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.”

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Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

The title of this movie is Metro. The reason for that is under investigation. This is a continuing celebration of films that came out in 1997, 20 years ago. It was a period in my life when I had absolutely no time for viewing movies, so I’m seeing this for the first time. As I write it’s being streamed on Hulu, hence the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

Eddie Murphy hit it big in the 1980s, first as the brash crook sprung from the clink for 48 hours by Nick Nolte. Murphy became so famous at catching crooks that they did another 48 hours worth. With that warm up, they decided Murphy ought to be a real Beverly Hills cop, and they made three of those. I think the franchise is beginning to wind down with this one. This is classic Eddie Murphy, brash and hyperbolic and in this case devoid of cohesive plot. It works like this.

Now Murphy is Inspector Scott Roper of the San Francisco Police, and he is not so much a crime solver as he is a specialist—a highly-regarded hostage negotiator. When there’s a tight situation that calls for a steely assessment of the situation and rapid response, it’s Inspector Roper they call. Here he is arriving at the scene of a bank heist that’s gone wrong.

Yeah, Earl really screwed this up. He shot a guard, and police have him boxed in. He wants a getaway car and an airplane. Else he’s going to start killing  people.

Instead, Earl gets donuts plus some distraction, followed by a well-placed bullet from Officer Roper, which takes him down and into custody.

Next we see Roper waiting down below while his partner, Sam Baffert (Art Evans), goes to the apartment of a suspected jewelry store robber, Michael Korda (Michael Wincott). Oh, bad news. Korda is disarming and hits it off well with Sam, and Sam leaves, feeling it was a blind alley. But then we see Sam taking the elevator down, where Korda waits for him at the bottom and slashes him to death on the elevator.

This puts Roper in a bad mood, and he’s not finished with Korda. He shortly encounters Korda in a jewelry store robbery gone south, producing another hostage situation. This time Korda out-foxes the cops by shifting his ski mask to a hostage and making his getaway after a sniper shoots the hostage.

Much excitement and the prize for protracted chase and mayhem on a San Francisco cable car. Korda gets captured.

Now it’s Korda’s turn to be pissed, and he sends his cousin and partner in  crime, Clarence Teal (Paul Ben-Victor), to work some havoc on Roper’s main squeeze, the good-looking Veronica “Ronnie” Tate (Carmen Ejogo). Bad news. Roper gets there in the nick of time, saving Ronnie. Clarence gets struck and killed in the street by a car.

Korda is now maximum pissed, and he escapes from the clink on a path to revenge. And also to get back the jewels he stole, now locked in police evidence room.

Roper and Ronnie are preparing to take a vacation to Tahiti and lie naked on the beach (Ronnie thinks) and in the bed (Roper thinks). But Korda takes Ronnie hostage, and he wants the jewels back, else he has unpleasant plans for Ronnie.

Roper steals the jewels from the police lockup and teams with his sniper sidekick Kevin McCall (Michael Rapaport) to undo Korda’s plan. The swap is supposed to take place in an abandoned facility at what appears to be the decommissioned Mare Island Navy Shipyard. Korda has rigged a sadistic arrangement that has Ronnie strapped to a rotating platform featuring a cutting knife and also a switch, which Roper must keep his finger on, lest the platform rotate and send sweet Ronnie to the knife.

I’m not going to spoil it for you, but just suffice to say that McCall comes into action, Roper rescues Ronnie, and Korda meets a fiery end.

And there is no real plot. This is just an exercise meant to show off Murphy’s bold as brass persona and also to wreck a bunch of cars and fire off a ton of ammunition. The ending is unbelievably silly, as Roper and Ronnie finally make it to Tahiti and talk about going naked. We don’t get to see Ronny naked, but there are bare breasts. Sorry, Steve. There was not enough there to be worth posting.

Murphy’s acting streak continues, with Hong Kong Phooey to be released.

Ejogo is going strong, as well, although her performance here does not predict that. She excelled portraying Coretta Scott King in Boycott and Selma.

In this production Rapaport (not pictured) is cool, deadly, and bland. His career is on a tear, stretching from 1992 to the present. I have not seen him in any other films.

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 Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I watched this first on the tube years ago. That was back when they had tubes. It’s The Final Countdown from 1980 and starring Kirk Douglas as Capt. Matthew Yelland, Commanding Officer, USS Nimitz plus Martin Sheen as Warren Lasky and Katharine Ross as Laurel Scott. Heads up, this is a Sci-Fi (almost) thriller. It’s from United Artists, and I viewed it back in September on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia.

Opening scenes show “civilian observer” Warren Lasky arriving port side at Pearl Harbor to go aboard the aircraft carrier Nimitz. The reason is not made clear.

Viewers are treated to some fantastic scenes aboard a modern warship in operation. Lasky comes aboard the Nimitz at sea by means of a helicopter ride. There is excitement everywhere. The hottest aircraft in the world are parked all over, and the flight deck is a scene of deadly serious business.

But quickly the scene turns dark, as an unanticipated storm engulfs the Nimitz. Then, just as suddenly, everything is bright and clear again. What happened?

What happened is the Nimitz encountered a quantum mechanical event that thrust it back to 6 December 1941, the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and right in the path of the oncoming Japanese fleet.

The first indication something is amiss is when radios quit working. Radio technology advanced considerably between 1941 and 1980, what with the development of single sideband transmission and such. Standard AM sets aboard the ship pick up a holiday atmosphere back on the island of Oahu, and the crew quickly determine they have been set back nearly 40 years.

Then they begin to encounter the approaching Japanese fleet. The private craft of a troublesome United States Senator is in the path. Charles Durning is Senator Samuel S. Chapman, shown here with his very attractive assistant Laurel Scott.

The Japanese are not about to allow their presence to be discovered by this civilian boat, and Zero fighters attack, sinking the boat and killing all but Chapman and Scott (and the dog). F-14 fighters make quick work of the Zeroes, and one of the Japanese pilots is pulled out of the drink.

Back on the ship, things go badly as the Japanese pilot counter-attacks, inflicting casualties before he is neutralized. James Farentino is Cmdr. Richard T. “Dick” Owens, Commander of Carrier Air Wing 8 and also an avid historian of World War Two. He takes a liking to the comely Miss Scott.

The senator demands to be taken to Pearl Harbor so he can warn American forces of the impending attack and also so he can become famous and win a spot on the presidential ticket. Captain Yelland instead has the senator and Scott deposited on a remote beach. But the senator rebels and pulls a flare pistol. It discharges in the aircraft, which is destroyed over the ocean, leaving Owens and Scott marooned. Their ultimate fate remains unknown.

Before the Nimitz can take action against the Japanese fleet it is again engulfed in the time storm and brought back to 1980. History proceeds on its preordained course. Lasky arrives back at Pearl Harbor, where his boss, industrialist Richard Tideman (James Farentino) and wife (Catherine Ross) wait. Events now become evident. Owens and Scott have survived their marooning, and Owens has parlayed his knowledge of future events into the construction of a vast industrial empire, which he share with the former Miss Scott.

Yes, it’s a feel-good story with lots of action, modern carrier operations, the drama of time travel and intersecting lines of history, and finally a romance of the ages. And that is about all. Otherwise, it’s a good watch. Catch it on Amazon if you can. It’s still on Prime Video as this is being posted.

False Testament

Number 3 of a series

This is number three in my review of the video Is the Bible Reliable, produced by Focus on the Family and featuring creationist Stephen C. Meyer. This installment covers episodes 4-6 of 10, concerning principally the biblical  kingdoms of David and Solomon and the stories of the conquest of the nations of Israel and Judah. The first episode dwells on Meyer’s argument that the David and Solomon are real characters from history, and furthermore the related biblical stories are true. Meyer introduces the prevailing skeptical views. He begins with the minimalist view, which is the notion that these kings existed but that their importance is much puffed up in the biblical narrative.

The Minimalist View

  • Israel Finkelstein  and colleagues at Tel Aviv view Saul and David as leaders of a small tribal confederation.
  • Tenth century B.C. Judah shows little or no evidence of permanent population, urban centers, capital, temple or big building projects in Jerusalem.
  • Some textual critics (Thomas Thompson) still deny that David existed.

Meyer is going to dispute Finkelstein and Thompson, so it is worth reviewing what minimalist (nihilists?) have had to say. First Finkelstein:

Israel Finkelstein (Hebrewישראל פינקלשטיין‎‎, born March 29, 1949) is an Israeli archaeologist and academic. He is the Jacob M. Alkow Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze and Iron Ages at Tel Aviv University Finkelstein is widely regarded as a leading scholar in the archaeology of the Levant and a foremost applicant of archaeological data in reconstructing biblical history. He is also known for applying the exact and life sciences in archaeological and historical reconstruction. Finkelstein is the excavator of Megiddo – a key site for the study of the Bronze and Iron Ages in the Levant.

He has this to say about Saul. Again from Wikipedia:

Finkelstein dealt with a variety of themes related to the archeology and history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. He proposed that the first North Israelite territorial polity emerged in the Gibeon-Bethel plateau in the late Iron I and early Iron IIA. He found archaeological evidence for this in the system of fortified sites, such as Tell en-Nasbeh, Khirbet ed-Dawwara, et-Tell (“Ai”) and Gibeon. Historical evidence for the existence of this polity can be found in the campaign of Pharaoh Sheshoqn I in this region in the middle-to-second half of the 10th century BCE. According to Finkelstein, positive memories in the Bible of the House of Saul, which originated from the North, represent this early Israelite entity. He suggested that this north Israelite polity ruled over much of the territory of the highlands, that it presented a threat to the interests of Egypt of the 22nd Dynasty in Canaan, and that it was taken over during the campaign of Sheshonq I.

Additionally, there is this concerning King David:

Finkelstein has recently dealt with the location of the ancient mound of Jerusalem (with Ido Koch and Oded Lipschits). The conventional wisdom sees that “City of David” ridge as the location of the original settlement of Jerusalem. Finkelstein and his colleagues argued that the “City of David” ridge does not have the silhouette of a mound; that it is located in topographical inferiority relative to the surrounding area; and that the archaeological record of the ridge does not include periods of habitation attested in reliable textual records. According to them, the most suitable location for the core of ancient Jerusalem is the Temple Mount. The large area of the Herodian platform (today’s Harem esh-Sharif) may conceal a mound of five hectares and more, which – similar to other capital cities in the Levant – included both the royal compound and habitation quarters. Locating the mound of Ancient Jerusalem on the Temple Mound resolves many of the difficulties pertaining to the “City of David” ridge.

According to Finkelstein, the history of Jerusalem in biblical times should be viewed in terms of three main phases: A) Until the 9th century BCE, Jerusalem was restricted to the mound on the Temple Mount and ruled over a modest area in the southern highlands. Accordingly, Jerusalem of the time of David and Solomon can be compared to Jerusalem of the Amarna period in the 14th century BCE: it had the size of a typical highlands mound (for instance, Shechem), ruled over a restricted area, but still had impact beyond the highlands. B) The first expansion of Jerusalem came in the 9th century BCE, perhaps in its second half, when the town grew significantly in a southerly direction. Remains of the Iron IIA were unearthed south of al-Aqsa Mosque, above the Gihon Spring and to the south of the Dung Gate of the Old City. In parallel to this development, Judah expanded to the Shephelah in the west and Beer-sheba Valley in the south, and for the first time became a territorial kingdom rather than a city-state restricted to the highlands. C) The most impressive phase in the settlement history of Jerusalem commenced in the late 8th century BCE and lasted until its destruction by the Babylonians in 586 BCE. At that time Jerusalem expanded dramatically, to include the entire “City of David” ridge, as well as the “Western Hill” (the Armenian and Jewish Quarter of today’s Old City). This expansion was the result of the arrival of Israelite refugees after the demise of the Northern Kingdom in 722-720 BCE. These groups brought with them traits of Northern material culture, and more important – their foundation myths, royal traditions and heroic stories. These Northern traditions were later incorporated into the Judahite Bible.

Israel Finkelstein has collaborated with Neil Nasher Silberman, and one outcome has been the book The Bible Unearthed. From Wikipedia:

The methodology applied by the authors is historical criticism with an emphasis on archaeology. Writing in the website of “The Bible and Interpretation”, the authors describe their approach as one “in which the Bible is one of the most important artifacts and cultural achievements [but] not the unquestioned narrative framework into which every archaeological find must be fit.” Their main contention is that:

“ …an archaeological analysis of the patriarchal, conquest, judges, and United Monarchy narratives [shows] that while there is no compelling archaeological evidence for any of them, there is clear archaeological evidence that places the stories themselves in a late 7th-century BCE context. ”

On the basis of this evidence they propose

“ … an archaeological reconstruction of the distinct histories of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, highlighting the largely neglected history of the Omride Dynasty and attempting to show how the influence of Assyrian imperialism in the region set in motion a chain of events that would eventually make the poorer, more remote, and more religiously conservative kingdom of Judah the belated center of the cultic and national hopes of all Israel. ”

As noted by a reviewer on Salon.com the approach and conclusions of The Bible Unearthed are not particularly new. Ze’ev Herzog, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, wrote a cover story for Haaretz in 1999 in which he reached similar conclusions following the same methodology; Herzog noted also that some of these findings have been accepted by the majority of biblical scholars and archaeologists for years and even decades, even though they have only recently begun to make a dent in the awareness of the general public.

In their book, Finkelstein and Silberman devote Appendix D to “Why the Traditional Archaeological of the Davidic and Solomonic Period is Wrong.” Here is part:

The Davidic Conquests: A Ceramic Mirage

The most important archaeological evidence used to link destruction levels with the Davidic conquests was the decorated Philistine pottery, which was dated by scholars from the beginning of the twelfth century BCE until about 1000 BCE. The first strata that did not contain this distinctive style were dated to the tenth century, that is, to the time of the united monarchy. But this dating was based entirely on biblical chronology and was thus a circular argument because the lower date for the levels with this pottery was fixed according to the presumed era of the Davidic conquests around 1000 BCE. In fact, there was no clear evidence for the precise date of the transition from the Philistine style to later types.

Moreover, recent studies have revolutionized the dating of Philistine pottery. In recent decades, many major sites have been excavated in the southern coastal plain of Israel, the area of strong Egyptian presence in the twelfth century BCE, and the region where the Philistines settled. These sites included three of the cities mentioned in the Bible as the hub of Philistine life— Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Ekron (Tel Miqne) as well as several sites that served as Egyptian forts. The latter disclosed information about the Egypto-Canaanite material culture in the last decades of Egyptian hegemony in Canaan. Their finds included Egyptian inscriptions related to the imperial administration of Canaan as well as large quantities of locally made Egyptian vessels. Some of the inscriptions date from the reign of Ramesses III— the pharaoh who fought the Philistines and supposedly settled them in his forts in southern Canaan.

The surprise was that the strata that represent the last phases of Egyptian domination in Canaan under Ramesses III did not reveal the early types of the decorated Philistine vessels, and the earliest Philistine levels did not reveal any sign of Egyptian presence, not even a single Egyptian vessel. Instead, they were completely separated. Moreover, in a few sites, Egyptian forts of the time of Ramesses III were succeeded by the first Philistine settlements. In chronological terms this could not have happened before the collapse of Egyptian domination in Canaan in the mid– twelfth century BCE. The implications of this revelation for the archaeology of the united monarchy create a sort of domino effect: the whole set of pottery styles is pushed forward by about half a century, and that includes the transition from Philistine to the post-Philistine styles.

Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher. The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Isreal and the Origin of Sacred Texts (pp. 340-341). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

[I note in the Kindle edition the name Israel is misspelled in page attribution.]

Wikipedia has this concerning Thompson:

Thomas L. Thompson (born January 7, 1939 in Detroit, Michigan) is a biblical scholar and theologian. He was professor of theology at the University of Copenhagen from 1993 to 2009, lives in Denmark and is now a Danish citizen.

Thompson is closely associated with the minimalist movement known as The Copenhagen School (other major figures include Niels Peter Lemche, Keith Whitelam, and Philip R. Davies), a loosely knit group of scholars who hold that the Bible cannot be used as a source to determine the history of ancient Israel, and that “Israel” itself is a problematic concept.

It is critical to evaluate the level of analysis given to the matter of biblical historicity by Meyer against that given by serious scholars. Meyer’s presentation is not, nor should ever presume to be, a scientific discourse. First, the lectures presented in the video are less than 30 minutes each, leaving little time for deep analysis. Second, there is no way to escape the conclusion there is never any intent at a factual presentation. Meyer’s lectures are aimed at impressionable minds with a goal of keeping them convinced of the veracity of the Bible and to reinforce a reliance on the supernatural.

In the remainder of this review I am not going to provide any depth at disputing Meyer’s presentations. I will post some salient points and offer a top-level discussion.

Meyer urges that the discovery of a fortified wall is evidence of David’s kingdom.

David’s Kingdom: The Fortress of Elah

  • Great big fortified wall, but there is no city inside.

There is the matter of the Tel Dan Stele:

The Tel Dan Stele is a broken stele (inscribed stone) discovered in 1993–94 during excavations at Tel Dan in northern Israel. It consists of several fragments making up part of a triumphal inscription in Aramaic, left most probably by Hazael of Aram-Damascus, an important regional figure in the late 9th century BCE. Hazael (or more accurately, the unnamed king) boasts of his victories over Omri, the king of Israel and his ally the king of the “House of David” (bytdwd). It is considered the first widely accepted reference to the name David as the founder of a Judahite polity outside of the Hebrew Bible, though the earlier Mesha Stele contains several possible references with varying acceptance. A minority of scholars have disputed the reference to David, due to the lack of a word divider between byt and dwd, and other translations have been proposed. The stele was not excavated in its primary context, but in its secondary use. The Tel Dan stele is one of four known contemporary inscriptions containing the name of Israel, the others being the Merneptah Stele, the Mesha Stele, and the Kurkh Monolith.

The Tel Dan inscription generated considerable debate and a flurry of articles, debating its age, authorship, and authenticity; however, the stele is generally accepted by scholars as genuine and a reference to the House of David. It is currently on display in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

David: The Tel Dan Stele

  • Found in 1993 at Tel Dan, inscribed in the mid-9th century B.C.
  • “I (King Hazael) killed Joram son of [Ahab] king of Israel, and I killed  [ ]yahu son of [ ] of the House of David” (Lines 7-9).

There is the Kurkh Stele of Shalmaneser III:

The inscription on the Shalmaneser III Stela deals with campaigns Shalmaneser made in western Mesopotamia and Syria, fighting extensively with the countries of Bit Adini and Carchemish. At the end of the Monolith comes the account of the Battle of Qarqar, where an alliance of twelve kings fought against Shalmaneser at the Syrian city of Qarqar. This alliance, comprising eleven kings, was led by Irhuleni of Hamath and Hadadezer of Damascus, describing also a large force led by King Ahab of Israel.

Kurkh Stele of Shalmaneser III

  • Specifically mentions King Ahab.
  • King Ahab sends over 2,000 chariots and 10,000 men to fight in the battle of Qarqar in 853 B.c.
  • In the record of those defeated by the Assyrians are the names of Ahab, king of Israel, and Ben-Hadad, king of Syria, who appears in 1 Kings 20:33.

And that finishes the review of Episode 4.

Next, Meyer launches into Episode 5, “The Assyrian Invasion.” From Amazon:

This lesson examines the archaeological record of Sennacherib’s assault on Judah. Learn how the evidence backs up the Bible’s account of the defense of Jerusalem.

Historians do not doubt that about 2749 years ago invasions and conquests from nearby people threatened and ultimately brought an end to the dynasty of the Davidic kings. From all appearances, Meyer seeks only to demonstrate the Bible’s account jibes with history.

Hezekiah and Sennacherib

  • According to the book of 2 Kings, in approximately 732 B.C. the Assyrian Empire invaded the norther kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 17:3).
  • By ca. 722 B.C. Israel had been defeated, and King Hoshea had been taken captive (2 Kings 17:6).
  • In about 701 B.C., following the conquest of Israel, the Assyrians moved on to attack the kingdom of Judah, ruled by King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:13).
  • This culminated in a siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians. Under Sennacherib, however, the Assyrians failed to capture Jerusalem and returned to Nineveh (2 Kings 19:36; 2 Chronicles 32:21).

There is the Sennacherib Prism:

Sennacherib’s Annals are the annals of the Assyrian king Sennacherib. They are found inscribed on a number of artifacts, and the final versions were found in three clay prisms inscribed with the same text: the Taylor Prism is in the British Museum, the Oriental Institute Prism in the Oriental Institute of Chicago, and the Jerusalem Prism is in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.

The Taylor Prism is one of the earliest cuneiform artifacts analysed in modern Assyriology, having been found a few years prior to the modern deciphering of cuneiform.

The annals themselves are notable for describing his siege of Jerusalem during the reign of king Hezekiah. This event is recorded in several books contained in the Bible including Isaiah chapters 33 and 36; 2 Kings 18:17; 2 Chronicles 32:9. The invasion is mentioned by Herodotus, who does not refer to Judea and says the invasion ended at Pelusium on the edge of the Nile delta.

Sennacherib (or Taylor) Prism

“As for Hezekiah,the Judean who did not submit to  my yoke, I Surrounded and conquered 46 of his strong-walled towns…by leveling with battering-rams and by bringing up siege-engines. 200,150 people…I brought away from them and counted as spoil.”

More conquests. Here is the Attack on Azekah.

Attack on Azekah

The Azekah inscription, ca. 701 B.C., describes the Assyrian attack of Sennacherib on the Judean stronghold of Azekah.

“I overwhelmed the district of Hezekiah of Judah…Azekah, his stronghold, which is located between my land and the land of Judah.”

The corresponding excerpt from 2 Kings relating to the event.

I will just quote from the bible:

2 Kings 18:13-17 King James Version (KJV)

13 Now in the fourteenth year of king Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them.

14 And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria to Lachish, saying, I have offended; return from me: that which thou puttest on me will I bear. And the king of Assyria appointed unto Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold.

15 And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the Lord, and in the treasures of the king’s house.

16 At that time did Hezekiah cut off the gold from the doors of the temple of the Lord, and from the pillars which Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid, and gave it to the king of Assyria.

17 And the king of Assyria sent Tartan and Rabsaris and Rabshakeh from Lachish to king Hezekiah with a great host against Jerusalem. And they went up and came to Jerusalem. And when they were come up, they came and stood by the conduit of the upper pool, which is in the highway of the fuller’s field.

From 2 Chronicles 32:9-12

From BibleGatway.com:

2 Chronicles 32:9-12 King James Version (KJV)

After this did Sennacherib king of Assyria send his servants to Jerusalem, (but he himself laid siege against Lachish, and all his power with him,) unto Hezekiah king of Judah, and unto all Judah that were at Jerusalem, saying,

10 Thus saith Sennacherib king of Assyria, Whereon do ye trust, that ye abide in the siege in Jerusalem?

11 Doth not Hezekiah persuade you to give over yourselves to die by famine and by thirst, saying, The Lord our God shall deliver us out of the hand of the king of Assyria?

12 Hath not the same Hezekiah taken away his high places and his altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, Ye shall worship before one altar, and burn incense upon it?

The God of Abraham at this point intervened.

2 Kings 19:35-36:

2 Kings 19:35-36 King James Version (KJV)

35 And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses.

36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh.

But now the Sennacherib Prism is silent on the matter, and Meyer takes note of that silence, and for what reason? Is it possible Sennacherib was embarrassed by this miraculous defeat and left it unrecorded?

Conspicuous Silence

“He himself I shut up in Jerusalem, his royal city, like a bird in a cage…Fear of my lordly splendor overwhelmed that Hezekiah. The warriors and select troops he had brought in to strengthen his royal city Jerusalem, did not fight…

From the Sennacherib (or Taylor) Prism

When extra-biblical sources fail to mention the miracle, Meyer interprets it as an embarrassment for Sennacherib.

Meyer winds down Episode 5 by posting four competing hypotheses regarding the Old Testament narrative.

He will eventually cross out all but the one in the lower right, the “divinely inspired” hypothesis. Yes, the Bible is divinely inspired.

Episode 6 has the title “The Babylonian Conquest of Judah.”

From Amazon:

This lesson describes the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, thereby ending the Davidic monarchy. Due to Israel’s rebellion against God, He handed them over to their enemies to be taken into exile.

Here is what is interesting about the use of language. Whenever God fails to protect the Jews, it is because they displeased God, and God was punishing them. Whenever a miracle saved the Jews (185,000 dead enemy soldiers), then it was God intervening to  protect his chosen people.

The Babylonian Conquest of Jerusalem

  • Nebuchadnezzar then appointed Jehoiachin’s  uncle, Zedekiah, to be King. After nine years Zedekiah rebelled.
  • This rebellion ended in the summer of 587 B.C. when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem after a siege of over a year.
  • From 605BC-587BC [sic], all of the fortified cities of Judah fell to the Babylonians, and 3 kings of Judah either died or were captured.

Next Meyer invokes the Lachish Letters:

The Lachish Letters or Lachish Ostraca, sometimes called Hoshaiah Letters, are a series of letters written in carbon ink in Ancient Hebrew on clay ostraca. The letters were discovered at the excavations at Lachish (Tell ed-Duweir).

The ostraca were discovered by James Leslie Starkey in January–February, 1935 during the third campaign of the Wellcome excavations. They were published in 1938 by Harry Torczyner (name later changed to Naftali Herz Tur-Sinai) and have been much studied since then. Seventeen of them are currently located in the British Museum in London, a smaller number (including Letter 6) are on permanent display at the Rockefeller Museum in Jerusalem, Israel.

The Lachish Letters

Letter 4 indicates Lachish and Azekah as among the last cities to be conquered.

Letter 4: “We are watching for the signal stations of Lachish, according to all the signals you are giving, because we cannot see the signals of Azekah.”

This is further confirmation to Meyer that the biblical account is historically correct.

From the biblical account:

Bullae from city of David

Jeremiah 36:10-12 King James Version (KJV)

10 Then read Baruch in the book the words of Jeremiah in the house of the Lord, in the chamber of Gemariah the son of Shaphan the scribe, in the higher court, at the entry of the new gate of the Lord‘s house, in the ears of all the people.

11 When Michaiah the son of Gemariah, the son of Shaphan, had heard out of the book all the words of the Lord,

12 Then he went down into the king’s house, into the scribe’s chamber: and, lo, all the princes sat there, even Elishama the scribe, and Delaiah the son of Shemaiah, and Elnathan the son of Achbor, and Gemariah the son of Shaphan, and Zedekiah the son of Hananiah, and all the princes.

Additionally:

Jeremiah 36:22-24 King James Version (KJV)

22 Now the king sat in the winterhouse in the ninth month: and there was a fire on the hearth burning before him.

23 And it came to pass, that when Jehudi had read three or four leaves, he cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth.

24 Yet they were not afraid, nor rent their garments, neither the king, nor any of his servants that heard all these words.

Meyer highlights key words from the Bullae from the City of David.

Here is what is archaeologically significant:

Bullae from the First Temple period found in the City of David excavations

Shedding light on the bureaucracy and officials of ancient Jerusalem

A collection of seals (bullae) from the late First Temple period, discovered in the City of David excavations, shed light on the bureaucracy and officials of ancient Jerusalem

A collection of dozens of sealings, mentioning the names of officials dated to the days of the Judean kingdom prior to the Babylonian destruction, was unearthed during excavations by the Israel Antiquities Authority in the City of David National Park in the area of the walls of Jerusalem, funded by the ELAD (El Ir David) organization.

The sealings (bullae- from which the Hebrew word for stamp, “bul”, is derived) are small pieces of clay which in ancient times served as seals for letters. A letter which arrived with its seal broken was a sign that the letter had been opened before reaching its destination. Although letters did not survive the horrible fire which consumed Jerusalem at its destruction, the seals, which were made of the abovementioned material that is similar to pottery, were actually well preserved thanks to the fire, and attest to the existence of the letters and their senders.

According to Ortal Chalaf and Dr. Joe Uziel, directors of the excavation for the Israel Antiquities Authority, “In the numerous excavations at the City of David, dozens of seals were unearthed, bearing witness to the developed administration of the city in the First Temple period. The earliest seals bear mostly a series of pictures; it appears that instead of writing the names of the clerks, symbols were used to show who the signatory was, or what he was sealing. In later stages of the period–from the time of King Hezekiah (around 700 BCE) and up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE–the seals bear the names of clerks in early Hebrew script. Through these findings, we learn not only about the developed administrative systems in the city, but also about the residents and those who served in the civil service.”

This is archaeological confirmation of this portion of the scripture. Meyer cites the biblical events confirmed, or at least not invalidated, by science.

Events in the Babylonian Conquest of Judah: Top Points of Agreement

  • Sometime after the appointment of Zedekiah the Babylonians completely destroy Jerusalem.
  • The Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar took many Jews captive to Babylon.
  • Cyrus the Great, a Persian emperor, conquers Babylon in roughly 539 B.C.
  • Cyrus allows the Jews to return from Babylon.

What has happened is this. As Judaic scribes started recording events as they happened, the biblical text began to come more in line with the actual history. Gone were the absurdities of Genesis and Exodus, and gone also were such that Finkelstein and Silberman note in their book:

The first question was whether Moses could really have been the author of the Five Books of Moses, since the last book, Deuteronomy, described in great detail the precise time and circumstances of Moses’ own death.

Finkelstein, Israel; Silberman, Neil Asher. The Bible Unearthed: Archaeology’s New Vision of Ancient Isreal and the Origin of Sacred Texts (p. 11). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Meyer lists biblical persons identified in history.

Top Characters Attested: Great and Small

  • Nebuchadnezzar
  • Jehoiachin, king of Judah
  • Necho, king of Egypt
  • Cyrus the Great
  • Possibly Jeremiah, “the prophet”
  • Baruch, son  of Neriah
  • Yerame’el, son of the king
  • Elishama, servant of the king
  • Gemariah, servant of the king

Concluding Episode 6, Meyer makes an astounding assertion.

The Bible is true and accurate in all the things it records.

Particularly:

  • In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

    And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

  • 15 And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life.16 And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in.

    17 And the flood was forty days upon the earth; and the waters increased, and bare up the ark, and it was lift up above the earth.

    18 And the waters prevailed, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the ark went upon the face of the waters.

    19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.

    20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.

    21 And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man:

    22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.

  • 21 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.22 And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.
  • [Supposedly written by Moses]

    34 And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lordshewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan,

    And all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea,

    And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.

    And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.

    So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord.

    And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

  • 18 Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.19 And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

I am so glad Meyer can assure me everything in the Bible is true and accurate, because I am daily battered by a flood of facts to the contrary.

For Meyer that is the end of the Old Testament. He next launches into the New Testament and the story of Jesus, which story will cover the final four episodes. Episode 6 is titled, without surprise, “New Testament.” From Amazon:

Recent archaeological finds have unearthed mounds of evidence that are slowly bringing an end to Biblical skepticism. By looking at this evidence, studying the recent findings and corroborating the stories, we realize the accuracy of the New Testament.

I will likely summarize the final four episodes in the next (final) review. Keep reading.

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.

False Testament

Number 2 of a series

This is the second part of my review of the video “Is the Bible Reliable?” from Focus on the Family. In the first installment I reviewed creationist Stephen C. Meyer‘s presentation purporting to demonstrate the validity of the biblical story of the Patriarch. Next up, in episodes 2 and 3, Meyer seeks to validate the biblical story of the Exodus and the Conquest of Canaan by the Israelites.

By this time I have found Meyer’s justifications tiresome, and in response I am not going to produce a point-by-point rebuttal. I will post a few points of his presentation and conclude with what should be obvious.

Meyer discusses the skeptical view of the Exodus. He presents two different views.

The Exodus: The Skeptical Views

  • There was no exodus of the nation of Israel from Egypt.
  • The Exodus happened, but it happened later than the Bible indicates.

I hold to the first view. The Israelites were never in Egypt, and there was no Exodus. Archaeological evidence is that the Israelites always lived in region west of the Jordan River. From Daniel Lazare’s recount of the archaeological findings:

Finkelstein and Silberman concluded that Judah and Israel had never existed under the same roof. The Israelite culture that had taken shape in the central hill country around 1200 B.C. had evolved into two distinct kingdoms from the start. Whereas Judah remained weak and isolated, Israel did in fact develop into an important regional power beginning around 900 B.C. It was as strong and rich as David and Solomon’s kingdom had supposedly been a century earlier, yet it was not the sort of state of which the Jewish priesthood approved. The reason had to do with the nature of the northern kingdom’s expansion. As Israel grew, various foreign cultures came under its sway, cultures that sacrificed to gods other than Yahweh. Pluralism became the order of the day: the northern kings could manage such a diverse empire only by allowing these cultures to worship their own gods in return for their continued loyalty. The result was a policy of religious syncretism, a theological pastiche in which the cult of Yahweh coexisted alongside those of other Semitic deities.

For Meyer it is necessary first to demonstrate the Israelites were once enslaved in Egypt. Among other things, he puts up a graphic from the period that is supposed to  show an Egyptian master holding sway over Semite slaves.

Semitic Slaves in Egypt

Semitic slaves as builders and brickmakers with a quota to fulfill under the command of task masters in 16th to 13th century B.C. texts such as the Tomb of Rekhmire, Louvre Leather Roll and Papyrus Anastasi III.

“But the quota of bricks which they were making previously you shall impose on them”

Exodus 5:8

Meyer does not link to the mass of counter evidence, as he is not required to in this instance, it being a polemic seeking to counter denial of the Exodus. However, the Wikipedia entry for the Exodus has a lengthy rebuttal with links to authoritative sources:

The consensus of modern scholars is that the Bible does not give an accurate account of the origins of Israel.[26] There is no indication that the Israelites ever lived in Ancient Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula shows almost no sign of any occupation for the entire 2nd millennium BCE, and even Kadesh-Barnea, where the Israelites are said to have spent 38 years, was uninhabited prior to the establishment of the Israelite monarchy.[27] Such elements as could be fitted into the 2nd millennium could equally belong to the 1st, and are consistent with a 1st millennium BCE writer trying to set an old story in Egypt.[28] So while a few scholars, notably Kenneth Kitchen and James K. Hoffmeier, continue to discuss the historicity, or at least plausibility, of the story, arguing that the Egyptian records have been lost or suppressed or that the fleeing Israelites left no archaeological trace or that the large numbers are mistranslated, the majority have abandoned the investigation as “a fruitless pursuit”

Meyer pursues the same line as Kitchen and Hoffmeier, arguing the absence of records only enforces the validity of the biblical claim. He presses his case for the existence of Israelites in Egypt by displaying a graphic, depicting the reconstruction of a dwelling in the Nile Delta. This dwelling is in a style known only to the Israelites.

To the rankest of amateurs, that would include me, this is not evidence of in excess of 600,000 Israelite slaves in Egypt. At the most it indicates somebody, possibly from the land of the Israelites, constructed a home here on the plan of an Israelite style.

God, with the help of Moses, freed the Israelite slaves from their Egyptian masters and struck off to the east, where God promised them they could have the land of Canaan. Forty years later they arrived there, without leaving a trace of their 40-year habitation during the interim. Upon arriving at the east bank of the Jordan river, with Moses now dead, Joshua took charge and engaged, with God’s approval and connivance, in a war to obliterate the people already living west of the Jordan. This is the story of The Conquest.

The Israelite Conquest

  • Before entering Canaan, God commanded the Israelites to drive the Canaanites out of the land and to settle it (Numbers 33:50-53).
  • With Joshua as their leader, the Israelites began the conquest of Canaan by destroying and burning Jericho, on  the west side of the Jordan River (Joshua 6:1-21).
  • The next city the Israelites destroy by fire is Ai in the central hill country (Joshua 8:3-28).
  • The third and final city that the Israelites under Joshua burn and destroy is Hazor in the north (Joshua 11:10-14).
  • During the Judges period, the Israelites slowly gain control over more of Canaan.

The Israelite Conquest

And here’s the good part.

Joshua 11:10-13

“Then Joshua turned back at that time, and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly as the head of all these kingdoms. They struck every person  who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no  one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire.”

What I find so amazing is this is the same Stephen C. Meyer who in the previous video cautioned us against moral relativism.

Moral relativism, according to Meyer and also according to most who give thought to the matter, holds there is no fixed and true morality. Moral values are at best set by societies and in the worst cases are set by individuals. Individuals who set their own moral values may become social outcasts and usually do harm to themselves, with harm being a relative term.

How come this reminds me of ISIS? I have no better way to describe moral relativism than stories of God, the giver of moral absolutes, condoning, yeah facilitating, the slaughter of innocents. “If he does it to me, then it’s wrong.” I said that.

Meyer goes on to persuade us the Conquest, described in the Bible, has a factual basis. Readers are invited to scratch the surface of this argument and see what lies beneath.

The order of books in the Old Testament is:

  • Genesis
  • Exodus
  • Leviticus
  • Numbers
  • Deuteronomy
  • Joshua
  • Judges

And more. I’m thinking Meyer has now taken us through Judges, but there may be more. I have not previewed the video. In all this Meyer has presented what is surely his strongest case, but in doing so he has passed completely by the most onerous claims against the Bible. This book cites events and circumstances even Meyer would disavow. To cite some:

  • In Genesis the creation of the Earth a little over 6000 years ago.
  • The story of Noah and the flood that never happened.
  • The parting of the Red Sea.
  • The story from Joshua of the sun standing still in the sky.

Watching the video you will come to acknowledge that Meyer is a master presenter. He delivers faultlessly and with earnest commitment. If he suspects for a moment that what he is telling his student is a massive fraud, he never lets on. Look into his eyes as he presents, and you will see that if he knows it is not true, he also knows it has to be true.

The next review will start with Episode 4: “Israel’s Rise to Prominence through David and Solomon.” From Amazon:

Discover that if one can discount the historicity of the bible, its theological implications and message can also be dismissed. But if these stories prove to be true, then the message and meaning of the Bible must be taken seriously as well.

Keep reading.

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 Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I waited 43 years to see this one. It’s The Conversation, from 1974, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola. As I write this (August) the movie is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Details are from Wikipedia. My assessment draws from a single view-through. I did not go back and analyze it to pick up on items I missed the first time. For a deeper view check the Wikipedia entry.

Gene Hackman is Harry Caul, a master eavesdropper. Only he calls his art “surveillance.” It’s not apparent what is about from the opening scene, which shows what appears to be a master sniper drawing a bead on pedestrians in Union Square in San Francisco. It turns out (I had to look again), it’s a technician with a directional microphone taking aim at a couple strolling the mall in front of the City of Paris department story (defunct since 1976).

The pair are Ann (Cindy Williams) and Mark (Frederic Forrest), and they are walking around in circles, having a conversation, hence the title.

Harry has been engaged to record said conversation, and he is being paid $15,000 for the job. After a hard afternoon at the task, Harry and his team quit the field, and Harry goes back to his shop to make sense of the recording. This is 1974, so the recording is on magnetic tape. The next few screen shots show Harry and his associate Stan (John Cazale) at work cleaning up the recording.

What Harry gets out of the cleaned up audio is the conversation of two innocents fearing for their lives. At one point the conversation is clouded by noise from a street musician. Harry applies a filter circuit he has designed, and Mark’s words come out clearly, “… kill us if he got the chance.” Harry becomes alarmed.

As we learn later, on a previous assignment Harry was able to obtain a recording of two people conversing on a lone boat in the middle of a lake. The recording exposed the two to the retribution of a ruthless individual, and an entire family as murdered.

When Harry arrives at his appointment to deliver the recording (and some photos) to “the director” He is told the director is not in, and he should hand over the tapes to one Martin Stett. Harry refuses to make the exchange, and there is a tussle over possession of the deliverables. Harry departs without making the exchange. Stett looks remarkably like (Harrison Ford).

There is a convention of spy ware companies, and Harry attends, meeting old friends and rivals in the business. Harry is the acknowledged master of the eavesdropping art, developing his own devices and keeping his own counsel. He has no social life, deserting a romantic liaison when the woman becomes too inquisitive.

The crowd of operators at the convention retire to Harry’s shop for drinks, banter, and some horseplay. A hostess from the convention is Amy Fredericks (Teri Garr). As the party breaks up she leaps on Harry’s bones, but he only wants to sleep. She strips and gets in bed with him.

When Harry wakes up Amy is gone, and so are his tapes. He realizes he has been conned and becomes convinced something nefarious is afoot. The conversation told of a planned meeting in room 773 at the Jack Tar Hotel. Harry attempts to rent that room in advance of the date, presumably to plant bugs, but the room is not available. He rents the room next door and installs a microphone through a hole in the bathroom wall.

Then he records, but he can’t bear to listen, instead playing the TV and music.

It’s hard to figure out what happens next, because a lot of it might exist only in Harry’s fevered brain. But he has visions of violence in room 773 when he wakes up the following morning. Checking the room (picks the lock) he finds no evidence anybody has ever been there. Out on the sidewalk the newspaper headline tells of the violent death of (I presume) The Director (Robert Duvall). A plush limousine parked on the street reveals Ann, non the worse for wear, ensconced.

At this point I have to guess. Harry interpreted the conversation incorrectly. Ann and Mark were planning on getting rid of The Director.

Harry retires to his very private apartment and plays his saxophone and listens to a vinyl platter (1974). The phone rings, but nobody speaks. Then the phone rings again, and this time it appears to be Stett on the phone warning Harry to keep his to his own counsel. The phone plays back sounds from Harry’s apartment just prior to the second phone call.

Harry tears his apartment to shreds looking for the bug, but he can’t find it.

This is one of those movies that come close to stream of consciousness. There are long periods of introspection, with Harry going over the conversation again and again, often times when he’s not in his workshop but just riding the bus or sitting in his apartment. In his shop he plays, rewinds, plays again the audio, remembering what he was seeing at the time.

In the end it’s all about Harry, his own insecurity and self doubt. It also touches on personal privacy as a morality issue, how much is to be expected and how much is taken for granted. In the end we see Harry destroyed by the industry he championed.

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.