Fool’s Argument

First of a series

Last year we ditched the cable and bought into a couple of subscription streaming services. So, come Sunday , and it was promising to be a dull morning. I turned to Amazon Prime Video and browsed some stuff Barbara Jean had earmarked. Wow. Does God Exist? Yes, it’s there, and what a wonderful way it is to brighten up an otherwise dull Sunday morning.

Of course I needed to watch. Here it is.

So I see that guy, and he’s asking the question, “Does God exist?” And he further asks, “Is the Bible really the word of God?” Also, “Was Jesus really the son of God?” These questions, I expect, will be answered. But one question that needs to be answered first is, “Who is that person asking those questions?”

Christians in Cinema: Dave Stotts

After attending Abilene Christian University in the Texas Panhandle, Dave Stotts hopped around a few more places before settling down in the Dallas Metroplex area. Married to Rebekah and the father of 2 sons (Seth and Luke), his time is divided between video post-production, theological studies and making history alive and entertaining.

When asked about his favorite restaurant, he immediately named “Mi Cocina,” which specializes in Tex-Mex cuisine (a man after my own heart!). A fan of science fiction epics (X-men, Superman, Star Wars) married to someone who doesn’t really care for them, Dave often watches his favorites with headphones. He’s even been known to impersonate Darth Vader for his youngest son “Luke, I’m your father”. I talked with Dave on a busy Thursday morning between video projects.

Then we get to the meat of the matter, and we see, as before, creationists Stephen C. Meyer. And it is good to see Dr. Meyer once more, even if this is not a recent production. My hope is he will be touching on a favorite topic of mine, namely Information and Myth:

Having nothing better to do, I was watching this on-line video. And the guy was making some statements about matter and information and energy, and, being composed of these things and having studied them in college, I was a little amazed at what the guy was saying. Time for a Slim Pickens movie quote here.1

The speaker was creationist Stephen C. Meyer, and that was no surprise. Meyer has just published his latest creationist book, and having nothing better to do, I ordered a copy from Amazon.com. Here is what Amazon has to say about the author:

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science. A former geophysicist and college professor, he now directs the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle.2

Much is promised for this book. It’s supposed to set us straight about the basis for Intelligent Design and to make the case, using the story of DNA, for Intelligent Design. Once again, I will let Amazon do the talking:

That’s what I had to say eight years ago.

This seems to be a new setting. It is from all appearances a college classroom, and Meyer is going to address the question of whether God exists, and we can guess what the answer will be.

First off, I was unable to escape the notion this was dramatized. It gives the appearance of classroom instruction viewed live, but the use of multiple camera angles and the timing of the actions makes me doubt this could have been pulled off live. Live does not go this smoothly. There are times, when the camera angle shifts, that I would expect to see the camera that shot the previous view, and I do not. Let’s assume this is an informal, staged production. Also, in case you were not aware, this is a production of Focus on the Family:

Focus on the Family (FOTF or FotF) is an American Christian conservative organization founded in 1977 in Southern California by psychologistJames Dobson, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. It is active in promoting an interdenominational effort toward its socially conservative views on public policy. Focus on the Family is one of a number of evangelical parachurch organizations that rose to prominence in the 1980s.

Focus on the Family’s stated mission is “nurturing and defending the God-ordained institution of the family and promoting biblical truths worldwide”. It promotes abstinence-only sexual educationcreationism; adoption by married, opposite-sex parents; school prayer; and traditional gender roles. It opposes abortion; divorce; gambling; LGBT rights, particularly LGBT adoption and same-sex marriage; pornography; pre-marital sex; and substance abuse. Psychologistspsychiatrists, and social scientists have criticized Focus on the Family for trying to misrepresent their research to bolster FOTF’s fundamentalist political agenda and ideology.

We can tell up front there’s going to be a lot of solid science coming out of this.

There are ten episodes in the series plus a bonus, and the first is “Faith and Reason,” and Meyer gets into the meaning of faith, and hopefully why religious faith is not all that bad. For this kind of presentation, Meyer is an excellent choice. He is a polished presenter, and his formal training in philosophy of science provides the very material he needs for background. He can argue from an academically-grounded knowledge base.

That background, as I learned a few years back, is no inoculation against foolish thought. Robert Koons was then and still is a professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where I once attended and obtained a degree. He came up to give a talk at UT Dallas in 2004, and I was there with a fellow skeptic to take it in:

All this got me to thinking, and when there was an opportunity to pose a question I asked just what it would take to be convincing. Passing by the bacterial flagellum for the time being, I brought up Behe’s example of human blood clotting chemistry (because that appears to me to be the bigger of these two cow cookies for Behe).4 I asked whether demonstrating feasible pathways to the present human clotting chemistry would sufficiently refute Behe’s whole argument for irreducible complexity.

To recapitulate, human blood clotting chemistry is quite complex (what isn’t in biochemistry). When a blood vessel is opened, an elaborate chain—a cascade—of chemical reactions is set into motion. If any step in the chain is missing, or is inadequate for the job, blood clots form prematurely, or we bleed excessively, even to death. Think hemophilia. How could that assemblage of chemical reactions have come about by mutation combined with natural selection? No single mutation, subsequently fixed through natural selection, could have produced all of the required steps simultaneously. If any of our ancestors lacked even one of the steps, we would not be reading this skeptical rag.

Knowing that biologists have a good lead on possible pathways and an effective refutation of Behe’s blood chemistry argument, I asked how many of Behe’s examples need to be explained before irreducible complexity is dead.

Not just one, Koons surmised. One example does not make for solid proof.

What Koons ending up saying is that creationists could pose a large number of examples of supposed irreducible complexity, and biologist would need to refute a slew of these before we should bring the concept into question. My experience, as I noted back then, is that in science and in academia you can expect to present two or at most three ridiculous arguments before you lose credibility. Koons seemed at the time vacant on this point.

But what of Meyer’s presentation on this day, apparently about 2009?

At one point he gets to the causality argument, and he states the misconception that cause and effect are essential to the working of the Universe. As is often pointed out, this is not the case. From all appearances and from all known experience, cause and effect are not essential. At the base of physical science, events happen without a cause. Not a big deal, but certainly not in line with Meyer’s train of thought.

That brings us to Meyer’s central argument in Episode 1. We know the effect. We see it all around us. We see birds, we feel the wind. There are stars and planets, and people and love and happiness (my wording). What is the cause? Is it blind physics? He is going to argue no. Eventually he is going to postulate that God is the best explanation—the best and ultimate cause. Here God is the capital G in the middle of his blackboard.

 

And Meyer’s argument is the proper inference is a being of some sort manifesting intelligence and passion. The problem with this is–pause for a moment–what we call intelligence and passion are human qualities. He, and others in the Intelligent Design movement, are taking these and other human qualities and creating a God that possesses these and in turn creates beings, ourselves, that have these properties. The argument is unquestionably circular.

I will state, as I have before, that if there were a being, such as the proposed God, and this being were all-knowing and all-powerful (omniscient and omnipotent), then what would would this God do? Create a Universe? Create a planet and populate it with beings possessing intelligence and passion? Why? The motivation to create, even if to experiment, is a quality found in living things on this planet. And that includes us. We have those qualities because they are essential to survival. Such need would not exist for an omniscient and omnipotent being. If there is Intelligent Design, then we are not the product. We are the designer.

Episode 2 is going to be “The Big Bang Cosmology: The Finite Universe.” I’m thinking that’s going to  be  more interesting, and I will post a review later this week. These are short, around 30 minutes, so they pose little challenge to my attention span.

Here is a link to a promo on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0S-5GdCPp7c

Hey! If you’re not an Amazon Prime subscriber you can purchase the DVD set on Amazon.

www.amazon.com/TrueU-01-Building-Scientific-Discussion/dp/B00UTUDIT6/

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Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

What apparently happened, and this was 40 years ago in 1977, somebody said, “Here’s two million dollars. Go make a bad movie.” So the response was, “They already made a bad movie.” Then, “Well, go make a spoof of a bad movie.” “You mean a movie that makes bad movies look good?” “Yeah, that kind of movie.” “So, what do you want me to call it?” “How about The Happy Hooker.” “That’s already been done. How about The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington.” “Max, you’re a genius.”

And I watched it. Oh sweet Jesus, I watched it. It’s streaming this month (September) on Amazon Prime Video. Wikipedia doesn’t have much of an entry for it, but then there’s not much of a plot. So I had to be satisfied with getting details on the players.

So it’s got to be about Washington, and we know what goes on in Washington. Well, that’s how this starts out. The cleaning woman, then the security guard, discover a member of Congress and a woman staffer in flagrante delicto, and that riles lawmakers to the point there needs to be an investigation. And a movie.

 

The scene switches to the office of corporate madame Xaviera Hollander (Joey Heatherton) in Los Angeles. Besides her undercover work, she runs a sexual advice column. And that’s about all the setting this movie needs, because this is going to be about junior high school sexual innuendo and bare tits. At every opportunity we’re going to see bare tits. Everything else is a distraction.

For example, Ms. Hollander conducts profitable sexual orgy sessions.

And more. But the United States Senate has other ideas. Ms. Hollander is subpoenaed to testify, since her line of business is certainly the root cause of all this sexual corruption. The hearings get underway, and a flustered TV censor bemoans the vulgar language he has been required to strike from scripts. He can’t say the words out loud, so he passes along a list to the committee, explaining, “It’s amazing what some of the cock-suckers will try to get away with.”

Juvenile, humor, of course, and the chamber erupts into school yard snickers. It gets stretched. Senatorial secretary Miss Goodbody (Cisse Cameron) is taking notes, and she is confused. Is cock-suckers one word or two? She has to repeat the phrase a number of times, each time drawing gasps from underage boys who have sneaked in to watch the movie. It’s finally decided that cock-sucker is hyphenated. But we all knew that.

To keep you from having to guess, before the movie is out you are going to get to see Miss Goodbody’s tits.

Ms. Hollander testifies.

The Senate panel brings up some of Ms. Hollander’s previous projects. She has worked to help advertisers push their products, using the product that she sells best.

Any excuse (I’m not complaining) to show bare tits. Here’s a scene in a diner (a product commercial) where newly-weds are itching to show everybody something they learned the previous night. The product being advertised is a paper towel strong enough to clean up the mess the two make humping on the counter.

Yes, there is something for the ladies in  the audience. Here’s George Hamilton, as Ms. Hollander’s lawyer. With his clothes on. Sorry.

More advertising pitches. This time it’s a car company in Detroit. Can you do it in this model? Yes, you can, three couples at a time.

She pops out the top of the mock-up car. What a ride!

There is one segment of actual drama. Ms. Hollander is kidnapped by a CIA dwarf played by Billy Barty. He sends her on assignment to Miami Beach, where her duty to her country is to seduce an Arab sheikh and prevent him from attending a crucial business conference.

For Ms. Hollander, it’s all in a days’ work.

What she learns from the sheikh is that the senators on the panel have connected with him to supply women for their sexual fantasies. Back on the stand she details the exploits of each of them.

And that’s the end of the movie. In case you waded all the way through it in hopes of seeing Heatherton’s tits, this is about as close as you’re going to get.

If I were drive-in movie critic Joe Bob Briggs, I would have an accurate count of bare breasts appearing in this movie. Just take my word for it. This film has more bare breasts than Kentucky Fried Movie. More than double to be sure.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video again. Always a good source for a Bad Movie of the Week. This one is Woman on the Run from 1950. Lots of bad movies in those days, but this is one of the best of the bad. It has a plot with real drama and suspense—almost believable.

First scene, and somebody is walking his dog. It’s in San Francisco. The man is Frank Johnson (Ross Elliott), and his life is about to  change. While Frank stops to light his pipe at the top of some steps, a car pulls to a stop, and two men inside begin negotiating a matter of life and death. One is a chunky fellow with a terrific Irish brogue, named Joe Gordon (Tom Dillon), and he wants payoff money to  keep quiet. He thinks he has a good argument, and he asks his companion “Danny Boy” for a cigarette. We don’t see Danny, but we do see Danny’s signature lighter when he lights Joe’s final cigarette. Then Danny shoots and pushes Joe out the passenger side door. Joe begs Danny for his life, but Danny fires again.

Frank has been watching all the while. The dog (Rembrandt) barks. Danny spies Frank. Danny fires twice and misses. Frank ducks for cover, and Danny drives off in haste. Take a good look at Frank. The movie is not about him, and we’re not going to  see him again until much later.

The police come. Frank is cooperative. Then he gets the big picture. He’s the only witness to a first degree murder. He’s going to  have to  testify. While the police are distracted Frank cuts Rembrandt loose and hauls ass, but not before telling the police where he lives.

Hard-bitten  Inspector Martin Ferris (Robert Keith), lacking  his prime witness, pays a call on Frank’s wife, hard-bitten Eleanor Johnson (Ann Sheridan). She’s not interested in telling the police where to find her husband, and she’s not interested in her husband. They’ve been married four years, and the fire went some time ago. Frank is an artist, too persnickety to make it to the big time. He has gone through artistic phases and disparages his own work. He has quit painting and has gone to work for a department store called Hart and Winston, where he applies his artistic talents for money.

Eleanor shows absolutely no interest in her husband. That is, until Ferris mentions that the killer shot at him twice. Her expression intensifies. Perhaps this is not a mere case of spousal neglect. Her husband, for whom she has no interest, is becoming slightly more interesting.

The police go off looking for Frank, and they tell Eleanor to stay put. They are going to need her assistance, willing or not, to locate Frank.

Meanwhile, hard-bitten newsman Daniel Leggett (Dennis O’Keefe) horns in. He smothers Leanor with attention, wanting a story about Frank. He wants an interview. They must find Frank. He helps Eleanor escape the police by way of the roof through a skylight.

Inspector Ferris has observed Frank’s prescription medicine. Eleanor goes to visit the doctor who prescribed the medication. She learns for the first time that Frank has a heart condition. He’s going to die if he doesn’t continue to take the medication. Eleanor didn’t know that about Frank. She begins to show additional concern.

No man is a hero to his own wife. I heard that years ago, and I tend to believe it. Eleanore visits Hart and Winston and learns more about Frank. More than Frank ever told her. A Mr. Maibus (John Qualen), who works with Frank, tells Eleanor things about Frank that Frank never mentioned to his wife. Apparently in his past life Frank was a world traveler and adventurer. Also, Frank is invaluable at the store. Financial success hangs on Frank’s talents, and Frank once saved Maibus’ job by threatening to quit if Maibus was fired. The sculptured mannequins he created for the store have been modeled after his wife. Eleanor is becoming more interested in Frank than she has been in years.

The ax falls. Leggett lights a cigarette for Eleanor with a distinctive lighter. “Call me Danny.” Sacré bleu! Eleanor is working with the murderer. Of course we won’t find that out until the end of the movie.

When Eleanor and Danny visit a rooftop Chinese diner where Frank and Eleanor often dined, they learn that Frank has been there. A cabaret dancer who works there tells them that Frank made a drawing and gave it to her. It’s the drawing of a face that looks much like Danny. Ditching Eleanor for a few minutes, Danny apparently (we don’t view the action) goes back to the diner, murders the girl, and destroys the drawing.

The end comes at a popular beach, where Eleanor finally figures out where Frank has gone to wait for her. Only, the scene was filmed at Santa Monica Pier, 381 miles away. When the action shifts to the beach scene we immediately spot the roller coaster, and we know it’s going to figure in the plot. Anytime there’s a roller coaster in a movie it’s going to play a critical role. Danny insists they ride the roller coaster. It’s a ruse to keep them hidden as the police begin to close in. Also Eleanor and Danny have figured Frank has been waiting by a sand sculpture on the beach, and Danny needs to distract Eleanor while he makes his move.

The roller coaster charges up and down the slopes and around sharp bends while Eleanor hangs on and screams. The ride stops, and Danny insists Eleanor must take another ride by herself, leaving Danny to stalk Frank.

The roller coaster ride repeats, with Eleanor holding on tightly and screaming. Then she recalls something Danny told her. He told her the killer shot at Frank twice. Nobody knows that but the police, herself, and the killer. Danny is the killer. She spots Frank on the beach and screams for him to run.

Danny corners Frank near the roller coaster and attempts to induce him to have a heart attack by forcing his head on the track. The police kill Danny. The ride ends. Eleanor embraces Frank, and it’s the end of the movie.

This movie has a lot going for it. From Wikipedia:

The film was recently restored and preserved by the UCLA Film & Television Archive. It is available on DVD and Blu-ray (2016).

Acting is up to snuff, disregarding some of the minor players. The dialog is realistic, and the actors settle naturally into their scenes. This was four years before Elia Kazan brought On the Waterfront to us with real people and real dialog.

There is suspense, but attempts to build suspense drag at the plot. Eleanor and Danny visit clothing store after clothing store to find one where Frank might have gone for a disguise. There is scene after scene during which suspense is supposed to be building, but interest is lagging, instead.

An essential element of the plot is the wife’s growing realization there is more to Frank than she comprehended. It’s a likable plot device. A character is pictured initially one way, and as the plot develops and more becomes known the character takes on an entirely different form. Alan Campbell, Norman Foster, and Ross Hunter (dialogue) take the hit on this. They don’t handle the transition smoothly, hammering it in, instead. “No, Mrs. Johnson, your husband is not the milquetoast he pretended to be.” That’s not actual dialog from the picture, but it is my impression. I could have done better. For example, “I first met your husband when he pulled me out of the gun turret after we got hit.” The re-engineering of the Frank Johnson character should have been handled more obliquely. The screen writers show a lack of dexterity unbecoming.

Besides that, how come Eleanor never asked Frank, “What were you doing all those years before you met me?” Viewers get the idea, perhaps intended, that Frank and Eleanor met, had great sex for a few years, and never brought their complete selves into the marriage. I am sure that kind of thing does happen, but in this case it gets loaded onto the audience needlessly.

The roller coaster episode is overly dramatic, maybe fresh at the time, but now a cliché. What did surprise me was that there was no chase on the tracks resulting in Danny being killed by the cars or else falling from a great height.

For comedy, there is roller coaster action in the title sequence for The Naked Gun. There’s a monster and a roller coaster in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. There’s more roller coaster comedy in Abbott and Costello in Hollywood. There are move. Readers are invited to submit recommendations.

Ann Sheridan is a pleasure to watch. Hers is the only voice that comes close to that of Eve Arden for cool and brittle. She hailed from Denton, Texas, and attended North Texas State Teachers College. She was a co-producer of this film.

The copyright owners were careless and allowed the copyright to expire. You can watch this for free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIOB4CQhCT0.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I’m on a roll here. Another bad movie review before I take some days off. Here’s one from 1934, apparently soon after photography was invented. It’s The Woman Condemned, distributed by Progressive Pictures. Apparently that concern is no longer in business. We begin to wonder why. I caught this streaming on Amazon Prime Video, the mother lode for bad movies. However, you can watch it for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fH6GfQb7sq4. I’m writing this review in August. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s a pulp fiction plot, but that’s not all that kills this one. I will sketch the scenes. A radio singer gives a farewell performance. She’s Jane Merrick (Lola Lane), and she’s a hit with her radio audience. The studio audience loves her, as well. That’s them we see applauding behind the glass, but silently, because, you know, they’re behind the glass.

Then Jane tells her fiancée she must take some time off,  but she will be back, and they will be married.

Jane tells her maid, Sally (Louise Beavers) she is not to be disturbed by anybody or by anything. Then she makes a phone call to a man and discusses terms of payment. Something suspicious is going on.

The radio studio gets desperate. Without Jane singing nightly, their main sponsor, a dairy concern, is threatening to pull its sponsorship. The studio audience is fading, as well. They engage a detective agency to find out what’s the matter with Jane. The agency puts its best woman operative, from New York, on the case. We see Sally leaving Jane’s apartment with a suitcase.

As it turns out, their best operative is Barbara Hammond (Claudia Dell), who starts off her investigation by getting pinched by the police trying to break into Jane’s apartment from the fire escape. Coming before the judge at night court, she is spotted by ace reporter Jerry Beall (Richard Hemingway). It’s not that he recognizes Barbara as an ace detective. It’s that he recognizes her as a major babe.

Jerry instantly jumps to Barbara’s defense, claiming she is his fiancée, and she is always playing practical jokes. Won’t the judge please give this cute chick a major break? The judge has a taste for practical jokes, himself, and he immediately summons the county clerk and performs the marriage ceremony on the spot.

The newly weds talk it out over dinner at a swank club. The movie audience is entertained with a lavish cabaret show. Anything to  stretch out the run time?

Barbara puts Jerry off (no nooky tonight) and goes back to spy on Jane. She witnesses Jane having an altercation with a strange man, an altercation that involves money changing hands. The man leaves. Barbara enters. There’s a shot. Jane falls dead. The lights go out. The neighbors come. Jane is holding a gun. The neighbor has his own gun. He holds Barbara until the police arrive. Jerry follows the police inside and is dismayed that the love of his life is going to be charged with murder.

Jerry visits his wife in the slammer. He promises to get her out of this. After he leaves another man comes and talks to Barbara. Barbara tells him to sit tight. She has a plan.

Jerry breaks into Jane’s apartment by way of the handy fire escape. He checks through Jane’s Rolodex. Actually it’s just a small note pad, but it contains some phone numbers. He dials a few and comes across one that fires his curiosity. He poses as the police and demands the phone company give him the address.

Jerry goes to the address and meets a rude doctor, who turns him away. He returns to snoop at the window. Inside he sees people in medical garb pulling bandages off a woman’s face. It’s Jane! She’s not dead. Sally, the maid, is there. She spots Jerry at the window, and Jerry departs post haste to fetch his friend.

The two return and break into  the doctor’s office. Surprise! The doctor and his associates capture them and tie them up for the police. But Sally comes in and recognizes Jerry’s friend as Jane’s fiancée Jim Wallace (Jason Robards Sr.). They are clued in on the mystery.

Jane went to the surgeon to have a birthmark removed. While away she allowed her twin sister to hide out at her apartment. Her sister was trying to avoid a dangerous man. The dangerous man, apparently unaware of the twin business, tracked the sister down and fired the fatal shot. He is a mobster named Dapper Dan (Paul Ellis), but I doubt that’s the name his mother gave him.

Meanwhile Dan is brought to the police station, where he looks on while the police sweat a confession out of Barbara. Then the lights go out. When the lights come back on it’s Jane sitting there, the person Dan though he killed. He confesses.

The police chief congratulates Barbara on her brilliant scheme.

Yeah, it’s pretty much a dumb plot, and a bit tired. The fire escape device gets way over worked. In real life that would have been sealed up in short order.

Also, it’s hard to imagine the murder scene. Barbara is watching “Jane.” She enters the room. There is a shooting, but she does not see the shooter. Now the lights are out. How convenient. And what does ace detective Barbara Hammond do next but pick up the murder weapon.

Robards was the father of the more famous Jason Robards Jr. He had a successful film career, mostly not due to this performance. Dell’s film career spanned 14 years, finishing up in 1944 with Call of the Jungle. Lola Lane was one of the Lane Sisters, Here last movie was They Made Me a Killer in 1946. My observation watching the movie is that her singing voice was most cool, but I cannot imagine the success of a radio station hanging on it. Those people in Hollywood have wonderful imaginations, or else they expect we do.

Bad Moon Rising

Where did this come from?

I see the bad moon rising
I see trouble on the way
I see earthquakes and lightnin’
I see bad times today

So, what does this have to do with the Kecksburg conspiracy stories? First I need to bring you up to date. Plans are ramping up for a motion picture, and pitchmen are turning up the heat. From INDIEGOGO:

A mystery solved, Government lies exposed!

This feature film will help drive interest and solve a 52 year old mystery.  The US government has refused to tell the truth, even to the Clintons.  What is so secret that even they can’t know?  But to expose the truth, we can’t just depend on traditional film financing, we need your help.

The producer is Cody Knotts, originally from Taylortown, PA., and the above link leads to a pitch for crowd-funding to get the picture off the ground. The pitch, apparently penned by Knotts, stresses these additional points:

  • The public deserves to know the truth about Kecksburg. Our government has no right to continue to hide the truth.  Even Hillary Clinton can’t get the records, but this feature film can help keep Kecksburg in the public eye.  Even more important, this film can help drive tourism to the Pittsburgh region and Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. Roswell gets $95 million annually and Kecksburg nearly nothing.
  • Are you tired of your government lying to you?  Then join our fight, help us make this film.  Help us expose the truth.
  • Do you care about Pittsburgh?  Would you like to help change a region for the better?
  • Films are forever.  They last beyond our lifetimes.  This is our chance to tell a story that has fascinated the public for decades.  Bryant Gumble, Ancient AliensUnsolved Mysteries and the History Channel  have all investigated Kecksburg but no one has brought the legend to life, until now.  We need your help and we want you to be a part of the legend.

There is a load of appeal to logic and reason here.

Actually, there is not, and a quick review of the story is worth considering.

On 9 December 1965 a significant fireball (meteor) was observed above the United States northern tier, roughly along the border with Canada. There are multiple accounts, giving differing conclusions. Here are two from the same Wikipedia entry:

Sky and Telescope

Several articles were written about the fireball in science journals. The February 1966 issue of Sky & Telescope reported that the fireball was seen over the Detroit-Windsor area at about 4:44 p.m. EST. The Federal Aviation Administration had received 23 reports from aircraft pilots, the first starting at 4:44 p.m. A seismograph 25 miles southwest of Detroit had recorded the shock waves created by the fireball as it passed through the atmosphere. The Sky & Telescope article concluded that “the path of the fireball extended roughly from northwest to southeast” and ended “in or near the western part of Lake Erie”.

Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada

A 1967 article by two astronomers in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (JRASC) used the seismographic record to pinpoint the time of passage over the Detroit area to 4:43 p.m. In addition, they used photographs of the trail taken north of Detroit at two different locations to triangulate the trajectory of the object. They concluded that the fireball was descending at a steep angle, moving from the southwest to the northeast, and likely impacted on the northwestern shore of Lake Erie near Windsor, Ontario.

Wikipedia points out the obvious. The two reports are contradictory. On one point they both agree. The object in question landed near the western end of Lake Erie. Something equally obvious is not pointed out. The western shore of Lake Erie is a long way from Kecksburg, PA. So, where does Kecksburg come into this? Your guess is as good as mine.

That notwithstanding, following the flash in the sky, there were reports of an object landing near Kecksburg. Again from Wikipedia:

However, eyewitnesses in the small village of Kecksburg, about 30 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, claimed something crashed in the woods. A boy said he saw the object land; his mother saw a wisp of blue smoke arising from the woods and alerted authorities. Another reported feeling a vibration and “a thump” about the time the object reportedly landed. Others from Kecksburg, including local volunteer fire department members, reported finding an object in the shape of an acorn and about as large as a Volkswagen Beetle.

And the story devolved from there. There are claims that government officials came and cordoned off the area, confiscated photographic film and audio recordings, some of which were produced in preparation for reports on the incident. Anyhow, the sum total of the story is an amazing abuse of government power and of an attempt to cover up, something. Amazing, provided any or all of these reports are true.

In 1967 there was a follow-up investigation. From Wikipedia:

A 1967 article by two astronomers in the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (JRASC) used the seismographic record to pinpoint the time of passage over the Detroit area to 4:43 p.m. In addition, they used photographs of the trail taken north of Detroit at two different locations to triangulate the trajectory of the object. They concluded that the fireball was descending at a steep angle, moving from the southwest to the northeast, and likely impacted on the northwestern shore of Lake Erie near Windsor, Ontario.

Again, others besides those involved in the story are pinpointing the site of the landing hundreds of miles from Kecksburg.

Nearly forty-four years after the event Space.com published a report on another investigation headlined “Is Case Finally Closed on 1965 Pennsylvania ‘UFO Mystery’?” and the essence of which is:

NASA’s resulting search, monitored by the court, was completed in August 2009. The outcome of the investigation is available in Kean’s paper, which was posted online this month to the coalition’s Web site.

Despite, “posted online this month to the coalition’s Web site,” no such report is found on the coalition’s Web site. Regardless, the conclusion of Kean’s paper is supposedly this:

The report, flatly titled, “The Conclusion of the NASA Lawsuit – Concerning the Kecksburg, PA UFO case of 1965,” explains how the process worked and the results of the search after the 2007 settlement in federal court.

The bottom line: No smoking gun documents were released, Kean notes, but many provocative questions and unresolved contradictions were raised by what was received, as well as by the fact that many files were missing or destroyed.

All this leaves ample room for the development of conspiracy theories and for the people who make them into a business. And business this appears to be. From the INDIEGOGO site:

Roswell generates $95 million annually, Kecksburg nearly nothing.  Although Kecksburg has more documentation, more witnesses and more mystery… it has never been commercialized.  This film is the key element in changing that dynamic, both shedding a light on the truth and jump starting the local economy of Pittsburgh, the Laurel Highlands, Westmoreland, Somerset and Fayette Counties.

As part of these efforts, we are working with local political leaders to bring this film to life. In addition, local Pittsburgh stars like Curt Wootton (Pittsburgh Dad), Shane Douglas (5 time world wrestling champion) and Richard John Walters (My Bloody Valentine 3D) are all part of the cast.

And more. There is additional language on the INDIEGOGO site concerning commercial appeal. For example:

You can be listed as an Abductee in the film, get cool alien statues and even be in the film.  Even better you could have a movie poster with YOU on it!  If you can make it to the premiere, you can hang with the cast, walk the red carpet and help shed light on a 52 year old mystery.

Apparently in return for helping to underwrite production.

Running throughout is the theme of government malfeasance and mysterious doings that might include contact with extraterrestrials. These kinds of themes find great appeal with a segment of the population. And that’s how I came to hear about it. A friend of Knotts posted a link to the INDIEGOGO site on Facebook, and that started a conversation. After a few exchanges I chimed in, posting a link to my review of the movie Fire in the Sky and comparing it to the Kecksburg production. I got this response:

…and you label “Kecksburg” as being based on fantasies by… having seen the script, perhaps? Having weighed witness testimonies in THAT incident?

..and “based on an actual event” still indicates fiction is involved, right?

Well, yes. Fiction is almost always involved in a dramatization. But there is more depth. I responded:

“as being based on fantasies” I know the Kecksburg story, and there is a load of fantasy involved. I have not read the script, but I see the promo headlining the following: “Kecksburg: It’s time for the truth! For 52 years the US Government has hidden what happened in Kecksburg. Now the truth will be known.”

I’m a reasonable person, not prone to jump to conclusions. But this has all the smell of a supposed expose of a supposed conspiracy. Stand by for an analysis of the Kecksburg story, coming soon to a blog post near you.

Hence this posting.

I cannot be sure my Facebook friend concedes to the theme of the  movie, but there are others who do, and they are legion. They are the drivers of a thriving  industry in this country and around the world. The movie JFK is unabashed in its proposal for an alternate theory of President Kennedy’s assassination. I have encountered at least one person who finds the movie to be evidence. I previously worked with some French researchers, and one remarked to me his amazement at learning many Americans believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Fact is, the French may be more inclined to accept these notions than we are. I have a book by Thierry Meyssan that goes to great length to fabricate a defiant version of the 9/11 attacks.

Full disclosure. The producer of Southern Fried Bigfoot approached me a few years ago and asked whether I would be willing to be interviewed on camera about cryptozoology. As a result I wound up with an IMDb screen credit. Also a copy of the video for those interested in watching it.  So I have contributed in a small way to this industry.

If and when the Kecksburg movie comes out I will do a review. There will be more. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on our souls.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

This one is bad. Really bad. For the first time I am reviewing a movie without watching it through. It is that bad. It’s Be My Teacher, from 2011, further proof they did not quit making bad movies in 1946. This is from Amazon Prime Video, but you can watch it for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DSD3OlSW_1A. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s one of those student-teacher sexcapades we find so salacious on the evening news. This one puts the genre in a bad light. Here’s the story.

Alecia (LaTeace Towns-Cuellar) is a high school teacher, and she’s trying to avoid Evan (Derek Lee Nixon), a senior getting ready to graduate. Or not. He keeps skipping her class and is in danger of being expelled and flunking out. The problem is the sexual attraction between the two, and that’s what the movie is all about.

Nobody in this movie seems to have a last name.

We see Evan’s friends David (John Devereaux) and Taylor (Kari Gillespie) wonder at Evan’s preoccupation. Taylor is hot for Evan, and she can’t figure out what’s going on.

Alecia and Evan eventually score one morning in a class room before school starts, and things wander along toward a climax at the senior prom. Taylor has told Evan she’s having his baby, even though Evan does not remember a corresponding event (he passed out on top of her). David has a conversation with Taylor about it after which David gets ideas and puts the strong arm on Alecia in the girls’ restroom, whereupon Evan and David come to fisticuffs.

And that’s the end of the movie. Five years later Evan is out of college and throwing a party of some sort with his fiancée, and Alecia drops by with her son Evan, who it turns out has the same gluten allergy as Evan Sr. Alecia and young Evan depart, nobody being the wiser.

The camera work is bloody awful. Shooting resolution compares to 8 mm, and pan shots are uneven and jerky. Dialogue is lifeless and verging on juvenile. Performances are comparable.

For some really steamy teacher-student romance you might dip into the literate arts. I recommend Erskine Caldwell’s Episode in Palmetto, for which there does not seem to be a Kindle edition. Here’s the paperback:

In case he passed you by 60 years ago, Caldwell was the master of steam in his time.

This scene from Blackboard Jungle was much discussed with my high school friends when it came out in 1955.

Ah, we grow up too fast.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video to the rescue again. Always a good source when I need a bad movie to review. This is Streamline Express from 1935, before many of us were born. It was during a time Hollywood was making some very bad movies on the scale of a major industry. It stars Victor Jory as playwright – director Jimmy Hart. The production company is not identified. Details are from Wikipedia.

Jimmy is having problems with his current Broadway production. The run is due to start in a few days, and dress rehearsals are going badly, because leading lady Patricia Wallace (Evelyn Venable) is a no-show. Back in Elaine’s dressing room Jimmy earholes maid Fawn (Libby Taylor), who tells him the reluctant Patricia has absconded aboard the Streamline Express, hence the title.

The Streamline Express is a train 20 years ahead of its time. Besides not being an actual train (only one car), it’s a 120 miles per hour monorail and is scheduled that day to start its maiden run from New York to Santa Barbara, California, non-stop. Much ado is made about it, but Jimmy manages to sneak aboard the train, whose maiden  run is sold out.

Jimmy confronts Patricia, who rings for the steward and has him tossed from the train, luckily still at the station. But Jimmy is not to be denied. He pays the steward to switch places with him, and he spends most of the trip to California working to win Patricia back to the theater. She is eloping with her new fiancée, Fred Arnold (Ralph Forbes), fabulously wealthy and promising to keep Patricia sedentary in Santa Barbara. I almost wrote sedimentary.

There are others on the train, of course. There is husband John Bradley (Clay Clement) and his mistress, the blonde Elaine Vincent (Esther Ralston). Rejected wife Mary Bradley (Erin O’Brien-Moore) sneaks aboard after she learns her husband is leaving her for a hussy.

Also aboard is the balding Mr. Jones (Vince Barnett). Mr. Jones must get his pregnant wife to California, and quickly. If the baby is born in California, said baby will inherit $10,000, a lot of money in 1935.

The plot is a mangle of intrigue and double dealing, and everybody gets justice. The troubled marriage gets patched up. Two Jones children are born, one in Arizona and one in California. Jimmy realizes he is madly in love with Patricia, and Patricia has loved Jimmy from the beginning. They will be married in Santa Barbara and hurry back to New York for the opening of their new play.

Yes, and the performances barely register. This one runs for slightly more than an hour, but I kept looking at my watch all the time. You don’t have to subscribe to Amazon Prime to watch it. It’s available on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74Z18UELYs8. Enjoy.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Here’s one older than I am, barely. It came out in 1939, about the time world headlines were cooling after news the British gave the German navy a thrashing off the coast of Uruguay. It’s Slightly Honorable, featuring Pat O’Brien in the lead role. The distribution company was United Artists. Details are from Wikipedia, which entry is a mere shell, listing only the cast of characters. This production has been saved from oblivion and now rests peacefully among the Amazon Prime Video archives.

Films like this are the reason I created the Bad Movie of the Week series. It has a mystery plot which barely registers among all the other drama going on around it. Here is a short breakdown.

O’Brien is prominent attorney John Webb, and there is a major plot diversion involving a state highway corruption scandal. For example, there is a detour in the story line featuring a lab test of two samples of asphalt paving, one being from Oklahoma. Anyhow, ignoring the numerous side shows, I will give the bare bones narrative.

Dispense with some preliminaries, including the funeral of a corrupt politician, and get to the main plot. We see Webb confabbing with some acquaintances before heading into a cabaret club. One of the acquaintances Alma Brehmer (Claire Dodd), a sparkling blonde. Apparently everybody winds up inside the club.

On comes the show, featuring a firecracker singer-dancer. She is never given a name, but the part is played by Ruth Terry. She dogs the remainder of the plot, as will be seen. Webb comes to call her Puss. That’s the name I will use. Anyhow, following her act, Puss attaches herself to Webb, possibly twice her age (she’s 18, “and three months”).

But there’s trouble. As a viewer I am amazed to see the kind of rough stuff going on amongst such a crowd of upscale clientèle. One customer puts the move on Puss, rips her dress, and knocks her to the floor. Webb comes to the rescue, pulling this mere child to the safety outside after a standoff in force with some well-heeled thugs. This later on turns out to have nothing to do with the main plot.

Back at his office, Webb conducts business with his attractive and efficient secretary. She is Miss Ater, played by the bubbly Eve Arden. I show this image so readers can appreciate Ms. Arden’s appreciable qualities. Her film career spanned from  1929 to 1982, but it was her on-air persona that first caught my attention. For a long time she had her own television program, Our Miss Brooks, that cast her as a high school teacher. I can watch an old movie, and I can tell immediately when she enters the scene. It’s that brash and brittle voice. Nobody ever duplicated it. Sadly for viewers, she is a casualty of this movie’s multiple homicides.

But Puss barges in. Since Webb has previously rescued her, she is his forever, purchasing a new wardrobe on his credit. That does not appear to alarm him much (he talks of million dollar business deals). What does alarm him is when she begins to show off her new duds by changing costumes in his office. There has got to be a future in that.

But somebody has murdered the provocative Ms. Brehmer. Webb vows to avenge her untimely death, becoming immediately a suspect, himself.

In fact, most of the cast becomes suspect. Police attempt to sort out who was on first, and the session takes on aspects of a three-ring circus. In fact, that is a termed used in the movie to describe it.

Then there is the disappearing murder weapon. It turns up in Webb’s desk drawer, just as the police are coming to search. Webb can only think of one place to  hide it. The cop never looks up to see the knife stuck in the ceiling above his head.

I have to insert this, as well. Art, the elevator operator in Webb’s apartment building, is played by Willie Best. He comes on twice in the film, and each appearance opens showing him doing a small shuck and jive dance. Eighty years ago this was expected behavior of a black character in the plot. Interesting thing is, this was the same year Hattie McDaniel was putting in an Academy Award appearance in Gone With The Wind. It was going to take another fifteen years before Hollywood grew up and cast Sidney Poitier in a major dramatic role in Blackboard Jungle.

Tragedy! Webb returns to his office to find Miss Ater sitting at his desk, skewered by the infamous missing murder weapon.

Cutting out remaining details, Webb figures it was his partner, Russ Sampson (Broderick Crawford), doing the murdering to cover up a crooked past. By now Puss has so grown on the middle-aged Webb that he cannot live without her. He proposes in the back seat of a cab, and they get hitched.

Yes, this has some top tier talent, but they do not deliver much in the way of performance. The plot is a mishmash of unrelated themes. This might have done for a 30-minute TV drama, but it runs for 85 minutes. Wikipedia reports it made $386,116 at the box office under a production cost of $434,874. And  this was back when the Great Depression was pushing wages down. You can watch it for free on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKBWyqM_S8o. Let me know if you do watch it, and let me know what you think.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Keeping up the pace, this week I’m reviewing one or more movies each day so I can get ahead of the curve and take some time off. Praise Jesus for Amazon Prime Video, the mother-lode of bad movies. This is One Body Too Many from 1944 by way of Paramount Pictures, and I am dead sure I never  saw it on the big screen. Details are from Wikipedia.

This one has promise, what with Jack HaleyJean Parker, and Bela Lugosi. You know it’s going to be spooky with Lugosi in the lead.

So, we have Haley as Albert L. Tuttle, insurance salesman par excellence. He’s about to score a big policy sale. He’s waited 30 days for his appointment with millionaire Cyrus J. Rutherford, who’s taking out a $200,000 life policy. Why a multi-millionaire is banking $200 K on his own life is never explained.

But Albert is a few days short. Rich Mr. Rutherford’s policy has already expired, and heirs are sitting around as attorney Morton Gellman (Bernard Nedell) reads the will. It’s a strange will. Somebody will get $500,000, and somebody will get $1.50. Except…

Except everybody has to stay in the house, cannot leave, until the body is interred. And the body must be laid to rest in peace under a glass dome, exposed to the stars. Else, the will be reversed. Who was to get the most will now get the least, etc. Anybody leaves before the interment, a few days hence, gets nothing. Attorney Gellman calls for a detective to come and guard the body and ensure it is not interfered with in the meantime.

Meanwhile, Merkil the butler (Lugosi) makes coffee for everybody. He has handy in the kitchen a bottle of rat poison. “There are too many rats in this house. They should be done away with,” he announces, ending the sentence with an preposition.

Blanche Yurka is Matthews, the cook.

Throughout the movie Merkil keeps offering everybody coffee, but each time there is a reason they decide not to drink any.

The detective arrives and never makes it to the front door. He’s chopped by somebody and secreted away so he can’t cause trouble. Albert arrives and is mistaken for the detective. When he realizes he is expected to babysit a stiff he makes plans to depart post haste, visions of a huge policy fee having evaporated.

But pretty Carol Dunlap (Parker) urges him to stay. There’s chemistry.

Skipping all the plot details, attorney Gellman talks Albert into hiding out in the casket, this after the body mysteriously goes missing.

Meanwhile, a fearsome threesome plot to  dispose of the body, coffin and all, not realizing Albert is in the coffin.

More intrigue. There is much going in and out and through secret passageways and winding up in strange bedrooms. Gellman is murdered, Albert is accused of another murder and is locked inside the observatory atop the sumptuous Rutherford mansion. He gets rescued by Carol.

The real killer scoops up Carol and carries her to the top of the observatory, planning to dump her several stories down. Albert climbs to the rescue. The dome rotates, the killer is swept off and to his doom.

Carol coaxes Albert, against his better judgment, into one of the secret passages and closes the door. Merkil and Matthews drink the coffee.

Yes, it’s one of those comedies where people die. This should get bad marks due to its poor print quality, but I will let that pass. Obviously the plot is a complete contrivance, devolving into a sequence of episodes. It’s chances of becoming a cult classic are dim.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I sometimes mention I watch these movies so you won’t have to. Actually, some of these movies you wouldn’t watch if they pointed a gun to your head. This is one. It’s Alien Outlaw, otherwise titled RiffTrax: Alien Outlaw, from 1985 and currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Wikipedia doesn’t have an entry, so I’m getting details (there are few) from IMDb. I’m not going to list everybody you see in these screen shots. I’ fairly sure you won’t recognize them.

We have to get this started anyhow, so we see Wes, who works for sharpshooter Jesse Jamison (Kari Anderson). He’s leaving his girlfriend’s elegant home in the backwoods, preparing Jesse’s equipment for her next show. Actually, I’m not showing you Wes. I will do that in the next screen shot. Wes’s girlfriend is worth a look right now. He asks her to go around back and make sure the trailer door is latched. We are led to suspect this is merely a director’s device to give us the opportunity to view her very excellent rear end.

This print features a running voice-over, courtesy of RiffTrax, a company that does these commentaries. This movie would not be all that much worth watching without the assistance of RiffTrax.

Wes starts off on his drive, only to encounter a flash in the woods. Everybody is shouting at the screen (I presume). “No, Wes. Don’t stop. You are going to die!”

He does.

Cut to the following morning. Sweet Jesse is giving a shooting exhibition to a gunslinger dressed in black cowboy attire. He is impressed. She is absolutely deadly with that six gun. The thigh-length boots and the buckskin minidress don’t hurt, either.

Jesse is not pleased with the bookings she is getting for her show. She visits another talent agency and signs on. Then she phones her current agent to give him the bad news. He’s in bed in a cheap motel after a hard night checking out some new talent. Here is the obligatory bare breast scene. Every one of these movies is required to have one.

Cut to two rednecks out for a day of fishing and shooting off firearms. One of them is absolutely gun happy, until he meets one of the aliens. End of one of the rednecks.

Cutting out a lot of senseless drama, the word gets out about the three aliens from outer space on the loose in redneck country. Jesse figures it’s time to take action. She shucks off her outer skirt and straps on her trusty six gun. Somebody is going to die.

She arrives at the farmhouse where one one of the aliens is pursuing an enormously fat person named Luger. Jesse finishes off the alien with a deadly shot to part of the alien’s gear, which explodes impressively, sending alien parts flying to places unknown. Jesse tracks down and kills another alien. Just one left.

Meanwhile the surviving fisher has teamed with his uncle to dynamite the surviving alien. But the alien turns the tables and takes the fisher hostage. It’s a standoff. Jesse versus the alien. End of movie.

And that’s all there is to it. The uncle is played by movie legend Lash LaRue. It’s a name I knew well in my childhood, watching western serials Saturdays at the theater on the town square. Lash LaRue was a character in the films, and he was famous for using his bull whip to defeat the bad guys. Hence the name. I always wondered at that name, “Whip the Street.” But I figured if your name is going to start with “Lash,” then what has to come next? Has to start with L, and “LaRue” sounds exotic. It follows from there.

Believe me, Jesse Jamison prancing around in that skimpy mini-dress is the best thing this movie has going for it. Take second place, Mars Needs Women. This is number one.

A trailer is on-line on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HIeaPElIHdQ