Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power

DATELINE: Classic Bad Leaders

olivier Olivier as Trump?

Leave it to Curiosity Streaming to come up with a documentary on tyrannical leaders as delineated by the Bard. In this curt show of 35 minutes, the complexities of Shakespeare are also explained simply by down-to-earth experts, including Stephen Greenblatt (who wrote the scholarly book on which this is based).

You have here a film that exposes the foibles of criminal leaders in historical terms without ever mentioning the name of the “bloody dog” Trump. It’s called Tyrant: Shakespeare on Power.

Instead, there is a smorgasbord of scenes from Macbeth, Richard III, King Lear, including clips of a delicious Laurence Olivier as the evil king Richard, looking more like Vlad the Impaler than Donald Trump.

What do the experts uncover? Well, these Shakespearean monsters are all inveterate liars. They can’t help themselves. And, each one has a problem with women with power, from motherhood to wives. Heaven forbid a woman wants political influence. These bad guys are cursed with a childish sense of self-deception.

It only grows worse:  you will find they are delusional and humored by aides surrounding them for their own reasons. It is likely those aides will be betrayed, as the monster tyrant sees loyalty as a one-way street. He will send loyal workers to the tower in an instant.

The tyrant also uses and abuses children to his own political gains: tormenting them, killing them, locking them up, separating them from family and protectors.

Imagine, not once does the show mention the President of the United States in 2019. It does end with one of the great characters celebrating the death of the “bloody dog,” after his tumultuous reign. We should be so lucky.

 

 

 

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Oak Island: Paydirt Hit on Season 6

DATELINE: Sky Above, Mud Below

drayton cap

Can it be that after six years of toil and faithful viewing, we are coming into something big?

One of the most guarded shows and secrets is the work being done on Curse of Oak Island. If they had found the Holy Grail, you won’t learn about it until they air the episode.

At long last, we feel as if there is something meaningful opening up on all fronts.

Our favorite British Bobby Dazzler, Gary Drayton, the man with his metal detectors, was in on all the action again this week. A couple of young scientists were trying to read any inscriptions off a stone thought to be an original clue. They told us the obvious and awaited more instructions. The show never gives you more than a dollop if they can stall for another few weeks.

On nearby Apple Island, recommended for exploration by Dr. Travis Taylor, though you can see the Smith Cove metal barriers from its shores, was never visited by the Lagina brothers. Without permission to dig, Drayton’s metal detector teases us with strange emissions—but no payoff.

The big news drew the entire cast to the site of a mysterious new discovery—a wood beam wall ten feet underground. It appears to be original work—by whom and when still unclear.

It is a new archeological discovery that could predate even Columbus. Drayton immediately stepped in to announce there were no nails used in its construction.

However, when all the bigwigs of the show come out for the dig, you know something is happening there, Mr. Jones.

We feel like we are on the verge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Stalin, You Have a Lovely Daughter!

DATELINE: Defector by Heart

 

svetlana Alleluyeva to You!

The only daughter of Soviet mass murderer and megalomaniac, Josef Stalin, is subject of a fascinating Australian documentary, called forthrightly Stalin’s Daughter.

Being the object of a doting father who is a psychopath could prove daunting to most people. Maybe Svetlana was different.

Stalin extended his ruthless exercise of murder to those in the closest orbit personally. His second wife was Lenin’s secretary, which made her attractive for many reasons, but her independence irritated the Red Despot.

Though Svetlana’s mother gave him two children, a son and daughter, she was quickly alienated from her husband and found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. The official cause of death was appendicitis. Svetlana learned of this by translating an English magazine as a young girl.

She was thought to be a princess, but not as spoiled as Vasily, her brother. As a girl, Svetlana was faced with a father who disapproved of her boyfriends: they ended up in gulags, if not with their families executed.

She was a prisoner of the Soviet state, never having true freedom. When her father died, she took her mother’s name Svetlana Alleluyeva. It wasn’t enough to escape the stigma.

In the 1960s, she married a non-Russian and took his ashes back to his home country: India. There in 1967, she went to the American embassy and defected. The CIA vouched for her.

Thus began true American celebrity. First, no one believed who she was—and then she spoke English fluently and wrote a best-seller that made her millions.  A media darling throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s, she became increasingly erratic, like her father.

Her sad story ended with poverty, a nursing home in America, and a forgotten end in 2011. Who knew?

U

Death Masks of Jesus Overlapped?

 DATELINE: Trio of Relics

jesus Unnerving image of three faces!

We weren’t sure what to make of this Italian documentary from 2013. Is it pious drivel? Archeological truth? Or mere balderdash?

Searching for the Face of Jesus was not what we expected.

Instead of a history lesson on the artful depictions of the man from Nazareth and how his consistent image developed, we had a focus on three relics, one of which we knew almost nothing about.

The Shroud of Turin is best known of all: subject to many investigations, debunking, carbon dating controversy, etc.

The burial face cloth in Spain, merely a blood-caked faceless cloth that was wrapped around a dead man’s head is a relic with some historical evidence going way back. Indeed, a cloth was used as a wrap to transport the crucified man to his tomb.

And, the third item struck us as the most peculiar of all: the Sacred Face made by Veronica. It is the most legendary of the relics, and the oddest of all. Purportedly, a woman ran up to the living Jesus on the way to his death and wiped his face with a thin silk cloth. A double image transferred to both sides of the small towel.

How on earth did wide-open brown eyes transfer to the cloth?

The documentary then does something most unusual. It overlays the three face images by means of computer effects.

There are 140 points of match. The three faces are of the same man.

The film fails to tell us that blood tests on two of the cloths indicated a rare AB negative blood type. The Veronica image is not miraculous, merely creepy. The eyes of the man are staring through the mists of time. How that transferred is inexplicable.

The climax of the documentary is the overlay of the Shroud face with the faceless bloody cloth—and the eye-opening man on his way to death.

As pay-offs go, this one knocked our agnostic heart for a loop.

Oak Island Progress Report, Season 6

DATELINE: Episode 8, Unearthed

cpt kidd gold filling Captain Kidd’s Gold Filling?

With another episode in the sixth season of Curse of Oak Island, it is unquiet on every front. There appeared to be much progress made after so many years of tedium.

However, the onerous tones of narrator Robert Clotworthy appear to have amped up: reminding us more cynically that the entire premise of the show is that someone else, a seventh victim, must die soon. Forget that a teenage son of one investor has already passed away and this season an old woman researcher died and left her materials to Rick.

The unseemly curse of death is an appalling and fearful assertion, akin to something Trump might say to keep the government closed. We almost expect one of these weeks to have a group vote, in the style of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery,” to occur and to witness someone being stoned to death by the rest of the fed-up community.

In short, you know there was progress this week because the big guns (the old guys with the money) took center stage again, pushing out the next generation. No, teenie-bopper Peter Fonetti and heart-throb Alex Lagina were not to be seen; they are usually billed as “producers” of the series, a real laugh riot notion. The youngest stud on the block is Jack Begley, a tireless worker of every grunt duty.

The Lagina Brothers took center stage. If there is to be a discovery, even the affable Gary Drayton must accede to their primogeniture, but he has his own website. Dave Blankenship has been rendered redundant, even as comic relief.

Oh, there seems to be something with Roman numerals emerging from the muck at Smith Cove as Dan Blankenship said 50 years ago. Yes, there is some kind of light laser ready to read the mysterious and long-missing “90 foot stone.”

And Laird Nivens has secured permits from the Canadian government with alacrity after years of stalling on most other points. Big money talks big.

But, please, we feel like we are living paycheck to paycheck on Oak Island, despite finding someone’s gold filling this week.

Whether we can live with all this progress or be shot down sometime before the latest season ends, only the Laginas can tell: there is tighter security about their findings of the summer of 2018 than you find at the Mexican border.

Which reminds us, all these interlopers are violating the borders of Nova Scotia. They have been for a thousand years.

 

Sad Hill Unearthed! Fake Cemetery

 DATELINE:  Restoring the Un-Dead to Fake Life

sad hill trio Famous Trio at Sad Hill!

In Burgos, Spain, an amateur group of archeologists located the place where the climax of the movie The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly was filmed in 1966.

You have to love the spaghetti western (and it is hilarious horse opera with Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef, and Clint Eastwood). Its climactic graveyard shootout is magnificent film-making—and its restored grandeur is stunning.

It is called Sad Hill Cemetery (not real), except as reel film history.

The responsible men are descended from locals who worked as extras in the movie, and they find the place is magical. It had been lost and buried under six inches of dirt. They dug up to find the circular stone center. Around it were mounds where the fake graves once stood with crosses.

It took much work, and many volunteers. They sold gravesites, with your name painted on a wooden cross, to finance the excavations.

A few survivors of the movie:  film editor and composer Ennio Morricone gave interviews. The film documentary is enhanced with behind-the-scenes photos—and movie clips. Old interviews with Sergio Leone are also a treat.

It was backbreaking work to restore the concentric circles of Leone’s visionary shootout scene among the crosses, row on row.

When finished, the magic returned. A large crowd showed up in the rural area where an orchestra played the film score, the archeologists re-enacted the shootout. It went on for ten to fifteen minutes in the film, and Clint even sent a recorded thank you message to the assembled crowd.

restored reel cemetery Restored at Last!

If you love this classic Western, you need this companion piece to history, myth, and movie magic.

 

Ancient Aliens Bring Captain Kirk Aboard

DATELINE: Von Daniken Beamed UP 13.14

shat Shat Upon Sagan!

It was inevitable. As 2019 starts a new special, Ancient Aliens Season 13, episode 14, brings in the most ancient astronaut of TV fame: there is William Shatner giving advice to Giorgio and the crew.

You have to love it. This is a special edition for sure. Cross-pollination is one of History Channel’s favorite Venerable Bede compliments. There is no one from outer space more ancient than Shatner. Where has he been for a 100 other episodes?

The reason for his appearance is to honor Erich Von Daniken. In 1976 Shatner made a movie called Mysteries of the Gods, which adapted more or less from one of Daniken’s books. Hence, the honor from History Channel. Clips of young Shatner appear, but no mention comes of Leonard Nimoy’s series In Search of…, which History is also remaking with the new Spock, Zachary Quinto.

The two-hour special is meant to be homage to Von Daniken’s amazing career since the 1960s when he burst onto the scene with his outlandish theories. We read Chariots of the Gods in 1968, before most the guests on this special were born.

We recall being surprised and more than a little confused as to why no one else had seen what the author revealed. It was mind-boggling, but then again so was 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Now, he has more credibility than Carl Sagan. Indeed, the special has a clip of Sagan looking pathetic, attacking the notion of Ancient Aliens. Today, if the astronomer were still alive, he’d be ripe to serve as Trump’s Acting Ambassador to Mars.

The show manages to catalogue all the movies, TV shows, and other documentaries that had direct influence from Von Daniken: they also admit that Arthur Clarke and Stanley Kubrick slightly preceded him.

Von Daniken reveals his Jesuit education that influenced him, and he also discusses how his background in hotel management ruined him with academics and their Ph.D.-union card prejudice.

As one with a doctorate, we feel as do some NASA people and Dr. Travis Taylor, that lack of degree means nothing when it comes to creative minds.

This latest entry seems a premature obit for Erich Von Daniken, or eulogy in anticipation. It does not detract from his remarkable veracity.

Aliens & Astronauts, or Something Like That

DATELINE: Old Horizons

moonshot

A streaming Amazon documentary of sorts has two titles: good luck in figuring out which is the right one. Aliens and Astronauts: UFOs on the Moon is one choice, and the other is Alien Origins: UFOs on the Moon.

If this strikes you as a good emblematic statement about the film’s contents, you are on the money, unlike its producer, director, writer, and narrator who are all one person, named J. Michael Long.

Long is an expert director on Bigfoot and space aliens. Lately he has even branched out to Elephants & Donkeys, on the political crisis in America. Alas, he speaks like a non-native, mispronouncing dozens of words (even simple ones). It also adds to the aura of inauthenticity.

We’d be the last ones to call a documentary fake news, but we think the “fictional hypothesis” of the Moon being hollow is hardly fiction.

What do you call people who eat this up? Moonstruck or Lunatics?

The film tries every angle to convince us the Moon is hollow. It even begs the question of the question, which is penurious.

Nicely developed with good visuals, the film does raise the legit question of why we haven’t returned to the Moon in 40 years: someone doesn’t want us there? Hmm, yes, if the Moon is an artificial satellite brought here from another galaxy to help colonize the planet with Atlantis residents.

Oh, it all ties together. Director Long even suggests the Moon has only been out there for 11,000 years, which means the Sphinx may be older than the Moon. There must not have been much night-time construction, without moonlight. Long tells us in long-hand that the Moon is older than the Earth, by quite a bit, having machinery inside that brought it here.

Long is short on logic but heavy on repetition. Conspiracy theory addicts will find this stuff is catnip. Meow.

 

 

 

 

Secrets of History: Templars on the March!

DATELINE: French Perspective

Gerard Depardieu

Perhaps Oak Island has ruined us when it comes to conspiracy.

We turned to an all-French documentary, hosted by Stephane Bern, with subtitles galore. It is perhaps a quite thorough look at who, what, where, when, and why the Knights Templar went extinct.

If you don’t know the story, you still will be in the dark after almost 90 minutes. This tale sets its sights strictly on the group’s work in France. They avoid trips to the new world, England, Oak Island, or anywhere else the Templars may have gone to hide their alleged loot.

This film lost fans because it takes the unpopular position that there is no Templar Treasure. It’s all a hoax, if not a legend.

Along the way we may hear that some people think the treasure could be religious objects of art. It is not gold, and we hate to break the news to Dave Blankenship of Nova Scotia.

In between some stunning re-enactments, which include scenes from a 2004 series in which Gerard Depardieu acted out as Jacques DeMolay, we must listen to some blowhards monopolize the discussion. Bern can’t shut them up and lets his other guests languish in silence. It is not pleasant.

The Knights Templar were ground-breakers: they were a war-like monastic group that took people from all backgrounds (usually single men) and educated them. They became bodyguards and bankers combined. It was international in scope and challenged the right of sovereigns.

No wonder that King Philip IV of France used Friday 13th to wipe them off the map by accusing them of sodomy.

 

Dangerous Edge: Greene for Danger

DATELINE:  Literary Marvel

Greene  The Other Shade of Greene

Before Graham Greene was known as a Native American actor and movie star, he was one of the most important writers of the 20th century.  Oh, they were different people with the same name.

British writer Greene joined Hemingway as a character as vivid as his heroes of fiction. Like them, he was a converted Roman Catholic with severe doubts and moral lapses. He was, like them, often a writer and journalist, and he shared a background as a spy with many of his literary heroes. He was not a nice man.

And he loved to write movie reviews. Well, he wasn’t all bad.

As a cinematic novelist, his works often reached the screen with great influence: from This Gun for Hire, The Third Man,  Power and Glory, The Comedians, Our Man in Havana, Brighton Rock, The Quiet American, Travels with my Aunt, and on and on.

He seemed always to visit a far-off location right before it blew up into an international crisis spot: from Cuba to Haiti to Vietnam.

As a boy, his father was the headmaster of their school—and all his classmates regarded him as a spy for the old man. The notion stuck.

He was notoriously promiscuous and a womanizer, as well as an inveterate traveler. He was virulently anti-American for the most part—and loathed the movies that messed up his message (Quiet American Audie Murphy comes to mind, which can be seen in the book Audie Murphy in Vietnam by William Russo).

He defended notorious Communist Kim Philby, the Brit spy, and one of his closest friends. He accepted honors from the Soviet Union, but not from the Nobel Prize committee. No wonder the FBI and CIA kept him under surveillance.

Greene was also a suicidal manic-depressive most of the time, though he lived until his 80s and finally came to realize his mission was to write. He believed his work ultimately was his life and his identity. He was not far wrong.

The documentary about his life, Dangerous Edge, even features people like John LeCarre, his likely successor in literature, and the film uses many clips from the famous movies. He used to call his less serious work “entertainments,” but it all ended up as serious and entertaining.

Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers

DATELINE:  The More Things Change….

twins Guess Which Bad Penny?

Thirty years ago the bespectacled scientist burst onto the UFO scene by exposing the US government as having spaceships from another world hidden in Nevada. At least that was the gambit.

This new motion picture of Bob Lazar has a title that is interestingly punctuated: no commas required. When the title’s style is of interest, the rest of the movie may not be. Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers.

After a whirlwind of dangerous controversy, Bob Lazar disappeared into the mists of the 1980s like a rock video from MTV. Like Edward Snowden, he was unverifiable, having claimed his identity was erased by the government’s black ops. He feared he would be erased.

So, he went underground and refused to have anything to do with George Knapp and the UFO radio network that later evolved into Ancient Aliens and a cottage industry of crypto-science.

Now he returns like a bad penny in a new documentary.

He looks fairly much the same as ever:  characteristic eyeglasses now over a weather-beaten face. He has not gained a pound in 30 years, which may be due to alien technology.

The big questions remain: who is he? What motivated him? And why has he returned? This 90-minute film recaps much of the past but reveals not much of the present.

He seems prosperous, running some kind of science lab in Middle America. He has not gone into Witness Protection and is not living in abject fear. MJ-12 has not assassinated him. However, he is almost immediately raided by the FBI upon re-emergence. Somebody is watching.

Having successfully hidden for 30 years, we wonder why he would throw himself back into the breach. There is no answer, except the profits of the movie producers. He really has nothing more to offer, other than to provide a final chapter to the circus of his earlier life.

This is a slick, but ultimately empty documentary that covers old ground with a fresh, new coat of paint on un-Groomed Lake.

Miner or Minor on Oak Island?

 DATELINE: Rick Lagina Always Finds Them !

Miner or Minor Rick’s Hard Rock Geochemist!

The famine of discovery continued for the most part early on: the seismic mapping appears to be fraught with false positives. As usual, Rick Lagina puts a happy face on unhappy news that dry sand had been read as tunnels. There are no metal casings, only bedrock.

So, the drilling comes up empty yet again.

In the meantime, 95-year old Dan Blankenship made a rare appearance, remaining in the car as Rick took him down to the cove to see the new retaining wall being constructed. As one might expect, he is duly impressed at the new technology. This true figure of heroism remains our most favorite figure.

Rick Lagina must have quite an international network of references when he does a stellar manhunt. Another interesting development is calling in a German geochemist to analyse the Templar Cross of lead. Tobias looks like a teenager but must be some kind of doctorate in the field. He can take the lead out of your worries.  He knows when it was mined and where.

He looks like a minor, not a miner expert. But Tobias is on the money from Germany on Skype. He brings the best news of the night’s episode.

Once again we have been impressed with Gary Drayton who knows all too well what they find by giving it a cursory look. He found the Templar Cross and was on the money from the start.

It appears that Templars may have come to Oak Island to hide their religious artefacts: and those may be too glorified to speculate upon. Oh, well, let’s shoot: it could be the Ark of the Covenant, or some suitable items from John the Baptist who was the Templar patron saint.

They talk to another expert writer on the Templar secrets, but are fairly dismissive of her research.

In the final analysis, this week’s discovery is so titanic that it makes all the waiting worthwhile. We feel closer than ever to some kind of revelation of Biblical proportions.

Gilligan’s Island Manifesto

DATELINE: Commie Plot on Deserted Isle

cast your fate

Never kid a kidder.

Well, this documentary takes the bizarre position that a moronic, if not sophomoric, TV series Gilligan’s Island was a communist plot to brainwash American children.

Of course, this could all be a case of mistaken identity, or Swiftian satire. File this Twilight Zone film under the heading The Gilligan Manifesto. It is nearly compelling and convincing that lessons of Karl Marx were open secrets of the plots. After all, the island is community property.

Creator Sherwood Schwartz admits that his original dramatic idea was to put a group of nuclear holocaust survivors on an island but found the comedic approach more agreeable.

When you combined a skipper without a boat, a professor without a college, a millionaire without a bank, and a movie star without celebrity, you had downgraded everyone to equal status. Add to the mix a worker from the proletariat, in the form of benighted Gilligan, and you have communist lesson plans.

You may wonder where and what Edgar Hoover was doing the years this series was top of the ratings after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Episodes routinely satirized money, government, judicial systems, police, and religious values. Yes, the clips bear it out. Actress Dawn Wells, the last survivor, admits no one had a clue about this in the 1960s.

The film gives a background of nuclear horror: from Robert Oppenheimer’s ominous platitudes to a series of trailer clips from every 1950s movie that dealt with shipwrecked souls on islands and small bands of apocalyptic survivors trying to rebuild civilization. And, there were plenty of such movies.

The entire enterprise has a lip-smacking, tongue-in-cheek quality. The Gilligan Manifesto is pure Marx (Groucho, Harpo & Karl).

Silence Patton: Victim of Assassins?

DATELINE:  General Nuisance?

Patton

As the supposed first casualty in the Cold War, General George S. Patton is the subject of a 2018 documentary that raises the theory that he was murdered in 1945. He was about to return to the States as a whistle-blower on the ineptitude of the war strategy. This intriguing documentary is called Silence Patton.

A military truck, driven by a drunken soldier, hit the limo with Patton in it, as he prepared to return to the United States. He was left in a state of paralysis and soon succumbed (some say poisoned) in a German hospital.

What are we to make of this? Patton himself, as he was pulled from the wreckage of the accident, insisted that no soldier be blamed. He called it an “accident’”. He seemed intent of leaving this verdict. It seems a bit peculiar.

Why would anyone want Patton killed? And why?

The film certainly finds no shortage of enemies for the officer who slapped a soldier for cowardice (one, it appears, of many, as he used this as a morale technique). Stalin and the Russians hated him for his virulent anti-communism, and perhaps they wanted him dead. He wanted to expose American weakness for allowing Stalin to run amok.

He was prepared to expose Gens. Eisenhower and Omar Bradley as incompetants who let the Stalin forces take over half of Europe in the waning days of the war. He was horrified that the Russian soldiers raped and killed large numbers of German women in a genocidal take-over.

Yes, there is plenty of unpleasant actions behind and around the death of the great, opinionated officer. He was boorish, brave, and outrageous. It was his guts, but someone else’s blood that he shed. Yet, he was a man of his soldiers. The meandering quality of the documentary is unforgivable.

A steady stream of Patton apologists feel he has been wronged by history and by his contemporaries. How much can be believed? It an age of fake media and a blustery president, there may be some revisionism here. Trump’s name is never mentioned in this film, but he seems to loom over the proceedings as a disciple of Patton.

 

Wyatt Earp: Brave, Courageous, and Bold?

DATELINE:  American Experience PBS

Not the Real Earp

The American Experience TV series on PBS did not delve into the hundreds of film portrayals of Wyatt Earp during their hour-long documentary. That might have extended the show to two hours. It is simply the life of Wyatt Earp.

There are no clips from the TV series, or the John Ford movies. The OK Corral stuff is covered, probably because it could not be avoided. It’s given no emblematic quality, nor meaningful symbolism, other than as a chaotic gunfight.

You might be more surprised at how often his name was misspelled over the years in print.

The biography features many, many photographs, many of which may never have been seen by fans of the Western hero.

He was one of those legends who walks on both sides of the law, and it may be hard to excuse his vindictive streak. He went after enemies with obsession.

Ultimately living until 1929 in Los Angeles, he wanted a movie to exculpate his reputation. These would arrive in spades, but only after he died a disappointed old man.

The final decades of his life were spent in endless travel—from Alaska to the middle-America, where he tried his hand at running saloons. That was not far from his youthful endeavors, when he was bouncer at a series of brothels and took up with an endless supply of prostitutes.

Handsome, taciturn, and a loner, he invariably had fallings-out with family, brothers, and even Doc Holliday. He was a hard man, exactly what you might expect from the epitome of a Western hero.

The documentary is not moving, nor special, with the usual