Thursday, April 18, 2019

Bridges of Destiny

This is my entry in the William Holden Blogathon hosted by The Wonderful World of Cinema, Love Letters to Old Hollywood and the Flapper Dame

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957):

Com. Shears (William Holden) has been a prisoner of the Japanese Army for quite some time.  As a result he has some small ability to manipulate the lesser officers of the internment camp.  After a burial detail  (there is a very high death rate in the camp, although not always due to the rigors of disease), Shears manages to get he and his companion put on the sick list.  It is from here that he witness the arrival of a cadre of British prisoners.

Led by Lt. Col. Nicholson (Alec Guinness), the cadre of Brits arrive marching smartly in step while whistling "Colonel Bogey's March".  (Once you hear this, I feel certain it will stick with you forever...  I heard it once about 40 years ago, long before I ever saw the movie and still remembered it when I finally watched the movie.)

Col. Saito (Sessue Hayakawa), the commander of the internment camp, informs the prisoners that they will be required to build a railroad  bridge to cross the River Kwai.  He insists that there will be no idleness, that even the officers will be required to work.  Nicholson informs Saito that the rules of the Geneva Convention specifically state that officers cannot be forced to do manual labor.  Thus begins a battle of wills.

Nicholson and his officers are punished and his men react with appropriate British tact and finesse by screwing up the building of the bridge  at every opportunity.  Eventually Saito has to break down and give in, because he is on a schedule from his higher-ups for a certain completion date, but he does it with typical Japanese "saving-face" style, by claiming he is doing it as a part of a celebration of an historical Japanese victory in a previous war.

Meanwhile, Shears and two others attempt to escape.  The two others are killed and Shears is assumed to have drowned.  He doesn't.  He gets away and eventually lands in Ceylon, where he is living a life of luxury.  Until the local British command virtually draft him into helping a squad of men go back into the jungle with the goal of blowing up the bridge Nicholson and his men are building.  Shears, as you might expect, is not too happy about it, and tries to get out of it, going so far as to reveal that he is not Com. Shears, but someone else, who had assumed the role of his dead commander to get better treatment by the Japanese.  But it turns out he wasn't fooling anyone.  The Americans had turned him over to the British to avoid any complications by having him court-martialed.

The film then swaps back and forth between Shears and his squad's attempts to reach and complete their objective and Nicholson and his men trying to do a good job on the bridge.  Nicholson becomes adamant that, despite the intent of the Japanese for use of the bridge, that he and his men will complete the bridge in good order and that it will be something that the British men working on it can be proud of.

What transpires towards the end is surprising,  Guinness won an Oscar for his role.  In fact The Bridge on the River Kwai won every award for which it was nominated except for Best Supporting Actor.  (Sessue Hayakawa lost to Red Buttons for his role in Sayonara)

Flash forward 10 years or so.  In yet another war, this time in Korea.

The Bridges at Toko-Ri (1951):

Fighting the Koreans in the conflict as a jet fighter, Lt. Harry Brubaker (William Holden) runs out of fuel and is forced to ditch his plane in the sea.  He is rescued by a helicopter crew consisting of Mike Forney (Mickey Rooney) and Nestor Gamidge (Earl Holliman).

Forney is a bit of a problem with his superiors.  For one thing, when flying, he wears a non-regulation green top hat and scarf.  And for another he is a (stereo)typical Irishnan and gets in a lot of fights.  But he is a damn good pilot, and Brubaker develops a relationship with him as a result.

Brubaker's wife, Nancy (Grace Kelly) shows up in Japan and Brubaker is given a leave to visit with her and his two daughters.  He reluctantly tells her about the upcoming dangerous mission that he and his fellow pilots will be attempting, that of taking out the crucial bridges located at Toko-Ri.  While in Japan, he also has to bail out his new found friend, Forney, because the latter got in a fight over a Japanese woman whom he, Forney, has decided he is going to marry.  But said woman has left him for another sailor on another ship.

Back on his ship, Brubaker starts to get cold feet about the mission.  His commander, CDR Wayne Lee (Charles McGraw) tells him he won't look down on him if Brubaker decides to pull himself out of the fight, but that he will be very upset if Brubaker endangers the mission by following through with basd nerves and ends up scrubbing the mission.  Eventually Brubaker does get a renewed perspective and decides to stay with the mission.

After a successful mission, Brubaker's plane is hit by enemy fire and he attempts to return to the ship before his fuel runs out.  But he ends up having to crash land in enemy territory.  A rescue helicopter with Forney and Gamidge is sent out to retrieve him.   But will they rescue him before he is captured by enemy soldiers?

Although this movie has less dramatic acting than the previous film, it still has something going for it.  It blends a documentary feel for the action in the Korean conflict.  The air attack on the bridges  are fantastic.  And despite the relative low dramatic acting, Holden does hold his own.

Well, folks time to fire up the jets and head home.  Drive safely.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Love Over Gold

This is my entry in the Stewart Granger Blogathon hosted by Maddy Loves Her Classic Films.

The song North to Alaska by Johnny Horton was the theme to the movie.  The song came out before the movie was filmed by several months and turned out to be Johnny Horton's last big hit.  He died in an automobile accident shortly before the movie was released.

The story of the gold rush of Alaska may be overshadowed by the previous gold rush in California in 1849, but it still has some cache of interest to those of us interested in history.  The movie North to Alaska covers some of the feel.

It should be noted that the movie was filmed in California, which explains why the terrain doesn't exactly seem right.  But if you don't let that bother you, it has a great feel for the time of the movie.  (Whether or not the Nome of 1901 had such muddy streets or not...)

North to Alaska (1960):

Sam McCord (John Wayne) and George Pratt (Stewart Granger) and his brother Billy (Fabian) have been working a gold mine near Nome, in Alaska.  And they have been very successful at it.

Sam is on his way to Seattle to get some more mining supplies, and as an added bonus he is tagged to bring back with him Jenny, the love of George.  Jenny and George have been corresponding over the past three years and George is infatuated and plans to marry her.  He has even built a honeymoon cabin just off the way from the main cabin the three men share.

Sam arrives in Seattle, not knowing what to expect, but he finds more than he bargained for.  Jenny is a maid in a rich man's house.  Not only that, but she gave up on George some time before and is now married to the head butler of same rich man's house.  Sam, who doesn't have a high opinion on women in the first place, is disgusted.  As a result, he decides to get drunk over it.

While in Seattle, he goes to the Hen House, a local bordello.  There he meets "Angel" (Capucine), whose real name is Michelle Bonet, and is French.  It seems to Sam she would be the perfect substitute for George, since Jenny was also French. (They all look alike...?)  He convinces her to go with him to Alaska.  But Michelle gets the wrong impression.  She thinks she is going to be with Sam.

To make matters worse, during the trip, Sam is such a gallant gentleman, it causes Michelle to fall in love with Sam.  When the truth is revealed, Michelle is of course distraught, but by that time she is already in Nome.  She originally plans to return to Seattle, but changes her mind.

Back at the base camp, George of course is angry about the situation.  He wants Jenny and thinks Sam either got drunk and forgot her, or some equally malevolent act.  And Billy has a puppy dog love for Michelle, whom she rejects because, after all, she is in love with Sam.  Eventually, George, who realizes that Michelle is in love with Sam decides to try to manipulate Sam into admitting he loves Michelle in return.

Meanwhile, in Nome, Frankie Canon (Ernie Kovacs), a small-time hustler who has managed to finagle himself into being a bigwig has designs on Michelle, too.  It turns out they were an item way back when he was a gambler and she was a prostitute in New Orleans.  And he thinks she's back in town to be with him.  Plus he has lots of money, all acquired illegally, including managing to file false claims on several gold mines in the area.  One of which is Sam and George's.

A rare comedy from the Wayne oeuvre, this one has plenty of misunderstandings and double talk standards of the genre which, while maybe not as hilarious as, say, Arsenic and Old Lace  or Blazing Saddles in the sense of laugh out loud comedy, is still pretty funny.  Check it out.

Time to saddle up and ride home.  Drive safely, folks.


Friday, April 5, 2019

Big Trouble in the Bronx

 This is my entry in the Vic Morrow Blogathon hosted by Hamlette's Soliloquy and Sidewalk Crossings

From The Cinematic Bartender by Winthrop J Quiggy:

Bronx Warrior (aka "Italian Ripoff")

Take one jigger of Escape from New York.  Add 2 shots of The Warriors. Sprinkle with a liberal dose of Mad Max.  Shake vigorously.  Serve over ice with a twist of Usagi Yojimbo.

Italian cinema, especially the kind that populated drive-in theaters, were not well known for originality.  Witness the plethora of spaghetti westerns that followed Sergio Leone's classic "Man with No Name" trilogy.  Or just about any sci-fi movie from that country (including this one.)

Not that that means they aren't entertaining.  In fact, if you can approach low-budget Italian movies with an open mind, they can be a nice way to spend the afternoon.  You hardly ever get the caliber of performance of, say, Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, but the plots usually have a lot of action, which is why most drive-in movie lovers went to the drive-in in the first place.  (I heard that... I was referring to people who went to them with the express purpose of WATCHING the movies, you sick-minded freaks...)

Vic Morrow is the headline name of this flick and his talent as a bad guy is pretty much the same as most other bad guy roles he played.  This was the penultimate role he played before his unfortunate death on the set of the next movie he was in, The Twilight Zone:The Movie.

It also stars Fred Williamson as Ogre, one of the kingpins of the gang society in the Bronx, and a guy named Mark Gregory.  Gregory (whose real name was Marco di Gregorio) runs around this movie looking like a refugee from an 80's MTV hair band video. (And are those his real lips or was he hitting the Botox before it became available on the market...?)

Which brings me to a point about the music for the film.  The music pretty much distracts from the feel of the movie.  Ogre plays jazz music in his lair, for crying out loud... (Really?)  Personally I think a sprinkling of some heavy metal songs would have improved it.  Stuff like Accept's "Balls to the Wall", Krokus' "Long Stick Goes Boom" and Judas Priest's "Some Heads are Gonna Roll". (Although, truth be told, those songs came out post-production of this film, but surely there were some fitting heavy metal songs that could have improved the music...)

1990: The Bronx Warriors (1982):

In the preface to the film, much like Escape from New York, the future of crime has had devastating effects on the city of New York.  (NYC seems to get the brunt of negative associations in futuristic sci-fi.  Must be one hell of a bad place to be in the future, don'tcha think?)  Anyway, by 1990, the police and government have basically just given up the city as a lost cause.

In the beginning, a woman, Anne (Stephania Girolami who was the director's daughter), is on the run.  She enters the No-Man's Land of the Bronx, where she is accosted by a gang called The Zombies.  To the rescue comes  "Trash" (Mark Gregory) and his gang, The Riders.  And of course, being the stud muffin that he is, Anne falls head over heels for him.

Meanwhile back in the real world, the VP of the Manhattan Corporation and his number one man (played by, in what must have been a budget move, director Enzo Castellari and his brother Ennio Girolami; It's All in the Family, Italian style...) are desperate for the return of Anne to the fold.  Why?  Because she is 17 and when she turns 18 she will be the de facto head of the Manhattan Corporation.  Which is a big arms dealership.  Which is why she ran away in the first place.  She didn't WANT to be the head of an arms dealership.  Which apparently she thinks will dissolve if she's not around to lead it, I guess... (Wishful thinking, there, babe.)

Anyway the VP  calls on his sure ticket for the return of Anne, in the person of The Hammer (Vic Morrow), a renegade policeman somewhat like a sick version of Dirty Harry.  Only Hammer is a loose cannon in the extreme sense of the word.  He's not just trying to get the girl back.  He ultimately wants to destroy the entire sick civilization in the Bronx.

To expedite matters he will do anything and everything, including getting Trash's second-hand man Ice (John Sinclair) to betray his leader.  He also has the help of Hot Dog (Christopher Connelly), a truck driver who seems to be able to come and go as he pleases within the confines of the Bronx.

When Anne is kidnapped by the Zombies, Trash has to get help, and he chooses to make a deal with the leader of the Tigers, a rival gang.  Ogre (Fred Williamson) agrees to help under certain conditions.  But the fly in the ointment is Hammer who is driven by a maniacal need for destruction.

Morrow is over the top in this film, but I have it on some word that his voice is dubbed.  Maybe someone who is familiar with his voice can tell, but I can't.  (Apparently by the time it came for studio overdubs, Morrow was already dead so they had to get some other guy to do the job.)  If that's the case, you could blame the dubber, but Hammer's actions speak louder than words.  He's still a sadistic S.O.B.  Hey he shoots a couple in a stairwell that are getting it on, for no apparent reason than just to see them die.

There were two sequels to this movie, neither of which I watched for this entry but will get to, if only for the fact that Fred Williamson is in the third one (albeit, I guess, a different character since it seems apparent Ogre dies in this one.)

Well folks, the screen has gone dark.  Drive safely.  Remember, you never know just how balanced that cop down the street might be.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Too Much Knowledge

This is my entry in the Doris Day Blogathon hosted by Love Letters to Old Hollywood.

My earliest memories of Doris Day were when she had a TV show back in the 60's.  I don't really remember anything from those days except that she sang the song "Que Sera, Sera" in the opening credits. But I can still recall the song, which is significant since I probably haven't even heard it done since those days.  (Not including the watching of the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Man Who Knew Too Much recently, which I found out is where the song originally appeared onscreen...)

An interesting side note about the song.  Hitchcock was not particularly agreeable to having a song in his film, but the production company, Paramount, insisted that there had to be one.  (Probably due to the fact that Doris Day had been cast for the film.)  Hitchcock approached the writing team of Jay Livingston and Ray Evans stating that he needed a song, but he didn't know hat he wanted.  After hearing what the duo came up with he told them that that was exactly what he wanted.  So what may or may not be Doris Day's signature song was the result of a happy turn of events necessitated by a production company's insistence on having a song.

Hitchcock had wanted Doris Day for the role all along, but associate producer Herbert Coleman states in an interview on the commentary of my DVD that he had some misgivings.  He didn't think Day could pull off the dramatic scenes in the movie, especially the pivotal emotional breakdown after finding out about the fate of her son.  But Hitch, as always, got his way, and in retrospect Coleman admitted he was wrong and that she was perfect for the role.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956):

Married couple Ben and Jo McKenna  (James Stewart, Doris Day) are on vacation in north Africa with their son, Hank (Christopher Olsen).

  They encounter a Frenchman, Louis Bernard (Daniel Gelin) who is very inquisitive about them, arousing Jo's suspicions.

Upon arrival in Marrakesh, Bernard offers to take them to dinner, but cancels out after a mysterious man (Reggie Nalder) appears at their door. 

Instead the go to dinner alone, where they meet Edward and Lucy Drayton (Bernard Miles, Brenda de Banzie).  The four end up eating together and arranging to go sightseeing the next day.

While in the marketplace, a man in Arabian attire is murdered.  It turns out to be Bernard in disguise.  He whispers to Ben, just before he dies, that a foreign dignitary is going to be murdered in London and tells Ben to find "Ambrose Chapell".  When Ben and Jo are questioned by the authorities about the murder they discover that Bernard was an agent of the French secret service (a spy).

But before Ben can tell the authorities what happened he receives a mysterious call telling him that Hank has been kidnapped and will be killed if he, Ben, reveals what he knows.  Thus, Ben's driving force is to find out where his son is and save him.  To such measures he is even willing to let the events play out with the assassination if only he can retrieve his son safely.

Thus begins the frantic search which leads the two to London.  A fruitless attempt to track down Ambrose Chapell reveals that Ben and Jo are on the wrong track. 

And that people are not all whom they claim to be.  Of course, the fact that the Draytons obviously are involved because they were the last ones to be with Hank is not entirely surprising, but there is much more involved in the political intrigue.

Even after the assassination attempt is foiled, the two still have to track down and rescue Hank.  Which leads them to the embassy of the foreign dignitary.

The Man who Knew too Much was a remake of a 1934 film Hitchcock had mad with Peter Lorre, but much of the plot was changed so seeing both films together makes for an entertaining evening.  Hitchcock himself describes the first film as having been made by talented amateur and the second as having been made by a professional.

One should note a few recognizable faces in the film.  Reggie Nalder may look familiar.  He was the vampire in the 1979 TV version of Salem's Lot as well as Zoltan, The Hound of Dracula's master.  And Carolyn Jones, best known as Morticia Addams in the TV show The Addams Family is also recognizable, despite the fact that she is decked out in very short cropped red hair.  And look for Walter Gotell, a familiar Russian agent from James Bond movies in a brief role as a Scotland Yard policeman.

Time to fire up the Plymouth.  Drive safely, folks.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Announcing the Blizzard of Oz Blogathon

I was noticing the other day how many movies I dearly love were made in Down Under.  Not only that but some of my favorite actors and actresses also hail from that part of the world.  I decided it was high time to have a celebration of all things Australian (and by extension New Zealand since both are somewhat sister countries).

You are invited to participate in this blogathon to help me celebrate.  I chose the title before I decided on an actual date, but it seems fitting that a blogathon with a title like "Blizzard" of Oz start around the time of the beginning of winter in that part of the world.  So the blogathon will run from June 21-23.

There are a few rules to establish here.

1.  You can choose any movie or TV show that was filmed in Australia or New Zealand.  Additionally you could also choose a movie filmed elsewhere as long as the setting of the film is supposed to be taking place in Australia or New Zealand.  (I can't think of one off the top of my head, but just in case...)

2.  You could also pick a movie or TV show featuring one of the many stars who hail from the region, and those would not necessarily have to have been filmed there.

3.  I will allow up to 2 entries on the same movie.  Let's try to get a variety however.  

4. Write your blog article then send a link either here or to the actual page of the blogathon when it gets posted.

5.  Please promote the blogathon on your page with one of these excellent blogathon banners created for me by Hamlette.  (And visit her website,too.  Its I'm soloing this one, but she writes a good blog, too)


The following have already been claimed:

The Midnite Drive-In: The Road Warrior a.k.a. (Mad Max 2) (1981)
The Midnite Drive-In: Strictly Ballroom (1992)

Angelman's Place: The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Caftan Woman: The Sundowners (1960)
Coffee, Classiucs and Craziness: Gladiator (2000)
Critica RetroIn the Wake of the Bounty (1933)
Dubsism: The Year of Living Dangerously (1982)
Hamlette's Soliloquy: Five Mile Creek (TV Show) (1983-85)
It Came From the Man Cave: King Kong (2005)
Movies Meet Their Match: The Man from Snowy River (1982)
Realweegiemidget Reviews: Neighbours (TV Show) (1985-?)
Revealed in Time: Australia (2008)
Revealed in Time: The Thorn Birds (1983)
Silver Screenings: Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Holmes, Sweet Holmes

This is my entry in the Mystery Mania Blogathon hosted by Pop Culture Reverie

Sherlock Holmes was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887, during the final years of the Victorian age,  with the appearance of A Study in Scarlet in The Strand magazine.  Doyle was a prolific writer, but outside of Sherlock Holmes (and possibly The Lost World), not many people could name another creation by the author.  It may seem impossible to believe, but Doyle spent much of his life trying to distance himself from his most famous creation.  He wanted to be known as a writer who created great novels, and at one point even killed off his consulting detective in a rather useless attempt to do this. (See the story "The Final Problem")

But the public howled over the loss and demanded more.  Initially Doyle wrote a novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles, which took place some time prior to Holmes' death to satisfy the public, but even that was not enough.  He eventually had to accede to the public's wishes and bring back his detective from Death's door.  He continued writing stories well into the Edwardian age.

Sherlock Holmes, to me, has always belonged firmly entrenched in the Victorian era, an age when hansom cabs were the primary mode of travel, and gaslight lit homes and streets.  When Hollywood came to call, this was sometimes ignored however.  Except for the first two Rathbone/Bruce films, most of the output from the 40's had Holmes combating the primary enemy of the age, the Nazis.  And cars are almost ubiquitous.  As well as electric lighting.

Over the years, Holmes has sometimes been used in his original historical setting.  The 1965 TV series featuring Douglas Wilmer and Nigel Stock kept Holmes in his own historical milieu, but on the other hand, some of the attempts just adapted the Holmes character into the historical era of the time of the production.  Not that they were all bad, just because Holmes wasn't limited to late 19th century technology,  however.

Given my predilection for Holmes and Watson to be portrayed in their own historical setting, you would think that a series that put Sherlock and friends in the 21st century would be an anathema to me right?  Well, I admit I approached it with some reservations, I admit.  But barely 15 minutes into the first episode I was hooked.  One of the things that helped was how Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat, the creators of the series, managed to weave in new interpretations of events that happened in the original canon.

One rather convenient factor helped make the transition a bit more acceptable.  Instead of being a veteran of the Second Anglo Afghan war in Afghanistan, our new Watson is still a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, albeit the one fought in the early 21st century.  Otherwise, except for the fact that Martin Freeman is quite a bit younger than the traditional portrayals of Dr. Watson, he manages to become a modern day equivalent of what we expect.  Although this Watson is definitely a bit more on the uptake.

Benedict Cumberbatch takes the diffidence and isolation of Holmes to whole new levels.  And there is an added twist to the new portrayal of the old character.  He has a love interest.  Well, not exactly...  Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), a doctor in the morgue of St. Bartholomew's has an unrequited crush on Sherlock, but he, for the most part, seems entirely unaware of it.  To round out the recurring cast, we have Rupert Graves playing a more well-rounded Inspector Lestrade, co-creator Mark Gattis as Sherlock's brother Mycroft, and a very entertaining Mrs Hudson, Sherlock and John's landlady, played by Una Stubbs.

Other characters from the canon make appearances.  Rather than just being a one off villain, Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) manages to span two entire seasons as a nemesis for Holmes, up to the final episode of season two in which we get a new twist on the old story of the death of Moriarty and Holmes.

Sherlock (BBC TV series 2010-2017):

The series kicks off with "A Study in Pink" which gives a whole new twist to the original Holmes story A Study in Scarlet.  It seems there is a rash of suicides going on in the city, but the police force are clueless as to why.  Only Sherlock has the idea that they are not really suicides, but the work of an ingenious serial killer.

In "The Blind Banker"  (which in my opinion is the least interesting of the entire series), Sherlock has to deal with a Chinese Tong (the Chinese variation of the Mafia), and try to discover why two unrelated deaths are connected.  (Only he sees the connection.  Of course, until he tells Lestrade that they are, the police think they are separate.)

The final episode of the first season,  "The Great Game", one of the best in the series, finally introduces us to Jim Moriarty and a series of riddles that he sends Sherlock on, with the added danger that if he doesn't solve the riddle in time an innocent citizen will be blown up with explosives.  The season ends with a cliffhanger that will have you waiting with bated breath to watch season two's opening episode.

Season two brought the three most famous original Holmes stories into a new light.

In "A Scandal in Belgravia" Holmes meets his ultimate female nemesis, Irene Adler.  Pretty much the same as the original "A Scandal in Bohemia" with some additional twists that make it one of the best in the entire arc of the series.  In this one Irene is transformed from an actress to a high-class dominatrix.  The conservative sector of the country was scandalized by the appearance of a nude Lara Pulver, the actress who played her, on screen during a time-slot that was supposed to be safe from such prurient things.  (Note:  Much of the nudity is from behind, and what you see from the front is still tasteful, but maybe this episode should only be watched by adults in the family.)

The second episode of the season gives us a new twist on the classic "The Hound of the Baskervilles".  The entire episode covers mysterious events happening at a secret government facility (think area 51, for you readers in the U.S.)  The "gigantic hound" of the Baskervilles is still here, but the twist on it makes this episode my second favorite of the series.

The second season ends with a twist on the classic Holmes tale "The Final Problem".  In "The Reichenbach Fall",  Moriarty engineers a plan to fully discredit Sherlock Holmes and make him not only the laughing stock of the public, but even bring him under suspicion for crimes he didn't commit.  Of course, it inevitably leads to Moriarty and Holmes in a duel of wits at the top of a tall building.  And this being a parallel of the original, the seeming death of Sherlock.  However, unlike the original story, we are given a cliffhanger, again as the final scene we see Sherlock, still alive, watching on as Watson attends to his grave.

One can only wonder how the British public responded to this.  It was reported to be a water cooler type moment, not much unlike the season ending cliffhanger of "Who shot J.R.?" that ended the third season of the American TV show Dallas.  And which also paralleled the actual response to the death of Sherlock Holmes when Doyle killed him off in the original canon.

When Sherlock returned for a third season, the first thing that had to be done was resolve how Sherlock had supposedly survived the fall.  "The Empty Hearse", true to the feel of the entire series, never really gives us a concrete solution, but there are many theories proposed.  Including one by (former) Det. Anderson (Jonathan Aris), a thorn in Holmes' side on the police force from the previous two seasons.  (Note:  There is a mini-episode, available as near as I can tell, only online, and which I've never seen, which details how Anderson deteriorates from a good detective into one who is obsessed with trying to prove Sherlock is still alive.)  There is also a plot involving terrorists which Mycroft sets Sherlock to try to solve.  And we have to deal with Watson's reaction to the fact that his friend is still alive.  Plus Watson is finally going to get married.

Which he does in The Sign of Three".  But there is a decent mystery behind the scenes involving the mysterious death of one of the Queen's Guardsmen, which Holmes was never able to solve.  This comes to the fore as he tries desperately to fulfill his obligation of delivering a best man speech at Watson's wedding to Mary.  It is during the speech that he not only figures out the solution to that case, but is able to prove that one of the guests not only killed that soldier but is intent on doing likewise to another of the guests.

Season three ends with Holmes battling wits with Charles Augustus Magnussen (Lars Mikkelsen), a man whom Holmes is absolutely certain has committed several murders, but for a while is at a loss to prove his conclusions.  He also uncovers someone who is actual a secret agent within the close knit family of Holmes.  The cliffhanger for this one will make you reel, as Holmes, who is being sent away from the country by Mycroft has to return, as a former enemy, though to be dead, makes his presence known.

The fourth (and so far final) season has three more equally intriguing mysteries for Holmes and Watson.  "The Six Thatchers", "The Lying Detective" and "The Final Problem" may require you to devote an entire afternoon/evening because all three arc nicely together and will be enthralling to say the least.  Suffice to say there are more twists here than a donut shop.  Not the least of which is the discovery a second, heretofore unremembered, sibling of Sherlock.

Most of the episodes in the series could be watched individually without having to devote time to the entire series, but my humble suggestion is you start with season 1 episode 1.  After all, it all subtly arcs together to the final denouement at the end of season 4 episode 3.  If there are never anymore Sherlock episodes, the series wraps up neatly, and after you have spent the 18 hours or so it takes to digest the entire series, I feel you won't be disappointed.

Time to take the ride home.  Drive safely, folks.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

School Daze

This is my entry for the M. Emmet Walsh Blogathon hosted by Dubsism

School days!  I remember going to college back in the 80's.  For the first couple of years it was a real party.  Partly because I was just going to avoid the responsibility of getting a real job.  Of course, until I moved away from home (the first two years I went to a jr. college about 10 miles away and just commuted), it didn't really turn into a real party atmosphere.

When I moved to San Marcos to go to what was then still known as Southwest Texas State University (now just Texas State University), I lived on campus.  And I lived in the freshman dorm.  Which meant I was old enough to buy beer, while the rest of the freshman I lived with were still under age.  Yes, I admit I was a bad influence because anytime any of them asked me, I went to get their beer and alcohol for them.  Which made me a pretty popular guy (if only because I could accommodate them.  I hold no illusions that they actually would have liked me if I was the same age as them.)

But I spent an entire year at the top floor of Jackson Hall. The 12th floor was where they put all the malcontents who were disruptive of the quieter floors.  I fit in like a glove.  If I had been rich, like Thornton Melon, I might have even tried to re-adapt the floor to be more conducive to more of a party atmosphere, but I made do with what I had. 

Back to School (1986):

What do you do when your son wants to drop out of college because he can't hack it?  Probably have a good heart-to-heart talk with him and tell him to buck up.  (At least I would.)  OK.  What do you do if you are an obnoxious but rich man whose son tells you he wants to chuck it all and just get a job?  Well, if you are Thornton Melon (Rodney Dangerfield), the owner of a prominent line of clothing for people of, shall we say, prominent size, (aka "Tall and Fat Stores"), you join him in his endeavor by coming the world's oldest freshman.

Thornton's son, Jason (Keith Gordon), has been lying to his father all this time.

He is not, as he claimed, on the swim team.  He is an accomplished swimmer, as was Thornton in his day, but Jason failed to impress the coach, Coach Turnbull (M. Emmet Walsh).  (Possibly due to his lack of interest in actually succeeding in college, but that's just speculation on my part...)

 Instead, he is just a towel boy at the gym.  Where he is harassed by Chas Osbourne (William Zabka), the star or the university's swim team.  (Zabka made a name for himself early in his acting career playing elitist snobbish bullies and is pretty much the same here.)

Jason is also not a member of the fraternity scene, which he also told his father he was. So in fact, Jason has been living a lie, and when he decides he wants to drop out, it was only inevitable.  But Thornton, who himself had gone through a similar situation in his childhood, wants to discourage Jason from taking that route.  His solution is to join Jason as a student.

Of course, being rich, but not having the pedigree of education that most of the incoming students have, Thornton has to find a way to get admitted, and that solution is being the benefactor of a new business college building.  In other words, a bribe.  Dean Martin (Ned Beatty), whose eye is only on the bottom line, accepts the "bribe", to the dismay of Dr. Phillip Barbay (Paxton Whitehead), the head of the business college. (Another elitist snob).

Of course, Thornton doesn't take the endeavor seriously.  Coming from a background that would allow him to bribe his way into college, he also does things that would get any other student expelled.  Including hiring Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. to write his essay on the works of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.  And having his personal secretary show up in his class to take notes for him, while he is presumably occupied with extracurricular activities.

But he does manage to convince Coach Turnbull to give Jason a second look, and he does it without any untoward activities.  Jason actually is pretty good, which would not be surprising since Thornton himself was a star stunt diver at Coney Island in his youth.  (Whether you accept Rodney Dangerfield as a star diver or not...)

Robert Downey, Jr. makes one of his earliest appearances in a movie here as Derek Lutz, a malcontent who shines as Jason's best friend and roommate.

Terry Farrell, who went on to play Jadzia Dax on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, also makes an appearance as Valerie Desmond, the love interest of both Jason and Chas.

One of his teachers, Prof. Turgidson (Sam Kinison) is a real gung-ho history teacher.  Kinison essentially adapts his stage comedy act for the role, but his scenes are some of the highlights in the film for me.

And Sally Kellerman plays Dr. Turner,  an English professor who sparks a real May-December romance between her and Thornton.  (Dangerfield was actually 16 years older than Kellerman, but he looks older by at least 10 more years... Talk about robbing the cradle...)

 Life on campus, as far as Thornton is concerned, is a party party weekend.  Until it comes down to midterms and Thornton is on the verge of flunking out.  And thoroughly alienating his son, who has had a change of heart and decided to buckle down and drive toward his degree.  It comes down to a situation where Thornton has to face his entire body of teachers and prove that he has learned what he has supposedly learned during the semester.  Which of course, he hasn't.  But with the help of his son and his favorite teacher and some long cram sessions, he might just pull it off.

Never underestimate the ambition of a man to succeed.  A Dangerfield comedy typically has the common everyday loser trying to get ahead in an unfamiliar atmosphere, and this one is sure to entertain (unless, of course, you are a professor in a university who takes his or her job very seriously.  If you don't have a sense of humor about the education process, this one might annoy rather than entertain you...)

Time to fire up the Plymouth.  If I had taken the college life more seriously, it might have been a BMW, but such as it is...)  Drive safely, folks.