What Would Marilyn Tell Harvey Weinstein?

DATELINE: Hollywood Sexual Harassment

MM Grand Marilyn

Despite all of the complaints by actresses about Harvey Weinstein, we keep wondering what legendary star of the 1950s, Marilyn Monroe would have to say about the Hollywood scandal.

Miss Monroe spent her entire life trying to find respect as an actress in an industry where she was treated like a cheap platter of hors d’oeuvres.

She might tell us she is not surprised by what’s going on today. She might tell us nothing has changed. She could tell us that some of the most important people of the 20th century sexually harassed her and abused her.  And, it was all in a day’s work.

That was the price you had to pay to become a superstar while trying to find roles that served her talent. She was the plaything of athletes and president. On that score, not much is changed.

Our superstar athletes and our President are known sexual abusers.  Or at least use locker room talk regularly when they grab women unceremoniously.

Miss Monroe had to leave Hollywood to go to New York stage in order to find dignity as an actress. But she didn’t realize this condition of sexual cruelty was the norm of her career choice.

Hollywood derived from sexual innuendo, sexual hijinks, and serial sexual users.

Harvey Weinstein and a plethora of male stars and producers have victimized men, women, and children, since Hollywood’s earliest days.

We think Miss Monroe would tell us, if you choose this life as an actress and you are beautiful, you better be ready for what’s going to be thrown at you.  It’s no big deal to be the victim of injustice.

 

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High Cost of Men Accosting Women

DATELINE:  Naked Oscar in Gilt

oscar

In Hollywood, it is growing abundantly obvious that the only men who haven’t groped women are gay. That lets out repulsive men like Harvey Weinstein. What women would have gone with him willingly? He’s a toad—and clearly heterosexual.

We hesitate to ask if gay Hollywood icons have groped other men. We’ll have to ask Tab next time we see him. So far, we haven’t heard any charges—but since Hollywood is a place where copycats rule, you can expect the gay rapists to be fingered before Xmas.

You may expect a new sense of revisionist history: condemnation of formerly critically successful movies will be on the agenda because the participants and producers were sexist swine. Cue the recall of Oscar—a naked man in gold gilt.

In the meantime, we are hearing that Oliver Stone, Ben Affleck (but not Matt Damon), and sundry other men have proven their heterosexuality by accosting actresses. It must be a rite of spring.

Men, not accused of molesting women, will now be outed as disinterested parties (clubs where men dance only with other men).

Of course, at the time, usually in the distant 1990s, actresses expected to remain silent in the face of these kind of onslaughts. So, it is only 20 years later that a spate of rape charges is coming forth. We aren’t sure whether the statute of limitations has passed on some of these cold cases. We also wonder if an accusation is deadlier than actually finding someone is guilty.

Women are now boycotting Twitter because it is part of the male-dominated system. Apparently, these same women have missed the boat that Twitter also has favored the Russians over Hilary Clinton.

Since women are nowadays the primary readers in our society, writers like Hemingway are likely to be dunned more than ever. Expect a cadre of writers to come charging out of the closet soon.

If we start making judgments based on the thrilling days of yesteryear, no one will be safe. Twenty or thirty years ago was a different world, even if it pretended to be the Golden Age of Enlightenment.

If women are prepared to press the issue of male malfeasance, you can bet your bottom dollar and top drawer that these guys will go into rehab, aka “therapy,” which is certainly a way out of the dark and deep woods of the groped past.

As for us, we have always viewed light in the loafers as a standard defense.

 

Poirot’s Murder Most Foul, Justice Most Brutal

DATELINE:  Another Remake on the Horizon

best orient express

Best Version of Murder on the Orient Express

The David Suchet version of Murder on the Orient Express is a completely different movie than the glitzy Hollywood all-star version of the 1970s. It is utterly dark. And it is far more cynical than the Christie novel, but is faithful next to the newest star-cartoon vehicle coming out soon with Kenneth Branagh as an unconvincing Poirot.

The teleplay version created a stunning, dank and dark 1930s. Perhaps this was what Agatha Christie intended in far more subtle manners.

From the opening scenes of  Belgian detective  Hercule Poirot being blood-splattered by a suicide to witnessing a stoning of an unfaithful wife in Turkey, the adapted version is far more than an entertaining murder mystery. It is a chilling morality play. It’s a play against films like Twelve Angry Men with a twist.

The Suchet version plays far more on the American nature of the melting pot of train travelers on the Orient Express. As one who defends the justice system, Poirot becomes alarmed, then horrified by the story’s unraveled mystery.

You won’t find the big names of the Albert Finney-Poirot movie. Here you will find Barbara Hershey, Toby Jones, and Hugh Bonneville, if you like name stars, but actors like Brian J. Smith as the victim’s secretary carry a heavy load.

Poirot loses all faith in humanity, and Suchet’s suffering face drives home the horror. In fact, his mustache does not turn off at the ends as much as the earlier shows.

A new version is forthcoming, directed by Kenneth Branagh who plays a flinty version of Poirot, rather unfaithful to the novel. Branagh’s mustache of Poirot is deplorable!

In the protracted series, the Orient Express episode was from the 12th season when the Belgian sleuth seemed bereft of all hope, as if a lifetime of dealing with murder finally sapped him of purpose and optimism. The original tale took its core from the Lindbergh kidnapping case, but became something else in the hands of Dame Agatha.

This compelling little Suchet film is brilliant, but a cold indictment of cruel justice among civilized people. The stark white snow drifts that stall the train on its journey contrast with the dark inner lives of the passengers.

If you want escapist fare, turn to the Hollywood version of Christie’s Orient Express. If you want catharsis, turn to David Suchet’s incisive portrayal of despair.

 

This blog entry is another in a series on Agatha Christie.

Agatha Christie’s ABC Murders with Suchet’s Poirot

DATELINE:  A Worthy Series

ABC

Suchet as the inimitable Hercule

David Suchet’s bravissimo performance over two decades as Hercule Poirot might be appreciated many times. This week we took in The ABC Murders again.

The climactic murder scene takes place in a cinema where Hitchcock’s Number Seventeen is on the screen as a backdrop for the serial killer. We suspect the Master of Suspense would approve.

The Agatha Christie story became the first full-length movie episode from the delightful TV series. For that reason alone, the plot is clever and intriguing. Christie uses a device that brings together the grieving family of the serial ABC serial killer as Poirot’s band of intrepid sleuths.

The notion that the victims’ family would want to take an active role in catching their beloved one’s killer is compelling, even if Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) is exasperated by his friendly nemesis with the mincing steps, and obsessive neatness.

Poirot’s demeanor as a private investigator remains firm in its resolve, but already we begin to see in the nuances of Suchet’s performance that Poirot is beginning to become jaded and horrified by the endless murders he deals with.

Indeed, this serial killer sends Poirot a series of letters, challenging him to stop the carnage. It becomes so personal that the Belgian detective is more distracted by his moral repugnance.

As his aide-de-camp Captain Hastings, Hugh Fraser matches Suchet as the obtuse man of action—as they both seem weary from four seasons of sadistic killers. Pauline Moran’s Miss Lemon, Poirot’s dedicated secretary, is absent from this episode.

Christie had such brilliant creativity in finding ways to develop characters and contrive plots that are truly mysteries to entertain an audience.

Over the length of the Poirot series, bringing all the stories to film (something the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series could not do), is a monumental achievement, matching the flavor of the literature of the Christie stories with film plays. A large debt is owed to Suchet, the driving force behind the detective.

 

 

A Covenant with Alien

DATELINE: Another Prequel

Tea for two Tea for Two?

Ridley Scott is back is one of his better entries in the Alien series. Now in prequel mode, he is midway through the Midway. Alien Covenant is nothing new under the alien sun.

If you haven’t caught on to the old Agatha Christie chestnut, Ten Little Indians, you may be surprised that this latest Ridley film has an ever-diminishing cast.

Two of our favorite performers—Guy Pearce and James Franco—made their exits early, about ten minutes into the film.

That left an uninspiring cast to face-off against two, count’em, two versions of Michael Fassbender as the automaton android/synthetic biolife force—or whatever the hell he is. Regardless, he doubled our fun in this movie.

David is the older model from Prometheus—and the updated robot is Walter, serving on ship Covenant, ten years later. It’s actually only been five years since the first movie prequel, but Fassbender still looks good as the ubiquitous pal of budding aliens, hatching the plot.

All your favorite moments are here again: emerging aliens from the chest, neck, and mouths, of the benighted crew.

If you have a sense of having been there and seen that, Scott still can give you an entertaining countdown to the next prequel. We presume Michael Fassbender will be ageless and sociopathic yet again. We always enjoy an actor making love to himself. How delicious.

 

 

 

 

Russian Agents in The Serpent

DATELINE: Cold War Star Vehicle Still Resonates

the serpent

If deals with the Russians worries you, we found the perfect movie: The Serpent, a movie from the height of the Cold War that you may have missed. We are not sure it even played in American theatres.

We remain stunned by the stellar cast:  Henry Fonda, playing the head of the CIA, a version of Allen Dulles; his counterpart from England, in the person of Dirk Bogarde, and Farley Granger as Fonda’s aide-de-camp. Also around is 1940s star Robert Alda (yes, Alan’s father) as an interrogator of Russian defector Yul Brynner. Virna Lisi is around as  femme fatale. This concoction was directed by French master Henri Verneuil.

This is wishful John LeCarre, pulled from the bottom drawer of your spy genre. Yet, it is compelling to see the stars walking through the CIA headquarters in the age before computers.

We loved the scene of Brynner wired up for a lie detector test. He has more cables on him than an Xfinity technician, including a facial harness that Mr. Ed once wore.

We are shown the hard-working CIA agents at Langley—and it is hard work because they have to read stacks of newspapers and listen to radio broadcasts. There are computers in the CIA, but forget unobtrusiveness. These computers pre-date Marshall McLuhan. Not one is smaller than a two-story house.

Brynner plays one of the Kremlin bigwigs thrown out of power by Brezhnev in the mid-1960s—and he has plenty to tell the Americans, if they deign to trust him.

The Russians were pulling the wool over the eyes of Americans when Trump was a young entrepreneur without a thought of collusion.

By lending their considerable presence to the shenanigans, you have something more than a low-budget spy drama. We hesitate to call it a thriller. It could more rightly be labelled a sleeper. We certainly enjoyed it.

Biggest Emmy Losers: Despite Quality

DATELINE: Overblow Self-Congratulatory Emmy Awards

domestic life with Joan  westworld

How much we are out of touch with the modern Emmy voter!

The best miniseries this past year, in our humble estimation, were nominated for numerous awards.  However, they came away with next to nothing.

What happened?

We loved Westworld and Feud: Bette & Joan.  How could they do so badly in terms of winning awards?

Jonathan Nolan and Ryan Murphy went out of their way to create extraordinary worlds, with detail and sets that transported the characters and storylines to places both familiar and peculiar.

Westworld takes place in some distant, odd future where automatons are coming to have consciousness and will shed their bonds of slavery. Feud takes place in some distant past where the Golden Age of Hollywood is fading faster than old stars themselves.

Somewhere along the road to hell of good intentions, we found both series veering off into a ditch with the more unwashed members of the viewing public.

Clever doesn’t sell, and history’s lessons are lost on the 21st century cable viewers.

You might find a few root causes for trouble:  Murphy depicted great stars like Bette Davis and Joan Crawford as divas who became their own best performances. Nolan depicted robots, but we couldn’t tell them apart from real people. Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange gave the performances of their lives, to no avail.

It didn’t help that Olivia De Havilland took umbrage with the way she was portrayed by Catherine Zeta-Jones.

All those women stars were passed over worse than Bette Davis by the studio system and archrival Crawford by the Oscars. It’s said that Mamacita Feud actress Jackie Hoffman pulled a Crawford and begged to accept Best Supporting Actress for anyone who couldn’t be present for the award, if she didn’t win.

Alas, winner Laura Dern was there: and Hoffman’s nasty wit overwhelmed her sense of good taste, worse than Groucho at his worst. She sore loser better than Joan.

Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton might be the Davis-Crawford level stars in Westworld, though they did not actively compete against each other. They likely cancelled out the other in votes.

You had too much classical music in Westworld to suit the rocks-off bourgeoisie taste of TV audiences. Debussy’s ‘Reverie’ echoed through half the episodes, and audiences had no idea what it was or if they could tolerate it.

Perhaps these two series were not politically correct enough to suit the anti-Trump fervor in Hollywood. After all, the main antagonist of Westworld was a Trump-style billionaire with arrogant pretensions, played by Anthony Hopkins.

Jack Warner, played by nominee Stanley Tucci, was a minor-league Trump in Feud.

Time, the great equalizer, may still redeem the two mishandled losing series. They will be re-discovered by generations to come; you can count on it.

Feud: Ryan Murphy & Olivia DeHavilland

DATELINE: Creepy Producer

 

coda

The spry legend, Miss Olivia DeHavilland whose Oscars outnumber anything Ryan Murphy will ever compile, has fired another volley at miniseries Feud: Joan & Bette, created by Mr. Murphy.

Right before the series is about to reap Emmy glory for its hilarious and entertaining depiction of two movie stars in a death throe struggle like scorpions, more turns of the screw emerge.

Miss DeHavilland’s character, ‘herself’ it appears, is a mere supporting figure. Yet, she does not like how she is portrayed. In a deposition through her lawyers, she tells the world she never called her sister, actress Joan Fontaine, ‘a bitch’ to any director or producer.

That may mean she used to term privately among friends, or even to hapless Joan Fontaine’s face, but her point is the script and series misrepresented her behavior. She said: “The false statements and unauthorized use of my name, identity and image by the creators of Feud have caused me discomfort, anxiety, embarrassment, and distress.”

Yes, being violated is like that, no matter what your age.

Murphy’s glad-hand attitude demeans Miss DeHavilland by calling her “Olivia,” despite her age, her position, and the fact that he never has met her, let alone sought her permission to use her as a figure in a docudrama.

In blatant admission, Murphy’s mouthpieces claim: “The fact that the words attributed to her and the purported endorsement are false does not transform the character into anything other than an exact depiction of de Havilland.”  Hunh?

That’s quite an admission: they know they have misused her by having her say words she never uttered, but it’s all for the profit of Ryan Murphy—and to give us viewers a few guffaws.

We wish to point out that Miss DeHavilland is a real human being, not an emblematic symbol like the White Whale, appearing in a work of fiction.

Murphy is betting that the 101-year old Oscar winner may pop off at any time—thus giving him the last word, which he will have anyhow as time will likely bestow on him the honor to be standing at the end of all this mess.

In all likelihood, the arrogant TV producer probably thought DeHavilland was already dead—and it didn’t matter how he used her identity.

What the old legend is showing here is that identity theft can occur in many ways:  when you profit from stealing someone’s personality, you’re a thief, Mr. Murphy. But, as Hollywood producers go, that is no crime at all.

 

No Crying Jag for Crying Game

 DATELINE:  Sexual Politics in the IRA

 jaye

 

Twenty-five years ago, The Crying Game was nominated for Oscar’s Best Picture and co-star Jaye Davidson was a nominee for supporting star. Davidson stayed in movies a few more years before deciding to drop out, disliking the attention.

Director Neil Jordan made his reputation with the movie and worked deliberately since, with Interview with the Vampire standing out from his oeuvre.

The Crying Game uses the terrorism of the Irish Republic Army as a backdrop for sexual politics.

The impressive cast is so young and fresh: Forrest Whitaker as a British soldier, Stephen Rea as his abductor, Miranda Richardson as a firebrand radical, with Jim Broadbent—and, of course, Jaye Davidson as the striking main squeeze of Forrest Whitaker.

The film is two distinct halves: the capture of the victim and his ordeal, and Rea’s escape to England to find Whitaker’s paramour (at the request of the prisoner).

Twists of the plot and turns of the body politic make for Jordan’s unusual take on how radical agendas may be dwarfed by the personal foibles of the participants.

If someone spoiled the story-line for you, curses on them. You need to see this to figure it out—and the clues are omnipresent from the easy friendship between Rea and Whittaker, to the odd Metro bar where Dil sings after daywork as a hairdresser.

Where Rea’s IRA escapee seems too easily manipulated by the women around him, the women are forceful and willing to take charge.

Jordan throws pop music handily into the plot—from Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman,” to the ultimate, “Stand by Your Man,” sung by Tammy Wynette. There is subtext here, mostly found in the song of the movie title, lip-synched by Davidson effectively in one scene.

Watching the film, you will know why it was all the rage a generation ago—and remains topical and effective today.

 

So You Want to Ban Gone with the Wind?

DATELINE: Goose-stepping Left Wingers

polar opposites

Scarlett and Mammy as diametric moral opposites.

We have now reached the point of philistine fatuity from the politically correct police squad. There has been a question raised in the New York Times about the racism and Confederate flags used in the classic epic American movie, Gone With the Wind.

Yes, political hacks now wonder if your home video ought to be burned, banned, and otherwise refuted. Please tell the hoi polloi how any suggestion of banning the book or movie version of GWTW puts distance between the Nazi regime of Hitler where banned books were burned and American literature.

Suggestions have mounted that the pre-Intermission waving of the Confederate flag over the wounded and dead Johnny Rebs at the train station is some kind of celebration. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You might also say that the flag commentary is as much to show the waste of human life over a misguided cause.

Those who see slavery in the movie and book as being endorsed are the kind of functional illiterates now graduating from a poor and pathetic American education system. In point of fact, Mammy is the spiritual center of the tale, a counterpoint to the rapacious and greedy Scarlett who destroys everyone in her path.

So much for putting privileged white people on a pedestal.

When Scarlett slugs Prissy the maid for her ineptitude, you cannot say that it shows the cruelty of slavery. It shows what happens to people under stress and how one spoiled bitch acts.

Gone with the Wind is historical soap opera, grandeur and grandiose combined, indeed showing how a generation of Southerners were living with delusions of grandeur. How can that be an endorsement of a lifestyle?

The marvelous Hattie McDaniel played domestics throughout her career—and shocked audiences by winning an Oscar for playing a slave in 1939. It is historic in many ways, flying in the face of discrimination and prejudice. She was a committed actress, not a slave and not a servant. If she suffered racism, it is all the more important her work be seen.

Those who do not learn from history probably went to bad public schools, or worse, went to private schools where they didn’t have to learn anything they didn’t want. Having taught at private and public colleges, we know of what we speak.

You may as well try to ban the American songbook because Stephen Foster glorified the lazy, hazy days of the Confederacy. You might as well ban the Band for singing “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

Where does the madness end?

 

 

What Becomes Legendary Cary Grant

DATELINE:  Transforming Archie Leach

Cary

With permission and cooperation of his daughter Jennifer, we discover Cary Grant took many home movies of his life off-screen—and wrote an autobiography never published.

These are the basis for an extraordinary documentary called Becoming Cary Grant. Indeed, Archie Leach became movie star Cary in a titanic demonstration of willpower. To go from a poor, abandoned child in Bristol, England, to the world’s epitome of a debonair, charming superstar was not an accident of fate.

Yet, fate played a hideous joke on Cary. At age 11, his mother simply disappeared—and his father went off to marry another woman and raise a new family. Archie Leach was sent to a grandparent. Lonely and confused, he discovered vaudeville where people were happy, had fun, cared and performed on stage. He joined instantly, settling in New York at age 18 to become a dashing stage actor.

Later he went to Hollywood where a test led to something akin to instant stardom. Around that time he learned his mother had spent 20 years in an English lunatic asylum. He rescued her from that fate—and became Cary Grant almost simultaneously.

Interestingly, he chose his darker film roles as autobiographical commentary. He let directors like Hitchcock, George Cukor, and Henry Hawks, transform him into something remarkable: a man for all seasons. He could play cold-hearted cads or epicene nerds with equal likeability.

Jonathan Pryce reads Cary’s own words over many film clips that have new insight to his real issues. Grant was neither English, nor American, in his tone. He appealed to both men and women, and he was always well-mannered and self-deprecating. No wonder he remains the camera’s favorite leading man.

Whatever Cary’s personal troubles, he worked hard at becoming a better person and happier in his personal work and life. The documentary exudes with his hypnotic personality, his magnetic appeal. No matter what problems beset him, he gave the world something special.

 

 

Required Reading of Darryl Stephens

DATELINE:  Actor Transcending

 Darryl Actor & Author Darryl Stephens

As stars go, Darryl Stephens has been on low-profile phase for a decade. With cult movies and a cult TV show, he has become a face, an attitude, and a symbol of the modern gay actor.

Now, after years of hearing fans of his 2006 show, Noah’s Arc, ask him for advice about how to live in America in the 21st century as a gay man, he has actually come up with the book to tell us:  Required Reading: How to Get Your Life for Good.

Stephens is educated, intelligent, and writes well. It is to his credit that he has been deeply moved by dedicated fans to his black sitcom, once trivialized, then discovered by those in deep need of optimism and standardization of lifestyle.

Never an A-list star, Darryl has nonetheless selected his roles judiciously enough to be recalled by the producers of Boy Culture: The TV Series, about to start filming with the original star ten years later.

The first half of his book gingerly feeds us details of growing up as a middle-class kid with a growing awareness that he is a stunningly beautiful black young man. From the angst of learning his gay soul, he shares his insights and wisdom like a male Dear Abby.

Darryl has taken on the difficult responsibility to subsequent generations of gay men with worries that seem new, but are old-hat if they can find a role model to explain. Because of this, he does not really delve into the film work and world of acting in Hollywood until the second half of the book.

He omits much about Boy Culture, except to express his pride back in 2015 when the book first appeared.

Darryl Stephens was a pretty face and attractive body, always a passport in Hollywood, but the onset of middle years is a true test of character acting. Once the toast of gay beauty, he deals frankly with the difficult life of an actor in eclipse, losing youth and money too.

We want Darryl to be happy and to succeed, unlike so many critics who bashed him along the way. We have joined in the backing of the new series with his reprise of the key character in Boy Culture.

We know the world is ready to recognize Darryl Stephens.

 

Farewell, My Lovely Film Noir

DATELINE:  In with a Bang

mitchum

One of the last of the great film noir in the classic tradition came out in 1975 with Robert Mitchum, one of the last dinosaurs of the original movement. This is called Farewell, My Lovely.

Based on Raymond Chandler’s Murder, My Sweet, the latest incarnation of the tale and character of detective Philip Marlowe has all the world-weary cynicism you’d have expected from Humphrey Bogart

Mitchum’s voice-over is so dry it will crack your lips.

You might think film noir cannot possibly be faithful with full color, but the production is so murky and neon with night that it might as well be inky grayscale.

To top it off, there is Charlotte Rampling looking for all the world like Lauren Bacall, seductive and untrustworthy match for Mitchum.

This time, the language and sexual situations are so modern that they defy anything that the 1940s created. Yet, it all fits, down to the hard-bitten police detective played by the marvelous John Ireland.

Poor Marlowe is shot at, slapped, drugged, kidnapped, and drinking up a storm. Indeed, one of the delightful goons is none other than a young stud, Sylvester Stallone, along for a hoot. The plot has more confused suspects than a month of Murder, She Wrote.

The dialogue is delicious. The murders are abundant, and the entire sense of corruption is so outrageous as to become entertaining.

Mitchum is not quite 60 in this film, but still has the tough guy in full throttle still under his belt. When he dons the trench coat, you may well squeal with delight.

What a movie!

Boy Culture in Homestretch

 DATELINE:  Production Deadline Looms

 Darryl    Actor & Author Darryl Stephens
The sequel to the phenomenal hit 2006’s Boy Culture, an extraordinary high-quality movie about gay life, may be about to hit the wall.

With days to go, the project desperately needs backers to reach its Kickstarter goal of $50,000. Nearly 300 diehard fans of the original movie have pledged to help produce a TV series to follow up on the characters and the culture.

Darryl Stephens is signed to reprise his role from the original show. You can pick up his autobiography on Amazon.

Time, in fact, maybe the worst enemy of gay movie culture. With only a few days left, will the gay community–and others– come through to help save the project?

Boy Culture should not be the purview of a few gay men. It should be the interest of anyone who believes the world of LGBT deserves positive presentation.

We saw a similar project come to fruition through this means, which ended with a brilliant little slice-of-gay-life movie called Chasing Pavement with Remy Mars.
Those who appreciate the need of artists to have backing need to step up again–this time for director Allan Brocka to weave his movie magic again.

Perhaps some glorious Angel will fly down to the set and pre-production group like a Deus ex machina and lay on $10,000 (buckeroos, not bitcoin) to the producers, director, and writer.

Perhaps one of those show busy angels does it in the movies, or even in a TV series. However, in real life, perhaps you need to be involved.

We anxiously await word on the fate of Boy Culture: The Series.

Space Children: Jack Arnold Classic

DATELINE:  1958 Gem

brothersPlaying brothers: Johnny Crawford & Michel Ray

One of the great under-appreciated directors of the 1950s is largely forgotten now, Jack Arnold. Among his best known films are Creature from the Black Lagoon, It Came from Outer Space, The Incredible Shrinking Man and No Name on the Bullet. He transcended genre.

In 1958 he tried another science fiction flick that didn’t quite win the cult following of his earlier movies. That was his interesting examination of a space alien that puts mind control on kids in The Space Children.

Mind you: this was way before sweet E.T. and monstrous Children of the Damned took over the minds of juveniles.

It helped that Arnold was fearless with child actors. He simply found the best and let them play it. In this case he used Johnny Crawford, before the Rifleman, and Michel Ray, before Lawrence of Arabia. As brothers, they are as good as the Hardy Boys.

He also cast some of the well-known character actors of the era:  Raymond Bailey (of Beverly Hillbillies), Jackie Coogan (of Addams Family), and Russell Johnson (of Gilligan’s Island), as his adult problems for the kids.

Michel Ray is particularly effective with eyes that seem to presage Nick Hoult 60 years later. It’s Ray who has the ray-beam power to paralyze adults, through his alien host.

These kids are children of rocket scientists—and their mission is to sabotage their fathers’ prototype Star Wars missile program. Yes, this movie is a tad ahead of its time.

The film is subtle and not given over to the histrionics we have come to expect from puerile space movies.

Perhaps the title misled audiences: this was clearly a movie for adults to ponder, not to titillate the popcorn set.

This lost gem can be streamed on your viewing device and clocks in at 68 minutes: it’s a dreamy entertainment.