Monkeys Strike Back at Monolith

Vini, Vide, Da Vinci

DATELINE: Gone Too Soon

It came. It was seen, and it was stolen. Vini, vide, da vinci.

You knew that our pandemic age of value-less and soul-less humans would strike back at the giant tin Monolith discovered in Utah.

Mono is a sickness, and monolith is the side-effect. There is no vaccine for stolen property of artistic expression.

Indeed, not a week after it was discovered, visitors to the site found tire tracks and a missing objet d’art.

Yes, the hollow tin homage to 2001 has been hijacked and taken right from under our satellite image. It was illegally installed in Utah, and the likelihood that authorities will pursue the criminals who took it, is about as likely as the notion that the thieves did not wear face masks and failed to maintain social distance during their dastardly action.

Some imbecile scrawled the message, “bye, bitch,” in the area where the monolith once stood. Respectability was never a hallmark of small minds. Creeps continue to creep in the dark.

The item, standing twelve feet tall, but probably light weight was not guarded—and it did not take long for pranksters and people of bad will to come out in the dark to steal the phenomenon from others who were appreciative of its totem.

You cannot live in a world of lawless presidents and viral herds and expect anything less than vandals and desecration to be at your doorstep.

The strange Monolith that provided some escapist hope for many may yet be re-discovered as idiots thrive on shenanigans to parade their criminally empty heads. These idiots will likely brag about their drunken revels to other drunken revelers.

You cannot have a perfect crime in an imperfect world. May the Curse of Corona Virus beset these vile thieves.

 

Death in Venice Part 2

Death in Venice and Washington?

DATELINE: Drips for Drips

Not since Death in Venice when Dirk Bogarde’s bad dye job melted during a pandemic have we seen such a just dessert.

Yes, that’s Rudi Giuliani playing the role of a lifetime: the man who catches the coronavirus while chasing young electoral college voters! In the famous Visconti movie, Von Aschenbach loses his youth to bad makeup under the unrelenting conditions of Venice at its worst.

Now, Rudi loses his cool to bad mascara dripping off his sideburns under the unrelenting conditions of Trump at its worst.

We did not realize that Rudi had been cast in a remake of the great classic tale of unremitting moral decay in the face of losing an election.

Trump has simply drained his hair of all color, and Rudi has not taken the cues properly. His master will not be pleased to turn his press conferences into streaming jokes with streaming bad dye dripping.

The other case of drips came when the Wicked Witch of the West stole Toto and was pressed by the Electoral College to return the mutt to a Kansas voting booth. 

All bad taste aside, when you’re paid $20,000 a day to represent the POTUS, you likely don’t have a potus to put hair dye in.

 

Fairies Outlandish

Another Grand Performance

 

DATELINE: Unusual Paranormal Movie

In 1997 two films appeared about the same topic: Dr. Doyle’s belief in fairies through the medium of photography.

Two notable actors took on the role of Conan Doyle. In a small, but pivotal role in the first of the films came Edward Hardwicke, the ersatz latest Dr. Watson of the popular TV series with Jeremy Brett, and this time he played the same way as he did in his role as Watson.

The second film was on the tail end of one of the biggest movie stars, Peter O’Toole, a man who had played some greats in history (Henry II (in 2 movies Becket and Lion in Winter), as well as Lawrence of Arabia.

The era in which Photographing Fairies and Fairyland: A True Story is a world in which Houdini, Peter Pan, and Sherlock Holmes all exist simultaneously as the Zeitgeists of their age.

O’Toole met a match in performance when Harvey Keitel took on the role of Doyle’s friendly nemesis, Houdini. One of the interesting ironies is that this version of Conan Doyle looks more like Sherlock Holmes.

The producers of the film dropped the golden chance to play Arthur and Harry against each other with top-drawer actors.

To see O’Toole do this movie, it makes us wonder what kind of Holmes he could have given us were that role offered to him earlier in his career.

Both films actively produce fairies in flight about the countryside without any fear that they are mythic or exist only in the minds of children. A theory emerges from this film that creative people, like Conan Doyle, are receptive to the spirit and paranormal world unlike most pragmatic people.

Both films use Dr. Doyle in a small role as a believer in fairies and the occult, putting much focus on the children or younger character demographics aimed at the audience.  According to the Doyle Encyclopedia,O’Toole lost out on two chances to star as Holmes (one in Billy Wilder’s comic version, the other playing off Laurence Olivier as Watson). O’Toole’s prickly personality may have done in these chances.

As for the plot of the movie at hand set in 1917, Fairyland: A True Story concerns two little girls who take pictures of fairies out in their wooded backyard. The photos may look fake to us, but there are believers—even among the rich, powerful, and famous.

Our personal concern was for the girls treated by early 20thcentury men—and by late 20thcentury filmmakers. Charles Sturridge directs, and he has deft ability that is most known to audiences who favor PBS and Masterpiece Theatre.

Already in contact with his dead son through a medium, and having a madman father who saw fairies, Conan Doyle is on the bandwagon when the pictures come to his attention.

Fairytale is an intriguing, fascinating fantasy movie that gives Peter O’Toole a chance to provide us with one last grand late career performance.

Rhonda Fleming, 97, Fades Away

Alias Jesse James, 1959 with Bob Hope

DATELINE: Smart and Lovely

To hear that Rhonda Fleming had passed away was an anticlimax. She had been out of public eye for twenty or thirty years. And her age was given as 97. She was not cheated out of time, but her film career cheated her out of nearly everything else.

In the 1960s when she was fairly done as a smart leading lady, she did not go into a TV series that might have cemented her legacy. Instead, she did stage shows in Vegas for a time and lived out her life in teaspoons of fame.

At her peak, Rhonda’s fiery red hair made her a good second choice to all the roles that went to Maureen O’Hara. Yet, she still managed to play opposite Ronald Reagan four times and Bob Hope and Bing Crosby separately.

If there was a last film recalled about her, it was Alias Jesse James, a cameo-studded Bob Hope western comedy that featured every TV and movie cowboy. She held her own.

Rhonda was never offered much beyond the sensible woman. She was stunning to look at, but played it as equal to any leading man. They must have liked that because so many wanted to appear with her co-star.

Now you may catch her on the cable movie channels. Perhaps one will feature a few of her movies, nothing earth-shattering, something with Charlton Heston or Vincent Price. You have to admire an actress who did her job and was the consummate professional.

We can’t say we’ll miss Rhonda Fleming because she was gone years ago. It’s just another empty spot in the pantheon of old Hollywood.

 

 

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.

UFOs: The Secret History

DATELINE: (well, not so secret)

Be Still, My Earth.

Though it is billed as having new information, it really has only a new and amusing perspective.  The film is irreverent in many ways, through use of movie clips and the laconic narration of its clever director.

We are happy to report that, unlike many cheapskate directors who save money by doing their own voice-overs, this director is actually a fairly good voice and speaks with intelligence and drama. David Cherniak directs with aplomb. He also led the film for the recent look at Bob Lazar in late middle age, revisited. Don’t hold it against him.

UFOs: The Secret History  is indeed a history, but with few secrets. It does have a plethora of marvelous clips from classic sci-fi films as part of its narrative.

His hilarious insights that are new include the notorious “pelican” theory that Kenneth Arnold in 1947 actually saw pelicans flying in formation at 1700 mph and called them saucers.

Yes, a scientist tells us this with a straight face.

When it comes to more serious matters, director David Cherniak still chooses photos that are unusual, not ones you’d see on Ancient Aliens. He does give us a a fresh take on Orson Welles, Roswell, Project Grudge, and the usual litany of UFO incidents that brought us to a wholesale government coverup.

He also plays on the notion that seeing UFOs was psychological, part of the J. Allen Hynek approach, which was code for saying the viewer of such events had a psychological problem. Even Hynek was turned into a buffoon over “swamp gas.” Well, yes, being called a nutcase is distressing.

One turning point is hardly secret: abductions of Betty and Barney Hill of New Hampshire, the template for lost time and sexual abuse by space creatures.  There is no secret about the Travis Walton case, but it grabbed worldwide attention, as did the appearance of elderly Jesse Marcel who was at the Roswell crash in 1947, blowing the whistle.

If there is a secret here, that may be the hybridization plan of aliens to take over the Earth in subtle fashion by genetics. Oh, that secret…

 

 

 

 

 

Deadly Companions Before Parent Trap

DATELINE: Steve Cochran Died 55 Years Ago!

Steve Cochran with Brian Keith.

Before Walt Disney cast them as estranged parents of Hayley Mills in The Parent Trap,  Sam Peckinpah wanted them as the estranged couple in The Deadly Companions.

Even in 1961, it was rare for a woman to be the top-billed star in a Western. It happened rarely, usually with Barbara Stanwyck or Joan Crawford.

This time Maureen O’Hara, the best leading lady for a half-dozen big stars like John Wayne and Jimmy Stewart, took on the role of hard and angry dance hall girl.

In the Deadly Companions, Brian Keith shoots O’Hara’s son by accident, killing him. When she wants to take the coffin to bury him in a dangerous town across Apache Territory, no one will help her –except Brian Keith. They are not boon companions.

Joining them somewhat unwillingly are Chill Wills and Steve Cochran as a couple of ex-Rebel bank robbers.

The reasons for the assorted bunch to stick together is hardly altruistic—or particularly believable. It does make for a singular Western in sea of oaters ending the decade. It predates the Clint-Leone spaghetti versions by a few years—and is the first film directed by Peckinpah who would turn to violence as a motif to keep up with the meatball brigade in the next ten years.

You have a chance to see that Keith was a solid leading man, not a TV star, and that Steve Cochran was cast perfectly as a  scoundrel. He was gone too soon after this film, and Chill Wills phones in his usual seedy kook bird version of his usually likable uncle.

We are reviewing the film on the 55thanniversary of Cochran’s death in 1965. He still looked youthful here and was always a classic bad guy. His death was peculiar in the movie and in real life too, as he was on a yacht floating for ten days because no one aboard could sail it to a port.

Orson Welles in a Western?

DATELINE: Have Horse, Will Travel.

 Orson, Horse Optional.

When we saw the listing, it was beyond credulity! Can it be that Orson Welles made a Western?  Even worse than that, the film is listed as a “tortilla-Western,” made in 1969.

The film is called Tepepa. It would appear that the film never made it to the United States for release—probably to Orson’s great relief.

Well, if there was a chance to see Orson on a horse, we needed to view it and give a report to faithful fans. No, he did not direct this Spanish-Italian production. It was made when he took all kinds of roles for the money to bankroll his own films. This was done for a few dollars more without Sergio Leone.

You cannot expect much—or have we grown too cynical? The film is a dubbed mess, some of it in English, some in Spanish, and some in Italian. Dubbing was optional.

Welles does not appear on a horse. The tortilla setting is Mexico, beautifully filmed in clean, clear settings. And, the Western is actually set in 1920. This gave Welles the chance to ride around in an antique red automobile, obviously a man of the future.

He plays some kind of prison commandant, or colonel of the villainous order. He is the foil to Tomas Milian who plays some kind of revolutionary folk-hero in the Che Guevara mode.

The movie’s director reported that Welles was most disagreeable on the set—and particularly nasty to his costar. Yet, they had merely a few scenes together. Mostly, Welles appeared opposite blond John Steiner who played a British doctor who also wants to kill the revolutionary hero who raped his girlfriend.

One of the main characters is a Mexican boy who serves as a ping-pong ball between the other actors. As for Welles, you’d expect he’d phone in his scenes and act with nonchalance. Though he mumbles some lines in disdain, he actually gives a nuanced performance, as if he can’t help himself. He clearly enjoys playing the baddie and savors each moment. He chomps on a stogie and is half-apologetic for his evil.

No, this isn’t Citizen Kane,and it’s not even For a Fistful of Dollars, but it is an hysterical historical gem with Orson Welles. We hooted openly.

Hollywood Lens of Murray Garrett

DATELINE:  Eye on Hollywood 1950s

 Odd Couple: Marilyn & Dale Robertson?

You may not know his name, but the photo-journalist of choice among Hollywood minions of the 1950s was a New Yorker with a keen sense of beauty. He protected his subjects—and they appreciated it.

Murray Garrett started out at age 16 taking photos of celebrities. He even apprenticed with one of the big Broadway photogs and learned how to visualize stars on stage, meeting the likes of Brando and Ferrer In their stage phase.

As someone who met and worked with a few celebs, we can confirm that the lessons and observations of Murray Garrett are more than a means to live with stars: it is a sense of decency that sensitive people, artistic souls, easily spot.

The documentary of his career and life shows that Murray knew how to see the best in people—and took a photo of it.  His pictures show clarity of heart, beauty and honesty in every subject.

At 16 in New York, he was to take a photo in Frank Sinatra dressing room in 1943, when the singer was first going solo. Sinatra asked for a print—and Garrett said, of course. Sinatra was snidely disbelieving, but the kid returned the next day with an envelope and left it.

Three years later he was in Hollywood at a studio and walked through the commissary—and Sinatra recognized him! He told others the kid was a great photographer from New York, and Garrett was on his way.

He was a personal photo-journalist, and took pix at Sinatra parties.

Later, he met Bob Hope who grunted at him from the stage during a radio broadcast. Thinking he’d offended Hope, he went to apologize after the show, but Hope liked him—and wanted him to be an exclusive photographer for his shows. Their relationship last 25 years. He became a personal photo-journalist for Red Skelton and Louella Parsons too.

He was the antithesis of an “ambush photographer,” and stars could trust him to destroy any unflattering images.  Yet, it was more than that: he actually talked to his subjects before shooting and seemed to win relaxation that showed up in pictures.

 

 

 

 

Mike Nichols: Becoming & Unbecoming

 DATELINE: Insider Biography

 Burtons with Nichols.

Filmed shortly before his death several years ago, director and comedian Mike Nichols reviewed his life and career before an audience and in a more private interview. HBO put together this short film about Nichols called Becoming Mike Nichols.

The result is an illuminating exposition about a self-made director.

In the early 1960s in the heyday of the monologue comic standups like Mort Sahl and Bob Newhart, you had Nichols and May among the cleverest of all. Their run ended when, Nichols admits, he became too obstreperous director for May.

It opened up a chance to direct in theater, not merely his partner. He started with Neil Simon, Walter Matthau, Robert Redford, and Odd Couple on stage. Not exactly chopped liver.

He knew many Broadway stars from his years in New York, and met Richard Burton when they were in next door theaters. Burton later invited him to Rome to visit where he met Elizabeth Taylor while filming Cleopatra—and he was instrumental in having both appear in his first film, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Three days before filming, he had friend Tony Perkins give him a crash course of pointers on use of camera in movies. In fact, he learned on the job. His work began a string of brilliant movies: The Graduate, Carnal Knowledge, Catch-22, and other literate films like The Birdcage.

The documentary focuses on his first two movies in depth, giving marvelous insights into Taylor, Burton, Dustin Hoffman, Buck Henry, and Simon and Garfunkel. The anecdotes leave the audience begging for more. A few pearls drop about Jack Warner, Billy Wilder, Anthony Perkins, but there is not time or attention to those.

There is nothing really about his Emmy winners or Tony winners. You may want to know about The Birdcage or Angels in America,  or his work on Gilda Radner or Whoopi Goldberg, but you will need to look elsewhere for that.

 

 

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.

‘Orb’ Watches Titanic Movie Again!

DATELINE: Insider Viewing!

According to my housemate and ghostly companion, orbs or spheres are small balls of light energy that are used by spirits to go through vortices or to find pathways for time travel.
Sometimes, they just want to watch a movie on tape without using a VCR or DVD player. They simply fly into the tape.
For example, twice in the past few weeks, the spirit of Richard White has knocked a videotape off the bookshelf in my home library. It is the same videotape each time:Titanicfrom 1953, starring Clifton Webb and Robert Wagner.
I suspect he likes this version of the luxury ship catastrophe (where he died) because his brother Percy knew the producer and writer, Charles Bartlett. They. were a couple of Harvard guys. Percy was a Madison Ave. type who advertised movies. He may also have given Bartlett a leg up on his Oscar screenplay with some insider details about his father and brother who died on the ship.
It seems the movie featured a main character named after the ad man’s brother—playing his father who died on Titanic. “Richard” was a version of Percy White, Sr. He was lost on Titanic, his body never recovered. The actor hired to play this victim was Clifton Webb who just happened to look like the real Percy White, Jr.
In typical happenstance in my life, the actor who played a version of the real Richard (a college student on Titanic) was Robert Wagner, whose acquaintance I made 15 years ago by sheer coincidence—or was it Richard White’s ghostly intercession?
Why did the orb knock this film off the shelf again? The film mentions family secrets of Percy and Richard White that no one except close family would know. I was made privy by Percy’s grand-daughter.
It may be too that the ghost went into the film, as a doorway to the past, to re-live or to re-watch the film.
It intrigues me that the second time, the film is out of its plastic case and both tape and case are face down in front of the wall-to-ceiling books shelving.
What message is being conveyed to me this time? I am not yet certain—but these points become apparent in time.
So, my ghost, Richard, has sent me another message, not in a bottle from the Titanic wreck site, but from a bookcase in my library.
Dr. William Russo’s new book is called SPOOKY GEOLOGY & TITANIC, featuring 25 unusual details about the geographical ties to Titanic. Available on Amazon in both softcover and e-book.
Videotape on floor.

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

 

Resurrecting James Dean

DATELINE: Dug Out of the Film Mausoleum

Two hundred years ago Resurrection Men stole bodies out of graves and sold them to medical students.

Today Resurrection Men steal movie star images out of film archives to sell to fans. The body of work of James Dean is about to be dissected by film students.

A generation ago we wondered if old clips of TV and movies could be merged into a new script with old, dead actors as stars. It seemed fantastic to think James Dean could, at long last, costar with Marilyn Monroe.

Well, we have reached one plateau, or perhaps hole in the ground. It appears that James Dean, with permission of his greedy surviving relatives, will rise from the dead thespian hall of fame.

 

A script about some Vietnam-era characters will cannibalize a few of his past scenes, dubbed with a sound-alike actor, to create, without his knowledge or permission, a new movie: yes, his fourth leading role, sixty years after he won Oscar nominations for East of EdenandGiant, will likely result in no Oscar this time.

Some fans are incensed, and others are utterly perplexed at how such a task can be completed.

Can Dean be colorized, animated, and computer-generated into a character he never heard of, studied, or believed he could depict?

It won’t matter because the notion is out of his hands. It is a new-fangled out-of-body experience. It might have driven James Dean out of his mind or sent him speeding off in a Porsche to his doom.

Nearly all of his costars are gone, and a few who lived long enough to entertain the misuse of their images in a post-death world, have left wills and other documents that will forbid any such action. Dean, alas, died long before such a notion was possible.

Dean will costar with other actors he never screen-tested, and it is impossible for him to create chemistry. He will be like a wooden statue in a department store window. Oh, his costars may be able to respond to his behavior, but he will be denied any chance to upstage them.

The film will be called FindingJack, and it’s entering pre-production.  It’s more like Finding Jack Spratt, as he is an invisible and hidden carbohydrate in a world of spaghetti film stock.

Gothic Lunacy: Lord Byron’s Party

DATELINE: A Dark & Stormy Movie

 

Polidori, Shelley, and Byron, aka Spall, Sands, and Byrne

 

If you want to learn about the dark and stormy night in 1816 that resulted in the creation of Frankenstein and Dracula by Lord Byron’s pals, you might look elsewhere.

Ken Russell’s hothouse and nuthouse movie about Percy and Mary Shelley and Lord Byron is pure Gothicnonsense. As was the style of Russell back in 1987, you had a psychedelic version of biography and history. It is not satisfactory.

The cast is somewhat exemplary:  Gabriel Byrne as lame Byron, Julian Sands as pretty Shelley, Timothy Spall as off-putting Dr. Polidori, and Natasha Richardson as demure Mary! Wow, you almost expect the acting alone will carry the film.

However, the director hijacks every moment and even has cast members chewing on rats. We thought the film turned into that rat-festival moviel, Willard.And, inexplicable pythons wrap around suits of armor. Yep, it’s Ken Russell.

Instead of a dark and stormy night where these highly creative people choose to write great books, we have a literal ghost story. The demons are really around every corner. You almost feel sorry for the servants who basically take a powder during the latter part of the movie to avoid these koo-koo birds.

The summer without sun inspired the writing of Frankenstein and Dracula. Byron took credit for Polidori’s work, and Byron couldn’t write prose. The stepsister of Mary is around for crazy moments in which the sexual peccadilloes of the characters is tested.

We have more than your usual homoerotic connections between the men, including some fairly passionate kisses, but Julian Sands was never prettier. Gabriel Byrne seems to have bigger breasts than the women stars. Timothy Spall is actually slim.

The film becomes increasingly erratic and difficult to watch, as befits what did in the style of Ken Russell ultimately. We had hoped to see something truly fascinating, but not quite on the level of a train wreck.