Cursed Oak Island 6.5: Treading Water

DATELINE:  Hold Your Horses & Other Pauses

avast there, matey! Buried Treasure ?

We now interrupt this empty episode for more commercial messages on Curse of Oak Island for the fifth episode of the sixth season.

Yes, there is no golden banana under the drilling. The core samples seem to indicate that there are wooden beams over 100 feet down in two new segments for the drilling. No news is not bad news.

This is a no-show week, with progress reports on various angles of treasure hunting, including putting in a retaining wall at one of the coves. It is an eyesore for sure, but will allow excavation to learn if booby traps were placed at this point for a tunnel system throughout the island.

However, this week’s show is highly repetitive, with self-congratulations and fat middle-aged men in repeated hugs with each other. Don’t snack while watching this episode.

There is a preponderance of endorsements. A company donates “temporarily” a prefab house to serve as the repository of the donated papers of a recently deceased researcher. She has willed the materials to Rick Lagina who has a house converted to a library. No librarians, please.

Also, another author of Oak Island tales calls in to announce his new book will be forthcoming—and he will show up to give them an autographed copy (for free). The rest of us pay.

No wonder that Marty Lagina is mostly absent from this episode, phoning in his comments.

The sole true find of the week belongs, again, to Gary Drayton who locates what appears to be a hat insignia from a French dragoon who was on the island, oddly enough, in 1740s or so.

It was when a legendary soldier of fortune from France and the Templar mode brought treasures from the Holy Land. Is it true? You’ll have no answers this week.

 

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Calling All Earthlings

 DATELINE: Post-Tesla Scientist

van tassel Integratron Shell

No, it’s not Ancient Aliens—which leads us to wonder how they could have failed to do a feature on George Van Tassel, the 1950s UFO-logist who held fabulous meetings out in the desert near Twenty-Nine Palms and Big Rock with 10,000 UFO followers.

California koo-koo birds have flocked to the deserts of California for decades. As the movie Calling All Earthlings indicates, many are still there.

Foremost was George Van Tassel, a US Defense Department weapons expert from Lockheed who also worked for Howard Hughes. He became disenchanted with nuclear warfare games—and moved his small family to an underground residence at Big Rock.

In the early 1950s, he began receiving messages and instructions on how to build a time machine, which he called the Integratron. It is still there, a marvel of creation that looks like a work from Frank Lloyd Wright. Made from the best lumber supplied by Howard Hughes.

How he built such an expensive, amazing structure can be explained by the folklore:  Howard Hughes flew in regularly with satchels of cash.

What Van tassel worked on was not a standard time machine. His was a walk-through that would cut 30% off your age.It was not recommended for those under 18. Even as a shell today, its acoustics are oddly perfect.

After 25 years of work, just as Van Tassel was about to start up, he allegedly suffered a major heart attack and died in a motel near Los Angeles. Some thought he was murdered. All his notes and research went missing—and his Integratron (always under FBI surveillance) was looted and rendered useless. Van Tassel wrote a few books, including I Rode in a Flying Saucer.

Director Jonathan Berman’s idiosyncratic documentary is nearly as weird as the inhabitants of Big Rock, but this makes for a fascinating exploration of a man after Tesla’s heart and Howard Hughes’ wallet.

Champ or Chump?

DATELINE:  Move Over, Nessie!

chump

The American version of Loch Ness Monster, or Nessie, is Champ of Lake Champlain on the Canada/US border, betwixt New York and Vermont.

The low budget documentary, wet with sincerity, is called On the Trail of Champ. We suspect it is hard to follow a trail in water. This might better be called in the wake of Champ.

However, we quibble. When you scratch the surface of this documentary, you hear that eyewitnesses are terribly unreliable. Then, follows about a dozen and a half eyewitness reports.

We also liked the fact that many observers forgot their camera that day, or it was out of focus, or they had to retrieve it and missed their chance to snap a picture. The excuses are legion.

We also hear that there were many hoaxes, often bragged about by the perps since the 19th century. We wonder how many modern witnesses are unwitting victims of hoax.

The other sad point of this well-intentioned and pleasant little film is that it is rife with bad animation.

Self-styled experts seem to have emerged thinking that crypto-zoology is a real field. Poor sods.

The sincerest and most dedicated of all the people chasing Champ is Katy Elizabeth, a pleasant woman who has committed her life to finding Champ and who even helped to push through a law in Vermont to prevent any hunting of Champ. Yet, residents wonder why the Champlain monster is less well-known than Nessie who does not have a minor league baseball team making it a mascot.

The documentary really has nowhere to go and doesn’t know how to conclude itself, and pulls out the environmental responsibility card.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak Island 6.4: A-Ha Moment or Not?

 DATELINE:  Curses, Foiled Again.

Alex Alex Lagina, just for Luck!

Once again, we bought into the Lagina Brothers’ claim that we are about to have that notorious “Aha!” moment.  Well, in Season 6, episode 4, that may be only partially true.

We felt more like a “Bah, humbug,” moment at this time of year.

Despite all that expensive seismic testing, they began to drill down to the usual 170 feet, and instead of finding a treasure or vault, or even a searcher tunnel, they hit bedrock.

Hit the snooze button.

Among other highlights, or depressing lowlights, one of the few women to be heard on the show, had passed away at age 88, but she left her research papers on the Knights Templar to Rick Lagina. He and his nephew Peter drove from Nova Scotia to Manhattan in a U-Haul truck to pick up the loot.

Despite throwing money around like crazed millionaires, they usually eschew flying and drive. Last week they drove a couple of thousand miles to Alberta. Penny-savings seem to be the way to go.

They also spent some time on last week’s big find by Gary Drayton:  that bolt shaft for a crossbow. They initially thought it was Medieval—and took it to one university for analysis that suggested it was iron with magnesium (older than suspected).

It was an antiquities dealer who shocked them with the news that they were 1000 years off. The bolt was dropped on Oak Island closer to 2000 years ago. It raised questions for sure.

We could be accused of saying, “Aha,” at this moment, but finding something doesn’t make it an artefact that was dropped by a Roman centurion as he buried the Silver Chalice of Jesus.

We’ll tune in again, whether you say “aha,” or not.

Handy Guide to Space Probes

 DATELINE:  Curiosity Merges with Probability

pluto Plutonian Shores?

If you are interested in seeing all the photos from landings on planets in this solar system, or just the close-up flybys of moons of Jupiter, Saturn, etc., you will find that Curiosity Stream offering a big treat: Space Probes.

Their little miniseries is a mere six episodes, averaging around 20 to 25 minutes each. It offers an intriguing history of space exploration for sixty years by means of probe missions.

All the photos of planets and moons are handily together under the umbrellas of their locations:  the inner hellish planets, the red rovers, giants and their moons, as well as Pluto.

With the recent landing of a new rover on Mars—and on January 1st of another New Explorer flyby of a planetoid beyond Pluto, you may want to catch up on the variety and development of the science.

Mostly this is a NASA show (and we are irked by how many nowadays fail to realize that NASA is an all-cap acronym).

Only the episode on Venus really give any credit to the Russians and their dogged and intrepid series of landers on the Venutian surface. They even sent a balloon to sail around the atmosphere.

Yet, it is the cute Mars rovers, gradually increasing in size and sophistication that are truly anthropomorphic.

We were fascinated with the landing on Titan with its lakes of methane and pictures. And, the geysers of the Jovian moons with their frozen oceans is always a treat.

So, we commend Space Probes from Curiosity Stream for making it possible to have a capsulated series.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak Island 6.3, Not Exactly Revelations

DATELINE:  Not Unforgettable

arrow

We have been asked where is our Curse of Oak Island assessment for 6.3.  And, we feel like responding, let sleeping dogs lie. Some weeks it may be best to allow us to ignore the treasure hunters.

In the third episode of the sixth season, we begin to feel like chapter and verse is out of synchronization. Oak Island is beginning to feel like an enforced work camp.

The onerous tones of the narrator continue to insist that death is around the corner as payment for any discovery.

Seismic results show a bunch of oval shaped anomalies under the ground on colourful maps. We were unmoved. Some voids are only fifty feet down, above water level. Since they found key stuff last season at nearly 200 feet, it seems a tad odd to believe that significant finds are so shallow.

Yet, the explosive technology reveals caverns and voids, not so deep after all.

It appears the five elders of the Oak Island crew (minus 94 year old Dan Blankenship) drove 2000 miles to Calgary, Alberta, to receive this result. If so, this may well be the most revealing detail in five years. Do we have a fear of flying among our foibles?  Most of the younger guys are out to lunch here, as if the next generation has been frozen out of true discovery.

They have been eliminated from most of the episodes so far in season six.

In the meantime, Gary Drayton’s instant analysis on the rocky shore of the island, digs up a thin and deadly metal crossbow shaft. It is a small weapon that is meant to piece armor and chain-mail, not e-mail. He is utterly thrilled, believing it is Templar age.

In another revealing moment, it almost seems as if Rick Lagina’s enthusiasm at the discovery is muted, understated, and diminished. Has the search finally wore out his thrill of the expensive efforts? Or is he just a bad actor for these re-enactment scenes that are filmed for the show?

We are again and again puzzled by absences of regular cast members: the list seems to have expanded as to who’s no longer present and much of a factor in the show.

 

 

 

Looking for Noah’s Ark Again!

DATELINE: Spiritual Journey

Ararat excavation

If you didn’t hear on the Internet that Noah’s Ark has been discovered, then you have a fairly good idea of the results of another documentary about the trip to Mt. Ararat by another expedition of intrepid optimists.

Here is another documentary on the age-old quest.

Finding Noah is well-funded, beautifully photographed, and has many montages of historical searches to locate the Ark that survived the Great Flood of Biblical and geological fame.

First, let’s face it: there are few groups outside TV shows like Ancient Aliens or In Search of… that would fund such a mammoth and likely fruitless effort. If you make the movie, you live with the unsatisfying ending of reality.

So, if this attempt to dig up the Ark is a bunch of crazed Christians with ties to Liberty University, we cannot fault them. It takes a special breed of adventurer to have the obsession, time, and physical stamina to go into a war zone in Turkey.

Weather is just another adverse element here when a bunch of largely middle-aged explorers make the trek up a 17,000-foot mountain. Perhaps those are exactly the kinds of men who have always taken the risks. If you are not a fanatic, you aren’t going to attempt it.

Using ground-and-ice penetrating radar, they use chainsaws to dig 30 meters into the glacier in chunks. It is interesting how they conduct their search under a tent.

Of course, as they all admit toward the end, the real goal was a spiritual journey, not a discovery journey. It was God’s will that they try, but there was no promise of fame and fortune.

The praying moments are kept to a minimum and creationists do consult real academic scientists for information. So, this is not a religious crusade to prove the Bible’s literal truth. At least, not too obviously.

Only you can decide if you have wasted your time.

Johnny Cash Meets Nixon

DATELINE: Man in Black & Man with Black Heart

cash on the house

Likely inspired by the various documentaries and movies about Nixon and Elvis, there was in 1970 another significant meeting between Richard Nixon and a music star. Conservative, religious, patriotic Johnny Cash, sometime rebel, was invited to the White House to give a command performance.

A short documentary telegraphs its feelings with the title:  Tricky Dick & The Man in Black. Though the film gives some balance, it is primarily told through the Cash perspective with intensive interviews with Johnny’s son and sister.

Nixon was not a fan of country-western music as his taste ran more to pop classics, like Richard Rogers’ Victory at Sea music, or the show tunes from South Pacific. However, those handlers in the White House felt besieged by youthful protests against the war in Vietnam.

Nixon’s advisors—Haldeman, Pat Buchanan, primarily—felt they needed a antidote to the protests and drug users of Haight-Ashbury. Cash was their man. When he noted on his TV show that he wanted peace with honor in Vietnam, it won him an invitation to perform in the East Room of the White House in April of 1970.

Alas, Nixon’s men did not do their homework. Johnny Cash was not only an advocate for prison reform, but he had created a music album on behalf of Native Americans and visited Wounded Knee.

When the Nixon White House asked him to sing “Welfare Cadillac” to appeal to the redneck supporters, Cash was taken aback. It was not his song or his style. No one told him what to perform. And, he had just returned from visiting soldiers in Vietnam, turning him into a dove with claws (in his own words).

The performance made Nixon uncomfortable, as Cash made him passive-aggressive points. Two weeks later came the college massacres at Kent State, and only then did Cash release his famous song, “Man in Black.”

A highly worthy insight into Johnny Cash, it may surprise many non-fans.

Outside the Lines: Fake or Fortune

DATELINE: Art for Art’s Sake

fake or fortune gang Culprit Among Art Gang!

Though it sounds like a bad game show, the Netflix series from the BBC about art detectives is quite intelligent and fascinating too.

The show’s misleading title Fake or Fortune does not do justice to the subjects or the experts. Fiona Bruce and Philip Mould work as a marvelous team. They are joined by historian Dr. Bendor Grovesnor who always seems to find key clues.

In essence, someone has a problem painting, without provenance or paperwork, and they cannot prove its true value, or actual artist. In comes the sharp and smart team of experts to track down the truth.

Inventive and dogged, the three detectives manage to find all kinds of evidence to show that Winston Churchill painted a scene in France, or that L.S. Lowry did a couple of small primitive works using unusual pigments.

What is most maddening about the series are the forces or powerhouses in the art world. As you might expect, these snobs are never satisfied with proof, tangible and common sense, if it undercuts their privilege and power.

As a result, many of the brilliant logical discoveries of truth are rejected by those who are threatened in their smugness as owners of definitive art houses.

Heaven forbid that you learn these pompous egos who run the art world are threatened by upstarts and those who are not rich collectors. This is a closed world of dilettantes and snobs.

The combo of scientific and technology with the historical legwork in libraries and archives makes for a pleasant and happy hour in this short series (only four episodes). You may be tempted to send a nasty email to David Coombs, Winston Churchill expert, but it won’t do any good with these inveterate know-it-alls.

 

Love, Cecil: Move Over, Truman, Noel, and Andy!

DATELINE: Save the Queen!

Bright young Beaton Bright Young Beaton!

It’s pronounced Seh-sill, not Sea-sill.

He rose from humble middle-class British life to starring role in every art scene of the 20th century. He was an inveterate snob.

Cecil Beaton was a force to be reckoned with in life—usurping the gay flighty worlds of Warhol and Truman Capote. Though he loathed Noel Coward, he matched them every step of the way down the gay runway.

Billed as the tastemaker of the 20th century, his vast collection of films, photos, designs, and assorted images, make up the compendium. He also gave many interviews. Yet, he still comes across as a social climber and proto-gay libber.

Beaton was always impressed with royalty, being one of those commoners from England. When he came to America, he instigated controversy everywhere: comparing British women to American.

However, he nearly destroyed his career with a careless and stupid anti-Semitic design in Vogue. He claimed to have been careless and thoughtless, as was his entire youth. Deep down, he was shallow.

The other key event in his life was becoming a war photographer during World War II. It redeemed his reputation.

His Hollywood ties include an infatuation with Garbo—asking her to join him in one of those arranged “friendship” marriages, as he preferred boys and she, girls.

By the 1950s and 1960s, he was taking pictures of all the most famous people: Marilyn, Warhol, Mick Jagger, and on and on. He was slight, epicene, and queenly, before it was considered stylish. If anything fit better, he was the natural heir to Oscar Wilde and Serge Diaghilev.

He also played a prominent role in Scotty Bowers’ documentary, Secret History of Hollywood. This Zircon is narrated by Rupert Everett.

 

Scotty’s Secret History of Hollywood

DATELINE: Bowers’ Bow Wow WOW

Cary & Randy

Scotty Bowers wrote a closet-emptying autobiography a few years ago about his career as a gay procurer to the Hollywood elite. Men and women, and the only one left out is Lassie, though he admits to sex with animals too.

He counted Cecil Beaton and Dr. Kinsey as his friends and clients. He offered service for the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and he confirms dozens of names of those long-suspected of secret sex lives.

A World War II vet and farm boy, he settled in Hollywood in 1945, glamourous and amorous land of fantasies. He worked in a service station with all pumps flowing. His Richfield gas was really Rich Field Gay, and they all drove over to have their engines inspected by his stable of mechanics.

Once Walter Pidgeon recommended him, he was on his way.

Your litany of stars and their peccadilloes is not totally surprising: Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, Charles Laughton, Laurence Olivier, and then the off-camera boys, like George Cukor and Cecil Beaton.

Names are dropped in between a smorgasbord of outed dead stars like Spencer Tracy and Rock Hudson.

A few moralists dispute his integrity for outing people with his kiss and tell book, now movie, but as he points out, it is homophobic to think everyday biography is beyond revelation.

If anything, we were impressed that neither the vice squad of Los Angeles, nor STDs, ever caught up with the culprits. Well, no one is telling about that. His Edenic world came crashing down with age and AIDS in the early 1980s.

Now 90, he is spry and in denial about his age, his situation, and his hoarding. He is independently wealthy from beneficiaries and investments. He did not need the money to do this tell-all.

 

 

 

Three Identical Strangers

DATELINE: Triplets Separated at Birth

3some Reunited for a time.

Oh, a feel-good human-interest documentary? It’s called ironically Three Identical Strangers.

Not so fast. This movie is a roller-coaster that takes you to

emotional heights and depths you may not expect. It may be the most powerful film we have reviewed in quite some time: disturbing, funny, horrifying, exposing some unethical natures in our world.

Three gorgeous 19-year old men discover they are triplets separated at birth by a ruthless agency and uncaring birth mother. Eddy, Bobby, and David, are charming, but the little princes are about to face adversity.

Their tale of discovery is delightful and fun as they become 1980s media darlings, showing up on every talk venue of the era. They had found each other and nothing else mattered.

Their adoptive parents were distressed that the boys had been cruelly separated by the Wise Jewish Adoption Agency. But, the group stone-walled them and celebrated holding them at bay.

At first the boys did not care much, too overwhelmed in finding each other. Yet, as time passed, they began to see some horror in the mysterious separation.

About half through the film, you too will be shaken by the ruthless human experimentation: deliberately separating children who were twins or triplets for the egotistical study of a notable New York psychiatrist.

Even today, surviving members of the business shrug it off in an infuriating manner. Playing like Nazis with the lives of children did not bother them at all. It is revolting.

As for the boys, growing up to learn they were lab rats, may have done even more damage. The journalist who discovers the ugly secret cannot compel powerful forces to reveal why they did this nasty experiment—ripping apart children from their closest relatives.

The ultimate tragedy that befalls the triplets undercuts the happy-go-lucky age of discovery that had in 1981. What ultimately transpires will stun you.

This is powerful story-telling about crypto-Nazis in America.

 

 

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead!

DATELINE: New Orson Welles Documentary

 3 amigos Three Amigos, More or Less!

If Orson Welles spoke this epitaph, then he was prescient. However, when Peter Bogdanovich reports this at the documentary’s start, his long-time girlfriend Oja Kodar refutes it. They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is so on target. Alan Cumming narrates among the powerful voices.

Who knows? It is a juicy start to the recent Netflix restoration and premiere of Orson’s last film:  The Other Side of the Wind.

Since the final masterpiece of the Master is a mockumentary, years ahead of its time, it seems only fair that this documentary on the making of the film over 15 years is different than most.

You may be surprised at how many illustrious people, now aged, are still with us with fond and not-so-fond memories of Welles, who was bossy and a tyrant as well as an auteur genius.

He shot what he pictured in his mind. His philosophy in the end was one of “divine accidents” during filming as sources of inspiration that makes a monumental motion picture.

Welles suffered for his art. Money was the bugaboo and taking it from the Shah of Iran’s brother-in-law was a desperately bad move. He lost all control of the movie when the country went Islamic extremist. And, the French courts also tried to keep him from the one movie that kept him alive and creative.

Is it autobiographical? Perhaps, but Welles cast his friend director John Huston as Jack Hannaford—who could be John Ford or Ernest Hemingway or even Welles himself. It could be Huston was playing Huston. It is likely another famous director of their era: Nick Ray.

Scenes were filmed in fragments, often years between takes. Yet, it flows like some insane chorus of dissonant singers.

Netflix produced the documentary and has completed the last film of Welles (reviewed separately). If you need your appetite whet, this documentary will prime your pump.

 

 

 

 

 

Dominic Dunne: Party On

DATELINE: Murder Will Out Gossip

 DD Character Assassin’s Best Friend

His friends always called him Nic, not Dom. And, he was the biggest social climber in Hollywood for a time, and then he was the biggest crime writer in America.

Dominic Dunne: After the Party is an Australian documentary from ten years ago that is making its waves now on streaming video.

Dunne fully cooperated, and he shows no mercy to himself and his youthful flaws. His son, actor Griffin Dunne is first to join the chorus of critical bric-a-bracs.

Not truly a journalist, he was not even a writer until age 50 when he started writing novels about social climbing society types, like the Two Mrs. Glenvilles. Only later, after his daughter’s murder in Hollywood, does he change his metier and go after the bad guys: the rich and pampered who think they were above the law.

Among his famous cases: O.J., the Menendez Brothers, and Phil Spector. He is merciless about their guilt and their unpleasantness. He makes big-time enemies, like Robert Kennedy, Jr.

He knew them all in the 1950s, joining in some monumental parties with names that are unforgettable. Then, he produced a bunch of movies, like gay groundbreaker Boys in the Band and plastic surgery breaker Ash Wednesday with Elizabeth Taylor.

He was married to an heiress for a time, but he never admits much beyond this as his sexploits are concerned. Only in later years, he admits he is celibate and carefree.

Like many social butterflies, he seemed to miss the point that these fests with big names were hollow and as much for their name-dropping as anything else. He is still not above or below the idea of dropping names or embellishing his luxuries. His son disdains this quality, but he is right about his father.

A compelling picture of a Hollywood groupie who found a passport to the inner world, this documentary is gossip on a high-level, high-octane whirlwind.

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Tom Thumb: Tiny Superstar

DATELINE: Barnum’s Biggest Star

tom thumb Tom Thumb, 1845

Charles Stratton was 21 inches during his youth, and he grew to 25 inches in middle age. In between, he tied his star to P.T. Barnum and became the biggest celebrity of the 19th century.

The Real Tom Thumb: History’s Smallest Superstar is a British documentary that we learn most of the surprising details about this little person and his burst into worldwide fame, at the cost of truth from his roots in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

Michael Grade is the ominipresent researcher and narrator, a showman and producer whose uncle was the late great Lord Lew Grade whose show biz antics left him with the nickname Low Grade.

Nephew Michael reminds us of Anthony Hopkins who made a name for himself playing in the David Lynch film, The Elephant Man, another freak of the 19th century.

From age 5, Stratton was known as General Tom Thumb and pretended to be an adult, to make his smallness more amusing to the throngs who paid to see him. Barnum discovered, however, that his freak actually had talent—singing, dancing, wit, and grew into a true stage presence.

With the advent of photography postcards and railroads, little Tom’s image went viral without an Internet. Thank Barnum for making them rich, at the cost of truth and integrity. There was a staged wedding to another small person—and perhaps a faked child from their union. Who really knows the truth—other than Barnum and his Tom Thumb.

World tours dominated Tom’s life. He managed to enchant Queen Victoria and Abe Lincoln too. Yet, he was troubled, even with success, likely with a drinking problem from his adolescent years. He also smoked cigars as a child to heighten the image of a small adult. All these likely contributed to poor health in later years.

The pathos of the tale is interwoven with Grade’s interviews with present-day midgets and freak performers to try to give us a sense of the theatrics.

Of all the surprising details, we were taken aback to learn Stratton retired to Middleboro, Massachusetts, not far from where we lived for a time. Who knew that he custom-made his house with tiny stairs and stove? Or, who knew he and Barnum were buried only a few feet from each other?

Not your likely choice for entertainment, this film compels in a way that helps us understand the 19th century vaudeville.