Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

First the TV series, then the movie, then the book, and now the actual movie, one of several based on the book. It’s The Count of Monte Cristo, starring Richard Chamberlain and Tony Curtis, now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. The book, by Alexandre Dumas, was published serially from 1844 to 1845, and there are multiple motion picture adaptations, this one being made for TV in 1975. Apparently NBC made two versions, one running 119 minutes for the European market and the other running 105 minutes for the American market. I seem to have the European version, and for that we need to be thankful, because additional compression of Dumas’ 601 pages would have invited additional ruin. Here’s my assessment.

If you have ever seen photos of the wreckage of a long railroad train, one where the train collides with something, causing a massive pileup, then you get the picture. The cars are not compressed end-to-end, but they pile one onto the other, and they get reversed end-to-end and turned upside down. There is scant semblance of the order that was. That is what happened when movie producers attempted to fit Dumas’ potboiler of a plot into less than two hours. I will explain and in doing so will recap the plot in comparison to the book.

The movie starts exactly as the book, as exactly as artistic freedom and presentation constraints allow. Commercial sailor Edmond Dantes (Chamberlain) returns from a successful  Mediterranean voyage, as successful as could be expected seeing that his captain has died and was buried at sea, leaving 19-year-old Dantes in charge. In the port of Marseilles he is welcomed by the lovely Mercedes (Kate Nelligan), a Catalan girl who is to be his bride the following day.

But Edmond has rivals. One is a M. Danglars (Donald Pleasence), the supercargo (person responsible for the shipper’s goods), who considers he should have been promoted to captain instead of Edmond. Also there is Fernand Mondego (Tony Curtis), a local Catalan, supposedly a cousin of Mercedes and a rival suitor to Edmond. Here is a meeting at a place where wine is served close by the home of Edmond.  The third person at the table is a neighbor of Desmond, a M. Caderousse (Alessio Orano). He is not a party to the scheme to frame Edmond—he’s so drunk (in the book) to hardly know what is going on. His initial crime is one of omission. He knows of the scheme, but he allows Edmond to be framed and does nothing, at first.

In the book, Danglars proposes to write a phony note, saying what a great joke it would be if this note were discovered and if it pointed to Edmond as a Bonaparte collaborator. The setting is the time Napoleon escaped from his Elba prison and sought to overthrow the monarchy. Danglars has his joke (in the book) and discards the crumpled note, leaving for Fernand to retrieve the note and to take it to the authorities as real.

Edmond and Mercedes are about to be married when the police rush up to arrest him. He is taken to a local official, Gérard de Villefort (Louis Jourdan), who sees that Edmond is falsely accused. But the note refers to a letter Edmond is supposed to deliver. Edmond hands over the letter, never having read it. Villefort unseals the letter. It implicates his father, Noirtier de Villefort in the Napoleonic plot, naming many others, besides. This knowledge has the power to immensely elevate de Villefort’s career, but only if its existence is kept secret. The way to keep the secret is to tuck Edmond away for life in a place where the sun does not shine. He burns the incriminating letter and prepares to execute Edmond’s doom.

Only after he has been carted away does Edmond discover he is being sent to his doom in the scurrilous prison Château d’If in the Marseilles harbor. And behold, the producers used actual footage of the infamous place.

Edmond spends 14 years there, the first few in solitary. Eventually he detects another prisoner chiseling at the stone works. Eventually the two connect up, and the two spend the remaining years of Edmond’s imprisonment collaborating on a plan to escape. The other prisoner is a priest, Abbé Faria (Trevor Howard). The character was apparently a real person, but not the priest in prison with Edmond Dantes. Anyhow, the priest, before he was carted off to the Château d’If for being a royalist, discovered the location of a papal treasure of vast proportions and hidden away for centuries. He promises Edmond to share it with him after they escape. He also uses their time together to teach the simple sailor all the wisdom of the world. Then he dies.

Edmond, thinking quickly, waits for the jailers to sew the body into a bag. Then he switches places with the corpse, stowing it in his cell. The high point of the plot is here, when the guards throw the sack, with Edmond inside, into the sea. Edmond cuts his way out of the bag and is picked up by some smugglers.

He throws his lot in with them, and is readily accepted, since he is a first rate navigator. His travels eventually take him to Montecristo, an Italian island between Corsica and the mainland. There Edmond recovers the vast treasure and uses a small part of it to purchase the island, having himself declared the Count of Monte Cristo.

From Google maps, here is the island of Montecristo.

Edmond uses the ensuing ten years establishing himself as the Count of Monte Cristo and setting up his revenge on his betrayers. For the first time in his life he comes to Paris, where all of them now live, having used the intervening 24 years elevating themselves to great wealth and power, mostly by nefarious means.

The book explains that Mercedes waited 18 months before giving up on Edmond and marrying Fernand. They have a son. In the meantime Fernand has gone to the Battle of Waterloo with Napoleon, only to sell out to the British for a healthy sum. He has continued his double-dealing, next with the Spaniards and finally, as a French officer, betraying an eastern prince for a healthy sum.

Villefort has risen to position of the king’s procurer, and Danglars has become a prominent banker. Not shown in the movie is the life trajectory of the sodden Caderousse. Dumas has the count visiting this wretch, now an innkeeper on the road to the Pont du Gard, in disguise. He gives Caderousse a chance to redeem himself, giving him two large diamonds, supposedly from an unknown benefactor. Caderousse shows his true character when a Jewish dealer comes to the inn to purchase one of the stones. Caderousse and his wife murder the Jew and keep the stone, but the wife is killed in the fracas. Caderousse is caught and imprisoned, ultimately to be redeemed by the count in a scheme to employ him in the further destruction of his enemies.

Here the count arrives at the office of Danglars the banker, where he opens a stately account. He eyes his enemy, undetected, and schemes his revenge.

The count goes to one of the telegraph stations of a system that was established in France at the time, shortly before it was superseded by electric telegraphy. The stations use a system of semaphores to relay messages from one station to the next station down the line. He bribes the operator to send a false message, telling of the return of King Carlos to Spain.

Danglars has arranged for himself to have privy to these messages ahead of authorized parties, and he uses this information to make shrewd bets on the markets. The false message causes Danglars to short the Spanish bonds, and his major clients follow the lead. When the message is revealed to be bogus all his clients demand repayment, and Dalglars is ruined.

Hint: in the book Danglars flies the coop with five millions in cash and heads for Italy. There the count tracks him down and has some bandits kidnap him and hold him for ransom until almost all his money is gone. Then Danglars is left to live the remainder of his life. In the movie the banker puts a bullet through his head.

Villefort’s life, since his betrayal of Edmond, has been one of shady dealing and sordid misdeeds. He has gotten a woman pregnant and has arranged for her to give delivery in secret. Then he took the child and buried it in the garden behind the house, telling the woman the child had died. The movie has the woman dying, as well. Only, one of the count’s smuggler friends was a witness to the deed, and he rescued the baby. The baby was ultimately lodged with an unfortunate couple, growing up to become a pathological criminal who murdered his adoptive mother. He has subsequently been imprisoned with Caderousse. Apparently in their escape Caderousse had double crossed this son of Villefort, and the count works to bring the two into meeting one another. He watches as Caderousse is murdered and the son of Villefort is arrested.

At the trial, the son of Villefort uses information supplied to him by the count to disgrace Villefort, who is the prosecutor.

The count next contrives to make public Fernand’s betrayal of his charge and the murder of the prince he was sworn to protect. He also sold the prince’s wife and daughter into slavery, where the mother died. The count since purchased the daughter in a slave market and made her his ward.

Mercedes’ son, Albert, swears to fight the count in a duel with pistols. Mercedes knows Albert will be killed, and she convinces Albert of his father’s duplicity. the two men meet in the Field of Mars (in the movie only), where each party fires harmlessly, signifying the matter is settled.

Fernand is brought to answer charges, and at the hearing he presents testimonials to his loyalty in the affair. Then the princess, Haidee (Isabelle De Valvert), comes forward and attests to seeing Fernand murder her father and of his selling her and her mother into slavery. She presents documents of the transactions.

Fernand challenges the count to a duel right there in the chamber and is defeated, being forced to yield or die. He is taken off in disgrace to face charges. In the book he puts a bullet through his head.

As each of his enemies is destroyed Edmond counts, “One… Two…” I watched for this in the book but I saw it only at the time of Caderousse’s death. Maybe a closer look will reveal the movie is true.

Both the book and the movie show Mercedes leaving Marseilles to join Albert, serving in the military in Africa. In the book there is an outlandish episode involving Maximillian, son of Morrel, and the daughter of Villefort. Her stepmother has attempted to poison her, and the count has secretly intervened, faking her death until the final three pages of the book, where she and Maximillian are re-united in the grotto on Montecristo. The count sails off from the island with Princess Haidee, apparently to be his wife.

The moral is made that revenge is double-edged. Edmond has exacted it to its fullest, and it has brought him down, as well.

Wikipedia notes that cutting the plot to 119 minutes required leaving many of the book’s characters out. See the item for a complete listing. Read the book if you have the time. It’s a bucket list item. Gone there, read that.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 237 of a series

This one came out in 2001, and you don’t need to expect an in-depth review. It’s Evolution, and it’s currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. It’s a science fiction film and also a comedy. Think of it as Ghost Busters done small. You’r going to see some parallels.

As with all good sci-fi flicks, this starts with an asteroid hurtling towards the earth. Here it comes.

Meanwhile, out in the Arizona desert, a nefarious character is unloading a body from the trunk of his car. He drags it to an abandoned shed, and pours gasoline around the outside. Then he sets it afire. By now you’ve figured out this is only a dummy, and we see this is wannabe fire fighter Wayne Grey (Seann William Scott), practicing the art of rescuing a buxom blond from a burning shed out in the desert.

Wayne rescues the victim, and begins to apply mouth-to-mouth. A miracle. She is recovering. He looks to the sky. He sees the asteroid coming straight at him. He runs. Just in time. The asteroid obliterates the burning shack and flips his car into the air.

Meanwhile, back at Glen Canyon Community College, geology Professor Harry Phineas Block (Orlando Jones) is discussing her academic future with a comely student. It’s hard to miss the parallel with Bill Murray. The phone rings. They want him to go check out the meteorite.

He and biology Professor Ira Kane (David Duchovny) head out. The space rock has penetrated the ground and lodged itself inside an cave beneath. They get  samples of the gooey stuff clinging to the meteorite and take them back to the college where they observe the stuff grows and evolves, hence the title.

Back at the site for more research the two are stymied by Kayne’s nemesis from his days as an Army colonel, Brigadier General Russell Goodman (Ted Levine). Kane also meets up with Dr. Allison Reed (Julianne Moore). There’s obviously going to be some sex in this movie.

Attraction grows.

Yes, you knew it was coming. The junior college scientists figure out the stuff on the meteorite is evolving at break-neck speed, especially when exposed to heat, such as flame. The Army is aiming to eradicate the menace with Napalm. We know where this is headed.

But the scientists have figured out the chemical basis for this new life form, and they determine that selenium is the antithesis to this kind of life. Where to get the selenium? They scoop up stocks of Head and Shoulders shampoo and load up a fire engine.

As the Army applies the Napalm, and as he critter grows out of control, the intrepid scientists, plus Wayne, charge in and hose down the critter’s innards with H&S, saving the world and all mankind. Then Kane and Reed rush off screen to make whoopee.

The closing credits kick off with a salute to H&S shampoo.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This is a new one, out this year. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, whence the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

It’s Beirut, and there’s not much I can tell you about it, as my first run through I spent most of my time trying to figure out who was who. It’s 1972, and we know what was going on in 1972. We see American diplomat Mason Skiles (Jon Hamm) hosting a party at his residence in Beirut, Lebanon. He’s explaining to the uninitiated that for 2000 years Beirut has been like a boarding house with no landlord. People who don’t necessary like each other, Christians, Jews, Muslims, keep to themselves. More recently they decided to let the Palestinians in, because those folks had nowhere else to go. Each faction figured they could co-opt the loyalty of the Palestinians and gain some advantage, but the Palestinians were the PLO, and all they wanted to do was to destroy the Jews.

Mason’s CIA friend Cal Riley (Mark Pellegrino) arrives, with a crew. They want a word with Karim (Idir Chender), a Palestinian boy that Mason and his Lebanese wife Nadia (Leïla Bekhti) have been fostering. Mason says to hold off. Cal says Karim must go with them right now. He is Karim Abu Rajal, and his brother was involved in the Munich Olympics attack earlier that year.

Inside the house gunfire breaks out, as Karim’s brother comes to take him. Nadia is killed.

Ten years later Mason is on the bottle and running a private negotiating firm in America. Here we see him striving with no success to arbitrate between two recalcitrant parties in a labor dispute.

The government contacts Mason with an urgent demand. Cal has been taken hostage in Lebanon, and the kidnappers want him to negotiate. Back in country, Mason finds Beirut much changed.

He teams with CIA agent Sandy Crowder (Rosamund Pike).

It becomes apparent how disintegrated things have become. Mason meets with the kidnappers and is confronted by a fanatic whose purpose in life appears to be one of screaming anti-American rhetoric in his face. This is cut short when he is shot in the back of the head by a cohort. It is Karim, now grown up.

Karim wants to trade Cal for his brother, Rami, who has been taken prisoner, by whom it is not clear.

Mason’s cover for the trip to Lebanon is to give a lecture at the University. As his talks wanders into the matter of mutually assured destruction, a bomb planted under a chair in the audience goes off.

They think the Israeli intelligence organization Mossad is holding Rami. This turns out to be a dead end. They discover the PLO has him, and arrangements are made to throw in $3.9 million to get the PLO to cooperate.

As the hand-over takes place a Mossad sniper kills Rami. There is a bunch of shooting.

In the background all the time is treachery within the ranks. CIA station chief Donald Gaines (Dean Norris) has been siphoning money out of the till, and Cal knows about it. Gaines schemes to ensure Cal is not repatriated.

Mason has been winged in the fracas, and he and Cal recall their past friendship as they part company on the beach.

And that’s all I’m going to tell about the movie. Critical scenes are staged using dim lighting, making it difficult to figure out who is who. Dialog in Arabic is handled through subtitles, so it was necessary for me to switch between watching the action and following the conversation.

This is a thriller of a movie, and you may want to watch through it a second time to keep up with the plot.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This one is nearly 30 years old, coming out in 1989. It’s Fat Man and Little Boy, and before you start thinking it’s about The Maltese Falcon I need to remind you these are not characters in the movie. These are the names given to the first and only two atomic bombs used in warfare. This is going to be about the development of the atomic bomb in the final years of World War II. The movie is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

We all know the story about how General Leslie Groves supervised the construction of the Pentagon Building and commanded the Manhattan Project to develop the bomb. The opening scene shows General Groves (Paul Newman) receiving a birthday cake in the shape of the building. Next we see him blowing his top and tossing the cake after being told he would not get a combat assignment, but would, instead, be in charge of shepherding a gaggle of scientists.

When he calms down, the general stops by in Chicago to visit refugee Hungarian scientist Leo Szilard in his bath. Szilard first thought of the idea of an atomic bomb while crossing a London street. By the time he had reached the opposite curb he realized that a critical mass of fissile material would spontaneously split all its atoms and release the potential energy within. The relation between the amount of material and the amount of energy was determined 50 years before by German scientist Albert Einstein:

E = mC2

Since C is such a large number, that’s a lot of energy for any amount of matter. An interesting historical note is that the inventor of the atomic bomb refused to participate in its development.

Groves sees the light. This is the way to win the war, and he is the man to do it. He recruits maverick scientist Robert Oppenheimer (Dwight Schultz in his first leading role), because Oppenheimer is the best man for the job. History has demonstrated this conjecture was correct. The Army evicts a private boy’s school from a mesa top in New Mexico, and they construct a secret base there, hauling in all the top scientists they can scrape up to work on the project. Here Oppenheimer explains the game plan.

A big part of the game plan is secrecy. Nobody is to talk to anybody about anything outside of work. No wives, no children, no priests. The lid is really tight. As history has shown, this part of the plan was successful, because nobody outside the project knew about it, except the Soviets, who had planted two spies. But that’s not in the movie.

The ideal approach is to use plutonium, an artificial element. You have to make it in a nuclear reactor, but once you’ve made it, then it’s easy to extract plutonium from the uranium in the reactor due to the different chemical properties of the two metals. Atomic bombs can be made of uranium, also, but only U235 is usable, and it is remarkably difficult to separate that isotope from the bulk of native uranium.

But plutonium has a problem. The principle of all fission bombs is to start with to non-critical masses of the material and then to combine them rapidly into a critical mass. If you attempt to shoot a pellet of plutonium into a non-critical mass of plutonium, then you have to fire the pellet at tremendous speed, else the reaction will start too early, and the whole thing will blow itself apart before much of the material has reacted.

They solve the problem by using shaped charges of TNT to compress a hollow sphere of plutonium, lending some drama to the plot. Here a charge goes off prematurely, gravely injuring one of the experimenters.

Oppenheimer has calculated that he will soon gain the upper hand over Groves in the project, but he has figured wrong. With all the security investigation going on it does not take long to discover that the married Oppenheimer has been (still is) getting some on the side. Not only is the romance sub rosa, but the girlfriend is a communist, Natasha Richardson as Jean Tatlock. Groves forces Oppenheimer to break off the relationship, and he does, leaving her while two FBI agents observe from a a distance. This is related in The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes. Shortly after the breakup Tatlock is found dead by suicide.

The day of the first test is 16 July 1945. A plutonium bomb is to be detonated atop a tower on the desert flats near Alamogordo, New Mexico. but first the Army has to deal with a herd of cattle that keeps disrupting the experiment, trampling the bomb’s control wires. The local ranchers refuse to corral their livestock, so the Army handles the matter in the way the Army is trained to handle situations. They shoot the cattle.

Meanwhile there is a faction in Chicago (where the first controlled nuclear fission was obtained) that opposes the use, even the completion, of the bomb. Germany has surrendered, and many contend use of the bomb is overreach. The plot of the movie is narrated through a diary kept by scientist Michael Merriman (John Cusack). Following the accident previously described, he meets and has an affair with pretty nurse Kathleen Robinson (Laura Dern), both fictional characters.

The romance ends when Merriman is involved in an accident in the lab. The researchers are measuring radiation from a near critical mass of plutonium. Two hemispheres of beryllium are brought together around the plutonium, reflecting neutrons back into the mass. Distracted, Merriman twists a control knob, bringing the hemispheres too close and initiating a violent release of radiation. He dies horribly a few days later.

Both a uranium bomb (little boy) and a plutonium bomb (fat man) are designed. Nobody figures they need to test the uranium bomb, since it uses the pellet mechanism, but correctly crushing a hollow sphere of plutonium is considered dicey, since any asymmetry in the implosion will squirt plutonium out to one side. The cattle disposed of, Oppenheimer watches in the pre-dawn of 16 July as the clock counts down, and a blinding flash rends the desert landscape.

And that’s the end of the story. The bomb testers arrive back at Los Alamos to cheers, and three weeks later the city of Hiroshima is leveled by a single uranium bomb, never before tested. Three days after that a plutonium bomb is exploded over Nagasaki, and Japan surrenders a few days after that.

Nobody gets off scott free. Groves leaves the Manhattan Project, and Oppenheimer protests the development of the hydrogen bomb and loses his security clearance. The world changed forever on 16 July 1945.

There is a bunch of fiction, one part being that of Michael Merriman. There was such an accident at Los Alamos, but it was after the Trinity test, and there was another one after that.

A scene in the movie has General Groves on a train crossing the country, when the train is flagged down by an Army motorcycle messenger. I find this a bit hard to believe. An Army general, the man with arguably the most critical mission in the war, is on a train, and the train driver is willing to stop the train out in the middle of nowhere when a person carrying a gun, on a motorcycle, and wearing an Army uniform signals it to stop. That has all the appearances of a plot to assassinate the general.

Characters in the movie, as did real scientists at the time, object to the development of the atomic bomb. Of course, this never made a lot of sense. The thinking seems to be that if these guys did not develop the bomb, then we would all be a lot safer now. People, if North Korea can develop an atomic bomb, then nobody else is safe unless somebody with some sense has atomic bombs. It’s not as though scientists created something that was not there before. It was always there, and sooner or later somebody was going to turn over the rock and find it. There have been no world-wide wars since 1945.

This appears to be the first Paul Newman movie I have reviewed. Hopefully there will be more.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 235 of a series

This came out in 1951, and I am surprised I have no memory of having seen it before. It’s Warpath, starring

There were some heavy hitters playing these roles, but it was all for bought, done in by a lame storyline. It’s streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

In a dusty town along the 19th century frontier, Vickers runs into one of the people he’s been looking for these past eight years. He kills him in a gunfight.

Barely seconds later he stops into the local tavern for a shot of rye and immediately gets into a tussle with an Army sergeant (O’Hara), whose been making lewd advances on beyond-cute Molly. He takes down the sergeant and the sergeant’s corporal sidekick and follows up by asking a few questions. The other two fellows he’s looking for are in the 7th Cavalry, and he heads out of town on the train (with Molly) to join up.

There’s a great scenic shot of the train snaking its way through the Black Hills, but it’s obvious this is a poorly constructed tabletop model.

In the Army, and under the command of Sergeant O’Hara, Vickers wins the affection of Molly, which does not sit well with his sergeant. But the confrontation is short lived, as the dance is interrupted by the call for M Company to pull out most quickly to confront some Indians who are resisting settlers poaching on their territory.

M Company finds itself out numbered and decides to make a stand on that island in the middle of the river. It turns out to be an excellent choice, such a choice that later in the movie the director uses the same setting for a different locale on the North American continent.

The troops fend off the Indian attacks with great losses, and Vickers wins sergeant stripes. He was formerly a major in the Civil War. From the cast of characters and the battles being fought, this is obviously 1876, the year George Armstrong Custer and his regiment got wiped out at Little Big Horn.

Anyhow, Vickers figures that O’Hara and Molly’s father are the two he is looking for. O’Hara deserts, and Sam Quaid lights out of town, also, knowing his time in the civilized world is running out.

Sam sells his store and takes Molly with him to join up with the wagon train Vickers’ troop is riding protection on. Again the troops are out-gunned, and this time the Indians prevail, capturing Molly, Sam, Vickers, O’Hara, and others. The Indians want to know where Custer is heading. The palefaces don’t know, so the Indians start executing prisoners, one by one, starting with the settler who started the fight by killing two people in the Indian village.

O’Hara has smuggled in a pistol, and he starts a ruckus, distracting their captors so Molly and Vickers can escape. The remaining prisoners perish.

Vickers reports to his captain, but it is not in time to save Custer from his fate.

The battle over, and Vickers has been elevated to officer status. He and Molly stand together, overlooking the valley, contemplating their future lives together.

Decent acting, but the plot is overly involved. It wanders from episode to episode and involves multiple improbabilities. Notice how Vickers and Molly are the only survivors of the wagon train.

There is much to do in this movie with the Garry Owen March, which was also a theme used in Little Big Man, also concerning the fate of the 7th Cavalry. The 7th saw action as late as the Vietnam War, where my brother served in the unit.

My favorite Edmund O’Brien film is 1984, the original film from 1955, where he played the part of Winston Smith. He was in one of the clips from White Heat used in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, previously reviewed. I need to find more Edmund O’Brien films to review. Keep watching.

I’ve reviewed a number of Forrest Tucker films, including:

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 234 of a series

This week’s bad movie is a sequel to last week’s, so I’m not going to recap the plot. Suffice it to say it’s the same story.

  • The shark attacks.
  • People are unaware at first.
  • People become aware after several have been eaten.
  • There is a plot to kill the shark.
  • Human fallibility wins out, and others get eaten.
  • The shark is killed.

It’s Jaws 3 from 1983, starring Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. There are others listed, but Quaid an Gossett are the only two having something approaching stardom. This is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

And, there’s water. There’s always water in theses shark movies, because you need sharks, which live in water, and you need bikini-clad damsels, who sometimes go in the water. We see a newly inaugurated water park, which I presume is in Florida, and they are putting on a great show featuring water skiers building human pyramids.

Danger lurks. Cue that John Williams score.

Gossett is Calvin Bouchard, in charge of the operation. Of course he’s concerned about profits, because all these shark movies are about profits before public safety. He watches the water. For what reason is never explained, because he never spots anything.

But somebody does spot the shark trolling the water beauties, and there is a mad scramble to get everybody out of the water. Bad business for a water park.

Quaid is Mike Brody and John Putch is his brother Sean, survivors of the shark attack in the previous movie.

The water park features an “enclosed” lagoon. I put “enclosed” in quotes, because the shark penetrates the enclosure and begins to pick off victims, starting with a luckless diver sent down to repair the protective gate in the middle of the night, all alone. Reality check. This appears to be something professional divers never do.

The park also features an underwater section, essentially a tunnel (tube) laid along the bottom of the lagoon and featuring large windows that allow visitors to view nature up close. This works fine until the shark plows into the tube wall, starting a leak, causing the safety doors to close, trapping a number of visitors as water rises chest high.

Yes, they do repair the leak, and, yes, the trapped visitors are freed, but the shark is not finished. As Sean and his true love (Bess Armstrong as Kathryn “Kay” Morgan) gather in the control room to watch, the shark attacks the viewing window. The control room is under water in the lagoon. The window caves in, water plus shark enter the control room, the shark eats. Only Sean and Bess survive.

This is not one of Quaid’s best performances. Neither is it Gossett’s. The remainder of the cast appear straight out of summer stock. The previous year Gossett was Gunnery Sergeant Emil Foley in An Officer and a Gentleman, for which he picked up an Oscar. I first caught Quaid in Breaking Away,, a film about bicycle racing and coming of age. I continually hunt for a copy to review. The same year this came out he was astronaut Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff.

There is a glaring technical glitch in the plot with the underwater viewing tunnel. In the movie it is depicted as having emergency doors that seal off sections in case of flooding. Absolutely wrong. No engineer would ever sign off on such a thing for reasons demonstrated in the story. The world has multitudes of underwater tunnels, and none have provision for sealing people inside. The writers created this device to add suspense and also to chew up some celluloid, allowing the movie to be stretched to 99 minutes, which is mercifully short.

Oh, Jesus! There is yet another sequel. It’s Jaws: The Revenge, and there will be a review if I can lay my fingers on a copy and if $50,000 in unmarked bills is not left on my front doorstep beforehand. In the meantime, please enjoy Sharknado. And yes, you are welcome.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This one actually took me by surprise. The name kept popping up, more recently on Hulu, where it’s streaming and from where I obtained these screen shots. From 1996 it’s The Rock, and I decided to give it a look. Burned through 136 minutes. Whew!

Title credits are impressive:

  • Sean Connery as Captain John Patrick Mason, Special Air Service (Rtd.)
  • Nicolas Cage as FBI Special Agent Dr. Stanley Goodspeed
  • Ed Harris as Brigadier General Francis X. “Frank” Hummel, USMC Force Recon
  • John Spencer as FBI Director James Womack

My expectations soared.

Background to the sequence depicts tense radio traffic as a mission goes badly and people get left behind. Apparently that is ancient history and sets up the plot theme. Action begins in the rain in a cemetery as General Hummel, all alone, converses with his wife’s grave. He begs for forgiveness for what he is about to do, and he leaves his Medal of Honor on the headstone.

Back at FBI headquarters somewhere Dr. Goodspeed’s workday boredom is punctuated by an emergency arising out of a suspicious crate. He and an associate, new to the job, don protective suits and enter a sealed area to unpack. It turns out to be a trap, releasing deadly gas and initiating the timer of an explosive device. Goodspeed, cool to the core, defuses the device and saves everybody plus the remainder of the movie plot.

Back with his girlfriend later he speaks of a rough day at work. She has more bad (and good) news. She’s pregnant.

Meanwhile Hummel has recruited a cadre of Marine professionals, and they assault a weapons depot, making off with 15 armed chemical weapon missiles. They intended for 16, but an accident activates one, and the team loses a member trapped inside the sealed magazine with the poison gas.

We next see them at Alcatraz Island, where they interrupt a tour group and take hostages. Alcatraz, originally a Civil War fort, is affectionately known as The Rock, hence the movie title.

The renegades demand $100 million ransom, to be used to indemnify the sacrificed troops previously mentioned and also to pay $1 million to each of the group. Else the missiles will be launched, blanketing San Francisco and bringing about nearly total annihilation. The deadline is set at 48 hours.

The feds figure they need to act quickly and decisively, and Director Womack pulls out an ace he’s been keeping in the hole for decades. It’s Mason, who previously stole microfilm chronicling this country’s deadly misdeeds from three decades previously. Mason has been languishing in a federal lockup pending his disclosure of the whereabouts of the sacred film. In that time his foliage has grown impressively. Mason is the only person known for sure to have escaped from The Rock, and Womack intends to use his expertise to reverse the escape and to infiltrate the former prison.

The bargain is struck, and the government promises a full pardon. Womack tears up the paper after Mason hands it over, and Mason is pulled out to a luxurious hotel suite in San Francisco.

But he does it again. Mason escapes from captivity and leads Agent Goodspeed and otherd in a wild chase, setting the theme for the remainder of the movie. Nothing but impressive FX and lots of lead flying.

Yes, Goodspeed, with Mason and a team of Navy Seals, steals into an underwater entrance and penetrates the fortress. But a trap set up by the renegades leads to a horrific firefight that leaves all the government forces dead, except for Goodspeed and Mason. And the plot waxes even more bizarre. Here the two, desperately eluding their pursuers in the labyrinth beneath the prison, recapitulate the runaway mine car sequence from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Goodspeed manages to disable all but three of the missiles. One is fired at the city, but Hummel deflects it. He has no inclination to become a mass murderer. It’s all a bluff. Onshore, the feds, believing all is lost, revert to Plan B. It’s to be an attack by F/A-18 fighters launching thermite plasma bombs on the island, sure to blanket the area and obliterate the chemical agent. Also all living things, including the hostages. We are treated to some great footage, possibly CGI, of a flight of fighters skimming the surface beneath the Golden Gate bridge.

But Goodspeed neutralizes the remaining missiles and eliminates the last of the renegade Marines, and he gets off two green smoke flares, signaling that all is clear. Too late, a thermite bomb is launched, but it strikes a remote part of the island, doing no damage.

Goodspeed lies and claims the bomb vaporized Mason, who escapes the island using SCUBA gear left over from the raid. Goodspeed retains a note from Mason, detailing the location of the microfilm. The movie ends with Goodspeed and his new bride stealing the film from the country Iowa church where they just got married and where Mason had left the film in hiding. As his sweetheart drives he inspects a piece of the film and announces he now knows who killed President Kennedy.

Yes, the movie is that silly.

  • There is no such thing as a thermite plasma process.
  • Mention of crashed aliens at Roswell and the Kennedy murder is laughable.
  • The chemical agent missiles are absurd. No such ordnance would ever be assembled, much less designed.

It was good to see John Spencer again, after watching him for six seasons of The West Wing. He died before the seventh season, and the plot featured the death of vice presidential candidate  Leo McGarry. Ed Harris was the German master sniper in Enemy at the Gates. We also saw him in A History of Violence, The Truman Show, and The Firm. Cage featured in Snake Eyes. He also appears in the Left Behind movies. Sean Connery was an Irish cop in The Untouchables, a Russian sub captain in The Hunt for Red October, a tough military cop in The Presidio, and a space cop in Outland. He was Major-General Robert Elliott “Roy” Urquhart in A Bridge Too Far. He was an Irish soldier storming the Normandy beaches in The Longest Day. And I didn’t mention any of his James Bond roles or A Fine Madness, which I will review if I can get hold of a copy.

Criminal Empire

The DVD has been on my shelf for several weeks, and today I got around to watching. Worth the investment—this is a compelling story. Screen shots are from the DVD. Details and quotes are from Wikipedia.

Spotlight was (is?) the name of an investigative team at The Boston Globe. The 2015 movie is about their investigation into corruption in the local diocese of the Catholic Church. Priests were sexually molesting (raping) children, boys and girls, and the Church was covering it up. The relevance of this film has gained monumental strength with additional revelations earlier this month.

The movie opens with a scene in a Boston precinct station, where a priest, Father John Geoghan, is the subject of an investigation. A young policeman converses with the desk sergeant about the matter, and he is assured that the matter is going to be handled in the usual way. It’s 1976.

A young prosecuting assistant district attorney exits the interview and tells the sergeant to keep the matter quiet. The priest is hustled out of the station and driven away.

In 2001 The Boston Globe hires a new editor. He is Marty Baron , played by Liev Schreiber. He is a Jew. The previous editor was Catholic, as are about half the population of Boston. This is significant, because the previous editor was reluctant to publicize Catholic Church misdeeds. Here Baron discusses strategy with “Walter “Robby” Robinson, the editor of the newspaper’s “Spotlight” team,” played by Michael Keaton.

The Globe was acquired by The New York Times in 1993, losing some of its independence. Also, the newly surging Internet is draining readership from print media. The newspaper has to win back readership by providing insight not available to thinly sourced Internet sites. Baron tasks the Spotlight team with investigating and reporting on Church corruption. Here Robby strategizes with the team.

Reporter Michael Rezendes (Mark Ruffalo) holds a conference over lunch with Mitchell Garabedian (Stanley Tucci), a lawyer for several victims of Church abuse. Garabedian tells him there are documents under seal that can be made public. Abuse by diocese priests has been ongoing for decades and Cardinal Bernard Law (Len Cariou) has been covering it up. Priests have been shuffled from place to place as they continue to molest children. We learn from psychotherapist Richard Sipe (Richard Jenkins) that 6% of Catholic priests are guilty of child molestation. With 1000 priests, that means approximately 60 Boston priests are involved.

The newspaper has in its library records of Boston priests—their tenure in the diocese, reasons for leaving.

Rather than search for victims, the reporters decide to identify guilty priests. Many have been reassigned for other than legitimate reasons.

“Unassigned.” “Sick Leave.”

Reporter Sacha Pfeiffer (Rachel McAdams) digs into the “morgue” files and hands Robby a story from years back. The newspaper has been party to the cover-up.

Sacha tracks down priests they have identified and interviews one at his house. As described by Sipe, this one has the maturity of a child and fails to recognize he did anything wrong. His sister interrupts the interview and orders Sacha to leave.

Disaster! As Garabedian prepares to file the motion that will unseal the critical documents, the terror attacks of 11 September disrupt air travel and all news reporting. The documents remain public for weeks before Rezendes can get access to them and bribe a clerk to make copies. There is much resistance all along to allowing the documents into the open.

The air clears, the paper waits until after the Christmas holidays to print the lead story, and the presses roll. All great newspaper-themed dramas have these scenes. Miles of newsprint churning through the presses and the folding machines.

Bundled by automatic machinery.

Loaded onto trucks and driven into the streets for delivery.

A reporter places a copy on a critical doorstep.

The reporters go into work the following day, their day off. The news story carried the phone number (and URL) for the Spotlight hotline. The phones ring continuously as victims and others contact the paper.

The closing credits tell the horrific details that came to light as a consequence of The Globe‘s revelations.

That was 17 years ago. Earlier this month it became apparent that the Boston episode had no impact on the Church’s corrupt practices.

Catholic Priests Abused 1,000 Children in Pennsylvania, Report Says

Bishops and other leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Pennsylvania covered up child sexual abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years, persuading victims not to report the abuse and law enforcement not to investigate it, according to a searing report issued by a grand jury on Tuesday.

The report, which covered six of the state’s eight Catholic dioceses and found more than 1,000 identifiable victims, is the broadest examination yet by a government agency in the United States of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The report said there are likely thousands more victims whose records were lost or who were too afraid to come forward.

It catalogs horrific instances of abuse: a priest who raped a young girl in the hospital after she had her tonsils out; a victim tied up and whipped with leather straps by a priest; and another priest who was allowed to stay in ministry after impregnating a young girl and arranging for her to have an abortion.

The sexual abuse scandal has shaken the Catholic Church for more than 15 years, ever since explosive allegations emerged out of Boston in 2002. But even after paying billions of dollars in settlements and adding new prevention programs, the church has been dogged by a scandal that is now reaching its highest ranks. The Pennsylvania report comes soon after the resignation of Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the former archbishop of Washington, who is accused of sexually abusing young priests and seminarians, as well as minors.

There is much more I could mention here, but it has become no longer necessary. The implications and the remedy must by now be manifest to all—all but a few in a small enclave in Rome.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 233 of a series

The plot is so well-stitched, earning this one its place as BMotW. From 1978, it’s Jaws 2, with Roy Scheider reprising his role as as Police Chief Martin Brody of the friendly resort of Amity Island. It follows by three years the original shark movie, based on a book by Peter Benchley. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. If you saw the original, you know the plot.

Two divers discover the sunken fishing boat from the earlier movie. So does yet another great white shark, who eats both, but only after one of them gets some photos.

When the divers go missing the chief begins to resurrect his old suspicions. Next we see two women on a water ski outing. One is driving the boat. The shark stalks the skier, and while the driver is not looking the shark takes the bait. When the driver sees what’s going on she panics, and, attempting to counter the shark, she explodes a gasoline can on the boat. No live witnesses.

Suspicions throbbing, the chief constructs some cyanide-tipped bullets for his revolver. They never get used in the movie.

Mayor Vaughn (Murray Hamilton), left over from the first movie, is showing potential investors around the community. A major annoyance is Brody, embarrassing them all by sitting in his shark observation tower while tourists enjoy the beach, unaware. This reprises the original theme. A concerned and vigilant chief of police pitted against a town council that is more concerned about scaring away tourists and investors.

When the photos taken by the deceased divers are recovered, the town council refuses to believe they show a shark. They act to rid themselves of this troublesome priest, and Brody is out of a job. At this point the plot devolves into teenagers (plus one juvenile) putting themselves into harm’s way as a festive rollick on the water begins. Also, under the water.

The shark attacks the party crowd out of sight of land, and the remaining 30+ minutes of the film is consumed by screaming teenagers, fighting off the shark, falling out of boats, getting eaten, desperately seeking help. A harbor patrol helicopter lands to rescue them, but the shark attacks and sinks the helicopter.

Of course, Brody sails to the rescue. The final shark attack comes as the group is about to be rescued at Cable Junction, a small spit of rock that houses power and communications hookups. Brody accidentally pulls up a power cable with the anchor of the police boat, but he feeds it to the shark.

The shark takes the bait, and we watch a glorious minute of the shark being fried.

And that’s the end of the movie. We only imagine Brody will get his job back. We do see the mayor eating a small serving of crow when others report the shark attack. We know from history this meal will not stick, because there is going to be a sequel, and we need somebody to play the doubter against all evidence that a shark is on the prowl.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Ha! I boast. I never saw this in the theaters. I bought a VHS shortly after it came out in 1990, and it sizzled. With Julia Roberts as a Hollywood street walker and Richard Gere as a multi-millionaire corporate takeover specialist, you know there’s going to be some sex. This is definitely not suitable for small children. It’s streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

With a title inspired by Roy Orbison, it’s Pretty Woman, and that’s what the story is all about. It’s a story about a very pretty woman and her romantic relationship with an iron-fisted tycoon. The movie opens with Vivian Ward (Roberts) and her cohort in crime Kit De Luca (Laura San Giacomo) cruising the bricks on a fine evening. A Lotus 1989.5 Esprit SE comes sailing down the street driven by Edward Lewis (Gere). He’s not looking for a ride, but he is having trouble with the stick shift on the Lotus. Sweet Vivian offers to help out and, for and extra $100, more.

They wind up in Edward’s penthouse lodgings, where the $100 gets extended into a one-week dalliance. Edward is in town to take over a local company, and he needs a sidekick so he doesn’t show up for business dinners looking like some jerk who can’t get a date.

The first assignment is dinner with the top executives of the target company, a wizened CEO (Ralph Bellamy) and his grandson (Alex Hyde-White). But first Vivian must head out to Rodeo Drive to hunt down a proper cocktail dress. Here’s one of the great scenes. The snooty sales clerks don’t want trampy Vivian in their store, and she returns to the hotel humiliated.

There she has a conversation with the worldly hotel manager Barney Thompson (Héctor Elizondo). He recognizes the business that is transpiring in his hotel, and he only asks that Vivian identify herself as Edward’s niece. Then he arranges for her to be received at a local fashion house where she purchases the required cocktail dress.

And she is absolutely stunning at the dinner with the CEO and grandson.

When Edward learns of the way Vivian was treated out on Rodeo Drive, he tags along with her on a shopping expedition, where he demonstrate that even here money doesn’t only talk, it swears. He shows Vivian that the right amount will get any and all to “suck up.”

And she is an absolute smash. I once visited Rodeo Drive as a tourist, and I can vouch that if anybody can add some class to this strip it’s Julia Roberts. This stroll is to the accompaniment of Oh, Pretty Woman.

Of course everything does not go smoothly, else there would be no movie. Edward’s experience with Vivian softens his heart, and he decides not to break up the target company and sell off the parts. He agrees with the CEO they will continue to build ships, except the company will be operating with improved liquidity.

This pisses off Edward’s lawyer and partner Phillip Stuckey (Jason Alexander). I’m guessing Danny DeVito was unavailable at the time of filming, else he would have been cast for the part. Anyhow, Phillip sees Vivian as the fly in the ointment that’s costing him an expected $multi-million payout, and he pays her a visit, calls her a whore, and assaults her. Edward breaks up the love fest, and the partnership is ended.

The week also comes to an end, and Vivian goes back to her digs with Kit and makes preparations to renew her life in faraway Georgia. Edward prepares to ride to the airport in a limo, but the limo driver knows where Vivian lives. We see Edward coming astride a white limo with flowers to rescue Cinderella from a mundane existence.

And it is a fairytale ending.

I previously reviewed Roberts in Notting HillErin BrockovichConspiracy Theory, and The Pelican Brief.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 231 of a series

It doesn’t take long to find a bad movie. Go back to 1933, and there is a bunch. This is The Kennel Murder Case, with William Powell as Philo Vance. This is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The movie gets it title from the opening scene, a dog show, at which Philo’s Scottish terrier is eliminated before the final round. Then Philo catches an ocean liner to Europe.

I selected this shot to show how Powell looked in the old days.

Another person with a dog in the show was Archer Coe (Robert Barrat). He’s a generally bad fellow, and a competitor’s dog ends up dead in an alley. The next morning the butler brings Coe’s breakfast up to him, but the door is locked, and there is no answer. Peering through the keyhole, the butler spies the dead Mr. Coe, sitting in a chair.

Philo learns of this and interrupts his trip, getting off the ship before it sails and coming to investigate what turns out to be a murder. The original assumption was that Coe shot himself in the head inside a locked room. But the coroner discovers a nasty blow to the head and also a knife wound in the back. Philo figures out how the killer was able to lock the inside lock from the outside. The trick involves some fishing line that is ultimately pulled through the keyhole without leaving a trace.

But there were two murders. Archer’s brother Brisbane (Frank Conroy) was the first to strike, tracing back from his presumed train trip to Chicago to do the crime. But he never made it out of the house. The second killer finished the job and then killed Brisbane, leaving the body in a closet. Inside another closet is another dog, a Doberman, discovered by Philo’s dog. This dog was apparently struck by the killer, but he recovers.

Brought back to the scene of the crime, the Doberman is unleashed, and he goes straight for the sought after killer. The movie allows the Doberman to chew for mostly a minute before others come to the rescue.

On top of that, the print is in really bad shape. And this is the digitally remastered version. Amazon Prime has four copies available for viewing to Prime customers, and another is for sale. Hopefully it’s in better shape.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

From 2004 it’s Suspect Zero, featuring Aaron Eckhart as FBI Agent Thomas Mackelway and Ben Kingsley as Benjamin O’Ryan. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

The opening shows traveling salesman Harold Speck (Kevin Chamberlin) enjoying coffee and a newspaper at a diner beside the highway. It’s raining outside, and in walks a mysterious stranger, who sits himself across from Harold, and accosts him. The stranger speaks probing suggestions into Harold’s life on the road, what Harold does when his wife is at home alone. Harold gets nervous and leaves. He ends up dead in his car exactly on the Arizona-New Mexico line. There is a reason for this. That makes the killing FBI jurisdiction.

We find out later the stranger is Benjamin O’Ryan, and he has stalked and killed Harold. We also learn later that Harold was a serial killer.

Meanwhile FBI Agent Mackelway arrives at his new posting in Albuquerque, supposedly the armpit of FBI postings. He was previously at the Dallas office, but he once pursued a suspect across the Mexican border and kidnapped him. After six months of psychological observation he has been allowed to go back to work. There is something troubling the mind of Agent Mackelway,

Meanwhile, O’Ryan has visions, and he sketches them. He mails some to Mackelway, along with cryptic notes. They relate to serial killers.

A mysterious truck stalks two young boys riding their bicycles. One of the boys disappears and is later presumed dead.

A hot young thing is celebrating her sexuality at a roadside bar. When the bartender insists she show ID to order a drink, she goes out to her car, in the dark, to retrieve it. We know exactly what is going to happen. A nefarious character follows her out.

The man grabs miss hot body in the parking lot and drags her to his vehicle, where he rapes her. But a mysterious stranger appears, breaks through a window, and drags the attacker out. It is later revealed the rapist is a wanted serial killer, and he is now dead on the pavement.

Mackelway goes to visit Professor Dates (Robert Towne) who reveals the identity of Benjamin O’Ryan, formerly a secret FBI agent who participated in remote viewing experiments. It becomes apparent O’Ryan is seeing at a distance and is stalking and killing serial killers. Mackelway has similar visions.

Mackelway and O’Ryan team up and track a graveyard of victims they have visualized to a desert homestead. A field contains dozens of graves. When the mysterious truck appears, the two give chase. The chase ends in a crash alongside a desert road, and the culprit attempts a getaway across the hellish landscape.

Mackelway phones the situation in to the authorities, who come rushing to the scene. Mackelway’s partner Fran Kluck (Carrie-Anne Moss) rescues a young boy from the truck, then she takes out after Mackelway and the killer.

Mackelway catches and subdues the killer. O’Ryan appears and insists that Mackelway kill him (O’Ryan). He hold’s Mackleway’s pistol to his own forehead.

But Mackelway will not, so O’Ryan pulls out his knife and menaces Mackelway. Fran shoots O’Ryan dead. The two stand over O’Ryan’s body and stare down at it.

It’s the same scene depicted in one of O’Ryan’s drawings.

Yes, the bit about remote viewing is preposterous.

In the early 1970s, Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ joined the Electronics and Bioengineering Laboratory at Stanford Research Institute (SRI, now SRI International) where they initiated studies of the paranormal that were, at first, supported with private funding from the Parapsychology Foundation and the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

I was once called in to do a TV interview and explain what was wrong with remote viewing tests that purported to show positive results. There is more available from the North Texas Skeptics. More recently Harold Puthoff was doing edgy research in Austin.

Ben Kingsley is always worth a watch. We have already seen him in Shutter Island and also Sneakers.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 231 of a series

I haven’t figured out why this one wasn’t BMotW years ago, but here it is now, from 1987, The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained these screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia. There is not much to the plot, but here is a synopsis.

Arnold is police helicopter pilot Ben Richards in a dystopic future world where brutal government oppression keeps things straight, almost. Ben refuses to fire on unarmed civilians who are participating in a food riot, and he becomes an unperson, working in a slave labor camp, where prisoners die of starvation and rough treatment regularly.

But Ben engineers a break. The prisoners know what’s really going on, and they’re going to take their country back. Here he goes mano-a-mano and defeats a prison guard.

In the world outside, gladiator games keep the population distracted. One such game is The Running Man, which involves professional stalkers hunting down and exterminating prisoners turned loose inside a human game preserve. The master stalker is Captain Freedom, played by Jesse Ventura, before he became governor of Minnesota.

The Running Man is a TV game show, run by Damon Killian, played by Richard Dawson. Here he watches video of Ben’s prison escape and gets the idea of capturing him and putting him into the game.

Ben figures he needs to get out of the country, but he has no travel pass. He abducts somebody who has one, Amber Mendez (María Conchita Alonso), who looks really sharp in her workout suit when Ben walks up and places his hand over her mouth.

But at the airport Amber blows his cover, and Ben is captured. He and two other recaptured prisoners are put into the game, dressed in slick fugitive suites and harassed by goons on motorcycle until they start running down long, dark tunnels.

I will not elaborate further. Amber gets wise to the scheme when she views the actual footage of Ben’s rebellion, but she gets scooped up and thrown into the game with Ben and the others. The two other escapees die in the game as Ben and Amber defeat a series of stalkers sent after them, finishing up with Captain Freedom.

The crowd turns against the phony game, and Ben captures Damon. He places Damon in the fugitive sled, and sends the sled down a long chute and into the air, where it scores a bull’s eye on a notorious billboard.

And Ben and Amber get ready to make whoopee as the crows cheers them. And that’s the end of the movie.

Not so amazing, the film made $38 million in the U.S. on a budget of $27 million. It has since become a kind of cult classic, and last week I talked to an otherwise intelligent person show acknowledged he has viewed the film multiple times. Once turned out to be enough for me.

That same year, Jesse and Arnold appeared together in Predator, apparently Jesse’s first film. I have previously reviewed Arnold in Kindergarten Cop, one of his best roles. We have also seen Commando and The 6th Day.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This one caught my attention when it first screened in 1995, but I never saw it. It’s now streaming on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained these screen shots. It’s Dead Man Walking, based on the book of the same name by Sister Helen Prejean, who is the subject of the story. Details are from Wikipedia.

Here is Sister Prejean as a young girl, shown in flashbacks from home video, at I presume to be her confirmation. Sister Prejean as a young girl is played by Eva Amurri Martino, daughter of Susan Sarandon, who plays the grown-up Sister Helen.

Sean Penn is Matthew Poncelet, a piece of Louisiana white trash, who six years previous teamed up with a buddy to murder a young couple at night out by the swamp. Both Matthew and his partner raped the girl, and Matthew shot the boy in the back of the head with a .22 rifle. Now Matthew faces death by lethal injection at what, in another movie, came to be called Louisiana’s Green Mile. Peen is perfectly cast for this role. Nobody else can project worthless humanity with aplomb as Penn does. Wait. Note the facial hair. I imagine the prison barber asking him, “Matthew, what do you want to look like?” and Matthew flashes a big smirk and tells him, “Make me look like a don’t-give-a-damn punk killer.”

So, Sister Helen takes on the chore of being Matthew’s moral counselor, and that’s what the story is all about. The matter is, the Catholic church is dead set against the death penalty, and they want to stop any and all executions. So, how does Sister Helen and her pro-bono defense lawyer attack the case? By demonstrating to the appeals board that the death penalty is in violation of the Constitution or is otherwise inappropriate? Of course not. They attack the ruling of Matthew’s guilt, something that is, in reality, unassailable.

Here is Sister Helen exiting the clemency hearing and running into parents of the two dead victims. The person on the right is R. Lee Ermey as Clyde Percy, father of girl who was raped and killed.

Of course all attempts to forestall the inevitable are to naught, and the execution goes off on schedule. I’m posting two shots from the execution, because I find them worth noting.

The first shows preparations for lethal injection. They are going to stick a needle in Matthew’s arm. And, yes, the person doing the sticking first sanitizes the area with an alcohol patch. The person who is seconds  from death needs to be protected from infection.

Now they strap Matthew to the gurney. You see that? yes, it’s almost a perfect crucifix. Jesus Christ, they want to call attention to his martyrdom.

And that’s the movie. No real action except flashbacks of the crime. Nobody falls in love. Nothing of any interest happens to anybody except for Matthew. Sarandon spends a lot of the movie listening to other people talk.

Amazon Video’s X-ray feature makes some interesting points.

  • In real life the killer got the chair.
  • In the movie, Sister Helen gets pulled over by a Louisiana trooper for speeding. This happened after the movie started filming, so they added that scene to the movie.
  • Louisiana now uses injection, but they strap the convict to the gurney after laying it flat.
  • This is one of several movies where Sarandon’s character as a child is played by her daughter.

R. Lee Ermey is famous for portraying Gunnery Sergeant Hartman in Full Metal Jacket, eight years prior to this one. More recently I watched him almost daily as a military interpreter in various shows on The History Channel. He died April 15 from pneumonia, in Santa Monica, California.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 230 of a series

This has to be just about Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s worst move. Then, I never saw any of the Conan films. This is End of Days, and it came out in 1999, at the appropriate time for such a movie. Recall that as the 20th century closed down all kinds of doom was projected, not counting four-digit date software issues. The deal was 2000 was supposed to be the 2000th anniversary of Jesus of Nazareth (born in the year -4). 2000 was supposed to be the beginning of the new millennium, and it was, except the new millennium started at the end of 2000, not the first of January 2000. Anyhow, this is about the religious notion of end of days, and there is more on this topic than you care to hear. The movie is currently streaming on Hulu, where I obtained the screen shots. Details are from Wikipedia.

When the movie opens we see a priest (or a monk) at the Vatican pulling out cannisters of ancient scrolls. He finds the one he is looking for.

He takes the document to the Holy Father with startling news. The girl that was prophesied is about to be born. It’s 1979, twenty years prior to 1999, and the girl is going to grow up to bear the child of the Prince of Darkness. Many churchmen declare the girl must be killed to forestall this prophecy. The Pope decides (since when?) it would be immoral to sacrifice an innocent. The girl must be protected.

It’s a few days before New Year’s Eve in 1999, and a Nameless Banker (Gabriel Byrne) is having dinner at a swanky Manhattan eatery, along with a business acquaintance and a most charming woman. He gets up and goes to the men’s room. While he is inside relieving himself, a disturbance in the fabric of time and space comes down the street and enters the restaurant. It follows the banker into the men’s room and engulfs him. The banker becomes the host of the Prince of Darkness.

The man exits the restroom, strides to his table, kisses the woman passionately, and goes outside. As he strolls away the restaurant is demolished in a fiery explosion.

Meanwhile, super cop Jericho Cane (Arnold) and his partner capture a crook. Here is Arnold doing his True Lies stuff, snagging the bad dude in mid-air while dangling from a cable attached to a helicopter overhead.

The girl is born, and now she is 20 and most likely still a virgin. Her parents are dead, and she is being raised by a mysterious woman, soon to be revealed as working for the Holy See. The church is dedicated to protecting the girl, but at the same time to prevent her being impregnated by the Dark Prince. The impregnation must occur between 13:00 p.m. and midnight on 31 December 1999. The reason for this is never adequately explained.

Here young and virginal Christine York (Robin Tunney) rides a subway train, confronted by an apparition. It’s a manifestation of the dark side, and Christine has been plagued with this kind of thing for years. From outward appearances she is schizophrenic.

Back at her apartment some men break in with the intent to kill Christine. But first they must administrate the last rites. These are people from the church, and their intent is to keep Satan from humping her and getting her pregnant.

But Cane and his partner, following up on a related case, happen by, and Christine is saved. Cane becomes interested in Christine.

And the movie plot is off and running as Cane must prevent the girl from getting knocked up during the critical hour, and the rest is cinema FX, packed with scenes such as this one of a subway car crashing in a tunnel.

Come the critical hour, and Cane destroys the banker, but the manifestation invades his body, and he prepares to impregnate Christine, by force, on a church altar.

By sure will power Cane overcomes the dark force and tells Christine to run. It is seconds before the ball drops in Times Square. The church is half wrecked, and Cane impales himself upon the sword of a fallen statue. This is most gruesome.

The ball drops, and the magic hour expires for another 1000 years.

Cane has given all and has atoned for his years of denial of the power of faith. It’s a tale for the ages.

Yes, and that is all the movie has going for it. Based on a legend concocted by people unknown at a time unknown and having no basis in fact or scripture. It is a bad movie.

As I watch through this I was struck by the many ways the prophecy could have been forestalled. Cane could have screwed the girl and gotten her pregnant. She could have gone on the pill (except the church would object).

Also, this Prince of Darkness is such an omnipotent being, how come he has to go through all theis rigmarole to impregnate the girl, and how come he is unable to use his vast powers to defeat some bumbling cops? If this shows the limitations of the Prince of Darkness, why are we so concerned that he could possibly dominate the world.

And finally, this planet is one of possibly billions of habitable worlds in the universe, and it just happens to be the center of all this attention? Tell me more.

My favorite Arnold film tends to be Kindergarten Cop, where Arnold does comedy well. The Terminator is good, also, but there he’s a stand-in for  machine and not a real person. True Lies was another comedic tough guy role for Arnold. I need to review Total Recall.

Years of Living Dangerously

Continuing review of William Shirer’s Berlin Diary

William Shirer published Berlin Diary in 1941, the year following his departure as a correspondent from Berlin. While the book derives largely from contemporaneous notes, it is not the transcript of a daily ledger. There was difficulty getting his notes out of Germany, considerable danger being attached should they be discovered at the border. At the least, such inflammatory material would have been confiscated. A consequence is that Shirer composed the bulk of the book once safely outside Nazi Germany. This is one of a series reviewing the book. Posts follow by 80 years the time line of events.

In 1938 Adolf Hitler began in earnest to solidify control of the Nazi state. His first outward thrust was the annexation of neighboring Austria. Hitler next moved on Czechoslovakia. Meanwhile, the German digestion of Austria began to become manifest at the lowest levels. On Shirer’s journey to Rome to cover Hitler’s visit there he met face-to-face with absolute rule:

ROME, May 2

Some time during the night S.S. Black Guards at the Austro-Italian border got me out of bed in my wagons-lits compartment and seized all my money. They argued a long time among themselves about arresting me, but finally desisted. Hitler arriving this evening at sundown. I’m broadcasting from the roof of the royal stables overlooking the entrance to the Quirinale Palace and have it timed for the moment the King and the Führer are due to arrive.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 114). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The continent of Europe was coming apart at the seams, yet Shirer’s bosses back in America felt the need for the mundane:


Followed Hitler up here, but did not have to broadcast. New York wanted me to look up some singing birds— of all things!— for a broadcast, but could not find them. Spent the day at the Uffizi, but somehow the Leonardos, Raphaels, Titians, even the Botticellis, pale a little after the Grecos in Spain. Walked along the Arno. Remembered the magnificent view from Fiesole, an old Etruscan town five miles up in the hills from here, but no time to revisit it. Back to Vienna tomorrow.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 115). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

It became urgent that Shirer get his wife and baby out of the hot zone and into neutral Switzerland. The fabric of society was unraveling—he encountered a Nazi spy, who had long posed as an anti-Nazi immigrant. Getting the flight Geneva was wrought with imperial entanglements and peril:

GENEVA, June 10

At the Aspern airport they behaved very suspiciously. I explained to the Gestapo chief that Tess was too weak to stand up and I would go over the luggage with him. I had laid Tess out on a bench in the waiting-room. He demanded that she stand up and explain things during the customs examination. Otherwise we couldn’t leave. I tried to hold her up. Then a police official led me away. I left the nurse to help as best she could. In a little room two police officials went through my pocket-book and my pockets. Everything was in order. They then led me into a side room. “Wait here,” they said. I said I wanted to go back to help with the baggage inspection, that my wife was in a critical state; but they shut the door. I heard the lock turn. I was locked in. Five, ten, fifteen minutes. Pacing the floor. Time for the airplane to leave. Past time. Then I heard Tess shout: “Bill, they’re taking me away to strip me!”

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 117). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

The world began to take notice of what was rapidly becoming the fate of Europe:


Delegates from thirty-two states here, on Roosevelt’s initiative, to discuss doing something about refugees from the Third Reich.

Shirer, William L.. Berlin Diary: The Journal of a Foreign Correspondent 1934-1941 (p. 119). RosettaBooks. Kindle Edition.

Coming up next, the relentless progression of events to sell out Czechoslovakia and to pray this awful mess will just go away.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This came out in 2007 and has been streaming on Hulu for several weeks. I decided to take a look and ended up investing 2 hours and 38 minutes watching it. It’s American Gangster, featuring Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. It didn’t take long to spot this as a meld of Goodfellas and The French Connection. It’s about (see the title) an American gangster, in this case real-life Frank Lucas. From a quick review I get the idea the plot roughly follows the crime career of Frank Lucas. The screen shots are from Hulu. Details are from  Wikipedia. Here’s the cast:

The opening shot shows somebody tied up in a chair. It appears he is being water-boarded. Somebody is pouring water all over him, while he’s screaming. Now we realize it’s not water. It’s gasoline. Frank Lucas has a lesson he wants to teach people who get out of line. He flicks a flaming piece of paper on the man, who bursts into flames. The man screams for a few seconds before Lucas kicks the chair over and shoots him dead.

Next  we see gang boss Bumpy Johnson dispensing largess from the back of a truck in a Harlem (New York) street, where his downtrodden constituents give him rave reviews. That happy scene changes swiftly as Bumpy takes his driver Frank Lucas aside to explain what is wrong with modern cities. Neighborhoods have lost their identity. Small shops, owned by people who live on the same street and who work there, are being replaced by business run by large corporations, by people who don’t live in the neighborhood. This is 1968, and Martin Luther King is already dead, killed by a sniper in Memphis, Tennessee. Bumpy takes Frank into one of the new stores. Nobody there is from the neighborhood. Gone is the community. Then Bumpy dies of a hear attack in the store, and Frank figures to take over his empire.

He takes inspiration for his business model from Bumpy’s advice. Vice in the neighborhood is owned by the Italian mobs. Drugs on the street pass through multiple layers before being injected into the bodies of Harlem junkies. Frank concludes what is needed is local management and vertical integration. He will personally run the whole operation from top to bottom.

Meanwhile, his nemesis is germinating in the form of a, rare, honest cop. Detective Roberts is taking classes to become a lawyer with the idea of moving up in the world. Meanwhile, he and his partner, Detective Rivera, are watching some business going down in a parking lot. Some suspicious characters leave something in a car. They investigate and discover hundreds of thousands of dollars in street bills. Against his partner’s advice, Roberts insists on taking it down to the station.

This is a bad move. This is free cash that could have been distributed, according to seniority, to any number of members of the New York police force. Roberts becomes a pariah in the department. Later, when Rivera, who is, himself a junkie, murders a dealer, and Roberts needs to extricate him from a hostile neighborhood, the dispatcher will not send backup.

Lucas figures to solve the problem of inferior drugs by getting his supply from the source. The Vietnam War is in progress, and 500,000 American troops are stationed in Vietnam and Thailand. Thousands enter and exit the region on a daily basis. It is an excellent supply route from the heroin producers of Thailand. Lucas travels to Thailand, where he hooks up with an American Army sergeant. Together they trek into the hot zone, where the poppies are grown and where the drug is refined.

His business model is an instant success. Selling “Blue Magic” trade-marked heroin at below the competition’s prices, Lucas takes over the trade in the New York City area. He purchases a large country estate for his extended family from low rent North Carolina and moves everybody in. He recruits his five brothers as partners in the business. His scheme is that blood loyalty will protect his enterprise from police infiltration. And that works, for a while.

Back in Harlem, he impresses his brothers with the seriousness of their business. He had heretofore been squeezed by the street enforcer of the legacy gang. The unfortunate pictured here previously demanded 20% of Lucas’ action—insulting and also above the established market. As Lucas and his brothers are enjoying lunch, Lucas spots the enforcer on the street, pressing a local business for the money. Lucas leaves his brothers, who watch from the restaurant, and he strides up to the enforcer, confronts him, and shoots him dead in front of a large crowd. Then he rejoins his brothers. Nobody bothers him. There’s a new sheriff in town.

Lucas operates outside the model of the old Harlem mob. He wears a suit, not flashy, and gives all the appearance of a local businessman. He insists others in his gang do likewise, adopting a low profile. When brother Huey shows up wearing the 1970s equivalent of a zoot suit, Lucas takes him down a peg, asking him why he wants to walk around saying “arrest me.” Lucas marries  stunning Eva from Puerto Rico.

But matters begin to go bad for Lucas. Roberts is recruited from the NYPD into a federal investigative unit and concentrates on finding who is behind Blue Magic. He begins to zero in on the Lucas brothers. His group keeps an eye on them, and in a case-breaking event, they see Huey chase a woman out into the street and shoot her. They now have leverage into the Lucas operation.

At the same time the local police are putting the squeeze on Lucas. He’s not paying his share, and this upsets Detective Nick Trupo, who wants to keep the Lucas operation thriving as a steady source of income to the corrupt police. Lucas strikes back, fire bombing Trupo’s car in front of his house to send a message.

But Roberts’ crew eavesdrops on a conversation between Huey and Lucas (in Thailand). It’s 1975, and American  forces are coming home. The Blue Magic supply line is about to be shut down. Instructions are in code, but Roberts translates the dialog into the tail number of an Army C-130 transport arriving in Elizabeth City, New Jersey. His group is ready with a search warrant when the plane arrives.

But they can’t find the shipment on the plane. They even open caskets of American bodies being returned to the States but find nothing. Roberts’ commander is incensed. They have desecrated the bodies of these soldiers and have nothing to show for it. Also, black guys doing this stuff? Not Italians? Where’s the Italian connection? Only the Italians do this stuff, not black guys. What is Roberts thinking? He’s a disgrace.

But Roberts persists. He decides the shipment is in the caskets, and his men follow the vans taking them away. At a point the caskets are opened, and the bodies are transferred to burial coffins. The caskets leave by a separate van. The crooks take the caskets to a building, where they open them and unseal compartments in the bottoms. They pack a shipment of heroin into plastic trash bags and cart the bags over to a waiting truck. Roberts’ group follows the truck, which goes to  Lucas’ packaging plant.

In a dramatic raid guns blaze, crooks die, and the packaging manager ends up on the sidewalk on his back, staring into the muzzle of a shotgun.

Lucas is in church, and as he leaves he is faced with a street full of police cars and nobody else around.

Lucas tempts Roberts with a deal. Any amount of money. Roberts places a counter offer. The whole gang and all others who can be snared. A closing note says that Lucas received 70 years. But Roberts quit the police and became a lawyer. He represented Lucas and got his sentence reduced to 15 years. Eva went back Puerto Rico.

Meanwhile, Detective Trupo sees what’s going on. Knowing that Lucas is going down, and the money pot is about to dry up, New York police raid Lucas’ mansion looking for the getaway stash that gangsters keep for such emergencies. They tear the place apart and finally locate the dough under a doghouse, after shooting the dog.

Three fourths of the New York City’s drug enforcement agency was convicted of related crimes. We see Dozens of police being arrested and packed into vans. We see Detective Trupo sitting in a lawn chair in his back yard and placing his service pistol under his chin before pulling the trigger. Justice is truly served.

With 158 minutes worth of celluloid, there is obviously more. What I’m not showing is Detective Roberts’ family life coming apart, his wife suing for divorce and taking his son to Las Vegas. We see Roberts humping his lady divorce lawyer on the kitchen counter when he gets a phone call that his partner has died from an overdose of Blue Magic. We see naked women processing the heroin (sorry, Steve). They are naked to make sure they don’t steal any of the stuff. Also, I’m thinking if you don’t get any of the powder on your clothes, it’s going to be easy to test clean when you get back out on the street.

But wait! There are plot failures. The cops raid the C-130, and don’t find the dope. The crooks, enormously stupid, believe they are home free, and they proceed to carry the caper to the end. Don’t they know that by now there is a cop behind every trash can? Who believes this?

Besides, in real life the drugs were not in the caskets, but in the pallets under them. It’s Hollywood, people.

Contrary to the movie, Roberts had no children.

The drama is tense and doesn’t let up from beginning to end. The plot does not line up perfectly with the actual story, but it’s worth a watch.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 229 of a series

The moment I started watching I realized I had seen this movie before, and I had. It came out in 1953 under the same title, mostly the same characters, and much the same plot. It’s Invaders from Mars, released in 1986. I reviewed the 1953 version in October, so I’m not going to go through the plot again. I will just post a few screen shots from Amazon Prime Video, where this is now streaming, and I will also post corresponding shots from the previous review. You will be impressed with how Hollywood producers can economize by recycling old material, apparently including sets. This is a GolanGlobus production, so you have an idea what to expect. Details are from Wikipedia.

Yes, movie titles improved in 33 years.

The Gardner (used to be MacLean) family beds down for the night after viewing a meteor shower. George (Timothy Bottoms) is a scientist working at a nearby military base. David (Hunter Carson) is a budding scientist. Laraine Newman plays Ellen Gardner.

But David looks out his window and sees a spacecraft land. That rail fence looks much like the one in the 1953 movie.

He tells his parents about it, and the next morning George goes out to Copper Hill to investigate. He returns much strange.

From 1953

Later that day George does not return from work. The police are called. They go out to  investigate. They return much strange.

From 1953

David notices that people who have become laconic, almost catatonic, have something in the backs of their necks. At school the mean teacher Mrs. McKeltch (Louise Fletcher) also eats live frogs. This is different from 1953.

The school nurse, Linda Magnuson (Karen Black) intervenes when David tells her his remarkable story.

In 1953 she was Dr. Blake.

Two army types sent to investigate disappear into  the sand. They return much strange.


David gets the attention of General Climet Wilson (James Karen).


When the two returnees attempt to kill the general, it is obvious that something is up.

The general sets the might of the United States Military into motion.

From 1953

They confront the invaders in their cave. Here a naive scientist figures to negotiate. They are horrible. They vaporize him.

From 1953

Here is the scene where the invaders capture Linda and prepare to insert a device into the back of her neck.

This is the iconic picture from 1953, where the horrid creatures subject the helpless and beautiful woman to their evil scheme.

In 1953 it was the movie poster.

The soldiers fight it out in the cave with the invaders and plant explosive charges. When they try to escape they see the exit has been sealed. David figures how to use one of the invaders’ weapons to blast open the exit.

Then everybody is running. The general and the soldiers run. Linda runs. David runs, pursued by his parents, who are under mind control from the invaders.

The explosives go off, and David wakes up from is dream.

From 1953

After being reassured by his parents, David tries to go back to sleep, but the storm again awakens him. He looks out his window. He see a spacecraft landing on Copper Hill.

And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

Looking for a movie to review, I found this one on Amazon Prime Video, where I obtained the screen shots. It’s The Vanishing of Sidney Hall, from 2017, so I’m thinking it must have gone straight to video. This is what I used to call an art movie back when I caught L’Avventura and others at an art movie house in Philadelphia. I didn’t understand that one, either. From Wikipedia, where I’m getting details, here’s a list of characters I’m going to mention:

The plot is evolves much like a Mandelbrot set. Let me illustrate.

If you ever played with one of these things, you will know what to expect. You can zoom in on the image, and ever more detail emerges. You can never zoom in far enough to run out of detail. This movie’s plot is like that. It is decidedly non-linear, so I will unravel it and leave it to interested readers to re-knit it on their own.

We start with high school student Sidney Hall, in trouble again. He’s an insightful writer—too insightful to be specific. He produces powerful prose, but when asked to pick a subject the product is way too graphic for his teachers’ taste. Here we see Sidney’s English teacher praising Sidney’s work, but cautioning him to tone it down.


At some point in his life, not explained initially, Sidney eventually does not tone it down. At some point, apparently still in high school, he publishes Suburban Tragedy, a rough-reading work that sails to the top of the charts and lingers there for months. It affects some readers. People who have read the book commit suicide. Yes, it is that powerful.

We learn that somebody, most probably Sidney, now much older, is going around to book stores and burning copies of his book. Somebody with a (fake we learn later) police badge follows the trail of burnt books, looking for Sidney, who has gone off the map. We will later learn the fake cop is Francis Bishop, a writer who edged Sidney out for the Pulitzer Prize.

Back in Sidney’s high school days, a mysterious girl leaves a note in Sidney’s mail box. He hunts her down and discovers she is Melody, who lives across the street. He is fascinated with her, and eventually they marry. Then they break up after another woman confronts them in a restaurant and tells Melody Sidney has been humping her. Melody threatens to leave Sidney. She is pregnant. They reunite. She dies when they become stuck in a stalled elevator without her asthma medication.

In high school there was a class jerk named Brett Newport, and Brett offers to straighten up, but Sidney must take them back to where the two buried a metal lunch box years earlier.

They dig up the lunch box and head back toward Bret’s house, but while they are stopping by to drop off Sidney at home, Brett’s father comes up and drags Brett out of the car and takes him home, leaving the lunch box with Sidney. When Sidney gets around to opening the lunch box he finds a video tape. He plays the tape, which shows Brett’s father, a judge, raping a young girl. Sidney’s assistant finds the tape and burns in in the fireplace before Sidney can return it to Brett. With proof of his father’s guilt gone, Brett has nothing to live for and kills himself. Sidney uses notes found in the lunch box as a springboard for his horrific novel.

Sidney has published another successful novel, but without Melody he loses all interest in life. He travels around the country with his dog Homer, riding freight trains and sleeping wherever. Homer was what Melody wanted to name the baby. In a dusty desert town a cop car spies Sidney sleeping in an alley. Since he has an open container, they arrest him.

During their courtship, Melody clipped a photo from a magazine and showed it to Sidney. They had no idea where it was, but when Sidney becomes successful, he hunts the place down and buys it for Melody.

Bishop catches up with Sidney while he is in jail and posts his bail. He drives Sidney and Homer to the place in the desert, where Sidney lives out the rest of his life. After seven years off the grid, Sidney is declared dead. Then he is discovered alive, but dying.

And so Sidney dies, with Bishop by his side.

And that is one sad tale, but I do not plan to kill myself.

The movie closes with Tomorrow is a Long Time, written and performed by Bob Dylan.

Bad Movie of the Week

Number 228 of a series

I was trying to figure out how this came to be, and I was thinking some Hollywood types were sitting around brainstorming ideas. Somebody probably said, “Let’s do a spoof movie.” And somebody else said, “That’s been done before,” but the first guy said, “No, I mean a spoof of a spoof,” and the second guy said, “Like what?” Then the first guy said, “Take National Lampoon’s Vacation, for example,” and the second guy said, “That’s ridiculous. That turkey is not going to come out until 1983. That’s nine years from now.” But the first guy was persistent, and he said, “I mean, suppose there was a spoof of a western movie.” The second guy said, “So?,” and the first guy said, “Let’s assume there was such a movie, so let’s make a spoof of that movie.” And the second guy said, “That’s never going to work. But, what the hey! We’ve got spare cash, and I know some funny guys looking for work right now. So what are we going to call it?”

And the first guy responded, “Let’s call it Blazing Saddles.” And the second guy said, “Ugh, that’s God awful. Just do it, and let me know when it’s done.”

So, here it is, currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video (whence the screen shots) and featuring

Details are from Wikipedia.

Even the title is a spoof. “Blazing Six Guns.” Get it? Anyhow, the movie gets rolling into PC territory immediately. There’s a gang laying a railroad line out in the hot sun, and the crew comprises Chinese and Negroes mostly, and foreman Taggart uses language like “chink” and “nigger” when referring to them. Watch this review get flagged.

So Taggart needs to check for quicksand, and he directs Bart and another to take a hand cart into the suspicious area, where they promptly sink into the quicksand. Taggart thinks it’s a big joke, and he laughs while Bart comes up from behind and whacks him on  the head with a shovel.

So the rail line needs to be routed through a town called Rock Ridge. But first the evil Gov. William J. Le Petomane and attorney general Hedley Lamarr need to exterminate all living residents of the town, who happen to be white people named Johnson. We know that the governor’s sweet assistant Lili von Shtupp, the “Teutonic Titwillow” is going to be able to apply her obvious talents.

Meanwhile, outside the window, a public hanging is in progress. and Bart is to be one of the hangees, having been summarily convicted of bashing a white guy over the head with a shovel. The evil ones decide their first tactic is to run in a ringer sheriff to rile the citizens of Rock Ridge, making them vulnerable when the governor’s gang of cutthroats comes riding down on them.

So they pull Bart out of the punch line and pin a star on him. He’s thankful.

The Johnsons of Rock Ridge are thankful they are getting a new sheriff to replace the one that was just killed, and there is a big celebration in progress with a band playing. Somebody posted on a building with a spy glass watches for Sheriff Bart’s arrival, and at last he spots him riding across the desert. He is dumb struck at what he sees. He calls down to the crowd that he sees the sheriff coming, but he’s a n…er. A blast from the band drowns out the first syllable, and it’s interpreted as “He’s near.”

Then Sheriff Bart comes riding down the street, and all festivities stop. This movie is going to be a long spoof about racism in the Old West.

Not feeling very welcome, Sheriff Bart settles himself into the jail, where he plays chess with the Waco Kid. The kid has given up gunfighting and turned to drink instead. But he’s still blazing fast. He demonstrates by snatching the black queen off the board without Sheriff Bart even seeing his hands move.

Things are not turning out the way the evil officials planned, so the governor runs in  Lili von Shtupp to sap some of the sheriff’s vitality. It works the other way, as Lili acquires a fondness for black sausage.

But the evil band is coming to Rock Ridge to wipe out all the Johnsons, having recruited from all the evil tribes of the world. Sheriff Bart and the Waco Kid figure they need to employ wit to defeat them, and they slow the invading horde by placing a toll booth along the invasion route.

The main line of defense is a fake town, constructed overnight by recruits from the railroad gang. The evil gang comes riding in to confront cardboard citizens strolling down the street between false front buildings.

The Waco Kid uses his skill with a pistol to set off explosive charges in the town to wipe out the invaders, and the town is saved.

Except, that the melee is now out of control, and as the camera pans back we see the action is occurring in the Warner Brothers back lot in Burbank, California. The chaos spreads beyond of the western set and into the set of an elaborate stage show.

And it goes downhill from there.

This is a silly movie, propelled by a lot of lame humor based on racial stereotypes, sight gags, and even flatulism, introducing the famous campfire scene. Whoopee!

This may have been the high point of Cleavon Little’s career. He died of cancer in  1992.

Slim Pickens turns in a classic performance, having already been a standout in Dr. Strangelove and The Getaway. where he had a bit role.