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The Big Valley: Deathtown (1968)
Any three Mexicans will do
The spotlight is on Richard Long in this episode as he is the only series regular in this story. Jarrod Barkley is visiting a nearby town to arrange a purchase of some Barkley real estate to three Mexican brothers and finds they have been lynched for the rape/murder of Antoinette Bower and the beating of her husband Jason Evers. Evers recognizes the trio when they come to town and the Mexicans are lynched all before Jarrod arrives.
But he's got a letter the tone of which convinces him that these people could not be sex criminals. More important there's a piece of information there that casts doubt on Evers's version. He and sheriff Frank Marth do some investigating and I have to say the conclusion was at some variance to how I thought it would come out.
This story is an Oxbow Incident type lesson against the evils of mob violence. That's always a good lesson that bears repeating.
That oldest of crimes the slaying of a brother is dealt with in this story from Criminal Intent. The accent in this one is on character as Sam Trammell delivers a carefully delineated portrait of a career con man.
Trammell gives himself great airs in this episode and in fact he has the intelligence enough to carry it off. I've known people in my life who were just like him, very bright and able to fake it in a lot of situations that were shall we say above their station.
Trammell and Patrick Arnheim came from a really horrid childhood and flashbacks of them as kids with a loose woman they had as a mother tell the tale. Arnheim who eeks out a meager existence is somehow holding him back and Trammell feels he has to kill the only one who truly knows him.
The climax is the interrogation between Trammell and Vincent D'Onofrio where Detective Goren coaxes a confession out of Trammell. In pure Goren style.
For that alone you should watch this episode.
Invisible Sister (2015)
Reminiscent of The Absent Minded Professor
The latest use that the Disney Studios has made of its teen stars is with Rowan Blanchard as the shy and retiring younger sister of Paris Bereic who's as popular as Blanchard is shy. In fact Blanchard's only real friend is fellow science geek Karan Brar.
Blanchard's smart though and she accidentally gets the secret of invisibility and unfortunately turns her sister invisible. That's not good because among other things Bereic has to compete in a high school Lacrosse tournament for a scholarship.
Both sisters get a handle on that one with scenes reminiscent of Disney's The Absent Minded Professor when Fred MacMurray's discovery of Flubber turns his hapless college basketball team into winners.
It was interesting to hear Karan Brar perform without accent. Though he's of Indian ancestry he was raised in the USA and in both Jessie and Bunk'd Brar takes on the Indian speech pattern.
Invisible Sister is an enjoyable teen comedy from The Magic Kingdom and at least while Blanchard and Brar operate under a deadline at least she wasn't faced with going insane like poor Claude Rains was.
That Man: Peter Berlin (2005)
Gay Leather Icon
Peter Berlin and I'll use the name that he invented for himself rather than the German name he was born with made only a very few films but has remained to this day a legend in the gay porn field. He is that to this day because he brought an artistic flair into a highly specialized field of leather fetishism. I well remember still being in the closet and looking at those ads in Greenwich Village for That Boy and thinking this was the ideal man for us all.
As the film shows us even as a senior citizen Berlin lives in San Francisco a figure both of awe that even like Garbo (and the comparison is used in the film) people see him, acknowledge him, but give him a wide berth. He's no boy next door, at least not anyone like him ever lived next door to me.
I'm not sure of how he would take the comparison, but a recent biography of John Wayne quotes the man as saying he was just a kid named Duke Morrison from Iowa who lucked out and got into the John Wayne business. So it was with this immigrant kid from Germany who got into the Peter Berlin business.
Some gay community icons offer comment and perspective on Peter Berlin, none more than the man himself.
An LGBT cult item
Before finally watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show to review I asked a young friend who was visiting me what he thought of it. I offered to give him the DVD when I was finished with it. He said fine, but he thought that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was better as a stage show. God only knows it's revived often enough and has been taken to heart as a cult item with shows in just about every where there's a visible LGBT community. In fact I know at least one person who in Toronto every year plays Dr. Frank N. Furter in a production.
The three leads in fact saw their breakout performances in this science fiction parody which takes its plot partly from the Frankenstein story and from the Island of Dr. Moreau. Having Mary Shelley and H.G. Wells as inspiration gives you a good start.
Young couple Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon get themselves lost and wind up at the home of mad cross dressing scientist Dr. Frank N. Furter played by Tim Curry. If you've seen both those classic films than you have some idea of the story line.
I'll say this if Dr. Frankenstein was gay Peter Hinwood would be exactly what he would dream up for an artificially created man. Whatever happened to him?
The musical numbers performed stylishly by drag performers are staged well. And certainly the pyrotechnics are probably better seen in a live production.
So I guess I'll have to take my friend's comment and judge that for myself.
The Gay Amigo (1949)
Defamation of his people
One thing the Cisco Kid will not stand for is a defamation of his people. So when some Americanos dress up as Mexicans and start bandit activity in southern Arizona he springs into action.
At the same time that Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo were starting their weekly television series which I remember so well as a little kid, they also did some feature films of which The Gay Amigo is the first. The title does not refer to Cisco's sexual orientation which was straight.
At the time that Cisco discovers the masquerade the army isn't sure he's not the leader. They assign Sergeant Joe Sawyer to bird dog Cisco and Pancho. He actually proves useful, but only after Cisco thoroughly manipulates him.
There's a bit more plot than usual in this western meant for the kid trade. It still holds up well and Renaldo is one engaging fellow in the lead.
So who's who?
Bearing in mind that I think westerns are an American art form and I have an aversion to the European made ones, Sergio Leone's The Good The Bad And The Ugly has a lot to recommend it. Not the least of which the impact it had on Clint Eastwood's career making him an American icon.
The Good The Bad And The Ugly follows an odyssey of three men, two of them a pair of lowlifes and the third no better than he ought to be in a search for buried gold.
It's quite the odyssey that Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, and Lee Van Cleef in those title roles have in search of the loot. A minor theater of the Civil War is operating in the west and all of them get caught up in it as well.
Clint Eastwood developed and honed his laconic and cynical character who was in fact a good guy. Which gives you some idea of the bad guys he faced in his western films. Note that Clint Eastwood also never returned to the spaghetti western after this film.
Van Cleef is his usual mean self, perhaps exponentially so. One thing about him is that he's a hired killer with a strong work ethic so I guess that counts for something. When he takes a contract he follows through. As for Wallach he dusts off his Mexican bandit characterization that served him so well in The Magnificent Seven is dusted off and embellished. At one point he's got Eastwood at his sadistic mercy, but when he learns of the loot, Wallach's greed gets the better of him.
I don't consider this the great classic that many do, but The Good The Bad And The Ugly will satisfy most western fans.
Nothing the state can mandate
This is one of the stranger SVU episodes ever done and it shows the limitations that the squad has. Limitations I'm not sure shouldn't be in place.
The squad gets called in on the death of a young boy in a traffic accident that proves to be just that. He's the son of a celebrity couple so it's big news.
But his sister young Hayden Panettiere develops this attachment to Olivia Benson that comes out of nowhere. Mariska Hargitay does not quite know what to make of it, but she suspects abuse.
The trouble is that no matter what law enforcement brings to bear the parents especially mother Christine Andreas counters more than effectively with her connections and clout.
And we're never sure quite what's going on here. Young Panettiere might just simply be ignored by her ever busy and absent parents. That is considered a form of abuse, but not something that the state can get a grasp on. If she were being ignored in the sense of starved or ill kempt with dirty clothes, etc. this might be something they can do about. But what's happening here never seems to rise.
Olivia Benson's maternal instincts are awakened, but she's certainly stymied and the interesting part of the whole story is that it's never clear what is going on. The kid is in need no doubt, but I'm not sure there is anything the state can mandate.
The Velvet Vampire (1971)
Vampires on the Mojave
Lest any of you think that the vampire phenomenon is only for Europeans, The Velvet Vampire given to us by Roger Corman will tell you that these blood sucking undead creatures are also to be found in the great southwest of the USA. That's what young married couple Michael Blodgett and Sherry DeBoer find out when they accept the hospitality of the beautiful and mysterious Celeste Yarnall to go to her home in the desert.
Celeste's one of those undead creatures whose got that insatiable need for the red stuff. She's arranged it for Blodgett and DeBoer to get stuck at her place while works to seduce both of them. And since both are as vapid as valley people they don't figure it out.
The Velvet Vampire given to us from Roger Corman moves ever so gently into the realm of soft core porn with the sex scenes. I'm sure it encouraged any number of people to get down to business at the drive- ins across the nation. As the trio is as beautiful as the desert scenery they're easy to look at.
But this isn't exactly Dracula, either Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee.
"The story you are about to see is true, the names have been changed to protect the innocent"
So popular was Dragnet proving to be on the small screen that producer and star Jack Webb decided to expand it into a feature film. So what we got here is a television episode of Dragnet expanded to 90 minutes and in color.
Webb and partner Ben Alexander are assigned to the homicide of Dub Taylor whose familiar face and voice are hardly seen on the screen before he gets cut down with both barrels of a shotgun. The killer gave him two more while he was down to make sure. Altogether quite grisly and gruesome.
So the rest of the film under the command of their captain in gang intelligence Richard Boone, Webb and Alexander try to gather the evidence to nail the bad guys. Not that Taylor was any kind of solid citizen, he was a collector of bad debts for the mob and he was skimming on his collections. Still he was due justice.
Watching this film should make one realize how far we've come post the Miranda decision in protecting rights of the accused. One thing that Boone orders is something called a 'bumper tail' where the cops are assigned to tail up close and personal and to frisk at will. No way that would happen today except in some real right wing heaven.
Interesting film, nicely done in Dragnet's famous crisp, staccato style and be happy if you're a criminal you weren't operating back then.