Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Yes, it is. Amazon Prime Video is the go-to place for bad movies. All you have to do is navigate over to their sci-fi selection and take your pick. From 1958 this is The Trollenberg Terror, featuring Forrest TuckerLaurence PayneJennifer Jayne, and Janet Munro. This was distributed by Eros Films Ltd. out of Great Britain. Details are from  Wikipedia.

The first thing that got me was the unevenness. The opening scene shows what is obviously an artist’s rendition of Trollenberg, the mountain. I figured they paid the artist $2.75 an hour 60 years ago to produce this, while later in the movie there are excellent location shots of mountains that could have been inserted. The graphic artists must have had a strong union.

Next we see climbers (Jeremy Longhurst and Anthony Parker) on the mountain in the Swiss Alps. This is maybe the second worst studio mountain ledge mock-up, but I do not recall what was number one. Anyhow, a climber above calls out in distress. He’s obviously being killed, and he falls, his descent snubbed by the safety line. When the survivors attempt to pull him up to the ledge, the one on the right relinquishes the task in horror. The man’s head has been torn off.

Next two sisters, Anne and Sarah Pilgrim (Munro and Jayne) are trying to get some sleep on a train traveling on the way to Geneva. Alan Brooks (Tucker) is trying to read a newspaper. He’s a UN investigator on his way to Trollenberg, the village.

Anne, who we later learn is the mental side of a mind-reading act from London, gets restless. She goes to the window to view the mountain. She sees Trollenberg (the mountain) and passes out on top of Brooks’ newspaper. So they meet.

But Anne no longer wants to go to Geneva. She wants to get off the train at Trollenberg (the village) and stay at the Trollenberg Inn.

And they all do. Brooks meets Philip Truscott (Payne), who later turns out to be a reporter, sent to investigate what Brooks is up to in Switzerland.

We also meet two climbers, Dewhurst (Stuart Saunders) and Brett (Andrew Faulds). We can guess things are not going to end well for Dewhurst and Brett.

Brooks takes the cable car up the mountain to the observatory of  Professor Crevett (Warren Mitchell). They have a history. Previously the two had investigated mysterious goings on in the Andes. Now Crevett has an elaborate laboratory, courtesy of the Swiss government. It has all the features necessary to make for a successful movie plot. The walls are feet-thick concrete, and the place is equipped with TV scanners to monitor the mountain. Also, apparently, ionizing radiation scanners.

Meanwhile, back at the lodge, Anne demonstrates her mind-reading powers. She surmises, without seeing it, a 500-franc note and its serial number. And more. Plus, she and her sister are absolutely stunning—eye candy for men watching the movie.

So Dewhurst and Brett take the cable car and then hike up to the base hut on the mountain, in preparation for a climb the next day. Things go badly. Brett leaves the hut and never returns. Dewhurst goes to look for him.

When others go to the hut to investigate they find Dewhurst’s headless corpse. When a search party organizes to look for Brett, a search plane spots him up the mountain side. When two searchers arrive at the ledge where Brett was spotted, the first one to arrive discovers Dewhurst’s head in a knapsack. Then Brett appears and kills the two searchers with an ice ax.

All this is unknown to those down below, and when  Brett arrives back at the lodge, he appears to have suffered some damage they cannot explain. Then Bret spots Anne in the lobby and lunges at her with a knife. He is subdued and placed in a locked cell. But he murders the guard and escapes, searching the lodge for Anne. She awakens when he enters her room, and she screams. Best movie scream I have seen  in a long time. Academy Awards, anybody?

But Brooks enters from behind and shoots Brett dead.

Now Brooks has figured that an alien invasion is underway, and the mysterious cloud that hangs around one side of the mountain is a manifestation. The cloud is gradually drifting lower on the mountainside and is approaching the lodge. Brooks determines the safest place is the observatory at the top of the cable lift, and he orders an evacuation to the observatory. But Hans (Colin Douglas) decides to attempt to escape by car, through the cloud. He later shows up, having been unsuccessful, but much changed. When it becomes apparent he has been taken over by the aliens the others put him down.

The final cable car prepares to leave the village for the observatory. But a little girl is missing. Brooks goes back to the lodge, and finds she has gone to retrieve her ball. Brooks arrives just in  time to rescue the child from an alien being with tentacles like an octopus and one big eye.

Back at the laboratory, all the survivors have collected within the concrete walls. On the TV scanners they can see the horrible aliens menacing the laboratory.

Brooks exits briefly to hurl a Molotov cocktail at one alien. When Truscott attempts to do another fire bombing, and alien grabs him. Brooks comes to the rescue.

Soon the aliens are all over the fortress laboratory. Brooks orders an air strike with fire bombs.

We see a Swiss bomber flying over and unloading fire bombs. Only they do not look like fire bombs. This is apparently stock footage of some general purpose (GP) munitions being unloaded.

The fire bombs kill off the aliens, and the mysterious cloud disappears. Sex becomes manifest as Truscott makes a bid for Anne, and Brooks gets cozy with Sarah.

And it’s a simple story, fairly well told. The monster aliens are a major F/X accomplishment, particularly showing up some of the amateurish studio sets. Wikipedia makes no mention of production cost or box office revenue. Despite the low-budget outdoor scenes, there is some excellent location shooting. We see airplanes banking and turning among towering mountain peaks, and the cable car exteriors are obviously not studio shoots. Acting is par for a B movie, and director Quentin Lawrence has done a smash-up job. Dramatic tension is skillfully introduced.

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Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Amazon Prime Video, the source of these screen shots, is revealed to be a mother lode of recent-release bad movies. You will be seeing more of them. Science fiction is always a target for bad movies, because it is seldom handled well. This is Moontrap Target Earth, released in 2017 by MT2 Productions. Wikipedia does not have an entry for this, so details are from IMDb.

This is going to be a combination space travel, mystery, thriller. Not much goes into drama here, most of the movie is the special effects (F/X) and the visuals. It sets out with archaeologist Daniel (Damon Dayoub) rehearsing a presentation to an audience of one, his girlfriend Sharon “Scout” (Sarah Butler). He wants to announce his discovery of his remarkable find from the desert in Arizona, certain to be more than 14,000 years old.

Then he gets a phone call from a colleague, Carter (Chris Newman).

Carter has discovered another strange artifact out in the desert. He’s preparing to announce it to the world. He brags to Daniel how earth-shaking this is going to be, and he tells Daniel to watch for it on CNN. A helicopter is heard in the background

The helicopter lands, and it’s not CNN. It’s Richard (Charles Shaughnessy), and his female “facilitator” Nicole (Jennifer Kincer). After Carter explains all the wonders this discovery holds, Richard orders Nichole to dispose of Mr. Carter.

Then Richard pays a visit to Daniel and Scout. We soon see them at the site where Carter was murdered. Scout translates inscriptions on the artifact. It’s the above-ground portion of an ancient space craft.

Daniel and Scout make a deal with Richard to promote the archaeological study, but when the scientists appear before Richard’s mysterious panel in a grand hall, they are thanked for their troubles and sent on their way.

Back at the university, where supposedly Daniel and Scout do their research, they sadly inform their assistant Eli (D.B. Dickerson) (who is preparing a celebration) there will be no need to celebrate. While Scout and Daniel are in the back checking on a projector malfunction, Nicole appears at the door. She machine guns Eli and sprays the hall with bullets. Then she pours gasoline on Eli’s body and sets it afire. This is turning out badly.

We see Scout fleeing cross-country, learning on the radio that Daniel’s burned body has been discovered in his apartment.

Back at the grand hall, Richard is desperate to explain to his quasi-religious panel why there has been no progress in disposing of the disturbing artifact in the desert. Also why have the meddlesome Daniel and the slut Scout not been dealt with. Richard assures them the assignment will be completed.

But Scout comes up behind him. She has decided to make a crusade of Richard’s destruction.

But Nicole comes in and turns the tables on Scout. A chance discovery reveals that Scout holds special interest to the buried object, and Richard and Nicole take Scout out to the site.

The mystery unravels, as the object emerges from the ground, and a robotic creature appears. Richard is transported to the interior of the space craft, and a bolt of electricity is shot into the back of Nicole’s head.

Inside the spacecraft, Richard and Scout watch in wonder as the robotic creature pilots the craft to the Moon. Scout is commanded to remove her clothing and to dress in a provocative Queen of Outer Space outfit. Richard is impressed.

On the moon things seem to be progressing, as Scout dons a space suit designed for her. She and the android exit the space craft, where the android battles yet another android. Meanwhile Richard takes over the controls of the space craft and heads it back toward Earth. But something intervenes, and the space craft crashes onto the surface of the Moon and is destroyed.

As the friendly android expires, it hands over to Scout a disk-shaped key. She approaches a huge sculpture (see the image at the top), and inserts the key into a slot in the sculpture.

The Moon is turned into a habitable world with blue sky and clouds.

Scout enters the structure beneath the sculpture and joins Daniel (blue) in a journey through time.

Scout leaves behind a word to those who come after them.

And that is about it for the movie. Much ado about what? Special effects are commendable, but that is about the extent of this production’s budget. The audience (see above) in the grand hall appears to comprise cardboard cutouts, shot out of focus to disguise the fact. In most scenes they do not move.

Scout in the see-through outfit is worth a look, but there is not enough of that. The narrative cuts in and out of a number of dream sequences, at times making it problematic to follow the course of events.

Inconsistencies jump out.

If the plan was to kill Daniel and Scout, why not do it in the grand hall after they have completed their presentation?

Why does Nicole burn Eli’s body? Same with Daniel’s body. Nothing is gained, only additional notoriety.

For the story line I would like to have seen a clear driving force behind the plot. There is a mysterious assembly of interrogators at the grand hall, who speak off camera, in tones that smack of a religious cult, but we only have to guess they represent modern, decadent society, hinted at by a scene with a waitress in a truck stop. No firm resolution is delivered.

This movie runs 85 minutes, and you might be able to catch it still streaming on Amazon or elsewhere.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Hulu, where this movie is currently streaming, advertises it as a comedy, of sorts. The humor gets lost. It’s Colossal from 2016, distributed by Neon. The screen shots are from Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

This is going to be a scary movie. You can tell that at the very open, as a young Korean girl, at night in a park, sees a horrible monster, and screams. That get your attention?

In New York Anne Hathaway is an out of work writer named Gloria. She sponges off her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), living in his apartment, spending her nights partying. When she comes staggering home one morning he announces he has packed her stuff, and she needs to be gone by the end of the day. After he leaves for work, Gloria’s friends take note of his leaving and swarm in to continue the party. Gloria’s life is obviously out of control.

Gloria goes back home to small town America, where she movies into a vacant family home. She takes a cab from the airport, since she has no car. We next see her toting an air mattress home from the store when an old friend named Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) spots her and gives her a ride in his truck. He owns a local bar, and the two go there, where he offers her a job as a waitress. She boozes it up until the early morning hours.

Come morning Gloria is toting the air mattress on home from the bar, and she pauses in a park along the way. Then she continues on home, where she passes out on the uninflated mattress.

Come morning, and it’s broad-band WiFi to the rescue, as Gloria checks on the world outside and sees that Seoul, South Korea, has been under attack by a gruesome monster. It was about the moment, taking into  account the time zone difference, when Gloria was in the park.

Cutting out a lot of detail, Gloria comes to realize what she sees the monster doing reflects her actions coming home in the morning through the park. Back at the bar Gloria convinces Oscar and two friends to come to the park at the appointed hour. They unlimber their wireless devices as Gloria performs. Watching the live news from Seoul, the three see the monster duplicating Gloria’s moves. What is going on?

For reasons known only to the script writers, Oscar now begins to get out of hand. He goes to the park at the magic time and begins to act out for the monster of Seoul. Gloria sees that people are suffering, dying, while Oscar is having a good time. Gloria and Oscar commence a divergence of purpose.

When Gloria spends the night with Oscar’s friend Joel (Austin Stowell), Oscar becomes resentful and even belligerent. When Tim arrives in town and offers to take Gloria back to New York, Oscar goes off the deep end, setting the bar on fire.

Now things build to a climax. Gloria promises to go back to New York with Tim, but then she changes her mind. Oscar is playing increasing havoc with Seoul by messing around in the park. Gloria hops a plane and flies to Seoul, and she goes to the site where the monster appears on schedule. Standing in that place, Gloria reverses the projection and becomes the monster in the park, confronting Oscar. The monster grabs up Oscar in a mighty fist and hurls him off toward the horizon. It’s the end of the movie.

Yes, this is all most cool, but also all most ridiculous. What I haven’t mentioned is a childhood flashback that shows Oscar and Gloria together as children. He is seen smashing her doll house, a prelude to the future Oscar, a control freak beyond all bounds.

No competition. This is a Bad Movie of the Week.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I needed a bad movie to review for Sunday, today. I searched Hulu and noticed this title. Is this going to be a bad movie? It’s hard to tell from the title, Godzilla vs. Destroyah. Could be. I took a look, and, yes, it is bad. From 1995 out of Toho, it’s another lizard movie gone bad. Screen shots are from Hulu. Details are from Wikipedia.

I’m not going to bother listing the cast of characters, because they are people I never heard of, but I am going to guess about the plot. Something stirs up Godzilla. Science and technology are to blame. Godzilla menaces civilized regions of Japan. Another lizard kind appears on the scene. There is a protracted battle, consuming the major part of the run time and also wrecking everything in sight. All lizards die. And, yes. That is what happens.

The opening scene shows a comely news reporter type surveying a developing situation from a helicopter. She spots something in the sea. Yes, there is strange activity below.

At a busy airport a giant passenger airliner climbs into the sky. The pilots look on in horror as a gruesome beast rises before them. He is butt ugly. And in a foul mood.

There is great danger to the world. Godzilla’s source of power is nuclear fission, and if he goes critical the entire planet will be wiped out.

A scientist explains his Nobel Prize discovery. It’s miniaturized oxygen. These compact atoms can squeeze into the smallest spaces within solid metals. There is great danger in the application of miniaturized oxygen.

A young scientist, working in his room crammed with books, computers, and other nerdy stuff, is offered to work on a significant project. He declines. He will not pursue that work any longer. Then a phone call comes in. A famous scientist will be working on the project. Yes, the nerdy young scientist will jump at the prospect of working with the famous scientist.

Another lizard, more horrible even than Godzilla appears. There are multiple copies. This is a great menace to the world.

Godzilla battles the other monsters.

An armored regiment employs special weapons against the lizards. They all die.

The movie runs for 102 minutes, and that’s all I’m going to say about this.

Except that you can catch it streaming on the Internet. Hulu requires a (paid) subscription, but there are alternate sources. You will likely be required to sign up to watch. Search the title with Google.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

If you don’t recognize the title, then you need some background:

Simon Templar is a fictional character known as The Saint. He is featured in a long-running series of books by Leslie Charteris published between 1928 and 1963. After that date, other authors collaborated with Charteris on books until 1983; two additional works produced without Charteris’s participation were published in 1997. The character has also been portrayed in motion picturesradio dramascomic strips, comic books and three television series.

I caught the TV series back in the 60s, where I must have been watching in black and white. Anyhow, it’s had a long go-round, now landing in some recent films. This is about the 1997 movie starring Val Kilmer in the title role. It’s The Saint, again, in a release from Paramount Pictures and co-starring Elisabeth Shue as his love interest, Dr. Emma Russell. I often get my bad movies from Amazon Prime Video, but this one is streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The movie provides some background. In a Catholic school for unfortunate orphans there is one particularly recalcitrant boy, giving the ruling authority no end of grief. He gets confinement, but not before lifting a crucifix pin from the headmaster. From that meager acquisition he engineers a massive prison break, but sees a young girl friend fall, apparently to her doom. Thus is born a master criminal.

We next see The Saint in Moscow, stealing for hire a critical microchip.

That involves much adventure, and after he caches his fee in a financial account, he notices he’s about $3 million short of 50. He needs a round 50 million, then he retires. He goes over a list. Somebody wants the formula for cold fusion and will pay just the right amount.

Dr. Russell is the inventor, and she still has the secret. In disguise he attends her presentation and is severely smitten by her loveliness. The Saint is preparing to make his fall.

In  another disguise he romances Dr. Russell and lifts her notes. But she is at least as smart as he is, and she tracks him to Moscow, where he has come to hand over, and collect his reward, the formula to a Russian Billionaire, who in turn has plans to usurp the government and take over, using cold fusion as his ploy. To this end he has engineered a massive fuel shortage, and Russians are dying in the cold. It’s shades of the Siege of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) all over again.

But now the Russian Mafia is after them, and the remainder of the movie explores how they manage to elude capture and turn the tables on the gangsters. The trick is that Dr. Russell’s cold fusion actually works, and the legal Russian president uses it to save the people and to show up the ringleader.

 

Which results in The Saint and Dr. Russell back in bed again, and that is about all there is to the plot.

And that is what is mostly wrong with this movie. It’s a tale of cliff-hanging thrills, hair-raising escapes, culminating in a denouement that plugs along for another ten minutes before the credits begin to roll.

All that said, it is most satisfying to see classic Val Kilmer re-emerge. The signature smirk from Top Gun of ten years before is back, along with the dash and flair from Top Secret, two years before that.

Elizabeth Shue is always great to see, but she is best remembered as the kind of teenage girl who could make Roy Moore squirm in Adventures in Babysitting. I look forward to obtaining a copy of that.

Cold fusion has come and gone, never making the big time after splashing briefly in 1989. Interesting to see it turn up as the MacGuffin in this one. Maybe it will find a home in entertainment after all these years.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Here’s one I am sure I never saw before. It’s Castle Sinister from 1948, and even Wikipedia doesn’t have an outline, so I am getting details from IMDb. It’s streaming now in Amazon Prime Video, where I obtain most of my bad movies and also these screen shots. But here’s the story.

A Major Matthews (Hugh Arnald) is seen leaving lonely Glennye Castle, apparently in Scotland from the accents. He notices a lone figure by the seaside cliff and goes over to investigate. Somebody comes up from behind and gives him a push. He plunges two hundred feet to the rocks. So begins the mystery.

This is an unfortunate turn of events, and the British War Office sends Captain Neale (James Liggat) to investigate. Neale is told to contact a British agent, a Mr. McTavish (Alastair Hunter), a local innkeeper. A greater bulk of the plot involves McTavish providing Neale with the background.

Some time past, in 1939, at the castle there was a nice tea, hosted by the Marchioness of Glenye  (Mara Russell-Tavernan) and attended by Michael (John Gauntley), next in line to assume the barony. In comes her young son, Nigel (Robert Essex), newly joined the army. Now we know the principal characters, save one.

More happened later. Nigel has had an accident while riding a horse, and now he is unable to rejoin his unit. He spends all his time at home.

Still more. After Major Matthews was killed, another War Department agent, Captain Fairfax (Lucien Boré), was sent in to continue the investigation Matthews had been doing. He left the castle and vanished. There is a hunt going on for the missing Fairfax.

But wait! A mysterious figure prowls the grounds, wearing a monk’s robe and a mask. He frightens even the postal delivery person riding up on his bicycle.

Yet another character is introduced. He is Major Selwyn (Karl Meir), who seems to already be acquainted with young Nigel. When Captain Neale turns up at the castle to discuss the fate of Major Matthews, he is strongly rebuffed by Major Selwyn, and he departs forthwith.

As we should have known all along, Selwyn turns out to be Nigel’s real father, having previously been  married to the Marchioness. He is also a German spy, and he intends to use the Glennye estate as a launching point from which to transfer stolen war plans to a German plane. He instructs the masked figure tie up his former wife, and it is revealed that the masked figure really is Nigel, his son by the previous marriage. When the son reneges on the scheme, Selwyn shoots him. By now the war plans are in the fireplace, and the plot is rapidly unraveling.

Selwyn attempts to make his escape over the castle’s parapet wall, and Neale, having now been alerted, fires. Then Neale is out of bullets, and Selwyn aims his own piece at Neale. A shot from Michael, now revealed to be a secret British agent, puts the kibosh on that plan, and Selwyn plunges over the parapet to the ground below.

The Marchioness takes to her bed and succumbs to her delicate heart condition.

And it’s pretty hokey. Actors walk across the set and speak their lines. Aside from the meeting between Neal and McTavish, there is little real drama. Inconsistencies are obvious. The Germans send in a four-engine bomber to pick up the plans. The Germans had no such aircraft.

And this one does not appear to be streaming on YouTube, so you’re going to have to purchase the DVD. Sorry about that.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I’m running low on bad movies, so it’s back to Amazon Prime Video to refresh the pipeline. The Bad Movie of the Week today is The House Across the Bay, and it’s as old as I am. One would think that would have been a very good year. This one stars George Raft as Steve Larwitt and Joan Bennett as Brenda Bentley, later Brenda Larwitt. Images are screen shots from the Amazon video stream, and details are from Wikipedia. The production company was United Artists.

You get an idea of the standards of production in those days, about the time the Germans were preparing to invade Norway and Denmark. The opening scene shows two high-rollers in an upscale night club, and they are heading to the back room to park their money at the roulette wheel. So, director Archie Mayo lines up two dudes and has them march up to the door and demand to be allowed to  come in and deposit their money. The only cinematic invention comes when they are refused, and they need to march back to the club owner, Mr. Larwitt, and demand action. This bit is an invention to show us what a tough guy Larwitt is, as we see him come back, dress down  the gatekeeper, and then proceed to enter, as well, and promptly drop $50 on a single spin. Now we know Larwitt is tough, impulsive, and free with his money. This is called character development.

How assertive and impulsive is Steve Larwitt? This is how assertive and impulsive. He meets one of the cabaret singers at his club, Brenda, and suffers her rebuff. Later he watches her deliver a dynamite performance and promptly fires her. As she exits the club after changing into her civvies he accosts her in the parking lot and announces they are going to get married. Then he turns on the charm, and eventually she comes around.

Surprise, surprise! It’s a marriage made in heaven. There is real love and devotion. What a happy couple! And Steve is rolling in dough. His tough business methods soon elevate him to the upper tiers in the business world. However, his high-handed hostile takeover approach makes enemies of the worst kind, and we see him escaping a drive-by shooting.

Brenda knows Steve is on the shady side of the law, and she decides to ice him down before he gets himself killed. She drips a dime on him, sending the IRS an anonymous letter containing what she has been told will send him up for about 12 months.

But Steve’s friend and lawyer, Slant Kolma (Lloyd Nolan) can’t seem to do anything to prevent a cascade of charges followed by a conviction followed by a 10-year sentence. It’s to Alcatraz for Steve, and Brenda takes an apartment on Telegraph hill, where she can watch and wait until her true love gets off the rock and comes back to her.

She is the epitome of the faithful “rock widow,” taking the monthly ferry trip over to visit Steve.

But then… Then she’s trying to get to a phone to call a cab for her friend Mary Bogel (Gladys George). There she meets Tim Nolan (Walter Pidgeon), a wealthy aircraft industrialist.

Tim doesn’t know Brenda is a convict’s moll, and he pursues her relentlessly. He wins her affections but not her commitment. She stays true to Steve.

Shyster lawyer Slant Kolma has the hots for Brenda, always has had, and it becomes apparent he muffed Steve’s defense, even helped pile on phony evidence, to get Steve out of the way. Brenda rebuffs Slant, and Slant, in turn, is furious that Brenda is cozying up to Tim. He horns in on Brenda’s visit with Steve and later comes back to plant false stories about Brenda and Tim. Meanwhile, Slant has siphoned off the money Steve left to take care of Brenda, and she has secretly taken a job as a cabaret singer at a night club.

Steve is infuriated, and he crashes the rock and makes his way to where Brenda is now working. He waits for her in her dressing room. As she tries to tell him the truth, Steve prepares to strangle the only woman he has ever loved.

Just then, Tim bursts in, and he has a gun. He forces Steve to listen to reason. He tells Steve Brenda has always remained true to  him and that Slant has been working against him.

And that’s it. Steve tracks down Slant and murders him. Then he puts back on his prison uniform and makes to swim back out to the Rock. Of course, the police boats are still sweeping the bay for him, and they spot him in the water. A cop raises a rifle and shoots Steve in the head.

Finally we see Brenda on a flight back to Indiana, and Tim pops up, sitting right behind her. He changes seats with a passenger and takes the seat beside her. This is going to end well.

Except this is a worrisome plot. There is a lot of rigmarole that fails to contribute much. For example, in the beginning we see Steve being sweet on another chorus girl, and we see tension between Brenda and her. That leads to Brenda meeting Steve for the first time, which meeting could have been more artful.

The drive-by shooting episode serves to motivate Brenda to shake Steve out of the cycle of crooked dealing he is spiraling into. It seems painfully contrived.

Steve gets pissed at Brenda after Slant unloads on her. So pissed he breaks out of Alcatraz. Wait. There were 300 or more inmates there at any one time, and there was likely not one of  them who was not pissed. But Steve is the only one who got so pissed he broke out of a locked cell and swam all the way to the shore. Not to be believed.

Now Steve is preparing to strangle Brenda. But Tim bursts in, delivers a few words, and turns the whole situation around. Somebody must have been watching the clock about then and decided they had burned enough celluloid, and it was time to draw the whole business to a close. A great opportunity for some real drama was ushered out the door.

The cops see Steve swimming in the bay. The don’t motor over and offer him a lift. They shoot him in the head. People, the police never did that sort of thing, even 77 years ago.

Brenda gets an apartment across the bay from  the Rock. And the title is The House Across the Bay. Am I being a stickler?

George Raft grew famous portraying gangsters in films, and few viewers knew he once was one, having been a “wheel man” for the mob in his youth. In his movies he got killed a lot, particularly as a friend of Paul Muni‘s, who shoots him when he thinks he has defiled his sister. It’s one of film history’s great dying scenes.

This was two years before Pidgeon starred in Mrs. Miniver, one of his most notable roles.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

After there was Batman (1966) and before there was The Dark Knight, there was Batman (1989). This was streaming on Hulu in October, giving me the opportunity to watch it for the first time. It’s from Warner Brothers. Details are from Wikipedia.

The setting is, of course, Gotham City, a thinly-disguised New York City. We get this early on when the opening scene shows some out-of-towners wandering into the wrong neighborhood. The father says this way to 7th Avenue. The kid says 7th Avenue is the opposite direction. They are obviously on 8th Avenue, now heading the wrong way, toward 9th Avenue, a region previously known as Hell’s Kitchen. Of course they get mugged.

But Batman comes to the rescue. Sort of. After the muggers pistol whip the husband and take his money and credit cards, Batman comes upon them and gives them a thrashing they will never forget. This in the early day’s of Batman’s career, and people are still trying to figure out what sort of crooked scheme he’s working.

Enter diabolical crook Jack Napier (Jack Nicholson). He’s about to transform how crooked deals are done in Gotham.

The big boss is the godfather-like Carl Grissom (Jack Palance). Jack notices that Carl is muscling on on Jack’s main squeeze Alicia Hunt, played by Jerry Hall. Jack aims to level the field.

Meanwhile, sizzling hot news photographer Vicky Vale (Kim Basinger) has teamed with ace reporter Alexander Knox (Robert Wuhl) to get an exclusive story, with photos, on Batman. She gets invited to dinner at his sprawling mansion with reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne (Michael Keaton), whose alter ego is Batman. If you’re like me you’re wondering who does her hair. She spends the night.

Carl schemes to  have Jack murdered in a setup safe-crack caper at a chemical company. That fails, but Jack falls into a vat of unidentified chemicals, requiring skin treatment and resulting in a clown-like countenance. The episode also unleashes Jack’s true nature, and he becomes The Joker, master criminal with a twisted persona.

Bruce Wayne’s secret is not for long. His trusted butler, Alfred (Michael Gough), sees that true love is withering on the vine, and he brings Vicky to the Bat Cave to  learn Bruce’s secret.

There ensue multiple encounters involving Batman, Bruce Wayne, Vicky, and The Joker, culminating in  The Joker’s master plan to  hijack the Gotham bi-centennial parade, throwing out wads of cash to the gathering throng, before activating the valves to unleash poison gas from a giant clown balloon.

Of course, Batman intervenes, introducing the Batwing  (we already witnessed the Batmobile), and there is a protracted battle to the finish between Batman and The Joker, during which Vicky repeatedly comes under menace. And I’m not going to tell you how The Joker meets his end.

This movie suffers from an unimaginative plot. The main characters are introduced, they exercise a sequence of sketches, each involving menace, intervention, rescue, retreat. Until the final, for which there is no retreat phase.

Jack Nicholson turns in a stellar performance, providing that’s not a stand-in recapitulating Malcolm McDowell from A Clockwork Orange, prancing around inside a museum, vandalizing priceless works of art. “Tell me something, my friend. You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

Keaton continues to find regular film work, but nothing that makes the Earth move. Much the same with Basinger. More’s the pity.

Jerry Hall is originally from Mesquite, Texas, (born in Gonzalez, Texas) and most famous as Mick Jagger’s squeeze for many years.

There is an interesting final scene with the dead Joker lying in the street. All that survived his fall from a great height was a little mechanical laugh box, but you have to imagine hearing “Ha ha, ha ha ha ha…” to the cadence of “ Ne Ne Na Na Na Na Nu Nu.”

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Apparently I’m never going to run out of bad movies. This is another from Amazon Prime Video, a treasure vault of bad movies. It’s Bank Alarm , from 1937 out of Grand National Pictures. And it’s in decent shape for being 80 years old. A notice up front informs that this has been remastered, but that may be only the sound. The notice talks of unavoidable dips in sound level. Details are from Wikipedia.

This features Conrad Nagel as FBI Special Agent Alan O’Connor and Eleanor Hunt as Bobbie Reynolds, Alan’s sharp looking assistant. They are trying to track down a gang of bank robbers. The FBI investigates bank robberies. They’re not having a load of luck. They captured gang member O’Hern, but then a hit man disguised as a lawyer rubbed him out inside the jail and then got clean away.

Despite their desperate need to corral the robbers, the FBI duo takes time out to greet Alan’s pretty sister, Kay O’Connor, played by Marlo Dwyer, as she arrives on a flight. Apparently on the flight, Kay has met the infatuating Jerry Turner (Frank Milan). This scene also introduces bumbling photographer Clarence ‘Bulb’ Callahan (Vince Barnett), who’s going to provide comic relief for the next 53 minutes of run time.

So urgent is their need to catch the bank robbers, that everybody takes the night off to dine, drink, and dance at Club Karlotti. Spoiler alert: Karlotti is the ring leader of the bank robbers. You can tell  he’s Italian by his name, except the Italian alphabet doesn’t have the letter K. You figure it.

Jerry excuses himself for a few minutes as he leaves the festivities to go into the club’s back room to confab with ring leader Karlotti.

Another heist is coming up. Jerry gets in on this one. It’s in the core of the Great Depression, and sheriffs around the country make an effort to  keep their districts clear of hobos, who roam the land looking for work or handouts. Jerry and his pal pretend to be hobos to get themselves thrown in the pokey overnight. The pokey is where they want to be, because in this small town, where a Nevada tunnel project is in work, the workers’ payroll is being stored in the same building as the jail. While the sheriff (Henry Roquemore) sleeps the pair pick the lock on their cell, grab the cash, and stash it under their mattresses. Come next morning the sheriff sends them on their way, with the cash stuffed in their shirts. Pretty slick.

In the meantime, Police Inspector J. C. Macy (William L. Thorne) vows mightily to catch the bank robbers.

But when Jerry and his pal departed the jail with their loot, they bummed a ride in a Cadillac, conveniently close by to pick them up. And somebody got the plate number. So when agent Alan goes to check on the Cadillac, it turns up at a farm. The farmer tells them some people drove up in the car, left it, stole his Ford, and drove away. He gives a description of the perps. The driver was a notably short person, he says.

The cops take the Caddy back to the police garage to check it for fingerprints. It’s clean, but when agent Bobbie gets in the driver’s seat, the first thing she notices is her feet don’t reach the pedals. Bobbie is a a short woman. No amount of adjustment will do. The farmer was lying. The driver was not by any means short. Further checking turns up the farmer does not own a Ford. The fuzz conclude the farm is a base for the robbers.

Meanwhile, the Second National Bank is held up,  and this time the robbers get away clear after bank workers attempt multiple time to activate the bank alarm. Hence the title of the movie.

Agent Alan questions bank employees. The man sitting with his back to the wall is the alarm company service man. He was in just prior to the robbery to test the alarm. It worked fine. They call in the head cashier, Leon Curtis (Phil Dunham). He’s the one who schedules alarm testing. He said he called for the test, because it was time, according to the testing schedule. But Alan has additional information that there were two men in to test the alarm. One came after the scheduled test. Things are looking suspicious. The robbery was an inside job.

Meanwhile, Inspector Macy is shown holding two bills in his hand. He is saying he is going to bust this case wide open. Later, those outside his office hear multiple gunshots. They rush in. Macy has been murdered.

Alan studies the two bills. One has been altered. It has the same serial number as another. Suspicion focuses on bank teller Curtis. He’s an immigrant from Serbia, and a master engraver. An attempt at counterfeiting? The robbers figure they must get those bills back. Jerry gets on the phone, and with a pencil gripped between his clenched teeth to disguise his voice, he phones Alan. He warns that if Alan doesn’t deliver the two bills by mail, the robbers are going to rub out Alan’s sister.

The fuzz respond by moving Kay to a safe apartment and substituting Bobbie at Kay’s hotel room. Bumbling photographer Clarence Callahan is sent over to keep Kay company, provide protection, and also to provide additional comic relief.

But Kay phones Jerry, not suspecting he is in with the robbers. She reveals where she is. Next we see, Clarence is recovering from a knock on the head, and Kay is gone, taken by the robbers.

Then there follows a bunch of round and round, which I will not detail, and the robbers are taken in a shootout, Kay is rescued, and Alan and Bobbie have plans to make the partnership permanent. They pose as Clarence takes a photo.

There is little not wrong with this movie. Start with the lukewarm acting and the dialog, which is beyond redemption. Get to the plot’s banality and some noticeable lack of continuity.

I only watched this through one time before skipping around to pick up details, but one thing was immediately obvious. The two robbers, posing as hobos, are in jail, on purpose, to grab the payroll cash while the sheriff is sleeping. They take the bills and stuff them under the mattresses in their cell. Later we are told the payroll is new bills, fresh from the Federal Reserve. But the bills the robbers are manhandling in their cell are obviously much used and not clean, crisp, and in tight bundles.

Alan and Bobbie pick up Kay and Jerry at their airport. Where do they go that night to celebrate (apparently in Los Angeles)? Why Karlotti’s club, of course. How much greater a coincidence can their be? And the friend that Kay meets on her flight? Why, one of the bank robbers. Amazing!

The robbers need to get the incriminating bills back. Why? Think about that for a few seconds. How are they going to get the bills back? They are going to threaten Kay. But they don’t have their hands on Kay at the time, giving the feds ample opportunity to stash her away in a safe place, which turns out to be of no help, since Kay spills to Jerry.

The robbers promise to release Kay after the bills are recovered. But Kay has by now already laid eyes on Jerry and the others as members of the gang. The gang has previously murdered Macy in his office after word gets out he’s going to crack the case. But when Karlotti gets his hand on Bobbie during the hunt and roundup, he does not use the opportunity to put a few rounds into her. Good news for Bobbie, but a prize for lame plots.

Conrad Nagel had a long and successful motion picture career, even if this production give no clue as to why. He started with Little Women  (silent) in 1918 and finished with The Man Who Understood Women in 1959. IMDb shows Eleanor Hunt’s last movie was in 1940. Grand National Films is one of those companies I have mentioned previously. The period 1936 to 1939 saw multiple startup studios come and go during this period. Grand National was purchased by RKO in 1940.

And you figured it out already. You don’t need to subscribe to Amazon Prime to watch this movie. It’s available to watch on YouTube. Here’s the link.

 

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

Old as I am, I never heard of this one before. It really was before my time. It’s Wives Under Suspicion, from 1938 from James Whale Productions and viewable currently on Amazon Prime Video. Truth is, this is not a bad production. The print is well-preserved, the dialog is realistic and direct, and acting is on par. What gets this on BMotW (barely) is the trite story behind the plot. Here’s a summary and a critique.

Warren William is District Attorney Jim Stowell, a fire-breathing, give no quarter prosecutor. To make this clear, he brags about sending a killer hoodlum to the electric chair (which scenes I have omitted), and he keeps an abacus score tally that features human skull tokens. He gleefully slides another skull over to the win side as his faithful office manager “Sharpy” (Cecil Cunningham) watches in dismay.

For a prosecuting attorney, he enjoys a splendorous home life, with a fashion model wife, Lucy (Gail Patrick), and two family friends Elizabeth (Constance Moore) and Phil (William Lundigan). This movie also features the standard studio prop of the era in the form of the comical person of color, in this case the household maid Creola, played by Lillian Yarbo. I swear, Creola has been placed in this film wholly for comic relief, and she plays the part to the hilt with all the antics a white audience of those days looked forward to.

But D.A. Stowell’s first love is his job, and his work comes home when he comes home. Setting out for a night on the town with the lovely Mrs. Stowell, the D.A. is ambushed and shot by a gangster friend of the previously electrocuted. Down goes the D.A., his elbow never to be the same again, while his trusty chauffeur picks up the gun he had been carrying and dispatches the shooter as he speeds away in a car. Very dramatic and very unbelievable.

That settles it. Stowell and Mrs. are going on vacation, and it will be impossible to  reach him. Except at the very last moment a new case comes sailing in, and Stowell takes over. It’s kindly political science professor Shaw MacAllen (Ralph Morgan), who has devoted his life to providing for his beloved wife, only to discover that she, neglected, has sought passion with another man. He has followed her and watched through a window as she embraced her lover. In a rage he pulled his trusty pistol and laid her low. This he confesses to Stowell in  the D.A.’s office, which confession is dully recorded by others outside. Stowell is going to prosecute to the letter of the law and will seek the death penalty for premeditated murder.

But Stowell finds his own life spiraling onto the same path as Professor MacAllen’s. He comes behind Lucy, primping before her mirror and kisses her. She shrinks back, an echo of the professor’s recount of his own downfall.

The case goes to trial. The D.A. is well on  his way to getting a death penalty conviction. Meanwhile, his suspicions of Lucy grow, and he seeks her out after she leaves the house. Through a window he sees her with family friend Phil. He pulls the pistol from his pocket. He starts to point it. He pulls back. The pistol goes back into his pocket. He goes back home.

The following day before the court he informs the judge he will withdraw the premeditated murder charge and will substitute, instead, a charge of manslaughter. The defense attorney has previously agreed to a guilty plea for manslaughter, and the trial ends forthwith.

Back home after the trial, Stowell finds Lucy has packed her bags and is preparing to depart his life forever. He wants a restart, despite what he has witnessed. Just then, Phil and Elizabeth charge in. They are freshly married and are booked to Niagara Falls. Everybody used to go to Niagara Falls for a honeymoon in case you missed that bit of American  history.

Wait, there’s more. Phil reveals that Lucy was by to see him the previous night, and she convinced him to reconcile with Elizabeth, which relationship had been going south previously. Horrors! There was a grave misunderstanding. It’s a textbook, movie-ending kiss.

Yes, much too trite. The story is rote drama. Does leave one teary eyed, however.

One complaint. Since when did a prosecuting attorney get the job of cranking confessions out of suspects? We see an army of cops drag the limp professor straight to  the D.A.’s desk (while the D.A is out) and begin an interrogation. Don’t they have facilities for that sort of thing down at the police station? Who wrote this script, anyhow?

Warren William had a successful film career before and following this production, but he died in  1948.

Gail Patrick enjoyed an equally successful career, eventually serving as vice president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She was executive producer of the Perry Mason television series, which ran from 1957 to 1966.

There is no English Wikipedia entry for Lillian Yarbo, but there is one in French:

Lillian Yarbo est une actrice américaine, née courant 1905 à Washington (district de Columbia), morte courant 1996 (lieu inconnu).

I just returned from a month in France, and I will take a stab at translating this. It says she was born in 1905 in Washington, D.C. and died in 1996. The article goes on to list an impressive array of film credits:

I like the way foreign distribution sometimes makes play with titles, possibly to make them more marketable. I have seen They Drive by Night, and I am wondering how it becomes  Une femme dangereuse in French. I am guessing the French title is more to the point, since the core of the movie is not Humphrey Bogart and George Raft driving trucks by night, but is more about Ida Lupino murdering her husband and being tried for the crime, hence the dangerous woman.

This runs for an hour and eight minutes and is worth a watch if you have recently been overwhelmed by modern cynicism, for example immediately after watching Pulp Fiction. Wikipedia reminds me this is a remake of The Kiss Before the Mirror  from 1933, also directed by James Whale. This one entered the public domain in 1966, after Universal Pictures failed to renew the copyright. You can watch it for free on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bv1e5zNsKJw

If you do watch it, give me some feedback.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I was twelve when this came out in 1953, and I’m sure it was big back then. All right, not really big, but impressive. It’s Invaders from Mars, and it does not feature anybody famous, unless you count Leif Erickson, whom I recall seeing around in various movies, always confusing him with a Viking explorer. Amazon Prime Video is streaming it as I write, but YouTube has subscription offerings. Details are from Wikipedia. Actually, this has a decent plot. It’s just not well-produced. I will sketch the plot for those thinking about blowing a nickel.

The MacLean family is Ozzie and Harriet Nelson on steroids. Dad George (Erickson) is a scientist-engineer type who works on secret projects for the government. Mother Mary (Hillary Brooke) is one cute bundle, and we are sure she keeps a smile on George’s face. Their only kid is David (Jimmy Hunt), and he’s a budding scientist. We know he’s going to get the family in trouble, the way he’s so inquisitive and probing. Here David is up in the wee hours peering through his telescope at the sky when he should be sleeping. Dad joins in, but Mom breaks up the party, insisting that everybody go back to bed.

But it’s a dark and stormy night, and something wakes David. He gets out of bed and goes back to looking out his window. He sees a space ship land, and he tells his parents about it. Dad goes out to investigate and does not return.

By morning Mary is panicked, and she phones for the police. Two officers show up, and David insists they go investigate where he last saw his dad. The officers go, and they disappear, as well. We see one drop out of sight, straight into the ground. Presently the two policemen come back, and they are acting strangely. They leave to file their report.

Then Dad returns, and he is much changed. He’s curt and bossy with David and Mary, and he shoves people around. David notices something sticking out the back of Dad’s head. Later Dad takes Mary out to the place where we saw the two policemen disappear into the ground.

Davie keeps a watch on the place where his dad went to investigate. He lies in the bushes and watches through his telescope. He sees a young girl, Kathy Wilson (Janine Perreau,) disappear into the ground. He runs to Kathy’s house to tell her mother (Fay Baker). But she doesn’t take him seriously. Then Kathy appears, and she is much changed. Just like David’s dad.

As David leaves he notices a fire in the Wilson basement. Somebody has poured gasoline, and the house is a total loss.

David goes to the police station to tell his story. The desk sergeant, Mack Finlay (Walter Sande), wants to hear David’s tale, but with all the stuff going on, David insists on talking to Police Chief A.C. Barrows (Bert Freed). When the chief comes out of his office, he has the same strange look, and he insists David be held for observation. A doctor is summoned to examine David, and she is Dr. Patricia Blake (Helena Carter), a real knockout—enough to earn a starring role and a place on the movie poster. She believes David’s story enough so that when David’s parents come to take him away, she tells everybody he has symptoms of polio and must be kept isolated. By now David’s mother has gained the strange look. The plot is beginning to unravel.

Dr. Blake removes David from the police holding cell on the pretext of taking him for testing, but instead she takes him to see Dr. Stuart Kelston (Arthur Franz), another scientist working on secret government projects. Dr. Kelston listens to David’s story and develops a theory of beings from Mars coming to Earth to disrupt the government work being performed. He alerts authorities. Kelston works at an astronomical observatory, and he trains the telescope at the site where the people have been disappearing. He observes an Army general being led to the spot by David’s father and disappearing into the sandy soil.

Too bad for little Kathy Wilson. When she was taken in for examination she died suddenly of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Somebody remarks it is as though she had been poleaxed. And that’s when I realized I had seen the movie before, because it was the first time, long ago, that I ever heard the term poleaxed. I made a note to keep in mind so I could use it later.

That’s enough. the conspiracy is busted wide open. A full-court press is instigated, and all manner of military assets converge.

An armored battalion makes its way to the scene.

As the military prepares to move in, Dr. Blake and David, standing nearby, are sucked into the ground. There they meet a Martian (Luce Potter)in a glass globe. He’s just horrible.

So are the grotesque Martian giants (Lock Martin and Max Palmer). One of them snatches up Dr. Blake and prepares to place her on the table to have one of those things implanted in her head. This is the scene that makes the movie. The sweet, beautiful, and sexy Patricia Blake being manhandled by that horrible monster—that’s really what the audience came to see this movie for.

But the military moves in, infiltrating the Martians’ underground chamber and rescuing David and Dr. Blake. They plant charges in the alien space craft and set a timer to blow the whole business sky high. But they must escape the underground hideout first, and David saves the day by blasting a way out using a heat ray gun he has discovered, and we see David’s face as they all run, putting as much distance between themselves and certain destruction as they can. All the time David is having flashbacks of the events of the past few hours, and finally the sound of the giant explosion wakes him up.

It’s thunder from the storm outside, and it’s all been a dream stirring in his young brain. Yeah, we suspected that all along.

The plot is sound, if completely amateurish. John Tucker Battle wrote the story and collaborated with Richard Blake on the script. They could have turned this into a serious production rivaling H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds with a bit more serious effort. As an added bonus, here is the movie poster

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

A man purchases a robot that has a special ability. It slaps people when they tell a lie. He decides to test it at dinner that very night.

He asks his son, “What did you do this afternoon?”

The son says, “I spent all afternoon doing my homework.” The robot slaps him. The son changes his story. “All right. I went over to Bobby’s house. We watched movies.”

The man asks, “What movie did you watch?”

The son replies, “We watched Toy Story.”

The robot slaps him again, and the son changes his story. “All right. We watched Debbie Does Dallas.”

The father is indignant. “What is all this? When I was our age I didn’t even  know what this stuff was.”

The robot slaps the father.

The mother then chimes in. “Well, he certainly is your son.”

The robot slaps the mother.

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/

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.