynn Moment on Star Trek!

You have known him as the original Sulu on Star Trek since 1966. George Takei is as familiar as an old shoe. His autobio- documentary is To Be Takei.

Yet, his life is both moving and horrifying. As a child he was sent to several Japanese camps in Arkansas because his family was deemed disloyal and dangerous. He was subjected to an American concentration camp—and though embittered, never let it ruin his life.

Howard Stern’s radio program gave him a voice outside his acting—and made him an activist in the gay rights scene. He was in the closet until 2005 when he charged out and married his 20-year companion Brad Altman.

The little bio is filled with clips of his performances—from Twilight Zone to Rodan (voice-over) to costarring with John Wayne in The Green Berets. His family supported his acting career, but felt he would be typecast and given limited roles. He appears to have transcended the Asian stereotype while becoming the new Franklin Pangborn.

There are surprises, of course: Leonard Nimoy genuinely liked and respected him—and the animosity between Takei and Shatner is beyond uncomfortable. We don’t know what put these two into feud mode, but there it is in this film at every turn.

If the life-story tends to focus considerably on his life partner, it is understandable—as they fought for gay marriage in California. They ran into hostile people like Schwarzenegger, but George also won over Ronald Reagan to win restitution for the Japanese Americans who suffered in camps during World War II.

His busy life continues with no end in sight. To be Takei is to be a show biz dynamo/dreidel. He continues to spin and provide everyone with a big charge.