Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This was the first of the Bulldog Drummond series, coming out in 1937 from Paramount. It’s Bulldog Drummond Escapes, and it stars Ray Milland as Captain Hugh “Bulldog” Drummond, world-renowned adventurer and sometimes crime detective. I have already reviewed two of the series, which reviews you can find by following the links. I watched this on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

What gets this and other Bulldog Drummond movies on the BMotW list is the absurd plot. Witness:

Opening scenes show Captain Drummond returning to England from the continent in a single engine plane. He’s having trouble landing, due to London’s notorious fogs. He’s in radio contact with the tower and is advised to not attempt a landing. He states he is coming down regardless and orders flares to be lit. Then he starts down, which is ridiculous. In the fog he can’t even be sure he is in the approach to the runway, and his descent can likely take him into the side of some tall structure.

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Of course he makes it all right and ignores questions from reporters, charging off to see his old friend Algy Longworth (Reginald Denny). It’s a matter of life or death. Algy’s wife is having a baby. Drummond must set off on his next adventure absent Algy’s good assistance, at least for the first ten minutes of the movie.

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Charging into the fog to meet with Inspector Col. Sir Reginald Nielson (Guy Standing), he encounters a damsel in distress. She is winsome and so in distress. He hits her with the car. She steals his car when he plops her into the seat and goes to investigate strange goings on nearby, one of which is the body of a dead man slowly sinking into the marsh.

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The movie villains pick up sweet Phyllis Clavering (Heather Angel) and take her back to her palatial abode. She leaves her handbag in Drummond’s car, and that leads him to (ultimately) the love of his life.

She is in great danger, and she slips a note into his hat before he leaves to meet Sir Reginald.

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Sir Reginald commands Captain Drummond leave England immediately. He doesn’t want an amateur detective muddling up his urgent investigations. Of course, Bulldog pays no heed, else no movie.

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Without detailing the plot, I will just note the bad guys are after sweet Phyllis’ fortune. And they play rough.

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Sweet Phyllis plays rough, as well, developing the art of kiboshing bad people on the head with available objects at just the right time. Bulldog falls madly in love with her. And you would too. She is a knockout.

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Things get resolved, and Phyllis makes plans to run away. With Bulldog Drummond, for life. They will shortly be making their wedding plans.

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This was based on Bulldog Drummond Again, a play by H.C. (Sapper) McNeile and Gerald Fairlie. Milland played Drummond in the first of eight in the series, replaced after this one by John HowardLouise Campbell seems to have replaced the charming Heather Angel at some point.

Print quality for this video is God-awful. It’s black and white, of course, and tonal range of the images has been lost somewhere since 1937. The sound track has acquired a odious overlay of noise, which noise could possibly have been eliminated by modern digital filtering techniques. The interplay among the leading characters keeps up viewer interest as the plot develops predictably. This movie strives to create suspenseful interludes, but it comes off as contrived. It’s possible modern audiences have become spoiled by the high technical quality of modern productions. This is what went for excitement 80 years ago.

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Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

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I met an older woman in a bar last night. She looked pretty good for a 60-year-old. In fact, she wasn’t too bad at all, and I found myself thinking she probably had a really hot daughter.

We drank a couple of beers, and she asked if I’d ever had a Sportsman’s Double?

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s a mother and daughter threesome,” she said.

As my mind began to embrace the idea, and I wondered what her daughter might look like.

I said, “No, I haven’t.”

We drank a bit more, then she said with a wink, “Tonight’s your lucky night.”

We went back to her place. We walked in. She put on the hall light and shouted upstairs: “Mom…you still awake?”

Friday Funny

One of a series

Religion-ExtremistsFalsehoods

Friday again. Time to wind down. To help, here is something cute from a world-class intellect:

Candace Cameron Bure told the hosts of Fox & Friends that jokes about hell should be out of bounds because the Bible described it as a “disgusting” place.

I am sure it is a disgusting place. It is so hot… Supposedly when hell freezes over the Chicago Cubs will win the World Series. What is funny is Mrs. Bure, sister of equally noted intellect Kirk Cameron, rests her authority on the Bible, a noted work of fiction. To source another work of fiction, whales are fishes. It says so in Moby-Dick. When Mrs. Bure gets finished with the Bible, I fully expect her to move up to Marvel Comics. Those are funny.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks.

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If you don’t believe your handgun is your friend, just ask William Brumby of Sarasota, Florida. Mr. Brumby recognizes the 2nd Amendment gives every citizen the right to keep and bear arms. He also recognizes that this is a safeguard to his right to ensure his own safety and that of his family, and he appears to diligently exercise that right. He is perfectly comfortable living with his decision to keep and bear arms:

A Florida man who authorities say accidentally shot and killed his 14-year-old son at a shooting range is blaming himself — not the gun — for the death.

Clayton Brumby, 64, told The Tampa Bay Times that a smoking hot shell casing went down the back of his shirt, causing him to flail his arms at High Noon Guns, where the Sarasota family had gone Sunday afternoon for shooting practice. His finger was still on the trigger of a .22 semiautomatic Ruger SR22, which fired.

He heard his 24-year-old son yell, “Dad, Stephen’s been shot.”

The bullet ricocheted off the ceiling and struck the teen in the jugular vein, Brumby told the newspaper.

“The gun didn’t kill my boy,” he said. “I did.”

He said the gun belonged to his 12-year-old daughter.

It’s heartening to see that Mr. Brumby is not deflected by minor setbacks in his determination to keep his family safe, especially his daughter, who is learning responsible gun ownership at an early age.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I noticed this on Amazon Prime Video. Never heard of it before. But it’s got George Clooney and Nicole Kidman. A thriller about international terrorism and stolen nuclear weapons. Got to be something worth watching. It’s from 1997, which means it’s about 20 years old. Lots of stuff has changed since then. Hopefully more has been learned about nuclear weapons than is reflected in the plot.

Amazon took this off their Prime offerings shortly after I watched it, so I’m getting the fine details from Wikipedia. It’s The Peacemaker from Dreamworks Pictures.

A minister of a Balkan country is attending church when he is paged to step outside to meet his assassin. What’s going on here? We eventually learn.

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Next up, a paramilitary gang stages an elaborate heist of ten nuclear warheads in Russia. The operation involves pulling another train alongside the one carrying the nukes, boarding the moving train, murdering the sleeping Russian soldiers guarding the shipment, and transferring (almost all) the warheads to the other train.

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Then the train with the stolen warheads is parked in a tunnel, and a collision is arranged between the weapons train and a passenger train. There is much death and destruction. Only, the warhead remaining on the crashed train is timed to detonate. By the time it goes, rural folks nearby have already been awakened by the commotion and have gone outside to see the light and smoke from the burning trains. Then the warhead goes off, and it’s as though the sun is coming up. But it’s not the sun. It’s the clap of doom as the fireball grows immensely, frying the countryside. Shortly the shock wave hits, sweeping away everything.

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The remaining train is pulled out of its tunnel, and the stolen warheads are transferred to waiting trucks. They will proceed by road to the Iranian border. All except one. One warhead is disassembled, and the nuclear detonator is salvaged.

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Meanwhile, United States intelligence, always on the alert, takes notice of these goings on. Especially the detonation of a thermonuclear warhead in a civilian area in Russia. Nuclear expert Dr. Julia Kelly (Kidman) is summoned immediately from her daily swim, and, hair still wet, puts together a briefing. It’s the Chechens, she observes. Not so fast, says U.S. Army Special Forces Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Devoe (Clooney). He points out a number of facts.

For one, the bomb went off several minutes after the train crash. From the size of the explosion it’s apparent only one of a shipment of ten detonated. This is beginning to look like a planned detonation.

Additionally, high-ranking Russian general, Aleksandr Kodoroff was aboard the train. There was absolutely no reason he should have been on that that train unless, unless he had some nefarious plan. It’s not going to be possible to determine what happened to the other warheads, because everything within a quarter mile of the detonation point would have been vaporized. Besides, nobody is going to get near the place for years.

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The sexy Dr. Kelly agrees to team with Colonel Devoe, and they go to Austria to track down the trucking company that most likely leased the truck for the stolen nukes. Things go sour. The trucking company is a Mafia operation, and Devoe is identified on surveillance video. This is after Devoe and Kelly torture the owner into coughing up his computer password, said computer containing the company’s leasing records.

Oops. Mafia thugs intercept the Americans and their Russian collaborator Dimitri Vertikoff (Armin Mueller-Stahl). They shoot Vertikoff dead in the street, right in front of the amazed Kelly and Devoe. Devoe kills most of the attackers in a running battle, and he and Kelly regroup.

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The printout the Americans made of the leasing records has been destroyed in the fire that consumed their getaway car. Devoe is impressed when Kelly shows that before leaving the leasing company she emailed the document to herself. They view the records and identify the likely truck carrying the warheads. It’s on a road headed for the Iranian border.

Before it can get there, American special forces helicopters, one with Devoe aboard, penetrate Russian airspace and take the truck under fire, but not before Russian air defense destroys one of their helicopters, killing all aboard. The truck is left teetering on a bridge across a deep gorge.

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Devoe, aboard a surviving helicopter, gets himself lowered by a line to the truck. He battles the surviving truck crew and hoists the warhead cargo aboard the helicopter before the truck plunges over the edge. A nuclear scientist, who has survived the attack, swaps information for salvation. He informs the Americans that one of the gang has previously slipped away with a warhead detonator in his backpack.

Where is the remaining weapon headed? It’s concluded by viewing a suicide tape made by a Balkan diplomat that he intends to detonate the mini-nuke at a United Nations meeting he is scheduled to attend in New York.

There is much excitement as Kelly and Devoe race back to New York and attempt to track down the nuclear device. The chase comes to a conclusion inside a Church near the UN headquarters, where the diplomat shoots himself, leaving the detonator on a timer. Kelly further impresses Devoe by chipping away one segment of the implosion charge.

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That doesn’t prevent the timer from timing out and the detonators from detonating. However, the loss of one segment of the shaped charge ensures there will be no compression of the plutonium core and no nuclear chain reaction. As the pair of heroes dive for a church window, the blast propels them out onto the sidewalk.

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Later Devoe pays Kelly a visit as she is taking her daily swim. She tells him she has ten more laps to go before she can join him for a beer. There’s going to be sex, but only after the movie is over. This movie has absolutely no skin and no sex.

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Except that the basis for the plot is pure imagination. A central premise is that a train crash will somehow cause a nuclear warhead to detonate. Trust me. Nuclear warheads are carefully designed so that nothing will set them off except for a coordinated sequence of events. One of these events is not a train collision.

The gang that stole the warheads planned the nuclear explosion to cover up their crime. Something less dramatic would have worked. A fire aboard the train (following the crash) would have caused the implosion charges to cook off. This would have sprayed molten and burning plutonium all over the place, and nobody could have gone near the site of the collision for days, giving the thieves time to make their getaway.

And there is the business of the nuclear detonator in the church. My knowledge of nuclear devices is decades old, gleaned from popular works on the topic. What seems to be shown in the movie is a small implosion device to set off a plutonium core. That does not appear to be enough plutonium to work. The first time this trick was employed was the first time an atomic bomb was ever set off. That was 16 July 1945, and the scientists who did it packed two tons of explosive charge around a hollow sphere of plutonium about the size of an orange. In his book The Making of the Atomic Bomb, author Richard Rhodes describes the sequence of events that took place of a small fraction of a second.

And there is another thing. When I was a young man in the Navy Reserve, I read up on some damage control documentation. Damage control is a big thing aboard a ship. Miles from any kind of rescue, deep resources are kept available to control all foreseeable events that can send the ship to the bottom. One item I recall dealt with how to handle an accident involving a special weapon. That’s the euphemism used. The instruction said that in the event of an accident that set off the implosion charge, I would be faced with a pool of molten, burning plutonium on the deck. I must put out that fire, or we would all die. I would be required to cover the burning plutonium with dry sand, a supply of which is kept handy, of course. Nothing was said about the life expectancy of the person who got close enough to put out the fire. Nothing needed to be said.

In the light of that, I don’t recall seeing any such calamity in the movie. A pound of drama has overwhelmed a ton of reality.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

Religion-PrayerHealingFacebook

I’ve been posting one of these each Tuesday. Regrettably, I don’t have to make them up:

An Oregon couple so devoted to spiritual healing they let their teenage son die in agony instead of getting medical help pled guilty in court on Tuesday and will receive probation.

Russel and Brandi Bellew, of Crewswell, Ore., tried to “pray away” 16-year-old Austin Sprout’s infection from a ruptured appendix in February. The faith healing didn’t work — he died a week and a half later, according to The Register-Guard.

Idaho first and Oregon second seem to lead the nation in this sickness. Religious murder, that is, not appendicitis. Appendicitis seems to respond to treatment. Religion apparently not so.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series

Science-SugarAndSpoon

Some basic biology is the subject of this week’s Quiz Question. You squeeze grape juice into a vat, add some yeast, and it ferments. What’s happening is the yeast is consuming the sugar, metabolizing it, and producing alcohol. The sugar is the key ingredient. If the grapes don’t have much sugar, you’re not going to get much alcohol.

Now repeat the process with pure sugar. You have to add water, of course. But the yeast won’t metabolize it, and the yeast definitely will not multiply. Why not?

Again, the answer is simple. Provide your answer in the comments section below to become eligible to win Donald Trump’s $150 million ice chest.

Update and solution

Some figured this out days ago. Here it is.

Central to this week’s Quiz Question is a basic misunderstanding of living organisms. They are held in such wonder and esteem, that people often forget living things are subject to the same rules of physics and chemistry as everything else.

Of course, the reason a solution of sugar, any sugar, and water will not ferment.

  • For one thing, in order for yeast to multiply, in order for a bacterium to multiply, a supply of additional chemical elements is required. For one thing, reproduction requires additional phosphorus. Cellular replication involves duplication of DNA. DNA contains phosphorus. You can’t get phosphorus out of the air as you can carbon. It has to be there and available for use in the reproduction process. The same goes for other chemical elements.
  • The fermentation process requires a supply of phosphorus, according to the Wikipedia entry. The article does not elaborate on the chemical reactions involved, except to note that ATP-ADP conversion is involved, as it is in most cellular energy consumption. My note is that phosphorus is continually reused in this cycle, and a continual outside supply is not required.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, I did see this one on TV, years ago. Brag, as I do, about my memory of steel, the only scene I recalled was the last. It’s another of those Sherlock Holmes movies, starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. This is The Woman in Green, and it came out in mid 1945, when I would have been four going on five. It was originally released by Universal Pictures, but I caught it on Amazon Prime Video, the source of these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle was a 19th century man, and most of the original stories were set in that era. Movie makers gave Holmes a modern setting, modern meaning the mid 20th century. The setting for this is London.

Here Scotland Yard is bedeviled by a modern day Jack the Ripper. Some fiend has murdered three disparate young women in London, each time severing and apparently keeping an index finger. Some light comedy prevails as official parties to a conference joust over a window being open or closed.

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A fourth murder is committed, and Holmes (Rathbone) confers with Inspector Tobias Gregson (Matthew Boulton) in an establishment called Pembroke House. Holmes can’t help noticing, nor can the audience, a striking couple sitting at a table behind them. He is Sir George Fenwick (Paul Cavanagh). She is Miss Lydia Marlowe (Hillary Brooke). He has grand designs. Her’s are grander.

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At Miss Marlowe’s digs later in the evening, Sir George falls under her spell, literally. He wakes up the next morning with headlines blaring of yet another murder. Worse, there’s a strange index finger in the pocket of his jacket.

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Even worse, a character who holds the answer to Sir George’s puzzlement is arch criminal Professor Moriarty (Henry Daniell). He informs Sir George he witnessed the crime, and a monetary settlement will keep it quiet.

Shortly, a charming young woman calls on Holmes and Dr. Watson (Bruce). Even as she exits her car on the street below at 221B Baker Street, Holmes has figured out everything about her. Almost. She turns out to the the daughter of Sir George Fenwick. In that bag she is unloading from her automobile is a small box containing an index finger. Gross!

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A quick visit to Sir George’s digs reveals he has just been murdered. Shot in the back. Holmes characteristically deduces that Moriarty is involved (the blond woman, as well), but he needs to prove it.

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Figuring hypnotism has been invoked, Holmes locates Miss Marlowe at the local Mesmer society and pretends to fall under her spell. She proposes to hypnotize him as a demonstration and hands him a pill to take to assist the process. He switches the pill for another that deadens pain. This allows him to pass the pain test when Moriarty emerges to verify Holmes is, indeed, under the spell.

Holmes is enticed to, almost literally, walk the plank. He is told the terrace ledge high above a London street is a walkway, and he is instructed to proceed to the end, most literally. And here is the part I remember from years ago. Holmes walks to the end, and then, and then Dr. Watson and the police burst in to save the day. When Watson attempts to coax Holmes off the ledge he reveals he has only been play acting, waiting for them to arrive.

Cuffed, Moriarty makes a break for it, out along the window ledge. He slips, and… And that’s the end of the end for Professor Moriarty.

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This print has not been well maintained. We’re probably looking at a copy of a copy of a copy… It’s black and white, of course, but tonal quality is poor. A lot has been lost. Sharpness is lacking. Sound quality is somewhat below standard for the day.

To be sure, the plot diverges widely from a typical Conan Doyle story. Doyle’s Holmes had scant interaction with the criminals of interest. Compared to a Doyle plot this one is practically a running gun battle.

The chance observation of Miss Marlowe and Sir George is also uncharacteristic. Never once in a Doyle story do you have Holmes cornering Watson and saying something like, “I just observed a bank robbery. We need to investigate.” Coincidence is the device of a writer lacking imagination.

This is one of 14 in the series that ran from 1939 to 1946, all featuring Rathbone and Bruce. Some of the films made during the war had a patriotic message involving spies, and a few others reflected original Doyle story lines.

Rathbone did not participate in that war, having served with distinction in the previous. He had himself disguised as a tree so he could escape detection and scout out enemy positions.

For a noted English character actor, Nigel Bruce had an interesting beginning. He was born in Baja California. He also served in the Great War, taking eleven bullets in his left leg. Especially during World War Two the Sherlock Holmes movies were produced in California, where his beautiful daughter (one of two) met and married British air ace Geoffrey Page.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

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Not yet

A teenage boy had just passed his driving test and inquired of his father as to when they could discuss his use of the car.

The dad said he’d make a deal with his son:

“You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible a little, and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car.”

The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he’d settle for the offer, and they agreed on it.

After six weeks his father said, “Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I’ve observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you haven’t had your hair cut.”

The boy said, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair, and there’s even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.”

To this his father replied, “Did you also notice that they walked everywhere they went?”

Friday Funny

One of a series

I’m looking forward to posting one of these every Friday. It’s something to help readers wind down for the weekend. Fortunately I don’t have to make them up:

In a speech delivered in 2012, Ben Carson said the big bang theory was part of the “fairy tales” pushed by “highfalutin scientists” as a story of creation.

Similarly, Carson, a noted creationist, said he believed the theory of evolution was encouraged by the devil.

Calling a central concept of modern cosmology a fairy tale pushed by “highfalutin scientists” speaks to a certain lack of understanding. However, tying modern theories of biological evolution to “the devil” says something else. The devil is well understood to be a piece of ancient folklore, along the lines of Santa Clause. It is funny that an educated person living in the 21st century still believes in fairy tales.

What is not funny is that this person was once the front-running candidate for President of the United States by a major political party.