DATELINE: Trumpeting Epstein’s Death
the Buddy System?
The short cable series in three parts went to tackle this thorny question, and you would be amazed at how many people became angered by the question. The series has received many low grades and bad reviews. Yet, it uses actual police video, interviews, and even Epstein’s own voice.
Who Killed Jeffrey Epsteinis a good question and a puzzling mystery, and an interesting documentary.
Just how and why may be of interest: a billionaire predator for years managed to buy whatever he wanted in girls as young as 14 years, and art as old as valuable. He had many residences—and even more powerful friends like Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, Prince Andrew, and Donald Trump.
Some speculation is that he made his money because he had dirt on the famous rich people who attended his parties. No one is quite sure how many girls were molested, or how he made his money.
The series opens with all the blunders and peculiarities of his death in a high-tech New York City federal prison. Cameras malfunctioned; his bunkmate was released suddenly and not replaced; guards fell asleep or surfed the web instead of making rounds.
It was a perfect storm for a perfect crime. With life nowadays considered cheap, it would not take much powerful moneymen to wipe out Epstein. Yet, others bristle at the idea it was not suicide. You may wonder why “conspiracy” is such a dirty word. It certainly makes an outrageous murder all the easier to cover up.
Epstein’s latest criminal lawyer said he was upbeat and ready to fight again. His other lawyers said his plea agreement of 14 years earlier was airtight. He likely would have walked again.
Interestingly, and not noted in the first episode, the prosecutor of Epstein in New York, by the name of Geoffrey Berman, was recently fired by Donald Trump, one of Epstein’s friends. It almost requires a new episode of investigation.
The lawyer of O.J. Simpson, Klaus von Bulow, and Donald Trump, is Allan Dershowitz—and he intimidated all the girls who accused Epstein.
The man who gave Epstein his first foray into rich society by hiring him as a teacher and liaison at the Dalton School in New York was the father of AG William Barr. Epstein had no experience and no degrees.
We have here a horror story of money’s power.
DATELINE: Vatican Coverup
Sunday school Nazis!
You can figure that Pope Pius XII will not be a candidate for sainthood anytime soon. If half of what this French documentary contends is the truth, the pontiff of World War II was a fairly reprehensible being.
Even today the Vatican refuses to declassify its Nazi documents that show collusion.
According to this account, the Pope and his minions at Vatican City were not anti-Semitic (which is a racial prejudice), but they were simply irrational religious zealots who blamed Jews for the death of Jesus.
When you have Hitler trying to win over the Vatican and trying to show his Nazi regime actually was based on Christian principles, you have twisted logic and those willing to accept it. Bishops were given the privilege of joining the Nazi party (heretofore Catholics were banned from this) in the early 1930s.
The Nazis quickly put priests in Nazi uniforms and made them chaplains on the Russian front.
Pius XI was not as thrilled with the Nazis as his successor who happened to be the Vatican’s German ambassador for a dozen years. When XI died three months before the war started, Hitler had his man in Pius XII who never met a Nazi he didn’t like.
By 1943 Pius heard reports from his spies that the Nazis were killing hundreds of thousands of Jews. He said nothing—even when everyone thought he might condemn murder. He didn’t.
When the war ended, the Vatican’s work with the Red Cross just started to warm up: they managed to procure passports for Dr. Mengele and Adolph Eichmann as well as Klaus Barbie, to move to South America. It was Pius Xii’s right hand cardinal who orchestrated this.
If you want to be infuriated, disgusted, and horrified, this documentary Unholy Alliance: Vatican and Third Reich will certainly make you sick to your stomach.
DATELINE: Mystery Maven
You have to delve into the Britbox archives to find the 1990 biography of Agatha Christie done a dozen years after her passing. The thinking at the time was that she was a surprise to have her popularity survive her death.
Indeed, one interviewed critic dared to say he thought she had great staying power and would keep her fame and interest alive well into the 21stcentury. Imagine that!
This is, perhaps, a highly intelligent portrait called An Unfinished Portrait.It is based on the title of one of her nom de plumeworks that passed unheralded for years. Her furtile and creative mind is boggling.
This delightful film is narrated by Joan Hickson (who played Miss Marple several times) and features appearances by David Suchet (the definitive Hercule).
Using archival interviews with the grand Dame, you have an understated genteel woman who fairly much is dumb-founded when an interviewer asks her if she likes crime. She retorts, she likes detectives and puzzles.
She worked as a pharmacist during World War One, and learned all about poisons. The documentary uses words from her novels that parallel her personal feelings and biographical events.
IN one creative period from the 1920s to 1950, Dame Agatha wrote about 35 classical titles, all still known. Several include plays like The Mousetrap or Witness for the Prosecution.
We could list 30 titles here that you’d recognize.
The film is unflinching in examining her strange, staged disappearance in 1926 that cast a murder charge over her philandering husband, Col. Christie. She set him up, or so it appears. She later married an archaeologist, 14 years her junior, who gave her many plot ideas.
Miss Marple was based on her grandmother, and Dame Agatha always maintained good manners in her personal life and in her storylines. She just enjoyed giving people a good mystery to figure out: chess on an entertainment level.
What a refreshing look at the great mystery writer.
Trump’s Heart of Darkness
Behind Trump’s Hitler persona, there lurks the heart of Josef Stalin.
The POTUS called governors of the states “weak.” He wants to crack down on protestors by putting them in jail for ten years so “we never see this stuff again.”
Now we know why he wanted to buy Greenland, he was planning on turning it into a gulag where all political dissidents would be housed.
It isn’t enough to round up illegal immigrants and throw them into prison without due process, he now wants to either shoot American citizens or lock them up. Oh, where have we heard that mantra before?
If anyone needs to be locked up in a looney bin, it is Trump.
Never mind the Constitutional guarantees of free assembly or speech. The only right he believes in is having a gun to shoot people on Fifth Avenue.
If the sociopathic nature of Trump were located in the heart of Jack the Ripper we would not be surprised. He is nothing short of a billionaire twin of Robert Durst. He is the emotional twin of Jeffrey Epstein. If it does not please him, he plucks it out.
He loves to quote racist rants of the 1950s and 1960s that is music to the ears of his racist supporters. We have never met a racist who knew what it was or thought it was all that important. Self-knowledge is impossible to an idiot.
He hunkers down in his bunker like Hitler during his last ten days. And he calls out to his vicious dogs and deadly weapons to smite his enemies.
Can it be that Trump’s insanity has grown worse? Those who defend racism as a minor infraction are quick to join the genocidal gang that want to unmask oldsters and give them coronavirus. The rest of the unwanted ranks can be killed in the streets.
Trump values the heart of the dollar more than the human heart.
Not Quite Eva Braun.
DATELINE: Coronavirus as Genocide
Hitler would have loved COVID-19. It would have solved all his problems the natural way: through survival of the fittest.
By the same token, a group of American neo-crypto-Nazis have embraced the idea of opening the economy and letting the chips fall where they may. Even Trump admits there could be some deaths, but the greater good is money.
In South Dakota, the governor, a Trump Republican wants to wipe out those pesky Native Americans on their tribal grounds who have ordered quarantines. She has not and will take them to court to make them face the virus. Apparently, the woman governor believes the only good Indian is….well, we thought that went out in the 19th century.
By far, the people most susceptible to dying from coronavirus are blacks, Latinos, and immigrants. If that means your urban centers are thinned out, let the double death rate run its course.
A few intrepid protestors have insisted that the only people who should be in lockdown are those worthless oldsters over 60 whose usefulness to society is over. They now drain Social Security and medical benefits.
Lock them up. Next step will be to send in infected health aides to make sure they are housebound, bed-bound, and finally death-bound.
Why wait? Heaven is around the corner for all you breathless old-timers.
Yes, we can thin out the population and decrease the drain on society’s resources with a good pandemic. If you are gay and out of work, too bad: starve to death.
Food banks are bankrupt and you need to lose weight anyhow. Let coronavirus be the new fad diet.
DATELINE: Another Cold Dish?
You almost feel as if they genre of revenge flicks is reincarnated with a higher-level actor: Yes, that is Liam Neeson playing Charles Bronson in the cold-blooded killing movie called Cold Pursuit.
Actually, it is a hot-blooded crime spree: Neeson is Citizen of the Year in snowy Colorado where he plows the roads for skiing enthusiasts. When his son is murdered by drug dealers, he goes into Bronson mode.
Supporting cast includes Laura Dern as a thankless wife who leaves him, and Tom Bateman in a young Joachin Phoenix mode as the head mobster.
While he is being honored, his son does not attend the ceremony—and his later burial is in frozen tundra during a blizzard, highly unlikely scenarios.
In any case, Neeson as Coxman starts to hunt down the drug ring from the lowest rung, up to the top. His inventive and sadistic means of death may be pure vigilante that Bronson would approve of doing if he were still around. Who said the revenge genre was dead?
Liam Neeson has been pursuing these action films now for a few years, having given up on serious roles apparently. There are numerous jokes by victims that he is an “old man” out of breath from his endeavors. All the victims of revenge are sent cascading in a wire mesh over waterfall, hundreds of feet to a lost grave.
The mob thinks their native American partners are double-crossers, leaving Neeson more freedom to dispatch them singly. Ultimately there is a big shoot-out between gangs, leaving Neeson with little to do. The subplot of the gangster’s young son is left in limbo, and the entire film is punctuated with RIP notices for every character who dies in the picture. We did not count.
We had not seen the parallel previously—as Death Wish was remade a few years ago with Bruce Willis as an inspired vigilante. It’s hard to determine if Neeson wants to re-make most of the notorious Bronson oeuvre.
DATELINE: Walking Along the Dead Line
The President of the United States is the New Alfred E. Neumann.
Donald Trump is prepared to kill himself with coronavirus—and infect you too.
We know that self-destructive behavior is the mark of people who think they are immortal demigods. So, it does not surprise us when Donald Trump deliberately fills his Air Force One and his winter home in Florida with people who have shaken hands with a man who died of coronavirus.
Madness is a relative condition, and flu symptoms are not usually associated with losing your mind. However, opening the barn door to let the microbes enter may be a first for a world leader who thinks he is part Ghengis Khan and part-Superman.
Without a flu shot and without a coronavirus test, Trump is able to leap over CDC doctors in a single bound.
Whether he starts to cough and then re-enacts the role of Von Aschenbach in Death in Venice may be the third act of his election campaign.
Ted Cruz has yet to respond to calls to infect his president, but others have taken off their gas masks and gone into the lion’s den. Next, they will stick their heads into the lion’s mouth, bad breath and all, to defy the medical advice of science.
Self-quarantine is for those who have humanity at heart, not for those who enter King Tut’s tomb before going home to Downton Abbey or Mar-a-Lago, or whatever that black hole of Florida is called.
DATELINE: Death Wish Out West
By 1971, Charles Bronson began to make the revenge picture his personal genre.
It’s also the year he met Michael Winner who became his John Ford, shaping a series of films, hardly great but full of fury and impact.
The first was a Western done in Spain called Chato’s Land. You might think it’s a spaghetti Western, but it is something far more American: a metaphor for pointless commitment to deathly war and racist attitudes.
It’s not a classic by any means, but it borrows from American classics and thus becomes part of the derivation formula. It seems to take its cue from The Ox Bow Incidnt, made thirty years earlier: a dour Henry Fonda picture about a lynch mob that hangs anyone it can put its hands on. It was led by a fool in a Confederate uniform of past glory.
This time it’s Jack Palance donning the Confederate officer garb—and leading an all-star gang of terrible Western settlers who want to hang a “half-breed” who has killed the town sheriff.
The cast will bowl you over: there’ Ralph Waite as the worst of the worst before he became Daddy Walton.
There’s Simon Oakland and Richard Jordan as his brothers. You will also be treated to James Whitmore and Richard Basehart as older men who should know better.
Charles Bronson turns the tables. And when he goes into full loincloth mode, his body puts body builders to shame. He was pushing sixty, said some, when he did this film. He claimed to be fifty.
There is a death wish pick off, one by one, of rapists and mayhem’s henchmen. Michael Winner wallows in rape and cruelty—and it would become worse over the next decade. Yet, this film is sharply in focus, however cruel, and it started the revenge movie in the urban jungle, starting in the American West.
DATELINE: High Quality Thriller
Stephen Buchanan as suspect!
It was shot in two weeks with a miniscule budget, but without expensive special effects, you can have a shocking and well-produced supernatural horror. The Ascent will surprise, delight, and amaze.
With intense closeups and perhaps one of the cleverest screenplays this side of Sherlock Holmes, you have a Latino LA detective (Miguel Perez) playing Henry Cardenas whose brilliant psychological insights solve cases and bring criminal confessions.
He is on the verge of setting a new police department record of 75 confessed homicides: when he comes face-to-face with a daunting murder, allegedly committed by a koo-koo bird who insists he is Lucifer’s Kid Brother, making Charles Manson look like a fallen angel.
The performances are to die for: especially Miguel Perez as the cardiac detective of heavy-set middle-age, not your usual Holmesian type. His banter and back-and forth with the suspect (Stephen Buchanan) as the egomaniacal suspect covered in blood is utterly fascinating.
You don’t need a big budget with sharp delineations and even crisper dialogue—as suspect and interrogator match wits and switch positions. You know something is amiss when the suspect knows the detective’s name is Henry without being told.
The Ascent features a descent into hell by elevator that requires only improv acting style to achieve its horror.
Director and writer Tom Murtaugh will require monitoring in the future. We don’t know whether it will be possible to match this kind of style if he’s given a big budget to handle.
If you are in the mood for a smart movie that will test you, this is the gem of the year.
DATELINE: Murder in the 21st Century
Andress in Undress?
The expiration date on using The Tenth Victim probably ended in the 20thcentury.
A social satire about murder in the future, this Italian film has all the earmarks of Fellini and Antonioni. It is excessive, flamboyant, and beautifully filmed. Its main conceit was that in the 21stcentury America, violence would be rampant and institutionalized as a game.
You would have hunters and the hunted. Alas, nothing racial or insulting to minorities occurs. In fact, there is not a minority to be seen in a colorful landscape meant to be the United States.
The male victim is a highly successful hunter with a dozen kills to his credit, but now the computer system has turned the tables and sent a stunningly beautiful woman out to get him. He does not know her identity, and that is part of the game. Everyone dresses in eye-popping fashion, and the future is squeaky clean, streets bright and cheery.
The cast is exemplary for the time: Marcello Mastroianni bleaches his hair blond (it was big that year as Terence Stamp did it too), and he is pursued by the American killer Ursula Andress. Hunh? You mean it’s not Anita Ekberg? Or Sophia Loren?
The sets are spectacular, and the music is jazz out of the classic Fifties mode, what you’d expect in a Euro-entertainment of the period.
As for the plot, it is neither violent enough, bloody enough, or shocking enough to make it controversial. It is played for light-hearted satire, and there is not a drop of blood to be seen.
Other touches indicate that comic books are great literature in America in the 21stcentury, collected like first-edition Francis Bacon.
In 1965, this flashy film grabbed them at the art house. Today it is more akin to a flash in the pan, though we are reluctant to pan something that is original, singular, and cute.
DATELINE: Last Days of Sodom?
Dafoe as Paso
Willem Dafoe tackles the infamous Italian director of the 1960s. Next to Fellini and Antonioni, Pier Paolo Pasolini is the darling of avant-garde cinema. His highly-charged political movies seemed to blame scandal and scandalizing on media and right-wingers.
The movie is Pasolini,about a man who was the ultimate socialist on film. His movies from 120 Days of Sodom to Teorema were puzzling allegories that combined sordid sex and overblown intelligentsia. He wanted to offend audiences with pictures likeThe Gospel According to Matthew and succeeded wildly.
So it is with Abel Ferrara’s version of the film-maker’s life. With multiple languages, and layers of story-telling, this is Cinema with a capital C.
Dafoe seems to be nearly as outrageous as Pasolini as he was as Nosferatu.
The film is blatant in its crossovers, using a fictional version of Pasolini in a “novel” he visualizes with his actual life. This technique spares your major star from doing embarrassing sex scenes.
Dead at a premature age, it seems even Dafoe might be a bit long in the tooth for the role, but Terence Stamp, another good choice who worked with Pasolini, was definitely too far along.
The film tries to extract the genius of a director out of the chaos of politics, anarchy, and religion, that made up post-war Italy. It remains chaos theory.
Pasolini was the victim of senseless gay bashing murder in Rome in 1975, though the movie is far less graphic than the real killing.
DATELINE: Why Was Sam Cooke Killed?
You Still Send Me!
How long ago it was! Sam Cooke was a budding, all-American giant of music, but even more amazing, he was the boy next door who was African-American. The film is Lady You Shot Me!, a frightful documentary about the life and death of Sam.
He was murdered, executed, or shot under mysterious circumstances. A religious gospel singer, it seemed unfathomable back than that Cooke was in a “seedy” motel room with some street-walker.
Of course, we know nowadays this may be more often the norm. Yet, with Sam Cooke it seemed improbable. He was lumped in with Muhammad Ali and Martin Luther King as the three titans of Civil Rights.
You probably never hear much about Sam because his music is owned by Allen Klein and his associates: and some theorize they had something to do with stealing his profits and doing him in. Klein died in 2009, but he and his followers have stopped many a documentary about Sam from being made without their control.
So, this latest is also one without the most compelling part of Cook’s legacy: you will not hear his music. It isn’t allowed. He wrote “Wonderful Life,” ironically enough, “Cupid,” “You Send Me,” and “Another Saturday Night,” another delightful ditty about being alone. Now you seldom hear his music.
And you certainly don’t often hear the horror and tragedy of what happened to this talent. An inquest quickly dispatched his death, ruling justifiable homicide to a motel manager who shot naked man who had no weapon. She testified in dark glasses and had no attorney. She didn’t need one; the fix was in.
A few of his nephews contribute to the storyline—and also have done what they could to keep Klein’s company out of their lives. The documentary consults noted coroner and lawyer Cyril Wecht who examines the evidence but cannot sign on to a conspiracy of murder.
However, there are enough legal mumbo-jumbo moves by Allen Klein to take over Cooke’s music estate and run with all the profits to think he, at least, took advantage of an untimely death. Of course, it’s not the first time that an uppity black man was put down.
Fair or not, it is a strong backbone to the story of a man killed fifty years ago in a senseless action in Los Angeles. It was more than black America’s loss, it was the loss of a generation of music he would have created for everyone.
DATELINE: Where’s My Roy Cohn?
We’re No Angels!
Can it be that 15 years after the Mike Nichols-HBO depiction of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America that it has new life?
Give credit to Donald Trump or damn him to hell for resurrecting his mentor, long-dead Roy Cohn.
The main character in Angels in Americais Cohn, as played by Al Pacino, in a fire-brand, brilliant performance while still in his salad days. In the first chapter he has only two scenes: one to start the episode, and one to finish. But he is what hooks you to begin the mini-series of an award-winning play—and his extraordinary scene with James Cromwell at the end will bring you back.
What’s in between is somewhat pedestrian gay: a Mormon couple (Mary-Louise Parker and Patrick Wilson) are in discord because he may well be a closet case gay man in 1985. Counter this with a Jewish law clerk Louis (Ben Shenckman) and his HIV positive boyfriend Prior (Justin Kirk). They are cute and tortured by their inner gay demons.
We give Nichols credit for playing this up with references to Wizard of Oz and Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast. It’s pure gay counter-culture.
The actors are transcendent with characters who are not. Yet, the openness of the sexual lives is bracing, even today. To combine two hallucinations of characters who don’t know each other is nothing short of brilliant, cross-pollinating the subplots.
Yet, we are drawn to the foul-mouthed Cohn, nasty and demagogic, and though we see no Trump, we see what feeds the monster. His final exchange with his doctor, indicating he has liver cancer, not AIDS, and that he is not homosexual, but only fools around with men.
It is the massive unapologetic denial, lies upon lies, to feed self-delusion and feed media attention with distortion and misdirection. Episode One sets up a compelling situation for the remainder of the series.
DATELINE: Cat Got Your Tongue?
Way back in 1977, on the heels of a career of low budget horror movies, Ray Milland took off his toupee and faced the snarling, pouncing faces of cats. The film was titled The Uncanny, which is hardly catty enough.
Yes, what Alfred Hitchcock did for The Birds, this film wanted to do for your cute and cuddly pussycat. Don’t ask what’s up, pussycat, because writer and scientist Peter Cushing believes that cats are the devil’s messenger—and they have it for him. He has written a book and is trying to sell it to publisher Milland.
Like Erich van Daniken, Cushing’s paranormal writer has tackled the Pyramids, UFOs, and other topical crypto-science subjects—and has turned his attention to a conspiracy of cats. And, his feline nemesis is not a happy camper.
If your idea of fur balls turning evil is good for a laugh, this movie is for you. If you belong to Internet websites that features kitty cats doing funny things, you may be horrified. Well, that is the point of this film.
As for us, we never grab a pussy by the tail—and recommend you don’t either!
The sordid little tales are set in London in 1912, Hollywood in 1936, and in contemporary Montreal. We should tell you that the cold winter of Montreal does not stand in well for Los Angeles.
The cast is downright overblown: Donald Pleasance and Samantha Eggar are in Hollywood, and Simon Williams—fresh off Upstairs/Downstairsas wastrel James Bellamy has a cat moment himself. A few other known faces, like John Vernon, are also in the storyline.
The film did not ruin anyone’s career, having been lost for decades and forgotten by everyone involved. It isn’t HItchock level, and it is of varying brutality and humor, but you seldom find a movie in which cute kitty-cats are filmed like horrid monsters, leaping from balconies to kill.
As a curio, this one is worth peeking at.