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Die Söhne der großen Bärin (1966)
No Insult to Winnetou's Fans
Let's try to write this review in style. I do not argue whether "Sons of Great Bear" (1966) by DEFA is great Movie or not. It's first in row from Gojko Mitic's franchise in Indian Films based mostly on writings by Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich. You can check in Wikipedia who that woman is. Despite some inconsistencies, she was true German from a beaten generation after the fall of Third Reich in Germany. I wouldn't buy talks that she was Communist because such was reality in those Cold War times. If you don't put your signature under collaborative statement you wouldn't be allowed to travel abroad. Thus you remain peasant and ignorant, period. I myself lived through those times and never was Communist.
Second thing about the Movie. Since I doubt whether Americans or other English speaking people have watched Gojko Mitic's films and I will reiterate again. Very successful spaghetti western with typical German stamina. The hero is Winnetou type undefeatable macho, imaging the noble but dyeing Indian heathen. In the final scene in battle of honor Tokei-Ihto kills his enemy Red Fox (the white, Fred Clark) then liquidates about 20 adversaries with single pistol and escapes. This is typical Karl May scenario and Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich was his staunch student. The chief Tokei-Ihto or "Stone Horn" is imaginary taken from Indian painting by George Catlin. But other Sioux chiefs like Tashunka Witko (Crazy Horse) and Tatanka Yotanka (Sitting Bull) are real personages. They were massacred in Nebraska during Wounded Knee Incident (1890). Sioux tribe was put in Black Hill reservation and a branch D(L)akota lead by Tokei-Ihto fled to Canada (unreliable sources).
Now let's go to the book trilogy by Liselotte Welskopf-Henrich. I wouldn't even imagine say that this was unworthy effort. She studied history and anthropology for 20 years plus before "Die Sohne der Grossen Barin" appeared in 1951. Courtesy to success of the book she wrote two prequels - "Harka, der Sohn des Hauptlings" (1962) and "Top und Harry" (1963) which treat earlier periods of life for Harka / Tokei-Ihto. But "Sons of Great Bear" is finale and could be read alone. In such order they appeared in Bulgarian, a bulk of 1500 pp. and favorite novels for youths. I am not aware whether this great trilogy, rival to Winnetou adventures, is published in English. Probably not, which is a loss.
See, folks, the Indians from Winnetou and Tokei-Ihto series bear German hearts and if you don't understand the undying German spirit you are in great trouble. I talk this to Nationalists all around the world now-a-day. Don't throw Globalization in the garbage bin. Otherwise, you risk standing in position like Jack Nicholson yelling - "You can't handle the truth" - in Few Good Men. See You ...
Arsène Lupin (2004)
Many Faces of Arsen Lupin
There are few things to be said here. This international co-production was meant to rival a Sherlock Holmes franchise - "Sherlock Holmes" (2009) and "Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows" (2011) with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. The French Film "Arsene Lupin" (2004) had, however, faster post-production period and appeared first on the big screen. So much so, the arsenal that both protagonist use is almost the same and their literary fathers (Conan Doyle and Maurice LeBlanc) share equal popularity among their fans from the beginning of 20th century, before the Great War (World War I). Albeit, Arsen Lupin always ridiculed his adversary Sherlock Holmes and that resulted in court decision which made Maurice LeBlanc change the name to Herlock Sholmes or Holmlock Shears, an anagram and apparent one.
The problematic stuff overall is whether you have read novels from Maurice LeBlanc or none. If you come from non-French speaking country as I do you have a problem. I watched this titular movie on DVD with French language and English subtitles. Presumingly, no English dubbed copy is available or simply I can't find it. Whatever, the Movie is quite watchable with good action pace and 3D effects. Not like the old versions which are theatrical pieces and quite moody. As to the original Maurice LeBlanc's novels you can catch as catch can. Wikipedia provides scanty resource on Arsen Lupin and his literary author - some biography data with summary plot of few novels. You can't even get idea who the principal characters are.
Let's go to my country and review the translated books that I have used for main source. Most translations are from first half of last century, little bit outdated but re-edited and published with new covers. They look beautiful and handy but I doubt whether anyone reads them at all. Maurice LeBlanc is totally forgotten among the criminal establishment of 21st century. Young readers have seldom heard of Arsen Lupin and his author, or say "yes" because they watched the Movie in 2004. So what to comment, in the treasury throve of book collection one can find a gem of ideas where single sentence matters a lot. For instance, a replica on Bulgaria - "Those people are spies, coming from petty German Kingdom on the Balkans". End of quote.
Finishing lines. Take an "Arsene Lupin Omnibus" published by Wordsworth Editions recently, provided with introduction and notes. Read it carefully and make your judgment on the issue. That's my recipe. Until then, beguile. So, so ...
The Last Place on Earth (1985)
Race to South Pole
This Movie has not been available in DVD format, at least I watched it from TV download with the whole seven episodes /6h 36min/. Another Movie, "Shackleton" (2002), which comes as continuation to South Pole Race was also released as TV Mini-Series but not circulating as DVD. Both Films are rare cinematographic achievement, shot in Greenland and the vicinity. No special effects are employed and Polar Nature is shot the way it is - unspoiled but alien and menacing. Temperatures are 50 degree below zero, with blizzards, ice breaking, starvation, disorientation, freezing and death. Compromise is impossible between Polar Glaciers and Man. It's battle for survival at the utmost, watch it.
I read the reviews and I am impressed. The IMDb doesn't give more titles dealing with Polar Exploration and whether there are many documentaries built on the same subject is out of scope for this review. Baseline story follows the narrative from Roland Huntford's book "Last Place On Earth" published 1979, with several revised and updated editions. Shackleton's heroism from the second movie is also beyond doubt. It is not clear whether scenario has used another Roland Huntford story. One thing is clear that for 1914-1916 expedition Ernest Shackleton approached the Antarctica continent via Tiera del Fuego of Latin America and then into the Weddell Sea. Scott and Amundsen, on the other hand, made their access from New Zealand, Australia and Tasmania - proceeding way into Ross Sea and then camping in their bases some hundred miles apart, McMurdo Sound and Whales Bay. Details on the whole race with Scott-Amundsen comparison is available in Wikipedia.
Now let's try to make the long story short. Nobody is guilty that Robert Scott and his party of five perished. Scott knew that Amundsen was brewing something in Madeira. He had talked to Nansen, who told him that Amundsen had borrowed his ship "Fram" and intended to attack the Poles. When Scott learned that a rival expedition had come along he lost his nerves. Following events could be traced step-by-step and still the winner is unequivocal. Strongman Amundsen won the race by four weeks. His outward track was safe and he made it to Tasmania. Scott conquered the South Pole but couldn't make it homeward. He and his crew died ice-locked in a tent eleven miles from the nearest depot.
Amundsen was the best explorer from late Age of Discoveries. He represents the ideal Nordic type - a real Viking of Modern Times. Some thought Amundsen was crazy enough to do all these exploits. Look at his biography in the forthcoming 20 years. He first went through the NW passage (1903-1906). He made west-east transit of NE passage with new ship "Maud" where he adopted two Chukchi girls then dismissed them (1918-1920). He reached the North Pole again with airship "Norge", a dirigible constructed by Italian Umberto Nobile (1926). Last, two years later, at age 56 he dashed forward to save his friend Nobile who crashed over the pole with "Norge". Mussolini didn't wanted him to make the rescue flight but Amundsen took a French seaplane for private mission and perished in sky. Nobile and the castaways were saved by Russian ice-breaker "Krasin". Well, that's it ...
Before and After Tolkien
I feel "macho" enough to write about Tolkien and his LOTR trilogy. Doing this is for personal complacency, call it "hobby" if you wish. I am not member of any "Lord of the Rings" fan club or other kind of association. It's just a whimzy now and could as well have been another topic such as Martial Arts Film or Bruce Lee Story. So I will try to express myself in shortest possible way such as not to annoy anyone and probably if I repeat someone just have my excuses. Most important, I haven't read the baseline book which in it's academic edition comprises 1300 pages with 134 pages of appendices - including maps, lists of kings, genealogical carts, calendars, alphabets, linguistic notes and historical outline of imaginary Second and Third Ages of Middle Earth covering 6463 years.
So didn't Ian McKellen (Gandalf), who read everything about Tolkien and Middle Earth after he received the principal role. Gandalf is chief advocate and champion of good forces fighting the evil one. He is wizard coming from Far West /i.e., Island of Valinor/ and is messenger sent to contest the power of Evil One (Sauron). The antagonist here is played by actor Christopher Lee, who is long time Master of Macabre, and has been personally acquainted to Sir J. R. R. Tolkien. He has read the book repeatedly for many years before getting the role. Things like that.
I checked in my library for the Bulgarian edition of LOTR. It was first translated in abridged three volumes /1990-1991/ and then by 1999 appeared the full academic edition with appendices. Translation was done by Lyubomir Nikolov. You can check for more in Wikipedia. See, I am Medical Doctor by profession and has never translated a book in my life. I was rather lazy student in the 1980s and used to eavesdrop at foreign embassies, particularly the American Embassy. On the Bulgarian side there was a Sci-fi Association at those times which issued a bi-monthly newspaper called "ABV" /transcribed in Cyrillic/. There was also a colorful library "Galactica" that issued in consecutive numbers most popular sci-fi and fantasy books by local and foreign authors. But the level of debate was low and no popular trend for Sci-fi and Fantasy was established in this country.
It may take a long time reviewing the international literature on Tolkien and his legacy. Christopher Tolkien /b. 1924/ edited and re-edited the numerous manuscripts left unpublished by his father. On the other hand, I have in my personal library more than dozen good references on LOTR. Trying to read them all is impossible in short time period. Maybe the beginner on Tolkien should read Lin Carter's "Tolkien: A Look Behind Lord of the Rings" for good introduction to Epic Fantasy Literature. Good Luck ...
Vivát, Benyovszky! (1975)
Benyovszky Is Not a Tell-Tale Story
I remember watching this TV serial in the late 1970s. Explicitly, it was outstanding because it relayed adventures in far away countries yet it's heroes were of Slav nationality. The Slav civilization has always been dominated by the Russian Empire, the way it hold sway under Romanov Dynasty. Other nationalities were less important and thus appeared the myth of oppressed Central Europe. Oppressed by whom? Most notably, these were the powers of "European Concert" - i.e., Austria-Hungary, Germany and Russia designated as Empires that ruled right till the end of World War I. Turkey, or Ottoman Empire could also be attributed to this list.
This is history in short upon which had developed events in "Vivat, Benyovszky" (1975), where Count Móric de Benyovszky /1746-1786/ is real time adventurer and explorer of distant lands. The Age of Geographic Discoveries materialized new continents and some new cultural entities that bewildered the scholastic European mind of Middle Ages. Those were times where Church and Kingship were omnipotent. Nationalism was thought as sign of rebellion and thus appeared patriots that fought for independence and sovereignty. The processes in Central Europe or "Mitteleuropa" were identical to those in United States of America, who made their "Declaration of Independence" in 1776 against the forces of British Empire. I reckon this clarify the red line of the Movie under comment.
Let me try to shortly debrief the contents of the Film. I will ostensibly imply that it's running plot is somewhat different from the sketch about Móric de Benyovszky in Wikipedia. The nobleman from Slovak-Hungarian-Polish extraction is Hussar from the Habsburg army during the reign of Empress Maria Theresia. He is accused of association with Polish nobles (Szlachta) against Russian occupation of Polish lands. He is arrested by Russian authorities and sent to exile in Siberia - the colony of Petropavlovsk in Kamchatka. There he manages to organize a bounty, catches a Russian corvette and sails away from the Arctic territories. He reaches Madagascar and gets employed as French Lieutenant. There he gets involved in a local skirmish, where two French soldiers rape and kill the Malgashi chief's son and his fiancée. Benyovszky delivers the two perpetrators to Malagasy tribe where an old chief adopts him for his lost son and summons him to become ruler. Benyovszky accepts and starts negotiating with the French but is killed as reprisal. The Film ends with the Malgashi attacking and killing the French colonists.
This is not a tell-tale story but real man adventure. I could easily compare it with Henri Charrière's Papillon story made as Movie. The recent YouTube release of "Vivat, Benyovszky" (1975) in it's total seven episodes is welcome. I don't own a copy of this Movie in DVD. At YouTube I watched it with Slovak soundtrack and though my knowledge of this language is limited I still enjoyed it. The musical score is very good and haunting. There is something that I noticed now. The Film has scenes shot right there on spot in Madagascar. The local people provided supporting staff but obviously some of the Malgashi leaders had to speak Slovak for their roles and those were Czech artists heavily smeared with tar to look black. Funny, isn't it. Enjoy ...
Treasure Island (1990)
Nobody Could Write a Better Piracy Story
Here is a story I want to tell. Yesterday, a friend of mine vouched that nobody could write a better piracy story than Stevenson's "Treasure Island" - tale of buccaneers and buried gold originally published in 1883. Nope, I replied, I have something at hand that is equally intriguing as plot but remained obscure since publishing date in 1972. You can Google it as "Veseliiat rodzhŭr" but full text is not available online. Plus, it is not written by neither Rafael Sabatini nor Emilio Salgari, etc. that are pioneer storytellers of pirate stories. Author is Georgi Dobrentov and here is resume of plot which I will divide in several subplots for more appropriate understanding.
Subplot, part I - It's year 1683, sometime after Restoration, Charles II is reigning. Sir John Richmond, a hereditary aristocrat, is getting married to Lady Jane Crossword. They are going on wedding trip to Le Havre, France. Their small brigantine is shipwrecked near the coast of Spain where they are attacked by Barbary Coast Pirates. The barbarian leader is called Ali ben Jusef ibn Saada or "GreenEye Beast", but this Muslim proves gentleman and didn't kill the crew while only Lady Jane elopes with him under name "Fatima".
Subplot, part II - Sir John manages to sail back to Portsmouth, South England, on his dilapidated ship but is furious on his wife's adultery. Since he is very rich, he seek vengeance by means of becoming pirate himself. He gets charter by Charles II which gives him right to liberate criminals from Newgate Prison. He engages 300 person by ransom and boards them on three-masted heavy frigate, a vessel specially built for him. His new crew is detached of scoundrels but that's the only way retribution can come. Names here are Don Pedro Quickdeath, Linden Hallelujah, Richard Artichoke and Black Mike. The first three are faithful to their Master, but commander Black Mike is traitor who works for notorious Caribbean Pirate Dick Dack (aleas Richard Misfit).
Subplot, part III - Under Jolly Roger flag, Sir John Bloodthirsty hunts for his adulterous wife. Meanwhile, Muslim pirate Ibn Saada is ambushed first by Dick Dack and then overwhelmed by Sir John and his crew. Before dying Ibn Saada tells him that Lady Jane "Fatima" had further eloped with a Dutchman. When the latter is caught, she is already with a French, then with a Swedish and finally with a Spanish noble that makes the protagonist crisscross the Seven Seas. At last, the Sea Hike has trailed to a desert island in the Caribbean where Pirate Dick Dack has lounged his settlement. The guy alludes to revenge against Sir John and his progenitors because the latter's grandfather had blinded his one eye while Richard Misfit had been working as alchemist at Court. So far, everyone gets ashore where looking for treasures the island explodes into the air and that's it.
Epilogue - Some of the Pirates survive the Alchemist plot and live till old age (Pedro Quickdeath, Linden Hallelujah, Richard Artichoke). Lady Jane is seen last with her lover Black Mike and then with a common sailor. Sir John changes his secular name to Saint Augustine and lives till 80 years of age. Now, if you liked my story I will be perfectly glad. And don't forget "Treasure Island" (1990) with Charlton Heston. Watch it!
If You Run For Gold, Go For Jack Sparrow
Since my family clan has Lore for Piracy, I feel obliged to write this review ... Ha-ha-ha, you got this - it's a joke! My family name is so awkward that wherever I go, they asked me whether I'm a Barbarian or maybe coming from Barbary Coast. Funny thing I didn't changed it for Anglo-Saxon and retained my Armenian denomination. Otherwise, "Pirates of the Caribbean" (2003) is a swell movie but nothing special within the "Swashbuckler" genre. I repeat "Swashbuckler" here, because if we make search with a topical word and we get avalanche of information. Predominantly, from Wikipedia and other sources you get idea for sword and chivalry adventure where an archetype is difficult to choose out of multitude of heroes, from various lands and different historical ages.
Now, where are we - Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew. I presume every kid is aware that this is fantasy movie, not based on real persons or events. It gathers the fame of another Indiana Jones franchise; albeit, Archeology here is substituted with Piracy but no specific location or time is pin-pointed. Seemingly, this was originally a Video Game that was adapted for Big Screen. And since I don't want to look stupid (I am too old for Video Games or any other Sport), let me proceed thus. Johnny Depp cashed this Movie marvelously. He is exactly my age but looks some 10-15 years younger. He retained his acrobatic physical shape that we remember as early as "Benny and Joon" (1993). I wish him luck. So much so for the other cast and director Gore Verbinski.
I want to comment something on Piracy Lore. That task came not to be so easy. Else, there are lot of facts in Internet but you don't have gold on tip of your tongue. As mentioned, I have huge library but things are scattered here and there. Most of my knowledge came from fiction literature - a genre known as adventure novel. Those marvelous assets in my library were gathered carefully and painstakingly, some 40 years from time. Many of those people in Antiquary Business which I collaborated with are now dead or mentally dysfunctional. But their ancestors continued the Job willy-nilly: here a book nicely illustrated, there a cover with colorful picture. We didn't have computers nor graphic design was available. We were self-made men, product of Technology Age that was at brink of Revolution. You don't have to be President to realize this. Plus, young lions were always around ready to devour, ain't they!
Yet, I didn't get to my point and never will. Piracy is Neverland, heroes are like Peter Pan never growing old and living in their dream. Neverland is fantasy world seldom explored. Read the novels from Scottish writer J. M. Barrie and you will find Neverland. It is a world more fantastic than Alice's Wonderland. Have lot of fun ...
P.S. If you want more, you can get access at http://www.roman-daventures.com/. This site is dealing with miscellany of Adventure Novels and their Authors. Sorry, it is in French.
The Day of the Jackal (1973)
A Suspense Movie Ranking High
This Film ranks high in Suspense Movies List. It's too sophisticated to understand by Easy Movie goers. It's shot in France, Italy and England - so, it preserves some charm for this part of Europe for times past and long gone. It is, by the way, pure European thriller with local cast and directed by Austrian Fred Zinnemann (19071997) who made score of Films for Hollywood studios. Maybe I won't get credit but it resembles a Hitchcock movie by the intricacy of plot and evolving of drama, narrated in documentary style.
The gem of performance is Edward Fox as hired assassin "Jackal". This is anagram for name coming from (Cha)rles (Cal)trop. The Jackal uses forged identity by falsifying birth certificate of dead person (Paul Duggan) and stealing two other passports. He then kills 5-6 people on his way to the Paris Plaza where he misses President De Gaulle by inch and get eliminated by Commissar Lebel (Michael Lonsdale). Two women participate in the Movie - Delphine Seyrig as middle-aged Frenchwoman who is killed after an affair with the Jackal; plus, Olga Georges-Picot as Denise (his link to Algerian terrorists that pay half million dollars for targeting the President). All is based on true story documented by Frederick Forsyth and written as a novel.
I proceed to reminiscences of today, which is 40 years from time. Today, my friends, such a Movie is impossible to procure or even protocol. We live in a World where everything is being watched, filmed, listened to, recorded, tracked, entered on databases and put on lists. Targeted are government and private agencies, big business and ordinary fellows, fraudsters and organized crime. The World is daunting array of electronic gear ... This is citation from book on "Total Surveillance", published by Piatkus in 2000 (author is not mentioned for discretion).
I ask, subsequently, the following question - should people like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden be perceived as villains for publishing secret American documents. After all, their starting point was ECHELON system for intelligence gathering - based on signal interception by radomes (those giant golf balls on Earth landscape). I recede now ...
Vreme na nasilie (1988)
Is Plot Fact or Fiction
I read the reviews for this Movie carefully ... very carefully. Since this is the only historical Film made for the Balkans and whole Eastern Europe regarding Ottoman invasion in Europe - i.e., "Time of Violence" (1988) deserves consideration. See, dude, I don't get paid for writing this stuff and could as well have abstained from opinion. But we don't want Third World War with Islam now in the 21st century, don't we!
Besides that bullshit called Brexit in the United Kingdom have shaken everyone deeply. On both sides of Atlantic Ocean NATO doesn't seem to be enough guarantee for world piece. After all, Islamic Turkey is within the military bloc and this country is the primer treat for Western Civilization.
Second, Soviet Union or Russia is without the NATO machinery which poses the question which Christian forces would fight the Turks - symbolically or not, Russia as Slavic State didn't existed when Ottomans invaded the Balkans and Eastern Europe in 15th-16th century. Furthermore, Communist Russia doesn't exist anymore. It is dormant, they say, because former Communists became militant Islamist and now they threaten world piece. Strange logic!
I am not Incarnation of Devil and I read the Bible. Unfortunately, I read the Koran also and think that "God Almighty" is relic from the past. That doesn't mean that Church shouldn't exist, we shouldn't pay alimony to Popes or Monarchy should be abolished. Things like that only lead to more Chaos and ultimately to War. Let the Globalization proceed smoothly and gradually. We'll see whether man evolved evolutionary from Ape or is God's creation capable of Jihad!
The Movie itself is mild cinematography achievement. The Socialist Cinema from late 1980s was pale product compared to Western and American Cinema. For instance, "America, America" (1963) by Elia Kazan and "Mayrig" (1991) by Henri Verneuil depict the avaricious Turk in better and realistic way. Get rid of here ...
P.S. Whether the plot in "Time of Violence" (1988) is fact or fiction becomes an obsolete question. There is enough written literature that indicate who the Turks are - they are Asiatics that came in Europe by means of their fanatic religion Islam. They were well armed and had good military leaders (most of them converted Christians). Everything else is matter of Psychology not Valiance.
Zulu Dawn (1979)
Zululand or Kafiristan is Still Waiting
Well, let me put it this way - there is still no good movie on British Colonial History in Africa. "Zulu Dawn" (1979) is just a small episode from the British lore in (South) Africa. The Zulu Nation got the prestige as the most warlike African tribe, more so from the novels of Rider H. Haggard than from some documentary or other objective historical account. I see that far away corner of the world as off shot from European history rather than anything else. My childhood imagination and my mind were also irreversibly influenced by the Tarzan stories - for me, as a child, those were the only true criteria for the unrivaled flora and fauna of Africa, everything you want!
How do we get more for the Cinema and Our Civilization from the Black Continent. That's an essential question. Wilbur Smith - God bless him for his talent - has been a wellspring for information on modern South Africa, both historical fiction and international involvement. From the Wikipedia source I will enumerate the Filmography based on Smith's novels: Dark of the Sun (1968), Gold (1974), Shout at the Devil (1976), Covert Assassin (1994), Diamond Hunters (2001). There are more plots from the Author for which I am not aware. You can put here easily the classic "Khartoum" (1966) about defeat of British General Gordon in Sudan against an invading Muslim army led by a religious fanatic, the Mahdi. "Four Feathers" (1939) and (2002) is about the same historical episode. That's all about Africa, take or leave stories such as "Out of Africa" (1985), "Blood Diamond" (2006), etc.
I again come back to the Zulu Wars theme. You can't abstain from South African history, neither being European or American or Cosmopolitan. I have been there on a journey some 15 years ago. It's a bizarre landscape with some 6-7 million Whites and 35 million Blacks/Colored. Until lately this was country of Apartheid - Blacks were not allowed to vote. They were not allowed to have sexual relations with Whites, also. The African National Congress was a former Communist Party banned in the 1960s. It's leader Nelson Mandela was released in 1990s when the system was reversed. The Boers are the strangest ethnic enclave in the world - they are "Afrikaans" from the reformed Dutch Church and Dutch Language. Their total xenophobia helped them create and preserve the South African Republic from middle of 19th century. Thence the Boer Wars 1899-1902 and thence the Union of South Africa from 1910. Enjoy It!
P.S. South Africa is the cradle of humankind, believe it or not. The oldest remains from Hominids are found there some 2-3 million years old. What is more disturbing for the precarious European Ego is that there are also Rock Painting, some as old as 30 000 years, which is indication for continuous Human Evolution older than the Lascaux Caves in France ...