David Suchet’s Evil Under the Sun!

DATELINE:  Poirot Dandy!

Poirot cast Great Cast!

We took in an old TV chestnut from almost twenty years ago, Evil Under the Sun, from the eighth season of the off and on series of David Suchet as it attempted to film every Agatha Christie episode.

This one had the delight of Poirot being sent off to a health spa in Devon to recover from his obese condition.

Miss Lemon (Pauline Moran) insisted that Captain Hastings (Hugh Fraser) accompany him. The classic regulars of the show are here in their element, perhaps beyond their element. Miss Lemon is sent by Poirot all around the countryside to do legwork for the case. Usually, Miss Lemon claims to have filing to do—and must decline any other assignments.

The other stand-up regular is Chief Inspector Japp (Philip Jackson) more respectful of Poirot in later seasons. Though he and Hastings are now semi-regular dinner companions, they are always murder investigators.

The health spa is filled with suspicious and dubious figures who claim the place is the opposite of health. Its torturous steam boxes and daft clientele are perfect candidates for murder and murder victim.

It becomes increasingly obvious to Poirot that the place is ripe for crime, even as he is served various vegetable drink concoctions.

Sometimes murder flows trippingly on Christie’s contrived plots, though this one clunks to a finish, it is still fun to behold. We can see the roots of disgust in Poirot at the human condition, though this low-budget, low-star power TV version is a delight compared to the overblown movie with Peter Ustinov as Poirot.

Most of this is the result of a delicious ensemble cast and a deep dedication to the color scheme of Art Deco.

Gathering all the suspects in the hotel dining room for a big Reveal loses none of its luster for mystery fans. It’s a gem.

 

 

 

Idiot’s Delight (Again)

DATELINE: Learning Curve Bends Light Waves!

Laird Cregar

The Internet seems to teach us the impossible is not improbable, Sherlock Holmes notwithstanding.

We just read that Prince’s memoirs will be published posthumously. You mean he is not a vampire?

Another article tells us that Twitter is not America. Well, we already figured that out when 33% of our followers on Twitter are from Turkey and apparently do not speak English.

A new study on the concept of BS has proven to be overblown. Rich guys tend to exaggerate their abilities. Having more money apparently still does not make up for having little confidence and less talent. We even wonder if self-designations like “rich” are suspect.

We also found a journalistic piece that states that Twitter fuels anxiety. Well, that is one explanation for the Twitter-storms of Donald Trump.

A business named “mailchimp” claims to make marketing easy. Monkey see; monkey may do, as long as you have the money to pay the monkey to dance to the organ grinder’s tune.

Some people believe that slave-owner and man who turned down Lincoln to save the Union, one Robert E. Lee, was a kindly soul and gentle man. We call them white nationalists, but General Lee is not just a motor vehicle in a hick TV series. He is down by the levee with Kate Smith, watching their statues be torn down by the new majority in America, the Minority.

After watching the History Channel TV series, Project Blue Book, the United States military has decided to junk the term UFO and call those flying saucers, “unidentified aerial phenomena,” but a rose by any other name will still be high-flying space creatures.

Low-income people are apparently more devastated by scams on the Internet than rich people. When you’ve got nothing to lose, you lose everything, according to experts.

The latest notion of pollution is microplastics, which seem to be so small that they are floating around cities and landing in lakes, though you can’t see them. It is no longer smoke that gets in your eyes.

Ten minutes on the Internet has undermined all knowledge you thought you had avoided in school.

Seeing Cat Eyes in Darkness!

DATELINE: What’s New, Pussycat?

cat eyes-1

A short time ago we took a security camera into the library of our haunted house and set it up to learn what goes bump in the night. We never go into the library after dusk.

So, when the security camera app rang on our cell phone at 5am, telling us there was movement and heat activation, we gulped hard and opened up the image. No burglars were stomping around.

We saw shooting fireflies. In ghost-hunter business parlance, these are orbs, the electrical impulses and energy of spirits going hither and yon.

Two orbs shot up from the floor on either side of the room. Our attention was distracted. It took a trained ghost hunter, Eric Metzler to see more orbs and a couple of flashes.

We asked the attending spirits, Richard and Addie, to show an orb, they often obliged, though I was distracted and did not see them.

Richard is our mentor spirit from Titanic, and Addie Horton was head housekeeper of the family mansion. She lived next door most of her life but seems to have taken up residence in our study off the library in the after-life.

The only spirit in the house that has appeared to me is Richard’s cat. And, this large tom-cat black-shadow walked out of a wall next to a bookcase and blithely pranced into the kitchen. I ran after, but it evaporated.

I know it is Richard’s cat because one of the light-worker psychics who visited my home sensed a ghostly cat. Three psychics were in agreement that he belonged to Richard and served as his proxy, reporting back to my guardian spirit when he was apparently elsewhere.

They did not know his name, only that it was odd and began with a “G.” That made sense because Richard and his elder brother Percy made up a language—and the cat name was likely part of it.

When my friend Jose watched the video I sent, he called to my attention two bright almond eyes in the dark. He said they flashed or blinked on and off instantly gone.

I thought it might be a reflection off the bookcase.

I went to the library in daylight to see the approximate height of two shelves—the same size as the cat I had seen several years earlier. What is even more peculiar is that pro ghost hunter Eric Metzler used filters to try to bring the image out of the dark.

He found it alien-like. When I checked what that bulbous nose could be in the animal face, I saw that it was on the book binding—a round red circle that just fell under the cat eyes.

The book was written by a friend, Susan Kelly, on the Boston Strangler. It was a small photo of Albert de Salvo in a red circle. How amusing that it seemed to be the cat’s nose.

Not that I needed a reason to avoid the library at night, but now here it was.

 

 

 

Lost at Sea: USS Partridge

DATELINE: Death on the Diamond!

USS PartridgeUSS Partridge.

My life seems to be surrounded by sea disasters.

Each person must reach a point in life where they have to take stock:  it may be time for me to sell some of the most cherished items that I have held in my safeguard for years.

Though I may hope my home will be a modern pyramid, taken care of by survivors, kept in pristine condition as I have set it up, that is not likely.

Things will be sold, or worse, thrown away and thought to be worthless by those trying to liquidate the property quickly. Oh, there is some vanity in thinking that my home, once owned by the victims of the RMS Titanic and haunted by their associates (Richard’s cat and his housekeeper Addie), deserves to be kept like Lizzie Borden’s house, in historical decoration forever, frozen in timelessness.

It would be pretty to think so.

The reality is something else, and I have put up for auction on eBay one item that particularly strikes me as precious in a lost, sad way.

I have a rare first-edition book, not even signed by author Cortland Fitzsimmons. It is his 1934 baseball murder mystery, made into a charming little movie with Robert Young that same year.

The book is special, not because of its American subject of baseball, but because of its own survivor history.

Stamped on the inside cover in fading blue print are the words “DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, Bureau of Navigation.”  Under that is another stamp, “Library, U.S.S. Partridge.”

That ship was commissioned in 1919, but never knew what heroism would be asked of it. During World War II, the ship became a mine-sweeper, fairly dangerous duty. Indeed, it was hit by a torpedo in 1944, and was brought to an ignominious end. En route to Normandy, France, after D-Day, a German E-Boat fatally attacked the ship.

The Partridge sank in 35 minutes on July 29, 1944. Thirty-five of 90 crew members were killed, and many others were seriously injured.

We don’t know who saved the book from the ship’s library, or why. We don’t know how many sailors on that boat read the book for pleasure and escape during their dangerous duties of the War. We cannot say that the spirits of heroic men are attached to this item. We know only that for a time, it fell under my protection.

Now, I must find another home for it and another who will care as much as did I. It does leave me with an empty feeling, which seems to be a bittersweet aspect of growing old.

Truly Miss Marple: Rutherford Murders?

DATELINE:  Murder Most Foul!

Dames Margaret & Agatha

Dames Margaret Rutherford & Agatha Christie!

A little British documentary about character actress Margaret Rutherford is shocking, surprising, and ultimately saddening. If you have forgotten her dotty old ladies, she was the first movie Miss Marple.

The film has the overwhelming title: Truly Miss Marple: the Curious Case of Margaret Rutherford. The actress died in 1972 after a rapid decline in health at the height of her popularity

Agatha Christie was appalled at the folly of turning her aged detective into an eccentric comic actress, but they later enjoyed each other—to the degree that Christie dedicated The Mirror Crack’d to Rutherford.

Her acting career did not fully reach success until after age 40: she was always the costar, whether it was for John Gielgud or Edith Evans. When success came, she played old ladies who were NOT battle-axes. It was an unkind comment by interviewers. Dame Margaret was always a gentle figure of fun.

Her biggest break came with Noel Coward in Blithe Spirit, a role she almost refused because she thought it might demean spiritualists (as she was a believer).

Her indomitable English grand dames gave way in old age to the Christie character, though Margaret hated the word “Murder” in the titles of the four grand Miss Marple movies. There was a reason for her sensitivity: her father murdered her grandfather, and later, likely as a result, her mother committed suicide.

Yet, Rutherford herself was the ultimate woman of kind hearts and coronets. If there was a downside, it was her growing periods of depression. It was a losing battle, especially when dementia added to her woes.

She briefly went to Hollywood with Burton and Taylor in The VIPs and won an Oscar as a supporting actress. The Oscar disappeared after her death, stolen and on the black market, sold by a conniving housekeeper.

Miss Marple’s little murder mystery movies remain delightful, owing to Rutherford’s charismatic personality.

 

Our Man in Havana: Cuba Before Fall

DATELINE:  Greene for Thrills

ready for bed Guinness Doth Make Coward!

Would lightning strike twice? Throw in a Graham Greene novella, director Carol Reed, and a hotbed of political activity in the 1950s, and voila, you have an instant spy thriller, called Our Man in Havana.

The novella and screenplay were written by Greene himself, which may or may not be good, considering his lofty and singular opinion of what a good film should be. He respected Carol Reed enough to trust him again after The Third Man. And, with his lukewarm anti-American streak, the pre-Communist Castro lent his blessing to the project.

The result is a last-ditch look at the charm of old Havana before it underwent a lifetime of rot. To see it like this may sadden any self-respecting tourista.

Add in a delicious cast:  Alec Guinness as a would-be spy, Ernie Kovacs as a Cuban military leader, Maureen O’Hara as an officious colleague, Noel Coward as a Home Office Boy, with Ralph Richardson as his boss, and Burl Ives, hot off his Oscar, as a German expatriate, and something’s gotta give. The story concerns a British vacuum salesman who gives off airs of an obsequious secret agent who riles up the Cuban dictatorship before Castro. You mean there was no role for Errol Flynn who was there for the Cuban rebel girls?

At one point, Guinness notes that his daughter has an American accent for some reason. We suspect it has to do with the producer hiring his girlfriend, but we may be too harsh.

Burl Ives advises Guiness to take a job as a secret agent for Noel Coward and send it fake secret reports by fake secret agents. Alas, reality bites: everything he makes up is actually true.

The humor is so dry in this film that it almost seems arid. Greene rakes the James Bond ilk over the coals, with its bird-dropping invisible ink and codes taken out of a Dickensian book of Lamb to the slaughter sayings.

Kovacs and Guinness play a game of drinking checkers as a mental match.

Today’s audiences may be more befuddled by the intelligence of yore. Some of the actors are clearly in a straitjacket with not much ado. Yet, the overall effect is high-dudgeon Cold War spy thrills.

Our Man in Havana is simply amazing when not overwrought with super-suction.

Kissing Bugs in Sheep’s Clothing?

DATELINE: Creepy?

Creepy Touch

A generation of touchy/feely men are about to have their kind hearts executed at dawn by a bunch of “insulted” or “disgusted” people. Yup, it’s creepy and it’s kooky, and altogether spooky.

Potential presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden shall remain nameless, but not guiltless in this regard.

Yes, there are those men who instantly and impulsively reach out to those around them, in moments of crisis, happiness, or sorrow, and hug, hold hands, or lay on a paternalistic  kiss.

They now have been given a bad rap, and the rap on the knuckles may sting as they pull back from showing any emotional reaction.

This is not to be confused with grabbing someone in a distinctly and disgustingly sexual manner. We all recall the famous bus-trip tapes of Trump’s manner to seduce women.

That is a different kettle to call black-face in metaphor.

No, we express wonder about impulsive men who deign to express their feelings in public. It looks like the late charges are being assessed in absentia, or after the statute of limitation has exceeded its grasp.

You may well ask how intimidating or harassing can it be to reach out and touch someone under the throes of media attention. What might have been construed as scratching the puppy behind the ears now takes on a sinister abusive nature, however latent. This is akin to an alcoholic drinking in public, or worse: playing patty-cakes.

It may be time to end the chest-bumps, the high-fives, the low-fives, pecks on the cheek, a man-hug, and tip-toe through the tulips from afar.

We were never demonstrative physically, thank heavens, and now feel pity for those poor souls who over the years felt compelled to demonstrate their affection and/or goodwill. It was always in bad taste, in our opinion. Now it appears to be the actions of a puppy who has wet the carpet.

 

 

 

 

Aspern Papers: Relief for Headache

 DATELINE: Henry James Tale of Scandal

Untitled 3 Not his Doppleganger!

French director Julien Landais brings his rococo style to the proceedings of the Henry James tale with his usual interest in Dopplegangers (Jonathan Rhys Meyers has the same blue eyes as Alain-Fabien Delon and the director himself). He seems obsessed with his own stunning looks.

The sly novella by the master of manners and psychology, Henry James, is well-played out in The Aspern Papers. As Morton Vint, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is suitably shady as a snooping researcher. He is anachronistic in posture and demeanor (going hatless and with bohemian friends of the 1880s in Venice). He seems to hang around with a bunch of lesbians (shades of the Bostonians).

He wants the love letters of an aging woman and will stop at nothing to put his hands on them. There is no kill-fee here, and he is the progenitor of National Enquirer dirty deeds even back in the 19th century.

Yes, this is a literary film in the Ivory-Merchant mode. Indeed, James Ivory is executive producer—and all the old style is brought back with a cutting edge of nastiness for the 21st century with a young French director in charge.

When the poseur learns that all the papers are hidden by Juliana, one-time lover of Jeffrey Aspern (likely Percy Shelley based on details), he is moved to become ruthless in putting his grubby hands on them.

There is a dark secret here, often hinted broadly in flashbacks that Aspern was bisexual—with a Byronic friend—and Juliana.

All this adds to the charades played by each of the characters.

Joely Richardson (Vanessa Redgrave’s daughter) plays her dull, spinster niece here with no pretense of acting out the role of her aunt every night—as the earlier version with Susan Hayward showed. The old lady was likely Mary Shelley’s sister, Claire Claremont, who had “everything” when it comes to memorabilia of dead poets.

You may recognize strands of Wagner’s Tristan & Isolde before it blows into a full-force cliché to end the movie. It is effective, nevertheless. Here too the ring of Jeffrey Aspern, as in the earlier version, plays an intriguing role as the spinster niece puts a deal to the devil publisher if he wants the literary treasure.

Landais gives us a stunner for his full-length first effort, providing us with a controlled tour-de-force that makes us anticipate his next film. Brilliant, complex work.

Queen: Mercury Rising: Predating the Movie

 DATELINE: Long Live the Champion!

Champion Real Mercury!

From 2011, a biographical documentary on Freddie Mercury may well have been the instrument to inspire the movie story of his life called Bohemian Rhapsody.

In advertisements and descriptions, Mercury has been called one of the most beloved entertainers of the 20th century:  we presume that puts him in the esteemed company of Sophie Tucker, Judy Garland, and Lassie.

We love dramatizations of the basic facts elicited in this life-story of a musical icon.

What the Zanzibar native named Farrouk really transcended was the crossover of glam-rock and Bowie with some kind of sports anthem creator. He was his most important self-made titan/champion with an overbite.

Yes, let’s face it, Queen and Mercury created a couple of songs that have lived as the victory songs for every winning sports teams—and probably shall continue so for decades ahead.

That’s no mean feat.

Mercury as not Freddie, but a self-creation of the Raj and Brit music waves of the 1960s and 1970s. He certainly helped to establish MTV and music videos—and they gave him fame.

His coming-out at the time of Studio 54 meant he was in the forerunning of gay icons, and among the victims of a generation who died in the early horror of HIV infection. He was carefree and did not flinch from his lifestyle, even if it might kill him.

The movie with Rami Malek could not have found a better embodiment of Mercury than the wide-eyed actor. And, we will examine that film in due time. In the meantime, if you need a more objective look at his life, we recommend Mercury Rising, the story of Queen by those who were closest.

David: Overexposed Masterpiece

DATELINE: For All the Marbles

David

 Michelangelo’s Boy!

The Private Life of a Masterpiece is a documentary narrated by the late Tim Piggott-Smith a decade ago.

You might not realize what a controversial and interesting history and life that block of marble chiseled by Michelangelo has had over centuries.

Years before the great Renaissance upstart put his talent to the statue, a couple of artists tried and failed to carve out an iconic image. They failed, mainly because the superior marble was only two feet thick in places. It was meant to be one piece, a marvel in itself, and nearly impossible.

David is the height of three men and weighs about the poundage of two dozen. Indeed, David is the real Goliath. He was originally meant to be posed atop a church in Florence, but he was hijacked for political reasons to face the threat of the Medici family, looking southward on palazzo level. After all, he was a killer.

As a result, David has suffered, and his face seems to mirror that. He has been stoned, broken, allowed to be covered in mold, and has lost some detail.

Yet, he remains more than ever the commercial icon of the 20th century, more popular today than ever before: he is the epitome of modern man. From the get-go, he has been a role model and object of love; nearly half of Florentines in the 16th century were likely bisexual men. They adored him.

Like any great work of art, he is subject to interpretation on many levels with each passing era. Surprisingly, he was not appreciated by Victorians unless he was covered with a fig leaf. Yep, they had one ready-made for coverups when required.

Entertaining and educational, this is a one-hour history that you may watch with never-averted eyes.

 

Invisible Wells Classic

DATELINE: Whale of a Film

Rains

When James Whale chose to do his next amusing gothic horror, it turned out to be H.G. Wells’ story about a mad scientist who becomes invisible. It has now become a trite metaphor, but this is the original—and therein hangs some fascination. The Invisible Man came out in 1933.

To play a man who won’t be seen for most of the film, Whale chose Claude Rains whose voice manages to carry his performance. And Jack Pierce’s makeup is the notion of a wig, fake nose, dark glasses, and a bandaged mummy wrap to hide the lack of face.

Rains would go on to become one of the most familiar of second-banana stars—stealing movies like Casablanca in every scene they gave him.

For a film made in the early 1930s, the delightful special effects of invisibility set a standard that today still cannot be achieved. There is something in the primitive, expressionistic style that gives the unwrapping of Rains to scare the locals with such hilarious and horrific power.

As Dr. Jack Griffin, Rains gives a couple of classic homicidal maniac speeches about murdering people for the good of science, while his lovely girlfriend Gloria Stuart (of Titanic fame about 60 years later) frets about. Whale nixed Rains as Dr. Praetorius in the Bride of Frankenstein because of on-set difficulties between them.

Henry Travers is the dutiful sober-sided scientist. Best known as Clarence in It’s a Wonderful Life, he is less befuddled here. As the loud, half-crazed tavern owner, there is Una O’Connor, shrieking whenever there is a chance.

We also saw Oscar-winner Walter Brennan in one of his earliest roles as the man with the bicycle. He does a wonderful low-brow Brit accent. Also there is John Carradine, father of Keith and David, as a minor character on the telephone.

Alas, Whale was saddled with many American actors whose regionalisms are completely out of place in a small English town. The village boys are decidedly American in tone.

Whales frequently films shorty Rains from the knees looking upward, giving him a frightful height, and the sets are spectacular and sumptuous, a sign that the budgets had improved for the director of Frankenstein.

 

Whatever its shortcomings, this remains an impressive achievement in cinema history.

 

 

Swan Dive on Trump

DATELINE: Wile E. Coyote with Orange Hair?

Pelosi Bronx cheer.jpeg Pelosi’s Bronx Cheer?

When Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi applauded President Trump on finishing his epic State of the Union with 82 minutes of cram-packed disinformation, she added something to the lexicon of American culture.

We used to have the Bronx Cheer, a rather crude and effective means of making its recipient know how low he has fallen.

You cannot smell a Bronx Cheer, only hear it. You cannot smell a Pelosi clapback, but its visual image will resonate on Twitter and social media forever.

Now, when you want to skewer a blowhard, you point the middle fingers in your pointed hands and make little slaps like a jaw opening and closing on a fool on the hill’s neck.

Among hundreds of political observers—and Trump himself—and countless viewers and re-watching viewers, Mrs. Pelosi stuck it to Trump who had to stand there and take it. His mendacious speechifying was over. Now he had to look like the man with egg on his face or yellow feathers in his mouth. However, the canary just ate him.

Speaker Pelosi looked like Tweety Pie, sitting in the gilded cage, and about to tell us that, indeed, she saw “a Putty Tat.” Yes, indeed, like Sylvester, Mr. Trump just was given his quota of suffering succotash.

If she had been the Road Runner, she would have stuck out her tongue and beeped at him before dashing off and leaving the man and his moment conjoined forever as the biggest damned fool in history.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and the priceless expression of the Speaker is visible, and only the back of a head of fake hair comes from the Trump vantage.

If you believe in emblematic moments, you know that Marshall McLuhan is laughing somewhere in the universe.

Andy Warhol at the Super Bowl, 2019

 DATELINE: Great Art Restoration!

Warhol & Whopper

Warhol Takes on Whopper.

We know that iconic artist Andy Warhol enjoyed pop culture, and perhaps he’d be intrigued with the Super Bowl antics every year.

He might be as surprised as we were to find him in a commercial, a highly expensive proposition, endorsing Burger King.

You might think the little scene was filmed by Andy himself at his Factory, but it was merely an appearance he made in 1984 for another director. Here is Andy in 2019, thirty years after he died, now on the big stage of Super Bowl party night.

At first we thought it was a body double—something Warhol was fond of using. He looked thin, but in good shape, making it a little difficult to discern when this was made. He had done all kinds of things—like a Love Boat episode and a cameo in an Elizabeth Taylor movie back in the 1970s.

This filmed scene was after the Studio 54 craze, and he sits quietly, well-dressed as always, his messy wig appropriately placed, and crinkling, opens a bag for Burger King.

We heard he was disappointed to find it was not going to be a Big Mac, but he was always game for product accessibility.

Perhaps the most curious part of his eating the burger, as that is the total action, is that he lifts the top of the bun off the sandwich as if he will pour some of the Heinz ketchup on it. Instead, he has difficulty pouring it onto the wrapper.

Like a cookie in coffee, he dunks the burger in the tomato paste which he even painted in one of his inspired moments.

Though the commercial was only a few seconds, the actual film was a tad longer. It showed him discarding the top of the burger and folding it over for another swipe at the Heinz. All his actions are fastidious. It’s on Youtube for those interested.

We hope his estate and museum was well-paid for this appearance. We doubt he would have been a Patriot fan. In all likelihood, only a fraction of viewers even understood the identity of the slight man in the burger commercial.

Million Pound Note, or Man with a Million

DATELINE:  My Fair Laddie?

wilfred & greg

Col. Pickering Meets Atticus Finch.

If you are looking for John Beresford Tipton to be handing out checks for a million smackeroos, this forgotten movie is way beyond your expectation. It’s actually a Mark Twain story written in 1893, one of his last ‘Americans abroad’ tales.

Here the American need not do much to blow away the fawning British aristocracy, in love with American money.

This gem came after Roman Holiday, but before Moby Dick, when Gregory Peck stayed in England to do justice to this low-budget marvel.

Two aristocratic British brothers make a bet that they can pull a Pygmalion and Importance of Being Earnest tale using a vagabond American sailor as their Liza Doolittle.

Enter Peck to do business with, whoa, is that Wilfred Hyde-White doing an audition for Colonel Pickering? You better believe the bettor. It’s like killing two mockingbirds with one million pounds.

We only wish the other brother had been Rex Harrison. Then, we would have had a film premonition of “my fair laddie.”  As it is, we have the formula that George Bernard Shaw would soon adapt to his famous play. He never found the time and the Twain to meet personally. So, he took a notion.

Yet, this makes My Fair Lady a delicious ripoff, especially since Audrey Hepburn had just made a classic movie with Peck before he shot this one.

Twain outdid Oscar Wilde here, as the poor American schmuck must not spend his million-pound note for one month to win the bet. Thank heavens for the fake media that goes on a toot to help Peck.

Because American audiences in the early 1950s wouldn’t know a pound note from a B-flat, this movie had a different American title: Man with a Million, but a million pounds was likely about five million dollars in 1893.

This film is charming, and in Technicolor, and stars Gregory Peck. What more could you ask?

 

 

 

 

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.