Fairies Outlandish

Another Grand Performance

 

DATELINE: Unusual Paranormal Movie

In 1997 two films appeared about the same topic: Dr. Doyle’s belief in fairies through the medium of photography.

Two notable actors took on the role of Conan Doyle. In a small, but pivotal role in the first of the films came Edward Hardwicke, the ersatz latest Dr. Watson of the popular TV series with Jeremy Brett, and this time he played the same way as he did in his role as Watson.

The second film was on the tail end of one of the biggest movie stars, Peter O’Toole, a man who had played some greats in history (Henry II (in 2 movies Becket and Lion in Winter), as well as Lawrence of Arabia.

The era in which Photographing Fairies and Fairyland: A True Story is a world in which Houdini, Peter Pan, and Sherlock Holmes all exist simultaneously as the Zeitgeists of their age.

O’Toole met a match in performance when Harvey Keitel took on the role of Doyle’s friendly nemesis, Houdini. One of the interesting ironies is that this version of Conan Doyle looks more like Sherlock Holmes.

The producers of the film dropped the golden chance to play Arthur and Harry against each other with top-drawer actors.

To see O’Toole do this movie, it makes us wonder what kind of Holmes he could have given us were that role offered to him earlier in his career.

Both films actively produce fairies in flight about the countryside without any fear that they are mythic or exist only in the minds of children. A theory emerges from this film that creative people, like Conan Doyle, are receptive to the spirit and paranormal world unlike most pragmatic people.

Both films use Dr. Doyle in a small role as a believer in fairies and the occult, putting much focus on the children or younger character demographics aimed at the audience.  According to the Doyle Encyclopedia,O’Toole lost out on two chances to star as Holmes (one in Billy Wilder’s comic version, the other playing off Laurence Olivier as Watson). O’Toole’s prickly personality may have done in these chances.

As for the plot of the movie at hand set in 1917, Fairyland: A True Story concerns two little girls who take pictures of fairies out in their wooded backyard. The photos may look fake to us, but there are believers—even among the rich, powerful, and famous.

Our personal concern was for the girls treated by early 20thcentury men—and by late 20thcentury filmmakers. Charles Sturridge directs, and he has deft ability that is most known to audiences who favor PBS and Masterpiece Theatre.

Already in contact with his dead son through a medium, and having a madman father who saw fairies, Conan Doyle is on the bandwagon when the pictures come to his attention.

Fairytale is an intriguing, fascinating fantasy movie that gives Peter O’Toole a chance to provide us with one last grand late career performance.

Shatner Returns for More UnXplained

DATELINE: Great Escapes Explained!

For History Channel to bring back a series with such alacrity, you know it is a big winner. So, we are not surprised that William Shatner has returned for another batch of UnXplained.

His delivery is deadpan, hambone, hilarious. He has found another career at age 90—as robust as ever. His latest show opened with a look at “Greatest Escapes,” and the underlying notion is that some supernatural or paranormal power may be at work. Perhaps.

The first vignette put focus on Houdini and his inexplicable escapes from sure death under water. There is no explanation as he took it to his grave, only noting his “brain” was the “key.” Though Conan Doyle, of Sherlock fame, thought it was some supernatural psychic ability, Houdini dismissed that. Shatner raises the issue again.

Another anecdote is about a man who escaped a submarine 200 feet under the Mediterranean in a primitive pressure suit in 1941. No believed him until the wreck was found 50 years later with all the tangible evidence proved him right. And, there is the report of a Cuban escapee from Havana in 1969 who hid in a jet wheel well for nine hours, going into suspended animation, frozen.

All of these incidents are beyond science: and your usual History Channel expert, Dr. Travis Taylor, shows up again and again to tell us how this defies physics.

These relatively unknown, but documented cases, are always the backbone of the series, and they are handled with marvelous re-enactments, or archival footage.

Perhaps the most two fascinating episodes of the paranormal invoke the story of one of four survivors of the Twin Towers on 911. He was pushed to choose the only stairway unblocked to walk down 84 flights. Brian Clark is interviewed and explains how he has no idea who pushed him in the right direction.

And a little-known Alcatraz escape story involves Native American legends about positive spirits on the Rock leading the only 3 escapees to succeed in their plan. It seems gulls only land when the omens are good. And that was when the prisoners made their swim. Who knows?

Shatner is back, and that is all that matters.