Hat Trick for Monolith

Popping Up like Daisy, Daisy

DATELINE:  Threesome

Like 2001 A Space Odyssey, we just keep running into these monoliths. The latest is not in Keir Dullea’s bedroom, nor have the Chinese found it on their latest Moon landing. It’s not running circles around Titan and Jupiter.

Like Davy Crockett, they seem to be born on a mountain top, though not necessarily in Tennessee, or have they looked at Cumberland Gap yet?

No, this one has suddenly appeared on Pine Mountain, a molehill in California.

These monoliths must have a monorail system giving them a tour of the highest mountaintops where they can bask in the sunlight for a few short days.

Yes, the monoliths live; they are the monoliths. They feel, they watch sunset glow. They reflect something peculiar. Could they be totems to ward off the corona virus?

Scarce heard amid the vandals below, they are the monos. Short days ago there were others, but now they lie in the field, felled by pushy monkeys.  They keep showing up at the darndest places with a shine and now a stainless steely grit.

The aliens appear to be working out the kinks. Alas, vandals may have more kinks than creatures from another dimension. We hear the Gregorian Chants.

The Monoliths seem to cry out: “We are the monuments to your folly.”  They are testimony to the age of viagra.

What are the odds this one bites the dust before the weekend? The money is on the monkey.

 

 

Second Monolith Bites Dust

Criminal Intent

DATELINE:  Monkeys Win.

After a heist of art critics of the Utah monolith, there has now been a second brazen attack in Romania. The bad copy of the first monolith has now disappeared into the night.

Apparent vandals who moonlight as art critics came to the national park with a wheelbarrow and a brazen attitude, telling people to take their pictures now because the monolith would soon be gone.

Reports are now circulating that these were Trump supporters who believe they can make a monolith disappear at will—and they plan to make the recent U.S. presidential election disappear too.

The culprits include a man who has boasted of his crime against crime, setting himself up as a vigilante to remove “trash” from pristine desert areas. It turns out this cretin was banned from the national parks for his own abusive behavior.

Self-styled art critics, trash collectors, and Trump conspiracy theorists, now have combined to steal whatever is not nailed down. Ballots are next.

Whether the same crew flew into Transylvania, or whether it was a local group of crypto-Nazis we have not yet determined.

 

In any respect, the people above the law are now making the law the rest of society. So it usually is before a Hitler take-over.

 

From dust to dust, so goes the short lifecycle of a monolith.

 

 

 

 

 

Monkey See, Monkey Do Another Monolith

Twin Mono Peaks

DATELINE: Next Stop, Romania

 More shenanigans have resulted in a second Monolith discovery, this time in the historic mountains of Romania, not far from the castle of Vlad the Impaler, we suspect.

We hate to cross pollinate A Space Odyssey with Dracula, but satire knows no boundaries.

The hacked version is not as aesthetic as the original, but it is still a hollow tin cup of mystery. This one is smudged with lettering in some foreign tongue spoken in Alpha Centauri.

We now see how easy it is to double your mono.

And, the Monolith (black only in its heart) is placed on lands protected by government fiat. Yes, we have another illegal parker, nosy or not. Romanian meter-maids are on their way with tow-truck in hand.

Our monolithic LSD trip now brings us to face Romania’s Mount Ceahlau, which locals call the Holy Mountain. 

So, what are we to make of monkey business that now includes international placement of Zarathrustrian proportions.

Are these things dropping from the sky, or simply being downloaded by UFOs? Beam us up and your Monolith too.

Art for art’s sake is now causing more monkey business than we can joke about.

Keir Dullea has still not tweeted his impressions of the biggest event of his life, waking up with a Monolith in his bedroom.

Stanley Kubrick may be laughing somewhere in the Universe, having taken the route of celestrial light with him. Or, perhaps, we are talking that signpost up ahead reading, “Twilight Zone.”

Simultaneous Plots to Kill JFK

Dealey Plaza, Grassy Knoll

DATELINE: Anniversary 57 Years  Nov. 22, 1963

 Having put together a book and collection of movie, documentary, and docudrama reviews of an odd bunch of film, we have come up with an unusual theory about the JFK killing in Dallas in 1963.

Kennedy & Oswald According to Movies and TV  takes the usual suspects—the mob, the CIA, Hoover, LBJ, Oswald, Edgar Hoover, the Cubans, Castro, and even UFOs—and puts them all together to see how it holds. You have some theorists who even place Marilyn Monroe in the dead center of the conspiracies.

In fact, JFK had more enemies coming at him from so many different directions that it is likely that he was the victim of several plots and plotters all converging in Dallas on that fateful date of November 22.

Working independently and discretely, these killers may have found the time and place to their liking, which made JFK the unluckiest man in America. Without knowing of other plots and plotters, one group would target the President successfully. If they failed, they had the likelihood (knowingly or not) of having someone else do the dirty work.

Conspiracy theorists are all correct: their particular conspiracy idea was merely one of several, all occurring at the same time.

If one of the rival conspiracies, whether it was Oswald, Giancana’s men, or Angleton’s agents, would have a built-in fall guy and cover to escape.

Dealey Plaza offered multiple sniper nests and chances to shoot the POTUS, and they did not need to be in coordination with the others. So, quite by accident, JFK was doomed by multiple enemies all gathered in one location.

No one is innocent, as they all had the plan to kill a president. Afterward, Oswald may have wondered who knew what he was up to—especially if he did not accomplish the murder. He surely knew he was now a fall guy.  

This would explain why some minor Mafia hood like James Files could confess years later that he fired the fatal bullet—and know he was living in prison for some other crime.

If the CIA or FBI had set multiple plotters up and let them work in a state of ignorance, they had a solution and could turn away from guilt and point a finger at one of their set-ups.

Dr. William Russo’s new collection of reviews of JFK/Oswald films concludes that multiple plots against Kennedy unfolded simultaneously. Kennedy & Oswald According to Movies and TV is available on Amazon.

 

Enola Gay Holmes Springer

 Cast of Enola.

 DATELINE:  Conan Doyle Rolling in Grave

The remnants of the Arthur Conan Doyle estate have scrapped together a lawsuit against the elements of Sherlock that are not public domain. These ten points of contention are the part and parcel of some post-feminist novels by one Nancy Springer.

We are more horrified by the endless string of ridiculous anachronisms the story seems to throw at history.

Netflix, ever the opportunist, has adapted the novels to a film on their ersatz network of third-rate shows, figuring a ripoff of Holmes fits right in.

It’s likely no mistake that the name of the airplane that dropped the atom bomb on Japan to end World War II is named “Enola.”

The lawsuit takes umbrage with the emotional turmoil when Sherlock must deal with a younger sister as well as a smarter brother. Talk about family troubles.

Throw in Sherlock’s mother as some kind of harpie, and you have the makings of a legal argument. We never had much faith in these family ties or family feud with Sherlock. We always suspected that Mrs. Hudson was his out-of-wedlock mother. She did refer to Mycroft once as a “reptile,” which surely is not motherly. Or is it?

Ignoring an upstart sister seems a fairly proper approach for Sherlock, but he had to put up with an obtuse Watson, mostly created for movie humor, but to give Holmes more emotion than Mr. Spock seems a stretch to the law offices of our solicitor.

We are now feeling emotional blackmail to tune into a Netflix series to give our usual slice and dice approach to all things un-Sherlockian.

To update Sherlock like he is one of the Ma and Pa Kettle movie series of the 1940s is enough to make us eshew the Poverty Row studios once and for all time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lady Frankenstein

 Baron Cotten, we presume.

DATELINE: Great Actor Misused

The 1971 schlock version is one of those international efforts done on a shoestring budget, re-imagining rather poorly the better done Hollywood stuff of several decades earlier. This title was redone a few years ago, but the original starred Rosalba Neri, who never made it to Hollywood, and never made it much beyond bad movies in the title role.

The real draw of this film done on cheap film stock that has not held up is one of the foremost gentleman stars of Old Hollywood:  Joseph Cotten. Without his presence, we’d probably have shut this off well before his exit from the picture at around 40 minutes, not quite half the movie.

Cotten must have needed a paycheck, but he must have known his name would guarantee this drive-in drivel would be seen in the U.S..  No matter for him, his best roles were behind.

He never won an Oscar, despite working with Hitchcock as the Merry Widow Killer in 1942, or as a costar to Orson Welles many times, including Ciitizen Kane and The Third Man.  He even did a turn opposite Marilyn Monroe in Niagara. Here, the great star slums in his work with Mel Welles, not Orson, as director. Instead of respected classics, Mel Welles was known for low budgets like Little Shop of Horrors (again, the original).

There are no real names here, except Mickey Hargitay as the captain or constable of police. And, unlike the old Universal classics in which the aristocrats had British accents of the first order, here you have a mishmash of American and international accents that make the setting hard to fathom.

One villain, the Resurrection Man, is named Lynch, which is hardly Eastern European like the original Frankensteins. Here too, Cotten is both Baron Frankenstein and Doctor, though he seems to prefer Dr. His daughter is an early Suffragette of sorts, having done med school and is also a surgeon who will take over Dear Old Dad’s lab.

The Monster is disfigured by accident by lightning during the revival process, but his brain—as usual—was defective from the get-go. Oh, well. Better luck next time.

Almost in a Sherlock Holmes Movie!

Terry Kiburn & Frankie Thomas, Rivals

 DATELINE: From Sherlock to Nancy Drew 

Sometimes I forget how old I am.  One of my late friends actually auditioned for a role in the first Basil Rathbone movie of Sherlock Holmes.

Passed over to play the page boy Billy in Mrs. Hudson’s employ for the Rathbone version of Adventures of Sherlock,child star Frankie Thomas was busy with other projects in 1939, but as a standard freelance actor now in his mid-teens, he could have easily played the role of Billy.

Having cut his teeth playing Bonita Granville’s sleuthing boyfriend in the Nancy Drew series, he was ripe for a role in his favorite reading material, the Holmes stories. 

Frankie’s family were Broadway theater professionals, part of a clique that dominated social strata in Hollywood of the era. Through his father and mother, youthful Frankie met Basil Rathbone, the emerging Holmes of the film world. The coveted role of Billy went to Terry Kilburn, a native British boy who had picked up the mantle of Freddie Bartholomew.

Nevertheless, Frankie loved the Holmes stories and read all avidly. He later, as an adult, when out of Hollywood’s limelight, wrote a series of novels that featured Holmes and Watson in new adventures.

Frankie’s Holmes titles, over a dozen, are still in print. He disliked the Bruce portrayal of Watson intensely and would alter that in his own books, but always favored the actor he saw frequently on the studio lot, Basil Rathbone.

 Frankie also had a key role in a series of Nancy Drew mysteries made in the late 1930s. As a teenage boy, he was cast as the boyfriend of Nancy. In fact, he played Watson to Bonita Granville’s female Sherlock.

Recently I put together a book called Sherlock in Movies: Personal Views & Reviews, in which I tried to do honor to Frankie.

Broken Noses, Unbroken Style

DATELINE: Weber’s Boys

Bruce Weber, as a film-maker and fashionista, made a career of studying masculinity in all its forms. He started with a young boxing coach named Andy Minsker and his latest is a bio-doc about Robert Mitchum.

In between during his long career, Weber has run into the wall of many from his generation: the values and relationships with male models he created in the beginning have not held up to today’s more overly sensitive accusers.

Yes, Bruce Weber has suffered charges of sexual harassment from a dozen or more men who might have let it slide years ago. Today, money-struck and fame-driven revenge pulls these guys into a world of accusations, both dubious and false.

In Weber’s first movie, Broken Noses,he took on a lookalike to jazz beauty Chet Baker. This young man, born in 1982, had been a teenage boxing champ—and coached other adolescents in how to box.

Today with horrors over concussions and other masculine pursuits deemed too violent, that world of homoerotic attraction is far more dangerous for other reasons, like being a Boy Scout leader.

Minsker was adorable, charming, and could likely win followers with his easy-going personality. His image on T-shirts from youth still may bring him fame. Weber made him into a book of photos—and relentless celebrity.

The film in black and white from 1987 is hypnotic and staggering to think it could never be made today. Even back then, the Olympic people warned boys to avoid Weber. Andy Minsker was utterly intrigued by the alarms and pursued Weber.

Interestingly, Weber next went on to do a film  Let’s Get Lost  on Chet Baker right before the jazz great met a hideous end.

As for Broken Noses,you might see more than the surface and inclinations in that regard are like reading Tarot cards. You may see something insightful, or you may just go off the deep end.

These young adolescents were part of a norm for the 1980s, and they were the last of a breed. Soon political correctness and re-defined masculine codes would end this world of seductive youth.

Weber’s career has its notoriety and its sublime beauty, and to see Broken Noses thirty years later is like looking at an extinct animal in the wild.

You may fall out of the orbit of Weber’s men and boys, but you cannot deny his sociological and psychological truisms.

Essential Movie Critic: Pauline Kael

DATELINE: Role Over Model

A documentary on the life of movie critic Pauline Kael would seem to be counter-productive. The late genius of insight into movies was hardly the stuff of action melodrama, but this film takes on her life—unwed motherhood, marriages of convenience, a history of working in low-level jobs trying to find herself.

What She Said is about the art of Kael. It is more about words than images. For that reason it is a topic doomed to be wordy and not visual, yet there are plenty of home movies and photos of Kael. That notion might not please her. Her ideas were the key.

When she first sells a movie review in the early 1950s to the New Yorker, it was a scathing attack on Charlie Chaplin’s bloated egotistic movie, Limelight. It won her an audience and a career.

Her insights into movies, which she loved as a medium, contain brilliant insights that some movie makers in this film tell us were influential to their productions. We don’t believe it. They may have read Kael, but it was to see how she shot down their rivals.

We would have preferred a film in which someone simply read some of her most scathing comments about well-known films over her life. She collected about 14 books of her critiques. And, they are delightful to read.

Sometimes she is utterly wrong about a film and its importance, but she always gives an interesting perspective on what the cultural or artistic value really may be. Her views are meant for the wider, lasting meaning of life in the film world.

We admire Kael and used to read her work when it came out. It frequently put good movies into a framework, and bad movies into a trash can.

She might have been the first to tell you this documentary is unnecessary and superfluous. Just read her books.

Enchanted Cottage: Ghostly Choice!

DATELINE: More Augurs

Into the Vortex?

When I entered the library this morning, where I have many Titanic books and keepsakes, there was once again something out of place. The house once belonged to a couple of victims who died on Titanic, and their presence is never far away.

So, on the floor, tossed off the wall shelf was a single DVD, tossed quite a distance. It landed on the edge of a new addition to the room: a vortex rug.

When psychics told me there was a vortex in the floor, through which the spirit world had a rapid transit station, I covered it with a vortex rug.

How appropriate that my spirit resident nearly had a bullseye with his toss.

The DVD is The Enchanted Cottage,little fantasy movie from 1945 about a wounded war veteran, harmed emotionally and physically, and an ugly girl who is the cottage housekeeper. They soon find the house makes them see the world differently. The stars are Robert Young and Dorothy Maguire.

A spirit at the cottage makes them see each other as whole and spiritually lovely. They grow beautiful and young. It is all tied together by a blind man (Herbert Marshall, of course) who helps them understand.

The film was based on a play by Sir Arthur Wingo Pinero and was adapted by DeWitt Bodeen for the screen.

The film is a trifle, but my ghostly resident thought enough of it to give it a look. When he visits books or DVDs, he finishes up by tossing them to the floor. He seems to have the power to enter them as an orb and see what’s inside. 

Since I set up the library, he has put many a film or book to the carpet, including a couple of Titanic books and DVDs, as well as a photo of his family homestead on Diamond Head, Hawaii. He likes to visit these items, and I am happy to make them available to interested ghostly parties.

Twice Told Tales from 1963

 Cabot & Price

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s mid-nineteenth century short stories were collected by him into a book, with more than a dozen philosophical mysteries. It was titled Twice Told Tales. He was not into the psychological terror as his fellow writer, Edgar Allen Poe.

There is an almost pre-science fiction quality to his literary themes, and yet when they were adapted for the big screen in 1963, the star and narrator of the film would be Vincent Price, already a big name in bad literary adaptations.

Price found steady work doing high-end schlock for more than a few decades. He brought dignity and style to what might normally pass for low-budget pot-boilers. Twice Told Tales zeroes in on three stories (two are famous in their own rights:  “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and “Rappuccini’s Daughter”). The third story in the trilogy-anthology is House of SevenGables, which was a novel, his usualmetier.

Two center on scientists who play God, trying to control human nature and life over death. In the first, Dr. Heidegger’s tale is altered seriously. It becomes a small cast melodrama, now set in a dark and stormy night. Sebastian Cabot and Price are aging in pursuit of the Fountain of Youth.

 In “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” he is a reclusive scientist who has filled his daughter with poison from a plant to make her separate from the normal business of social life. These are changed enough to be slick color TV specials of the era: about forty minutes each.

House of Seven Gablesis another known title, but hardly within the themes of the first two. Here, a house holds a mysterious presence of evil, rather than the people which include an heir played by Price again.  Richard Denning and Beverly Garland join him in this ghostly tale of hidden treasure.

They are not horrific much, slow-moving, and quite literary, hardly up to contemporary standards of horror and special effects. That may be their charm. If you want something that is neither the original Hawthorne story, nor a modern flashy horror, this is your movie.

Altmanesque

DATELINE: Great Director Documentary

A biographical film on the life and work of Robert Altman uses a touchstone word, “Altmanesque,” as the word asked of all his most famous stars. Their inarticulate explanations may reveal more about the paucity of their vocabulary than about the notable filmmaker in the simply titled Altman.

He began TV work on schlock like the Whirlybirds,but learned the craft.

A man who never caved in on his principles, he was fired from movies and TV shows regularly for extending the bounds: he was thrown off Combat and Bus Stop.Those episodes look tame today, but were shockers of moral depravity back in the early 1960s.

When he confounded Jack Warner by having overlapping dialogue during an argument between two actors, he was banned from the studio. He did not play by silly rules, and today those rules look so silly that we laugh about it.

Altman had tremendous loyalty too, and often worked with the same actors. He was an actors’ director more than anything else: putting their ease of delivery at the top of movie success.

His most famous movies were twists on the usual genre, like Western film, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, or fantastic Brewster McCloud. MASH put him on the box-office straight and narrow. He went up and down, always interesting, but not until 1990 and The Player did he wake up the movie world.

His Oscar was honorary for a lifetime of achievements, but his films were variable, so different that each became the favorite of different people.

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering Leonard Nimoy!

DATELINE:  Family-Based Eulogy!

  Nimoy with Quinto.

A few years after the original and amazing Mr. Spock passed away, his daughter Julie has come up with a biographical documentary about Leonard Nimoy.

Such loving family portraits are often good for the soul and avoid messy scandals and unpleasant issues. There is no mention here of Nimoy’s period of hating Mr. Spock and trying to avoid the character. Instead, we see how he comes to embrace the icon and play him even in the Zachary Quinto remakes! Nimoy steals the movie.

In such a tale of life, we were surprised at what we had forgotten: Leonard was a Bostonian who grew up near old Scollay Square, though he calls it the West End and says he was a street kid in a tough neighborhood. Well, yeah, it was the red light district of Boston for years! He never reveals that!

He went to Pasadena Playhouse at 18 and stayed in California forever after that. He did return to Boston to do a few plays in later years (Fiddler on the Roof, etc.).

The early years of struggle with dozens of guest roles on TV and working as a cab driver (where he met fellow Bostonian JFK once as a passenger), are quite fascinating.

His daughter has a criticism of her father: his two-pack a day cigarette smoking that gave him COPD. It ultimately was a death knell, though he lived until 83 years with the condition.

Fans will be delighted with how this creative and versatile artist lived and worked: he was poet, director, actor, and above all else at the end, a highly emotional family man. He joked how his ancestors were aliens to America and came to this country, but he was born in America and went to Hollywood and became an alien.

Nice little film.

 

 

 

 

 

Fatima Revisited

DATELINE: New Movie Story

 Witnesses.

With another miracle at Fatima movie now released with a devout perspective for the religious followers, there seems to be a danger of facing a buzzsaw when you take on the topic with any skepticism. Fatima again tells the story of three children who experienced some kind of paranormal visitation from a beautiful lady in the sky during World War I.

We never flinch when hacksaws come at us. A few years ago, another documentary, was produced by the multi-million-dollar organization behind the Fatima story for 50 years, came up with a semi-doc something called A Message of Hope.  It wants to be an antidote to the recent Ancient Alien view that Fatima was another UFO encounter.

The original story of three children seeing the Virgin Mary in Portugal in the middle of World War I has been never fully told. Most people think a big crowd one day saw something in the sky. It was much, much more. The sightings were regular.

Actually, the children had visions for over a year: including a bunch with a male angel who gave them a bloody host literally to eat and drink the blood of Christ.

You might dismiss this as peasant-level superstition in farm country of a backward nation. Yet, there is something absolutely weird about a beautiful woman telling coming down from the sky and telling these kids that two of them will die soon and that they will face great suffering. Today we might think this is a kind of child abuse. It is creepy at the least.

It does not come across as kindly. And, then the political forces put them into jail (not Trump cages) and threatened to boil them in oil if they did not recant. They remained firm in their testimony.

One secret the lady told them and kept by the Vatican in espionage hiding for decades was that a pope would be assassinated. Well, it did almost happen decades later to John Paul II.

Some years later, the entire experience was hijacked by the Joe McCarthy anti-communist groups who created a Blue Army to counter the Red Army. The group led by an American of dubious character made millions off the miracle. They have their own 747 jet and huge monuments. The faithful gave them plenty of loot. Their PR is among the slickest in the world.

If anything, the anti-commie segment moved the HQ to the US instead of backward Portugal. This documentary is filled with piety and well-meaning religious people who argue that it is true and a miracle. It’s easier to believe it was space aliens.

The film plays to the believers of religion, though you may have a hard time telling them apart from a visit with Erich van Daniken. The new movie corroborates the Blue Army version. We expect to be under attack for questioning this topic.

 Fright Night Revisited

DATELINE:  Vampire Classic from ’80s

Sarandon & Jeffreys

Has it really been 35 years since Fright Night rejuvenated modern vampires?

It was Tom Holland who wrote and directed it, looking like a B-movie for TV show of the week, apart from the nudity now and then. By today’s cable movie standards, this is rough, however still holds up as entertainment with a modern twist.

Two points of amusement remain unflappable: Roddy MacDowell and Stephen Jeffreys. They survive in name for sheer wacky performances. MacDowell plays an aging movie star who used to play vampire hunters in his heyday, and Jeffreys plays a teenage Jack Nicholson on uppers. He later reneged Hollywood to do gay adult films for a while, though that is now denied with a half-baked story that it was his evil twin brother.

The vampire is demure and stately Chris Sarandon, looking like he wandered into the wrong California suburb. Yes, the vampire has taken a house in a Leave It to Beaverpart of town where you can peer into the next-door windows. It seems like he’s asking for teenage trouble.

Stephen Jeffreys steals the big scenes: he becomes clearly the gay victim of Sarandon’s vampire. His two delicious scenes are with Roddy as they battle.

For MacDowell with his hair fake-frosted, this was a last grand role, and he makes the most of it. Director Holland was lucky to have the veteran star in his movie.

There is no scrimping on special effects at the finish, and you have a sunny California vampire tale.

The film was originally set to star Vincent Price, not McDowall, and Anthony Michael Hall, not Jeffreys. And, we still haven’t figured out what Sarandon’s boyfriend is supposed to be.

In the whatever happened mode, William Ragsdale is the star juvenile lead. He’s cookie-cutter good enough. Yet, he is thrown up against two scene-stealing actors who rob him of the movie. The film is considered a classic nowadays.