Fugitive 25 Years Later

DATELINE:  TV Classic Into Movie Classic

Taken in

A recent homage to the Harrison Ford/Tommy Lee Jones thriller, The Fugitive, never mentioned that it was based on the David Janssen, Quinn/Martin tv series.

Janssen died before age 50 in 1990, shortly before this big-screen version.

If this high-flying, high octaine movie had been a tv show, it would likely have been a two-parter on the small screen.

The film has big written all over it. Big effects and big budget.

We were most amused to see limping Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble jumping around like a superhero with super-strength, instead of a cardiologist in middle age. His jump off a dam would kill most, or break every bone. Not for Harrison Ford, he just limps away (actually having torn ligaments).

It seems there wasn’t a water hazard the producers and director Andrew Davis couldn’t let pass. Throw Ford into it. And, then, they looked for every staircase in Chicago and make Tommy Lee Jones run up and down.

Apart from that unusual quality, the film also features only three run-ins between the stars: Jones is a US Marshall (again and again in movies) who is relentless in chasing Ford. Their first encounter is 40 minutes into the movie in which Gerard (Jones) admits he does not care whether Dr. Kimble (Ford) is innocent.

These are two arrogant, type A personalities who will let nothing stop them, and therein is a hilarious adventure thriller. Billed nowadays as a thinking man’s version of Deathwish or Taken or even any Bruce Willis adventure, this lives up to its excitement.

Why Dr. Kimble returns to familiar haunts, like his hospital, to find the one-armed killer is beyond sanity. Filmed in Chicago and its St. Patrick’s Day Parade, it is atmospheric of the Windy City.

Everyone admits Dr. Kimble is smarter than the police, but not smarter than Tommy Lee’s laconic character with his snippy attitude.

Twenty-five years have not dampened this movie. It holds up on every level. It is worth your attention, with Big Pharma still the villain.

Endeavour Wraps Up Season 6

DATELINE:  Shootout for Morse!

Dr. Max in the library Dr. Max in the Library!

We never expected our intellectual detective show would go big time corruption at the highest levels of government. And, we have to admit surprise when the show’s climax turns out to be Gunfight at the OK Corral.

The old gang re-gathers in high form. And, corrupt politicians may escape, but never dirty cops.

Some shocks do occur along the way: Dr. Max DeBryn (James Bradshaw) hardly seems the sort to be a mob target, but threats to nearly every member of the cast leads us to worry some may not be returning for season 7.  Yes, there will be another year, 1970.

In the meantime, we almost thought we were watching Ancient Aliens or Curse of Oak Island when the foremost villains turn out to be Freemasons.

We can almost be assured that next summer there will be a few more of these precious and rare gems. Endeavour has behaved badly to end this season, which may be a cliff-hanger for this series, but we already know the middle-aged and older Inspector Morse survives to make the prequel post-quel episodes with the late John Thaw as Endeavour.

Nevertheless, you should not say “nevermore,” to this Shaun Evans outrage. Abigail Thaw (John’s daughter) remains a staple news reporter here to bring the two series into some kind of karma.

Some of the highlights of the finale include Inspector Thursday noting to an Oxford don that he was partial to Holly Martins (good grief, shades of The Third Man). We did enjoy seeing Dr. Max DeBryn in the library with the ice pick.

Well, we love this show for a good reason. You will have to wait for a year to see the good works rewarded fully with crime busting for four more episodes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moon Landing for Endeavour

DATELINE: Aging Badly.

aging badly Allam & Evans.

Sixth season, episode 2, takes place at the time of the Apollo Moon landing. So, it is only natural that the murder victim at Oxford is an astrophysicist. Endeavour is more earthbound than the astronauts in July, 1969.

Morse is an exhibits officer who routinely oversteps his bounds. His new superior sees him as a condescending twit, and he may be right. Morse’s friend, Jim Strange, notes that the brilliant detective has not lost his heavy-handed social skills.

This episode is directed by star Shaun Evans.

Thursday (Allam) keeps reminding him that they are part of a bureaucratic system that follows chain-of-command, but Endeavour is the rebel within the system.

While astronauts make giant leaps for mankind on the Moon, back on Earth there are small steps toward crime solving by hard-working detectives.

Perhaps what’s most interesting about the historical inaccuracy of the series is that the days when cops were despised by youth movement types, you have them with more virtue and dedication than Joe Friday ever showed.

As a mystery show, Endeavour always puts together disparate elements into a stew that may be overly complicated. Punch and Judy has now reached marionette TV space shows of 1969, where jealousy and spousal swapping are the hot topics of the day—and motive for murders.

The regulars (Roger Allam, Anton Lesser) and others recognize now how good they had it in the previous five seasons. Now, they are reduced to working under lesser talents while bigger events overwhelm the world.

Though this series is not as elegant or finely tuned as an Agatha Christie story, you may find it convoluted on the side of intellectualism. That’s a rare problem in this age of unusual idiocy in TV shows, detective programs, and characters in general.

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Conspire to Kill Ortiz!

DATELINE: Bounty Hunters Come Cheap in DR

ortiz-unleashed Bargain Basement Killers!

The price on David Ortiz’s head was reportedly only $6000 to be divided up by a dozen conspirator killers. Then, the number went up: no, not the bounty, but the number of plotters splitting the ante. The latest count from the Dominican Republic is there are ten co-conspirators. It’s almost like a county fair of killers. A few are still at large.

We are on our way to a baker’s dozen.

Maybe your money goes a lot farther in the Dominican Republic economy. If that cheap lifestyle is driving Americans to move to that crime-ridden country, they are living a cheapskate rich lifestyle.

We thought that assassination of Julius Caesar was a shoddy affair, but 2000 years later the attack on Ortiz is even more carnival-like. Instead of a forum, or even Fenway Park, Ortiz was shot in the back, a la Jesse James, in an outdoor bistro atmosphere.

No motive has been given for the crime. We cringe at the speculation. And none of it enhances Ortiz’s reputation as a moral paragon.

Friends now say that Ortiz counted on the general public to protect him from dangerous gang members or gangsters.

The best laid plans belong to mice, not men. No one could stop the bullet with Big Papi’s name on it.

If you think witness identification is a deterrent to crime, you have only to see killers blithely walk up to the large Ortiz and put the gun at gall bladder height. They did not care who saw them, or if they would be known.

What we have here is the polar opposite of the Aaron Hernandez case.

The motorcycle get-away driver was inept too. He skidded into the crowd, giving a mob the courage to beat him up. He professes to be a Big Papi fan.

Heavens, imagine what might have happened if the motorcycle driver had been a Yankee fan.

We come back to the low-ball price on Ortiz’s head. This was not the work of a head-hunter, but of a world where life is not only cheap, but it is on sale to anyone with a credit card limit under $8000. The killers planned to share the amount at a payoff of $1000 each, but as the number goes up, the slice of the pie drops to crumbs for a murder.

 

 

 

 

Endeavour Returns for a Sixth Season

DATELINE:  Wonderland of 60s Crime

'stache Shaun in Sixties Mode!

“Pylon” is the title for a dandy reboot of the great youngish detective Endeavour, transferred out of his element to the world of uniformed cop. PBS has conscripted to show a miniseries of murder again this summer. They are the best of British crime imported to give us a throwback to the Swinging Sixties.

With Morse demoted from Oxford to red brick schoolhouse, you know a mind is a terrible thing to waste. It’s a misuse of genius to have Shakespeare write advertising jingles, but that’s what has happened to the operatic fantatic played by Shaun Evans, now in mustache mode.

He’s not alone: all his kindred spirits are also out of sorts. Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) has been reduced to a secondary role under a twit. No one has been cast in a proper role in the new season, set in summer of 1969.

What have we as issues? Nothing short of a smorgasbord of current trendy crimes:  pornography, child abuse, murder (as always), genetic criminal traits, wrongful death penalty, falsified police evidence, heroin addiction, police brutality, and on and on.

Into this mix, Morse is overstepping his bounds as a cop on the beat in a small backwater, using his skills to uncover clues that range from Lewis Carroll to Black Beauty. Clever smarty-pants Morse does put lesser police detectives to shame—and they pull rank often.

A uniform isn’t paid to think, and the ones paid to think are thoughtless imbeciles.

Oh, the equestrian angle is a throwaway of red herrings. We are glad to find Endeavour back in force on the force.

 

 

 

Civil War Gold Turns Booth into a Mason!

DATELINE:  Color Him Unreal?

color him unreal Fake Stanton?

Old wine is seldom put in new bottles. Civil War Gold missed the key point that the mummy of John Wilkes Booth toured in carnivals until the 1930s. Now, maybe there’s gold in his fillings.

If you happen to be the History Channel and their latest attempt to find plots, you start to delve into Wilkes Booth escape myths, conspiracies, to package them into alluring entertainments.

The idea that John Wilkes Booth died in Enid, Oklahoma, in 1903 is not new. Of course, the Curse of Civil War Gold wants to tie in the Masons; Booth was no Mason, and he likely would have not been appreciated by men like Hackley. Booth was more likely assisted by Col. John Mosby and his Rangers to escape the dragnet of Union soldiers at the Garrett Barn in 1865.

However, looking for escape hatches is not a bad idea, and it does lend some intrigue to the series that has gone far afield from its original mission: finding the stolen Confederate treasury that was in partial possession of Jeff Davis.

As a sidebar, more tunnels are being researched by the second-tier team in Muskegon. In fact, there are apparently more tunnels in that Michigan city than in the New York subway system. And, every tunnel between buildings was meant to move gold bullion secretly.

No other possibility is ever considered.

The Curse remains unexplained, but the Civil War Gold never helped John Wilkes Booth or Edwin Stanton. That fact is indisputable, no matter what you hear on the series that has been hijacked by Alex Lagina who coyly never admits he may be a Mason too.

Other, more peculiar theories on Booth may yet be in offing. They are there for the picking, if the show wants to veer a few more degrees off-course.

In many ways, the show is about as off-color as the fake colorized photographs of Stanton.

Big Papi Survives Assassin Bullet!

DATELINE: Celebrities Face Russian Roulette!

ortiz

An assassination attempt on the life of Red Sox legend David Ortiz, known in the baseball world as Big Papi, is vaguely reminiscent of the attack on the life of John Lennon or Tupac Shakur.

Those two chilling actions of murder put a damper forever on how celebrities interacted with the public. Now, again, the fame or infamy of sports stars—and their relative accessibility to the general public may shut down appearances in informal settings.

David Ortiz has lived under a lucky star as athlete and pop hero. Next to Gronk, he is a New England fixture and dizzy icon.

Big Papi is enormously popular in Boston, and in fact was expected to attend a charity event in town this week. He keeps a high profile in the New England area, mainly owing to product endorsements and advertising, which likely provides income and attention.

However, Big Papi also put his local house up for sale this week in the Greater Boston suburbs. He was shot in the back in his native Dominican Republic, not Boston.

He became an American citizen a few years ago, and also defended Boston at a ceremony after the Boston Marathon bombing a few years back.

He was shot in the back by an assailant who clearly meant to kill him. The bullet went through his stomach. The shooter on a motorcycle, or someone presumed to be the gunman, was attacked by an incensed crowd at the night club where Ortiz had appeared.

Those familiar with the two countries sharing an island in the Caribbean call the DR a dangerous place. Americans have died there recently in mysterious hotel incidents.

What is clear is that the violence of the world and the social media attention celebrities receive internationally has made a new wrinkle for assaults or assassinations by deranged individuals with a sense of entitlement.

Big Papi may well survive this attack, but he will never be the same—nor will sports stars who may find themselves paying a heavy price for fame and bodyguards.

Not Schlock at all: Tormented

DATELINE: Low-budget does not mean schlock.

Hang on, Juli Hang on, Juli!

We were a tad put off by the Amazon Prime description of a 1960 movie as a “schlock classic,” and then found the blurb noting that it was Richard Carlson in 1960 as a jazz pianist who is haunted by his former girlfriend.

This sounded intriguing at worst, and it was not truth in advertising. Tormented is a highly professional, thoroughly hypnotic little bit of ghostly lore.

Carlson cut his teeth on the Creature from the Black Lagoon movies, and after was relegated to B-pictures. Well, he was a B-star always. However, he was one of those actors who was far more intelligent than the material and gave everything a kind of gravitas.

The accidental death of Vi, or at least her deliberate lack of saving, haunts Tom (Carlson). In her earliest scenes in particular, Juli Reding sounds like Marilyn Monroe, and even has the hair style down pat. Her later appearances in a flowing flimsy dress seem like Marilyn’s “Happy Birthday gown” for President Kennedy.

Perhaps the most schlocky thing in the movie is when Vi appears to torment Carlson by showing up as a disembodied head on his coffee table. Her ghost is almost comical, to the point of reversing the Vertigo end in ironical fashion-plate boiler-plate.

Wonderful character actor Joe Turkel shows up here in a ghost movie and later made a big hit as a ghost in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. He speaks in the jazz lingo of the 1950s, Dad.

With its simple and elegant beach house and light house as main sets, the film has a minimalist quality that really does not impede its effect. We love the two bodies pulled from the ocean and dropped next to each other. Nice touch.

Hernandez Haunted House: Updated

DATELINE: Creepy, Ooky, & Altogether Spooky

AH house Gloom & Doom?

Since first writing about the haunted manse of former Patriot and serial killer Aaron Hernandez in 2017, we have repeatedly been asked for an update on the situation.

Considered one of the more notorious houses in Massachusetts, the Hernandez residence may be up there in the neighborhood of Lizzie Borden.

It’s actually not far from Fall River where misbehaving parents were given forty whacks with an axe. It is definitely in Nathaniel Hawthorne territory.

The buyer of the Hernandez home, avoided by wiser heads, turned out to be a 23-year old investor looking to make a killing. He took it for $1million, a bargain at 33% off.

He chose to ignore the ominous signs of decay within the house, presuming that the cops knocked down doors. That is not true. Any vandalism within the house was by occupants or intruders. The house’s only curb appeal is that of an eyesore and mind-sore within an upscale neighborhood of cheaply-made and costly McMansions.

“My friends are definitely surprised and shocked,” said Arif Khan, a New England Patriots fan and owner of a haunted house. “It has a bad name to it, but it’s probably one of the most famous houses in Massachusetts.”

Khan’s inexact language may be symptomatic of his bad decisions. It is not famous, but infamous. The house does not have a bad name, but an evil foreboding to it.

“Nobody wants to buy a house with Aaron Hernandez’s name on it, but I feel a name change and a little upgrade on the property will increase its value.”  Yes, P.T. Barnum would say there’s one born every 23 years.

This whelp purchased the property “as is with no warranties.”  Yikes. He has paid the back taxes in the town in the neighborhood of $100,000. What can be more scary than losing your shirt in the process of turning this monstrosity into a fixer-upper?

There are three wrongful death suits still pending against the Hernandez estate. That would make any spirit restless. Parts of the house may need to be gutted.

As paranormal experts can attest, the more you change the physical plane of ghosts’ milieu,  they will become problematic. Khan said he does not get a “creepy vibe” from inside the house, though he had not spent the night there.

 

Dead Again, Guilty Again!

DATELINE: Jussie on Steroids.

HERNANDEZ

If you want to know what makes a ghost return to his haunts, you only have to see another case of Massachusetts justice. It will give you the heebie-jeebies.

The Commonwealth Supreme Court has re-instated a guilty of murder verdict on Aaron Hernandez, the serial killer for the New England Patriots. His first trial had been overturned unceremoniously, and he was “not guilty” in his double murder second trial.

You are never declared innocent, no matter what.

The Hernandez conviction was overturned upon his suicide because in Massachusetts, if your appeal is unfinished upon death, you are declared free at last. It need not matter how heinous you were, or how and who you killed, you are no longer a convicted killer. Your jury has wasted its time. Your victim’s family is thrown into turmoil. You are released from prison for cremation or burial.

The evil you did lives on. The good was interred in the state Supreme Court.

So, the Supreme Court feels it has restored justice by playing ping-pong and pin-ball with the guilt of Aaron Hernandez. The law was called archaic and insensitive to modern victims. Hence, Hernandez is back in the eternal prison cell of ghosts like Jacob Marley.

We presume such a finding is enough to send the dead scrambling back to their previous haunts: like the mansion in Attleboro where Hernandez lived his rococo lifestyle. It remained empty for years. No one would dare stay there overnight.

If you want to guarantee that the spirit of Hernandez remains housebound to the place where his victim often visited, you have restored the dead zone. It is likely that Odin Lloyd, the victim, may also be there.

What a cozy arrangement: killer and victim stuck together for eternity. When you play ping-pong with fatality, your fate may be hell on earth and re-living what is never dead.

William Russo is author of the notorious book, The Strange Case of Aaron Hernandez. You can buy it in the old-fashioned print style, or a version designed for you if you are a smartreader.

ABC Murders Agatha Christie

 DATELINE:  New Version of Classic Tale

old Poirot

Amazon Studio has produced a 2019 remake of the ABC Murders by the foremost crime novelist. Alas, this version of the classic story is libel against the author and defamation against Hercule Poirot.

Go back to watch last century’s episode with David Suchet.

This time we have John Malkovich with shaved head and imperial beard. This is not as offensive as the handlebar mustache of Kenneth Branagh recently in Murder on the Orient Express. It is, however, the victim of Just for Men:  yeah, Hercule colors it, sometimes.

This mystery is in three parts that grow increasingly distant from the Christie canon. You may well ask who is meant to be audience for such a tale:  it offends the millions of diehard fans who know what to expect, and it misleads new younger fans from what Christie is all about.

There is no humor, no clever twists, no plot maneuvers. here. By the third episode, you may well drift away. Worse yet, this is an aging Poirot in 1933 who has no Inspector Japp, no Miss Lemon, and no Captain Hastings, to help him.

Indeed, he must deal with a new Scotland Yard detective who is unsympathetic and hostile. Disrespect of a senior who was once glorified for his achievements may be an interesting idea, but not here.

The cast features Eamon Farren who has impressed us in previous roles as a most peculiar bad guy. Here, he is either suffering a brain tumor, or has played NFL football. It’s the 21st century—and you know what excuses murder nowadays.

We had no idea that there was so much kinky-dinky stuff in Agatha Christie, and neither did she.

Also aboard is Rupert Grint, though he has aged worse than Malkovich’s Poirot.

This Poirot is not fastidious, prissy, or clever. One character notes that he walks like he has sore feet, though we never see that foible.

What a disappointment, or do we mean travesty of the original story?

Underground Space Aliens

DATELINE: Not so Nice

phil blasts aliens

Genius scientist with government-drug induced amnesia and son of a notable Philadelphia Experiment doctor, Phil Schneider predicted he would be murdered and made to look like a suicide. It happened in 1996. In the documentary The Underground, we have them coming up for air.

Schneider either planned ahead, faked with improbability, or was clairvoyant. Yep, he died after a series of lectures warning of underground tunnels done in cahoots with reptilians and insectians who colonized our world from outer space.

Even worse, according to Phil Schneider these creatures smell worse than Bigfoot. In one shootout with the creatures, Schneider explains how he lost some fingers to a ray gun. We are not sure why cooperative aliens are being shot at by our scientists and engineers.

Well, you might say we haven’t heard the whole story.

This might sound like science fiction, except that trillions of dollars in black budgets and secret building projects have the US admitting about a dozen bases a couple of miles under the earth.

His family gives full cooperation to this documentary, including many illustrations. There is also a grisly set of autopsy photos to show Schneider’s death was unnatural.

Known experts like Richard Shaud, who has a series of books on tunnels into the Earth’s core, highlight the veracity of something big going on under our feet. There is no mention of how such drilling miles down might impact earthquakes. It must have some connection.

The old master series Ancient Aliens has given cursory nods to this notion over the years. Perhaps they await a new season before giving Dr. Shaud’s insights full coverage. He makes more logical sense and real investigative journalism than most.

Schneider seems to have died in vain. Let’s hope not.

 

 

 

Surrogates Again

DATELINE: AI Goes Bad

bee-strung surrogates Young Bruce Replicant!

It’s been ten years since one of the most clever and intriguing films about Artificial Intelligence in the future came out. Surrogates deserves another look because so little has superseded its message and style.

All the robotic replicants have bee-stung pouts.

This was another in a series of highly intelligent films made by Bruce Willis in the sci-fi mode. It may be the best of the lot.

Set in Boston in 2054, it tells of an era when the Supreme Court has allowed surrogate robots to replace you in daily work and routines while you lounge in a control seat.

You will be a fat slob, aging and ugly, but your surrogate will be a beautiful toy of whatever gender you choose. So, all the day-to-day people in the film are stunning and stiff, wrinkle-removed and smooth skinned. What’s amazing is that Bruce Willis looks like Baby Jane Hudson-young with his blond locks and handsome young physique.

We could not figure out whether he needed more makeup and special effects to be his middle-aged self, or his young replicant self.

He plays an FBI agent who must investigate the murders of surrogates and their masters—but he has to become a true gumshoe and go out on the street as his old self to do it, despite the agony and stress of being out in the “real world”. He constantly surprises his beautiful partner cop (Rahda Mitchell).

The notion that AI will legalize identity replicants is not so far-fetched, and the hilarious satiric barbs at “loaners,” and other modern problems is delightful. Intermeshed here is a murder mystery.

Yes, there is an obligatory and over-the-top car chase through the streets of Boston, though we have no idea how they did it in reality, so we presume it was all faked.

And the climax in which all surrogate replicants must be deactivated is a delight to see as they literally fall in place around Boston. It was a pleasant, summery diversion during an ice storm in Boston.

 

 

 

 

 

Equalized by Denzel Again

DATELINE:  Inequality!

denzel as mcCall

Don’t infuriate The Equalizer, as played by Denzel Washington for a second time in Equalizer 2.

We loved the Michael Sloan series about “retired” agent Robert McCall on TV with Edward Woodward, and we really like the idea that he has retired into hiding, faked death, to work as a vigilante for hire to help the helpless. We do miss Robert Lansing as Control.

Here he lives in Boston, and the backdrop of the Hub is photographed with all kinds of reverence, from the Zakim Bridge to Roxbury. We also like the notion that to meet people, McCall now works as a Lyft driver.

An old familiar face plays a Jewish passenger. We were shocked to learn it is Orson Bean, whom we have not seen in 40 years.

The corrupt people at the Agency, the Company, or whatever you want to call that American secret spy group, going by odd alphabets, seem to be worse than ever. No wonder McCall wanted out. Now, one of the few people he liked and trusted, Susan, another retired agent (Melissa Leo), has met a mysterious circumstance.

When Denzel goes into full mode, the bad guys should cringe, though these kind of villains always think they can match the hero. Otherwise, there’d be no entertaining movie.

The moral questions about the right of agency’s to off people they deem bad guys, without proof, is at the heart of this film, which makes it a cut above the usual death-by-gruesome-means movies.

Director Antoine Fuqua is adept and amusing enough to set the climax in a hurricane, which certainly helps with the dispatching of bad guys.

 

Noir Classic: He Walked by Night

DATELINE:  Movie as TV Pilot

Dragnet

We had never seen He Walked by Night, and it took us aback right away. It is thought to be a 70-year old black and white masterpiece of low-budget, poverty-row studio. Even the directorship is mysterious: was it really Anthony Mann who sneaked over to another studio to do the work?

Right from the Prologue, we recognized the classic line: “the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” What’s more, actor Jack Webb had a featured role!

Then came the ponderous narrator talking about Los Angeles, a big city, etc.. This was followed almost immediately with a long discussion of a dragnet across the city!

Yep:  it was Dragnet!  We were about to see some kind of movie prototype of the famous police show of the 1950s.

Webb did not play Sgt. Joe Friday. No, he was some lab rat in the forensics department, and young virile Scott Brady was the cop.

We learned later that Jack Webb befriended Marty Wynn, the LA technical adviser (whom Brady played). They partnered and came up with the radio/TV show Dragnet in 1950.

This movie was unusual for other reasons. The LA criminal psychopath was played by young Richard Basehart—in cashmere gloves and Brooks Brothers suit. He was a tech-savvy genius, creating 12-foot TV projection screens 40 years before they really happened.

This villain was brilliant and diabolical in his murdering rampage. The intriguing concept of Dragnet, always, was that the pedestrian and bland cops were flatfooted, but persistent.

The other feature here was the deadpan humor of the police, likely a defensive response to the evil they always encountered. It too would surface on Dragnet a few years later.

Also a bit ahead of its time, the climax in the underground flood tunnels of Los Angeles is a precursor of the Third Man where Harry Lime (Orson Welles) was chased by police in Vienna.