In from the Cold? Richard Burton

DATELINE: Portrait of Welsh Rare-bit

Burton & Hamlet Yorick with Burton!

Just a few years after his death in 1984, a comprehensive documentary biography of the great stage and film actor Richard Burton stands as the definitive word on his career and life. It is called, overly rococo, In from the Cold? Portrait of Richard Burton.

To put Elizabeth Taylor and two-time husband Burton into perspective, they were the Tom Brady and Giselle Bundchen of their era.

A poor Welsh boy, Richard Jenkins found success through his good looks and well-modulated voice. His legal guardian was Philip Burton who helped him achieve his initial goals.

Only later did he seem to sell his soul for international fame and money. It seems to have brought him emptiness and unhappiness.

Generous to a fault, he supported dozens of people with his film revenue. It underwrote some of his great stage work:  Camelot, Equus, Hamlet, and even Private Lives.

We see him playing Edwin Booth as Laurence Olivier as Richard III. Indeed, Olivier asked him whether he wanted to be a great stage actor or a rich movie star. He was both.

The film contains some fairly unflattering interviews with Lauren Bacall, Joe Mankiewicz, and Mike Nichols, who seem to trace his downfall to the soul-selling deal with Elizabeth Taylor. Indeed, the film uses clips from Virginia Woof, Faustus, Wagner, and the Spy Who Came in from the Cold, as biographical annotations on Burton’s predicament, in his own words. He is hoisted on the petard ruthlessly.

The man was far gentler than his righteous angry young man personality—and dissipated roue of later years.

If Elizabeth Taylor was his Waterloo and Watergate, he was complicit in the lifestyle. The film skips over a few morsels but stays away from trivia that might be too revealing. He did a guest bit on The Lucy Show to satirize his own character. He gave interviews in which he seems to be acting, or not. It is hard to tell.

To hear that grand voice again, and see those notorious news reel clips, is shocking to reveal how long he has been gone, and how much he is missed. There has never been a replacement—in movies, or the sad last years of Miss Taylor’s life.

Gone and Not Forgotten!

DATELINE: Disappearing without a Trace

 American Aeryn, Mr. Gay AustriaGillern

A parental nightmare centers on the sudden disappearance of an adult child in a foreign land.

This true story from 2011 tells the horror faced by a retired Ithaca, New York, cop Kathyrn Gillern whose son goes missing in Vienna. Without help, with a language barrier, and with many unanswered questions, this disturbing tale of Aeryn Gillern is told primarily from his mother’s viewpoint.

Alas, much is either withheld or minimized. We see the strapping handsome young American who has become an expatriate and moved to Austria to work for a branch of the United Nations. Then, we learn he is gay. Then, we learn he wants his mother in retirement to move in with him.

Most disturbing of all, we learn that Austria is not a friendly place for gay men. Like the attitude toward Jews 60 years earlier, the populace may be more than hostile.

Police are unfriendly and decidedly cruel to the mother, claiming she is “difficult,” and believe she has come to learn what happened with a chip on her shoulder.

Along the way, more details emerge. Aeryn (once Aaron) was at an elite sauna for well-to-do gay men—and ran out naked to the streets. Police contend it was a “spontaneous suicide” after learning he was HIV-positive.

When his mother goes through his belongings, his recent medical test said he was HIV-negative!  Police lie to her about search dogs, divers in the Danube, and other sundry details.

We hear he is Mr. Gay Austria of 2006!  What? An American? That seems to be part of a homophobic reaction by police, and a coverup of high-ranking gay officials.

Was Aeryn on drugs? Murdered by a jealous lover? A suicide?

Or was it even more nefarious? We think it sounds like he was somehow involved in high-level espionage. Was he CIA? You will never learn from this film.

There are no answers in this compelling mystery that ends in 2011 with annual trips by Aeryn’s mother to seek information in Vienna and hold a solitary vigil.

In 2015, the police finally dragged the river for his body—an example of too little, too late, and no results.

The story is almost as infuriating as the details we are not told.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hard to Kill, Harder to Watch

DATELINE:  Hard Jobs

Tim Unleashed Tim Kennedy Unleashed

Tim Kennedy, formerly of Hunting Hitler as the go-to adventurer who investigated dangerous people, has gone a step beyond for a new Discovery series.

Hard to Kill is one of those “dangerous job” shows where some rank amateur tries his hand, without training, at doing something where you need a few years of experience to do the job right.

So, Tim Kennedy, former Green Beret, muscle-man, pushing forty years, is perfect as the guy being a man in a world of wussies. In the old days we called him a dare-devil, or simply foolhardy, or blithering idiot.

He shows guts and lack of brains at the same time.

In the first show, he tries his hand at “American bullfighter,” and it’s not what you expect. In the jargon of pop culture, this job is rodeo clown:  the guy in clown makeup who distracts the rampaging bull from running over the fallen rider.

This is risky. Breaking bones is the easy way out. Jumping to the fence to escape the bull’s charge is not a good idea, as these pros tell Kennedy: you can be impaled on an immovable object (a fence slat).

Bulls run at 35mph and are reasonably adept at hitting their target. You can plainly see that the rodeo men take it seriously to protect their own—and sending out an untrained person is not only foolhardy, but unethical. Yet, the price of TV fame comes high, so to speak.

Kennedy is personable and overly energetic, but these kind of adventurers were the explorers of yesteryear. They may seem anachronistic today or suited only for TV derring-do.

 

 

Sentinels of Ancient Aliens, 13.9

DATELINE: Here’s Mud in Your Moai

 moai

In the latest episode of the series Ancient Aliens, Giorgio Tsoukalos has been teamed up with another regular, David Childress, and they went to the South Seas, Easter Island and the Marquesas to find the usual suspects: mythic gods who were really extraterrestrials. Don’t give these Rapa Nui a bad rap.

“The Sentinels” is your standard episode, but now features Giorgio as a central analyst with a variety of associates. Of the 900 Moai statuary on Easter Island, only seven face the ocean. These 36 feet tall monoliths are right out of a Kubrick movie.

These giants are presumed to be literal depictions, facing out to another location—which happens to be the Marquesa Islands. Our intrepid theorists visit and consult with others. They find similar legends about giants, in flying turtle disguise. The ancient astronauts were called Tiki, and that is no con job.

Thousands of years ago these cosmic turtles seemed to have arrived along the ley lines in the South Pacific. Of course, it is a short jump to make these islands a series of space ports from where spaceships came and went, impressing natives.

As for those Moai, they appear to be giant hybrids. They fled the Marquesas because they were hunted by the Polynesians as a delicacy: their brains were thought to have immortality imprinted.

The eyes of the Moai may hold the key to their abilities, and the large hats they wear are loaded with cryptic messages.

Nothing new emerges in this episode, but it is another piece of ancient history that indicates modern science is missing a few more links than they care to admit.

 

 

 

In Search of…Fake Smarts

DATELINE: Bots Nobody Should Love

boy bot

Zachary Quinto was duly surprised and unnerved by the scientists he met to discuss artificial intelligence. It would appear it is already too late to stop it from taking over the world. In Search of went looking at bots and the bottom line of artificial intelligence.

Nearly every computer-generated scientist found Quinto’s questions “valid,” but not one had the interest to consider stopping his own work. It seems that artificial intelligence may control the world within a decade.

Quinto visited a place called RealDoll where they make $8000 robots in the guise of buxom women with bee-stung lips. As an after thought, there was also a young male bot. You can program emotional reactions, but they are smarmy—like their creator.

Quinto felt that giving robots the power to choose who lives and dies might be a problem when they take over military systems. No one else in authority had much to say about it.

Of course, androids or robots have their uses in dangerous situations—with bombs, radiation, or delicate surgery. Yet, giving them to power to make decisions could mean they access our Facebook page to determine whether we are worthy.

Indeed, Facebook scientists created robots who quickly went out of control last year, making their own language and freezing out their creators. Be afraid.

The host once again came across as highly intelligent, bewitched and bothered by the developments. When he drove an Uber car that went through a red light, he tried to have the scientists discuss whether the robot would save the pedestrian or driver, they couldn’t or wouldn’t give an opinion.

This was an impressive hour, but not comforting.

In Search of…., 1.3 Monsters of the Deep

DATELINE:  Quinto Re-Imagines!

sam Suffering Sam, Aussie Boy!

The re-imagined Leonard Nimoy series, now with Zachary Quinto, is back on top with episode 3 of the updated version of In Search Of, on History.

You cannot quibble with the need to update the old 1970s series. Much has been added to the lore, and cryptozoologists never existed back in the old days.

By taking a look at monsters of the deep, the show takes Quinto to Australia where nearby oceans are 4 miles deep –and only 1% of the ocean has been explored.

His first interview is with a cute Aussie boy who was mysteriously bitten all over his legs by some unknown carnivore when he stood in a foot of water.

The attack is horrific and takes up some true detective work to learn it may be a tiny creature (actually hundreds) that emerge during full-moon.

We are delighted with Quinto’s follow-up ability to question those he speaks to. He is both informative, knowledgeable, and quite personable in putting people at ease. He is also clearly a cut above in the intelligence quotient.

He can speak to fisherman, teenagers, and scientists with equal aplomb. When he ends up in Fort Lauderdale, he is able to banter with a man who has discovered a new species of ocean creature.

It is bewildering and frightening to see all the denizens of the deep that have created mythic monster stories. And, we give Quinto credit for diving right into the ocean where blue spotted octopi have deadly toxins.

This was a goody.

 

 

Ancient Aliens: Totally Taken In

DATELINE:  Re-election Ploy

 Baker Gov. Charlie Baker!

As Season 13 continues, the venerable series seems to be running out of juice. The latest is called “The Taken,” and it takes a look at the abducted victims of aliens.

If it seems like the series is becoming incestuous, making love to itself, you may be among those taken in. The show actually uses its own cast at an Alien Con 2018  with panelists Giorgio, Linda Moulton Howe, and Nick Pope, talking to hundreds of fans.

Talk about a self-selected audience, filled with people who claim to be abductees of space aliens for decades. If you are afraid to talk about it, there is no better forum that to stand up in front of 500 people and confess.

The experts claim there is an uptake in the number of taken victims: the total is about 2 to 5% of the population of the world. Yikes, those aliens are busy creatures.

Among the people interviewed are a victim 50 years ago from Great Barrington, Massachusetts, who manages to convince Governor Charlie Baker, Republican of Mass., to give official sanction to the abduction victims. This is a national first acknowledgement of abduction. It also kicks off Baker’s re-election campaign for governor!

From here it is a short jump to the history of altering human biology as motive of the space creatures. It seems nearly all of those taken in the past 35,000 years are Rh Negative (which is 15% of the human population).

Perhaps they are on to something. Then, they reveal that the first American celebrities of abduction (Betty and Barney Hill of New Hampshire) never revealed their entire family were victims.

Of course, the rare blood type is at the bottom of the gene-splicing over generations. (Forget that the Shroud of Turin claims Jesus was AB-Negative—which is only .5 percent of humanity).

If the show’s credibility seems to be shaky, you know that self-congratulations are in order. Ancient Aliens is always the first to recognize its own pioneer spirit.

 

Ancient Aliens: Giant Steps

DATELINE: Oil Lagina & Water Giorgio

 Giant Treasure Island

No mixer and no chaser!

The latest pairing of Giorgio Tsoukalos with a guest star on Ancient Aliens dumps us on Sardinia with Marty Lagina. This is the second time that the Oak Island connection has reached the exalted heights of Ancient Aliens.

We await the favor to be returned. But don’t hold your breath.

You may remember Lagina as the cynical and rich brother who underwrites the Curse of Oak Island, also a History series. This time, he has been inexplicably brought on board for an episode of Ancient Aliens.

Whether Giorgio will show up for a treasure hunt is anyone’s guess on Oak Island.

Marty Lagina is also known as the man for whom all must be proven. He looks askance at most of Giorgio’s wayout theories and dismisses them as “interesting,” though his face seems to shout, “What am I doing here?”

They have come to Sardinia to look for giants. Along the way we hear from Timothy Alberino whose YouTube privileges were revoked this year—and who contends he is victim of a major conspiracy to cover up the alien giant connection.

Who is protecting the Cyclops is not explained.

Even hard-nosed Marty Lagina must admit that the ruins on the isle of Sardinia impress him with their technology and stunning ability to build.

In the final analysis, we have wild conjecture and tie-ins to all the usual suspects. Yet, again, no one mentions that Noah (who built the Ark) was thought also to be a giant who survived the flood that was destined and meant to wipe out all those hybrid aliens who had gone out of control.

You cannot beat the imaginative fascination of this series.

 

 

 

 

 

New World Order & Ancient Aliens

DATELINE:  No, Not the TV Series

Marrs Late Great Jim Marrs!

As a special TV documentary made in 2017, this little film directed by Jay Michael Long has nothing to do with the TV series on History. It is indeed titled Ancient Aliens and the New World Order, but don’t be fooled.

This was the last project of Jim Marrs, the conspiracy aficionado whose reach exceeded the number of government plots he seemed privy to. He looks like Santa Claus in a Fedora.

Marrs started out as a Texan in Dallas when Kennedy was killed in 1963, and he parlayed that into a career of books and TV appearances on a plethora of theories about the secret world of powerbrokers.

So, this talking head documentary may have been his last, but he wanted to go out with thunder. He covered a bunch of notions, from dismissing global warming and noting it was solar system warming:  Nibiru’s orbit is heating up every frozen area from Saturn to Mars and around the sun.

He also wanted to trace a bloodline of hybrid aliens who have controlled the Earth since Sumerian culture.

He carefully traced the genes of United States Presidents, down to Obama, as all coming from the same ruling class. He found nearly every president was slightly more than six degrees closer than any other.

His final blast has to do with the banking and financial control of media, information, and manipulation of the minor inhabitants of the planet. He contends there are about 50 corporations that own everything—and they withhold whatever they want to keep people in subjugation. The news is controlled. Your health and diet are controlled.

It is a powder-keg of conspiracy theories. It’s not much on film impact, being mostly Marrs with a few background images, yet you may be entranced if not appalled by his information.

 

 

 

 

 

In Search of …Zachary Quinto

 DATELINE:   Call him Zak, not Spock.

Zak “I am not Spock.”

Leave it to History Channel to take a clever idea and run with it.

The old Leonard Nimoy series about oddities in the world has been revived. There is new wine in old bottles. In Search of…  is back! Its first episode is called, “Aliens.”

Leonard Nimoy had won fame in the 1970s as Spock on Star Trek, so History went to the next generation: they have beamed up Zachary Quinto, the new Spock of Star Trek, to be narrator of the newly minted series. He will be far more hands-on and in person.

If you recall, Nimoy kept his face out of the old shows: relying on his marvelous voice. This new host will be in the picture.

For the first act of the first season: aliens.

Quinto is the executive producer of the series, which means he likely wanted to do interviews and try out various stunts. In the first show he goes to the top of a satellite dish and later is suspended by wires to parallel floating up into a spaceship.

Great stuff, but what hooked us were the interviews. The first man named Kyle claimed he was abducted by aliens since childhood.

Given a polygraph, he failed: he apologized, but this is not something you see. However, we were not impressed with this inarticulate and ungrammatical person. Why would aliens take him as an example of the human race?

The second person was a chemist with an implant he removed from his foot. He claimed it was made out of a meteorite, but testing was inconclusive. This also made the show a tad different shade of your usual ancient aliens on History Channel.

We’ll be back to see Zak, as he introduced himself to various people.

 

 

 

 

Ancient Aliens Returns with Two Hours & Two Heads

DATELINE:  Twilight of the Hosts

Giorgio & Ramy

Giorgio & Ramy, that’s who!

The hiatus of the popular series Ancient Aliens was short-lived.

However, they have put their nuclear option on the table: Giorgio of the hair explosion has now joined forces with Ramy Romany and his Indiana Jones fedora, another new rising star and quasi-Egyptologist on the show.

They are teamed up to go to Cairo for a two-hour tour, a new age version of Gilligan and the Skipper.

This is a power move after thirteen seasons and a midseason hiatus. The two most popular hosts are on the chessboard.

Let’s hope their arc of the alien covenant does not shut down in the Great Pyramid.

Ramy plans to take Giorgio into the bowels of Khufu’s power plant (it’s no longer considered a tomb).

This is one-upsmanship, as Ramy takes great pleasure in escorting Giorgio into the Great Pyramid. How he did this feat is revealed shortly when the great Hawass drags his ass into the picture. He’s a man who never met an Egyptian tomb he did not visit on TV.  It seems Ramy is related to national blowheart Zahi Hawass, and that explains a great deal about the great Hawass and the great Pyramid.

Through judicious editing, we never learn how much Hawass hates the ancient alien theory about builders of the pyramids. He likes to say the native peoples did it.

It’s also amusing to watch the facial expressions of Ramy Romany when he disagrees with some of Giorgio’s more outrageous theories. He never lets a sourpuss pass without notice.

Of course, it all comes to a head with the twin hosts sitting at dusk before the Great Pyramid, with Ramy smoking a waterpipe for great effect. Their profiles and agreeing to disagree is certainly the start of long and beautiful friendship, the likes of which we haven’t seen since Captain Renault ran off with Rick Blaine at the end of Casablanca.

 

 

Hitler’s Hollywood by Any Other Name

DATELINE: Singing in the Reich

Hitler on movie set

If  imitation is a sincere form of flattery, Hitler’s attempt to copy Hollywood movies is indeed a nasty compliment. Hitler’s Hollywood is a horrid misnomer.

During the years 1933 to 1945, there was a thriving movie business under the Nazis in Germany, run by Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister of notoriety.

Hitler loved movies—and his studios planned to give him an exact duplicate of the big boffo productions out of Hollywood.

If he couldn’t have Garbo, he had Ingrid Bergman in one movie before she cleared out of the Third Reich for Rick’s Café in Casablanca.

The Germans loved musicals with numbers more extravagant than the Busby Berkley movies. They were overlaid, however, with nasty digs at Jews at every turn in subtle fashion. Then, there were the outright anti-Semitic films.

There were about a 1000 movies made by the German state studio with their own star system: comedy, melodrama, and historic epics, but never science fiction or horror. In fact, the melodrama featured so much fantasy and nightmares to the Aryan heroes that they turned into horror pictures.

The Nazis never knew irony.

If there was a steady theme, it was the glorification of death for the Fatherland. Good Germans dying for their country was a common theme.

As the war proceeded and was undermining morale, the films started to be oriented for female audiences—and in glorious technicolor. But the wild extravagance was panic to keep the home audiences on target.

The version of the Titanic sinking was blamed on the Jewish financiers, and then was banned from showings in Germany itself by Goebbels.

The entire documentary is narrated in creepy fashion by Udo Keir—and is hypnotic, horrifying, and surprising.

Last Call to Titan, All Aboard

 DATELINE:  Earth’s Next Home

 Titan

 It only looks like Mars.

Not to be confused with remembering the Titans. We are now talking about the Titanians, a group of people who will be scientists and adventurers to colonize the Titan Moon of Saturn.

This little documentary, made in France, but is international in flavor—using scientists from the United States and NASA, as well as ESA with experts from England and France.

Last Call to Titan is a riveting little documentary.

From the odd perspective of a narrator telling the story of how Titan was discovered and colonized, we have a different approach to a science documentary. It works on its own strange planetary level.

Leslie Clack is the British narrator who is obviously speaking to us from the perspective of 200 years hence. He is from a place that is far removed from Earth and has its own laws and culture. Those who move to Titan will never be able to return to Earth because the changes to the body by gravity would kill anyone who dared to come back.

Most will be born there and not want to come here.

Titan has an opaque atmosphere, mostly methane, and extremely cold (180 degrees below zero).  Yet, with diving suits, not space suits, people would be able to move around more effortlessly.

The early photos and exploration of Titan by the Cassini-Huygens mission are the real call of this hour-long show. It is a fascinating place with oceans, lakes, rivers, and a coastline worthy of a European spa town.

New propulsion systems are under creation that would cut the trip to Titan to six months. However, you still need to be slightly anti-social to survive the loneliness—and being stuck with a bunch of weirdo scientists as your boon companions.

Last call indeed.

 

 

 

 

Alas, Poor Yorick and Poor Shakespeare

DATELINE:  Heads, You Lose!

cursed

Shakespeare’s Tomb is a marvelous documentary that deals with the case of the headless Bard of Avon.

Back in the 18th and 19th century, they were graverobbers who wanted the heads of famous people and in Yorick fashion, they took the skulls from older graves. Phrenologists were also collectors who were interested in having a genius skull in their study. You could so easily read the bumps in the cranium.

You may be surprised to learn that Shakespeare put a curse on his own grave, which is located in the holy Trinity Church in Avon—not the more protected Westminster Abbey.

You may also be surprised to learn that Shakespeare put a curse on his own grave, which is located in the holy Trinity Church in Avon, as if he had an inkling that someone would want his head on a silver tray.

One of the most fascinating documentaries in a long time takes the opportunity of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death to examine his strange burial—and possible vandalism of his resting place in the late 1790s.

It may well be they took the graverobbers took a wrong turn, and grasped the head of Ann Hathaway, in a shroud only three feet deep, next to Shakespeare.

For unknown reasons, this purloined skull was dumped at another church where it has rested without a body in a charnel spot.

Forensic experts studied the discovery and concluded that it belonged to a woman. The documentary makes little of that wrong head, but she was the right age to be Shakespeare’s late wife who is buried next to him next to him in a shallow grave.

Apparently, Holy Trinity Church tried to cover up the problem by putting a new stone over Shakespeare’s dug  up grave and not telling anyone. Ground penetrating radar allows the film crew to examine Shakespeare’s grave without opening it.

Good detective work and charming hosts of the show make this little hour-long documentary is brilliant and worthy of your attention.

 

Perfectly Human Diet, Not a Fad

Perfect Diet, Not a Fad

diet

Though we have been taken with recent scientific study of human health through diet, we were unprepared for the superbly thorough documentary by C.J. Hunt.

A media journalist who suffered from debilitating heart conditions at a young age, the director and writer of this expert examination of paleodietic information may be dropping the final word on fad diets.

In short, the film is a history of diets after a 19th century fat man decided he needed to find out why he was morbidly obese (5’5” and 300 pounds). Blame it on the Industrial Revolution.

It appears that changes in the human diet began fairly recently in the epoch of evolution. One scientist uses the football field analogy to great impact. Homo Erectus was at the end of the field and working one’s way up to today, you find that in the inch before the goal, we humans began to eat grains.

Hmm. Meat eating appears to have, by all agreement, caused brainpower. That caveman diet of bone marrow and sweetbread was far removed from Wheaties.

It seems the modern diet is shrinking the brain pan. You can hardly call a return to paleo-eating as the latest fad. Blame your misinformed government on telling you to avoid fats and eat more carbs.

Nearly every health-conscious scientist agrees that vegetarianism is too exclusive. You need only avoid sugar, carbs, processed food, and salt. Nobody under 2 needs a glass of milk every day. We are victims of economic diet plans—marketing for money-makers.

A walk through the supermarket with a dietary scientist and doctor is an argument against browsing.

C.J. Hunt has provided one of the most illuminating and intriguing of insights into health and food. He puts politics, religion, and nutrition, on the list of hopeless argument. He already knows he is preaching to an empty choir.