8 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Inherit the Wind (1999 TV Movie)
Not a patch on the original
23 March 2012
Scott and Lemon do a curious reversal of the 1960 film with March and Tracy in the same roles. Tracy played the Darrow character (defending Scopes) as a cool, rational lawyer (capable of indignation when defending 'truth') contrasted with March (prosecuting attorney) as an emotionally-driven politician with an enormous personal stake in biblical literalism.

The 1999 remake has Scott defending literalism as the rational position, with Lemon dancing about railing against religious belief. This interpretation is neither true to the original trial, the text of the play, nor to the issues involved.

In my review of the original I've note the historical inaccuracies of the play, which are no more bothersome than the impossibility of cloning dinosaurs from mosquito blood meals in Jurassic.

I wish someone would do a play based on the Dover trial: the Nova special shows its inherent drama.
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Effective propaganda, in the best sense
8 April 2011
My wife and I saw this at the Toronto Film Festival debut, as a walk-in, knowing nothing about it.

The film deserves wider viewer-ship in North America, for the many reasons given by other reviewers.

The only novel comment I can make is that this is a propaganda film, in the very best sense. 'Propaganda' usually brings to mind more or less crude attempts from totalitarian regimes to manipulate (or ignore) facts in the service of a political agenda. We can (if we wish) admire 'Triumph of the Will' as a masterpiece of effective propaganda: do your feet begin to tap when they sing the Anthem of Nazi Youth? We can also admire 'Guadalcanal Diary' as wartime propaganda that presents the Marine Corps in an ideal light, while for reasons of wartime security the lost Battle of Savo Island is ignored.

'Names in Marble' like the Polish 'Katyn' is in contrast an effort to present historical truth effectively to a new generation that may have forgotten it, if indeed they ever knew it. One of the lingering effects of the 'former Soviet Union' is the re-writing of central and eastern European popular history, to turn nationalist patriots into enemies of the state. (One of the most popular Polish TV series of the 60s presents a Polish tank unit fighting alongside their Soviet brothers, an utter non-event but very useful to the regime).

See the movie.
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One of the early made-for-TV movies
20 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Doug McClure, Katherine Ross, and Ricardo Montalban star with a host of adorable Filipino kids in a good chase movie, set in the Philippines immediately after the ball of Bataan. Many of us will appreciate seeing a sweet young Ms Ross at about the time of The Graduate. Others will enjoy Montalban as a sympathetic priest caring for orphans, insisting on moral behavior in wartime. Other highlights are the utterly unforgettable Song of the Filipino Children, and perhaps the best untranslated but perfectly communicated dialog between two Japanese officers when they realize they've been foxed. Fine acting throughout.

This is one of the movies you see at random as a kid and it stays with you forever.

Based on a board recommendation, I purchased a DVD copy for US$24 at and received it in good order, quickly, with no hassle. Bit grainy, probably a dub off TV but perfectly enjoyable.
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Creation (I) (2009)
A moral fable of Scientific Creation
23 May 2010
'Creation' premiered in North America at the Toronto Film Festival to rave reviews, then opened in a handful of cities across North America and seems to have sunk out of sight. Several of us petitioned to have it shown more widely, but nothing came of it. The National Center for Science Education tells me this seems to be lack of interest, rather than any particular anti-evolution campaign.

Having now watched the Blu-ray release, my reaction is mixed. It's a superb acting job by all concerned, especially new-comer Martha West as Darwin's eldest daughter, Annie, who perfectly portrays the spirit of Charles' and Emma's 'dear child' who died at ten. It's easy to see Paul Bettany as Darwin, in perhaps the first film version to show the invalid Darwin suffering from nausea, shaking palsy, and hypochondria. His spirit of scientific inquiry is caught as he makes notes on the newborn Annie, and later uses the same approach on Jenny the Orang-utan.

The film is not (and perhaps does not try to be) an historical account, nor is it a scientific documentary a la Nova. 'Creation' I think refers more to the agonies of Charles Darwin wrestling with the scientific, philosophical, and personal issues inherent in his study of evolution, and specifically the Creation of his book, Origin of Species. The well-known themes are present, but presented with great intimacy: Charles' physical reaction to the suggestion 'You have killed God, Sir!", his delay to publish Origin in consequence of psychosomatic illness, the arrival of Alfred Wallace's letter, and the final flurry of writing. The ghost of his daughter hangs figuratively (and in the movie literally) over this act of Creation. Annie can with her father dispassionately watch a fox catch a rabbit, while her younger sister cries "Not fair!"

Factual and errors and misleading interpretations cause me to deduct one star. Emma was not Catholic. There is no basis *at all* for the major theme of sustained brittle tension between husband and wife over Annie's illness and death, or over religious differences: the documentary record is they were a loving, devoted couple throughout this period and indeed throughout their marriage (see Deborah Heiligman's "Charles and Emma"). There is no evidence of a sexual dry spell: they had ten children, before and after the Origin. Creationists will delight in several erroneous notions: Huxley is not a horrid diminutive atheist. Nothing in the record or Darwin's nature suggest he tried to make a Deal with God to save Annie's life. The Theory of Evolution is not the tortured reaction of a father who has lost faith upon the death of a child. The Darwin's country parson was a narrow-minded fellow who both disliked, not a wise spiritual counselor.

And yet I would recommend this film to anyone interested in the Darwin story: the process of scientific creativity, the workings of the scientific mind, and the dynamics of the real-life husband/wife team of Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as a key to the historical couple.

Supplementary materials include interviews with Lewis Wolpert, world famed developmental biologist who's take is similar to that of Richard Dawkins; a theistic evolutionist who thinks natural selection is the way God works; and a self-labeled Young Earth Creationist who thinks the outstanding scientific question of the age is how we can see galaxies billions of light years away when we *know* the earth is only 6,000 years old: his conclusion is a variable rate of the speed of light.
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Dezha vyu (1990)
Soviet Bureaucracy meets Chicago gangsters
8 February 2010
Following up Magnet, my copy does have English subtitles in packaging that is otherwise Russian, dated 2002. The translation is so bad as to add considerably to the humor: somebody has a dictionary and is taking the first entry. Thus the ship will 'float away' to Sumatra, the Chicago gang is selling 'homemade whiskey,' nary an 'a', 'an', or 'the', and very creative use of prepositions. A good fraction of the dialog is in English, enough to follow the plot even without translation.

This is a different style of humor than we North Americans are used to, reminding me of the early Soviet satirist Bulkagov, or Ilf and Petrov in 'The Twelve Chairs'. The star player, Jerzy Stuhr, is strongly reminiscent of Mel Brooks, and plays a constantly frustrated American killer to the hilt. Watch for the scene on the Odessa steps.

If anyone can identify who is singing the Deja Vue theme at the end, I'd be grateful.
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alternative approach to Sunday school
4 August 2008
This ran as part of the "Lamp Unto My Feet" program Sunday afternoons, when all us kids were bored with the absence of cartoons. Happily there was still entertainment from Mr Efron - always wondered how he got this past the censors and blue noses. The method was minimalist acting-out of bible stories, with just one person and a minimum of props. I don't know how many episodes there were, and I guess we all remember different elements. I can still see the Creation of the World: black out on stage, the voice intones: "And the spirit of God moved upon the waters" (slosh slosh slosh). Then there was the famous Harl - Ot case, with Marshall playing King Solomon as well as Ms Harl and Ms Ot, fighting over a dolly. I think I learned to lighten up on bible stories, and not take them for gospel.
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The Great Adventure: Six Wagons to the Sea (1963)
Season 1, Episode 4
Didn't Walt Koenig play Misok Bedrozian?
19 May 2008
This is the particular episode of The Great Adventure that always stuck with me. Consequently, I am shaken to be told that the part of Misok Bedrozian, the Armenian raisin farmer, was played by Lee Marvin, and *not* by Walt Koenig, which is what I really clearly remember. (When asked by his family what they will eat the coming winter, if they can't get their crop to market, he roars back, "Raisins! Six tons of them!). Koenig is much more suited to the swarthy Bedrozian, and I have no recollection at all of Marvin in this role. Anyone else remember it differently? As to the historicity of the incident, I again remember the episode as set in the Central Valley, the center of the raisin industry, and the Armenian community in California. The SP railroad tactic of denying access rights at railroad crossings is well established (see Frank Norris' book The Octopus, or Wallace Smith's Garden of the Sun. BTW, the latter is the standard history of the Central Valley, and does not contain reference to Bedrozian or any similar name.
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Alienation in LA
16 August 2006
Forty years later, still One of those things you hear once on hot summer night when you're a teenager, and it stays.

Alienation in LA. Harrybelle is different, so he must be crazy. Sent for psychiatric evaluation, he takes up and takes off with two other "misfits" and encounters a third, Sidney, an out-of-work lyric writer in Hollywood. What can you get for a dollar twenty-five and a gasoline credit card? "Sidney's Lyric" is a haunting cry of pain and loneliness in the night in the 60s of LA.

The Chrysler Theater was one of those anthology series from the 50s and 60s that sometimes hit, sometimes missed. Here, a superb Hit. Like some many other of these one-off episodes, it will likely never be available for contemporary viewing, but lives on only in memory.
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